Mediterranean Earth To Table Dinner at the Culinary Vegetable Institute

The opportunity to check something off your bucket list is always an exciting one. My culinary bucket list has been taking some hits recently with getting to partake in a CSA last Summer, meeting my celebrity chef crush in the Fall, and enjoying the seafood tower at Pier W this Winter. This Spring, another check mark was made: I attended my first Earth To Table Dinner at the Culinary Vegetable Institute (CVI) at The Chef’s Garden.

About the Earth to Table Dinners (from the CVI website): Monthly Earth to Table dinners are exclusive fine dining gatherings that are hosted at The Culinary Vegetable Institute. The Earth-to-Table dinners feature seasonal vegetables grown on the nearby The Chef’s Garden farm interpreted in the unique culinary style of visiting chefs from all over the country.  Having a love of food in common, strangers who are seated together often leave as friends.

This Earth To Table Dinner, with Chef Jamie Simpson and Chef Ülfet Ozyabasligil Ralph, that took place earlier this month was to be a special one as it was Ülfet’s last dinner before headed off on other adventures. To leave her mark, Chef Ülfet planned a Mediterranean menu to honor the regions many cultures.

CVI Menu
Upon an easy hour drive out to Milan, our arrival at the Institute, and meeting our fellow dinners at our ten top, we got to eating…
Amuse Course - Turkish raki, sardine, crispy olive oil bread, Castelvetrano olive emulsion and artichoke:

CVI amuse

Mezze Course (its portions presented and passed throughout the entire evening): Chickpeas with Garlic, Olive Oil and Olive Paste, Olives, Pesto Pickles, Labne and Grape Leaves (which were filled with red quinoa — genius!)


Salad Course: Shaved cucumber, petite lettuces, coin onion, dill, confit lemon, honey and green almond. (You’ve never had cucumbers that tasted like this — incredibly fresh, as they should be as they were just picked right from The Chef’s Garden!)

CVI salad

Garden Course: Olive Oil Poached Vegetables with arugula, green garlic and fava beans. (Unpictured because Hans and I were too busy finishing off the family style platter brought for our table of ten. #sorrynotsorry)

“Water” Course: Grilled octopus, mussells, sea beans, sea samphire, pink tip parsley, sumac broth, ramps and parsley. (Our table loved this protein option.)

CVI water

“Land” Course: Grilled lamb, baby squash, morel mushrooms, bulgur wheat, mint, yogurt, pomegranate, pomegranate molasses and squash bloom. (So many oooh and ahhs over this dish — one well seasoned culinary professional at our table said he didn’t believe he had ever had lamb so perfectly prepared before. And those squash blossoms had even more lamb inside them! #jackpot)

CVI land

Pre Dessert Course: Tapioca pudding with mastic, strawberry, rhubarb and florets. (A fantastic segue into the final course, IMO.)

CVI pre dessert

Dessert Course: White Chocolate Spheres with flowering herbs, sour cherry mousse and pistachios. (The prefect end to this meal. I could have taken home a dozen of these spheres for the ride back to Parma!)

Photo Apr 18, 9 48 48 PM

LONG STORY SHORT: Three hours flew by, leaving us with content full stomachs and an overwhelming need to return back to Milan for another visit to CVI and The Chef’s Garden. I had only wished we arrived a bit earlier to enjoy the land surrounded the kitchens in the daylight! But with the moon overhead, it was time to head out, but not without proper thank yous to Farmer Lee Jones and Chef Ülfet.


Note the purple beehive frame with the fairy behind us — the staff made this in honor of Ülfet after all of her hard work at the organization. It’s been placed in their gardens for them to remember her. If you head out to the farm, keep an eye out for it!

Want to see more? Head over to the CVI Facebook album for more photos from the April 18th dinner. What to attend a dinner yourself? Visit the CVI website to learn more about their upcoming offerings and purchase your tickets today.

P.S. to you bloggers/power social media users: it seems as though we’ll have the chance to visit CVI and The Chef’s Garden this summer for some Ohio Blogging Association fun — stay tuned!

Disclosure: Chef Ülfet invited Hans and me to attend this Earth to Table Dinner at the Culinary Vegetable Institute. Dinner was provided by CVI, and we happily paid for our adult beverages and gratuity. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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#CLEfood: Restaurant Trentina

The recent New York Times article, Cleveland, a City Repurposed, has been on my mind after giving it a quick scan this past week.  I love the writer’s suggestion of  “what’s old is new again” — and like many other Northeastern Ohioans, it seems Chef Jonathon Sawyer took hold of this way of thinking with the opening of his location, Restaurant Trentina, located in the University Circle building where Sergio’s once was located.

