Let the Games Begin

10 05 2010
One of the things I love about this time of year is the number of food-oriented festivals that pop up. Let’s be honest – any event with a name that begins with “Taste of” is a good thing in my book.



Taste of Powell was a fine way to kick off this glorious time of year. Held at the always-spectacular Columbus Zoo, 16 local establishments offered samples of their favorite entrees. Upon arrival, I greeted by this guy.







Now, onto the food. A few of my favorites…

Liberty Tavern offered pulled pork sliders house smoked pork smothered with a sweet Carolina BBQ sauce, topped with bacon and cheddar.

Liberty also brought out one of their signature dishes – Kahlue Shrimp, which are jumbo shrimp, sautéed in a sweet and spicy Kahlua butter sauce, and served with creamy risotto.





Flyers Pizza had a fantastic barbecued chicken pizza. This monster consisted of marinated chicken, red onion,3-cheese blend (provolone, cheddar, and pepper jack), cilantro, and was topped with my all-time favorite BBQ sauce – Sweet Baby Ray’s.



Another new favorite in the pizza category was Jet’s Pizza, which had an incredible deep dish pizza. Really, deep dish is my least favorite style of pizza, but I loved this whopper of a pizza with its butter crust.





Kogen’s had a shrimp salad sushi roll, which was incredible – Crisp and fresh, I’m definitely  going back the next time I’m in the mood for sushi. Just two complaints – one being pouring soy sauce onto a paper plate, which tends to absorb everything, and the other being trying to eat sushi standing up when I’d much rather have time to enjoy, rather than sucking it down and moving onto the next item. Sigh…








Gooseneck Tavern (sorry, no website) had what I considered to be the most original offering of the night. Greek Nachos, as you can see, have the typical components of a Gyro – lamb, feta, tomato, scallions, red onion, and cucumber sauce – but served on pita wedges, rather than in the usual pita pocket. Definitely a cool twist on what we usually see at these events.





Finally, if I had to pick a favorite restaurant from Taste of Powell, it would be Lost Shepherd Tavern. They had an absolutely gorgeous Tomato-Tamato salad, which is their spin on the classic Caprese salad. It consists of balsamic-glazed romaine chiffonade, fresh mozzerella cheese, french bread crostini, basil pesto drizzle, and a vbariety of fresh tomatoes. This is one of my favorite salads, but it can be awfully predictable, so I appreciated Lost Shepherd’s variation. What I want to know is where they got their produce – I can only find sad, pale tomatoes, and these were gorgeous, so wherever they go, I want to go there, as well.

Lost Shepherd also offered their Carolina Crab Dip, which is a rich and creamy Carolina Crab and Artichoke Dip, served with warm flatbread. Seriously, I could have eaten a bucket of this.



Note: In the interest of total disclosure, I attended Taste of Powell for free as a member of Tastecasting. We are not professional food critics (thought I’m certainly opinionated when it comes to food), nor are we paid. We are invited to attend these events in order to raise awareness of the establishments involved.





The Best of Taste of Grandview Heights

4 10 2009

Segway

Rule number one for anyone going to a festival that is focused on food is to come hungry, but not ravenous, and to pace yourself. As much as I love events like Taste of Grandview Heights, this year’s event was tough for me – all of the vendors served their normal portion sizes, rather than the usual 2-3 bite sample size, so I didn’t get to try as many items as I would have liked, but I did manage a respectable showing.

Grilled Artichoke

First off, the grilled artichoke at Third & Hollywood. I love artichokes – really, they’re one of nature’s most perfect foods, especially when they’re seasoned with sea salt and cracked pepper, grilled and topped with an herb and  mayo-based sauce.

Biscuit Sandwich

Next up was this terrific sandwich, also from Third & Hollywood, combining their cheddar herb biscuit with Tennessee smoked ham, endive, and what I believe to be a pimento cheese-based spread. If the reviews of this place are accurate, I’m going back soon, high prices be damned.

Pumpkin Bisque

Gordon’s Gourmet offered up an interesting twist on pumpkin bisque. Ordinarily, pumpkin bisque is heavy, creamy, and filling, so imagine my surprise that Gordon’s did something completely different with it – they started with a chicken broth base and added pumpkin puree, then topped with chantilly cream, which I believe may have been mixed with pumpkin pie spice). It was a little on the salty side, but definitely a pleasant surprise.

Fish and Chips

The Old Bag of Nails brought out their staples – french fried chips, fried pickles, potato pancakes, carrot cake, and their signature fish and chips. At this point, I completely ran out of steam, but I did manage to talk some poor lady into letting me photograph her lunch (I’m oddly persuasive like that!). I can tell you from personal experience that the Old Bag, as I like to say, probably has the best fish and chips in the city.

Fries

Five Guys is a relative newcomer to Columbus, but I’ve been reading about them for a while on various foodie websites – apparently, celebrity chefs love this place and swear by their bacon cheeseburger. Obviously, I didn’t have room for a burger, but I did manage to choke down some of their crispy french fries. Can’t wait to go back and investigate further!

