Feel-Good Food

This fall, cozy up with some decadent treats that are great for groups but even more satisfying solo.

Summer's gone and it's almost time to put the cover on the grill. As temperatures cool, it's a pleasure to spend an entire afternoon in a warm kitchen making good things to eat. The fabulous flavors of fall are popping up all across Northeast Ohio as well as a few points south.


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Fruit From the Vine
If the only grape juice you've ever experienced comes in a frozen cylindrical shape, it's time to start thinking outside the can. Firelands Winery in Sandusky uses its Ohio-grown Concord and Catawba grapes to produce two lush juices under the Mantey label, a historical tribute to one of the state's first wineries. Both are 100 percent juice with no added sugar. But is it worth the $2.60 price tag for 25 ounces? We asked Matt Mars, sommelier and co-owner of Chez Francois in Vermilion, to conduct a tasting and provide a few notes.

"The Concord is definitely grapey with hints of blackberry jam and cassis, and could be served with duck or quail ? or peanut butter and jelly - crunchy, not smooth." As for the Catawba juice, Mars picked up hints of peach and apricot and a whisper of butterscotch that evolved into a Granny Smith apple. "This would pair nicely with something like Dover sole finished with a butter sauce, grapes and almond ? although fish sticks could work, too."

You can find Fireland's Mantey label grape juices at a variety of grocery and retail locations throughout the state. Better yet, stop in Mantey's wine tasting room in Sandusky and make your own tasting notes: 917 Bardshar Road off Route 6 in Sandusky. For more info, call (419) 625-5474 or 1-800-548-WINE.

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A Syrup-titious Treat
As a rule, Charlie Fritsch reserves the sale of his homestead cider syrup for customers who visit his Windy Hill Apple Farm near Columbus. But after a little cajoling, he agreed that Northeast Ohio shouldn't be punished for lack of proximity and offered to make this fabulous fall taste available exclusively to Feast! readers.

The all-natural dark amber syrup is made from Windy Hill's delicious cider pressed from gold rush apples - large, semitart, extremely juicy beauties that Fritsch dubs his "premier" apples because of their complex taste. The cider is boiled down until all that remains is a thick, rich brew that's then blended with organic sugar and cinnamon. It's a luscious substitute for maple syrup and is also great in recipes calling for syrup. Fritsch's customers tell him they use it as a glaze and a marinade for pork or chicken; a dressing for apple, blue cheese and walnut salad; over corncakes or warm fritters; and sometimes straight off the spoon for an unadulterated taste of the orchard. The "specialty of the house" is $14 for a 12-ounce bottle, including shipping. He can be contacted via e-mail at charlie@windyhillapplefarm.com or by phone at (740) 587-3632.

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Q Is for Quail
Quail was on the menu at "Dubya"'s inaugural luncheon in 2005. The first lady is funny about sharing her recipe that serves 200, but you owe it to your holiday table to find your own recipe and include this great little game bird as a compliment to traditional turkey or ham. (We've put one our Web site, feastmagazine.net, to get you started.)

Amie and Don Sprinkle raise Japanese coturnix and bobwhite quail on three acres they call Plum Creek Farm in Valley City. It takes about eight weeks for the birds to reach a three-quarter-pound market weight on a diet of whole grain, an occasional lettuce salad and protein-rich mealworms. The result is a bird with mostly dark meat and a distinct, rich flavor - it doesn't taste like chicken! Quick and easy to prepare in 30 minutes or less, two birds are just enough for a single serving.

Most recipes for squab or Cornish game hen translate well to quail. The petite fowl cost about $5.50 each and come with cooking instructions. They are sold directly from Plum Creek Farm or at the North Union Farmers Market at Crocker Park held every Saturday. To order your birds, call Amie and Don at (330) 483-0222. |!|

Croissants at the Peak of Flakiness

One of the best compliments Sally Ohle has ever received about her croissants came from a new customer who pointedly informed her, "I've had better croissant - but not in this country." Ohle works from her Akron kitchen, turning out hundreds of the flaky, hand-rolled and -shaped pastries on a weekly basis for Summit Croissants, her licensed home-baking business.

She uses only unbleached flour, organic milk and real butter, and creates two genres of fillings: the traditional sweet kind, featuring seasonal local fruits such as strawberries, blueberries and apples, and intriguing savory versions that include sweet pepper, caramelized onion, zucchini and cherry tomato. Her best seller (big surprise) is filled with Malley's dark chocolate and laced with hazelnuts or almonds.

Prices range from $1.75 to $3.25 depending on the filling, which averages to less than a half cent for each of the 72 flaky layers Ohle hand works into the finished product. Look for Summit Croissants at Breadsmith (18101 Detroit Ave., Lakewood), every Saturday at the Crocker Park Farmer's Market and Thursdays at the Countryside Farmers' Market in downtown Akron. For ordering info, visit www.summitcroissants.com or call (330) 714-7975.

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