Monday, March 22, 2010

Reuben Sandwiches

I love St Patrick’s Day. My mom was Irish so this was a big day in our house. I have such good memories of this day. So even though this year the holiday was on a Wednesday (had to go easy on the celebrating), I still wanted to make a dinner that would do Mom proud.

Well of course the first thing I thought of was a Reuben sandwich! We are huge fans of Reubens; as in enormous fans. And I have a secret ingredient when it comes to making my Reuben sandwiches. I have access to the most incredibly delicious corned beef you have ever tasted in your entire life. It’s from a wonderful German specialty shop in Mission, Kansas; “Werner’s Specialty Foods”.

“Werner’s” is owned by a childhood friend and his wife, David and Judy Miller. When we were kids the Miller’s house was next door to ours. Mom and Mrs. Miller were best friends. Dad and Mr. Miller were rivals when it came to their tomato plants, but great friends otherwise. My brother, John and the "Miller boys" (David and Rick) were the guys of the neighborhood. And Jenny and I, we were the youngest and bestest friends; still are. Ours was a tight knit neighborhood, as was common in those days. It was a simpler time that made true and lasting friendships.

So even though Dave is much older than I am, he’s my friend (that is until he reads this sentence). And even though he is my friend, believe me when I say the meat from his butcher shop is the best ever! From the corned beef to the thick cut bacon to the bratwurst, and knackwurst, and Italian sausages, and the polish sausages, and the bier brats, and andouille, and chorizo, and bangers, and linguisa, and so many more handmade sausages to the hams and smoked turkey, everything is just awesome.

Okay, so now you know about Werner’s. So there I was on St Patrick’s Day with a pound package of David’s thinly sliced corned beef, half a loaf of marbled rye bread, a can of sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Thousand Island dressing. Well, by gosh, that looked like the makings of a Reuben sandwich to me!

I pulled out my pseudo panini grill (aka: George Forman) and heated that baby up. Then I lined up my ingredients and proceeded to make Reuben sandwiches that would make St Patrick himself weep. (Did St Patrick actually eat Reubens, do you think?) I spread a very thin layer of low fat mayonnaise on the outside of the bread (in lieu of butter) and placed those works of art onto the Forman. As I closed the lid I heard that satisfying sizzle. “Anticipation, anticipation is makin’ me late, it's keeping me waiting…”

Tater tots stood in for potato cakes that night. My energy was spent on assembling the perfect Reubens, so while tater tots are not Bob’s favorites (I love them…they’re potatoes after all and we all know how I am about potatoes) they would just have to do. He’d be appeased by his Smithwick’s beer.

I plated up our dinner and served it. As we bit into the piping hot corned beef sandwiches we both moaned a little. Then there was a big sigh. How can a sandwich be so good, I ask you? It’s crazy that the combination of those ingredients can bring a man to his knees.

St Patrick, I think I love you. Werner’s Fine Meats, I know I love you. And to the person who created the Reuben sandwich, I pay homage to you!

Happy belated St Patrick’s Day to all!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dine Originals Week - Pistacia Vera

The only way I could think to wrap up Dine Originals Week was to make a visit to Pistacia Vera -- it is my happy place.

As I stepped into Pistacia Vera on a gray and humid afternoon, I felt like I was coming home. First I went to visit the sculpture. Have I mentioned how much I like the pistachio sculpture? It really is beyond cool. I have to pay homage every time I visit. All things pistachio reign in the Kingdom of Pistacia Vera. Having done this, I was off to the goodie case.

I was here for the Dine Originals Week offering. How can you not like “Dessert for Two – A Sampling Including”:

Meyer Lemon Tart – Fresh lemon and Meyer lemon curd in a butter shortbread crust

Pistachio Strawberry Dacquoise – Layers of almond and pistachio meringue cake, strawberry French buttercream and pistachio chiboust

Passion Fruit Chambord Truffle – Layers of premium Valrhona Araguani chocolate flourless cake, passion fruit curd and black raspberry buttercream topped with a passion fruit chocolate mousse and Chambord chocolate glaze

Roasted Pistachio Caramel Brownie – Decadent layers of Valrhona Manjari chocolate brownie, roasted pistachios, slated caramel cream and chocolate ganache

Parisian Macaron – Light nut meringue sandwich cookie with buttercream or ganache; your choice of two of our twelve signature flavors

Pate De Fruits – Natural fruit jellies made with fruit puree, pectin and sugar; your choice of two of our seven signature flavors

Almond Apricot Honey Nougat – Handmade fresh nougat with orange blossom honey and almonds and dried apricots

Cashew Caramel – chewy vanilla bean butter caramel with salted cashews

This was a veritable feast for anyone with a serious sweet tooth … and that would so be me! I was extremely excited to get my treasure home, however, I needed to wait for Bob to get home before I even opened it. If I didn’t, how could I explain the empty boxes?

