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Posts Tagged ‘eat local foods’

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.

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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!

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This afternoon, Jenna, Emily and I walked up Athen’s West Washington Street to Restaurant Salaam – our 30 Mile Meal lunch destination. Once inside, the day’s hellish humidity gave way to cool air wafting about a room a riot of vibrant colors. We were hungry and ready for a lunch showcasing local ingredients.

Once we opened the menu, we discovered two 30 Mile Meal specials…

Menu

Black Turtle Bean Dal made with beans from Shagbark Seed & Mill Co. and vegetables from Shade River Farm and the Chesterhill Produce Auction. Wild raspberry iced tea.

Mediterranean Spelt Salad, a lovely cold dish of spelt berries from Seed & Mill Co., goat cheese from Integration Acres, spinach and microgreens from Green Edge Organic Gardens, fresh herbs from Salaam’s rooftop garden, and summer squash and other seasonal vegetables from Shade River Organic Farm and the Chesterhill Produce Auction.

We also ordered soup and salad from the usual menu…

Gazpacho with an orange, greens and nut salad - with some locally sourced ingredients

Later this week, Salaam will be offering another 30 MM special: Rustic Tomato Stew, a lovely Tuscan-style dish, packed with flavor from local tomatoes from Chesterhill Produce Auction , their own roof-grown basil, and croutons of house made bread. You can learn more here.

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Our mission today at the Athens County Convention & Visitors Bureau: Go forth and eat a 30 Mile Meal Lunch.

O'Betty's chef Ryan Stolz and owner Bob Satmary

Jenna Dill headed for O’Betty’s Red Hot! on West State Street here in Athens. Given the narrow facade of the building, you’d never guess just how much is inside. Like, um, a museum. According to their website, “O’Betty’s may not have the only Hotdog Museum in the World but we certainly have one of the LARGEST, VARIED, and MOST ENTERTAINING – and still growing! You will be amazed by the countless objects devoted to America’s favorite food – the wiener!” We agree!

The King Kong

Back to Jenna’s quest for lunch. Her choice?  The King Kong, featuring a chicken bratwurst from King Family Farm, basil pesto and tomatoes from Green Edge Gardens, Chase Cheddar from Integrations Acres, roasted garlic from Starline Organics, and a whole wheat bun from Fluff Bakery! Jenna says, “It was very tasty!” and notes that Chef Ryan has other 30 Mile Meal dogs barking in the kitchen. One features our state’s native fruit, the pawpaw, and another, locally made sauerkraut. You can learn more about their menu for 30 Mile Meal Week here.  Tasty Dogs + Museum = Cultural Bliss.

Lunch Time

Emily Maluski also headed Uptown for lunch, choosing Fluff Bakery on Court Street. This very sweet eatery is owned by Jessica and Jason Kopelwitz. Both received their Ohio U degrees in 1999 – Jess in business administration and Jason, in chemistry. They moved to Columbus where Jess went to cooking school and, ultimately, became general manager of Lucky’s Cafe. But family ties drew them back to Athens.  They moved in with Jess’s sister, Angie, and her husband Matt, who farm and operate Starline Organics.  When a retail space opened up on Court Street last summer, Jess and Jason jumped. Five exhausting weeks later, Fluff was born as both a bakery and catering business.

BLT - Fluff Style

Emily ordered the Fluff BLT and reports, “This filling sandwich features house-made garlic rosemary foccacia topped with peppercorn mayo, Shade River Organic Farm tomatoes, Starline Organics greens, and King Family Farm bacon. The bacon was thick and crisp and paired wonderfully with the fresh greens and perfectly ripe, red tomatoes. Combined with the flavors of the mayo and the always delicious Fluff foccacia, these local ingredients made for one tasty lunch!”

Village Bakery & Cafe

I headed to The Village Bakery, here on East State Street. Owners Christine Hughes and Bob O’Neil also operate three other local foods related businesses: the Undercover Market inside the bakery building; Della Zona, in the building next door and where they recently added a wood-fired oven; and the Catalyst Cafe on W. Union Street. Bob and Christine were early supporters of the local farm and food community and continue to do so.

I’m pretty much a regular, but there’s always something new to try. Despite today’s heat (approaching 100 degrees), a bowl of the Spicy Peanut Soup sounded good. And it was! ( Sadly, I didn’t bring my camera.) Shade River Organics and Green Edge Organic Gardens supplied the vegetables: onion, sweet potato, mushrooms, cabbage, potato, tomatoes and bright yellow summer squash. I liked the satisfying balance of the smooth tomato broth (enhanced by miso and peanut butter) and the tender chunks of vegetables. Accompanied by two slices of the bakery’s whole wheat sourdough bread, it made for a very satisfying lunch.

