Blogs > News-Herald Food and Travel

Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

fresh lawyers in door county

I just had fresh lawyers for dinner.

Like much of what's found on menus here on Washington Island, lawyers are fish. They have other names in other places — burbot in other Great Lakes states, lingfiske in Scandinavian countries, mush fish in Ontario.

"They're considered a junk fish by lots of fishermen," said Ken Koyen, a fifth generation Washington Islander whose KK Fiske Restaurant puts up a sign touting Fresh Lawyers when its among the catch he brings in on his Sea Diver fishing boat. ( Fiske is fish in Danish.) It's a fish that must be skinned instead of scaled and Koyen brags he can skin a lawyer in 30 seconds.

Lawyer turns rubbery when its frozen and must be prepared within hours of being caught, so it's not considered a marketable fish. But when Koyen has it on the menu, people love to order it.

That's because its has a firm, almost sweet and nutty taste. Folks call it fresh water lobster. Because Koyen didn't catch a lot today, it was available only on the Captain's Platter at dinner tonight served alongside perch and whitefish. I thought it was delicious.

Why is it called a lawyer? I asked.

"Because it's heart is in its rear end," Koyen replied.

Friday, August 22, 2008

washington Island: the real deal

Mann's here on Washington Island had contact lens cases and almost anything else one could want, including groceries galore, fishing lures, yogurt, toilets, rugs and more. It's an old time country store that has served this island since 1903

Just as on other islands I've visited, prices are a bit higher than the mainland because of the expense to get here. And everyone knows what's happening all over the world in terms of gas expense. Gas here costs $4.15 a gallon, about 40 cents more than my last fillup for my Toyota.

My contact lenses were no worse for their overnight floating in saline in a styrofoam cup, but this morning Carol, my hostess here at the Viking Motel, knocked on my door with a contact lens case.

That's the kind of place Washington Island is. Valerie, who has the Bread and Water Inn and kayak rental place told me this is a place in which the residents practice accountability and support as part of their island nature. That's why she's chosen to raise her five adopted children here. The school has just 78 students in grade K-12 and 15 teachers, so everyone gets plenty of one-on-one attention. School kids also get free ferry passes so their families can easily take them off island.

Valerie serves an oatmeal breakfast each school day to all the children.

This Washington Island is quite the place. Many of those who choose to live here year round are descendants of islanders. They or their parents had left for careers in the big city and returned occasionally for visits. At some point they realized just how good life was on Washington Island. So they moved back.

It's not always an easy place to live. In winter they ferry can sometimes take a couple hours to make the crossing. There is no hospital, and cell phone signals are hard to get and wi-fi is available in only in a few places for ready internet access.

But Washington Island is charming and its residents are the real deal. I'll tell you some of their stories in coming weeks.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

sleepy island getaway

I'm on a sleepy island in Lake Michigan - a place without chain restaurants, hotels and other tourism infrastructure. I'm here to research a story for readers who want to make a true escape from the fray, such as it is.

But when I unpacked last night, I discovered I'd forgotten my contact lens case. My contacts now are resting in a styrofoam cup that came with the coffee maker in my room.

Since I travel with carryon luggage and the TSA is pretty strict for airline passengers, I carefully monitor my fluids and make every ounce count. My zip lock quart size bag, which now takes the place of my makeup bag, had just one contact lens case in it. And I had cleverly filled that with my liquid foundation and moisturizer.

So despite the fact that I have five contact lens cases them back home in Mentor, today I will go in search of a contact lens case on Washington Island - population 680. Since I'm on a group press trip, I don't have my own transportation or much control over my time. So I may be glad to have that styrofoam cup.

I crossed Death's Door to get here. I 'm not sure I'd want to make it in canoe, but the six-mile water crossing early voyageurs named Port de Morts was really quite pleasant as I traveled by ferry to Washington Island yesterday. The and the "door" part of the name took hold for Door County.

Door County, a 75-mile long finger of land sticking into Lake Michigan north of Green Bay, Wisc., is considered the Cape Cod for escapees from Chicago. Driving to the tip of the peninsula to catch our ferry we passed through pretty waterside villages with beaches, kite shops, tea rooms and ice cream emporiums to serve the visitors who come in summer.

It remains to be seen if I'll discover the downside to sleepy island getaway today.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

baklava in Superman's Cleveland

That's Martha Manning with a tasty triangle of baklava, the sweet honey and walnut pastry given to everyone who visited Athens Bakery on a recent Cleveland ethnic and history tour. The other photo is the downtown Cleveland building used as the model for the Daily Planet, by the creators of Superman. They were among the Cleveland natives we learned about on the trip.
That building photo, shot through a bus window, was not of good enough quality to be used with the story I wrote about the tour, which was rich in nostalgia for everyone. It's Sunday's Community feature in The News-Herald, where I also promised the recipe for the baklava. I hope you catch the story . Here's the baklava recipe.

