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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.

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?


Anonymous Markymark said...

Heading to L'Albatros in a couple of weeks for an anniversary dinner. Looking forward to it. Any hits or misses on the menu (besides what you wrote)?

February 9, 2009 at 9:49 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds yummy! What is the price range for entrees here?

February 11, 2009 at 5:29 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Was there last week with Janet's group...didn't seem to be any misses. Made you want to try everybody else's dinner. Many commented on the Cassoulet and desserts also looked good. I remember prices being in the 15-25 range for entrees and felt like we received good value. A very lovely evening.

February 12, 2009 at 9:36 AM 
Blogger News-Herald Blogs said...

The menu is quite varied with soups, hor d'oeuvres and salads ranging from $6 to $12; entrees are mostly $16 to $20 and pizzas are $12. Several in my group put topgther dinners from side dishes ($6)such as braised white beans, vegetable tian, farfal with shiitake mushrooms and haricot verts with tomato confit. Ive asked Brandon Chrisotowski to elaborate about the cheeses pictured. (Click on it to enlarge) Choose 3, 5 or 7 cheeses for $9, $12 or $15.

February 12, 2009 at 4:57 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a native parisian, I was fairly impressed by the quality and authenticity of the menu. The food is delicious, especially the Cassoulet and the cheeses. Reminded me of home!
Our waiter made great recommendations on the cheeses and was very knowledgeable.
Great experience! I will definitely return and highly recommend it!

February 13, 2009 at 11:59 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The meal was delicious (LOVED the cheese) and reminded me of being in Paris. I'm going back to L'Abatros this week to celebrate my birthday with friends!!

February 23, 2009 at 10:47 AM 
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