Thursday, December 24, 2009

Season's Greetings!

Happy Holidays!

I want to wish everyone a wonderful holiday; whether it be Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or whatever holiday you are celebrating!

Holidays are a time for family, friends and good food. Always good food :-) At our house Bob and I do the cooking for Christmas Eve and my sister, Elaine and her husband Tom do the cooking for Christmas day. This arrangement works great for us. Christmas is Elaine’s birthday so we celebrate two birthdays on Christmas Evening!

This year we are blessed to have Jenny and her family join us. For those of you who might not know, Jenny is my oldest and dearest friend. OH! She’s not my oldest friend; she’s only a year and three days older (but she is older). Certainly what I meant to say is that Jenny and I have been friends since I was 6 months old! And this is the first year her family will be with us for Christmas Eve. We are very excited!

For us this year Christmas Eve will be all about being together, hanging out…and eating! No gifts. So the food had better be good. I hope our menu will measure up!

We plan to start with a small assortment of appetizers. I’ve made homemade French Onion Dip (Martha’s recipe to go with crudités, cheese straws and a surprise appetizer (perk those ears up, Elaine) of lobster claws with drawn butter. The main course will be served with a green salad, fresh steamed green beans, and organic roasted garlic bread. The entrées include Ina Garten’s Five Cheese Penne Pasta (from our Padova dinner in September, grilled beef tenderloin, and smoked turkey breast (provided by David Miller, owner of Werner’s Fine Sausages and Jenny’s big brother For dessert we have Graeter’s vanilla ice cream with brandied cherries and cookies and cupcakes from Ganache Dessert Kitchen

So I’d better get in that kitchen and start cooking! I’d love to know what you are having for dinner. Leave me a comment and tell me the good things coming out of your kitchen.

Wishing you a most blessed holiday,
Jean Bugs

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hania's Olde World Cuisine

There is a new gem in the North Market’s crown of jewels. Hania’s Olde World Cuisine would be the place. They claim to be “Your home for authentic Polish food!” And are they ever!!! When I heard about them I could not wait for them to open. I was so excited that we actually arrived a day before they opened. I was bummed, but this only made me more anxious to get my hands on some of their specialties.

Returning to the North Market a few days later, I first tried the cabbage rolls, pierogies and cucumber salad. The cabbage rolls, or “Golumbki” are stuffed with beef, pork, rice, garlic, and baked in tomato sauce. They were a little different than I am used to, but I found them to be quite tasty. They are $6.00/each.

The pierogies are made from scratch, and stuffed with combinations of potato, cheese, onion, mushroom, cabbage, sauerkraut and chicken. The dough is tender and screams “homemade”. The first day I was there I had the sauerkraut. They were good. I was a bit disappointed because my first choice was the potato and cheese. They were out on several occasions. Bad for me but I guess good for them! When I bought them the first time they were $1.25/each. Yes, I know they are homemade. And I sprang for them as a special treat. Now they cost $1.50/each. Ouch. I kind of have a hard time with that. But I know every once in a while I will weaken.

I was given a taste of the cucumber salad on my first visit. Yum! This was really good. It is cucumber, garlic and sour cream. It is so refreshing and just what you need against some of the heartier dishes.

On subsequent visits Bob and I tried “Bigos” (sauerkraut stew), “Grochowka” (split pea soup), “Polish Gulasz” (goulash), and little potato filled dumplings that I don’t know the name of but I was totally smitten with! Everything was absolutely delicious. I even liked the Grochowka and I am so totally not a fan of peas. I thought they were lentils!

There are several items that I really need to get back to try that look absolutely delicious. The chicken looks wonderful ($4.00/legs & thighs, $10.00/whole chicken, $6.00/half chicken) as does the breaded pork cutlets ($5.00) and sausages ($4.00). This is stick-to-your-ribs food, folks. Hearty food. Polish food. Just downright good food!

