Moonshine, ice cream, and juicy peaches – these are just some of the offerings brought to us by way of Utica, Ohio. So many of my favorite local products hail from the small town that it was long overdue for me to head to the source. Situated just an under an hour northeast of Columbus proper, Utica has plenty to tempt the food-lover. Plus road trips are the wonderful, so let’s get to it: the best treats to enjoy while you’re visiting Utica!
Mill St. is churning out bourbon, moonshine, and grappa for the masses, and looking to expand soon. Grappa is something you don’t see often, but definitely imbibe in the tasty grape-based spirit. If you’ve been to the big-name bourbon distilleries, this experience is much more personalized. You can ask plenty of questions and learn more about the moonshine-making process, plus taste up to 4 mini samples of Mill St. products. Take home some merch or Mansfield-made apple pie mix to add some a fruity zip to your liquor.
Nothing can make me happier than ice cream (I’ll just go ahead and get that out of the way). So the selection at Velvet Ice Cream makes my heart skip a beat: elephant ear, raspberry fudge cordial, pumpkin pie, cookie dough extreme, and Dutch apple pie, to name a few. And the best variety of all? Buckeye, with chocolate swirls and real mini buckeyes in every scoop! My friends and I were fortunate enough to do a fall flavor tasting of all of the above – so much dairy goodness. The Velvet and Ye Old Mill complex boasts a duck pond for the kiddos, factory tours to watch ice cream being made, a restaurant, a museum, and more.
Branstool’s peaches are beloved in Columbus farmers markets, but have you considered picking your own at the orchard? With 26 peach varieties, all kinds of apples (Honeycrisp included), and pumpkins all available for picking depending on the season, your autumn itinerary is set. The onsite market sells other fruits and veggies, in addition to Ohio-made items like maple syrup, pancake mixes, jams, and more. Also be on the look out for Jack, the resident farm dog; he often pops up in Branstool’s Instagram posts.
Fill up on the loaded taters at Nick’s or the home cooking at Watt’s Restaurant before you head out of town to complete your Utica adventure!
One of my absolute favorite things about blogging so far has been connecting with the interesting folks behind the Columbus dining scene. With this new series, I will be getting inside your favorite maker’s minds so we can soak up a little of their greatness. Plus, let’s face it – we are all a little nosy! So without further ado, the launch of the Columbus Culinary Chronicles begins with Jana Lee’s Bake Shop.
You’ve likely seen the pristine cut-out cookies from Jana Douglass on Instagram, presented in themed sets ranging from cheeky sayings, Disney characters, baby showers, and everything in between. Jana has managed to build a following of over 45k in just a few short years, and has some exciting things in her future. Learn more about Jana Lee’s recently launched bridal line (so much monogrammed cuteness!) and how to order your own treats by clicking on her contact info below, then scroll through to get the scoop on the cookie queen.
What motivated you to start a cookie-making business and how did you transition into full-time baking?
I was about to graduate from The Ohio State University in December of 2014 without a job lined up. I was feeling uninspired and I picked up cookie decorating as a creative outlet. Let me tell you… they were awful! But I fell in love with the creative process and kept at it. I started posting pictures on my personal Instagram and within 9 months I had created a separate cookie Instagram and had enough business to do it full time.
You bake so many shapes of cookies; how many cookie cutters do you own? How do you keep them all organized?
Wow! I would guess I have about 700 cookie cutters. You would think that would be plenty but every week we get new requests with cutters we do not own! We keep them organized by category on a peg board. Even with all the different shapes and options I would say we still reach for the same basic 20 shapes week after week.
What is your favorite themed set you’ve ever made?
How am I supposed to choose?! The amazing part of this business is the creativity around it. My favorite sets always end up happening when clients provide the theme and they trust my creative process.
Can you tell us about your worst kitchen disaster?
I was wrapping up a great day in the kitchen and was going to make it home at a normal hour which was pretty rare at the time. I had just finished up 6 dozen purple cookies (which is a difficult color to make) and quickly checked on them before heading out the door. The icing was still wet, not good! I instantly knew I did something wrong… I over whipped the icing!
