Anne Mitchell: What would you make for dinner if you opened your fridge and saw pork jowl, bee pollen, sorrel and ancient-grain bread? If you’re chef Nick Marckwald from Hen of the Woods, you’d make a panzella salad with bacon and French breakfast radishes, and a yogurt and bee pollen dressing. That’s just one of the amazing things I got to taste on Saturday as one of three judges for the Raid the Garden chef’s competition at Gorman Heritage Farm’s Savor the Season.
Bryant Goulding from Rhinegeist and Grace Yek from WCPO.com shared the arduous task of eating delicious things with me. The competition is set up with two preliminary rounds and then a final cook-off between the winners. There’s a basic pantry stocked with goodies from Whole Foods in Mason but each round has “secret ingredients” that no one knows until the clock starts to tick.
While DJ Mowgli spun tunes, Brad Bernstein of Red Feather Kitchen and Martha McGinnis from Whole Foods went up against last year’s champ, Jaime Carmody in Round One. Carmody, of Out of Thyme, is a personal caterer and cooking instructor, and she’s a calm but determined force when you put her behind a butane burner. The mystery ingredients for the first round were foraged ramps — a chef’s darling of spring — Grateful Grahams, Fab Ferments' Beet Kvass and quail. Chef Jackson Rouse of The Rookwood, emcee of the event, assured me that he loves to cook quail, but 20 minutes is not a long cooking time for tough little game birds. All three of the chefs in this round did an amazing job of plating up pretty food, and McGinnis’ dish had a Cordon Bleu-worthy sauce, but Carmody managed to get her quail closest to done, and won the round.
Marckwald was up against James Dean Gadd from The Rookwood, and Mike Florea of Maribelle's eat +drink in Oakley, the founder of the local friendly chef competition, Food Fight. Florea put together an earthy cassoulet style dish with white cannellini beans, and Gadd nearly won the judges’ hearts with two simple words: candied bacon. Oh, yeah. But Marckwald’s dish wowed us — as judge Goulding said, “They’re all good, but I’ll still be talking about this one tomorrow.”
Mixologist Lance Bowman from Japp’s saw that we were working up a powerful thirst, and brought us each a sorrel-inspired cocktail to go with Course Two. We also got to revive ourselves with Nitro Coffee from Deeper Roots and a new local product, Hopwater. For the final round, though, there was no better pairing than a Rhinegeist Hustle.
The final competition is for dessert, but the ingredients aren’t all sweet. Maverick Chocolate from Findlay Market supplied their hand-crafted Espresso chocolate bar, but there were also morel mushrooms and fresh thyme. Chef Carmody whipped together a chocolate cream-of-wheat garnished with spicy tortilla crisps that was a big bowl of comfort food, but Marckwald wowed us with chocolate pancakes with cranberry, morel and thyme gastrique.
Besides Raid the Garden, Savor featured chef demos from amazing talents like Todd Kelly of Orchids at the Palm Court, Allison Hines of Butcher Betties, Jose Salazar, Ryan Santos, Patrick Hague of Dutch’s Larder, and Marcus Hazel from Cincinnati Cooks. There were food trucks and wonderful food purveyors like Sheltowee Mushroom Farm, and cocktail pairings from Japp's Bowman with crostini from Julie Francis of Nectar. Savor is spring’s best food event — mark your calendar for next year now!
Ilene Ross: On Thursday night my daughter and I attended the dress rehearsal of the DAAP fashion show to watch my niece, a senior, debut her fabulous collection of sportswear. The show was amazing, but unfortunately we had arrived with empty stomachs. Luckily there is a little market right next to the student center, so I grabbed some small plastic cups filled with cheese-like product, yucky tasting grapes and cheap crackers for us to nibble on. When I asked my daughter why the grapes tasted so foul, she looked at me with a straight face and said, “preservatives.” On Friday morning a very sweet person showed up expectantly at my doorstep with a donut from Holtman’s because I had a not-so-great week. Whoever said food isn’t love is an asshole — at least in my book.
On Saturday night I hung out at Japp's with my pal Molly Wellmann — something I don’t get to do enough of because of her ridiculously busy schedule — while she tended bar for a bit. She made me the most perfect Manhattan, and when she was done working, we walked around the corner to Neons, met up with her boyfriend Bee and had some burgers from Taste 513 who were grilling there.
Friday and Saturday were pretty average days. Sunday Funday became a tour of OTR. I biked down and met with three friends for brunch at Kaze
to start. We shared a delicious carafe of brunch punch, which consisted of pineapple and rum. We also got some tasty shrimp sliders and shared their delicious french fries. We subsequently hit up Neons
. Our final stop was Kreuger's Tavern
, where we shared hot beer cheese and a pesto spread in front of the open doors by the patio. We shared a carafe or two of gin and juice to finish off the afternoon which had become evening. It was one of the best Sundays I've had in a while. Viva la spring!
I went to brunch at Sugar n' Spice
on Sunday. We only had to wait like an hour, which is a relatively short amount of time for the ol' SnS. We ended up getting the "honeymoon" table, which is a one-sided booth where you sit next to your dining partner and both face the same way. A little odd if you were having a business lunch, but pleasantly quirky otherwise. I ate a huge veggie omelet and a side of wispy thin blueberry pancakes. Their omelets are seriously huge — like a Chipotle burrito. I hate cooking eggs at home because they freak me out — they are like little sunshine mucus globs — but I love eating them.