Monthly Archives: March 2009

Bananas Foster

I’m super picky about bananas. For eating them out of hand, I like them a bit underripe. Once they start getting brown spots, they start becoming bananas to use in recipes rather than for eating. So needless to say, bananas are a rare commodity in this house. This is one of the recipes I use to make use of lots of bananas at once.
To tie everything together, I served them on top of a piece of marble pound cake, and then topped that with a scoop of Jeni’s Salty Caramel ice cream and a drizzle of Banana Rum Caramel finishing sauce. I’m not terribly fond of sweets these days, but oh man this dessert was awesome. Excuse the crappy picture – once I put the ice cream on top of the hot bananas, I only had a few seconds to snap before it would start to melt, so no time to stage or adjust lighting.

Bananas Foster

Bananas Foster
recipe courtesy Paula Deen


* 1 stick butter
* 1/2 cup brown sugar
* 4 bananas peeled, halved, and cut lengthwise
* 1/4 cup dark rum
* Ice cream, optional
* Pound cake, optional


In a large skillet, melt butter. Using a wooden spoon, add brown sugar and stir together. Add the bananas and cook until caramelized on both sides, over medium-high heat. Move pan off heat, add the rum and return to the stove to catch a flame from the gas stove or a long lighter. Stand back when ignited and flambe the bananas. Be careful a flame will shoot up above the pan. Let flame die down and the alcohol cook out. Serve bananas over vanilla ice cream and/or a slice of pound cake. Makes 4 servings.

Fresh Morels = Spring’s Welcome Mat

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I start going a little stir crazy at the beginning of March, when Mother Nature teases us with the fluctuations in weather. One day it’s perfect, where it’s warm enough to grill out and run around in shorts and sandals, and overnight I’m back to hoodies and turning on the fireplace. So even though the calendar may say it’s spring, it truly isn’t spring for me until I run into the first morels of the season. One of my Facebook friends, Joel, called them  “the welcome mat to spring.” I can’t think of a better way to describe them.

Imagine my surprise when I spied these at Hills Market yesterday (sorry for the picture quality). And at $42.99/lb, they were priced quite well. They’re not from Ohio, but they’re fresh. And that’s enough to hold me over for the moment.

Fresh Morel Mushrooms

My favorite way to prepare morels is to just saute them in a stick of butter. Maybe a touch of salt and pepper. Just saute them until they crisp up and there is no better thing in the world. Drizzled over steak, it’s absolute heaven.

Steak with Morel Butter, Baked Potato, and Asparagus

As is dining al fresco on the deck out back with my husband. We fired up the grill, opened up a bottle of wine, and grilled some delicious thick ribeyes, baked some potatoes and roasted some asparagus. I can’t think of any place I would have rather been tonight. A few more days like this and I might be downright giddy. Summer can’t come soon enough.

Review: Five Guys Burgers and Fries

As a rule, I generally don’t review chains. This is primarily because I prefer to promote the little guys who don’t have the huge ad budget and give more attention to independent restaurants. Additionally, it’s because when you’re dealing with chains, you can only review the particular location you frequent. Case in point – one of our local chains, Las Margaritas. I’ve always had great meals at the one on Henderson, but nothing but bad luck at the one on Frantz. And I’ve never had a good meal at Applebee’s or Ruby Tuesday. But it wouldn’t be fair for me to disparage a whole chain based on my experience at one or two or a half dozen. So, with that being said, let me just say that what I’m saying applies to the location in Columbus, Ohio only. Your mileage may vary at your Five Guys in New Jersey or Maryland or Virginia or wherever.

Ever since they opened about a month ago, I’ve been hearing mixed reviews about Five Guys. About half the people I’ve talked to said that it sucked, they were completely overrated, and that they were never going back. The other half said it was the best burger they’ve ever had. So how can one person have an almost religious experience with a burger, and another rather chew off their own arm rather than eat there again? I determined it was my duty to go find out for myself.

