Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Dinner Revisited

This is the pride and glory of the meal. We have a boneless capon wrapped around duck breast and ground pork. The Activa worked even better than I expected. There was no change in texture where the two different proteins meet, and the bond was sturdy, all the way thru to cutting it with a fork and knife. I found the whole thing to be disappointingly bland. The outside of the roll in the picture has herbs coating it, and I found I really missed the sear, and carmalization of a roasted turkey. Fortuanatly these are things that can be fixed....mushroom gravy saved the day.

This is an arial view of our spread, quite a feast. It was at this point I exclaimed, "things aren't getting any warmer" and they didn't. I let myself down with some absolutly cold squash. They will definatly be better as a reheat the next day.

The pay off!!! Sound asleep while someone else cleans up.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas dinner is set!!

My sister and I went to the grocery to shop for our final list of items. It was late Sunday, after the Browns loss, we made a list, but forgot it, at least we had some money, and time to wander. There wasn't much to buy, but I was especially touched by a couple who seemed quite intrigued with a fennel bulb. I silently listened to them discuss it, then to someone at the store who was helpfully clueless. I couldn't help but step in.....for the sake of fennel! I love the stuff, and if I can help someone with it, surely I will. We discussed a short list of cooking techniques, then parted ways. I really hope the fennel works out for them, they looked like they where sincere about cooking something of quality.

So, Tuesdays dinner, and not too late it's been stressed:

Capon, duck, and pork Ballentine
with Mushroom gravy

Roasted Veggie Valley Squash; butternut,
red bannana, and spaghetti with St. Igny butter,
and brown sugar

Chedder-Brocolli potato gratin

Green beans with New Zealand Smoked Salt

Wine, beer, and booze to be determined, but plentyfull!!

Happy Holidays

My First Christmas with Activa

I got this sample almost a year ago but have just recently been inspired to use it. I inquired at the company web site for more info, a sales rep called me the same day offering to send samples to my house!

I was inspired by the team at Ideas in Food blog when they posted a string of pics where they so something very similar with a large turkey. Here, I mashed the idea of a turduken, with the turkey ballantine. As you can see in the picture, ground pork in the top middle, then from 11 pm on clockwise, capon skin, capon legs, leg bones, and carcuse which i made stock from for stuffing, then on the bottom of the pic, a boneless thigh, breast, breas, and thigh, lastly 4 boneless skineless duck breast.

Since my favorite cook in a long time walked out on me 2 nights ago, the pounding of all this meat was very relieving. Needless to say, the meat is thin!

Here is my liberal application of Activa. I couldn't find any concrete recipie or ratio for small applications of Active, but a ratio of 1 oz per 3 pounds was relative the the only other ratio I found, but on the hundreds of pounds scale.
I applied the Active on all the meat laid out, then took this pic, and alot of the powder seemed to absorb quickly so in a very feverish, desperate line cook kind of way I sprinkled a little more on the whole thing at this point.

The final product looked like this. I did only one with skin so it was completly covered, the other one I coated with herbs. I further wrapped these in foil and plan to cook them for about 2 hours at 300 degrees. At least that is my guess, the meat thermomoter will tell me when is when. We will have to wait till Tuesday to see how things turn out for sure.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Poll Results

An Appetizer is only smaller when compared to the Entrée.

There are a lot of reasons people need to feel good these days. It seems that science has determined that everything is on a crash course to either save us, kill us, or vaguely switch between the two. Food and the size of our portions are not immune to such scrutiny. We all eat too much of everything, everyday, at every meal, on every plate. It’s true. There is no way our bodies could evolve fast enough to handle the deluge of calories that your average American can consume on even the lightest of eating days. It was only three or four generations ago that refrigeration didn’t exist, and the restaurant wasn’t even invented yet. Coupled with the sun up to sun down workday of manual labor, aka, exercise that no Microsoft gym/spa can recreate. So that Appetizer, is it a healthy choice, maybe, is it a call for variety, maybe?

Working in a small plates restaurant I’m confronted with the possibility that someone, or group of people order a plethora of dishes based on their desire to have a variety of taste experiences at a single restaurant seating. This is not always the case, a lot; ok the majority of customers are ordering something green or lighter, then something meaty or heavier. Why? The plates are small, and if they count calories and compare to their last 3 course restaurant meal they have plenty of room for another plate. We don’t offer something larger, were a customer can convince themselves, “at least I didn’t splurge and get that entrée.”
There are plenty of examples where people are persuaded to make discussions based on comparisons, I will give two. One food studies showed that people who could see their basket of chicken wing bones fill up where likely to eat far less than peoples whose basket of bones was empties periodically. Second, upon reading a marketing suggestion that if giving away something from a list of items, create a prize that would be considered the ‘worst’ prize, but don’t give that to anyone this way everyone, “at least I didn’t get the worst prize”

I think these examples apply to this discussion because the appetizer of which people feel so comfortable with is only smaller when compared to an entrée, just like the pile of bones. Likewise, the entrée is the most calorie rich, gluttonous, bank busting item on the menu, and a few appetizers reaffirm the customers, “at least I didn’t splurge on that gut busting entrée.”

Why is the appetizer our favorite course, because it makes us feel good about ourselves, and we really need that?

Christmas Dinner

With the Christmas holiday fast approaching the topic of our family’s holiday meal has arrived with the usual clash of likes and dislikes, restaurant vs. home cooking, and exactly who is going to do what. In the past I’ve prepared some nice meals, a traditional cassoulette, explosively huge paella, a stunning purple sweet potato pie, but I’ve taken some still sore hits as well like the mashed sweet potatoes. That dish caused a minor quake in the universes existence. This is what I have to avoid.

I want to make galantine with a whole turkey, duck breast, and chicken sausage; we will call it a turducken just to keep it simple. I want to experiment with some transglutimase that I got as a sample. It seems rather straight forward, debone, pound, dust, roll, cook nice and slow. As long as everything holds together long enough for me to cut it on a platter I’ll be happy, if we can rough house it off the platter onto everyone’s plates, I’ll be very surprised and give praise to the transglutimase in all its glory.

As for side dishes I figure simple is best…. Roasted butternut squash with brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon, caramelized Brussels sprouts and/or green beans. Then comes the potato dish, I want to either get really good butter and make simple mashed potatoes with st. Igny butter and fleur de sel, or make a chunky mash with pancetta, bacon, or grated pepperoni? We will see.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Bye-Bye Entree

The New York Times ran this piece in the past weeks Dining & Wine section. Kim Severson examined a great variety of New York restaurant to come to her conclusion, which is the entree is in fact headed for extinction:

Since I do currently work in a small plates environment, I say, "down with the entree!" But even before this current position I found it much more fun to order a variety of smaller appetizer, even a salad, or try a soup. Before this style of eating out had a name, we as both chef’s and customers relished the opportunity to present dinners with small tastes with explosive, exotic and or unique flavors that they would never commit to as an entree, especially with an entree sized price tag. In the past wine tasting dinners, and a rare sit down benefit dinner where our only chance to explore the small plate option. This shift in what customers expect is a breath of relief for chef’s and customers alike

Monday, December 03, 2007

Poll Results are in.... Conclusion

This Poll has garnered much more attention than any others. Perhaps general readership has increased, or this is just a hot topic. The topic seems closer to me than most since I’ve spent more time in my life thinking I would be cloning animals instead of cooking them. For this reason I hope I can bring what I know to the table with my foodie friends and chef friends and help them feel comfortable with new bio-technologies. As the mechanics of cooking, and the chemistry behind it become more important to how a chef works, there are correlated advances in the production of the basic building blocks a chef has to work with, namely vegetables, fruits, and animal protein. While chefs across the globe are warming up to the molecular gastronomy, those of us with a solid, basic understanding of genetics, cloning, and GMO have a mission to help educate those around us with the truth.

