Mission Accomplished!

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Admin, Food Blogging Event, Life

nablo_didit_sm

I didn’t think I’d make it through the entire month of posting daily, but indeed I did! It was really tough at times. And here I am with still a bunch of stuff to post before I’m done – keep an eye out in the next couple of days for my Homegrown Gourmet entry and roundup for the event, October’s roundup, and a couple of other things. :)

And thank you everyone for reading and commenting. I don’t think I could have committed to without your feedback.

A Couple of Recommendations

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Eating Local, Ethnic

One good thing that comes out of food blogging is that I have the opportunity to interact with the local community enough to get some really good tips on places to check out from those who love good food as much as I do. Most of the tips come from the feedback on my reviews at Columbus Underground. Walker Evans has put together one hell of a resource there for locals. Some tips come from comments on my posts here. I follow up on nearly every recommendation given to me. Here are a couple that I agree wholeheartedly with, and wanted to pass on to you. I’d love to do a more detailed overview of both in the future, but here’s a quick heads up.

First, when I posted about my love of Carfagna’s last week, someone told me if I liked Carfagna’s, I definitely needed to check out Mr. Meatball. I had never even heard of this place before. We headed there a couple of days ago, getting there right before they closed. It’s not a big space, but is chock full of all homemade food – pasta, meatballs and sausage, sauce, and best of all, frozen microwave meals. Before you guys think I’m nuts, let me explain…

For many years, my husband and I had a weakness for one frozen meal – Lombardo’s Spaghetti and Meatballs, which could only be found at Meijer’s. Meijers stopped carrying them a few months ago, and we’ve been absolutely despondent. Heartbroken and disillusioned and feeling that everything that we enjoy (that can be bought in a grocery store) eventually disappears (anyone remember Salsa flavored Torengos?). We found out the other day that Mr. Meatball provided the meatballs wholesale to Lombardo’s, and that their spaghetti and meatballs frozen meal tastes *identical* to Lombardo’s. Needless to say, we’re going back for more. But if you eat lunch regularly at work, they have fresh Italian frozen single serve microwave dinners (like 1 lb. spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, ravioli, gnocchi, chicken and noodles, and more) for $2.95 each – cheaper even than a Lean Cuisine and much better tasting and much more filling. So if for no other reason than that, drop in. It won’t replace Carfagna’s for produce, meat, wine, pasta selection, etc. but it is definitely a worthy resource for both frozen pasta/sauce/meatballs and frozen microwavables.

Another recommendation I was given recently was to try Curry and Kebab for Indian carryout. As I mentioned recently, I usually go to Sher E Punjab, and was told that this place was just as good but not quite as expensive. It fits the bill on both counts. It’s a carry-out joint only, and we stopped there on the way home from running errands a few days ago. Everything we tried was delicious, from the fish pakora to the naan to the chicken makhani to the kheer. While we’ll still hit Sher E Punjab for the buffet, this place has replaced it for carryout. Its North Campus location is quite convenient, and they are super quick (we were in and out in 15 minutes).

I’m always game to hear your recommendations – I love discovering new places. If there’s somewhere that you think is a gem that I’ve missed, comment with it. I know that you lot are holding out on me. ;)

If you’d like to go to the places I mentioned: Mr. Meatball Italian Foods, 3716 Cleveland Ave, Columbus, 614.471.0700; Curry and Kebab, 2412 N. High St, North Campus, 614.261.7671.

Northstar Cafe Veggie Burger

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Food Porn, Restaurant Review

I am so not a veggie burger person. I’m a meat eater through and through, and have never met faux meat anything that I’ve liked. I’ve taken bites of hubby’s BK Veggie Burgers in a pinch, but it’s just not the same, cap’n! Ditto pretty much anything based in soy, seitan, or any other protein replacement. I can dig vegetarian dishes if it’s beans and rice or something that would taste good on its own without meat, but throw in that protein replacement and it ruins it for me.

That all changed the day I met the Northstar Cafe veggie burger. There’s just *something* about it that makes it just as good, nay better, than any other burger I’ve ever had. It even sort of LOOKS like a real burger. I’m not sure what they put in there, all I could make out for sure were the color of beets and rice – which they then grill to impart that meaty flavor, and top with all the fixings (white cheddar, lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion) on a huge roll. It’s not cheap at $9.60, but if there is one thing this burger is, it’s filling. It’s served with a simple side salad, and is a great dinner for one if you’re hungry. If you’re not so hungry, come prepared to share. :)

ncveggieburger

This was my first trip to the Clintonville Northstar (I usually go to the Short North one for breakfast from time to time) – it’s nice and roomy, plenty of parking out back and bright and airy inside. One of these days I’m going to do a full review of their breakfast/lunch offerings, but in the meantime, even if you don’t normally like veggie burgers, hie thee down to Northstar to give theirs a try. Trust me when I say you won’t be sorry.

