Tag Archives: mardi gras en mai

Event Recap: Emerging Chefs' Mardi Gras en Mai

Inspired by the huge sculpted masks hanging in their latest venue, Emerging Chefs put a creative spin on New Orleans flavor at Mardi Gras en Mai.

I’ve been running full-steam the last couple of months and have desperately needed a break so I was happy that this Memorial Day Weekend kicked off a week-long vacation filled with family, parties and just general relaxation.  And what better way to get it started than with a trip to New Orleans at Emerging Chefs‘ Mardi Gras en Mai?

Each month, Emerging Chefs partners with a local chef to design a wildly distinctive event. With names like ThEATrical and Sacr-licious, their “big flavors, bold venue” dinners find unique inspiration in very different concepts.

In April I attended my first Emerging Chefs event, Dinner by Design (read the review here), and when they announced this month’s Mardi Gras en Mai, I looked forward not just to savoring another delicious meal, but to also see how different the event would be compared to last month’s.

For Mardi Gras en Mai, Emerging Chefs teamed up with Executive Chef Chris Quinn, whose background in the restaurant industry has led to his current consulting role as the divisional corporate chef of U.S. Foodservice in Cleveland.

The open venue offered guests the exciting opportunity to watch Executive Chef Chris Quinn and his team plate their flavorful dishes.

The bold venue for the evening was 2020 Center Street on the West Bank of the Flats. As soon as Scott and I walked in, we could immediately see where the idea for Mardi Gras en Mai came from. In the sprawling open space, huge sculpted masks adorned the walls and multi-story windows filled the room with the beautiful light of a late-May afternoon.

Encouraged by this setting, Chef Quinn took the big flavors of New Orleans’ hugest party and put his own seasonal twist on them to celebrate the long-awaited arrival of Cleveland Spring.

We were welcomed to the event by David Moss, one of Emerging Chefs’ partners (he’s joined by Rick Turner and Michael DeAloia), who had really gotten into the spirit of the event and donned a jester’s costume.

After such a festive greeting, Scott and I picked up a few pairs of beads and joined WhyCLE?, Hungry in Cleveland, Cleveland Food and Brews, Poise in Parma, The Journeyman Cook, and Edsel Little at a table.

Amuse Bouche: Jambalaya Puree and MicroGreens

After settling in, Chef Quinn presented an amuse bouche of microgreens with jambalaya puree and fleur-de-lis cracker.  As he continued to prove throughout the evening, he has a very fine grasp on heat — with the jambalaya’s flavor slowly and evenly building as you sampled it.  It was the perfect balance for those who like spice (me) and those who favor a milder dish (Scott).

Ettoufee Pierogi

As the evening progressed, each course that followed offered a completely different flavor — fitting of NOLA’s vast culinary richness. In the first course, Chef Quinn put a twist on the classic Cajun ettoufee by serving an ettoufee pierogi with an herbed creme fraiche and crispy crawfish tail. The smooth freshness of the creme fraiche was an excellent touch – pairing very well with both the spicy filling of the pierogi and the sugar-encrusted crawfish tail.

Muffaletta Points with Sea Scallops

The second course, Muffaletta Points with Sea Scallops Mousse, was my (and most of my tablemates’) favorite of the evening. Inspired by the muffaletta loaf and olive salad used in New Orleans’ signature sandwich, Chef Quinn put together a bite size version that packed a taste just as big.  Instead of deli meats, though, Chef Quinn’s own take included a scallop seared with a bit of tangerine sugar and a sea scallop mousse. I cannot say enough about this dish – the sweetness of the sugar and mousse coupled with the saltiness of the olive tapenade made this the evening’s savory winner.

Smoking Voodoo Chicken

While introducing the third course, Chef Quinn reflected on how New Orleans is known for its great music, delicious food and voodoo. Well, he did his own bit of culinary black magic with his Voodoo Chicken dish. With the help of some liquid ice, smoke billowed from the bowl giving off a mysterious air. However, the spell weaving didn’t stop at the plating — although I’m not a huge fan of chicken, the corn meal encrusted okra and tangy Southern Comfort infused marinade added a lot of taste.

Intermezzo: Mango Habanero Popsicle

Next up was the Intermezzo. One thing you can always say about Emerging Chefs is that imagination runs free in each dish. And Chef Quinn’s Intermezzo won for the most playful of the meal. When the menu was released a week before the event, I knew that the Mango Habanero Popsicle was going to be something different.

