Thursday, July 31, 2014

Autism Speaks 2014 Chef Gala

Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, presents the Cleveland Chef Gala. Hosted by The Chew’s Chef Michael Symon, this unique, large-scale culinary extravaganza features Cleveland’s finest chefs cooking their signature dishes to help raise funds and awareness for families and individuals impacted by autism. The evening will also include special guest Mario Batali, who will join Symon on-stage for an interactive dinner preparation.

The event is taking place on Saturday, August 9th at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Tasting tickets include entry at 6:30PM for a Cocktail Reception and Cleveland Chef Tasting. The Interactive Dinner Preparation by Michael Symon and Mario Batali begins at 8:30PM, and all tasting tickets include a small plate version of the dish that the celebrity chefs will be preparing live. Higher level sponsorships are still available.
Autism Speaks is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. It is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Mr. Wright is the former vice chairman of General Electric and chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal. Since its inception, Autism Speaks has committed more than $500 million to its mission, the majority in science and medical research. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 100 cities across North America. On the global front, Autism Speaks has established partnerships in more than 40 countries on five continents to foster international research, services and awareness. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit

The evening begins with a silent auction, followed by a culinary tasting prepared by Cleveland’s most renowned chefs. Guests will be entertained as Michael Symon and Mario Batali prepare dinner live on-stage where guests will be able to bid for a chance to sit on stage with the Iron Chefs through live auction. Sponsors receive a sit-down version of the meal, while ticket purchasers will receive small plates. Other live auction packages featuring exclusive packages and unique items will also be offered.

Tickets to the tasting portion of the Cleveland Chef Gala begin at $200 per person. For more information, visit here.

Or, you have the chance to win two tickets here! Use the Rafflecopter giveaway below, and I will select a random winner on Tuesday, August 5th.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Participating Chefs:
Michael Symon and Mario Batali
Tim Bando - Grove Hill
Jonathan Bennett - Moxie, Red
Derek Clayton – Michael Symon Resturants
Britt-Marie Horrocks Culey - Coquette Patisserie
Brian Doyle - Sow Food & Beachland Ballroom
Brandt Evans - Pura Vida, Blue Canyon
Anna Harouvis - Anna in the Raw
Chris Hodgson - Hodge's, Cibreo, Driftwood Catering, Bin 216
Jeff Jarrett – AMP 150
Douglas Katz - fire, The Katz Club Diner, Provenance
Tim Monsman – Market District
Matt Mytro – flour
Fabio Salerno – Lago & Gusto
Jonathon Sawyer - Greenhouse Tavern, NoodleCat, & Trentina
John Selick – University Hospitals – Ahuja Medical Center
Karen Small – Flying Fig
Dion Tsevdos – Cheese Shop, Urban Herbs, & Classic Seafood
Jill Vedaa - Rockefeller's
Rocco Whalen - Fahrenheit, Rosie & Rocco’s Tacos
Eric Williams – Momocho, El Carnicero

It's a great chef lineup, from local talent to big-name stars, and all for a good cause.

Disclosure: I was provided with two media passes and two Tasting Tickets to give away, in exchange for this blog post. All opinions are 100% my own.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Volunteering at Ronald McDonald House

Last week, I cooked. was fruit salad and cupcakes, but still. I decided to wield a knife and mix batter all for a good cause. Cleveland Kiddos had reached out to area bloggers to see if we would be interested in getting together to prepare and serve a meal at the Ronald McDonald House. I jumped at the chance, because I try to give back to the community when I can and I know how much non-profits rely on volunteers (working for one myself).

From their website:
The Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland offers a place to call home at little or no cost so families can access the best health care, regardless of their location.  We allow families to stay together, which can help their children heal faster and cope better.

Our House enables families to focus on the health of their child rather than anything else – like paying bills, cooking meals, cleaning the House. We preserve a sense of normalcy with home-cooked meals, comfortable beds and recreational activities for the family to enjoy.  Most importantly, we help families create connections with other families, staff and volunteers.  In doing this, families have a support system to turn to during the most stressful moments of their lives.

