Marianna Halassy launched her career as a candymaker for the best reason in the world: "I love chocolate, and when I came to the U.S. [in 1984], I just couldn't find chocolates that were as good as the ones we had in Europe." So the former Hungarian folk artist turned her passion for handcrafting beautiful objects to the making of truffles -- round, voluptuous, chocolate-draped orbs, filled with real cream, pure butter, and all-natural essences. After completing an apprenticeship with a master chocolatier in Pennsylvania, and armed with her grandmother's authentic European recipes, Halassy set up shop in Aurora at Séshart Chocolatier (311 East Garfield Road/Route 82; 330-562-9177). There, inside a cream-colored farmhouse, she makes 17 types of fat truffles imbued with the flavors of raspberries, oranges, mocha, cinnamon, cognac, almonds, and more. Beyond truffles, she turns out luscious liqueur-marinated chocolate-covered cherries and homemade ice cream in 16 grown-up flavors, like caramel-fudge-cashew and the very European-tasting rum-raisin. Her tiny shop also carries freshly made kolachkes, strudel, and cinnamon bread, created from family recipes, and a nice selection of Amish products, local maple syrup and honey, imported European pantry staples, and candy-making supplies. Séshart (the name is sort of an anagram of Halassy's and partner Donald Smith's last names and the word art) is closed Mondays; winter hours are Tuesday through Friday, 1 to 6 p.m.; Saturday, noon to 6 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m.
Attention, tabletop travelers . . .
Clevelanders have access to an entire world of ethnic eateries, but there still aren't many spots to explore the earthy cuisine of Portugal, vibrant with garlic, smoked pork chourico sausage, and zesty piri-piri peppers. All the more reason, then, to join the newest culinary safari at Sans Souci (24 Public Square in the Renaissance Hotel; 216-696-5600), spotlighting dishes from Portugal's coast. Executive Chef David Levy spent long hours researching traditional cooking techniques and locating authentic ingredients, and his diligence has paid off. Menu standouts include smoky marinated and grilled shrimp, with a tongue-tingling piri-piri dipping sauce; dainty butter clams on Portuguese rice, with tomato and diced chourico; and braised baby lamb shanks, with seared white lima beans and a sweet and savory red-wine sauce, piqued with root-vegetable mire poix. The lunch-and-dinner adventure continues through March 29, with most dinner entrées priced in the mid-$20s; throw in the free valet parking, and it's almost as much fun as a flight to Lisbon.