Garden Update: May 2009

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Eating Local, Gardening, Oma, Produce

Gardening is something of a family tradition for us. My great-grandfather (who we called Opa) made a living as a gardener when he emigrated from Germany around 60 years ago, so there was never a time growing up where I can’t remember Opa having a vegetable garden, or a time where I don’t have memories of helping him out in the garden. The same could be said for my mother. He started her out at an early age, and here’s the evidence: a picture of her with Opa and her mother in 1954, where at a little over 2 years old, she’s right there with him with a miniature hoe of her own.

3 Generations of Gardeners - March 1954

So gardening is definitely in the blood, although I don’t remember much of those early lessons. Oddly enough, I can still remember the exact placement of all of the vegetables in his garden – isn’t it funny how the mind works? There are fleeting remembrances of cold frames and growing green beans and cucumbers and tomatoes and spinach, and memories of sitting in the yard with Oma snapping the ends off of those beans so that she could make Bohnegemüse which she’d then freeze for preservation so that we could enjoy nature’s bounty during the cold New Jersey winters.

That desire to garden laid pretty much dormant until we built a house of our own in 2004. I started that year with something simple – herbs grown in containers on my porch rail, and some tomatoes grown in the front bed – although not pretty, it was quite bountiful. As the years have passed, we’ve expanded a bit – we have a deck now where we didn’t before, and we have a fence now, so the growing space expanded with the home improvements. Last year we grew tomatoes and peppers in containers on the back deck. This year, we put in an honest-to-goodness permanent garden, which we’ll continue to use year after year.

Please click on through and join me on a tour of how my garden started out. I’ll share my progress month-by-month, including some of my harvest. It’s amazing to see how quickly things have progressed.

Read more…

Farm Fresh and Local Produce 7/11/09

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

There are usually a few tell-tale signs that summer is well underway, and that you’ve reached about the midpoint of the growing season. One is that it is hot as all get out. That one didn’t really apply this year, because July was so mild that it pretty much just flew by. The second is the first appearance of stone fruit and heirloom tomatoes.

So I knew what was up when I saw these Mirabelle Plums from The Orchard of Bill and Vicky Thomas at the North Market that fateful Saturday morning. Of course, it *is* an early variety, but it is a stone fruit nonetheless. The beginning of the end, I tell you. ;)

Mirabelle Plums from The Orchard of Bill and Vicky Thomas

Kohlrabi is one of my favorite summer vegetables. I have fond memories of my great-grandfather growing it in his garden, and my grandmother making it with the most wonderful cream sauce. I’ll pick it up just about any time I’ll see it at the farmers market.

Kohlrabi from Combs Herbs

Also that week was the first heirloom tomatoes of the season. I’m more and more convinced that I really need a greenhouse, because these farmers have veggies weeks before they ripen in my own garden. Not that I’m complaining, mind you…

Heirloom Tomatoes

But perfectly in season in July are blueberries. There’s nothing quite like farm fresh, plump and juicy blueberries in baked goods, and we made our share that month!

Blueberries

The appearance of tiny flavorful Sungold tomatoes from Honeyrun Farms at the Worthington Farmers Market made me dance a small jig. Hands down, Sungolds are my favorite part of summer. I pop them like candy. :)

Sungold Tomatoes from Honeyrun Farms

One of the things that draws me to the Wayward Seed Farm stands at all three markets (North Market, Worthington, and Clintonville) are the numerous unique heirloom varieties they grow. Because of them, I’ve learned to love beets.

Beets from Wayward Seed Farm

Was also thrilled to see that 2Silos were offering home baked chocolate chips scones, which are a great replacement for the Amish doughnuts they’re not allowed to bring anymore.

Chocolate Chip Scones from 2 Silos

A beautiful day, delicious produce, talking to some of my favorite people. What better way to spend a weekend?

Pimpin’ for Paul

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Meta

My husband, Paul, has been a tireless supporter of my blogging efforts for the past few years. So much so, that he takes more than a vested interest in the content here – i.e. making things for me to blog about, photographing as much as I do, seeing events as potentially newsworthy, sharing restaurant experiences, etc.

