Saturday, October 24, 2015

Time for Wine

There seems to be a season for everything.  Fall and Winter gatherings call for wine to share with friends and family.  As the sun sets earlier and the temperatures fall, a glass of wine can be appreciated for it's beautiful color. festive glass, tempting aroma, and warming cheer!

At most retailers, wine (and beer) prices fluctuate throughout the year in Ohio, but they often rise with the approach of the Fall and Winter holidays. Many enjoy giving and receiving a gift of wine! Now is the time to stock up on your favorite wine--before the prices rise for the holiday season. Be sure to buy from a retail store that sells wine at the State Minimum Price, such as Homer Village Market.

For those wondering exactly what "State Minimum Price" means, it is the lowest price a retailer is allowed to sell (a regulated product) to the consumer. So that the State government can be assured of some minimum level of sales tax (for budgeting purposes), the Ohio retailer is required to add a markup, specified by law, to the price they were invoiced by their geographically-assigned distributor. Retail stores can sell at higher prices, but they cannot sell any lower than the State Minimum Price in effect at the time they purchased the product from the distributor.

Notice that the price of your favorite wine or beer changes up and down throughout the year though it may remain static most of the time. If the distributor's price goes up, the retailer is not required to reprice the inventory already in stock (although some retailers do so in the case of a price increase--but then they are not really selling at the State Minimum). If the distributor's price goes down, the retailer is prohibited by law from lowering the price of the bottles already in stock before the price decrease, because to do so would be a violation of the State Minimum pricing law).  This is the main reason you might find the same wine label at two different prices at two State-Minimum retailers (or even two different prices for two bottles of the same label on the same retailer's shelf).  The retail price depends on what the retailer paid at the time they placed their order from the distributor.  It pays to shop around!

If you like dry red wines such malbec, cabernet sauvignon, chianti, and red zinfindel at value prices (under $10 a bottle), as I do, there are several brands whose promotional prices are very good right now compared to the normal retail price several dollars per bottle higher. Stock up now before the price goes back up again.

  • Trapiche (Malbec - Mendoza region of Argentina) $7.99 (recently priced at $9.99 then $8.99)
  • Dynamite (Zinfandel - Sonoma, California) $9.99 (rises to $12.99 around the holidays)
  • Ruffino (Chianti - Italy) - $8.99 (usually at least $9.99)
  • Fetzer - Alexander Hill's (Cabernet Sauvignon - California lower foothills) 1.5 liter $9.99 (usually $12.99 or more)
To save even more, purchase a case and receive a 10% discount.  Most of the time, you can mix and match 12 regular size bottles of different labels or 6 of larger size bottles and get the 10% case discount.  (Generally excluded from the case discount eligibility would be those bottles of wine where the retailer purchased less than a case at a time and had to pay a per-bottle surcharge to the distributor.)  

Stop by the Homer Village Market to see which wines are on promotional prices right now.  We have wide range of brands and varieties of wine to fit all budgets.  If you enjoy sparkling wines, sweet reds, sweet whites, dry reds, dry whites, or something in between, stop by and see what we have on the shelf and in the cooler.   Don't see your favorite?  We can let you know the current price and place an order for delivery in-store often the same week, but no later than the following week.   Not sure which wine to try?  We can help you decide based on your preferences.  Hope to see you soon!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Where Has the Summer Gone?

School is already starting for some area kids!  It seems like the Summer has been in full speed mode! Not one "lazy day of Summer" that I can recall.

July was the rainiest month since last October!  Farmers were challenged to manage their fields between drenching storms that seemed to never end since Spring.  Children on Summer break from school were sad that their sports were being rained out and trips to the swimming pool were infrequent.  Weather has improved greatly in the final week of July and first week of August.

Here it is mid-August, and the Hartford Fair is enjoying its 157th year of festivities.  Tonight will be the demolition derby event, which a lot of local folks not only like to watch, but also ride!  In less than two hours, beat-up vehicles will be getting even more bruised and battered to the delight of a cheering crowd of onlookers.   The Homer Village Market is located on the route to the fairgrounds, so maybe I'll see some of the derby vehicles heading to the demolition event--or at least hear them roaring down the road.

This week Monday was the "lamb cookoff" competition, and one of our local youth won a prize for her entry!  I can't wait to get the recipe and try it myself.  Once the Hartford Fair Board publishes the winning entries, we will put a link here so you can enjoy some good country cooking recipes.

