First Look: TOM + CHEE Soft Opening

Author: paulboyer  //  Category: Columbus, Eating Local, First Look, Restaurant News, Restaurant Review

Well, it certainly has been quite a while, hasn’t it?

Sorry for our extended absence, but Ms. Foodie’s had some health issues (again) and while attending to her needs I’m afraid website updates have gone by the wayside…

HOWEVER, today I chanced upon the soft opening of the new Tom + Chee restaurant — the second one in the Columbus area — on Hilliard-Rome Road at the location of the late unlamented Ruby Tuesday’s.

I must say, it’s a vast improvement over that corporate abomination. B and I have never gotten a decent meal at a Ruby Tuesday’s (or TGI Friday’s, or sundry other corporate chain-hell restaurants, for the most part; Olive Garden excepted, but that’s a story for another time).

As I said, I was running errands for B, who remains in the hospital recuperating. My errands brought me to the Meijer’s on Hilliard-Rome Road and the Bath & Body Works, and thus my fate was sealed — I had to pass by what I had thought was a soon-to-be-opened Tom + Chee restaurant. Imagine my surprise when I saw PEOPLE inside, buying food! Needless to say, I was lured in by the promise of fancy-schmancy grilled cheese sandwiches and their mutant offspring.

Exterior of TOM+CHEE (Hilliard, OH)

Upon entering the premises, I called B and informed her where I was and that they were in fact holding a soft opening at that time. She told me to get whatever I wanted, and to get her a particular sandwich (more on that in a moment), so I did as she instructed. I ordered two different sandwiches; one I was sure she’d partake of (the Tom + Chee plus bacon), and one I was sure she’d never touch in a million years (the Armagoetta). I also ordered the creamy tomato-basil soup. B’s special request was the Barbara Blue, a “grilled cheese donut sandwich”.

Menu at TOM+CHEE (Hilliard, OH)

Service was quick and accurate, surprising for a soft launch (usually the soft launches experience glitches and serve to troubleshoot problems with their ordering, cooking, and serving processes). Bravo, Tom + Chee. :)

Seating at the Hilliard-Rome location is ample both indoors and out; the patio out front offers some protection from sun and weather. Orders (at least during the soft opening) are brought out to patrons’ tables by the staff.

Seating at TOM+CHEE (Hilliard, OH)

Now, to the sandwiches themselves. B’s chosen poison was the Barbara Blue ($3.95). That sandwich consists of a glazed donut cut in half with the inside surfaces of the donut becoming the grilled outside of the sandwich (the “pieces of bread”, so to speak). Between those pieces of glazed evil yeasty sweet “bread” was a blueberry compote, a generous portion of ham, and slices of brie cheese. ‘Twas messy indeed, but quite tasty — almost a “dessert sandwich”, though it retained a satisfying savory note thanks to the ham and brie.

Barbara Blue Grilled Cheese Sandwich from TOM+CHEE

Second to be consumed was the Tom + Chee ($4.95) (plus bacon for $2 extra). This was also a generously-sized (though not ridiculously huge, like Melt’s) sandwich comprised of two slices of grilled sourdough bread surrounding fresh large-diced tomatoes, garlic seasoning, cheddar cheese, and mozzarella cheese. The bacon as requested for the sandwich is added in the form of a copious quantity of small pieces of crispy pig belly that distribute the bacony goodness throughout the sandwich instead of being concentrated in a few strips that might accidentally be pulled out during a bite (thus denying the bacon to the rest of the sandwich). This was also quite good, especially paired with the Creamy Tomato Basil Soup, a slightly chunky concoction that’s perfect for dipping any one of these sandwiches.

Tomato, Cheese and Bacon Grilled Cheese from TOM+CHEE

Finally, we came to the Armagoetta ($7.95). What can you say about it that Adam Richman hasn’t already said on Man vs Food Nation? Well, for starters, it’s not insanely spicy — you can actually eat it and taste the ingredients rather than go running for the nearest pitcher of milk. It’s a slice of sourdough and a slice of rye surrounding a thick slice of goetta (a Cincinnati specialty not unlike scrapple, that uses the squeals & heels from your basic swine combined with pin oats; scrapple is similar but uses cornmeal as its grain base), a liberal slathering of sliced spicy cherry peppers, fried onions, sweet hot mustard, and pepperjack cheese. I enjoyed it greatly, since no single ingredient overpowered anything else in the sandwich and it was a well-balanced sandwich; I’d order it again in a Cincinnati minute.

