April 3, 2014 -
We had the good fortune of traveling to both coasts in March – Northern California and Southern North Carolina. While we try to get away on short trips often, this was a 2-week “working vacation” with the specific purpose of gaining new perspectives on taste of place across fresh culinary cultures.
Here are some inspiring ideas we found in California that may find their way into some Spice venture somewhere, sometime…
Food is All Around Us. For a refreshing splash in our vodka tonics, our Pacific Grove hostess walked two houses down to grab a half dozen Meyer lemons from her neighbor’s tree. And every day, Ben couldn’t resist a little foraging on land and water. This makes local sourcing a breeze…and a given.
Farmers’ Markets are Well Stocked & Well Merchandised. Prepared and coordinated foods were a constant, making it easy to spend, spend, spend on dried fruits, pickled peppers, and foraged harvest baskets.
Good Bread is Everywhere. And also bakery.
Great Wine is All About Relationships. For us, it’s always been essential to know the people we’re doing business with. The wine producers we talked to told us about their own long-standing relationships with growers. There’s a lot of pride in the heritage of those connections, rooted in community.
Indoor + Outdoor Landscapes are Intertwined. Rooms transition seamlessly to outdoor gardens, patios and bars. And the landscaping is often built into the architecture.
Here are our top picks from our all-too-short two weeks of dining along the coast.
Special thanks to the following fine folks who supplied the many resources we needed to take this time away!
- Our oh-so-generous airfare sponsors
- Our host families, Brad & Jessica Bebenroth and John & Emily Haselbauer
- Dave our bar man and Diane from Euro for connecting with Bill Myers at White Oak Vineyards & Winery, who hooked us up with Haydon Street Inn
- Mr. Ryan Bennett for helping around the homestead
- The entire Spice staff for holding down the fort with class and panache
Posted in: Spice Acres, Spice Kitchen+Bar, Spice of Life Catering Co.
Tags: Chef Ben Bebenroth, Chef Travels
March 13, 2014 -
To us, a table is a stage. Once the stage is set and the curtain rises, the fun begins. Conversation is piqued with the first course. Meaningful dialogue flows heavy with wine. Laughter becomes louder and candles burn brighter. These entertaining evenings can happen anywhere. But they’re made even more magical when the setting is in the middle of a farm field at one of our Plated Landscapes events.
The 2014 calendar will be announced to our mailing list on the first day of Spring – March 20th! Sign up for advance notice and guarantee your spot at one (or more!) of these fine dining productions:
Posted in: Spice of Life Catering Co.
Tags: Plated Landscapes
February 10, 2014 -
Eating fresh, local food is simply a matter of good taste. Whether it’s below freezing outside or the hottest day of the year, one is not hard pressed to find fresh, sustainable produce in Northeast Ohio. And don’t forget the bounty of local famers with quality meat, eggs and cheese, all of which can be found year round at the Countryside Conservancy (CC) Farmers’ Winter Market, which is celebrating it’s 10th anniversary this April!
CC’s own, Beth Knorr, is one of our go-to gals when it comes to accessing the best food our region has to offer. Here, she walks us through grocery shopping the Countryside Winter Farmers’ Market.
Q: When shopping the farmers markets in the winter season, what types of produce should we look for?
Beth: Many of the produce vendors who attend during the winters have planted an abundance of things that they can carry over through the winter and store easily, so you’ll find potatoes and sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, a lot of your root crops like garlic and onions. Also, many of our produce growers are extending their season with high tunnels so they can bring things like fresh greens – spinach, arugula, lettuces even kale and swiss chards and collards, which can hold up fairly well outdoors.
Hearty greens and root crops are things to look for in terms of produce at the winter market. One of the things I love to see at the winter market is the beauty heart radish, which is creamy white and tinged with green on the outer skin and pink on the inside. It’s vibrant and delicious and gorgeous. These are a bit sweeter than radishes in the summer, which can be very hot.
