recap – cleveland’s first rock ‘n roll bbq

For just the second time in its seven year stretch, we missed the Taste of Tremont. And we were out of town for the spring North Union Farmer’s Market event and will be on vacation next month for the fall fundraiser, Farm to Table. For a foodie that loves to support local happenings, I haven’t been doing my part. So when I first heard about the Cleveland Food Rocks barbeque restaurant through Elain Cicora, director of communications for Crop, and saw who was participating, I quickly put it on our calendar.

As some one who regularly plans events for my day job, I’d say it was a success. And while I haven’t talked to anyone at Cleveland Food Rocks to get their take, I’ve got to imagine they’d agree. Being the first time they did this, and given the infancy of the organization, it appeared to go off without a hitch. The turn out from chefs and restaurants was impressive: Momocho, Crop, of course, Boulevard Blue, Prosperity Social Club, Moxie, Beachland Ballroom (also played host & donated the space), Bar Cento, Lago, Brother’s Lounge, Greenhouse Tavern, Luxe, Melange, Blue Canyon and Sky Larae Catering to name a few (25+ total restaurants).
There was also, as the name obviously dictates, music – lots of local music, with the likes of chefs Steve Schimoler and Brandt Evans – even Bootsy Collins. And of course, the food — the reason why so many came out in the first place.
Just about everything we sampled was good. In fact, there was only one thing I didn’t care for. Melange perhaps had the most impressive offering and set up with a tasty (full) clambake, including clam chowder (speaking of Melange, chef Michael Herschman is now the GM over there), Bar Cento’s duck blini was rather enjoyable and the wasabi potato salad from Luxe was quite good. Our favorite? This nod easily goes to Momocho for the grilled corn on the cob with chipotle and lime butter. If no one was looking, we would have had thirds and fourths. Our second favorite was the melt-in-your-mouth brisket from Blue Canyon, served with an assortment of barbecue sauces, including a white barbecue sauce from Alabama, a mustard-based sauce and Blue Canyon’s own, which I liked best.
As for what I didn’t care for – the salmon from Blue Point. And to be fair, I didn’t even realize it was Blue Point until after I tried it (between holding Nat and navigating the crowd, I missed the sign). But I will say this – I might just be alone in my thinking because surprisingly I spoke to quite a few people who felt otherwise.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to try everything. After an 1.5 hrs, Natalie, who proudly sported her Rolling Stones tee and flirted with lots of chefs, had her fill of the sun and music and was ready for a nap. I heard the grilled peaches from Lago with goat’s milk ice cream and balsamic were wonderful as was the grilled veal from Johnny’s.
I really do hope this becomes a regular event. It has all the makings of an annual tradition we’d proudly support. And I think with a few modifications, it can grow each year and become quite successful (for example – better and more seating, perhaps high tops, and a separate area for the music to avoid overcrowding and to control the volume). Yes – I said it, the volume. Does that mean I’m getting old? But at times it truly was super loud and that made it difficult to chat with others and fully enjoy that tent in particular.
Finally, you have to give credit to chef Steve Schimoler and his team. He started Cleveland Food Rocks and has really done his part to promote Cleveland and all of the restaurants – not just his endeavors. He’s making an impact here and really trying to make a difference. And I think he’s succeeding. And plenty of our local chefs have jumped in and are helping to make it even bigger and better. It’s a great collaboration and it’s nice to see them all working together. While I’m sure there is still competition among them – and there’s nothing wrong with a little healthy competition to keep you on your toes – you can tell everyone truly loves this city and is happy to work together to promote all it has to offer, especially all things local.
(photos pulled from Cleveland Food Rocks Facebook page)


  1. Russ
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    I have to be one to disagree on the Blue Point salmon — it was smoked to a fantastic consistency, and didn't have the overpowering "salmon-y" taste I'm starting to think I don't like. And the glaze was excellent.

    If you didn't try Johnny's Osso Bucco (with what tasted like a brilliant BBQ sauce) you missed out!

    I see this festival moving to the street next year, I know I'll head back.

  2. Eric
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Hey Michelle! It was a pleasure seeing you, Jim and Natalie at the event! Take care and I'll see you soon!

    Chef Wells
    Skye LaRae's

  3. jacquie
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    I wish I could have gone to that! Thanks for the recap though. I missed Taste of Tremont too. I've been wanting to go ever since I first found your blog which is where I first heard of it. Hubby took me to the Hudson Wine Fest instead. I am hoping to go next year for sure!

  4. Steve Shoemaker
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    As usual it was great to see you, Jamie and Natalie at the event. Sorry we didn't get to talk more but it seems we all knew too many people there to spend much time in one place. And I think with all that was going on I was in the Short Attention Span Zone. I agree with almost all of your comments, although I did like the Salmon from Blue Point. I have never been there so I don't have any prior experience with them. I really liked most of the food. I think that the whole event did come off pretty well. And even though I'm an old rock and roller I must agree about the music volume, but if I say it's too loud they probably would point to my grey hair. Hopefully this will be an annual event.

  5. Kelly and José
    Posted July 31, 2009 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Reading through your recap is a reminder that we need to check out Melange. . .and go back to Boulevard Blue. . .very soon!


    ps – Natalie looks absolutely adorable :)