Using Local/Sustainable Foods for Every Day Meals - A Green Tables Wrap-up from the Annual LDEI National Conference

By Molly Reams Thompson (Cleveland)
and Heather Hunter (San Antonio)

What if one conversation could literally change the course of a community environmentally, socially, and economically? The Green Tables team set out to do just that by serving up a generous helping of interesting conversation at the annual Saturday morning breakfast on October 26, 2013.

extraordinary women representing the perspectives of policy and community, producer/retail, restaurant/chef and community service/nutrition perspectives.  Whether  born and/or raised in the food community, some thing or event - or series of events - led each of the participants down the path to making a difference and participating in a vibrant local food system.

different regions within Texas were represented in this lively presentation.

common threads emerged from the conversation as ways to strengthen and change the conversation about local food: Communication; collaboration; and education.

simple words, Green Tables, convey an important mission within the LDEI community.

Finally, while each panel expert revealed a distinct journey of food, they all converged into One shared commitment to change the way that people think about, relate to, and consume food.

This year's theme, "Serving Local Foods for Everyday Meals," was established by  committee members Wendy Taggert (Dallas-Ft. Worth), Shubhra Ramenini (Houston), Julia Rosenfeld (San Antonio), Heather Hunter (San Antonio), Molly Kaminski (Houston), Drew Faulkner (Washington, DC), and Molly Thompson (Cleveland), local foods advocate who also served as the morning's moderator.  Others who were integral but worked behind the scenes included GT Chairs Linda Geren and Lynn Fredericks, as well as Ashley James (creator of the GT blog and Pinterest sites).

The panel featured four stars of Texas
one shining example from each of the Texas chapters and included:

  • Wendy Taggert, Dallas-Fort Worth Dame and co-founder of Burgundy Pasture Beef, demonstrated not only the power of producing a dry-aged beef but also networking with other local producers to offer a range of superior products for everyday meals. 
  • San Antonio Dame Heather Hunter, founder of Cowgirl Granola and the Quarry Farmers Market, and Silbia Esparza, executive director of Time Dollar, shared the impact of their unique partnership whereby surplus produce and other fine edibles are donated to the food pantry each week.
  • Houston chef, Monica Pope, shared how her commitment to real food brings together people in her local community as well as celebrities from around the world.
  • Ronda Rutledge, executive director of Austins Sustainable Food Center (also the organization that hosted the Day of Service on Food Day on October 24) enlightened the audience about the importance of access to local food in any community.
One of the biggest barriers to getting people to shift their perspective on what local food provides is that they dont immediately see the connection between eating locally and the bottom line. This panel helped to shed a light on different ways that local food impacts our communities.  With growers, producers, and educators all seated at the table, attendees were treated to a well-rounded discussion of a topic that is impacting communities all around the globe.  Each speaker each gave her own unique perspective from all across the farm to table continuum on the value of local foods and what it provides for their own communities.

Following the panel, there was an outpouring of interest and support.  One Dame was so moved she wrote a check on the spot to support Silbia Esparza's Time Dollar Community Connections program in San Antonio.

As arbiters of excellence in fine food, beverage and hospitality, it is incumbent upon us as Dames to be champions of change in the food communities in which we live.  Not sure how you can make a difference in your own back yard?  Here are a few ideas to plant the seeds of change regarding food in your community:

  • Consider one thing you would change about the current conversation people in your community have about local food.
  • Be unapologetically present when it comes to your food.
  • Contemplate one food discovery you'd like your community to make and share about it with your friends, family and neighbors.
Hungry for more? Please visit the Green Tables page on the LDEI website as well as the new blog!


Dame du Jour: Gloria Cipri-Kemer

by Maria Isabella

With a paternal family that owned a deli and pizza parlor in Connecticut and a maternal family that owned a neighborhood café in Colorado, it’s no wonder Gloria Cipri-Kemer is in the hospitality business today.

“Hospitality is my main concentration,” says Gloria. “Making people feel comfortable and feeding them is what I love to do.”