This past weekend (August 7-9) was the annual Pelotonia bicycle ride to raise money for a cancer cure.  This year, nearly 8,000 bicycle riders (supported by thousands of volunteers at rest stops) made their way from Columbus Commons along several routes of varying distances and difficulty (from 25 miles to over 125 miles) including steep inclines and rolling hills.  Hundreds of Pelotonia riders traveled the 100 mile Bennington Chapel Route, which started in Pickerington, stopped at the Homer Library, among other rest stops, and finished at Kenyon College in nearby Gambier, Ohio.  Millions of dollars have been raised for donation to our local cancer research institute.  You can learn more about their cause on the Pelotonia website.   It was a beautiful day for a ride, and here are a few pictures as they passed through the intersection in Homer.

Earlier this summer, my biggest thrill was seeing the blooms in the yard.  All that rain did some good, apparently!

Well, I hear some really loud mufflers!  Going to check it out right now and see if I can snap a picture or two of these wild rides heading to the fair tonight!

Enjoy the rest of your summer!  Please stop by the store to say hello and see what's new!  We have had some really delicious boneless ribeye steaks and ground angus for grilling.  Plenty of sweet corn and other fresh vegetables are for sale at farm stands in our vicinity right now!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Can You Feel the Excitement in the Air?

When the kids have summer recess each year, I don't even need to look at the calendar.  I can feel it in the air.  More kids are smiling, riding their bikes, fishing at the creek, or swimming under the bridge if it's a hot day.

Graduation parties are happening several weekends in a row beginning as early as Memorial Day weekend, and you will see a lot of Facebook images of beaming new grads wearing their caps and gowns.   Soon those grads will be starting new jobs.  Some will take the summer off to relax, vacation with family, and make plans for the future.

Each year at this time, I remember my own high school graduation day and also college graduation, twice.  The season brings back such fond memories of family, food, friends, and big plans for the future.

Whatever you and your family do to celebrate, have fun and enjoy the moment!  Some families will soon experience the "empty nest syndrome."  This is something I have not personally experienced, but I can imagine how my parents and grandparents must have felt when all of us kids were away at college.  No more family meal time.  No more sitting around the television together in the evenings.  No more rushing to and from school activities.  It must have seemed as though time was beginning to stand still.  Or maybe it was a welcome relief from the hectic pace of having a full house, trying to meet everyone's needs, keeping up with all that extra housework and cooking!

If you are planning celebrations, please remember to stop by Homer Village Market for refreshments. You can find a variety of things to make your gatherings special including:

  • steaks, chops, sausages, chicken, hot dogs and hamburgers for the grill 
  • buns, condiments, chips of all kinds
  • cold beer, nice wine selection, wide variety of non-alcoholic beverages
  • bags of ice, charcoal, hickory wood chips
  • ice cream, cookies
  • appetizers such as cheese, summer sausage, hummus, chip dip, salsa, pickles and olives
Enjoy your Summer!

Friday, April 17, 2015

April Showers and April Everything

April is a busy month for everyone.  Besides preparation for Spring holidays, vacations, tax deadlines, kids sports, senior prom, opening-day baseball games, crop planting, and turkey-hunting season, the warmer weather brings new chores such as lawn mowing, landscaping, and window washing.  Let's not forget changing wardrobes from the Winter sweaters and coats to the spring lighter-weight clothes....and that could mean shopping, especially if that long winter of hibernation created any changes in your comfortable sizes!

Spring weather in Ohio is unpredictable.  One day it could be cold at night, foggy in the morning, and 30 degrees warmer during the day.  The next day could be cloudy and chilly all day, and the weekend could have thunderstorms and showers all day and night.  One thing is for sure, the trees start to bud, the flowers begin to bloom, and the grass turns green and begins to grow.

This colorful landscape, the warmer temperatures, and the thrill of the school year's end in sight creates a lot of enthusiasm.  One can practically feel it in the air.  People have a little more spring in their step as they go about their daily routines.  People are smiling, birds are chirping, and branches are softly swaying in the Spring breezes.

Kids are riding bicycles and skateboards, campers and boats appear ready to launch, and shiny sports cars are whizzing through the intersection.  Motorcycles and long-distance bicyclists begin making their first appearance of the season.

With all the excitement and anticipation, please remember to drive defensively.  Last year around this time, there were several serious collisions on the State highways that pass through Homer and Utica. Speed and distracted driving seem to be the usual causes of these accidents.  Rural highways are typically one or two-lane, narrow, curvy, and high-speed.

Therefore, there is no "forgiveness" if a driver goes left of the center line or swerves off the right side of the road into the ditch.  There is not much a driver can do to avoid wrecking when either of these events happens. That's why it is so important for everyone to keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the steering wheel, leaving plenty of distance between vehicles. That can be difficult to do, especially with such beautiful landscape views on both sides of the road and all the exciting things about Spring to think about--not to mention cell phones, eating and drinking in the car, and traveling companions providing further distraction.

