Having a Ball in Cleveland

We’re in Cleveland celebrating Thanksgiving with Souzz’s peeps, which has been a ton of fun. Being together with family is the main thing, of course, but our visit also gave me a chance to continue pursuing my regional food kick (ok, obsession).

One of the holiday treats here are sauerkraut balls, which were invented just down the road in Akron. It’s been said that Akron natives view sauerkraut balls the same way that Buffalo folks view Buffalo wings or that Philadelphia folks view Philly cheesesteak. And that’s saying something.

sauerkraut-ballsAt the moment, there isn’t a single sauerkraut ball in sight–but that’s because I ate all of them. I don’t even really like sauerkraut…but when in Rome, you have to do what Clevelanders do, or something like that.

Anyway, back to Thanksgiving, where Cleveland proved to be the perfect place to celebrate. There were 17 of us, including Souzz’s mom and a lot of travelers from Souzz’s home town of Buffalo. The meal included turkey (of course), Paul’s mom’s stuffing, Souzz’s mom’s stuffing, mashed potatoes, and all of the usual trimmings. Oh, and we had a few laughs along the way, too (Naki Nakamoto and folding chairs came up a few times, but you kind of had to be there).


                   Our host sneaks a bite


       Souzz in the kitchen “annex,” which we used for the tortelli.


      Souzz’s sisters test the mashed potatoes, which is serious business.

As for the sauerkraut balls, we got them at Heinens, a family-owned supermarket with stores throughout Cleveland and Akron. Prep was super-easy, as they just needed to be baked for about 20 minutes. In addition to sauerkraut, the ingredients listed bread crumbs, egg, garlic, onion, parsley, and a bunch of other spices (some recipes even call for pork, which seems like cheating to me).

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DSC_0723When the sauerkraut balls came out of the oven, the nieces and nephews were sprawled on the floor and busy playing a board game (shouldn’t they have been snapchatting or arguing over some shared toy? what is the world coming to?). They grabbed a handful of sauerkraut balls each, and they were asking for more. This dish is definitely worth making again, maybe even from scratch.

It was a nice holiday with much to be thankful for, certainly extending far beyond a regional food from Akron. That said, it was still fun to serve up a sauerkraut-based dish that was gobbled up by everyone–even the younger crowd.

What’s next, sauerkraut flavored Pez?





Another Birthday Thai

My birthday was last weekend, but Souzz was out of town so we postponed the celebration by a week. That means I’m technically seven days younger–and I feel so much better that I am considering postponing future birthdays entirely. Add in the fact that I was born in Japan, which is across the International Date Line, and I’m pretty sure I’m still a teenager (well, at least emotionally).

Calendars aside, this year’s birthday outing took us to yet another of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club‘s fabulous cabins. This time we headed to John’s Rest, near Stanardsville in central Virginia. John’s Rest is on 240 private acres adjacent to IMG_2085Shenandoah National Park, and it’s one of the nicer primitive (no power or water) cabins in the PATC system. The cabin is a short hike in to a great setting with a beautiful little stream (Entry Run) trickling right in front of it. We took backpacks to haul in our hundreds of pounds of lightweight gear.

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As for the weekend fare, an Asian food theme seemed to make sense for someone born overseas (never mind all of those pizza birthdays as a kid). Pad Thai was at the center of a meal that included chicken satay, homemade egg rolls, sushi, Sapporo beer, and a small bottle of saké. It was a geographic melting pot of a menu, for sure (and we learned to say “where are the rolaids?” in Japanese just in case.)

It turns out that pad Thai has a tie in to Thai nationalism (yes, I really did write that sentence). So here’s the story: in the late 1930s, Chinese wheat noodles were very popular in Thailand—too popular in the eyes of Thailand’s Prime Minister, who was trying hard to reduce the influence from nearby China. The government launched a big campaign to promote rice noodles, and the rice noodles used in pad Thai–called sen chan–were born.

With history behind us, we spent the day hiking a great circuit up past the PATC Rosser Lamb Cabin and then up onto a nearby ridge. We both agreed that November is a great time to be out. While it’s a bit late for the fall colors, there were no crowds at all and the bare trees revealed sights that one can’t see most times of the year.

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       Lamb Family Cemetery

The highlight of the hike was a visit to the Lamb family cemetery, nestled among the trees in the saddle of the mountain above Pocosin Hollow. The Lambs were one of the first families to settle in Green County, and the headstones date to the 1800s. The cemetery was free of leaves, having been recently raked, and it is clearly still an important destination for the family. It was interesting to try to imagine the lives that these people lived–especially later in the day as we hauled water and nursed sore muscles from splitting wood.


                   Filtering water






Apparently all are welcome at cabins

As for dinner, we got great use out of the propane stove, a rare luxury at a PATC cabin. For the pad Thai, we included shrimp along with the traditional noodles and sprouts, and we were glad that we’d carried in a good pan (PATC cabins provide basic cookware, but not much in the way of fancy woks, go figure).

We seasoned the chicken satay with Pensky’s sate spice and we served the satay with peanut sauce. We made the filling for the egg rolls ahead of time, but fried the rolls in peanut oil at the cabin and they came out crispy and hot, just right.

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Oh, and just for fun, we made our own fortune cookies ahead of the trip (I like a recipe that lets me write my own fortunes). Unfortunately, I got the cookies mixed up, and mine said “I see a lot of dish cleaning in your future.”

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