Wednesday, 11 June 2014

EatWith, Round 2: Parisian Bistro-Style Food Fare

Two Saturdays ago, Brianne and I joined host, home cook, and food enthusiast Tess Geer at her French-style country home in Westerville for another delicious EatWith dinner. Following our previous (and first) experience the week before, the bar for me was set rather high. Tess, as expected, did not disappoint, offering us and her other Westerville-area guests a menu brimming with bistro food fare appropriate for any time of the year. On the evening's menu: olive selection and roasted almonds; goat cheese, leek and mushroom tart; roasted lemon chicken with potatoes and carrots; romaine salad with lemon dressing; cheese selection; madeleines and mocha pots de crème.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Cooking in Columbus: Apple-Stuffed Pork Loin et al.

Hello, Food Fans! It's been a while for many things, as they relate to this blog, chief among them being a meal post. Last night, Brianne and I ventured to a local Meijer and amidst a growing sense of hunger bought a slew of ingredients which will eventually find a place here. For dinner, and in under an hour and a half, we pulled together a meal which stuffed ourselves with ingredients costing in total no more than $15. On the menu: apple-stuffed pork loin with toasted white rice, seasoned kale with bacon, and angel food cake with strawberry-rhubarb compote.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

In Pursuit of a Provençal Summer... in Ohio

Tess finishes off a large pan of haricots verts with freshly ground black pepper and a blend of rosemary, lemon, and garlic salt
Over the course of two Slow Food Columbus encounters, I have since felt privileged to have met Tess Geer, owner of Gourmet Salt Blends, and--most recently--Ohio's first EatWith host. The EatWith concept is fairly straightforward: folks passionate about food, cooking, and hosting, invite diners from around the world to eat with them. But it's not just anyone who gets to be certified and insured by those running EatWith. After proposing a unique offering as part of their application, potential hosts undergo a series of paperwork, interviews, and trainings. Tess has made it through the process and as my luck would have it, her angle is à la française. A frequent traveler to France (she has a home just outside of Paris) and connoisseur of regional traditions and tastes, Tess invites her guests to dine at her beautiful French-inspired country home. The emphasis, it should be noted, is that she does not only cook for others, but more importantly she eats with them. The result is an unforgettable experience, and one which I learned first hand a few days ago leaves you with a feeling that you just dined at a longtime family friend's home. Indeed, you might very well walk away from an EatWith meal by Tess with a sense that this was an everyday affair and not an EatWith event. In this post, I'd like to highlight the test meal that Tess concocted, an EatWith offering aimed at transporting guests to a summer in Provence.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Restaurant Review: Scrambler Marie's

Scrambler Marie's on Urbanspoon

Somehow more than a month has past since my last blog post, and wow have the past weeks been flown by with foodie flare! Before I catch you up on my latest adventures--more recently those from Texas--I wanted to post a review of a brunch place in the Polaris area of Columbus. For those of you who may not have known, earlier this year Learning through Food was featured (along with local bloggers The Breakfast Grub Guy and Leptologists at Lunch) in the January 2014 issue of CityScene Magazine. Shortly thereafter, I was contacted by Amy Burns, who teaches (and has since revamped) Family and Consumer Sciences at Centerburg High School. I presented to her Foods for Life classes, as well as students studying agriculture sciences. Throughout the semester, Amy's Foods for Life students have been blogging about food (coincidentally, and not at all surprisingly, on-line blogging and food critique were the foci of my presentations); now that their semester is coming to a close, they had one blogging assignment left: to take all they learned and put it into practice into an in-depth restaurant review. Grateful for the opportunity to join them, I gladly accepted Amy's invitation and alongside her seniors and Steve (a guidance counselor at the high school), I embarked on a journey to Scrambler Marie's.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Happy First Birthday, Alfie's!

Alfie's on Urbanspoon

Evening greetings, foodies and food-consumers alike! Despite the handful of other restaurant experiences I know I need to write about, I feel compelled to jump ahead and share with you my experience this evening back in Granville, as this is obviously freshest on my mind. Tonight's attention is being duly paid to Alfie's Wholesome Food, which held its first birthday party today. Perhaps you may remember my blog post of Alfie's opening day last year? Regardless if you ever read it, I expressed my hope then that Alfie's would be well established in Granville. By the looks of the crowd that descended upon East Broadway and behind the Robbins Hunter Museum, this locavore restaurant certainly has. In addition to the opening of neighbouring Wisp Knitting Shop, there was certainly much for Chef/Owner Sam Dodge and his team, as well as Granvillians and visitors, to celebrate.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Quick Notes from the Short North: Arch City and Mac's

