Food Lover’s Staycation: Hotel LeVeque

Hotel LeVeque
50 W Broad Street
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 224-9500
https://autograph-hotels.marriott.com/hotel/hotel-leveque/

It’s hard to miss the LeVeque Tower on the Columbus skyline. Architecturally beautiful, imposing, and frequently lit up in honor of holidays or social causes, the grandeur of this historic building is now available to the masses by way of Hotel LeVeque. Consequently, when I received an invitation to visit LeVeque Tower and stay at the hotel, I jumped at the chance. I’ve been dying to have a Columbus staycation, and this was the perfect opportunity to be a tourist in my own city! I immediately began planning our overnight getaway, and setting my walking foodie itinerary.

When you first step into the lobby at Hotel Leveque, your eyes might have trouble adjusting. There is so much to take in: thoughtful lighting, gilt mirrors, and lux upholstery. Upon viewing our room, I couldn’t help but swoon and hope that their designer would come make over my house. The decor is elegant and plush, far from the stale, generic furnishings that are the trademark of so many travel accommodations. There is a subtle celestial theme throughout Hotel LeVeque, from the constellation artwork, to the telescope on the shelf in our room, and even the turn-down service, which featured a projector illuminating the ceiling of our darkened room in a soothing array of stars and galaxies. I think my husband was embarrassed by my excitement over this feature, but I consoled myself by eating the chocolate truffles the staff also kindly left for us.

We started off our dine and dream adventure after freshening up by going and exploring the parks and buildings adjacent to the hotel, including some nooks I’d never discovered before, including a pretty landscaped area near City Hall and the World’s Largest Gavel by the Ohio Supreme Court. Next, we strolled to Veritas for some light appetizers and cocktails, just a short walk from the hotel. If you haven’t been to Veritas, the candied bacon risotto is a must, as is the Citizens Trust bar above the restaurant (see my full post for more on this). Later, we headed back to LeVeque for our main meal at The Keep, the in-house restaurant.

I’ve written about visiting The Keep previously, and this visit for late night dinner and drinks was just as enchanting. We devoured plates of short ribs with scallion pancakes, steak tartare with a quail egg, the ultra-rich and decadent Corn and Caviar dish, and a dessert special of smores cake (hey, I was on “vacation”) in the cozy, gas-lit dining area. Make sure you wash this all down with a bourbony beverage from the fabulous bar. The concierge had a wealth of knowledge about other spots within walking distance too, so there are plenty of dining options to choose from for a return visit.

After a good night’s rest, we were famished of course. Next time, I will definitely plan to eat brunch at The Keep in the morning. But if you are looking for an outside breakfast within walking distance, I can’t say enough good things about Cravings Carryout Cafe, just a block away. I’m in love with their bronuts (brioche donuts) and iced coffee. On the casual side, Jack and Benny’s is also nearby and serves up traditional diner grub like bacon, eggs, and buckeye pancakes. Milestone 229 brunch is another good selection for a morning jaunt and scrumptious fare. Checkout isn’t until noon, so lingering with breakfast room service is always an option too.

Lastly, I have to mention that this hotel really focuses on personal touches and local partners as well. The Candle Lab even created a custom LeVeque candle, perfumed with the bergamot and lavender to mimic LeVeque’s signature scent. Watershed Distillery is heavily featured on the cocktail menu at The Keep, as are offerings from other local makers. Overall, can you tell I was sad to check out the next morning and get back to real life?

Does anyone else love to staycation as a way to explore Columbus? What neighborhood should I immerse myself in next with an overnight stay? Bonus points for walkability.

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Disclosure: My overnight stay at LeVeque was complimentary, but all opinions are my own. 

