July 2009 Issue
The Taste of Summer
Five of Ohio’s favorite food writers dish on the best summer foods in their area.
By Debbi Snook, as told to Jenny Pavlasek
Crunchy outside, sweet and pearly white inside, fried yellow perch from Lake Erie captures the taste of summer in northern Ohio.
You can catch it yourself here, even without owning a boat. Just step aboard the Linda Mae charter out of Wildwood State Park on the east side of Cleveland (16975 Wildwood Dr., off E. 174th St. and Lakeshore Blvd., 216/481-5771, www.wildwoodmarina.com). The Linda Mae folks will sell you a pass for four or six hours of cruising, along with a one-day fishing license. They can rent you equipment and show you how to use it. Best of all, when you catch something, you can pay them to clean it.
This might cost a bit more per pound than what you’d pay in a store or restaurant, but eating fresh perch is not just about loving the taste of it. It’s also about loving the lake.
I eat it and think of a time when the lake was considered dead. I eat it and think of how we cleaned things up somewhat and the perch came back. I eat it and remember dipping a line with multiple hooks into the water and magically pulling up more than one fish at a time.
You can get the frozen version all year. But April through October is when perch practically volunteer to be eaten. This native food is not pollution free; one meal a week is the recommended limit. Still, it’s easy to succumb to the taste of it — something like lip-smacking hope.
Debbi Snook writes about food, regional travel and other topics forThe Plain Dealer in Cleveland and www.cleveland.com.
By Gary Seman Jr.
I’m on my patio with a warm sun on my shoulder, a soft breeze sifting through the pines and a crunchy Mediterranean salad in front of me.
Must be summer in Ohio.
As a native of the Buckeye State, the soil here has shaped my palate in three distinct phases.
As a Cleveland native, some of my earliest childhood food memories are of strolling through the West Side Market, watching immigrants (some in my own family) pick through bushels of fresh produce.
Later, when I was a cook at La Scala restaurant in Dublin, we’d use fresh basil, tomatoes, red peppers and various other items grown in a garden out back.
Now, as a restaurant reviewer for nearly 10 years, I’ve been impressed by the number of local chefs who prize Ohio’s bounty, on proud display each summer.
In Columbus, Alana Shock of Alana’s Food + Wine is a wiz with heirloom tomatoes. Tom Smith of the Worthington Inn has a penchant for corn and asparagus (and is known to forage for morels each spring in Ohio). Magdiale Wolmark of Dragonfly, a vegan restaurant, takes it to a higher level, raising his own heirloom vegetables in his own jardin potager, or kitchen garden.
So if you feel sol kissing your shoulder and a zephyr whistling through your hair, go hack up a bunch of vegetables or grab a seat at your favorite restaurant that’s locally sourcing its ingredients.
Summer’s back in Ohio – and it’s beautiful.
Gary Seman Jr. is the restaurant reporter for ThisWeek Community Newspapers in Columbus. Check out his work at www. thisweeknews.com/foodandwine.
By Kathie Smith
Some people don’t know what a real raspberry tastes like or how juicy and sweet a peach can be or the sweet, acidic flavor of a ripe tomato with juice dripping down your chin.
Here in northwest Ohio we do.
I’m as amazed today as I was 10 years ago when I first came to Toledo as The
Blade’s food editor at the bounty of the summer, with orchards, farmers markets and roadside farm stands.
Summer for me is the fresh big, plump red raspberries that I can grow, picking them a handful at a time. Late in June and then in mid-to late August, I visit Ackerman’s Berry Farm stalls at the Perrysburg Farmers Market and the Toledo Farmers Market.
I don’t freeze these berries or cook them, although some folks make jam or jelly. I have to eat these sweetest of berries on cereal or in a little bowl — sometimes with a little sugar and milk.
