Best Breakfast Ever

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Eating Local, Produce

I’ve fallen into a rut with breakfast, but this is the kind of rut that I don’t mind one bit. This is my breakfast, every day, for the last 2 weeks:

Peaches and Strawberries with Vanilla Yogurt and Granola

Sliced strawberries from Crum’s, freestone peaches from Rhoad’s, vanilla Dannon Lite ‘n Fit, and a handful of vanilla almond granola from Trader Joe’s. Are you like me where you fall into eating the same thing for weeks on end? What kind of things do you make a pattern of eating all the time?

Review: Gallo’s Tap Room

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

I admit, for the longest time, I wouldn’t set foot into Gallo’s Tap Room. For all intents and purposes, it looks like a dive bar in the middle of a concrete wasteland nestled deep in suburbia. And maybe at one time, it was exactly that. But little birdies have been whispering in my ear for a while now, telling me to give it a chance, that the food was actually good despite the questionable choice of location.

Color us surprised that we had misjudged Gallo’s Tap Room all along. Our first clue that things would be different was when we spied the beer list, and saw that they had several good imports (including my beloved Lindemann’s Framboise lambic) on tap. Plus an impressive selection of bottled imports and microbrews as well.

The menu is on the small side, which allows them to focus on quality by using fresh ingredients (their wings are fresh, never frozen, for instance), making their own sauces and sides, etc. It’s a fusion of Italian and pub grub, with plenty to choose from among soup, salads and paninis. Their wings are reputed to be some of the best in Columbus.

The ambiance is typical dark sports bar, with plenty of tables about to enjoy your meal, but we chose to eat outside on their small patio. While it wasn’t an oasis surrounded by concrete, it did provide us the ability to eat outside in relative peace and quiet, with a nice breeze blowing.

We started with an order of their Fried Pierogies ($6.50), which were a half dozen potato and onion pierogi deep fried to a nice golden brown. While this isn’t a typical Midwest preparation, to displaced East Coasters like my husband and me, it was a nice slice of home. Served with sour cream (and the caramelized onions we asked for on the side), they were a thing of beauty, and a perfect start to our meal.

Pierogies from Gallo's Tap Room

For his main, my husband went with the 4 O’ Clock Panini ($7.25), which tops a Rustic bread with thinly sliced home made meatballs with a wonderful red sauce and aged provolone. The whole mess is grilled on a panini press to crispy perfection. Despite him taking darn near a half hour to finish it, it remained crispy and warm throughout.

4 'o Clock Panini Sandwich from Gallo's Tap Room

Sandwiches come with your choice of fries, an apple cole slaw, half and half (half of fries, half of cole slaw), or a salad. Or you can opt for soup for an additional charge. He chose the apple cole slaw, which is a traditional cabbage slaw with shreds of apple in it. The slaw was a lot less dressed than most I’ve had, and much less sweet (it seems if the sweetness comes primarily from the apple). A light sprinkling of salt helped bring out all the subtle flavors of it.

Apple Cole Slaw from Gallo's Tap Room

I went with their Angus Burger ($7.95), which is their best-selling sandwich. It puts a half pound burger (cooked to order) on a ciabatta roll, and then tops it with lettuce, tomato, and onion (and cheese if you desire). Unfortunately, when they first brought it to me it was woefully overcooked (well done when I had ordered it medium rare). When I brought it to our server’s attention he seemed genuinely mortified, and whisked it away and had a fresh burger to me in a matter of minutes. The second time around, the burger was just about perfect – nicely seasoned, cooked exactly medium rare, and juicy as all get out. The ciabatta roll stood up well to the juicy bloody onslaught. Opt for some of their homemade mayo to be served with it for a true taste treat.

Angus Burger from Gallo's Tap Room

I got fries with mine, and if they’re not fresh cut, they’re indistinguishable from fresh cut. Deep fried to golden perfection, and delicious with salt and some malt vinegar.

