Got Milk? Buckeye Country Creamery

I love a good farm visit. And I love getting to know where my food comes from and who is responsible for it.  When I was invited to come and check out Buckeye Country Creamery in Ashland this week, I jumped at the chance.

creamery employee

It’s a family run dairy farm (two generations at work) that’s been operating for more than 25 years.  But only in the last year and a half have they launched their creamery, an endeavor that required a significant leap of faith and capital investment on the part of the Lahmers Family.  But they’re banking on the “If you build it, they will come” concept.  Or rather, “If you milk it, they will come.”

They have a herd of 130 cows right now, which they milk twice a day, and produce 900 pounds of milk daily.  What makes their milk different? The A2A2.  It’s the type of beta-casein protein that is easier on your digestive system.  Many people who cannot usually drink milk, and consider themselves lactose intolerant, can drink A2A2 milk without side effects.  That’s a game changer for some families.

The other thing that differentiates them from other nearby creameries…flavored milk.  It’s a heckofa lot easier to get a child to drink a tall glass of “cookies and cream” milk than plain old cows milk, right?  Buckeye Country Creamery’s line of products include strawberry, chocolate, cookies and cream, and mocha flavored milk. (They add the powdered flavoring during the pasteurization process) These varieties are especially creamy, because the flavors are made with whole milk. They also make drinkable yogurt, mozzarella cheese and ice cream with the same A2 properties.  We got a chance to sample milk flavors, the yogurt and ice cream from Buckeye, and my girls guzzled it all down!  I think the yogurts were gone in a day!

creamery yogurt

For those food conscious readers, their pasteurization process is also worth noting.  The milk at Buckeye Country Creamery is pasteurized slowly, at a low temperature, to keep more enzymes and proteins intact. It’s not homogenized, so the cream rises to the top, as they say.

creamery vat

Locals can buy up the products coming out of the Lahmers Dairy Farm, at their modest store on site…a glorified hallway, really.  They stock the fridge and operate on the honor system.

“Sometimes we get an IOU in there,” jokes dairy farmer, Christy Hulse.

Word is getting out in the Ashland area.  People are popping in on a weekly basis and pick up the essentials.

“We’re going to need a bigger fridge,” Hulse said, with a smile.

creamery fridge

You can find Buckeye Country Creamery’s line of products at 120 locations between Cleveland and Columbus, including the West Side Market, Case Western Reserve University and Miles Farmers Market. (runs about $3.99 for half gallon, $6.99 a gallon)  Click here for a complete list.

Disclosure: I was invited to visit the farm and write about my experience, in exchange for a sampling of their products. 

 

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Late Spring Plate Landscape: Farm to (Farmer’s) Table

Summer is in full swing, but in harvest terms, it’s still spring.  And the team at Spice Acres inside the Cuyahoga National Park is ready to show off their bounty.  We attended the first Plated Landscape Dinner at the Farmhouse home of Chef Ben Bebenroth (of Spice Kitchen and Bar) and his family.  What a treat! It was such a charming setting surrounded by beautiful fields and fitting farmhouse details.


We were greeted by staff from the restaurant, with passed appetizers and a refreshing elderberry cocktail.
Then we got a guided tour around the property from Andrea, a trusted caretaker of the land. We walked through fields of chamomile, red veined leafy greens, purple asparagus and climbing hops. 
Then we migrated to the shabby chic surroundings of the rehabbed barn across the street from the fields. Long communal tables were set with an enticing menu and thoughtful wine pairings.  


Taste, touch, smell, sight and sound (thanks to the cellist and acoustic guitarist on hand)…all the senses were tickled as we got to know our fellow diners. 


We were treated to the bright bounty of Spice Acres.  Five courses of beautifully prepared plates, starting with a chilled pea soup with scape and fennel, paired with Jeio Cuvée Rose, which was crisp and refreshing.  It was a great way to open up our palates.  Course two featured some of those lovely greens we saw in the fields, dressed with crab apple vinaigrette, pickled blueberries and chile roasted pistachios (my favorite element of the dish), and paired with Marie de Beauregard Vouvray which had a nice sweet finish.  Our third course, Verlasso Salmon, utilized the lovely chamomile from the field.  It was smoked, along with cucumber, fennel and beet.  I loved the smoked chamomile for a light smokey flavor, not at all overpowering the seared fish.  The Spice team poured Becker Pinor Noir with this dish.  


The final savory course was a Spice Bush + Honey Confit Duck Breast with braised endive and strawberry gastritis for a sweet and tart component to the delicious duck.  The wine pairing for this dish was my favorite, a perfectly dry Pecchenino San Luigui Fogliami Dolcetto.  And for dessert, there was a Wild Chamomile Mousse with lemon curd berries with kamut shortbread and bee pollen, paired with a Von Wilhelm Spatlese Reisling.  It was light, sweet and satisfying. 


You can also experience this kind of farm to table evening through the Plated Landscape Series.  There are several more dinners like these throughout his the summer and deep into the fall.  Head to Eventbrite‘s Plated Landscape page for event information and tickets.  

Plated Landscape Dinner Series at Spice Acres

Time to dig in to the spring and summer calendar and plant some ideas in your head about some great upcoming events at Spice Acres.  

The innovative and creative culinary minds behind Spice Kitchen and Bar, and Spice Acres have announced the dates and locations for their Plated Landscape Dinner Series.

Plated Landscapes are held at the farm occupied by the Bebenroth Family, Spice Acres, in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and at select family farms that supply their kitchen with local sustainable foods.

These communal dining experiences are the brain child of Chef/Founder/Farmer, Ben Bebenroth and started in 2006.

For the $150 ticket guests receive a welcoming cocktail and passed hor d’oeuvres, followed by a guided farm tour, and a five-course meal with expertly paired wines.  And the setting can’t be beat.

Photo Credit: Genevieve Nisly Photography

The 10 night series starts in late June and goes through October, although you don’t have to commit to the entire series, of course!  Go to one, or one each season!  Advance purchase required via Spice’s Eventbrite page.

Here is the complete list of events.

Ohio City Farm Urban Landscape Dinner: Friday, June 2

Spice Acres Late Spring Dinner: Thursday, June 29 and Friday, June 30

Yellow House Cheese Farm Dinner: Friday, July 28

Spice Acres Summer’s Bounty Dinner: Thursday, August 24 and Friday, August 25

Killbuck Valley Mushroom Farm Forage Dinner: Sunday, September 24 

Spice Acres Autumnal Harvest Dinner: Thursday, October 12 (VEGETARIAN) and Friday, October 13

Quarry Hill Orchards Apple Dinner: Friday, October 20

Photo Credit Genevieve Nisly Photography


And also in the fall Spice Acres has some really cool
family friendly farm events throughout the summer/fall – The best part? FREE admission!

Toasting of the Fields, May 21 – live music, lawn games, planting activities, food/drinks for purchase by Spice Catering Co.

Pizza + a Movie Night, July 14 – games + activities, movie screening in the barn, make your own pizza/drinks for purchase by Spice Catering Co. 

U-Pick flowers – $10/bouquet from 8-11am the first Saturday of the month (July-Oct). No registration needed.

I’m making a serious effort to eat closer to the earth this summer, expanding my own garden and shopping at farmers markets.  This event falls right in line with that.  I hope you’ll join me!   

Note: Photo credit for the feature/title image goes to Full Bloom Photography

Slovenian Sausage Festival

It doesn’t get any more “Cleveland” than this.  A Slovenian Sausage Festival, put on by the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame & Museum, at SNPJ Farm in Kirtland.  Being invited to participate in this event means a lot to me…I’m half Slovenian.  My grandmother would argue…the good half.  And when your mother’s maiden name is Tomsic, you don’t turn down an opportunity to listen to polka music while crowning the next King of Klobasa.

It’s the biggest event of its kind in the nation, and with the largest Slovenian population outside of Slovenia, you can see (and smell, and hear) why Cleveland is the natural host for such a party. 

Polka and sausage fans were invited to dance their calories away to the music of more than fifty accordionists and musicians brought in to perform. Guests got to taste sausages from several makers and then pick their favorites. There was definitely some lobbyin going on. 

Prizes were awarded by People’s Choice and the juried Best of Fest.  And here’s an honor: the winning sausage-maker becomes the official supplier to the three-day Thanksgiving Polka Weekend at the Cleveland Downtown Marriott Hotel.  Who needs the “Sausage King of Chicago,” Ferris Buhler.  We’ve got our own king!

sausage-party

For my role, I served on a jury with other distinguished judges, like the Lady Butchers from Saucisson, a Slovenian diplomat and fellow food writer, Debbie Snook, of Cleveland.com. So as not to be pursuaded by preconceived notions or family favorites, the tasting was blind. Truth be told, we did discuss the make up of the five contenders a bit.

It was interesting to taste it and examine the texture, color, seasoning and overall tastes, instead of just devouring them pretty quickly like I’ve been doing most of my half-Slovenian life.

In the end, to my delight, my long time family favorite, Azmans (of Euclid) was crowned the judges’ favorite. So glad to see these fine butchers and old world artisans rewarded.

