Manifesto for the New Nordic Cuisine – A Primer

Identity is crucial in this era of globalisation. An awareness of who we are and where we come from is essential to our self-image and our sense of belonging. An appreciation of local culinary tradition is just one aspect of this, and is now more important than ever. – Einar Risvik, Chairman of the New Nordic Food program

New Nordic Cuisine, or Modern Nordic Cuisine, or whatever we are calling it these days, has dominated the global culinary landscape for nigh on a decade.  Rene Redzepi, and his famed Copenhagen restaurant NOMA, along with a troupe of lesser known yet equally respected Nordic chefs, have brought the region’s cuisine sharply into focus in the 2st century. Nordic ideas about local sourcing and sustainability, once fringe notions, are now a prerequisite to be considered one of the best restaurants in the world. In just under a decade Nordic chefs have successfully created a new cuisine, grounded in a rich culinary tradition and supported by a multitude of microclimates and a unique biodiversity. Theirs is a cuisine to rival any in the world.

My question is: How did they do it?

In 2004, Rene Redzepi and Claus Meyer, his NOMA cohort and Danish culinary icon, held a symposium in which they invited some of the region’s best chefs, food writers, and culinary culturalists to Copenhagen, the topic:  How to nurture the then infantile food movement grounded in their local cuisine.  The result of that meeting was the ten-point Manifesto for the New Nordic Cuisine, an outline of the principles and philosophies of their fledgling food revolution. The Manifesto, grounded in Nordic notions of sustainability, food purity, and ethics, reflected the values of the region’s citizens. The Manifesto was an attempt at expressing Nordic culture through Nordic food.  Much like the instructions for a new piece of slick Scandinavian furniture, the Manifesto clearly explained the tenets for this new way of cooking in a language that was concise and easy to understand.

It reads:

The aims of The New Nordic Cuisine are:

1) To express the purity, freshness, simplicity and ethics we wish to associate to our region.

2) To reflect the changes of the seasons in the meals we make.

3) To base our cooking on ingredients and produce whose characteristics are particularly in our climates, landscapes and waters.

4) To combine the demand for good taste with modern knowledge of health and well-being.

5) To promote Nordic products and the variety of Nordic producers – and to spread the word about their underlying cultures.

6) To promote animal welfare and a sound production process in our seas, on our farmland and in the wild.

7) To develop potentially new applications of traditional Nordic food products.

8) To combine the best in Nordic cookery and culinary traditions with impulses from abroad.

9) To combine local self-sufficiency with regional sharing of high-quality products.

10) To join forces with consumer representatives, other cooking craftsmen, agriculture, fishing, food, retail and wholesales industries, researchers, teachers, politicians and authorities on this project for the benefit and advantage of everyone in the Nordic countries.

And here’s the thing. They did it. These values and philosophies have shaped the restaurants of Scandinavia and helped them be counted among the best in the world. More importantly, they have exported these values to restaurants around the world, creating the foundation from which to erect ever more equitable and sustainable kitchens and communities.

After the Fresh Street pop-up, I had the chance to shoot the shit with some of Columbus’ best young chefs and cooks. Being a rather dour bunch,added to the fact that it was early on a Sunday, at least by food service standards, we eventually got to bitching. In their turn the usual complaints came up: not being able to find good help, a lack of mentors for young cooks, long hours, a lack of public enthusiasm for anything new, pretty run-of-the-mill griping for our lot. Then, we got on the big one, the one that always seems to come up:

What, exactly, is Columbus food? How can we make food that accurately represents our community and its values and traditions? How do our kitchens and restaurants contribute to what makes Columbus a great place to live and a memorable place to eat?

We draw our inspirations from the great cuisines of the world, and in our time in culinary history, much of that inspiration has been drawn from the chefs and restaurants of Scandinavia. I’m proposing that we don’t stop with what those chefs serve, but look deeper, examining how they serve.

