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

Why I’ll Never Go to Another Blogging Conference

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Events, Rant

As you all know, I spent last weekend in San Francisco at the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival. I got back home on Monday, but it’s taken me since then to process what happened last weekend enough to discuss it. If you read my Twitter postings, or if you’re really good at picking up cues, you may have surmised by now that I had a less than stellar time. Part of that has to do with my state of mind going in, the rest of it has to do with the actions of some of my fellow bloggers. The only ones who are totally blameless in this fiasco is Foodbuzz themselves, who planned out a stellar series of events and planned things (like assigned tables at the event on the first night) that would force people outside the insular groups they were hanging with.

First things first – let’s talk about my expectations for this weekend. In many ways, I see myself as an ambassador for our fine city – when I travel, I love to try to tell and show others that we’re not just some cowtown in a flyover state, that we have tons of creative types that make Columbus a wonderful place to live. I love bringing foodie gifts, especially, because if people can taste for themselves, one bite says more to them than an hour of my talking the city up.

In addition, I wanted to go because many of those going are people whose blogs I read regularly, whose recipes have won raves from my friends and family, and I actually wanted to meet them face to face so I could put a face to the name and vice versa.

Lastly, the events planned sounded amazing – a street food fair on Day 1? Breakout sessions (esp. one on food photography) on Day 2? A Tasting Plaza on Day 2? A lavish dinner in the Ferry Building on Day 2? A Farewell Brunch on Day 3? Sign me up! I couldn’t think of anything more awesome than sharing these things with fellow foodies, people who would understand my compulsive need to journal my experiences and my fascination with photographing every morsel of food that hits my table when dining out. My only experience with other food bloggers before this point had been with the local Columbus food bloggers, many of whom I consider friends because we’ve bonded over a meal (or two, or five), we’ve come out to support each other in events, and because each of us have done our small part to promote things that make Columbus so unique. I may not have been born here, but Columbus and it’s residents have embraced me with open arms and it’s where I consider home these days.

A little bit of back story leading up to getting to the hotel from the airport. Many of you may not know that I have some severe orthopedic issues (degenerative disk disease and spondylolisthesis, carpal tunnel syndrome, frayed meniscus and generally shot knees, lots of osteoarthritis, thoracic outlet syndrome, and some pretty severe peripheral neuropathy, which acts up more when I become inflamed in one of the previous areas) that limits my mobility. I can walk pretty well (although once I hit the steep hills of San Francisco, even that was called into question), but don’t do well at all on stairs of any sort.

So I get into SFO pretty early (10ish) – the plane ride in was fairly uneventful, thankfully – and manage to make it over to the BART station and on a train headed to Powell St, where I hoped to score a Muni pass ($20 for 3 days of unlimited use of the cable cars, buses and Muni trains) so I could hop on a cable car that would be able to let me off right in front of my hotel.

After talking to a surly BART employee who cut me off twice before I could even get my question out, I got on the right train (there were 2 different ones to choose from) Am I the only one who thinks the BART trains smell like pee? And they weren’t kidding about that rapid part. I had a hard time holding on to the pole so I didn’t go flying with my other hand grabbing my bags so they wouldn’t go flying. I had no idea what stop was what (you can’t hear the speaker over the din of the train), so I counted stops so I’d be sure to get off at the right one. The train let me out into this huge underground depot, with me not being able to find an elevator. There was one on the other end of the building,  so about 30 minutes later I manage to make it to the surface – I was unsure which direction to go in (because none of the street signs said Powell), so I picked a direction and walked until I found the cable cars. This is where everything started going horribly, horribly wrong. The step going up into the cable car is so high up, that it took every ounce of upper body strength I had to manage to pull myself up. It took a few tries, but finally I am able to get in, and let the conductor know where I am going to – he promised to let me know when my stop was coming up, and would alert the driver to stop so I could get off. Not having ever gone to San Francisco before this, I wasn’t sure how far the hotel was from where I started. The first clue I had that he had missed my stop completely was when we arrived at Fisherman’s Wharf.

So I had rode the entire route, start to finish. The conductor seemed sincerely apologetic, and made sure I got on the cable car going in the other direction (again with the pulling myself up) and I finally did make it to my hotel, somewhere close to 1pm. I had already been up since 2am so I could catch my 5:30am (Eastern) flight, and by East coast standards, it was 4pm already. 14 hours into my day. I got settled into my hotel room, then wandered out to find something to eat. At first, I headed in the wrong direction, made it halfway up the huge steep hill, felt my legs shaking and threatening to buckle under me, and realized I needed to turn around because where I was going in the other direction. A rather flat 3 block walk lead me to Katana-ya, a ramen shop where I picked up lunch (more about that later).

I took my leftovers back with me to the hotel, where exhausted, I proceeded to take a 90 minute nap before I went downstairs to the lobby to catch the shuttle bus to the Street Food Fair at Fort Mason.

I woke up, freshened up a bit, feeling a little better, and headed downstairs to meet some other people. Except the scene down there was nothing like I pictured. Everybody was clumped together in small groups of 2-5 people, essentially ignoring everything else going on around them. I’m not the type who will insert myself into the middle of a group and conversation, so I panicked a bit. I scanned the room quickly and saw one other person who wasn’t grouped off, and sat down next to him and engaged him in conversation. He was polite and spoke to me for a couple of minutes, then left for greener pastures. So I sat there alone on the couch, hoping some other person who was there alone, knowing no one, would see me and do the same thing I just did – come over and engage me in conversation. Unfortunately, that never happened.

The buses finally arrive, and people start piling on them in preparation for heading up to Fort Mason. I finally get to the door of the bus, and this step is even higher up than the one on the cable car. I was absolutely humiliated, because it took me pulling up with all my might and two people pushing me up from behind to get me on that bus, finally. I skulked off to the back of the bus where I was ready to cry. Even though I’m smaller than I have been in ages (~250 lbs), I felt absolutely huge, the way I always do when I have physical limitations slap me in the face at the most inopportune times.

