Getting to Know: Freedom a la Cart

When you can devour cookies for a cause, what’s not to love? In this segment of the Columbus Culinary Chronicles, I’m getting the scoop on Freedom a la Cart. If you aren’t aware, Freedom a la Cart is a local charity supporting human trafficking victims by teaching them skills in the food service industry. They have a wonderful catering menu, and also have a mini cafe in the main branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library selling baked goods. Learn more about this wonderful organization, with responses from Executive Director Paula Haines and Head Chef Jessica Levy below.

Paula Haines
Photo Credit: Freedom a la Cart

Can you tell us a little bit about Freedom a la Cart and how it got started?
Paula: Absolutely. In 2009, our founder, Julie Clark, established Doma International as a community-based support program for adult survivors of human trafficking. Two years later we expanded the program to fill the void between restoration and economic independence, and purchased a food cart as a workforce training tool for survivors. While Doma offered supportive services toward restoration, the Freedom a la Cart social enterprise gave survivors a job and means to live. Freedom a la Cart became the vehicle – literally – through which survivors began the ever-important first steps to self-sufficiency.

In 2014 we dropped the Doma International name and now operate both our supportive services program and our thriving catering & box lunch business under one name: Freedom a la Cart.

In the past two years alone, Freedom has provided supportive services to 326 survivors of human trafficking – an annual increase of over 80%. 55 survivors received workforce training and 20 survivors transitioned from our program into sustainable employment in the community. 85% of survivors that have been in the program experience no new criminal charges.

The majority of your employees are human trafficking survivors. How has working for Freedom a la Cart benefited them?
Paula: I would love for you to hear a response to this questions from one of our survivors! They are beautiful, strong woman who work hard to keep their life on track; and it’s exciting for us to watch them transform before our eyes. Freedom helps them see their worth, find their voice and become more confident, and self-sufficient. These women are getting their driver’s licenses, buying cars, paying taxes, attending college, moving into permanent housing and regaining custody of their children. They are gaining employment as office assistants in law firms, as treatment assistants in recovery programs, and as chefs in restaurants. Life changing, generational impact.

Freedom a la Cart’s Instagram account (@freedomalacart1) features lots of delicious baked goods. What’s your favorite treat to make?
Jessica: Thank you. That is always such a difficult question for me, the ‘favorite’. I have such a deep love for making pastries. I enjoy making them all and getting to practice different techniques and methods. Bringing new items to the menu is my probably my favorite time because it is all about the research and development. It means I get to play!

I know I’ve made plenty of kitchen blunders. Do you have any cringe-worthy kitchen disasters you’d like to share?
Jessica: Haha, I actually don’t have any super crazy stories. About 7 years ago, my family asked me to make dinner rolls for Thanksgiving. which I had actually never made, but I wanted to go all out and make the most amazing dinner rolls in all the land. So I researched and found the best recipe by a chef I idolized and thought they had to be the best. So I got home the night before Thanksgiving from working a very loooong shift and started making my rolls. The first batch did not turn out, so I tried again.. Well, batch two wasn’t going well either and I was sitting on the kitchen floor staring into the oven cry-begging my little rolls to rise and bake in the oven. It just wasn’t happening. So long story short, it ended with me buying good ol’ Sister Schuberts frozen dinner rolls Thanksgiving morning at Kroger with dried tears still on my face.

Which Columbus establishment do you frequent more than any other?
Jessica: Kroger! You can literally find me there everyday. But that probably wasn’t what you were looking for. I live in German Village, so I typically stick to my little bubble- South Village Grill, Skillet, Club 185, The Blind Lady Tavern, Fox in the Snow are a few of my go to spots. Vernacular for shopping.

Jessica Levy
Photo Credit: Freedom a la Cart

What is your favorite locally made product?
Jessica: Hmmm.. there is that ‘favorite’ question again. That is truly a tough one, there are so many great locally made products. Columbus really is such a wonderful city and it is continually growing and expanding especially with new talent and products. So I will give a shout out to a non-food place that I love which is Honest Carry Goods. They make such beautiful products, love their bags.

