31 May 2008

Cardone's Restaurant

Some might describe Cardone's in Westerville as intimate. Others would call it small. However you call it, you'd better show up early, because the seats seem to fill up fast in this casual Italian eatery.

I don't know if it was busy because of the recent Dispatch write up, or if it's the product of a loyal customer base, but we got the last seats available on Friday night. Capacity appears to be around 35, so plan accordingly.

Cardone's has a fairly decent amount of vegetarian (although not vegan) choices for appetizers and main courses on the menu. I went with the portabello caps stuffed with mozzarella, parmesan and basil with fresh tomatoes for an appetizer. It was delicious.

The five cheese ravioli in a basil cream sauce with candied walnuts was even better. Hints of garlic make the pesto sublime, and the walnuts add an extra layer of savory flavors that enrich the dairy sinew. The salad was also quite good.

The wine list is small, with a most but not all wines coming from Italy. They also have beer--Chimay red by the by the bottle--need I say more?

The interior is small, with textured paint on the walls along with a collection or classic paintings and pictures above a black and white tile floor. The food is excellent, and the menu has a number of vegetarian items, but there is a finite amount of seating that will require careful pre-planningto avoid waiting for a seat.


Cardone's on Urbanspoon

28 May 2008

Miracle fruit

I gotta have it! The New York Times profiled a berry known as miracle fruit that turns everything you know about flavor upside down. It makes sour flavors sweet and makes even the most unpalatable concoctions taste indescribably delicious. I am going to buy this simply so I can cross "flavor tripping" off of my list of things to do before I die.

25 May 2008

Columbus Asian Festival

If a vegetarian had to get stuck in one continent for the rest of their life, I would recommend being banished to Asia. I'm not sure if they invented vegetarianism in the Far East, but they definitely perfected it. This is clearly on display at the Columbus Asian Festival, where visitors have the opportunity to sample food from all parts of the continent, with plenty of art, music and martial arts to wash down the veggie-friendly eats enjoyed picnic-style in the park.

There was food from China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, India, and a number of less than Asian nations like Jamaica and Mexico. I saw a Filipino dance and sumo wrestling. Mostly (as you can tell from my gut), I went for the food.

One of my favorite Indian joints Bayleaf offered $5 vegetarian sampler plates with two items and a side of saffron rice. I went with the chana masala and the breaded cauliflower. The chick peas (the main ingredient in chana) were rich and blazing hot. I was sweating so profusely I needed to go get a drink. The cauliflower was milder, with a crisp breading that intensified the vegetal and slightly citrus-oriented flavors of the cauliflower florets. Bayleaf offered three other vegetarian items (You can also read a previous entry on Bayleaf here).

I grabbed an egg roll from a place called Healthy Gourmet Vegetarian Food. While it was indeed a vegetarian item, the terminology "healthy" and "gourmet" did not apply to the grease torpedo that coated my flesh in a thin layer of fat. They served a side egg roll with their large order of grease. The egg roll was so fatty, it was Oprah back in her hey-day. Whatever poor attempts at humor I craft to describe how greasy this egg roll was will fail to do this thing justice. To be fair, I originally ordered veggie pot stickers, but they were no longer available. I can't comment on the entrees, but if they're anything like the egg roll, you'll gain five pounds just ordering.

I also sampled a spring roll from Muong Lao, a Laotian restaurant. Their take on the spring roll was cold, not the crispy fried version that comes from Thailand, but rather a soft rice wrapper surrounding lettuce, rice noodles and cilantro with a side of deceptively spicy sweet and sour sauce. It was the only vegetarian item on their festival menu, but it was absolutely delicious. I'll have to check out the real restaurant and see if they like vegetarians...I forgot to write down the address.

There were other places with vegetarian eats that I didn't try during the fest. Bento Go-Go on campus always has a few well made vegetarian options. There's nothing wrong with Flavors of India (and aside from their average samosa, there's quite a bit they do right, too). There was more kimchi then you could shake a stick at. Many other places offered a range of vegetarian choices, and they are too numerous to credit. You'll just have to find out next year, or try all the places individually during the year.

Filipino Dance from the Columbus Asian Festival

Asian Fest

18 May 2008

Pomegranate Mediterranean Cuisine

Pomegranate is a casual Pan-Mediterranean eatery in the Gahanna/New Albany/Westerville vicinity. The food has Greek and Middle Eastern influences, meaning there are many vegetarian menu items, most of which are noted in the menu text (a trend which will continually be praised by yours truly).

The vegetarian eats include hummus, baba ganoush, kebabs, grape leaves, salads, soup, falafel and most other items consisting of some combination of lentils, olive oil, feta cheese and lemon juice made in a style that harkens the Mediterranean coastline. The interior is sharper than you would guess based upon the strip mall exterior. The beverage list is very routine, consisting of domestic macros and $6 glasses of wine from the U.S., Argentina, Australia and France.

The grape leaves, avocado egg rolls and Greek salad were all superb. The grape leaves were stuffed with rice and redolent of lemon juice. The avocado egg rolls were rooted in the Middle East with pit stops in Mexico and China. The salad came with a makeshift tzatziki that dressed dark greens, onions, banana peppers, cucumbers, kalamata olives and tomatoes.

The spanakopita was well made, although it was served slightly warmer than room temperature (i.e. slightly cooler than I prefer). This was the biggest shortcoming of the evening. That notwithstanding, the wide variety of veggie options on the menu make Pomegranate a great outpost for the herbivorous public.

Pomegranate is south of Dublin-Granville Road on North Hamilton. It's definitely worth the trip if the Mediterranean diet floats your boat.


Pomegranate on Urbanspoon

11 May 2008

Rusty Bucket

The Rusty Bucket is one of two tavern chains that have descended like locusts on the Central Ohio horizon over the last year (the other one is the Old Bag of Nails). There are six locations in and around Columbus. They feature a wide variety of brews on draft and tap as well as a menu with a pantheon of bar grazing options.

The downside to this menu, unfortunately, is that your vegetarian dining options are sorely limited. Your appetizers are limited to your choice of deep fried pickles and the hummus plate. I decided on hummus, which featured warm pita bread and a pile of lettuce, tomato, onion and black olive. It was tasty despite the fact that it was lonely. Vegetarian items on the menu require plenty of friends to keep them from feeling lonely. The only item keeping my hummus company was the Gracelandic delight of fried pickle spears.

The vegetarian entree also lived all alone...panko crusted macaroni and cheese. The breadcrumbs gave the dish a firm, crunchy character. It was served with a plain house salad that is pictured in the dictionary next to the word humdrum. The salad was an avalanche of iceberg lettuce, tomato, onion, mushroom, cheese and croutons with a limited serving of vinaigrette dressing. The salad was as exciting as the prospects of the latest REO Speedwagon reunion tour.

The interior of the restaurant is classic wood with enough televisions to keep most areas within viewing distance. The Westerville location is not terribly dissimilar from the Worthington locale, albeit a touch smaller. I much prefer the beer selection at Rusty Bucket, which features Chimay, Great Lakes, Boddington, Stella Artois and a variety of other choices, to the regular menu.

On future visits, I'll be drinking and not eating at the Rusty Bucket. That is, until they find some companionship for my lonesome vegetarian menu items.

Rusty Bucket

06 May 2008


Sorry I've been a little lazy posting lately. Life has been a tad bit busy the last few weeks. I'll throw in a little veggie news to keep this blog alive until I can get back to my bread and butter...complaining about the lack of vegetarian eats at local eateries and writing about anything and everything fermented. Let's do this!

Believe it or not, Pamela Anderson is mired in a new type of controversy. This time, the former Baywatch babe is denying rumors that she was eating a hot dog at her son's baseball game. Pam claims it was nothing more than a veggie hot dog, and credits herself with getting the vendor at the games to serve veggie burgers and hot dogs along with his dead animal fare. Ultimately, this ranks second in terms of the most offensive things I have seen Pam Anderson put in her mouth, so she gets a free pass on this one.

Vegetarian ethicists are up in arms about the newest wave in carnivorous consumption--test tube meat. Scientists are developing the technology to cultivate muscle tissue in a laboratory rather than from the tried and true method of slaughterhouse production. PETA might be supporting the effort, but I'm not eating chicken whether it came from a farm or a beaker. Call me old fashioned, I guess.

Finally, it might not be vegetarian news, but The New Yorker ran a feature by D.T. Max on the cancer treatment of my favoritest chef in the whole wide world, Grant Achatz (there's also a feature in the new Chicago magazine). Achatz, the domestic auteur of molecular gastronomy, performed magically when I requested a vegetarian meal on a previous visit to his restaurant Alinea. I also ate a birthday meal at Trio when he was the chef, and the experience was equally divine. This is a great article, and Alinea is an experience that everybody should have at least once in their life (if not every day if they possess the means).

01 May 2008

Factory Farming: As bad for the environment as it is for you

Don't take it from me. Listen to the experts who say that non-sustainable farming practices hurt public health, drain small communities, abuse animals and pollute the environment according to 2 and 1/2 years worth of research performed by Pew and Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health.

This report doesn't point out the notion that everybody should be vegetarian overnight. I can wait at least a few years before you join me on the dark side. What it does highlight is that you should have a better understanding of how the food you eat impacts everybody's health. It can impact species by creating drug-resistant bacteria strains. It can pollute the planet. It also can damage the soil.

The phrase goes, "Think globally; act locally," and nowhere is this rationale more appropriate than on your dinner plate. Just say no to the slop from the McCorparations. The impact extends beyond the quality of food in your kitchen and impacts the quality of life across the planet, from water and air quality to considerations of your karma after you have decided to eat an egg salad sandwich sourced from the above pictured torture den.

The factory farms that thrive today can't sell a product that nobody is buying. Take care in the manner in which you eat, because the law of unintended consequences says these seemingly innocuous decisions can lead to a disastrous conclusion. The impact from deciding to eat local items farmed by capable artisans producing veggies and (gasp) meat can indeed influence the quality of life for future generations. Click the links in the article to see what a bunch of people with far more education than myself think about the issue.