Clevelanders are certainly very lucky to have her. In fact, they’ve been flocking to her ever-popular establishment, the Emerald Necklace Bed-and-Breakfast Inn in Fairview Park, Ohio, ever since it opened in 1999. But make no mistake. This is no ordinary inn; it’s also a tea room, a spa, a beauty salon (Gloria is a licensed cosmetologist), and a gift shop.

“I was developing children’s beauty salons in Southern California and designing hair products and styling equipment before I moved to Cleveland. Once here, I decided to open up my own inn/beauty salon, and the rest, as they say, is history!” explains this award-winning entrepreneur.

As a child, she loved helping her Italian mother and grandmother in the kitchen. She particularly remembers Sundays, when she would savor the aroma of meatballs cooking. No wonder, of all the places she’s traveled, she loves the food of Northern and Southern Italy the best.

“The sauces were garden fresh,” she reminisces, “and the bread was a meal in itself.”

As for how she likes to entertain herself these days, Gloria says it’s all about making it special. “I love taking the time to carefully set my table, the time to cook home-style food, and the time to eat leisurely with family and friends.”

Gloria has been a member of LDEI’s Cleveland chapter from the very beginning. “I joined after I saw a small ad in the Plain Dealer,” she explains.

As for what she enjoys most about being a member? “Besides all the great food,” she reflects, “I enjoy meeting very interesting women and learning about different styles of restaurants.”

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

What is your favorite restaurant and what do you usually order there? Pier W. I really enjoy all their fish meals.

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten? In Colorado, I ordered an appetizer called “Rocky Mountain Oysters.” Turned out, it wasn’t fish.

Which one chef would you want to invite over for dinner and what would you serve? I would love to meet Martha Stewart and hang out with her. I would fix her my grandmother’s home-made tacos.

Describe your perfect meal (including wine if desired). I love steak and seafood. I’m not a wine drinker.

What’s your favorite comfort food? My husband’s pork and sauerkraut over mashed potatoes. I’d never heard of this dish until I moved to Cleveland. He’s Irish and German.

Any favorite indulgences? Fresh strawberries and pound cake topped with real whipped cream.

What’s your favorite snack? Any hot drink with any creamy dessert. Then I’m in heaven.

What’s your go-to, quick-and-easy dinner? My quick-and-easy signature dish is chicken cutlets.

What’s one ingredient you can’t live without? It’s a toss-up between tomatoes and garlic.

Name 3 kitchen gadgets you can’t live without. A good knife, zester, and hand whip.


Inspirational Keynote Address at the Conference

By Shara Bohach

Much was inspirational at the Les Dames d'Escoffier conference this October in Austin, Texas. Each session offered valuable insight into running the chapter and/or running one's business. The keynote address by Roz Mallet, "Texas Roots to National Stage" was particularly energizing.

Rosalyn (Roz) Mallet offered inspiring words about actively managing your career and moving it forward through instinct, innovation, mentoring, and values-based leadership. Overcoming odds as a double minority, Roz states that you never know what you cannot do until you try. She spoke with passion about opportunities in the restaurant industry, asserting that if you work hard, develop and believe in your instincts, and proceed with confidence, you can do anything.

In her ten tips for outstanding leadership, she includes “seek mentors and seek to mentor.” The giving back is equally, if not more important. With the help of mentors at every step of her career path, Roz has gone from working summers in college as a restaurant cashier to high-level positions with restaurant brands we all know, to becoming the first African-American woman to lead the National Restaurant Association (only the third woman to be chair of the board in their 96 year history).

Always a well-prepared risk-taker, Roz left a highly successful corporate career to start an entrepreneurial business, at the start of a recession, no less. She succeeded in building PhaseNext Hospitality, a multi-brand franchise operating company, in non-traditional foodservice locations such as airports and military bases. She consistently seeks out unique opportunities, and creates business from them.

Roz encouraged Dames to "learn the bad lessons very, very well, because those are the most important," and to "allow someone to ask you what could you have done better." These are the insights that will guide you toward your next success.


