Fans of the blog know that I love Starliner Diner, and I’m looking for any excuse to get back there. So I took Karina Nova there for our latest Breakfast With Nick spot on 10TV! You can watch the clip here.
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In case I haven’t said it before, El Arepazo downtown is one of my favorite restaurants in town. It’s one of those restaurants that I crave all. the. time. and could visit any. day. of. the. week. The challenge is that the restaurant’s hours and location best suit everyone who works downtown. For those of us who don’t live or work there, or in Gahanna by their second restaurant Arepazo Tapas & Wine, it was a blessing when they launched the Yerba Buena food truck a couple years ago in Clintonville. Unfortunately, a very vocal minority objected to the truck’s presence along High Street, so they moved operations to Indianola just south of Morse Road, and while they did well they didn’t last long. So when we first glimpsed the beautifully decorated truck taking up its spot in the dentist’s office parking lot a couple weeks ago, we were elated. Since that opening, we’ve returned a couple times; the location is dangerously poised in between our home and Mrs. Bfast w/Nick’s work, so it’s very easy to justify stopping here for dinner. As if the food alone wasn’t justification enough…
Like the two brick-and-mortar restaurants, Yerba Buena focuses on Latin American cuisine, with dishes like the Peruvian specialty patacon or Venezuelan arepas. If you’ve somehow mistaken El Arepazo or Yerba Buena for a run-of-the-mill Mexican restaurant, then think again. These restaurants focus on colorful, fresh ingredients in immensely flavorful combinations.
One of their signatures is the patacon: a bed of fried plantains are covered with lettuce, cheese, avocado, banana peppers, pico de gallo, and your choice of meat or veggies. My preference is for the shredded chicken.
Another signature is the arepa, a Venezualan specialty that’s a small fried corn cake split in half and filled with lettuce, cheese, avocado, pico, and meat or veggies. It’s a perfect little hand-held meal.
The meals are flavorful enough as it is, but the whole experience is magnified by the cilantro sauce. You get little cups of it with your meal – and you can request more – while they sell larger bottles at the restaurants. The sauce has a rich, clean quality, made from cilantro, avocado, and a blend of spices. They have mild and spicy versions. Both are excellent, but I always go for the spicy. This sauce is so good that, after you pour it out on your food, you’ll find yourself licking out the cup to get every last drop.
UPDATE: de-NOVO now only serves weekend brunch.
de-NOVO bistro & bar (Facebook)
201 S. High St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43215
Open Mon-Thurs, 10:30a-11p; Fri, 10:30a-11p; Sat, 9a-11p; Sun, 9a-10p (brunch served Sat & Sun, 9a-3p)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Date of Visit: Monday, July 23, 2012 at 9:00 a.m.
IMPRESSIONS: On the surface, de-NOVO seems like a snappy, cluttered, downtown, after-hours hangout. And maybe it really is those things. After all, it sports a lavishly decorated bar, lots of cab tables with little candles, racks of wine bottles, and huge chandeliers. But would you be surprised to learn that they also serve a wonderful breakfast… starting at 7 a.m… on weekdays? I’ll admit that I was.
Mrs. Breakfast With Nick and I found ourselves downtown on a Monday morning – a Monday, for goodness’ sake – and made our way to de-NOVO’s slim storefront on High Street, overlooking the Columbus Commons.
de-NOVO’s interior, much like their website, can be best described as eclectic. Tall chandeliers, antlers, branches, modern seating, a backlit glass bar, two TVs, shelves full of stuff… this place has got everything! It certainly gives you something to look at, but it’s hard to see a real through-line to the design.
But big lighting with tree branches seems to be a motif.
We did love the local artwork on the walls. Large scale, very colorful. Fitting for the design aesthetic.
FOOD: It was early, and it was Monday, so first: coffee. Two big mugs, plus a box of the sweet stuff, plus a cup of chilled creamer. Our server said they serve one of Seattle’s Best’s blends. It was very good, but I’d love to see a local brew there, especially something from Cafe Brioso or One Line Coffee nearby.