French Fries from Gallos Tap Room

Service was flawless. Our server (who I also believe is one of the brothers who owns the place) was engaging, helpful, and extremely attentive. Even though we were seated outside (away from the main dining area) we didn’t want for a single thing during our entire meal.

One would hardly expect to get outstanding food in a sports bar, but this is the exception to the rule. If you’re in the area, toss all your preconceived notions out and stop in. You won’t regret it for a second.

If you’d like to go: Gallo’s Tap Room, 5019 Olentangy River Rd (in the Micro Center Plaza, between KMart and Micro Center), Columbus, OH 43214, 614-457-2394

Gallo's Tap Room on Urbanspoon

Farm Fresh and Local Produce 8/1/09

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Eating Local, Farmer's Market, North Market, Produce

One of the things I love about produce, and especially about going to farmers markets instead of a regular grocery store, is the vibrancy of color in the produce. You see varieties of fruits and veggies that have never crossed the threshold of your neighborhood Kroger or Meijer or Giant Eagle. Take, for instance, these cauliflower, in unusual colors like purple and orange.

Purple and Orange Cauliflower and Broccoli

One of my serious addictions this year are the fantastic peaches from Rhoads Farm. Their freestone peaches have been to die for this year. So much so that I’ve made midweek trips to Circleville for more when I’ve run out. I’ve been eating 2-3 a day for the past few weeks.

Freestone Peaches from Rhoads Farm Market

I love when there’s finally eggplant available, as it’s so versatile. One of my favorite things to make is homemade baba ganoush. Even my eggplant-hating mother loves my eggplant recipes. I’ll convert her yet!

Eggplants

I always get tempted by dragon tongue beans whenever I see them (they’re so unusual), but have yet to try them. Hopefully that will change soon.

Dragon's Tongue Beans from 2 Crows Farms

These heirloom cherry tomatoes were great for just popping into my mouth randomly. It seems the more you compact a tomato, the more intense the tomato flavor is.

Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes

Lovely multi-colored potatoes from Flying J Farms make a colorful potato salad. A nice dijon vinaigrette were all these babies needed.

Potatoes from Flying J Farms

In addition to our normal three markets (North Market, Worthington, Clintonville), this week we hit a 4th one, and went to the Grove City Farmers market. It’s a mixed bag there, since it’s not completely producer only (bananas grown in Columbus? I don’t think so!), but there are several stands I still love to visit, including Circle S Farms for their dip mixes and other prepared foods.

Canned Fillings from Circle S Farms

Mmm…more sweet corn. Is there such a thing as too much? Not getting sick of it yet, that’s for sure!

Sweet Corn

If memory serves me right, it was hot as heck that day. The heat didn’t last, though – as this year has been one of the mildest summers on record. I don’t mind it personally, but my plants sure would have loved more warm days…

OLS Week 13: Caprese Risotto

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Eating Local, Food Blogging Event, Food Porn

onelocalsummer

It seems almost wrong that One Local Summer is ending just as the growing season is at its peak – with so much still to look forward to, and with no excuse to cook anything but completely local, ending the event seems almost premature. I wish there were a “One Local Fall” to carry on the tradition because we still have winter squash, apples and pears, and so much more ahead of us.

So it’s bittersweet that my last meal of this event is also my favorite. I’ve made lots of risotto this past year, but this one? Wow. This recipe (found on another food blog) brought out the flavor of the fresh ingredients – sungold tomatoes and basil picked right from my deck, fresh mozzarella from Blue Jacket Creamery, half and half from Snowville Creamery, Kitchen Basics chicken stock, leek and garlic from the Worthington Farmers Market. This is one that just says “August” to me, and this is one I wouldn’t even attempt to make out of season. I’m going to enjoy every second of summer while it lasts…

Cherry Tomato and Fresh Mozzarella Risotto

Risotto with Fresh Mozzarella, Grape Tomatoes & Basil
recipe from Cooking in Kansas City blog

3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
4 1/2 cups fat-free, less- sodium chicken broth
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
2 cups chopped leek
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup half & half
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup halved grape tomatoes
1/4 fresh basil, chopped
5 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, finely diced

Place vinegar in a small, heavy saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook until slightly syrupy and reduced to 1 tablespoon, about 4 minutes. Set aside.
Bring broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Keep warm.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add leek and saute 3 minutes. Add rice; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add wine and cook 1 minute or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Stir in 1 cup of broth; cook five minutes and stir often.

