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.

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.

Event: 2011 North Market Apron Gala

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

Sad to say, I wasn’t able to make it to the Apron Gala this past year. I held an unrealistic hope that I’d be well enough to attend, but that would have depended on me getting off a ventilator, getting my trach removed, and being able to hold myself upright in a matter of 2 short weeks after being in a medically induced coma for over a month. When I plan, I plan big. I was depressed about missing it – it was the first time in many years that I missed both the North Market Apron Gala *and* the Taste of Dine Originals events. Paul, like a trooper, went in my place, and managed to get quite a few nice pictures. But this year? I’m going to go, and will actually wear an apron this year. Save the date, it’s just a few short months away now on Saturday, May 19th. More details as the date gets closer. In the meantime, enjoy these pics of last year’s event. The link to the slideshow of all pictures can be found at the bottom of this entry.

Vegetable Stromboli from Sarefino's

Mixed Baby Green Salad at Pastaria

Pastry from Mozart's

Summer Rolls from Lan Viet

Chicken Salad from Kitchen Little

Ham Balls from Bluescreek

Slideshow:

Event: The Making of a Chef at CSCC + Giveaway!

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

As many of you already know, I’ve been attending and blogging about Taste the Future, the annual fundraiser that provides scholarships for those who are going through the Culinary program at Columbus State, for many years now. Off the top of my head, I want to say that I’ve been there every time since 2006. And, at least to me, it’s one of my favorite culinary events of the year. But my participation has always been limited to attending and blogging about it – even though I knew that the money raised would go to students, I had never met or spoken to any of the students.

So when Elissa from CSCC’s Development Foundation asked me If I wanted to sit in on a class, I didn’t hesitate before saying yes. There have been many times over the years that I’ve toyed with the idea of cooking professionally, so it was absolutely fascinating to be able to quite literally see and taste the care and discipline it takes to make it through the three year program.

Each class begins with a mini-lecture that teaches theory and/or clarifies the concepts that the students will work on in the kitchen. Team assignments are made, with each person in the team being given a task to work on. The topic of this particular day was cheesemaking, with the gentlemen of Canal Junction cheeses there as guest speakers.

Before they got started on making three varieties of fresh cheeses (quark, ricotta, and mozzarella), the chefs went to work setting up their mis en place, with their sharp chef’s knives making quick work of chopping up fresh herbs.

cscc_herbs

I had a definite case of equipment envy, especially the Robo-Coupe they used to make pesto.

cscc_pesto

The rest of prep before making the cheese involved roasting garlic, rehydrating and chopping sun-dried tomatoes, and slicing berries. Luckily, they have several hours to prep/cook before presenting their dishes to the instructor and the rest of the class, so the pace is far more relaxed than it would be in an actual restaurant. They get on-the-job training during the 6,000 hours they work in a restaurant outside of the classroom in order to earn their credentials. Most of the restaurants involved in Taste the Future employ CSCC students and alumni.

cscc_addins

Ricotta was probably the easiest to make – the addition of an acid to the milk causes it to separate into curds and whey.

cscc_ricotta

Quark seemed just as simple to make, using a method that can easily be done in a home kitchen.

cscc_drained

Making mozzarella cheese is a bit more complicated because it involves the addition of rennet, which can ruin the whole batch if you add too much. Even though there were some problems along the way, everyone managed to get to the part where you have to stretch the mozzarella well before the deadline.

Stretching the Mozzarella

With the addition of the add-ins the students had prepped earlier, every group made spirals that were popping with flavor.

cscc_rolling

My favorite of the bunch were the ones filled with pesto.

Pesto-filled mozzarella spirals

Quark is a pretty neutral cheese on its own, but can easily be flavored with other ingredients to be sweet or savory.

cscc_quark

We really enjoyed the pesto quark, which had an in-your-face garlic punch.

cscc_pestoquark

The berry quark was equally as good, just In a different way.

cscc_berryquark

And I got to sample almost all of the cheeses Canal Junction produces. Yummy stuff, and local to boot.

cscc_samples

I really enjoyed myself during this class. I had the opportunity to talk to some of the students, and was impressed by the passion and hard work involved in completing this program. I really love what they’re doing there, and your support during Taste the Future allows them to subsidize the cost of the program.

