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 27, 2014

James Beard award goes to local icon

The James Beard Foundation has announced five recipients of its 2014 America's Classics Award and one of them is from Cleveland. And no, it's not Michael Symon.
Here's what their press release said.:  
Sokolowski’s University Inn (1201 University Rd, Cleveland, OH, Owners: Bernard Sokolowski, Mary Balbier, and Michael Sokolowski)
In 1923 Victoria and Michael Sokolowski founded a Polish restaurant on a bank of the Cuyahoga in Cleveland. Today, Sokolowski's University Inn serves edible homages to the city’s immigrant-driven industrial past, dishing sturdy comfort foods like cabbage rolls that once fueled the city’s growth.
 Pierogis, stuffed with whipped potatoes, bathed in butter, and drenched in caramelized onions, are everyday specials. The Sokolowski family does right by Midwestern dishes, too. They beer-batter and fry Lake Erie perch. They craft their own bratwurst and smoked kielbasa.
 What began as a tavern when the Tremont neighborhood was flush with blue-collar steelworkers, expanded to cafeteria-style service in the 50s, and has evolved, more recently into a touchstone restaurant for Polish families in search of their culinary roots.

Leroy distillery opens for Saturday tastings

Taste and buy Kevin Suttman’s artisan gin, vodka and rums at his Leroy Township distillery from 2 to 7 on Saturday. After March 1 he expects to be open those hours every Saturday.
 Seven Brothers Distilling Co. is at 7755 Brakeman Road.
Suttman, who has been making spirits since he was 13, launched his first legal vodka in 2011.
 He’s developed a unique low temperature vacuum infusion process which allows the true flavors of the ingredients to shine through. By lowering the boiling point during distillation the delicate balance of citrus and juniper result in an entirely new style of gin.
His spirits are sold in some liquor stores, including World Wines & Liquors in Mentor, and are served at a few bars including Quail Hollow, Winking Lizard and at Lake House in Geneva-on-the-Lake.
Now you can buy them where they are made.
 Put together a group of 10 make an appointment for a tour and tasting of four samples. Make an appointment at 440-897-9311.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Sweet ice wine and maple rewards follow bitter winter

As bitter winter draws to a close, nature’s own sweetness surrounds us with creations indigenous to Northeast Ohio.
The Grand River Valley Ice Wine Festival takes place at the same time maple syrup production begins. I wrote about ice wine last Thursday and on Monday you’ll read about some wonderful fun around maple, such as an Amish pancake breakfast or a five course maple flavored gourmet luncheon at the Internationasl Culinary Arts & Sciences Institute.
James Miller, an Amishman from Middlefield produced his first syrup of the 2014 season, today. Those who know their syrups often consider the earliest ones to be the most delicate and flavorful. James is one of the 40 some participants in the annual Maple Madness Drive it Yourself Tour the first two weekends in March.
You can celebrate both by heading out to some wineries and sugarbushes. Interactive maps are part of both stories to help you find your way.
Or you can stay home and make ice wine marshmallows:

3⁄4 cup ice wine
2⁄3 cup corn syrup
3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
3⁄4 cup water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups granulated sugar
Powdered sugar for dusting
Canola oil for greasing
Place ice wine in a small saucepan over medium heat and simmer until reduced to 4 teaspoons, watching closely at the end to prevent scorching. Cool.
Pour one-half cup water into mixer bowl, sprinkle with gelatin, and let stand 10 minutes to soften.
Meanwhile, combine remaining water, sugar and corn syrup in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and then boil vigorously for 1 minute. Stir in gelatin mixture and the salt. Beat with mixer on high speed for 8 minutes. Add vanilla and reduced ice wine and continue beating for 2 more minutes.
Transfer mixture into 9-inch square pan lined with canola-oiled plastic wrap, using an oiled spatula to spread evenly. Allow to set for several hours in a cool but not refrigerated area. When firm, remove from pan, cut into squares with a lightly oiled knife and toss each square in powdered sugar to coat.

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

February's travel section has ice, sun, sand and music

Montreal's sprawling urban festival lights up the entire city starting Feb. 20 with light shows, food events, Ferris wheel, huge ice slide and lots more. 

February's travel section takes readers to Toronto sports bars where fans descend when they can't get hockey tickets to see their beloved Maple Leafs. Just caddy corner to the team's home ice at Air Canada Centre is Hotel Le Germain where you'll see some surprising sights, including a view of the 30 foot high screen on Maple Leaf Square. That's where you can join the fun and watch Olympic action in Sochi this week as Team Canada hockey play airs at noon.
Sashay down to Nashville where music, food and fun fill the town and honky-tonks beckon with lots more than country.
Celebrate winter where the season is serious at a quartet of winter festivals, including one in Alaska where native Inuit arts and sports are part of the fun.
Or maybe you're done, done, done with winter and doing your homework for a trip to the Florida Keys. Check out what's up down that way in the next few weeks as feast your eyes on a  tropical sunset.
News-Herald print subscribers got their travel section on Sunday, Feb. 9, but click on the contrasting type here  to read the stories online, where you'll also find slide shows,  interactive maps and newsy briefs, including one that lets you explore the impact of snow without even getting cold.

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Watch Olympic hockey in country where sport began

Men get most of the attention in Olympic hockey play but the Canadian women's team plays at 10:30 a.m. Monday and at the same time Tuesday they'll play the American women hockey team.

The men's Olympic competition is at noon every day starting Thursday.

If you're a hockey fan you might want to consider taking in the Olympic hockey competition in Toronto , in the country where the sport began. Its downtown sports bar are going all out with the televised Olympic games.

There's also a 30 foot high screen on the huge Maple Leaf Square in front of Air Canada Centre, home ice of the Maple Leafs. Inside the adjacent Real Sports Bar & Grill - name best North American Sports Bar by ESPN - is another giant screen along with 199 others for watching. the play.  Read all about it in Sunday's Travel at

Le Germain Hotel overlooks Maple Leaf Square and you can watch the huge screen from your room. Or retreat to the comfortable lobby bar for another vantage point.  Check out at

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sochi shocks journalists who should know better

The graphic depicted in this Greek washroom transcends language barriers 

I've been reading the gripes about substandard hotel rooms tweeted  by journalists in Sochi and I have to wonder if any of them have traveled to developing countries before.
 One writer said the most shocking thing he/she found were signs noting that toilet paper was not to be flushed down the toilet, but to be deposited in a waste basket.
I've seen that in lots of places, even in older rural areas of pretty modern countries. The septic or sewer system could well be hundreds of years old and just cannot handle paper.
That's also common in marine toilets and part of the briefing you'll get on many a dive or party boat.
Smart travelers know that when that situation is encountered, the tap water is probably not good to drink either. That was another fact that seems to have surprised many of the journalists in Sochi for the Olympics.
Why do they think bottled water was a fact of life in European countries decades before it became common here?
I'm sure this will be a very educational trip for them.