May 24, 2017

Dear friends,

To my mind there’s no better use of a charcoal grill than to roast a whole chicken. I’m a roast chicken girl from way back, requesting one every year on my birthday when I was growing up. Roasting the bird on the grill until the meat is smoky-juicy and the skin is a crackling, burnished brown just ups the attraction.

It wasn’t my birthday last Thursday but the glorious weather just shouted “spatchcock chicken” to me. Not actually, but the Weber was at hand and for some reason I couldn’t get the word “spatchcock” out of my mind. Great word, right? Spatchcock, spatchcock, spatchcock.

While pondering the origins of the word (Scottish?) I envisioned a flattened, bronzed bird with a garlic-orange-honey-thyme glaze. I would use my new mortar and pestle (a behemoth Tony brought home from the Asian Food Market on State Road in Cuyahoga Falls) to pound the garlic into a paste, releasing clouds of aroma and flavor.

I jotted down the bare bones of a recipe and logged on to Google. Here’s the lowdown on “spatchcock”: The word is probably of Irish origin, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, perhaps shorthand for “dispatch the cock.” It evolved to mean killing and cooking a game bird quickly. A whole chicken does indeed cook relatively quickly when it is cut up the back, spread open and flattened.

While gardening and puttering around the house (retirement rocks!), I flattened the chicken and made the marinade, then later set up the grill, then later made the glaze. My 5-pound bird took about 60 minutes to roast over indirect heat on the grill. Most broiler-fryers are smaller, though, and won’t take quite as long. Mine looked like a million bucks and tasted like my birthday. This might be my favorite summer dinner.

GRILL-SMOKED SPATCHCOCK CHICKEN
WITH ORANGE-THYME GLAZE
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 2 sprigs fresh thymeUnknown(16).jpg• 1 meaty broiler-fryer chicken, about 4 lbs.

    Marinade:

    • 1 cup orange juice
    • 2 cloves garlic
    • 1/4 cup salt
    • 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
    • 2 tbsp. honey
    • 2 sprigs fresh thyme

    Glaze:

    • 1 tbsp. olive oil
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 3/4 cup orange juice
    • 1 tsp. grated orange zest
    • 1 tsp. yellow mustard
    • 1/4 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
    • 1/4 cup honey

  • Rinse chicken inside and out. Place on a cutting board, breast down. With poultry shears or a sharp knife, cut alongside backbone from the neck to tail cavities. Flatten the chicken, skin side up and breasts in the middle, pushing down on the center with the heel of your hand. Trim and discard excess skin and fat. Fit flattened chicken into a 1-gallon, zipper-close plastic bag.Marinade: Measure out the orange juice. If you have a mortar and pestle, cream together garlic and 1 teaspoon of the salt until it is a thick paste. Stir it into the orange juice with the other marinade ingredients. Alternately, drop garlic through the feed tube of a food processor with the motor running. Turn off motor, remove lid and add remaining marinade ingredients except thyme. Pulse until smooth. Pour marinade over chicken in bag. Add thyme sprigs and seal. Put in a large bowl or on a lipped platter (to catch any leaks) and refrigerate at least 4 hours, turning once or twice.Glaze: While chicken marinates, heat olive oil in a small saucepan. Sauté garlic over medium heat until it begins to change color. Whisk in juice, zest, mustard, thyme and honey. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a slow boil. Boil until liquid is reduced by about half, stirring occasionally, until mixture is about as thick as melted butter. Remove from heat.

    Build a 50-briquette fire in one half of a covered grill. Place an oblong foil pan in the bottom of the opposite side. Soak some wood chips, if desired. When coals have ashed over, scatter the drained chips over the coals. Place a greased grid over the coals and pan.
    Drain and pat dry the chicken. Oil or butter the skin.

    Place the flattened chicken skin side down on the grid over the foil pan. Cover grill, leaving vent holes open. After 20 minutes, turn chicken over and arrange so the side nearest the fire is now in back.

