Tag Archives: Emerging Chefs

Emerging Chefs’ Naughty Claus Review

Ohio City’s Speakeasy, host to Emerging Chefs’ Naughty Claus event

Christmas came early for Cleveland food-and-drink lovers at last week’s Emerging Chefs Naughty Claus.

Going in, I knew if there was anyone who could break up the monotony of holiday meals, it would be the Emerging Chefs team. And I was not disappointed as they teamed with Chef Adam Lambert from Ohio City’s Bar Cento/Bier Markt/Speakeasy for an evening of Christmas mischief and culinary adventure.

Located beneath Bier Markt, the sultrily-lit prohibition-themed Speakeasy lounge warmly welcomed us from the frigid December night.

Naughty Claus Course 1: Snow Globe on a Half Shell

After settling into a corner booth with Jen and her husband Matthew, we started the meal off with Chef Lambert’s interpretation of a Snow Globe.

Using a classic Christmas Eve ingredient – oysters – as the basis for this dish, Lambert created the illusion of a snow globe by encasing it in a gel-like substance mixed with juniper, tonic and Douglas fir.

Although it was beautiful to look at, I unfortunately found that the consistency and taste of the gel overpowered the oyster too much, leaving only a hint of it.

While the snow globe’s taste wasn’t to my liking, it was paired with a Bijou. Made of gin, vermouth and chartreuse, it had a very potent, evergreen-like flavor. Stirring in a few ice cubes from my water cut the bitter bite and resulted in a nice cocktail for gin lovers.

Naughty Claus Cocktail 2: Milk Punch

This was followed by Lambert’s XXX-Mas Cookies and Milk Punch.

Ladies, next time you’re having a bachelorette party, these *ahem* “mature audiences only” cookies are a delicious alternative to your typical adult treats.

The suggestively-shaped, lightly-flavored cookies were topped with foie gras and whipped chantilly icing and paired with a warmed rum and milk punch.

Honestly, I’m thankful the punch – my favorite drink of the night – came in such a tiny mug. If I didn’t have work early the next morning, I could have curled inside an oversized bowl of it. The dish was a milk-and-cookies combo fitting for a Naughty Santa.

Naughty Claus Course 3: Truffled Arancini “Snow Balls”

The third course was a pair of “Snowballs” – arancini topped with white truffle shavings. The rich, savory interior of these fried rice balls mixed very well with the light breading that coated it – a winner with me and my tablemates.

It was served with truffle-infused Everclear. Although I wasn’t a fan of the cocktail’s heavy truffle flavor on its own, I decided to give it a second try to see how it paired with the arancini.

After taking a bite of the dish, then a sip of the cocktail, I was floored. The original truffle flavoring of the drink had been replaced with an almost fruity flavor.

I know that there are drink and food combinations which complement each other in taste, but this was the first time I ever had the sum of a pairing actually change its parts. I really enjoyed the experimentation this pairing lent itself to.

Naughty Claus Course 4: Who Ham for One

Chef Lambert’s next course was “Who Ham for One,” in which he took traditional Christmas ham and wrapped and cooked it around a chicken bone to replicate the look of the ham in How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

To complement the playful presentation, Chef Lambert prepared the meat with clove, cherry and pineapple – full of succulent flavor.

Unfortunately, my allergy to red wine kept me from trying the mulled Sangiovese served with it – but as Jen noted in her WhyCLE recap, it was her favorite of the evening and a perfect fireside sipper.

Naughty Claus Course 5: Kosher Khristmas

The last course of the night was my overall favorite, both in presentation and taste: Chef Lambert’s Kosher Khristmas.

Inspired by A Christmas Story, he served an Asian-style shredded duck with crisp and colorful vegetables. It was presented in – what else – small Chinese take-out boxes.

Enjoy it we did!

The duck was so moist and rich. Like the milk punch, my Christmas wish is for more servings of this dish.

The Kosher Kristmas was paired with a chilled sake sangria – whose slight fruitiness provided a refreshing contrast to the duck and cut down on the meal’s richness.

Chef Lambert didn’t even waste the ham bone, featuring it prominently in Naughty Claus’ Leg Lamp

Regardless of whether you were nice or naughty, Chef Lambert left us all with sweet treats: a bit of coal for our stockings made of bitter fernet hard candy and more of those delicious cookies with a glass of homemade scotch eggnog.

It was an evening of indulgence, to be sure – with plenty of bawdy laughs and misbehaving elves rounding out the night. We even got a visit from Jolly Naughty Ol’ St. Nick bearing gifts courtesy of Ambience.

Missed Naughty Claus? Chef Lambert and his team have put together a delicious New Year’s Eve menu for Bar Cento, located upstairs from Speakeasy. You can view the full menu – along with details on their other Bier Markt, Speakeasy, Market Garden and Nano Brew parties at http://bit.ly/VnHoUE

Disclosure: I was provided one ticket to Naughty Claus in exchange for blogging about the event. The opinions here are my own.

12 Days of Cleveland – Thankful for Too Much To Do This Holiday Season

This Thanksgiving, there were many things to be thankful for. I’m lucky to have a pretty swell husband (understatement), fantastic parents and sister, friends and even in-laws (congrats Laura and Max on your engagement!). From work to home and in between, there’s not much to complain about.

And even better, I get to spend my time in Cleveland. Whether it’s Downtown, east, west or the suburbs – there’s always something to do. In fact, if I had one complaint it’s that there’s sometimes too much to choose from.

However, I consider that a very lucky problem to have. Clevelanders are blessed with a city that not just offers us a lot of unique entertainment, food, art and shopping experiences, but more importantly is small enough that most of it is accessible.

As we head into the holiday season, Cleveland is bustling with even more activity. In honor of one of my favorite carols, here are my “12 Days of Cleveland” Picks.

Holiday shopping events make it easier to take the pledge to shop local

Day 1. Shop Local Showcase: On Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, get your holiday shopping done early with Room Service’s Made in the 216 Holiday Shoppe (today-12/31), Bazaar Bizarre Cleveland’s eastside show (today and Saturday) and Downtown Cleveland’s Winterfest (Saturday).

