doug katz knows breakfast

Of course he knows dinner, too, and a few things in between. But it’s the early hours of the day where he tends to win us over.

I absolutely love going out to breakfast with my family. For whatever reason, it makes me feel like we’re on vacation. Even if it’s just sitting outside at Yours Truly in the Falls where we’re regulars.

But when we break out of the norm, we head to my favorite brunch spot in town: Fire.

Summer time. Saturday morning. Shaker Square. Farmers’ market. Patio at Fire. There’s no place better. And did I mention they have free valet?

The view, atmosphere, location, music and of course, food make Fire not to

be missed for weekend brunch. We have pretty much eaten our way through the menu – from a Bialy’s bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon to the lemon ricotta pancakes with a cappuccino. I always leave Fire a happier person. Truly – I’ve never had a bad meal or experience and I’ve been dining there for over 10 years (and not all outings are before noon).

And this past week, we finally made our way to The Katz Club Diner en route to the Botanical Gardens. This meal once again proved my belief that Doug Katz may be the unrecognized king of early morning eats.

Now, not only did we enjoy everything we tried, including my cappuccino made with almond milk giving them extra bonus points, but the detail to the decor and the space in general perfectly matched the setting. Kudos to the design team. We loved it, and so did my kids.



a few tickets left for chefs unbridled

On Saturday, September 7, you have the opportunity to enjoy one of the area’s most unique fundraisers: Chefs Unbridled presented by the Jim Thome family. The event is a tasting dinner benefitting Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center.

The evening includes the sounds of the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, carriage rides throughout the Gates Mills Village as well as on-site food trucks serving cupcakes and microbrews.

The event, located at the Chagrin Valley Hunt Club Polo Field, will feature the following chefs:

Chris Hodgson of HODGES
Jeff Jarrett of AMP 150
Scott Kuhn, Restaurateur/Chef of Driftwood Restaurant Group
Paul Minnillo of Flour
Matt Mytro of Flour
Jonathon Sawyer of The Greenhouse Tavern and Noodlecat


Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center in Bainbridge is one of the largest therapeutic riding centers in the country, serving 700 students annually (from preschoolers to veterans). Through a special partnership with horses, Fieldstone offers programs designed by professionals to foster personal growth and individual achievement for people with disabilities.

Tickets start at $125 ($75 tax-deductible). To order, contact Maureen Foster at (440) 708-0013, ext. 123 or



The last time I was at Bac it was called La Tortilla Feliz. I was pretty drunk on sangrias if I recall. Or should I say, barely recall… So clearly it’s been awhile as la Tortilla Feliz hasn’t been happy in quite some time and Bac opened in 2010. Yes, I am late to the party.

While I’ve never been to Bac until last week, I have sampled chef Bac Nguyen’s food at various events around town. And nearly every time went back for seconds. He calls his food pan-asian fusion, combining classic elements of southeast Asian cuisine with his midwest roots. Right up my alley.

So I met a good friend on a perfect fall-ish summer day last week for lunch and sat on the patio. Just as I have done many nights during the previous owners two attempts at making a go of that nice little corner spot.

I was quickly impressed by the menu. Since I am the type that likes to sample a little bit of everything, the Bento Bac set up was ideal: 3 small items for $10 or 4 for $12. I went with the Tom Yum soup, summer roll with shrimp, and chicken satay. Nothing crazy but it satisfied my craving at the time.

The soup was perfect! Just the right amount of heat. The satay and roll were also nicely done and quite enjoyable. My friend Charity had the  1/2 banh  mi sandwich which looked so good I made a mental note to try next time. The coconut milk crepe with shrimp and pork and the avocado green curry with tofu also caught my eye.

You know, I really shouldn’t post on this blog in the morning… now lunch seems too far away. Bottom line – I really enjoyed my first real trip to Bac and look forward to more patio outings in the very near future.

overnight at gervasi vineyard

Sometimes, you just need to get away. But you can’t really get away.

My husband and I desperately wanted a quick weekend to ourselves, but between work and kids it was becoming harder and harder to schedule. Truthfully, I just wanted to sleep past 6 a.m.!