Q: Beyond produce, what are some specialty items the market offers during the cold months?
Beth: Meat and cheese are always in season, and since we tend to gravitate toward heartier fare in the winter months, I like to highlight those things too. We have some really fabulous cheese producers, like Lake Erie Creamery, Mackenzie Creamery, Yellow House Cheese and Ohio Farm Direct who participate. Just a little bit of these cheeses goes a long way and are very satisfying in the winter. And, of course, we have bread, pastries, jams and those kinds of things.
Q: Do you have any recommendations to tailor our weekly menus around the harvests?
Beth: My general philosophy for menu planning through all seasons is to try to come to the market with an idea about what kind of dishes you want to make. Maybe you’re hungry for a stew or you’d really like to have a frittata this week. So come to the market with broad ideas of what you want to make and then shop with that in mind.
Your stew could go any number of ways, you could have chicken and dumplings or some kind of a hearty beef and lamb stew. With a frittata, you could toss in some greens with the eggs, and maybe a little cheese. I like to go in with a general idea and then just see what looks good that particular week.
Q: What tips can you give the budget-conscious who want to eat locally?
Beth: I will say that if you’re cooking at home that is the best step you can make for being budget-conscious. It is far less expensive to cook at home than it is to go out to eat. I always try to plan for leftovers so that I don’t have to go out to eat for lunch either. One of the things to keep in mind is if you buy a larger cut of meat that requires a lot of slow cooking, those are typically less expensive types of meat and they go a long way, so you can have braise one day and then maybe turn the leftovers into tacos the next night.
We have fresh pasta at the market and that’s always economical, but you can really punch it up by buying high quality things. Yellow House Cheese has a fabulous blue cheese. You don’t need that much, and it brings the dish up a notch. You can really stretch those ingredients, and they’re not going to go bad super fast. Look for those things that are easily transferrable to leftovers or transformable into different dishes, that really pack a powerful punch in terms of flavor. Eggs are a wonderful food. Even if they’re four or five dollars a dozen, they’re still a really inexpensive form of protein. You can toss all kinds of greens and cauliflower and broccoli and make a fabulous, filling meal.
I do try to come up with a meal plan. I usually only plan four or five meals a week knowing that we’ll have leftovers and transform those into a different dish. Having a meal plan definitely helps to reign in the spending, too.
Q: Many people may not be aware that the farmers markets are open year round. What’s the average attendance like this time of year?
Beth: Our summertime market attendance is usually around 1,200 or so per week. We’re averaging about 700 shoppers a week in the winter. The vast majority of people who come in the winter are regular market shoppers. They come to the market to grocery shop, and then they fill in elsewhere if they need to.
Q: How does the vendor list compare to the summer? / Do vendors vary by the season?
Beth: In the summer, we have the weeknight market in Akron and then we have our Saturday market at Howe Meadow. Our winter market is open to both summer market vendors, so anybody who is already a vendor can participate. Typically we have a good showing of produce vendors up until the end of December. We have a handful of produce growers who are really interested in season extension and they do a bang up job of bringing tables full of produce.
This year one of our growers is working with a kitchen to do some freezing of his seasonal produce, so he’s been bringing frozen peppers, broccoli and cauliflower. He’s extending his season by doing the work of freezing it for you. He wants his table in February to look just like it does in August, so that makes the market nice and colorful during the winter.
Q: What are the market hours?
Beth: Our market hours are from 10-1. It’s located at Old Trail School in Bath, which is right in the backyard of Howe Meadow, our summer market home. We have two markets a month from February through April. On April 5th, we’re having a special birthday market to celebrate our 10th Anniversary in Downtown Akron at the Akron Art Museum and the Akron Main Library. We’ll have some additional activities including a lecture in the afternoon, some kids’ activities throughout the day, and cooking demonstrations. It will definitely be the highlight of any market shopper’s year.