Red Wine Caramel Apple Ice Cream & a Trip to Columbus Ohio

by Irvin on December 1, 2011 · 17 comments

I have to admit that I was a bit dubious when I got the email. “Come join us and discover firsthand why Columbus, Ohio one of the nation’s fastest rising food destination.” But having grown up in the Midwest (St. Louis, Missouri – yay Cardinals!) I’m not one to automatically dismiss the idea that a landlocked non-coastal city (that isn’t Chicago) could have a burgeoning food scene. My friends weren’t as open minded. “Really? Columbus? Really?” They would say incredulously while I explained to them for the fifth time that yes, I was flying me out to sample some of Columbus’ restaurants and food. They looked at me like I was crazy, and by the time I was on the plane (at a bright and early 5:30am) they almost had me convinced in questioning my sanity for agreeing to the trip. Thankfully my trip there had me sampling some fantastic food and hanging with some wonderful people. It also inspired me to make this perfect for winter treat – Red Wine Caramel Apple Ice Cream.

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Caramel Ice cream with Red Wine Syrup and Roasted Apples mixed in.

The reality is that I’m pretty darn jaded when it comes to food. I think most food bloggers are actually. Food is what we’re passionate about, food is what we write and think about constantly and food is what we’re discussing when we get together. Have you been to Restaurant X? Have you visited Food Blog Y? Did you try making Recipe Z from cookbook ABC? It’s part of who we are by nature. And coming from San Francisco, a food mecca for many, I tend to be doubly jaded.

I’ll be upfront about this trip. I was flown out by the tourism bureau Experience Columbus (hereby called “The Bureau” which makes it sound all official and slightly top secret) to sample what they considered the best food of Columbus, Ohio. All meals, travel and accommodations were paid for. Inherently, because of this, there is a going to be a skewed perspective on the experience. But let me tell you this. Most of what I had was pretty top notch. Columbus may not be on the map for most people outside of the area as a food destination (yet), but what they have, they should be proud of and it only seems to be growing.

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A view of downtown Columbus, Ohio.

After a relatively easy flight out there and a quick check into the hotel, I met up with the bloggers and our hosts from The Bureau at Milestone 229, where I got to sample some delectable nibblies (hello grilled shrimp with signature BBQ sauce; nice to meet you flash fried calamari) and was introduced to the gang of bloggers who I would soon be besties with for the weekend. I was thrilled to see some familiar faces including Jane from The Heritage Cook (a San Francisco bay area blogger who I had met a few weeks before) and Boston blogger Brian of A Thought for Food, an old pal of mine. Terry Boyd from the Blue Kitchen had flow in from one of my favorite cities, Chicago, and Joe from The Hungry Dudes had bounced over from Detroit. The lovely Julie from Wine Me Dine Me Cincinnati had driven over as did Laura and David from Cincinnati Nomerati. Michelle from Vanilla Icing had hopped over from Pittsburgh and local blogger Rachel from Hounds in the Kitchen met up with us as well, helping The Bureau out and giving us awesome insight to everything Columbus.

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Grilled Shrimp with Housemade BBQ Sauce.

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Flash Fried Calamari

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Fellow food bloggers enjoying themselves.

After a quick walking tour of downtown and the Columbus Commons, where we saw people boxing and stretching as well as a quick jaunt over to the Ohio Theater with it’s awesome façade, we headed over to Basi Italia, where we sampled fresh summer squash with shaved parmesan cheese, chilled tomato soup with blue cheese, as well honey pistachio flatbread (so good). I ended up with a fantastic lobster pasta but I have to admit that I had entrée envy while I eyed my blogger pals dining on the gnocchi with truffle butter, the veal ravioli or the eggplant parmesan (okay, I wasn’t as jealous of the eggplant parmesan – not that it wasn’t great, but really, lobster vs eggplant? No contest in my book).

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Bread sticks a plenty.

