Sponsored by GateHouse Media, this inaugural food event takes place Aug. 11-12 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
Reindeer sausage from Alaska will be there. So will Kansas' sour cream and raisin pie. And, of course, the Ohio buckeye. For two days this month, Flavored Nation will bring a culinary tour of America's iconic dishes to our fair city for the first time. The event—featuring samples of dishes from all 50 states prepared by both local and national chefs, cooking demonstrations, cooking competitions and more—takes place Aug. 11–12 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center (GateHouse Media, which owns Columbus Monthly, is a sponsor).
Richard Gore, executive producer of Flavored Nation and former president of live events for the Food Network, says the “secret sauce” of the event is the opportunity to stoke debate. “The whole thing about the event is the passion that people have for these foods,” he says. ”[We want to] engage that and keep the conversation going.”
We decided to pit a couple of die-hard rivals against each other to see how their dishes stack up: Michigan Coney dogs versus Ohio buckeye candy and Florida Key lime pie versus Georgia peach cobbler. Plus, we introduce you to two of the more obscure dishes on offer: chislic and knoephla.
Illustrations by Betsy Becker
Michigan vs. Ohio
Michigan State Dish: Coney Dog | Chef Grace Keros, American Coney Island (Detroit, Michigan)
Many people think of New York's Coney Island when they think Coney dogs, but despite its namesake, the beloved chili-covered dog can be traced back to Greek immigrants. Passing through Ellis Island, William “Bill” and Constantine “Gust” Keros borrowed the name of the nearby seaside town and created the birthplace of the Coney dog in Detroit, opening American Coney Island in 1917. There, they introduced the classic Coney dog featuring a steamed hot dog and bun, topped with chili-like ground beef, yellow mustard and diced onions. Chef Grace Keros, Gust's granddaughter, continues the family Coney legacy with her brother in the 101-year-old storefront that remains open on the same Detroit street corner.
The chef says: “Our Coneys are magic. It snaps when you bite into it. The buckeyes don't stand a chance.”
Iconic dish alternative: Michigan cherry pie—Lillian van Wyngaarden
Ohio State Dish: Buckeyes | Chef Avishar Barua, Service Bar (Columbus)
Buckeyes in Ohio can mean a variety of things: a beloved football team, nuts from the official state tree or a chocolate and peanut butter candy that has become a tradition across the region. The round candies resemble the buckeye nut—so named because it resembles a deer (or buck's) eye—with an exposed peanut butter, sugar and butter center that shows through its chocolate-dipped sides. Columbus' oldest candy company, Anthony-Thomas, started making the ubiquitous treat in 2000 (although the company didn't invent it). It is now Anthony-Thomas' top seller; the candymaker produces about 100,000 pounds every year. Chef Avishar Barua makes a habit of putting a modern spin on Midwestern dishes, so expect the unexpected.
The chef says: “I'm taking a bit of chance with the buckeye. I'm from Columbus and grew up eating buckeyes. I want to amplify the flavors and add textures to it. … I want to show that Columbus is a city of innovation even when it comes to our candy.”
Iconic dish alternatives: Cincinnati chili or Johnny Marzetti
—Lillian van Wyngaarden
Our pick: We have faith in Barua's buckeyes (plus, Michigan hasn't beaten us in years).
Florida vs. Georgia
Florida State Dish: Key Lime Pie | Chef Perrie Wilkof, Dough Mama (Columbus)
Named Florida's official state pie in 2006, Key lime pie takes its name from the small, aromatic limes grown in the Florida Keys. It is traditionally made with Key lime juice, condensed milk and egg yolks that are then baked in a pie crust. Floridians cannot agree, however, between a graham cracker and a pastry crust, or if the filling should be topped with meringue or whipped cream. Key lime pie is a return to pastry chef Perrie Wilkof's roots—it's the first pie she ever made and it sparked her interest in baking pies.
The chef says: Wilkof's take on the classic Key lime will have “a little spin on it”: cardamom in the pie filling and ginger in the graham crust. “It makes it a little more flavorful, a surprise for tasters, but it will still be super lime-y and tart. Still everything you love about Key lime pie.”
Iconic dish alternatives: stone crab claws or Cuban sandwiches —Georgia Drost
Georgia State Dish: Peach Cobbler | Chef Damiano De Nicolo, Georgia Tech Hotel & Conference Center (Atlanta, Georgia)
This dish was a staple in the diets of American settlers, as it was easy to “cobble” together the main ingredients: fruit and dough. It eventually became a dessert and is commonly served with ice cream. Peach cobbler is a mainstay Southern dessert because it takes advantage of Georgia's most famous export: peaches. Chef Damiano de Nicolo's peach cobbler will be made fresh in Columbus, and he's excited to incorporate the summer peach crop.
The chef says: “Cobbler is better with summer peaches. Winter peaches need more seasoning to get to the same flavor.” He adds that comparing peach cobbler and Key lime pie is like comparing peaches and limes, but he's excited for tasters to come to their own conclusions.
Iconic dish alternatives: chicken and dumplings or Brunswick stew —Georgia Drost
Our pick: We're biased, but don't bet against the Dough Mama.
Weird and Wonderful from the Dakotas
North Dakota State Dish: Knoephla
Modest in nature and nourishing in taste, knoephla originated as a peasant dish for German-Russian immigrants in North Dakota, as well as South Dakota and Minnesota. Knoephla is a type of dumpling that combines chicken, potatoes, onions and parsley in a thick, stew-like concoction to create a homey, easy-to-make meal, solidifying it as a staple after a day in the fields. The quintessential dish is often served with bread slices for dipping. Chef Linda Herr of Home Plate Café in Fredonia, North Dakota, will introduce this hearty meal to Columbus. —Lillian van Wyngaarden
South Dakota State Dish: Chislic
This South Dakotan delicacy specific to the southeastern region of the state rose to popularity from mysterious origin. Chislic is traditionally small chunks of lamb or mutton that have been grilled or deep-fried, served on a stick with minimal seasoning. It is widely accepted that Russian immigrants brought the meat-on-a-stick morsels to South Dakota, though no one has a true claim to fame. Classic chislic was particularly popular in the mid-20th century, but current variations sometimes consist of beef or venison and include a sauce or marinade. Saltine crackers serve as an accompaniment. Abby Schoenwald, manager of Meridian Corner in Freeman, South Dakota (population 1,306), will be serving this beloved dish. —Georgia Drost