Sweetie Fry

5 Sep

6684003

I’d been living part-time on the east side of Cleveland for five years when I realized this week that I still hadn’t tried Sweetie Fry. After years of going to Lee Road in Cleveland Heights for nachos with the team after a league game or hitting up the ATM, I finally swung by the shop around Labor Day to see what it’s all about. I had high expectations for unique ice cream and a small appetite. Here’s what I found:

Sweetie Fry is not just an ice cream joint but rather as the name sounds: a fry place.  I’m not a junk food person so fries don’t really appeal to me (even though I’m lactose intollerant and ex-vegan, I still prefer ice cream!)  I simply had no interest in the over-loaded, bacon-covered options.  I had difficulty understanding the board when I ordered, but I decided to go with the Goat Cheese ice cream as soon as I saw it.  My favorite pie is a goat cheese basil blueberry almond pie from a restaurant in North Carolina, so my hopes were high.  This dish was served with honey and sweetened walnuts.  The serving was a reasonable (small) portion and the first bite was good and strong, but the toppings were a little too sweet for me and I also detested the fact that there were traces of mint, lime, and other overpowering flavors that had been on the scoop used to scoop my dish.

476385_orig

All in all, I was not very impressed with this shop.  It could do a lot better.  It simply pales in contrast to Jeni’s, which uses a similar concept of local ingredients and unusual combinations.  However, the flavors weren’t always so quirky.  The list given on Sweetie Fry’s website includes the following signature flavors: Cookies and Cream (which relies on Oreos to add flavor), Vanilla Bean (which advertises vanilla beans from Madagascar as what “give[s] it a classic American flavor”?), Deep Chocolate, Mint Chocolate Chip, Brown Butter Walnut, Strawberries & Sour Cream, Key Lime, French Toast (one of the first odd flavor attempts), Maple Bacon, Chocolate Raspberry Marmalade, Peanut Butter, Turkish Coffee, Goat Cheese, Mango Sorbet (using Indian mangoes?), and NYC Cheesecake.  So, yes, Sweet Fry advertises local ingredients but also brags about importing from around the world.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

22 Aug

Jenis

From the unique flavors to the incorporation of an apostrophe in the i of its logo, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams is a cozy, friendly, neighborhood kind of ice cream parlor.  Although neither small nor especially local, Jeni’s still made my list of “green restaurants” around Cleveland.  I can justify this decision by its rare business approach and one-of-a-kind array of flavors which boast many Ohio ingredients.  On Jeni’s website, the creator claims that her milk comes from grass-fed cows and the Snowville Creamery in Pomeroy, Ohio, near the southern border with Kentucky.  Columbus boasts the majority of the shops in Ohio, but a few can also be found in Nashville.  There are shops coming soon in Georgia and the Chicago area, as well.

So while Jeni’s might not be Farm-To-Fork eligible considering its wide radius and growing reach, this unique parlor is notorious for its handmade and hand-picked flavors.  You can go to a Scoop Shop to get a dish, sundae, or even ice cream sandwich to taste the flavors or just order your own for home from the online store.  The flavors currently being advertised include the following: Apricot, Askinosie Dark Milk Chocolate, Backyard Mint, Bananas + Honey, Bergamot (orange), Black Coffee, Brambleberry Crisp, Brown Butter Almond Brittle, Chamomile, Cherry Lambic (sorbet), Cloverton, Dark Chocolate, Double-Toasted Coconut, Goat Cheese with Red Cherries, Grapefruit, Huckleberry, Lemon & Blueberries, Lime Cardamom, Loveless Biscuits + Peach Jam, Mango Lassi, Ndali Estate Vanilla Bean, Passion Fruit, Pistachio & Honey, Queen City Cayenne, Rainbow, Red Raspberry, Riesling Poached Pear (sorbet), Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk, Salty Caramel, Sweet Corn & Black Raspberries, The Buckeye State, The Milkiest Chocolate in the World, Whiskey & Pecans, Wildberry Lavender, and Yazoo Sue with Rosemary Bar Nuts.

