Taste the Future – A Review

16 09 2009

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What a gorgeous night it was for socializing and sampling the finest in local fare! I think it’s safe to say that Taste the Future may be my favorite event of the year for many reasons – so many stories developed in just one night:

Support What Works. Taste the Future is part of Support What Works, Columbus State Community College’s first-ever comprehensive multi-million dollar fundraising effort aimed at expanding private funding and investments in the college. This effort will expand scholarship opportunities, make critical investments and upgrades to college programs, and increase educational opportunities for students of all ages. Learn more about the campaign here.

Zero Waste in 2009. Taste the Future planned tonight’s event around the goal of Zero Waste. All materials were either recyclable or compostable, down to the plates and cups used, which were made of either sugar can or corn-made plastic Eco Products.

The Big Idea. While most of us were content to socialize and nibble our way through the evening, my friend C had a goal: she set out to eat at all of the establishments represented tonight – all 50 of them. Way to have a goal!

Social Media Gets its Just Desserts.
For the first time ever, social media was invited to cover the event alongside traditional media outlets and Columbus State projected our tweets onto a screen for interested guests to monitor.

photo courtesy of @bayinghound

photo courtesy of @bayinghound

Look closely at the upper left-hand corner of the screen. See that? It’s my tweet to C as she hit the midway point of her quest.

Vino Veritas.
This year’s wine selection was developed by Columbus State alumnus Bill Wolf. Eagle Eye wines are fruit-forward, unique blends that are also affordable. I especially enjoyed Voluptuous, which is full, luxurious red, best enjoyed with beef and pork.

People-Watching.
Other than the food, this was the other highlight of the evening. Walking among the rich and the pretty were WBNS 10TV’s Anietra Hamper, ColumbusFoodie and her adorable hubby, and Columbus Alive’s Miss Bella.

And the food? Funny you should ask. While I just don’t have it in me to eat at 50 restaurants in one night, I did eat to the point of having to put on stretchy pants once I got home. Now that the food has settled a bit, I have comprised a list of my favorites from tonight, though truthfully, I can’t think of anything I tried tonight that I didn’t like.

The evening started with a curried lamb rib with peach-ginger chutney from Bistro 2110 at the Blackwell Hotel.

Curried lamb rib with peach-ginger chutney from Bistro 2110 at the Blackwell Hotel

Curried lamb rib with peach-ginger chutney from Bistro 2110 at the Blackwell Hotel

The tender and meaty rib combined with the sweet and spicy chutney to deliver an unexpected one-two punch. I’m so used to lamb being served with mint jelly that this dish made my taste buds sing with sheer happiness.

The rib was then followed by a buckeye cheesecake tartlet, which was a mouthful of joy.

Buckeye cheesecake tartlet from Bistro 2110 at the Blackwell Hotel

Buckeye cheesecake tartlet from Bistro 2110 at the Blackwell Hotel

I’m not normally a dessert person because I just can’t stand a whole lot of “sweet” at one time. This, on the other hand, was just sweet enough and as far from cloying as you can get.

Next was Bel Lago Waterfront Bistro’s wonderful Heirloom Tomato caprese salad.

Bel Lago Waterfront Bistro's Heirloom Tomato caprese salad

Bel Lago Waterfront Bistro's Heirloom Tomato caprese salad

What’s especially impressive about Bel Lago is that they have a kitchen garden, so all of the herbs and vegetables used in this salad were picked this afternoon from their rooftop garden. The flavors are rich, yet simple and are what a salad should taste like.

I had been eagerly anticipating G. Michael’s Bistro and Bar’s offering for weeks and their low country shrimp and grits with andouille sausage,country raised shrimp,tomatoes and scallions, served on creamy stone ground grits don’t disappoint at all.

G. Michael's Bistro and Bar's low country shrimp and grits with andouille sausage; country raised shrimp, tomatoes and scallions, served on creamy stone ground grits

G. Michael's Bistro and Bar's low country shrimp and grits with andouille sausage; country raised shrimp, tomatoes and scallions, served on creamy stone ground grits

This dish is rich and complex, despite its rustic origins.

I admit it – I was intrigued watching Catering By Design’s chef, Alonzo Horn, at work in his makeshift kitchen on the grounds of CSCC as he prepared his wild mushroom sautee and puff pastry, topped with creme fraiche and drizzled with truffle oil.

