11/15/17

Cooking Demos at the Hildebrandt Building

By Elaine T. Cicora

More than a dozen Dames and their guests (a group of potential recruits that included a beekeeper, a restaurant owner, a culinary consultant, and a writer with strong links to the food industry) gathered at the Hildebrandt Building on Nov. 13, 2017, for our bi-monthly business meeting. Afterward, we enjoyed three fabulous food demos presented by chapter members.

Using a recipe from her recently published cookbook, Chefs & Company, Dame Maria Isabella demo’d a quick and easy recipe for Spiced Hummus with Preserved Lemons. Fun fact: The recipe originated with chef and James Beard Award-winning cookbook author Joanne Weir, who also happens to be a member of the San Francisco chapter of LDEI.

A puree of garbanzo beans, tahini and garlic, the hummus was fresh, bright and bursting with flavor. Parsley added a lush, green hue, while preserved lemon contributed a hint of salt and a citric tang. Through the magic of Vitamix, the hummus was ready in less than five minutes; Maria served it with wedges of toasted pita.


Dame Marla Holmes, a culinary instructor, followed Maria with a demo of her no-knead artisanal bread. Each loaf begins with just five ingredients – bread flour, salt, sugar, yeast and oil – and requires only about two hours to complete its journey from mixing bowl to bread basket. As a variation on the basic loaf, Marla also showed us how to assemble a festive orange-cranberry loaf that featured orange-infused canola oil, orange zest, and dried cranberries. She also provided each of us with a pre-mixed bread kit, containing the basic dry ingredients, to complete at home.


Dame Melissa McClelland was our third presenter, with a demo of a special-occasion-worthy mushroom-almond paté. After working as a chef and recipe developer, Melissa has currently become a devoted gardener and a regular contributor to Edible Cleveland magazine; this recipe, adapted from one created by a former coworker at EatingWell magazine, can be found in the Fall 2017 Edible issue.

Comprising chopped mushrooms, garlic, onion, walnut oil, sherry vinegar and almonds, the paté was served with thinly sliced radishes, black sea salt and organic sourdough-spelt crackers from a local baker. “Because it has lots of umami, this paté is a good choice for meat eaters and vegetarians, alike,” Melissa said about the vibrant spread.


As if that wasn’t tempting enough, the hummus, paté and bread were joined by additional apps and snacks provided by those of us in attendance. Our hostess, Dame Paula Hershman of StoreHouse Tea, provided assorted teas; many members also contributed wine. And predictably enough, a good time was had by all.


Our next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 22, 2018. Watch Facebook and this website for details.

11/14/17

Fusion: Immigrant Kitchens and a World of Flavors Influence Modern Cuisine

By Paula Hershman | Photos by Elaine Cicora

In the Global Culinary Initiative session – one of the concurrent sessions at the 2017 LDEI Conference -- we heard from three distinctly different, internationally recognized women who made their way to America and have dramatically influenced the dynamic culture of fusion food in this country. Their ancestral cuisines have become part of some of today's most impactful trends, fusion dishes from Latin American-Latinx to Asian Pho.


Dame Sandra Gutierrez began her path to becoming a food writer at a young age, when she apprenticed with her aunt, a caterer in Guatemala. She became passionate about cooking, but her true love was writing about food. Today she is a recognized expert in Latinx cuisines and a nationally recognized food personality. Sandra was the Grand Prize winner of LDEI's M.F.K. Fisher Awards for Excellence in Culinary Writing, and was recognized for her piece, "A Voice from the Nuevo South," which is about the Latino population's influence on Southern food and her personal insight into assimilation, discrimination and the birth of food trends. She has also written over 1,000 articles as the first Latina food editor and columnist of the Cary News, in Cary, North Carolina. She has also written four cookbooks, "The New Southern Latino Table," "Latin American Street Food," “Empanadas, the Hand-Held Pies of Latin America,” and "Beans and Field Peas: a Savor the South Cookbook.” Sandra Gutierrez blends ingredients, traditions, and culinary techniques, creatively marrying the diverse and delicious cuisines of more than 21 Latin American countries. Each cuisine is a result of global diversity infused with the beloved food of the American South called "The New Southern Latino Culinary Movement."

