Saturday, March 28, 2009

home Surly home...

Betty and I have been on a kick of eating at home during the week and then trying new restaurants on the weekend to get outside of our comfort zone and to explore new places and tastes. This goal lasted about 3 months so Thursday's date night with Betty at Surly Girl Saloon was a homecoming of sorts for us. Surly Girl is one of our favorite restaurants in Columbus for a number of reasons including their excellent beer selection, their sausage pizza and their roasted turkey sandwich. Sure I could go on about how Betty and I fell in love in the shortnorth and really made the bars and restaurants there our stomping yards but I won't. It had been some time since we had been back to Surly Girl and as we placed our drink orders Betty and I wondered if our favorites could still hold their own after all the complex and new tastes we had experienced over the past 2-3 months.

roasted turkey sandwich with bacon and poblano mayo on wheat with fritos

traditional italian sausage pizza

Not sure what we were worried about. The food was as delicious as we remembered it. The turkey sandwich has gone through some changes in the past year and a half including less turkey actually on the sandwich and a vendor change that we were pretty bummed about last year. I am not sure if SGS switched vendors again but the sandwich tasted better than the last time we ordered it. The sandwich is served on toasted wheat with bacon and a delicious poblano mayonaise. I am not a sandwich person but I truly love this sandwich. As for the pizza - I think it's strange how much I love their traditional Italian sausage pizza especially considering all my other favorite pizza joints across Columbus but simply put I love it and that's all i have to say about it. It's comforting to know that no matter what new places and tastes cross my palette that at the end of the day I can still count on our timeless favorites and reminisce about Columbus and why we call it our home.

the salad days...

For the last 3 years my new years resolutions have included eating more veggies. With that goal i have had many great experiences making various kinds of salads. The one below was extremely delicious. Let's see if I can remember what was in it:

1) mixed greens
2) shredded brussel sprouts
3) carrots
4) 3 pepper blend
5) black beans
6) grilled chicken tenderloin marinated in a rosemary spice blend
7) tomatoes
8) onions
9) sliced boiled eggs
10) shredded cheddar cheese

With all the different flavors in the salad I did not really need a dressing but I did put a splash of balsamic vinegar on it.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

home cooking...

Still trying to get caught up with all of my posts. Betty has agreed to let me live and we've cut back on the lean cuisine completely for the past 2 weeks which I've been pretty happy about so I'm back to cooking. I've been doing a lot of the same stuff I normally cook including mexican and santa fe. The pic below is my tony bourdain inspired dish of moroccan flavored beef with rice biryani accompanied with a pepper salad topped with goat cheese and hummus. Not the most pleasant looking of all meals -- but the taste was bold and I loved it.

Moroccan Beef with Rice Biryani + Pepper Salad with Goat Cheese/Hummus Dressing + Sriracha

nacho bowl with pepper salad

Hmm. What else am I missing. I made ground turkey enchiladas this week that were good. I included refried beans with bacon in the enchiladas. They were delicious. We also had Mom's mattar paneer with Trader Joes Nan that was bonkers. Then my mother-in-law came over for a visit and she made pasta which was mighty tasty. Reading this now makes me realize that I need to hit the gym twelve-fold this weekend.

St. Toppy's Day at Tip Top...okay not quite...

so I was starting to finally feel better after a week and a half of this cruise vertigo bug and my vision for the perfect St. Patty's day was friends, Ohio Nachos from Tip Top Columbus and Irish Car bombs. The plan was perfect but there were some challenges including parking. I dropped Betty off at Tip Top and 25 minutes later I joined her and our friends. As it turned out Tip Top had no Irish beers on draft so I elected not to trouble the bartender with car bombs. This year would be a tame St. Patty's day. My disappointment last 3.6 seconds as we ordered some appetizers. Ohio Nachos hands down are my favorite appetizer in Columbus, OH. They are essentially kettle chips covered in a white cheese sauce with olives, tomatoes, jalapenos and green onions. I brought a bottle of green el yucateco (my favorite hot sauce) to commemorate st. patty's day and to add some extra heat. As much as I love this appetizer I think it would taste that much better if they would heat the kettle chips. Most of the time the chips are luke warm. Our friend hipped us to the salmon fritters the last time we met up with him and we ordered them again and they were divine. Don't sleep on the Ohio Nachos or Salmon Fritters at Tip Top. We met up with some other friends there and had some good conversation and catch-up. Then we were off for cabbage and kraut at another friends place.

Ohio Nachos South. Salmon Fritters North.

steaming boiling cabbage.

corned beef with previously mentioned cabbage

So St. Patty's Day was a treat. I was pleasantly surprised to be invited over for a traditional St. Patty's day dinner. I had never had this meal of corned beef and cabbage and man oh man was it good. The meal was straight-up unadulterated cabbage, potatos, carrots, celery, and corned beef with some vinegar on top. I thouroughly enjoyed the homemade meal with some Bell's 2-hearted. I know not an irish beer. This St. Patty's Day was different than many of yesteryear. It was tamer and toner but tastier all for the better!

ain't no Topping this Steakhouse...

Betty and I decided to end Retaurant week at Top's Steakhouse. This would be our 3rd time dining there and we have enjoyed it thoroughly the previous 2 times. Part of the charm of Top is the historic building and vibe of the place. I always tell our friends "'s like a place the rat pack would hang out at for happy hour." We started our meal with martinis which have become our drinks of choice since the cruise. I was pleased with my extra dirty gin martini with what appeared to be hand stuffed bleu cheese olives. Still not as good as the Refectory but I still loved it. Betty had the Manhattan up. Can't complain about the drinks.

The restaurant week special was tremendous and we both of course opted in for the specials. I had the French onion soup. Great cheese and crouton at the top but the soup could have been hotter. Good french onion soup ALWAYS burns the roof of your mouth. It was tasty nonetheless.

out of focus french onion soup


Betty opted for the escargot which was cooked with plenty of butter, pesto, garlic and cheese. This was our first time trying traditional escargot. Ironically the butter was roof-of-your-mouth-burning-hot but so much you couldn't taste the snail. Maybe that's a good thing? Betty really liked the escargot. I thought it was okay. Still really in love with the snail terrine from the Refectory but it was good to try the traditional prepation of escargot.

surf and turf filet wrapped in back with lobster tail and sauteed mushrooms

We both ordered the above dish and the steak was excellent. The lobster was tasty especially with the side of butter sauce they gave us. It was nice our waiter removed the lobster from the tail because I would've had no clue how to eat it. The onion ring did not taste as fresh however. The mushrooms were amazing as always. Not trying to take anything away from the steaks but Top's mushrooms are off the charts. I'm not even a mushroom fan but I salivate over just thinking about them. You must order them if you go. It was great that you could have them as a side for Restaurant week as they are normally considered a specialty side. Dinner was good and there was still dessert to go.

Betty had the chocolate cake which was simply heaven.

I had the out of focus filter adjusted creme brulee which was really delicious. This was served crispity-crunchity-warm compared to G. Michael's and I really enjoyed this dessert.

Overall Top's was our favorite place during restaurant week but we did not get to try as many places as I had hoped for since I was still suffering my cruise vertigo.

Barcelona...asi asi...

Still feeling hit by the cruise vertigo/virus but not wanting to act like anything was abnormal we made reservations for Saturday night at Barcelona. I was excited because we had a friend coming into town and I remember liking Barcelona last time I was there probably over a decade ago. We were excited by the Restaurant Week special that consisted of 9 tapas + a glass of sangria all for $30. That's a deal considering the last time I was there our bill for 10 people came to about $700. That's probably why it's been so long since I've been back there.
I tried unsuccessfully to capture the menu on my camera yet again but what you see below was the best part of the meal which was the sangria to the right and the first 3 appetizers.

hummus and flatbread, almond gazpacho, and tomato & mozarella

The sangria was tremendous. I've historically not been much of a sangria person but this sangria was tasty not overly sweet and had some bite. I like it lots and would definitely try it again in larger quantities. The hummus to me was standard. The flatbread tasted a little stale to me. Betty and our friend thoroughly enjoyed it. The almond gazpacho was something i've never tasted before and though pasty was very tasty. The tomato and mozarella was simple and very delicious.

At that point i got tired of taking photos on my camera as i was bumped a couple of times by folks because we were packed tightly in and also because the very act of taking photos was disruptive to our table conversation.