    Do this every 20 minutes until an instant thermometer inserted in the breast reads 165 degrees, about 40 to 60 minutes depending on size of the chicken and how quickly you can turn and re-cover it.

    Place chicken on a platter and allow to rest while reheating the glaze. Pour about half of the glaze over the chicken. Pass the remaining glaze at the table. Serves 3 to 4.
    GUT CHECK


    What I cooked last week: 
Pan-grilled pork chops with a sweet soy sauce glaze; strawberry Jell-O with sliced strawberries and whipped topping; grill-smoked whole chicken with a honey-orange glaze, grilled sweet potatoes; a big salad of home-grown arugula with sliced herbed chicken and homemade vinaigrette; egg salad.

    What I ate in restaurants last week:
The Big Al (turkey salad, bacon, avocado and cranberry sauce on rye) at Gasoline Alley in Bath; Blue Moon Burger with grilled mushrooms, grilled onions, bacon and blue cheese at Wolf Creek Tavern in Norton; a California roll and a salad bowl of green tea ramen noodles, lettuce, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, edamame, corn kernels and stir-fried beef and onions with sesame dressing at Tensuke Express in Columbus.

    TIDBITS


    The casual Japanese restaurant where I had that terrific ramen salad is part of Tensuke Market, a Japanese grocery store that is a must-visit whenever Tony and I are in Columbus. Sometimes we go to Columbus just for the store, which has the widest selection of Japanese products we have found within driving distance.

    Tony enjoys picking up a copy of a Japanese newspaper and scanning the shelves for the latest cooking gadgets and knick-knacks from Japan. But mostly we go for the food, which ranges from fresh produce (enoki and shiitake mushrooms, kabocha squash, burdock root, daikon radishes, etc.) to thin Japanese cuts of meat to a wide array of packaged snacks, sweets, tea, seasonings, noodles and drinks. Deli cases hold an extensive selection of sushi and bento boxes.

    After Tony and I check out, we usually head to the Sushi 10 sushi bar sandwiched between the market and Tensuke Express. Some people get bento boxes from the deli case to eat at the sushi bar, while others order from the menu. The space is no-frills but the food is excellent.

    You could take your sushi next door to Tensuke Express, as we did, and supplement it with items from that menu, which is mostly bowl foods of stir-fries and rice, ramen, udon and soba noodles, along with chicken teriyaki, fried fish, chicken karaage (ultra crisp fried chicken) and fried chicken and pork cutlets. Beef curry, which Tony had, also is on the menu. Nothing at Tensuke Express costs more than $10.

    Tensuke Market and restaurants are at 1167 Old Henderson Road in Columbus. The website is tensukemarket.com.

    THE MAILBAG


    From Sura:
    Your orzo salad reminded me of my summer favorite: cooked orzo, halved cherry tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper, olive oil and fresh minced basil. The tomatoes are left in the garlic and olive oil for about an hour to release the juices, then everything is mixed together and served at room temperature or cool. It just hits every note correctly.

    Dear Sura: I will definitely try this. It sounds like the topping for a ciabatta pizza I like to make and you’re right — so simple but perfect.
    From J.D. and many others:
    What size hat does Tony wear? I have (or can tell him where to get) an Amish hat he can have (or buy).

    People, people: I thought you were my friends. I do not want Tony to wear oversized denim trousers and suspenders, let alone an Amish hat. His tractor-logo ball caps are bad enough.

    Please note: If your email address changes, you must re-subscribe to my newsletter in order to continue receiving it. We are unable to change the address for you in  our email list. The procedure is easy. Just click on the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of a newsletter. Then go to  www.janesnowtoday.com, to sign up under your new address. Thank you.