It seems perfectly reasonable that while introducing something new like cloned food products people will have their reservations about them. I think it is important to let people chose what they want with regard to the quality of the food they purchase. I am in complete agreement with the majority of the pollsters that cloned food products should be labeled as such. For example there are plenty of people who want to know if their food is ‘organic’ or not, and it should be a producers duty to label his product as ‘organic’. Should that producer be made to label his product as organic by law, I think so. As mass producers continue to make a farce out of the idea of ‘organic’ and hide behind minuscule gaps in the legislature it is important for consumers to know, one way or the other, this piece of lettuce is ‘organic’ or it isn’t, and if it isn’t mandatory to label ‘organic’ as ‘organic’ then how will we know?

The above reasoning might seem a bit extreme, but the legislature in the state of Pennsylvania has recently restricted the dairy industry in describing on their labels whether or not they are users of specific growth hormones with specific and studied effects on humans when ingested. So you have to assume that the users of this dangerous technology had just enough lobbying dollars to make the use, or un-use of this product as vague as possible. This is wrong. This is what across the board mandatory labeling of hot issues would solve. This is something that can’t happen with cloned food products.

I think that cloned food products are safe to eat. It seems clear that GMO are a very different topic, and there must be a clear distinction here. Cloned animals, used as farmers intend to use them presently, which is in breeding seems completely reasonable. From what I can assume leaves actual clones one generation behind the production line. For this reason cloned food products should appear on supermarket shelves as soon as possible with a proper labels including the fact the product is from a cloned animal as well as the lack of hormones and or antibiotics.

The animal farmers in the country have a lot of cleaning up to do. The factory farm is inhumane and cruel to the animals involved. We could shut them all down for the animals sake, but the price of meat would skyrocket, and the majority of the people revolt, eat veggie burgers, or die of starvation. $1.99 a pound ground beef doesn’t roam the wild range and get wrestled by a cowboy before being petted and laid to rest, and if you have this vision of where you food comes from you have a lot to learn. Cloning brings to the table a higher rate of infant deaths, failed pregnancies, and premature aging, all these things we can live with if the resulting adults are as expected, which is the strongest animals available.

In conclusion, 9 of the 20 respondents where willing to try cloned food products already which seems to imply there is a market for these products forming. On the other hand the second highest conclusion was a complete ban of cloned food products, which means with enough money and persuasion this side of the debate can implement it’s plan of banning these products trumping the majority who where willing to give it a try at least. Sound like a presidential election here!? With the information put forth, I wonder if any of the pollsters would change their opinion???

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Poll Question Dicussion

Guest Opinion – Meat and milk from cloned animals are safe to consume, and the product of them is ethically sound

Disclaimer: The following essay was written to fulfill a request by this blog’s author, my friend, chef Michael Walsh. Michael and I first became friends as we slogged through molecular genetics labs at college. I currently work in the field of clinical research and am familiar with the US FDA’s process of assessing the safety of medical devices – a very similar process used (in coordination with the USDA) in assessing cloned food-products. The following essay reflects my personal conclusions on cloning that are based on my research into the topic. This writer wishes that any criticism of these postulations be constructive and supply resources (if possible) so that we can all learn together.

”How do you feel about meat or milk from cloned cattle?” That was the question postulated by this blog’s author. In order to discuss this topic fully, we first need to clarify a few definitions:

· Genetically Modified Organism (GMO): an organism (animal, vegetable – not mineral) that has a genetic code that has been “fiddled-with.” An example of this is a tomato that has been “made stronger” by inserting a gene from peanuts – in order to have the tomato express a protein that would make it resistant to pests.
· Assisted Reproductive Technology (AST): In the field of animal husbandry, this pretty much incorporates anything that is done to produce offspring other than the old-fashioned “third date” bull-on-heifer tango-dancing. Techniques of AST include artificial insemination (used pretty much as the norm at most farms), in-vitro-fertilization (also commonly used), and cloning.
· Cloning: Common term for the method where the DNA from a full-grown animal is put into a single-celled embryo in replacement of the embryo’s DNA. Therefore the embryo grows up to be a “clone” of the original animal, in the exact same fashion as an identical twin. (Note: NO tinkering with the DNA occurs. A clone is NOT a GMO.)

Cloning has a bad rap. Let’s not mince words here. When the average person hears “meat or milk from a clone” – visions of horribly deformed versions of Susan Sarandon in Alien 3 pops into the front of the mind. (Wow – was that an impressively bad movie, or what?) That...or for the very few people out there who have seen the New Zealand spoof “Black Sheep” – you may fear armies of carnivorous cloned sheep who are out to take-out mankind. But let’s put Hollywood aside for a minute. Let’s address and debunk the common concerns one-by-one:

The meat or milk from cloned animals is unsafe: There are really two arguments/fears here. First and foremost of all concerns is that products from cloned animals are “Frankenfoods” and may have a bad effect on our health. While there is a legitimate (albeit currently theoretical) argument against genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the food supply (e.g. a tomato that has been modified with a peanut gene might express an extra peanut protein that would cause people with peanut allergies to have a reaction), there is really one simple thing to remember about clones: They are NOT GMOs. Cloned animals have no different DNA than the original animal. They are – in essence – the exact same thing as an identical twin. The second concern is that products from cloned animals is unsafe because the progeny from the cloned animals could have a higher rate of genetic issues that would cause concern. The FDA addressed both of these concerns in their review of data compiled from cloned cattle. Specifically, in the draft decision of 2003 concerning cloning in agriculture, the FDA noted specifically that “Edible products from healthy clones or their progeny do not appear to pose increased food consumption risks in comparison to comparable products from conventional animals.” The FDA opened this report and analysis up to the public for comment and concerns and in February of 2007, the Association of Food and Drug Officials officially noted their agreement with the FDA’s risk assessment only adding that “most of the products from cloned animals would come from the progeny, not the clones themselves.” This is not due to a safety concern – it is simply that the cloned animals are too valuable to use in this manner.

Cloning is an unnatural process. I want my food to be natural. Most meat and milk that you consume currently comes from animals that are bred by the use of assisted reproductive technologies such as artificial insemination or IVF. (Did anyone see the “Dirty Jobs” episode where he had to artificially inseminate livestock – definitely not a glamorous job, but very common.) The food you currently eat is not naturally bred.

The process of cloning is cruel to the animals and therefore I will not support it. Critics pose that the cloning process results in a higher number of failed impregnations in cattle and therefore is ethically immoral as it causes animal (fetal) deaths. This is pretty much the only valid argument in the bunch, however it must be said that proponents of this argument are also against all assisted reproductive technologies in agriculture and would overall prefer their animals free-range, free-wheeling, with flower garlands on their heads. This author truly applauds this valiant belief as I’m a big proponent of free-range food and ethics in treatment of animals in our food production, however those who hold this opinion should be prepared to only consume farm-raised protein only once every two weeks (as supply and production would decrease radically below current consumption in the US) and witness a heifer be “put-down” after her hips and back legs are shattered to pieces by an over-exuberant bull. I assure you from my experience – it is a very sad sight.

In fact, there are some that would argue that the process of cloning animals is more ethical in the treatment of the cattle. If the healthiest and strongest animals were cloned to populate the following generation, then it would be theorized that the next generation of cattle would need less medical intervention (like the current over-usage of antibiotics) and they would live healthier, more disease-free lives based solely on the basis of good genetics.

My conclusion: So where does that leave us? Based on the currently available information and with a full understanding of the cloning process, this writer says “bring on the burger.” Instead of worrying about whether or not my burger was once a cloned animal, I’ll instead concern myself with bigger and true safety concerns such as whether or not I’m ingesting a slew of antibiotics or growth hormones that could hurt me or (on the animal cruelty angle) whether my beef came from those horribly inhumane holding pens you see on the California Highway 5 where there is no more than 4 inches of space surrounding each animal. Besides – if my burger is Bessie’s clone, it doesn’t really matter as I probably ate her twin last week. Same thing.


1. FDA draft decision on cloned livestock (full data):

2. Association of Food and Drug Officials opinion

3. General information websites on cloning:

Monday, November 26, 2007

Poll Question, a backstory

How cloning works when scientists explain the practice of cloning livestock, they describe clones as genetic twins born at different times. Cloning companies say it's just another reproductive technology, such as artificial insemination. The scientific term for cloning is somatic cell nuclear transfer. To produce a clone, the nucleus of a donor egg is removed and replaced with the DNA of a cow, pig or other animal. A tiny electric shock coaxes the egg to grow into a copy of the original animal. The first mammal cloned from an adult cell was Dolly the sheep in 1996.

Carol Tucker Foreman, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America and an assistant secretary for food at the Agriculture Department under President Jimmy Carter, called the recent FDA study "limited in scope" because of the small number of animals involved and because it did not address such issues as whether the clones were more susceptible to infection or other microbial problems, as some critics suspect.

Social and ethical questions also persist, Foreman said. "This study does not address the big issue . . . which is: 'Is this what we want to do as a society? What do we think about having a clone burger?' We still need to have a national conversation about that."

The Humane Society of the United States has asked for a ban on milk and meat from clones, noting that many clones die mysteriously during gestation or soon after birth. Others have wondered aloud why it is necessary to clone cows that produce huge amounts of milk when surpluses, rather than shortages, are the main problem facing the U.S. dairy industry today.

But Barbara Glenn, director of animal biotechnology for the Biotechnology Industry Organization, said it is time to allow the new products on the market. "These are the best and healthiest and highest-producing animals," Glenn said, adding that "the science is clear" that clonal meat and milk are equivalent to conventional foods. In terms of animal welfare, she added, clones "are basically the rock stars at the farm . . . and are receiving the best veterinary care that an animal can have."

Aside from the health issues are questions about animal welfare, because cloned animals die in higher numbers during pregnancy and right after birth. A National Academy of Sciences panel looking at cloning raised the issue in a 2002 report. The Humane Society of the United States urged the FDA to keep the ban in place. In a letter June 28, President Wayne Pacelle wrote that cloning "carries too high a cost with regard to animal suffering, yet offers little benefit to humans and animals alike.''

"Critics still claim the process will create monstrous new hybrids in some kind of barnyard 'Boys from Brazil.' Nothing could be further from the truth," said Gregory Conko, director of food safety for the Competitive Enterprise Institute. The process of cloning is not capable of producing anything other than that which nature itself is capable of producing.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

New Menu Additions

Greek Salad, simple as promised

Boneless Beef Shortribs, with a bonus truffle-soy glaze, invisable except to your taste buds.

Handmade Gnocchi, these little treasured don't come easy.

Shrimp Soft Taco, with the star stealing banana & bacon 'guacamole'.
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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Menu is a Change'n

I thought this would be a perfect week to change some items on the WB menu. During a week where Thursday is just like the past up-teen third Thursdays in November for as long as you’ve been alive, usually tagged as tradition, I’ve done my small part to make something new available. While there is nothing revolutionary about these new items, they are items that are slightly more labor intensive, that take more attention than those they’ve replaced. Shortribs, gnocchi, meatballs all are labors of love, sure they are available IQF frozen with gravy packets in the bag, but that isn’t what we are doing. I’ll explain:

I wanted dearly to remove the tomato & motz salad, for obvious reasons, but from a financial standpoint it’s far and away our best selling salad, at a price point that couldn’t be ignored. I have matched it against a very hearty Greek Salad. Classic Greek salad ingredients, lettuce less, but instead of an oily vinaigrette we are dressing the vegetables with honey, and a red wine reduction.

Boneless beef shortribs are a no brainer this time of the year. I really enjoy the vegetables used in the braising, the ones we usually throw out. Instead I peel and clean them exceptionally well, and serve them as a "mashed braising vegetables" under the meat. Very nice with a drizzle of soy-truffle vinaigrette.
Truffle veal meatballs are a dish I’ve done before, and it tastes exceptionally well with a sage cream sauce. The cream sauce is heavy enough you can forgive me for leaving out the starch, but if you’d like a starch we would be happy to prepare a bread basket, or some spaghetti noddles for this dish.

The grilled shrimp as it appears on the current menu is gone, but not forgotten. It is a very nice dish, simple, easy to prepare, and very well received. I felt we needed to mix things up at the top of our sales chart though, and I felt comfortable changing a dish like the shrimp because customers who are looking for shrimp are willing to try it in various preparations. After all that, I got my arm twisted into adding back the grilled shrimp in conjunction with the tuna satay. The new version is as a soft taco with banana-bacon ‘guacamole’ a very fun flavor combination that went off fantastically well as a special.

Lastly we are adding a cheese plate consisting of 3 international cheeses hand selected from Dion’s Cheese Shop at the West Side Market. We receive most of our cheese from the Cheese Shop already, but I wanted to put a focus on a select few very upscale cheeses to offer people. Dion carries probably the nicest selection of cheeses around that are available in small quantities like you would buy for home. We will keep things simple with warm walnut bread and a fruit compote rounding out the cheese plate.

As for lunch, I’ve added 3 additional hot items to the menu, as well as a soup and sandwich combo. Lunch has been very challenging as of late, but I insist that our quality and standards are just as high for lunch as they are for dinner and everything is made from scratch, and nothing is deep fried.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Chicken & Crawfish Chili

This has been something unique that we pushed at the Wonder Bar as something of a signature dish. Nature has run it’s course and declared the Camembert Mac & Cheese champion comfort food, but I still like a warm bowl of chili on a cold day. I prepared this chili at the Taste Of Cleveland, but on a 85 degree day, chili isn’t gonna go over so well. Fortunately the chili got another chance this past evening at the March of Dimes benefit at the Intercontinental Hotel’s Grand Ballroom. The chili was meet with curious eyes, which quickly faded to smiles after the requested, "only a small taste please." I thought I would go ahead with the recipe, if you take the time to find all these different ingredient, then you deserve a good pot of chili.

Wonder Bar Chicken & Crawfish Chili

2 onions, diced
3 cloves garlic
1 pound cooked chicken things, pulled or pulse in food processor
1 pound cooked crawfish meat, try the Asian grocery store
1 28oz can tomato, chopped or stewed, or whole peeled that you chop
2 cups chicken stock, or base
1/4 cup each Worcestershire, apple cider vinegar
1 tsp each cumin, smoked paprika
2 tsp chili powder
4 oz un-sweetened chocolate
pinch of saffron
salt and pepper

Everything can go in the pot together and simmer for an hour or so. We just started holding the crawfish out and adding it to order since they stay much more tender this way. While there isn’t any hot sauce in this chili, there isn’t anything overly sweet so it’s stays balanced nicely by just ignoring those two extremes. I prefer mine with some croutons in the bottom of the bowl, then topped with cheese, and raw onions.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Weekly reflection

The past week has been a rather slow, emotionless, never ending week. Every day felt like Thursday. I’m sure the first week of this long winter season lacks the properties of motivation and inspiration. The lack of sun does something weird to people. It’s kinda fun since we all know the sun is gonna raise tomorrow, and maybe there is a small chance we will see it. At least the chill in the air brings our every ones appetites.

The start of the week was highlighted by the departure of 2 servers, one who was caught red handed stealing from the restaurant, and her friend. It’s a good thing, this type of thing keeps everyone on their toes. There is no way to weed out a thief until they’ve already ripped you off. There has to be a lack of trust, in a twisted way it is the only way there is any respect between people. The bigger issue was that those 2 bodies represented exactly half of our service staff. Filling those shifts is the real dilemma now.

Joe and I have begun a very pleasant tradition of visiting the West Side Market every Friday between lunch and dinner service. On Fridays we both work a double shift 10 am for lunch, not finishing until after 12 hopefully. It makes all the difference to leave those four walls of the Wonder Bar for 2 hours and see the world. Luckily we are very close to the market. We are able to find those finishing touches to our specials, and find inspiration for next week at the same time.

This week-end specials played out very nice. I got back in touch with Ed and Betty Frank from Veggie Valley Farms in Sandyville, Ohio. We have done business together in the past and they grow the most tasty potatoes, and some unique squashes, and beets as well. This week I used the beets. First I roasted the beets covered with a little water in the pan for almost 2 hours at 350 degrees. Separately I made a syrup of balsamic vinegar and maple to dress the beets. The beet salad was served warm, glazed with the syrup and topped with pickled red onions, blue cheese, parsley and fleur de sel. I already like beets, but I think the added sweetness of the glaze, and the bite of the blue cheese enhances the flavor of the beets without overpowering it.

