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Cooking with Strangers — An Evening at German Village’s The Kitchen

614now Staff

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I didn’t know what to expect, and I was a little nervous — I can proudly say I’ve been to many restaurants and eaten my weight in food through plenty of menus, but I have never, ever cooked my menu with strangers.

The Kitchen hosts family-style, cooking and dining nights, in fact — it’s their main gig. Their website at the moment of making a reservation gives you a menu of what you’ll be eating and drinking that night. I knew it wasn’t just your regular ol’ restaurant, so I was desperately trying to find meaning in the dishes as to what I would exactly be doing. It ultimately ended up being a total surprise. I’m a planner, and I try to be as prepared as possible. Alas, my boss just said, “have fun!” and off I went in search of a story.

When I first walked in, I thought I was in the wrong place. Sure it had the right name, and my GPS had told me I had arrived at my destination, but the people there looked like some sort of secret society getting ready for a meeting. And what a strange meeting it might have been. Diners sported everything from Hawaiian shirts to ritzy lace cocktail dresses. There wasn’t anyone younger than 30, or so it seemed, and as a small 22-year-old with a camera on my hip, I felt a tiny bit out of place.

A hostess walked up to me and saved me from my inner crisis as I spat out the words ‘614now,’ and she escorted me to Jen Lindsey, co-owner of The Kitchen. I told Jen what I was there for. “Oh that’s great! Just chill out for about half an hour, and then we’ll get cooking!” she said. Her smile was infectious and my anxiety slowly melted away.

I began taking pictures of the cheese plate. Good dinner parties always have cheese plates. Food Network has taught me this is what makes a good dinner party.

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There were tiny tongs to grab the cheese with, and as I struggled with a bit of aged parm, a man next to me explained to his mate, “Ah yes, I do believe this is some mustard cheese, and perhaps some cranberry gouda, you know, it’s a bit red, like cranberries.”

I ignored the cheese man and moved on to what looked like hard salami, it smelled smoky and sweet. But my favorite was the parmesan; it was rich and much deeper in color than that Kroger parm I usually buy.

I munched away and sat down at one of the tables. There was a bar not to far from me, small with an array wines and liquors on display. The menu said it’d pair all the meals with specific wines, so I thought, hey let’s wash away the anxiety of social interaction with a healthy serving of wine. Surprisingly, the wine was $8 dollars a glass, and the sommelier ( a nice word for person who knows a lot about wine,) was graceful and accurate in what he chose for me.

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After a few minutes of munching and awkwardly sipping my wine, the chefs and owners of the restaurant came out. They explained the menu, rating each dish from easiest to make, to slightly less easy to make, as they put it. Diners would choose which dish they’d like to make, and if they didn’t feel comfortable cooking, they could watch and maybe drink some more wine. Each dish was tapas style that night, and inspired by traditional Spanish cooking.

I washed my hands and chose the simple olive buns to make. Many others gathered around the Spanish frittata, or the wine braised chorizo, and the dessert, an almond cake. But the olive buns group had an air of palpable excitement; we gathered around our recipe card like the holy grail.

“Take the olives, tomatoes, olive oil and garlic, and blend them until just chopped,”One woman, a teacher, read out the instructions and delegated tasks like an army commander.

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Her husband, a doctor, grabbed the ingredients and sped off with our group to the food processor, located in the kitchen portion of The Kitchen (you see what I did there? haha.) My camera lens fogged up as people from other groups had already began using the kitchen to cook.

After the olive paste was made, we had to handle the dough, which was conveniently already prepared and portioned out. That was truthfully the hardest part. I dipped my hands in flour and try to massage the dough into a thin sheet. It resembled pizza dough, and our group was struggling to roll it out. Chef Ann came to the rescue.

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“Don’t tell Jen I’m teaching you something, but just use your fists to stretch it out,” she flung the dough across her fists and by sheer magic, it became a flat rectangular sheet. The chefs aren’t supposed to actually teach anything at the kitchen, since part of the experience is learning how to do it yourself using your team members to get the task done.

After about 20 minutes, our team had successfully stretched the dough and applied the paste, rolled the dough, and cut them into rings, where they resembled savory cinnamon rolls.

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The time between waiting for our meals to cook and actually eating them I don’t quite remember, but after having worked together, my teammates and I seemed a bit more at ease and comfortable with one another.

“Cooking together levels the playing field in a way no other thing does.” Jen Lindsey, co-owner of The Kitchen, was right. I was no longer an out-of-place 22 year old, but a member of Team Olive Bun, and I knew a little about each person at my table. “This is a place where people are allowed to make friends in a really organic kind of way,”Anne Boninsegna, the other co-owner of The Kitchen said.

The food started pouring in and Anne introduced each course by asking who made it, wherein whatever teams would cheer and the rest of the 40 guests would clap. It was all very celebratory, like we had just gone through the Olympics and not six very simple, and easy to make recipes.

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Wine did come with each course, paired perfectly and sourced expertly from wineries in Spain. My favorite dish was of course the one I helped make, but the Spanish frittata and the chorizo were outstanding as well.

The night winded down as the food and wine stopped, but guests didn’t start leaving until well after. As guests started trickling out, I asked the chefs what they take home from each night they host. My question was interrupted by a smiling, giggling guest who embraced Jen and Ann and waved goodbye.