I’ll talk about street food fair in detail in another post, but other than spending a few minutes talking to some really nice people whose table I was assigned to, I really didn’t connect with anyone at this event. The only way you could identify who was who was by looking at tag that hung on a lanyard around their necks, which almost always ended up strategically located right at boob level. So if you wanted to look at someone’s tag, it was awkward, to say the least.

It was about this time that I realized how utterly cliquey this weekend was going to be. The people who were paired off into groups at the hotel were still paired off at this event too. And right about then it occurred to me that if I hadn’t found someone to hang with by now, it was too late. Peer groups and pecking order had already been established, and to all of these groups, even those that didn’t include the popular bloggers, I was an outsider looking in. It was so very high school, and very much like high school, I realized that I was a loner who didn’t fit well into any group, and that if I hung with any one group, I would still be an outsider who was tolerated but not truly included. So I made my way alone through the event, sitting alone at the table after the foodie gift exchange was over, taking some pictures, waiting in line alone for food, etc. Hoping to avoid the humiliation of the earlier bus ride, I called a cab and went back to the hotel early, about 8pm. I got into jammies and spent the rest of the night getting a couple hours of rest and Twittering about how friggin’ miserable I was.

The next day, I skipped out on the morning session I was signed up for so that I could go to the farmers market to recharge. Those of you who know me know that a good farmers market has healing properties for me – it gives me peace, perspective, and the ability to put trust in people again. The guy from Roli Roti remembered me from the night before, and smiled that I was back for more just as he was opening. I browsed the more than 120 vendors and sampled to my heart’s content. I bought some fruit and other things to eat in my hotel room and to send back home. I talked to some really cool people when I was sitting at the tables with a wonderful view of the Bay Bridge eating my lunch  – an older lady from Walnut Creek who had lived in Columbus in the 1960′s – a lady photographer from Texas who was there for a National Geographic conference and who took an awesome picture of me against the skyline of San Francisco. By the time I left a few hours later, I had a bag full of stuff, and all of the pain and awkwardness and embarrassment from the night before had been washed away, replaced by inner peace and love for the city and for probably the best farmers market I’ve been to in my life.

I was unsure about heading to the tasting plaza – I was a bit spooked from the night before so I wasn’t sure if I wanted to replace the peace with apprehension and nerves. P., on the phone with me, tried to ease my fears and told me I should go, that I shouldn’t miss any of the experience on account of other people.

My experience at the tasting plaza was horrible. I got pushed and jostled around so much that I had bruises all over my arms. While trying to walk backwards out of a tight space someone started saying “beep-beep-beep” and called me “double wide”. People cut in front of me in line like I wasn’t even there. If I walked up to one of the standing tables in the center of the room to eat my food the couple of people already there looked at me, said “let’s go” and moved away quickly. I tried to engage with a woman from Canada whose blog I read regularly and she totally blew me off. I accidentally got in the way of a woman’s shot, immediately noticed and apologized profusely and backed away, and she was  nasty to me in return. It was totally mean girls central. By this point, I said to myself, “I’ve had enough of this shit” and left and totally gave up on attending any more Foodbuzz functions. If you keep putting yourself out there and it becomes painfully obvious that every time you try to engage you get shit on, it’s just totally masochistic to keep putting yourself (and your pride, and your feelings) on the line.

I’m not saying that everyone that attended this shindig was a nasty person. I’m sure that probably 90% of the people who attended are perfectly nice people. Maybe most people, because they were part of a group, didn’t realize how insular and impermeable their groups were. Maybe I had a scowl on my face from being so unhappy (the one picture I saw of me this weekend, I’m the only person not smiling) and that kept people from wanting to know me. For a while, I thought “maybe this is all in my head and maybe I’m the problem”, but others who have been to this and other blogging conferences have had similar experiences.

I skipped out on the huge Gala dinner (was still upset from the Tasting Plaza) and the Farewell Brunch (didn’t have anyone to say goodbye to), and left early on Sunday for a quick stop at the Ferry Building to pick up something I had ordered the day before, and then to the airport for an 8 hour wait to get on my plane. Needless to say, I was happy to be home, although in general my trip to San Francisco wasn’t an entirely pleasant one, mainly because I was there alone and I hate traveling alone. I hope to someday go back with P. so I can wander outside of Union Square and replace some bad memories with good ones that I’ll make with him.

The point of this whole screed is to get it out there, so it isn’t the huge white elephant in the room when I’m talking about my trip, and to maybe bring to light some of the issues so the same thing doesn’t happen to someone else next year. Me? I probably won’t be back to a blogging conference ever again. It took me a lot to come out from behind the computer screen and get involved in my own town, let alone in something as huge as that Foodbuzz Blogger Festival. Once bitten, twice shy, right?

But if any of you are in Columbus and ever want to hang, drop me an email at columbusfoodieATgmailDOTcom. I’m still willing to be an ambassador for Columbus and can show you the time of your life and why living here is so awesome. I haven’t lost my passion for that, or for blogging about my individual experiences, but my group experiences, in the future, will be with people who already accept me for who I am and see that I am worth getting to know, even if the package comes in a brown paper wrapper rather than beautifully wrapped in gorgeous wrapping paper and ribbons. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If I missed meeting you last weekend, and if I was someone you wanted to talk to, but didn’t for whatever reason, give me a holler. I still want to get to know you, even if it’s not face to face.

Abyssinia Cafe: Customer Service FAIL

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Dining Deals, Rant, Restaurant News

Abyssinia Restaurant

One of the reasons we’ve been able to afford eating out since Paul has been unemployed is because of WTTE’s Dining Out Deals, where area restaurants offer discounted gift certificates in return for advertising on the news – because of that program, we’ve had quite a few great meals (at places like Barrio, Gallo’s Tap Room, etc). We saw the advertising for the one at Abyssinia Cafe on the news, and knowing that we had those gift certificates, we decided to pick up my mother yesterday to treat her to a belated birthday lunch.

