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, November 21, 2009

festival of trees - a grownup prom

We began calling it "the Prom" as we decided what we would wear to Friday night's Festival of Trees fundraiser for BigBrothers BigSisters of Northeast Ohio at Quail Hollow.
The formal night would be quite a departure from our usual 6 a.m. gathering at Mentor Heisley Racquet & Fitness Club. We're all in the middle of our lives, mostly women and a few men, who do aerobics, work out with weights and other exercise equipment early each weekday morning. The sense of support we bring to our workouts has, over the past few years, extended to other parts of our lives. So when our workout colleague Kathie Hartman Frisby (at right, standing) invited us to the Nov. 20 Festival of Tree gala we began making our plans.

We agree with Kathie that taking care of the younger generations is vitally important and a look at the success that BigBrothers BigSisters has in doing that is convincing. Kathie is a Big Brothers board member and a tireless supporter of the cause. Their matches of adult mentors with children have had amazing results in the lives of kids from this area. I wrote about a few of the organization's programs a few weeks back and came away even more impressed with its impact. (See ; Nov. 8 )
The Festival of Trees was lots more than a great night out. Gorgeous Christmas trees, many decorated by pros, were auctioned off. Silent auction items ranging from spa services to ski weekends and even a hot water heater were represented at tables around the room.
Ohio wines were poured and hors d'oeuvres passed as we oohed and ahhed over how nice we all cleaned up. We couldn't help but notice how those abs and lats we work on at Heisley fit dress-up clothes.

Big Brother Joe Dalhausen and his Little Brother, Kyle of Mentor, spoke to us briefly about what their involvement has brought to their lives. It's clearly a win-win scenario for both of them and other Bigs and Littles.
Most of us had never really seen each other except without makeup, with our Tshirts and shorts drenched from working out. Now we were all glitter and shine, hair in place and elevated by heels; the guys resplendent in tuxedoes.

One of the tallest trees was a Wine Tree, with each of seven levels filled with bottles of wine. One level also included a week's getaway to Hilton Head while another included eight cases of wine. Raffle tickets were $20.
The evening's Dessert Dash was a really fun element. Elaborate desserts from a variety of food professionals overflowed a central table in the middle of the dance floor. Each 10-person table filled an envelope with donations and the top fundraisers got the honor of dashing for their choice of desserts.

A runner was appointed by each table. Since we work out together we knew that Nancy Crissinger (standing second from left, in photo above) was one of our speediest members. Nancy took off her shoes so as not to slide out of control on the dance floor and waited for the signal. But our table was not among the top donors, so she had to wait for others. She returned with a great plate of goodies which we all devoured. The next table, however, shared the cake it scored in the Dash.
The Dessert Dash alone raised $6,800 for BigBrothers BigSisters.

I'm hoping a blog reader involved with the group will send a message telling us how much the evening raised for the organization.
We all agreed that the Gala was a lot of fun. But since most of us are up every day around 5 a.m. to make it to the gym on time, we faded fast. I didn't even stay long enough to learn if I won any wine.
That's the down side to being an early riser.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hocking Hills fine dining surprise

Welcome my colleague Jason Lea, who blogs today to tell us about the wonderful food he found in Ohio's Hocking Hills region, which is close to straight south from Mentor:

On a recent long weekend in Hocking Hills I expected gorgeous foliage, secluded cabins in the woods, zip lines, rock climbing, ATVs, and no cell phone service.

I expected rustic fare — stick-to-your-ribs meatloaf and local produce.

What I got was fine dining.

Here’s a look:

The Inn at Cedar Falls:
If you spend a night this Logan, be sure to order the Wife of a Chef.

I don’t like to use the foodie cliché “decadent.” But this cocktail made from Chambord, Ciroc vodka and Godiva chocolate shavings is decadent. It tastes like a liquid chocolate-covered raspberry. To say it’s the best thing you can ingest at The Inn is not a slight to the other options.

For entrees, I recommend the shellfish pan roast (scallops, jumbo shrimp, asparagus, potato gnocchi and beurre blanc). For dessert (and you should get dessert), either the chocolate torte or the peanut butter creme brulee.

Cost: Expect to spend at least $25 for a meal at The Inn, especially with a dessert or a cocktail.

Glenlaurel, a Scottish-styled inn in Hocking Hills, provided my best (also most expensive meal) of the four-day trip.

The rack of New Zealand lamb was so good I had to take its picture, but the best dish was a smoked Gouda and riesling soup.

Eating is an event at Glenlaurel. A bagpipe calls you to the main hall. Some nights Innkeeper Emeritus Michael Daniels recites poetry as you eat.

Glenlaurel has no menu. If you’re a vegetarian or have special dietary needs, let them know in advance. They serve a pre-set six-course meal — appetizer, soup, salad, sorbet, entree and dessert. The main course is dictated by day. Six courses framed Saturday’s rack of lamb.

Note: Glenlaurel is in a dry municipality and you cannot buy alcohol there. If you want wine, bring your own.

Cost: Six-course meals: $49 per person; seven-course meals, $59.

Ravenwood Castle:
Ravenwood Castle’s decor might be kitschy, but the food is dead serious.

You will love Ravenwood’s frozen pumpkin parfait. If this dessert were any thicker, it could qualify as a cheesecake. It ousted The Inn’s peanut butter creme brulee as my favorite dessert of the trip.

Ravenwood, like Glenlaurel, has no menu. It makes a three-course meal, except on Sundays when there is a seasonal buffet.

The entree for my meal was filet mignon, topped with crab meat and a bearnaise sauce. (It’s as good as it sounds.)

Cost: Three-course meals: $25 per person. The Sunday supper buffet: $18.

Etta’s Lunchbox Cafe
Find rib-sticking fare in Hocking Hills at Etta’s Lunchbox Cafe and Museum in New Plymouth.

Think bowls of chili so big they require two hands to transport, greasy-good sandwiches to fill your calorie quotient for the day and pizzas that put some Italian bistros to shame.

Its primary attraction isn’t the kitchen but the lunchbox museum. Owner, LaDora Ousley, and general manager, Tim Seewer, filled the shelves with metal and plastic pieces of nostalgia. No matter what your era, there is something in the museum that will remind you of your childhood. For me, it was the X-Men and Ninja Turtles lunchboxes. For many of my lunch companions, it was the Muppet Show or plain plaid boxes.

Cost: Meals start at $6.

Hocking Hills info: