posted on by Adam Gale

Q+A with Clarissa Westmeyer, This Season’s Featured Photographer

Clarissa Westmeyer photographs for Spice in Cleveland

This season’s featured photographer at Spice, Clarissa Westmeyer, with her camera in hand.
Photo courtesy of Nicholas Wojciak

Any foodies in the audience may recognize this month’s featured photographer, Clarissa Westmeyer, from her work in Edible Cleveland. A Cleveland transplant from Martinsburg, West Virginia, Clarissa’s passions include capturing unconventional beauty with her camera, fashion, and taking care of her eight backyard chickens.

We’re thrilled to feature Clarissa’s unique, ethereal photographs of some of the local produce that we serve here at Spice. Her work will grace our walls through Summer 2014. In this interview, we get to know the person behind the pictures as Clarissa tells us a little about her background, what inspires her and what she loves about supporting local business.

Q. What brought you to, and kept you in, the Cleveland area?

A. I actually came to Ohio when I started school at Kent State. After graduation, I was offered a job at American Greetings. That’s what brought me to Cleveland. I worked there for a couple years and then threw myself out into the freelance market and ended up being hired full time.

Q. If you weren’t a photographer, what do you think you’d be doing?

A. Oh, gosh. There are always so many creative ideas and things that I fantasize about doing! It ranges from being an organic farmer to a florist.

Q. How would you describe the style of your photography to someone who had never seen your work before?

A. I’m not very good at describing my own work! Other people have described my work as being sunny and happy.

Cleveland Local Food Photography

Clarissa’s photographs capture the beauty in everyday subjects by casting them in a dreamy, ethereal light.

Q. How do you choose your subjects when shooting for fun?

A. There are a variety of subjects that I’m captivated by. I guess it’s almost a challenge for me to find beauty in everything. I try to see beauty when it’s something that someone might not usually think is beautiful.

Q. Do you have any favorite local locations to shoot?

A. No, wherever I’m wandering I keep a photographer’s eye out for seeing beautiful things.

Q. Your work encompasses a broad range of subjects: What do you like about working with food specifically?

A. I think my sister put it best once. She was able to be in town and assist me on a job and she says, “Clarissa, you get to play dress up with food every day!” When we were little, dress up was our favorite game. We had a little box of crazy clothes and would play dress up together. I thought about that and said, “You’re kind of right!” For my profession, I also get to do a lot of designing of what the set might look like and it’s a collaboration, but I really enjoy that part of it too.

Q. On Edible Cleveland, it says that you have the “best-fed chickens in Cleveland.” Can you elaborate on that?

A. Sure! So I keep some backyard chickens. I currently have eight of them! At work, because we have so much food in the studio, we end up having a lot of food scraps. Whether it’s excess from shoots or leftovers form lunch, there’s always food. So at the studios we have chicken buckets, which are just normal buckets around the studio that I bring home to my chickens. Everyone, including clients, coworkers or stylists, know that any food scraps can go into the chicken buckets. Chickens actually eat more than just chicken feed, more than people would think. They love everything from lettuce to grapes and blueberries, to even cupcakes and shrimp!

Cleveland local backyard chickens

Another example of Clarissa’s unique photographic style is this picture of her backyard chicken pals.

Q. What do you think is the appeal of local restaurants and goods for a growing number of consumers?

A. I think it’s just a wonderful feeling knowing that you’re supporting your community and supporting your neighbors. The quality of what you get is so much higher and it’s so much more thoughtful to support the people around you. It inspires us to be more thoughtful in everything we do. Just knowing that the food that you’re eating was either grown by this person or that a good was made in your area is a great feeling.

Q. What was the best part about working with Spice?

A. It was a nice change to have an assignment to shoot a very specific thing. There are things that inspire me all the time and it can almost be overwhelming! So it was nice to be able to narrow the focus and to know that this was exactly what I had to do. I also loved going down and meeting the people on the farm and just talking to them and finding out that they’re as passionate at what they do as I am about what I do. There is nothing greater than seeing someone happy at what they’re doing!

Posted in: Spice Kitchen+Bar
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posted on by Jackie B.

Dave’s Greatest Hits

If you’ve been into Spice Kitchen + Bar a time or two,  you might have noticed something special about our signature cocktail menu. Sure, all the drinks are seasonally inspired. Yep, they’re all made from scratch with farmers’ market ingredients.

...and also edible flowers.

…and also edible flowers.

But what usually kicks off the conversation when people sit down with the drink menu? They love talking about the names.

With titles like, “A Rye Kind of Guy,” and “You’re Dill the One,” our cocktail menu can be quite a conversation piece.

Dave Hridel, or Captain Quick Wit as we like to call him, has unmatched naming prowess when it comes to his crafty farm-to-bar creations.

Dave's latest summer sippers.

Dave’s latest summer sippers.

Stop on in and break the ice around “Gin It to Win It” or some other such thing. We promise you’ll start with a smile and leave with a laugh.

