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.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Weenie A Go Go a great little place

Jessica Johnson has had a string of bad luck starting with getting her tent blown down in a storm when camping near Nashville to see Paul McCartney in concert. She got soaked, her tent was destroyed and she brought back a strep throat which put her down and out for a nearly a week. Her Weenie A GoGo hot dog shop in Mentor remained closed while she was under repair from an antibiotic. The hot dog emporium is pretty new and has developed a following and she hated to disappoint her customers.

She got to work Monday preparing fresh toppings for her opening on Tuesday, but later discovered the power had gone out sometime in the night. The condiments she prepared had to be tossed along with a package of hotdogs she purchased on Monday.

"I serve everything fresh every day or it would have been worse," she said. The power problem got fixed late Tuesday and she was up and running for a short time before a storm took the power out again.

Wednesday is open mic night, the most popular night of the week so she hustled her way through the day buying fresh provisions and getting things ready.

Jessica's Weenie A Go Go shop is featured in Thursday's News-Herald and the story  has just gone up online. It includes a recipe for mi bahn which could make a great hot dog  topping.

The bad luck continued with a typo that got her address wrong. We ran a correction, but got a lot of calls from those looking to find it.

Her place is almost straight across Mentor Avenue from Melt. So perhaps it will catch the eyes of a few  of those who continue to throng that temple to grilled cheese.

We hope the story brings Jessica a change of fortune.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Ingredients at Five Star Sensation a measure of food trends

Five Star Sensation, which raises money for the UH Seidman Cancer Center, is said to be one of the largest food events in the country. (Michael Blair photo)

It’s unlikely that any of the 2,300 people attending Five Star Sensation tasted everything served by the 35 chefs who joined Wolfgang Puck in presenting the 15th such culinary extravaganza. Most were certainly foodies and everyone paid at least $300 for an event ticket, but these are not the all-you-can-eat buffet types who measure food value by quantity.
Chefs assembled around the edges of a trio of dramatically peaked tents with their cooking stations and refrigeration arrayed on the outside perimeter. Tables for dining, a bandstand with dance floor, and a pair of elevated lounging areas filled the tents’ interiors.
Although some food stations were simple, others were more elaborate with centerpieces and foodie decor adding to the allure. Most chefs and their helpers had about three different dishes to serve, catering to all tastes.
According to Barb Snow, who helped to organize the food side of the operation, each chef made 1,000 servings of everything he or she prepared and each dish required about 100 pounds of ingredients.
  That means there were at least 100 very different things to eat that night, along with wines from several dozen vintners. They were mostly California but with a scattering of French, Italian and Spanish wines. Each wine station poured four to six wines, from one-ounce taste size to full glasses.
To say there was plenty to eat and drink is a vast understatement.
Judging from the Chef Menu Card distributed to those who wanted to eat with a plan, popular ingredients and dishes this year included various preparations using pork belly and short ribs, arugula, cilantro and lemon aioli.
On the pork belly front, there was wild boar pork belly Bahn Mi from Cleveland Browns chef Mikell Blocker, pork belly tacos from Chef Michael Lamarco of Hyde Park Restaurant Group, pork belly with hot pepper curry from Wolfgang Puck, and Berkshire pork belly from Lydia Shire of Scampo in Boston,
A Spanish influence seemed to permeate several food booths using Manchego cheese and tapas style preparations, ideal for serving as finger foods in a scenario when knives and forks can be awkward. Chef Joseph Miller of Joe’s Restaurant in Venice, Calif. even brought an aged ham from pigs fed on acorns, a rarity in this country although common at restaurants in Spain. He had it mounted on a special device made to stabilize it for the very thin slicing needed to serve it.
Bacon, which has been so popular as an ingredient in recent years seemed to be less so at this event. Chef Brad Lettau from the Hitching Post served sliders of local beef with bacon, bacon jam and fries. That’s the restaurant many might recall from the movie “Sideways” which was credited with putting Pinot Noir wines of the map. Even though that 2004 film was out almost a decade ago, people still include the Hitching Post on their Sideways tours of the Santa Barbara area of California, he told us.

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Friday, June 14, 2013

New Royal Caribbean ship will be like nothing else afloat

An observation capsule that extends 300 feet out over the sea will give passengers on the Quantum of the Seas a birds eye view.

When Royal Caribbean launches its Quantum of the Seas in November next year, would-be cruisers are sure to be dazzled by  features entirely new in the cruise industry. Those who have often cruised with the line before got first crack at tickets, which went on sale in May. Others have been able to book since June 4.

An observation capsule called the North Star can be seen in the mockup photo distributed by the cruise line. Inspired by the huge London Eye Ferris wheel at the edge of the Thames, it's a capsule that will give 14 people a bird's eye view of the ship from 300 feet above the water. The  Quantum will be smaller  than its sister ships, the Allure and the Oasis (of the Seas) and carry just 4,180 passengers. The new ship will also have a recreation complex designed for basketball, ping pong and trapeze instruction which converts to a floor for roller skating. The ship will also have bumper cars, simulated skydiving and rooms designed specifically for single travelers.

