I am so, so excited about today's guest! Michelle is the talented blogger and food writer to the amazing site Cleveland Foodie. Started back in 2006, Cleveland Foodie is a blog dedicated to the talented chefs and growing food scene right here in Cleveland, OH. She is hands-down the go-to when seeking out the best places to dine here at home. Like most Clevelanders, she is passionate about our wonderful city and excited of all that we have to offer in our culinary scene.
Right around the time Michelle started writing Cleveland Foodie, I had just moved back to Cleveland after calling Cambridge, MA home for several years. Although I was born and raised here, with being gone for so long I almost felt like a stranger in my hometown. So much had changed since I lived here last and I needed a refresher course in where to go, what to do, and of course- where to eat! After just a little googling around, I stumbled across Michelle's blog and I think I read the entire thing from start to finish in one night! I couldn't stop! Here was exactly the information I was longing for. And the best news- while I was away Cleveland turned into a fantastic culinary scene. I was so excited and inspired to be back home. Cleveland Foodie was the very first blog I ever religiously followed and don't ever plan on stopping! Thank you Michelle for your BIG heart in this amazing little city, your wonderful way with words and giving all of us such a gift in your lovely blog. You are an inspiration.
What is your favorite thing to cook?
I’m not sure if I have a particular favorite. We cook a lot. And I like to experiment and make all sorts of things. As long as I have a recipe handy, I’ll try it. I love making pancakes on the weekend with my toddler and dancing like silly in the kitchen to braised short ribs when it’s cold outside because it’s such a long, glorious process and the house smells all kinds of wonderful.
How about your least favorite thing to cook?
Fish still makes me nervous. I love fish, and with the exception of salmon, always tend to overcook or mess it up. Not sure why as I know it’s fairly easy to make.
What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out?
I don’t really have a favorite per se. When people ask me this – I say favorite for what? We truly are a lucky bunch here and there’s no need to pick just one! But there are some we tend to frequent more, and those include: Greenhouse Tavern, Momocho, Fahrenheit, B Spot (my go-to this pregnancy), Vine & Bean, Umami, Sun Luck Garden and L’Albatros (cheese, glorious cheese!).
Music and food go together so beautifully. You are hosting a dinner party, what would be on your playlist?
I couldn’t agree more! It depends on the crowd, theme, etc. But for a recent dinner party of sorts we had, here were my favorite songs on the mix I made: Sha la la (Al Green); One More Saturday Night (Grateful Dead); Surrender (Cheap Trick); Mess Around (Ray Charles); El Cuarto de Tula (Buena Vista Social Club); I am Mine (Pearl Jam); Little Lion Man (Mumford & Sons); Iron Lion Zion (Bob Marley); Driver 8 (R.E.M).
What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?
I’d like a little bit of all my favorite foods and to be surrounded by an endless pour of cabernet joined by my husband, family and closest friends. Short ribs from Crush in Seattle, buccatini all’ amatriciana from the old Battuto in Little Italy, king crab legs, a clambake and plenty of stinky, creamy cheese to top it all off!
What are you currently reading? Potty training books!
What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget? Immersion blender.
Do you have a signature go-to dish?
Two apps I tend to make a lot. The dates from Avec (my favorite restaurant in Chicago) and Mario Batali’s chickpea bruschetta from Babbo in NYC. Everyone gets this upon sitting down – it’s so easy and so fantastic! And everyone should dine at both these places! (please click for the wonderful recipes!)
What is your favorite thing about the Cleveland area?
There’s so much about this city I love! I choose to call Cleveland home. Both my husband and I have had numerous opportunities through the years to take jobs in LA, Chicago and NYC and never gave it more than a second’s thought. The people closest to me are here. I love the weather (yes – I’m serious!). Cost of living. Great neighborhoods and history. The people. The spirit. The belief that we can do anything. The belief that the Brown’s will win it all (and we will!). The food, of course. And that it’s home. Everywhere I go, there’s a memory or a new one to be made. And for all of this, I can’t imagine raising my kids anywhere else.
Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you cook it today?
My mom was (is) an amazing cook. We never had processed crap or take out anything. She cooked every night and those consistent dinners around the kitchen table are some of my favorite memories growing up. She didn’t make anything too crazy – it was always Italian, or had an Italian spin to it. I loved everything she made. But my favorite memories were coming off the school bus during the winter, opening the door and smelling her scratch chicken soup. Best. Smell. Ever.
Top 3 Movies of all time?
It’s a Wonderful Life. Rocky 1 (I’m Italian – I think it’s sacrilegious not to name this one). Back to the Future.
What was your happiest moment in life?
Impossible to pick one. Marrying my husband, Jamie. The most amazing man, husband, friend and father. He always jokes and asks me what it’s like to win the lottery. But as corny as it sounds, that’s how I feel.
And the day our daughter, Natalie, was born. And in just a few weeks, we’ll have that same feeling again as we wait for the arrival of our second daughter. Every day is fantastic. I truly feel blessed – through the good times and bad. Life is good what’s not to be happy about?
Where do you do your grocery shopping?
Heinen’s, Miles Farmer’s Market, Whole Foods, West Side market and farmers’ markets. Though you can find me at the first two practically daily.
What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
Ok – I realize this will gross many people out – but I love Miracle Whip! I know, I know – it’s not even food. But I can’t stand mayo and this stuff is just great.
Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year?
Get my knives sharpened – I’m so behind.
And now for your recipe:
Right now, I am addicted to making strawberry rhubarb pie. I just attempted my first one last month and have made several since. The rhubarb from The Chef’s Garden is out of this world good! And I’m hoping by this weekend, I’ll have enough strawberries from our garden to make another. The recipe I’ve been following is from Smitten Kitchen: http://smittenkitchen.com/2008/05/strawberry-rhubarb-pie/
print this recipe
Lattice-Topped Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Recipe taken from Smitten Kitchen, Adapted from Bon Appetit, April 1997
3 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
10 tablespoons (about) ice water
3 1/2 cups 1/2-inch-thick slices trimmed rhubarb (1 1/2 pounds untrimmed)
1 16-ounce container strawberries, hulled, halved (about 3 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg yolk beaten to blend with 1 teaspoon water (for glaze)
Make crust: Combine flour, sugar and salt in processor. [Alternately, you can use a pastry cutter to make your dough, as I did.] Using on/off turns, cut in shortening and butter until coarse meal forms. Blend in enough ice water 2 tablespoons at a time to form moist clumps. Gather dough into ball; cut in half. Flatten each half into disk. Wrap separately in plastic; refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. Let dough soften slightly at room temperature before rolling.)
Make filling: Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine first 7 ingredients in large bowl. Toss gently to blend.
Assemble Pie: Roll out 1 dough disk on floured work surface to 13-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish [er, I used a metal one and it was just fine]. Trim excess dough, leaving 3/4-inch overhang.
Roll out second dough disk on lightly floured surface to 13-inch round. Cut into fourteen 1/2-inch-wide strips. Spoon filling into crust. Arrange 7 dough strips atop filling, spacing evenly. Form lattice by placing remaining dough strips in opposite direction atop filling. Trim ends of dough strips even with overhang of bottom crust. Fold strip ends and overhang under, pressing to seal. Crimp edges decoratively.
Brush glaze over crust. transfer pie to baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake pie until golden and filling thickens, about another 25 minutes. [The original recipe suggested a total baking time of 1 hour and 55 minutes. No joke. Mine was done in just shy of an hour.] Transfer pie to rack and cool completely.