Armagoetta Grilled Cheese Sandwich from TOM+CHEE

My verdict? If their soft launch is any indicator, they should do well in Columbus as a less-expensive and less pretentious alternative to a certain Short North grilled cheese emporium. Their offerings are original, tasty, well-conceived, and most importantly, REASONABLY SIZED AND PRICED.

Tom + Chee will be opening officially on Friday, July 18th. They’re located at 1844 Hilliard-Rome Road, Columbus, OH. Hours will be 10:45AM – 9PM Sun-Thu and 10:45AM – 10PM Fri/Sat.

Customer Service Fail: Schuman’s Meats (Columbus, OH)

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Complaint, Rant

Why does it feel like almost every single one of the times I can be lured out, either for errands-running or just for having a couple drinks and breaking bread with friends, something happens that has a penchant to turn my mood from good to bad, relaxed to angry, etc. It especially sucks if it’s a place you’re a regular at (I’m looking at you, Ray Ray’s – When you started cutting corners again your quality suffered – when 7 out of 10 times we had food that was tough/barely edible, we got sick of wasting hard earned dollars on your food). But these kinds of wake-up experiments aren’t only limited to prepared food. If there’s anything I think is the most important part of being a successful business model, it starts and ends with customer service. And not accusing your clientele of theft.

Sometimes you can be a long term customer of a store, continuing to go there because of the great quality meat, decent prices, etc. Schuman’s has been one of our mainstays for us in the last decade, and if you had asked me yesterday, I would have (and I have in the past) recommended Schuman’s wholeheartedly, without any reservations. But what happened to my husband today was beyond the pale. I wrote this earlier today, right after it happened:

Unbelievable. Their staff just accused my husband of theft – stealing eggs one at a time (over a period of months, natch) and putting them in his pocket. They say they have witnesses. They say they’ve seen it with their own two eyes. They say they have it on video. If you’re going to make accusations, they damn well back them up, because not doing so opens them up to a defamation case (since they found it necessary to accuse him of this in a store full of customers). We’ve been long time (10 yrs +) customers who have frequented this store (one of the last remaining locally owned butcher shops) and who spend hundreds of dollars there every month.

Why, on that is good and holy, would my husband (whose salary is in the six figures, btw) steal an egg (worth .20) not just once, but repeatedly over the course of several visits. Maybe in six months he’ll have enough to make creme brulee. If they feel we are thieves, and you say that you have footage to prove it, then put up or shut up. Call the police and get them involved, because he has done absolutely nothing wrong.

We’ve already decided never to frequent their store again, and will also share our experience with everyone we can. If they think so little of us and the business we bring to them, and (in their words, not his) feel the need to “watch him like a hawk”, then they don’t need us in their store – because apparently if they think that we are thieves, then they all are complete idiots.

Contact Information: Schuman’s Meats, 1440 Harrisburg Pike, Columbus, OH (west side), 614-274-2161

Customer Service Fail: The Mad Greek (Whitehall, OH)

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Rant, Restaurant Review

Save your money and avoid The Mad Greek like the plague. The calamari we ate on the way home was tasty, but the rest of our $150 (plus $30 tip) takeout order was a hot freezer burned mess. And no seasoning that I could discern. Horrible packaging meant a soup lid busted and soaked everything in the bag. We ordered 2 three dip samplers and they put them all in the same non-divided white styrofoam box that meant that they all mixed together into one gloopy mess. All of the vegetables were freezer burned. The lamb and kofta and the chicken in the mixed grill were overcooked to the point of inedibility. The souvlaki was undercooked and overcooked (it varied depending on which chunk you got). The fish also tasted like it came from a freezer and was so overcooked that even with a fork and knife, I couldn’t cut through it. Baked fish should flake easily. We called them (twice, even! the second time to talk to a manager) to see if they could rectify the problems with the order somehow (even if it meant that we had to drive across town again, since they are on the east side and we are on the west), but the only thing they offered to do is replace the one soup that broke the next time we came in (nevermind it ruined everything else that was in the bag with it, and that by this point, we had decided that there wasn’t going to be a next time). We paid in cash, so it’s not anything we can contest with our credit card company. We got screwed, big time, and hope that our loss acts as a warning that they just do not care about customer service, and if they screw up your order, you’re on your own because they refuse to fix their mistakes.

