Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Foodie & Wine Fun in Akron, Including Cooking Classes


What's there to do around town for food and wine lovers?  Quite a bit, actually.  This photo is from the last Cleveland Fabulous Food Show, where I attended an included food and wine pairing seminar taught by Master Sommelier, Matthew Citrglia.  Despite the stale tidbits supplied for the tasting, it was a very informative, fun way to spend an hour at the show.  

The 2010 show dates have already been announced - November 12th-14th. You can sign up on-line for updates, or follow on Facebook or Twitter.  

I'm not sure how, or if, they will be able to top last year's evening with Thomas Keller, but even if you skip the 'talent' portion of the show, it's a fun way to kill a day.

Northern Ohio has a local Slow Food Convivia; you can join and attend local events.  They also have a blog and Facebook fan page.

The Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy, in addition to sponsoring the farmer's markets, also has some classes and events.  Be sure and sign-up for the newsletter to stay informed. 

If you don't mind a bit of a drive, The Culinary Vegetable Institute, and home of The Chef's Garden is in nearby Milan, Ohio.   I just checked the Earth to Table event schedule - who wants to go to the May dinner with Dave "I'm not your bitch, bitch" from Top Chef with me?? I am so excited for this one.

Cleveland Foodie started an excellent movement to support the The Culinary Vegetable Institute's children's programs, and got a lot of local chefs to donate gift certificates as a prize.  The deadline to make a donation and enter to win a year of fabulous dining ends February 13th, so get on it.  Here's a link to the post

Looking for a restaurant that doesn't have a location in every city in America?  Cleveland Independents is your go to.   Their quarterly gift certificate sale is a good excuse to try some new spots, and believe it or not, there are still some left from the first quarter sale, including some for one of the few in greater Akron area, Papa Joe's.  (Warning: turn down the volume before clicking on restaurant links; they invariably have some kind of annoying mood music that never fails to give me a jolt).

Papa Joe's has a prepared food carry-out and a nice little wine store, including the area's only Enomatic tasting system.  Buy a card, load with money, and taste up to 12 wines, priced by the ounce.  You can also book the wine room for private events.

The menu includes a few native favorites, including Akron's official appetizer, Sauerkraut Balls.  Sauerkraut Balls are to Akron what Wings are to Buffalo.  They were voted the city's official food by Beacon Journal readers in 1996.

Cleveland spots: I'm a fan of Crop Bistro see my chef's table tour postFlying Fig is a favorite.  Looking forward to trying Table 45, which also has a chef's table, but I need some more bodies to book one and make it worthwhile.  Can't decide? Score one of the Decks, and get $10 off at all of the independents - $29.95, what a deal.  

Cleveland Restaurant Week is coming up February 22nd - 27th, 2010. 45 downtown spots will be offering three course (appetizer, entree, dessert) menus for $30.  I've got reservations for Lola and Crop.  Will try and squeeze in Greenhouse Tavern.  (I really can't afford to blow off the gym anytime soon...)

Ken Stewart's Grille is an Akron institution for fine dining.  The specials list is usually exhaustively long, the service is attentive, and I've never had a bad meal there.  There's also the Ken Stewart Lodge and adjoining Tre Belle in Bath.  I've only dined at the Lodge a few times, and attempted Tre Belle once and it was packed.

Beau's Grille, located in the Hilton across from Summit Mall, added a beautiful outdoor patio.  Haven't dined there recently, but I've had some good meals there.

Craving a burger?  Akron has two drive-in options, open year round, that are famous for their burgers. 

Swenson's has added quite a few locations since the original on South Hawkins in 1934.  You order the cheeseburg (not a typo) with everything (mustard, onions, and pickle), and get a seasoned patty  which is rumored to have a little sugar in it, nestled in a buttered toasted bun.  Get a double if you are really hungry.

The Galley Boy features two patties, and a thick relish/mayo sauce and is topped with a olive on a pick.  I used to love 'em, but haven't had one in years. 

Blow your diet for the week with fries, onion rings, or potato puffs (aka Tater Tots), and add a thick shake. 