And if you’re a procrastinator like me, Yelp Cleveland’s Shop Local Pledge has a full list of shopping events throughout December like Bazaar Bizarre’s huge westside show (12/8-12/9) and Screw Factory’s Last Minute Market (12/15).

Day 2. Circle in the City: One of the things on my Cleveland to-see list is the inside of the Cleveland Trust Rotunda.  Every time I walk by it, I stare longingly wanting to get a glimpse of the murals and stunning stained-glass dome I’ve only seen in pictures. Thanks to the Downtown Cleveland Alliance and University Circle, my holiday wish has been granted with Circle in the City!

Every Wednesday between now and Dec. 12, the Ameritrust Rotunda will open from 11:30am-1pm for free cultural events sponsored by University Circle institutions. A food truck or two will be outside where you can grab lunch.

On my day off this past Wednesday, I stopped in for the first Circle in the City: a performance by Robert Cassidy, Department of Music faculty member and pianist for the Almeda Trio, The Music Settlement’s professional ensemble in residence. It was a harmonious complement to the Rotunda’s artwork and architecture whose beauty surpassed the photographs.

Circle in the City offers up beautiful sounds for the holiday as well as a rare opportunity to see the inside of the Cleveland Trust Rotunda

Day 3. Tinsel Town: If you have children, gather your family together to celebrate the holidays at PlayhouseSquare’s Tinsel Town Party (12/1). From 12-2 pm, the beautifully decorated Palace Theatre lobby will host holiday crafts, cookie decorating and of course Santa! Snacks and hot chocolate with whipped cream and sprinkles will also be available. All proceeds benefit community engagement and education programs at PlayhouseSquare (Family Four Pack: $40; Adult: $8; Child: $14; half-price discounts for Pals Members).

Day 4. Holiday CircleFest: Ring in December at the Holiday CircleFest (12/2). From 1-5:30pm, spend your day in University Circle experiencing more than a dozen of Cleveland’s cultural treasures free of charge. Meanwhile, enjoy live music, craft making, historic displays of holiday toys, storytelling, a singing Santa, live reindeer, the city’s best gingerbread house competition, and more.

Wade Oval will also be busy with free horse-drawn carriage rides, ice carving demos, and ice-skating at the Oval’s Rink. At 5:30, the celebration concludes with The Cleveland Museum of Art’s Winter Lights Lantern Procession.

A Cleveland holiday tradition returns to PlayhouseSquare with Cleveland Orchestra and Joffrey Ballet’s Nutcracker (11/29-12/2)

Day 5. The Nutcracker on Stage and Screen: The incomparable pairing of the Joffrey Ballet and the Cleveland Orchestra returns to PlayhouseSquare with their annual run of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker (11/29-12/2). Audiences will delight in the breathtaking costumes, magical music and spectacular dancing.

Although nothing compares to a live performance, if you can’t make it to the Cleveland production, Fathom Events will present the Russian Imperial Mariinsky Theatre’s The Nutcracker (12/3) at ten local movie theatres. Performances are at 2 and 7:30pm. Find your closest location here.

Day 6. Warehouse District Holiday Tour: Each December, hundreds of people descend onto Warehouse District for their annual Neighborhood Holiday Tour. Now in its 13th year, the popular tour (12/5) features a behind the scenes look at the Warehouse District’s beautiful residential and office buildings as well as a feast from the neighborhood’s restaurants.

This year’s tour includes stops at the Bridgeview Apartments Atrium, 425 Lakeside, the Bradley Building, the Cloak Factory, Old Stone Church, the offices of Rieth, Antonelli & Raj, plus a construction tour of the Flats East Bank Project.

Guests will then enjoy holiday treats from Barley House, Bar Louie, The Blind Pig, Blue Point Grille, Bob Golic’s Sports Bar & Grille, BRGR 9, Constantino’s Market, Charkha Exotic Indian Cuisine, Gillespie’s Map Room, Johnny’s Downtown, John Q’s Steakhouse and Taza Lebanese Grill. Proceeds from the tour benefit the Historic Warehouse District Development Corporation.

A special Santaland Diaries YP Night on 12/6 features a pre-show reception and tickets to the performance

Day 7. Santaland Diaries: PlayhouseSquare is serving up some not-so-family-friendly holiday fare when David Sedaris’ classic Santaland Diaries comes to the E14th St Theatre (11/28-12/22). Produced by Cleveland Public Theatre, Santaland Diaries recounts the hilarious (and sometimes horrible) stories of an out of work actor who takes a job as Crumpet, the Macy’s Christmas elf.

And on 12/6, join me at a special YP Night at Santaland Diaries. $30 gets you a ticket to the performance and unlimited drinks and light appetizers at a pre-show reception hosted by PlayhouseSquare Partners.

Day 8. Howard Hanna’s Chow Chow: If you’re downtown on 12/7 and  looking for a good deal on lunch, stop by Howard Hanna’s Chow Chow Fundraiser. From 11am-2pm, enjoy food from Blue Point Grill, Brennan’s Catering, John Q’s Steakhouse, Mr. Chicken and Marigold Catering for only $10. Proceeds from the event’s tickets, silent auction, and bake sale will go to the Children’s Free Care Fund which supports local Children’s hospitals including UH Rainbow Babies, Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital, MetroHealth and Akron Children’s Hospital.

Work off those holiday goodies at the Jingle Bell Run (12/8)

Day 9. Jingle Bell Run: Lace up your running shoes, pull on your santa hat or reindeer antlers and help raise money for the Arthritis Foundation with the Cleveland Jingle Bell Run/Walk (12/8). Jingle Bell teams and solo runners are raising money and participating in the 5K which kicks off at 9am in Legacy Village.  Register to run/walk here or make a donation.

Day 10. Christmas Carols Old and New: While one of Northeast Ohio’s favorite holiday traditions returns to the Hanna Theatre with Great Lakes Theater’s A Christmas Carol, the Cleveland Play House is helming a brand new carol at the Allen. Both shows run 11/30-12/23.

Great Lakes’ adaptation of A Christmas Carol takes place in London on Christmas Eve as the Cleaveland family sits down for their annual reading of the story. Children and adults will enjoy a fresh take on Scrooge’s tale as they see it unfold through the imagination of the family’s youngest son.