Catering by Design's wild mushroom sautee, puff pastry, and creme fraiche, drizzled with truffle oil

Catering by Design's wild mushroom sautee, puff pastry, and creme fraiche, drizzled with truffle oil

Seeing his intense expression, I knew that I was in for a treat that I would not be able to find elsewhere.

Courtyard at Willow Brook was a surprise for me – I knew that it’s a nursing home, but I had no idea that there is a restaurant on the grounds that is open to the public, or that they also cater events.

Pesto roasted vegetable bruschetta with balsamic reduction and smoked mozzerella from Courtyard Restaurant at Willow Brook

Pesto roasted vegetable bruschetta with balsamic reduction and smoked mozzerella from Courtyard Restaurant at Willow Brook

The next time I hold an event, I really need to call them and ask for the pesto roasted vegetable bruschetta with balsamic reduction and smoked mozzerella, which was a balance of delicate flavors that came together with an uncommon precision.

The next time Hubs decides to take me out for a date night, I’m going to insist on the Plaza Restaurant and Wine Bar at the Hyatt on Capitol Square so I can get the Lobster and Seafood Roll with Tarragon Aioli and Micro Celery. I have always loved lobster rolls, but this set a new standard. Rich, creamy, and satisfying with a hint of crunch.

Lobster and Seafood Roll with Tarragon Aioli and Micro Celery from the Plaza Restaurant and Wine Bar at the Hyatt on Capitol Square

Lobster and Seafood Roll with Tarragon Aioli and Micro Celery from the Plaza Restaurant and Wine Bar at the Hyatt on Capitol Square

My favorite dessert of the evening, also from the Plaza Restaurant and Wine Bar at the Hyatt on Capitol Square, was the Chocolate Pot du Creme Tart with Caramel and Espresso, which was both rich and gooey, but not overwhelming.

Chocolate Pot du Creme Tart with Caramel and Espresso from the Plaza Restaurant and Wine Bar at the Hyatt on Capitol Square

Chocolate Pot du Creme Tart with Caramel and Espresso from the Plaza Restaurant and Wine Bar at the Hyatt on Capitol Square

The liquid center of the tart reminded me of all of the things I love about chocolate lava cake, plus the crust was crispy like a cookie.

LA Catering’s team was a gregarious bunch, laughing and cracking jokes with the guests and genuinely enjoying themselves. Tonight’s offering was as lively as they were – grilled teriyaki chicken accompanied by a grilled vegetarian platter with fresh zucchini and yellow squash marinated in olive herbs, with roasted peppers.

One of the many friendly faces at LA Catering

One of the many friendly faces at LA Catering

Ready for something different, I checked out Barrio Restaurant’s chorizo bar, which offered something for every palate – whether you prefer sweet, spicy, or mild.

And then it occurred to me that, judging by tonight’s offering, I really need to find a job at Limited Brands. They served an Ohio grown apple flat bread with grapes, basil, Ohio blue cheese, and smoked chicken.

Limited Brands' Ohio grown apple flatbread with grapes, basil, Ohio blue cheese, and smoked chicken

Limited Brands' Ohio grown apple flat bread with grapes, basil, Ohio blue cheese, and smoked chicken

and accompanied it with Ohio sweet corn bread pudding with rosemary caramel sauce.

Limited Brands' Ohio sweet corn bread pudding with rosemary caramel sauce

Limited Brands' Ohio sweet corn bread pudding with rosemary caramel sauce

I’m not sure what is more impressive – the quality of the event, the amount of money raised for the college, or the fact that C actually did manage to eat her way through 50 restaurants in one night. Whatever it is, I still give the evening an A+.

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Where Were You on 9/11?

11 09 2009

Twin Towers

At the time, I was a reporter and I was on my way to work. I was listening to one of our sister stations in the car and heard ABC news and thought it was some kind of a weird bit that they were doing. Then, I actually processed what was happening and called my mom and told her to turn on the news, thinking it was just a freak accident. I raced to the station in time to stand in the newsroom and watch a plane hit the second tower. My heart sank and I felt ill.