Can you share your go-to recipe to make at home?
Jessica: I am pretty simple when it comes to cooking at home. I try to prep my food for the week on one day. So typically I just chop up a bunch of veggies to have throughout the week. I just have them cut up in the fridge and ready to cook throughout the week for whatever meal I feel like making that day. But I do eat a lot of roasted vegetables for dinner. I grill or bake chicken and put that over greens for salads or with rice and beans to have for lunches throughout the week. And I medium boil eggs to have for breakfast with either yogurt, a granola bar or a protein shake. I genuinely enjoy hosting people, so that is when I like to go all out.

What is your favorite kitchen tool?
Jessica: Commercial stand mixer, rubber spatula and bowl scraper…these are a few of my favorite things.

Rumor has it that there is a Freedom a la Cart cafe in the works, in addition to the Columbus Metropolitan Library location. Can you give us the scoop about what’s coming up in the future?
Paula: Well, we’re not ready to announce a location quite yet. But we are currently raising funds, and talking with property owners for a near-future Freedom a la Cart cafe. In the meantime, we’ll be expanding into wholesale business this year. And you may even see a Freedom a la Cart pop-up cafe.

Tell us about any major fundraising events supporting Freedom a la Cart.
Paula: Our annual fundraiser – Eat Up! Columbus – was on Saturday (February 10th) at St. Charles Preparatory School. We have a talented team of 10 local chefs, led by the amazing Catie Randazzo of Ambrose & Eve [and Challah food truck!] who collaborate to prepare a 5-course dinner with drink pairings. Master mixologist Cris Dehlavi crafts a signature cocktail and selects the drink pairings. It’s such a fun night! Everyone tells us it’s their favorite event of the year! And of course, we agree. Eat Up! Columbus raises over $100,000 to support our work to empower and employ survivors of human trafficking.

Photo Credit: Freedom a la Cart

What else can people do to support this cause, whether through donations or volunteering?
Paula: Friends of Freedom can support our mission by:
1) donating online at freedomalacart.org/donate-now/
2) order our delicious box lunches or catering at freedomalacart.org/menu
3) visit our mini cafe located on the lower level of the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Northside Branch at 1423 N. High St.
4) volunteer to be a personal mentor, bring a meal to CATCH Court or assist in the Freedom kitchen. Visit freedomalacart.org/give for details.

Have you tried Freedom a la Cart’s cookies or catering yet? If not, make sure to pick up some goodies soon and keep up with them on Instagram (@freedomalacart1)!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

*All photos courtesy of Freedom a la Cart

Caprese Prosciutto Cups

Caprese Prosciutto Cups

I’m crazy for Caprese! I love Caprese sandwiches, Caprese kebobs, Caprese pizza, salad, you name it. That got a little too Bubba Gump shrimp, but you get the point. I’m always looking for a new way to devour the tomato, basil, and cheese combo, so for Christmas this year I developed this bite-sized version. Minimal effort is required, but this fancy-looking appetizer is a sure-fire hit.

Caprese Prosciutto Cups

Yield: 24 mini cups

Ingredients

2 packages prosciutto, 12 slices
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 container mini mozzarella balls
1 T. basil, chopped
3 T. balsamic vinegar
2 T. olive oil
Salt and pepper for seasoning

Begin by preheating the oven to 375 degrees. Next, separate the prosciutto slices and cut each in half crosswise to create 24 squares. Tuck each slice into the holes of a mini muffin tin, pressing the edges as high up on the sides of the holes as possible to create a cup shape. The prosciutto will shrink considerably in the oven. Bake the prosciutto shells for 7-9 minutes until firm and crispy. Place them on paper towels to drain any excess grease.

While the prosciutto is baking, slice the mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes in half. After the prosciutto cups are completely cooled, fill each prosciutto cup with a mozzarella half and a tomato half. Drizzle the oil and the balsamic over each of the cups, then sprinkle on basil, salt, and pepper to taste.

Do you have a go-to Caprese recipe? Share a link with your favorite one in the comments below!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Pin It

Caprese Prosciutto Cups
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
 
Ingredients
  • 2 packages prosciutto, 12 slices
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 container mini mozzarella balls
  • 1 T. basil, chopped
  • 3 T. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning
Instructions
  1. Begin by preheating the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Next, separate the prosciutto slices and cut each in half crosswise to create 24 squares.
  3. Tuck each slice into the holes of a mini muffin tin, pressing the edges as high up on the sides off the holes as possible to create a cup shape. The prosciutto will shrink considerably in the oven.
  4. Bake the prosciutto shells for 7-9 minutes until firm and crispy.
  5. Place them on paper towels to drain any excess grease.
  6. While the prosciutto is baking, slice the mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes in half.
  7. After the prosciutto cups are completely cooled, fill each prosciutto cup with a mozzarella half and a tomato half.
  8. Drizzle the oil and the balsamic over each of the cups, then sprinkle on basil, salt, and pepper to taste.

