Cleveland Independents, La Strada, And More

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Cleveland Independents, La Strada, And More

Cleveland Restaurant Week, organized by Cleveland Independents, has been so successful in previous years that the promotion is returning for two weeks this year. During the weeks of November 2-7, and November 9-14, more than 40 independent restaurants will offer special three-course, prix fixe dinners for around $30. The entire list of participating restaurants can be found online at clevelandindependents.com; a few names include Fire, Boulevard Blue, Moxie, Crop, Sasa Matsu and Parallax. Some - like Luxe, Nighttown and Johnny Mango - are offering meals for as low as $17.

Terry Tarantino might open his new East Fourth Street restaurant, La Strada (2050 E. Fourth St., 216.861.3663), as early as this week. Tarantino, who also owns La Dolce Vita (12112 Mayfield Rd., 216.721.8155), said that he is shooting for a soft opening of lunches, now that inspections have been completed. "The food will be a combination of the five Mediterranean cuisines I love," says Tarantino. "Spanish, Moroccan, Turkish, Italian and Greek." A custom-built wood-burning grill will cook off items such as shish kebab, Moroccan chicken, lamb-and-beef skewers and cheese-stuffed artichokes. Architect Joe Hanna's goal was to design a space, according to Tarantino, "that gives the feeling of dining outside at dusk - with a Fellini touch."

A Cookie and a Cupcake (2173 Professor Ave., 216.344.9433, acookieandacupcake.com), Tremont's newest sweet shop, is having its grand opening on October 22. Operated by Wendy Thompson, former executive pastry chef at Dante (8001 Rockside Rd., 216.524.9404, restaurantdante.us), and SynDee Klingenberg, the boutique bakeshop sells house-baked cookies, brownies, macaroons, cupcakes and vintage cakes. An open kitchen in the sharp storefront allows customers to watch the chefs decorate custom cakes. The signature cupcakes come in a dozen flavors that mirror those of the vintage cakes. There is red velvet, German chocolate, carrot cake and grasshopper. "It's been crazy getting this all ready," says Thompson, "but we're so excited." The 13th annual Heinen's/WVIZ World Series of Wine takes place November 7-8. Three Grand Tastings will be held over the course of the weekend at the Terrace Club at Progressive Field, each presenting some 400 wines from 150 wineries, plus a huge spread of hors d'oeuvres. Additionally, a series of wine-education seminars on topics such as rose Champagnes, Penfolds wines and port will be held Saturday, November 8, at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel. For tickets ($75) and additional info, visit wviz.org.

Bites Special Report:

Music Editor Jeff Niesel's Beercation

Magic Hat beers - tasty suds from Burlington, Vermont, with clever names like Circus Boy, Roxy Rolles and Lucky Kat - have been infiltrating the Cleveland area (consult magichat.net for the next local tasting). So in an effort to learn more about the beverages and their makers, I set out to Burlington to visit the brewery and the "artifactory," the gift shop and tasting room attached to the plant. Here, you can find everything from Magic Hat-embossed body boards to condoms that give the "Magic Hat" name new meaning. The election-themed "Participation" 12-packs feature four different brews, including the latest concoction, a peat-smoked English ale called Jinx.

President Alan Newman, a guy so into home brew that he once had three taps in his kitchen (one for cold water, one for hot water and one for beer), co-founded the business a decade ago with one goal in mind: to do what no other brewery was doing. "He went out to the West Coast and visited the breweries there and found that most of the breweries were making pale ales and had names from the region, like Sierra Nevada and Otter Creek," explains publicist (or "Curator of Curiosities") Krissy Leonard. "He wanted to do something different."

A giant steel tower art installation stands outside the brewery. And the artfully designed labels on the bottles (created by three different designers) also speak to the brewery's one-of-a-kind aesthetic. My VIP tour included a stop at the fermentation room, where I could see beer bubbling like something found in Willy Wonka's factory. A team of German construction workers assembled several new vats (so big they had to be loaded into the place through a hole in the roof) that will soon double the production capacity. A new bottling system also shuttles the bottles through much faster. Keeping up with demand is an issue, since sales are up 40 percent this year, with 74 percent of the growth coming from existing territories.

In Burlington, you'll find recycling bins and waterless urinals everywhere you turn. Accordingly, Magic Hat hopes to be completely self-sustaining by 2009, when it starts using its waste to fuel generators and provide electricity.

Magic Hat started as a whimsical brainstorm about a decade ago, and it's hard to say what it will amount to. But when you recall that a couple of guys named Ben and Jerry started selling ice cream out of a Burlington storefront and ended up a multi-million dollar franchise, anything can happen along the Lake Champlain shores. And, as Leonard puts it, "Once you go craft, you never go back."

dining@clevescene.com

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