I’ve been pushing a shopping cart across Northeast Ohio, metaphorically speaking. The challenge? Find good things to eat that are made right here. I came across some great products off the shelf, out of the kitchen and straight from the field. These are discoveries so fabulous I can’t keep them to myself, although the thought did cross my mind. But it’s nice to share, so here are a few delicious bites that make up the big tastes of our town.
Sinfully Good Apples
If Eve would have scored one of Culinaire Pavane’s Almond Toffee Butter Crunch ColossApples in the Garden of Eden, you can bet it would have taken the sting out of original sin. Lauren Hartigan, chef-owner and culinary artiste of this gourmet catering service and confectionery, begins with succulent, tart Ohio-grown apples and dips them into her signature rum-butter caramel followed by a thick, crunchy layer of roasted and salted almonds and butter toffee crunch, Then, in the most socially acceptable double dip ever, each one gets a plunge into a milk chocolate bath and is finished with stripes of dark and white chocolates. One apple might be enough for the average Adam and Eve to share or it might be the best two pounds of immoderation you’ll ever experience.
ColossApples ($12.50 for the 2-pound original and $6.50 for the 1 1/4-pound junior) also come in Cashew Crunch, Decadent Chocolate Fudge, Peanut Butter Supreme and the newest variety just in time for the holidays, CranApple Pie — a caramel-dipped apple rolled in dried cranberries and a cinnamon crunch, finished with a white or dark chocolate coating and dusting of cinnamon streusel.
You can find ColossApples at Culinaire Pavane’s showroom, through its Web site and at Patterson Fruit Farms. Culinaire Pavane, 38342 Western Parkway, Suite 7, Willoughby, (440) 942-1180, www.culinaire-pavane.com
For those who prefer their apples in stemware rather than perched on a stick, check out the new Quarry Hill Winery and the first release of its Apple Wine. But before you turn up your educated nose and get all snobby about it, let me assure you this is not your grandpa’s fruit wine left to ferment all winter in a jar on his back porch. This off-dry to sweet wine is crisp and fresh with a long apple finish (as you might suspect). Highly aromatic, you may detect the soft perfume of sun-ripened peaches. Particularly appealing to those who prefer Gewürztraminers and Alsace-style Rieslings, it sells for less than $10 and pairs perfectly with German and Czech cuisine, especially sausage and sauerkraut. Co-owner and winemaker Mac McLelland puts a lot of award-winning experience behind this first release. As a former winemaker with John Christ Winery in Avon Lake, McLelland won a gold, 11 silver and four bronze medals in the 2005 Ohio Wine Competition. Quarry Hill Winery also features a tasting bar and retail area with more of Quarry Hill’s traditional red, white and fruit wines. Quarry Hill Orchards & Winery, 8403 Mason Road, Berlin Heights, (419) 588-2858, email@example.com
The cattle at Snake Hill Farm are people-friendly. They don’t even have horns. And they make a fine steak, too. These are among the many reasons Louis and Savery Rorimer, part-time farmers and land conservationists, have been raising grass-fed beef on their small farm in Bainbridge Township since 1997.
The Scottish heritage Belted Galloway breed is known for its hearty constitution and double wool coat, perfectly suited for our lake-effect winters. Louis considers them an efficient animal, putting on more weight per blade of grass than larger animals. But its rich, pronounced beefy taste, a taste that might not be in your flavor bank if you’re used to mass-market beef, makes them such good eating.
The Rorimers’ cattle roam and graze organic pastures for at least two years. They’re also fed hay, spelt and grasses, but no growth hormones. What ends up on your plate is a lean, healthy product with just a hint of marbling and virtually no waste.
Prices run from approximately $5 a pound for ground hamburger up to $21 per pound for the prized tenderloin. Snake Hill’s beef products are available at the North Union Farmer’s Market in Shaker Square. Snake Hill Farm, 17900 S. Park Blvd., Shaker Heights,(216) 295-1105, firstname.lastname@example.org
From Cop to Cook
Funny, but when Carmella Fragassi worked as an undercover narcotics agent in Lorain County, her perps never bothered to thank her for making the streets safer. When she traded felons for foodies 14 years ago and opened La Campagna, a snug and lively 24-seat, family-run bistro and catering service in Westlake, “people finally started thanking me for what I was doing for them.”
Heirloom pastries and cookies from family recipes keep the compact but efficient kitchen humming. But the orange hazelnut vinaigrette, full of fresh citrus flavor with a nutty texture, earns Fragassi the praise she’s waited patiently for.
At its advent, the vinaigrette was nothing more than a last-minute addition to a catering gig. The reviews were rave and customers demanded more. So the concoction became a recipe to hold close. The balanced blend of juices, toasted hazelnuts, flavorful pomace olive oil, garlic, onion and honey is squeezed, blended and bottled in the restaurant kitchen ($7.99 for a 12-ounce bottle). It’s only available at the restaurant, although it has been shipped to aficionados from California to Virginia. Fresh and versatile, it’s a great complement to seafood salad, chicken, duck and quail, as well as to the talents of Carmella Fragassi. La Campagna, 27337 Detroit Road, Westlake, (440) 871-1771