    Please tell your friends about my blog site (https://janesnowtoday.wordpress.com/), where you can find not only each week’s newsletter but archives of past newsletters.Please note: If your email address changes, you must re-subscribe to my newsletter in order to continue receiving it. We are unable to change the address for you in  our email list. The procedure is easy. Just click on the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of a newsletter. Then go to  http://www.janesnowtoday.com, to sign up under your new address. Thank you.

     

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May 17, 2017

Dear friends,

I’ve never been a less-is-more kind of person. In cooking as in life I usually go big and bold, or at least offbeat. That’s how I came to marry a man whose current fixation is becoming Amish (visually only, thank god). He already has the oversized blue jeans with farmer’s pockets on the sides. He cut the sleeves off a Ralph Lauren denim shirt so they hang limply right below the biceps. He bought black suspenders. Now he wants a flat-brim hat so he can be, his words, “Japanese Amish.”

“There aren’t many of us,” he remarked the other day. Many?! Honey, there aren’t ANY.

After going out to lunch with him in that get-up, I was ready to tone down my life with nude lipstick, mellow jazz and food that whispered instead of shouted. I remembered a suave pasta salad from Earth Fare that appeared to have just four ingredients: orzo, roasted red pepper bits, capers and Italian dressing. I couldn’t believe something so simple was so good.

Of course, there’s no room for error when playing with so few ingredients, so I carefully set about cloning it. My first try was too fancy — I added chopped black nicoise olives and sun-dried tomatoes, which ruined the flavor. The second time I kept it to the four basic ingredients plus salt and played with proportions. My restraint paid off.

If you’re in the mood for a simple, classy pasta salad, this is it. It’s not Tex-Mex or Cajun or fusion or even Japanese Amish. Thank god.

ORZO SALAD WITH CAPERS AND RED PEPPERS

Unknown(15).jpeg

1 box (12 oz.) orzo pasta
Salt
6 tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tbsp. drained cappers
1/4 cup chopped pickled or roast sweet red pepper

Cook pasta until al dente in boiling, salted water; drain well.

While pasta cooks, whisk together oil, vinegar, garlic, sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and oregano in a medium serving bowl. Stir in capers and chopped red pepper.
Add orzo and toss well to coat pasta with dressing. Cool. Serve at room temperature. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked last week: Grilled chicken breasts rubbed with Indian spices and marinated in yogurt; roast asparagus with olive oil, sea salt and lemon; rice-cooker jambalaya; grilled t-bone steaks, Italian orzo salad, roast asparagus and chocolate pudding.

What I ate last week in restaurants: Roast beef, baby Swiss and onion sandwich with Italian dressing at Shisler’s Cheese House in Copley; a chili dog, a country apple pie sugar-free ice cream cone and a gigantic pulled pork sandwich with slaw at Boss Frosty’s ice cream stand on Greenwich Road, across from the Blue Sky Drive-In in Wadsworth; boiled crawfish, crystal shrimp, a sweet potato slice, spring roll, beef stir fry and fresh fruit at Katana’s in Jackson Township.

TIDBITS

* Katana’s, where Tony and I dined Saturday evening, is one of the buffets recommended by readers a couple of weeks ago. It is huge and it was packed. There were seven double-sided steam and food bars not counting soup, sushi and stir-fry stations. I don’t know if the food was house-made — most Asian buffet food is not — but it tasted fresh and the items were seasoned better than at other Asian buffets I’ve visited. Even the sushi was good, Tony said. Service was excellent.

“Tell your friends thank you,” Tony said after plowing through five or six plates of food.

Unfortunately, Tony will want to return. Although Katana’s is several notches above other Asian buffets I’ve tried, I’m still not a fan. Maybe it’s the businesslike way diners attacked the steam tables. Even while eating, hardly anyone talked or cracked a smile. It seemed like the kind of crowd that could turn ugly if the shrimp ran out.

But that’s just me. Or maybe it’s just Americans at all-you-can-eat buffets.

