Category Archives: festivals

Ohio Pawpaw Festival 2010

Have you ever tasted a pawpaw? If the answer is no, then you should make plans to head to the Ohio pawpaw festival next weekend.

Pawpaws are the largest native fruit in the United States and the official native fruit of Ohio. They are also an Ark of Taste fruit.  They grow on trees in woodland areas in Ohio and 25 other states and have a pale green skin that turns yellow as they ripen. They are amazingly tropical for something that grows in Ohio and are like a cross between a custard apple, mango, guava and banana. The flesh is creamy yellow but have a lot of seeds and bruise easily so aren’t popular commercially.

The pawpaw festival offers all sorts of pawpaw treats and activities. Here’s my account of last year’s festival. I will be there on Sunday judging the pawpaw cook-off contest at 1.30pm. Here is the schedule of the rest of the weekend’s activities.  You can also combine your visit to the festival with a visit to the Athens farmers’ market, an O’Betty’s hot dog or some of the other great restaurants there. There are some other Athens ideas herehere and here.

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Wild Goose have put on some fantastic food events over the last year. As well as their monthly ‘too many cooks’ series and regular cooking classes they hosted the phenoms of bacon camp and beer camp, even organizing a parade for the latter. Asparafest may have been the most enjoyable yet: a celebration of local, seasonal foods, a great crowd and a showing of what some of Columbus’s adventurous, creative and talented home cooks can produce.

There was an impressive array of dishes, I think at least 12 and the judges with the unenviable task of having to decide on a winner were Trisha Wheeler fromEdible Columbus, Todd Mills from Local Matters and Lisa Dillman aka Restaurant Widow. Above is my plate loaded with samples of each entry. They included stuffed mushrooms, soup, pickles, ice cream, pizza, quinoa salad, salmon tart, bacon and onion tart, bruschetta, orzo salad and asparagus ceviche.

Rachel Tayse wins the unofficial award for most local with her home raised deviled eggs, garlic and herbs. Only the asparagus was purchased. The judges winning dish was a flavor packed bruschetta with honey caramelized bacon, cheese and a balsamic reduction, but my favorite was the runner up, the asparagus ice cream made by Bear and Colleen. I may be biased, not just because I love ice cream, but because they used my lemon balm. I had a sneak preview taste yesterday during which I was able to get over the initial ‘asparagus flavor ice cream???!!!’ reaction and that probably helped too.

Of course, this was a ‘fest’ so as well as food, there was an art exhibit and entertainment including asparagus themed music. Andy Anderson did an amazing job of thanking the sponsors (Edible, North Star and Local Matters) with a clever and funny song that I wish I had on video.

But the main event was Asparagus the movie: Stalking the American life. It was a charming, touching film with lots of laughs, but the story it told was at heart depressing. It was the story of the decline of the Michigan asparagus industry due to unfair competition from Mexico and Peru. The Michigan farmers are collateral victims from the war on drugs as the US government subsidizes Peru to grow asparagus as a substitute crop to cocaine. The film also showed us the pride of a community that dubbed themselves the world capital of asparagus, ‘our tips are tops,’ and their engagement in the fight for the survival of the industry.

You can watch a six minute trailer for the film on the film’s website. Sadly, I think you have to watch the whole film for a taste of seventies disco asparagus style ‘do the stalk.’ After the movie we were treated to a interesting Q&A with the directors Anne de Mare and Kirsten Kelly and had an update on recent developments.

Thanks to Wild Goose Creative for putting on a fun, educational and delicious event. More photos on flickr. More information about all things asparagus.


Filed under competition, festivals, ice cream, special events, vegetables, wild goose creative

Cinco de Mayo

We had been asked by Johnny di Loretto to suggest a good venue for a Cinco de Mayo spot on Fox 28’s Good Day Columbus. We did a show with him in the fall about taco trucks and had a lot of fun. We suggested the colorful bakery Otro Rollo on Sullivant Avenue, one of the places we discovered during our taco truck research that we have featured on alt.eats. Otro Rollo also has a taco truck, and they supply many Mexican grocery stores and taco trucks with bread and pastries.

Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday that originated in Puebla and celebrates the victory of the Mexican militia over the French. It is not a national holiday in Mexico but in the States it has become a celebration of Mexican heritage, and like St Patrick’s Day, a day for beer promotions and drinking.

When we first discussed the idea with Otro Rollo they seemed fairly nonplussed, but by the end of filming they had fully embraced their 15 minutes of fame, were taking photos of the proceedings, and had baked Johnny a special Fox 28 tres leches cake. Tres leches cake is sponge cake that is filled with fruit and cream and soaked in a mixture of three different milks (whole milk , evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk). Decorations are generally exuberant and it is popular for weddings and other celebrations.

I have been to Otro Rollo many times but I had never been behind the scenes. It was fun to spend time in the kitchen watching them making telera the bread that is used for tortas (Mexican sandwiches). Balls of dough are rolled into ovals and given a second rising. They are then rolled out and divided into three sections. We were impressed with the bakers’ speed and consistency. Otro Rollo bake an average of 500 telera a day as well as a huge array of other breads and cakes.

