So for a variety of reasons, some legitimate and some just lame, I never got around to posting anything more about our food trip to Cleveland. Here’s the thing about me and writing: we have a very hot/cold relationship. Sometimes I get a little excited and can’t wait to pen something witty and informative. Other times (in all honesty, most of the time), I really could care, or seem to care, less. I always feel guilty about NOT doing it, but that state of mind rarely is enough to send me scurrying to the keyboard.
Anyway, the main event of our trip was the “Japanese Carnival” created by Fresh Street and hosted by Noodlecat. Huh? Yeah, I know. To most, this sentence makes no sense, unless you are a big food nerd like me. So, let me explain.
Not so long ago, in a foodie town (Columbus) near me (thankfully), two young talented foodie-type people (Kenny Kim and Misako Ohba) started up a food cart named, um, Foodie Cart. They made and sold Japanese crepes, and were very successful.
“Ummm…Japanese crepes. I don’t see the appeal of French-Japanese fusion.” Be still, my friends. There will be no talk of thin pancakes filled with sake-infused escargot. These crepes are a thin, crispier, butter-less shell containing Japanese-inspired fillings riffed in endlessly creative ways (think kalbi short-rib and bulgogi cheese steak).
Eventually, warm weather turned cold (except for this year’s “faux-winter”, as I have just dubbed it), and our dynamic caped crepers closed down for the winter, but set their sights on the next spring.
And thus was born Fresh Street. And Japanese balls. Oh please people, get your minds out of the gutter. Sheesh. I am simply referring to takoyaki. The traditional are octopus-filled dumplings, but they also offered different versions including Japanese sausage and okonomiyaki, containing shredded cabbage. Mmmmm, balls.
Now this is the interesting part. You know, the part where I come in (hehehe). Knowing the Good Husband and I were headed over to Columbus for a couple days, I cranked up the internets in search of new and exciting Columbus food adventures. I headed over to alteatscolumbus.com, a great site for interesting eating info, and found: Section 8 Yakitorium!
So, our crepers, and now ballers (ahem), have not been content to rest on their culinary laurels. They have struck a deal with the owners of Double Happiness (Should I be alarmed by the continual innuendo in this post? Nah.), and are now serving crazed and inspired yakitori in a trippy Hunter S. Thompson-meets- Quentin Tarantino spot in the Brewery District (This experience deserves its own post, on which I am still working.).
We show up, we eat and drink, we are curiously satisfied, and we become privy to some very interesting info via an overheard conversation right before heading out. I excitedly inserted myself into a conversation with Kenny Kim once I heard him mention he was doing a “pop-up” event in Cleveland in a few weeks. At the same time I had planned our first mother/daughter foodie trip to Cleveland. Sweet! What are the chances?
So, I’m sitting here talking food and things related with Mr. Kim, a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic young guy, the kind of conversation about food I absolutely love. The- rush-of-excitement-incomplete-thought-I-don’t-have-to-spell-things-out-for-you-because-I-already-know-you-know-what-I’m-talking-about-because-you-are-as-insane-when-it-comes-to-food-as-I-am kind of conversation. He tells me that they are doing a pop-up food event, host by the restaurant Noodlecat (Asian noodle joint recently opened by Greenhouse Tavern owner Chef Jonathon Sawyer) in Cleveland. It will have a Japanese carnival theme, with all sorts of great foodstuffs. Then he offered to sell me his food cart, on a payment plan if need be. Sigh. Someday perhaps, but not this day.
Once back home in good ol’ Dayton, I purchased our tickets online, and a few weeks later, we were there!
I must caveat my experience at the carnival at this time. I was far from feeling well, but based on my excitement to try more Fresh Street foodstuffs and to introduce my daughter to the yumminess, and the fact that I had shelled out more than a few bucks to be a part of this adventure, we were going, no matter how loudly my stomach cursed me.
So, we went. The atmosphere seemed a little strange at first, but once we realized (kind of) what was going on around us, we just plunged in. Strewn about were little toys and prizes, blinking oversized glasses, funny plastic masks. A little game had been set up involving shooting down little origami balls (Really? Again?) with a toy gun or bow and arrow. You can guess where my daughter spent most of her time.
As for the food, it was really quite tasty and as creative as expected. Here is what we ate:
Crepes: bulgogi cheesesteak, chicken karaage (The cheese steak was the winner for me.)
Yakitori/Kushiyaki: pork cheek, pork belly, beef short rib, beef tongue, chicken wings (Um, yes, all were delicious. The type of food I could eat every day.)
Ramen (Hannah’s favorite, she gobbled up most of it herself. Mommy’s little piggy!)
Cotton Candy (Little pink tufts, perfect for a young girl.)
Japanese dessert “parfait” (The most interesting and unexpected offering of the night, a combination of I think, maybe, tea-infused? mochi balls, red bean paste, strawberries, gelee cubes, and whipped cream. A carnival of textures and flavors, very apropos for the evening!)
Thunderkiss Pour-over coffee: Harrar (This coffee was quite excellent, despite the fact that I was now in the throes of major GI distress!)
All in all, an evening well spent among fellow food adventurers. And I even got to meet Chef Sawyer’s mom. Pretty cool.