Oh! And that leads me to something else that I love about Pistacia Vera. The packaging! I love the way my treats are put in a box and a ribbon is wrapped around it. The macarons are each placed in their own little cellophane bags. Now that is something. If a sizable purchase is made (which mine usually is) the boxes are put in one of their totally cool bags. I just feel special walking out with my purchase. It makes me smile.

Bob and I were so serious about tasting our platter of confections. We did not take this lightly. Armed with a sharp knife and two little plates, we sat down to tickle our palates. We sliced the first item in half and we relished that before we moved on to the next. We systematically worked our way through the platter. I am not ashamed to say we probably ingested more than our weekly allowance of calories. Again, I am selfless like that. I believe if I am going to blog I might as well do it right. Hips be damned!!!

The Meyer Lemon tart literally danced on my tongue and made my mouth sing. There is just no other way to explain it. What an amazing pleasure! It was my hands-down favorite; surprising coming from a chocolate lover. The Pistachio Strawberry Dacquoise was my second favorite. The flavors just worked so well and the cake was something I would like to find under my pillow every night. Then I would know that I really am the princess that Bob claims I am!

Let me qualify something here; when I say favorite and second favorite, I don’t include the macarons in that. They are freestanding pastries on their very own plane in Pastrydom. They cannot be compared, and they are not to be compared. Please do not be confused, Pistacia Vera’s Parisian Macarons are in a class by themselves. They are totally exempt from any kind of comparison. You with me? Good. Now we can move on.

We know we simply cannot go wrong with the Pate De Fruits. I haven’t met a flavor of these wonderful, fresh tasting fruit jellies that I don’t like.

As well, the Honey Nougat and the Cashew Caramel were awesome. Everything was awesome! Even the tea bag that was sent home with me was awesome!

In addition to the Dine Originals Week sampler I also got a box of a dozen macarons. Yes -- one of each flavor. Little colorful gems that were my very own (and Bob’s; but I can pretend they were all mine). All the different colors and flavors waiting in individual bags for me to slide each one out and try it on … kind of like a fine gemstone ring. Okay, not really. I was going to eat these, after all. But you get the idea. They really are that beautiful and that delicate.

Silly Macarons!

Words cannot describe! Pistacia Vera continues to delight and amaze me every time I visit. As I told you when I started this, it’s a happy place I want to return to again and again.

I wonder if there are special shoes I can click three times that would take me back to Pistacia Vera. Now that would be cool!

Pistacia Vera
541 South 3rd Street
Columbus, OH 43215

Pistacia Vera on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Dine Originals Week - Mezzo Italian Kitchen and Wine

I know I have reviewed Mezzo before. http://http//

But it is such a gem in Gahanna! We really love it. So how could I not include it in Dine Originals Week? My thoughts exactly!

Sunday evening came and I just wasn’t feeling my usual self (yikes! - whatever that might be!). So I had a brainstorm … would Mezzo do carryout on the Dine Originals Week menu? We called and they said yes! Woohoo! We placed our order and Bob went to pick it up.

Mezzo’s first course offering was a choice of two salads; “La Casa Insalate: Mixed Greens, Poached Apples, Spiced Walnuts, and Gorgonzola Vinaigrette”, or “Wedge Salad: Smoked Bacon, Diced Tomatoes, Gorgonzola, and Peppercorn Ranch Dressing”.

There were three choices for the second course; “Sautéed Salmon with Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Zucchini and a Balsamic Reduction", “Chicken Marsala with Roasted Shitakes, Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes”, or “Lasagna al Forno: Veal, Beef, Ricotta, Mozzarella, and Marinara”.

The third course of dessert choices was Ricotta Cheesecake with whipped cream and strawberries or Triple Layer Chocolate Cake with powdered sugar and raspberries.

First course was easy; we got one of each salad.

Second course, not so easy. Oh my gosh … now how am I supposed to choose from that? I reflected; I mulled it over; I pondered; I ruminated; I contemplated; and I meditated. Oh for goodness sakes! Who was I kidding? I simply cannot resist Mezzo’s lasagna. The only other competition for me was their scallops and since they weren’t on the Dine Originals Week menu (and I’m doing this solely for the readers of my blog, mind you), it had to be the lasagna.

