Tag Archives: jeni’s

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

Localicious: Local Foods Week Columbus

localicious

This week has been local foods week in Columbus and while many of us could say that every week is (or should be) local foods week, this week was special. It was special because every day was packed with events highlighting local foods, local producers and the people who are working to promote these things. The week was organized by the Central Ohio not-for-profit organization Local Matters who have a number of great programs in our community and run the Greener Grocer in the North Market.

I attended some wonderful events during the week including the Market to Market Bike Ride, North Market Harvest Festival, A benefit dinner at Alana’s and A Cow to Cone tour at Jeni’s Ice Cream. Coincidentally our Slow Food Locavore Dinner at Otter Creek was also held during local foods week, so it really was a localicious week.

The Market to Market ride was a joint venture between Hills Market in Worthington and the North Market. You could start at either market, have breakfast and then ride down the bike trail to the other market, stopping at various rest stops en route, to be rewarded at the end with Jeni’s ice cream and a goodie bag of coupons. It was a great idea and a fantastic example of local businesses working together. Hills had their Ohio Market day and the North Market had their Harvest Festival, so both were bustling and over 300 people did the ride.

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We chose to ride up to Hills and have their blueberry pancake breakfast. It was really busy but they were churning out coffee, pancakes and sausage. My only disappointment – Log Cabin Syrup. On Ohio Market Day, during local foods week? What a missed opportunity to show off Ohio Maple Syrup. (Ohio is 4th in the country in Maple Syrup production).

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By the time we made it back to the North Market the harvest festival was in full swing. I fought my way through the crowds to the Dispatch Kitchen where I was due to be judging the pumpkin bread competition. I had worked up an appetite cycling, but was still relieved to see that there were only 9 entries in the competition. I’m still recovering from the 39 entry pawpaw competition and I wanted to have room for my ice cream! I was joined by Bacon Camp winner Roland, judging supremo CMH Gourmand and RJ from A Taste from Belgium.

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There was a tie for the second place pumpkin bread and Mary Martineau called for a taste off…. unfortunately it was still 2 votes apiece and Mary threw her hands up and awarded a joint prize. I left them to the pies, ate some ice cream (highly recommend pumpkin five spice with the Maker’s Mark), bought some apple cider and headed home.

Ruby beet and apple salad with black walnut vinaigrette

Alana's Ruby beet and apple salad with black walnut vinaigrette

Dinner at Alana’s is always a treat, but more so when it is for a good cause and you get to enjoy a family style meal with friends. There were ten different dishes and highlights included Bunny B’steeya, pumpkin, bacon and kale risotto and shell bean hummus with buttercup focaccia. A blow by blow photo account of the meal can be found on G.A. Benton’s blog. The wines were from our friends at  United Estates and the dessert was a ‘surprise’ from Jeni’s,  pawpaw ice cream in a waffle cone with her magical caramel sauce.

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Alana does an outstanding job of using local ingredients and her menu always highlights local producers and farms. In this case it was particularly special because several of the farmers and producers who had supplied ingredients were at the dinner.

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As soon as I heard about the tour of Jeni’s I called to book a spot and I am so glad that I did. This rare behind the scenes tour  guided by Jeni was limited to twenty people (the reason became obvious as we squeezed into the kitchen and completely disrupted production) and had a wait-list of 50 plus. Given the 4 pm start time there were a lot of children and it was fun to listen to their comments and questions. For example: ‘my family loves your ice cream so much that we can’t even go to Graeter’s any more’, ‘can we go in the freezer again?’ ‘do you have any cherries?’ and ‘how many bags of sugar do you use a day?’.

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The kitchen is surprisingly small for the amount and range of ice cream flavors they produce. Each of the two ice cream machines makes a batch of 10 gallons and Jeni’s can produce up to 70 gallons a day. The most popular is salty caramel which is usually made first thing in the morning every day. We watched as beets were juiced to color the red hot apple sorbet, pumpkins were washed and trimmed ready for roasting and marshmallows were mixed into the smoky milk chocolate. It was great to see the actual vegetables being used and to know where they came from (in this case Wayward Seed Farm). Of course not all the ingredients are local and we also got to smell the Ugandan vanilla beans that are specially flown in for Jeni’s.