Annual Meeting at Lucky’s Cafe

By Shara Bohach

22 Cleveland Dames were in attendance at the 2013 Annual Meeting at Lucky’s Cafe in Tremont. After the chapter meeting's business including a "Year in Review," Dame Heather Haviland and her fabulous staff dished up an amazing, as-local-as-it-gets menu. She detailed out the ingredients which came predominantly from Ohio farms, and as close as the garden next to the restaurant.

Dinner started with the savory and sweet Butternut Squash Maple Soup followed by a Mixed Green Salad with warm blue cheese dressing and candied pecans. Dames had their choice of House-made Pesto-Ricotta Ravioli with Roasted Tomato Sauce or the Pan-Fried Breaded Chicken Breast with Wild Mushroom Gravy, Roasted, Herbed Fingerling Potatoes, and Sautéed Vegetables. The chicken breast was such a large portion, that every Dame who had it took home lunch for the next day! Dessert, a Chocolate Mousse Bombe made by Heather's pastry chef (pictured here), was as beautiful as it was decadent.

Dames brought their own wine to share over this truly delectable dinner. The table, decked out in a beautiful fall theme with candelabras and fresh flowers, added to the cozy ambiance. A big thanks to Lucky's Cafe for such a great evening! See more photos...


Dame du Jour: Marilou Suszko

By Maria Isabella

What highly successful, veteran magazine editor in her right mind would leave it all behind for a budding new career in the food arts? Marilou Suszko, that’s who.

“Fat paychecks are very nice,” she says, “but loving what you’re doing more than makes up for what doesn’t appear in your bank account.”

After working for more than 25 years for a variety of magazines in the restaurant industry with both the venerable Harcourt Brace Jovanovich and Advanstar Communications, Marilou decided to strike it out on her own — first as a journalist and food writer, then as a culinary instructor and, eventually, author.

It seems Marilou has come full circle to her earliest love: food and family.

“Family gatherings always revolved around food and drink,” explains Marilou. “I had lard-and-butter–using grandmothers who knew how to feed a crowd. In fact, the one food that always reminds me of home is good old-fashioned meatloaf.”

Marilou doesn’t even hesitate when asked who has influenced her love of food the most. “Every single person who introduces me to a new ingredient, flavor, food, or recipe is a significant influence,” she beams.

That influence is most clearly evident in the people Marilou has come to know and respect during her writing of three popular books:  Farms and Foods of OhioThe Locavore’s Kitchen, and her latest (co-written with  pal, Laura Taxel), Cleveland’s West Side Market: 100 Years and Still Cooking, which is, not surprisingly, her biggest professional pride to-date.

“I would like to think that at some point [Cleveland’s West Side Market] will be looked at as the definitive reference for the first 100 years,” reflects Marilou.

When not traveling, Marilou loves to entertain either around her dining room table or in her backyard. “We set up a ton of tables and invite just as many people. I love the buzz and seeing the tables full of friends,” she says.

Marilou is a charter member of LDEI and has served in just about every capacity since the Cleveland chapter formed.

As for what she enjoys most about being a member? “Certainly my fellow members,” she admits readily. “The diversity is inspiring.”

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

What is your favorite cookbook? I’m really loving Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty right now. But my go-to book and the one that I give all the young people just starting out in life is Mark Bittman’s  How to Cook Everything. I look at that as the new-age Betty Crocker or BHG.

What is your favorite food blog? I like to read Russ Parsons (of the LA Times) plus any other food blog that catches my eye.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Poached eggs in tomato sauce and a ton of cookies.

Any favorite indulgences? Cookies and red wine.

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

What’s the biggest cooking mistake you’ve ever made? Like, a million. But how else could you possibly learn? As a young bride, I made my first corned beef by throwing the cryovacked brisket (still in the plastic) into the water and boiled it to a gray finish. I was thick in the boil-in-a-bag era. The price tag floated to the top of the water.

Name 3 things that are always in your refrigerator. Homemade yogurt, yeast, and maple syrup.

Name 3 gadgets you can’t live without. My immersion blender, KitchenAid mixer, and set of knives.

What would people be surprised to find in your kitchen? I always have a ton of pomegranate seeds stashed in the freezer. Can’t get enough of them.

