Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Purr-fectly Wonderful

Once again Jonathon Sawyer and crew are on the cutting edge of food trends … and helping insure that Cleveland is too. This time it’s restaurants with a short life span. Chefs secure a venue, create a menu, host a dinner party for a single night or a week of nights, then pack it in and the party’s over. It’s a chance for them to play with ingredients, test ideas and break free of diners’ expectations. For the people they feed these temporary eateries are exciting, an opportunity to be part a singular and out-of-the-ordinary experience. These culinary adventures are getting traction in big cities around the country.

Sawyer in Noodlecat kitchen: photo by Bridger Rehner

Sawyer’s calling his version Brick & Mortar Pop-Ups. I was a guest at the very first one, held last Saturday night in his not-yet-open new place, Noodlecat, on Euclid Avenue, just around the corner from The Greenhouse Tavern. Lee Anne Wong, an accomplished chef well known for her Bravo TV and Cooking Channel appearances, was in town to help him launch the planned series. The two partnered in the kitchen to great effect, producing a highly original and outstanding menu titled "Easy Japaneasy.” It foreshadows some of noodle dishes Sawyer will soon be serving there as well as what Wong wants to do for the Asian-inspired gastropub she hopes to get up and running in New York city before the end of the year.

Lee Anne Wong doing Easy Japanesy: photo by Bridget Rehner

The options were divided into three categories: Fingers, Sticks and Slurps. Sharing plates with the husband, I got to try three in category one and two each in the others: roasted oysters seasoned with togarashi (a 7-spice blend), garlic and bone marrow butter, (among the more astonishing and delicious things I’ve ever eaten), plus tea smoked deviled eggs on toast topped with marinated salmon roe, and crispy shallots with breaded pork cutlet sliders with mustard-katsu sauce and cabbage salad; shrimp and water chestnut gyoza with scallion ponzu dipping sauce + nanbanzuke of perch (cold marinated fried fish) with tomato watermelon salad and pickled onions; braised pork belly stew with radishes, carrots, and tiny potatoes in a drinkable soy laced broth + a gingery udon noodle stir fry with cabbage and bits of bacon. Bartender Dean Sauer mixed me up a Lee Anne Special made with Maker’s Mark and Orange Rhubarb spritz, a Dutch salad featuring gin and ginger beer and Noodlecat’s Japanese margarita. We left nothing edible or drinkable behind.

Perch: Photo by Bridget Rehner

Wong, wearing golden clogs, told me the pair got quite a work out in the kitchen with many hours of prep required. "It was a good warm-up for Noodlecat," she said. "Jonathon has an ambitious menu planned and will be doing some similar dishes." It may get even more ambitious- he and wife Ameilia left the next morning for eight days of research-that means eating- in Tokoyo.

The next Bricks and Mortar Pop-Up, also at Noodlecat, comes courtesy of Dim and Dem Sum founder Chris Hodgson July 11 & 13. Reservations required. The uber-energetic and super social young chef recently returned home after a cross country stint as a contestant, and finalist, on America’s Great Food Truck Race, along with his second mobile chuck wagon, Hodge Podge, and plans for a permanent location.

Noodlecat, which will serve strictly Japanese style noodle based preparations, should be totally finished and ready for customers right after this event. The space, small, simple and fun, already looked great Saturday. The design and décor is a collaborative effort for Sawyer and Sin-Jin Satayathum, the artist who helped give Greenhouse Tavern its distinctive and sustainable character. Based on first impressions, I’d say they’ve successfully combined elements of a traditional ramen house here with something distinctly their own and totally Cleveland. Love the long repurposed school lab tables ats the back, bench along one side, stools on the other. They create instant sociabilty. Traded "what to order" advice with a pair of women on my left, and the couple on my right offered samples of their dish. If I was a cat, I'd have been purring with happiness.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Geek Out

Lindsey Bower is a nerd and she’s proud of it. She knows she’s not the only one. So she and her boyfriend and fellow nerd, Dan Krivenki, are hosting the first ever Nerd Ride, a bike trip in which nerds, geeks, dweebs and dorks are invited to pedal across Cleveland to raise money to install bike racks around town.

The pair are co-founders of the nonprofit Crank-Set Rides, which organizes themed bike rides, such as last year’s zombie ride, to promote biking awareness. For their next idea, the two looked no farther than their own personalities.