We arrived early yesterday afternoon to a completely empty restaurant, and were directed to seat ourselves – upon sitting down, we noticed a sign saying that they weren’t accepting gift certificates. Seeking to get clarification, we showed the woman at the restaurant our certificates (which are supposed to be valid, having not yet reached the expiration date), to which she responded that she would not honor them. I explained to her that we had spent $25 for them (for $50 face value in certificates), and at the very least we expected reimbursement (in the form of food would have been fine) for the money we were out. She said no, it’s not her problem, that they couldn’t afford to honor any certificates after 3 people came in with them in the first couple of days, and that they did not authorize WTTE to give out any gift certificates – they had not accepted them after the 3rd day they were issued. Not wanting to argue with the woman, I basically said, “it’s sad that you’re willing to lose my business over $25-$50 – I won’t be surprised if you’re out of business in a few months if this is the way you operate” and got up to leave – she started yelling at me, told me that God was on her side and I was the devil, with me yelling back that she was a liar for saying that she wasn’t aware of the certificates since I had seen her on the news pimping them, and that she was getting the benefit of the advertising while anyone who shelled out good money for the certificates (100 people, in total) got screwed. It got ugly, folks. And now I’m out $25. Lovely. What a ripoff. When I twittered about it, I got a response from someone holding one of their GC’s wondering if they would get the same reception at the restaurant? So consider this a warning – both of the poor customer service at Abyssinia Cafe – who were happy to take WTTE’s advertising without honoring what they were contractually bound with WTTE to provide, and for those of you who have also bought the gift certificates, which are absolutely worthless. I’ll be contacting WTTE tomorrow to see how they’re willing to resolve this, and will update accordingly.

Update: Alls well that ends well. WTTE/IncentRev was great about the situation, and let me exchange the worthless GC’s for gift certificates of equal value from an open Dining Deals offer. I encourage any of you who are also in this situation to contact WTTE/IncentRev directly.

My Thoughts on Tastecasting

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Rant

I’ve been aware of Tastecasting for a while now. Since the whole concept started here in Columbus, there’s a fairly active group of individuals that belong and cross my path in a myriad of ways. Some are even readers. Most that I’ve met face to face or traded tweets with are really, really nice people. For the longest time, I had a “live and let live attitude” with the group – it wasn’t my thing, but more power to them if that’s what they wanted to do.

But I’ve got to tell you, I’ve got a really big problem with Tastecasting. If you’re not familiar with the concept, essentially what it entails is that a team of tasters, led by a team captain, visits a local business and is provided free food in return for good publicity for the business in the form of blog entries, tweets, etc. I’ve even seen tweets recruiting people with the mantra “want to tweet for food?”

As a group, though, my experiences with them have been less than pleasant. I’ve been to an event or two that they were covering (in return for free food and drink, naturally), and they show up as a group, clad in blue “tastecasting” shirts and with their own printed credentials, totally dominating the event and not allowing others that aren’t part of the group to get a word in edgewise. These are, mind you, events that I’ve covered for years out of my own pocket. At one event, I overheard a Tastecaster talk about how she was just there for the $80 in free booze she just drank.

Online, it’s been a little more annoying. The members are people I follow, because 95% of the time, I really enjoy their tweets. During an event, however, they tend to flood my Twitter feed with bite-by-bite steps through whatever it is they are tasting, retweeting each others insincere (and yes, it does show) tweets over and over and over again. I must’ve seen 50-100 Tweets all saying the same thing come from the same people within an hour. It was #donatos #handtossed this, #donatos #handtossed that, etc. So I made a snarky tweet, something to the effect of “when will the #tastecasting event at #donatos be over with – all the #handtossed tweets are coming across like a #handjob” – even followed it up with a comment that I was joking. The next day, I get a direct message from one of the Tastecasters, someone whose tweets I read regularly and enjoy, asking me to “delete the comment because the client will read it and get upset” – I politely told her I wouldn’t, and why, but I’m kind of bothered that I, someone who is not a member of their group, was asked to censor an opinion. I was so annoyed by the Twitter spam that I was very tempted to unfollow anyone who had been tweeting about #donatos #handtossed that evening, even though I really enjoy their posts the rest of the time.

So, with that in mind, I’m doing this blog entry explaining my thoughts on Tastecasting. If nothing else, hopefully this will generate some discussion on what the rest of you think, and for my readers that are Tastecasters, maybe you can explain what the draw is. (BTW, Tastecasters – know that I have no problems with you as individuals, just Tastecasting as a concept).

First things first – I’ve built up my network the old fashioned way. I’ve been blogging for 4 years now (come next month), and in that time, I’ve posted almost 1,000 posts, visited and reviewed 100+ restaurants, covered numerous events, gotten to know many restaurant owners and community leaders through crossing the same paths over and over via various channels. I value the network I’ve built. So much so, that when something comes out of my mouth, they know it is sincere. My big mouth has gotten me into trouble more than once, but I’m one of the most transparent people you’ll ever meet. People joke that my nickname should be “WYSIWYG” – because that is true – what you see IS what you get with me. All of my opinions, thoughts, etc. on restaurants and establishments are completely, 100% organic. I share them with my network because I truly believe that there is some good reason (the food, the service, the owners, etc) that you should be spending your money there. Because I pay for my own things, I know the value of the meal in real world $$ terms. Knowing that people will take me at my word, I respect them enough not to direct them to dreck.

