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Our Global Kitchen

Food connects us all, across continents, cultures, economies and generations.  Our Global Kitchen at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History  gives visitors an interactive, comprehensive and stimulating look at what we all have in common-an appetite!

Even before you step in to the exhibit, guests are treated to mouth-watering photos taken by Donna Turner Ruhlman, in Neo-Natural Behind our Local Kitchen.  In her stunning images, food is depicted at it’s source “field, farm or forrest,” and showcases people working to promote sustainability, like Jeremy Umansky and Chef Jonathan Sawyer.

Make your way in to Kahn Hall and you’ll be ushered in to the experience with a movie detailing how, though various degrees of separation, we are all connected globally, through food. Then the origins of seeds and livestock are outlined, along with facts about developing these sources, like how breeding chickens for higher yield grew production of one chicken from about a dozen, to 200-300 eggs per year.

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The portion detailing the ancient marketplace shows what ancient Aztecs grew, ate, and traded for.  Did you know cacao beans were currency at one point?? Yep, you could get a turkey egg for 3, or a whole rabbit for 30!  The exhibit also lays out which nations are the highest importers and exporters of various foods like wheat, beer, maize and soybeans.

Among the many interactive elements of Our Global Kitchen, was a touch screen that shows visitors how things like tuna, lamb and bananas are harvested, preserved and transported across the world.  My daughter’s favorite thing were the “smelling stations” that allowed her to press a button and waft up a scent of something (cocoa, ginger, garlic, popcorn, lemon, etc)

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The food waste display was something that certainly struck me, after all….I HATE wasting food.  That’s the whole reason I started this blog.  At this station, guests are shown a visual of what is wasted by a single family of four annually, more than 1,600 lbs of food.

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To add to the engagement, visitors are encouraged to share food pics on social media with the hashtag #CelebrateFood, and are shown a slide show of such photos.  And there’s a test kitchen that offers up demonstrations from local chefs, and scientific elements, like what your taste buds are and how they work.

For museum purists, there are displays of various peculiar looking utensils, and an eclectic collection of cookbooks that were influential.  I’m proud to say I own a couple of these.

By far the most entertaining element for me was the virtual meal prep.  Through a projector and a touchscreen, guests could see how to prepare tamales, a poached egg with hollandaise sauce, grilled salmon with peaches and a groundmeat soup.  Click here to see my video of it.

The exhibit concluded with an adorable and elaborate kitchen play set from Step2.  My daughter took to it like a food blogger’s daughter would.  She made herself at home and made me ravioli.  In all, a fulfilling afternoon at the museum learning about the thing that we all have in common-FOOD!

 

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Black Friday Breakfast- Overnight French Toast

Cheftovers

Since I work with leftovers, Thanksgiving is pretty much my Super Bowl.  (see previous posts on The Pilgrim Pocket, and 5 Better Things to do with Thanksgiving leftovers) And I know, I know….the last thing you want to do on the day after Thanksgiving is cook.  But as I’ve mentioned before, I hate wasting food…especially food that I, or someone from my family, have put so much time and love into.

I also have the unfortunate luck of working on Black Friday (no, I’m not in retail!) So I whipped together an overnight French Toast with some of the Thanksgiving Day remnants to help me get out the door quicker, fuller and help out my husband who has a special “daddy day” planned with his daughters.

My inspiration was a Ziploc bag full of leftover “Monkey Bread” we were sent home with after stop one on Thanksgiving.  If you’re…

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Five better things to do with Thanksgiving leftovers

Cheftovers

Don’t default to tired turkey salad or slap together a boring turkey sandwich in the days after your Thanksgiving feast.  Try mixing it up with these Cheftovers  ideas for your holiday leftovers: Baked Brie with cranberry sauce, Turkey Tetrazzini, Pilgrim Pockets, Mini turkey pot pies, and Thanksgiving casserole.

This year I made home made cranberry sauce for Friendsgiving.  I’ll never buy it canned again.  It was easy, bright and beautiful…and too good to toss.  So I took a semi circle of Brie (inexplicably leftover from a cheese plate one of our guests brought…that stuff usually goes quick in a crowd!) and topped it with about half a cup of the leftover cranberry sauce.  I then wrapped the Brie/cranberry sauce in a sheet of puff pastry I defrosted and brushed it with melted butter and baked it at 375 until it was golden brown.  Spread that melty, sweet, tart, creamy goodness on…

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The Fabulous Food Show

My favorite food event of the year is always the Fabulous Food Show, at the I-X Center.  It shines a national spotlight on all that the Cleveland food scene has to offer, to 30,000 people over the course of a weekend.  Vendors, purveyors, artisans, chefs, foodies, students and avid eaters gather for three days celebrating all things FOOD.