Seriously Big Chocolate Cake

Of course, I had to round out the day with a visit to Cap City Diner’s tent for a slab of their Seriously Big Chocolate Cake to go – all three layers of it. Hubs and I just polished it off and are in total chocolate bliss.

So, what’s the deal with you Segway, you ask? They offered free rides at Taste of Grandview, which is great, but, as usual, my choice of inappropriate footwear impeded my performance. Mind you that I was wearing platform sandals, which put me at an angle anyway (and basically on my toes), plus I have balance issues anyway, so put me on a Segway and I’m completely out of my element. However, the Segway tour guy took pity on me and considered me to be a special case, so he wouldn’t let me off the thing until I had it mastered. It took a while, but at least the other people in line were amused at watching the dork on a Segway.

Repeat after me…the diet starts tomorrow!





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+.





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.





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.





Goodbye, Old Friend

12 08 2009

menu

Just yesterday, I finally got around to posting my TasteCasting review of Morton’s bar bites. That will teach me to be a lazy-ass. 614 Magazine broke the news today on twitter that Morton’s has shuttered their downtown Columbus location, which strikes me as odd – I was just there and business seemed to be thriving. I don’t think the employees had much notice, either – our host for the evening mentioned that they were about to open a patio, she also mentioned a scotch tasting they were holding next month, plus they had just debuted bar bites. I have fond memories of the place and spent many happy hours in their dining room with former colleagues and clients, so it makes me sad to see Morton’s close, despite the fact that I couldn’t have ever afforded to dine there as a paying customer. Le sigh!

Meanwhile, bunnies have ravaged my beloved garden and turned it into their personal salad bar. Needless to say, I can’t pass by the Big Kid’s room without flipping off her rabbits. Childish, I know!

On the career front, things are looking up. I have a new client, as well as a meeting (purpose TBD) Monday, so I’m hoping that a job will be forthcoming. Unemployment is such a buzzkill.





This Little Piggy Went to Hoggy’s…

24 06 2009

This week, I had the pleasure of being invited to sample the menu at Hoggy’s in Grandview. Rough life, I know! The restaurant has a motto – no one leaves hungry – and they weren’t kidding!

What followed can best be described as a food orgy – we sampled appetizers, salads, entrees, sides, and desserts. Between all of the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes, I was in total sensory overload – in a good way.

Here is a list of what we tried:
Appetizers
Tower Sampler – loaded nachos, hand-dipped onion rings, and smoked wings (we had Original BBQ and Daddy’s Cajun Rub)

Salads
Creamy Chicken
Blue Cheese Apple
Mediterranean Chicken

Entrees
Smoked Pulled Pork
Smoked Pulled Chicken
Smoked Texas Style Brisket
Smoked Baby Back Ribs
Jamaican Salmon

Sides
Grilled Corn on the Cob
Seasoned Fries
Mac-n-Cheese
Chili Mac
Sweet 3-Bean Baked Beans
Creamy Slaw
1/2 Jumbo Baked Potato
“Skin On” Mashed Taters
Whipped Sweet Potatoes
Tomato and Cucumber Salad
Grilled Asparagus
Fancy Green Beans

Desserts
Triple Layer Double Chocolate Cake
Ho Ho Cake
Triple Layer Apple Cake

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A few things to know about Hoggy’s

  • Be prepared to eat. A lot. The portions are more than generous, as well as reasonably priced.
  • Be prepared to have fun. At each of the locations (6 in Ohio and 1 in Kentucky), you’ll find a different fun atmosphere. I’m a huge fan of patio seating and Hoggy’s does not disappoint, particularly since their patios boast some element of fire, whether it is a fire pit or an outdoor fireplace. You want events? Many of the locations have live entertainment of some kind and there is always a game of some kind going on in the dining room.
  • Hoggy’s is the home of world-class service. Servers go through a rigorous training program and they are constantly being evaluated, so you will always get top-notch service.
  • You want specials? Hoggy’s has got ’em. On Mondays, it’s all-you-can-eat wings for $7.99. Tuesday nights, pick an appetizer, entree, and dessert from a special menu for just $12.99. On Wednesdays, kids eat for free when their parent buys an entree at the regular price. On Thursdays, take the Hoggy’s challenge for just $19.99 (if you can polish off a half slab of ribs, half chicken, 7 inch pulled pork sandwich, side, and cornbread, Hoggy’s will give you a free t-shirt). On Fridays, sidle up to a half slab of baby back ribs for only $10.99
  • In need of a Happy Hour? Hoggy’s happy hour runs from 4-7 on weekdays and ends at 4pm on the weekend.
  • You have an event coming up? Hoggy’s catering has no concept of the word “no.” Seriously.

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Grade: A+

Now, pardon me while I sleep off this food coma. I’ll need the rest – I’m going to have to hit the treadmill tomorrow to work off all of this yummy food!

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