Bob decided to get the Chicken Marsala and we could share (his way of getting to my lasagna, yeah?). For the dessert, again it was one of each.

I perked up the minute he walked through the door. We unpacked the food; and may I say that Mezzo packs their carryout food excellently (is that a word?). There was no spillage. Spillage is a big issue for me. If it can spill you can bet I will spill it. The containers are microwavable so if you need to nuke for a reheat they have you covered. Utensils are included as well.

We proceeded to fill our plates. Pictured here is the house salad (it was so big we split it and didn’t even get into the wedge), half of one of the two chicken marsala breasts and potatoes, and a third of the lasagna. There was a lot of food!

I cannot tell a lie. The lasagna was the best part of the meal. That being said let me back up to the salad. I love this salad. The poached apples were amazing. I wish I could just get a dish of the apples. Then there were the walnuts. Spiced! They were so yummy. Add the blue cheese and the vinaigrette and it was just one wonderful salad. Hands down it was a favorite!

The chicken marsala was good, however I would have liked more marsala in the sauce. The potatoes, well we all know how I feel about any potato on this earth. I also need to call attention to the vegetables from Mezzo. I’m one of those people that have to pretty much remind myself constantly that I need vegetables. And then it’s not so easy to find many that I really like. Well, I don’t know what they do to the vegetables at Mezzo but they are delicious! I have been impressed with the vegetables at every meal I’ve eaten there. Maybe they have a magic garden … whatever they have; I’m telling you those veggies rock. And this coming from a “vegetable struggler”!

Both of the desserts were delicious. The chocolate cake was moist and rich. The ricotta cheesecake was absolutely divine. It was so creamy and light and fluffy and more. You know, as in “I want more!”

The meal was delicious! I never considered Mezzo as a carryout option before but you can bet it’s on our list now!

And you know the best part?


And did I mention that the three course dinner was only $20.10? Now tell me, how can you not go???

Mezzo Italian Kitchen and Wine
130 Creekside Plaza
Gahanna, OH 43230

Mezzo on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 15, 2010

Dine Originals Week - Elevator Brewery & Draught Haus

Saturday night we visited The Elevator Brewery & Draught Haus for dinner. What a fun evening! First of all, this place is just downright cool. The bar is lit with blue lights. You know the blue I’m talking about; cobalt blue. It set a tone to the bar that was alive and warm. The building is long and narrow, so as we walked through the bar area, the sounds of voices and laughter bounced around us. If I hadn’t been in a good mood already that would have lifted my spirits right then and there!

We were seated almost immediately at a table just past the middle of the restaurant. This was a very good place to be. Our server introduced herself to us and helped us with our drink orders. She left us with the Restaurant Week menu as well as the regular menu as she went to put in the drinks. We have definitely decided that someone in the kitchen at the Elevator certainly knows his/her way around a stove! The menu is just packed with items that all look so delicious it’s almost a sin not to order one of everything! I had a difficult time restraining myself.

In addition to the three course Restaurant Week menu, I ordered the sauerkraut balls as an appetizer to share. I thought I was being very sly and slipped it in when Bob wasn’t paying attention, however he can read me like a book. I saw the grin on his face and knew I’d been busted. He knows I have a weakness for sauerkraut balls. And having mentioned about three times that they were on the menu, in reality, I probably wasn’t really that sly at all.

As we waited for our food, we looked around at the wonderful artwork in the Elevator. There is a stained glass window that just simply commands your attention. It is gorgeous. And having an affinity for angels, I especially liked it. How wonderful it was to glance up during dinner and see the beautiful face of that angel.

In addition to the stained glass, there were paintings that were quite fun. There is one that is the street view of the restaurant. The two windows in front are curved outward and have seating that is kind of like a private nook. Very cool.

Our drinks came and may I just say that I now know that I love a good key lime martini? Wow! Who knew that a combination of vanilla vodka, pineapple juice, cream, lime and Blue Curacao could taste so good? Well rim it with graham cracker crumbs and lead me to the pool! That’s what Jenny and I felt like as we sipped our Oh-So-Caribbean drinks. They were simply divine.

Bob had a flight of six house-brewed beers so he was completely and sublimely happy, too.

The sauerkraut balls were everything I hoped they’d be. The outside was crisp and crunchy. The inside was a mixture of sauerkraut with a little pork and seasonings; a perfect combination of ingredients that left you wanting … more! (I apologize for the fact that the picture shows only two. We, um, all kind of dug in before we remembered to take the picture!) The sauce was reminiscent of Thousand Island dressing with horseradish; a definite compliment to the sauerkraut balls.

