Last month, The Professor and I were invited to attend a special food ‘Pop-Up’ – a collaboration between Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs Jonathon Sawyer of Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland, Jenn Louis of Lincoln Restaurant in Portland and Columbus’ own Kenny Kim & Misako Ohba of fRESHTSTREET Yakitori. The event was tagged as ‘a Pop-up in a Pop-up’ and was a sellout with standing room only; in fact, I resorted to using my iPhone to grab photos as maneuvering a large, DSLR while shimmying myself between the crowds just wasn’t possible.
The vibe of the night was high-energy with the jukebox spinning an eclectic mix of tunes from the 50s and 60s while the chefs and their team plated bite after bite of fusion dishes like Half Quail with XO Sauce, Hamachi Scraps with belly, cheek, tail & veal sauce – as well as fresh twists on scallops, blood sausages, beets, kale and more. Cocktails flowed while Chef Louis, Chef Sawyer and Kenny and Misako found their groove; between fanning open flames and serving the masses, the Chefs snapped photos on the line and posted images to twitter in rapid fire – believe me when I say I consider myself a multi-tasker but it takes crazy talent to stay focused on the line and still have fun in the process – and they were having fun!
We also visited a few other highlights of Columbus:
M at Miranova: A visually stunning space with cocktails and bar food to match. An absolute must order is the Butter Poached Dutch Harbor Alaskan King Crab; yes, it’s $29 but worth every. single. penny. I’m not even kidding when I say you’ll want to bathe in the stuff – at the very least dab a bit behind your ears as perfume – makes my mouth water just typing this. Bonus: they offer a stellar gluten-free menu.
Pistacia Vera: One of Columbus’ premier bakeries, Pistacia Vera makes all their classic European-style pastries in-house, from scratch; and I can tell you from first-hand experience, their macarons are out. of. this. world.
Thurn’s Specialty Meats: What started as a family business Easter weekend in 1886 is alive and well in 2013 producing some of the area’s best hand-crafted specialty meats on-site. Hams, bacon, wurst, smoked cheese and the beloved German Goetta are just a few of the items that make Thurn’s one of Columbus’ gems.
Watershed Distillery: Founded by Greg Lehman and Dave Rigo in 2010, the idea to start a distillery was conceived while Lehman was playing professional volleyball in Switzerland and in 2007, the duo began working on what would become the newest addition of micro-distilling in Ohio – Watershed Distillery, famous for world-class Vodka and Gin, with Bourbon on the horizon. Their Four Peel Gin is one of our favorites in our home bar.
Middle West Spirits: With generations of distilling moonshine running through their veins, co-founders Brady Konya and Ryan Lang founded Middle West Spirits in 2008, and opened the distillery for commercial production in 2010. Producing their spirits from grain to bottle, Middle West Spirits has created a genuine collaboration with farms, craftsmen and others who desire authentic, American-made craft spirits. Their Stone Fruit Vodka makes a mean toddy (shhhhh . . . sometimes I make one when I’m not sick) – also a favorite in our home bar.
Brothers Drake Meadery: An urban producer of wines made from honey, Brothers Drake Meadery sources local wildflower honey and only sells their product in the Greater Columbus area. It’s not only a delicious modern take on an ancient tradition, it is a core value in building and strengthening the local economy. I’d never tried Mead before but gotta say – I’m sold.
Curio at Harvest: I have a thing for cocktails – or to clarify – I am enchanted with the mixology, the history, vintage barware and the lore of cocktails. Blend a speakeasy environment, classic and modern cocktails and thoughtfully prepared pizza from Harvest Pizzeria and you have a winner. Be sure to save room for dessert – the Butterscotch Budino rocked my world. Bonus: Harvest Pizzeria offers great gluten-free pizzas.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream: I could wax poetic all day about Jeni’s but suffice it to say that if you’re in Columbus and you don’t enjoy one (or two) of her hand-crafted ice creams, you’re totally missing out. And while you’re there, pick up a copy of Jeni’s James Beard Award-winning book so you can recreate those flavors at home. You’re welcome.
Basi Italia: This restaurant alone has me pining for summer and a long, romantic dinner out on the patio, sipping fabulous wine and enjoying one of Chef Johnny’s seasonal signature dishes. The Rabbit Carbonara served with gluten-free pasta was a refreshing take on an old favorite – I cannot wait until it’s back on the menu. Hands-down one of my favorite new-to-me restaurants. Bonus: Gluten-free dishes are available.
Mouton: One of the hippest cocktail bars in town, Mouton’s focus is on vintage cocktails, wine, craft beer and artisan breads and cheese – and these people know their craft. I experienced my first Ramos Gin Fizz and have to say that the bar has been set very high ladies and gents – I’ve had the best and from this point forward will not settle for anything less. When we pulled up in a chauffer-driven limo, the young hipsters were trying to figure out if we were someone important – we’re not. And in fact, The Professor and I created a new name for ourselves: ‘Mipsters’ – Middle-aged folks who hang out with Hipsters – we lead a sheltered life folks.
Hilton Columbus Downtown & Gallerie Restaurant: ‘There’s an Art to Exquisite Hotels’ is the Hilton Columbus Downtown’s tagline and from the moment you step into the spacious lobby, you know exactly what they mean. 150 original pieces by Central Ohio artists are displayed throughout the entire hotel which also includes a sweeping spiral staircase as well as a spectacular 15,000 square foot skylight in the atrium – it is breathtaking. Be sure to ask about the self-guided art tour of the work displayed in the hotel. We also had the privilege of meeting Executive Chef Bill Glover – a man incredibly passionate about collaboration and who creates menus centered on Ohio’s rich agricultural heritage; local farmers and artisans are featured in all of the seasonal menus Chef Glover creates.
As you can see, Columbus has much to offer and this list merely scratches the surface of what is available in the area ~
The Professor and I sat down and just talked about the experience – take a peek at a few of the highlights:
We’ll be back Columbus!
Disclaimer: Our travel and accommodations were covered by Experience Columbus; all opinions are strictly our own.
Makes 1 cocktail
- Orange segments
- Izze Blackberry Sparkling Soda
- Watershed Four Peel Gin
- Layer bottom of an Old-Fashioned glass with orange segments
- Add 2-3 ice cubes (square cubes is preferred)
- Fill glass ¾ full with Izze Blackberry Sparkling Soda
- Top with approximately one-half ounce of Watershed Four Peel Gin to taste
- Stir and enjoy