Les Dames D’Escoffier Cleveland Chapter at Bomba Tacos & Rum

By Elaine T. Cicora / Photos by Elaine T. Cicora

Never let it be said that our Cleveland Dames don’t know how to have fun. Thanks to Dame Jess Lindawan, director of marketing for Paladar Restaurant Group, we had a wonderful opportunity to dine, drink, learn, laugh and network during our November meeting at Bomba Tacos & Rum, a friendly, chef-driven restaurant in Rocky River featuring a lively menu inspired by Cuban, Salvadoran, Peruvian and other Latin-American cuisines.

One of the ways Bomba, a sister operation to Woodmere-based Paladar, distinguishes itself from other taco spots, we learned, is by its extensive collection of 75 premium rums and craft cocktails. And to help us understand more about this delightful spirit, we were joined by Melisa Baringer, sales associate for Cleveland’s own Portside Distillery.

We learned that Portside is an artisan distillery and craft brewery, and holds the distinction of being the first distillery to open in Cleveland since Prohibition. “Everything is small batch, hand bottled, and hand labeled, and the results are totally worth it!” said Melisa.

To drive home her assertion, Melisa brought with her four of the distillery’s award-winning rums for sampling. They included:
  • Silver Rum: Distilled from 100 percent cane sugar in a homemade copper pot still, we learned that this “New World” rum is Portside’s most popular, described as “incredibly smooth, with lingering full-bodied and fruity esters [that] will remind you why rum was the most popular spirit upon the founding of our country.”
  • Vanilla Maple Rum: A blend of pure Northeastern Ohio maple syrup and Madagascar vanilla bean, this slightly sweet rum has won “Best of Category” honors among flavored rums at the American Distillers Institute Competition, making it perfect served neat or blended in a favorite cocktail.
  • Spiced Rum: Infused with a special blend of spices, raisins and a touch of vanilla for a spicy finish, this 100-proof product is smooth and easy sipping. No surprise to discover it’s a Bronze Medal winner from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
  • Christmas Spirit Rum: A blend of ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, and honey give this seasonal special its flavor. Slightly sweet and spicy, this rum has been described as “tasting like Christmas morning.” Portside only distills it once a year; so, you know, get yours while supplies last!

We were also treated to two fantastic specialty cocktails made with Portside products: The Spiced Cranberry Ginger Mojito, made with Spiced Rum, lime, mint, cranberry and ginger beer; and the Spiced Hard Cider Sangria, featuring Silver Rum, hard cider, spiced simple syrup and nutmeg.

We enjoyed our cocktails with a marvelous spread of tasty treats from Bomba’s kitchen, starting with freshly made guacamole garnished with pepitas and chipotle honey, and accompanied by an assortment of light, crisp corn, plantain, yucca and Malanga chips, made daily, in house.

Then it was on to a delicious buffet of mushroom empanadas, jerk-chicken skewers and a variety of soft tacos that included charred kale and corn, Rio-style chicken, braised beef and blackened fish.

As a sweet ending, we enjoyed churros and chocolate sauce.

Meantime, a vivacious group of nearly 30 Dames and their guests took full advantage of the opportunity to network, forge new business and personal relationships, and learn about each others’ roles in the food/drink/hospitality community.

Thank you to Jess, Bomba and Portside Distillery for hosting such a fun-filled, educational and relevant meeting.


Dame du Jour: Paula Hershman

By Maria Isabella
Interview by Britt-Marie Culey

As the saying goes, “When one door closes, another one opens.” And so it was with Paula, whose search for a second career took a couple interesting twists and turns. Here’s her story.

With a degree in Art Education, Paula enjoyed a successful career as a graphic designer. But when her kids were finally grown, she was itching to do something new and different. As she was working through her personal journey of discovery, she relied on coffee to keep her going. A lot of coffee. In fact, so much coffee that it started to affect her health. Her doctor recommended she switch to tea, and a friend turned her on to loose tea.

“It was calming, and I ended up getting my whole family hooked on it,” says Paula. She then came up with a business plan to open a sit-down tea shop. Unfortunately, everything fell throughand she was devastated.

Eventually, she conceived a different idea and decided to become a tea blender instead. This time, her idea became a reality, and ten years later, Storehouse Tea Company is still going strong!

