UMAMI FEED

  • Guerilla Brunch with Chef Marcus Meacham

    Guerilla Brunch with Chef Marcus Meacham

    Chef Marcus Meacham (you may know him as the executive chef at Bodega) and his sous chef Charles Umland prepared a four-course brunch in my kitchen last Sunday. And the best part is, he can do the same for you!

    See, Marcus is playing around with a new Guerilla Brunch concept and I happily volunteered my place as a location for one of his very first off-site pop-up brunches. I think the 10 guests lucky enough to attend would agree -- it was an incredible, one-of-a-kind experience. 

    Interested in hosting a Guerilla Brunch of your own? Read on to the end of the post, where you'll find all the info. 

    Here's how it works. You set the date with Marcus and, if you'd like, choose a theme. We went with a gospel brunch as an excuse to pick up a bunch of gospel records and force our guests to dress in their Sunday best. Marcus designs the menu, which we didn't see until the day of. We didn't give any input at all, and that's what he loves best: full creative freedom. (But I'm sure he'd also take some special requests.)

    As the host, all you have to do is decide who to invite. Let me tell you, as a person who does a lot of entertaining, it felt really freeing not having to worry about the food one bit. 

    Marcus and Charlie arrived at about 8:30 a.m. Sunday to get started. They brought all the ingredients, plates and most of the cooking equipment they'd need for the day. My fiancee and I peeked in on the progress, but otherwise got to chill out until our guests arrived at noon.

    Hosting brunch at someone's house means your guests can BYOB. We asked friends to bring fixings for mimosas and bloody marys plus whatever else they felt like drinking. 

    Shortly after everyone arrived, the first course was served. Here it is: the aptly named Dreams Do Come True. At the center is a cube of unbelievably tender and smoky braised Benton's Bacon. It's served on Blue Corn Grits made with Moody Blue Smoked Blue Cheese, with a beet vinegar-poached egg on the side (plus a slice of seasoned and cooked apple). This dish was perfection. 

    Next up, pancakes! This dish's given name is OMG Pancakes, and I think you can tell why just by looking at the photo. These things are almost indescribably good. They're thick, fluffy buttermilk-ricotta-mascarpone(!) pancakes drizzled in a rosemary-bacon maple syrup. Oh, and topped with crumbled bacon (OF COURSE). At about this point, we started tagging our Instagram photos #porktoberfest.

    On the side? An Orange Duck Sausage link with Mandarin Orange compote.

    Those pancakes were pretty decadent. But it was the next dish that nearly did all of us in. 

    Course No. 3: Lamb McMuffin...Came From a Farm...E I E I O. From the top, it doesn't look all that daunting. This angle also shows the Capicola, Braised Pork and Leek Hash served on the side, which was a unanimous crowd-pleaser.

    OK. Here's the Lamb McMuffin. I think only one person actually finished the thing. On a butter-soaked English muffin, it has a thick slice of Canadian bacon topped with a ground lamb patty, toped with an egg, topped with a French cow's milk cheese called Creamy Delice. 

    So meaty. So good. So so so filling.

    At this point, I think everyone was relieved there was only one course left to go. Dessert: Drunken Blueberry Beignets, served on warm vodka-soaked blueberries. A sweet and simple treat set off by the pop of those fresh blueberries. 

    The chefs!

    And the aftermath.

    By the way, when you tell your guests they can bring what they'd like to drink for brunch, you may end up with Bud Light Lime-a-Ritas. And then you may regret not being more specific.

    Would you like to host a Guerilla Brunch catered by Chef Marcus Meacham? Of course you would! For all the info, shoot Marcus an email at marcusmeacham@gmail.com. He can provide a cost estimate per head and answer any other questions you may have. 

  • Barcelona's Harvest Feast

    Barcelona's Harvest Feast

    We helped Barcelona put together a fabulous Harvest Feast last week designed to introduce the restaurant's executive chef, Jacob Hough, to the VIPs of the Columbus foodie scene.

    Chef Jacob took the opportunity and ran with it, designing a special autumnal-themed spread that filled several tables. He tells us a few of these dishes may make it onto the regular Barcelona menu, as well! 

