There's No Place Like Home

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.

Our Ohio family had their own food traditions. Aunt Rose Ann brought five bean salad to our family gatherings. I love my aunt, but I always felt that was four beans too many. My grandmother (on my dad's side) introduced us to home-made whoopie pies, and she even made a chocolate cake with sauerkraut. My new friends came over for tacos, enchiladas, ribs on the grill and my grandmother's side-of-the-box recipe for macaroni salad with black olives.

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.
Despite a friend's warning that the big city was crime-ridden and hamburgers cost five dollars for heaven's sake, my young  husband and I moved to Columbus. I can trace much of my passion for learning about food back to that move. I loved combing my new surroundings for their culinary treasure.

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
First stop, the venerable North Market - Columbus’ only public market, home to dozens of unique, independent merchants and farmers, a grand central food destination that has grown gracefully into its location in a turn-of-the-century farm implements warehouse. During the growing season they host a farmer's market on Saturdays. Year-round the market is a great place to sample a wide variety of locally grown, locally made foods, shop for cookware and accessories, and share a meal with friends.

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.

Jeni's Ice Creams (Short North) on Urbanspoon

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.

After reveling in the treasures of the market, I cruised up High Street through my old stomping grounds in the Short North. A few standards remained, but most of the shops and restaurants were new to me. Armed with my Urbanspoon wishlist 
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 on Urbanspoon

TASI Cafe - Short North
TASI serves breakfast all day, but also dishes up lunch and dinner, with dine-in and carry-out options. Prices are super-affordable. There are only five parking spots, so it took a couple trips around the block before rock-star status was achieved, but once inside, a warm bowl of the soup du jour was my reward - a perfectly seasoned butternut squash puree accented with smokey-sweet roasted marcona almonds. If and when I'm back in Columbus I hope to sample more of their menu.

 Next stop on the "My Ohio" culinary road trip - German Village.


  1. The North Market sure has changed in the last 50 years!

    OK...so my name is Rose Ann and there are only a few of them. Are you related to the lady who works at Penney's in Lancaster? The only other one I know in the area...

  2. Hi Rose Ann - LOL - my aunt Rose Ann lives in Arkansas now. Oddly enough, however, my mom used to work at JC Penney in Lancaster decades ago!

  3. Jeni's is the best ice cream/gelato I have had anywhere. Over the holidays I enjoyed blackstrap molasses & pecan and the aforementioned chocolate and cayenne. This is ice cream raised to another level with intense flavors and silky mouth feel. I would sure like to find something like it in NE FLA. Thanks for sharing.

  4. The molasses and pecan sounds awesome Mike. I know a guy in St Augustine who is making some awesome sorbets - calls his business SeaCow Confections. He has a facebook page. AND have you tried the Paletas at the Hyppo in St Auggie?

  5. There's no such place like home, knowing that you enjoyed your trip not saying that with those yummy food you will forgot your so called homesick for a little while.


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