Squash soup was another special. I’m so happy to have Joe working with me because he is very capable of making something creative, and wonderful with only the slightest guidance from me. I asked him to make a squash soup and spice it up... I suggested some caraway. Well, Joe made an amazing soup with caraway, cinnamon, coriander, and the texture was right on. A little roux helped hold everything in suspension without turning thick and gluey. We sold plenty, and the uniform response was, "I really liked that, it’s different." That is a perfect response.

Lastly I was infatuated with curry banana and bacon combination. I twisted things around in my head for a day or so, and came up with using the mashed mixture in a soft taco in place of a traditional guacamole. After spicing up some pulled pork with smoked paprika and cumin, we combined that with our curry banana and bacon "guacamole" topped with some crunchy lettuce and a squeeze of lime juice. The flavor combos came off just right. The sweetness of the banana really balanced everything out by keeping the curry flavor in check. I was so happy with how this turned out I think we are going to work it onto the new menu somehow.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

WB on TV

Today I taped a short video piece for "That's Life" on channel 8. I presented our Mac and Cheese to Steve the editor of Cleveland Magazine. The segment is about comfort food, and is in coordination with the Cleveland Magazine article of which we adorn the cover. Watch for us next Wednesday, November 14 between 10 and 11 am.

Poll Results are in.....

This poll caught me by surprise. Looks like 30% of our small sample group looks to blogs for local restaurant news and reviews. When I put some thought into the question I realized that the Plain Dealer has every advantage over the others as it’s a daily paper, devotes one 6 page section a week to food, and another 4 pages to restaurants on Friday. It is interesting to keep up on what everyone has to say, but for the most part everyone has the exact same thing to say.

Michael Symons repitoire with the Plain Dealer seals it for me. The Plain Dealer could possibly function as the single source of restaurant information, but that would not allow for the checks and balances that occur when different voices have a platform. For this reason we all will continue to re-read the same information in other outlets, just to make sure the facts are straight.

Sunday, November 04, 2007


This is how I made Spatzle for our weekly special. First I made this thick batter with a rough ratio of 2 eggs, 2 cups of flour, and one cup of liquid, in my case milk. I also added coriander, tabasco, and salt to my batter.

This wonderful spatzle press we borrowed from Joe's mom, and made our job very easy. I never used this type of machine. In the past I just grabed a perforated pan, and a spatula, which gave a very inconsistent size dumpling, and was a mess. I will be purchasing one of these in the near future.
So over a pot of boiling water, the batter goes in the top, and upon sliding it across the holes the batter gently falls into the water. After about 3 minutes they are done.
A quick shock in an ice bath sets the dumplings shape, and lets us store them tossed in a little oil.

We made a large batch which is drying off here.

I really like my spatzle with a crunchy side. I let a sautee pan get nice and hot, with only a glaze of oil the spazle go in, then a pad of butter right away. Don't toss the dumplings, just let them sit and carmalize. About 2 minutes in toss in a handful of herbs and toss, off heat add some cheese, and that is it. I like to garnish with some crunchy Fleur De Sel.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Come to my Restaurant.....because you've got to eat!!!

I pulled this piece off my MSN homepage a few days ago. I found it quite interesting and wanted to share my thoughts. I've paraphrased the article to fit it in this post.

Is eating out cheaper than cooking?
By Christan Science Monitor

By the time he's driven to the farmers market, bought the organic veggies and spent an hour cooking a meal for himself and his wife, Mark Chernesky figures he's spent $30.

That's why recently, after fighting rush hour, the Atlanta multimedia coordinator dashed in to Figo, a pasta place, for hand-stuffed ravioli slathered with puttanesca sauce. "I'll get out of here for $17 plus tip," he said.

Crunch the numbers, and across America the refrain is the same: Eating out is the new eating in. Even with wages stagnant, time-strapped workers are abandoning the family kitchen in droves.

Restaurateurs are absorbing rising food and gas costs to keep menu prices low.

For the first time this year, American restaurants will bring in above a half-trillion dollars in total sales, according to the National Restaurant Association. The U.S. has about 925,000 restaurants, and at least 8,000 are added each year.

"The restaurant industry has become more essential to consumer daily lifestyles than at any point in history," said Hudson Riehle, the restaurant association's senior vice president of research.

The biggest reason for the shift in her lifestyle: grocery-store prices. Just the other day, she paid $8 for a package of chicken wings and was shocked that they cost so much.

Despite all the money Americans spend on eating out, restaurants' profit margins are below 5%, the National Restaurant Association says. A dearth of new cooks and waiters has meant the end of many eateries. But cutthroat competition among restaurants has helped them produce good food at low prices, experts say.

"Restaurants aren't winning on their sophistication of pricing -- they're winning on their ability to deliver value," said Mark Bergen, a pricing specialist at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. "Simply put, restaurants are more efficient than you are."

Restaurant food costs went up more than 5% from the previous year in 2003 and 2004. Yet entrees stayed at much the same prices.

There are definatly two ways for me to examine this article. Once from the perspective of the restaurant, secondly as your average consumer. As an average consumer, with knowledge of food prices based on my job experiances, I am blown away by the markup on food, especially non-perishable food at the supermarket. I don’t like to shop at the supermarket because it irks me just how high the markups can go. Prices on meat and fish are doubled at least. Most non-perishable or dry goods are marked up on the order of 10X. At a restaurant on the other hand I understand the depth and scope of what goes into a meals pricing. I am happy to have a server, bartender, cooks, dishwashers, dishes, flatware, glasses, a bevy of condiments and beverages waiting at my beacon.

Why doesn’t everyone just go out to eat? I think there will be a considerable shift in the near future towards dining out. The prices of food aren’t going to reverse and go down. Food isn’t going to become less perishable. People aren’t going to find more free time, and energy to cook for themselves. Over the past hundred years there are a lot of house chores that have been outsourced. For instance, auto repair, you could go to the auto parts store, buy the parts, educate yourself in car repair, and finally fix your car yourself. You don’t though, you take it to someone with parts, and tools, and education that you lack. In the future we will think the same way about food. You might have the opportunity to visit a grocery store, buy perishable food, learn how to cook, find the time and hopefully an equipped kitchen to work in where you can make dinner. Or you will go to a restaurant just as simply put as taking your car to a professional shop.

The less and less people cook for themselves, the better we off we are in the restaurant. I am not talking about cooking as in entertaining a dinner party, nor is the restaurant I refer to fine dining. Rather cooking and eating revolve around acquiring calories. How will the restaurant keep prices manageable? I think that restaurants hold an inventory of both food and equipment that is far superior to that of any home kitchen. As this division continues to widen it will become more and more economical for people to dine out. The more people that dine out will directly affect the restaurants bottom line, and as we say in the business, sales cure all ills.

Wine Menu

Like everything else since the opening of Wonder Bar the wine list has made some dramatic improvements. The list has doubled in size, and almost every bottle is available as a glass pour. The menu is driven by very reasonably priced mostly California wines that have been picked for their uniqueness in this market. While our customer base my not yet trust us to uncover some tasty unique wines, they are just gonna have to take a leap of faith.

After tasting almost half the list this past week I feel very inspired to think about the interaction between my food and the wine menu. While beer, and most unfortunately domestic ‘light’ beers rule the world, I think they are crap to drink during a meal. In my opinion every wine instantly becomes more approachable when taken as part of a meal. During this interaction the experience of the wine is intertwined with the food so that every sip of wine creates a new flavor experience with the food, and vice verse. The new wine menu has brought together very tasty wine, yet very food friendly wine as well.

The Michael Pozzan, Russian River Chardonnay is the nicest of the three Chardonnay on the list. This wine is quite wholesome, yet crisp and sweet. Three other white varietals are offered, all bringing their expected profiles.

We tasted two Pinot. While the Muirwood Pinot Noir from California has a deep, rounded, full flavor that is hearty enough to just sit and chew on a single glass, the more earthy French Col des Vents Rouge is lighter and wanting to share the spotlight with a few small plates.

The two higher end Cabernet that we offer are quite contrasting. The Napa Valley Contrada is available by the glass and will quench your thirst for a glass of Cab if that is what your looking for. This wine is a study of the stereotypical Cabernet. On the other hand, another offering from Napa Valley, Vinifera is one giant step up. This wine has a very nice balance with just enough tannin to liven up your lips. There are notes of wood, fig, and brown sugar in perfect harmony. While we offer Vinifera only by the bottle, it is a bottle that works equally well before, during and after a meal.

While Wonder Bar is by no means transitoning into a wine bar I hope this expansion of the wine menu shows our commitment to providing a quality dinning experience. Every serious restaurant has a serious food and wine menu, and this is where we stand. The Wonder Bar is a great place to come and have dinner.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Weekly Specials

Duck Leg Confit, Truffle-Soy Greens,
and Christmas Ale Poached Pear
Orange-Miso glazed Wild Sea Bass,
Thai style Udon Noodles

Here are my pears cooling. I didn't like the level of ale flavor they absorbed so I reduced the beer they cooked in with extra honey and cinnamon. Since Great Lakes themselves uses honey and cinnamon as favor components of the ale I didn't feel like I changed the flavor, rather enhanced them.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Poll Results

I’m quite happy with the results of his poll. It seems 80% of the respones came because of "Independent Perspective" or "Visit Similar Places." There are a lot of reasons for a chef like myself to blog about his career above and beyond just his current place of employment. We usually have an interesting take on how the world turns, and enjoy sharing our unique perspective of things. This is one reason we can share recopies and all end up with a different final result. We also relish our independence, and the ability this career affords to bounce around from job to job and this is not look down upon. Independently similar if that makes much sense. If these are the reasons people are visiting my blog, and this is in fact what the poll says, then I’m quite pleased with my work here.

I first started this blog theoretically as an extension of my resume. I caught the blogger bug and things grew bigger and faster than I expected, but I did my best to keep the focus of the blog on me, and what I was doing. For a long time I kept my place of employment completely separate from this blog in an effort to keep a completely independent voice. Since I have become one with the Wonder Bar, it is easy for me to reveal myself as the chef there and assume sole responsibility for the food there. I’ll take it, good, bad, or ugly, it’s my gig. All the while I’ve not let any associations I’ve acquired at WB to silence my independent perspective. By no means do I want this space to be advertisement for WB, but we are so closely intertwined it may appear that way at times.

I’m glad that I can attract and or retain readers who have similar experiences or visit similar places as I do. I posted some reviews in the past, and found the response to be somewhat mixed to say the least. The overwhelming response was a, “who are you to judge?” I have always been honest though, and that goes a long way. I’ve been a critique of places, dishes, and events, but I did it with honesty. If the recipient of these critiques is as resourceful as I am, they would appreciate the truth in my opinion and work towards improving. I want to write more about some of my experiences in other restaurants, but I just haven’t the time to wander around like I used to.

It is good to know that the integrity of this blog is evident and the content is worth continuing to read. I will continue to write about my experiences with an honest independent perspective both at work, and at play on the culinary scene.

More Press

This weeks Dining Lead in the Free Times.

This piece is much more interesting than Mr. Trattner's first trip which included only luke warm polenta. I'm happy to say that we learned our lesson and as he noted, things were hot this time around.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A Few New Pics

This is quite the mirage, but really due to the fact the bar is so dark that I set my camera to sunset mode which has a good 3 second shutter speed allowing me to get the rather fleeting images.

A photographer from the Free Times came in the other night to photo some of our dishes. Look for a review soon i guess.

This was a special a few weeks ago. Melon salad with feta, mint and balsamic garnished with fleur de sel and black pepper.

This salad is on our menu right now. Pickled pears, butternut squash, blue cheese all with a maple dressing an a mixture of baby spinach and arugula.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Weekly Specials

This weeks special's aren't necessarily ground breaking. There are just some basic principles behind them that I find intriguing to discuss. We have been doing weekly specials over the past few months, nothing too far from the norm, testing the waters. Basically, I decided to take the whole "specials" presentation out of the hands of the servers and present classy table notes which include the specials and a folded stock card upon which the drinks and wine are listed. I think there is one server among 6 on staff that actually eats meat, so explaining anything beyond salad is a stress for us all.

Potato gnocchi are as easy as taking some mashed potato pulp, about 4 egg yolks per large Idaho potato, and mixing about 1/4 cup flour into them; this should get you close. I don't know because every potato is different, and how long you cook it is different, and how soon you remove the skin is different so you must add the above recomanded ratios together and see if you get a ball of dough that can be rolled out, cut and boiled without dissolving. Add more flour if you can't roll it out, and if it disappears into the water add more egg yolk. Wow, big deal. Make sure to add salt and you're on your way.

Chicken potstickers are easy. Cook the chicken before you make the filling and all your worries are gone. Besides, your flavors will come together much better if you cook the meat with aromatics before wrapping it up. This way, all we have to do is crisp up the wonton skin and be on our way. Easy money.

It's been years now, and I don't know who to attribute the recipe to, but I've been making a butternut squash risotto with apple cider as the liquid for years, over the span of 3 different restaurants, and it's always a hit. I'll do the same this week but leave the rice a little runny and bake it with some cheese/bread topping. The flavor of this dish is always great. I like to grate the squash with the robo-coup so it essentially becomes a piece of squash that acts like a grain of rice or a bit of squash surrounding a grain of rice. Absolutely wonderful.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Visiting Wonder Bar

The author of my favorite local blog came to the Wonder Bar recently and wrote about her experiences for Feast online as well as her blog. If you haven't been to the Cleveland Foodie blog you are missing out. You can find her piece about the Wonder Bar here.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

An Ox's Tale

Ox tail by definition is a castrated cow. In line with capon, why is it that removing the testicles of farm animals increases their flavor and culinary value? That is a question for another day. Today I want to examine ox-tail alone. I have been a huge fan of ox-tails since I first worked with them 7 years ago. As a young cook, to find a piece of meat that actually resembles a part of an animal is very exciting. While we are not sick in the head, nor ignorant of the fact that meat comes from animals, it is not very often in the modern kitchen that a piece of meat comes in and is identifiable on an animal, chicken wings aside.

Ox-tails take a lot of work. The meat is intertwined with a very gelatinous material that takes a very long cook time and manual tearing to separate the meat from the bone. The tail is a direct extension of the spine, and we all understand vertebrae, so tail is most often sold in vertebrae-sized segments, about 3 inches thick. I on the other hand purchased whole tails and I can see the yield is much more efficient. I cooked my ox-tails in a mixture of apple juice, onion and garlic for 4 hours at 350 degrees; at that point I took out the thin half of the tails. I cooked the thick "butt" end of the tail for another hour. It is very important to pick the meat off the bones before they are cold. Once cold the meat, gelatinous material and bone all join together again, like a family reunion. The meat needs to be chopped up a little bit and looked over for small bones. The tail bones and gelatin that they still hold are very useful to me. I make an ox-tail stock with the picked bones. I would add veggies for flavor, but at this point we are extracting a lot of gelatin, a lot of body for the final stew. We are making something much harder than a chicken soup.

In the end I have my chopped meat, and a very thick, very gelatinous, stick-to-your-ribs stock. I think the best thing to do with something so hardy is adding something sharp, something spicy!! We take the meat, garlic, ginger and lemongrass and sautee'd them together, until a fragrance of East Asia consumes you. Then a bit of Thai style green curry. Wow, my nose is gonna explode is what you™re thinking. Then for the last half hour we add a small dice of onion, carrot, celery, and bell pepper, adjust the spice, and reserve a few bowls for ourselves. Let me tell you, if you go a restaurant and see the staff eating, this is a good thing, it means the food doesn't suck!!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Chef's Recipe

While reading some of my favorite food sections across the nation I stumbled upon a very interesting article concerning the custody of recipes developed by a departed chef. The viewpoint and perspectives to approach this discussion are very broad. Being a chef, and one who has both blatantly copied recipes from other restaurants, as well as a chef who has created a lot of unique formulas, I have to take a stand.

