If you're lost, you can look, and you will find me, time after time. ~ Cyndi Lauper
I recently returned to Ohio to visit dear friends over the holidays. I lived in Ohio for twenty plus years. I can't say my roots are there - but Ohio is definitely where I began to branch out and grow. Dropping in at old-school fave places (and experiencing some new faves) got me thinking...
What does "home" taste like to you? Is it your grandmother's traditional holiday cake, the weekday casserole you wolfed down in record time so you wouldn't be late to rehearsal? Spiced peaches - straight from the jar, served in a pressed glass dish, because they remind you of a dear departed one? Whatever our prowess in the kitchen today, in our hearts we keep the recipes for those simple moments long since past, when our lives were orderly and somewhat carefree. A taste of home.
Maybe that's what my parents had in mind in 1969, when they moved us from the shores of Long Beach, California to a slower paced life in Lancaster, Ohio. We settled in to our new home and began to adapt to its unique tastes and traditions. Farewell to real Mexican or Chinese food, hello to German and Dutch food. Chile was now "chilli con carne," soupy, with beans, and strangely sweet. Bell peppers were called "mangoes" in the store - before many Ohioans had the opportunity to taste actual "fruit mangoes." Farms, roadside stands and backyard gardens yielded fresh tomatoes, zucchini and "row-sneers" (roasting ears) of sweet corn.
At their homes I sampled a whole new world of culinary delights. Pasta was baked with ground beef and tomato sauce, topped with cheddar cheese and called "Johnny Marzetti" after a relative of a Columbus restaurant chef from decades earlier. Home-made noodles or dumplings simmered slowly on the stove with chicken for a stick-to-your-ribs comforting dish. Tuna met its mac, and life was good. My Swiss mother-in-law made the best scalloped potatoes ever, and shared her recipe for a broccoli-cheese casserole that I crave to this day.
|Used to live in this house on |
Neil Ave. in Victorian Village.
With weekly forays to specialty markets and ethnic restaurants, sampling an array of foods that had never graced our table while I was growing up, I was in culinary heaven. Each subsequent move to another city solidified my passion for seeking out the best local foods and ethnic specialties.
So on my most recent visit I spent a day cruising around my old "hometown" - stopping in to visit some classic faves and mapping a trail of new discoveries via Urbanspoon.
|The North Market - Columbus, Ohio|
If I lived in Columbus, breakfast and shopping at the market would be my Saturday morning ritual. Since I was just in the neighborhood for the day and had lots of ground to travel, I settled for a self-guided tour and some strategic snacking.
One standout was this savory pierogi from Hubert's Polish Kitchen. The gregarious Hubert Wilamowski talked me through the trays of scratch-made Golabki, kotlets, sausages, and sauces, and his passion for his craft was evident. It took all the willpower I could summon not to order one of everything. This little cheese, potato and onion filled gem, glistening with melted butter, reminded me that there are whole cuisines I have yet to fully explore.
A treat from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams was a must - despite the winter's chill. I enjoyed tasting my way through their artisan ice creams and sorbets, but I settled on two favorites - Queen City Cayenne, a rich chocolate ice cream with a sweet spicy hit, and the lovely, rich Cherry Lambic Sorbet - tangy, tart cherries blended with sweet, crisp cherry lambic beer. Together they reminded me of an over-the-top Black Forest ice cream cake. I loved it so much I snapped up a few gift certificates to treat my local friends and family to their own cones.
The North Market is where Jeni got her start - Jeni Britton Bauer and husband Charly Bauer co-founded the company in 2002. Together with their small team, they make every batch of ice cream that is served in their stores in Columbus or shipped to doorsteps nationwide.
I navigated Charlotte the Prius to my next destination - a block off the beaten path in Pearl Alley.
TASI Café is a friendly, casual spot featuring seasonal, all natural, healthy food. Its just the kind of place I wish were in my neighborhood.
A spin-off of sorts to one of the area's flagship restaurants (Rigsby's Cuisine Volatile), the cozy urban-chic TASI suits the Short North perfectly.
|TASI Cafe - Short North|
Next stop on the "My Ohio" culinary road trip - German Village.