Review: The Breakfast Barn

Tucked away in the part of town that I often refer to as the “culinary wasteland” (hey, I live here on the West Side, so I can call it anything I want!), is a little place that I’ve driven past hundreds of times, but have never seen fit to find my way into. But after hearing a glowing recommendation from my mother’s boyfriend, who is a bit of a foodie himself (having already eaten his way through most of the blue collar joints in town during his workday), we headed off to check it out.

The Breakfast Barn isn’t much to look at. Blink and you’re past it from the outside. Once you’re inside, it looks a bit dated and grungy, like most good greasy spoons do. Down home atmosphere and cooking is the best way to describe the place. But the service is friendly, the portions are huge, the food is delicious, and the price is right – so we definitely will be back soon (maybe tomorrow, when the blue plate special is cabbage rolls – yum!)

My husband and I went in two entirely different directions in our ordering. I was in the mood for breakfast (which they serve all day) while he was in the mood for dinner. Let me just say that I greatly underestimated the portion sizes here – I have enough leftover for another breakfast.

I went with the Steak and Eggs ($7.25) which pairs a fairly sizeable (but cheap cut – make sure you order it medium rare for it to be done just right) strip steak (or chopped steak) with a couple eggs prepared your way (I chose over easy), home fries or hash browns (I chose home fries), and toast (I chose white). The picture doesn’t do the serving size justice – you’re only able to see half of the potatoes here, as they were also piled under the eggs. A quite formidable breakfast, indeed.

bb_steakandeggs

Having ordered everything at once, they brought me the other things I ordered as well. I ordered a side of Silver Dollar Pancakes ($2.00 for 4), which I expected to be about 2″ in diameter. What I got instead is 4 regular sized pancakes. Not complaining, mind you – they were fluffy and perfectly cooked – just surprised at the massiveness of the order.

bb_pancakes

Ditto with the Grits ($1.50), which when jazzed up with a bit of butter, salt and pepper, are a breakfast unto themselves. Needless to say, most of the grits and the pancakes made it home with me.

bb_grits

Being hungry, my husband ordered an Egg Roll ($1.25). While you can get better at any Chinese place (this one was straight from GFS), it was nicely filled with a lot of pork and was paired with an inoffensive sweet sauce. It was a good start to the meal, although a bit out of place in this sort of establishment.

bb_eggroll

My husband went with tonight’s special, Tuna Noodle Casserole ($7.95). A huge pile of creamy tuna goodness, reminiscent of the kind of comfort food you ate growing up, served with the kind of sides that your parents or grandparents would have given you. For instance, his came with a side of peas and carrots (right out of the can).

bb_tunanoodle

It also came with a fairly good cole slaw, a little heavy on the seasonings, but creamy and cool nonetheless.

bb_coleslaw

Also, there was a side of cling peaches (also out of the can, but I love these things anyway) for dessert, as part of the special.

bb_peaches

This place has fairly long hours for a diner, they deliver (free if you order over $25, otherwise $2 with a minimum $10 order), and as the many regulars can attest, is one of the best breakfast bargains in Columbus. Paul and I compared the food to that of Nancy’s in Clintonville, without the long wait for a booth and the attitude.

Next time you wander over to this part of town (if you come over to go to Thurn’s, or to Schumann’s on Harrisburg Pike), drop on in and give it a try. You won’t be sorry.

If you’d like to go: The Breakfast Barn, 1275 Brown Road, Columbus (West Side), 614.308.0173

Breakfast Barn on Urbanspoon

Review: La Casita

La Casita is one of those places that I’ve been to tons of times, but have never really sat down and written a review of. It’s our regular “go to” place for Mexican in Columbus, with some unique dishes that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else. So, wanting to make it official, I coaxed my mother and her boyfriend to join us for an evening of tasty Mexican food this past weekend.

