Review: Benny’s Cheesesteaks

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Food Porn, Restaurant Review

I have found nirvana. I bellyache on here all the time about how much I miss Philly cheesesteaks, and how anything we can find in Columbus absolutely pales in comparison to the real thing. Well, folks, we’ve had the real deal here in Central Ohio for over a year now, and I didn’t even know about it!

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Benny’s Cheesesteaks is in the former Roly Poly space in the Perimeter shopping center (the one with the Kroger’s in it). The space is much larger than it used to be, and brightly decorated.

But most importantly – they have *authentic* Philly cheesesteaks, with the top round and Amoroso’s rolls shipped in from South Philly. Both my husband and I ordered the Original Cheese Steak ($3.99 for a 7″), made with grilled onions and “wid wiz” (with Cheese Whiz) instead of real cheese, just like I used to get at Jim’s. One bite told me that this was the real thing – the roll was crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and didn’t overpower the meat, the thinly sliced top round had the right “bite” that you don’t get with pressed meat steaks, the onions were cooked and seasoned just right into the steak itself, and the Cheese Whiz added just the right amount of saltiness and cheese flavor to the whole thing. Oh, yeah!

The owner, a Philly-area transplant himself, has been doing this for about 15 years now, so he’s definitely got that Philly street cred because he, like I, knows what makes a Philly steak unique. Since I’ve moved to Ohio, everyone always asks me what the big deal is about Philly steaks – if you want to find out, now you can. This is better than Jim’s, better than Gino’s, better than Pat’s, without the line around the block and the 500 mile drive. My sister and I are planning a trip home next month – we *were* going to make a pitstop onto South Street to get cheesesteaks, but now we don’t have to, because we can get them here. All that’s missing is the rack of Tastykakes and Utz Chips (Benny, are you listening?)

If you’d like to go: Benny’s Cheesesteaks, 6495 Perimeter Drive, Dublin,  614.766.1771

Benny's Cheese Steak on Urbanspoon

Review: Ha Long Bay

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Food Porn, Restaurant Review

Update: Ha Long Bay has closed.

We normally don’t eat out two days in a row, and we normally don’t head up to the Polaris area, but as we were out and making a trip to Carfagna’s on 161, and Polaris wasn’t too much farther, we decided to use that opportunity to visit Ha Long Bay.

Ha Long Bay is a sit-down Vietnamese restaurant, located in an unassuming strip mall near the corner of Sancus and Lazelle. Once inside, the room is decorated in a comfortable red theme, with a good sized dining room. I’m going to apologize in advance for the pictures; the lighting was rather dim so I needed to use my flash, and the pictures turned out a little harsher than I would have liked.

It took us a while to decide, because nearly everything on the menu looks delicious (except the durian smoothie, of course – stinky cheese is yummy, stinky fruits are not!). I absolutely love Vietnamese-style spring rolls, but most have shrimp in them, so I was delighted to see that there were many choices here that were shrimp-free.

We decided on three rolls for our appetizer. The first, Bo tai chanh rolls ($3.50), are rare tender eye-round beef marinated in lime-pineapple and vegetables, surrounded by a fresh rice wrapper, and served with a peanut sauce. These were fantastic, with a wonderful crunch that went well with the softer textures of the beef, noodles, and rice wrapper. The peanut sauce worked well with the flavors of the rolls.

Ha Long Bay Bo Tai Chanh Rolls

The second, an order of Bi cuon rolls ($3), were very similar, but with a shredded lean pork in the center rather than beef, and a chili sauce on the side. These, we weren’t as crazy about, due to the stringy texture – this may be a personal peccadillo, however, rather than a deficiency in the food. The taste was good, though.

Ha Long Bay Bi Cuon Rolls

We also shared an order of Vietnamese eggrolls ($3), a deep fried wrapper filled with lean ground pork, mushroom, shrimp, carrot, onion, cabbage, and saifun noodles. Although these had shrimp in them, I couldn’t taste it and thought these were the best of the lot. They were served with a sweet and sour sauce.