“We're both nerdy people,” Bower says. “We always dress up as nerds for Halloween and sometimes if we’re bored, we’ll dress up as nerds and go ride our bikes around, just to get people to laugh.”

The themed rides attract a slew of bewildered onlookers. At the zombie ride in October, Bower says one lady just stared at the 200-some zombies riding by, scared out of her wits, as if she thought the apocalypse had come.

This time, Bower expects just as much buzz. “Little kids come out on the street, and they’re so excited, they’re happy and running around and giving us fives when we go past,” she says. “That is such a good feeling. They’ll laugh when they see us dressed as nerds.”

Expect these cyclists to completely geek out with their costumes. Bower promises tube socks, bow ties, glasses, pocket protectors, suspenders and even wedgies. “Suspenders give you the worst wedgies in the world,” she says through vibrant laughter.

She hopes people will not only notice their outfits, but become more aware of the need to share the road with bikers. She also hopes to get the city to consider bike improvements. One bike rack has already been installed in Lakewood.

The nerd ride, which lasts from 4:30 p.m. on Saturday until 2 a.m. on Sunday, will lead geeks on a tour of hot spots such as the Happy Dog, which is hosting a geek-style Math-a-thon. It'll end at Reddstone with a nerdy dance-off.

Poster courtesy of Lindsey Bower. Photo from Crank-Set Rides' Facebook photo set.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Salvaging Art

All of the items in Collective Upcycle were intended for a recycling center or, worse, a landfill. But thanks to crafty local artists, materials such as plastic bags, bicycle gears and seat belts have been salvaged and transformed into trendy purses, wind chimes and belts.

The shop, located at 6710 Detroit Avenue in the Gordon Square Arts District, is open for a limited time, from June 11 to July 3. Late last year, to promote “reuse artists,” local artist Nicole McGee launched a pilot store, The Pop-up Gift Shop, in Trinity Commons for the holidays. It proved popular, so she’s back at it with the new name Collective Upcycle and 30 artists. Although the store is new, the name has been on her mind for 2 1/2 years. It represents the idea of coming together, she says, and “taking something else and giving it a new, creative life.”

McGee, who markets her own art under the name Plenty Underfoot, says the store represents Cleveland’s up-and-coming reuse economy.

“There’s this creative force of people who are not buying something new at the craft store,” she says. “For me, and I know for other people, there is something inherently creative about taking something leftover and saying ‘What do you want to be?’ and ‘I’m going to turn you into it.’”

One artist featured in the store converts wedding dresses into christening gowns. Another makes furniture out of wood from deconstructed Cleveland buildings. Anita Tucker of Wine2Wick repurposes wine, beer and liquor bottles into candleholders.

“It's extraordinary how many bottles go into a landfill that aren't recycled,” Tucker says.

She says the store has provided her with a community of artists. They help each other out by saving items others use for art. Friends say her art gives them a motive to drink wine so they can give her the bottle. She even sees customers bring in items for artists to use.

McGee doesn’t plan to operate the shop full time, but she assures customers that Collective Upcycle will pop up again somewhere in the city in time for the holidays. Stay tuned.

Photo courtesy of Collective Upcycle

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Park It

Since word was that Cropicana was attracting huge crowds from Day 1, I was waiting for some of the hubbub to die down before making my maiden visit. From what I was hearing, that’s an exercise in futility: Unless it’s cold and raining, the place is pretty much packed every night. So I got myself down there recently for a look see with a few of my favorite beer swillers, margarita sippers and onion ring enthusiasts.

There’s an outdoor kitchen, equipped with a big smoker, and bar, plus another bar and small dining area indoors. We were lucky and snagged seats under the canopy. Those who didn’t filled picnic tables scattered around the grass adjacent to the dock. There were lots of folks in team-ware, on their way to and from volleyball games. Others came armed with Frisbees. Dogs, lots of them but all on leashes, greeted one another with friendly sniffs, seemingly absorbing the friendly, relaxed, be-and-let-be vibe of this spot. Kids scampered off to play on the slide. The soundtrack was either too loud or get-down perfect depending on your personal point of view. (Live music on the weekends: Check website for schedule.) We had a nice breeze, a glorious sunset over the lake and a few hours of highly entertaining people watching.