If you’d like to go: Northstar Cafe, 4241 N. High St, Beechwold, 614.784.2233 or 951 N. High St, Short North, 614.298.9999.

Northstar Cafe on Urbanspoon

Review: Nazareth Deli

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Ethnic, Food Porn, Restaurant Review

When I posted my recent review of Mi Mi Cafe on Columbus Underground, one of the responses I got advised me to try Nazareth Deli, located on the other side of the same shopping center. The next time we were in the area, we gave it a try, sampling a few different dishes. While we were told the gyros were to die for, we discovered pretty darn quickly that their rice dishes were where it’s at.

My favorite is their Lentils and Rice ($8.65 with chicken, $6.20 without), “a blend of lentils, white rice, and caramelized onions, seasoned with cumin and other spices”, with a side of their fantastic house dressing, which makes a good dish great. Absolutely awesome flavor, texture, and oh so very filling. I prefer the regular grilled chicken, while my husband loves their spicy chicken (which is about as spicy as Frank’s Red Hot, heatwise).

nazlentilrice

Also recommended is their rice side ($1.95), which is white rice cooked with thin vermicelli (think homemade rice a roni) and a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg – aromatic without being overpowering, and also improved with the addition of their house dressing.

nazrice

We’re also pretty gung ho about their hummus ($1.85 for a half order, $3.45 for a full), which is served with soft and warm pita. It’s the best we’ve had in Columbus other than our own.

We’ve yet to try many of their other dishes, but if the ones we’ve had (and the level of repeat business they get) are any indication, I don’t think you can go wrong with anything on their menu. We’ve been looking for good Middle Eastern cuisine for quite a while since the demise of Firdous (the restaurant in Upper Arlington, not the Express in the North Market or Polaris), and Aladdin’s hasn’t cut it for us. Nazareth Deli definitely fits the bill – great food, reasonable prices, and super nice accomodating staff make this a place that we’ll visit often.

If you’d like to go: Nazareth Deli, 5663 Emporium Square Drive (corner of 161/Cleveland Ave in the Columbus Square Plaza), North Side, 614.899.1177.

Nazareth Restaurant & Deli on Urbanspoon

Turkey Divine

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Food Porn, Holiday, Recipes

We were thoroughly sick of turkey after Thanksgiving, so it took us a couple of days to use up the leftovers. Eventually, I decided to make a dish that I modified from its original (the original uses breaded and fried boneless/skinless chicken breast or thighs instead of turkey at the bottom) that used all of the leftovers in one fell swoop. It’s tasty all on its own, or you can serve it with rice if you want to add a starch. It’s one of those dishes that are just as tasty cold as they are hot.

turkeydivine

Turkey Divine

Leftover turkey, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 lb. frozen broccoli cuts or florets, thawed
2 cans cream of chicken soup
2 cans cream of celery soup
1 scant cup mayonnaise
1 lb. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tbsp. curry powder, or more to taste
1 stick butter, melted
Italian seasoned bread crumbs

In a large ungreased baking pan, place all of the turkey at the bottom in a single layer. Place the thawed broccoli in a layer on top of the turkey.

To make sauce mixture, in large bowl combine soups, mayonnaise, and mozzarella and season with curry powder to taste (use at least 1 tbsp, and go from there to your personal preference). Pour all sauce onto chicken and broccoli and smooth out. Mix together melted butter with enough breadcrumbs to soak up butter, and sprinkle on top of casserole. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour or until casserole is browned on top and bubbly. Allow to sit 15 minutes before serving.

You’re Invited…

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Ethnic, Events, Meetup

I’ve scheduled the second event of the Columbus Food Lover’s meetup group for December 8th at 2pm at Mi Mi Cafe at Columbus Square. Please check out the details, and feel welcome to join us!

Carfagna’s/Carfagna’s Market

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Eating Local, Ethnic, Restaurant Review

With so many choices for eating and shopping in town, it goes without saying that there are only a few places that we make regular stops – for us, one of those is Carfagna’s Market on the North Side (E. Dublin-Granville Rd).

carfagnassign

When the farmers markets are going on, this is a normal Saturday afternoon stop for us – right after hitting Worthington. The biggest part of the shop is the butcher area, where you can get just about any type of meat/deli meat that you can think of, along with a huge section of prepared foods. One of our favorite things to buy here is their festival sausage, which is somewhere in between sweet and hot Italian sausage spice-wise. A little heat, but not too much.

carfagnassausage

carfagnasdeli

In addition to their meat selection, they carry a lot of local dairy products (Smith’s Dairy), beautiful produce in the summer, any type of frozen and dried pasta you could dream of, a great cheese selection, and an impressive wine selection as well.