Theresa Lin, born in Taiwan, was the food stylist for Ang Lee’s Oscar-nominated movie, Eat Drink Man Woman, and the catering director for Life of Pi, filmed in Taichung. The author of 16 cookbooks, and a host of a Sunday radio show in Los Angeles, her knowledge of Chinese cuisine is unmatched. She trained under the legendary Fu Pei Mei, one of the first cookbook authors in East Asia and a prominent Chinese television host. Mei is also her mother-in-law and, at the age of 22, Theresa ended up running the operations at the family’s cooking school. Eventually her children were her primary reason for moving to Southern California. Theresa is the catering director of the Sheraton Four Points Anaheim, home of the restaurant Tru Grits, and teaches healthy, organic, easy-to-make fusion cuisine. Her family values have been a vital part of her drive to succeed. Theresa said, "Opportunities are for those who get ready," and she believes in teaching kids to appreciate culture and to respect parents, grandparents, and teachers. Theresa espouses the philosophy that integrity, honesty and hard work, along with being independent and strong, is the way to run your business, and to always take time to be a mentor.


Dame Thoa Nyguyen, a Seattle chef/restaurateur who beat Bobby Flay on the Food Network, was born in Saigon, South Vietnam. At the age of 11, Thoa and her family left Vietnam for America; the year was 1975, after American involvement in the Vietnam War ended. Her family was part of the first large-scale wave of immigration for families fleeing persecution in South Vietnam. Thoa was the oldest child and found herself doing the cooking for the family. Finding ingredients in America to make her traditional dishes was hard but she improvised. Soon the aromas from her kitchen, and other Vietnamese immigrants’ kitchens, wafted through their neighborhoods, and the war veterans who longed for the taste of pho eventually found it. Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of broth, rice noodles called bánh phở, a few herbs, and meat, primarily made with either beef or chicken. Pho is now one of the top five trending foods in America. It is not just an ethnic food but is becoming more mainstream, like pizza. Now in her 50s, Thoa Nyguyen is responsible for four Vietnamese crossover (fusion) restaurants in the Pacific Northwest: Monsoon, in Seattle; Slanted Door, in San Francisco; Noodles Bar, in Seaside, California; and Nine Roses, in New Orleans.

This was a fascinating talk for me because my tea business employs refugees. I have a greater appreciation for immigrants and their struggles with trying to learn our language, our customs, and our culture, while maintaining their unique identity and traditions. Our employees have immigrated from Rwanda and Iran to work and live in Cleveland. We have shared meals together and have broadened each other's perspective on what it means to be an American. I identified with these speakers who bridged the gap between our very different cultures by melding their traditional cuisines with ours to create a unique fusion of senses and sensibilities. We all came from somewhere else and now call ourselves Americans; this session also made me think about my ancestors who came from Italy and Germany, and how they impacted and were influenced by America. I was blessed by their stories and by the opportunity to experience first-hand the international flavor of our amazing organization. Likewise, I was honored to represent the Cleveland Chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier.

11/13/17

Forked: Women in the Restaurant Industry

By Elaine T. Cicora

Do you eat ethically? If so, the plight of women in the restaurant industry should be of great concern to you, as you plan your next night out.

Cleveland Dames (left to right): Paula Hershman,
Carol Hacker, Bev Shaffer, Elaine Cicora, Shara Bohach
I was honored to be chosen as one of two Cleveland Chapter delegates to the 2017 LDEI Conference, held in Newport Beach, California, Oct. 26 to 28. As a first-time attendee, I was eager to dive into all the conference had to offer: a chapter leadership forum, a tour of an urban eco-farm, numerous workshops on topics ranging from “The Story of California Olive Oil” to “Laying a Foundation for Collaborative Problem Solving,” as well as soaking up the inspiration provided by our newest Grand Dame, Lidia Bastianich.

In addition, the opportunities for networking, interpersonal learning, and just plain making new friends was remarkable. (The pool was very nice, too … or so I heard.)

However, for me, the most compelling moments of the conference came during the Saturday-morning Green Tables breakfast session, featuring the activist attorney, author, co-founder of the Restaurant Opportunities Center United and director of the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, Saru Jayaraman.

