Executive Chef Brandt Evans of Kosta's (2179 West 11th Street, 216-622-0011) recently unveiled his fall menu, and its intense flavors and rustic ingredients are just the ticket for fueling brisk, late-autumn treks through the countryside. During a recent dinner visit, an appetizer of duck strudel ($7) -- bits of rich duck confit paired with silken sweet potato puree, baked in sheer sheets of phyllo, and served on a fruity apple compote -- sang with seasonal goodness; likewise, roasted-beet and goat-cheese bruschetta ($6), topped with truffle oil and aged balsamic vinegar, was as earthy as a newly plowed field. Slices of pan-seared hangar steak ($24) had the texture of Kobe beef and the color of fine Bordeaux; finished with whole-grain mustard and pearly buttons of bone marrow, the dish nearly blew us out of our laced-up hiking boots. A contemporary version of homey chicken and biscuits ($22) is another champ: crisply breaded-and-fried chicken breast served with Swiss chard, two little buttermilk biscuits, and creamy goat-cheese fondue. And Evans's signature ale-braised short ribs with polenta, smoked Gouda, and a veal reduction makes long, chilly nights seem almost bearable. By the way, the robust young chef's well-publicized diet is going well. Although you would never guess it from reading the luscious menu, Evans says he's sticking to a low-fat regimen and has already parted company with 36 pounds.
Duck, duck, goose . . .as well as Cornish hen, rabbit, beef tongue, and slices of authentic country ham, are among the hard-to-find items available at Kirbie's Family Meats in Stow (4062 Fishcreek Road in Oregon Trails Plaza, 330-688-4333). Besides hormone-free, grain-fed beef, pork, and poultry, Kirbie and Chris Burns's butcher shop and gourmet food store is crammed with friendly staffers and specialty goods, including cheeses, breads, wines, and a large selection of carryout and heat-and-eat items. Although the wine room is small, it's mighty. Among other treasures, we spotted a mouthwatering collection of 1997 Californian Cabs and came home with a bottle of 2000 Eroica Riesling ($23) from Chateau Ste. Michelle, a wine that has been called one of the world's five great Rieslings. The store's annual pre-holiday fetes would be a tasty way for home chefs to check out Kirbie's wares; the events, featuring food samples and gift ideas, run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each Saturday this month.