Restaurant weeks are common in larger cities. The concept promotes independent restaurants over chains, and the marketing and special deals encourage new customers to give those local businesses a try and lure back others.
30 Mile Meal - a Youngstown-based organization devoted to promoting local farmers and food producers as well as the restaurants, bars and other establishments that feature their products - is putting a slightly different spin on the idea with a restaurant week running Saturday through Aug. 17.
Twenty restaurants stretching from Geneva to Poland, from Alliance to Meadville, Pa., will showcase dishes featuring local bounty.
Some will offer special entrees or desserts prepared with local ingredients. Others will get their produce or other regularly used items from local suppliers.
It's a win-win-win for everyone involved. For the farmers (both crops and livestock), wineries, bakers, cheesemakers, etc., it gives them an opportunity to forge relationships that could become long-term, year-round arrangements that only would strengthen the local economy.
For the restaurants, they will be getting better, fresher product that is sure to inspire their culinary creativity.
And for the consumers, we get to enjoy the benefits of those local goods and the dishes they inspire.
There are plenty of books and articles about the impact of industrialized farming on both the environment and the nutritional value of the food produced. Michael Pollan ("The Omnivore's Dilemma"), Eric Schlosser ("Fast Food Nation") and others make those argument better than I can.
I'll focus simply on taste. If it's August and you live in northeast Ohio, why would you even consider eating a tomato or ear of corn grown anywhere else? Eating a tomato grown who knows how and shipped from who knows where when perfection can found from home gardens, farmers markets and locally sourced vendors is lunacy.
The only disappointing thing about 30 Mile Meal Restaurant Week is that of the 20 participants, only three of them are in Trumbull County. Vernon's Cafe in Niles will use locally sourced produce. Ghossain's in Niles will use local produce and feature locally sourced salads. And Kravitz Deli in Liberty will offer local lettuce and local eggs in its spinning bowl salads and omelets and locally grown hot peppers in oil.
Other participants include: Cricket's Bar & Grill, O'Donold's Downtown, Roberto's and V2, all of Youngstown; Ghossain's, Gordy's Specialty Market and Scarsella's, all of Boardman; Broad Street Diner, Canfield; Carmella's Cafe and Kravitz, both of Poland; Selah Restaurant, Struthers; Deer's Leap Winery, Geneva; Lakehouse Inn / Crosswinds Grille, Geneva-on-the-Lake; Farm Girls Pub & Grub, Alliance; and Voodoo Brewery, Meadville, Pa.
What they'll be doing and other information can be found online at realfoodreallocalinstitute.org.
My next turn for a Wednesday food page happens to fall next week in the middle of 30 Mile Meal Restaurant Week, so I decided to play along. Look for a couple of recipes prepared almost exclusively with local ingredients - most of which came from the Howland Farmers' Market. I'm talking a sandwich dubbed the "world's greatest" by arguably America's greatest chef and a creamed corn with bacon recipe from northeast Ohio's own Iron Chef.
In the meantime, give one of the restaurant week participants a try. There's a good chance that businesses interested in delivering customers the best local product in the coming week also are concerned about providing the best ingredients the other 51 weeks of the year.
Andy Gray is the entertainment writer for the Tribune Chronicle. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.