On The Sausage Trail: Cleveland

Sausagefest.com on the Road Report: Cleveland, Ohio

Bass Lake Taverne – Inn
Chardon, Ohio

Cleveland has the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, the first place Indians, the West Side Market and many good sausage makers. As a prime example, The Sausage Shoppe has gotten years of praise from both Sausagefest and Anthony Bourdain’s review of the Shoppe a few back.

Cleveland has the urban ethnic diversity to make it a very friendly sausage city. You can even see this sausage Mecca’s karma extending beyond the city proper. Thirty miles east of Cleveland in Chardon, Ohio the Bass Lake Taverne Inn is worth visiting.

Even if you’re not on sausage craving mission, BLTI is worth a visit. It’s an old Inn and tavern and can accommodate weddings and major social events. We were there strictly for the drinks and food, and we’ll be back.

The Taverne (a funky spelling for tavern that spell check hates) has personality and warmth and far from the cookie cutter restaurants cluttering Cleveland’s suburbs. It has Happy Hour every day, real Lake Perch (fried, Thank god), and one sausage dish that is a must try.

Lets’ call the dish Wild Game Sausage Alfredo. I may be off a hair with the exact entre name. They have a generous happy hour – a waning charm of the American bar scene – and my notes suffered from happiness I imbibed. But, regardless of naming, “a rose is a rose” by any name and its an interesting piece of edible art.

I got the recipe after some strong-arming of Kim Kingzett, the Taverne’s Manager. (See the recipe tab.) Adding and abetting Kim, we benefitted greatly from our server Kyle suggesting the sausage dish. They were also kind enough to let me go kitchen side where Nick was the Sous Chef for the evening. Kyle Scanlon is there most nights as their Executive Chef.

The basic premise for the dish is pretty simple. Start with the mindset that your taking Fettucine Alfredo to sausage heaven and you’re going to be there to enjoy the ride.

The Taverne used Bison Sausage and Pheasant Sausage from Valley Gourmet & Game. Both sausages wee lean and flavorful – and you could tell the bison from the pheasant.

How many sausages do you eat where you get a Hawaiian brat (why?) and a chorizo from the same vendor and the flavors overlap with each other? Let the ingredients speak out for themselves – shouldn’t this be obvious?

But going a bit further into this deconstruction of a wonderful dish, you also note a healthy does of whole grain mustard, Romano cheese, veal stock, smoked gouda, red onions, wild mushrooms, and heavy cream (of course). The dish won me over not for its being Fettucine Alfredo with sausages but that it combined the natural affinity of sausage and mustard and letting that natural pairing play out in an excellent pasta milieu.

It’s also the kind of dish that lets you enjoy Free Range Wine Drinking (FRWD): white, rose, and red can all find their place next to the plate.

The Westside Market & Great Lakes Brewery

No visit to Cleveland would be complete without hitting the Westside Market and the very close by Great Lakes Brewing. The Westside Market started back in the 1800’s and the building it occupies now (with the classic clock tower) dates from 1912.

The Market has over 100 different vendors and the food displays are really a testament to business, tradition and culture all working together to offer you a food emporium with a lot to delight the senses. Cleveland too often is made a joke but the Market is a historic jewel any city would love. (Chicago, a much larger great lake city by comparison has nothing like it. A faux French market at a Chicago train station is at this point the best this city can do.)

There are more than 25 meat vendors and virtually every one has their own sausages to tempt you. Many of the vendors are now offering healthy meat choices: free range chickens, Amish meats, or no growth hormone meat. Clearly, the healthy eating message has gotten to these vendors.

It’s hard to describe the feeling of this meat and sausage cornucopia. I still suffer from sensory overload, which I’m clinically describing as “sausage gridlock syndrome”. Watch for SGS to be in the Physician’s Desk Reference soon. Symptoms include:

• Feelings of sausage inadequacy
• Irritable bowels – from tasting any or all samples offered
• Possible running nose and red eyes – from hot sausages or tears of joy
• Inflamed amorous feelings – from dirty sausage talk you hear everywhere (maybe it was just me, but I’m sure this would be verified by other observers)
When you finally get to the point where SGS has you on the verge of vertigo you know its time to leave the market. The universal antidote to SGS is alcohol and less than a city block away you can find Great Lakes Brewing.

I’ve been drinking Great Lakes offerings since 1988 and am very glad to see beer brewing being an economic engine in this Cleveland neighborhood. The 1980’s was a grim period for Cleveland and Great Lakes Brewing was a great idea that was well executed. It has won many awards and the neighborhood is looking better and better.

On the afternoon we were there the Indians were in town and the bar was packed. In addition to many beers, ales and stouts to pick from you can also get sausage dishes – either appetizers or entrees.

The Bratwurst entrée with cabbage and pierogis could conjure up images of a lead weight being digested. The brats were a fine grind sausage grilled – a bit different from the rougher cut Wisconsin version one sees. Brats are generally grilled as these were and browned perfectly. The pierogis were closer to the soufflé type then the small hockey puck versions. The three mustards accompanying the brats ranged from to sinus reaction strong. Try all three and have one of the cold beverages handy.

It might be a stretch to say the Rock Hall of Fame is rivaled by the allure of Cleveland’s sausage attractions, but it’s a city to put on your sausage map.

The Sausage Links to Follow:
The Sausage Shoppe
Anthony Bourdain, TravelChannelTV video clip:
Valley Gourmet & Game: (Under Construction)
Westside Market:
Great Lakes Brewing: