Posts tagged ‘Following Foodie’

Following Foodie – The Christmas Special

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season! I’m home in Philly, but I started off my celebration of Christmas with a little trip down to Cincinnati. My family and I used to spend Christmas in Cincinnati all the time, but we haven’t been there in December for at least 6? 7? years.

I started off my holiday weekend on Saturday night with a new Cincinnati tradition – Downtown Dazzle, aka Santa repelling down a building in Fountain Square.

You might remember Fountain Square from it’s appearance in my Oktoberfest post. This time, though, the Square was decked out for the holiday season

The tradition of Santa repelling has been taking place for about 5 years, and it was actually my uncle’s idea to start it! He’s an event planner in Cincinnati, and he thought it would be a great Cincinnati holiday tradition.

After watching the Cincinnati Boys’ Choir,

admiring the Christmas tree,

seeing Santa, an elf, and Rudolph scale down a building,

and watching some fireworks

my aunt, uncle, cousin, and other uncle went in search of food. After a few misses (downtown Cinci was pretty busy, what with all the spectators also looking for a good meal), we ended up at Nicholson’s Tavern and Pub, a “Scottish” pub-type restaurant.

I was immediately drawn to their impressive draught beer selection, and had no problem finding one of my favorites, Young’s Double Chocolate Stout.

We didn’t have to wait too long for a table, and after everyone ordered a drink, we were served nice hot bread

I really wasn’t in the mood for heavy pub food, and was excited to see a few interesting salads and sandwiches on the menu as well. After much internal debate (should I get traditional pub food, as I was in a pub?), I decided on the Grilled Ahi sandwich, with a side of steak fries.

It was delicious! I love ginger, and there was a definite gingery kick to this sandwich. I also appreciated the portion of fries – just enough.

However, the star of the meal was the real reason we came there in the first place – the Sticky Toffee Pudding. Before the dessert was brought out, some sugared spoons were brought to the table

And then, the dessert itself:

Yum! We split it between three people, and there was still some left over! It was so rich, but really delicious, too :D

Other highlights from my trip to Cinci included a trip to my Uncle’s in Northern Kentucky for his holiday open house. I can’t believe it, but I forgot my camera! Which is horrible, because other than the food (which included baked brie, amazing guacamole, little ham sandwiches, and chili dip), my uncle’s house is something to marvel at. For one thing, he has 7 Christmas trees. He also collects Peanuts memorabilia (specifically Snoopy stuff), and 4 of the 7 trees are Peanuts themed. Instead of looking tacky, though, it’s just really, really cool.

On Wednesday, I finally got to come home to Philadelphia, and was greeted with my family’s Christmas tree,

Christmas decorations

and the remains of the blizzard of ‘09.

In comparison, here’s what we received, in Michigan (where it’s supposed to be nice and snowy).

Christmas Eve Day started for me with a chilly and icy 4-mile run. It felt wonderful, though, and set a nice precedent for the day, as did my unpictured bowl of yogurt.

The rest of the day was spent shopping (I just needed a few more things!), baking (more on that later :) and hanging out with my family.

Before church (our parish’s version of “Midnight Mass” takes place at 10:30), we had a Christmas Eve meal of stuffed shells, bread-machine bread and salad. I made the salad, a replica of my asparagus-pomegranate-chickpea salad I made before.

Not a huge fan of stuffed shells, I had some salad and bread.

Following food, we took some Christmas photos.

After church we swapped our Pollyanna gifts, a tradition we’ve had since we stopped going to Cincinnati, I think. Instead of everyone buying gifts for each other, we each draw a name. I was so excited for my gift – I drew my Phillies-loving brother, and actually bought for him the picture that I used for that post, as well as baseball-related book.

Christmas morning, we awoke to presents under the tree!

I love Christmas so much. And although I do love opening presents, as I get older, it’s becoming more fun for me to watch others open their presents, and to enjoy time with my family and their craziness.

I got some pretty cool stuff

but it was really more fun to watch everyone else open their gifts.