Down the street at the Allen Theatre, Cleveland Play House presents the world premiere A Carol for Cleveland. Written by local playwright Eric Coble and author Les Roberts, A Carol for Cleveland is a love-letter to the city and the determination and spirit that make it unique. With my love of Les Roberts and after last year’s stunning The Game’s Afoot, you know that A Carol for Cleveland is top of my list for holiday shows.

Have you been naughty or nice this year? Who cares at Emerging Chefs’ Naughty Claus Dinner Party! (12/20)

Day 11. Emerging Chefs’ Naughty Claus: It doesn’t matter if you’ve been naughty or nice this year, Emerging Chefs has a party for every boy and girl (well, man and woman since you should find a babysitter for this holiday dinner).

At Naughty Claus (12/20), Chef Adam Lambert will make the holidays merry, bright and delicious with festive cuisine at Cleveland’s Speakeasy.

From 8pm to midnight, the NY Times-featured prohibition-era-themed lounge will play host to a 5-course meal paired with libations. If you’re not already in a holiday mood, creative courses like Snow Globe Ornaments (with oyster, Douglas fir, juniper and tonic), XXX-Mas Cookies, truffle Snowballs, Who Ham for One and Kosher Khristmas will get you in one. Plus everyone will leave with a bit of “coal” for their stockings. If only for one night, it’ll be good to be bad.

Day 12. Ale, Cookies and Ugly Sweater Party: The Cleveland Foodbank’s YP Pantry hosts its first annual Ale & Cookies party for Cleveland young professionals.  Join them at Bier Markt-Bar Cento on Dec. 17, 6-9pm for some Christmas Ale and holiday cookies while helping the hungry. 15% of the group’s bar bills will go directly to the Cleveland Foodbank and donations of canned goods are always welcome. Best ugly holiday sweater wins a prize!

This list is only the tip of the gingerbread house when it comes to holiday fun in Cleveland. Share your picks in the comments below!

Disclosure: In exchange for previewing and reviewing Emerging Chefs’ Naughty Claus, I was offered one ticket to the event. I am also on the board of PlayhouseSquare Partners and the YP Pantry which are hosting Tinsel Town, the Santaland Diaries YP Night and Ale and Cookies.

Get Inspired by Locavore + Cleveland's Other Fall Feasts

Image source lifeinthecle.wordpress.com

I love seeing Clevelanders – especially young Clevelanders – finding inspiration and getting involved in a cause that matters to them.  Whether it’s the arts, the homeless and hungry, the preservation of a historic landmark or building awareness for a disease — if you see an organization or an issue that needs your support, get out there!

Recently, I’ve found inspiration from Charlene at Life in the CLE who is helping to organize the National MS Society’s Locavore fundraiser this September.

When she was 18, her best friend Adam Reidy – who was poised to qualify for the 2002 Winter Olympics – was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Although he missed his opportunity to compete, he’s faced the life-long challenges of MS with a positive attitude.

Inspired by Adam’s journey, Charlene has become deeply involved over the years with the National MS Society’s mission. After reading about Adam’s story and the MS Society’s upcoming event on her blog, there’s no way I wasn’t going to share it.

Image of Adam Reidy from lifeinthecle.wordpress.com

On September 7th at Windows on the River, Locavore will raise funds to support the Society’s mission of finding a cure for multiple sclerosis, while also supporting the thousands of Ohioans who live daily with MS.

Locavore will feature local food and drinks grown or produced within 100 miles of Cleveland. Wine and beer will be paired with Lilly Handmade Chocolates, as well as treats from AMP 150, Carrie Cerino’s, Corleone’s Ristorante, Indulgence, John Palmer’s Bistro 44, Momocho and Nosh Eatery.

Event tickets are $75 and Patron tickets are $95 (which includes an exclusive champagne tasting). All proceeds from the evening will be used to provide programs and services to more than 20,000 Ohioans who have been diagnosed with MS.

Tickets can be purchased here. For more information about the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, visit www.MSohiobuckeye.org.

***

Over the coming weeks and months, there are a full slate of events like Locavore that will keep attendees’ stomachs full and tastebuds happy. However, because of my blog vacation, I realized I’m not going to have enough time to cover them all.

So before I leave, enjoy this roundup of a few other culinary events I’m looking forward to:

Founder Todd Gauman leads an NEO Food Tour in Shaker Square

NEO Food Tours
Aug. 28 and Oct. 16

There are only 3 tours left in NEO Food Tours’ 2012 season and one is already sold out.

On August 28, explore the history and food of Cleveland Heights and the Cedar Lee District at NEO Food Tours’ next guided restaurant tour. The Mayor of Cleveland Heights will be co-hosting and stops will include The Wine Spot with a special presentation from FarmShare Ohio, Taste and Lopez Southwest Kitchen.  Tickets available at 2012cedarlee-eorg.eventbrite.com

Because September’s Ohio City tour is already sold out, your last chance to experience an NEO Food Tour won’t be til Oct. 16 in Chagrin Falls. Although the restaurants haven’t been announced yet, each stop will feature a presentation with the chef/owner and a small plate and beverage pairing designed especially for the evening.

Graphic courtesy of Emerging Chefs

Emerging Chefs
Aug. 31, Sept. 29 and Oct. 28

This Fall, Emerging Chefs has a “Flavorful Trifecta of Feasts” lined up.

After their heralded turn at Dinner in the Dark this week, The Black Pig on W 25th Street is hosting Emerging Chefs’ Midnight Brunch at the end of August. When the clock strikes twelve on the evening of August 31, Chef Nowak will introduce his twist on the “fourth meal” with a multi-course celebration featuring rare meats, cheeses and drink pairings. This will be a fun way to check out one of Cleveland’s newest (and already buzzing) additions!

With the arrival of autumn, comes Emerging Chefs’ Harvest Moon on September 29. This culinary celebration of all things Fall will showcase Chef Ben Bebenroth and one of my favorite restaurants that opened this past year — Spice Kitchen & Bar. Bundle up in your fall sweaters because (weather permitting) guests will be dining al fresco on Spice’s patio for what may be the last time this year.

The Trifecta culminates with Emerging Chefs’ most extravagant event to date: Chef Steve Schimoler’s The Roaring Twenties – A Culinary Play in Three Acts. “Extravagant” is probably an understatement when it comes to this black-tie/1920s inspired gala on October 28. Only a handful of tickets will be available for the evening which will include period cocktails and champagne in Crop’s grand bar, a five-course meal straight out of the 1920s in their bank vault, and an after-dinner cigar and cocktail party.

Graphic courtesy of the Arthritis Foundation-NEO

L’Amour du Vin
Launch Party Sept. 6; Event Oct. 18

The 15th annual L’Amour du Vin will help raise funds for the Arthritis Foundation and features an evening of cuisine paired with wines from around the world. I’ll actually be sharing more info about this October event in the coming weeks, but in the meantime learn more at their free Launch Party on September 6 at Crocker Park’s 87 West.

Taste of the Browns
Sept. 10

Likewise, I’ll soon be posting details (and a giveaway!) about the return of one of my favorite Fall events: the Cleveland Foodbank’s Taste of the Browns on September 10. As a teaser, though, here’s my recap of last year’s event. Come back the week of August 27 for your chance to win tickets.

Dinner in the Dark
Sept. 10

I love Dinner in the Dark’s continued dedication to dining for a cause. Their next event is September 10 at Luxe and although the participating chefs and 6-course menu will not be revealed until the guests arrive, I would recommend anything involving Chef Brian Okin after last month’s extraordinary CLE Dinner Club. Plus, Dinner in the Dark just posted the charity that will be benefitting from the Sept. event: The Covenant Adolescent Chemical Dependency Treatment & Prevention Center. Tickets available at dinnerinthedark-luxe-eorg.eventbrite.com.

Image source wsm100.org

West Side Market 100
Oct. 7 and Nov. 3

Last — but certainly not least — are all of this Fall’s events celebrating the Centennial of West Side Market! The goal of WSM100 is to offer something for everyone while commemorating the history, tradition and importance of the Market.

On October 7, West 25th is going to be closed off all day long for the West Side Market Street Festival and Parade.  A WSM-themed parade, featuring current and past vendors, neighborhood block clubs and community groups, will step off at noon, while music, food and more festivities will be going on throughout the district from 11am to 8pm.

The event will mark the first time in a decade that West Side Market has been open on a Sunday. In addition to freshly prepared foods from WSM vendors, festival attendees can enjoy two beer gardens and the Ohio City restaurants and food trucks that will be selling food along W. 25th Street all day.

After filling yourself with deliciously local fare, 3 stages of dancing and live music and family-friendly activities at the Ohio City Farm’s OC Harvest will help burn away the calories.

Image source wsm100.org

The West Side Market Centennial Gala on November 3 not just marks the end of WSM100’s year-long celebration but will most importantly raise substantial funding for the care and growth of West Side Market in its next 100 years.

Organized by Cleveland’s Iron Chef Michael Symon and Food & Wine’s Best New Chef Jonathon Sawyer, the gala fundraiser will feature food sourced from WSM and prepared by an all-star list of national and local chef talent:

  • Cleveland’s Britt-Marie Culey, Chris Hodgson, Eric Williams, Paul Minnillo and Rocco Whalen (in addition to Sawyer and Symon);
  • NYC’s Andrew Zimmern, April Bloomfield, Andrew Carmellini and Karen DeMasco;
  • Philadelphia’s Jeff Michaud and Marc Vetri;
  • and Chicago’s Paul Kahan.

In honor of the milestone, WSM’s neighbor Great Lakes Brewing Company will debut the commemorative hand-brewed lager Butcher’s Brew.

More information about both events and Gala tickets are at wsm100.org. While the street fest and parade are free, tickets to the gala are $250 with proceeds helping to ensure the future of this worthy Cleveland institution.

Happy eating!

Disclosure: I was asked to blog about Taste of the Browns in exchange for 2 tickets for myself and 2 to giveaway on my blog. I will be blogging about this event in more detail over the next few weeks.

My First Dance with Velvet Tango Room at "Last Tango in Tremont"

I can finally cross another thing off my “What?!? You’ve never been there?” Cleveland list after I found myself on the doorstep of the Velvet Tango Room for the first time.

If you don’t know what you’re looking for when you’re driving by Velvet Tango Room, you’ll likely miss it (I almost did until I noticed the small sign in their front window). But once you cross the threshold, you’re transported from an unsuspecting Cleveland neighborhood into a bygone era.

From the well-appointed furniture to the vintage decor, beautiful piano, and private backroom, VTR seemed like a set straight out of Midnight in Paris. The mood reminded me of that glow of romance and anticipation you get on a first date.

Last week’s trip to VTR was for Emerging Chefs’ Last Tango in Tremont dinner.  The sold-out crowd took over the Velvet Tango Room’s backroom and patio, which is where Scott and I snagged a table with Smitten in CLE, Why CLE and @TheRealCLEGuy.

The setup was a little different compared to previous Emerging Chefs. As Eat Drink Cleveland noted in her recap, some of the table settings were better suited for cocktails and small bites instead of a five-course meal. Despite this, though, the layout provided an intimacy you don’t always have a chance to enjoy at a large culinary event.

Chef Brian Rosander designed the menu for the evening. While the first course was being served, he came and spoke to each room about his inspiration for the evening. Because of the recent heatwave, Chef Rosander created dishes that were all chilled. His goal with chilled dishes was to not only provide us a refreshing escape, but also showcase the flavor of the ingredients without dampening them with heat.

Velvet Tango Room’s Paulius Nasvytis handpicked a cocktail to pair with each dish. As wonderful as VTR’s vibe is, it’s their dedication to cocktails that makes them famous. The combination of fresh, artisan ingredients and VTR’s experts behind the bar contributes to these consumable masterpieces, and guests at Last Tango had the chance to enjoy a cross-section of five of them.

The evening’s first act featured a bowl of Chilled Pea Bisque. This creamy, refreshing soup was topped with a dollop of fresh crab. It’s difficult to create a dish that’s equal-parts hearty and fresh, but the bisque achieved this. And honestly, adding crab to almost anything will make me happy.

The dish was paired with a White Lotus cocktail, a subtle drink whose taste of honey took me a few sips to identify, but really elevated the beverage. I always like to think about what time of year I’d prefer to drink a specific cocktail, and the White Lotus struck me as the ideal Springtime drink – fresh, citrusy ingredients with a bit of warmth that would be welcome after a long winter.

The second course was a sampling of Toulouse sausage, and Aligot, Purple Majesty, and American potatoes. Chef Rosander introduced the dish by saying it was his take on a French-inspired antipasto.  The sausage, in particular, topped with a light creamy cheese was my favorite part of the plate.

A bite of this chilled sausage, followed by some of the Aligot mashed potatoes and then a sip of VTR’s Manhattan packed the biggest flavor of the evening.

VTR’s Manhattans will knock you for a loop. If I had to pick a drink from the evening’s selections that reflected VTR’s essence, it would be this classic – deceptively straightforward but perfected by VTR’s attention to detail and the flourish of the Italian-imported cherry that accompanies it.

While I thought the second course featured the best individual mouthful of the evening, Chef Rosander’s Chicken Mousselin with tomato tarte tatin maintained the best overall flavor throughout the entire course. A seasoned cut of chicken was topped with a juicy, roasted tomato, drizzled with basil oil and garnished with a bit of fresh basil.

Everyone agreed that it was reminiscent of a caprese salad and was the dish I’d want to try to replicate at home for dinner (though I doubt I could come close!).

In my opinion, this dish also had the most complementary drink pairing of the evening. It was served with an Apricot Lady – whose tartness was tempered by the egg whites. The drink and dish were ideal for summer and most-exemplified Chef Rosander’s goal for the evening to provide a chilled, fresh – yet still flavorful – meal.

The only lowlight of the evening for me was Act 4, a savory twist on a traditional French clafoutis. A clafoutis is most often served as a dessert – filled with fruit and dusted with powder sugar. While Chef Rosander’s clafoutis had apples baked into it and powder sugar on top, it also featured poached pork belly.

I appreciate Chef Rosander taking a chance to try something different with the dish. Unfortunately, the cooled flavor of the pork belly didn’t come through as well as I would have liked and I personally found the chewy, soft texture off-putting.

The Berkshire Martinez that accompanied the course had a sharp bite of gin and bitters. When it comes to gin, it seems people fall into two camps — with strong feelings of either love or hate for it.

Fortunately I love gin and thought this was one of the better drinks of the evening (I even got a second serving when Scott – a non-gin fan – couldn’t stomach a sip of it). After looking up the ingredients for a Berkshire Martinez, I was not surprised when it took me to the blog of one of my favorite food writers (and singer of Velvet Tango Room’s praises) Michael Ruhlman.  The Berkshire is Ruhlman’s variation on a Martinez, named after the road in Cleveland Heights where it was first made.

The fifth course was a return to form for Chef Rosander, as we wrapped the evening with a Ginger fruit tartare over rosemary cream catalana and rosemary-chocolate ganache. The fruit and cream ended the meal as subtly as it began with the bisque, while the chocolate ganache added a dark richness to it.

Dessert concluded with VTR’s White Russian.  I have fond memories of White Russians as they were the first cocktail I ever drank — though VTR’s was far superior. I was particularly excited for this beverage because it showcased VTR’s specially-made ice cubes, designed to cool your drink without melting and watering it down.

As we leisurely sipped our White Russians and watched some distant fireworks, I reflected on how a tango is equal parts teamwork, passion and dedication to the craft.  Thanks to Emerging Chefs bringing them together, Chef Rosander and the Velvet Tango Room performed a nearly perfect dance that was music to all my senses.

The next Emerging Chefs event takes place Friday, August 3 at Saint Rocco’s Church when Chef Jeff Fisher presents an evening of Italian summer fare. Tickets for Sagra di San Rocco are only $50 and are on sale now.

***Disclosure: I was invited to attend Emerging Chefs Last Tango in Tremont with a single media pass; Scott purchased his ticket. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

Emerging Chefs' Last Tango in Tremont at Velvet Tango Room

The latest in Emerging Chefs’ 2012 Culinary Performance Series, Last Tango in Tremont on July 2

A couple weeks ago Kimberly at Smitten…in CLE wrote that people fall into two categories — those who have been to Cleveland’s Velvet Tango Room and love it and those who have heard its praises sung but haven’t made it out there yet.

Unfortunately, I fall in the latter. From the comfortable atmosphere of a vintage-style speakeasy to their almost-religious devotion to crafting cocktails, VTR has long been heralded to me as one of “the best bars in the world.”  But since moving to Cleveland I just haven’t had a chance to go.

I don’t have a good reason for why I haven’t been.  However, I have a feeling that my first visit there is going to make up for lost time:

On July 2nd, I’ll be heading over to 2095 Columbus Road for Emerging Chefs’ next installment in their 2012 Culinary Performance Series — Last Tango in Tremont.

After May’s impressive Ode to Pig (here’s Eat.Drink.Cleveland’s review – yowzers!), the only way Emerging Chefs could possibly top it is with a trip to the Velvet Tango Room.

I love the different artwork Emerging Chefs is putting out for this month’s party, inspired by the film it takes its name from

This month’s production (I don’t think the word ‘event’ does it justice) will be backdropped against VTR’s garden and private backroom.

As live jazz plays, Chef Brian Rosander of Rosander Event Kitchen will create a five-course menu to pair with cocktails by Paulius Nasvytis, the owner and genius behind Velvet Tango Room.

From 6-9pm, guests will lavish their senses with this three-part feast of culinary excellence, libations and VTR’s timeless ambience. Weather permitting, a silent showing of the scintillating “Last Tango in Paris” will play in the courtyard.

Tickets cost $75, but since one of VTR’s masterpieces costs around $15 (and worth every penny I’ve heard), I consider this an equitable price for the caliber of the evening. Plus, one lucky foursome will be gifted by a ‘naughty’ Bananas Foster served up by Paulius.

I’m looking forward to popping my Velvet Tango Room cherry (hopefully with one of their imported Italian cherries!) on July 2nd.

If you’d like to join me, tickets can be purchased at http://emergingchefs2012-4.eventbrite.com.

Disclosure: I will be attending Emerging Chefs with a media pass while Scott is purchasing his ticket for the event. As always, all opinions and the choice of which events I post about are my own.

Emerging Chefs' Garden Party at AMP 150

First, some blogkeeping: Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway for the Spring Fabulous Food Show! After placing the entries into random.org, I am happy to announce that entry #14 of 43 — Brian Musick — has won 2 tickets to this weekend’s show! Please email me at clueintocleveland (at) gmail (dot) com by tomorrow April 26 to redeem your tickets.

AMP 150 - host of Garden Party, Emerging Chefs' most recent dinner (photo from facebook.com/amp150Cleveland)

Having been on the road a lot the past few weeks, Scott and I have tried more than our fair share of hotel food.

And what we realized is how lucky we are to have a restaurant like AMP 150 in our own backyard.

On its own, AMP 150 would be a fantastic restaurant. Chef Jeff Jarrett, as did Chef Ellis Cooley before him, has designed a menu that is ever-changing with the seasons and offers dishes for both the culinary adventurous and those just looking for a quick and comfortable meal. Even better, no dish is over $20.

The fact that it’s located in a hotel, a setting where you don’t always get such a high-quality meal, is doubly amazing. Not only are Clevelanders enjoying Chef Jarrett’s creations, but hopefully also the many travelers who stay at the Airport Marriott while stopping in Cleveland.

Dinner with friends - CLEGuy, WhyCLE, Poise in Parma, Cleveland Food and Brews (and CFBgal), and Eat*Drink*Cleveland (photo from WhyCLE)

It had been a few months since I had gone to AMP 150, so when I saw Emerging Chefs’ Garden Party was going to be there, I leapt at the chance to attend.

This was not only the first time I had visited AMP 150 in awhile, it was also my first Emerging Chefs in as many months. The company works to create distinctive events around local chefs and bold venues. In the past, I’ve enjoyed their parties like Dinner by Design and Mardi Gras en Mai.

While we mingled before dinner, guests were treated to a “pork platter” from Washington Place Bistro’s Sous Chef Melissa Khoury. It featured flavors of dry-cured pork loin, fennel mustard and pork rillette and was a nice nod to Chef Khoury’s hosting of next month’s Emerging Chefs (more on that later!).

Spring Pea Soup

For the main event, Chef Jarrett put together a five course meal featuring garden-fresh ingredients sourced from local farms.

The dinner opened with a vibrantly colored spring pea soup. In addition to the beautiful electric-green coloring, the flavoring was equally resonant of the season. It was topped with a ramp creme fraice, lemon oil and pea tendrils.

I sampled the soup on its own before mixing in the creme fraice and oil. Either way, this was a beautiful dish and altogether one of my favorites of the evening because it really emphasized the idea of a garden party and the return of Spring.

Mushroom Mousse (photo from WhyCLE because I dug in so quickly to my own!)

It was followed by my other favorite: a mushroom mousse. As I’ve noted many times, I consider AMP 150’s mushroom soup the consistently best thing on their menu. It’s earthy and flavorful and that same quality could be found in the mushroom mousse, which featured Killbuck mushrooms and was prepared in the style of AMP 150’s chicken liver pate.

The mousse was coupled with a fennel cherry compote, whose sweetness helped heighten the savoriness of the mousse. Grilled artisan bread from Three Birds Bakery was provided to spread the mousse-and-compote blend on.

Goat Cheese Gnocchi

Next up were a goat cheese gnocchi and then a lamb dish. The gnocchi was accompanied by pork belly croutons, shaved asparagus, drunken fig jam and pepper cress.

While the taste of the Lake Erie Creamery’s goat cheese wasn’t featured prominently in the dish, I enjoyed the smoke of the pork belly and the pureed figs which had been soaked in red wine to make the jam.

The sous-vide lamb loin was paired with farro, fresh peas, cauliflower puree, and truffle oil. The lamb was expertly prepared – with an unexpected and delicious seasoning to it.

My favorite part of the dish, though, was a farro, fresh pea and cauliflower puree. The farro texture combined with the flavoring of the peas and cauliflower seemed to be a surprise winner with the entire table.

Lamb with farro, peas and cauliflower puree

We ended the evening with a baked apple barley pudding. Out of all of the Emerging Chefs’ dinners I’ve attended in the past, this was the best dessert. It was Chef Jarrett’s twist on bread pudding using barley instead.

The texture and taste of the barley was what made this dish work really well – a very hearty complement to the fresh Haymarket apples. It was topped with a delicate, crispy cinnamon tuile and Snowville creamery anglaise.

While I am not a dessert person, I enjoyed this so much that I may have stolen another bite from an extra serving that found its way to our table.

Baked apple barley pudding with cinnamon tuile and Snowvillw creamery anglaise

Although the food exceeded what I had come to expect from Emerging Chefs, I did find there were other aspects of previous experiences that were missing.

For instance, although dinners in the past had paired a wine or beverage with each course, Garden Party had a cash bar setup. This actually worked out for me, because I had been planning on not drinking that night.  However, if you wanted a glass or two of wine with your meal, it had the potential of adding significantly to the $65-$75 price of the evening’s ticket.

Additionally, the creators of Emerging Chefs will often set the dinner in an unusual venue to complement the event’s theme. Previously, they’ve transformed lofts, theatres and even cemetaries into one-night-only popups.

Although setting the evening inside of AMP 150 didn’t elicit the sense of ‘Garden Party’, I thought that Chef Jarrett’s garden-inspired dishes as well as bringing in a local farmer to discuss these ingredients balanced everything out.

Jeremy Lisy of KJ Greens in Andover (photo from http://on.fb.me/Iu0DtR)

Between courses, Jeremy Lisy of KJ Greens shared a bit about their farm, as well as how and when to harvest some of the ingredients that could be found in each dish.

