Saturday, May 30, 2009

ZenCha Tea Salon

This week I had the distinct pleasure of introducing Jane to the ZenCha Tea Salon on North High Street. She fell in love! Just as I had when my husband and I had Sunday brunch there a few months ago.

First of all the ambiance is just simply wonderful. There is a gentle calmness about the place that to me is quite soothing. The walls are adorned with framed tea sets of all different types. I would love to know the history behind them, as I am sure each must be unique in its own way. The interior is rather sparse, but still very inviting.

The tea menu is so wide and varied that there is no way I could even try to do it justice here. The staff is highly trained and is more than willing and able to assist you in making a decision. On this visit I chose the Fresh Fruit Tea Summer Blend. It was absolutely delightful! Oh my goodness, the taste was so clean, crisp and refreshing. There were chunks of fruit in the bottom, and it was iced. The tea was presented in an upright clear glass teapot with a strainer, poured into a clear class cup with saucer. At first it seemed a bit odd to be drinking iced tea from a cup, but it soon began to feel like the most natural thing in the world.

Jane chose Four Season Spring Oolong Tea. Hers was served in the same fashion. This tea had a much milder taste, very subtle even. While I liked hers, I much preferred the Summer Fruit blend that I had chosen. Turns out, so did Jane ;-)

We started our lunch with an order of the Chinese Chicken Dumplings. I was surprised to learn that Jane had never had Chinese dumplings before. How could this be? I consider myself a dumpling connoisseur (it’s a carbohydrate thing) and I couldn’t fathom never having had Chinese Dumplings! Turns out this was a great place to introduce her to them. The dumplings arrived perfectly steamed, accompanied by some of the best dipping sauce I have ever had. Awesome. Teaching Jane to use chopsticks…well, we still need to work on that.

In the interest of providing my readers with the most accurate and update information, I decided to try a couple of menu items rather than just limiting myself to one. Yes, I am that selfless. One of the problems at ZenCha however, is that everything on the menu looked delicious! And it was going to be pretty difficult to top those dumplings. After much, and I do mean much, deliberation we decided!

Jane ordered the Tandoori Chicken Lettuce Wraps. They looked (and were…I “sampled”) delicious. The plate really was lovely. There were great big beautiful romaine lettuce leaves and plenty of perfectly seasoned chunks of chicken. To garnish the wraps there were sliced cucumbers, julienned carrots and chopped scallions. The dish is served with three sauces. The tandoori yogurt sauce I believe (but you know I could be sooooo wrong) is made with yogurt, a curry spice mixture, parsley and lemon juice. The nuoc cham is a Vietnamese sauce made with chili paste, fish sauce, sugar, water and lime juice. And the last is a Chinese mabo sauce which is a complete mystery to me. But all were very good. The nuoc cham was Jane’s favorite, as well as mine.

Again I must reiterate that in the interest of my readership I ordered more than I knew I could eat at one sitting. But hey, Bob was out of town so the leftovers were going to be dinner. Excellent planning on my part! I opted first for the pita pizza. I started with the garlic butter and mozzarella. On the chef’s recommendation I added chicken and goat cheese. It came out looking yummy. In the middle of the cut pizza was a pile of fresh greens dressed with a light, slightly sweet dressing. Topping the pizza with this just put it over the edge. I kid you not my taste buds were doing a most sophisticated tango! This pizza rocked! Jane bit into a piece and right there, in the middle of the ZenCha dining room, my friend had a “moment”. I can’t wait to go back just for that pizza.

Then my second order was delivered to the already overloaded table. Side note: They really should make those tables bigger. It made us look so much less dainty than we really are! So anyway, my soup arrived. Tonkatsu ramen with sautéed vegetables and pork. This was just downright incredible. I loved it! The broth was so flavorful, but mild. The ramen noodles were fresh; no packaged fried ramen noodles in this soup! There was just enough cabbage and carrots and the pork was perfectly cooked; two nice big slices of pork, and a sprinkling of spices finished off the dish. I really truly enjoyed this a lot!

