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.

5 Veggie-rific Treats to Try

I’ve openly admitted time and time again that I have a love-hate relationship with most kinds of veggies. Some of the them, like the cucumber, can send a shiver down my spine. But others, when expertly prepared, can go from a childhood nightmare to an utterly craveable dish (Brussels sprouts anyone?). So without further ado, here are some local items that despite their vegetable origins can make stomach grumble instantly.

Darista Dips Hummus

http://www.daristacafe.com/
Darista Dips Hummus

Darista has ruined any other hummus for me, in the best way possible. The internationally-inspired hummus flavors pack a punch with spices like za’atar and harissa, and pair perfectly with pita chips or carrots. I can never decide if I like the Piquillo Pepper or the Moroccan Carrot best; try them and help me decide! Find the luscious dips at Whole Foods, Fresh Thyme, Oats and Barley, the Worthington Farmers Market, and more.

North Star Burger

https://www.thenorthstarcafe.com/

No veggie list would be complete without mentioning this mouthwatering creation from North Star Cafe. A patty consisting of beets, brown rice, and black beans is topped with a melty slab of white cheddar and a little kale. It doesn’t taste like beef, but it doesn’t need to – this burger is wonderful in its own right. Wash it down with the joint’s divine house-made ginger ale.

Vegetable Tostada

https://www.cosechacocina.com/

Newcomer Cosecha knows how to treat veggies at their Italian Village restaurant. Case in point: this delectable tostada, topped with triple the squash power. The three squashes are roasted butternut squash, pickled and shaved butternut squash, and delicata squash, plus eggplant and tamarind on a crunchy shell. The vegetables here are pretty to admire, and even better once devoured. Catch this on the fall menu soon!

The Brooklyn Bowl

https://www.nativecoldpressed.com/

A filling salad that is also entirely tempting is a tough find. The Brooklyn ( the rightmost item in the picture, with ribboned kale, roasted sweet potatoes, chickpeas, shredded carrots, cilantro, tomatoes, and pumpkin seeds in an herb tahini dressing) is just that. I have dreams about how to concoct this dressing – it’s so creamy. I haven’t mastered it yet, so I’ll just have to keep buying this bowl. The Brooklyn is available from Blackbird Eats only at the Bexley Native Cold Pressed location.

Brussels Sprouts

http://rockmilltavern.com/

Brussels are one of those green goodies that upon roasting or frying, suddenly become addictive. Hubbard Grille first changed my mind about Brussels, but Rockmill Tavern has created one of my favorite versions in a long time. Think crispy Brussels sprouts coated with a savory-sweet glaze of miso, mustard, and honey. Don’t plan on sharing an order of these nuggets as a side or you’ll leave disappointed.

Click here to view my full write-up on Rockmill Tavern

Are you a veggie hater who has discovered a tasty Columbus meal? Let me know in the comments!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

The Half Pint Columbus

The Half Pint Columbus
415 N. Front St.
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 745-1165
https://www.thehalfpintcolumbus.com/

Top Tastes:
1. PBB&J Burger
2. Hangover Burger
3. Cheese Curds
4. Chipotle Bar Bacon
5. Caramel Brownie Cheesecake

I no longer have to trek to Dublin for my peanut butter burger fix! The Half Pint, sister restaurant to The Pint Room, has opened its doors in the Arena District just across the street from the back entrance to the North Market. This modern sports bar boasts some of the best burgers in town and 60 beers on tap. If you work downtown and are seeking happy hour comfort, visit Monday through Friday from 3pm to 6pm for half off craft beers and $2.00 off wine and cocktails.  The Half Pint is also a fun, casual option for pre-concert or game day grub.

