Monday, 5 November 2012

An Extended Weekend Away from the Office: Cooking in Farmington Hills and Eating in Columbus

Fresh from a practicum focusing on emulsions, the next 48 hours or so yielded two foodie experiences I wanted to capture in blog form. First, I surprised my parents with a visit to Michigan on Saturday for a banquet held at my sister's university. Before heading back to Granville, I made a stop in Farmington Hills to cook with fellow foodie and former roommate Tony. [On the menu: baked pork chop with apple compote and baked mashed potatoes, and poached pears with red wine reduction and chocolat Chantilly.] Second, following a presentation earlier today with Marilyn at the Region VI NAFSA conference and a visit to OSU's anthropology department (to talk about food studies, naturally) in Columbus, Marilyn and I joined others at Latitude 41, located in the Renaissance Columbus Downtown Hotel.

To kick of Sunday's cooking adventure, I sliced the bottom of three pears so they could stand on their own in a small sauce pot. Into the pot went 3/4 of a bottle of red wine and a sprinkling of cinnamon over each pear. Medium heat was set onto the pot which was then covered and left alone while we continued cooking. Into a second pot went four red skin potatoes along with enough water to cover them. With a dash of salt, this pot was also covered and left to cook. Concurrently, Tony got to work on lightly flouring his pork chops and then getting them onto a pan to lightly brown in oil and butter.

With the oven preheating to 400°F, a knife was eventually able to pierce the potatoes, indicating they were ready to be mashed. And mashed they were, to which a generous pinch each of ground black pepper and garlic salt, 2 tbsp of butter and (inspired by the Pioneer Woman) 2 tbsp of sour cream were also added in. Transferred to a plastic storage bag and one of the tips cut off, I piped the mashed potatoes onto a pre-buttered baking sheet and got these into the oven to join Tony's pork chops for about 20 minutes (if the potatoes haven't browned by then, go ahead and turn on the broiler and keep an eye on them until they look golden brown). Meanwhile, Tony had been dicing and sautéeing apples and onions for his apple compote.

As everything was poaching, baking or caramelising, I took a cue from the emulsion practicum and whipped up some chocolat Chantilly which would later be quenelled and served with the pears.

Eventually, the different components finished cooking (note: the heat on the pears was reduced to low after they started boiling), and so we got to the best part of it all: the eating. Perfectly cooked, the sweetness of the compote added to the overall flavour, moisture and texture of the pork chop. Paired with the remaining wine from that which was used for poaching the pairs, as well as the slight crispness of the baked potatoes which gives way to the smooth interior, this dish felt and tasted like a complete, homey meal.

To finish off the dessert, each pear was carefully transported from pot to plate (they are rather soft, so be careful not to smash them in this transfer) and  paired with a quenelle of mousse. The heat was then turned up on the pot with the wine in which the pears had been poached, and then left alone so that the wine itself could reduce by at least 50% (I went as far as leaving only about 1/4 c left; this should easily coat the back of a spoon). This wine reduction poured over each pear tied up the dish and capped off the dinner. For additional photos from this meal, click here.

Latitude 41 on Urbanspoon

Fast forward about 24 hours, and as noted above, Marilyn and I had finished presenting at the Region VI NAFSA conference, I had visited OSU and the conference itself had wrapped up for the day. Before heading back to Granville, we set our sights on Latitude 41 and en route caught up with a few new colleagues from the conference who were also heading to the Renaissance. As it turned out, there was a gathering in the works hosted by CISabroad University Relations Coordinator Nick V and his team. They had arranged for conference goers to enjoy a pair of drinks (can you guess what mine were?: 1, 2) and an array of appetizers, alongside learning more about the work they do in helping faculty members design off-campus field study programs. More information on the programs and services they offer may be found on their website, here. In addition to the great energy and ambiance from the congeniality of the conference participants, Latitude 41 is set up in such a way that it felt one could be transported to another major city. Yet at the same time, there was something in the air that made you feel completely at ease and comfortable with "being" in Columbus. Perhaps another way to convey this is to say that it felt like a perfect after-hours locale with an uptown, almost jazzy vibe in a downtown metropolis. Cue then the red and dimmer hues as the daylight subsided and the food arrived.

First up from the menu was Latitude 41's Wedge & Wings, noted as "crispy confit chicken wings, iceberg, blue cheese aioli". What's really missing from the description (unless what was served was something completely different) was the crisped, thick slab pork (bacon, I'm fairly certain). I'll take a side of that with any meal. As for the chicken, it had a great spice to it that paired with the requisite cooler temperature of the wedge salad. Followed close at hand were the paper thin Sea Salt Chips, "house-made potato chips, blue jacket dairy feta dip".

Next up were fabulous Hand Cut Fries, seasoned with truffle and parmesan and served with spicy ketchup and malt vinegar aioli (which I initially thought was a homemade mayonnaise).

But the best was clearly saved for last: the Goat Cheese and Fig artisan flatbread, which contained prosciutto, caramelized onions, arugula and preserved lemon. Cut into small serving squares, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect; the melding of flavours was perfect and epitomised the notion of packing each bite with a punch. As is the case with the other items served at this gathering, the flatbread and the rest of the menu appear to be very reasonably price (especially given the ingredients and quality). And so, if you're looking for a sophisticated site for a casual nosh, I encourage you to check out Latitude 41 the next time you're in downtown Columbus. Thanks again, CISabroad for a great experience! For a few more photos from this evening, including the vehicles camping out for election night, click here.

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