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.

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.

A Visit To: Asheville

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:

All things gravy at Tupelo Honey in dowtown Asheville
Brunch at Biscuit Head – complete with a jam, honey, and butter bar
Can’t get enough of this view of the Biltmore Estate
Chocolate Stout Cake with Mocha Frosting at the French Broad Chocolate Lounge
Every Taco combo you’ve ever dreamed of and some more you haven’t at White Duck Taco Shop
Hot Pimento Dip and more at the Stable Cafe, just outside Biltmore Estate
Lovely farm-to-table happy hour at Rhubarb, including this delightful gnocchi dish with pickled carrots
One of the trip’s highlights: the Battery Park Book Exchange. It’s one part bookstore, one part champagne bar, and a maker of extraordinary cheese platters.
So much wickedness in hops form at Wicked Weed
Watching tubers float down the river at the New Belgium taproom
Sampling all the honey at Asheville Bee Charmer

Have you been to Asheville? What were your favorite spots to dine and drink?

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Rambling House Soda

Rambling House Soda and Music Bar
310 E. Hudson St.
Columbus, OH 43202
614-468-3415
http://www.ramblinghousesoda.com/

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.

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Canal Winchester Beer Trail

Canal Winchester Beer Trail

Loose Rail Brewing
37 W. Waterloo St.
Canal Winchester, OH 43110

BrewDog
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.

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Columbus Craft Beer Week 2017

It’s almost time for Columbus Craft Beer Week! This extravaganza of all things brewery-related transcends the hops scene into something that celebrates the culinary arts and local businesses as well. The capital city has embraced its beer-loving roots; after all, we are home to over 30 breweries. Plus, we can boast about the Columbus Ale Trail and the fantastic tours offered by Columbus Brew Adventures. But May 12-20, don’t miss some of the unique opportunities to savor some Columbus-made suds.

First on the roster is the brewing of the annual collaboration ale, consisting of 2 dozen local breweries uniting at Columbus Brewing Company to “mash in” the group-created beer and start the brewing process. The collectively created beer is dubbed Dysfunctionale, and is only available at select locations during Columbus Craft Beer Week on draft and in limited numbers of cans. Here are some shots from the initial mash in:

Throughout the week, your favorite bars and restaurants are also churning out some fantastic beer-centric dishes, having exclusive beer releases, and creating themed dinners. The whole week is capped off with the Six One Pour beer festival on May 20 from 5-9 at Huntington Park, featuring plenty of food, music, and of course, beer samples. These are some of the happenings that have caught my eye:

All week: Small Plate Pairings with The Market and Jackie O’s

All week: Small Plate Pairings with Homestead Beer Co. and The Crest Gastropub

May 12: Rockmill’s Quad Release at 101 Beer Kitchen

May 12: Science on Tap at COSI

May 13: Columbus Craft Beer Alliance – Beer and Donuts pairing at Platform Beer

May 14: Sushi, Sake, and Craft Beer Pairings at the Daily Growler

May 16: Beer and Ice Cream Pairing with Jeni’s and Land-Grant Brewing

May 17: Dog and Patio Beer Party at Zauber Brewing

Learn more about all of the upcoming events here: http://www.columbusbeerweek.com/events/ and see you at Columbus Craft Beer Week!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Platform Beer Co. Columbus

Platform Beer Co. Columbus
408 N. 6th St.
Columbus, OH 43215
http://platformbeerco.com
https://www.facebook.com/PlatformBeerCoCBUS/

Sour beer lovers rejoice! Cleveland’s Platform Beer Co. has hit Ohio’s capital city, and it’s fast becoming a hangout for hopheads and foodies alike. The taproom has a large patio that will be wonderful once the weather starts to turn, and the large and casual seating area has an industrial feel. But the sour beer and the rotating eats are the reasons you’ll keep coming back to the Discovery District outpost.

Platform Beer Co.

Platform has a constantly evolving draft list, but the sour beer styles are where the company really shines. Until this point, sours haven’t been the focus of local purveyors, so it’s been a pleasant surprise to find cans of Platform’s funky brews on the grocery store shelf. On Saturdays from 12-3, the bar boasts Sour Hour, an opportunity to sip on sour flights for $8 and get sour growler fills for just $12. Blackberry Bearded Gent IPA is a summer-worthy, fruit-infused delight, but make sure to sample the seasonal Shanghai Noon, a gose-style with lychee and prickly pear. Additional sour selections: Bunny Pajamas, City Boy, and the expectedly citrusy Tang Life.

