Bloom Bakery: Social Enterprise meets urban bakery

Rise and thrive.  One year in to their existence, Bloom Bakery, with locations in Campus Distsrict and Publich Square, is ready to take on more.

The artisan bakery helps those with barriers to employment, through their connection with Towards Employment.  Since opening they’ve been making beautiful pastries and breads for the breakfast and lunch crowd near CSU and Public Square.  To celebrate their anniversary and grow the establishment, the world renown artisan baker who helped get them off the ground, returned to develop new products.


Maurice Chaplais came initially to teach Bloom’s 15 employees European artisan bakery techniques.  Now they can make top-of-the-line products, and a living.  I had the privilege to spend the morning with Chaplais, watching in awe, and participating when I felt like I wouldn’t get in the way. It was like watching a maestro!  His croissants take 2 days to make! (And about two minutes to devour). 


The melt-in-your-mouth difference maker, he says, is the wild yeast he uses instead of factory yeast.  He’s been developing this culture, that actually comes from Indian mangos, for more than 10 years! He totes it around the world and shares it with other bakeries where he trains staff and jump starts their techniques.  Like a pet, he has to feed it every day!  Wild, huh?  This product, however, has a longer turnaround time.  It’s slow and retro, Chaplias says, dating back to Roman times.  Now THAT’S retro.   To learn more about Maurice’s methods, and his fascinating life, check out his website:  www.chaplais.com


One quarter of croissants are butter.  No wonder they taste so good.  And Chaplais favors European style butter because it has less water.  After the dough sits for 12 hours, it’s run through a mechanical rolling pin until it’s less than 1/4 inch thick. Then Chaplain hand rolls it the rest of the way, cuts them into triangles, and masterfully rolls them into the iconic shape. Once they proof for an hour, they’re brushed with egg wash and baked for 15 minutes.  The water in the butter provides the steam to make them rise and the butter itself provides those beautiful crispy layers.


We cut into the perfectly crafted croissants stuffed with frangipane or bake-stable Belgian chocolate, to reveal the honeycomb pattern all bakers are after.  


He also showed me his techniques for preparing baguettes, wrapping them in a couche to rest, and the bannetons (made of cane and lined with rice flour) used to shape sour dough loaves. 


This visit, Chaplais worked with the bakery staff on several new menu items, including scones, a Tuscan baguette, crepes, semolina bread, thin crust pizza dough made with sourdough, and English sausage rolls. Yum!

Recidivism exists, but at Bloom none of its employees have returned to incarceration since inception. Instead of repeat offenders, they’re focused on repeat customers. 

Bloom Bakery is planning its one-year anniversary with a big party and making plans to expand its menu with help from Maurice Chaplais, an internationally known European baker. The celebration is March 30 from 6 to 9pm at 200 Public Square. Go to Eventbrite to register. Cost per ticket is $35. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/blooms-1-year-anniversary-celebration-tickets-31757137453?aff=eac2

Natural Wines: Zack Bruell Restaurant Group introduces organic, biodynamic vintages.

Have you ever tasted a wine that was truly alive?  I hadn’t, until I had my first sips (and glasses) of natural wines.  And now, I get it.  It was hard to understand, or believe, that a wine could change dramatically from first open, to first pour, to last sip.  But it happened, each time, as we tasted the new natural wine offerings from the Zack Bruell Restaurant Group. 

Restaurateur, Zack Bruell, recently brought on his son, Julian, as the Director of Service.  The younger Bruell brings with him experience from Michellin Star restaurants in New York City.  Inside his first three months, he and Direcotr of Operations, David Schneider, set about introducing ground-breaking wines to several of the ZBRG properties.  This week I was invited to taste some of the biodynamic offerings now available at Parallax and L’Albatros Brasserie.  


What makes a wine natural, or biodynamic ? They require a lot more labor, for starters.  They are made by small, passionate producers, with minimal intervention or modern technology.  No yeast, bacteria or sugars are added.  Simply produced, these wine makers stay true to traditional wine making.  The lack of things like sulfites (only added at bottling for stability) means you should drink it right away.  Alas, the minimum amount of sulfites, however, will not lessen a hangover, contrary to what some believe.  That’s according to Maggie, the wine rep who walked us through each variety. 


