In his column today Plain Dealer reporter Bob Smith had some wonderful things to say about me and the new edition of Cleveland Ethnic Eats. I’m blushing. And proud. And most of all happy that I’ve been able to bring attention to all the great ethnic restaurants and markets in the region. I got a call just a couple of days ago from the family that owns Perla Homemade Delights, mentioned in Smith’s piece, telling me that people had been coming in the past couple of weeks because they just read about the bakery in the latest edition of the book.
Monthly Archives: April 2009
I want to thank Laura Taxel for inviting me to write about vegetarian dining in Cleveland. I have been a vegetarian for 25 years, and there has never been a more exciting time for veggies to dine out than now. I look forward to sharing all kinds of fun places you can enjoy, with or without, your meat eating friends.
Lago Restaurant & Wine Bar in Tremont hosts vegetarian Mondays. Along with their regular menu, they offer a nice selection of vegetarian and vegan meals. For us vegetarians this is great, because there aren’t a large number of fine dining restaurants we can enjoy. The offerings on the menu are numerous, even many appetizers such as an antipasti platter, grilled flatbread and a few other scrumptious sounding selections.
My group decided to forgo appetizers and order salads instead. I got the vegan caesar since I never get to have caesar salads. It was a combo of oven dried tomatoes, romaine lettuce and roasted red peppers. The dressing was a not heavy but had a creamy texture. My friend ordered the vegetable canneloni salad and it was amazing. The arugula and red peppers were wrapped in pasta and presented like a spring roll. The dressing was a lemon vinaigrette, and balsamic vinegar was drizzled around the plate. Both salads were delicious, but the pasta arugula was so different, we voted it best.
There were three of us so we ordered three different entrees, although it was hard to narrow it down. We decided on the vegetable pizza with roasted crimini mushrooms, grilled tomatoes and goat cheese; the grilled marinated tofu with white beans and roasted red pepper in balsamic reduction; and the vegan risotto with brussel sprouts and roasted garlic. The pizza had nice flavors going on, with the roasted mushrooms and a few caramelized onions and the cheese. The crust was thin and soft, not crispy, making it a perfect texture. The risotto was wonderful combo, with the sweet taste of the garlic, and the bitter of the brussel sprout. The grilled tofu was light and refreshing, the reduction sauce a perfect addition. The waitress offered sharing plates when we were served, so we were all able to enjoy all the entrees. Everyone had a different favorite.
We ordered both vegan desserts – molten chocolate cake and vegan trifle. You can also order from the main dessert menu which has a goat cheese creme brulée and an olive oil cake – very intriguing. The molten chocolate cake won hands down with its rich fudgie sauce and the melt in your mouth cake. The trifle was tasty as well. It had a tangy macerated fruit sauce and a nice, not too sweet cake. So if you aren’t a super sweets person, the trifle would be perfect.
The executive chef Josh, stopped at our table to thank us for enjoying his vegetarian meals. Our waitress did a good job anticipating what we needed. The entire staff is friendly and ready to serve. All the entrées are around $18, the salads $8, the pizza was $10. If you are looking to not spend a ton, you can still enjoy visiting Lago for vegetarian Mondays. I felt you could share the pizza and get two salads. That would make the meal $12-$14 per person and I don’t think anyone would go away hungry.
The economy and personal finances being what they are, many people have no big travel plans scheduled for this summer. The newest way to put a positive spin on the situation is to do a staycation instead. The idea is to enjoy yourself without straying too far from homem exploring area attractions and taking advantage of local natural and cultural resources.
I hate to say I told you so—well, actually, honestly, I kind of enjoy saying it—but that’s exactly what I’ve been advocating since Cleveland Ethnic Eats was first published in 1995. I’ve always wanted readers to see my book as a sort of culinary road map showing you where to go for quick low cost food adventures that offer a taste of the world right here in our own community.
More than ten years ago, a friend and early fan of the book, reported to me that he’d decided to visit every place listed. He planned outings each week for himself and his wife. When a market was on the itinerary, he checked cookbooks out of the library, and went armed with recipes so he could purchase ingredients to make an authentic ethnic meal. He said the experience made them feel like international travelers, only it was cheaper and they got to sleep in their own bed every night. He couldn’t have given me a bigger, better compliment.
So if you find yourself with leisure time, try to do some ethnic eats exploring like my friend. Dip into the exotic and unfamiliar. Venture into neighborhoods different than your own. Talk to the people you meet there. I have no doubt you’ll come back with some great stories, and isn’t that part of what holidays are all about. Maybe you’ll even share some of them here.
My friend Beth Yurich, a designer specializing in communications for sustainable businesses, has a great suggestion for dining in a more environmentally responsible style. Instead of using disposable chopsticks in Asian restaurants- they’re wasteful three ways from the trees cut down to make them and the garbage they turn into after one meal along with the paper they are sealed in- bring your own set of stainless steel chopsticks.
Read more of her tips for green living on her blog. An enthusiastic vegetarian cook and out-to-eater, she’ll also be guest blogging here now and then about where she goes and what she tastes. Look for her first post next week.
Bovalino’s, a cozy little family-run Italian restaurant in Westlake is is succumbing to the twin forces of the ecomonic downturn and more competition in the area. It is closing at the end of April. When I called owner Lori Williams, who took over from her uncle Russ Lentini in 1997, to offer my condolences she said many locally owned small businesses like hers have been struggling since Crocker Park opened. “People don’t realize what happens when the big chains come into a community. And now with the recession, we’re hurting even more. ”
It’s been included in every edition of the book and was one of the first places I visited when I started doing my research so I’m especially sad to see it disappear. Try to go before the doors close forever on April 25th.
27828 Center Ridge Road, 440-892-9300.
Don’t forget to make a note in your copy of of Cleveland Ethnic Eats so you don’t show up hungry for a bowl of pasta in a few months only to find the restaurant empty and dark. And if you have a taste for ravioli or chicken Parmesan, get yourself out to one of the other great owner operated Italian restaurants in town.
What are your favorites?
Welcome to the new online home for Cleveland Ethnic Eats. This is a place where I can share my thoughts on culture and cuisine, post information and updates about the listings in the books, and let you know what the media around the country and the world are saying about ethnic food trends. You can also click on the links to see where I’m signing or speaking, and read excerpts from the book. And best of all it’s a meeting place for all of us who have an interest in adventurous eating so we can exchange news, ideas, and stories.
To kick things off I want to riff on an article I read recently entitled America’s Most Endangered Foods. It’s about how varieties of fruits ands and vegetables and breeds of animals are disappearing due to the impact of agri-business and the commodification of our food supply. To stop the loss, Gary Paul Nabhan, editor of Renewing America’s Food Traditions, advocates a concept called eater-based conservation.
I’ve been talking about something similar ever since the first edition of Cleveland Ethnic Eats was published in 1995. The places in my book are endangered species, at risk of extinction from the onslaught of corporate chains, cheap fast food, and mass-produced products. Corner stores, neighborhood butchers and bakers, and little mom-and-pop restaurants are disappearing from our cities and suburbs and with them the wonderful diversity of choices and quality they offer. If we don’t support these kinds of businesses, we’ll lose something precious, something that makes this region such an exciting and unique place to live. That’s part of the reason I wrote Cleveland Ethnic Eats, continue to update it regularly, and why I have launched this blog. My aim is to celebrate handmade, homemade, traditionally made foods, and at the same time to remind people that we must recognize and help preserve this valuable cultural resource. And all you have to do to help is eat! You can use my book and this site to find out where to go. And please come back here often to post your questions, comments, and discoveries.