Tag Archives: slow food columbus

Locavore Dinner at The Winery at Otter Creek

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Last year the ‘Shake the Hand That Feeds you Dinner‘ at the Flying J Farm was my first Slow Food Columbus event. It was a magical evening, eating al fresco by candle light with convivial company, food from the farm and a master chef working the grill. I secretly feared that the encore could not live up to my memories. I was wrong. Sitting at a candle-lit table overlooking the vineyard at sunset, it was as if we had been magically transported to the Napa valley.

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It was not all smooth sailing. Planning a big event never is, but the locavore dinner had more than its fair share of obstacles and logistical complications. In the final days before the event the rain was relentless and the forecast was ominous. Luckily saturday was dry and after a blustery afternoon the wind died down at 5pm precisely and the tablecloths finally stopped threatening to fly away.

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There may have been an element of luck with the weather but the fact that the dinner came together with such style is a tribute to Bear and Colleen and their powers of organization, creativity and persistence. The Winery at Otter Creek is a young operation located near Johnstown Ohio with a beautiful hillside setting and as well as providing a stunning setting they supplied a variety of their wines for the dinner.

OtterCreekRefreshmentsWe started with refreshments and amuse-bouche as we watched the chefs in action and admired the view. The heirloom tomato-water ‘martini’ was a popular choice.

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The crostini was one of my favorite things of the evening, goats cheese, pesto, roasted tomatoes, simple but sumptuous, a perfect match of creamy and crispy.

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While we were milling around, whetting our appetites, the chefs John and Ryan from Basi Italia were hard at work creating amazing things on the biggest Weber grill you have ever seen.  They were cheerfully assisted by Andrew and Adrienne, who may not have realized what they had let themselves in for.

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Above: Free-range Ohio pheasants, shot to order from Mill Creek Pheasant Farm crowding around a pan of spicebush scented sauerkraut with honeycrisp apples. Below: a riot of color – fall squashes, purple potatoes and beauregard sweet potatoes.

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I will let the menu speak for itself. It was colorful, seasonal, delicious and a feat of outdoor cooking. The salads were plated but the main course was served family style and an ample supply of fresh bread, home made butter and rillettes added to the abundance.

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As well as featuring a wealth of local foods, the dinner incorporated two foods that are both local and Ark of Tasteground cherries in the autumnal tumble salad and garnishing the martini, and pawpaws in both cheesecake and ice cream form. I have a feeling that a few of the other foods would make excellent candidates. Purple potatoes, spicebush berries?

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After the pawpaw festival I thought I might never eat pawpaw again, but these creamy treats enticed me back. I was responsible for the black walnut biscotti, using half of the nuts specified in my usual recipe. They were best dipped in some hot apple cider.

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A Slow Food Columbus locavore dinner would not be complete without some pawpaw liqueur and so the more (fool) hardy headed to Flying J farm to set up camp, build a huge campfire and continue the festivities. Chestnuts anyone?

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Although the dinner was the brainchild of Bear and Colleen, it would not have been possible without the help, generosity and kindness of so many others. As well as the thank you list below, there were many others who helped out on the night, collecting glasses, clearing plates and scooping ice cream. OtterCreekMenu

Our chefs, John and Ryan surveying the contented diners. A job well done.

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There are more photos on flickr, including shots of our fantastic campfire breakfast.

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First Anniversary

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Yesterday marked the first anniversary of this blog and it seemed fitting to mark the occasion in some way. This is also my 150th post.

The blog started ostensibly as a means of sharing my food experiences. I think of it as a food diary inspired by writers such as Nigel Slater. I have always loved food and last year I realized that I was having some wonderful food experiences in Central Ohio, but I had few friends locally who shared my passion for farmers markets and extraordinary culinary experiences. The blog was a way of sharing my experiences with my friends and family scattered around the world, who I knew would share my interest. The readership has grown beyond my circle of friends – and it is extremely gratifying when I meet someone who tells me that they read my blog. I love receiving comments and appreciate the thought that people put into sharing their experiences, recipes and feedback.

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As a food diary the blog is a mish-mash of restaurant experiences, home cooking, farmers markets and other food events with a sprinkling of food reviews. I generally only share things I have enjoyed or want to share or record. Mostly  I have more ideas and experiences to write about than time and I have a running list of ideas. Sometimes I think it would be better to focus on one angle, but life is a mixture of eating at home, eating with friends and family and eating at restaurants.

As I said, I started the blog partly because there was an element of loneliness in not being able to share my food passions with those around me. I could buy amazing produce but I didn’t have enough people to cook for who appreciated that the tomatoes were heirloom and the beef pasture fed.

Blogging has introduced me to so many friends and opened doors to many amazing food experiences. The first local connection I made through blogging was to go to one of Lisa’s (aka Restaurant Widow) monthly dinners. It was a wonderful event, held at the North Market and through Lisa’s dinners I met many wonderful people who shared a passion for good food and good company.

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Jim Ellison (aka CMH Gourmand) was an early commenter on my blog. He invited me to a cookery demonstration at the North Market, told me about Slow Food Columbus and Columbus Underground, took me for my first meal at Alana’s for the first time and has been a fount of Columbus Food knowledge  and a great friend ever since.  Jim has also been a collaborator on all sorts of  food projects and adventures – most importantly Taco Trucks Columbus, which lead to a TV appearance and all sorts of other fun.

