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.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

cleveland wine fest

Who knew that the biggest revelation from last night's opening night of the Cleveland Wine Festival would be BEER?
The event at Voinovich Park on the lake behind the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame continues today, Saturday June 27 until 8 p.m.
Marc Stroobandt, master beer sommelier, presided over hourly tastings of three Belgian beers - Stella Artois, Hoegaarden and Leffe- from a beer tent at a corner of the park property behind the wine tasting booths. The sampling was aimed at proving to folks how good these beers can be with food. And, in my opinion, Belgium is one of the world's greatest food countries, so these brewers should certainly know.
These Belgian beers are not bound by the same beer laws that affect German beers, he told us. "Pour your beer straight into the glass so you have some foam," he said. "When you sip through the foam you can taste the hops which are concentrated there." Hoegaarden adds coriander and orange zest to its beer for balance. Neither taste can really be distinguished in the beer although it makes for a great food beer. "Try it with Thai food or hummus," Stroobandt said. Leffe, which has clove overtones in its taste, doesn't really have clove added to it he said. But its sweetness makes it absolutely wonderful with chocolate. Chocolate samples from Belgium were passed out so tasters could discover that for themselves.
As far as the Wine Festival itself goes, there weren't as many food booths and demonstrations as in other years and the few foods offered sold for about $5. Plenty of tables on the park's grassy area though, allowed tasters to sit down as they enjoyed their nibbles in the late day sunshine.

Vendors had plenty of things to attract tasters, who were limited to 10 tastes by the tickets they held. California's Barefoot Wines passed out temporary tattoos and bottle openers. Check out this cheeky young guy tasting bubbly and learn about the moderately priced wines at

Although I understand two percent of the wine bottled becomes "corky" from flaws in the cork, so I've begun to accept screwtop wine bottles instead of always insisting on corks. But I've remained a bit of a wine snob when it comes to drinking wines from plastic bags. But we tasted some really acceptable Black Box wines which they "bottle" the equivalent of four bottles of wine in plastic bags bags with spouts on them. They sell for $24.95, a real break for wine drinkers in this economy. Here Patrick Byrne is filling glasses from a plastic Black Box bag.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Five Star Recipes

I am briefly hijacking this blog from Janet, so I can share a pair of recipes from the Five Star Sensation this past Saturday in Beachwood. Five Star gathers top chefs from around the country for a fundraiser that benefits UH Ireland Cancer Center.

Tickets start at $300, but we've snagged you a couple of recipes that you can make for significantly less than that. Jonathan Waxman's lamb chop recipe is in today's (June 17) food section, so I thought it apropos to supplement his entree with a pair of sides.

Shawn McClain is the executive chef of Spring in Chicago. His lemongrass coconut soup is sweetly spicy. It is the only dish from Five Star for which I requested seconds.

Soup Ingredients:
2 oz grapeseed oil or olive oil
1 medium yellow onion
3 stalks lemongrass
2 oz ginger, peeled
2 oz galangal, peeled
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 plum tomato, chopped
1 oz red Thai curry paste
1 gallon chicken stock
3 cups coconut cream
2 kaffir lime leaves
1 cup fish sauce
3 limes, juiced

1. Thinly slice onion, lemongrass, ginger, galangal and garlic. Add oil to large pot and slowly sweat sliced ingredients. Once they are cooked down, about five minutes, add chopped tomato and Thai curry paste. Cook for about two more minutes, then add chicken stock, bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 10 minuts, then add cocunut cream and return to simmer.
2. Pour entire contents of pot through large strainer in order to separate solids from liquid.
3. Mix equal portions of solids and liquid in a blender. Be careful not to add too much hot liquid to blender at once. Blend, starting slow and increasing to high speed, until solids have blended well with liquid. Pour contents of blender through fine, mesh bowl strainer. Discard solids that do not pass through strainer. Continue process until soup is blended.
4. Season soup with fish sauce and limes, and steep kaffir lime leaves in soup until chilled or about half an hour if soup is not to be chilled for serving.

