Toast Bar

Toast Bar
1028 Ridge Street
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 928-9035
http://dan-the-baker.com/

Is there anything better in life than breads and spreads? Dan the Baker doesn’t think so, and I’m inclined to agree. Tucked onto a side street near Grandview that you probably never knew existed, Toast Bar is a mecca of carb-loaded deliciousness. I almost hesitate to write about this place, because I love that it’s such a hidden gem. You may have caught Dan’s creations previously at Weiland’s, Hills Market, or the Worthington and Clintonville Farmers Markets; however, trying the mix-and-match toasts is something you need to head to the shop to experience. The seating area is teeny, so many patrons seem to grab their goods and go, but I managed to snag a stool at the window.

The signature item at Toast Bar is naturally the toast flight. From the ever-changing menu, you select three breads and three toppings to slather and smear on, to make your own custom board. Dan’s crew is churning out all varieties of bread imaginable for you choose from: garlic asiago, country sour, sesame, olive polenta, sun flax, and sprouted grain, to name a few. Spreads are often made in-house or sourced locally, and include house-made butter, lemon curd, strawberry jam, or maple almond butter. You can’t go wrong with any combination, I promise.

The highlight is the toast bar portion of the bakery, but don’t miss out on the pastries either. The “cruffins” are a croissant dough sprinkled with granulated sugar, rolled in a muffin shape, and stuffed with fillings like raspberry cheesecake or peaches and cream. Toast Bar serves up cookies, matcha or regular croissants, and of course, loaves of bread for sale as well. I scarfed down a tasty egg danish (buttery dough enveloping local bacon, pepper marmalade, and an egg) during my last visit too. The coffee menu is a little pricey, but I have to say, I really enjoyed my iced latte sweetened with maple syrup, and the Ohio honey vanilla latte caught my eye for next time.

Culinary Clue: Toast Bar just announced that they are expanding their hours to 8am-2pm Wednesday-Sunday. There will also be additional lunch options in the form of salads and sammies, so I can’t wait to return to try these offerings!

Have you been to Toast Bar? Send me a message on Instagram and tell me your favorite bread and spread pairing!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Spring and Summer So Far 2018

I haven’t done a photo post in awhile, so I thought it might be fun to share a little update of my spring and summer so far. At the end, I’ve also included some things on my future to-do list for the rest of the summer.  Don’t forget to sign up for the Columbus Culinary Connection newsletter either; you’ll get monthly updates and recent posts straight to your inbox! Here are some of my most memorable sunny moments so far for 2018.

Jeni’s Strawberry Jam

https://jenis.com/strawberry-jam-2018/

Jeni of Jeni’s Ice Creams hosts a strawberry-themed bash every summer, featuring all things berry or delicious from Rambling House Soda, Ray Ray’s Hog Pit BBQ, Fox in the Snow Cafe, Dough Mama, Hot Chicken Takeover, Bacca Coffee,  and Little Eater, as well as a Land-Grant beer to wash it all down and Hirsch berries to take home.

Bake Me Happy

https://www.bakemehappygf.com/

I finally made it to this gluten-free bakery, and was blown away. Bake Me Happy makes all your favorite childhood treats, like oatmeal creme pies and zebra cakes, in addition to pepperoni pizza scones and donut muffins!

Hooray for Fresh, Local Food

I’ve been enjoying our garden produce and some bounty from local farmers markets. I scored these great pickled onions in Athens, and my husband is crazy for the ‘shrooms from Tiger Mushroom Farms in salads. I also made this strawberry-rhubarb cream cheese tart which was warm weather-ready and up the last of the season’s rhubarb.

Eating at The Top

Some other local bloggers and I went to The Top steakhouse in Bexley for a fun event, where we sampled a little bit of everything, including escargot, lobster salad, shrimp cocktail, cheesecake, and an immense bone-in steak.

Family Feastin’

We love our yearly traditions in my family, and always have brunch with mom for Mother’s Day and get back to our German roots for Father’s Day. We left both get-togethers absolutely stuffed. Above is just a taste of our Deutschland-inspired feast.

