Some quick things:
- ICYMI: We’re now offering this list via email. Sign up here.
- NO FRESH BAGUETTES THIS WEEK. We do have extra frozen in stock.
- Paw paws are here!
- Other new & noteworthy arrivals: bok choy, broccoli, Carmen di Toro sweet frying peppers (I’ve been waiting for these!), and an explosion in the variety of baby greens — arugula and lettuce mix return, and are joined by baby kale mix, mesclun mix (the best from Village Acres!), and ruby streaks mustard greens.
- Tomato prices are coming down. Get these in while they’re still around!
Scroll down for the full list of what we’ll have this week!
You know how sometimes you start down some road — figurative or literal — with an identified reason, only to realize later that the real reason is something else entirely?
As I mentioned last week, Dusty and I spent this past “weekend” in Cleveland. We got back this afternoon, a little tired, but very inspired.
As planned, after our arrival on Monday afternoon, we visited Lola for dinner (bone marrow; kale caesar; beef cheek pierogies; tuna nicoise), and on Tuesday morning visited Heinen’s Downtown, the grocery store in a renovated bank building.
The Heinen’s building did not disappoint — it would be gorgeous no matter what it housed — but the store itself seemed otherwise very much like any higher-end grocery, adapted to a slightly smaller space than normal. We enjoyed walking through, seeing what they’d decided to stock in their small space, examining their produce displays, and admiring their ability to sell wine. Though we’ll never be able to have one, we were especially interested in their self-serve wine system, which allows you to purchase wines by the “taste”, half-glass, or full glass. We were there around 10am, so we didn’t partake, though we did make a mental note to perhaps return at a more appropriate drinking hour. We got distracted, though, and never did return, because at our very next stop we stumbled upon what wound up feeling like the true purpose of our visit.
Dusty and I have different traveling philosophies — I like to plan; he doesn’t. He was surprised (in a good way, I think) when we got near Cleveland to hear that I had done very little research about what we be doing other than visiting Lola and Heinen’s, mostly because I hadn’t found any time to do it. So, soon after we arrived, we both started googling. I focused on restaurants, he, apparently, on butcher shops. And in the course of his googling, he found Ohio City Provisions, self-described as “An all-local grocer & butcher”. Obviously we had to check that out.
When we first walked in, around 11:15 on Tuesday morning, I was initially underwhelmed. The storefront contained an open-front cooler half-full of produce, a display fridge with a few cartons of eggs and jugs of milk, and a freezer of dog bones and various cuts of meat. A few shelves around the room contained some canned goods, Ohio maple syrup, and other pantry items. It reminded me a lot of Radish & Rye, but with way less stuff. “Cool,” I thought, “But we’re not going to learn much here.” And that’s when I noticed the curing room, strung with aging salamis and hams, and my attitude started to shift. And then Dusty led the way to the next room over, which housed the butcher shop.
The counter was staffed by a trim, grey, bespectacled gentleman. He greeted us, and then waited on another customer while we took in the offerings. “28-day dry aged” I heard him say to the customer… “all grass-fed” I heard him say… “all from our farm”. He had my attention, as did the porchetta di testa, the mortadella, the sause, the lamb rillette, and a host of other goodies all lined up in the case. We had some hard decisions in front of us.
The bespectacled man — whose name we would later learn was Parker — returned to us. We knew we wanted a quarter pound of mortadella. What could he tell us about the porchetta di testa? Yes, we’d love to taste it! As we tasted, we started chatting. Parker told us he was a retired chef, now working at Ohio City Provisions for fun, and because he loved what they were doing. As a chef, Parker said, he had worked hard to source locally produced products. He talked about some of the chefs and restaurants in Cleveland doing the same. He thought great things about Pennsylvania’s Association for Sustainable Agriculture, and used to attend their conferences regularly. Dusty told him a little about our business. We kept chatting. Parker started cutting samples of anything we hadn’t tasted yet. He flagged down Adam Lambert, one of OCP’s two owners (and the butcher half of the team) to talk to us. We talked about how much we’d love to see someone doing this in Harrisburg, and he told us that he thought the laws in PA made it a lot harder — a good friend of his had a charcuterie restaurant in Pittsburgh and struggled with the regulations. Turns out his friend’s restaurant was the one my sister took us to on Sunday night, where we ate some of the best charcuterie I’ve ever had. Things were starting to come together.
Adam went on his way, and we kept chatting and tasting with Parker, pausing when other customers came in. We moved on to cheeses, not made in-house, but by local creameries using grass-fed milk. We made our selections, and wound up with quite a little pile of paper-wrapped packages full of all kinds of goodies — bologna, mortadella, porchetta di testa, four kinds of sausage, and a slab of sause. And a half-pound of a local cheese, for good measure. Parker gave us a copy of Edible Cleveland, a magazine focused on Cleveland’s food scene. It contained, he said, an article about Ohio City Provisions, for which he (Parker) had been interviewed. “I’m Parker Bosley,” he said, and we all shook hands.
When we got back to our Airbnb with our haul, I opened the magazine. In the second paragraph, it mentions “semi-retired Cleveland chef/legend Parker Bosley”. What?
Turns out Parker wasn’t exaggerating when he said he had worked hard as a chef to source locally produced products. The internet is full of references to him as things like “the godfather of the Cleveland local food scene”. Parker, it seems, changed the face of both eating and farming in the Cleveland area, and though he’s now retired (or at least sort of), the local food movement has taken hold. (Here’s a great article, also from Edible Cleveland, profiling Parker.)
