Category Archives: Columbus, Ohio

Ten Things In 2012.

As 2013 rapidly approaches, we pause to take a look at our top food memories and discoveries of the year.

Jill: My itinerant adventures included a spring trip to Nicaragua and Costa Rice, summer visits to New York City and Cleveland (yes, a worthy destination) and a last-minute trip to San Francisco spurred on by World Series baseball. Below are a few things of note as I look back at the year that the world was supposed to end.

1. One-Course Meals.

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In 2012, I realized that while I may not be able to afford three courses of fine dining, I can create my own buffet of great eats by visiting several places for one course each. San Francisco was the perfect backdrop for this style of eating, and I found myself slurping oysters not once, but twice in the ten-day stay. The key, by the way, is to be upfront with servers from the beginning. And to tip a little extra before heading out for the next snack.

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Fried Chicken Find.

I’m not going to lie. I was on the way to Wendy’s for their #2 (regular size, Diet Coke, no mayo) when I saw Mya’s Fried Chicken saddled up to the Super Food Mart at the corner of Pacemont and High Street in Clintonville. I was feeling a little guilty about the whole drive-through thing, and was happy to find a reason to substitute it with a local (and trendy!) business for my lazy lunch.

In a food truck shuffle, Mya’s recently showed up to fill the void left by Ray Ray’s Hog Pit when they moved down to Ace of Cups. They have a basic menu of fried chicken and house-made (truck-made?) sides, and reviews, Tweets and blog posts about the place have been blowing up the internet.

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Blue(grass) Balls.

For more than a decade, when I’ve heard the Mermaid Avenue version of Woodie Guthrie’s “Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key,” I’ve thought that the word were “Way over yonder in the monarchy. Ain’t nobody that can sing like me.” In my mind, Natalie Merchant was folksily letting us all know, without a trace of arrogance, that she can sing better than pretty much all of the Queen’s people.

This is all a preamble to what were to be the first three words of this post about a meatball.

Way over yonder where Worthington meets Clintonville, there’s a new pizza shop that showcases bluegrass music and coal-fired pizza. Coal. Bluegrass. Sounds like the Ohio river moved a couple hours west and joined us in Columbus. I haven’t spent enough time at this place, but I think that I will like it.

This is a 4-inch meatball covered in tomato sauce, a little Parmesan cheese and some flat leaf parsley for a little color. It cost $6.25 and was their special for the evening. (I love that the special was a single ball of meat and not, say, a coal-fired pizza.) Our server said that they kept running out, that the kitchen was in constant production of giant meatballs.

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Higher Latitude.

Rooftop. Beer. Garden. Separately, I love all these things. So when the sum is greater than its parts and when the sum’s location is Latitude 41, well, I’m a happy gal. Ben’s astute eye on the goings on of Twitter alerted me of the Latitude 41 Rooftop Beer Garden. The happening was fortuitously rescheduled to align with his mom’s birthday celebration. (Hi, Cindy!)

The premiere event took place next to the fourth floor rooftop pool, allowing for delightful views for folks in love with both slow-roasted local pork and downtown Columbus, accompanied by live music from Jason Quicksall.

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A Dynamic Transformation.

When the folks at Dragonfly Neo-V announced late last year that they’d be changing their concept, I have to admit that I was overwhelmed by everything they claimed Till Dynamic Fare would become. They’d serve cask beers and wine on tap, but grown-up cocktails as well. Biodynamic burgers would live peacefully on the menu beside their celebrated classic vegan fare. And their target audience would grow immensely. No longer would they primarily serve vegans with extra pocket change; Till would become a place to bring your kids, your best friend, your grandmother.

The changes — dramatic and subtle — worked. I’d dined at the original restaurant twice in eleven years. (Don’t judge!) Now that Till’s in town, I’ve been twice in three months. And I can see myself going again, soon.

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Of God and Salads.

My interest in food that originates from the ground (and not, let’s say, the teet or the slaughterhouse) is relatively new. I remember interviewing a coworker about her favorite types of food and typing, with disgust, that she loves Spring and Summer because of the wares from her garden. She was team veggie. I was team butter-rosemary-garlic-chicken-pork. Especially pork.

Two things changed. First, this damn locavore movement. I’d made some recent life decisions that propelled me from everything I’d known for three years. (I left a church.) Somehow I knew that my next step in life would involve community and food. I whimpered a few blocks over to my friend Susan (a master of both) who thrust that Pollan book into my hands. I’d be studying a new gospel.

Second, a prescription. Over the years, my experimentation with fresh produce brought me to an understanding with the Lord that heartburn and itchy lips were a sign from above that I should not veer from my butter-rosemary-garlic-chicken-pork diet. In an act of defiance, I stumbled from my faith in pork and tried modern science. And my doctor giveth me Prilosec. And I was happy. (And fatter; not only could I consume tomatoes without pain, but also white wine: an entire food group I’d been fasting from for years.)

And guess what? Now I like salads! (And butter-rosemary-garlic-chicken-pork. You can like both! There’s a gray area in life, a concept that I’ve paid many a shrink to help me discover.)

