Author:  //  Category: Contest, Dining Deals, Eating Local, Restaurant Week

I’m still working on the post updating you all on my health issues (takes forever to type with fingers that have been used as pin cushions), but i didn’t want another moment to go by without putting out the reminder that this week (March 7th to March 13th). I’ve had some unfortunate health setbacks that mean I’ll have to miss this round, but I heartily recommend trying out someplace new or an old favorite – there are deals out there for every price point. I may send Paul out to review a few places in my stead.

Dine Originals Columbus has been kind enough to offer once again a $30 Dine Originals gift certificate (not valid during Dine Originals Week) to a Columbus Foodie reader. To enter, either check out the menus and let me know which one appeals to you most, or write a comment about one of the menus that you’ve already had and what you thought of it. One entry per person, please.

The winner will be drawn on Monday morning, so make sure to find some way to include your email address into your entry so I can give your email address to Dine Originals who will send the certificate directly to you. Good luck!

The numbers generated by this widget come from RANDOM.ORG’s true random number generator.

Congrats to Jenny, winner of the gift certificates. :) Thanks to the rest of you for you well wishes and inspired choices. I loved reading your comments. Paul’s writeup on the three places he went to coming soon.

Review: T.A.T. Ristorante di Famiglia

Author: paulboyer  //  Category: Columbus, Dining Deals, Restaurant Review

Have you ever gone to a restaurant, and then, for some reason, never got around to going back again for quite a while? Then, when you finally do return to that restaurant, you wonder why you hadn’t returned for so long?

Last week, we returned after a ten year hiatus to T. A. T. Ristorante de Famiglia. In all honesty, I think the reason we’d avoided returning to T.A.T. was because our last meal there (ten years ago) had been unremarkable at best for both of us — I’d ordered the Baked Ziti With Eggplant, which had been not at all what I’d been expecting, and B. had ordered pork chops (from an Italian restaurant; go figure) that underwhelmed her.

A brief aside, first, about the history of T.A.T.:

The Corrova family, specifically Pete and Philomena, opened their first restaurant in Columbus in 1929 on Goodale Street in what used to be known as Flytown during the Depression era. Due to city planners’ ambitious “improvements” to downtown Columbus, they were forced to move their restaurant… and move they did, to the far east side of Columbus. Eventually in 1980, the family combined all their businesses into a single operation at the corner of South James Road and East Livingston Avenue, where they have remained ever since. On our visit, at least, we noted that the restaurant attracted a much older clientele, probably because they’ve been going there for decades.

The last time we’d dined at T.A.T., we had both ordered entrees that didn’t showcase what T.A.T. does best… this time, however, we decided to dive headlong into T.A.T.’s specialty, which is homey, homely, but satisfying Southern Italian and Sicilian fare.

We arrived in the early evening around 5:30pm, before the dinner rush. Since it was a Sunday, we couldn’t get the Early Bird Special(s), but that was fine; we’d come with a game plan, and stuck with it.

We were seated promptly and our beverage orders were taken. Beverages were brought out promptly. We placed our orders — both of us chose the Sicilian Delight, described in T.A.T.’s menu as a “ten course meal!”. I don’t know if, strictly speaking, it’s a ten-course meal, but it was certainly huge, and exposed us to much of the best of what T.A.T. has to offer.

We were given a choice of a half-pour (3 ounce glass) of either a burgundy, a rose, or some variety of red wine. B. and I both selected the rose, which was brought out presently. It was a nice enough house wine, dry with a hint of sweetness, and very light.

Rose Wine at TAT Ristorante

Our server also brought out a bread basket with whipped butter. It was typical Italian bread, crusty on the outside and chewy on the inside. No complaints there.

Italian Bread at TAT Ristorante

Our first course was the soup; I’d chosen the minestrone while B. chose the Italian Wedding Soup. B. reported that her soup met all the requirements for a proper Italian wedding soup, and was a fairly good and straightforward interpretation of the dish.