I don’t think Tastecasting reviews, by their very nature, can be objective. When I review a restaurant, I do it completely incognito. I look like Jane Average. I don’t call ahead, I don’t demand freebies or favoritism. I try to be as low-key as possible when taking pictures. I try my best not to let any restaurant employees see me taking pictures. I pay full price like everyone else, and leave a good tip like everyone else. I know, when I’m reviewing a restaurant, that I’m getting the exact level of service that everyone else is. Not being recognizable like the reviewers from mainstream media works to my advantage. Tastecasters, on the other hand, show up to a Tasting event in uniform, cameras and iPhones and video cameras ablazin’, with the restaurant fully expecting them and pulling out all stops to please them. When a restaurant knows they will be on display, it goes without saying that you are getting the best food and the best service possible. Your experience will not necessarily be representative of everyone elses. These favorable reviews, skewed by the lack of anonymity, dilute the effect of REAL reviews.

I, as a general rule, accept no freebies. The only exceptions to this are press passes to major events (like the Apron Gala & Taste the Future) and the Blogger Getaway (which was a coordinated event). The fact of the matter is that being recognized as “press” has only been a recent development, after a few years of covering the events paying for the tickets out of my own pocket, and taking pictures that the organizers felt really captured the event in a way they enjoyed. In other words, I paid my dues the hard way – lots of money out of my own pocket to establish credibility and a repuation, lots of time covering events and writing blog entries, lots of networking and talking to and developing relationships with the right people. I kind of resent the fact that Tastecasters waltz in expecting the same level of respect that it took many of us several years to earn.

When Tastecasting was first developed, the point was supposedly to bring exposure to independent businesses, ones that many people didn’t know about and that could really use the traffic. However, this appears to have gone by the wayside, with recent events at Donatos, Hoggy’s, and an upcoming event at Qdoba, to name a few. Chain restaurants get plenty of exposure – it seems the only reason they are doing the events lately is for the free grub.

I don’t like the groupthink mentality of Tastecasting. As part of the group, you are expected to tweet positive experiences only. There’s a certain amount of peer pressure that erases all individuality from the participants. People who are normally extremely pleasant to communicate are reduced to being sycophants who post what is essentially a press release. Looking over someone’s shoulder, I saw that they actually had a handout on what they were supposed to post on Twitter. Where’s the integrity in that? Are you really comfortable in selling your soul for a slice of pizza? Are you really willing to subject your network to that, therefore diluting your credibility and stature with them? Is being a “social media expert” worth being devoid of anything that makes you an individual outside of your brand?

I also have a problem with the financial aspect of Tastecasting. It appears, by their own FAQ, that eventually they will be charging both the tasters AND the establishments a fee. With the concept of Tastecasting already having spread to 22 cities in less than a year, the Tastecasting founder stands to make a fortune, exploiting both the need of the establishment for exposure, and the participants want of a free meal. So honestly, the participants will be paying a fee for providing PR that they SHOULD be getting paid for? Nice racket, that.

I’m also curious as to the effect that a Tasting has had on a business. Businesses (and I know there are a few readers who are business owners that have hosted an event), have you seen an increase in business because of the event? Has it played out in real world numbers, sustained long after the event is over? Have you run into negative reactions such as mine?

There are lots of other reasons I would never be involved with such an organization, but lets start with those. Thoughts?

"Chef" Jasper J. Mirabile, Jr: Content Thief Extraordinaire

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Meta, Rant

Well, it looks like I’ve finally made the big time. (j/k) I’ve joined such illustrious bloggers like Pim and Haalo (two of my favorites, btw) in getting my content stolen by one “Chef” Jasper J. Mirabile Jr. I don’t know whether to be pissed or flattered, really. I mean, it’s not even a good picture, compared to some others on my site. I checked his site closely after Haalo made a post about 4 or 5 other instances of his fraud/theft.

He stole my picture of the rum cake I made last year, from this post. And the funny thing? After I made a comment about the pic on Haalo’s entry, my pic disappeared off of his site (without even a “by your leave” or apology – it’s OK since I hate insincere apologies anyway, and since he’s a serial content thief). Too bad for him that I took a screen shot of the offending entry on his site before posting the comment:

While I would expect this kind of nonsense from your run of the mill Google Ad spammer, I hate to say that I expected more from someone who is supposedly a Kansas City institution, and who obviously has more training than I do. You have an entire restaurant and staff at your disposal, ingredients to make your own awesome dishes, and you resort to stealing a recipe for rum cake that uses a boxed cake mix? Really?

With so much to lose (a restaurant, work w/ the media (a radio show, regular media coverage), I wonder about his motivations – is ganking a bunch of pictures from food bloggers really worth if it costs you your reputation, that you’ve obviously put a lot of work into building? I guess the one thing Jasper doesn’t realize is that us bloggers communicate virally – and in an industry where your business is affected by public perception, do you really want to earn a reputation as a talentless hack who can’t generate their own content? I didn’t think so.

So, to be honest, I’m more confused than pissed. And just wanted to give a heads up to any of you other food bloggers to check his archives and see if any of your pics have been ganked as well. I never thought mine would be, let alone be among the most excellent (and professional looking) ones he took from others.

PS – I guess fraud runs in the family, according to this document. Judging by the date, I can see the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree (looks like it’s dad, not Jr.) and he comes by his dishonesty honestly.

PPS – He’s made his blog “invite only” now – guess he wanted to get that baby offline before more examples of his photo theft came to light. Too bad there are cached pages floating around the internet, huh?

Farm Fresh and Local Produce – 5/17/08

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

Well, today’s trip to the farmer’s markets was interesting, to say the least. We got another early start, and got to the North Market a little after 8am. We brought our beagle Sadie with us this morning, as she needs the exercise and we thought she’d enjoy it greatly. She sucked up to everyone who gave her a second glance. But then again, she’s a cuddle slut, so what should I have expected? I did run into Daniel (of Pure Imagination), who I haven’t seen for MONTHS, and we took a few minutes to catch up.

Wish Well Farms had morels again, probably the last week they will have them. I picked up about a half a pound, because I love them so and won’t be able to enjoy them again until next year ::sigh::.