    Here's a closer look at Barcelona's Harvest Feast:

    Belgian Endive Leaves with Blue Cheese and Walnuts

    Spinach Salad with Chickpeas, Walnuts and Maple Dressing

    Trio of Shooters: Butternut Squash Soup, Chilled Pear Soup, Chilled Apple Soup

    Tosta with Grilled Eggplant, Roasted Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

    Sun-dried Tomato Tortilla

    Roasted Salmon

    Duck Legs

    Pumpkin Hummus Profiteroles with Pepita Brittle

    Pumpkin Cookies

    Apple Cakes with Walnuts

    The magnificent spread!

    BARCELONA RESTAURANT
    263 E. Whittier St., German Village 
    614-443-3699
    barcelonacolumbus.com 

  • Eat St. filming with That Food Truck

    Eat St. filming with That Food Truck

    The Cooking Channel/Food Network Canada show "Eat St." is in Columbus this week filming segments with six of our food trucks! Should be some great exposure for our mobile food scene. The first taping took place on Saturday with That Food Truck, which temporarily relocated its new smoker from Seventh Son Brewery to the St. James Tavern parking lot for the day. 

    Chef Dan Kraus has been manning the smoker overnight every Friday in the Seventh Son parking lot for about a month now, with a goal of creating a new "Ohio-style" barbecue. He sells the smoked brisket, pork shoulder and whole chickens on Saturdays at Seventh Son. Here are some shots from Saturday's "Eat St." taping! 

  • Up-and-Coming Eats at Independents' Day

    Up-and-Coming Eats at Independents' Day

    New for this year at Independents’ Day! I teamed up with the awesome Justin Hemminger to launch Up-and-Coming Eats, a celebration of our city’s aspiring chefs and restaurateurs. These chefs will be providing free samples and sharing information about their brands to festival-goers between 2 and 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21 in Lynn Alley near the Jeni's music stage. 

    Here’s a look at who’s participating:

    Justin Hemminger, Abe's: Coming in 2014 to Downtown Columbus, Abe's will be a unique restaurant/bar/music venue with delicious food, stiff drinks and original live music. On Saturday, Justin will be serving creamy beer brat dip with sliced baguette and a dijon carrot slaw.

    Tomos Mughan, Empanada Intifada: This gourmet empanada company was started by three friends. Chef Mike Gadd combines traditional flavors with global cuisines. They will be serving Sloopy Joe Empanada, Baked Potato Empanada and a Chana Masala Empanada. 

    Brian Thornton, OH! Chips: The guy behind OH! Burgers is launching what he hopes will become Columbus' signature artisan potato chip company. He'll be serving sweet potato chips and kettle chips.

    Tyrone Frank, The Good Frank: Columbus' source for all natural, locally sourced frankfurters, sausages, and vegan franks. He will be serving grassfed beef frankfurters, living sauerkraut and chocolate lemonade.

    Independents' Day

    Sept. 20-22

    Gay Street and Pearl Alley, Downtown

    thisisindependent.com

  • Bloody Mary Brunch at Independents' Day

    Bloody Mary Brunch at Independents' Day

    OK, so let's just admit that we're all going to be feeling a little rough on Sunday, aka Independents' Day Part III. No worries, we planned Sunday's festivities with that in mind. To go along with a block of acoustic music from favorites like Ryan Smith and Joey Hebdo, we're serving up brunch in the alley. Bloody Mary Brunch in the Alley, that is.

    Due Amici's awesome bartenders will roll their Bloody Mary carts out into Pearl Alley and mix you a cocktail that's just as spicy as you please. And our friends at The Hills Market Downtown will set up a buffet-style brunch with the following savory and sweet options: 

    Egg, Sausage, Bell Pepper & Cheddar Stromboli
    Mixed Berry & Cream Cheese Stromboli
    Spinach Mini Quiche
    Ham Mini Quiche
    Home Fries
    Fresh Fruit Salad

    Oh, it's going to be good. We'll be ready to serve by 11 a.m., and we'll toast the close of Independents' Day, Cubed, at about 3 p.m. Hope to see ya there! 

