Here's an interesting twist on the "interactive dinner party" concept: On Sunday, August 6, Tom Wiandt of Killbuck Valley Mushrooms will lead a pack of hopeful diners into the rolling woodlands behind his Wayne County farm to forage for roots, berries, mushrooms, and assorted greenery. When they return, chef Ben Bebenroth (Spice of Life Catering Co.) will transform the bounty into a six-course feast.
"For me, it'll be sort of like Iron Chef," says Bebenroth, a Johnson & Wales grad whose résumé includes stints at Parker's and the former Fulton Bar & Grill. "I won't know what I'm working with until the guests return. And for them, it's a chance to get out there and see that food really grows in the forest."
Bebenroth expects to find pokeberry shoots, wild ginger, and ginseng, and an assortment of wild mushrooms. Locally raised bison and free-range chicken will be on the menu too (diners won't be responsible for, um, harvesting the livestock).
Each course will be matched with wines from Sarah's Vineyard, a winery located in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and part of a program to return small family farms to the valley. A guitarist will set the mood with a repertoire of acoustic jazz. The $150-per-person event is limited to 18 participants and begins at 4 p.m. For info or reservations, contact Bebenroth at 440-623-9990.
Say "cheesecake" . . . We may all scream for ice cream, but Karen Snyder hopes at least some of us will brake for cheesecake at Cheesecake Charlie's in Mentor (7537 Mentor Avenue, 440-951-3247). For a cool alternative to the usual custard and ice cream, Snyder and her baker, Pat McArthur, have begun selling frozen scoops of the store's homemade cheesecake, in cups or cones. It comes in four flavors -- French vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, and original -- and costs $1.59; add any one of more than 30 toppings for an extra 40 cents.
The cold stuff is an offshoot of Charlie's specialty -- fluffy, no-bake cheesecakes based on McArthur's family recipe; besides the regular flavors, specialty fillings include banana, pumpkin, and even watermelon. Check them out by the pie or the slice, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday.