Recently, I was invited to further explore Ohio with Experience Columbus by attending "Diverse & Delicious, A Culinary Tour of Columbus' and it was an eye opening experience. Columbus, Ohio has been one of the leaders in the farm-to-table movement that is slowly sweeping our nation. The restaurants, cafes and other food and drink establishments support and encourage local farms by choosing to use the seasonal produce, meat and dairy products that can be obtained from the many, dedicated local farmers. It's a self-sustaining method that ensures the best for the community but also allows for the best possible dining experience by using the freshest ingredients gathered and prepared at their peak. I was continually surprised to discover how passionate the people involved in the Slow Food movement in Columbus were and it was sheer delight to meet these people as I happily ate and drank my way through Columbus with several other food bloggers.
A welcoming reception was held at Milestone 229 on the newly redeveloped Scioto Mile Riverfront Park. Large, floor to ceiling curved windows brightened the dark classic colors of the bar and offered a perfect opportunity to gaze out on the silvery fountains that send arcs of water sparkling through the air.
Every good time starts with a drink, right?
A sizzling cast iron skillet was slid on the table with ample warning to be careful of the heat but just like a piping hot pizza, who can resist? This creamy macaroni and cheese with the smokey salty tang of hickory bacon was livened up with sweet diced tomatoes and worth the tiny burn I may have gotten on the tip of my tongue. Ahem!
Never one to shy away from fat (search 'butter' on this blog and you'll see what I mean), I did not hestitate when it was my turn to sample the pork belly. I cut off a piece and carefully balanced a little of the pineapple chutney on my fork and put it in my mouth. Oh. My. Goodness. Bacon has nothing on pork belly. This succulent mouthful melted in my mouth sending sudden rapid impulses to my hands to seize the plate all for myself.
Kari and Scott from Experience Columbus lead us on a walking tour through part of Scioto Mile, Broad Street, Market 65, and Columbus Commons; these areas are being loving revitalized and redeveloped at part of a city wide effort to make Columbus shine. I think they are doing a remarkable job and I hope one day to be able to attend a show in the 83 year old Ohio Theatre which is breathtakingly beautiful.
Appetites restored after a vigorous constitutional, we departed for Basi Italia nestled in the heart of Victorian Village. We were seated on a patio surrounded by greenery with small golden globes of light tucked here and there that left it hard to imagine that not too far away there were towering city buildings.
Basi Italia's menu changes seasonally as different produce becomes available. Chef John Dornback brought us cocktails made from heirloom tomatoes sweet with the concentrated summer sun. At the end of the swizzle stick was a playful ball of gorgonzola cheese.
Tomatoes rule the end of summer and so they did this meal as well; there was a flatbread with sliced tomatoes and my dinner of soft, pillowy gnocchi was tossed with mushrooms, sweet corn and more tomatoes. But my favorite dish of all featured my most dreaded vegetable of all:
Zucchini! Oh, Basi Italia, you showed me that I no longer have any reason at all to dislike zucchini and it has returned to its rightful place as one of my favorite vegetables. The zucchini was cut into little matchsticks ,flash cooked and tossed with toasted almonds. Then, a sheet of pecorino was tucked snugly around everything. This is how zucchini is meant to be prepared--simply.
Is a meal ever complete without dessert?
I agree. It's not. Ever since I spent time in the Hocking Hills, I've been hearing about Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams. I was intrigued and even contemplated driving to Columbus from the Hocking Hills just to find and sample Jeni's ice cream. I wasn't able to do so at the time but having to wait just a little bit longer made my first tasting of Jeni's all the more satisfying.
Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams is partnered with Snowville Creamery which I have had the good fortune to taste before because it is available in Pennsylvania. It's 'milk the way it used to be' and I often find myself pouring a cold glass of the creamy whole milk when I bring home a half gallon from the store.
The ice creams are divided into two groups. One group is the signature flavors that you can always find at Jeni's and the other group is flavors that change by the seaons to reflect nature's bounty. Blackberries, raspberries, and sweet corn ice cream and peach buttermilk are just two of the fifteen 2011 summer flavors. The Salty Caramel is a signature flavor that I could not pass up. It's one of my favorite ice creams to make at home and since a lot of work goes into the making of it, I can't help but pounce on salted caramel ice cream that someone else made. Intensely strong caramel flavor nearly threatens to overwhelm the taste buds but then the sweet cream follows and mellows the flavor into a perfect blend of caramel and cream.
We even got to meet Jeni! She came and spoke to us as a group and individually. There was nothing rushed about the time she spent with us and she carefully answered all of our questions and generously waved over more and more ice cream for us to try.
We weren't shy; we dug right in! There were so many flavors to sample that I lost track of how many we sampled. I contemplated purchasing a pint of the Brown Butter Almond Brittle pint to bring back to my hotel room for later because a few tastes just wasn't enough but I was afraid it would melt. I was sad, but then to my delight, Jeni signed copies of her book 'Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home' for us and I wasted no time looking in the index and sure enough the recipe for Brown Butter Almond Brittle was in there!
Brian of A Thought for Food
I returned to the Westin Hotel with a very full tummy and Jeni's book tucked under my arm. It wasn't long before I crawled into bed with the book and fell asleep dreaming of zucchini ice cream.
And guess what...Jeni does make zucchini ice cream!