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Review: New tasting menu at Veritas offers uniquely special experience

Regina Fox

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On a warm and windy day in April, after bringing everyone in the (614) the 4-11, I had the immense pleasure of enjoying taste profiles, textures, and pairings unlike anything else I’ve experienced in all my 24 years.

The scene: Veritas.
The food: Josh Dalton’s new Chef’s Tasting Menu

As Columbus’ only exclusively tasting menu experience, Veritas takes all the guesswork out of ordering and puts all its confidence into a small, meticulously-crafted, multi-course menu. Never having experienced a tasting menu before, I didn’t know what to expect, but having read a great deal about Veritas prior to my visit, my expectations were high.

Boy, did they deliver.

My guest and I were seated front and center at a table with a view of the pristine kitchen. Hm, dinner and a show, I thought as I met eyes with a man wearing a white chefs coat through the glass. We both smiled. I was excitedly nervous! Veritas was tastefully decorated, lit lowly, and populated by middle aged people wearing mostly business formal attire who, I guessed, were fluent in the language and etiquette of tasting menus. I spun my nose ring nervously.

Then, our host Mitch approached us and put my nerves at ease. He delivered two Snapdragon cocktails (Junmai sake-based and gorgeous) and warmly welcomed us to Veritas.

Our snacks would be right out, Mitch said. But, the snacks we got weren’t like any Fritos or Rice Krispy treats I’d had before. Three bite-sized goodies spaced out evenly on a long white plate lay before me and my grumbling stomach.

Course 1 Snacks

First (left to right) was a small radish dipped in rendered A5 Waygy beef tallow and sprinkled with smoke sea salt—savory beyond belief. I finished the radish and impolitely dabbed up the salt remnants with my fingertip. Next was a walnut cheddar wine cracker topped with whipped smokey blue cheese roasted red grape, balsamic reduction—delectable. And the grand finale: New Zealand Deep-Sea Red Crab salad wrapped in daikon radish, topped with chive. I could’ve eaten a bale of this seafood concoction.

But alas, Veritas likes to keep you hungry as not to spoil any of the riches ahead.

Course 2 Celeriac + Frisee + Black Garlic

This delicacy is made from a molded goat cheese shell, filled with a beet-based foam, and garnished with compressed apples and tarragon. The cold and airy feel of the foam, sweet firmness of the shell, chewiness of the apples, and freshness of the tarragon all joined hands and sang “Kumbaya” as I consumed. Or, maybe that was me singing…

This was by far the best and most complex mix of flavors and textures I had ever had.

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Course 3 Celeriac + Frisee + Black Garlic

I was already juggling my cocktail, my mildly sweet and tart champagne flute from the snack course, and a glass of white wine from the last course when the knowledgable Veritas Sommelier delivered a glasses of “orange” wine to the table. I know what you’re thinking because I thought it, too: no, the wine is not made from oranges, but rather blends both the red and white style of winemaking to create a unique vino. Don’t mind if I do, I thought as I indulged.

As I wolfed down this obscure looking but totally delicious dish, I had absolutely no idea what Celeriac was and my only knowledge about croquet exists because of the movie Alice in Wonderland. Beneath the frisee salad and bursting beads of smoked trout roe was a black garlic sauce-soaked celery root lightly fried in bread crumbs. This was the first warm dish and I was officially in love with Celeriac. Still not sold on the game of croquet.

Course 4 Monkfish + Prosciutto + Hen of the Woods

Prosciutto wrapped anything is a delicacy. Prosciutto wrapped monkfish is a prize. And I was just straight up spoiled with the sautéed hen of the woods mushrooms.

Course 5 Way Flank + Sunflower + Pomegranate

Wagyu, come to mama. Twice pan-seared—once in garlic and butter—laying on a bed of pomegranate yuzukoshu black garlic reduction that I could see myself swimming in a vat of. This was my favorite course by a mile. My only complaint is that my affection for it far outweighed its actual weight.

Course 6 Gjegost + Lychee + Sumac

Full disclosure, the ingredients in this dish may as well have been written in another language, because I had never heard of gjetost foam, lychee sorbet, or sumac. But, it cooly calmed my palate and I was a happy little lychee.

Course 7 Butternut Squash “Tart”

Ah, the seventh and final course. Plated to perfection, the dessert entree was a modest one, bringing in savory profiles and unique textures. My favorite bites were those of the sponge cake and mole ice cream. Call me traditional.

Coming in at $75, the Chef’s Tasting isn’t going to be your Thursday Happy Hour Plans. But, that’s okay because what it does offer is a uniquely special experience that cannot be had anywhere else in the city. Everyone can can offer 1/2 off appetizers, only Veritas can delivery an exceptionally high level of service, quality, taste, character, and creativity each and every time.

