31 March 2010

Christina Cooks

I might be late to the party here, but in case I wasn't, I figured that I would give a shout out to the vegetarian cooking show on PBS Christina Cooks. It usually airs on the weekends on local affiliate WOSU. It also appears during the week on WOSU-Plus.

If you're sick of Emeril cooking animal parts on the Food Network, or watching the Top Chefs offend your vegetarian sensibilities on Bravo, then Christina Cooks might be just what the doctor ordered. The show is hosted by Christina Pirello, and the program focuses on vegetarian, vegan and raw recipes for the home cook.

I find the dad-rock music to be a strange addition to the themes of the show, but all-in-all, the program does a great job introducing vegetarian cooks with varying degrees of kitchen skill sets to new ways of coaxing flavor and nutrition from their meals. Christina Cooks is definitely worth checking out for vegetarians that feel under-represented on the tube.

23 March 2010


Lindey's is Columbus' back-in-the-day, white tablecloth classic. Chances are, if your grandparents are old money and from Columbus, Lindey's is where they noshed if they wanted to see and be seen.

Lindey's was the starting point for Kent Rigsby, another paragon of fine dining in Columbus. In order to repay the favor, current Chef Jon O'Carroll cut his teeth at Rigsby's eponymous establishments. It's nice to know that the restaurant scene in Columbus is good at sharing. In the end, everybody involved wins.

For the most part, Lindey's offers a limited selection of vegetarian items on their menus. This is to be expected at an establishment of this type. Luckily, the same care is taken with meatless items at Lindey's that is taken with the rest of the menu. The staff did an excellent job alerting me to vegetarian-safe choices on the menu. Service was attentive, prompt and capable.

The bread basket was an assortment of fresh sourdough bread, a buttery dinner roll and lavash bread flecked with fennel and poppy seeds. I loved the sourdough and the lavash, although all three selections were great. The bread came with a healthy (or unhealthy, depending on how you look at it) dollop of artisanal butter.

Vegetarian starters include the house salad, a choose-your-own cheese plate and the tomato and mozzarella flatbread pizza. I ordered the flatbread pizza, and my advice to those who order this dish is that you should plan on sharing it. It is an entree-sized portion that could easily be split by two or three diners. The flatbread was beautifully textured, and the combination of carpaccioed beefsteak tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil chiffonade is absolutely sublime.

There are three vegetarian pasta dishes on the lunch, brunch and dinner menus. There are also a few egg dishes without meat on the brunch menu. The pasta dishes are pasta primavera with seasonal veggies, mushroom ravioli in cream sauce, and a butternut squash tortellini in a sage and brown butter sauce. There are also many waffle and pancake options on the carry-out menu that are prepared without meat.

I selected the portabella mushroom ravioli. The ravioli were stuffed with a portabella mixture, and topped with a rich, cremini-and-cream sauce that is both savory and delicious. The dish was perfect.

The beverage choices at Lindey's are excellent, as you would expect at a restaurant of this caliber. There is an extensive selection of liquor and wine as well as a limited number of beers.

The dining room at Lindey's is decorated with beautiful art work, and the staff keeps the place humming. The bar is also well kept, and it can seat somewhere between 30 and 40 diners.

While Lindey's isn't going to be the first option for vegetarians in Ohio's Capital City, the talented staff does an excellent job with its vegetarian fare. While you pay for quality, you still feel like it's worth every cent at Lindey's.


Lindey's Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

19 March 2010

Nida's Thai on High

Nida's Thai is a gem of a restaurant that is more vegetarian-minded than many other of its Thai brethren. The flavorful fare and abundance of meatless options make Nida's a destination for those with a taste for the food from a land once called Siam.

Many Thai restaurants utilize fish sauce as an ingredient in curries as well as in the form of a condiment. Fish sauce is used to bring umami to a dish in much the same way that soy sauce does, and it's a common ingredient in Southeast Asian cuisine. Luckily, the curries at Nida's are completely vegan, and the menu indicates which dishes contain fish sauce. It saves the trouble of having to ask about fish sauce, and I'm a sucker for convenience. The menu is also excellent at pointing out other vegetarian-unfriendly ingredients like shrimp and chicken broth.

Vegetarian starters include veggie spring rolls, fried tofu with sweet and sour sauce, and fried tofu with peanut sauce and cucumber salad. I ordered the peanut sauce tofu, which was a perfectly-fried, savory delight. The texture of the tofu was firm, the peanut sauce adds a rich character to the dish, and the clean flavor of the cucumber salad provides a delightful palate cleanser that wraps the whole thing up in a bow.

