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.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Whats for dinner at Mooreland

 The dinner theater experience planned for March by Rabbit Run Theater at Mooreland Mansion will have a different menu all three evenings and for the Sunday brunch matinee. They're the work of new Lakeland Community College chef Sheila McCormack.
Choices will be offered so you may wish to consider what's being served before you book the performance of a Grand Night for Singing that you want to see. The production, framed around Rodgers & Hammerstein's most popular tunes,  takes place in the college's Rodehorst Performing Arts Center, a five minute drive away and also on the grounds of Lakeland Community College.
If you dine on March 16 or March 22 you'll have a choice of a pan-seared chicken breast with spinach  and artichoke roasted red pepper cream sauce served with either Boursin mashed redskin potatoes or wild rice pilaf and grilled asparagus. OR a sugar cured sirloin  filet with wild mushroom demi-glace, bleu cheese au gratin potatoes and whole baby carrots.
The 3 p.m. matinee performance on March 17 will be preceded by a 12:30 p.m. brunch buffet with four salads, a  self serve waffle station, scrambled eggs with cheese, bacon, maple sausage or corned beef hash. Featured meat will be roasted pork loin with bourbon maple glaze and rice pilaf.
On March 23 a benefit dinner is planned with a choice of two entrees., both served with black rice and whole baby carrots. Choose between a pan-seared chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese and pears with a sage brown butter spring pea risotto or a five-spice rubbed pork tenderloin with pineapple au jus. Desserts, donated by local businesses will be up for bids.
Mooreland, you may recall, was built almost a century ago by Edward Moore, a prominent businessman who helped to develop the interurban railroad which ran along what is today Mentor Avenue. Most of the land that is today the Great Lakes Mall was once part of his vast estate. His mansion fell into disrepair  over the decades but was restored in the early 1990s by Lakeland Community College which acquired the property and secured a  $3 million grant to do the work.
It's a meticulous restoration and the mansion has since  become a popular venue for weddings and other events. It's a rare occasion when the public has a chance to dine there and this dinner theater is one of them. Tickets, which start at $40 for the brunch and show, can be reserved with Rabbit Run Theater at 440 428-7092.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine Food column

For some reason my food column didn't make the paper. So here it is:

Don’t forget your Valentine server
Area restaurants are preparing for Valentine’s Day tonight with specials to help couples celebrate their romance in style. Look for lots of lobster and over-the-top chocolate treats all over town. But it’s not an evening to which many servers expect to celebrate. They know that it’s an evening when their tables will include couples who don’t often eat out or understand that servers depend on the tips they leave. Servers in Ohio earn just $3.65 an hour and may not even be able to pay their babysitter after an evening’s work if they haven’t received tips. Customary tip these days is 20 percent of the check. So make your reservation early and spread the love to those hardworking restaurant employees who will make your Valentine dinner an evening to remember.
Coffee brewing
Learn the dos and don’t of coffee brewing as you enjoy sweet treats you learn to make in a Feb. 23 class at the Loretta Paganini School of Cooking. Join Stefanie Paganini and her guest, coffee roaster and super barista Tony DiCorpo to discover recipes made for pairing with coffee. The 11 a.m. class includes a lunch framed around an almond chicken salad wrap and pepperoni roll with   lemon poppyseed muffin, cinnamon pecan rolls, dark chocolate almond biscotti, and carrot cake cupcake with cream cheese frosting/ The two-and-a half hour class costs $55. Reserve a space at 440-729-1110; or
 Washington wines
Wines from Washington State will be poured for Saturday’s 6 to 7:30 p.m. wine tasting at World Wines and Liquor, 8760 Mentor Ave. It costs $5 and reservations aren’t necessary. Details: 255-1311
 Chili in Middlefield
  Middlefield Market’s annual Chili Cook-Off provides a day of warm entertainment to fit any budget. Chili still is being accepted for the competition. Entrants, who pay a $35 entry fee,  must provide four gallons of it. Prizes include a $100 People’s Choice award, plus a $150 first place and $75 second place. Those attending  get a chili sampler pack of eight cups, a spoon and a ballot for a $3 donation. Doors to the Pavilion open at 11:30 and live music, raffles and giveaways by local merchants will take place all day.
The market is at 15848 Nauvoo Road, just east of Route 608 in Middlefield Township. To enter a chili or get information call 440-632-3196

Friday, February 8, 2013

Cruising with a butler

Papa, our butler aboard the Crystal Serenity, serves afternoon shrimp and champagne in our penthouse suite.