It is well worth your while to stop at the North Market and see what Chef Hubert and Molly (Eva, too) are offering on any given day. Not all dishes are available every day. But they do introduce new items on a regular basis. You can call for special orders and you can buy the pierogies frozen by the bag.

Hania’s Olde World Cuisine
At the North Market
59 Spruce Street
Columbus, Ohio 43215
(614) 220-8771

Hours of operation:
Tues-Fri: 9am-7pm
Sat: 8am-5pm
Sun: noon-5pm

Hania's Olde World Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Noon-Time Travels: Bake-n-Brew

It seems to me that my best loved restaurants tend to be family owned “Mom & Pop” kind of places. A place where you walk in and are comfortable and just know you’re gonna get good food.

Well, Bake-n-Brew is that kind of place. Oh yeah. Their premise is “pretty ok food”. It’s even on the sign out front. But I’m here to tell you that it’s a lot better than “pretty ok”!

Bob has been telling me about them for some time now. They did a stint in the Techno Bistro (aka “Nerd Café”) at Owens Corning. Bob was very sorry to see them go. So he decided a blog needed to be written. And you all know that L3 and I have not done a Noon-Time Travel for a very long time. We were certainly up to the task!

L3 and I headed out along 161 to pick up Bob at OC. He jumped in the car and off we went to Newark. The Bake-n-Brew is pretty easy to find. It sits in a strip across the lot from Wal-Mart, just off 21st St in Newark.

Walking up to the door, you see a lamp in the window…kind of a welcoming beacon in the cold. Why, it’s that lamp from “The Christmas Story”! Yes, that sultry leg in the fishnet stocking. You know you always wanted one! And any establishment that has this lamp and proudly displays it in the front window, well that’s my kind of joint!

The service is incredibly friendly. There are always specials, whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner. And the food has such a wide range. You can go anywhere from country fried steak, to soup and sandwiches, to lobster ravioli. I’m lovin’ this place already!

Bob ordered the bacon wrapped meatloaf special. It came with smashed potatoes. Yes, I tasted it…twice. I had to be certain I had a good take on it so I could write this post! It was so yummy! Who would think to wrap bacon around meatloaf? Evidently that answer to that would be Dave. "Inspired", is all I can say! It was absolutely delicious.

Laura ordered the spicy chicken. The dish consisted of pieces of tender, melt-in-your-mouth chicken served over rice with vegetables and a sauce that reminded us of General Tso’s chicken. It was good! A little too spicy for me, but we all know that I’m a major wuss when it comes to spicy.

I ordered…oh come on! I know you know what I ordered. Once I see country fried steak on a menu I have a very difficult time seeing anything else! It came with the smashed potatoes as well. I also put in an order for the fried green beans for all of us to share.

Okay, first of all the country fried steak was spot on! Perfectly cooked and smothered with gravy…oh my. The potatoes were a work of art. This is just good down home cookin’. And then the fried green beans! I have been hearing about these and when I saw them on the menu I knew the time had come. We cleaned that plate in record time. They are delicious!!!

Did someone say pie?

My two dining companions had cherry pie and I opted for the chocolate cream. While I don’t think these were homemade, they still finished the meal for us quite nicely.

There you have it! Visit the Bake-n-Brew (pretty ok food) in Newark. Make sure to say “hey” to Dave and Flo. These are some hardworking people that have gotten it right! And check out their website. You can see the daily specials, their regular menu, and what is really cool is that they do “Dinner & Music” nights. “Music with a mission. Your $3 cover charge on music nights goes to local charities and service organizations.”

They also have open jam on Thursday nights 8-10:30pm. Any musician is welcome! How fun is that????

I definitely want to go back. Hope I see you there!

Pretty OK Food!
1285 Log Pond Drive
Suite 160
Newark , OH 43055

Bake-N-Brew on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sweet Italian Sausage with Peppers and Onions

Have you been to Carfagna’s? Oh my…if you haven’t you really should!

