A hungry girl's adventures in Cleveland and beyond.

Cleveland Mango Taste-Off a guest blog for Cleveland Food and Brews

I found out about a very tasty sounding event from a Tweet from fellow blogger Cleveland Food and Brews. It was described as a taste-off between two local prominent chefs: Chef Jonathan Bennett from Moxie and Red and Chef Steve Schimoler of Crop and Cropicana. They would be doing battle to determine who could make the best dish featuring mangoes and seafood. It was being sponsored by the National Mango Board and was free. The only catch was that it was being held at 3:30 pm on a Friday. I'm a HUGE mango fan so I knew I couldn't let a small hurdle like that stop me from attending!  

After talking to Cleveland Food and Brews about the event, he revealed that he was going to be a guest judge and asked me if I would be willing to do a guest blog for his site. I was so excited because he is the person that convinced me to finally start writing the blog I had been thinking about for years!  

Fresh mango slices as appetizers

Gift bags contained info, recipes and a fresh mango!

I was so excited to be attending this event!  I absolutely LOVE mangoes and Chef Bennett is one of my very favorites.  For those of you who don't already know, my email address is mangovino if that gives you any idea of the depth of my love for this tropical treat! 

As I pulled up to Moxie, I was looking forward to seeing my new friends again -Cleveland Food and Brews and his very sweet fiancee - as well as getting to meet another fellow blogger Poise in Parma and her husband.    

Elaine, Brad and Hollie
As soon as I arrived, I saw CF&B at the judges' table.  He was seated with Hollie Strano from WKYC and Elaine Cicora from Cleveland Scene. I knew he had to be really excited and a little nervous too. I was so happy for him to be able to take advantage of this tasty opportunity.  

Being a new blogger, it was great to see my seasoned counterparts in action and get to see everyone face to face. Everyone was very welcoming and friendly and I was sure we were going to have a great time!

The National Mango Board representatives did a great job with the event!  They encouraged questions and audience participation while teaching us a thing or two about their product. An interesting fact that I learned is that my favorite mango - the Champagne mango - is actually a brand name. Also, most stores don't list the variety of mangoes being sold so your best way to find out what is being sold is to consult a growing chart and compare that to the time of year. Hopefully that will change because most people don't have one of those when they are shopping!   Finally, green mangoes can be ripe!  I always thought that you should try to find one with a reddish hue. They also demonstrated how to properly slice the fruit.  
Chef Steve Schimoler and Chef Jonathan Bennett

In addition to learning about the mango, we also got to sample the creations of the chefs. The judges were treated to full size beautifully plated servings of the chefs' offerings. We received hearty samples as well. While the chefs were preparing their dishes, we were also treated to a complimentary mango margarita and mango lemonade. Both were very refreshing and delicious! Look for that mango lemonade in an upcoming Thirsty Thursday post for sure!

Chef Schimoler's Tuna, Scallop and Shrimp

Chef Bennett's Crab and Mango Fritter on Mango Slaw

Mango Margarita

I thought all of the creations were delicious but a couple were real standouts for me. I really enjoyed how the chefs utilized smoked mango in their dishes. It really added a wonderful complexity and was something I had never tried before. I absolutely loved Chef Schimoler's Grilled Shrimp with Mango and Coconut Green Curry. I could have eaten a whole platter of this! The angel hair pasta he created out of mango flesh was a whimsical touch and remarkably realistic looking. I thought he should get bonus points for a very creative use of the fruit.   

Everyone also really enjoyed his Seared Nantucket Scallop with Grilled Mango and Madras Mango Sauce.  We all agreed that it was one of the most perfectly cooked scallops we had ever eaten.  Chef Schimoler really hit a home run with these two dishes. 

In spite of Chef Schimoler's outstanding showing, Chef Bennett took home the honor of Top Chef in this contest.  His Blue Crab Mango Fritter with Mango Slaw and Mango Ketchup were truly outstanding.  There were huge chunks of crab both in the fritter and in the slaw.  
The mango slaw was so refreshing and I loved the addition of basil and cilantro. The Mango Board provided recipe cards and a fresh mango in our gift bags so I have no excuse not to whip up some mango slaw of my own!  

Chef Bennett also provided a bonus shooter that contained mango puree, coconut soda and basil - another contender for Thirsty Thursday for sure!  
Mango Shooters
This was a fantastic event! It was a perfect combination of food, facts and fun. The National Mango Board provided some really helpful information about an often underutilized fruit. The food was spectacular and made me want to sample even more of the chefs' cuisine at their restaurants. I can't wait for the new Crop to open in September!  And I really enjoyed interacting with my new blogging friends.  Their encouragement and support mean the world to me.  
Eat*Drink*Cleveland, Cleveland Food and Brews, Poise in Parma
Finally, a HUGE thank you to Cleveland Food and Brews! You turned me on to a perfect event and I'm thrilled you let me do a guest blog for you. Your "just do it!" was just what I needed to get started with this new venture and I'm really looking forward to continuing our friendship.  Cheers!