Winter's Wonderful Wines

By Maggie Harrison

The cold winds of winter are upon us, but there’s always a bright side: Each season brings a fresh opportunity to find new wine varieties and explore new regions.

Here are six slightly outside-the-box wines to keep you warm and happy – with food or not!


Sparkling Wines

Not just for New Year’s Eve: The next time you roast a chicken or serve a root-based dish, try a Cremant. This is a sparkling wine from anywhere in France that isn’t Champagne. Made with a variety of grapes but in the same way that Champagnes are made, Cremants are almost always rich, creamy, and delicious, while costing 30- to 50-percent less than Champagne.

My pick: NV Lucien Albrecht Cremant D’Alsace, $19.99

Notes: 100-percent Pinot Blanc. Aromatics of lemon, grapefruit, and slight yeasty character. Ripe fruits on a gently, creamy palate balanced by crisp acidity and a long finish.


You can expect wines labeled as Rosé to be dry, and that’s what you should stick with. The darker pink ones will have more heft...some even show a little tannin. Lighter colored wines will be lighter in weight, but both styles work wonderfully as an aperitif; the higher acidity stimulates both an appetite and conversation. Rosé pairs perfectly with honey-baked ham and shrimp cocktail.

My pick: 2017 Chateau Campuget ‘Tradition’ Rosé, Costieres de Nimes, France, $10.99

Notes: 70-percent Syrah, 30-percent Grenache, this pale-pink rose is delicate in both aroma and flavor, offering perfumed cherry blossom and crisp red cherry and raspberry notes. Dry and full bodied, refreshingly mineral, brightened by juicy, lemony acidity.


Gamay is a light-bodied red wine, similar to Pinot Noir, from the Beaujolais region of France. You can expect a highly aromatic wine offering fresh-cut violets, red cherry, and plums. Medium bodied, dry, yet with loads of expressive fruit, usually silky smooth and mouthwatering. They are a bit fuller than Pinot Noir from Burgundy and they come at a nicer price. Yet much like Pinot Noir, they are friendly with a lot of foods. Their floral aromatics and snappy style make them a delicious counter to cold weather.

My pick: 2015 Drouhin Beaujolais Villages, $15.99

Notes: Fresh and silky with both the freshness and fruit remaining for quite a long time on the palate.


Expand your horizons beyond California. There are fantastic Cabernets coming from Chile, Italy and, of course, France, with Bordeaux. Domestically, Cabernet grows magnificently in Washington State, delivering classic flavors at extremely competitive prices. They lean toward an Old-World style, with leather, mint, herbs, and bell pepper under currant and cherry flavors. These score high on the quality-to-price ratio.

My pick: 2016 Boomtown Cabernet by Dusted Valley, Washington State, $16.99

Notes: Refined yet rugged, offering wonderful cherry fruit and balancing acid, while giving you the rustic complexity of freshly crushed herbs.

Cabernet Alternatives

Portugal has become the last, great wine frontier in Europe, offering an intriguing, affordable selection of wines. Two regions in particular seem to be easy to find: Alentejo and Douro. Alentejo, inland in the south of Portugal, is a hot region similar to California. Red wines from there are robust, powerful, and rich. Douro region wines are concentrated yet elegant.

My pick: 2016 Quinta do Crasto, Douro Tinto, $14.99

Notes: Excellent aroma expressiveness, showing notes of fresh red fruit and elegant florals reminiscent of violets. Seductive on the palate, evolving into a balanced wine of great volume and solid structure. The tannins are polished and well integrated.


Ninety-five percent of all Sherry is dry, with amazing amounts of flavor. Lighter Sherry offers raw almonds, herbs, a slight bitterness, and high acidity; the darker versions feature hazelnuts, caramel, oak, and raisins while remaining dry to slightly off-dry.

My pick: NV Lustau ‘Don Nuno’ Dry Oloroso, $27.99

This middle-of-the-road style offers a perceived sweetness of dark chocolate, walnuts, and roasted chestnuts. Very persistent on the palate, tempered with a slight acidity. Pairs deliciously with squash, root dishes, soups, hearty pastas, and roasted fowl. This is also an alternative to Whisky and a fun cocktail ingredient.

