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


Dame du Jour: Latoya Hunter

By Maria Isabella

Can you imagine being a little girl, going into your own back yard, and plucking fresh, tropical fruits right off your tree? That’s exactly what Latoya did…in her birthplace of Jamaica!

Her happy early-childhood memories also include listening to her mother recount her own childhood growing up on a farm on a Caribbean island, and sitting with her grandmother on their veranda, helping her with the fresh produce she just brought home from the market.

After moving to Cleveland when she was seven years old, Latoya’s parents opened up a Caribbean restaurant and grocery, located in North Randall. Helping out there gave her a good base for when she eventually joined Dame Crickett Karson’s boutique PR agency, LiefKarson, which focused on food and restaurants.

Latoya is now the assistant director of media relations, social media and digital integration for the City of Cleveland. In addition to managing communications for the mayor’s office, she oversees public relations for the West Side Market, one of Cleveland’s most iconic food destinations.

“I’m a firm believer in educating people locally and nationally about ‘food the way it was meant to be’,” says Latoya. “My career provides an opportunity to merge my culinary passions with my love for this great city.”

As for how she heard of Les Dames d’Escoffier, she says it was from Crickett. “She invited me to a meeting, and I absolutely fell in love with everything for which the organization stands. I especially enjoy being surrounded by women who are just as passionate as I am about good food.”

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

What food always reminds you of home? Avocados.

Of all the places you’ve traveled, where did you have the best food or wine? Maybe I’m biased, but I think Caribbean food is the best. It’s such a mix of so many flavors and cultures. The food is bold and colorful, just like the people.

Which one chef would you want to invite over for dinner and what would you serve? Chef Nigel Spence of Ripe Kitchen & Bar in Mount Vernon, New York. He appeared on a national cooking contest show and beat one of the world’s greatest chefs. I would invite him to try my uncle’s recipe for jerk chicken – he would never be the same!

What is your favorite food blog? Cook Like a Jamaican. It has really easy, authentic, Caribbean fusion recipes.

Describe your perfect meal. My perfect meal would be a nice grilled red snapper with Jamaican red beans and rice.

What’s your favorite snack?
Chocolate chip cookies.

Do you have a signature dish? Curry Chicken.

What’s your go-to, quick-and-easy dinner?
Pumpkin seasoned rice with bok choy.

Name 3 kitchen gadgets you can’t live without.
Hand mixer, juicer, and pressure cooker.

What would people be surprised to find in your fridge?
Goat meat.


Les Dames D’Escoffier Cleveland Chapter at the Hildebrandt Building

By Erin Toohey Naso
Photos by Erin Toohey Naso and Elaine T. Cicora
Edited by Shara Bohach

What’s the best way to beat the January blahs? Head to a Les Dames d’Escoffier meeting for delicious food, spirited beverages and lively and interesting culinary conversation!

On a cold Tuesday evening, two dozen Dames brought their potluck courses and curiosity to the Hildebrandt Building – a former historic meat processing plant in the Clark Fulton neighborhood. Organized by Paula Hershman from Storehouse Tea (and tenant of the Hildebrandt), Dames got an up close and personal tour of the iconic building that is now home to artists and food entrepreneurs.

The Dames nestled into the community kitchen for presentations from three of our own business owners, Laura Adiletta, Shara Bohach, Paula Hershman and non-Dame (but Hildebrandt tenant) Molly Murray.

Laura Adiletta kicked off the spirited business presentations with her just-launched Farm Fare – a mobile marketplace for local foods and business management software for food hubs and small to mid-sized farms.

The online and app service aims to move agricultural product from farms to restaurants and retail stores through a logistic system that is cost effective and efficient.

Realizing that farmers spent nearly 40% of their time in deliveries, Laura and her team are looking to reinvent the supply chain by centralizing the product and streamlining the delivery process to allow farmers more time to do what they do best – farm!

Farm Fare takes sales through its online store and manages delivery, dispatching and loading for wholesale buyers and food hubs such as the Oberlin Food Hub.

Laura candidly shared the start-up’s trials and tribulations with a consistent eye and positive spirit on the future of her business.

Shara Bohach of Unity Design shared her thoughts on best practices for business branding. Derived from more than 17 years experience in designing logos and identity systems for clients in the culinary, health and beauty, medical and technology industries, Shara emphasized consistency is key in presenting and maintaining a brand.

