I keep a cooler in the back of my car.
No, it's not filled with longnecks, although there are days I wish it was.
Instead, it's there for those daytime trips to Cleveland, usually for a movie screening. When I'm on the East Side, it means a quick side trip to Trader Joe's or Whole Foods, where I can fill it with groceries unavailable or hard to find in the Mahoning Valley.
And if I'm really lucky and have to go downtown, it means I just might be able to sneak over to the West Side Market.
Long before Cleveland was home to an Iron Chef (Michael Symon) and culinary wizards like Jonathan Sawyer (who seems to be in Food & Wine magazine every other month), the West Side Market was Cleveland's mecca for foodies.
If you can't find it there, you probably shouldn't be eating it.
Rimming the outside of the building at the corner W. 25th Street and Lorain Avenue are dozens of fruit and vegetable vendors enticing passersby with samples of melon or pineapple. Many are hawking the same produce from the same suppliers as the chain supermarkets (and some won't hesitate to slip some over-ripe items onto the bottom of the bag if you're not paying attention). But cooks also can find organically grown and heirloom varieties of vegetables they won't locate many other places.
Inside, there are butcher shops hawking whole pigs and hard-to-find cuts of meat. I tend to shy away from the fresh seafood because it's going to sit in the car for at least an hour on the drive home, but I know I can find exotic spices to throw in my chili, Ohio City Pasta to toss with garlic and olive oil, big loaves of crusty bread, prepared Middle Eastern and Mexican foods and decadent pastries that usually get devoured on the drive and never make it back to Trumbull County.
The West Side Market is commemorating its centennial with a year-long celebration. Next month culinary stars like April Bloomfield, Andrew Carmellini, Andrew Zimmern, Marc Vetri and Jeff Michaud will join local talent like Symon, Sawyer, Chris Hodgson, Paul Minnillo and Rocco Whalen for a gala that sold out fast even with tickets priced at $250.
This weekend there will be a more affordable way to celebrate the market's centennial
West 25th Street will be closed to traffic Sunday for the West Side Market Fest and Parade. Ohio City restaurants, Cleveland food trucks and local vendors will be set up in the neighborhood from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. to feed the crowds expected to fill the area (organizers are recommending that attendees park elsewhere and use public transportation because parking will be limited).
A parade celebrating the market will step off at noon, and the market itself (normally closed on Sundays) will open at 1 p.m. with more than 50 vendors selling and offering samples of their specialties.
Two stages will feature live entertainment and ethic dance groups from 11 a.m. to 8 pm. with Carlos Jones and the P.L.U.S. Band and Chris Allen & the Guilty Hearts among the acts scheduled to perform. Children's activities will be offered from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Ohio City Farm will allow visitors to build scarecrows and paint pumpkins.
Admission is free.
And if you go, be sure to take a cooler.
Andy Gray is the entertainment writer for the Tribune Chronicle. Write to him at grayareas@