“Waste Not, Want Not” Addresses Food Waste Problem in U.S.

Boston Conference session summary written for the LDEI Quarterly
By Cynthia Schuster Eakin

Food, a most valuable commodity, is being wasted at an incredible rate in this country, while a good portion of our nation’s populace goes hungry.

“Waste Not, Want Not,” an informative session at the LDEI International conference held in Boston, addressed the problems of food waste and food insecurity in the U.S.  Speakers at the session included Ashley Stanley, founder and executive director of Lovin’ Spoonfuls Food Rescue, and Dame Edith Murnane, director of food initiatives for the City of Boston. Emily Broad Leib, deputy director of the Food Law and Policy Clinic at Harvard Law School, addressed some of the legal issues that contribute to food waste and distribution.

“Food is a right and not a privilege,” Ashley Stanley said. “Hunger is a problem of local distribution. A third of the world’s food supply is being tossed. Yet, there are 49 million hungry Americans. We could fill the Rose Bowl with fresh food every day and set it on fire and that is the amount of food being wasted nationwide.” Stanley went on to say that discarded food is the largest source of solid waste in our landfills. Lovin’ Spoonfuls, a non-profit funded by organizations and private donations, works with farmers markets, produce wholesalers and bakeries to rescue outdated food and distribute it to hunger agencies.

Emily Broad Leib helps provide law students with an opportunity to work with policy makers and food advocates, using the law to improve the food system. She noted that confusion over food expiration dates is a leading cause of waste. There are no federal standards for expiration dates, except for infant formula. Leib said not a single outbreak of foodbourne illness has been linked to an expiration date. Yet, 90 percent of consumers throw outdated food away. Her students are working to establish a uniform food dating system.

Edith Murnane said the City of Boston is promoting urban agriculture by growing food in vacant lots, on rooftops and other unused places and by launching a composting program in the city. Putting healthier, better-tasting food in schools would reduce food waste, she said. Murnane noted that about 60 percent of the 55,000 students in Boston public schools receive free or reduced-cost food. Plate waste studies indicate that, if tastier, chef-inspired dishes are created, students will eat the food and not throw it away.


Dame du Jour: Maggie Harrison

By Maria Isabella

While Maggie was working on her degree from the Cleveland Institute of Art, she did what most college kids do to earn money: she worked in food service with a variety of seasonal cooking positions. Fifteen years later, she couldn’t ignore the fact any longer: She loved everything about food.

“I finally realized that I really enjoyed the food industry,” says Maggie, “and that I could make it a serious career”—which she did.

Today, Maggie is a Cleveland sales representative for Vanguard Wines. To get to this point in her impressive 30-year career, she achieved some lofty credentials: CSW (Certified Specialist of Wine) and WSET (Wine and Spirits Educational Trust Level 3). She also attended the enviable, by-invitation-only Oregon Pinot Camp. Plus, she was once a wine buyer for Whole Foods, a very competitive position.

“It was my mom who influenced my love of food the most,” admits Maggie. “I still remember eating the heel of her freshly baked bread. I also remember pulling up my very first carrot out of her garden. The best carrot ever! I’ll never have one as good.”

She goes on to add, “Today, cooking is relaxing for me. It separates work from personal time. It’s a creative outlet and can be somewhat meditative in nature. As for wine, I think of it as a food. I serve it with meals, which slows you down. It also slows down the conversation you’re having with company. It’s pretty much a key ingredient to any meal.”

As for where she’s had the best wine, she says it would have to be in Piedmont, Italy.

“That is where things ‘clicked’ for me,” admits Maggie. “Locally grown produce and meat with local wine. Simple but fresh ingredients, simply prepared. It was the start of my visiting small towns throughout central Italy. Each one had its own distinct style and flavor. They really added definition to the term ‘local.’”

Of all the great foods she’s tried, the most unusual were the freshly caught octopus and crab on Corsica. “They were caught by our host’s son,” she explains. “His wet suit and spear, which we saw outside the cellar, gave us our first clue to the possibility of our evening meal. It was absolutely delicious and unusual for the fact that it was caught just for us within a mere hour of dinner.”