At the risk of being criticized for driving like an "old lady" by cautiously approaching intersections and hill crests, please let's just remember all of us have only this one life here on earth.  No one's precious life is more important than anyone else's.  We can each look out for ourselves, but we can also look out for the "other guy" by driving defensively.  Sometimes accidents can be anticipated and avoided with a little extra caution, a little less speed, and a watchful eye on the traffic all around us. Remember there are distracted drivers on the road all of the time, and even more in the Spring and Summer seasons.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Friday, March 13, 2015

Lamb for the Holidays

Although Americans enjoy making corned beef and cabbage around Saint Patrick's Day, a more fitting tradition might be cooking a big pot of lamb stew!  You can use your favorite recipe for beef stew and just substitute lamb.  Be sure to add more potatoes after the meat becomes tender, since the ones you added in the beginning will now be part of the nice, thick gravy!  Carrots, parsnips, green beans, and potatoes make a wonderful combination for lamb stew.  You can use any cut of lamb for the stew, but shoulder is probably preferred for a braised dish such as stew.  Lamb shanks or even lamb chops could make a stew. Some even use ground lamb or lamb meatballs to make stew.

Easter is another holiday for enjoying lamb.  Traditionally, a roast leg of lamb makes a fine dinner.  An elegant crown roast of lamb or some french-cut lamb chops make a delicious and memorable occasion also.

Why wait for the holidays to cook lamb?  We enjoy lamb all seasons of the year.  During the winter, it is satisfying to heat up the kitchen with a pot roast of lamb shoulder or a casserole of lamb shanks in the oven.  During the summer, grilling some lamb burgers, lamb chops, or lamb and veggie kabobs is convenient and fun.

Weeknight meals of baked ziti and lamb ragu can be prepared easily by browning some ground lamb and ground beef with chopped onions and garlic, adding some diced tomatoes and a little bit of tomato sauce, seasoning with salt, pepper, and oregano, and then putting the sauce and al-dente cooked pasta in a casserole to bake at 350 F with parmesan cheese (and optionally feta cheese) sprinkled over all.   Lasagna recipes can be adapted easily to use ground lamb, which goes so well with tomatoes, eggplant, green peppers, mushrooms, and cheese!

Now I'm getting hungry,  I hope you will enjoy some lamb this Spring and every season of the year!

Here's a recipe to get you started. (Keep in mind you can substitute creatively if you do not have some of the ingredients on hand. I use parsley instead of mint, for example.)

 This appeared recently in the "Wall Street Journal" online food section. THE CHEF: JOSEF CENTENO   related article by Wall Street Journal Slow-Food Fast blogger
KITTY GREENWALD  HOT FUSION | Winter vegetables and fresh herbs lighten and brighten this deeply comforting cross between Italian baked ziti and a Middle Eastern lamb kebab. PHOTO: JAMES RANSOM FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, FOOD STYLING BY HEATHER MELDROM, PROP STYLING BY STEPHANIE HANES
March 6, 2015 1:50 p.m. ET

Baked Ziti With Lamb Ragù
Total Time: 40 minutes Serves: 6-8
·         Salt
·         1 pound dried ziti
·         2 tablespoons olive oil
·         1 pound ground lamb
·         ½ pound ground beef
·         1 medium yellow onion, diced
·         2 cloves garlic, minced
·         1 medium carrot, diced
·         1 stalk celery, diced
·         1 small bulb fennel, diced
·         1 (14-ounce) can crushed San Marzano tomatoes with juice and roughly chopped
·         1 teaspoon red chili flakes
·         ½ teaspoon dried oregano
·         ½ teaspoon ground cumin
·         ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
·         2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
·         ¾ cup French feta, crumbled
·         ¾ cup coarsely grated mozzarella
·         ½ cup grated Parmesan, plus extra for topping
·         15 basil leaves, thinly sliced
·         15 mint leaves, thinly sliced
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add ziti and cook until just al dente. Strain pasta, reserving 1 cup cooking water.
2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Once hot, stir in lamb, beef, onions, garlic, carrots, celery and fennel, and sauté until meat is cooked through, about 7 minutes. Pour off all accumulated fat and set pot back over medium heat.
3. Stir in tomatoes, chili flakes, oregano, cumin and cinnamon. Season with salt to taste. Simmer until vegetables soften, about 20 minutes, adding splashes of hot water if dry. Stir in vinegar and simmer 5 minutes more.
4. Preheat broiler. Add cooked pasta and reserved cooking water to pot with ragù, stirring until evenly distributed. Turn off heat. In a small bowl, toss together feta, mozzarella and Parmesan. Stir ¾ mixed cheeses and ½ mint and basil into pasta.
5. Transfer everything to a large casserole dish. Top with remaining mixed cheeses and grate extra Parmesan over top to lightly cover. Slide casserole under broiler and cook until browned in spots, about 5 minutes. Garnish with remaining basil and mint

