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Monthly Archives: February 2010

Photos: Gena’s pancake challenge with Johnny DiLoretto on Fox 28


Tuesday, February 23 was National Pancake Day (at least, according to IHOP), and in honor of it I got to join Fox 28’s Johnny DiLoretto as we took the Gena’s Restaurant 3-pancake challenge. To complete the challenge, you need to eat three of their giant pancakes in one sitting. No time limit, but you obviously may not leave.


We met there early and got set up. Johnny, cameraman Adam, and myself all took the challenge. We were greeted by the owner Kim and some of her family, as well as a small crowd of regulars who heckled us the whole time.


Before we got started, Kim sent six pancakes to the Fox 28 crew back at the studio…


…which weighed in at almost 5.5 pounds.


We watched Kim make our pancakes.




One of the first segments featured Kim making our pancakes and talking about the challenge.


A couple stats about this monster flapjack challenge:
1. It’s been going for about 6 years (as long as Kim has owned the restaurant)
2. In those six years, many people have taken the challenge
3. Of all of those taking the challenge, only 14 people have finished it
4. All 14 of those people were male
5. Probably because women are smarter


What was I thinking?


Johnny, Adam, and I start in. We each have different tactics.


A few more regulars stopped in and gave us advice and a boatload of grief over our lack of progress. Different tactics suggested included: dunking the pancakes in water or in our coffee, rolling them up one at a time, eating one pancake at a time starting at the top of the stack, cutting into all three, drowning them in syrup, and even blending them (as if Kim would let us do that).


Adam’s clearly feeling it. By the end of the morning, he couldn’t even look at the pancakes. Whenever he had to show them on camera, he looked away from his viewfinder.


And the results! In third place: Mr. Johnny DiLoretto. He ate one full pancake by rolling it up like a burrito. Kim said he set the record for the fastest someone has eaten a single pancake.


In second place: yours truly. My tactic was to eat one full pancake off the top, and then begin hacking away at the other two from the side. I used a minimal amount of syrup; one onlooker said too much syrup would weigh it down unnecessarily. I finished a little shy of halfway through. I didn’t necessarily feel sick, but my bites got smaller and smaller as pancakes became less and less appetizing.


In first place: Adam the cameraman. He got just about halfway through before he just had to stop.

Overall, a great time! It’s always fun to be on the show with Johnny. Video will be coming soon.

If you think you can do better than us, then maybe, just maybe, you should set aside the morning of Saturday, April 10, 2010 in your calendar. Because there may be a group outing to Gena’s to take the challenge en masse…

National Pancake Day & the Gena’s pancake challenge on Fox 28!


Tomorrow, February 23 is National Pancake Day, at least according to IHOP. To celebrate, you can catch me tomorrow morning once again on Fox 28’s Good Day Columbus with the amazing Johnny DiLoretto. Johnny and I will be taking the pancake challenge at Gena’s Restaurant in Westerville. Tune in between 7-9 am to catch as we celebrate the American tradition of eating way more food than is ever good for us.

P.S. Did you know there are NO IHOPs in Columbus? Just like there aren’t any Denny’s!

Photos: shrimp and grits waffles at Taste of Belgium


During North Market’s annual Fiery Foods Festival, we stopped by Taste of Belgium, who had been Twittering about making shrimp and grits waffles for the festival. The market vendors usually feature different fiery versions of their foods on the festival day, everything from chilis and sandwiches, to ice creams, breads, and more. (I once had a spicy haggis that day. The only time I’ve ever tried haggis.)


The waffle was made with grits and cheddar cheese in the batter, and was topped with shrimp, green onions, fresh cilantro, and some seasoning. It. Was. Delicious! Their original waffle is addicting enough, but this takes it to a whole new level.


I got to meet owner Jean-Francais Flechet, too. Very nice man. Let’s hope he brings this one back!

