Category Archives: soup

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

In the kitchen

I know its been quiet on the blogging front, but its been a busy couple of weeks in the hungrywoolf kitchen. The new year brought a new stove which I’m still getting used to. I think it runs a little hotter than the old one and it makes all sorts of disturbing creaking and clanging noises when the oven is on, but at least you can’t put your fingers through the rust holes and it’s a lot easier to clean.

Also new is a shiny kitchen aid mixer and some fun extra toys: the ice cream maker and meat grinder attachments.

The picture shows focaccia dough which I partly kneaded in the Kitchen Aid. I used Nigel Slater’s recipe but left out the olives and used more herbs and garlic instead. It was as foolproof as Nigel said, and really delicious straight from the oven.

I also had my first attempt at ice cream in the Kitchen Aid, choosing a recipe from David Lebovitz’s book ‘The Perfect Scoop‘ for peanut butter ice cream. It was a decent first attempt and future plans include sesame honey ice cream and cafe au lait.

The most welcome new addition in the kitchen has been more storage space: a new shelf, which has considerably reduced the hazard of things falling out of the cupboard. Everything is less crowded and it is much easier to find herbs and spices.

Inspired by Robin Davis and the disarray of kitchen construction, I have been on a mission to use-up, reduce and turn-over. Targets include bags of rice and grains that have been in the cupboard for 6 months or more, jars that have been open too long, anything with freezer burn and all the things I bought thinking that I would use but haven’t. I made a list of all of the meals or dishes we could make based on what we had in the freezer and cupboard and was astounded at how long it was. Our stock pile of squashes from the fall has now been depleted (although there are a few pints of pumpkin puree in the freezer).

Given the weather, a lot of our meals have been soups, curries and stews. The picture is a thai red curry pumpkin soup, a hybrid of a Nigel Slater recipe and Heidi Swanson’s quick fix. Favorites have been Madhur Jaffrey’s chana masaledar (chick pea curry), spicy baked beans (based on the recipe in Earth to Table), and corn chowder made with corn I froze last summer. Not only have we saved a lot of money on groceries and eating out, but the process has been therapeutic. Next on the hit list is brown rice, I’m thinking mushroom pilaf.

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Indochine – finally

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I had an intriguing comment on a recent post, from a reader who offered to share a spreadsheet of  Asian restaurants in Columbus. I love lists and I love Asian food so I didn’t hesitate to respond. We started comparing notes via email and decided to meet to try a restaurant new to both of us. Indochine has been high on my restaurant wish list for months. The signs were all telling me to try it – blog posts, mentions on WOSU, recommendations from friends and finally I did.

Indochine is in east Columbus on South Hamilton Road. It is light and bright with a spacious feel and it is very family friendly, as evidenced by the number of children in their Sunday best. The owners are extremely hospitable, chatting and joking with regulars and very willing to expand on menu items. I have never heard anyone describe a dish with such enthusiasm and pride. We ended up as a party of five adventurous eaters, willing to share and with an eye for the unusual.

The food is a mix of Vietnamese and Laotian with a variety of salads, noodle soups and pho, fried rice and sandwiches. I was curious to try the Laotian style dishes, which share similarities to both Thai and Vietnamese cuisines, as they were new to me.

We started with a Vietnamese classic, a bahn mi sandwich (ba mon) with 3 types of meat including headcheese. Not quite as delicately assembled as the Mi Li variety but with the same characteristic mix of flavors and every bit as fresh and craveable.

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Next were two salads, papaya salad accompanied with pork rinds, which even at ‘2 stars’ was too spicy for most of us to enjoy, and marinated cabbage with shrimp and chicken that was so vibrant and refreshing with its lime, cilantro and chili dressing that it was an instant favorite.

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Next were two beef salads, both Laotian style – Goi thit bo and crying tiger with ginger sauce. The crying tiger didn’t live up to its name: it was the papaya salad that was voted most likely to make someone cry. The Goi thit bo was a successful marriage of flavors, very similar to the Thai style dish yum nuea. The crying tiger was lightly seasoned beef strips to be dipped in ginger sauce.

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One of our favorite dishes was a cold rice noodle salad bun cha gio thit heo nuong (number 22 I believe) with pieces of spring rolls. Presented in a four seasons style, the light dressing comes on the side and you pour it over the ingredients and mix them together.