Peach season begins in early August. I’m a regular customer at MacQueen’s Orchards in Holland. I start with the Red Haven peaches, followed by the Flaming Fury peaches, ticking the weeks off as each variety ripens, Harmony and then Red Kist and then on to September with Red Skin. I make peach shortcake and freeze sliced peaches, but mostly I make peach pies. Sometimes I freeze a pie or two unbaked, ready to bake at a moment’s notice.
The list goes on. There are no tomatoes any better than the locally grown tomatoes. I’ve discovered the tenderness of mini zucchini and summer squash. Mid-August, I visit a roadside stand where I buy a bag of nine or 10 green peppers for less than $5; they’re a perfect size for freezing to use later for stuffed green peppers on a cool fall evening.
It’s my way to make the flavors of summer linger.
Kathie Smith is the food editor for
The Blade in Toledo, www.toledoblade.com.
By Chef Jimmy Gherardi, as told to Jenny Pavlasek
I’m a lunch lady. I work for The Seven Hills School in Cincinnati as the chef in residence. We have a fabulous farmers market in the area in Hyde Park — I love to go to [there]. So during the summer, that’s exactly what I do: I go to the farmer’s market and I cook at home. For me, it’s the best way to enjoy the season.
Much more than a “lunch lady,” Chef Jimmy Gherardi has won countless culinary awards, including a recent nod from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine for his foodservice program at The Seven Hills School, which was named one of the top four in the U.S. He is a Certified Master Chef and is the culinary editor for Taste Magazine Cincinnati.
We refuse to leave town.
No, really. Combine Dayton’s thriving food and dining scene with its wealth of irresistible summertime activities, and you’ll discover why Daytonians have to be kidnapped to leave their perfect-sized town every summer. See those gouge marks along I-75 and I-70? Those aren’t from automobile tailpipes. They’re from Day-tonians’ fingernails as their relatives had to drag them away.
Before squeezing into downtown Dayton’s Fifth Third Field to catch a home game of the Dayton Dragons — the Cincinnati Reds-affiliated minor league baseball team that has sold out every home game in its nine-year existence — dine at Jay’s Restaurant (225 E. Sixth St., 937/222-2892,www.jays.com) in the nearby Oregon Historic District, where fresh seafood pairs with the best restaurant wine list in the city. Or put a base down for stadium beer at the ultra-casual Taqueria Mixteca (1609 E. Third St., 937/258-2654), which has Ohio’s best guacamole and was recently voted Dayton’s best Mexican restaurant.
Experiencing winemaking “at the source” is one of the few summer
activities for which Daytonians will leave town willingly. Ohio’s newest winery, Brandeberry Winery (5118 W. Jackson Road, Enon, 937/767-9103,www. brandeberrywinery.com), just opened in June under the meticulous direction of Jim Brandeberry, the retired dean of Wright State University’s College of Engineering (try the Windy Ike and ask how it got its name).
Southeast of Dayton, near Morrow in Warren County, lies Valley Vineyards (2276 E. U.S. 22 & 3 [Montgomery Road], 513/899-2485,www.valley vineyards. com), which offers a full lineup of estate-grown wines including a dessert-in-a-glass Vidal Blanc Ice Wine, as well as steak cookouts on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Head farther south into the Ripley area to check out the Meranda-Nixon Winery (6517 Laycock Rd., Ripley, 937/392-4654, www.meranda-nixonwinery.com
) and its gorgeous off-dry 2008 Traminette. Don’t dare leave town without a visit to Kinkead Ridge Vineyard and Winery (904 Hamburg St., Ripley, 937/392-6077, www.kinkeadridge.com
), where the team of Ron Barrett and Nancy Bentley are making some of Ohio’s finest wines from vinifera grapes, including a delicious 2008 Viognier-Roussanne blend.
You’ll notice on your return trip that the roads between Dayton and Ripley are the only ones without those gouge marks.
Dayton native Mark Fisher is the food and dining reporter for the Dayton Daily News, where he writes about wine at www.daytondailynews.com/go/uncorked and about the local dining scene at www.daytondailynews.com/go/taste.