31 March 2009

Rad Dog is back

Columbus Underground noted that since the weather is getting warmer, the Rad Dog vegan hot dog cart will be back Downtown at the corner of Broad and High a few days during the week. Previously, I reviewed Rad Dog. It's a great spot for vegan dogs for the busy Downtown crowd that eats more for convenience than for health. This is definitely great news!

28 March 2009

Dragonfly Seder Dinner

If you're looking for Passover dinner that is both vegan and mekhaye, you need look no further than Dragonfly. From an email...


Rabbi Izzy (the chef's Dad) takes the 'stage' along with his better half and co-host Moriah (Mom) for THE 2ND SEDER on Thursday 04.09, an entertaining and satiating evening of neo-kvetching and retelling of the Spring Passover story of 'slavery into freedom' followed by a delicious feast and lots of excellent kosher wine, and soundscapes including Matisyahu's Youth, David Gould's Adonia in Dub, and Ben Perowsky's Camp Songs.

The dinner includes a buffet of traditional (and some not so traditional) Passover dishes, The atmosphere is like a large family dinner. Magdiale prepares his own matzoh, truffled matzoh ball soup, pate 'gelfite fish style', french trumpet mushroom fricasse with 'make you wail' horseradish sauce, potato kugel, and chocolate covered macaroons whoopie pie style.

Kids and families are especially welcome and encouraged to reserve. There are plenty of kid's activities including the tradition of hiding the afikoman; a ritual where the kids 'steal' a special piece of matzoh from the Rabbi and negotiate a ransom for its return.

In addition the gallery becomes a large playroom with plasma cars, scooters, toys, and games.

For those wanting a quick grab and go ON THE FLY will be serving matzoh ball soup all week.

Reservations for the event are required. For details please contact Dragonfly @ 2989986 or visit the website www.dragonflyneov.com

Bento Go Go

Japanese establishments can sometimes be unfriendly to vegetarians. From sushi bars to steakhouses, Japanese food is not always tailor-made for those who don't eat animal flesh. Bento Go Go, however, breaks away from this limitation by featuring numerous plant-based dishes from the Land of the Rising Sun and other East Asian nations.

The menu has copious choices for vegetarians. Starters include edamame, veggie egg rolls, veggie tempura, salads and miso soup. There are numerous vegetarian noodle and rice dishes. There is also a vegetarian wrap.

The curried vegetable bowl was made with a vegan curry. Sticky white rice is topped with the mild brown curry sauce and broccoli, potatoes, onions, carrots and water chestnuts. The vegetables were flavorful. I might have liked the curry to have a little more spiciness, but overall, the dish was very satisfying.

The star at Bento Go Go is the sushi. The veggie rolls were made with lettuce, cucumber, avocado, burdock, kampyo squash and pickled radish. The rolls were large and well constructed. The flavor was rich with an intensely vegetal undertone.

There is a vegetarian sushi special available as a bento box combination. Bento boxes are essentially Japanese lunch boxes. The box comes with a choice of sides including kimchi and Korean potatoes.

At night, Bento Go Go transforms into a sake lounge. They serve a number of sakes and flavored saketinis. The restaurant is open until 10 pm, and the lounge is open until 2:30 am.

There are a number of choices for vegetarians at Bento Go Go. The counter business is fast casual. Prices are moderate.

Bento Go Go

Bento Go Go on Urbanspoon

24 March 2009

The 100% Organic, Macrobiotic News

It is official...there is an association between daily red meat consumption and dying prematurely according a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. According to my interpretation of the data, Ted Nugent actually died 40 years ago.

And earlier this week, the NYTimes published an article about the hopes of proponents of sustainable, local, organic agriculture related to the progressive White House. Although much of these aspirations are essentially pipe dreams, chefs like Alice Waters and authors such as Michael Pollen expect that new leadership can do more to take the quality of our food supply to another level. Ultimately, this change (or stasis) will be directed by Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture. It's an interesting set of competing concepts to ponder.