We walked in there not knowing what to expect. It certainly wasn’t the cafeteria/mall food court scene we got. I’m no stranger to the whole “order at the counter, we’ll call you when your food is ready” type of dining, but the feeling I got was of a place that was pretty much stripped of any personality at all. Seriously. Sterile white walls, the line snaking labyrinth-style through bags of potatoes and peanuts, inching closer and closer until you get to the front of the queue before you’re directed to the next open cashier the way you would be in a bank lobby. The cashiers/order takers were clearly reading from a script, in a distinct monotone that belied their boredom. They seemed almost exasperated if you asked a question. My question about what kind of cheese they had was met with a snappish “no choice. Just American”. So we ordered and paid, no problem, right?

I got back to the table, and sat down and looked at the receipt. They had charged us for an order of large fries (which serves 4) vs. an order of regular (which serves 2). I distinctly heard my husband order the regular size, so I went back up to the cashier to fix the problem. She sort of shrugged it off and got her manager. By the time I had fixed the problem (by them refunding the difference, and putting in a separate order for the regular size), someone had cleared my still empty beverage cup, napkins, and ketchup cups off the table I was sitting at. Grrr.

So our order comes up, and we go up to the counter to get it. I had already been aware that they don’t cook their burgers to order, that they’ll only serve them well done (I’m more of a medium rare girl myself), but I was assured that their well done was still juicy.

Greasy might be a better word for it. My burger was a hot mess. I ordered it with cheese, sauteed onions and mayo, A1 on the side, and when I opened it up, in the matter of the few seconds it had taken me to get it, the grease had totally saturated the bun, making it totally unstable for holding up to the burger. But I soldiered on, praying that I’d be able to make it through eating it without wearing it. The taste was fine, though. Just not my ideal burger.

My Burger from Five Guys

My husband’s burger fared a little better. He got his with cheese, lettuce, onion, tomato, mustard, ketchup and pickles. The veggies acted as a barrier to the grease in his case, so his was a bit better. Still more well done than we prefer, but acceptable.

Burger from Five Guys

At least the fries were good. After we dealt with the fry fiasco, we found out that a regular size is indeed a perfect amount of fries for 2 people, as the cup that the order is in overflows significantly into the bag.

Fries from Five Guys

We felt rushed, the atmosphere was awkward because it always felt like there was someone hovering over us waiting to bus our table (even though we are self-bussers for the most part). It just wasn’t my thing. Totally didn’t live up to the hype for me, and I don’t see myself returning. Especially not when I can think of at least a dozen burger places in town (non-chain) that will not only cook a burger to order, but actually allow you different topping/cheese choices and service without the snarl.

Again, your mileage may vary. It’s one of those places you either love or hate. Place our checkmark fully in the “hated it” column.

If you’d like to go: Five Guys Burgers and Fries, 2134 Polaris Parkway, Columbus. 614.436.5550

Five Guys on Urbanspoon

Grilled Teriyaki Shrimp Kebabs

I’ve just made the discovery that I do, in fact, like seafood. Just don’t like it when it’s prepared badly. So I’ve been excited to start trying different recipes. This is my first attempt ever at grilling shrimp. I just couldn’t let a beautiful day like yesterday pass by without sitting outside grilling and eating. I’ve still got a few kinks to work out (like being able to tell for sure when it’s done without it getting over or underdone), but it shows a lot of promise. And it’s healthy, too. I can learn to love this! 🙂

Teriyaki Shrimp Skewers

Grilled Teriyaki Shrimp Kebabs
recipe modified from Cooking Light

Makes 4 Kebabs (2 servings)

1/4 cup low-sodium teriyaki sauce
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

24 large peeled and deveined shrimp (about 1)
32 (1-inch) pieces cubed fresh pineapple (about 3/4 pound)
1 medium red onion, cut into 8 wedges
Cooking spray

Prepare grill. To prepare sauce, combine teriyaki sauce and sesame seeds in a small bowl.

To prepare kebabs, thread 6 shrimp, 4 pineapple chunks, and 1 onion wedge alternately onto each of 8 (10-inch) skewers. Brush kebabs with teriyaki mixture. Place kebabs on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 8 minutes or until shrimp are done, turning once. Brush on teriyaki sauce as it’s cooking to intensify flavor.

