Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Cleveland Renegade Lunch Project

"What's the catch? That's what everyone first asks when we invite them to sit down for a free lunch, " states Executive Chef/Partner of Spice of Life Catering Co. Ben Bebenroth.

"The Cleveland Renegade Lunch Project, founded in 2009, offers 20 passers-by a chance to sit down together at elegant dining tables in the center of a busy building or intersection for a free two-course lunch. The lunches are held in a different, impromptu location each month and each features a different charity to raise money and awareness for a Cleveland community cause. At the end of each event, a hat is passed and guests are asked for a donation in exchange for the lunch. No gift is too small or too large and everyone is welcome to give as they can. The meals are prepared tableside by Chefs Mike Smith & Ben Bebenroth of Marigold Catering and Spice of Life Catering Co., respectively, and served by a professional service staff on china, glass and silver."

I have had the pleasure of attending three Renegade Lunches over the past two years (including the Launch Party where we helped the staff come up with ideas for fun high-traffic locations and worthy charities in our area), and I swear that there really is no catch. All that they ask in return for a free, fabulous, gourmet meal is that you consider making a donation to the charity of choice for that month. These lunches have raised thousands of dollars for local charities, including $600 at yesterday's lunch to benefit Harvest for Hunger. The renegade lunch went a little off the beaten path yesterday, popping up on Concourse C in the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

Airport staff and lucky passengers passing by Gate C4 were encouraged to take a seat and enjoy a two-course meal of blood orange, fennel and pecorino salad with bibb and mache lettuces, marcona almonds, and pomegranate vinaigrette & buttermilk fried pheasant with sweet potato puree and spring greens. The salad was light and refreshing, and I really enjoyed the pomegranate dressing. I was interested to try pheasant for the first time, and I found myself surprised at how moist it was. Also, I think I was expecting it to taste more "gamey" than it did. Bebenroth shared some great stories with the diners about the local pheasant farm that supplies Spice of Life. His catering company is dedicated to building relationships with local farmers, and his menus are always tailored to the season with ingredients sourced from within a 100-mile radius of the city. The side of sweet potato puree was smooth and bursting with flavor. I mopped it up off my plate and barely left any behind! The fresh, crisp green beans served with the main course gave a nice hint of crunch to the dish. These guys certainly know how to produce an outstanding meal! I am pretty adventuresome with my food, but I seriously would consider trying anything and everything that these two amazing chefs whip up.

If you are not already doing so, consider following them on Facebook to learn about upcoming Renegade Lunches happening once a month all over Cleveland. I'm sure that they would love to hear your location suggestions. Stay tuned...for I may be dropping hints of the next location as well. This is one lunchtime that you don't want to spend eating at your desk!


allijag said...

That is so COOL! I've never heard of the Renegade lunches, but I absolutely love the concept! I'm gonna follow them on FB and tell them there is quite the foodie following over here at American Greetings! (wink wink!)