Monday, May 16, 2011

Back to the Future @ Sweet Moses

Two and a half years ago, at a marketing trend conference in the very trendy Miami, I had the unique pleasure of personally meeting chef-star Anthony Bourdain. His discussion, on the history of food, and his overall presence – no PowerPoint, no show and tell, just the man, fully in the moment – left a life-long impression with me. Anthony’s secret to success, both culinary and in life, lies primarily in his authenticity. The man on TV is the man in person. This food artist speaks about his craft with the same vivre that Leonard Cohen recites his poetry. And, when one of the many consumer good product managers in the audience raised her hand and asked Bourdain the needed yet, simultaneously, eye-rolling question of “Where are food trends headed?” Bourdain, calm and confident, surprised the corporate client, as well as the rest of us, by saying, “We will be eating the food of our grandparents.”

His quote has lingered in my mind like a bell tower, ringing daily at noon. The reason? Ever since, everywhere I turn, I see the world operating in some sort of anachronistic vacuum. Like a series of micro time machines – in food, in media and in culture – people are looking back, unapologetically: Black and white photography. Mad Men. Boardwalk Empire. Vinyl records. Millinery shops. Sewing clubs. Knitting circles. Fish heads. Head cheese. Barber shops. Bowling leagues. Mumford and Sons. Betty White. The list goes on. Is it truly a sense of nostalgia? Or the human race’s incapability and secret disinterest in keeping up with the post-modern, always-connected, real-time world? Perhaps a bit of both?

We want to slow down. We want to reach out. We want to feel the innocence of our youth and live in the perceived community of a simpler time.

And we want to drink our milkshakes.

Sweet Moses Soda Fountain & Treat Shop, which opened March 26 in the resurrecting Gordon Square Arts District, provides the desserts and the atmosphere of this retro lifestyle. With its antique brass-like cash register, wooden over-sized mirror, marble soda counter, wait staff in matching white aprons and pointy hats and numerous posters of vintage Cleveland, the new eatery could easily belong in a Norman Rockwell painting.

And, people are flocking to stand in line for one of the many temptations. From gourmet chocolate to root beer floats to flavored popcorn, Sweet Moses features a tempting menu of tasty delights, providing the perfect technology reprieve for adults and kids alike. Whether a weekday or weekend, afternoon or early evening, patrons of all shapes, sizes, ages, ethnic groups, relationship status and economic means arrive at the dessert oasis, ready for something new. They also secretly hope that, after a very long and wet season, perhaps, eating a hot fudge sundae will finally bring sunshine and warmth to Cleveland.
The handmade delicacies offer a rich flavor, one so savory that it actually does make us want to slow down, to take it all in, one delicious sip at a time.
In fact, the lingering feeling of joy this place infuses brought me back three times in one week. Each time, with different friends and, on one occasion, even running into my neighbor and her dad and niece, who were both visiting from England. All three individuals, and generations, enjoyed their American goodness.

Whenever I review a local food establishment, there’s one staple dish I look for each time. Blame it on Pulp Fiction‘s memorable Jackrabbit Slim scene, but nothing will come between me and my $4 milkshake. And, I will go on record and say that Sweet Moses has the best chocolate milkshake I have ever had – in N.E. Ohio, in the States and in the world.

With the much welcomed addition of Sweet Moses, the Capitol Theater in full swing and the rest of the neighborhood revealing new gems to explore, this summer, Gordon Square will be the place to be, to watch, to eat, to shop to stroll and to run into your friends and neighbors, sit down, relax, talk, laugh, discuss and be present. Our grandparents could not be more proud.

Additional information about Sweet Moses is available on its Facebook page and can also be viewed at

Reprinted with permission and gratitude from

Friday, March 11, 2011

Klezmafour @ Anatolia Cafe – The World Converges in Cleveland

Once in a rare moon, you find yourself in a place and time where you have no concept of year or geography… where everything blurs into some sort of creative vacuum, one most often found while watching an engaging movie. Except, in these surreal moments, you begin to realize the you are the character on screen and that, perhaps, somewhere behind the walls or through the ceiling, a series of hidden cameras captures everything. And during those temporary escapisms, you just surrender to the atmosphere and enjoy the ride. Tuesday, March 8 was one of those nights.

Anatolia, a Turkish restaurant filling its new location in the Cedar-Lee area, blocked a narrow room with two vertical rows of tables, giving the sense of an old-school dining hall. As patrons filled the space, representing the various populations of this culturally diverse region: at least four different languages — English, Russian, Polish and Turkish — echoed in the tight rectangular room. People of all ages and occupations — from entrepreneurs and architects to law students and even a prominent New York City film producer — quickly found their seats.