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Owner John Dornback of Basi Italia offering up a tray of chilled tomato soup with blue cheese

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Honey Pistachio Flatbread with prosciutto, spinach & fontina

Woozy from all the food and from the fact that I had to wake up at 4am to get to the airport, I was ready to call it a night. The Bureau had a different idea though, and thank goodness, because I think it might be the highlight of the entire trip (well, okay one of the highlights – there were many). Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream was our final stop for the evening and it lived up to the hype surrounding it.

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Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream Menu Board

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Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream flagship store in Columbus, Ohio.

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Working the hot fudge station.

Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting much from Jeni’s. I’ll be honest, I hadn’t even heard of Jeni’s before. I can COMPLETELY blame the fact that San Francisco has seen an explosion of artisan-crafted ice creams in the past 10 years. San Francisco, in fact, is an ice cream town, through and through (from the classic institution of Mitchell’s to my neighborhood Bi-Rite Creamery to the new liquid nitrogen fueled Smitten Ice Cream and Elizabeth Falkner’s reinvented Citizen Cake Ice Cream Parlor & Eats). Why would I look for ice cream made outside the city I live in? But Jeni’s is a different creature. She not only looks at ice cream from a different perspective, she turns it inside out to try and figure out how to make a BETTER scoop.

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A selection of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams.

The flavors were innovative by themselves (local and fresh happen to be the words du jour of the trip with nearly ever restaurant claiming it, but somehow it rang more true coming from Jeni’s mouth), with everything from sweet corn and black raspberry ice cream to backyard mint made from a varietal of fresh black peppermint called “Robert Mitchum Mint”. If I wasn’t insanely stuffed from dinner, I could have stayed at Jeni’s all night long.

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Jeni herself, in front of a picture of Jeni. It's like Inception or something.

I grew up in St. Louis where the traditional frozen dessert was a frozen custard named Ted Drewes. Jeni’s however, doesn’t use egg yolk in her ice cream, giving it a completely different texture and taste to the ice cream I’m used. The dairy fat melts at body temperature (while egg yolk fat does not, instead coating your tongue) releasing whatever flavor is suspended in the ice cream. Jeni’s doesn’t play it safe on her flavors either, from a sassy Queen City Cayenne Chocolate ice cream with a kick, to her extravagant One Night in Bangkok sundae which sounds odd in it’s flavor combinations (banana, Bangkok peanut ice cream, praline sauce, Spanish peanuts, cilantro and a giant fortune cookie) but utterly fantastic when eaten, each ice cream is loaded with taste and surprise. A revelation to me, I used Jeni’s technique as a bouncing off point to make my own ice cream flavor.

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All the food bloggers trying to take a picture before the ice cream melts, as bloggers do.

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One Night in Bangkok Sundae.

Fall came around and San Francisco shifts temperature ever so slightly but doesn’t really get the crazy autumn colors of the changing leaves. It’s sad, and I forget about how much I miss deciduous trees, until my friends start tweeting and facebooking pictures of them. It makes me want to snuggle up under a blanket, drink mulled apple cider (or mulled red wine for the weekends) and just lounge about as the days shorten and the nights grow longer. Taking inspiration from the fall and the coming winter months, as well as Jeni’s ice cream tips from her best selling book Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, I concocted an ice cream flavor perfect for San Francisco, California, but inspired by Columbus Ohio. The Red Wine Caramel Apple Ice Cream. Thanks Jeni and The Bureau for the inspiration.

Special thanks go to Experience Columbus for hosting me on this trip to Columbus, Ohio. All travel, accommodations, meals and tours were provided by Experience Columbus. That said I was not compensated otherwise for what I wrote above and everything I written is my own opinion.

Special thanks to Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni’s Splendid Ice cream for providing a review copy of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Belinda @zomppa December 1, 2011 at 5:39 am

How fun to eat together! Who woulda thunkit…well, now good to know Columbus is a pretty tempting destination. Got to hand it to the “Bureau.”

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Jenna Meyer December 1, 2011 at 7:00 am

Hi I am a lurker :)
But I brought some goat cheese ice cream to the Bi-rite ice cream social–it was from Jeni’s book. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the whole cornstarch/cornsyrup thing until I made and tasted the ice cream–it is down right revolutionary!
Columbus sounds fun!
Thanks

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Irvin December 2, 2011 at 7:05 pm

Hi Jenna. I remember that ice cream. It was fantastic – especially with the brandied cherries someone brought. Glad you delurked!

