Category Archives: blogging

Taste & Create: Pakoras

IMG_6429

I read about Taste & Create last month on Columbus Foodie’s blog and thought that it sounded like a fun idea. Bloggers are paired up and have to make a recipe they choose from the other’s blog. I was excited to be paired with Bombay Foodie as I love Indian food but rarely cook it at home. Reading through the archives of Bombay Foodie make me nostalgic for the three months I spent in Northern India in 2000. I didn’t go to Bombay, but the diwali sweets, paranthas and pakoras brought back happy memories.

I was tempted by lots of recipes but it was the pakoras that most captured me:

The only thing I ever feel like eating when it rains are pakoras and chai. Vegetables, most likely onions and potatoes but sometimes paneer, dipped in a gramflour batter and deep fried. Warm and crisp – the most perfect antidote to grey skies there is.

We have had a lot of rainy days recently – and what better excuse to make some delicious deep fried food. I needed a little more guidance on the batter and so I turned to the authority on Indian cooking Madhur Jaffrey. I have a copy of ‘The Essential Madhur Jaffrey‘ and I would highly recommend any of her books. If you haven’t heard of her before, she is an actress and food writer and here is an NPR interview with her.

pakoras

I decided to make potato and onion pakoras. I found gram flour (aka besan, aka chickpea flour) at Flavors of India at the North Market and was surprised (but pleased) to see that it comes from Ontario. Surprised because I had never thought about where chickpeas grow and pleased because I have a soft spot for Ontario. Madhur Jaffrey’s batter recipe also called for salt, turmeric, cayenne pepper, baking soda, black pepper and cumin. It also takes a lot of oil – 2.5 to 3 inches deep – for my pan that was over 3 liters and I had to make an emergency dash to the grocery store for more oil.

These pakoras were different to the ones we had when I was travelling in India. I think the batter there was thicker and the pakoras were made of small pieces of mixed vegetables fried in clusters. These ones were very similar to the potato pakoras that we used to take-out from an Indian sweet shop – Natraj– in South Harrow near my parents house.

IMG_6432

I was pleased with the results, a thin layer of tender potato inside a crispy, subtly spiced shell. I sliced the potato with a mandolin and sliced the onions by hand. The batter was really simple and you can use a drop of the batter to test the oil temperature. When it rises to the surface immediately and sizzles, it is time to get frying. Pakoras are a great snack or appetizer to share with friends. Simple to make (just keep a close eye on the hot oil) but something a little bit different and chutneys make a nice variation to the banal salsas and hummus.

I made two different chutneys, also from ‘The Essential Madhur Jaffrey’: fresh green chutney with coriander leaves and yoghurt and fresh mint chutney with fruit. The latter was an excellent way to use up some of the mint from my garden. It is mixed with an apple, an orange, some lemon juice and green chillies. Easy, fresh tasting and tangy. The fresh green chutney was the more popular with my guests. It is also really simple: fresh coriander, green chilli, yoghurt, lemon juice, salt, pepper and toasted cumin seeds.

IMG_6425

Thanks Bombay Foodie and Taste & Create, I am inspired to make some more Indian food at home, but maybe first I’ll pop to the Banana Leaf for lunch!

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under blogging, North Market, recipes, Taste & Create, Vegetarian

Blog Update

IMG_5594

As well as being packed with food events, this has been a technology intensive week. I have been playing with google reader (why didn’t I do this before?), my iphone, which isn’t new but I have some great new apps (love the new flickr and skype apps) and twitter (I could only resist for so long). You can now follow me at hungry_woolf, should you wish to. I intend to post mainly food related items and don’t plan on telling you that I have brushed my teeth or done laundry. You can also follow Taco Trucks Columbus at tacotruckscbus for updates on truck openings, movements and specials.

You may also notice the newly updated and tidied up the links section. I added more local blogs, removed some of the ones that I never have time to read and changed the categories. Did I miss any? What blogs do you regularly read? Are there any active local food blogs that I have missed? Please feel free to add suggestions in the comments section.

Anyway, it’s almost time to find my bike lights and and jump on my bike for the Night of 1000 Tacos. Lengua migadas and horchata at Jalisco – I can’t wait.

