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Photos: a tale of two markets

I don’t get to farmer’s markets as often as I’d like, despite the proliferation of them around Columbus. We learned to love farmers markets while living in Grand Rapids, Michigan the year after we were married. We actually sold jewelry my wife made at GR’s Fulton Street Market over the summer, so we got to know and love it. Grand Rapids has been doing pretty well for itself since then, with a lot of investment in their downtown and in infrastructure. One of the bigger additions downtown is the new Downtown Market. We heard about it down in Columbus because the creators visited our famous North Market and spoke with its vendors, examined its layout, and so on.

The GR Downtown Market is in its first phase, with the outdoor farmers market now open. We strolled through it recently, and boy, were we impressed.

The outdoor market takes place in a huge wooden covered walkway. It’s wide and spacious, and the organizers and vendors have done an excellent job of providing clear signage. Each vendor had an official sign identifying the business, where they were from (there were a lot of Michigan farmers), what forms of payment they took, etc. Mrs. Bfast w/Nick observed that the market must have educated everyone on proper presentation and how to provide a consistent look.


We strolled up and down the walkway, marveling at all of the fresh vegetables and fruits in stunning presentation, plus the baked goods, coffee, potted plants, and more. Look at these baskets of ripe Michigan cherries.

They’re beautiful. Just like the Mrs. :)


Me being me, I eyed anything breakfast-related. We stumbled upon Go Nuts, a stall that makes tiny fresh donuts with funky toppings, and of course I went all camera crazy.


Go Nuts’ little fryer slowly cranks out the donuts in a larger bowl, and then you order a bag of them with toppings. I went for simple cinnamon and sugar. They were soft and warm.


Of course, the process is part of the product. It’s fun to watch the fryer slowly turn over donuts as they travel down the line.


This type of model is brilliant for farmers markets. They’re cheap, they’re easy to buy, and they’re always fresh.


We also sampled of mix of fresh bagels from Great American Bagel, based in Holland, MI. Very nicely done, although they had just run out of everything bagels when we got there.

In addition to the farmers market, there was a food truck and a small cooking demo with a local chef. And this is just the outdoor market! The indoor building is still under construction and is scheduled to open later this summer. This will feature food stalls similar to Columbus’ North Market; from the news I’ve seen on Facebook, they’re already assembling a solid line-up of vendors.


Our second stop was the Fulton Street Market, a mile or so east of downtown. This was where we once sold jewelry. When we sold there (over a decade ago), it was a simple walkway with metal frames for vendors’ signs and coverings. The remake of this market stunned us, too. Now the walkway has been completely re-shaped, the traffic flow is re-routed, and there’s a gigantic roof covering the whole thing.


Again, there were beautiful displays of baked goods, fruits, vegetables, you name it. Like this Michigan asparagus.

Columbus, you have a number of wonderful markets, but Grand Rapids is giving you a run for the money. This type of investment in small businesses and infrastructure can really revitalize a city’s core. It’s amazing to see it working here.

Photos: Earth Fare Columbus grand opening

The good folks from Earth Fare Columbus invited me to their grand opening day last week Wednesday. I had never heard of Earth Fare before they contacted me, even though they have 26 stores total, 4 of which are in Ohio. The chain of health food markets (similar in style to Whole Foods), is based in North Carolina. This store is their first in Columbus, located up on Gemini Place in the Polaris area, right next to Costco.

As you can imagine, for opening the day the store looked impeccable. Beautiful produce laid out, lots of employees to greet new customers.

Earth Fare wears their food philosophy on their sleeve, and they ask customers to hold them to it. If you find something on their shelves that doesn’t keep to their philosophy, they’ll ask you to show it to someone.

Very colorful shelves of produce.

Naturally, I’m curious to see anything breakfast-related, so when our guide mentioned bulk maple syrup, I was all ears. You can purchase the syrup – Grade B – by the pound, in the same place you can get fresh-made peanut butter.

When we came upon the coffee section, I was impressed to find Chicago-based Intelligentsia represented.

There aren’t too many places around Columbus that serve or sell Intelligentsia beans. Nice to see them in bulk.

But I was even more excited to see Columbus represented! Earth Fare seems to pride itself on selling local goods (and specifically local to each store, not just local to their base stores in North Carolina). So I was happy to see barrels of Backroom Coffee Roasters‘ beans, too. I made a point to buy a couple pounds of it.

Bacon! Nice thick cut available, although we found they do not smoke it in-house.

Sausage! Made in-house.

They have a charcuterie station as well. You can try a slice of anything they have there. They’ll cut on their old-fashioned slicer, which works purely on mechanical power, not electrical.