 

Caroline’s Picks: 5 Chocolate Treats to Try

I don’t get all lovey dovey on Valentine’s Day, but I do appreciate the power of cocoa as February 14th rolls around. Fortunately, Columbus has plenty to offer in the chocolate arena, so it was hard to pick 5 of my favorite chocolate treats.

Chocolate Mini Bundt Cake: Flowers & Bread

http://flowersandbread.com/

Chocolate Mini Bundt Cake Flowers & Bread

Instagram-worthy and the ideal size (given that you’ve likely just crammed yourself full of carbs), I must order this cake each time I visit Flowers & Bread. The bundts are coated with a rich chocolate glaze, and the buttermilk keeps the texture delightfully fudgy. The bakery also started offering them in a parfait form as well in the grab-and-go cooler!

Click here to learn more about Flowers & Bread.

Chocolate Morning Bun: Fox in the Snow Cafe

https://www.foxinthesnow.com

Chocolate Morning Bun Fox in the Snow Cafe

That’s right folks. The picture above is indeed croissant dough baked into a muffin shape, rolled in sugar, and filled with glorious mounds of chocolate mousse. Add on the fact that you can find it at one of my favorite coffee shops, Fox in the Snow, and we’ve got a winner here. For breakfast, a coffee break, or dessert, this offering is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Click here to learn more about Fox in the Snow.

Gooey Chocolate Espresso Hummus: Darista Dips

https://daristadips.com

Gooey Chocolate Espresso Hummus Darista Dips

It’s rare that a hummus company could make both the veggie-rific list AND this chocolate treats list, but I’m convinced that Darista Dips is taking over the world. Their Gooey Chocolate Espresso Hummus celebrates girl power by sourcing ingredients from female-led companies. You won’t believe there’s chickpeas inside, but you will want to slather it on everything. Plus the talented local girl boss Natterdoodle drew the label!

Dairy-free Dark Chocolate Truffle Ice Cream: Jeni’s Ice Cream

https://jenis.com

Dairy-free Dark Chocolate Truffle Ice Cream Jeni's Ice Cream

This new variety from Jeni’s is deep, dark, chocolatey goodness that would excite Willy Wonka himself. Concocted with coconut cream instead of milk, this vegan-friendly option will fill the cocoa bill. Lately I’ve loved making it a double-scoop duo with Salty Caramel to hit all the flavor notes, but it’s successful as a stand-alone too.

Seriously Big Chocolate Cake: Cap City Fine Diner

https://capcityfinediner.com

Seriously Big Chocolate Cake Cap City Fine Diner

Cameron Mitchell always proves that simple things executed perfectly are the best things, and Cap City’s chocolate cake is a classic for just this reason. You might be tempted to share the immense slab of this confection with a partner-in-crime, but I’m fairly certain I could polish off a whole piece myself. The cake is tender and packs a chocolate punch, and the icing is just as divine.

It was so difficult to narrow this list, I might have to do a chocolate treats part 2 post. Where do you get your chocolate fix in town? Let me know: caroline@columbusculinaryconnection.com

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Service Bar

Service Bar
1230 Courtland Ave.
Columbus, OH 43201
(614) 947-1231
https://servicebarcolumbus.com/

Columbus distilleries are proving that they are more than just creators of craft cocktails. The debut of Watershed Kitchen and Bar in early 2017 left me impressed with the food menu as well as the drink list, and Service Bar is making just the same waves. Open since October, the Middle West Spirits-based eatery is led by former Veritas chef Avishar Barua and the cuisine is unquestionably delightful. My recent meal there was one of my favorites of 2017.

The menu is designed around small plates, great for someone like me who loves to nibble on a little of everything. So grab some friends, order up as many dishes as you can muster, and get to sharing! Begin with the Bread and Butter course, boasting crumbly bits of pepperoni swirled into butter, ready for spreading on a warm pineapple bun as a sweet and salty treat. The Cheese and Poof is another good snack option to start (fire-roasted pimento cheese dip, barrel-aged hot sauce, and pork rinds).