One way of dealing with Mondays is to drink a Bloody Mary. We didn’t have a lot on the docket for the day, so we decided to try one. It was light and spicy. I’ve come to appreciate that a good Bloody Mary isn’t supposed to be thick and heavy like a glass of V8, but instead is a crispy and refreshing beverage, very appropriate for starting your day, whether it’s at 7am or 2pm.
My wife ordered the truffle mushroom omelet, with comes with shitake mushrooms, shallots, truffle oil, and boursin cheese. The eggs were done just right, and the whole omelet just came together very well. Overall lighter flavoring, but the mushrooms really shone through. I’ll be honest: I’m not usually an omelet fan (too many bad omelets will do that to you), but this one I could really get behind. Good creamy texture from the boursin as well.
I went with the chorizo gravy and biscuits. It’s a very flavorful meal. The chorizo gravy is rich, meaty, and a bit smoky, with just the right amount of bite to it. The biscuits themselves are dense but still very moist. It’s a very filling dish, but I really enjoyed every bite of it. I like that they did something interesting with biscuits and gravy, too. Both meals came with a side of de-NOVO’s griddle browns, which are essentially home fries. But they were nice and crispy on the outside without being dry, and were served with homemade ketchup. It’s a bit on the sweet side, and a little tangy, but a great complement to the browns. I just wanted to keep eating them and eating them.
SERVICE: Because we were the only people in the restaurant, we naturally got very personal, attentive service. Our server, who was also the host, kept the coffee refilled and answered our questions, plus our food came out quickly. I’m telling you, if you want a nice, quiet breakfast downtown, this might be your place.
OVERALL: I can’t speak to their lunch, dinner, and bar service, but in terms of breakfast there’s a lot to recommend de-NOVO. The menu offers the very basics (you could just get some eggs and bacon, if you want), but it gives you more creative options, too, like creme brulee French toast, crepes, a crab cake benedict. The decor is a little all-over-the-place, but it’s better than bland cream colors. And if Columbus has another interesting spot for the breakfast – especially downtown – I’m all for it!
Side note: I do think they need a better website. Too much flash, difficult to navigate.
This is a little bonus post to go along with my recent one about Auddino’s Bakery. When we visited the bakery, Mr. Auddino offered to take us on a tour around the facility. The pictures I took mostly show rack upon rock of bread, so I thought I’d save them for a separate post.
The back rooms contain shelf after shelf of fresh-baked bread. You can imagine the smell.
He kept taking us into rooms further and further back. Just when I thought we’d hit the back of the facility, he’d squeeze us through another doorway to find another half-dozen people hard at work.
It’s an incredible amount of baked goods they produce.
Much of this baked in one of several large ovens.
One of the more impressive machines makes the rolls, hundreds and probably thousands of them. We watched the dough balls move along all the levels of the conveyor belt.
And out one end.
Where they’re slid into trays for further proofing. The conveyor belt quickly retracts, dropping the dough right into their slots. Someone (just to the right of the picture) then pushes the tray out of the way with a stick, making room for the next one.
We also saw the upstairs of the facility, where they make the donuts. But because production was done for the day, I didn’t take any pictures. But this is at least a taste of what we saw that day!
Auddino’s Bakery (Facebook)
1490 Clara Ave. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43211
Open Mon-Fri, 6:30a-4p; Sat, 6:30a-3p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Date of Visit: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 10:15 a.m.
IMPRESSIONS: Ah, Auddino’s. Chances are, you’ve eaten some of their product, whether you know it or not. This Italian bakery provides bread, rolls, pizza dough, and more for many restaurants in and around Columbus. You’ve most likely seen their white vans with the red, white, and green logo about town. But don’t just consider them a wholesaler; they’re so much more than that.
ATMOSPHERE: Perhaps you’ve driven by Auddino’s facility on accident, not realizing that it’s more than just a wholesale production facility. It’d be easy to assume that, given the big brick walls, the multiple loading doors for trucks, and the general location down a narrow side street just off the interstate, tucked in amongst warehouses and hotels near the Ohio Expo Center.
But Auddino’s is in fact the best of both worlds. They’re a big wholesale operation, but they’ve retained the mom-and-pop feel of a small neighborhood bakery. Enter the front doors and you’re faced with shelves of breads, rolls, pasta, sauces, and most importantly: donuts, croissants, and cookies.