What is the one thing you like best about your kitchen? I have five windows that look out into the yard…and when it snows, it feels like being inside a snow globe. Stand in my kitchen and you can see the seasons change, the redbuds fill the room with pink, the sun shine in, and even the rain soak the yard.


MacKenzie Creamery Tour
& Chapter Meeting

By Shara Bohach, Photo by Beth Segal

On July 22, 2013, Cleveland Dames and guests met at Mackenzie Creamery for a tour, tasting, and chapter meeting. The evening began with a meeting in Dame Jean Mackenzie's beautiful farmstead home. While enjoying the fresh buffet of appetizers and wine that members brought, we were treated to some history of how Jean found the property, added to the home while maintaining the wonderful farmhouse architecture and design, and started her creamery business.

We then visited the creamery, amid the beautiful, expansive country setting. We donned the requisite hairnets and booties, and camped it up for photos taken by Dame Beth Segal. Jean shared the history, challenges, successes, and future of Mackenzie Creamery with us. We saw the equipment, the packaging area, and the already-spoken-for product ready to ship from the cooler. Having tried several cheeses on the appetizer buffet, including the delightful Apricot-Ginger, we tried some fresh Ricotta in the creamery, which had so much more flavor than the regular Ricotta you find in stores. Delish!

Next, it was on to visit the goats. Four goats live at Mackenzie Creamery, but they are moreso Jean's pets than goats that provide the milk for the cheese. Actually, they proudly purchase their milk from two local goat dairies.

We had planned a hayride for the end of the evening, but the rain had other plans. So we called it an evening after visiting with the goats. It really was another great evening with good friends, great food and wine, and a wonderful education on goat cheese. Thank you Dame Jean!

To see more photos, please visit our facebook page.


Dame du Jour: Terry Frick

By Maria Isabella, Interview by Linda Fletcher

As owner of the highly popular Frickaccio’s Pizza Market, Terry Frick enjoys hard-earned success with not one, but two locations: at the West Side Market (Stand A8) and in Fairview Park. And although her original, world-famous pizza bagel has garnered plenty of national recognition and even attracted presidential attention (her stand was asked to be the only food vendor for President Obama’s most recent visit to Cleveland), what she’s most proud of is her certified organic dough balls.

In the food business for nine years, Terry says it was mostly her family who influenced her early love of food. “Pork chops on the grill remind me most of my mom,” says Terry. “But my earliest memory of food was, believe it or not, lobster!”

When she entertains now, Terry likes to create new menus and food for friends. As for her go-to, quick-and-easy dinner? “Chicken breast and veggie sides,” she shares.

Her favorite restaurant?  Wild Mango, where she frequently orders the Shrimp with Spinach.

And when it comes to her favorite global destination, Terry doesn’t even hesitate. “Paris!” she replies. “I love everything about it!”

Terry says she learned of LDEI through a member. What does she enjoy most about her membership? “I really enjoy supporting and helping people to grow a business,” she exclaims.

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

Which one chef would you want to invite over for dinner and what would you serve? Chef Gordon Ramsey. Linguine with clam sauce.

What is your favorite cookbook? Gourmet magazine’s annual “Best of” hardcovers.

Describe your perfect meal. French bread, Dijon mustard, capers, Brie, Beef Bourguignon, and French Beaujolais wine.

What is your favorite comfort food? Meatloaf.

Any favorite indulgences? Dark chocolate.

What’s your favorite snack? Cheese.

Do you have a signature dish? Linguine with clam sauce.

What’s your favorite dessert to prepare? Chocolate angel food cake.

What’s the biggest cooking mistake you’ve ever made? Figuring out that a clove of garlic is not a bulb!

What would people be surprised to find in your kitchen? A smoker.


Happy Hour at Pier W's New Rooftop Patio

By Shara Bohach

On Monday evening, Cleveland Dames and guests were the first to test drive Pier W's new patio and its spectacular lakefront view. We enjoyed a relaxing evening and the cool breezes of the lake, while lounging in comfy deck chairs and sipping summery beverages, such as the refreshing Vodka Cucumber Lemonade and Mojitos. Pier W treated us to a wonderful outdoor buffet of appetizers: Lobster Spring Rolls, Basil Risotto Cakes, Fresh Tomato Bruschetta, and Shredded Beef Empanadas. Everything was absolutely delicious. Thank you to General Manager, Mark Kawada, and his staff for the wonderful hospitality!

