Saturday, January 31, 2015

Sophie's is back in Columbus!

Do you recall my post about Sophie's Pierogi?

If not, please take a moment to read it. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Okay. Now you've refreshed yourself on the magic that happens in Sophie's food truck.  Sophie's is Steve & Angie Redzinak's dream. Their dream had a hiccup. Fortunately for those of us that have pined for Sophie's Pierogi, I am so happy to know that they are on their way back! Woohoo!!! Pierogi lovers rejoice!

Steve has an Indiegogo campaign to help them get Sophie's relaunched.

I'll let Steve tell you:

"It's a whirlwind story, really, that starts a very, very, VERY long time ago at the kitchen counter of my Grandmother, the original Sophie, back in Jersey.    Some of my first and best memories are of her making pierogi dough,  home made soups and desserts to fatten me up.  Made from scratch wasn't a special label for her food, it was simply how things were done.  
My time there always stuck with me so as I joined the navy and worked in "the mess" something clicked inside and I knew what I wanted to do with my life.  Everyone that knows me is aware that I'm very proud of my Polish, Italian and Puerto Rican roots and as I set off into my career, I sought to expand on those family traditions by working in the finest and most diverse restaurant kitchens I could find.  This led me on quite a journey through a big chunk of this great country in fine dining and corporate environments, even spending quite some time as a private kosher chef.
Sophies originally sprang from a desire to build something great for my family, and nothing spoke to that more than those memories of my grandmother rolling pierogi at the kitchen counter in Jersey.  
The love of my life, Angie, and I with some help from our kids,  launched Sophie's Gourmet Pierogi in 2012 to fantastic criticism and huge accolades.  We grabbed the award for National Rookie Food Truck right out of the gate, were featured on the Food Truck Friday feature on Fox 28/ABC 4 and had one of the top 5 dishes to try our freshman run at The Columbus Food Truck Festival.  We had a brisk season, but as we pulled into a very slow, cold and snowy winter we looked at our life and responsibilities and a job in a corporate setting became a temporary necessity.  It was heartbreaking for us and from what we hear, for a lot of you as well.
BUT…  we're back on the road having brought Sophie's back as a cart and the demand is pushing us to grow! 

What We Need & What You Get

  • Our big push here is to help us fully outfit our new production kitchen.  We've found a lovely space that meets our needs and gives us room to grow, but there are some improvements we need to make to get the space up to code and production, storage and refrigeration equipment we need to keep up with our growing demand.  
  • The location we've chosen also gives us much better proximity to RELAUNCH SOPHIE'S AS A FOOD TRUCK!  You heard it right.  A full sized truck will give us a much greater capacity for special events, weddings, festivals and even our every day operations giving us a chance to provide delicious dumplings in any setting.
  • I've spent a lot of time thinking up fun and innovative ways to say thank you to all of you who choose to support us in this growth.  Sure we'll have bottle openers and t-shirts, but how about free pierogi for a year!  Check out our perks cause, yeah, it's in there.
  • So, of course, there's a chance we fall short of our fundraising goals.  The production facility is a go regardless of the outcome of this campaign and the balance of the funds that we do collect will be used to increase our mobile output with a refrigerated cargo van so that we can put up the big numbers at events and festivals around central Ohio. 

The Impact

  • Currently, pierogi production takes place 45 minutes outside of Columbus which drains resources and time we need to grow.  A successful campaign makes supplying our wholesale customers much easier, which in turn makes providing your pierogi fix a snap.
  • Sophie's is about family.  We're providing a taste of our delicious family history in this unique product.  It's not that you can't go get a bag of those other pierogi from the freezer case, but we all know that it's not grandma approved.  This hand made product is free of additives and stabilizers.  It's real good food from real people and we want to make it as widely available as possible.
  • It's a real and distinct honor to introduce you to something so personal and important to me.  There's nothing else I'd rather do and I want every Sophie's experience to make my Grandma Sophie proud.