These natural wines aren’t filtered, so some, especially the white varieties, appear more cloudy than you’d expect.  And some, like the Chardonnary we tried had a bit of a yeast smell to them initially.  But inside five minutes of the pour, it tasted more buttery, like a classic Chardonnay you’ve come to expect.  These wines evolved rapidly, some “explode out of the bottle,” according to Bruell.       


The Chenin Blanc was a touch more sweet, warm at first.  But in minutes it gave off a green apple tartness to it. You can see how one like this would be a perfect pairing to the richness of Chef Bruell’s food.


The Nerello Mascalese, a field blend from Sicily, was produced from volcanic soil. It was light, like a Pinot noir, and had hints of kiwi and pomegranate.


My favorite was the French Syrah, from Crozes-Hermitage, Rhone.  It had more body, with raisin, tobacco and even light black pepper favors to it. 

The Mourvèdre out of Mendocino County was light, a little sweet and a little dry with strawberry and plum notes.  I thought  it would make for a lovely spritzer, come the warmer months. 


We had a great time sampling these food friendly wines, clearly the next trend in wine making.   To my surprise, the price points were much lower than I’ve seen such wines before. There will be 12 varieties, sold by the bottle on the menu at L’Albatros Brasserie and Parallax, ranging in price from $32-60.  Cheers!

Better Service: Elevating Cleveland Restaurants’ Game

When national names descended on Cleveland this summer for the RNC, they were wined and dined and entertained.  No one expressed disappointment in what was presented on their plates.  They did, however, criticize the service level in the city whose restaurant scene is exploding.  Recognizing that there is a gap between the level of cuisine and the level of service, Restaurauer Zack Bruell brought in the big guns: his son, Julian Bruell.  The younger Bruell comes with more than just a name.  The newly dubbed Director of Service for the Zack Bruell Restaurant Group brings with him years of experience at some of the country’s most prestigious dining destinations.  And he is ready to raise the level of service across the city.

Bruell, former General Manager of Sauvage, and former Service Manager of Jean Georges, both in NYC,  is charged with  upholding, training and developing new and elevated service standards for all of the Zack Bruell restaurants’ front of house employees. This includes standardizing and creating beverage, food, service standards, and training materials.  He will also collaborate with ZBRG’s Director of Operations, David Schneider, with development of wine and spirits lists and human resources oversight. He and Schneider wear a lot of hats, according to Bruell.


“Our restaurant group’s goal is to be more polished at our craft than any group of restaurants in the United States. Ultimately, we want our guests to leave feeling like they had a memorable and non replicable experience at our restaurants. We want people to feel dining with us as an enjoyable escape from their every day life,” said Bruell.

Bruell believes that the Cleveland restaurant market is growing extremely fast, potentially oversaturating the city with a below standard service, beverage, and culinary culture. In response, he says, they will focus on educating employees and embracing the creative talent on their teams in order to combat this potential downfall. 

“We want to change and elevate the standard of service, cuisine, and hospitality not just in Cleveland, but throughout the world. We want our guests to feel like their experience in our restaurants is cosmopolitan, culturally enriching, and unique,” Bruell said.


The first two months of Bruell’s return to Cleveland was spent at L’albatros Brasserie + Bar, then two months between Cowell and Hubbard and Chinato Ristorante, and he has just begun training at Alley Cat Oyster Bar. At all of the locations he’s visited, Bruell says they’ve developed more attentive and detail oriented service standards. Some of these changes include teaching of proper verbiage with guests, standardizing day-to-day position training and service manuals, and using the knowledge and tastings of product to tailor and guide the dining experience to each guests desired tastes. 

“I have been really proud of all of the service compliments our staff’s have received, as I want them to take ownership of their craft. They have embraced the many service changes I have made, and are excited to learn more and provide a proper, personalized dining experience that our guests desire,” he said. 

As they move forward, Bruell says they will embrace and take all reviews seriously. 

“We have always understood that every day is extremely important and that we cannot afford to take an off day,” he says.

 

Bruell recognizes that social media and marketing are extremely important as they focus on capturing the millenial clientele, who is constantly engaged and driven by social media outlets.  In the future, look for ZBRG to focus social media and marketing on the feeling of being a part of their restaurant “family” and the feeling of being involved and intrigued with what they do everyday. 

“I was lucky enough to experience 5 years of cultural, personal, and hospitality growth when in New York. I was really inspired by the energy, drive, and new ideas and creativity in New York. I experienced and provided levels of service that were considered the best in the world, and I believe I can develop that level of service in Cleveland and within our restaurants,” he said.