Nutritional Information: 254 cal (14% from fat), 4g fat (0.7g sat, 0.8g mono, 1.6g poly), 35.6g pro, 17.6g carb, 1.9g fiber, 259mg chol, 514mg sod, 110mg calcium

Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage

I know it’s traditional to make Corned Beef and Cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day, but I didn’t want to make the same old thing I do every other year. So I found this recipe, which adds a bit more flavor. It was excellent even without potatoes (trying to lay off the carbs somewhat). The flavor is kind of hard to describe – sweet and savory and spicy all at the same time. I don’t think I’ll ever do corned beef and cabbage any other way again.

Crock Pot Corned Beef and Cabbage

Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage
recipe courtesy Recipezaar

3-4 lbs. corned beef brisket
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1/4 c. cider vinegar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1-2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 medium head of cabbage, cut into wedges
1 apple, sliced
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. caraway seed (optional)
12 oz. dark beer

Place corned beef brisket and any seasonings included in your slow cooker. Top with onion. Whisk together the vinegar, brown sugar, mustard, pepper and cloves and pour over top. Add the cabbage wedges and apple slices and caraway seeds (if using them). Pour beer over top. Cover and cook on low for about 7 hours or high for about 4-5 hours.

Best of Restaurant Week 2009

Wow, was that a whirlwind of a week or what?!? 1 week and 11 meals later, we’re exhausted…and a couple of pounds heavier. But so, so glad that we lived it up during Restaurant Week, because we were introduced to a few new places, had tons of delicious food, had a few old favorites redeem themselves, and all around – just had a great time. Huge thanks to Dine Originals Columbus and the 42 member restaurants for putting together an awesome event that showcased Columbus’ finest.  To put it all into perspective, we’ve decided to round-up the week in a “Best Of” post, that gives our picks of where certain places excelled. Bear in mind, that we can only review the places we actually ate at, so your mileage may vary. I’d be thrilled to hear what your picks are for these “best of” categories – just put them in the comments section.

Best Appetizer

Seared Jumbo Scallop with Grand Marnier Scented Roasted Beets and Chive Cream Sauce

We both agreed 100% on this – without a doubt, the best appetizer was the Seared Jumbo Scallop with Grand Marnier Scented Beets and Chive Cream Sauce from G. Michael’s. It just fired on all cylinders for both of us – perfectly seasoned and cooked scallops, perfect texture and flavor to the beets, and the cream sauce tied it all together. As burnt out on eating out as I am at the moment, I’d go back to G. Michael’s right this second if I knew this was on their regular menu.

Best Entree

Here’s where it gets a bit more difficult, because there were so many dishes that were that fantastic. For Paul, there was a clear cut winner, for me it came out a bit more as a tie. We both agreed that the Mushroom Risotto at Alana’s was definitely *the* best of all the entrees we had.

Barley and Brie Risotto with Confit of Fabulous Fungus (Truffled, of Course)

But I’m throwing a wild card in there, because I honestly couldn’t decide between the Risotto and the Lobster Gnocchi at Due Amici. Again, if this is on the regular menu, I’d be there in a heartbeat.

Lobster Gnocchi

Best Dessert

After seeing the same old creme brulees and variations on chocolate cake just about everywhere we went, we both agreed that in order to be considered a winner in this category, it would have to be something that is fundamentally different from the mainstream. Paul chose the Chocolate Chile Bread Pudding at Banana Bean Cafe because it was so unusual, in a good way. He said it was moist throughout, and the savory sauce put this one over the top for him. He’s happy that there was a dessert this week that wasn’t sickly sweet like all the others.

Chocolate – Chile Bread Pudding With Chipotle Crème Anglaise and Caramelized Banana

My choice was the Bananas Foster Creme Brulee, also at Banana Bean Cafe. I love Creme Brulee, and their spin on one of my favorite desserts made this one a winner.

Banana’s Foster Crème Brulee with Fresh Berries

Best Value

Surly Girl Saloon (Columbus, OH) Exterior Shot

We both agreed hands down that Surly Girl Saloon walks (nay, runs!) away with this distinction. For $15 each, we got more food than we could eat in one sitting, and we needed to take nearly an entree (combined) of food home that we couldn’t eat because we were already too full. Excellent value!

Best Service

Outside of Barcelona Restaurant (Columbus, OH)

Again, a category where we both agreed. Although we didn’t have any bad service during the week, Jeff at Barcelona went well above and beyond the call of duty. So much so, that the next time we dine at Barcelona, we’re going to ask to be seated in his section specifically. Awesome service.

Best Ambiance


For this category, we both agreed that The Top Steak House’s retro feel was the best use of history and atmosphere to create a memorable dining experience.

Best Freebie

Chips and Salsa from Banana Bean Cafe (Columbus, OH)

We were tickled pink about Banana Bean Cafe’s free Chips and Salsa, and were thrilled to find out that it’s a normal thing that they do during Happy Hour. Between the discounts on drinks/food and the free chips/salsa, we’ll definitely be there again for Happy Hour soon.

Best Bread Service

Bread and Olive Oil

Hands down, we both agreed that Due Amici took this category. Between the bread still being hot and wonderful, and the little bit of sea salt that they add to the plate of olive oil that comes with the bread, this was definitely the best bread we’ve had in years.

Best Salad

Small Garden District Delight Salad

We both agreed that the Avocado-Caesar dressing on Surly Girl’s Small Garden District Delight Salad was what clinched this category for them. Between the excellent dressing and the fresh veggies, this was a winner. So glad that this is on their regular menu.

Best Soup

Ah ha…another point of contention with the married couple. 🙂 For me, nothing else even came close to Alana’s Cafe Black Bean Soup with all the Fixins’. The complexity of the flavor was out of this world.

Cafe Black Bean Soup with all the Fixins

Paul preferred the texture and the seasoning of Banana Bean Cafe’s Cuban Black Bean Soup with Shaved Manchego, Fresh Crema and Scallions.

Cuban Black Bean Soup With Shaved Manchego, Fresh Crema, and Scallions

Best Presentation

G. Michael's in German Village

We both agreed wholeheartedly that G. Michael’s takes this distinction, because most of the time, their plating is almost a work of art. From the viewpoint of a food photographer, it’s super-easy to make almost anything of theirs look good. Their food also looked the most appetizing on the plate.

Biggest Surprise

Banana Bean Cafe Sign (Columbus, OH)

Because of the preconceived notions we had about Banana Bean Cafe based on our last couple of experiences, we weren’t expecting Banana Bean’s offerings to be as stellar as they actually were. The food, the creativity of the menu, the atmosphere of the new location, and the service all combined to make an experience that we not only enjoyed thoroughly, but want to repeat as soon as possible.

Most Unusual Menu

Outside of Barcelona Restaurant (Columbus, OH)

Barcelona’s Nine Course Tapas Tasting Menu was something that was unlike everything else that the other restaurants offered. I’m thrilled to see that this also will become a regular thing at Barcelona.

Best Overall

I thought that Banana Bean Cafe had the total package – great food, great service, great atmosphere. This is a place I could see myself hanging out at regularly. I think they took the idea of Restaurant Week and ran with it, to great success.

Banana Bean Cafe Sign (Columbus, OH)

Paul thought that G. Michael’s won it for him, because even though what they did wasn’t original or different, it was the same consistently good food with consistently good service in a consistently nice atmosphere. I can respect that.

G. Michael's in German Village

Restaurant I’d Most Like to See Join Dine Originals and Take Part in the Next Restaurant Week

We couldn’t narrow this down to just one. Instead, you get the Top 5. 🙂 Rosendale’s, Sage American Bistro, Barrio, DeepWood or Brown Bag Deli.

I can’t wait to see what your picks are in these categories! BTW, rumor has it that there may be another Restaurant Week this year in the fall. I’m game, how about all of you?

Restaurant Week 2009: Barcelona

Well, Sunday was the last day of Restaurant Week, and as much as I love supporting our local restaurants, it couldn’t have come a minute too soon. Whew – I’m so ready for home cooked food it isn’t funny. Not that I didn’t enjoy every minute of Restaurant Week – I did. I’m just burnt out on eating out for at least a few weeks. Good thing I have a couple of reviews saved up to give you guys in the interim.

