Cauliflower Cheese

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

There’s been a definite nip of fall in the weather lately – while there are people frying in the high heat of California, here in Columbus we’ve been having what I call “jacket weather” – temperatures that are cool enough to need to wear a windbreaker or light jacket if you go outside for more than a couple minutes. I’m sure 4 months from now our current weather will seem downright tropical, but in the meantime I’ve been looking for something warm and hearty to fill my belly.

Bethia’s recipe for Cauliflower Cheese certainly fits the bill. Using the best of local ingredients, it’s a little bit of heaven on a plate. If you’re local, please do use the aged smoked cheddar and double smoked bacon from Thurn’s, as it does definitely make a difference in the final dish.

Cauliflower Cheese

Cauliflower Cheese
adapted slightly from Hungrywoolf’s Food Blog

1 large head cauliflower
8 tbsp + 3 tbsp. butter
10 tbsp. all purpose flour
4 c. whole milk
Salt & pepper
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg to taste
10 oz. Thurn’s or other double smoked slab bacon, diced small
1 lb. Thurn’s smoked 5 year or other aged smoked cheddar, grated
1 c. Italian seasoned panko bread crumbs

Break the cauliflower into florets. Steam it for 15 minutes until tender, and set aside and keep warm.

Saute the diced bacon in a wok on high heat until crispy – then remove from wok with slotted spoon (so fat is drained) and set aside. Reserve bacon grease for other uses.

Make a bechamel sauce: melt a stick (8 tbsp) of butter (you can replace up to a tbsp. of the butter with bacon grease for increased bacon flavor) in a pan over moderate heat and then stir in flour a spoonful at a time until you have a thick paste (a roux). Cook the roux for a couple of minutes, stirring all the time and watch it expand. Slowly add milk and keep stirring until you have a smooth, thick sauce. You may want to switch to using a whisk. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Gradually stir in 2/3 of the grated cheese. Save the rest to sprinkle on top.

Put the cauliflower into a 9 x 13″ baking dish and then pour the sauce over it. Then, sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. In small saucepan, melt 3-4 tbsp. butter and then mix it through the bread crumbs to moisten them. Sprinkle the buttered bread crumbs on top.

Bake in a 400F for 30 minutes or until bread crumbs are browned and casserole is bubbling. Sprinkle the reserved bacon on top when it comes out of the oven, and serve.

Some Upcoming Columbus Events

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Charity, Columbus, Eating Local, Events

I usually don’t promote events on the front page (instead, I list them on a separate Ohio Events page), but these are ones I wanted to bring attention to specifically, either because I’m involved directly, or because they are fundraising efforts for charities I believe in. Please be sure to check out one of these events if possible, and do your part in recognizing the awesome food and talent in some of these local restaurants.

A Taste of Columbus Logo

Tomorrow (September 28th) is A Taste of Columbus, hosted by the Renaissance Hotel and Latitude 41, and benefitting OhioHealth HomeReach Hospice, will be held on the rooftop pool deck at the hotel. It will feature cocktails and food from some of Columbus’ best restaurants (the Refectory, G. Michaels, Latitude 41, Barcelona, Basi Italia, and Jeni’s Ice Cream). The event runs from 5:30-8pm. The tickets are $50 per person, and tickets can be purchased here.

Taste of Grandview Logo

If A Taste of Columbus is a bit out of your price range, then consider checking out A Taste of Grandview, which has free admission – the catch is that if you’d like something to eat, you’ll most likely pay a nominal amount which each restaurant will set separately (last year, from accounts I’ve read, some samples were free, other cost as much as $5 or $6).

It will be held Sunday, October 3rd from 2-7pm, rain or shine, in McKinley Field Park at 1661 Goodale Blvd. According to their Facebook page, it looks like there are 25 different restaurants participating, so this is one you don’t want to miss. :)

Local Foods Week Logo

Last but not least, Local Matters is hosting Local Foods Week from October 2nd-8th, a celebration of all things local. Here is more information, according to their press release:

The Food Revolution Comes to Central Ohio

Local Foods Week and Eat Local Challenge, October 2-8, 2010

Columbus, Ohio, September 13, 2010 — Central Ohio not-for-profit Local Matters announces its second annual Local Foods Week from October 2-8, 2010 and issues a challenge to the community in support of local food.

In addition to a week of fun festivities for Local Foods Week like the Harvest Ball, the Market to Market Ride, and the Grilled Cheese Throwdown, Local Matters is also challenging the community to deepen their connection to local food through their first Eat Local Challenge.

“This year we wanted to use Local Foods Week to ask the community to step up their commitment to eating more local food, so we’ve launched the Eat Local Challenge.  Individuals pledge a personal commitment to local food and get entered for a chance to win great prizes like a ‘Pantry Makeover’ with local products from Whole Foods, or 26 weeks of the Weekly Fresh Market Bag from the Greener Grocer,” says Local Matters Executive Director, chef Michael Jones.

“We’re inviting people to step out of their normal routine and try some of the delicious foods that are grown, raised and prepared here in Ohio,” said Dr. Shella Farooki a radiologist and member of the planning committee for Local Foods Week. “Increasing the proportion of fresh foods in your diet can have a big impact when it comes to your health.”

Angela Stoll Petro, founder of Two Caterers and a lead sponsor of Local Foods Week, shared her thoughts: “Two Caterers made a commitment to local food because fresh Ohio foods taste better on their own, which means less salt and sugar are needed.  Fewer preservatives make it great for your health.  The shorter distance from farm to fork means more nutrient rich food and less fuel consumed.  And then there’s that much needed boost to family farms and Ohio’s economy.  You can’t ask for a better way to confront many of the biggest issues we’re facing right now, and all at once!”

Full details and registration for Local Foods Week events and the Eat Local Challenge can be found at EatLocalOhio.org.

Local Matters work directly confronts the childhood obesity and diabetes epidemics; provides healthy food access in our communities; supports family farms; and advocates for fair food policies. To learn more, visit Local-Matters.org.

Here is a rundown of the events for the week:

Friday, October 1, 2010, 5-7pm, $5 for the tasting purchased at Whole Foods
Pre-party at Whole Foods (Lane Ave and Dublin locations)

Whole Foods “Fridays Five After Five” wine tasting will benefit Local Matters in celebration of Local Foods Week.

Saturday, October 2, 2010, 9am-2pm, FREE
Harvest Festival at North Market

We’ll kick off Local Foods Week at the North Market Harvest Festival with cooking demonstrations and the launch of the Eat Local Challenge.

Saturday, October 2, 2010, 8am-1pm, $15 in advance, $20 day of
Market to Market Ride

Bicyclists can sign up to participate in the festive ride from North Market to Hills Market in celebration of local food. Reserve your spot in the Market to Market Ride now.

Saturday, October 2, 2010, 10am-2pm, FREE
Ohio Market Day at The Hills Market

Meet the people who make your food. Find new (and delicious) Ohio food products to put on your shelves. Taste new treats and learn about what makes local food (and local markets) so great! Hills Market will be having cooking demonstrations featuring local ware, as well as prizes and giveaways.

Saturday, October 2, 2010, 6:30-8:30pm, $5 tickets at the door
Grilled Cheese Throwdown during the Short North Gallery Hop at MoJoe Lounge

Chefs from Skillet, Deepwood, Betty’s, and the MoJoe will compete alongside amateurs for the title of “grilled cheese master” using local breads, cheeses and toppings.

Sunday, October 3, 2010, 9am-11:30am, $10 for adults, $5 for children 3-12, FREE for children 2 and under
Local Breakfast in Old Worthington

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams will provide delicious waffles and toppings paired with locally made ham alongside sausage from the Worthington Inn for a fantastic breakfast feast. Snowville Creamery will be on hand to pour their delicious milk and Stauf’s Coffee will give you the jolt you need to get going! Reserve your spot now.

Sunday, October 3, 2010, 12-2pm, FREE
Brookside Elementary School Garden Tour and Picnic

Tour one of Ohio’s award winning (and largest) school gardens at Brookside Elementary in Perry Township/Worthington and hear more about our Food is Elementary Curriculum. Bring a picnic and games to enjoy with your family.

Sunday, October 3, 2010, 5:30-7:30pm, $15 Student Tickets, $25 Public Tickets
Iron Chef Competition at OSU Student Union

Chef Ricky Barnes from Ohio State and Chef Stazi Dulman from Whole Foods will compete to impress at the OSU student union using a “secret ingredient” grown at Honey Run Farm. Hosted by OSU student group Dollars 4 Change. Buy your tickets now!