But what I really want to talk about in this post is the burgers! I’ve been cherishing The Pint Room’s PBB&J Burger for years, and The Half Pint has this delicacy on the menu. Trust me on this combo. It sounds so strange, but just give it a try: melty peanut butter, candied bacon, jack cheese, strawberry jam, and strawberry slices, all atop a beef patty and sandwiched with a soft, buttery bun. Peanut butter should be in and on everything, if you ask me. The Hangover Burger is another good choice. Lots of restaurants feature a drippy egg on their burgers, but this one benefits from the added treat of crispy hash browns, plus smoked cheddar, bacon, and tomato. Even the Turkey Burger has a mouthwatering twist ( it’s crowned with pepperjack, pickled red onion, arugula, kale, and chipotle-cranberry mayo) and the CBJ Burger, a special feature, sports giant onion rings and BBQ sauce.

Besides burgers, there are a number of other dishes worth mentioning. To start, select the Cheese Curds, dished up with a light, crunchy beer batter and sriracha ranch, or the Bar Bacon trio. The latter is a bacon flight containing 3 types of thick-cut bacon, each coated in a different glaze or seasoning. During my visit, the platter had buffalo, BBQ, and the especially savory chipotle-rubbed variety. Save room for a small dessert, you will heartily demolish the Caramel Brownie Cheesecake to close out the meal. Lastly, I must mention that the large beer list has a constantly rotating variety of taps, so there is a cider, IPA, or pumpkin beer for everyone in your party.

Culinary Clue: The Half Pint is serving up Sunday brunch as well! Starting at 10, select from brunch favorites such as French toast, crab cake benedicts, omelets, and Bloody Marys so you can fuel up for the day.

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Disclosure: I was given a complimentary meal in exchange for writing my honest review of The Half Pint. The above writing represents my own views.

Skillet

Skillet
410 E Whittier Street
Columbus, OH 43206
614-443-2266
http://www.skilletruf.com/

Skillet isn’t a new hot spot. It isn’t even in a trendy part of town. But this teeny cafe on the outskirts of German Village hasn’t been getting the buzz it deserves lately. In my humble opinion, Skillet is dishing up one of the best brunches in town. Plus, the menu changes daily, so even the staples like scones and gravies get a new twist every time you visit. Even better, the rotating offerings allow for Skillet to utilize local ingredients from purveyors like Honey Run Farms, Blue Jacket Dairy, and Hirsch Fruit Farm. I also love that Skillet serves brunch every day it’s open (Wednesday-Sunday). It’s always so disappointing on a Friday when you’re off work and craving brunchy goodness, only to find that most restaurants limit that joyous menu to weekends only.

Skillet Cheese Blintzes

The aforementioned scones, along with morning buns, cinnamon rolls and coffee cake varieties are generally offered in some form. At the time of this writing, the current scone selections included chocolate pecan, blueberry, Amish cheddar thyme, or raspberry white chocolate. Cheese blintzes (comparable to crepes if you’ve never had them) are a typical option as well, stuffed with ricotta and creme anglaise and topped with fruits ranging from blueberries to raspberries to tumeric-cherry preserves.

Savory breakfast from Skillet

Seeking savory over sweet? Skillet has you covered there too. The biscuits and gravy will always aim to please; my husband loves the mushroom version, or try the house-made chorizo gravy when you spot it. Or let your stomach steer you towards the scallops and grits, a scrumptious play on a Southern stand-by. Even the often blasé chicken and waffles has pep here: Crispy panko chicken is tossed in a spicy red curry with a savory popcorn rice and coconut milk cornmeal waffle. Add some bacon, brined ham, or lamb and fig or fennel sausage on the side and you’re set. There’s a small lunch-focused section to the menu in addition to brunch as well. For fall, the joint is cooking up jalapeno bacon corn chowder, fancy grilled cheese, simple salads, and a pumpkin concoction with roasted apples and cider.

Skillet Bourbon Barrel Cold Brew

And I can’t forget the house bottled cold brew coffee, sweetened with a touch of bourbon barrel maple syrup. This glorious creation deserves a paragraph of its own. I normally have admittedly embarrassing coffee tastes, and will cram as many syrups and glugs of cream as possible into every cup. I drink Skillet’s cold brew black, over ice – it’s that smooth and flavorful. The little bottles are available for purchase to take home as well; I had to ask because I wanted more to enjoy later!