As for how she first heard of LDEI, Maggie says Beth Davis-Noragon invited her about five years ago, but she didn’t feel quite ready to join at that time. Then Beth asked her again last year, and she is now the Cleveland chapter’s vice president.

“LDEI’s mission is in line with what I am most passionate about: food, education, and philanthropy,” says Maggie.

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

What is your favorite cookbook? Joyof Cooking. A great resource.

What is your favorite food blog? Smitten Kitchen.

What’s your favorite comfort food? A casserole of eggplant and zucchini with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and lots of basil. Sort of an eggplant parmigiana.

Any favorite indulgences? Really good wine. Champagne, Barolo, Burgundy.

What’s your favorite snack? Peanut butter and gluten-free rice crackers with almond milk.

Do you have a signature dish? Baby back ribs. Even though I eat almost an entirely vegetarian diet, my ribs are the best. It’s the one meal I don’t have to ask my family twice to come over for!

What’s your go-to, quick-and-easy dinner? Stir-fried veggies with rice and noodles.

Name 3 things that are always in your refrigerator. Lemons, wine, and honey.

Name 3 kitchen gadgets you can’t live without. Cast iron pan, chef’s knife, and cutting board.

What would people be surprised to find in your kitchen pantry? Frozen tater tots.


Vegan Cooking at Frickaccio's: Vegan, Gluten-Free, Certified Organic… I'm Just Sayin'!

By Shara Bohach

What do diatomaceous earth and fish bladders have in common? You'd have to have attended Monday night's meeting at Frickaccio's in Fairview Park to know!

Photo by Gloria Kemer
Frickaccio's Owner, Dame Terry Frick and Chef Todd Rothman prepared a fantastic evening for lucky Cleveland Dames, full of demonstrations and tips for healthy and delicious vegan cooking, served with vegan wine.

Vegan wine? Isn't all wine vegan? Actually, no it is not. Dame Maggie Harrison educated us on the various methods used to fine (or filter and clarify) wines, which include straining it through dried egg whites or, less commonly, dehydrated fish bladder. Vegan wines use an alternate method. When seeking out vegan or vegetarian wines, one should look for un-fined wines, however, this is not something one can simply find on the label. Maggie noted Barnivore.com as a terrific resource for vegan wine, beer and liquor.

Oh, and if you are looking for gluten-free wines, seek out unoaked varietals. Oak barrel produced wines use wheat paste.

Dinner consisted of an abundant progressive tasting menu, balancing between lighter and heartier dishes, with explanations of flavors, ingredients, and processes along the way. Dames tried various gluten-free and vegan breads and spreads, an organic veggie pizza bagel, Chef Todd's vegan version of a crab cake (made with shredded hearts of palm), portobello bisque, strawberry / hazelnut salad, vegan paprikash, and an almond milk "ice cream" and flourless chocolate cake.

At the conclusion of dinner, Terry demonstrated making fresh almond milk in the Vitamix.

She then took us on a tour of the new facility and kitchen, and introduced us to Helga, her workhorse of a mixer! Frickaccio's does all of its baking on-site and sends product out to its West Side Market store and retailers, including Heinen's, whom she cites as a terrific partner. Frickaccio's offers around 10 varieties of certified-organic pizza dough balls, including gluten-free They are also trying something new with the new location – an eat-in cafe. Chef Todd looks to introduce creative vegan fare to the cafe-style menu.

Thank you, Frickaccio's, for hosting such an interesting, informative, and tasty evening!


Dame du Jour: Joan Pistone

by Maria Isabella

How strong is the bond of family? Stronger than anything else in this world—and Joan Pistone should know.

You see, Joan grew up in an extremely close-knit Italian family. In fact, her earliest memory was when she was only three years old, helping her mom and two sisters roll meatballs. “I remember rolling big ones for our Sunday dinner,” says Joan, smiling, “and tiny ones for baked rigatoni with hard-boiled eggs for Sunday picnics and wedding soup.”

She goes on to say, “We had many Sunday dinners at my grandparents’ house under the grapevines in their backyard with all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins. This went on every Sunday until they passed away.”

When Joan turned 13, she immediately became immersed in her family’s restaurant business, which included such notable eateries as Inner Lobby Coffee Shop and Lincoln Inn—both in downtown Cleveland.

