Monday, November 7, 2011

Spotlight On: Columbus, Ohio

Nothing beats a pleasant surprise :)

     The first weekend in November my family and I went to visit my brother, Dan, in Columbus, Ohio, where he is a graduate student studying Urban Planning at Ohio State University.

    People, I do not know what I was expecting, but it most certainly wasn't a gorgeous, clean city with a vibrant arts community, a huge and amazing university with a kickass sports team, beautiful rivers, peaceful suburbs, interesting and diverse neighborhoods, just about every other cool thing you can think of. We had a wonderful weekend exploring, attending the Ohio vs. Indiana football game (Buckeyes won 34-20!!!!! O-HI-O!!!!), relaxing in the hotel, and EATING. No foolin', the food scene in Columbus is A.MAZE.ING. I can't say enough good things about it :)

    The foodie adventure started on Friday night when we hit up a Middle Eastern Restaurant called Lavash Cafe .
This my friends, was first rate short order Middle Eastern cooking. Yes, you read that correctly. You wouldn't think that a counter service- based restaurant could be this good, but it WAS. Their menu was extensive and everything was fresh. excellently seasoned and DELICIOUS. An added bonus was that the owner was a constant, pleasant presence in the dining room, stopping by each table several times to answer menu questions, deliver food to customers that weren't able to walk up to the counter, make jokes, check on the diner's experience, and just generally be entertaining and friendly. This gentleman clearly took pride in his food and his business, and his good mood was certainly infectious. We started with hummus and Kibbeh, which, for those unfamiliar, is ground meat with onions and pine nuts in a deep fried wheat shell served with yogurt sauce *YUM*, for entrees, there were gyro platters, Shawarma, and Mojadara (rice and lentils over a tomato, cucumer and herb salad), all served with saffron/almond rice, salad and pita bread. This place was a total win :) Props to the Lavash Cafe crew for running such a tight ship :)

  But the evening didn't end there :) After some shopping and a little downtime at my brother's apartment, we headed over to what might have been one of my favorite spots, the Grandview Ave. neighborhood for some ARTISANAL ICE CREAM  *swooooooooon!!!* We had the pleasure of going to Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, (sorry, I couldn't the photo of this one to load) which, if you are unfamiliar, is a homegrown business that started in Jeni's home kitchen, and now has 11 locations across the state of Ohio. Jeni's only uses local milk from grass fed cows, and boy oh boy oh boy can you taste the difference that that makes :) In Jeni's own words, they only create ice cream flavors that, " we fall madly in love with, that we want to bathe in, and that make us see million year-old stars". I am so glad that there are other people in the world that feel the same way about ice cream that I do :) The Jeni's team is endlessly creative when it comes to ice cream flavors. Among the flavors we sampled that night were Goat Cheese with Figs and Cognac, Salty Caramel, Smoked Tea and Plum Pudding, Vanilla Cedarwood, and one called "The Milkiest Chocolate in the World" which most certainly lived up to it's name. I do not have the words to tell you how absolutely delicious this ice cream was, but I can tell you that Jeni's will DELIVER ICE CREAM VIA UPS ANYWHERE IN THE COUNTRY!!! I know this because my brother sent my mother some Jeni's ice cream for Mother's Day this year :) I wholeheartedly recommend this ice cream :) Jeni has also recently published a cookbook, and one day soon it will be MINE!!!

The next standout on our culinary tour was post-football game dinner on Saturday night at City BBQ

    Another Ohio standout, and one of the only BBQ joints I've ever found that might actually be in the same category of Syracuse's beloved Dinosaur BBQ. Again, this is counter service in it's highest form. You know the food's gonna be dang good if there's a (fast moving) line out the door. After ordering at the counter, and waiting a surprisingly short amount of time, we plunked down at a bare wooden table which was dressed only with a napkin container and a motley assortment of bbq sauces, we dug into our feast. Friends, this was my first encounter with a Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich, and HIGH HOLY HELL am I a woman converted :) Allow me to explain. By and large, I strongly dislike coleslaw. I find it too squishy and too sweet to really be palatable in most cases. However, this coleslaw was cool and creamy and tangy, not the least bit sweet or mushy, and the interplay of the tangy, cool coleslaw against the rich, unctuous pulled pork was HEAVENLY :) I now have a standard order whenever I go out for BBQ :) Several of my table mates also got the Carolina Pork Sandwich, but the Brisket and the Pulled-Pork sans coleslaw were also excellent. I must also give props to the fresh-cut French Fries, which were the exact right kind of crispy, the mac and cheese, the spot-on cornbread, and THE DEEP FRIED PICKLES ( deep friend pickles were one of those foods that weirded me out at first, but one bite and I'll never look back, YUM-O!!!) A fun quirk about City BBQ? The walls are decorated with antique/quirky/interesting bbq and hot sauce bottles, and if you bring one in to add to their collection, you get free food, can't hate that :) I also want to give a nod to the fact that both their lemonade and iced tea were scratch made and freshly brewed with real lemons and real tea leaves and natural sugar and you could absolutely taste the difference :) We wanted to try the Peach Cobbler, but we were stuffed absolutely silly and dessert was not an option, so we'll save that one for the next trip :)

Before heading back to Syracuse on Sunday, we had brunch at another local institution in the Grandview neighborhood, Paul's Fifth Avenue  .

      This was another establishment that was packed to the gills (although being the day after an at-home game victory for Ohio State, I really shouldn't have been surprised). At first, I was a little put off, because there was absolutely NO ROOM for diners waiting for a table, so your choices were to hover over the already seated diners, or smush two or three deep against the wall. However, this is a design flaw and in no way the fault of the staff. They sat us as soon as they could and got to us as soon as they could. Having been in food service off and on for most of my adult life so far, I'm more than willing to cut them a little slack. Our server was in a refreshingly good mood, which is always welcome after a harried morning :) Paul's has been around for over 40 years, and if the rest of their meals are as good as their breakfasts are, I can understand why :) No one got anything especially elaborate, eggs over easy/sunny side up/scrambled, toast, a Greek Omelet, a Wisconsin Omelet, sausage patties and home fries,but everything was cooked to perfection, served hot, excellent portion sizes, and DELISH :) If I had one complaint about Paul's it would be that they really should expand their building, they absolutely have the client base to justify an expansion, but service and food-wise, everything was excellent :)

I loved Columbus, capital *L* Loved :) I had a wonderful time with my family and I was genuinely sorry to leave. I'm definitely going back as soon as possible :)



1 comment:

a. maren said...

this post made me sooo hungry! columbus ohio...who knew??