It will be based in New Jersey so cruise passengers won't have to fly to take a cruise.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Best breakfast ever a Canadian treat

Smoked Atlantic salmon crepe with citrus crème fraiche, a hard cooked egg with pickled red onions and fried capers as served for breakfast at Escabeche in the Prince of Wales Hotel, Niagara-on-the-Lake.

I eat yogurt for breakfast almost every day of my life. It’s something aimed at keeping my weight under control while balancing the flora in my gut. When I’m on the road I try to find a locally made yogurt to eat and have discovered over time that practice often protects me from the so-called Montezuma’s Revenge that sometimes plagues people in a new and foreign environment.
Yogurt is my friend, but sometimes I get really tired of it and crave a change.
During my recent trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake to write about that town and the Shaw Festival, I had the good fortune to stay at the Prince of Wales Hotel. There,  breakfast in the sunny Escabeche Restaurant turned out to be one of the best I’d ever had.
Billed on the menu as a smoked Atlantic salmon crepe with citrus crème fraiche, a hard cooked egg with pickled red onions and fried capers, it proved to be even better than it sounded.
When fried, tangy lemony flavored capers become crunchy and add a wonderful texture as a counterpoint to the velvety crepe,  the sweet-tart  pickled red onion and the smoky deep salmon taste. I'm guessing that a squeeze of lemon into creme fraiche moistens and dresses the salmon before it's folded into the crepe.
Before leaving the Prince of Wales Hotel, I popped into its tiny gift shop to get a book entitled “Vintage Cooks Collection” comprised of recipes from chefs at the Prince of Wales and the group’s four other properties. Book a room or make a dinner reservation at 888-669-5566.
From that book, here’s a recipe for Summer Berry Soup with lavender that should be easy to put together after a visit to one of the area’s farmers markets. No recipe for this amazing crepe was there but, you'll note, yogurt follows me as an ingredient in this yummy berry season cold soup.

Summer Berry Soup
1 pint each strawberries, raspberries, blueberries
1 cup organic yogurt
1/2 cup honey
1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon lavender
Pinch of sugar
Process all the berries in food processor with yogurt and honey. Chill for two hours.
Whip cream with lavender and sugar. Serve as garnish on the chilled berry soup.

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Saturday, June 8, 2013

Celebrate summer with Sunday's Travel

The News-Herald's June Travel section comes out on Sunday with lots of great ways to celebrate summer. Preview some of them here by clicking on the color text.

You'll need a passport to reach Niagara-on-the-Lake's Shaw Festival, but what a treasure is found in this village that made Canadian history long before becoming home of a summer long  group of professional productions inspired by George Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries. Go backstage for a look at what makes everything work so well then stop for a spot of afternoon tea.  It's just three hours away east on I-90.
Also catch my blog and video about afternoon tea at  the Prince of Wales and find out from guest blogger Joyce Wagner about her favorite places to eat and things to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake. 

Drive just two hours to experience the Chautauqua Institution, opening for the season next week with concerts, lectures and lakeside summer fun. Writer Elizabeth Lundblad got to know Chautauqua like the back of her hand when she worked for the Institution's newspaper. Her takes on the community with its brick paths,  Victorian homes along shady streets and incredible opportunities for fun against a backdrop of learning are a great guide for newcomers and veterans.

Jean and Paul Mitrovich are longtime Chautauqua regulars, and she blogs about their favorites in the Jamestown, NY. area.

 Are you one of the millions of folks who use part of your vacation to attend a music festival? Hear from others of your ilk and perhaps discover a festival or two to put on your list this summer.

Hope you enjoy reading what we've created for you as much as we enjoyed researching the stories. Let us hear from you if you have suggestions, like what you read, or want to read something else in Travel.

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Friday, June 7, 2013

A rose by any other name still lovely in the rain

Even a  rainy day is pretty wonderful in the Mooreland rose garden where I spent part of a rainy Thursday researching a story about it that will run Monday. It's no surprise to learn that roses are related to strawberries, another wonderful spring treat around here.

The garden was designed more than a hundred years ago as part of the Mooreland estate, home of Edward Moore, transportation scion who helped to create the late great interurban railroad. Back in that time folks from Mentor and Painesville had only to hop on a passing streetcar to get to Willoughby or Cleveland. The stop used by Moore himself is no more, but its location today is on Mentor Avenue near the western entrance to the Great Lakes Mall. That's how big the Moore estate was back then. Mooreland is today on the campus of Lakeland Community College, most easily reached from Garfield Road just beyond the freeway overpass in Mentor. It's surrounded by eight acres, most of them gardens, and is itself a public garden that's open to the public when there's not a wedding or other event taking place.

In my travels I've found roses growing far above the Arctic Circle in Tromso, Norway  and seen boxes of them stacked 10 deep on the tarmac at the airport in Quito, Ecuador, where the sunny high altitude climate is spring-like year round and rose growing is an economic force. Most roses found today at florists likely originated in Ecuador.