Joan helped out during all her school breaks and every summer until she graduated from high school. Afterwards, she moved up to front-of-the-house manager.

“I was very familiar with how a restaurant operated, and I loved being around our employees and interacting with customers,” she says.

Eight years later, Joan decided to accept a position at the 5-star South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island, Florida. She managed their $4 million restaurant for four years before being lured away by Beaver Run Ski Resort in Breckenridge, Colorado. There, she managed their beverage department overseeing the main lodge plus five bars.

Suddenly, one year later, Joan had a decision to make. A big decision. Would she keep living the dream…or move back home to help her parents with their restaurant business? For Joan, the decision was an easy one.

Eventually, Joan and her brother bought out their father’s partners. Today, they co-own the highly successful J. Pistone Market and Gathering Place in Shaker Heights together.

“I come from a family where food was always such an important part of our lives, and still is!” says Joan.

When Joan entertains, it’s usually very casual. “I’m not a fabulous cook, but I know my way around a kitchen quite well,” she says. “We have family dinners every Sunday. It usually starts with apps, good wine, and cocktails. I like to make the whole dinner—always with some type of pasta! And since I’m not great at making dessert, I usually ask someone to bring that. Or else I’ll buy a good ice cream and make a homemade sauce. Everyone loves when I do that.”

Joan’s perfect meal? A whole roasted chicken with fresh herbs and lemon, plus a side of porcini mushroom risotto.

Her favorite restaurant? “I don’t really have one,” says Joan. “There are so many great restaurants in Cleveland, but I rarely go out to eat. However, when I do, I tend to enjoy Moxie. Jonathan (Bennett) does a great job.”

The best food she’s had while traveling? “The resort I worked at in Florida had a young executive chef, only 25 years old and a CIA grad. His name was Mike Clark. He was really the person who opened my eyes to the world of gourmet food. I can still taste his fresh grouper with a very light marinara sauce and risotto. I also never ate stone crabs that tasted so good before!”

As for how she first heard of LDEI, Joan says she was invited by Crickett Karson and Laura Taxel to attend the very first meeting. In fact, Joan was a founding member. “I believe we needed 13 members to form a chapter, and we did!”

What does she enjoy most about being an LDEI member? “Meeting so many different women in so many different aspects of the hospitality business. From writers and photographers, to chefs and wine experts, the group is ever-changing and everyone has something to offer. Our meetings are productive, and we cover some very interesting topics. I also enjoy that we are able to raise money that profits a needed organization.”

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

What is the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten? Where to begin?! Rocky Mountain oysters (the testicles of bull calves), pig’s feet, and my mother always made tripe.

Which one chef would you want to invite over for dinner and what would you serve? I would invite Mike Clark (the young chef from Florida), and I would want us to cook together. We’d probably make pasta and seafood.

What is your favorite cookbook? The Classic Italian Cook Book by Marcella Hazen and The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. I still refer to both books when cooking.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Spaghetti with meatballs, ricotta salata, and fresh basil.

What’s your favorite snack? Cashews with mini chocolate morsels.

Do you have a signature dish? I do tend to make a great chicken dish with figs and bacon.

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

Name 3 things that are always in your refrigerator. Jams, mustards, and cheese.

Name 3 kitchen gadgets you can’t live without. Mini chopper, Vitamix, and thermometer.

What would people be surprised to find in your kitchen pantry? Box cake mixes. I do like to make a lemon pound cake from a Duncan Hines cake mix with Jell-O lemon pudding.


USDA Appoints Our Own Dame Beth Knorr!

On July 28, 2014, USDA announced the appointment of 25 members to the Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee, including our own Beth Knorr! The Committee will meet up to two times per year to advise the Secretary of Agriculture on issues affecting the Fruit and Vegetable Industry. Here is Beth's account of the first meeting in DC this September.

By Dame Beth Knorr

It was a whirlwind trip to DC for the USDA Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee's first meeting on September 28-29. The committee members, announced in July of this year, jumped in with both feet on Monday morning. The committee includes representatives from small scale agriculture as well as representatives of packers, shippers, processors, large-scale cooperatives, farm labor, trade associations and more. Although there was the expected discussion on logistics and ethics for serving on a committee such as this, we also got to hear from a number of the Fruit and Vegetable Program Division managers to give us a sense of the varied work the USDA does in support of the fruit and vegetable world.