Veritas is located at 11 West Gay Street and is open 5pm – 10pm Tuesday through Saturday. To learn more about Veritas and the Tasting Menus, visit Veritas.com.

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Food & Drink

I had a Baja Blast at High St’s recently-opened Taco Bell Cantina

Asa Herron

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Once again, Taco Bell has surprised us all by adding alcohol to their drink menu. Upon hearing that the Taco Bell Cantina at 1525 N. High St. obtained its liquor license, my expectations were very ambivalent. Am I going to walk in and see a full bar with a separate area to order food, a la Plaza? Or are they going for something like Chipotle with bottles of beer and fresh margaritas available to order at the register?

Taco Bell’s drink menu turns out to be a similar, cheaper version of Chipotle’s drink menu. Instead of bottled Coronas and Patron margaritas, Taco Bell offers beers on tap and the option to add rum, vodka, or tequila to your freeze. All of the freeze flavors are available to make alcoholic––including the holy grail of Taco Bell beverages, the Baja Blast.

Photos: Amal Saeed

In keeping with Taco Bell tradition, the prices for the drinks are fairly cheap. You can get a 16-ounce Bud Light for $3, Corona for $4, and Thirsty Dog or Lost Coast for $5. However, the real treat here is the alcoholic freeze, which is only $5. The key to enjoying one of these boozy Baja Blast freezes is to keep mixing it and drink it fast. Otherwise, the alcohol you have mixed in will all go to the bottom.

The numerous televisions on the wall and high-top tables with stools to sit at create an atmosphere that could loosely pass as a casual bar. The real potential of this Taco Bell drink menu lies in its ability to transform your pre- gaming on your way to Short North bars. It’s a great quick stop before the rest of the night, or a way to bring it to a close with one last drink.

I’m not so confident that this new drink menu will go well in hours just before the south campus hotspot closes at 4am, but I can only imagine the level of intoxication that will be reached by some individuals. It’s no secret that Taco Bell is caviar to anyone under the influence. As long as the one security guard on duty can handle his own, you can bet we’ll be back for drinks at Taco Bell Cantina.

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Columbus is nuts for Krema Nut Company

Laura Dachenbach

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I remember the smell of Wonder Bread being voted one of the best aromas in Columbus in some sort of poll. Obviously, these responders had never been to the Krema Nut Company. When I enter the Krema retail space and headquarters on West Goodale in Grandview Heights, the irresistible aroma of roasted nuts and popcorn hits me like a circus and movie theater rolled into one. I know I’m not going to leave here without something in my hand.

The Krema Nut Company was founded in 1898 by Benton Black. The building was located at Second and High Streets, and primarily ground spices. However, Black also discovered the practicality and marketability of grinding peanuts into a paste, creating a protein supplement for people who were unable to chew other types of food. (Adequate dentistry was still in development.) The company moved to its present location in the mid 1920s, and while it started roasting the peanut butter, the product is still decidedly “old-school.”

“We do it all natural, so there’s no sugar, no salt, no hydrogenated oils. We use the number one fancy-grade Spanish peanut, dry roast it, take the skin off, take the heart out [the bitter part of the nut] and grind it. So
it’s real simple,” explains Brian Giunta, Krema’s Senior Vice President. 

Roasted nuts led to candies in the 1990s. Krema’s signature confections include Cashew Crunch, a handmade toffee; Buckeye Crunch, a caramel corn coated in peanut butter and chocolate; and Pecan Turtles—as well as chocolate-coated nuts, pretzels, and raisins. 

Giunta’s family bought Krema Nut in 1991, when he was a teenager. He knew he enjoyed business, but didn’t know where to channel that interest, and began discussing his plans with with his parents and others. “That was right when the internet was starting to really kind of pop.” 

Guinta recalls his father being interviewed by Business First about the company’s website, one of the first in Columbus. “There’s a picture of my dad holding a big scoop of nuts out front talking about the internet, if it was going to take off.” 

Inspired, Giunta joined the Krema team after college, and has played a role in preserving its traditions, but also carrying the company forward as his parents work towards full retirement.

“I came on in 2000, and so I started from the bottom and worked my way up. Every single job in this place, I’ve done,” Giunta says. “[Taking over the company] is awesome, but it’s a lot of weight on the shoulders.” 

As he moves around the space, it doesn’t seem there isn’t a job that Giunta can’t or won’t do, from taking calls to running equipment to helping behind the register. Today’s task is to make Hot and Spicy Peanut Butter, a natural peanut butter with a bit of cayenne pepper, a perfect addition to a cheese and cracker platter. (Giunta especially enjoys this treat with saltines.)