Risk's and Challenges

  • Stepping away from the business and coming back at a different scale has given us a lot of knowledge and confidence in our business model.  Nothing in business, especially food, is a "slam dunk", but we hear and see the impact we make on our customers daily.  While we aren't the only pierogi game in town, we made an early mark on the market and have a product that is easily integrated into other restaurant concepts that blends seamlessly into the food culture of Columbus.
  • We're 100% committed to our return to Sophie's having tucked so many valuable lessons under our belt.

Other Ways You Can Help

  • We know that we're coming out of the holidays and not everyone has the resources to financially support us, but you can still help us.  Tell your friends, get the word out!  Tell people how excited you are to see Sophie's back on the road in a big way!  
  • Remind them to use the Indiegogo share tools!"
Please consider helping Sophie's Gourmet Pierogi Food Truck


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

le Gateau - Pizza Class

I was invited to attend a pizza class at le Gateau, located north of New Albany, ( a while back. What a fun and rewarding experience!

Le Gateau is the brainchild of Sue Larson, a premier pastry chef and wedding cake creator in the Central Ohio area. Her cakes have been featured in numerous publications and she has received many prestigious awards, including one from "The Knot".

"The Gathering Guide" has this to say about Sue: "Sue Larson, owner of le Gateau, has been creating cakes for 26 years in Columbus, Ohio. Everything is made from scratch with the highest degree of craftsmanship. Wedding cakes, birthdays, anniversaries, corporate events, and cake sculptures are all created at le Gateau. A passion for excellence and a love of chocolate, caramel, and raspberries makes a happy baker. le Gateau is now offering hands-on pizza classes. These are great for family, friends, corporate parties."

The course is taught by Sue and her good friend Dianne Williams. Dianne brings her own pastry expertise, catering experience and general love of food to the table. Both Sue and Dianne have studied at the French Pastry School in Chicago. Dianne has a strong background in teaching all kinds of culinary classes in and around Columbus.

The pizza classes (they also do bread making classes as well) are hands-on and the pizzas are baked in an amazing wood fired oven that Sue's husband, Mark built for her just outside of her studio.

Mark and his pizza oven

We began the evening with an assortment of delicious appetizers and wine. That gave us an opportunity to talk with each other and become acquainted with our classmates.

Sue (on the left) and Dianne chat with us before we began.

After we mingled, Sue gathered us in her studio to lead us through the process of making pizza dough. We began by adding yeast and water to flour. And thus began our adventure! 

I'll be honest with you; I'm a pretty good cook, but I'm scared of yeast! There's some ugliness in my past, and it involved yeast. Here's what happened (in class, not my past)...

We mixed and kneaded; forming the dough, becoming one with the dough, and this is what happened...

Yeah, that's what happens when you go messin' with yeast. I tried to warn you! And then this happened...

It was totally awesome! And the aroma! 

We set our dough aside to rise and moved on to the sauces. Dianne was beginning to make a béchamel sauce and engaged one of the students to assist her while she educated us on the "Mother Sauces". 

In addition to the white sauce that Dianne was conjuring up, Sue's son had made a red sauce. It just so happens that Sue's son is a chef! Chef Chris Larson from the New Albany Country Club was an unexpected treat!

It was such an added pleasure to work with Chef Chris. And about that sauce? Well I'll be brutally honest; I could have grabbed a big spoon and just polished off that pot myself. 

Chef Chris Larson

Chef Chris gave us a lesson in knife skills. We learned about different knives and and what they were used for. Chris showed us how to wield a knife like we knew what we were doing!

At that point Chef Chris let us loose with knives and vegetables! We divided into groups and started slicing and dicing as if our lives depended on it!!!

(Isn't she a doll???)

By then we were having a great time! It was really comfortable and fun. There was a wide range of cooking skill level among us. From the never cooks to a professional chef (who just happened to have previously been Chef Chris' boss!), we were a mixed bag of students. It was perfect.

Mother and son explained to us the process the dough goes through, and how we were going to turn it into our pizza. And then it was our turn :-)

Chef James Decker and daughter Lilly.

No actual students were harmed in the making of this class.