A few other things on my summer bucket list:

  1. A visit to High Bank Distillery – I am intrigued by their menu and am always down to sample a local whiskey
  2. I just left Washington D.C. for a quick weekend getaway, and will be sharing more about our eats soon
  3. The Dublin Irish Festival – we always have so much fun at this event every year
  4. Staycationing at Hotel LeVeque – super excited for this one and ready to be a tourist in my own city
  5. The Columbus Food Truck Festival – so many trucks to try, so little time

What are you up to this summer? Let me know your Columbus summer checklist!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Teriyaki Turkey Lettuce Cups

In family-style Asian fusion restaurants, everyone goes ga-ga over the lettuce cups that these chains often serve as an appetizer. Everyone, that is, except me. Please don’t close out this page yet though, and bear with me here. It’s the lettuce. I just can’t stand iceberg lettuce; it’s too crunchy, it has no flavor, I absolutely cannot do it. So, a recipe recreation is in order! Bibb or Boston lettuce is much softer as a substitute since it wraps around the meat much easier than iceberg does, but feel free to use iceberg or Romaine if you like the crunch. A sticky teriyaki glaze makes this dish craveable, and the whole thing is low-carb, so there’s that added bonus as well!

Teriyaki Turkey Lettuce Cups

Yield: 15 lettuce cups

Ingredients
1 head of Bibb or Boston lettuce
1 lb. ground turkey (I used Jennie-O brand)
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. hoisin sauce
1 T. lime juice
1 tsp. sriracha (more if you like heat)
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 T. minced dried onion
1/4 c. chopped cashews
1/2 c. grated carrots

Begin with the lettuce: strip off the leaves, keeping them intact in large cup shapes. Then, wash and dry the leaves thoroughly and set them aside. In a small saucepan, whisk together the brown sugar, soy sauce, hoisin, lime juice, sriracha, garlic powder, ginger, and minced onion; bring to a boil. Boil for a minute or two, until the sauce is thick and glaze-like. In the meantime, in a separate skillet brown the ground turkey until fully cooked. Drizzle in as much of the teriyaki sauce as you’d like, to season the turkey. Toss the meat to coat it in the teriyaki sauce. Scoop the seasoned meat into the lettuce cups, and top with carrots and cashews for texture. Devour this tasty and messy goodness immediately so it doesn’t get soggy!

Does anyone else despise iceberg lettuce or am I the only one out there? Shoot me a message on Instagram and let me know!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

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Teriyaki Turkey Lettuce Cups
Serves: 15
 
Ingredients
  • 1 head of Bibb or Boston lettuce
  • 1 lb. ground turkey (I used Jennie-O brand)
  • ½ c. brown sugar
  • ¼ c. soy sauce
  • ¼ c. hoisin sauce
  • 1 T. lime juice
  • 1 T. sriracha (more if you like heat)
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • ½ tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 T. minced dried onion
  • ¼ c. chopped cashews
  • ½ c. grated carrots
Instructions
  1. Begin with the lettuce: strip off the leaves, keeping them intact in large cup shapes.
  2. Then, wash and dry the leaves thoroughly and set them aside.
  3. In a small saucepan, whisk together the brown sugar, soy sauce, hoisin, lime juice, sriracha, garlic powder, ginger, and minced onion; bring to a boil.
  4. Boil for a minute or two, until the sauce is thick and glaze-like.
  5. In the meantime, in a separate skillet brown the ground turkey until fully cooked.
  6. Drizzle in as much of the teriyaki sauce as you'd like, to season the turkey.
  7. Toss the meat to coat it in the teriyaki sauce.
  8. Scoop the seasoned meat into the lettuce cups, and top with carrots and cashews for texture.

Caroline’s Picks: 5 Afternoon Teas to Try

Listen, I like wearing jeans and drinking a hoppy beer as much as the next girl. But sometimes, I just want to be fancy and pretend I’m Lady Mary from Downton Abbey. Is this too much to ask? My mom also hosted a super snazzy afternoon tea to celebrate the Downton Abbey finale, so I suppose it’s genetic. However, if you aren’t into washing delicate china and making scones from scratch, there are plenty of local spots that will serve up an elegant afternoon tea just for you.

Cambridge Tea House

http://cambridgeteahouse.com/

Some girlfriends took me here for my birthday this year, and we had the best time. This is traditional afternoon tea at its finest: white tablecloth service, three-tiered platters piled precariously with desserts, fluffy scones with homemade jam and clotted cream, and mini sammies, plus the cutest tea cozies. Even the milk and sugar vessels are appealing! Make sure that you call ahead for reservations – the seating area is small and scones sell out fast.

Asterisk Supper Club

https://www.asterisksupperclub.com/

I love visiting uptown Westerville, but even more so that Asterisk is on the scene. The decor is library-themed, and they make some delicious craft cocktails if you want something stronger on the side. The afternoon tea here is served 7 days a week, which is extremely convenient for busy folks who can only make it on the weekends. Asterisk boasts the most delicious ham, brie, green apple, and dijon tea sandwiches, in addition to multiple scones, sweets, and a wide variety of teas.

ZenCha Tea Salon

https://www.zen-cha.com/home

ZenCha has more teas than you’ve ever dreamed of on their menu: Jasmine Pearl, Chocolate Covered Cherry, or African Safari. I haven’t been disappointed yet in their take on a tea latte either! Instead of your typical high tea fare, this space sports a brunch menu with nods to tea, such as Earl Grey or matcha-infused pancakes and chai-spiced shrimp and grits. ZenCha also can create custom tea party events for bridal showers or other occasions.

Koko Tea Salon

https://www.kokoteasalon.com/

Koko’s recently closed its Gahanna locale, and is gearing up for expansion to Easton, but you can still get your tea fix at the downtown outpost while you wait. High tea service here will earn you the typical offerings of sandwiches and scones, but Koko’s churns out a rainbow of dainty macarons, cupcakes, and other treats to enjoy with your hand-blended tea too. Don’t miss the theme teas as well, around topics such as Paris, Alice in Wonderland, or chocolate.

Mozart’s Cafe

https://mozartscafe.wordpress.com/

Mozart’s is known for heavenly desserts, but have you tried their afternoon tea offerings? There is often live piano music during dining hours, and plenty of European flair. Order up scones, a miniature apricot Linzer cookie, and teeny cranberry chicken salad canapes or smoked salmon sammies with a pot of tea. Reservations are required for this special menu.

Do you have a favorite Columbus tea zone? Let me know in the comments below!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Butler County: Where to Dine and Drink

You may have heard of the Donut Trail, via last week’s post or other sources, but did you know that Butler County boasts some great spots to eat and imbibe? My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing the culinary scene in the area, located just north of Cincy. You’ll want savory items (and maybe an adult beverage or two) after filling up on all those donuts, and the locals have you covered in this regard. Let’s discuss some of the delicious places that we dined and drank:

To Eat:

 

Flub’s Dari-ette

http://www.flubsicecream.com/

This soft-serve paradise is swirling up frozen confections to the masses in every variety. I was crazy for my orange creamsicle twist cone, but don’t miss the signature Cyclones. These aren’t your average blended ice cream treats. Give Brian’s PB Cup a whirl (Chocolate dip-top, peanut butter topping, and crushed peanut butter cups cycloned into vanilla creamy whip and topped with homemade whipped topping and Reese cups) or try Ellinghaus’s Blondie (Chocolate and vanilla twist ice cream mixed with cookie dough and brownie then finished off with chocolate dip top and home made whipped topping).

Hyde’s Restaurant

http://www.hydesrestaurant.com

It’s easy to see why this mom and pop joint has been around since 1946. The prices are reasonable, they serve breakfast all day, and oh my, the pie! The meringue on the banana cream pie was mile-high, and I’m still thinking about the flaky crust on the cherry pie. You’d think I wouldn’t be able to finish this pie after all those donuts, but you’d be wrong.

Jungle Jim’s

http://junglejims.com/

I could spend hours happily getting lost in Jungle Jim’s Fairfield. To call it a grocery store is almost an insult; it’s more of a mecca for food: delicious, unusual, or international. The cheese aisles alone are worth the trip, and the varieties I came home with were ones I’d never seen elsewhere, like truffle goat cheese or banana coconut gouda. There a whole section just for butters, one for pretzel breads, and even sections for foreign fruits and exotic game like rattlesnake. Wait, why did I leave here again?

Henry’s Candy Co

https://www.facebook.com/henryscandyco/

The sweet tooth strikes again at Henry’s in Hamilton. Chocolates, Jelly Belly beans, and every other colorful candy you can imagine line the shelves here. I snagged some nutty trail mix (one of multiple offerings) to tide us over on the drive home.

Cozy’s Cafe

http://cozyscafeandpub.com/

The name says it all – we received the best service, amazing food, and the desire to linger forever at Cozy’s. The interior is a Chip and Joanna Gaines farmhouse chic dream, and the outdoor patio area is immense, filled with Adirondacks and fire pits perfect for lounging. We were wowed by the short rib fries, the massive crab cakes, the Manhattan, and especially the zucchini carrot cake. Not to play favorites, but I need to go back to Butler County for Cozy’s alone – the backyard vibes are beckoning me this summer and I want to check out their brunch.

To Drink:

We were especially surprised by the number of breweries in Butler County during our visit. As hop heads, we discovered that there were plenty of superior suds to savor, and we met some of the dynamic folks behind these operations as well.