Pier W's patio is slated to open to the public next week and is going to be a stunning place to take in summer sunsets. The landmark Cleveland restaurant has been serving a critically acclaimed seafood menu since 1965. The unique building that houses Pier W is uniquely designed to resemble the hull of a ship cruising along Lake Erie.

We all commented that we felt like we were on a cruise ship on the open water. What a treat, for happy hour to feel like vacation!


Dame du Jour: Linda Fletcher

By Maria Isabella, Interview by Terry Frick

This beautiful painting was created by
Lissa Bockrath, Linda's favorite Cleveland artist.
There are two loves in Linda Fletcher’s life: ballet and food/wine. And not necessarily in that order.
Linda is, in fact, a classically trained ballerina. She is a prodigy of Canada’s National Ballet School, which is located in Toronto and is one of the most renowned ballet schools in the world. After graduation, she was invited to join The National Ballet Company and was a soloist for many years.
Although she loves to dance, she also loves food and wine just as much. Why is that? “It makes people happy,” she says simply.
Growing up, Linda had an intense interest in all things food and wine. Even as a young girl, she would regularly scour the food section of her local newspaper – so much so that, one year, her dad gave her a subscription to Gourmet magazine as a gift. There’s no denying she truly had an early appreciation for the culinary arts. And it continues to this day.
“I enjoy learning about wine from all over the world and am happy to acquire new information every time I visit a wine store,” says Linda. “I also want to share that knowledge with others. For the past 18 years, I’ve been teaching people/customers about new wines, the details of their specific cultures, and the perfect food to enjoy with them.”
Today, as a highly sought-after consultant for wine and special events, Linda still enjoys the role food and wine play in her life. “It’s the BEST part!” she says, beaming.
As to how she heard of LDEI, she says it was through “a guy friend.” And what does she enjoy most about being a Dame? “Sharing with others and supporting new people,” Linda admits with a smile.
Learn more about Linda as she shares some fun and interesting insights about herself.
What food always reminds you of home? My dad always made pancakes, so that reminds me of home.

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten? Clam soup at The Greenhouse Tavern. It had foie gras in it!

Which one chef would you want to invite over for dinner and what would you serve? David Shalleck, chef/founder of VOLOCHEF Culinary Solutions and co-author of Mediterranean Summer. I would create a new dish with inspiration from his onion pulp secret!

What is your favorite cookbook? The Umberto Menghi Cookbook.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Ice cream.

Any favorite indulgences? Dark chocolate.

How do you like to entertain? Trying new recipes for my friends to experience.

Do you have a signature dish? Paella.

What’s your favorite dessert to prepare? Croquembouche.

What would people be surprised to find in your kitchen? Fifteen pots!


Dishing with Dames at The West Side Market

By Shara Bohach

Sold Out! Our 2013 Fundraiser, Dishing with Dames at The West Side Market was a great success. Over 140 gathered at Market Garden Brewery last night to hear stories of obstacles, inspirations and long, long, long days of work as told by lady vendors from this historic Cleveland landmark. We heard from Irene Dever, founder of Irene Dever Dairy (a stand that has been in operation for over 35 years), Judy Khouri of Judy’s Oasis, and Emma Beno of The Pork Chop Shop. We heard the story of a lady vendor who took a break to get married, paraded around the market in a pickle cart as a "reception", and then got promptly back to work! This lively discussion was moderated by Dame Marilou Suszko and Laura Taxel, authors of Cleveland's West Side Market: 100 Years and Still Cooking. The authors signed copies of their book for guests after the presentation.

