Monday, July 14, 2014

What's up Swoop!?

Chances are, if you know a cook, you know an action junkie.  The rush of service crashes down around your ears in an instant, and if the stars are all aligned and your crew is in the groove, it’s easy to lose yourself in it.  Sometimes, everything works and you dance through the night, hours slipping by like minutes. Sometimes, the tightrope begins to sway and you end up clutching at it for dear life, every minute stretching into eternity.

That rush, and the ability to not get buried in the weeds during the rough spots is what makes a restaurant run.  It wouldn’t happen if people didn’t come and people won’t come back if you don’t care enough to make it nice.   Sometimes it doesn't go so well, but you make it right and put it behind you.

We were fortunate enough to have a bustling sort of weekend at Bebe at the Hey Hey and it was a great feeling!  It’s one of our very favorite things to help people celebrate their special days, so we were extra happy to help the family and friends of The Commissary celebrate another milestone in their project, which feels in a lot of ways, like all of our project.

This weekend was also the sort that reminds you that as a food service team, we serve at your pleasure, because we really need you.  That’s why we work our hardest to do it right every time, shake up our menu as often as possible and knock your socks off every single time.

We take a lot of chances.  Very little of our food is conventional and we buy almost nothing prepared.  Making most of our food from scratch casts our labor requirements as absurd based on the size of our business.  Our semi-permanent location is a bit out of the way and as “an elite dive”, a  colorful phrase coined by a quippy yelper, it's difficult to know what to expect.  Our menu favorites are always in danger of being shuffled off and replaced with some nifty new idea.  We have only enough cold storage for a busy night, leaving us literally starting from scratch some days.


For those of you that have become our beloved regulars, those risks (we hope) pay off nightly.  We thank you so much for getting us this far and hope to see you soon.  For everyone else, of course we’d love to be successful beyond our wildest dreams, but now, this Swoop! things is still a dream we fight for daily and we need all of you to help us make it everything we want it to be, not just for us and our families, but for this city we’re fighting for.

In the mean time, we'll keep trying to push forward as a company.  We'll sharpen our knifes and get ready to cook off against the able Chef Catie from The Challah Food Truck in our inaugural edition of Columbus Knife Fight Club, July 26.

We'll try our new flavor combinations and techniques and record all of our great ideas so that our Kickstarter reward party and Bebida preview at The Commissary is as amazing as we hope you've come to expect from us.

And we'll hope to see your face at Swoop! Food Truck or Bebe at the Hey Hey or possibly someplace new we haven't clued you into yet.  Maybe.




Do you have a special day ahead?  Email this guy!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Break the chain gang



     Bitter war is coming!  In fact, it’s already here.  The battle over the culinary legacy of our town spills into the streets nightly.  Most of you are embroiled in it and have no idea how central you are to its victors being decided.  Big chains and purveyors of hollow junk food have incited battle with artisans, moms and pops.  It’s a war that small business owners offering you something unique, fresh and good appear to currently be on the losing side of. 
     Make no mistake, in a city where the choice of sustenance is quickly becoming very dense, the decisions you make will shape the very future of Columbus and on larger scale the world.  This likely seems a dramatic conclusion to draw, but the responsibility does in fact lie with all of us.
     Many words have been written directly linking food, music and art to the growth and cultural richness of urban and suburban populations.  It takes little more than the quickest glance at a few other cities to see a correlation between the food and art scenes and how desirable these places are as hubs of industry and tourism.  Do we want to be Chicago or Seattle?  I think that the answer is no.  We can cast our own lot, go our own way drawing from our seat deep in the heart of a state rich in agricultural potential and plenty or choose to embrace large chains who search for the very cheapest faceless producers and purveyors to manage cost to the detriment of the citizenry.
     Now, I’m not accusing the other side of being evil.  Many of them started off small companies, struggling to make food costs and payroll just like most of us.  They’ve grown and succeeded at a very high level.  They’ve made a pretty decent profit in our city and have every right to do so.  It’s easy to take potshots at them, but this text isn’t about defaming them.  It’s a matter of how we choose to define ourselves as a city.
     When we look at it from even further aloft, so many small businesses support each other in buying local and doing their very best to operate sustainably, that it puts the prosperity and health of the city starkly in the balance.  We can all choose to make it reasonable for small farms to produce products sustainably for consumption in Ohio by choosing to support restaurants and markets that favor these choices.  We can choose to increase tax revenue and living wage jobs by empowering our friends and neighbors to make more jobs. 
     A happy side effect could be more outstanding products made literally FOR YOU.  We want to be progressive and show off to a food literate populous so that people want to visit or move here to a place that we love.  We local Chefs want to create and innovate so that Columbus gets its fair share of national press and attention for more than just the latest triple bacon cheese explosion tested in our drive-throughs. 
     Those of us that toil over hot stoves, ovens and fryers… the hardworking folks that grow beautiful, unadulterated produce and happy, well cared for animals… we all want to take care of you.  We want to please you.  We want to delight you!  The best possible outcome for us is that you really like what we do and come to see us often.  Critical success is very edifying, but we aren’t in it for the reviews.  We’re running businesses that need your support so that we can support our families and pay our bills and help grow Columbus because we are proud to be here! 