There’s also a pink area. And a gooey and awesome bright yellow area, once you break open that heavenly soft poached egg (that somehow went straight from one of God’s creatures and directly into the kitchen at Sage American Bistro). This, friends, is my favorite salad in Columbus. It combines animals and plants. There’s no dilemma here: just eat it in a way that doesn’t involve lifting the plate and dumping it directly into your mouth. Try to use utensils. Each bite magically contains hearty smoky bacon in thick but bite-size pieces, that aforementioned warm egg, soft hidden morsels of goat cheese, pickled onion, freshly cracked peper and a tangy dressing. It’s cool. It’s warm. All salads should be like this. And once Michael Pollan is President of Food, Chef Glover needs to be given some sort of cabinet position involving pork.

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Friday Five: Winter Hashes.

When I see caprese salad, asparagus with hollandaise or cucumber salad on a winter menu, I mentally categorize the dining establishment as one of those whose walk-in coolers are filled to the brim with plastic containers of pre-made distributor-sourced foodstuffs. Side dishes speak volumes about how a restaurant sources its food and what makes a chef tick. Coleslaw year round? That guy spends his free time watching Dancing with the Stars. He drives an SUV and only gets emotional during professional sporting events. The chef who dabbles in broccoli rabe, kale and the beloved tuber lives a different sort of life. He (or she) probably dabbled in the arts — french horn? pottery? poetry? — before deciding to make a living hovering over his (or her) knives and cutting board, turning brussels sprouts and smoked meats from single notes to entire symphonies.

While there’s a difference between seasonal and local on a menu, my respect goes out to those who attempt one or both.

I’m not the most astute at observing (or writing about) trends, but I’ve noticed that the potato, in hash form, has received much attention on my favorite menus this winter. Has it always been there, and I’m just starting to notice? I can’t say. But it’s the perfect venue for cool weather veggies and my treasured winter meats, and is often the reason I choose a dish. Like snowflakes, each is unique. Let’s take a look.

1. Short Rib Hash at Buttermilk Channel, Brooklyn

With a 2:1 beef-to-potato ratio in its hash, Buttermilk Channel — one of my favorite stops in Brooklyn — definitely knows how to make a potato seem glamorous. Served alongside lightly dressed greens, the dish is well balanced: heavy meets light, green meets beige and brown. The beef is seasoned with cinnamon and topped with a salted egg. And the soft texture of the potatoes is embellished with crispy bits of beef, scraped from the bottom of the pan, reminiscent of childhood dinners of pot roast. And if one can ever be excited about carrots, this is the time.

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Delicious Transition.

One of my favorite Twitter hashtags is #firstworldproblems. For the Twitter uninitiated, it’s typically used when someone is complaining about bourgeois or tedious day-to-day issues that are not actually problems, a self-effacing nod to having the good life. So when I say that I needed a vacation from my vacation, I hereby acknowledge the ridiculousness of the statement. Nonetheless, it was true. After ten days of non-stop travel (during half of those one or both of us were sick), Ben and I needed a way to recover from our trip to London. We needed to rest. Luckily, I’d anticipated this happening, and booked a weekend stay at the Inn at Cedar Falls for the weekend after we’d return home.

This? It’s the opposite of the near panic attack I had on an over-crowded, over-heated Picadilly line where I accidentally stepped on a woman’s foot before hitting her head with my bag. And, happily, it’s only about an hour and a half from my house. In recent experiences, a trip to the destinations within the Hocking Hills of Southeast Ohio can seem like a trip to Disney World, with lines of crying children and gossipy octogenarians. And to be honest, Cedar Falls (which incidentally, has no cedars nearby), was no different.

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Occupy The Coop.

It’s a strange thing, I think. My neighborhood houses some of the most creative, passionate and interesting foodies, food writers and food innovators in Columbus. What Clintonville lacks, though, are great dining establishments. It seems that for every Sage American Bistro, Ray Ray’s Hog Pit and Alana’s, we have four or five fast food chains or straight-from-the-GFS-can joints lining our streets. So when food trucks arrived to my part of the city, tipping the fare scale from “boring” and “meh” to “interesting” and “delicious”, our elected officials’ first impulse was to enforce obsolete laws that push them out of our area.

Perhaps The Coop’s location at Cliffside and Indianola is too close to the Clintonville border with Old North Columbus for our legislators to care. Or perhaps relying on the oncoming cold weather was an easier food truck deterrent. (Sound familiar, anyone?) I’m not sure why the relatively new truck owned and operated by Angie Theado seems immune to archaic laws, but I am thrilled to have this truck as a dining option in my neighborhood.

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Beyond the Savings.

My opinions on restaurant week(s) are similar to those on Groupon and programs of similar ilk. While I enjoy the savings (and the special menus), I think it’s important to patronize the small businesses (and locally-owned restaurants) not only during great deals, but when they’re not offering deep discounts. Simple as that. Nonetheless, I do enjoy the dining programs, because they do give me an excuse to get out and enjoy some of my favorite restaurants during the week and because I get to see said restaurants busy on a Monday evening. Last night, a group of us headed over to DeepWood to experience their $20 three course Dine Originals Week menu. Below are a few pictures of what’s in store for folks who are tempted to do the same.

I chose the ravioli (filled with bacon and leeks) for my starter. The rich filling perfectly complemented the smoky tomato sauce.

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