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.

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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.

Working Man, Burger Boy

We’re down in San Antonio, arriving just in time for lunch.  Richard said we had to go to the Burger Boy, a long time San Antonio institution, and when I asked one of the locals what to order he said I should opt for the Working Man combo — a double burger, crinkle-cut fries, and a tub of diet soda big enough to float a battleship — and to order it with “real” Kraft American cheese.  I’m a working man, so of course I took his advice.  

The double burger was succulent, the “real” American  cheese nudged it into the spectacular category — so much so I was briefly tempted to wolf down another — and the crinkle-cuts were deep-fried to perfection.  Fully sated, I exited the ’50s and headed back into modern America.

Bad Flavors

Every morning I walk past a Starbucks, and every morning I groan at the latest disaster that has been concocted in the “flavored coffee” category.  Ii think any form of flavored coffee is bad enough, but the current offering of “maple pecan latte,” which apparently comes with colorful sprinkles on the foam when served hot, sounds like a truly tooth-curdling combination.

Somewhere there is a Starbucks food sciences laboratory that is charged with coming up with some new flavor to entice patrons back into the coffee shop for a new slug of joe.  Their job is becoming increasingly difficult, because the available seasonal “flavor palette” is limited due to the strong taste of coffee itself and the fact that the really desirable flavors, like chocolate, are permanently featured on the menu because Starbucks patrons want to savor them year-round.  And, the flavor scientists have obviously exhausted virtually every combination that includes pumpkin as an element; for years, Starbucks marked the arrival of September with some new pumpkin spice concoction.  But the pumpkin well has apparently run dry, and it’s time to move on to other flavors that evoke the arrival of fall.  Apparently, maple pecan is the best they can come up with.

The maple flavor is good on pancakes and waffles, of course, and you can even make a reasonable argument for maple flavoring in oatmeal — although if somebody heats up maple-flavored instant oatmeal in the office microwave, you’ll be smelling it, and regretting it, for hours.  But a cup of maple and pecan-flavored coffee sounds like a treacly catastrophe, like drinking a hearty cup of steamed syrup with nuts in it.  It would take hours of water-guzzling to finally rinse the flavor out of your mouth.

What’s next in the bizarro world of Starbucks fall flavors?  Butternut squash latte?  Hey, how about a turkey and cranberry dressing frappucino?

Cheesecake With A Twist

Cheesecake is a dessert dish, right?

Nope!  Not at Jacques-Imo’s, at least.  One of the specialties there is shrimp and alligator sausage cheesecake.  It’s an appetizer, and it’s succulent.  We’d heard about it, and we actually Ubered away from the French Quarter to try it.   

It was worth the trip!

Big Easy Breakfast 

When you’re planning on a day of visiting live music ensues — and perhaps sampling an adult beverage or two along the way — it’s important to establish a good base.  This morning we wandered over to Hobnobbers, a place UJ discovered on-line, wound our way past the pool table and the front room bar, and found ourselves in the back room where the locals hang out and you order from daily specials at a window.  I went in for the shrimp and cheesy grits and was rewarded with a plastic plate groaning with probably three dozen succulent shrimp, cheesy, perfectly cooked grits, and white toast with grape jelly.  A bottle of water, too, to prepare for a day of 90-degree temperatures and humidity.

It was a lot of food, but now I’m ready.