Quarter Barrel Brewery Hamilton

https://qbbrewery.pub/

This bar and restaurant just opened as an outpost of the original Oxford location. On tap, you will find some unique beer styles that you don’t often see, such as a Grissette and a Biere de Garde. On the menu, there is tasty pub grub too, like flatbreads and a pork belly BLT, pictured at the top of this post.

Municipal Brew Works

http://www.municipal.beer/

We loved chatting with Jim at Municipal who told us a ton of fun facts about Butler County, in addition to a few ghost stories. The building, we learned, used to be the municipal building for the City of Hamilton, hence the brewery name. The garage doors previously opened for fire truck bays, there are jail cells upstairs (spooky!) and a former shooting range for police detectives in the basement. There is also a beer available for every palette, from and aptly christened Approachable Blonde to a coffee porter. The riverfront patio here is large and lively, with daily food trucks and friendly pooches with their owners. A must-visit in my opinion!

Fig Leaf Brewing

http://www.figleafbrewing.com/

Fig Leaf is a newer operation, but that doesn’t mean they are short on beers. I really enjoyed Fig Leaf’s numerous hazy New England IPA selections, and they are doing some fun infusion flavors as well. It’s a very family-friendly place, with large tables and plenty of board games. The owners and their families have created some gorgeous woodwork pieces inside as well.

Rivertown Brewery

http://rivertownbrewery.com/

Our last stop of the trip certainly wasn’t my least favorite, and I’ll definitely return here too. I’ve loved Rivertown’s sour beer offerings for some time, and the tasting and tour of the brewery did not disappoint. Furthermore, our lunch was craveable: think giant pretzels, cornbread, bacon wontons with jam dipping sauce, and BBQ deviled eggs for apps. But don’t miss the photograph-worthy Rt. 63 burger, topped with an oozy fried cheese square, brisket, and a sparkler in the middle! Another tidbit we learned: they just started bottling and brewing Iron Line, a new line of beer exclusively for Kroger. Lastly, don’t miss the Groupon for a beer, growler, and tour if you visit Rivertown – it’s a steal of a deal.

If beer isn’t your preference, then the libations at The Roosevelt Room cocktail parlor are sure to please. This locale is serving up draft wine, happy hour specials, and a swanky atmosphere designed around Theodore Roosevelt. My inner history nerd is swooning right now. The drinks all have Roosevelt-themed names, such as the gin-based “Monocle” and the bold, bourbon-forward “Big Stick.”

Ready to head to Butler County yourself? Find out more information about the Butler County Donut Trail and its breweries and restaurants here: https://www.gettothebc.com/. The Visitor’s Bureau site can also give you ideas about other activities to do while you’re in town, since you’ll (probably) want to do other things besides eat during your journey. There are all kinds of outdoor activities that are ideal for warm weather, like golf, art exhibits, and even wakeboarding lessons! There are also other culinary destinations that I’d like to pay a visit one day: Swine City Brewing, Jolly’s Drive In, True West Coffee, Liberty Spirits, and Bagel & Deli, to name a few.

Finally, I have to mention our home base during the trip, The Courtyard Marriott Hamilton. This hotel had a modern, clean interior, and the staff was stellar. It is situated on the Miami River with water views, and within quick walking distance to both Quarter Barrel Hamilton and Municipal Brew Works, so no driving is required! Hamilton is a reemerging area, and if you love the musical Hamilton, you will adore its historic downtown, filled with Alexander Hamilton quotes and statues. There are also dozens of murals, sculptures, and art studded throughout the urban landscape.

If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out part one of the series, focusing on the Butler County Donut Trail and my favorite sweet at each stop. Have you had the pleasure of going to any of the locations listed in this post? Let me know your favorite.

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Disclosure: The Butler County Visitor’s Bureau hosted me on this trip, in exchange for an honest blog post. All opinions are my own.

The Butler County Donut Trail

The Butler County Donut Trail: Warning: this post may cause a serious sweet tooth!

Passport-style trails are currently popping up everywhere. In Central Ohio, we have a coffee trail, Dublin’s Celtic Cocktail Trail, Hilliard just launched an ice cream trail, there’s the Licking County wine trail, and of course, the Columbus Ale Trail. Just a short drive from the capital city though, is one of the most magical, sprinkle-covered passport programs around: the Butler County Donut Trail.