Makes 10 servings

If that seems like too much work, I have a simple recipe from Frank Ostini, owner of The Hitching Post in Buellton, Calif., for grilled corn salad with cilantro jalapeño vinaigrette.

1 oz fresh ginger, minced
4 ears fresh corn, husked
1 medium red onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
2 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

1 oz fresh ginger, minced
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 jalapeño, diced
1 cilantro bunch, most stems off
1/2 cup corn oil

Dressing: Combine ginger, vinegar and jalapeño in blender for 15 seconds. (Can also add lime juice for additional flavor.) Stop blender and add cilantro. Start blender adn slowly add corn oil. Set dressing aside.

Grill corn over open fire for six minutes, basting with butter and seasoning with salt and pepper. Remove and cut kernals from cobs. In a saute pan over medium heat, cook ginger and one Tablespoon corn oil for one minute. Add onion, stir and cook three minutes. Add red pepper, stir and cook two minutes. Add corn, stir and remove from heat. And dressing and let cool to serve.

-Jason Lea

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

tomatoes on the riviera

Here on the French Riviera the growing season is much farther along than it is at home. In Nice, where we spent our first of six nights, a flower market is in Old Town just a few blocks from our hotel.

I didn't know it also had vendors with fresh produce so it was a pleasant surprise to discover that on our morning walk. The first tomatoes of the season were on the stands and I was surprised to find they were from just up the road in Provence, where we go in a few days. I'd never seen the Coeur de Boeuf (Heart of Beef) variety so snapped their picture so I could find out more once I got home.

But I didn't have to wait that long. They were on the menu at Oliviera, a wonderful 8-table eatery where the focus is on olive oils and every dish served is napped with a different French olive oil. Proprietor Nadin Berouti told us he wore his red white and blue suspenders in honor of our visit from the U.S. I peeked into the small prep area as a young woman sliced the very same tomatoes I'd seen at the market and layered them with freshly made buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil leaves.

It was our appetizer, and Berouti poured an olive oil from the Valle des Baux, where we'll be going later this week, over it. Fabulous! It was very possibly the best tomato preparation I've ever had... simple and wonderful. Just around the corner on the Mediterranean coast of Italy, they call this a Caprese Salad, after the Isle of Capri. Now I need to find some seeds of the Couer de Bouef tomato so I can grow them at home.

My main course was possibly even better and so colorful it could be a painting. Stuffed zucchini blossom with meclun greens and roasted red peppers were napped with another olive oil. Berouti is a negotiant for olive oils, traveling all over France to make the acquaintance of growers and processors during the November to February season when the olives are picked and processed into oil.

"Our olives in Nice aren't picked until January," he said. "They are riper and more abundant then." Riper olives are the ones that have turned black, not necessarily a differen variety than the green ones, he told us.

After leaving the restaurant I came upon a vendor's booth of different salts from all over the country and beyond. If you click on the picture with this blog you will see there are salts with rose blossoms and tiny little peppers as well as salts of the purest white, to shades of gray and brown.

What a wonderful country France is! If I can find wi-fi connections I'll be sharing it with you in blogs as I travel this week.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Shower great after all night flight

After an all night flight to Paris on Air France, I discovered showers in the Air France Club at Charles deGaulle airport, which made everything right again. I sleep pretty well on international flights..just not long enough. I am one of those people who needs eight hours a night and with the 6 hour time difference that means my body believes I'm getting up at 2:30 or 3 in the morning after four hours sleep, max. So I am usually half alive when I arrive in Europe and need help getting caught up.

The showers are accessed with a key after which one finds a gleaming clean shower room with shower, sink and hairdryer but no toilet or even a shred of kleenex. Towels and bathmat are sealed in plastic as is an amenity kit with toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, shaving cream and comb. I changed my clothes to be ready for the tour I will be taking shortly after arrival in Nice. I've been invited here by the French Tourist Office to write about visits to the south of France in the footsteps of Matisse and Picasso. We'll be visiting places where these artists worked, lived and played and learning about them from art experts . A major museum exhibit traces the influences that Cezanne had on Picasso.

