Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Casa Nueva’

Chris and some Spicebush branches

Integration Acres’ Chris Chmiel is a passionate promoter of the cultivation and use of native plants. Known as the Pawpaw guy, he advocated for its designation as Ohio’s official native fruit, turned it into a cash crop, inspired the creation of many value-added products, and, for the last 13 years has hosted the Pawpaw Festival.  On June 23rd, he held the 2nd annual Summer Solstice Spicebush Celebration at the Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens, Ohio.

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Spicebush is found throughout all of Ohio, and is an understory shrub of moist to wet woodlands. Its twigs and branchlets, when scraped, emit a spicy fragrance. Bright red fruits appear in late summer and early autumn on female shrubs. Its dark green, glossy foliage (like that of Pawpaw), is unusual for woody plants thriving in full shade. As a native of the Eastern United States, Spicebush can grow to 12 feet tall and 15 feet wide and is a member of the Laurel Family, related to Sassafras and other Spicebushes.

Michelle and Eric doing some scoring

Prior to Saturday, my only experience with Spicebush was as a tea, having purchased the dried leaves and twigs from Chris at the Athens Farmers Market. So I was delighted when Chris asked if I’d be a judge for the Cook Off event. Upstairs in the Dairy Barn, I joined Michelle Wasserman (a worker-owner from Athens’ much beloved Casa Nueva) and Eric LeMay, a food writer and OU professor – both dazzled me with their ways of describing food, over the next few hours). With our rating sheets at hand, our cameras nearby, we were ready to discover the tastes of the Spicebush. Kristen LaMay helped coordinate the tasting and kept a steady supply of Spicebush infused items coming our way.

Iced Spicebush tea in cups made for the Celebration

We began with the beverage category. The first entry was iced tea, served up in a cup with the Spicebush Celebration logo – a perfect beginning since it delivered a clean and uncluttered taste of the Spicebush, and educated my palette to the plant’s unique taste.

Lovely Kristen pours our Arnolds.

Next up, a Spicebush Arnold Palmer (a combination of tea and fresh lemonade), created by Stephanie Katterhenrick, also a worker-owner of Casa.

So pretty, so tasty and refreshing

Lastly, a shot glass of Dancing Tree Distillery’s Spicebush gin. Entrant Kelly Sauber explained that his gin contains wild harvested, dried Spiceberries, certified organic Juniper berries, organic rosehips, non-GMO and organic corn from the nearby farms of Kim and Larry Cowdery and Matt and Angie Starline, and some Briess Organic 2-Row Barley from Wisconsin. Wow! If you like gin, you’re going to love Dancing Tree’s clean taste and aromatic woodsy nose. The gin took home the first prize in this category.

How’s that Spicebush gin, judges?

We still had room for this artful bread

Onto the appetizers – dips, cheeses, and more, but the prize went to Michelle Gorman’s (Integration Acres) Smoky Goat Chevre rolled in salt, black pepper and freshly ground spicebush berries. In the savory bread category, the judges selected Patty Nally’s (Avalanche Pizza) Fougassee with a Spicebush pesto.

Savory Spicebush entree

Our favorite savory dish was Stephanie Katterhenrick’s mashed potatoes, but it was quickly overtaken by her entree presentation. The potatoes (from Cowdery Farms) were boiled in water infused with Spicebush berries and leaves – a clever move! A summer and zuchinni squash dish seasoned with ground Spicebush berries complimented an English beef chuck roast from Sunny Mead Farm, cooked with ground Spicebush berries and steeped leaves, fresh minced garlic from Yankee Street Farm, onions from Cold Comfort Farm, and fresh thyme from HerbaVore Gardens. I never tasted such tender and lovely meat. As we licked our lips, we decided to give her a spontaneous accolade – the Spirit of the Spicebush award.

Then it was on to dessert…Who doesn’t love Snowville ice cream, this one with a creamy vanilla with a hint of Spicebush? But Carole Schloss literally took the cake (award) for her Spicebush German chocolate cake. So delicate, yet infused with that allspice-like, maybe peppery-ness, hard to describe, Spicebush flavor.

