Sunday, March 30, 2014

Betcha Can’t Eat Just One…Bag

OH! Chips

Walk with me down the isles of your neighborhood grocery store. As you peruse the space, you will notice the perimeter is dedicated to fresh fruits, veggies, meats, and dairy products (you might even find a locally produced item or two), but, as you step into the never ending maze that makes up the bulk of the store, you will notice the shelves are packed with artificially flavored, preservative laden, unpronounceable ingredient filled foods that typically traveled hundreds of miles to reach their final destination. We all have our pre-packaged salty and sweet go-to favorites, but my attempts at finding a guilty pleasure item produced in Columbus, or even Ohio, left me anything but satisfied. As I began my quest to track down the perfect locally made, whole ingredient snack, I didn’t realize the journey would begin with a food truck.

About two years ago, Brian Thornton opened his first food truck in Columbus (appropriately named OH! Burgers), but before his nascent idea became a reality, he needed to learn the ins and outs of the business. After graduating from culinary school in Chicago, Brian found himself drawn back to his hometown to hone his new skills. Even though he landed positions at some of the best restaurants in Central Ohio, like most trained chefs he wished to open a spot of his own. It was this longing which led him to enroll at The Ohio State University and balance his culinary knowledge with a degree in Operations Management. After all his chips were in a row, he chose to go the food truck route and began planning his menu. He started with burgers; a lineup of mini sandwiches topped with a variety of cheeses and spreads and made of locally sourced ingredients. Brian needed an appropriate side to accompany his main offering and knew his customers would want something made of potatoes, preferably fried. He explained how the idea of sitting inside a food truck in the dead of summer frying something to order sounded less than appealing. Instead, homemade small batch potato chips emerged as the perfect solution and he welcomed his new side business which he dubbed OH! Chips.

To discover what makes these potato chips stand out amongst the sea of bags crowding my local market shelves, I visited Brian at The Food Fort. Here, in a commercial kitchen space he rents, he was busy producing his addicting, golden fried disks. As I was inquiring about his growing company, Brian was slicing, blanching, frying, salting, and packaging his Sweet OH! Chips made of you guessed it, sweet potatoes. Twice a week he is at work frying up either his traditional Kettle chips or his sweet and savory Sweet chips; both deliciously thin and crispy. Soon Brian will be moving the operation to his own space in the up and coming neighborhood of Franklinton. He laughed as he described his new “big boy fryer”; a bath tub sized device that will catapult his current yield of 13 pounds of chips per hour to 60 pounds per hour! With the ability to up his production, Brian will be able to entertain the idea of adding seasonal flavors to his line up and making his chips even more accessible to his demanding customers.

For now, you can satisfy your craving by purchasing flavors of OH! Chips at the OH! Burger, Blu Olive, Dan’s Deli 41, Kenny’s Meat Wagon, and Ajumama food trucks or munch on a bag of pre-packaged chips while sipping local brews at Four String Brewing Co., North High Brewing, Strongwater, and Catawba Island Brewing Co. near Cleveland. You can even take home a bag of mixed Sweet and Kettle to accompany your to-go growlers from The Ohio Tap Room, purchase bags at Pam’s Popcorn in the North Market, or include them as part of your catering order from Bleu & Fig. Besides the aforementioned spots, Brian hopes to soon offer 2 ounce and 6 ounce bags on various retail store shelves, and plans on using the spent oil to power a biodiesel delivery truck. For some reason ripping open a bag and indulging in this locally made snack has me feeling anything but guilty.

Sweet Potato Chips

The Sweet OH! Chips (pictured left) traveled 0 miles to Columbus, while the sweet potato chips (pictured right) traveled 600 miles to Columbus.

Sweet Potato Chip Cupcakes w/ Torched Marshmallow Frosting

Tip: I crushed my chips by hand right in the bag they came in. Less mess and easy clean up! I also admit I got a little lazy and overfilled my cupcakes so I could bake them all in one batch. Stick to the 2/3 full…you will end up with more cupcakes to share.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Oink Moo Cluck Farms

We all know that Old MacDonald had a farm, and on his farm he had an assortment of noisy animals, but the part of this common children’s song that’s purposely omitted is what happens to the pig, cow, chicken, and sheep on the fictional homestead after all the oinks, moos, clucks, and baas have been uttered. If you are willing to go beyond the nursery rhyme and discover how strips of bacon and double cheeseburgers make it to your plate, local meat producer Oink Moo Cluck Farms is more than happy to help get you past E-I-E-I-O.

Oink Moo Cluck Farms (OMC) is a small, family run operation consisting of a main farm and processing plant in Northeast Ohio operated by Todd Neczeporenko, and a small seventeen acre property just outside of Columbus where his sister Tricia Woods resides. I met up with Tricia and her own growing brood of chatty animals - eleven cattle, two calves, thirty laying hens, a mischievous goat named Earl, and three playful puppies (including her newest duo Maverick and Goose), and she explained the history of their farm. Tricia, who grew up on a cattle farm, was an active member of 4-H, and despite the family business, had a deep affection for animals that remains a cornerstone of OMC today. She shared with me how in 4th grade she heroically saved Betsy the lamb from the inevitable. Betsy grew to be a typical family pet who followed the siblings on their bikes down the driveway, occasionally got junk food as treats, and many years later passed of old age when Tricia was a junior at The Ohio State University. Tricia’s outward personality makes her the perfect member of the family to run the marketing and sales side of the operation, but it’s her kind nature that has also landed her the role of taking care of the cows while they are birthing. She said despite the fact that her dad (who is also involved with OMC) tells her to let nature take its course, she still can’t help but put fresh-from-the-dryer towels on the newborns and check on them hourly. She is proud to share her family’s story and regularly invites customers to her farm to meet the animals, discover where their food comes from, and hear what makes OMC different than the rest.

Besides holding claim to a seriously clever name, Oink Moo Cluck sets them self apart from other producers with one huge advantage; they own and operate their own processing plant in Ashtabula County. They know each animal’s story, and unlike massive corporate feedlots they control the process from start to finish. Tricia, when asked what message she wanted to share about her business, replied without hesitation that OMC makes a point to provide the best environment possible to all of their animals (along with a diet free of antibiotics and hormones). While being raised as a food animal may not be the most desirable of paths, there is no justifiable reason why they shouldn’t be treated with the utmost respect and kindness. OMC also believes in supporting its local community. Nearly two years ago, they decided to add lamb to their offerings and in turn partnered with local famers Terri and Dick Steyer. Tricia explained how everyone wins in this partnership; a local farmer expands their market and the consumers are happy with the added variety.

Every Saturday, you can find Oink Moo Cluck Farms’ products including beef, pork, chicken, lamb and eggs, at various farmers markets around Central Ohio. Besides the popular cuts of meat, they offer bacon, gyro meat, smoked pulled pork, and many more packed prepared foods. If you are looking for something other than their typical cuts, just ask! At OMC they pride themselves with being the grower/producer, the processor, and the retailer all in one. I’m thinking Old MacDonald could learn a few things…with an oink moo cluck here and an oink moo cluck there…

Ground Beef

The Oink Moo Cluck ground beef (pictured left) traveled 27 miles to Columbus, while the ground beef (pictured right) traveled an unknown distance to Columbus.


Industrial Meat

Pallante Family Meatballs

Tip: Dipping your fingers in a small bowl of room temperature water while rolling the meatballs will help keep your hands free of meat and less sticky!

Click on the recipe cards to print your copy: