Three Hungry Woolfs

My parents just left after a lovely week long visit. I am sad to see them leave but luckily they left lots of treats behind including three jars of marmite (2 special editions) which will help to console me. As well as marmite, chocolate and christmas crackers I also have a pile of new books and christmas presents to look forward to.

Except on skype I don’t get to see my parents very often and it was a couple of years since their last visit to Columbus. It is not surprising that I had a long list of restaurants and food places that I wanted to take them. It was a chance to share some of my favorite places, for them to experience first hand some of the places they have read so much about, and an excuse to try somewhere new. The highlight was probably our omakase dinner at Kihachi which felt like a mini vacation in Japan. We also had lovely dinners at Alana’s and the Refectory Bistro (excellent value at $24 for 3 courses) and a cosy drink at Nida’s. Alana does a fantastic job of showcasing Ohio produce in a creative and interesting way. The highlight of the dinner were the sweetbreads that topped the risotto du jour, but I also loved the broccolini dish that I had and golden beets with almond skordalia.

White bean brushetta at Alana's

Lunches out included Rigby’s for their blue plate special and of course there was an obligatory trip to a taco truck (Los Potosinos), followed by dessert from Otro Rollo, fantastic sweet bread fresh from the oven. We also took a trip to the Winds Cafe in Yellow Springs, which we combined with a fascinating trip to the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Westcott House in Springfield (photos).

Somewhere that was new to me was the fifty year old institution that is the Top Steakhouse. It had been on my restaurant wish-list for a while and I thought my parents would enjoy the step back in time with the classic decor and menu. They did and so did I. It really is a taste of another era with steak diane, oysters Rockefeller and shrimp cocktail, accompanied by the background pianist. Unfortunately we were seated in a room that used to be a private bar and it didn’t have quite the same atmosphere. The steaks were delicious although they seemed to be cooked to the chef’s whim regardless of how they had been ordered. Going to The Top is a good excuse to stop in at Wings for a night cap as they have the largest collection of single malt scotches in Columbus. I enjoyed trying the Wild Scotsman black label.

Shopping trips included the North Market (fish, eggs, vegetables and a rosemary tree), Katzinger’s (cheese), Pistacia Vera (cookies and cakes), Jeni’s (Ice cream) and Thurns (pork chops, smoked trout and bacon). We couldn’t resist stopping for coffee and cookies at Pistacia Vera. The almondine and lime ginger cookies were the favorites of the day and the winning Jeni’s flavor – blackstrap praline – I think my father would have packed some to take home if he could.

Cheeses on display at Katzinger's

Our visit to the North Market was well timed: Chef David MacLennan from Latitude 41 was at the Wayward Seed stall cooking up pork belly, pickled beets at rutabaga mash. The recipe for the delicious mash (with turnips, cream and pear) is on the Wayward Seed blog. We bought brussels sprouts from the Rhoades’ and celery root at the Greener Grocer.

My parents were intrigued by the peanut pumpkins (Galeux d’eysine)  having never come across them before. The pale salmon colored skin is covered in protruding warts which look incredibly like peanut shells. Apparently they are great for cooking although I have not tried one.

In between all this eating we also had a lovely time at the Franklin Park Conservatory, admiring the Chihuly, Poinsettias, koi and orchids and walked around the Topiary Garden. Photos on flickr.

As well as a lot of eating out, we also had some delicious dinners at home. From top left: Thurn’s smoked pork chop with celery root puree and an acorn squash baked with bacon and maple syrup (an excellent James Beard recipe); home made bread; english style fish pie (fish and hard boiled eggs in a white sauce topped with mashed potatoes); a salad from my garden with arugula, nasturtiums and mesclun greens. I also shared some of my home canned tomato sauce from the summer. One of my requests for my parents visit was a bread making lesson from my dad. He has been making bread my whole life and I wanted a practical class, my previous attempts not having turned out as well as hoped. Although my father makes bread by feel and not measurements, he gave me some good tips that I think will help.

We also made mincemeat, ready for mince pies and traditional english christmas puddings. These were made to a very old and secret family recipe and this is the first time that I have been entrusted with the recipe. The puddings were steamed for 8+ hours and can then be kept for years as they improve with age. AD is skeptical about aging desserts but I made one for this year and one for next year. The smell of fruit, spice and alcohol as it was simmering away made the house smell warm and festive.

For thanksgiving we were invited to AD’s family for a traditional thanksgiving dinner with turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie. We also had some of the best mashed potato ever – apparently the secret was baking the potatoes and using lots of cream. One of their traditional family accompaniments was oyster stuffing – a new dish to me – and obviously very popular.

I hope that you were able to spend thanksgiving with family or friends. This was very different to last year’s thanksgiving but both were fun. There are many different ways to feast and to be thankful.

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