Located just north of Cincinnati, Butler County has your donut dreams made. The donut trail is a collection of twelve donut stops that you visit, purchasing a donut at each location. Begin the trail by downloading a passport here, or snag a passport at any stop on the trail. As you visit each stop, ask the cashier to stamp your passport. Once you’ve conquered every stop, turn your passport into the Butler County Visitor’s Bureau (or mail it in) and they will reward your donut-eating prowess with a t-shirt. Because it’s also a quick road trip from Columbus, it’s easy to make a day jaunt to Butler County, knocking out a few shops at a time throughout the year until you’ve collected all the stamps. Just make sure to get an early start – some shops sell out by noon or even before.

The most fun thing about the trail (besides the donut-devouring) is seeing that every shop had something special that set it apart, whether it be the owner, the theme of the shop, or the unusual varieties of flavors offered. Some were old-fashioned mom and pop spots, while others were modern and Instagram-ready. During my journey, I had the most scrumptious and unadorned yeast donuts and basic French crullers. However, I also gobbled up some crazy versions topped with candy ingredients or Fruity Pebbles cereal; there’s appeal for both pastry purists and the most adventurous sugar lover. Some locales were in the ‘burbs, others were near commercial areas, but all were delicious.

Here’s my breakdown of every stop on the trail, with my favorite donut to devour at each:

Holtman’s Donut Shop

https://www.holtmansdonutshop.com/

Home to some of the most creative and colorful goodies on the trail, Holtman’s features a plethora of flavors, from maple bacon to Lucky Charms,  or from heavily sprinkled and Fruity Pebble-laden. This stop is also located around the corner from IKEA, so pop inside afterwards to walk off all those donuts!

Donut to Devour: Maple Bacon

Kelly’s Donuts

https://www.facebook.com/kellysdonutsandmore/

The retro vibe in this Hamilton joint puts you in a good mood at once, and if the shop’s atmosphere doesn’t, Kelly’s donuts will. The creamy, rich peanut butter filling in the Reese’s-esque donut will make you melt, and there’s nothing to not love about the s’more concoction sprinkled with graham cracker crumbs, mini marshmallows, and a chocolatey drizzle.

Donut to Devour: S’mores Donut

Martin’s Donuts

https://www.facebook.com/martinsdonutshop/

This cheery pink Trenton bakery is small, but it’s making some mighty tasty donuts. The turnovers, yeast donuts, and especially the cheesecake donuts were all a hit. The Cherry Cheesecake = tangy filling + graham crumbs + fruit pie filling.

Donut to Devour: Cherry Cheesecake

Jupiter Coffee and Donuts

http://www.jupitercoffeeanddonuts.com/

Situated up the street from Jungle Jim’s, Jupiter is nice place to have a coffee and unwind…with more donuts! They do a monthly seasonal donut, which during my visit was a heavenly carrot cake creation. The cream cheese inside out donuts and sprinkled versions were sampled winners too.

Donut to Devour: Carrot Cake

Milton’s Donuts

https://www.facebook.com/miltonsdonuts/

Milton’s Middletown shop had a wonderful mix of interesting donuts – another Fruity Pebbles offering, barely cooled glazed rings, devil’s food donuts, and super-friendly folks behind the counter. My favorites though, were the giant glazed croissants.

Donut to Devour: Glazed Croissant

Ross Bakery

https://www.facebook.com/Ross-Bakery-120335357979540/

Ross Bakery churned out one of my favorite traditional donuts of the trip – a massive yeast donut the size of my face, perfectly tender and shaped like a soft pretzel! Also on the menu: a buckeye-inspired chocolate peanut butter treat topped with a mini Hershey bar.

Donut to Devour: Pretzel Donut

Stan the Donut Man

https://www.facebook.com/Stan-The-Donut-Man-147690215281038/

Stan the Donut Man, the name says it all. Stan is doing donuts old school, in the best possible way. I’m currently drooling as I think back upon the pineapple fritter (who knew such a thing existed?) and the Davey Crocketts, maple iced mini cinnamon buns.

Donut to Devour: Davey Crockett

The Donut Spot

https://www.facebook.com/The-Donut-Spot-116081498413772/

I knew the line out the door at The Donut Spot was a sign of good things to come. Cookies and cream, Bavarian cream, and cream cheese filled donuts all await at this Fairfield bakery, but go for the “clunker,” a dense, lightly glazed mass of cake donut hunks. Simple and divine.

Donut to Devour: The Clunker Donut

The Donut House

http://the-donut-house-westchester.business.site/

Tucked in a small corner of West Chester, The Donut House is dishing up heart-shaped donuts, donuts iced to look like baseballs, and even some with crushed Oreos. Best of all: there was a chocolate-dipped one with Butterfinger pieces on a puffy dough that I got to take home.