If I had to pick which dish was my favorite I simply could not do it. Everything from the dumplings to the tea was just spot on delicious! And I thought their weekend brunch rocked!!!

Now I need to say that for those of you that do not already know, this is the fine establishment in which Laura Lee practices her culinary talents. However, I would truly have told you if there was anything that did not work for me here. But in all honesty, everything I have ever tried here is just awesome. Oh! Speaking of awesome….

Jane treated us to dessert! It was her choice and she narrowed it down to the crème brûlée. Then the next decision had to be between the lavender or the chai. We both agreed on the chai crème brûlée. An excellent choice. Was it ever! A ramekin of the velvety smooth custard was topped with a crisp layer of caramelized sugar, two slices of caramelized bananas, whipped cream and a mint leaf. Perfectly executed! It wrapped up a delightful lunch. This was everything that crème brûlée should be. Perfect!

If you have the opportunity to dine at ZenCha, please embrace it! From the peaceful ambiance to the delicious menu, you will enjoy every moment. And tell L3 “hello”!

ZenCha Tea Salon
982 North High Street
Columbus, Ohio

Friday, May 29, 2009

Gourmet Fish Nachos at Volkema Villa - Punta Gorda, FL

Hello Food Lovers! This is my first post on the blog and I hope I get this right! Spent a week in Punta Gorda at a friend's (the Volkema's) Florida home the last week in April and wanted to share a little creation of my own when we had "dinner in" one evening. What do you do with leftover fresh baked Grouper (the fresh catch from "Law's" seafood)? Fish tacos came to mind, but when you are traveling, you have limited food in the fridge and pantry and there were no taco shells... So I decided to create my own rendition, calling it Gourmet Fish Nachos! I spread a good couple of handfuls of tortilla chips to amply cover the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Then I cubed the leftover grouper and sprinkled over the chips. Next, I found a leftover corn-on-the-cob and sliced those little tender kernels right off the cob and sprinkled them over the fish (good use of leftover vacation food so far, eh?). Then I added some chopped onion and sprinkled over all. Next I spooned over probably a cup of delicious chunky, fresh salsa. Topped that off with lots of shredded Gruyere (that's the gourmet part) -- we just happened to be enjoying Gruyere with our wine throughout the week so figured it would be great on our nachos (as well as adding a little class!). Next I popped the casserole in a 350 degree oven for about, oh, say 20-30 minutes (I was on vacation so not keeping track of time so much). Out of the oven it looked and smelled yummy -- and it was! We scooped some good-sized portions onto our plates and topped it off with a dollop of sour cream (the real kind -- hey, we were on vacation!) Serving it up with a scoop of (again) leftover wild rice on the side and the perfect Italian Pinot Grigio (Albino Armani - Dellevenezie -Alfio Moriconi Selection) -- a nice, medium-bodied wine. All served on the beautiful lanai by the poolside, overlooking the canal. An evening to remember! By the way, we bought our wine at a fabulous, huge beverage store in Ft. Myers called Total Wine & More. It was recommended by our friends. This place was so huge it was like a warehouse and had every kind of wine (and other spirits, as well as gifts and accessories) you could imagine. Unfortunately, we had limited time to shop so went straight to the Pinto Grigio aisle. We were overwhelmed by the choices so asked one of their wine experts for help. She suggested the one I mentioned above as well as Kupelweiser, Alt Adige 2007 - another excellent medium-bodied wine with a smooth finish (not acidic) for a reasonable price of $12.99. We are now on a search for both of these wines in the Columbus area, so if you happen to find them, please let me know where! I'm signing off for tonight. Ciao!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Quickie...NO, not that kind!!!

First let me say that we proudly flew our flag and gave thanks to the men and women who have given their lives so that we can live our lives in freedom. We thank each and every one of them!