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This year they offered new things like a Baking Pavilion, Cocktail School and Friday night fund raising event, Savor Cleveland, to raise money for No Kid Hungry.  It was a fun evening attended by some of the celebrity chefs in town for this dynamic event.  The floor was also peppered with samples, and special offers for everything from salsa, to knives, to artisan cheese.  The neighborhood stage was a great showcase for local talent to demo techniques and recipes.  And the main stage offered presentations and Q&A from celebrity chefs like Aaron Sanchez, Daphne Oz, Michael Symon, Damaris Phillips and Melissa D’Arabian.

Once again I was honored to participate on a main stage event.  CLE Cooks for a Cause was expanded this year to include 8 teams of two, a local celeb and a local chef-going head to head in a “Chopped” style cooking competition.  Each team selected a charity to compete for.  The show itself donated $500 to each of our charities, plus donated the proceeds from reserved seating.  I was playing for the Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland.

It was a rematch.  Chef Matt Mytro, of Flour, and I went back at it against Matt Fish, of Melt Bar & Grilled and Jeremiah Widmer of Q104 FM. We’d been ribbing each other for the better part of the year since the last time we cooked against each other at the Fabulous Food Show last year.  But Mytro and I wanted to take the title away from Team Melt.

We were given beef as a protein and the chefs set about rapidly raiding the back stage pantry for something they could pull off in 30 minutes, and still impress judges like Damaris Phillips, and former White House Chef, Sam Morgante.

Chef Mytro conceived, executed and plated a beautiful sirloin steak with a celeriac puree and a punchy salad on top.  He tasked me with making a perfect meatball, and braising it in some marinara.  His bold flavors and my comfort zone worked in our favor.  WE WON!  The judges were very complimentary of Mytro’s flavors and my ability to get the meatballs done in such a quick amount of time.  It felt good to win!  (especially because Matt told me his partner threatened to take his chef’s coat away if he lost a second year in a row!)

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To watch the entire competition from the perspective of the stage, click here for my Facebook Live broadcast.

I also scored, with some one on one interview time with three of the biggest celebrity chefs featured in the Fabulous Show.  It’s always an honor and a blast to talk to Cleveland’s own Iron Chef, Michael Symon.  Great to catch up with him about plans for Lolita, progress at Mabel’s and his yearly opportunity to show off the CLE culinary scene.  To watch my entire one on one with Chef Michael Symon, click here for my Facebook Live broadcast.

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Chef Symon brought in fellow cast member from The Chew, Daphne Oz.  I loved visiting with her about tempting toddlers with healthy food, and her new cook book, The Happy Cook.  She is stunning in person and remarkably relatable.  To view my entire interview with Daphne Oz, click here for my Facebook live broadcast.

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And one of the newest members of the Food Network family, Damaris Phillips was also in town.  Phillips, of Southern at Heart, is as sweet as pecan pie and a ton of fun.  She is a great resource for those trying to please a variety of dietary needs, especially come holiday times.  She’s a southern meat-eatin’ gal who married a vegetarian!  My entire interview with Damaris Phillips can be viewed here.

The Fabulous Food Show is my happy place (one of them) it combines the energy of the Cleveland food scene, with incredible talent, learning opportunities, cutting edge products, fan favorites and delicious food.  Mark your calendar and get there next year!

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Night of 100 Dinners 

Fill your belly and your heart this weekend with an event happening in dining rooms and private homes all over the city. 

On the Night of 100 Dinners, parties will be held and plates ordered all in the name of raising money for The Rainbow Babies & Children’s Foundation. The idea behind the event, on November 12th, is for people to host parties or go out to dinner, all in an effort to raise funds and awareness for parents and children positively affected by the good work done at Rainbow.
Participating restaurants will be donating a portion of the proceeds generated that night. Diners need only mention “Rainbow” when they place their order and a portion of their total bill will go to the cause.

At private parties all across the area, be it catered events, pizza parties for kids or family style feasts, guests will be encouraged to make donations through the hosts. People are still signing up to be hosts, from Vermilion to Concord…Hinkley to Bainbridge. One hundred hosts and counting.

“We can’t thank the community enough for their continuous generosity that helps us deliver the most positive hospital experience to our patients and families,” said Patti DePompei, president of UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s.

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How will you know if a restaurant is part of the fun and fundraising? Look for one of these luminaries outside, indicating the establishment is participating in the Night of 100 Dinners. Or, for a listing of participating restaurants, many of which belong to my friend, restaurateur, and Honorary Chair of the event, Chef Zack Bruell, check out at www.uhgiving.org/rainbow100dinners.  That website also has sample e-invitations for hosts, if you’d like to put something together.  There are 10 local restaurants joining in on the FUNdraising, in addition to six of Bruell’s establishments (click here for that list).