Carfagna’s is “Family-owned and operated since 1937, Carfagna’s is the place for the freshest hand-cut meats, the best homemade Italian foods, the freshest local produce, the finest imported foods, beers, and wines, and the nicest gift baskets. Carfagna’s also offers a comprehensive range of catering options and serves many restaurants and food service operations through its wholesale division.”

Their meats are absolutely the best. Exceptionally good. The last time I was there I picked up a couple of their chicken sweet Italian sausages.

Today was rather cold and blustery so I took those babies out of the freezer for dinner. I sliced up a sweet onion, green pepper and a red pepper. This was so gorgeous in the pan I just had to take a picture of it before it got all cooked. And I don’t even like peppers! But isn’t this pretty?

I cooked some pierogies along with the peppers. These are a new one for me. They have potato, broccoli and cheddar. Boiled and then sautéed with butter...mmm.

I added some garlic toast and we were good to go. This turned out to be a filling, warm dish for a night like this.

Visit Carfagna’s as soon as you can. There is so much that you’ll want to try that you’ll probably find yourself going back again and again.

1405 E. Dublin-Granville Road
(at I-70 & 161)

Open 7 days a week
Mon. thru Sat.
10am - 7pm
10am – 5pm

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sauerkraut, Croquettes

I’m back! I won’t bore you with the details. Let’s just leave it at “it was not the vacation we planned”.
So I’ve been out of commission for quite some time, and was finally getting out of the house. (When a trip to the doctor’s office is cause for excitement that’s just pathetic.) I asked if we could stop by the North Market on the way home.

You all know how I love the North Market. And I especially love it in the late morning. Before the lunch crowd descends it is relaxed and laid back. The vendors are setting up their offerings for the soon-to-come rush and are always quick with a smile and wave. Everything is fresh and new and the displays have barely been touched. It’s a restorative kind of thing for me.

I also love the after lunch time at the market. The later afternoon is the time that you can get an opportunity to talk with the vendors. After the noontime rush is over they generally are available to chat and answer questions you might have.

One of the things I’ve discovered recently has now become an addiction. At the North Market Poultry and Game, if you walk around the corner you’ll find prepared foods. Comfort foods. Good foods. Things like fried chicken, mashed potatoes, baked chicken, vegetables, and all kinds of good stuff. All of these offerings are not to be missed. But there is one item I must warn you against.


“Why?” you ask? “Are they that bad?” Here is how I would answer those questions…

“Because they are MINE – that’s why!!!”

I can’t help myself. I have become so enamored of these crispy crunchy juicy orbs of delight that I just lose all sense of propriety and ability to share. Well, that’s not really true. I did split one with Bob. Sometimes ya gotta take the high road. And he has the car keys right now.

Even our very own, HawaiiChef Tony is a fool for them!

Take a look. They may not be the prettiest things you’ll ever eat, but they sure will be some of the best you’ll ever eat. The outside is crunchy from the Panko coating and deep frying. Bite into the ball and there is seasoned ground chicken and really good sauerkraut mixed together. It is formed around a generous cube of Gruyère cheese, which is oozy & gooey when you bite into it. Oh, and there are sliced mushrooms in the mix as well. I’m not sure what else is there. All I know is that these things are amazing. I can’t stop thinking about them. I even learned that if you have a couple of bites that you just can’t finish and you put them in the fridge, it makes a crazy good snack before you go to bed.

My new favorite meal is a sauerkraut ball (actually, I think they’re called croquettes) and potato pierogies. Maybe add a green salad to keep the husband happy.

That my friends, is good eats!

North Market Poultry and Game
Annmarie Wong

At the north end in the double-wide stall directly across from The Fish Guys and across from Firdous Express. Offering free-range poultry, wild game, organic bison, sausages, soups and prepared foods daily.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Hearty Breakfast -- Hawaiian Style

One of the things I love about Hawaii is the way things are adopted, and then changed just a little to make them Hawaiian.