Well I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend! We sure did. One of the really cool fun things that we did was to take a quick trip to the Asian festival on Saturday morning at Franklin Park. It was so much fun! We got there at about 11am, and it hadn't gotten too crowded. They opened at 10am, and it was free. It really was cool to see all of the families that were there, old and young.

The food court was awesome. So many kinds of food! There were booths that offered VietNamese, Korean, Japanese, Filipino, Hawaiian, Laotian, Indian and gosh I can't remember what else. The smells were wonderful!

We of course set out directly for the ZenCha booth. Why? You ask? Well, none other than our very own L3 was in charge of the booth, offering the most incredible iced fruit tea and okonomiyaki.

Oh my gosh, that tea was the stuff of dreams. It was so hot out in the sun, and that tea I am telling you was so insanely delicious! I literally (and you can ask Bob and Laura about this!) stood at the corner of the booth and told everyone that made eye contact with me that it was so incredibly good and they really needed to buy some! (I really should have gotten some compensation!) Truly I am not kidding you about how good this tea was. I had 3 huge glasses! Can you say "oink"?

Okonomiyaki is a Japanese pancake that has sliced cabbage, and this one had chicken as well. Then a sauce is drizzled on top - the kind of sauce that you just want to dive naked into. You know the kind I'm talking about! Anyway, it is really so delicious that the description just doesn't do it justice. I am dying to try making it myself at home.

Bob and I walked around and then took our drinks over to the pavilion. There were demonstrations of all kinds going on. We saw some lovely traditional Japanese dancing and the music was wonderful. I just had such a great feeling when I looked around and saw all of the families sitting on the grass together, eating and laughing. It just gave you a good, good feeling.

After one more stop at ZenCha's booth to say goodbye and get a final tea, we had to walk up a hillside to get to where our car was parked. As we walked holding hands, again it was wonderful to see the hillside dotted with families picnicking.

Next year I want to plan ahead of time to be able to spend more time there. We just had a short time, but we had to go offer our support to Laura Lee! (At least that's what we told ourselves as we stuffed food into our mouths!!!)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sequel: Banana Bean Cafe

A second visit to Banana Bean Cafe brought the same squeals of delight as the first one did! My husband and I dined on the patio of this fun bistro last night. It was a great evening for dining outside. We sat on the small patio and had a really fun dinner. Arriving early we were able to take advantage of their 4-7pm Happy Hour. A complimentary basket of chips and habanero salsa whetted our appetites and readied us for libations! Bob had a draft beer and I started with a strawberry margarita. This proved to be the only bump in the evening. The draft beer was flat. Bob switched to bottled beer. It was golden from that point out. My strawberry margarita was good, but I decided to switch to the $2 ritas and they were delicious as well.

We began with the plantains. For me, this is the major reason for coming to Banana Bean. Good Lord I love those plantains!!! Bob was smitten as well. We actually ate about half and decided to save half to be our dessert!

After much deliberation over a menu that offers so many things you want to try, Bob and I decided to order several small plates so we could try an assortment of items. We went with the crab cake, the shrimp and grits and the sarasota chips. This was such a great way to sample more than we would have if we'd gotten our own individual dinners. And both Bob and I have never shied away from eating off of each other's plates!

Our selections were dead on! The crab cake was just right. It was full of delicious crab meat served on red pepper & basil aioli with sprouts. Now I love Maryland crab cakes. These are a bit different. A more Caribbean style. They were downright delicious.

The shrimp and grits had smoked bacon etouffe with creamy goat cheese grits. Oh MY! I think that if no one were around and it was anatomically possible, I would have licked the bowl. Yes, they were that good! I thought I would like these. I didn't just like them, I was absolutely wickedly crazy about them!

And not to be forgotten were the sarasota chips. And I do mean you cannot forget them. They were so incredibly good that even though we were stuffed we could not leave a single chip on the plate. They are homemade potato chips with alfredo sauce poured over them and chunks of blue cheese generously sprinkled over top. Oh yeah. Our server literally caught me licking my fingers.