Donut to Devour: Butterfinger Donut

Mimi’s Donuts

https://www.facebook.com/Mimisdonutsandbakery/

This Hamilton locale boasts a fun mix of traditional and crazy flavors. I loved the cinnamon twists and the lemon blueberry, but the German Chocolate’s ooey gooey coconut topping captured my heart.

Donut to Devour: German Chocolate

Central Pastry Shop

http://centralpastry.com/

Located in downtown Middletown, this is the only required passport spot I couldn’t visit, since they were closed on Sundays. However, locals gushed over Central Pastry to me, especially their cakes and the tiger tail donut, a thin and twisty delight.

Donut to Devour: Tiger Tail Twist Donut

Oxford Doughnut Shoppe

http://www.oxforddoughnutshoppe.com/

This spot comes pre-stamped on your Donut Trail passport, because it’s a little out of the way. I didn’t make it to the Oxford favorite on this trip, but Miami University students rave about these kettle-fried classics.  Bonus: score a dozen donut holes for just $2!

Donut to Devour: Red Velvet Cake Donut

Ready to hit the trail? Find out more information about the Butler County Donut Trail here: https://www.gettothebc.com/. The Visitor’s Bureau site can also give you ideas about other activities to do while you’re in town, since you’ll (probably) want to do other things besides eat during your journey.

Stay tuned for part two of my Butler County trip next week, featuring some of the best spots to dine and drink in Butler County. Have you completed the Donut Trail yet? If so, let me know your favorite donut spot in the comments below!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Disclosure: The Butler County Visitor’s Bureau hosted me on the Donut Trail, in exchange for an honest blog post. All opinions are my own. 

Veritas Columbus

Veritas Columbus
11 W Gay Street
Columbus, OH 43215
614-745-3864
https://veritasrestaurant.com/

Marble. Columns. Ancient-looking relics. This isn’t a description from a trip to Rome, but just a few features of the upstairs bar at Veritas. I first wrote about my lovely experience with Veritas here, when the innovative restaurant was still located in downtown Delaware. But Veritas has settled into the capital city, in a much larger space with the same creative cuisine and not one, but two bars.

Begin your Veritas Columbus experience by partaking in a beverage at the marble-laden upstairs bar. Ask the staff to guide you there; it’s tricky to find if you aren’t sure where you’re headed. Because this area was the former Citizens Bank, there are plenty of historic touches, such as the old safe and mechanical features, as well as enormous windows and opulent niches for lounging. The cocktail offerings strike the impossible balance of elegant and delectable, with classic drinks and unique libations up for grabs. I can’t get over the beauty of The Sun Also Rises, sporting a blood orange ice sphere and ginger bourbon that I’m dreaming of as I type this. Make sure you finish imbibing before heading down for dinner; your cocktails can’t leave the upstairs area.

The downstairs dining space is more modern and simply decorated, but also has a small bar and a cozy atmosphere. Small plates for sampling are still the focus at Veritas, but the setting is now grand enough to match the menu. Many of my Delaware favorites remain on the menu (I’m looking at you, bacon risotto). I won’t rehash the food too much from the previous post, but I have to mention a few things before closing. The shishito peppers are a great snack to start, coated in a rich miso cream cheese and a sprinkle of ever-trendy everything bagel spice. One of every ten peppers are spicy, so it’s fun to play pepper roulette, wondering if your mouth will be on fire with every new bite. The flavor-packed Brussels are as divine as ever, and the craveable chicken wings with blue cheese foam manage to be both ridiculously crispy and fall-off-the-bone at the same time. Lastly, be sure to save room for the aforementioned risotto, boasting bold bacon notes and an unctuous oozing egg that is both rich and comforting.

Have you visited the new Veritas locale yet? If you were as impressed as I was, let me know!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Cocktails at The Candle Lab

Cocktails at the Candle Lab

Earlier this month, the Columbus Food Bloggers group and I had a girl’s night out at The Candle Lab! There’s definitely a culinary connection here, even if this is a candle shop. See some shots from the event below and learn more about this fun way to spend an evening.

First, if you haven’t been to The Candle Lab before, you begin by smelling the 120 different scents available for mixing to create your own custom candle. There are plenty of food scents to sniff like bacon, spiced rum, whipped cream, grapefruit, strawberry jam, and lemongrass, but also unusual ones like hops, leather, sea kelp, and morning dew. On a clipboard, you select 15 or so that you love; I struggled with this they all smelled so delicious. You also choose your candle’s vessel from all kinds of glass jars in varying colors and sizes.

