Category: Shopping

Road Trip! Ohio City Pasta in Cleveland

Click on either of these top two images for a larger version.

What’s seriously annoying is going on a food-related road trip, getting to where I need to be, seeing mounds of fresh food everywhere … and not being able to eat any.

Yeah, that would have been today. Mountains of freshly-made mushroom ravioli … and I mean absolute mounds of the stuff … and not a single pot of boiling water anywhere.

That just sucks.

Oh yeah, the shirt the young man making the pasta was wearing had the pasta’s cooking instructions printed on the back. But could I so much as practice?? Nooooo … sorry, no can do.

What you’re seeing in these top two photos is the manufacturing kitchen at Ohio City Pasta. Located in the Old City area just east of Cleveland overlooking Lake Erie, these folks staff this facility 24/7 to keep up with orders from multiple restaurants in multiple states. You may have had some of the pasta from Ohio City Pasta in a restaurant and not even known it. And if you get a chance to visit the West Side Market in the same Old City area you can purchase their pasta for your own kitchen at home.

I’ll tell you what, this is some darn good stuff. If you can’t get to a restaurant serving Ohio City Pasta products, get over to the West Side Market on Mondays or Wednesdays and get some of your own. I’m not so sure, though, that if you ask for cooking directions they’ll give you the shirts off their backs. In fact I’ll hasten to say it:

Probably not.

Recipe from Pel-Freez: Rabbit & Sausage Gumbo

Over on the Home Life blog here on, Sarah asked an interesting question a couple weeks ago:

Lately my husband and I have been considering raising rabbits as a meat source for our family … I like the idea of raising our own meat as we know how it was cared for, what it was fed, and how it was processed … And there are a ton of recipes out there for rabbit that seem delicious. Care to share your own?

I don’t have any of my own because, up until now, I’ve not cooked rabbit. I’ve eaten plenty, that’s for sure. If you look at the first comment on Sarah’s post, that’s my oldest son there. He and I both really like rabbit, as do his brothers and sister.

But my wife Mary has always reacted negatively to the possibility of eating rabbit … that is, until now.

Last week in response to Sarah’s question, I headed over to the Pel-Freez web site and ordered their free cookbook. As Mary browsed through this booklet a couple days ago, the recipe for Rabbit & Sausage Gumbo caught her eye. Before I could even wrap my brain around the possibility of cooking rabbit, she had half the ingredients for the gumbo in a shopping cart!

Once Mary had almost everything together, I headed out and picked up 3-1/4 pounds of the necessary frozen domestic rabbit.

But there was something missing. The filé powder.

Now this filé powder stuff doesn’t look like much. You don’t even add it until it’s time to serve the dish. But it was likely necessary. Had I ever had it in any of the gumbo I’d eaten here in the Great White North? I haven’t a clue. What the Heck is it anyway, the stuff you scrape off a French file?

Wait, it’s … what?? Ground sassafras leaves? Huh … I’d never heard of such a thing. Sassafras goes in root beer … some tea, but … gumbo? Well, alright, if you insist …

Try to find filé powder, aka Gumbo Filé, in SE Michigan/NW Ohio. Go ahead, I dare ya’.

Yesterday morning I was on the road over two hours looking for filé powder. I’d discovered Zatarain’s makes some so that’s the one I went looking for. I went to two Kroger’s, a GFS Marketplace, Lee William’s House of Meats, The Anderson’s … Staff at these stores kinda looked at me funny (I would have too), and tried to even correct me … “filet powder?” … “phyllo powder?” … “flea powder?” … yeah, sure, I put flea powder in my gumbo, don’t you??

So I’m wandering through the Sofo Foods store in north Toledo wondering why the hey I’m wandering through an Italian food supplier’s shop looking for something Creole-specific, when I suddenly stopped.

At the bottom of this page someone had written:

**Update** I recently noticed a container of Tony Chachere’s Filé powder at the store and picked some up. It’s the real deal, pure Sassafras, just like my homemade. Highly recommended!

Well I’ll be fo-shizzled. That’s exactly what I was staring at! Tony Chachere’s Gumbo Filé, in Sofo Foods in north Toledo. Who woulda thunk it??

After grabbing the Tony Chachere’s brand and heading up M-24 back toward Michigan, I had this crazy thought. Right there, south of the state line is The Fish Market I blogged about late last week. I had this thought, that maybe I should make some seafood gumbo at some point. I mean, there was enough filé powder there for …


I hit the brakes, parked the van and headed into The Fish Market. Steve Gale was behind the counter, and I asked if he had any filé powder. “Sure do, it’s right there”, he said, pointing at some glass jars on the counter.

I really need to not do these kinds of funky ingredient searches before ingesting enough caffeine for the day …

This evening as Mary tried this dish she just fell in love with it. She actually said, “Honey I get the feeling this is going to become one of my favorites, something I ask you to make.” Sounds good to me! This stuff is nice and chunky, the veggies al denté, the rabbit nice and tender, a spot of heat from the cayenne, and the amazing smell and flavor of sassafras, all rolled into one seriously-nice dish.

Mary didn’t like the thought of eating rabbit. She’s had this, and wants more, as do I. If you’re leary of trying rabbit for whatever reason, here’s where to start enjoying it.

That is, after you track down the danged filé powder …

Special thanks to the kind folks at Pel-Freez Rabbit Meat, Inc. for their express permission for me to post their recipe here at Luna Pier Cook.