Bread and Butter at Service Bar

Next, go for the Cheesy Brisket Crunch; it’s “upscale Taco Bell” in the best possible way. These large, crunchy taco shells are filled with tender brisket, cheddar, thinly shaved lettuce, and queso, all wrapped in a soft circle of Indian fry bread. The rib-stickiness of the potato gnocchi with oxtail and squash is comfort food at its finest, and the umami glaze on the Asian Crispy Ribs (accompanied by fried broccoli and radish) is utterly craveable. Make sure to ask about the daily specials too; during my last visit there were wonderful white barbecue sauce-slathered wings available. There are a few more noteworthy selections too that I’ve yet to taste, such as an appealing-looking pastrami sandwich and a whole chicken celebration, meant to be split by the table. Another visit is in order to dine on these dishes!

Cheesy Brisket Crunch at Service Bar

Don’t discount dessert or the drinks, even though this post focuses on the food. Try the playful take on cookies and cream, or the caramel-laden Cinco Leches cake. As for drinks, bourbon fans will revel in the smoky Hard Pour Corn, containing OYO bourbon, OYO whiskey, Vida Mezcal, roasted corn and pepper syrup, and BBQ bitters. The bright and creative Strawberry Feels Forever (OYO vodka, lemon essence, limoncello, strawberry, jalapeño, basil oil) is perfectly tangy. You can also opt for a shareable punch for 4 or an Old Fashioned tasting flight.

Culinary Clue: Given the popularity of the restaurant and the small size of the space, reservations are a must. You might get lucky and snag a seat at the bar, but planning ahead is a good idea in this case.

Have you sampled Service Bar yet? What was your favorite dish? Shoot me a message on Instagram and let me know!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

2018 Restaurant Bucket List

Every year, I like to kick off the new year by compiling a list of restaurants that I haven’t yet had the pleasure of sampling, but hope to visit in the coming year. Some on the list are old favorites that I’m ashamed to say I’ve never tried, a few are new kids on the block, and one doesn’t open until later in 2018, but all are spots where I’m eager to eat. Here’s my 2018 Restaurant Bucket List!

Veritas

https://veritasrestaurant.com
Bacon Risotto from Veritas Tavern

I’ve written about one of my incredible experiences at the Delaware reiteration of Veritas here, but at the start of the year operations moved to Gay Street downtown. I expect to enjoy the dishes at this new locale just as much as the old one, since I still spy bacon risotto on the menu.

Cravings Cafe

http://www.cravingscafe614.com/

Another business reborn in a new venue, Cravings is at the top of my to-do list. All the beloved treats from the former setting are here: breakfast sammies, chocolate chip cookies, and of course, brioche donuts (bronuts). Plus, I’m currently drooling over the daily specials like the corned beef hash burrito or the chorizo and beans over fried goat cheese corn cakes.

Momo Ghar

https://www.facebook.com/momogharohio/

Lauded by critics and diners alike, Momo Ghar is a must-try for me this year. The Nepalese joint just expanded from the Saraga international grocery to an additional stall in North Market, and I’m currently drooling over the different iterations of the momo dumplings pooled in spicy sauces.

Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse Columbus

http://www.jeffruby.com/columbus

Photo Credit: Jeff Ruby Steakhouse via Instagram

This Cincinnati staple has put down Cbus roots, and I’m ready to devour all the steakhouse dishes next time I need a fancy night out. Classics like filet, Oysters Rockefeller, and crab cakes merging with more non-traditional items like prosciutto-wrapped pears and tempura lobster sushi rolls sounds just about perfect.

Harvey & Ed’s

https://www.cameronmitchell.com/our-story/news-releases/id/1332/cameron-mitchell-restaurants-introduces-unique-new-concept-a-modern-take-on-the-delicatessen

Coming in Spring 2018, this Cameron Mitchell concept has me hungry already. Billed as a modern delicatessen, the Short North spot seems both approachable and innovative, touting menu items such as potato latkes, egg creams, and carryout sandwiches. Stay tuned for more on this one!

The Keep

https://www.thekeepcolumbus.com

Photo Credit: The Keep via Instagram

The revitalization of downtown’s LeVeque building also brought with it a new restaurant and bar, The Keep. Visions of the menu’s enormous smoking seafood tower and cocktails with gin and rhubarb syrup have haunted me every since. Furthermore, the Art Deco style of the new hotel has me ready for a stay-cation.