Pretty significant beer and wine section, too, although I’d like to see their beer selection include more local brands. At present they have the standard selection available in any grocery. Ohio is represented somewhat: Hoppin’ Frog, Great Lakes, etc. But they need more Columbus local represented: Columbus Brewing Company, Elevator, any of the new breweries starting this year. Points, though, for having Rockmill Brewery bottles available.

Many gluten-free items, too. They use wooden shelving (see the bottom right of this picture) to indicate GF items throughout the store.

Lots of cereals, too!

Overall, it’s a beautiful store, nice and clean and new. It’s smaller and easier to get your head around than, say, a large Whole Foods store, so it’s a little less intimidating, especially if you’re easily overwhelmed by organic or gluten free options. So far they have a good selection of local goods (they define local as within 100 miles of the store), and I hope they will expand as they settle into the market. I’d love to see more Columbus coffee roasters, Ohio beers and wines, Snowville Creamery milk, and more Ohio cheeses.

If you want to visit:
Earth Fare Columbus
1440 Gemini Place
On Facebook

(Disclosure: Earth Fare Columbus invited me to visit their store, to shop there, and write about it. Opinions remain my own.)

Clever Crow Pizza | Columbus, OH

[UPDATE: Clever Crow Pizza is now closed.]

Clever Crow Pizza (Facebook / @clevercrowpizza)
59 Spruce St. (in the North Market)
Columbus, OH 43215
Open Tues-Fri, 9 am – 7 pm; Sat, 8 am – 5 pm; Sun, 12-5 pm (bfast served Saturdays from 8 – 10:30 am)
Accepts cash and credit cards
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Saturday, January 15, 2011 at 10:00 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS & ATMOSPHERE: Pizza on a breakfast blog? Why, yes, I believe I will. Clever Crow Pizza has rapidly become one of the favorite pizzas around Columbus. Despite their original location inside the Circus bar in Short North, they’ve garnered enough attention to be featured in Anthony Bourdain’s and Michael Ruhlman’s now-notorious visit to Columbus for No Reservations. (For a full discussion of Columbus’ reaction to his visit, see here.)

Just recently Clever Crow upped its profile by opening a space in North Market, too. Anyone who knows North Market knows that it’s a fantastic incubator for small businesses, so I hope that even greater things will come to owners Gary and Brooke Robinette.

FOOD: This past Saturday, Clever Crow offered up breakfast pizzas for the first time, so I hopped in the van and headed down to a fairly quiet North Market.

Brooke says that the breakfast pizzas will become a standard for Saturdays, and maybe for Sundays, too. They offer two types. The Traditional Pizza features your bacon, eggs, cheese, and potatoes. The Vegetarian drops the bacon and adds onion and goat cheese.

Both slices are served on a bed of arugula, with a dash of (I think) a vinaigrette dressing.

This is the Traditional. In some ways, it was surprising, in some ways, not. Clever Crow’s crust one of their benchmarks – a unique cornbread and sourdough mix – and they handled the breakfast ingredients well. I’ve seen some breakfast pizzas that overload the toppings, resulting in a chunky mess that falls apart, but not so here. The bacon was the right crispiness, the eggs hard boiled and sliced thin (including the yolk), and the potatoes were sliced the right size, too. So in most ways: it was exactly what you would expect a breakfast pizza to taste like. The arugula helps add a special tang of flavor. Overall, not bad, but not as surprising as some of Clever Crow’s other offerings.

Same with the Vegetarian (on the left). Ingredients handled well, good flavors, excellent crust, but about exactly how you would think a vegetarian breakfast pizza would taste.

SERVICE: I chatted only briefly with Brooke, but both she and Gary seem to be doing well with their venture, and they clearly deserve the success. You can read more about their story on their official merchant page of the North Market website.

OVERALL: Great pizza, interesting take on breakfast. I wouldn’t necessarily rush back every Saturday morning for it, because it’s not quite as uniquely awesome as their other pizzas. But I’m excited to see where this will go, and it’s always nice to have another breakfast option in North Market.

-> Clever Crow’s appearance on No Reservations
-> page for the “Heartland” episode of No Reservations

Clever Crow Pizza on Urbanspoon

Photos: chicken and waffles photoshoot at North Market

I’m looking over the title of this post and re-reading the phrase “chicken and waffles photoshoot.” Hmmm… yes. Yes, food porn, indeed.

Consider this post a little “behind the scenes” about the latest (614) Magazine article, all about three spots where you can pick up chicken and waffles around Columbus. Part of the fun and mission of these articles is to find out more about these restaurants and get to know the enthusiastic owners behind them, and this is a way to share a little more!

We met up with our trusty (614) photographer Chris Casella, and were joined by Jean-Francois Flechet of Taste of Belgium and Dan Bandman from Kitchen Little.