Well beyond the typography and colors of a logo, an on-point brand is also reflected in how a company and its employees conduct itself.

Shara believes integral to building a brand is understanding the audience. She encouraged budding entrepreneurs and seasoned owners to understand what motivates the target market and tailor the message, while staying true to the brand promise.

Noting Starbucks and Whole Foods as examples of an integrated brand, she challenged Dames to determine what a brand should feel like – the promise, the name, the spirit – all being driving forces to the bottom line of a top of mind and trusted brand.

Along with her wisdom, Shara and Paula Hershman shared the identity system and gorgeous packaging of Storehouse Tea – which were designed by Unity Design.

Demonstrating a brand in action, Paula explained her company is as much about sourcing and hand-blending Certified Organic and Fair Trade teas and ingredients as it is about empowering women refugees to chart a path to creating a better life in America. The company employs refugee women from Rwanda and Iran to hand blend and produce the tea offerings and is committed to growing the company by staying committed to this same cause.

Storehouse Tea can be found in area restaurants, online, coffee shops, organic and health food stores, private label and in crates from specialty gift providers.

Molly Murray concluded the business presentations with her tour of the Wake Robin processing facility in the basement of the Hildebrandt. Wake Robin produces live, naturally cultured vegetables made in small batches using lacto-fermentation – or no heat preservation technique. Started with her father, the company is built on a triple bottom line concept: community, planet and profit.

That means livable wages for employees, zero waste through composting and recycling and efficient manufacturing techniques to provide consumers with a high-quality product at an affordable price all while keeping the business profitable.

Wake Robin produces nine products with five being flagship and four rotating offerings. Contracting with local farmers, Wake Robin hand processes organic cabbage, carrots, turnips, daikon and beets from Northeast Ohio farms and non-organic cucumbers and apples.

These fermented and probiotic products include Sauerkraut, Kickin Kimchi, Carrot Escabeche, Ruby Ruben, Garlicky Dill Cucumber Chips along with other seasonal flavors. Fermented products are growing in popularity as they provide access to fresh vegetables through the year delivering probiotic properties to allow the body to absorb nutrients better.

Wake Robin products are available for purchase at the West Side Market, Krieger’s, Mustard Seed, Heinen’s and various small shops in Northeast Ohio.

A big thanks to the Dames who organized and shared their delicious potluck items with the dynamic group.

Delicious loose leaf Certified Organic and Fair Trade flavors offered
by Storehouse Tea. Branding and packaging design by Unity Design.

Feasting in the community kitchen on potluck dishes.

Laura Adiletta from Farm Fare talks about the vision for the company.

Molly Murray from Wake Robin explains the impetus, business
model and other background on the father-daughter company.

Wake Robin deliciousness undergoing lacto-fermentation.


Les Dames D’Escoffier Cleveland Chapter at Bomba Tacos & Rum

By Elaine T. Cicora / Photos by Elaine T. Cicora

Never let it be said that our Cleveland Dames don’t know how to have fun. Thanks to Dame Jess Lindawan, director of marketing for Paladar Restaurant Group, we had a wonderful opportunity to dine, drink, learn, laugh and network during our November meeting at Bomba Tacos & Rum, a friendly, chef-driven restaurant in Rocky River featuring a lively menu inspired by Cuban, Salvadoran, Peruvian and other Latin-American cuisines.

One of the ways Bomba, a sister operation to Woodmere-based Paladar, distinguishes itself from other taco spots, we learned, is by its extensive collection of 75 premium rums and craft cocktails. And to help us understand more about this delightful spirit, we were joined by Melisa Baringer, sales associate for Cleveland’s own Portside Distillery.

We learned that Portside is an artisan distillery and craft brewery, and holds the distinction of being the first distillery to open in Cleveland since Prohibition. “Everything is small batch, hand bottled, and hand labeled, and the results are totally worth it!” said Melisa.