Also for Cinco de Mayo we had a Taco Trucks Columbus meet up at Taco Nazo. At the Rick Bayless book signing I asked Quicho if there were any Mexican foods associated with Cinco de Mayo. He offered to make some specials, including Pozole. Taco Nazo knows how to put on a good spread and when we arrived they were decked out in red, white and green. For $5 you could have pozole, Mexican flag-hued jello, cake and a beverage.

The cakes (also tres leches) were suitably festive and as usual, the work of one of Quicho’s employees, Bettina. It seemed a shame to cut them.

The pozole was fantastic. More of a stew than a soup, with plump tender hominy kernals and generous quantities of chicken and pork, it was served with chopped onion, cabbage and radishes to add as garnishes, as well as lime wedges. I tried both the red and the green and loved both. The red, made with chicken, had a mellow heat and slightly smoky. The green, made with pork and chicken, had more acidity but was very well balanced.

The evening ended with $3 house margaritas at Garcia’s on North High Street. I had not been there before but it’s a Columbus institution, having been open for over 30 years. The menu is a mix of Peruvian, Mexican and some Tex-Mex. The whole place had a surreal feel, only in part due to the 80’s karaoke.

It was a fun, but very long Cinco de Mayo. Thanks to Ray for organizing the bike ride up to Taco Nazo.

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Filed under Columbus, ethnic eats, festivals, special events, Taco trucks

Earth Day Celebration 2010

The real work of Earth Day was done last weekend with a massive volunteer effort throughout Central Ohio. Almost 4,000 volunteers picked up trash, planted trees and worked in community gardens. Events like Thursday’s Earth Day celebration at Franklin Park are a forum for inspiration and education. The event gives non-profits and eco-friendly businesses an opportunity to explain their products, missions and campaigns. By trying to achieve a zero waste event we can teach people about recycling and composting and by offering healthy, sustainably produced foods we can introduce people to some fast food alternatives.

When I was asked to organize the food vendors for the Earth Day celebration, I started to think about the sort of vendors that would appeal to me at such an event. I wanted to focus on local, independent businesses and make sure that there were plenty of options for vegetarians and vegans. I knew we would need to have more food options than previous years, because there are so few options close to Franklin Park. As this was the 40th anniversary of Earth Day we were hoping for more attendees than previous year’s, and if you want people to stay and listen to music on a weekday evening, chances are they are going to get hungry.

I remembered that the Columbus vegetarian restaurant blog Nothing Better to Do had featured a Comfest dining guide, so I contacted them to solicit some ideas. We invited some Comfest veterans:  Dragonfly and Wellness Forum as well as some of the favorite vendors from previous years: Wholefoods Market and Rad Dog, who were the first vendor to sell out. Another vegan option were the soups and turnovers from Lucky Ladle. I was a fan of the potato and spinach turnovers. Poor Shannon had her umbrella stolen the night before, but she was still all smiles. You can catch her at some of the farmers markets this summer.

Phat Wraps had an enticing display with all of their fresh toppings and they proved to be another popular choice. It’s fun being able to customize your own food. Their permanent location is in the OSU campus area on North High Street, but look for a second location opening soon.

A couple of festival newcomers were Portia’s Creations, featuring Kombucha Bob and Skillet Rustic Urban Food, debuting their new trailer. The pork belly quesadilla with salsa verde from Skillet was my late lunch, and it was delicious. Skillet is a great example of local, seasonal sourcing and they work directly with a number of farmers. I look forward to seeing the trailer out on the streets again soon.

Pattycake had beautiful cupcakes, flower cookies and their perennial favorites: snickerdoodles, oatmeal and toll house cookies. Taste of Belgium flipped crepes, cracked jokes, perfumed the air with caramelized sugar and handed out endless samples of their addictive Liege waffles.

A special thank you goes to Jeni’s Ice Creams and Columbus Brewing Company who gave out free scoops of ice cream and beer to volunteers. It’s amazing how long people will stand in line for a free scoop of ice cream, but it is wonderful stuff. Jeni’s is doing great work teaching people about seasonal eating through the medium of ice cream. It’s almost time for flavors that bloom.

Thanks also to all of the volunteers at the festival and the ever-patient Franklin Park Conservatory staff, especially the electricians.

Some other food highlights awaited those that made it over to the community garden. The live fire cooking theatre was in full swing and we found garden guru Bill Dawson showing off pizzas fresh from the outdoor oven.

Inside the education pavilion were a series of cooking demonstrations. I only made it to one, but I did get to listen to Devon Morgan (pastry chef at Alana’s) teaching us how to reuse and recycle ingredients in the kitchen. Devon showed us how to make chocolate nut balls with leftover cake trimmings and that’s the sort of recycling anyone can get behind.

Some more photos from the event are on flickr.

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Filed under Columbus, festivals, sandwiches, soup, special events, street food