Guests enjoyed small dishes featuring prepared foods and artisan products from women-owned stands at the Market. These included Beer Brat Sliders (The Pork Chop Shop), Deviled Eggs (Irene Dever Dairy), Hummus, Baba Ghannouj, and Pita (Judy’s Oasis), Mozzarella Skewers and Roasted Asparagus Salad (The Basketeria, and The Olive & The Grape), Pizza Bagels and Craft Italian Ices (Frickaccio’s Pizza Market), Assorted Cannoli (Theresa’s Bakery), and Cupcake Truffles and Popcorn (Campbell's Sweets Factory). And we cannot forget the "Shrub!" Each guest was treated to a rum cocktail created specially for the event: Dames’ Portside Rum Shrub Cocktail with Aged White Balsamic Vinegar from The Olive & The Grape.

Some fantastic prizes were raffled off to lucky winners, including restaurant gift certificates, books, baskets of culinary delights, tours and classes. All were donated by our generous members and friends. Brewer Jennifer Hermann conducted tours of the Market Garden Brew House for those interested.

The numbers are still coming in, but the fundraiser generated terrific funds which will be granted via our Green Tables initiative later this summer. Thank you to all who came, and especially those who donated their time, sponsorship, and raffle prizes.

See many more photos from the evening on our facebook page.


Dame du Jour: Molly Reams Thompson

By Maria Isabella, Interview by Elaine Cicora

When Molly Reams Thompson was posed this challenge several years ago – “Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to change how we feed and educate our communities by creating nourishing, nurturing, and engaging environments” – she not only accepted it, she’s embraced it ever since as her life’s work.

Molly is the founder of Feeding Creativity, an organic consulting firm that works with organizations and communities to propel cultural and economic shifts using food as a catalyst. In her “spare” time, she teaches entrepreneurship to Urban Agriculture students at Owens Community College. She also serves as the committee chair overseeing Toledo GROWs, an outreach program of Toledo Botanical Garden, and is working on several exciting food-related projects in and around Northwest Ohio.  Previously, she was the Director of Development for Veggie U, where she achieved one of her proudest professional accomplishments: raising nearly $900,000 in less than three years through partnerships with companies such as Chipotle and Whole Foods.

Food has, in fact, been a central theme throughout Molly’s life. Her earliest childhood memory of food is helping her mother and grandmother in their kitchen when she was only three years old. Growing up, she would continue to help her mom, who threw, as Molly puts it, “outrageous dinner parties with food that looked like it belonged on the cover of Gourmet magazine.”

When Molly was in fifth grade, she started taking French lessons. Her mom told her if she stuck with it, she would take her to France. Her mom made good on her promise. The summer before Molly’s senior year in high school, she traveled to France with her mother and grandmother where, together, they spent three weeks in a cooking school.

“When we got back to the U.S. and for several years after,” says Molly, “I would get paid to make the dessert tarts we’d perfected in that French cooking school. It was a pretty incredible experience I will never forget.”

So it comes as no surprise that Molly went on to earn a BA in French from St. Lawrence University, then eventually an MBA from the University of Michigan.

Now, when she entertains, she loves to gather people together, especially different groups of people. “Last summer we co-hosted a progressive dinner party,” Molly recalls. “The cocktails were at a neighbor’s house. Dinner was served al fresco in our backyard, with little tea lights on the table and along the path. Then dessert was at another neighbor’s house. There were about 20 people, and it was absolutely wonderful!”

As to how she heard of LDEI, she says it was “through Jennifer Brush and Crickett Karson.  I’ve now been a member since 2011.” What does she enjoy most about being a Dame? “I love being around powerful, like-minded women who are up to big/fantastic things.”

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

What’s your favorite restaurant and what do you usually order there? Walt’s Wharf in Seal Beach, California. I order fresh seafood (whatever they recommend) and a matching wine.

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?
Either cow’s intestine in Prague, or sparrow in China (not much meat going on there), or something that might have been sea urchin in Japan. These are the few times I was actually glad I didn’t speak the language and didn’t know ahead of time what I was eating.

Which one chef would you want to invite over for dinner and what would you serve?
Perhaps Alice Waters because she has been so inspirational on my food advocacy quest. I would serve all locally sourced and seasonally appropriate foods from local producers and farmers.

Any favorite indulgences?
Jean Mackenzie’s goat cheeses, Jeni’s ice creams, and really good chocolate, cheese, or bread from  Zingerman’s. I also LOVE a good glass (or three) of red wine and am recently enjoying branching out from the typical Napa reds.