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We sampled two different types of noodle soups (banh canh), one with chicken and blood pudding  and one special (pictured) that was not on the menu. These steaming hot bowls would be a perfect winter meal.

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If Indochine were more convenient I would definitely be a frequent diner. Unfortunately it is not, but it is certainly good enough to lure me out to the east side and you can’t beat it for warmth of welcome.

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Skillet

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Skillet‘s motto is rustic urban food. Their mission is ingredient driven comfort food – with an edge and they do it well. The food is familiar but with a creative twist. I was smitten immediately. What could be more comforting than warm vanilla and mascarpone breakfast risotto with pan-roasted peaches brûlée with bourbon molasses red eye gravy. Skillet is on Whittier Avenue in the old Banana Bean location. They have been open for weekday lunch and weekend brunch for two weeks, but as of Tuesday 3rd November they will be open for dinner until 8pm.

I waited to write about Skillet until I had been there a couple of times and by the joy of eating with friends I have sampled a large proportion of the menu. I have also established that my initial reaction was not a fluke. Everything has been at worst good and at best excellent. As the menu will be driven by the availability of seasonal ingredients (the owners are supplied directly by several farms), the menu will vary on a weekly or daily basis with some staples. The menu is available on the website and you can call orders in advance. Here’s a teaser.

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A few things to know about Skillet. You order from the counter and your food will be brought to you, similar to Northstar but without the number, as the restaurant only seats twenty. It is thus hoped that a large proportion of the business will be take out. Something I loved – there is a discount for two-wheel customers. Another thing you should know in advance is that you will be torn between telling everyone you know about it, and keeping it a secret for yourself.

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Pumpkin and black bean soup with roasted pepitas

Ordering at the large window not only gives you an insight into the goings on in the kitchen, but also allows you to chat to the chefs (when they aren’t too busy) and makes it easy to ask questions (and get answers) about the dishes and ingredients. The chefs certainly aren’t afraid of fat or garlic and while there are some vegetarian options, this is a small proportion of the menu.

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Shredded apple and farmer's cheese pancakes with rum raisin sauce

My favorite dishes so far have been the toasted sandwiches – the porchetta (I think I was sold on the wild fennel pollen) and the braised beef short rib with smoked gouda on grilled brioche. The beef was tender and rich, the fried peppers were spicy and the cheese smoky all offset by the light crispy brioche. I added some of the apple horseradish sour cream and the effect was to make my lunch companion jealous.

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Braised beef short rib and organic smoked gouda

Don’t neglect the side dishes. One of the gems of the menu is the crispy fingerling potatoes with burnt ends. Irresistible. Also at the moment they have pan roasted beets with goats cheese and almonds and they have some great breads. If you are lucky there might even be some homemade jam.

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The lunch menu is sandwich focused but the dinner menu will have some specific dinner entrees. I can’t wait to see what they come up with. Skillet is a great addition to the German Village and Columbus restaurant scene.

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Filed under Breakfast, Columbus, restaurants, soup

Ethnic Columbus

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Columbus is often thought of as a white bread town, territory of generic chains and home of the fast food giants White Castle and Wendy’s. Dig around though, and between the Olive Garden’s and Applebees you can find some fantastic independent restaurants and (the point of this post), some ethnic gems.

Last week in two days we ate Colombian, Korean and Vietnamese food and had some proper boiled bagels for breakfast. Stretch that time period out to a couple of weeks and you can add in Thai, Indian, Chinese, Japanese and Mexican. Columbus also has plenty of Middle Eastern and Greek offerings as well as a wealth of small Somali and Ethiopian restaurants. This winter I am hoping to start exploring Somali cuisine and would love any recommendations of places to start. The only cuisines I haven’t been able to find in Columbus are Sri Lankan and Moroccan. If anyone knows of any please let me know. In the mean time here are some recommendations of places that I love and you should try.

Yau’s Asian Bistro (1493 N. High Street) was recently reviewed by G.A. Benton in Alive. Conveniently close to campus it offers many of the standard ‘Chinese take-out’ offerings but lots of more interesting dishes as well. They also serve bubble tea and plenty of good vegetarian options. The dish pictured is the famous spicy salted squid, one of my favorites. Yau’s, as many of the restaurants in this list, is somewhere you go for the food and not the stylish interior and like most of these restaurants they do not have a liquor license.