Some highlights of her budding second career include getting certified organic, opening a new 800-square-foot showroom in Ohio City, and traveling to Taiwan to visit an Oolong supplier. But all this pales in comparison to the good she’s doing in the community.

“I hire refugees from Rwanda who are living in our area to do the packaging,” explains Paula. “I also produce a private label where the proceeds go back to build and run a schoolhouse in Northern Iraq for refugees escaping ISIS.”

This is all in perfect alignment with her own personal philosophy: Whatever you do has to benefit people. And indeed she’s doing just that.

Paula learned about Les Dames d’Escoffier when she met a Toledo member while giving a talk in Columbus. As for what she enjoys most about being a member of the Cleveland chapter, she says it’s definitely the camaraderie. “Women really need each other in business,” says Paula. “We’re strong and passionate, and men don’t always get that. It’s important to share those struggles with women who understand.”

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

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten? I ate a whole frog in Taiwan and a deep-fried whole fish, eyes and all!

Which one chef (living or deceased) would you want to invite over for dinner and what would you serve? Jonathon Sawyer. I’d make him my pesto lasagna.

What is your favorite cookbook? The Joy of Cooking. It was a wedding gift and is my cooking “bible.” It’s my go-to for all the basics.

What’s your favorite food blog? Food Babe. She uncovers conspiracies in the food world. She’s definitely a “whistle blower.”

What’s your favorite comfort food? Italian wedding soup.

Any favorite snack? Doritos or popcorn.

How do you like to entertain? Casually. I like it to be BYOB so everyone is happy. I also like to make the main course, like barbecuing, and keeping it simple.

What’s your favorite dessert to prepare? Carrot cake with cream cheese buttercream frosting.

What’s one ingredient you can’t live without? Honey. I use it in tea and in general. Always local and raw.

Name 3 kitchen gadgets you can’t live without. Garlic press, spatula, and wine opener.


Les Dames d’Escoffier Cleveland Chapter at Whole Foods

By Shara Bohach | Photos by Shara Bohach and Britt Marie Culey

Nichole Clark

Whole Foods Market Cedar Center welcomed the Cleveland Chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier Tuesday evening for a delicious look inside some of their special programs. Dames enjoyed four courses prepared and presented by team members from various departments, each sharing insights and passion about their food and mission.

Dame Nichole Clark, currently Store Team Leader at the Woodmere location, welcomed us at The Kitchen Counter, the Cedar Center restaurant she helped to open in 2007.

Josh Chung, Prepared Foods Team Leader, prepared and served the four courses with his team.

We started off with a glass of D’Arenberg “The Hermit Crab” Viognier Marsanne, a buttery, smooth, fresh, summery white wine.

Todd Burrows, Bakery Team Leader & Certified Artisan Bread Baker, introduced us to the spent grain program, where Whole Foods utilizes used grains from the beer brewing process to make breads. We learned that on farms, spent grain often becomes chicken feed or compost, but in urban environments, it is usually thrown out. Todd picks up spent grains from The BottleHouse Brewing Company once a week, and puts them to tasty use in Whole Foods breads.

We enjoyed a spent grain roll with house-made roasted garlic and chive butter. The bread, hearty and chewy, is reminiscent of sourdough and pretzels in texture. Flavor is excellent and it is lower carb because the spent grains no longer contain sugar.

Todd told us that every beer imparts a unique flavor to the process. Next week he will be getting grains from a smoked stout which he expects to have a smoky effect on the breads. He also announced an exciting new partnership with Platform Beer Co. where they will being producing grains from their own beer. They’re having a lunch party on August 11, 2016 for Veloracer, a grapefruit shandy. See below for additional details on this event.

Our next course featured Whole Foods' house-made Cold Pressed Juices, presented by Bruce Miles, Produce Team Leader. Beeternal (Carrots Apple Beets Kale) and Lemon Zip (Lemon Grape Jalapeño Ginger) are both excellent for cleansing. Several of us noted that Lemon Zip would be awesome with a little vodka for a “zippy” cocktail. (Cleanse and then add the toxins right back in, hmmm!) Greens with Envy (Pear Kale Cucumber Pineapple Spinach Broccoli Parsley Lemon), rich in anti-oxidants is their most popular seller. Strawberry H2O (Strawberries Watermelon Lime) is simply refreshing and sweet.