(80 to 8 small pieces)
1-1/2 pounds walnuts, chopped
1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
40 sheets Athens filo dough (9 x 14 inches) thawed
1 cup butter melted
Combine walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Brush 12 by 16 inceh baking pan with butter. Overlap 8 sheets on bottom of pan, buttering each sheet as you place in the pan, covering the bottom. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the walnut mixture. Overlap 8 more buttered filo sheets on top. Spread 1/3 additional walnut mixture over the filo. Overlap with another 8 buttered filo sheets and the remaining walnut mixture. Finish baklava by overlapping the remaining 16 sheets, buttering the sheets as you fit them in the pan. With sharp knife, score filo ino 1-1/2 inch diamonds or squares. Brush with remaining butter. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until golden brown. Cool slightly and pour warm syrup (recipe below) evenly over baklava. Cool completely, cut and serve.

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 cup honey
1 lemon peel
Bring all ingredients to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and cool slightly.

General filo handling instructions
Allow filo dough to thaw in refrigerator overnight. Bring to room temperature before using.
Carefully unroll fill sheets onto smooth, dry surface.
Cover filo completely with plastic wrap, hen a damp towel.
Keep filo covered until needed. Do not leave uncovered for more than one minute to prevent drying out.
Microwave butterunitl melted. Brush each filo layer with melted butter
To preven edges from cracking, brush edges first and work toward center.
Be sure to bursh last layer of filo with melted butter.
Fillings should be chilled and not excessively moist
Filo may be rolled and refrozen to store when not in use.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

trip to Cleveland's past

Nostalgia reigned on a recent day spent touring Cleveland with a group of seniors from Breckenridge Village — many of whom had spent a half century or more living in Northeast Ohio before moving to the Willoughby retirement community.

We learned about the rich history of the Flats, when it was home for Irish immigrants coming to hand dig the Ohio-Erie Canal. We saw the bell that called people to Public Square when Lincoln's funeral entourage passed through. We shared Euclid Beach stories and reminisced over lunch about favorite long-gone restaurants of the past. We learned that former mayor Ralph Perk's family once delivered ice during the summer and we tasted cupcakes made from original Hough Bakery recipes. That's one of our stops - the West Side Market - shown above.

I'll tell you more about it in my News-Herald Sunday Community story for Aug. 24. I hope you'll enjoy reading it half as much I enjoyed writing it.

I'd forgotten how seniors can be so much fun.

A few weeks back I was surprised at the answer when I asked an 80-something friend about the technology that had made the biggest change in her life.

"The garage door opener," she replied. "I'd been driving for years but until the 1970s when we got a garage door opener I always had to ask my husband or neighbor to open the garage before I could get out."

So I asked the same question to the 33 seniors aboard the Lakefront Lines bus taking us around Cleveland. Here are some of the answers I got:

"Super highways," said Arline Reemsnyder. "I live in Lyndhurst when I was a girl and my mother's sisters lived on the west side. Traveling there on the streetcars took forever." That's Arline, shown above.

"Refrigeration," said Jayne Crawford. "It seemed that everyone else had an electric refrigerator when the ice man was still delivering to us. It was very exciting when we got a second hand G.E. refrigerator in about 1954."

"The keypad," said Joan Phillips. "It allows children to access their house after school without a key to lose."

"The GPS satellite locating system," replied Jack Phillips. "As a geologist working in many countries without suitable maps, locating what might be important was crucial."

Merle Pender remembers listening to the radio show "One Man's Family" with the entire family. "In the late 1920s my family purchased our first cabinet radio — a Philco — and every Sunday night the family would sit around and listen. "

"Power windows and trunk openers," said Jean Slagle. "I can walk up to my car and not need to fiddle with keys."

Monday, August 11, 2008

ankle deep in poison ivy

I was so anxious to see the bats fly into the night, that it never occurred to me that open-toed sandals were probably not the best footwear choice for a Geauga County meadow. And when I looked down I saw that I was ankle deep in poison ivy.

Photographer Michael Blair and I were at the bat condo behind Union Chapel in Newbury Township with Geauga Parks field naturalist Tami Gingrich. Once I saw the poison ivy I stood stock still, hoping not to damage the tender plants with my feet. I knew that it's the sap inside poison ivy stems and leaves that results in the awful rash and I knew that washing asap is the only prevention.

But I was hours away from being able to scrub my toes, heels, ankles and lower legs and washing the trousers that were brushing up against the leaves. We still had lots of work to do.

We learned that the bats love to live near wetlands, so they can get a drink as soon as they wake up. It was obvious by then that bats favorite food - mosquitoes - also love the same wetlands. I stopped counting at bite 25 and I refused to give in and scratch them. It was Tuesday evening and our deadline was the next day for the Sunday Community story. Read it at Click on Life on the menu at the top of the page then click through to Community.

As soon as I got home and googled poison ivy, I learned that it can be as long as 10 days after exposure before the rash begins. I also learned that the nasty sap can remain active on clothing for up to a year, so washing my trousers was an absolute must. I'm still rash free, but the 10-day mark isn't until later this week. My active imagination works overtime as I'm about the fall asleep and the itching starts. I know it's all in my head.

I'm sure Michael's imagination is also hard at work over his own bat encounter. We had both poked our heads and Michael's photo equipment into a bat filled outbuilding on an Auburn Township farm. Hundreds of bats were huddled in the rafters. But one took flight and let fly. The bat dung, called guano, caught Michael in the mouth.

It was disgusting.

My internet search later that night revealed that bat guano is one of the world's best fertilizers. It's also the only place where certain microbes live.

I'm eying my friend Michael to see if he's experiencing any changes. But I really don't want to think about it.