I had to toss the cookies and start from scratch. My early evening home turned into me leaving the kitchen at 2 in the morning!
You’ve had the opportunity to work with high-profile clients like Draper James. How did this come about and what actions did you take to make it happen?
Honestly, I just ask! I am fairly brand loyal and decided to start reaching out to companies I love and for the most part have had great luck. What’s the worst that can happen?! They say no and you move on.
Which Columbus establishment do you frequent more than any other?
I enjoy my morning walk for coffee to Cafe Brioso downtown. I am addicted to their coffee! It is also a hidden gem for lunch, the turkey pesto sandwich with a lemonade is Ah-Mazing! We enjoy brewing their beans at home as well.
What is your favorite Columbus-based product?
Lately I have been addicted to Darista Dips! You can always find a container or two of their sweet potato coconut curry hummus in my fridge. The best snack!
What is your favorite adult beverage?
Hendrick’s martini, dry and dirty! You can usually find me sitting at the bar at Hyde Park with one in hand.
Can you share your favorite recipe to cook at home?
To be honest ever since starting a business my home cooking has been a little pathetic. Somedays the only time I spend in the kitchen at home is making bulletproof coffee in the morning. However with fall right around the corner I have been craving soups and chilis. This curried potato soup from Minimalist Baker (talk about a girl crush!) is a staple!
Do you have a favorite charity that you would like to promote?
Columbus is great city full of wonderful charities and nonprofits. We personally love working with Ronald McDonald House; kids and cookies are the perfect fit! I encourage everyone to do a little research and get involved in something meaningful to them!
I see that you recently launched a bridal line. Can you tell us more about that and what else is coming up for Jana Lee’s Bake Shop?
Jana Lee’s Bridal Line launched in June! We are thrilled to be included in so many bridal events across the city.
There is a lot happening behind the scenes here, mostly things we can’t share with you just yet! Stay tuned!!
Make sure you follow Jana and see what’s next – fall=lots of Halloween themed deliciousness.
This summer, my husband and I returned to Asheville for a much-needed long weekend. We were able to re-visit some old haunts and uncover some new favorite locales in the Blue Ridge Mountain town. A photo diary of my culinary explorations seemed to be the easiest way to approach this post; there were too many tasty spots to reduce the experience to words. Take a peek at some of the cuisine we loved best during our Asheville jaunt:
Have you been to Asheville? What were your favorite spots to dine and drink?
Craft beer and craft spirits are currently monopolizing the market, but don’t discount craft soda! Lately, I can’t get enough of Columbus’ own Rambling House Soda. A tiny spot sandwiched in the south Clintonville/University District region, Rambling House is a music venue with a tasty “pop.” The interior has an antique saloon feel, and has the unhurried aura of a bygone era. The bar hosts live music every night they are open, varying from bluegrass to local bands. Sundays lend themselves to the “Old Time Jam,” an open session where anyone with musical chops can bring an instrument and play with the group.
Most importantly though, Rambling House produces a few soda staples that are always on tap, and rotates a few special flavors in and out. Typically, the ginger beer (delightfully zippy), Columbus Cola (so much better than that other cola), sarsaparilla, and lemon lime soda are always on tap. However, past varieties when I’ve visited have included: orange-cardamom, cream soda, chocolate-mint, or coconut lime. I also loved the strawberry soda that Rambling House brought to Jeni’s Strawberry Jam at the North Market this summer – hands down, the best bubbly beverage at the event. The drink menu offers soda-cocktail suggestions, or get creative and make your own. There are also a number of Ohio beers available on draft if brews are more your fancy. Don’t forget too: the bar fills any clean growler with their soda, so take home your favorite pop and make a crave-able concoction at home. My current combo is house cream soda and bourbon! But most of all, Rambling House stays true to its namesake Irish “rambling” roots – it is a refuge of foot-tapping tunes, well-crafted sodas, and communal spirit.
Culinary Clue: Don’t miss out on Rambling House’s bottled Moscow Mules. The libations are made with Rambling House ginger beer and Watershed Distillery vodka, ideal for end-of-summer sipping. I picked up a bottle at The Daily Growler but Kroger stores also carry the mixes. You can also find Rambling House soda on draft at some of your favorite local joints, such as Brothers Drake Meadery, Natalie’s Coal Fired Pizza, and Homestead Brewery.
Have you sampled the soda from Rambling House yet? Let me know in the comments below.
The closing of Alana’s left a little hole in the hearts (and stomachs) of Columbus diners last year. So after being invited to the soft opening of Trillium Kitchen & Patio, I was eager to sample the new offerings in Alana’s old space. While it is still early in the life of the fledgling eatery, our meal was very enjoyable and I’ll be back to try more. In the meantime, here is a brief overview of our first foray into Trillium.
The interior of the building is totally revamped, and there is also a generous amount of patio seating. My husband and I opted for the outdoor area, since it was a beautiful day and there was live music. We started with the Pork Cheek Poutine, a dish that is often more trendy than tasty. Not the case here; this treat was flavorful at every layer, from the peppered pork gravy to the local cheese curds and tender chunks of meat. Definitely go for the optional soft egg on top, because drippy eggs are always a good idea. On the menu but not yet available during our visit were two phenomenal-sounding appetizers with Asian flair. First, I spotted Duck Confit Spring Rolls on the menu, served with Serrano black vinegar dip, spicy aioli, and a sesame salad. But I’m also drooling over the description of the Lump Crab Wontons: rhubarb bbq, avocado crema, pickled red onion, and Napa cabbage.
The entrees had a local focus as well, with lots of Ohio cheese, corn, meats, and Athens-based Shagbark Mill products. The BBQ Chicken had a nice char and a dollop of bacon jam, plus equally savory Southern-style sides: creamed corn, pickled cabbage, and molasses BBQ pinto beans. We also were pleased with the peach-jalapeno jam glazed on the Pork Chop, accompanied by bacon-cheddar Shagbark grits, andouille sausage, red-eye gravy, and braised greens. The trout and the spelt pasta selections caught my eye too, but save room for a donut ice cream sandwich!
Culinary Clue: Are you a horrible parallel parker like me? Then look for the dedicated lot behind Trillium for some dedicated spaces for the restaurant. I also learned that the space is named for Ohio’s state wildflower – apparently we have one of those?
If you give Trillium a try, let me know your thoughts in the comments below! I’ll share more upon a return visit.
At my house, summer equals grilling multiple times a week. Burgers are especially easy to pull together for a weeknight meal, so I had to add a burger recipe to this collection. Shout out to one of my favorite burgers in town, the One Red Door burger at Flip Side, as the inspiration for this dish. This concoction hits all the notes you want with a burger: cheesy, salty, crunchy, juicy, and just a dash of sweet. The bacon-date aioli will make you swoon, and why aren’t more restaurants using brie on their burgers? It melts beautifully and pairs with so many garnishes. I used the leftover aioli to make the best grilled cheese ever, so save a little extra if you can manage it. I can also think of about a dozen more things I’d like to slather the bacon spread on – it’s that mouthwatering!
I used Jennie-O’s turkey burgers for the recipe, since if the burger is healthier, you can pile on more toppings. Also, because the patties are pre-seasoned and can be grilled straight from frozen, no thawing or prep is required. Get the scoop below:
Brie Burgers with Bacon-Date Aioli
Yield: 6 large burgers
For the aioli:
10 pitted dates, I used Medjool dates
5 slices bacon, cooked until crispy
3/4 c. mayo
For the burgers:
1 c. fresh arugula
6-8 oz. brie cheese, sliced
1/3 c. French’s Crispy Fried Onions (you know, the kind that goes on green bean casserole)
6 cooked patties of your favorite burger recipe or Jennie-O turkey burgers
6 burger buns, toasted
Start by making the aioli. Combine all ingredients in a food processor, blending until well-incorporated. Refrigerate and set aside to assemble burgers.