Eden Burger

https://www.facebook.com/EdenBurgerNFries/

I’m far from a vegan, but I love veggie burgers. I’ve heard great things about Eden Burger’s take on the patty, made with beans, rice, spices, and more. The buffet of toppings especially sounds craveable, even sporting a Western burger on the menu, crowned with BBQ, onion rings, fried jalapenos, and ranch.

The Light of Seven Matchsticks

https://thelightofsevenmatchsticks.com/

Photo Credit: The Light of Seven Matchsticks via Instagram

A call to this speakeasy below Natalie’s Coal-Fired Pizza is long overdue. I’m intrigued by the secret hidden menu, the adventurous craft cocktails, and savory snack offerings. Soup dumplings, duck fat popcorn, and a brown butter bourbon drink might be the cure for the winter blues.

Asterisk Supper Club

https://www.asterisksupperclub.com/

Westerville’s Asterisk has proven it’s got staying power. I’m dying to try the afternoon tea, with finger sandwiches and scones, but the dinner dishes such as the chicken and waffles (fried chicken on a jalapeno and peanut butter waffle with honey butter syrup) appear mighty tasty too.

Vaso

https://www.vasodublin.com/

Photo Credit: Vaso via Instagram

Hotel restaurants are stepping up their culinary creations, and Vaso is another example of that. This Dublin locale has a rooftop lounge that makes me ready for summer, signature sangrias and tonic syrup, as well as Spanish tapas that will make you swoon.

What restaurant has your stomach growling in 2018? Send me an email or leave a comment below; I want your recommendations!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Mistletoe Mimosas

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…a cheery cocktail with sparkling cranberry? These merry mimosas are perfect for Christmas brunch and holiday parties, and are just as tasty as they are festive. This drink comes together in just a few minutes, so you’ll have plenty of extra time to enjoy gift-wrapping and cookie-baking.

Mistletoe Mimosas

 

Yield: 6 cocktails

Ingredients:

1 bottle of your favorite champagne
7 oz. cranberry juice
3 oz. orange liqueur (such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
Rosemary springs and fresh cranberries, to garnish
Sugar or sprinkles for rimming glass

Start by rimming glasses. Place sugar or sprinkles on a saucer or shallow dish. Pour 1 oz. of cranberry juice in a small bowl, and dip the rim of the champagne flute in the juice. Continue to hold the glass upside down, then swirl the edge of the flute in the sugar or sprinkles to coat the rim of the glass.

In each of the six rimmed champagne flutes, pour 1/2 oz. of the orange liqueur in the bottom. Next, add 1 oz. of cranberry juice to each flute. Fill the remainder of each glass with champagne. Float a rosemary spring in the top of each cocktail and plop a few cranberries in to garnish.

 

Cheers to the new year!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Pin This

Mistletoe Mimosas
 
Ingredients
  • 1 bottle of your favorite champagne
  • 7 oz. cranberry juice
  • 3 oz. orange liqueur (such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
  • Rosemary springs and fresh cranberries, to garnish
  • Sugar or sprinkles for rimming glass
Instructions
  1. Start by rimming glasses.
  2. Place sugar or sprinkles on a saucer or shallow dish.
  3. Pour 1 oz. of cranberry juice in a small bowl, and dip the rim of the champagne flute in the juice.
  4. Continue to hold the glass upside down, then swirl the edge of the flute in the sugar or sprinkles to coat the rim of the glass.
  5. In each of the six rimmed champagne flutes, pour ½ oz. of the orange liqueur in the bottom.
  6. Next, add 1 oz. of cranberry juice to each flute.
  7. Fill the remainder of each glass with champagne.
  8. Float a rosemary spring in the top of each cocktail and plop a few cranberries in as well to garnish.

 

Getting to Know: Mollie and Kelly of Kittie’s Cakes

The Columbus Culinary Chronicles continue with a feature of one of my favorite bakeries in the city, Kittie’s Cakes. I’ve had an obsession with Kittie’s for a few years now, especially their cupcakes and biscuit breakfast sandwiches. When a second locale opened in Bexley even closer to my house, I was even more hooked on their brand. As a result, I was very interested to learn more about the owners Mollie and Kelly, as well as the pair’s dog Linus.  Give Kittie’s a follow on Instagram (@kittiescakes and @kittiesbexley) or check out Linus’ account for cuteness overload at @linus_the_golden_retriever. Mollie and Kelly met while on tour as professional golfers, and later made the leap to open Kittie’s together. Learn more about this baking duo below, from Mollie’s perspective:

What motivated the two of you to start a bakery? 

