Category Archives: special events

Second Anniversary

This week marked hungrywoolf’s second anniversary and  as with the first anniversary, it seems an appropriate point for some reflection and thank yous. The most common reaction of people that I mentioned this milestone to was ‘really, it’s only been two years?’ and while it does seem like a lot has happened in the last two years, I did check to make sure.

The continued popularity of Taco Trucks Columbus has been a source of great pleasure. I never tire of seeing people’s reactions when they taste their first gringa, and I love that we encourage people,who otherwise would not, to try the taco trucks. I also still love finding new trucks, like Las Catrachas. As well as being successful in its own right, taco trucks columbus also spawned our new blogs alt.eats.columbus and (soon to be launched) streeteatscolumbus as well as being a huge spur to our new business – Columbus Food Adventures, which launched this month.

Alt.eats.Columbus, sprung both from our taco truck research and our desire to share great food experiences. Just as we had brought some attention to Mexican street food, we wanted to encourage people to try some of the other lesser-known ethnic cuisines and to support some of the small businesses that are turning out amazing food in the strip malls of Columbus. During the course of our alt.eats research I developed a deep affection for ethnic grocery stores with kitchens hidden behind their aisles of exotic goodies. Luc’s, Arirang, Mecca, Apna, Michoacana (Sawmill), Salam – it was amazing how many of these gems we found.

I have been thrilled with the new wave of street food in Columbus, in particular I have a soft spot Foodie Cart with their innovative Japanese Crepes and I want to commend the ECDI for their help getting many of these businesses started. With the growth in both the number and variety of street food, we felt that these mobile vendors deserved their own reference site and so we are working to put StreetEatsColumbus together.

Freed from my job I finally found time to explore more of Ohio over the last year and we have made a couple of trips each to Cleveland and Cincinnati as well as a winery tour of the Ohio River Valley and some other day trips (many involving food). I also took my first trip to Chicago, mainly for research on food tours.

This year has included many wonderful food events (some as guest and some as volunteer) and highlights of the year include our Slow Food open air dinners (Otter Creek and Girasole), Bacon camp and Asparafest at Wildgoose, Field to Table at Franklin Park, Off-the-Menu at Nida’s, the North Market Apron Gala, market to market rides, The Hill’s Market’s oscar dinner, the Veggie U fundraiser, many cooking classes at the North Market and the Night of 100o tacos.

Over the winter I was involved in several fun/interesting/crazy cooking projects including pig’s head torchons, octopus confit and making my own haggis. My favorite recipes over the last year have been: apricot and almond tart, spring quiche, David Chang’s fantastic salad, lavosh crackers, kiwi and elderflower pavlova and corn chowder.

Thank yous go to many friends (and my family) who have been willing accomplices over the last year. I am grateful to everyone who has come on trips and tours, participated in cooking experiments, offered encouragement, provided (often) crazy ideas, eaten beyond comfort, tried weird and wonderful foods, proof read, taste tested, organized amazing events and many other kindnesses. Thank you also to everyone who has read or commented on hungrywoolf, taco trucks columbus and alt.eats, linked, liked or followed me.

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Filed under blogging, special events

Asparafest

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.

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

Ohio River Valley Winery Tour

Wine isn’t the first agricultural product that comes to mind when you think of Ohio, so you would probably be surprised by how many wineries there are in the state, and the quality of many of the wines that are produced. June is Ohio wine month and it is a great time to explore or re-explore Ohio Wines. Restaurants such as Deepwood, Barcelona, G Michael’s and The Refectory will be featuring Ohio wines from June until November and some will be offering special menus and wine dinners.

Having been a fan of Kinkead Ridge wines since I first tasted their River Village Cellars Syrah at the 2008 Flying J Dinner, I wanted to see their vineyard and meet the producers. With the assistance of Andrew Hall, Ohio wine expert and author of the blog Oinos Nervosa I have been trying to organize a Slow Food wine tour of the Ohio River Valley (provisionally September 11th). Yesterday was a scouting trip to visit the wineries, drive the route and check out a proposed dinner venue.

Our first stop was at Valley Vineyards in Morrow Ohio which was first planted in 1969. Three generations of the Schuchter family operate the business, one of the largest vineyards in Ohio. With 30 varieties of grapes on approximately 100 acres, Valley Vineyards offer a wide variety of wines including ice wines and a vintage port.  With a large tasting room and two dining rooms Valley Vineyards cater well for visitors and hold special events and  cookouts during the summer. As we visited in the morning, with a long day ahead of us, we only tasted a couple of the wines.

Our lunch stop (and the proposed dinner venue for our tour) was at the Wildflower Cafe in Mason. A converted house, this small restaurant is run by chef Todd Hudson and focuses on local, organic and sustainable food. Many restaurants claim an interest in sustainability but Todd’s menu and sourcing make his commitment clear. This was one of two menu boards:

It was hard to choose but based on the claim that it might be the best in the world I couldn’t resist the burger. Wildflower Cafe get their grass fed beef from Webb Valley Farm 25 miles away. It was a very good burger: a juicy, well flavored patty, perhaps a little dense, in a soft pretzel roll with smoked bacon, herb mayo, cheese, greens, tomato and onion. The bacon was particularly good and the use of pretzel roll was inspired.