     The most important weapon you wield in this mostly polite and quietly declared war is choice.  You’ll decide, in the end, how Columbus food will be looked at in the future.  Will we be continue to be known as a Fast and Junk Food hub of the nation? Will the scrappy band of small businesses win the battle for Columbus’ soul?  It’s up to you.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Join us at the Bish Bash



Recently, children are brought sharply into focus due to a wide variety of recent events.  In a world full of tragedy it seems especially unfair that young ones are too often unable to live full lives.

This sounds like the beginning to a sad story, and I’ll admit, it’s not easy…  but it comes full circle as a portion of the promise of one young man’s life is being carried on by a loving family that chose to make something meaningful out of something senseless. 

Sam Bish was, to hear his family tell it, a regular kid starting the 3rd grade who loved to do the things most kids do.  He began to have some pain in his leg and as it affected him more and more, to the point of waking him up in the middle of the night and affecting his play, his parents took him to him to be seen by a doctor and received sad, shocking news. 

This wasn’t a matter of a simple strain.  Sam was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bone cancer in his leg.  A course of treatment was started right away, and a harrowing story ensued.  Sam endured surgery after surgery, as the cancer spread in addition to radiation therapy. 

After an unimaginably difficult road, filled with radical surgeries and constant radiation, Sam passed away in the summer of 2010.  What stood out to me from our meeting were his parent’s memories of him throughout as just a kid.  He still laughed, smiled and played.  He liked video games and Star Wars.  He had a wonderful time on a family trip to Disney World.

No one can say what wonderful things this brave kid might have done in life, but his Parents and two sisters have started the Sam Bish Foundation in his honor.  http://www.sambishfoundation.org

Their mission, “The Sam Bish Foundation brings Hope, Support and Smiles to children and families facing a pediatric cancer diagnosis.”

They do this by hosting on ward parties, sending care packages and working as almost an “in kind” clearing house, collecting donations and using their own time and energy to bring relief and support to the families affected by pediatric cancer.

This is how they honor the memory of their son.

We at Swoop!, along with our friends from Dos Hermanos are proud to partner with them, to raise funds at the “Bish Bash” August 10th, 2013 from 10:00-3:00PM at Westerville Christian Church

We’ll donate 100% percent of our profits for the day to the foundation to continue cheering families, providing help and comfort during financially troubling times and all manner of support for Children with and families affected by pediatric cancer.

We hope you’ll do your part and come eat some delicious food.  Listen to some good music… maybe bounce around in the bounce house, knowing that your support will help people that surely need it.

We hope your support won’t stop there.  There are other ways to help!




http://www.sambishfoundation.org

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Second star to the right, and straight on til' morning.

Wow...  high expectations set in the title here folks!

Sometimes something just feels... right.  We've been working...  and working and working on it.  The winter was...  To be honest, the winter was sort of a disaster!

Plumbing...  Fail!
Generator... Fail!
Propane tanks... Fail!
Plumbing...  are you kidding me...  DOUBLE FAIL!

All along, we've been toying around with new ideas and recipes, finding our voice and plotting a course.  We stuck out the winter, hoping to stay connected.  It was lean, but we worked doubles and occasionally triples to stay afloat, all the time looking toward a spring full of possibility and a new direction that seemed to elude description.

When spring finally arrived...

Car accident... fail!

There have been good things too!

     We've developed awesome new relationships with amazing new folks, like those at Seventh Son Brewery.  It's stupendous to meet people with like minds and aesthetics; folks that want to give you something awesome and handmade but are still willing to introduce you to any good thing they find!  The product that we've all been waiting for from "The Son" is finally here, and it's completely worth the wait!   We think it's way more than the Bar of the Moment, but heck...  if they're talking' bout ya...  http://www.columbusalive.com/content/stories/2013/05/02/beer-review-does-the-bar-of-the-moment-seventh-sons-beer-live-up-to-the-hype.html

     There's an exciting pairing with a new partner, Rosa Huff from Crepes A la Carte.  This partnership strengthens both of our businesses and gives us a chance to focus on what it is we feel we do best;  Feed you.  Rosa is helping us cross the i's...  dot the t's and giving us a chance, we all hope, to do that for a long time to come and hopefully, bring you MUCH bigger and better things.