While Jean was in the hospital, I spent the night there with her, and came back to Tony and Michelle’s each morning to get a quick shower. One morning, Michelle fixed me the classic hearty breakfast with a Hawaiian spin. Yep, I’m talking steak and eggs. First she cut the steak in strips and sautéed them in just a little oil. Then she prepared two perfectly fried eggs, over easy. Classic, so far, right? Now what would come next in Ohio? Hash browns and OJ, at least at our house. Not here in Hawaii – a big mound of steamed rice and POG, a blend of passion fruit, orange and guava juice, along with some great Maui grown coffee. Let me tell you, it was good!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Serious Spaghetti & Meatballs from Hawaii Chef

Hey blog readers, it’s Bob. Many of you know that Jean and I have been in Hawaii for a while, and that Jean came down with a nasty kidney infection and ended up in the hospital for a week. So, her plans for restaurant reviews and stories of cooking with our friends from Maui have been cut short. But, I haven’t been going hungry, so I thought I would fill you in on some of the meals I have enjoyed. I have to admit, looking after Jean was my first priority, so I don’t have all the great photos you have come to expect from Jean’s posts, but I will do my best.

One of Hawaii Chef’s requests when we came was for chicken meatball mix and San Marzano tomatoes from Carfagna’s in Columbus. We brought a cooler full of frozen food, including the meatball makings. The dinner I am about to describe was the reward for the transport.

For dinner one evening early in our vacation Tony made fantastic spaghetti and meatballs. Here is the secret – he started in the morning, making meatballs from the lean chicken mix, then browning them on all sides in extra virgin olive oil. Then he added slivered garlic to flavor the oil, sautéed it briefly, then started building the sauce. He added the San Marzano tomatoes, and some fresh basil, salt and pepper. Before we left for the day he added enough water to the sauce so it could simmer for six hours. That day we went to visit a winery in Ulapalakua, on the side of Haleakala, the huge dormant volcano in the middle of the island. (BTW, don’t you love the sound of those Hawaiian names? And, oh, the winery visit will be another post.)

When we got home that evening, the sauce had simmered slowly and the consistency was perfect. Tony corrected the seasoning and finished it with a splash of red wine to brighten the flavor even more. We added the pasta al dente, freshly baked garlic bread, parmigiano reggiano, and a wonderful Merlot that Tony had been saving. It was fantastic! Simple ingredients, treated with respect, by a chef worthy of the name -- wonderful!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Remains of the Duk

It's Travel Week at Dishing It Up!

Jean is in Hawaii and I am in the land of Morning Calm- Korea!

This is a short little post as I am having a bit of a technology issue.. (I need to stop taking picture with my phone and start using my camera!) But here is a little tease..

Duk is what they call rice cake in Korea. Think mochi but even chewier, and in a variety of flavors. The pink ones in the picture are cherry flavored, the white and black is sesame, and the brown.. Coffee! The powdery looking one had a sweet bean filling with lots of cinnamon and soy powder coating the outside. There was also one with kimchee in it but.. I ate it :)

Tomorrow I'm attending a Korean cooking class so I'll make sure to use my camera for those pictures! Stay tuned..

Monday, October 12, 2009


Yesterday was a beautiful day in Hawaii. But then again, when isn’t a day in Hawaii beautiful?

Tony and Michelle wanted to take us to a Sunday brunch at a restaurant called “Monsoon”. They serve an Indian buffet. This was one of Michelle’s go to places when she was pregnant with Camryn.

I’m thinking to myself, “Indian?” Uh, I don’t really like Indian. It’s the whole curry thing. Way too much and I just don’t care for the taste. But what are you gonna say to someone who is hosting you and wants to share a favorite place with you? So okay, I’m game. I’ll try anything. I may not eat it twice, but I’ll try it once.

Off we went. The restaurant is beautiful. It has just been redone and the ambiance is fantastic. Look at that view! The front of the room is open and the ocean breezes float through. It is heaven. The owners greeted Tony & Michelle and were so gracious and attentive. We were a tad early so all of the food hadn’t been set out yet. That was okay. It gave us a chance to take pictures and get settled before the feast began.

