Spring is here, and that can only mean one thing — swimsuit season is just around the corner. While I can’t help you find the most flattering suit for your figure, I can suggest food and wine combinations that will flatter your table.
The heavier, heartier flavors and aromas of cold-weather cuisine are out, and lighter, fresher flavors are in. So venture with me into the gardens, farmer’s markets and places off the beaten path to experience the true taste of the locally grown and locally made products that define our town.
A New Look at an Ancient Grain
Spelt has been around for 9,000 years, but it’s just beginning to make a revival in these parts, thanks to Monroe Stutzman. The Amish farmer grows, harvests and grinds the primitive grain on his 180-acre Holmes County organic dairy farm along with wheat, oats and a wonderfully gritty cornmeal.
The mellow, nutty flavor of spelt enhances baked goods; it’s a suitable substitute in recipes for pancakes, muffins, cookies and bread, and a tolerable alternative for many people with wheat allergies. Once grown for livestock feed, spelt caught the eye of health-conscious consumers because it’s higher in protein, complex carbs, iron and fiber than wheat. Stutzman’s grain products are on the shelves at:
• Mustard Seed Markets, 6025 Kruse Drive, Solon,
(440) 519-3663, or 3885 W. Market St., Akron, (330) 666-7333
• Nature’s Bin, 18120 Sloane Ave., Lakewood, (216) 521-4600
• Breadsmith, 18101 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, (216) 529-8443
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A Bird Worth Waiting For
This spring, Tea Hills Poultry Co. brings its new flock of pasture-raised fowl to market. The French shaver redbro, a rustic heritage breed, rules the roost on Doug Raubenolt’s Loudonville farm, noshing on organic food and taking its good old time to reach five-pound market weight — Raubenolt estimates about 16 weeks total, more than twice as long as the industry standard to get a conventional broiler to the same benchmark. Patient epicures will be rewarded with a rich, toned and muscular chicken with fat the color of egg yolk. The meat is slightly darker, the breast is firmer and the taste is similar to pheasant, subtle and exotic. Raubenolt promises good things to those who wait — except the chicken, of course.
The North Union Farmers Market at Shaker Square is Tea Hills’ home base for his poultry, which is sold whole for around $15. You’ll also find the chicken on the menu at Parker’s New American Bistro, Lola Bistro and Lolita, Flying Fig, fire food & drink and Downtown 140. For custom or advance orders or to check availability, call Tea Hills at (419) 368-3831.
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A Glass of Dessert
When the vineyard at Ravenhurst Champagne Cellars in Mount Victory is
attacked by a fungus called borytis cinerea, winemaker Chuck Harris actually gets excited; now he can make Les Corbeaux. The wine is pressed from botrytis-stricken Vignoles grapes. In his totally biased opinion, it’s more than a dessert wine — it is dessert. The fungus, known in France as noble rot, is an essential component of the delightfully devastating recipe: It sucks the water from the grapes, leaving a high concentration of sugars, acids and minerals. The result is a final product that ticks in at almost 34 brix (that’s sweet!).
The luscious fruit flavors run the gamut from fresh peaches to dried apricots with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg. You half expect juice to run down your chin. An ounce and a half will seal the deal on a summer meal, but your guests may not let you get away with skimping on refills.
Ravenhurst Champagne Cellars has bottled Les Corbeaux only three times in the past 10 years. In the meantime, their other wines have earned them plenty of awards in Ohio, California and international wine competitions.
Order the 2004 Les Corbeaux ($24 for 375ml) by calling the winery at (937) 354-5151 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Root Beer Without the Fizz
The closest you can get to fresh flavors is to grow them yourself, even when it comes to soda pop. One of the most pleasant surprises out of your garden this year should be the root beer plant, also known as hoja santa or Mexican pepperleaf. In the ground or in a patio pot, this tropical plant produces spade-shaped, aromatic leaves about 8 inches in diameter. Just-plucked leaves are thin and pliable with a spicy scent reminiscent of anise and cloves. They can serve as a distinct and sweet wrapper for Mexican fare such as steamed meat mixtures, tamales or fish. Dried and crushed, you’ll get a whiff of a soda fountain float and can use it to season fillings or sauces.
Plant in May and the tender perennial can grow up to 5 feet in its first season, supplying leaves in about eight weeks through the first frost.
Expect to pay around $5 for a 3-1/2-inch plant at either Mulberry Creek Herb Farm, 3312 Bogart Road in Huron, (419) 433-6126, or The Village Herb Shop at 17 E. Orange St. in Chagrin Falls, 1-800-836-9120.