Saru Jayaraman
As a fiery advocate for better wages and working conditions for women in the service sector, Jayaraman offered these provocative facts:
  • With more than 12 million workers, the restaurant industry is the fastest growing sector of the U.S. economy
  • One in eleven Americans work in the restaurant industry
  • These are jobs that can’t be outsourced and are here to stay
  • And yet, seven of the ten lowest paying jobs in the U.S. economy are in the restaurant industry.
  • This is particularly pronounced in mid-level chain restaurants
What does this mean for us as a country, Jayaraman asks? Well, for one thing, one in three people who work in the restaurant industry full time, or MORE than full time, live in poverty – and that figure is quickly approaching one in two!

Who will be patronizing our restaurants if so many members of our economy can’t afford to dine out, she asks.

More than anywhere else, she claims, American culture – and our special moments – happen in restaurants. So clearly, preserving restaurants and their workers should be important to us all. Which leads to the topic of tipping, a practice that allows employers to pay workers a reduced minimum wage with the expectation that they can make up the difference in tips. But rarely, she says, does this come to pass.

Historically, Jayaraman explains, tipping is a vestige of the feudal system, a sort of extension of noblesse oblige. It came to the U.S. from Europe in the 1850s and was roundly condemned as un-American and undemocratic.

But ironically, while Europe soon dropped the practice, the U.S. did not. And suddenly, the country was filled with emancipated blacks who were accustomed to laboring for free: the notion of paying them in tips, instead of wages, quickly caught on.

Today, seven states including Washington, Nevada, California, Montana, Minnesota and Alaska have rejected the practice of tipping. With laws that stipulate tipped and non-tipped workers must be paid the same minimum wage, tips are simply a bonus. And, she claims, the restaurant industry remains robust in those states, despite initial fears to the contrary.

In the rest of the country, however, restaurant owners continue to claim that tipped workers make lots of money in tips, and there is no need to pay them a living wage. “This is just not true,” Jayaraman says.
  • Of the 12 million workers in the industry, 70 percent are women working in mid-level chains and 40 percent of them are single moms
  • For one out of every two women, restaurant work is their first job
  • While these women work in restaurants, many of them can’t afford to put food on their own tables, she says
  • Just as appalling, the restaurant industry has the worst rate of sexual harassment of any industry in the U.S.
  • “When you work in a state where your wages are $2 or $3 an hour, you will put up with anything from your customers to get that tip,” she explains. “You must tolerate anything and everything to walk away with anything at all.”
  • In addition, management may even instruct their female staffers to act or dress in more overtly sexual ways in order to maximize tips – and reduce the owners’ guilt over paying less than a living wage.
  • “Your work is literally determined by your willingness to tolerate, to even encourage, sexual harassment,” she says.
Yet many employers don’t actually realize this is sexual harassment, she says. “They claim this is just the way the industry works!”

But even if that is so, it doesn’t mean it is right, Jayaraman claims. And she is a vocal advocate of changing the current system.

“The future of the industry is professionalization,” she told us. “Pay and treat your workers as the professionals they are. We must move away from the old system that isn’t working, that encourages sexual harassment, and is a holdover from slavery.

“As women in the industry, you must realize that the fact that these conditions exist diminishes us all as women.

“Women like us must step up and say, ‘we can change that system!’’’

It was a powerful speech, on a topic we will undoubtedly be hearing much about in coming months. To learn more about Jayaraman, the movement, and her book, “Forked: A New Standard for American Dining,” please click here.

11/7/17

Dame du Jour: Jess Lindawan

By Maria Isabella

Jess’s philosophy on food is very simple: “I believe wholeheartedly that every time you eat, you have an opportunity to either nourish or harm your body.”

She eagerly applies that philosophy to her personal life. “As a mom, it’s important for me to teach my children where their food comes from and why healthy eating habits are essential to life.”

She also enthusiastically applies that same philosophy to her professional life, too.

“My job is to market Paladar Restaurant Group’s two concepts: Paladar Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar and BOMBA Tacos & Rum,” explains Jess. “We have nine restaurant locations…(and) our menus feature colorful and fresh dishes inspired by Central and South America, Cuba, and the Latin Caribbean.”

She goes on to add, “I’m always learning about food in my position, and it’s very stimulating for all five senses.”

This opinion was born of an early life that revolved around good food and happy times.

“My earliest childhood memory is watching my mom cook and bake,” remembers Jess. “I grew up in a very ‘meat and potatoes’ family and will always remember the savory smell of pot roast cooking in the oven on a cold day.”