Steve and Jackie Schimoler are managing the seasonal county-owned Wendy Park venue at Whiskey Island Marina for the summer while the second iteration of their Warehouse District restaurant, Crop, is under construction in Ohio City. It’s definitely a step away from what they usually do. Food comes in paper-lined plastic baskets, and you eat it with plastic tableware. But they’ve clearly figured out how to make guests happy and make the casual, mostly self-serve waterside restaurant a destination.

The menu has the usual options for this kind of beach scene without any fancy flourishes, which is just how most folks like their hot dogs, hamburgers and french fries. But the Schimoler style shows up in other choices and daily specials such as chile lime popcorn, lamb tacos, smoked wings and cherry chipotle ribs.

The whole experience is more funky Caribbean island than Cleveland lakefront, a sort of tiki bar meets Camp O-Hi-O. The Schimolers' formula is proving so successful that there’s talk of building a pedestrian bridge that will make it easier to get there from Ohio City and the West Bank of the Flats. But that’s a story for another year. Right now, unless you have a boat, a car’s your best bet. Take the Shoreway, follow the signs for Whiskey Island, and wind along the access road until you arrive at what looks like a big party in progress.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tower City turns up the heat as 'Hot in Cleveland' cast receives keys to the city

"This show is a love letter to our region," Baiju Shah of Global Cleveland remarked to the anxious crowd inside Tower City Center, waiting to catch a glimpse of the Hot in Cleveland cast.

Mayor Frank Jackson presented Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, Wendie Malick and the much-loved Betty White with keys to the city today. Shah bestowed the title of Honorary Global Clevelander upon them.

"You guys are all co-stars of this show," Malick told the crowd after receiving her key. White smiled as she praised Cleveland for having one of the "best zoos" she's ever seen.

"Betty" chants echoed throughout Tower City, turning the event into a pep rally for the 89-year-old actress. Signs read "Thank you for being a friend" and "Who needs LeBron when Cleveland has Betty?" -- contrasting White's poise, charm and gratitude with, well, you know.

Leeves said she's always had a "strange warm and fuzzy feeling about Cleveland," though she'd never visited Ohio before. "It's the best kept secret in America," she said.

The event was part of a two-day celebration of Hot in Cleveland, which has painted a positive picture of the city in its two years on the air. Last night the four women toured the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's Women Who Rock exhibit and attended a special viewing of the show's season premiere.

One source said the four women were off to spend the day around the city filming scenes for the show. Bertinelli will be staying in town an extra day with husband Tom Vitale, a native of Cuyahoga Falls. She'll be throwing the ceremonial first pitch before Friday night's Tribe game.

To read our January cover story about Hot in Cleveland, including Colleen Smitek's interviews with White, Bertinelli, Leeves and Malick on the set in Los Angeles, click here.

Cutlet Couture: Lady Gaga's Meat Dress Served Up at Rock Hall

You watched in fascinated horror as she strutted down the red carpet wearing it at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards. You chuckled as commentators and fans debated whether she'd finally gone too far. You thought it was going to be turned into jerky.

Now Lady Gaga’s infamous meat dress has arrived in Cleveland. The dress is on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum as part of its Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power exhibit, on display through February 2012.

Created by designers Franc Fernandez and Nichola Formichetti, the hand-sewn dress is made of Argentinean beef. It's in good company, surrounded by artifacts from Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Rihanna and the material girl herself, Madonna.

The dress' journey to the Rock Hall began last year, when Lady Gaga was in town to perform and the museum invited her to visit. She couldn't come, but her father and members of her management team took up the invitation, and conversations began about including Gaga in the exhibit. Also on display are an Armani-designed outfit Gaga wore at the 2010 Grammy awards, childhood photos, sheet music and the singer’s first piano.

No need to fear exposure to rotten meat. A taxidermist in California has preserved the dress with bleach, detergent and a 10 percent formaldehyde solution. (Yum!) It's also been painted to look like it actually did when Lady Gaga wore it to the VMA’s, instead of preserved, dried meat.

“We realized that if we were going to have it, it couldn’t be fresh meat that was rotting,” says Jim Henke, the Rock Hall's chief curator, “because that would put other stuff in the museum in danger.”

Exhibits and humans included.

