Few things in the world please me as much as fresh food, well prepared. Eating local is a good way to up the chances of flavor-packed food–plus, it comes with those nice socially responsible benefits like a lower carbon footprint and supporting your local economy. In some cases, organic farming methods can provide better flavor, too, by reducing the interference of chemicals with the taste of sun and soil and plant–for instance, in strawberries like these.
I like eating local food around Boston. Lots of good stuff (and oh, the fish…). But Ithaca, New York remains my personal foodie mecca. There’s a big enough population to keep a network of highly skilled farmers, vintners, butchers, and chefs in business, and enough cheap(ish) land and water to keep them all well supplied with locally sourced products that one can actually afford to eat on a regular basis. I went to school in Ithaca and fell in love with the region during that time: apple picking every fall, buying crates of second-best peaches during their two-week glorious heyday for cobblers and pie, learning that one could buy meat from the person who killed the animal, exploring local vineyards. (Here was born an eternal love for Rieslings that taste like lemon-spritzed rock. But better.)
So in a recent overdue visit with some dear friends who live there, we ate our way around the city as I desperately attempted to do Everything All At Once: dinners in, dinners out, fruit picking, city wandering. The farmer’s market was just getting into full swing, so between that and my friends’ garden we had some pretty fabulous dinners: grilled chorizo and (admittedly non-local) shrimp with quinoa tabbouleh; bratwurst and smoked kielbasa, served with sauteed kale with mustard; superb fresh salads from the garden.
For dessert? Organic strawberries by the bucketful. Literally. We turned them into shortcake with local cream; strawberry-rhubarb pie; and homemade strawberry ice cream. And, of course, ate them gleefully by the handful.