Tomato, tomahto — however you say it, most people agree that the best ones are found in-season. On a recent trip to Columbus
, I had the privilege of tasting multiple tomato dishes made from locally grown (and often organic) tomatoes. And although tomato season is coming to an end in northeast Ohio, the places I visited are known for consistently using the freshest in-season ingredients, and I look forward to visiting again when I can sample apple desserts in the fall and maybe some stews made out of root vegetables in the winter.
Upon arriving, I tasted the best gazpacho I have ever had, made by chef David MacLennan at Latitude 41
. This cold, creamy soup couldn't possibly be duplicated in cooler months because its bright flavor was a result of the seasonality of his ingredients.
Following that, I toured the 11-acre Black Creek Heritage Farm just outside the city, where owner Kent Peters grows much of the food served at his restaurant, Black Creek Bistro
. The tomato salad came with a colorful array of heirloom varieties, all plump and delicious, as was the chicken from Gerber Poultry in Kidron. In fact, nearly everything on Peters’ menu comes from Ohio, and his passion for sustainable practices don’t stop there — he recycles the kitchen oil from his restaurant to use in his farm’s tractors, composts scraps from the restaurant, and uses cardboard boxes combined with mulch to suppress weeds and build new soil.
During dinner, I sat across from Steve and Gretel Adams, owners of nearby Sunny Meadows Flower Farm
, who — contrary to their name — also grow fruit and vegetables and raise chickens and ducks using organic practices. The couple, both in their 20s, didn’t grow up farming but now strive to live off the land as much as possible. Gretel cans and preserves a lot of what they grow and, in the winter, they chop their own wood for heat. They also supply area restaurants and participate in a CSA (community-supported agriculture).
Another place to get great local food in Columbus is the North Market
, where stand after stand of fresh produce, meats, cheeses and specialty foods await. Alana Shock, owner of Alana’s Food and Wine
on High Street, gave us a tour and talked about the food she was picking for that evening’s menu and why. Later, we enjoyed her selections, including an award-winning tomato salad.
Although the work done by these local farmers and restaurateurs seems difficult, for them, there’s no other way. As Gretel says, “We try to work smart, not hard. It’s easy to work if it’s a labor of love.”