Chef Michael Symon recently unveiled some new warm-weather menu items at Lola (900 Literary Road; 216-771-5652), his bustling bistro in Tremont. Pick-of-the-season treats include a summery salad of assorted heirloom tomatoes, simply dressed with lemon-infused olive oil and a splash of aged balsamic vinegar, fanned around a wedge of creamy-tart goat cheese and topped with crisp micro-greens ($7.95); and a thoroughly updated version of homey pork 'n' beans, showcasing sliced pork tenderloin piled high with barbecue-baked cannellini beans and luscious pulled pork, with a fine, crunchy topknot of onion rings ($15.95). Now, if only we could get him to cater the company picnic.
If you haven't made it out to the North Union Farmers Market on Shaker Square, what are you waiting for? Ohio's bounty is nearly at its peak, and the pickin's couldn't be finer. A recent Saturday morning foray netted us fat blueberries from Meadow View Farm in Homeworth; delicate, ocean-scented oyster mushrooms from Killbuck Valley Mushrooms in Burbank; and teensy little pattypan squash from Don Anne Farms, near Parkman. Early sweet corn is in, too, and bushels of heirloom tomatoes should be on hand any day now. Other additions to a midsummer's larder might include red, blue, and gold-fleshed potatoes; rough, coral-like lion's mane mushrooms; and bouquets of organic cilantro, parsley, basil, and arugula, to mention a few possibilities. The Shaker market runs each Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon, rain or shine. And although attempts to expand the Shaker hours by adding a Tuesday afternoon session have fizzled out, the North Union organizers recently launched three other locations. A downtown market at Cedar Avenue and East 30th operates Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and accepts WIC coupons; the Lakewood market on Detroit Avenue, at the Arthur extension, is back on Wednesdays from 1 to 6 p.m.; and the brand-new Olmsted Falls market, next to Grand Pacific Junction, is open each Friday from 8 a.m. to noon.
Raising the Hershey bar
Not only does Chef Marilyn Smith put together some great-tasting salads in the Market Kitchen at Solon's Mustard Seed Market (6025 Kruse Drive), the 33-year-old Hudsonite is no slouch when it comes to baking. In fact, Smith took second place -- and a $1,000 prize -- in the recent Cooking Light/Hershey's Chocolate Pro Am contest in Hershey, Pennsylvania, with her "Light and Creamy Chocolate Roll," a reduced-fat cake she came up with while experimenting in her home kitchen. The national contest attracted more than 2,000 entrants, and as a finalist, Smith got an all-expense-paid three-day trip to The Chocolate Capital of the World, where she demonstrated her winning entry and picked up the dough.
The restaurant industry is no better than any other when it comes to job security. Just ask Todd Stein, much-lauded chef at Sans Souci -- until July 18; or Robin Wilkins, top guy at The Metropolitan -- until July 16. Despite their recent job losses, both men remain upbeat and philosophical. "Hey, it happens in any business," Stein shrugs. "There's always more work out there." While the chefs are mum on long-term plans, they know what they're doing in the short run: Wilkins will be cooking at the Chagrin Valley Hunt Club, and Stein plans to chill out on the links.