Then, after narrowing down your list of favorites to three final varieties (the helpful staff can help you decide which ones pair best), you mix the scent oils in your chosen ratio in a shot jigger. Lastly, stir the oils into the melted wax, and wait for the candle to harden. During this process, imbibe in a cocktail made from Watershed Spirits or a glass of wine!

For my candle, I settled on old books, bourbon, and campfire as my selected scents; it smells warm and cozy like an old library. It’s so me! You can also decorate a label with the chosen name for your custom candle.

While you’re waiting on your candle to set, head to a local restaurant to dine. It takes about an hour, so the timing is perfect. Our group went to the Grandview Cafe, to enjoy their excellent mac ‘n’ cheese and the white BBQ wings. Check out my neighborhood guide for other eating inspiration too. Swing back in before the shop closes to pick up your candle, beautifully wrapped for transportation home, and enjoy burning your signature smell.

Have you had a sippers and scents event at The Candle Lab yet? Let me know your ideal candle scent trio below!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Disclosure: Our group received a free cocktail and candle, with no obligation but to give honest feedback about our experience.

Getting to Know: Sam from The Cheesecake Girl

Samantha Strange has based her career around one sweet specialty: cheesecake! After graduating college with a culinary focus and anointing herself The Cheesecake Girl, she’s developed a local brand that you should definitely get to know. You can pick up Sam’s cheesecakes in regular or mini sizes at Smidge and Pinch or The Hills Market, plus you can order treats directly from her online in varieties like jelly donut, Girl Scout cookie, or puppy chow. She also participates in pairing events all over town, where she pairs cheesecake flavors with everything from beer to coffee flights. Read on to learn more about the “girl” in The Cheesecake Girl:

Web: https://www.thecheesecakegirl.com/
Instagram: @thecheesecake.girl
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thecheesecakegirl

Photo Credit: The Cheesecake Girl

What motivated you to start a cheesecake business? Why cheesecake instead of another dessert?

I really just love cheesecake! So when I decided to minor in culinary in college, I started experimenting and letting friends try out the cheesecake creations. When I moved back to Ohio after college I kept baking for fun, family parties, my parents’ friends’ events and stuff like that. Then it just spiraled out of control into where I’m at today! I couldn’t be more happy with it. We are actually working on adding more desserts to the menu so it won’t be just cheesecake for long!

How did you transition into baking full-time?

It was hard to take the leap. I finally realized it was time when I had to turn orders down. I hated the feeling of telling people I didn’t have time for their orders. So I started looking at The Cheesecake Girl as a full time possibility. I re-launched the website, re-branded everything & went for it!

You bake so many tasty flavors! Where is your favorite place to find inspiration?

Honestly, Pinterest. I love to sit and scroll and see what everyone else is inspired by. I usually find flavor ideas through other recipes. For example, I love Boston Cream Pie, but I’m not The Pie Girl. So I decided to take all my favorite desserts and turn them into cheesecake flavors!

What is (in your opinion) the best variety you’ve ever made?

That’s a tough one because there are so many! One of my go-to flavors is German Chocolate Cheesecake, or Monster Cookie Cheesecake!

How many total cheesecakes do you make a day? I’ve seen your Instagram – those dishes must pile up!

Each day is different! On average I would say we bake around 6 full cheesecakes a day + 8-12 dozen mini cheesecakes a day!

Photo Credit: The Cheesecake Girl

Can you tell us about your worst kitchen disaster?

Our worst kitchen disaster actually wasn’t my fault (surprisingly) – I had just pulled out 4 dozen mini snickerdoodle cheesecakes from the oven. It was the last order of the day. I put them down on our cooling rack and went to start cleaning up when I heard the crash! An employee in the kitchen I bake out of was rushing by the racks and bumped all 4 dozen upside down on the ground. I literally couldn’t say anything I just stood there trying not to cry. We cleaned everything up and got back to work, that employee brought me a gift card and an apology letter the next day so all is forgiven!

Which local restaurant do you frequent more than any other?

I basically live at the Sunny Street Cafe in Upper Arlington. That’s the kitchen I bake out of and the owners are good friends! You’d think I would get sick of eating there…but I still eat breakfast & lunch there almost every day!

Photo Credit: The Cheesecake Girl

What is your favorite Columbus-based product?

There are so many fantastic local products! I love Ridiculously Good Salsa though, you can tell how fresh the ingredients are and it’s a great snack!