I enjoyed learning more about planting peas and ramps, and as a fan of mushrooms was intrigued by his description of the unusually colored and tasting “Chicken in the Woods” mushroom (the name says it all).

It was a very fitting touch to hear from one of the local suppliers whose ingredients help make AMP 150 an excellent culinary destination.

In the end, although the evening did not feature all of the secondary elements of previous Emerging Chefs events, Chef Jarrett prepared one of the best Emerging Chefs menus I’ve enjoyed and it’s the chef and his culinary talents that are the focus of the evening.

Next month's Emerging Chefs - Snout to Tail on May 24

Next month’s Emerging Chefs dinner features Executive Sous Chef Melissa Khoury of Washington Place Bistro. On May 24, she will prepare a Snout to Tail pig feast at the historic Dunham Tavern. She will roast pigs right in the heart of midtown and prepare dishes that use the entire animal.

The evening will also include a special appearance by Chef Ellis Cooley when he pays a visit to Cleveland to team up with Chef Khoury once again.

Tickets are available for $65 and can be purchased at emergingchefs2012-3.eventbrite.com.

Disclosure: In exchange for blogging about my experience, I was provided one ticket to attend Emerging Chefs’ Garden Party. All opinions are my own. 

Emerging Chefs' Garden Party at AMP 150

Image courtesy of Emerging Chefs

I’ve made no secret of the fact that AMP 150 is one of my favorite restaurants in Cleveland. The awesomeness they brought to this year’s Jump Back Ball VIP party is just one reason why I love them.

Another reason is how Chef Jeff Jarrett and his team demonstrate their dedication to local, green food.  In addition to working with regional farmers and artisans to gather natural, farm-fresh ingredients, AMP 150 harvests ingredients from the hotel’s garden.

To celebrate the arrival of Spring and the replanting of their garden, AMP 150 is partnering with Emerging Chefs to present a Garden Party on Wednesday, April 18 from 6-9pm at 4277 West 150th Street.

Chef Jeff Jarrett, photo from amp150.com

Chef Jarrett has demonstrated a passion for farm-to-table dining for over 15 years in his restaurants. Every time you sit down for a meal at AMP 150, each dish – from the mushroom bisque to the rabbit or braised lamb – exemplifies this commitment through its flavor, freshness and innovation. He’s the perfect chef for a Spring-centric Emerging Chefs dinner.

With everything that’s been going on over the last few months, it’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to get to an Emerging Chefs event. However, when I read that their Garden Party would spotlight AMP 150 and Chef Jarrett, it was a not-miss.

Tickets for Emerging Chefs’ Garden Party are $65 for General Admission, $75 for the Chef’s Table. All tickets can be purchased at: emergingchefs2012-2.eventbrite.com.

And save the date now for the next Emerging Chefs dinner on May 24th – a Snout to Tail pig feast with Washington Place Bistro’s Chef Melissa Khoury and a special guest chef.

Disclosure: I was invited to attend Emerging Chefs’ Garden Party at AMP 150 but the events I choose to share and my opinions of them are 100% my own.

Tune in Sunday: Clue Into CLE on Emerging Chefs Radio

My Labor Day weekend plans: Jak of All Trades Fest and Emerging Chefs Radio

Exhausted is all I can say about my first week back from vacation. It’s sped by a little too quickly for my taste. There’s been so much to catch up on that I’m happy for the extra time this weekend to work on stuff – including my blog!

It’s not going to be all toiling in front of the laptop, though.

First, there’s the Jak of All Trades Fest tomorrow. There are a lot of fantastic events going on Labor Day weekend — from the Air Show to Oktoberfest. But this year I’m trying something new with JakPrints’ free community festival. Since the first time I posted about it, they’ve added more details about the music, food, art and activities that will be there. I just read the Cleveland branch of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School will be making an appearance, which is one of my favorite mainstays at IngenuityFest events. I’m really looking forward to kicking off my Labor Day weekend with this first-time event.

And then on Sunday, I’ll be stopping by WHK 1420 AM for Emerging Chefs’ radio. Each Sunday, you can tune in on the radio (1420 AM) or online from 3-4pm to chat about culinary events and trends in Cleveland, as well as listen to interviews with local chefs. I’ll be on this Sunday’s show during their weekly Cleveland blogger segment so listen and call in.

What are your plans for Labor Day weekend?

Emerging Chefs' C4 at IngenuityFest 2011

After last year’s experience at IngenuityFest 2010, I’ve known I’d be attending this year’s IngenuityFest for months. Then I read the Plain Dealer sneak peek on some of the featured artists and that sealed the deal.  

If you still need convincing, though, here’s yet another reason:

Emerging Chefs’ C4 at Ingenuity

For 4 nights (Sept. 15-18), 4 Cleveland chefs who embrace 4 dynamic culinary styles will descend on the trolley level of the Detroit Superior Bridge to offer a brunch and three dinners in Emerging Chefs’ typical Big Flavor/Bold Venue-style.   And with IngenuityFest going on 3 of those dates, you can spend an entire day on the Bridge, enjoying the talents of Cleveland’s culinary and artistic innovators into the wee hours of the morning.

C4 kicks off on September 15 with Chef Matthew Mathlage of Light Bistro (who also played host to IngenuityFest’s Cocktail Redux fundraiser earlier this year).

On September 16, which is the first night of IngenuityFest, AMP 150‘s new Chef Jeffrey Jarrett will be spotlighted.  I just had dinner at AMP 150 on Sunday evening and am happy to say the menu was just as appetizing as when Chef Cooley was there. 

Chef Brian Rosander of Rosander plays host for the final dinner on September 17, and Lincoln Park Bistro‘s Chef Pete Joyce will be putting together a delicious brunch on Sunday, September 18.

The dinners on September 15, 16 and 17 will run from 6-9pm and brunch on September 18 will be from 12-3pm.

With each meal taking place on the trolley level of the bridge, guests will get excellent views of the city and river.  Between the views and the fresh air that cuts through the lower level, the bridge is seriously one of my favorite spots in the city, which makes these 4 events even more of a draw.

You can pick and choose whichever meals you’d like to attend.  Tickets are $55 for each event ($65 for chef’s table), but if you can’t make up your mind, Emerging Chefs is also offering a $175 pass to all 4 meals for the “ultimate foodie.”