What’s your favorite snack?
Stove-cooked popcorn made with coconut oil and sprinkled with freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus chopped fresh rosemary and sage. Or a nice square of 72%-85% dark chocolate.

Do you have a signature dish?
Currently, I am known for my simple roasted veggies. But historically, I have been a dessert person. From my cooking school days, I made a tarte aux fruits that was really delicious.

What’s your go-to, quick-and-easy dinner?
Tacos made with locally sourced/sustainably raised lamb or hamburger, roasted peppers, hand-cooked tortillas, sour cream, sharp white cheddar cheese, lettuce, and salsa. And if we’re not having a yummy (kitchen industry term!) red wine, my husband makes a fantastic daiquiri with fresh-squeezed limes and simple syrup.

What’s one ingredient you can’t live without?
Good fats (coconut oil, rendered bacon fat, pastured butter).

Name 3 things that are always in your refrigerator?
Wine (either inside or on top of the fridge, depending on whether it’s white or red), some veggie in season, and cheese.

Name 3 kitchen gadgets you can’t live without.
A great wine opener, a KitchenAid, and SONOS – because I love listening to music while cooking!


The Wonderful World of Balsamics

at The Olive and The Grape in Mentor Ohio 
By Cynthia Schuster-Eakin, with additions by Shara Bohach

Cleveland Dames discovered “The Wonderful World of Balsamics” at their March membership meeting, hosted by Dame Candice Berthold, owner of The Olive and The Grape.

Berthold led Northeast Ohio chapter members on a tour of the flavored balsamics she sells at her shops in Mentor, Kamm’s Corner and in the West Side Market. The hour-long tasting and class at the Mentor location began with an appetizer of assorted olives and peppers marinated in The Olive and The Grape’s Liquid Gold aged balsamic vinegar.

Dame Jean Mackenzie of Mackenzie’s Creamery provided a three-week-old boucheron of goat cheese, which was drizzled with fig balsamic. A mini caprese salad of tomatoes and mozzarella cheese was seasoned with lemongrass basil oil and sun-dried tomato balsamic. Sautéed vegetables were marinated in carrot ginger balsamic vinegar. A dessert of decadent brownies laced with red raspberry chocolate balsamic vinegar was a unique and delicious finale. After the dinner, chapter members sampled four additional balsamics.

Recently accredited as a Certified Health Coach, Candice Berthold, CHC, AADP, engaged members in a discussion about the health benefits of balsamics and olive oils, and cautioned members about inferior products found at the grocery store. This transpired into a lively discussion about the worst toxic GMO foods we consume, and what we should all try to avoid.

Guest Ilona Simon, owner of Budapest Blonde Cocktail Mixes, concocted a “Balsama-Mama” mocktail flavored with bergamot orange lime barrel-aged balsamic vinegar to accompany the meal. Members noted how her mix was so much less sweet than the usual cocktail mixes. This is because her ingredients are not chemical-laden, and have a significantly lower sodium, sugar and calorie count per serving. They were delish!

Cleveland Dames ended the meeting by browsing the shelves at The Olive and The Grape, selecting one-of-a-kind products to take home to flavor their own recipes.


Dame du Jour: Carol Hacker

By Maria Isabella, Interview by Ruth Levine

When Carol Hacker was just a little girl, she got her very first Easy-Bake Oven. The moment she first tried the oven out was when she decided, right then and there, what she wanted more than anything else in the world was to work in the Betty Crocker kitchens. Don’t laugh. She was so serious that she had her mother take her to the bank the very next day and open her first bank account in order to save money for the airfare to go tour their kitchens.

Even though Carol never did get to work for Betty Crocker Kitchens in Golden Valley, Minnesota, she did make food her life’s work. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in science, Carol worked in a number of food-related positions. The most rewarding accomplishment during her 35-year tenure? “Turning around Kerr’s TK and Consumer Affairs Department and making it professional with at least a four-fold increase in accomplishment and productivity,” she says with pride.