Platform Beer in Columbus Ohio

Equally original are the pop-up restaurants hosted by Platform. With menus unlike any others in town, the taproom tables are often filled with unique and delicious meals. Take a bite of Meatball Mafia’s mouthwatering meatball entrees, or dine on dishes from the pork extraordinaires, 1803 Bacon. I recently devoured curry-cured bacon and egg sliders on sweet buns there for brunch, and wasn’t disappointed in the least. Other options: Creole Crust Cajun pizza by Da Levee, Freaks and Leeks vegan brunch, The Hungarian Butcher, Put It in Your Face Sandwich cart, Bus Appetit, and African pop-up Asempe.

1808 Bacon at Platform

Culinary Clue: Make sure you park at the metered street parking. Platform doesn’t have a dedicated lot and Columbus State campus police will ticket your vehicle.

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Platform Beer Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

2 Year Anniversary Spectacular: My Favorite Posts So Far

I’ll be writing more about this for the March newsletter (Click here to sign up for the newsletter), but this week Columbus Culinary Connection celebrated its 2 year anniversary! 131 blog posts, 4,200 Instagram (@cbusconnect) followers, and 8.3 million pounds of cheese later, I’m still enjoying being a food blogger. It’s forced me outside my comfort zone in tasting new cuisine, but also in making new relationships. It’s been a creative outlet, and given me a greater appreciation for Columbus and all things Ohio. I’ve enjoyed looking back at the posts I’ve written over the past two years, and daydreaming about the places I’ve visited, and of course the food I’ve devoured up to this point. Here are some of my absolute favorites!

Rockmill Brewery

http://columbusculinaryconnection.com/rockmill-brewery-review/
Rockmill Brewery

One of my very first posts, Rockmill is still a place that has a certain magic for me. The countless good times on the brewery’s grounds and in the idyllic horse barn-turned-taproom make this a spot I’ll always go again and again.

Kittie’s Cakes

http://columbusculinaryconnection.com/kitties-cakes/
http://columbusculinaryconnection.com/kitties-cakes-bexley/
Kittie's Cakes

The original German Village location and the new Bexley Kittie’s cafe have some of my favorite treats in town. Bacon cheddar scones, immense Facecookies, and shop mascot Linus the Golden Retriever make Kittie’s a must-try bakery.

My Family’s Christmas Cookies

http://columbusculinaryconnection.com/christmas-cookie-recipe/
Christmas Cookies

My mom was the guest writer for this post, and she’s the reason I am crazy about cooking. It’s one of my all-time favorite family traditions, and it’s been fabulous seeing so many other people take her recipe and incorporate it into their own holiday customs.

A Visit to: Biltmore Estate

http://columbusculinaryconnection.com/biltmore-estate/
The Biltmore Estate

I love exploring, and have embraced my inner history nerd. Our mini vacation to Biltmore Estate let me combine my admiration for both fine dining and Downton Abbey, and I loved every second of it. I also used this post as a template for my Charleston Gazette article, another writing opportunity that blogging has afforded me!

Fox in the Snow Cafe

http://columbusculinaryconnection.com/fox-in-the-snow-cafe/
Fox in the Snow Cafe

The effort put into blogging is worth it soley because I learned about Fox in the Snow through blogger friends. What had I been missing? Only the cutest animal logo in town and some heavenly custard-filled donuts.

Neighborhood Spotlight: Grandview Heights

http://columbusculinaryconnection.com/neighborhood-spotlight-grandview-heights/
Sweet Carrot and Zauber Beers in Grandview

It’s been great seeing so many new foodie destinations pop up in Grandview recently, and there are some classic oldie but goodie spots as well. There’s something for every palette in this Columbus ‘burb. I need to get around to making another neighborhood dining guide soon.

Por’Ketta Food Truck

http://columbusculinaryconnection.com/porketta-food-truck/
Porketta Food Truck

I love the ease and variety that food truck dining brings, and I tend to seek out my favorites time and again. Por’Ketta’s family business is doing some really fun things, and my adoration has not waned even after eating that chicken sandwich a hundred times.

Top Secret Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

http://columbusculinaryconnection.com/chocolate-chip-cookies/
Chocolate Chip Cookies

The secret is the cheesecake pudding! Trust me on this – it’s been my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe for years. It makes the softest, tastiest cookies imaginable.

5 Queso Dishes to Try

http://columbusculinaryconnection.com/carolines-picks-5-queso-dishes-try/
Bodega Columbus: Loaded Truffle Fries

I have to end this round-up with another round-up! When you can list some of your most beloved restaurants in one cheese-laden post, i.e.  Hudson 29, Condado Tacos, and Bodega, what isn’t to love? I have a whole category on the blog of 5 to Try posts, when you’re in need of a quick reference guide.

Thanks for being on this journey with me! Cheers to another year of bacon and blogging.