Photo: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum/Ivor Karabatkovic

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

An Open Letter to Fabio Mota

Dear Chef,
Thank you for having me in last week to get a first look at the newly opened Club Isabella and a taste of some dishes from the menu. Now, my question is: Fabio Mota, where have you been all my [professional] life? You say you’ve cooked at Johnny’s on Fulton, and the long-gone Johnny’s Café downtown, and most recently at the original Club Isabella, from 2004 until 2007 when it closed. But I never heard your name, saw your face, or knew anything about the guy behind my food. And now, suddenly here you are, bursting onto the dining scene with a gorgeous place of your own. You, along with your Cordon Bleu training in Paris, your serious attitude and original ideas, were something of a secret around here, but it appears your time behind the scenes is over. Based on what I’ve seen and tasted, I’m guessing that soon everyone’s going to be talking about you. I’m happy to get the buzz started.

Your space — a total and stunning renovation of a building on the fringes of Little Italy that began as a social club in the late 1930s and ended up as Goose Acres Folk Music Center in its last incarnation — is sleek, sexy and clearly a place for grownups. I can’t drive by the patio without wanting to stop and stay awhile, and I love the seamless segue from inside to outside thanks to those big sliding glass doors.

I’ve eaten much good food prepared by talented and skilled chefs in this town and around the country. So I know the difference between very good, good and everything else. You served me some very good dishes. For those reading this, here’s what I ate that really just knocked me out: fried sweet and spicy cuttlefish; a salad of Brussels sprout leaves, endive and Serrano ham in a lemon vinaigrette; calamari Bolognese; a croque monsier sandwich made with more of that ham, Gruyere cheese, avocado salad and a perfectly poached egg; and a roasted veal marrow bone with fleur de sel, toast brushed with clarified butter and a citrusy vinaigrette.

Sure you’ve got the pizzas, the steak, the burger — seems a prerequisite for survival these days. But you’re also being bold, working with some uncommon ingredients, doing dishes that are out of the ordinary and different from everybody else in Cleveland. I respect and applaud that.

Even the bar snacks — marinated, panko coated fried artichoke hearts in a kicky aioli, spiced and roasted nuts, a gardiniere of vegetables brined in house — were outstanding, which explains why they disappeared so fast. Kudos to your second in command, chef Rick Chandler: He did a great job explaining how things were prepared and what’s going to be happening in the kitchen. He’s also a great spokesperson for you and the restaurant, obviously excited about what you’re doing together there.

I don’t blame him. I am too, and I already see a serious contender for Best New Restaurant in 2011.
photos courtesy of Club Isabella and Pauline Lewis Photography

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bass drums, burgers and bands at Rock Hall's Chef Jam

Burgers were served up on bass drums, vegetarian sushi lined the polished face of a cymbal and a Beatles tribute band belted out "She Loves You" to the dancing crowd. From barbecued duck to fried Twinkies, the Rock Hall's Chef Jam 2011 indulged in the delicacies of Cleveland's best chefs.

Donning wigs, face paint and outfits from generations past, various chefs from Cleveland restaurants dressed up as their favorite musicians. My favorite costume: Melt Bar and Grilled's Matt Fish as Eric Singer of KISS (pictured).

However, I was a little disappointed that Melt was not passing out their famous grilled cheese sandwiches, but fried Twinkies instead. (Twinkies, really?)

For me, Sweet Moses' vanilla bean ice cream, drizzled in bourbon caramel sauce, topped all the dishes in the Rock Hall. Hearing someone list off the soda fountain and treat shop's ten different homemade ice cream flavors was music to my taste buds.

Also present were chefs from B Spot, Deagan's, Pier W, Melange, Greenhouse Tavern and others, including Food Network star Anne Burrell, host of Secrets of a Restaurant Chef, and one very close to naked cowboy from Naked Cowboy Oyster. Proceeds from the charity event supported Ohio City Farm and the Rock Hall's education programs.

Friday, June 10, 2011

'Gravity' Pulls Bay Village's Kate Voegele Home for Cleveland Tour Date

Much like pop star Kate Voegele, Cleveland rocks. Even more important, Voegele knows it.

After releasing her third album, Gravity Happens, in May, the Bay Village native had a small dilemma. Word got out to her fans that she wouldn't play any Ohio dates while on tour opening for Natasha Bedingfield. They did not take the news very well.

“People don’t know if you’re on Natasha’s tour, you have to go where Natasha goes,” Voegele says.

So Voegele added Ohio to the map herself. She performs at the House of Blues on June 14. The 24-year-old musician talked to us about her Cleveland roots and venturing into new waters to make Gravity Happens.