If you still want to give them a try after reading this (and trust me, you don’t): The Mad Greek, 4210 E. Broad Street, Whitehall, OH 43213, 614-338-0000

 
Mad Greek on Urbanspoon

Upcoming Event: Taste of Dine Originals

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

Mark your calendars for this Thursday (May 9th), as Dine Originals Columbus holds it’s annual fundraising event in partnership with Buckeye Ranch, the Taste of Dine Originals. Representatives from DOC’s 50 member restaurants and 30+ wineries, beer brewers, and micro-distillers serve up food and drink that shows you the best of what each has to offer. It’s an event I’ve enjoyed attending over the last few years, and am continually surprised at the creativity the chefs show when given free reign to display their craft. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the event last year, after missing it in 2011 because I was in the hospital. A deep and heartfelt thanks goes out to the organizers of the event, who have, in previous years, let me attend the event gratis. Since I’m likely not attending this year, and since I completely neglected to do the write-up immediately after last year’s event, I’m hoping that my entry about the 2012 event will convince you that you really want to go – tickets are a little bit steep for most at $100 each, but then again we’re talking about great food and drink from a whole room of independent restaurants. It’s a great way to spend a weekday night, going from table to table, talking to the chefs and noshing at each one, drink in hand while you run into those people that you’re happy to see because it’s been a while, but who you usually only run into at these food events.

I think if one particular chef embraces the philosophy of the independent spirit, it’s Alana Shock. The great thing about dining at her restaurant, Alana’s Food and Wine, is that you never really know what’s going to be on the menu, as it is seasonally driven and each menu is created that day based on what ingredient has inspired her at farmers markets or other local purveyors. Personally, I think her strong suit is in her small plates and risottos, but I’ve never once disliked anything I’ve ever eaten there. The same could be said for her offerings at this event, as she has been known to put out at least a dozen different things (not all at one time, mind you – 3 or 4 at a time, switched out for other things a few times that night). You can’t go wrong here – even if it’s something you’re not familiar with, try it anyway. It’ll be delicious.

Alana Shock from Alana's Food and Wine

One of the new features of last year’s event (in addition to the change of locale from Italian Village to the Capital University Field House in Bexley) is that Edible Columbus hosted an artisan’s market that featured many local farmers and other producers, and which allowed people to talk directly to those who create their food and try various samples in a laid-back environment. Luna Burger and Shagbark (seen below) are just a couple of the many, many others that will be there.

Shagbark Black Beans

I’m usually not a fan of meatless burgers, but Luna Burger will convince you that there are meatless alternatives that are worth seeking out.

Luna Burger

One thing I really dug abut last year’s event was that DeepWood made their own charcuterie plates. Loved loved loved this.

Charcuterie from DeepWood

Some bites are hot, some are cold. One thing I do know for certain is that you’ll be full to bursting long before you get the opportunity to try everything, so plan accordingly. Seriously. I’m still full from last year (nah, not really – but couldn’t eat another thing until lunch the next day).

Squash from Spinelli's Deli

Local fave Katzinger’s Delicatessen had a few different sandwich bites, but this corned beef sung to me.

Corned Beef Bites from Katzinger's Delicatessen

Just in case I haven’t convinced you yet, take a second to check out my set on Flickr with the rest of the pics:

Taste of Dine Originals 2012 pics

At any rate, if you’d like to go, you can get tickets at this link: Taste of Dine Originals tickets. And I believe that they are also available at the door for $100 for unlimited tastings and samples (please correct me on this if I’m wrong, Dine Originals folks). The event will be held from 6-9pm at the Capital University Fieldhouse at 670 Pleasant Ridge Avenue in Columbus. Hope you get a chance to go, if you can only go to a handful of these events each year, this should be one that’s near the top of your list.

Tutti Frutti, So Yagööty!

Author: paulboyer  //  Category: Columbus, Contest, Eating Local, Food Porn, Recipes

yagootplated

We were invited — nay, challenged — by the nice folks at Yagööt to use their wonderful frozen yogurt creatively.  Yagööt’s specialty is their tart Original Flavor frozen yogurt.  They also make sweet yogurts; their strawberry and their caramelized pineapple are fantastic, and they offer a variety of other flavors which change regularly.  Yagööt was founded in 2008 by the owners of Cincinnati’s Busken Bakery; they expanded into the Columbus market about two years ago with a scoop shoppe at Easton Town Center, and have been a huge success. Personally, we prefer it to the other yogurt shops in town – their yogurt contains a little bit of fat (1%, as opposed to the non-fat offerings at most others), so it has a creamier mouth feel. We’ve talked about them before on this blog, and we’re happy to say they haven’t changed one bit since our first visit, except that they now offer about 6 different flavors in take home pints in addition to their regular menu of soft serve creations. Although we got at least one of each flavor available, we settled on our three favorites that we felt would be complimentary to both the toppings and to each other (thus, the Tutti Fruitti moniker – because of the “many fruit” flavors that make up the bulk of the dessert’s flavor).

