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Photos: Brunch at The Torpedo Room

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One of the latest Columbus Food League arrivals, The Torpedo Room, launched a limited brunch menu this past Sunday in conjunction with a monthly event of brunch + a classic movie at the Gateway Film Center. I took my five-year-old to go check out the brunch (although I don’t think he’s quite ready for Goldfinger). The Torpedo Room is located on the main floor of the GFC; you’ll see the signs just to the left of the concession stand.

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As you might expect, the single-room restaurant uses a heavy nautical theme, with round portholes, heavy draped curtains, and a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea feel.

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There’s a good amount of seating, and the restaurant includes a full bar. It’s a cozy and quiet spot.

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The current brunch menu (it may change) features seven items, lots of sides, plus drinks (including the bar). There’s a heavy southwestern theme, with burritos, enchiladas, and huevos rancheros taking the lead. Like every CFL restaurant, you can rely on solid vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options.

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I took the opportunity to finally try a Rambling House ginger beer. Rambling House produces their own natural sodas out of a small space in southern Clintonville (where they host a LOT of live music), and their sodas are showing up on tap around town. The ginger beer is bright, fizzy, and a delightful balance between sweet and a nice gingery pucker. The last few gulps were especially strong with the ginger. You could make some great cocktails out of this.

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I chose the egg and cheese enchiladas, because you don’t see many breakfast enchiladas out there. The two enchiladas are filled with eggs and cheese, and topped heavily with a spicy verde salsa; I added the optional chorizo, because… well, chorizo. They’re served with a small plate of hash browns.

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Will asked for the breakfast burrito, a good-sized one filled with eggs, cheese, beans, sausage, and salsa, plus a side of potatoes.

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It was as filling and tasty as you would expect from a breakfast burrito.

Overall, it’s a solid brunch that’s just getting started. Expect the menu to change and hopefully regular hours to be established.

If you want to visit:
The Torpedo Room
1550 N. High St. (inside the Gateway Film Center)
Columbus, OH 43201
(614) 247-4433

Currently brunch is just served with this event. Upcoming movie brunches (cost is $15 for both your meal and the movie ticket) include:
April 6th: Breathless
May 4th: Annie Hall

UPDATED: Regular brunch hours are Sat & Sun, 11a-2p; Cinema Classic brunches start at 12p, movie is at 2.

The Torpedo Room on Urbanspoon

Sunflower Chinese Restaurant & Lounge | Dublin, OH

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Sunflower Chinese Restaurant & Lounge (Facebook)
7370 Sawmill Rd. (map it!)
Dublin, OH 43235
(614) 764-7888
Open Mon-Thurs, 11:30a-11p; Fri, 11:30a-12a; Sat, 11a-12a; Sun, 11a-11p
(smaller dim sum menu served daily; full dim sum served Sat & Sun, 11a-3p)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N

Visited: Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 11:00 a.m.

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Oh, it’s been too long since we’ve been to dim sum at Sunflower Chinese Restaurant & Lounge. Sadly, there aren’t many places for dim sum around Columbus now (the nearby Lee Garden closed a couple years ago). While there are a plethora of Chinese restaurants around town (some the Americanized, some very authentic), there aren’t many that serve authentic dim sum.

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Quick background, in case you’re not familiar with dim sum. Dim sum is essentially Chinese brunch. It’s a late morning/early afternoon meal that’s typically eaten as a group. The meal consists of tea and mostly small plates meant to be shared.

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In the true dim sum experience, the small plates are served tableside from carts. Different servers wheel their carts from table to table, allowing you to select plates that interest you. A typical dish is already divided into pieces for easy sharing.

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The carts come quickly at first, so your table will fill up in no time. I remember the first time we had true dim sum, at a place called Jing Fong in New York City. The carts came at us so fast that we barely had time to react. The experience is a little more subdued at Sunflower, and the servers are all very polite, so don’t feel bad if you decline a plate. And don’t hesitate to ask what’s what.

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We started with a lot of dumplings, some steamed and some fried.

