1) Field trips to local producers and suppliers. We could get lessons on how to select, store and prepare their products. Good choices might be The West Side Market, North Union Farmer's Market, Coit Ave Market, or various local farms. After the lesson we could eat the visual aids.
2) Comparison tastings. Good choices might include hot chocolate, bacon, hot dogs, potato chips. Ketchup? Mustard? These could be mail ordered and tested in one location. Or we could caravan to local restaurants and taste test hamburgers, pizza, etc...
In some cases where it would be difficult to sample all of the candidates a sytem may be necessary to insure even distribution. Testers could predict how many samples they expect to taste and choose samples that they're specifically interested in trying. Remaining room for samples could be filled in randomly.
3) A continuation, or intensification, of the various restaurant events: C&Y, Lola's, etc... Any chef in the city would be happy to have a party of 30+ each willing to pay for a special, and specially priced, tasting menu. In addition to Chef Symon, it seems that Chef Brandt and Chef Bennett have an existing relationship with the forum. These would be natural choices but certainly not the only ones. There are plenty of restaurants outside of the continental/contemporary category. I hear magical tales of extravagant feasts at Bo Loong and Siam Cafe for wedding receptions. If they're really hung up on the marriage thing I am fully prepared to wear a veil and marry a pork bun. I'd be keen to try this at a sushi restaurant. For a large party of adventurous eaters the chef would be happy to reach beyond the range of traditional midwest sushi offerings.
This a way for us to easily create and share a Food and Wine Forum restaurant database. In fact, there's nothing really to set up. And in order for you to participate all you have to do is register at a cool web site that you can use for a million other things. It will just take a few minutes and then once you've done that it will just take a few seconds to add a restaurant to the database. And the database will have a lot of cool features. You can look at a list of restaurants on the Cleveland Food & Wine Forum radar. Or you can get a list of mexican restaurants. Or you can get a list of restaurants for a specific user. Or a list of restaurants given a four-star rating. And you can easily mix and match all of these criteria: all fish restaurants that stuarts has rated four-star. The system could easily be extended to cover recipes for those of us who cook or wine for those of us who drink.
The core of my scheme is del.icio.us. You'll need to register at del.icio.us to participate. Del.icio.us is a new way to bookmark websites. Del.icio.us lets you use tags to help organize the websites that you visit and want to remember. It sounds mundane but people have taken to it with religious zeal. That's partially because it does wonderful, amazing things for keeping track of web sites but also because people are imagining new things that it can do beyond simply keeping track of web sites. For instance, I'm soon going to start using it in place of my Amazon.com wishlist. The thing is, not only will I duplicate the functionality of Amazon.com wishlists, del.icio.us will instantly add wonderful, tag-magic functionality.
You have to use your imagination to really care about del.icio.us and tags. Or maybe you also really need to care about library and information science. Whatever. We care about restaurants and del.icio.us will help us keep track of restaurants that we're interested in and share them with our friends.
After you've registered, you can start bookmarking restaurants. Obviously you can't bookmark the restaurant literaly. Just bookmark the best stand-in that you can find. I'll illustrate the use of the database with some examples.
I'll start by adding El Tango Taqueria. I search for the restaurant on the cleveland.com restaurant database and I bookmark the results page with del.icio.us. I tag it with clefoodforumrestaurant. If you're happy here then that's it. It can be that simple. It is now available for all of the other participants to see. This address is for the list of all of the restaurants in the database: http://del.icio.us/tag/clefoodforumrestaurant . The address for a list of all of my contributions is: http://del.icio.us/stu_spivack/clefoodforumrestaurant .
The full power of the database is available when you take a minute to add more tags. For this restaurant I added the tags: lakewood, westside, ****, mexican and latin. "****" is a rating. The tags ****, ***x, **xx, *xxx should have obvious meanings. I use xxxx to signify that I've never been to the restaurant. "lakewood", "westside", "latin" and "mexican" should also have obvious meanings. Use as many tags as you can think of. Some day you'll be willing to travel anywhere on the west side and some other day you'll think that lakewood is too far. Some day you'll be happy with any Latin American cuisine and some day you'll specifically want mexican.
Honestly, the strength of the system is much more related to the bookmark than to the site that you're bookmarking. You could bookmark completely random web pages and this would still work pretty well. But I think there can be an advantage to carefully selecting the page that you're going to bookmark. Bookmarking entries in the cleveland.com database has some advantages. The page has helpful information like hours, phone number, address, etc... Also the cleveland.com database is likely to have any restaurant the you would hope to add. One drawback of using the cleveland.com page is that del.icio.us uses the title of the page to populate the "description" field for the bookmark and the title of the cleveland.com results page is worthless. Please remember to change the "description" field to something helpful manually if you're using this method.
Obviously, another option for the web page choice would be the official web page of the restaurant. For instance, Moxie, fire and Lola all have web pages. I just added a Lolita to the database. I used the tag "comingsoon" and I bookmarked Chef Symon's post to the forum. Perhaps the best would be to link to an entry in your personal web space. You could create an entry in your blog and bookmark that page. That way you could share extended comments or pictures. Your blog entry could also include a link to the restaurant's website or a link to a review in the Free Times. Blogging is beyond the scope of this explanation but I would like to mention that there are many free and easy to use choices. All you have to do is register. In fact, if you'e unwilling even to register at a free site there are websites that will let you put up small snippets of free, permanent content without even bothering to register.
Here's one bonus. Del.icio.us makes rss feeds available. If you have a personal web space you could take advantage of this to share the database or your portion of the database or whatever slice of your portion of the database with all of the visitors to your web site. It would look something like what you see on the right side of this page. The list only contains two restaurants right now so it might get lost in a jumble. The left sidebar also contains a list of movies and a list of books. On an unrelated note, if someone wants to fix my blog template so that this page looks slightly less horrible then that would be great. And if you don't have a personal webspace, rss is still the easiest way to keep track of the database.
This is my new system for keeping track of restaurants that I want to visit. I think if some of you joined in we could quickly compile something very useful and very interesting.
If you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments to this entry.
I'm going to go to Kimo's for a sushi lesson. I'll learn how to prepare rice, nigiri, sashimi, rolls, etc... That way I can help when a friend throws a sushi dinner party. I wonder if I'll learn anything about tamago. It would be nice to have some vegetarian rolls:Oshinko (radish pickles), Kampyo (gourd), mint leaf & plum paste, burdock.
There are some things that we could buy prepared to supplement our homemade sushi: Dashi from The Souper Market. Soba salad from Trader Joes.
Questions for Kimo:
More material in different classes?
Cooking for one?
The whole point of this entry is to play with the new Technorati Tags feature. I guess the enry has to actually be about something then. Let's start again.
The Superbowl party planning is coming along quite well. I'm getting potato chips from Maui Potato Chips and Zerbe's Chips. I'm also excited about brisket and BBQ brisket from Mister Brisket. Also farfel, cole slaw, chicken breast and rolls. I have to remember to call Sokolowski's in a couple weeks to order the pierogi. If I have time, tomorrow I will call Archie's about the cake.
I tried to find something to link to "farfel". There is only very limited information. I guess it will be up to me to fill it out, if even just a little.