Butler County: Where to Dine and Drink

You may have heard of the Donut Trail, via last week’s post or other sources, but did you know that Butler County boasts some great spots to eat and imbibe? My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing the culinary scene in the area, located just north of Cincy. You’ll want savory items (and maybe an adult beverage or two) after filling up on all those donuts, and the locals have you covered in this regard. Let’s discuss some of the delicious places that we dined and drank:

To Eat:

 

Flub’s Dari-ette

http://www.flubsicecream.com/

This soft-serve paradise is swirling up frozen confections to the masses in every variety. I was crazy for my orange creamsicle twist cone, but don’t miss the signature Cyclones. These aren’t your average blended ice cream treats. Give Brian’s PB Cup a whirl (Chocolate dip-top, peanut butter topping, and crushed peanut butter cups cycloned into vanilla creamy whip and topped with homemade whipped topping and Reese cups) or try Ellinghaus’s Blondie (Chocolate and vanilla twist ice cream mixed with cookie dough and brownie then finished off with chocolate dip top and home made whipped topping).

Hyde’s Restaurant

http://www.hydesrestaurant.com

It’s easy to see why this mom and pop joint has been around since 1946. The prices are reasonable, they serve breakfast all day, and oh my, the pie! The meringue on the banana cream pie was mile-high, and I’m still thinking about the flaky crust on the cherry pie. You’d think I wouldn’t be able to finish this pie after all those donuts, but you’d be wrong.

Jungle Jim’s

http://junglejims.com/

I could spend hours happily getting lost in Jungle Jim’s Fairfield. To call it a grocery store is almost an insult; it’s more of a mecca for food: delicious, unusual, or international. The cheese aisles alone are worth the trip, and the varieties I came home with were ones I’d never seen elsewhere, like truffle goat cheese or banana coconut gouda. There a whole section just for butters, one for pretzel breads, and even sections for foreign fruits and exotic game like rattlesnake. Wait, why did I leave here again?

Henry’s Candy Co

https://www.facebook.com/henryscandyco/

The sweet tooth strikes again at Henry’s in Hamilton. Chocolates, Jelly Belly beans, and every other colorful candy you can imagine line the shelves here. I snagged some nutty trail mix (one of multiple offerings) to tide us over on the drive home.

Cozy’s Cafe

http://cozyscafeandpub.com/

The name says it all – we received the best service, amazing food, and the desire to linger forever at Cozy’s. The interior is a Chip and Joanna Gaines farmhouse chic dream, and the outdoor patio area is immense, filled with Adirondacks and fire pits perfect for lounging. We were wowed by the short rib fries, the massive crab cakes, the Manhattan, and especially the zucchini carrot cake. Not to play favorites, but I need to go back to Butler County for Cozy’s alone – the backyard vibes are beckoning me this summer and I want to check out their brunch.

To Drink:

We were especially surprised by the number of breweries in Butler County during our visit. As hop heads, we discovered that there were plenty of superior suds to savor, and we met some of the dynamic folks behind these operations as well.

Quarter Barrel Brewery Hamilton

https://qbbrewery.pub/

This bar and restaurant just opened as an outpost of the original Oxford location. On tap, you will find some unique beer styles that you don’t often see, such as a Grissette and a Biere de Garde. On the menu, there is tasty pub grub too, like flatbreads and a pork belly BLT, pictured at the top of this post.

Municipal Brew Works

http://www.municipal.beer/

We loved chatting with Jim at Municipal who told us a ton of fun facts about Butler County, in addition to a few ghost stories. The building, we learned, used to be the municipal building for the City of Hamilton, hence the brewery name. The garage doors previously opened for fire truck bays, there are jail cells upstairs (spooky!) and a former shooting range for police detectives in the basement. There is also a beer available for every palette, from and aptly christened Approachable Blonde to a coffee porter. The riverfront patio here is large and lively, with daily food trucks and friendly pooches with their owners. A must-visit in my opinion!

Fig Leaf Brewing

http://www.figleafbrewing.com/

Fig Leaf is a newer operation, but that doesn’t mean they are short on beers. I really enjoyed Fig Leaf’s numerous hazy New England IPA selections, and they are doing some fun infusion flavors as well. It’s a very family-friendly place, with large tables and plenty of board games. The owners and their families have created some gorgeous woodwork pieces inside as well.

