Decorate your own dessert

A cupcake can be a real treat. But a handful of moist cake can taste even better when you decorate it yourself, as my 4-year-old daughter, Rosie, recently found out at Our CupCakery in the Columbus suburb of Dublin.

The bakery, which opened seven years ago in the city’s historic downtown, specializes in made-to-order cakes, cookies and confections. Customers also can stop by the little shop and purchase to-go items including cookies and gluten-free cupcakes.

Rosie, however, wanted no part of the pre-decorated sweets. Her eyes were on the cupcakes she could frost herself.

The bakery’s cupcake bar is a kid-sized shelf lined with jars of toppings including crushed Oreos, candy bars and gumballs. There are also spice bottles filled with a variety of colored sprinkles and nearly a dozen types of bagged frostings to choose from.

Decorated cupcakes and cookies are priced by weight. At $1 an ounce, the average cost is $3.

The activity allows kids to be imaginative with food and works their manual dexterity as they squeeze frosting from a pastry bag.

Rosie chose a strawberry cupcake among a selection of chocolate, red velvet and vanilla. She piped chocolate frosting on top and layered it with spoonfuls of Froot Loops and Skittles. She completed her masterpiece with a shake of butterfly sprinkles.

One bite of the sugary concoction was enough to appease my sweet tooth. The freshly baked cupcake certainly was the best part.

Rosie and I sat at a quiet café table, looking out the window into the historic neighborhood. The bakery has an upstairs space for decorating parties and baking classes, too. But on this day, one cupcake would do.

Our CupCakery is located at 16 N. High St., Dublin. For more information, visit

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Small bakery serves delectable gluten-free goods for autistic community

While on a recent field trip with my preschool-aged daughter, Rosie, I discovered a unique bakery in Columbus that specializes in delicious, gluten-free baked goods that taste like they’re not missing a thing. In fact, my savory slice of cheese pizza tasted more wholesome than typical take-out pizza.

Food for Good Thought, 4185 N. High St., offers take-and-bake pizzas, bread, muffins, brownies and cupcakes for customers with special dietary needs. Here, people with sensitive digestive systems, such as those with celiac disease, can order pies and cakes, like a flourless chocolate cake with whipped-cream frosting, and not forgo the flavor.

Owner Audrey Todd also teaches classes to families on how make the gluten-free baked goods that are sold in her small house-turned-business.

Rosie and her classmates went there to watch dough turn in an industrial mixer and scoop batter into muffin tins. They also gobbled down cheese and pepperoni pizza and decorated and devoured chocolate-chip cupcakes.

Gluten, we learned, is a protein found in such grains as wheat, barley and rye. It can cause inflammation in the small intestines of some people, so eating a gluten-free diet controls symptoms and prevents complications. Goods in Todd’s bakery are made with gluten-free flour.

Todd, a clinical psychologist, personally understands the impact of a gluten-free diet. Her 7-year-old son, Liam, has autism and also has trouble digesting certain foods. By putting him on a gluten-free diet, Todd discovered that not only did Liam’s abdominal pain and diarrhea go away, but so did some of his neurological behaviors associated with autism.

Todd founded Food for Good Thought in 2008 in honor of her son and others like him who could benefit from gluten-free products. She has 11 employees, seven of whom are autistic.

“Our aim is to provide prepared gluten-free foods to our community, as well as support employment and vocational training for a wide range of individuals living with autism,” Todd said.

She’s also providing exceptionally tasty homemade baked goods. And that’s good for the community, too.

Food for Good Thought offers field trips to school-aged children. Hours are noon-4 p.m., Thursday through Sunday. For more information, visit or call 614-447-0424.

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Discover how rich-tasting ice cream is made while on a factory tour

I love ice cream, but seeing it freshly made before my eyes somehow makes it taste even better.

On a recent weekday morning I took my 2-year-old daughter to the Graeter’s Ice Cream store on Bethel Road in Columbus to tour its production facility. We also enjoyed a couple of hand-dipped cones, then Rosie released some energy at Graeter’s indoor, ice cream-themed play area called “Scoops and Chutes,” where kids can tunnel through a big, plastic ice-cream cone and teeter totter on a banana.

We were hardly the only ones with this notion, though. The place was packed with other parents and children enjoying the same simple pleasures on the first sunny day in a long time.

