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.


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!


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.