Tag Archives: chris hodgson

Cleveland's Fabulous Food at the Fabulous Food Show

WearingMascara and I at the Fabulous Food Show

This weekend the Fabulous Food Show traveled to Cleveland. In addition to some food sampling, excellent people-watching opportunities and culinary stars like Bobby Flay and Restaurant Impossible’s Robert Irvine gracing the stage, Cleveland’s talent was also showcased.

Having attended the Food Show a couple years ago and because I’m on an alcohol-diet in November (so no beer or wine samplings), we set about exploring the local chefs that were there.

Saturday, we started out with Michael Ruhlman’s presentation.  I’ve been on a Ruhlman kick lately. Although I’ve followed his writing for a while at Ruhlman.com, he’s recently been in the news promoting his newest book (check out his post on his appearance at the Martha Stewart Show).

Michael Ruhlman

Ruhlman’s Twenty covers the twenty ideas anyone needs to know to cook pretty much anything. And with his wife Donna’s beautiful photography to illustrate the 100 recipes (sometimes even step by step), it makes it easy to put the concepts into practice.  

His session at the Culinary Celebration stage demoed a few of the processes in his book, including: how to make bacon at home, how to cure salmon and how to make a simple grouper cerviche.

Based on tv appearances, I wasn’t surprised by how well-spoken, at ease, and low-key he was. Although I’ve heard about the importance of cooking at home, this is one of the few times where I sat there and thought “I could do this.” The thing that stuck with me the most is how the key ingredient to any recipe is commonsense – “thinking” is the first concept in Twenty.

If this had been our only highlight of the weekend, the Food Show would have been a success for us.  However, we had more to look forward to.

Brian Doyle from SOW Food

After Ruhlman’s presentation, Scott and I decided to avoid the crowds surrounding the Main Kitchen Theatre. We met up with some friends like WhyCLE and Wearing Mascara and explored the Taste of the Neighborhood and Sweet Street stages.

Presented by the Plain Dealer, the Taste of the Neighborhood Stage featured demos from local chefs.  Each chef presented a dish suitable for holiday entertaining that wasn’t your typical turkey and stuffing.

Chef Brian Doyle from SOW Food made Swiss Chard cakes and eggs. It was a recipe his family created so during the demo we discussed family traditions and the importance of keeping these dishes alive. 

Team HodgePodge: Chris Hodgson, Catie Hodgson and Jacquelyn Romanin

Later on, we caught Chris Hodgson from Dim and Den Sum and Hodge Podge. Hodgson’s dish definitely made me excited for Thanksgiving — well, the day after.

Hodgson showed the audience how to make Thanksgiving Left-over Turkey Enchiladas with a butternut squash enchilada sauce. I need to track down a recipe for this because it looked much more appetizing than your standard turkey sandwich.

Our first day fittingly ended with dessert from Anne Thornton at the Sweet Street Stage. Thornton is a Bay Village native and hosts Dessert First on Food Network. She demoed a tasty tasty smores brownie. After the presentation, Scott saw me salivating for sweets and being the wonderful husband he is went up and got me one. My favorite part was how the small marshmallows just popped in your mouth.

Dessert from Anne Thornton

On Sunday, we changed gears. Since things were a little less chaotic than Saturday, we focused on the Main Kitchen Theatre and explored the exhibitors.

Although there were a number of exhibitors from around the country like Hak’s BBQ Sauce and Red Cedar Coffee, I was happy to check out locals like Chef Kimberly McCune.

At her Hungry Bee stand, we picked up honey and sweets. Her Rehive AIe is coming out soon and from what I heard after her Emerging Chefs event, it is not to miss.  The Farmers Market section and Growhio booths were also big draws for me.

Michael Symon and his Braised Pork Shank with Shaved Brussel Sprouts Salad

Sunday’s Main Kitchen Theatre schedule was highlighted by Cleveland son Michael Symon. For his first presentation, we joined a packed hall to watch him prepare a Braised Pork Shank.

During the presentation, he shared his love of brussel sprouts (what he considers an underdog – the Cleveland Browns of the vegetable world), talked about how the tastes in Cleveland have changed from when he had to call his ‘Beef Cheek Pierogies’ ‘Pot Roast Pierogies’ to get people to order them, and had audience members periodically check the score of the Browns game.

He also talked about the need for complicated flavors and textures – so he topped the shank with a shaved brussel sprout salad and homemade vinaigrette . I may not cook, but I’m a huge fan of avoiding bottled dressings whenever possible so I’m going to have to make this at home.

Robert Irvine and Jonathon Sawyer

After that we stuck around for Robert Irvine’s demo. He decided to mix it up for his last session of the weekend, inviting one of my favorite chefs, Jonathan Sawyer of Greenhouse Tavern and NoodleCat, to an Iron Chef “Irvine Style” competition.

While Irvine took questions, Sawyer and a chef from Irvine’s team faced off with members of the audience acting as sous chefs. While it’s always a treat to see Sawyer prepare something, Irvine (whom I’ve not watched a lot of) was also really engaging and entertaining — very high-energy and running into the crowds (even the back section) to answer questions.  He seemed to really like meeting his fans.

After this, our Fabulous Food Show experience ended as it had begun – with Michael Ruhlman.  Ruhlman – along with Crop Bistro’s Steve Schimoler and the Plain Dealer’s Joe Crea – were brought together for the Michael Symon-hosted “Cleveland Culinary Scene.”

Michael Symon demoing how to make your own sausage at home

Like a pairing of good food and beverage, each guest’s expertise and experience complemented the other. After Symon demoed how to grind your own sausage at home, Schimoler cooked up a dish while the group discussed different local food trends.

From the East and West Coasts’ growing recognition of Cleveland’s food scene to tips for aspiring chefs and restauranteurs, it was an incredible opportunity to engage with some of Cleveland’s greatest food voices.

One of my favorite topics was discussed: the importance of buying locally farmed meat and produce. It’s something I’m trying to do more of with small steps here and there, but as was discussed during the demo, we can only break our habits and make a statement about wanting local food by where we choose to spend our money.  

If you’re like me and never know where to start, here are a few lists of area farmers markets and CSAs. And when you’re in your grocery store, ask questions of the butchers or store managers. If they’re not sure where the product came from or how it was taken care of, there are plenty of other places in Cleveland who do.

Roundtable discussion: Robert Irvine, Joe Crea, Michael Symon, Michael Ruhlman and Steve Schimoler

Out of all of the events, I wish this one had been better attended. While a smaller crowd in the Main Kitchen Theatre meant for a more intimate, personal experience for audience members, I think there were a lot of people at the Food Show who could have benefited from hearing this.

I know I did, because as much as I enjoy eating food, I’ve always disliked cooking.  I get nervous in the kitchen – wanting it to turn out perfectly. And from listening to Ruhlman talk about the simplicity of cooking and Symon and the other local chefs talk about the need to preserve family food traditions, they won me over to the other side.

In fact, after the show on Saturday, we picked up a few ingredients from the grocery store and tried to cure some salmon.  Creating the salt and sugar mix and zesting a grapefruit and lime took no time at all.  And after allowing the salmon to cure for 24 hours, we ended up with this:

Cured Salmon with grapefruit and lime zest

Scott called it candy salmon because of the slight citrus flavoring to it.  I topped a few bagel chips with the salmon, cream cheese and chives – it was an ideal snack and we were amazed at how easy it was to throw together.

Prior to this weekend, you’d only see me in a kitchen if I was dragged there by my husband.  Now, after the Cleveland talent at the Fabulous Food Show, this formerly self-professed “non-cook” is already eyeing up a mac and cheese with sourbise dish for Thanksgiving.

If you missed the Fabulous Food Show, you don’t have to wait until next year to check it out. This April 28 and 29, the I-X Center will open up its doors to the Spring Fabulous Food Show.

Featuring Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse and Steven Raichlen demonstrating their summer grilling techniques, the spring show will focus on Outdoor Entertaining for the summer months. Our plan is to construct a stone firepit this year, so I’m hoping to pick up a few recipes we can try out on it.

Fabulous Food Show 411:

Disclosure: I was offered two media passes in exchange for the giveaway I hosted a couple of weeks ago. As always, the events I choose to cover and my opinions of them are 100% my own.



The Wait is Over – Noodlecat is Here!

Noodlecat opens today! 234 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115

The mystery started this Spring — iloveNoodlecat popped up on Facebook with Clevelanders ‘liking’ it’s enigmatic, noodle-slurping cat without knowing much else about it. A short time later, a youtube video of Noodlecat’s travels started making the rounds, revealing that a Jonathon Sawyer-helmed Japanese-styled noodle shop would open on Public Square this summer.

Well, the wait is finally over. Noodlecat brings its ramen, soba and udon noodles to Cleveland starting today – July 19!

However, before the grand reveal, the restaurant opened its doors early to host Brick & Mortar Pop-Ups – an opportunity for local chefs who don’t have a brick-and-mortar kitchen to have a temporary home, serve up a delicious dinner and preview the new Noodlecat space.

Inside Noodlecat, you'll find a very simple, clean approach to design. I love the stools and work-bench tables, an intentionally laid back environment for noodles.

In June, Lee Anne Wong from Bravo’s “Top Chef” hosted the first of the events with Easy Japaneasy – a selection of “fingers, sticks and slurp.” I was sad I had to miss it; however, for photos and reviews of the event, check out a couple of the recaps from Cleveland Foodie and Cleveland Food and Brews.

Thankfully, Scott and I didn’t miss their second Brick & Mortar event with Chris Hodgson from Dim and Den Sum and Hodge Podge food truck fame. I’m a huge fan of his street fare (who isn’t, right?) and was glad NoodleCat made it possible for a sit-down-restaurant experience of his food.

For Hodgson’s Brick & Mortar Pop-Up, the Food Truck Master of the Universe served up 4 courses, each his own twist on the Asian-inspired fare we’ll find at Noodlecat once it opens. But first, we started with an amuse bouche of an oyster flavored with mushroom.  Combined with the Boo Sauer (more on that tastiness later!), it provided a fresh, clean taste to kick things off.

First Course: B.E.L.T. Steam Bun with hard-boiled quail egg

After this teaser, the first course was a B.E.L.T. Steam Bun. The dish featured house smoked pork jowl, quail egg, pickled heirloom tomato, and mizuna paired with a sweet soy glaze. The tender, salty jowl, the soft, subtle bun, and the single, hard-boiled quail egg all had distinct tastes and textures. For the first few bites, I enjoyed the flavors separately. However, the way the glaze united everything is what really won me over about this dish.

Second Course: Rib-eye Taco

As much as we liked the first dish, the second dish was something else altogether – rib-eye taco with pickled diakon, carrot, cucumber slaw, and candied ginger. When it came out, the tortilla was overstuffed with the marinated meat — not a problem for Scott and I because we honestly couldn’t get enough of it. The marinated meat was possibly the most tender, richest rib-eye I’ve ever had. The richness in the meat was tempered by the ginger and pickled vegetables. Scott – a self-proclaimed meat-o-phile – went so far as to describe this as the tastiest dish he’s ever had and loved savoring it so much that he joked afterwards that the rest of his life would be a little emptier now that it was gone. 

Third Course: Orange "Chicken" on a bed of crispy popped wild rice and stewed mustard greens

However, Scott’s spirits lifted when I reminded him we still had two more dishes to enjoy. The third course was titled “Orange ‘Chicken’ (kinda, sorta, not really).” Chef Hodgson replaced the traditional chicken with orange-glazed, crispy sweetbreads.  It was so well-executed, you could hardly tell the difference.   However, my favorite part of the dish was the crispy popped rice. I didn’t really know what to expect and was pleasantly surprised by the crispy, almost smoky taste. Each rice kernel popped at every bite. It was an interesting contrast to the stewed mustard greens that accompanied it.

Fourth Course: Peking Quail on Soba Noodles with a juicy "Quick" Pickled Egg

The unlikely texture of the rice was nothing to prepare us for the final dish – by far the most adventurous of the evening for us. Soba noodles and miso broth provided a nice base for the bowl. They were accompanied by a dollop of kimchi slaw, peking quail and a “quick” pickled egg. Along with the kimchi, the pickled skin of the egg provided a very vibrant color to the gray soba noodles. Before breaking the whole quick-cooked egg in the soup broth, I’ll confess the kid in me took a few moments to play with my food. I may have been just a tad bit captivated by poking a hole in the egg with my chopstick and then watching the hole seal itself back up with the liquid interior. Similar to the first course, there were a lot of great distinct tastes in this noodle bowl playing off of the soba base.

After 4 courses that were wildly different from one another (and wild in their own right), we ended with a piece of ginger coated in chocolate. This didn’t just clean the palate nicely but provided a sweet bite of dessert.

To pair with the dinner, guests could order a drink from their beer, cocktails or teas menu. When we sat down, we were told Noodlecat had just gotten its liquor license.  Perfect timing because the drinks Dean Sauer put together were amazing! There were three cocktails to choose from — a Melon Chuhai, a Boo Sauer and a Collins Cloud.

After the cocktails we saw at Brick & Mortar, expect this bar to be serving up some drinks you won't want to miss.

It was a tough decision but I ordered the Boo Sauer which featured a 12 year Yamazaki whiskey, maple syrup and citrus – his own twist on a whiskey sour.  While the whiskey had a slight bite, it wasn’t overpowering. The freshness really amplified the flavors of the rich dishes – in particular the rib-eye. I hope something like this will be on the Noodlecat dinner menu because I’ve discovered a love for the occasional whiskey sour thanks to it.

While I didn’t have a chance to try the Melon Chuhai or Collins Cloud, I learned from talking to a couple of staff members during dinner that Sauer is planning seasonal chuhais with different spritz flavors. Watermelon was the evening’s flavor – a fittingly refreshing choice for the heat we’ve been having. Guests at the table next to us ordered the Collins Cloud, Sauer’s twist on a Tom Collins which featured Watershed Gin, a berry reduction and egg white foam. From the reactions I overheard, this was a definite winner and with my love of gin, next on my list to try.

The evening was rounded out by excellent service from our waitress Liz. This is definitely what I’ve come to expect from eating at Sawyer’s Greenhouse so I was glad to see it at Noodlecat as well. Liz and everyon there was helpful, friendly and clearly loved food as they didn’t mind and even seemed to enjoy explaining all of the work that went into the dishes and drinks.

A very happy Noodlecat

After such an enjoyable preview of the space, I’m excited that Noodlecat is finally here. To celebrate tonight’s grand opening, Dogfish Head Brewery will help host a Beers and Buns Happy Hour — pairing three Dogfish Head brews with ginza buns.  For the first week, Noodlecat will be serving lunch, then adding dinner the second week.

Check out their current menu online. There are traditional and Tokyo noodle bowls, but I know I’m most looking forward to the Ohio Beef Brisket Yudaya-Jin Ramen. It comes with matza ball, chicken broth dashi, carrot & picked dill.

Although it’s a mystery no more, you can keep track of Noodlecat’s travels by liking iloveNoodlecat on Facebook, checking out noodlecat.com, and following @Noodle_Cat on Twitter. And if you’re like me and are looking forward to more Brick & Mortar Pop-Ups, follow them here and @BrickNMortar216 to stay up to date.

I hope you’ll join me in slurping some noodles soon!

Disclosure: While we were there, we were surprised with one complimentary dinner. As always, though, the opinions in this post are 100% my own.