Maggie Harrison is a professional in the service industry, with more than 30 years of experience, with a specific focus on wine. She has experience in restaurants, retail, distribution, and training/education, and brings a broad and deep repertoire of skills to her clients and consumers. Contact her at m.harrison@vintwine.com.


What I Learned at Conference

By Elaine Cicora

Cannabis Cuisine Panelists (from left to right): Jodi Hall, Jessica Tonani, and Tamara Murphy

It took me nine years to catch on to the LDEI Conference. Over that time, I found plenty of reasons to ignore it: The late-October date seemed dreary. The cost seemed high. There would be flights to book. And how the heck was I supposed to figure out all the registration details?

But eventually, I started to come around. Sure, Dame Carol Hacker’s oft-repeated claim that, “You can’t turn around at Conference without somebody putting a plate of food or a glass of wine in your hands!” sounded tempting. But it wasn’t until last year that it finally hit me: Conference and commitment to our mission could go hand-in-hand.

Of course it is possible to be a leader within the chapter and never attend a Conference. But – and this is a big one – it is almost impossible to overstate the value of sharing your successes, your challenges and your questions, one-on-one, with Dames from around the world, who have already traveled down those roads before you. What you learn at Conference – and you will learn a lot – makes you a stronger, smarter and more effective member of your chapter, and makes your chapter better for it.

Sales pitch aside, here are four quick learnings I brought back from this year’s Seattle Conference. They got me thinking about “best practices.” Perhaps they will do the same for you.

LDEI membership is a privilege. Everyone who applies need not be accepted. Recruitment efforts should be strategic, aimed toward finding the types of members your chapter needs, and focused on women who are ready to lead.

Fundraising need not be limited to one blowout event per year. Some chapters hold one or more small, ticketed events throughout the year, i.e., dinners, speakers, panel discussions. And don’t forget silent auctions; in San Antonio, the silent auction associated with their main fundraiser brings in 50 percent of their profits!

Many chapters regularly engage in community work, doing things like teaching healthy cooking classes at food pantries, and gathering and donating farmers’ market leftovers to soup kitchens. The San Antonio chapter holds an annual on-site, catered Holiday Dinner for abused children that includes tree trimming, gingerbread-house decorating, and gifts. “It feels so good to make someone happy, and we Dames just get tighter and tighter,” chapter president Blanca Aldaco told us.

And finally, this – not from fellow Dames but from presenters at one of our concurrent sessions: Cannabis cuisine is the wave of the future. Among the speakers was Jody Hall, founder of The Goodship, producer of delicious, and strictly dosage controlled, marijuana-laced cookies and candies. Want to make “tons” of money? Cannabis cuisine could be your ticket. “Make it delicious, make it low dose, and make it easy for people to take to a concert or a party,” advised Jody. Currently, marijuana is an $800 million industry in Washington, we were told; the rest of the nation can’t be far behind.

The 2019 conference is in Nashville, Oct. 24 through 27. Maybe this is your year to attend?

For more on the 2018 Conference, go here, and be sure to grab the Winter Quarterly when it arrives: It will be full of Conference stories.

A Message From Our President

From Beth Davis-Noragon

Hello, Cleveland Dames!

I know I speak for the entire board in sharing with you how pumped up we got at the National Conference in Seattle last month. It’s all about the connections we make there. For one lucky Cleveland Dame, this was her first conference. Others of us are starting to approach double-digit attendance. And even though each conference is unique in programming and entertainment, common threads continue to surface. We make connections and discover that we are not alone in our struggles.

The perfect metaphor materialized in our last evening there, at Emerald City Trapeze. This 20,000-square-foot venue is housed in the former Canal Boiler Works building. Heavy hors d’oeuvres were expertly prepared, and we even had our own signature cocktail, the “Oui, Chef” (each garnished with its own wee chef). But the real fun began as the lights dimmed and the security nets were drawn: our own, close-up trapeze show. It was thrilling. There were a half-dozen daring flyers, spinning and flipping through the air to the catcher as he cried, “Hep!” (which is trapeze for “go”). We screamed and cheered them on, and they made every catch until the last one. Oh, we were disappointed! But the flyer was not deterred! He tried three more times to make the most complicated flip of the evening, eventually choosing to call it off. The troupe worked together to make their connections, and even when one of them stumbled, the rest of the troupe was there for support. Why? They have all fallen into the net.