A chef has his own personal repertoire, signature dishes, or approach to food. I think that each chef within himself (or herself) should have the pride and consideration to allow a departing chef to leave with his personal repertoire intact. I mean, who among us is happy just coasting along copying others' recipes???? Oh, well, when I think of it there are a lot of chefs just like this. I'll not dwell on this somewhat negative fact. The interesting point comes when a chef considers his recipes as intellectual properties where things like licensing and copyrights are considered. A recipe is only as good as the chef who wrote it. Likewise, a dish made from a recipe is not a direct reflection of the recipe, rather the chef who prepared it. If being a chef was nothing more than following a recipe, a lot more people would be successful at it.

I've left my recipes at many of my previous posts. I consider it an honor, recognition, even an ego inflating argument that they have yet to improve beyond what I accomplished while working for them. I've seen my recipes, and dishes I've created come off menus for a time and then reappear. It makes me feel good that what I did then is worth repeating now. I think that the recipe is not something that is possessed, but rather it's a tool that other cooks and chefs can look at, and use. Hopefully they are inspired to manipulate my basic guidelines into something unique.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


It is a very interesting phenomenon, the whole dining scene in Cleveland is of course, but the extreme peaks and valleys are amazing. This is my second stint working downtown, both times in the hot new area were business is almost built into the street, yet there are times the streets are empty. Luckily there are times when the streets are full as well.

It’s understandable that people want to be downtown when there is an event, sporting or otherwise, but our downtown just isn’t a destination in and of itself like other cities. Downtown is not just a physical space, but an idea, an event in and of itself. Downtown is the city center, the heart of the city, where things are always happening. Well, not exactly in Cleveland. While there are a plethora of destinations that happen to be located downtown, people aren’t coming nearly as much as they should.

We aren’t people coming downtown, specifically why do they stay away when the area is most accessible. When parking is available, bars and restaurants are open, there is no crush of a pre-event crowd, and this is when people should be flocking downtown. Instead, I’m sitting here, at the wonder bar writing this post, wondering why?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Infrequent posts

I’ve found it somewhat difficult to keep up with my work schedule and frequent posts here on my blog. Everything is going wonderfully at the Wonder Bar. My work there is what has drawn me away from the computer, not depression or delinquency.

We opened for lunch last week to rave reviews on the local chat scene. We have been noted in all three paper publication in the city, the PD, Scene, and Free Times, there links are to the left. We appeared on the tele for 4 minutes during a local morning show, and we will be noticed in the November issue of Cleveland Magazine. The word is out, and the people are coming in.

We have had a few days that consisted of a dinner crowd. People eating between 6 and 8 pm. This past Saturday we were crushed by the pre-concert Genesis crowd. We might have 60 seats, but the little wee kitchen isn’t built to cook for them all at the same time. We succeeded, and made it through only 86'n one item.

The menu changed last week, 6 items on, 5 new ones. We didn’t take one away for any reason other than we combined two previous items into one. Quite pleasantly the first new menu item ordered was the braised pork belly, sure to suffer the defeat in the end, but inspired by it’s quick purchase. We serve the pork with a Dr. Pepper glaze which is great, it is a syrup that taste just like dr. pepper, not sweeter, or stronger, just like it, and the spices there tame the fattiness of the belly.

The Thai chicken wrap is the far and away favorite sandwich for lunch. A take on the classic pad Thai. we use peanut butter and spicy jalapeno jelly as a start topped with pulled chicken, carrot slaw, scrambled eggs, and a quick char on the griddle. Fantastic, the list of ingrediants might not be so tempting, but it’s a good sandwich.

From the inner core the management team at Wonder Bar is coming together, we are challenging each other, and pushing each other in a positive direction. I hope that if any dish, or meal that I put out is not up to par someone tells me. I want to hear things like this. The freetimes claimed my polenta and potato where cold, well I’ve made changes so this will never be the case again. We are working together, 6 heads working together, on the same page, we will be successful.

If you haven’t been to the Wonder Bar, please come to eat. We are cooking in all the real senses. We are making our own stocks in little 2 gallon pots at a time. We don’t have a fryer, nothing is cooked in fat, hydrated or not, non. We are taking wholesome ingredients and turning them into something special. Sure there are plenty of places doing the same thing, but we are doing small plates so you can share, and we are preparing them in the Jazz Bar environment which is full of energy and excitement, and we are cooking until midnight, you will not find our quality food cooked till midnight anywhere in the city!!!

Poll Results are in.....

I’m looking at the poll results and I can’t believe my eyes! I’m in total agreement with the voters? I’ve really found my target audience or what? Foie Gras pulls through as the most desired luxury ingredient. I can’t agree more. Caviar I could totally live without, I’ve tasted the freshest beluga available in Cleveland, I’d pass on it if offered again. Truffles, well, being a culinary product of the 90's I’m likely to take your truffle and glaze it with my truffle oil, because, that is what we’ve come to expect from a truffle, falsely yes, but still. Lobster is maybe the most over rated, over priced seafood available. I love a good lobster salad, mayo, celery, lobster, but it’s absolutely crushed, butchered, humiliated in most restaurant applications where the final product is a shriveled up chewy piece of overpriced ocean spider.

All hail Foie Gras! I’ve written about the history and defended the techniques that make foie gras possible in the past, please use these posts as a background for my understanding of the product. I love to eat, and cook foie gras. Chicago made foie gras illegal, California has plans to make foie gras illegal, the french government has made specific appellations in efforts to not let this happen in France. 61% want foie gras, I love it. At least foie gras is safe in Cleveland. I have been on hiatus from this wonderful product for a few months, but I’m back, I can’t wait to get some in. I’ve had a lot of success with foie gras mousse using scrap pieces cut when portioning. These are rather reasonably priced, and my technique uses %100 of the foie purchased. Seared foie gras is more approachable, and lends itself to some unique accompaniments as those very tart, bitter, or even sweet items pair well with the slab of fat. Terrines and torchones don’t go over as well, but they deserve a place in every proper cooks study. A foie gras terrine, a gelle, a pickled something, and toast points...that’s a classic dish for yesterday and today.

Thank you everyone who voted. I’ve been inspired by this idea that foie gras is desirable to many people.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

On the eve of lunch service

While opening for lunch doesn't look like much on paper, it is a whole different beast in physical form. In reality I have the prospect of doubling my workload from what it's been thus far. This is not much of a challenge....but, what if, rather, WHEN, we get busy!!??

The joy of this lunch launching is that I've changed a few dinner items in an attempt to begin an upscale swing in the items offered. In turn, I've come to the conclusion that making sandwiches is not an emotionally satisfying event. I have added five wonderful sandwiches to the lunch menu. Items that are high quality, tasty sandwiches, but it's not at all rewarding. I plan on spending my lunchtime finding ways to improve expenses and increase income.

In mentioning this upscale swing, I am adding to the dinner menu a braised pork belly, a cassoulet, pickled pear salad, and a ratatouille dish that are knock-your-socks-off winners. The pork has a Dr. Pepper glaze that is even better than I imagined it would be. The cassoulet has lamb, pork, beef and duck and is turning into my favorite dish already. I mixed up the classic pear and blue cheese salad by pickling the pears and using them as the acid which usually lives in the vinaigrette, but I'm dressing the greens with maple syrup. Works perfectly; add some diced butternut squash and mm, mm good. Ratatouille is a classic. Even after the movie of the same name, no one has really latched on to this wonderful dish. I've been a fan since my youth, graduating to caponata, but always remembering a good ratatouille. It's one of the rare recipes where a large variety of ingredients work together instead of against each other in order to make something wonderful.

As for the sandwiches, the classic chicken salad is great, in fact I'm eating one right now as I type this, it's good. The Thai chicken wrap is also very tasty, there is a lot going on in that wrap, but overall it reminds me of pad thai, which was our goal. The roast beef is just there to be the best seller because every guy that comes in is gonna get a roast beef and a Dortmunder - done, out the door, while staring at the TV the whole time. Hurray! The grilled cheese is special to me because I love my grilled cheese with onion and tomato, and if it's just right the tomato is warm and juicy and the onion is still sharp....perfect. One of my favorite movies is "The Last Time I Committed Suicide." It's based on a letter written from Neal Cassady to Jack Kerouac. In the movie, Neal comments that his bedtime beau made the best grilled cheese; melted, yet raw on the this point in the movie, she then went in the bathroom and slit her wrists. I take this to mean this type of sandwich is really, really good!!! Finally the Pan Bagnat - the classic French tuna salad sandwich, have I doomed myself using the French on the menu??? I'm sure I have, but it's a holistic thing. Tuna poached in olive oil, fresh made mayo, hard boiled egg, radish, I mean, there are parts of the world where this is the top seller, come on lunch crowd! You're all educated professionals, have some worldly culinary fun with me!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Lunch Sandwiches

These are our new lunch sandwiches begining this Wednsday, September 26.

