Other than Andria's Steak Sauce (O'Fallon) and Salsa Rose (Reinneck Ranch of Mascoutah), do you know of other products that are made in the metro-east? I plan to visit friends in New York this fall and would like to take a gift basket of local items. -- R.B., of O'Fallon
You've barely scratched the surface. With hardly any effort at all, you and your friends can eat, drink and be merry in the Big Apple with a variety of foodstuffs from the shadow of the Gateway to the West.
In fact, a quick shopping trip might turn up some fascinating surprises as it did for me Monday. Take, for example, Happy Hop Homebrew and Gourmet at 122 E. Main St. in Belleville. It carries Code 3 Spices from Maryville, which "spices it up for those who serve" by donating 50 cents from each bottle sold to organizations that support police, firefighters, the military and medical responders.
It's the brainstorm of Chris Bohnemeier and Mike Radosevich, who formed a competitive barbecue team. They found that their spice mixes were so popular than they teamed with a local manufacturer to produce five varieties: a cajun Sea Dog Rub, an all-purpose Rescue Rub, a garlicky Grunt Rub, a sweet but zesty 5-0 rub and the hot and smoky Backdraft Rub.
The descriptive names come from the men's backgrounds. Bohnemeier's dad served in law enforcement and his sister is a law officer; Radosevich has been a police officer for 12 years. That's why they're giving a portion of their proceeds to Backstoppers, Safe Call Now and Operation Homefront. Find out more at www.code3spices.com.
That's not all Happy Hop has to put a smile on your face. You'll also find Black Dog Honey out of St. Jacob; Leaf Salad Dressing ("with ingredients you can pronounce"), courtesy of Collinsville High School grad Shane Stay Hanson (www.leafdressing.com); and Goshen Coffee, which advertises itself as a fair-trade, 100-percent organic coffee roasted in Edwardsville.
If you don't mind going a bit out of our immediate area, Farmer's Market in Belleville carries the tasty jams and jellies of Miller's Country Crafts in Ava along with Amish Apple Butter from the Hagen Family Orchards near Bussels and Hogs 'n' Heat Meat Rub from Breese (hogsnheat.com). Or, try a bottle of Fat Smack's Real BBQ Sauce or Hot Sauce out of Belleville (www.fatsmacks.com).
Need something to wash it down? Eckert's offers Gen Seven wines that are made from its own grapes by the Lau-Nae Winery in Red Bud. And I was almost ready to take five and call for a designated driver after being shown a peach wine from the Montelle Winery in Augusta, Mo., which uses Eckert's fruit.
You can pair those wines with some fine cheddar and mozzarella cheeses from the Marcoot Jersey Creamery just south of Greenville (www.marcootjerseycreamery.com) along with shelf-stable meat products from Sugar Creek out of Trenton.
For dessert, don't forget the Almond Butter Crunch from Zettie's Confections in Columbia or -- being a traitor to the Land of Lincoln theme -- the heavenly gooey butter cake mixes from the Ann & Allen Baking Co., of St. Louis (because nothing says St. Louis like gooey butter cake).
Please remember this is only a representative sample, and I certainly would be remiss by not mentioning the fine, pure-cane-sugar-only sodas (Ski, etc.) from the Excel Bottling Co. in Breese. For lasting culinary memories, consider an Eckert's seasonal cookbook. Please write or call with other suggestions, and I will consider adding them to an upcoming column.
I'd like to know if there's transportation from the airport to the metro-east besides MetroLink. -- Mrs. R.V., of Fairview Heights
There is, but you'll pay for the convenience.
Currently a trip from the Fairview Heights MetroLink station to the airport will run you $2.50. By comparison Kelly's Limousine in Belleville will charge you $98 each way (plus gratuity). However, they even will track your return flight so they can meet you in a timely manner at the baggage claim area.
To learn more about their services, call 397-3510 or go to www.kellyslimo.com. Their chief Illinois competitor is Champagne Limousine Services (466-7001, www.champagnelimos.com).
For something a bit more economical, a colleague recommends Mid America Cab Co. (277-1515). I'm not sure where you live, but if I give them 24 hours notice, they would take me from my west Belleville home to the airport for $55.
What may be the largest corporation named after an owner's daughter?
Answer to Sunday's trivia: Apparently, Humphrey Bogart's only known dramatic appearance on TV was in 1955, when he starred with Henry Fonda and wife Lauren Bacall in a live NBC adaptation of "The Petrified Forest." In it, he reprised his 1936 movie role of killer Duke Mantee.
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or firstname.lastname@example.org or call 618-239-2465.