Here are our top ten favorite names so far.*

10. A Whole Lotta Rosie: Tequila, Citrus Trio, Aperol + Rosemary

9. Call Me Maple: OYO Honey Vanilla Vodka, Maple Syrup, Luxardo, Lemon + Muddled Griotte Cherries

8. Pressed to Impress: House-spiced Rum, Ohio Apple Cider, Ginger/Lemongrass Syrup + Lime

Pressed to Impress

Pressed to Impress

7. Try Walking a Chamomile in Your Shoes: Gin, Lemon, Chamomile Syrup + Ginger Beer.

6. The Smoked Prophet: Smoked Pineapple + Jalapeño Infused Tequila, IPA Syrup, Lemon + Carpano Bianco

Smokey.

Smokey.

5. Abra-Zacapa: Ron Zacapa Aged Rum, Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth, Creme de Yvette, Orange Bitters + Griotte Cherries

4. Melon-choly: House-spiced Rum, Cantaloupe Juice, Lime + Lemon Grass Ginger Honey Syrup

3. Cool Hand Cuke: Gin, Cucumber Juice, Lemon + Mint Syrup

2. All is Pear in Love + War: House-spiced Rum, Pear Puree, Ginger Liquor, Lemon + Cranberry Bitters

All is Pear in Love & War

All is Pear in Love & War

1. The Local Hero: Tom’s Foolery Applejack, Lemon, Berry Jam + Local Beer (DIY it with the help of Dave’s video on Cleveland.com)

*Editors note:  These concoctions shift with the seasons and are not available year round. If you see something you like, be sure to ask Dave for a seasonal version you’ll love.

Posted in: Spice Kitchen+Bar
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posted on by Noelle P.

Q+A with Mackenzie Creamery Owner, Jean Mackenzie

Mackenzie Creamery has been churning out award winning goat cheese for seven years. It all began with a cheesemaking course taken by Jean while on vacation. It was then that she found her calling and got down to business (literally!) on launching her own. In less than six months, Mackenzie Creamery was born in the lower level of her barn in Hiram, Ohio. Since then, Jean has not only grown a successful business and national reputation; she’s also taken her love for the industry to new heights by founding the Ohio Cheese Guild.

The farm itself has provided a beautiful backdrop for many Plated Landscape dinners over the years, with equally beautiful dishes inspired by the creamery’s distinctive flavor profiles. Below we interview Jean on what makes her cheeses so special, some fun recipes to try and her mission as a local producer.

A picture-perfect setting.

A picture-perfect setting.

Q. Mackenzie Creamery is one of the most popular farms of the Plated Landscape season. What makes this dinner so special and what might a first timer expect?

A. I think that the farm setting is one of the main qualities that makes the Plated Landscape dinner so special. Our 30-acre farm is set on a gently sloping hill facing south and has a real sense of southern France with rolling pastures and mature woods. We have created trails throughout the woods and take our Plated Landscape guests on a hay wagon ride though the woods before dinner. It’s great fun for all.

Please yield for tractor crossings.

Please yield for tractor crossings.

Q. You have such unique flavors. What’s your all time favorite?

A. I tell people that my favorite flavor is the one I’m talking about! But, I would have to say that our most popular flavor is the Cognac Fig, which has won five national awards! We use Courvoisier cognac and Dalmatia figs – nothing but the best ingredients! – to make our sauce that is poured over the top of the cheese. It’s delicious!

Q. What are your favorite ways to incorporate your goat cheeses into your own dishes at home?

A. I love adding our plain or honey chevre to my roasted beet salad that is then tossed with a balsamic glaze and olive oil. I also enjoy making sauces and salad dressings with the cheese. I take ¼ log of our Wasabi Sesame Chèvre, thin it with 2% milk and use it as a salad dressing.

DO try this at home!

DO try this at home!

More cheese please.

More cheese please.

Q. You founded the Ohio Cheese Guild. Tell us about the genesis of that idea and what your vision is for the future.  

A. When I was licensed in 2007 there were only a handful of creameries in Ohio and virtually no resources for cheesemakers. Today there are over twenty creameries in Ohio making cheese from cow, goat and sheep milk!  At the American Cheese Society’s (ACS) annual conventions, I’ve met leaders from cheese guilds from across the country. These guilds serve as a critical link for cheesemakers to one another and provide a way to promote local cheeses and an avenue to disperse important and ever-changing information from the FDA. Each year, small-scale creameries are held to higher and higher standards and it’s critical that each cheesemaker is aware of changes in the laws.

The Ohio Cheese Guild membership is made up of people from across Ohio – makers, buyers, chefs, cheese enthusiasts – who love Ohio cheeses. We’re working on an Ohio Cheese Trail and an annual cheese event.

Q. How did you come to meet the Bebenroths?

A. I first met Ben when I brought him a sample of Mackenzie Creamery chevre for him to try and hopefully incorporate into his menu at Spice of Life Catering. I then met Jackie and the children at the Shaker farmers’ market and fell in love with the entire family! Jackie and I then served together on the Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy Board of Directors. When the Ohio Cheese Guild was founded, Jackie was at the top of our list for the board and she’s now heading up the Marketing and Communications Committee.

Dinner prep

Dinner prep

Q. What is your mission as a local producer and how does it align with Spice Companies sourcing philosophy?

A. Our mission and business philosophy is very closely aligned with Spice Companies. Buying local ingredients, supporting and promoting local businesses and incorporating sustainable practices are key.

Insert yourself here.

Insert yourself here.

Posted in: Spice of Life Catering Co.
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