Cook your burgers according to package or recipe instructions. Right before the burgers are finished cooking, place strips of brie cheese on top so the cheese is melted; this helps the cheese act as the glue for assembly. Place cooked patties on bottom burger bun. Top burger with fried onions, then arugula. Smear desired amount of aioli on top bun, then sandwich together the two burger halves and devour.
I might be a little obsessed with bacon. One of my favorite wedding gifts was a bacon of the month club, in which Michigan’s own Zingerman’s Deli delivered a different variety of bacon to my door every four weeks. I’ve also already written about 5 bacon dishes I can’t get enough of here, but limiting myself to such a small number was HARD. So here we go again – I’m listing 5 more must-try meals where bacon is the belle of the ball.
Tacos for breakfast are pretty much a dream come true, especially when you pair it with a blueberry basil margarita at Balboa brunch (tongue twister). An order includes three mini tacos, bursting with queso, avocado, scrambled eggs, veggies, and of course, a crispy slab of bacon.
I always thought that people who ate hot dogs with peanut butter deserved the electric chair. But now…I’m a convert. Food truck The Angry Weiner is serving up the component that convinced me: bacon jam. When a toasty bun meets melty peanut butter and savory bacon jam, trust me, it’s amazing!
Every Saturday from 10-2, Platform Beer Co. is hosting 1803 Bacon for brunch. I’m crazy for the sliders: teeny sammies with poached eggs, 1803’s signature blended curry bacon, and a good old Kraft single. Buy a pack of Maple Espresso or House Bacon for the road too.
This item is a more traditional use of bacon, but certainly not less tasty. Salty from the generous chunks of bacon and crammed with plenty of cheddar, these treats will kick your morning off right. Plus, they are available at both the German Village and Bexley locales.
Sure, anyone can make a BLT. But only the recently revamped Grandview Cafe can layer it up in Southern style. Country white bread is sandwiched with dill pickle aoili, arugula, crunchy fried green tomatoes, and ample strips of bacon. You’ll be hard pressed to eat a plain Jane BLT again.
Bonus bacon sneak peek: next week’s post will be a burger recipe, featuring bacon-date spread. Check back next week for the scoop!
Loose Rail Brewing
37 W. Waterloo St.
Canal Winchester, OH 43110
96 Gender Rd.
Canal Winchester, OH 43110
Something big is brewing in the southeast suburb of Canal Winchester – at not one, but two breweries. Both BrewDog and Loose Rail Brewing have settled into the small town, making the area an ideal day trip for hopheads. The breweries could not be more different, but each is worth a visit. It just figures that my hometown would get all these cool businesses after I leave…
Loose Rail Brewing falls on the “micro” end of the craft brewery spectrum, and inhabits a structure near Canal Winchester’s historic downtown. I’m a sucker for a good building history, and my dad clued me into the tale behind the brewery name: Columbus used to have an electric railway system, and the building served as a power station for the enterprise. The interior isn’t large, but the attached outdoor space boasts a cozy patio with fire pits, the ideal spot to catch some live bluegrass music. No food is served but trucks like Sophie’s Pierogi and Star City Sliders are frequently parked nearby. Even the beer names stick to the train theme; think Full Steam Saison or Freight Hopper IPA. I fancied the Coal Burner imperial stout.
Scotland’s BrewDog also chose to put down roots in Canal Winchester, picking the city for its production headquarters in America. A massive operation with a potential beer-themed hotel in the works, BrewDog’s complex offers pond views, corn hole boards, and plenty of eats. Punk IPA is the flagship beer, but definitely opt for a flight to find your favorite. Pair your suds with hot pretzels, Prosciutto and arugula flatbread, or the Identity Crisis burger, crowned with tortilla chips, avocado, a drippy egg, and more.
