How much do you want to impress your holiday party guests? Not much? Cool. Get the bag of chips and premixed dip, and you’re good to go.
For those who aren’t the chips and dip type, there’s an easy way to wow your peeps this year.
Take your fanciest tray or cutting board out of the cupboard where it lurks 360 days a year, and put it in your car. Drive to Dutch’s Larder (3378 Erie Ave., Hyde Park, 513-871-1446). Leave the tray, and go home to hang garland and tinsel. When the halls are decked, head back over to Dutch’s and pick up a glorious charcuterie tray, spectacularly presented on your own personal platter. Ask them to match some wines to the treats on your tray. Bingo, you just won the holidays!
Seriously, this is the wow-factor your party always wanted. I visited Dutch’s on Election Day and saw someone pick up a hefty wooden slab with silver handles, resplendent with house-made pork terrine, waves of prosciutto and mortadella, chunks of artisanal cheeses and glistening olives. From the bumper sticker on the SUV that she drove, I imagine that she spent the last part of that particular evening crying salty tears into her warm, flat champagne. Nevermind. The charcuterie couldn’t lose.
Who makes this magic happen? Remember the funny looking pony keg on Erie Avenue that’s been there forever, the one that resembles a walk-up garage door? Yeah, that one. It’s evolved into a surprisingly sophisticated gourmet pantry and party shop, along with an attached bar that’s definitely worth a visit. If I lived closer, I’d be a regular.
The buildout of the space is really impressive for a small spot with such humble origins. The original carryout was a fixture in Hyde Park, dating back to 1947. Beer was the specialty of the house — today, they have more than 700 to choose from. I visited Dutch’s with my favorite beer-guy friend, and he couldn’t leave without enjoying a Prima Pils Pilsner from Victory Brewing in Downington, Pa. — one of eight draft handles that constantly rotate.
The “pantry” part of Dutch’s is just as impressive. Owners Jay and Pam Ashmore and their business partner, Chef Jim Cornwell, take a team approach when selecting the shop’s stock. During my brief visit, I grabbed:
Hoosier Momma Bloody Mary Maker
, a nicely balanced mixer from Indiana that’s won awards as well as rave reviews across the country.
Incredibly goodRaincoast Crisp Crackers
which are so delicious that I can’t live without them, and so expensive that I lick the empty cardboard container to make sure no crumbs go to waste.
Daelia’s Biscuits for Cheese
, another cracker that’s so good you need to choose the cheese to complement it, rather than the other way around.
.If you’re a goat cheese fan and haven’t tried goat butter, do. It’s a treat that reawakens your sense of taste.
Jeni’s Ice Cream
.Not that there’s a shortage of good ice cream made locally, but this Columbus specialty does offer intriguing flavors, including party-worthy Boozy Eggnog and Whiskey and Pecans.
Any or all of these would take a holiday party up a notch. Highest quality olive oils, pasta, cocktail garnishes, you name it. But the beer and wine selections, and especially the cheese and charcuterie, are what really make Dutch’s a destination. Jay Ashmore told me he believes they have the highest quality charcuterie in the area, with “in-house production of several items, high volume of product turnover which ensures its freshness and an experienced culinary team dedicated to the craft of caring for and presenting cured meats at a level on par with the artisan who makes it.”
To dine at Dutch’s, the chef’s selection of cured meats and cheeses with hazelnut honey, quince paste and crostini runs about $20 for a selection of four, and $40 for eight. Prices on a prepared tray would vary, I’m sure, based on the size and number of selections. Ashmore says the price isn’t as high as one might assume:
“While some of our selections can initially carry an intimidating price by weight, in reality the cost ends up being reasonable because of the style that it is presented in and the depth of flavor it has,” he says. From the terrine I tasted, I’d absolutely agree.
Even if you’re just attending rather than hosting, they have impressive gifts to take, from a chilled cava to a customized gift basket. Stop by Dutch’s to win the party, even if you lost the race. ©