30 Mile Meal Lunch Mission Accomplished! Tomorrow is another day…

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For the past few months I’ve talked with a lot of restaurant owners about their menus for 30 Mile Meal Restaurant Week (30MMRW). Today I got to start eating! I headed down East State Street to the Market on State mall, bound for Kiser’s BBQ Shack.

Sean and the sign

 

Before I even got inside, I could see that owner Sean Kiser was actively marketing his participation in 30MMRW. Each of his sources for local ingredients got their own shout out…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now it was time for lunch. I ordered the 1/4 pounder BBQ’d pork  (King Family Farm) with the sweet and hot sauce (Cantrell Honey and Patterson peppers), cole  slaw, and a Mint Green (Herbal Sage Tea Co.) iced tea. Yum! The pork was incredibly tender and juicy, the sauce a perfect blend of heat and sweet, and the slaw well seasoned and crunchy. The tea was wonderfully refreshing on a day verging on 100 degrees.

Sean came by with one more thing for me to try – mac and cheese. Whoa – excellent execution of a favorite comfort food – this one made with Snowville Creamery milk.

Sean is an Ohio University grad. Originally from Chicago, with  experience in the restaurant trade, and a family supportive of his desire to fill the BBQ niche in Athens, he started Kiser’s in the spring of 2009.  His father helped create their recipes.

Today the place has a substantial and affordable menu, and has lots of regular customers. The service is really fast – great if you are in a hurry to get back to work or too hungry to wait. Kiser’s is also a business with a conscious – all of their food containers and silverware are biodegradable and any tossed food is composted. Sean says he’s “loco4local,” whether it’s 30 Mile Meal Restaurant Week or not. Sounds good to us!

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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!

 

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The ARTS/West building, formerly a church, seemed an appropriate venue for Monday night’s talk by Warren Taylor, Meigs County dairy evangelist and co-owner of Snowville Creamery. The pews were packed with the faithful, both young and old (later referred to by Warren as the AARP contingent or Athens Area Radical Progressives).

colorful posters

Just inside the doors on the right were cookies and, yes, samples of Snowville’s ‘the way it used be’ milk. On the left was a donation jar for the Art Gish Peacemaking Fund (more about that below). Anyone donating could take posters, Snowville T-shirts, and other paraphernalia.

Will Perkins

The evening began with some rousing folk songs and fiddling by Will Perkins, with The Answer My Friend is Blowing in the Wind setting the stage for the evening’s topic, Food Sovereignty vs. Corporatism: The Battle for Personal Choice and Freedom in the New Millennium.

Angie Starline

Angie Starline, co-owner of Starline Organics welcomed everyone on behalf of the evening’s sponsor, the Ohio Ecological Farm & Food Association, and then introduced Warren and Victoria Taylor. Warren asked Peggy Gish to say a few words.

Peggy Gish

Peggy’s husband, Art, was known locally and internationally for his work as an activist. He died this summer in a tractor accident at his Athens County farm. He devoted much of his life to peace and social justice issues, as has Peggy. She told the crowd that the Art Gish Peacemaking Fund will provide small grants to youth or adults who want to develop new peacemaking projects or who want to take the first steps in getting involved in work to foster peace and justice. She noted that they are focusing on groups and individuals in Athens County, Ohio, with limited access to other sources of funding. Donations will support this work.

Warren

Warren began his talk (or walk since he never once stood behind the podium, preferring to pace the stage as he spoke) by describing his recent trip as one of ten delegates from Ohio participating in the 4th gathering of Terra Madre (Mother Earth) in Turin, Italy. The five-day meeting brought together food communities, cooks, academics, youth and musicians from all over the world, who share a desire to promote sustainable local food production in harmony with the environment while respecting knowledge handed down over the generations. Here are some clips from the conference.

Citing a NY Times article on USDA support for Domino's Pizza chain

Warren described the sorry state of the dairy industry and government regulations that favor large producers. He led the crowd through the labyrinth of the Federal Milk Market Order System (FMMOS) and its actions that penalize the smallest dairy processors. Did you know that one half of the milk produced in the U.S. comes from 3% of the country’s dairy (mega) farms? That dairy farmers have no control over what they are paid for their milk? Last year America’s milk makers were paid as little as $12 per 100 pounds of milk while their cost of production was $17 a pound. This meant they had to borrow and take on new debt, with their collective debt greater than the worth of all the dairy cows in the U.S. At the same time, Dean Foods, which processes, packages and sells nearly 40% of America’s drinking milk, made their greatest profits ever. Warren asked is this capitalism or corporatism?

Answering questions

And what about the issues that aren’t even on the table yet? Like requiring that dairy workers at least receive the minimum wage or the need for “honest and informative” labeling?

How fortunate we are here in southeast Ohio to have the Taylors’ Snowville Creamery. Milk you can feel good about – good for the cows, the land, the workers, and the taste buds!

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