Category Archives: markets

Yellow Oyster Mushrooms

Yesterday I had the pleasure of spending the morning with Jim Rockwell, from Toby Run Growers, at the North Market Farmers’ Market. I was preparing samples of Jim’s shitake and oyster mushrooms for the shoppers who braved both the disruption of Park Street festival and the rain. For those of you who didn’t see these beauties, I wanted to share some photos.

The shitakes were good too, but I was captivated by the yellow oyster mushrooms. Oyster mushrooms are so called because the shape is reminiscent of an oyster, but some people also think there is a similarity in flavor. They come in a wide variety of colors from gray to pink. At home, our mushroom logs sporadically produce brown and blue oyster mushrooms. Jim grows his mushrooms indoors, mostly on sawdust and therefore does not need to use any chemicals in the process. The question of the day was whether they needed to be washed before use – Jim says no.

I wanted to prepare the mushrooms as simply as possible so that people could really taste their flavor. I sauteed them in a mixture of butter and olive oil with a touch of salt and they were delicious. The smell of the mushrooms cooking had a slightly eggy aroma that reminded me of omelettes. They were so good that even after spending the morning cooking them I wanted to take a box home for lunch. At home, I sauteed them with some garlic scapes and used them as an omelette filling. They would also be good as an accompaniment to a steak, on a pizza, or on toast points.

Jim also sells his mushrooms at the Worthington Farmers Market.

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Clintonville Farmers Market

My normal Saturday morning routine involves a trip to the North Market Farmer’s Market. The convenience and familiarity make this routine comfortable, but every so often I break out of my usual pattern, tempted to explore other farmers markets. Last year I visited Granville and Athens farmers markets, some of the smaller weekday markets and made it as far afield as the Union Square Greenmarket in New York. This weekend’s exploration was more modest, a mere four miles up High Street to Clintonville.

Each farmers market has its own charms and while there is some repetition between the markets in Columbus each has its own unique vendors. The Clintonville Farmers market is larger than the North Market and lists about 50 vendors on its website. They weren’t all in attendance yesterday and I didn’t count but it was probably around 40. The market stretches out on the High Street sidewalk around Clintonville Commons (North of North Broadway) and the coffee at Global Gallery is an attraction early on a Saturday morning. I rode my bike so I didn’t have to  worry about parking and the market was bustling by the time I arrived by 9.30am.

It was easy to tell the season looking at the produce stalls full of strawberries, rhubarb and asparagus. There were also lots of salad greens, radishes, green onions, seedlings and flowers.

I was jealous of all of the wonderful bakery stalls that they have at the Clintonville market and I couldn’t resist buying a loaf from Daniel at la Petite Boulangerie.

Equally hard to resist was the grass fed beef from Long Meadow’s Farm. I tasted some of their ground beef at Granville Market last year and every time I taste it I’m amazed at how flavorful it is.

One of the things that’s hard about visiting a new market are the competing urges to buy the first thing you see that looks really good or wait to scope out the whole market before you make a purchase. By waiting you run the risk of them selling out of x while you wandered around assessing your options, but by purchasing the first one you see, you may not get the best price or quality. Being a regular at a market means that not only are the range of vendors and the layout familiar, but you get to know the individual producers and who you like best for certain items. While I was on new territory, Clintonville Market had helpful signage to introduce each vendor and I appreciated being able to see where each vendor was from.

I enjoyed seeing the Jacob lambs wool at Cota Farms. My uncle and aunt used to keep Jacob sheep and its rare to see them in the States. Angie Adams was happy to chat to me about their sheep and even showed me photos. They will have lamb at the market in a couple of weeks.

I arrived home hungry with a full pannier and a bulging backpack. Our post-market brunch was strawberry smoothies made with Elizabeth Telling Farm strawberries and a sandwich made with Daniel’s bread, Thurn’s smoked bacon and 5 year old smoked cheddar and some spicy lettuce mix from Meadow Rise Farm.

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Green Almonds

When I first saw these little downy pods in a box at Salam Market and Bakery (in Columbus Square) I had to ask what they were. They looked like over grown pussy willows. I was told that they were green almonds and that I was welcome to try one. In the spring, when they are green and fleshy and before the shell inside hardens you can eat the whole thing, downy casing and all.

I learned from some internet research that almonds are not really true nuts, but a drupe – a seed inside a shell and an outer casing. You can see the different layers in the cross section.

The green almonds are crisp and taste sour. In the Middle East, I was told, they are eaten with salt to balance out the sourness and they definitely taste less sour if you dip them in salt.