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The dumplings are loaded with things like shrimp, pork, and veggies.

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They’re steamed in metal or wood containers that stack on the carts, and the servers deposit them with tongs.

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There are also plates with stir fries of rice noodles and veggies. Our boys loved these.

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This dumpling (I don’t know what it was called) had a delicate and flaky exterior.

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I also love these rice noodles, filled with shrimp and doused with a sweet soy sauce.

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These dumplings were similar, filled with shrimp.

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These fluffy steamed pork buns were a hit, too, with a big, pillowy breading surrounding sweet and rich pork.

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One dish includes chicken, rice, veggies, and a quail egg steamed in a lotus leaf.

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Here’s the interior of the lotus leaf, complete with quail egg.

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There’s a cart with drinks and desserts, too, so you can supplement your tea with cold bubble tea and finish off the meal by indulging your sweet tooth.

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At the beginning of your meal, you’re given a card listing the general categories of the dishes. As you select plates from the cart, the server will mark the appropriate line with a stamp or initials. Then at the end of your meal, you take the card up to the cashier and they add everything up.

The dim sum experience at Sunflower is delightful, especially if you go with a large group and enjoy the company while sampling dishes. We were pretty conservative with our choices (because this was a first experience for our boys), but there are more adventurous plates, too, like fried chicken feet.

Is Sunflower the best Chinese restaurant in the city? Probably not. Is it one of the only restaurants serving dim sum? Yes. And a very fine meal it is.

Sunflower Chinese Restaurant & Lounge on Urbanspoon

Grandview Grind | Columbus, OH

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Grandview Grind (Facebook / @GrandviewGrind)
1423-A Grandview Ave. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43212
(614) 485-9005
Open Mon-Wed, 6a-8p; Thurs-Sat, 6a-10p
Accepts cash & credit/debit

Visited: Sunday, January 12, 2014 at 12:30pm

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Columbus has no shortage of coffee roasters and coffee shops, and the closer you get to Ohio State, the more you’ll find coffee shops that are perfect for studying or just hanging out. Shops like these are valuable community hubs, especially in the winter. They’re a warm place to gather for studiers, freelancers, book clubs, or the casual newspaper reader. Grandview has no shortage of these shops, including the relatively new Grandview Grind.

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Grandview Grind is located in the Grandview Center, a little plaza with shops and restaurants surrounding a small parking lot. GG is tucked in the northwest corner of the plaza, next to Local Cantina. It was just announced that the Panera which sits on front corner of the plaza will move to the Grandview Yard and be replaced by a new Cameron Mitchell steakhouse. Panera’s exit will certainly benefit Grandview Grind.

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The coffee shop is a sizable space – bigger than it looks from the outside – with a curved counter in one corner and the requisite number of tables, chairs, stools, and comfy seats. It’s bright and tall and open, while still feeling pretty cozy. In one corner are shelves stocked with local gifts.

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The coffee menu is sizable, and offers the range you would expect: hot and cold coffee, lattes, espresso, specialty drinks, smoothies.

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They don’t prep food on premises, but plenty of local treats from places like Patisserie Lallier are available.

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Beans (available for bulk purchase) come from around Columbus – Thunderkiss, Brioso, Backroom, Luck Bros, Boston Stoker – with the exception of Denver-based Novo.

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Mrs. Bfast w/Nick and I were in the mood for something simple, so I ordered a shot of espresso and a cubano. Both were good, although just a tad sour.

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If tea is more of your thing, Grandview Grind still has you covered.

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Lots of local love on the door. Grandview Grind was busy when we stopped in, a sure sign that it serves that all important need of a community space. They seem to be doing something right, and here’s hoping that success continues!

Dan the Baker | Columbus, OH

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Dan the Baker (Facebook / @thebakerdan)
1028 Ridge St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 928-9035
Open Mon & Tues, 9a-5p; Wed, Fri, & Sat, 9a-4p
Accepts cash & credit/debit

Visited: Friday, January 10, 2014 at 9:00 a.m.

