Cooking At The Kitchen

Last night we had our annual bash with The Mentees (old and new) and their spouses. This year we changed things up and went to The Kitchen, where you help to prepare your meal under the guidance of the friendly and expert staff.

The evening began with noshing on the offerings on a charcuterie board and each of us making our own champagne cocktail. (I used some tasty plum bitters for mine.). Then Kish picked names out of a hat and we teamed up to prepare the different courses, donned our aprons, and got to work. The Red Sox Fan drew the short straw and had to chop, sauté, and stir with me in preparing the sauce for the beef loin, and we also enjoyed a fine winter salad with nuts and apple slices and blue cheese, wild rice, broccolini with pecans, and a terrific gingerbread soufflé for dessert. For the first time in my life, I actually ate some broccolini!

It was a lot of fun from beginning to end, and the food was great. There’s just something about people cooking together in a kitchen that leads to everyone having a good time. I’d recommend The Kitchen to anyone who’s got a group that wants to do something a little bit different.

Taco Tuesday

IMG_5888Tuesday is, by tradition and by design, an unnoticed day of the week.  It doesn’t have the excitement of Friday or Saturday.  It isn’t hated, like Monday.  And it doesn’t have a cool nickname, like Humpday.  It just squats there toward the beginning of the work week, unremarkable and seemingly content to be viewed as just another day to get through.

But now — in Columbus, at least — there’s something to really like about Tuesday, for the fine folks at The Kitchen have declared it to be Taco Tuesday.

IMG_5887As readers of this blog know, The Kitchen is designed to offer “participatory dining” experiences and to serve as a venue for weddings and other functions.  On Tuesdays, though, they throw open their doors to the public in celebration of the taco.  Last night Kish and I paid our first visit to Taco Tuesday, and it was a riot.

First, two words about the ambiance and setting:  fun, and fun.  Diners go up to an order station to choose from the offerings listed on a big chalkboard.  Last night’s bill of fare included tacos (of course!), tamales, side dishes, desserts, and drinks — The Kitchen has an honest-to-god bartender who whips up a specialty cocktail also listed on the board.  After you order and pay, you drop your order slip off at the kitchen area, grab a small stanchion with your order number so the waitress can bring your order to you, and then find a seat at one of the long tables.

When you’re sitting at one of the long tables you get a communal dining experience, which adds a lot to the fun quotient.  Last night a good local folk singer-songwriter named Carole Walker was performing her music, which she describes as soul with a funky kick, and we sat with a friendly group of women who were there to listen to the tunes and drink a ice-cold pitcher of margaritas.  Needless to say, they were enjoying themselves as Ms. Walker rocked the house with her guitar and voice.

The food was really good, too, and affordable.  Kish had two tilapia tacos, a cold summer soup, and a ginger rhubarb popsicle (seriously!) made in-house.  I had a pork tamale, a flank steak taco, black beans, and a Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat draft that tasted like summer and went well with the Mexican menu.  My meal came to $15, and we got the food fast, too.

Tuesday is definitely moving up the list.

Chefing It

On Friday night — at the kind invitation of our friends Bow Tie Guy and Band Mom — Kish and I joined a small group for a memorable “participatory dining” experience at The Kitchen here in German Village.  The Kitchen promises a participatory dining experience that “blurs the line between patron and chef.”  In our case, that promise was kept — and I might add that the blurring was aided by a number of very well-chosen bottles of wine that our group consumed with relish before and during food prep and then with our meal.

IMG_5689First, a word or two about the setting and the concept.  The Kitchen is located in an historic building that was a department store, and later a cheesy video store, on Livingston Avenue.  The building was acquired by two passionate female foodies who were able to see past the video store bric-a-brac to envision a space where people can have fun cooking, and then eating.  The result is a choice setting, with the original high, pressed design tin ceilings and brightly polished hardwood floors, long tables made from refinished barn siding, and a high-end, fully kitted out, restaurant grade kitchen.

When our little band arrived, we gathered around the charcuterie platter and were served an excellent wine — the first of many fine wines deftly chosen by the proprietors to specifically complement what we were eating at the time.  The proprietors described the courses — a salad, garlic shrimp, a chicken dish accompanied by fingerling potatoes and eggplant, and finally a raspberry white chocolate tart — and offered us our choice of food prep tasks.  The “participatory” part of our dining experience was about to begin.

Kish and I decided to do the salad, which seemed to be fraught with the least downside risk from an edibility standpoint.  We donned our aprons and promptly learned the first lesson of The Kitchen experience:  it’s fun to cook, particularly when you have the ingredients laid out in advance, have the appropriate knives and implements available, and have a friendly expert at your elbow guiding you through the food prep process.  We chopped our salad fixins without losing any fingertips, blended our salad dressing, then roamed the room to watch other people at their food prep stations.

IMG_5698And there we learned lesson number two:  many people can really cook, and take pride in producing quality consumables.  Our fellow patron-chefs, such as The Honeybee pictured here, carefully followed instructions, performed their tasks with good cheer, and juggled their wine glasses while brushing and basting and sauteeing their hearts out.  Ultimately, the proof of the pudding was in the tasting — every dish and course of the meal was absolutely delicious.  Our simple salad with olives and peppers and a garlic dressing was tasty, but was promptly blown out of the water by the shrimp, the chicken, the potatoes, the veggies, and the dessert, as well as the wine selections.  Kish and I accepted that not-unexpected result with equanimity and full stomachs.

I’d recommend The Kitchen to anyone who wants to have a fun foodie experience.  And if you would rather not participate directly, The Kitchen offers Taco Tuesday, where the experts do the prep and patrons get to just drop in and gobble down the results.