Monday, February 27, 2006

Weekend [Culinary] Update

There were lots of fun food happenings this weekend here in Columbus! On Friday, we attended an open house for the grand opening of Jeni's Ice Cream's Grandview location. We sampled a variety of flavors, including spicy pecan praline, cocoa zinfandel, and luscious lemon yogurt, and I got to try a piece of Brie pizza, topped with apples and walnuts, from Spagio Wine Cellar next door. As expected, Jeni's store is fabulous, with light fixtures made from antique glass milk bottles, and one wall made of 200-year-old Ohio barn wood. We'll definitely be back and soon!

As of a couple of weeks ago, our beloved
Mama Mimi's is offering a new kind of pizza: The Marmalata Amore! It's great: the crust is brushed with apricot glaze and topped caramelized onions, chicken, smoked provolone, and basil--definitely something you could recreate at home.

Our Mardi Gras bash was a great success. My companion made a giant stockpot full of gumbo, and I made my first-ever coconut creme brulee and pecan pralines! (I highly recommend buying a butane kitchen torch. It's incredibly fun.) Our friend Emily brought the king cake, since she got the slice with the baby in it last year!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Friday Food News

Well, I had my chat with Lynne at The Splendid Table, and you'll be able to listen to the podcast of the show by visiting She did most of the talking, of course, but I did manage to tell her that I run while I'm listening to her show, and she was duly impressed. I got the sense that she was not impressed, however, with my expedient cooking habits. It was a classic case of Average American Expedient Cook Meets Purist. (Oh, you use quick-rise yeast, not the real stuff? Hm. You're sacrificing taste. Ohhh, you mix your dough in the food processor, and not carefully by hand? Quelle horreur!) Ah well, it was still fun!

In other news, my Columbus Dispatch story on king cake is published
here, and I couldn't let another Mardi Gras season go by without giving a shout-out to a tasty pre-Lenten Polish tradition, the paczki!

There will be lots of interesting food news to report after the weekend. Saturday promises to be full of pre-Mardi Gras party phone consults with my bro, who has hosted thriving bashes for years. He describes his soiree fare as Cajun and Creole, "with Mexican and hip-hop" influences, since, after all, he does live in "The D." I can't wait to hear about the menu.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Coming soon to the airwaves near you!

I got an exciting phone call yesterday from NPR's The Splendid Table. They asked me to be one of their call-in guests for Thursday's show! I was given a phone number to call at a specific time on Thursday morning, so Lynne Rosetto Kasper and I can chat on the air! I had e-mailed a few comments and questions to Lynne about two weeks ago, about a couple of topics I won't disclose just yet.

I prepped for my segment today by listening to the latest ST podcast while I ran after work. I just know that Lynne and I are going to be BFF!

More later on how to listen to the specific episode! (I'll be identified as "Renee from Columbus.")

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Laissez les bon temps roulez!

Late winter is my least favorite time of the year, but, ironically, it is one of my favorite times in the kitchen! Fat Tuesday approaches, and it's already Mardi Gras season in New Orleans, although celebrations this year are on a much smaller scale.

We're gearing up for our Mardi Gras soiree here, which will take place on Sunday. If you're looking to have a soiree of your own, be it large or small, be sure to visit:
  • Epicurious, for all kinds of great party and menu suggestions
  • iTunes, which has a great "New Orleans iTunes Essentials" link
  • Plum Party, for awesome Mardi Gras party supplies

And, stay tuned for my upcoming article in tomorrow's Dispatch about a fun, festive Mardi Gras confection!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Oh, and you get antioxidants too...

I'm not someone who's into a lot of frou-frou cocktails. Give me a cold, bottled Labatt's, or a nice glass of Oregon Pinot Noir, and I'm plenty content. Every once in a while, though, I do like to try something new, and there's nothing like a series of dark, cold February days to drive me right into the liquor cabinet.

On one night in particular, we were hosting our friends Em and Brian, and I decided I wanted to make something special. When I saw these Pomegranate Cosmopolitans in the February issue of Bon Appetit, I knew they were just the thing.

As expected, they were delicious, fruity, and festive. The only thing I'd change about the recipe below is to increase the amount of vodka (only slightly) while skimping on the orange-flavored liqueur a bit. But if you like your drinks more fruity and sweet, go by the book. Cheers!

(Makes 4)
2/3 cup Pom or other pomegranate juice
1/2 cup vodka
1/4 cup Cointreau or other orange-flavored liqueur (We used triple-sec.)
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
ice cubes
4 lime wedges

Place first 4 ingredients in cocktail shaker. Add ice; shake to chill. Pour into martini glasses; garnish with lime wedges.

Note to my legion of readers: I've changed the comment section, so now you do NOT have to be a Blogger user to complain, laud or opine. (Thanks, Em!)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


I have had a couple of requests for a good pizza dough recipe lately, so I'm posting an easy, delicious one given to me by Chris Sardo, the wildly popular cooking instructor at Wild Oats (She has groupies!) and a dietician at Ohio State. Chris is of Sicilian descent, so she knows her pizza, plus she's health and time-conscious, which I like.

If you are not short on time, making homemade pizza on a lazy Saturday perhaps, definitely check out this great pizza dough recipe from 101 cookbooks.