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Arirang Oriental Market (1526 Bethel Road) was recommended to me by a reader (Thank you Molly). You would never guess that it has a restaurant in the  back. You order at the front counter and then find a seat and wait to be signaled to when your food is ready. The menu was mostly translated from Korean but we did ask for some guidance. It is extremely clean, good value and I am looking forward to going back and trying some more dishes. I ordered the hot and spicy beef soup with noodles and we also shared a Korean (mung bean) pancake. The soup was perfect for a frosty night and the pancake the best I have had. We were given three side dishes including the requisite kim chee. I had previously wondered why Korean restaurants give you the side dishes at the same time as your food (usually I would prefer them to nibble on while I wait). When my cauldron of soup arrived still at a rolling boil, I was glad to have sometime to eat while it cooled down.

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Mi Li Cafe (5858 Columbus Square) is our go-to for Vietnamese food. Usually we head there when the craving for a bahn-mi sandwich hits but I have eaten everything on the menu including sam bo luong, a drink made with seaweed and ginko nuts. Friday was a pho dac biet day  (noodle soup with beef, tripe and meatballs) although I was secretly coveting Donna’s bo kho (beef stew). I have heard great things about Indochine but I haven’t made it there yet. Soon.

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The Columbian food I mentioned was from the taco truck El Manantial Latino which has just moved to a new location at Lane and High. On this visit we had the Colombian tamale – larger than a Mexican tamale with more meat and vegetables inside. It comes wrapped in a banana leaf rather than a corn husk. The menu offerings vary daily so it is best to ask what they have.

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If I want to make an effort for Thai food I go to Bangkok on Refugee Road which also has an eclectic grocery store. Apart from the drive they also close early, so more often than not I find myself eating Thai food at Nida’s Thai on High. As well as being extremely convenient Nida’s has the advantage of serving cocktails and sushi. It is the most atmospheric of the restaurants I have mentioned. The dish pictured is the tasty appetizer Mee Krob.

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I haven’t yet mentioned Mexican Food — and you know what I am going to say: yup, taco trucks. Many of these will stay open this winter serving steaming hot atole to go with your tacos. Don Pedro’s are currently offering a Thursday special $4 pambazo’s and the pambazos alone are worth the drive. Seriously craveable. My other favorite trucks include Los Potosinos, Los Guachos, Taqueria Jalisco and Taco Nazo, but there are over 30 to choose from. Closest to down town are Junior’s (on 5th Avenue) and Chapis tacos (near Broad and Souder).

I should also mention Japanese, of which my favorites are Sushi Bistro Masa and Kihachi. Both of these are in Dublin and whereas most of the other restaurants I have mentioned are places I would go on a weekday evening. The Japanese restaurants are for more of a special occasion, especially if you want to take full advantage of the more exotic offerings. Pictured are some fried salmon balls from Sushi Bistro Masa.

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Last but not least bagels. Blocks Bagels, with two locations in East Columbus are the closest thing I have found to New York bagels in Columbus. Boiled before they are baked, Blocks have been making bagels in Columbus since 1967. They have over 20 flavors as well as a sandwich counter and the bagels are as dense and chewy as they should be.

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So there you have it, plenty of places offering hot steamy bowls of soup, spice and carbs to keep you warm this winter. I know that this list is far from extensive, so please feel free to share other ethnic favorites and hidden gems.

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Filed under Columbus, restaurants, soup, Taco trucks

Corn Chowder

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With its combination of end-of-the-summer sweet corn and cosy warmth, corn chowder is the perfect comfort food for windy fall day. It makes you want to curl up on the couch with a blanket and a good novel. I had had the idea of making corn chowder for a few days but I can’t remember who started me thinking about it. I did have  a look on line for a recipe, but when I found one that used Campbell’s condensed chicken soup and a can of sweet corn I gave up and decided to create my own version with ingredients from the North Market, the garden and the freezer.

I was really pleased with the result- creamy but not overly rich and with all the flavors mingling so that nothing was dominant. I used fresh corn today but I froze a couple of batches of sweet corn this summer and I am looking forward to making this again over the winter. Maybe I will experiment with corn pudding too. The Carola Gold potatoes deserve a special shout-out. They are fantastic – really golden in color and have a wonderful flavor. I used some for a shepherd’s pie the other day and they almost mashed themselves. The celery salt was a last minute inspiration and I am glad I thought of it. I might add a little extra bacon next time, but just to keep AD happy.