He does, however, get on me about not blogging about stuff quickly enough, as he well should. Tired of him trying to dictate the schedule of my postings, I’ve been telling him for ages, “if you want to write about things you want to talk about, start your own blog!”. Well guess what? He’s done just that.

Paul at Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace

Although we share many of the same experiences, our interests are definitely different. He’s into food preservation, obscure beers, and the more social aspects of food. Rather than duplicating content, I’d like to think that we complement each other very well. And he’s really got a knack for words, maybe even more so than I do. I’m sure he would love for you to take a look at his new food blog, Fat Bastard.

The name came about because he participates in IRC chat rooms. In one such chat room, he goes by the nick “Rat Bastard” – one of the other participants, trying to get his goat, has taken to calling him “Fat Bastard”. Clever. And from there, “Get in Mah Belly” came to mind. And I said, “hey, that combo would make a great food blog name”, and he agreed, and a blog was born.

I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.

Review: Dirty Frank’s Hot Dog Palace

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

Well, it really would be unfair of me to call this a review, since it’s virtually impossible for me to be impartial. I’m lucky enough to count co-owners (and soon to be spouses!) Liz and Harold among my friends, and because of that, will naturally lean toward wanting to see them succeed in all of their endeavors. However, that doesn’t mean I’m above doling out a little constructive criticism, so we’ll just call this a quasi-review with the qualifier that I do have an established relationship with the owners.

I’ve been super excited about the opening of Dirty Frank’s, if for nothing else that it was a long time coming. Numerous unexpected delays and additional hoops to jump through meant that the opening didn’t come for nearly a year after its projected opening date. To say that it was one of the most anticipated openings in Columbus history would be pretty accurate, and it had built up a cult following and considerable buzz before even opening its doors. Part of that is due to the way that the Betty’s Family of Restaurants (BFR) has embraced social media with a vengeance, keeping interested parties up to date via Twitter, Facebook, Columbus Underground and more.

They opened for business on July 1st, with limited hours (they’re on a normal schedule now, open 7 days a week from 11am-2am). They’re located at 248 S. 4th Street (right near Rich, in the old Queen Bee space), and after extensive renovations (and one heck of a pretty ketchup-and-mustard colored paint job), became the cozy kitschy spot it is now. The walls are decorated with paintings of 80′s pop and metal stars, like Michael Jackson, Metallica, etc. done by Liz’s brother Thom Lessner. The music which fills the space is that of unsigned local bands. Every last detail has been thoughtfully put in place, and it shows.

We had stopped in the first time on opening night – it had been a complete madhouse that day, so we decided to wait a bit until things settled down to visit again. Fast forward to almost two months later, when we stopped by midweek in mid-afternoon. We took a seat in the window by the front door.

The first time we visited, they had been out of slushies because the demand for them far outweighed their supply. This time around, we were psyched because there were slushies to be had. I went with the cherry ($2), and Paul went with a more interesting variation called the Hot Rod Slush ($2), in which a habanero-lime syrup is swirled into a lime slushie. Both were quite refreshing, and Paul’s Hot Rod slushie had a nice kick to it, which appeared as a bit of a burn in the back of the throat.

Cherry & Lime Slushies at Dirty Frank's

Both the dogs (at $3 each on beef or veggie dog) and the sides ($2) are priced quite reasonably, making a visit to Dirty Frank’s well within just about everyone’s budget. On our first visit, we had tried the Chicago, the Whoa Nellie, the Nikola, the Razzle Dazzle and the Seoul Dog, of which the Chicago and the Razzle Dazzle were our favorites. In an effort to try everything on the menu at least once, we picked entirely different dogs this visit. We both tried each others dogs, too – so after this visit we’ve tried 9 dogs total. For what it’s worth, given the choice between the regular beef dog and the jumbo beef dog, go for the jumbo beef. It gives a nicer meat to bun ratio, and is well worth the cost of the .50 upgrade. In the future, I’d love if Dirty Frank’s offered toasting/grilling of the buns as an option. While I can appreciate a nice soft bun, I prefer a toasted one.

