Sunday At The Park (With George)

We took a walk around Goodale Park tonight. It’s a beautiful park with a lovely little pond in the northeast corner, and it was getting a lot of use tonight. I like the view over the pond, with the high rises of north downtown just visible over the treetops.

Parks add so much to a neighborhood!

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The Random Restaurant Tour (XXV)

At any given moment, there’s always a hot restaurant in town.  It’s the place that has gotten some favorable press, that has a certain distinctive buzz about it, that everyone is itching to try.  In Columbus, the restaurants don’t come any hotter than Service Bar, which has been getting great press — including a recent rave from no less than the New York Times.  Last week, Kish and I decided to check it out.

Service Bar is part of Middle West Spirits, located just off Fifth Avenue in the zone between the northern part of the Short North and the southern edge of the Ohio State campus area. It’s in a bright, fresh space, with room for a row of tables, a long common table, a private dining room, and a bar.  The wait staff is terrific — friendly, professional, and knowledgeable.  A fine wait staff is a pretty strong sign of fine dining to come.

When we were deciding on an appetizer, we looked down at the row of tables where we were sitting and every one — without exception — had ordered the “cheesy poofs.”  These are a mound of colossal pork rinds served with pimento cheese spread that you slather on.  Our waiter said they seem to be a favorite for patrons, so we gave them a try.  They were greasy and cheesy and good, but the order was just too much food for the two of us, and we wanted to save room for our entrees.

We both ordered the Mongolian glazed short rib for our entree, and here the meal really hit its stride.  The short rib was meaty and luscious, topped with an interesting assortment of mini cucumber slices and other items, and surrounded by dollops of a delectable sauce.  The challenge was to carefully assemble each forkful to feature meat, the different flavors and textures of the toppings, and a healthy dousing of the sauce, and when you successfully met the challenge the taste combination was incredible.  But to take the whole dish a step further, the meat was accompanied by three “bao knots” — moist, doughy, chewy morsels of bready delight that were a perfect complement to the meat.  I think I could probably eat a thousand bao knots and never think of the words “low carb” again.

After a main course like that, we had to get dessert, and went for the carrot cake with our after-dinner cup of decaf.  The cake was light and delectable, served with a schmeer of meringue, some crunchy items, and a delicately flavored ice cream.  It ended the meal with a bang, and was the kind of dessert where you find yourself surreptitiously scraping the plate multiple times just to get a final taste before you reluctantly allow your server to take it away.

Service Bar lived up to the hype, and then some.

Mead, Indeed

Last night Kish and I were out on the town with the Bahamians, and we decided to hit the Brothers Drake — our first meadery.  It’s on East Fifth Avenue, across from The Table and in the rapidly developing area between the ashore North and south campus.  Last night, even with a $10 cover charge, the Brothers Drake was jammed with people eager to quaff a wide range of meads and hear a good band play some live music.

We all got our inaugural cups of mead and took a few cautious sips.  I’d heard that you have to watch the sweetness scale if you’re going to drink mead — it is made with fermented honey, after all — so I’d ordered a spiced mead that that was supposed to be on the lower end of the sweetness spectrum.  Even so, it was too sweet for our tastes — kind of like drinking a dessert wine.  I think I could develop a taste for mead, though, with a bit more experience and guidance on the different varieties.  I’m glad I gave it a shot.

Checking Out Our “Walk Score”

Recently I became aware of a website called walkscore.com that gives neighborhoods in Columbus, and elsewhere, a “walk score,” a “transit score,” and a “bike score.”  The website appears to be used by people who are considering making a move to a new apartment and are interested in finding out how their potential new neighborhood rates in those three categories.  You can check out your neighborhood’s scores here.

gv-sidewalkGerman Village gets an 87 (out of 100) walk score, a 60 transit score, and a 65 bike score.  Those ratings make German Village the second most walkable neighborhood in Columbus, close behind the Short North.  The 87 walk score means that most errands can be accomplished on foot and GV is only a few points short of a “walker’s paradise.”

Speaking as a confirmed walker, it’s hard for me to imagine that you could find a more walkable neighborhood than German Village.  I not only walk to the office every work day, but I also walk to the grocery store (as I did this morning), walk to the wine shop, coffee shop, barber shop, and deli, and walk to a bunch of nearby restaurants, bars, and coffee shops.  I’m not sure what kind of errand could not be achieved on foot from a German Village location — and I also think GV is more convenient to the core downtown area than the Short North is.  The quaint brick roadways, sidewalks, and houses in German Village make hoofing it around our neighborhood a visual treat, too.

The point of this post is not to quibble about German Village’s scores, but rather to note that it’s gratifying to see that people are rating neighborhoods by their “walkability.”  We’d all be better off, from a health, fitness, environmental, infrastructure, and financial standpoint, if more people started to focus on walking when deciding where to live.

Pedal Power

Last night we joined some friends on one of those pedal carts you see rolling up and down High Street in the Short North area.    We labored mightily to move the cart a few blocks, waved at passersby, slowed traffic, listened to music provided by three very nice young women dressed in Beyoncé outifits, and visited two bars as well.  It was a fun time, and you feel like you’re getting some exercise in the process, too.

Part of the fun was provided by our hostess and driver, who apparently suffered a catastrophic beer can-related forehead injury shortly before our arrival and obligingly posed for the photo above.

Arch City Tavern

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Richard, Russell, and Julianne were all in town yesterday, and we decided to celebrate the happy homecoming by heading down to the Short North and having lunch in the first interesting place we found.  We ended up in the Arch City Tavern — so named because Columbus used to be called the arch city because it featured lots of arched lights over its main streets — and that was a happy occasion, too.

It was about noon, so there were two crucial lunch decisions to be made.  First, heavy or light?  It was a hot day out, so I went for a choice on the lighter side, with an arugula, fig, prosciutto, and goat cheese pizza.  It was excellent, and had a particularly delectable and crunchy crust — which any pizza aficionado knows is a crucial element of the entire pizza experience.  So far, I was one for one.

Second, beer or no beer.  It was a holiday, sure, but noon is pretty early for me.  I took a chance and ordered a Monk’s Cafe Flemish Sour Ale.  It was so good I promptly had another.  It had an excellent tart taste that went well with the hot weather, and it really held its own against the goat cheese.  So, I was two for two — or perhaps three for three, since I had two of the beers.

I’m going to be on the lookout for places that sell the Monk’s Cafe by the six pack.

In The Holiday Spirit

IMG_7629America is the land of inclusiveness, and December is when people of many faiths and beliefs celebrate important holidays.  So when Kish and I walking down in the Short North today, it was nice to see that a shopkeeper remembered to recognize one holiday in particular.

That’s right:  Festivus . . . for the rest of us.

And to properly recognize Festivus, here’s a snippet from the Seinfeld script The Strike, when the Costanza household’s odd holiday traditions were first described:

FRANK: Welcome, new comers. The tradition of Festivus begins with the airing of grievances. I got a lot of problems with you people! And now you’re gonna hear

about it! You, Kruger. My son tells me your company stinks!

GEORGE: Oh, God.

FRANK: (To George) Quiet, you’ll get yours in a minute. Kruger, you couldn’t smooth a silk sheet if you had a hot date with a babe.. I lost my train of thought.

(Frank sits down, Jerry gives a face that says “That’s a shame”. Gwen walks in)

GWEN: Jerry!

JERRY: Gwen! How’d you know I was here?

GWEN: Kramer told me.

KRAMER: Another Festivus miracle!

And now, time for the feats of strength.