… stay for the local food
By Lara Donnelly
On any given day in Yellow Springs, a visitor is likely to find surprising art, experimental theatre, unique retail and a vibrant street life. That same visitor will also find, and hopefully partake in, a local food experience of a lofty caliber.
Restaurants, coffee shops, non-profits and individuals across the community have caught the “locavore” train and are eating, serving, and selling locally grown and prepared goods. Some do it as a hobby, while some endeavor to make a living off their local foods. Many of them are succeeding, too.
“I think consumers are beginning to distrust food processing that is so concentrated,” said Mary Kay Smith, co-owner of the Wind’s Café and Bakery (215 Xenia Ave.). Smith also points out the large-scale salmonella outbreaks in the last several years as another reason people are beginning to distrust the meat and produce available at big-box stores.
On a more positive note, she added, “Aside from that issue, the variety of animals and produce available is astounding.”
The Winds is a Yellow Springs institution, a restaurant that began its rise to prominence serving upscale health food in the 1970s. Since then, it’s evolution has lead to a menu that changes monthly and a kitchen that utilizes whatever produce is in season and growing on area farms, including heirloom livestock, fruits and vegetables.
“Someone just offered me a Red Wattle pig the other day,” said Smith. “Where else but locally can you get five types of radishes, a variety of kale and arugula, popcorn and pea sprouts and custom-blended herbal teas?”
Customers seem to agree with Smith on the excellence of local food.
“Probably our most popular dish is the Winter Squash Lasagna made with all-local pumpkin and squash and pasta sheets from Ohio City Pasta,” she said.
Another item on the menu is the Favorite Salad, a mélange of micro-greens from Orion Organics, dressed with cheese from Bellefontaine’s Blue Jacket Dairy.
While customers can enjoy a glass or even a bottle of high-end wine with their meal at the Winds, if they want to experience how a great wine is made, there’s always the Brandeberry Winery (5118 W. Jackson Road) just outside of town in Enon.
Jim Brandeberry, former dean of the college of engineering at Wright State, started his winemaking enterprise on the occasion of his retirement. His winery is situated on 10 acres of rolling hills adjacent to Yellow Springs’ vast nature preserve. Brandeberry grows several varieties of grapes at a time, and sells and serves not only traditional grape wines, but also blackberry and cherry flavors.
Brandeberry said he applies old professorial manners when giving customers a tour of the winery. “[Customers] can ask question about what is in the wine or if they are making wine at home, they can get help from the winemaker,” he said. “I love teaching people.”
Besides educating his customers, Brandeberry said he likes being able to provide a product he believes is safer than the products put out by large-scale wineries. In fact, Brandeberry feels the same way about most local food. “The important part is that it’s fresher and contains fewer preservatives, and it’s probably safer to eat,” he said.
It’s usually a lot tastier too, especially in the case of Brother Bear’s (118 Dayton St.) locally roasted coffee.
Patrick and Mindy Harney buy fair trade and organic beans from all over the world and roast them just minutes away from downtown.
Brother Bear’s serves up blends with names like Mo’joe Blend, Muddy Water and Darker Side of the Moon, all hand-roasted to perfection and brewed by people who really care about their coffee.
On Saturday mornings, any number of locals, Brother Bear’s coffee in hand, can be found strolling through King’s Yard on their way to one of the Yellow Springs’ two farmer’s markets.
The King’s Yard farmer’s market was founded 30 years ago by Roger Hart. Today, it is organized by Hart’s daughter, Cathy Christian.
Michele Burns of Flying Mouse Farms, who regularly sets up shop at the King’s Yard market (228 Xenia Ave.), said she thinks the success of the market is based on a very simple concept – the food is exceptional.
“Farmers’ markets provide customers with fresh produce, picked at the peak of ripeness, that has traveled very little and certainly has had little to no shelf time,” she said. “The flavor is richer and the produce hasn’t lost its shape, color, or texture.”
Since vegetables from Saturday won’t last the whole week, Patty Purdin, owner of No Common Scents, started a Thursday evening farmer’s market on the south side of town. She looks at farmer’s markets as a way of building community, both economically and socially.
“Farmer’s market [shoppers] are people who have a passion for fresh food and higher-quality foods and want to share that with their neighbors, friends and family,” she said. She also adds that a farmer’s market is a good way to support the local economy.
Coming full circle, many of the vendors who sell their wares in local farmer’s markets are also suppliers for local restaurants, such as Sunrise Café and the Winds. As the weather gets warm and the crops begin to grow, the bounty of the season will start appearing on dinner plates downtown. Don’t miss it: spring comes only once a year! But, there’s also going to be melons and cucumbers in the summer, and Swiss chard and broccoli in the fall … yum.
Reach DCP freelance writer Lara Donnelly at LaraDonnelly@daytoncitypaper.com.