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See Food

Gawk at strangers' houses, and nosh for a worthy cause.

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Forget about the robins and the lilacs. For North Coast dwellers, the surest sign of spring is the annual Evening in Ohio City, scheduled this year for Saturday, May 15. This is the 11th go-round for the popular event, and its integration of our need to graze with our urge to gaze (at other people's homes, that is) is no doubt the key to its success.

This year's movable feast begins at 6 p.m., featuring a progressive food-and-wine tasting in six unique Ohio City domiciles, including a late-1800s Victorian dwelling and a brand-new loft-style condo in what was once the Fries & Schuele department store. As always, participants will travel from home to home on Lolly the Trolley. At each stop, they'll be treated to a 30-minute tour as well as all the wine and "hearty hors d'oeuvres" they can handle, provided by some of the neighborhood's notable culinary resources.

Among the purveyors will be The Culinary Artist, serving potstickers with peanut-ginger sauce, risotto croquettes, and pesto crostini; Fulton Bar & Grill, with jerk-rubbed pork tenderloin and Caribbean mango-and-black-bean potstickers; Halite, dishing up artichoke fritters and deviled eggs; Johnny Mango, with Thai-style vegetable spring rolls; Kan Zaman, serving stuffed vegetarian grape leaves and an assortment of hummus, falafel, fattoosh, tabouli, and baba ghanoush with pita bread; and OPA! on 25th, presenting spanakopita, coconut-sesame-chicken kabobs, and pork tenderloin stuffed with Gorgonzola and sage. And the final stop will be the Tasting Room at Great Lakes Brewery for dessert, coffee, and of course, beer.

Tickets for the event, a perennial sell-out that supports the Ohio City Near West Development Corp., are $100 per person and must be purchased in advance; call 216-781-3222 to order or for more information.

Are you listening, Ruth Reichl? . . . Officials of AAA Ohio Motorists Association presented the AAA Four Diamond awards to six area restaurants earlier this month. The winners were Classics at the InterContinental Hotel and Conference Center, Lockkeepers in Valley View, Century at the downtown Ritz-Carlton, Ristorante Giovanni's in Beachwood, Baricelli Inn in Little Italy, and the Leopard in Aurora. While the award criteria admittedly favor more formal "dining destinations" (as opposed to, say, hot little neighborhood bistros), scoring half a dozen upscale champs reflects well on the strength of our entire dining scene. Just how cool does it make us? Well, Indianapolis has only two Four-Diamond dining rooms. And Columbus, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Kansas City, and Baltimore? Only one each. But go figure: Not a single Cleveburg restaurant made it into last year's Gourmet's Guide to America's Best Restaurants.

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