07 September 2010

Literary Vacation Inspired by Soul of a Chef!

Have you read Soul of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman?

Then you can understand what motivated our Literary Vacation. And since we are lucky enough to have relatives who live in Cleveland, we planned a whole vacation with the pièce de résistance: an amazing dinner at Lola Bistro

Haven't read it? Well, read on, and you just may want to!

First stop on our trip: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (watch for an interview with The Rock Hall's Director of Communication, coming soon!) We've been lucky enough to visit before so this time our goal was to watch:
U2 3D Film
So we donned 3-D glasses and what a show! --if you have a chance don't miss it! For details, click here. For the trailer, click here.

Next Stop Lola: Headed down East 4th Street -what a great location, most of the street is closed off so that diners can enjoy the fresh air and atmosphere --the House of Blues is on the same block! It was nearly 90 degrees that day so we were happy to dine in the A/C. The service at Lola is just what you'd expect at such an upscale restaurant, but much more friendly.

We've learned that when dining with the younger set to take the earliest seating, that way you can take your time and enjoy the restaurant before it gets BUSY. Amanda, our brilliant server, was happy to answer our questions about the history of the restaurant and details of the food... with a smile, a real smile. 

Ordering from the MENU: Just 3 months ago we would have had a trickier time ordering since most menu items are a meat lovers dream. The menu features items like: beef cheek, sweetbreads and steak and other items are deep fried in pork fat! Even the roasted red pepper soup, that's right, a luscious pork base. Please reader, skip down to the desserts if you don't believe that Lola can make magic with pork. 

Fortunately, The Sisters and The Mom have recently moved from being strict vegetarians to selective pescetarians who will eat things that may have been fried in pork fat, thank goodness! So we were not daunted --only swooning-- over the magical menu. 

Who created all this you may wonder? Well, read Soul of a Chef to find out! Okay we'll tell you: the magician's name is Michael Symon, chef and owner of Lola. But to really understand this food, you have visit.

Next, order drinks: This is the only time you will read this at The Books for Walls Project: "We absolutely loved the I-Pad... for the drink menu!" Very cool way to feature the extensive drink and wine menu. 

As our up and coming sommelier Jude decanted and served our red and we suggested he visit our favorite restaurant Stella, to complete his education on Michigan wines (really there are some good wines made in the mitten!) And our wine was perfect with our meal, thanks Jude! The Sister's usual: orange juice and soda water, was perfect.

Eating: The knife for The Dad's dinner of Smoked Berkshire Porkchops with cheesy polenta -it reads: "live to cook!"

The Little Sister had: fresh pappardelle pasta (we understand it is made locally), with spring peas and french horn mushrooms, with her sister's rejected tomatoes on the side!

The Mom's dinner: Scallops, chanterelle mushrooms, cippolini onions with parsley sauce (hold the bacon, please.)

The Big Sister couldn't wait for The Mom to take the photo: she had, disappearing, Alaskan wild salmon with zucchini fritters with roasted tomatoes (which, note above, she gave to her sister!)

And now dessert: The famous "6 am special": brioche french toast, maple-bacon ice cream, caramelized apple --yes, you read that right maple-bacon ice cream. The Dad tried it, and his opinion was: "ummm, interesting." The girls like the brioche french toast, a lot!

More dessert: The Sisters split a "Coffee and Doughnuts" hot chocolate with espresso and cinnamon, whipped cream, with fresh cinnamon and lemon glazed doughnuts (The Sisters love sneaking coffee, this time they didn't have to!) The picture doesn't do it justice... the whipped cream was piled high!

A stroll after that amazing meal: To walk off our dinner we stopped by one of the United States' first indoor shopping malls The Cleveland Arcade, which opened in May of 1890 --we wondered what Laura Ingalls Wilder might have thought of shopping there! We caught The Sister's Aunt in this shot --she is an amazing hostess, an expert on Cleveland, Rock and Roll and good food, we were so happy to get to spend so much time with her!

Just a peak: since The Arcade was closed for a private party, a wedding! Very fancy!

Final highlight The Great Lakes Science Center a must see if you have kiddos and even for adults (the Mom and Dad said "wow" as often as The Sisters!) As if all the hands-on fun weren't enough we decided to take in an IMAX show.

Getting dizzy watching: Hubble the The Sister's first IMAX and The Mom and Dad's first in a while, holy vertigo! Thankfully we packed snacks and distracted ourselves with cookies for a while. Then we relaxed a bit, and laughed, as the recorded introduction suggested we "just close your eyes if you got dizzy and wait for the scene to end."

The film was outstanding on so many levels: to learn about the lives of astronauts, the Hubble telescope, and our brilliant universe --we cannot wait to learn more. Start here: check out the Hubble's comprehensive
website. Warning: once you go to the site, you may be tempted to spend hours stargazing!

A perfect vacation: time with family (including a magical auntie), top notch museums in the great city of Cleveland, and an unforgeable meal, all inspired by Soul of a Chef, thank you Michael Ruhlman
The soul of a chef : the journey toward perfection

All in all it was a magnificent Literary Vacation.
Take the Challenge, tell us where a book inspires you to go! 


  1. We weren't to sure about Twittering at first, but now we are very happy about it --because Soul of a Chef author Michael Ruhlman Twittered about Books for Walls yesterday!

    Learning about how the internet connects people is a very interesting lesson... and wow, are we learning!

    If you want to follow us on Twitter go to http://twitter.com/BooksforWalls.

  2. WHAT fun! i love those kind of meals, where you're just stunned by the amazingness of the food. YAY!! and i can't wait to get to the great lakes science center. we went to the great lakes aquarium up in duluth - it was an incredible experience.