News Column

The Akron Beacon Journal Food Notes column

July 9, 2014

By Katie Byard, The Akron Beacon Journal

July 09--Something happened to the ice pop while we weren't looking.

It's gone all gourmet on us.

Tim and Beth Knorr are in the second year of their Popsmith venture -- selling unusual flavors of pops made with fresh, local fruits and sometimes veggies and herbs. Honeydew coriander, anyone?

"Farming was too much work and no summer vacation so I ended up doing this," says Tim Knorr, who previously was farm manager at the nonprofit Crown Point Ecology Center in Bath Township, which donates a large portion of its harvest to social service agencies. Knorr quickly adds, with a wry smile, "And now I still have no summer vacations."

The Cuyahoga Falls couple sell the pops -- made with organic sugar -- at farmers markets and community gatherings. It's a quaint, no-frills retail operation: Tim Knorr or a Popsmith employee sells the treats from a small freezer cart. A chalkboard is used to advertise flavors.

Last week, at the Highland Square farmers market in Akron, Knorr was doing a steady business, selling to shoppers and their children.

"These are like ice cream truck prices ... the popsicles are delicious," said shopper Scott Vollmer, 37, of the Highland Square area, explaining he thought the pops were reasonably priced at $3.

He'd enjoyed a raspberry and cream pop, while his wife, Erin Vollmer, had a strawberry balsamic and their son, Isaac, 7, had a strawberry lemon. "It actually tastes like strawberry lemon," Isaac said.

Rebecca Varner, 42, also at the farmers market, said the chocolate pops are her favorite. "They're just like a frozen hunk of chocolate."

Now the Knorrs are offering their version of a CSA (community supported agriculture) in which folks buy a share of a farm's harvest. The cost for a three-month share (15 pops each month) is $115; four-month shares are $150. Three-month shares beginning in July are still available. Three-month shares also will begin in August. For more information, visit www.popsmith.com/csa-shares.

For the time being, Popsmith's main business is the sales at community gatherings, such as the farmers markets on Thursday evenings at Highland Square and Saturday mornings at Howe Meadow in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. A schedule and list of Popsmith's more than 20 flavors, including in-season ones, is available at www.popsmith.com.

This is not to say the Knorrs haven't invested lots of time and money into the business. They bought popsicle-making equipment made in Brazil, and set up shop at an Akron church kitchen. (Ohio law says frozen food must be produced in a licensed facility.)

In their second year, it made sense to offer the CSA-like subscriptions, Beth Knorr, 43, said. After all, Crown Point, where Tim Knorr, 44, worked, offered harvest shares. "CSAs are what we know and we like the connection" it creates between customer and seller, Beth Knorr said.

She said her husband, searching for a business venture, was partly inspired to go into pops because he wasn't impressed with the ones she was making for their family. "He thought he could do better," she said with a laugh.

But don't let her sell herself short. Along with her husband, Beth Knorr has much experience with locally grown farm produce, which she puts to work for Popsmith. She is markets manager for the nonprofit Countryside Conservancy, which operates the markets at Highland Square and Howe Meadow.

Italian fest downtown

This Friday through Sunday at Lock 3 Park, off Main Street in downtown Akron, is the Italian-American Festival, organized by the Italian-American Councils of Summit County. The festival, with live music and other activities, runs from 11 a.m. to midnight Friday, noon to midnight Saturday and 1 to 7 p.m. Sunday, with fireworks Saturday night.

Sunday is Italian Heritage Day, with an 11:30 a.m. Mass at St. Bernard's Church downtown. A spaghetti dinner will run from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday under the tent at Lock 4, next to Lock 3.

At 1 p.m. Sunday, attend a winemaking demonstration or learn to play bocce. Activities for children will be available. Sunday's lineup also includes a performance by the Allegro Dance Company at 3 p.m. and a pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans) competition at 3 p.m., featuring local restaurants. For a schedule, visit http://it-am.org. The event raises money for scholarships and local charities.

Quick bites

--The downtown Akron Bricco is scheduled to reopen today after being closed for about a week for renovation, much of it involving the kitchen. The restaurant had hoped to reopen Tuesday, but as often happens with remodeling, work took longer than expected.

--Looking ahead: The area's other Italian festival, Festa Italiana, will run July 18-20 at the Cuyahoga Falls River Square district. For information, visit http://festa italianacf.com.

--Looking further ahead: The Lebanese Food Fair at Our Lady of the Cedars Church, 507 S. Cleveland-Massillon Road, Fairlawn, will run from 4 to 9 p.m.Aug. 1 and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.Aug. 2. Church members spend weeks making food, including kibbe, stuffed grape leaves, spinach pie and baklava. The church has installed an outdoor patio that festivalgoers can enjoy, assuming the weather cooperates. Also new this year will be a petting zoo from 1 to 3 p.m.Aug. 2. For information, call the church at 330-666-3598.

--Enjoy an outdoor gourmet meal, featuring local ingredients, down on the farm to raise money for charity on July 17.

Chef Johnny Schulze from Zydeco Bistro will prepare a six-course meal for the Summit County Farm Bureau Plow to Chow fundraiser to benefit the Ronald McDonald House. The dinner will be at Boughton Farm in Copley Township.