So, on Monday, a group of us gathered, and our fearless leader tasked us with making a home-cooked meal of fried chicken (all hand-pounded, battered, and fried), macaroni and cheese, fruit salad, green beans, crudite, and cupcakes for dessert.
All of the supplies were donated by the group.
And we quickly jumped in and got to work in the very large and well-equipped kitchen.
Zone Defense and I tackled pineapple for the first time. I think we showed that pineapple who was boss.
If you see me in the kitchen with a knife this big, you should be afraid, be very afraid. However, I managed to not lose a finger or wound Mason.

Most of us didn't know each other when we started that day, but I think we worked efficiently and had great teamwork.
You always get to know people better when you are working on completing a task together. It's one of the things I love most about volunteer actives.
Our fruit salad started to look beautiful, if I do say so myself. I think fruit salad is one of the prettiest summer dishes that you can make. I love bringing it to parties.
After we finished preparing the cupcakes to bake, a couple of us broke away for a tour of the house. I was instantly impressed with the facility. It's so cozy, inviting, and they really do try to make it feel like a home for the patients and their families staying there.
They had all kinds of different shared living space, including an awesome playroom, cozy and large family room, and a modern computer space.
The Ronald McDonald House has been providing these services for 35 years in Cleveland. They were the ninth location to open internationally. Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeast Ohio and McDonald's are partners in care and provide, through local donations, about 3.5% of their annual operating budget. The other 96.5% comes from gifts from individuals, corporations, organizations and foundations that support their mission. They truly are a local organization that is supported by this community. They also rely heavily on volunteers. One way that you can get involved is to donate your time, and food, to provide a meal for the families. They try to secure at least one meal per day.

I had to leave, unfortunately, before we got to serve the meal and host our cupcake decorating activity, but I heard that the families really enjoyed the home-cooked meal and had fun topping their cupcakes. I loved the experience of preparing the meal, even if I was a little frightened of the kitchen and had to steer clear of the raw chicken. Baby steps, people, baby steps.

A huge "thank you" to Jacquie for coordinating, and to the Ronald McDonald House for having us. It was an experience that I won't forget.

Monday, July 28, 2014

I'm Engaged!

Wow, what a weekend. It was a whirlwind, and the happiest one that I've ever had. It included our bicycles, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, dinner at our favorite restaurant (Cork & Cleaver Social Kitchen), champagne, Tremont Scoops for a good cause, a limo ride, a fantastic first experience at Ken Stewart's Grille, brunch at Flour, good friends, engagement!

What started out as an innocent (to me) evening bike ride at the zoo for their new Wild Ride at the Zoo events...
...seeing the animals from the view on our bikes (I'm clueless)...
...watching the nocturnal animals be more playful (still no idea what's about to happen)...
...having some silly fun with selfies (he had almost popped the question on a bench by the flamingos, but we had moved on before the moment felt right)...
...turned into a proposal from "R" on a picnic bench by the creek (finally!).
The zoo is the site of what I like to call our "first Cleveland date." When we met, I was still living in Upstate NY. He visited me first, but during my first weekend trip to Cleveland, "R" took me to the zoo. It's always been a special place for us, and we visit often thanks to a membership that my mom renews each year.

We were actually sitting at the picnic table, me in front of him between his knees, discussing our first date. I like to do that. Pretty much every time we're there (according to "R"). But, this time we were talking about it in more detail, since we are about to celebrate our seven year anniversary this week!

We were reminiscing about that first visit together, and how quickly time has gone by. I like the part of our first date story where we stood by the porcupine exhibit in the Rainforest, and "R" said to me, "Did you know porcupines mate for life?" and gave my hand a little squeeze. At this point in the story on Friday night, he slipped the ring in front of me and said, "That sounds nice. Will you spend the rest of your life with me?" Pretty sure that I said yes at some point, but there was a whole lot of surprise happening and it took me a minute to focus on what was actually going on. "R" claims it felt like an eternity before I said anything. Ha, made him sweat!

We called and texted family and friends right away, and then immediately headed to Cork & Cleaver for a celebratory dinner. I couldn't image going anywhere else, and they truly helped to make our evening very special.
The rest of the weekend was a whirlwind, but I'll share more of that later. Thank you to everyone that wished us well and helped us celebrate this weekend through texts, phone calls, tweets, Facebook comments, and Instagram likes. The social media world that we live in certainly helped me feel loved this weekend. You guys are the best! Now, I'm just going to go figure out what being a fiance feels like...