Bruce stressed that cold pressing compresses the produce and keep nutrients in tact. There is no oxidization which happens in traditional juicers. He ever-so-nicely sent some of us home with our favorite juice of the evening. (That Lemon Zip cocktail may just happen!)

The juice tasting was accompanied with a delicious, crispy Superfood Croquette, created using the Beeternal juice pulp and black beans, and a vegan sriracha aioli.

The main course, presented by Elliott Lewis, Seafood Team Member & Fish Monger, was Wild Caught Shrimp & Smoked Mozzarella Grits. Elliott explained that Whole Foods’ shrimp is sustainable, and more tender and sweet because it is flash frozen in its native salt water. He also shared that salt water fish is less susceptible to disease. Passionate about avoiding GMOs, he revealed a trend he is seeing with GMOs in the feed for farm-raised fish, whereby the fish itself deceptively does not have to be labeled GMO.

The team did a wonderful job adapting dishes as needed to vegetarian and dairy-free versions. Here, the cheesy grits were topped with grilled veg for the vegetarians.

Brad Packer, Specialty Team Member, presented a delightful cheese board to each of us, served with a glass of Kir Royale sparkling rosé.

The cheese board consisted of three fine cheeses: Testun Di Capra (raw goat’s milk cheese from Piemonte, Italy – sweet, nutty, assertive); Herve Mons Camembert (exclusive cow’s milk cheese from Normandy, France – earthy, pungent, salty); and Old Chatham Ewe’s Blue Cheese (sheep’s milk cheese from New York, USA). Lemon Pepper Marcona Almonds, Preserved Lemons, Strawberry Lavender Jam, and in-house Toasted Baguettes were the perfect complements.

He shared that Whole Foods has over 400 different cheeses on hand, including many local and seasonal varieties. They are happy to let you sample any cheese, or help you build an impressive cheese board.

The evening was filled with excellent food, drink and lively conversation between the knowledgeable Whole Foods team and the always inquisitive-about-every-detail Dames. Thank you to Whole Foods for hosting such a multi-faceted and interesting event!

Platform Beer / Whole Foods Launch Event

Platform Beer Co. is brewing Veloracer, a grapefruit shandy, to celebrate the efforts of the local non-profit and bike track, the Cleveland Velodrome. Veloracer will be introduced to the public at a launch party on August 11, 2016, 5-10 PM, at Platform. Whole Foods Market will offer a BBQ plate with spent grain bread at the event.

Then, the brew will be available in 6-packs ONLY at Whole Foods Market Cleveland (Cedar Center, Chagrin & Rocky River) for a limited time beginning August 15, 2016. $1 per 6-pack sold will be donated to the Cleveland Velodrome.


Dame du Jour: Britt-Marie Culey

By Maria Isabella
Interview by
Paula Hershman

What does a newly minted pre-med graduate who’s just starting out in her career as a medical professional do when her passion suddenly runs dry? In Britt’s case, she turns to her other unfulfilled passion instead: baking. So she ran with it—and has never looked back since.

Growing up in Connecticut, Britt admits food was a big part of her life. “My Swedish mother always prepared home-cooked meals,” she says. “Nothing was out of a box. She created everything from scratch. Chocolate roll cakes. Butter cream frostings. Even meringues.”

She loved helping her mom. So when Britt needed a part-time job during high school, she chose to work at a bakery. All through college, she worked in a bagel shop. And all through culinary school, she worked in a coffee shop where she created all their pastries. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

When Britt realized medicine was not for her, she decided to enroll in the Western Culinary Institute (now known as Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts) in Portland, Oregon. After obtaining her associate’s degree in culinary arts, she left for the South of France to work at Le Petit Prince, a traditional French pastry shop.

“My only days off were Sundays,” explains Britt. “There was always a big farmers’ market in the center of town with an enormous paella, in the largest paella pan I have ever seen. I loved it so much it would feed me for three days!”

After returning to the States, she landed a job at Financier, another French pastry shop, this time in Manhattan. Serendipity eventually brought her and her husband, Shane, to Cleveland where she opened up her own French bakery, Coquette Pâttisserie.

