‘Next Iron Chef’ Sundays at Lolita

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Hey, foodies, why should Tribe fans have all the fun? Round up a group of like-minded gourmets this Sunday, and head down to Lolita, where you can cheer on our own hometown hero, Michael Symon, as he battles to become The Next Iron Chef. The 6-show series debuts this Sunday, Oct. 7, at 9 p.m., on the Food Network, and runs through Nov. 11, following Symon and seven other finalists as they compete to join Mario Batali, Cat Cora, Bobby Flay, and Masaharu Morimoto as defenders of Kitchen Stadium. Taped in NYC last summer, the reality show started with a field of about 30 chefs. Only the contestants, the judges (including Cleveland’s own Michael Ruhlman) and Food Network staffers know for sure who won – and good luck prying it out of any of them. (God knows we’ve tried.) But win or lose, following Symon’s progress over the next six weeks should be one hell of a ride. And how better to appreciate it than with a crowd of fellow fans? While the gregarious chef-restaurateur hasn’t gone so far as to invite us into his living room, he’s doing the next best thing: Hosting a weekly gathering at Lolita – now through the show’s conclusion -- for dinner and communal viewing. Pre-game festivities will run each Sunday from 4 to 9 p.m. featuring a prix fixe family-style dinner for two or more, with pasta, salad, and bruschetta. This week, for instance, the roster includes arugula-lemon salad, roasted garlic bruschetta, and pappardelle Bolognese. The price is $19 per person, and reservations would be a very good idea. (Items from the regular menu will also be available.) Then, it’s away with the plates and on to the starting lineup -- and let the whooping and hollering begin! (Should all that cheering re-ignite an appetite, though, don’t worry: No peanuts or Cracker Jacks, but crisp-crusted Neapolitan-style pizzas and some select small plates will be available.) It’s a great opportunity to eat, drink, and root for the home team. Even if Symon doesn’t clear the bases, it ought to be a blast. And if he does become The Next Iron Chef? You can say you had a seat right behind home plate. --- Elaine T. Cicora

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