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Use-By Dates, Sell-By Dates, Food Safety and Quality

There is a lot of confusion among consumers regarding the various dates found on food packages in Ohio.  Although many states do not require it, Ohio's food safety law requires that eggs, shellfish, babyfood, and packaged, perishable food be labeled with a date if it has a shelf life less than 30 days.  Also, many food manufacturers put dates on their packaging because they think consumers will find it helpful.  There is no question that a lot of food is wasted because of the confusion over what these dates mean relative to the food safety and quality. One estimate by a food safety expert with NSF, Interational (a public health and safety organization based in Michigan) is that about $161 billion of food is wasted annually due to people throwing out food when it reaches the "sell-by" date.

This interesting graphic and a related article appeared in the Columbus, Ohio, newspaper "The Dispatch" on March 10, 2015. These guidelines are for refrigerated, perishable foods (fresh, uncooked) with a "Sell By" date or no date. (Products with a "use-by" date should be consumed by that date for safety.)

The article states that canned food will last indefinitely due to the heating and canning process creating a sterile environment within the can.   This absence of any air or bacteria would provide a safe product for many years although there may be some slight changes in the quality or appearance. Another fact stated in the article is that, for sell-by-dated foods, usually about a third of the product's shelf life still remains after that date.  One caveat to keep in mind; however, is that if there were any period of time during which the product had been improperly handled, such as wrong temperature, then the food quality or safety could be much less than expected based on the date.

Here is the link to the article

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Beautiful Snowfall

February has been a very cold and windy month this year.  Plenty of days in a row of single digit lows and highs barely above 20 degrees F.  We got a little bit spoiled during December and January when we had a few warmer than usual days, plenty of sunshine, and hardly any snow.

Yesterday made up for that lack of snow, as we had at least 8 inches of snow in Homer!  I hope you and the kids got outside to enjoy something fun!  It wasn't even very cold, just about freezing all day. That is so much warmer than it has been, but it will still be very cold this week and next according to the forecast.

So enjoy the snow that is still on the ground!  How it makes the neighborhood a lot quieter.  The snow blanket deadens the sounds of traffic and the usual din of the community.

Here are a few pictures from around the store yesterday.

The Homer Post Office at SR 661 & Homer Road

This much snow fell by late morning.
Standing under the Store Canopy

The snow continued all day and early evening.

Snowmobiles are the way to go in this weather!
These kitties frolicked in the snow between naps. 

4-Wheelers are great on the farm and in the snow!
Kitties first big snow!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

It's for Everyone's Safety

I need to let off a little steam.  Please bear with me.

Why do some people "cop an attitude" (take offense) when I ask them to please move along when they have no business parking in the store parking lot? Of all people, locals (and previous locals) should know better.  The intersection has poor visibility to drivers under the best of conditions, not to mention the lot is small but sufficient for the tiny store's customer traffic. There is a parking spot for two vehicles, maybe three.

Often people pull off the busy road into the tiny store parking lot or onto the berm of the road to text, eat a snack, make phone calls, mess with their GPS, take a rest, or wait to "meet someone,"  When this occurs during the morning, noon, or evening "rush hours," it is the most problematic because that is when most traffic is passing through the intersection and when most customers might need to park in the lot.  I do not want customers to try to park on the outskirts of the parking lot, because it is not safe.

Multiple "Customers Only Parking" signs are posted around the parking lot, and that means only for customers while they are shopping.  Despite this, loitering vehicles usually take the prime parking spaces, right in front of the signs!   This is a tiny carryout, and shopping only takes a minute or two. I want my customers to have a place to park and not have to jockey for position with loitering vehicles.

These improper parking incidents occur frequently enough that it is necessary to monitor the lot and ask people to leave when they do not belong there.    Most people understand the issue and move on without any commotion,

 I usually approach the driver with a smile and politely ask if they need help, because sometimes they do.  Sometimes they are just lost and in need of directions since there are no road signs indicating the direction of travel or location of nearby towns. However, when the answer is "No, thanks, I'm just waiting for someone" or "I didn't want to text and drive", I think to myself, "why do you have to do this here on this private property."   Why not pull into that guy's driveway over there--same thing! Why not drive around the corner and park on the street!