To drive home her assertion, Melisa brought with her four of the distillery’s award-winning rums for sampling. They included:
  • Silver Rum: Distilled from 100 percent cane sugar in a homemade copper pot still, we learned that this “New World” rum is Portside’s most popular, described as “incredibly smooth, with lingering full-bodied and fruity esters [that] will remind you why rum was the most popular spirit upon the founding of our country.”
  • Vanilla Maple Rum: A blend of pure Northeastern Ohio maple syrup and Madagascar vanilla bean, this slightly sweet rum has won “Best of Category” honors among flavored rums at the American Distillers Institute Competition, making it perfect served neat or blended in a favorite cocktail.
  • Spiced Rum: Infused with a special blend of spices, raisins and a touch of vanilla for a spicy finish, this 100-proof product is smooth and easy sipping. No surprise to discover it’s a Bronze Medal winner from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
  • Christmas Spirit Rum: A blend of ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, and honey give this seasonal special its flavor. Slightly sweet and spicy, this rum has been described as “tasting like Christmas morning.” Portside only distills it once a year; so, you know, get yours while supplies last!

We were also treated to two fantastic specialty cocktails made with Portside products: The Spiced Cranberry Ginger Mojito, made with Spiced Rum, lime, mint, cranberry and ginger beer; and the Spiced Hard Cider Sangria, featuring Silver Rum, hard cider, spiced simple syrup and nutmeg.

We enjoyed our cocktails with a marvelous spread of tasty treats from Bomba’s kitchen, starting with freshly made guacamole garnished with pepitas and chipotle honey, and accompanied by an assortment of light, crisp corn, plantain, yucca and Malanga chips, made daily, in house.

Then it was on to a delicious buffet of mushroom empanadas, jerk-chicken skewers and a variety of soft tacos that included charred kale and corn, Rio-style chicken, braised beef and blackened fish.

As a sweet ending, we enjoyed churros and chocolate sauce.

Meantime, a vivacious group of nearly 30 Dames and their guests took full advantage of the opportunity to network, forge new business and personal relationships, and learn about each others’ roles in the food/drink/hospitality community.

Thank you to Jess, Bomba and Portside Distillery for hosting such a fun-filled, educational and relevant meeting.


Dame du Jour: Paula Hershman

By Maria Isabella
Interview by Britt-Marie Culey

As the saying goes, “When one door closes, another one opens.” And so it was with Paula, whose search for a second career took a couple interesting twists and turns. Here’s her story.

With a degree in Art Education, Paula enjoyed a successful career as a graphic designer. But when her kids were finally grown, she was itching to do something new and different. As she was working through her personal journey of discovery, she relied on coffee to keep her going. A lot of coffee. In fact, so much coffee that it started to affect her health. Her doctor recommended she switch to tea, and a friend turned her on to loose tea.

“It was calming, and I ended up getting my whole family hooked on it,” says Paula. She then came up with a business plan to open a sit-down tea shop. Unfortunately, everything fell throughand she was devastated.

Eventually, she conceived a different idea and decided to become a tea blender instead. This time, her idea became a reality, and ten years later, Storehouse Tea Company is still going strong!

Some highlights of her budding second career include getting certified organic, opening a new 800-square-foot showroom in Ohio City, and traveling to Taiwan to visit an Oolong supplier. But all this pales in comparison to the good she’s doing in the community.

“I hire refugees from Rwanda who are living in our area to do the packaging,” explains Paula. “I also produce a private label where the proceeds go back to build and run a schoolhouse in Northern Iraq for refugees escaping ISIS.”

This is all in perfect alignment with her own personal philosophy: Whatever you do has to benefit people. And indeed she’s doing just that.

Paula learned about Les Dames d’Escoffier when she met a Toledo member while giving a talk in Columbus. As for what she enjoys most about being a member of the Cleveland chapter, she says it’s definitely the camaraderie. “Women really need each other in business,” says Paula. “We’re strong and passionate, and men don’t always get that. It’s important to share those struggles with women who understand.”

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

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten? I ate a whole frog in Taiwan and a deep-fried whole fish, eyes and all!

Which one chef (living or deceased) would you want to invite over for dinner and what would you serve? Jonathon Sawyer. I’d make him my pesto lasagna.

What is your favorite cookbook? The Joy of Cooking. It was a wedding gift and is my cooking “bible.” It’s my go-to for all the basics.

What’s your favorite food blog? Food Babe. She uncovers conspiracies in the food world. She’s definitely a “whistle blower.”

What’s your favorite comfort food? Italian wedding soup.

Any favorite snack? Doritos or popcorn.

How do you like to entertain? Casually. I like it to be BYOB so everyone is happy. I also like to make the main course, like barbecuing, and keeping it simple.