Daniel Riesenberger, aka Dan the Baker, has long been selling his breads, croissants, and pastries at farmer’s markets around town. I first encountered his goods at a workshop at Wild Goose Creative‘s Too Many Cooksa couple years ago, where he taught everyone how to roll sourdough croissants. We’ve been following Dan’s work ever since then, finding him at the Clintonville and the Worthington farmer’s markets. I also keep seeing his name pop up on restaurant menus, as his breads and pastries are turned into sandwiches and desserts.

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Well, finally Dan and his team have opened up a small retail space attached to their production kitchen in Grandview. The space is a little hard to find, down an odd side street off Dublin Road (just east of the Grandview Avenue intersection), but it’s a bright, clean little space with a few tables, decorated in blues with light wood accents.

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The space includes a small counter and a few shelves. The main shelf behind the counter shows off Dan’s picturesque breads. Serious, follow him on Instagram to get a daily dose of his breads. We ended up picking a loaf of sunflower flax seed bread (bottom center) which was simply delicious. He preferences local and organic ingredients in his bread. The price point is a little higher than grocery store bread, but the flavors, textures, and overall quality are hard to beat.

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He also sells smaller pastries, croissants, and scones.

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Plus cookies, shortbreads, and “tiles.”

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That day there were some fresh and crisp apple galettes.

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Dan also offers full coffee and tea service, with a variety of loose leaf teas.

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He also serves espresso, lattes, macchiatos, cappucinos, V60 pour overs, and more, using beans from Chicago’s Intelligentsia Coffee and Columbus’ Cafe Brioso.

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I had a smooth and creamy shot of espresso to go with the galette.

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The cafe space has a window into the pastry kitchen. It was dormant when we visited, but I can imagine it’d be some fun watching while enjoying coffee and a snack.

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Daniel took us through their production kitchen, too. The space used to be owned by The French Loaf, so when Daniel took it over, it was mostly ready for production. He added some equipment, including a new oven, but it was good to go as a bakery!

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We saw delicious savory croissants.

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And cheddar bacon scones.

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Around the kitchen you can see the remnants of Daniel’s small start, like labeled equipment from his time baking out of the Hills Market’s kitchen.

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As expected, they were busy. We found Colin scoring loaves of sourdough bread and loading them into the oven.

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Daniel and his crew are still getting started with the shop, but they’re already doing quite a bit with it. They’re open most days of the week, and look for an official grand opening soon. You can stop in to grab a snack, or hang out with a pastry and some coffee. It’s a quiet little spot, perfect for some reading, studying, or conversation with friends!

Dan the Baker on Urbanspoon

Photos: Columbus Brew Adventures Distillery Tour – Part 2

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This post continues from Part 1 of my post on Columbus Brew Adventures‘ distillery tour. Our third stop on the tour took us to Grandview to Watershed Distillery. We gathered in their front room, where Greg gave us an overview of the business and shared their particular take on distilling.

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One of Watershed’s signatures is their Four Peel Gin.

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Greg passed around bottles of the key aromatics added to the Four Peel, letting us guess what was what. The Four Peel includes orange, grapefruit, lemon, and lime peel (sorry, I spoiled it for you).

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He then took us back into the production space, showing us everything from the stills to the bottling and labeling machines, to their storage, barrels, and even the new milling room.

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A batch of gin was boiling away, so Greg opened the hatch to let us sniff. It was like sweet, floral mulling spices. Afterward, Greg took us back to the front room to sample the gin, the barrel-aged gin, and their bourbon.

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From there, it was time to hit up our last stop: Till Dynamic Fare. At Till we were treated to a cocktail and some food. The bartender Branden created a special cocktail that day using Watershed gin.

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I appreciated getting to sample the gin previously, and then see it at work in a cocktail. I’m no expert on cocktails, but I enjoyed this one, and that seemed to be the consensus around the table.

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Chef Magdiale Wolmark prepared a special spaetzle to complement our cocktail, with bacon, spinach, goat cheese, and an egg. We devoured it. The meal and cocktail was a nice, quiet way to wind down the tour and talk about what we had seen that night. Jim then took us back to Middle West, and we departed from there.