The rest of today has been spent doing exactly what I think you should do on Christmas – sitting around, napping, and eating. I had a fairly tame breakfast and lunch,

but have definitely supplemented it with some (previously promised) Christmas cookies.

Yum. Now, maybe I’ll go for a run. Or perhaps sit around and watch The Nightmare Before Christmas


December 25, 2009 at 5:20 pm Leave a comment

Following Foodie – Columbus, OH

Today, my brother and I drove down to Columbus, OH to watch his girlfriend play at hockey game at THE Ohio State University (I find it so funny how some universities make such a big deal about the the at the beginning of the name – The Pennsylvania State University is the same way).

I’ve been to Cincinnati a million times before, but I’ve actually never been to Columbus. Using a couple (non-food) blogs for reference, I noted a few places to visit before leaving – mainly the neighborhoods Short North and German Village.

Firstly, the drive to Columbus was certainly different from the times I’ve driven down to Cinci. We traveled on quite a few two-lane highways, through a bunch of cute little towns.

A not so big secret about me – I love “rural” places and small towns (someday soon I plan to write a post about my summer vacation to Kansas), and like to fantasize about living in one.

The drive was fun, but Columbus itself was impressive. There’s something about southern Ohio that I just really like, and Columbus did not disappoint.

We started our day with a walk around the German Village. We definitely didn’t get to fully appreciate it (we had a hockey game to get to), but what we did see was so nice! We stopped for breakfast at Cup O Joe first, a nice little coffee shop with two locations in Columbus, I believe. I got a Five Grain Bagel with cream cheese, and their pumpkin latte.

The bagel wasn’t anything to write home about (it was a good bagel, but it wasn’t fantastic), but the latte sure was. They claimed it was made with fresh pumpkin, and I would believe them completely! It was so thick and even a little textured – which sounds gross, but was actually quite delicious.

We next went to the Book Loft, where I had to literally hide my money from myself.

Why, do you ask? Well, take a look at the map for the bookstore:

Yup, a map. Because the Book Loft has 32 rooms of books. And not only books – discounted books! Most have a discount of around 5%, but there were some with a 30-40 or more percent discount. I have no money for books (all my money goes to food :) right now, so I didn’t buy anything, but wow, what a place. It was a “proper” bookstore, with high shelves and windy rooms – I could have spent all day in there!

But alas, we didn’t have all day. We drove over the the campus, and were greeted first with the sight of the Horseshoe.

The game was fun – I really like hockey, and Michigan won! (? I still can’t call myself a Michigan fan, but I’m glad for my brother’s girlfriend…). Before beginning the drive back to Ann Arbor, my brother was so kind to indulge me and drive through the Short North.

If I lived in Columbus, this is where I would live! So many interesting (and local!) shops and restaurants, with really cool architecture as well.

It’s also home to the North Market, a public market in Columbus.

Inside there were quite a few interesting places to eat, but I ultimately decided to get a Vegetarian Crepe at Taste from Belgium.

My brother opted for Skyline

Verdict? Columbus = pretty awesome. I’d love to go back…And at only ~3 hours from Ann Arbor, I think I will do :)

Edited to add: Thank you so much to Mt. Victory, OH’s website for mentioning my post! I’ve now tagged the photo accordingly…and am already attempting to plan a trip back :)

December 6, 2009 at 10:40 pm 3 comments

Prolonging Fall As Much As Possible

Been awhile, huh? It’s not something I’m happy with, but the truth is I’m still struggling with life a bit, and as a result, regular eating, and healthy eating especially, has gone by the wayside. It’s November, though, I’ve got groceries and a weekly meal plan, and the Phillies didn’t lose last night! So all is good.

Speaking of the Phillies, I had the absolute privilege to attend my first World Series game on Saturday night! As I’m not such a huge fan of Halloween, getting to go experience the Fall Classic (and getting back to Citizens Bank Park!) seemed like a much better alternative.

My brother and I started our night in front of Citizens Bank Park, in a little fair that had been set up out front.

