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Revisit: The Flying Melon Cafe

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During our recent Outer Banks trip (you can read part 1 and part 2 of the culinary highlights), we spent a day on Ocracoke Island. Mrs. Bfast w/Nick and I refer to it as one of our happy places. It’s a small village on the southern end of a long island that’s mostly National Seashore, which means a casual vibe, small town feel, and unspoiled beaches. Last year, we discovered the newly-relocated Flying Melon Cafe on the day of its re-opening, and on our return trip this year, we were eager to bring the rest of the family along to experience their brunch.

On arriving, I noticed the above framed note on the wall. Very cool!

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Overall, we had another superb brunch. They were able to accommodate our large group, and food came out quickly. The brunch menu highlights southern flavors and seafood. Here, for instance, we see a shrimp po-boy with hand-cut fries.

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Or my grillade and grits. Grillade is a New Orleans preparation of seasoned and seared (usually) beef, often ladled with a rich gravy on a bed of cheesy grits.

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New Orleans-style French toast, aka battered and fried French toast. More like a donut, and therefore awesome.

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Even Flying Melon’s take on a NYC specialty is well done, with house-smoked salmon and bagels.

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Or what about these dense sweet potato pancakes?

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Flying Melon gets high marks for their plating, too. Take a look at the shrimp mash, with potatoes, shrimp, sausage, poached eggs, and hollandaise.

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Even their basic breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, and toast was well done!

photo 3And finally, the fried green tomato BLT. Just beautiful.

I guess this ranks as a “Sorry, just had to share!” post, but no apologies here. We’ve enjoyed our visits to Flying Melon (as well as nearby Dajio Restaurant). It’s a colorful and welcoming breakfast that utilizes the best ingredients they have around. If you’re traveling the Banks and visit Ocracoke (which you should!), make Flying Melon a brunch stop!

 

Travel: Dining on the Outer Banks – Part 2

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And we’re on to Part 2 of our Outer Banks culinary adventures! (Read Part 1 here.) One morning Mrs. Breakfast With Nick and I ventured south for breakfast, just the two of us. After our first pick wasn’t open during their stated hours (boo), we crept along Highway 12 and found ourselves at the Gingerbread House Bakery. It’s a distinctly-shaped structure in Frisco, serving lots of baked goods and some excellent pizza. It’s also the site of the VERY FIRST Breakfast With Nick review, over seven years ago. (You’re welcome to follow the link to the review, but be kind. I really didn’t know what I was doing then.)

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The Gingerbread House fully embraces their name. To the point that the fences (which are brown) are topped with gingerbread men cut-outs, and the building itself (which is also brown) is dotted with colorful candy.

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We considered this our breakfast pre-game, so we simply ordered some espresso and a couple donuts. (We stopped later for a full breakfast elsewhere – post to come soon!)

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The crew at Gingerbread must run long hours, if they’re working early enough to serve fresh baked goods, while staying open late enough for the dinner crowd.

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If the lines for apple uglies at the Orange Blossom are too long, you’ve got some great donuts one village over at Gingerbread. These are really hard to beat.

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Happy Seventh Anniversary to Breakfast With Nick! Here’s to many more years of good meals and great fun.

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At home, another annual family favorite is a simple crab dip, with cream cheese, lots of fresh crab, and cocktail sauce. Mrs. Breakfast With Nick’s grandmother doesn’t trust the store-bought sauce, so she makes her own.

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Part of the fun of staying in a big house with the family is getting to cook for each other. A couple mornings we made crepes for the fam.

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We learned an easy recipe from our friend Andy at Wild Goose years ago, and it’s served us well.

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Even though we don’t have fancy crepe pans, we’ve learned to use ours just fine.

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For fun, we plated up a couple crepes and iced coffee in the style of Symmetry Breakfast. Symmetry Breakfast is an instagram kindred spirit in London; he plates and photographs his breakfast every morning in a beautiful symmetrical manner. I tagged him in the photo, and he approved.

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This year for the first time we ordered steamed crabs. One of the local shops uses their own spice mix (the guy there scoffs when you mention Old Bay). I had to recall my last trip to Maryland, to be sure I was dismembering the crabs for maximum crab meat.

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For our last dinner on vacation, we ordered out from the Dolphin Den in Avon. I can never stay away from fried seafood platters, and theirs is top notch: fresh fish, clams, oysters, crabcake, scallops.

All in all, another good year of eating on the OBX! Who else has been? Where or what do you like to eat?

 

Travel: Dining on the Outer Banks – Part 1

In June our family made the annual trek to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Those of you who have followed the blog for a while may know it’s a long-standing family tradition, and we look forward to it every year. In addition to all the beachy fun, we enjoy the food the islands have to offer, as we visit old favorites and see what’s new each year. So without further ado, here are some of the culinary highlights of OBX 2014!

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On a tip from a reader last year, we finally discovered Duck Donuts, a relatively new donut chain originating in Duck on the northern Outer Banks. Over the past year Duck Donuts has expanded into nearby Virginia, too, and they seem to be holding steady on the OBX. They use the brilliant model of selling one base, a slightly sweet and spongy cake donut, then dressing that up with frostings and toppings.

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This lets them easily assemble larger orders for the visitors coming and going around the island.

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Frostings include everything from strawberry, lemon, vanilla, chocolate, peanut butter, and beyond.

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They even have an excellent maple bacon donut, with a sweet maple frosting and bacon bits that aren’t too soggy or too crunchy.

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We discovered this year that they offer a little kid’s meal, with a single donut + a drink served on a Duck Donuts frisbee. It even comes with a wet nap!

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But enough about donuts. (I never thought I’d say that.) On the islands we’re really in the mood for seafood. A string of rustic seafood markets dot the islands, hawking the day’s fresh catches. We make regular stops for crab, scallops, clams, shrimp, and fish. My mother-in-law has perfected a crab cake recipe. Because they’re homemade there’s very little filler and the seasoning is spot-on.

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We also crowded the scallops into a pan for a quick sauteed before they were devoured by the masses.

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Besides Duck Donuts, our favorite island pastries are the ridiculously giant apple uglies from Orange Blossom Bakery in Buxton, NC. I swear, these glorified, calorie-ridden apple fritters get larger each year.

Over the past years, the service and organization at Orange Blossom had been declining. Customers were frustrated by long waits, the service was a little surly, and they never seemed to have enough product. This year, however, things seem to be improving – maybe there was a change of ownership?

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Because there’s such a large group of us, we take turns making dinner each night. Mrs. Breakfast With Nick and I made a perennial favorite: shrimp and grits, with lots of tangy cheese mixed in with the grits, a rich topping of sauteed veggies (and a little bacon), and fresh shrimp.

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There’s great coffee on the islands, too. We regularly visit The Dancing Turtle in Hatteras, Uglie Mugs in Avon, and both Live Oak Coffee and Ocracoke Coffee Co. on Ocracoke. Here’s an artistic shot of my espresso on a post with some dead leaves in the background.

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Most restaurants offer lots of fried seafood, and we regularly take them up on the offer.

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One of our favorite stops for fried seafood are the volunteer firefighter’s fish fries. Many of the little island villages host them on a weekly or monthly basis. We especially like the fish fry down in Hatteras Village. The meals usually come with hush puppies, cole slaw, and maybe baked beans or potato salad. Some of these events have been going on for decades. The little old ladies in Hatteras have been doing it for over 50 years, and they’ll wink and tell you theirs is the best on the Outer Banks. Hard to argue when they’re unloading freshly caught fish straight into the fryers.

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As a craft beer aficionado and beer tour guide, I’m always on the lookout for local brews, so we were especially happy to discover the new Pangea Tavern a block from our house in Avon. The little pub has a large screened-in dining room, so you can enjoy the ocean breezes free of mosquitos (which generally aren’t too bad anyway). The real star of their drink menu is the list of 15 North Carolina beers on tap.

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Even better is that they offer beer samplers, so we tasted North Carolina’s takes on pale ales, saisons, amber ales, milk stouts, IPAs, wits, porters, and more. In summary: North Carolina is doing it right.

That’s all for now! Stay tuned for Part 2 shortly.

Photos: North Market Coffee Roast 2014

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Yesterday North Market hosted the third Coffee Roast on a perfectly beautiful spring day. This year the event moved outdoors to the farmers market plaza (and the date was pushed back from March), with the roasters lined up in front of the market. Together as a family we beat most of the crowds by hitting up the event just as it started.

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We strolled up and down the lines, saying hello to some favorites and trying a couple new roasters. Like every good event – and every day, let’s be honest – we started with a stop at One Line Coffee. Mrs. Bfast w/Nick is there often enough that she knows the baristas by name; they were pulling delicious, delicious shots of espresso.

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Down on one end stood Das Kaffee Haus‘ table, complete with their modified ambulance (labeled the Emergency Kaffee Unit) parked nearby. DKH is located in Lithopolis, but their coffee can be found around Columbus at places like Milestone 229 and the Columbus Brewing Company Restaurant. Amy and Joe (aka Frau Burkhardt and Herr Joseph) told me their place is modeled on the European coffee shops they’ve encountered while traveling and serving abroad in the military.

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And of course we were on the lookout for Jason and Emily from Thunderkiss Coffee. They’re the coolest. Also, their coffee is great. Some of my favorite in town. Jason has a small but mighty roasting operation; you can find his beans at restaurants and on store shelves all around town.

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Strolling down the line we took in brews from Crimson Cup, Backroom Coffee Roasters

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…plus Silver Bridge and the newer Roaming Goat Coffee. The fun thing about this event is that everyone is excited to talk about coffee – and not just their coffee, but coffee in general. And you could witness nearly every type of coffee prep available.

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Dayton-based Boston Stoker has established their presence in Columbus with a shop near OSU’s campus. Like a couple other places, they displayed coffee beans for smelling or to reference the colors of the roasting process.

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Stauf’s Coffee Roasters, one of the mainstays of the Columbus coffee scene, was on hand with a tiny electric roaster. The portable setup roasts in small sample batches, allowing them to treat the same beans in different roasting lengths quickly.

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Rich the roaster showed me samples of his roast in progress. The machine roasts in 80 gram batches.

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The most unique offering of the day came – not surprisingly – from Cafe Brioso. They served two excellent hot brews – some of the standouts from the morning – but they also featured coffee sno-cones.

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Yes, coffee sno-cones. J. J. explained they used a rare Ethiopian Nekisse bean, cold-brewed, mixed with a dash of Ohio honey, and served over shaved ice. It was as delicious as you’d expect. I think we have a new definition of summer in Columbus.

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Further down the line – right next to Snowville Creamery with their samples of milk and yogurt – we found Actual Brewing‘s roastery crew in full swing.

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They make superb beer, really strong coffee roasts, and they’ve got some of the best beards in the biz.

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The event space indoors was dedicated to coffee education, with Brioso’s crew kicking off a demonstration of espresso preparation. On the other end of the room, baristas from a mix of shops made espresso drinks for customers.

We couldn’t have had a better day for the event. The move outdoors and to a Sunday (see photos from 2012 and 2013) offered more space and prevented longer lines. The one thing that confused me was the branding of it as a “brunch.” When I hear “brunch” I assume there will be food involved, but what that really meant was “you can go into the market to find food.” Many vendors had special $5 brunch bites, but the market opens at noon on Sundays (the Coffee Roast started at 10), so a majority of the stalls were closed during the first half of the event (although the newly moved and re-branded Taste of Belgium was hopping). I was also a little disappointed that attendees were given generic North Market mugs, and not the fun branded ones with colorful Clinton Reno artwork like years past. I know it’s gimmicky, but I like having a memento that references the specific event.

Aside from those details – it was a wonderful event that really featured Columbus’ great coffee roasters and brewers. We have much to be proud of, and our coffee keeps getting better and better.

Photos: Brewing Beer at North High Brewing

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Where does a craft beer enthusiast go for his birthday? He brews some beer with friends! A couple weeks ago I gathered with a group of friends at North High Brewing to make our own batch. North High is Columbus’ first brew-on-premises shop, which means you can brew, ferment, and bottle beer under the guidance of experienced brewers.

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I’ve been to North High a number of times already – their bar has some great history behind it, which you can learn about on Columbus Brew Adventures downtown tour – but this was the first I’ve brewed there. The brewhouse is a separate room from the bar, with eight brew kettles centered around a chandelier with 21 bulbs symbolizing the 21st Amendment (the repeal of Prohibition).

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The process took about three hours total. We began by copying down the recipe, then heading into the brewhouse to be begin boiling water. North High lets you brew in 15 gallon batches; their system uses steam to heat the kettles, which speeds up the process.

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Another streamlining step is the use of extracts in brewing. Extracts are concentrated syrups that save on boiling time. North High uses primarily extracts, but not exclusively. We added about three pounds each of caramel malts and peat smoked malts.

