Third Birthday Extravaganza: Highlights, News, + More Truth Talk

How have I been blogging for 3 years already? This fact alone makes me feel pretty elderly. This post will be the 169th here on Columbus Culinary Connection. To be honest, some weeks I’ve been chomping at the bit to get my thoughts down on paper; others, it has been hard to make myself sit down and write. But I’ve loved every minute of connecting with each of you.

To shake things up a little bit, I’m in the process of working on a website redesign, and I can’t wait to share the end result. Hang in there if a link is down during the process or if the site’s formatting isn’t quite right. My husband is uber-talented at teaching himself WordPress, and he created this current website plus the one to come. There will be more pictures, more searchable posts, and more opportunities to connect. One thing I’m most excited about is the Caroline Currently page, which will be a live, ever-changing page of what’s happening now: what I’m craving, what’s trending in town, recipes I can’t stop making, and answers to questions submitted by you.

In honor of this anniversary, I also need to take some time to laugh at myself and how far I’ve come. Specifically, in the area of photography. I don’t have a “real” camera, and so it’s been fun to see how much my skills at capturing food with my cell phone have improved. Practice makes perfect, as has reading books and articles on this subject. I have to credit The Wonder Jam too, for their fun and informative class on honing that prowess. When I first started blogging, I didn’t have an Instagram account (now my biggest social media following by far) and I naively didn’t fathom how essential taking good photographs is to putting out quality posts. Just take a peek at some “then” and “now” comparisons below. I still have a lot of work to do, but some of these early shots are downright laughable. Too many filters, bad lighting and props, and so much blurriness.

Cookie Skillets: before and after

Click here to see the full Cookie Skillets recipe.

101 Beer Kitchen: why did I think would anyone care about the sign?

Read more about 101 Beer Kitchen.

Rockmill Brewery: wasn’t doing this beautiful spot justice

Learn more about Rockmill Brewery here.

Sugar Cookie Peach Cobbler: do I even need to explain this one?

Click here to see the Sugar Cookie Peach Cobbler recipe.

Lava Cakes: note the shadow and salt shakers in the corner…

Lastly, I wanted to share with you the all-time top five posts on the blog. Of course, you all love Fox in the Snow (how could you not) but some were surprising. Who knew so many of you shared my obsession with white BBQ sauce? Here are the 5 most visited blog posts to date:

Thank you as always for following along with my food journey. I’m incredibly humbled when someone takes the time to read content I’ve produced. Please let me know what kinds of posts you love best, so I can focus on those topics this year. Or shoot me a message and just say hi!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Fetty’s Street Food

Egg Roll from Fetty's Street Food

Fetty’s Street Food
https://www.facebook.com/fettysstreetfood

You likely know about my food truck cravings; after all, there’s a whole section of the blog dedicated solely to the mobile dining scene here in Columbus. But I had never encountered anything quite like Fetty’s Street Food when I sampled it last summer at Newark’s Canal Market District. Owner Damian Ettish is churning out cuisine inspired by Indian, Thai, and South African flavors. What is Indian-Thai-South African cuisine? It turns out, it’s savory and scrumptious. If you can’t catch the truck, watch the calendar at The Commissary – Ettish has taught cooking classes there previously.

Let’s talk dining. If the egg rolls or the crab rangoons are on the menu when you visit, they are well worth the caloric splurge. Each is served with a sweet and sour sauce for dipping and has a perfectly oh-so-crunchy exterior. Ettish spends hours hand-rolling batches of each item; no machines here. When it comes to the entrees, the portions are plentiful and tasty. Try the Thai Chimichanga, a fried burrito filled with rice, chicken, cheese, tomato, peppers, and onion, then bathed in a tangy Thai sauce. Eastern food purists will enjoy the General Tso’s chicken or the Thai egg fried rice, familiar takeout flavors with a Fetty’s twist. Other selections, depending on the day, vary from an Indian-style Pita (stuffed with falafel, lettuce, tomato, cucumber raita, and coriander-mint chutney) to the Bunny Chow, South African butter chicken curry presented in a bread bowl.

