Thursday, February 21, 2008

i heart northstar

northstar cafe offers the perfect warm-you-up treat for cold winters days: hot chocolate and a raisin oatmeal cookie. the northstar's hot chocolate is so rich and decadent, i could make a meal of it. it's topped with cold, dense whipped cream and bits of dark chocolate covered in cocoa powder. so good!

Monday, February 18, 2008

fiery foods festival

i've been anticipating the fiery foods festival at the north market for a couple of weeks and it definitely didn't disappoint. we started by sampling products from sauce cartel, urban chefs and montezuma brands. now, i like hot food but don't really go for anything that could be classified as "stupid hot". i favor distinctive flavors with good back of the mouth heat. sauce cartel sells hot sauces that use a variety of fruits for flavor and sweetness that were really excellent. plus, the guys from sauce cartel positively ooze passion and excitement for their product. we picked up some green river sauce, made with pineapple and jalepenos. we also bought some soulicious wing sauce from urban chefs that had a great balance of heat, vinegar and smokiness.
next stop was cajohn's, for whom i've got a deep and abiding love. i sampled "the world's hottest chili" made with the the naga jolokia (scoville rating of 1 million!) i think the chili tasted good, but all i can really recall is my mouth burning for about twenty minutes after i sampled it. taking a break for lunch we had some pho ga from lac viet, a dish that never disappoints. don't miss the house-made chili sauce in the red quirt bottles. after lunch we attended "a chilihead's perspective" given by joe from the hot zone, a blog devoted to hot and spicy food products and chilihead culture. he talked briefly about the naga jolokia (pictured), the scoville rating system, chilihead culture and the online chilihead community. the "wings of fire" hot wing eating challenge was by far the high point of the day. a riveting mix of pain, testosterone, intestinal fortitude, endurance and sheer will, this competition was a real spectacle. presided over by the fine folks a cajohn's, there were two competitions. the rules were thus: contestants could surrender at any time by holding up a "surrender" sign or by taking a drink. for each round they had three wings to eat in 90 seconds, a 2 minute wait until the next round of three wings came out, with each round of wings getting successively hotter. among the hot sauces used for the competitions were: ignite, cojohns, ace, talon, and sauce 10. for the final round, a plate of ten wings covered in sauce 10 was placed in front of remaining contestants. whoever ate the most wings in 3 minutes was crowned the winner. halfway into the competition competitors' eyes were bulging and blinking, sweat glistening on their foreheads. in the last round of the competition, the guy i had pegged for the winner got sauce 10 in his eye and faltered. he did resume eating but the gentleman in the foreground of the picture below ended up winning the first competition.a contestant throwing in the towel:
the second competition was pretty fierce with representatives from the hot zone and sauce cartel competing. unfortunately, gary from sauce cartel dropped out: which left two competitors at the very end to be crowned co-champions. as joe from the hot zone limped away, guzzling a pint of milk, i heard him say "i think i saw god". now that my friends, is some fiery food.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

bistro 86, asian fusion

hidden in a strip of industrial grandview real estate, bistro 86 is coming up with some really intriguing and fresh fusion flavors.
we started with the bistro 86 croquettes - "a signature dish of japanese sticky rice, pork and romano, fused with a special blend of seasoning". the appearance and crisp exterior were appealing. the inside tasted good but was so sticky they were a bit unpleasant to eat. within the first bite my lips, teeth and tongue were hopelessly coated. the flavor of the filling reminded me of a processed pizza snack, something akin to totino's pizza rolls or a hot pocket.

my dining companion had the sesame chicken. the chicken was fresh and lightly battered, obviously prepared by the kitchen rather than from a preprepared frozen bag. this was a nice departure from average asian fare. the sauce was tangy and sweet with a slightly smokey background.
i started with the chicken corn soup, it was similar to egg drop soup with the addition of corn. the flavor was subtle with a full bodied texture, great for a cold day.
my obsession with pad thai compelled me to order the southwestern pad thai, even though i had my doubts about how good it would be. i pleasantly surprised by a dish that was a perfect fusion of southwest flavors and the classic pad thai. everything really worked and it was very tasty. high quality chicken & fresh veggies with the perfect sauce/noodle ratio. i love the caramelization added to the corn from cooking in the wok.
i've got to say i'm intrigued and plan to go back for more of this authentic fusion.

bistro 86
1223 goodale boulevarde
grandview, ohio 43212
614.223.1288 phone
614.223.1188 fax

Sunday, February 3, 2008

dates with manchego and walnuts

here's an elegant little appetizer that can be made a day in advance and tastes better together than three simple ingredients should. the dates are sweet, the manchego has a bit of a bite and the walnuts add a nice clean and crunchy element. and let's face it, if you're trying to pull off a nice dinner for guests, you don't really have time to be fussing around finishing off appetizers and finishing dinner and entertaining your guests and being the consummate hostess. if you do assemble them the night before, be sure to allow them to fully come up to room temperature before serving.
what you'll need: pitted dates (sliced open), whole walnut halves (cut in half) and a smallish hunk of manchego cheese. put those babies together and enjoy!