The desire is here. The desire to be great. The desire to show the rest of the world what we already know:

Columbus, Ohio is a world class food city.

Now we just need a map to get us there. Luckily, much like our Northern counterparts across the ocean, we can chart our own course, draw our own map. A map that leads to a better understanding of our identity and our place in the wider world of food. All we need to do is the work.

Something is happening here. Momentum is building and a ground swell is rising on a new era in Columbus food. And I’m goddamn excited, and your should be to! It doesn’t have a name yet, and honestly, I’m a little afraid to even talk about it, for fear that, like some culinary Schrodinger’s cat, these just manifested notions should be swept away like crumbs from a tablecloth.

Nevertheless, I propose that we put some meat on these bones! Lets give these feelings a name. Let’s mark our territory and define our values. Let’s discover and celebrate our food history, its techniques, dishes, and ingredients. Let’s revel in our air, soil, and water and their bounty.  The time is now to stake our claim on the culinary landscape!

I’m ready. Who the hell is with me?

Valar Ipradas : Game of Thrones Menu Preview

Tonight The Commissary will play host to Chef Aaron Mercier, of Rook’s Rustic Tavern, as he serves up a menu inspired by the hit HBO show Game of Thrones. This is the third installment of his Parliament of Rooks pop-up dinner series.

Chef Mercier’s menu is designed to showcase his “inner nerd” and will feature “seven novel-inspired dishes in honor of the Seven Gods of Westeros”. (It is the opinion of this author that The Seven are but a balm for a pox that has spread across the once mighty face of Westeros, and that real relief will only be obtained in the cleansing  fire of the Red God. Praise be to R’hollor!)

We were granted a sneak peak at the menu, and its got us hungrier than Hot Pie after his daring escape from Harrenhal! Here is what Chef Aaron has in store:

  • Kingslander’s Summer Salad – Mixed herbs, foraged mixed greens, ground cherries, flowers, vinaigrette
  • Treacherous Leek Soup- Mushrooms and warm spices
  • Dornish-style Stuffed Cherry Chiles – Queso fresco, machaca con carne seca, thyme bechamel, shallot chips
  • Rillette a la Tyrion – Rillette of bacon and smoked fish, pumpernickel toast points, Chef’s whole-grain mustard, blackberry compote
  • Braised Oxtails with Herbed Rice- Chili jus, cattail pollen, green onion
  • Pigeon Pie – Pigeon, peas, gravy
  • Samwell’s Blueberry Tart- Saffron creme batard, candied herbs

This menu is sure to satisfy all diners, from the most noble and discerning families of venerable Meereen to a ravenous Dothraki bloodrider. (If you are getting even half of these references than this really is the dinner for you!) Dinner starts at 7, with libations available for purchase from Actual Brewing Company. Tickets for the dinner are $60 and can be purchased here. And, as an added bonus, the first five readers to purchase tickets and enter the code “Wanderlunch” at check-out will receive a 15% discount. John Snow may know nothing, but even he knows a great deal like this when he sees one!

Recipe : Foraged Wild Spinach and Green Bean Salad

Have you ever had the urge to venture into the woods, backyard, or highway median and eat the stuff you find growing there?

No? Just me?

Well, if there are any curious would-be foragers out there I’ve put together a quick and easy recipe featuring a really common foraged green, wild spinach, aka lambs quarter. It also features some quick pickled red onions, pickled brussels sprout leaves, charred green beans, and broccoli sprouts. This one is really pretty and light and would make a nice start to your next dinner with friends and it pairs really well with sauvignon blanc.


> Green Beans, .25#, ends trimmed, blanched and shocked

> Red Onion, .25 EA., thinly sliced

> Brussels Sprouts, .125#, blanched and shocked, leaves removed

> Wild Spinach (lambs quarter), .5#, washed and dried in even layers

> Broccoli Sprouts, .125#, cleaned and dried

> Apple Melon, .25 EA., oblique cut

> Pistachios, 5 EA., shells removed and meat crushed

> White Vinegar, .25 C.

> Sugar, 1 T.

> Safflower, to garnish

> Sea Salt , TT

> Lime, 1 EA., juiced

> Champagne Vinegar, 1 t.

> Honey, 1 t.

> Olive Oil

> Sweet Cicely Root, .25″ piece, washed

 Wash your damn hands! Combine the white vinegar and sugar in a small pan until just about to boil. Pour the sugar-vinegar mixture over the red onions and brussels sprout leaves. Let them sit at least 20 minutes up to 3 hours. Drain the liquid and reserve the onions and brussels.

Next, char the green beans. Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat. Add the green beans and let them char for a couple of minutes, tossing every minute or so. Because we blanched the beans before we aren’t really cooking them, just getting them nice and dark. Remove the beans from the pan and season them with sea salt.

To make the dressing, combine lime juice, honey, grated sweet cicely root, and champagne vinegar in a glass bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to emulsify. Season with kosher salt to taste. Set the dressing aside.

To plate, toss the apple melon, green beans, and pistachios together with some of the dressing. Place the wild spinach around the plate, then add the green beans, melon, and nuts. Arrange the pickled vegetables and sprouts next. Finally, garnish with the safflower. Serve right away.

* A note on some of the ingredients in this recipe, specifically the apple melon and the sweet cicely. The apple melon can be substituted for any easier to find apple.  The melon has a more mild, more-melon-like flavor.The sweet cicely is another foraged ingredient and has a flavor like really mild anise or black licorice. You can substitute anise or just exclude if that flavor isn’t your thing. The safflower is just a pretty garnish and doesn’t change the flavor at all. 

Lastly, if your really want to try the salad exactly as you see it, and you live in Columbus, Ohio, you can find all of the ingredients at the Clintonville Farmer’s Market. The sweet cicely and the wild spinach are available from our friend Kate at Foraged & Sown, a produce vendor who specializes in foraged greens, roots, and flowers found all across central Ohio. 

As always, if you make this or any other Wanderlünch recipe, let us know how you liked it in the comments section. 

wanderLibrary – Five Essential Cookbooks

I like to think of myself as a bibliophile. This isn’t to suggest that I simply like to read; I enjoy the physical experience of books. I like to look at them, and touch them. Run my fingers over an embossed cover, feel the dignified heft of a hardbound tome or the swishy flutter of the pages of a well-loved paperback with a broken spine,swirling her dogeared skirts like some biblio-bound flamenco dancer.

Needless to say, as a book nerd and a chef, I have a special relationship with cookbooks. I’m proud of my collection, so much so that they occupy a special bookcase all on their own, located just off stage from my kitchen. My main book collection, an amalgamation of paperback fiction, English literature textbooks from my University days, and a what may encompass the entire Russian cannon, is kept in pristine condition, presided over with a manner that can only be described as monastic. Not so for the cookbooks.

Cookbooks are working books. They don’t live in the hermetic conditions of a library, but rather the sauce-streaked world of the kitchen. They get splattered by boiling pots and soak up the excess moisture from fresh cut vegetables. There well-worn pages are highlighted and annotated in the rushed script of culinary inspiration, hurried conversions scribbled in the margins. They tell both the story of their respective restaurant, chef or cuisine, but also the story of the would-be cook that draws inspiration from them. This individual story is told in the myriad blemishes, burns, and grease stains, translucent windows through which we may view the creation of a chef.

In that spirit, I present five of the books that make up my story:

The Science of Good Cooking by The Editors of Cook’s Illustrated

This book is a great foundation for new cooks and one of the few books where every recipe is useful. This book is based around applying any particular technique to a wide range of dishes. Instead of just giving you a marinade recipe for chicken this book provides a detailed explanation of how marinades work. Basically the difference between giving a man a fish and teaching him how to catch his own; replace fishing with cooking pork (or beef, or vegetable, or, even, well… fish) and you’ve got the gist of what makes this seemingly ordinary cookbook so great.