Friday, July 25, 2014

Locavore Winner and #FightLikeAGirl

Happy Friday! We made it. Another week down. Let's celebrate by announcing the winner of the Locavore ticket giveaway. Rafflecopter randomly selected... Stephanie French. Congratulations! Please check your email to claim by Monday. Thank you to everyone that entered the giveaway. Tickets are still available for the August 21st event. You can purchase them online here.

I want to share other event news with you today too. Tomorrow (Saturday, July 26th), Tremont Scoops is hosting Ice Cream for Gigi! #FightLikeAGirl #TeamGianna.
50% of all sales between noon and 3PM will be donated to help Gianna and her family in their fight against leukemia. This little girl needs our help, as she faces a long battle. The proceeds will defray the cost of her treatment, as well as the lifestyle changes that this young family is facing during this difficult time.

Ice cream for a good cause? It's a no-brainer! 

Gianna's aunt is a friend of mine, so I'm eager to help. Please help spread the word about this event tomorrow. Bring your family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, postman, dog groomer, grocery get the picture. Gianna encourages everyone to wear orange (leukemia awareness color) or pink (her favorite).

If you can't attend, you can still support the Andolina family by making a donation online here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

2014 Taste of Tremont

Sunday was one of my favorite annual summer events, the Taste of Tremont. Tremont is known for having one of the best culinary destinations in our city, and the restaurants all set up along Professor Avenue for one big tasting event. Other vendors and local organizations are mixed in, and 30,000+ people descend upon the neighborhood.

I saw a lot of "hate" on social media this year for this festival, complaining of the crowds, parking, traffic, food name it. Many of these folks were tweeting or Facebook posting this from their homes. Good, if you don't like it, just don't go. For those of us that enjoy the festival, we came out. You just have to be prepared for the traffic and parking issues, long lines at the good food tents, and hoards of people jammed onto one street.

After trying to get into the neighborhood the "back way" through the Steelyard, we had no luck and swung back around to try West 14th. Ha, even worse.
We are fortunate to live not too far away, so we u-turned it home and grabbed our bicycles. Thanks to a Twitter tip, we easily found parking at the Gateway Animal Clinic and then hopped on our bikes to cross over from Ohio City into Tremont. Many others were walking or biking over that way too. Keep that in mind next year!

Be prepared for the crushing crowds and long lines.
Our beloved Fresh Fork was there, selling a pig roast platter and grilled sweet corn. The smells were intoxicating, and the line was probably the longest that I saw that day.
Now, I normally hate crowds. For this annual event, I tough it out. I wised up this year and took the edge off at home with a tasty Bloody Mary, using Clark Pope's Bloody Mary mix that we picked up from Fresh Fork.

The reason I love this festival is that it provides me with the opportunity to try smaller bites from some of my favorite Tremont restaurants, and to try food from places that we may not have been to yet.
"R" and I prefer to split things, so that we can try more. We stopped at Ligali's tent (a new addition to Tremont) and had their Fried Green Tomato Caprese (pictured above top right) and Mushroom Flatbread. The flatbread was good, but the Caprese was our favorite there. I believe that it is on their regular menu. Looks like we need to stop in! We also shared a Chicken Taco from the Fahrenheit food truck, and Lucky's Cafe macaroni and cheese (an all-time favorite, pictured bottom left). That mac 'n cheese is seriously one of the best that I've ever had.

We ended our day at the "secret garden" behind Tremont Scoops with friends. It was a welcomed oasis from the noise of the festival. Overall, I call it another successful Taste of Tremont. The event has really grown, and I think it's time to consider expanding beyond just Professor Avenue.

What do you think of Taste of Tremont? Did you attend this year, or steer clear of the mayhem?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Event Recap: Veggie U's 2014 Food and Wine

Saturday night was Veggie U's 2014 Food and Wine Celebration. The event had returned, relocated and reformatted. While I did miss the charm of attending the event on Chef's Garden farm, I did not miss the long drive from Cleveland to Milan and the sweltering humidity inside of the event's tent that we had experienced in the past. The event moved to Downtown Cleveland this year, and was held in the Pura Vida/Tri-C Hospitality Management Center on Euclid Avenue. Although, they did try to bring in touches of the farm to the very industrial and modern space...
The event's new theme was "Tastes of the World" and the participating chefs were tasked with creating a dish based on a specific type of cuisine.