23 March 2009

Cafe Napolitana

Café Napolitana is a small independent pizza shop Downtown that oversees a voluminous lunch business. I've walked past about 500 times after work shifts. After reading a short review in the Columbus Dispatch, I decided to try the place out for myself.

Proprietor Palmo Aracri mixes Old World traditions with a New World flair for a low key pizza place where the product truly exceeds expectations. Pizza is available whole or by-the-slice. Pizza is made New York (big, thin and floppy) or Sicilian (square and thick) style.

Pizza can be ordered by-the-slice with a choice of toppings. There are also pasta dishes, spinach calzones, cheese sticks and a cheese sandwich on the menu for the vegetarian-inclined diner.

I am not the biggest fan of New York-style pizza. Take this however you will in part because I'm a vegetarian. I'll wear my heart on my sleeve and say that in my opinion, coneys, New York pizza and Le Cirque are good, but Chicago dogs, stuffed crust pizza and Alinea are better. Now that my prejudices have been laid bare, I can say that Napolitana makes great pizza, my evident biases be damned.

The crust is thin and folds easily but has a slight crispness that adds extra dimensions to the texture. The sauce is tart, mild and delicately seasoned. The cheese is generously applied. The pizza was great, and at $5.50 for two slices, it was a delicious and economical lunch.

Café Napolitana has a limited delivery radius. They are open six days a week until 6 (M,Tu) or 7 (W-Sa) pm. These are clutch hours for Downtown. There is plenty of seating in the two dining rooms.

Cafe Napolitana

Cafe Napolitana on Urbanspoon

22 March 2009

Grandma's Pizza and Pasta

Grandma's Pizza and Pasta is a small chain orbiting the South Columbus and Reynoldsburg areas. The pizza is akin to Donato's pizza.

Grandma's Pizza and Pasta features a virtual panoply of coupons and specials that are represented in spades on the take-out menu. The vegetarian items on the menu include French fries, fried mushrooms, cheese sticks, garlic cheese bread, the garden salad, a veggie sub, and many shapes and sizes of vegetarian stromboli and pizza.

The pizza sauce was very sweet. The crust was thin and crispy. The mushrooms were fresh, not canned. The quality of the pizza was decent but unspectacular. It definitely needed to have crushed red peppers, oregano and grated cheese added to perfect the taste.

The quality of the pizza was close to Donato's if not slightly worse than the local chain. The prices ($18 for two large pizzas with one topping), however, were far more reasonable.

Grandma's offers fair prices and reasonable quality. There is far better pizza in Columbus; however, there aren't many options this good for this cheap.

Grandma's Pizza and Pasta

20 March 2009

Meat the Truth

Meat the Truth

From the Web site:

The documentary Meat the Truth is the first major project undertaken by the Nicolaas G. Pierson Foundation.

Meat the Truth is a high-profile documentary, presented by Marianne Thieme (leader of the Party for the Animals), which forms an addendum to earlier films that have been made about climate change.

Although such films have convincingly succeeded in drawing public attention to the issue of global warming, they have repeatedly ignored one of the most important causes of climate change, namely: intensive livestock production.

Meat the Truth has drawn attention to this by demonstrating that livestock farming generates more greenhouse gas emissions worldwide than all cars, lorries, trains, boats and planes added together.

Playing at the Drexel East

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

7:30pm - 9:00pm

2254 E Main St

Bexley, OH

New Salaam Location

Salaam in Athens should have their new location operating very soon.

From an email and the Web site:

Come for dinner at "old Salaam" this weekend; it's the last chance you'll get, as we're closing there at the end of the evening on Saturday! We're working feverishly to have the new space at 21 W. Washington ready to open on MONDAY, APRIL 6th.

High Beck Tavern

High Beck Tavern is the quintessential neighborhood bar with pub grub to match. The atmosphere is classic, the staff is friendly and the food pairs well with the selection of taps.

