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.
Posted in: Spice Acres, Spice Kitchen+Bar, Spice of Life Catering Co.
Tags: Farmers' Markets
January 16, 2014 -
Hi, how was your year? Ours was great! Here are some highlights:
1. Accolades a plenty!
We almost fell off our bar stools upon hearing our name for Cleveland’s Best New Restaurant. We’ve also enjoyed a steady stream of positive feedback this year - in house and online. As of this post, we’re happy to report 4 stars on Yelp, 4.5 stars on TripAdvisor, and a 96% rating on Urban Spoon. We take every compliment and complaint to heart. Thank you.
2. Higher Education.
Chef Ben may have graduated top 10 in his accelerated culinary class at Johnson & Wales Charleston, but that’s nothing compared to the rigor and focus required of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program. Next time you see him, ask him what his prime cost percentage is. Go ahead, we dare you.
3. Interactive Classes.
We added a little twist to typical dining events with cocktail and culinary classes for your DIY enjoyment. Thanks to all who supported this experiment in its first year! Sign up for our newsletter to stay in the know about upcoming classes.
4. Growing Up.
…in volume, that is. Spice Acres grew 15% more in 2013 than the previous year. Let’s hear it for four-season growing! We’ve got some serious land expansion plans in the works – stay tuned for details.
5. Strong Partnerships.
Banks don’t like restaurants. That’s why we’re so thankful for the ongoing support and guidance from our generous private investors, who’ve stepped up to the plate to back our crazy ideas, even with questionable short-term gains.
NEW + IMPROVED…
1. New Leadership
Please welcome our new General Manager, Tina Zekhtser! You may have seen her buzzing about this month. Be sure to introduce yourself next time you’re in.
2. Building Ownership
A 6-month struggle to purchase our building has FINALLY come to a close! Look for building renovations to start once winter breaks.
3. Park Stewardship
After taking a short hiatus from catering the annual Conservancy for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park fundraiser, Topography, Spice of Life Catering Co. was just awarded the 2014 contract. This year, we’re switching it up from the usual cliff-side snacks to a fully interactive dining experience.
4. Fresh Partnerships.
We’re always meeting new farmers and we can’t wait to introduce you to their fine work.
5. Culinary craftsmanship.
More menu changes will start to appear as the harvest availability changes. We’ll place special emphasis on spicing things up for our vegetarian and vegan guests in the future.
The Cleveland dining scene is getting more exciting by the minute and we’re so proud to be a part of it. On behalf of our staff, farmers, reps and vendors, cheers to another great year!
Posted in: Spice Acres, Spice Kitchen+Bar, Spice of Life Catering Co.
December 9, 2013 -
For our third annual holiday wish list, we approached those most passionate about the local food scene – our beloved food bloggers. If you have a food enthusiast on your list, take note! When asked, “What local food gift is on your holiday wish list and why?” these professional opinions make for quality gifts in any quantity.
Maria of Maria’s Bits and Pieces
As a self-professed chocoholic, I always put Malley’s chocolates right at the top of my wish list every Christmas. This year’s no exception. And as to not make it hard on anyone who wants to indulge me, I just want to make it perfectly clear that I’d be happy with any of their sweet confections. However, if pressed or tortured or both, I will admit that my absolute favorites are–in no particular order–their Pecan BillyBobs, Chocolate-Covered Pretzels (milk chocolate, please), Bordeaux, and last but certainly not least, Heaven.
Editors note: Maria is also the author of In the Kitchen with Cleveland’s Favorite Chefs, which includes four recipes from our own Chef Ben Bebenroth.
Michelle V. of Cleveland Foodie
It’s going to sound kind of lame because there are so many other options that are way cooler, but I’d love a copy of Cleveland Food Memories. Makes a nice stocking stuffer, don’t you think? It’s just one of those things I’ve never bothered to pick up for myself over the years, but would love as part of my collection. Going to the Silver Grille or Hough Bakery with my grandma as a kid was the best. And I am a sucker for any Cleveland nostalgia from that era — from my parents and grandparents childhood.
Shannon of Discovering Cleveland
This may sound a bit cliché of me, but Great Lakes Christmas Ale (in any quantity) is always on my Christmas list! There’s just something about the tasty brew that screams the holidays to me. And there’s really nothing quite better than sipping a Christmas Ale (or two) during holiday gatherings!
Beth of Cravable Cleveland
A box of chocolates from Lilly’s always makes me happy. Since I adore anything truffle, I’ve been dying to try their Nut-N-Honey chocolate, with black truffle honey and black truffle salt. Sounds appropriately decadent to me!
Katrina of BiteBuff
The holidays in chilly Cleveland are all about indulging in our favorite comfort foods and special treats. Once December hits, I want the Mighty Macaroni Melt from Melt Bar and Grilled. It’s the sandwich of the month only once a year, and its gooey goodness just warms you from the inside out. Some of my favorite foodie gifts that I would love to see under the tree are decadent chocolates from Lilly Handmade Chocolates, a West Side Market gift card, macaroons from Coquette Patisserie, chèvre from Mackenzie Creamery, and tickets to a Dinner in the Dark event.
So…what’s on your wish list this season? In addition to the aforementioned items, don’t forget your Spice gift certificates – available online or in house for both the restaurant and our 2014 Plated Landscape season. New this year – we also have t-shirts and hoodies for those special culinary nonconformists (or Spice fans) on your list.
Editor’s note: Photos found at these fine sources (in order of appearance)…