Some of my favorites were from the usual suspects. I liked the Moroccan Pork Belly with Vegetable Salad and Chermoula from Chef Jeff Jarrett at AMP 150.
The Greek Watermelon Mint Juice and Sprouted Chick Pea Hummus from Chef Anna Harouvis at Anna in the Raw/Good to Go Cafe was a refreshing bite and sip. She always makes raw look good! Her energy and glow are infectious, and her passion for raw foods just shines through.

I loved the Indian Crab Pakora with Mango Chutney from Chefs John and Allysun Selick at University Hospitals Ahuja Center.
I could have eaten a plate of these. John's food is always among the best at any tasting event that I've been to.

But, the winner of the evening (for me) goes to Chef Matthew Mathlage from Peachtree Southern Kitchen. He did a Southern Chicken Cracklins with white pimento cheese and peanuts.
I had three. Don't judge me. While the news on Friday of his other restaurant, Light Bistro in Ohio City, closing saddened me, I was thrilled to sample food from Peachtree. I haven't made it out to the new restaurant in Hudson yet, but this dish tempted me enough to purchase a silent auction package for Peachtree that evening!

The event not only included some fantastic food, but it had kicked off with a VIP hour, including a wine class.
Live music entertained guests in several areas of the event, and the wine and craft beer were flowing. Guests also had a chance to enter a drawing for a Vitamix, and to win a bottle of wine in the Wine Pull. The only negatives of the evening were the weather (I hate rain), high starting bids in the silent auction, and a few more chef stations would have been nice.

The event was a lot smaller than in years past, but they are rebuilding and I think that it will continue to grow. The chefs did an outstanding job, with only the Panzanella Salad from Flying Fig being a disappointment for me. All proceeds benefit Veggie U, a non-profit children's education program that teaches the importance of nutrition and sustainable agriculture by providing interactive lesson plans and a classroom garden to elementary and special needs students. Learn more about them here.

Disclosure: I was provided with two VIP media passes to this event in exchange for my posts. All opinions stated are 100% my own. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Locavore 2014 Ticket Giveaway

lo·ca·vore [loh-kuh-vawr, ‐vohr] noun
a person who makes an effort to eat food that is grown, raised, or produced locally, usually within 100 miles of home.

It's also a fundraising event that supports the Ohio Buckeye Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society taking place on Thursday, August 21st (one month from today!) at Windows on the River. Presented by Ulmer & Berne LLP.
The event features decadent chocolates and pastries, and delicious hors d’oeuvres from local Cleveland vendors, all paired with some of Ohio's finest wines made from Ohio-grown grapes. Some of the participating restaurants include:

- Lilly Handmade Chocolates
- Momocho Mod Mex
- Lago
- AMP 150
- The Rail
- Urban Farmer Cleveland Steakhouse
- Nosh Eatery

Tickets start at $60 each (Event Ticket), which include event admission, all tastings, and cash bar. For $80, you can purchase a ticket (Patron Ticket) that will get you in one hour early, and admission to a special wine tasting class prior to the start of the main event. You can purchase tickets online here.

Or, you can enter to win two free Event Tickets here on my blog. Just use the Rafflecopter entry below, and I will select a random winner on Friday, July 25th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway Locavore is sure to be a fun and memorable evening, and a great way to get together for an evening out. All proceeds benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Ohio Buckeye Chapter. The National MS Society is a collective of passionate individuals who want to do something about MS now – to move together toward a world free of multiple sclerosis. MS stops people from moving. They exist to make sure it doesn’t. They help each person address the challenges of living with MS through their 50-state network of chapters. The Society helps people affected by MS by funding cutting-edge research, driving change through advocacy, facilitating professional education, and providing programs and services that help people with MS and their families move their lives forward. The Ohio Buckeye Chapter serves over 14,000 people with MS and their families in a 64-county area. To learn more about where your money goes, you can visit the website.