In my world of food, the opportunity to try out new recipes and restaurants is quite plentiful. And for those who know me well (as a food blogger, at least) know that I aim to use my blog (and how up-to-date I am with it) as a metric when it comes to accepting such opportunities for learning through food. Well, with the semester quickly winding down, I haven't done the best job keeping up with this thing and I certainly haven't stopped cooking and eating, as has hopefully been evident in my recent swing of catch-up posts. (If it's not evident yet, it should be in the next few days.) This being said, I wanted to make sure I include here my restaurant experiences at Arch City Tavern and Mac's Café.

Epic Food Day #2: Cleveland

Last month, Brianne and I went on an epic food day journey to Pittsburgh. Just a few weeks later, we ventured about two and a half hours northeast to Cleveland, the county seat of Cuyahoga County (the most populous county in Ohio), to get a sampling of its culinary offerings. In addition to checking out the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and Cleveland Museum of Art, a fair amount of equal time was spent at Cleveland's oldest publicly owned market--West Side Market--and Cleveland Chop, both of which are reviewed in this post.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Another Ambitious Menu: Cooking Lamb for 40+

Greetings, "Learning through Food" readers! I feel an apology is in order (if not for you, at least for me), regarding my recent pause on keeping up with this blog. The semester is quickly winding down here on campus, meaning my available free time to write is becoming much more limited by the day. This said, it's events such as the one I'm about to share with you that help me get centered, to take a break from the academics and take on an intellectual experience of a different sort. The challenge--had I chosen to accept it--was not to recreate as close as possible the first initiatory banquet menu (1906) of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. (1,2). Rather, it was to do so with a low-cost budget for an unspecified number of guests (though we were aiming for somewhere in the 40-person range), bearing in mind lack of on-site kitchen facilities and the main protein being lamb. Thankfully, I received the call about two weeks in advance and the dinner itself would take place during spring break. And so, challenge accepted. On the menu of which I was responsible: 1st course: selected cheese and crackers; 2nd course: creamy tomato soup, with salted wafers; 3rd course: shrimp salad on endive lettuce and broiled lamb chops, with wild apple jelly, green peas, mashed potatoes and dinner rolls; 4th course: chocolate cake with dark chocolate ganache; and 5th course: Neapolitan ice cream with lady fingers.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Epic Food Day #2: Pittsburgh (part 2)

Last month, one of my foodie friends and food anthropology colleagues, Lisa, informed me of an event that I just could not see myself passing up. For this March 1st event (opened to the public, though in large part a gathering of chefs and folks linked in some way to the food service sector), the Pittsburgh chapter of the American Culinary Federation would be holding its annual award dinner at the prestiguous (and exclusive) Duquesne Club, from which many chefs have excelled in their craft [e.g., 1 and 2]. The menu (upon which at first glance I'm sure I started to drool over) looked incredibly impressive, and Lisa assured me it would be absolutely amazing. With the reservations made shortly thereafter, and following a fun-filled foodie first part of the day with Brianne, here's my recap of what I can safely say is my second favourite meal ever (following this one, of course).

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Epic Food Day #1: Pittsburgh (part 1)

By the end of our visit to the Strip District, John was just as cheerful as when we first met him earlier that day.
Have you ever been witness to a day when you knew it was going to be wonderfully amazing, enjoyable, and beyond any sensible reconstruction of words that just wouldn't seem to do justice to your experiences? Perhaps the term you might anticipate using at some point is "epic." I suppose from my lens epic-ness is an all-too-familiar concept applicable in my world of food, but without a doubt my trip with Brianne last weekend was nothing less than that. For reasons that will be much clearer in part 2 of this epic food day post, Brianne and I made our way over to Pittsburgh (hopefully the first of many more sites in the future), a drive that only took us about three hours to complete. She had never been, and I had visited just once prior (somehow over three years ago); still there was an interesting familiarity in the air, as if nothing has since changed. As we eventually learned from John (pictured above, making sure to have worn his "funny hat" [his words, not mine]) at the end of our trip throughout the Strip District, the main focus of this post, quite a bit has changed in terms of developing this part of the city. What has remained consistent in the past 35 years or so is the downtown foodie destination that is "The Strip," a historic conglomeration of retail produce and ethnic food stores, restaurants and coffee shops. Without a doubt, our time ahead was not to be merely epic, which in itself crams too many words and emotions into four little letters. To quote John, who has worked at the Pittsburgh Public Parking site (21st and Smallman St) for the past 35 years or so, the first half of our day in Pittsburgh was everything he'd hoped it would be for us, summarised in five (okay, technically six) letters: "a blast!"