The menu isn't particularly vegetarian friendly. However, the menu includes a veggie sandwich, a hummus plate, nachos and pizza for the vegetarian-inclined diner.

The veggie sandwich is made on a white sub roll. Mushrooms, peppers and black olives are grilled with provolone cheese. The sandwich is topped with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, banana peppers and a creamy dressing. It is served with a pickle and fries. While the sandwich was good, the fries were rather greasy.

High Beck is a great place on Monday nights. If you buy a drink Monday nights, pizza is free. While not all of the pizza is vegetarian, cheese pizza comes out all night long, and veggie pizzas make more sporadic appearances. Buying a few beers is a small price to pay for free pizza.

High Beck

16 March 2009

Milo's Deli

Milo's Deli and Cafe is a busy little breakfast and lunch spot in the Franklinton neighborhood. They keep what I like to refer to as Downtown hours (they close at 3 pm).

The volume of business makes it so that your order takes a little time to complete. The food is good enough to make it worth the wait.

Milo's features an armada of sandwiches from paninis to subs to pitas to wraps alongside classic deli staples like pasta salads, potato chips and pickles. Vegetarian selections are well represented on the menu.

The vegetarian sandwich options include two egg salad options (even though I wouldn't eat egg salad if you paid me, some ovo-vegetarians love mayo and huevos), a tomato and mozzarella sandwich, a grilled veggie panini, a four-cheese and tomato grilled cheese, a hummus veggie and olive pita sandwich and a hummus veggie sub.

The grilled veggie panini was great. Griddled Italian bread contains grilled onions, mushrooms, green and red peppers, zucchini and sun-dried tomatoes with melted Swiss and provolone cheese and a side of marinara sauce. The sweetness of the tomato sauce brightens up the earthy, grilled notes of the veggies and the savory nature of the cheese. It is served with chips or pretzels and a pickle. A side dish and drink are available for an additional $3.25.

Side dishes include a number of different salads, both on the green side (salads like the Greek Village salad) and the starchy side (pasta salads, including ones made with colorful ravioli). There are also other side dishes including hummus.

Milo's Deli features breakfast, which I have not tried. It is available from 7 am until 10 am. They also have a delicious looking dessert case.

Milo's Deli
Milos Deli & Cafe on Urbanspoon

12 March 2009

Barcelona for Restaurant Week

I have written a few times in the past about the merits of my favorite neighborhood restaurant Barcelona. They keep up the good work with a nine-course vegetarian degustation for Restaurant Week that features a wide range of tapas that should please a wide range of palettes.

Barcelona offers their everyday selection of cocktails, tapas and entrees during Restaurant Week. The nine-course tapas degustation is served in three waves with an accompanying glass of house-made red sangria that is soft and pleasant (unlike the majority of punchbowl cocktails passed off as sangria by restaurants).

The restaurant has a great atmosphere which includes a great patio that opens when the weather warms up. The service is attentive and friendly.

The first three courses were a tomato mozzarella salad, almond gazpacho and smoked chickpea hummus. The cheese and oil in the salad were divine. The tomatoes tasted pleasant but looked a little rough around the edges. This was, however, about the only complaint I could register about the tapas, so I'll get it out there first before I start heaping praise on the rest of the meal.

The almond gazpacho was absolutely amazing. The terminology "gazpacho" applies to this soup mostly because it is cold, and it also probably describes some of the vegetables in the soup. However, the almond gazpacho contained no whole veggies. Instead, the soup starts with a garlicky outburst that is roped in by a rich, nutty undercurrent that grows on you with every spoonful. I adored this soup, although I would challenge people with an iron stomach to try and eat an entire bowl of this because it is inordinately rich. Thanks goes out to the degustation portions.

The smoked chickpea hummus adds an extra flavor element to Barcelona's delicious hummus. The smokey flavor adds a deeper finish to an almost perfect dip. It is an intense flavor that lingers long after being swallowed.

