What’s for dinner? Mod Meals!

Chef-inspired, restaurant quality food can now be delivered to your doorstep.  Goodbye greasy take-out.  No more cardboard pizza.  Time for delicious, delivered.  Mod Meals is sourcing great food from familiar Cleveland chefs and bringing the meals right to you.

mod meals packaging

This week I attended the launch party for Mod Meals.  It’s a new service that gets you off the hook for dinner, offering a healthy alternative to drive-thru… soggy, lukewarm take out, or slaving over the stove after a long day.  It provides locally-sourced quality meals developed by four of the city’s favorite chefs.

mod meals launch party

The Chefs

Eric Williams of Momocho Mod Mex, El Carnicero, Jack Flaps & Happy Dog

Karen Williams from The Flying Fig 

Ben Bebenroth, the man behind Spice Kitchen and Bar, and Spice of Life Caterers 

Brian Okin of Cork & Cleaver and Graffiti Social Kitchens

Through a free app, customers will be able to browse the day’s menu.  Creators expect each chef will each offer three items daily (entrees, snacks and kid’s meals) They will change them up regularly.  Users can view the ingredients, for diet or allergy concerns, and price.  There will also be bios and backgrounds on the chefs for those who are interested.  Mod mealers will then choose the dish(es) they’d like to eat, along with a delivery time (cut off time will be about 3 or 4pm…they will work out those kinks as the first orders come in)

I have to admit, this sounds both easy and appealing…especially as those cold winter months descend upon us, when the thought of leaving your house to get food seems as appetizing as cold leftovers.

The chefs who attended the launch party were all excited about getting their cuisine out to people who may not have sampled them before, and furthering their brand.  And they were all genuinely interested and challenged by the process of developing food for “at-home finishing.”  Chef Okin said he actually had to buy a microwave for his restaurant’s kitchen so as to properly write the heating instructions.  Chef Small told me that during development, they had to work with the ingredients and the dishes to develop them to a certain stage, then chill them…factoring in re-heating that would be going on either in a conventional oven or a microwave.

mod meals-mac n cheese

Cost is also a factor, obviously.  To keep prices points for customers within a certain range ($10-15 for entrees, $5-10 for kids meals) the chefs have to sell the dishes to the company for about $5 each.  So the kinds of ingredients they’re using for their Mod Meals are not going to be exactly the same that you’ll see at their establishments.  But still, the dishes they offered as tastings at the event certainly echoed their established menus.

mod meals tamales

Eric Williams sampled corn tamales with roasted chicken and steamed corn tamales with eskabeche.

mod meals braised beef shoulder

Karen Small provided braised beef shoulder pot roast with celery root puree.

mod meals seared salmon

Ben Bebenroth cooked up some seared salmon with ginger broccoli and wild rice, and squash mac n cheese.

mod meals chicken confit

And Brian Oken offered chicken confit, creamy polenta and bacon braised collard greens.

mod meals instructions

Now…for an at-home taste test.  Launch party guests were sent off with packaged samples of what Mod Meals will deliver to its customers.  So I brought home a pair of braised pork chops and celery root puree dreamed up by Chef Small, and followed the instructions on the packaging.

mod meals test drive

The meat was tender.  The sauce was flavorful.  The sides were not an afterthought.  All the things you’d expect from a restaurant quality meal.  I ate it in my pajamas, and I didn’t have to do any dishes.  Not a bad Tuesday night.

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Ohio City Provisions: a new, and true Farm to Fork concept

The term “Rise and Shine” was made for people like Trevor Clatterbuck and Adam Lambert.  They have been getting up before sunrise for months, working long hours readying their new project.  And it’s pretty exciting.  Both are heavy weights in Cleveland’s local food scene independently, (Trevor is the man behind Fresh Fork Market, a very popular CSA business (community supported agriculture) in Cleveland.  Adam is a well-established local chef, who’s logged hours in the kitchens of Bar Cento, and The Black Pig, to name just a couple) but together they’re doing something that isn’t being done anywhere else in town.

OCP Rise and Shine

The plans are to open up a market and butcher shop in the Ohio City neighborhood of Cleveland, near St. Ignatius High School.  The two plan to grow or raise everything they’ll sell there.  Fans of Fresh Fork will find all the good quality produce they’re used to (sourced from farms within 75-100 miles of Cleveland, organic when possible, and picked at the peak of freshness).

OCP produce

But what’s new, innovative and mouth-watering…is what they’re doing with hogs.  The pair have been experimenting with animal husbandry and feed to develop meat that you can’t get anywhere else in the state.

OCP hogs

I got a tour of the property in Holmes County where they have about 150 hogs on site.  Mangalitsa, Berkshire, Mulefoot, Red Wattle…all new vocabulary to me.  But what they have planned is not…charcuterie.  Yes, please!

