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Side Dish

Mojo Giveth and Mojo Taketh Away

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The ink had barely dried on our glowing October 14 review of Michael Herschman's innovative restaurant Mojo (2221 Professor Street), when an alert reader at CWRU informed us that Herschman had changed the concept. The disappointed diner reported that the list of tapas-like "small plates," which once made up the entire menu, had been shortened, and a list of "big plate" entrées (mostly enlarged versions of former "small plates" with prices to match) had been added, making a dinner at Mojo a much more conventional and potentially more expensive affair. A diplomatic Herschman says the change was instituted at the request of some of his customers "who just want to order dinner and get on with the dining experience, and [to] satisfy those slightly reluctant to try [the small plate] style of dining." Can't blame the man: Happy customers are any restaurateur's bread and butter. And we feel confident that Mojo's food is as wonderful as ever, no matter what size plate it comes on. But while we admit that cobbling together a meal from Mojo's 30-odd small plates required more thought than area diners are apparently used to expending, the freedom to sail through the menu, picking and choosing whatever tiny delights caught the eye, made for a smart, exciting dining experience (and one, incidentally, that is far from rare in Napa Valley, Chicago, or N.Y.C. restaurants). Too bad more of us didn't appreciate it. If you ever find yourself wondering why Clevo can't shake its unsophisticated image as a blue-collar kinda dining town, put this little story in your pipe and smoke it.

Happy herbi-days . . . Chemical- and pesticide-free Crooked River Herb Farm (3942 Akron-Peninsula Road, Akron) in the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area is having a Holiday Open House on November 13 and 14. Herb farmer Kathleen Varga launched her business in 1993 as an outlet for her own delicate herbed jellies, vinegars, and infused honeys. But since then, the tiny store has become something of a natural foods market, offering an assortment of locally made products, with Varga taking on the role of one-woman clearinghouse for all things organic. Along with Varga's herbal creations -- like a mouthwatering Violet and Lavender Jelly, a knock-your-socks-off Toasted Pecan and Basil Pesto, and a heady Tarragon Champagne Vinegar -- visitors can buy impeccably fresh ch&eagrave;vre and goats' milk feta from Anne Hauser's R-Haven Farm in Lorain County, custom-blended herbal teas from Donna Hohman's Stardust Botanicals in Coventry, herbal skin-care products from Lois Tullis of West Akron, and honey and beeswax candles from Andrew McKinnon in Silver Lake. Among Varga's fresh-herb customers are some of Akron's best restaurants, like Ken Stewart's Grille, Liberty Street Brewing Company, and the Mustard Seed Market and Café. Open house activities will include a chance to sample natural products, meet some of the producers, and visit with Varga's security-minded llamas, Pacha and Turbo, who guard the farm against marauding coyotes. Fall hours, through December 24, are Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday noon to 5 p.m.

Tips are encouraged. Contact Elaine T. Cicora at ecicora@clevescene.com.

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