051708morels

Sadly, my main mushroom source at Toby Run wasn’t there today, so no shiitakes for me (although I did eventually find some at the Worthington market). Freshwater Farms was there (yay!), but no picallilly sauce, so a trip to Urbana is still in order.

Little did we know that today was the Race for the Cure, and we got stuck in the perimeter with no way out until the racers were past. So we got this view for 20 minutes:

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Heartening to see so many people out there running/walking for themselves/loved ones/in general, but annoying from the point of view that the time I spent in the car was time I could have been using to get up to Worthington. I just wish they had left ONE road accessible in the downtown area.

But can I just take a moment to rant about Columbus drivers and what jerks some of them are? Originally, there was a guy in a Hummer in the lane to the right of us, and when he got to the road and saw he couldn’t get through, he got out of the car and started gesturing wildly at the cop who was standing there. So he gets back in his car, does a u-turn back on Spring Street (which for you non-Columbusites, is a one way street – he was going the wrong way), goes tear-ass speeding up the street, and then nearly hits someone who was driving the right way on the street. Nevermind that none of the roads out of downtown were open, and that we were situated at the intersection that would see the end of the procession first. And then there was the guy behind us, who started honking as if we had the option to go. And don’t even get me started on the passive aggressive jerkoff in Grove City, who cut us off mid-turn, so we honked at him. So here he is in front of us, and at the next red light, after it turns green he refuses to move. We decided not to play the game and tried to get in the other lane to get around him, and he starts backing up so we wouldn’t have room to change lanes. The light turns red again. Green light and he does the same thing. I’m telling you, it shows a lot of growth on my part, because 10 or 15 years ago when I was young and stupid, I would have let my inner trunk monkey out and opened up a can of whoop-ass on him. So yes, I did get the road-ragey adrenaline rush, but I didn’t act on it. ;)

But I digress. We made it to Worthington about 40 minutes later than we originally intended (due to being stuck downtown for 30 minutes extra), but still had no trouble finding parking or the items we were looking for. I think as far as marketing season goes, we’re still in the early stages and the crowds aren’t super-heavy yet.

I did see some rhubarb (which I need for an event this week), but had already picked up some local rhubarb at the Greener Grocer in the North Market as I didn’t know if there would be any at Worthington.

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New to me (and to the market too, I believe) is Betsy’s Brittle, who has delicious cashew brittle. I picked up a bag because if there’s something I can’t resist, it’s cashew brittle.

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I was hoping that Mockingbird Meadows would have some of that lovely lavender-infused honey that was so delicious on pears the other night, but was informed that it would be the beginning of July at the earliest. I’m really looking forward to it. :) Here’s a picture of their lemon-balm infused honey.

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And most of what else was to be found was herbs. I just planted one hell of a herb garden, though, so I didn’t need any.

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Well, so much to do today. Right now, Paul is putting together my raised beds for my garden (I’ve got my herbs planted, still have my peppers and tomatoes and annuals and veggies to go), we may grill out in a couple of hours if it doesn’t start raining, and tonight is the Apron Gala at the North Market. Anyone else going?? I donated a gift basket full of my favorite products from area vendors (and a couple of other surprises) for the silent auction, so keep an eye out for it and bid on it if it appeals to you. It all goes to a really good cause. :)

Vacation Roundup

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Amish, Life, New Jersey, Rant, Travel

As is obvious by now, we made it home on Monday, driving through 8 hours (the trip should have taken 6) of rain, sometimes torrential. My husband is not a good driver in bad weather, so I drove the bulk of the way home, and got in well after dark on Monday night.

But I just wanted to take a couple of minutes to mention a few other things about our trip that don’t warrant their own entry, but that are definitely worth remembering.

On Friday night, after our dinner at Good ‘n Plenty we stayed in a carriage house at The Osceola Mill House, which was very charming and quite rustic. Although a bit uncomfortable due to our size (the stairs were very steep, the bed was a full, etc), it had a lovely view, a nice little kitchen (I’d come here again if I were staying longer), the location was right near where we wanted to be, and the breakfast in the morning was awesome! (especially the Fruit Soup, which I plan to find a recipe for and make this weekend).

We spent early Saturday making our rounds in the Intercourse area, stopping here and there – Paul got some delicious homemade root beer and fudge from an Amish roadside stand, and in addition to our trips to Stoltzfus Meats and Kitchen Kettle Village, we also stopped at the Intercourse Pretzel Factory where we got hard and soft brown buttered pretzels, and the Bird-in-Hand Farmer’s Market, which was so crowded that I only bought some apple cider and got myself a funnel cake. It kind of makes up for missing The Ohio State Fair this year, because I love fair food, and funnel cake is about as fair food as you can get.

Funnel Cake

We had planned to eat lunch in the area, but we were so full from the scrapple, egg and cheese wrap, breakfast at the bed and breakfast, and funnel cake that we decided to head right to New Jersey without stopping to another smorgasbord first.

The trip to New Jersey was pretty uneventful. The navigation system in my car took us on a route that avoided tolls that I was unfamiliar with, and we got stuck in some pretty gnarly traffic on the Surekill Expressway that we would have run into either way. We got into New Jersey around 2:30ish, still too early to check into our hotel. We were going to head over to Jim’s Lunch so Paul could try the burgers, but it completely slipped my mind that Jim’s closes for the summer, so our plans for beefy goodness were thwarted. We still had a bit of time to kill, so we stopped into Haar’s Natural Foods and Gourmet Imports on Delsea Drive, a little store that sells mostly health foods (including a huge selection of gluten free stuff, I was happy to see) but has this deli in the back that sells imported German meats. I used to go here all the time with Oma when I was really young, and the place hasn’t changed a bit in 30-odd years. Amazing. We made a mental note to make a stop here on Monday morning on our way out of town.