Skyway Drive-In got started a little later, in 1952, but has also expanded and has a devoted following, including Jimmy Buffet, who was known to place a big order when he swung through on summer tours.  Although I don't stray from the burgers, fries, onion rings, shake route often, they also have delicious vegetable beef soup from an old family recipe.  

One of the funniest stories was a friend who said they tried one of the drive-ins and hated it.  When asked what she ordered, she said the shrimp basket.  They're burger joints.  Order a burger.

The drill at both places is pull up, turn on your lights, place your order with car hop who magically appears, turn lights off, wait a few minutes, food appears.  Tray hangs outside the window in the summer; inside in the winter.  Call ahead for carry-out and you're home with a greasy sack of delights in no time.  Be sure and tip the car hops, but not run over them as they dart around the parking lot.

In the mood for ethnic eats? Grab yourself a copy of Laura Taxel's newly updated Cleveland Ethnic Eats.  Follow her blog and Facebook fan page to get the scoop.

Doesn't happen often, but if a Chinese craving strikes, I order from House of Hunan.  Which is located next door to HomeGoods, so it can be an expensive 15 minutes for me.  I've heard great things about Pad Thai in Montrose, but haven't dined there.  There is a new Thai place in Independence at Rockside Commons  Plaza that's excellent.  I've heard good things about Cilantro in downtown Akron (I didn't link them because they have their website password protected, hey webmaster!).

Pizza?  I don't order very often because I'd rather make my own.  Luigi's in downtown Akron has a cult following, but I can't really remember if I've ever eaten there.  Maybe once.  

Speaking of Luigi's, you could be in the neighborhood if you attend the Akron Artwalk.  Monthly you can catch a shuttle, see glass blowing demos, visit galleries, including my friends at Zeber-Martell Clay Studios, and eat at a variety of restaurants.  Chrissie Hynde's vegan restaurant, Vegiterranean is also in the neighborhood.

Become a member of the Akron Art Museum for the opportunity to attend a variety of events.  They also do free outdoor concerts in the parking lot during the summer.

The Cuyahoga Scenic Railroad has monthly wine (and some beer) excursions scheduled.

Hiking, biking, and maybe a picnic?  The Cuyahoga Valley National Park offers a variety of trails and activities.  CVNS is one of the top ten most visited national parks in the country.

Local wine?  There are a lot of wineries in Ohio, believe it or not. For Akronites, you can't beat The Winery at Wolf Creek.  In the summer you can sit outside on the deck overlooking the winery, and in the winter there's a cozy indoor tasting room. 

If you are looking for other wine events, be sure and sign up for the weekly newsletter.  

Summer and fall are festival season in Ohio.  Practically every weekend you can find a town celebrating something.  Here's a list of a few.  The one I try to attend is the Akron Arts Expo at Hardesty Park.  It's free and the artists are pretty good quality. 

Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens is another source of events, and has an annual arts & crafts event in the fall.

Cooking Classes: Well of course I'm partial to the personal culinary coaching provided by Dine-In Diva Personal Chef Service.  Come to my place, or I'll come to you. Subscribe to my newsletter on any page of my website, and follow as a fan on Facebook to stay informed on upcoming classes.

The Loretta Paginini School of Cooking, in Mayfield, offers a lot of classes, and you are likely to see Loretta, her daughter Stephanie, and the professional students, at trade shows, and in TV appearances.  There is also a nice division at the Fishers Foods store on Cleveland Avenue in North Canton. Sign up for their e-mail list, and note that classes tend to sell out quickly.

The Western Reserve School of Cooking in Hudson has a nice selection of classes, and will also be hosting chef John Ash for some classes and a dinner in April. They also have a small store selling gourmet cookery including All-Clad pans.


  1. Thank you, this is a great list of resources.

    I would add the classes by Bev Shaffer, held at Mustard Seed Market. I've attended some of those, and she always does a great job.

  2. Mustard Seed hasn't had a lot of cooking classes lately - the fun Ms. Bev Shaffer is teaching at Western Reserve as well.

  3. Well, that's disappointing! I love WRSOC, but they're a 40 minute drive from my house, whereas Mustard Seed is only about five minutes away.


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