I encourage each of you to start thinking about National Conference 2019 in Nashville now. Work toward the Chapter scholarship. Think about how you can get there otherwise. Put away $75 a month toward the fees. Make the connections and share the struggles. HEP!


A Path to Healing

By Elaine Cicora

As women in the food, beverage and hospitality industries, LDEI members understand the health benefits of seasonal, local, and natural foods. But this year’s Global Culinary Initiative Breakfast, during national conference in Seattle, emphasized the spiritual aspect of the story.

As its name suggests, LDEI’s Global Culinary Initiative embraces global communities through culinary connections. This year’s breakfast focused on Native American foods and traditions. In the process, it provided a valuable reminder of the wisdom that resides in traditional foodways – and how those foodways nurture both body and soul.

Valerie Segrest, Native Nutrition Educator, Tedx speaker, Kellogg Fellow at the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy, and Food Sovereignty Project coordinator for the Muckleshoot Tribe, spoke first. Her message was simple: For the native peoples of the Northwest, a return to traditional foods equals a return to good health and abundance.

Prior to first contact, she explained, “the native tribes [of this region] made up the largest, most densely populated non-agricultural region in the world. We knew how to use and manage the natural world.” But today, with diabetes “at epidemic levels among native peoples,” and attendant problems like obesity, heart disease, kidney disease, peripheral neuropathies and blindness on the rise, that traditional wisdom may be lost.

To help reignite that knowledge, Valerie has created the Cedar Box Kit, an educational tool containing the 13 quintessential foods at the center of the Northwest Indians’ diet.

Developed with a grant from the CDC, the Cedar Box represents a way to move tribal culture into current times, Valerie said, by explicating the links between food choices, nutrition, health – and community. Thus, the foods in the Cedar Box Kit are of both cultural and nutritional significance. Among them, water holds first place. “Water is life,” Valerie teaches. “Put down those sugary beverages and drink water.”

Other foods in the box include berries (“wild strawberries are great for women’s health”); greens (“when it comes to nutrition, nettles make spinach look iceberg lettuce” ), bulbs and roots (“camas, a starch that helps reduce blood sugar, was once the most traded item after salmon”), nuts (“hazelnuts make us feel full from eating just a few”), wild game (“elk, deer, and mountain goats are a living legacy”), birds (“duck is high in fats and protein), fish (“salmon give their lives so we can have life”), and shellfish (“perfect little packages of nutrition”).

“I ask people to walk through the grocery store as if they are walking with their ancestors,” Valerie says. “For every item they buy, I want them to ask themselves: Is it seasonal? Is it local? And how do I cook it with good intention?”

Darren Jameson, a member of the Tsimshian Nation and chef de cuisine at Lisa Dupar & Company, spoke next. While his love of cooking encompasses an entire world of cuisine, his passion and focus are wild, indigenous foods.

Darren spoke movingly about his childhood memories of potlatch gatherings on the beach, and the strong sense of connection they created. “I learned you didn’t have to be rich to have a good life,” he recalled. “You just needed to have a community around you.”

As a forager, Darren also shared his concern about our impact on the land and water, especially in the case of wild salmon, an endangered species “that connects everything in the world. Its importance is not just that it is delicious. It is a keystone species whose demise will effect everything: bears, whales, eagles, and us.

“And as hospitality people,” he reminded us, “we are in a great position to educate others about salmon’s importance.”
Sea, forest and wetlands: “There is enough wild food in each of these places to create a full meal,” he said. “As a chef, to be able to take these things and create a meal that appeals to all is very special. I am privileged to be a part of that.

“It’s the most special way there is to connect with the past – and to create traditions for our own descendants.”

Read more about this year's conference in the Winter issue of the LDEI Quarterly.


Dames Dish! Five Reasons to Blog About Your Food Business

By Paris Wolfe
At its most basic, blogging keeps your customers informed and tells others about your business. Sure, you can use other social media to spread the news, but blog posts offer more space than Twitter or Facebook. (Just try to keep each post under 800 words.) And you can go on to promote those blog posts on Twitter and Facebook for a triple play.

Think about a blog as your newspaper. Introducing a new product or menu? Blog the news. Secured a new supplier? Blog why this is important. Have mad skills in the kitchen? Blog your expertise. Don’t just brag, but tell the story around your news.

Here are five reasons to blog:

1) To market or promote your business: The biggest blog benefit is awareness. It makes your business easier to find when someone is searching the internet. And it lets you tell them why they should choose you for their needs.

2) To connect with customers: Regular followers learn about your business and feel part of a community. That secures them as brand loyalists.

3) To build your reputation: The content and quality of your posts enables you to demonstrate your expertise and reaffirm your reputation as an expert in your field.

4) To share your thoughts and opinions: Do you have an opinion on a trending topic – like tipping or the paleo diet – that you really want to share? Blog it. But, blog wisely and avoid politics – or else!

5) To have fun: Share the news! Share some excitement

Dame Paris Wolfe is an award-winning writer, editor, and author of two blogs: The Herb Society of America and Willoughby Outdoor Market. She also is founder and administrator of “NEO Foodies, Ashtabula Wining and Dining,” and a contributor to The News-Herald, Edible Cleveland, Northeast Ohio Boomer, Crain's Cleveland Business, American Iron, and more. Contact her at 440-867-8966, pariswolfe@yahoo.com, Twitter @pariswolfe, Instagram pariswolfe.

Article originally published in Dames Dish! – Cleveland's Les Dames d'Escoffier monthly newsletter. Read more of newsletter here.


Dames Dish! Olive or Twist? Talking Business with Ann Thomas of Western Reserve Distillers

By Rebecca Ferlotti
“We really did it,” Ann Thomas, co-founder of Western Reserve Distillers (WRD), says when describing how she and her husband, Kevin Thomas, dove into the craft distillery world. Ann and Kevin read books, hit the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and took an intensive four-day course in Chicago on distilling. The process began four years ago when Kevin decided he wanted to retire but “he’s not the fishing type, so we needed to find him something to do.” When Kevin brought Ann an in-depth plan for a proposed business, she said, “Well, I guess we’re opening a craft distillery.”

Western Reserve Distillers currently carries three products: WRD Handcrafted Organic Vodka, WRD Handcrafted Organic Gin, and WRD Handcrafted Spelt Vodka, with more on the way. Before opening the distillery, Ann says she never tried anything but wine, cosmos, and margaritas. Now, she’s taste-testing all kinds of drinks. She also ensures the distillery stays certified organic, holding certifications through the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This means the distillery sources local ingredients, cleans with organic cleaners, uses organic pest control, and will treat the grass organically once it grows. The only things that aren’t organic, Ann says, are the enzymes they use to make their spirits; however, the enzymes are certified to be used in organic applications.

According to Ann, WRD "tries to eliminate as much waste as possible by: recycling all the cardboard used; having bottles made from lightweight, easily recyclable glass; and using a steam boiler to reduce their electric consumption, so they can recycle water". As a result, the Thomases spend most of their days online taking care of paperwork. “But it’s worth it,” Ann says.

From the beginning, the city of Lakewood was supportive, and local bars and restaurants were among the first to carry their products. When Ann visits a place that wants to taste test WRD products, she usually starts the conversation with, “We’re organic and just right down the street!” To drive home her point, Ann typically buys people a shot of Tito’s to compare with WRD. (I took the test, and the difference is shocking: WRD spirits are notably smoother with a cleaner finish.)

Ann’s advice for women who want to get into the industry is to contact COSE first. “They’re a fabulous resource that will get you to the people who can answer your questions,” she says. Also essential: an excellent attorney and an accountant. “Surround yourself with people you trust,” Ann adds.

Ann and Kevin’s ultimate goals are “to have a good life, surround ourselves with good people, and have something to pass on to our son and then granddaughter.”

Western Reserve Distillers and its adjacent restaurant, Distill Table, opened to the public Sept. 8, 2018. Reserve a tasting tour by visiting their Facebook page . Find them at 14221 Madison Ave. in Lakewood.

Article originally published in Dames Dish! – Cleveland's Les Dames d'Escoffier monthly newsletter. Read more of newsletter here.