As well as learning more about Jeni’s ingredients, process and philosophy we also got to eat ice cream – right in the kitchen. We had a sundae of freshly made vanilla ice cream and apple sorbet with caramel sauce and whipped cream. We also got a sneak taste of some of the upcoming winter flavors and the exclusive Dean & Deluca flavors including Limoncello with almonds and dried cherries, Goat cheese with cognac fig compote and Norwegian fruit sorbet.

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Everyone from Jeni down seems to be intensely proud of their product and works hard to ensure that customers are happy with every pint.  The attention to detail is impressive from the hand packed pints, to the house-made and hand mixed marshmallows, and the hand written labels and gift cards. The kitchen staff were very friendly even though we were completely in their way and happy to discuss their favorite flavors to eat and to make and how salty caramel is a great breakfast food.

You can see more photos from the tour in Jeni’s blog Salty Caramel.

What did you do for Local Foods week? Did you get scared by the living statue scarecrow? and what are you favorite local foods?

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Filed under Columbus, hills market, ice cream, judging, North Market, Ohio, special events

Columbus appreciation

Sign at Jeni's Ice Cream - Short North

Sign at Jeni’s Ice Cream – Short North

As the cliche goes, sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder, and sometimes returning somewhere makes you appreciate it even more. I enjoy living in Columbus. I love my neighborhood and being able to walk to countless great restaurants and bars in the Short North, Goodale park, the North Market and downtown. I like the ease, the convenience and that there is enough variety, without overwhelming choice. There are obviously some stand-out places and you can hear about some of these in the latest Columbus Foodcast – how to eat your way through 48 hours in Columbus. Brainstorming with the other contributors made me appreciate Columbus. As you can tell, there are way more places than you can fit into 48 hours, (even for someone with the appetite of CMH Gourmand) but hopefully it will inspire Columbus residents to try somewhere new in 2009 and entice some others to come and visit us!

One of the places that was at the top of my list to try in 2009 was Kihachi, a Japanese restaurant that is acclaimed as the best in Columbus but is hidden out in the burbs. I went last week as a belated birthday treat and it really was a treat. It is certainly not your average sushi bar and the food and presentation are exquisite. The sushi was superlative and my other favorite dish was the blazed eel. As well as the excellent food, the patience of our server as she translated all of the specials (written in Japanese) was wonderful, as was her enthusiasm as she waxed lyrical about the persimmon that had been soaking in sake for a week. Of course we had to try it.

Sushi fragrant with shiso and lime.

Sushi fragrant with shiso and lime.

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All of the beautiful serving bowls

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Sake soaked persimmon

One of the things that I am really appreciating about Columbus at the moment is the fact that I can buy local Ohio foods even in January. It is easy in the summer to buy local foods when there is abundant local produce but in the winter it is much more harder to find local foods, and more exciting when you do. Luckily the Greener Grocer makes finding local foods much easier. Over the last couple of weeks, I have noticed the following local Ohio foods: carnival squash (Northridge Farm), potatoes (Wayward Seed), apples (Eschleman Fruit Farm), sprouts (Sunsprout farm) mushrooms & greens (Green Edge), maple syrup (Bonhomie Acres), honey (Honey Run Farm), milk & cream (Snowville Creamery) and eggs (Two Silos) as well as wheat flour, spelt flour and corn meal from the Flying J Farm.

This is in addition to being able to buy freshly baked artisan breads from Omega at the North Market or Eleni Christina at Tasi, as well as Jeni’s splendid ice creams, proudly made in Columbus. As well as countless restaurants and a few food shops I want to try or revisit, something else on my list for 2009 is to visit the Krema nut factory, where they have been making peanut butter since 1898. Anyone else want to come?

Yesterday I attended a Slow Food Columbus planning meeting and heard the wealth of ideas people have for Slow Food events in 2009. It is exciting that Columbus has such a dynamic food culture and I am excited for the culinary delights and discoveries that 2009 holds in store.

Lunch today: Leek, Potato and thyme frittata made with Green Mountain russet potatoes from Wayward Seed and Two Silos eggs both purchased at the Greener Grocer. The thyme was frozen from my summer herb bonanza. Recipe from Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast, which continues to be one of my favorite cookbooks. This is one of the best frittatas I have made to date (and you may have noticed I make them quite a lot!) – Leek and Potato is a winning combination, not just in soups!

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Filed under Columbus, North Market, Ohio, restaurants, slow food, Vegetarian