Columbus Cajun – Home cookin’ with Louisiana Lynn Leonard

Things I know to be true about Louisiana-

1- Its hot.

2- Titular territory  in Thomas Jefferson’s grand land acquisition from the French, circa 1803.

3- About as exotic and far away from Columbus as one can get without the requirement of a passport.

Finally, and most importantly, Louisiana is the native home of one of my favorite Columbus citizens, Lynn Leonard, formerly of Lake Charles, Louisiana. Lynn has that confident and polite bearing of a real Southern gentleman, a 21st-century incarnation of someone from a Mark Twain short story. He is possessed with a brand of culturally engrained hospitality that while seemingly foreign in its application,is at such ease in its execution as to appear totally natural. In other words, Mr. Leonard makes good manners cool.

Lynn also has great stories, marking him as the ideal dining and drinks partner. He has lived many lives (though you’d never know it by his youthful and energetic face); he has sailed the seas, spun pre-dubstep house and techno as a nightclub DJ, surveyed the country as a long haul truck driver, worked on grand oil rigs and refineries, and owned a record store before High Fidelity made it cool. All of this results in the kind of personal narratives and anecdotes that prove invaluable at a dinner party. So imagine my elation when I was recently invited to his home to sample some delicacies recently returned from his homeland. Here is what I learned:

Food & Drink


Tiger Sauce, Where have you been all my life?

Our dinner started, as many meals are apt to do, with an appetizer of cheese and crackers. Cream cheese to be more precise. Cream cheese topped with a with what appeared to be a thin, dark red liquid, that upon further inspection turned out to be hot sauce. According to Lynn this wasn’t any ordinary hot sauce, oh no. This, my friends, is the hot baby of the bayou known as Tiger Sauce.

The flavor is like a more mature, deeper version of Tabasco. Spicy but not so hot that you can’t discern any of the other flavors, topped with a nice vinegar note. What really impressed me was the color, a deep redish brown hue that looked great on the stark white of the cream cheese. The entire dish reminded me of a favorite from my house as a kid, that perennial cocktail-hour classic of cream cheese and pepper jelly. This homey, less William-Sonoma version would be perfect for entertaining unexpected guests and it pairs great with an ice cold beer.

As expected, this first cajun course was paired with an equally cajun tale. It started with the planned execution of a chicken for Sunday dinner and ended with an accidental gunshot wound to the stomach.

Of course The Fox, in all of her mixological wisdom, was prepared with the perfect drink for the occasion, one she called Cajun Lemonade.


Cajun Lemonade, perfect for washing down some Tiger Sauce!

The recipe is simple:

Combine equal parts Pimms with white rum and two parts lemonade and thinly sliced lemon wheels. Serve over ice and top with a dash of hot sauce and Mexican 7-UP. Garnish with lemon.

The result is a sweet, but not too sweet cooler with a hint of heat and the perfect amount of fizz from the soda. Definitely my new go-to summer-time part drink! Perfect for whipping up a pitcher and sharing with friends around the pool or BBQ.

The next offering in Lynn’s culinary Tour de Louisiane was as delicious as it was unexpected. Presented on their own, simply and without any accoutrement, our second course appeared to be small, pan seared sausages. Their ordinary appearance masked their novelty, both in texture and flavor. Allow me to introduce: boudin.



Pronounced boo-dan, this catchall term literally means sausage, and can refer to a wide range of pork based meats in a natural casing. The cajun boudin blanc is a smoked pork sauce that has the addition of eggs, some dairy and rice. This results in an incredibly delicate texture that falls apart in your mouth. The smoke is stronger than european sausages of the same ilk and the seasoning stronger. Ours were served without any traditional garnish or side sauces because they simply didn’t need them. Lynn’s pick for the best boudin, and the one we were lucky enough to try, comes from Rabideaux’s Sausage Kitchen, also of Lake Charles.

