Throw out your preconceived notions about Appalachia, because a new campaign has been launched with the goal of attracting visitors and generating interest in the area through the power of food. The project is entitled Bon Appetit Appalachia, and it was created by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) in order to bust myths surrounding the 13-state, 205,000-square-mile region.
Bon Appetit Appalachia accomplishes this by showcasing amazing innovations that an influx of farmers are introducing to the scene, creating things that are true to Appalachia: resourceful and ingenius.
A total of 32 Ohio counties are considered Appalachian, ranging as far as Southeast Clermont County, to as far as Northeast Ashtabula County.
Dozens of locations within Ohio's Applachian foothills are distinctive local food destinations selected as part of Bon Appetit Appalachia (see full map)! These include:
- Farmers markets - such as the Chesterhill Produce Auction and the Athens Farmers Market, which is the oldest in Ohio.
- Farm-to-fork restaurants - such as Casa Nueva Restaurant & Cantina in Athens.
- Craft breweries & spirts - such as Red Eagle Distillery in Geneva.
- Wineries & vineyards - such as School House Winery in Dover.
- Festivals & events - such as the Jackson Apple Festival or the Ohio Pawpaw Festival in Athens.
I had the privilege to witness a glimpse (and sample a taste) of the farm-to-fork concept on a recent visit to Athens County - the setting for a large number of these culinary destinations in the state. The two main stops on my excursion were Jackie O's Pub & Brewery, and the aforementioned Casa Nueva.
Jackie O's embodies the Bon Appetit Appalachia concept in a number of ways, as evidenced by its slogan: "sustainable crafted with a purpose." This incredibly popular brand has a great presence in the area, with both its downtown brewpub and the nearby taproom and production facility.
A visit to the production facility gave me a behind-the-scenes look at how the local beers are brewed, using 100 percent locally grown black walnuts, pawpaws, hops, apples, quinces, peaches, coffee, and raspberries (which lends itself to its biggest seller, Raspberry Wheat). Not only can you enjoy this amazing beer at these two locations in Athens, but you can now find Jackie O's at approximately 1,200 bars and stores from Canton to Cincinnati.
Without a doubt, the main course and the leading star of the booming foodie scene and locavore movement in Athens (and perhaps all of Ohio) is Casa Nueva. This Mexican-inspired restaurant has been serving dishes consisting of 99 percent local ingredients, since 1985. Using only local ingredients (most from within a 30-mile radius, but extending to a 150-mile radius if needed) ensures freshness, and keeps money within the community.
I chowed down on a rolled chicken enchilada topped with black bean salsa, with a small cheese empanada and jasmine rice on the side. It blew my mind to know that this was completely local, and gave me pride to be a part of Bon Appetit Appalachia!