A New Take On An Old Favorite

One of the great things about the current American foodie culture is the willingness of young chefs to reimagine classic dishes in new ways with new ingredients. Hamburgers, pizza, hot dogs, chili, and macaroni and cheese — among countless other staples of the American diet — have been recreated in inventive and delicious ways.

So when we visited Ambrose and Eve for dinner last night and I saw Beefaroni on the menu — that’s right . . . Beefaroni! I to try it. Beefaroni, plopped out of the can with the smiling face of Chef Boy-ar-dee on the front, warmed on a saucepan on the stove, and served in a bowl with perhaps a sprinkling of Kraft grated Parmesan cheese on top, was a favorite food of my youth. With tiny, chewy logs of pasta, a curiously sweet tomato sauce, and miniscule shards of some kind of meat, all served piping hot, Beefaroni was a perfect, simple “stick to your ribs” meal. Plus, it had a great commercial featuring throngs of excited kids sprinting home for dinner while singing “we’re having Beefaroni, beef with macaroni. . . . ”

Our waiter described the Ambrose and Eve version as what Chef Boy-ar-dee might have come up with if he had gone to culinary school. After I got over the jarring concept that Chef Boy-ar-dee might not have gone to culinary school, notwithstanding the fact that he sported a chef’s hat and called himself a chef, I found the Ambrose and Eve version to be an excellent successor to this favorite of my youth. It featured excellent rigatoni rather than doughy pasta logs, a very delicate sauce that was chock full of finely minced beef, and a generous topping of Parmesan cheese that promptly melted into the sauce. My only complaint was that it was served with a fork rather than a spoon, which I could have used to more effectively scrape the sides of the bowl in order to consume every scrap.

When we left the restaurant, I half expected to see the kids from the ’60s commercial running toward the restaurant, and I found myself wondering when a brave foodie chef is going to tackle coming up with a modern version of Whip ‘n Chill.

The Random Restaurant Tour (XXIII)

Kish and I are lucky to live in one of the great “walk to a restaurant” zones in Columbus.  We’re surrounded by great food options at virtually every point of the compass.  Last night, we walked a few blocks to the west on a cold, blustery night to check out Ambrose and Eve, a new place that opened recently on High Street.

Ambrose and Eve is one of those places that offers an intimate dining setting, with a seven-seat bar and tables positioned in different room-like segments of what looks to be a converted house.  It’s got a snug, welcome feel that is much appreciated on a frigid winter evening.  The place was hopping, so we sat and ate at the bar, which is dominated by the painting of the two people shown above.  We like eating at the bar from time to time — you always get great service, because the bartender is right there, and it’s also got a more urban, communal feel than sitting at your own table.

(To digress for a moment, sitting at the bar encouraged us to spend some time enjoyably analyzing the painting.  It’s interesting because the two people — we’re taking a wild guess that they are Ambrose on the right and Eve on the left — almost appear to be from different eras.  Eve’s got that ’40s coiffure and wide-shouldered look, and Ambrose looks like he stepped out of a bowling alley in, say, 1970.  But they looked very happy together, and we were very happy discussing them.)

The restaurant has an interesting menu, which can be found at the link above.  I ignored the “Eat Your Veggies” section, of course, but was a bit perplexed by the array of choices, all of which looked quite good.  If you’re sitting at a bar, the logical course is to ask the bartender.  He strongly recommended the chicken and dumplings, which I promptly ordered and is shown above.  I got the sweet bread nuggets as an appetizer, and Kish went for the wedge and the eggplant parmesan.  The food was great.  You don’t often get the chance to have veal sweet breads, and they were served with a scrumptious, light breading and two very tasty dipping sauces.  And the chicken and dumplings, which featured a delicate ricotta gnudi, will probably become Ambrose and Eve’s signature dish.  I ate it all with pleasure, and Kish reported that her food was also excellent.

When you really like a restaurant’s food, its ambiance, and its nearby location, you’ve pretty much covered the waterfront.  Ambrose and Eve means we’ve added another terrific option, at the west-by-southwest point of the compass.