C’mon, Get Happy!

By Elaine T. Cicora
Photos by Elaine T. Cicora and Bob Bohach

A dozen dames and three esteemed guests spent a recent Tuesday afternoon at Lakewood’s Salt+, sharing refreshing drinks and conversation during our 2018 Happy Hour celebration.

The communications committee chose Salt+ as our location for several reasons, not the least of which was the fact that Chef Jill Vedaa, the restaurant’s co-founder, was a 2018 nominee for a James Beard Award. But there was also the compelling menu of creative small plates – including a superlative chicken liver pate and a delightful dish of caramelized baby carrots, ginger-carrot puree and crispy carrots – that left many of us eager to return for more at this casually sophisticated restaurant.

As would be expected from such a diverse group as ours, conversation topics ranged from programming at the Culinary Vegetable Institute (thank you, Marci Barker!) to the state of Cleveland’s independent restaurants (it’s good!). Dame Bev Shaffer also raised a toast to Dame Elaine Cicora, and her recent Grand Prize win in the annual LDEI MFK Fisher Awards for Excellence in Culinary Writing; the award includes roundtrip transportation to the annual LDEI conference, this year in Seattle, where she will accept her prize.

We also enjoyed a chat with the vivacious Jesse Parkison, Salt’s sommelier and co-founder; and received outstanding service from FOH staffer Allison Stavnicky.

From left to right, guest Ann Loparo, Salt's Jesse Parkison, and guest Rebecca Ferlotti.

On behalf of the communications committee, many thanks to all who joined us for cocktails and conversation, as well as to Jill, Jesse and the wonderful staff at Salt+.

We hope to see you at next summer’s Happy Hour!


Leadership at Its Finest – Chapter Meeting at EDWINS

By Elaine T. Cicora
Reporting by Maria Isabella

For eleven chapter members and three guests, our May 14 membership meeting at EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute proved to be an evening of engagement, inspiration and delicious food, prepared and served by EDWINS’ staff of talented trainees.

Founded in 2007 by the charming, and highly accomplished, hospitality professional Brandon Edwin Chrostowski, EDWINS is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing formerly incarcerated adults with a foundation in the culinary and hospitality industry, while providing the support network necessary for their long-term success. Its mission is three-fold: to teach a skilled and in-demand trade in the culinary arts, to empower willing minds through passion for hospitality management, and to prepare students for a successful transition home. (To learn more about Brandon’s impressive roster of awards and accomplishments, and the talented team of culinary professionals who help operate the restaurant, click here.)

The elegant restaurant on historic Shaker Square opened on Nov. 1, 2013.

During the business portion of the meeting, Dame Maria Isabella presented Brandon with a cookbook stand and 30 cookbooks from her personal collection, including Jacques Pepin’s “La Technique,” for use by the trainees. Afterward, members had an opportunity to order from the unique and totally French menu, which featured such sublime dishes as Guinea hen airline breast, stuffed with morel mushrooms, spring pea puree, Swiss chard and rosemary Madeira sauce; grilled seafood sausage with white fish, scallops, shrimp and pine nuts in a shallot beurre blanc; and seared foie gras, with peach compote, strawberry verjus and pickled strawberries. The meal was leisurely, and members enjoyed a wonderful opportunity for networking and fellowship within the restaurant’s beautiful setting. And clearly, we weren’t the only diners who appreciated the EDWINS experience: Franz Welser-Most, famed conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, was spotted at the next table!

Near meal’s end, members heard from Brandon, who delivered a short, impromptu talk. He briefly described the institute’s 6-month training program, and discussed the mission and the philosophy behind it. He also referenced his Oscar-nominated film, Knife Skills, which documents the restaurant’s hectic launch (click on the link to watch it). And finally, he noted that the institute is currently raising money to build a butcher shop, to provide additional career training opportunities to the institute’s students. This was followed by a lively Q&A session.

Members finally pulled themselves away from the table around 9:30 p.m., full, happy and impressed, as always, by EDWINS, Brandon, and the world-class program he has established in Cleveland.


