Plated Landscape Dinner Series at Spice Acres

Time to dig in to the spring and summer calendar and plant some ideas in your head about some great upcoming events at Spice Acres.  

The innovative and creative culinary minds behind Spice Kitchen and Bar, and Spice Acres have announced the dates and locations for their Plated Landscape Dinner Series.

Plated Landscapes are held at the farm occupied by the Bebenroth Family, Spice Acres, in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and at select family farms that supply their kitchen with local sustainable foods.

These communal dining experiences are the brain child of Chef/Founder/Farmer, Ben Bebenroth and started in 2006.

For the $150 ticket guests receive a welcoming cocktail and passed hor d’oeuvres, followed by a guided farm tour, and a five-course meal with expertly paired wines.  And the setting can’t be beat.

Photo Credit: Genevieve Nisly Photography

The 10 night series starts in late June and goes through October, although you don’t have to commit to the entire series, of course!  Go to one, or one each season!  Advance purchase required via Spice’s Eventbrite page.

Here is the complete list of events.

Ohio City Farm Urban Landscape Dinner: Friday, June 2

Spice Acres Late Spring Dinner: Thursday, June 29 and Friday, June 30

Yellow House Cheese Farm Dinner: Friday, July 28

Spice Acres Summer’s Bounty Dinner: Thursday, August 24 and Friday, August 25

Killbuck Valley Mushroom Farm Forage Dinner: Sunday, September 24 

Spice Acres Autumnal Harvest Dinner: Thursday, October 12 (VEGETARIAN) and Friday, October 13

Quarry Hill Orchards Apple Dinner: Friday, October 20

Photo Credit Genevieve Nisly Photography


And also in the fall Spice Acres has some really cool
family friendly farm events throughout the summer/fall – The best part? FREE admission!

Toasting of the Fields, May 21 – live music, lawn games, planting activities, food/drinks for purchase by Spice Catering Co.

Pizza + a Movie Night, July 14 – games + activities, movie screening in the barn, make your own pizza/drinks for purchase by Spice Catering Co. 

U-Pick flowers – $10/bouquet from 8-11am the first Saturday of the month (July-Oct). No registration needed.

I’m making a serious effort to eat closer to the earth this summer, expanding my own garden and shopping at farmers markets.  This event falls right in line with that.  I hope you’ll join me!   

Note: Photo credit for the feature/title image goes to Full Bloom Photography

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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. 

Three Pork Chili Verde

Are you still full from Super Bowl Sunday? I indulged in plenty, lemme tell ya.  And our four course game day feast (one for every quarter of play, right?!) included an original chili recipe that I want to share! It’s inspired by our annual chili cook off we have in the fall.  My husband likes to make a green chili with pork.  He always wins, always.  We do it a little different every time.  So, we never seem to write down the recipe.  Not this time.  I carefully selected the ingredients and wrote everything down…added a few special touches…and damn, it was good.  You don’t have to include all the finishing elements to still get the idea…but if you incorporate all of it, you won’t be disappointed.  

BONUS: You can skip the cooking and still enjoy my new favorite chili recipe on #NationalChiliDay, Thursday February 23rd.  I’ve teamed up with Parkers Downtown for a “Chili Throw Down.”  Chef Andrew Gorski, from Parkers, will be preparing his favorite chili recipe.  And they’ll also prepare a batch of my recipe!  They’ll both be on the lunch and dinner menus for the day.  And there will be a friendly bet about which one gets ordered more.  Be sure to follow @Cheftovers and @Parkersdowntown on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for updates on the chili battle.  


Three Pork Chili Verde

1/2 lb chorizo

2.5 lb pork butt

1 small onion, diced

3 jalapeño peppers, seeded and diced

3 cloves garlic, diced

3 10 oz. cans of green enchilada sauce

4 oz. chopped green chilies

1 c. Chicken stock or water

1/2 tsp. Cumin

1/4 tsp. Chipotle chili powder

1/4 tsp. Black pepper

1 tsp. Salt

1 T. Fresh chopped cilantro

Juice of 1/2 a lime 

1 can black beans

Pork belly (optional)


Garnish:

Crispy pork belly, fresh chopped cilantro, shredded Monterrey Jack cheese and sliced avocado.

