Friday, April 30, 2010

Fun Playing With Food at the West Side Market

Saffron Linguine - Ohio City Pasta

Last Friday, I was informed that I had won a Facebook contest run by Cleveland's Ohio City Pasta. As the winner of the  "Dinner for Two" contest, I became entitled to select one pound of pasta product and one of their  sauces or butters, once a month, every month, until April 15th, 2011. There was only one small catch. To claim my prize, I would need to visit Ohio City Pasta's "home" location at Cleveland's venerable West Side Market at the corner of West 25th Street and Lorain Avenue. 

I love the West Side Market - it was one of the first Cleveland places I visited when I started dating Bob. The market houses a number of produce stands (which vary widely in quality) around its perimeter, and inside the building, an amazing array of vendors selling meats of every description, freshly baked goods, fish and seafood, and lots of other great foodstuffs. But it is a good 30 minute drive from my home. I'm ashamed to admit that, before claiming the first installment of my prize last weekend, it had been well over two years since I'd visited the market. Shame on me - a lot has changed there, and mostly for the better.

Instead of stand after stand selling essentially the same cuts of meat, more and more of the stands are now stocked with either ready-to-eat (or hot and really ready to eat on the spot) food, or "quick meal" products. Most of this stuff looks to be of first quality, made from scratch, and it is all reasonably priced, so it seems like a win-win.

I'm going to hold off a bit in showing you the first installment of my prize and what became of it, so I can first share a few photos from our visit. I didn't photograph many of the "old faithfuls" - just a few of the newer arrivals.

After carefully shopping the produce section (and scoring some lovely snap peas, peas, and broccoli), we headed into the main market. Jazzy sounds greeted us. I looked up on to the balcony, and saw



Slap's bright, smooth sound was a lovely counterpoint to our shopping. Three newer stands (well, new to me) looked to offer some tasty goodies. Right below Slap was Dohar Meats, which has been there for years. I don't recall ever trying any of their meats before. Well, that was about to change.

Paprika Bacon

My Hungarian blood burned to sample this delicacy, so we got some to enjoy with our pasta.

I don't know if this Southeast Asian-inspired stand is related to the Cambodian stand that used to be in the corner (though their listing on the WSM website indicates it is also Cambodian), but their stuffed chicken wing is just as yummy. Everything they had looked good enough to eat!


This is the stuffed chicken wing of which I spoke above - I insisted that we get one, and Bob was later glad that I'd insisted!

The Flip Side

Anyway, I digress. This next stand was just a few feet from Kim Se, but it's offerings were from a completely different part of the world:

Yes - Irish specialties. These savory meat-stuffed pies looked fabulous. Sweeney Todd was British, not Irish, right?

And it was a pleasure seeing that the former Ohio Fudge has moved indoors:

Locals Sam and Debbie make the most melt-in-you-mouth fudge you've ever tasted, in more flavors than you can imagine.

This next item is from one of our favorite stands:

Cayenne Smokies


This ready-to-eat product, and its less fiery siblings with Jalapeno, Cheese, Turkey, or Plain Pork, is sold from two stands in the market that are owned by the same people - Czuchraj Meats and J&J Meats, Stands B-6 and B-10. I'd never even heard of a smokie the first time that I visited the WSM with Bob, but one bite and I was hooked. And I'm in good company - Cleveland's own Iron Chef, Michael Symon, featured J&J's beef jerky on the Food Network Show "The Best Thing I Ever Ate." While I'm not a big jerky fan (though I'll probably try theirs sooner or later) - I have to admire Michael's taste in J&J's products - their other smoked sausage products have also been among our favorites. Czuchraj/J&J's recent fame has resulted in a mail-order business, which they run from their brand-new website. Couldn't happen to nicer folks! But be warned - I think that their smokies are addictive, and Michael Symon says the same about their jerky!

Our final stop before collecting from Ohio City Pasta was at Kate's Fish. Most of my food-loving friends have sung the praises of Kate's on food boards and blogs, so I had determined to get some seafood and maybe a bit of fish and do a seafood risotto, since we'd been gifted with a large bag of ramps earlier in the week. I don't know why I didn't take photos of the goods - it all looked lovely (and smelled not at all, which is lovely in itself). Everyone working there - from owners Tom and Kate through their younger help - was knowledgable about the products. Everyone knew when things had come in and where they'd come from. I was impressed - and Cleveland fish and seafood does not impress me very often.

We took a half pound of Opah (hawaiian moonfish) - a pink-fleshed steak that looked a little like tuna, and was highly recommended by our friend Steve, who we ran into as we shopped. I was going to get clams for the risotto, but then we started talking shrimp. I am extremely sensitive to the chemicals that are widely used on seafood, and especially shrimp, to preserve and "enhance" them. I usually only eat shrimp when visiting the Gulf of Mexico, or other locales where they are fresh and local (and even then, it can be hard to obtain truly pristine shrimp). So, I was a little skeptical of the promises being made about Kate's shrimp. Still, I was impressed enough to, as my late friend Harry Chapin would say, give it one good try. And Lord, Lord, Lord, it was worth the try!

Allow me to introduce you to Laughing Bird™ Caribbean White Shrimp. A sustainably raised, chemical free, truly fresh shrimp. The shrimps that we were offered came in fresh, but were then frozen by Kate's, after they recieved a larger order than they needed. Though the texture suffered a little from the freeze/thaw (as any seafood inevitably does) - the taste was out of this world!

Dinner that night began with the ramps we'd been gifted with a few days earlier, and the snap peas we'd acquired at the WSM:

Arborio rice, olive oil, white wine and homemade chicken-turkey stock worked their magic together in the pan:

The above photo was right after I added the shrimp; the rice was al dente but still not fully cooked at this point. Note the white-grey color of the shrimp.

After a few short minutes, the shrimp transmuted to it's more traditional red color, and the dish came together. Following a generous addition of butter, milk (I was out of cream), grated cheese and fresh parsley, the risotto looked like this:

Finally, the risotto was topped by the seasoned (salt and pepper) and seared Opah filet - I couldn't bring myself to chop it up and put it into the risotto:

A simply delicious end to a day full of playing with food in so many wonderful ways (I haven't told you about lunch yet, either). Thank you, Ohio City Pasta, for getting me back to the West Side Market. If you haven't been in a while - what are you waiting for??? Next up - our first two Ohio City Pasta Dinners for Two.


  1. OH I love the West Side Market. And I haven't had breakfast so now I am extra hungry after looking at the pictures.

  2. Congrats on your win! How fun is that?!?!?

  3. I finally made it back to the west side market after an absence of about 10 years. And you are right - it is improved. My only complaint is that there are way too many choices. I did buy a bag of frozen cabbage and noodles, I think from Ohio City Pasta, and it was wonderful.

  4. Congratulations on your win - that's an awesome prize! Your rice dish looks so yummy, I love sugar snap peas.