Tag Archives: marc sumerak

Greenhouse Tavern: That's "SOME PIG"!

Image source: thegreenhousetavern.com

Every year, Scott and I treat each other to one very splurge-worthy dinner – bottle of wine, full meal, dessert. And because we both love our Cleveland restaurants, deciding where we’re going for these birthday dinners is usually a point of lengthy debate. However, this year I’ve known where I wanted to go — and what I wanted to order — for months. A new decade demands an extra-special meal and when I saw the Roasted Pig’s Head on Greenhouse Tavern‘s menu last Fall, my search was over.

The anticipation built over months and whenever the Pig’s Head came up in conversation with other Greenhouse Tavern fans (including Cleveland-raised, Wonder Woman scribe Brian Azzarello at this year’s C2E2), the one piece of advice I got was “Come hungry. And be prepared to share it with someone else.”

Armed with these words of wisdom, Scott and I got ready to head downtown on Saturday night for dinner at the Greenhouse. After briefly reviewing the menu (we pretty much knew what we wanted anyway), we ordered GHT’s Fifth Quarter, their Beef Tartare plate and – of course – the Roasted Pig’s Head.

Because of the heartiness of the dishes (and my red-wine allergy), our waiter Kevin recommended the 2009 Saintsbury Carneros Chardonnay, a reasonably priced bottle that offered up a rich texture and complement to the meal.

And since Scott’s preference for wine and beer runs to the sweet, light side, Kevin suggested a Luk Rose Cider for some pre-dinner sipping. It was a good pick for Scott, who thought it was easy on his tastebuds with a very balanced sweetness.

Fifth Quarter: Duck Meatballs and Carrots Three Ways

With our drinks in hand, we set about our first selection. Greenhouse Tavern’s Fifth Quarter is an always-changing special that features the tasty bits left in their kitchen.

Saturday night’s Fifth Quarter was a plate of duck meatballs and carrots done three-way. In addition to a somewhat-traditionally prepared carrot (I think braised, but I was so excited by the dish I forgot to note it), the plate also featured pickled carrot and a white carrot puree.

As delicious as the braised and pickled carrots were, it was the puree I couldn’t get enough of.  There was a mild sweetness to it which was a refreshing contrast to the duck meatballs’ heartiness. Mixing a bite of the meatball with the puree and the cherry gastrique that dotted the plate was the most enjoyable taste of the dish.

At last year’s Dolce Gusto, Chef Jonathon Sawyer handgrinds GHT’s beef tartare

Last year at an event for Dolce Gusto, I got to see how Chef Jonathon Sawyer and the GHT team prepare one of the highlights of their menu: their beef tartare. The fresh, hand-pressed patty of beef is accompanied by an egg, GHT’s frites, peppers, relish and onions, along with their mayo and Dijon mustard.

Because of the care that goes into this dish, any trip Scott makes to Greenhouse has to include it. So, despite the fact that we had already ordered a feast with the Fifth Quarter and Roasted Pig, we couldn’t pass on the tartare. As usual, the taste and texture were an excellent addition to the meal.

GHT’s Beef Tartare with poached egg, frites and all the fixings

A quick note about the evening’s main attraction: As the menu and GHT’s team will remind you when you order it, it takes 30 minutes to prepare the Roasted Pig’s Head. Be sure to reserve this plate for a leisurely evening where you can enjoy a couple glasses of wine and the company of your friends.

Because trust me, as someone who has now conquered the Pig’s Head, the time you will wait is worth it. Greenhouse Tavern’s roasted pig’s head is an experience any pig-loving meat-eater needs to enjoy (and even if pork isn’t your favorite, give it a try because you just might be converted).

A silver platter comes to your table decked out with half a head cooked in a savory BBQ sauce, along with lime wedges, a vegetable salad and 2 brioche buns.

Greenhouse Tavern’s Roasted Pig’s Head platter

Another more obvious piece of advice – don’t wear white if the resulting splatters of BBQ I left on the tablecloth were any indication. This is a messy affair – not for the finicky or faint of heart.

Again, though, a little mess is completely worth it as you get to disassemble and enjoy all the different parts of the head. From crispy pork skin to the succulent fat, Scott and I were in a food coma from the richness.

Then there was the muscle underneath which was roasted into mind-blowingly tasty shreds of pork. All of it wowed, but the best bite – as pointed out by Kevin – is a small piece of meat located in the area behind the eye socket.

While Scott and I mostly tore through the head enjoying the meat on its own, I tried the pork out on a sandwich with a squeeze of lime and vegetables (which tasted like they had been dressed in a bit of vinegar). I recommend making an open-face sandwich so you don’t fill up too much on bread.