Almost all Mexican restaurants in town provide you with gratis chips and salsa, but La Casita’s is among the best I’ve had. The chips are still warm out of the fryer, and the salsa is a perfect balance of sweet, tart, spicy and salty. It is so good that I order some extra “to go” to munch on at home later. At $3 for a large cup (and a bag of tortilla chips), it beats the pants off of anything you can buy in the grocery store.

lacasita_chips

Their drinks are extremely large – this pina colada ($5.50) was easily enough for 2 people to share. However, I would happily trade in some of the quantity for more quantity of rum – I couldn’t taste it at all in this drink.

lacasita_pinacolada

For an entree, I went with my favorite – the fish tacos ($8.95 for three, or $2.95 each). Full of well-seasoned mild fish on corn tortillas, these are fantastic with a little lime juice squeezed on. I recommend asking for some avocado slices on the side, as these go from great to sublime with that addition. Served with the fish tacos is a “macho sauce”, which I’ve never tried but which my husband says is really spicy.

lacasita_fishtacos

Rice and refried beans come with the fish tacos. These are typical Mexican restaurant fare, nothing spectacular but nothing bad – in the case of the fish tacos, they’re an afterthought – the density of the fish tacos filled me up, and I just picked at the rice and beans.

lacasita_ricebeans

My husband, who also got the fish tacos, opted for the Mexican Potatoes as a side instead of the rice.

lacasita_potatoes

He also ordered the Tostada de Ceviche ($2.95), two scoops of of a citrusy white fish (which cooks in the lime juice) on top of a crisply fried corn tortilla. He scarfed it before I could get a picture, and liked well enough that he went back the next day to get it for lunch (unfortunately for him, they only serve it at dinner time).

We passed on dessert, but our dining companions shared an order of the Pastel des Tres Leches cake ($4.50). They both agreed that the quantity was huge enough to share, and that the creaminess and sweetness was both addictive and overwhelming. Again, no picture as it was eaten before I had the opportunity.

Now, about those unique dishes – they serve something called Birria ($7.95 for a large, or $5.25 for a small), which is a spicy Mexican beef stew. Typically served with corn tortillas, lime, onions, and cilantro, it’s something that we take home with us each time we go there, so that we can prepare it the next day and mix it with rice. Fan-friggin-tastic, and is a great lunch for two.

lacasita_birria

If you’re craving consistently good Mexican, great service, with a menu that strays from the usual, La Casita is the place for you. Keep in mind, though – it’s not a well kept secret; the place is consistently packed so you may want to call ahead.

If you’d like to go: La Casita, 1355 Bethel Road, Columbus (Northwest Side), 614.457.0823

La Casita on Urbanspoon

A Great Lunch in 15 Minutes or Less

Just a quick post about today’s lunch – this past weekend, we went to Carfagna’s, and stocked up on a bunch of Italian meats and cheese from the deli – hot and sweet Calabrese Sopressata, Mortadella, Hot Cappicola, etc. I finally got around to making the sandwiches today, moreso as an afterthought rather than something that was pre-planned. When going through the fridge, I found some fresh mozzarella with a drop dead date of tomorrow, and a container of grape tomatoes that needed to be used, and this dish came together as a natural result of wanting nothing in the fridge to go to waste. I give you, my version of an Italian Meats Panini and Caprese Salad on the side.

pizzapanini2

The panini is simple to make – no real recipe. I just took two slices of deli Italian bread, slathered each one with pizza sauce, put two slices of provolone on each piece of bread, and a layer each of the meats mentioned above. Grill on the panini press until browned and cheese is melted.

The Caprese Salad came together quite nicely, actually. Just toss together a container of mozzarella (I cut it into smaller pieces) with a container of grape tomatoes (cut in half), drizzle some extra virgin olive oil, about a tablespoon or so of really good balsamic vinegar (I used my favorite Acetaia Malpighi Saporoso), some fresh basil sliced into ribbons, and enough Fleur de Sel (or other coarse sea salt) to taste. Toss together, and serve. Easy and delicious.

And for dessert?

orangesyum

An ice cold navel orange, cut into wedges. For all the bitching I do about winter and how cold it’s been here, I have to say, there are some things about winter (like citrus fruit) that I truly enjoy and wouldn’t want to miss out on. And as simple as this meal was, it was one of the most satisfying I’ve had in ages.

TWD: Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits

Since I’ve been feeling my cooking oats again recently, I’ve decided to join in on an ongoing food event called Tuesdays with Dorie, in which a group of aspiring bakers work their way through Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan one recipe at a time.

This week’s recipe was Dorie’s Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits. Like others, I had some issues with the texture – mine also came out more like scones and quite a bit more heavy than I expected. In addition, I also had some issues with the dough (and the final product) being a bit too crumbly and not wanting to hold together. Nevertheless, they were quite delicious, especially slathered with some butter while they were still hot.

twd_biscuits

Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits
(Makes about 12 biscuits)

2 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour and 1/3 cup cake flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
1/2 cup cold sour cream
1/4 cup cold whole milk
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans, preferably toasted

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Get out a sharp 2-inch-diameter biscuit cutter and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.