Immediately, my reporter’s instincts kicked in – I grabbed a tape recorder and hit the streets of downtown Columbus, looking for someone, anyone who would talk to me about what had happened. All of the federal buildings were locked and people were so shocked that they couldn’t speak very well about what they had seen. I did manage to get an interview with a Mosque – within an hour of the second plane hitting the WTC, the Mosque had received several threatening calls. We were one of the few stations that wanted their side of it. When I got back to the station, the building was deserted: our GM had sent a memo telling people to leave work and be with their families.

That night, I went to the only place I could think of: a church. I watched a prayer service take place on the lawn and felt comforted by the members’ faith and grace. They talked openly about their observations – many hugged or held hands, while others cried and couldn’t speak. I spoke to the pastor at great length and, while he didn’t say much, he didn’t have to, either. He quietly said, “we’re Americans and we are Christians. We’ll get through this.”

America changed that day – for better or for worse. Thank a soldier for the sacrifices they make every day in the name of freedom and please keep the victims, first responders, families, and others in your thoughts and prayers today.





Next Stop on the Luxury Dining Tour

9 09 2009

Sushi Platter

If you’re a fan of upscale dining that features local specialties and the freshest possible seasonal ingredients, then M at Miranova is soon to become your new favorite restaurant. I was one of a privileged group that got to experience the new menu at M. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it, right?

The Columbus Twitterati enjoy the private dining room at M

The Columbus Twitterati enjoy the private dining room at M

The seating at M is truly unique. In addition to the elegant dining room, M also has two private dining options: an enclosed private dining room, which can seat up to 15, and the semi-private Barrel Room, which seats up to 8. M also boasts the most romantic table in the city: a circular booth that is surrounded by a canopy and has its own chandelier.

Kristen Luff

GM Kristen Leff explained what sets M apart from other restaurants in the city, such as world class service, fresh, regional ingredients, and a diverse array of appetizer, salad, and entree selections. The new menu is the work of Executive Chef (and Columbus State grad) Erin Chittum, who has infused the new menu with her personality and fresh tastes, as well as a variety of cooking styles and preparations.

After hearing all of that, we were ready to eat. First, we started with the Wasabi sushi ($10), which is hand-rolled tuna, salmon, avacado, cucumber, and wasabi peas.

Sushi

This was simply incredible – fresh and crunchy with just the right amout of heat.

Followed by Tuna Tartare ($13), which is Hawaiian Big Island tuna, topped with pickled cucmber, accompanied by yuzu vinaigrette, wasabi tobiko, white miso aioli, and garnished with a tempura shittake mushroom. As you can see, it was a big hit with the group.
Empty Platter

Next came the salad course.
Salad

The Green Salad ($8) is comprised of organic little gem lettuce, roquefort cheese, creamy bleu cheese dressing, and topped with candied pistachios.

The star of the new menu is the White Tuna entree ($27).

Tuna

This tuna fillet is dusted with porcini mushroom, and comes with spring peas and wild mushrooms, and is served atop a lobster emulsion. This dish is amazing and, quite possible, my favorite item – the flavors perfectly meld with each other and are bold, rich, and satisfying.

Then there is the ultimate indulgence…

Steak and Eggs

The Steak and Eggs ($34), is Fillet Mignon, served with goat cheese hasbrowns and a dippy egg, topped with caviar and bernaise sauce. Don’t know what a dippy egg is? That’s okay, I didn’t either. It’s a sunny-side-up quail egg, in this case. I could see ordering this dish for a special brunch when I have an occasion to celebrate. This dish is hearty and the beef is beyond top notch. It virtually melts in your mouth.

We also sampled some of M’s famous side dishes. The Tater Tots ($7) are vastly different from the bag of tots I have in my freezer – light and airy with a touch of lobster meat. Chophouse Corn ($7) is a must, especially if you’re a lover of firehouse foods. It’s fried in Neuski bacon and it’s amazing. Truffle Mac and Cheese ($8) is the ultimate comfort food – it’s rich and creamy, and lightly topped with truffle oil. Finally, we had the Lobster Mashed Potatoes, which defy description. You just have to experience them.

Menu Grade: A+

Upcoming Events
Happy Hour. Starting October 1st, M is offering $5 after 5, featuring selected wines by the glass and martinis for $5. Friday happy hours will also include half-priced sushi.

Wine Enthusiast Thursday. Wine lovers will be able to enjoy half off of all bottles of wine priced at $100 or less. M’s wine list is not to be missed – it’s an award-winning list that features selections from around the world.

