Umami Bites And The Food Truck Festival

The Columbus Food Truck Festival, which started at noon today at the Columbus Commons and will continue through 6 p.m. Sunday, exists for one reason and one reason only:  to allow people like me to discover, once again, how many great food trucks are patrolling the world out there.  Today, the happy discovery was of Umami Bites.

IMG_6463The Origamist, the Brussels Sprouts Addict, and I walked down to the Commons on an absolutely perfect day.  We arrived at about 12:15, and the Festival was already packed, with long lines in front of many of the food trucks.  We strolled around, looking for something new that we hadn’t tried before, and found Umami Bites at the end of one of the food truck rows.  (To make this post as educational as possible, I should note that the Umami Bites truck explained that “umami” is one of the five basic tastes, along with sweet, sour, salty, and bitter, and means “pleasantly savory.”  The Origamist and I were drawn by the pork belly wonton tacos; the BSA, predictable and misguided soul that he is, locked on to the flash-fried Brussels Sprouts.

Umami Bites is well named, because the pork belly wonton tacos were fantastic.  In fact, they were so good that you wonder why someone didn’t invent them, say, during the Middle Ages.  It’s one of those dishes that somehow combines the best of different cultures and cuisines, with the hearty pork belly liberally doused in a sweet chili sauce, some freshly chopped pickled red onion adding some tang, and the taco shell made of the whatever the heck wontons are made of, which gave the tacos a delicious and very satisfying crunch.  Just thinking about them makes me wish I had another serving right now.  I mean, right now!

IMG_6462I have to admit that the BSA’s offering looked pretty good too, with a neat presentation that featured chopsticks and a quasi-Chinese carry-out container.  It was hard to tell, however, because the BSA consumed the dish so quickly that the chopsticks rubbing together risked becoming a fire hazard.  And it was fun sitting out on the Commons grounds with my friends, enjoying the sunshine and the passing crowds and then graciously yielding our seats to other diners in a show of basic Midwestern friendliness.

This is the fifth year of the Columbus Food Truck Festival, and it gets better every year.  Bigger, too, I think — there’s actually another part of it, across Third Street, with an entire parking lot filled with more fantastic food truck fare.  If you’re in Columbus this weekend and have a hankering for some adventurous grub, do yourself a favor and stop by.

The Door

IMG_6456Russell graciously gave Kish and me some of the artwork that he created this past year at Cranbrook, and I lucked out with this new piece for my office.  It fills a gap on my wall that appeared when one of my colleagues fell in love with some of Russell’s other work that had been hanging there and decided she just had to have it for her home.

I’m not sure how long this piece will last before someone else decides to make a bid for it, either, but I sure will enjoy it while it’s here.  I don’t know if Russell gave it a title, but I have mentally dubbed it The Door.  I just love the color, and composition, and ambiguity of it, with Russell’s riff on the Michelin Man standing in a way that suggests both uncertainty and fascination and peering out onto an open but unknown vista that could represent Opportunity, or Promise, or the Strange New World, or just about anything you want.

I’ve got this new piece on the wall right next to my computer monitor, and it makes me smile with pleasure every time I walk into my office.  That’s what art should do.

At The Crest

IMG_6441Yesterday Dr. Science and I decided to grab lunch at The Crest Gastropub, newly opened near the corner of Livingston and Parsons, catty corner to Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

The Crest is seen by many people in the neighborhood as a key component of the effort to revive the Parsons Avenue corridor.  It’s also a place with an interesting air of legend surrounding it.  For decades, the Crest Tavern was a legendary saloon in the Clintonville area, and more recently it was purchased, refurbished, and turned into a well-regarded foodie destination.  I’ve never been there in either of its incarnations.  Now the proprietors have opened a new location, and Parsons Avenue boosters are hoping it thrives.

IMG_6437If my visit yesterday is any indication, I’d say the Crest will do just fine, thank you very much.  The new location is roomy and attractive, with a central bar/counter area, a cluster of high-tops where Dr. Science and I landed, and more conventional tables sprinkled just about everywhere.  It’s got high ceilings, a bright feeling, and a cool piece of artwork on one wall that looks like a recreation of tree bark with bits of moss on it.  I’d guess that the ambiance will appeal to most diners.

I think they’ll find the food pretty appealing, too.  The Crest has a large menu with lots of enticing options, and according to our friendly server it’s known for its salads.  I recoiled in horror from that suggestion and went instead for the Americana burger, which is two hamburger patties, cheese, bacon, and onion straws.  The quality of burger offerings tell you a lot about a place, and this was a juicy slice of culinary excellence.  I’d recommend that you add some of the Crest’s own special recipe hot sauce, which really gave the burger a nice kick.

One note:  the Crest isn’t cheap.  The Americana burger comes in at $16 and thereby continues the trend toward burger-entree price convergence that you see at many more upscale restaurants.  At many places, burgers have long since crossed the $10 threshold, marched relentlessly upward in price, and broken through the $15.00 barrier.  I love burgers, and I’m willing to shell out $16.00 for a really good double-patty effort once in a while, but at some point — I’m not sure just where right now — I’m going to draw the line.

I’ll happily go back to The Crest Gastropub, though.  If you visit, be sure to pick up one of the cool, free buttons they are offering, with a lamb and Ohio flag logo that celebrates the proprietors’ Lebanese heritage.