It was time to start our dinner. The first course choices were Crab Stuffed Scallop, Xtra Lager Corn Chowder, and Spinach Salad.

I began with the Crab Stuffed Scallop. It was described as; “Sea scallop stuffed with an Elevator crabcake, pan seared then drizzled with a lemon Dijon beurre blanc and topped with red wine vinaigrette dressed microgreens.” I described it as incredible. The scallop was perfectly cooked. (If you’ve ever had a scallop that wasn’t cooked well, you know the importance of which I speak on this topic!) The crabcake inside was delicate so as not to overpower the scallop. The microgreens and beurre blanc raised the dish to a whole new level. Like I said, it was incredible.

Bob had the Xtra Lager Corn Chowder. Compared to the simplicity of flavors in the scallop dish, the chowder had a whole lot goin’ on! It was a study in complexity. With a chicken stock base, it was loaded with corn, potatoes, carrots and shredded chicken. The lager added a beautiful depth of flavor. Plenty of black pepper hit just the right note of heat.

The second course offerings were; Pancetta Wrapped Walleye, New York Strip, and Portobello Linguine. I ordered the New York Strip; a “10 oz grilled New York strip steak served with redskin mashed potatoes, Chef’s vegetables, and Dopplebock demi-glace, topped with malt macadamia nut and herb compound butter.” It was lovely. The steak was cooked just right. It was tender and juicy and could be cut with a fork. The mashed potatoes were … well, I’ve never met a potato I didn’t like so I will tell you I certainly enjoyed them! I loved the compound butter melting all over the steak. Oh yeah.

Bob chose the Pancetta Wrapped Walleye; “Pan seared, oven roasted pancetta wrapped walleye, served over potato cake, with grilled asparagus and a ruby red grapefruit micro-green salad.” This was heaven. The pancetta coaxed out the subtle flavor of the walleye that blended perfectly with the potato cake and vegetables. The presentation of this dish knocked my socks off. It was picture perfect.

I wrapped up my dinner with “Beery’s Root Beer Float; Traditional float made with house brewed root beer and Johnson’s Vanilla ice cream. “ I love root beer. And I especially love root beer that is “house brewed”. The Elevator’s root beer is exceptional. It left me wanting more. Do they sell growlers of this stuff?

Bob had beer for dessert! He had ordered a dopplebock. But after talking to Dick Stevens and Margie Rachel (Elevator’s owners), he asked our server to bring him the mocha plum stout in addition to the dopplebock. Both of the beers had a dark, mahogany color with a creamy head. The mocha plum stout’s nose was fragrant with coffee and roasted malt. The taste revealed the tartness of plum along with the full mocha and malt flavors. The dopplebock is an old friend with rich, deep, caramel flavors that never disappoint. (All of the above is as described by Bob) I am not a beer drinker but I did taste the stout. It was pretty darn good! Maybe I could like this stuff!

A note about our server; sometimes in a restaurant you are waited on by someone doing their job. On luckier times, you have a server that enjoys interacting with their customers. Saturday night we were fortunate enough to have the latter. Lindsay was an absolute pleasure. What a smile! She was just delightful. (I wanted to take her home with me but Bob wouldn’t let me!) This is a gal who likes her job, likes her customers, and clearly likes the product she is serving. What a gem!

Friends, as soon as you have the opportunity to visit the Elevator, do it! You will so enjoy the food, the beer, the ambiance and the staff. Ask for Lindsay; you’ll be in great hands.

Elevator Brewery & Draught Haus
161 North High Street
Columbus, Ohio 43215

Elevator on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 12, 2010

Dine Originals Week - DeepWood: An American Tavern

I love the ambiance of DeepWood Restaurant. The atmosphere makes me feel cozy and safe. The aromas delight my sense of smell. The richness of all of the wood is strong and comforting. But the best is sitting under the “tree” and enjoying the most delightful picnic I can imagine.

Last night Bob and I had dinner at DeepWood with two other couples. What a fun evening! These are some of our favorite people and we were excited to introduce them to this wonderful restaurant. During Restaurant Week in the fall Bob and I had discovered DeepWood and fell in love with it. The menu DeepWood was offering for RW this time looked awesome.

We arrived at the restaurant and were surprised to see scaffolding surrounding the front and side of the building. Don’t be put off; DeepWood is still there! We were seated immediately. Our table was under the “tree” in the center of the restaurant. I kind of felt like Alice-in-Wonderland … in a good way.

