A Passion for Cakes

Urban Farmer Pastry chef whips up delicious, creative cakes for any special occasion

Any guest who has saved room for dessert or celebrated a special occasion at Urban Farmer knows it’s worth the wait for pastry chef Kara Swortchek’s scrumptious cakes.

Baking has been a part of her life since she was a child.

“I’ve always enjoyed baking from a young age and inherited a talent from both sides of my family,” Swortchek said. “I made Slovakian treats with my Grandpa Swortchek and mastered many ‘secret’ family recipes with my mom, grandma and great aunts.”

She still can’t reveal those secret recipes, but she can say they led to many wonderful hours making Kolachi, nut and poppy seed rolls, potato candy and cookies.

What drew her to the art of baking was the science and precision of producing many delicious desserts using the same simple ingredients.

Cakes are a particular favorite and she’s produced many great-tasting, creative designs for guests celebrating everything from birthdays to anniversaries to retirements.

Take the calculator cake (pictured below) she created for an accountant’s retirement party. Or the delicately decorated bunny cake (pictured below) for a birthday. The latter elicited this response:

“Besides my wedding cake, this was the best cake that I have ever had in my life and I am 73 years old!” the birthday celebrant said.

Swortchek said she gets her inspiration for her designs from photos and nature and also explores the Internet searching for all kinds of creative cake designs and new techniques to try.

She’s deftly handled requests for cakes depicting sunset sailing and a princess unicorn castle.

Sometimes the cakes take only a few hours to prepare. Other times it can be a week before the final touches are put on a special cake. A fondant topper or figure takes longer because it needs to dry before being assembled, for example.

Even away from Urban Farmer’s kitchen, she likes to bake, especially for her cousins, nieces and nephews who come up with some of her funnier requests, including a Robot cake, a chocolate horse and VW Bug and Cuckoo Clock cakes.

If you have a request for a cake for your next special occasion, we’d love to hear from you. Contact Barbara Gantous at Urban Farmer at Barbara.gantous@sagerestaurantgroup.com or 440-730-4250.

Dinner in the Dark Returns for a Summer Evening of Eclectic Dining

Dinner in the Dark is back at Urban Farmer, and with it comes great food, great chefs and a little bit of mystery.

As is tradition for this popular Cleveland dining event, the six participating chefs and their dishes are not revealed until guests arrive that evening. But history shows it promises to be a great lineup, and it always benefits a local charity selected by the participating chefs.

It is the third time we’ve hosted Dinner in the Dark and we’re excited to welcome the event back on Monday, Aug. 12. To get ready for the evening, we checked in with “Dinner in the Dark” co-creators Jeff Jarrett and Brian Okin:

Q. Dinner in the Dark has earned quite the following in Cleveland. What do you think is the appeal? What do guests tell you they like about it?

A: I think what guests enjoy the most is that it supports a local charity and gives them the opportunity to basically eat in six different restaurants the same night and sample those chefs’ fare.

Q. What do chefs tell you they like about it?

A. They like that it gives them an opportunity to showcase themselves and their restaurant while also getting to network with other chefs.

Q. What’s your goal each time presenting a Dinner in the Dark?

A. First and foremost, it is to raise money for a local charity. Second is to showcase the host restaurant. They have opened their doors to us. We want to be able to get 70-80 people there who will hopefully return and be a patron.

Q. This is your third Dinner in the Dark at Urban Famer. What do you like about their venue/setting?

A. It is a great location with a beautiful and spacious dining room, plenty of space for the chefs to work and [Urban Farmer executive chef] Vishu and his staff are always organized and professional, for just an overall great experience for the guests.

Q. Can you share a lasting memory/story or two from a Dinner in the Dark?

A. Dinner in the Dark has had the opportunity to cook at the world-famous James Beard House [in New York City] twice, taking what we do to another much bigger market.

Q. If someone has never been to the Dinner, what’s your message to invite them there and try it?

A. Just take the leap! It is a fun-filled culinary event that benefits a worthy local charity. And where else can you eat food from six different chefs in one night?

