Editor’s note: I thought we were done with pawpaws. Then, last week, I heard from a local orchardist who’s still harvesting more fruit than he can sell. (To buy pawpaws from Marc Stadler in Urbana, Ohio, call 937-215-0329.) On Facebook and Twitter, I offered to be a pawpaw middleman, hauling Marc’s fruit two hours back to Cincinnati. That reached Mike Stankovich, who owns one of the best bars in town, Over-the-Rhine’s Longfellow.
Mike’s menu is a curated collection of high-concept cocktails, low-cost beer, and unpretentious sandwiches and snacks that made then-Enquirer food critic Polly Campbell feel like “a factory worker after the quitting whistle blows” when she stopped in for cottage cheese and liverwurst in 2017. In just three years, Mike has built a Queen City institution where, under normal circumstances, you might see Kroger executives sipping shiso painkillers next to neighborhood regulars and “Mr. Cincinnati” himself, larger-than-life local character Jim Tarbell.
So he had my attention when he wrote, “I make a killer pawpaw daiquiri!” I agreed to bring Mike a few pounds of pawpaws if he’d sketch out his recipe for Midwesterner.
Working in restaurants my whole life, I heard about pawpaws. Some of the chefs I knew complained that they bruised too easily or about, you know, the pesky seeds and the short shelf life. I knew they grew around me, but I didn’t know where to find them so I could try them for myself. Through moves to several cities, the pawpaw eluded me.
Now, we’re in something of a pawpaw renaissance. As more people have recognized the allure of our own tropical fruit, it’s gained popularity—particularly in the Midwest. I finally got my first chance to go pawpaw foraging after moving to Ohio in 2015.
After the hunt, I couldn’t wait to dump them into some booze. I scanned my memory and remembered a recipe for an avocado daiquiri that I’d enjoyed. Avocados and pawpaws have a similar texture, so I though, Why not try adapting it? It worked. The pawpaw’s creamy texture and tropical flavor are delicious in a rum-based frozen drink.