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Cooking classes inspire culinary confidence

J.R. McMillan

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Most dinner parties start in the kitchen, and the better ones tend to end there. But some of the best in Columbus actually start in a dentist office—or what used to be one.

Tricia Wheeler, founder of The Seasoned Farmhouse, describes her passion project simply as a recreational cooking school. She arguably sells herself short. The dated dental office in Clintonville that once sat empty has evolved into a rustic, yet refined, community kitchen for ambitious home chefs or anyone seeking to hone their culinary credibility.

It was more than just a second act for the former home, restored to its original residential charm with raised beds of herbs and produce for a rotating slate of chefs. It was Wheeler’s second act as well. Following a short and unsatisfying stint in corporate security after graduating from Ohio State, she found herself at a fork in the road.

“I called my dad and said I was going to start a new business, either a catering company, or a background screening company,” she revealed. Her father played practical and asked which one would cost less to get going, and how much money she had on hand. “I told him the background screening company, and $400. He said, ‘That’s great, because the hungrier you are, the harder you’re going to work’.”

The fledgling screening company she started a decade earlier grew and was eventually acquired by an investor for a comfortable sum. Wheeler suddenly found herself out of work, but with an enviable second chance. So she relocated to New York to fulfill her long-deferred dream of going to culinary school—with her mother in tow to tend to her two-year-old, while her husband made the long commute back to Columbus.

“I figured out early on that as much as I loved cooking, I really wanted to share what I was learning with my friends,” she recalled. “They didn’t find cooking joyful as much as tedious, so I was the only one throwing dinner parties.”

The idea that would become The Seasoned Farmhouse started small—not even as a school, but as a series of classes Wheeler initially taught at the M/I Homes Design Center kitchen showroom. The concept was solid, but the space proved restrictive. And what started as nine tiny dental offices was reconfigured into an oversized kitchen and intimate dining room dynamic enough to accommodate several classroom formats.

“We have students who are straight out of college and love to cook, retirees who love to cook and are looking for something to do, and couples who love to cook and want to do something together,” she noted. “We don’t repeat a lot. I’ll teach my sauce class every other year, and we might do our knife skills twice a year. My curiosity has always been in trying things that are new.”

The Seasoned Farmhouse offers 42 classes, four times a year—an impressive schedule by even traditional culinary school standards. Yet there remains an unexpected mix of luxury and utility, with fundamentals flanked by classes in niche cuisines as well as options like sheet tray dinners, for those looking for creative ways to get a delicious meal on the table fast without the fuss.

One course that remains a perennial favorite is Wheeler’s kitchen fundamentals class, a two-night course taught over two weeks that teaches everything from sweet and savory crepes to how to make a pasta sauce from scratch with what you probably have in your cupboard.

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“I like giving students that foundation, that confidence,” she added. “I teach how to make a chicken piccata, it’s the perfect date meal. It’s what I used to make for every date I’ve ever had,” Wheeler confessed. “I started as the main instructor, but our growth has been organic. If someone comes to us, and we like what they do, we’ll give them the opportunity to see how their talents fit.”

This evening’s guest chef for “Thai Date Night” is no exception. Damian Ettish hails originally from South Africa. But his relocation to London, and extended adventures in India and Thailand before immigrating to Columbus, epitomize the unique expertise students have come to expect. He’s used to working solo, but tonight he’ll have more than a dozen sous chefs—some seasoned, some as green as the curry—but all eager to learn something new.

“Cooking for a dozen people is obviously different than cooking on the truck, when you never know how many people are going to show up. So when I teach people to cook, it gives me time to share tips,” Ettish explained. “No one is coming here to learn to slice an onion. But I’ll teach them how to cut one the way I learned to on the streets of Thailand.”

His renowned local food truck, “Fetty’s Street Food” and restaurant chops seamlessly pivot between tricks, like how to cut that onion into tiny boat-shaped slices that better hold the sauce, and his intriguing travelogue, peppered with wry humor and hands-on encouragement.