Italian Wedding Soup at TAT Ristorante

My minestrone was thick with mixed vegetables and a robust tomato broth, and was very satisfying (and vegan-friendly, heh).

Minestrone Soup at TAT Ristorante

The second course was an individual-sized italian salad. I ordered mine with the house Italian; B. ordered hers with Country French dressing. The salad itself consisted predominantly of bite-sized pieces of iceberg lettuce with some romaine scattered throughout and some chunks of winter tomatoes (read: pale and flavorless; not their fault, tomatoes are out of season). The salad was crunchy enough thanks to the iceberg lettuce. The house Italian (made in-house and in fact bottled and sold through T.A.T.’s takeout operation) was exceptionally good, elevating what would have been an afterthought into a solid little appetizer salad. B.’s Country French selection was definitely a Marzetti product, and as such was quite good though not my cuppa tea. Note that when I asked the server what dressings they had available for their salads, she began to rattle off a list of at least 33 varieties — several made on-premises, the rest typical Marzetti bottled fare.

Salad at TAT Ristorante

The third course, if it can be referred to as such, was what the menu referred to as “Sicilian bread”, which was a well-seasoned, toasted garlic-and-butter bread made from a loaf of Italian bread split lengthwise then slathered with butter and garlic (probably garlic powder; I didn’t detect any fresh minced garlic) and baked under the salamander until crunchy and brown. It was quite good.

Sicilian Bread at TAT Ristorante

The fourth through ninth “courses” were served together on one large (and I do mean LARGE) plate. These were the homemade spaghetti, the veal parmigiana, the meatball, the meat-filled ravioli, the Italian sausage, and a ricotta-stuffed manicotti.

Sampler at TAT Ristorante

The spaghetti and its accompanying red sauce are both freshly made at the restaurant, and it shows. I’m partial to the onion- and oregano-heavy red sauce, which is thick and tart yet slightly sweet. B. found the sauce less to her liking, but still acceptable. The spaghetti, as mentioned made in-house, are fairly thick strands of boiled semolina pasta. We both noted that the spaghetti was more cooked than we prefer; had we read the menu more closely, we’d have seen that T.A.T. cooks their pasta fully by default and that we would have to specifically request for it to be cooked until al dente. I attribute the restaurant defaulting to fully cooked pasta to its sizable contingent of older diners amongst the clientele; they probably find al dente pasta a bit difficult to chew and/or digest.

The veal parmigiana is a by-the-book presentation of a pre-formed, breaded veal patty baked and covered in red sauce then crowned with melted and browned provolone and parmesan cheeses. It was good but nothing I haven’t made at home just as well.

T.A.T.’s meatballs are a thing of beauty. They are of decent size (between 1-1/2 and 2 inches in diameter) and nicely seasoned. I believe these meatballs are actually better than my old standby for homemade meatballs, Carfagna’s Kitchen.

T.A.T.’s meat-filled ravioli is, in fact, a pierogi-sized pouch of homemade semolina pasta surrounding a simple filling of browned lean ground beef, salt, pepper, and a bit of wilted spinach. Each ravioli is pressed shut using either a handheld ravioli press or, from the looks of it, a fork. It is very large. It is also very good, making Carfagna’s beef-filled mezzaluna pasta pale in comparison. Note that a full dinner order of ravioli consists of four (yes, four) in the house red sauce along with soup or salad and bread service. These ravioli are VERY large, VERY dense, and VERY filling.

T.A.T.’s italian sausage as presented on the Sicilian Delight meal consists of a half-link of their in-house mixture of ground pork. Italian seasoning and a touch of red pepper flakes then pumped into a sausage casing and (for this meal) pan-fried or baked thoroughly. I found the heat from the red pepper flakes to be a welcome addition to an otherwise inoffensive sausage (there appeared to be a total absence of fennel in the sausage mixture, which is NOT a problem for me or B.). B. found the sausage to be too spicy for her tastes.