OCP jen and a hog

They’ve got a supply chain in place, thanks to their “adventures in hog sourcing.”  The details of which the pair chuckle about, but don’t care to share.  After all, learning about heritage breeds is new territory for them too.  Clatterbuck has a background in business and political science.  Lambert is a self-taught chef.  But the two both seem right at home on the 200 acre property where they plan to get a lot of their product.

OCP Wholesome Valley Farm

They’re promising the best pork in the state.  The red wattles are said to be more tender.  The mangalitsas, used for things like Jamon Iberico.

OCP mangalitsa

What takes time, but will be worth the wait, I’m told…is controlling the product…all of it…from start to finish.  They are playing with breeds and what they feed the animals to get optimal product.  These hogs are given specific ratios of barley and grass from the fields.  Lambert says they have marbled loins, and even appear more red than pink when you cut into them.

Red Wattle Pig at Wholesome Valley Farm in Holmes County, Ohio

Red Wattle Pig at Wholesome Valley Farm in Holmes County, Ohio

Plus, they’re also raising other animals.  They have laying chickens, meat birds and heritage birds, whose pens and coops are moved weekly to insure exposure to fresh grass and soil for them to feed on, not to mention fresh air.

OCP mobile coop

They’re also working on ways to make heritage poultry more affordable. (which currently takes 18 wks.)

OCP heritage birds

The Hereford beef they are raising will be grass-fed, sustainable and have better flavor, according to Clatterbuck.  Those with smaller frames, he says, are easier to finish without incorporating high energy corn and grain.  Their plans also include growing non-GMO (and eventually, organic) corn and soy beans on site so the animals can feed off that.

OCP beef

There is so much in the works it’ll make your head spin.  The infrastructure is already in place for maple syrup production.  There are hives on site, for bees to pollinate the produce and generate honey.

OCP maple syrup infrastructure

They have secured their cannery, bakery, frozen foods and ferments permits.  OCP has acquired heavy machinery like bean snippers and corn huskers to handle the volume when fresh produce “comes in like a hurricane,” as Clatturbuck says.

OCP canned goods

When the store is up and running you can expect incredible products.  Believe me, I’ve had some of Chef Lambert’s charcuterie and it is unbelievable.  A true art.  But he’s even upped his game.  Clatterbuck and Lambert are fresh off a 2 day charcuterie workshop in Gascony, France.

forage with strangers charcuterie

And since it costs more (time and money) to raise these kinds of hogs, you can bet they won’t be selling them as pork chops.  You’ll see smoked and cured meats, specialty sausage and charcuterie.

Rendering of the Ohio City Provisions storefront

Rendering of the Ohio City Provisions storefront

Clatterbuck and Lambert are aiming to open Ohio City Provisions in January.  Can’t wait to see what will fill their cases, and the bellies of Clevelanders once they open their doors.

Forage with Strangers

I had the distinct honor of attending (in all honesty, crashing) a truly spectacular event, the inaugural “Forage with Strangers.”  It brought together influencers, connectors and innovators in Cleveland.  And we strangers bonded over a universal language: GOOD FOOD.

Let’s start with a little “behind the scenes” insight to how I came to be a part of this experience.  Over the course of the last year, I have been trying to immerse myself in the local culinary scene.  I’ve come to know some incredible people and eaten some spectacular food.  Social networking, no doubt, is a huge component of this.  So on Monday night, I started to see posts on Facebook and Twitter about this “Forage with Strangers” concept.  I was intrigued.  Being the intrepid reporter that I am, I started making some inquires.  And by mid afternoon, I was invited to join in.

I love people in the food world.  They just want everyone to have a good time and be well fed. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a microphone, or a a blog.  But I sincerely appreciated the willingness to include me in such a cool and intimate experience.

Here’s what the day was all about:  A creative thinker from The Adcom Group teamed up with Kalman & Pabst Photo Group to orchestrate a networking event connecting local food brand reps, with local farmers and producers.  The idea was to drum up business for everyone involved.  But for as long as I was around, no one mentioned dollars and cents.  Everyone was just talking about food and ideas.  So refreshing and so delicious.  Yet still so productive…and in the end, probably profitable.

The group started the event with a five course “pre-foraging” meal dreamed up by Dante Bocuzzi.  In my year as my station’s designated “food reporter” his name has come up more than anyone’s in the city as the guy you’ve got to work with, and whose food you have to eat.

forage with strangers van

The next morning, the group ventured out in a van to half a dozen locations to “forage” for ingredients that would be used for a catered feast that night.

forage with strangers bounty

Photos Courtesy Cristina Carosielli, Orlando Baking Co.