The final bite of Carole’s cake

Like the entire Spicebush Celebration, the Cook Off  brought together a mix of local ingredients that satisfied the belly and the soul. Thanks, everyone. I hope you’ll let me do this again.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

The crowd checks out information on Go Wild for Local Foods activities at the Athens Farmers Market

This past Saturday, 30 Mile Meal, WellWorks, Live Healthy Appalachia, and Athens Healthy Community Coalition folks arrived at the Athens Farmers Market with pots and pans. Ready to host their Go Wild for Local Foods event, we had two purposes: to offer a local foods cooking demonstration for Market shoppers and increase support for the Market’s vendors and Community Food Initiatives‘ Donation Station.

Info table promoting food-related programs in Athens area.

Under the Market’s Cafe tents, organizers set up food prep and cooking areas for guest chef, Pam Nalbach, from The Wilds. Local foods for her mystery basket of ingredients were collected from generous Market farmers and vendors.

Go Wild volunteers from the Alpha Phi Omega Service Fraternity and the OU Dietetics Club fanned out across the market to pass out yellow punch cards and to punch the tickets of shoppers who purchased from at least four Market vendors and made either a cash or food contribution to the Donation Station. These cards were then entered into a drawing for prizes, including Safari Tours at The Wilds.

Pam at work.

Plenty of fresh produce populated Pam’s food basket: leeks from Shade River Organic Farm, tomatoes from Green Edge Organic Gardens, peppers from Cowdery Farms, black Russian kale and spinach from Duff Farms, Asian greens from Dexter Run Farms, Sassafras Farm’s butternut squash, a bag of Cherry Orchards’ Melrose apples, and frozen elderberries from Herbal Sage Tea Co. Rounding out the menu possibilities were cheddar and Swiss cheeses from Ohio Farm Direct, Casa Nueva’s Shitake ginger vinaigrette, and black beans and spelt, precooked and donated by Shagbark Seed & Mill Co. What would the chef make?

Salad is almost ready for tasting...

 

 

Pam began chopping, stirring, seasoning, and simmering. Not long after, the audience was enjoying samples of a spinach, Asian greens and spelt salad, dressed with Shitake and ginger vinaigrette and a butternut squash, leek, and apple soup.

After the event, Pam was presented with a 30 Mile Meal canvas bag filled with foods from the region, including corn chips from Shagbark Seed & Mill Co., tea from Herbal Sage, Gillogly Orchard’s apple cider, rolled oats from Starline Organics, romaine lettuce from Vest Berries and Produce, Cantrell’s honey, Mex-City’s red raspberry chipotle salsa, Dale’s Creations apple pumpkin butter and chocolate clusters from O’Chocolate.

We’re delighted to report that the Donation Station received $300 more than its typical Saturday cash donations and considerably more produce as a result of this event.

Many thanks to all who made this a great showcase for our local foods community including Kip Parker and Michelle Gorman from the Athens Farmers Market, Pam Nalbach, Danielle Bray, the APO and OU Dietetics Club volunteers, Francie Astrom, Ruth Dudding, Mary Nally, Louise DiLullo, Heather Anderson, Kim Valentour, and all the farmers and food producers who donated their fabulous foods for this event!

Read Full Post »

Last week’s spring-like temperatures had me imagining all the garden bounty that will be ripening in the coming months. But with this week’s return of drab and chilly weather, I remembered how lucky we are to have access to fresh foods any time of year, thanks to the year-round Athens Farmers Market.

Inside crowd

Every Saturday (between 10 am and 1 pm) I grab my 30 Mile Meal canvas shopping bag and head off to the Market on State Mall on East State Street. During the winter months the market’s vendors can be found both inside and outside the mall building. Usually 20-25 vendors offer their goods in the mall lobby.

My first stop last week was to say ‘hi’ to Becky Rondy from Green Edge Gardens (wow, nice Belize-induced tan). I filled my bag with their micro greens (green and purple radish), mixed leaf lettuces, spinach and shiitake mushrooms.

The pawpaw guy

Next I headed over to see Chris Chmiel from Integration Acres where I purchased some of their goat milk cheeses – chevre (the BEST I’ve ever had) and their luscious, creamy blue cheese rolled in ash. The week before I couldn’t resist some delicious cookies (the baking assisted by Chris and Michelle’s kids) with pawpaw and spiceberry jam sandwiched between two melt in your mouth whole wheat and rolled oats cookies.

King Family Farm sign

Across the lobby, I visited with JB and Charlene from King Family Farm. Before my move to Athens County, I didn’t eat much meat or fowl, but once I learned about the way the Kings raise and feed their animals, I gave their chicken a try. It is so tender and tasty. This week I bought some of their Italian chicken sausage.

Just down a few tables I purchased some pretty carrots (some orange, others purple) from Star Hamilton’s Shade River Organic Farm. She also has fantastic cilantro that keeps for at least two weeks in my frig.

Crumbs' Jeremy Bowman

My last indoor stop was Crumbs Bakery. This worker-owned business makes everything from tofu pasta to cookies. The line around their table is often 4-5 people deep, but worth the wait. I usually buy a few pastries and especially like their apricot and cherry rolls. I also recommend Crumbs crackers. Many are made with local grains, including spelt.

 

Outside crowd

Then it was back outside. On this Saturday a dozen vendors braved the cold.

Hola, Michelle

I was delighted to see that Michelle from Casa Nueva was back after a few weeks off and gladly bought a half pint of guacamole and some of their zippy bbq sauce.

Pizza Goon extraordinaire, John Gutekanst

Knowing I’d be hungry by the time I headed home, I stopped at Avalanche Pizza‘s spot and got one of their eight inch pies – mine made with plenty of mushrooms and cheese.

Matt Starline makes some change

Which got me thinking about Sunday breakfast and replenishing my dwindling supply of Starline Organics fabulous crunchy Maple Spelt Cereal – a million times better than Grape Nuts!

Another hearty farmer

Nearly done, I couldn’t resist getting some fresh green onions for the soup I planned to make with the Italian sausage, spinach, carrots and cilantro.

Cold and crisp apples

 

Oh, and a few apples from Cherry Orchards, because their apples are so good anytime of the day (or year).

One for the road home

 

 

My final stop, Brew du Soleil, for a Cappuccino.

Many thanks to all the farmers that make mine and others’ 30 Mile Meals possible!

 

Read Full Post »

One of my intentions for 2011 is to shine light on our many 30 Mile Meal partners. Meet Leslie Schaller, known to hundreds of food entrepreneurs in the Athens region as well as local food activists across the country.

Leslie in L.A.

Some background on this amazing dynamo. First, don’t be fooled by her diminutive size. This woman thinks BIG when it comes to sustainable economic development. She’s often on the go, responding to increasing demands for her expertise. Cleveland, Madison, Youngstown, D.C., Memphis, rural Iowa, Asheville – she could be in any of these places right now, assisting organizations and communities wanting to grow their food businesses and local economies.

For the last nineteen years Leslie has worked at the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet) where she is the Director of Programming, overseeing and delivering training and technical assistance for entrepreneurs. She played a lead role in the founding of ACEnet’s Food Ventures program, leading to the development of their 12,000 square foot kitchen incubator facility.

Launched in 1996, the shared-use kitchen incubator includes a licensed commercial kitchen, thermal processing, packaging, food service and warehouse space for over 240 food processors and area farmers. The program has pioneered non-traditional strategies to develop infrastructure, market programs and distribution channels for family farmers and local food processors in southeast Ohio, while also responding to the growing demand from rural consumers for fresh, local foods.

When she isn’t on the road consulting, she’s securing funds to create regional brands, launching marketing strategies, and mapping out business plans and financial management systems within the various sectors of our region’s local foods economy.

She is also a leader in the larger local foods realm, serving as Board Treasurer for the national Farmers Market Coalition, and as a member of the Ohio Food Policy Advisory Board, the Ohio Market Connections Task Force and the Athens Food Policy Council and the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.

Leslie at Casa's 25th birthday party

Her food roots go back to the early ’80s when she operated an organic market garden and raised livestock, selling at the Athens Farmers Market and to area restaurants. Since 1985 she has served as the Business Director of the Worker-Owned Restaurant Corporation that operates Casa Nueva, Casa Cantina and Casa Manufacturing in Athens, Ohio. The cooperative currently employs 60-70 worker-owners and associates and was projected to have annual sales of $2.5 million in 2010.

