Flavored Nation comes to Columbus this month, serving creative takes on dishes representing each of the 50 states.
Summer in Ohio is for food lovers with its festivals offering odes to strawberries, sweet corn and barbecue. This month also brings a road trip for the taste buds as the most iconic food from every state comes to the Greater Columbus Convention Center Aug. 11 and 12.
Flavored Nation is a celebration not only of the United States’ diverse culinary culture but also the talent of 13 Columbus chefs who will be serving their own spins on some of the American dishes featured.
David Rosengarten, host of one of the Food Network’s first shows and a longtime food and travel writer, helped lead the effort to decide on a dish that embodies a particular state. Researching the 50 dishes took almost a year.
“We had no official formal process to do this,” Rosengarten says. “Basically, we spoke to a lot of people, we had multiple calls to every state, gathered a lot of opinions.”
Intensive research and Rosengarten’s pedigree as a food writer and author of the book It’s All American Food helped whittle the results down to the final selections. While some states had clear choices, Rosengarten says others posed a bit of a challenge.
“A state like Louisiana has so many options,” he says, noting that gumbo fit best. “It took a while to narrow it down.”
People in North and South Dakota consistently mentioned knoephla (dumplings usually served in soup) and chislic (cubes of cooked red meat served with saltines). Rosengarten says the Flavored Nation researchers had never heard of either but were delighted to discover them.
When it came to Ohio’s iconic food, Rosengarten fielded a few ideas, including Cincinnati chili, before settling on the chocolate-and-peanut-butter buckeye.
“We’re not looking for that famous dish that the three-star chef created downtown in the big city,” he explains. “We’re looking for something people eat across the state and make at home.” flavorednation.com.
We talked to three of the Columbus chefs participating in Flavored Nation about what they’re making.
Tastemade.com personality Marcus Meacham has owned his own restaurant and appeared on the Food Network. For Flavored Nation, the Columbus chef will make Wyoming’s bison meatballs. “Bison is super lean,” he says. “I braise barley in beef fat, beer, bourbon and rendered pork fat, then I add my onion to that, then I fold in my bison meat. The sauce is sorghum molasses with OYO bourbon, really cooked down to where it’s a really rich barbecue sauce.”
The first pie Perrie Wilkof ever baked was a Key lime for her parents during college. Now, she owns Columbus’ Dough Mama, a delicious outlet for her creative pastries. For Flavored Nation, she’s going back to her baking roots. “We’re going to add some cardamom to the lime filling,” she says of her take on Florida’s banner dessert. “And then we’re going to put a little candied ginger in the graham cracker crust.”
This Gallerie Bar + Bistro chef used to visit the South Carolina shore as a child and has spent over half his life in kitchens. For Flavored Nation, he’s re-creating the Carolina classic shrimp and grits, forgoing traditional soft grains for a polenta-like cake and using an Alabama-sourced shrimp as the star. “You’ve got your Royal Reds, which I instruct my cooks not to season at all,” Kayser says of the shrimp. “They’re gorgeous the way they are.”