On the second day of the meeting we got to the heart of our task, which was to determine a few topic areas on which we could formulate statements or recommendations to Secretary Vilsack on how the USDA can support our work. We narrowed the topics down to five (which was no easy task!) Education; Research; Labor; Food Safety; and Port Inspections. As you can see these are fairly broad topics.  It is up to the sub-committees to carve out a piece of those topics they feel passionately about in order to come up with recommendations. Those will begin to be hammered out via conference calls, calling on experts for information, and (no doubt) intense debate.

While it can be a little intimidating to be in the same room as people representing organizations that are household names across the world, it's also exciting and encouraging. I'm honored to have a seat at the table, to be able to gain an appreciation of the struggles of everyone trying to get healthy food on our nation's plates, regardless of scale. And I'm doing my part to raise awareness of the struggles and issues of import to the farms we serve in our corner of the world.


The Globe / Cleveland Convention Center

By Maria Isabella | Photos by Shara Bohach

The Dames of Cleveland enjoyed their much-anticipated July meeting at two of Downtown Cleveland’s most exciting and premier locations: the new Cleveland Convention Center and the even-newer Urban Farmer steakhouse restaurant.

Eighteen Dames first gathered at the convention center for a private and fascinating tour led by Levy Restaurants’ Executive Chef Matt Del Regno (who just happens to be featured in fellow Dame Maria Isabella’s cookbook, In the Kitchen with Cleveland’s Favorite Chefs). The show rooms were impressive, and the magnitude of the entire space even more so.

Matt also seamlessly led everyone through the connected and much-praised Global Center for Health Innovation (or “the Globe” as it’s affectionately called)— the only facility in the world that displays the future of health and health care.

But the grand finale beat all as Matt capped the tour with a behind-the-scenes look at his underground, state-of-the-art service kitchen. Everyone’s envy was palpable as Matt explained each piece of equipment and the thought process behind its selection. His end-of-tour offering of several amazing amuse bouches caused the last round of ooohs and aaahs.

Afterwards, the group strolled a few blocks over to Urban Farmer and wound up the evening with a wonderful meal culled from locally grown and sourced ingredients, including goat cheese from fellow Dame Jean Mackenzie and her Mackenzie Creamery.

Special thanks and heartfelt appreciation to Dame Marty Nagele for coordinating this remarkable event!


Dame du Jour: Nichole Clark

by Maria Isabella

What happens when a young woman’s dream is to work on the French Riviera for a 3-star Michelin chef? But in order to do so, she has to take a series of skill tests to compete for one sole coveted spot on the line alongside more than 50 other chefs, all male. If you’re Nichole Clark, you ace it—which is exactly what she did!

Nichole spent the next entire year working for the legendary Chef Roger Vergé at the posh Le Moulin de Mougin in the south of France.  She came equipped with plenty of ambition, as well as formal training from both the Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts and the Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners.

How did this passion come about? It all started when she was only 11 years old. As a latchkey kid among many others on her street who got money from their parents to buy food at the corner store, she had a brilliant-beyond-brilliant idea. She started cooking and selling homemade meals for the neighborhood kids. She even went so far as to set up a chalkboard on her porch with her menu.

“After getting busted by my parents,” explains Nichole somewhat sheepishly, “I had to start paying for the ingredients. However, I still kept the business going and kept on experimenting with new recipes.”

This passion for cooking came from her mother, whose family used to make homemade blood, rice, and Slovenian smoked sausages—and who encouraged her young daughter to join in and help. After all, her mother insisted at the time, “If you’re old enough to tie your shoes, you’re old enough to tie sausage.”

“My mother taught me the importance of family tradition and being creative,” beams Nichole. “She believed in me and encouraged me to try new things and find my way.”