What is your adult beverage of choice?

Summer Sangria from Powell Village Winery has my heart. But I also would never turn down a Moscow Mule.

Can you share your go-to recipe to cook at home?

With the hours I work I rarely have time to cook at home! I do have a recipe I make every now and then when my friends & family get sick of cheesecake! I went to a Zac Brown Band concert (one of the 10 I’ve been to!) and they do an Eat & Greet instead of a Meet & Greet. The band serves you their favorite foods made by their tour chef and you get to chat with them. It’s really neat. Well they served a bread pudding that actually made me like bread pudding!

Do you have any fun hobbies or talents, other than making wonderful desserts?

Any free time I get is spent on friends, family & being outside with my dog Bo! I collect records as well & love going to concerts!

Photo Credit: The Cheesecake Girl

Do you have a charity that fans should know about and support?

I’m actually working with Easterseals this year for their Romancing The Grape event! Other than that I usually give leftover cheesecake to fire stations & police departments!

You recently started selling your creations at the Smidge and Pinch storefront in Powell. Can you tell us more about that and what else is coming up for The Cheesecake Girl?

Yes! The store owner, Angie, is fantastic and I have loved being business partners with her! There is always cheesecake available inside her store along with every baking supply & cookie cutter needed. Up next for The Cheesecake Girl is hopefully another storefront! We’ve been working on it but it’s about good timing!

Take a peek at Sam’s website to see a small taste of the flavors she creates: https://www.thecheesecakegirl.com/. You can custom order your own culinary creation with creative crusts, toppings, and fillings. If you’ve tried The Cheesecake Girl, let me know your favorite find in the comments below!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

*All photos courtesy of The Cheesecake Girl

Want more dessert content? Sam’s cheesecakes are also featured in this post about some of my favorite local chocolate treats, or take a peek at some of the other Baker Babes interview features here.

Cravings Cafe

Cravings Cafe
114 N Front Street
Columbus, OH 43215
614-670-4439
http://www.cravingscafe614.com

It took a long time for Cravings Cafe to relocate from their original home in Italian Village to their current downtown digs. But having finally made it to the new site of the breakfast and lunch hot spot, it was entirely worth my not-so-patient waiting. Cravings is still on the smaller side, but don’t be shy about ordering your meal ahead or getting it to go. And although the shop isn’t huge, there are fun prints on the lovely exposed brick walls and it’s a cozy place to sip your morning joe.

There are so many menu items to discuss, but I’ll begin with brioche. The buttery dough is the base of cinnamon rolls, burger buns, and French toast at Cravings, and the stuff is sheer heaven. It’s even used in some unexpected ways. For example, the bronuts from the previous locale are still on the menu. Don’t be afraid, this isn’t a fraternity term; a “bronut” is a mashup of “brioche” and “donut.” Truly the best of both worlds, the bronuts are thick, chewy, and not too sweet. The flavors of this treat change often, ranging from blueberry to funfetti sprinkled to cinnamon sugar. They’re not available every day and sell out quickly, so call ahead to ensure you snag one of these beauties for yourself.

For main dishes, I’m not even the biggest fan of chorizo, but when I tried my husband’s breakfast burrito, I begged him to go halfsies with me and split entrees. This monster wrap is bursting with green chile chorizo, scrambled eggs, crispy taters, cheese, and salsa with just a hint of heat. The falafel burger is also tempting, or go traditional and try the Breakfast Roll, a morning sammie that hits all the right notes: thick bacon, a fried egg, cheddar, and rosemary aioli on the signature brioche bun. Add the Greek potato hash on the side for the ideal savory side.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how wonderful the daily specials are as well. These limited offerings are an ever-changing swirl of brunch entrees, such as loaded potato soup or a pork torta filled with braised pork, Swiss, pickled red cabbage, jalapenos, and tomatillo avocado salsa on sourdough bread. My last visit featured a brunch burger: locally butchered beef, cambozola cheese, a drippy egg, caramelized onions, and rosemary aioli, all on a house brioche bun with shoestring fries on the side. Just go ahead and order two if you see this on the menu.

Cap off your visit with a just-baked cookie or muffin, they’re just as craveable as everything else. Or pair your meal with a Thunderkiss coffee; I must recommend the coconut cream cold brew variety.

Have you tried Cravings Cafe yet? Tell me your favorite thing to order by sending me a tweet!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Check out a few of my other favorite brunch joints:

1. Skillet
2. Forno Kitchen + Bar
3. The Market Italian Village