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.