So we had our dough, we had our pizza crust. All we needed were toppings!!! Sue and Dianne had thoughtfully prepared a variety of toppings for us, as well as the vegetables we had prepped. Oh my gosh, I don't think I can even remember all of the toppings. I know there was bacon, ham, sausage, pepperoni, roasted vegetables, sun-dried tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, red onion, asparagus, fresh peppers, eggplant, olives, and a variety of cheeses including fresh mozzarella along with basil and fresh tomatoes. If you couldn't find something here to put on your pie, then you had no business eating pizza period. Here, let me show you:

The critical moment had arrived. Assembly. 

Sue showed us how to put the pizza dough on the peel...after it is sprinkled with cornmeal. (The peel is the big flat shovel that is used to slide the pizza into the brick oven.) From that point we were on our own. After making the choice of the béchamel, the red sauce or naked (the pizza, a naked pizza) we could go wild from there. We'd been advised to limit the amount of toppings on our pizzas. Since we were making our own, we quickly realized the whole thing didn't have to be the same, did it? Boy howdy, we had a blast making those pizzas. 

It was interesting to see the different ingredients and combinations that we came up with. It really was difficult not to overload the pizza. I went half and half on the sauce. With the toppings I did it in quarters. That way I could have more toppings, just less of them. Worked for me. 

I made a delicious concoction with caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms, bacon, fresh mozzarella, and a variety of other cheeses. 

The next step was to take our humble pies to Mark. He had the oven stoked and ready to bake our pizzas to wood fired perfection.  That oven is where the real magic happens.

Lizzie carried that pie more carefully than she had her first born, as onlookers gazed in admiration.

Chef Chris' pizza
I wish I could show you pictures of everyone enjoying their pizza, but I was too busy enjoying my own pizza. I know, but what can I say? 

But wait! There's more! Just when we thought we couldn't eat another morsel, Dianne came out with dessert pizzas! Oh my. And Sue followed with vanilla bean gelato. Heaven.

From the left: Sue's vanilla bean gelato, raspberry and blackberry pizza with a sweet mascarpone topping, and a strawberry and rhubarb sauce pizza. 

As I enjoyed my dessert, I sat back and took a look around. Sitting with me was a group of people, all very different. We entered as strangers, for the most part. And there we were sharing our meals with each other; laughing and feeling a camaraderie for another that can only be felt after an evening in the trenches together. It felt honest. It felt good. This had been more than a cooking class. It had been much more than that. We had fun, and we also learned a great deal. We created our very own masterpieces, and we shared them with our new friends. Yes, it was much more than a cooking class.  It was more an "experience".

I started thinking about ways the le Gateau classes could enhance many events and my mind reeled with the possibilities.
  • Corporate team building
  • Girls' night out
  • Bridal showers
  • Birthday parties
  • Date nights
  • Cooking with kids
  • Christmas gifts
The list could go on and on.  Check out the class schedule at!classes/ccqx

"Contact Sue at 614-939-1930 for details and to reserve a class. All classes are $75.00 per person and last  three hours. A minimum of 8 students are needed to book a class.  Email Sue on the contact page for information and to reserve a class.  We reserve the right to cancel a class without a minimum number of students, you will receive a full refund . A full refund will be made if you cancel 48 hours before the class begins. There is no refund given with fewer than 48 hours." (from the le Gateau website)

* While I participated in the class gratis, all of the opinions are mine...and we all know I have opinions!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Green BEAN Delivery - Fresh, organic produce delivered to your doorstep

I am pretty sure all of you know about CSA's (Community Supported Agriculture) and how awesome they are! We have tried it and loved it. However (isn't there always a "however"?), we found that with just the two of us it was inevitable that we would have waste. I hate that. Growing up in a family of nine, it was pretty much a cardinal sin to waste food. To this day that sticks with me. So we stopped the CSA.

I think I first learned of Green BEAN through a Groupon, maybe? "Networked with the best organic produce growers & local artisans, Green B.E.A.N. Delivery provides home delivery of organic produce & natural groceries to Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, Dayton and Columbus." Once I tried it I was hooked! This is a service that is much like a CSA, except that I get to choose what will be in my box…and they deliver it right to my front porch! How great is that??? Bob and I have been Green BEAN customers for quite a while now and we love it. I signed us up for the small produce bin, which is $35. There are other sizes but this one seems to be a good amount for us to work with. They deliver every two weeks, and I can suspend delivery, if say I'm going on vacation.

