Coffee & Tea Time at the Emerald Necklace Inn

By Jessie Lindawan, Edited by Shara Bohach
Photos by Jessie Lindawan

On Monday, Nov. 30, 2015, Dame and Chapter Historian Gloria Cipri Kemer welcomed more than 15 members to her charming Emerald Necklace Inn’s Tea Room. Overlooking the Rocky River Reservation, the Inn is located in Fairview Park and was built in 1863 during the Civil War. It originally operated as the area’s first County General Store and now functions as one of the area’s most loved bed and breakfast establishments.

After arriving, Dames enjoyed a Pear Ginger Apple Cider with rum, an orange slice and orange sugar rim. Two varieties of Deviled Eggs and Liver Pâté with crackers proved to be a delicious accompaniment and tasty beginning to the evening. A savory Tomato Vegetable Rice Soup with Smokey Lapsang Tea Spice was served as the meeting was brought to order.

Treasurer Beth Davis Noragon provided an overview on the Chapter’s financials, and a motion to approve the report was accepted.

Following was Dame Terry Frick with an update on the Les Dames D’Escoffier National Conference in Charleston, S.C., from Oct. 29-Nov. 1, 2015. Terry discussed how inspired she was by all the talented women from LDEI’s 36 chapters and felt strengthened by plethora of incredible women in the food industry. She encouraged members to continue to support the presence of women in Cleveland’s food industry.

Chapter President Carol Hacker provided an update on conference scholarships and announced that two scholarships would be awarded for the 2016 conference, which will be held in Washington, D.C. Carol is graciously donating her President's stipend for another member to attend. Declaring 2016 as the “Year of Membership,” Carol’s goal is to add 10 new members.

Shara Bohach, Communications Chair, shared a postcard she designed that Dames can use to give to potential members or those who are interested in learning more about LDEI.

Grants and Scholarship Chair Jennifer Brush gave a quick overview on the Chapter’s streamlined grants application process and asked members what else we can do to improve. Dames discussed the possibility of identifying two to three non-profits and inviting them to a future LDEI meeting to give a brief presentation on what they do.

Co-Vice President Cynthia Schuster Eakin discussed fundraising opportunities, recalling a successful approach from the Vancouver Chapter and its Les Dames Summer Dine.

After committee updates concluded, Dames enjoyed the main dish of the evening: Baltimore Crab Cakes, Chicken Florentine, Potato Pancakes with Mushroom Julienne and Eggplant topped with Tomato and Feta Cheese.

Dames were then treated to an intriguing presentation from Annie Denton with Red Cedar Coffee Company, located in Berea. Annie discussed her family’s business and rich history in coffee bean sourcing and roasting. She will be traveling to Costa Rica in February to source the beans for Red Cedar’s future specialty coffee blends.

As the meeting came to an end, members enjoyed homemade apple strudel topped with whipping cream and a complimentary 2-ounce bag of Red Cedar coffee.

The Cleveland Chapter’s next Les Dames d’Escoffier meeting will be held on Jan. 11, 2016 at Green City Growers.


REAP the Benefit 2015 - “Night on the Farm”

By Cynthia Schuster Eakin | Photo By Eric Eakin

REAP the Benefit 2015, “Night on the Farm” welcomed 350 guests into the Ohio City Farm to benefit The Refugee Response in Northeast Ohio.

Cleveland Dames Paula Hershman, Marla Monzo Holmes, Maggie Harrison, Shara Bohach, and Carol Hacker lended their hands as volunteers throughout the evening.

The Refugee Response empowers refugees to become self-sufficient and contributing members of their new community. Services offered by The Refugee Response include home tutoring, an academic scholarship program and the Refugee Empowerment Agricultural Program (REAP). Managing sites at both the Ohio City Farm and Urban Community School, the organization employs farm trainees. These trainees have cultivated and distributed more than 20,000 pounds of produce and have supported the weekly delivery of food to 119 community supported agriculture (CSA) members this past year. Produce grown on the farms is available to trainees and their families, donated to hunger centers, sold on-site at a retail stand and purchased by contract from a host of local restaurants.

Several of the chef and restaurant partners attended the “Night on the Farm” to prepare seasonal cuisine. Music and dance was provided by members of Cleveland’s Bhutanese and Burmese communities. The highlight of the evening was the introduction of Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, who has dedicated his life’s work to spreading the philosophy of non-violence. A journalist, activist, author and “peace farmer,” Arun Gandhi’s work in social and economic justice has touched millions throughout the world.