We are actually very good about date night and spending time as just us and do almost weekly. But haven’t actually been away together since Olivia was born, over 2 years ago.

Enter my sister. She gave us a Saturday night that she didn’t have to travel and gladly agreed to take the minis. I have been wanting to check out Gervasi Vineyard and as luck would have it, they only had one suite available for the night we wanted, which voided their two night minimum in the summer and wouldn’t have worked with our schedule anyway (I hate when there is a minims stay at places…).

One hour later we arrived in Canton. The grounds are really quite impressive and clearly well cared for. I was impressed. Our room wasn’t ready, so we headed to The Bistro and sampled a few flights and eats. The space is super rustic and obviously heavily influenced by a farmhouse in Tuscany – much like the winery in general. I liked it.

With a nice wine buzz on during the day (I miss day drinking), we headed to our room. Each villa contains four private suites and then you share a dining area, patio and small kitchenette with stocked fridge, wine glasses, microwave, etc.  The suite has a fireplace, lots of windows, high ceilings, walk-in shower and a king bed that requited a step. The rooms were impressive and again, were designed to make you feel like you’re in Tuscany and not Canton.

Next up was more wine followed by a pitcher of sangria. We headed to the open pavilion area and snagged a couple adirondack chairs overlooking the small lake. With an even better wine buzz, we opted to play bocce and corn hole. Note to self: unlike bowling, alcohol does not improve my skills in either of these areas.

To soak up our wine-induced afternoon, we headed back to The Bistro for dinner. Now, heading into this meal I heard a lot of positive commentary: wonderful Italian food, great wine, superior service, etc. And all of it – up to this point – I’d agree with. But then our meal came…

Jamie ordered the sweet corn soup with pancetta and braised short ribs – the house specialty. I opted for a few small plates: Caesar salad with shrimp, a spicy crab cake and eggplant side with fresh mozzarella.

Aside from my salad, which truly was outstanding – presentation and all, the rest of our meal was just OK. Nothing was bad per se, it just was wasn’t as good as expected. The short ribs were quite dry and the eggplant was rather overcooked.

Regardless, it was still a perfect night away and truly a lovely place to visit. I look forward to going back, but perhaps will plan this trip in the fall or winter. There’s something about that place that just feels like a cooler month getaway. Either way, you’re in for a treat when you go.


buying – and enjoying – local wine

Vintage Ohio is right around the corner. To help you gain a better understanding of our local wine industry, here is a trio of Q&As with some of the folks that know best.

Q&A with Jan Cobett, American Wine Society

Q. Why is Ohio an ideal setting for producing wine?

A. Proximity to Lake Erie and the Ohio River Valley provide moderating influences to our colder climate.  Ohio is the warmest of all states that touch the Great Lakes.  We get warm days and cool nights, much like Central and Northern European vineyards. One advantage of our cold climate is that we can produce fabulous ice wine.

Q. What wines have you tasted locally that could go up against any in the country – or beyond?

A. Firelands Winery Pinot Grigio, St. Joseph Pinot Noir, Kinkead Ridge Cabernet Franc, Ferrante Riesling, Debonne Chardonnay, and ice wine which is produced by several Ohio wineries.  All of these are made with Ohio grapes and many have won awards at large national competitions.

Q. What are must-visit wineries?

A. Firelands, Laurello, St. Joseph, Debonne, Valley Vineyards, Kinkead Ridge, Ferrante.  Gervasi Vineyards is also worth a visit.  They do make most wine from grapes from California, but it is a beautiful winery and restaurant. They are growing grapes, so look for Ohio made wines from them in the future.

Q. How do we compare to more well-known regions for making wine?

A. Most people compare every other American wine region with California.

People need to remind themselves that climate is a big factor in agriculture, including grape growing. We do not have enough heat days here to grow some of the Italian and Mediterranean varietals.  We can produce wonderful Riesling, Pinot, Noir, Chardonnay and French hybrids such as Vignoles.

Q. Tips for buying local wine?

A. Buy wines that have won recent medals. Ask the winery if you can taste their best sellers.  Come to Vintage Ohio and spend the day tasting what Ohio has to offer.