“I really love these intimate settings. It’s more my style, and you
can focus more on the food and flavors,” he noted. “It’s a lot like a food
truck versus a restaurant. If I can teach people how to do something on a smaller scale, as a couple, then they learn how to do it on a larger scale, like a dinner party.”

Among tonight’s students are Michael and Emily Berlin, who moved here from Chicago five years ago. Emily gave Michael a gift certificate for The Seasoned Farmhouse their first Christmas in Columbus, and they’ve been coming ever since.

“Watching how everything goes together as a home chef is different than just following directions,” Michael observed. “Columbus has an up and coming food scene, so this is what a lot of people are looking for.”

 Technique is tough to teach on a recipe card, or even YouTube. Ettish imparts insights more than instructions, like how to cut a bell pepper upside down to leave the seeds behind, slicing a chicken breast for even cooking in a curry, or holding a knife properly to ensure the pungent peanut and cucumber dip for the corn cakes ends up with more pickles than knuckles.

“We’ve done more of the dinners than the classes, but we always pick up a new tip,” noted Emily. “It’s the small things you don’t know unless you’ve been trained in a restaurant or gone to culinary school.”

That first gift came full circle with a birthday party at The Seasoned Farmhouse with family and friends Michael planned as a surprise for his wife. Though Wheeler’s better known sister company, Flowers & Bread, also hosts events, the breadth and depth offered by The Seasoned Farmhouse draws a line between the two as distinct as the difference between a café and a restaurant.

“We’re a gift couples give each other. Then they invite their friends to come with them next time,” Wheeler explained. “It’s why I love being in the experience business. It feels like I’m always throwing a dinner party.” •

For more details and a schedule of upcoming classes, visit theseasonedfarmhouse.com

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Clintonville Brunch Crawl: We dare you to squeeze all 3 stops into 1 day

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Clintonville is lovely this time of year, especially when you make three separate stops for brunch. 

Whether the weather is gracing the charming little burgh with a healthy dose of vitamin D or giving it a couple spins around the Lazy Susan that is Ohio’s climate, a trifecta of morning food destinations is sure to keep your mood afloat.

BLunch  • 2973 N High St.

blunchcolumbus.com

Yes, we know that Columbus now is home to a Drunch AND a BLunch.

Snicker all ya want—if you do, you’d be missing out on one of the culinary scene’s welcome newcomers—a half-day cafe that carries the comforts of a First Watch, but with the sophisticated execution of Tasi or Katalina’s.

The White Family has decades of hospitality under their belt—the family owned Galena’s Mudflats until recently, and dad Jeff has been running the OSU Faculty Club for the past 20 years.

Those two were training grounds for son Jeff, once a young, eager dishwasher and now head chef for the White’s new “daylight eatery and bar.” Mom Jane, despite her own admission that in the family’s tavern-running days breakfast didn’t get served until halfway through afternoon, now relishes an intimate spot where people can maintain their own balance between booze and breakfast.

A full-bar at brunch is a rarity in the peculiar little burg, and positioned near Lineage, Old Skool, and Condado, BLunch could be the perfect starting point for a casual Clintonville crawl.

Then again, you may not have another stop after Chef Jeff gets done with ya. He and the White family have concepted a bennies-and-batter focused menu, where you’ll be sure to come back after a healthy amount of indecision. Me? I’ve been dreaming about the Bananas Foster pancakes (topped with ice cream) and the huevos rancheros over masa cake for weeks. – Travis Hoewischer

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Dough Mama • 3335 N High St.

Dough-mama.com

Dough Mama is the top of my list for my favorite breakfast joint. I love so much about this place.

The atmosphere is super chill, laid back, and inviting. The food is so so good. I would call it comfort food with an extra sprinkle of love and thought.

From pie to salad, it’s all good.