Rivertown Brewery

http://rivertownbrewery.com/

Our last stop of the trip certainly wasn’t my least favorite, and I’ll definitely return here too. I’ve loved Rivertown’s sour beer offerings for some time, and the tasting and tour of the brewery did not disappoint. Furthermore, our lunch was craveable: think giant pretzels, cornbread, bacon wontons with jam dipping sauce, and BBQ deviled eggs for apps. But don’t miss the photograph-worthy Rt. 63 burger, topped with an oozy fried cheese square, brisket, and a sparkler in the middle! Another tidbit we learned: they just started bottling and brewing Iron Line, a new line of beer exclusively for Kroger. Lastly, don’t miss the Groupon for a beer, growler, and tour if you visit Rivertown – it’s a steal of a deal.

If beer isn’t your preference, then the libations at The Roosevelt Room cocktail parlor are sure to please. This locale is serving up draft wine, happy hour specials, and a swanky atmosphere designed around Theodore Roosevelt. My inner history nerd is swooning right now. The drinks all have Roosevelt-themed names, such as the gin-based “Monocle” and the bold, bourbon-forward “Big Stick.”

Ready to head to Butler County yourself? Find out more information about the Butler County Donut Trail and its breweries and restaurants here: https://www.gettothebc.com/. The Visitor’s Bureau site can also give you ideas about other activities to do while you’re in town, since you’ll (probably) want to do other things besides eat during your journey. There are all kinds of outdoor activities that are ideal for warm weather, like golf, art exhibits, and even wakeboarding lessons! There are also other culinary destinations that I’d like to pay a visit one day: Swine City Brewing, Jolly’s Drive In, True West Coffee, Liberty Spirits, and Bagel & Deli, to name a few.

Finally, I have to mention our home base during the trip, The Courtyard Marriott Hamilton. This hotel had a modern, clean interior, and the staff was stellar. It is situated on the Miami River with water views, and within quick walking distance to both Quarter Barrel Hamilton and Municipal Brew Works, so no driving is required! Hamilton is a reemerging area, and if you love the musical Hamilton, you will adore its historic downtown, filled with Alexander Hamilton quotes and statues. There are also dozens of murals, sculptures, and art studded throughout the urban landscape.

If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out part one of the series, focusing on the Butler County Donut Trail and my favorite sweet at each stop. Have you had the pleasure of going to any of the locations listed in this post? Let me know your favorite.

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Disclosure: The Butler County Visitor’s Bureau hosted me on this trip, in exchange for an honest blog post. All opinions are my own.

The Butler County Donut Trail

The Butler County Donut Trail: Warning: this post may cause a serious sweet tooth!

Passport-style trails are currently popping up everywhere. In Central Ohio, we have a coffee trail, Dublin’s Celtic Cocktail Trail, Hilliard just launched an ice cream trail, there’s the Licking County wine trail, and of course, the Columbus Ale Trail. Just a short drive from the capital city though, is one of the most magical, sprinkle-covered passport programs around: the Butler County Donut Trail.

Located just north of Cincinnati, Butler County has your donut dreams made. The donut trail is a collection of twelve donut stops that you visit, purchasing a donut at each location. Begin the trail by downloading a passport here, or snag a passport at any stop on the trail. As you visit each stop, ask the cashier to stamp your passport. Once you’ve conquered every stop, turn your passport into the Butler County Visitor’s Bureau (or mail it in) and they will reward your donut-eating prowess with a t-shirt. Because it’s also a quick road trip from Columbus, it’s easy to make a day jaunt to Butler County, knocking out a few shops at a time throughout the year until you’ve collected all the stamps. Just make sure to get an early start – some shops sell out by noon or even before.

The most fun thing about the trail (besides the donut-devouring) is seeing that every shop had something special that set it apart, whether it be the owner, the theme of the shop, or the unusual varieties of flavors offered. Some were old-fashioned mom and pop spots, while others were modern and Instagram-ready. During my journey, I had the most scrumptious and unadorned yeast donuts and basic French crullers. However, I also gobbled up some crazy versions topped with candy ingredients or Fruity Pebbles cereal; there’s appeal for both pastry purists and the most adventurous sugar lover. Some locales were in the ‘burbs, others were near commercial areas, but all were delicious.

