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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Food and Wine does Cleveland up right. Also: Bourdain's show was all in good fun

Posted By on Tue, Sep 11, 2007 at 12:12 PM

Local foodies who were less than impressed by what Tony Bourdain told the world about Cleveland during the No Reservations episode of August 28, might find that Food & Wine magazine’s recently posted "48 Hour Cleveland Cheat Sheet" has a somewhat sweeter taste. Based on a F&W rep’s brief June visit to our fair city, the list of 15 top spots includes the usual big guns like Lola, Flying Fig, Light Bistro, and Momocho, but it doesn’t stop there. For a little ethnic sizzle, for instance, Northfield’s Babushka’s Kitchen gets a nod; and in a salute to our farmland heritage, The North Union Farmers Market is picked out for praise. (And in a reminder of how quickly the local scene transforms, the recently deceased Battuto is also on the list.) As for the Cleveland No Reservations episode, I was out of town when it first aired; and by the time I saw it, it seemed like everything that could be said about the show had been said. Still, people keep asking what I thought about it, so here goes: I felt the entire episode was funny, warm-hearted, and just edgy enough to be authentically Bourdain; and in that regard, I thought the show was great – as well as great publicity for Cleveland. As for the choice of venues? Well, it’s Tony’s show, and Tony gets to go where he wants – so quibbling about it is just plain silly. That said, I thought most of the picks – the market, Sokolowski’s, Lola, and Hot Sauce Williams – were fine choices. And as for the Skyline Chili segment, it should be obvious that that was all about Bourdain vs. Ruhlman, and not about dining, at all. Was the slant on Cleveland – complete with sewage, snow, and broken steel-mill windows – both cliched and limited? As fellow food writer Laura Taxel pointed out during a recent gabfest, of course it was. But was it mean-spirited or unfair? Hardly. Besides, I don’t recall hearing half the bitchin’ when Rachel Ray’s Tasty Travels came through town a few years back. Foodies should recall that RR gave a nod to the now-defunct Hornblower’s Barge and Grill during that particular episode. I feel confident that most of us would prefer antique Twinkie filling over that ol’ stinker, any day. --- Elaine T. Cicora

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