Perhaps you've noticed, as I have, that today's roses don't have the fragrance of older roses. That's because the wonderful scent has been largely bred out of them in exchange, I suppose, for longevity and hardiness.

 But even in the rain the scent of Mooreland's rose garden wafts out to the approaching visitor to hint at what's to come. That's because the garden club volunteers have sought to use mostly heritage roses in the restored garden, which replicates even the colors popular when the Moores lived there. Heritage ross are those in existence before the 1860s when hybridizing began in earnest.

Gardener Lori Roy will give a luncheon program on June 18 framed around the Mooreland rose garden. That's what my upcoming story is about. Catch it if you can. 

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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Step into the Victorian era at the Prince of Wales in Niagara -on- the- Lake

Sometimes it takes an outsider to glimpse the potential of a place. And the Vintage Hotels in Niagara-on-the-Lake seem a prime example of that. The Prince of Wales, where I stayed, and its sister properties Queen’s Landing and Pillar and Post were developed by a Hong Kong family and are now among the top hotels in the Ontario home of the Shaw Festival. You’ll read about the town and the wonderful plays being presented there in the June 9 Travel section, which will go up online at www.News-Herald before that.
The Prince of Wales was built in 1864 and is in the heart of the historic village. Known at first by other names, it got its Prince of Wales designation in 1901 after a visit there by England’s future George V and Queen Mary.
It had always been a landmark but had seen better days when its new Hong Kong owners refurbished it to its Victorian elegance. Each of its 110 guest rooms is individually designed and decorated with brocades, tapestries and antiques so the experience is never the same twice. That’s possibly the reason why so many of its guests become regulars.

The  drawing room at the Prince of Wales Hotel is a vision of Victorian era comfort. It's where afternoon tea is served.
Its drawing room, where afternoon tea is served in bone china cups, is a vision of comfy and tea is super indulgent. A tiered silver tray of finger foods has savory tiny sandwiches such as cheese and chutney, egg salad, spinach and prosciutto rolls on the bottom. The middle layer has warm scones with jam and clotted cream on the side while the top has little creme brulees and lemon meringue tarts. The video shows how pretty it is.

Bowls o fresh roses are everywhere around the Prince of Wales Hotel.
Pale yellow roses fringed with a blush of pink set the tone everywhere at this hotel. They’re found in huge bouquets, in pretty bowls with their stems cut short and long stem roses are placed on pillows at turndown. Crisp high thread-count sheets drape each bed and heated towels are found in the bathroom. Many basins in washrooms and the spa are adorned with delicately stenciled designs.

We found a trio of perfectly shaped oranges poised on china plates beneath a Tiffany lamp in our room and quickly peeled and ate them. 
It’s not often that overnight lodging sets the tone of a place so exquisitely, but the Prince of Wales Hotel is spot on. To find out about the many packages offered, including some with theater tickets, contact the hotel directly at 888-669-5566 or go to
Step out the front door to continue the Victorian immersion with a horse drawn buggy tour of the village, which is awash in history for the War of 1812 — when today’s Ontario was an outpost of Britain and we were the aggressor. While you’re in town, consider a visit to the nearby Laura Secor Homestead to learn the story of an 1812 heroine who ran through the forests to warn British troops of the impending invasion. It’s an interesting take on the war considered by Canadians as leading to the birth of their nation. 

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Monday, June 3, 2013

Shaw Festival a summertime tradition for local woman

Joyce Wagner, Niagara-on-the-lake aficionado, is a vegan but has no trouble finding a great meal when she's in town for the Shaw Festival.

Retired banker Joyce Wagner of Euclid is a a devotee of Niagara-on-the-Lake, one of the stories featured in the Travel section going to readers on June 9.  Today, as a guest blogger, she weighs in on the experience:

I have been going to Niagara on the Lake every summer for over 25 years.  The main draw for me is the plays.  The Shaw Festival offers an outstanding ensemble cast, excellent production values, and a wide variety of offerings – everything from light comedies to thought- provoking dramas. 

 A trip for me is never complete without a meal at both Zee’s and the Charles Inn.  Both restaurants are owned by the same group, but offer very different atmospheres along with reasonably priced innovative and delicious food.  Ginger’s Asian restaurant on Mary Street is a short drive from the center of town, but offers fresh and inventive Thai food that I think is well worth the drive.  For lunch, the Epicurean in the center of town offers the best salads, sandwiches, and quiche.  

For days when I don’t have theater tickets, I enjoy the historical sites in the area. A visit to Fort  George or the Laura Secour  House gives a Canadian perspective to the 1812 war with the United States.  Lock 3 of the Welland Canal allows a “close enough to touch” look at the ships heading to the Great Lakes along with a free and informative guest center that details the building of the canals. 

 When the weather is warm, renting a bike and enjoying the paved bike path that travels through the park all along the Niagara River next to the Niagara Parkway is a great way to spend the day particularly if the cherries or peaches are in season. The path passes fruit stands along the way, which are a great way to stock up for a picnic lunch.

 First time visitors should definitely get a map in town and take the self-guided winery tour and sample the local wines (German Whites and Ice Wines are the region’s specialty).