Friday, 28 February 2014

Restaurant Review: Flip Side (Easton location)

Flip Side on Urbanspoon

It's been nearly a year since the doors of Ohio-based Flip Side opened in Columbus. And as it turns out, quite a bit has happened since then. The second of three locations (the third being in Chagrin Falls which opened earlier this season), Flip Side was originally established in Hudson, OH, in 2011, along with neighbouring One Red Door. And come summertime, a location in Cleveland's Flats will complete the currently planned chain of gourmet burger sites. All of these spots are co-owned by central Ohio-raised Michael Schwartz, and long-time Hudson area restauranteurs Chef Shawn and Tiffany Monday, Flip Side of which hopes "to stand out from its 'better burger' competitors by having a 'chef-driven menu but with a middle-market price.'" Well, after watching Pompeii this past Sunday and failing to check out Flip Side despite the number of times I've been at Easton Town Center, I went with Brianne to finally get a taste of their culinary offerings. The final verdict, for those who want to bypass the description and just check out the photos: in this blogger's humble opinion, Flip Side is an area transplant worthy of being considered an accessible mecca for both foodies and non-foodies alike.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Bringing Change to a Familiar Space: The Edit Room

Last week, I attended my first OEFFA conference, held annually at Granville High School and now in its 35th iteration. I went as an exhibitor, sitting at the Slow Food Columbus table and chatting with folks not only about the Slow Food movement and the work we're doing locally, but also about Columbus's diverse, growing food scene. In retrospect, it's the confluence of these types of lived experiences and dedication to the local, regional, and national food scenes that makes being a part of (and researching) Columbus so much fun. It's not all that often I get to catch up with Denison and Granville folks, let alone meet owners and producers of companies that I've known by association (e.g., Shagbark and Kombu-tea), as well as Facebook and blog followers I never knew I had (e.g., Local Food Coordinator Jeff Givens of Sanfillipo Produce). Among those I saw at the conference were Erin Harvey of The Kale Yard and The Going Green Store (who co-presented at one our Food and Culture Colloquium events) and Bryn Bird of Bird's Havens Farms, both of whom invited me to a "Cocktails and Community" happy hour hosted by the Licking County Local Foods Council. (As some context, I had been a part of the early stages of their work during my last year at Denison.) The site of the happy hour, and the principal focus of this post, was in a place which houses a catering business known as The Edit Room.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Dedicated to "Magic Bread"

Da Levee on Urbanspoon

Five words, punctuated with purpose: Magic. Bread. Oh.My.Yum. For those of you who either know me or my food blogging rather well know that the sound of hearing (let alone seeing) the illustrious Magic Bread prepared by Chef Justin Boehme and DaCroux of one of my most blogged about restaurants, Da Levee, makes my mouth water. Hands down, it is the reason (alongside the amazing atmosphere, friendly staff, and of course deliciously well-priced and consistently tasty Cajun food outside of Louisana) I continue to return to this small Short North restaurant packed with flavour, which has more recently been subtitled by "Roux Stews Brews." My self-professed (and perhaps overtly evident) love for Magic Bread (pfft, or all bread for that matter) is the impetus for this post, a post which I have been planning to write for the past many months. Indeed, my initial draft of what should have been this post--my dedication to Magic Bread in so many words--was based on my visit to Da Levee on National Food Day and the 68th birthday of the United Nations. A slightly edited (tense, word choice, general flow, etc.) form of those notes is embedded in this post. Complementing that experience are my general reflections and comments on Da Levee's offerings I've enjoyed (be prepared for a longer post) since that chilly autumn day, including Super Bowl fixings and today's trek for my favourite thing on the menu (next to Magic Bread): cheesy craw étouffée.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

'CityScene Magazine' Release Party @the Buckeye Hall of Fame Grill

Buckeye Hall of Fame Grill on Urbanspoon

Continued wintry greetings, fellow foodie friends! For those among you who have not yet heard (or rather, read), I was contacted last November by CityScene Magazine Community Editor Lisa Aurand regarding a story she was working on about food bloggers. As it turned out, she had learned of my blog via Urbanspoon and wanted to interview me. I naturally jumped at the opportunity to share my story, and the motivations and development of Learning through Food. And last month, her finished article--also featuring the local bloggers of The Breakfast Grub Guy and the Leptologists at Lunch--was published online and in print form. A few weeks later, I was contacted by CityScene Editor Garth Bishop inviting me to their January/February issue release party. Of course, I couldn't pass up that opportunity, and with Brianne joining me (prior to watching Frozen again...for the fourth time), the journey brought us to Grandview's Buckeye Hall of Fame Grill where I also couldn't help bring out my camera and snap some shots for another restaurant review.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Encore! Restaurant Week Round 2, and My Return to The Refectory

