Late Spring Plate Landscape: Farm to (Farmer’s) Table

Summer is in full swing, but in harvest terms, it’s still spring.  And the team at Spice Acres inside the Cuyahoga National Park is ready to show off their bounty.  We attended the first Plated Landscape Dinner at the Farmhouse home of Chef Ben Bebenroth (of Spice Kitchen and Bar) and his family.  What a treat! It was such a charming setting surrounded by beautiful fields and fitting farmhouse details.


We were greeted by staff from the restaurant, with passed appetizers and a refreshing elderberry cocktail.
Then we got a guided tour around the property from Andrea, a trusted caretaker of the land. We walked through fields of chamomile, red veined leafy greens, purple asparagus and climbing hops. 
Then we migrated to the shabby chic surroundings of the rehabbed barn across the street from the fields. Long communal tables were set with an enticing menu and thoughtful wine pairings.  


Taste, touch, smell, sight and sound (thanks to the cellist and acoustic guitarist on hand)…all the senses were tickled as we got to know our fellow diners. 


We were treated to the bright bounty of Spice Acres.  Five courses of beautifully prepared plates, starting with a chilled pea soup with scape and fennel, paired with Jeio Cuvée Rose, which was crisp and refreshing.  It was a great way to open up our palates.  Course two featured some of those lovely greens we saw in the fields, dressed with crab apple vinaigrette, pickled blueberries and chile roasted pistachios (my favorite element of the dish), and paired with Marie de Beauregard Vouvray which had a nice sweet finish.  Our third course, Verlasso Salmon, utilized the lovely chamomile from the field.  It was smoked, along with cucumber, fennel and beet.  I loved the smoked chamomile for a light smokey flavor, not at all overpowering the seared fish.  The Spice team poured Becker Pinor Noir with this dish.  


The final savory course was a Spice Bush + Honey Confit Duck Breast with braised endive and strawberry gastritis for a sweet and tart component to the delicious duck.  The wine pairing for this dish was my favorite, a perfectly dry Pecchenino San Luigui Fogliami Dolcetto.  And for dessert, there was a Wild Chamomile Mousse with lemon curd berries with kamut shortbread and bee pollen, paired with a Von Wilhelm Spatlese Reisling.  It was light, sweet and satisfying. 


You can also experience this kind of farm to table evening through the Plated Landscape Series.  There are several more dinners like these throughout his the summer and deep into the fall.  Head to Eventbrite‘s Plated Landscape page for event information and tickets.  

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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.

sol-menu

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!

sol-chicken-sandwich

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

SummerDine

 

 

How does a citywide dinner party sound to you?  I’m in!  Dine with a couple (dozen) of your closest friends and participate in a culinary celebration stretching across Cleveland. 

Les Dames

Courtesy: Les Dames Cleveland Chapter website

The Cleveland Chapter of Le Dames d’Escoffier (made up of women in the food-service industry) is hosting one BIG dinner party on August 24th.  Fine restaurants throughout the region have ponied up a table for 2-10 diners, and the meals at every establishment will be served at 6pm, at a unique location in the dining room.  Each guest will be treated to a 4-5 course meal, paired with two glasses of wine (or a signature cocktail and a glass of wine).

 

edwins salmon

Participants can chose from the menus at Edwin’s, The Emerald Necklace Inn, Fire Food & Drink, Greenhouse Tavern La Campagna and Michaelangelo’s.

The SummerDine event supports an organization that includes Northeast Ohio’s top women in the culinary and hospitality industries.  With the purchase of tickets, Les Dames can continue funding their Green Table Initiatives outreach and grant programs.  Past beneficiaries include the “Take Charge and Learn Food” program at the Coit Road Farmers’ Market, the Case Western Reserve University Farm, Veggie U, the Countryside Conservancy Farmers’ Market Junior Chef Program, and the Tremont Urban Learning Garden.

Tickets for this citywide culinary celebration at $75 each, and are sold directly though the Les Dames d’Escoffier Cleveland event page.

Eat, drink, and toast to your dining companions and to those eating elsewhere in this tasty city, all for a good cause!