We finally checked in to the hotel, and then went out driving around for a while (I gave him a mini-tour of East Vineland), and ended up at Crown Market for cheesesteaks. I don’t know if it changed ownership since April (I honestly think it did, based on what they said and who was in there when I went in), but the cheesesteak was very underwhelming this time around (spices were way off, a lot less meat and everything else, the bread overwhelmed the meat and cheese, etc), plus they raised the prices. I don’t think we’ll be going there again.

Sunday morning was a bit rainy, and we were bored, so after a tasty breakfast at the Golden Palace Diner (whatever happened to all the diners? They’re hard to find these days), we decided to drive down to the shore. Paul couldn’t decide where he wanted to go (plus everywhere except the Wildwoods and Atlantic City require beach tags now, blech!), so we drove into Wildwood (on the way I passed a ton of roadside farmer’s markets, I really should have stopped at one!), and then made our way up the shore through Stone Harbor, Avalon, and Sea Isle City. We were going to stop at Mike’s for seafood, but I couldn’t find the free parking they advertised, and there wasn’t anywhere else to park either. So we got on the Garden State Parkway and the AC Expressway and made our way over to Crabby’s for lunch.

Let me just rant for a moment. I spent the first 23 years of my life in New Jersey, drove there for at least 6 years, and cannot for the life of me remember drivers being so friggin’ rude as they were this weekend. Aggressive, nasty, belligerent drivers that expect you to break traffic laws left and right for their convenience. Drivers that like to drive 5 feet off your bumper when you’re already 5-10 miles over the speed limit with out of state tags and have cars in the lane to the right of you so you can’t get over at the moment they crawl up on your rear. Cars who weave back and forth fruitlessly when traffic isn’t moving quickly expecting to make headway but instead just making asses of themselves and pissing off everyone in the process. Cars who don’t obey the “yield” signs and get pissed off when you do. Let’s just say my middle finger got a good workout this weekend. And I’m not usually one to shoot the bird. I’m glad to be back on Ohio roads, that’s for sure!

But I digress. We made it back to Vineland, and dinner that night was at Esposito’s Maplewood 3, which was my favorite stop last time around. The food was good, but not as good as it was in April for some reason. But every restaurant is entitled to an off night, and I’ve had more good experiences there than bad.

We got a really good night’s sleep, and on Monday morning, we ran our last few errands (mostly food to bring back to Ohio) – we got subs for later and Conte’s pasta at Giovanni’s Deli, a bunch of Puerto Rican food from Penalvert’s, checked out the new Polish American Deli on the Boulevard by Park Avenue (NJ locals, if you haven’t checked it out yet, please do – it’s worth a stop!) and got some sausage and pierogies to take home, stopped at Haar’s for German deli meats, stopped at the new Shop Rite for some Jersey tomatoes (the craving of which was the impetus for the trip in the first place). One of the places I really wanted to check out but wasn’t able to is The Sweet Life Bakery near Sixth and Landis. Unfortunately, they’re not due to open until Labor Day, so I’ll miss out on the goodies. But if you’re local to the area, make sure to drop in – I really respect what they’re doing to revitalize that area, and they could use all the support and business you can give them. :)

The rest of Monday was a blur of driving. I honestly can’t remember if we stopped to eat. I don’t think we did, actually. All I remember is rain, lightning, and more rain. But we’re home now, the air conditioning is fixed, and life is once again back to normal. And as much as I love travelling, there really is no place like home.

June 2007 Roundup

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Monthly Roundup, Rant

I’m really, really late getting June’s roundup out, because Bloglines had a major burp in July that ended up resetting pretty much everything, and with 1,800+ feeds, it meant I had to make my way through about 20,000 posts just trying to find the ones for June and July, and then I wasn’t able to sort them out until the end of July. Things are finally back to normal, though. :) Expect July’s roundup later today, once I’ve had time to format it. So let’s get going…

In savory recipes, I’ve bookmarked Dirty Risotto from Cooking in Kansas City, Orecchiette Fresche e Semplice from Is That My Bureka?, Fennel, Cherry Tomato Tartlets on Balsamic Crust from La Tartine Gourmand, Salmon with Brown Sugar Mustard Glaze from Cooking in Kansas City, My Creamy Spanish Risotto from Sweet Cherrie Pie, Maple Sausage and Waffle Breakfast Casserole from What Did You Eat?, Blue Smoke Deviled Eggs from Serious Eats, Balsamic Chicken from A Taste of Home, Deviled Eggs from Annie’s Eats, Cauliflower Cheese Pie with Potato Crust from The Barmy Baker, Sweet Lil’ Smokies from Carries Cooking Adventures, Aracini di Riso from All Things Dolce, Spaghetti with Sausage from Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once, Sweet and Tangy Balsamic Grilling Sauce from Cooking in Kansas City, Easy Salsa Dressing from A Veggie Venture, Spinach-Cheese Bake from Culinary in the Country, Huevos Rancheros with Salsa Verde from Food “Blogga”, Cherry Chicken from Food Mall, Salad with Cherries and Queso Fresco from Food On the Food, Garlic Israeli Couscous from Fueled by Popcorn, Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Linguine from The Humble Housewife, Kasha and Bowties from Is That My Bureka?, Mafalda with a Goat Cheese Baby Spinach Cream Sauce from Kirsten’s Home Cooking, Egg Flan with Purpole Potatoes and Green Vegetables from La Tartine Gourmande, Chorizo Frittata from Leite’s Culinaria, Healthy Oven Fried Sausage, Onions and Potatoes from Mixed Salad Annie, Creamy Farfalle with Smoked Salmon from Once Upon a Tart, Twice Baked Cauliflower and Gorgonzola Souffles from stonesoup, Blinis with Smoked Salmon from Sweet Sins, Melt in Your Mouth Beef Ragout from What’s For Lunch Honey?, Go-to Pasta with Onions from the way the cookie crumbles, Angel Hair Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes from What Did You Eat?, Egg Salad with Shallot and Fines Herbs and Ancho Chile, Pork, and Black Bean Chili with Poached Egg and Crumbled Roquefort from Well Fed, and Baked Eggs from Tastes Like Home.

