|Me, Michael & Genevieve|
A few weeks ago, Genevieve and I shotgunned it to Cleveland (well, rural suburban Cleveland) to hear our hunky kitchen god, Michael Ruhlman speak about his book Soul of a Chef: Journey Toward Perfection. If you aren't familiar with him, you may be with one of his many stunning cookbooks (Bouchon, Ad Hoc, French Laundry). Aside from being a prolific food writer, you might also recognize Michael as an occasional Iron Chef Judge. Either way, we arrived bearing offerings from Columbus. Genevieve bought for him an autumnal variety pack of macarons from Pistacia Vera, while I bestowed upon him a bottle of honey wine from Brothers Drake Mead. The gods were pleased.
Neither of us expected such an intimate and inspiring experience. There were no more than 15 people gathered in the Columbiana Library's meeting room. We listened to Michael discuss his journey into food writing, his experiences at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, and the inspiration behind Soul of a Chef, which is not his latest book, but one of the more introspective and thoughtful. As a writer, I related to his stories: the desire to write from an early age; kicking down doors to make things happen; recognizing and jumping on opportunity; some rejection; lots of perseverance.
What I appreciate most is how speaks of writing as a craft... a skill that that needs to be honed and developed- comparing it to cooking. I recall reading an interview with him in the spring issue of Edible Columbus (page 13) where he commented that "writing becomes a shadow urge of cooking" - forever forging in my mind the two acts of creation. The timing of that article was interesting because I had just begun my first "proper" food blogging gig- testing recipes from Patricia Wells's new cookbook and blogging about them. Michael Ruhlman's bit of advice about food blogging? "Don't be boring!" which ended up the title of one of my posts. He practices what he preaches... Michael's presentation was personal, engaging, and insightful for both writers and cooks. Genevieve and I each left with signed copies of his latest book, Ruhlman's Twenty and, to my giggly surprise, he gave me a copy of The Making of a Chef after learning I had not yet read it. (Genevieve told him him she hasn't read Charcuterie, but he chuckled saying that was too expensive to give away. Valiant effort though, G.) Overall, we both left feeling inspired to write and to cook-- and ready for lunch!
After a quick lap through the West Side Market, we went in search of lunch, but not before snapping pictures of mouthwatering pastries and breads. Of course, my eye went immediately to the sign that read "monk"...
Next stop--- NOODLECAT! A playful raman noodle concept by Chef Jonathan Sawyer of Cleveland's extraordinary Greenhouse Tavern. The menu features a variety of noodle bowls, ranging from "Old School Japanese to Modern Tokyo to Mash-up Style." The scratchmade noodles come topped with local grown meat and vegetables in fragrant broths. We studied the menu over a round of libations- sake and vino.
We started with the Tsukemono Pickle Sampler, which was rather zingy. The beans were spicy and the pickled quail egg... well... simply put, it was a delicious bite. Who knew? Off to a good start.
It was suggested we order the wings, which we heard were to die for. Genevieve and I agreed on Miso BBQ Twice Cooked Crispy Chicken Wings- and they lived up to the hype. The skin had a slightly crispy texture and the meat fell off the bones. Kevin and I were having dinner at the Greenhouse Tavern (which likewise claim the best wings) that evening, so the taste test was on... I thought it would be difficult to top Noodlecat wings, but went to Greenhouse Tavern with an open mind.
Our salads were creative and quite large. My Choy’n Soi Salad (w/ bok choy, tatsoi, soy braised egg, sunflower seeds, whipped tofu & Japanese citrus dressing) was beautiful. The little bits of tofu whipped into the dressing stood out unexpectedly and I hope to incorporate this detail into my own Asian dressings. G's Kim Chee Salad (w/ Napa cabbage, sweet pureed kim chee, cashews, peanuts & pickled melon) had quite the kick, and the pickled melon was a tasty addition.
|Choy’n Soi Salad (front) & Kim Chee Salad|
When it came to the main course, my eye kept going to the Ohio Beef Brisket and Matzo Ramen “Yudaya-Jin” (w/ matzo ball, brisket, chicken broth dashi, carrot & dill ) so I ordered it. Boy, this dish did not disappoint. The brisket was tender, the broth flavorful, and the huge matzo ball helped sop it all up. Not one to pass up pork belly, Genevieve ordered the special. A fine choice knowing Chef Sawyer's specialty is pig in all it's glorious forms.
|Beef Brisket Ramen (front) & Pork Belly Ramen|
The restaurant's ambiance was minimalist, industrial and whimsical; the walls covered with comic book murals depicting Super Noodlecat rescuing the world from processed food. Staying true to his food philosophy, Chef Sawyer sources as many ingredients as possible locally- including the booze. While eating at the bar, we spotted Columbus-made Watershed vodka and gin, and also learned it was Cleveland Beer Week from our lovely bartender, Liz. A super friendly gal who gave us the scoop on the friendly chicken wing rivalry with GT.
As of November, Noodlecat will be open seven days a week. I can't wait to treat Kevin to a birthday lunch here, especially knowing how much he enjoyed the Greenhouse Tavern (blog to come). There is no doubt he will like Noodlecat as much as we did, but I will still beg the question-- are Noodlecat's chicken wings the best? Or, are GT's? I have my favorite...
To use a Noodlecat term, it was all totally SLURPALICIOUS!