* CHICKEN IN A JIFF

As you can see in this week’s Gut Check, I no longer cook every day and when I do cook, it’s rarely complicated. The grilled chicken last week is a good example. Early in the day I rubbed two boneless, skinless breasts with garam masala, an Indian spice blend you can buy in many Asian stores or make yourself (which I have done exactly once). Then In a bowl I squished the chicken around with a cup of plain yogurt. I covered and chilled, then grilled it over charcoal on an oiled grid, leaving as much yogurt as possible clinging to the meat. Oiling the grill is important.

The yogurt keeps the chicken juicy and the spices permeate deeply into the meat. It made a luscious, healthful dinner with the addition of roasted asparagus: trim and rub the spears with olive oil on a baking sheet, sprinkle with coarse sea salt and roast at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Squeeze some lemon juice over the asparagus before serving.

* THE OTHER HALF

After chowing down at a buffet you may want to see how the other half lives, gastronomically speaking. If so, go to http://www.thomaskeller.com. In the “restaurants” menu find the French Laundry, and click on “chef’s tasting menu.” You will be transported to a world of duck foie gras torchons with strawberries and wild purslane, and grilled king crab with hen egg terrine and wild ramp emulsion.

The French Laundry is a picturesque restaurant in California’s Napa Valley. Chef Keller strives to perfect every morsel of food he serves in his multi-course tasting menu — the only menu available, which changes daily. I still count the meal I enjoyed there in the 1990s as the best I’ve eaten.

THE MAILBAG

From MaryAnn, Charlestown Township:
Wow. I remember Spanish Bar Cake was my dad’s favorite store-bought item and it came from the Omarket Bread delivery truck. As a rural letter carrier Daddy ate lunch in the car out in the boonies of Southeast Ohio and this cake started moist and stayed moist. The A&P in town was only an occasional stop, but the cake was always on the list.

Also, next time you’re near Deerfield Circle head back to the Edinburg Township line and go to my friend Diane’s coffee shop, the Wistful Cafe and Bakery. Look for the tall signs for the camper place; she is nestled beside it.

Her bakery has outstanding items and I have purchased event and wedding cakes. We have a ladies’ lunch there once a month, and there is a strong community feel. Since she is in the heart of Southeast Schools, she has some dishes that were favorites from the school food service. I love an individual skillet of mac and cheese, or chili. I had a memorable butternut squash soup there last month. Check out her website for menus and specials: http://www.thewistfulcafe.com.

Dear MaryAnn: I drive by there frequently on my way to visit family in East Liverpool, but have never noticed the restaurant. After reading all the raves on the Internet, you can bet I’ll stop the next time I drive out that way. Thanks.

May 10, 2017

Dear friends,

What the heck happened?! One minute we were sweating in the unseasonably warm weather and the next we were getting frost warnings. It’s May! I should be toasting hot dogs over a campfire, not cooking hearty soups!

But soup it was last week and soup it probably will be again this week, hopefully for the last time until fall. In Ohio you never know, though, so I’ll keep my recipe for white bean and sausage soup handy.

A big pot of the soup warmed up Tony and me for several meals. The dipping temperatures were all the inspiration I needed to start tossing ingredients into a pot — first onions, then garlic and sausage, then broth, tomatoes and kale. I used canned white cannellini beans and added them last to prevent them from becoming mushy.

This is a simple soup that’s quick to put together but is satisfying and boldly flavored. Let’s hope it’s the last hearty soup of spring.