Reduce heat to medium. Add remaining broth, 1/2 cup a time, until liquid is absorbed, stirring often. Stir in half and half, salt and pepper and cook 2 more minutes.

Remove from heat; stir in tomatoes, basil and cheese. Place about 1 cup risotto into six shallow bowls; drizzle each with 1/2 tsp. balsamic syrup and 1/2 tsp. oil.

Farm Fresh and Local Produce 7/25/09

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Eating Local, Farmer's Market, Produce

We got an early start as usual, and got to the North Market around 7:30ish. I have to say, I definitely had a reality check and saw winter squash at the market that day. How could it be? It’s only July! But a definite eye opener to how little summer is actually left.

Sunshine Squash

Mrs. Rhoads had brought in some Bread & Butter Hot Pickled Peppers, which we got to try. Amazing! I’m neither a Bread & Butter pickle (too sweet!) aficionado nor a fan of hot peppers, but I loved this. We got a copy of the recipe from her, and bought all the supplies necessary to make a batch ourselves.

Banana Peppers from Rhoads Farms

At the Wayward Seed Farm stand in Worthington they had apricots from Eshelman’s Fruit Farm, so I bought a bag. While I don’t like the flavor or texture of apricots for eating out of hand, they make fantastic baked goods & jams, and are a great addition to savory dishes.

Apricots from Wayward Seed Farm

Sweet corn was at it’s best at the end of July. I don’t remember it being quite as sweet or juicy in years past. I’ve been eating corn all summer like it’s going out of style.

Sweet Corn

Ditto with garlic. Can’t get enough.

Garlic

And how many different ways are there to prepare local potatoes? I’m not sure, but I’m determined to find out!

Potatoes

Each week seems to blur into the next, and the only milestone I have to mark weeks off at this point are my weekly (or biweekly) farmers market trips. Bear with me, as I try my best to get caught up.

Review: Basi Italia

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

When I ask those in the know where to get good Italian in Columbus, an answer that inevitably comes up time and time again is Basi Italia. Unbelievably though, although it’s been on my radar for ages, I never got around to eating there until a couple of days ago. Part of that is because it’s hidden away in a part of Victorian Village that I don’t normally travel. It’s that sort of blink and you’ll miss it place that you have to know about to notice, and it’s not the type of place you’ll stumble upon going about your day. I can imagine it is wildly popular with neighborhood folks, because it looks right at home among the quaint houses in that area.

We’ve heard lots of things about their beautiful patio, and when we had an unseasonably cool day recently, we decided to stop for lunch and experience it firsthand. Although it was well after the normal lunch rush, they still had a good crowd there, and not one person was sitting inside – it seems as everybody had the same desire to eat al fresco that we did. Although not a huge patio, it’s laid out well, and can fit more people out there than one would think at first glance.

Their lunch menu isn’t huge, but there are plenty of options to choose from. For a starter, I went with one of their specials, a watermelon-goat cheese salad ($5) that was served with some well-dressed arugula and a nice drizzle of balsamic vinegar. The watermelon they chose was at the height of sweetness and juicyness, and the red chile flake marinade it had soaked in lent a bite to the finished dish that was unexpected. The whole dish was extremely well balanced, and super light and refreshing.

Watermelon Goat Cheese Salad at Basi Italia

My husband chose a Baby Wedge Salad ($5) as his starter, which was essentially an entire cored & cleaned head of baby crisp lettuce on a plate with perfectly cooked bacon, red onion, grape tomatoes, gorgonzola cheese and a really creamy Green Goddess dressing. While it was a bit messy to eat, my husband found it to be extremely filling – almost a lunch unto itself, and a great value. He stated he’d go back for this alone.

Baby Wedge Salad at Basi Italia

The Pasta Pomodoro ($9) that my husband chose as his main was a simple dish, but prepared to perfection. The serving size was just right, and it was cooked to the perfect level of al dente. The simple tomato sauce wasn’t overly fussy, and the shaved Parmesan cheese it was served with helped bring out the sweetness and acidity of the tomatoes. It just goes to show that a dish need not be complex to be good.

Pasta Pomodoro at Basi Italia

The lump crab and sweet corn risotto ($12) that I ordered as my entree was among the best I’ve had in town. Once again, the risotto was prepared with a skilled hand, and all the flavors worked together wonderfully – the inherent sweetness of the crab and the corn and caramelized onions, the textural contrast and crunch of the sunflower spouts on top. The serving size was quite ample, and just the right amount to fill me up completely.

Lump Crab and Sweet Corn Risotto at Basi Italia

Service was super-friendly and on the ball. Our server was more than happy to answer the numerous questions we had on various components of the dishes and preparation methods without batting an eye. And since we went in mid-afternoon, on street parking on Hubbard was a breeze. We can’t wait to return!

If you’d like to go: Basi Italia, 811 Highland St, Columbus, OH 43215, 614-294-7383

Basi Italia on Urbanspoon

Butter Pecan Oat Bars with Chocolate Filling

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Food Porn, Recipes

They say the way to someone’s heart is through their stomach. If that’s the case, it means either my mother loves me very much, or she’s trying to kill me at a young age by sending me into a diabetic coma.

Butter Pecan Oat Bars with Chocolate Filling

She stopped by the other day and brought these to us. They are little squares of evil, sweet and chewy and chocolatey evil I tell you. So much so, that we’re freezing most of them because they’re SO rich and decadent, you gain weight just looking at them.  This is the type of treat you take out once in a while to be savored. Thanks, Mom, for thinking of me. :)

Butter Pecan Oat Bars with Chocolate Filling
recipe courtesy About.com

6 ounces butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
3/4 cup dark or light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 box (18 ounces) butter pecan cake mix
2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

**Filling**
1 can (15 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 package (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
Pinch salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup chopped pecans

Preparation:
Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 9x13x2-inch baking pan.

Beat 6 ounces of butter with the brown sugar until light; beat in eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Slowly beat in the cake mix and rolled oats until well blended.

In a saucepan, combine the sweetened condensed milk with chocolate chips, a pinch of salt, and 1 tablespoon butter. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until chocolate chips are melted and mixture is smooth. Stir in the chopped pecans.

Spread about 2/3 of the cake batter in the prepared pan. Spoon filling over the cake layer and spread to cover. Pinch pieces of the remaining batter and arrange the pieces evenly over the filling.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until nicely browned and firm.

Farm Fresh and Local Produce 7/18/09

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Eating Local, Farmer's Market, Produce

I’ve been a sucker for sweet corn this season, and have been eating it like it’s going out of style. I mean, seriously – how can you resist something as beautiful as this corn from Persinger Farms?

Sweet Corn from Persinger Farms

Wayward Seed Farms have been selling lots of fruit this year, provided by Eshleman Fruit Farm. I absolutely couldn’t pass by these apricots. I don’t know why, but this summer I’ve been going crazy for stone fruits.

Apricots from Wayward Seed Farm

And I’ve been quite a lot of Mexican cooking this year, and these tomatillos from Honeyrun Farms have been a wonderful addition to so many of the dishes I’ve made.

Tomatillos from Honeyrun Farms

The sunflowers are still out in force, and still, every one I photograph comes out looking like a beautiful painting. If I ever get into creating art, the first thing I’m going to do is paint a sunflower. As a matter of fact, THIS would be the painting I’d do.

Sunflowers

I love when cabbage becomes available, as there are certain dishes I make every year, and Flying J Farms cabbage was the centerpiece of the annual stuffed cabbage rolls extravaganza.