Another concern is risk and liability for insurance purposes.  That is why often I will take a picture of loitering vehicles, especially if they refuse to leave or are presenting a hazard to the line of sight at the intersection. If they are the cause of an accident, it would be good to have their identity for followup and responsibility since they had no reason to visit the business establishment.

Vehicles using the store's parking lot to "meet someone" or "wait for someone" is the excuse that bothers me the most for several reasons.  First, they will be there longer than it takes to shop, and second,  because not only will ONE vehicle be parked, idling, usually backed in as if they intend to stay awhile, and with their headlights shining into my neighbor's living room, but ANOTHER vehicle will be joining them, taking up another parking space (or worse, parked on the road berm). Usually the plan is to exchange children, and usually these are over-sized Sport Utility Vehicles.  So then two large vehicles, both sets of adults, and numerous children also are hovering around the vehicles when it is time to make the exchange.  Usually there is much standing around chatting, many hugs and kisses, and general congestion in the tiny parking lot.

When vehicles park in the lot with the intent of "meeting someone" or to exchange children, depending on the time of day and road conditions, I will allow it but ask them to please not do it again (in other words, do not make a habit of using this parking lot for the children exchange).  When it is not a practical time or place for this, I will usually ask them to leave and suggest other nearby places to park and meet such as across the street at the post office or down the street at the various parking lots associated with schools, libraries, township government, etc.

The root cause of the problem may just be that the store is in "the middle of nowhere" and so it is a convenient "oasis" for pulling off the road for any reason that presents itself.  It is halfway between several more populated college towns, and it is true there are no other stores within 5 to 10 miles in each direction.  Or perhaps old habits die hard.  Maybe ten or fifteen years ago before the store was there, locals might have used the parking lot as if they owned it.

Please be considerate of this small business owner and the customers who want to park safely and the drivers who want to be able to see the oncoming traffic, and the neighbors who do not want headlights aimed at their windows for ten minutes at a time.  If you need to exchange children in Homer, why not meet at the Homer Elementary School parking lot or the library or the post office.

Thank you for listening.  I really do not enjoy asking people to leave the parking lot, and I especially do not enjoy when the driver wants to dispute with me or refuses to leave.   Sometimes these incidents create ill will, and this is "bad for business."  I am truly sorry that we cannot always have a positive outcome.  I prefer a "win-win" situation, and usually that is how it evolves.  The times that it turns out badly, unfortunately, are the ones people remember the most.  For this I am truly sad.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Are You Ready for Valentine's Day?

How wonderful that Valentine's Day falls on a Saturday this year!  Lovers, admirers, and friends everywhere will have the weekend to celebrate their romances, friendships, and fondness for each other!  For most people, weekends bring more leisure time, relaxation, and family time.  I hope you will enjoy some time with the ones who matter most in your lives.

There are so many simple pleasures that make celebrating Valentine's Day so much fun.  Some people have traditions of baking heart-shaped sugar cookies that can be decorated as simply or intricately as you want.  For those of us who partake in this tradition, I think we can agree that the real fun is the process of mixing all the ingredients, cutting out the cookies, and having fun decorating, baking, and enjoying the aroma as they bake!  This is almost as much fun as eating the cookies or giving the cookies as gifts.

I remember the pleasures of shopping for that sparkling heart-shaped trinket that I would wear on Valentine's Day to brighten my spirit as I went about my daily life that day and weekend...working, going out to lunch with coworkers or family, and then celebrating Valentine's Day with my soul mate.  It was always fun to receive a gift for Valentine's Day and to give a gift in return.  My favorite gift (giving or receiving) was always that box of chocolates!  Although I was certainly in awe of the beauty of a rose and the lasting beauty of carnations, flowers did not seem to me as practical as chocolates or something shiny that could be remembered a little bit longer and more fondly!  There is a season in life for stuffed animals....another season for that romantic dinner (chateubriand, asparagus, cheesecake for dessert, and some wonderful red wine) preferably several stories up with a window seat, and a foggy view of the lake!  If you are not already engaged or married, what a nice date to propose to your loved one!

Whatever you do to celebrate Valentine's Day, or even if you do not celebrate at all, I hope you will enjoy Saturday, February 14, 2015.  Stop by Homer Village Market to say hello.  We will be open from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. in case you need anything.  We have cold champagne, many varieties of beer, wine, and spirits; chocolate covered pretzels, dark chocolate, lots of ice cream, plenty of gourmet appetizers, and lots of ingredients to make a delicious meal!