For those of you who have stuck around this long, I’m giving away a pair of tickets ($200 value) to next Tuesday’s event. To enter, go to the Taste the Future website, peruse the menu, and tell me what one item you’re most interested in trying. Leave a comment on this entry with that information, making sure to provide me with an email address where I can contact you if you win. I’ll accept entries until Sunday, September 11th at 11:59pm and draw and notify the winner immediately thereafter. Earn an extra entry by tweeting about this giveaway (make sure there’s an @columbusfoodie somewhere in your tweet so I see it and it gets counted. Limit one entry per person per entry method.

Congrats to LeAnn Purdy, the winner as chosen by Random.org. I will contact you directly to give you further instructions.

Learning to Cook Sous Vide at Market District Robinson

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Events, Recipes, Travel

Back in October, a few of us local food bloggers were invited to attend the grand opening of Giant Eagle Market District at Kingsdale, and we enjoyed a day full of open access to experts and a grand tour of the place. During the course of that day, I spoke to Donna, who handles online marketing, asking about the differences between our Market District here in Ohio and the original ones in the Pittsburgh area. She explained that there’s a cooking school in their store, but that the square footage difference wasn’t all that much. We bandied about the idea of me coming out to take a class (since Pittsburgh is so close), but I put it at the back of my mind.

Fast forward about two months, and I receive an email from Donna inviting Paul and I to come to Pennsylvania for a cooking class, with accommodations for the evening provided by them. The timing couldn’t be better, with Paul getting ready to go on furlough. So we accepted their invitation and made plans to visit a few other places while in the Pittsburgh area.

After about a three hour drive from Columbus, we arrived in Robinson Township, Pennsylvania, and outlying suburb of Pittsburgh. To be honest, it reminded me of a Columbus suburb, but then again – aren’t all suburbs pretty much the same? Our accommodations were in the very nice, very new Courtyard at Marriott hotel across the street, and we took a couple of minutes to settle in and freshen up before heading up to the store for the cooking lesson. We met Donna and a few other Market District employees and headed up to the second floor for the cooking class, where we met the instructors. Chef Keira (on the left) is in charge of the Cooking School, and for the class we were taking, Chef Lawrence (middle) and Chef Scott (right) were the instructors.

Chefs Keira, Lawrence and Scott

To take the edge off our hunger, we snacked on some nuts and cookies that they had laid out for us.

Pre-Class Snacks

The topic for the evening was Sous Vide Cooking, wherein one vacuum seals their food and then immerses it into a circulator where water temperature is controlled exactly, leading to some pretty stellar results. Although I’ll describe the class in detail and leave the original recipes intact, I’ll also provide suggestions on how to make a similar dish without the Sous Vide equipment.

BLT with Smoked Pork Belly

Smoked BLT
recipe courtesy Giant Eagle Market District

6 slices of Brioche bread, toasted
1 batch of roasted Roma tomatoes
1 head of hydroponic Bibb lettuce
1 lb. pork belly, cut into slices
1/2 c. aioli
1 tbsp. apple wood chips
12 sprigs of rosemary, bottom leaves removed

Season the pork belly with fresh cracked black pepper. In a large skillet, over medium low heat, add the pork belly to the pan and start to render the fat out of the pork. Then start to dump the fat as it accumulates in the pan to help crisp up the bacon. Turn up to medium high heat and cook for 5 minutes a side to brown up the pork belly. Once the pork is cooked, place on paper towels to absorb the excess grease. Transfer all of the pork belly to a mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap and cut a small hole. Place the apple wood chips into the smoking chamber of the smoking gun and put the hose in the bowl. Light the chips with a lighter and turn on the machine and let the bowl fill up completely with smoke then turn off and cover hole with another sheet of plastic wrap. Let this sit for 10 minutes to absorb the smoky flavor.

In the meantime, place 2 leaves of Bibb lettuce on the bottom piece of bread, then place tomatoes on top. Spread 2 tbsp. of aioli on the top piece of bread, then place 4 strips of smoked pork belly on top of the tomatoes. Place the 2nd piece of bread on top and secure with 4 sprigs of rosemary. Then cut from quarter to quarter to form small triangles. Before serving light the rosemary on fire to smoke and serve.

If you don’t have a smoking gun: skip those steps and use double-smoked slab bacon instead – cut into slices and proceed as usual.

The smoking gun is a neat little gadget, though – here Chef Scott is demonstrating for us how to use it.

Chef Scott Demonstrating Smoking Gun

But this isn’t the type of class where you can sit back and rest on your laurels while the chefs do all the work. This is hands on, baby! All the ingredients for each recipe were already set out for us.