Graeter’s has been making ice cream in small batches since 1870, when Louis C. Graeter founded the company in Cincinnati. Its process of combining fresh ingredients with an egg custard, then freezing the mix in a French pot, has stood the test of time. The old-fashioned method is still used today and yields rich ice cream that’s sold in retail stores as well as in ice-cream shops in Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton and northern Kentucky.

Popular flavors include Black Raspberry Chip, made with black raspberries from Oregon and chunks of pure chocolate, and Buckeye Blitz, made with peanut-butter ice cream and globs of peanut-butter cookie dough and chocolate chips.

Workers at the Bethel Road facility produce ice cream 7 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Groups of 10 or more can schedule a free, guided tour during these hours, or visitors can take a self-guided tour anytime at their leisure. The tour, which takes about 20 minutes, includes a short historical video and a guided description of what the workers are doing in the production room.

Rosie and I joined a group of local kindergarteners who were on a school field trip.

Graeter’s four-step process begins with making ice-cream flavorings and sundae toppings, such as chocolate, peanut butter and black raspberry, from scratch.

Stage two is mixing all the ingredients to make each ice-cream flavor. The recipes, passed down four generations, begin with a cream and sugar mix that’s poured into 10-gallon milk cans. Special flavorings are added, such as vanilla beans from Madagascar, pure peppermint oil and sweet Georgian peaches. The concoction is broken down into two-gallon batches that are poured into French pots, heavy-duty versions of the vertical freezers used for homemade ice cream.

Stage three involves freezing the ice cream for about 15 minutes inside the French pots. This stage eliminates air pockets, giving the ice cream a rich creamy texture. Workers add chocolate chips if called for, which are created by pouring liquid chocolate into the ice cream as it freezes. Once the chocolate hardens in the pot it’s broken down with a paddle, giving the chips random sizes.

The final stage is hand-packing the ice cream into pint-size and half-gallon containers. Workers pack the ice cream tight to eliminate even more air. Each day workers fill about 2,000 pints by hand.

Visitors also can watch workers make specialty items such as ice-cream cakes, pies and Chip Wheelies, two chocolate chip cookies surrounding ice cream with edges rolled in chocolate sprinkles.

To schedule a tour, call 614-442-7622 (ext. 272). Learn more at

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Satisfy your cupcake cravings at cute café

America is in the middle of a cupcake craze. From the East to West coasts, it’s never been easier to satisfy one’s craving for a personal-sized portion of icing-topped cake.

Pink Moon Cupcake Bakery in the Columbus suburb of Powell has been serving these tasty treats since May 2007. That’s when the husband-and-wife team of Mike and Cinnamon Nuhfer opened their cupcake shop in an 1860-built house at 84 W. Olentangy St. nestled in the quaint downtown.

Cinnamon bakes cupcakes in small batches in the shop’s tiny kitchen Tuesday through Saturday. The business is closed Sunday and Monday. Mike helps out on Saturdays when he’s not working his regular job as an engineer.

Pink Moon includes a cupcake shop, café and multiple rooms featuring locally made crafts, such as children’s T-shirts and hats with cupcakes on them.

How’s the cupcake business?

“It’s fantastic,” said Cinnamon, sporting a colorful handmade apron and stylish hairdo. “We’ve been busy since the day we opened.”

Pink Moon offers cupcakes for individual sale for $2.50, by the dozen or in large orders for special occasions such as weddings. But, no matter the number needed, Cinnamon whips up her cupcake batter in small batches from scratch.

“It’s a very, very tiny kitchen,” Cinnamon said. “I can bake only four dozen cupcakes at a time, which is a challenge when you’re trying to make so many cupcakes.”

Pink Moon offers vanilla and chocolate cupcakes each day as well as specialty flavors that vary, such as Pumpkin Butter Cream on Tuesdays, Pineapple Crumb Cake on Thursdays and Margarita Key Lime on Fridays.

Customers can visit the shop and select a cupcake out of an array of domed glass pedestal plates. Pink Moon offers decorate-your-own cupcake parties for kids. A table is set up in the café where children can select from a variety of sprinkles and other decorations. A local artist is available to do face painting.