In 1992, she founded a food security organization, Community Food Initiatives, which now engages in a number of food access and security projects in our region, including food and produce donations from Athens Farmers Market vendors for area pantries and food banks.

A few weeks ago Leslie and I met with Jane Black, a food writer (formerly with the Washington Post and whose articles have appeared in the New York Times, Food & Wine, and other publications), and her husband, Brent Cunningham, also a journalist. Last fall they moved from Brooklyn to Huntington, WV – the town that Jamie Oliver made famous with his Food Revolution reality TV show.  Jane and Brent wondered what would happen once Oliver’s cameras and lights disappeared. Black notes in her blog, “I am off to (WV) to write a book about one town’s effort to change its food culture and whether the “food revolution” can cross geographic, cultural and class boundaries.”

When Leslie and I met them, they were on a regional tour of local foods hotspots, research for their book. After a stop at the Athens Farmers Market, we headed to Casa Nueva for lunch and some talk about the efforts underway to grow and promote our local foods economy. By the time Jane finished her homemade ginger ice cream (made with Snowville’s heavy cream), it was clear that she and Brett would be back and that their connection with Leslie would yield plenty of story leads for the future.

Earlier this week Jane interviewed Leslie for her Smart Food radio show on Edible Radio. You can listen to the interview here.

 

Read Full Post »

Heading into Casa

In the spring of 1985, a group of 8 unemployed restaurant workers decided to form a worker-owned cooperative. The original founders had never run a business before, but collectively had over 100 years of restaurant experience and were determined to create their own livelihoods. They turned to the recently formed Worker Owned Network (now the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks) and with their support developed a business plan, secured financing and created the foundation for Casa Nueva’s cooperative structure. As a measure of the sustainability of this vision, some of today’s worker-owners include children born to that first generation of Casa founders.

Celebrating 25 years

Last night twenty five banners, each a tribute to a year of Casa Nueva’s successful experiment as a worker-owned enterprise, covered the walls of this Athens hotspot. A big crowd of The Locavore Solution’s friends and loyal customers came out for a night of celebration, food and music.

Casa champion Leslie Schaller

The festivities were kicked off by Leslie Schaller, Casa Business Manager and the sole remaining member of the first group of worker-owners that founded the restaurant. Standing in front of a banner that listed all of the workers who have owned a share of the restaurant over the years, Leslie acknowledged the on-going support of the community in creating Casa’s success.

The mayor

Next up was Athens Mayor, Paul Wiehl, who proclaimed October 20th Casa Nueva Day. A highlight of the early evening was the awarding of the year’s ‘eater’ award, selected by Casa’s staff.

Jerry Chester

This year’s prize went to Jerry Chester and Matt Griffin who had their first date at Casa 25 years ago and continue to be loyal customers.

Just in time for the many children in attendance, Flyaway Saturn, an Athens-based band that writes and performs music for the whole family, took the stage. Soon folk, small and large, were bouncing to the band’s beat, with all that motion only building the hunger for the next event – FOOD!

Many of Casa’s former worker-owners have, over the years, launched their own food enterprises and they gladly donated food for the party. On the long table in the central dining room, one could sample fare, made just for the occasion, by Avalanche Pizza, O’Betty’s Red Hot, Purple Chopstix, The Village Bakery, and a special CASA (caramel, apple, spiced ale) brew from Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery. By 9 PM, most of Casa’s baby boomer-age fans headed home, making room for the younger generation to dance away the rest of the night.

It’s easy to love Casa’s seasonal menus, comfortable bar, and quirky staff, but its spirit is truly inspiring. In a world gone mad and bland, Casa’s spicy insistence on supporting local farmers and food producers, treating its workers well, and building community, shine. Here’s to another 25 years and more!

Read Full Post »

Like an eight course meal (local, of course) 30 Mile Meal Week (September 17-25) was packed with tasty offerings – something for everyone to enjoy! True, our week had more than seven days, but that’s how much time we needed to showcase the depth and breadth of our local food-ness. Here’s a look back.

 

Power to the Pawpaw!

