Earlier this week, I was fortunate to attend one of Cleveland’s finest annual culinary events: Flavors of Northeast Ohio.
More from their website: Flavors of Northeast Ohio is a unique and creative culinary event. Premier regional chefs will each prepare, tableside, a signature five-course, gourmet dinner, complete with wine pairings and distinctive décor for a table of ten. Nowhere else will you witness firsthand culinary experts creating a menu personally for you!
21 local restaurants participated in the 2010 event, including:
Lots of my favorites are included on that list! As I received an invitation late last week, I would have been happy to be at any of the tables. I was so happy to hear we were seated at the table of a restaurant I hadn’t dined at yet: Crop Bistro & Bar.
More about Crop from their website: Crop Bistro & Bar features a menu of modern American cuisine, built upon foundations of flavor, freshness, and invention… Relying heavily on local foodstuffs culled from the region’s small farmers and artisanal producers, the menu is a celebration of contemporary craftsmanship, focused on intense flavors, top-quality ingredients, and a heaping helping of culinary whimsy. Like the harvest, the dishes change frequently, to best utilize all that is fiercest, freshest, and most fabulously delicious.
I was incredibly excited to 1) attend such a unique culinary event, 2) support a great cause and 3) be seated at the table of one of my “must go to” restaurants.
Chef Steven Schimoler and his Chef de Cuisine Mike Sunseri created a beautiful five course menu. Chef Schimoler explained his concept for the evening: playing on combining “flavors” together to create the perfect dishes.
A few notes before we get eating:
- My apologies for the lack of photos. Sometimes it’s just not the right time to bring out the Nikon.
- While I was originally nervous about being limited on what I could eat due to my gluten-intolerance, the chef informed me that only one gastrique had soy in it – I was in the clear for the ENTIRE meal! Talk about luck!
- Wines are not my specialty, so I’m not going to go into great detail on those. Let’s be honest: I know food. Wines, not so much. I’ll leave those reviews to the pros.
Our first course was a Grilled Melon with Yellowfin Tuna, Pickled Ginger & Soy Wasabi Gastrique paired with a 2009 Classic Terlan from Italy.
To make my option gluten free, he replaced the soy wasabi gastrique with a balsamic reduction. The tuna and melon were a lovely combination, especially with the pickled ginger. I always forget how wonderful watermelon is when grilled – too bad I missed my chance to enjoy it this summer! I happily ate this entire starter and knew we were in for quite the treat.
Our second course was a Mushroom & Foie Latte with Truffled Milk paired with a 2009 Dipinti Pinot Grigio from Italy.
Yes, it was as glorious as it sounds. Not a pat of butter was used, but it was so creamy in texture and so decadent in taste. As a pinot grigio fan, I loved the wine pairing and our server took notice as she gave me a nice refill on the glass. To finish off the experience of the soup, Chef Steve told us to save the foie gras for your last bite. I took his advice and it left me with the exact last luxurious impression he meant for us to have. Part of me wished it was the only thing I was eating because I REALLY wanted to eat the entire, ginormous bowl. I knew I had three more course coming so I practically begged our server to take away it away before I made a scene.
Our third course was a Apple and Pear Salad, Maple and Mulled Cider Dressing, Bib & Aderkase Blue Cheese paired with a 2008 Rocche Costamagna Dolcetto from Italy.
Some salad courses get lost in a menu like this. On the other hand, this was a salad to remember. The Chef was not afraid to heighten each of the ingredients to their full potential. It was not necessarily over-powering, but I did stop myself half way through. It was almost too much for my simple palate.
Our fourth course was a Beef Short Ribs with Scalloped Sweet Potato paired with a 2007 Sonnino Cantinino from Italy.
It’s dishes like this one that keep me from going vegetarian. The beef short ribs were falling apart by just looking at them. They had a veal stock reduction with an array of seasonings including mustard. I could have eaten a bowl of the sauce as a soup it was so delicious and flavorful. Underneath the beef were the perfection of a potato side. Hans took care of his portion within moments. As I was already quite full, I managed to eat about a fourth of mine before I gave it over to my husband to enjoy. Happy anniversary honey! I would easily pay good money for this entree any day of the week.
Our fifth course was a Flourless Chocolate Cake with Mole Ice Cream & Cinnamon Cream paired with a Fiorini Rosso Assoluto from Italy.
What are the chances that I end up at the table with a FLOURLESS cake?! Its consistency was more brownie than cake, but that was okay with me. Perfectly chocolately, the cake and cinnamon cream were lovely on its own. What stole the show on the plate was the mole ice cream. It was like eating a Red Hot in cold liquid form. My mouth was hot and cold at the same time. I loved the way the chef ended the meal with a hint of playfulness with this selection.
LONG STORY SHORT: My tablemates and I had an amazing dining experience Monday evening. After seeing the gathering of the city’s best chefs, I can see why so many consider Flavors to be one of the best fundraisers and culinary events in town. Not only did Clevelanders have the chance to try some amazing food and wine pairings, guests learned just how important the work of the Liver Foundation is to this community. I hope I can return next year and enjoy another wonderful evening full of tasty food from another CLE gem.
Don’t forget: Voting for the second round of the Foodbuzz Project Food Blog Challenge is on through Thursday the 30th! Visit my contestant page & PLEASE VOTE FOR ME!! Thanks again to ALL OF YOU for all the blog love!