Queen City Food for Your Fête

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    ‘Tis the season for parties, and whatever the theme for your festivities, make it even more special by using all local food and refreshments. Your guests not only will admire your responsible resourcefulness, but you’ll be supporting your local economy as well.




    Did you know you can serve every course of a dinner party with dishes made from local producers and ingredients? Greater Cincinnati has a nearly endless supply of stores with regional goodies, and you don’t have to resort to a Skyline dip for an authentic Queen City taste!


    Findlay Market is probably the best source for the freshest local produce and meats, says Stepfanie Romine, a former food journalist and a self-professed vegetable fanatic.


    Romine is a staunch fan of Ohio’s oldest public market and long-time haven for foodies from all over town. As the editor and content manager of the health and nutrition Web site SparkPeople.com and a contributing writer to BuyCincy.com, Romine is uniquely qualified as a local food guru. She recommends Findlay Market as one-stop shopping for everything from vegetables to locally raised lamb and beef.


    “You can trust the quality of the local food and the people who sell it at Findlay Market and other farmers’ markets,” Romine says. “Scares like this summer’s tomato contamination don’t affect you when you buy fruits and vegetables from local farmers instead of from large, anonymous producers.” The growers are right there, looking you in the eye as you buy their produce, and there’s nothing that builds confidence more than that. Open Wednesday through Friday all year long, Findlay Market in Over the Rhine features food from every category along with flowers, clothing, crafts and restaurants.


    If cooking from scratch isn’t really your thing, you can still serve locally made finger foods, snacks and desserts. A summer barbecue or football tailgate isn’t complete without Queen City metts and bratwursts.


    A Cincinnati grilling staple since 1965, loyal locals appreciate Queen City Sausage’s hand-mixed spices and consistent quality.


    To fill your burger buns and hoagies, regional favorites include beef patties, barbecue pork and hoagie patties from J.T.M. Food Group. Family-owned in Harrison since 1960, J.T.M. products can be found in the frozen foods section of many local grocers.


    “Another great benefit to purchasing local products is environmental,” Romine sats. “You can reduce your carbon footprint since fuel usage is less for a quick delivery across town than for shipping across the country.”



    To finish off your fabulous local hors d’oeuvres and other dishes, satisfy your guests’ need for sweet with a dessert from your favorite neighborhood bakery.


    Cheesecake lovers will be in heaven at J. Annette’s, with locations in West Chester and Fort Mitchell. Seasonal flavors like pumpkin, dreamcicle, peach, lemon or peppermint, or one of 20-something other varieties, will add a special touch to any theme and leave your guests floating on cream cheese clouds.


    Authentic Italian pastries are baked fresh daily at Madeira’s Ferrari’s Little Italy, and if you can avoid distraction from the aisles of international foods, the full-time bakery at Jungle Jim’s in Fairfield offers goodies from all over the globe. They also feature cakes from The BonBonerie, a Hyde Park dessert wonderland. If your event takes place in the morning, don’t settle for mass-produced bagels or muffins. Treat your guests to gourmet donuts, coffee cakes, and more from Bonomini on Blue Rock Road. They will never look at breakfast meetings the same way again!


    Shopping at local retailers like bakeries not only confirms you’re a host with terrific taste, but it’s also a smart way to support the local economy. “By buying local, you help keep your neighbors in business and your community thriving,” Romine says. The proof is in the numbers. Estimates conclude that for every dollar spent at a local store versus a national chain, twice as much will be reinvested into the community by the local store, according to BuyCincy.com. Not only do you get great, quality goods when you spend your money locally, but you also make an investment in your hometown.




    Today’s chic parties feature signature cocktails, and you can create one with local spirit by using local spirits. Stock your bar with beer, wine, vodka and more, all produced nearby. Your nose may have sensed the workings of the local Jim Beam distillery as you drive on I-75 just north of downtown, but follow it just south and you’ll find a bevy of beverages made by small vineyards and microbreweries.



    Christian Moerlein has gained legions of Cincinnati followers with its regionally inspired brews such as O.T.R. Ale, Fifth & Vine Oktoberfest Marzen, and Barbarossa Lager. Perfect for casual gatherings no matter the season, there’s sure to be a Christian Moelein beer to satisfy the preferences of any suds fan.


    Bacchanalians and other others who love the grape will find a variety of fine red, white and specialty wines at Elk Creek Vineyards in Owentown, Ky. Play host at a sophisticated soiree with a tasting of pinots, cabernets, blushes and more — all from local vinyards. Paired with Ohio Amish cheeses and fresh baked bread, these wines will lend a worldly air to a civically responsible bash.


    Another source for regional vino is Cincinnati’s own urban winery, Woodstone Creek. Along with unique honeywine made from Ohio grapes and local honey, this artisan winery offers brandy, bourbon, single malt whisky, dark rum, gin, beer and vodka made in their microdistillery. Sample their boutique spirits and try their mead at a Saturday tasting, then get your next party swinging with a martini selection made entirely from local liquor!


    Finally, wind down the festivities by inviting your guests to savor the flavor of regionally roasted java. The Coffee Emporium, with locations downtown, in Hyde Park and on Xavier’s campus, offers a wide selection of on-site roasted beans that will perk up your party. For locally made special blends and varieties from Columbia, Sumatra and Rwanda, try Anderson Township’s Luckman Coffee Company, where their goal is to “romance the optimum quality from each bean.” Sounds like a heavenly way to warm up your friends and family!


    This party season, get the most chic for your buck and use some of Cincinnati’s great local resources for your entertaining needs. You will introduce your guests to some great food and beverage finds that they most likely didn’t even know existed. Plus, you can help sustain your community and our environment by spending money locally and reducing your carbon footprint. Join your neighbors who shop locally and bring new meaning to the term, “Party responsibly!”


    Photo: Amy Storer-Scalia

    Location: Fountain Square

    Model: Trisha Lubbe