This book also introduced me to the scientific, lab-like conditions and methodology of the modern kitchen. This book is rich with detailed explanations of the cooking process and how the scientific method can be brought to bear on culinary creation. Before the shipping-container test-kitchen at Noma or Sean Brock’s miso laboratory, there was America’s Test Kitchen. Modern cooking is about finding a balance between the inspiration of the artist and the rigidity of the scientist and this cookbook (as well as the parent publications) is a great introduction to that headspace.

The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller

The French Laundry Cookbook is to my generation what Mastering the Art of French Cooking was to the chefs of the 60’s. After its publication in 1999 this cookbook was quickly hailed as a must read. The French Laundry, helmed by demi-god Chef Thomas Keller, represents a watershed moment in American cuisine.  Keller’s unassuming cottage of a restaurant, nestled in the heart of California wine country, showed the world that American cuisine, when done at the highest level, could rival any old-world restaurant.

The cookbook, more than a collection of recipes and beautiful photographs, was a history into this now storied institution, showcasing to the rest of us what a perfect restaurant looks like.  Especially consequential was the book’s focus on the individual farmers, purveyors, and foragers who were so instrumental in the restaurant’s success and the direction of her cuisine. The French Laundry Cookbook was an introduction to local sourcing and its impact on a menu. The story of Keller’s personal mushroom monger, who spent summers scouring the hills of the Sierra Nevada in search of the world’s finest fungus, had an especially strong impact on how I think about sourcing ingredients. Keller’s book showcased the intimate relationship that exists between the greatest chefs and the people that supply them with food.

Finally, the book introduced us to Thomas Keller the man, on his own terms, in his own kitchen. Reading his words, his constant, gentle reminders that a requisite ingredient for truly great food is love, provided a welcome contrast to the pervasive image of executive chefs as militant authoritarians, a cliche popularized by Gordon Ramsey and Charlie Trotter. Keller showed a different, softer, much more California way of doing things, one that was always focused on preparing food of the utmost quality without sacrificing the development of his kitchen staff. This strategy has proven a winner, as French Laundry alumni, Alinea’s Grant Achatz and Noma’s Rene Redzepi to name a few, now own and operate some of the world’s finest restaurants.

Eleven Madison Park: The Cookbook Will Gidara and Daniel Humm

This cookbook and I have a, let’s call it complicated relationship. To understand that relationship, we must first ask the question:

What is the purpose of a cookbook?

If you answered, “To provide a cook with recipes that can then be reproduced for personal use and enjoyment.” I think you’d be in-line with majority of others. Not so with the author’s of Eleven Madison Park : The Cookbook; even a casual glance at the first few recipes in this 350+ page behemoth makes something abundantly clear, these chefs don’t really give a fuck if you can make their recipes or not. You don’t have a sous vide machine at your house? Tough shit. You want a substitution for sea urchin, because you can’t find any…in your entire state? Too bad.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the cookbook actually contains this rather stark admonition to her perspective chefs:

If you never cook, this is probably a book that should stay on your coffee table. Many recipes require a significant time commitment, a certain level of skill, a reasonably equipped kitchen, and a healthy dose of persistence.

Translation: You aren’t good enough to make our food.

And you know what? That’s totally okay. Actually, its pretty much the whole point. The Eleven Madison Park cookbook is a work of pure inspiration. This is not a how-to manual; it’s a work of art, just like the food it depicts. This is a master class in modern American cuisine. This book distills 30 years of progress in American kitchens and presents it in the form of some extremely detailed recipes and breathtaking full page photographs.