Word has it that it was so successful for the restaurants and for the patrons that they’re considering doing it again in the Fall. I can’t wait. 🙂 In the meantime, keep an eye out tomorrow for a “Best of Restaurant Week” post that will talk about the highlights of my week.

So we finished out the week by going to Barcelona, a restaurant on the border of German and Merion Villages that serves traditional Spanish food.

Outside of Barcelona Restaurant (Columbus, OH)

Their special for Restaurant Week was a nine course tapas tasting menu for $30 per person. Here’s a list of the tapas we had tonight.

Barcelona's 2009 Columbus Restaurant Week Tasting Menu

Bread service at Barcelona consists of a nice hearty white bread paired with olive oil over seasoned and stewed tomatoes. The flavors work incredibly well together.

Bread Service at Barcelona Restaurant (Columbus, OH)

Our server, Jeff, was kind enough to bring us a taste of cheese from the kitchen. The Rogue River Blue is already one of our favorites, and the aged English Cheddar was fabulous as well.

Taste of Cheese at Barcelona Restaurant (Columbus, OH)

Once we started tasting, plates came out fast and furious, three at a time. The first course, Almond Gazpacho, reminded me (in texture, and somewhat in taste) of a tahina dressing.

Almond Gazpacho

The second plate was an old standby from their menu, the hummus and flatbread. Smooth and flavorful, it went really well with the crunch of the flatbread.

Hummus and Flatbread

The third course, the Roasted Tomatoes and Fresh Mozzarella with Basil Oil, reminded me of a smoky Caprese salad. Very pleasant, but not a standout. Flavor was very subtle.

Roasted Tomatoes and Fresh Mozzarella with Basil Oil

I really enjoyed the next course, the Sauteed Mushrooms and Chorizo. Chopped crimini mushrooms paired beautifully with the house-made Chorizo, which was flavorful rather than hot. I’m not usually a fan of mushrooms, but this dish had a lovely texture to it.

Sauteed Mushrooms and Chorizo

The Chicken and Manchego Croquettas were excellent, with a creamy and extremely cheese filling surrounded by the thin crunch of the breading. We enjoyed these very much, and will probably order them in the future.

Chicken and Manchego Croquettas

The Seared Sea Scallop with Saffron Aioli was slightly more well done than I enjoy scallops, but was nicely seasoned and delicious nonetheless.

Seared Sea Scallop with Saffron Aioli

The Herb Roasted Salmon Salad was very simple, and probably my least favorite flavor profile. However, my husband is much more of a fan of fishy fish, and enjoyed it very much.

Herb Roasted Salmon Salad

Also mostly enjoyable were the Beef Meatballs with Sundried Tomato Aioli, which paired flavorful, albeit slightly dry, meatballs with a subtle mayonnaise-based sauce.

Beef Meatballs with Sundried Tomato Aioli

Not so successful was the Grilled Shrimp and the Asparagus, which had the dual issues of overcooked shrimp and woody asparagus. The flavors were there, but the components just had some minor technical issues.

Grilled Shrimp and Asparagus

The special nine course menu also came with a glass of sangria.

Glass of Sangria

We loved the idea of the tasting menu, as it gave us the chance to try several different appetizers without making the commitment to a full-sized order. From what I understand, they plan on adopting the Tapas Tasting menu in some incarnation even after Restaurant Week is over. I’m really looking forward to it.

We were still a bit hungry, so we split an entree of Arroz con Pollo. One of the benefits of splitting an entree is that they end up adding a little bit more to the order to make it more manageable for two people. For example, this is a half order:

Arroz con Pollo from Barcelona (Columbus, OH)

Service was nothing short of outstanding. Our server, Jeff, was super-friendly, engaging, and attentive to our every need. The extra effort to deal with our particular dining issues was particularly appreciated. But everyone, from the hostess to our server, was extremely accommodating, and made us feel extremely comfortable.