The Ohioana ($3.50 w/ jumbo beef dog) tops the dog with a spicy corn relish (made with sweet corn, jalapeno and pickle relish) on one of their dogs, which is then sprinkled with a touch of celery salt. While it’s a nice crunchy relish, I would love to see a little more kick to it (maybe more jalapeno?) so that the sweetness of the other ingredients would stand out more instead of blending into the background. As is, this topping is a definite safe choice for just about everyone.

Ohioana Dog at Dirty Frank's

My favorite of all the dogs I’ve tried so far is the Fancy Pants Dog ($3.50 w/ jumbo beef dog), which tops the dog with some Dijon mustard and nice sweet (and slightly “warm” spiced) cornichons. It’s a combination of flavors that I didn’t think I would enjoy, since I’m not particularly fond of pickles, but it somehow works really well.

Fancy Pants Dog at Dirty Frank's

The Tater Tots ($2) are a perfect side for hot dogs, and even more so when prepared “Alex Style” (topped with chili and cheese).

Tater Tots "Alex Style" at Dirty Frank's

I have to admit, the Fried Leeks ($2) stumped me a bit. I mean, I get the concept and what they’re going after (think blooming onion), but I don’t think it works quite as well in execution. While there were some crispy tasty bits, for the most part, it ended up being a bit greasy and soggy, way messy and confusing to eat (do you use your hands? or a fork and knife?), and way too much waste of perfectly good leeks. It was cool to order it once to try it, but I don’t think that we’ll get this one again. That being said, it does seem to have very vocal fans who order it every time they visit, so it could be a matter of personal preference on my part.

Fried Leeks at Dirty Frank's

Paul opted to get the Beano Dog ($3.75 w/ beef brat), one of their vegetarian offerings, on a beef brat rather than the veggie dog it usually comes with. To both of us, it was reminiscent of really tasty nachos, and we both enjoyed it thoroughly. Our only wish was that the cheddar cheese on top be melted a bit, which would have made a good dog even better.
Beano Dog at Dirty Frank's

Paul, the olive lover, really enjoyed the True Love Always dog ($3.50 w/ jumbo beef dog), which pairs the combination of green olives and cream cheese. I wasn’t a fan (because I don’t like olives very much), but Paul said the cream cheese cut the brininess of the olives perfectly. It was the right amount of olives with the right amount of cream cheese, and struck a needed balance that pulled it all together.

True Love Always Dog at Dirty Frank's

The french fries ($2) here are fresh cut, and were a great receptacle for some added salt and malt vinegar (if you don’t see it on the table, ask for it – they’ll be more than happy to bring you over a bottle). These would also be awesome topped with chili and cheese.

French Fries at Dirty Frank's

The sport-pepper studded macaroni and cheese ($2) was nice and creamy, and perfectly al dente. I would love to see leftover mac and cheese reused the next day in the form of mac and cheese balls rolled in panko and deep fried. A girl can dream, right? ;)

Macaroni and Cheese at Dirty Frank's

We finished things with a shared funnel cake ($2). While it was a bit flatter and more symmetrical than any funnel cake I’ve had before, the flavor was all there and I really appreciated the light hand with the powdered sugar (too often, you end up wearing more than you eat!). Plus, it’s fun to eat fair food in a restaurant.

Funnel Cake at Dirty Frank's

Cocktails at Dirty Franks are fun and imaginative. I really enjoyed the Alabama Slammer on my first visit – it reminded me of hot summers in the late 80′s, back in the days when I did far too much partying for my own good.

I can see why they have such a following – it’s a fun atmosphere, where you ALWAYS see someone you know, it’s affordable, it’s accessible, casual, unpretentious and it’s good. We’ll definitely be back. Often.

If you’d like to go: Dirty Frank’s Hot Dog Palace, 248 S. 4th Street, Columbus, OH 43215, 614.824.4673

Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace on Urbanspoon

Farm Fresh and Local Produce 7/4/09

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

I’ve managed to get so far behind with these market reports, and for that I apologize. It seems as though the summer has, for the most part, slipped away from me. I think the whole of July passed by without me even realizing it. And it’s almost the end of August now? Summer is almost over! :( So bear with me, and I’ll try my darndest to get these reports caught up over the next week or so.

Amazingly, there was a farmers market on July the 4th. Great timing, too – with everyone having to do shopping for cookouts later in the afternoon. For the most part, things weren’t very crowded and I managed to make the rounds without any problems at all.

One of the things I love so much about produce, and especially about photographing produce, are the vibrant colors. It’s amazing to me that a landscape that was so desolate mere months before is now bursting with colors that span the entire spectrum. I think it’s one of the reasons I go to the markets week after week, even if I don’t particularly need to buy something. There’s just a rejuvenation of the soul that comes along with whole experience for me.

Take, for example, these Easter Egg Radishes. Something so simple, but so strikingly beautiful. And delicious too.

Radishes

At Combs Herbs, we bought some red currants, which Joe (my mother’s boyfriend) took home with him. My mother made a batch of tender red currant scones. Lovely.

Red Currants

I want to say that these are Snap Dragons, but I don’t know my flowers very well. Any florists among you lot?

Flowers

And amazingly early (at least to my novice “knee high by the fourth of July” thinking) sweet corn was available. I’m telling you, folks – I really need to build myself a greenhouse. My own garden seems to be weeks, even months behind these farmers crops.

Sweet Corn

Plump and juicy raspberries, which made a fantastic danish.

Raspberries

And the beginning of what (soon after) became an ocean of summer squash. I wasn’t sick of the stuff by this point. ;)

Summer Squash

So did you hit the markets on the fourth of July? Just curious if I’m the only one who goes on the holidays…

Strawberry Ice Cream

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Eating Local, Food Porn, Recipes

With strawberries back in the farmers market for at least a couple weeks, I figured now would be as good a time as any to talk about the ice cream we made (our first try at it, believe it or not!) We’ve had an ice cream maker for quite a while, but never enough freezer space to be able to store the freezer bowl. But inspired by fresh local strawberries and Snowville Creamery heavy cream and whole milk, we couldn’t resist trying our hand at making it from scratch.

The recipe didn’t come out quite like I expected – I was thinking of traditional strawberry ice cream where the strawberry flavor is throughout. This recipe is more like a vanilla ice cream (and an excellent one at that!) with strawberry chunks  scattered through. The strawberries got a little icy, though – so next time around I may try pureeing or mashing them a bit. Still, it’s a great starter recipe, and I’m sure you could substitute peaches or raspberries or any other fruit and have spectacular results.

Strawberry Ice Cream

Strawberry Ice Cream Like Ben and Jerry’s
recipe from Recipezaar

* 1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped
* 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
* 2 large eggs
* 1 cup sugar, divided
* 2 cups heavy whipping cream
* 1 cup milk
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine strawberries, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup sugar in a mixing bowl, set aside in fridge for 1 hour. In large mixing bowl beat eggs until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add 3/4 cups sugar, mixing well. Stir in milk and vanilla and mix well. Add strawberries with juice and mix well.

Gently stir in whipping cream just until combined. Pour into ice cream maker and follow manufacturer’s instructions.

OLS Week 11: Summery Chopped Orzo Salad

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Eating Local, Farmer's Market, Food Blogging Event, Gardening, Produce

onelocalsummer

I’ve been harvesting stuff like crazy from my backyard garden. And what better way to use up a fridge full of fresh veggies and beat this horrible heat than to make a cool, colorful orzo salad that has great flavor and texture? This one came out so well that I’m putting it into my permanent rotation. I’m submitting it to this week’s edition of One Local Summer.