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Jim informed me that by fortunate coincidence I lived only a few houses away from Slow Food Columbus founders Bear and Colleen Braumoeller and so it was that a few days later I accosted a couple in the street who seemed to match his description. Not long later I was invited to a ‘use it or lose it’ post wind storm pot luck and the rest as they say is history. The sidewalk between our houses is now a well trodden path and I am enormously thankful for their friendship and the warm welcome of Highland Estates. Bearleen (as they do not like to be called) also hosted the most spectacular party of the year. A party to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition, complete with era appropriate cocktails, dress and of course food.

Hooray for Ham Balls!

Hooray for Ham Balls!

Slow Food Columbus is a wonderful group, not just for its fabulous events my favorite of which is still the Flying J Dinner but also for the friends I have made and the interesting people I have met. Indeed, my boyfriend, fellow taco-trucker and daily dining companion, AD (aka TacoDrew) is someone that I met through Slow Food. The local chapters are called convivium and SFC epitomizes the definition of conviviality: fond of feasting, drinking, and good company; sociable. As well as having fun, I have also learned a lot through Slow Food about a variety of subjects including local food systems, coffee, whisky and paw paws. I think I can blame Bear for my taste in expensive whiskies, olive oils and acorn fed ham.

Paw paws at the Flying J Farm

Paw paws at the Flying J Farm

Taco Trucks Columbus has really shaped 2009 and the response we have had (over 50,000 hits), the exposure and the feedback has been gratifying and exciting. I love it when people try a taco truck for the first time and tell us how much they enjoyed it and when the owners tell us that they have had a lot more ‘gringos’ visiting their trucks.

I met my friend Suzanna (aka Cochon d’Inde) after a mutual friend told her about my blog. Sadly, she now lives in NYC, but she was a willing accomplice on many of my food adventures this year and we have shared many cakes, pastries and good times over the last year. I can’t wait for a weekend visit to the Big Apple in August.

I have had so many amazing food experiences over the last year that it is hard to pick highlights. Some of the best restaurant meals I have had this year were at Alana’s, DetailsKihachi and Roka (in London). Another notable events was a Pistacia Vera tasting at Hills Market. I have enjoyed each and every Slow Food event  and I have had many wonderful dinners at Highland Estates. Of course the company of family and friends, as well as the food is what makes so many of these events special.

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Pistavia Vera Almond cookies - the way to my heart.

I now own a mushroom log, am an expert on Mexican street food, have appeared on more Columbus Foodcasts than I can count, have been on the TV news and the front page of the Dispatch, live with a coffee and nicotine addict and am entered into a bacon cook off this weekend. It’s been quite a year! Thank you to everyone who has read, commented on and proof-read my blog (particularly my parents); And to those who have facilitated and joined me in my food adventures whether in person or vicariously.

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Slow Food à la Carte

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Last summer Bono Pizza gained a cult following among Slow Food Columbus members who couldn’t get enough of their artisanal pizza. So much so that two of the SFC members ended the summer with pizzas named after them. Bono is run by husband and wife Bill and Peggy Yerkes and last summer they shared space with the Eleni Christina Bakery on Russell Street. They are currently trying to secure a permanent home for the fantastic wood fired pizzas, but in the mean time we were able to persuade them to join us for a Slow Food event: à la cart.

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Our other cart was Liberté Crêpes, run by Caroline Gross Towne and Elizabeth Hall Towne and the evening was completed by sangria, an outdoor movie (Ratatouille) and Krema Nut Company snacks provided by hosts Elena Christofides and Andrew Hall.  After a one day postponement for the weather we had a beautiful evening and it was a wonderful relaxed event.

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One of the things that made this Slow Food event special was that as many of the ingredients as possible were sourced locally. You can see the farmers and producers that supplied ingredients from the pizza menu below.

alacart_menuI was very excited to have a pizza named after me. Apparently the original name had been ‘you’re-right-Bethia’, after I vetoed an Ark of Taste turnip pizza and suggested tomatoes and peppers instead. The Oregano came from my garden, where it grows like a weed, hence the ‘Hungrywoolf Farms’.

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Clockwise from top left: the Ohio 15b (a locavore version of the Colleen), the Bethiarita, the remains of a Cinderella, and the Southern Comfort. The Cinderella pizza was inspired by two beautiful varieties of eggplant, twinkle and  fairy tale and you can see that it didn’t last long. The southern comfort with corn, chevre and fried green tomatoes was probably the most unusual and also the most popular pizza of the night.

Pizzas greedily devoured it was crêpe time. Caroline and Elizabeth who also doubled up as the welcoming committee were busily flipping and folding crêpes on the front porch. Caroline was lamenting that the new organic Ohio flour they were using wasn’t producing their usual consistency of batter, but the crepes and fillings were delicious nonetheless.

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Local ingredients were again well represented and I know that a lot of people miraculously found room for a second crêpe.

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The weather held for the feature presentation of Ratatouille which seemed a fitting end to our gourmet evening. Many thanks to everyone who helped to make this such a wonderful event, especially to Elena and Andrew for welcoming us into their home, a perfect venue.  As usual good food and good company are the hallmarks of Slow Food Columbus events and it was a fun mixture of familiar faces, new members, old and young. There are more photos on flickr.

This post was written for the Slow Food Columbus Blog.

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