The second round of tapas included a cous cous dish, deep fried artichoke hearts and sauteed mushrooms. The mushrooms were shitakes cooked until they were tender enough to fall apart in your mouth. This dish was the first that functioned completely as a side dish.

The cous cous had elements that were Spanish with Middle Eastern and Indian notes filling in the spaces. The cous cous was served cold with raisins, olives, garlic cloves and dried cherries. The spices and raisins gave the dish a Mediterranean flair, and the sweetness and garlic seemed vaguely Indian to my palate. Whatever the influence, the dish was delicious.

The fried artichoke hearts were served in the classic papas bravas fashion--with a side of ailoi. The ailoi was flavored with jalepeños, and the spices bring a great deal of panache to the dish.

The third wave of tapas included grilled asparagus, sauteed spinach and potato chips and blue cheese dip. The asparagus consisted of huge stalks grilled in olive oil and served with shaved parmesan.

The potato chips are deep fried sweet and blue potato slices with a creamy Roquefort dipping sauce. The blue cheese adds richness to the chips, and the salt creates a mouthwatering sensation. They are savory and comforting.

The sauteed spinach is cooked in olive oil with pine nuts, golden raisins and shallots. The dish had an earthy character that was brightened up by the golden raisins, and the pine nuts gave it a nice crunch.

I also got a chance to sample the Spanish cheese plate. It wasn't part of Restaurant Week, but it did provide a satisfying conclusion to the festivities. The cheeses were served alongside marcona almonds and quice paste. The cheeses were manchego (a whole-milk cheese made from sheep's milk), Cabra de Romero (a goat's milk cheese flavored with rosemary) and a soft, very ripe Spanish blue cheese that I am unable to name. The cheeses were great. I nominate the rosemary goat cheese as the grand champion of the cheese plate.

Barcelona is one of Columbus' top restaurants. Restaurant Week should give diners a great shot to sample nine different dishes for a reasonable rate.

Barcelona Restaurant Week

Barcelona on Urbanspoon

Handke's for Restaurant Week

Last night, I reaped the bounty of Dine Original Columbus' Restaurant Week at Handke's Cuisine in the Brewery District.

Handke's has long been a destination restaurant in Columbus. I haven't eaten at Handke's since Chef Asa Rodriguez took over the kitchen from former captain Hartmut Handke. Throw in the benefit of the $30 restaurant week menu, and it's a hard proposition to resist.

The atmosphere at Handke's is stunning. The dining area is an old beer cellar with stone walls. The service is prompt, attentive and friendly.

The cocktails were interesting. The signature martini is actually an absinthe cocktail. The wine list features many old and new world selections at a variety of price points. By-the-glass selections include the delicious Heitz Cellars Zinfandel and Cuvaison Carneros Pinot Noir, as well as a Schloss Zell Spatlese.

My first course was a cream of white asparagus soup. The soup was reminiscent of a potato cream with layers of asparagus, green herbs and black pepper. It was outstanding.

My main course was gnocchi plated with grilled zucchini, squash and cherry tomato in olive oil and basil. The flavors were perfectly understated and strikingly delicious.

The desserts were also great. I had the fresh raspberries, strawberries and blueberries in a tuille basket with a chilled zabaione. The clean flavor of the basket coupled with the bright fruit flavors and the richness of the zabione combine into the perfect conclusion of a great meal.

Handke's is still operating in top form. The restaurant week festivities should give people a chance to try places like Handke's even if it might normally be out of their price range. This is definitely well worth the price of admission.


09 March 2009

Jimmy Guaco's

Jimmy Guaco's is the new burrito joint located on the OSU campus in the storefront where Moe's was located. The menu is very much made up of classic burrito joint fare, and although the decor screams "chain," it's actually the only Jimmy Guaco's in existence.

Jimmy Guaco's (like Chipotle) offers margaritas and beer. You can order pre-fabricated burritos, or build-your-own creation.