Speaking of our waitress! Natalie (and I wish I'd thought to take a picture of her for you) was an absolute doll! She was just everything you could ever want! She was so stinkin' cute, attentive, fun, smile that lights up her entire face, knows her stuff about the food being served, can't do enough for you kind of good. I wanted to put her in my hip pocket and take her home with me!

So when (not "if") you go ask for Natalie, get the plantains, get the shrimp grits and most definitely get the ritas! Just GET THERE!!!!!!!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

La Salsa Villanueva

Trust me Hot-Mom knows her salsa this is the best you will ever eat! I like to compare it to the kind you get at a Mexican restaurant. It is very simple to make and stores well. The best way to eat it is with my favorite chips El Milagros-which you can find at Kroger.

1 28oz can of diced tomatoes (Dei Fratelli brand is the best)
3 jalapeno peppers
10 sprigs of cilantro
1/2 tsp of onion powder
1/2 tsp of garlic powder
1/2 tsp of chili powder
1/4 tsp of onion salt
1/4 tsp of garlic salt

Snap tops off of jalapenos. Boil tomatoes and jalapenos together in a medium sauce pan for 5-10 minutes. Blend tomatoes, jalapenos, cilantro and all the spices. Salsa should be thick and smooth. Add more peppers to heat it up or more cilantro to cool it down.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Sweet Tooth?

Hell yes I have a sweet tooth! In fact I think I have 32 of them...oh wait, I've had my wisdom teeth out so make that 28. Sweets, being carbohydrates by nature, are a major food group to me. That is why my hips look the way they do! And I'm telling you it is no small feat to maintain this lucious figure of mine. right.

Anyway, back to the original topic. Sweets. If you are looking for something high quality, absolutely decadent and a dessert you probably wouldn't make at home, have I got the place for you!

Ganache Dessert Kitchen's motto is "your occasion is our passion". Now what's not to like about that attitude? Doug and Deanne Potter have gotten it right! They have everything ganache. They have truffles, ganache truffle torte, filled cakes, truffle covered cakes, and just about anything else you want to do with ganache. In addition they have gourmet chesecake, triple layer cakes, "up-cakes" (which I have to tell you I would trade my first born for , that is if I had a first born!), wedges, tarts, globs, and celebration cakes that you can design yourself. Oh my goodness. It is just a wonderful place.

Deanne's special creation is a "Brookie", which is what lured me there yesterday. I thought it would be a fun idea to take my friend Brooke (readers of this blog know her as "hot mom") a brookie! Well, that fun idea turned into a wedge of something that had coconut for me, and a gorgeous mini lemon tart for Bob. (That with some perfectly ripe & succulent fresh raspberries I bought should insure that my lily of the valley would get planted tonight) ;-)

Ganache Dessert Kitchen is located in the Visa Plaza. 1155 N Hamilton Rd, Gahanna. 614-472-CAKE (2253). Hours are Tuesday through Friday 10-7 and Saturday 10-4.

Stop in and tell them you read about them on Dishing It Up!

But don't blame me for any love handles that might result!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

"The Well Red Book Club" - Wyandotte Winery

What an absolutely great evening! WOW! It’s been quite a while since I’ve had a “girl’s night out”. And it’s funny, this didn’t start out to be that. It started out because I have fallen in love with Wyandotte Winery. I just love the atmosphere and the owners, Robin and Valerie Coolidge. And the wines are wonderful! Now this is coming from a woman who enjoys a glass of wine every once in a while. My husband is the wine drinker in our family. Anyone who knows us knows this to be true. I am an occasional wine drinker. But when I am at Wyandotte, I find myself so enamored of their wines that I just want more! Yikes! Better limit my time there :-)

So a couple of weeks ago I saw that Valerie had posted an event on their website for "The Well Red Book Club". For fifteen dollars you receive 2 glasses of wine (woohoo!) and light appetizers. Discussion was to be on the book “The Shack”. Well, I was all over this. I absolutely loved “The Shack”. Granted I read it almost a year ago so I’d need to brush up on it, but this sounded like my kind of evening!

