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Issue Date: Summer 2006


Food Facts & Feats

A smorgasbord of local culinary news, achievements and insider information


Pam O'Hara and Laura Taxel
Photography by Barney Taxel

Put a Little Goose in Your Berries

From early June until the end of July, Leon and AnnaMae Wilson trek from their Newbury, Ohio, farm to the North Union Farmers Market at Shaker Square every Saturday morning. A gaggle of gooseberry groupies is usually waiting for them. “They’re a fabulous, early-harvest berry,” says farmer’s market executive director Donita Anderson, “and it’s almost impossible to find fresh ones. If the Wilsons’ crop were 10 times bigger, we’d still sell out.”

According to Shawn Wright, an Ohio State University horticulturist, the berries were common in the U.S. until the early 1900s, when an eradication program was begun because the plant hosted a disease that killed white pines. Nowadays, most Americans wouldn’t recognize gooseberries — a relative of the currant — but they’re very popular in Europe. The North American variety is tart when eaten raw, and similar to rhubarb or tamarind when cooked. The European cultivars produce slightly sweeter fruit. The Wilsons grow both. The bushes are thick with wicked thorns that make picking more than tedious. “It’s a difficult crop, but it’s well worth it,” says Leon.

The berries’ acidic punch is great in sweet-and-sour sauces, but they’re most often used in desserts.

         — Pam O’Hara & Laura Taxel

Between the Covers

Local author Michael Ruhlman’s latest book, “The Reach of a Chef: Beyond Perfection” (Viking, $27.95) will be in stores at the end of May. We got a conversational preview.

Q:  What can you tell us about your new book?

A:  It’s a narrative of my search for the heart of the profession and what it means — a continuation of my exploration of the professional kitchen. It’s a follow-up to “The Making of a Chef” [1997] and reviews the changes that have happened since then.

Q:  What sort of changes?

A:  It’s a white-hot profession right now. Chef/owners were a rarity in the 1980s, but now chefs are becoming their own bosses and acting more like CEOs. They are building big businesses.

Q:  How so?

A:  They have become more articulate, more media savvy. I look in-
to what it means to be a celebrity chef, beginning with Thomas Keller [legendary chef/owner of the French Laundry] and his Manhattan restaurant Per Se. I go into his history and how he got to where he is. There are profiles of Rachael Ray and Emeril. I also return to restaurants that I’ve visited before to see what’s different.

Q:  Did you revisit the Culinary Institute 
of America?

A:  Yes, I went back. Changes there reflect broader changes in the industry. The kitchen is becoming more and more professional, less rough and crude. The curriculum has been revamped; courses are increasingly specialized. Oriental Cuisine is now The Cuisines of Asia and the class is twice as long.

Q:  Do you have another book floating around in your head?

A:  Always.

More Food for Thought

Some of our other local foodies-slash-writers have put pen to paper recently:

“Brownies to Die For! The Complete Guide for Brownie Lovers” by Bev Shaffer, director of Mustard Seed Market and Caf√ƒ¬ƒ√‚¬ƒ√ƒ¬‚√‚¬© Cooking Schools, is a tour de chocolate, full of easy-to-follow recipes and baking tips. (Pelican Publishing Co., $24.95)

“Ohio Wine Country Excursions” by Patricia Latimer, author of “California Wineries: Sonoma and Mendocino,” profiles 65 wineries around the state. Use it to plan a trip or a purchase. (Emmis Books, $25).

ICASI by the Numbers

Loretta Paganini’s impressive new building, on Mayfield Road in Chesterland, has 
an equally imposing handle: International Culinary Arts & Sciences Institute, ICASI for short. Five times the size of her original place across the road (where classes are still offered for food enthusiasts) this school serves aspiring professionals. Spacious, well-equipped teaching kitchens, a culinary library, a cafe showcasing student talent and a classical training program make ICASI a destination for all those chef wannabes who dream of wearing the next celebrity toque. We’ve got a “paint by numbers” picture of the facility.

->  12,000 square feet of space

->  14 ovens

->  72 burners

->  5 kitchen classrooms

->  21 classroom sinks

->  10 freezers and refrigerators

->  7 food processors

->  9 fire extinguishers

->  105: students in the professional program — the oldest is 78 and the youngest 18

->  87: homework assignments due before getting a diploma

->  20: exams taken before getting a diploma

->  880: customers served in one quarter in the student cafe

->  960: times students wash their hands before getting a diploma

>  80: pounds of potatoes used per week

->  12: gallons of olive oil used per month

->  7: pounds of basil used per month

->  144: eggs used per week

->  50: pounds of tomatoes used per week

Find out more about the new facility at www.icasi.net.

            — PO

Going Once, Going Twice, Sold!
Bidding for Beef

If you want to put a little excitement into your food-shopping experience, go to MisterBrisket.com on Friday afternoons for the E-Brisket online auction. It runs from 1 to 3 p.m. and usually ends with a bidding war during the last five minutes. For those unfamiliar with the meatmeister, nationally known as “Cleveland’s culinary cult figure,” Mr. Brisket is Sanford Herskovitz, 67. He started delivering orders of poultry, seafood and cut-to-order USDA Prime beef 30 years ago. The clientele of his shop on South Taylor Road in Cleveland Heights has included Itzhak Perlman, Frank Perdue, Joe Torre and Pierre Boulez. Now Herskovitz’s stepson, Hank Kornblut, is going cyber, capitalizing on the public’s appetite for online shopping and eBay-style buying.

 On the Friday before New Year’s Eve 2005, bidders competed for roasted beef tenderloin, shrimp cocktail and smoked salmon for eight. The package had a retail value of $150 and went for just $62! Just in time for Valentine’s Day, a lucky auction participant paid $27 for a prime rib steak for two that would have cost $35 in the store. One can only imagine what delicacies — and bargains — Memorial Day weekend and the Fourth of July will bring.

         — Liz Logan


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