It is hard to believe that it is December. November has flown by and in its passing I realize that there are lots of things that I could and should have posted about. In no particular order here is a quick wrap up of some of the places and foods I have enjoyed in the last few weeks.
November sadly marked the closing on Bono TOGO on W Russell street. I have many happy memories of evenings there. The good news is that they will be reopening at a new location with more space and a wood fired oven in the New Year. Bill and Peggy gave us a taste of what they will be creating, when they came to the Columbus Underground 7th Anniversary party bringing a mobile wood fired oven with them. It was some of the best pizza that I have ever had, and a lot of fun standing outside around the oven watching Bill conjure up pizza concoctions with the ingredients he had left. The CU party also featured a lot of other great food and beer sponsored by local restaurants and businesses. Of note were the Gingham Bakery cupcakes with their specially created Columbus Underground cupcake.
As one door closes another opens and as well the end of Bono era, November has brought two welcome new additions to the neighbourhood. Nida’s Thai on High, specializing not only in thai food but also sushi and cocktails, and On the Fly, a side venture of the Dragonfly neo v restaurant, serving vegan street food.
My favorite food at Nida’s so far is the pad thai with tofu but I have tried quite a range of the menu items and enjoyed a lot of them. The cocktails are fabulous and include a lot of interesting infusions. As well as the regular menu there are some interesting specials – most recently the Bangkok Buckeye, with peanut infused vodka, chocolate vodka and some chili infused simple syrup. Both the bartender and the decor deserve special mention.
On the Fly is a great stop for lunch and has a small number of very good dishes. I went for lunch on the first day they were open and have been back several times since. It is ideally located for me on my bike route between home and work. As well as proximity, the food is freshly prepared, healthy and delicious. My favorite dish so far is the falafel sandwich which comes with home-made bread, hummus, falafel, greens, some pickled vegetables and sauce. My vegan friend pronounced it the best falafel in Columbus.
Also good are the baked empanadas (varying savory and sweet flavors – best so far curried vegetables), chili with corn bread (just what was needed after the Michigan football game), pumpkin caramel cake and the philly V-steak, which is portabella and onions sautéed and served in home-made bread. It is mainly a take out place, but has a few tables so that you can eat in. They have beer and wine by the glass (wine at state minimum prices) and coffee.
A fun event this month, was the Green Drinks event at the Franklin Park conservatory, with the special green drink, a blend of Prairie organic vodka from Minnesota and chartreuse which is a liqueur flavored with 130 herbs by French monks. As well as enjoying the drinks in the palm house we also heard three speakers from Slow Food, Local Matters and Franklin Park, talking about their missions, work and initiatives to encourage local eating and also to encourage people to grow their own food. Local Matters is doing a lot of work in schools trying to get children eating better and involving them in growing and preparing their food. The statistics about diabetes in children in Columbus were shocking. More information about the farm to school project can be found here.
My highlight from the event was a quote from Carlo Petrini, the founder of the International Slow Food movement. Translated from Italian, he said “A gastronome who isn’t an environmentalist is just stupid, and an environmentalist who isn’t a gastronome is just sad.”
A couple of Slow Food events this month: the Ohio Michigan wine clash. The winning wines were:
Aromatic White: Ferrante ‘Golden Bunches’ Riesling 2007 (OH)
White Wine: Black Star Farms ‘Arcturos’ Chardonnay sur lie 2006 (MI)
Pinot Noir: Black Star Farms ‘Arcturos’ Pinot Noir 2006 (MI)
Red Wine: Kinkead Ridge Revelation 2006 (OH)
I tried the two Ohio winning wines and enjoyed both at a dinner at Alana’s. The Kinkead Ridge seems to be fairly easy to find in Columbus. Dinner at Alana’s was excellent as usual and I had an hors d’oeuvre of brussels sprouts that was divine: Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Cranberry Wensleydale and Pecan Vinaigrette, served hot but otherwise similar to the salad I made. With a large table of friends and lots of people willing to share tastes it was quite a feast. Other highlights were the ‘shit on a shingle’ (Blues Creek chipped beef on toast), bouillabaisse and pumpkin buckle. My main course of Rustichella Spaghetti with Saucisson, Cipollini Onions, Fall Greens, Garlic, Parmesan and Chianti Vinaigrette was also very good.
Another Slow Food event (and delicious dinner) was the meet the author event with Kurt Michael Friese. Kurt is board member of Slow Food USA and author of A Cook’s Journey: Slow Food in the Heartland. He also owner of Devotay restaurant in Iowa City, which focuses on local foods. The book highlights a number of different producers and restaurants in the mid-west and Dragonfly neo v restaurant in Columbus was one of the featured places in Ohio. The event was therefore held at Dragonfly neo v restaurant and accompanied by a fantastic set course dinner, as well as a tour of the kitchen garden. Notably, two of the courses were accompanied by Kinkead Ridge wines and we were also treated to a taste of some jelly made from Kinkead wine. The most interesting dish was a buttercup squash pate served on deceptively vegan bouillabaisse that was rich and fragrant with lots of saffron. Dragonfly also has an interesting cocktail menu and I started with a lavender infused martini.
The other place I have been a lot this month is Surly Girl Saloon. Dark and cosy with lots of comfort food, it is a great winter hang out. It is also in walking distance which is lucky as they have an extensive and interesting beer list and some interesting seasonal cocktails. At the moment they have a cherry and cinnamon infused bourbon which is paired with root beer as ‘Satan’s little helper’. November rounded out with a beer tasting at Surly Girl organized by Carmen Owens and Kris Eley. Seven of the Surly Girl’s draft beers (some brewed by women) were paired with food, mostly from the menu but also some dishes created for the event. Highlights included a smoked salmon deviled egg, cranberry and brie pizza (almost dessert like) and a bacon and blue cheese cupcake!