You can buy C4 tickets here.

If you can’t wait til September for an Emerging Chefs event, get your tickets for August 19’s ReHival before they’re gone. It’s Emerging Chefs’ first annual “Return to the Earth” dinner featuring Chef Kimberly McCune at the rural retreat of Meadowlane Farms.

Emerging Chefs 411:

 *** Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Emerging Chefs for the c4 event. As always, though, my thoughts and the choice of events I share are 100% my own.

Time Traveling with Ingenuity Cleveland, Emerging Chefs and PlayhouseSquare

Scott and I finally saw Midnight in Paris last week (which hands down deserves its 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes). His mom and sister had been urging me for weeks to see Woody Allen’s latest comedy because like Owen Wilson’s character, I can often be a sucker for nostalgia.

From shopping for vintage clothing and housewares to scooping up a well-priced antique typewriter or gramophone at a yard sale, I get giddy at finding things that hearken a lost generation.

It’s why I’m looking forward to the next couple of months, as a handful of Cleveland events hope to transport guests back in time for an evening:

Ingenuity Cleveland’s SpeakEasy 2.0 

Ingenuity Cleveland’s SpeakEasy 2.0 returns to the Detroit Superior Bridge’s subway tunnels on July 15.

20s and 30s nostalgia get thrown in a blender with the cutting edge innovation that has become a trademark of previous Ingenuity events.

Entertainment will include Vance Music Studio’s Syncopated Sin Swing Jazz Band, neo-vaudeville duo Pinch and Squeal and the Hilar-A-Tease Dancers, while screenings of Louise Brooks’ Pandora’s Box with live jazz, DJs Graydar and Lo_Tek Jackers, and appearances by Uno Lady and Dr. Sketchy add a modern twist to the evening.

Of course there will be food and enough drink to make Zelda Fitzgerald happy.  And it’s all in the subway tunnels. Last year’s IngenuityFest was my first time on that part of the bridge, and I just remember being blown away by how much character that location has as the light and shadows play along the catacombs.

The flexibility of the three ticket levels is a huge win for me:

  • $100 (4 pack available for $350): Doors open at 6pm, include dinner and open bar with live music, entertainment, and dancing until 1 AM
  • $30 ($40 at the door): Party starts at 8 PM with gourmet snacks, more live entertainment, two drink tickets
  • $15 ($20 at the door): At 10 PM the Speakeasy 2.0 goes 21st century by mixing vaudeville entertainment with DJs and dancing. Admission include 2 beer tickets.

All proceeds benefit IngenuityFest 2011 which returns to the bridge Sept. 15-17.  I was disappointed when I couldn’t attend last year’s SpeakEasy, but after Cocktail Party Redux and Temple of Tesla, I’ve been saving July 15 in my calendar for a while.

Buy SpeakEasy 2.0 Tickets Here

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Emerging Chefs’ Summer White Party

 UPDATE: Summer White Party has been cancelled. More info here.

After June’s very modern evening of sushi, the next Emerging Chefs will put their tasty spin on classic lakeside soirees with the Summer White Party. Joined by Executive Chef Regan Reik of Pier W, they’ll head down to the historic East Ninth Street Pier to create a spectacular luxury pop-up restaurant for one night only – July 16 from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm.

Chef Reik will be designing a menu of summer seafood fare to enjoy on the lake as Emerging Chefs invites guests to sport their special summer whites or yacht clothes (I feel a trip to a vintage store is in order!). The evening will be fitting for the Rockefellers and Hannas of Cleveland’s past as everyone enjoys a luxurious lakeside evening.

Scott and I have been fans of the unique dishes created by previous Emerging Chefs – so much so that we took two of our friends from Philly to Sushi at Sunset. With a swift but efficient change of venue to the Asian Town Center to avoid the rain (huge kudos to Emerging Chefs for getting that up and running in only a few hours), Scott, Ali, Gary and I enjoyed an intimate evening of Chef Daniel Cassano’s creations.

One of Chef Cassano's Sushi at Sunset creations - Japanese style beef tartar over pickled and fried lotus root. The surprising crunchiness of the lotus root was my favorite part of this dish.

Beef Sushi Brochette in a Sake soy beurre blanc reduction and the poached shrimp gazpacho were definite highlights – one for its tender, buttery richness and the other for a bright freshness with pops of scallion. The beurre blanc reduction was so good, we all remarked we could have eaten it on its own with a spoon.

If Chef Reik can play the same magic with seafood that Chef Cassano did with sushi (which I know he can if Pier W’s menu is any indication!), then the Summer White Party will be another dazzling Emerging Chefs event.

Buy Summer White Party Tickets Here

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source: Playhousesquare.org

PlayhouseSquare’s Cinema at the Square

Cinema at the Square is back for its 14th year August 4-21.This PlayhouseSquare series holds a special place in my heart because it was at last year’s Back to the Future night that I was introduced to PlayhouseSquare Partners. Having been recently voted onto the Partners Board (more about that excitement later!), I can’t wait to check the classic film series out again because the lineup looks great and the event holds fond memories.

As in previous years, Cinema at the Square will feature 16 film favorites projected on the Palace Theatre’s famous screen (a 20 foot-high by 47 foot-wide super Hurly-Glo projection screen).

The lineup consists of a well-balanced mix of classics like the original King Kong, Grand Hotel and Charade, as well as more modern fare including a double feature of Batman and Batman Returns, Jaws, the 1978 Superman and Muppet Treasure Island.  Check the full list of films here.

Moviegoers will also be treated to pre-show organ recitals on the theatre’s restored 1927 Kimball organ that contains 16 sets of pipes, a xylophone, Glockenspiel, a complete set of drums and cymbals.

Besides the rare opportunity to enjoy classic movies projected on the big screen, the organ concert was definitely one of my favorite parts of last year’s Cinema at the Square.

Buy Cinema at the Square Tickets Here

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For a nostalgia junkie like me, these are just a few ways to catch a glimmer of a bygone era without constructing a time travel machine. If you have any suggestions of similar places or events to check out, share them in the comments!