What’s your favorite dessert to prepare? Carrot cake with cream cheese buttercream frosting.

What’s one ingredient you can’t live without? Honey. I use it in tea and in general. Always local and raw.

Name 3 kitchen gadgets you can’t live without. Garlic press, spatula, and wine opener.


Les Dames d’Escoffier Cleveland Chapter at Whole Foods

By Shara Bohach | Photos by Shara Bohach and Britt Marie Culey

Nichole Clark

Whole Foods Market Cedar Center welcomed the Cleveland Chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier Tuesday evening for a delicious look inside some of their special programs. Dames enjoyed four courses prepared and presented by team members from various departments, each sharing insights and passion about their food and mission.

Dame Nichole Clark, currently Store Team Leader at the Woodmere location, welcomed us at The Kitchen Counter, the Cedar Center restaurant she helped to open in 2007.

Josh Chung, Prepared Foods Team Leader, prepared and served the four courses with his team.

We started off with a glass of D’Arenberg “The Hermit Crab” Viognier Marsanne, a buttery, smooth, fresh, summery white wine.

Todd Burrows, Bakery Team Leader & Certified Artisan Bread Baker, introduced us to the spent grain program, where Whole Foods utilizes used grains from the beer brewing process to make breads. We learned that on farms, spent grain often becomes chicken feed or compost, but in urban environments, it is usually thrown out. Todd picks up spent grains from The BottleHouse Brewing Company once a week, and puts them to tasty use in Whole Foods breads.

We enjoyed a spent grain roll with house-made roasted garlic and chive butter. The bread, hearty and chewy, is reminiscent of sourdough and pretzels in texture. Flavor is excellent and it is lower carb because the spent grains no longer contain sugar.

Todd told us that every beer imparts a unique flavor to the process. Next week he will be getting grains from a smoked stout which he expects to have a smoky effect on the breads. He also announced an exciting new partnership with Platform Beer Co. where they will being producing grains from their own beer. They’re having a lunch party on August 11, 2016 for Veloracer, a grapefruit shandy. See below for additional details on this event.

Our next course featured Whole Foods' house-made Cold Pressed Juices, presented by Bruce Miles, Produce Team Leader. Beeternal (Carrots Apple Beets Kale) and Lemon Zip (Lemon Grape Jalapeño Ginger) are both excellent for cleansing. Several of us noted that Lemon Zip would be awesome with a little vodka for a “zippy” cocktail. (Cleanse and then add the toxins right back in, hmmm!) Greens with Envy (Pear Kale Cucumber Pineapple Spinach Broccoli Parsley Lemon), rich in anti-oxidants is their most popular seller. Strawberry H2O (Strawberries Watermelon Lime) is simply refreshing and sweet.

Bruce stressed that cold pressing compresses the produce and keep nutrients in tact. There is no oxidization which happens in traditional juicers. He ever-so-nicely sent some of us home with our favorite juice of the evening. (That Lemon Zip cocktail may just happen!)

The juice tasting was accompanied with a delicious, crispy Superfood Croquette, created using the Beeternal juice pulp and black beans, and a vegan sriracha aioli.

The main course, presented by Elliott Lewis, Seafood Team Member & Fish Monger, was Wild Caught Shrimp & Smoked Mozzarella Grits. Elliott explained that Whole Foods’ shrimp is sustainable, and more tender and sweet because it is flash frozen in its native salt water. He also shared that salt water fish is less susceptible to disease. Passionate about avoiding GMOs, he revealed a trend he is seeing with GMOs in the feed for farm-raised fish, whereby the fish itself deceptively does not have to be labeled GMO.

The team did a wonderful job adapting dishes as needed to vegetarian and dairy-free versions. Here, the cheesy grits were topped with grilled veg for the vegetarians.

Brad Packer, Specialty Team Member, presented a delightful cheese board to each of us, served with a glass of Kir Royale sparkling rosé.

The cheese board consisted of three fine cheeses: Testun Di Capra (raw goat’s milk cheese from Piemonte, Italy – sweet, nutty, assertive); Herve Mons Camembert (exclusive cow’s milk cheese from Normandy, France – earthy, pungent, salty); and Old Chatham Ewe’s Blue Cheese (sheep’s milk cheese from New York, USA). Lemon Pepper Marcona Almonds, Preserved Lemons, Strawberry Lavender Jam, and in-house Toasted Baguettes were the perfect complements.

