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The Carnage Plate, Refined: Little Eater

This, my friends, is my version of a carnage plate, Little Eater-styled.

Carnage is a word that generally carries negative connotations. And yes, carnage is not a word generally associated with the well-regarded and beloved Columbus' North Market. In fact, most people would probably dream of the heat of hot chicken, the airy chew of macarons, and the waft of ripe produce, simmering stews. and all manner of bakery goods, rather than anything destructive.

It most definitely isn't pretty, but I dare say carnage has never tasted better.

In some ways, Mangini's path to the Buckeye State parallels mine. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Mangini was plying her craft just north of my California city of residence at St. Helena's Farmstead Restaurant. While she may have earned her "butcher" title at her previous stint at New York City's Eately, she was perfecting what I'll call a "Valkyrie of vegetables" role during her time here. Like the mythical Valkyrie, who would choose the slain on the battlefield to go to Valhalla, Mangini would select the best of the best farm vegetables to prep for that night's menu.

Combined with that previous time at Eately as well as her education at the National Gourmet Institute, a leader in health-supportive culinary education, Mangini's love of and skill with vegetables was all but cemented by this point, and she was well on her way to setting up her own vegetable-based business in California.

That's when chance meeting with someone in the Buckeye State flung the salad of a plan Mangini had developed unexpectedly. At the San Francisco-based Fancy Food Show, Mangini met her now-husband Tom Bauer, a founding member of Jeni's Ice Creams. With Bauer's help, she saw that her concept would work just as well, if not better, in Ohio than out on the West Coast. Mangini set her sails for Ohio but a few months after I had made my move from the Bay Area in the summer of 2012, and suffice it to say, she has not looked back since.

Little Eater's menu is simple in that it is centered around vegetables (save for a few of the baked goods), but the creations are more than just "mere" salads: thoughtful combinations of vegetables and other flavor agents go into each of the crostini, sandwiches, frittatas/quiches and soups offered to the visitor. Moreover, the items available change as vegetables fall in and out of season.

Now the carnage reference: with all of the Little Eater's selections, my method for sampling has been something I adopted for the prepared salads that the Whole Foods grocery chain has for their buffets. I call it the "carnage" plate: a little bit of that couscous dish next to the bit of kale-based salad next to that store's take on cole slaw next to some tabbouleh and so forth. Perhaps this habit has developed as an effort (a somewhat frustrating one at that) for find that ubiquitous one go-to item I can count on from their buffets.

But now that I've been able to substitute Little Eater's generally much more tasty creations in this new version of my "carnage plate", I'm beginning to think not having a go-to dish isn't such a bad thing when everything tastes so darn good.

You can celebrate the release of Cara Mangini's cookbook "The Vegetable Butcher" at the official launch party, set for Tuesday, April 5th, at Vue Columbus. Event goers will receive a signed, early-release copy of cookbook, complimentary bites from Little Eater, and much more. Ticket sales close for the event on April 1st; for more information, please check out the event page at Eventbrite.com.

Little Eater
59 Spruce St (Inside the North Market - Google Maps)
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 670-4375
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