Disclosure: I was provided with four passes to the event in exchange for hosting this contest and a recap blog post. Two tickets will be given away to a random reader that enters, and two are media passes for myself and a guest to attend. All opinions stated are 100% my own. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

More "Fest" than "Pierogi"

Last night, Old Brooklyn hosted a Pierogi Fest in the lot next to Mr. E's Inn on Pearl Road.
It was a gorgeous evening in our neighborhood, so we hopped on our bicycles and rode over to Pearl Road.
Like my sweet basket and bell? Both proved useful later in the night.

The area was small, but they had packed a lot into it. Several Cleveland-themed t-shirt businesses, jewelry, crafts, and even a bath fitter. However, the pierogi themselves appeared to be missing. There were two small food tents inside the lot, and the Get Stuffed food truck from Wadsworth. The truck was serving pierogi, but the line was insane and waaaay down the block. As we walked by, the food did look good though.

After a quick spin around the lot, and a brief moment of listening to the live polka music...
...we walked next door to Drink.Bar + Grill for a bite of food and some drinks without the ridiculous lines. I had a little too much fun with the Corpse Reviver #2.
It made the bike ride home much more fun, and seemingly faster. However, Drink is always dead inside whenever we've stopped in. How are they still open a year later? They seem to have some regulars, several of which were seated near us at the bar, but the "crowd" of 25-ish people there when we were seemed to be a lot for them to handle (in addition to hosting a food tent at the event outside). The food is okay, the craft beer and wine list is very good, and the cocktails are great. But, I still struggle with believing that Old Brooklyn residents really want to pay $9 - $15 for cocktails.

So, while fun in theory, the Pierogi Fest didn't quite get it together. A post on the neighborhood Facebook page did indicate that the main pierogi vendor had backed out at the last minute. Too bad. Maybe they'll try again, because I'd love to see more of this type of event in our neighborhood. It was great to see so many people out and about (some fantastic people-watching too), and we had a fun time biking around.

Does your neighborhood host anything fun like this? 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

5th Annual Beer and Sausage Fest

5th Annual Beer and Sausage Fest this Saturday at Sachsenheim Hall. For $36 ($40 at the door), enjoy live entertainment, beer from 6 different breweries, and 16 styles of brats. 
Purchase tickets in advance at Sachsenheim Hall or Market Garden Brewery.

I went two years ago, and it was a great deal for the food and beers included. A casual night out, enjoying tasty house made brats and craft beer. Don't miss it! 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Local Tavern Opens in Parma

The east-side chain of Local Tavern has moved to Parma. They've taken over the large bar/restaurant space that recently housed Brew Co. and the Blue Moose prior to that.
The restaurant offers a large outdoor dining area and expansive covered bar, which has always been appealing. Located on Pearl Road, it's high-traffic area of Parma, and there is plenty of parking in the huge lot in front of the restaurant. In theory, a place should do well in this location.

The menu isn't huge, offering a few "Plate Lickers" a.k.a. entrees, but the menu is heavy with burgers, "handwiches" and stuffed burgers. For the smaller appetites, they do have salads and "happy beginnings" a.k.a appetizers. What's with the weird category names? 
First disappointment of the meal was the beer list. Only a handful of craft beer options, and very heavy on your domestic basics. Certainly not the extensive craft beer list that the location's previous tenant offered. I stuck with water.

"R" was drawn to their list of three Signature Stuffed Burgers, and decided on the Beast ($13.99) with short rib, horseradish, mushroom aioli, and Swiss cheese.
They must have to cook them to one temperature only, due to the "stuffing" because he wasn't asked. The bun was soft and fresh, patty quite large and juicy, but overall it really lacked flavor. The mushroom aioli just blended in with the taste of beef, and there was absolutely no hint of the promised horseradish. "R" had to kick this up a notch with ketchup. It was also almost entirely a "brown" burger, which isn't very appetizing to look at.