Here’s my breakdown of every stop on the trail, with my favorite donut to devour at each:

Holtman’s Donut Shop

https://www.holtmansdonutshop.com/

Home to some of the most creative and colorful goodies on the trail, Holtman’s features a plethora of flavors, from maple bacon to Lucky Charms,  or from heavily sprinkled and Fruity Pebble-laden. This stop is also located around the corner from IKEA, so pop inside afterwards to walk off all those donuts!

Donut to Devour: Maple Bacon

Kelly’s Donuts

https://www.facebook.com/kellysdonutsandmore/

The retro vibe in this Hamilton joint puts you in a good mood at once, and if the shop’s atmosphere doesn’t, Kelly’s donuts will. The creamy, rich peanut butter filling in the Reese’s-esque donut will make you melt, and there’s nothing to not love about the s’more concoction sprinkled with graham cracker crumbs, mini marshmallows, and a chocolatey drizzle.

Donut to Devour: S’mores Donut

Martin’s Donuts

https://www.facebook.com/martinsdonutshop/

This cheery pink Trenton bakery is small, but it’s making some mighty tasty donuts. The turnovers, yeast donuts, and especially the cheesecake donuts were all a hit. The Cherry Cheesecake = tangy filling + graham crumbs + fruit pie filling.

Donut to Devour: Cherry Cheesecake

Jupiter Coffee and Donuts

http://www.jupitercoffeeanddonuts.com/

Situated up the street from Jungle Jim’s, Jupiter is nice place to have a coffee and unwind…with more donuts! They do a monthly seasonal donut, which during my visit was a heavenly carrot cake creation. The cream cheese inside out donuts and sprinkled versions were sampled winners too.

Donut to Devour: Carrot Cake

Milton’s Donuts

https://www.facebook.com/miltonsdonuts/

Milton’s Middletown shop had a wonderful mix of interesting donuts – another Fruity Pebbles offering, barely cooled glazed rings, devil’s food donuts, and super-friendly folks behind the counter. My favorites though, were the giant glazed croissants.

Donut to Devour: Glazed Croissant

Ross Bakery

https://www.facebook.com/Ross-Bakery-120335357979540/

Ross Bakery churned out one of my favorite traditional donuts of the trip – a massive yeast donut the size of my face, perfectly tender and shaped like a soft pretzel! Also on the menu: a buckeye-inspired chocolate peanut butter treat topped with a mini Hershey bar.

Donut to Devour: Pretzel Donut

Stan the Donut Man

https://www.facebook.com/Stan-The-Donut-Man-147690215281038/

Stan the Donut Man, the name says it all. Stan is doing donuts old school, in the best possible way. I’m currently drooling as I think back upon the pineapple fritter (who knew such a thing existed?) and the Davey Crocketts, maple iced mini cinnamon buns.

Donut to Devour: Davey Crockett

The Donut Spot

https://www.facebook.com/The-Donut-Spot-116081498413772/

I knew the line out the door at The Donut Spot was a sign of good things to come. Cookies and cream, Bavarian cream, and cream cheese filled donuts all await at this Fairfield bakery, but go for the “clunker,” a dense, lightly glazed mass of cake donut hunks. Simple and divine.

Donut to Devour: The Clunker Donut

The Donut House

http://the-donut-house-westchester.business.site/

Tucked in a small corner of West Chester, The Donut House is dishing up heart-shaped donuts, donuts iced to look like baseballs, and even some with crushed Oreos. Best of all: there was a chocolate-dipped one with Butterfinger pieces on a puffy dough that I got to take home.

Donut to Devour: Butterfinger Donut

Mimi’s Donuts

https://www.facebook.com/Mimisdonutsandbakery/

This Hamilton locale boasts a fun mix of traditional and crazy flavors. I loved the cinnamon twists and the lemon blueberry, but the German Chocolate’s ooey gooey coconut topping captured my heart.

Donut to Devour: German Chocolate

Central Pastry Shop

http://centralpastry.com/

Located in downtown Middletown, this is the only required passport spot I couldn’t visit, since they were closed on Sundays. However, locals gushed over Central Pastry to me, especially their cakes and the tiger tail donut, a thin and twisty delight.