When Jess eventually moved out of her parents’ home, she told her mom she wanted some of her recipes. “She made me a cookbook with all my favorite recipes in it from over the years…It’s my little book of happiness and comfort,” says Jess fondly.

Today, when she entertains, she likes to keep it “light, fresh, and simple with lots of food, drinks, and great company,” shares Jess.

She heard of Les Dames d’Escoffier from her sponsor, Crickett Karson. “I’ve been a member for two years now and love it!” admits Jess. “I am inspired by the incredible caliber of women who are in the group.”

Learn more about Jess as she shares some fun and interesting insights about herself.

Who influenced your love of food the most? My mom has always been a huge influence. I also draw a lot of influence from Michael Pollan. He’s brilliant.

What’s your favorite restaurant and what do you usually order there? My favorite cuisine is Indian, so I’d have to say my favorite restaurant is India Garden in Lakewood. In the beginning of this year, I made the decision to give up all meat and seafood, and Indian food has many vegetarian-friendly options. The owners of India Garden always offer wonderful service, and the space is charming. I love the aloo gobi with a side of garlic naan.

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten? Either pig’s ears, rabbit pie, or dinuguan (in my meat-eating days).

What’s your favorite comfort food? Bread and cheese—separate or together, it doesn’t matter to me!

Do you have a signature dish? I’m always experimenting with new recipes, so there are very few dishes that I’ll repeat. But I do make a killer chili.

What’s your go-to, quick-and-easy dinner? I’ve found that “quick and easy” are certainly more challenging with being vegetarian. My husband and children still eat meat, so I really have to plan the week out and find ways to accommodate dishes to work for everyone. If all else fails, my crockpot has been a lifesaver at times, and I also make a great mushroom soy ramen soup that comes together pretty quickly.

What’s your favorite snack? Avocado toast.

What’s the biggest cooking mistake you’ve ever made? I don’t recall what I was cooking at the time, but when my hair was really long, I once caught it on fire when I absent-mindedly bent down to pick something up next to our gas stove. Another time, I mixed up flour with cornstarch when I was making a stir fry. The sauce turned out gray and was a total disaster.

What’s one ingredient you can’t live without? Garlic.

What would people be surprised to find in your fridge? My husband is Filipino, so we have a lot of items/ingredients that most people aren’t very familiar with, but it’s been a great away for us to introduce family and friends to Filipino cuisine, which is amazing.

7/18/17

Reception for the Les Dames d’Escoffier International Board

By Elaine T. Cicora / Edited by Shara Bohach
Photos by Elaine T. Cicora, Hayley Matson-Mathes, and Bob Bohach


The weather was perfect, the food was fabulous, and the fellowship was sincere at the reception for the LDEI Board members that our chapter held on Saturday, July 15, 2017, at Coquette Patisserie. Host and owner Dame Britt-Marie Culey outdid herself, with a three-course, alfresco buffet dinner that kicked off with raw oysters, pâté, rillettes and more, moved on to a variety of savory pastries and cheeses, and concluded with an array of sweets including her rightfully famous macarons.

With the LDEI Board members in town for their annual meeting, the Cleveland chapter was pleased to help them wind up their week with a party. Representing the LDEI Board were president Stacy Zeigler; first vice president Hayley Jo Matson-Mathes; second vice president Bev Shaffer; third vice president Deborah Mintcheff; secretary Ann Stratte; treasurer Deb Orrill; board liasons Kathy Gold and Julie Chernoff; immediate past-president Maria Gomez-Laurens; and executive director Greg Jewell.

Representing our chapter were Shara Bohach, Elaine Cicora, Crickett Karson, Beth Davis-Noragon, Britt-Marie Culey, and co-presidents Cynthia Eakin and Marty Nagele. Doing double duty as both second vice president of the International Board and a founding member of the Cleveland chapter was Dame Bev Shaffer. And spouses Eric Eakin, Brad Albing and Bob Bohach added some gusto to our gathering.

Board members were provided with Cleveland-themed goody bags (aka reusable Heinen’s shopping bags) filled with items donated by our members: Ohio maple syrup; Lilly Handmade Chocolates; Storehouse Tea; Bertman Original Mustard; “I liked Cleveland before it was cool” koozies; copies of Edible Cleveland and the Scene; an array of maps and guides from Destination Cleveland; and flyers for SummerDine.

