Next to the Bongo Room in Chicago and the Kula Lodge in Maui at the bottom of the Haleakala Mountain (okay, that one tops the list), Lucky’s Cafe in Tremont is my favorite spot for breakfast. Chef Heather Haviland, who also owns Sweet Mosaic, has created more than a great neighborhood coffee shop that happens to have the tastiest brunch menu in town, but rather a haven that celebrates both community and local farmers.
1. What are the top 5 spices every home chef should have? Essential elements of flavor for every kitchen include kosher salt, pepper, something from the onion world, say onion-garlic-shallot or leek, cayenne, and nutmeg or mace. If I could have two more, I would include bay leaves and basil.
2. What is your favorite and least favorite thing to make? I still get a bit nervous when I need to prepare a piece of meat. A perfectly done steak takes good technique.
3. What is your favorite thing about Cleveland and what drives you nuts? How long do I have? There are so many things I love about Cleveland, but what made me come back to the area was the people. Clevelanders are such loyal creatures. During the 10 years I was gone traveling around the country, I experienced so many different cities and its people, but no other place can measure up to our people. The thing that drives me nuts is that with that “loyalty” comes the other side of the coin, which is a reluctance to change and try new things. To really save our city, I think we have to get pretty bold and change how we approach growth and put a lot more energy into our downtown.
4. If you could cook for one person, real or dead, who would it be? My great grandfather because he loved his garden and loved to eat. Also my grandfather, because he could now see that cooking can be a career. He never really experienced what I do in the kitchen and he really loved to eat.
5. You’re having a dinner party, top 5 songs on your play list? Depending on the guest list and the menu, these albums are good start to finish:
Van Morrison – Astral Weeks
Nina Simone – The Very Best
S. Rachmaninov – Vespers, performed by The USSR Ministry of Culture chamber choir
White Zombies – Super Sexy Swinging Sounds
6. Favorite restaurant in Cleveland? I have just spent 20 minutes sitting here thinking of which is my favorite and it is giving me a headache. I am very proud to be a part of the Cleveland culinary community and I have too many to choose a favorite. My most memorable meal I ate in Cleveland that was not prepared by my sweetie who is a chef [Chef Andrew Strizak of the old Parker’s Bistro and now Lolita], was at Battuto in Little Italy.
7. What restaurant do you miss? Parker’s Bistro in Ohio City and Battuto
8. What hidden gem / café have Clevelanders yet to discover? Villa Y Zapata on Madison. The one on W 25th, their new one, needs a little work.
9. What’s your last meal on Earth? Cheesy polenta with braised beef and red wine braising sauce made by my sweetie, or any meal he would make in late August because it would involve my favorite foods of the Ohio harvest: corn, zucchini, tomatoes, peaches, concords… don’t get me started, there are still seven months to go! For dessert, I would have my mom’s chocolate fudge sauerkraut cake.
10. Most unusual food you have ever tried? Dehydrated pig ear.
11. Most famous person you have baked for? I have been pretty lucky here. Chrissie Hyde of The Pretenders (I just love her), Peter Gabriel (nice guy), Elvis Costello, REM, Quentin Tarantino and Ethan and Uma. I was partners in a restaurant in upstate New York that was next to a recording studio. A lot of the neighborhood was people from the city that had second homes in Woodstock.
12. If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing? Traditional coal forge blacksmith, mother of five, bridge welder or a solid gold dancer. So many options, so little time. Really, I would be a blacksmith.
13. What is your favorite sweet treat? Dichotomy. It is a popcorn coated with cheddar cheese and caramel made by the popcorn company at the West Side Market
14. What’s the most popular item at Lucky’s? Ginger chewy cookies and Shipwreck, a dish served during brunch. It features sautéed veggies, potatoes, bacon, eggs and cheese served with our house made Italian toast and jam. Our Mac-n-cheese with bacon is making a run for it, too.
15. Where do you grocery shop? It’s a combination of the West Side Market, farmer’s markets and Marc’s.
16. What is the best dessert you have ever had? For my 40th birthday, my sweetie and I went to Hocking Hills and stayed in a cabin in the woods. It could have been the combo of the woods, seclusion, hot tub, fireplace and time to chill and be together, but he made me an apple pie that rocked my world! I am a lucky girl.