What I take from this book, and what I find myself coming back for time and again, is the detailed description of finishing and plating dishes. Plating is my favorite part about line cooking and this book provided a seemingly endless font of inspiration from which to draw. This book is the logical end for the entire school of thought known, somewhat basely, as food porn. The difference here is that, unlike some imitators, E.M.P.’s plating isn’t smut: it’s erotica.

Heritage Sean Brock

This is the newest book on the list, and the most influential on the current state of popular American dining. While Europe and the Coasts have finally moved away from gussied-up Southern comfort food, the rest of us, at least gauging by trends in local and regional dining, are still quite enthralled with gastronomic offerings of those states south of the Mason-Dixon. The movement in new-Southern food is propelled by a cabal of post-Bellum chefs; hip, left-leaning culinarians who are much more approachable than traditional depictions of southern-ness.

Chef Sean Brock, of Charleston’s Husk, is the archetype for the modern Southern chef, with one foot firmly steeped in the South’s rich culinary past and the other on the cutting edge of American food. This past-meets-future dichotomy has proven itself to be irresistible to diners and critics alike, and has seen Southern food and flavors dominate the landscape of American cuisine for the last several years.

Brock’s book, much like Keller’s, place a keen emphasis on the role that careful sourcing of ingredients plays in the creation and success of his unique cuisine. The difference is that while Keller spent a lifetime fleshing his purveyors out, it would appear that Brock was born into a world of exceptionally diverse and interesting ingredients.

He who dies with the fullest pantry wins. – Chef Sean Brock

Brock’s book, which outlines many of his food and seed saving techniques, has inspired a generation of chefs to try their hands at pickling, preserving, and canning as a way of finding your own unique culinary palate. The rebirth of the root cellar and the rediscovery by so many chefs of traditional food preservation methods can be attributed, at least in part, to Brock and his book.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

The last book isn’t a cookbook. And it isn’t really about cooking either. It’s a somewhat romanticized look at the life of a professional cook and the grand-daddy of the ever growing genre know as the Chef Memoir. Its about Anthony Bourdain “coming up” in the industry, in the cut-throat, hard-cooking and harder-partying world of 80’s & 90’s New York City. And it fucking rules.

This book is the reason I wanted to be a cook, and I know I’m not the only person my age that feels this way. Bourdain carries the chef-meets-rockstar banner passed to him by Marco Pierre White, without, ya know, being an asshat. Bourdain made the life, the long hours, the smoking, the cuts and burns, the booze, and most importantly, the work, sound cool. He was masculine without being stupid, cool but not pretentious. He was a pirate poet and a real cook’s cook. In short, this story is a guide book at becoming the man.

And for any parent who doesn’t want their kid to grow up to be a cook (aka, would like their child to retire someday) do not, under any circumstances, let them read this book, or any others on this list. (Sorry Pop…)

What are your must read cookbooks? Chef memoirs? Food magazines? Let me know in the comments!

(UPDATE) The Commissary to host “Fresh Street” Founders for Pop-Up Dinners plus an Q&A w/ Chef Kim

The Commissary (1400 Dublin Rd., Columbus) has become the epicenter of pop-up dining in central Ohio. Recent highlights include Chef Bill Glover, of Gallerie Bar & Bistro, and his music-meets-dinner concept and an upcoming “Game of Thrones” feast, the third installment of the “Parliament of Rooks” series from Chef Aaron Mercier.

Add to that list the highly anticipated return of dj-turned-chef and pop-up pioneer Kenny Kim, co-founder of the now legendary pop-up Fresh Street Yakitori, formerly of Brewery District night spot Double Happiness. The Commissary will host Kim for a three-night stand, 7/24 – 7/26, and you better get your tickets for this one fast!

To say that people are excited for this dinner is an understatement. A Facebook post soliciting kitchen help for the event has seen significant traffic since its publication a few days ago. (And the number of people volunteering to help cook is impressive; it seems that Chef Kim will be able to afford himself an entire brigade!)