I’ve both taken and led Brew Adventures’ downtown brewery tour already; my knowledge lies more in the beer realm, but I learned a lot on this tour. It gave me an even greater appreciation for what these distillers and mead makers do. Like many elements of the Columbus culinary scene (meat, spices, coffee, beer, etc.), these businesses are made up of individuals who are passionate about and proud of what they do, and we got a glimpse of it.

I highly recommend the Distillery Tour, if you get the chance. The tour runs alternating Thursdays; you can get more information here.

Photos: Columbus Brew Adventures Distillery Tour – Part 1

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Last week I took part in another one of Columbus Brew Adventures‘ offerings: the distillery tour. The tour makes four stops total, visiting a couple distilleries, a meadery, and a restaurant that features their work in a cocktail. It started very appropriately at Middle West Spirits in Short North; Middle West is Ohio’s first micro-distillery. Jim got the tour going with an overview, then he turned things over to Josh, who took us around the space, talked about MWS’s mission and style, then had us sample a couple of their spirits.

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Josh spread out the sampling. He began by having us compare a sip of Grey Goose vodka to Middle West’s signature OYO vodka. This helped frame Middle West’s mission to “build spirits around a palate,” as Josh said. Meaning that their vodka is not meant to be the plain, tasteless, clear spirit like most vodkas. Instead, it’s built to have a flavor, which is pulls from its Ohio wheat base.

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He also had us sample the honey vanilla bean vodka, which is one of my favorite offerings from Middle West, and then he led us around the distilling operation. It’s a small but mighty space. The walls are lined with barrels of aging spirits, alongside vinegars from Tavern Vinegar Co., a collaboration between Middle West and Cleveland chef Jonathon Sawyer.

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We were fortunate to see some of the distilling in progress. Here’s 190 vodka coming off the still.

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Josh finished the tour by sharing a sample of their deliciously smooth bourbon. The three samples provide a nice contrast: the wheat-based vodka, the flavored vanilla bean, and the aged bourbon.

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We walked next door to our second stop: Brothers Drake Meadery. Brothers Drake has been preaching the mead gospel around Columbus, and their bar has become a favorite spot to enjoy some unique drinks, live music, and some Japanese food truck delicacies. We were led through the small production area by Justin, one of the assistant mead makers.

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Justin even poured a glass of some unfiltered mead in-progress; it has a foamy and sweet taste.

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It’s easy to think of mead as just an overly sweet dessert wine, but Brothers Drake demonstrates the variety of meads available. We sampled their Wild Ohio and Bergamot Blue meads. The Wild Ohio is a semi-dry mead, while the Bergamot Blue is spiced with scarlet bee balm and blueberries from Ohio.

That’s the beginning of the tour; read on for Part 2!

Photos: Roasting with Thunderkiss Coffee

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Last week I spent the evening with Jason Valentine of Thunkerkiss Coffee while he roasted coffee. Jason is a small batch coffee roaster here in Columbus; he roasts out of his garage and distributes his beans to area vendors and restaurants. Even if you don’t know his stuff directly, chances are you’ve had it or seen it around Columbus.

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I’ve taken a number of workshops on coffee and coffee roasting, attended tastings, etc., but I’ve never had the chance to just sit and ask endless questions about the roasting process. We began in Jason’s basement, where he stores bags of green coffee beans. He roasts 1-2 nights per week. Before roasting, he weighs and sorts the beans into labeled containers, all based on a spreadsheet listing the customer, the roast(s) they’ve requested, and how they are to be delivered (6 oz bags, 12 oz bags, etc.). Some vendors brew his coffee for their restaurants, some retail bags of whole beans, and some do both.

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Jason roasts single origin coffees, meaning they come from one specific place, although he does make some of his own blends, such as the espresso blend. The green beans can be stored for a long time; they are processed out of cherries from the coffee plant. The cherries have been pulped so we’re left with just the internal bean, and sometimes the mucilage, a thin layer surrounding the bean itself. Some Ethiopian beans, for instance, are dried out before de-pulping, which lets the mucilage harden around the bean, adding a certain flavor when roasting. Even before these beans are roasted, you can identify different characteristics just by sticking your nose in the bag.

