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.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Living to see 65

"Two-thirds of the people who have ever lived to 65 are living today."
I saw this quote over my head at an airport, I don't remember which, but it was in Canada. Seeing it, I stopped and backed up so I could take out my notebook and write it down.

It wasn't attributed but I was on a moving walkway in an airport so backing up to write it down was no small feat. It's hard to believe it's really true, and as a journalist I'd like to try and authenticate it.

I'm among those living today who have reached that milestone and it's really something to think about. In September, when I was in the Loire Valley of France, I observed my 40th anniversary here at The News-Herald. My colleagues there arranged for a candle to be added to the cheese plate I'd ordered for dessert. It was a sweet thought, even if I was old enough to be a grandmother to several of them. A sweet young woman from Beijing, another travel journalist on the trip, took my arm every time we crossed the street. I'm sure it was a reflection of the way she'd been reared to respect and care for her elders.

I can't even begin to tell you how many ways the business and practice of journalism has changed since September, 1971 when I took my first job here. I won't say it's all good, because it's been traumatic at times. But I'm still excited to come to work most days, and think I must have one of the most interesting jobs in the entire world.

As I approach another milestone birthday I find myself reading the obituaries more often than ever. It's especially chilling to note all those who have passed away who are younger than I am now.

But my old friend Arline Kneen just celebrated her 95th birthday. I was with her in Australia when she turned 73, and she's still working and traveling.

Tell me, please, how you approach the prospect and the reality of aging. It IS just a number, isn't it?

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Feast of the Deceased

Hello there, City Editor John Bertosa here, and when I get an invitation to have a gourmet dinner at night in an old graveyard, I say yes and bring along my wife/photographer, Jeannene.
The event was held Friday at Monroe Cemetery, Cleveland's second oldest and tucked away in a residential corner of Ohio City, about a half-mile or so southwest of the West Side Market.
The event, put on by the group Emerging Chefs, took place under a connected series of tents that accommodated about 100 guests (many dressed in Halloween costumes) and included soft orange and yellow lighting in addition to candles and a DJ playing music that evoked the season and locale (for example, Metallica's "Enter Sandman").
The power flickered off momentarily a couple times but guests thought it just added to the atmosphere and it also served as a reminder of what an imposing feat organizers had done -- putting in a kitchen and putting on a full, catered party  in a cemetery that normally does not have any electricty.
The chef for the evening was Brian Doyle of Sow Food. Using an urban farm in Ohio City, he is a caterer with plans to eventually open a restaurant that is part of its own supply chain of urban farms.Those in NE Ohio might recognize some of the restaurants where he previously worked, including Quail Hollow, Lure Bistro and Gamekeepers.
His menu was tailored to the graveyard and Halloween season, and for the most part it showed a sensibility of having to cater for about 100 people yet had sophisticated plating and taste.
The amuse bouche was a "True Blood E Marry Oyster Shot" but instead of a strong, in-your-face bloody mary it was a clean shot of tomato water which didn't overwhelm the freshness of the oyster at the bottom of the glass.
The "Raw Flesh Carpaccio" also was simple yet perfectly accented by the tartness of shaved parmigian cheese, crispness of micro-greens, saltiness of capers and texture of a crostini. Like bacon, a dish can always use more of the salty goodness of capers but that might just be me talking.
The "Pumpkin Potage with Beet Frits" was perfectly pureed, giving diners a full-bodied soup course on a cold fall night. Touch Supper Club had been contributing a cocktail with each course and the spiced bourbon punch that came with this course further made this scream "Autumn!"
As for the "Foie Gras and Rabbit Liver Ravioli with Fava beans and Chianti reduction," the filling was smooth and savory and the reduction was a sweet complement and had some diners using their spoons to scoop up what remained before the servers took away the plates. I found the pasta of the ravioli to be a little thick and dry, probably hurt by the catering aspect of the meal in that it had cooled down too much.
The highlight of  the graveyard meal was an actual pig's head served family-style. The chef had graciously  pulled apart most of the pork and removed the eyeballs but the teeth were still attached to the skull and diners were able to pick additional flesh off the bone. The pork was juicy, the skin roasted to a sweet and sour crispiness, all served on a bed of fried rice that was able to soak in the pork flavors before being served.
Decadent chunks of chocolate with shards of sugar "glass" and "blood spatter" ended one of the most unusual dining experiences I've ever had. And we are already talking about next year.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Nantes Loire location shapes its food

This fish monger's stall was one of the busiest early on a Wednesday morning at Nantes' Talensac Market.