yagootpints

Now, back to the challenge:

We finally decided to make petite frozen yogurt cakes, which we dubbed “Tutti Frutti, So Yagööty!”.  We made three varieties — Strawberry with Oreo Crust and Homemade Milk Chocolate Magic Shell with their Yomance topping; Caramelized Pineapple with Graham Crust, Cajeta (Goat’s Milk Caramel) and their Alligator Crunch topping; and Original Flavor with Granola Crust, Honey and Candied Pecans. Since these are tiny little cakes (they pack a lot of flavor in a small package), we’re considering three of them a modest dessert. We tried, for the most part, to use toppings that are unique to Yagööt, so technically the only ingredients that would require an outside trip are the graham crumbs, the butter, and the sugar. Your imagination is the limit when it comes to combinations of ingredients – we also played around with the idea of doing an oreo crust with pistachio yogurt, topped with a peanut butter magic shell, some mini peanut butter cups, and a few Heath sprinkles.

Before you start, make sure you have the tools for the job.  We used a Mini Cheesecake Pan from Chicago Metallic (see link below to purchase one for yourself – this is no unitasker) to form the ice cream cakes, and to freeze them. Like tart pans, they have a removable bottom metal plate that allows the cakes to pop right out of their forms. We also used parchment paper to prevent the frozen yogurt from sticking to the pan’s walls during the freezing/forming process, which would ruin the finished product.  With no further ado, here’s the step-by-step to make all of these little gems:

yagootpancollage

1.  Make the crusts.  Each crust used the same ratio of crumbs to melted unsalted butter — 1/2 cup of crumbs, 2 Tbsp butter.  For the graham crust, mix in 1/4 cup granulated sugar before adding the melted butter.  For the Oreo crust, pulverize 12 whole cookies.  For the granola crust, pulverize 4 crunchy granola bars (2 pouches).  You can use your food processor or “mini prep” chopper, but I find doing it the manual way to give better control over particle size, and to be a lot more fun.

yagootcrusts

2.  Press approximately 1 to 1-1/2 Tbsp  of crust into the bottom of each tin.  Use a shot glass or something similarly flat-bottomed and small to compact the crumbs.  Place the entire pan in the refrigerator for 45-60  minutes to give the crumbs time to set properly.

3.  Cut 12 strips of parchment paper long enough to encircle the inner wall of each tin, and wide enough to rise out of each tin by at least half an inch.

4.  Take the pan out of the refrigerator and get the frozen yogurt one flavor at a time from your freezer.  (Note: if you have a freezer that can reach -10 to -20F, store the Yagööt there.  It’ll be, and stay, more solid.)  Insert a loop of parchment into a tin and drop a scoop of Yagööt inside the paper loop.  Press down on the frozen yogurt with the bottom of a shot glass, preferably one that’s been chilled in the freezer.  You’ll do this to spread out the yogurt to occupy the width of the tin with the parchment between the yogurt and the walls of the tin.  This will let you properly shape each cake.

(Note:  I put the pan back in the freezer after each flavor and allowed the already-filled tins to freeze for 20-30 minutes before filling the next four tins with the next flavor.)

Repeat until all twelve tins are insulated with parchment and filled with Yagööt frozen yogurt.  Place pan back in freezer and allow to freeze at least 1 hour, preferably overnight.

yagootparchment

5.  Make the homemade Magic Shell[tm] topping.  (Recipe below.)  If you’re feeling particularly lazy, you can just go to the store and buy it off the shelf.  It’s not the same, though.  Trust me.

yagoottoppings

6.  Take the pan out of the freezer again and top each mini Yagööt cake with the appropriate topping(s).  We figured that by using something sticky (honey, caramel, magic shell), it would let the toppings stick to the yogurt better. We were right. When using the Magic Shell[tm], distribute the Yomance topping on the cake before the Magic Shell solidifies.  You’ll have a ten second window while the topping is still liquid.  Once all the toppings are in place, put the pan back in the freezer one last time.  Allow the toppings to solidify for at least 30 minutes.

yagoottopped

7.  Remove pan from freezer.  To serve individual cakes, simply push up on the bottom of each individual tin (there’s a metal disc at the bottom of each tin) to pop out each cake.  Using a sharp knife, separate the metal disc from the bottom of the crust (it’s very buttery, so that shouldn’t be difficult to do).  Remove the parchment ring, and serve.

yagoot3cakes

Homemade Magic Shell

150g finely chopped chocolate (milk, dark, white — your choice)
100g refined coconut oil (I used Louana brand)
Pinch of salt

Place the chocolate and coconut oil in a Pyrex bowl.  Microwave for 30-45 seconds then stir.  Microwave an additional 15-30 seconds and stir again.  Once the chocolate is liquified, whisk the oil and chocolate together until they form a uniform emulsion.  Whisk in a pinch of salt.  Transfer the emulsion to a squeeze bottle.  Use exactly as you would the store-bought variety.

