Side Dish

Tastes in Taste Always Change

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As any serious gourmand knows, our culinary choices are influenced by trends every bit as insidious as those that buffet the fashion industry. Today, for example, Northeast Ohioans are still tucking into "upscale comfort food": old-fashioned favorites like pot roast and macaroni and cheese, usually treated to a contemporary tweaking that Saint Fanny Farmer never would have dreamed of. But despite our apparent hunger for the dishes of our misspent youth, some classics just don't seem to have made the cut. When, for example, was the last time you spotted a pineapple upside-down cake on a trendy restaurant menu? How about an honest, homemade cherry pie? Instead of the ubiquitous crème brûlée, wouldn't you like an opportunity to lose yourself in a bowl of thick, bouncy tapioca, capped with a crown of heavy whipped cream? As for entrées, how about city chicken? Creamed chicken on biscuits? Or, for that matter, real beef stew with fluffy dumplings? And speaking of food trends, what about the continentally inspired cuisine that once made us feel so sophisticated, but that now has dropped off the gastronomic map? Surely something other than Chateaubriand deserved to survive those days of yore. Where, then, are the baked Alaskas, the cherries jubilee, and the glorious peach melbas snuggled into ephemeral shells of crisp meringue? The buttery crêpes bursting with creamed seafood? Whatever became of coq au vin, for cryin' out loud? Just you wait: 30 years from now, we'll be reminiscing about the glory days of sushi and potato-crusted sea bass.

Picking up Stix again . . . The past few weeks have been something of a homecoming for Shane Siegler, who recently returned to Stix Bar and Grill (8377 East Washington Street, Chagrin Falls; 440-543-7849) as the restaurant's new executive chef. The 18-year veteran of victuals was most recently doing his duty at Gaylin's Tavern in Lyndhurst, but says he enjoys being back in the kitchen that he once shared with Stix's former co-owners, Susie Heller (now a writer and restaurant consultant in Napa Valley) and Charlie Saccardi (regional chef for the Hyde Park Restaurant Group and soon-to-be top gun at the new Blake's Grill in Chagrin Falls). Siegler and Stix owner Nick Karakas have big plans for the menu, including tweaking a number of the restaurant's popular salads and appetizers, adding more seafood, and creating a larger assortment of homemade desserts. While Stix is well-known for its wood-smoked ribs and chicken, Siegler plans to delve into the delights of various flavored woods and begin smoking more exotic items, from duck to seafood. The new menu should be in place by the end of May. Meantime, you can sample Siegler's style this weekend at Mother's Day brunch (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) or dinner (5 p.m. to 8 p.m.).

South African Night . . . Brandywine Catering will kick off its seasonal Winemaker Dinners on Friday, May 19, with a seven-course meal matched with assorted South African wines. The menu includes marinated and grilled ostrich served with Zonnebloem Merlot, lightly curried lamb chops accompanied by Plaisir de Merle Cabernet Sauvignon, and poached fruit Napoleons paired with Fleur du Cap Noble late harvest dessert wine. The fun begins at 7 p.m. with hors d'oeuvres, and costs an all-inclusive $65 per person; for reservations, call 330-467-2242 by May 15.

Tips are encouraged. Elaine T. Cicora can be reached at [email protected].

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