Cabbage from Flying J Farms

Ditto with carrots. Is it just me, or have the carrots been much smaller/shorter this year than usual?

Carrots

Blueberries were still plentiful during this mid-July market.

Blueberries from H-W Organics

I’m not sure why, but July pretty much got away from me. I really wish I had blogged about this as it happened, so I could give you more detail. Where did July go, anyway? Hard to believe we’re already nearing the end of August.

Garden Update: July 2009

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Gardening, Produce

I have to tell you, this garden could have never happened but for the assistance of my mother’s boyfriend Joe. He’s done all the heavy lifting when it came to getting everything set up. His input has been invaluable, and his gardening knowledge has saved me from disaster more than once. I’m so lucky to have him mentoring me in this project.

Right after I took the June pictures of the garlic, I had pulled them to harvest. Once you harvest garlic, you have to let it cure a bit to dry out. After curing, we had a handful of compact, yet tasty heads. Hard neck garlic has a fairly short shelf life, though – so you still want to use it as soon as possible. If you’re looking for garlic to store, go with a softneck variety. Also, another important hint. If you decide to grow your own hardneck garlic, it will go through a phase of growing where a part shoots out and then curves around at the end. This is a garlic scape, and if let be, will turn into a flower. You want to chop these off once they’ve got that curve at the top, so the plant can focus all of its energy into bulb formation instead of flowering. But there’s an added benefit to this – garlic scapes are great eating. We love to make pesto from them.

Also, at the beginning of June, I had a handful of sungolds to eat, a few zucchini, and the first of the early girl tomatoes.

Garden Harvest 7/2/09

For a couple of weeks, it was pretty much the same thing every day.

Garden Harvest 7/9/09

And then, somewhere in the middle of the month, things started getting really prolific. I was harvesting more every day than I could eat alone. You’ll notice the addition of a pickling cuke and some green beans.

Garden Harvest 7/16/09

The vines started getting so long that Joe decided to build a trellis out of chicken wire (which were anchored by stakes) so they’d have something to latch onto as they grow upward. Vines will go in whatever direction you train them. We decided that vertical was the way to go. Here you see a pickling cuke on the vine.

Pickle in My Garden July 2009

And a picture of the muskmelons starting to climb up the trellis.

Pickle Plant in my Garden July 2009

Here it is from a different angle, with the zucchini plant in the corner for reference.

Cantaloupe Plant in My Garden July 2009

And speaking of zucchini, man did that plant go crazy. Hard to believe that at the beginning of summer I had considered planting more than one plant next year. Now I see why people give away zucchini. It’s like the Energizer bunny – it keeps going, and going, and going…

Zucchini from My Garden July 2009

Here’s an overall picture of the garden, with all the rock laid down. We’re quite pleased with the way it turned out, it looks even better than we imagined it would.

Garden 7/19/09

This was about a half day’s harvest, somewhere near the end of July.

Garden Harvest 7/21/09

And this was the harvest the day that Anne and Walker of Columbus Underground came over to do the article on the garden. I was able to finally harvest my swiss chard and some eggplant as well.

Garden Harvest 7/24/09

From here on in it’s been utter chaos, and I learn something new every day. I can’t wait until the end of August so I can fill you in on the bounty it provided. I think this gardening project is one of the most rewarding (in more ways than one) things I’ve ever done.

Garden Update: June 2009

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Gardening, Produce

June is a weird month for gardening. Some things are quite prolific, and others have hardly grown at all. The radishes I planted from seed back in mid-May were ready to harvest in mid-June. They were sweet and delicious sliced onto a piece of dark pumpernickel that was slathered with homemade butter and sprinkled with salt. After harvesting, I just planted a whole new set of seed in the same space.

Radishes 6/18/09

Ditto with the romaine lettuce. It absolutely went crazy, and by the middle of June, I had several large crispy heads. After harvesting, I left these spaces empty, because the tomatoes were growing outside of the boundaries of their square foot and were taking over pretty much that whole half of the box.

