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!