There is no limit to the ingenuity of man if it is properly and vigorously applied…”
— Winston Churchill
When I was at last Thursday’s Cocktail Party Redux for Ingenuity Cleveland, I picked up a card off a table that had this quote on it.
If my recap of last year’s IngenuityFest was any indication, this is the perfect quote to sum up what the team and board at Ingenuity Cleveland have been achieving since 2004.
Ingenuity is changing how people look at art, technology, creativity and innovation. By tapping into Northeast Ohio’s rich cultural, scientific and engineering resources, they are creating a season of events for 2011 that redefine, reinvent and reimagine Cleveland.
The 2011 season of Ingenuity, themed Cur(Re)nts, kicked off by rethinking the classic cocktail party. Ingenuity paired up with Light Bistro in Ohio City to delve into the secret science of food, drink and fun at Cocktail Party Redux.
Four stations explored the science and history behind beer, wine and cocktails by bringing in local experts in each field who could talk the trade. Then, Light Bistro’s Chef and Owner Matt Mathlage designed a tasting menu that complemented the drinks.
The first room we stopped in was sponsored by Thirsty Dog Brewery, based out of Akron. Their Raspberry Ale is my favorite fruit beer. On Thursday, they had three beers to sample from. The rep from Thirsty Dog was very knowledgeable of the offerings and was able to give recommendations to even the pickiest beer drinker like Scott.
I first tried their Twisted Kilt, a Scottish Export Ale, with a hint of caramel to the taste. In addition to the taste, I loved the reddish brown coloring to it. Their Stud Service Stout did not disappoint either – flavorful and smooth. While the Raspberry Ale is still my favorite, the beers they had at Cocktail Party Redux solidified their standing as an excellent brewery in my eye.
To accompany the beer, Light Bistro served up Ball Game Chic, which included Mini Kobe Hotdogs with Pickled Vegetables, Tuna “Nachos”, and Sweet and Sour Popcorn. This was my favorite pairing because the hotdogs and nachos had a kick to them with a pepper topping the hotdog and the wasabi in the nachos. The popcorn – which had almost a fruity sweetness – provided a great contrast. I would enjoy seeing twists like this at one of the stands at Progressive.
After proceeding through Light Bistro’s wine room/lounge, we were met by mixologist Joseph Deluca who was serving up a different take on martinis – creating perfumes out of them. As Tobin Northrup, who was assisting Deluca, explained the martinis had a base of gin, vodka and vermouth with spritzes of citrus, rose water and ginger. I haven’t had something like this before – the spritzes created a complex bouquet. More interestingly, even when the perfumes lessened in the flavor, the aroma was still there.
The cocktails were complemented by Chef Matt’s take on bar snacks with Spiced Fried Nut, a Dried Shrimp Bar Mix, and BBQ Chicharones, a Latin American pork rind dish.
We ventured upstairs for the New and Old World Wines exploration. Aaron Diebol from 55 Degrees, who brought 2 New World wines to taste, explained the differences between Old and New World classifications. Tracey English was there from Private Reserve with Old World Wines from France and Italy.
Because of my allergy to red wine, I was limited in what I could sample. However, the whites were very flavorful. I actually ended up buying a bottle of the 2009 Bel Colle Roero Arneis from the Piedmont region of Italy. Although the Varietal has a fruity hint to it, I enjoyed the smoky notes I got when sampling it.
To pair with the Old World Wines, we were offered Ricotta Stuffed Fried Risotto, Veal Marsala Roulade, and Lasagna crispy dumplings – all delicious deconstructions of French and Italian flavors. The New World take was themed around a molecular look at Cali Cuisine.
Both Scott’s and my favorite from the upstairs menu were the Virtual California Rolls. The ‘rolls’ were small square-cut slices of Avocado Agar with Crab and Cream Cheese Fluid Gels and Nori Crumbs. I was surprised Scott liked it because he can sometimes be particular with texture and the ‘rolls’ were very smooth. However, the seaweed each piece was served on was a crisp contrast to the agar that really worked for both of us.
This had been my first time at Light Bistro, which is located on Bridge Avenue right near Dave’s Supermarket in Ohio City. On top of their main courses, they offer both Traditional and American Progressive Tapas (the lamb meatballs and Southern Fried Quail sound very tempting). They also have a wine retail room which has over 160 different wines to choose from in beautiful custom built wood cabinets.
Notably, the staff at Light Bistro were extremely efficient and friendly. Sometimes at busy events like this, you’ll see plates and glasses laying around. However, if there was an empty dish on one of the tables, someone would quickly sweep in, remove it, and clean the table as if it had never been there only seconds before.
Somehow they also managed to take the time to answer any questions about the food or restaurant. I was particularly grateful to Lance who put a couple minutes aside to speak about how Light Bistro started and Chef and Owner Matt Mathlage’s mission for the restaurant.
With a fine combination of excellent food; a warm, artful setting; and above-and-beyond service, I highly recommend this Ohio City haunt.
While guests sampled food and drink, we were treated to a variety of entertainment. Lemming Labs was present at Cocktail Party Redux with the latest version of their digital Kaleidoscopic Drawing program for the iPad. At IngenuityFest 2010, participants had a chance to design a kaleidoscopic mandala using an array of symmetrical patterns and a wide color palette. These Mandalas formed part of a larger collected work entitled “The Digital Kaleidoscopic Mandala Project” which was about community, creation, transformation, and participation.
Over the last couple of years, the Festival has also built a reputation for featuring diverse live music acts. Live jazz was fittingly provided at Cocktail Party Redux by vocalist Elaine Richardson (aka Dr. E) and musician Will Ross. A singer, songwriter, educator, author, and mother, Dr. E released her debut album Elevated last year. And her smoky blues, jazz, and groove style shown through in her performance on Thursday night.
The season of Ingenuity continues on June 11th at 8pm with Temple of Tesla. This event will bring together original music from around the world, dance, theatrics — and indoor lightning bolts, as giant Tesla coils emit an array of light and sound inside the Masonic Auditorium. Tickets for the event are $20. As I mentioned in my review of Edison’s Pub, Nikola Tesla is one of my favorite inventors so I’m very much looking forward to this unusual event.
After the Tesla concert, Speakeasy 2.0 returns on July 15th – when Clevelanders can party like it’s 1929 in the subway tunnels of the Detroit-Superior Bridge.
And then there is the main event: IngenuityFest 2011 on September 16, 17 and 18. The festival returns to the bridge this year with flaming robots, waterfalls, underground opera and more. Even better? As in years past, it’s free thanks to the support of the community.
The support is always needed so if you’d like to help out, there are opportunities to donate and volunteer in addition to buying tickets for the Tesla concert and Speakeasy 2.0. With this support, we can ensure Churchill’s quote continues to apply to the unique innovation going on at Ingenuity Cleveland.
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