In sweet recipes, these look excellent:Challah French Toast with Strawberries and Honeyed Yogurt by Chalk & Cheese, Chocolate Pecan Pie from Confabulation in the Kitchen, Small Batch Black Forest Cookies from Cookie Madness, Kettle Corn from Besides Pizza, Lemon Curd Cheesecake from Culinary Cowgirl, The Joy of Cooking’s Cherry Clafoutis from Dinner in the Yellow House, Molten Chocolate-Cherry Cakes from hogwash, Buttermilk Pound Cake with Fresh Strawberries and Whipped Cream from Home Cooking is What I Like, Green Tea Cheesecake White Chocolate Brownie from Nook & Pantry, Lemon Drizzle Cake from Once Upon a Tart, Strawberry Shortcake with Meyer Lemon Cream from Paper Palate, Espresso Brownie Mousse Cake from EAT DRINK LIVE, Chocolate Mint Bars from yumsugar, Boca Negra Birthday Cake from Alice Q. Foodie, Strawberry Tart from Cafe Fernando, German Chocolate Cake from a whisk and a spoon, Cappuccino Cheesecake from Annie’s Eats, Extra Thin, Extra Crisp Oatmeal Cookies from Confabulation in the Kitchen, Margarita Tart from Confections of a Foodie Bride, Apple Pudding Pie from The Cuis-Zine, Gateau Basque from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, Strawberry-Mascarpone Tart from EAT DRINK LIVE, Norwegian Apple Tart from Bunny Pie (via everybody likes sandwiches), Blueberry Hand Pie from Food Mall, Pains aux Raisins from Kitchen Wench, Chocolate Cherry Clafoutis from La Tartine Gourmande, Snack Size Apple Pies from The Laughing Gastronome, Cranberry Nut Bread and Gateau Surprise Chocolat Pistache from Milk and Cookies, Ricotta Tart with Vermicelli Pasta from Once Upon a Tart, Toll House Pie from Pie Day Friday, Summer Pudding with Rum Whipped Cream from pinknest, Chocolate Pear Cake from Egg and Soldier, Deadly Blondies and Beer and Apricot Clafoutis from Rosa’s Yummy Yums, Lemon Raspberry Bars from Something Sweet, Lemon and Cherry Posset from spittoonextra, Claudia Roden’s Apple Cake from Writing At the Kitchen Table, and Raspberry Creme Brulee from wannabeTVchef.blog.

In informative posts, learn how to sear scallops at Beyond Salmon, learn how to grow garlic at home and how to use a Japanese mandoline at A Veggie Venture, find out how to keep brown sugar soft at Baking Bites, read about six things to do with the exotic condiments in your cupboards by Kitchen Exhibitionist, and learn how to dry herbs with Wandering Chopsticks.

There’s been a back and forth exchange about food community and food snobbery, that I’ve been reading with great interest. And, as usual, I’ve got my own two cents to put into the discussion as well.

In her original post, Kate talked about Asheville, and its vibrant local food scene, and the lack of chain restaurants, mostly due to the hard work of its residents. She noted that a community gets the food culture it deserves.

While she makes some good points, I disagree somewhat with her initial premise. In the grand scheme of things, your normal citizen has absolutely no say about what restaurants are located in a particular neighborhood. In a small city such as the one I originally came from, which 10 years ago was almost completely local fare, the big chain restaurants mean tax ratables and growth to them. In this day and age, many residents of small to mid-sized cities expect big city culture and services for their tax dollars, and short of raising taxes all around, bringing commercial tax revenue in the form of a TGIF or Chili’s is common sense to city planners. Granted, this leads to a homogenous landscape across the country, but it is what it is. So with that in mind, I think the spread of big business is inevitable.

And don’t get me wrong – corporate chains have their place in food culture as well. I know I can go to my local TGIF’s and get edible food prepared consistently well and the same way every time. Although I love to support my local food culture, I don’t feel I’m “slummin’ it” if I go into Olive Garden rather than a locally run place. For a lot of people, Olive Garden is fancy enough, and local places are a scary unknown (and no, I’m not exaggerating – I actually know people who think Olive Garden is fine dining).

I think a happy compromise is for corporate chains and locally run gems to happily coexist in a diverse food culture. Here in Columbus we can get anything we want, literally. We have no shortage of either chains or local establishments. Given a choice, I go to the local place first. Does this mean that since I’m not going above and beyond to erradicate the chains, I deserve to spend the rest of my days choking down Applebees (which admittedly, I do loathe)? I’m not so sure about that. I hopefully do my small part by reviewing local places and talking about the great farmers markets and local ingredients and artisans we have here in town.

But I digress. In response to Kate’s original post, Laura accused her of food snobbery – that food is food, and it shouldn’t matter where it comes from. That we use our food and love for it to divide among class lines. That we’re somehow better than someone else because we support local establishments rather than the chains. And I have to admit, she also makes valid points. Food can divide people – case in point is my family, who thinks I am nuts for eating cheese that is not Munster, Cheddar, or American, or that I’ll spend extra money for grass-fed organic beef or local food or going to a nice restaurant. Although many people can try to argue otherwise, it does cost a pretty penny to eat organic/local/non-processed food. Why do you think there’s a high level of obesity among those in lower income brackets? When you’re eating heavily processed food because it’s all you can afford, a meal out, even at McDonalds, seems like haute cuisine. Why spend $10 on appetizer when you can get your entire meal at McDonalds for $3? And although I recognize the disparity about how I eat now vs. how I ate then, I don’t look down on people who do eat processed food/eat at chains regularly, although that’s not me anymore – it has its place, the hard reality is that these chains fit a niche, and they’re not going away any time soon. I’d be very interested to see the economic breakdown of Asheville’s residents. I’d be willing to put money on that the house values/average income is probably higher than the national average. For many, food isn’t about enjoyment and an experience to savor, its about not starving to death. I’ve been there, eating rice with pork and beans spooned over it just to survive. It tasted like ass, but it kept me from passing out from hunger.