In between bites of spicy cheese, smokey sausage and sweet lemonade we managed to make room for another swampland libation, this time in a slightly less adulterated form.


“Rule number 1, I’m number one. Rule number two, gator’s number two.” – Joe Dirt

The spiced rum tastes like Captain Morgan after he’s spent a long weekend in the French Quarter, but its the satsuma that’s really special! Imported by the Jesuits to “New Spain”, the satsuma (citrus unshiu, tangerine) was traditionally grown north of New Orleans. From there it found its way into rum, which in turn found its way into my glass. (What a world!) The result is a sweet and tart combo that is delicious when served chilled, preferably in the company of something spicy.

Our final dish, the entree for the evening, was the one Lynn was most excited for us to try. This dish was actually the impetus for the entire evening, and our invitation went something like this:

Come over. Bring the lady. I’ll make up a stuffed chicken!

My interest surly wasn’t piqued by the name; stuffed chicken, it souned so generic. Mom’s make stuffed chicken for Sunday dinner when they aren’t feeling too terribly inspired. But something in Lynn’s voice belied his excitement; he sounded generally hungry for whatever this banal sounding bird could be. (I puzzled over what stuffed chicken could mean. What was it stuffed with? Was this a normal chicken? Was this some sort of swamp dwelling super bird? Perhaps “stuffed chicken” was just a bad translation of some sexier creole word. One could hope it actually meant something more exciting than poultry filled with breading.)

So imagine my disappointment when we arrived and stuffed chicken turned out to be just that. Chicken. Chicken that had been stuffed…zzzzzzzzz. Somebody wake me up for dessert, because I’m going to assume that stuffed chicken, even by way of Louisiana, is just as boring as her midwestern cousin.

But I was wrong. So, so wrong.

And I didn’t even get a picture. Because it didn’t look all that special. (It looks like a whole roasted chicken.) And I probably wasn’t going to write about it, so why take a picture? And because it probably won’t be that good. And because I’m a dick. And, because karma is real, it turned out to be so delicious, that by the time I decided to snap a picture, we had already ravaged the poor girl beyond recognition.

And here is the funny part. I’m not even sure what it was that made this stuffed chicken so much better than all of the other stuffed chickens that had preceded it. It was stuffed with a cornbread stuffing and roasted. That’s it. But I’ll be damned if it wasn’t some of the best chicken I’ve eaten in my life!

Final Thoughts

So what did I learn? First, never judge a chicken by its cover. Two, we should be turning all of our tigers into sauce and putting that sauce on cream cheese. Three, if you happen to have some of that illicit tiger juice, combine it with lemonade and booze for a fun summer beverage. If that booze is from the bayou, even better.  Four, boudin isn’t the sole domain of Ray Finkle’s mother. (If anybody gets that joke, I’ll give them some of the rum and hot sauce I made off with…)

And lastly, if you get the chance, be like my friend Lynn. Be kind. Open your home up to your friends and share the food that you love. Be just as free with your stories as you are with your wine (or in his case, rum). Do these things in the spirit of friendship. Take a tip from your southern neighbor and sow the seeds of hospitality. For when you do you’ll reap the harvest of a life well spent, I gawr-on-tee!

Rooks Rising : Chef Aaron Mercier’s “New South Dinner” (video)

Chef Aaron Mercier is the busiest chef in Columbus that you haven’t heard of…yet. Fresh off a culinary tour south of the Mason-Dixon, Chef Mercier brought some of that Sean-Brock-inspired southern cuisine back to the capital city in the form of his second pop-up dinner in as many weeks. Following up on his Dinner Lab debut (and an early spring pop-up at Angry Bear Kitchen, of which i heard the soup course was to die for…) Chef Mercier’s “New South Dinner” was an opportunity to share some of the inspiration he gleamed from dining at some of the South-East’s best restaurants. (Cochon, anyone? Okay, how about The Inn at Little Washington?)