Yagööt was also kind enough to provide two $20 gift cards to give away to readers of this blog. You can enter below, through the Rafflecopter widget. Since you would need to redeem these in person, ideally you will live in the Cincinnati or Columbus metro areas.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

(Disclaimer:  We were invited to participate in a blogging “event” sponsored by Yagööt Frozen Yogurt.  They graciously provided gift cards which covered the cost of the ingredients. If you’d like to buy the special pan we used to make these, we’d appreciate your use of our affiliate link below so you can help support the costs of running the site. :) )

Event: Slice of Columbus 2011/2012

Author: paulboyer  //  Category: Charity, Columbus, Events, Organization

I love pizza.  Okay, I admit it.  Is that so wrong?

I’m not talking about big corporate pizza chains like Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Little Caesars, etc.  I love *good* pizza.  There are plenty of good independent pizzerias in Columbus.

Those pizzerias, as well as some of the chains, are represented at Slice of Columbus.

 

Slice of Columbus is an annual competition amongst the best of Columbus’s pizzerias. B. and I attended Slice of Columbus 2011, where she judged and I — as usual — captured the event for posterity on one of our digital cameras.

Slice of Columbus is a charity event which benefits Nationwide Children’s Hospital. This year’s event is open to the public at a cost of $15 per person at the door or $40 for a family pass (2 adults and up to three children plus five free Pepsi products).  Slice of Columbus 2012 will be at Columbus Commons downtown, from 5pm to 9pm today.  Attendees will be able to try all the competitors’ pizzas, if you’re willing to wait in a couple dozen fast-moving lines.  Trust me, you won’t leave hungry.

 

Last year’s Slice of Columbus was held at Huntington Park in the Arena District. We had a lovely view of the outfield from the press box…

A Slice of Columbus 2011 at Huntington Park

 

We’re not sure whose pizza this was, but it certainly rocked.

Good Pizza

 

And then there was the Dire Pizza[tm].  Definitely a congealed, greasy mess.
Bad Pizza

 

This pizza looked perfect to me, but made B. reach for the Rolaids…
Spicy Pizza

 

If you want more information about this year’s Slice of Columbus directly from their website, go here.

 

All proceeds from the Slice of Columbus benefit Pediatric Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, so you won’t just enjoy pizza — you’ll be doing a good deed!

See you there!

Event: Taste the Future 2012

Author: paulboyer  //  Category: Charity, Columbus, Eating Local, Events, Food Porn

B. and I have gone to Taste the Future every year since 2006. It’s always great to see the best that Columbus restaurants have to offer, and this year was no exception. It was a shame that the threat of inclement weather forced the event to be held in the parking garage; alas, a dimly-lit parking garage doesn’t allow for good photos.

Taste the Future is, of course, the annual fund-raiser for Columbus State Community College’s Culinary Apprenticeship program. This three year program produces graduates who have gone through 4000 hours of apprenticeship at a sponsoring restaurant while completing their Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts at the College. Graduates, in addition to earning their degree, also earn ACF certification as Certified Culinarians.  They are usually in high demand throughout the region.

Many of the restaurants which participate in Taste the Future employ Culinary Apprenticeship students during their apprenticeship; those participating restaurants who do not apprentice, hire the program’s graduates.

There were plenty of highlights at this year’s Taste the Future. One of my favorites was this Liptauer Cheese Crostini:

Crostini from Metro Cuisine Catering

Costco represented themselves well with this Tuxedo Cake:

Cake from Costco

Sadly, I wasn’t able to get a good picture of my single most favorite item, Bob Evans Farms’ Braised Pork Belly “Cones”. I went back for more than one of those.

Blackwell Inn of Ohio State University’s Fisher College had a nearly-as-irresistable offering in their Confit of Duroc Pork Wonton with Pickled Red Onion, Micro Greens, and Herbs:

Duroc Pork Wonton from The Blackwell Inn

Bob Evans did offer up Mashed Potato Doughnuts, which were very good. It’s a pity I’m not a huge fan of coffee, they might’ve been even better dunked in some java…

Doughnuts and Coffee from Bob Evans

The Easton Hilton delighted my palate with one of my favorite proteins: Duck Three Ways. Didn’t see the cherry risotto that they were supposed to offer, oh well…

Duck from Hilton at Easton

Last, but certainly not least, is The Kroger Company’s Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake. I have to admit, I’m a sucker for a good mousse cake (think Chocolate Tower Truffle Cake from the Cheesecake Factory and you’ve pretty much hit the mark). This was worthy of comparison. In fact, this was BETTER.

