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, February 15, 2009

Presidents Gala

This year's Presidents Day Gala outdid itself with more than 200 attendees, many of them in period costume, true to the Lake County Historical Society's Valentine theme "scandal and romance. " The occasion gave lots of folks a good excuse to dress up in garb from other times, including seven members of the local Chicago Black Sox , a 1919 over-55 softball team sponsored by Shannon Fence. BJ and Diana Kresnye were there along with Civil War reenacters Judy and Ken Cudnik of Wickliffe, who will be encamped Memorial Day weekend in Burton. (Here Judy shows us the beribboned snood she wore)
We caught Dee Aufuldish as Anna Harrison laughing it up with her "grandson" Benjamin Harrison (Don Arthur) and his wife Katy Arthur. President William Henry Harrison (county commissioner Bob Aufuldish) is not shown, above, but his character was soon to catch pneumonia and die in office at age 68, Dee explained.
Marilyn Church, attired as the late bag lady heiress Catherine Roddick of Painesville, again devised a devilishly difficult presidential trivia quiz for collaboration by each table. Example: "Which president kept a diary from age 12 to 70 in which the word 'sex' appeared three times and the word 'love' appeared 589 times?"
Church is shown here tapping her foot as she collects the pink quizzes for grading while county commissioner Dan Troy begs extra time to complete answers for his table.
LaMalfa, which also hosted a couple of simultaneous Valentine Day weddings in its Heisley Road party center, outdid itself from elegant hors d'oeuvres with cocktails, wines with dinner and extravagant desserts including a chocolate playground.
All eight Ohio presidents and their wives were on hand and were joined in a parade through the banquet room by others in costume. Lake County Historical Society board vice president, Wickliffe mayor Tom Ruffner made introductions from the podium. He played 25th President William McKinley.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Red Sea birthday

My son-in-law, Sean, got a rough start to his four-month tour of duty in Djibouti, a small African nation near the mouth of the Red Sea. Air Ethiopia not only lost his luggage, but his ship was not in port when he arrived after 20 hours en route.
His employer, Sea Lift Command, had, however arranged for a hotel that had internet service so he was able to email my daughter. It turns out he was billeted at the five-star Kempinski Hotel in Djibouti while awaiting his ship.
He's assigned to a vessel that delivers oil and supplies to U.S. Navy and other military ships in the area, which is just 12 miles from Yeman, a hotbed of terrorism. By now he must be aboard, since we haven't heard from him.
We knew before he left home that communications from the ship would be difficult.
Sean turns 40 on March 1 and we're hoping to have our friends and others send him birthday greetings. The address is: DECK AB Sean Anzano
FPO AE 09582-4012

Thank you

Friday, February 6, 2009

L'Albatros: French for wonderful

L'Albatros, Zach Bruell's newish University Circle neighborhood restaurant, was the destination last night for me and eight members of my book club. It's in the former That Place on Bellflower space, a onetime coach house among the frat houses of Case Western Reserve U. Our server, Matt, was a vegetarian ("I eat nothing that has a mother") and was adept at serving our group, which includes a vegan ("I eat nothing with a face")
The oddly named place is not named after the bird most of us consider to be bad luck but after a golfing term. Bruell, it seems, is quite the golfer. I'd eaten at his Table 45 inside the Intercontinental Hotel, and years ago at the first place he had in Cleveland near the Van Aken shopping center. So I knew it would be a great meal.

And it was. Next time, though, I will order the Cassoulet - a wonderful looking dish of braised white beans with lamb, duck confit and sausages enjoyed by two women at a neighboring table. "It's the most French dish there is," said one of them in an engaging French accent.

That accent intrigued me, but I minded my own business as I ate the Pied de Cochon (pulled pork leg crafted into a sausage)that I'd ordered. But a short time later I could not contain myself as a cheese trolley was maneuvered up to the next table.

Ive eaten some of the world's best and am not easily impressed with cheeses. But these were really awesome. One of the dozen or more cheeses even had bits of truffles in it which tantalized me with its amazing scent. Cheese man Brandon Chrostowski told me several of the cheeses came from Paul Minnillo, who operates a cheese affinage at his Baricelli Inn in neighboring Little Italy. "No one ages cheese like Paul does," said Chrostowski, confessing to his own passion for cheese. Aging is a critical element when it comes to cheeses.

When I took the above photo I introduced myself and asked the women about their own cheese choices. Axelle Plusquellec (at right)is a native Parisian and works in marketing for John Robert's Spa, and Stacey Vaselaney is brand director for Liggett Stashhower. We shared our dismay over the cancellation of Continental's flights from Cleveland to Paris and traded France stories. Suddenly Stacey and I realized we'd worked together before when she was with Mustard Seed Market.
Isn't food a great reuniter?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Djibouti bound

No, I am not headed for this tiny African nation at the southern end of the Red Sea. I never heard of it until Tuesday when I learned that my son-in-law Sean is leaving for Djibouti tonight, Wednesday. He works for Sea Lift Command, which delivers supplies and personnel in support of the U.S. Navy. He retired from the Navy last spring after 20 years and is now doing substantially the same thing as a civilian. While with the Navy, one of his assignments was traveling to Antarctica to take the trash out- something that's done in January, at the end of the summer season.

When we learned that the ship to which Sean is assigned is in the Gulf of Aden my daughter and I both sought to learn more about this tiny country with the unpronounceable name. It's a Muslim country, about the size of Massachusetts and is next to Somalia, which might be the reason that Sean's recent training was learning how to fight pirates. It's a dry, arid land without any agriculture and very little potable water. Its population is about a half-million and life expectancy is about 41, which will make Sean, 40, an elderly man. The majority of people live in the capital city of Djibouti and the remainder are nomadic herders.
Average income is about $3,000 a year and there's a 60 percent unemployment rate Hepatitis, malaria, and typhoid fever are common and the risk of water and food borne disease is high.

I suspect Sean won't be leaving the ship very often. I also think it's pretty unlikely I'll be visiting Djibouti anytime soon.

The Web site makes for fascinating reading but it's pretty scary stuff. I probably wouldn't want to go to lots of places that I found to be perfectly fine had I read the CIA's take in advance.

But Sean has promised to send photos and to stay in touch by e-mail. If you're interested I'll pass along his observations.