Much to my delight, there was free Turkey Hill Graham Slam ice cream!

Considering this retails for $4-5 inside the park, it was quite the score! I did not get a Helmet Sundae, however :( It got really cold as the night went on, and I was already ice cream’ed out.

There was also free swag, music, and photo opportunities!

Yup, I’m very much not in red, I realize that. But I am rocking my awesome Halloween Phillies shirt! With a flaming pumpkin on the front, and the World Series logo. I thought it was appropriate :)

Inside the park, after more photos:

we made a trip around to see the craziness. There was just such an awesome buzz inside (that honestly, I had felt at the mall, too – Philly is crazy :) so much more powerful than “regular” games. I also stopped to get some Crab Fries.

A local sports bar, Chickie’s and Pete’s, has these awesome fries, seasoned with crab seasoning, that comes with this (horrible for you, I’m sure) white cheese sauce. There’s only one stand for them in all of the public parts of Citizens Bank Park (the ritzy seats have their own…), and once, my brother and I waited in line for almost 3 full innings to get them. No lie. And yes, they are worth it!

We had pretty good seats, but for the first hour, this is all we saw:

I ate a cheesesteak while waiting, but it’s unpictured, because I honestly think I scarfed it before thinking of taking a picture. Finally, though, the game began, and in true Phillies fans fashion, the rally towels were flying!

Unfortunately, though, that awesome energy only lasted the first few innings, as the team pretty much fell apart :( Loss or not, though, being able to attend a World Series game, in Philadelphia, was an amazing experience.

But now I’m back in Michigan, and must resign myself to merely watch on TV, and hear the awesome stories of my brothers, who are doing cool things like meeting players’ family members…C’est la vie.

Last night, I used an Acorn Squash that’s been sitting in my kitchen for quite sometime to make a recipe that’s been sitting in my “To Make” folder for just as long, Christina’s Roasted Acorn Squash with Corn Pudding. I made a few changes, namely using red pepper instead of green, omitting the jalapenos, and adding a quarter of an onion, chopped. My bacon was also Applewood smoked.

Oh my gosh, was this good! The only thing I would do differently next time (and there will be a next time!) is not using so much milk – it ran over my squash bowls. It’s so sweet and savory and filling; amazing! So good, I had no problem having it for dinner again tonight, with carrots and Trader Joe’s Chipotle Pepper Hummus (which has quite the kick to it!).

My dessert was more Great Harvest Biscotti. And some milk.

And some Biggest Loser. Which I’m going to finish now, and then go to bed!


November 3, 2009 at 10:01 pm 1 comment

Following Foodie – Zinzinnati, USA

First off, my apologies for the long absence. As I said, I was gone all weekend, and then I had a slightly stressful beginning to my week, so that’s my reason for the silence. But now I’m back!

So this weekend, I again ventured down to Cincinnati. This time, I went in order to experience Oktoberfest in Zinzinnati, possibly an even bigger event than the WEBN Fireworks.

Oktoberfest in Germany began on October 18, 1810 to celebrate the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. Nowadays it lasts for 16 days (17 or 18 on years when the anniversary of Germany’s reunification falls on that last weekend). It’s the largest public fair in the world, hosting 6 and a half million people over the two weeks it takes place.

The last time I was in Cincinnati for Oktoberfest was when I was probably 5 or 6. I got the opportunity to go to the real Oktoberfest in Munich in 2006 while I was studying in London, so I was excited to see the differences. Cinci’s Oktoberfest is actually the largest Oktoberfest celebration outside of Munich, and is so big that it’s even been renamed America’s Oktoberfest. There is a huge concentration of German heritage in Cinci – 28 German groups from Cincinnati were there to open the festival!

Many of the German restaurants in the area come out to sell food, there’s live polka music, and there’s even a German beer tent or two :)

Cincinnati’s Oktoberfest is not only the largest Oktoberfest outside of Munich, but it’s also one of the largest fairs of its kind – there are over half a million visitors over two days.

