Category Archives: The Fifty

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.


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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Truth In Food Blogging.

Two quick, painful truths for you on this Monday evening.

1. Most of what I remember about the meal that I had last Saturday evening at Market Garden Brewery in Cleveland is based on Instagram photos. In my defense, see Exhibit A in the upper left hand corner of the photo below. That wasn’t the first one of those, nor was it the last.

What I do remember, however, is that I bit into a jalapeño while eating my pork tacos. (There’s no way to Instagram—or forget—that.)

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Southern Surprise.

Back in March, I spent a weekend in Atlanta, catching up with old friends over evening beers, afternoon beers, and even, for variety’s sake, the odd brunch or two. My first time in the city, we went for boiled peanuts and burgers and had some stellar southern-style seafood, but the highlight of the visit, food-wise, was the last meal I had before flying out on Sunday night.

Given my perma-cravings for cheesy grits and barbecue, I didn’t expect a Vietnamese restaurant to play host to the best dining experience I’d have in town, but that it did. I wish I were more of an expert on Vietnamese food — sure, I enjoy the occasional banh mi and bowl of pho — but I’d love to be that person who has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things authentic. That way I’d know whether or not the standout dish I had at So Ba is the real deal or some crazy-addictive fusion concoction. (So far, my powers of Google-Fu have failed me.)

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On Travel Friends, and Nina.

We met Nina at the dock in Moyogalpa on Ometepe, seconds after I’d agreed that we’d use our cab driver’s friend on the other side of the ferry ride. It took the British woman two sentences for us to agree to abort our previous travel plans and join her on the chicken bus to San Juan Del Sur. All three of us were going to the same place; why pay extra for a cab? And so Nina joined us (or we joined her) and two became three for the next leg of the trip.

I don’t know how to say the following without writing in generalizations: Being far away from home makes it more natural to open up to strangers. We spent two days with Nina, this outrageous, striking, smart and dominant California transplant. It could have been one hundred. I felt like I thoroughly knew her by the time we parted ways.

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Summer Startup.

Like many New Yorkers of the non-born-and-raised variety, I have a lovehate relationship with this city. I love the conveniences, the variety and diversity, the fact that you can find pretty much anything you could ever possibly need (and many things you wouldn’t) at any given tiny, jam-packed bodega; I hate the expense, and the lack of both personal space and trees. In order to keep what little degree of sanity I have left, I need regular doses of green, preferably with as few people around as possible.

Enter the weekend camping trip.

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Great American Upgrade.

There is exactly one San Francisco Giants game in the 2012 baseball season within driving distance of Columbus, Ohio (Cincinnati or Pittsburgh) that does not happen at the same time as a Columbus Clippers game. These facts are not relevant unless you work for the Clippers and are, strangely enough, a lifelong fan of the California baseball team. That one game happened last Wednesday evening.  And a road trip was in order. Ben and I cut out of work early and journeyed south, with hopes of bypassing rush hour traffic to get to Cincinnati in time for a non-ballpark dinner. Ben, who’s much better at following all the foodies on Twitter than I am these days (I’ve been a little addicted to Instagram), suggested our pre-game culinary destination in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood: Senate.

My Cincinnati experience, prior to this short visit, had been limited to several reception hall weddings, Mt. Adams and the Great American Ballpark. At first glance, Over-the-Rhine was adorable. I quickly made a mental note to return, without the pressure of catching a view of the opening pitch. (We didn’t, by the way. I never make it to baseball games on time. Never.) We missed the beginning of the game for good reason. Senate’s wares and beverages were grand enough to distract Ben from his beloved Giants for at least one inning.

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Ghost Toast.

I just had one single, solitary taste of one of the best things I ate in Atlanta, but the thought of that bite haunts me.

This, friends, is Cap’n Crunch french toast, with peanut-butter sauce AND maple syrup. If you ever find yourself at Radial Café and this is one of the specials, do yourself a favor and order it. Future You will appreciate it.

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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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Sandwich Spotlight: Blushing Monk.

The Subject: Blushing Monk from Founders Taproom and Deli.

Growing up, I loved spending my summers in Western Michigan, along the shores of Lake Macatawa, just a short walk away from the iconographic red lighthouse marking the channel to the big lake (Michigan, herself). I’ve ventured up to the area several times as an adult in the spring and summer, to visit old friends and relatives, to relive memories. This past weekend, I found myself in Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids and Holland, Michigan as a winter tourist, as a brewery tourist. With breweries — not memories — as our main destinations, I discovered parts of the cities I’d loved as a child that I didn’t know existed.

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Craving Cleveland.

[Editorial note: We’ve inadvertently covered this restaurant before.]

I’ve been hearing about the Greenhouse Tavern for quite some time. (Follow the Columbus Slow Food Crew on Twitter, and you’re bound to see a word or two about the offal-loving joint in downtown Cleveland.) The plan was simple: arrive in Cleveland early on a Saturday, have lunch at Greenhouse Tavern (and avoid dinner prices), then meet up with our friends for an Ohio City dinner within walking distance of our bed and breakfasts. And it went something like that. Except for the lunch part. We eagerly arrived at the eatery to find it nearly empty. They were not open for lunch on the weekend.

It’s not the Itinerant Foodie style to write a piece on a place we’ve never been, so it’s safe to assume that I did not let this lack of foresight in trip planning stop me from dining at the tavern. Instead, after he’d been plied with a beer at an Indians game on Sunday (combined with a ton of sun; he’s not a complete lightweight) I asked Ben if we could have dinner at Greenhouse before we left town. He approved of the plan and I was a happy gal the rest of the game.

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