Season and sear pork butt in a dutch oven. Remove and cut into bite sized pieces.  Remove chorizo from casings and brown, breaking up in to chunks. Set that aside as well. In same pot add the onion, garlic and jalapeños, season with salt and pepper and cook in vegetable oil until vegetables soften.  Add meats, enchilada sauce, chilies, stock and spices. Simmer for 30 min. Add lime juice, black beans and cilantro and simmer for another 10 min.  Garnish and serve!

I rarely post original recipes.  Most of the time I just like to share ideas in leftovers.  But this one I’m particularly proud of.  Hope you enjoy it. 




Prep Kitchen CLE 

It’s no secret that the food scene is exploding in the CLE but the growth is not limited to restaurants.  

Starting this March, Prep Kitchen CLE, a culinary incubator, will offer affordable, commercial kitchen space to community members starting their own food business. They’ll occupy about a 2,000 square foot space in The Flats and operate 24/7 to help start ups and entrepreneurs. Sarah Halko, with Prep Kitchen CLE, says there three aspects to our kitchen that will allow them to serve every single community member. 

“Not only are we providing kitchen space for food startups, but we’ll also have a portion dedicated to nonprofits, as well as a chef’s table,” she said. 

Orale has already signed on as a tenant, and they’re pursuing arrangements with a few food trucks and other food startups. 

“Vendors will occupy our space until they feel they’re successful enough to go out on their own,” Halko told me.

Some just have an idea they want to try. Others need additional kitchen space to meet production demands of an already successful product. Their mission is to give occupants continued support and opportunities to help maximize their growth potential. 


How it works: Upon signing up, tenants will choose blocks of times they want to use the kitchen. First come, first serve. Kinda like a good BBQ place.

They’ll dabble in the event business, by renting out their Chef’s Table for small scale events for companies. And they plan to host event nights for potential investors, so that they can try tenants’ products, and provide more opportunities for tenants to share their products with consumers.

The space itself will house two commercial kitchens, the above mentioned chef’s table, a retail section, cold and dry storage, and a small retail space set-up for on site sales.   

“The West Bank is the perfect place for this kitchen, there’s something special about this neighborhood, the history, the industry- and we’re going to maintain that same look and feel inside of the kitchen,” Halko said.


Why launch something like this in CLE now? Halko says it makes perfect sense and it’s perfect timing to capitalize on all the opportunities and tasty ideas being generated. 

“Cleveland has an amazing food scene and we’re bursting at the seems with food startups,” she said.

Prep Kitchen CLE intends to be an integral part of the new Flats, respecting its traditions, and contributing to the neighborhood through efforts like a Refugee Job Training Program. 

Come March, they can have two groups working at a time. Since the kitchen is open 24/7, that makes for six 8 hour shifts per day. Can’t wait to see what they’ll serve up.
 

Bring me food! Delivery options for hungry Clevelanders this winter

I don’t know about you, but lately I have been equal parts busy, hungry, tired and cold.  It’s January in Cleveland.  And that combination has inspired me to look around for new, or established favorite options for making mealtimes easier and more comfortable for my day and my household.  


Meal Prep delivery: Get perfectly planned and measured ingredients for gourmet home cooked meals brought to you once a week.  Blue Apron is the monster in this category but there is also Hello Fresh, Home Chef and Plated, among your options.  Cheftovers bonus: these options minimize waste, as the meals are precisely portioned for the number of people you sign up for.  I have tried several of these. For me, the meal in a box is interesting because it invites and guides me in preparing home cooked meals outside my comfort zone.  However, it does not cut down much on prep time, but it takes the thinking and grocery shopping off your plate.  Pun intended.  

Mod Meals


No cooking required: Mod Meals offers you restaurant quality, chef inspired meals from local chefs.   Bonus: they will also deliver beer from Goldhorn Brewery and desserts from Cafe 55.  Sprinly deliveries within 30 miles of Cleveland (including Akron) and offers organic, plant based meals developed by nutritionists.  For less commitment, and more options from the local favorites you love to chow on, call up Uber Eats and Grub Hub.

