The last day of the Experience Columbus, A Diverse & Delicious Culinary Tour dawned bright and early and we made our way over to the North Market where we were turned loose with three things: a shopping bag full of goodies, gift certificates and 'orders' to take a look around and obtain breakfast.
Local produce from The Greener Grocer was tempting.
I barely resisted the turquoise plates at The Source and only managed to escape by remembering my propensity for dropping and chipping pretty dishes. I admired the handmade ravioli at Pastaria Seconda and had a quiet chuckle when another worker at the North Market muttered something about them being 'not homemade.' Perhaps they weren't but they were attractive and one of my fellow bloggers had some for breakfast and confirmed they were delicious!
It was a little too early for anything from The Barrel & the Bottle but several of us had the foresight to purchase some for later. I regret not seeing if they had anything from Rockmill Brewery and picking it up to take home.
After I took a walk around the market I remembered my 'orders' to obtain breakfast and began at A Touch of Earth coffee. They had a 'Buckeye' Mocha on the menu and I couldn't resist even though I was a little unsure how peanut butter would taste in coffee. I shouldn't have worried; pair peanut butter with chocolate and it doesn't matter what else you put it with. It's always good. The Buckeye tasted like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup with a caffeniated kick.
And then, look what I found. Or should I say...my nose?
Omega Artisan Baking ruled the market (as far as I was concerned!) by sending great wafts of baking bread throughout the entire building. Ravioli, famous waffles--nothing could deter me from breakfast at Omega.
I purchased an Avanzucci which filled my palm with crusty goodness and I had scarce paid before yanking off a bite with my teeth. The crust crackled as tore it off and it was crispy and chewy all at once. The bread inside was soft and still just a little bit warm and I savored it as walked away from Omega and got the best idea.
Curds & Whey has over 500 cheeses but I knew exactly what I wanted: A nice, sharp cheddar to compliment the avanzucci. The cheesemonger gave me an odd look when I ordered such a small amount of cheese but I saw him smile when he saw what I was doing with it. I tore the roll in half (notice the bite missing!) and stuffed the cheddar in between the two halves. Content as content can be, I strolled around the North Market enjoying my simple breakfast.
Dear Columbus, you have amazing food but if I'm being honest, this fresh baked bread from Omega and this sharp cheddar from Curds & Whey was the best thing I ate in Columbus. Bread is happiness. I smiled all the way to the Short North which is a trendy arts and shopping district not to far from the North Market.
The Candle Lab in the Short North may not serve food but it certainly has a lot of candle fragrances that smell like food: almond, pear, coconut, figs, cinnamon and whipped cream are just a few of the food scents at The Candle Lab. At The Candle Lab, you can purchase pre-made candles or you can mix your own, customizing them to exactly the scent you prefer.
Guess what we got to do?
We were each given a clipboard with a fragrance worksheet on it and told to smell as many of the candles as we wanted to and then mark down the scents we liked best. I liked so many that I started running out of room on my worksheet! It was a difficult decision but I finally chose peony, morning dew and cinnamon spice. It might seem a strange combination but I was thinking of the morning after a wonderful date night with my husband when we wake up and lay there together in bed with the windows open to let in the early summer air.
Drop by drop, we added the essential oils to a small silver cup and then assistants brought over jars of liquid soy wax. Carefully, the oils were added to the warm wax and stirred. It takes approximately an hour for the wax to set up and the candles are ready to take home.
I washed up with Pride Soap that The Candle Lab also sells before we were given a little free time to do some shopping on our own in the Short North.
Rainbows kept catching my eye and I popped into Substance to have a look around. I didn't come out with anything rainbow hued but I did come across a soft cream colored vintage-esque lace sweater that I was powerless to leave behind. I only looked in the rest of the shops but Julie of Wine Me, Dine Me found a charming little hat at one of the stores.
Back at The Candle Lab, our candles were prettily packaged and ready to go! And it was time for lunch!
Latitude 41 is an elegant restaurant tucked inside the Columbus Renaissance Hotel. The strong clean lines of the tables and chairs and the slim stripes of the floor are softened by deep red draperies that divide the restaurant into several cozier dining areas. Before we sat down, we were given a short tour.
Of course I had eyes for the wood stove. One day, I would love to have a wood fired bread oven and hope to convince my husband that having one installed during a dream kitchen remodel would be something I coudn't live without. I think he'll believe me. What do you think?
Chef David MacLennan came out to meet and talk with us about each of the items we were sampling. Latitude 41's mixologist joined us briefly but hurried back to the bar to mix us up an interesting assortment of cocktails.
Diver scallops on a bed of short rib and brussel sprout hash with a beet jus.
Lobster macaroni and cheese with marscapone, truffle oil and parmesan tuile and a crunchy flatbread gyro.
Chicken and waffles with tomatoes, endamame and a tangy mustard. This was a first time trying chicken and waffles together for me and I found it an unexpectedly appealing combination that I had previously scoffed at.
A trio of cocktails: Green Pepper, Beet and Cucumber. They were small but mighty powerful. I needed coffee after them!
And coffee I got! Cafe Brioso roasts its own beans and is a coffee lover's dream. Anyone stepping inside for a cup of coffee is leaving smelling like coffee because the smell of roasting beans permeates everything. (I caught myself huffing my sleeve later, but hey, no one noticed...right?)
Beans are everywhere.
And in various stages of roasting. We sampled a few different types of coffee but it wasn't really enough for those of us that were coffee junkies.
I'm pretty certain that us junkies felt very sad watching JJ pour out this cute heart topped latte and having to leave it behind. (I've thought about the Left Behind Latte a lot over the last week or so whenever I've been needing coffee and it's brewing too slow)
But those folks at Experience Columbus are smart and new exactly how to distract us from abandoned lattes. Brownies and blondies at Sugardady's Sumptous Sweeties is a sure cure for anyone who is in need of cheering up. Or anyone who just wants a special treat.
Owner Mark Ballard had three brownies and three blondies for us to sample. Each one was rich and moist and chewy and tender all at once. Sugardaddy's is a winner of Throwdown with Bobby Flay (Season 3, Episode 8) and it's easy to see why: Anyone who can convert a cupcake lover into a brownie AND blondie lover deserves to win. Hands down.
Sugardaddy's trims the edges off of all of the brownies and blondies and packages them up as 'Pocket Change' for those of us-me!-who like the edges best. Also, they use the day's leftover treats as the crusts for their cheesecakes. Pretty clever use of both if you ask me.
Middle West Spirits was next on our itinerary and I couldn't help but send a few boasting texts to a few friends back at home that enjoy vodka. Don't judge; I like to consider the texts as an extension of the playful ribbing we all do to one another when we having drinks together.
Middle West is a micro-distillery that makes vodka, vanilla vodka and whisky. The distillery sadly did not smell like bread like Rockmill Brewery did but it had lots of shiny barrels, vats and tubes to make up for it.
The people who work here are passionate about what they do and it was easy to get caught up in their passion. I learned a lot about the process and even a few things about how to store it like you should NOT store vodka in the freezer because it takes away the taste. A well made vodka does taste good and shoudn't be disguised.
Whisky is pretty good too.
Wondering why there's a bottle of Grey Goose? It's for comparison. The grey goose smelled--and tasted!--like rubbing alcohol. The Middle West vodka on the other hand did not. I can't really describe what the flavors were because they were unique. I must sample again soon and take better notes!
From Middle West Spirts we wobbled walked next door to Brothers Drake.
Brothers Drake is Columbus' first meadery. They use all local ingredients and they uphold their vow of localness by only selling locally.
I have never had mead before and I wasn't sure what to expect because some of my friends who prefer very bitter beers could only say 'it's very sweet.' Well, mead is sweet but it's not very sweet. It's diverse and mult-layered in flavor and doesn't have any bitterness.
It's nectar of the gods and I am now envious of Columbus residents.
Joe of The Hungry Dudes
After a sampling of the Bergamont Blue, we went to the back to see where the magic was created. The mead making process was thoroughly explained and punctuated with samples of things like honey and spice berries. I was only lured out by an offering of a sample of Apple Pie Mead. It worked on all of us and we obediently filed out.
Something tells me I might be taking a road trip to Columbus sometime soon to stock up on mead from Brothers Drake.