Culinary Clue: On your way out of town, make a final stop at Blystone Farm to pick up bottles of local craft brews and maybe a cookie or two for the road. Also, they have bacon breakfast sausage – it’s a thing, and you should be eating it. Or dine at Harvest Moon Cafe, it’s owned by the same folks that run Loose Rail.
I will be the first to admit that the focus of this blog has never been photography. I don’t have a fancy camera, and didn’t even have an Instagram account in the beginning, now my largest social media channel. My ability to take pictures of food has improved tremendously over the past two years, but it’s always been something I never concentrated on enough. Sometimes I was too starving to take photos, sometimes I got off work late and there was no sunlight left for an ideal setup. I have a long way to go to hone those food styling skills, but I’m working on it with The Wonder Jam!
I connected with The Wonder Jam through Instagram (@thewonderjam), and had been admiring their photography work from afar. Then, a couple weeks ago I finally pulled the trigger and visited their studio for a photography class. The Wonder Jam is owned by the husband and wife duo of Allie and Adam Lehman, and they offer assistance in expanding your small business or “side hustle” in a variety of ways. Some of the services: building your brand, social media coaching, and of course, photography. The Lehmans and their team also prep the food and then shoot it for entire cookbooks, which I learned isn’t as glamorous as it sounds!
The class I took was Food Photography and Styling, essentially an intro to capturing food on film. It was iPhone-friendly (perfect for me!) and the group was a great mix of career photographers and amateurs who just wanted to take prettier snaps of food. At only $40 for 3 hours of instruction and light snacks, this class is such a tremendous value! I took notes throughout the session like a maniac. Allie and her crew set up different food scenes for us to try our hand at capturing, so it was interesting to see how these high-quality shots are developed from the ground up. I won’t give away all the secrets, but I learned how to set up layouts and backgrounds for shooting, how to add texture with napkins, and that painting produce with veggie oil gives it a perfect sheen. I can’t wait to take another class and learn more. Some of my shots have improved already:
Culinary Clue: The studio is in the same industrial strip as Watershed Kitchen + Bar. So schedule a class at The Wonder Jam, then mosey over to Watershed to test your newly-acquired camera talents on their cuisine.
The Market Italian Village is one part actual market (buy craft beers, well-priced wines, and local food products), one part bakery, one part restaurant, and a large dash of perfection. The menu at any time of day is always seasonally-focused, creative, and artfully prepared. One of The Market’s best kept secrets though, is brunch. Start your weekend morning right by snagging a stool in front of the open windows and people-watching while savoring some rib-sticking cuisine.
Let’s start with the French Toast and Chicken. Say sayonara to the Chicken and Waffles gracing every brunch menu in town. This dish is immense (hooray for leftovers!) and hits all the right notes: huge slabs of French toast, crunchy fried chicken, creme fraiche, and smoked maple syrup. I’m always partial to a good egg sammie, so the B.E.L.T. is an ideal option. Consisting of thick-cut bacon, a runny egg, greens, garlic aioli, tomato jam, sourdough, and optional smoked salmon (vote yes) this a simple but well-executed dish. Don’t forget the crunchy home fries on the side! Other mouthwatering selections include the Market Waffle (topped with bourbon bananas foster and pecans), Shakshouka (baked eggs, tomatoes, red pepper sauce, crispy chickpeas, and feta with stone-fired pita bread) and the biscuits with lamb gravy. Each dish is familiar with an elevated twist.
Feeling festive? Brunch cocktails are also available, such as the house Bloody Mary, garnished with candied bacon. Fruit fans will flip for the sangria: red wine, Grey Goose l’orange, Copper & Kings brandy, hibiscus, orange juice, and honey, or pry those eyes open with the Espresso Milk Punch (bourbon, molasses, spiced simple syrup, Snowville milk, Deeper Roots espresso, and nutmeg). Pair your meal with a luscious lavender latte, score a pastry for the road, and #brunchgoals are complete.
Tell me more about your favorite Italian Village brunch spot in the comments below!