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Roasting takes some time, so we started with a shot of espresso made from his espresso blend.

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Jason has been roasting for a couple years now. He keeps detailed notes of the timing and temperature from each roast.

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All of the essential supplies.

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As the roaster is heating up, the green beans are placed in a hopper on top.

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Jason roasts on a Diedrich infrared roaster. This type of roaster is compact, more energy efficient, and it uses a radiating heat to roast the beans, rather than a direct flame on the drum.

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The entire roasting process takes roughly 20 minutes, depending on the bean, the amount you’re roasting, and the type of roast you’re aiming for. The real factors of roasting include time, temperature, and air flow. The final roast depends on the manipulation of these three elements. While certain beans innately contain different flavor and aroma profiles (some are naturally earthlier, some brighter and fruitier), they can be roasted at different temperatures and for different times to highlight these characteristics.

The first stage of roasting is called the drying out phase. It lasts approximately 4-5 minutes, and heats the beans to the point where the water in them evaporates. Even at this stage, Jason can control how much air is flowing around the beans. Adding more at this point results in a brighter, more acidic roast.

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This tool allows Jason to check samples of the beans during roasting. He can examine the color and aroma.

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At this point the beans are entering the second phase: the maillard phase, also known as the “cinnamon phase.” This happens around 300 degrees F, and here the color begins to develop. (I learned later that “maillard” refers generally to the browning that happens when food is cooked, like bread or meat.)

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Once the cinnamon phase has passed, the roaster is working toward first crack. At this point there’s a literal crack – a whole lot of them, in fact – as the center of the bean is fracturing and the sugar in it melts. It sounds a like tiny little popcorn popping. After this you are headed for second crack, when the sugar crystallizes and burns into carbon, and the beans express oil that can coat them. Most roasts are stopping just short of this point because the burnt sugars lead to more bitterness. Once the roasting is complete, Jason opens the hopper that dumps the hot beans into a lower tray. The darker the roast, the smokier the process, and the more oily the beans will look.

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A series of levers in the tray begin swirling the beans around. At this point, Jason shifts the airflow to a fan that draws air down through the beans. This cools the beans and stops them from baking any further. Given the colder temperatures of December, the beans cooled quickly.

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At the front center of the tray is a flat plate without any air holes. Once Jason turns off the levers, he brushes the beans off this plate. The plate has heated up after coming into contact with them, so brushing the beans away keeps them from burning.

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Here’s a full cooled batch.

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Once they’re cooled, he can slide the plate open, turn on the mechanism, and the arms sweep every last remaining coffee bean into buckets. While this is happening, the roasting drum is brought to temperature and prepped for the next batch.

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The completed roasts are labeled and dated, and ready to be delivered or sorted and sealed into smaller bags.

I very much enjoyed hanging out with Jason. He does incredible work, and his passion for coffee and everything about it shows through his willingness to talk about it and teach it. We’ve been sampling a number of his roasts at home, and have loved every one of them. If you haven’t tried his coffee yet, do so soon. Look up his website (thunderkisscoffee.com) for a list of where to purchase his beans or which restaurants are serving them.

The Bean | Columbus, OH

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The Bean
219 E. Arcadia Ave. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43202
(614) 564-9383
Open Mon-Sat, 7a-7p

Visited: Monday, December 16, 2013 at 10:00 am

As a Clintonville resident, I’m always happy to have more coffee in the neighborhood. This is even with Yeah, Me Too, Cup o’ Joe, and even Thunderkiss roasting nearby. I also drive up and down Arcadia Avenue frequently, so it’s great to see the little corner space at the Calumet terminus filled in, especially right next door to the awesome Dabble & Stitch.

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The Bean has been open for a few weeks now, but has been deliberately sailing under the radar with no advertising or social media presence, like an extended soft opening. The little corner space is painted colorfully and brightly lit with its big windows.