It also is where the record-holding largest group Chicken Dance occurred, during last year’s Oktoberfest. For those who don’t know, the chicken dance is a great music and dance combination – I grew up dancing it at weddings and other celebrations. At Oktoberfest, the chicken dance is always led by the Master of Ceremonies. This year, in honor of their 20th Anniversary (and maybe his love of food and beer), the MC was none other than Homer Simpson.

Unfortunately I missed the group dance, as it took place on Sunday, but there was plenty of it around the streets.

For the opening ceremony, there was also a music group there from Germany, and a representative from Munich, who gave a little speech. It was nice to hear some German :)

After watching the Opening Ceremonies, we began the true celebration of Oktoberfest – the eating and the drinking!

Warning: Some of the food seen below might be horrifying.

Immediately when I got there, I keyed in on the Pretzels. German Brezeln are possibly my favorite food ever, and I have yet to find a suitable substitution in America (calm down, Philly, I still love your soft pretzels, but they’re just a completely different food). These, however, came pretty darn close to the pretzels I ate at Oktoberfest in Munich.

I think they actually ship them directly from Germany for the event, so I would hope that they would be good…

Next came some deep fried madness. And I mean madness. I ate some Sauerkraut Balls,

Fried Dill Pickles,

Jalapeño Sauerkraut Balls,

and Goetta Balls.

Many of those are pretty self explanatory, but goetta might be an unknown to those people who don’t have the pleasure of living in the Cincinnati area, or growing up in a family from the Cincinnati area. So what is goetta (pronounced GET-uh, or GUT-uh)? I’ll let the local company, Glier’s, explain.

Every time I would visit my mom’s parents in Cincinnati, there would always be goetta there for breakfast. I even started making it myself a few years ago. I’d really never had it commercially before (or in ball form – usually it’s in pancake form, eaten with some bread and ketchup), and it was okay tasting. I think I’ll stick to the homemade version though :)

Oh yeah! And I did drink a beer at Oktoberfest (how can you not, really?). Surprisingly, my beer was a Samuel Adams Octoberfest beer. Now, whenever I think of Sam Adams, I immediately think of Boston, but it turns out that the creator of Sam Adams, Jim Koch, actually grew up in Cinci, and today, 35% of Sam Adams beers are brewed in Cincinnati!

Jim Koch was even there to help open the ceremony, and even brought a keg to tap to officially open the ceremony!

It wasn’t quite the same experience as being in Munich, but I think they captured the spirit of it – to eat and drink and be merry – quite nicely!

September 22, 2009 at 4:27 pm 2 comments

Cooking “Class”

Hollander’s is a local store in Ann Arbor that specializes in “decorative papers, bookbinding supplies, and workshops”. They have a printing shop in the basement, and a papery on the first floor – it’s all quite impressive. But the part of Hollander’s that I’m most interested in is on the second floor – that’s where the kitchen and cooking supplies are! And for the first year, Hollander’s is offering cooking classes. At only $13 a class, I couldn’t resist! I signed up for the first one, entitled “Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes”. I’m actually not such a huge fan of tomatoes (raw, at least – I really like all that tomatoes can do, though), so I hoped that the class would help me to appreciate them a little more.

It wasn’t quite what I expected. When I think “class”, I think “hands-on”. I think in this situation, the word “demonstration” would be more appropriate. Other than that, it was fun to be in the room for what was essentially a Food Network show – it’s much more interesting when you can smell (and taste!) everything.

And we did get to taste. My favorite was the first thing we were served – Savory Tomato Shortcakes.

I feel weird about sharing the recipe – if I ever make it myself (and I think I will!) I might be more inclined, but do know that the cheese-like substance on top is actually heavy whipping cream whipped and seasoned with herbs – it was so surprisingly light, and went fantastically with the tomatoes. The tomatoes were simply dressed – only garlic, shallots, olive oil, and S+P, but even so, they were fantastic (and that’s coming from this tomato skeptic).