I immediately asked Bob what he thought. His work has been so busy that he didn’t feel like he could make the commitment, so he suggested I go with some friends. I thought of some ladies that I thought would be interested and sent out an email. Well, the group that ended up comprising “The Well Red Book Club” tonight was just the perfect group!

So we discussed “The Shack”, written by William P Young. Since this is not a book review, I’ll not go into detail of the book. I will say this: It is a controversial book that seems to stir passion in its readers. Strong opinions are formed and it seems that folks either love it or hate it. I loved it!

When we first arrived Valerie had greeted us, asking what kind of wine we would like. If you are not sure, she is just wonderful about helping you decide. She’ll ask you what you normally like to drink, and will make suggestions and give you a taste to help you make your decision. I, of course knew I wanted Sweet Willie! To start with, anyway. We had the opportunity to kind of wander around the front room while everyone arrived. Then we headed to our seats. The room we were in is a wonderful room in the winery that was just perfect for us. We sat around a table and had the most amazing discussion. *sigh* I wish you could have been there.

So here is the website for Wyandotte Winery.

Visit and read about the history of the winery. You can find info about upcoming events, their wine list, pictures, and all kinds of great information about the winery and about Robin & Valerie.

Now to continue about this evening. We enjoyed light appetizers consisting of summer sausage, cheeses, grapes (naturally!!), pretzel thins, kashi crackers, pita chips, and hummus. Side note: I do not like hummus. Garbanzo beans (or butt beans, as we refer to them) are not a food that is even permitted in my house; rating right up there with liver and lima beans! However, everyone else was diving into it so I figured I might be missing something. And I want to like hummus. Really I do. It’s like the new dill dip. It’s everywhere! So I dipped in and you know what? I absolutely LOVED it! Go figure! I couldn’t stay out of the stuff. Poor Cara. She was sitting beside me and was probably ready to just put the darn bowl in my lap so I would stop leaning over her! Anyway, I asked Valerie what it was. She told me and even showed me the container. But seeing as my memory has all but completely taken a permanent vacation on me, I am sorry to say I do not remember what brand it was. I’ll probably recognize it in the store, but I know that doesn’t help you one stinkin’ bit. Sorry. Oh, and my second glass of wine was Catawba-yum! Okay, I’m gonna come clean and tell you I had a third…but I was drinking it for Jill! And it was my favorite, Cranberry Harvest. O-M-G!

Wyandotte Winery has some fun and exciting upcoming events planned. In Kathie’s post on April 26th, she mentions that the patio is wonderful. I am really looking forward to a summer of visiting the winery and Robin & Valerie! Hope to see you there!

Wyandotte Winery
4640 Wyandotte Drive
Columbus, Ohio 43230

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pan Seared Pork with Potatoes and Lemon

Pan Seared Pork with Potatoes and Lemon from Everyday Food Magazine April 2009 issue

I love a quick and easy recipe. I have made this twice now. Just add a salad or veggie for a wonderful tasty quick meal. One thing I did is when you add the water to the potatoes; add some of the fresh lemon juice to the water. It really gives the potatoes a wonderful lemon flavor. Instead of pork tenderloin, I use thin sliced boneless butterfly pork chops.

2 Tbs olive oil
1lb red potatoes cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Coarse salt and ground pepper to taste
3 scallions, thinly sliced (I use sweet onions)
1 pork tenderloin (about 1lb)
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves (leave out if you don't like cilantro)

1) In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add potatoes: season with salt and pepper. Cook tossing occasionally, until golden brown, 8-10 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water (with lemon juice) and cook until potatoes are tender and liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add scallions (or onions) ; cook 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a bowl, and keep warm. Reserve the skillet.