It was a real treat to return to the retreat location enjoyed nearly every weekend by my grandparents and my mother, as a child. And I was tickled to watch my two year old eagerly finish her first Slovenian sausage, like she was born to, and see my girls enchanted by the magic of button box music like I used to as a little girl. Anybody who is old school Cleveland, or old world American, can certainly relate.  And, dig in.

Ohio City Provisions: a new, and true Farm to Fork concept

The term “Rise and Shine” was made for people like Trevor Clatterbuck and Adam Lambert.  They have been getting up before sunrise for months, working long hours readying their new project.  And it’s pretty exciting.  Both are heavy weights in Cleveland’s local food scene independently, (Trevor is the man behind Fresh Fork Market, a very popular CSA business (community supported agriculture) in Cleveland.  Adam is a well-established local chef, who’s logged hours in the kitchens of Bar Cento, and The Black Pig, to name just a couple) but together they’re doing something that isn’t being done anywhere else in town.

OCP Rise and Shine

The plans are to open up a market and butcher shop in the Ohio City neighborhood of Cleveland, near St. Ignatius High School.  The two plan to grow or raise everything they’ll sell there.  Fans of Fresh Fork will find all the good quality produce they’re used to (sourced from farms within 75-100 miles of Cleveland, organic when possible, and picked at the peak of freshness).

OCP produce

But what’s new, innovative and mouth-watering…is what they’re doing with hogs.  The pair have been experimenting with animal husbandry and feed to develop meat that you can’t get anywhere else in the state.

OCP hogs

I got a tour of the property in Holmes County where they have about 150 hogs on site.  Mangalitsa, Berkshire, Mulefoot, Red Wattle…all new vocabulary to me.  But what they have planned is not…charcuterie.  Yes, please!

OCP jen and a hog

They’ve got a supply chain in place, thanks to their “adventures in hog sourcing.”  The details of which the pair chuckle about, but don’t care to share.  After all, learning about heritage breeds is new territory for them too.  Clatterbuck has a background in business and political science.  Lambert is a self-taught chef.  But the two both seem right at home on the 200 acre property where they plan to get a lot of their product.

OCP Wholesome Valley Farm

They’re promising the best pork in the state.  The red wattles are said to be more tender.  The mangalitsas, used for things like Jamon Iberico.

OCP mangalitsa

What takes time, but will be worth the wait, I’m told…is controlling the product…all of it…from start to finish.  They are playing with breeds and what they feed the animals to get optimal product.  These hogs are given specific ratios of barley and grass from the fields.  Lambert says they have marbled loins, and even appear more red than pink when you cut into them.

Red Wattle Pig at Wholesome Valley Farm in Holmes County, Ohio

Red Wattle Pig at Wholesome Valley Farm in Holmes County, Ohio

Plus, they’re also raising other animals.  They have laying chickens, meat birds and heritage birds, whose pens and coops are moved weekly to insure exposure to fresh grass and soil for them to feed on, not to mention fresh air.

OCP mobile coop

They’re also working on ways to make heritage poultry more affordable. (which currently takes 18 wks.)

OCP heritage birds

The Hereford beef they are raising will be grass-fed, sustainable and have better flavor, according to Clatterbuck.  Those with smaller frames, he says, are easier to finish without incorporating high energy corn and grain.  Their plans also include growing non-GMO (and eventually, organic) corn and soy beans on site so the animals can feed off that.

OCP beef

There is so much in the works it’ll make your head spin.  The infrastructure is already in place for maple syrup production.  There are hives on site, for bees to pollinate the produce and generate honey.

OCP maple syrup infrastructure

They have secured their cannery, bakery, frozen foods and ferments permits.  OCP has acquired heavy machinery like bean snippers and corn huskers to handle the volume when fresh produce “comes in like a hurricane,” as Clatturbuck says.

OCP canned goods

When the store is up and running you can expect incredible products.  Believe me, I’ve had some of Chef Lambert’s charcuterie and it is unbelievable.  A true art.  But he’s even upped his game.  Clatterbuck and Lambert are fresh off a 2 day charcuterie workshop in Gascony, France.

forage with strangers charcuterie

And since it costs more (time and money) to raise these kinds of hogs, you can bet they won’t be selling them as pork chops.  You’ll see smoked and cured meats, specialty sausage and charcuterie.

Rendering of the Ohio City Provisions storefront

Rendering of the Ohio City Provisions storefront

Clatterbuck and Lambert are aiming to open Ohio City Provisions in January.  Can’t wait to see what will fill their cases, and the bellies of Clevelanders once they open their doors.