The Random Restaurant Tour (VII)

Yesterday the Wrestling Fan and I decided to stroll a few blocks down Gay Street to the newest restaurant in the ‘hood.  It’s called Pat and Gracie’s and it’s located in the spot formerly occupied by Lomonico’s, at the intersection of Gay and Grant.

I liked Lomonico’s, but Pat and Gracie’s brings a totally different vibe to the spot.  It’s got a wrap-around bar and many more tables than Lomonico’s did.  I’ve been to the place twice, and each time it’s been far more crowded that Lomonico’s ever was.  Crowds can have their downside — like having to wait for a table, which isn’t ideal when you’re just out for lunch — but they also bring a definite sense of bustling energy.  Pat and Gracie’s has that feel.  Yesterday we didn’t have trouble getting a table, because the Wrestling Fan wanted to go early to “beat the rush.”  (Given his advancing age, he’s obviously wise, but I’m guessing he’s also an “early bird special” guy come dinner time, too.)

I got the spicy chicken sandwich, pictured above, and the Wrestling Fan got a salad with chicken that was served in an enormous metal mixing bowl.  I can’t speak for the salad, which the WF polished off with relish — in fact, I tried not to even look at it given the presence of so many vegetables in one place — but the spicy chicken sandwich definitely hit the spot.  The chicken is marinated in buttermilk and fried, topped with ground jalapeno sauce and cheddar cheese (I had them hold the tomato that typically is part of the ensemble), and served on a toasted bun.  The sandwich is moist and crunchy at the same time and has a great kick to it.  My only suggestion to the proprietors would be to cut back somewhat on the fries served with the sandwich, or they’re going to have to start widening the chairs for the regulars.

 

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Advances In In-Flight Breakfast Snack Technology

Meet the “Stroopwaffel.” It was handed to me by a flight attendant as the snack item accompanying my cup of airline coffee with cream on my United flight this morning.

What, exactly, is a Stroopwaffel? The package describes it as a “soft, toasted waffle filled with caramel, cinnamon and real bourbon vanilla.” It even comes with instructions: you’re supposed to put it on the top of your coffee cup so the steam emanating from the cup warms the Stroopwaffel. This presumes that airline coffee is piping hot, which is a questionable assumption indeed. I tried this technique this morning, and thereby warmed the Stroopwaffel to about one degree above room temperature. Because the size of the Stroopwaffel is almost precisely the same as the size of the top of the airline coffee cup, I also strongly recommend that you not try to warm the Stroopwaffel if your flight encounters even mild turbulence, or you will either lose the Stroopwaffel entirely as it slides off the cup into airline oblivion or have a mess on your hands.

It’s kind of sad that the introduction of a new airline breakfast snack is worth noting, but such things are the stuff that fill the lives of seasoned business travelers. The Stroopwaffel is just fine as a snack, but where it really excels is its name. Who can resist the sound of “Stroopwaffel”? It blows “biscotti” out of the water in my book.

Pulp Fiction

I like a little shot of orange juice in the morning.  I’m not talking about gulping down a tumbler full, but just enough for a few swallows.  For me, at least, orange juice has a bright tartness that contrasts perfectly with that first cup of coffee, and it seems to help wake me up and get me going.

The question is, should it be orange juice with pulp, or without?  I’ve had glasses of orange juice in restaurants that have been more like a slurry than a juice, with so much pulp that the glass is coated with it when you’re finished.  That’s just too much pulpy sliminess for me, so I tend to get the low-pulp or pulp-free options.

But I feel guilty about it, because at some point in my life, someone — maybe my mother, maybe some health guru on TV, or maybe some well-meaning but insufferably know-it-all friend — told me that orange juice with pulp is “better” for you than drinking orange juice that has been strained.  Why?  I don’t really remember, but I think it had something to do with the pulp adding more intestine-scrubbing fiber to your diet.  It’s just become one of those nagging, potentially baseless health-related notions floating around in my subconscious, like the vague recollection that eating carrots is supposed to help your eyesight or that fish is “brain food.”

But does drinking orange juice with pulp, rather than pulp-free liquid sunshine, really better for you?  Good luck figuring that out!  The pulp isn’t fiber, that’s for sure, and it appears that if it does have health benefits they are at best indirect.  But if you google the question you get introduced into the greater debate about whether you should drink orange juice at all.  Some “experts” point out that it’s a good way or increasing your intake of vitamin C with all of its positive, antioxidant effects, whereas other “experts” say that drinking juice is suicidally stupid because it’s like liquid sugar.  And everybody seems to have studies performed on rats to back up their competing conclusions, too.

After reading a few of these competing positions, I’ve given up on trying to get to the bottom of the pulp benefits question.  I’ve concluded that I like a little orange juice in the morning, and since I’ve managed to follow that regimen for years without becoming super-sized, I guess I’ll continue to do it, sugar intake be damned.  And as for pulp — well, I’m going to buy pulp-free offerings sometimes, limited pulp offerings other times, and avoid the over-pulped offerings altogether.  That seems to be a good way of threading the health benefits needle, providing some balm for my guilty conscience, and avoiding the thick, pulpy slush that I don’t really like in the first place.