The six-course affair showcased what Chef Aaron does best: thoughtfully crafted menus that are exciting yet accessible and unpretentious. Bucking the trend of the traditional wine pairing, Chef opted for beer in fruitful collaboration with Columbus’ Actual Brewing Company. The combination of his primal, smokey flavors with the often cerebral quality of Actual’s brews proved a match made in dinner heaven.

The stand-out dish came mid-way through the 2-hour affair in the form of a delicious shrimp offering. Large achiote coated crustaceans were served over a bed of creamy corn and pepper chowder (a.k.a. maque choux), a testament to Chef Arron’s time spent in the gastronomical melange that is New Orleans. The dish was garnished with dried corn flowers from Clintonville’s Boline apothecary.


Maque choux, the dinner’s pitch perfect highlight.

The maturity of this dish, the subtlety of the maque choux punctuated by the savory spicy of the achiote shrimp, shows a chef coming into his own. The plating, rustic and beautiful, while playful and with a deft eye for color. (From a technical standpoint, I’d never seen the blue from the cornflower on a plate before. The effect was powerful.)

Check out the video for a look at the rest of the dishes from “The New South”:

So what’s next for Chef Mercier? In July, look out for another collaboration from Aaron  and The Commissary; this time in the form of a Game of Thrones themed dinner. (Food nerds and regular nerds unite!) At the dinner he also hinted at the opening of a brick-and-mortar concept, Rook’s Rustic Tavern, to be opened “soon” at an as yet unknown location.

If this brief trip through “The New South” was any indication of things to come, we can’t wait for Rooks to find a permanent roost here in Columbus!

“So what do you do now?” – A Wanderlünch F.A.Q.

So I’m back home for the next week, recuperating from the madness that was the Rolling Stones. (My first day home I slept for 14 hours straight.) I’ve just completed my first “run” and feel like I can confidently answer some of the questions I’m frequently asked about the job. So here we go…

Continue reading

A rolling stone gathers no moss…


Been in KC since yesterday. Travelled all night from Green Bay and it was one of the best rides of my life. The totally free feeling of traveling on the tour bus is pretty unique. Looking out at the stars as we drove through northern Wisconsin was indescribable. 

Caught a ball game at Kaufman Stadium in the afternoon yesterday. 

The home team got blown out by the visiting Red Sox 12-0. I was asked not to return to any KC ball games because I’m apparently bad luck. 


Arrowhead Stadium

Today we are back to work, doing prep work for the Rolling Stones show. We are making food for the steel workers who are building the stage. So we are making a lot of food. Those boys can eat! 

This weekend we are catering for the crew and Saturday night is the show. To say I’m excited about watching the Rolling Stones from backstage is a bit of an understatement. Updates to follow! 

Departure Delayed or How I Got to Make Fish Tacos

I was ready to go. Like for real, for once, confident that my collective ducks were in a row and I was prepared to leave. I was packed and I had said my goodbyes. Now boarding Flight 001 to Adeventure. I was ready.

So imagine my surprise when I awoke yesterday to storm clouds and an email from my new boss.

Flight’s cancelled.  Best we can do is get you out in the morning.


“Relax, Dude, nothing is fucked here.”

I was just about to get comfortable with my disappointment, about to feel really sorry for myself when I saw The Fox. She had put on a stiff upper lip about this trip but I could tell she wasn’t thrilled about me being gone all summer. I could see that the news that I’d be in town for another day was making her happy so I decided to delay the pity party.

We spent a pretty unremarkable day together puttering around the house. It was chill, to borrow the parlance of our time.

At dinner we tossed around the idea of going out, but nothing sounded very appealing. In the rush to get ready we had eaten out the last few nights and we decided that a meal at home would be appropriate. Not having anything particular in mind we sojourned to Lucky’s Market for a bit of inspiration.

Going to the store with nothing in mind to buy is one of my favorite things about cooking. It’s how I get my best ideas. The idea is to buy seasonal produce and let that inspire the rest of the meal.