Cleveland Magazine: Are there places you like to go when you come back to Cleveland?
Kate Voegele: Yes, absolutely. I am a big fan of Coventry; it's an artistic and inspiring spot. I used to spend a lot of time there during high school. I'm also a big fan of Moosehead Saloon. It's like the best food on Earth.

CM: How is this album different from your first and your second?
KV: This album is definitely an evolution for me from the other ones. It's not a stark contrast in that I didn't go out there and make a hip-hop record, but it's more rootsy, more honest. It's much closer to who I really think I am as an artist.

CM: Is there anything different you wanted to do or try out with Gravity Happens that you hadn’t done with your previous albums?
KV: I think that what I wanted to do with this album is, in the lighter areas, go lighter, and in the darker areas, go darker. There's some fun, happy songs on this album, and I haven't really done as much of that as I'd like to in my first two albums. But then in the darker areas there are songs like "Burning the Harbor" and "Gravity Happens" that are really about the heavy things in life. I wanted to be more honest, vulnerable, and to make a record that was as human as I could possibly come up with.

CM: What is your favorite song to perform off of this album?
KV: "Sandcastles." It has this classic, rootsy feel and it's fun to sing, but it's probably one of the most honest songs on the album. The line in the chorus is, "I'd rather be making sandcastles instead of these wide-world decisions." It's something I hope a lot of people can relate to.

CM: How has your appearance on [The CW’s TV show] One Tree Hill and your character Mia helped you develop as a musician, singer and songwriter?
KV: I think that OTH has been a pretty cool piece of the puzzle for me. And getting in front of a camera as an actor taught me certain things about performing, being comfortable with myself and how to become more poised as a performer.

Do you have any big plans for the near future?
KV: Later this summer I'll be releasing a signature pair of sunglasses that I designed with my sponsor, Oakley’s. What’s cool about these sunglasses is that they're tied to my new record. The artwork that's on the sunglasses is the same artwork that's on the CD cover. If you buy the sunglasses, you get a download card for the album, so you basically get the album for free.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

First Sip: Market Garden Brewery

As Market Garden Brewery gears up to open the first week of July, owner Sam McNulty invited us over for a sneak peak tasting last night. We sipped five handcrafted beers created by brewmaster Andy Tveekrem, formerly of Dogfish Head. In all, McNulty says there will be about a dozen house-crafted brews offered (10 will be regularly on tap with two to rotate seasonally). Plus expect nods to other local microbreweries such as The Brew Kettle and Thirsty Dog Brewing Co.

If the first five (which included ales, stouts and IPAs) are any indication of what's to come at Market Garden, then we can't wait for the taps to open — not a bad brew was sampled last night. Here are three of our favorites:

Test Market Ale: This is what we caught McNulty drinking last night, and for good reason. It's Market Garden's first brew, amber in color with a malt meets hops feel for a crisp finish.

St. Emeric Stout:
Guinness drinkers (myself included) will love this stout. It's full bodied and dry but without a bitter finish. It goes down velvety smooth.

Wallace Tavern Scotch Ale: Light brown in color, it's got all the makings of a traditional Scotch ale with a malty caramel flavor and a bit of a roasted kick.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Jammed Up

Like a dysfunctional love affair, it’s been an on again off again relationship for me and Chef Jam this year. The event, scheduled for Sunday, June 12, at 7 p.m., is a celebration of local culinary talent and a fundraiser. The 2011 beneficiaries are the Rock Hall’s educational programming and the Ohio City Farm. The orgy of food and music, part of the larger Cleveland Food Rocks branding campaign, will be held at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

My personal saga began last month when I got a call inviting me to be one of the judges for the cook-off. Maker’s Mark is a presenter, as it was in 2010, and participating restaurants -- at last count there were 21 -- are asked to create a dish using the bourbon as an ingredient.

I judged last year, and let me tell you, it’s not an easy job. I had to battle the impulse to overeat, limiting myself to just a bite or two of some very good things, or run the risk of being unable to fulfill my tasting responsibilities, and I had to resist the temptation to overindulge in the spirits generously provided to us judges, or suffer the embarrassing comments and photos posted online the next day. And, of course, choosing just a single prize winner (while disappointing and perhaps even pissing off others) is no picnic.

