Cleveland Rocks!

Last month, I was in Cleveland, Ohio, for Bouchercon, the massive, magnificent crime-fiction conference that takes place in a different North American city every autumn. It was my first visit to the town known as both The Rock ‘n’ Roll Capital of the World (thanks to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which was a joy to visit) and The Forest City (a truly apt name — from the plane, Cleveland looked like a forest with gorgeous buildings nestled under the foliage).

Truth be told, I wasn’t sure what to expect on the food front, so I was thrilled to discover that gluten-free awareness has hit Cleveland big-time. One restaurant that absolutely wowed me was Lola Bistro, which fans of “Iron Chef” may already have heard of; I don’t watch the show, so the name Michael Symon didn’t mean anything to me. Fortunately, I was hanging out with better-informed people! My friend Katrina Niidas Holm (whose husband is terrific crime novelist Chris F. Holm) is an “Iron Chef” aficionada, and she sussed out the spot and made reservations.

Lola Bistro has very low lighting, so it took a little while for my eyes to adjust and pick out the “GF” notation next to many, many dishes on the menu. (Unfortunately, this isn’t reflected on the version of the menu that’s currently online, but — trust me — there are plenty of gluten-free choices.) I had the root vegetable salad with feta, red onion, dill, Marcona almonds, and mint, followed by the smoked Hampshire pork chop accompanied by a decadently cheesy polenta. You’d better believe Michael Symon is now firmly on my radar.

Lola Bistro [address] 2058 East 4th Street, Cleveland, Ohio [tel]  216-621-5652 [web]

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News on the crime-fiction front: I was at Bouchercon to talk about my second novel, The Next One to Fall, a thriller set in Peru. It’s out now as a hardcover and an e-book; in February 2013, it will be released in paperback. On March 5, 2013, my third novel, Evil in All Its Disguises, will be released by Tor/Forge in the United States and Canada. Want to win an advance copy? There are 10 up for grabs over at GoodReads. Enter the giveaway now.