SAUSAGE, WHITE BEAN AND KALE SOUP

a2b9c941-7443-4180-8b53-67bfd07f7d8b.jpg

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, slivered
1 lb. spicy or mild Italian sausage links, cut in 1-inch pieces
1 tsp. oregano
Salt to taste
32 oz. (4 cups) chicken broth
1 can (28 oz.) whole peeled plum tomatoes with juice
5 or 6 big kale leaves, washed and torn, with tough center stem discarded
2 cans (15.5 oz. each) cannellini beans, drained

Heat oil in a hot soup kettle. Sauté onion in oil over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high, add garlic and sausage pieces and cook until edges of sausage begin to brown. Stir in salt and oregano. Add chicken broth. Chop tomatoes and add with the juice. Add kale. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Add beans and simmer 30 minutes longer. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Ladle into bowls. Makes about 8 servings.
GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week: Rhubarb compote; kale and white bean soup; mashed avocado and an easy-over egg on toast with hot sauce; orzo salad with capers, and smoked bratwurst on buns.

What I ate in restaurants last week: Hot pastrami on rye at Primo’s Deli in Akron; Subway Italian hero; chili-glazed pork belly banh mi at Wolf Creek Tavern in Norton; jerk pork taco, Mexican street corn and carnitas taco at Funky Truckeria in Norton; Chinese pork bun from Park to Shop in Cleveland; and smoked boneless pork ribs, candied sweet potatoes, scalloped potatoes, collard greens and corn muffins at the Sunday buffet at LA Soul in Akron.

TIDBITS

The tacos I had at Funky Truckeria in Norton on Cinco de Mayo were the best I’ve tasted in Northeast Ohio. Tacos are the main (and almost only) menu item at the small but hip restaurant wedged in the far corner of Norton Plaza.

If you haven’t been to the restaurant yet, I recommend you try it. If you have, then you’re probably a fan, too, and won’t mind clicking on over to http://www.cleveland.com/best/2017/05/a_history_of_taco_tuesday_its.html#incart_highlight to vote for Funky Truckeria in a contest for best tacos in the Cleveland area. The contest ends May 15, but you can vote once an hour until then to help put Funky over the top.

THE MAILBAG

From Dennis:
If I remember correctly, Tony loves barbecue. LA Soul Restaurant, 1001 E. Tallmadge Ave. in Akron, has a barbecue and soul food buffet on Sundays. I work Sundays and have not been to the buffet but I have had many of the items on their menu and their food and desserts are homemade and very good. No young kids on staff and everyone is very helpful and friendly.

Dear Dennis: As you can see above, Tony and I immediately followed your suggestion and went to the Sunday buffet. The service was well-meaning but almost non-existent when we visited, but the buffet was beyond lush, and everything was indeed homemade. Great fried fish, fried and baked chicken, boneless barbecued ribs and roast beef were just the beginning. There were at least a dozen side dishes not counting salad, and I can personally recommend the collard greens, scalloped potatoes and corn muffins. The cost is $16.99 for all you can eat. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, but the buffet runs to just 7:30 p.m.

May 3, 2017

Dear friends,
My buddy, Dave, is the ultimate audience for my cooking. Heck, for anyone’s cooking. Better known as Coondog O’Karma, Dave is a retired professional speed eater and connoisseur of good eats. Many of our conversations are about food, so I wasn’t surprised when he shot me a Facebook message in December with photo of a Spanish Bar Cake and this plea: “Jane Snow, will you make this for me? Please! Please!!!!

I meant to surprise him, but winter turned to spring and the cake slipped my mind. Coondog was still on the scent, though. “Jane, please make me an A&P Spanish Bar Cake and I will come over and clean up after all the pets,” he wrote a couple of weeks ago.

Okay, okay. It was time. I had not tasted the raisin spice cake since I was a kid, and neither had Coondog. It was an iconic product of the A&P supermarket chain, where my friend was once employed as a stock boy. I remember the cake as dark and spicy with an overtone of cloves or allspice. It was a long, narrow double-layer filled and frosted with a thick, sweet white icing.

Knock-off recipes are everywhere, so that was no problem. I made the cake in a 9-by-13-inch pan and cut the finished cake in half lengthwise for the two layers. The recipe I found came with a recipe for the white icing, and although I don’t think the original was a cream cheese icing, it was good.

