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Issue Date: Fall 2005

Food Facts & Feats

Northeast Ohio's big names drink in Century's 'tini Hall of Fame. Plus Coventry's cheese whiz, the book on Bistro Couscous and more.

David Budin and Laura Taxel

25 Martinis ... and Counting

The old adage “Be prepared” applies here. So consider what ingredients might go into a martini with your name on it — because you never know when the call might come from The Ritz-Carlton, Cleveland, announcing you’ve been inducted into its Martini Hall of Fame.

Every honoree gets a special mix on the bar menu at the Ritz’s Century Restaurant & Bar. The apple-flavored Terrytini, named for Terry Stewart, president and CEO of that other hall of fame — you know, the rock ’n’ roll one — is among the most popular. The Attorneytini, namesake of local lawyers Jakki and Fred Nance, made it into Food and Wine Magazine’s Cocktails 2005. So far there are 25 on the list of local movers, shakers and stirrers, among them Tri-C president Jerry Sue Thornton, WMJI FM 105.7 morning personality John Lanigan and Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, whose signature drink is called the Democratini.

Here’s how the process works. The “founders” of the Martini Hall of Fame — the original group of people on the menu — meet and make nominations. “Then that [new] person becomes part of the creative process,” says Century’s director of food and beverage, Kate Killoran. “We’ll usually come up with an idea, then they tell us things they like, and we’ll go back and forth. We want to make sure that it’s a representation of who they are.”

Think now, what says “you” like nothing else? Feisty types might choose something with peppermint schnapps. Those known for a tart tongue could include limoncello in their blend. If friends say you’re sweet, maybe you’d flavor your drink with crème de cacao.

Martinis are half-price Tuesdays from 5 to 7 p.m. So I tried one. Actually two. Well, the truth is two of us tried four.

Popovic Pops Up in NYC

In August, Scott Popovic, chef de cuisine at fire food & drink, drove 14 hours round-trip in a car filled with $7,000 worth of donated food and wine, spent $4,000 of his own money and devoted six months to planning before prepping and plating a multicourse meal for 80 people. And he insisted the experience was a privilege and an honor. That’s because the dinner was served at The Beard House in Manhattan, home of the James Beard Foundation, where Popovic was being presented as a Rising Star of American Cuisine.

Such events can turn local chefs into national celebrities. So his 11-dish menu was ambitious. “Everybody loved the concept of my ceviche shooters,” says the North Olmsted native. He also received several compliments on the poached lobster with seared foie gras and the tuna tartare with blood orange-Scotch bonnet chile gelée.

“The strawberry soup with lavender cream was so good I had four glasses myself,” he confesses.

Popovic had cooked here before, but this was his first time as star of the show. His wife, Angela Evanko-Popovic, assistant pastry chef at Moxie, joined him and did chocolate three ways for dessert.

The fund-raiser was a sellout — and a success. “Everything went off without a hitch,” says Popovic. “The only problem — and the guests never even noticed — was that we got three minutes behind with the grilled lamb chops.

“Oh, and I got a ticket within 30 seconds of arriving in New York City for not wearing a seat belt,” he adds.

He’d unbuckled, he explains, just for a quick check on all the boxes and bins in the backseat. Maybe the police officer would have gone easy if Popovic had slipped him a slice of duck pastrami along with his license.

Bar None

There are multiple self-serve bars to belly up to at Miles Farmers Market in Solon. Luckily, spending time at any of them will not impede your ability to drive home. At one, you can pack pints of pickles — there are 15 varieties to choose from — along with nine kinds of salsa. At another, there 43 types olives, from French niçoise to a spicy Tunisian mix; and a veritable banquet of Mediterranean salads and side dishes. But the best of all offers tastings of pricey top-shelf olive oils and vinegars. Pour samples from more than 90 different bottles. Sips are free unless you opt to try the 100-year-old balsamic that retails for $600. A tipple of that — so good you’ll swear it’s wine, not vinegar — will cost you $3.

Luxury Class

What’s round, brown, dirty, delicious and expensive? Truffles, of course. Not those sweet little morsels of chocolate, but the kind that are dug up by special pigs. Members of the mushroom family, truffles cost anywhere from $500 per pound for the black variety to $2,000 per pound for the white ones. Luckily, a little goes a long way. Taste their astonishing flavor in an eight-course feast featuring the fancy fungus at Chez François in Vermilion Nov. 25 through Dec. 18. Reservations required for the special prix fixe dinners ($125 per person, tax and gratuity not included). (440) 967-0630.

Reader’s Digest

Eating your words is not a pleasant experience. But eating the words of Bistro Joseph-Beth, a full-service restaurant inside Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lyndhurst’s Legacy Village, certainly is. The menu features dishes plucked from cookbooks sold in the store. A meal here is research — a chance to try before you buy.

Every month offers something different, but a few especially popular items are staples, such as the confetti couscous. “If we took that off,” says Roger Ranalli, director of café operations, “I think people would riot.”

“Everyone who comes in here asks for the recipe,” says Bistro chef Joe Dawson.

But don’t go looking for this recipe among the stacks: Dawson’s famous couscous is his own creation. So here it is to add to your collection.

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