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The Simple Life 

Rest easy -- Michelle Gaw's got next month's dinner covered.

Michelle Gaw (left, with customer Pahy Moran) takes - the misery out of making dinner. - WALTER  NOVAK
  • Walter Novak
  • Michelle Gaw (left, with customer Pahy Moran) takes the misery out of making dinner.
Color chef Michelle Gaw happy. Energized by her new business venture, Simply Done Dinners, the 18-year vet of the former Watermark was bubbling over with good cheer when we caught up with her recently in her spiffy new digs, in Parma's Tri-City Shopping Center (7866 Broadview Rd., at the northwest corner of Broadview and Sprague).

"It's all about quality of life," Gaw says while showing us around her spotless commercial kitchen. A working woman herself, the chef is hip to the challenges of putting a home-cooked dinner on the table each night. "What I'm trying to do here is give clients the time to create that family meal without all the hassle of doing everything themselves."

The concept, which Gaw and business partners Greg Mintz, George Poporad, and Bret Van Dyke developed during a fact-finding mission to California (where the concept is already catching on), is simple: Harried homemakers log onto Gaw's website, choose a dozen dishes from a monthly menu of homey favorites, and then reserve a time to come into the facility, toss on an apron, and assemble the ingredients, which have been purchased, prepped, and organized in advance. Two hours and $197 later, they leave with 12 freezer-ready dishes -- anything from beef stew to pineapple cobbler -- each sized to provide four to six servings, along with complete thawing and cooking instructions, and a full nutritional analysis. And, oh yeah: Gaw handles all the clean-up duties, too.

The system is almost endlessly flexible. Hate onions in your stew? Leave them out. Have a small family? Feel free to split each dish. Enjoy companionship? Bring along a spouse, friend, or even a small group. And what if you're too busy to even assemble your dinners? Gaw and her staff will do it for you and then pack the items for pick-up or delivery. (Of course, those extra services will cost you.)

It's sort of like playing restaurant, with the talented Gaw as your real-life sous chef. "I even have clients who bring in their own casserole dishes," Gaw chuckles. "That way, when they pull them out of the oven, their family really gets the sense that the meal was made by Mom!"

Open only since November, Simply Done has been so well received that Gaw and her partners are planning to franchise.

The chef, meantime, is reveling in her newfound freedom. "I loved working at the Watermark," she says. "And I never even thought about the long hours and the stress. But this is so much better. I'm working with food, I'm providing a service, and I'm having fun!"

Visit www.simplydonedinners.com, or call 216-901-0215 for details.

Cold wars . . . Just when it seemed like Carvel and Cold Stone Creamery have conquered the North Coast, along come Jim and Marcia Rosati to remind us that the battle for Clevelanders' sweet teeth isn't over yet. Our local generals of custard have just announced the March 6 opening of their third Rosati's Frozen Custard location, at 26261 Lorain Rd. in North Olmsted. Owned by Sharon and Jim Priscak, the franchise reinforces Rosati's other encampments in Lakewood and Northfield Center.

The Rosatis also own two Honey Hut Ice Cream Shoppes, including one in Brecksville (opening on St. Paddy's Day) and a brand-new store, at 15831 Pearl Rd. in Strongsville, scheduled to launch in April. (Other members of the family unit, incidentally, operate Honey Huts in Parma, Brooklyn Heights, and Bay Village.)

As for Carvel, the Georgia-based battalion opened its third area operation (and 500th nationwide!) on January 29 in Valley View's Thornburg Station; additional forces are expected to arrive soon in Mentor, Stow, and downtown's Tower City.

Meantime, new Cold Stone Creameries (based in Scottsdale, Arizona) recently opened at 18332 Bagley Rd. in Middleburg Town Square and 48 Park Ln. in Hudson; upcoming battle zones include Macedonia, Westlake, and Independence.

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