Giunta takes me back into Krema’s production area, occupied by old but well-built machinery, and the simplicity of the process becomes clear.

“Our grinder is very small. It’s low output. We do small batches. We make peanut butter every week. It would probably make much more sense to do a month’s worth, put it on a skid and put it in a warehouse and let it be. But that’s not us. We want it to always be fresh. Same thing with the oil roasting. We do it every week. So again, it would make more sense to just roast for a couple days and fill up all of our inventory. But that’s not us. So it’s like Groundhog Day every week.”

And there’s no fooling around. After master roaster Doug Vorhies loads the spicy peanuts (yes, just peanuts) into the grinder, he sits down to collect the thick, smooth butter in pre-labeled glass jars and hands it
off to to be immediately (yes, immediately) sealed, locking in the freshness as promised. 

“I can burn 300 pounds in a matter of seconds if I don’t pay attention to what I’m doing,” said Vorhies, who has been roasting and grinding peanuts at Krema for a decade. “When I get the peanuts in, I look at the lot number and see if that’s changed. Or you feel the weight of the bag and sometimes they’re a little bit looser because the moisture has evaporated out so the nut would tend to shrink down.”

Although visitors aren’t allowed in the production area, much of the process is still visible through the retail store windows. Krema’s retail space is split between its store, which carries its nut, popcorn, and candy products, and its cafe, which offers a dozen gourmet nut butter sandwiches. The Krema Special, an upgraded PB and J, is a top favorite. The Classic Old Timer, a sandwich of crunchy peanut butter, strawberry preserves, and sliced strawberries, is a close second. Ice cream and milkshakes are available, care of Johnson’s Old-Fashioned Ice Cream in Bexley.

“We have a nice relationship with them where they’ll use our peanut butter […] and we’ll use their ice cream for our milkshakes and sundaes,” said Giunta. “They do a great job over there.”

I give into the sensory overload and my undeniable hunger and try a Peanut Butter Apple Cheesecake sandwich, an absolute tribute to the comfort childhood with a grown-up taste. There’s hardly a way to not get sticky eating this treat, but I don’t really mind. Peanut butter always seems to hit the spot. 

As I’m leaving, Giunta notices a stray nut on the floor. It would be easy to leave it and let it be swept up later during a dedicated cleaning time. But instead, Giunta picks it up and discards it, lest it be crushed underfoot. It seems to be exemplary of his sense of pride and drive for quality and customer satisfaction that’s summed up in a simple mantra.

“I just want everything to be perfect.”

The Krema Nut Company is located at 1000 W Goodale Ave.
For product information and to order online, visit krema.com.

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Review + virtual tour of stunning new Columbus brewery

Regina Fox

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On an unusually warm September day, a few of us (614) staffers made the journey over to Olde Towne East to pay Columbus' newest brewery a visit.

Gemüt Biergarten, located at 734 Oak St., opened to the public on August 22 and offers guests a cultural drinking and dining experience in a setting just as unique.

The Firehouse, formerly known as the Columbus Music Hall, is a grand and beautiful structure, one that owners Kyle Hofmeister, Rob Camstra, Nick Guyton, and Chelsea Rennie were careful to maintain during the renovation process. The original brick walls remain throughout the brewery and beerhall, but new and stunningly beautiful stain glass windows were installed behind the bar to greet customers upon arrival and illustrate the different Gemüt brews.

Speaking of beers, I went with the Alfheim Hefeweizen which was bright and, much to my delight, not too fruit forward. The dark and toasty Woden’s Hunt Dunkel and the crisp Helheim Helles are also debut beers at Gemüt with a couple kolschs, a marzen, and a pilsner hitting taps soon.

Inspired by European cuisine, the food menu offers a variety of German sausages, Schnitzel, along with several appetizers and large plates. Sunday brunch specials are also offered—keep an eye on Gemüt's Facebook for updates.

With our beers in hand and our minds on the amazing Gemüt grub, we made our way out of the biergarten. The path to the patio took us past the pristine brewery where we got an up-close-and-personal look at the magic behind the malts.

We emerged onto a stone and brick plaza covered in picnic tables and partially covered by an upscale pergola. In the far corner, a fun-sized tables and chairs sit next to a Little Free Library—the perfect place for the tots to hang while the adults have their fun. A cute wooden gazebo populates another corner of the biergarten next to the al fresco bar.

As a resident of the Olde Towne East neighborhood, I've driven by Gemüt Biergarten in the evening many times to see the patio illuminated by dozens of Edison bulb string lights and wished I was there. And now that I finally got a chance to patronize the place, I wish I never would've left.

Take a virtual tour of Nosh in the gallery below! 
Note: use the left/right arrows in the upper-left corner to navigate between images.

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