After spending the day in Shaker Square, my grandma and I took a short trip over to Chagrin Falls on the way back to Pennsylvania for a snack at Jeni’s.  Chagrin Falls is a quaint Cuyahoga town near the Geauga County line and the shop is just as quaint as its surroundings.  We were welcomed by the typical large chalk board menus with handwritten titles and cute homemade country decorations.  My grandma tasted a few different flavors before settling on two scoops: Loveless Biscuits + Peach Jam and Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk.  I wanted to maximize my experience, so I went with three: Queen City Cayenne, Sweet Corn & Black Raspberries, and Chamomile, complete with waffle triangles.  The scoops were very tiny and our dishes were $4.50 and $5.50, respectively.  We sat inside the shop to finish our ice cream and sip on cucumber water from the free jug at the counter.  The cayenne was spicy like I like it, reflecting traditional Mayan hot chocolate (minus the cream and sugar).  Sweet corn sounded like a perfect match for ice cream when I saw it, and the berries added just the tang to counteract the sweetness.  Chamomile compared to the other two was subtle, but my grandma particularly liked its strong, flowery taste.  My grandma’s peach scoop was just what I would expect, real peaches with crunchy cookie bits.  Her strawberry scoop was creamier and more realistic than any shop strawberry that you’d find at a grocery store.  When we were finished, my picky, small-eating grandma gave herself a pat on the back for having finished her entire order of ice cream for the first time in as long as she could remember.

I would much prefer eating ice cream at Jeni’s than Coldstone, the other popular choice in Cleveland.  At Jeni’s, you can get some real, savory flavors that remind you that not everything has to be in enormous portions and obliterated with gobs of sugar and fat.  You can learn to appreciate flavors like corn and zucchini and not always coat your sweet tooth with sugary berries and fatty caramels.  In fact, going to Jeni’s has inspired me to get back into my homemade ice cream-making.  This time, I’m looking at developing some soy ice creams on my home churner using some herbs and other summer ingredients from my backyard!

101_0814Grandma at Jeni’s by the falls.

101_0815

Jeni’s logo sign.

101_0816

Ice cream sandwich display.

101_0817

Menus and prices, hand-written.

101_0820

Looking in to one of the freezers.
101_0822

Our selections in their tiny, European-style proportions.

101_0823

Decorations reading “gravel”, the name given to Jeni’s cookie crumble topping.

101_0825

Looking down on the falls from outside.

 

Great Lakes Biomimicry

7 May

Here is an article I wrote for The Observer at Case Western Reserve University.

BIOMIMICRY: Ancient Lessons for the Future
by Kayla Wiinitam’ikwe-DeVault

            With talk of global warming and Earth’s nearing carrying capacity lingering behind every political issue, it’s no wonder that scientific and industrial leaders are focusing ever harder on sustainable practices.  But cleaning up our act isn’t always the solution; in fact, as author Janine M. Benyus argues in her book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, the real problem lies within not what we’re doing but how we’re doing it.

Untitled1
Wes Jackson, a biomimic interviewed by Benyus who works on developing sustainable farming at the Land Institute in Kansas.  Photo from Richard Harris (http://www.npr.org).

          “The real survivors are the Earth inhabitants that have lived millions of years without consuming their ecological capital,” argues Benyus in the first chapter of her book.  “We come not to learn about nature so that we might circumvent or control her, but to learn from nature, so that we might fit in.”  Benyus’s excellent piece develops a strong argument for how humanity is aggressively destroying the natural balance of the planet, ignoring the sustainable lessons Earth showcases daily.  One of Benyus’s many examples is green energy development.  While we’ve been expending considerable time and money researching how to produce expensive photovoltaic cells, our complex photovoltaics are merely a less efficient reinvention of what nature has already perfected.  Benyus argues that our expenditures would be better spent if we dismissed our 20%-efficient reinvention of the wheel and instead studied the biochemical processes of chloroplast cells in plants, which operate at a 95% efficiency rate within a smooth niche in the global ecosystem.

Untitled2
Janine Benyus delivering a speech on biomimicry.  Photo by Mychelle Daniau (AFP).