Q& A with Jim Arbaczewski, Ferrante

Q. What is unique about Ferrante?

A. Ferrante’s is one of the oldest and largest wineries in the state. We have a state-of-the-art wine making facility along with an Italian Restaurant.

Q. What are you best known for?

A. Our cool climate whites. Our best known wine is our Golden Bunches Dry Riesling this year. It is the Dir of Ags choice for Best White Wine in the state of Ohio.

Q. What’s coming up?

A. In September we have our Cask release party and in November we have our Turkey Trot event all part of the Grand River Valley group. We have an event every day at the winery.

Q. Tips for those planning a trip?

A. My suggestion would be to stop at the wineries on 307 and end up at our place to enjoy their favorite wines and have a bite to eat.

Q&A with Joel Sandrey with Debonne

Q. What is unique about Debonne?

A. Debonne Vineyards is the largest estate winery in Ohio.  We have just shy of 175 acres of grapes growing on property.  Most years our wines are made with about 97% estate grown fruit.  Growing our own fruit gives us a little more control and understanding of what the potential final wines could become.

Q. What are you known for?

A. We grow many different varietal of grapes here in the Grand River Valley.  Although we have had success with Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Cabernet Franc, we are almost certainly best known for our Rieslings.

The Debevc’s starting making wine in 1972 on property owned by the family since 1916.  For many years the grapes that were grown were sold to jelly and juice manufactures.  In 1971 Tony looked to use those grapes to make wine and create a fun destination for friends to come together and enjoy wine.

Q. Tips for those planning a visit?

A. I would start by going to and look to see what events are scheduled.  Throughout the warmer months we have planned events for everyone.  From classic car shows and pet days, to kites and remote control planes.  We have even started offering tethered hot air balloon rides. I would book fast, they sell out!

DISCOUNT Once again, Cleveland Foodie readers can enjoy a special discount to Vintage Ohio. Just use #13FOOD to receive $10 off the gate price (in other words – $20 tickets!).

Vintage Ohio is held August 2-3, 2013 from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. each day at Lake Metroparks Farmpark. Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the gate.  Ticket includes entry to the festival, a souvenir wine glass and 25 wine sampling tickets. Advance tickets are available online here or by calling 800-227-6972.  Two-day taster tickets are available for $45.  Groups of 10 or more, purchased in advance with one method of payment, are $20 each. Meet the Winemaker VIP tickets are an additional $15.  Foodie and designated driver tickets are $12 and include admission to the festival and up to 5 non-alcoholic beverages.  Children age 4-17 are $3.  Children three and under are free.  Vintage Ohio is held in conjunction with Lake Metroparks.

This post was sponsored by Vintage Ohio.


food trucks heading to the lakefront

Food. Water. Cleveland. What could be better?

The Downtown Cleveland Alliance is hosting a new lunchtime event that will give a unique look into the inner-workings of popular local food trucks. Beginning July 11, Lunch by the Lake will be held every Thursday through the end of September featuring roughly eight food trucks plus a Chef’s Kitchen event once per month.

During Chef’s Kitchen, a food truck will be flipped “inside out” showing off the highlighted chef’s talents by cooking and serving in an outdoor kitchen. Chef’s Kitchen will be held during the inaugural event on July 11, featuring the chef from Zydeco. Attendees can also enjoy weekly live music.

Downtown Cleveland’s Lakefront, commonly known as North Coast Harbor, is home to many flagship Cleveland institutions, including the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum, FirstEnergy Stadium, Great Lakes Science Center, Burke Lakefront Airport, the U.S.S. COD Museum, and the Goodtime III.


one of summer’s best: vintage ohio

Celebrating its 19th anniversary, Vintage Ohio is the most acclaimed summer wine and food festival between the Appalachians and Rockies. Annually, over 30,000 wine and food lovers travel to the beautiful grounds of the Lake Metroparks Farmpark in Kirtland to taste exceptional regional wines, sample tasty cuisine and enjoy live music.

This year, twenty wineries will be on-hand to help take the mystery out of wine appreciation. Sophisticated wines like Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc or Riesling will interest connoisseurs, plus fun-to-drink fruit wines made from fresh strawberries, blackberries, peaches and raspberries will appeal to those new to the wine experience. Attendees may also learn more about wine at the wine education demonstrations presented by the American Wine Society.