The menu at Barcelona changes often, so we hope to return soon to try other dishes. Their patio is opening in a couple of weeks, so we hope to return then. Hope we see you all there as well. 🙂

If you’d like to go: Barcelona, 263 E. Whittier Street, Columbus (German Village). 614.443.3699

Barcelona on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Week 2009: The Top Steak House

I’m both sad and relieved that tomorrow is the last night of Restaurant Week. Sad, because the fact that it was only a week long meant that I didn’t get to try everywhere I would have wanted to. Relieved because after 6 days of eating out in a row, I can get back to eating stuff I make at home. Because of the richness of the foods I’ve eaten, I can get back to eating light so I can get rid of the few pounds I managed to gain this week. So, there is such a thing as TOO MUCH of a good thing. Rumor has it that they’re thinking of doing a Fall Restaurant Week, so we’ll see. Maybe I get to do it all over again later this year. 🙂

Tonight, we decided to visit The Top Steakhouse, which is one of our favorite places because it is so deliciously retro. I mean everything – from the food to the decor to the piano bar to the dark paneled rooms, to old-fashioned phone jacks in the booths, to the Naugahyde that covers just about every seating service; the second you walk in you feel as if you’ve gone back in time to 1955. They even have the same menu (although the prices have increased, naturally). See what I mean?

Inside of Top Steak House (Columbus, OH)

I mean, really – when was the last time you walked into a restaurant and were served a relish tray with pickles, sauerkraut and olives? Pretty good pickles, sauerkraut and olives at that? I love the small touches like this that set this steakhouse apart from all of the others.

Complimentary Relish Tray at Top Steak House (Columbus, OH)

Bread service was straightforward, with a couple of warm rolls and a nice soft buttery spread (I’m pretty sure it was butter, but it was soft like margarine).

Bread Service at Top Steak House (Columbus, OH)

I picked The Top as one of targets for Restaurant Week because one of the choices for first course (the others being escargot or salad) was their French Onion Soup, which is among the best I’ve ever had. Nice, large diced onions in a beefy broth spiked with something alcoholic (brandy or sherry, perhaps?), topped with more croutons and cheese than you can shake a stick at. I always order this every time we come to The Top because it beats all others in town hands down for its cold weather comfort factor.

French Onion Soup

For my entree, I went with the Surf ‘n Turf, which pairs a 4 oz. lobster tail with a 6 oz. bacon-wrapped filet mignon. This was my first time eating lobster straight up, and I loved their presentation. The steak was cooked perfectly to order, and was delicious. You get your choice of side with this, so I went with the baked potato, which our waitress filled to the brim with butter and sour cream. So absolutely decadent.

Surf and Turf

I liked the fact that the drawn butter was served in a warming dish, which is different (and better) than being served drawn butter in a cold cup where the butter starts congealing halfway through eating your food. This is one of the small touches I was talking about.

Drawn Butter from Top Steak House (Columbus, OH)

My husband chose the Crab Stuffed Filet of Flounder, which had the unique presentation of wrapping the filet around the crabmeat stuffing, topping each end with Bearnaise and bread crumbs and searing it to a nice brown, before finishing it off in the oven. These too were cooked perfectly, and were flavorful and delicious. He also chose the potato, but his 2nd side, broccoli, was served as an unadulterated bunch and was rather unwieldy to eat.

Crab Stuffed Filet of Flounder

We shared an a la carte side dish of Creamed Spinach ($6.95), which didn’t have much flavor, but lots and lots of cream.

Creamed Spinach from Top Steak House (Columbus, OH)

Dessert was Creme Brulee, which had an excellent custard, but lacked the typical brulee “snap” of the caramelized sugar that the dessert is known for. If we had to guess, we think they may have prepped and refrigerated these beforehand, leading any crunch to be affected by the storage.

Creme Brulee

Service was a bit formal, but quick and attentive. Our server was pleasant, helpful and made the experience a good one.

Although a lot of their entrees are priced very high normally, they have a few items that are standouts for those without expense account budgets. Anything on their Bar Menu comes to mind. We were no stranger to The Top before this visit, but the quality of their food and the atmosphere of the restaurant makes us think we need to visit again, soon. But don’t wait on us – tomorrow is your last chance to take advantage of their Restaurant Week special. Give them a call for reservations. You won’t be sorry.

