Foodie Field Trip

I just got back from our day trip to Jungle Jim’s down near Cincinnati. If there’s any such thing as an amusement park for foodies, this would be it. It’s easily the size of a couple of Walmart Supercenters, with an international section alone that’s the size of our local grocery store. And whenever we go there, I always end up going a little nuts – they have a bunch of things that I usually end up going through igourmet.com to get – like Vermont Butter and Cheese Cultured Butter with Sea Salt Crystals, various types of Blaze Balsamic Glaze, etc. – I even got some beautiful frozen grouper fillets for $3.99 for about 12 oz. We had originally gone down there to get Turducken, but when we saw our options close up (either a turducken roll – no stuffing, just turkey, duck and chicken – for $27.99, or a whole turducken (stuffed with sausage) for $69.99), we instead opted to go with a traditional turkey, in this case, a nice 12 lb. Amish turkey that we’ll brine tomorrow night.

So for actual Thanksgiving, we’re doing a mix of convenience foods and also old favorites – we figure that since it’s just us, it makes sense to use convenience foods for the things you can’t tell a difference with – so it looks like the final menu will be the turkey stuffed with bread stuffing (we both agreed this is something neither of us wanted to miss out on), Yoder’s mashed potatoes (enough for the two of us), my own candied yams - made with pre-cooked (not canned) yam rounds from the supermarket, Bob Evans Green Bean Casserole, Ocean Spray Jellied Canberry Sauce, and for dessert, a rum cake we made last night (will probably blog about it tomorrow), and some leftover Brown Sugar Squash Pie that we made and froze about a month ago. This way, we don’t miss out on Thanksgiving (or the fantastic in-bird stuffing), but I won’t spend the next week recovering from a marathon cooking session either.

Maybe next year I’ll have the energy to try to jazz things up a bit and maybe invite others to join us. But this time around, even though it isn’t the “ideal” foodie Thanksgiving, at least it won’t be something quite as pathetic as sitting in front of the TV with a frozen Hungry Man turkey dinner. Ew.

So the rest of you local foodies – have you ever been to Jungle Jim’s? If so, what items are on your “must get” list for every trip?

Five Cup Salad

With only days left until Thanksgiving, I’m finally starting to get a bit of my appetite back. I haven’t really had the desire to cook at all for about 2 weeks now, and haven’t been eating much of anything except 2 banh mi’s and a double Vietnamese coffee a day for that entire time. On the bright side, I’m down 10 pounds. I am looking forward to my field trip to Jungle Jim’s tomorrow to find a turducken. I tried to get myself back into the groove by actually making something today – it’s not much, but at least it’s not a banh mi, LOL. This is one of my all time favorite fruit salads – easy to make year round, sweet, and can either be a breakfast or a dessert. I’m not sure where the recipe orginiated from, but it’s been around for years.

5cupsalad

Five Cup Salad

1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup mandarin oranges, drained
1 cup sour cream
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup mini marshallows

Mix all ingredients together, and put into the fridge to chill overnight. The longer you leave it, the more the marshmallows will break down.

Smoked Texas Beef Brisket and Mac and Cheese

I still haven’t felt much like cooking (or eating) lately, so here’s another one from the reserves. This is something I made a couple of months ago, right after I got my stovetop smoker. I used Emeril’s recipe for Beef Brisket, and it came out beautifully – falling apart tender and so very flavorful.

smokebrisket

I served it with a side of mac and cheese, and drizzled a bit of barbecue sauce (leftover from my trip through Tennessee) on top of the brisket.

Sher-E-Punjab

Update: Sher E Punjab is now closed, and now has been replaced by a Korean restaurant in its previous space.

We just got back home with our takeout, and I just wanted to put a placeholder here (because of NaBloPoMo) before midnight, so that I could actually eat while the food is hot…back in a few minutes.

OK, I’m back – but unfortunately the pictures didn’t come out that well, so I’ll just talk about my favorite Indian restaurant in town. Sher-E-Punjab is located in Upper Arlington, at Kenny Centre (near Old Henderson Rd & Kenny Rd). During the week, and a little bit later on weekends, they have a killer lunch buffet. When we stopped there tonight, they were only offering a la carte in the actual restaurant (which is located 3 doors down from the Sher-E-Punjab buffet). They also have dinner buffets 4 nights a week.

Recommended dishes are korma of any type (especially chicken), makhani curry, palak pakore, and their tandoori chicken dishes. If you hit the buffet, they usually have most of these on there. Dinner buffet usually has twice as many entrees as the lunch buffet.