In the past year or so, they opened up a little restaurant (Carfagna’s Kitchen) up at Polaris, where they sell prepared pasta, subs, and pizzas. It’s very casual – there are plenty of tables at which to eat, but it’s more of a seat yourself and wait for your order to be called type of thing. We usually stop here for takeout once every week or two. My husband’s favorite dish is the basic spaghetti and meatballs ($6.95), with their handmade spaghetti, a couple of meatballs, and their fantastic marinara (which other than my own sauce, is all I pretty much use anymore).

Handmade Spaghetti

My favorite (not pictured) is the fabulous Meat Heaven Spaghetti ($9.75), which is the same handmade spaghetti topped with ground chuck, grilled sausage, sauteed pancetta and meatballs w/ red sauce. Each entree comes with your choice of soup or salad and some pretty meh garlic bread. Their salad is a respectable iceburg/romaine mix, good but not great.

House Salad -- Side

We haven’t tried their pizza or subs yet, so we can’t attest to them, but we haven’t gone wrong yet with any of their pasta selections. One thing that endears them to me is that they package their takeout beautifully, and keep them warm in a hot box while you’re driving to get up there – we live well on the other side of town and the food is always still hot when we get home.

Their hours are a bit short (11am – 8pm Mon-Thurs, 11am-9pm Friday, 3pm-9pm Saturday, closed Sunday), but if you plan ahead, it makes a great dinner on a night when you don’t feel like cooking, and is a much more cost effective alternative than one of the chains.

If you’d like to go: Carfagna’s Market, 1405 E. Dublin Granville Rd (at I-71), Cols. 614.846.6340; Carfagna’s Kitchen, 2025 Polaris Parkway, Cols. 614.848.4488

Carfagna's on Urbanspoon

Bacardi Rum Cake

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Food Porn, Holiday, Recipes

We didn’t really do anything fancy for dessert yesterday – along with some brown sugar squash pie that I made last month (and had frozen), we had some rum cake we made the other day. Super simple recipe, and it improves with age. :) This is another one of those recipes that have been around forever, so I’m not sure of the original source – this is one I put in my recipe box about a decade ago.

thanxrumcake

Bacardi Rum Cake

1 cup pecan or walnuts, chopped
1 pk yellow cake mix* (18 ½ oz)
1 pk Jell-O Vanilla Instant* – Pudding and Pie Filling – (3 1/4 oz)
4 Eggs
½ cup cold water
½ cup cooking oil
½ cup Bacardi dark rum (80 proof)

Glaze:

1/4 lb Butter
1/4 c Water
1/2 c Bacardi dark rum (80 proof)
1 cup sugar

Glaze: Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in water and sugar. Boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in rum.

Preheat oven to 325º. Grease and flour 10″ tube or 12-cup Bundt pan. Sprinkle nuts over bottom of pan. Mix all cake ingredients together. Pour batter over nuts.

Bake 1 hour. Cool. Invert on serving plate. Prick top. Spoon and brush glaze evenly over top and sides. Allow cake to absorb glaze. Repeat until glaze is used up.

*Note: If using yellow cake mix with pudding already in the mix; omit instant pudding, use 3 eggs instead of 4; 1/3 cup oil instead of ½.

Thanksgiving Day 2007

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Food Porn, Holiday

For the first time in longer than I can remember, Thanksgiving is done and overwith before 5pm, with dishes done, food put away, and me feeling none the worse for wear. Our low-key Thanksgiving went off without a hitch this year, and it’s been the best one we’ve had in years. I got back to basics, cooking the same things I did for the first 10 or so years we’ve been married, without all the hoopla and experimentation that has gone on during the last couple of years. And in the words of my husband, “I don’t care about you trying new recipes the rest of the year, just don’t f*ck with Thanksgiving”. Apparently, the only reason he was staging a mutiny against Thankgiving was because for the last two years, I made changes that frankly – just sucked.

I’ve got to say, I agree with him. Familiar flavors are what Thanksgiving is about. It may not be gourmet, and it may not be local, but damn, it’s gooood.

We didn’t brine the bird, but we did stuff it to overflowing, so it took about 30 minutes after the bird timer popped for the stuffing to get up to a safe temp. Thankfully, that wasn’t long enough to overcook the bird. I burnt my finger on the probe as I was taking it out of the oven, but other than that one little ouchie, the bird came out beautifully. It smelled so good when it was cooking – the smell of Thanksgiving turkey is one of my favorites in the world.

thanxturkey

The stuffing came out with the exact flavor we were looking for, and a much better texture than it had a couple of weeks ago. Our stuffing recipe is really simple – about 2 loaves of bread, a chopped onion and a couple chopped stalks of celery, a stick of melted butter, and some turkey broth, salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. After cooking in the bird, it had really awesome flavor. My husband and I fought over the crunchy bits of stuffing stuck to the skin.

