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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Chefs Unbridled

We are all often asked to support good and worthy causes.  But some are just more compelling than others.  The Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center falls into that category.  Can you name another non-profit that helps with such a variety of people?  The organization, which uses therapy horses, assists everything from PTSD and ADHD patients, to riders dealing with blindness, down syndrome, multiple sclerosis and neurological disorders.

Chefs Unbridled at Chagrin Valley Hunt Club is Fieldstone Farm’s primary benefit to raise money for the Ridership Program. Serving more than 1,000 students each year, Fieldstone Farm is one of the largest centers of its kind in the country.  And I’ve got nine reasons you should join me on September 17th.

The food.  It’s about the food, people.  The event highlights an array of talented and influential Cleveland chefs who are ready to “bring it” for this cause.

  • Demetrios Atheneos of Bold Food and Drink (Cleveland)

  • Jim Blevins of Butcher and the Brewer (Cleveland)

  • Chad Bolar of Pesto’s Pizza & Wine Bar (Chandler, Arizona) – Private Guest Chef

  • Adam Bostwick of Graffiti: A Social Kitchen (Cleveland)

  • Chris Hodgson and Scott Kuhn of Driftwood Restaurant Group

  • Jimmy Linhart and Pablo César Montiel of Lemon Falls Café (Chagrin Falls)

  • John Owens of Market Rocky River & Wine Bar Rocky River (Rocky River/Cleveland)

  • Ian Thompson of Cedar Creek Grille (Beachwood)

  • Eric Williams of Momocho (Cleveland)

    Your ticket to Chefs Unbridled gets you a seasonal tasting dinner at the Chagrin Valley Hunt Club Polo Field.  But this isn’t your traditional “small bites” type event.  Chef Hodgson tells me the portions will be about 7 oz.  So you WON’T go hungry. Guests will enjoy cocktails, the tasting menu, and tasty treats from a food truck and the cupcake truck. Yes.  There will be a cupcake truck.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Chefs Unbridled - Kuhn Hodgson - Credit Creed Woodka PhotographyWant specifics?  I got ’em.  Chef Williams says he’s making Grilled Chicken Tinga Tacos with Yucatan slaw and chipotle tomatillo salsa.  Chef Blevins is going big, planning a whole Braised lamb, hand pulled naan bread to order, tzatziki sauce, oven cured tomatoes, and arugula.  Chef Atheneos is bringing Braised Pork Belly w/ ancho chile jam to the table.  And for a “choose your own adventure” option, Chef Bostwick is preparing a 72 hour “pastrami” style short rib with a ton of different breads, pickles, sauces, mustards, all made in house!

     

mini empandas

Chef Hodgson is perfecting some lobster empanadas.  He showed me a couple of examples of the dough, size and filling he was working on. Wanna see how he makes these?  I got you. To check out our video of his demo, click here.

  • New additions for the 2016 event include private vintner getaway packages (for 2 people) in Sonoma or Napa Valley, as well as an exclusive Kentucky Bourbon Trail getaway experience (for 2 or 4 people) and a wine pull raffle.  You can score a really valuable bottle of wine for a song with a feature like that.

     

    You can also indulge in a horse drawn carriage ride throughout the historic district of the village and a bourbon tasting with Tom’s Foolery.  Um…sign me up!

Students who work with the Fieldstone horses make progress in overcoming barriers and achieve goals such as independence, self-esteem, strength, and socialization.  So, I hope to see you at Chef’s Unbridled, on September 17th.  Click here for tickets.  They are $140 a piece and include a tax-deductible donation to Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center.

 

Wholey Cow!

Culinary worlds will collide at a mouth-watering event, hosted at a cool new venue.  Local Sol presents the first annual “Wholey Cow” event on Sunday, February 28th.  And like the title suggests, they’re bringing in a whole cow.  Yowza.

chef michael schoen

Chef Michael Schoen has recruited five other talented local chefs to develop the menu and prepare the feast.  He’s got my buddy, and former Iron Chef competition partner, Matt Mytro, plus Joe Lang, of Flour, Chef Mike Keyerleber, from Great Scott Tavern, Hunter Toth from The Morehouse, and Paul Hamalainen, of Beach Club Bistro.