The week before delivery I get an email with the details of what will be in the produce box. If I want to make any changes I have ample opportunity to customize the box for the two of us. Then on delivery day I put my empty green box on the front porch and magically the Green BEAN fairy puts the full box in place and the empty one is gone! (Okay, so I know that there really is no "Green BEAN fairy".) Just sayin'.

So when I was contacted to try Green BEAN and blog about it, well heck yes I wanna tell the world how awesome this is!!!! Yes, they did comp me a produce box in way of thanks. I will tell you though, that the opinions are totally my own and I can say I've been a long time customer so I'll give you the real skinny.

Here is the box I received:
Isn't it pretty? I just love all of the gorgeous colors of the summer boxes! So as you can see, I got lettuce, corn on the cob, spinach, Brussels sprouts, mint, raspberries, blueberries, Yukon gold potatoes, nectarines, and donut white peaches. Food, glorious food!!! (Who knows that reference?)

I set out to show you some of the dishes I might with this produce. 

First I made Rasa Malaysia's Thai Chili Chicken, using the mint leaves. This dish is super easy and oh-so-good!!! Bob and I gobbled it up and then were bummed there were no leftovers. This was so amazing!

Next on my list was the corn.
First I cut the corn off the cob. I dare you to not nibble as you do this. Oh my, there is nothing in the world like really fresh corn!
I added chopped garlic, salt, & pepper and sautéed this in a couple of teaspoons olive oil. When the corn started to caramelize, I added a tablespoon of butter and scooped up all of the yummy brown bits. I took it off the heat and added chopped fresh marjoram. This is the resulting yumminess! Is that a word? Well it is now!

Moving on I roasted the Brussels sprouts.

Truly this is the only way to eat Brussels sprouts. I cleaned them, tossed them with olive oil and put them in a single layer and roasted til they were brown. I wanted a nice color but I don't let them get mushy. Mushy is not good!

Isn't this a lovely dinner plate? I thought so. I put some of the mint in my ice water for a totally refreshing glass of minted ice water. Bob had grilled chicken and Halloumi cheese (which is to die for) for our protein. I had also roasted a bunch of gorgeous heirloom grape tomatoes. They were an incredible compliment to the Brussels sprouts! Who knew?

On to dessert!!! The berries were fantastic!
Believe it or not, I had some scrumptious lemon curd in the fridge that I'd made a few days before. I know, who has lemon curd just hanging around? A first for me. Instantly I knew that these berries were screaming for that curd. Really!!! And I was oh so right! And then to put earrings on the elephant (one of Bob's favorite phrases) I added salted caramel shortbread cookies. Enter a little taste of heaven.

I have to admit that the nectarines never really got ripe before they bit the dust. However, one call to Green BEAN to let them know, and I was immediately credited the amount of the fruit. No questions asked. Their customer service is beyond belief. I love these people!

The donut peaches ripened beautifully.
This luscious dessert is sugar free vanilla syrup macerated peaches with Jeni's pear Riesling sorbet, Starbuck's caramel sauce, and Trader Joe's coconut crisp cookies garnished with fresh mint. Okay, so I went a little overboard. LOL! Sometimes I just go over the edge. Yes, it was way too many flavors colliding in one dish, but Bob and I managed to choke it down. If only we were given such a horrible task every night!

So there you have it. A taste of most of the ingredients in my Green BEAN box.

I can't say how much we have enjoyed our Green BEAN membership. We've learned that there are veggies we like that we hadn't tried before. I mean, I'm eating beets & Brussels sprouts! What is this sorcery???

The folks at Green BEAN are offering you a great deal. If you'd like to try the service, use the code 15DIUml  and they will take $15 off of your first order! I know, right??? 

Here is the link to set up your account: You can try it and cancel at any time if you're not happy with it. But if you're like me, you are going to love it!!!

The code is 15DIUml, and it is good for a week from today. I really hope you'll give it a go!!!