Thai Egg Fried Rice | Fetty's Street Food

Have you checked out Fetty’s Street Food? Let me know your favorite dish in the comments below.

Keep Connected,

Caroline

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

A Touch of Cambodia: Aloha Streatery Pop-up

A Touch of Cambodia: Aloha Streatery Pop-up

Have you ever tried Cambodian cuisine? I hadn’t until last week, and I had been missing out! Aloha Streatery is one of my favorite local food trucks, serving up Hawaiian buns and pineapple rice bowls. So when I was invited to a Cambodian pop-up concept presented by the truck’s chef, I was so in.

Crunchy Papaya Salad with Tofu Skewer

Held at the always tasty Bonifacio restaurant, we enjoyed cocktails on the regular Bonifacio menu, and then got down to gobbling up the courses. My husband and I went for the divide and conquer strategy in order to try everything! To start: crunchy papaya salad with just a kiss of heat, paired with a lemongrass beef or tofu skewer. It was a perfect blend of textures.

Bonafacio Cocktail

Next we moved on to the soup, Cambodian tomato pineapple broth with chicken, surprisingly light and flavorful. For mains, we noshed on crispy stuffed chicken wings with sweet chili sauce, and marinated beef with garlic-lime sauce. I’m still dreaming about the garlicky goodness of this beef sauce and imagining all the things I could slather it on. Tacos? Pizza? Yes to all. The grand finale was mango sticky rice with warm coconut milk. It was rich and heavenly, and as soon as I got home I pinned a bunch of recipes to try and recreate it myself at home.

crispy stuffed chicken wings with sweet chili sauce

I was fortunate enough to sit with a group of super kind folks who had actually visited Cambodia, so I got some background on many of the dishes too. It was a fun evening filled with memorable dishes and I can’t wait to see what comes next for the Aloha crew. There will be another pop-up event in about a month, so follow Aloha’s social media channels (instagram /twitter/facebook) to catch the next dinner!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Disclosure: I was invited to this event by Aloha Streatery, but all opinions about the experience are my own.

Caroline’s Picks: 5 Food Truck Bowls to Try

Hai Poké: Tuna Bowl

http://www.haipoke.com/
Hai Poké: Tuna Bowl

There’s been so much buzz around this newcomer truck, and it is well-deserved. I’m not sure how Hai Poké marinates their sashimi, but I know it’s incredible. Here’s the contents of the tuna bowl: raw tuna, lime, cucumbers, sushi rice, seaweed, scallions, spicy mayo, avocado, power soy sauce, plus a crispy wonton for scooping up all that jazz. Bonus: They have pop-ups every Sunday evening at Zauber Brewing.

Cupzilla: Pork Combo Cup

https://www.facebook.com/cupzillakoreanbbq/
Cupzilla: Pork Combo Cup

This Korean BBQ truck won my heart when I discovered their sauces come in 5 heat levels, so spice wimps like me can still enjoy those tasty flavors. Cupzilla has their layering technique perfected, and they pack so much into one bowl, I often save half for later. On the bottom, there’s a layer of rice soaked in sweet sauce and lettuce leaves, then rice noodles followed by succulent pork, two craveable sauces, and the whole thing is crowned with a crispy potsticker!

Mai Chau: Noodle Bowl

http://maichaustreetfood.com/
Mai Chau: Noodle Bowl

I’ve written about my Mai Chau peanut sauce obsession here, so this Vietnamese spot had to be included. I love that they have sweet and spicy cauliflower as a topping choice (it’s so outside the box) but lemongrass chicken and sriracha pulled pork are available too. Carrots, sprouts, and crushed peanuts add some good crunch to this bowl, and you’ve gotta love the fresh cilantro on top too. Get slurping!

Aloha Streatery: Loco No Moco

https://www.facebook.com/alohastreatery/
Aloha Streatery: Loco No Moco

Aloha also creates some of my favorite sliders (http://columbusculinaryconnection.com/carolines-picks-5-sliders-to-try/) in town, but don’t forget about their Loco No Moco bowl! Your pick of tofu or Hawaiian-style chicken sits atop a bed of rice with decadent cilantro sauce and chunks of fresh pineapple. It’s simple and delicious, perfect for daydreaming about that tropical vacation.

Aromaku: Bakmi Ayam Bakar

http://www.aromaku.com/

This grilled chicken and noodle dish hits all the flavor notes – it’s sweet, spicy, and salty rolled together. The dish consists of thin egg noodles in a savory broth which are topped with fried onions and tender marinated chicken. I hadn’t eaten Indonesian cuisine before Aromaku, and I had totally been missing out. I wish I had a photo, but I always seem to get so excited I forget to snap one. Give it a try!

What’s your favorite food truck where you can dine on a bowl? Let me know by sending a tweet here: @cbusconnect.

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Mai Chau Food Truck

Mai Chau Food Truck
Mai Chau Food Truck
maichaustreetfood.com
(740) 920-4680

Top Tastes

1. Sweet and Spicy Cauliflower Noodle Bowl
2.  Saigon Sliders
3. Sriracha Pulled Pork Banh Mi
4. Lemongrass Chicken Lettuce Cups
5. Shrimp Spring Rolls

Looking for fast-casual Vietnamese-style grub in Columbus? Stop searching and seek out the Mai Chau food truck! It’s the easiest way to “eat Viet,” as Mai Chau says. The menu at this truck is simple, but there is no shortage of flavor here.

The Banh Mi sandwiches and the noodle bowl are always on the truck, while the other items rotate in and out. For both the Banh Mi (a Vietnamese take on a sub with a baguette bun and pickled veggies, spicy mayo, and cilantro) and the bowls, start by selecting your filling from sriracha pulled pork, sweet and spicy cauliflower, lemongrass chicken, and sometimes, chili-lime tofu. For the Banh Mi, I love to get the pulled pork – it’s easiest to eat, has the right amount of heat, and pairs best with the heaping handful of cilantro. The noodle bowls begin with a generous helping of rice noodles, topped with bean sprouts, cucumbers, pickled carrots & daikon, cilantro and peanut sauce, on a bed of lettuce. Let me just have a swoon moment over the peanut sauce – I’m obsessed. I am a wimp about spice sometimes, but I make an exception for the mild heat of the peanut sauce and ask for extra. I go for the sweet and spicy cauliflower for the bowls, it’s something you can’t get anywhere else, plus vegetarian-friendly!

Banh Mi from Mai Chau Truck

One of the most commonly featured alternative options on the truck are the Saigon Sliders. These little sammies are piled high with pork dripping with umami sauce and crisp Asian slaw. If they’re available that day, indulge in them! The spring rolls, dunked in that heavenly peanut sauce, are another fresh and light choice, or sample the lettuce cups. For this low-carb dish, Bibb lettuce acts as the base for lemongrass chicken, cucumbers, sprouts, and more.

Slider from Mai Chau Truck

Don’t miss the brick and mortar Mai Chau spot as well. It opened last year in Granville, and has an expanded menu with killer steam buns and shrimp pops. They are also currently brewing their own beer for a new brewery, Three Tigers Brewing. For now, the connected tap room is serving up local brews and crunchy wings.

Culinary Clue: Catch Mai Chau when they are scheduled to be at the new Market Street Soda Works at the Canal Market District in Newark. The soda shop’s wide range of root beers and fun-flavored pops are the ideal way to cool all that spice!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Mai Chau Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

2015 Year in Review

2015 Year in Review
2015 has been a spectacular year for so many reasons, but deciding to start this blog has been one of the most fulfilling. It’s provided me with a creative writing outlet and been a way to document my favorite hobby. So as I reflect on all of the fun I’ve had this year, here are some of the Columbus Culinary Connection posts that you as readers have loved the most, and a few of my favorite snapshots from my first year as a blogger. This is a lengthier post, but it’s too challenging to narrow down my experiences!

