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?