Finally, it's summer on the North Coast, and overheated diners are hankering for all things cool and refreshing. Luckily, local chefs have once again risen to the challenge with seasonal menus full of light -- and lighthearted -- dishes.
Consider, for instance, some of the whimsical offerings coming out of Executive Chef Marlin Kaplan's kitchen at downtown's One Walnut (1801 E. Ninth Street, on the north side of the Ohio Savings Building, 216-575-1111). There's the peekytoe crab martini, for instance, a colorful layering of avocado purée, tomato gelée, and peekytoe crab "salad," zapped with olive oil and mint. Or soy-marinated Kobe beef short ribs ("To die for," Kaplan sighs), so tender and well-marbled that they come sizzlin' off the grill in only five minutes. But Kaplan's well-known propensity for playing with his food may have reached its zenith in his Watermelon Sushi, crafted from juicy red and yellow melons, with avocado purée standing in for wasabi, fig-vinegar reduction for the soy sauce, and a "Sakitini" shooter -- watermelon purée, sake, and Champagne -- on the side. It's hardly a surprise to hear the chef call this "the coolest thing I ever invented!" All these dishes and more are part of Kaplan's newest three-, four-, or five-course prix fixe menus.
Meanwhile, at nearby Sans Souci (24 Public Square, in the Renaissance Hotel, 216-696-5600), chef de cuisine Ben Fambrough is chillin', too. Now through August 14, his summer seafood menu features such fare as smooth seafood gazpacho, tweaked with lime and oregano, and garnished with cilantro-and-lemon-oil-flavored crabmeat and smoked mussels ($7). Then there are those dainty zucchini blossoms (gathered from the Chef's Garden, in Milan, Ohio), stuffed with scallop and salmon mousse, and drizzled with vanilla-bean oil ($13) -- and, among the half-dozen entrées, fresh Lake Erie walleye, sautéed with exotic beech mushrooms and served with white asparagus, baby gold zucchini, and fava-bean cream ($20). Way cool stuff.
Smart choice . . . If you're reading this on Wednesday, July 21, you may still have time to scarf down a burrito and help send a Cleveland kid to college. This singular opportunity is brought to you by the area's 11 Chipotle Mexican Grills, which have vowed to contribute the entire day's sales, or up to $30,000, to the Cleveland Scholarship Program, the nation's oldest and largest college-access organization. This makes the fifth year that Chipotle has kicked in cash to the scholarship kitty, and in that time, they (or more to the point, you) have coughed up more than 87,000 bucks. This year's opportunity to polish up the ol' karma ends at 10 p.m.