“That’s what we take home,” they both said,”No job is better than this.”


Written by Paola Santiago

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Arts & Culture

Ohio animator creates tribute, parody video of DeWine & Acton

Wayne T. Lewis, Publisher

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Video at bottom of story

About three weeks ago, when the world was starting to fall apart, Dave Stofka was looking for something to take his mind off the stream of daily bad news. A freelance web developer and animator since 2007, Stofka had just the idea.

"I watched Governor DeWine and Dr. Acton's press conferences, and all the Facebook comments I was reading conveyed a sense of great appreciation of their leadership. At some point I jokingly thought to myself that all they need is a theme song. Growing up in the days when every show had a theme song, the "Laverne & Shirley" theme popped into my head for some reason, said Stofka.

With some encouragement from his wife, he dug into the project putting to work his previous experience making animated parodies. Stofka says he put about 100 hours over 2.5 weeks into the video project.

"I knew technically how to pull it off. The jokes started flowing the more I worked on it and bounced ideas off my family and a couple friends. It snowballed from there," said Stofka.

The 1:20 video offers a light-hearted take on the state government's efforts - led by DeWine and Acton - in combating the coronavirus pandemic. The video is based on a hilarious take on the "Laverne & Shirley" theme song, performed by Stofka's friend, Elisa Grecar.

"My goal in this was to bring smiles to people's faces. It's so easy to focus on the negative and difficult to focus on the positive -- not just in times like this but in life in general. I love that Ohio's motto is "With God, all things are possible" -- it made a perfect tagline at the end -- and personally it has given me a lot of hope to get through this," added Stofka.

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Arts & Culture

CCAD Spring Art Fair goes virtual

Mitch Hooper

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The COVID-19 outbreak has all but canceled every event slated for April, but that isn't stopping the Columbus College of Art and Design from finding ways to safely move forward. Though there won't be an in-person Spring Art Fair this year, folks can still support these students and their artwork through the first ever virtual installment of the showcase.

Spanning April 10 to April 12, the CCAD Spring Art Fair will have its students projects, designs, and creations available for purchase online. The day kicks off on Friday at 5 p.m. and ends Sunday at midnight. All proceeds from the event will go directly to the artists, makers, and designers.

CCAD is also running a giveaway for anyone who makes a purchase during the Art Fair. If a visitor spends $50 or more and posts their receipt (without their personal information visible) to Instagram with the hashtag #CCADArtFair, they will be entered in to win a $50 gift certificate to CCAD’s Continuing & Professional Studies classes. Three winners will be selected randomly on April 13.

To find out more about the Art Fair, visit ccad.edu/experience-art/art-fair.

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Arts & Culture

Now Streaming: Columbus entertainers find virtual ways to perform

Mitch Hooper

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As Columbus entertainers prepared for warm weather and folks returning to the bars, COVID-19 came in and put it to a halt. The bars being closed indefinitely not only impacts owners, servers, and bartenders, it impacts the performers who rely on these places as a platform to showcase their talents. When folks can't come support local entertainers, what can they do?

What if they bring their talents to them? That's what many Columbus entertainers are doing during social distancing. While "work from home" wasn't much an option before this, comedians such as Amber Falter and Ian Miller are taking to Instagram Live and other streaming platforms to perform.

The first virtual show the two did was with Alexis Nelson of BarkBox, and admittedly, they were a little nervous about not having an audience for feedback.

"I was actually scared to start," Miller said. "Jokes don’t have what I call 'standalone timing.' You need a give and take with the audience, you build it into your jokes. The thought of telling jokes without immediate feedback was terrifying."

The two said the show went great and it didn't take long for both of them to enjoy streaming their comedy. Falter quickly did another virtual show, A Hamantha and Brisket Comedy Hours, with Samantha Sizemore and Bridjet Mendy themed around dating stories via Zoom. Miller, on the other hand, started a weekly story telling show on his Twitch channel Glass Cannon Comedy.

Falter, co-host of ACLU Stand-Up For Choice, says there's even been some silver linings to streaming her comedy.

"I was joking with one of my friends that is always like, 'Hey, I'm going to make it to the show! Can't wait to see you at the show!' and then they never make it out," Falter laughed. "Now you have no excuse, honey!"

As for the future ACLU Stand-Up For Choice comedy events, Falter said she and others involved, such as co-host Pat Deering, are figuring out how to do so through streaming.

Miller said he has seen many of his shows canceled due to the Coronavirus outbreak. He had six shows slated across 13 days, all of which have been canceled. Additionally, his monthly story telling show as well as Glass Cannon's quarterly-themed shows are suspended.

"It’s been rough. There may not have been of ton of Columbus comics “paying the bills” with comedy, but that doesn’t mean that we haven’t felt the impact," Miller said "Times are tough, and it’s really hard to have a side hustle of any kind when you know leaving your house could put yourself and other in danger."

And that's why he believes it's so important to support entertainers in anyway you can. Whether that be through a share or follow on social media, every little bit helps grow their platform.

Falter echoed this sentiment, too.

"I want this to become a source of income and I've been extremely, extremely grateful for the people that have even sent like $2," she said. "Or not even that, if they just followed me on Instagram or told me I had a good set. [By just] saying, "Hey that was really fun, thanks so much," that alone is making me super emotional."

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