It’s almost embarrassing to reveal how much I loved having a butler aboard our Crystal Serenity cruise.
I am, after all, a woman who prides herself on being self-sufficient and not self-indulgent. Although the skill I bring to things may be debated, I clean my own house, iron my own clothes, cook my own meals and organize my own life. Although I do get my hair styled a couple times a year, I never even had a pedicure until I was 60.
So when my daughter and I arrived in Venice and checked in with the Crystal Serenity for our Sept. 30 to Oct. 8 cruise we were stunned to discover we’d been upgraded to a penthouse suite with a butler.
It all turned out to be far beyond our wildest dreams.
Our butler, all spiffed out in a tux, introduced himself to us with his Egyptian-sounding name but told us to call him Papa.
 “It was like having a daddy,” my daughter later recalled. She and I both lost our own fathers when we were just girls so we loved having this sweet man beam at us every time he saw us and treat us like we were his own princesses. Although he also served as butler to another half dozen penthouses on our same deck, every time we saw him it was as if he'd been waiting to learn how he could make our day even better. He proved to be a born nurturer.
When we arrived in our suite on Deck 11, Papa offered to unpack for us. But we were immediately smitten with its elegant spaces and wanted to do that for ourselves- discovering its clever nooks and crannies as we found perfect places for our things.
“Just leave everything out that needs pressing,” Papa told us. “And I’ll have it back to you shortly.”
We had initially planned to drop off our bags and go into Venice to explore. But I was just days removed from outpatient surgery and the long flight and jetlag had taken more than its usual toll.
The 491-square- foot suite was so welcoming I soon wondered if I would ever leave.
 Thick wool carpeting underfoot, tufted silk headboard, high thread count bed linens, a jetted bathtub and separate glass enclosed shower, pair of sinks, a desk and dressing table were just the beginning. The walk-in closet included lingerie drawers, wooden and padded hangers, and a pair of robes (Frette linen and terrycloth) for each of us. Dimmer switched lighting, Aveda bath amenities, two hairdryers and even a scale awaited.  A sofa and comfy arm chair framed a round cocktail table that we later learned could be elevated to dining height. Room service was available 24/7 although we took advantage of it only once — and that was on our verandah - a large space with lounge chairs.
There were two flatscreen TVs, a DVD player and a refrigerator stocked with wines - red, white and bubbly - plus bottles of flat and bubbly mineral water, all constantly replenished. Reidel crystal glasses filled the cabinet next to it. Fresh fruit appeared in a silver fruit bowl every day and delicate flowers were changed before they wilted.
Soon Papa was back with apertifs — a generous plate of shrimp and lobster and another bottle of chilled champagne. He asked about our beverage preferences, promising to keep our refrigerator stocked. This was to become daily tradition at about 4 p.m. — and we made sure to be back on board in time for it, even passing up lunches ashore.
One afternoon my daughter was feeling really punk and had taken to her bed. Papa expressed his concern and asked what he could do to help.
“A lemonade would be nice,” she said. After calling the kitchen on his cellphone he told us it wasn’t available. “But wait,” he said. “I’ll be back shortly.”
Ten minutes later he returned with a small pitcher of cold lemonade. He’d found a half dozen lemons, squeezed them, added sugar, ice and water and voila! Lemonade for Sascha.

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Blood sucking leeches in Istanbul

When I first saw the large pickle jar of leeches in the outdoor area of the Spice Market in Istanbul I was totally creeped out.

They clung to the sides of the large jar on a side aisle opposite a section of caged birds, including chickens.

Where ever I go I check out markets because they tell a lot of things about the place I'm visiting. I wasn't sure what these leeches were saying about Istanbul except that maybe the medieval practice of bloodletting still is practiced here.

But a later search of the internet revealed that sterilized leeches have been rediscovered by modern medical science and were approved for use by the FDA in 2004. Although I doubt I can get them at my local drugstore, they're used to help heal veins that have been reconnected during surgery.

Not only does the leach suck out excess blood to allow the vein to reattach, but its saliva contains a blood thinner, so blood continues to flow after the leach drops off, which it usually does after 20 minutes, according to an old USA Today article I found. Usually about a dozen leeches are used at a time and they sell for $7.50 each.

I still don't know what the leaches in Istanbul were being sold for, but they didn't look particularly sterile by the appearance of the jar they were in.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Coffee shops make Amsterdam happy

I expressed surprise that climate wasn't a factor among the world's happiest cities, because in the depths of an Ohio winter it sure seems as if it should be. So I just took a closer look at the reasons the top 10 happiest cities were rated the way they were in the blog just before this one.

The world's happiest cities are all ranked for things such as culture, shopping, outdoors, performances and amusements. Rome is understandably off the charts in terms of cultural locations, while San Francisco and Paris seem to have made the list for their awesome shopping.

 But Amsterdam was off the charts for another area - its coffee shops. And as everybody knows it's not coffee that's served there but various forms of marijuana and hashish.

 Now I've never been to Amsterdam but I know the coffee shops are big tourist attractions. It's something the city fathers want to end - or make it just for locals. I haven't kept up on the debates or any changes outlawing coffee shops.

But for now the stoners there seem to have catapulted gray and rainy Amsterdam into one of the happiest cities on earth.

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