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I spoke with John, who co-owns the shop with his mother Susan. He said they’re keeping a low profile while they get the feel of running a coffee shop. At the moment their service is limited to brewed coffee, tea, and hot chocolate complemented by baked goods, sandwiches, and a la carte salads and slaw. They’re brewing Seven Hills coffee out of Cincinnati, but John indicated they’re talking with local roasters.

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The space is nicely appointed, with wooden floors and a stainless-steel-and-tile counter top. There are some small tables, a bench, and a television. They’re clearly in it for the long haul, judging by the gift cards already available.

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Most of the baked goods are provided by Four & Twenty Bake Shop, a good friend of mine who produces some tasty scones, muffins, cupcakes, and more.

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I was just stopping in for coffee and a lemon blueberry scone, but I took a peek at the sandwich menu, too.

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Although The Bean is just offering the basics right now, you can help the endeavor by stopping in for some coffee, a snack, or a sandwich. It’d be nice to see this little corner develop!

South of Lane | Upper Arlington, OH

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South of Lane (Facebook / @SouthofLane)
1987 Guilford Rd. (map it!)
Upper Arlington, OH 43221
(614) 586-2233
Open Mon-Sat, 6:30a-2:30p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/Y
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Thursday, December 12, 2013 at 9:15 am

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This year we’ve seen some notable new breakfast places open up, ranging from over-the-top to fancy to simple and casual. One of the newer additions opening in May is this little spot in Upper Arlington: South of Lane. There are many things about this place that scream “Upper Arlington:” the location (obviously), the clientele, the cozy cafe atmosphere. But there are some delightful little surprises, too, a sneaky little irreverent charm evidenced by the full embracing of the initials “SoL.” (Ask around if you don’t know what that stands for.)

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South of Lane also fills a void in the Columbus breakfast map. The greater Upper Arlington area lacks some solid local breakfasts, aside from Chef-O-Nette, La Chatelaine, and nearby spots like Cambridge Tea House (which is technically Marble Cliff), or a First Watch or Bob Evans.

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SoL is not just a breakfast and lunch cafe. It’s a full-blown vintage store, too. You can expect shelves full of jams, plates, hats, jewelry, pillows, you name it.

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Amongst the crowded kitsch, you’ll find some fun little elements, too.

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I liked the branded mugs. That shows commitment, when a breakfast spot will get its own mugs made.

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In fact, it takes a little discernment to figure out where the vintage items for sale end and where the counter or the self-serve coffee ends.

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Continuing back into the space, the wooden top tables and loaded shelves transition seamlessly into the ordering counter and the open kitchen.

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The breakfast menu is simple and all good. Major categories include omelets, waffles, eggs, “grains and goodness” (which means yogurt, oatmeal, and granola), and sides. Coffee comes from Thunderkiss. We chatted with the owner Catherine as she strolled around greeting customers, and in conversation I got the sense that Jason’s no-nonsense attitude matched hers.

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We picked one of the features, the SOL omelet with a side of rye, with peppers, onions, and pepper jack cheese. I have a love/hate relationship with omelets, but this one turned out to be one of the better examples I’ve had in recent memory. The ingredients are layered properly, the omelet is folded tightly, the eggs aren’t overdone, and there’s a little spice to it.

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The PB3 waffle is a good example of the smirky attitude underlying the curio shelves and quiet atmosphere. You might not expect to see waffles loaded with bacon, peanut butter, Nutella, and bananas in a little cafe like this, but here it is. The PB3 tastes exactly as you would expect: crispy waffle, lots of soft and warm PB and Nutella, and a definite crunch from the well-cooked bacon. I mean, eying a list of ingredients like that, it’s hard not to be pleased by it. (You’ll also note the artful presentation throughout.)

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It’s also served with a little glass mug of maple syrup that reeks of “awwwww” adorableness.

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The side of hash browns stands up to any I’ve had. Ohio may generally be home fries territory, but I’ll always prefer the crispy texture of properly done hash browns.

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We had our two-year-old in tow that morning (the restaurant is kid-friendly, but maybe bring your own booster seat), and he enjoyed the two eggs, which are appropriately soft scrambled (which earns points from me) and come with a side of toast.

We’ve heard good things about South of Lane, and we found them to be all true. I think SoL is a good indication of Columbus’ growing breakfast/brunch scene, which doesn’t just mean more restaurants, but more restaurants with real personality serving their neighborhoods and offering solid breakfasts in creative combinations.

South of Lane on Urbanspoon

Beyond Breakfast: Mughal Darbar | Columbus, OH

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I’ve spoken before of our family’s love for a lot of cuisines, highlighting passions for Ethiopian and Mexican food, but I haven’t said much of our love for Indian cuisine, too.

Well, it’s time to rectify that.

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When our family falls in love with a place, we fall hard, and our loyalty sometimes prevents us from branching out as much as we should. Columbus has its fair share of top-notch Indian restaurants, but for many years our hearts were true to Taj Mahal just north of OSU’s campus. We were regulars at Taj. We were on a first-name basis with the owners. We even hosted some events with them at Wild Goose Creative. We love that they had history as one of the first Indian restaurants in Columbus, opening more than twenty-five years ago. But then they quietly closed earlier this year.

The general word (confirmed by the new owners) is that it was sold to distant family members. The building was fixed up, the menu revamped, a few of the prices lowered, and it re-opened as Mughal Darbar. The “Mughal” in the title refers to the Mughal Empire that once ruled much of India, and this translates into a little more Persian influence in the food. If you were a fan of Taj, pretty much everything you loved on the menu is still there, and there are some new favorites to boot.

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Entrees are served in metal dishes, and you spoon it over rice. This makes it perfect for sharing. Above are three of our favorites. At the top is coconut murgh, or coconut chicken, in a sweeter sauce with big chunks of tender chicken. To the right is saag paneer, a tangy combination of spinach (the saag) and paneer, a spongy white Indian cheese. On the bottom left is baingain bartha, a rich and slightly smoky eggplant dish.

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Mughal also has a full bar. I appropriately ordered Elevator Brewing’s India Pale Ale to pair with our meal.

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Indian food is typically served with naan, a thin crusty bread that’s baked on the side of a tandoori oven. There are a multitude of flavors, but we usually go for the garlic naan and the paneer onion kulcha, which includes cheese and onion.

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Much like Ethiopian cuisine, Indian food can be eaten by tearing pieces of naan and scooping bites of the meat, vegetables, and rice.

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Mughal includes a type of naan called peshwari naan, too, which usually has nuts and fruit in it. We were so-so on this one – it was a little dry – but our impressions are unfair because we absolutely loved this bread when we studied abroad in London.

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Our recent visits took place during Dewali, and Mughal offered a wider range of desserts than they normally do. We enjoyed some rice pudding.

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As well as these sweet, crispy honey fritters (I can’t remember their name).

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Mughal hosts a lunch buffet regularly, and it’s especially popular on Sundays.

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Their food holds up to the buffet treatment, and it’s a chance for you to sample a lot of different dishes, plus appetizers, salad, naan, and dessert.

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You can’t really see it from these pictures, but the owners at Mughal Darbar have done some much-needed updates to their space, with fresh paint and decorations, refurbished of wood floors, and better lighting. The restaurant is an old house on High Street, just north of campus, and they’ve done a wonderful job of making it feel even more homey.

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Our last trip to the buffet included meals with vegetables, beef, potatoes, chicken, and lamb.

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And you have to finish a run at the buffet with a couple (or four) of these spongy fried cake balls. They’re hot and soaked in honey, and therefore delicious.

We certainly miss Taj Mahal and the family that ran it, but Mughal Darbar has taken a beloved experience and improved on it. So it will continue as our go-to for Indian food in town.

If you want to visit:
Mughal Darbar
2321 N. High St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43214
(614) 429-0700
Open Tues-Sat, 11a-2p, 5-9:30; Sun, 11:30a-2p, 5-9p
Find them on Facebook

Mughal Darbar on Urbanspoon

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