Cake from Kroger

If you’d like to see all the photos I took of the event, take a look at the slideshow. Until next time…

FTC disclosure: I was provided with a free pass to the event, along with extra tickets to give away.

Event: Slow Food Columbus/Flying J Dinner

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Events, Slow Food Columbus

When I saw the announcement for this year’s Slow Food Columbus/Flying J “Shake the Hand that Feeds You” farm to table dinner (September 8th, save the date!) coming across my Facebook feed this morning, I was reminded of last year’s dinner and the fact I hadn’t written about it yet. Easy to overlook, sadly – not because the dinner wasn’t great (it was!) or memorable (very much so!), but because last year, when it was held in early August, I had only been out of the hospital for about three weeks and was still heavily dependent on a walker and wheelchair to get around. So I was a bit less mobile than I had been in previous years, tired a lot more quickly, and had to depend on Paul to be my eyes, hands, and feet as far as my participating was concerned. To say I was pretty much stationary for the event (when I managed to get to the table, I pretty much stayed there) would be quite accurate, but I still enjoyed the socialization (I hadn’t seen a majority of the people there for upwards of a year), the food and the time for quiet reflection in serene surroundings, which all did very much to renew my spirit.

August, despite being one of the hottest and most humid months of the year, is one of my favorites because many of my favorite things are in the midst of their seasons right then – tomatoes, sweet corn, peppers. But more so than anything else, nothing says summer like a sunflower. There’s such a regal beauty in that blossom – where every photo seems like a painting.

Sunflower

And there couldn’t be a more perfect setting for the dinner. Flying J Farm, less than an hour away from downtown Columbus in rural Johnstown, is Dick Jensen’s retreat and livelihood. From his backyard, where the dinner is held, you can see his pastures off into the distance. And this only one small portion of the property, where he farms and raises cattle to provide his farm market customers and CSA members with good, healthy produce and beef.

Some of Flying J Farm's pastures

When kids attend events at the farm, they have a wonderful time checking out the animals and running back and forth across the footbridge. It’s these little nooks and crannies and places to explore that make experiencing a day at the farm both educational and fun for the little ones.

Footbridge at Flying J Farm

One of the great things about farm-to-table dinners is that decorations are both beautiful AND functional. These particular peaches came from Legend Hills, a nearby orchard . You wouldn’t believe the intoxicating smell – it is one of the scents I most closely associate with summer, and made me want to dive right in.

A Basket of Peaches

There was no shortage of wine at the event – several different ones. I’m not much of a wine drinker, but even I was able to find one that I liked. But that’s usually the case when Patrick and Connie of United Estates are doing the picking.

Bucket of Wines

Wildflowers made up the majority of decoration for the tables.

Wildflowers

More wine…

Bottles of Rose Wine

And Columbus’ own OYO Vodka was used as the base spirit for some very special cocktails made by mixologist Nicoline Schwartz..

Bottle of OYO Vodka

She infused the vodka with hot peppers, which made it a little too hot for my tastes, but my husband thoroughly enjoyed it, as did almost every single person at the event. The peppers were harvested right there at Flying J.

Pepper Infused Vodka Mixture

And the longer it sat, the hotter it got – but with this many peppers in the mix, is it any surprise?

Pepper Infused OYO Vodka Cocktail

The booze kept flowing, and by an hour into the event, most people were thoroughly relaxed and greatly enjoying themselves.

Basil (also picked at the farm).

Lots of Basil

And the food, oh my. Kevin and son Patrick Caskey (from Skillet, Rustic Urban Food) did all of the cooking, drawing inspiration from what was seasonal and grown on the farm.

The dish I enjoyed the most was this grilled cheese sandwich, which was topped with a slice of some of the most succulent and tasty tongue ever. Delicious.

Another Angle of the Killer Grilled Cheese

More wine flowed…

a bottle of Grenache Blanc

…as did locally brewed Columbus Brewing Company’s Summer Teeth Lager.

A Refreshing Bottle of Columbus Brewing Company's Summer Teeth Lager

Chapter Leader Colleen Yuhn recognized a lot of local farmers/artisans for their contributions to ideals that are extremely important and espouse Slow Food ideals. This one, which was presented to Warren Taylor of Snowville Creamery, was especially fitting.