My open-faced pig-face sandwich

At Scott’s urging, we finished the meal off with an order of Buttered Popcorn Pot de Creme. Greenhouse’s Pastry Chef Matt Danko was recently honored as one of Eater’s 16 “Young Guns” and this cup of custard-y goodness topped with caramel and sea salt is just one very good reason why.

While I thought that dessert and an order of Kitchen Coffee were the only ingredients remaining for an unforgettable evening, there was one surprise left.

I want to take this moment to thank our waiter Kevin. Beyond being very knowledgeable in pig disassembly and beverage recommendations, he was probably the friendliest and most patient host we’ve had during all our visits to Greenhouse.

My only wish is to have more meals as perfect as this in the years to come

And – best of all – he’s a Doctor Who and comics fan. After a couple glasses of wine, the topic of comic books came up and he shared that Marc, who was manning the host stand that evening, wrote comics. When I asked if it was Marc Sumerak, the Marvel geeks that Scott and I are couldn’t believe when Kevin said yes.

There are few things I love more than good food, and as I’ve blogged time and time and time again comic books are one of them.  So when Marc Sumerak – whose run on Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius Scott and I are huge fans of – came over to our table to say hello, Greenhouse’s cool quotient went up just a bit more.

As a Clevelander, I have to give Sumerak a huge high-five because while many Cleveland comic book creators have moved away, the Eisner and Harvey Award nominated Sumerak returned after his time as an editor at Mavel.

Two of my favorite things (great food and comic books) crossed paths when I met Marc Sumerak at GHT

Back in the Cleve, he spends his time freelance writing for different comic publishers, working on creator-owned books like All-Ghouls School, and giving back to the local comic book community through groups such as POP! The Comic Culture Club.

POP! is open to anyone who’s into or wants to learn more about comics (be they fans, retailers or professionals). The group meets twice a month at the Cuyahoga County Public Library’s Parma Heights Branch to share their love of the medium.

And don’t worry about getting into a throwdown over whether DC or Marvel is better, because as Sumerak explained to me, the group emphasizes a fun and respectful outlet for anyone who’s passionate about pop culture.

How I like to end every visit to GHT

So cheers, Greenhouse Tavern, for rising to the occasion yet again.

I had been looking forward to this meal for almost a year and the praise that had been piled on for your Roasted Pig’s Head did nothing to capture how good it is – an experience that even Charlotte would be at a loss to weave the perfect words for.

Cleveland, Assemble and Clue Into CLE Comic Book Creators!

Avengers Assemble this Friday! (from marvel.com/avengers_movie)

Only a few days remain until a movie opens that I’ve been anticipating for years: this Friday, the Avengers assemble!

As a longtime Marvel fan, I’ve been looking forward to this blockbuster since it was first officially announced after the success of Iron Man.

And as if I needed another reason to see the movie, downtown Cleveland was transformed last summer into one of the film’s urban battlefields. As much as I love Cleveland, the idea of seeing E9th Street getting blown up on screen really excites me.

Needless to say, I’ll be heading out to a midnight showing on Thursday night near my local comic book shop in Sheffield Village. I plan on seeing it at least twice – once so I can revel in my Marvel fangirldom, and a second so I can enjoy the glimpses of Cleveland besieged by explosions and bad guys.

Action Comics #1 (from comics.org)

This isn’t the first time, though, that the world of caped crusaders has collided with Cleveland.

As the birthplace of Superman (created by Clevelanders Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster), Cleveland boasts an amazing heritage when it comes to writing and drawing comic book heroes.  Even today, current and former Clevelanders continue this legacy – writing, drawing and inking for both indie publishers and powerhouses like Marvel and DC.

Awhile back I did a post on some of the ways Cleveland and comics connect – from Harvey Pekar to Calvin and Hobbes’ Bill Watterson. In honor of the Avengers opening, this time around I want to share a few crimefighting and sci-fi comics with a Cleveland connection:

Brian Michael Bendis, who grew up in Cleveland and is the architect of many Marvel books including Avengers, at C2E2 2011

Brian Michael Bendis: It’s fitting that one of Marvel’s heavyweights and the architect of a number of current Avengers titles is originally from Cleveland’s eastside. In 2000, Brian Michael Bendis helmed the debut of Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man and continues writing it today with over 100 issues under his belt.

Having also written House of M and Daredevil, among many other books for Marvel, he’s currently writing for my favorite Avengers team: the New Avengers. In addition to traditional superheroes, Bendis created and writes the gritty Powers as well as the Jinx line of crime comics.

Taskmaster #1 (from comics.org)

Fred Van Lente: Called one of the more idiosyncratic and insightful voices in comics, NYT-bestselling author Fred Van Lente shared in a 2008 interview that he grew up in the Cleveland area after moving here.