Culinary Clue: Sometimes the menu sells out and the restaurant is not large. So drag yourself out of bed early to make sure you get the best possible selection!

Have you been to Skillet lately? Let me know on Instagram or in the comments below what your favorite dish to order is.

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Skillet, Rustic. Urban. Food. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Apple Pie French Toast

When I opt for a sweet brunch over a savory one, French toast is one of my go-to selections. But who has time to make French toast through the week? Not this girl. So discovering overnight French toast in casserole form has been a breakfast lifesaver. This recipe is almost like a bread pudding (with syrup as the topping) and the addition of a favorite fall flavor: apple pie. Top this creation with some local Middle West Spirits bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup for an extra tasty treat.

Apple Pie French Toast

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients:

1 loaf of thickly sliced cinnamon bread (I use Great Harvest cinnamon chip, but one of the thick-cut Pepperidge Farm varieties will work well too)
1/2 c. brown sugar
6 eggs
2 c. milk (i used 2%)
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 20 oz. can of apple pie filling
Optional: 2/3 c. salted caramel or butterscotch chips (I found the caramel ones at Kroger)
Syrup, for topping

Apple Pie French Toast

Spray a 9 x 13 casserole dish with cooking spray and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Next, tear or cut bread slices into 1 inch chunks and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, milk, cream, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Then fold in the apple pie filling to the egg mixture. Spread bread cubes into casserole dish in an even layer and pour egg mixture over top, making sure to distribute apple chunks evenly throughout dish. If desired, top the casserole with the butterscotch or caramel chips for a caramel apple twist. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the top of the casserole is golden and center is set. Cover casserole with foil during baking if the top begins to brown too much.

Apple Pie Overnight French Toast

Refrigerate the cooled, baked casserole. The next morning, cut into squares and microwave individually for a decadent breakfast. Add a syrup drizzle for a meal that even your most autumn-obsessed friend will enjoy!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Apple Pie French Toast
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 1 loaf of thickly  sliced cinnamon bread
  • ½ c. brown sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 c. milk (i used 2%)
  • ½ c. heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 20 oz. can of apple pie filling
  • Optional: ⅔ c. salted caramel or butterscotch chips
  • Syrup, for topping
Instructions
  1. Spray a 9 x 13 casserole dish with cooking spray and preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Next, tear or cut bread slices into 1 inch chunks and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, milk, cream, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt.
  4. Then fold in the apple pie filling to egg mixture.
  5. Spread bread cubes into casserole dish in an even layer and pour egg mixture over top, making sure to distribute apple chunks evenly throughout dish.
  6. If desired, top the casserole with the butterscotch or caramel chips for a caramel apple twist.
  7. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the top of the casserole is golden and center is set.
  8. Cover casserole with foil during baking if top begins to brown too much.
  9. Refrigerate the cooled, baked casserole.
  10. The next morning, cut into squares and microwave individually for a decadent breakfast.
  11. Add a syrup drizzle for a meal that even your most autumn-obsessed friend will enjoy!

 

Columbus Day Trip for Fall: Utica

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. Distillery

http://millstdistillery.com/are-you-of-age/

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.

Velvet Ice Cream

http://www.velveticecream.com/

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 Orchards

http://branstoolorchards.com/

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!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Getting to Know: Jana Douglass from Jana Lee’s Bake Shop

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.

Web: https://www.janaleesbakeshop.com/
Instagram: @janaleesbakeshop
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/janaleesbakeshop/
Twitter: @Jana_Lees

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.

Photo Credit: Jana Lee’s Bake Shop

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.

Photo Credit: Jana Lee’s Bake Shop

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!

Curried Potato & Lentil Soup (1 Pot!)

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.

Keep Connected,

Caroline