Mis En Place for Steaks

Chef Scott walked us through vacuum sealing our bags – a secret to getting it right is getting the contents of the bag as flat as possible so it cooks evenly.

Chef Scott Demonstrating Vacuum Sealing

Off they went into the immersion circulator so we could get started working on the next dish.

Immersion Circulators

I was super psyched that we were making risotto – it is one of my favorite dishes to prepare because although it’s time consuming, it’s hard to screw up.

Mis En Place for Risotto

Paul grabbed a knife and went to work chopping shallots.

Paul Chopping Shallots

While Chef Scott demonstrated the proper way to do it at the instructors stove at the center of the room. That’s the only thing about a cooking class that frustrates me a bit – needing to work at the pace of the chef. Because Paul and I do know how to cook, risotto making is old hat for us and we have our own methods. For one night only, you need to set all you know aside and follow directions.

Chef Scott Working on his Risotto

We also made some sous vide filet mignon. Mmmm…

Sous Vide Filet Mignon

Filet Mignon Sous Vide
recipe courtesy Giant Eagle Market District

1 oz. grape seed oil
4 petite filets
4 sprigs of thyme
2 sprigs of rosemary
4 sage leaves
6 cloves of roasted garlic
4 tbsp. truffle butter
Salt & pepper to taste
2 vacuum seal bags

Clamp the immersion circulator to the side of a large hotel pan or cambro and add hot water to the fill line and set the machine to the desired serving temperature. Heat a large heavy bottomed skillet over high heat. Season filets with salt and pepper on all sides and add oil to the pan. Then sear the filets for 1 minute, then flip and sear the other side until you achieve a nice brown crust. Place the meat in the vacuum seal bags and submerge the bag in an ice bath to chill down to 40F. Once the meat has thoroughly chilled, place half of all seasonings in each of the bags. Seal the pouches according to the machine’s recommendations. Then place the pouches in hot water bath and cook until the meat reaches the desired serving temperature. Once cooked, remove pouch from water bath and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Note for those without an immersion circulator: grill or prepare steak as usual, spoon truffle butter on your steak when it is done to your liking.

However, there is a benefit to cooking it sous vide – even though it looks kind of grey on the outside, check out the inside – evenly and perfectly cooked from edge to edge.

Close Up of Sous Vide Filet Mignon

The risotto was a perfect side for this. This recipe is definitely a keeper, although I think it only needs 1 cup of cream (already whipped) rather than whipping a whole cup of cream and folding it in. Here at home we just mix the mushroom duxelle through.

Risotto with Mushroom Duxelle

Porcini Scented Mushroom Risotto
recipe courtesy Giant Eagle Market District

2 tbsp. grape seed oil
1/3 c. shallots, chopped
1 c. Arborio rice
1/2 c. white wine
4 c. Market District chicken stock
1 c. heavy cream, whipped
1/4 c. Parmesan Reggiano cheese, grated
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 tbsp. dried porcini mushrooms, chopped

Heat oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat, then sweat the shallots until translucent. Toss in the Arborio rice and cook, stirring, until the rice is toasted, about 2 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and cook until the wine is absorbed. Start to add in the stock about 1/2 cup at a time, allowing each addition to fully absorb before adding more liquid. Once the rice is close, the absorption of the stock will start to slow down. Repeat the process until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Add in the cheese and taste, then season accordingly with salt and pepper. Then fold in the whipped cream.

If you have access to a smoking gun: Place plastic wrap over the pot and cut a small hole and insert the tube from the smoking gun. Place the dried mushrooms in the burning chamber and light with a lighter, then turn on the smoking gun. Let the machine run until the pot is filled with smoke, then turn off and place another sheet of plastic wrap on top after removing the house to seal. Let the risotto stand for 5-10 minutes to absorb the mushroom flavor, then serve.

If you don’t have a smoking gun: mix the mushroom duxelle (recipe below) into the finished risotto.

Once again, the ingredients were already set out for us:

Mis en Place for Mushroom Duxelles

Mushroom Duxelle
recipe courtesy Giant Eagle Market District

3 tbsp. unsalted butter, sliced
2 tbsp. shallots, chopped
8 oz. crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, finely chopped
1/4 c. heavy cream
1 tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
1 tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped
1 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese, grated

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and melt butter. Once the butter has stopped foaming up, add in shallots and saute for 2 minutes. Then toss in the mushrooms and cook until the liquid has cooked out and the mushrooms have browned. Pour in the heavy cream, fresh herbs and the Parmesan cheese and simmer until the mixture has thickened up to a paste-like consistency. Taste the mixture and season accordingly with salt and pepper to taste.