Whisk the flour(s), baking powder, salt, and baking soda together in a bow. Stir in the brown sugar, making certain there are no lumps. Drop in the butter and, using your fingers, toss to coat the pieces of butter with flour. Quickly, working with your fingertips (my favorite method) or a pastry blender, cut and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is pebbly. You’ll have pea-size pieces, pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pieces the size of everything in between– and that’s just right.

Stir the sour cream and milk together and pour over the dry ingredients. Grab a fork and gently toss and turn the ingredients together until you’ve got a nice soft dough. Now reach into the bowl with your hands and give the dough a quick gentle kneading– 3 or 4 turns should be just enough to bring everything together. Toss in the pecans and knead 2 to 3 times to incorporate them.

Lightly dust a work surface with flour and turn out the dough. Dust the top of the dough very lightly with flour, pat the dough out with your hands or toll it with a pin until it is about 1/2 inch high. Don’t worry if the dough isn’t completely even– a quick, light touch is more important than accuracy.

Bake the biscuits for 14-18 minutes, or until they are tall, puffed and golden brown. Transfer them to a serving basket.

Taste and Create VI: Tart Reform

This month, I decided to participate in a novel food blogging event called Taste & Create, where one blogger is paired with another and has to recreate a dish that is featured in the partner’s blog – I was paired up with Tart Reform, and I’ll be honest – I couldn’t choose just one recipe!

The first recipe that caught my eye is a dish she calls “Mooch” – I have no idea why she calls it that, but it’s very reminiscent of something I used to make when I was young and on a major budget. I had almost forgot how good something this simple is. I liked the fact that it used turkey, it didn’t change the taste much, and is much healthier. My husband and I finished it all off before the night was done. This one will go into my rotation of recipes I make all the time.

mooch

In the mood for something sweet, the other recipe that caught my eye was The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever. Since I don’t like cakey chocolate chip cookies just like her, I figured this would be just the recipe for me – I was right. They came out crispy around the edges, and chewy in the middle – just the way I like them. Another keeper!

chocolatechip

I had a blast with this event, and hope to participate again soon. :) She made my Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake and it looks like she enjoyed it as much as I did.

Cheese and Tommytoe Toastie

The last few weeks has been all about eating “safe” foods – in other words, old familiars that sit well, or new things that I have found agree with my new stomach configuration.

This has been an old standby for the past couple of weeks – a cheese and tommytoe toastie (I know you Fry and Laurie fans will get the reference).

tommytoe

It’s rather delicious, and simple to make – take two slices of your favorite bread (I used Italian style white bread), spread them liberally with your favorite mustard (I used Grey Poupon Mild & Creamy Dijon), and top each slice of bread with 2 slices of your favorite cheese (I used Havarti and Guggisberg Baby Swiss). In the middle, one fried egg and a couple of slices of really good tomato (I used an heirloom variety). Spray each side of the sandwich with butter flavored cooking spray and grill on the panini press until browned and cheese is melted.

Admin Note: More Medical Woes

Just a quick note to let you all know that I’m not dead…yet. I’m having major setbacks with healing from my surgery, and will be heading to the ER and probably the operating room later today. I’m not sure how long I’ll be in the hospital – could be 2 days, could be 6 weeks, depending on whether or not they can get out all the infection or if there are any complications. I will try to have Paul bring the laptop so I can update, but can’t guarantee it. If you want to keep abreast of what’s going on with me medically, keep an eye on my surgery journal. Either Paul or I should be updating it regularly. Thanks everyone for your well wishes, and for your patience while I’ve been a very lax blogger.

Update: Apparently the antibiotics are doing their job, and when I went to the ER, they told me that I had no infection and as long as the wound heals properly, I’ll be fine. Thank goodness for better living through science.