The waiters, prompt and courteous, squeezed their way through the only walk path, between the two lanes of tables, bringing Turkish delights such as dolma, hummus, warm pita, babbaganush and other appetizers, many made with garlic and additional spices. With the hors d’oeuvres and spirits on the table, the post-work crowd began to loosen up, smile and converse with neighbors to the right and to the left. Stomachs and moods happy, we all sat in anticipation of the core reason we all showed up, some last minute, to this Cleveland Heights destination: To listen to Klezmafour.

Klezmafour is a band of musicians from Lublin, Poland: five young guys playing traditional Klezmer music and bringing their energy and joy to anyone willing to accept the great vibe. The band, together for just over a decade, takes the traditional century-old melodies and infuses everything from reggae to Arabic influence. A promoter first discovered the band in Amsterdam and has since brought the musical artists to North America, where Klezmafour is currently touring.

As we sat in anticipation waiting for the band to begin its first set, none of us could have predicted what happened next. The musicians found their tiny corner, picked up their instruments and began to play. At first, the clarinet, violin, accordion, stand up bass and drums warmed up with classic Balkan melodies, familiar to any of us who either had ancestors from “the old country” or were actually born across the ocean and then brought here for a better life.

Klezmafour eventually took it up a notch, adding poly-rhythmic structures, complex intonations and incredible syncopation all the while preserving a volume that, in the small space, felt powerful yet not deafening. These guys have killer control over their instruments and their craft.
When Klezmafour broke for intermission, the waiters quickly brought us main dishes including hearty lentil soup, lamb shish kebab, shavarma — served with a cucumber yogurt sauce — beet salad and flavorful rice. Friends, new and old, shared the bountiful treats, even eating off of each other’s plates, bringing back that warm and unpretentious comfort that we usually can only experience in our own homes with our own families.
By the time Klezmafour began its second set — intense, risky and transformative — I expected the crowd to get on the tables and dance. This would have been the only logical choice of behavior given all the stimulants and surrounding vibrations that transcended beyond the present.

Sometimes art imitates life. And, if we’re really lucky, life is art.

As one of the patrons wisely commented that evening, “Christian musicians playing Jewish music in a Muslim restaurant.”

How American. How very Cleveland.

Anatolia Café is located at 2270 Lee Rd. in Cleveland Heights. 216-321-4400. You can also follow Anatolia Café on Facebook and on its website: You can follow Klezmafour’s music and tour info on its website and its Facebook page.

Bottom Food Photo: Anatolia.

Reprinted with permission and gratitude from

Friday, February 25, 2011

XYZ Tavern: Good Cheer, Cleveland Style

XYZ Tavern, Gordon Square

If last Friday’s soft opening of XYZ Tavern is any indication of the new pub’s success, then Cleveland’s newest tap house is poised for a bright future.

Located off W. 65th and Detroit, in creatively cultivated Gordon Square — also home to the Cleveland Public Theater, the recently renovated Capitol Theater, Luxe, Gypsy Beans and Bakery and other local burgeoning businesses — XYZ, sister to W. 25th ABC Tavern, offers a Cheers-like atmosphere where, at least on one night, everybody knew everybody’s name.

Alan Glazen, proprietor of both taverns, as well as of Erie Island Coffee (East 4th and Rocky River locations) worked extremely hard opening the new venue, showing delicate patience as everything — from the marquee sign to the industrial garage door, which, in warm weather, will open to an intimate outdoor seating area, to the final touches and interior artwork — came together for February. And, the wait has been worth it.

XYZ Tavern, Opening

Alan, a media expert who, in addition to his dining establishments also teaches Art of Story at Tri-C, has a feel for what the locals crave, especially after a hard day at work — whether the office or the classroom — and offers up the specialness, in generous abundance: a welcoming environment, flavorful appetizers and a wide selection of spirits, all presented with the friendliest service.
Packed corner to corner during its first soft opening evening, the crowd at XYZ represented the best of Cleveland’s cultural community: artists and writers, professors and business people, lawyers and entrepreneurs, all mingling, eating, drinking and celebrating together. And, unlike some other C-Town bars, XYZ doesn’t feel like a fraternity party; it’s very much a place for adults, including those young at heart.

If anything, the atmosphere at XYZ, with its dimmed interior, black and white historical photography and brick walls, feels more like the kind of place, that, twenty years from now will still send off a timeless vibe, one that recognizes its patrons and provides exactly what they need most: a place to unwind and to recharge.

Stop by XYZ and raise a glass or two. Chances are, you’ll know somebody there. And, if not when you arrive, you will by the time you leave.

XYZ Tavern is located at 6419 Detroit Ave. in Cleveland. Hours are Fri – Sat: 5PM – 2:30AM. You can also follow XYZ on Facebook and on its website:

Reprinted with permission and gratitude from