 

Held on the shore of tranquil Lake Snowden in Albany, Ohio , the 12th Ohio Pawpaw Festival gave us a celebratory three day start to the week. The Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) was declared the state’s official native fruit in 2009, thanks largely to the efforts of Chris Chmiel and Michelle Gorman, owners of Integration Acres. The festival draws thousands from near and far and features all things Pawpaw – music, food, contests, art, history, sustainable living and other workshops, and activities for kids. Vendors abounded, many of them offering appropriately themed concoctions – everything from Pawpaw beer (Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery) to Pawpaw ice cream (Snowville Creamery).

 

The crowd lines up at Crumbs Bakery's stall

 

The Athens Farmers Market is more than 35 years old, the largest Farmers Market in the state, and a much loved part of Athens’ food and social scene. The market is open from 10 AM to 1 PM year round on Saturdays, and on Wednesdays, from April to December. Many of the Market’s farmers are 30 MM partners and provide an amazing array of fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, baked goods, condiments, plants and flowers, herbs, and much, much more! Three market dates fell within our30MM Week. On Saturdays, you’ll find music, demonstrations, and the Market Cafe, a great place to catch up with friends while enjoying local fare! And some Saturdays, there are Junior Chefs workshops for kids.

 

Making spring rolls

 

 

auction abundance

 

Another reoccurring event during the week (Monday and Thursday) was the Chesterhill Produce Auction. This seasonal market offers produce, often in large quantities, to a range of buyers. Produce is usually brought in on horse drawn buggies and laid out on pallets for customer inspection. The auction is fast-paced and exciting and draws many who enjoy the atmosphere and sense of community while purchasing the high quality farm products.

 

An Athens Favorite

 

The week was full of ‘local eating’ opportunities, as the some partners featured menu items incorporating local foods throughout the week: Catalyst Cafe, Della Zona, The Village Bakery, Casa Nueva, and Busy Day Market. During our Friday 30 Mile Meal Day in Nelsonville, Rhapsody and Fullbrooks Cafe offered locally sourced fare. Heaven’s Oven participated on Saturday during the 30 Mile Meal Day at Eclipse Town in The Plains.

 

Fran preparing a 30 Mile Meal

 

There were two opportunities to learn about how to make delicious food with local ingredients. Community Food Initiatives sponsored a homemade sour cream and cheese cheese workshop, led by Liz Florentino, the Village Bakery’s dairy expert. At the Grover Center Atrium Cafe (and sponsored by Wellworks), Fran McFadden and his team from the Ohio University School of Applied Health Sciences and Wellness presented a hands-on local food cooking class and meal.

 

the farmers keep the harvest coming

 

On Wednesday, September 22nd, the Athens Farmers Market pulsated with the oranges and yellows of fall, pumpkins and squashes among the bounty offered by over 25 vendors. Over at the 30 Mile Meal tents, the crowd gathered for our public event. Leslie Schaller, representing ACEnet welcomed the crowd and introduced Jack Cantrell, Athens Farmers Market president and co-owner of Cantrell Honey and Candles.

 

Frances Strickland, Leslie Schaller and Paul Wiehl

 

Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl delivered a proclamation declaring 30 Mile Meal Week and then introduced Frances Strickland. The First Lady, a long time supporter of local foods and Ohio agriculture, spoke about the importance of this project as a model for other parts of the state. She was delighted to receive a huge canvas bag of local foods. You can watch a brief clip of Strickland’s comments here.

 

Sarah Slater

 

 

Christine Hughes

 

Other speakers included local business owners, Christine Hughes, co-owner of The Village Bakery, Della Zona and Catalyst Cafe and Sarah Slater, a Casa Nueva worker-owner.

 

Angie Starline

 

 

Chris Chmiel

 

Two farmers shared their support for the project: Angie Starline, co-owner of Starline Organics and Chris Chmiel, co-owner of Integration Acres. Paige Alost from the Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau concluded the program.

Nelsonville's Public Square

On Friday, 30 MM activities were evident in two towns – Trimble’s Township Farmers Market took place and in Nelsonville, several shops on the Public Square offered local foods tastings during their final Fridays festivities.

 

Eclipse Company Store

 

The week concluded with Saturday’s Local Foods Dinner at the Eclipse Company Store, drawing 130 people to enjoy chef David Lopez’s fabulous meal and live music.

A big thanks to all who made the week so much fun and to those that joined us for the launch of this exciting initiative!

Read Full Post »