As for what drove her to a career in food, she explains it like this:

“I loved the fast-paced kitchen atmosphere, the kitchen talk, the sweaty T shirts, and the crisp white chef coats. I loved racing the clock to finish prep before service and precision cuts for fine dining. I loved the rush that came with filling the ticket rail and the high that came with putting out the last dish. I loved the organized chaos of cooking and plating dishes. I loved the efficiency of a kitchen and the adaptability it required. It was an outlet for my creativity and attracted crazy, likeminded individuals, all with passion and a story.”

Her advice to others just starting out in a culinary career is to “have fun, travel, and train while you can! Cooking is an adventure. The detours and mistakes are just as important as the plan we started out with.”

As the current Associate Store Team Leader for Whole Foods Market Cedar Center, Nichole now enjoys spending time with family and entertaining outdoors over an open fire. She also enjoys trying new places to eat during her travels. The best experience she’s had during her travels was at the Matunuck Oyster Bar in Rhode Island. “They raise their own oysters in Potter Pond,” she says. As for the best food during her travels? “It was definitely at the restaurant, Vedge, in Philadelphia. All I can say is wow!”

As for what she enjoys most about being an LDEI member? “Meeting women who inspire me!”

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

What’s your favorite restaurant and what do you usually order there? The cuttlefish at Club Isabella.

What is the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten? The Cricket Lickit. My son and I dared each other to eat it. It was so gross! I ate the head.

What’s your favorite snack? Hummus, pita, and veggies.

Do you have a signature dish? Bouillabaisse.

What’s your go-to, quick-and-easy dinner? Taco Night with all the fixings. Great for both vegetarians and carnivores!

What’s your favorite dessert to prepare? Berries and cream. I don’t really have a sweet tooth or enjoy baking…too much measuring.

What’s the biggest cooking mistake you’ve ever made? During my apprenticeship, I was working at the Renaissance Hotel downtown. I had to help cover a call off and grill fresh halibut fillets for a banquet. I didn’t check to see if the grill was hot and put about 25 pieces on the grill. It had just been turned on and all the fish stuck. I tried so hard to get them off in one piece, but they were ruined and I was so embarrassed.

Any favorite indulgences? I have a plant-strong diet, so I guess cheese would be my favorite indulgence.

Name 3 things that are always in your refrigerator. Garlic, hot sauce, and fresh greens.

Name 3 kitchen gadgets you can’t live without. Mandolin, peppermill, and Vitamix.


Mixing it Up with the Dames!

By Andrea Wargo

Thursday night's fundraiser at Bar Cento's Speakeasy was a huge success. Members and guests gathered at this historic Ohio City location for a spirited evening of craft cocktails, small plates, music and a Chinese auction.

Guests enjoyed a charcuterie board featuring an assortment of house-cured Ohio meats, along with a mouth-watering selection of artisan cheeses.

Never-ending platters of warm french fries, seasoned with whole cloves of garlic and sprigs of rosemary, kept appearing. The restaurant's award-winning pizza was in high demand and disappeared just as fast as it reached the appreciative crowd.

But the real stars of the show were the signature craft cocktails by three of Cleveland's top bartenders. It would be hard to pick a favorite among the three offerings.

The first to be sampled was Molly McSweeney's Spring Refresher featuring OYO whiskey, rhubarb bitters and muddled strawberries. It tasted like springtime in a glass.

Lorelei Bailey's Fig Thyme was another winner. This unusual drink featured OYO bourbon and Bon Maman fig jam.


Fresh thyme.

In a drink.

Not a combination that pops into your head when you think cocktails, but it certainly worked. It was delicious.

The last drink presented was Danina Calame's Pretty in Pink. OYO stone fruit vodka, apricot brandy and guava nectar were shaken together with a bit of ice and lime juice for a light, sweet drink to end the evening's cocktail tasting.

In addition to the outstanding drinks and food, there were many happy winners of food-themed raffle prizes. Gift certificates to local restaurants, a tour of the West Side Market, a basket of locally produced food, and a sampling of olive oils were some of the prizes awarded to those lucky enough to have the winning ticket.

The event raised funds for the Green Tables Initiative, with all proceeds from the evening benefitting projects in Northeast Ohio that will help consumers better understand the link between farming and the food they eat.