     You might have heard about our new product line, PRESS, a super simple, but high quality spin on a pressed sandwich using what we believe to be the best focaccia around, from Perzoot italian foods.  Matt Swint is a genius who's bread baking and comedic timing are both impeccable!  It's still creeping along a bit, making an appearance here and there, but there will be a full rollout soon!
See?  So very special!

     Through the Crepes brand, we've gotten a chance to Swoop! you up at brunch too, every Sunday at the Hills Market downtown from 9am - 2pm spinning some of the crepes a swoop kinda way and bringing what we believe is the best french toast a man (or lady) can get.  It's as much Creme Brûlée as it is french toast, but any way you pitch it, it's special.

      Hello Worthington, food trucks bid you hello!  We've spun up our very own food pod, Sharon Square Food Arcade (take a second, like it on Facebook to stay up to date) which we're staffing with some of the best, most fun food in town!

     The good news is that the team seems to have found that new direction we were looking for, and we hope it excites you as much as it does us!  We've been working to test new recipes and the results are stellar so far.

Oh...  Swoop! has corn dogs!  Or...  do they!
     Swoop! will no longer be "the slider truck", though we will maintain a couple of sliders as options, because... well, they're good and people like them.  But we'll be forging new territory as we turn our focus toward street food from around the world.  We'll show you a Swoop! corn dog after a spin through north africa.

Falafel?  Scmalafel!
     We worked today on a falafel we think is unlike anything you've ever tasted; packed with fresh, bright flavors and a dose of sweet crab.   It's composition is as spare and clean as our new Logo, a benefit of another new relationship with an amazing new designer, Belinda Tran.

Oh, and lest we forget... we still Got Tot's!

We hope you'll join us at our relaunch paaaaartay @ Seventh Son Brewery next Friday, May 10 and excuse any bumps as we shake the rust off and tack to our new course.  Come Celebrate the #returnofthetots!

Need something awesome to draw the eye to your business?
www.belindatranonline.com

Learn Seventh Son and all of the heroic things they've been doing.  With beer.
                                                                                    http://seventhsonbrewing.com/

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Craft

When I first shopped Bluescreek farm meats at the North market I found myself in a state of awe.  The product offering was diverse, pristine and it was clear that those folks know ALL about it.  Frankly, I also thought that they were mean.  I know, it's seems harsh...  (Spoiler alert: I was right!  And wrong!)

I used to joke that they were soooo mean because they had to be sooooo nice to their animals.  This is a clearly premium selection.  There are certain products there, which price prohibits my use as a reseller, that set a new standard for me about how a cut was supposed to taste.

You don't really get a full understanding of "a thing" until you do it a lot, or watch it being done by someone who is an expert.  I watched the folks do their thing last night and it was breath-taking.

I took the Bluescreek "Beef 105" course yesterday.  David and Cheryl graciously invited us into their space as David and Tim worked, step by step on a set of primals.  Every step was explained and when it would have been impractical to continue the breakdown because of the necessity of a saw, they pulled meat from the case to show the end product.  Jamie and Cheryl were also on top of tons of hints and tips for the preparation of every cut we were shown.

I learned a lot, a few of which I'll mention here...

The fact the factory farming is dangerous was re-enforced
As a chef, you are always striving for perfection through control.  The larger your operation gets; the less control you CAN exert.  I am as confident about a product I get from David and Cheryl as one I were to fabricate with my own two hands.

Those folks aren't mean.
They're focused, deeply, on being respectful to an expensive product that they work very hard to provide.   They do love their animals, which may seem contradictory to some, and respect the sacrifice.  It appears that a lot of care is taken to make use of every bit.

Repetition
As a cook, I pride myself on my knife skills.  Put a chicken near me, and that chicken is DOOMED.  Produce doesn't stand a chance!  A cow...  Uh...  Maybe if I just...  Nope.  If I turn it...  Nope.  David and Tim know, instinctively it seems, where to cut to separate this from that.  It's an ease that comes from years of practice.
As much practice as I'll get in the coming years, I'm never likely to be able to make it look that easy.

I feel like I'm doing a disservice to Jaime and Cheryl,  the ladies are clearly knowledgeable and probably capable of butchering circles around me.  That's ok with me.

Thank you folks for your hospitality and knowledge.






Saturday, December 29, 2012

Food truck crazy!

Over the past few months I've seen the phrase "food truck craze" in print several times.  It's been needling me, slowly.  Agitating me.  BOTHERING me.

So it's time, I suppose, to make a simple declarative statement.  There's no such thing.  This is not a craze.  This is not a fad.  There are some exceptions, but overall, this isn't a get rich quick scheme for us.  It's probably not a get rich at all scheme for most of us.

It's a small part of a growing contingent of artisans.  Talented and hardworking people who want to show you something new, or maybe something old.  These are people you should take seriously.  Good food should not be treated as a fad.  Fads come and go.  I want good food to stay.