Touring Chateau Hough Vineyards and BioCellar

By Elaine Cicora
Photos by Shara Bohach

Nearly 20 Dames and guests paid a July 14 visit to Chateau Hough, the ambitious urban-agriculture project of journalist and community activist Mansfield Frazier.

Settled at the intersection of East 66th and Hough, the reclaimed property is home to nearly 300 vines growing red and white grapes. Planted in 2010, the vines were specially selected for their ability to withstand cold Ohio winters; and if the bounty of beautiful bunches hanging from the vines is any indication, they have surely acclimated to their Northern home.

Our gracious and gregarious host told us that his first wines (supplemented by grapes from other vineyards) were bottled in 2013, and earned praise from Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine as well as snagging a second-place ribbon in the Great Geauga County Fair. While the wine is currently made off site, plans call for eventually transforming a nearby abandoned building into a working winery. We enjoyed samples of both the red and white wines. As Mr. Frazier joked, “No wine snobs allowed! It’s all so subjective, just drink what you like!”

We also got a tour of the one-room biocellar, a beautifully constructed, below-grade space built on the foundation of an abandoned home. The first of its kind in Ohio, the biocellar uses passive solar heating to maintain a steady year ‘round temperature; the addition of a rain garden and water-recycling system keeps large quantities of runoff out of the city sewers. Although plans originally called for growing mushrooms in the biocellar, Mr. Frazier says that tests have shown the space is too airtight, and that mushroom spores in the air could create health hazards. Currently tests are underway to determine what crops can be safely grown in the space.

As impressive as all of this is, the real story, we learned, is that Chateau Hough is a nonprofit organization with a mission to improve the economic health of the neighborhood. Mr. Frazier’s goals are to foster urban food production; employ local residents with disadvantaged backgrounds; and re-purpose vacant homes and idle urban lots to create wealth-building opportunities. As the venture begins to make money, Mr. Frazier hopes to turn the property into a cooperative, turning over ownership of the facilities to the workers. Meantime, vineyard construction and maintenance, along with various learning programs, has provided work for many neighborhood residents.

Following the tour and discussion, most of the membership headed to Li Wah for dinner. The food, the service and the fellowship was wonderful, and another fine Les Dames event was enjoyed by all present.


Dame du Jour: Carmella Fragassi

By Maria Isabella

With a degree from Heidelberg University and plenty of grit, Carmella enjoyed a very fulfilling, action-packed career in law enforcement. And after decades of faithful, dedicated service, she finally retired.

But did she sail away to paradise to spend her time leisurely drinking margaritas poolside at a retirement home in Florida? Far from it. She embarked on her own Act 2 and opened a restaurant—more accurately, a trattoria, which she named La Campagna (Italian for “the countryside”). That was 24 years ago.

Today, Carmella is enjoying well-earned success as one of Cleveland’s most respected chefs. She admits it’s all derived from the pleasures she enjoyed growing up in an extremely tight-knit Italian family.

“Both of my grandmothers were from the same hometown in Italy,” explains Carmella. “They cooked the same seasonal meals where food was simply prepared with the freshest ingredients available.”
She goes on to add, “Everyone got together to help cook for the holidays. Food and wine went hand in hand at both my grandparents’ homes. Then my mother carried on those same traditions with her own children.”

When asked which food always reminds her of home, Carmella quickly responds, “Homemade cecatelli, better known to most as cavatelli.”

Even after all that she’s accomplished, Carmella says her proudest moments involve teaching people an old recipe she remembers from childhood. “The delight on their face is more than gratifying,” she says. “I love it when a customer gets excited about a meal that brings back memories for them.”

When asked to describe the best food or wine she’s ever had, Carmella admits it’s hard to pinpoint just one. “It was probably that most delicious leg of lamb we had in Basliacata. Wait. Maybe it was the puréed fava beans with shaved octopus we had in Manfredonia. Or better yet, maybe it was the fried zucchini blossoms and borage in Orsara di Puglia. No, wait. Perhaps it was the pizza we had in Foggia that was made with pane cotto (bread and arugula placed on a pizza and cooked in a wood-fired oven). Or maybe it was…” she trails off wistfully.

