Food can tell the story of a destination through a single bite.
Spices and cooking techniques are as native as the farmers who grow them and the cooks who use them. In Ohio, that story is often told through family recipes passed down through generations of immigrants or by the subtle sweetness of a ripe Ohio tomato that was grown in the warm, loamy soils of the state’s northwestern farmlands.
Exploring Ohio’s history and culture is a delicious journey, and it’s rich with possibilities to dig in and go behind the scenes with culinary experiences throughout the state. From group cooking classes and bespoke wine-pairing dinners to learning the art of beekeeping on a local farm, visitors can uncover the flavors of Ohio with these delectable culinary experiences.
Culinary Vegetable Institute
The inspiration behind the Culinary Vegetable Institute (CVI) was inspiration itself.
Founders Bob Jones and Farmer Lee Jones had long dreamed of creating a space where chefs and farmers could come together to explore, create and inspire one another, and in 2001, their dreams became a reality as they opened their 1,500-square-foot kitchen and dining space. The CVI also includes accommodations for visitors, a culinary library, a root cellar, a wine cellar and access to the adjoining experimental vegetable, forest and herb gardens.
CVI connects people with agriculture in unparalleled ways. Visitors are encouraged to dig in by experiencing a chef’s garden harvest before returning to the kitchen to experiment with their prized ingredients. The institute curates bespoke events for groups that could include working the beehives, touring the chef’s garden, cooking in the impressive two-story kitchen, enjoying a multicourse tasting dinner, getting immersed with agricultural education opportunities and more.
The most popular group experience is the Chef for a Day program, where guests can cook with the team at CVI from morning until night during an event of their choosing. The on-site Chef’s Suite offers the chance for small groups to stay overnight in this culinary wonderland, where campfire kits keep guests warm at night and lavish breakfast spreads keep them full and satisfied in the morning.
Cucina at Gervasi Vineyard
Despite its Ohioan roots, the 55-acre Gervasi Vineyard traces its ancestry back to Italy, where Tuscan traditions and family values are served just the way Grandma Gervasi would have done it. This family-run vineyard opened in 2009 and now includes a winery, a distillery, three restaurants, a coffeehouse and a cocktail lounge, as well as multiple indoor and outdoor event venues, 48 luxury overnight suites and a boutique gift shop.
Groups looking to taste any of the vineyard’s more than 30 varietals can book a private tour led by a member of the winemaking team. Groups are guided through the winery before enjoying a selection of four wines paired with chef-selected small bites and a logo stemmed wine glass to take home.
Distillery tours are available for groups of 12 or fewer. A staff member guides groups through the distillery before a tasting of three spirits with a slaty sidecar snack and a logo shot glass to take home. The Cucina Demo Classes offer a fun and inspiring chance for groups to learn new recipes alongside chef Meg Feller, owner of Lemon Leaf Catering, while sharing a great meal and toasting to an evening spent bonding and indulging among Ohio’s own Tuscan-inspired village.
Troyer’s Country Market
Located in the heart of one of the largest Amish settlements in the world, the family-friendly Troyer’s Country Market welcomes visitors in with warm hospitality and delicious offerings.
The strong work ethic and unwavering values for both family and customer service that are prevalent throughout the entire Holmes County region are present before visitors even walk through the front door. Motorcoach groups and drivers are often greeted with a pickled jar of a local favorite food; once inside, they feast on the sight of freshly baked treats, home-cured meats and farm-fresh produce. The market opened in 2006 and has become a favorite place for sampling local fare, stocking a pantry or grabbing a bite to eat in a relaxed and inviting setting.
Shoppers grab a bag of complimentary popcorn from the sample station before tasting specialty cheeses and jerky, or place orders for custom sandwiches at the deli before strolling the aisles looking for local goods like the famous Troyer’s Genuine Trail Bologna.
Hofbräuhaus Columbus Brewery and Restaurant
Every day is Oktoberfest at Hofbräuhaus Columbus Brewery and Restaurant, where the waitresses don dirndls and giant pretzels are served with a hearty side of homemade bier cheese. Owners Nick Ellison, Eric Haas and Jay Lange worked with the original Hofbräuhaus in Munich to franchise this beloved bier hall and bring authentic German beer and brats to the streets of Grandview Heights in the Columbus area in 2014.
The building is a replica of the original 400-year-old German location and features one of the finest biergartens in the Columbus area and is great for enjoying fresh air and good food with friends and family. The restaurant hosts a wide range of themed nights throughout the year, ranging from family nights to an authentic Oktoberfest keg-tapping celebration. But there’s always a chance for celebration with live music, dancing or just feasting on the best wurst around.
The beer is brewed on-site every day, crafted under the direction of a head brewer who adheres to Germany’s strict purity laws, and the menu is filled with authentic German recipes. Groups looking for a more private gathering can book any of the three venues or take over the entire biergarten for a private Oktoberfest gathering with friends and family.
Sunny Irish Dinner
It was 2007 when the Sunny Street Café cracked its first egg in Dublin and diners first feasted upon lavish breakfast spreads and hearty lunch entrees like stuffed biscuits and bistro burgers. The cafe now operates throughout America and Canada, but it’s only in Dublin that groups can gather for an Irish banquet fit for royalty.
The restaurant serves breakfast, brunch and lunch and is open to the public only between 6:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., leaving a wide window for group experiences after hours. Groups of up to 60 can enjoy the Sunny Irish Dinner, an hour-and-a-half celebration of Irish heritage.
The evening begins with a dinner of salad, Craggaunowen chicken or corned beef and cabbage, apple mash and a vegetable side dish. But anyone of Irish descent gravitates first to the freshly baked Irish soda bread and saves room for warm Irish apple cake with ice cream for dessert.
Irish dancers, fiddlers and folk guitarists add a sense of entertainment to the evening, and it’s not unlikely that an Irish jig will break out once the plates have been cleared.