The rest of our meal was pretty so so consisting of: a mushroom-sausage dish that was bland and greasy, a chicken and manchego croquette that tasted like a generic wedding appetizer, an overcooked rubbery scallop, another generic salmon salad, lukewarm pathetic meatballs with a bland creamy side sauce, and then pretty tasty asparagus with overcooked shrimp. If I seem lackadaisical it's cause I honestly could care less for the remainder of our meal.

Part of the appeal with Barcelona is the dining atmosphere and feel of the place. You don't feel like you're in the midwest. We had a lot of fun chatting it up and talking about the food that we didn't really care that it wasn't great. Typing up all these posts is making me fret my credit card bill for this month which has yet to come

Next stop Katzingers...

Still suffering from cruise vertigo/virus but not wanting to miss an ounce of restaurant week I hit up Katzingers with a friend to catch up. This was my second time going to Katzingers and I remember thinking it was pretty good but expensive. We both decided on the Flight of the Corned Beefs. You got three different half sandwiches, a brownie and a side of potato salad for $7.50 + all the dill and garlic pickles you could eat. That's a deal this day in age.

Garlic and Dill Pickles, Carbonated H20, Flight of Corned Beef, Brownie, Potato Salad

As I was eating the sandwiches I became engrossed in conversation with my friend because we hadn't seen each other for awhile. Before I knew it I was threw my food without really tasting my meal. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I don't really know much about corned beef but the sandwiches were good and traditional. The potato salad and brownie were standard. I wasn't overly impressed with the pickles. They were crisp yet pretty bland. The dill pickle did seem to taste better the longer it sat. All in all the verdict is still out on Katzingers. The meal was good enough to enjoy through a conversation but I don't recall being blown away. I was psyched that they had carbonated water at their drink station thought. The restaurant does have a nice store that intrigued me and I would be curious to come back to try out their eclectic selection of breads, cheeses, meats, and appetizers. I was really hoping to take Betty later on in the week to try the Flight of Turkeys and discuss her reviews of the pickles because she is big on sandwiches and pickles but time got away from us.

Restaurant Week Kick Off at G. Michaels Bistro...

Wow I'm really behind in my posting!

So Monday March 9th was the day I was feeling very dizzy from cruise vertigo but not enough to not want to hit up Restaurant Week.

Our first stop was G. Michael's Bistro. This was our first time eating there so we were excited.

After some debate Betty and I both decided to get the same thing: The seared jumbo scallop with beets in a chive cream sauce for the appetizer:

You can see from the above pictures that my vertigo carried to my photography skills.

The scallop itself was delicious and very tender. The beets though somewhat tasty in small amounts overtook the flavor. I loved the chive cream sauce but there was not enough to go around. This was my first time trying beets and they are not my favorite.

The chorizo-stuffed, bacon-wrapped short ribs with mashed potatoes, green beans and au jus. Again I apologize for the picture. The presentation of this meal was a bit overwhelming. I was kind of like where do I begin. My sister had gotten me excited about short ribs but I never really new what it was. Everything was tasty and the short rib was like an ultra-tasty-tender rib but with no bone. My only complaint was that there was too much salt for my tastes - between the chorizo, bacon, au jus, potatoes. All this being said -- would I order the short rib again? Yes.

Because I have no clue how to use my camera the picture for dessert did not show up but dessert was pretty delicious. I got the creme brulee with berries and betty got a toffee cake with toppped with a whiskey sauce. I am not sure if creme brulee is supposed to be served warm but ours was cold yet crispy. The cake was good but slightly dry

This was a great first night back to Columbus. G. Michaels seems like a nice place. I was surprised about how big it was with the 3 different settings: bar area, windows area, and then closed off dining room. I will say it was slightly strange hearing the kitchen folks bicker about how they were running out of short ribs. Everyone must have heard how tasty they were.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Cruise Food...

On our cruise i thought about documenting our food dining experiences...and though it would've been fun...i failed to do so.

Let me make some comments here though. Overall one of the biggest disappointments about our cruise was the food. I had heard a lot about Princess Cruises food and so perhaps there was some hype there but oh well. My main gripe was that the buffet food was consistently luke warm if not cold. One day I can understand...but it was consistently cold. Not being a big fan of buffet food in the first place this made my dining experiences that much more disappointing. I will say that all the buffet food that was supposed to be cold was very tasty including: lox, shrimp cocktail, lobster claws, crab, and cold cut sandwiches. The food that was warm was good including the various breakfast potatoes, sauteed mushrooms, eggs over medium. It was also nice to have the green tobasco sauce readily available to spicen up your food. Fortunately we did not hit up the buffet as much.