Keeping Kosher – The intricacies of kosher food rules

By Jean Mackenzie

Ten Dames were in attendance for our March 31st meeting that was held at Café 56 Express in Beachwood, Ohio. Our speaker was Lana Bernstein, a kosher caterer from Columbus, Ohio and the 2013 LDEI Legacy Award Winner in the culinary category.

Carol Hacker led a brief business meeting followed by our speaker, Lana Bernstein, who gave an extremely interesting and often times entertaining talk on “Keeping Kosher”. We learned about some of the laws that govern keeping kosher such as not eating meat and dairy at the same meal. This law carries the saying, “Don’t cook the kid in the mother’s milk”. We also learned that all meat must be from animals that have cloven hooves and chew their cud, which would include beef cattle and goats; all fish must have scales, so no catfish or lobster (a great sigh went up in the room upon learning that you couldn’t eat lobster!); all fowl must be domestic, such as chickens but ostrich are not included in this group, and it may not be a bird of prey. You may enjoy having meat and fish during the same meal but they must be served on separate plates. Kosher wine must be boiled before bottling and beer may not be consumed during Passover.

We learned that the term “parve” means neutral and refers to anything that is not meat or dairy. For example, eggs, fruits and vegetables are parve. Parve dishes can be eaten with both meat and milk dishes.

As Lana lectured, we were served a delicious four-course dinner by the staff at Café 56 Express. Our first course included humus, bagels, kohlrabi coleslaw, “fake” (vegan) chopped liver, an Israeli salad and gefilte fish served with beets, carrots and horseradish. The salad contained no lettuce, supporting the rule of eating no bugs. To maintain kosher, each lettuce leaf would have to be thoroughly examined to insure that there are no bugs.

For our second course, a soup course, Lana served matzo ball soup. She explained that to make the matzo balls, the wheat and water are mixed and kneaded for exactly 18 minutes. It is believed that if the mixture is kneaded longer that 18 minutes, the wheat will begin to ferment. The soup was a beautiful clear broth made with onions and vegetables. The matzo balls seemed to float in the bowl.  Simply delicious!

The third course consisted of two dishes, kugel and cholent. Kugel is typically a sweet baked pudding or casserole that is made with pasta noodles or potatoes. There were lots of oohs! and ahhs! around the table as each of us tasted Lana’s kugel dish! This could easily have been dessert! We then had cholent, which is an extremely hardy dish made with beef, barley, beans, onions and spices.

Our fourth and final course was dessert, which brings with it the challenge that no dairy products may be used. This means cream cheese, ricotta, ice cream, etc. Lana is not only a wonderful chef, she is a magician as well! She created the most delicious, non-dairy, cheesecake you can imagine! It was light and creamy and topped with fresh sliced strawberries. The perfect ending to a very interesting and delicious dinner!


Dame du Jour: Jean Mackenzie

by Maria Isabella
In reality, when most women reach 60, they start thinking of slowing down a bit. Maybe retirement. Maybe travel. Maybe more time with the grandchildren. But oh no, not Jean Mackenzie!  At 61, she decided to start her own new business, establish a professional guild, and champion a growing food movement. That was almost seven years ago—and she hasn’t slowed down one iota since.

Her story is a fascinating one: On a whim, in her sixth decade of life, Jean decided to take a cheesemaking class through the Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture just for the fun of it. Instead, she discovered a real aha moment…and her “true calling,” as she puts it.

“I suddenly felt a great sense of urgency to move forward with this newfound passion,” says Jean. “I had been a gourmet cook all my adult life, growing and canning vegetables from my garden, baking breads and desserts, and cooking fun dinners for our friends. Making cheese pulled all of my interests together: my love of food, my love of people, and my independent spirit.”

Mackenzie Creamery was born, and it now churns out 13 different gourmet flavors of goat cheese, plus dulce de leche and ricotta. It has become so successful that Jean has won 15 national awards so far for her cheeses and two awards for running a green and sustainable business. She is also a founding board member of the Ohio Cheese Guild and sits on the Board of Directors for the Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy.

Jean admits that her mother and maternal grandmother (whom she called "GB") were both gourmet cooks and had the biggest impact on her early love of food. In fact, Jean would often visit her grandmother at her island home on Eleuthera in the Bahamas where GB would cook with fresh ingredients from her year-round garden and fish they had plucked from the sea each day. Her grandfather also contributed by grafting a sour orange tree with a grapefruit tree, which resulted in the “most amazing fruit from which GB would make the most delicious marmalade jam.”