Dame du Jour: Marla Monzo Holmes

by Maria Isabella

When you grow up in a family business, surrounded by quality products, a strong work ethic, and a loving support system, it’s only natural you would want to continue that tradition. Marla has not only done that, she’s raised the bar and gone miles beyond—quite literally.

“My father owned a beverage store called Monzo’s Wine Country in Cleveland’s Westpark neighborhood,” begins Marla. “He had the largest foreign beer collection on the west side. However, he was best known for his amazing sandwiches, which people would come from all over to purchase. I would often help him make those famous sandwiches.”

Growing up in an all-Italian family, Marla’s fondest childhood memory was of visiting her grandmother’s home in New Castle, Pennsylvania. “My grandma, who only spoke Italian, always prepared the best food,” she says with obvious pride. “She also made the most delicious soup every day!”

After graduating from Kent State University, getting married, and starting a family, Marla eventually took on a position as a kitchen consultant with Pampered Chef. Through hard work, determination, and a real flair for teaching, she was able to earn 19—yes, 19!—trips all over the world with this organization. While traveling overseas, she would take time out to also attend cooking classes, which made her an even more valuable employee, resulting in her rise as a top producer and team leader. In fact, by the time she left to care for her ailing father, she had conducted over 2,000 cooking demos all across the U.S.

She eventually went on to star on The Robin Swoboda Show as their “mom chef,” taping numerous episodes and enjoying every minute in front of the camera. Marla also began teaching cooking classes as a culinary instructor at Polaris Career Center in Middleburg Heights, which she still does to this day alongside catering gigs and cooking demos at farmers’ markets.

As for how Marla came to hear of Les Dames d’Escoffier, we’ve got social media to thank for that. “I saw it on Facebook!” she readily admits. And the best part of membership? “Our events,” Marla says with a quick smile.

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

Of all the places you’ve traveled, where did you have the best food or wine?
In Alife, Italy. I helped my Zia Mary make homemade pasta dough for ravioli. My cousin, Angelo, drove up the mountain and picked fresh mushrooms. Then he made fresh ricotta from the milk he got from the cow next door. That meal was truly unforgettable!

What’s your favorite restaurant and what do you usually order there? Bucci’s in Rocky River. I love their cavatelli.

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten? Blood pudding, but I have to admit it was just a very small taste!

What is your favorite cookbook? Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan.

What is your favorite food blog? Italian Food Forever.

Describe your perfect meal. Eggplant Parmesan, salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and fresh bread right out of the oven with garlic butter.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Pastina.

How do you like to entertain? Outdoors on my Italian patio in the summer with homemade pizzas from my pizza oven. I inherited my dad’s garden statues and potted lilies that helped transform my backyard into the same patio he used to have behind his store.

Do you have a signature dish? Chicken marsala.

What’s your favorite dessert to prepare? French macarons because everyone is so impressed you can actually make them!


Putting on the Ritz

By Jackie Bebenroth
Photos by Jackie Bebenroth

Thinking about the Ritz-Carlton Cleveland may conjure images of immense chandeliers, floral banquettes and stiff martinis at the lobby bar, but at our March 12 membership meeting, we learned that a recent 18-month renovation has brought the iconic destination to a state of modern-day luxury.

For the 12 members in attendance (along with four guests and two spouses), the evening started at the all-new TURN Bar + Kitchen. The crafty cocktail list was full of conversation starters. While the meeting commenced, members sipped on classic favorites with a local twist like The CLE, a refreshing gin and sparkling grapefruit spritzer and the Botanical Garden Gimlet with gin, eucalyptus syrup and orange blossom water. Although lake effect weather was in full force, inside the restaurant we felt warm, welcomed and right at home.

Following the meeting, we were greeted by Rachel Vitalone, the Ritz-Carlton Catering Sales Manager, who served as our tour guide for the evening. She swept us up to the 7th floor, where we discovered a completely re-imagined gathering space called LINKS. It’s an open kitchen designed for social and corporate culinary demos, ideal for team-building exercises, group cooking adventures and creative meeting breaks. The room, with a design that seems plucked from the home of an upscale chef, flows into a more formal meeting area that seats 120 and boasts amazing views of our fair city.