They use a variety of local and seasonal ingredients and support some of my favorite local delicacies with Dan the Baker bread and Thunderkiss coffee … YUM! They also have a variety of vegan and gluten-free options.

I am smitten with the Gluten-Free Lemon Poppy muffin. This place is my go to for a yummy drippy egg, roasted potatoes, salad, a sweet treat and a perfect cup of coffee.

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My husband loves Grammie’s Sammie and a piece of Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie. I somehow manage to splurge here and feel really really good about it.

Their menu has some great staples but they also always have specials that look and are amazing.

Right now they serve both lunch and breakfast during the day and I’ve heard it through the grapevine that they will soon be open in the evening and serving dinner. I cannot wait to see what delicious dishes they create for that menu. – Jana Rock

Baba’s • 2515 Summit St.

babascolumbus.com

Baba’s is my go-to breakfast spot in Columbus. You can grab a breakfast sandwich on their homemade griddle muffins (aka little pillows of heaven), order a rack of ribs, or in the spirit of Alabama Worley, have a slice of perfect pie and a cup of Thunderkiss coffee.

Their delicious baked goods are made in house, they smoke all of their own meats and their produce and coffee are all sourced locally, though their espresso will send you to the moon.

The service is fast, their team is super-friendly and there are never any pretentious vibes in the super chill atmosphere they have created on the corner of Hudson and Summit.

They’ve made a beautiful impact in their short existence in the SoHud neighborhood, fostering local artistic connections and bringing beautiful new mural art that rotates different artist from the community throughout the year. Don’t forget to grab one of their perfect cinnamon rolls for later. — Vanessa Jean Speckman

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Harvest Pizzeria sowing last seeds in German Village

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Eight years ago, Harvest Pizzeria cropped up in a small space in German Village. Today, the local pizza chain announced the closure of its flagship location.

Harvest Pizzeria German Village will open its doors for the final time on Saturday, April 27th.

“Despite the success of Harvest in German Village and our strong ties to the neighborhood, the owner of the property will not honor our renewal of the lease,” wrote founder Chris Crader in an email. “…the landlord’s demands for a new lease at a higher rate would not allow our little pizzeria to remain viable.

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Crader added that he is proud of the strides Harvest German Village has made over the years, and thankful for the community that’s supported it. He hopes they can return to the neighborhood when the right spot presents itself.

As far as the employees go, Crader wrote that with the success of the other locations, the German Village workers will be able to join a team at another restaurant.

“Harvest sincerely thanks all of its loyal supporters and we hope to see you at our other locations soon,” wrote Crader.

This news follows the announcement of the Grandview Harvest closing back in February. Read more here.

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Crawfish boils claw their way into Columbus Saturday

Mike Thomas

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What’s the deal with crawfish boils? Sure, they’re delicious, but as a true land-lubbing midwesterner, my knowledge of this particular culinary phenomenon is fairly lacking.

That said, I definitely can’t tell you why there are multiple crawfish boils going down this Saturday. Best not to overthink it—just enjoy the experience!

Pecan Penny’s |113 East Main Street
Saturday at 4 PM – 7 PM

Sponsored by Brewdog, downtown BBQ joint Pecan Penny’s is kicking off patio season with an all-you-can-eat Crawfish boil, complete with giveaways and a DJ.

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Rehab Tavern | 456 W Town St
2 PM – 6 PM

Rehab’s own 4/20 crawfish boil kicks off at 2:00. Your $15.75 entrance fee will net you a pint of beer in addition to all-you-can-eat crawfish and fixins’!

Can’t make either of these, or want to try the boil experience before committing to a large-scale event? Check out Kai’s Crab Boil or Boiling Seafood Crawfish—both on Bethel Road —for first-rate seafood experiences you won’t soon forget.

Why are there two crawfish boils on the same day? Why are there two crawfish restaurants on the same road? We may never know, and honestly, who cares? Crawfish is the bomb! Just put on your bib and get crackin’!

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