I have already personally heard about the positive changes in effect because of the younger Bruell’s presence.  I’ll be interested to hear about the improvements from other frequent CLE diners. 

A Celebration of Beef: MEATing of the Minds

I’ve eaten so much beef in the last week, that there is a serious chance I might actually turn in to cow.  But how do you turn down the kind of meals I’ve had of late? (Brazilian steak house, Ruth’s Chris VIP night for example). Two incredibly talented chefs and their teams put together a 7 course menu that would satisfy the most sophisticated foodie and the hungriest of cowboys.  Chefs David Kocab and Matt Mytro combined forces and creativity to put together a “Celebration of Beef,” part one of a two part partnership that puts Ohio beef on a pedestal.


The host for the first night was Restaurant Trentina, the University Circle location known for its innovative Menu Bianco, inspired by the Trentino region of Italy.  Mytro’s restaurant, Flour (Moreland Hills), will host part two.  The pair called it a tasting menu series, but the portions were more generous than your standard tasting meal (see the whole beef shin that came out family style to a table of just six!)


Before service began we were treated to beef charcuterie prepared by the in house chef for Certified Angus Beef Brand, Ashely Breneman.  Then the beef flood gates opened.


First course: Beef Tartare with smoked oysters, toasted yeast emulsion, and pickled radish.  Chef Kocab came out to the dining room to explain his first offering which used strip steak to put his spin on it.  It takes a brave stomach to start here, but I was all in.  And it was a great entry into this well known classic.


Second course: Beef Carpaccio with Nduja, bone marrow Laredo, lemon and shiso.  This was more bright and spicy than you would expect at first glance, and the perfect portion size.


Third course: Potato Gnocchi with pot roast, braised greens and ricotta salata.  This delivered that melt in your mouth flavor that you want from a comfort food that often gets a bad wrap from fine dining restaurants.  Not this time! This dish even made my kale-hating husband a believer in the super food.


Fourth course: Beefy Bucatini.  This dish fooled the eyes and the palate.  Chef Mytro said the mushroom bolognese didn’t actually contain any meat.  Instead they used mushrooms to provide the meaty mouth feel of a classic bolognese, and the pasta was cooked in beef broth to impart the beefy taste.  Genius.

Full yet? Yes, but that wasn’t stopping us.


Fifth course: Braised Beef Shin Peposo.  Made in their pizza oven, wrapped in a tender and tearable bread and served with an herb salad. This, to me, was the show stopper.  It was grand and impressive, served family style.  So. Damn. Good.


Sixth course: Short Rib with Farro, fermented tomato sugo and wood oven carrots.  I think I can count on one hand how many bites of vegetables I took during this meal.  #sorrynotsorry.  These carrots were a welcom respit from meat on meat on meat, as was the skillfully prepared faro.  But that’s not to take away from the short ribs which didn’t require a knife.


Seventh course: Bone Marrow Budino with ricotta cake, sour cream semifreddo and toffee. How do you incorporate beef into dessert? Make toffee with beef fat, of course! Flour’s pastry chef, Emily Laboue created a balanced sweet finish that incorporated the impossible (beef, as dessert) for a last course that even those of us who said we were stuffed, couldn’t help but finish.

Like what you’re reading?  Licking your lips?   You didn’t miss out. Round two of this Celebration of Beef is already on the calendar for May 1st, with a BRAND NEW MENU.  Call Flour for tickets.  Can’t wait to see what these beef ambassadors have in store.  

Better Beef: Certified Angus Beef Brand

We all know what a good steak is when we taste it. But what factors into that perfect bite? The beef experts at Certified Angus Beef brand know exactly what makes the best beef the best.  And they’re spreading their message and their meat to as many retailers and restaurants as they can. 

Their efforts seem to be working, as 95% of consumers recognize their brand on labels and menus, and 84% are willing to pay 10% more for CAB steaks and burgers. Their popularity seems to be growing, too.  There was more than 1 billion pounds of Certified Angus Beef sold last year, for the first time ever.  On average, Certified Angus Beef end meats (from the chuck, round) tend to get $0.50-$1.00/pound over low choice.  Middle meats (rib, strip and tenderloin) can see premiums around $2-3 over choice price.