We always enjoyed cooking and baking together during our time off from playing on tour. Opening a bakery seemed like something we could take on just the two of us. Or at least we thought!

How did you make transition from professional golf to being a small business owner?
We just kind of jumped right in. The day after my last golf tournament we came home and started experimenting with my mom (Kittie) and grandmother’s recipes. We knew that we wanted to differentiate ourselves by making our baked goods fresh every day and from scratch.

Photo Credit: Kittie’s Cakes

What’s it like working with your significant other?
We love working together! Kelly was my caddie on tour for 5 years and we really worked well together on the golf course. We were able to make it work in the kitchen as well. We really balance each other out and we naturally fit into our different roles in our business. We have a really strong respect for each other which helps from having those petty arguments.

What is your favorite food item on the Kittie’s menu?
That’s a tough question! Kelly’s favorite is our new maple egg sammie and the chocolate chip cookie. My favorite is the cinnamon roll, biscuit & jam, Micky-O [a sandwich cookie] and the peanut butter cookie.

Can you tell us about your worst kitchen disaster?
When we first opened just the two of us, everything seemed like a disaster! We were really struggling trying to make enough baked goods and then wait on customers throughout the day without any employees. We’ve been lucky to not really have any disasters.

What cooking tool can you not live without?
Mollie definitely can’t live without a KitchenAid Mixer. Kelly can’t live without a good offset [spatula] for icing!

Which Columbus establishment do you frequent more than any other?
Man, we have some core places we love to visit! Paulie Gee’s is definitely a visit for us a couple times a month. We really love Rockmill Tavern’s chicken sandwich. The Service Bar has a killer burger! Land-Grant [Brewery] is one of our favorite places to hang out with Linus outside.

What is your favorite locally made product?
Favorite locally made product would be the Bourbon Maple Syrup from Middle West Spirits. Also, the nut butters from Krema are killer too!

What is your adult beverage of choice?
We both love beer and old fashioned’s!

Can you share your go-to recipe to make at home?
Our go-to recipe to make at home is either pizza or pasta.

Do you have a favorite local charity that you love?
We love working with The Humane Society of Columbus.

Photo Credit: Instagram – @linus_the_golden_retriever

Your Golden Retriever Linus is also your brand ambassador. How did you teach him to do so many tricks, like balancing a cupcake on his nose?
Linus is just a really good boy! We worked with him in puppy classes and then Therapy Dog classes for the first year we had him. We like to think all the cupcake tricks just come naturally.

Last winter you opened a new location in Bexley. Are there any plans for further expansion in the works?
Kelly and I talk a lot about expansion and we are both in agreement for now. No more locations for Kittie’s. Kelly and I really love being able to be around our employees and customers. One of the reasons we wanted to open Kittie’s in German Village was to be a part of our community. We are afraid if we opened more locations we’d lose that experience with everyone.

Make sure to follow Kittie’s Cakes on social media to catch up with Mollie, Kelly, and Linus’ bakery adventures. Have an idea for who I should interview next? Shoot an email to caroline[at]columbusculinaryconnection.com and let me know!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Holiday Gift Guide 2017

Holiday shopping is hard, people. There’s always that one person that leaves me stumped as to what to buy that’s creative, useful, and something he or she will love. But if you live in Columbus and have a foodie friend to buy for, I can at least try to help you on that front. These are all gifts I have purchased for loved ones, or would love to receive, all with a culinary focus! A couple items were on the 2015 guide but merit mentioning again.

For the Snacker

Brezel and CaJohn’s Gift Basket at the North Market

Two tasty local products combine for one ultimate snack experience in this gift. The North Market is offering a basket pairing Brezel’s pretzel twists and CaJohn’s dipping mustard to complete your wish list. North Market gift cards are also a great stocking stuffer!

Columbus Brew Adventures and Columbus Food Adventures Gift Cards 

Give the gift of exploring the city’s food and drink scene! Every one of these tours I’ve taken has helped me uncover a hidden gem, and it’s a fun way to learn more about Cbus history and architecture while getting a snack or drink at every stop.