Lubricated by French 75s and Pimm’s Cups on the patio, conversation was lively, as befitting a group of food and hospitality pros who hailed from as far away as Honolulu and as nearby as Shaker Heights. Seated at shaded picnic tables, this co-mingled group of chefs; culinary consultants; sales, marketing and PR pros; cookbook editors; dining editors; and food writers touched on topics ranging from the virtues of Maine blueberries to the state of the Chicago dining scene, and from the proper way to drink mescal to the quality of West Coast oysters. By the end of the evening, many new friendships had been forged and valuable contacts made. And in the process, our chapter had a chance to show off our city to a suitably impressed group of colleagues.





6/29/17

Membership Potluck

By Elaine T. Cicora | Photos by Erin Toohey Naso

Dame Crickett Karson graciously welcomed more than a dozen Cleveland chapter members into her beautiful home on Monday, June 26, for our annual potluck and membership drive, where we were joined by four professional women of distinction interested in potential membership.

The evening kicked off – as all good evenings do – with food, drink and time for networking. Among the many delicious dishes on the potluck table, some of the standouts were Carmella Fragassi’s eggplant Parmesan; mushroom pate with a garnish of borage flowers, by Melissa McClelland; and freshly baked breads from Marla Monzo-Holmes.

After a short business meeting that touched upon the upcoming membership-only meeting at Coquette Patisserie, where we will welcome the LDEI International board, the networking and conversation resumed.

Thanks again to Dame Crickett for hosting the gathering, the members who brought guests, and all who provided food and drink!







4/17/17

Les Dames D’Escoffier Cleveland Chapter at Astoria Café and Market

By Elaine T. Cicora
Photos by Elaine T. Cicora

More than a dozen members of our chapter met at Astoria Café and Market in the Gordon Square Arts District on April 4, 2017, for our bi-monthly business meeting, a delicious buffet dinner, and a tour of the family owned and operated business.

Our host and guide was Lee Daniels, son of co-owner Steve Daniels and nephew of co-owner George Kantzios. Together, Steve and George also operate Agora Foods International, a wholesale import business, founded in 2008. The partners relocated Agora from Ohio City to Detroit Avenue in 2014, after completing extensive remodeling on the new space. While Agora is only nine years old, the family has been part of Cleveland’s food and specialty foods industry for over 65 years and imports directly from Greece, Italy, France, and other regions throughout the Mediterranean. Agora supplies its imported foods to accounts as nearby as Heinen’s and as far away as Salt Lake City, Lee told us.

Astoria, the restaurant and retail arm of the family operation, opened in the same building in December 2016. A bright, airy and beautifully renovated space, Astoria occupies about 5,000 square feet of the 24,000-square-foot building, and includes a 60-seat café, full bar, market and deli, with an emphasis on Mediterranean foods. A paved 60-car parking lot opened around the corner, on West 55th Street, in January.

As the third generation to work in the family business, which includes ties to Euro USA and Mediterranean Imports at the West Side Market, Lee proved to be both a knowledgeable guide and a gracious host. Following a wonderful buffet dinner that included such standouts as chickpea soup, pita and hummus, two styles of spanakopita, three types of thin-crusted pizza (margherita, prosciutto and arugula, and mushroom and artichoke), and a bountiful selection of fine imported cheeses and charcuterie, Lee led our group through the wholesale warehouse and its coolers, where we ooh-ed and ahh-ed over a grand collection of cheeses, meats, olives, phyllo dough, olive oils, roasted vegetables, grains, pastas and other imported food products.

Many of the imported products are available for purchase in the deli, where we found a remarkable assortment of aged, brined, bloomy rind, blue, semi-soft, semi-hard, hard and surfaced ripened cheeses. The meat counter also impressed with its abundance of products: linguica, jamon serrano, chorizo, Italian dried salume, and bresaola made from Wagyu beef, among them. And to drink, an entire wall’s worth of wine is at the ready.

By evening’s end, many of us had not only learned more about our city’s vibrant food industry, but had added a new place to our “must shop” and “must eat” lists. Thank you to Lee, Steve, George and everyone at Astoria Market and Café, for hosting such an informative and enjoyable evening.
The deli case is full of temptations
at Astoria Cafe and Market

Astoria partner and host George Kantzios

Artisanal pizzas starred on the dinner buffet

A selection of imported salume
sourced from the Market deli