Ha Long Bay Vietnamese Egg Rolls

I’m a huge fan of pho, but have only had it from one place previously, and wanted to try some from a different place in comparison. Wanting to stick as close to my usual as possible, I ordered the Beef Noodles Soup ($6.95), which is pho broth with thin sliced eye-round beef, onions, and rice noodles. It is served with fresh basil and bean sprouts on the side. The server brought out this HUGE bowl of steaming broth and noodles, so big that I immediately asked for a second spoon. For those of you who haven’t tried pho, the broth is not like your typical beef broth. It’s more complex and with deeper flavor notes, due to a mix of spices that go into the slow-cooking process. The pho broth here at Ha Long Bay is superb – full bodied and flavorful. This pho dish one of the biggest lunch bargains in town, folks.

However, we found it a bit too messy to eat there, and decided to package it up to eat the rest at home later.

Ha Long Bay Beef Noodles Soup

It’s hard to believe we had any room at all left for entrees, but we did. We worked up an appetite again trying to decide what to go for. On a previous trip, I had the Vietnamese street noodles, which I liked very much. My husband ordered something last time that he wasn’t too crazy for, and also wanted to order the Street Noodles. Since we have an unwritten rule that when we eat out, we should eat two different entrees (so I can try his, and he can try mine) it was a battle of wills over who was ordering the Street Noodles.

I won. The Vietnamese Street Noodles ($7.75), is a noodle dish reminscent of pad thai without the spicy seasonings. It is a combination of rice noodles, lean ground pork, and mixed vegetables, with your choice of beef, chicken, or shrimp. I chose the chicken. This a very safe dish for those who aren’t very adventurous, and the server says it’s their most popular dish. The flavor is good, even without the added heat.

Ha Long Bay Vietnamese Street Noodles

My husband chose the House Grilled Noodles ($7.95), which is grilled marinated beef, pork, and shrimp (my husband opted to eliminate the shrimp), eggrolls, mixed vegetables, served with room temperature noodles. The noodles have a bit of sweet/vinegary sauce with them, and this dish was oh-my-god fantastic. What really made this dish spectacular is the crunchy eggrolls – my advice is to ask them to add extra eggrolls when you place your order, as the 4 pieces that were in there were quickly consumed. I loved this dish so much that my husband did get his wish, and we traded entrees.

Ha Long Bay House Grilled Noodles

Service was fast, super-friendly, and helpful when it came to describing dishes and making suggestions. And the food was so good that I think I would make a special trip to Polaris (clear on the other side of town) just to eat there again. And the price is right – my husband and I got out of there with a check that was half of what we usually spend on a meal eaten in a restaurant. If you haven’t gone yet, I highly recommend it.

If you’d like to go: Ha Long Bay, 8489 Sancus Blvd, Cols., 614.436.4087

Ha Long Bay on Urbanspoon

Review: Banana Bean Cafe

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Food Porn, Restaurant Review

Update: Banana Bean Café relocated to Greenlawn Ave, and then later became Coyote Jane’s with Robin Emrick as the chef. Banana Bean has closed on Greenlawn, but Chefs Kevin and Patrick Caskey (formerly of Banana Bean Cafe) have opened a restaurant in the old Banana Bean space on Whitter. This casual farm to table driven restaurant has received rave reviews – you can take a look at a sample menu on their web site. Highly recommended!

My husband and I have been disillusioned with eating out lately – it seems like so many of the restaurants in Columbus are clones of each other with only minor variations in menu offerings. So when picking a restaurant to try tonight, we decided that we wanted to go somewhere where the menu had items that were unique for Columbus.

Banana Bean Cafe, the only “Floribbean” (Cuban/Jamaican/Key West fusion) restaurant in town, fit the bill perfectly. After perusing their menu online, and seeing so many unique choices, we called and secured a reservation. Parking was typical for German Village – on-street and not too difficult to find.

First things first – a few notes about things we noticed right off the bat. The dining space inside Banana Bean Cafe is *very* cozy – I think they’re lucky if they can seat 28-30 people in the dining room at once. So reservations, especially during peak days, are absolutely necessary. From what we saw, if you’re planning on going on a Friday night, if you want to be seated, you’ll need a reservation. Second, they don’t usually split checks. So if you’re dining with a bunch of friends, one person should be paying and you’ll need to settle up with the person who’s paying.