Eats and Treats

Year in Review - Hot Chicken Takeover
Doing so much writing forced me to discover new restaurants that I’d never set foot in previously, and I’m so glad it got me out of my usual rotation. I unearthed gems like Hot Chicken Takeover and Veritas Tavern, and became a regular at places such as 101 Beer Kitchen, Harvest Pizzeria, and Harvest Moon Cafe. I want to take up residence at Fox in the Snow. I also started a food truck series that has been super entertaining; you adored posts about Por’Ketta and Tortilla Street Food the most.

Brews and Bottles

Year in Review - Rockmill

I relished getting the chance to chronicle my most-loved watering holes, and add some new ones to my list as well. From wineries like Buckeye Lake to campus-area meadery Brothers Drake, it was a joy sampling local spirits! I upped my craft beer numbers too, by picking up rare finds at Crafted Drafts and Rockmill Brewery. Curio curated one of my favorite cocktails, the Dapper Dan, and I began writing monthly boozy recipes for Drink Up Columbus.

Local Love

Year in Review - Liberty Pottery

Columbus as a community is all about helping others and supporting local, family-owned businesses. There are so many options for gifts, tours, or non-chain spots to grab a bite. In 2015 I featured joints like this in one neighborhood in particular, Grandview. Next year, look for a neighborhood guide on a new section of Cbus! I also started a “5 to Try” column, highlighting topics like products or pizza. I had a blast visiting the Ohio History Center Speakeasy event, and traveling to South Carolina, Biltmore Estate, and Pittsburgh, with a few other quick jaunts in between.

Recipes

Year in Review - Pork Tenderloin

Sharing new cooking creations and my family’s favorite meals was very personal for me. Grilling pork tenderloin with this marinade proved tasty beyond belief, and this easy sweet Italian salad dressing was also a hit. My mom shared the first guest post on the blog, detailing our Christmas cookie traditions.

Instagram is a platform that truly lets food photos shine, and it’s been so enjoyable sharing a photograph each day as I eat my way through the capital city. Below, you will find my most memorable Instagram shots and a few extra pics sprinkled in. Follow along at @cbusconnect :

2015 Photos in Review

It’s always been my mission to share my love of all things culinary and all things Columbus, and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store! I am so humbled and grateful that so many of you have taken the time to read the posts, send me emails, and promote this brand.

What has been your favorite post this year? Is there a can’t-miss restaurant you want to see featured? Let me know in the comments!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Por’Ketta Food Truck

Por'Ketta Food Truck
Por’Ketta Food Truck
Columbus, OH
(614) 570-1107
http://porkettacbus.com/

Top Tastes:

1. Porchetta Sandwich + Egg
2. Chicken Sandwich
3. Purple Potato Salad
4. Corn Salad
5. Bourbon, Bacon, and Peach Marmalade

I’m just going to come out and say it. I am absolutely in love with Por’Ketta. At any point when I am even remotely in the vicinity of this truck, I will hunt it down, and promptly order one of everything. While this relative newcomer to the mobile food scene has a limited menu, every dish is tastier than the last.

Challah Food Truck

Challah Food Truck
https://www.facebook.com/ChallahFoodTruck
(614) 579-0601

Top Tastes:

1. Pastrami, Egg, and Cheese on Challah
2. Smoked Salmon Club
3. Schmaltz Fried Potatoes
4. Seventh Son Brisket Sandwich
5. Latkes

The Challah Food Truck

Everything about Challah food truck screams fun. I am a sucker for a good pun, and you can’t say the truck’s name without wanting to add an exclamation point on the end, or yell “holla!” with glee while you nosh on their delicious eats.