Donut to Devour: Tiger Tail Twist Donut

Oxford Doughnut Shoppe

http://www.oxforddoughnutshoppe.com/

This spot comes pre-stamped on your Donut Trail passport, because it’s a little out of the way. I didn’t make it to the Oxford favorite on this trip, but Miami University students rave about these kettle-fried classics.  Bonus: score a dozen donut holes for just $2!

Donut to Devour: Red Velvet Cake Donut

Ready to hit the trail? Find out more information about the Butler County Donut Trail here: https://www.gettothebc.com/. The Visitor’s Bureau site can also give you ideas about other activities to do while you’re in town, since you’ll (probably) want to do other things besides eat during your journey.

Stay tuned for part two of my Butler County trip next week, featuring some of the best spots to dine and drink in Butler County. Have you completed the Donut Trail yet? If so, let me know your favorite donut spot in the comments below!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Disclosure: The Butler County Visitor’s Bureau hosted me on the Donut Trail, in exchange for an honest blog post. All opinions are my own. 

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.

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

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

A Visit to: Nashville

Nashville, TN

Neither my husband nor I had ever been to Nashville, so we were eager to scope out the local food and drink scene in the Music City. We ate biscuits in some form every day of our trip, and despite the heatwave, did an extensive amount of exploring! Below, you’ll find a collection of photos and the low down on our dining journey.

The first stop was at Belle Meade Plantation, where we soaked up some history on a guided tour, followed by a wine tasting at the on-site winery. Wine and an antebellum home? My inner history nerd couldn’t resist! Afterwards, we headed to Pinewoood Social (on a Columbus Food Adventures recommendation) to observe some casual bowling and eat snacks. The toast tasting was divine, consisting of 5 mini crostinis topped with different goodies ranging from mascarpone + berries to deviled eggs, and the bartender made a perfect Ramos Gin Fizz. For dinner, we had to hit up Husk, one of my favorite restaurants in Charleston, SC. There’s no shortage of Southern charm here, from the decor down to the food. I am still swooning over the dessert, a twist on streusel coffee cake, and the fried chicken skin appetizer drizzled with white BBQ sauce.

Nashville Dining Day 1

When in Nashville, checking out a hot chicken joint is a must. Sorry I cheated on you, Hot Chicken Takeover. Hattie B’s delivered with perfect, cayenne pasted-rubbed fried chicken. Tip: call ahead to order so you can skip the round-the-block line! The side of pimento cheese macaroni was tasty too. If brunch is your style, make sure to nosh at Biscuit Love. I can’t say enough good things about the menu. Think chocolate pretzel gravy on biscuits, bonuts (fried and filled biscuity doughnuts), and even a ham tasting platter – heaven! I love discovering new breweries on vacation, and Southern Grist Brewing exceeded my expectations. They specialize in sour beers, and we brought back a crowler of the Nashville Mule, a lime and ginger beer-inspired delight. At night, we prowled around the Johnny Cash museum and enjoyed some Broadway bar-hopping while listening to some ridiculously talented live music acts.

Nashville Dining Day 2

Before heading out of town, we went to Centennial Park, a wonderful place to stroll. There is a really cool recreation of the Parthenon inside the grounds, as well as some beautiful ponds and landscaping. Breakfast was Barista Parlor iced coffees and you guessed it, more biscuits. Because how can you go into a cafe with sausage and egg biscuit sammies slathered in peach jam and not order it? Our final impromptu destination was Five Daughters Bakery, to buy some doughnuts to take home. These aptly named “hundred layer” doughnuts are more like croissants, in the best possible way. It’s a toss up as to whether the maple bacon King Kong variety or the peanut butter cup version was better, but I’d definitely devour either again.

Nashville Dining Day 3

Nashville was a fun place to uncover some new food gems. Plus, I loved that there were so many Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams around too; it felt like a piece of home. Where is your favorite place to dine in Nashville? Let me know below!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

A Food Lover’s Road Trip to Columbus, Ohio

Downtown Columbus
(Note: this post was originally posted in the Travel section of the Charleston Gazette-Mail on July 10, 2016. It was an honor to be featured and share some of my favorite places to dine in Columbus.)