Door to Door Organics, photo courtesy Instagram


Grocery Delivery:  Door to Door Organics arrived in the market in spring of last year.  They can bring you fresh produce and natural groceries to your doorstep, with lots of options to swap for your preferences, in the weekly box you sign up for. Presto Fresh will give you unlimited deliveries of locally sourced and specialty groceries from Zagara’s for a year for $89.  If you are loyal to Giant Eagle, they have a curbside express option.  You’ll have to pick out your own groceries online, but they will pluck everything from the shelves and have them bagged and ready for you at an agreed upon time and day.  No need to get out of the car! This was a life saver for me when I had a newborn in the winter. 

Downtown lunches: My new favorite downtown spot can make a quick hot meal, or a quick delivery. I’m pretty picky about my Italian food, but Fanucce’s on the CSU campus is legit! Cleveland Pickle always makes an effort to bring their delish sandwiches and pickles to the masses, and cut out the parking problems that plague downtown restaurants.  

Who are your favorite delivery places in town? 

5 fun ways to get your kids to eat healthier in 2017

Is your New Year’s resolution to get your children to eat better? I got you covered like a kid in frosting at his first birthday party. 
With childhood obesity and diabetes cases at alarming levels, it’s important to get ahead of this and establish healthy eating habits now.  My kids eat, enjoy even, things like salmon, hummus, cashews, avocado, broccoli and shrimp. They ask for salads.
Don’t get me wrong. They still pound some sodium-heavy mac n cheese, and opt for French fries over almost anything else when given the option. But I can get them to eat good-for-them foods at nearly every meal with a few tricks that I rely on.
1. Get creative with names
My girls are obsessed with mermaids and princesses. So I make kale chips, which resemble dried seaweed, and I call them “mermaid snacks.”  And they’re gone quicker than chicken wings at a Super Bowl party.
tiana-pasta
Or I’ll make “pesto” by blending cooked broccoli, grated cheese, garlic and olive oil in a food processor, then toss it in whole wheat farfale (bow tie shaped noodles). I call it “Tiana pasta” since it’s the color dress that Disney princess wears. Honestly, I can’t believe it works either. For boys, you could use wheel shaped pasta with the same sauce and call it Ninja Turtle pasta, for example.
2. Let them play with their food. 
I’m becoming pretty famous for my animal pancakes. Sure, there is usually whipped cream, Nutella or chocolate sauce on them. But there is always fruit. And about the half the time I substitute regular pancake batter for Katie Lee’s power pancake recipe (with cottage cheese and rolled oats) from her Endless Summer cookbook. They are distracted by the fun faces and shapes, and race to finish.
A bowl of oatmeal can also serve as a sort of blank canvas as well. Top with blueberries, sliced almonds, etc.
face-plates
I let them become the food artists with these fun face plates too (available at Bed Bath & Beyond). And since eating healthy=eating colors, they get to make bright pictures and faces with nutrient rich foods.
get-them-involved
3. Have them help
 
If they have a hand in preparing it, they’re more likely to eat it. It’s a fact.
Try a “veggie only” pizza on a whole wheat crust that they can top themselves. Who cares what it looks like?  Pride tastes good, doesn’t it, Junior?
Or simply measure out everything you need for say, a soup or turkey chili. Let them pour in the ingredients and they usually can’t wait to see how it turns out.
Bonus: this also helps with counting and math. “Pour in two cups of flour.  Then hand me 3 eggs, etc.”
farmers-market-five-collage
If cooking with kids is too much for you, engage them in other ways to get them interested and invested in what they’re eating.
One of our favorite games in the summer and fall is “farmers market five.” I hand each child five $1 bills to purchase whatever tempts them. It’s easier in this environment because most prices are in whole dollars but you could try the same thing at a grocery store.
placecards
Have an artistic kid? Have them make placemats. Does your picky eater also thrive on order or accomplishing tasks? Ask them to set the table. It just might work.
4. Get playful with your packaging or environment.
One of my favorite lunches as a kid was served in a humble and well-seasoned cupcake tin. Each hole is filled with something healthy to make for a well-balanced meal.
Put a blanket on the floor and call it a picnic. Pack their meal in a lunch box so they can play “school.”  Make it a “mystery meal” and see if they can guess what it is by tasting it or smelling it with a blind fold on.
5. Sneak it in
 