We watched a kite surfer as he rode the waves. It was just awesome. The smell of the ocean is one of my most favorite smells in the world. And the breeze coming through the room was amazing.

It was time. Let the games begin! We headed up to the buffet and looked down the line. Everything was fresh and piping hot. It was all labeled, which was a huge help for me. And the owner was right there to answer any questions. He was so encouraging about trying the dishes.

Here is my plate! I know, I know. What a pig. But hey, it’s a buffet! And I was told to try a little of everything. And this wasn’t even everything. I was really surprised. According to Tony, good Indian food will turn your head. And he deemed this as “good”! I was finding that I liked Indian food!

I really liked the naan, potato pakoras, chicken tika masala, tandoori chicken, lentil daal, vegetable korma, spinach, and something else I don’t know the name of that had mushrooms in it. The dish I loved the most was the rice pudding. It is more of a milk and rice with raisins. I followed Michelle’s example and added a big spoonful of a dish that was sitting beside the pudding. It was dark brown and looked like it was shredded. I mixed it in the pudding, just like Michelle did. It was amazing! It had a wonderful spicy flavor; cinnamon, cardamom and other flavors similar. It was heaven.

The owner came over to check with us and I had to ask him what was in the dish with the pudding. He looked puzzled. I held up my bowl to show him and a look of shock passed over his face. He burst out laughing! He said that it was pickled. Like a relish. No way. It was delicious with the pudding. I asked what was in it and he said carrots, eggplant, other vegetables and pickled ingredients. This couldn’t be! It was sweet. He called the chef over. His wife had made the relish. It turned out that the relish was made of carrots, dried milk, butter, cashews, almonds, cinnamon, cardamom and some other spices. It was a different relish than the owner was thinking of. Whew! We didn’t feel quite so stupid.

And because I told them how much I loved it, they brought me a dish of it to take with me. What a wonderful experience. Except for one thing. The four of us could barely walk to the car the car because we were so stuffed. What a meal.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Maui Cookout

Coming to you from Maui! Woohoo! How cool is that? I just had to say that :-)

We're visiting "Hawaii Chef" Tony, wife Michelle and baby Camryn. Only been here a day but we are having a blast! We got in late last night after a very exhausting day of travel. But it is so worth it!

Today we went to Ahihi-Kinau beach. It is a natural reserve so there is no fishing allowed. This means that the reef is beautiful and the fish are incredibly plentiful. And so many kinds! My favorite of course is the humuhumunukunukuapu'a. That is the state fish. It is so cool to see these for real and up close. Some others that we saw were parrot fish, puffers, goatfish, papio, surgeon fish, thread fish and more. I can't wait to go out again tomorrow!

We were so hungry that we couldn't even wait to get home to eat. We stopped at a really cool store, Whaler's General Store and picked up a few things to snack on til dinner. When we got home we packed a cooler and headed down to the pool. The pool at Tony & Michelle's condo is lovely. And they have two areas with grills. So we took our dinner with us to the pool and after about an hour and a half of pooltime Tony and Bob fired up the grill and cooked dinner!

Here you have it! And it was delicious! Tony grilled all natural beef burgers and served it with a sauce he made of mayonnaise, ketchup, bread & butter pickles and wasabi oil. Oh my goodness was it good! We had penne pasta with pesto and parmesan cheese and potato salad. It was delicious! Or did it just taste so good because we're in Maui?

And look at that smile! I think he might be happy we're here. And that's the reason we're having such a great time.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Padova Dinner

A while back I told you that some of our wonderful friends and family brought over dinner after I had surgery. What a Godsend that was! Oh my gosh. It wasn’t planned ahead of time, but I can tell you it sure was appreciated.

Kathy & Donald Padova brought dinner on that Saturday evening. By that time I was able to really start tasting food again. And am I glad I was! What an awesome dinner! Let me tell you about it…you’ll be jealous. It was an Italian feast!