           Modeling after nature’s intricacy is the study that has been dubbed “biomimicry” and its horizons are rapidly expanding.  Biomimicry delves far beyond studying photosynthesis; even farmers are beginning to turn to biomimicry to solve erosion and crop resistance problems while industries are seeking nature’s “patents” to mimic spider silk or abalone shell, materials strong enough to develop bulletproof vests and nearly invincible tanks for the armed forces.  In this “Green Revolution”, researchers long to steer clear of petrochemicals and are turning to biomimicry to develop more sustainable materials.  For example, understanding how mollusks build the bysuss that glue them inseparably yet flexibly to rocks may provide us with biodegradable solutions to sealants and adhesives of various applications.

Untitled3
The spinning process spiders use to generate high-strength silk fascinates researchers who are working to replicate it.  Photo by Glen Peters (www.asknature.org).

          “Nature has been solving problems and innovating solutions for over 3.8 billion years,” says Don Knechtges, the Managing Director of Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise and leader of various other entrepreneurial organizations.   “By emulating nature, companies can tap into a tremendous pool of knowledge that they can use to enhance their bottom line with sustainable profits.”  It’s now job of Knechtges and other biomimic converts to spread the word about how this new scientific approach might redefine our region and our planet.

How You Can Get Involved
          Northeast Ohio is currently a hotbed for biomimicry thanks to Holly Harlan of Entrepreneurs for Sustainability.  Harlan recognized the potential biomimicry has as a sustainable tool for growing the economy in Northeast Ohio.  With Benyus’s assistance and additional assets from local universities, museums, parks, etc., biomimicry has begun to boom in the region over the last decade.  Great Lakes Biomimicry, a startup organization located downtown, is actively advocating biomimicry in industry and university research.  Thanks to the dedication of these local entrepreneurs, the University of Akron, in partnership with the Cleveland Institute of Art, currently holds the first and only PhD program in Biomimicry.  In addition, the program is accompanied by a fellowship program to push students straight into industrial applications.
Getting industrial companies in Cleveland involved in biomimcry is a key first step to cleaning the city up sustainably.  But it’s more than just nature that is benefiting.  As Knechtges points out, by being an industry sponsor of a Fellow in the PhD program, companies are making history and bringing “passionate young talent from around the world” to Northeast Ohio to develop unique and sustainable solutions in their fields.  These solutions not only allow companies to move away from petrochemicals and inefficient practices, but they garner the respect of environment-conscious consumers.
Research in biomimicry has been slowly infiltrating the interests of the faculty at Case Western, as evidenced by recent advances led by Dr. Shihao Hu in adhesives modeled from the sticky feet of geckos.  “Biomimicry is in its infancy at CWRU; while many faculty perform nature-inspired research with an eye toward sustainability, it has not yet taken on the mantel of a formal discipline or program of study on campus,” explains Lisa Camp, Assistant Dean for Strategic Initiatives at Case.  Camp works closely with GLBio and other regional initiatives, observing the interests of researchers on campus and monitoring research funds.  “There will be a moment when faculty interest in biomimicry and regional needs collide,” she explains.  “When that collision occurs, it will be incredibly powerful; CWRU researchers always bring a value-added component to community efforts.”  Her admiration for GLBio comes from its passionate dedication to the field.  She adds, “It was built for ethical reasons, not for profit.”  When asked why biomimicry is so important to the startup, Carol Thaler, the outreach direction at GLBio, had an immediate response.  “For me, learning from nature just makes so much sense,” says Thaler, her passion for biomimicry radiating.  “I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say solving problems learning from nature will change the world.”

For more information, e-mail Carol Thaler at cthaler@glbiomimicry.org.

Phoenix Coffee Company

12 Mar

Local Coffee Tastes Better. Born in the 216. Phoenix Coffee Company direct trade coffees.

“Local coffee tastes better – roasted in the 216.”  This is the mantra’s to Cleveland’s small coffee chain, Phoenix Coffee.  With three locations (East 9th, Coventry, and Lee), Phoenix strives to support both its local work force as well as a “direct trade” for its coffee beans.  Coffee is a huge import to the States, due to its demand and lack of local growing ability.  (The only place to grow coffee in the US is Hawai’i – and that’s still a huge energy cost to import!)  Until it can become trendy and widely acceptable to drink something other than coffee (like roasted dandelion roots!), companies like Phoenix Coffee serve their communities and hard-working farmers well.   PhoenixOutside

Phoenix from the outside as you walk up Coventry Road.