2) Using a sharp knife, cut tenderloin crosswise into 12 equal slices. Press pork slices between your hands to flatten evenly. If using the sliced butterfly chops, you don't need to do anything.

3) In skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Working in two batches, cook pork until browned, 1-2 minutes per side, adding lemon slices in the last 2 minutes of cooking. Serve pork with lemons and potatoes, topped with cilantro.

I hope you all enjoy this as much as we have.

Noon Time Travels: Krema Nut Company

My dear family and friends:

If you believe you know what a peanut butter and jelly sandwich tastes like, I beg you to pay close attention to this blog…

It was a sunny day and my lunch buddy and I headed to the Krema Nut Company to satisfy the insane urge we were sharing for a gourmet PB&J. I have driven by Krema countless times in the years I have lived in Columbus. (Please note that I have lived in Columbus all of my life, however I do not feel it necessary to boldly state my age in print, thus giving certain people fodder for harassing me.) And every time I go by, I either say to myself or out loud, “Someday I wanna go there.” Well this was the day!

Laura and I walked into the small storefront on Goodale Blvd. The main room is lined with shelves that cover the entire room. I kid you not! There is a desk in the corner and the checkout stand. Other than that it's shelves. And they are filled with bags of nuts, nuts and more nuts! Then you turn around and there are bags of all kinds of yummy candies, mixes & snacks, chocolate covered candies and nut butters. Oh my gosh. I was like a kid in a candy shop….umm, I was in a candy shop. Oh well, you know what I mean. It was awesome, dude and dudettes!

There is a huge glass window behind the cashier counter that gives you a view of the factory. Unfortunately for us, we were not there at a time that they were making peanut butter. Bummer.

In the smaller of the two rooms is the lunch counter. They have quite a menu of wonerous sandwiches. Business is strictly take-out. We were there at noon, and they were certainly doing a brisk business. Good for them, I say! They have a great menu, with lots of choices. Factor in the “toppings” and you can create one heck of a PB&J.

Laura decided to go with the “Buckeye”. This is “Krema’s own freshly ground peanut butter with a layer of Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread.” She added sliced bananas for good measure. Sandwiches are made with your choice of white or wheat bread. Laura chose white. Well let me just say this about Laura’s sandwich: it was really, really good. I know this because I had a huge honkin’ bite. Oh man I wanted more, but it was her sandwich after all. Next time I’m getting the Buckeye with sliced bananas!

I ordered the Krema Special. This is “Krema’s own ground peanut butter spread with a layer of strawberry preserves or grape jelly.” But I substituted Sarabeth’s mixed berry fruit spread. I requested white bread. By the way, the bread that they use is awesome. It reminds me of Great Harvest. (I guess it is possible that it is Great Harvest; I didn’t ask. My bad.) My sandwich was just a darn good PB&J. Classic. With a side of pretzels we were set.

But no! Laura decides she’s going to crank it up a notch or two! She orders a PB&J milkshake. Strawberry. Holy cow! I’d never heard of a PB&J milkshake before. I was afraid that this milkshake might just be, how do I say it, weird? Well, I am so glad to that Laura lives life on the culinary edge. The gal behind the counter sure knows her stuff! Because she heard us saying that we were sharing the milkshake, she was even kind enough to split it into two cups. And it was really good. Not weird at all. It was like a really good quality strawberry milkshake with just a hint of peanut butter. It went perfectly with our sandwiches.

There is no place to sit and have lunch at the Krema Nut Company. So after paying for our lunch (and other assorted items that I won’t even go into here because I know I had no business buying that Three Chocolate Toffee) we just went back to my vehicle and had a “car picnic”. We relaxed with our freshly made sandwiches and "people watched" as the lunch time crowd came and went. What a great way to spend another Noon Time Travel.

Krema Nut Company
1000 West Goodale Boulevard
Columbus, Ohio 43212