I really wanted to do a more in-depth review, but I think I’ll wait until I can get there for an actual sit-down. In the meantime….

If you’d like to go: Sher-E-Punjab, 1140 Kenny Centre Mall, Columbus. 614.538.9790

Ch-ch-changes

As some of you may already know, I’m having a revision surgery for my gastric bypass in January, due to a bunch of issues from the original surgery, namely the lack of weight loss. The new surgery is a different type (a BPD, for those who are wondering), with a whole different set of dietary requirements.

Basically, I’ll still have the *ability* to eat just about anything. But just because I *can* eat anything doesn’t mean I *should* eat everything. Because part of the surgery has to do with bypassing intestine and introduces a major level of malnutrition. It means that I have to focus more on some food groups than for others, namely protein.

So what does it mean for this blog? Not much, actually. I’ll still be posting regularly, minus a 2 week period while I’m in Brazil when I’ll be on a mostly liquid/soft food diet. I’m hoping to stockpile some content to post during that period. After that, when I’m back to eating normal foods again? Lots of protein, fat is irrelevant (I’ll bypass 90% of what I’ll take in), lots of veggies, carbs if I have room left, and almost no processed sugar. So while you may see an occasional dessert, it will be once in a blue moon or the recipe might be altered to use other sweetners.

I’m actually more interested in the psychological aspect of it all – how does a foodie who has been fat all of her life deal with both losing massive amounts of weight and re-establishing a more healthy relationship with food, when that is the center of her world at the moment? Will losing weight give me the stamina and strength to actually cook the things I’ve wanted to for the longest time, or will I be doing less cooking because I’ll be eating out more? So I won’t lie – I’ll be changing, so it’s only natural that the blog will change as I change. I won’t be talking about places like Jeni’s as much because it will be a once in a blue moon treat for me. I do know a few things for sure. I won’t get preachy, because I dislike that. I won’t stop blogging, because food will still be a passion, even after weight loss surgery. I’ll still eat at restaurants, but it will probably be restaurants that have meals I can finish in one sitting.  I’ll still shop at local shops in town, just won’t be buying doughnuts by the dozen.  Hopefully you all will be willing to make that journey along with me. All I know now is that it’s both scary and exciting contemplating what at this point, is only weeks away. Until then, everything in moderation…

The Ohio Five Meme

I saw this meme on another Ohio blog a while back, and am finally getting around to doing it.

1. You and your town: a marriage of love, convenience, or necessity?

I’d have to say it’s a marriage of love. I moved to Columbus from New Jersey the first time 12 years ago. It was my choice to move here, even though I had never visited before. I moved away, married my husband, and chose to come back because I missed it. Now it’s been another decade, and I’m still here. And my, how the city has grown in 10 years! Columbus has everything I’ve ever wanted (except warm weather year ’round and a beach). While I may occasionally visit other places, my heart will always be here.

2. A mysterious benefactor gives you $75, with the condition that you must do nothing productive. Where in town do you go, and what do you do?

Don’t know if it would cost $75, but I’d spend a complete day driving around Columbus taking pictures of anything that catches my eye. Columbus is such a photogenic city, but I rarely get the opportunity to take pics of anything but food. The $75 would pay for the gas, I suppose.

3. You are your town’s tour guide, on a tight schedule. What is the one place you show visitors?

Easy. The North Market. It’s pretty compact, so you can cover it in a short amount of time. It’s representative of everything good about this town – nice people, lots of ethnic diversity, local touches everywhere you look, and it has something for everyone.

4. The mysterious benefactor is back, this time with $500, three days off, and the condition that you must not leave the state. What’s your plan?

Three days – 3 big “C’s”. First day I’d head up to Cleveland, and go to the West Side Market, Gaelic Imports, and would finally go to Momocho to eat really interesting Mexican food. Second day I’d stick around Columbus, would have a picnic in one of the quiet spots in town, and invite all of my foodie friends. Third day? I’d head down to near Cincinnati, and spend whatever is left at Jungle Jim’s.

5. You’re an Ohioan. What about that makes you proudest? The flip side of pride is shame; go there too if you want.

Pride? Well, we do have a decent football team. And we have really good produce. Excellent cheese. For a big (compared to where I grew up) city, it’s fairly clean. Shame? People are kind of standoffish here, but I think they’re standoffish everywhere.

I’m tagging you other Ohio bloggers (you know who you are) for this meme; I’d love to see your answers!