You can also learn more about about the healing and helping going on at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital at Rainbow.org.

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Sol: Redefined

It’s a tall order to offer up something on a menu in Cleveland these days that isn’t already being done somewhere else.  But they’re doing it at Sol, in downtown Willoughby.  The Spanish-inspired scratch kitchen has just launched a new menu, retaining the favorite flavors from the year-old restaurant, but rethinking the structure and approach to make its food more affordable.

The inviting and eclectic dining room, and sprawling patio are the perfect setting for the  experience ownership and kitchen staff are going for, a modern communal and social dining experience.  The changes to their menu will also facilitate that.  Tapas!  They’re not appetizers, more like shared small plates.  I know, it seems like the same thing…but they’re not.  For example, Brussel Sprouts.  Can you imagine ordering a Brussels Sprouts appetizer?  But these are among their best selling dishes when offered as a tapa.

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The restructured menu has broken down some of their former entrees into tapas format (with 15 different options), and added a “between bread” section, to shave down the price points, and contribute to a more casual feel.  Affordability and approachability are the two most important goals for ownership right now, they tell me.  Their menu items formerly ranged from $7-$26, but now are between $5-$14 (the traditionally-sized entrees are more, but still less than they were before).  Favorites like their famous flank steak and juicy double bone-in pork chop will remain on the menu.  Phew!

I got a nice sampling of the new offerings, including Spanish Flatbread with Catalan sauce, the crispy Brussel Sprouts, Braised Pork Tacos with charred cabbage and smoked pepper aioli, and a General’s Fried Chicken (my favorite!).  All packed the bold flavors, you’ve come to expect from Chef Michael Schoen.  That chicken was crazy good.  Makes me want to try the rest of it!

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Schoen says no menu is ever final, and they’re looking forward to hearing from diners about the changes. They’ve been tweaking ingredients and portion sizes throughout Sol’s first year, culminating with this new menu, full of shareable conversation pieces.

Now, he and ownership hope to see people’s impressions of Sol expand from a “special occasion” destination.  They want their Lake County clientele to think of the downtown Willoughby location as a destination for a fun, uptown communal dining experience, where people will eat leisurely, indulging in the elevated menu of tapas and relaxed atmosphere.

Sol is located in downtown Willoughby at 38257 Glen Ave.  solwilloughby.com

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Tea Party of Three

Pinkies up! Ladies who lunch, mamas of little princesses, and tea fanatics: I’ve found the next place you should, gather and gab, make memories and sit n’ steep.  My girls and I had a delightful afternoon at the Emerald Necklace Inn.  It was an impromptu tea party that my daughters and I will remember for a long time!

Nestled at the edge of the Rocky River in Fairview Park, the Emerald Necklace Inn is a charming little tea room with everything you’d expect to see in such a place…tea pots and tea cups of every style, shape and size, pages of tea varieties to choose from on the menu, and a staff well-versed in the etiquette of High Tea.

Looking for a way to spoil my little girls after shots at the doctor’s office, I tempted my 3 and 4 year olds with a promise of a princess-worthy tea party.  Owner, Gloria Cipri Kemer, and her staff certainly delivered.  (starting with the tea cocktail in sugar rimmed mini mason jars!)

The table was artfully set with fancy linens, place settings and tea cups that made my girls feel like queens.  We each picked a variety of tea (herbal decaffeinated ones available for little ones) and were brought individuals tea pots selected from the tea house’s eclectic collection.

Apple cider blend for the girls, and a hibiscus and pomegranate blend for me.  My youngest was fascinated by the sugar cubes and occupied a lot of time mastering that task.  My oldest worked her pinkie and reveled in being able to help herself in such a grown-up setting.

We snacked on tea sandwiches (chicken, egg salad and cucumber) and blueberry scones.  The girls learned what a spreader was and how to use it…and use it and use it…when it came to buttering their scones.

Their meals (Lillia’s Children’s Tea, $11.95) were adorably presented and came with a decadent dessert.  My set up (Mary Gillis Afternoon Tea, $15.95) included four varieties of desserts as well.

As our experience came to a close, a grandmother and her (adult) granddaughter came in for tea, and I thought about what a lovely experience this could be for all kinds of generations looking to spend quality quiet time together.  The space also includes a more grand party room for princesses young and old to enjoy.  The Emerald Necklace Inn also offers rooms to rent, a tea tasting class, a meeting room and princess parties.  Cheers!