With those details out of the way – let me get into what makes Banana Bean Cafe really stand out – the food. We started with the Cuban Pork Springrolls with a Sugarcane Chili Sauce ($7), which was very good, but not what we expected. The eggrolls themselves had a very “Cuban sandwich” vibe to them, and the sauce was more of a sweet mustard than a chili sauce. It worked with the eggrolls, however, so this was a winner.

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One of the great things about Banana Bean is that their entire menu is always available. My husband and I were both in a breakfasty mood, so decided to go with dishes that are traditionally eaten earlier in the day.

I chose the Bananas Foster French Toast ($9), a huge portion of what I think was Cuban bread dipped in an egg batter and fried, topped with bananas, raspberries, strawberry, and a Captain Morgan spiced rum sauce. This picture doesn’t do this dish justice – the flavor is so warm, so comforting – this is definitely a new favorite for me.

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My husband chose one of the daily specials, the “DelMar” platter ($12) – seared spinach, topped with 2 crab cakes, 2 poached eggs, and a charred-tomato hollandaise sauce. Lindey’s has a similar dish, but Banana Bean’s version easily blows it out of the water. Everything was cooked perfectly, and the different components of this dish came together in unison nicely.

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Since we were eating breakfast type foods, we decided to get a couple of different breakfast type sides to go with it, because they sounded so interesting.

The Stone-Ground Goat Cheese Grits ($3) is a creamy, rich conglomeration of the best grits I’ve tasted in my lifetime. These would be excellent with a meat-based dish as well, and are a true value at this price.

bbcgrits

My husband and I were almost fighting over the Applewood Smoked Bacon ($4) – ever notice that most places either overcook or undercook bacon? Not here – this was cooked to just the right amount of crisp, which allowed the Applewood smoke flavor to shine through.

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I ended up boxing up most of my entree, to save room for dessert. I chose the Crepes with Mascarpone Cheese, Aged Balsamic Drenched Strawberries ($7), which was 2 crepes filled with mascarpone cheese and what I think was a brown sugar mix, topped with strawberries and a very sweet balsamic sauce and whipped cream. If you choose this, you’ll either want to share with someone else or take some home, because if you eat it all in one sitting, you’re guaranteed to go into sugar shock. Tasty, but cloying.

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My husband chose the Sweet Potato Creme Brulee with a Burnt Marshmallow Top ($6), which he ate very quickly and declared the best dessert he had in a while. I was lucky enough to get a bite of it, and I have to agree.

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Service was a bit slow, but very friendly. Because it is a family business, it has a very small staff, which I’m sure is part of the delay. If you’re willing to be patient, however, you’ll get some really good food that is unlike anything else you’ll find in Columbus. We’ll definitely be back!

If you’d like to go: Banana Bean Cafe, 410 E. Whittier St, Cols. 614.443.2262

Banana Bean Cafe on Urbanspoon

Jihva for Potato: Mom’s Potato Salad

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Food Blogging Event, Recipes

It’s been a while since I participated in a food blogging event. The theme for this month’s Jihva for Ingredients is potato, hosted by Vaishali of Happy Burp.  As luck would have it, I just happened to make a potato dish on the day before the event. Stop by Happy Burp on the 8th for the round-up.

I chose a dish that I pretty much grew up on, as this is basically my mom’s potato salad, more or less. I love the contrast between the different textures in this salad, and the bit of “crunch” it has. Since a lot of the ingredients can’t be quantified, in giving you the recipe I’ll give you general ideas, but you’ll need to suit it to your own tastes. For those of you who are more adventurous, it’s a great potato salad base to start experimenting on to make your own variation.