Click the links to learn more about my experiences on both Columbus Brew Adventures and Columbus Food Adventures tours.

Charcuterie

Photo courtesy of Bleu Fig. Photo Credit: Catherine Murray Photos

Both North Country Charcuterie and Salumi Couture are slicing up some delicious meats to pair with your cheese plate that will have your guests wowed. Or go big and order a Bleu and Fig crate, filled to the brim with charcuterie and their house-made munchies like candied bacon, cookies, and Parmesan shortbread and ship it to your sweetie.

For the Beverage Lover

ROOT 23 Simple Syrups 
Root 23 Syrups

I have tracked down ROOT 23 for a few years now at various farmers markets and grocery stores. But the latest round of flavors include festive varieties such as Cherry Almond, Vanilla Ginger, and Blueberry Mint. I like to add these syrups to liquor or tea for a celebration-ready concoction.

Watershed Bourbon 
Watershed Bourbon

Bourbon is by far my favorite spirit, and I love visiting Watershed’s restaurant to taste the lovely drinks their bartenders create. But you’ll be the hero of the holiday office party if you show up with Watershed Bourbon in hand as a gift. PS: mixing it with ROOT 23 wouldn’t be a bad idea either; see the listing above.

Rockmill Holiday Ale

Capture the winter spirit in a snifter with Rockmill Brewery’s seasonal beer. I’d love to unwrap a bottle of this treat, featuring notes of nutmeg, cinnamon, stone fruit, and graham cracker. Or make your own gift pack with mini bottles of Rockmill beer from Crafted Drafts.

Click here to read my review of Rockmill Brewery

For the Hostess (or Host) with the Mostest

Natterdoodles 

Photo Credit: Natterdoodles

Natterdoodles creates beautiful (and often cheeky) hand-lettered products to spice up your home, from printed wine bags to tea towels and kitchen decor. She also organizes workshops so you can create your custom own works of art!

Honeyrun Farm

Buzz over to Honeyrun Farm’s site to see their sampler packs, where you can find the perfect gift for any baker (or eater). I’d be delighted to find 3 honey jars from the fall, summer, and spring under the tree to compare and contrast flavors, along with honeycomb or a beeswax candle or soap.

Elm & Iron Dishes and More

I’m not much of a browser, but I’ll head into Elm & Iron anytime to see what discoveries I can make. Head to the Easton or Clintonville shop for a wide range of goodies for your holiday table, such as clever candy dishes, cute coasters, barnwood drink trays, and reindeer mugs.

For the Reader

Columbus Cookbooks
Jeni's Ice Cream Cookbook

I love trying to recreate the recipes that my favorite local chefs make famous! Some cookbooks I love include both of the Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream cookbooks, the Columbus Food Truck Cookbook, and The Vegetable Butcher by Little Eater chef Cara Mangini.

Columbus Food History

My always-present inner history nerd loves reading about the past, especially when it comes to Columbus bars and restaurants. Some picks that I enjoy include the Historic Columbus Taverns book, unraveling the hidden secrets behind some surprisingly spooky spots, or in-depth studies of closed locales in Lost Restaurants of Columbus or the renowned Kahiki.

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Disclosure:  Some of the products listed (Watershed and Root 23) are brands that I have partnered with for sponsored promotions. However, these are brands that I already support and highly recommend. 

Baba’s Columbus

Baba’s Columbus
2515 Summit St.
Columbus, OH 43202
(614) 262-2227
https://www.babascolumbus.com/

If you needed a reminder that the simple things are often the best things, high-tail it to Baba’s Columbus immediately. Armed with a menu that isn’t lengthy or filled with fancy ingredients, this is a breakfast gem that you need in your life. If you follow this blog, you know that an egg sammie with a drippy egg is my kryptonite; Baba’s serves up one of my most cherished finds, the griddle muffin.

Comparisons to a McDonald’s McMuffin are inevitable but insulting to this griddle muffin. The Baba’s secret is in the base layer of all the sandwiches, the from-scratch English-style muffin with just enough chew and a healthy sprinkle of cornmeal on the toasted exterior. Normally I care more about what’s inside the sandwich than the bread, but these are the exception. Top the griddle sandwich with an egg, a slab of Havarti cheese, and your choice of veggies and meats. I’m crazy for the bacon (freshly butchered and smoked, naturally) but sausage, chorizo, and pork loin are also up for grabs. These handheld breakfast delights are available all day.