Chicken Salad: Diced whole roased chicken meat blended with celery, shredded carrots, red onion, mayonnaise, and mustard. Served on thick cut white bread.

Thai Chicken Wrap: Modeled after Pad Thai whole roasted chicken is shredded and wrapped with carrots, scrambled eggs, peanut butter, and spicy hot pepper jelly.

French Pan Bagnat: Pan-bagnat means "wet bread". The Pan-bagnat is a popular lunchtime dish in the region around Nice, France where it is sold in most bakeries and on most markets. Our version is based around house poached and marinated Ahi tuna, which is fully cooked and flavored with garlic and rosemary. We add Ratatouille, hard boiled egg, radish, and chop scallions to this sandwich served on soft french bagette

Roast Beef: Classic roast beef cooked medium, and sliced swiss on rye bread with mixed greens, and a side of horseradish cream.

Roasted Garlic Grilled Cheese: Thick cut white bread smeared with roasted garlic and stuffed with a slice of tomato, and raw red onion with melted cheddar, grueyer, and goat cheese.

We will also offer the same 4 salads from the dinner menu, and 3 hot small plates as well.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Good Press

This good press appeared in Scene Magazine this week,

I also appeared in a two minute spot on Robin Swaboda’s local morning show.

This is great inspiration going into next week when we launch lunch service starting Wednesday September, 26. Likewise we are modifying the dinner menu next week as well.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Poll Results are in.....

This poll posted over the most perfect past 8 days in which we Clevelanders have been blessed with the passing of summer. It seems almost like a loaded question to ask at this time of the year. As expected "Falls Bounty is what draws people out to restaurants far more than patios or snow storms. Ironically "Springs rejuvenation" does little for customers. For a chef the regrowth of Spring is a welcome cure for the Winter blues.

Fall is also my personal favorite season of the year in which both to dine out and to cook. The fundamentally different thing between Spring and Fall for me, with regard to my cooking is that every Spring I want to try new things with the same ingredient. In the fall I am excited to get the same ingredient in so I can prepare them in the same way I enjoyed last year, and the year before. We all have our favorites; butternut squash soup, chowder, root vegetables, or braised..... well, braised anything really.

The menu at Wonder Bar will be changing soon with a strong turn toward seasonal dishes. I will be adding a pear and butternut squash salad, braised bacon, bean stew with lamb and duck, and keeping the wholesome chili and mac & cheese.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Another Week-end in the Books

After considering whether or not to even incorporate specials this weekend, Joe and I decided to keep pushing ahead. We took it as our mission to make the simplest, most common likeable dishes and let them sell themselves.

The soup was full of flavor, but might have sold better if it wasn’t 80 degrees outside with 100 percent humidity. Cocktail shrimp is so easy, and so common, we sold more of these than anything else all weekend. Beef has been one of our top sellers, but it’s difficult to justify its cost sometimes. Well, I solved this by building up the plate with a thick slice of potato and topping it with a sunny-side-up egg. Even the pudding sold, a few, but it tasted very good. I thought it was a little too firm, but I watched one customer eat two bowls. Guess I wasn’t the only one who thought it tasted good.

For next weekend I’m looking at more of the same. A stuffed shrimp and a beef dish. Maybe I should lay off the soup till the weather makes a definite turn. Something sweet......?

Sweet Corn Chowder w/ Honey-Cheddar Scones

3 Citrus Poached Shrimp, Tomato-Horseradish Aioli

Steak and Eggs w/ Baked Potato, Roast Garlic-Peppercorn Cream

Homemade Butterscotch Pudding

Week-end Pics

Steak and Eggs

Citrus Poached Shrimp

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Tapenade re-visited

Over the weekend I had a discussion with another chef friend of mine about the origin of tapenade. She believed its origin to be Spanish, while I thought it was French. After a short discussion, we decided to go with a generic Mediterranean origin making us both correct to a point.The definition of tapenade has been manipulated by today's chefs to encompass almost anything pureed into something almost as smooth as a paste. Beans, tomato, cheese, shrimp and bell peppers are all ingredients that I’ve used in tapenade. When thinking about a more traditional tapenade, olives are the star.

While I don't have a specific recipe that I call my favorite, I will share some guidelines on what has worked for me in the past.

First, saltiness! Olives kept in a brine tend to be very salty. They can be drained, rinsed, or might even need to soak in lukewarm water to draw away some of the salt. Unfortunately, this does nothing to help the flavor of the olive. While they might be more expensive, oil-cured or marinated olives have much more flavor without the salt. To help get over the higher pricem don't send the marinade down the drain! Save the oil and use it in a vinaigrette.

Second, knife -vs- food processor. Without even going into the ingredients that might end up in a tapenade, it is important to understand that some foods just should not be put in the food processor. In my opinion, raw garlic, red onions, and leafy herbs are things that should not be processed, rather use a sharp chef's knife to cut the food. Opposed to ripping, tearing, and smashing the food which is what the food processor is doing a good amount of the time.

Finally, ingredients. I've made a lot of tapenade in my time, and the size of the batch directly reflects the number of ingredients. When I offered tapenade as part of bread service it was a simple olive puree. In contrast, when I’ve served olive tapenade as the sauce for a tuna dish it became quite complex. The most simple recipe would include oil-cured olives, roasted garlic, lemon juice and basil. A more complex recipe would have the addition of capers, anchovies, red onion, parsley and thyme. To give you exact measures would not prove to better things; you have to taste it. The makeup of your olive mix determines a lot, I prefer more kalamata than green. Overall the mixture should be at least 90% olives. Adding more doesn't always mean better, so keep things simple

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Tapenade is a Provençal dish consisting of pureed or finely chopped olives, capers and olive oil. Its name comes from the Provençal word for capers, tapéno. It is a popular food in the south of France, where it is generally eaten as an hors d’œuvre, spread on gourmet breads such as baguette or ciabatta. Sometimes it is also used to stuff fillets for a main course.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Poll Results are in.....

A very decisive 50% of respondents found the food to be the most memorable aspect of their best restaurant experience. I’m not too surprised by this outcome. Great service is something that is elusive and hidden, such that if things go as planned you don’t bother to give the service much of a thought. "Atmosphere" is broad term which got the least amount of votes. When I created the poll, I was thinking atmosphere in terms of both the restaurant's ambiance as well as the company with whom you were dining. Perhaps I should have separated those concepts, but I’m not sure it would have mattered. Clearly, food is the decisive factor to a great restaurant experience.

My personal vote went to "great service." I say this because of, for example, the service we got at Everest restaurant in Chicago a few years ago. Great service is not defined by the fact Lucy-in-pigtails didn’t charge you for all 6 Bud Lights you ordered and cut you an extra large slice of pie. Everest was a once in a life time experience for me, at least so far. The food was good, but being a chef I know that if you look hard enough you will find good food on any menu, and if not, I can cook for myself. What put this experience over the top was the quality of each staff member as well as the sheer number of them. There was someone in the lobby to get us on the elevator, someone to lead us off the elevator to the restaurant, a host who took jackets and seated us at our table. There was a different person who each poured water, took the food order, delivered martinis, took the wine order, opened and poured wine, re-folded your napkin if you got up and brought new flatware. Each course was a circus of plating table-side with the essence and craftsmanship that smacks you in the face. Broths and sauces, garnishes and plates whirled around my head like a fairytale or a daydream, all landing flat on the table in front of me, arranged like a picture, appropriately aligned with not one stray drop on me, the table, the floor; nothing was out of place or inappropriate.

