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Columbus, A Culinary Capital (Sponsored)

It takes a world map to size up Columbus’ culinary scene. Sure, the city has its share of Thai, Chinese and Mexican restaurants, and the lines are always long at Schmidt’s, a well-loved German restaurant. But Columbus also digs the foods of Nepal, Yemen, Somalia, Senegal and tiny El Salvador. These newer arrivals not only add global spice, they upend the Midwestern meat-and-potatoes stereotype. As Sebastian Modak said when he profiled Columbus in the New York Times’ “52 Places to Go” series last year, “Columbus feels like a city on the move.”

At the same time, Columbus certainly hasn’t tossed out the old as it welcomes the new. It relishes its agricultural roots at places like Glass Rooster Cannery, where not only food, but agrarian traditions are preserved. Columbus turns grains into great spirits at dozens of craft breweries and a growing list of distilleries. And it remains faithful to tried and true treats, made locally and beloved for decades, like Anthony-Thomas Buckeye candies and Krema peanut butter.

This mix of tried and true plus experimental and entrepreneurial gives culinary tours of Columbus a flavor that groups can long savor.

Fresh air, food and fun

Glass Rooster Cannery is a breath of fresh air, a family-run farm with flower-filled meadows, a pond, swings, a teaching kitchen, a gift shop, an art-filled barn and brand-new restrooms. Learn to make jam and can green beans or taste half a dozen varieties of basil on a leisurely walking tour. Meet a beekeeper who gathers honey from around the world, then sit down to a meal where everything from the chicken to the salad dressing has been enhanced by honey. Head to a field, clippers in hand and snip snapdragons, cosmos and bachelor buttons to carry home. Even those who don’t have time for a canning class can go home with a jar or two of jam or jelly chosen from among dozens of flavors sold in the farm’s shop.

Get a bigger taste with a food tour

Giving visitors a bigger taste of Columbus is Columbus Food Adventures’ aim. Every group tour it designs is customized, based on that group’s interests, schedule and mobility. Because the company has connections throughout the city, it can easily handle the logistics involved for a progressive tour of restaurants in the artsy Short North, a driving tour with stops at the small, international cafes that pepper the city, a focus on coffee and desserts or a guided walking tour through German Village with stops for sustenance at longtime favorites. And, Columbus Food Adventures’ recent merger with Columbus Brew Adventures makes tours that combine food and drink easy to arrange.

A perfect pairing: Chocolates and peanut butter

Depending on the season, chocolates take different forms at Anthony-Thomas Candy Company. Springtime brings bunnies; fall brings even more Buckeyes, the double-roasted peanut butter-stuffed chocolates it makes by the million. A tour of the candy manufacturer costs $2 but every visitor gets a $2 gift shop voucher in return. To stick with the peanut theme, make a stop at Krema Nut Company, which sells mixed nuts, candies and fresh ground peanut butter. Instead of a tour, visitors peer through windows to watch peanut butter in the making; a super snack bar slathers fresh bread with nut spreads and add-ins like bananas, chocolate, strawberry jam and marshmallow cream for scrumptious sandwiches.

A German immersion

Groups buzz right past the always-present line at Schmidt’s and head up to the Banquet Haus, where a buffet bursts with Bahama Mamas–a spicy sausage that spawned its own festival — bratwurst, German potato salad, sauerkraut and the meal topper — mini cream puffs packed with vanilla cream. Dining at this German Village icon can be even more of a cultural immersion with add-ons like an accordionist who can play anything from polkas to the Star Wars theme or a step-on guide to direct a driving tour through picturesque German Village before or after a meal. For treats to take back home and a sweet ending to a tour, there’s Schmidt’s Fudge Haus where chocolate, sugar and nuts meld in copper pots.

Burgeoning brews and spirits

Crafty and spirited sum up Columbus’ liquid assets. Craft brews are booming, with more than 40 breweries and more on the way. Distilleries are the next wave. It’s fun to get a taste of each by visiting Columbus Brewing and High Bank Distillery. Columbus Brewing, the city’s oldest craft brewer, has a new taproom with 20 brews on tap for post-tour sipping. There’s seating indoors and out, food trucks most nights and walls covered with the fantastical art used on the brand’s labels. Meanwhile High Bank is fairly new but already churns out gins, vodkas and soon will pour its first bourbon. After tours here, settle in at its roomy restaurant and enjoy a mushroom grilled cheese or tuna bowl and sample a Blackberry Collins or other cocktail crafted from High Banks’ spirits.

Click here for a sample three-day culinary itinerary.

For more information:

Roger Dudley

Experience Columbus