Columbus Thanksgiving Options

I’ll be adding to this list as I come across new listings – most, if not all of these restaurants require you to make reservations, and I haven’t checked to see if reservations are still available. If you are an owner of a restaurant that is offering a special Thanksgiving menu, please send all pertinent information to columbusfoodieATgmailDOTcom and I’ll add it to the listings. I’ll also be posting the list on the right sidebar under the “Events” header, so keep an eye out there for updates.

Handke’s Cuisine

Family style Thanksgiving menu – including appetizer platter, butternut squash soup, roated turkey, sage and chestnut stuffing, side dishes and dessert (carryout available with 24 hours notice) will be served from noon to 7pm ($43.50 each with a minimum of four guests, $19.50 for children 12 and younger). An a la carte menu will also be available. Reservations required, call 614.621.2500 to make them. 520 S. Front Street, Brewery District.

Hyatt on Capitol Square

will be offering a special Thanksgiving Menu from 10:30am to 3pm. In the Plaza Restaurant and Lounge, cost is $44.95 per person (includes 2 glasses of champagne) or $22.50 for children ages 5-12. In the Governors Ballroom, cost is $34.95 for adults, and $17.50 for children 5-12. Please call 614.365.4550 to make reservations. 75 E. State Street, Columbus.

J. Gilbert’s

will offer a special 4 course Thanksgiving menu from 11am to 7pm. Cost is $25 for adults, and $12.50 for children. Call the restaurant at 614.840.9090 for reservations. 1 E. Campus View Blvd, Columbus.

Latitude 41

will be offering a special Thanksgiving buffet menu, with three seating times (11am, 1pm, 3pm). Cost is $48 per person ($15 for ages 4-10, free for 3 and younger). Please call 614.233.7541 to make reservations.  50 N. 3rd St., Columbus.

Olde Summit Towne Restaurant

will serve a buffet featuring turkey, baked ham with spicy fruit sauce, beef au jus, potatoes, candied yams, green beans, salad bar, dessert and rolls from 11am to 6pm. Carryout available. Cost is $15.95, or $6.95 for children 12 and younger. Call 740.927.8950 to make reservations. 14163 Broad St. SW, Pataskala.

Plaza Inn Casual Family Restaurant

will serve two different Thanksgiving buffets - one in the Coach room from 11am to 4pm, which will feature carved roast beef, carved turkey, carved ham, chicken and noodles, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, turkey gravy, veggies, warm rolls, full salad wagon and dessert table for $13.95 (or $4.95 for children 5 to 10, $2.25 for children 3 to 5, free for 2 and younger). The other one is a Sliced Turkey and Ham buffet served in the restaurant from 11am to 6pm, and will cost $8.95 (children’s prices same as above). You may make reservations by calling the restaurant at 937.354.2851 or 800.884.2328. 491 S. Main Street, Mt. Victory.

Salvi’s Bistro

will offer a buffet featuring traditional fare and trimmings, PastaSalvi, chilled shrimp and prime rib from 10am to 8pm. Cost is $20.95 (or $9.95 for children 5 to 12, free for children 4 and younger). Call 614.870.8788 to make reservations. 1323 St. James Lutheran Lane, Hilliard.

Shaw’s Restaurant & Inn

has a special Thanksgiving menu including caramelized onion butternut squash soup, roast turkey with apple-sage stuffing and fresh cranberry sauce, maple-glazed baked ham, roast duckling, sage-and-cream roasted leg of lamb, filet mignon, prime rib, her-crusted salmon, sole, whipped potatoes, praline whipped sweet potatoes, green-bean almondine and desserts from 11:30am to 7pm. Prices range from $18-$29, or $5-$6 for the children’s menu. Call 1.800.654.2477 or 740.654.1842 to make reservations. 123 N. Broad St, Lancaster.

Smith and Wollensky 

is offering a special Thanksgiving menu, where you get your choice of appetizer, your choice of entree, your choice of side dishes served family style (3 per table), and your choice of dessert. Cost is $38.95 per person/$16 for children 10 and under, or $49.95 per person/$30 for children if you choose filet mignon as your entree. It will be served from 11am to 9pm at their restaurant at Easton Town Center, 4145 The Strand West, Columbus. Call 614.416.2400 to make reservations.

Ted’s Montana Grill

will offer a Thanksgiving dinner featuring soup or salad, roast turkey and dressing (or cedar-plank salmon or prime rib), a variety of side dishes and dessert from noon to 8pm. Cost is $30, or $10 for children 12 and younger. Call 614.760.7753 to make reservations. 6195 Sawmill Rd, Dublin.