Last night  we were attracted to corn (not quite in season yet, but on sale) and stone fruit, which is definitely hitting peak season. I love charred Mexican vegetables so I knew that’s what I wanted to do with the corn. The nectarine would substitute the more traditional mango found in salsa for fish tacos. We had a frozen salmon filet in the freezer, so we made it out of the store relatively cheaply.

The only real impulse buy was the fresh turmeric. It catches my eye every time I’m at Lucky’s and I finally caved. I’m really happy I picked it up because it added something special to the tacos. The taste is like ginger hooked up with a radish, resulting in a fresh and spicy earthy-ness that is really unique. It’s also beautiful and according to The Fox it promotes memory function. Don’t skip the turmeric!

The end result, other than some really dope tacos, was that The Fox and I enjoyed one last meal, prepared together, in the comfort of our shared home. We finally got around to talking about some stuff we had put off: expectations for communication while I’m away and some ways to show each other that we love one another from afar. We even came up with a code word designed to “re-set” any conversation that is moving toward conflict; a magic word to take us back to a loving place. To bring us both back home, together. (The word is corncob, if you’re curious.)

I started the day feeling a bit like Keouac’s hero in “On The Road” who expectantly heads out on a cross-country journey, only to become stranded on his very first day and to end up right back where he started. But we made the most of it and ended up, not where we started, but in a stronger place. One that will make the travel that much more enjoyable. And what have we learned?

When you travel, sometimes life hands you fish. Make tacos. 


Blackened Salmon Tacos w/ Charred Corn and Nectarine Salsa

Makes 6 tacos

The Salsa

  • 1 EA. fresh corn, kernels cut from cob and blanched
  • 1/2 EA. Nectarine, stone removed and brunoise 
  • 8 EA. cheery tomatoes, oblique cut
  • 2 T. cilantro, picked from the stem
  • Juice from 1/2 lime
  • Kosher salt to taste

Wash your damn hands then heat your cast iron skillet. Do this dry, no need to add any oil. Throw in the corn and char, tossing so you get some black one all sides. Some of the kernels are going to pop. Attempt to catch popping kernels in your mouth. Cooking should be fun.

Remove the corn from the heat and let cool for a few minutes. Once cool-ish, add to a mixing bowl and combine with remaining ingredients, adding lime juice and salt last. When adding the salt/lime juice, go slow and taste the salsa as you go. Be careful not to overpower the taste of the nectarine. Should be a nice balance between salty, sweet, and sour.

The Fish

  • 1 T. Hungarian Paprika
  • 1 T. Dark Chili Powder
  • 1 t. Dried Cumin
  • 1 t. Kosher Salt
  • 1 EA. Salmon filet, skin on

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix all the dry spices together with the salt. Pat the salmon dry with a paper towel and then cover the fish with the blackening spice. Heat peanut oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Heat until the oil shimmers in the pan and is almost smoking. Place the salmon in the pan skin side down. Cook until the fish is cooked just under half way. Flip it and pop that summ’bitch in the oven. Cook another 4-8 minutes, depending on preferred done-ness. Remove from the pan and rest a couple of minutes before flaking and putting on the tacos.

Avocado Puree

  • 1 EA. Ripe Avocado
  • Lime Juice to taste
  • Kosher Salt to taste

Remove the stone from the avocado and scoop out both halves with a spoon. Place in a high walled container, i like a 1 qt. deli cup and add the salt and some lime. Using an immersion / stick blender, mix well. The goal is to whip as much air into the avocado as possible. You want something really smooth and fluffy. If you don’t have a stick blender just use a fork.

To Serve

  • 1/2 C. nappa cabbage, shocked then sliced into thin strips
  • Broccoli sprout micogreens
  • 6 EA. corn tortillas, heated for one minute in the oven
  • Fresh tumeric

Combine the cabbage and the microgreens. Place flaked salmon on the tortilla. Place a swipe of avocado on one side of the fish. Top with corn salsa and cabbage/microgreen mixture. Using a microplane, grate the tumeric over the taco. Serve immediately.

Farm to Bottle: “Graft” Wine Tasting Wrap-up


Redde Hedde Farms and Wine Trends’ first annual wine-tasting-meets-hootanany Graft was by all accounts a blast. The Columbus-based wine distributor found a fruitful collaboration with Delaware’s favorite boutique farm. Live music accompanied a self-serve wine tasting and a bountiful buffet from Local Roots as well as expert small plates prepared by Two Daughter’s Kimchi (pictued above).


The setting was a pictueresqe scene of rolling green fields paired with an azure sky topped with whipped clouds. The whites were cold and the reds tempered. The wine trends staff was available to answer any questions about a particular varietal or bottle, but generally let the wine speak for itself, something that gave the occasion the feel of a real party and not a sales pitch. It was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.


As it was a warm that afternoon the Fox and I stuck mainly to whites. Here are four of our favorites, a sampling of what we will be enjoying for the rest of the summer:

#1: Ponzi Pinot Gris

Producer: Ponzi Wine: Pinot Gris Vintage: 2013 Retail Price: $17.99

Will: “This was my favorite all-around wine, especially for the price. I liked its crisp, drinkable flavor and the dominant red apple taste. I think this wine would be really easy to pair with what I like to cook this time of year.” 

The Fox: “I thought this wine tasted really fresh and that it would be great for summer nights! There was something really floral about the bouquet on this bottle. The floral is balanced by notes of almond.”

Producer: Kermit Lynch Wine: Bugey Cerdon Vintage: N/V Retail Price: $24.99

Will: “This wine is a trip. 1/3 rose, 1/3 champagne, 1/3 framboise. I can’t tell if I hate this wine or if I love it. I feel like this is the ultimate pairing for a meal called “Basics at Brunch”. My sisters would fucking love this stuff”

The Fox: “I feel like this wine has a grape-juice flavor; sweet, bubbly, and light. As a bartender, I see a lot of possibility for creating great cocktails and spritzers. Use with caution though, because this stuff is seriously sweet.”

Producer: Lionel Raymond Wine: Bordeaux Vintage: 2013  Retail Price: $10.99

Will: “Isn’t bordeaux a red wine? I like this bottle, its tart and crisp. Lots of pear and apple flavor but also a body of melon tastes. I think this wine tastes like it should cost more than it does.”

The Fox: “Really drinkable. I think this wine has a slightly mineral quality that is actually pretty nice. The fruit flavor is balanced and the body is really smooth. The type of wine I could find myself drinking for an entire evening, no matter what I’m pairing it with. Well-rounded.”

Producer: Kermit Lynch Wine: Salvard Cheverny Loire Wine Vintage: 2013 Retail Price: $14.99

Will: “I love how dry this wine is. Pear and fruit notes with a backbone of something earthy. I can feel this wine on my teeth. I like a wine with plenty of tannin. Would drink again.”

The Fox: Nice and dry. This wine feels appropriate for the setting. I taste something like dirt to this as well. Good finish. Good wine.”

Packing It All In or What the hell do I bring?

I leave tomorrow and won’t be home again until September. This is my longest trip to date and I thought I’d celebrate by treating myself to some new luggage. (And in all honesty, I had a bag that I loved for travel but a cat peed on it and I didn’t think the faint but constant smell of feline piss was the best travel companion this summer.) I’m an adult now, or so I’m told, and felt like it was neigh time I had some proper, matching luggage. I want to feel like an experienced traveler. And what says worldly ramblin’ man better than pristine, never-seen-the-inside-of-a-plane matching bags?! Here is a breakdown of each bag and what I’m cammin’ in it!