I ordered the Island Pork Sandwich ($9.99) with sriracha-marinated pineapple, thin-sliced pork, cabbage slaw and a lime-cilantro aioli.
The "thin-sliced pork" had the mouth-feel of deli meat (not pleasant), but the flavors of sweet and mildly spicy were good overall. It just probably wasn't good enough that I'd order it again. Each handheld or burger comes with a side of fries (pretty good), salad (very good), or tomato bisque (we didn't try).

Our server, Rachel, was only average, and was clearly outshone by the server that was waiting on the table behind us. We watched as the other server checked in on, and helped, our server's tables while we were dining. I also had to wait an oddly long amount of time for a bottled beer, once I decided to order a Corona. She came to our table twice during this time period, stating that she was "waiting for someone to get it" for her. The restaurant wasn't busy at all, and both inside and outside bars were fully staffed. Hmmm...

So, long story short, I was disappointed with this new addition to Parma, and we probably won't waste our time returning. Not sure if this restaurant will make it in this location either. Maybe it's cursed?

Local Tavern
5513 Pearl Road
Parma, OH 44129

Two other locations in Mentor and Willoughby Hills.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Fresh Fork Fun- Week Four

We just finished Week Four of the Fresh Fork summer program, and we continue to have fun trying new recipes and cooking with products that we may not have regularly purchased on our own.

A Sunday meal included some scallops purchased at Kate's Fish at the West Side Market, perched on top of mashed cauliflower. A recipe for mashed cauliflower was in our newsletter, so we adapted it slightly to try it for the first time. It makes a great replacement for mashed potatoes.

Mashed Cauliflower
1 medium head cauliflower
1 1/2 tablespoon cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
4 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
chopped fresh or dry chives, for garnish
unsalted butter

Set a stockpot of water to boil over high heat.
Saute the garlic.
Clean and cut the cauliflower into 1" pieces.
Cook in boiling water for about 6 minutes, or until tender to fork touch.
Drain well; do not let cool and pat cooked cauliflower very dry.
In a bowl with an immersion blender, or in a food processor, puree the hot cauliflower with the cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, garlic, salt, and pepper until almost smooth.
Garnish with chives, and serve hot with pats of butter on top.

We served the scallops and cauliflower with a side of Simmered Beet Greens with Roasted Beets, Lemon and Yogurt. This recipe was also adapted from the Week 4 Fresh Fork newsletter.

Roasted Beets with Lemon and Yogurt (2 servings)
1 bunch of beets with greens
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
chopped walnuts for garnish

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Cut the greens away from the beets, leaving about 1/4 inch of stems.
Scrub the beets and place in a baking dish.
Add 1/4 inch water to the dish.
Cover tightly.
Place in the oven and roast beets for 30 to 60 minutes (depending on the size), until easily penetrated with a fork.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Cut away the ends and slip off the skins.
Slice beets and set aside.
Stem the greens and wash.
Heat a large, wide skillet over high heat and add the greens by the handful, stirring each handful until the greens wilt in the water left on the leaves after washing.
Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and diced garlic, turn the heat down to low, season with salt and pepper, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add 1 Tbsp. lemon juice before removing greens from skillet.
Arrange the beets on top of the greens.
Drizzle on olive oil and squeeze on more lemon juice to taste.
Place spoonfuls of yogurt over the top of the beets and beet greens, sprinkle on the walnuts and serve.

We also topped our scallops with a Strawberry Balsamic Basil Reduction.
Viola! More Fresh Fork fun in Week Four.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Veggie U Food and Wine Celebration 2014

The Veggie U Food and Wine Celebration is back this year, but with some new twists. For 10 years, the event was held outdoors on The Chef's Garden farm in Milan. The recreated event will be held in downtown Cleveland at the Hospitality Management Center of Tri-C and Pura Vida spaces on Public Square, and will focus on local culinary talent expressing themselves through the flavors of international cuisines. The Veggie U Food and Wine Celebration (#VUFoodWine2014) will be held July 19, 2014, from 7:00 pm – 10:30 pm.

The fundraiser benefits Veggie U, a non-profit children's education program that teaches the importance of nutrition and sustainable agriculture by providing interactive lesson plans and a classroom garden to elementary and special needs students.
The event's theme "Tastes of the World" will give each of the twelve+ guest chefs at the tasting stations a chance to use their culinary skills to transport guests to their favorite locales or to a region and cuisine style they might not otherwise get to experience. Wine pairings from the best grape growing regions of the world will compliment the dishes, while lively music from Don Disantis will entertain the guests. A wine pull and silent auction will round off the evening, while providing further opportunities to donate to the Veggie U cause.