Rundown of local ingredients:
From my backyard: cucumber, zucchini, radishes, Sungold tomatoes, fresh herbs, early girl tomato
From the Worthington Farmers Market: bell peppers, red onions, corn

Summery Chopped Orzo Salad

Summery Chopped Orzo Salad

8 oz. orzo, cooked and rinsed with cold water
1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced small
1 medium zucchini, diced small
5 radishes, diced small
1 small red onion, diced small
1 large ear corn, sliced off the cob (use canned if fresh not available)
1 Roma tomato, diced small
1/2 red or yellow (or both) bell pepper, diced small
Handful grape tomatoes (any color), halved or quartered (depending on size)
1 lb. mozzarella balls (perlini)
Fresh basil, parsley and chives, chopped

Dressing:
1/2 c. white balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. honey
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 c. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Chop all veggies very small, and toss with cooked orzo. Mix all dressing ingredients and shake hard in a container to emulsify. Dress salad with as much dressing as you’d like. You won’t necessarily use it all. Chill and serve cold.

Blogger Getaway at the Inn at Cedar Falls

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Restaurant Review, Travel

We were fortunate enough to be approached by the Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls to take part in a Blogger Getaway at their facility this past weekend – essentially to be a guest of the inn and take part in events (spa treatment, overnight stay, meals and cocktails, etc) that would allow us to experience what they have to offer firsthand, and to hopefully write about it when I got home. So, in the interest of full disclosure, although our only expenses out of pocket were the transportation to get down to the Hocking Hills area and gratuities, this does not affect my final review. This was something we have been contemplating doing for a while anyway – their generosity just made it come to fruition sooner rather than later. And the timing couldn’t be much better. I was in definite need for a day or two of relaxation to decompress and ramp down the stress level.

The Inn at Cedar Falls (Logan, OH)

Since my coverage of the trip will be both picture and text intensive, I’ve decided to put it under a cut so that if it’s something that doesn’t interest you, you can keep scrolling. But I’d love for you to experience the weekend though my eyes, albeit vicariously. If you’re ready, let us begin…

Read more…

Event: 2009 Ohio State Fair Revisited

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Events

We went back to the fair today for a second time (because I really wanted to see the butter sculpture, and some of the agricultural and livestock exhibitions, and because Paul hadn’t quite had his fill of fair food yet. So a few more pictures from the fair today, which when viewed with my last post, will hopefully convince you to visit our illustrious fair before it ends this Sunday.

I got to see the butter sculptures, and was amazed at the level of detail. I read that after the fair is over, the butter will be recycled, so to speak – broken down and used on college campuses.

Butter Sculpture

And there was a new baby calf to be seen, born just a couple of hours earlier. They’re taking suggestions for names for the calf, stop by their Facebook page and post your pick!

Newly Born Calf

On the food front, it was “all about Paul” day – these are things he made a point to seek out. I wasn’t feeling so well, and the heat wasn’t helping, so I had a few tastes of his things, and some corn and shared fries and donuts. First he had steak on a stick, which was surprisingly tender and flavorful given the way it’s cooked.

Steak on a Stick

And Swiss Cheese on a Stick, which was deep fried in batter and exactly what we were looking for after a bunch of nasty misses at the County Fair. Gooey ooey delicious.

Cheese on a Stick

And something that Paul loved, but I was sort of up in the air on – deep fried pickles. To its credit, it had a lovely not too thick, nice and crispy batter. I’m just not a fan of hot pickles, where he doesn’t mind it so much.

Deep Fried Pickles

I don’t think we’ll have time to go back again before Sunday (we’re off to Hocking Hills Friday for a Blogger getaway, which I will be mostly liveblogging), but if you haven’t gone yet, I wouldn’t miss it! This is one of the things that makes living in Columbus great. :)

Event: 2009 Ohio State Fair

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Events

I’m a fair and festival girl through and through. Growing up in South Jersey, summers were all about fairs and festivals – Italian Festivals, Puerto Rican Festivals, Harvest Festivals, Dandelion Festivals, you name it – there was a festival for it. So it surprises me a bit that in all of my time living in Ohio (on and off for 14 years now!) I’ve only been to the Ohio State Fair once in that whole time. Unfortunately, that one time was several years ago when I was much heavier and much less ambulatory, so I didn’t get to see a lot of it. So in many ways, this was my first time to *really* experience the fair.

We decided to go on a weekday afternoon, hoping that the crowds would be minimal because everyone would be at work – and in a way, we were right. It was crowded, but not crazy crowded like it was the last time I went. Getting off at the 17th Street exit and parking was zero problems whatsoever. And we had enough forethought to buy our tickets at Kroger ($6 for admission instead of $10 at the gate), so we didn’t have to wait in any lines at a ticket booth to enter.