 
Until recently I had no idea that CAB was headquartered in Wooster. But it’s an incredible resource to restaurants and chefs who are eager to learn more about this high quality meat, how to highlight it, and how many different cuts that can be made restaurant quality, beyond your ribeye and filet.


I was invited along with five local chefs, to spend the day at CAB HQ. We were given the run of their Education and Culinary Center. The day started with a history of the 40 year old non-profit brand, who they are and who they serve.  Owned by the American Angus Association, the brand was born out of the desire to identify the best of angus beef being raised across the country.  Only 3 in 10 angus cattle meet the 10 standards required to be labeled Certified Angus Beef.  The brand deals with ranchers, feeders, packers, chefs, vendors and consumers.  It was amazing to discover just how big the organization is (130 staff members) and to hear about its global reach.


In terms of categories, they have their standard Certified Angus Beef, their Natural option (animals are fed a vegetarian diet, free of hormones and antibiotics) and their Prime options, which only make up 2-5% of the industry. Many have interest and questions about what these cattle are fed.  CAB reps say they work with feeders to ensure that the animals start with grass, then are introduced to corn and carbs, alfalfa and hay.  But most of the CAB influence starts at the packing plant.  Inspectors look for black hides, which are then inspected for safety, chilled then graded.


After our quick study on the organization, it was was time to put the butchers’ coats on and get the knives out.  Meat Scientist, Diana Clark gave us an extensive lesson on the 10 quality specs the sides of beef must meet to get the CAB stamp of approval.

USDA uses the ribeye to evaluate the quality, because it is the most conservative and the most indicative of the rest of the animal. Inspectors check out the marbling and intramuscular fat.  Since CAB reps can’t be present for grading, the only way for them to influence the supply of beef that meets their standards is to work directly with the ranchers to improve product.


So what sets Certified Angus Beef apart? It’s fine marbling, according to Clark. The first three standards deal with consistency of taste. (modest or high marbling, plus medium or fine marbling texture and “A” maturity).   The next three ensure consistency in product (10-16 square inch ribeye area, size of carcass and less than 1 inch fat thickness), and the last four consider appearance (muscling and other aesthetic details).


For the next several hours I watched in awe as Clark broke down a 440 pound side of beef, with ease, and showed 5 male chefs how it’s done. What boy’s club?!!  It was fascinating to see how each cut took shape with every slice, saw or cut she made.  Several of the chefs on site with me were preparing for an event, which brought in a whole cow to be served in its entirety day of.  So it was great to see light bulbs go off and inspiration ignited as they saw how to make restaurant quality dishes with more economical cuts.


When we broke for lunch we were served an incredible meal, prepared by in house chef, Ashley Brenemen. To my surprise, we started the hearty meal with beef charcuterie.  It’s not widely made…but it should be.  Chefs Brett Oliver Sawyer and Mike Schoen couldn’t stop themselves from reaching for seconds, thirds and fourths.  


Next came a dry aged short rib.  Which, admittedly, Chef Breneman said she wouldn’t do again, as it was quite labor intensive and didn’t yield enough to make the process worthwhile in a restaurant.  But for this special occasion, her time was not wasted. Wonderful. 


Next she rolled out bucatini from Flour Pasta Company, a gift from Chef Matt Mytro, and a 65 day dry aged strip steak.  Can’t believe it’s taken me this long to try a dry aged steak.  Why??!!  First impression?  Tender and funky.  But as Chef Matt Mytro put it…it’s the best kind of funk there is. 


It was a crying shame not to finish it, but I was getting full, and a little birdie told me that even in a beef-centric place like CAB HQ, they have a house pastry chef.


After lunch Diana and the chefs put a couple of the new cuts they’d been introduced to (like a culotte, tri tip and the Denver steak from the chuck roll) onto the grill to get an idea of the texture and mouth feel. As if we had any room left!  
We also got a look around the rest of the facility, including the photography studio and the printing room where they can help clients print everything from table ads to menus and other marketing literature. Then there was the last of the animal to break down.  We started talking more about applications and preparation, as Clark gave the chefs and me a few different cuts to experiment with.

I left CAB with so much more knowledge about beef, and what makes their brand superior. I can honestly say I look at menus, meat counters and butcher shops far differently now.

From Sap to Stack: Ohio Maple Syrup

It takes 40 gallons of sap to generate just one gallon of pure maple syrup.  It’s a labor and time intensive commodity.  But when you pour it on a stack of hot cakes or incorporate this liquid gold into a recipe…you know it’s worth it.