 

The Random Restaurant Tour (VI)

Dr. Science knows all of the best food places in Columbus.  On Monday, his innate ability to identify strong options at every point on the taste bud spectrum led us to Cravings Cafe, which just recently moved downtown.

Cravings Cafe is located on Front Street between Gay and Long Streets, in a space that used to be occupied by the legendary Saigon Palace.  The physical space has been renovated inside and out, and now features an airy, exposed brick ambiance that it looks nothing like the old SP — which is a good thing in my book — and the food is nothing like that served by the former occupant of the space, either.  Cravings offers breakfast and lunch menus, with the lunch options being heavily weighted toward sandwiches.  There are daily specials, too, which suggests to me that the people running the place are both creative and serious about their craft.

In fact, Dr. Science and I both had the special on Monday, which was a grilled cheese sandwich.  This wasn’t the kind of grilled cheese that Mom used to make with Wonder bread and Kraft American cheese squares, though.  The Cravings version had at least four different kinds of cheese and a delectable bacon jam, and was served on hot, crunchy bread.  Dr. Science dipped his in hot sauce, while I speedily polished mine off au naturel.  Either way, it was excellent, and Cravings’ other, everyday menu sandwiches look pretty good, too.

Cravings Cafe is only a few blocks from my office, in an area of downtown that hasn’t really been known for food.  I’ll gladly welcome a top-notch sandwich place to the ‘hood anytime.

The Random Restaurant Tour (V)

I’m not sure exactly why, but the Arena District has never been a regular stop on the workday lunch caravan.  We’ll walk past the Arena District to the North Market, or head east to the Flatiron, but we never seem to stop in that little cluster of buildings adjacent to Nationwide Arena, even though we know there are food places back there.

Last week the Jersey Girl and I decided to cross into No Man’s Land.  Our destination was the Three-Legged Mare, an Irish pub.  It’s been there eight years, located just a few steps away from the Arena, but neither of us had been there – which is kind of embarrassing when you think about it.

I don’t think it will be another eight years until we go back again.  The TLM has all of the classic Irish pub woodwork, wall inscriptions, and other trappings — including a sign, below, that made me laugh as we walked out — so it’s a visually interesting setting that has both indoor and outside seating.

We ate at a high top in the bar area and got good service from the bartender.  He recommended the corned beef sandwich, shown above, so I owe him a debt of gratitude.  It was excellent, with a mound of lean, succulent, juicy corned beef served on a pretzel roll, with just the right amount of fries.  The Jersey Girl raved about the beer cheese soup and couldn’t finish her Irish Burger, so she boxed up half of it.  The bartender highly recommended that we try some of their traditional pub fare next time, so I guess we’ll just have to go back for the bangers and mash.  

Now that we’ve decided to break the barrier and dine in the Arena District, we can do just about anything.

The Random Restaurant Tour (IV)

Last week the Jersey Girl and I continued the random restaurant tour by leaving the friendly confines of downtown Columbus and heading north to the Italian Village area.  Our destination was a converted brick barn called Cosecha Cocina.

Italian Village is one of the areas of Columbus where the redevelopment wave is rolling along at tsunami-level strength.  Every time I visit, there is a cool new restaurant, brew pub, or breakfast joint in the neighborhood.  That’s because you can find two key components of redevelopment there:  inexpensive buildings that can be refurbished into cool spaces for your use, and a population of people in the immediate vicinity ready to frequent your establishment.  In the case of Italian Village, businesses can draw upon both the downtown crowd, who need only drive, walk or bike a few blocks up Third, and the flood of people moving into new condos and apartment buildings in Italian Village.

Cosecha Cocina is a happy addition to the Italian Village ‘hood.  It definitely satisfies the cool building requirement, with its cavernous internal space and outdoor eating area, and its menu of traditional and modern Mexican fare will keep that flood of people coming back.  During our visit the Jersey Girl and I split some brussels sprouts — served piping hot with melted cheese — and I tried the pork meatball torta with esquites, a traditional Mexican street corn dish, on the side.

The fact that brussels sprouts and meatballs are on the menu at all tells you that Cosecha Cocina isn’t your Daddy’s kind of tacos and enchiladas Mexican restaurant.  Another clue is the quality and delicate flavoring of the food itself.  The pork meatball torta, which features chipotle tomato sauce, cilantro, black beans, avocado, and cheese and is served on airy, crunchy bread, was succulent and a reminder that Mexican food doesn’t have to be overpowering on the spice scale.  The brussels sprouts were terrific, and the esquites corn salad was a perfect, light accompaniment to the meal.  The Jersey Girl, who tried the chicken tinga tacos, raved about her food, too.

The zone of lunch places for the lucky workers in downtown Columbus continues to expand, limited only by their willingness to get out and try someplace new.  With options like Cosecha Cocina only a bridge and a few blocks away, the incentive to experiment with a new lunch spot keeps growing.

Breakfast Of Champions

Wheaties would probably disagree, but this morning in Boerne (pronounced “Bernie”), Texas the breakfast of champions is a very enticing pastry tray from Bear Moon Bakery.  Scones, muffins, and other delectable trifles, with coffee of course, are perfect choices when you’re getting ready for a morning river tubing adventure.