Kim’s original pop-up brought the idea of less-than-permanent dining to Columbus in the form of Fresh Street Yakitori, specializing in delectable grilled meats on a stick. Fresh Street was perfect and had everything you could want from pop-up dining. Ever evolving menus, hand written on butcher paper, illuminated by twee illustrations of the food. It was housed in a cool bar that, if it wasn’t a show night, was usually full enough to be inviting yet empty enough to feel exclusive and special; a haunt for CCAD graduates and an emerging scene of downtown cool kids. Heavily influenced by co-founder Misahko Ohba, the take on Japanese street food was simultaneously exotic and familiar. I’ll never forget the first time I had the pork cheek. Incredibly tender and charred just right over the coals in their little brick grill, this was a special. And the portion was perfect, just enough to really let you taste your food, but not enough to totally slake your craving for street meat. Part of the Fresh Street magic, at least for me, was that I always wanted more. According to Thomas Keller a truly great dish will leave you yearning for “just one more bite”. Columbus has been waiting for that one last taste for several years, and it seems that we will finally get it!

So here’s the line up:

  • 7/24 @ 7:00 PM – Fresh Street Backyard BBQ
  • 7/25 @ 6-9 PM – Fresh Street Taco Shop
  • 7/26 @ 11:00 AM – Fresh Street Japanese Diner Brunch

Just reading the names of the pop-ups has me hungry. Each one of these meals plays to Kim & Ohba’s specific strengths as chefs and should be great venues for showcasing their food. I’m especially intrigued by the brunch. Chef Misako trained at the Vantan Pastry School in Tokyo and I’m curious to see if this pastry knowledge will work its was into the meal.

These dinners are a definite don’t miss. To purchase tickets to one (or all) of the dinners click here.

UPDATE 7.15.15- Chef Kenneth Kim was able to answer some questions about the pop-up. Keep reading for info straight from the source!

W.L. – The dates for the pop-up are 7/24-7/26, will you be doing three seperate dinners?

K.K. – Yup. We want to make sure there are different reasons to go to each even. First night is a Japanese backyard BBQ theme event. Second night is a Japanese taco shop them. Third day is a Japanese-American breakfast/brunch diner.

W.L. – Is this dinner affiliated with The Commissary’s Kickstarter campaign? If so, will non-backers be able to buy tickers?

K.K. – It is (affiliated with the kickstarter campaign) but we need everyone to come. Non-backers are invited for sure. Come one, come all!

W.L. – Do you see this as a continuation of what you did with Fresh Street?

K.K. – We don’t have all the cooking equipment to do fRESHSTREET staples. Our concepts are designed to have fun with everyone. We’re cutting out the fancy shit this weekend.

W.L. – Are you still working with Misako?

K.K. – Yup! I can’t post as many pics of her cooking because we aren’t working side-by-side right now in San Diego, but we are looking to start another venture soon. Also, the Facebook name changed to my birth name instead of fRESHSTREET because I can’t have a business name on a friends page according to Facebook and I can’t figure out how to transfer my page to a business page without losing everything.

W.L. – What have you been up to since you left Columbus? What do you think of the San Diego food scene?

K.K. – Been working a ton of different places, some good and some shitty. I’ve been at gastropus, ramen shops, Asian-Fusion lounges, etc. Misako’s been at bakeries, sushi restaurants, and at a robatayaki spot.

Just like most places, San Diego has some good and some bad. They have a high standard for product there and they like to be a little health conscious. Real estate is more expensive so restaurateurs tend to be more conservative. It’s also a tourist destination, so that changes the food culture here to cater to visitors a bit. There’s a lot of variety here and few spots that nail it, but just like most cities, there’s room for growth. Overall, a better than average food scene. Great Mexican food scene here being right next to Mexico.

W.L.- Your last pop-up at Double Happiness brought in some pretty heavy hitters as collaborators, most notable Jonathan Sawyer and Jenn Louis, do you have any special guests on deck for this dinner?