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The biggest surprise for me is the carrots. I loved them prepared this way. But since I don’t have a sous vide unit at home, I found another way to make them that gives a similar end result. Their recipe first, then my adaptation after that.

Sous Vide Carrots

Tri Color Carrots Sous Vide
recipe courtesy Giant Eagle Market District

1 tbsp. grape seed oil
2 lbs. tri color carrots, cut on the bias
3 sprigs of thyme
1 small shallot, sliced
3 tbsp. good quality unsalted butter
2 vacuum seal bags

Clamp the immersion circulator to a large hotel pan or stock pot and add hot water to the fill line and set the machine to 185F. Cut the carrots on a hard bias to expose as much of the carrot to the water as possible. Toss carrots in a bowl with 1 tbsp. oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Then place carrots in the vacuum bags in a single evenly spaced layer then toss in the thyme, shallots and butter. Seal the pouch according to the machines instructions. Place the carrot pouch in the water bath and cook for 40 minutes or until tender. Remove the carrots from the water bath, season again with salt and pepper and serve. You can saute them lightly to get a little color on them and glaze the carrots with the remaining liquid from the bag.

Adaptation: Cut carrots as described above, and steam them until tender. Toss with a couple tablespoons of butter, salt and pepper, and Lighthouse Salad Herb Blend to taste.

The best part of the cooking class is that you get to eat what you made after. Doesn’t this look delicious? Paul and I had the foolish idea that we would eat dinner after this class…no friggin’ way. I was so full.

Plated Sous Vide Meal

They provided dessert as well, but I didn’t get around to eating it that night and boxed it up for later.

Dessert at Sous Vide Cooking Class

Now, a couple of things going on at the Robinson store that I thought was really neat. For the most part, it’s like the one we have here, but the layout of our store flows better, I think. In their produce section, they’ve got this hydroponic garden set up, growing things like butter lettuce, basil and other herbs, which they later either use in making the prepared foods in the restaurant area or sell to the public.

Hydroponic Growing System

And having lived in Pennsylvania with my husband, I know that beer in grocery stores is a no-no there. So color me surprised when I saw beer for sale in the market. There’s a catch, though. It’s licensed as a restaurant, and that’s why they are able to do it. Because of this, though – the divisions between store and restaurant are more closely enforced than is in our Market District.

Beer? In a Store in Pennsylvania?

We never did get the chance to explore Pittsburgh. We were too stuffed the night before, and when we left, we were trying to beat the snow home (we failed – it caught up to us in Cambridge, OH).

All is not lost, though – close to Pittsburgh is a convenience store/gas station that makes the best darn nachos ever. Piled on with as much good stuff as you want for like $3.50 or so. It took me most of the trip to finish them! Lord, how I wish we had a Sheetz closer to us.

Nachos from Sheetz

A big thank you to Donna Pahel and her marketing team for putting the event together – they’ve got a bunch of people working there who are passionate about what they do and truly seem to enjoy their work. Their enthusiasm is contagious!

For more information and the cooking school schedule, visit the Market District Robinson web site.

FTC Disclosure: In the course of the event, we received the following considerations, which did not affect our final review in the least: 1 night hotel accommodations, free cooking class for two (including meal, wine, and other beverages), swag bag of Giant Eagle products.

San Francisco: Day 2, Part 2

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Events, Travel

So – the rest of day 2. After P. convinced me that I shouldn’t miss an event I wanted to attend because of other people, I walked the 4 or 5 blocks over to the CityView at the Metreon, which seemed to me to be a multi-floor shopping mall. The walk was blissfully short, with very few to no hills – always a blessing when attempting a walk in San Francisco.

The view from the roof of the Metreon was pretty. I don’t know enough about San Francisco geography to tell you exactly what buildings you’re looking at, but I believe it is the Financial District.

SFO Day 2: View of the San Francisco Skyline from the Roof of the Metreon

When they finally let the lot of us loose, it was quite the free for all. Imagine 300 people in a single room all trying to get the same shot, with half of them reaching into your shot while they weren’t taking photos. And imagine this taking place in a room where there’s not much space to be able to comfortably maneuver. It was definitely a bit claustrophobic there, which is why I headed outside to the roof from time to time.