And Columbus really was fun!

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The Suzzzz December 1, 2011 at 8:31 am

You’d think I’d know better than to read your blog at work on my break on a day where I didn’t have time to eat breakfast…you’d really think that, but Nooooooooooo! *sigh* All the food looks great and I’m sending my brother (our family ice cream maker) a link to your recipe, I don’t drink but he does and he’ll probably love it.

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Cindy M December 1, 2011 at 2:57 pm

LOVE< LOVE<LOVE this post…did I mention I heart this post?? hahaha! Great pics and info.

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nancy baggett December 1, 2011 at 3:25 pm

I should not have read this post on an empty stomach. So much good food. So much good information. Thanks for posting.

A few years back I took a foodie tour of St. Louis, and also found a lot more tasty stuff there than I ever expected.. That said, I suggest that it’s best to steer clear of their “famous” gooey cake–not something I want to even recall now :-)

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Irvin December 2, 2011 at 7:10 pm

LOL! I actually like gooey butter cake, but it depends on who makes it. Some people make it from a cake mix, which I don’t like but others make it from a yeast base cake and it’s quite good.

In truth, there’s been a bit of a revolution in gooey butter cake lately. Growing up I didn’t eat any gooey butter cake, but visiting since, I have had it and it basically tastes like coffee cake, but with a little more substance.

But I hope you didn’t have any St. Louis style pizza, because THAT stuff is definitely an acquired taste.

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nancy baggett December 2, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Okay, I know lots of folks love the gooey butter cake, but the ones I tried were just not very good–sort of like a baking mistake had been made so that the inside was gummy and not really cooked. Nope, no pizza, but I loved the caramel apples at Merbs. Would like one right now!

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Irvin December 3, 2011 at 12:30 am

Oooh. Sounds like you had bad one. Gooey buttercake isn’t suppose to really be gooey. Just more soft. Think cheesecake meets coffee cake. And it’s a good thing you didn’t have the pizza. It’s pretty much inedible for anyone who didn’t grew up on it.

But I can’t believe you brought up MERB’s Bionic apples! Oh the memories. I loves apples! Gah. Now I want one right now too!

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nancy baggett December 3, 2011 at 10:00 am

I love the Merb’s apples. I came home and created a caramel very much like theirs– actually a friend of mine who was given a recipe that was a take-off on Merb’s shared hers. And I tweaked it so it is imho perfect. (I put the recipe in a cookbook.) Since I don’t get to St. Louis much, I dip my own apples every fall. An all-time fave.

Shawn December 1, 2011 at 3:52 pm

My favorite things…Wine & Ice Cream! I’m definitely trying your recipe :)

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Rachel (Hounds in the Kitchen) December 1, 2011 at 4:36 pm

I’m so glad to have met you at The Bureau’s tour. Your ice cream interpretation looks great!

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Irvin December 2, 2011 at 7:11 pm

So awesome to have met you too! You made an an awesome host/tour guide. Next time you are out here in San Francisco, let me know.

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Rita December 1, 2011 at 5:27 pm

Oh, man, what a fun-sounding trip!

Your Red Wine Caramel Apple Ice Cream has me drooling. It so evokes fall with its name, it’s like a poem.

red wine caramel apple ice cream
= fall
by irvin lin

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Sandy December 2, 2011 at 6:03 pm

A trip like this is one of my dreams as a new blogger!!! Looks like it was quite the trip!

Let me know what you think of my blog (SF focused)!
http://tinytinyfork.com/

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Jonathan December 4, 2011 at 10:03 am

This totally makes me want to make a stop in Columbus the next time I fly home to Detroit. In fact, it just makes me want to leave Austin and travel for the sake of food. There’s so much good food out there with good people behind it – it’s great to get outside our respective bubbles and make the time to experience that. Thank you for sharing!

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merri December 5, 2011 at 1:25 pm

mmm looks good. reminds me of the caramel balsamic ice cream i bought for my birthday.

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