Most recently, I caught up with Challah at Seventh Son for brunch. The Jewish comfort food-inspired cuisine here will satisfy every morning craving you’ve ever had, guaranteed. Brunch is a great way to kick off your day, and to me, there is nothing more quintessentially brunch than a runny egg sandwich. My favorite item by far at Challah is the Egg and Cheese Sandwich on challah bread, with pastrami added. This treat is anchored by a soft challah roll, the base of any good sandwich. The next layer is yummy herby mayo, cheese, and a latke, a crunchy potato pancake that adds a nice texture to the dish. You can order the latkes on their own too, with one of the sandwich sauces for dunking. The sandwich is topped with a perfectly dippy egg, which oozes out over the meat (note to self: get more napkins next time).  The pastrami is tender and peppery, plus it paired amazingly with my Seventh Son New Horizon Rye beer, by the way.

Challah Egg and Cheese Sandwich

If you are looking for smoked salmon, pick up the smoked salmon club. This unique take on a club has smoked salmon, escarole, tomato, mayo, fried red onion, and LAMB BACON. As a bacon lover, I was incredibly surprised to enjoy the lamb version that Challah slaps on the sandwich. I am also partial to the Seventh Son Brisket sandwich. It consists of cheese, truck-made brisket, and tangy pickled veggies, along with a squirt of horseradish mayo for dipping purposes. Order the schmaltz fried potatoes on the side, which are super flavorful and perfectly crispy. Brunch aspirations are set!

The Seventh Son Brisket Sandwich from Challah

I’ve also heard tales of the truck stocking chicken and waffles ice cream, which I have yet to catch, but would love to try! If you are looking for a great brunch that is totally different from the typical food truck experience, head to Challah.

Culinary Clue: Chef Catie appeared on a recent food truck episode of Cutthroat Kitchen. This Food Network TV show pits chefs against each other in series of challenges, and they specially sought after the Challah creator! Catch her appearance on The Truck Stops Here episode.

Chef Catie on Food Network

One meal was been provided by Challah, but all opinions in this review are my own. Download the Street Food Finder app to see where you can find Challah.

Challah Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

2015 Columbus Food Truck Festival

2015 Columbus Food Truck Festival
Food truck lovers unite! It’s one of the best times of the year, because the Columbus Food Truck Festival weekend is upon us. At the Columbus Commons from Friday, August 14 through Sunday, August 16, find all of your favorite food trucks all in one place! Where else can you eat Korean pork sliders, walk a few feet for a brisket taco, and then stroll a couple more paces for a gourmet cupcake? It is a great opportunity to try a new mobile food vendor, or sample a new cuisine without any commitment. I suggest bringing a large group, and then utilizing the “divide and conquer strategy.” This way, you can each pick a truck, load up on multiple items, and then divvy up the spoils so that each person gets to try a wide variety of dishes. Need more convincing? Entrance to the festival is free, there are tons of great musicians playing on the Commons stage, and there are craft vendors lining the perimeter.

At the event, you can graze on offerings from some of these great trucks:

The Burrito Bus
Burrito Bus Nachos
Hot Chicken Takeover – Click here for my review
Hot Chicken Takeover Food Truck
Mai Chau
Mai Chau Banh Mi
Pitabilities
Pitabilities Falafel Pita
Mixing Bowl Asian Grill
Noodle Bowl Mixing Bowl Asian Grill
Mikey’s Late Night Slice
The Sauces at Mikey's Late Night Slice
Tortilla Street Food – Click Here for my review
Tortilla Street Food Truck

See you there! To learn more about the festival, head to: http://columbusfoodtruckfest.com/

I’ve been on a whirlwind food truck tour the last few months! Learn more about my adventures in meals on four wheels with the food truck tab of Columbus Culinary Connection: http://columbusculinaryconnection.com/foodtrucks/