The food of Nantes, once at the Atlantic Ocean mouth of France's  Loire River, has been shaped by its location for eons. Read about it  Sunday in Travel, but today I'm offering a scallops recipe that has its roots in the 18th century, when Nantes was a primary port for spices from Asia.
Earlier it had been Europe's main port for ships picking up slaves in Africa, delivering them to the West Indies sugar plantations and bringing sugar cane back to Nantes for processing.
My first morning in Nantes, I headed on foot to the Talensac market, which turned out to be a combination indoor-outdoor market familiar to those who frequent Cleveland's West Side Market. Produce was artfully arrayed in outdoor booths, operated by vendors who purchased it each day from area farmers, while the indoor areas were devoted to meat, cheeses, and all kinds of fish.
Despite not speaking French, I quickly learned that September was sardine season and bountiful mounds of glistening sardines were among the fish displayed. I took that hint and ordered them for dinner that night and was delighted that I had. Later, while exploring the city, I even found the popular sardines replicated in candy at the shop of Nantes candy maker.
Sardines made of candy look like the real thing.
See them among the market photos that accompany this story.
This scallops recipe employs the lovely Muscadet white wine we drank throughout out explorations among the chateaux of the Loire Valley, which I hope you'll enjoy reading about over the next few months. I'll also be telling you more about my traveling companions, an international group of journalists hailing from China, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Moscow.

The recipe is great for company because  it can be done in advance, for finishing just before you sit down to eat. It's adapted from Anne Willan's amazing "Country Cooking of France." 

(Sauteed scallops with spices)
Serves 6 as first course
1-1/2 pounds sea scallops
1/4 cup flour seasoned with salt and black pepper
2 teaspoons curry powder, more to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, more to tatse
4 Tablespoons butter
1 large onion finely shopped
2/3 cup dry white wine
1 pound tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
Salt and black pepper
2 Tablespoons Cognac
2 to 3 Tablespoons browned bread crumbs (see below)
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
6 scallop shells or individual flameproof baking dishes
Wash scallops, pat dry and discard tough, crescent-shaped muscle adhering to one side. If scallops are large, slice them in half horizontally to create 2 disks. In a bowl, mix together the seasoned flour, curry powder and cayenne pepper. Add scallops and toss to coat.
Melt 3 Tablespoons butter in deep frying pan over high heat until foaming. Add scallops and sauteed until brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn and brown other side, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Lift out and divide evenly among scallop shells or baking dishes. For sauce, add remaining 1 Tablespoon butter to pan. Reduce heat to medium, add onion, and saute until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Pour in wine and simmer until reduced by about half. Stir in tomatoes, season with salt and black pepper and cook just until tomatoes are pulpy, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in Cognac,  taste, and adjust seasoning adding more curry powder and cayenne if you like. Spoon sauce over scallops. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and melted butter. Scallops may be prepared to this point 6 hours ahead and refrigerated. To finih,  heat broiler. Broil scallops about 4 inches from heat until very hot and browned, taking care not to overcook them or they will toughen. Serve at once.

Brown bread crumbs
Use sliced white bread. Discard crusts and toast bread in oven at 350 degrees until golden brown, 10 to 15 ninutes. Let cool and work toast to crumbs in a food processor or blender. They may be stored in an airtight container for 3 months. 
Fresh sardines glisten at a fish monger's stall.

Freshly caught crabs, shrimp and scallops vie for attention.

A market vendor shows me a charente melon - the first I think I'd ever seen.

Goat and sheep's cheeses are arranged for easy selection at the Talensac Market in Nantes.