Nonetheless, I agreed to do it. And I was excited to learn that I’d be joined by nationally recognized figures from the food world. Of course, I have to be honest, there’s a certain (embarrassing) thrill to being part of a group that includes famous and accomplished folk. But I was more tickled by the idea that it would be a great opportunity to showcase Cleveland's dining scene and help all our talented chefs build their reps outside the city. I felt honored to be included.

Then I got uninvited. It seemed that much to the organizers' surprise, all the celebrities that had been asked said yes. Suddenly Chef Jam had a glut of judges. Lacking star power, I did not make the cut. It didn’t feel exactly pleasant to get kicked to the curb, but I was genuinely happy that all these luminaries were not only willing to participate but willing to come on out here to do it.

Besides, I could still buy a $65 ticket and cruise the food stations, where chefs and staff offer creations inspired by their favorite band or musician (not to mention dress up like the rock stars they’re featuring -- the memory of Scott Kim, chef/owner of SaSa at Shaker Square, in a long ZZ Top beard is something I treasure from last year). I could also head-bounce, shoulder sway, and hip wiggle to English Beat, Naked Cowboy, the Cream of the Crop All Stars and Cleveland’s own Abbey Rodeo with special guest Jim Bonfanti of the Raspberries. You can too. I hear tickets are still available. Buy them here.

I was really OK with having no official role. It meant I could just enjoy myself like everybody else. Then last week, I got re-invited. Apparently a couple of the big names backed out, so I’m back in. The line-up now includes Food & Wine editor Daniel Gritzer; chef Koren Grieveson of Chicago’s avec restaurant; and the Food Network’s Iron Chef judge and food writer Akiko Katayama; plus Doug Trattner and me. Note, however, that my name doesn’t appear in the list of celebrity judges in the Rock Hall announcement (neither does Trattner’s). I’m known around town for sure, and I do have some fans in Pittsburgh, Chicago and San Francisco (though I should note that three of the eight are relatives). But clearly that doesn’t make me famous enough. Oh well. I still get to sit right beside all the heavy-hitters and give my opinions.

Come see us at the judges table. I’ll be the one with food in my mouth and the big Cleveland-proud grin on my face.

Photo: the 2010 winning dish -- Dante Bocuzzi's Maker's Mark poached lobster with gnocchi and asparagus

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sparks will fly at the Temple of Tesla concert Saturday

The headliner at the Temple of Tesla concert this weekend isn’t an energetic pop star or hardcore rock band. It's a pair of 13-feet-high coils pulsing about 20 kilowatts of electrical currents to produce its own versions of tunes such as Girl Talk’s “This is the Remix.”

These coils and their mastermind, Ian Charnas, constitute the Tesla Orchestra. “We make musical lighting bolts,” says Charnas, the orchestra's project manager.

Saturday’s show at the Masonic Performing Arts Center will feature the coils pumping out music from the recent Open Spark Project and the orchestra’s 2010 world tour. Attendees can watch Charnas don a chainmail suit and dance with the 10-feet-long sparks. Daring audience members will be invited to sit inside a steel cage as lighting strikes around it. The Chicago-based Blue Ribbon Glee Club will open the show with a capella covers of punk rock songs.

Charnas, a 2005 Case Western Reserve University graduate, thought up the orchestra while watching a similar performance in Austin, Texas in 2007. “I thought, ‘That looks like fun. I want to do that,’” he says. He wanted to add theatrics and make it into a “sci-fi rock” performance.

Three years and $10,000 later, Charnas built twin Tesla coils with the help of CWRU students, graduates, faculty and staff. Building the coils was a “slow and painful” process, he admits, but it paid off when he could finally produce music by sending a signal through the coils to turn the sparks on and off. “Any noise that you can turn on and off, you can turn it into music,” he says.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Cavs/Mavs T-Shirt Scores With Local Fans

George and Greg Vlosich have Clevelanders' backs. The designers of the Cleve Land That I Love and Lyin' King shirts, which expressed our vitriol at LeBron James, have come up with a new design for the NBA Finals. As the Dallas Mavericks face off against the Miami Heat, the Vlosiches have superimposed a cowboy hat and the Dallas Mavericks' "M" over a Cavs logo to create a Let's Go Mavs T-shirt.

In anticipation of Game 2 tonight, we spoke with Greg Vlosich, co-owner of GV Art & Design, about the company, the T-shirt and Dallas' chances of winning their first ring before LeBron does.