What else can you expect?

  • Vintage Ohio will feature the “Meet the Winemaker Experience”, where for a small additional fee of $15, festival visitors will be able to talk directly with the winemakers, sample 10 premium wines and receive a plate of light appetizers in an exclusive area
  • Three stages of live music
  • Crafters and artists selling clothing, hats, jewelry, vases, glass works, wine glass holders and more
  • Garden and vineyard tours are available at the Plant Science Center on the festival grounds
  • Fireworks on Friday night

And let’s not forget the food. Back by popular demand, the food trucks are rollin’ in once again. The line-up includes: Umami Moto, Zydeco Bistro and Vintage newbie, The Orange Trük.

Here’s an early look at the menu:

Umami Moto:

  • Seared yellowfin tuna tacos
  • Pork potstickers
  • California wrap
  • Curried shrimp skewers served over steamed rice
  • Sesame noodle owl

Look for Umami Moto to be launching some fun, off the grid dinners this year in fun and unusual settings. Details to be announced soon!


  • Creole jambalaya, boneless chicken, smoked sausage, tomato & dirty rice
  • Crispy gulf shrimp dinner, hush puppies, citrus slaw & bistro sauce
  • Hush puppies, bistro sauce
  • Summer blue crab salad, heirloom tomato, corn maque choux, vegetable jardiniere, greens & citrus vinaigrette
  • Local vegetable ratatouille

John Schulze, owner/chef, has signed on to work as the chef for the future Bourbon Street Barrel Room.  It will open late this year or early next year. He’s eager to really tap into his passion for Cajun and creole culture and cuisine.

The Orange Trük

  • They are still fleshing out their menu, but expect it to highlight the best of seasonal and local ingredients


Once again, Cleveland Foodie readers can enjoy a special discount to Vintage Ohio. Just use #13FOOD to receive $10 off the gate price (in other words – $20 tickets!).

Vintage Ohio is held August 2-3, 2013 from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. each day at Lake Metroparks Farmpark. Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the gate.  Ticket includes entry to the festival, a souvenir wine glass and 25 wine sampling tickets. Advance tickets are available online here or by calling 800-227-6972.  Two-day taster tickets are available for $45.  Groups of 10 or more, purchased in advance with one method of payment, are $20 each. Meet the Winemaker VIP tickets are an additional $15.  Foodie and designated driver tickets are $12 and include admission to the festival and up to 5 non-alcoholic beverages.  Children age 4-17 are $3.  Children three and under are free.  Vintage Ohio is held in conjunction with Lake Metroparks.

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Vintage Ohio.


town hall

Twice this past month, I found myself having lunch in one of my favorite neighborhoods, exploring one of its newest tenants: Town Hall in Ohio City.

Now I know why they picked this name, at least the Hall part. This place is big. Deceptively big. There’s a large patio at back near the Market parking lot, which leads you into the restaurant. An open space, that’s you guessed it – large, with another big area off the side. And then there’s a street-facing patio that’s actually more quaint. Despite its size, I liked the space and overall atmosphere, especially when you snag a table towards the front. Ideal for people watching on W 25th and enjoying the breeze since the front and back walls open up to Mother Nature.

On both visits, I started off with the Green Thumb, a truly refreshing blend of kale, ginger, lemon, apple and celery. I’m a big fan of green drinks and this one was quite enjoyable. It’s worth noting that the food itself skews more on the healthy and sustainable side, which is fantastic. So don’t let the burger on its website fool you.

For lunch, I tried the summer salad (greens, gorgonzola, chicken, avocado, strawberries, walnuts, leeks and balsamic) and the tofu street truck tacos on visit #2 (avocado, black beans, slaw, pico de gallo and cilantro).

The salad was enjoyable. Fresh, tasty, nicely cooked chicken – just what I was anticipating. But the tacos were just ho-hum.  They weren’t bad per se, but there wasn’t anything about these three little tacos that left me satisfied.

