Dinner Lab: Antico E Moderno

As I reflect on my third Dinner Lab, experience a single word comes to mind, synergy.  It was a truly collaborative effort of creative minds and local leaders.  And it was pretty exciting.

Dinner-Lab-St. Thomas

The location of the September event was the most interesting of all of the Cleveland dinners so far.  The site was St. Thomas Evangelical Lutheran Church, a sanctuary that won’t be around much longer.  Brickhaus Partners intends to turn the property on Lake Avenue into a collection of luxury townhomes, and call it 95 Lake.

Photo courtesy Brickhaus Partners Instagram

Photo courtesy Brickhaus Partners Instagram

So as part of the experience, the developer, Andrew Brickman, and Cleveland City Councilman, Matt Zone, were on hand to talk about the big plans for the neighborhood.

Dinner-Lab-band

And as an added bonus to the evening, there was entertainment this time.  City Councilman, Kevin Conwell and his band, The Footnotes, played during cocktail hour and through most of dinner service.

Dinner-Lab-Mytro-menu

The menu and the concept belonged to Chef Matt Mytro, (coincidentally, the same guy behind our Chef’s Table from last weekend.)  He and his partner at Flour Restaurant, Paul Minnillo, like to combine old school Italian cuisine with the occasional modern touch.  Mytro took this opportunity to take his modern approach to the next level.

Dinner-lab-burrata

First course was a warm burrata (a fresh Italian cheese made with mozzarella and cream) with vanilla infused potato chips and pickled chili.  Innovative and tasty.

Dinner-Lab-beet-salad

The second course was a mock beet salad with pistachio, whipped ricotta, dried olive and sorrel.  It was definitely a favorite at our table.

Dinner-Lab-John and Dani

My friend, Dani and I were still admiring the beautiful presentation when we noticed that her boyfriend, John, had already polished his off and was asking for seconds.

Dinner-Lab-swordfish

Course number three had easily the most tender swordfish I’ve ever eaten. Had to look up what “Alla bagnara” meant to understand how it was made…steamed in a garlic broth.  Aha!  That’s why is was so fantastic.

Dinner-Lab-rigatoni

The fourth course was hearty and satisfying.  Chef Mytro said they made the corn rigatoni fresh that day.  But to me the lamb neck sugo (a rich tomato sauce) was the star of this dish.  I could’ve eaten several bowls of that!!

Dinner-Lab-panna-cotta

Dessert was a familiar treat.  The panna cotta sweetened with cereal milk that we’d enjoyed at Mytro’s restaurant, Flour, on Saturday.  This time there was a toasted marshmallow, always a good idea.

Dinner-lab-jen and ben

I love these dinners for a score of reasons.  But I appreciate them because they give me a reason to sit down through a relaxing service and enjoy my husband’s company, as well as those of good friends.  Can’t wait to see what’s next. 

Mangia at Miceli’s! An inside look at how some of the best cheese you’ll ever eat is made.

I usually don’t think about where my cheese comes from.  Unless it’s “stop you in your tracks” good.  And I take for granted just how often I get that feeling, because there is a lot of good cheese produced locally, by a company that’s been around for more than half a century.  I was invited to tour Miceli’s Dairy Products on Cleveland’s east side, to get a look at what $17 million in improvements completed in the last 2 years have done for the place. 

Micelis-bar

I was so happy to see a family-owned and operated business, continuing to invest in the community in which they are deeply rooted.  The new “Visitors Center” boasts a beautiful dining room and full bar, both fully operational.  Executive Chef and Food Services Manager, Mark Arndt, tells me they use the facility to host clients, and showcase new and classic applications of their products.

Micelis-welcome-center-and-bar

Now for proprietary reasons, I couldn’t take pictures of inside the manufacturing facility.  I felt like a guest at Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

However, trust me when I say that it’s impressive!  They’re the largest privately owned manufacturer of ricotta cheese in the U.S.  They take hormone-free milk from Mid-West co-ops and produce dozens of varieties of ricotta, mozzarella, marscapone, and provolone cheese.

The operation sits on 20 acres in Cleveland’s east side, not exactly a hub of industry right now.  Yet the Micelli family, which already employs about 180 people, is planning to expand even further there, with facilities dedicated solely to mozzarella and provolone.

They even have a “Cheese Wizard” on staff to help them match the flavor and blend they’re trying to achieve.  How do you get that job title?!