Colleen, doing what Colleen does best

The first time Slow Food Columbus had a pig roast, they underestimated the amount of time it would take to fully cook – this time around they still used the China Box, but adjusted the time for better results.

The China Box (aka Pig Coffin)

Like other farm to table dinners, this one also had a very long table that everyone sits at. We were sitting somewhere in the middle, so the table spanned this distance on both sides. Lots of work goes into making this event run smoothly, so kudos to those who volunteered time and offered donations. It doesn’t go unnoticed.

View of One Half of the Table (Equally as Long in the opposite direction)

The bread was extremely hearty – in past dinners, the bread was provided by Eleni Christina Bakery. If this is not the case this year, please let me know – I want to make sure they get the recognition they deserve.

Bread

Integration Acres (from Athens County, Ohio) made a special batch of goat cheeses.

Goat Cheeses by Integration Acres

Other parts of the tablescape were both functional and tasty – these jars of pickles were opened and shared among everyone. I’m not especially a pickle person, but these pickles were downright addictive.

Pickles, doubling as tasty snack AND table decoration

The roast pig needs to be flipped over in the box before it finishes cooking. I managed to snap a quick pic when the box was opened to do the flipping.

Roast Pig, Ready to Flip Over

As good as the pork was, the beef brisket was hands down one of the most magical dishes of the night – I don’t know if that’s due to the high-quality beef raised at Flying J, or if it is the skill of the Caskeys in preparing food, or a combination of both. Either way, this brisket changed my mind about brisket.
Low & Slow Beef Brisket

Sides were fairly simple, like these roasted potatoes…

Roasted Potatoes with Rosemary

…a chard chopped salad…

Chard Chopped Salad

…a lovely tomato salad (and have I told you all how much I love summer tomatoes? I have? Well, carry on) …

Tomato Salad

… and surprisingly, the kale and sweet potatos (who knew they went so well together?)…

Kale and Sweet Potatoes

…and some sautéed red cabbage.

Red Cabbage

Everything was so vibrant and beautiful – this dinner, which has become an annual thing, is truly summer’s last hurrah. I wish I could have gotten more pictures of the food, but by the time we all sat down to eat, it was too dark for pictures. But the dishes, here in their serving dishes, should give you a good idea of what kind of things to expect.

This year, the event is on September 8th. Tickets go on sale today at noon right here, and are $75 for Slow Food members, or $100 per person for non-members. It may seem steep, but given the quality and presentation of the food, it’s worth every penny. If you’d like to go, don’t wait to buy your tickets until tomorrow – historically, it has sold out very quickly, so get in while the getting is good. For more information, please check out the Slow Food Columbus site.

Event: Taste the Future 2011 and Ticket Giveaway for 2012!

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

Taste the Future has always been one of my favorite food events in Columbus, and it’s one I’ve attended every year since I first discovered it (in 2006 or so). We’re quickly coming up on that time again (this time around, a few weeks earlier than it’s traditionally been held because of Columbus State’s switch to the semester system). So be sure to mark your calendars for Tuesday, August 21st, as this is one event you don’t want to miss.

I did manage to be able to go last year, thanks to CSCC’s generosity. It was an off year for me (I wasn’t fully mobile yet, and pushing myself around in a walker plum tuckered me out in no time flat). And last year, because of threat of rain, it was held in the parking garage, so the lighting was a bit off for getting great pictures. Still, I heartily enjoyed the experience, and here are a few images from the event:

Pepper and Cheese Skewers from Sidecar Global Catering

Heirloom BLT Bites- Mini Quiche with Heirloom Tomatoes, Applewood Bacon, & Aged Cheddar, Micro Greens from Lindey's

Shrimp, Chicken, & Andouille Étouffée over Mushroom Rice from Creole Kitchen

Tuna in a Can from Cameron Mitchell Catering

Sushi from AVI Fresh

Mini Chocolate Cupcakes from 3 Babes and a Baker

There’s tons of additional pictures, and you can see the rest of the slideshow here:

Once again, Columbus State has been generous enough to provide me with extra tickets which I’m giving away here on the blog. I’m using a different method of letting you enter and choosing the winner this year, which will provide you with tons of extra opportunities for entries, and can track all the entries and choose the winner much more easily. The only one that is a mandatory entry is the question, the rest are optional, but will allow you up to 30 entries rather than just 5. The giveaway ends on 8/17/2012, and winners must confirm attendance by Monday morning (8/20/2012) or another winner will be drawn. Three pairs of tickets will be given away in total. Please don’t enter if you are aren’t planning on being in the Columbus area on August 21st, and all winners must be of legal drinking age. The only method of entering is through the Rafflecopter plugin, so comments on this blog entry won’t count. If you’re having problems entering, please comment to let me know.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck, everyone – and even if you don’t win tickets, I hope to see you at the event! It provides scholarships to Columbus State Culinary students, and is tax deductible. You can get more information about the event (and the dishes the participating restaurants plan on serving) on the CSCC Taste the Future web site.