But when asked what was the most unusual thing she’s ever eaten, Carmella doesn’t hesitate for a second. “Raw razor clams from the Adriatic Sea,” she responds with a smile.

As for which chef, living or deceased, she would want to invite over for dinner, she says that’s a tough question. “There are several,” says Carmella. “Marcella Hazen, Lidia Bastianich, and Mary Ann Esposito, to start with. Of course, there are also a few others as well. I would feed them some of the traditional peasant meals from Puglia, including “burnt wheat” orecchiette pasta with dandelion greens, focaccia with potatoes and rosemary, vegetable stew Orsara di Puglia style, and purée of white fava beans with shrimp. Then some homemade biscotti for dessert.”

As a member of LDEI, Carmella says she enjoys networking with others in the business the most.

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

Describe your perfect meal. Food gathered from the garden and a piece of rosemary-lemon chicken on the spit with a nice glass of red wine.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Homemade pizza.

Any favorite indulgences? A good cup of coffee.

What’s your favorite snack? Salt and vinegar chips.

Do you have a signature dish? Eggplant Parmesan.

What’s your go-to, quick-and-easy dinner? Onion and egg soup with crusty bread and salad.

What’s your favorite dessert to prepare? Homemade canned peaches soaked in red wine.

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

Name 3 things that are always in your refrigerator. Parsley, basil, and rosemary.

Name 3 kitchen gadgets you can’t live without. Pasta crimper, hacksaw, and zester.


Dame Crickett Karson Hosts Annual Chapter Membership Meeting

By Marla Monzo-Holmes | Photos by Shara Bohach

On Monday May 11th over 20 Dames and guests enjoyed an evening of welcoming potential new members to our Cleveland Chapter. Once again Dame Crickett Karson graciously opened up her home for our evening. There was much time for socializing and chatting as we enjoyed the dishes that each Dame provided. Our meeting was brought to order and we heard from each committee chair. Each Dame introduced themselves for our guests and then we got a brief introduction from our guests. Terry Frick, our membership chair, spoke on the requirements to become a Dame as well as the many benefits. Presently we have 29 active Dames and 3 on hiatus.

We then heard from Ifoema Ezepue, Economic Development Manager from Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities (in charge of the CSAs for Cleveland Crops). Ifoema was born in West Africa, spending much time in her mother’s restaurant. She has a passion for helping others, and explained how this CSA helps persons with disabilities. She explained how SAW (Solutions At Work) is the non-profit affiliate of the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities that provides training and employment opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities in Cuyahoga County. Cleveland Crops is an agriculture and food processing training and employment program designed to create innovative work opportunities and new career choices for adults with developmental disabilities.

The evening concluded with Dames continuing on to dessert and additional time for conversation. It was a lovely evening despite the thunderstorm! Dame Maggie is presently working on our July get together!

Each Dame is reminded that if you have a woman in mind for Les Dames, they are always welcome to attend most of our meetings as a guest.


Western Reserve School of Cooking and Cleveland Culinary Launch & Kitchen

Cooking and Touring with Catherine & Carl St. John
(Western Reserve School of Cooking and Cleveland Culinary Launch & Kitchen)

By Maria Isabella
Photos by Beth Segal

A group of 11 animated Dames and three guests showed up Monday evening, March 9, 2015, to see what the buzz was all about. You see, a second location of the venerable Western Reserve School of Cooking (WRSOC) from Hudson, Ohio, had recently opened up in Downtown Cleveland, literally across the hall from another brand new and novel venture: the Cleveland Culinary Kitchen & Launch. It was the first time these women were going to see firsthand what was so special—and they certainly were not disappointed.

The part owners and husband-and-wife team of Carl and Catherine St. John were our gracious hosts. They provided a generous spread of cheeses, crackers, fruit, nuts, hummus, and more, which awaited everyone upon arrival. After our kick-off chapter meeting concluded, Carl took the rein and led our group on a private tour through the Cleveland Culinary Kitchen & Launch.

This shared commercial kitchen is handsomely equipped and fully licensed for multiple purposes (canning, catering, bottling, baking, frozen foods, etc.). It offers chefs and food enthusiasts alike the opportunity to rent any one of its seven work stations, two walk-in coolers, or one walk-in freezer on an as-needed basis. It’s open 24/7 and currently boasts about 60 members, including Saucisson, Great Lakes Cookies & Cakes, Philomena Bake Shop, Gingerbread Homes, Red Lotus Foods, Randy’s Pickles, Kickin’ Kat 5 Hot Sauce, Comrade’s BBQ Sauces and Dry Rubs, and Montana Girl Hot Mustard.