I’m interested to know if anyone has come across other uses for them apart from as a snack? Can you cook with them?

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Cleveland Weekend

A trip to the Fabulous Food Show was the perfect excuse to spend the rest of the weekend exploring Cleveland. Our last visit following in the steps of Anthony Bourdain was a lot of fun, but only scratched the surface so I was excited to see and taste more. We were lucky with both trips: sunny weather, good friends and lots of great food. Cleveland is a wonderful destination for food lovers with lots of Slow Food friendly restaurants, a wealth of ethnic eateries and interesting neighborhoods to explore while you work up an appetite for another meal.

Cleveland is also a good destination for cocktail lovers. The Velvet Tango Room lived up to every superlative I had heard lavished on it, and was so enticing that we could not resist a second visit. The VTR serves classic cocktails in an appropriate setting and the menu, which you can’t help poring over, is a lesson in cocktail history. Not a flirtini in sight. The fact that they make their own grenadine, bitters, vermouth and ginger beer is one of the reasons that the cocktails cost $15 a pop (or $10 during happy hour). Many of the cocktails are made with egg whites and the amount of shaking involved also commands a premium. You should see the bartenders biceps! It wasn’t just the cocktails that were at hit. I would gladly go back just for the cheese fondue. I wish there was an equivalent to the VTR in Columbus, but for the sake of my bank account its probably good that there is not.

Highlight number two was the bakery On the Rise, which can be found in Cleveland Heights. You can see how sunny it was – hard to believe it was November.

On the Rise has a wide variety of breads and pastries and there was much to tempt us. I chose an almond croissant and it was definitely the best I have had since my trip to France in June. I am sure the pain au chocolat would have been equally good, but you have to get there early to score those.

Croissants weren’t the only baked goods of the day. We stopped at Presti’s bakery in Little Italy for an afternoon snack. I had a buttery buccalati with chocolate, almond and candied peel filling. I also bought some of their homemade panettone to bring home. I was assured that it would keep until Christmas but I have no illusion that it will last that long.

I mentioned Slow Food friendly restaurants and Cleveland seems to have more than its fair share including The Greenhouse Tavern, Luckys, Fire Food & Drink and the Flying Fig.  The Greenhouse Tavern is actively involved in their local Slow Food convivium and will be hosting a special dinner in honor of Terra Madre Day on December 10th. We had a wonderful meal there which included steamed clams with foie gras and a contender for the best chicken wings ever: Crispy chicken wings with roasted jalapeño, scallions and garlic, first confited and then deep fried. Many of the foods including the fantastic frites were cooked in a combination of duck fat and suet – a victory for flavor over calorie concerns. A four course chefs tasting menu is $37 which is extremely good value for the quality of ingredients, execution and portion sizes.

The Greenhouse Tavern also won a place in my heart with their food lovers loo. The restroom came equipped with shelves of food magazines and cookbooks. I’m not sure how wise it is to encourage people to spend any longer than strictly necessary in there but I admired the choice of reading matter.

I don’t think a trip to Cleveland would be complete with out picking up some treats at the West Side Market. This time we headed to Dohar Meats for some of their homemade sausage and bacon. Leaving it in the car is not advisable unless you want to dream about being stuck inside a sausage but it is very tasty.

It seemed that we saw and ate a lot – but I am still left feeling that Cleveland has a lot more to offer. Luckys and Lolita are high on my Cleveland wish list and I want to try Fire: Food and Wine for dinner (I just had a salad on this trip). I also purchased a copy of Cleveland Ethnic Eats which I look forward to using. You can probably tell that I am already plotting trip number 3. More photos on Flickr

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Filed under Drinks, markets, Ohio, slow food, Travel

Camel Sausages

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I can safely say that I had never (knowingly) eaten camel. Ridden on one yes, but considered eating one? No. It sounds like a contender for Andrew Zimmern‘s Bizarre Foods, not something you would find in Ohio. So how did it come about that I sat down to a dinner of camel sausages?

As many things have done this year, it started with a trip to a taco truck. We have some interesting experiences taco trucking and this was one of them. One evening when we were at Los Potosinos chatting with the owner Lidia, she was animatedly talking about camello. We asked a few questions to make sure that we were understanding correctly and that this wasn’t some new variation of beef or pork offal. No, she was quite clear, it was camel. She explained that the owner of a neighborhood convenience store had camel meat for sale and was disposing of off-cuts in a nearby dumpster. Local residents were complaining about the pungent dumpster smell and blaming it on the taco truck. Lidia was agitated because they had called the public health inspectors and she had been wrongfully accused.

