Of all the things I miss about New York, cultural festivals near the top of the list. From the small street fairs featuring the same Dolce & Gabbana purses and lucky bamboo the street vendors tried to peddle the week before to the giant, ethnically themed block parties, New York knows how to get people on the streets.
While Ohio has a lot of festivals (the Circleville Pumpkin Festival, for example, is just three weeks away), few I've been to capture the community aspect of New York Street Fairs. Maybe that's why I so enjoyed the Tremont Art and Cultural Festival. The whole of Lincoln Park was undertaken by tents and tents of activists and artists promoting their causes and their wares. The underlying reason for the festival, though, was to promote the up and coming Tremont neighborhood. For a supposedly dying city, I keep being surprised by how much Cleveland has to offer. Tremont, with its quirky stores fronts, multicolored houses, many galleries, and neighborhood restaurants is, well, cool. I like it.
After browsing tents of jewelry, sculpture, locally produced honey, fair trade coffee, and hand painted Latin American figurines, it was clearly time to browse the restaurant stands. Now, while I really do like most things about street fairs, I have to say walking through stands and stands of food I can't eat isn't much fun. Everything smells and looks great, but most of it is completely poisonous ends up being just a tease. But since my mom was talking about checking out local ice cream shop, Tremont Scoops, when we were done with the festival, I figured I'd at least walk through the food section with her while she looked for some lunch.
We were both pretty pleased to find Tremont Scoops had set up an ice cream wagon. Unfortunately, due to weather and logistical constraints, the cart only had glutenous ice cream sandwiches and suspect chocolate covered bananas. Ready to be disappointed, I asked if the woman selling the bananas if she knew what was in the covering: You see, I'm allergic to wheat...
Maryanne, owner of Tremont Scoops, knew exactly what I was talking about. The bananas were gluten free, but more than that, she said she gets a lot of celiacs (yes, she used the word!) in her shop. She knows what's in all of her ice creams and frozen treats and - if you make sure to mention your gluten free needs to her - she can steer you to safe ice cream, from scooped with utensils and from vats she's cleaned personally. There's probably no safer dessert in town.
The bananas were great. I mean, who doesn't like food on a stick? Rolled in nuts and covered in chocolate, the banana made for a perfect snack (or actually, lunch) as we explored the rest of the festival. But don't just take my word for it; people kept coming up to us, asking where we got the unusual treat. I'm not really used to anyone wanting to eat the same thing as me, much less actively seeking it out. As I pointed them in the direction of Maryanne and her cart, I was almost tempted to add they're not just delicious, they're food allergy friendly, too!
The Tremont Arts and Cultural Festival was all about sharing local products and showcasing local artisans. It was about making Tremont a place people want to go, a place people feel safe. Funny, those are the things I look for in a gluten free eatery. A lot of Clevelanders tend to stay in the suburbs - many rarely leaving their side of town. But they shouldn't. They should be checking out Tremont and all it has to offer. A great local stop, Tremont Scoops satisfies the needs of the up and coming Tremont Community and the ever growing Cleveland celiac population. Make sure to check it out soon!