We returned to the hotel to freshen up for dinner but I took a brisk walk down the street to snag a cup of coffee at Cup O Joe. Yeah, I still had the Lost Latte on my mind and no, I don't know where I fit the Almond Joy Mocha but fit it in I did.
Dinner was a little different on our final night in Columbus. First we stopped at Fresh Street Takoyaki and had a little appetizer while the rest of our party gathered and then we joined Bethia, who I met at the Inn at Cedar Falls, who runs Columbus Food Adventures for a Taco Truck Tour.
Takoyaki is a little Japanese dumpling stuffed with octopus.
For a moment or two I was worried about the octopus but then I remembered the fried calamari at Milestone 229 & G.Michaels and thought, bring it on. It was brought on but it was too hot to eat right away so we watched another batch of takoyaki being made but this time with sweet corn.
It was fascinating to watch and the chef made it look so easy. I wanted to wield those two little sticks and try my hand at it. Something tells me it's not as easy as it looks.
The octopus stuffed takoyaki were finally deemed cool enough to eat and all of us put one in our mouths. There was a gentle 'pop!' as the fried outside burst open spewing hot steam and a little bit of molten liquid into the mouth. It was not cool enough. Frantically, I held a napkin to my mouth and breathed steam into it. Hurriedly I chewed and swallowed just to get it out of my mouth. I think that's how the chef resolves the sticky situation of getting people to try octopus for the first time. Make it hot enough and you'll gobble it down just to get it out of your mouth. After that? It's only weird the first time. The second takoyaki I ate was a more suitable temperture and I could take my time with it and tasting it. It had a pancake sort of taste albeit more savory and with a tough little bit (the octopus) inside of it. It wasn't my favorite thing I ate in Columbus but it wasn't bad.
The takoyaki with the sweet corn had a bit more flavor but you know what? Most of us ate the first one exactly the same way we ate the first octopus one: gulping down a semi solid ball of molten lava. I think takoyaki must be like hot pizza--you know it's burning hot but yet you eat it anyway.
After we finished the takoyaki, the rest of our group had gathered and we began our Taco Truck Tour.
The first stop on the Taco Truck Tour had...tacos! La Popular is an unassuming truck in a small parking lot. The taco was cabeza, beef head, and I believe that most Americans are not accustomed to eating and more's the pity. It was far better than anything you can find in a Mexican chain restaurant. My ability to tolerate spiciness must be rising (or else I burned off my taste buds at the stop prior-ha!) because the hot sauce we were cautioned about wasn't enough when I dripped just a few drops onto my taco. I had to go back for a second application!
The gordita at the second stop was incredibily messy and we sat down on the curb to eat it. It was a little spicy and I couldn't held adding a bit more heat to it.
Sweet, cold horchata was just right for cooling the tongue.
Los Guachos Taqueria had a glowing orange meat on a giant skewer that I could see even before we got off the Taco Truck Tour bus. It was a little frightening.
But the man manning the knives had such a brilliant smile that I was easily convinced that neon orange meat must be fantastic and it was probably some sort of a heat lamp making it that bright. Before I could become too concerned, Bethia explained that the meat was called al pastor (shepherd's meat) and it is a type of marinated pork.
The meat is shaved off and then tucked inside of flour tortilla with cheese, onions and cilantro. This style of taco is called a gringa and was full of flavor.
Los Potosinos set out an array of fillings and tortillas and let us fix our own.
The grilled chicken was juicy and plump and I felt extra carnivorous. I *might* have put a double helping of chicken in my tortilla.
Just across the way from Los Potosinos was Las Delicias. It was growing dark and cold but it didn't stop us. At Las Delicias we had a dessert that was similar in texture to an Italian ice but tasted nothing like it at all. I sampled the pecan which was cold and nutty and played tricks with the senses. It seemed like I was eating ice cream but the texture was all wrong and instead of creamy pecan it was more of a watery pecan. It was very different and I think had it been a hot summer night rather than a cool fall evening it would have been very refreshing.
The last stop on the Taco Truck Tour was a stop at a Mexican grocer's. We were given a tour of the store and got to see many differences between an American grocery story and a Mexican one. There was plenty to see but one thing caught my eye above all else.