Photos: Nancy’s Home Cooking re-opening


Good news for breakfast in Columbus and for diner culture in general! After months of fund raising, rehab, donations, inspections, delays, and more, Nancy’s Home Cooking reopened Friday, February 19.


We pulled up at Nancy’s around 7 am that day, before the sun came up, and the neon “open” sign glowed warmly across the street.


Just seeing the welcome sign and all the “open” signs gave me a warm feeling.


Inside, a crowd of regulars picked up right where they left off. Cindy King, the former owner, was on hand, as well as members of her family, and her niece Sheila Hahn, who took over the operations and led the efforts to remodel and re-open the Clintonville landmark.


The interior looks pretty much the same. The folks from Lowe’s donated a new floor. The counters and booths look new, but they’re arranged the same way. The kitchen is in the same layout, but now sports a new range hood. Some of the original signs are still hanging, although the menu has been taken off the wall and is now on individual cards on the tables. And everything’s got a fresh coat of paint. If cleanliness every kept you away from Nancy’s before, there’s no excuse now!


At the risk of sounding over-sentimental, especially for a place I haven’t visited nearly as often as many people, I found still this to be a really special occasion. You could see it in the faces of Cindy and Sheila and the small army of employees, all wearing black T-shirts with Nancy’s famous line “Eat it and beat it” on the back. (Cindy’s shirt said “Founder.”) You could see it in the faces of all the regulars who were eating their favorite breakfasts for the first time since June 2009. Every few minutes the door would open, and someone new would enter, to be greeted like Norm on Cheers. I can’t imagine what it must have felt like, if you were someone who ate at Nancy’s regularly for years, to actually be stepping through those doors again and see the familiar faces and smell those familiar smells. How often do you hear these days about small businesses that actually return after closing? I think it’s a testament to the power of the local and of the way food brings people together. It’s amazing how the community reacted to the closing, forming Facebook groups, holding fundraisers at local restaurants, and making donations from around the world. All to save this tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant that holds such memories for each of them.



The opening has drawn a fair amount of press. Columbus Underground had an excellent interview with Sheila, and the Dispatch ran an article as well. A crew from Fox 28 did some live segments while we were there, too.


I ordered the same meal I had when I visited last May: 2 eggs, bacon, potatoes, and toast. It looked much the same as it did back in May.


And tasted just as delicious! Now I’ll actually have to get around to trying their famous garbage omelets and chicken and noodles.

Ninth Street Espresso | New York, NY


Ninth Street Espresso
(Facebook)
75 Ninth Ave. (in the Chelsea Market)
New York, NY 10011
(212) 228-2930
Open Mon-Fri, 7 am – 9 pm; Sat, 9 am – 8 pm; Sun, 9 am – 7 pm
Accepts cash and credit cards

Date of Visit: Saturday, January 30, 2010 at 10:00 a.m.


IMPRESSIONS
& ATMOSPHERE: Our good friends Jessie and Karl, experts in all things coffee-related, recommended Ninth Street Espresso as a top stop for coffee in New York City. I had loosely mapped a route to one of their other locations, but we stumbled upon this one in the Chelsea Market accidentally. The market was surprisingly quiet that morning, but Ninth Street was doing a brisk business. They seem to have the corner on coffee in the market, and rightfully so. I can’t imagine competing with them. Their location is near the middle of the market, and consists of a single wide-open curving counter. The menu is posted on the wall, the equipment is in plain view, and bags of coffee line the counter. You may purchase their coffee for home brewing; it’s custom brewed by Intelligentsia Coffee (one of the country’s best roasters).

FOOD: Ninth Street Espresso serves exactly seven things on their menu. You may not deviate, substitute, or otherwise question their policies. Their menu is as follows:

1. Espresso – triple shot, only served in porcelain (i.e. never to go)
2. Americano – 8 or 12 ounce
3. Macchiato – 3 ounce
4. Cappuccino – 8 ounce
5. Latte – 12 ounce
6. House Coffee – urn brewed, 8 or 12 once
7. Iced Coffee – cold infusion brewed, 16 ounce

Don’t you dare try ordering anything other than this menu.


