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Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Feast of the Deceased

Hello there, City Editor John Bertosa here, and when I get an invitation to have a gourmet dinner at night in an old graveyard, I say yes and bring along my wife/photographer, Jeannene.
The event was held Friday at Monroe Cemetery, Cleveland's second oldest and tucked away in a residential corner of Ohio City, about a half-mile or so southwest of the West Side Market.
The event, put on by the group Emerging Chefs, took place under a connected series of tents that accommodated about 100 guests (many dressed in Halloween costumes) and included soft orange and yellow lighting in addition to candles and a DJ playing music that evoked the season and locale (for example, Metallica's "Enter Sandman").
The power flickered off momentarily a couple times but guests thought it just added to the atmosphere and it also served as a reminder of what an imposing feat organizers had done -- putting in a kitchen and putting on a full, catered party  in a cemetery that normally does not have any electricty.
The chef for the evening was Brian Doyle of Sow Food. Using an urban farm in Ohio City, he is a caterer with plans to eventually open a restaurant that is part of its own supply chain of urban farms.Those in NE Ohio might recognize some of the restaurants where he previously worked, including Quail Hollow, Lure Bistro and Gamekeepers.
His menu was tailored to the graveyard and Halloween season, and for the most part it showed a sensibility of having to cater for about 100 people yet had sophisticated plating and taste.
The amuse bouche was a "True Blood E Marry Oyster Shot" but instead of a strong, in-your-face bloody mary it was a clean shot of tomato water which didn't overwhelm the freshness of the oyster at the bottom of the glass.
The "Raw Flesh Carpaccio" also was simple yet perfectly accented by the tartness of shaved parmigian cheese, crispness of micro-greens, saltiness of capers and texture of a crostini. Like bacon, a dish can always use more of the salty goodness of capers but that might just be me talking.
The "Pumpkin Potage with Beet Frits" was perfectly pureed, giving diners a full-bodied soup course on a cold fall night. Touch Supper Club had been contributing a cocktail with each course and the spiced bourbon punch that came with this course further made this scream "Autumn!"
As for the "Foie Gras and Rabbit Liver Ravioli with Fava beans and Chianti reduction," the filling was smooth and savory and the reduction was a sweet complement and had some diners using their spoons to scoop up what remained before the servers took away the plates. I found the pasta of the ravioli to be a little thick and dry, probably hurt by the catering aspect of the meal in that it had cooled down too much.
The highlight of  the graveyard meal was an actual pig's head served family-style. The chef had graciously  pulled apart most of the pork and removed the eyeballs but the teeth were still attached to the skull and diners were able to pick additional flesh off the bone. The pork was juicy, the skin roasted to a sweet and sour crispiness, all served on a bed of fried rice that was able to soak in the pork flavors before being served.
Decadent chunks of chocolate with shards of sugar "glass" and "blood spatter" ended one of the most unusual dining experiences I've ever had. And we are already talking about next year.


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