James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour dinner showcases best of Cleveland chefs

What a Night!

Like a conductor who skillfully leads his orchestra, Urban Farmer executive chef Vishu Nath assembled a cadre of local chefs to lead a fine-tuned dining experience to a sold-out crowd in June.

One-hundred and seventy guests filled the main restaurant and private dining rooms at Urban Farmer on June 5 to enjoy the first James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour dinner at the modern downtown steakhouse. It was the only stop in Cleveland this year.

More than a dozen local chefs, including James Beard Award winner Michael Symon, created unique and delicious dishes ranging from crisped spring onion crepes to chicken liver matzo balls to lamb loin.

“It was a great night,’’ Nath said. “So inspiring and fun to see all the creative dishes that came out of the kitchen by some of the top chefs in Ohio.”

Chefs who prepared the nine dinner and dessert dishes also included James Beard Award nominee Karen Small of Flying Fig, Jamie Simpson of the Culinary Vegetable Institute, John D’Amico of Chez Francois in Vermilion and pastry chef Annabella Andricks of the The Dinerbar on Clifton. Urban Famer pastry chef Kara Swortchek and chef Justin Lucas participated as well.

For a full list of chefs, visit: James Beard Dinner: Cleveland

Each guest enjoyed the nine dinner and dessert dishes that were paired with a wine carefully selected by Nath and Urban Farmer general manager Andy Hata. Local varieties included the Reserve Meritage by M Cellars and the Cask Red Blend by Ferrante Winery.

Each dish was personally introduced and described by the chef who created it. Guests received a specially designed menu for the evening, which they got to bring home with them in addition to a salt cellar gift from premier James Beard sponsor U.S. Bank.

Nath was motivated to host the dinner after he and a select group of other local chefs visited the James Beard House last year to prepare a Cleveland-inspired dinner. Several of the chefs who were there with him participated in the Celebrity Chef dinner at Urban Farmer.

“It was great to bring a touch of the renowned James Beard House to Cleveland,’’ Nath said.

Learn How to Make Pasta with Us

Expert guidance for at-home chefs

Back by popular demand, our pasta class is for anyone and everyone who enjoys a hearty dish of spaghetti, rigatoni or other noodles.

On Saturday, July 13, our Chef Jared Bergen will lead an afternoon pasta class that will teach how to artfully shape pasta noodles and make ricotta gnocchi. Every part of the gnocchi dish is made from vegetables, including the pasta.

Bergen is not surprised at how much people love pasta – or how interested they are in learning how to make it.

“I think the popularity of pasta is in part because it is made in many different cultures,’’ Bergen said. “It’s a versatile food, and once the recipes and dishes are shared, the hype escalates.

“In addition, pasta-making is recognized as an artisan craft that many people devote their life to in the culinary world.”

Bergen believes it’s a common misconception that pasta making is time-consuming and requires special equipment. But that’s not the case, he said. Everyone can make it; you don’t need special equipment.

His class will put a twist on pasta-making – a trend that’s become a popular carb and gluten-free substitute to the doughy noodles. All participants will make squash spaghetti, vegetable Bolognese with mirepiox and fennel in a tomato base sauce, finished with gluten-free breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. Mirepoix is a combination of onions, celery and bell peppers and is common in Cajun and Creole cuisine.

After Bergen’s class, participants will be equipped with a straightforward and simple way to impress dinner party guests by applying their knowledge immediately.

Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity to learn a fun and practical new skill and of course, eat the dish you make. Sign up here.

Get Ready for “Give Back Wednesday” Happy Hour to Kick off the Summer

Summer is almost here and we’re ready to celebrate with fun, friends and great food.

Starting June 19 throughout the summer, Urban Famer will host a “Give Back Wednesday” Happy Hour from 5-7 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month.

It’s a chance to gather mid-week to relax, enjoy, and give back to the community. Each month, we’ll pick a charity to donate a portion of the proceeds. If 100 guests or more attend, Urban Farmer will donate an additional $100 to that charity.

Admission for each Happy Hour is $10 per person.