Monday, October 4, 2010, 5:30-7pm (happy hour) $25 Happy Hour and 7-9pm (dinner) $75 Dinner
Local Matters Benefit Happy Hour and Dinner at Alana’s Food and Wine

Chef Alana Shock, a founding partner of Local Matters will host a private happy hour and benefit dinner for Local Matters and show how her food exemplifies the best of the season. Happy Hour tickets will include hors d’oeuvres and wine; Dinner tickets include a multiple course meal served family style and wine. Make your reservations by calling Alana’s at (614) 294-6783

Tuesday, October 5, 2010, All Night, Prices Vary
Restaurant Night

Featuring Local Restaurants listed on Fresh Connect who will feature special dishes from local farms. A great chance to get out and support local restaurants who are supporting our local farmers. Participating restaurants will be announced during the week of September 20th.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010 5-7 pm, $25
Tour Jeni’s Splendid Kitchen

An exclusive behind-the-scenes look at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams’ delicious operations. Jeni will prepare a special Pumpkin Tiramisu Parfait with Ohio Heirloom Pumpkin Icecream, Stauf’s Black Coffee Icecream, Mascarpone Whipped Snowville Cream, and a Marsala Honey Sauce. Tour and taste! Buy your tickets now.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010, 7-9pm
Movie Night

Screenings of Fresh- a movie that celebrates the farmers, thinkers and business people across America who are re-inventing our food system. Locations to be announced soon.

Thursday, October 7, 2010, 6:00pm or 7:30pm seatings, $10 adults, $5 kids (10 and under)
Local Foods Fall Family Fun Dinner

A Benefit for Local Matters at The Hills Market
All Ohio house-made chicken tenders, Ohio sweet potatoes and Ohio apple sauce served with Snowville Creamery milk and Ohio Apple Sundae with Jeni’s ice cream for dessert. Includes fall holiday activities and fun in the kitchen with a special guest. Ohio wine and beer cash bar available.
Location: The Hills Market 7860 Olentangy River Rd, Columbus
Time: Buffet runs between 6:00 seating and 7:30 seating – limited to 60 people.

Thursday, October 7, 2010
Ohio Wine and Food Tasting at House Wine in Worthington

House Wine will offer a variety of Ohio wines and foods for their weekly Thursday night wine tasting.

Thursday, October 7, 2010, 6-9:30pm, $60
Culinary Tour

Local Foods week tour presented by Columbus Food Adventures highlighting some of the talented chefs who emphasize local sourcing. Four stops include Skillet, Latitude 41, Clever Crow (at Circus) and Knead and will also feature CBC beer to accompany Clever Crow pizza. Tickets must be booked in advance and can be purchased at www.columbusfoodadventures.com

Friday, October 8, 2010, Harvest Dinner 6:30-8pm, $75, Harvest Ball 8-12pm $25
Harvest Dinner Prior to the Harvest Ball the Harvest Dinner will feature a five course dinner with beer and wine. Harvest Dinner tickets include entrance to the Harvest Ball.
Harvest Ball Local Matters will close out Local Foods Week and the Ohio Eat Local Challenge with a party of grand proportions featuring great music, delicious local food and delightful drinks. Reserve your tickets now.

As you can see, many of the events are low cost or free, so there’s something for everyone. Hope I see you all at one or at all of the events. :)

Event: Taste the Future 2010

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Charity, Columbus, Events, Food Porn

This past Tuesday, P. and I attended Taste the Future, Columbus State Community College’s annual fundraiser to help raise money for scholarships to help send hospitality students through the three-year program.

Under almost perfect weather conditions (mid 70′s, clear), we enjoyed an evening of running into a bunch of people we knew, eating more food than we thought was humanly possible (I was only able to try 60% of what was there, and was full for an entire day after the event!), and got to talk to familiar faces in the culinary world, many of whom I have since found out are graduates of the CSCC program. Please be sure to show your support to the restaurants involved, as they all have a connection to the hospitality program, either by employing graduates, or working directly with the department in apprenticing budding chefs. While I was fortunate to be able to attend on a press pass, I can easily say that this is one event that is well worth the $100 per person ticket price.

Here are just a few photos from that evening of some of the fantastic dishes we got to try…

Watermelon Gelee, Crab & Avocado with Tomato Vinaigrette from Cameron Mitchell Catering

Pastries from Mozart's Cafe

Cucumber Crostini topped with Herb Boursin Sprea, Prosciutto, Watermelon Gazpacho and Microgreens from The Elevator Brewery & Draught Haus

Shrimp Cocktail Kabob from Columbus Fish Market

Tuna Tartare with Gaufrette Potato Chip and Ginger-Soy Vinaigrette from Lindey's Restaurant & Bar

Tomato, Melon and Cheese Skewers from Luce Enoteca

You can view more of my photos from that evening (over 100 of them!) by checking out my Flickr set.

The event was only a few days ago, and I’m already looking forward to next year. So, did you go? If you did, what was your favorite dish of the evening?

Come Out This Sunday for Foodie Fun!

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Contest, Events

Best of Fall Home Show

This Sunday afternoon at 4:30, it will be a battle of blogger (me) vs. blogger (Lisa the Waitress of Restaurant Widow) vs. radio host (Ann Fisher of WOSU’s All Sides) at the Heavy Metal Chef Challenge, a cooking competition that’s an homage to Iron Chef with Q96FM’s Joe Show playing the part of Alton Brown.

This friendly rivalry should be fun for everyone competing, and entertaining to those of you in the audience – we will have a mystery bag of ingredients to cook with (we won’t find out the ingredients until a few minutes before the competition), and we have to cook everything in a single electric skillet in a 35 minute time limit! Needless to say, there’s a chance that this could go from foodie fun to comical if I fall flat on my face – I’ve never done anything like this before, so hopefully armed with my foodie skills I will manage to reign supreme. ;) I sure (and I’m sure the others could too) use a bunch of you in the audience to cheer us on, and I’d love to see all of you there. Tickets are free at any Kroger Marketplace, or you can buy them for $5 at the door.

If that’s not enough to convince you, a bit earlier on Sunday (2:30pm), Mary Alice and Geof of Food Network’s Ace of Cakes will be judging a cake decorating contest, and taking questions and signing autographs with audience members.

Check out the Best of Fall Home Show web site for more information, and hopefully we’ll see you at the Ohio Expo Center on Sunday :)

Would You Like to Taste the Future?

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Charity, Columbus, Contest, Events

tastethefuturelogo

It’s that time of year again! Year after year, we love going to Taste the Future, Columbus State Community College’s fundraising event for the Hospitality program at the college – and most of the restaurants participating in the event either employ CSCC graduates or work closely with the program during their apprenticeship. This year the event will be held on Tuesday, September 14th on the Columbus State main campus. The weather forecast looks promising (mid-70′s and clear), so it should once again be an awesome event that shows off the best of what Columbus has to offer.

We stopped by their Media Preview Party last night at the Polaris Hilton, and ate dishes made by CSCC alumnus Executive Chef Kevin Ball.

Chef Kevin Ball of the Polaris Hilton

Honestly, I never even knew there was a restaurant there. I loved their burgers, perfectly cooked and delicious ground ribeye on a bun with garlic aioli. I’m going to have to come back and order it off their regular menu. Yum!

Mini Polaris Burger

Along with the burger, these shoestring fries paired perfectly.

Shoestring Fries

I really liked the grits with spicy shrimp and pork belly. Even though the Polaris Hilton won’t be participating in Taste the Future this year, the food we ate last night is representative of what you can expect at the event.

Grits with Spicy Shrimp & Pork Belly

To get a better idea of what makes the event so special, check out my slideshows for 2009, 2008, 2007, and 2006.

Columbus State was once again generous enough to gift me a couple of pairs of tickets (value $200 per pair) to give away to my readers! Entering is the same deal as last year – to enter to win, visit the menu section of the Taste the Future site, and pick out the dish you’d most look forward to trying if you got to go. Leave a comment on this entry with your choice, and please make sure that your email address is linked somewhere so that if you win I can contact you. The contest ends at 11:59PM on September 11th, and winner will be chosen by a random number generator. The tickets will be held under your name for you at will call.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter, as I’ll be giving another pair of tickets away on there. Good luck!

Update: Congrats to Anne D. and Ryan B. on winning the tickets! Thanks to everyone else for entering. Hope to still see you there!

Event: Columbus Bacon Camp 2010

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Events, Food Porn, North Market

It’s that time of year again here in Cowtown – Bacon Camp, the celebration of all things bacon. We had a fantastic time this past weekend, but the entry is very, very picture heavy.

Bacon Camp Logo

See more about this year’s Bacon Camp under the cut….

Read more…

Review: Piada Italian Street Food

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: First Look, Food Porn, Restaurant Review

Depending on who you speak to, it can be argued that the name “Piada Italian Street Food” is a little misleading; after all, with such a bustling and quickly growing street food scene here in Columbus, there’s an almost unwritten expectation that our street food be, you know – actually served on the street, out of a cart, taco truck, or even in an obviously ethnic store front tucked away in an otherwise long forgotten strip mall in what used to be the burbs but are now huge ethnic strongholds.