The manicotti was exactly as advertised — a boiled manicotti tube filled with a mixture of ricotta, egg, and herbs. Nice, but not something that would alone compel me to return to T.A.T.

In addition to the above mentioned platter, we got to choose a side dish as well. B. and I both went with the pickled beets – I thought they were just fine, but B. didn’t enjoy them because she thought they tasted like canned beets.

Pickled Beets at TAT Ristorante

Ever accommodating, the server brought out some cole slaw for her to enjoy instead. While not the best specimen of the dish she’s had, it was a nice palate cleanser to cut through all the red sauce on the platter.

Cole Slaw at TAT Ristorante

The final course of the evening was dessert. Spumoni ice cream was not available on Thursday, so we chose among the available selections, which were one of two types of iced sheet cake (yellow cake with buttercream frosting or a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting) or a small bowl of ice cream. B. and I both chose the yellow sheet cake with buttercream frosting. The cake was good though unremarkable.

Yellow Cake at TAT Ristorante

All in all, the dinner represented a fantastic value at $20.99 per person; you get a good sampling of T.A.T.’s available fare without breaking the bank, and you in all likelihood will take some home with you to finish later that night or the following day. B. and I both agreed that we would be returning to T.A.T. to try their other old-school Southern Italian/Sicilian fare.

If you’d like to go: TAT Ristorante di Famiglia, 1210 S. James Rd., Columbus, OH 43227. 614-236-1392

Abyssinia Cafe: Customer Service FAIL

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Dining Deals, Rant, Restaurant News

Abyssinia Restaurant

One of the reasons we’ve been able to afford eating out since Paul has been unemployed is because of WTTE’s Dining Out Deals, where area restaurants offer discounted gift certificates in return for advertising on the news – because of that program, we’ve had quite a few great meals (at places like Barrio, Gallo’s Tap Room, etc). We saw the advertising for the one at Abyssinia Cafe on the news, and knowing that we had those gift certificates, we decided to pick up my mother yesterday to treat her to a belated birthday lunch.

We arrived early yesterday afternoon to a completely empty restaurant, and were directed to seat ourselves – upon sitting down, we noticed a sign saying that they weren’t accepting gift certificates. Seeking to get clarification, we showed the woman at the restaurant our certificates (which are supposed to be valid, having not yet reached the expiration date), to which she responded that she would not honor them. I explained to her that we had spent $25 for them (for $50 face value in certificates), and at the very least we expected reimbursement (in the form of food would have been fine) for the money we were out. She said no, it’s not her problem, that they couldn’t afford to honor any certificates after 3 people came in with them in the first couple of days, and that they did not authorize WTTE to give out any gift certificates – they had not accepted them after the 3rd day they were issued. Not wanting to argue with the woman, I basically said, “it’s sad that you’re willing to lose my business over $25-$50 – I won’t be surprised if you’re out of business in a few months if this is the way you operate” and got up to leave – she started yelling at me, told me that God was on her side and I was the devil, with me yelling back that she was a liar for saying that she wasn’t aware of the certificates since I had seen her on the news pimping them, and that she was getting the benefit of the advertising while anyone who shelled out good money for the certificates (100 people, in total) got screwed. It got ugly, folks. And now I’m out $25. Lovely. What a ripoff. When I twittered about it, I got a response from someone holding one of their GC’s wondering if they would get the same reception at the restaurant? So consider this a warning – both of the poor customer service at Abyssinia Cafe – who were happy to take WTTE’s advertising without honoring what they were contractually bound with WTTE to provide, and for those of you who have also bought the gift certificates, which are absolutely worthless. I’ll be contacting WTTE tomorrow to see how they’re willing to resolve this, and will update accordingly.

Update: Alls well that ends well. WTTE/IncentRev was great about the situation, and let me exchange the worthless GC’s for gift certificates of equal value from an open Dining Deals offer. I encourage any of you who are also in this situation to contact WTTE/IncentRev directly.