The Phoenix Coffee Company has been in Cleveland for over 20 years.  The company’s roastery is downtown on St. Clair Avenue, but the beans are imported from various FairTrade and organic coffee farms and co-operatives around the world.  Recently featured was a “Direct Trade Burundi Bukeye Coffee” from the Buhorwa region of Burundi (south of Rwanda) and a “Direct Trade Uganda Gibuzaale”, boasting what Phoenix claims as “subtle notes of butterscotch, cashew, and tomato”.  Phoenix hires baristas, roastery workers, and coffee machine technicians.  Not only do they have their three coffee shops for lounging with a drink, snack, and free wi-fi, but they also cater and have wholesale for supplying coffee to offices, restaurants, cafes, and shops across northeast Ohio as well as the US.

PastriesEtcFront counter menu and food selections.

I periodically visit Coventry’s Phoenix Coffee shop, preferring it over Starbucks because of what it stands for more than just price (although they have good prices).  I have also visited the Lee shop.  I have yet to see the one on East 9th.  There is certainly something unique about the Coventry shop which draws just the right crowd.  The store is located towards the top of the hill, right beside the Mongolian Barbeque.  When you enter the shop, you in fact enter an open room above the customers and have to descend a few steps to reach the front counter.  The baristas are always very cheery and polite, and usually fit the stereotypical “hipster” look.  With the grungy music selection, simplistic photography, and well-worn furniture serving as chairs, “hipster” is clearly the intention of Phoenix Coffee.

Cafe
Hardwood and stone-tile floors, old furniture,…and a guy with his dog!

At the counter, you can order from a variety of hot or iced beverages, including tea (bubble tea, too!), coffee, and espresso drinks.  Soy and syrups are additional options, just like in Starbucks.  There is also a “French Press & Pourover” option, where you can select your strength with any of the coffees available, as well as ice cream shakes.  Don’t forget the pastry and baked goods selection behind the glass.  There are also cold drink choices and gifts available, including shirts tied together with coffee sleeves!  I think one of my favorite things about Phoenix is the fact that their cups, sleeves, and plastic lids are completely biodegradable!  Shouldn’t every place be like that??

Coffee
My salted caramel soy latte with its compostable to-go cup, sleeve, and lid.
Very strong, very fresh, and very good!  Not at all too sweet.

Phoenix accepts all major credit cards and is open every day of the week at varying hours from as early as 6am to as late as 11pm.  To learn more about Phoenix, check out their website at http://www.phoenixcoffee.com and see why they claim to be “Cleveland’s artisan coffee roaster; born in 216, saving the world by serving a damn fine cup of coffee.”

Cleveland Restaurant Week

9 Mar

Cleveland Independs is a group of locally-owned and locally-sourced restaurants around Cleveland and northeastern Ohio.  (See my previous post for more about Cleveland Independents.)  One of the big promotion events Cleveland Independents holds is the idea of a “menu fixé”.  Each resturant has a meal line-up of several courses for a fixed price.  The price varies slightly, but line-ups seem to run from $15 to $40, depending on the place and if it is a lunch or dinner line-up.

To be perfectly honest, researching how exactly to define the “Restaurant Week” concept was no easy chore.  I had to search each even individually to make an appropriate summary of the event.  This past “Week” has lasted for nearly 2 weeks and is the 6th annaul event.  After investigating past events, it appears as if this “Week” is often more than 7 days and occurs once in February/March and often again in November.  Its popularity has caused it to increase from a small amount of restaurants downtown with one meal line-up to over 50 restaurants with dinner and lunch specials.  To encourage customers, parking has been reduced to $2 downtown in past events.

The idea of Cleveland Restaurant Week is to encourage people to dine at local places to help stimulate Cleveland’s economy.  After reading some comments online, I can conclude that many, many Clevelanders look forward to this event and a large portion of them spend hundreds each time by taking their families out.  It’s a great way to bring the community together while simultaneously improving the Rust Belt city’s economic situation, one stride at a time.

The event current at the time of this article’s publishing is the 6th annual week, held March 4th through March 16th, 2013.  Restaurants are subject to change with each event, but all current event information and menus can be found at www.clevelandindependents.com under the Events tab and listing.

Cleveland Independents

9 Mar

This unique group, called Cleveland Independents, is a group of around 90 independent and locally-owned restaurants that work together to promote their businesses and impetus for locavore lifestyles.  Cleveland Independents is Cleveland’s version of EatDenver in Colorado or Louisville Original in Kentucky, to name a few.  Kudos to the group for not only inspiring people to support Cleveland’s local economy and small businesses, but also for facilitating eating local in meals that go beyond our own kitchens.

Navigating Cleveland Independents’ website (http://www.clevelandindependents.com/), you are given the option of four main categories from the homepage: About Us, Restaurants, Events, and Shop.  The About Us page reiterates the incentives of the Cleveland Independents group and its support of northeast Ohio.  An option is also given to sign up to become a member restaurant.  For those already a member, a log-in widget is available on the sidebar.  The Restaurants tab provides  an alphabetical listing of its members, their addresses, phone numbers, gluten-free availability, and reservation links, if such a mean exists for that restaurant.  Many of these restaurants I have written about under my “Restaurants” tab; the ones I haven’t are ones I intend to visit!  Next, the Events tab is a brimming list of specials, wine tastings, parties, and anything else you can imagine that is happening at these various locations.  One of these events is the Cleveland Restaurant Week, which I will feature next in my “Green Initiatives” category.  Finally, the Shop tab enables users to buy gift cards and gift certificates to the “Cleveland Independents” as a whole.  What better way to promote local eating than to enable selling gift cards that can apply to any of these places?

This is an example of the kinds of cards that can be ordered from the website.

If you’re from Cleveland or just visiting, check these restaurants out!  And if you’re into local food as much as I am, consider it a must for any Cleveland-dweller to dedicate themselves to these places whenever looking for a place to eat!

 

Fire Food and Drink

8 Mar

This past week, my brother and I decided to venture just up the hill to Shaker Square.  I had seen Fire Food and Drink many times, being from the area, but I never tried to make a reservation.  I had heard that the place can be pretty packed in the evenings.  However, we managed to make an online reservation within an hour of our dining time.  The dress is business casual, so I had to convince my little brother to ditch his athletic shorts for a pair of khakis before driving up.  A valet took our car for us as a complimentary service to our dinner.  Inside, our coats were checked and we were immediately taken to our table.

There was a special meal deal (prix fixé) for Cleveland Restaurant Week by the Cleveland Independents (see more about this under the Green Initiatives section), a $33 three-course meal that my brother selected.  I chose to select a number of other dishes.  Our order was taken quickly and we were surprised by how casual our waiter was with his language and humor.  I personally liked the way his informality contradicted the pristine atmosphere and dress restrictions of the place, but I could see how others might find that offensive.  The restaurant itself is in a unique, open room with windows facing the Square.  The chefs are visible to the customers as they cook over an open fire.  The floors are hardwood and there is little clutter apart from the furniture crammed into the relatively small space.  The tables are very close together, with little divisions beyond a periodic column.  The lighting is very dim.  My brother joked, after washing his hands in the restroom, that the artwork decorating the sinks was photos of faucets nicer than the ones in the actual sink.

