Last year I had a wonderful opportunity to travel to Columbus, Ohio to experience the best culinary delights that the city had to offer. Though I was dubious about the trip (which I talked about in an earlier post) I found myself consistently surprised at all the city to have to offer. Don’t get me wrong, I am not one to overlook the Midwest, as I grew up in St. Louis, a city that actually has a lot to offer itself in terms of food. But having living in the food mecca of San Francisco, I find that my jaded palate sometimes gets in the way of my open mind. I shake my fist at you jaded palate because Columbus had some inspiring food, enough to inspire me to make these white chocolate pistachio dark chocolate chunk cookies. (Jump directly to the recipe.)
Of course I had already written about the first day I had in Columbus, where I met up with awesome bloggers, ate fantastic Italian food and licked my weight in ice cream. However, day two had me waking up bright and heading over to Skillet, where my pal Brian of A Thought for Food and I decided we needed to sit at the window table. You know photographer types, always chasing the light. Of course, as photographers we needed a good subject matter, and Skillet provided with abundance. Farm fresh eggs are freely available all over the Midwest, but Skillet went beyond that with omelettes, biscuits and gravy, griddle cakes and sausages that made my stomach bulge. Brian looked at me in amazement as the food came out and later confided in me that the meal there changed his outlook on how good breakfast could be. True story.
Completely stuffed, we jumped on the bus to the Franklin Park Conservatory where they were having an exhibition called Hungry Planet: Local Food, Global View. Large scale photographs showed local food trends around the world, from Asia to Africa to our own backyard here in America. As enlightening as the exhibit was, the rest of the Franklin Park Conservatory was even more eye opening, with Dale Chihuly glasswork permanently installed all over the park, as well as their community garden called Growing to Green which has memorial gardens, community gardens and school gardens all growing produce and other vegetation. Apparently it’s become so nationally acclaimed that Franklin Park Conservatory has become the national headquarters for the American Community Gardening Assocation. So cool!
From the Conservatory, we went to Thurn’s Specialty Meat, where they make smoked and cured meat of all sorts. A family business for over 120 years, we poked around in the back, looked at the smoker, and the refrigerated room. I felt slightly creeped out by the dark smoky room after room of hanging meat, but I can’t deny that the smell was amazing and the sausage and cured meat we sampled were top notch. Walking into Thurn’s reminded me of walking into the past, where family craft was passed down from generation to generation and if you didn’t have enough cash on you, you could put it “on your bill” to pay the next time you visit.
Lunch had us feasting at Katzinger Delicatessen, where I gorged myself on old school deli sandwiches and dill pickles. This is one thing that San Francisco sadly lacks, a decent deli, and Katzinger is the sort of place that I sore miss from my Midwest days. Stacks of meat, fresh baked bread, big barrels of pickles and a menu that is nearly overwhelming, I couldn’t but help sigh with defeat as I barely finished half my exceedingly large sandwich. Thankfully some of my fellow food bloggers were there to help me finish it off.
Of course, the fact that I was full obviously wasn’t part of the schedule, as we immediately walked down the street to Pistacia Vera, one of the highlights of my trip. It’s no secret that I’m a fan of desserts (hello, just browse this blog) and this classical dessert boutique bakery had the goods. Shiny cases of French macarons, croissants, cookies, cakes and tarts all tempted a sweet tooth like myself. I watched as the lovely bakers in back rolled out beautiful sheets of laminated dough to make croissants (oh how silky smooth the dough looked). I watched as they handed out macarons to us all. Then I gorged myself on the sampling of desserts, as they fed us items that seemed tailored to make us swoon.
Thankfully there was a little bit of a bus ride over to the next stop, which meant a break from eating (and I could slip into my food coma nap). Arriving at Rockmill Brewery, I secretly thanked the itinerary gods that we were drinking and not eating more. Located on a pastoral horse farm, the Belgian ale that they brewed there benefits from the fact that the water they use at Rockmill comes from an exclusive well that has the same mineral content as Walonia Belgium. As we got a tour of the brewery and saw how they made their beer, we sampled their beer, along with bread, cheese and chocolate which magically changed the way the beer tastes. I’m not a huge beer drinker but I came away with a new appreciation of beer all the same.