When I pick up a Van Lente book I have high expectations for a seamless combination of action, humor and really relatable characters — even if those characters are the Incredible Hercules or Taskmaster, which was one of the most simulataneously touching and action-packed Marvel miniseries I’ve read in the last few years.

Van Lente also created Cowboys and Aliens (the basis for last summer’s movie) with Andrew Foley, as well as one of the first comics Scott introduced me to – Action Philosophers! with his Evil Twin Comics cohort Ryan Dunlavey.  This August, he’ll be participating in Valiant Entertainment’s relaunch with Archer & Armstrong.

Wonder Woman #8 (from comics.org)

Brian Azzarello: Although he may now call Chicago home, DC’s Brian Azzarello was born and raised in the Cleveland area. He became most well-known for writing 100 Bullets. Published through DC’s Vertigo line, the dark, hard-boiled crime series was honored with both the Harvey and Eisner Awards.

Among a long line of DC characters, he has written for both Batman and Superman, as well as Doc Savage.  And although we’re not even halfway through, 2012 has been a powerhouse year for Azzarello:

  • His post-apocalyptic Spaceman miniseries rockets to its conclusion this summer.
  • On his ongoing run of Wonder Woman, the character has undergone a number of fascinating changes and risen to be a Top 20 title for the first time in years.
  • And he’s collaborating on not just one – but two – of the books in DC’s highly anticipated Before Watchmen series – taking on my two favorite Watchmen characters Comedian and Rorschach.

On a personal note, meeting him and briefly chatting about favorite dishes at Greenhouse Tavern was one of my highlights from this year’s C2E2.

All-Ghouls School Tradepaperback (from sumerak.com)

Marc Sumerak: After spending time in NYC where he worked on Marvel’s editorial staff after college, editor and writer Marc Sumerak moved back to his hometown of Cleveland in 2003 to continue his career.

In addition to titles like Power Pack and Franklin Richards: Boy Genius, Sumerak’s most recent work includes his first original graphic novel All-Ghouls School and Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four: Hard Choices, a free comic in Marvel’s substance abuse prevention campaign.

Sumerak gives back to the Cleveland comic book community as well by hosting POP! The Comic Culture Club. Open to all Cleveland-area comic book fans, retailers and professionals who want to share their love of the medium, the group meets twice a month at the Cuyahoga County Public Library’s Parma Heights Branch.

Marc Sumerak’s Pop! Comic Culture Club is open and free to all Clevelanders interested in the medium

Other Cleveland-grown authors and artists to clue into (and by no means is this an exhaustive list):

  • Brian K. Vaughn, who wrote the critically acclaimed Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina and Marvel’s Runaways and recently returned to comics with his newest book SagaI’ve torn through the first two issues of this St. Ignatius alum’s fantasy “space opera” and highly recommend picking them up along with issue #3 when it comes out in a couple weeks.
  • Michael Sangiacomo, a longtime reporter at the Plain Dealer on the breaking news and crime beat. In addition to sharing his love of comics through his PD column on pop culture, he is the author of several graphic novels including Tales of the Starlight Drive-In and Phantom Jack, the story of a newspaper reporter who can turn invisible.
  • P. Craig Russell, whose artwork is such a thing of wonder that I’d be remiss if I didn’t include him in this list though he’s from south of the Cleveland-area.  Included within his vast body of work is a comic-adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline  and a story in issue 113 of my favorite ongoing series Bill Willingham’s Fables.

Michael Sangiacomo’s Tales of the Starlight Drive-In (from talesofthestarlightdrivein.com)

While you can order many of these creators’ books online, Cleveland is blessed with many independent comic book stores scattered throughout the region.

I’m a huge proponent of heading to these brick-and-mortar stores instead because you’ll not only be able to get many of these books there, but also explore an entire world of comics worth your time.

And this Saturday, comic book stores nationwide are making it easy for newcomers to discover new reading material.  Free Comic Book Day takes place every year on the first Saturday of May and it’s the one day during the year when participating comic book shops give away free comics to anyone who visits their stores.

Search for a participating comic book store near you at freecomicbookday.com

From the east to westside, Clevelanders have a number of shops to choose from to pick up their free comic books. Cleveland.com has put together a rundown of the different stores’ festivities and Cleveland Scene’s The Dork Side features 5 of the 40+ free books you need to pick up.

Come Saturday morning (after catching up on my post-Avengers zzz’s), I’ll be at Comics Are Go! in Sheffield Village.

Formerly Astound Comics, Comics Are Go! recently moved their store from Westlake to Sheffield Village (5188 Detroit Rd., Exit 148 off I-90) and on Free Comic Book Day they’ll be introducing new and longtime customers to the new location starting at noon.

Hopefully I’ll even see a few new comic book readers there!