The Refectory Restaurant and Bistro on Urbanspoon

A few days ago, I posted a review of my first experience at Basil, as part of the January 2014 iteration of Columbus's Restaurant Week. 70 restaurants participated this time around, and with that many choices and delictable menus, there is in theory a limit to just how far our time, wallets, and stomachs can stretch. Cue then RW encores, whereby restaurants elect to carry on the same (or at least a similar) prix fixe menu for dinners to experience. Last Monday, Brianne asked if I'd be interested in spending $35 on a meal, and upon hearing those words I knew exactly what she was implying. I had practically drooled over the menu proposed by Orsi- and Bocuse-trained Chef Richard Blondin the first time around, and so I was more than ecstatic at the thought of not missing it altogether. With each passing day then, we approached my return visit (Brianne's first) to The Refectory Restaurant & Bistro (located at 1092 Bethel).

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Restaurant Review: Basil

Basil Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Hello, Food Fans! For those of you who didn't know, last week (which somehow came and went quicker than the winter weather that has hit most of the country by this point) was Columbus's seasonal tradition of Restaurant Week. With the busy schedule that seems to have caught one too many off-guard, including me, I was only able to get a taste of one menu (if you don't count the delicious espresso chocolate mousse cupcake I had at The Crest). This time around, the Short North's Basil (1124 N High St) was ultimately the reigning choice. And so, Brianne, Nicole, and I headed over to what was once an antique shop and one of the many restaurants I have been meaning to try out for a while now.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Soured Beers and Savoured Tastes: January 2014 Beer Dinner at The Crest

The Crest Gastropub on Urbanspoon

As I continue to settle into living in Columbus, one of my more consistent weekly routines is participating in Excesss Trivia every Monday night (beginning around 8.45pm) at The Crest Gastropub. In addition to four rounds of fast-paced and often-intense Jeopardy-style friendly competition on topics from football coaches to kitchen tools and indie bands to African geography (perhaps you can guess which side of the spectrum my strengths are in), The Crest offers $4 Ohio drafts, $5 Ohio liquors, and half-off selected appetizers (the sliders are an especially great deal). I share this info not only as a plug for The Crest's weekly specials, but as a contextual opportunity to say it was during a previous Trivia Night that Brittany, who I first met when she waited on our anthropology department's happy hour back in September (and have since seen nearly every week along with the rest of The Crest's friendly staff on Mondays), told me about a then-upcoming beer dinner. Just as had been the case with previous beer dinners, such as the one I attended last August, drink pairer Braden worked with executive chef Dustin to create another enjoyable and mouthwatering menu inspired by an eclectic range of flavour profiles. This time around, they worked with the folks of Dexter's (Michigan) Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales; and as I'm guessing Brianne can attest, I had many a food moment throughout the evening.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Restaurant Recap: Knead

Knead on Urbanspoon

Having passed it countless times over the years in my case, Brianne and I made our way to Knead (505 N High St) earlier this month to check out the offerings of this "modern diner featuring locally sourced food in Columbus," owned by Chef Rick Lopez and his wife, Krista.

Monday, 6 January 2014

First Post of 2014: Foodie (and Film) Fun in Columbus

Happy New Year and frosty Monday! Here in the Midwest, temperatures are falling to record lows, pushed even further by wind chill factors that make me want to see how long it would take to make ice cream outdoors. As much fun as that would probably be (I mean, outdoor food science? Of course that would be fun.), I'm bundled up indoors, as are the huge majority of central Ohio's student population. In a word, it's almost like the city is becoming "frozen." Speaking of which, Brianne and I saw Frozen again (this time in 3D, so of course it was of a justifiable necessity...) this past weekend and absolutely enjoyed it. We also managed to enjoy quite a few foodie destinations, of which I've chronicled below. Reviewed here are my return (Brianne's first) visits to Skillet and North Market (with focused commentary on the newly-opened Pistacia Vera location), (briefly) our return visits to Whit's and Mikey's, and our first visit to Philco.