Later in life, Jean’s growing love of food was influenced the most by the instructors she had at different cooking schools, including fellow Dame Joanne Weir, Sarah Leah Chase, and Jacques Pepin.  And as she traveled, she also discovered a plethora of culinary gems, most notably at the extraordinary resort, Anse Chastanet, on the island of St. Lucia in the French West Indies.

“The chef there was actively involved with the island’s farmers and created a culinary delight every night,” reminisces Jean. “I dined on fresh seafood on the beach restaurant, Tour au Diable, and on locally raised fruits (avocados, passion fruit, guavas, papayas, and coconut to name just a few!) in their open air Treehouse.”

Today, Jean enjoys eating a little closer to home. In fact, the Welshfield Inn, which is just seven minutes away, has become her “kitchen away from home.” In fact, their executive chef Chris “Dome” Johnson created a salad using Mackenzie Creamery chèvre and named it the “Mackenzie Salad.”

When not eating out, Jean prefers to entertain country casual by having friends out to her farm. “There is great pleasure in seeing all of them sitting around my dining room table, laughing and having a great time,” she says. “We love to end the night sitting around our fire circle and looking at the stars!”

Jean first learned of LDEI because of her fascination with Julia Child. “But I also had some wonderful friends who were members and generously invited me to join. I have been a member for one year now.”

What does she enjoy most about being a member? “I love the networking and camaraderie of our chapter,” she enthuses. “All of our members are simply outstanding women with a shared passion and purpose. I am honored to be a part!”

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

What is the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten? I love sweetbreads! But the most unusual “thing” that I have eaten is the crystal line of a conch. It is said to have magical properties!

Which one chef would you want to invite over for dinner and what would you serve? Oh, wow! This is a difficult question… there are so many amazing chefs. But I would really love to cook for Joanne Weir. I love her style, and I think we would have a great time. I would purchase as many products as possible from local farmers.  I would invite each producer to come for dinner to tell us about their product and to also enjoy the festive evening. Our salad would be local greens with either a roasted fruit or vegetable topped with fresh chèvre, of course! Our entrée would be pork from New Creation Farm, located just up the road from our farm. My mother’s scalloped potatoes and local seasonal vegetables would accompany the entrée. Dessert would have to be a chocolate something! And our wines would run the gamut from rosé to white to port.

What is your favorite cookbook? My favorite cookbook is more of a cook magazine with no ads: Cook’s Illustrated.

Describe your perfect meal. Ahh… the perfect meal. Let’s start with something small but big in flavor, a serving of smoked trout paté on quinoa crackers followed by a fresh melon and mint salad.  Individual Cornish game hens on a bed of wild rice served with asparagus topped with lemon sauce. Dessert would have to be a chocolate lava cake!

What’s your favorite comfort food? Uncle John’s Meatloaf! Uncle John has THE most amazing meatloaf recipe that is the best I have ever had, bar none. 

What’s your favorite snack? Pretzels dipped in almond butter.

Do you have a signature dish? I rarely cook the same thing twice, but I would have to say my signature dish would be my wild mushroom lasagna.

What’s your go-to, quick-and-easy dinner? Chicken piccata.

What’s the biggest cooking mistake you’ve ever made? When I was a new bride, I was making a dish that called for “soda.” The author assumed that everyone understood “soda” meant baking soda. I added club soda!

Name 3 kitchen gadgets you can’t live without. My LamsonSharp knives, Cuisinart, and hot pads!


Mid-Winter Update on the Usage of the Les Dames d'Escoffie​r Cleveland Green Tables Grant Funds

With the generous grant funds awarded to the Farm Food Program at CWRU Farm, we have been able to undertake much of the work that was referenced in our proposal.

Funds allowed us to purchase materials for our new cold frames. Several have been built, planted in, harvested from and used to teach students from the Cleveland Municipal School District about eating locally and season-extension in Northeast Ohio. We were able to install a crop of radishes with some success before the first of the polar vortices came through and took their toll. We will be planting lettuces and endives in the cold frames in the coming weeks and harvesting from them in the coming months; a full 6-8 weeks before we could normally plant and harvest the same crops without the frames. The remainder of the as of yet unbuilt frames, are scheduled to be done so before the end of the month.