FOOD: The real star of Auddino’s Bakery are their donuts. They’ve got a huge variety: cream-filled longjohns, glazed cake donuts, frosted crescents, jelly-filled, sticks, fritters. I didn’t taste anything that I didn’t like, so I give it all a strong recommendation. But pictures will speak more than words in this case, so let me just show you.
One of their unique contributions to Columbus donut culture is the glazed croissants (lovingly termed “cronuts” by CMH Gourmand). It combines the wonderful flaky texture of a croissant with the light, sugary coating of a glazed donut. Simply stellar.
Leave the gun…
I enjoy bringing home a mix of things. We leaned toward the cake donuts, plus one of the smaller croissants. (The croissants come in large and small sizes.)
Another one of our favorites are the ever-elusive lobster tails. These are crispy, flaky pastries filled with a thick, sweet custard and dusted with powdered sugar. We’ve visited multiple times and always missed them, until this one, glorious visit. Each bite involves crunching through the pastry to get through that rich custard.
SERVICE: The Auddino family is very kind and welcoming. It doesn’t take long before you feel like a part of the family. You’ll find the parents, their kids, and grandkids there. During one recent visit, my son hung out with one of their grandkids, watching cartoons while I chatted and took pictures.
OVERALL: It’s dangerous that Auddino’s is so close and easy to access from my house, because I can see justifying a quick trip there just about any weekday morning. For those of you on the west side who don’t have easy access to the deliciousness that is Auddino’s: fear not. The Auddino family told me that they plan to open a cafe in Hilliard in the spring of 2012. Stay tuned!
Inspired by this recipe we found on Pinterest (yes, I joined), we set out the crock pot last night to make some overnight steel cut oatmeal. It never occurred to me to make breakfast overnight, even though we’d made plenty of pulled pork in the crock pot.
The recipe is fairly simple: steel cut oats, butter, milk, cinnamon, brown sugar, apples, and salt (we skipped the flax seed). Pour together in the crockpot, stir, and leave it cooking on low overnight.
Steel cut oats are simply whole oats that are roughly chopped. This makes them ideal for an overnight recipe, because they take longer to cook. Instant oats would turn completely to mush.
For an incurable morning person like me (one who refills the kettle for coffee the afternoon before), this recipe appealed to the excitement of waking up with a hot breakfast ready to go.
We upped the butter and sugar quantities in the recipe, and I think that led to some excessive caramelization around the edges. Next time, we’ll try the suggested amounts. That said, this made a delicious and filling breakfast. Not too sweet, wonderful texture from the oats. I’m already looking for a morning to try it again. Great for Saturday mornings, or even to have a hot breakfast ready to start your Monday.
Happy Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday/Pączki Day! When I saw on Facebook this morning that Mr. Johnny DiLoretto was in the neighborhood at Babushka’s Kitchen, I decided to grab my three-year-old Will and go visit. Johnny was there showing off their homemade pączki.
Will and I hung out with Johnny, Adam, and Babushka owners Jacky and Dennis. We got to watch them tape a couple segments and busy themselves filling orders.
Babushka’s sold out of their pączki quickly. Dennis said he plans to triple their production next year, to roughly 75 dozen. The restaurant was barely a week old by this time last year, so this is their first time producing the delicious pastry for the occasion.
Orders upon orders upon orders. For those who don’t know, pączki is a traditional Polish pastry, usually made just before Ash Wednesday as a way to use up all of that gluttonous butter, lard, sugar (read: delicious) ingredients that you might give up for Lent. They’re essentially big, round donuts, filled with fruits, jams, or creams, and dusted with powdered sugar. In fitting with Fat Tuesday, Polish Americans adopted the traditional of eating pączki on the day before Ash Wednesday, although in Europe they usually celebrate on the previous Thursday.
We sampled two different fillings. One had a raspberry fruit, the other a lightly sweet prune filling (on the left).
It was hard work having to eat them. Really tough. But I was glad to take a hit for the team.
Here’s the close-up of the prune filling. I really liked the texture. It was sweet without being cloying, and I preferred it over the raspberry. I think a visit to Babushka’s every Pączki Day should become a new tradition!