Potato Salad

Mom’s Potato Salad

8-10 small to medium potatoes, skins intact
vinegar
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
1/4 c. diced pickles (preferrably kosher dill)
4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
mustard
mayonnaise, start with 1 cup
dill weed
celery salt
kosher salt

Bring potatoes to boil in large pot of water, and boil until nearly tender (just a little more firm than if you were making mashed potatoes). Drain, and set potatoes on counter to cool. When cool to touch, peel off skins using fingers (skins should come off easily). Allow to finish cooling to touch, and then slice potatoes into large bowl. Sprinkle potatoes with vinegar (about 1 tbsp?), and then add onions, peppers, pickles, eggs, mustard to taste (I like about 1-2 tbsp) and mayonnaise. Add enough mayo until all of potatoes are covered (you will probably use more than 1 cup, keep adding mayo until it’s at the consistency you like). Season with salt, celery salt, and dill weed to taste. Allow to chill in refrigerator before serving.

Technorati Tags: JFI, Jhiva for Ingredients

INCLUDED ON TONIGHT’S CARD: RACE AGAINST TIME

The Record (Bergen County, NJ) July 4, 1997 | MIKE FARRELL MIKE FARRELL The Record (Bergen County, NJ) 07-04-1997 INCLUDED ON TONIGHT’S CARD: RACE AGAINST TIME By MIKE FARRELL Date: 07-04-1997, Friday Section: SPORTS Edition: All Editions — Two Star B, Two Star P, One Star Column: HORSE RACING

Drivers John Campbell, Mike Lachance, and Howard Parker settled for a chartered helicopter. What they really need tonight is a Star Trek transporter.

The drivers are trying to resolve a scheduling conflict that requires them to be at The Meadowlands Racetrack and Yonkers Raceway at roughly the same time. The Big M is staging three eliminations for the $1 million Meadowlands Pace (the final will be July 11), and Yonkers also is presenting the $389,262 Yonkers Trot, the first leg of the trotting Triple Crown. go to web site chase banking online

Television compounded the time crunch. Two of the Pace eliminations and the Yonkers Trot will be televised live as the latest installment of the American Championship Harness Series on ESPN2 (10:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.)

“This is the closest we’ve ever cut it,” Campbell said.

The madness will begin at 10:40 p.m. with second Pace elim. The drivers will then dash to the copter for the 12-minute flight to Yonkers, where post time is 10:56. Then it will be a scramble back to the Big M for the third Pace elim at 11:18.

The tight schedule allows no margin for error. Too bad Scotty can’t beam them from paddock to paddock.

TOUCH GOLD TO TRY AGAIN: Trainer David Hofmans set this morning as the tentative date for Touch Gold’s first workout since his victory in the Belmont Stakes. The workout, originally set for Wednesday at Hollywood Park, was delayed by Hofmans’ continued concerns over the colt’s left front foot, which was injured in the Preakness.

The postponement of the workout further enhances the chances that Touch Gold will start next in the $1 million Haskell Invitational on Aug. 3 at Monmouth Park rather than the July 20 Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park. The Haskell already has a firm commitment from the Silver Charm camp, setting up a potential glamour rematch. Silver Charm won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness but was denied the Triple Crown by Touch Gold in the Belmont. this web site chase banking online

LLEWELLYN JOINS NYRA: J. Bruce Llewellyn, a member of President Clinton’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations, has been elected to the Board of Trustees of the New York Racing Association.

Llewellyn brings an impressive list of credentials to NYRA, which operates Saratoga, Belmont Park, and Aqueduct. He is chairman of the Philadelphia Coca-Cola Bottling Company and serves on the board of directors of Chase Banking Corp., Coors Brewing Co., Teleport Communications, and Essence Communications. Llewellyn was a founder and former chairman of “100 Black Men,” a national civic organization, and is the current chair of the United States Small Business Advisory Council.

“I was asked to get involved with NYRA’s board of trustees because they felt my experience in business would be effective,” Llewellyn said.

“I believe thoroughbred racing has entertainment aspects and assets that we can capitalize on for the good of everyone.”

“SILVERHEELS” OUT FOR SEASON: Hi Ho Silverheels, winner of the Graduate Series final at the Big M, will be sidelined the rest of the year with a fractured cannon bone in the right hind leg.