It was wonderful weather, so we decided to sit out on the deck and enjoy the beautiful evening. Kathy started us off with sweet ripe melon slices wrapped in salty prosciutto. Classic. And there is a reason why they are classic. It is such a great combination. The prosciutto plays so well against the sweetness of the melon. And the combination just whets your appetite for the delights that lie ahead.

With the melon she served us crusty olive bread that was a perfect foil. Bits of the kalamata olives could be seen throughout the slices. For dipping there was a light olive oil with Italian herbs and Kathy’s very own homemade pesto. I simply could not stay out of the pesto! The balance of ingredients was just right. Holy cow was it good! Kath said she had gotten the recipe from Giada.

The salad course was an Ina Garten recipe. It was a green salad with creamy mustard vinaigrette. Another winner! Champagne vinegar and Dijon mustard combine with garlic and a few other ingredients to make a tasty dressing for the mixed greens. So far I was loving this dinner. Why oh why does it take surgery to get something like this? Why, I think we should just take turns making our friends dinner every weekend….yeah, right. Back to reality.

Now for the piece de resistance, penne pasta with five cheeses. Sweet Mother Mary…words fail me. Okay, not really. I have plenty to say about this dish. Kathy got the recipe from Ina Garten’s “Barefoot Contessa Family Style” cookbook. Ina says it originally comes from George Germon & Johanne Killeen’s cookbook “Cucina Simpatica”. I say it is simply fabulous! This is the kind of dish that just captivates me. When I tasted it, it was so incredibly good that I immediately started thinking about all of the people that we could fix this for; people who would just be as totally wowed with it as we were. The four of us oohed and aahed and moaned and just practically hurt ourselves over this pasta. Except for maybe Donald. I’m not sure he actually came up for air for about 5 -10 minutes. We lost him for a while. The man knows good food and he was certainly enjoying it!

Kathy had made this dish so that we each had our own individual casserole. Good thing, too. ‘Cause if someone had crossed the line into my territory I might have become just a bit ugly. I wanted every last ooey, gooey, delicious, cheesy bite of this dish. The blend of the five cheeses is stupendous, but then add in that bit of tomato goodness and it just puts it over the top. I wanted to just keep eating and eating. I swear it is one of those dishes that when you finish it, it is so darn good you just wish you could start all over!

I love these people. And I love good food. Put the two together and it was an evening made in heaven.

But wait! There was dessert! And O.M.G. it was Jeni’s ice cream. Jeni’s Salty Caramel ice cream and Jeni’s Bourbon Pecan ice cream. Oh good lord Kathy! I think this is illegal!

But wait! There's more! I slipped out of my seat and pulled out a box of my coveted Girl Scout Shortbread cookies. I know! You can hardly believe it, can you? Girl Scout cookies in September? I had a very good hiding place from Bob! (You know you’re special if I pull out Girl Scout cookies for you!) Why not just put the earrings on the elephant? I don’t plan on having any more surgery for a very long time….if ever! So let’s go all out!

But wait! Bob was not to be outdone. He brought out the homemade limoncello with a fresh lemon. Now it was a party!!!

Wow. What an evening. I was such a happy girl.

Thank you, Kathy and Donald. You’re the best!

Giada’s Basil Pesto

2 cups (packed) fresh basil leaves
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
1 garlic clove
½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
About 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a blender, pulse the basil, pine nuts, garlic, ½ teaspoon of salt, and ¼ teaspoon of pepper until finely chopped. With the blender still running, gradually add enough oil to form a smooth and thick consistency. Transfer the pesto to a medium bowl and stir in the cheese. Season the pesto with more salt and pepper to taste. (The pesto can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Green Salad with Creamy Mustard Vinaigrette
-Ina Garten

3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature (see Note)
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup good olive oil
Salad greens or mesclun mix for 6 to 8 people

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, garlic, egg yolk, salt, and pepper. While whisking, slowly add the olive oil until the vinaigrette is emulsified.

Toss the greens with enough dressing to moisten and serve immediately.

Note: If you’re worried about raw egg, substitute 1 tablespoon mayonnaise.

When you’re serving a salad for a dinner party, put the vinaigrette in the bottom of a serving bowl and place the greens on top. This can sit for an hour or two until you’re ready to toss and serve it.

Penne with Five Cheeses
-Ina Garten
Serves 6

Kosher salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup crushed tomatoes in thick tomato puree
½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano (1 ½ ounces)
½ cup shredded imported Italian fontina (1 ½ ounces)
¼ cup crumbled Italian Gorgonzola (1 ½ ounces)
2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
¼ pound fresh mozzarella, sliced
6 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 pound imported penne rigate pasta
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Bring 5 quarts of salted water to a boil in a stockpot.

Combine all the ingredients except the penne and butter in a large mixing bowl. Mix well.

Drop the penne into the boiling water and parboil for 4 minutes. Drain well in a colander and add to the ingredients in the mixing bowl, tossing to combine.
Divide the pasta mixture among 6 shallow ceramic gratin dishes (1 ½ to 2 cup capacity).
Dot with the butter and bake until bubbly and brown on top, 7 to 10 minutes.

This is a very versatile recipe and can be made with lots of variations. Ina states she likes to double the Gorgonzola and add ½ cup of grated Parmesan cheese.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Hey, it’s Bob … Jean doesn’t get to have all the fun! I wanted to tell you about a great time I had with a bunch of guys from work last night – we did a team building event at Woodhaven Farm, just north of Johnstown, OH.

Woodhaven Farm is the brainchild of Tami Cecil, ex-corporate type, stock broker, etc., and now chef and owner of the farm. She runs a cooking school and does cooking parties as well as the team building through cooking. Take a look at their website for more info:

We started the evening with wine and beer (the Farm doesn’t have a liquor license, so we brought our own) and some simple snacks on the patio, chatting and plotting our strategies for the competitive events to come. We had 20 people, with a wide range of cooking skills and experience, divided into 4 teams.

After running us through some basic cooking and kitchen safety pointers, Tami told us that we were going to be doing a little Iron Chef action, with each team responsible for putting together an appetizer to serve 20 from a list of mystery ingredients, all in 15 minutes!

My team very quickly focused in on the beautiful big Portabella mushrooms that were part of the basket of ingredients. We sliced them and dropped them in a pan with some olive oil for a quick sauté, then deglazed the pan with red wine for some more flavor and color. After arranging the slices on a plate we spiced up the already excellent pesto in the basket with some chopped jalepenos and spooned a ring of it over the mushrooms, following that with a ring of roasted red peppers. Meanwhile, one team member was slicing up a baguette to run under the broiler, while another readied some fresh garlic to rub the on the toasted slices. Let me just say, these guys were on a mission! We called our dish “BTR”, sharing an acronym with a new product we are developing, but in this case it stood for Better Than the Rest! And, sure enough, when we came to Tasting and Judgment, Tami chose our dish as the winner!

We then moved back into the kitchen to prepare the rest of the meal, with each team responsible for two items. The menu included marinated, grilled chicken breasts, garlic smashed potatoes, sautéed French green beans, a lovely salad with mixed greens, bleu cheese, pecans and dried cranberries (along with some herbed croutons, freshly prepared by my overachiever team!). For dessert, one of the teams made individual molten chocolate cakes, garnished with whipped cream and a fresh strawberry!

The meal was great, and it seemed even better because we had put it all together. The conversations and interactions were also made even better by the teamwork and the friendly competition. This was a great evening -- I am already trying to figure out how we can get a group of friends to enjoy a visit to the farm. Maybe a cold winter night, with some hearty food and a fire in the fireplace!

Woodhaven Farm
11401 Woodhaven Rd.
Johnstown, OH 43031

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Restaurant Week - Banana Bean

On the last day of restaurant week Bob and I were reviewing our options of where we would like to wrap it all up. Maybe a new place we haven't been before. Then an impromptu brunch with friends led us right back to the Banana Bean! It's okay. We really, really like this place!

We did try to get things we have not had before. Because Banana Bean offered all their brunch items on the Restaurant Week menu, it gave us a lot of leeway.

Here were our appetizers-Both were absolutely wonderful! Along with these we had an order of the plantains, too.
Beach House Nachos - White Corn Tortilla Chips with Traditional toppings, Quesadilla Cheese, and your choice of Seasoned Beef or Grilled Shrimp

Fried Green Tomatoes (Seasonal) - Habañero Pepper Jelly, Goat Cheese

Our choice of entrees were also great! Only comment I can make is that the chicken and waffles could benefit from additional syrup.

Sweet Corn & Lobster Bisque - Sweet Corn and Butter Poached Lobster in a Sweet Cream and Sherry Velouté

Eggs Del Mar - Two Poached Eggs Atop House-made Creole Cornmeal-Dusted Crab Cakes,Seared Spinach & Roasted Tomato Hollandaise

BB Omelette - Roasted Vegetables, Goat Cheese, and Load'sa Herbs

Grandaddies Chicken And Waffles - Buttermilk Fried Boneless Chicken Breast with an Almond Scented Belgian Waffle and Apricot Honey Syrup

Enchilada Omelette - Seasoned Ground Beef with Fajita Vegetables, Quesadilla Cheese, Sour Cream, and Red Hacienda Sauce

Another successful meal at The Banana Bean Cafe. And friends that are now fans of the Bean!!!

Banana Bean Cafe
340 Greenlawn Ave Columbus, OH 43223

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Restaurant Week - Mezzo

I have been a very bad blogger. I am sorry. I have several posts from Restaurant Week that I need to get done; all are repeats of places I’ve blogged before.

Let’s start with Mezzo. If you can remember back to the time of Restaurant Week!

Mezzo is a gem in the Gahanna Creekside complex. It sits on the Big Walnut Creek. Sitting on the lovely patio, you can watch paddle boats, the fountains, hear music, enjoy the gorgeous flowers, and the awesome fireplace. We just love it.

So we were very excited to take our friends there for dinner. We all arrived and took a few moments to enjoy the beautiful flowers before we went in.

Because I have written in depth before about Mezzo, I will go straight to the Restaurant Week dinner.

Mezzo offered a couple of choices for each category. The salad course offered a choice of "La Casa Insalata"-mixed greens, poached apples, spiced walnuts, tossed with a Gorgonzola vinaigrette, or "Wedge Salad"-iceberg lettuce, smoked bacon, diced tomatoes, with a peppercorn ranch dressing.
Both of the salads were delicious. I ordered the wedge, simply because I rarely do. It was yummy! The chunks of bacon were so good against the peppercorn dressing. I also tasted La Casa Insalata and it was totally delicious! The poached apples and spiced walnuts with that gorgonzola vinaigrette? Oh my :-)

The Entrees offered were "Seafood Linguine"-scallops, shrimp, and mixed vegetables served atop linguine with a white wine butter sauce, or "Lasagna al Forno"-veal, beef, ricotta, mozzarella, and marinara.
My choice of entree was the seafood linguine. Okay, this is really hard to say. But it was a disappointment. First the presentation of the dish was not up to what I have come to expect from Mezzo. And the taste matched the presentation. It wasn't awful. It was just bland. And sometimes that can be worse than awful.
But the lasagna rocked. I kept dipping into Bob's plate. Poor Bob. He's so tolerant of an errant fork slyly slipping in when he is engrossed in conversation. He acts just as if he is oblivious. And I know my dear husband is rarely oblivious to anything; especially me!

Dessert was a slice of cheesecake.
Little needs to be said of the cheesecake. This is Brooke's favorite dessert in the world. And she indeed, was happy!

We all were!

Mezzo Italian Kitchen
130 Creekside Plaza
Gahanna, Ohio 43230