We headed back to the hotel to get cleaned up/pass out before dinner time. I was originally slated to go to another restaurant, but was able to weasel my way into Kihachi, which I had been wanting to go to, ever since I heard Michael Ruhlman and Anthony Bourdain rave about it how this Japanese strip mall restaurant blew them away. We put ourselves in the hands of the chef and the hosts who ordered for us and we weren’t disappointed. From the hard-to-find Japanese Matustake mushrooms to deep fried shrimp that pop in my mouth, I found myself drooling not only over the food but all the dishes that they were coming on. Once a food blogger, always a food blogger I guess.
Despite my jaded viewpoint, pretty much everything I saw and ate in Columbus surprised and excited me. Not only were the bloggers I was traveling with wonderful, but the food and sights we saw were utterly memorable. One of the treats at Pistacia Vera that I saw, but didn’t taste was a pistachio and chocolate chip cookie. Though I never had a chance to sample it, I thought it was only fitting that I did my own spin on what I’m sure was a fantastic cookie. I didn’t want to replicate it exactly, as I’ve had a couple of chocolate chip cookie recipes on this blog already, so I ground the pistachio into a paste with some sweet white chocolate, and made a white chocolate pistachio flavored cookie studded with dark chocolate chunks. Just try not to gorge yourself on them like my partner AJ did when I made them. You’ll stomach (and waistline) will appreciate it.
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 have written is my own opinion.
White Chocolate Pistachio Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies
by Irvin Lin
While the original pistachio chocolate chip cookie that Pistacia Vera had is probably fantastic, I wanted to give a different spin on the cookie, by grinding the pistachios into a rough paste, and blending in a little melted sweet creamy white chocolate into the batter. Try to find roasted unsalted pistachios (Trader Joe’s is a good source for them) but if you only can find the salted type, reduce the sea salt in the recipe to 1/4 teaspoon. Make sure to use a quality dark chocolate to counterbalance the sweetness, one that is at least 65% cacao. I like to chop a chocolate bar into chunks to get the irregular pieces and small slivers of chocolate that melt into the batter but feel free to us chocolate chips if you want to skip the chopping.
Loosely adapted from the Cookiepedia by Stacy Adimando
1/4 cup (45 g) white chocolate chopped into 1/4th inch chunks
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or pistachio oil (if you have it)
1 cup (120 g) shelled roasted unsalted pistachios
3/4 cup (170 g or 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup (100 g) white granulated sugar
1/2 cup (110 g) dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups (210 g) all-purpose flour
1 cup (180 g or 6 oz) bittersweet chocolate chopped into 1/4 inch chunks
1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper.
2. Take a saucepan and fill it with a little bit of water. Place a medium sized metal bowl over the saucepan, making sure the bowl does not touch the water. Place the white chocolate in the metal bowl and turn the heat to high, bringing the water to a boil. Once the water has boiled, turn the heat off, and let the residual heat from the steam melt the white chocolate. Once the white chocolate has melted, add the olive oil and stir until incorporated.
3. Place the pistachios in a food processor and process until ground to small, about 30 seconds or so. Pour the olive oil white chocolate into the processor as it runs, creating a pistachio white chocolate paste (the paste won’t be smooth, but that’s ok).
4. Place the butter and sugars in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed until fluffy, about 30 seconds. Add the pistachio paste and beat together until incorporated. Add egg and vanilla then beat until incorporated. Add the salt, baking soda, and baking powder to the batter and beat until incorporated.
5. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a large spatula and add the flour. Beat until incorporated. Add the chocolate chunks and stir on low speed until the chocolate is evenly distributed.
6. Scoop out tablespoon balls of the dough and place them 2” apart from each other on the lined baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the sides of the cookies start to turn golden brown. The cookies will have puffed up, but they will settle down again once they cool.
7. Once the cookies have baked, leave them on the baking sheet for 5 minutes or until the cookies have settled down flat. Then move them to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
Makes 50 cookies.