We ordered an espresso (always a triple shot) and a cappuccino.


Excellent cappuccino – rich and smooth. Wonderful foam, plus the automatic latte art the baristas put on top. They poured it like it was nothing.


Behold, the best espresso I’ve ever tasted. Just look at it. It was silky smooth, rich in flavor, not at all bitter, and just downright delicious. Whenever I’ve thought about coffee lately, this image always comes to mind.

SERVICE: Deliberately surly. Although I’ve heard this is part of the experience. Their coffee is amazing, they know it, and they will deign to let you purchase it from them. If you’re uber-sensitive to customer service, then be prepared. If you just want good coffee, don’t take it personally. While we visited, we actually saw two customers (I believe they were German) who handed their drinks back because they weren’t hot enough (differences in American and European serving styles?). We thought the baristas were going to explode, but they just dumped the drinks and remade them.

OVERALL: What can I say? It’s delicious coffee, the best espresso I’ve ever tasted, and one of the best cappuccinos. Go here if you’re in New York. If I lived there, I’d make Ninth Street my regular coffee stop. Maybe then they would come to recognize me and be nicer?

By the by, check out their website. It’s as simple as the shops, and so clearly made in iWeb on a Mac. Not that that’s a bad thing, I just find it funny.

Ninth Street Espresso on Urbanspoon

Giveaway: Panera Bread coffee and bagels!


Columbus-area residents! Want some free Panera coffee and bagels this week? Check me out on Twitter today (Wednesday) and Thursday – I’ll be giving out some coupons provided by Panera as part of their Panera It Forward week. This is their contribution to Random Acts of Kindness Week. What better way to share the love and be kind than with breakfast?

Nancy’s Home Cooking re-opening this Friday!


Good news for breakfast in Columbus! I just learned via this Columbus Underground interview that Nancy’s Home Cooking will re-open this Friday, February 19! Nancy’s, a Clintonville institution for forty years, closed its doors last June due to the owner’s debt and medical difficulties. But some of her family members have worked, with support from the community, to keep the restaurant open. They originally announced November 1st as their re-open date, but delays have pushed it back until this week.


I’ve only been to Nancy’s twice, but have enjoyed my experiences there. It’s a great example of a Columbus diner and, as forty years of business attest, a favorite of the community. I’ll be there when they open Friday morning, will you?

Sarabeth’s Bakery | New York, NY


Sarabeth’s Bakery

75 Ninth Ave. (in the Chelsea Market)
New York, NY 10011
(212) 989-2424
Open Mon-Fri, 8 am – 7 pm; Sat, 9 am – 7 pm; Sun, 10 am – 6 pm
Accepts cash and credit cards

Date of Visit: Saturday, January 31, 2010 at 9:00 a.m.


IMPRESSIONS
: A few trusted sources recommended Sarabeth’s as a must-stop for the New York City breakfast/brunch tour. Sarabeth’s seems to have a loyal following at all of its locations, including ones West, East, and at Central Park South. Recently they established a relationship with Lord and Taylor, so now Sarabeth’s locations are popping up in L&T stores around New York City. I selected this location – listed as Sarabeth’s Bakery – without knowing it was in the Chelsea Market. This turned out to be fortuitous: not necessarily good news for our visit to Sarabeth’s, but the market was a very pleasant discovery.


Sarabeth’s Bakery is located roughly in the middle of Chelsea Market, so to get to it you pass through a veritable hall of temptation: bakeries, wine shops, boutiques, chocolatiers, butchers, you name it. Very dangerous if you arrive hungry.


This location is specifically called Sarabeth’s Bakery. Next to the tiny restaurant portion is a large space where, I’m assuming, all the baked goodies for Sarabeth’s restaurants are made. Big plate glass windows let you view the action; there’s even a couple tables right by the windows.

ATMOSPHERE: Once you find the bakery itself, you’re in a relatively quiet little enclave, with low ceilings, shelves loaded with goodies, and pretty cramped seating. There are a couple cafe tables “out front,” plus a few inside, and one big long table that we shared with another couple (who were getting a little too close with each other).


The shop itself was relatively quiet. In fact, the whole market was, considering it was a Saturday morning. Much of the shop consists of shelves featuring the various Sarabeth’s goods.

FOOD: In addition to all the baked goodies, jams, and other assortments, you can order a made-to-order breakfast here, although in some ways this menu seems like an afterthought to the location.


I ordered the Pumpkin Waffles. The name alone drew me in. These were four very good waffle slices, with a dollop of soft cream cheese, pistachios, raisins, a raspberry-strawberry sauce, maple syrup (real!), and a side of their homemade jam. Overall, very sweet and delicious, but served on a flimsy plastic plate that went completely against the complexity of the dish.


My wife went for the Oatmeal Pancakes. These were dressed up just as much as the waffles: bananas, powdered sugar, and the raspberry-strawberry spread. Again, very delicious and fun dish, but partly overshadowed by the crappy silverware and plates.


An English Muffin. Very good – the biggest and fluffiest I’ve ever seen. Although it was served with rock-hard cold butter – way too difficult to spread. That’s a pet peeve of mine: serving butter in a nearly unspreadable state.

SERVICE: Service here could use some serious improvement. I don’t like it when you order something directly off the menu, and the people behind the counter act like it’s an imposition, like the menu was just a nice suggestion. When my wife ordered the pancakes, she tried ordering a side of fried eggs (you need to try the eggs to judge a breakfast place!), and the server kept telling her that ordering the eggs and the English muffin was the same as ordering one of their sandwiches, which my wife didn’t want. It took several attempts at explaining it – the servers clearly weren’t listening – before my wife gave up and told them to forget it. The actual service of the food involved them calling out the dish – not your name, even though they took it – from the counter and handing it to you over the register. There’s very little counter space dedicated to the point of sale. This makes for awkward transactions, when they’re trying to hand you food in the same space that other customers are ordering and paying. Not the best use of their space.

OVERALL: Given the creativity of the dishes, Sarabeth’s clearly has a lot going for it, and judging by their expanding locations, they have a big following. The food is tasty and fun – these were some great waffles and pancakes – but the gruff service and plastic tableware left a lot to be desired. Perhaps it’s worth checking out another location!

OTHER LINKS:

Sarabeth's Bakery on Urbanspoon

Video: Fox28 visit to Skillet

Finally got this off the DVR and edited! These are the video segments of my visit to Skillet with Johnny DiLoretto of Fox28’s Good Day Columbus. The quality is decent, and it shows me chatting with Johnny, plus Kevin and Patrick Caskey of Skillet talking about what they do best!

Also, check out this video visit with Johnny at Wild Goose Creative, an arts company of which I’m a co-founder. Johnny stopped by Wild Goose shortly before our New Year’s Festival – the breakfast blog got a few shout-outs during his time there!

Free Grand Slam’s at Denny’s tomorrow!


I don’t normally hawk Denny’s breakfast – I’m always slow to review chains – but I just have to mention free breakfast whenever I hear of it. Tomorrow – Tuesday, February 9 – Denny’s is offering free Grand Slams from 6 am to 2 pm. I hear that last year most Denny’s had lines out the door waiting for these. (FYI Columbus readers: there are NO Denny’s in Columbus, Ohio.)

http://www.hulu.com/edp/http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ehulu%2Ecom%2F/embed/37XnCTdr7tQ8wQWRLrqTLg

[Ad is now offline.]

Denny’s took the opportunity to advertise these free breakfasts to ten billion Americans through Super Bowl ads like the ones above. Incidentally, the ad posted here features a graduate from my alma mater, Calvin College. Represent!

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