I arrived in Paris at 8:30 a.m. (2:30 a.m. at home) and have a 12:30 flight to Nice. I arrive there at 2:15 and must meet my guide and fellow travel writers at 3 in the Hotel Beau Rivage lobby. The Beau Rivage, perched at the edge of the Mediterranean, drew many great artists of times past. I know I am going to want more time there, but it's not on the itinerary.

The weather is nice and I am hoping to get some great images. The light in the south of France inspired the Impressionists and the artists who followed them so U an challenged to try to capture it on film. I have asked to have this blg moved to the News-Herald'.s first page again now that the Cavs finals are over. So I should be somewhat easier to find soon. here's hoping.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

AAA awardsfor lodging & dining

Their inn in Burton has been honored by AAA for each of the last seven years, but for Gordon and Evie Safran and innkeeper Gina Houlk, it’s still a thrill.
This year the Red Maple Inn Bed & Breakfast was strutting its stuff for the other winners when it hosted the recent AAA East Central Awards reception.
A pair of unoccupied rooms were open so their hospitality industry colleagues could check out the Amish made furnishings, the in-room fireplaces and the whirlpool bathtubs. They were invited to see the basement fitness room and to walk the 4-acre grounds on a knoll behind Century Village.
When Gordon Safran owned the E.B Brown Optical stores, he traveled among his 42 stores and stayed at country inns and bed & breakfasts. That’s where he got many of the ideas that have been incorporated into the 18-room Red Maple Inn, his post-retirement dream. It has become a favorite retreat for romantics and a popular headquarters for out-of-towners who come to enjoy the delights of the world’s fourth largest Amish community which surrounds Burton. Often they bring their bikes to explore the countryside on two wheels. Guests attend the pancake breakfasts hosted at the fire department in spring, the Apple Butter Festival in fall and the many special events at Century Village.
The Red Maple Inn has again been honored with AAA’s four-diamond rating, an exclusive honor shared with Julia’s Bed & Breakfast in Hubbard and the Georgian Manor Inn Bed & Breakfast in Norwalk.
Northeast Ohio lodgings also honored with the four-diamond award include the InterContinental Hotel and the Ritz-Carlton, both in Cleveland. Three hotels in Cincinnati and four in Columbus also achieved four-diamond honors.
Ohio’s only five-diamond award went to Inn Walden in Aurora for the fifth year. It’s the crown jewel of a 1,000 acre sanctuary that includes a spa, horseback riding, swimming and fine dining.
Four area restaurants were singled out for their food and service to be honored with four-diamond awards from AAA.
Carl Quagliata, who has deep roots in Lake County, accepted the four-diamond award for the 17th year for his Ristorante Giovanni’s in Beachwood. Other winners were the Leopard Restaurant in Aurora, Blue Canyon Kitchen and Tavern in Twinsburg and the Baricelli Inn in Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood.

Honored lodgings and restaurants
Red Maple Inn, 14707 S. Cheshire St., Burton: 888-646-2753;
Julia’s Bed & Breakfast, 6219 W. Liberty, Hubbard: 888-758-5427;
Georgian Manor Inn Bed and Breakfast, 123 West Main St., Norwalk 800-668-1644;
Inn Walden,1119 Aurora Hudson Road, Aurora: 888-808-5003;
InterContinental Hotel, 9801 Carnegie Ave., Cleveland ; 877-270-1390
Ritz-Carlton Hotel, 1515 West Thirds St., Cleveland 216-623-1300;
Ristorante Giovanni’s, 25550 Chagrin Blvd., Beachwood: 216-831-8625;
The Leopard, 600 N. Aurora Road, Aurora; 330-562-2111;
Blue Canyon Kitchen & Tavern, 8960 Wilcox Drive, Twinsburg; 330-486-2583;
Baricelli Inn, 2203 Cornell Road, Cleveland: 216-791-6500;