Romaine Lettuce 6/18/09

The blueberry bushes you saw the previous month were finally planted into the ground, and we added an additional two bushes of a more prolific variety. Since blueberries like acidic soil, we sprinkled some sulfur onto the area we planted, and then watered. We won’t get many blueberries this year, as the plants are just settling in. The few we have had so far the birds have been eating once they turn blue, but before they completely ripen.

Blueberries 6/18/09

The Bibb lettuce was also ready to harvest, which you have to do before it starts to bolt in the hotter days of summer. Once it bolts it gets bitter, so it’s important to harvest it at just the right time for maximum flavor.

Bibb Lettuce 6/18/09

The strawberries were starting to ripen – again, not many this first year. We just harvested the ripe ones each day and ate them out of hand. Next year this should be quite a prolific little strawberry patch.

Strawberries 6/18/09

The zucchini was starting to set fruit with little baby zucchini. The funny thing about zucchini is that a baby can turn into a giant overnight, if you get enough rain. I should have enjoyed this phase while it lasted. :)

Zucchini 6/18/09

I didn’t have much luck with my Poblanos this year. Some plants only set one pepper, others 2 or 3, but we were still months away from being able to harvest any of them.

Poblano Pepper 6/18/09

On the other hand, we had no shortage of mulberries.

Mulberries 6/18/09

One of my daily rituals in June was to go outside and forage the ripe berries (usually a pint to a quart a day), which I’d bring into Paul who would then turn it into the most fantastic mulberry jelly ever. That man sure has a way with jellies, jams and preserves. Yum. Made it worth the trouble it took to pick all of them by hand.

Mulberries 6/18/09

As you can see, we got a little further in laying the groundwork for the garden area. By mid-June, we had painted the boxes black (we figured that in fall we could harvest longer, because the soil would be warmed somewhat by the absorption of sunlight). Not sure if it will really work, but it’s worth a try.

In this first box, you can see the eggplant in all four corners were starting to grow a bit taller, with more leaves. But still looking very much like the seedlings I had planted a month previous. The corn (on the far left of the picture) that I had planted from seed was starting to grow, but hadn’t formed tassels or stalks yet. The green beans (top of the picture, next to the left side eggplant) from seed were coming along nicely, but the spinach to the right of that wasn’t doing very well at all. The lettuce was doing dandy, and the radishes were ready to harvest. The turnips were in severe need of thinning. The kohlrabi (which was really cabbage) seemed to be growing well. My poor collard greens never had a chance. Enjoy the prettiness of them while they lasted. A couple of weeks later they got infested by aphids, and had to be pulled. The Swiss chard on the bottom was also growing as it should. Can you believe that I didn’t know that Swiss chard regrows after you cut it? Doh! If I had known that, I would have harvested it when the leaves were still small.

Garden Box #1 6/18/09

You can see the strawberry patch was starting to fill in, but still more dirt than strawberry plants.

Garden Box #2 6/18/09

The tomatoes grew like crazy. Here you can see my pathetic attempts at staking, which I severely underestimated because I had no idea how big each individual plant would get. The tomato plants would take over the onion spots and the former lettuce spots and would eat the stakes alive within weeks.

Garden Box #3 6/18/09

The pepper plants stayed pretty small, but you can already see that the zucchini plant (top left corner) was gearing up to go a bit crazy. Lucky for me, as it grew it decided to overflow out of the box, instead of into the spaces of the other plants. And the plants were still small enough that I hadn’t trellised yet.

Garden Box #4 6/18/09

The garlic was just about ready to harvest. Each one of those leaves represents a layer of skin on the bulb, and you want to let a few leaves turn brown before harvesting. As you can see, the poor poblano plants on the other side of the box were basically gnawed down to nothing at this point.

Garden Box #5 6/18/09

So, as you see, June was the start of good things, but I was still buying lots of veggies from the farmers market. As a new gardener, I’m playing this by ear, and learning from my mistakes. Stay tuned for July. :)