So Kate responded with a essay on the economics of franchises, and about the importance of investing in your own community. While I do agree with her 100% on this, and it is important for me to do that, it *would* be snobby for me to impose my values regarding food on the other 1,000,000+ people who live in this metro area. I’m more than happy to inform and educate (via this blog and talking to other people), but I don’t feel that it has to be an either/or choice. Both can co-exist peacefully. Columbus, Ohio is proof of that.

More to come…

Daring Bakers Chocolate Crepe Cake Challenge

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Daring Bakers, Food Blogging Event, Rant, Recipes

sbdaringbaker

Bringing up the rear as always (I was supposed to post this yesterday, but procrastinator that I am, once again I’m a day late and a dollar short), just let me preface this rant by saying: I officially *hate* Martha Stewart.

Lucky enough to be accepted as one of the lovely and talented Daring Bakers, I was so ready to jump into this month’s challenge and totally rock the results. Nevermind that this would be the most complicated recipe I ever attempted in my life – I can do it!

Or not. Two piles of ruined crepes and a burnt Le Creuset saucepan later, let me just say – I’m not worthy! I will, at this point, readily admit that this recipe kicked my ass. I don’t know if it’s just that it’s a bad recipe, or a lack of skill on my part (most of the women had spectacular results after one or several tries), but I didn’t have the patience and/or funds to give this one another try. So no pics, no pretty yummy cake here at Columbus Foodie. Instead, check out the Daring Bakers links on the sidebar for some more spectacular results. And as gracious as the lot of them are, they’ve allowed me to give next month’s challenge a try. :)

For those of you brave enough to give this one a try, here’s the recipe, from the Martha Stewart website. Use it at your own risk, no refunds will be given if the recipe doesn’t work out for you (laughing):

Darkest Chocolate Crepe Cake

3/4 Cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus melted for pan
8 Ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/3 Cup sugar
1/2 Teaspoon salt
2 1/2 Cups whole milk, room temperature
6 large eggs, room temperature
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Directions :
Bring 1/4 cup water to a rolling boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, whisking to combine after each addition. Remove from heat; stir in chocolate until completely melted.

Set aside. Whisk together flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together milk, eggs, and vanilla in another medium bowl. Gradually add milk mixture to flour mixture, whisking until smooth. Add chocolate-butter mixture, whisking until smooth.

Pour through a fine sieve into an airtight container; discard lumps. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

Lightly coat an 8-inch crepe pan or nonstick skillet with melted butter. Heat over medium heat until just starting to smoke. Remove pan from heat; pour about 2 tablespoons batter into pan, swirling to cover bottom. Reduce heat to medium-low; return pan to heat. Cook, flipping once, until edges are golden and center is dry, about 30 seconds per side. Slide crepe onto a plate. Repeat process with remaining batter, coating pan with butter as needed. Crepes can be refrigerated, covered, up to 1 day.

Place a crepe on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Spread with about 3 tablespoons hazelnut filling. Top with another crepe. Continue layering with hazelnut filling and crepes, using about 32 crepes and ending with a crepe on top. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes. Spoon 1/2 cup glaze on top of the cake, spreading to edges. Spread remaining glaze around sides of cake, coating completely. Refrigerate until glaze is firm and set, about 20 minutes. Cake can be refrigerated up to 3 days. Garnish with toasted and candied hazelnuts.

Hazelnut Filling
Makes about 8 cups

2/3 Cup heavy cream
6 large egg whites
1 2/3 Cups sugar
1 3/4 Cups (3 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, softened
1 Teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 Cup hazelnut cream, (available from Whole Foods Market, www.wholefoods.com)
1 (tsp?) salt

Put cream into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Refrigerate 1 hour.

Whisk egg whites and sugar in the clean bowl of mixer set over a pan of simmering water until sugar has dissolved and mixture registers 160 degrees;, 2 to 3 minutes.

Attach bowl to mixer fitted with the clean whisk attachment; beat on high speed until slightly cooled and stiff (but not dry) peaks form, about 5 minutes. Fit mixer with paddle attachment. With mixer on medium-low speed, add butter, several pieces at a time, mixing well after each addition (meringue will deflate slightly as butter is added). Add vanilla, hazelnut cream, and salt; mix until mixture comes together, 3 to 5 minutes. Fold in whipped cream with a rubber spatula. Use immediately.

Chocolate Glaze
Serving: Makes about 2 cups

1 1/4 Cups heavy cream
1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
1 (tsp?) salt
10 Ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Bring cream, corn syrup, and salt to a boil in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium- medium-high heat. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; swirl pan to cover completely with cream. Let stand about 5 minutes. Stir until smooth. Let cool completely.

Candied Hazelnuts
Serving: Makes 9

9 hazelnuts, toasted and peeled
1 Cup sugar

Thread each hazelnut onto tip of a long wooden skewer; set aside. Place a cutting board along the edge of a countertop; set a baking sheet on floor next to edge.

Cook sugar and 1/4 cup water in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved. Continue to cook, without stirring, until syrup comes to a boil, washing down sides with a wet brush to prevent crystals from forming. Let boil until syrup turns light amber, about 5 minutes; remove from heat.

Let stand until slightly cooled, 8 to 10 minutes. Dip 1 skewered hazelnut into syrup, coating completely and letting excess syrup drip back into pan. When dripping syrup becomes a thin string, secure end of skewer under cutting board, letting caramel string drip over edge onto sheet. Repeat with remaining hazelnuts. Let stand until caramel has hardened, about 5 minutes. Break strings to about 4 inches. Carefully remove skewers.