Holiday Luncheons. M is not generally open for lunch, however the restaurant is available for holiday luncheons during the month of December. Make your reservations now.





Into the Sauce

6 09 2009

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I must be mentally preparing for fall’s arrival because I keep dreaming up the comfort foods I’d like to make – stews, breads, and luscious pasta dishes. I’m in the process of unearthing the recipes I’ve been meaning to try, like cheese tortellini with pumpkin sauce, gnocchi,  and buffalo chicken chili.

So far, I’ve never attempted to make marinara sauce – no reason really, other than pure laziness. My kitchen is overrun with tomatoes, so I decided that today was just as good of a day as any to give it a shot, and off to the computer I went in search of the perfect recipe.

After reading marinara sauce recipes until I basically went cross-eyed, it occurred to me that most of the recipes are pretty much the same, given a few variations on seasoning, so I went with the tried and true source – Food Network – and selected the recipe: Tyler Florence’s marinara sauce. The guy can’t be wrong – he’s a celebrity chef and restauranteur, so how bad could his recipe be? I’m happy to say that Tyler did not let me down, but I needed to tweak his recipe a bit – there weren’t enough flavors for me, so I had to embellish the seasonings in order to get t just right, but the end result was much better that I had originally anticipated.

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon oregano, dried
1 teaspoons basil, dried
1 whole bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Salt  and pepper, to taste

Directions
Over medium heat, heat oil in a large pot until hot. Add onion and garlic, saute for 3 to 5 minutes until the onions begin to appear translucent. Add the tomatoes, stir to mingle the flavors. Add in the herbs and bay leaf. Sprinkle in sugar, salt and pepper. Lower the heat and continue to simmer for 30 minutes, uncovered. Stir occasionally.

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I’m very happy to say that everyone loved the sauce, even Hubs, who I was sure would make some comment about the seasonings being off. The Big Kid was completely stuffed and, for once, couldn’t eat another bite, which is really saying something.

iamblissfullydomestic3

On a completely different note, I have been writing for Blissfully Domestic for the past couple of years, mostly for the Blissful Home channel. This weekend, the site is going through a relaunch, so please be sure to check it out. Married, single, neat freaks, Jesus freaks, not mothers, want-to-be-mothers, and don’t-want-to-be-mothers, we are all blissfully domestic.





The Future is Very Tasty, Indeed

3 09 2009

Scallops1

This week, I had the honor of attending the media preview party for Taste the Future, which is a fundraiser for Columbus State Community College students. The event is a culinary showcase, featuring gourmet masterpieces from more than 50 of central Ohio’s best establishments. This year’s event will be held on Tuesday, September 15th from 5:30 – 9:00PM at the Columbus State main campus. Click here to order your tickets and here to preview the menu.

So, back to the party…we were hosted by Elevator in beautiful downtown Columbus. Natives will remember that Elevator was once known as the Clock, hence the ginormous clock in front of the building. Also, pay special attention to the ornate glasswork throughout the building – it’s absolutely stunning!

Kudos to the Elevator crew – they laid out an amazing spread for us, starting with the hummus.

Hummus

Ordinarily, I’m not a hummus fan. It’s usually too mushy, too bland, or too lemony for my taste, but this was amazing. It had a wonderful, peppery bite and served with teeny little pita points. We were also treated to glorious fruit and cheese and cracker plates.

But the stars of the show were the crab cake stuffed scallops, which are a signature dish at Elevator and definitely on the Taste the Future menu.

Scallops2

The scallops are stuffed with a mixture of two types of crab meat, sirimi, mayonnaise, and bread crumbs. The scallops are then stuffed, seared until caramelized, and then baked. Finally, serve with dijon beurre blanc and top with microgreens and cherry tomatoes.

Elevator chef Nate Crockett attempted to demonstrate how to make the scallops, but Mother Nature (ie: the wind) had other plans, which required the use of a “stunt scallop.” However, Nate assured us that they’re so easy to make, there’s no reason why you couldn’t pull it off at home. Why, oh why, did I marry a seafood hater?

Seafood hater or not, click here to order your tickets and here to preview the menu. Watch this space for coverage of this year’s event. I will also be live tweeting the event and will post many more photos on my facebook page.