posted on by Jackie B.

2013 Year in Review

Hi, how was your year? Ours was great! Here are some highlights:

Dozens of farm fresh specials found on our Flickr set.

Dozens of farm fresh specials found on our Flickr set.

1. Accolades a plenty!
We almost fell off our bar stools upon hearing our name for Cleveland’s Best New Restaurant. We’ve also enjoyed a steady stream of positive feedback this year  - in house and online. As of this post, we’re happy to report 4 stars on Yelp, 4.5 stars on TripAdvisor, and a 96% rating on Urban Spoon. We take every compliment and complaint to heart. Thank you.

A pork chop worthy of a cover.

2. Higher Education.
Chef Ben may have graduated top 10 in his accelerated culinary class at Johnson & Wales Charleston, but that’s nothing compared to the rigor and focus required of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program. Next time you see him, ask him what his prime cost percentage is. Go ahead, we dare you.

Let's talk business. Fluently.

Let’s talk business. Fluently.

3. Interactive Classes.
We added a little twist to typical dining events with cocktail and culinary classes for your DIY enjoyment. Thanks to all who supported this experiment in its first year! Sign up for our newsletter to stay in the know about upcoming classes.

Drink while you learn...and take away tips, tricks & recipes for killer at-home entertaining.

Drink while you learn…and take away tips, tricks & recipes for killer at-home entertaining.

4. Growing Up.
…in volume, that is. Spice Acres grew 15% more in 2013 than the previous year. Let’s hear it for four-season growing! We’ve got some serious land expansion plans in the works – stay tuned for details.

Keepin' it growin' while it's snowin'.

Keepin’ it growin’ while it’s snowin’.

5. Strong Partnerships.
Banks don’t like restaurants. That’s why we’re so thankful for the ongoing support and guidance from our generous private investors, who’ve stepped up to the plate to back our crazy ideas, even with questionable short-term gains.

Restaurant alternative to lame stock handshake photo.

Restaurant alternative to lame stock handshake photo.

1. New Leadership
Please welcome our new General Manager, Tina Zekhtser! You may have seen her buzzing about this month. Be sure to introduce yourself next time you’re in.

Before you take your compliments or complaints to Yelp, be sure to talk to Tina.

Tell Tina what’s on your mind.

2. Building Ownership
A 6-month struggle to purchase our building has FINALLY come to a close! Look for  building renovations to start once winter breaks.

This year: Out with the old, in with the new.

This beauty is officially ours. Yes.

3. Park Stewardship
After taking a short hiatus from catering the annual Conservancy for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park fundraiser, Topography, Spice of Life Catering Co. was just awarded the 2014 contract.  This year, we’re switching it up from the usual cliff-side snacks to a fully interactive dining experience.

Fine dining in a field, anyone?

Fine dining in a field, anyone?

4. Fresh Partnerships.
We’re always meeting new farmers and we can’t wait to introduce you to their fine work.

Getting to know the Gammies in their own Quarry Hill Orchard.

Getting to know the Gammies in their own Quarry Hill Orchard.

5.  Culinary craftsmanship.
More menu changes will start to appear as the harvest availability changes. We’ll place special emphasis on spicing things up for our vegetarian and vegan guests in the future.

Our newest vegan addition: Roasted mushrooms & fennel, escarole, white beans + root vegetable ragout!

Our newest vegan addition: Roasted mushrooms & fennel, escarole, white beans + root vegetable ragout!

To keep things interesting for all you regulars out there, we’ll continue to liven up our happy hour menus, Plated Landscape events, burrito stand offerings, and seasonal events!

The Cleveland dining scene is getting more exciting by the minute and we’re so proud to be a part of it. On behalf of our staff, farmers, reps and vendors, cheers to another great year!



Posted in: Spice Acres, Spice Kitchen+Bar, Spice of Life Catering Co.

posted on by Jackie B.

What do Cleveland’s food bloggers want for the holidays?

For our third annual holiday wish list, we approached those most passionate about the local food scene – our beloved food bloggers. If you have a food enthusiast on your list, take note! When asked, “What local food gift is on your holiday wish list and why?” these professional opinions make for quality gifts in any quantity.

Maria of Maria’s Bits and Pieces

As a self-professed chocoholic, I always put Malley’s chocolates right at the top of my wish list every Christmas. This year’s no exception. And as to not make it hard on anyone who wants to indulge me, I just want to make it perfectly clear that I’d be happy with any of their sweet confections. However, if pressed or tortured or both, I will admit that my absolute favorites are–in no particular order–their Pecan BillyBobs, Chocolate-Covered Pretzels (milk chocolate, please),  Bordeaux, and last but certainly not least, Heaven.

Oh, those gooey BillyBobs.

Oh, those gooey BillyBobs.

Editors note: Maria is also the author of In the Kitchen with Cleveland’s Favorite Chefs, which includes four recipes from our own Chef Ben Bebenroth. 

Michelle V. of Cleveland Foodie

It’s going to sound kind of lame because there are so many other options that are way cooler, but I’d love a copy of Cleveland Food Memories. Makes a nice stocking stuffer, don’t you think? It’s just one of those things I’ve never bothered to pick up for myself over the years, but would love as part of my collection. Going to the Silver Grille or Hough Bakery with my grandma as a kid was the best. And I am a sucker for any Cleveland nostalgia from that era — from my parents and grandparents childhood.

Who wouldn't love a little nostalgia in their stocking?

Who wouldn’t love a little nostalgia in their stocking?

Shannon of Discovering Cleveland

This may sound a bit cliché of me, but Great Lakes Christmas Ale (in any quantity) is always on my Christmas list! There’s just something about the tasty brew that screams the holidays to me. And there’s really nothing quite better than sipping a Christmas Ale (or two) during holiday gatherings!