There was one booth in particular I was looking for – it was the one thing I had previously that had stuck in my mind. I had to hoof it through most of the fairgrounds to find it (as it was at the opposite gate from where we were parked), but ahead, in the distance (OK, right in front of me…), I saw the holy grail:

Indy Dinky Donuts Booth

If you’ve never had the Inky Dinky donuts, you have no idea what you’re missing. Little donuts hot from the fryer, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. They practically melt in your mouth. I still maintain it was the best thing I ate all day.

Inky Dinky Donuts

You see, the fair has nothing to do with eating healthy. It’s a celebration of gluttony and excess, a day where one indulges in forbidden food and doesn’t feel guilty about it. It’s a big fat cheat day for everyone. If it can be fried, it will be – the two major themes of the day are deep fried (insert food here) and (insert food here) on a stick. This next one encompassed both, so I’m guessing it’s doubly unhealthy. Can’t tell what it is by looking at it, can you? Fried stuff on a stick all looks alike, trust me. It could be anything – a deep fried pickle, a corn dog, but the powdered sugar on top gives it away…

Deep Fried Milky Way on a Stick

It’s Deep Fried Milky Way on a Stick! It is, I assure you, as evil as it sounds. Even sharing it with my husband, we both nearly went into sugar shock. The chocolate bar melted to a gooey mass that is as decadent as it sounds. But it gets cloying. I could eat half of one of these, once a year, tops. Way too rich for my blood.

Deep Fried Milky Way on a Stick

After all that sugar, I wanted something savory to help offset the sweet. We walked around for a while, so I could check out all the options. By this time, I was fried food out for the most part, and wanted to find something that was *remotely* healthy (don’t be alarmed, health aficionados, I know it isn’t really healthy, per se, not with skin on the chicken and butter on the corn, but it was among the healthier options at the fair.). Remotely is the key word there, and I chose some BBQ chicken and next door to Gabby’s (the BBQ place), we picked up some roasted corn. I could eat corn for hours, and this was darn near perfect.

BBQ Chicken and Roast Corn

Paul had Pork on a Stick, which was a bit dry, but flavorful.

Pork on a Stick

And the last thing we ate at the fair also rocked my world – fair fries. I don’t know what it is about fair fries, but they’re so damn good. Even better sprinkled liberally with salt and sprayed with some malt vinegar. My mouth is watering just on the recollection.

Bucket of Fair Fries

Early on, we ran into Bethia, who writes the Hungry Woolf food blog, and we walked with her down to the Ohio Proud tent, where she got a chocolate milk float. It didn’t sound very good at the time (heat + dairy = not my idea of a good time), but in retrospect (and this picture), it looks like it was quite refreshing.

Chocolate Milk Float

Some things at the fair don’t sound like they’d be good at all. For example, roast beef sundae? I get what they’re doing, but it just sounds like it would be a hot mess.

Roast Beef Sundae?

The hardest part, I think, was trying to decide what kind of meat to get. These turkey legs sure looked tempting.

Pyramid of Turkey Legs

And if I could of parked myself in front of this hog and had them feed me cracklins (my favorite part of a roast pig) I would have been in heaven. But alas, the hog was still roasting.

Hog on a Spit

And a couple of other food sights at the fair:

Meat on the Grill

Caramel Apples

Root Beer

I’m a bit surprised that I didn’t get a funnel cake, considering I love them so. I think it’s because I had one last week at the Franklin County Fair (more about that in another post), and it’s one of those things that you lose the craving for once you’ve had it.

Funnel Cake Booth

I didn’t go on any rides (was afraid that my big self still would have issues with fitting), but I’m hoping that by next year I’ll have lost enough weight that I’ll be brave enough to give it a try.

Carousel

The Zipper

We’re planning on stopping back one more time before the fair ends on Sunday. We’d like to check out the agricultural buildings and do a few other things. Have you gone yet? If so, what discoveries did you make that I shouldn’t miss?