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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Photos: Dinin’ Hall preview

Last Friday I took the boys to visit the preview opening of Dinin’ Hall, a new food pod (and Columbus’ first!) that officially opened today next to the 400 W Rich arts space in Franklinton.

The Dinin’ Hall space is the old loading dock of the 400 W Rich warehouse. (The arts space itself is worth exploration, too. My 3.5-year-old dubbed it “very cool.”)

The overall concept is simple: they offer a regular and reliable place to eat with a rotating line-up of food carts and trucks. You place your order at the trucks and they give you a receipt and a number, which you take inside.

The indoor area includes tables for seating.

You pay for your food at counter, where they offer additional drinks, chips, and cookies. Eventually they’ll have shelves with other goods and gifts (including a certain breakfast guidebook!).

There’s seating for about 60 people. Big, bright windows on one wall. Through the doorway in the upper left is a hallway to restrooms. I’m told they might open the garage doors in the spring/summer.

The consolidated payment center allows you to easily buy multiple things from different trucks.

They’ve already filled up the May calendar. You could eat lunch here five days a week and get a different line-up every day.

On our visit, we tried a club sandwich from the Spinelli’s Deli cart…

…plus some sweet potato fries from Nicolasa’s.

I didn’t fully appreciate the food pod’s location until we drove away. You can find it just over the Main Street Bridge from downtown, a fairly easy walk and even easier drive. I’m hoping that more people discover the spot this way.

Dinin’ Hall is located at 400 West Rich St (map it!), and is open Monday through Friday,11a-2p.

To follow their schedules and special events, visit:
dininhall.com
facebook.com/dininhall
@dininhall

On Eggs and Toast

At times it’s easy to make things too complicated. This goes for life in general and food in particular. We seek the newest, the most innovative, the most complex. Which isn’t bad, necessarily, but we often get caught up in seeking what we don’t have or don’t know, when instead we could focus on something simpler, or something we already have.

One of the things I really like about breakfast is its simplicity. Which makes writing about it an uphill battle, at times: it’s not as sexy as cocktails or mobile food or the newest lunch spot downtown. But the simplicity of breakfast often forces you to focus on other things, like the company you’re with, or the skill of cooking a simple dish very, very well. Over the years, I’ve been most impressed when a cook can make the perfect scrambled eggs (a little wet and undercooked) or can grill up potatoes just right (crispy edges, soft middle, lots of salt and pepper). And I’ve most appreciated those times when I get to spend time over a meal with people that matter most to me.

For Lent this year, we gave up sweets in our household. We’ve stuck to it mostly (darn you, Girl Scout Cookies!), but for me it’s really translated into fore-going multiple visits to Buckeye Donuts per week. Still, it’s an opportunity to celebrate and enjoy some of the simple meals we can make together. One of our favorites, for both breakfast and dinner, is scrambled eggs on toast. It’s a simple as can be: toast some bread and butter it. Scramble some eggs. Add salt and pepper, cheese if you like. Enjoy. It’s always one of my go-to meals: I love soft eggs on a crispy toast. Buttery and salty all together. It nearly brought tears to my eyes the day my oldest son first piled scrambled eggs on toast just like his father.

Whatever your beliefs, I encourage you to gravitate toward uncomplicated things right now. Starting with your morning meal. What are the simple breakfasts you enjoy?

Alfalfa | Lexington, KY

Alfalfa (Facebook / @AlfalfaDining)
141 E. Main St. (map it!)
Lexington, KY 40507
(859) 253-0014
Open Mon-Fri, 11a-2p, Sat & Sun 9a-2p; also Wed-Sat, 5:30-9p (bfast specials served w/lunch; brunch served Sat & Sun)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/Y/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Sunday, March 11, 2012 at 9:30 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: Having been to Alfalfa once before for dinner, we’ve been excited to return for breakfast on a recent trip to Lexington, KY. Alfalfa is my kind of place: urban setting, colorful decor mixed with old building elements like exposed brick, eclectic menu catering to a variety of tastes. And it’s right in the heart of beautiful downtown Lexington.

ATMOSPHERE: We met with some friends on a fairly busy Sunday morning, but they had no trouble fitting in our group of nine. The space is in a rough U-shape, curved around a thin wall that clearly houses a stairway going up to the next floor. The entryway is thin, but there are a few tables grouped toward the front. The center of the space has a long bar and serving area, and then the bulk of the seating curves around down the right side. Near the host stand, a set of doors opens into the lobby of the Downtown Arts Center, with a theatre and galleries. How handy to have the two connected!

There’s lots of bright, natural light from the front windows. Plenty of seating. Artwork on the brick walls. Very comfortable.

FOOD: The food is a big hit, too. Again, something for everyone. First, the breakfast burrito with a side of cheesy grits (you’re in Kentucky – get the grits, of course!)

The specialty of the house is the buttermilk blueberry buckwheat pancakes. Served with real maple syrup. Above is a smaller portion that comes as a “side” with a larger meal.

This is the typical plate-sized portion of the blueberry buckwheat pancake. It’s one of the better pancakes I’ve had in recent memory. The buckwheat keeps it from being too sweet, which offsets the tart blueberries and the maple syrup.

And the eggs benedict arnold: an eggs benedict on wheat toast with city ham (as opposed to country ham, I’m guessing?) and avocado slices. Topped with tomatoes. Overall, a very tasty benedict. Not the best I’ve had, but it makes you realize that avocados deserve to be in nearly every dish, especially benedicts.

SERVICE: Our one dedicated server did a fine job. Even on a busy morning, with a fairly big group, he handled all the details of drinks and orders very well, and all with a smile. I’ve been to some places similar to Alfalfa where customers can get the impression that the servers are a little “snooty” or “hipster-ish,” but that was certainly not the case here.

OVERALL: Alfalfa is a very worthy stop on a Lexington breakfast tour. In fact, I’d make it one of my top one or two stops, along with Doodle’s. The atmosphere and restaurant is colorful and well-connected to the surrounding neighborhood. The menu offers a wide enough variety to please everyone, including some creative vegan options. And it’s easy to get behind their focus on using local eggs and produce. (Columbus readers: if you’re in Lexington and nostalgic for Northstar Cafe, hit up Alfalfa.)

OTHER LINKS:

Alfalfa on Urbanspoon

Photos: North Market Coffee Roast

In case you weren’t one of the 1500 people who descended on the North Market this past weekend, I snapped some pictures of their first (hopefully of many) Coffee Roast. The Coffee Roast was designed to feature over a dozen Columbus roasters (plus two Ohio dairies). Many people have been championing the excellence of Columbus coffee culture, and this event went a long ways towards exposing our incredible roasters, brewers, and baristas to new audiences.

The excitement of the roasters and brewers was palpable. Every single table was run by people passionate about what they’re doing. They spoke with customers. They described flavor profiles. They demonstrated brewing techniques. They advocated. I ran into J.J. from Cafe Brioso, and when I asked him how he was doing, he said he was right in the middle of what he always wanted to do.

The event took place on the upper floor of the Market. In the main event area, a series of speakers discussed and demonstrated coffee brewing techniques, origins, and roasting. A handful of roasters were situated there, too, along with the home roasting competition. Pictured here is head roaster Jeff Davis from Brioso speaking.

The rest of the roasters were spread out around the upper floor. There were some long lines, but that’s to be expected with an event like this. Especially the first time around.

Each roaster had a table. All of them sampled their coffee, mostly hot, some iced. Some were selling whole beans as well. Here’s Backroom Coffee Roasters tucked into a corner.

The joy, of course, was getting to sample so many different brews. This is the brew bar from Stauf’s.

Most of them were serving pour-over coffee. This generally meant smaller batches of coffee (and slower lines), but it also meant that guests got to taste coffee properly. This sample above is from the Bexley Coffee Shop.

Here’s the crew from Brioso sampling both a Columbian and an Ethiopian blend.

They kept the coffee a-flowing.

Of course, milk goes well with coffee. And if we’re talking milk in Ohio, of course you’d expect Snowville Creamery’s Warren Taylor to be there. He was preaching the Snowville gospel.

Jason Valentine from Thunderkiss Coffee was there, too, serving up the good stuff and selling small batches of his coffee. His story is a great example of the strength of our coffee scene. In addition to our established coffee shops, small roasters are working hard, many of them without storefronts to sell their beans, and yet they are succeeding admirably.

And if you’ve tasted their coffee, you know why.

Overall, this event amounted to more than a hill of beans (sorry, had to). The crowds were big, but that just showed that Columbus loves its coffee and is willing to get to know it better. I hope that the festival was successful for all of the roasters and brewers, and that they see a rise (not just a spike) in sales from it. And I know for sure I’m looking forward to next year’s event, too!

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