Pizza Dough, courtesy of Christine Sardo
Ingredients & Directions:
1 packet of rapid rise yeast (Rize, available at Wild Oats, is a good brand.)
~ 3 cups of flour
Lukewarm water
1 t. salt (optional)
2 T. olive oil

1) Put flour into a food processor; add salt if desired. Add yeast to the flour and pulse, just to mix. Turn the food processor on and add lukewarm water gradually, just until it appears "doughy" and not too dry. Add a little flour as needed.

2)After forming into a dough ball, place the dough into a large bowl and lightly drizzle olive oil on top. Let it rest for approximately 1 hour. (It should double in size—if you don’t let it rise long enough it still works fine; you just get a flatter dough.)

3)Knead the dough on a pizza stone (or counter) sprinkled with flour (only for about 1-2 minutes).
Prepare pizza pan: Brush with olive oil, then sprinkle with corn meal.

4)Ease dough to fit the pan. Add toppings of choice, fresh parmesan, etc.



Monday, February 13, 2006

Retro Candy!

Over the weekend I read about a great little web site in Gourmet magazine: At Hometown Favorites, you can purchase all the fun candy you enjoyed when you were a kid. There are buttons that allow you to search by decade, so natch I checked out the 80's candy. (You can order "decade" boxes of candy from the 60's, 70's, etc.)

Now technically, we were not allowed to eat much candy as kids, but when I checked the site I was astonished by how many varieties of the 80's candy I had sampled. (It must have been all of those after-school trips to the Hop-In next to St. Monica school before junior high basketball practice.) Seeing the packs of Bubbilicious, the bags of Atomic Fireballs, the Pixy Stix, and the Wonka Bottlecaps and Tart n' Tinys brought back lots of memories.

For instance, I remembered popping an Atomic Fireball in my mouth right before taking the SAT--not a good idea considering NO food was allowed under any circumstance. But the fireball was so hot I couldn't keep the darn thing in my mouth. So throughout the whole three-hour test, I surreptitiously popped it in and out of my mouth, resulting in a very,very red, sticky pencil and test booklet.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Wednesday is "Food Day!"

My apologies to my legions of fans for the light blogging as of new book project has been cutting into my Internet time.

One thing I do always make time for, no matter how much other work I have to do, is my Wednesday food reading! Wednesday morning means perusing the newly-published food sections of The Columbus Dispatch (to look for my articles, of course, and to count the number of fun rhetorical flourishes surgically removed by the stolid, adjective-hating copy editors), The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, and The Seattle Times, who all publish their new food news on the same day. I've learned so much about writing restaurant reviews from Nancy Leson, my favorite restaurant reviewer at The Seattle Times.

Yesterday The Dispatch ran a review of Rick Bayless's new cookbook, Mexican Everyday. I can't wait to get my hands on it, but of course the library waiting list is now a mile long.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Cheeseburgers, Though Certainly Not in Paradise

In a retro mood while planning dinner last night, I opted to make a menu staple from my childhood: Bunny's Burgers. In and of itself, the burgers are somewhat unremarkable--my companion called it an upscale version of a patty melt, perhaps since you saute the ground sirloin with some red wine, onions, and Worchestershire sauce before placing the slice of good ol' American cheese on top to melt. (Does comfort food get any better than this?)

The source of the recipe is interesting though: The Original Preppy Cookbook: Everything a Preppy Needs to Know about Cooking But Didn't Have Anyone to Ask. I remember when my parents were kind of into the preppy thing, and we had a couple of those preppy-related books on our family room bookshelves. As I grade schooler, I have to admit I was pretty intrigued by them, especially The Preppy Handbook, the tongue in cheek reference guide with the madras plaid cover. I even memorized the lists of Preppy Nicknames that included monikers like "Muffy," "Bif," "Chip," and, of course "Bunny," the name associated with the burgers.

I wanted to find an image of the cookbook cover to post here, but alas, even Powell's doesn't even have it. Thankfully, I know the cookbook is still sitting on the shelf in my parents' kitchen. It's an intriguing cultural artifact now! Perhaps I will feel the same way about my Rachael Ray and Giada DeLaurentiis cookbooks someday--better hang onto them after those two fizzle out.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Podcasts for Foodies

One of my favorite NPR shows is The Splendid Table, but I'm rarely near a radio on Saturday afternoons, when ST is broadcast in Columbus. What to do? Why, listen to the weekly Splendid Table podcasts, of course! Ironically, I usually listen to these 15-20 minute podcasts while I'm running. Needless to say, after 45 minutes of listening to talk about brining turkeys, baking bread, and shopping for Indian spices, I'm starving by the time I get home and can't wait to make dinner!

The free podcast only includes the second half of the show, which is when readers call in with their questions. To listen to the interviews with food and wine experts and restaurateurs, you have to pay for the podcasts through Perhaps more sophisticated foodies would complain, but I'm just as happy to listen to the questions of the "regular folks," who usually have the same food-related questions I do, and host Lynne Rosetto Kasper's knowledge and tips are just so remarkable.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Hail to the Chef

Here's my profile of vegetarian chef Magdiale Wolmark, which appears in today's Columbus Dispatch. And be sure to check out Magdiale's uber-cool, "eclectically sophisticated" vegan restaurant, Dragonfly NeoV, in Columbus!