25 January 2013

Pies and Pints

Pies and Pints is a small pizza chain that started in West Virginia. The first central Ohio location opened in Worthington. If you watch as much food television as I do, you may have seen Pies and Pints on the Cooking Channel special Pizza Outside the Box

The concept is gourmet hand tossed pizzas paired with a choice selection of craft beers. There are standard options and more adventurous selections, like grape and gorgonzola pie that was on the Cooking Channel special. 

There are about 30 draft beers. There are plenty of Ohio brews available, including Weasel Boy, Columbus Brewing and Elevator.

There are a limited number of meatless appetizers and salads as starters. The chips and salsa, while not exactly typical pizza shop fare, are fresh and brightly flavored.

The rosemary garlic flatbread is served with a whipped goat cheese and balsamic dip. The appearance is one-note, lacking flash, but it tastes explosive. The tartness of the vinegar and the richness of the cheese flesh out the underlying smokiness of the bread.

The pizza crust is thick enough to hold a voluminous weight in toppings. Splitting a half-and-half large pizza is a good way to sample multiple varieties of the pies.

The roasted mushroom pizza was a perfect marriage of earthy essence punched by garlic. The garlic cloves were roasted so well that they melted in my mouth like a sweet whisper.

The black bean pie is a riff on the traditional Tex-Mex Mexican pizza. Beans take the place of red sauce, and they provide a medium-spicy base to the pie along with the ribbons of jalapeƱo  pepper. Cilantro gives it a nice freshness, and the creme fraiche adds a nice zip.

The pesto pizza is swirled with the ubiquitous green Italian sauce atop mozzarella and tomato. Tomato often gets a mushy texture when overcooked on a pizza; the Pies and Pints pizza was topped with perfectly cooked tomato.

The white pizza was classic for the style. Some of the ricotta pooled up into viscous pools that were overly pasty. While flawed, it was still very good.

The chocolate peanut butter brownie terrine is a nice conclusion to the meal if you save room for dessert. It looks as good as it tastes.

Service at Pies and Pints was mixed. A weekend evening visit had its expected wait time underestimated by about 40 minutes. Orders came slowly. A weekday visit saw much more even service. Consistency will need to be maintained if they're aiming for return business.

Pies and Pints on Urbanspoon

15 January 2013


Manifesto is an Italian small plates spot Downtown that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The conceptual curve ball is the pairing of Scotch whisky with the Italian cuisine. The folks behind deNovo make the two mesh nicely.

The decor is a whimsical collection of quotes from historic and cultural figures. I particularly enjoyed the Scotch quote from Ron Burgundy. The redesign was a great use of the space compared to the previous tenant Isabella's. 

There are plenty of vegetarian dishes on the menu. The server explained that the kitchen would prepare vegetarian versions of many of the dishes with meat or seafood in them upon request.

The breaded crispy mozzarella is treated with basil oil, balsamic vinegar and tomato sauce. Imagine a haute cheese stick and you're about half way there.

The spicy tomato bisque has a bright, hot base that pairs well with sandwiches. It was a natural accompaniment to the Italian grilled cheese, a panini made on thick cut bread with goat cheese, provolone and mozzarella.

The Tuscan hummus is made with cannellini beans instead of chickpeas. Crispy flatbread scoops up the delicious puree. 

The butternut squash lasagna was visually pleasing but perhaps a bit sweet. The richness of the dish was overpowering.

The cocktails have stylish names like the Corpse Reviver and Mommy's Little Helper. While cocktails might introduce a novice Scotch drinker to the liquor, the lengthy list of whiskies offers choices to please the most discerning palates. 

The most offensive thing about Manifesto is the music selection. The soundtrack includes a terrible mish-mash designed to please everybody in attendance. Unfortunately, the collection of Dave Matthews, Kenny G and George Strait and other inoffensive drivel I heard from the speakers will irritate everybody except for Clear Channel executives.

The made-to-order pastries in the morning look pretty tempting. Choices include a chocolate praline croissant and pecan sticky buns.

Manifesto Tuscan Grato and Scotch Bar on Urbanspoon

08 January 2013

Noora's Persian Cuisine

Noora Persian Cuisine takes an outside the box approach to Mediterranean fare, offering grilled kebabs and appetizers that explode with fresh flavor. There are many vegetarian and vegan items on the menu. Some items must be special ordered.

The colorful decor reflects the warmth displayed by the staff. They took great care in explaining all of the dishes, and worked efficiently.

The appetizer sampler is a must-order for parties of two or more. Four dips are served with toasted flatbread. The mirza ghasemi is made from tomatoes and roasted eggplant. The deep, complex smoke builds with each bite. The potato salad was egg-heavy and herbaceous. The cucumber-mint yogurt dip is bright and refreshing. The hummus is about as good as any in Columbus.

The beef stew with stewed greens, split peas and lentils can be prepared for vegetarians. While it is an interesting dish texturally, the flavors were murky and one dimensional, lacking the savory punch that was probably added by the omitted beef. 

The kebabs, on the other hand, were flawless. Enormous mushrooms, red, green and yellow peppers, tomato and onions are nicely charred, and it is served with a spicy green sauce. It's a perfect complement to the veggies.

The dill yogurt beverage is a tart refreshment that is not for the faint of heart. It is a sour drink that quenches thirst with a viscous, pasty essence that never truly leaves the palate. File this under acquired tastes.

The house-made baklava is the perfect end to a meal.

Noora Persian Cuisine on Urbanspoon