"Perfect food" did win the poll, and if not for my experience at Everest I would have voted for food as well. I think it’s no surprise that people go to a restaurant with the expectations that the food be very good. Perfect is elusive and rare, but that is what makes it so special. For me, as a chef, I'm not embarrassed to say that some of the best food I’ve tasted has been food I’ve cooked myself, and some wasn't even food in a restaurant. I made a Christmas Cassoulet two years ago that was maybe the best meal I’ve ever had. This is the exception; it seems most people cook at home for survival, not satisfaction. This is good for me, because people come to the restaurant, where I can make every attempt to cook a memorable meal for them with Perfect Food

New Kitchen Tool!!!

My new Japanese mandoline finally arrived by mail delivery on tuesday, and I've promptly got the scars to prove it.

I'm glad it was new, and sharp otherwise I might have ripped a piece of skin off instead of these wonerfully precise jullienne slices.

This isn't the moment after the tragedy, it's just a dirty mandoline, a very sharp and dirty mandoline.
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Sunday, September 02, 2007

Another Week Bites the Dust

I tried to run specials again, and again complete failure. Everyone praised the dishes and I think both are nice dishes; the problem is that no one is coming to WB for the food. It's an afterthought, and as the chef I have to take measures to change this perception.

I found fresh lima beans at the West Side Market. DeCaro Produce usually has a unique selection of vegetables, specifically root vegetables that no one else has, and they had the lima beans. I made a succotash with goat cheese and fried egg. The final dish was outstanding, fresh tasting and local. We sold one, and it tuned out the guy really only wanted the fried egg

There is nothing more classic and easy to sell as a dish of figs with blue cheese and prosciutto. We serve it warm with pickled vegetables and maple syrup. How I can not sell $5 a pop....something is seriously out of balance.

This is our mac and cheese. Classic elbow macaroni with Bechamel and Gruyere, topped with Camembert and served with the optional duck confit or truffle bread crumbs.

This is a hybrid potato skin/twice-baked potato. We make a filling with potato pulp, shrimp, scallions and tomato, overstuff the potato skin and bake with cheddar on top. Served with an herb mayo, this dish has become quite popular.
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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Woo City Ice Cream

At the Wonder Bar, we use Woo City ice cream. They do a wonderful job for us. We offer Guinness, Bass, and chocolate stout flavors, and they are the most flavorful ice creams I've come across, ever! There is no possible way to make our own ice cream at WB, but I've given the frozen cream process a try in the past, and from what I've seen there is nothing like the Woo City product. The flavors are very clean and clear, the way they deal with liquor in the ice cream is top-notch. I tasted an amaretto flavor that was out of this world! Not only the flavor, but the texture is so creamy, and that texture is long lasting. If you are shopping for ice cream, I highly recommend Woo City. Not only is it a great product for home, but it is a pleasure to do business with these men; I think their ice cream is the best in town.

Appearing at Taste Of Cleveland

House of Blues Culinary Showcase presented by WDOK-FM

Where is that savory smell coming from? Daily culinary demonstrations by participating restaurants, appearances by local celebrities as well as Chef Teresa Todia from the House of Blues will take place throughout the weekend. Get cooking tips from the pros and take home some delicious new recipe ideas from culinary connoisseurs. Plus, special presentations will be conducted Sunday, September 2 by a number of restaurants from the East 4th Street neighborhood including The Corner Alley, House of Blues, Pickwick & Frolic, Teresa's Pizzeria, Wonder Bar and Zocalo.

For more info about the Taste of Cleveland visit their website.

I will be preparing our signature E. 4th street chili with ground chicken and crawfish tails. I will also attempt to make one of our unique cocktails like the Alternative Medicine (rosemary and gin) or the 'Ohio' (Jim Beam Manhattan with a champagne float) Wonder Bar's presentation is slotted for 5 pm on Sunday. I hope to see some familiar faces in the crowd!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

And That Idea Falls Flat on It's Face

Well, I started the weekend with some specials.....looks like I'll end the weekend with some as well. The chicken thigh with mole sauce sold one time, four if you count the employee meals. The shrimp and corn custard bombed. It wasn't all that busy, we lost water pressure, one induction burner, and one convection oven so it was a crazy night. I baked the shrimp with bacon, fennel and orange in parchment, (En Pappioutte), and no one really understood that idea. The staff responded well to the items, said they liked them, but didn't come through with the sell. We will keep trying.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Q and A

I have been lucky enough to take part in a quick Q and A session with Michelle from Clevelandfoodie blog. If you have not visited her blog before, now is a great time. She has a very leval headed approach to her posting, allowing for some great discussions if you read through the comments. Thanks again Michelle for this opportunity.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Two weeks in, and what do you get.....

Two weeks in and the Wonder Bar is off and running. With zero PR or marketing we seem to be doing fairly well just opening the door and seeing who wanders in. Unfortunately, we are completely lacking a dinner crowd. Post-work happy hour crowd is ok, but they don’t order any food. The after 10pm jazz band crowd is good, and they eat a little. I’m the chef and I want to see people coming in to eat. I understand from the owners' previous experiences that the food is a tough sell opposed to beer and liquor. With this in mind I’m trudging on, dishpan hands and all.

I want to implement a bar menu and/or happy hour menu consisting of $3 bar snacks that people would buy to nibble while they drink, instead of a meal, or even a single small plate. I want to do a deviled egg, spicy nuts, marinated olives, pickled vegetables, and pita bread; nothing meant to consist of a meal, just snacks. The challenge is coordinating things with the bar staff, and a sufficient amount of signage or menus. It will happen eventually.

This week I am going to try to run a few specials on Friday and Saturday night. Simple yet sophisticated things, I’m setting a par of 15 plates, minus 2 for tasting to sell. If this happens I will be very happy. My aim right now is a grilled chicken thigh with mole, and sea scallops en pappioute with fennel, orange, and bacon. Finally some flavored sweet custard. I have a lot of eggs, and a custard is a good way to use them. These seem like simple, sellable items that are neither too boring nor too sophisticated. I will let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

First News isn't the Best News

It's hard to think that as little as 3 more minutes might have changed the tone of this piece completely. I gotta kick myself in the ass for this one. At least it's a lesson learned, and we can move forward. 8 days open, and a long road ahead.

Poll Results are in.....

Small plates takes the poll by a large margin. I’m still a bit perplexed by the whole small plates theme. I understand what an appetizer is when compared to an entree, but I’m confused about what a small plate it an appetizer, is it a small portion of an entree, is it meant to be shared, how much do they cost, should they compromise a whole meal or meant to be snacks??? I’ve asked different people a lot of these same questions and everyone seems to have their own ideas.

With a whole 2 weeks under my belt dealing with small plates this is what I’ve learned. Customers will never be happy with portions sizes/prices. People will order small plates in courses just like off a traditional menu. Comforting, familiar foods will be most popular no matter how small, inexpensive, and creative other options are.

Cheers to small plates!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Lost on the Job

It's been a few days. I've been lost in my work. It is taking a little getting used to with the shift in hours that I'm working. My day has shifted about 3 hours later in the day. When I used to leave at 10pm, I'm now leaving at 12:30 or so. I just have to convince myselft to wake up a few hours later. Not to mention I didn't work for about 3 weeks, and have done 16 straight days.

This is a close up of our grilled shrimp with romonesco sauce and grilled scallions. It's not just the hours, but the photo capabilites that are challanging. I don't have much lighting to work with, and the flash tends to ruin close-ups. I will figure things out for the better as soon as possible.

The basis for alot of good, wholesome, flavorful cooking is roasted garlic, and this is a close up of some beautiful golden cloves soaking in Zoe EVOO. Chances are there is roasted garlic, or oil in most dishes. This is how we store it, at room temp, in a plastic quart conatainer, it looks nice too, for a kitchen.

This is a very interesting view of the late night glow at the Wonder Bar. At this point the music was just ready to start. Cedric plays the stand up bass, with calluces the size of lima beans, tuesday thru saturday. Jerome hits the keys early in the week, the music is a hits the spot, and the food don't suck either. Come in for some jazz 9 till 12 and a few small plates.
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