CM: What do you think LeBron [James] would think or say if he saw the Let's Go Mavs T-shirt?
I think he’d get a kick out of it. Hopefully, he realizes you have to have a sense of humor about it. ... I think [the Miami Heat] know they’ve been the enemy the whole year.

CM: Have you sold many of the Let's Go Mavs T-shirts?
GV: Yes, the response has been really good. We wanted to do something that Cleveland could really rally around, and we wanted to do something because we didn’t have a whole lot to cheer for in the playoffs this year. So far it’s done really well, and everybody has really embraced it. It’s kind of funny, too, because it was in the Dallas Morning Journal today [as well as on] ESPN, ESPN's blog and CNN. Also, the woman on ESPN's SportsNation is going to be wearing it today. So it’s cool that it’s kind of putting Cleveland back in the spotlight when they’re not even in it. It’s bringing a lot of positive attention to Cleveland.

CM: What kind of feeling do you hope to promote among Cleveland fans?
We started the Cleve Land That I Love T-shirt about a year and a half ago, and we wanted something that Clevelanders could wear and be proud of it. ... We’re getting pictures of people wearing [our apparel] [in places such as] the Great Wall of China and Australia. It shows that there are other people out there who are proud of Cleveland like we are, who don’t hate it.

CM: What else does GV Art & Design sell?
[My brother George] does Etch A Sketch artwork, and we have sports art too. I’ve done a couple of pieces for some of the Browns players.

CM: Do you think the Mavs will win the Finals, and if so, how certain are you?
[Laughs] I’m not extremely certain. If I had to bet my life on it, I don't know if I’d do it. I think Dallas has a shot. My only fear is that they’ve been hot during all the playoffs, so I figured they’d hit a cold streak at some point. But I’m hoping they don’t hit the cold streak now.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Zack Attack

It’s Tour De Bruell time again. No need to pack a suitcase or dig out your passport for this trip. All you need is a wallet stocked with cash or credit card. A promotional project dreamed up by chef and restaurateur Zack Bruell, it’s an invitation to dine competitively, eating out for a chance to win three fantastic culinary prizes.

food at Parallax photo by Dale Caldwell, Jamestown Group

Here’s how it works:

Have a fabulous dinner at any Zack Bruell restaurant — Parallax, Table 45, L'Albatros or Chinato — between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Ask for a Tour de Bruell ticket and get it stamped. Then get busy and do the same at his three other spots. Turn in your ticket when you pay the bill at your final stop. This gets you a commemorative t-shirt, featuring the 2011 Tour theme: “Get Your Zack On,” and puts you in the running for the more serious swag.

The first person at each restaurant to turn in a completed Tour de Bruell ticket earns a chauffeured progressive dinner for two, with one course at each of the four Zack Bruell restaurants. This happens at the midway point of the Tour, so there’s definitely an incentive to make reservations starting Right Now. That Zack’s no fool.

Chinato photo by Kevin G Reeves

Ten semi-finalists will be randomly selected from among all those who have done the entire tour. Along with a guest of their choice, this group gets a complimentary (yes — as in totally, completely free) wine tasting dinner at Table 45, featuring cuisine by Bruell and offerings by Moët & Chandon, the world’s largest champagne house. I was a media guest at a smaller version of this event — there were only 5 semifinalists chosen — last January. The meal was superb: oysters with Japanese mignonette; sushi; butternut squash ravioli in sage cream spike with truffle essence, Parmesan, and toasted hazelnuts; five-spice scallops with a crispy noodle cake; pulled duck confit and spinach salad; and crème de Bruell for dessert, all with appropriate wine pairings.

I sat next to a couple that described themselves as Zack groupies. Their enthusiasm for his food, they said — clearly proud that they were fans from the beginning — dated back to his days at Z Contemporary Cuisine, his first place, which opened in 1985. The male half of this duo added that he took a cooking class from the chef years ago and still uses what he learned.

The name of the grand prize winner is drawn from this group of semi-finalists and announced during their dinner. That exceptionally lucky person and seven of their bfo’s receive a four-course dinner, custom created and prepared by Chef Bruell in their home.

I’m not the gambling type, so this is my kind of contest. You can’t loose and there’s no risk. To enter and be a contender, all that’s required is four good meals at four good restaurants. If there’s a down side to that, I don’t see it. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that all these dining destinations have very inviting patios.

L'Albatros photo by Kevin G. Reeves