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Down South on the North Coast 

Louisiana comes to Tremont this summer with Bourbon Street Barrel Room

All I can assume is that Johnny Schulze, chef/owner of the Cajun/Creole-inspired Zydeco food truck, was in the midst of profound research when he called me from the Big Easy over the holidays, because he's bringing New Orleans to Cleveland.

You may have already enjoyed his food at Rockwell on Wednesdays, or maybe you've been lucky enough to go to a party where Schulze was catering. If not, no worries: this summer, you'll get your chance to check out his new restaurant, Bourbon Street Barrel Room, located at 2393 Professor Avenue in Tremont, formerly the home of Asterisk Gallery.

Bourbon Street Barrel Room, much like his food truck business, will feature Louisiana Creole and Cajun food. He also intends to serve "crafty" cocktails -- including hurricanes with his particular twist -- as well as local wine and craft beer.

Although his restaurant will feature regional dishes of Louisiana, he's staying local as much as possible to source his ingredients. For example, he's already locked in a local source for French bread, and his smoked sausage will come from a source outside of Akron: Al's Quality Meat Market in Barberton. (Those folks in Barberton sure have their meat priorities straight.)

Schulze also plans to feature local perch and walleye. "My fish dishes will start with basic meunière sauce and go from there." As for the walleye, he's planning to serve that "almondine." For sides, he says he'll "feature mustard greens, red beans and rice, and intends to feature several vegan and vegetarian options."

Since the location was a former art gallery, the build-out is more involved and will require a bit more capital than remodeling an existing restaurant. The plans include a brand new kitchen, which is one of the reasons that they're giving themselves until this summer to open.

"I love that we'll be in Tremont on a strip along with some of the all-time most notable chefs Cleveland has to offer: Symon, Dante and Whalen, all doing their own thing in an area concentrated with talent," he says.

The Distilled Spirits of Portside

Portside Distillery, the first legal distillery in Cleveland since prohibition, opened its doors on Thursday, Dec. 20th to congratulations and fanfare as they sold their first bottle of Silver Rum while adding a more potent meaning to the expression, "Where's your Christmas 'spirit'?"

They also sold out soon there after. After all this time, it seems Clevelanders have acquired quite an appetite for locally distilled spirits – and, well, spirits of any kind -- and Portside's Silver Rum fulfills that need.

The distillery -- located at 1100 West 9th Street -- borders the East Bank of the Flats and the Warehouse District. It's about as far north as you can go on W. 9th St. without needing a boat. The property is owned by the Port of Cleveland, and what Dan Malz, John Merrick, Keith Sutton and Matt Zappernick -- Portside's four owners/creators/distillers/Renaissance men -- have created is a thing of beauty.

For now, they plan to keep distilling enough silver rum to have it available for purchase in area stores. Keith Sutton, one of the four responsible for the actual welding construction of the distillery says, "In time we will also offer dark rum (aged 6-12 months), maple-vanilla rum, spiced rum and a hop-infused rum. The next step is to start brewing beer (an IPA) and open the gift shop."

By mid summer, they plan to have the restaurant/bar and patio open for business. Further plans include distilling whiskey and rye, and anything else Clevelanders want to drink.

I can't imagine the synergy once football season begins. It's difficult to get much closer to Cleveland Browns Stadium without buying a ticket.

Patrons will enjoy a full view of the distillery and brewery chambers once inside. The bar -- indicated by a couple of lines of spray-painted on the newly poured concrete floor for now -- runs the length of the main room. The space surrounding the bar will include an area of high-top tables, a private party room, a gift shop and an outdoor patio. Although the entire facility has been redone from the ground up, Portside Distillery maintains the building's old-world charm and authenticity. They've also corncob-blasted the back wall to expose the gorgeous, original stone and brick. These aesthetic touches go a long way to providing a charming, rustic atmosphere. And talk about convenience: the new, soon-to-open Ernst & Young high-rise next door will also house a hotel. They've thought of everything.

In the dead of winter here on the north shore of Lake Erie, we generally don't need another reason to look forward to summer but Portside Distillery provides a compelling one.

Getting ready to Toast

It won't be long before we're toasting at Toast, located at 1365 W. 65th St., directly across the street from the Capitol Theatre. The launch date has been moved back a bit to mid-January due to construction, according to proprietress Jill Davis.

Toast is essentially a wine bar featuring a small list of micro-wineries that observe the French "terrior" concept in winemaking. It refers to a set of specific characteristics including geographic location, geology and climate, and how these characteristics express themselves in the agricultural product. Davis says, "I'm a firm believer that land and place have a great influence on flavor and taste."

For now, the plan is to feature about eighty wines from either micro-wineries or small vineyards to complement a seasonal menu of about ten small plates.

Rounding out the offerings will be a list of craft brews and microbreweries along with a cocktail list consisting of two categories. "First, a list of pre-prohibition cocktails, and, second, a list with new twists on old classics," Davis says.

Doug Katz Honoring the Homemade Tradition in Cleveland

"Are your family recipes the best around? Were your mom's brownies the most decadent ever? Did your aunt make an amazing carrot cake, the likes of which no other recipe can compare?"

Over this holiday season, Doug Katz became nostalgic for those special sweet dessert recipes that bring us together during the holidays as we share, prepare, bake and enjoy the fruits of our labor with family and friends.

Katz wants to honor the local homemade tradition at his new diner on Lee Road, which is still on track for its scheduled opening in April. Diners are places where homemade dishes and desserts are celebrated and showcased, so it isn't surprising that while working on his menu, Katz came up with this contest idea.

"Family recipes become a part of our personal histories and they become part of the history of our community," Katz says. "Let's share this great treasure of home cooking and community."

According to Amy Viny, Katz's Director of Social Media, "We'll select a handful of these recipes and we'll feature one on our diner menu each month, spotlighting the home baker's story and recipe. In the process, we hope to honor and celebrate the rich tradition of home cooking in Cleveland. Entries will be judged on uniqueness, creativity, and the family story behind the recipe. Winning bakers will receive a gift card for the new diner and 30 days in the limelight."

Simply put, Katz wants your best homemade dessert recipes along with the memories and reminiscences that go along with them. "Send me your recipes now ... and let's get cooking!"

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