T Minus 3 Days – Restaurant Week 2009

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Dining Deals, Eating Local, Events, Restaurant Week

Well, it seems that most of the menus are up on the Columbus Dine Originals site are up, and what that means for me is that I’ve finalized my reservations for next week. I’ve made the earliest reservations possible on most nights, and I’m planning on doing some live twittering along with a write-up at the end of the evening of my eats for the day (so that if it looks good to you, you might also have a chance to go before Restaurant Week ends).

So, without further delay, here’s where I’m going and why (not to say that all of the restaurants aren’t worthy – it’s just that there’s only one of me and only 7 days in a week – otherwise I’d be hitting all 42, LOL). If you haven’t already made your reservations for next week, make sure you do so soon – you really don’t want to miss out!

Click on the restaurant names to see the menus for yourself.

- Dinner on Monday will be at G. Michael’s. They’re offering three courses for $30 (with three choices for each course), and I’ve already got my picks mapped out. For the first course, one of the choices is a seared jumbo scallop with Grand Marnier scented roasted beets and chive cream sauce. I still haven’t decided between the chorizo-stuffed, bacon wrapped short ribs (mmm, bacon…) and the Pan-Roasted Cobia with brie-encriched risotto (mmm, cheese…) for my main. And I love, love, love creme brulee, so I’m sold. :)

- On Tuesday, it’s off to Rigsby’s. They are offering a 3-course plus wine priced fixed menu for $29.99. Wine and dinner for less than $30? I’m so there. What sold me on this one is the promise of Potato Gnocchi with Elysian Fields Lamb Ragout.

- Wednesday, we’re going to Alana’s, which is probably the menu I’m most looking forward to, because Alana + risotto = brilliance. And guess what? One of the offerings for the main course is risotto. Also looking forward to see what soup she comes up with, and dying to taste the Mexican Chocolate Pecan Tart with Salty Caramel Ice Cream.

- On Thursday, I get to try a new to me restaurant, Due Amici. This is a restaurant I’ve been wanting to try for a while, and the Lobster Gnocchi as a main makes this one a no-brainer for me. They are offering 3 courses for $30.

- Friday brings us to another new (to us) restaurant, L’Antibes. They bucked the $15 or $30 trend a bit by charging $35 for three courses, but I couldn’t resist the call of Duck Breast with Duck Cracklings, Raspberry-Cassis Sauce and Celeriac Gratin.

- On Saturday, it’s off to our favorite steak house in town, The Top, for their 3 course for $30 menu. I don’t need an excuse to eat their delicious French Onion Soup, so it’s a good thing it’s one of the choices for starter. Followed up with Prime Rib and Creme Brulee, and I’m fat and happy.

- To close out the week, on Sunday, we’re going to Barcelona, where Executive Chef Paul Yow has created a multi-course (7 courses) Tapas Tasting Menu for $30 per person, including a glass of Sangria. The items on the menu will change nightly, so I’m looking forward to seeing what he comes up with. And this is one of the few that doesn’t require reservations.

Of course, we’re still hitting a few other places for lunches or snacks during the week, including Surly Girl ($15 per person, gives you your choice of 3 courses, with two choices available per course, no reservations required), and Cafe Corner (any two menu items including all day breakfast offerings with two complimentary desserts for $15), and Katzinger’s (offering the Flight of the Corned Beefs, where two people will receive 3 distinctively different corned beef mini sandwiches, a small side of classic potato salad and a homemade brownie for $15). And maybe in one of the most creative choices, Pistacia Vera is offering A Taste of Pistacia Vera, a sampling of their house favorites for two for $15).

So now I’d like to know – what are your plans for Restaurant Week? Which restaurants are you going to, and why?

Eating Out on a Recession Budget

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Dining Deals, Restaurant News

If your family is anything like mine, you’ve been hit fairly hard by he recession, and have had to make sacrifices to make ends meet. Rather than giving up dining out entirely, we’ve discovered some really handy resources for stretching your dining dollars in Columbus. These work for us, and may work for your family as well. I’ll also post this as a permanent page (accessible on the sidebar), and update that periodically as I get new information.

