Saturday, November 17, 2007

Cleveland Is Food

I took Friday off work to head to Cleveland for Michael Ruhlman's book signing and discussion on his new book, "Elements of Cooking". To make the trip more memorable I also made reservations at Michael Symon's Lolita in Tremont. Unfortunately I got the dates mixed up and the book signing was actually on Saturday, but that turned out in my favor.

I secured a place to stay overnight at my sisters house Friday night and headed for Tremont, a Cleveland neighborhood. I love this neighborhood that's tucked in the northeast corner of I-90 and I-490 behind and around Lincoln Park. It's surrounded by churches and warehouses, but it contains an eclectic mix of artists, musicians and fabulous restaurants. My reservation was for 8:30p and it was 6p when I hit Tremont\ so I made a beeline for my favorite bar in the area, Edison's. Edison's is a nostalgic neighborhood bar with great character and a fantastic patio. I had a couple pints of Buckeye Brewing Company's Hippie IPA, which was described as very hoppy by the bartender, Terry. Personally, I like a lot of hops and thought it was pretty similar to the Barley's Brewing Company Pale Ale.

On to Lolita. I had a reservation for two, but my wife ended up not coming with me and my sister had to work late, so I gave up my table for a seat at the bar which offered a view of the kitchen. No Iron Chef tonight, but the food was awesome. I figured the best way to enjoy the food was to try the starters. I began with the warm olives and continued with the roasted beets, grilled lamb sausage, mussels, roasted dates, crispy chicken livers and the garlic bruschetta and a very nice reisling that went well with everything. By far, my favorite was the crispy chicken livers...crispy on the outside and extremely tender and flavorful on the inside. It was served over a soft polenta with sauteed wild mushrooms over the livers. To die for. The beets were served with slivered almonds, dabs of ricotta, honey and orange zest. I ended up stacking several of the beet sliced atop one another with the almonds and ricotta sandwiched in between...a beet neapolitan. The flavors blended perfectly. My only disappointment was the bruschetta, topped with roasted garlic, basil and buffalo mozzarella. The crostini wasn't very crisp, actually almost soggy, and seemed over oiled. If it would have finished with a sit on the grill, I think it could have been more of what I was expecting. Of course, that won't stop my from going back any chance I can get. Lolita's flavors have left all kinds of inspiration running through my mind.

Next time in Cleveland I need to hit Lola and the Zach Bruell's Parallax.

The next morning I headed for Raddell's Sausage Shop on Waterloo and E. 142. I consider it the best sausage shop in town and one of the reasons Cleveland is a culinary goldmine. Raddell's has a very Old World feel and the aroma is amazing, smoky, meaty, sweet, spicy. I picked up smokies, smoked slovenian sausage, dried smoked slovenian sausage and a cottage ham. These ingredients make my gumbos and jambalayas rock and there's nothing like it in Columbus, I'm sad to say.

For breakfast I headed for Coventry in Cleveland Heights and had breakfast at the Inn on Coventry. Two lemon ricotta pancakes, eggs, bacon, grits and too much toast to eat. Yum. Then I went shopping. Coventry is an area full of boutiques, shops, bars, music, restaurants and coffee shops. Passport to Peru, Big Fun and City Buddha being my favorite shops to wander around. I recommend the area to anyone heading to the East Side.

On to the book signing. Michael Ruhlman is a very personable nextdoor neighbor kinda guy. Humble, yet incredibly knowledgeable. He gave a good length talk about his history and the reasons to write this latest book, and yes, answered questions about judging The Next Iron Chef. No, there was no favoritism towards Chef Symon. Chef Symon won because of his consistency throughout the competition.

In further posts I hope to express some of the ideas and metaphors that Mr. Ruhlman has always written about, but applying those to the design world.

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