At the hand-off Tuesday Coondog vowed to eat every bite of the cake by himself. From the way he ogled the cake, I have a feeling he ate it on the way home in his car. He has been starving lately, he said.

“Lisa (his wife) is on a diet and the meals are killing me,” he confided. “I need carbohydrates.” No problem. That cake is a guaranteed sugar high.

SPANISH BAR CAKE

IMG_1608.JPGCake:
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups applesauce
2 eggs
1 cup raisins plumped in hot water

Icing:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 tbsp. butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
Drops of milk if needed

For the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder, salt and spices in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix briefly on low speed. Add oil and beat until dry ingredients are moistened. Beat in applesauce. Beat in eggs one at a time until batter is smooth. Stir in raisins by hand. Pour into a greased and floured 9-by-13-inch pan that has been lined with parchment paper and greased again. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, until the cake pulls away from sides of pan and top is dry to the touch.

Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a foil-lined counter. Peel off parchment paper and cut cake in half lengthwise. Cool completely.

For the icing: Beat cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Beat in sugar a little at a time, adding a drop or two of milk if needed for proper spreading consistency.

Place one cake layer, flat side up, on a platter or a piece of cardboard covered with foil. Spread a thick layer of the icing over the top of the cake layer. Top with second layer, flat side down. Ice top of cake only. Dip a fork in water and drag the tine the length of the cake, making subtle back-and-forth squiggles. Repeat the pattern over the entire top of the cake. Cut crosswise into slices to serve. Store in refrigerator.

Note: You will have icing left over unless you choose to ice the sides of the cake, which is not necessary.
TIDBITS
*What I ate in restaurants last week:
Gumbo at Constantine’s Marketplace in Cleveland; omelet and fruit at Alexandri’s in Wadsworth; Cheeseburger and onion rings at Swenson’s; Thai chicken salad at Panera; eggs, bacon and homemade potato pancakes at the Circle Restaurant in Deerfield, and thin-crust pizza from Earth Fare.

What I cooked last week:
Pan-grilled steaks with Japanese sweet potatoes; egg salad; Spanish bar cake; sugar-free brownies, and Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in Milk for our 10th anniversary. The recipe for the luscious chicken is from the April 20 New York Times. Sam Sifton wrote, “ It is the sort of meal you might cook once a month for a good long while and reminisce about for years.”

A whole broiler-fryer is browned in a pan just large enough to hold it, and baked with milk, lemon peel, a cinnamon stick, lots of garlic and sage leaves. The sauce is supposed to get stringy and clumpy but mine didn’t. Others have had this problem, and one Times emailer said she solved it by using shelf-stable milk (Parmalat). Even without the interesting texture, the chicken was delicious.

JAMIE OLIVER’S CHICKEN IN MILIK

 

IMG_1595.JPG1 whole chicken, 3-4 pounds
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small cinnamon stick
10 cloves garlic, skins left on
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 handful of fresh sage, leaves picked — around 15-20 leaves
2 lemons

Heat oven to 375. Season the chicken aggressively with the salt and pepper. Place pot that will fit the chicken snugly over medium-high heat on the stove, and add to it the butter and olive oil. When the butter has melted and is starting to foam, add the chicken to the pot and fry it, turning every few minutes, until it has browned all over. Turn the heat down to low, remove the chicken from the pot and place it onto a plate, then drain off all but a few tablespoons of the fat from the pot.

Add the cinnamon stick and garlic to the pot, and allow them to sizzle in the oil for a minute or 2, then return the chicken to the pot along with the milk and sage leaves. Use a vegetable peeler to cut wide strips of skin off the two lemons, and add them to the pot as well. Slide the pot into the oven and bake for approximately 1½ hours, basting the chicken occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through and tender and the sauce has reduced into a thick, curdled sauce. (If the sauce is reducing too quickly, put a cover halfway onto the pot.)

