Cleveland Tofu and Umami

A few months ago I was assigned the task of joining writer, Dan Scharf, at a nondescript building in downtown Cleveland to capture the process of making tofu. The whole story of how International Specialty Produce’s owner, Brian Gura, came to have a basement tofu operation taking place beneath gazillions of crates of peppers and onions is quite interesting and you should read it here in the winter issue of Edible Cleveland.

We talked to Brian for a little while in his office and then headed down, down, down, past ISP’s main operational activities of distributing produce all over the country, to the home of Cleveland Tofu. Dan, who is a writer, after all, describes the scene very nicely in his article: “It’s a utilitarian operation, where four workers soak, grind, cook, coagulate, press, cut, cool, and package the tofu, which you can find in many local grocery stores and college cafeterias. Neither the process nor the machines have changed since the company started, and it’s all done by hand.”

Also, the beans are grown by…Honda. Yep! The highest quality soybeans you can get are grown here in Ohio by Honda. Read the story to figure that one out.

One of my favorite things about working for Edible is that I get to meet such a lot of different people doing such interesting things. I am sincerely excited about pretty much every assignment that they send my way. How many of you have ever seen tofu being made? Yes, that’s what I thought.

It was wet and a bit slippery and what had I worn? Suede ballet flats. Brilliant! We even got to taste the fresh tofu warm right out of the squisher. (I didn’t learn the technical terms, Dan did.)

One of the restaurants that regularly includes Cleveland Tofu on its menu is Matthew Anderson’s Umami in Chagrin Falls, which just happens to be one of my favorites in all of the Cleveland area. We went there on another day to watch Matthew whip up his gorgeous chopped kale salad which uses tofu cubes and tofu in the dressing.

Everyone at both Cleveland Tofu and at Umami was so hospitable and enthusiastic about having us hanging around their places of work. Thank you all for giving us your time!

You can find the tofu, by the way, at the West Side Market, Heinens, and Zagara’s and many other area restaurants.

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One Comment

  1. As the owner of Cleveland Tofu, I would like to thank Karin and Dan for taking the time to tell the story of Cleveland Tofu. I and the staff are thrilled with the article. The article created added interest in Cleveland Tofu. If anyone ever needs a photographer or a story told, you won’t find any better team than Karin and Dan.

    Best regards,
    Brian Gura
    Cleveland Tofu
    International Specialty Produce