After lunch we headed south to Ripley Ohio. Ripley used to be an important tobacco center and is still home to the tobacco museum and festival. The collapse of the tobacco market caused some farmers to diversify into wine. Our first stop was the Meranda-Nixon winery, historically a tobacco farm and now a successful winery. As we arrived, we could see wine maker Seth Meranda out on the tractor in the vineyard.

His wife, Tina, was running the tasting room and cheerfully offered tastes quite a few of their wines. Like all of the wine makers we met yesterday she was friendly, happy to answer questions and to talk about their wines. All of the wine makers we met were very down to earth making Ohio winery tours comfortable to visitors with all levels of wine knowledge.

Meranda-Nixon are known for their Traminettes and their popular reds generally sell out. A newer experiment for them is Norton, an Ark of Taste product, more common in Missouri, and the oldest cultivated American grape. It won’t be ready until 2011 but we had a sneak preview. I particularly liked the Catawba, a blush light sweet wine from a grape that was traditionally grown in the Ohio River Valley. I think its going to make a fantastic summer spritzer.

From Meranda-Nixon it was a short drive to Kinkead Ridge. The actual vineyard is just outside of town, but the winery, only open to the public a couple of weekends a year,  is on a quiet residential street in Ripley. Kinkead Ridge does not have a tasting room and we were warmly greeted in their production room surrounded by tanks and barrels, with the smell of fermenting grapes that you only get in a cellar.

Kinkead Ridge is run by Ron Barrett and Nancy Bentley and you can follow Nancy on twitter @wineladyohio or read their blog. Ron was a wine maker in Oregon for many years but was looking for a new challenge and determined that the SW of Ohio had potential to produce world class vinifera. They first planted vines in the Ripley area in 1999 and had their first vintage in 2001.

Kinkead Ridge released two 2009 white wines this weekend, a blended River Valley Cellars white and a Viognier Roussanne. Their harvest of white grapes last year was very small and only produced 168 cases in total. If you want to try one of them you’ll have to act quickly. I thought the Viognier Roussanne was a lovely dry white, lightly fruity and floral.

Our final winery visit of the day was to La Vigna, a vineyard with a picturesque view set high up in the valley (first picture in the post). There was a live band and a large tent set up for people to relax and enjoy a glass or two of wine.

As at Kinkead Ridge, tasting was in the production facility and we were able to compare two different vintages of their red and white proprietary wines as well as see where the wines are made. The La Vigna white is 100% Petit Manseng and the 2008 oak aged vintage was much sweeter than the steel tank 2009. Of the reds I preferred the younger 2008 cabernet blend to the more heavily oaked 2007 vintage.

From La Vigna we had a beautiful drive along the river towards Cincinnati. We had a fantastic dinner at Local 127 that deserves its own post.

More photos from our trip can be found on flickr.

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Filed under Drinks, Ohio, slow food, special events, Travel

North Market Apron Gala

When I volunteered for the North Market Apron Gala Mary told me that I would be assigned the role of ‘Apron Fairy’. She assured me that it would be fun. All I had to do , she informed me, was hand out stickers to the best aprons, oh, and wear a set of wings. Dressing up is not my forte. Halloween costumes fill me with dread and the last time I appeared in public as a fairy was in the 1970s (see exhibit A).  But, I love the North Market and if supporting the market meant wearing wings, so be it.

As a not-for-profit organization, the apron gala is an important annual fundraising event for the North Market. It’s a big event and the fierce competition between the vendors ensures that there is a fantastic spread of food. At the last minute I was asked to be a food judge as well. [I’m learning (a little slowly perhaps) that one shouldn’t always say yes to these requests] Of course, I said, I’ll be walking around anyway, I can handle both.

It was harder than I expected: crowded market, sticking-out-wings, trying to juggle a camera, pen, list of foods, stickers, plate, fork, glass as well as trying to make sure I didn’t miss any of the best aprons and that I tasted all of the food (there was A LOT of food) in time for the winners to be announced.

Despite the ‘pressures’ of being the apron fairy and a food judge, the gala was fun. I saw a lot of friends, ate  wonderful food and enjoyed working with my fellow judges Walker Evans (Columbus Underground) and Brian Wilson (Senior Development Chef at Bob Evans). Sadly I didn’t have time to watch any of the Edible Columbus cooking demonstrations, but I did try one of Tricia’s appetizers radishes with butter on bread.

As apron fairy I picked 12 of the best aprons that I saw during the evening. I tried to select the people who had made their own aprons, or obviously put a lot of thought and effort into their aprons. The winner was chosen by audience applause. The winning aprons were the ‘spill baby spill’ couple, who received loud cheers for their topical BP themed aprons.