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These were measured out…

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…and then milled right there are the brewery.

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We loaded the grains into muslin bags.

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And then these were steeped in the hot liquor (aka the hot water), much like tea.

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Then the extracts go in. On the right are the thirty pounds of amber malt extract. On the left is the five pounds of Ohio honey. The honey helps round out the big, malty body of the wee heavy. It gives the yeast something feed on during fermentation, and it just plain tastes good.

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Honey and extract into the tank!

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Throughout the boil we added pelletized Fuggle hops in small, calculated amounts. Fuggle is a sweeter English hop – appropriate for a Scottish style like the wee heavy.

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While you’re brewing, there’s down-time to check out the bar and order some food or drink.

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North High usually has about 10 of their beers on tap, plus a good selection of other breweries. They also run special brews like this one: their wee heavy on firkin with vanilla bean, cocoa nib, and bourbon-soaked oak chips.

By that point, brewing was done. The beer just had to cool and get filtered into the fermentation container. We’ll be coming back soon to bottle it.

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But the fun didn’t stop there! As it was dinner time, we hit up Marino’s Seafood Fish & Chips in Grandview (look for a separate post on that soon). It was lots of fried goodness.

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And then we rounded out the evening by hitting up Zauber Brewing just down the road. All in all, a great birthday celebration – especially getting to hang out with friends and make something together.

North High Brewing on Urbanspoon

Photos: Cravings Carryout Cafe relaunch

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One of our favorite discoveries from last year – Cookie Cravings Bakery – celebrated a re-brand and a revamp this past weekend. Newly christened Cravings Carryout Cafe, the cafe has new signage, branding, and a new menu. They dropped the “Cookie” from their name because they do so much more. The cookies are still there, but the focus is now on sandwiches, wraps, and  other sides, all highlighting the neighborhood carry out element.

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Owners Matt, Lindsey, and Joan Tewanger have made some small changes to the space. You’ll see new equipment, shelves, and menu boards.

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This includes a new retail shelve with T-shirts, granola, plus growlers and bags of Thunderkiss Coffee.

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The boards showcase the new menu, replete with rolls, burritos, sandwiches, and sides.

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There’s iced and hot coffee, plus juice and tea. I completely forgot to photograph the third board that highlights specials.

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We stopped in about half an hour after opening on Saturday, and already they were busy. Matt was working his magic in the back.

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Cravings added some more seating in the side yard, with has great promise for spring, summer, and autumn breakfasts, especially when there’s a welcoming fire in the fire pit.

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We knew we were going to visit over the weekend, but the promise of bronuts pretty much guaranteed we’d come searching. What’s a bronut? It’s a brioche donut. Cravings makes killer brioche, and they’ve mixed the dough with lemon and rosemary, fried it, and iced it. The donuts were perfectly soft, fluffy, and warm. Ours disappeared in a matter of seconds.

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And then it was on to the sandwiches. Oh, the sandwiches. They were beautiful and delicious, stacked high on golden brioche rolls.

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We started first with the Breakfast Roll, featuring cheddar, bacon, a fried egg, and a rosemary aioli. We barely managed to sneak some bites while our boys devoured it. Our five-year-old (who is not picky, but knows his stuff) said it was one of his favorite sandwiches.

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We also snagged a plate of the sausage biscuits and gravy, made using Bluescreek Farms sausage. It was thick and chunky, served with a soft biscuit, and just what you would ask for in biscuits and gravy.

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Our favorite of meal was the BLT. Like the breakfast roll, it was served on a beautiful brioche roll.

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The sandwich was stacked high with thick-cut bacon, greens, a basil mayo, and these stunning tomatoes. We did not expect to find tomatoes like this in March. Usually  you get those sad, tasteless, translucent ones in the winter, but these were dark and red. Matt roasted them to perfection.

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With the firepit going in the side yard, they set out a cute little smores kit.

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So after brunch we enjoyed some smores roasted over the fire.

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All in all, it’s an exciting new stage for the restaurant! Congrats to Matt, Lindsey, Joan, and the crew!

If you want to visit & connect:
Cravings Carryout Cafe
227 E. Third Ave. (off Fourth St. in Italian Village)
Columbus, OH 43201
(614) 725-0090
Find them on Facebook and @CravingsCafe614
New hours are Tues-Fri, 11a-7p; Sat & Sun, 9a-3p

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.

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