    Independents' Day
    Sept. 20-22
    thisisindependent.com 

  • Independents' Day 2013 food lineup

    Independents' Day 2013 food lineup

    There's been lots of buzz already about the music lineup for this year's Independents' Day festival, Sept. 20-22, which is no surprise because it's pretty super awesome. I happen to be more stoked about the food this year, and that's partly because Umami got to help shape the lineup for this year's fest(!) and partly because I've always got food on the brain. Here's who you'll spot on Saturday:

    The Coop: Before the brick-and-mortar Coop Cafe opens in Clintonville, The Coop food truck is the only place to snag chef Angela Theado's famous yak burgers and turducken tacos. Bonus: The Coop will also be out on Friday night for the Nina West-emceed portion of the festival!

    Ajumama: Laura Lee's imaginative Korean street food snagged her first place as best food truck in Columbus at this year's Columbus Food Truck and Cart Festival.

    Explorers Club: My pick for best newcomer to the food truck scene has actually been around on the Columbus dining scene for a few years. The Merion Village restaurant launched a food cart this year to share their Latin-tinged comfort food with the whole city.

    Mashita Noodles: John Franke's industrious little cart serves up steaming bowls of hand-crafted ramen noodles in flavorful broths, with add-ons like soft-cooked eggs. 

    Tatoheads: This truck is a celebration of the humble potato, with loaded french fries (like chorizo-cheese or spicy meatball) and wraps sided with tater tots. 

    Freedom a la Cart: The flavorful, veggie-packed sandwiches and salads offered at Freedom a la Cart will leave you with more than just a satisfied tummy. Proceeds from this cart go toward helping victims of human trafficking, so your soul will be satisfied too. 

    Paddy Wagon: Everything on the menu here comes with a wink and a name inspired by the law. So you've got the 15-to-Life BBQ Brisket Sandwich topped with homemade slaw and the Hot Pursuit wrap filled with Buffalo chicken, cheese, onions and ranch.

    Mikey's Late Night Slice: No Columbus festival experience is complete without slices of Spicy Ass Pepperoni or Mushroom with Roasted Garlic from the LNS PizzAssault Truck. 

    Pattycake Bakery: The Pattycake crew will be serving up a delightful selection of vegan baked goods, like cupcakes, cutout cookies, sandwich cookies and childhood-inspired mini snack cakes. 

    J-Pops: Hand-crafted, all-natural gourmet ice pops in seasonal favors like Cherry Limeade, Lemon-Basil and Cantaloupe-Mint!

    Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams: And let's not forget scoops of the city's best ice cream. You're going to need a few sugar rushes to keep you going for the full day of music, so just plan on making a few stops at the Jeni's truck. 

    INDEPENDENTS' DAY
    Friday-Sunday, Sept. 20-22
    thisisindependent.com

  • Q&A: White Rabbit co-chef William Fugitt

    Q&A: White Rabbit co-chef William Fugitt

    Not many chefs in Columbus have a resume as accomplished as William Fugitt, who began his career working under acclaimed French chef Jean-Louis Palladin at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C.

    From there, he’s worked in kitchens including the James Beard Award-winning Equinox, Tru in Chicago, and The French Laundry in Napa. Fugitt landed in Columbus after Jack Nicklaus talked him into cooking at Muirfield Village Golf Course, and he later worked in the kitchens at local destinations like Rigsby’s and Gallerie before joining the team at White Rabbit.

    Fugitt can’t wait to immerse himself in the world of modern cooking as co-executive chef at White Rabbit. Read on to learn why you're going to notice so many menu items incorporating truffles.

    What attracted you to White Rabbit?

    I love Erik and Lisa, and their style and comfortable approach to food and beverages. This being a modern-driven concept played a big part, too. I like the idea of being part of a restaurant that’s going to set trends and be groundbreaking for this city.

    You and Erik are listed as co-executive chefs. How have you worked together in planning the menu?