The beans are vegetarian. Burritos are available with a wide variety of toppings, including salsa, lettuce, onions, cheese, black and pinto beans, hot peppers, olives, sour cream and fajita veggies. Grilled tofu is also available as a protein source.

The burrito is decent. It's hardly leaps-and-bounds better than most other burrito places (i.e. Qdoba, Chipotle, Baja Fresh, et al.), so they may have to beat the competition by offering more choices and/or staying open later.

Another good idea at Jimmy G's that didn't work as well as planned was the salsa bar. Chips are served as a side with a burrito, and there are five salsas available for free to add spice to your life. They include fire-roasted chipotle, tomatillo salsa, habañero salsa, fiesta salsa and another one that I have forgotten. Although the salsas were fresh, the flavors didn't pop enough to impress me. The chipotle was far too sweet and lacking in smokiness. The tomatillo salsa looked better than it tasted. It's possible that because the salsas are fresh, they may vary by the batch. I can unequivocally say that this batch was mediocre.

Jimmy Guaco's should sell fine because of its captive campus audience. However, I wouldn't make a trip back unless I had no other options (and with burrito joints more prevalent than jobs in Ohio, that's hard to do). Maybe the coupons will help take away some of the sting.

Jimmy Guaco's

03 March 2009

Meatless News

Magdiale Wolmark, chef at the highly acclaimed Dragonfly and On the Fly, is working on a cookbook set to be published in the near future. In order to promote his work (a cookbook emphasizing garden-to-plate vegan food preparation), Wolmark has started a blog. This is an interesting concept that should be worth monitoring in between visits to the restaurants.

Also on the literature front, NYTimes food critic Mark Bittman has authored a cookbook that proposes his spin on healthy eating--the vegan-before-dinnertime diet. He was featured in a health blog post by Tara Parker-Pope.

At first I hated the idea of part-time veganism. As I contemplated the notion more deeply, however, I realized that I live by the same rules as Bittman without eating the carnivorous dinner. I bargain with myself, eating a vegan breakfast and lunch, and then I eat deep dish pizza for dinner, thus undoing any health benefit I had accrued throughout the day. So who am I to judge somebody else's diet? You'll have to check the book out yourself to see if you're buying what Bittman is selling.

Finally, local blog Hounds in the Kitchen posted vegetarian recommendations for Columbus Restaurant Week. This could come in handy.

02 March 2009

Phat Wraps

Phat Wraps is a quick, convenient lunch spot in the South Campus area that features wrap sandwiches. The extra flair at Phat Wraps is that you get to add your own toppings and sauces at a build-it-yourself bar, allowing you to craft a wrap constructed to your own personal specifications.

The menu is Philip Glass minimalistic. There is one vegetarian wrap, and it features a grilled soy patty. I also added melted mozzarella. I didn't ask if the patty was vegan or if it contained egg or dairy. Without the patty (or with the patty if it's vegan), it should be simple to build a vegan wrap.

The topping bar is pretty nice. There is lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, chives, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, red and white onions, scallions, jalepeño peppers, limes, basil and cilantro. There is also an armada of sauces. Phat Wraps' sauces are mayo, spicy mayo and spicy chili sauce. There are also scores of brand name condiments.

I piled jalepeños, chili sauce and Sriracha on my sandwich alongside a pile of veggies. In the past, I've often found that any food can be drastically improved by drowning it in Sriracha. Try it in a stir fry or in your coffee or on your ice cream. I'm sure they'll all be delicious (as was my wrap).

Phat Wraps also is committed to the environment. The take-out containers are biodegradable, as is the disposable cutlery. The beverages are limited to vitamin water and vitamin-less water. There are also chips and vegan cookies.

The food at Phat Wraps is fun and flavorful. It's hardly a four-star destination, but you can be finished with lunch in 15 minutes and not get overloaded with trans fat and MSG.

Phat Wraps

Phat Wraps (on the OSU campus) on Urbanspoon