October 2007 Roundup

Oops – when going through my files, it occurred to me that although I wrote up the October 2007 roundup, I never got around to posting it. So here it is – better late than never. :)

In savory recipes, Tahini Bread from 1x umruhren bitte, German Potato Salad from 24 Boxes, Oktoberfest Crostini from A Mingling of Tastes, Chicken Garlic Pizza from Annie’s Eats, Spicy Chicken with Tahini and Tomato Sauce from Arabic Bites, Mini-Meat Pies from Batter-Splattered, Chicken Teriyaki Sliders from Big Flavors, Linguini with Clam Sauce from Chef it up yo!, Pear and Gorgonzola Risotto, Kabocha Risotto and Croque Monsieur with Pear and Smoked Turkey from Closet Cooking, Southwestern Rice and Corn Frittata and Korean Barbecue Burgers from Culinary in the Desert, Korean BBQ Beef Short Ribs from Delectables and Other Adventures in Food, Potato and Truffle Cheese Gratin from elly says opa!, Pretzel-Crusted Chicken Breasts with Cheddar Mustard Sauce from Everything Rachael Ray, Bresaola Salad with Wild Arugula & Lemon from Figs, Bay & Wine, Red Lentil Mulligatawny with Apple-Celery Salsa from Food Blogga, Chicken and Leek Pie from HomeMadeS, Poblano Chile Chicken Enchiladas from HungryBastard.com, Potato Soup from Julie’s Foodie, Refried Beans from Kirsten’s Home Cooking, Blue Cheese and Pear Tart from nami-nami: a food blog, (Veal) Bockwurst in a Creamy Mustard Sauce with Smashed Potatoes and Broccolini and Knockwurst Stoup from Rachael Ray, Sausage & Butter Bean Soup with Greens and Pasta and Scallops Waitress from Restaurant Widow, Sauerbraten from The Barefoot Kitchen Witch, Potatoes Lyonnaise from The Cookbook Junkie, Butternut Squash Arancini from The Omnivorous Egg, Pumpkin, Mushroom and Leek Risotto from Vegan Visitor, Spinach and Feta Cheese Yeast Bread from What Did You Eat?, and Chicken Yakitori with Udon Noodles in Miso Broth from What’s On My Plate.

In sweet recipes, Rustic Apple Tart with Chambord Whipped Cream from A Tasteful Journey, Linzer Cupcakes from a whisk and a spoon, Coffee Latte Cookies from Anne’s Food, Homemade Apple and Pumpkin Pie Spice Mixes from Baking Bites, Almond Torte with Sugared Apricots from Basil and Ginger, Apple Pound Cake from Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity, Gingerbread Pumpkin Bars and Vermont Apple Cider Doughnuts from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, Sweet-ish Apple Pie from Food on the Food, Basic Macaron Cookie from Serious Eats, Butterscotch Mascarpone Cream Layer Cake from Tartelette, Chocoholic Waffles with Cacao Nibs from the urban vegan, Apple Pancakes with Praline Pecan Sauce from To Be Mrs. Marv, White Chocolate Cake with Fresh Strawberry Butter Cream from Yummy 4 My Tummy, and Chocoholic Waffles with Cacao Nibs from the urban vegan.

In informative posts, a guide to working with gluten-free flours from Gluten-Free Girl, and learn how to cut an onion with fewer tears at Pinch My Salt.

I feel like such an airhead. More later…

December 2007 Roundup

I’m really late getting this roundup out, but the past month has been chaotic, to say the least. The past week or so since I’ve been home has been all about trying to find a doctor to treat a minor surgical complication (no luck yet), and figuring out what is OK and what isn’t OK to eat (ah, self-discovery! very scary!). Sushi goes down really well, as does lentil rice with chicken/gyro meat and sandwiches from Cosi. Not so well received? Bread that isn’t toasted or put through a panini press. It’ll be a while before I try that again, LOL.

I’m looking forward to seeing some of you next week at the meetup at Anna’s on the 10th. If you’d like to go, follow the link and RSVP. And if you’re still undecided, could you let me know as soon as possible so I can give Anna’s an accurate head count? Thanks. It’ll be my first “sit down” restaurant experience since the surgery. I’ve done plenty of takeout, plenty of cooking at home, but no out in public yet.