While touring, we serendipitously bumped into a team from 46 and 2 Brewing Company. They were testing out a new flavor for their line of cold-brewed coffees. Be on the look-out for it soon!

After the tour, Catherine took over and demonstrated several delectable dishes, which she served piping hot. All Dames were visibly impressed. Her feast included Roasted Tomato & Red Pepper Soup with Basil Oil and Parmesan Garlic Herb Croutons, Beer-Brined Pork Tenderloin Sliders with Apple Ginger Slaw, and Chicken Skewers with Spicy Apricot Glaze.

Catherine accompanied her demonstration with a colorful story about her childhood and rise to success as a chef, caterer, consultant, teacher, and cooking school owner. (She grew up in California and graduated from the highly respected Tante Marie’s School of Cooking in San Francisco, where Alice Waters was one of her instructors.) 

Catherine concluded the lovely evening by sharing recipe cards…but to everyone’s shock, she actually saved the best last. Knowing how much our group would appreciate it, Catherine gingerly pulled out her own personal copy of A Guide to Modern Cookery, published in 1903 and personally autographed by Auguste Escoffier himself! What a surprise and great delight! The evening couldn’t have ended any better.


Rum and Beer Tasting at Portside Distillery and Dinner at The Willeyville

By Shara Bohach | Photos by Beth Segal

On Monday, January 12, Cleveland Dames and guests were the lucky first group to enjoy a tour and tasting at the new Portside Distillery on the Flats East Bank. A craft beer and rum distillery, Portside opened this past year and has its grand opening tonight, Thursday, January 15, 2015.

Lauren McPherson took us on a tour of the distillery. She noted that the building had some history, once used to manufacture organ pipes and later for sanitation, before they took it over in 2011. Located next to the Port of Cleveland, they adopted a nautical theme in the decor, complete with lighthouse tap handles. We gathered around their one-of-a-kind copper-pot still locally-made in Tremont, learning that the double diamond barrels at the top remove impurities at the beginning of the three to four week distilling process.

They make five different styles of rum, using products from The West Side Market to infuse flavors: Silver Rum, Hopped Rum, Vanilla Maple Rum (pure Geauga County maple syrup and Madagascar vanilla beans), Spiced Rum, and Christmas Spirit (made just once a year). They're also aging barrels of rum, which will be ready in three years. Save the date!

Dan Malz, one of the founders, owners, and chief brewer then took us on a tour of the brewery. They cleverly stack tanks to make the most use of their limited space. Upper and lower tanks each brew a different lager or ale. We were then led back to the tasting room to sample. Each Dame was given a choice of four rums, beers or a combination of both. With five rums and twelve craft beers on tap, there was much to choose from. One of the crowd favorites was the Yule Shoot Your Rye Out winter warmer (named / punned after the line in A Christmas Story), which despite its ABV of 8.2%, was not too heavy and bursted with cinnamon flavor.

We then walked less than a block, on this very chilly, very windy night, to The Willeyville Restaurant, owned by Chris and Krista DiLisi. Dames enjoyed a wonderful three-course dinner of Salad or Vegetable Minestrone, Chicken Florentine or Vegan Ramen, and an assorted sampling of cream puffs and other decadent bite-sized desserts. Lively conversations and laughter surrounded the table and indeed, everyone had a warm time on a chilly night.


Shaffer Links Les Dames

Excerpt from Cleveland.com

By Debbi Snook, The Plain Dealer
Follow on Twitter
on January 05, 2015 at 9:25 AM

The year 2015 is starting out just right for several leaders in the local food movement. Attention and honors are being paid to Northeast Ohioans who are growing, preparing and selling foods here. Or just raising the bar.

With Les Dames
Bev Shaffer, the cooking instructor and cookbook author from Seville in Medina County, has been named liason between the Cleveland chapter of Les Dames d'Escoffier and its international unit. Shaffer will help plan the wider group's conference Oct. 29-Nov. 1 in Charleston, S.C. Shaffer has written often for The Plain Dealer, now works as chef and recipe developer for Vitamix in Olmsted Falls, and wrote numerous books, including the terrific, "Brownies to Die For."