The Happy Hour will have a seasonal theme, which will be reflected in the menu. As always, our selections will stay true to our commitment to locally sourced food and drink and highlight our dedication to sustainability.

Guests will enjoy a complimentary drink special and delicious appetizers between 5-7 p.m. in our  bar and lounge.

We’re excited for our Give Back Wednesdays to stand out as one of the top Happy Hour events in Cleveland. We welcome business and social groups to attend together.

So come join us at our kickoff Happy Hour on June 19 and give back to our Cleveland community. Please keep an eye on our social media for our charity each month and to reserve a spot at the Happy Hour. And if you have one you’d like to recommend, please email our sales and marketing manager Barbara Gantous at Barbara.gantous@sagerestaurantgroup.com

Why We Value Local Partnerships

It’s trendy and popular now to shop local, support local and source local.

We think that’s great because that’s been a value of ours from the start.

At Urban Farmer, we build our menus around great local, farm-to-table food and appreciate our strong partnerships with local farmers, businesses and organizations.

We couldn’t provide the fresh, delicious, innovative food we serve without our local partners.

So as Spring approaches this month and we begin to usher in growing season, we want to recognize our wonderful local partners and talk about why we work with them. They include:

We’re proud to work with all of them because they reflect the same high standards, high quality and commitment to local that we do. In addition, their products stand up to the high expectations we have.

Take Ohio City Farm, Cleveland’s largest Urban Farm that is just two miles from our restaurant. We love this partnership not only for the fresh, local, healthy food it provides, but also because it is largely operated by the Refugee Response (TRR), which employs a team of newly-resettled refugees who work the farmland.

Tiger Mushroom Farm is another terrific partner with an amazing story: It was started by a young Cub Scout near Columbus, who wondered about how to grow things in the Ohio winter. His parents bought him a mushroom kit and his passion, ahem, has mushroomed into a growing business.

In addition, Ohio Wagyu is a great local source that provides hearty steak features on our menu. Currently, we offer a Sakura wagyu, wagyu-angus 14 oz ribeye and a 12-ouce Sakura-wagyu, waygu-angus New York Strip Steak.

We hope you come and support local and enjoy the freshest Ohio has to offer.


Come in from the Cold and Enjoy

When it’s cold outside, there’s nothing better than some warm food in a cozy setting.

On our new winter menu this month, we’re featuring Lamb Pot Pie filled with locally sourced lamb, baby carrots, pearl onions, potatoes, mushrooms and more. It’s a hearty dish that will warm you up on a cold day.

We also have our popular mainstay French Onion Soup with braised beef shank as an appetizer. This steamy delight, served au gratin, is perfect with a salad or sandwich. Topped with warm, melted gruyere cheese and sourdough croutons, it also can be a meal in itself for lighter eaters.

For dessert, we have our Baked Alaska that arrives flaming at your seat. It’s made with chiffon sponge cake – yellow cake lightened with meringue – layered with a Zabaione rum gelato, strawberry filling and roasted strawberry gelato. Its covered in meringue, toasted and garnished with cotton candy and flambéed to order, using watershed vodka, and served with strawberry compote. The flame is a welcome sight when it’s chilly outside.

Our delicious Baked Alaska Cassata with strawberry compote and a swirl of cotton candy on top goes up in flames to our guests delight.

Guests who earned Farm Dollars in November and December can use them toward these dishes or any other in January and February.

Knowing our guests are well-fed and well-cared for warms our hearts.

Our delicious Baked Alaska Cassata with strawberry compote and a swirl of cotton candy on top goes up in flames to our guests delight.

Guests who earned Farm Dollars in November and December can use them toward these dishes or any other in January and February.

Knowing our guests are well-fed and well-cared for warms our hearts.


Holiday Cheer at Urban Farmer

Urban Farmer, Cleveland’s Steakhouse, Cleveland, OH

Holiday Cheer at Urban Farmer
Visit us in December and Earn Farm Dollars to spend at our restaurant

It’s the perfect time of year to express our gratitude to our loyal guests and also, welcome new ones.

At Urban Farmer this month, we’re offering everyone the opportunity to earn Farm Dollars by simply enjoying our delicious local farm-to-table food and wonderful drinks and cocktails.

Anytime, during any visit from Dec. 1 – Dec. 31, our guests can earn one Farm Dollar for every $10 they spend. Then, in January and February, these Farm Dollars can be applied for cash value toward any food or drink purchase in the restaurant.

It’s our way of rewarding you for coming back again and again – or inviting you to try us for the first time. It’s also a great opportunity for guests to try something new.

Never tried our Meatless Monday feature? Stop by to enjoy a warm winter soup and salad.

Hankering for a hearty steak? Bring a friend and stop by for our fine grass-fed or grain-finished beef, which is purchased from local farms and butchered in-house.

Or maybe you want to get in from out of the cold after a long day at work downtown. Stop by and relax in our comfortable, cozy lounge and enjoy a warm winter cocktail with our popular charcuterie and cheese boards.

Of course, we know our guests have their favorite dishes, too, so our Farm Dollars can also be used to enjoy them more often.

What sets up apart from most other steakhouses is that we source our beef through our partnerships with different local farmer and ranchers. This allows our guests the opportunity to try different cuts and breeds they might have never tried.

Sourcing locally not only provides more variety and fresher-tasting food, it also benefits our regional economy. Raising beef is an intensive job, which supports a lot of families in our area.

So, come in from out of the cold and warm up with us this month. It’s our way of saying thanks for your loyalty and in turn, thanking our local farmers for their hard work.

Happy Holidays!

We’re Crushing it

Why we Recycle 80,000 Pounds of Glass Each year


Because so much of our restaurant’s food and beverages come in glass, we generate a lot of waste with glass bottles: About 80,000 pounds annually, which is roughly the equivalent of 13 average-sized adult elephants!

With our commitment to the environment and a sustainable planet, we didn’t want to throw so much waste in the trash, especially when it’s recyclable.

But because of an awkward trash pick-up station below our building, the City of Cleveland’s recycling truck couldn’t maneuver inside to haul and crush our glass on site. And most private recycling companies require glass to be crushed before they will collect it for recycling.

So we had to find another solution.

We considered crushing our glass on site, but that wasn’t feasible because we didn’t have a glass crusher and buying one was not a reasonable option.

Fortunately, we found Recycle Midwest, a Northeast Ohio company that would collect our uncrushed glass.

Adding this service continues our commitment to sustainability and working to be a leader for commercial – and especially restaurant – recycling in downtown Cleveland. Now that we have created a route for these recycling companies to come downtown, we hope it sparks others to recycle their glass and helps push down the cost as more restaurants participate.

Part of being a sustainable restaurant is taking care of the land and community in which we operate. We consider one of our social responsibilities to reduce the amount of waste we send to the landfills as much as we can.

While recycling is important, reduction of waste is even more important. Through this glass recycling process, we’ve become more proactive by eliminating certain products that have excessive packaging. By eliminating the waste in the first place, we’re helping the planet, too.

Like many people in our community, we care about this issue and want to be part of the solution. We believe we’re crushing it!


7 Ways We Make Your Holiday Party Sparkle

It’s time to plan your holiday party. Whether it’s a company event or a gathering with family and friends, we can make your party sparkle. Here’s how we do it…

  1. Host you in an exquisitely designed Private Party Room
  2. Showcase and Serve Seasonal Cocktails
  3. Create Custom Menus
  4. Provide Excellent Customer Service from Start to Finish
  5. Offer Convenient Valet Parking and a central downtown location
  6. Deliver a Personal Touch, such as providing Urban Farmer swag bags or helping you to deliver special gifts of your own.
  7. Make it Fun! We want you to enjoy, relax, be festive and most of all, have fun. We make it that way by handling all of the details of your party, so you can leave behind the worry and embrace the fun!

Please contact Barbara Gantous at barbara.gantous@sagerestaurantgroup.com or 216-771-7707 to get your party started!