First, we were poured water and given olive oil and wholegrain bread – a trend I have noticed across most locavore restaurants in Cleveland and beyond.  We were also informed of all the changes to the menu.  There was a substitute for some of the fish kinds and other ingredients due to shortages and availability.  Fire Food and Drinks supplies locally from the North Union Farmer’s Market and participants.

bread

I ordered an orange martini from the drink menu (which is not complete on their website).

martini

I split the artisanal cheese plate appetizer with my brother.  It came with “seasonal” fruit (orange slices), nuts, jam, and crustades, and four kinds of cheese.  Two were soft, two were firm, and none were identified to me.  I did, however, recognize one as a brie and one as a goats’ milk base.  Again, this seems to be the standard in my experience at Cleveland restaurants with locavore food and cheese platters.  The nuts were pecans and pistachios.

cheese

My brother’s first course included his choice of the clam chowder soup (Penn Cove Manila) with Yukon potatoes, oyster crackers, and chives, topped with bacon.  (The alternative was a roasted beet and radish salad with tangerine-mustard vinaigrette, chickpease, local goat feta, and tarragon.)  It was very good, although the bowl was extremely shallow.  There was much less in his bowl than what appeared to be there.

soup

For our main courses, I had the goat cheese agnolotti (basically, ravioli).  The sauce is defined as a “meyer lemon cream sauce” and it is served with pine nuts and “winter greens”.  These greens were probably some kind of kale, a popular winter crop in the area.  The agnolotti were extremely creamy, delicious, and rich – almost too rich to have many.  The serving, however, was tiny considering the $19 meatless expense.  If you like goat cheese, I definitely recommend this dish.  It’s not spicy or sweet, but simple and complimentary to the flavor of the cheese.

pasta

My brother’s second course was a fish with a side of seasoned spaghetti and a light sauce.  The original restaurant week menu describes this as a “Pan Seared Maine Haddock”, coated with crispy Roesti potato, accompanied by a celery root-Meyer lemon slaw, and topped with a creamy Soubise.  (The alterative was “Braised Shortribes”, served with creamy polenta, pickled cabbage, golden raisins, sautéed spinach, and shallots.  The local crops are evident in this dish.)  I did not try the fish dish, but I know he liked it – and yet its portion size did not come close to filling him.

fish

Finally, the third course came: a blood orange tart.  (The alternative was a choclate coffee and whiskey “Cappuccino”, made with chocolate cream, espresso-whiskey granite, and whipped cream.  My brother had no interest in the alcohol, being underage, and I had my martini already, thus we opted for the tart.)  The tart was decorated with toasted meringue and a candied orange slice.  The dark chocolate blood orange cream filling was more like a pudding than we were expecting, but the crust was light and soft.  The dish was not too sweet to finish.  The standard dessert menu includes things like ginger crème brûlée, mousses, apple tart, and even a popcorn ice cream sundae, reminding me of the popcorn appetizer at Market Garden Brewery.

tart

I had a cup of coffee to go with the dessert.

coffee

With the conclusion of our meal and the presentation of our bill, our waiter gave us two tiny, spiced, chocolate-chip cookies.  It was a nice surprise.  The chocolate was very rich, like most of the ingredients we experienced throughout the meal.

cookie

PROS: I really like that this Shaker Heights restaurant buys its ingredients from the North Union Farmer’s Market and that it changes its menu as supplies change.  I also liked the variety of the menu considering its simple ingredients, as well as Fire’s ability to not overwhelm the senses in a single dish.  The service was fast and friendly, and the seating was not uncomfortable.

CONS: Our bill came out to be about $100 with the tip.  Had the portions been more generous, I could have understood.  I feel like this place is a little overpriced, despite its strides to provide a decent price for good food.  I would also like to see a few more vegetarian options on the entree menu.  Lastly, I wish Fire would better promote itself on its menu.  I feel like a cover page with an introduction on who they are and what they do would serve them better than the bare-minimum look their menu currently has, with only one line dedicated to their locavore service.

menu

I would definitely recommend trying this place out to locals interested in promoting the locavore revival in Cleveland.  It would be interesting to hear back from others on their experiences as well!  Fire is open open Tuesday through Sunday for dinner and Saturday and Sunday for brunch.  Visit http://firefoodanddrink.com/about/ for more information.

faithless Faith

little things and little thoughts that make up little me

Les Pieds Fatigués

"If you talk to the animals they will talk with you and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them you will not know them and what you do not know, you will fear. What one fears, one destroys." - Chief Dan George

heartsmartandpennywise

The greatest WordPress.com site in all the land!

A Greener Cleveland

A fine WordPress.com site