Our server was a delightful young man, whose name I am sorry to say I did not get. The drink service seemed to be a bit slow to start, but once it began the service flowed quite smoothly. We didn’t feel rushed, which is nice. One of the gals commented that sometimes the plates are whisked away so quickly you barely have a chance to enjoy one course before the next is set before you.
Not so at DeepWood. Service was attentive but not smothering, and we all liked that.

I think the bread is really something special. Each diner was given a trio of breads which included a piece of sourdough bread, a slice of dark brown walnut bread, and a seeded lavash. All were delicious, especially when slathered with the butter sprinkled with pink sea salt!

The first course choices made it very difficult to choose just one! All three sounded awesome, and were! Of course we shared, and I would be hard pressed to have picked a favorite. But if I simply had to, I would choose the mozzarella. Oh my …

The Chef’s Hand Stretched Mozzarella was served with oven dried tomato, zucchini & yellow squash ribbons and a balsamic reduction. I kid you not, I wanted to lick this plate. I considered sneaking behind the “trunk” of the tree and doing just that, but someone was sitting there already! It really was that good. I could go back just for that alone. The picture just doesn't do it justice.

The Cod Beignets were quite a surprise. They were a spectacular surprise! The beignets were light with little bits of cod, expertly fried to perfection, and served with a wonderful tartar sauce. Kathy was genuinely delighted with them. She was such a happy girl eating them that I hated to take one away from her for tasting … but I did.

Last in this course, but most definitely not least, was the Duck Leg & Foie Gras Sausage served with briochette and green apple jam. Now, I am not a huge duck fan. I love Chef Tony’s duck rillettes, but that is about the extent of my fondness for duck. But hey, these sausages rocked!

We moved on to the second course. I knew way ahead of time what my choice was going to be. I was set on the Lobster Bolognese, served with vegetable risotto. The risotto was creamy and had just the right amount of vegetables; yellow squash, peas and zucchini. Risotto was plated in the middle and ringed with the bolognese. The sauce was fragrant and lovely. There were bite sized pieces of lobster meat alongside the chunks of tomato. The bolognese had a lovely fresh taste, but in my humble opinion, I thought the lobster meat was overpowered by the tomato. The dish was delicious, however I think the lobster just kind of got lost.

The Braised Pork Ribs were served with a house made barbeque sauce, white cheddar polenta and coleslaw. We concurred that the seasoning on the ribs had an Asian flair (five spice, maybe?) and the meat was so tender it literally fell off of the bones. The white cheddar polenta just danced across my tongue, teasing me because I only had one bite as it was on my friend’s plate and not mine! I surmise the slaw was good because no one left any on their plates.

The last offering for the main course was possibly the best of the three. The Chicken Involtini was absolutely divine. The chicken was rolled with house made tasso ham, gruyere, spinach and served with a whole grain mustard sauce. It was a beautiful plate and a delicious entrée. The tasso ham was incredible. It added a depth of flavor to the dish and pulled all of the ingredients together.

The third and final course was the Chocolate and Walnut Toll House Pie paired with Brown Sugar Ice Cream. Add a cup of coffee to that and Kathy said it best; “Now this is the way to wrap it all up!”

DeepWood doesn’t disappoint. I still love this place. All six of us decided we need to come back and order off of the regular menu. There are so many interesting foods that DeepWood offers. We will be back, and I hope it is soon!

511 North High Street
Columbus, OH 43215

DeepWood on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dine Originals Week - Spinelli's Deli

This afternoon Jane and I visited one of my “new” choices for lunch. And yes, it could easily become a "new favorite". It is also one to log into the memory for the next time one of the family is admitted to OSU hospital and we need a lunch run.

Spinelli’s Deli is located in the Thurber Center in Victorian Village next to the Giant Eagle. The Restaurant Week menu was pretty generic: the first course was either a small soup or ½ a salad; second course was choice of sandwich, pasta or pizza; and the third course was a choice of brownie, cookie, or cupcake and a fountain drink. Nothing there to reach out and grab me … that is, until I looked at their menu items. Then I was “wowwed”! I needed time to study this before I went, there were so many choices! This would be one reason why I just love a good deli. The menu is so full of promise.

I walked into Spinelli’s knowing just what I wanted, because I had done my homework! I placed my order and Jane placed hers. We took our tray and went out to sit in the sunshine and enjoy our feast.