Other than the negative experiences I talked about before, there were things I liked about this event, and things I hated. The likes? I got to talk to some smaller producers face to face, got to try their stuff (although unless I order by mail it’s untenable for me to buy it regularly). The negatives? It was, in some ways, like one big commercial. I understand why they (Foodbuzz) bring big name sponsors on board (to be able to let Featured Publishers attend the conference for free), but it got a bit tiresome when the breakout sessions were “Fresh Express Salad” this or the brunch was “Nature’s Pride” that. Truthfully, I would have rather paid for admission to the conference than deal with the commercialism. Remember Woodstock 94, and how it was sponsored by Pepsi? There’s a reason not many people remember it, but do remember Woodstock 69 – the first was an organic gathering that let the participants determine the vibe and flow, the other was a corporate sponsored joke planned to the gills to satisfy the stakeholders. Not saying that the Foodbuzz conference is/was a joke, but just putting it out there that I’m not the only one who feels this way.

That being said, there were some goodies to be had – like yummy sausages and salamis from Saags. They had some of this in the swag bag that I had noshed on after I got to the hotel on Friday afternoon. Good stuff.

SFO Day 2: Saag's Meats

And yum, more of those delicious Warren Pears from Frog Hollow Farm.

SFO Day 2: Pears from Frog Hollow Farms

And I’ll never turn down a piece of cheese.

SFO Day 2: Cheese

Alexia had onion rings and sweet potato fries. The fries were definitely not my thing, and the onion rings weren’t bad, although I’ve had much better.

SFO Day 2: Alexia Onion Rings & Sweet Potato Fries

Probably one of the best things I had there was this mushroom soup. Unsure of which restaurant made this, although one of the other attendees reading this may know. Anyone? Bueller?

SFO Day 2: Chanterelle Soup

Prather Ranch Meats were handing out Bockwurst with sauerkraut and mustard. Again, good stuff.

SFO Day 2: Prather Ranch Meats

A closer view:

SFO Day 2: Bockwurst

I’ve got to say, I mostly abstained from eating cupcakes during this weekend, but this Swiss Almond Cupcake from Mission Minis was the bomb.

SFO Day 2: Swiss Almond Cupcake from Mission Minis

One of my favorite things I tried during this event was the salad beets from Pick-a-Peck. They were delicious. Unlike most pickled beets which are too sweet, these are just right. Just a little sweet and very tangy. This would be one thing that I would consider ordering mail order.

SFO Day 2: Various Pick-a-Peck Pickled Veggies

I was so not impressed by the Frisee Salad at the Fresh Express stand, but that could just be that I can’t eat frisee without choking on it (not taste, just the way it feels going down).

SFO Day 2: Fresh Express Frisee Salad

The Tyler Florence stand had a squash soup with herbed shortbreads. Yum, wish they’d give the recipe for this.

SFO Day 2: Squash Soup with Herbed Shortbread

I’m not a fan of nori, but really enjoyed this nori salt – it was fantastic on tomatoes that were tossed in olive oil.

SFO Day 2: Nori Salt on Tomatoes

Definitely enjoyed the salt and pepper pistachios, even though pistachios are something I usually cook with rather than eating out of hand.

SFO Day 2: Various Pistachios

Tried this Inna Jam raspberry jam, which I thought also had jalapeno in it, but based on taste, I don’t think they did. Still, an excellent tasting raspberry jam.

SFO Day 2: Inna Jam

You all know I can’t resist chocolate with sea salt…

SFO Day 2: Chocolate Tasting

This brittle from PopCandy is very addictive.

SFO Day 2: Various Brittles

One of the vendors had made a chile gazpacho with shrimp which was a little too spicy for my tastes. But pretty presentation.

SFO Day 2: Chile Gazpacho with Shrimp

There were a couple of other booths (the Alaska Seafood make your own fish tacos being one of them), but the lines were so outrageous that I wanted to get out of there.

I skipped out on the Gala dinner on Day 2 for reasons given in another entry, so I think my dinner in my hotel room of farmers market purchases was just as satisfying. Definitely feeling sleep deprived, I decided to get a good night’s sleep in preparation for travel the next day.

Next Up: My final eats in San Francisco, why you should never eat airport food, and my retrospective look at the Foodbuzz conference.