Friday, February 28, 2014

Fresh Fork Market Brings Local Foods to School Lunches

Fresh Fork Market Brings Local Foods to School Lunches
by Brit Charek

Fresh Fork Market is more than just a CSA program for families and individuals to access fresh local foods. (We wrote about them back when they first expanded their service to the Akron area-- Click here to see that article again!) Earlier this month, they hosted a Farm-to-School event at Tallmadge High School to educate and spread health awareness. Each day, the menu features locally-grown produce and locally-raised meats.

"We want to teach the kids that local foods can be flavorful and nutritious," says Fresh Fork Market Owner Trevor Clatterback, who hopes to work with more school districts in the future. "We want to do it in a way that kids will understand, and kids understand burritos and pizza."

Within those districts, he and his staff will track food and labor costs and other information regarding incorporating local food into a school menu.

Pisanick Partners, a nutrition and operations based consulting firm, helped develop the menu. They worked together to serve lunch to Hudson Middle School last Thanksgiving. Click here to see a video about that event. The two companies hope to continue working together to encourage more schools to make local foods a part of their overall food procurement.

Fresh Fork Market's Summer Subscription starts in June. They have stops in Copley, Richfield and Highland Square. Check out their website for more information and to sign up.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Towpath Turtles and The Ohio Runners Network

Akron Empire would like to welcome guest blogger Stephani Itibrout to share her passion for a local running community and organization, the Towpath Turtles.  Stephani Itibrout is a mother, wife, teacher, runner, and blogger who likes to focus on all the cool opportunities for runners in the Akron area.  Look for her posts at and follow her on Twitter @itibrout.  If you are involved with a local group and would like to guest blog about them, you can contact us through here.  Many thanks to Stephani for sharing with us today.

TORN members running the trails. I'm showboating in the back.

"Let go your heart; let go your head, and feel it now."  These are the words I sang along with David Gray on my playlist on a frigid winter morning.  I touched my heart, and I touched my head, and I pictured the pain, grief, and fear I had been feeling float away into the air I left in my wake as I ran to the finish in my ten-mile run in the sun that morning.

Towpath Turtles and TORN at the Lyndhurst Perfect 10-Miler, 2013

Had you told me two years ago that I would be running ten miles in twenty degree weather in order to experience catharsis, had you told me that I would have willingly awakened early on a Sunday morning in order to do this, had you told me that the tears I shed were of joy, not sorrow. . . Well, I would have sarcastically laughed, poured another drink, and asked you if a bear would be chasing me when I did this.  I wouldn't have believed you because I didn't believe in myself.  Running can help.  Running changed my life for the better, and I almost didn't allow myself this experience if it hadn't been for The Towpath Turtles.

Towpath Turtles, Jim Klett 10k, 2013

In February 2012 I joined the Towpath Turtles, which is a group associated with The Ohio Runner's Network (TORN).  If you are ever walking, hiking, running, or biking around Akron,  I guarantee you will see or hear us.  We are the runners who are following the Akron Blue Line on Sunday mornings while sane people drink coffee and eat bagels.  We are the runners who chug up the gigantic hills in the Valley, hoping we won’t hurl when we get to the top.  We are the runners who are laughing and singing our way along the Cuyahoga River, having so much fun that we forget that we are training for the Akron Half Marathon.  We are the runners who are cheering on every runner in the race before we even get to the treats at the end.

TORN members, Medina Half Marathon, 2013

It is through the Turtles that I was able to break most of my mental and physical barriers to running. The day that I was able to run four miles without stopping was pretty significant for me, and I owe it to the Turtles.  One of the most empowering moments (besides childbirth) that I've ever experienced is when I ran the Akron Half Marathon, and I owe this to the Turtles, too.  They are extremely supportive and knowledgeable, and they are just good people.

Towpath Turtles, Munroe Falls Mother's Day 5k, 2013

Do you think you are too old to run?  We've got mothers, fathers, and grandmothers--people of all ages running with the Turtles, and they are having a ball.  Do you think you don't have the body of a runner?  What is that anyway?  Many of the Turtles don't look the way we envision runners, but I assure you that we ARE runners.

Do you worry that you are the one person in the world that won't be able to experience the fun of running and the thrill of a runner's high because you aren't worthy, aren't capable, or just CAN'T?  No?  Good.  I'm sure it's just me.  The Towpath Turtles and The Ohio Runner’s Network helped me to overcome that kind of negativity.  Besides, you can't NOT have fun in the middle of the long run.  The goofiness has to emerge at some point.  We've had our fair share of weirdness on the Towpath; it takes the form of top-of-your-lungs singing, train-whistling through tunnels, acrobatics and surprising stunts, and REALLY dorky jokes.

Look, Ma, I got a medal! Lyndhurst Perfect 10-miler, 2012

The motto on our club shirt says, "Fear the Turtle," and I really like it because deep down I would love to believe that there is SOMEBODY who comes to the race, sees us, and thinks, "Oh crap.  The Turtles are here.”  A more appropriate slogan might be, "Be Inspired by the Turtle."  I ABSOLUTELY hope that there are people at the races or on the road who look at us and think, "Wow, if they can do this, maybe I can."