Rabbit and Sausage Gumbo
From “Recipes from Around The World: Rabbit, An International Delicacy”
Used with permission of
Pel-Freez Rabbit Meat, Inc., Rogers, Arkansas

2-1/2 to 3 lbs Pel-Freeze Rabbit, thawed
6 cups water
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 Tbsp oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
3 celery stalks, including leaves, chopped
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
6 oz Kielbasa (or other smoked sausage) cut in 1/2 ” pieces
1/2 lb okra, cut in slices
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
1 16 oz can peeled tomatoes
2 tsp filé powder

In a heavy 4-quart saucepan, simmer rabbit, salt and pepper in water for 20 to 30 minutes or until tender. Remove rabbit from broth and let cool. Remove meat from bone in large pieces and return meat to broth in pan. In a skillet, heat oil. Sauté onion, pepper, celery and garlic for 3 minutes, stirring often. Add sausage, okra, cayenne, thyme and bay leaf. Continue cooking for 3 to 4 minutes. Add vegetable mixture and tomatoes to rabbit. Simmer 30 minutes. Stir in filé the last few minutes before serving. Serve over rice with a green salad and crusty French bread. Serves 4 to 6. Gumbo can be frozen, but filé should not be added until just before serving.

Alden Mill House, Alden, Michigan

Two summers ago on our honeymoon, Mary and I rented a house near the northeast corner of the amazingly-clear Torch Lake, located between Traverse City and Charlevoix. As the lake is almost 20 miles long but very narrow, we decided one day we were going to simply drive around it and see all the sights. After passing the southeast corner and turning north in Elk Rapids, we ended up coming into a slew of traffic of both vehicles and pedestrians. Passing through a 90-degree-turn eastward, we found ourselves in the extremely busy little town of Alden. It was Thursday, at lunch-time, what the hey were all those people doing there?? It turns out that Alden, Michigan, is simply the little town every other little town hopes to become. They pack so much into a distance of about a half-mile, the whole place is a destination all its own.

Having lunch at a place called the Kountry Kitchen (now The Sweet Onion or something like that) I found some nice spices on the table. The address on the label indicated they were made right there in town. I’d ordered an omelet, and when it was brought to me, I followed my sister’s lead with her Lawry’s Seasoned Salt and sprinkled some Alden Mill House‘s Farm Market Salad Seasoning on the omelet. Oh yeah, that was nice! The server said the mill house wasn’t far away, but I didn’t feeling like touring what I thought was an industrial facility. So, we went shopping instead.

In the tiny grocery in town, I picked up a couple Alden Mill House jars and took them to the counter. I was stunned when the girl at the register said they were cheaper at the mill house itself. Wait … you’re suggesting I get them elsewhere for less?? Wow …

Walking the rest of the way east to the next 90-degree-turn in the road, we finally saw the Alden Mill House. Good Sister Mary Margarita, I’m seeing Pippi Longstocking’s Villavillakula here!

These photos are from this past Friday, during our 4th or 5th visit to the Alden Mill House. As unkempt as the yard west of the house appears, it’s actually groomed this way by Chef Geno, a retired Chef, and owner of the Mill House and developer of the wonderful spices made there. The rest of that side of the yard is just as odd, but in a strangely-beautiful way:

Of course, you have to be careful where you step! This guy, photographed two years ago, was still waiting last Friday for someone to trip …

The east side of the yard, bordered by that other 90-degree-turn in the road, is more traditional. In the past year or so, a wonderful decorative waterwheel has been added where the road makes that turn:

Inside, the incredible fragrance of freshly-milled spices fills the nostrils, making me just a touch light-headed each time I enter this place. The room at the east corner of the house contains the spices I use most:

This year I used the (somewhat) annual trip to the Alden Mill House to stock up on those items I use most. You can get some of these spices at the jerky shops in Luna Pier and Dundee, but only in the smaller jars that are half the size of these. I’ll tell you what though, it’s worth the drive to Alden to pick up countless other items you can’t get at the jerky shops. Here’s my stash from last Friday’s visit:

In the larger four jars are:

  • Farm Market Salad Seasoning: Great on salads, fish, pork, etc., I found out right away it’s also excellent on eggs.
  • Pork & Poultry Seasoning: A nice rub for both pork and poultry, it’s good for these items when used in other dishes as well, such as chicken salad.
  • Miracle Blend: I probably go through a full pound of this stuff every six months or so. A mix of Kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder and other niceties, this is my go-to spice for everything from fried or scrambled eggs, to mashed potatoes, steamed, blanched or fried vegetables, and countless other uses.
  • Malibar Island Pepper: A 50/50 mix of both Malibar Island and Tellicherry peppers, this stuff is so fresh, you can stick your nose in the jar, take a BIG whif, and not sneeze! Oh, and it tastes great, too!

The Strawberry Rhubarb Jam in the jar in front turned out to have an incredible flavor, reminding me of a fresh pie. And the fish plaque is for Mary’s brother’s cottage on Walpole Island in Canada.

I would actually like to see Chef Geno’s spices available in more locations than they are. These are some of the best additions for food that I’ve ever stumbled into. Go get y’all some!

Fresh Washed Cherries!

The National Cherry Festival is taking place up in Traverse City this week, and as always, there’s plenty else going on near the festival itself including roadside stands with signs advertising “Fresh Washed Cherries”. This past weekend, the folks at Penrod Sales parked this truck in an old driveway off M-72 east of 131 just south of Kalkaska (about 25 miles east of the festival) to sell cherries to anyone who would stop by. Along with the darker tart cherries, they were also offering these beautiful Queen Anne cherries:

Even more unique was this box of Napolean cherries that was tucked behind the table. Mary and I accepted a few as samples … they were wonderfully sweet and very juicy!

We went with the “ol’ standby” though and drove away with a couple pints of the Tart cherries, which are still our favorites. However, two days later, after we had both thought the other had finished them, some were still in the bag! Of course, they were still very good indeed!

Errr … no, I didn’t save any to cook anything with. What, are you kidding? That there’s finger food!