Mike Symon shut out in Beard Awards — again

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Michael Symon Lola

For the second straight year, Cleveland chef Michael Symon (Lola, Lolita) came home from the Big Apple sans a coveted James Beard Foundation award.

Held on Sunday at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall, the Foundation's annual awards gala is intended to spotlight the nation's top chefs and restaurateurs. Like last year, Symon was one of five finalists for the title of Best Chef in the Great Lakes Region. But once again, our Iron Chef was passed over for the prestigious title, this time for Carrie Nahabedian, chef/co-owner of Chicago's Naha.

While he was bummed by the loss, Symon remained his usual upbeat self, calling the gala "a great event" and maintaining hope for a third nomination in 2009.

For a full list of this year's nominees and winners, check out www.jbfawards.com.

Right on Target: When it comes to big ideas, chef/scientist/entrepreneur Steve Schimoler (Crop Bistro) is rarely at a loss. Take his new line of 13 heat-and-eat products developed for Target, a homey-meets-haute lineup that includes Vermont Cheddar mac & cheese, smoky black beans, and sweet corn with sea salt and cracked black pepper.

Four Schimoler-developed items will debut July 13 on SuperTarget shelves around the country; nine more will follow in October. For now, the products will appear under the Archer Farms label in the stores' refrigerated foods section, says Schimoler, whose pre-Crop résumé includes R&D duties for such big players as Nestlé, Cabot Creamery, and Ben & Jerry's.

To assist with future development projects, Schimoler recently brought on Matt Mytro, formerly of Boulevard Blue and Paladar, as a development chef. Pastry chef Olena Gudz also recently joined the team.

Gudz honed her chops under Cory Barrett, the acclaimed pastry chef at Lola. No surprise, then, that Gudz's current dessert menu is breathtaking, filled with stunners like the Latin Lover (blood-orange flan on a crisp rosemary-scented shortbread), Backyard Soirée (silken rhubarb buckle with a scoop of aromatic basil ice cream), and Some Like It Hot, an interplay of warm chocolate, mentholated mint, and habañero ice cream.

Crop Bistro is at 1400 West Sixth Street. Call 216-696-2767 for info or reservations.

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