Since moving to Cleveland one thing I’ve discovered is that it has one of the most incredible culinary scenes that can match, and in some cases surpass, some of the biggest cities or names in the business. Home to an Iron Chef, many James Beard recognized, award-winning and world renowned chefs plus numerous cultural and ethnic neighborhoods all throughout the Cleveland area provide a unique cornucopia of culinary styles from which to craft from. I view chefs as artist in that they derive this art from the heart, their soul much like in the traditional sense of a fine artist will take to canvas, paper, clay or such, but instead these artist will take to pork, beef, fish, spices, herbs and so forth and so on with the same passion. I’ve experienced this same passion firsthand over the years and it all started many moons ago when Kate and I got to know the Jonathan and Amelia Sawyer from their days at Bar Cento when Chef Sawyer was throwing out the Sunnyside pizza to perfecting the pommes frites while at the same time Amelia was living her life as a “chef’s widow.”
When he moved his talents to opening The Greenhouse Tavern I think it was a natural next step in his career. On my first dining experience I ordered fish in paper (papier) which if you know me I am not a big fish guy. I like certain fishes occasionally, but for the most part I’m not a fan. I decided to go outside my comfort zone and order something atypical. You know what? I do so like fish (Sam I am). It was simply one of the most flavorful fish dishes I’ve ever had. I think that’s when I truly realized how amazing of an artist Chef Sawyer is. He was able to create something where I was comfortable with going outside my comfort zone and then fully loving every bite of it. Some years ago Kate gifted a grilling class conducted by the Chef for our anniversary where I got to experience even more of this man’s passion and art. I learned more grilling techniques and many tricks of his art that I still use to this day. It was one of the a greatest anniversary gifts yet which we are coming up on number fourteen this year. On our tenth wedding anniversary I had asked the Chef if he could create a special menu featuring lamb as a surprise dinner for our anniversary. Why lamb is that the island in British Columbia where we were married is known for the organic lamb farms and since we were not going to be able to venture back to there for that anniversary it was a little bit of a way to bring the island to us. What Sawyer and Chef Goodman created was a portal to the island. They harnessed what the island has to offer with lamb and turned our anniversary up to eleven. You know what? It was he second most amazing meal I’ve had in my life. Of course the first was at House Piccolo on the island on my wedding night.
Of course the Chef would eventually expand his art even further with the opening of Asian noodle house called Noodlecat. This is one of my daughter’s favorite places and I’m so lucky to have this and Greenhouse so close to my office. If you haven’t been here shame on you. There’s always something fun and exciting going on here like Noodle Kids events where kids are the focus and they can create their own unique noodle bowl. No other place comes close to celebrating kids, well except for Greenhouse of course. There is always a dish you will find to like here. I promise. College ramen anyone?
— Sorry all, I did not mean for this to become a novel with reviews of all Chef Sawyer’s restaurants, but I’m getting to Trentina. I promise.
The point is there is no better artist, father, role model or the likes that I can think of then Chef Jonathan Sawyer and that is why when he and Amelia announced the crowd-source campaign on Kickstarter to open Trentina Kate and I immediately donated. The Sawyer’s are friends that you meet in life that our genuine and will always give it their all to what they do. They are dear friends of ours and we are honored to have them in our lives. You can read (and watch a video) about Trentina and where the inspiration came from if you haven’t done so already.
This past Saturday was Kate’s and I opportunity to experience this new dining establishment for their Friend’s and Family soft opening. This allows the Chef and staff an opportunity to work on details and work out the kinks. I stated earlier that I’ve had two other most amazing meals in my life and now I’ve added a third. If this “soft launch” is any indication this place will propel the Chef (and Widow), staff and Cleveland to further heights which is difficult to comprehend since Greenhouse had already seemed to done already. Trentina is a small very intimate dining experience, but takes your palate to a whole other place far outside the small space. From selecting your choice of regular or “fizzy” water to looking into your mirrored table for interesting angles and vantage points the experience has got to be one of the best anywhere in Cleveland. The menu was of a tasting variety in that on this particular night ended up being a thirty-one course meal spilt between the two diners. From kraut/slaw of the opening dish to an edible candle that you dipped bread into everything just kept stepping up the experience. The favorites included a scallop that was heavenly and accompanying oysters in the half shell. A surprise treat were “sea Pringles” that took fresh abalone shaved thin then dried. Kate and I are still talking about them. I might have squealed a little (inside) when the Chef brought out fish in paper, but this time it had fava beans and peas added. We had squab, beef, pasta and on and on. Kate felt it might have been a little too much, but I was comfortably full when all was said and done. Of course I had missed out on lunch that day on accident so that open space in the belly may have been why I didn’t have any issues eating that much. I think Kate and I decided that even though our anniversary was the following month that this meal will be considered the anniversary dinner. It’s going to be tough to top. As each plate arrived at the table I felt like I was witnessing an Iron Chef episode in that the Chef explained each and every dish like they do to the judges. I really don’t know how the Chef has this much energy. The staff was top notch and really coming into their own in just a few short days. Very knowledgeable about the dishes in such a short time. It was also a nice touch that they ask you if you have any allergies or dislikes for any foods. The artist himself has created yet another masterpiece and we all are lucky recipients of it.
I was not compensated or asked to write this in any way. I didn’t write this because I know the Sawyer’s or because they are friends. I think that truly this place is going to change the intimate dining experience in Cleveland. It is a must when in Cleveland.
Cheers to you Chef Sawyer, Amelia and the Trentina staff. Thank you for that experience.