 As expected of the Ritz, intriguing details were considered throughout the seventh floor experience. Gorgeous local art graced the walls in a rotating art gallery that was curated in collaboration with HEDGE gallery. Wandering down the hall, it seemed odd to tour the new fitness center with cocktails in hand, but we were drawn to the gleaming room with high-tech equipment, an interactive smoothie bar and virtual, on-demand workout classes. CORE is open to the public, via membership, as well as to guests of the hotel.

Our tour continued into the bustling catering kitchens, where chefs shuffled room service requests and prepped for upcoming tastings and events. The Ritz-Carlton motto, “Ladies and Gentleman serving Ladies and Gentleman” hung proudly on the wall.

We returned to our seats and enjoyed a delightful dinner from a menu that lived up to its promise: “This is Cleveland, flavor and textures, rich culture and entertainment. We happily partner with local butchers, breweries and farmers to show the essence of our cuisines, heritage and personality. Let us turn our city into something you can taste.


Dame du Jour: Melissa McClelland

By Maria Isabella
Photo by Andrew Burkle

As a freelance photo stylist, Melissa is the first to admit she thoroughly enjoys working in an emerging industry that’s as creative as it is fun — which is the perfect fit for her.

After graduating from Laurel School in Shaker Heights, Melissa went to study sculpture and European history at Bennington College in Vermont. She then transferred to the Program in Artisanry at Boston University, from where she graduated. Eventually, she also went to the Culinary Institute of America for styling. Whew!

Today, Melissa enjoys a strong reputation, especially in the area of food styling and photography.

“I really respect the sense of community we have here in Cleveland,” says Melissa, “and the larger role that food plays in bringing people together and building relationships.”

Growing up, food was not such a big deal for her…until high school, that is. “I took a cooking class in 11th grade,” explains Melissa, “and that’s when I discovered that I really loved it!”

She worked in restaurants all throughout college. She also worked in the test kitchen of Eating Well magazine and as a chef at the now-shuttered Chapters Bookstore and Café. She currently regularly contributes to Edible Cleveland magazine.

Frankly, Melissa genuinely enjoys all things food. From her favorite local restaurants (Anatolia Café for its appetizers and white bean salad; Minh Anh for its rice noodle salad) to her own family gatherings (always featuring her mom’s famous English trifle pudding), she revels in the beauty of it all.

As for her idea of the perfect meal? “It would be a slow meal with many small plates on a nice long table, served with great wine and a lot of friends, preferably outside,” says Melissa wistfully.

Melissa first heard of Les Dames d’Escoffier from her sponsor, Maria Isabella. “I’m fairly new,” she says, “but I have already found the networking to be invaluable.”

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

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten? Ostrich.

What is your favorite cookbook? Thug Kitchen. It features vegan street food that always turns out well with amazing flavors.

What is your favorite food blog? Sweet Paul.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Rice pudding.

Any favorite indulgences? Homemade cornbread.

Do you have a signature dish? Paella.

What’s your go-to, quick-and-easy dinner? Kale and cannellini over pasta.

What’s your favorite dessert to prepare? Semolina cake.

What’s the biggest cooking mistake you’ve ever made? An M&M cake gone wrong for a co-worker who loved M&M’s. I put the candy in when the cake was still too warm and it ‘kind of’ exploded. But the co-worker was very appreciative and still loved it!

Name 3 things that are always in your refrigerator. Eggs, beer, and apple butter.


Dame du Jour: Barb Abbott

by Maria Isabella

Armed with a degree in biology from the University of Akron, Barb started her first career as a park naturalist. By definition, that’s someone who loves to share what they know about nature with others. Thirteen years later, Barb decided to switch gears and still share what she knows with others, but this time about food.

“I first learned about food tours when I was in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2010,” explains Barb. “I started researching culinary tourism and eventually opened Canton Food Tours two years later. I then opened Wooster Food Tour two years after that.” She’s been the driving force behind the huge success of both operations ever since, and is working to expand into other Northeast Ohio regions in the next few years.

“This was an opportunity for me to match my skills with my passion,” says Barb. “I love to share and educate. High-quality food is now an everyday part of my life.”

She’s done so well, in fact, that she won the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce’s first-ever “Entrepreneur of the Year” award after only one year in business.

When not working, Barb still finds personal pleasure in frequenting restaurants, including taking food tours in other cities when she travels. She has gone on 21 tours throughout the U.S., Bahamas, and even Canada. Her top five favorites are (in no particular order) West Palm Beach Food Tours in Florida; San Antonio Food Tours in Texas; River City Food Tours in Richmond, Virginia; Asheville Food Tours in North Carolina; and Local Montréal Food Tours in Canada.

Her local favorite spot? “Lucca in downtown Canton!” she says without missing a beat. “I always order their seasonal special.”

And when entertaining at home, Barb prefers it to be casual and leisurely, spilling outdoors, with multiple courses and small plates. Naturally, friends are always encouraged to bring dishes, too.

As an interesting side note, Barb is currently co-authoring a book entitled The Culinary History of Stark County with Kimberly Kenney, curator of the William McKinley Presidential Library & Museum.

Barb first heard of Les Dames d’Escoffier from her sponsor, Maria Isabella. “I’m a new member,” she says, “but I already really value the networking.”

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

What food always reminds you of home? Crest Bakery’s maple cream sticks.

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten? Sea urchin.

Which one chef would you want to invite over for dinner and what would you serve? Josh Schory, the chef from Lucca. I would serve my signature chicken and rice dish.

What is your favorite cookbook? Cookie Love by Mindy Segal.

What is your favorite food blog? Two Amused Bouches from Canton.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Mashed potatoes with a side of white bread slathered in butter.

Any favorite indulgences? Good chocolate.

What’s your favorite dessert to prepare? Toffee bars.

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

Name 3 kitchen gadgets you can’t live without. Mezzaluna, garlic press, and skillet.


The Power of Pizza in Olmsted Falls

By Elaine T. Cicora
Photos by Barb Abbott and Elaine T. Cicora

In 1994, at the age of 43, Ann Reichle opened a pizza shop. Two years ago in May, she finally paid off a quarter-million dollar debt and started to turn a profit.

"It's a difficult business," the energetic entrepreneur told members of the Cleveland chapter at our Jan. 22 meeting. "But I love it."

In the years between 1994 and 2016, Ann and her family faced both challenges and accomplishments. Her business, Angelina's Pizza, brought home first place in a state-wide pizza competition in 1996, just two years after opening. (Ann's "Specialty Pizza" was the winning pie, a tender crust topped with meatballs, mushrooms, onions and sausage.) She also launched Angelina's locations in North Ridgeville and Elyria, started a successful catering operation, and took over a next-door coffee shop, "on a whim." Warm and welcoming, the Village Bean Cafe has been operating under Ann's direction since 2014, and was the site of our Monday night meeting. The cafe has also grown into a community gathering place, hosting book signings, meetings, and concerts.

But along the way, there were struggles too, including limited capital, a lack of experience, and a devastating lawsuit.

Through it all, Ann told us she never doubted her career path. "My goal has always been to be part of the fabric of this wonderful community," she said of the town she clearly adores. "I'm very supportive of our entire food community, and I don't consider other restaurants in town to be my competition. I've been covered in grease my whole life, first as a mechanic – and then I opened a pizza shop! It's a tough business, but you just have to keep going."

Clearly, Ann's perseverance paid off. In fact, things are going well enough these days that she recently purchased property at the opposite end of town, where she plans to build an 80- to 100-seat restaurant. "There are no chains in Olmsted Falls," she explained, adding that the town's restaurants strive to keep it that way. "We are all a little different, and it all works," she said.

Of course, inspirational stories like Ann's are known to work up an appetite, and the spread Ann laid out for us after her talk was a delicious representation of her craft. Among the treats were four pizzas, including her popular Breakfast Pizza with scrambled eggs and bacon, which she serves at the cafe; a salad bar with a selection of greens, vegetables, and charcuterie, along with grilled chicken breast or sliced portabellas for toppings; a lovely cheese and meat platter; an Ancient Grains Salad and a Tri-Color Couscous Salad; and a dessert tray.

Altogether, the evening was a worthy reminder of the power of female entrepreneurship – and the power of pizza too.

Our next meeting takes place in March at the downtown Cleveland Ritz-Carlton. Watch our website and Facebook page for details.