The recent expansion includes a massive machine brought in from Italy that helps them process the curds, replacing the old manual way of doing things and helping them triple their ricotta production.  We’re talking millions more pounds of cheese because of this bad boy.  They now make 30 different varieties for clients like Nestle and Kroger.

micelis-fresh-mozzarella

After our tour, Chef Mark set out a nice plate of fresh mozzarella, drizzled with equally fresh pesto, and some candied pancetta.  I don’t have to tell you that I totally ignored the grapes on the plate.  I suppose those were to serve as a palate cleanser, but I didn’t want to use up any room in my stomach for that…as I also knew there was pizza coming!

chef mark arndt

Mark had fired up their massive custom wood-fired pizza oven earlier in the afternoon and crafted a fresh pie for me while he explained the newest product in their line, block fresh mozzarella.  It is more sturdy and less “weepy” than their six other traditional varieties.  Per their website: Miceli’s fresh mozzarella is made through a process called “pasta filata” which involves stretching and kneading the cheese to produce its soft, delicate texture.  It’s placed in water for freshness.  This new “block” form is better on pizzas and will have more commercial application, Mark tells me.

block fresh mozzarella

After just a couple of minutes in the 670* oven, I had an incredibly fresh and fragrant pizza to devour before I parted ways with the fine folks at Miceli’s.  Can’t wait to see what dairy dreams they turn into reality next!  

micelis-pizza

Old World bakery meets the modern kitchen

I’ll be the first to tell you I’m not a baker.  Yeast intimidates me.  And I don’t own a KitchenAid stand mixer.  I sincerely appreciate those who are good with dough, batters and the like.  So I value good family-run businesses, like Orlando Baking Company, which cranks out quality breads and dough for remedial bakers like myself to cook with (and sometimes pass off as my own).

For this Cheftovers installment, I’ve teamed up with Orlando Baking Company (http://www.orlandobaking.com/) to review two of their newest offerings.  This is not a paid endorsement, I’m simply taking them up on no-obligation invitation to try out a couple of things they’ve just introduced to the market.

You can find both of their latest products in the freezer section.  They now sell frozen ciabatta dough (a variety of bread they’re known for) and frozen pepperoni rolls.

orlando pepporini bread box

I was pleased to discover upon opening the box of pepperoni rolls, that they are packaged in four separate rolls.  (This Cheftovers queen just hates wasting half a loaf of garlic bread because I have to cook the whole thing for just a couple of us.)  This allowed me to pop one or two in the oven at a time to test them out.  I also saw that they were fully cooked, so if you want to take one of these on the go, they’ll thaw nicely and you can eat it cold. However, I wanted mine hot. So I popped a pair in the oven and baked them according to the directions on the box.

orlando pepperoni bread sliced

For me, that wasn’t nearly enough time.  If you’re looking for melty cheese on the inside, you’ll probably want to leave them in at least three more minutes than the box suggests.  But that’s a matter of preference.  Same goes for a little marinara sauce.  I would love to the see the box come with a container of marinara sauce to dip it in.  Adding pepperoncini might be a nice touch too, but those aren’t for everybody.

more pepperoni rolls

For the sake of variety, I tried one in the toaster oven. (especially since it wasn’t a whole loaf and I didn’t need to fire up the big oven)  It was nice and crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, just as it should be.

Overall, I think this is a quality product.  They’re the perfect size and shape for my little Italian-at-heart daughters to nibble on when dinner isn’t quite done yet.  And I would proudly serve these to guests an appetizer or a party snack.

orlando frozen ciabatta dough

For the ciabatta dough, I took it out of the oven and brought it up to room temperature, per instructions on the packaging.  I certainly want to respect the artisan dough that it is!  Once it was room temp, I also brushed it with oil as recommended.  However, I don’t have a pizza pan to bake it in like the instructions suggested, only a pizza stone (which to be effective should be heated in the oven first…and I couldn’t work the dough and add the toppings that way) so I chose to work on a standard cookie sheet.

ciabatta pizzs

I worked the dough out into the size and shape I wanted, which wasn’t hard at all (don’t know why I’m so scared to work with dough sometimes–fear I’m going to screw it up I guess) Then I topped it with a layer of pizza sauce, pepperoni, mushrooms, and onion, along with some spices and plenty of mozzarella cheese.

I made sure the crust had a nice coating of olive oil on it along with a light sprinkle of garlic salt.  I baked it as suggested and it turned out beautifully.

orlando ciabatta pizza

Nice and golden brown around the crust.  The outside was lightly crispy and the inside was chewy, just like I like my pizza and my ciabatta bread.  If you’re not too familiar with ciabatta, know that it isn’t going to be as light as other pizza dough.  I find it a little more dense, but I like it that way!

The frozen dough will run you about $2…a steal for the time and grief it will save you making your own, and less than other varieties of prepared pizza dough or crusts.  I bought the pepperoni rolls for about $6, which is also an inexpensive way out of a “I forgot we were supposed to bring something to the party” jam.

Both products are available at Heinen’s.  And the pepperoni rolls are also sold at Dave’s, Discount Drug Mart, Marc’s, and Zagara’s.