Has it been worth it? In Britt’s own words, she says, “I’m so proud I actually took the step to change careers. Now I get to do what I love. I work, shop, and bake all day. I come home and feed my children. Then I sit down with a glass of wine. I even dream about food! It’s my life.”

When not working or eating at her favorite restaurant (she loves #3 at Superior Pho), she enjoys entertaining at home.

“We like to entertain casually with close friends, great food, drinks, and a themed spread with small pickings,” says Britt. “Preferably in our backyard with the fire pit and bar set up.”

As for what she likes best about being a member of LDEI, Britt says, “I enjoy being with all the ladies. I really look forward to our meetings and getting to know other interesting women in the industry.”

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

Which one chef (living or deceased) would you want to invite over for dinner and what would you serve? Julia Child. I would get her drunk on wine and serve her Beef Bourguignon.

What is your favorite cookbook? Larousse Gastronomique.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Chicken noodle soup. It’s hearty and full of flavor, starting with a full free-range chicken.

Any favorite indulgences? Alcohol, wine, beer, and Champagne. I sell all of these at my pâtisserie. But my all-time favorite to the core is Champagne!

Do you have a signature dish? Risotto.

What’s your go-to, quick-and-easy dinner? Stir-fry whatever I have in the fridge, with rice or pasta.

What’s your favorite dessert to prepare? Mousses. A compilation of crunchy, chewy, any-flavor profile.

What’s the biggest cooking mistake you’ve ever made? Let’s just say I’m not allowed to deep fry anything. My husband is in charge of that. He’s from Louisiana.

Name 3 kitchen gadgets you can’t live without. Blowtorch, bench scraper, and rubber spatula.

What would people be surprised to find in your kitchen? Caviar in a tube. It’s an alternative to salt. You can put it on everything!


LDEI Cleveland kicks off the new year with a tour of Green City Growers

By Cynthia Eakin | Photos by Shara Bohach
The LDEI Cleveland Chapter began the new year with a Jan. 11 tour of Green City Growers, a 3.25-acre hydroponic greenhouse and the largest urban greenhouse in the country.

The host and tour guide was Jeremy Lisy, National Sales Manager for Green City Growers. Lisy noted that Green City Growers is a branch of Evergreen Cooperatives of Cleveland. Evergreen Cooperatives helps to create green jobs and economic stability in low-wealth neighborhoods.

The state-of-the-art, industry-certified hydroponic greenhouse in Cleveland’s Central neighborhood is situated on a 10-acre site that was once urban blight. The inner-city site, with 3.25 acres under glass, now serves as a vibrant anchor for the surrounding neighborhood.

Opened in 2012, the Green City Growers greenhouse is engineered and constructed to grow specialty greens prized by chefs, restaurants and retail clients. Rather than growing in soil, the greens float on pools of nutrient-enriched water. That enables a quicker growth cycle as well as producing tastier produce, appreciated by farm-to-table enthusiasts. During the winter, energy-efficient grow lights are used to maintain production. The carefully controlled environment in the greenhouse allows produce to be grown twelve months a year, to meet customers’ demand for the freshest product.

The hydroponic greenhouse is industry-certified by PRIMUS/GFS, a leading name in global food safety. That means that Green City Growers meets the highest quality standards for food safety for hydroponic produce.

Lisy said that specialty greens currently being grown in the greenhouse include Upland cress, mixed greens, butter lettuce, NuFar basil, red butter lettuce and Cleveland Crisp. The greens grow from seed to harvest in 35 to 40 days. Lisy noted that the greenhouse produces about three million heads of lettuce annually and 300,000 pounds of basil. It supplies restaurants and some grocers as far away from Cleveland as Indianapolis. Clients include Kroger, Meijer, Aldi and the Northeast Ohio Marc’s chain of stores. Green City Growers also operates a produce stand at Cleveland’s historic West Side Market.

Green City Growers functions as a cooperative, with its business model getting noticed around the world, according to Lisy. He said that it is currently at about 90 percent of its profit potential but, as soon as it becomes completely profitable, it will be turned over to the 34 greenhouse employees. Lisy said that they have commissioned studies that show most of the employees spend the money they earn within 10 miles of their workplace, meaning the profit comes full circle and stays in the community.

“If we can make this greenhouse business model work in Cleveland with our shorter and darker winter days, we can put this model out there to work all over the country,” Lisy concluded.