Mission Accomplished! I completed the Akron Half Marathon! 2012

Do you think you wouldn't do well in a running club?  You might surprise yourself.
Believe me, these Turtles are worthy of emulation.  A healthy dose of fear certainly wouldn't hurt our egos, though.

Want to join The Ohio Runners Network?  Follow the link and contact information for the website. Hope to see you on the Towpath!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Old 97 Café for Drinks with Friends

Old 97 Café on Kenmore Blvd.

Old 97 Café for Drinks with Friends
by Joanna Wilson

A new acquaintance recently recommended that I check out one of her favorite places to enjoy a drink.  She described a wonderful old building in an unassuming neighborhood, a classy place with an easy atmosphere, decorated in gorgeous wood.  When she revealed its location--Kenmore Boulevard--I knew this place had to be an old-school neighborhood bar and I needed to experience it for myself.

My view from sitting at the end of the bar--a swanky wooden bar upon which rested my martini.

What I am just discovering but many people already know is that Old 97 Café is a popular place for cocktails.  Open since the 1940s, the neighborhood Irish pub has been under new ownership for the past several years specializing in cocktails--including martinis.  The drink menu includes microbrews, and cocktails, but the bartender assured me she could make me a martini to suit any taste.  My guest and I lapped up a specialty cocktail named Mr. Wilson (I remember orange juice, cranberry juice, and rum), followed by another: a Lake Erie Monster cocktail (vodka, pepperoncini juice, and olive juice--a variation on a dirty martini that we loved!).  Never wanting to leave, we also ordered from the food menu (consisting mostly of appetizers) and were delighted with a chicken quesadilla and a pizza made with tandoori bread. 

Friends gather at the bar for a cocktail and conversation.

But I think what made my first visit to Old 97 Café more special was the warmth and friendliness of those inside.  Not only was the bartender very happy to speak with me about the many drink options but she seemed delighted to share the history of the bar.  Other patrons seated alongside us joined in the conversation and it actually felt like what I always imagined a neighborhood bar should be like.  I didn't share with anyone that I had any intention of writing about my experiences for this blog--everyone seemed to be behaving like this as if this was a typical Thursday night at Old 97.  As we spoke, one gentleman made a sketch of my face on a small business card and gave it to me--an act he called sting art!  I couldn't believe how nice everyone was, an oasis of class and cocktails in the middle of Akron.

A private table in front of the window.

Old 97 Café is only open Thursdays through Saturdays--but check their website's event page because they are often open on Wednesdays for live music.  When we were there, Akron Ceili Band, traditional Irish music-makers, were performing.   Old 97 also hosts jazz, rock, bluegrass bands, and more.  I'm also told that when the weather warms, they have an open patio bar, a grill, and bocce ball.  The next time you're there--don't be surprised if you see me.  I think I've found my new favorite place to hang out.

Old 97 Café is located at 1503 Kenmore Blvd., Akron OH
Old 97 Café's website

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Ski Season in Ohio

Akron Empire is excited to introduce our newest guest blogger, Krystal Sierra. Krystal lives in Cleveland, Ohio with her boyfriend and son. She is the 2011 recipient of the A.W. "Bud" Collins Jr. Prize in Creative Writing and has been published by The Mill, Cleveland Review and others. She studied English Literature and Communication Studies at Baldwin Wallace University and will begin an MFA program in Creative Nonfiction this summer at Ashland University.

View and contribute to her current project at cle20something

Ski Season in Ohio
by Krystal Sierra

Skiers slipped down the smooth, cold hills at Boston Mills Sunday evening as the sun set behind them, leaving behind a sky streaked in pink, yellow, purple, blue and white. The slopes were crowded. People huddled in groups at the bottom, bundled up, cheery and saying, “Hi,” to those they knew. From 5-9 p.m. every other Sunday, the resort offers a Super Saver ticket—ski rental, lift ticket and access to the slopes at Boston Mills, Brandywine and Alpine Valley for $35—attracting many people.

What seemed most interesting to me, though, was a modestly hung, chalk-drawn sign announcing Boston Mills’ 50th anniversary. The anniversary seemed almost beside the point at a place where half the demographic is under 16. Boston Mills was crawling with kids, but that fed into the atmosphere. Everyone there, adults included, seemed to shed their everyday concerns for a little while. It was as if the whole place was living in the now. One big, breathing, pulsating thing living in the present moment. We were an ant farm waiting to explode from our hill. The lodge even smelled like earth.

 “We’ll start you off on Summit until you feel comfortable,” Joe Ostrica said, my guide for the night and a life-long ski enthusiast who grew up with Brandywine in his back yard. “We can go as slow as you want.” Before yesterday evening, I had never skied before.