It’s funny – I guess there’s just so much cooking knowledge that I consider to be common knowledge, but the instructor explained, for instance, that “cloves” are the smaller lobes of a garlic “bulb”, and that shallots are smaller, less intense onions. But I did learn some new things myself, such as that roma tomatoes are more meaty (and therefore less watery) than most types of tomato. That should actually be helpful knowledge for me – I hate watery tomatoes. I also learned that Kosher salt is better than table salt to use because it dissolves more quickly, which makes it easier to salt to taste. I use Kosher salt when I cook, but I didn’t know that was the reason why!

The next dish was a Goat Cheese and Tomato Tart.

Anything made with puff pastry is delicious in my book, and this did not disappoint. I liked that honey was added to the goat cheese mixture, with the intent of dulling some of the sharpness of the goat cheese. I’m actually not a huge fan of goat cheese either (I know, what kind of a foodie am I?), and I liked this tip.

The final dish was good, but nothing special.

Called Drunkard’s Macaroni (or Maccheroni all’Ubriaca), it was made with cognac as the “secret drunkard’s” ingredient. I feel like I could come up with something much more interesting than this was, but still, it would be a good recipe to make for my brother :)

I wish I had made anything as interesting as was made in the class today; alas, I just had a lot of repeats, so I’ll spare you. I did, however, make it to the Farmers’ Market, where I picked up a few goodies:

And I saw something amazing there, too – apple cider! I love apple cider; it’s definitely one of my favorite parts of Fall. I didn’t get any today (I’m trying to wait until October – we’ll see if I last that long!), but you will definitely see some in the future!

September 16, 2009 at 11:30 pm 3 comments

Welcome to Hell (MI)!

Today, I spent the day in Hell. Surprisingly, Hell is a pretty nice place – it looks something like this:

Hell is actually an “unincorporated district” in Michigan, about 15 miles West of Ann Arbor. According to Wikipedia, there are two possible reasons for its name:

  1. German travelers visiting the area in the 1830s proclaimed “So schön hell!”, which means “How beautifully bright”. People heard the statement, and the name “Hell” stuck.
  2. When asked what he wanted to name the town he helped to settle, George Reeves said, “…you can name it Hell for all I care” and they did.

Interesting, no? I wasn’t actually in Hell, I was actually in Pinckney State Park, and I was volunteering for the Dances with Dirt races. The DWD races are a 100k relay, a 50k ultramarathon and a 50mile ultramarathon through rugged terrain (hence Hell and Dances with Dirt – think trails that aren’t kept up, and water up to people’s knees in places!). The relay teams are made up of 5 people who each run 3 legs, about 12 miles each.

I volunteered not only because I’m looking to get into the running scene in Ann Arbor, but also because my Half-Marathon (in two weeks, omg!) actually also takes place in Pinckney State Park – I wanted to suss it out beforehand. And I have to admit, I’m sorta terrified. I didn’t realize my race was going to be quite such a trail race (though, admittedly, it’s not exactly the same route…). All I can say, is that if I actually finish the race, it’s going to be an accomplishment beyond just the Half…

But anyway. Basically, today, I got to direct traffic as teams approached our exchange (exchange 11-12). We were having people park in a soybean field, so there was much direction needed. I, of course, packed some snacks before I went

which was quite lucky, because I ended up being there from 11-5:30, with no break or food supply, except for a Gatorade provided by a volunteer-mate:

I don’t even like Gatorade, but after 4 hours standing in the sun, it was a little piece of Heaven in Hell :)

Car traffic in our little corner of Hell varied muchly throughout the day. It went from this:

to this:

Volunteering was a lot of fun, but now I’m so inspired to do a race like this! Perhaps next year I’ll actually have some people to run with…

I came home starving, and snacked on some Trader Joe’s Pita Mini Pita Bread and Sabra Spinach and Artichoke Hummus while I made dinner.

The pitas were so good! Very fluffy and light and quite a nice snack.

For dinner I made an old favorite, revamped a little.