If you’d like to go: The Top Steak House, 2891 E. Main Street, Columbus (Bexley). 614.231.8238

Top Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Week 2009: Black Creek Bistro

Considering the number of good meals we have had in a row, we were bound to run into a stinker somewhere down the line. Consider me flummoxed that the meal I was most disappointed with is the one for which I had the highest expectations. Black Creek Bistro is a media darling, having very positive reviews from no less than 6 major publications and/or area food bloggers, who are known to be hard to impress. I love their ideals and dedication to eating local and growing their own products. But frankly? I was totally underwhelmed.

Black Creek Bistro Sign

We got there for the first dinner seating of the evening, prompty at 4pm. We should have known something was amiss when we heard the chef bellow to someone across the room that he was out of darn near everything.  We took a look at the Restaurant Week menu, and made some decisions. They let us know right away that they were out of the Butterscotch Pudding. My husband was really bummed, because that was the part of the meal he was most looking forward to.

Black Creek Bistro Restaurant Week 2009 Menu

Since it was Happy Hour, appetizers were $5, and we chose to order the Crab Cakes. They had decent flavor, and were sufficiently crabby with very little filler, but we prefer a little lump in our crabcakes, as opposed to shredded claw or backfin meat. Also, my husband found quite a bit of shell in his, which was a bit offputting. Couple that with just a smidge too little tartar sauce, and this was something we both probably wouldn’t order again, even at the discounted price.

Crab Cakes from Black Creek Bistro (Columbus, OH)

I chose the House Salad, which is described as “spring mix with pecans, dried cranberries, goat cheese and balsamic vinegar”. While the salad was nice and fresh and dressed well, the lack of dried cranberries did not go unnoticed.

House Salad

My husband went with the Caesar salad, which was served with the garlic zing dressing (he was not offered a choice as described in the menu). Again, fresh tasting, and we loved the garlic croutons.

Caesar Salad

The rolls that came with the salads were a bit crunchy and hard, but were paired with a nice compound butter that seemed to improve them a bit.

Rolls and Compound Butter

For the small plate, I went with the Mini Bistro Egg Rolls, filled with bacon and goat cheese, which although quite a tiny serving was very flavorful. They went nicely with the sweetness of the balsamic vinegar and fresh strawberry puree.

Mini Bistro Egg Rolls

My husband opted for the Hummus Trio, with today’s choices being Traditional, Lemon and Sun-Dried Tomato. The lemon and sun-dried tomato were unusual enough to be good in an interesting way, but the Traditional lacked a bit of flavor.

Trio of Hummus

For my main, I went with the Bistro Chicken Confit, which in all honesty looked and tasted like something I could have replicated here at home. I don’t know about you folks, but when I dine out, if it’s a fine dining establishment, I want my food to be something that is either beyond my cooking skill level or something that is too time consuming or troublesome for me to make on my own. While the meat that was on the chicken leg was flavorful, there wasn’t much of it there, and they left out a major component of the dish (and what made me order it in the first place) – the squash fritters. It would have been nice to have a warning from my server that these weren’t available before I ordered, as I probably would have chosen something else otherwise. To that end, I was really disappointed in this one.

Bistro Chicken Confit

My husband didn’t fare much better with his entree, the Pork, Mushrooms and Wine. Again, he had an issue with the portion size, and with the fact that it was extremely greasy. What should have been the wine sauce seemed like it was more of an oil sauce, with any emulsification totally broken.

Pork Scallops with Mushrooms

The dessert of rice pudding would have been good but for the addition of the ginger and ruby red grapefruit syrup, which made an already sweet pudding so sickly sweet to me that my husband ate both his portion and mine.

Vanilla Rice Pudding with Ginger and Ruby Red Grapefruit Syrup

Unfortunately, we both left Black Creek Bistro still hungry and very disappointed. Based on the opinion of many people we respect, it seems as though tonight may have been an anomaly at an otherwise good restaurant. However, with the lack of communication and with the shortcuts they were taking when ingredients ran out, it felt more as if they were phoning it in. We may give the restaurant another try in the future when produce is in season and Restaurant Week is a distant memory, but for now, it’s left a sour taste in our mouth.