My family and I, along with some friends, headed to Lake MetroParks Farmpark in Kirtland for their Maple Sugaring Weekends.  Lots of hands on activities to show visitors how maple syrup is produced.  


We took a wagon ride to the Woodland Center.  We were shown how sugar maples are tapped, and given a taste of what sap, pure from those trees tastes like.  (Water, sweet and slightly thick).  


My kids got a look at collection buckets hung on those trees.  Once inside we saw how the water like sap is transformed through a boiling process to make pure maple syrup and other naturally sweet products.

  

Visitors can tap a tree by hand, see how maple candy is made, sample syrup, maple stirs, and maple candy.  The schedule also has backyard sugaring lessons, sugar bush tours, maple leaf crafts, mukuk (bark) bucket making, and maple candy making.  


The history of maple sugaring is also on display inside.  Very cool to see a more than 100 year old tree marked by all the places it was tapped throughout the decades and the significant things that were happening in the world when it was.

 

National Pancake Day is coming up this week. Seems only fitting to study its lifelong companion.  Head out to Lake MetroParks Farmpark and check it out for yoursefl! 

Cake Decorating Class at Urban Farmer

Come Valentines Day, sweets are on the brain.  Chocolate to be more specific.  I was invited to Urban Farmer to attend a pastry class, conducted by their pastry chef.  I didn’t know what to expect…baking pies, kneading dough, etc.  When we arrived at the conference room turned classroom, we found three layers of decadent chocolate cakes, a pastry bag full of Italian butter cream, and another one nearby stuffed with chocolate mousse filling.  Jackpot.  This was a cake decorating class!

My friend Amanda and I inspected all the tools placed in front on us and thought…this will be equal parts fun and disastrous.  After all, neither of us claim to be bakers.  That’s the whole reason we were attending this class in the first place.  But we both fancy ourselves pretty savvy in the kitchen.  Adventurous, at least.  But we were still glad to see the tasks of actually baking the cakes and preparing the frosting and filling were left to the professionals. We were just left to do the fun creative stuff.

We were given instructions on how to best cut, stack and prep a layer cake  (along with the recipe for it), and let in on an industry secret…of brushing the layers of cake with flavored simple syrup, to add flavor and keep it moist.  For this cake we used a coffee flavored simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water, heated until dissolved and 2 oz. brewed coffee to roughly 2 cups of syrup.  Game.  Changer.

We piped a “barrier layer” of frosting on the outer edge of each layer, then filled in the rest with the chocolate mousse filling. Ideally you’d throw the cake in the freezer after each step, but in this instance…no time.  Next came the crumb coat.  That luscious Italian butter cream.


We were also invited to to sample and taste the difference between store bought frosting (generic and organic), the grocery store variety used by bakeries like Giant Eagle and Costco, and the house Italian butter cream used by Urban Farmer in the restaurant and attached Westin Hotel.  To me the last was clearly the best. Rich, creamy, velvety.  The kind of frosting you do extra time on treadmill for.

The next part got a little tricky.  We frosted the top and the side, then were tasked with make the cakes smooth, real smooth…with the offset spatula and a painters tool.  I nearly broke my arm patting myself on the back after I conquered this step.  Ironically, all the time and attention I spent on it wasn’t totally necessary, as I covered most of the surfaces with decorative frosting, sprinkles and Oreo crumbs.  Yep…those came next.

When it was time to move on to the REALLY fun part (also the most challenging) we were like kids in a candy store.  We had cake pops, tubs of every color sprinkle in the rainbow, merengue “eyes,” swirls, and dots, pretzel and almond crumbs, Oreos, and gallons and gallons of frosting.  My trouble shooting takeaway? Frosting fixes everything. Recognizing my frosting shortfalls, I went wacky instead of precise…and went for a “Love Bug” theme for my little girls. Others made “monsters” or flowers with frosting.  It was cute to see everyone’s imagination run wild!

love-bug-cake

At the end of the fun afternoon, we were sent off with our cakes, and a gift bag with four recipes used by the Urban Farmer pastry chefs, and several baking tools.  Best part for me…is I’ll be back for more classes at Urban Farmer. They’ve scheduled a series of butcher classes from April to October.  You can sign up for one, or all of them.  I’ll see you there!

urban-farmer-butcher-classes