The Worthington Inn

will have a Thanksgiving menu, including oven-roasted turkey with mushroom pan gravy, carved country ham with grilled pineapple relish, carved prime rib au jus, butternut-squash bisque, candied yams, basmati rice, mashed potatoes, dressing, waldorf salad, vegetables, salads and desserts from 11am to 5pm. Cost is $19.95, or $9.95 for children 6 to 12, or free for children 5 or younger. Call 614.885.2600 to make reservations. 649 High St., Worthington.

The First Meetup :)

I had a great time on Sunday at the first Columbus Food Lover’s meetup. It was so cool to spend a couple of hours hanging out with Brian and Lorence (and Boogie too!)

jenistrio

Afterwards, we headed over to Jeni’s where I had this tasty trio (Butterscotch with Cocoa Nibs, Salty Caramel and Torrone).

I’m throwing around ideas for the next meetup, and I’m thinking Mi Mi Cafe for Banh Mi, Pho and/or Vietnamese Coffee. How many of you would be interested in that sort of thing?

Review:Cap City Fine Diner

Love him or hate him, there’s no arguing that Cameron Mitchell is a big name in the central Ohio restaurant scene. With 33 restaurants (rumored to go down to 11 soon since many are being sold to Ruth’s Chris), he has a place for every budget and every palate. One of our long time favorites has been Cap City Fine Diner. It’s been a while since we’ve gone, but once I found out they just had a major menu revamp, we decided to stop in on Saturday afternoon for lunch.

Because there was an OSU game that afternoon, Columbus was like a ghost town, with people either crammed into the Shoe or tuned in from their couches at home. The place was fairly empty when we were there, but our server was expecting a rush right after the OSU game – it’s location on Olentangy River Rd. makes it a popular choice for post-game partying (or drowning of sorrows, as was the case after Saturday’s game).

The strange thing is, even though there are tons of new choices on the menu, we went with old favorites, which haven’t changed a bit (except for an increase in price). Even so, as the most casual of the Cameron Mitchell restaurants, it’s still fairly affordable. The pics didn’t come out as sharp as I would have liked, because of a low light situation.

cc_rolls

Every table at Cap City gets bread service – a basket of fluffy, buttery yeast rolls, still warm from the oven. These are addictive, and if you’re not careful, you can end up filling up on bread before even getting your appetizers.

cc_chips

For our appetizer, we chose Maytag Blue Cheese Potato Chips ($7.50), a huge plate of crispy house-fried potato chips topped with a creamy Alfredo sauce, chunks of pungent blue cheese, and scallions. Even with two people sharing, this is an imposing appetizer, almost too much for us to finish. We absolutely love the combination of flavors, though – while neither one of us are big fans of blue or green cheeses, this had enough of kick without being too medicinal.

cc_tripledecker

Since this was a lunch, and I wanted to keep it fairly light (read: wanted – I left the place stuffed to the gills anyway), I ordered a soup and sandwich. Cap City’s Triple Decker Grilled Cheese Sandwich ($6.95) is a tasty three layer concoction, with fried egg, scallions, tomato and dijonaise on country white toast, served quartered (with the crusts cut off, even) surrounding a huge pile of fries (healthier eaters can opt for one of many other sides). Other than the fact that tomatoes never taste really good out of season, this sandwich definitely hit the spot, without hitting the wallet too hard.

cc_chili

For my soup, I opted for a cup of Steak and Black Bean Chili ($3.95), topped with some red onion and cheddar cheese. Their chili has long been one of my favorites, and inspiration for my own, with tender chunks of sirloin taking the place of the ubiquitous ground beef. Thick, with a depth of flavor I haven’t seen in many other chilis I’ve had, this is a classic I’ll return for again and again.

cc_meatloaf

My husband opted for a lunch-sized order of their Cap City Diner Meatloaf ($10.95), which is a nice-sized hunk of their tender, flavorful meatloaf (thanks to the combination of shiitake mushrooms, shallots and cream), topped with buttermilk-chive mashed potatoes, a huge onion ring, their BBQ gravy, and with a side of skillet beans with pecans. The beans aren’t even necessary – Mitchell’s interpretation of an American classic stands alone even without all the extras. The presence of potatoes and gravy act as a complement, but don’t elevate an already tasty entree.

cc_creoletomato

For his soup, my husband chose a cup of their Roasted Creole Tomato ($3.95), which would have paired quite well with my triple decker sandwich. I’m not a huge fan of tomato soups (they tend to be rather flat), but this had a nice, smooth, creamy tomato flavor which slowly developed into a nice warmth on your tongue. Easily the best tomato soup I’ve ever had, hands down.