K.K. – We want this one to be more about local chefs. We haven’t seen anyone in three years or so and we wouldn’t be able to spend anytime with anyone if we brought in “heavy hitters”.

W.L. – Fresh Street has reached almost legendary status in Columbus. To this day I think about the pork cheek skewer and get hungry. If you returned to the city you’d have a fan base ready and waiting. You ever think about coming back?

K.K. – I do. There are a bunch of west coast chefs that I know that want to go to Ohio to try something different. It would be a matter of finding the perfect situation.

W.L. – The Columbus food scene has matured pretty rapidly in the last few years. Are there any places your excited to try while you’re in town? And chefs you’d like to work with?

K.K. – I want to try Hot Chicken Takeover. As for chefs, a lot of the one I like are magically helping out for the event. Like Matthew Heaggans, Lara Yazvac (Pipia), Avishar Barua, and Bekah Lehman off the top of my head. Don’t know too much about the current scene because we been gone.

W.L. – What’s the story behind the Fresh Street logo?

K.K. – It’s just a sleepy hippo with an octopus best friend. I’m kind of the hippo. Misako is the octopus. Just a fun logo that’s different than others. Misako drew it.

W.L. – Final thoughts?

K.K. – These three events are less about showing off skills and more about seeing everyone in fun environments and working with local talent. If you don’t come with any preset ideas of what to expect, you should have a great time.

And there you have it folks, straight from the hippo’s mouth! To see Chef Kim, Chef Misako, and any of a number of Columbus’ best chefs in action GET YOUR DAMN TICKETS NOW! 

Charred Snap Pea & Date Tacos

So this recipe is intended to be a way for you to use up leftover, prepared chicken, something we never thrown away at our place. I call for leftover rotisserie chicken (yes, the kind you find dripping on those greasy spits at the grocery store.), but you can use whatever kind of chicken, light or dark meat, breasts or thighs, that you have kicking around your fridge.

These tacos are light and super fresh, and have an interesting sweet quality, owing to the sliced dates. They are quick to prepare and make a great summer lunch. The recipe below makes about 4 6″ tacos.


  • Leftover Rotisserie Chicken, pulled apart, 2 oz.
  • Sugar snap peas, fresh, 1/3 C.
  • Dates, pits removed, thinly sliced, 2 EA.
  • Corn Tortillas, small, 4 EA.
  • Cilantro, fresh, minced, 1/4 C.
  • Garlic, fresh, minced, 1 T.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 1/4 C.
  • Cayanne, 1 t.
  • Radish, julienne, to garnish
  • Brocolli Sprouts, to garnish *As always, if you can’t get your mits on microgreens, supstitute whatever lettuce or greens you have available, the fresher the better!
  • Lime Wedges, to garnish
  • Kosher Salt, To Taste
  • Smoked Maladon Salt, to finish
  • Vegetable or Peanut Oil, to char the beans

Wash your damn hands! Heat your charring oil in a cast iron skillet until it just begins to smoke. Add the peas in a single, even layer and let them do their thing. They should pop and smoke and blister and generally get gnarly looking. You’re charring them, meaning almost burning. Toss them around every minute or so to ensure even charring.

Once they look nice and dark, keep the pan on the stove and cut the heat. Add the chicken and the dates to the pan. We aren’t cooking here, just heating everything up. Let everything mingle in the pan until warmed through. Taste the chicken and then add salt, if it needs it.

While the chicken is heating, make the drizzle. In a glass bowl combine cilantro, garlic, olive oil and cayenne. Mix well and set aside.


To plate, heat tortillas in the microwave for ten seconds. Add the snap pea/chicken/date mixture in an even layer on the tortilla. Next, drizzle the cilantro and garlic oil then top with broccoli sprouts and radish. Add a pinch of smoked salt and serve with a lime wedge.

As always, if you try these let me know how they turned out, what you substituted, or ways to improve the recipe!

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…

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