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Side Dish 

But Does He Do Shirts?

People travel thousands of miles to eat at Thomas Keller's tiny Napa Valley restaurant, The French Laundry, home of what has been called the country's most astonishing and sophisticated cuisine. But now — rejoice! rejoice! — Keller, winner of a 1997 James Beard Foundation Award and recipient of Bon Appétit's 1998 Chef of the Year designation, is coming to Cleveland. Keller will mark the release of his long-awaited French Laundry Cookbook with two fund-raising events for the Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art. The first, a book-signing, will be held Friday, October 29, at 7 p.m. at the center (8501 Carnegie Avenue); the event is free. The second, a benefit dinner and silent auction, will be held Saturday, October 30. The dinner will feature Keller's own recipes and, while he is leaving his chef's toque at home that night, his stand-ins will be none too shabby. French Laundry Chef Michael Minnillo will be at the controls, with assistance from his dad, Paul Minnillo (chef/owner of Cleveland's Baricelli Inn), Donna Chriszt (chef/owner of Woodmere's J Café), and Jim Gillison (exec chef at downtown's Blue Pointe Grille). Tickets to this dream dinner will set you back from $250 to $500, but it's still cheaper than a trip to Yountville. Call the center at 216-421-8671 ext. 35 for more info.

A Round of Boos . . . House of Brews (1087 Old River Road in the Flats) will host a Halloween Costume Ball on Saturday, October 30, with a $250 grand prize going to the guest in the most original Halloween get-up. Besides the costume contest (judging will be around 10 p.m.), the fun includes a chance to sample brewmaster Joe Marunowski's Autumn Spiced Ale, cooked up just for the occasion, or to begin working your way through the international list of nearly a hundred bottled beers. (And no, "Passed Out" does not qualify as a costume.) House of Brews opened September 8 in the old brick warehouse that formerly housed Boston-based John Harvard's Brew House. Much of the menu remains the same, with Chef Frank Zingale serving up comforting and well-prepared dishes like grilled meatloaf and savory oven-roasted pork chops. For reservations, call 216-623-BREW.

"With God as my witness, I'll never go hungry again!" . . . That probably means Scarlett has discovered Valley View Cinemark's Studio Eats, a fifty-seat café and coffee bar that takes movie snacks a few steps beyond Milk Duds and popcorn. The little dining area in the theater's lobby offers freshly made sandwiches and burgers, as well as wings, chicken tenders, and Vienna beef hotdogs. The way-cool part is that every messy little morsel can go with you into the theater, in a Studio Eats Meal Box. After the show, come back to the coffee bar for a Pierre's ice cream sundae, washed down with a latte or cappuccino. While Studio Eats are in Cinemark's largest theaters nationwide, this Valley View location is the only one in Ohio. The Dallas execs couldn't have picked a better spot: The theater's isolated Canal Road location makes hungry moviegoers a captive audience.

The Countdown Continues . . . Despite owner Richard Marthaller's hopes of quickly finding a replacement for former Chef Donna Chriszt, the doors are still locked at Jeso, 10427 Clifton Boulevard. The restaurant closed for a week's "vacation" in early August, according to the sign in the window. The sabbatical is now entering Week Ten, but, other than us, who's counting?

Tips are encouraged. Contact Elaine T. Cicora at [email protected].

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