Eggs not your jam? Get some actual jam on your griddle sammie – Baba’s makes their own in-house. Try a gooey PB and J griddle muffin with jam and Krema peanut butter. Cheese lovers will melt for the Inside Out Grilled Cheese (chorizo plus sweet peppers and harissa chili spread, all in enshrined in cheese) or opt for a burger patty inside. Lastly, if you’re feeling adventurous there’s also a mystery plate containing a Chef’s choice special!

Also on the menu are gloriously puffy cinnamon rolls, breads, cookies, as well as fries, soup, and house-smoked BBQ.  Wash all of this down with a piping cup of joe from local Thunderkiss Coffee. The seasonal drink at the time of this writing is a Cinnamon Toast Crunch latte, featuring maple syrup and a cinnamon punch. It’s the ideal way to pry open those peepers!

Culinary Clue: The tiny eatery sits in the eclectic area just off Hudson (near Rambling House Soda) if you need a location reference. The seating area is very limited, so consider ordering carryout – there are just a few tables scattered inside.
Have you devoured a griddle muffin from Baba’s? Message me your thoughts on social media (@cbusconnect: facebook|Twitter|Instagram).

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Baba's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A Visit to: Athens, Ohio

I have experienced Athens as a college student previously, while visiting my best friend at Ohio University. I will forever cherish snack runs to the Burrito Buggy, much-needed breakfasts at Bagel Street Deli, and one fancy night out at Restaurant Salaam. However, I had just scratched the surface; this vibrant town is so much more than its college roots. When I received the opportunity to re-visit the food and drink scene in Athens by partnering with the Athens County Visitor’s Bureau, I was ready to hit the road.

Athens is just over an hour’s drive from downtown Columbus, the ideal distance for a quick weekend trip. You will want to get an early start for this journey, because there’s a lot to see and do in one day!

My husband and I kicked off our southeastern Ohio adventure at the Athens Farmers Market. It was by far one of my favorite stops of the day, and I will return for the wonderful vendors alone. The market runs year-round on Saturdays, so there’s plenty of chances to snag some goodies. I also enjoyed that the market and many of the local eateries have a commitment to the 30 Mile Meal Project, sourcing ingredients where possible from within 30 miles of Athens.  I had a great conversation with the meadmakers at Dutch Creek Winery, scored a delicious caramel iced mocha at Dirty Girl Coffee, ate a chocolate chip scone at Crumbs Bakery, and scooped up coconut curry sausage at Pork and Pickles for breakfast sammies at home. There were so many more stalls that we wanted to try but we had to conserve stomach space.

Once we left the market, we headed to uptown Athens for a little shopping; I can never resist a college bookstore like Little Professor. Afterwards, we strolled around College Green and enjoyed the campus and perfect autumn weather. Nothing beats old bricks, leaves, and brisk fall air! Naturally, we were starving again after all that walking, so it was time to head to Casa Nueva for lunch. Casa Nueva is a funky Mexican joint with well-priced margaritas and a delicious array of house-made salsas. These nachos were wickedly cheesy, and this was just a small order!

The next leg of our itinerary was the Brewed on the Bikeway trail, a fun way to sample new beers while exercising and experiencing nature. Rent a bike from Athens Bicycle and then determine your route using the guide linked above to pick your poison. We made a visit first to Little Fish Brewing to take in their tasty sour offerings and the country setting, then headed to Jackie O’s Campbell Street taproom for a seasonally appropriate maple porter. Next time, a visit to Devil’s Kettle Brewing is on the agenda as well!

For dinner, we went the traditional route and noshed on home cooking at Miller’s Chicken. Just take a peek at the crunchy coating on that drummie! For a night cap, we couldn’t resist West End Cider House. I fell in love with the tiny courtyard in the back of the building, and had so much fun trying to determine the best cider in the flight we shared. The verdict: lemon-ginger most captivated my taste buds. As I’m sure you can tell, this fall visit to Athens was genuinely one of the best road trips we’ve ever done.

Want to plan your own fall road trip to Athens? Head to http://athensohio.com/ to start mapping out your excursion!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by the Athens County Visitors Bureau, who  provided me with complimentary meals on the trip. However, all opinions expressed in the post are my own.