The neon-colored popsicle rested in a glass filled with mango salsa. And whether or not you chose to dip the popsicle in the fresh chunks of fruit, each bite popped in your mouth. First, the icy touch of the popsicle hit your tastebuds, followed by the freshness of the mango. Then the heat of the pepper sneaked up on you. It was fun, complex flavor wrapped on a stick – an excellent break in the meal.

Veal Strip Loin

With our palates cleaned by the popsicle, we could enjoy the fourth course – a veal strip loin with an espresso rub and bourbon and Dr. Pepper glaze. Chef Quinn is known for his Dr. Pepper glaze with good reason. Combined with the dark flavoring of the rub’s coffee beans, brown sugar and Cajun spices, the glaze flavored and moistened the meat making for a very rich, delicious dish. It was accompanied by haricot verts, a corn fritter filled with zucchini and other fresh vegetables, and a skewer of Dr. Pepper jelly beans — a creative complement to the evening’s main course.

Joe DeLuca's Deconstructed Hurricane

Every course was paired with a creation from the imaginative mind of Joe DeLuca. Joe had been at IngenuityFest’s Cocktail Party Redux in March and again blew me away with some daring drink choices. Throughout the evening, he took us on a journey of reinvented NOLA cocktails – from a deconstructed Hurricane (the alcohol and rim sugar were in jello form to be mixed with the grenadine in a glass) to a modernized Sazerac (although a bit strong for Scott’s taste, I loved the bite once I figured out how to sip it).

I think my favorite, though, was the ramos gin fizz. Made with gin, egg white, orange flower water, and sugar, DeLuca and his team painstakingly filled empty eggs with the concoction. The time and effort spent were worth it because it wasn’t just delicious but so much fun to drink. DeLuca’s mantra of drinking well and drinking what you like was very easily accomplished with the cocktails they served up on Friday night.

Ramos Gin Fizz in an eggshell

Because we also had plans to see the Rare Birds perform at the Beachland that evening, Scott and I had to sadly miss the last course – homemade beignets served with melted chocolate ganache, cream anglaise, and flavored sugars.   However, before I left, I did have a chance to grab the evening’s takeaway — mini king cupcakes which I enjoyed later.  It was an excellent reminder of another delightful night out with Emerging Chefs.

With June right around the corner, Emerging Chefs is moving outdoors for their next event — Sushi at Sunset on June 16. I will have more details up soon so keep an eye out for how to get your tickets.  And if you’d like to read more about the festive Mardi Gras en Mai (including the last course I had to miss), check out WhyCLE, Poise in Parma and Cleveland Food and Brews‘ reviews.

Emerging Chefs 411:

**Disclosure: I was invited to attend Emerging Chefs Mardi Gras en Mai with a Media Pass.  Scott’s admission was paid for on his own.  As always, all opinions in this post are 100% my own.***

Exploring Little Italy with NEO Food Tours


Visit www.NEOFoodTours.com


Have you entered my giveaway for a Coventry Village-inspired change purse? You have until May 23rd at 11:59 pm.


There’s no doubt that Northeast Ohio is in the middle of a culinary renaissance. And while the neighborhoods the chefs call home are benefitting from their presence, the restaurants are likewise finding inspiration from the history and uniqueness of the area.

Todd Gauman, Pat Johnson and Melissa Looney saw this and wanted to put something together that would educate and entertain others about the connection between the two. 

With NEO Food Tours, they’ve created a series of events that will combine the best of both worlds: dining and learning about the restaurants from the chefs themselves while exploring the history and culture of our neighborhoods.  They premiered their guided walking tours at the end of April with a sold-out tour of Ohio City.

To follow up with the success of that event, NEO Food Tours will be heading to the eastside on June 1 with a tour of Little Italy. The walking restaurant tour of this historic neighborhood will meet at La Dolce Vita Bistro at 6:30 pm.

La Dolce Vita’s owner Terry Tarantino – one of Little Italy’s most passionate advocates – will be the special guest tour guide for the evening, sharing stories from the neighborhood’s past and present as the small group strolls from stop to stop.

In addition to La Dolce Vita, the tour will make stops at Gusto, Murray Hill Market, Michaelangelo’s and Trattoria on the Hill.  An intimate, progressive course dinner will unfold – starting with an opening course at the first restaurant and concluding at the last stop with a sweet and savory dessert.

At each restaurant, the small group of guests sits for approximately 20 minutes, talks with the chef or owner about what inspires their culinary creations, and enjoys a small off-menu plate paired with a specially made beverage to complement the food’s flavors.

You can buy tickets for the Little Italy tour here.