We were far too full to even consider dessert, but if past experiences are an indication, you can’t go wrong with their Banana Foster Bread Pudding ($5.95) – just make sure you have someone (or someones) willing to split it with you; it’s absolutely massive, and even sharing it, has nearly sent me into sugar shock on more than one occasion. But so totally worth it – the rum caramel sauce alone makes it worth it.

Even if you’re one of these people who run like hell from any Cameron Mitchell restaurant, give this one a try. It’s casual, it’s fun, it’s affordable. And while it’s *technically* a chain (since there’s also a Cap City in Gahanna), it doesn’t feel like one.

If you’d like to go: Cap City Fine Diner, 1299 Olentangy River Rd, Columbus. 614.291.3663.

Cap City Fine Diner and Bar on Urbanspoon

The Antithesis of a Local Thanksgiving

Last night my husband and I, wanting for Thanksgiving food but not for the work involved in making Thanksgiving food, decided on a lark to do a “dry run” of Thanksgiving, making it with as many convenience foods as possible and as little actual work as possible, at the lowest cost possible. Thus we give you our version of Thanksgiving this year, with the least effort possible.

antithanksgiving

The turkey? A Jennie-O bone-in oven ready (bake in bag from frozen) turkey breast ($17.00). With that, we made a bag of Yoder’s Homestyle Mashed Potatoes with Lumps ($2.99), Bob Evans frozen green bean casserole ($2.99), stuffing made from leftover sage and herb foccacia bread from our Bravo dinner the night before ($2.00 for a half loaf), an onion (33 cents), pre-chopped celery from Giant Eagle (about 66 cents worth), chicken broth (.50) and a stick of butter (.75), a can of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce, or “canberry sauce” as we like to call it ($1.00), Green Giant frozen candied yams ($3.99) and gravy that came with the turkey (free).

Our impressions? If an all-local, takes 16 hours to prepare and EVERYTHING is made from scratch Thanksgiving meal is a 10, we’d rate this about a 7. The turkey was excellent. The stuffing would have been better had I just used the 50 cent loaf of white bread and seasoned it separately (the taste was good, the texture was a bit off). The green bean casserole was better than my own. The mashed potatoes were indistinguishable from those made from scratch. I’m one of these odd birds who like canberry sauce, so I enjoyed that. I wasn’t crazy about the candied yams, I much prefer my own recipe (these were a little too molassesy for my tastes). The gravy was pretty dire – too salty and tasted a bit like turkey base. The final cost (with dessert)? Less than $40. Compare that to the over $200 I spent last year… So with some changes (making stuffing with white bread, making my own gravy, making my own yam recipe)? As good as any Thanksgiving dinner, without standing over a hot stove, without tons of dishes to clean up, and without needing a week to recover. And as much as I do love eating local, this year it’s just too much trouble to cook from scratch, especially since it’s just the two of us. Even convenience food has it’s place sometimes. Oh, and about dessert:

3layerpumpkin

Triple-Layer Pumpkin Spice Pie. The layers didn’t come out with quite as much contrast as I would have like, but it definitely had the pumpkin pie vibe going on, and in only 20 minutes of prep. And who am I trying to impress anyway?

Triple Layer Pumpkin Spice Pie
recipe courtesy Kraft Foods

2 cups cold milk
2 pkg. (4-serving size each) JELL-O Pumpkin Spice Flavor Instant Pudding & Pie Filling
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tub (8 oz.) COOL WHIP Whipped Topping, thawed
1 HONEY MAID Graham Pie Crust (6 0z.)
1/2 cup PLANTERS Pecan Halves
1 Tbsp. honey

BEAT milk, dry pudding mixes and cinnamon with wire whisk until well blended. Spread 1-1/2 cups onto bottom of crust.

ADD 1-1/2 cups of the whipped topping to remaining pudding mixture; stir gently. Spoon over layer in crust; top with remaining whipped topping.

REFRIGERATE 1 hour. Meanwhile, cook pecans and honey in skillet on medium-low heat 2 to 4 min. or until pecans are caramelized, stirring frequently. Spread onto sheet of waxed paper, separating larger clusters. Cool. Sprinkle over pie just before serving. Store leftovers in refrigerator.

Okay, so now that we have our want for Thanksgiving food out of our system, what are we actually going to do on Thanksgiving? We’re torn between two choices. One involves driving to Jungle Jims near Cincinnati and picking up a Turducken Roll, which we would proceed to serve with various Cajun side dishes, and our other choice is just to go over to Mi Mi Cafe to load up on Banh Mi, Pho, and Vietnamese Coffee. In our position, which would YOU choose? And for the Americans reading, what Thanksgiving plans do you have this year?