    We threw out ideas and bounced them off each other. Honestly, Erik is one of the only guys in town where I feel like I can throw something out and he can come back with a focused and detailed menu item that’s ready to go. We work very well together that way.

    How often will the White Rabbit menu change? 

    The standard evolution will be eight times a year. But everything will change seasonally. We won’t be serving morels after April. And we’re going to source as much as we can locally. We’ll be using lamb from Elysian Fields in southwestern Pennsylvania, beef from the OSU agricultural program, pork from Sweet Meadows.

    What do you bring to the White Rabbit team?

    I have a lot of high-end restaurant experience. Matched with Erik and Lisa’s approachability, it’s going to be great. I’ve helped them put together two tasting menus and a really stellar a la carte menu. From A-Z, the approach is going to be mind-blowing.

    You own your own truffle farm, right?

    Yes, about two hours away from Columbus. I have 400 trees on 10 acres. I go out there about twice a month. I have 10 guys on staff and 10 dogs. The truffles that don’t make the cut, we use to make our own dog food. That’s how our dogs get a taste for truffles. 

    NOTE: White Rabbit is set to open in September in the Brewery District in Columbus, Ohio. 

    WHITE RABBIT
    456 S. Front St., Brewery District
    whiterabbitcolumbus.com

  • White Rabbit sneak peek at Commonwealth Kitchen

    White Rabbit sneak peek at Commonwealth Kitchen

    White Rabbit, one of our first clients, is set to open by the end of July. To whet the city's appetite, chef Erik Till has been sharing a taste of his high-end cooking skills during monthly beer pairing dinners at North High Brewing. Thus far, Columbus has only gotten a hint of his talents through the sandwiches at Commonwealth, the Campus-area sandwich shop he and partner Lisa Edge opened a couple years back.

    For a North High Brewing dinner earlier this month, Till delighted guests with this five-course menu:

    1. Wild mushrooms confit in foie gras

    2. Seared duck breast with chevre, watercress sauce and blackberry mostarda (pictured)

    3. Crab-stuffed white asparagus, pickled peppers, curried cauliflower puree

    4. Duck confit "burrito," wrapped in a French-style crepe

    5. Nitro ice cream, chocolate blackberry with chili caramel

    It was all pretty amazing, but my favorite dish was this seared duck breast. It wasn't much more than a bite, but offered just the perfect combination of flavors. Stay tuned for more from White Rabbit!

  • Exceptional service at Greenhouse Tavern

    Exceptional service at Greenhouse Tavern

    For my birthday, I had one of the most intense, visceral, memorable food experiences of my life: a roasted pig's head at Jonathon Sawyer's Greenhouse Tavern. That night, I couldn't even bring myself to Instagram the thing, that's how disturbing it looked. Underneath a thick layer of charred skin that was most definitely face-shaped was the most incredibly tender and smoky pork I've ever had the pleasure of putting in my mouth. 

    And yet. My favorite thing about that Greenhouse Tavern experience was our server. I didn't take a picture of him. I don't remember his name.  But if I could, I'd hire him to start a school for instructing others in the fine art (yes, art) of waiting tables. 
     
    His approach was refreshing and honest. The dude wore the black T-shirt-and-jeans uniform the place requires, and he was covered in tattoos and piercings. He took his job super seriously, but at the same time not too seriously. He was incredibly knowledgeable about the menu and specials, but walked us through everything in what felt like a very natural way.
     
    A lot of servers will recite the specials and menu highlights like it's a Shakespearean monologue. Not our guy. He took his time, spending a good 10 minutes on the food alone, offering suggestions on his favorite dishes and answering questions as we had them. He explained uncommon ingredients or techniques in a way that felt insidery but not pretentious or snobbish. He never strayed from talking shop, though, it was all about the food and drink.
     
    I don't know where he learned it, but he somehow found the exact perfect sweet spot in between insufferably snooty white-tablecloth service and its overly chatty, overly casual counterpart. Against all odds, he made our dinner experience feel like a conversation with a good buddy. At the end of the meal, I wanted to invite him out to grab a beer. I refrained. But I kind of wish I hadn't.