To serve, use a spoon to divide the chicken onto plates. Spoon sauce over each serving. Goes well with sautéed greens, pasta, rice, potatoes, bread.

* Plating pains:
”A spoonful of sauce slid on the plate looks like the cat’s ass has been used to drag the puree across. It was novel at first, but now it’s done in Los Angeles, Tokyo, London… You have no idea where you are in the world because the plate is exactly the same.”
— Jeremiah Tower in Bon Appetit. magazine

THE MAILBAG

From Geoff:
I agree fully with you about most buffet food being bland, stale and flavorless but the one I like very much, although not quite local, is Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen in Mt. Hope, a 45-minute drive south of Akron in the middle of Amish country. It has a great salad bar and most of the traditional Amish-type comfort foods but the item I yearn for en route is the wonderful pressure-fried chicken. it has a very light, flavorful batter and is cooked perfectly. The chicken alone makes the trip worthwhile.

From Marty: If you want to try some country-style hearty food, cruise down to Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen in Mt. Hope. They have both a buffet as well as made-to-order menu. This is Amish cooking and the bread is baked on the premises. It is wonderful. Here is a link to the website: http://mrsyoderskitchen.com.

Dear Geoff and Marty: I had forgotten this buffet in my list of ones Tony and I have tried — probably because he got the buffet while I had half of a hot pork sandwich with homemade mashed potatoes. Don’t know how I could forget. It is indeed first-rate.

From Jenny K.:
A few weeks ago my husband and I discovered an Asian buffet called Katana in the Belden Village area near Burlington Coat Factory. We thought the food was very good and items were replenished immediately as needed. The price is very affordable; the food was fresh and well-prepared. They say they serve Chinese, Japanese and some American.

In the same area is Buffet Dynasty near the corner of Belden Village Avenue and Dressler. I love their coconut shrimp, but I don’t think their other offerings are as extensive as Katana. There is or used to be an Asian buffet in Twinsburg that was very popular. It has been years since we’ve been to the Royal Seafood Buffet in the Chapel hill are but it was very good when we used to go.

From Chris Avers:
The best buffet around is Katana’s at 4758 Everhard Road in Canton, next to Burlington Coat Factory.

Dear Chris, Jenny and others: Katana is now on my dance card. Thanks for the suggestion.

From Judy A.:
Sahara Grille on Dressler in the Belden Village area has a Middle-Eastern buffet that is great and very fresh — kibbee, fatoush, lentil soup, m’jadara, Lebanese green beans, etc. The hours and address are on the webpage here: http://www.saharagrille.com.

The owners of Sahara were the original owners of Sanibel Middle Eastern Bakery on South Street in Akron, and also the original franchisee of Aladdin’s in Highland Square.

Dear Judy: This is great news. I love their food and am happy to hear they now have a Middle Eastern buffet.

From Francie:
I’m with you on buffets but Tony might like the lunch buffet at Bombay Sitar in Canton (www.bombaysitar.com). It’s a favorite of all of my daughter’s friends (especially the vegetarians and vegans) when they are in town. The restaurant recently made the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s list of 50 things to eat and drink in Greater Cleveland.

Dear Francie: I have only eaten there twice, but it was enough to made Bombay Sitar my favorite Indian restaurant in the area. The lunch buffet can get crowded, so go early if you can.

From M.A.:
In mid-Atlantic aboard Celebrity Reflection, I chose the 12th deck buffet morning, noon and night — well, we take most of our nighttime food in one of the tablecloth restaurants, but I check the dinner buffet to see what I missed. While I agree with your general characterization of American buffets, the cruise industry has got it right, and with live prep stations does a limited number of quick-serve items, too.

Dear M.A.: I haven’t cruised as yet. I was holding out for the QE II and its all-you-can-eat caviar policy. Alas, I waited too long and the liner is now docked permanently in Dubai. Does Cunard’s new Queen Elizabeth play loose with the caviar, too, I wonder?