He shared that Whole Foods has over 400 different cheeses on hand, including many local and seasonal varieties. They are happy to let you sample any cheese, or help you build an impressive cheese board.

The evening was filled with excellent food, drink and lively conversation between the knowledgeable Whole Foods team and the always inquisitive-about-every-detail Dames. Thank you to Whole Foods for hosting such a multi-faceted and interesting event!

Platform Beer / Whole Foods Launch Event

Platform Beer Co. is brewing Veloracer, a grapefruit shandy, to celebrate the efforts of the local non-profit and bike track, the Cleveland Velodrome. Veloracer will be introduced to the public at a launch party on August 11, 2016, 5-10 PM, at Platform. Whole Foods Market will offer a BBQ plate with spent grain bread at the event.

Then, the brew will be available in 6-packs ONLY at Whole Foods Market Cleveland (Cedar Center, Chagrin & Rocky River) for a limited time beginning August 15, 2016. $1 per 6-pack sold will be donated to the Cleveland Velodrome.


Dame du Jour: Britt-Marie Culey

By Maria Isabella
Interview by
Paula Hershman

What does a newly minted pre-med graduate who’s just starting out in her career as a medical professional do when her passion suddenly runs dry? In Britt’s case, she turns to her other unfulfilled passion instead: baking. So she ran with it—and has never looked back since.

Growing up in Connecticut, Britt admits food was a big part of her life. “My Swedish mother always prepared home-cooked meals,” she says. “Nothing was out of a box. She created everything from scratch. Chocolate roll cakes. Butter cream frostings. Even meringues.”

She loved helping her mom. So when Britt needed a part-time job during high school, she chose to work at a bakery. All through college, she worked in a bagel shop. And all through culinary school, she worked in a coffee shop where she created all their pastries. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

When Britt realized medicine was not for her, she decided to enroll in the Western Culinary Institute (now known as Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts) in Portland, Oregon. After obtaining her associate’s degree in culinary arts, she left for the South of France to work at Le Petit Prince, a traditional French pastry shop.

“My only days off were Sundays,” explains Britt. “There was always a big farmers’ market in the center of town with an enormous paella, in the largest paella pan I have ever seen. I loved it so much it would feed me for three days!”

After returning to the States, she landed a job at Financier, another French pastry shop, this time in Manhattan. Serendipity eventually brought her and her husband, Shane, to Cleveland where she opened up her own French bakery, Coquette Pâttisserie.

Has it been worth it? In Britt’s own words, she says, “I’m so proud I actually took the step to change careers. Now I get to do what I love. I work, shop, and bake all day. I come home and feed my children. Then I sit down with a glass of wine. I even dream about food! It’s my life.”

When not working or eating at her favorite restaurant (she loves #3 at Superior Pho), she enjoys entertaining at home.

“We like to entertain casually with close friends, great food, drinks, and a themed spread with small pickings,” says Britt. “Preferably in our backyard with the fire pit and bar set up.”

As for what she likes best about being a member of LDEI, Britt says, “I enjoy being with all the ladies. I really look forward to our meetings and getting to know other interesting women in the industry.”

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

Which one chef (living or deceased) would you want to invite over for dinner and what would you serve? Julia Child. I would get her drunk on wine and serve her Beef Bourguignon.

What is your favorite cookbook? Larousse Gastronomique.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Chicken noodle soup. It’s hearty and full of flavor, starting with a full free-range chicken.

Any favorite indulgences? Alcohol, wine, beer, and Champagne. I sell all of these at my pâtisserie. But my all-time favorite to the core is Champagne!

Do you have a signature dish? Risotto.

What’s your go-to, quick-and-easy dinner? Stir-fry whatever I have in the fridge, with rice or pasta.

What’s your favorite dessert to prepare? Mousses. A compilation of crunchy, chewy, any-flavor profile.

What’s the biggest cooking mistake you’ve ever made? Let’s just say I’m not allowed to deep fry anything. My husband is in charge of that. He’s from Louisiana.

Name 3 kitchen gadgets you can’t live without. Blowtorch, bench scraper, and rubber spatula.

What would people be surprised to find in your kitchen? Caviar in a tube. It’s an alternative to salt. You can put it on everything!