Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tasting Life on Lake Erie Shores

I had a preview on day one of Sandusky, Ohio, with my friend Lisa, but it was nothing compared to day two. Chad and Ryan Whaley of Green Door Media had prepared quite a full day for us on Lake Erie Shores and Islands.

We woke up to a beautiful day and enjoyed coffee overlooking the boat dock on Sandusky Bay. Chad and Ryan picked us up and took us Common Grounds in Port Clinton, where we picked up some more coffee and snacks from this wonderful place that employs people with developmental disabilities and teaches them skills they can use in future employment.

Our next stop was at The Kitchen Bounty, where we met owner Terri Bergman and got a preview into her world of gourmet food and dining experiences (we were going to actually experience one for dinner). Lisa and I couldn’t believe all the products she had created and knew we were in for quite a treat, but first we were off to the islands.

I have to admit, my expectations of “islands” in Ohio were not very high. I was certainly surprised. We took the car on Miller’s Ferry to Put-in-Bay. It was a short, calm ride and I was excited as we approached the island.

The main attraction here is Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, which honors those who fought in the War of 1812’s Battle of Lake Erie. We climbed the steep staircase and took the elevator up to the top, where I had my first glimpse of the breathtaking islands of Lake Erie Shores.

Lisa and I were interested in trying some local wine so we stopped at Heineman Winery for some Pink Catawba. It was a bit sweet, but rather refreshing.

From there we drove downtown and walked around the Islander Inn. It was the end of the season, but there was still plenty of activity at the swim-up bar at the Islander Inn. Part of me wanted to put on my bathing suit and jump in, but I knew there was a lot more to see – and eat.

Lunch was at The Goat, a popular Put-in-Bay spot famous for food and drinks. The latter specialty was the Basil Mojito and it was as good as Chad and Ryan had said. We also feasted on Perch Tacos, Ruebens (in appetizer balls and sandwiches) and Pierogies.

After lunch, we walked around the island. We stopped at a few shops and at the Roundhouse Bar, where we saw their infamous “bucket of beer.” I was more interested in the Mojitos, and there were plenty more to be had here.

We headed to Mojito Bay and sat back on the swings (instead of Bar Stools) and tried out some of the Mojitos.  They had every flavor imaginable and the only one I really didn’t like was the one I ordered – pineapple.

We were back on Miller’s Ferry from Put-in-Bay in time to have a rest at the house before Chad and Ryan came back and took us to our magical dinner. Terri Bergman and her staff had prepared a fun, casual and extremely delicious dinner for us in her magnificent Hilltop home.

Terri was kind enough to write out the menu for me. I have to admit that I was having so much fun I didn’t take any notes. The whole thing was such a great experience and Terri actually does this regularly, in her home and around country. What a fun, unique and scrumptious way to spend an evening!

Rocking a Latino-French Fusion…food with attitude!

Gazpacho Shots with Avocado Crème Fraiche
Pita Chips with Beet Hummus;
Tortilla chips with Peach Guacamole

A Bursting Summer Salad, fresh lettuces, Fruits  and Honey Poppy Seed Vinaigrette

Shish kabob…with Garden Veggies and Fruited and Spicy Sausage.
French Safari Paella

Roasted Peaches with Cream Cheese and Honey Brie Toppings
Lemon Lavender Ice Cream
Chocolate Tray

our treat….let the flavors continue at home!

Mini Heats, Mini Tequilas, Mini Tabasco’s

C2 Cocktail
Wine Selection

Chad and Ryan dropped us off at our house and Sandusky Bay. As much as we had done in two days, I felt like I had only seen a small portion of Lake Erie Shores. I vowed to return next spring and check out the rest … as long as they promised me some time at the swim-up bar with a mojito. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Intro to Lake Erie Shores, Ohio

When I received an email inviting me to Lake Erie Shores, Ohio, I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive. I write mostly about luxury travel, or areas with a lot of great food and wine. I wasn’t sure there would be enough in this area for me to cover.

I began to rethink the destination after visiting Buffalo and Niagara Falls. I couldn’t help but to wonder about what was on the other side of Lake Erie. I contacted Chad Whaley, who handles PR for Lake Erie Shores & Islands.

My schedule was pretty full, but we came up with a three day introduction to the area that he was sure would be enough to make me come back for more.

My friend Lisa and I drove to Sandusky, Ohio, the center of Lake Erie Shores. It took about seven hours and the ride became more scenic as we continued. I loved the weeping willows welcoming us just as we entered the city.

We were given a house on the bay side (Lake Erie is on one side and Sandusky Bay on the other) that was just perfect for our short getaway. It was one of many available to rent in this area. This one had three bedrooms, a large kitchen, a dining room with sliding doors for a view of the bay, an enclosed porch and a deck outside. We also had our own dock.

Lisa and I each picked our bedrooms upstairs. I chose a rather large one with a closet that stretched the whole room, a sitting area and a private bath. We were relaxing a bit before dinner when I received a call from Chad. “Would it be alright if we picked you up by boat?” he asked. My answer was “of course,” and I excitingly went to tell Lisa the news.

Chad and his brother/partner Ryan at our dock a few minutes later in a beautiful boat. It was a warm and clear night and we enjoyed the ride and the scenery. We had even had a nice view of Cedar Point Amusement Park as we made our way to the dock in downtown Sandusky about 20 minutes later.

We walked from the boat dock to Crush Wine Bar & Kitchen Bar. Chad and Ryan had recommended it as the menu was international and they also had lots of small plates, wine by the glass and brews. The dishes by Chef Cesarre also have an emphasis on using local products whenever possible, in a menu that changes seasonally.

As we enjoyed some wine, I looked over the menu. There was so much on it that sounded wonderful and it was hard to narrow down my choices. Fortunately the others felt the same way and we decided to do a lot of sharing.

First came the small plates. We ordered the Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Beet Salad, Bacon Wrapped Dates and Shoestring Poutine. I don’t know if I can tell you which I enjoyed more, but I can say the Poutine was the best I’ve ever had.

My dinner was the Parpadelle, served with three types of mushrooms and roasted garlic. It was full of flavor and much more than I could finish since I also had some of Ryan’s fabulous Macaroni & Cheese, the Crush version with chicken and penne in a sauce filled with cheese.

Lisa loved her Fruitti di Mare, with scallops, shrimp, calamari and white wine on linguine and Chad got the same dish as me with salmon added.

We were just about to say “no” to having room for dessert when presented with the possibility of the Chocoholics Anonymous. As a true chocoholic, there was no way I could say “no.” Ryan was with me and we both indulged in the richest, most chocolatey dessert I’d ever have. It was so incredible that I don’t even remember looking at the plate to see what Chad and Lisa had!

It was getting dark so we drove back to the house. We went by Cedar Point Amusement Park, which was all lit up and about to close. We had a very full day planned as we were taking the ferry to one of the islands (Put-in-Bay) before a very special dinner. Lisa and I chatted a bit before going to our bedrooms for the night.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Introducing... Wine And Spirits Travel Guide to Australia

They say that writing and publishing a book gets easier with time, but each one present new challenges. This was certainly the case with my latest, the Wine And Spirits Travel Guide to Australia: Yarra Valley, Barossa, Adelaide, Kangaroo Island & McLaren Vale (with a little bit of Melbourne) . I was photographing some of the most beautiful places in the world and I wouldn't give up until I had a product that did it justice.

In the spirit (pardon the pun) of my guide to Champagne, France, this guide puts my blogs in portable format (print or kindle) with extra information, photographs and links to the places you don't want to miss.

The Australia guide contains many more pages and photographs then the first one did. Let me know what you think of this one and what you think my next one should be.