If you are aware of a deal/coupon/site/tip that I’ve missed, please comment on this post with the details.

GIFT CERTIFICATES

  • Dine Originals
    A group of local independent restaurant owners, offers (on a quarterly basis), discounted gift certificates to member restaurants. 30-50% savings for many of Columbus’ most popular restaurants. Certificates are good for six months from date of purchase.
  • Sunny 95 Online Outlet
    Which offers discounted (50% off ) gift certificates to many central Ohio restaurants. First come first served, and they are replenished each Friday morning at 9:30AM.
  • Fox 28 Good Day Columbus Dining Out Deals
    Offers discounted ($50 gift certificates for $25 plus S&H, occasionally will have certificates on clearance for $15 + S&H for a $50 gift certificate). Each Friday at 7am, 100 certificates for the restaurant of the week are released. There are always plenty of unsold certificates for previous week’s offers.
  • Restaurant.com

    Offers discounted ($25 gift certificates for $10, $10 gift certificates for $3) gift certificates that you print out on your own computer. Be sure to check the terms of conditions of each individual certificate before purchasing. There’s a special coupon code (which ends today) that allows you go get an additional 80% off the price of a gift certificate. Enter coupon code DINE at check out.

DINING CARDS/BOOKS

  • Prestige Dining Club
    Dining book & card, allows you to get buy one get one free entrees at participating restaurants (list of restaurants can be found here). Current promotion allows you to buy a single membership for $59.95, or 2 memberships for $39.95 each.
  • Save on all the things you love to do!
    Entertainment is a book that has both coupons and a punch-card. Runs the gamut from discounts on fast food to independent restaurants, to goods and services and activities around town. Offers differ with each restaurant – some may offer a free entree with the purchase of one, where others may just offer a discounted dollar amount or percentage off your bill. Their current offer, which expires at the end of March, allows you to purchase the Entertainment book for 50% off it’s normal price.

COUPON SITES

  • State Coupons, which offers discount coupons for several local restaurants
  • 360 Columbus, has a page of coupons for Columbus restaurants
  • Valpak, offers 200+ (including restaurants) coupons for the Columbus metro area

COLUMBUS DINING DEALS

  • The Refectory offers a bistro menu, where you can get 3 courses (with 2 choices for each course) for $23.95, offered Mondays through Thursdays in their lounge. Bistro menus for the current week can be seen here. Temporarily, during the winter, they’re also extending the Bistro menu to early on Friday and Saturday evenings (Friday 5-7pm, Saturday 5-6:30pm).
  • Basi Italia is currently offering a Happy Hour Deal – from 5-6:30 Monday through Thursdays, you can get half off of Basi’s dinner menu. Call 614.294.7383 to make a reservation.
  • From March 9th through 15th of this year, Dine Originals Columbus will be hosting Restaurant Week, where all 42 member restaurants will be offering either a $15 or $30 fixed price menu. A list of participating restaurants and menus can be seen here.
  • Katzinger’s is offering Recession Relief in the month of March – Corned Beef Monday has all sandwiches with corned beef (including the Reuben) discounted to $7.50 for the big one, $8.95 for the huge one; Turkey Tuesday has the same deal for sandwiches with turkey – $7.50 for the big one, $8.95 for the huge one. And make sure to get your free deli pickle with your sandwich. :) Their sandwich menu can be found here.

MISCELLANEOUS HINTS AND TIPS

  • If you tend to dine out at chain restaurants rather than at independents, purchase gift certificates beforehand at Giant Eagle. For each $50 you spend, you get .20 per gallon off a tank of gas at Giant Eagle GetGo stations.

If you are associated with a restaurant who is offering a recession special or coupon or other dining deal, and would like it listed here, please forward the details to columbusfoodieATgmailDOTcom and I’ll update this posting to include your listing.