The 150 mile trek included Yellow House CheeseRittman OrchardsSpice AcresTrapp Family FarmOhio City Farm and Heinen’s.  The group gathered gorgeous fruits and vegetables picked at their peak, artisan cheeses and savory proteins.  In all, 40 bags were hauled back to the host site of the “Forage with Strangers” dinner.

forage with strangers happy hour

When I joined the party it was already time for happy hour.  Chef Bocuzzi and Chef Douglas Katz of Fire Food & Drink worked feverishly with a team of helpers to turn the day’s haul into tonight’s feast.

forage with strangers chefs working

Beer Master Sam McNulty of Bier MarktBar CentoMarket Garden Brewery and Nano Brew among the participants…as was Chef Adam Lambert, of The Black Pig and the upcoming Ohio City Provisions (a partnership with Fresh Fork Market).

forage with strangers table

The space was fantastic…full of natural light, props, and working kitchens for the commercial photographers at Kalman & Pabst to work their magic.

Forage with strangers cheese tray

We started with an impressive array of cheeses from Yellow House and Mackenzie Creamery and a charcuterie display to die for, courtesy of Chef Lambert.  I couldn’t stop myself from seconds and thirds of his chicken liver parfait, topped with Guernsey butter (from his own cows, and flavored with thyme and orange zest)

forage with strangers charcuterie

Wine was poured and conversation flowed among movers and shakers in the food world. I was eager to devour the details, and jealous that I missed all the foraging.

 forage with strangers diners

The inviting communal table set for 30 was soon filled with an incredible bounty.  Everything brought out family style, as you might imagine large farmers’ families do.  Even though the table stretched the length of the large space, there was barely enough room to set all the large platters full of farm fresh food.

tempura fried heirloom tomatoesforage with strangers walleye

Tempura fried heirloom tomatoes and Lake Erie Walleye with miso and radishes.

roaste beet-plum-goat cheese-salad  corn tomoato and cucumber salad

Plum and roasted beet salad with goat cheese.  Corn, cucumber and tomato salad.

Chef Doug Katzforage with strangers roasted chicken

Buttermilk fried chicken livers and Harissa roasted chickens by Chef Katz.  Plus hand made gnocchi ratatouille from the pasta master himself, Chef Dante.

Photo Courtesy Cristina Carosielli, Orlando Baking Co.

Photo Courtesy Cristina Carosielli, Orlando Baking Co.

We ate and talked and shared ideas, and ate and listened and shared seconds, and ate and laughed and shared inspirations.  The meal ended with everyone reflecting on their favorite part of the day.

forage with strangers dessert

There was dessert…oh yes, there was dessert.  Dante made an apple tarte tatin, and Doug crafted a couple of spectacular ice creams with fresh fruit toppings.

I left the dinner table buzzing with ideas and tingling with inspiration.  There are immensely talented people in my city who believe they can change their world and yours with food and shared experiences.  I want in.  How about you? 

Stone Soup

Seems like a soup-y kind of Sunday.  The snow hasn’t stopped falling all day and I want a warm belly full of something hearty.  As I usually do over the weekend, I cook ahead to make weekday evenings a little more relaxing.  After poaching a head of cabbage for stuffed cabbage, I realized I had half of it left, and hated to just toss it.  I poked around the pantry and fridge and thought of the children’s book, Stone Soup.  The lesson it leaves you with: make soup with what you’ve got.  Pretty soon I had a pile of veggies, (combination of canned, frozen and fresh) that were scraps and excess from other recipes, plus things I keep in the house for precisely this kind of occasion.

stone soup veggies

I started by chopping some garlic, onion and celery and sauteed that in a big pot with some hot oil.  Once those softened I added some carrots.

stone soup sauteed veggies

Found half a yellow zucchini and some kale in the vegetable drawer…why not?  Then I tossed in some frozen peas and canned corn.  I eyeballed the amounts.  You can’t really screw up soup, right?!  I also reached for whatever canned tomato product I had in the pantry.  In this case, it was crushed tomatoes.  I put about a cup of that in and a full carton of chicken broth and some water.  After I seasoned it, I covered it and brought it to a boil.  Then I reduced the heat and let it simmer for about 30 min.

ladle of stone soup

Since the cabbage was already cooked, I decided to add that last so it wouldn’t break down in the soup.

cabbage

As luck would have it there were some alphabet noodles in the cupboard too.  Sounds like this truly would be a literary inspired soup.  The letters were the final touch.

Tasty, hearty, healthy and cheap.  A lot better for the sodium levels and the wallet than a canned soup.  I’m already thinking about a corn chowder using the rest of the canned corn, and the potatoes sitting on my counter.  Maybe next Sunday.  Chances are, it’ll be damn cold, and snowy…again.