I needed to go slow, and he proved to be a good teacher. After a slow run down Summit and another slow run down Buttermilk, we decided to change my rentals in. My poles were too short, and my skis weren’t waxed enough to give me momentum. We climbed Buttermilk six more times (not literally—we used the lift), with one break in between, and with his guidance, I learned to Snow Plow, turn left with the outside of my right knee, right with the outside of my left, how to slow down by turning up the hill and, best of all, how to lean into my own speed. By the time I was finished, my cheeks were frozen and I had snow up my back from falling down. But I was happy, and I understood why all those people had the same goofy smile on their faces. Skiing is an exhilarating experience.

It was 23° that night at Boston Mills, and it had snowed a few times in the past week. “Perfect condition for skiing,” Ostrica said as he packed his own skis into the back of his mid-sized SUV. “If it’s too cold, you spend the whole time in the lodge.”

Boston Mills Ski Resort is located at 7100 Riverview Road and their sister resort, Brandywine, is located at 1146 West Highland Road in Sagamore Hills.
Super Saver Tickets are available for February 23rd on their website now.

BMBW's Website
BMBW's Facebook Page

Friday, February 7, 2014

Barbers West in Fairlawn

Barbers West
by Brit Charek

Anyone who knows me understands how much I love my son's curly hair. No matter how many times he was called "she" by strangers and how many snarky comments from family members I had to put up with, I still refused to get his curls cut off-- it was like admitting that he wasn't a baby anymore.

I started looking around for an appropriate place to take him for his first real haircut, which is when I heard about Barbers West in Fairlawn. I planned to take him a few times, but then chickened out with the excuse that I wanted to wait until after my wedding, and then his curls just looked so cute! Last week I finally bit the bullet and took him to Barbers West, which I'd recommend to any mom facing the same dilema.

Barbers West is located 2950 West Market Street behind the SeibertKeck building.

Barbers West is a traditional barber shop. They specialize in haircuts for men and boys on a walk-in basis. They don't offer any chemical services, just quality haircuts.

"I tried to put a modern flare on a traditional art," says owner Cindy Richards, a barber of 31 years who opened the shop in October of 2012. The shop is clean and modern, with an old-fashioned feel to it. There is a comfy waiting room with toys and books to occupy little people as well as adults, although no one had to wait more than a few minutes for an open seat.


Our barber T.J., who comes from a family of barbers, was very patient with Holden, who was afraid of the noisy clippers. He even let him touch them to show him that they didn't hurt, but Holden was still freaked out so he patiently combed out Holden's tangles (there's one thing I won't miss about his curls!) and trimmed his hair with scizzors. After it was all said and done, Holden picked out a blue lollipop and was excited to go home and show off his new look.

T.J. did a great job on Holden's haircut, eventhough he refused to let him use the clippers.
Barbers West is located at 2950 West Market Street in Fairlawn. They are open Monday through Friday 9am-6pm and Saturday from 8am-2pm. They don't take appointments and only accept cash.

Monday, February 3, 2014


Do you know where to go sledding in the Akron area?  Located in the North Akron, Cascade Valley's Oxbow area also attracts westside residents.

The Best Sledding in the Akron Area
by Joanna Wilson

Even though we are already half way through winter, there is more snow in our immediate forecast.  The surest way I know to endure a long winter in Akron is to surrender to its charms--and sledding is my favorite winter activity! 

I'm not kidding! I love to go sledding.  This is me, last week, on my way down the hill at Cascade Valley.  Sledding is NOT just for the kiddies!

I'm still a little surprised when I hear people (or see people commenting on facebook) that they don't know where to go for the best sledding in The Empire.  Might I suggest turning to one of our best local resources: The Metro Parks, Serving Summit County?  Many of the specially designated sledding hills in The Metro Parks offer restrooms, fire pits, lighted hills for after-dark sledding, and plenty of parking.  The Metro Parks website has a graphic that lists which of their parks offers the various winter sports/activities (including ice skating, cross-country skiing, sledding, and winter hiking) and which sledding hills include lights for after-dark sledding.  Click HERE to see that graphic.

Between runs down the hill, warm the young ones' hands by the fire!  This is the fire pit at Cascade Valley.

Please encourage your children to read the signs and pay attention to their own and others' safety.

The Metro Parks, Serving Summit County have sledding hills in many locations including:
Cascade Valley-Oxbow Area
Firestone Metro Park
Furnace Run (in Richfield)
Goodyear Heights
Munroe Falls
Sand Run

One of the more impressive hills is at Goodyear Heights on the city's east side (Newton Rd).  It also offers lights for sledding at night!

My landscape photography skills need a lot of help.  But this is the intimidating hill at Goodyear Heights.  It is fun coming down this hill but it offers a long walk back to the top!  Sledding conditions right now: a thin layer of snow on top of ice makes for a FAST RIDE!

As we attempt to survive this year's long winter, let's do it with some fun and excitement.  Grab a sled, tobaggan, inner-tube, plastic disc, or a sheet of plastic and hit the hill running!  Where do you go sledding?  What other snow-filled activities keep you busy during the winter?

The Metro Parks, Serving Summit County website
The Metro Parks on facebook
*each of the parks also have their own facebook page
or call the Parks' seasonal hotline for information: 330-865-8060
The Metro Parks on twitter: @metro_parks