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.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Preparing for Croatia

My new acquaintance with John Prim has helped me learn a few good Croatian words to take with me on my voyage next month among the Adriatic islands between Dubrovnik and Split. John is the brains behind a new company (Diversified Renewable Concepts) that aims to give people solar technology they can do themselves to reduce their electric bills and their reliance on the grid. (see last sunday's News-Herald if you missed it) Although he hasn't been back to Croatia since 1978 he's helping me to learn basics such as "please", "thankyou" and "you have a beautiful country." In Croatia, like the rest of Europe, many people speak English, but I've discovered that most folks appreciate the effort made to communicate in their own language.
I've learned from John that the "old language" existed before World War II when Croatia was its own country in the Austria-Hungary Empire. When Tito took over and created Yugoslavia, five separate countries including Croatia were rolled into one and the language changed.
In preparing for this trip, I realize how little I know about the history of that part of the world and am trying to get up to speed on that too. If any of you readers can help me out, please do, using the comment section of this blog. I am trying to read Rebecca West's "Black Lamb, Grey Falcon" which everyone recommends, but at 1300 pages I don't think I'll finish it before I leave. It would be great reading on the long flights, but since it's an 18-passenger sailing ship with tight quarters I must pack super light so that book is out. Any packing tips you may have in that regard will also be appreciated.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

L'Abatros scores Bon Appetit mention

It's always good to see this area recognized nationally for its food scene. That's again the case on Tuesday (Aug 24) when Bon Appetit magazine's September issue comes out.

In its feature "Best Daily Specials in America" Bon Appétit recognizes L’Albatros Brasserie and Bar for its Shrimp Scampi with Quick-Preserved Lemon and Fennel on Polenta. The article says: "L’Albatros brings a taste of France to Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood. Cassoulet, bouillabaisse—and even escargot—show up on the menu. But the restaurant also dabbles in other regions of the world. There are pizzas, a burger, and this delicious take on shrimp scampi, and American classic."
It even gives the recipe for this dish at

I raved about the cassoulet at L’Albatros last February, when readers of this blog got a preview of that same excellence. (Rather than look through the archives you can go there directly by clicking on

To see the daily specials that Bon Appetit recommended throughout the country visit

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sunday for rugged Lozere, whitewater thrills

This is a very strange business. I'm now deep into my planning for a September voyage off the coast of Croatia and thinking hard about the story I soon need to write about a spa in Mexico.

But I'm really psyched that Sunday's Travel section with my Lozere, France story soon will soon be in readers' hands. It's a very remote and rugged destination, easily reached these days but pretty inaccessible until the 1950s when a road was put in next to the Tarn River gorge.

To this day it's a sparsely populated region in the south of France with a dozen or more villages having fewer than 250 people. Communal bread ovens are still at the edges of some villages, where the townswomen gather to bake their bread.

I visited there on a four-day trip in June with the national tourist office which arranged lodging and meals and provided us writers with transportation and translation. I want to go back and explore at a slower pace it on foot with a donkey, just like Robert Louis Stevenson did in the 1870s. Maybe when I retire.

Inns in the area, all in tiny towns, provide lodging for hikers and their donkeys which people can rent to carry their gear.
There wasn't space enough to use them with the hardcopy version of the story, so here are some of my France photos. The Travel section is now monthly and space was needed for the other stories, written by my colleagues. Two of them had a life-changing experience white water rafting on the New River in W. Va. and another spent quality family time with her family at Kings Island and the Cincinnati zoo. All of them shared their experiences in this upcoming travel section, which will be with your paper on Sunday. Others will have to read it online.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Come with me to Croatia

“Do you need someone to carry your bags?” is the most common version of the question I hear when friends and other readers learn I’m headed out on a trip to gather information, photos and video for The News-Herald. Usually that’s not an option since writers are invited on press trips by those hosting them and the trips are not open to the public.
Usually they’re so quick and busy that no one would really want to spend their vacation that way.
Exceptions don’t happen often, but my upcoming culinary voyage among Adriatic islands off Croatia is one of them.
And you’re invited.
This is not a traditional press trip.
ROW International has chartered the four-masted, 110-foot sailing yacht Romanca for the Sept. 15 to 26 voyage. We meet in Dubrovnik and end in Split with guided tours and hotel nights in each city. Overnights in between are on the yacht in shared accommodations. I don’t yet know who my roommate will be, but I’m assured she will be female.
Days will be spent visiting oyster beds and the people who tend them, seeing cheese, olive oil and wine being made and partaking of freshly harvested foods prepared as the folks on each island have made them for centuries. It's said to be some of the finest cuisine in the world, often flavored with the thyme, sage and capers growing in the dark red soil. We’ll hike among ancient ruins and lavender fields from our port to many of our destinations, enjoying the scenery and sights along the way with native guides. One of them will even give us Croatian lessons.

We’ll visit ancient villages, such as Korcula, which is shown here. It’s famous for being the birthplace of Marco Polo and is highly regarded both for its olive oil and a luscious white wine called Grk.
It’s prime time in September along the Dalmatian Coast, with sea temperatures in the 70s and daytime highs in the 80s. ROW founder Peter Grub, who has nurtured relationships on these islands since 1988, will be along this time to show us his favorite swimming spots.
These coastlines are across the sea from Italy and have experienced years of both Venetian and Ottoman occupation which has influenced everything from cuisine to dialects.
We’ll be following an itinerary, which you can see at, so we’ll be motoring much of the time. Those who sail know that it’s difficult to keep to a schedule when following the wind.

If you haven’t sailed before you need to know that the experience is more like luxury camping than any cruise. The packing list sent to those who book is telling. It recommends ear plugs, (which I always pack anyway) saying “helpful at night in cities or aboard yacht if your neighbor snores.”
If you’re aboard you’ll be a part of my stories, which will run in the November travel section. The website has details about prices and booking.
See you there!

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