Arguments aside, after seeing some pre-opening pictures of the food, we were really looking forward to the opening of the fast causal Piada, the latest concept by BDI founder Chris Doody, who has a proven track record of restaurant successes in Columbus and other locations around the US.

It opened up just this past week in a strip mall on Lane Avenue in Upper Arlington, next to Buckeye Corner.

Piada Italian Street Food Exterior

On entering, we thought the look and feel of the place and menu was very similar to Chipotle, and that comparison is not coincidental – they studied Chipotle’s business model for a couple of years before taking the plunge with Piada, and decided to try to bring the spirit of the traditional Italian street food piada (or piadina, as it’s more commonly known there) to a concept that can be easily reproduced for future expansion/franchise possibilities.

Ordering is simple – you choose your format (piada, pasta bowl, or chopped salad), what grill item you’d like, whether or not you want grilled vegetables and or pasta in it, a sauce, cheese if you’d like, and a whole host of fresh vegetables and/or dressing. The price is based on what grill item you choose, and there’s no nickel and dime add-on charges for your choices.

Piada Italian Street Food Menu

Most of the meat choices are already on the line (Italian meats, sausage, etc), others are cooked to order (the salmon, for instance).

Meat Choices

There aren’t a ton of cheese choices (mozzarella, shaved Parmesan, or feta were the ones I saw), but they are the ones that made the most sense to be there. It would be nice if they expanded the cheese choices a bit in the future to include things like gorganzola, asiago, fontina, etc. There are five different sauce choices, including red or green pesto, parmesan, pomodoro, and diavalo.

Cheese Choices

Where they really shine, however, were the veggie options. So many options – onions, tomatoes, arugula, olives, shaved fennel, avocado, etc – and all of it super fresh and full (those that do run low are quickly refilled). You can choose to top the veggies with an additional dressing if you like.

Fresh Veg Choices

I decided that I’d go with a Piada, since it was the signature item of the place. I chose the sausage piada ($6.35) with pasta, grilled zucchini, grilled red peppers, pomodoro sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, mixed greens, red onion, tomato, avocado, arugula and balsamic vinaigrette. It was absolutely delicious, but very messy to eat because the piada shell has a tendency to crack a bit (but that could also be that they filled it up so much with goodies – I occasionally have the same problem when getting burritos at Chipotle too). Super-duper filling, I was only able to finish half and took the other half home. The flavors melded together beautifully, and this will probably be my regular order here from now on.

Sausage Pasta Piada

Paul opted for a pasta bowl with salmon ($7.65) – he topped it with grilled zucchini and red peppers, both diavolo and creamy parmesan sauces, mozzarella, shaved parmesan, and black olives, and for the most part he was pleased with it. Our experience was not without opening week hiccups, though – because the salmon was woefully undercooked. However, when he brought it to their attention, they remade the dish for him, and told us to have soup, on them. Restaurant owners, pay attention: *that* is how you do customer service right – you apologize, you remake it, and realize that you only have one chance to make a positive first impression. We already were liking them up to that point because of the friendliness and helpfulness of their staff, and the way they treated us when something went wrong will bring us back.

Salmon Pasta Bowl

We probably wouldn’t have even tried the soup if it hadn’t been comped to us – it just didn’t occur to us to order it. But oh my, are we so glad we did try it. We got the lobster bisque (normally $4.25), and it was the best version of the dish we’ve had yet – creamy, smooth and rich, with multiple levels of flavor and bits of real lobster scattered throughout. Served nice and hot like soup is supposed to be served but rarely is. We had the opportunity to try the tomato basil bisque ($3.45) today, and it, too, is one of the best versions we’ve had. Do yourself a favor and try the soup if you stop by.

Lobster Bisque

We shared an order of the cannoli chips ($2.95), with cinnamon and powdered sugared bits of cannoli shell that are served with a smallish dollop of ricotta cream. Wish there had been just a bit more, because even eating a conservative amount of the cream, we ran out of it long before we ran out of chips. Not sure if I’d order this again, but if you’re in mood of just a little something sweet and don’t want to commit to a heavy, large dessert, this fits the bill.

Cannoli Chips

There are lots of things we like about Piada – the food is fresh and tasty and a good value, the place is super clean and organized, the design of the takeout containers and layout of the restaurant are thoughtful, and the customer service and willingness of employees to make the customer happy is amazing. Not everyone will get it, but I have no doubt that enough people will in order to make it another Doody success story.

If you’d like to go: Piada Italian Street Food, 1315 W. Lane Ave., Upper Arlington, OH, 614-754-7802

Piada Italian Street Food on Urbanspoon