Featured chefs include*: 
Matt Mytro (Flour)
Andrew Bower (Market Garden Brewery)
Scott Coffman (Pura Vida)
Jeff Jarrett (AMP 150)
Michael Lyons (The Accessible Gourmet)
Matthew Mathlage (Light Bistro)
Karen Small (Flying Fig)
Nate Barker (Hodge's)
Anna Harouvis (Good to Go Café/Anna in the Raw)
Manny Nieves (Grady's Fine Wines)
John Selick (UH Ahuja Medical Center/Sodexo)
Ky-Wei Wong (Tri-C Culinary Arts Program)
Tickets are $150 per person. To purchase tickets and learn more about the event, visit or call 419.499.7500. You can also enter their Facebook contest for a chance to win two free tickets. Visit the contest page here, or email your First Name, Last Name, and email address to Ask[at]VeggieU[dot]org with the subject line "Veggie U Food & Wine Ticket Contest Entry". Enter by July 14, 2014.

This was a great event when it was out on the farm (although a little sweaty in the summer heat), so I'm excited to see the changes that they've made to the event. I look forward to attending. Great chef lineup, more convenient location, and a wonderful cause.

* Final chef lineup still being confirmed.

Disclosure: I was provided with two media passes in exchange for this blog post. All opinions are 100% my own. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Cincinnati Eats: Bouquet Restaurant and Wine Bar

Okay, well, not really "Cincinnati," but just across the river in Covington, Kentucky. When I travel to Cincinnati for work, I like to stay in Kentucky. It's just minutes from Downtown Cincinnati, but the hotel prices are cheaper and typically include complimentary parking. We've traditionally headed into Cincinnati for dinner, but during this last trip we stayed on the other side of the river and discovered a cute little area in Covington. This strip of restaurants and bars on Main Street was begging to be explored, and I'd love to poke around more.

However, we were headed straight for Bouquet Restaurant and Bar. We didn't have a reservation, which I do recommend, but we were able to grab the last patio table.
It was a perfect evening for street-watching, sipping on a glass of wine, and munching on some small plates. We had a late lunch that day, so some small plates were just what we needed. The menu isn't large, but several items sounded tempting and there were four daily specials to choose from.

The first daily special that caught my eye was the Stuffed Squash Blossoms. They have a very short season each spring, and I like to have them when I can.
These were not the best that I've had, but I did enjoy the delicate flower blossoms stuffed with crab and cheese.

I also ordered the Farm Greens Salad ($7) from the regular menu.
Beautifully plated, it included Greensleeves Farm greens, brussels chips, carrots, spring onions, almonds, and a citrus sumac dressing. It was small, but so good.

Still a tad hungry, "R" and I decided to share the Artisanal Cheese Plate ($15).
It included pistachio relish, seasonal jam and a daily selection of four cheeses. Diners also have the option of adding charcuterie. You can add two cured meats, house mustard, and pickled vegetables for $6, or four cured meats, house mustard, house pickles, and olives for $12. We added two meats.

Don't you love the little sign that accompanied the spread? I wish every cheese plate did that! By the time the waiter leaves, I generally have forgotten what the cheeses are. I liked all four cheeses, a creamy Brie, a bleu, and two hard cheeses. The accoutrements were unusual, and very good. Apple butter and pistachio relish, yum. While Bruell restaurants' and Edwin's cheese plate in Cleveland still reign supreme, this was one of the better ones I've had. A great end to a very nice meal.

Bouquet has a farm-to-table approach, and have been voted one of the Best Restaurants by Cincinnati Magazine. Their approach to putting a twist on classic favorites is fun, artfully plated, and delicious. We'll be back, both to Bouquet and to the historic Main Street strip in Covington. There is more exploring to do, but again, we landed ourselves at one of the best restaurants in the area that night thanks to the suggestion from a Cleveland-area farmer!

Bouquet Restaurant and Wine Bar
519 Main Street
Covington, KY 41011