2 Comments

Filed under blogging, Websites

Too Many Food Events

IMG_5449

September has been a month jam packed with food events and it shows no sign of abating. I don’t want you to think that I am complaining, I’m not, I’ve been having a great time and lots of wonderful experiences. The title is a homage to the first event I want to mention, a panel of Columbus Food Bloggers at Wild Goose Creative. This post is going to be an overview of a lot of fantastic food events that could all have been posts in their own right, if I wasn’t so busy going to food events that I don’t have enough time to write.

Back to Wild Goose. The Food Bloggers on the panel were Columbus Foodie, Dave from Weber Cam, CMH Gourmand, Rosie from Bitchin’ in the Kitchen, Zach from Columbus Foodcast, myself and Nick from Breakfast with Nick, a selection of the active food bloggers in Columbus. I was pleasantly surprised at how many people came to listen to a group of food bloggers. Each blogger introduced themselves and explained why they started blogging and the focus of their blog. It was interesting to share stories and it didn’t take long before we were sharing recommendations for new places to eat. There were some thought provoking questions including how blogging interplays with traditional media and it was a shame that time prevented a more in-depth discussion of the issue.

Each of us brought some food to share that related to our blog. Marmite seemed the obvious choice as it appears in my Hungrywoolf logo, is British and is one of my favorite foods. I remembered a recipe for Marmite cheese straws from the last issue of BBC Good Food magazine but unfortunately being a voracious recycler, the magazine was already gone. Internet research provided some ideas but of course, I am not sensible enough to do a practice run and thus on the afternoon of the event I was still hoping that they would all turn out alright. I tried hearts, pinwheels and eventually found that twisted sticks worked the best. The recipe was simple: frozen puff pastry, mature cheddar cheese, butter, marmite, a hot oven and a prayer that people would like them.

IMG_5445

I didn’t see too many left on plates, so it seemed that they were well received and I think I may have converted some people to the joy of Marmite.

IMG_5475

Labor Day was spent laboring. Not a food ‘event’ but certainly food related, we spent the day helping to pick and wash pumpkins at AD’s parents Farm. His Father grows over 50 varieties of pumpkins and squash, so I was in squash heaven and came back with a huge bag full. Some of the varieties I wasn’t familiar with and I was excited to discover that one of them, Green-striped Cushaw, is an Ark of Taste Food.

IMG_5456

I hadn’t thought much about squash and pumpkins needing to be washed before they are sold, although it seems obvious now. I grew up in a city, so this was a novel experience for me. My fingers were like prunes all day, but I found washing the squash meditative and enjoyed chatting to the family members who had also been enlisted.

B_squash

Back to Columbus and Dine Originals Restaurant Week was in full swing. I attended a Columbus Metropolitan Club Restaurant Week event featuring a panel of Dine Originals restaurant owners and chefs. Restaurants represented were Barcelona, The Refectory, Alana’s, Katzinger’s and Trattoria Roma. The speakers were all effusive about the benefits of being part of the Dine Originals group. Kamal Boulos the owner of The Refectory and the new President of Dine Originals had some great insights into the development of the Columbus restaurant scene. There were a lot of questions from the audience, of which ‘what do you wish you had known when you started out?’ elicited the most interesting and humorous responses.

I didn’t have a chance to experience any of the Restaurant Week dinner menus, but I did have lunch at two of the participating restaurants, Deepwood and Cafe Corner. My Restaurant Week highlight was tea for two at Pistacia Vera. Their Restaurant Week tasting plate made a perfect birthday treat for a friend. As usual it was all divine, but the lemon tart was so perfect that I am in need of an excuse (however transparent) to return.

IMG_5531

Wednesday was the monthly Slow Wine event at the Twisted Vine in Grandview. It is an intimate gathering, always thoughtfully put together and a pleasant way to spend an evening sipping wine and chatting to old friends and new acquaintances. The Twisted Vine offers a couple of wine flights, some complimentary food and wines by the glass or bottle. This month’s food offering was a real treat with a selection of meats, fish and cheese from Thurn’s.

thurns_meats

I think that AD and I have worked our way through almost half of Thurn’s extensive menu. The selection at the Twisted Vine included a few favorites as well as some things we had not tried. The tongue was so tender and buttery that the taste could convert people to offal but my new *favorite* thing is the 5 year old smoked cheddar. I went to buy some the next day but they were sold out. Hmpf.

The North Market have revamped their Dispatch Kitchen Cooking Classes with Robin Davis, the Dispatch Food Editor now manning the helm. There is a great range of classes taught by Robin herself and other Columbus Chefs. There is even a timely Thanksgiving boot camp designed for people cooking a holiday dinner for the first time. I am particularly tempted by the class with Spencer Boudros of Pistacia Vera on September 30th and I believe that there are spaces left in some of the classes. They make a fun evening out or a great Christmas or birthday gift. I was a volunteer assistant at one of Robin Davis’s classes last week, on making sushi rolls at home. Robin is an informative and sympathetic teacher and it was a lot of fun. I wish I had remembered to take some photos.

Friday night was a fundraiser dinner for 500 people at the Frankin Park Conservatory, part of their weekend long Field to Table Festival. Somehow I had agreed to volunteer, little realizing what that would entail, and never imagining that AD would score an invitation to the dinner. Jealous – moi?! I ended up as a sous chef to Richard Rosendale, preparing salads and plating food for 200 of the guests. Having never worked in a professional kitchen I was somewhat out of my depth, but at the same time right in my element. It was a real adrenalin rush working in a very MacGuyver-ish tent-kitchen.

IMG_0093

It was a stunning event, as befits the $300 a ticket price, with tables set out around the sculpture and the back-drop of the Conservatory illuminations. Guests arrived at the new Community Garden Campus for drinks and hors d’oeuvres which included pizza, lamb kebabs, sliders, an Ohio cheese board and Jeni’s ice cream. If they weren’t already full they walked over towards the Conservatory for a lavish 7 course dinner, including tomato and cucumber salad, ratatouille, roasted chicken, pork ribs, polenta, succotash, roasted pork loin and pork belly and for dessert apple crisp and ice wine sabayon from Pistacia Vera.

IMG_5543

Sunday we were back at Franklin Park to volunteer at the Slow Food table, promoting food that is good, clean and fair and handing out samples of paw paws and ground cherries. I hope that you will have a chance to visit the Community Garden Campus at Franklin Park if you have not already. I know that they are planning a lot of programming. It is beautifully done.

IMG_5536

One of the highlights of the Community Garden Campus is the live fire cooking theatre which includes a fire place, a hearth and the only green roofed pizza oven that I have ever seen. I was lucky enough to get a slice (or two) or Jim Budros’s amazing wood fired pizza topped with spinach and goat cheese. The crust was made using Peter Reinhart’s dough recipe and I can attest to the results. I am sure it helps when you have a 600º wood fired oven!

jim_pizza

As if it wasn’t a busy enough weekend, we had to find time for some taco trucking. Night of 1000 Tacos is coming up this Friday, September 18th and we had to forewarn the trucks, and drive the route so we could produce a turn by turn sheet for cyclists. We will be hitting four trucks in the Cleveland Avenue, Morse Road area and it should be a lot of fun.

IMG_5546

Last night was Taste the Future, the annual culinary showcase of Columbus State Community College. It is a huge event with around 50 Columbus chefs showing off their wares. Some of Columbus’s finest restaurants were there along with a number of hotels and catering companies. The event was held in a large courtyard area over looked by the towering statue of Christopher Columbus. There was music and wine and throngs of people.

IMG_5559

There was a lot of food and it was fun seeing what everyone had to offer. Some of the restaurants did a good job of projecting their identity and giving you a sense of their menu. With so many offerings, things started to blur but there were some interesting trends. Popular ingredients included: mushrooms, truffle oil, scallops and shrimp. There were several variations on chocolate tarts and a number of plays on gazpacho and chilled soups. Two of my favorite dishes fell into this category, a white gazpacho from the Brewers Yard Bistro at Kroger and a local tomato gazpacho with crab and corn salad from Aramark at the Columbus Convention Center. I also really liked the Scallop Pomponnette from The Refectory.

IMG_5550

It was a prefect evening for an outdoor event and great for taking photos. For those wanting more, there are a lot more photos on flickr and with several bloggers and photographers floating around, I am sure there will be a lot more online too.

IMG_5573

And so that brings us up to date. Next on the agenda is the Night of 1000 Tacos, closely followed by the Ohio Paw Paw Festival. I will be heading down to Lake Powell near Athens on Saturday for a celebration of all things paw paw. I am honored to have been invited to judge the paw paw cook off contest and I can’t wait to see what the competitors have come up with.

09 PawPaw

For those of you wondering what a paw paw is – it is the largest native fruit in the United States and the official native fruit of Ohio. It is like a cross between a custard apple, mango and banana and surprisingly tropical for something grown in Ohio. I am sure that I will be writing a lot more about Paw Paws next week.