It is an exciting time to live in Columbus.  Food is getting better, amazing even, and it's not just a rash of cupcake shops because cupcakes are in.  It's people blazing new trails or doing old comfortable things in new and exciting ways.

I had a donut today.  A donut in solid contention for the best donut I've ever had, and I've had a few in my day.  The concept seems so simple and it is, in a way.  This is an item you can find within one or two miles of where you sit right now.  This donut, however, towers well above all others and not because it has maple and sausage in it, but because it is crafted in a way that makes it better.  It's not overproofed, so it isn't just a wisp of sweet, airy regret.  It has some chew, an appropriate density.  The oil temperature was obviously closely monitored, because it wasn't greasy or heavy.  The sweetness wasn't over the top, leaving room for you to enjoy the other flavors.  Someone loved that donut (before me), and wanted to share it with you. This is what the food culture is becoming, and it's a great thing.  This is an idea we should get behind.  Maybe there will be a donut craze...

I'm pretty sure that Dan, on That Food truck, is insane.  He isn't just bringing you a wonderful product, but he's so concerned about the quality of his product that he is cutting and curing his own meat.  Your meat, really.

It's not a second thought to most people, as they are loading up on scalding hot hodduk and dduk boki from Laura at Ajumama, how much time and effort is involved in crafting that product from the ground up.  Kimchee(s) and (eese), sauces, marinades...  sourcing ingredients alone has to occupy hours.

As far as we're concerned...  there isn't much to say beyond tater tots.  So. Many. Tater Tots.  Then, we have the rest of the menu to prepare, also from scratch, down to the bacon.

It's control.  We can all tell you, where pretty much every ingredient on the truck came from specifically down to the ingredient.  We're accountable, because we made it, or we know who did.


There is a clear picture of where this goes.  Portland, LA, Manhattan, DC... trucks are now an integral part of the restaurant culture of those cities.  The food coming off of these trucks deserves to be taken seriously and held to the same standards; judged at the same level as any brick and mortar.

If you ask most of us, I'm sure you'll find that we're up to the challenge.


Check out our offerings and schedule www.swoopfood.com

Try a little Seoul food at it's best www.ajumama.com

See what's happening with the fellas on the other Big Red, www.thatfoodtruck.com


Find out when and how to get the best damned donut you've ever had in your life www.destinationdonuts.com


Sunday, December 16, 2012

That was great! Where are you guys normally?

One of the buzzwords I seized while putting Swoop! together was agility.  It is an obvious upside to this sort of business plan.  This parking space not working out?  Move to another.  Not selling the beet salad (which I'm still a little sore about)?  Make the rest of the beets into chips.  The way we exist in this space is perfect for change.

There is, however, a trade-off.  You have to give up some of your stability in exchange for that sort of agility.  When a customer wants to find your product, there is a little more doing involved to track you down.  A brick and mortar is generally glued to a concept.  The upside is that if that concept is successful; if everything is executed well consistently, it works and customers know exactly where to find you.  You don't have to juggle a hundred locations and be as concerned about what sells at one location or another. 

We're discussing the laying down of some roots, in several possible forms.  But in the mean time, we're happy to be making and maintaining some more solid and on-going partnerships.  Some are new, and we'll hopefully be able to put some flesh on the bones for you soon.  Some feel as old and worn in as your favorite pair of jeans. 

If you've spoken to me in the last four months for more than two minutes concurrently, you've probably heard me gush about Dinin' Hall.  We love Dinin' Hall.  Eliza and Tim are awesome.  Dinin' Hall and by extension the property at 400 W. Rich, with its collection of artists and artisans are, in my opinion, great for Columbus.  There is ownership and responsibility shown for the city that radiates from there.  I hear that even the mayor was sighted taking in the scene at the market recently.  It's becoming a community hub.  We enjoy partnering with all of the trucks and carts that we pair with there; some standouts being The Green Meanie (I'm gonna start a petition to bring back that sandwich), Crepes a la cart and recently Lac Viet, who's lamb pho is one of the most amazing dishes in Columbus.

We're proud to support them, and happy that they support us.  Through the cooler months, we'll probably be at Dinin' Hall quite a bit.  We might be doing as much eating as cooking, but if you wanna stop by and grab a table...  there's a really great chance that you'll enjoy something special.

Check out our schedule at www.swoopfood.com.  We really wanna know what you think.  Feedback!
Learn more about Dinin' Hall and see what vendors are there at www.dininhall.com
Please, please, PLEASE eat the lamb pho from the cart or http://www.lacvietfoods.com.  Please.
Go to http://www.greenmeaniefoodtruck.com  and tell Keith and Janka to bring back the Green Meanie or I can't be held responsible for my actions.
Finally support a dinin' hall favorite and a great crepes cooker  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Crepes-A-La-Carte/309005385776843