So in short, great space, delicious healthy concoctions but some further taste-testing needs to be done on the food itself. Of course, I’m up for that challenge.



spice kitchen + bar

On Friday, we celebrated Flag Day at Spice Kitchen & Bar. What, you don’t celebrate Flag Day? Well, I bet you would if it also happened to be your birthday.

For awhile now, I have been a huge fan of chef Ben Bebenroth. I have always found him to be ridiculously talented, quite friendly and have long respected and admired his approach to cooking. We have used catering company service, Spice of Life, for a number of events and his team continually exceeded expectations. Plus his Plated Landscape dinners are always a treat. So when he decided to open up his own restaurant, my husband and I were so excited for he and his wife because we knew this was a good move for them. But mostly, because we could enjoy his cooking at our whim.

Whim. What a funny little word. And what’s funnier, is that the idea of it is pretty nonexistent when kids enter and plot to take over your life, making plans fall apart and forcing you to often stay within a one-mile radius of home base. So although we are huge team Bebenroth fans, aside from the grand opening, we have never made it in for dinner. Until this past Friday.

We started off with a pair of strawberry-rhubarb juleps. Which quickly turned into another round. What an incredibly fun and refreshing cocktail that quickly creeps up on you. So consider yourself warned.

Fun cocktails were followed by the asparagus and poached egg salad with feta and white balsamic for me and the carmalized onion soup for Jamie. For dinner, we each ordered the special pasta: pappardelle with duck and pesto. To finish our evening, Ben sent out a dessert for us to enjoy: Blueberry sweet corn cake with crème fraiche ice cream and macerated blueberries. The dessert was accompanied by a great story on its origin as told by Ben. As aforementioned, I was two juleps plus one cab in at this point. So I had to follow-up to get the story correct.

The cake is made with Spice Acres corn that they grew out for three years from seed. Ben’s parents went out last year and picked a boatload of blueberries in Columbia Station. They froze those and used them in the cake; then mixed in some fresh ones on-hand that they macerated and paired with Crème Fraiche for a DIY topping. Somehow when I heard the story the first time, I could have sworn celebrity chef Michael Chiarello was somehow tied to the corn; I’ll have to dig a little harder on that one to see if it’s a reality or julep-induced fabrication.

I can’t begin to tell you just how good this meal was. In fact, it was outstanding. Every bite, every sip, every course. Again last night, we were talking about this meal and just how impressed we were. It was – without question – one of our favorite and more memorable meals in a long time. If you’re like us and just haven’t made it in yet, do yourself a favor and call for a reservation. Soon.

I am already eagerly anticipating our next meal. And this visit will take place long before Flag Day.


faux vegan

When not eating, I pretend to have a clue about marketing – mainly PR and social media. As such, I am constantly exploring and experimenting with new platforms. Latest is Medium (sorta like Twitter’s distant cousin for when you have much more to say). Here’s my inaugural post:

I love food. Cooking, entertaining or dining out – much of my life surrounds food and breaking bread with those that matter most to me. But I needed to make some changes. We’re not talking severe weight loss or doctor’s orders. Not even close (though finally dropping my freshman 15 from 1995 would certainly be nice). I just want to be healthier – for me, my kids and the world I leave behind.

Enter Mark Bittman’s VB6. Or Vegan Before 6. Simple concept – eat Vegan up until 6 p.m., then have at it for dinner. One week in is hardly enough time to plant a flag on a new lifestyle. But so far, so good. I am enjoying the changes made and exploring new recipies. And find that this really isn’t all that difficult. Cappuccino is now with soy. Green smoothies daily, sometimes twice. Big salad for lunch – or soup. Fresh fruit or nuts throughout the day. For dinner,whatever we’re craving with just a few minor tweaks (meat on the side – if at all, creative with grains). For example, risotto made with steel-cut oats is ridiculously good. Seriously – try Bittman’s porcini steel-cut risotto. Even my kids approved.

Tonight, it’s his baked falafel with tahini sauce. Then I’ll treat myself to some Bouche from Mackenzie Creamery that we picked up at the farmers’ market with a glass of wine. After 6 p.m. of course.

If you have a favorite vegan or vegetarian dish, please share!