Well, without further delay, here’s the roundup:

In savory recipes, Mini Mac and Cheese from Amber’s Delectable Delights, Braised Pomegranate Chicken from Anne’s Food, Cabernet-Braised Short Ribs with Gremolata from AnticiPlate, Browned Butter from Apartment Therapy: The Kitchen, Baked Chicken Sofrito from The Average Cook, White Bean and Bacon Soup with Escarole and Borlotti Bean Soup with Bacon and Ditalini Pasta from The Bacon Show, Chicken and Potato Croquettes from Bean’s Bistro, Savory French Bean Stew from Blog Appetit, Chile Verde from Cafe Lynnylu, Sour Cream and Chive Biscuits from Closet Cooking, Cider-brined Pork Chops with Creamed Leeks and Apples from The Clumsy Cook, Rice Paper Rolls with Chicken from Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once, Olive Oil Bread Rolls from The Cooking Adventures of Chef Paz, Parmesan Tarts with Caramelised Shallots from The Culinary Chase, Stuffed Beef Rolls with Red Wine and Tomato Sauce from Hall in the Kitchen, Rosemary & Garlic Focaccia from Happy Home Baking, New Year’s Day Good Fortune Soup from Homesick Texan, Butter Chicken from HungryBastard.com, Sweet ‘n Sour Meatballs, the Easy Way from Is that my bureka?, Tuscan Bean Soup with Pasta from Italian Foodies, Baked Potato a la Greque from Kalofagas – Pursuit of Delicious Foods, Chicken Stuffed with Green Chiles and Cheese and Cottage Cheese and Egg Breakfast Muffins with Ham and Cheddar from Kalyn’s Kitchen, Stuffed Acorn Squash with Sausage and Two Rices from kitchenmage, Mini Veal Meatballs with Caramelized Onions from Leite’s Culinaria, Bourbon-Glazed Baby Back Ribs with Wasabi Mashed Potatoes from Love and Olive Oil, Mesa Grill’s Southwestern Potato Salad from Paper Palate, Butter Bean Soup with Smoked Pancetta from Stuff Yer Bake, Kohlrabi Soup from vegalicious, Squash and Goat Gratin for One from The Village Vegetable, Bulgogi/Kalbi Burgers from Wandering Chopsticks, Pappardelle with Short Rib & Porcini Ragu from Well Fed, Curried Rice and Vegetable Soup and Spicy Fideos with Ground Beef and Black Beans from What Geeks Eat…, Caprese Tartlets from Yuzu Eats, and Short Ribs Ragu with Pappardelle and Caramelized Garlic and Shallot Pasta from Serious Eats.

In sweet recipes, Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies from alpineberry, Molten-Middle Truffle Cookies from Amber’s Delectable Delights, Chocolate and Sea Salt Cookies from The Art of Tasting Chocolate, Donut Muffins from Bake & Destroy!, Rugelach, Hazelnut Mini Cheesecakes, and Kahlua Date Nut Bread from Bake or Break, Mini Custard Pies from Baking History, Swedish Apple Crisp from Bean’s Bistro, Peach Raspberry Almond Yoghurt Cake from butter sugar flour, Southwest Georgia Pound Cake from Carrie’s Cooking Adventures, Pecan Pie Cookies from Cherrapeno, Jelly Doughnut Cupcakes from Coconut & Lime, Browned Butter Macadamia Butterscotch Cookies from Cookie Madness, Grammy’s Carmelcorn from Culinary Fool, Honey Butter Caramels with Sea Salt from Dessert First, Creme de Menthe Cheesecake from Easy Desserts, Eggnog Bars and Chocolate Chip Cookie Topped Brownies from eat me, delicious, Whole Grain Buttermilk Pancakes with Roasted Pears from FamilyStyle Food, Chocolate-Orange Cake from Fatfree Vegan Kitchen, Chocolate Amaretti Cake from Fuss Free Flavours, White Chocolate Lime Cookies from have cake, will travel, Mini Mascarpone and Raspberry Trifles from Kitchen Delights, White Chocolate and Spiced Pear Tiramisu from Kitchen Talk to Chew On, Rainbow Cookies from Leite’s Culinaria, Bread Pudding Flan from Men in Aprons, Summer Berry Clafoutis from Milk and Cookies, Chocolate Cashew Brittle from My Feasts, Brown Butter Spoon Cookies with Jam from Orangette, Lydia’s Austrian Raspberry Shortbread and Pear Crisps with Vanilla Brown Butter from smitten kitchen, Snowdrop’s Blonde Fruitcake from The Sunny Raw Kitchen, White Chocolate Truffles with Peppermint from Tinned Tomatoes, Ricotta Hotcakes with Banana, Maple Syrup and Honeycomb Butter from Totally Addicted to Taste, Sweet Squash Flan from vanesscipes, and Latkes with Apple Sauce from Serious Eats.

I’m still working on January’s roundup, keep your eyes peeled in the next week or so for it. :)