The Suitcase

Probably the most important bag because it determines what you get to where while you’re away. No pics of this one because my undies are private. I will say that I’m bringing a weeks worth of all of the essentials; sox, underwear, t-shirts, and shorts. And no chef’s coats! Because we don’t have to wear ’em!

The Carry-On IMG_4285

  • Books- A Little Yellow Dogan Easy Rawlins mystery by the author of Devil in a Blue Dress, because a good noir is essential when you’re traveling. When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sadaris, because I need a reminder of what good writing looks like. Back issues of Popular Science, because I can always re-read a PopSci!
  • Notebooks- Nothing makes me more prepared to leave the house than a nice moleskin notebook. These miniature books fit in your wallet and are perfect for quick note-taking. This larger journal I use for keeping track of new recipes and taking detailed notes when planning a meal.
  • Pens- You aren’t ready to cook without a sharpie. And for note-taking, the greatest pen ever created.
  • Empty Water Bottle- Save some of that hard earned cash and refill your bottle on the other side of airport security. I get mine in a bright color so I’m less likely misplace it or leave it behind.
  • Drumsticks- For the boredom. To keep those chops extra beefy try the Vic Firth Corpsmaster Ralph Hardimon snare sticks.
  • Headphones-Noise canceling headphones are essential for travel, whether you’re trying to listen to some tunes over the din of an airplane or just want some quiet for catching a quick nap. These Sol Republic studio headphones looks sharp, sound great, and won’t break the bank.
  • Phone- Make sure you know your data and roaming policy before you head out of town!
  • Various Chargers- I like to imagine those halcyon days of travel before the charger.
  • Computer- Beat-ass old Mac, perfect for the road and maintaining the blog remotely.
  • Gameboy- 3DS with a library of titles, including Super Smash Bros. and Ocarina of Time.
  • Kitchen Timer- He is shaped like a hedgehog and his name is Dermut. I let him ride shotgun in the carry-on because he always keeps it 100 and because it gets lonely out there on the road.
  • Snacks- ‘fer keepin’ up the ol’ blood sugar. Avoid becoming “hangry” at all costs.
  • Bandana- Because I’ve read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy once or twice.  

  • Shades- Cause I’m cool like that.

The Knife Kit IMG_4281

  • Mercer Plating Kit-This kit includes all the specialty spoons pictured above, including the saucing spoon and my personal favorite, the slotted serving spoon.
  • Chef’s Knife- Wusthof 10″ Classic Cook’s Knife. Called “classic” for a reason. This knife can do pretty much anything.
  • Kitchen/Paring Knife- Wusthof 3-1/2″ paring knife. Just picked up this one at River’s Edge Cutlery especially for this trip and can’t wait to see how it handles. (I also took all of my knives to River’s Edge for sharpening prior to leaving. They do quick and reliable work at a low cost. Also, purchasing a knife earns you free sharpening for the life of that knife. I get my Shun set sharpened a few times a year.)
  • Honing Steel- Dear Mom & Dad, this is not a sharpener and does not replace your whet stone.
  • Speed Peeler- Never get caught without your peeler! This one is super dope.
  • Box Cutter- For breaking down boxes and rumbling with Jets!

The Dopp Kit IMG_4302 Just the highlights on this one:

  • Goldbond (travel size) –Because corn starch is always around.
  • Roto V’s Eyedrops- For red eyes from uh… allergies! Yeah! Allergies! (Seriously though, feels like putting an altoid in your eyeballs. In a good way.)
  • Blackbook – There is a black version of James Dean. His name is Kareem and this is the probably the best way to smell like him. (Pretty sure they don’t actually make this anymore…)
  • American Crew Forming Cream- For curly hairs!
  • CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion- Because skin care runs in my family. And because my girlfriend thinks about this kind of jazz. Has SPF 30 and leaves me silky smooth!
  • Cliff Arousal Beard Balm- Another local Columbus product, this stuff smells masculine and keeps my beard looking dapper!