There are a variety of curries and noodle dishes on the menu at Nida's. I was most interested in the curries, which showcase a variety of interesting spices and vegetables. Instead of limiting the choices to red, green, yellow and massaman curry, Nida's features six different curries that can all be made with tofu.

I chose the gang kua, a spicy red curry flavored with tamarind and basil with cherry tomatoes, peppers and small pieces of pineapple. The tomatoes and pineapple add a bright, sweet layer to a sauce that is already exploding with flavor.

The lunch menu does not offer the range of choices for vegetarians that the dinner menu does. The dinner menu also has a section of vegetarian specialties that are not on the lunch menu. In addition to catering to vegetarians, Nida's also offers many dishes that are safe for diners that avoid gluten.

Nida's offers a good selection of flavorful cocktails. Service is prompt, friendly and capable. My server did an excellent job addressing questions about vegetarian items on the menu.

Prices at Nida's were fair. Although the menu prices seem low for food of this quality, the portions were a little small. It is advisable to order an appetizer (or even many appetizers to share with the table) along with the entree in order to experience a fully satisfying meal.

Nida's makes great Thai, and it does a tremendous job catering to diners of all shapes, sizes and dietary requirements. The food will appeal to the novice diner, and it's adventurous enough to offer new and exciting options for the seasoned pro.

Nida's Thai

Nida's Thai on High on Urbanspoon

16 March 2010

The Shrunken Head

The Shrunken Head is the newest revision of the former Victorian's Midnight Cafe. They are keeping the late night live music while adding more than a few menu options for vegetarians.

Apparently the Shrunken Head offers breakfast for much of the day. Since I had already eaten breakfast, I tried the lunch menu on for size.

The chalk board menu advertised bagels topped with cream cheese or brie. The lunch choices included a vast array of veggie burgers as well as a couple of vegetarian appetizers.

My starter was referred to as a tacodilla. It was a quesadilla that was folded like a taco instead of being layered. It was filled with tomatoes and green onions. The tacodilla was decent, although next time, I plan on sampling the hummus plate. Other vegetarian starters include cheesy garlic bread and a house salad.

There are five different veggie burgers on the menu. Most feature a black bean veggie patty dressed in a variety of ways and served with a side of spicy potato chips.

I chose the Veg Volcano. The veggie burger was topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and jalapeño in a smoky chipotle sauce. It was an explosion of flavor that was fantastically spicy (and this is coming from a guy who puts hot sauce on his breakfast cereal, so that means something). The only topping I found that didn't fit the flavor profile was the pickles, which didn't add anything to the sandwich. I would hold them from my order next time, although they hardly ruined a tasty sandwich.

Other veggie burgers include one with the typical lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle toppings and a barbeque burger. The menu also included a grilled cheese sandwich and a spicy grilled cheese.

The bar has 70 beer selections, including about eight on draft. Future plans include converting the back patio into a tiki lounge, which should come with the requisite mai tai, scorpion and zombie cocktails that accompany such an endeavor. Happy hour runs from 4-7 pm and features $2 drafts, $3 wine and $1 off cocktails.

The interior is dark and decorated with bright faux-Caribbean motifs, including the Shrunken Head logo. The staff was friendly and capable, getting my lunch finished in about 40 minutes.

While the Shrunken Head is currently in its infancy, the pile of veggie burger options will definitely see me back there. I'll have to see how the place develops.

Shrunken Head Cafe

The Shrunken Head on Urbanspoon

15 March 2010

Pizza Grand Prix V

I stopped by the Wild Goose Creative for the Pizza Grand Prix version 5.0. The event featured the best in Columbus commercial and homemade pizzas in a fun and convivial atmosphere.

Admission cost was a medium pizza. For this low cost, you could sample anything brought by anybody else. Although a few pies disappeared quickly, there was plenty of pizza to go around (including an entire table of veggie pizzas).

My contribution to the cause was a Margherita pizza from the Press Grill in the Short North. The crust was thin and crispy. The roasted tomatoes had a bright flavor that paired well with the finely cut fresh basil.

Some of the other vegetarian pizza options included Hound Dog's Smokin' Joe, a veggie pizza from the Hyatt on Capital Square that had a delicious thin crust (who would've known?) and Hungry Howie's. Many of the homemade pizzas were also vegetarian, including the Margherita pies churned out on the Weber Grill by Dave (who won best homemade pizza and the giant tin of tomatoes that came with it).

There was a vote on best pizza of the night by the people in attendance, and there was also a pizza judging panel that consisted of food blogger Bethia Woolf, Roland Kopecky, Peggy Yerkes of Bono Pizza (who was dressed as a slice of pizza) and Jeff Aufdencamp of Mama Mimi's Take and Bake Pizza. I didn't get to sample it, but Clever Crow was one of the winners of the crowd vote.

The Pizza Grands Prix (the plural of grand prix) are a regular event, and there are a number of other food-related events at Wild Goose. PGP is definitely worth checking out next time around.

Pizza Grand Prix V

11 March 2010

Si Señor

Si Señor is the latest Latin sandwich stop to open up in the Central Business District. Much like El Arepazo, Si Señor features food from a couple of different countries in Latin America, and the specialty of the house is sandwiches.

The business model for Si Señor is geared toward take-out diners and a limited clintele for fast-casual dining. There are 10 seats in the restaurant.

Si Señor has a fairly small menu. Vegetarians have only one option with a choice of side dishes: a roasted portabella sandwich with red onions and chimichurri sauce.

My rule for restaurants goes something like this: if you have only one vegetarian sandwich on your menu, it had better be damned good. Si Señor passes this test with flying colors.

The condiments on the portabella sandwich are lip-smackingly good. Chimichurri, the omnipresent garlic-and-parsley-based condiment of South America, is slathered atop the sandwich roll, and a rocoto mayo is on the bottom. Rocoto is a South American pepper that looks like a red bell pepper but tastes more like a hot wax pepper. Both sauces add a great flavor to the roasted mushrooms.

The avocado salad was also delightful. The fat flavor of ripe avocado is augmented by vegetal notes in the greens and a bright, fresh flavor from cilantro and lemon juice. The red pepper vinaigrette sweetens the taste enough to add another layer to a dish that is already bursting with luscious, unctuous flavor.

Other vegetarian side dishes are the cilantro cream pasta salad and the mixed green salad. I will have to sample those on a future visit.

Most items at Si Señor are prepared fresh in-house. They have a limited dessert selection that includes Latin favorites like tres leches cake and flan. Owner Guillermo Perez was an excellent host, checking with everybody to make sure that their meals made the grade. My total price was about $10 for a sandwich, chips, salad and a drink.

Si Señor has moved down the block from the Pearl Street Market. They are testing the waters to see if weekend hours would be feasible. For now, they are open Monday through Friday for lunch.

Si Senor

Si Señor on Urbanspoon

06 March 2010

Dan's Drive In

Dan's Drive-In is the quintessential American diner. Full of kitschy knick knacks alongside a menu full of breakfast items and Greek fare, Dan's delivers exactly what one would expect when walking through the front door.

In some ways this is a good thing; and in others, it's not so much.

The decor of the restaurant is actually quite charming. The place used to be a car hop, and the parking lot reflects this. The walls are covered in pictures of Elvis and other classic depictions of wistful nostalgia.

Like most diners, the focus at Dan's is on breakfast food. Vegetarians should take note: there are tons of items on the menu that are suitable for ovo-vegetarians (omelets, skillet scrambles and breakfast sandwiches). I'm not big on eggs, so you'll have to check these items out on your own.

However, aside from the egg-tastic choices on the menu, there are other items available that are suitable for vegetarians. Choices include three different Greek-style pasta dishes, French toast, pancakes, a veggie sandwich and a hummus pita wrap. There are many vegetarian side dishes like fries, onion rings (which were tasty), poppers, hummus and tzatziki. Dan's also gets bonus points for labeling the vegetarian choices on the menu.

While the prices are low and the service is friendly, the quality of the food can be somewhat hit-or-miss.

The pasta dishes come with garlic bread and salad. Both sides were exceptionally mediocre. The salad consisted of iceberg lettuce, green peppers, onions, cucumbers and tomatoes. The dressing was overly viscous and borderline slimy. The garlic bread was essentially garlic-dusted toast.

The Greek pasta has slightly more redeeming characteristics. A decent portion of spaghetti was served in a tomato sauce with onions, green peppers, kalamata olives and a liberal dose of feta cheese. This dish is pretty much the safety net for most vegetarians in Greek restaurants nationwide. Dan's version is decent if unspectacular.

Despite my protestations, Dan's seems to do a pretty brisk business. The dining room is full of a rotating cast of South Side regulars.

While the place isn't exactly the type of establishment I could enthusiastically endorse, the menu does have a pretty wide variety of choices for vegetarians. If you're in the neighborhood, it will do in a pinch.

Dan's Drive In

Dan's Drive in on Urbanspoon