Lyndhurst mayor Joseph Cicero is one of 10 local officials competing in Sunday's Mayors' Dessert Cup Challenge, part of Taste of Cleveland. But he admits he used to work for the Cleveland Food Bank, which picks up leftovers from . . . Taste of Cleveland. Hmmm. "I don't even know any of the judges!" insists Cicero, who'll be making a batch of Dad's Chocolate Chip Cookies. "I think they're picking people off the street."
He's not too concerned with the outcome anyway. "Come on, everybody likes chocolate chip cookies," he says. "And it's just a fun thing to do." Someone tell that to South Euclid mayor Georgine Welo, who's in for the gold and is pretty convinced that her entry, Denise's Baklava Cheesecake, will sway the bipartisan panel of judges. "I'm going to win," she exclaims. "It's a killer!"
The Dessert Challenge is a new addition to Cleveland's annual celebration of local cuisine. Hot Sauce Williams, Great Lakes Brewing Company, Pierogi Palace, and two dozen other restaurants will set up shop at Tower City Amphitheater; Robert Cray and the Calling will bring the noise; and people will gorge themselves at various grub-stuffing contests.
Also baking up batches of sweet goodies will be Bedford's Dan Pocek (Tutu's Tempting Dessert), Bay Village's Deborah Sutherland (Chocolate Bread Pudding), and Newburgh Heights' Paul Ruggles (Layered Pineapple Banana Dessert). Unfortunately, the mayors' creations won't be available to their constituents (attendees can view the judging, however). Desserts will be prepared at home and tasted by experts at noon. But doesn't the off-site baking lend itself to, um, confection fraud? "I would never do that," says Cicero. "I make these all the time."
Welo also prepares her dish quite often, even though the recipe -- as its name implies -- is a borrowed one. "Denise is my next-door neighbor," she explains. "And there's no way chocolate chip cookies can beat this cheesecake." And if they do, she can always take it to the Supreme Court.