Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Gelateria


On Friday as I rushed across town eager to discuss the ways of my nephews’ elementary school lives, the sign for the Gelateria beckoned me in. I left with three pizzas (funghi and prosciutto, pepperoni, and margherita ) and three boxes of gelato (mango, chocolate and mint chocolate chip.) Years ago, my husband and I were there when the Gelateria was first open. We once had dinner of ice cream at the Baskin Robbins (or was it Hersheys by that time?) and gelato for desert. When we moved out east, I was happy to find a Gelateria had popped up near home (a rare Cleveland joint in the chainland of Legacy Village.) When I was pregnant, and ate grapefruit for the morning sickness (often like this), I often stopped by for a grapefruit gelato.

But, I had not been there since it started serving pizza. The Valerio’s pizza is cooked in a stone oven. The pizza smelled lovely as I was driving home. I had thought that I would walk in the door, reheat them in the oven, toss a salad, open a bottle of wine, take out plates, set a table and eat a nice dinner with the family. Instead, I walked in to find all my house guests were ravenous. I placed the pizzas on the table and everyone broke into the pizza. My family was really impressed by the pizza—as was I. I particularly enjoyed the mushroom and prosciutto pizza. It is my suggestion that if you are serving boys you order more pizza than you think you need.

The stores namesake was brought out next. I am not a mint person so I had a taste of the chocolate and mango. Both were good, but I have always been a particular fan of the fruit-flavored gelatos; and the mango was amazing. My only suggestion is that you remember cash when you stop by.


Caffé Roma

Caffe Roma 1
Caffe Roma 2

I love my family. The other day, I told my nephew how it is hard to be an adult. He seemed slightly deflated and I felt bad for having said such a heavy thing to a very young man. But, I had near 1/3 of my family visiting this week, and I was feeling the impending and eventual loneliness of their absence. Luckily, I snapped out of it and began to eat. We started our festivities at Caffe Roma. It is such a great place, but we rarely go for whatever reason. I should say upfront this is a cash-only establishment and it doesn’t have a liquor license. But, those are minor—the food is awesome.

The food is Italian-American with all the regular items that one might expect (red sauce, etc.), but the owner is an immigrant from Naples. The walls are adorned with Sofia Loren and soccer insignias. Rai, Italian cable, is often on the TV. This is basically what Bucca di Beppo attempts to simulate—but so much tastier. The environment was very family-oriented; and our waitress Samantha was charming.

I had only wished that I had run three miles (or perhaps walked to the West Side) before dinner, because I was not hungry enough for the Italian-American feast that presented itself on the table. We had—8 slice pizza (like a bruschetta), minestrone soup, salad, eggplant parmigiana and cavatelli, pasta puttensca, linguine with sausage, and a crispy chicken sandwich. The order of a crispy chicken sandwich was met with a bit of ridicule, there was no doubt. We drove across town in the rain and then even got lost so that someone could eat a crispy chicken sandwich…but then it appeared on the table, and we were all quiet. The patty was blanketed it melted mozzarella and tucked within at ciabatta roll. So, nothing that we ordered disappointed.

We finished with dessert—tiramisu, chocolate/coffee cake (bigger than my head), ricotta cake (so light), pistachio gelato. The experience was so perfect that there is almost nothing else to say. It is my suggestion that if you need a small quiet place to sit and eat lovely food in a casual setting with some of your dearest friends in the world, or in this case, with family that makes you feel an incredible sense of belonging, Caffe Roma should be near the top of your list.

Caffé Roma: 13000 Lorain Ave., Cleveland, OH, ph: 216-889-9999

Caffe Roma 10

Saturday, March 29, 2008


I am just getting back into photography. I married into a family that takes very few photographs, so I returned to taking photographs a few years ago mostly to capture Christmas memories. But, of course, the problem with digital is the lack of the tangible--those photos now live on discs and ironically mostly as vague memories. But, this food thing has meant that I have a concrete place (intangible as it is) to post my pictures. And, so, I have started to look at them and attempt to improve them. As such, I decided I would join in on jugalbandi's Click photography event. The theme this month is metal.

I had read the contest form at the end of February, and I was fairly confident that it was not for me. I love porcelain, ceramic, stoneware, wood, bamboo... as vessels for food. Their surfaces are comfortingly soft and smooth to the touch; each of those materials strike me as food service vessels. But, what about metal? I think of silverware and cooking-ware. I had quickly thought about maybe doing something Macbethian with food bubbling in metal pots, but I am not quite in a theatrical aesthetic right now.

But, then on Easter, we worked on making vegan cookies, and I opened a drawer that was overrun with multicolored dragees. I had purchased them to decorate something at sometime--but as they now strike me as a choking hazard, I rarely use them. But, that drawer, made me think that there was a good metal picture in there. So, rather than food displayed on metal, I decided to think of metal food. I looked through the cabinets to help me compose the scene. In the end, I decided to create a modern, adult Easter basket--in a sleek, metal bowl (that we usually use for nuts.) I would have loved to experiment with lighting scenarios, but it was a crazy work week--so I was rarely home when natural light was streaming into the kitchen. (This is the largest outstanding question I have about blogging--how do so many bloggers shoot their lovely dinners in perfect natural light? Aren't they at work at that time?)

and the outtakes...

Animal Crackers 2

Animal Crackers 5

Animal Crackers 8

Animal Crackers 9

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Soakng the Swiss Chard, originally uploaded by maybellesmom.

I must say reading blogs has become much more interesting now that I write one. It is nice to have a live community to react to; it is nice to be inspired and to inspire. White on Rice Couple has a beautiful blog, and recently they were creating rolled food. It inspired me to try a recipe I had never made--pathra/ pathrado. It is a rolled, steamed leaf dish. The internet yielded a few recipes, but I checked in with a friend for to get the "right" measurements. The recipe S-- gave me is listed below.

Cleaning the Swiss Chard, originally uploaded by maybellesmom.

Swiss Chard Stems, originally uploaded by maybellesmom.

Making Pathrado, originally uploaded by maybellesmom.

Making Pathrado 2, originally uploaded by maybellesmom.

Pathrado is a Mess, originally uploaded by maybellesmom.

Pathrado in the Steamer, originally uploaded by maybellesmom.

Steaming the Pathrado, originally uploaded by maybellesmom.

Pathrado in a Skillet, originally uploaded by maybellesmom.

Pathrado, originally uploaded by maybellesmom.


Soak in water overnight

1/2 cup rice
1/2 cup dal

Drain the water and then use a blender to create a very thick paste of the rice, dal, with
the flesh of one coconut
5-10 chillis (dry roasted)
1 tsp asofoetida
1 tsp tamarind
2 tsp salt
(Add water slowly to keep it moist.)

Wash the leaves and remove the stalks of

25 Large flat leaves (Taro/Colacasia leaves, Swiss Chard, Collard Leaves

Spread the paste onto one leaf so that it is covered with about 1/4 of an inch of masala, cover with another leaf and repeat. Do this until you have 5 leaves on top of each other. and then roll up like a jelly roll. Tie with string.

Steam for about 20 minutes.

Slice and serve warm. Or pan fry them in olive oil and serve.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Kids' cooking classes at Bar Cento

Belle has family in town this week, and so she made a very rare evening appearance. I wanted to take the family out to the see some of Cleveland, so we decided to meet friends at Bar Cento for their Cheffin’ with Kids. Chef Sawyer has two young kids and so I would guess turning a restaurant over to an army of children was likely a natural extension of his life. The gist of the event is this—every Tuesday from 4:30-8:00, kids can make their own pizzas. (Tip: make a reservation) There is a wooden riser of sorts that aligns with the bar, so that all the younger chefs can step up arrange their toppings on their pizza.

This Cheffin with Kids is a great example of the expression “simply brilliant”. Even the pickiest kid will eat pizza. They do pizza well anyway at Bar Cento, so making many, many pans of pizza for kids to top off is very doable. And, simple does not mean easy or uncomplicated. This event was more than business for the Chef. There was what the chef called “kid’s tomato sauce” and then his regular sauce. He then had 4 cheeses or so. While I can’t express how much I love cheese, Belle’s allergy meant that we didn’t even look at those lovely milk products. Then there were tomatoes, potatoes (“one of chef’s favorites” Sawyer told us), sausage, pepperoni, air-dried beef, olives, olive tapenade, onions. This assortment of pizza toppings really made me feel that for Sawyer this event is as much about being a parent as a chef. The display had items that made the picky eater comfortable like mozzarella and then stretch items like blue cheese. (Also pizza is a great choice for the allergic child--excluding wheat allergies. There is no egg or milk, and if you are choosing toppings, you can really know what your kid is eating.) My husband and I really hope to have a child who loves food as much as we do, and when it comes to developing a palette, practice makes perfect.

We weren’t the only parents who want this for our child, because the event was packed—babies to pre-teens. Belle enjoyed her pizza but mostly enjoyed wandering around the restaurant without abandon. One very tall patron who did not appear to be attending with a child, when accosted by little Belle, looked down at the rampaging mini-gourmand, and warned her, jokingly, that should mind her p’s and q’s or she might become a pizza topping. Of course, the good humor of the other guests was in part due to the strength of the waitstaff. As always, the service at Bar Cento is amazing.
We make pizza at home and she has made her own pizzas-asparagus and soy cheese. But, this was different because it was about being around many families doing the same thing--enjoying good food with their kids. The evening had the feel of saturnalia where the adult had decided to leave the kids to run the place—and as a parent I say this in an absolutely positive way, because how better to show your kids to eat good food than to give them the power to make it themselves.