As a freelance home economist – and the Cleveland chapter’s current Vice President, Carol still continues to enjoy all things food.

“My earliest childhood memory of food is eating prime rib bones in the backyard,” says Carol. “Then again, my grandma’s Hungarian cooking and my mom’s macaroni and cheese were to-die-for as well!”

Today, when it comes to entertaining, Carol likes to host sit-down dinners instead. “I have to use all my mother’s china and sterling – but in a casual atmosphere,” she explains.

And if she could invite only one chef over for dinner, who would it be? “Definitely Julia Child,” admits Carol. “Because I think she would be fun. But I would really have to have it catered!” she adds with a laugh.

How did Carol first hear of Les Dames? “From Laura Taxel and IACP in 2006,” she explains. “I joined that summer.” She goes on to add, “Meeting and becoming friends with a great group of accomplished women is what I have enjoyed most about being a member of LDEI.”

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

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?
Pig testicles. I used to can them and send them to my boss when I was really ticked off!

What is your favorite cookbook? Joy of Cooking – the older version.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Anything high fat.

Any favorite indulgences?
Starbucks’ Java Chip Frappuccino Ice Cream.

What’s your go-to, quick-and-easy dinner? Cheese and crackers.

What’s your favorite dessert to prepare? Apple pie.

What’s the biggest cooking mistake you’ve ever made?
Probably not the biggest, but early on, one mistake that stands out is when I used two heads of garlic in a recipe that called for two cloves of garlic!

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

Name 3 things that are always in your refrigerator? Wine, half-and-half, and diet pop.

Name 3 kitchen gadgets you can’t live without.
Rubber spatula, can opener, and a sharp chef’s knife.


Dame du Jour: Ruth Levine

By Maria Isabella, Interview by Carol Hacker
When Ruth Levine was looking for a job 25 years ago, she only wanted one thing: a flexible schedule. She had young kids at the time, and the ability to set her own schedule was essential to her. So she began catering for a wine store in Hudson.

Fast-forward to today when she owns her own hugely popular and highly successful restaurant: Bistro 185. And that didn’t happen by luck.

When advising someone just starting out in a culinary career, Ruth shares, “Get as much experience as you can. Start at the bottom and work up.” Which is exactly what she did herself.
Growing up, Ruth would watch intently as her mom cooked. Her favorite food was chicken soup with matzo balls and noodles.

In college, she would cook for her roommates and they would pass off Ruth’s food as their own to their boyfriends. After college, she worked – without pay – for a French chef for a year just to gain the experience. Then she worked yet another year – again without pay – this time for a Chinese chef.

Her combined experience and passion for food led her to eventually open her bistro, which is her proudest professional accomplishment to date.

When it comes to entertaining in her own home, Ruth likes to keep it very casual. “I’ll put a lot of food out on the kitchen island and just let my guests help themselves, especially in the summertime while we’re all out on the deck.”

How did Ruth first hear of Les Dames? “From Laura Taxel and Shara (Foldi) Bohach about three years ago,” she explains. “And the thing I have enjoyed most about being a member of this group,” she goes on to say, “is meeting other women in the food business.”

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

Of all the places you’ve traveled, where did you have the best food?On Corfu in Greece at a restaurant that overlooked the Mediterranean Sea. You got to choose your own just-caught fish, and it was cooked sublimely simply.

Describe your perfect meal.
Perfectly roasted chicken, roasted red potatoes, and nice wine.

What’s your favorite comfort food?
A good glazed donut and a good kosher hot dog.

What’s your favorite snack?Potato chips and Tootsie Rolls.

What’s your go-to, quick-and-easy dinner?
Fish made as a simple sauté with butter, capers, lemon juice, and white wine.

What’s your favorite dessert to prepare?Anything with apples, year-round.

What’s the biggest cooking mistake you’ve ever made?
Overcooked Beef Wellingtons for 30. I had to re-do all of them!

Name 3 things that are always in your refrigerator.
Eggs, butter, and milk.

Name 3 kitchen gadgets you can’t live without.
Food processor, coffee maker, and mixer.

What would people be surprised to find in your kitchen pantry?
Canned baked beans.