It's not the holidaze without  Great Lakes Christmas Ale!

It’s not the holidaze without Great Lakes Christmas Ale!

Beth of Cravable Cleveland

A box of chocolates from Lilly’s always makes me happy. Since I adore anything truffle, I’ve been dying to try their Nut-N-Honey chocolate, with black truffle honey and black truffle salt. Sounds appropriately decadent to me!

Life is like this.

Life is like this.

Katrina of BiteBuff

The holidays in chilly Cleveland are all about indulging in our favorite comfort foods and special treats. Once December hits, I want the Mighty Macaroni Melt from Melt Bar and Grilled. It’s the sandwich of the month only once a year, and its gooey goodness just warms you from the inside out. Some of my favorite foodie gifts that I would love to see under the tree are decadent chocolates from Lilly Handmade Chocolates, a West Side Market gift card, macaroons from Coquette Patisserie, chèvre from Mackenzie Creamery, and tickets to a Dinner in the Dark event.

A sandwich so good, it's got its own poster.

A sandwich so good, it’s got its own poster.

So…what’s on your wish list this season? In addition to the aforementioned items, don’t forget your Spice gift certificates – available online or in house for both the restaurant and our 2014 Plated Landscape season. New this year – we also have t-shirts and hoodies for those special culinary nonconformists (or Spice fans) on your list.

Stay warm in Spice style.

Stay warm in Spice style.

Editor’s note: Photos found at these fine sources (in order of appearance)…

Spice Instagram

Posted in: Spice Kitchen+Bar, Spice of Life Catering Co.
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posted on by Jackie B.

Save the apples!

In our work with the Countryside Conservancy, we came across this 2010 Apple Manifesto compiled by the Renewing America’s Food Traditions (RAFT) Alliance. The organization claims that our nation’s great “apple culture” is in big, big trouble thanks, in part, to the mind-boggling loss of apple diversity in the last century.

Before we continue with the stunning facts associated with this issue, consider the beauty and tradition of this heartfelt fruit. A quick on-the-go snack, an easy side dish for the kids, a pie-filler, a cider maker, a sauce. Apples are an active and affordable part of our lifestyle and our traditions, even in the off season.

Oh apples, how we love thee.

Oh apples, how we love thee.

Now, consider this:*

1. Of some 15,000 to 16,000 apple varieties that have been named, grown and eaten on the North American continent, only about 3,000 remain accessible to American orchard keepers, gardeners, chefs and home cooks.

2.  Not even one-forth of the 20 million apple trees grown in the U.S. one hundred years ago remain in commercial or home orchards and gardens. Home apple production in the U.S. peaked between World War I and World War II, and now much of the apple juice, puree, and sauce consumed in the United States is produced in other countries.

Johnny has moved away.

Johnny has moved away.

3. One apple variety, the Red Delicious, comprises 41% of the entire American apple crop, and eleven varieties (of 3,000!!) produce 90 percent of all apples sold in chain grocery stores.

4. One driver of this decline in available apple diversity has been the demise of independently owned nurseries, which have had their business usurped by the garden-and-lawn departments of big-box stores. In a survey of ninety-six commercial nurseries that carried heirloom apples in 1988, 45% of them had gone out of business by 2009.

Granted, if you put these issues in context with other world problems (poverty, crime, war, etc.) apple diversity probably doesn’t rate very high on the problem priority list. Still, it’d be a damn shame to see our country’s crunchy apple crop monopolized for profit. Wouldn’t it?

That said, here are some easy ways you can reinvigorate apple culture in your neck of the orchard:

1. Get to know a new variety. How many can you name? Make a point to sink your teeth into a new one every year. Maybe you can find an aptly titled….Yellow Transparent, Granite Beauty, Duchess of Oldenburg, Winter Banana, Wine Sap, Nodhead, Peck’s Pleasant, Grimes Golden, Green Newtown Pippin, or Christmas apple.

2. Experiment with different varieties for different purposes. Check out this awesome local apple guide on > Our guide to Northeast Ohio Apples: 12 varieties, where to pick them and how to best use them.

3. Plant an apple tree! Right now is a great time. Buy it at your local independent nursery. Prune it well and enjoy the fruit of your labor.

Fruit to the sky!

Fruit to the sky!

4. Go pick your own…and talk to the farmers about their take on apple diversity while you’re at it. Edible Cleveland has a comprehensive U-Pick Apple Orchards Guide.

The Gammie family at Quarry Hill Orchards in Berlin Heights would love to see you!  p.s. They have a winery too.

The Gammie family at Quarry Hill Orchards in Berlin Heights would love to see you!
p.s. They have a winery too.

5. Enjoy your apple in a whole new way. Here’s a great little cocktail recipe from our Bar Man, Dave Hridel.

The Baked Apple Toddy, by Dave Hridel

The Baked Apple Toddy, by Dave Hridel

2.5 oz Pear-infused brandy
2 oz. Apple cider
1/2 oz. Ohio maple syrup
2 Spiced, baked apple quarters
Hot/boiling water to taste
1 Cinnamon stick

Add brandy, cider, maple syrup, apples and cinnamon stick to a 16 oz. mason jar and top with hot/boiling water.

*Editor’s note: All apple facts lifted from “Forgotten Fruits Manual & Manifesto: Apples,” by Renewing America’s Food Traditions (RAFT) Alliance. The full report is available here. It’s a great read if you have the time!


Posted in: Spice Acres, Spice Kitchen+Bar, Spice of Life Catering Co.
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