I roasted some zucchini and red pepper in the oven (425 with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of rosemary until soft and brown) and toasted up a Hemp Bagel. I spread pesto and pizza cheese on the bagel, and topped that with spinach and cucumbers. Put it all together, and you get that bit of deliciousness above :)

I also ate some leftover couscous

and some chocolate milk, made with TJs Midnight Moo.

Dessert was provided by the HomeGrown Festival in Kerrytown. I really wish I hadn’t been so tired and hungry after today; I would have loved to have eaten at the Festival – it was basically a celebration of local food in Michigan generally and food in Ann Arbor specifically. Many local restaurants had samples and products for pretty cheap, but since I had already eaten, I had to settle for a small sample from a local pizza place:

Coincidentally, the cheese in the tart was provided by Zingerman’s. It was delicious.

And now, I’m off to bed – hopefully tomorrow will bring a long run with a new running partner…!

September 12, 2009 at 10:07 pm 1 comment

Following Foodie: An Ann Arbor Institution

So difficult! I had such good eats all day today, but I think I’ll post about them tomorrow morning. Tonight, I’d like to introduce everyone to possibly the most famous food institution in Ann Arbor, the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses. The “Community” consists of a Bakehouse, Creamery, Delicatessen, Catering Company, Coffeeshop and the Zingerman’s Roadhouse, a full-service restaurant.  I actually found out about Zingerman’s the first time I visited Ann Arbor (all the way back in June…) when I was researching “the best places to eat in Ann Arbor”. Zingerman’s came up in basically every search I did.

Zingerman’s Delicatessen is located in the Kerrytown district of Ann Arbor, which I wrote about yesterday. 

The Deli is featuring bacon right now (Ari Weinzweig, co-founder of Zingerman’s, wrote a book on bacon called Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon…), and it’s immediately apparent when you come across the place – I could smell the bacon (quite literally!) and knew immediately what I wanted on a sandwich! The menu is very clear and concise (which is good, because it’s hung on a wall, and there’s usually a wall of people between you and the menu), and is divided by different types of meat and then vegetarian options – my eyes went right to the pork section! I decided on the Jen’s Pimento Parti – “Pimento cheese (Southern cheese spread with Vermont cheddar, mayo & pimentos), Arkansas peppered bacon, tomato on grilled brewhouse bread”. You also get asked what kind of pickle you want with your sandwich (how could it be a deli otherwise?); I chose a garlicky pickle (I could have also chosen a cucumber-y one…).

My sandwich came out pretty quickly; it was also really busy (if you go on the weekends, there’s usually a line out the door and around the block…). And *this* is what I received:

And yes, that’s a half size :)

The sandwich was spicy and delicious – I especially liked the bacon, because it was real thick-cut bacon, with a ton of pepper around the edges.

One of my favorite aspects of Zingerman’s is that they are completely transparent with where each and all of their ingredients comes from. The “general store” of Zingerman’s, which is inside the Deli, features a meat counter, a cheese counter, a bread counter, and different “sundries” (don’t you love that word?). For each item, there’s a description of not only what the item is, but where it comes from. There’s a lot of local foods (such as peanut butter from Michigan! – I want to try that!), and also specialty international items – I really want to try a pesto they sell there that’s from Italy. The only downside is that it is pretty expensive – both the sandwiches and the items they sell. But the quality is so good, that it’s easy to overlook the slightly high prices, because you know you’re getting a great product.

Of course, I had to end my meal with some sort of dessert (yes, I had to :)). I walked over to Zingerman’s Next Door, which has coffee, pastries, bagels, and ice cream. Which I immediately gravitated to.

I love the small size – the sandwich was so big, I don’t think I had room for anything bigger!

As I was leaving Zingerman’s I passed by this:

Which is a little garden with all different kinds of herbs (cinnamon basil? all kinds of mint – all kinds of awesome!) and tomatoes. It really just reinforced my positive feelings regarding the “Community of Businesses” – they’re really committed to producing the best food they possibly can, even if it means growing it themselves!

September 10, 2009 at 10:39 pm Leave a comment

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