Spoon Fed

American Spoon Foods, 1668 Clarion Ave., P.O. Box 566, Petoskey, Mich. 49770 (800) 222-5886; All major credit cards

This year, Larry Forgione, chef/owner of An American Place in Manhattan and the Beekman 1766 Tavern in Rhinebeck, New York, won the most prestigious food prize in the country--the James Beard award for best chef. But in the '70s--long before it became fashionable--he was so concerned about the quality of American food that he made it his mission to find and cook with the best American regional products.

It was one of these food hunts 11 years ago that prompted Forgione to start his own mail-order company. He was in Michigan, looking to buy buffalo for his restaurant, with former actor Justin Rashid as his guide. Rashid, however, turned Forgione's attention away from the hairy critters to the amazing wild fruit growing along Lake Michigan.

Back at his restaurant in New York, Forgione developed recipes for the fruit. In Michigan, Rashid began preserving it to Forgione's standards--it was the beginning of their company, American Spoon Food.

Today the company, based in northern Michigan, makes several surprising combinations of preserves and marmalades with little or no added pectin: strawberry-rhubarb, damson plum, wild thimbleberry, blueberry-lime and gooseberry with cherries and oranges. Ten-ounce jars are priced from $5.25 to $9.

There are also unusual items such as smoked buffalo and pork sausage, Indian-harvested wild rice, hand-picked wild hickory nuts and sun-dried blueberries. American Spoon seeks out top quality products from other producers around the country too, including smokey brisket from Guadalupe, Tex., and dense breads from Minneapolis, Minn. Call for a catalogue--it's a nice way to see America.

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