Cinnamon grew up baking and has no formal culinary training. She has a master’s degree in business and human resources and a cosmetology license. She previously worked in human resources at Ashland Chemical Co. and as a stylist at Kenneth’s Hair Salons & Day Spas. She also made handmade blankets, which she sold at art fairs. “I’ve done just about everything,” she said.

What makes Cinnamon’s cupcakes so special?

“I start with fresh ingredients such as sweet-cream butter and pure vanilla,” Cinnamon said. “It makes all the difference in the world. I also don’t use any shortenings or artificial flavorings. It’s all natural. Nothing touches a refrigerator or a freezer. Everything is extremely fresh.”

For more information, visit

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Tasty treats served in true 1950s fashion

My family often visits St. Clairsville, Ohio, my husband’s hometown two hours east of Columbus. We like to break up the drive by stopping halfway in Zanesville to visit Tom’s Ice Cream Bowl.

The restaurant, at 532 McIntire Ave., features ice cream that’s freshly made on the premises. Tom’s also sells an assortment of nuts and chocolates by the pound. The nuts are roasted in the store, and the chocolates come from Ben Heggy’s Fine Chocolates of Canton.

Owned by longtime employee Bill Sullivan, Tom’s is a throwback to the 1950s. Outside it’s a plain building, and I do mean plain. But inside it’s ultra hip with original ’50s furnishings including yellow Formica tables, steel-frame chairs, pebble-tile floor and freezers that were made more than a half-century ago.

But before you think that Tom’s is some kind of fancy eatery that’s all dolled up to look old, think again. Those white, button-down shirts and black bow ties that the male employees wear are legit.

“We’re not retro. We’re the real thing,” Sullivan said.

Tom’s serves lunch and dinner including soups, sandwiches, side dishes, sodas and phosphates. But it’s the ice cream, candy and roasted nuts that keep us coming back.

On a recent stop I ordered the banana split, and the sloppy masterpiece was like nothing I’d ever seen. My server started by slicing a banana into disks and slapping them into the bottom of a soup bowl. He covered the bananas with a stack of three scoops of ice cream – vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. He finished by topping the mini tower with a ladle full of marshmallow sauce.

Sullivan explained that many of the ice cream dishes come in soup bowls (and hence the name of the restaurant) because a customer way back in the ’50s was making a mess using a dish. He asked for a bowl, and the tradition was born.

For more information, visit

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See how buckeye candies are made at candy company

Bang. Hiss. Bang. Hiss.

Noise making doesn’t conjure images of creamy peanut butter and chocolate buckeye candies. But those sounds resonate at the Anthony-Thomas Candy Co. factory on the west side of Columbus, where the 57-year-old company makes batches of 160,000 of the delectable treats at a time. Gloved workers at the end of an assembly line release the shiny, chocolate gems from plastic molds with a bang on the countertop, creating a beat that interplays with a hiss of air from a compressor amid the machinery. The smell of warm chocolate wafts through the building.

Anthony-Thomas’ candy version of the buckeye nut is produced year-round, but it’s not until fall, when the Ohio State University football team takes the field that the candies are most appreciated. Chocolate buckeyes go hand-in-hand with a Buckeyes game like hot dogs go with baseball.

“The buckeye is our No. 1-selling piece of candy,” says Joe Zanetos, Anthony-Thomas Candy Co.’s president.

Zanetos, who’s led the company since 1993, says Anthony-Thomas has been making buckeyes for about eight years, at an estimated annual rate of more than 2 million.

“We calculated that if we put the buckeyes end to end we could stretch them all the way from Columbus to Zanesville,” Zanetos says.

At first, Anthony-Thomas made its buckeyes by hand for special orders. But the process was too labor-intensive for mass merchandising. As demand increased, the company invented a more efficient, automated method. Think conveyor belts and large steel funnels.

The buckeyes are made upside down. The system starts with an empty tray that has 40 molds – one per buckeye. Trays are transported by conveyor belt, stopping at different stations along the way.

At the first stop, a dab of peanut butter mix is automatically squirted into the bottom of each mold. The light brown blob eventually becomes the buckeye’s characteristic top.

The tray then goes through a cooling tunnel, followed by a pause at a filling station where each mold is filled with milk chocolate. The try is then flipped over to dump out the excess chocolate, leaving a chocolate lining in the mold.