At the same time I was apron spotting I was also trying to make sure that I tried all of the appetizers, main tastes and desserts. The appetizer course was the mostly hotly contested and the judges deliberations were lengthy. The winner was the Candy’s shacks panko crusted deep fried shrimp with mole sauce and orange. Other strong contenders included the Omega crawfish bread, Taste of Belgium waffle with buffalo mozzarella and Hania’s mielone (chicken croquettes with a cheesy center).

The winning main taste was the buffalo and foie gras slider with duck fat fries from North Market Poultry and Game. It is the one dish that people have not stopped talking about since the event. Mine looks somewhat squashed. That may or may not be because I had to snatch it out from under someone’s approaching hand. Pretty – no, a deserving winner – Yes.

For a much better picture of the winning slider I refer you to Columbus Foodie. Becke was also gracious enough to give me her Pure Imagination Chocolatier dessert (below) as there were none left for me to judge. Unlike other food judging competitions, the judges don’t get a preview or have samples set aside, so I was lining up for waffles and chocolate cups just like everyone else. The winning dessert was the bananas foster from Omega, and the winning display was the Greener Grocer, neither of which, sadly, I have pictures of.

This was the 14th annual apron gala. Its a great event for a special place. If you value the North Market and want a chance to try foods from all of the vendors, enjoy an open bar and have fun with friends I encourage you to plan on attending the 15th apron gala next year. I’ll be there, with or without wings.

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Filed under Columbus, judging, North Market, special events

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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Off the Menu: Flavors of Thailand at Nida’s Thai on High

This was the first in what we hope will be a series of dinners featuring unusual dishes and ingredients. Restaurants often shape their menus around the safe choices of what sells well. We hope to give chefs an opportunity to prepare dishes that they would not normally feature, either because they include less popular or unknown ingredients or because their preparation is too involved or impractical for à la carte ordering.

The first of the series Flavors of Thailand was held at Nida’s Thai on High and featured dishes from two regions of Thailand: Isaan and Central Thailand. Many of these were dishes that the chef prepares for herself and the staff.

We were greeted by a choice of two of the new spring cocktail specials, either a cucumber cilantro gin and tonic evocative of spring, or an as-yet-unnamed concoction of Cointreau, brandy and orgeat.  Such creative cocktails are the specialty of bartender extroardinaire, Vivian Loh.

The first course, confusingly named, soup no mai, was in fact not a soup but a spicy (and pungent!) bamboo shoot salad served with sticky rice.  Once you got over the initial funky aroma, it was an impressively well balanced dish, with mint as a refreshing counterpoint. It was very well received.

The kor moo yang was unanimously the most popular dish of the evening. It was marinated, grilled pork collar served with a spicy dressing and a side of sticky rice. Tender and extremely flavorful with a little char from the grilling. The staff quietly thanked us for giving them the chance to indulge in this special treat.

More pork – this time in the form of sai grog isaan, sour Isaan style sausage, and namm preserved pork. The sausage made with pork and sticky rice was well seasoned with spices and garlic. The preserved pork was one of the more challenging dishes, packed with very thin strips of skin and quite chewy as a result. It had taken the chef a week to make these sausages for us, with a lot of effort put into sourcing the authentic ingredients. The sai grog isaan was definitely the more popular of the two, although the preserved pork did have its fans.

The end of the Isaan dishes was marked with a palate cleanser of lemongrass juice. Sweet and not citrusy as one might think, it was fun listening to people trying to describe the taste – everything from nutty to floral to Fruit Loops(!) came up. One guest said that it was exactly the same as lemongrass juice they had bought on the street in Thailand.

Expecting the Central Thai dishes to be less spicy we had a bit of a surprise when we tasted the soup. It was easily the most spicy dish of the evening. Tender chunks of tilapia, cauliflower, carrot and green beans floated in a fiery, but delicious broth, that rewarded those that braved the heat.

Next up Gra Praw Moo. I don’t think I have ever seen chicken gizzards on a menu and there really was only one word to describe them – chewy. The slightly liver-y flavor was reminiscent of Thanksgiving gravy. The real reward for all that chewing was tender and tasty ground pork flavored withThai basil and aromatic spices.

The pad woon sen (bean thread noodles with tomato and tofu), was one of the simpler dishes. By this stage we were approaching the dishes warily, but there were no strange animal parts hidden in this one.

By the time we reached course number seven, waistbands were feeling tight. The kai pa loh was a rich stew, fragrant with chinese 5 spice and soy sauce containing melt in the mouth tofu and pork, hard boiled egg and shitake mushroom. This umami lover’s delight was a wonderful dish.

Dessert was num kang sai, Thai fruit and some red beans with coconut milk on ice. It was a simple, refreshing and popular end to the meal.

Many thanks to Nida, her chef and staff. We are very grateful to them for hosting this wonderful dinner and sharing these dishes with us. If this is indicative of Off the Menu events to come, we are really looking forward to future dinners.

If you would like to attend future Slow Food events please check the Slow Food Columbus website.

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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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