The other large portion of the grant funds allowed us to upgrade and expand our hydroponics activities by purchasing new and additional grow lights. Renovations of our hydroponic system are underway and should be completed before the end of the month at which point the lights which have been purchased, will be installed and the system will be put back into use shortly thereafter.

We expect to take full advantage of the items that we were able to purchase with the grant funds and the progress that we were able to make before the end of this winter season. These additions and improvements to our existing program should serve us for many years to come.

I am happy to be able to report on our progress and look forward to answering any questions and to give further updates as requested.

Chris Bond
Farm Horticulturist/ Farm Food Program Coordinator/ Instructor at the Laura and Alvin Siegel Lifelong Learning Program
Case Western Reserve University Farm 37125 Fairmount Blvd. Hunting Valley, OH 44022


Dame du Jour: Elaine Cicora

by Maria Isabella

Four thousand, one hundred and eighty-two. That’s exactly how many words Elaine Cicora used to write her profile of Michael Ruhlman, entitled “Soul Kitchen,” which appeared in Scene magazine on February 1, 2006. Those are also the exact same words that won Elaine what is widely regarded as the highest possible honor to be bestowed on a food writer: a James Beard Award for Feature Writing.

“Yes, it was great!” Elaine allows. “After the awards, which were held in a ballroom just off Times Square, there was an amazing party to celebrate. I got a high five from Michael’s pal, Thomas Keller, and a big hug from Michael Symon. To this day, that remains the high point of my career as a writer.”

Growing up, Elaine enjoyed being part of a very close-knit Italian family. “My earliest childhood memory is of my grandma making ravioli and Bolognese sauce for Sunday dinner when I was only four or five.

“My mom was also great in the kitchen,” continues Elaine, “but my father, who was a cook in the Army during WWII, always insisted he was a better cook…although he never actually made any meals to prove it! I wanted to become an awesome cook to please him. And that’s what first sparked my interest in food.”

Over the years, Elaine has traveled extensively and enjoyed myriad memorable meals. But when pressed about when and where she enjoyed the best food, she responds with a mischievous twinkle in her eye and a chuckle, “It was a summer’s evening circa 1976 at a dear friend’s home in Cleveland Heights. We had carryout submarine sandwiches and a bottle of 1965 Lafite Rothschild. Some mind-altering substances were also possibly involved.”

Elaine’s connection to the food industry spans more than 14 years. Twelve years collectively were spent with Scene magazine, mostly as their restaurant critic but also as their arts editor. Two years were spent with Crop Bistro as their Director of Communications. Currently, Elaine is enjoying a slower pace of life as a freelance writer/editor and culinary instructor.

A four-year member of LDEI, Elaine was initially recruited by fellow Dames. What does she enjoy most about being a member? “The fellowship,” she responds instantly.

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

What is the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten? Pigs’ tails. They were delicious but boney.

Which one chef would you want to invite over for dinner and what would you serve? I think it would be fun to break bread with the hugely intelligent Tony Bourdain. Man, can he turn a phrase! Maybe I would make chili and a cherry pie.

What is your favorite cookbook? A 1947 copy of Woman’sHome Companion Cook Book that was my mother’s. All the homiest dishes from my childhood—soups, stews, pies, cakes—are in there, along with plenty of homemaking advice, including the ever-important guidelines on how to throw a dinner party if you no longer employ servants.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Pasta in any shape, size, or sauce.

Any favorite indulgences? A chocolate malt from Rosati’s custard stand in Northfield Center. Thank God they close for the winter or I would be twice my size!

What’s your favorite snack? I’m not much of a snacker, although a bit of gorgonzola is always welcome.

What’s your favorite dessert to prepare? I bake a mean fruit pie, including a lard-based crust from scratch.

What’s the biggest cooking mistake you’ve ever made? Trying to please a four-year-old.

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

Name 3 things that are always in your refrigerator. Plain fat-free yogurt, skim milk, and Gennie Cream Ale.