Next comes more cooling followed by a stop at the depositor, where the shell is filled with the bulk of the peanut butter concoction. After more cooling, the candies are squired on the bottom by chocolate.

Zanetos’ grandfather Thomas founded the chocolatier in 1952 along with his father, Anthony. The two combined their first names to create the company’s moniker. In addition to buckeyes, Anthony-Thomas makes boxed chocolates, fudge, brittle, caramel corn and roasted nuts. Specialty items include peppermint bark at Christmas and chocolate eggs at Easter.

Guests can tour the Anthony-Thomas factory, 1777 Arlingate Lane, for free every Tuesday and Thursday from 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. To schedule a tour appointment for large groups, call 877-226-3921.

For more information, visit

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Meet, eat, mingle at popular market in downtown Columbus

The North Market in downtown Columbus is a feast for the senses. Located at 59 Spruce St., near the Greater Columbus Convention Center, the market features 35 vendors selling a cornucopia of food-related items in a 44,000 square-foot space. The goodies include homegrown fruits and vegetables, kosher meats, fresh fish, European pastries and gourmet ice cream.

The North Market has been a downtown fixture in various locations since 1876 and has really hit a commercial stride since moving in 1995 to a revamped warehouse. It’s a popular lunchtime hangout for local workers, who enjoy grabbing a quick, healthy bite and eating it on the second floor, where they can overlook the bustling crowd and a colorful quilt of vendors.

The lineup includes The Fish Guys (Angelo, Bobby and Shawn), who sell fresh, line-caught fish from sustainable fisheries; Flavors of India, which offers authentic Indian curries; and Sarefino’s Pizzeria and Italian Deli, which tosses up tasty New York-style pizza with a “tomato-y” sauce.

A family favorite is Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, an artisanal treat made with real ingredients, if you know what I mean. On weekends people line up just for a sampling of Jeni’s exotic flavors, which include Salty Caramel, Strawberry Rose Petal and Pear Riesling sorbet.

Whether you’re in the mood for lunch, an afternoon treat or ingredients for your home-cooked meal, the North Market is about as good as food gets on the Columbus reality meter.

The North Market is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday (select vendors); 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Tuesday-Friday; 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday; and noon-5 p.m., Sunday.

For more information, visit

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Satisfy your PB&J craving at small nut company

A peanut butter and jelly sandwich seems to taste better when somebody else makes it. You can find one of the best around central Ohio at the Krema Nut Co. in the Columbus suburb of Grandview Heights.

“Welcome to the Nut House,” reads a sign outside Krema Nut, a peanut-butter manufacturer and retail shop at 1000 W. Goodale Blvd. The small company has been producing and selling the creamy (and crunchy) delight since 1898, making it the oldest continuously operating peanut butter producer in the United States.

It’s a fun place for families to visit because they can tour the small factory and later enjoy a great sandwich.

When I recently visited Krema Nut with my brother-in-law, David, and my 2-year-old daughter, Rosie, we sampled a $5 treat they call the Classic Old Timer. They started with two thick slices of fresh bread from the Great Harvest Bread Co. One slice was smothered in Krema’s crunchy peanut butter, made simply of roasted Spanish nuts that have been slowly ground.

Next came a layer of strawberry preserves supplied by Urbana, Ohio-based gourmet producer Robert Rothschild Farm. The fixings were topped with fresh, sliced strawberries. Our sandwich was diagonally sliced and neatly wrapped in wax paper.


“We work hard to make certain that all the ingredients are always the freshest and best they can be,” says Brian Giunta, Krema Nut’s senior vice president.

Even though Krema Nut is located in primarily an industrial corridor of Grandview Heights, walk-in traffic for the sandwiches typically is brisk.

“The lunch hour from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., is quite busy,” Giunta says. “It makes for a quick, reasonably priced, healthy alternative.”

Krema’s peanut butter comes creamy or crunchy. They also sell other nut butters, including almond and cashew. Daring types might want to try the Hot and Spicy Peanut Butter. It doesn’t seem hot at first, but the spices kick in soon after the butter brushes your taste buds.

Giunta told me that he sometimes gets unusual requests, such as the addition of pickles, bacon, mayonnaise, potato chips and pretzels to a P&B sandwich.

“Most people, though, just want a standard PB&J,” he said.

For more information, visit

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