Thursday, May 22, 2008

Eating on the road

One of my favorite things to do before a trip is to scout out good places to eat in our destination city. I usually do pretty well, but I had an especially good track record on our recent trip to Burlington, Vermont. (We were there for a friend’s wedding.)

First stop: Penny Cluse Café
Even at 9:00am on a Friday morning there was a 20-minute wait at this bustling breakfast joint, which I took to be a very good sign. Ordering off the menu was tough — there were so many good choices. I was especially intrigued by the zydeco breakfast — two eggs any style with black beans, andouille sausage and corn muffins — and the gingerbread pancakes. However, the day’s special sounded so good that it trumped all the other choices: coconut bread French toast with tangerine curd. How I wish that I could recreate this at home — it was one of the best breakfasts I have had in a long time. The coconut bread was thick and hearty, and even tasted like it may have been made with whole wheat flour.

Not only did the French toast taste fabulous, it also provided plenty of fuel for our 18-mile bike ride along Lake Champlain.

Afternoon snack: Skinny Pancake
Sweet and savory crepes are the specialty at this waterfront spot. We locked up our bikes and tucked into the coconut curried potato crepe (Caribbean-style curried sweet and Russet potatoes over rice) and the crepadilla (homemade salsa, avocados, and Cabot cheddar cheese folded into a scallion crepe). I have no desire to attempt crepes at home (too intricate and fragile) but I certainly was happy to enjoy the fruits of someone else’s expertise.

My only regret is that we didn’t have time for any more meals in Burlington. Sigh. I love a city that knows how to eat.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Recap: North Market Apron Gala

My companion and I attended our first-ever North Market Apron Gala last night. Though we've lived here almost five years we've never gone, and we decided this was the year.

We both donned our aprons before getting into the car. My companion already owned one but I did have to purchase one for the occasion. I didn't want to spend a lot of money, so I settled on this one from Bed, Bath and Beyond (though I only paid $19 for mine). I thought it was cute enough, but nothing special. As it turns out, however, someone else wore the same one and even entered herself in the apron contest, eventually winning third place. I guess it was a little bit more eye-catching than I thought. Further proof: My companion and I had our picture taken by a reporter from Columbus Alive! Stay tuned to see if we make it in the paper on Thursday. We did smile our very best.

As we drove into the parking garage and watched gala-goers stream inside, we noticed rather quickly that no one was wearing aprons. We looked at each other: Should we ditch them? Were we making some kind of classic newbie mistake? We decided in the end to keep them on, and I'm glad we did. As it turns out, about 1/3 of the gala-goers do wear aprons, many of them very entertaining (my favorite one said "one flew over the couscous nest" on the front). Plus, since you're walking around eating all kinds of finger foods, it's nice to have apron pockets to stash away your program, napkins and forks.

Speaking of the food, I loved the format for the evening. The gala runs from 7pm-10pm, and the type of food served changes every hour: appetizers from 7-8, main tastes from 8-9 and desserts from 9-10. It's great fun -- you just keep taking laps around the market, chatting with people and sampling whatever little bites intrigue you.

Here were my favorite tastes of the night:
-Freshly squeezed mimosa from Bubbles Tea and Juice Co. The juice had been squeezed an hour ago!
-Ham balls and smoked pork Cajun andouille sausage from Bluescreek Farm Meats.

2)Main tastes:
-Pulled pork soft tacos from CaJohn's Flavor and Fire
-A little cup of Pho from Lac Viet Market
-Mushroom-bleu cheese flatbread from Omega Artisan Baking

-Coconut bread pudding with creme anglaise from Pastaria Seconda
-Cherry lambic sorbet from Jeni's
-Petit fours from Mozart's

All in all, the night was delightful. I didn't feel like this was an event I need to attend every year, but I will say that it reminded me how lucky we are to have the North Market and all its vendors here in Columbus.