Photo by Jodi Miller

A Fine Pair

Local is handwritten, crafted in chalked capital letters, on the wall of almost every new restaurant, adding a little comfort to that hard-but-cool vintage chair.

The concept is no longer a novelty; it’s been on our tables since the early ’70s, when Alice Waters began the craze at Chez Panisse (Berkeley) as a radical response against the fierce growth of agribusiness and factory farming. The goal was to reconnect the act of eating to nature, its source. This response is still alive and healthy, especially in Columbus.

When we go for dinner we don’t just look for food. We are seeking something bigger, the result of a new and strong spiritual necessity that our consumption choices be pleasing to ourselves, others, and the environment. Our parents probably wanted the dish to be big, tasty, and cheap. We want it also to be responsible and ethical.

“When we’re talking about local we’re talking about healthy; healthy not just for the people, but healthy for the environment,” said Magdiale Wolmark, owner and chef at Till Dynamic Fare.

And it’s just fun. You can choose locally made or sourced food and combine it with local beverages to make your own delicious locavore pairings. Some ideas to start:

Roasted beet salad sliders +
Purple Drank cocktail at The Crest Gastropub

These sliders were as well groomed as the most enthusiastic Pride Parade-goer. They were abundant patties made of roasted beets, Lucky Penny feta cheese, dried tomatoes, and pomegranate, seasoned with mint, molasses, and topped with a garlicky and yummy chili aioli and microradishes. It was tasty, crunchy, and fresh, with a nice dose of fire from the aioli. The Purple Drank cocktail, made with OYO Vodka, crème de violette, grenadine, and lemon juice was very original, but for my palate it was a little too sweet on its own. But, combined with the sliders you can have a playful tasting of all shades of purple and red, a kind of synesthesic experience that works surprisingly well as a pairing, mainly because sweet and heat never goes wrong. A great and colorful combination from this already celebrated local joint.

When we go for dinner we don’t just look for food. We are seeking something bigger, the result of a new and strong spiritual necessity that our consumption choices be pleasing to ourselves, others, and the environment.

Lamb burger + North High Brewing Heffeweizen
at Till Dynamic Fare

At Till, I experienced an ecstatic moment of holy, meaty joy that made me finally feel that unconditional burger devotion that I skeptically observed before in American people (I moved here from Chile nine months ago). This burger was heavenly packed with bold flavors – from high-quality ingredients, assertively combined: the luxuriously gamy flavor of the lamb from Bluescreek, the silky creaminess of the goat cheese, the sunshine of the ripe heirloom tomato, and the natural spiciness of the arugula – the last three components sourced from Integration Acres. The bun smelled freshly baked. I could only stop eating it to have a sip of the Hefeweizen from North High Brewing, brewed less than five blocks away. As the patty was more juicy than fatty,  this mild beer was enough to clean the mouth for the next bite, but also to make the whole package shine, a flavorful kinship rendered by the sweetness of the tomato. A great match.

Loaded OH! chips + Green Lawn Abbey cocktail
at Strongwater Food and Spirits

There is no doubt that the locally made OH! chips are killer. At Strongwater Food and Spirits, they make them even better with a tempting topping of house-made ranch, melted cheddar, crispy bacon, and raw scallions. The herbal and veggie notes on the Green Lawn Abbey (Watershed gin infused with cucumbers and fresh dill, a dash of lime juice, and some simple syrup) engages with the scallions, amplifying its freshness. The dill complements the velvety ranch, while the combination of cucumber/bacon adds balance. A great way to turn chips into something fancier and start a long dancing night with some necessary fortification.

Slice of pie + Rockmill beer
at Philco Diner

For those who have trouble deciding between drinking your dessert or eating it, Philco’s simple slice of pie paired with a rotating variety of Matthew Barbee’s Belgian-style Rockmill beers are a “have your dessert and drink it, too” option. To keep the summer sensation of fresh local pies alive, choose between a witbier, a saison, or a petite saison. For an instant antidote to the cooling temperatures, get the coconut, pecan, or Buckeye pie with a dubbel, a tripel, or a saison noir. Now that we’re thinking of it, maybe you can just skip the traditional meal and go right for suds and a slice.