As we were seated promptly for our 8:30 reservation time on Saturday night, we had a few moments to look over the tasting menu for the friends and family preview:

  • Primi Assaggio: Crusto di Polenta, Carne Salata alla Trentina, Tyralean Speck, Vegetables from our Larder & Fields
  • Caviar + Ciccoli: Sumac, Cucumber and Puffed Pasta
  • Crustaceo Crudo: Vintage Ohio Apple and Citrus
  • Sable Fish al Cartoccio: Celtuce, Wild Ohio Crown Tipped Coral Mushroom, TNT Larder Yogurt and Fumet
  • Edible Candle: 24k Gold Honey, Aged Beef Suet, Crunchy Salt and Fresh Bread
  • Pasta alla Chitarra: Ohio Farm Egg
  • Pasta Cuscino: Cabbages, Onion, Spicebush and Formaggio Che Cola
  • Game Birds: Livers and Madeira
  • Beasts Roasted Over Embers
  • Primi Dolce: Strawberries, Yogurt and Pistachio
  • Dolce: Strudel alla Trentina
  • Grazia: Gold Milk Chocolate

 The Primi Assaggio course – plus a certain ginger and his matching beer.

Knowing that Trentina is inspired by Northern Italian cuisine, there’s a lot of the “old” in there — from the progression of the courses, to the ingredients used, and so on. But don’t get too attached to what you know about that style of food — Chef Sawyer, executive chef Matt Danko and their team throw your expectations out on to Ford Drive, mixing up the usual with ways with methods you never could have expected. At least I didn’t.

I’ll let Joe Crea from get in the fine details of this uber fine dining experience — he’s much more versed than I — but know it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen in Cleveland.  I knew Hans and I were experiencing something unique – almost magical – at times.

The most important thing I can share from my experience was the care Chef Sawyer took with my gluten intolerance. He came out to the table before the meal began, asking detailed questions to understand my level of intolerance — even offering to send me home with some farro to try (even though it has a lower level of gluten, I haven’t tried it since going GF in 2010).

Course by course, he guided us carefully through the slight alterations he made as necessary for me — my favorite being his use of pig’s ear for pasta in the pasta course. Yes, pig’s ear — sliced into almost an orzo shape, served with a farm fresh egg that was cooked in a spoon in the embers of the fire.  Chewy, exactly like an al dente noodle, I was mildly shocked at how successful the substitution was.

By the end of the meal, we left incredibly satisfied and completely blown away. As we walked back down Ford towards the Peter B. Lewis Building on Case Western’s campus, I looked at Hans and said, “I think we’ve just got treated to one of the most unique dining experiences of our lives.”

LONG STORY SHORT:  Trentina is not your everyday, run-of-the-mill dining experience.  Every single plate of the multi-course meal that arrived at our table had the care of a fine artist creating a unique piece of their specialized craft — and we were lucky to have the artist come and share his passion for his creation.  Chef Sawyer has given life again to more than just an old Cleveland building, but to a way of dining – and to an experience while eating – that we didn’t even know we wanted.  But if that means saving room for fig leaf gelato, then sign me up.

Get ready, CLE:  Restaurant Trentina opens to the public on July 8th. Stay in the know by following Restaurant Trentina on Facebook, on Twitter and on Instagram.

Disclosure:  As a part of the Trentina friends and family preview nights, I was invited to attend this tasting menu opportunity with a guest. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

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GIVEAWAY: Market at the Food Bank {to benefit the Greater Cleveland Food Bank}

Personally, my favorite sign of spring? All the non-profit food and wine events, of course!

One of my favorites includes Market at the Food Bank. This year, it’s taking place on Sunday, May 4 and, as always, benefits the Greater Cleveland Food Bank and its Harvest for Hunger campaign.

Each dollar raised provides the Food Bank the resources to distribute four meals to our community members in need. By supporting this event, you can help the non-profit raise enough money to provide more than one million meals in one evening. Truly amazing!

General admission tickets are $85 per person. Purchase online to get your tickets today…


The list of restaurants is QUITE impressive – check out the event website at for an up-to-date listing.

…or you can enter two win two tickets to the May 4th Market at the Food Bank event this week on the blog! Enter via the Rafflecopter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You have until this Friday, April 25th at 12:00AM EST to enter. The winner will be announced later that morning. Since this event takes place in Cleveland, make sure you can attend before entering.  So why not enter to win today?!

Want to learn more about the Greater Cleveland Food Bank?  Check out their Facebook page,  and follow @CleveFoodbank on Twitter, @clefoodbank on Instagram and the #MarketatFB hashtag to keep up-to-date on all of the fine foodie eats that evening.

Disclosure: All images ℅ the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. In exchange for running this giveaway, I will receive two media passes to the May 4th event. My thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

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