Saviors of Summer: C-bus Sweets that Aren’t Jeni’s

You’ll probably always remember where you were when you heard that Columbus’ favorite sweet schleppers Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams announced that they had found listeria in their Columbus plant…for a second time. I heard the news through Facebook and immediately bemoaned the fact that I had missed out on some bramble-berry crisp in the brief ten-day window that Jeni’s was available between voluntary recalls.

Columbus social media today.

But fear not, gentle reader, because Columbus has plenty of ways to satisfy that glucose addicition that aren’t Jnni’s. When I need to chase that sugar dragon and Jeni’s isn’t an option, I head to these other cowtown favorites.

#1- Ollie’s Fine Ice Cream

Ollie’s Fine Ice Cream (19 S. Franklin St.)  is my favorite ice cream in Columbus (technically Delaware) right now, recall or no recall. Ollie’s provides an old-time alternative to the Straight-Outta-Pinterest-ness of a Jeni’s scoop shop. Ollie’s boasts its fair share of adventurous flavors (Mexican Coffee, Roasted Strawberry & Madagascar Vanilla, Caramelized Pretzel) the real difference comes in the production of the ice cream. Based on the slightly crystalline texture (and the fact that Ollie’s is prepared out of an old Victorian House, listeria concerns be damned!) I assume that they are making slow churn ice cream. Jeni’s production facility supposedly uses liquid nitrogen to quick freeze their ice cream, which, combined with the high fat content of their milk, results in that super smooth texture that is synonymous with modern ice creams.

If it wasn’t for the 25 minute or more drive to get there this would be my go-to ice cream shop. Though I’ve yet to try it, Ollie’s also has an “adults only menu” that has a section titled “Blenders & Benders”, which sounds like a Jimmy Buffet album, so they got that going for them too.

#2- Whit’s Frozen Custard

Where I’m from, southern Indiana, frozen custard is a seemingly bigger draw than ice cream. With its richer taste and thicker texture, I often prefer frozen custard over ice cream. I also think that frozen custard makes a better “bizzard” (blender? mix-up?)  Call me juvenile, but sometimes I prefer some plain vanilla custard with pieces of Butterfinger and Reese’s Peanutbutter cups whipped into it than a double scoop made with ingredients from the obscure sections of the Food Lover’s companion.

Not always required when ordering ice cream.

Whit’s Frozen Custard makes a great product that is sure to satisfy. They also have multiple locations across the city, including a shop in the Short North (841 N. High St., to satisfy your mid-gallery-hop ice cream break. (The Short North location is also next-door to House Beer, so pop-in and get a nice craft pint before and/or after!)

#3- Grater’s

One time my mom told me that this was Oprah’s favorite ice cream, so, there ya’ go. What else is there to say?

Oprah! You bastard!

Westward Ho! – Dinner at Delaware’s 12 West

Every time The Fox and I go to Delaware, I always have the same thought upon leaving:

“We should come to Delaware more often.”

For nigh on a decade there has been a quiet renaissance happening in The D, as students from Ohio Weaslyan and an increasingly affluent local population support an exciting city center with some of the best food and beverage options in Central Ohio. This charming square mile provides the diner with an array of culinary experiences; in Delaware it is seen as perfectly normal for the venerable greasy spoon The Hamburger Inn to rub shoulders with the likes of Veritas Tavern, incubator for Rigsby’s new head chef and Columbus wunderkind Silas Caeton.

So where does a place like 12 West (12 W William St, Delaware, OH) fall on this seemingly boundless dining spectrum? With a pitch perfect balance between seasonal and high quality dinner offerings served in the tastefully appointed low-light of the San-Fran Lounge inspired dining room, 12 West has found the sweet spot smack dab in the middle. Given her pastoral context in the midwestern-meets-cosmopolitan burg that is Delaware, I’d say 12 West is right where it should be.

The Food

The night’s dinner was a special occasion for The Fox and I. Her parents would be joining  us to say farewell before I head out on the road for the summer tour. The venue was their choice, and as 12 West had been on my radar for a while, my expectations were pretty high.

We got great parking directly in front of the restaurant. (10 POINTS TO DELAWARE!!)

We snagged the last table, a corner both by a big window overlooking the quaint but bustling street, lit as it was in the lingering long light of an early summer evening. It was okay, I guess. Drink menus were understated but carefully selected. As I do with places that serve any cuisine from a locál south of the Rio Grande, I stuck with imported bottles of Mexican beer. They were light and cold and had limes stabbed into their slim necks. Sometimes craft beer and cocktails need not apply. (That said, the 4 handles behind the bar were all devoted to craft brews, most local. 12 West also boasts a nice selection of craft bottles and a decent wine list.)

The dinner menu was split into two sections. The first being an a-la-carte menu of house made southwestern favorites. This section also saw a featured selection of tacos.


From top left going counter-clockwise: Empanadas, Tacos, Salmon Entree, Mexican Chocolate Cheesecake.

We started with the empanadas. They were fried GBD and came two-ways that night. One was a bean and cheese, the other chorizo. Both were topped with melty cotija and served with a really fresh pesto. The bean empanada was the stand-out. It somehow packed in more flavor and was really well balanced with the pesto, which offered a clever twist on the more commonly paired chimichurri.

On to the tacos, with a bit of a disclaimer. I was told by multiple sources to not skip out on the tacos, but given the multiple high profile taco shop openings in Columbus over the last couple of years (Bakersfield, Nada, Candado) I was feeling a bit weary. (I fear we have reached peak taco as a city.) But on the insistence of the parents Fox we ordered a few to share. We had the Barbacoa (that night’s chef special taco) and blackened shrimp as well as the cod and chorizo tacos respectively (not pictured). I’m glad I ignored my concerns over the redundancy of the Columbus taco market because these were great! They had an off the cuff quality about them that was refreshing and they were fun to share. Each taco featured some really fresh produce, including delicious locally raised radishes from Redde Hedde Farms as well as super crisp red cabbage in place of the more common iceberg lettuce.

Unlike a lot of other southwestern eateries, 12 West offers a complete menu of entrees. These include a much hyped chorizo burger as well a lamb shank and polenta offering which I’ve placed on the docket for my return visit. On this night I opted for the salmon, another well recommended favorite among 12 West’s many apostles. It is a thick filet of Faroe Island salmon, pan seared with a crispy golden crust, served over a bed of fingerling potatoes and smoked jalapeño cream. The fish is topped with a sweet house marmalade and paired with roasted beets. Again, as with the tacos, the rub is in the freshness of the produce. The beets and potatoes added an earthy-ness that was the perfect compliment to the fish. The sweetness of the marmalade was a welcome change from the California-Mex trope of mango salsa.

We ended the meal with a communal piece of Mexican Chocolate cheesecake. This was a rich finish to an otherwise light meal. The cake was dense and just the right level of moist with a semi-sweet chocolate topping with a delightful spicy finish of cayenne pepper. ¡Sabroso!

After Dinner Thoughts

So, the food was good. The atmosphere casual and cool yet welcoming. But what makes 12 West a destination? The staff!

First, the kitchen at 12 West is clearly having a good time. That is evidenced by the creativity and spontaneity on each plate.

The waitstaff was prompt and knowledgeable while remaining inviting. Service that night was attentive without being intrusive which is always a delicate balance.

And then there was Ron. Ron is the co-owner of 12 West and is the kind of guy in this business that I look up to. I respect a guy like Ron because he understands real hospitality. (He has the pedegree for it too. Google him. He’s had his hands in some of Columbus’ favorite restaurants for years.) His table-side manner was warm and his enthusiasm for his restaurant and its city were contagius. For me, Ron was the cereza on the pastel that was our evening in Delaware.

So get in your damn car and head north for 12 West!