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Travel: A Day in Cleveland


On our recent trip to Cleveland, we started the day with a hearty breakfast at Slyman’s Restaurant, and while we were filled up with corned beef hash and hotcakes, we were still excited to explore more of Cleveland’s culinary landscape. Our boys had never been to the city before, so Mrs. Bfast w/Nick and I were excited to share the city with them (while discovering new things for ourselves). Because it was a busy Saturday, we knew a stop at the West Side Market was in order. The boys seemed impressed with its massive size. We began by running the gauntlet of the produce arcade, with all of its sights, sounds, and smells.


We then strolled the main market hall to see all the market stalls, stopping for cannolis and a lady lock at Teresa’s.


After the market visit, Mrs. Bfast w/Nick peeled off to go to the Weapons of Mass Creation festival in Gordon Square. She presented with Igloo Letterpress, while I took the boys to the Great Lakes Science Center. The Science Center sits right next to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on the lakeshore. Some of the exhibits were over their heads, but we watched a small science show (featuring fountains of Diet Coke and Mentos), wandered through the space exploration exhibit, and then spent most of our time in the Lego Travel Adventure hall. The exhibit featured elaborate Lego creations by a local enthusiast + areas for building your own Lego, Duplo, and Quatro creations.


Earlier we spotted the William G. Mather steamship docked outside. The old freighter has been converted into a museum for shipping on the Great Lakes. Guided tours are available, or guests are welcome to follow the orange painted line, which will take them throughout the entire ship. This includes a walk across the top, with some beautiful views of the lake and the Cleveland skyline. (We thought the ship tour was included in the Museum admission, when it is not, but they let us onto the ship anyway.)


The tour takes you through the crew’s quarters, the engine room, and wheelhouse.


After Mrs. Bfast w/Nick was done at the festival, we headed back downtown to stroll East Fourth Street. The weather was perfect that day, sunny and breezy without being too warm.


Our walk led us to our dinner destination: Noodlecat. We had been before (see link) and had a feeling the boys would really like it. Adults will find some solid drink options like Ohio beers, sake, and specialty sake cocktails. We tried the remarkable Japanese 75 on the suggestion of our server. It mixes Watershed gin, cherry, lemon, and a sparkling sake. It’s a perfect summer cocktail.


Between the family we split a variety of steam buns and a bowl of pork miso ramen.


The pork miso is an easy entry (and a safe bet for the kiddos) into ramen. If your only experience is with ramen packets, you need to experience the real deal. The honest stuff is loaded with more flavor and waaaaay less salt. The pork miso includes shredded pork, scallions, sesame seeds, and a six-minute egg.

The restaurant is very encouraging of kids. There are cartoons on the walls, a special Noodlekids menu, and the kid’s cups have cartoon instructions for enjoying your ramen.


Between the adults we split the dan dan ramen, a spicy concoction with peanuts, basil, soy, and a lot of heat from Szechuan chili and a spicy garlic oil. It really packed a punch.


And we supplemented it with crispy fried onigiri rice balls.


The boys were hesitant at first, but they were fans by the end.


After dinner we strolled more of downtown, then headed back to Ohio City for dessert at Mitchell’s Homemade Ice Cream. Mitchell’s is just up the street from the West Side Market, in a beautifully converted old theatre. You can see the production space through the big back windows.


The menu features the mouth-watering flavors we’ve come to expect from an Ohio creamery. Between the family, we tried a bit of everything: vanilla bean, blue cosmo, caramel fudge brownie, a chocolate chunk made with Great Lakes Brewing porter, and an amazing toasted pistachio. The pricing is very easy to like, too.

We made a busy day of it in Cleveland, but that’s kind of how we like to do things. We loved everything we did, saw, and ate, but once again it left us wanting to get to know the city more. Here’s hoping for a return trip soon!

Want to follow in our footsteps?
West Side Market (Facebook / @WestSideMarket)
Great Lakes Science Center (Facebook / @GLScienceCtr)
Noodlecat (Facebook / @noodle_cat)
Mitchell’s Homemade Ice Cream (Facebook / @MitchellsCleve)

Market: Brunch Bites at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market


It’s been fun to watch my hometown of Grand Rapids grow throughout the years. Every visit home to see family, we find there are more interesting shops, districts, restaurants, breweries, and attractions cropping up. Grand Rapids has been particularly successful in revitalizing its downtown. The already strong Art Museum, Public Museum, Van Andel Arena, DeVos Hall, and surrounding streets have been bolstered by Art Prize, the Silver Line bus route, and over the past year the Downtown Market. We visited the outdoor farmer’s market last year, but at the time the indoor market hadn’t yet opened. It’s been open for some time now, and Mrs. Bfast w/Nick and I visited on a Sunday after learning about their Brunch Bites event.


The Downtown Market has a large amount of planning going for it. I remember reading that they visited other urban markets, including Columbus’ North Market, to interview vendors, examine layouts, and get a sense of the challenges facing them. The strength of any of these markets – from North Market to Cleveland’s West Side Market to Cincinnati’s Findlay Market – is the ability to collaborate. So I think it’s vital they do events like this, that keep customers exploring the whole market and uniting vendors under a common theme.


The Brunch Bites – which seems to run nearly every Sunday – is a perfect example of this unifying event. A temporary bar stands in one corner, where customers can order a customized Bloody Mary. Then they’re welcome to stroll the market to purchase the regular offerings or the specialized menu items created for the day.


One of the more eye-catching stops is Field & Fire Bakery, with their beautiful trays of croissants, brioche, and breads.


We sampled a croissant while we strolled, and it was lovely. The owner of Field & Fire came to the market after baking for years at the famous Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor. (Yes, Buckeye fans, good things can come out of Ann Arbor.)


We also swung by the Sweetie-licious bakery, where they were making crepes.


At Sweetie-licious we nabbed a baklava crepe. Why have we never thought of this before?! It’s a crepe loaded with walnuts, pistachios, and honey. It was sweet, steaming hot, and delicious. The only downside: the warmth lets the honey sink to the bottom of the crepe. Bonus: the final bite is soaked in warm honey.


The other market vendors include the usual favorites, like the Fish Lads (with their beautiful logo). There’s also a florist, olive oil shop, grocer, spice shop, juice bar, cheesemonger, coffee corner, and many prepared foods. You can see the current list here.


The market still has lots of space to grow, but it’s getting there. And you can’t beat the modern construction with lots of natural light, and a solid integration into the neighborhood landscape. There building has an upstairs, too, that’s open to the lower floor. On the upper level are community and classroom spaces.


There’s also an active greenhouse (with beautiful views of the city) that’s used for classes and events.


BONUS! If you’re stopping by the market, you can also scout out Madcap Coffee downtown.


Madcap is a solid “third wave” coffee roaster and shop. The Mrs and I enjoyed a cappuccino and a cafe miel (pictured above and below).


Similar to a honey latte, the cafe miel features espresso and foamed milk with cinnamon and honey. It’s very rich and tasty. (“Miel” is French for honey.)

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.


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