If you’d like to go: Black Creek Bistro, 57 S. Parsons, Columbus (Olde Towne East), 614.246.9662

Update: We had the opportunity to meet Chef Peters in person and try some of his food at a Hills Market Cooking Class featuring him, and were blown away by both the food he prepared and his attitude. What a class act! We’re more than convinced that our experience during Restaurant Week was an anomaly (big personnel changes going on at the restaurant, the fact that nothing is seasonal in March, etc) and can’t wait to return later in the year. I will be sure to re-review at that time.

Black Creek Bistro on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Week 2009: Due Amici

For our fifth dinner of Restaurant Week, we stopped by a place on Gay Street that we’ve been wanting to visit for a while, but whose prices put it outside of our comfort zone for eating out except for a special occasion. That’s part of the beauty of Restaurant Week – getting the opportunity to try things that you normally wouldn’t. We were a bit early for our 5pm reservation (and had already found a parking space and put time on the meter until they shut off at 6pm), so we decided to hit TipTop next door for a drink during Happy Hour.

A little bit looser than when we started (and a bit less self conscious as, at least from the outside, Due Amici looks like it caters to a different crowd than we run with), we arrived for our reservation and were immediately seated. We took a look at their special Restaurant Week menu, which is set, rather than something you choose. Luckily, all three items on the menu sounded great, so we went with that.

Due Amici Columbus Restuarant Week 2009 Menu

We also each went with a glass of Moscato d’Asti, a nice sweet aperitif/dessert wine that is light and is a great palate cleanser. By the time we got the check later on, I remembered why I rarely order wine in restaurants. As is to be expected, HUGE markup on wine (Moscato d’Asti usually runs around $14.95-$19.95 per bottle retail), and our 5 oz. pours were $9 each. Our fault, though – for assuming that the wine wouldn’t have that much of a markup. Typical mistake of wine neophytes like us, I understand. The wine was quite enjoyable, though. 🙂

The bread at Due Amici is fabulous. Still hot from the oven, and served with a dish of olive oil that has sea salt sprinkled at the bottom. Just that simple act of adding sea salt makes everything so much better. I could have munched on the bread and oil all night.

Bread and Olive Oil

The first course was a Shaved Fennel Salad with blood oranges, baby arugula, ricotta salata, pine nuts and an orange-balsamic vinaigrette. My portion of salad was a bit underdressed (actually, I didn’t detect any dressing at all, as opposed to my husband, who actually still had dressing on his plate when finished). Still, the flavors were generally good, although I assume they would have even been better with the proper dressing.

Shaved Fennel Salad

The second course was a pair of Lamb Lollipops with a kalamata and asiago arancini cake and tomato confit. My lamb was a bit overcooked as opposed to my husband’s, but it was still juicy and flavorful. The arancini had a pleasant pronounced olive flavor, and paired well with the tomato confit. We were especially impressed as this was a rather generous portion for being a “small plate”.

Lamb Lollipops

The winner of the night was the third course, the Lobster Gnocchi, which were potato dumplings served with lobster claw meat, asparagus, wild mushrooms, truffle butter and Pecorino Romano cheese. The gnocchi were light and fluffy, and the cream sauce they were served in was outstanding. The shaved black truffles on top just brought an already decadent dish over the top. Yum. Would happily go back and order this again in a heartbeat.

Lobster Gnocchi

We both thought a spot of dessert was in order, so we shared an order of Zeppallis ($8), five Italian doughnuts that reminded us of beignets for some reason. They were covered in a cinnamon sugar, and served with some chocolate ganache for dipping. It was a nice change from the creme brulees and flourless chocolate cakes that have dominated the week elsewhere, and a good choice overall.

Zeppallis at Due Amici (Columbus, OH)

I don’t know that we would make Due Amici a place that we would frequent often (again, a little more oriented to business clients and/or trendy people, or a place to see and be seen), but the food is good enough that we would make this a once in a while special occasion destination. I’m glad we had the opportunity to be introduced via Restaurant Week, and I hope that you all take the opportunity to check them out as well.

If you’d like to go: Due Amici, 67 E. Gay Street, Columbus (Downtown), 614.224.9373

Due Amici on Urbanspoon