4 Comments

Filed under blogging, British foods, North Market, restaurants, slow food, special events, Taco trucks, wild goose creative

Competition: Dinner for two at The Inn at Cedar Falls

inn1

Innkeepers Ellen Grinsfelder and Terry Lingo have very kindly offered the prize for my first Hungry Woolf competition – A five course dinner for two at The Inn at Cedar Falls in the Hocking Hills. I was lucky enough to be invited to the Inn for a wonderful bloggers getaway weekend and now you have a chance to experience the charm and delicious food that the Inn has to offer for yourself.

The Inn at Cedar Falls is situated right in the heart of Hocking Hills with easy access to the major attractions and hiking trails. Local activities include canoeing, ATV trips and Canopy tours. If you prefer something more sedate (or need to recover) the Inn also has its own spa. The Inn is open for lunch and dinner, private events and accommodation and you do not have to be staying there to dine there. Apparently a lot of people come for a spa treatment and dinner, or come for lunch pre or post hike. If you are the lucky winner, here is a taste of what you can expect:

inn_apps

Each entree selection comes with three set preliminary courses (plus dessert for the lucky prizewinner!) The meal starts with a selection of crackers, olive tapenade and one of the Inn’s signature Wisconsin cheese balls. Both were tasty and did not last long at our table. Next was the soup of the day. In our case this was a spaghetti squash soup made with local squash and decorated with onion blossoms. It came with soft white homemade bread.

inn_soup

The third course is a salad and ours had a perfectly roasted Roma tomato. Even the non-tomato lovers at our table commented on how good it was.

inn_salad

There is a choice of six or seven entrees, including one vegetarian option. The chef’s choice of vegetable and starch change daily. Between the eight diners at our table we covered almost the full range of entrees. I would say that the beef and lamb won the most accolades. Pictured from top left are the Peking roast duck, the filet mignon, Lake Erie perch en papillote and the lamb chops. The filet mignon was really good and will probably be my choice when I go again.

*inn_entrees

There was also a choice of desserts including a chocolate torte, blueberry creme brulee and a mixed berry cobbler with vanilla ice cream. I chose the cobbler and it was delicious. The topping was surprisingly light and the fruit was not overly sweet. inn_dessert

The Inn has an open kitchen and it is always a good sign when you see one of the chefs coming in from the garden with a handful of fresh herbs for dinner that evening. The Inn grows a lot of their own herbs and sources as many ingredients as they can locally. I was pleased to see that they were showcasing some Ohio wines. We enjoyed two Ohio wines from the Kinkead Ridge winery, particularly the white Viognier Roussanne which I had not tried before .

inn_terior

The Inn has a series of small dining rooms so there is an intimate and cosy dining experience. We were there on a beautiful summer evening so chose to eat outside.

inn_alfresco

Now that I have whetted your appetite here are the five questions. All of the answers can be found on the Inn at Cedar Falls website. Please email your correct answers to hungrywoolf at hotmail dot com. The closing date for the competition is August 31st and the winner will be selected randomly from all of the correct entries. The winner will be announced on hungrywoolf.com and will be notified by email. You will be sent a gift certificate directly from the Inn at Cedar Falls.

1)Which year did the Inn at Cedar Falls open?
2) Who was the founder (and also the first cook) at the Inn?
3) What is the name of the current chef?
4) How many people does the restaurant seat?
5) How many cottages does the Inn have?

If you can’t wait and want to visit the Inn it is located at:
21190 State Route 374, Logan, Hocking County, Ohio, 43138.

You can also read more about the bloggers getaway on Columbusfoodie.com and see more photos here. There will also be a Columbus Foodcast with owner Ellen Grinsfelder coming soon. I will try to add links from the other bloggers as I spot them.

4 Comments

Filed under blogging, Ohio, special events

First Anniversary

IMG_3834

Yesterday marked the first anniversary of this blog and it seemed fitting to mark the occasion in some way. This is also my 150th post.

The blog started ostensibly as a means of sharing my food experiences. I think of it as a food diary inspired by writers such as Nigel Slater. I have always loved food and last year I realized that I was having some wonderful food experiences in Central Ohio, but I had few friends locally who shared my passion for farmers markets and extraordinary culinary experiences. The blog was a way of sharing my experiences with my friends and family scattered around the world, who I knew would share my interest. The readership has grown beyond my circle of friends – and it is extremely gratifying when I meet someone who tells me that they read my blog. I love receiving comments and appreciate the thought that people put into sharing their experiences, recipes and feedback.