We sympathized with Lidia but at the same time our curiosity was piqued. This was soon after project octopus and we gleefully teased Bear that we had found a new cooking project for him, possibly a candidate for the smoker. We left him to guess but to no avail, our clue of ‘they have them at the zoo’ not being very helpful in narrowing it down. He was left mystified. A little joking around, one failed attempt to find the aforementioned camel meat and then we forgot all about it.

That was until our little jaunt to Cincinnati where we stumbled upon some camel sausages with Moroccan seasoning at Kroeger and Sons Meats. They sell over 30 different sausages and apparently they sell quite a lot of camel ones. Of course, we couldn’t resist trying them and we invited Bear and Colleen to a ‘Moroccan’ dinner.

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Colleen was less enthusiastic than her husband about our choice of protein. Bear on the other hand calmly assured me that he had the perfect wine to go with camel. It was my turn to be mystified (and slightly sceptical)…. but he was right. A Lebanese Chateau Musar did seem as close a pairing as possible.

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The camel sausages were extremely lean but unnervingly turned bright red as they cooked. We made sure they were well done and although a little wary we tucked in. The flavor was great with pine nuts, cinnamon and lots of mint. If you didn’t know, you would have thought they were lamb, especially given the mint seasoning, which goes to show that not all unusual foods taste like chicken!

So there you have it – camel sausages from Findlay Market. Hungrywoolf approved ;-p

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Road Trip: Cincinnati

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Following the success of our Cleveland road trip, we decided that it was time for a food filled excursion to Cincinnati. This time we weren’t following in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain, but we did have some great suggestions via comments on the Cleveland post. Thanks to the readers who were so forthcoming with ideas.

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For those of you who know me, and or Cincinnati, it is probably no surprise that I wanted to check out Findlay Market, Ohio’s oldest continuously operated market. Findlay Market is in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood and encompasses the market building and the surrounding colorful storefronts. The market is smaller than the North Market but has more raw ingredients and less take-out meals, with less of the food court feel of the North Market. I was on the search for Goetta and with the number of competing butchers it was easy to find.

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Goetta is a Cincinnati specialty, similar to scrapple but made with oats instead of cornmeal. It has a coarser, more grainy texture than scrapple and (in my opinion) less seasoning. Continuing on the meat theme we also stopped at Kroeger and Sons who stock more than 30 types of sausage including sausages made from duck, bison and even camel. There are a number of delicatessens and we found some interesting cheeses, meats and some great pretzel buns from Servatis.

We couldn’t resist the enticing gelato from Dojo Gelato. They had a number of interesting flavors including (tastes just like it sounds) malted milk and a cinnamon scented churro, that was the favorite in our group.

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Another highlight in the market was Colonel de Ray’s Herbs & Spice and Everything nice. The staff were extremely helpful letting us taste and smell all sorts of salts, sugars and spices, telling us about their provenance and talking about what each one can be used for. Luckily for us it was a fairly quiet afternoon and they had more time to chat and we took full advantage of the opportunity to linger. I came home with a couple of treats: bourbon barrel smoked sea salt and truffle salt (which is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G on popcorn).

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Next stop was Terry’s Turf Club, proclaimed by the Restaurant Widow to be the best burger in Ohio. Terry’s is a little off the beaten track, out on Eastern Avenue but definitely worth the drive.

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I loved the Americana decor, with the vintage signs and coolers, the peanut shells on the floor and the obvious pride in the food. It’s quirky but it feels authentic – it’s what TGI Friday’s aspire to.

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So, on to the burger. I can’t claim to have eaten nearly enough burgers to be able to judge whether this was the best burger in Ohio, but I can tell you that it was really good. Cooked to order with all manner of interesting options, it was juicy, meaty and had a bun that was up to the job. The bun was soft yet sturdy and despite all that juicy goodness it never got soggy. The bun was from Shadeau Breads somewhere to check out on my next trip to Cinci. Actually I think a full day’s bakery tour might be necessary with Servatis, Bonbonerie, Bonomini and Shadeau all on the agenda.

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Have you ever been to a burger joint that serves foie gras or jamon Iberico de Bellota? Or that offers halloumi and lump crab as a cheeseburger topppings? Also worth mentioning was the beer, cocktail and whisky selections. Terry’s has something for everyone, from fast food addicts to food snobs.

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The burgers are substantial and left us feeling satisfied but stuffed. It was time for a walk and we headed to Mt. Adams to admire the view. Mt Adams is a quaint neighborhood with narrow hilly streets and panoramic views, that almost fools you into thinking you are in San Francisco. You can see over the river into Kentucky, and sad to say that was all the temptation we needed to make our next stop The Party Source.

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For those of us living in Ohio with its prohibition-esque liquor laws, The Party Source is the Bali Ha’i of liquor, calling us over the border to purchase from its fantastic range of beer, wine and spirits, including many that are unavailable on the ridiculously restrictive Ohio approved liquor list. Unsurprisingly, being in Kentucky, it has a great selection of bourbon and rye and it is also has an impressive range of single malt scotches. I will admit to spending most of my time in that aisle.

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Our final destination was Jungle Jim’s International Market. Jungle Jim’s is a grocery store, but it is unlike any other grocery store – and it is legendary. It is somewhere I have been hearing about since I moved to Ohio.

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It is hard to describe Jungle Jim’s. You can start with statistics:

6 Acres of food
50,000 international products
1,400 hot sauces
78 Olive Oils

and go on and on… It may be the only grocery store that offers tours – or food safaris. It also offers cooking classes and has a theatre that shows a movie about the store.  It has award winning restrooms, a monorail and countless attractions that would be more at home in an amusement park. These include animated figures, full size trucks, cars, boats and animals. It is vast, mind boggling and insane, along the lines of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

Jungle Jim’s have a large selection of English foods and one of my purchases was a large bottle of Ribena. I resisted buying too much more but there is temptation galore. You aren’t allowed to take photos inside the store, so you will have to imagine all of this craziness for yourself…. or go there and check it out.

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It was a fun day, and just like our trip to Cleveland it whetted my appetite to go back and explore more of Cincinnati, try some chili and fit in a trip to the American Sign Museum. If you have other food recommendations for Cincinnati, or for other day trips in Ohio, please let me know. I hear that Tony Packo’s in Toledo is somewhere I should experience at least once.

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Union Square Greenmarket

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Regular readers will know what a fan I am of farmers markets and Union Square market was a real treat. It therefore warranted its own post separate from my NYC round-up. There was an astonishing array of specialty foods and produce available. We were there fairly early on a scorching August saturday and it was fun to see restaurant chefs in their whites and pulling wagons examining the produce. It was also fun to see people loading up the trunks of waiting taxi cabs with their bounty. Here is a taste of some of the more unusual items on offer and new season items. 

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The Union Square Greenmarket is part of a network of NYC farmers (green) markets that have their origins in the 1970s. Union Square Greenmarket is a grande-dame of markets and is now open several days of the week with over 100 stalls. Always bustling, on a Saturday morning it is particularly packed with people. We were shopping for a picnic and bought bread, cheese, some salad and fruit. We found some beautiful cheeses at Cato Corner Farm and chose the Vivace which (although unique) is like a cross between gruyere and provolone. 

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My favorite purchase was some Mexican sour gherkins. Tiny little cucumbers the size of a kumquat with an inside that was reminiscent of a kiwano (horned melon). They were not as sour as one might expect from the name but tasted like a combination of cucumber and melon close to the rind and they were both adorable and delicious. 

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The same stall had a lot of edible flowers and a huge array of different sprouts including some that I had not seen before. The corn shoots (sprouted from popcorn) tasted as sweet as corn on the cob. Here are some of the more unusual items I spotted. 

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Another great find were Smokra pickles (okra with smoked paprika) from Rick’s picks. All of his pickles were delicious but I think those were my favorite. I might have to do a mail order. 

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There is a definite feeling of abundance when you see stalls piled high with summer fruits. We chose some of the petite yellow Shiro plums and they were perfectly ripe and juicy. IMG_4941

Despite the throngs of people you still caught wafts of wonderful aromas from the fresh herbs, particularly the stall with 14 varieties of Basil. 

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It wasn’t all fruits and vegetables, there were meats and fish, cheeses, preserves, baked goods, honey and flowers (divine smelling tuberoses) and luckily plenty of vendors selling ice tea, to quench your thirst in the already sweltering morning. 

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The vendors mostly seemed to come from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York, with some from Massachusetts and Vermont. The average distance is 150 miles. I loved the chance to shop and ‘window-shop’ at the Greenmarket, but it also made me look forward to coming home and my next trip to the North Market. The choice and bustle in Union Square is almost overwhelming, especially when all the vendors are new and unknown. There is something enjoyable in familiar faces and building a rapport with the farmers and vendors.  Although our market is much smaller there is always much more that I would like to buy than I need or can carry. 

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