Our plan for Tuesday evening was to hit a few happy hours in hopes of trying as many different restaurants as we could in our limited time. While Dusty had been researching Ohio City Provisions, I’d come up with a list of candidate restaurants. After our conversation with Parker, we made some adjustments, and started at The Flying Fig whose chef, Karen Small, has been doing the local thing for 20 years or so. At The Flying Fig we had a chicken confit flatbread and some delicious cocktails, and were pointed in the direction of The Black Pig for our next stop. At The Black Pig we encountered such a compelling menu and friendly bartender that we stayed longer than we meant to. It turns out that the original chef de cuisine at The Black Pig was OCP’s Adam Lambert. The restaurant still makes most of its charcuterie in-house, and buys in the rest from Ohio City Provisions. Plus, the bartender has family in Dauphin, and on his last trip to the area, he ate at the Millworks! At his suggestion, we got the charcuterie board, which did not disappoint.
We finished the evening with stops at The Plum and Toast, each a recommendation from a bartender at the place before, based on the kind of ingredients the kitchens are sourcing and what they’re doing with them. There were more recommendations, but we ran out of stomach space and sobriety, and it was time to Uber back to our “home” neighborhood (after a quick night-peek at Lake Erie, of course).
Back in Tremont, a block from our Airbnb, we stopped at The Spotted Owl, a cocktail bar with a rotating menu — currently inspired by the life of Cyrus the Great, the Persian emperor. My Flower of Health, a saffron-heavy drink with too many other flavors to list, was one of the most interesting cocktails I’ve ever had; I think Dusty felt similarly about his King of the Four Corners of the Earth.
And then it was time for bed, and an early rise this morning, a quick trip to West Side Market (closed on Tuesdays), and a long drive home. On the way home we talked about what we’d seen, heard, and, of course, eaten.
We ate a lot of meat. Good, clean, humanely raised meat, but a lot of it. It was everywhere we turned, featured prominently on every menu, the centerpiece of nearly every dining experience we had in a way that isn’t often the case for us, and in a way that is different from how meat is presented here. I am not sure how much of this was because we started our little side-journey-turned-real-purpose at a butcher shop, and so were pointed toward more meat and more meat and more meat, but I think it really is something about Cleveland’s culture. A huge percentage of the stands at the West Side Market are butcher shops, some selling distinctive products, but many with just rows upon rows of conventionally raised pork chops and ribeye steaks (I think everything at West Side Market was conventional, rather than grass-fed or organic). Nearly every restaurant we visited was making at least some of their own charcuterie, featured prominently on the menu. At both local groceries we visited (that is, OCP and another little place called The Grocery), produce was showcased less than meat. Reviews for Cleveland classic Slyman’s (which we didn’t visit) talk about the enormous piles of meat on the sandwiches. I think Cleveland likes its meat, and perhaps that is part of what has spurred its thriving local food scene.
Cleveland is a lot bigger than Harrisburg — like, five times the size, comparing metro area to metro area. They also had some pioneers — Parker not the least among them — who were not only doing local before local was cool, but who mentored an entire generation of Cleveland chefs who are now embarking on their own projects. It seems like a snowball, starting with chefs like Parker and Karen Small and Michael Symon (Lola) seeking out and cultivating local ingredients of the highest quality, both serving as the catalysts for the production of high quality local foods, but also creating markets for those foods through their skilled preparation and presentation.
I think we’re getting there here in Harrisburg, though our scene is probably a few years behind. From a consumer perspective, we’re able to get incredibly high quality local produce, dairy, meat, and more. The restaurant scene is growing. What really sets Cleveland’s local food scene apart from Harrisburg’s (when metro size is taken into account anyway) is the cured meat being produced in Cleveland. We have several farmers raising heritage breed animals, and some who are making charcuterie for their CSA and retail customers. As Adam Lambert pointed out, PA laws and regulations makes it hard for those farmers to offer their cured meats on a larger scale, not to mention that farmers already have full-time jobs (OCP’s model is that one business partner is a butcher, the other a farmer). I would love to see someone tackle the cured meat thing and bring to both retail and wholesale markets charcuterie that isn’t just good for local, but is good and local.
In the meantime, if you like local food, or cured meats, or eating in general — check out Cleveland. It’s worth the trip.
P.S. I don’t have it in me to proofread very closely tonight, so sorry if this is rambly or typo-ridden!
- Green Beans
- Bok Choy
- Green Curly Kale
- Lacinato Kale
- Figs (limited quantities)
- Gala Apples (certified organic)
- Ginger Gold Apples (IPM)
- Paw Paws
- Basil (limited quantities)
- Red Onions
- Sweet White Onions
- Sweet Corn
- Mixed Bell Peppers
- Carmen di Toro Sweet Frying Peppers
- Yummy Snack Peppers
- Habanadas (heatless habaneros)
- New Mexico Green Chiles
- Shishito Peppers
- Russian Fingerling Potatoes
- Red Fingerling Potatoes
- Red Gold Potatoes
- Yukon Gold Potatoes
- Sweet Potatoes
- Red Beets
- Gold Beets
- Rainbow Carrots
- Baby Kale
- Lettuce Mix
- Mesclun Mix
- Ruby Streaks Mustard Greens!
- Romaine Lettuce
- Heirloom Tomatoes
- Red Tomatoes
- Sungold Cherry Tomatoes
(fresh Friday & Saturday)
- McGrath’s Original
- Sesame Original
- Whole Wheat Pan Bread
- Prairie Bread
- Nutty Irishman
- Parmesan Olive Herb
- Baguettes (
fresh Saturday only; available frozen only this week)