thanxstuffing

I made my candied yam recipe this year with a little bit less of the candied topping – I wanted it to complement rather than overwhelm the sweetness of the yams, and I threw the marshmallows on there as a concession to my husband. I can either take them or leave them, but he really wanted them there. I also used spiced rum in the place of regular rum this year. This is one of my favorite dishes to both make and eat. 

 
thanxyams

The canberry sauce (complete with can marks on the side) is a requisite part of Thanksgiving that we just don’t want to do without. I know it’s easy enough to make this from scratch, but what can I say – I just like the canned cranberry jelly better. It also tastes great spread on post-Thanksgiving grilled turkey sandwiches.

thanxcanberry

And I already told you we cheated by using Bob Evans Green Bean Casserole. I’m not a fan of green bean casserole myself (it’s my husband’s cup of tea), but we both agree that this is still better than any I can make from scratch, for some reason.

thanxgreenbean

Likewise, we cheated with the mashed potatoes and used Yoder’s Homestyle refrigerated. It’s simple enough to make mashed ‘taters, but with just the two of us, who wants that many leftovers? Especially when you can’t tell much of a difference…

thanxmashed

And of course no Thanksgiving would be complete without gravy made from pan drippings, the best I’ve had in years. I’ve found the secret to making good gravy – adding cream to even out the flavor. :)

thanxgravy

Here’s a pic of my plate, fully loaded and ready to eat:

thanxplate

I’m letting dinner settle before we eat dessert – more about that later. :)

You know, I really thought I’d miss being around family this year, but to be honest, there’s a whole lot less stress when you don’t have to worry about people coming over. I hate the drama that comes with a family Thanksgiving, with all the different personalities clashing and the arguments that inevitably break out. I hate dealing with alcoholics, who use the holiday as an excuse to get out of control drunk and obnoxious. And there’s less worry about things coming out perfectly, with each person having certain peculiarities and food issues to consider. I know what to expect with hubby. And I know that even if things go wrong, we can laugh it off and deal with it with humor. That makes so much difference when your health is kind of iffy. And I can bring my sister a plate when I see her tomorrow (she had to work today), so it’s all good I suppose.

Either way, thank goodness it’s done with for another year. Technically, this time next year we’ll be post surgery, so this type of high-carb meal won’t agree with us. But I think it’s the one day a year you can throw caution to the wind and deal with the effects afterward – sometimes it’s just worth it.

What did the rest of you do/have today? Did everything go smoothly? Any plans for leftovers yet? And for my non-American visitors, getting tired of seeing turkey yet? ;)

Last Minute Preparations

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Holiday

Well, about 22 hours and counting until we eat Thanksgiving dinner. To lessen the load tomorrow, I’m going to do a bit of prep work tonight.

First, the controversy – to brine or not to brine? I cooked turkeys for many many years (stuffed, even!) without brine and they came out moist, juicy and flavorful. I brined last year, and it was probably what saved the turkey (20-pounder with an extra large cavity, it took 10 hours for the stuffing to come up to temperature!). This year, we’re using a conventional 12-pounder very similar to what I’ve made in years past. There are tons of people who swear by it; it was interesting to see that there are some chefs that are against it. I do know that last year’s bird was a bit salty, and that the gravy we made from it’s drippings was god awful. I think I’m going to pass on the brining. Since I should be avoiding sugar and extra salt anyway, it’s probably for the best. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

I’m also going to prep the candied yams tonight, so I just need to throw them in the oven tomorrow. Ditto with the stuffing – I’m going to make most of it (tear the bread, chop the onions and celery, melt the butter and mix it in, so that all I have to do tomorrow is add the turkey broth and seasonings before I stuff the bird. If I have extra time tonight, I’m going to make a batch of Meyer Lemon Bars to use those lovely Meyer Lemons I got at Jungle Jim’s yesterday.

So here’s the tentative schedule:

Tonight:

9pm: prepare candied yams and refrigerate
9:30: prepare stuffing (except for broth and seasonings)
10: Lemon bars?

Tomorrow:

9a: Finish preparing stuffing, throw spare parts into a pot w/ water to make broth to baste bird with, stuff and truss bird, season and rub down with compound butter. Throw canberry sauce into the fridge.

10a: Put bird in oven, expected to cook @ 325 for 3 to 3 1/2 hrs.

1p – 1:30ish: Take turkey out of oven, put in candied yams

1:30-2: When candied yams are done, put in crescent rolls, heat up mashed potatoes and green bean casserole.

So, hopefully we’ll sit down to eat at 2. This is so much less than I cook in other years, but I still have to gear myself up mentally to do it. I hate to say it, but I’m so glad it’s just us two this year. Low-pressure, and I may actually get to enjoy the holiday for once.

So the rest of you, how far along are you in your Thanksgiving preparations? Are you ready for tomorrow?