Dinner begins at 7 p.m., after a wagon ride and a wine tasting. Local wine pairings will be presented by Andy Troutman from the Winery at Wolf Creek in Norton and Troutman Vineyards southwest of Wooster. Tickets are $100, $700 for a table of eight. Call the farm bureau at 800-654-5158 for reservations.

Wine tasting dinners

--Ken Stewart's Grille at 1970 W. Market St. in Akron will feature winemaker Greg Allen, with Napa Valley's Dolce and Far Niente wineries, at its five-course tasting event at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Courses include grilled jumbo prawn with lemon polenta, roasted chicken thigh, herbed lamb kabobs and lemon infused creme brulee. Cost is $85 plus tax and gratuity. Call 330-697-6917 for reservations.

--D'Agnese's at 566 White Pond Drive in Akron will feature Purple Feet wines at its five-course Summer Wine Dinner at 6 p.m.July 16. Courses include a mushroom, leek and goat cheese tart, crispy chicken liver with escarole, roasted swordfish and lemon polenta cake. Cost is $40. Call 234-678-3612 for reservations.

Tribute to Manziel

Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel likes to party, notes Nik Pappas, so putting bourbon in an ice cream named for him makes sense.

Pappas is managing partner of Pav's Creamery in Coventry Township, which has jumped on the Manziel fanwagon with its "How Ya Doin' Johnny?" ice cream. The frozen treat is vanilla ice cream with orange zest and a splash of bourbon.

So far, it's a huge success. It was introduced last week, and is being sold exclusively at Acme Fresh Markets. Some stores ran out shortly after it was first delivered last week. Pappas worked to get more "How Ya Doin' Johnny?" pints -- which sell for $3.99 each -- in stores as fast as he could.

"I am blown away by how many people have called [the Acme] stores" to see if any pints are on hand, he said.

The name refers to a catchphrase that is now a part of The Really Big Show sports talk show on WKNR radio (ESPN Cleveland).

And, as part of a show promotion, listeners suggested flavors of ice cream that could pay homage to the headline-grabbing Manziel, subject of about 9 zillion tweets and Instagram posts.

One listener suggested an orange sherbet with bourbon, but ice cream is "a better, creamier, richer product," Pappas said. The bourbon? It's not Kentucky mash. It's made by Cleveland Whiskey, which began selling the spirit in 2013.

The Acme grocery chain sells 23 flavors of Pav's ice cream, with most individual stores carrying about 16 every day. Jon Albrecht, director of center store sales, said the three best-selling Pav's flavors so far this year are the German Chocolate Cake Custard, Mint Chocolate Chip Custard, and Nuts Over Coconut Custard.

The "How Ya Doin' Johnny?" treat joins the Johnny Footlong --an 8-ounce Five Star hot dog topped with Texas Jack chili, shredded pepper jack cheese and Sriracha sauce -- at Canal Park, home of the Akron RubberDucks, in downtown Akron.

Also offering a culinary nod to Manziel are the two Akron-area Wally Waffle restaurants, which in May came out with its "Johnny Cleveland Waffle," a Belgian waffle with chocolate chips and toppings including a buttercream frosting infused with champagne. The bubbly is a reference to the large bottle of champagne from which Manziel was drinking in a snapshot that went viral this spring.

Imported from New York

From ice cream to cookies: Giant Eagle Market District stores are selling standout -- at least in my opinion -- chocolate chip cookies made by Tate's Bake Shop of Southampton, N.Y. The bakery has its roots in a family-operated farm stand on Long Island.

My stepson Michael Carney, and his now-wife, Laura, introduced me to the crisp and buttery treats a few years ago, when they lived in New York City. To my delight, I found them at Akron'sWest Point Market.

Now, one of my foodie friends -- I am blessed with many of them -- has discovered they are being sold at the Giant Eagle Market District off Massillon Road in Green.

So far, Giant Eagle is only selling the cookies, including gluten-free ones, at Market District stores, which feature a wider variety of specialty items than traditional Giant Eagles.

West Point honored

Long before traditional supermarkets began stocking gourmet fare, Russ Vernon was embracing specialty products at his West Point Market in West Akron.

Vernon's efforts at creating a store that drew buzz far beyond the Akron area has been recognized by the Specialty Food Association. Last week, the New York City association bestowed upon Vernon one of its 10 inaugural lifetime achievement awards.

"Vernon demonstrated that specialty foods could be in demand beyond the East Coast," the association said in a news release. "His West Point Market in Akron is regarded as one of the outstanding specialty food retailers in the U.S." The association presented the awards at its trade show -- called the Summer Fancy Food Show -- in New York City last week.

The roots of West Point Market, at 1711 W. Market St., go back to 1936, when Vernon's father, Harold Vernon, and partners opened up The Point Market in West Akron. Russ Vernon retired from West Point Market in 2005 and turned over the reins to his son Rick and business partner Larry Uhl.

Send local food news to Katie Byard at 330-996-3781 or kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com. You can become a fan on Facebookwww.facebook.com/KatieByardABJ.

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(c)2014 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

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