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Watershed Kitchen & Bar

Watershed Kitchen & Bar

Watershed Kitchen & Bar
1145 Chesapeake Ave, Columbus, OH 43221
(614) 357-1936
http://watersheddistillery.com/kitchen—bar.html

I was ecstatic to hear that Ohio changed its laws in 2016, allowing distilleries to open restaurants and make cocktails on-site at their production facilities. With some wonderful local spirit-makers calling Columbus home, the race was on to for distillers to open attached eateries. Last week, Grandview-area Watershed Distillery achieved that goal. Since I already loved their bourbon, nocino, and visiting their tasting room with Columbus Brew Adventures, when Watershed’s Kitchen & Bar opened last week I was itching to check it out.

Whiskey Lullaby | Watershed Kitchen & Bar

First recommendation: get reservations. We strolled in right when the space opened at 4, to learn all reservations were booked already. We happily ate at the bar, but it’s clear that the buzz around Watershed’s restaurant is huge. The space itself is well-appointed and simple. A glass wall connecting the dining room to the distillery allows you to peer at the gleaming tanks while you nosh, a fun touch, and the plenthora of candles and dim lighting makes this an intimate date night locale.

The cocktail menu is printed in a playful booklet with photos of each drink and trivia tidbits, which lets you see what your drink will look like before you select a choice. No more asking your seat neighbor, “what are you drinking?” For a winter warmer, the Bon Apple Tea (Watershed vodka, apple, lemon, dry curacao, honey, ancho chai spice, winter potpourri) is poured into a floral mug. Harken back to your childhood with the Nostalgia & Moxie: bourbon, ovaltine, cream, chocolate bitters, and more, all topped with torched marshmallows. Fans of libations on the rocks will adore the Improved Whiskey Cocktail, an effective blend of bourbon, luxardo, angostura & peychaud’s bitters, and of course, absinthe. There wasn’t a disappointing drink on the menu, from my perspective. Local draft beers are also on tap, as are a generous selection of wines.

Lions Tail | Watershed Kitchen & Bar

The food offerings are a mix of comfort dishes and eclectic bites. Options include buttermilk fried chicken accompanied by whipped pig butter, house hot sauce, and pickles, or we loved the fried Brussels sprouts, crispy brown and swimming in a peppery-sweet sauce with mint and citrus. The main selections are twists on classics as well, such as the Watershed Burger, a beautifully messy concoction of bourbon-glazed onions, tomato jam, and Brie. Dip the fries on the side in the addictive aioli. It seems like every restaurant has short ribs on the menu lately, but the dish stands out here with punchy pickled cabbage, cauliflower, and miso polenta. My pick for the next visit? The Duck Confit, plated with celery root, potato gnocchi, walnuts, and prune demi-glace.

FRIED BRUSSELS SPROUTS | Watershed Kitchen + Bar

Culinary Clue: Don’t forget to catch a distillery tour or pick up some merchandise in the gift shop. Their pre-mixed Old-Fashioned blend is great for lazy people (me) when you want a fabulous cocktail with minimal effort. The other bottled spirits like the bourbon-barrel gin and nocino are also available for sampling and bottle sales!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Watershed Distillery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kindred Artisan Ales

Kindred Artisan Ales

505 Morrison Rd.
Gahanna, OH 43230
http://www.kindredales.com/

Until very recently, the craft beer scene in the Gahanna area was severely lacking. With the addition of Crafted Drafts, Pigskin Brewing, and 101 Beer Kitchen, the northeast-area ‘burb has started to transform. Another major factor in the change: Kindred Artisan Ales. The business was recently selected as one of the best local start-up companies by The Metropreneur, with good reason.

Kindred Artisan Ales

Opened in April 2016, Kindred’s bar is outfitted with plenty of woodwork, white subway tiling, and ample seating. There is no food made in-house, but some of my favorite local food trucks make regular stops here, including Aloha Streatery, Street Thyme, and Sophie’s Pierogies. You can also find entertainment such as live trivia, bands, and contests going on throughout the month at the taproom.

Kindred Artisan Ales

The brewery’s collection of pints are approachable varieties, often straying from the typical hop-forward ales offered by other brewers. Sample the Hawaiian Shirt (white ale brewed with hibiscus and mango), the Berliner Weisse (tart wheat), or the Kindred Wit, a spicy and drinkable witbier. Kindred also has a sour beer line in production, so stay tuned for more details and developments on that front! They also have liquor available for the non-beer drinker in your life.

Culinary Clue: Kindred is part of the Columbus Ale Trail. Pick up a passport at a participating brewery, then get to traveling! At every location, ask the bartender to stamp your passport. When you visit 4 breweries, you will receive a Columbus Ale Trail pint glass. If you check in at all 20 breweries on the list, you will get an awesome deck of playing cards featuring the breweries on the trail!

Keep Connected,

Caroline