IMG_0377

As a food diary the blog is a mish-mash of restaurant experiences, home cooking, farmers markets and other food events with a sprinkling of food reviews. I generally only share things I have enjoyed or want to share or record. Mostly  I have more ideas and experiences to write about than time and I have a running list of ideas. Sometimes I think it would be better to focus on one angle, but life is a mixture of eating at home, eating with friends and family and eating at restaurants.

As I said, I started the blog partly because there was an element of loneliness in not being able to share my food passions with those around me. I could buy amazing produce but I didn’t have enough people to cook for who appreciated that the tomatoes were heirloom and the beef pasture fed.

Blogging has introduced me to so many friends and opened doors to many amazing food experiences. The first local connection I made through blogging was to go to one of Lisa’s (aka Restaurant Widow) monthly dinners. It was a wonderful event, held at the North Market and through Lisa’s dinners I met many wonderful people who shared a passion for good food and good company.

IMG_2681

Jim Ellison (aka CMH Gourmand) was an early commenter on my blog. He invited me to a cookery demonstration at the North Market, told me about Slow Food Columbus and Columbus Underground, took me for my first meal at Alana’s for the first time and has been a fount of Columbus Food knowledge  and a great friend ever since.  Jim has also been a collaborator on all sorts of  food projects and adventures – most importantly Taco Trucks Columbus, which lead to a TV appearance and all sorts of other fun.

IMG_2975

Jim informed me that by fortunate coincidence I lived only a few houses away from Slow Food Columbus founders Bear and Colleen Braumoeller and so it was that a few days later I accosted a couple in the street who seemed to match his description. Not long later I was invited to a ‘use it or lose it’ post wind storm pot luck and the rest as they say is history. The sidewalk between our houses is now a well trodden path and I am enormously thankful for their friendship and the warm welcome of Highland Estates. Bearleen (as they do not like to be called) also hosted the most spectacular party of the year. A party to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition, complete with era appropriate cocktails, dress and of course food.

Hooray for Ham Balls!

Hooray for Ham Balls!

Slow Food Columbus is a wonderful group, not just for its fabulous events my favorite of which is still the Flying J Dinner but also for the friends I have made and the interesting people I have met. Indeed, my boyfriend, fellow taco-trucker and daily dining companion, AD (aka TacoDrew) is someone that I met through Slow Food. The local chapters are called convivium and SFC epitomizes the definition of conviviality: fond of feasting, drinking, and good company; sociable. As well as having fun, I have also learned a lot through Slow Food about a variety of subjects including local food systems, coffee, whisky and paw paws. I think I can blame Bear for my taste in expensive whiskies, olive oils and acorn fed ham.

Paw paws at the Flying J Farm

Paw paws at the Flying J Farm

Taco Trucks Columbus has really shaped 2009 and the response we have had (over 50,000 hits), the exposure and the feedback has been gratifying and exciting. I love it when people try a taco truck for the first time and tell us how much they enjoyed it and when the owners tell us that they have had a lot more ‘gringos’ visiting their trucks.

I met my friend Suzanna (aka Cochon d’Inde) after a mutual friend told her about my blog. Sadly, she now lives in NYC, but she was a willing accomplice on many of my food adventures this year and we have shared many cakes, pastries and good times over the last year. I can’t wait for a weekend visit to the Big Apple in August.

I have had so many amazing food experiences over the last year that it is hard to pick highlights. Some of the best restaurant meals I have had this year were at Alana’s, DetailsKihachi and Roka (in London). Another notable events was a Pistacia Vera tasting at Hills Market. I have enjoyed each and every Slow Food event  and I have had many wonderful dinners at Highland Estates. Of course the company of family and friends, as well as the food is what makes so many of these events special.

IMG_0442

Pistavia Vera Almond cookies - the way to my heart.

I now own a mushroom log, am an expert on Mexican street food, have appeared on more Columbus Foodcasts than I can count, have been on the TV news and the front page of the Dispatch, live with a coffee and nicotine addict and am entered into a bacon cook off this weekend. It’s been quite a year! Thank you to everyone who has read, commented on and proof-read my blog (particularly my parents); And to those who have facilitated and joined me in my food adventures whether in person or vicariously.

5 Comments

Filed under blogging, special events