When all else fails, you know what you have to do. Hide the healthy stuff in some of the foods they never turn down.
I purée cooked carrots and blend them into apple sauce.
Pint-sized objection:
“Why is it orange, Mommy?”
Successful rebuttal:
“Because I put sunshine in it.”
True story.
popcicle-molds
My girls also love smoothies. So I start with healthy stuff I know they’ll like (vanilla Greek yogurt and frozen berries) and I add almond milk, and a handful of kale or spinach. They never know. But I do. And what they don’t finish I freeze in Popsicle molds for a healthy dessert.
Jessica Seinfeld has two entire cookbooks, Deceptively Delicious, filled with sneaky ways to get your kids (your husband and yourself) to consume more veggies.
Now, I’m not saying that ALL of these will work. Or that the one(s) that work with your kids will work every time. But hell, it’s worth a shot. One bite at a time.
Despite all these ideas, I must admit I’m NOT the mom who feeds her kids organic, wholesome, nutritious foods every meal and every snack.  I do the best I can.  Full disclosure…I wrote part of this post while waiting in a long line at Target.  At check out my children put Cheetos and Doritos on the belt.  And they ate them on the way home.  Before dinner.
doritos at target.jpg
To me the most effective way get your kids to eat healthy is to lead by example.  And everything in moderation.  Try new things, watch your portions and as they say “eat the rainbow.” You’ll be amazed at what happens at your dinner table.

Polpetta at Porco gets the ball rolling

Meatballs make me happy.  They’re a comfort food, a version of which can be found in nearly every cuisine.  Saucy, savory and satisfying.  And when you base a menu entirely off these Sunday supper staples, you’re on to something.  Enter Polpetta at Porco.

polpetta-meatballs

Friends and fans of Porco Lounge have long loved the potent drinks and party atmosphere of the Tiki Room.  But until now, they’ve only offered things like nachos and tacos for food at the W. 25th St. location.  Now Stefan Was (of Porco), Brian Okin and Adam Bostwick (of Cork & Cleaver and Graffiti Social Kitchens and Dinner in the Dark) have teamed up to bring a fully functioning kitchen in to the kitschy place.

Bostwick tells me he’d been thinking about the concept of a meatball menu for sometime, thinking primarily about a food truck, initially.  But during their recent trip to New York City, to cook at the James Beard House (see previous post, Cleveland Chefs take New York) they dined at The Meatball Shop.  The idea was reignited, and Bostwick says they spent the entire drive home talking about meatballs.  That’s a conversation I want in on.

The concept was fast tracked when they decided to combine forces with Porco for their first location. (no need for a complete build out, only the addition for some shiny new kitchen equipment)  The menu is fast casual, kind of like the ones you see at Barrio, Noodlecat or Happy Dog.  Pick a meat, pick a sauce, pick a side.  All of their meatballs are gluten free, and they even offer a vegan variety.

They’re sourcing everything they can from local makers, like beef and chicken from Ohio City Provisions, produce from Fresh Fork Market and pork from K and K Butcher Shoppe on Warren Rd.

They soft opened on Monday, and will be expanding daily, Bostwick says.  Polpetta will always exist in Porco, but the plan going forward will be to establish more of the chef-driven concept in other locations.  With the captive audience that already flocks to Porco, they’ll establish their following, then spread their flavors, and balls to other parts of town.  Chef Bostwick says there isn’t a food you can’t convert into some kind of “ball.” So I can’t wait to see the creative concepts and fusions they generate at Polpetta.  The scratch kitchen is open Monday-Thursday 5pm-Midnight Friday and Saturday 4pm-1:30am.

It should be noted that I wrote this entire post without making any “balls” puns.  Tough to do. But ownership says there are plenty already being “tossed” around in the first few days of operation.  They’re even thinking about starting a book with all the balls jokes that customers come up with.  Bostwick says food should be fun, and I agree.  🙂