Update: You can now earn 5 additional entries by following me on Pinterest – simple to do using the widget above. :)

May is for Foodies!

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Charity, Columbus, Events, North Market

May is always, always one of my favorite months of the year – if not for the great weather (the cold snaps of early spring are behind us, and the weather is still cool enough to enjoy spending time outdoors), then definitely for the events for food lovers that are held this month. Today I’m going to talk about a couple of my favorites – the Taste of Dine Originals and the North Market Apron Gala.

Last May, I was definitely in a whole different place than I’m in this year – I started out the month with a slim to none prognosis of survival, with the best case scenario was that even if I managed to make it through my acute respiratory distress alive, I’d be tethered to a ventilator for my remaining time on earth, which would probably be no longer than a year because human lungs aren’t designed to handle that kind of stress before other organ systems start to fail one by one. When I woke up the second week of May, I was still a bit delusional about my condition – here I was unable to even sit up in bed without falling over, but still thought somehow that I’d be recovered enough in the next week or two to handle all of my usual May events. What the heck was I thinking? But miracles do happen, for sure, and I’m fortunate enough to not only be fully recovered, but to be able to attend both events that are near and dear to me for a multitude of reasons. And you can see why this year is extra special to me.

Lamb Sirloin with Sweet Pea and Minted Pesto from Basi Italia

Tonight’s event, the Taste of Dine Originals, lets the 50 member restaurants of Dine Originals Columbus put their best food forward, offering delicious examples of what makes them restaurants that I’m happy to patronize. Each one is different, and the variety of restaurants that belong (all independents, natch) are a direct reflection of the awesome mix of people we have in our fine capital city. There are fine dining options to go along with the casual spots, ethnic or as American as apple pie, spots at all price points, spots that are open all day, spots that are only open for a few hours a night. In addition to trying dishes from some of my favorite local chefs, there are also other reasons to go – a new venue, local wines and microbrews, and new this year, Edible Columbus is hosting a Food & Artisan Fair at the event, which offers local farmers and artisan food producers to offer samples and information about their methods, farms and products.

Parfait of Walnut Cake with Buttercream Espresso from Alana's Food and Wine

The food is always fabulous at the event – you can see my coverage of previous years here: 2010, 2009.

According to the event planners, “Our signature annual event, Taste of Dine Originals, is one of Ohio’s best food and wine events, featuring tastings and samplings from 50 regional restaurants, 30 vineyards, 2 craft breweries, and a couple of micro distilleries. Whether you’re a seasoned foodie or an intrigued beginner, chefs, brew masters, and winery representatives welcome you as they mix useful knowledge with tastings of signature dishes and interesting beverages. The silent auction features cooking lessons, private dinners, special events, works of art and rare bottles of wine. This year’s event will be held at Capital University’s Capital Center, at 2360 East Mound Street, Columbus, OH 43209. The event will be open from 6-9:30pm. Tickets are $100, proceeds from this event are shared by Dine Originals Columbus and The Buckeye Ranch, which offers mental health treatment and alcohol and drug services for children. Dine Originals Columbus celebrates, supports and promotes the culinary diversity that locally owned and operated member restaurants contribute to the identity and culture of our city. We are committed to strengthening the local economy and enriching our community through education and charitable partnerships. The Buckeye Ranch and Dine Originals both support this community and strive, each in their own manner, to make Central Ohio a better place for everyone.

Later this month is the other event that is one of my annual favorites, the North Market Apron Gala – we’ve personally been attending since 2006 (Paul attended last year, although I couldn’t make it). In many ways the event is the same from year to year, but with each passing year the landscape of the North Market has changed – it is a living, breathing entity unto itself which has its own ebbs and flows – as old favorites disappear, new favorites appear in their place. No matter what, each year is worth attending – not only does it help support a vibrant public market, but it’s also one of those events that you can’t go five feet without seeing someone you know. Catching up with everyone while noshing on delicious food? Count me in!

Pastry from Mozart's

This year, the event is being held on Saturday, May 19th from 7-10pm. Tickets are $75 per person and are available online or through the North Market Business Office (2nd floor of the market at 59 Spruce St, Columbus). Call 614-463-9664 for more information.