1 tbsp Butter & 1 tbsp Olive Oil (may need more depending on pan).
1 Onion, finely chopped
2 sticks celery, finely sliced
2 medium potatoes (Carola golds from Northridge Organics via the Greener Grocer) cut into small cubes
3 rashers of bacon (Bluescreek Farm Meats) chopped
3 ears of corn shucked- Wishwell Farms via North Market Farmers Market
Leaves picked from 4 springs fresh thyme
Homemade chicken stock (to cover – approx 3/4 pint) from freezer.
Milk (approx 3/4 pint) Snowville Creamery (I used skimmed)
Half and Half  (1/4 pint) Snowville Creamery
1/2 tsp Celery Salt
1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh chives snipped to garnish

Quantities are a little approximate – I didn’t measure the  stock or milk, so just add until you get the consistency you want.

Saute the onion, bacon and celery until the onions are starting to soften. Keep the heat low enough that the onions do not brown. Add the cubed potato and thyme leaves and cook for a couple of minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure that they do not stick. You may need to add a little extra butter. Then add the chicken stock and cook for approximately 10 minutes. Check that the potatoes are cooked. Turn the pan off the heat and ladle the potatoes, celery and a little of the liquid into the blender. Add a cup of milk. Pulse for a few seconds and return to the pan. Rinse the blender out with the rest of the milk. Add the corn kernals, cream and parsley as well as celery salt and seasoning. Turn the heat back on and then cook the soup for 5 minutes. You may want to add a little extra liquid depending on thickness. To serve sprinkle with finely snipped chives. (I say snipped because I find it easiest to use scissors. I also use scissors to chop the bacon).

Another tip is that Snowville milk and cream freeze really well, so if you don’t think you can use half a gallon of cream within the date, you can decant it into smaller containers and then defrost small amounts as you need them. Warren suggested freezing it in an ice cube tray but I have been reusing old Jeni’s pints.

Serves four.

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Especially for the Early Birds

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A lot of restaurants are reacting to the recession with prix-fixe menus, bistro style offerings or early bird specials. There are some great deals around if you are able to eat early and don’t mind having a limited choice. G Michael’s has a Monday night special that looks like good value

A special occasion and some Comfest avoidance took us to Alana’s last weekend to try the early bird special of 3 courses for $25 if you eat between 5-6pm. I had not been to Alana’s for a while and it was my first experience sitting on the patio. It was lovely and will only be improved when the High Street construction is completed.

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Being a special occasion we started with cocktails and champagne cocktails at that. Alana’s spring elixir (champagne, vodka, rhubarb bitters and elderflower liquer) tasted every bit as good as it looked, stunningly presented with a red rose petal floating on top.

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There was a choice of 3 appetizers (two soups and a salad) and four entrees (one of which was vegetarian). There was no choice for the dessert and indeed our server did not know what it would be until he brought it out to us. He said that it would be whatever Alana had decided to make that day. Both the food and drink menus at Alana’s change often depending on what is in season and available. One of the things I enjoy about eating there is that there is always something new and different. There is a structure but it never gets stale and it is always seasonal.

I started with a peach sake soup with strawberry and ginger salsa (over 21’s only) and it was wonderful. It was light and refereshing, perfect for a summer afternoon. The sake added an interesting kick and ensured that it was not overly sweet. It was the envy of the table.

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My winning streak continued with a succulent steak accompanied by a smashed potato salad and local green beans. The potato salad was very lightly dressed and had a slight vinegary tang which helped to make the meal feel less rich than some of the other menu offerings. The sauce was called horsey-sauce, named for the horseradish used to give it a bit of punch. Also popular was the huge helping of creamy risotto of wild mushrooms and scallops.

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The mystery dessert was a well executed creme brulee (I particularly liked the burnt sugar crust). All in all, excellent value for the early birds, especially if you can resist the cocktails. This is harder than it might sound as Alana’s has some of the  most interesting, innovative and appealing cocktails in the city.  One of the benefits of eating early is that you have the whole evening ahead of you to enjoy. In our case we headed down to Schiller Park for some al fresco theatre. How I love the summer.

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Filed under Columbus, dinners with friends, Drinks, restaurants, soup