NEO Food Tours’ Little Italy event comes just in time for the neighborhood’s first Art Walk of 2011, which takes place June 3-5.  So after you’ve learned about the neighborhood and experienced its restaurants through the eyes of one of its avid supporters, you can come back for a second helping that weekend to explore its art galleries and shops.

After the Little Italy trip, NEO Food Tours will bring monthly tours to the region on the third Wednesday of each month at 6:30 pm.  The next one on June 22nd will explore Tremont’s colorful and varied personality.  The food tour series will then rotate through the Westside, Eastside and Downtown neighborhoods – as well as outer neighborhoods and suburbs, giving guests an opportunity to fully experience the region’s culinary renaissance. 

Emerging Chefs' Mardi Gras en Mai - just another one of the many appetizing upcoming events in Cleveland.

If you’re still hungry, there are a wealth of events coming up to satisfy your palate.  One week from today on May 27 will be Emerging Chefs’ next dinner – Mardi Gras en Mai.  The menu was just released (can’t wait for the mango habanero popsicle!) so once you take a look, buy your ticket and join me at what will be another very unique dinner.

Other culinary fun includes:

Between NEO Food Tours and all of the other events, I’m looking forward to a very appetizing few weeks.

NEO Food Tours 411:


Disclosures: Clue Into CLE guest blogger Elizabeth Grepp and I were asked to assist NEO Food Tours with their PR and outreach and I am a member of Emerging Chefs’ Affiliates program.  The opinions in this post, though, are 100% my own.

Emerging Chefs' Mardi Gras en Mai Tickets on Sale

Earlier this month I went to my first Emerging Chefs dinner after hearing so much about it from friends. You can read about Dinner by Design here – the experience definitely exceeded my expectations.

If you’ve missed previous Emerging Chefs events (or are already a fan and want to see what they have up their sleeve next), you can join me in beading up for their next dinner Mardi Gras en Mai.

On Friday, May 27 from 6-9pm, Emerging Chefs will team with Executive Chef Chris Quinn to put together a feast full of festival flavors.

Although Mardi Gras is usually celebrated to welcome in Lent, the Chefs are tweaking the recipe – for a culinary celebration of hard-earned Cleveland spring-time revival and renewal. Plus, with Mardi Gras en Mai, you don’t have to worry about waking up the next morning and fasting for Lent.

Master of Ceremonies Chef Quinn will be creating a seasonal menu inspired by the unique excess and merriment of Mardi Gras.  His career started 17 years ago at the Red Tomato in Hudson where he quickly discovered the finer arts of the kitchen. Since then he has contributed to other restaurants including a partnership at Akron’s La Cucina Italian restaurant and as Executive Chef at Pucci’s in the Valley.

Chef Quinn now continues to influence area restaurants and food fans not just in a consulting role as the divisional corporate chef of U.S. Foodservice in Cleveland but also through his recipe blog “The Q Spot” which was created to share his culinary journeys.

Of course, as I discovered at Dinner by Design, food is only half of Emerging Chefs’ “Big Flavors and Bold Venues” equation.

I was blown away by last month’s event at Tyler Village, one of the largest downtown redevelopment efforts ever undertaken in Cleveland. The raw, unfinished space of Building 44’s top floor was transformed by the Emerging Chefs team into a chic dining experience.

This time around, Mardi Gras en Mai will take place in the historic 2020 Center Street Building. Located in the West Bank of the Flats, Emerging Chefs is promising a surreal, yet charming experience.

Tickets for the Chef’s Table are $65; general admission tickets are $55. And with the number of courses, quality of daring food, and flowing drinks, the ticket price is a deal.

You can purchase tickets for Mardi Gras en Mai online and I would recommend getting them early.  Emerging Chefs dinners typically fill up fast and sell out.

After you are amazed by Emerging Chefs’ culinary feats on May 27th, get your fill of Cleveland rock and roll by heading to The Beachland.  The Rare Birds and Mr. Gnome will be performing that night in the Tavern starting at 9pm.

Guitarist and singer for The Rare Birds, Rusty Boyer, is not just a friend of Clue Into Cleveland but joined Scott and I at Dinner by Design. I know he’s bummed to be missing Mardi Gras en Mai, but their concert at The Beachland will be an excellent way to keep the night’s festivities going.

Emerging Chefs 411:

*** Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Emerging Chefs for the Mardi Gras en Mai event.  For every ticket purchased from the link above, I earn 5% of the ticket price. 

However, the opinions in this post are 100% my own. ***