Ohio’s tourism slogan might be “The Heart of It All,” but the capital city of Columbus is quickly becoming the heart — and soul — of the state’s culinary scene.

You can find this surprising dining metropolis just a quick, three-hour jaunt from Charleston, making it the ideal weekend getaway this summer. Columbus is a known haven for breakfast fanatics and ice cream enthusiasts, but there are plenty of options for every taste and budget.

Here’s a quick breakdown of how a weekend might go:

Upon your Friday arrival, head for the historic neighborhood of German Village for a casual dinner with drinks. Harvest Pizzeria is the perfect place to unwind after the drive, followed by libations at its sister spot, Curio.

Harvest Pizzeria

The focus at Harvest is on local ingredients, and the pizza shines as a result. Don’t miss the Spicy Yuma pie, on a blackened and chewy crust topped with a chipotle-spiked sauce, corn, chorizo, roasted peppers, cheese and jalapeños. Add an optional egg on top and let the runny yolk ooze and enhance every bite.

To fight off the heat, head next door to Curio for innovative Prohibition-era cocktails like a Silver Dollar Pony, swimming in bourbon and bitters.

The next morning, venture over to Fox in the Snow Café for breakfast in Italian Village. This newer spot boasts excellent pour-over coffee, tantalizing custard donuts, and an arugula-crowned egg sandwich that will have you raving. Make sure to get there early or you might miss out on some of the best of the baked goods.

Fox in the Snow Cafe

To stock your pantry at home, make North Market your next stop. Here you can purchase everything from colorful macaroons to crusty marble rye, and it is also the best way to get a taste of Columbus for lunch.

Hot Chicken Takeover is a personal favorite, specializing in fiery fried chicken and cool house-made ranch, but don’t forget about renowned Katzinger’s Deli Reubens, Brezel’s jumbo chocolate chip pretzels or healthy quiches from Little Eater.

Hot Chicken Takeover

To enjoy a sunny Columbus afternoon, shopaholics can journey to Easton Town Center, an outdoor fashion mecca, while families and animal lovers can spend the afternoon at the award-winning Columbus Zoo.

At dinnertime, there are many mouthwatering choices, but for road trippers Wolf’s Ridge Brewing is an easy winner. Such beautifully plated dishes aren’t typically found in a brewery, but this restaurant excels at both food and beer. The bright and modern interior is the perfect place to indulge in dishes such as corn bisque and scallops, all paired with craft brews in every imaginable style.

Wolf's Ridge Brewing

Banish your sweet tooth by heading to the area’s most beloved ice cream purveyor for dessert: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. There are various locations around the city, so stop into the shop nearest you, and experience the wide array of seasonal flavors. Opt for the mini scoops to try all the varieties, like salty caramel, pistachio and honey, or biscuits and peach jam.

Jeni's Ice Cream

Before leaving town, brunch at Katalina’s Cafe is essential. The Breakfast Tacos and the sweet-and-spicy glazed bacon are fabulous, but the must-try items are the pancake balls. Plump nuggets of pancake batter are filled with your choice of Nutella, dulce de leche caramel or pumpkin-apple butter, and these bites are ready for dunking in maple syrup.

Katalina's Cafe

Fresh-squeezed juices and hot coffee will help kick-start your day, and the umbrella-filled patio laden with picnic tables make for a cozy morning experience. Katalina’s alone is worth the journey to Ohio.

With its short distance from Charleston and wallet-friendly lodgings, Columbus is the ultimate road trip destination for local foodies.

Mountain State Food Tours: Charleston, West Virginia

Mountain State Food Tour
Mountain State Food Tours: Charleston, WV
http://www.mountainstatefoodtours.com

When I went to visit one of my close friends who recently relocated from Columbus to Charleston, WV, I wasn’t sure what to expect out of the food scene in her new city. But, knowing she was a was fellow food aficionado, I was positive I was in good hands when she signed us up for one of the inaugural Mountain State Food Tours of downtown Charleston. The fledgling business has a leg up with Michael and Maria Young at the helm, since Maria is a features editor for the Charleston Gazette-Mail.  The Youngs’ goal is to create a culture of food and drink tours just like those we are fortunate enough to have here in Cbus with Columbus Food Adventures and Columbus Brew Adventures.

