published Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

Side Orders: Food, wine flow at Taste

With its new venue at Stratton Hall and almost 20 restaurants serving tastes of their most popular menu items, a crowd of more than 400 strong turned out to experience one of the most appetizing nights of the year — Taste.

As food and wine flowed, a team of chefs went head to head to compete in a cook-off with one mystery ingredient thrown into the mix. The key ingredient this year was kumquats, supplied by event co-sponsor Whole Foods Market.

Competing chefs were John Palaci (Porter's Steakhouse), Nate Flynt (Famous Nater's), Matt Marcus (independent chef) and LeMont Johnson (Cafe LeMont). And when they'd put the finishing touches on their dishes, a team of judges had the difficult decision of picking a winner. And he was ... drumroll, please ... Marcus, who used the secret ingredient to make cod served with lentils, raspberry, capers and, of course, kumquats.

Taste is designed to raise money for the Kidney Foundation and this year's event raised more than $20,000 to help the organization serve its clients.


Kudos are in store for Bick Johnson, executive chef at Cleveland's Bald Headed Bistro. Williams has received notice that, for his commitment to excellence, he will be included in the book "Best Chefs America 2013." It's a coffee-table book and can be purchased online at bestchefsamerica.com or local bookstores. The book is published annually to showcase the top chefs in the country as selected by their peers.

The price is $75, but it gives you a detailed look at many of the nation's top chefs and gives an idea of where to go for the best in food and service when you dine out in town or away from home.

"A night at the Bald Headed Bistro is a dining experience unlike any other and Bick deserves a great deal of the credit," Josh Weekley, the Bistro's general manager, said in a news release. "Bick works hard to ensure our guests enjoy a full-range of senses, from the unique western ambiance of the Bistro to the elegant dishes."

Johnson, who once served as executive chef for a restaurant on Saba in the British West Indies, said he is "surprised and humbled" at being included in the book, which is regarded as one of the top restaurant guides for chefs around the nation. He's a member of the American Culinary Federation and is a certified executive chef. He is a chef rotisseur with the Chaine des Rotisseurs of Chattanooga and holds the office of vice conseiller gastronomique.

The Bald Headed Bistro opened in Cleveland in 2004, and is located at 201 Keith St. in the Village Green Town Center. Reservations are recommended at 472-6000.


Celebrate your Irish heritage, or just indulge in your chocolate fantasies, with this incredible recipe for Irish Cream Swirl Brownies from McCormick, maker of flavorings and food colorings. You'll need them in order to make this ... or afternoon snack ... or maybe with your morning coffee come St. Patty's Day on March 17. I made this using a Duncan Hines dark chocolate fudge mix, and it was excellent.

Irish Cream Swirl Brownies

1 package (family-size) fudge brownie mix

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons flour

1/4 cup Irish cream liqueur

1 egg

1/4 teaspoon green food color

Prepare brownie mix as directed on package, adding vanilla. Reserve 1 cup batter. Spread remaining batter in greased, 9-inch square baking pan.

Beat cream cheese, flour and sugar in medium bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add Irish cream liqueur, egg and food color; beat until well blended. Pour over brownie layer in pan. Drop reserved 1 cup batter by spoonfuls over cream cheese layer. Cut through batter with knife several times for marble effect.

Bake as directed on package for 9-inch square baking pan. Cool in pan on wire rack. Cut into squares. Serve with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, if desired.

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