Whole cow

The team will divvy up the cuts and make a monster sized buffet that will satisfy any appetite.  Oh yeah…and it’s all you can eat.  SOLD!

If that wasn’t enough to clear your calendar…they have also paired up with Platform Beer Co. to offer featured brew, also all you can drink.  CHEERS!

The buffet will also be stocked with items for Vegans, Vegetarians and those adhering to the Gluten Free lifestyle, so no need to stay home if you follow any of those diets.

I had brunch at Local Sol (38257 Glenn Avenue Willoughby, OH 44094) over the weekend, and loved the transformation they’ve pulled off in the space.  What used to be the formal dining room of an Italian restaurant (Gavi’s) is now a cross between a cantina, a tiki bar and a Salvador Dali painting.  So many cool design elements that you might miss if you’re not looking for them.

Loved the ceiling, the Bloody Mary bar, and the drift wood decor.  And your eye is immediately drawn to the lights hanging down the middle of the main dining room, brought in from St. Mary’s Church in Painesville, Ohio.

Local Sol church lights

It’s easy to see how this space will become a great party atmosphere.  To amp up that aspect, the event planners have live music lined up throughout the afternoon and evening. “SB and the Lovelies” And “DJ Shawn Brewster” will be spinning records 3-5, trio 5-7, and DJ @ 7:00pm.

Tickets will run you $75.  Click here to buy.

But I have your chance to WIN A PAIR of tickets to this foodie bash.  Mark your calendar, and set an alert.  The twentieth person to call Local Sol at 2pm on Wednesday, Feb. 17th, will win a pair of tickets to Wholey Cow.  (440) 918-1596. Good luck.  See you there!

Dinner Lab: Anthos

Opa!  This most recent Dinner Lab experience was the most fun we’ve ever had at one of their communal tables.  Anthos was a Greek-inspired menu concept served at a cool venue.  So nice to share inspired food with interesting people.

DL Anthos crowd

The venue was Borrow, a vintage rental furniture business.  So we were surrounded by eclectic pieces, and seated at farm tables and old barn doors converted to table tops.  Plus it’s amazing what a couple strings of lights will do for the ambiance.

Our party sipped on a pair of bourbon based specialty cocktails, one garnished with fresh rosemary, the other with fresh sage.  Tasty and potent.  Then it was time to dig in to the five courses offered up by Chef Russ Bodner.

First up was a crisp Greek salad with winter vegetables, red mustard and a red wine vinaigrette.  Didn’t taste particularly “Greek” to me, but it was good nonetheless.

DL Anthos tuna

Second course was a lightly seared tuna with fennel pollen crust, thassos olives, dehydrated feta and an orange vinaigrette.  Not sure why the feta, a dry cheese as it is, was dehydrated.  I loved the olives, the tuna was nicely cooked and the portion size was good.  But the dressing wasn’t as bold as I would have liked.

DL Anthos dumplings

The third course was a favorite table-wide.  The ricotta dumplings with crab, crispy tobacco onion, spinach and leek.  It was Mediterranean comfort food as its best.  I liked every element of this dish and gobbled it up.

 Just when we thought we’d had the chef’s best…then came the lamb.  Fourth course was a slow roasted leg of lamb.  Even people the table who don’t eat lamb, liked this lamb.  What set it apart of the bulgar trahan and the harissa.

As we bargained for a second helping of the fan favorite, Chef Russ Bodner addressed the crowd, explaining the inspirations behind his menu concept.  Of all the chefs we’ve dined with at Dinner Lab, Bodner was by far the most engaged with his diners, going table to table and spending significant time with everyone to gather real feedback.

DL Anthos dessert

I dreamt about the decadent dessert that was the fifth and final course, a sticky toffee pudding with a metaxa toffee sauce and mahlepi ice cream.  To. Die. For.  It was just sweet enough…to make you want to lick the bowl.

This wasn’t necessarily my favorite menu of all the Dinner Lab events we’ve attended.  But it was the first time we spent much time talking to the other diners at our table and I really loved that part of it.  I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with other local food fans, swapping restaurant recommendations and chatting about unrelated life lessons, like “what not to say to your pregnant wife.”  It reminded me what the experience is all about.  And I can’t wait to dine again