Fried Feta from Adelphia

We embarked on our tour with an empty stomach, but we certainly didn’t go home hungry. The food sample sizes were generous, and we also received drink pairings at each stop so our guides could test out the potential addition of an alcohol aspect to the tour offerings – lucky us! As we roamed the streets, Michael gave us some history tidbits about the landmarks we were passing on our walk. There were tales of fire and destruction, wealthy salt barons, underground speakeasies, and secret art pieces, all sprinkled into the narrative mix. But naturally, the most important part was the grub, so let’s get to that!

Salted Caramel

Here is a rundown of our tour stops:

Adelphia:  Greek wine and the most amazing fried feta balls imaginable, served on pita wedges
Blossom Dairy:  Warm and savory roasted red pepper soup coupled with a mini Reuben sammie
Celsius:  Moscow Mules served up with filet mignon sliders topped with delightfully tangy blue cheese
J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works + The Peanut Shoppe: Soft caramel squares, dusted with local salt
Black Sheep Burrito & Brews:   A small sample of beer plus a killer Thai Shrimp taco, slathered in hoisin-peanut sauce and garnished with daikon-carrot slaw
Ellen’s Ice Cream:  A scoop of ice cream in the flavor of your choosing – I went for amaretto gelato!

Ellens Ice Cream

Next time you need a foodie getaway that is a short drive from Columbus, don’t overlook Charleston and Mountain State Food Tours! We loved each stop, as well as the entertaining and bubbly guides.

Some other Charleston dining highlights I enjoyed while in town: a wine flight at The Block, Capitol Market where I bought all the cheese in sight, and a Maple Pancake Latte at Starlings Coffee & Provisions.

Keep Connected,

Caroline

On the Road: Rhode Island

Rhode Island
Road-trippin’ is one of my favorite ways to discover new culinary destinations, so I was eager to head to Rhode Island to visit my best friend who now lives there. America’s smallest state is not lacking in dining options, and we indulged in some fabulous food, with my friend as my knowledgeable tour guide. A couple of fun finds that Ohioans may not be familiar with include Autocrat coffee syrup (a tasty treat mixed with milk to make “coffee milk”) and uncovering a new love of pepperoni and broccoli pizza – don’t knock it ’til you try it!

Providence was our home base during the trip, and we explored the historic neighborhoods as well as Brown University’s campus. I fell in love with the raspberry bars at Seven Stars Bakery (http://sevenstarsbakery.com/). I love that the Northeast is so walkable, especially since I have yet to master parallel parking! We also headed to the coastal city of Newport, the perfect mash-up of seafood joints and rambling Gilded Age mansions. Count me in for another round of lobster (Lobsta!?!) rolls at Flo’s Clam Shack (http://www.flosclamshacks.com/) any day! Walk off your meal by strolling along the Cliff Walk or touring Marble House or The Breakers, where the Vanderbilts had their “summer cottages.”

Because we were so close to Boston, we had to check out Fenway Park while the Yankees played the Red Sox. It was a little chilly, but the atmosphere at the game was electric, and hey, they don’t offer clam chowder at Clippers games! If you watch A&E, you may be familiar with our dinner spot  Wahlburgers, (https://www.wahlburgersrestaurant.com/) a burger bar owed by the Wahlbergs of acting fame. No Marky Mark sightings, but I was mollified by a savory bacon and avocado burger and a Frosty-esque chocolate frappe.

The bottom line: the Northeast really isn’t that far of a drive from Columbus, and has some foodie gems! Below, find some shots of my quick getaway to Rhode Island!

Fenway Park
Yankees vs. Red Sox at Fenway Park
Wahlburgers
Dinner at Wahlburgers

Rhode Island Sky

Flo's Clam Shack
Flo’s Clam Shack
Lobster Roll
Lobster Roll
Marble House
Marble House
Seven Stars Bakery
Seven Stars Bakery
Autocrat Coffee Syrup
Autocrat Coffee Syrup

Keep Connected,

Caroline