The Emerging Beverage Industry in Lake County and Food Adventurers Passport Dinner

After we left the Global Cleveland event, we had to hurry to get to our next event which was the monthly meeting of the Mentor Chamber of Commerce at LaMalfa on Heisley Road in Mentor. Today’s topic was “The Emerging Beverage Industry in Lake County” presented by Ms. Donniella Winchell, Executive Director of the Ohio Wine Producers, and Mr. Brian Seelinger of the Brew Mentor which makes beer and wine.
We got to talk for a while to Ms. Winchell about immigration and how it pertains to the local wine business and learned that more workers than normal might be needed for the next couple of years due to the damage of the 2013-2014 winter. We told Mr. Seelinger about the Ed Fitzgerald fundraiser that we attended the previous evening at Market Garden Brewery and, as it turned out, he knew at least a couple of the people connected with the beverage industry who were there like Sam McNulty, who owns Market Garden Brewery.

Ms. Winchell’s part of the program was titled “The Power of ‘Brand’ considering Ohio Wine Country”. She defined “Brand” as “what people think of you; not what we think we are” and how she thought it would be to the advantage of Northeast Ohio if we would be identified as a “culinary boulevard from Vermillion to Geneva” because “people come here and are impressed by the wines we offer”. Ms. Winchell contended that the popularity of wine aids the local economy because when people buy wine they just don’t buy a bottle of wine they also purchase items like cheese and crackers to go with it. She also expressed optimism about the future of Pairings, Ohio’s Wine and Culinary Experience in Geneva which is expected to be a “launch pad for wine tourism”.

Mr. Seelinger basically spoke of the beer industry in Lake County and his presentation including information about which restaurants and bars serve craft beer, micro breweries, home brewing associations, tasting bars and the advantages of people creating their own beers. Everything Mr. Seelinger said was also on a very-easy-to-follow handout.

After the Mentor Chamber Luncheon, we had time for a break before we went to our last event for the day which was the 4th outing of the Cleveland Food Adventurers Passport Group founded by Dan and Debbie Hansen of

On their website, Dan and Debbie correctly describe this as “a group that visits local ethnic restaurants and learns about the food and culture while enjoying camaraderie and a great meal.”

On this evening we went to the Emperor’s Palace Restaurant on Rockwell Avenue in Cleveland where we were joined by such other adventurers as Ken Kovach, Pierre Bejjani, Mari Galindo DaSilva, August Pust, Ed and Virginia Romero, Luis Martinez, Mona Alag, Gia Hoa Ryan, Joe Meissner, Paramjit Singh, Harry Weller, Rocky Perk and Kelly Perk.

Debbie and Dan anchored the exploration while Henry Huang, Jason Lin and Chia-Min Chen were its principal guides in terms of explaining the Chinese Culture as it pertained to where we were and what we were eating.

Our journey took several twists and turns but among the moments most memorable were:

1. Jason Lin’s telling us that where we were eating was part of the first Chinatown of Cleveland more that 100 years ago and the reason the word “emperor” appears so often in Chinese establishments is that it is to bring good luck.

2. Debbie announcing that Mona Alag and her husband are celebrating their 44th wedding anniversary this week while fellow adventurers Ed and Virginia Romero have only been married a couple of months; therefore, we can consider them the first marriage of the Cleveland Food Adventurers Passport Group!

3. Dan phonetically teaching us some words in Mandarin.
“knee how” is a greeting for friends
“hen how” if you are feeling good and asked how you are feeling say this
“i how” if you are asked how you are feeling and you are sort of middle of the road say this
“boo how” if you are asked how you are feeling and you are know feeling good say this
“shay shay” means thank you
“buka chee” means you’re welcome

4. Debbie asked Henry Huang how it being the Year of the Horse affects everyday Chinese life and Henry replying “keep galloping”

5. When discussing the food of China, Chia Min-Chen said that “we have more apples than you ever dreamed of” and “food is the best unifier of people”

6. Joe Meissner getting up and giving an 8 point presentation on Sun Yat Sen, the “Father of the Country of China” just as George Washington is the “Father of the Country of the U.S.” Joe was very effective and the thing we liked the most was when he talked about Sun Yat Sen’s personal immigration issue; he was born in China then moved to Hawaii then moved back to China and tried to come back to Hawaii and but discovered that he could not due to the immigration policies at the time, namely the Chinese Exclusion Act. But Sun Yat Sen obtained a false Hawaiian birth certificate contending that he was not Chinese so he did get to re-entry after all. After he completed his presentation, Joe called for effective immigration reform and most people present seemed to agree with him.

7. August Pust talking about his trip to China/Taiwan in 1990, which almost wasn’t due to the American State Dept.’s attempts to stop him from going. But he did go, with others, and opened a lot of inroads to universities and businesses.

8. Ken Kovach bringing his grandchildren with him here. Ken was particularly excited became the children’s mother just passed her boards and is now a nurse.

What more can be said except that the food was great, we learned a lot and had good camaraderie which is just what Dan and Debbie wanted when they started this program.