[Emperor Palpatine voice]: You want this…

This edition of chicken and waffles sprung from the collaboration of Kitchen Little and Taste of Belgium, part of the busy crowd at the North Market. They began the chicken and waffles collaboration in January 2010.

Kitchen Little has been serving delicious slow food for some time, although the name itself is new. I reviewed them as North Market Poultry & Game three years ago, early on in the life of this blog.

Dan from KL gave me the low-down on their side of the chicken and waffles meet-up. They get their chicken every other day from an Amish co-op in Kidron, Ohio. Their cutlets are prepared daily, pounded thin and soaked overnight in a buttermilk and hot sauce mixture. It’s breaded in panko and given a quick pan sear. The result is a tender piece of chicken with an amazingly tasty crust.

Contributing the waffles is, of course, Taste of Belgium. ToB has been in the North Market since June of 2009, and their arrival prompted everyone in Columbus to reevaluate how they thought about waffles. Jean-Francois and his team crank out waffles based on a family recipe from the Liege region of Belgium. The batter’s packed with beet sugar, leaving the waffles crispy and caramelized, and a perfect match for Kitchen Little’s chicken. Combine the two and top with Frank’s hot sauce and maple syrup, and you’ve got a sweet and savory combination that’s worth tracking down the next time you’re in Franklin County.

Taste of Belgium moved recently from their original location on the south side of market, to right across from Kitchen Little. The new location has been much busier, and has thankfully led to collaborations like the chicken and waffles.

We also had the opportunity to chat with R. J. White, the general manager of the North Market Taste of Belgium (they have another location in Cincinnati’s Findlay Market, too).

A. J. plugged their Fiesta Friday specials, and whipped up a sample version of their Waffles Rancheros. The Rancheros start with the standard waffle, topped with eggs, a black bean and corn salsa, peppers and onions, chorizo, and cilantro.

If all of that hasn’t tempted you, don’t forget that Taste of Belgium still does crepes well, too!

If you want these chicken and waffles:
Taste of Belgium (@TasteofBelgium) & Kitchen Little (@KitchenLittleOH)
in the North Market
59 Spruce St.
Served every day, Tuesday through Saturday.

Photos: Hills Market Pancake Breakfast

Recently my wife and I took our two-year-old son to The Hills Market pancake breakfast and Food is Fun event. Hills hosts their pancake breakfast just about every Saturday and Sunday morning, from May till October. Only $5 gets you a big stack of pancakes, bacon/sausage, and coffee.

We hit up the breakfast on the same day as their annual farmers’ market. A big tent out front housed many of the Hills’ vendors. It was like running a gauntlet of samples.

The Food is Fun event included stations where kids could learn how to make fresh pulled mozzarella, how to make a tossed salad, and – pictured here – how to make your own tortillas. This is Rachel from Hounds in the Kitchen showing Will how it’s done.

But of course, the real reason I was here: the pancake breakfast. Hills hosts these all summer and typically into early fall. I can’t imagine anything better than sitting on their veranda on a cool fall morning with a stack of pancakes and a cup of coffee.

The Hills’ veranda was crowded with pancake-goers.

This is Kate. She runs the show here. She organizes the pancake breakfasts, sets it all up, and makes your pancakes. I have to admit I like that one person does it all. It’s Kate the pancake lady! I hope she becomes famous for it and people travel from all around to see Kate the Pancake Lady and have her make them her famous pancakes.

Kate makes all the pancakes. Place your order with her at the counter, then have a seat and she’ll come find you. Be aware: she gets harried when it gets busy, so be patient. We waited a bit for our pancakes, but fortunately the Food is Fun event kept us occupied in the meanwhile.

A sight for sore pancake-lovers’ eyes. You can order plain or blueberry. (Hint: always order blueberry when you have the option.)

The end result. My son devoured every single blueberry he could find, and Kate put a generous helping on them.

The pancakes are big and fluffy. I couldn’t tell if they were made from a mix or not, but either way, they were delicious. And loaded with a crap-ton (actual unit of measurement) of blueberries. Seriously, I couldn’t tell the difference between the syrup and the blueberry juice by the end.

We’ll be back! Admittedly, the farmers’ market and Food is Fun events are passed, but Hills hosts plenty more throughout the year: crab boils, beer tastings, cooking classes. If you want to visit:

The Hills Market
7860 Olentangy River Road (just north of 315)
Columbus, OH 43235
Check their website, follow ‘em on Twitter, or join their newsletter for details on upcoming breakfasts.

Ninth Street Espresso | New York, NY

Ninth Street Espresso
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.

& 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

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.

: 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!


Sarabeth's Bakery on Urbanspoon


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