The food in the dining room was hot and pretty good. Every night you could have a 3 course meal.

The burgers and pizza were stupendous. Burgers were not cooked to order -- all were cooked well done and still were delicious. The pizza was thin crust new york style and there was a specialty pizza every day. Can't get any better than that when you are stranded on a boat in the middle of the ocean.

My favorite meal on the cruise was the jalapeno olives in the extra dirty gin martinis that somehow became my drink of choice on vacation...okay that was a joke maybe. ;)

In all honesty the last day of the cruise I noted that everything was served steaming warm including the buffet food and on that last day I encountered my favorite meal which was probably the lentil and potato samosas. I had a pheasant vennison terrine that was pretty tasty and a filet that was good too.

All in all -- there's something to be said about a hot lunch or hot supper and I was excited to resume my normal dining food temperature upon return to land.

Where am I and do I have to go back to Ohio...aka the Ft. Lauderdale Bar Crawl

Betty and I flew down to Ft. Lauderdale the night before our cruise and man oh man was I impressed. My main memories of Florida were going to Orlando, Orlando, and then some more Orlando as a kid. I found Ft. Lauderdale to be very clean, upscale, and quiet. I was prepared for college kids on spring break and while there was some of that -- there was a strange calm in the warm night breeze that was seductive. I suppose the fact that it was 80 something degrees with clear skies in March and that I was surrounded by the ocean and the woman I loved helped as well. Betty and I hit up the strip and decided to jumpstart the first day of our vacation by doing a bar crawl.

First stop was Sangria's cafe. We decided we'd start of with a gigantic margarita...everybody else was doing it.

Margarita was nothing to write home about but at the same time it didn't really matter cause everything else was so perfect. So perfect that we didn't bother finishing either of ours. :) We did split a chicken quesadilla that was simple and delicious. One thing I noted about Ft. Lauderdale was that you started to forget about how good the drinks or food were and just really took in the ocean view and relaxing vibe of the city.

Not properly buzzed from our first drink we decided to check out the House of 100 Tequilas.

We took a seat at the bar and engaged the bartender in a conversation on tequilas and Ft. Lauderdale culture. We tried 2 tequilas that I had never heard of and they were tasty.

Later on that evening we ended the evening at our Hotel Restaurant and Bar at the Hilton called Ilios. We sat on the patio where we had a dramatic view of the ocean and skyline. We had some martini's and tried a number of their tapas that were delicious and pricey including:

a crab and corn chowder; bread with 3 dipping oils/butters; and shrimp and mango ceviche

along with a jerk chicken with carmelized sweet potatoes and asparagus.

It was a whirlwind night before our cruise. The mood of the Ft. Lauderdale strip made it difficult for even the grumpiest of critics to mind the expensive drinks and cuisine. There was definitely a magical and intoxicating vibe (okay...maybe that's being too literal) in the air that stole Betty and mine's heart and money. Let's see how I feel when my credit card bill for this month comes.

Casablanca Cafe Crab Cakes are tight.

(Note: Okay so this post really should follow the next post about the Ft. Lauderdale Bar crawl. We saw this place the first night we were there and it looked very inviting and had a tremendous view of the ocean. We decided to check it out the next day for lunch before leaving Ft. Lauderdale.)

Betty and I flew down to Ft. Lauderdale before our East Caribbean cruise. The strip was small but clean and chill. We saw this place called Casablanca cafe that overlooked the beach and decided to check it out before we headed off to our Cruise Port. We ordered Crab Cakes and Tuna Sashimi.

Yes. The meal tasted as good as it looked. The crab and tuna tasted oh so fresh. The crab cake was one of the best I'd tried and was pretty massive and adorned with a watercress sprout salad and very yummy avocado and passion fruit creme fraiche . The tuna was tasty as well. My only disappointment was that the 2 appetizers did not complement each other as they had pretty dissimilar tastes -- but I'll take the blame for that as I saw seared tuna -- overlooking the sashmi part.

If you happen to be in Ft. Lauderdale definitely check out this restaurant for the food, vibe, and great view of the ocean: