28 January 2009

PETA banned from the Super Bowl

NBC has banned PETA's Super Bowl commercial because of concerns over the content of the ad. Some complain that PETA and its marketing are childish and overbearing. Others find PETA's ad campaigns sexist. Some on the other side of the divide think that this commercial censorship is a violation of free speech. It really doesn't matter how you feel about PETA in terms of prejudice. Now you can judge for yourself by watching the video clip.

26 January 2009

Details Minibar and Lounge

Details is the new (or new-ish) café by acclaimed chef Richard Rosendale. It's located right next door to the eponymous gastronomic experience that is Rosendale's, and the self-described "minibar and lounge" feature small plates and comfort food.

The offerings are not as flashy as the food at Rosendale's, but the low prices allow diners who can't afford the pricing of the formal restaurant to sample inexpensive fare prepared to the same exacting quality specifications.

Chef Rosendale is arguable Columbus' most noted food personalities. Check out some of his various accomplishments (World Culinary Olympic Champion, the Bocuse D'Or, Top 10 restaurants in the Dispatch, etc.). I previously dined at Rosendale's, and the meal was absolutely amazing.

There are actually a number of vegetarian items on the menu. The Tuscan bread salad, the antipasto plate, the eggplant caponatta and the cheese plate are all vegetarian items that can be ordered as starters or as tapas. There are a number of other bar snacks available as well. The caponatta is a chunky spread made from Italian eggplant, tomato, onion and capers served with toasted bruschetta chips and spinach.

The vegetarian sandwich is called the Garden. It's a portabella and mozzarella sandwich on amazing ciabatta. The flavor is fleshed out with sprouts and sweet red peppers in balsamic vinegar and a savory avocado basil pesto. The sandwich is absolutely delicious.

Diners can order from the menu. There is also a Details degustation (called "the Detailed experience") that can be prepared to vegetarian specifications. The Detailed experience takes place in the upper level of the restaurant, and reservations are recommended. The extra bonus is the fact that diners get to interact with the chef, who explains the nuances of each course (the chef de cuisine at Details is Drew Garms, a young protege of Richard Rosendale with an impressive culinary pedigree).

The beverage menu is a scaled down version of the offerings at Rosendale's. There is a great selection of sparkling and still wines by the glass (I'm in love with the La Nerthe Chateauneuf du Pape as a by-the-glass option!) and bottle. There is a great roster of craft beers as well as an entire menu of mixed drinks that go from cookie cutter (gin martinis and margaritas) to off-the-wall (the Monkey gland, a blend of Tanqueray 10 gin, apricot brandy, orange juice and Pernod).

A couple of haute establishments in Columbus (e.g. Rosendale's and Dragonfly) are trying new enterprises that feature items with a more blue-collar price point. Details, like Rosendales, is a home run that fits in the price range of the everyday restaurant customer.


22 January 2009

High Beck free pizza

It isn't the healthiest or the vegetarian-est option, but free pizza Monday at High Beck Tavern is difficult to beat for value. Many of the specialty pizzas are heavy on the meat, but cheese pizza still pours out of the kitchen at a frenzied pace. You might have to wait a minute for vegetarian pizza options, but as long as you drink, eventually you'll find something to eat.

Buy a few beers, make nice with the staff, and I'm sure they'll work on a meatless pizza to keep you at the bar. The pizza is medium thick and chewy. The sauce has a bright acidity, and the cheese is piled on. Grated cheese and crushed red pepper are available as garnishes. Draft beers include Goose Island Pale Ale, Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold, Stella Artois and Guinness, and there are also tons of liquor and mixed drink options. Whatever you wash it down with, nothing tastes better than free pizza.

21 January 2009

Bon Appetit article

An article in the February issue of Bon Appetit formulates a list for the top 10 modern vegetarian restaurants. I'm not sure what the difference is between a modern vegetarian restaurant and other types of vegetarian restaurants (antiquated vegetarian? old fashioned vegetarian? classic vegetarian?), but nonetheless, the article nominates some winners. In Columbus, Dragonfly is the undisputed champion. Chicago's Green Zebra, named after the artisanal tomato, is also a great experience. If the other eight are half as good as those two, this list is a perfect 10.

Lavash Cafe

I was beaten to the punch by every print publication from Columbus in reviewing Lavash Café. Alive beat me. The Dispatch beat me. ThisWeek beat me. Even other Web sites like MetroMix beat me. I admit defeat. I'll still eat vegetarian amidst the ashes.

Lavash Café is the new Mediterranean venture from the old proprietor of Firdous. It is located in the same plaza as Hungry Howies in Clintonville. As with most other restaurants of this type, there are tons of options for vegetarians on the menu.

You place your order at the counter at Lavash, and they call your name when your order is ready. The name of the establishment comes from the fluffy Turkish bread in which many of the sandwiches can be rolled. The decor is colorful and modern.

Vegetarian starters include hummus (in both chickpea and black bean varieties), baba ghanoush, grape leaves, falafel, various fatayer preparations, lentil soup and assorted salads. The baba (pictured above) was rich, smoky and delicious.

The falafel sandwich was quite good. The falafel was nicely spiced. I ordered it wrapped in lavash bread, although it could also be stuffed in pita bread.

There are also a number of vegetarian entrees, including mojadara, which is rice and lentils cooked with special herbs and spices topped with carmelized onions. Prices on all items come in south of $10. There is no alcohol on the menu, but there are plenty of coffees, teas, smoothies and Pepsi products to quench your thirst.

The neighbors will have to decide for themselves whether Lavash is better or worse than Aladdin's. I like both well enough that my stomach wins the battle.

Lavash Cafe

Lavash Cafe on Urbanspoon

13 January 2009

Barcelona half-price tapas

I've talked before about how great Barcelona is. The only thing that makes Barcelona better is half-priced tapas on Monday nights. This, coupled with the bar's happy hour cocktail specials at the beginning of the night, makes for a four star dining experience at a two star price. Vegetarian tapas include hummus, spiced olives, sweet and purple potato chips with blue cheese dip, gazpacho, peach soup and a cheese platter. Entrees are not discounted.

12 January 2009

Thurman Cafe

Thurman Café in German Village didn't need a visit from a television show devoted to eating gargantuan amounts of food for sport to generate a buzz. Thurman has done well enough coasting on its reputation as Cbus' go-to burger joint for the past six decades to eliminate the need for free publicity (although the effect on business was probably much appreciated).

Vegetarians get an extra boost; Thurman Café makes sure to offer a grilled vegetarian sub for those who don't partake in flesh food, and it is every bit the caloric thrill of its carnivorous cousins on the menu. This is not a vegetarian sandwich for the vegan health nut. Rather, it is a cheesy blend of lettuce, tomato, onion, mushroom, black olives and banana peppers slathered in Italian dressing and mayo on a hearty sandwich roll, and it is not for the timid. Like most items at Thurman, it makes a complete mess while you eat it, making your meal as athletic as it is savory. The experience of wearing your dinner is sometimes referred to as being Thurmanized

There are a number of vegetarian starters, including the hand cut fries, cheese sticks and fried pickles. There are also vegetarian pizzas.

I tried the fried pickles. They were battered spears that were more or less like carb-laden Vlassic pickles. I usually enjoy fried pickles, but I found Thurman's version to be fairly banal.

The beer selection is fairly standard issue, although a trip to the bar is almost compulsory when you are waiting for a table. I had the Leinie seasonal. The place is small, but they typically burn through business at a rapid fire pace. Drinks somehow make the wait seem minutes shorter.

Thurman Café is fairly easy to locate since it is on the street in the name of the restaurant. People somehow always seem to find Thurman after a bout of heavy drinking. Maybe there's a connection there somewhere. Maybe not. But there definitely is a vegetarian sub.

Thurman Cafe

Thurman Cafe on Urbanspoon

11 January 2009

Plank's Bier Garten

I have written in the past about the other two Plank's pizza establishments. Whether they are in Columbus or Grove City, or if they are owned by one side of the family or another, I ate there and liked the pizza. So I decided to give Plank's #3 (or #2 or #1, depending on whom you ask) a try.

Plank's Bier Garten is located on High Street in the German Village area. They seem to have a larger menu than the other two Planks. Pizza is the only vegetarian item on the menu outside the appetizers.

The pizza is thin crust with a crisp snap, similar to the other establishments. I found the beer garden's toppings to be a pinch more spotty than the other Plank establishments both in quantity and quality.

If you like Donato's pizza, you'll probably love Plank's. I personally prefer the Parsons version to the other two, but none of them make terrible pizza.

Plank's Bier Garten