Both Jane and I got the ½ salad as our first course. And we both chose the CranTurkey Cobb Salad. This was delicious! It had romaine lettuce, roasted turkey, smoked bacon, dried cranberries, crumbled blue cheese and poppyseed dressing. The lettuce was fresh and crisp. The turkey and cranberries were plentiful. The blue cheese was just right; not too much and not too little. The poppyseed dressing was perfect and was served on the side. Any fan of “When Harry Met Sally” will tell you that it’s very important to have it served on the side. And as for the bacon, well what isn’t better when bacon is added? This salad will be a definite “do-over”.

My Reuben was just wonderful. I have so been craving a Reuben and this did not disappoint. The rye bread was perfectly grilled. The corned beef was also grilled, giving it a nice depth of flavor. Sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing finished off the sandwich. This was one choice I was totally happy with.

Jane had the tuna salad sandwich, which was premium all white Albacore, lettuce, tomato & cucumber on wheat bread. She said it was good but a tad bland; maybe could have benefitted from a bit of salt. She took a bite of my Reuben and swooned. (I think she had sandwich envy.)

We both finished up our lunch with the chocolate raspberry cupcake. What a treat! First of all, it was pretty. The icing was a pale pink and you could see bits of raspberry in the swirls of piping. The cake was so moist and so delicious. It was just the perfect ending to a decidedly yummy lunch. What a good choice!

Spinelli’s, we will be back!

Spinelli’s Deli
Thurber Center
767 Neil Avenue
Columbus, OH 43215

Spinelli Deli on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dine Original's Week - The Top Steakhouse

Last night we visited an old favorite. The Top Steakhouse is about as retro as you can get. And since retro is really "in" right now, it is “the place to be”! We took my niece and nephew (this would be the niece that just gave my sister a kidney!). We really wanted to treat them to a nice dinner out so they could relax and have fun. We also wanted to thank Tashia, just from the two of us. We love her so much and her generosity is amazing!

When we walked into The Top it truly was like stepping back in time. About the first thing we saw was the piano player singing and playing dinner music for the guests. The host greeted us and had someone seat us almost immediately. We had a nice booth almost to the back of the restaurant. I loved that because I could watch what was going on and what was being served to the other diners.

Our server, Andrea was there right away, greeting us and asking if we would like something to drink. I told her I wanted something girlie & fruity. She started running down a list of martinis. I’m not even going to blush when I tell you that I stopped her at the Appletini. I know it is cliché, but it just sounded darn good. And was it ever! And pretty, too. Maybe I’d better stock up on some of this stuff for St. Patrick’s Day coming up! That green drink would be spot on! But I digress.

We were asked if we would be ordering from the Restaurant Week menu and were left with that and a list of suggested wines, which I thought was a great foresight. Of course all four of us had perused the menu at great length and knew just exactly what we wanted.

I need to tell you that when we arrived at our table, it had already been set with service for four along with full water glasses. In addition, there was a plate in the middle of the table with a pre-arranged starter. It included sauerkraut in the middle with four thick slices of dill pickle and pitted kalamata olives. I found it to be delightful. It whetted our appetites; not that we really needed any whetting as it was. But it prepared and cleansed our palates.

The first course was soup. Our choices were Lobster Bisque or French Onion. Tashia and Bob decided on the Lobster Bisque, while Bryan and I chose the French Onion. I have heard that The Top is famous for their French Onion soup. And there is a good reason for that. The soup was absolutely, totally awesome. The broth was so rich and clear, full of onions that had been sautéed to coax out their sweetness. A thick layer of cheese had been melted over top of the crock of soup. This was the heaven of the soup world! A veritable crock of gold at the end of the rainbow (I seem to have a “Wearin’ ‘O the Green" day theme working here).

The Lobster Bisque was rich and decadent, with bits of lobster working their way through the sherry kissed base. Judging by the one spoonful that I coerced my husband out of (not really, he would have shared more with me if I’d asked…and traded French Onion soup)The Top also knew their way around a pot of Lobster Bisque.

The second course was the salad course. Choices were a Caesar Salad or the Top House Salad. I was the only one of the four that chose the Top House salad. It was a good mix of greens that were fresh and had a nice crunch, a few slices of red onion, a wedge of tomato and crumbled blue cheese with an Italian vinaigrette: just delightful.

Bob, Tashia and Bryan had the Caesar Salad. They commented that it had a “bite”. Bob and Bryan liked it quite well, but Tashia would have preferred it milder.

Now for the main course. Oh man, had I been waiting for this! As in, all day waiting for this! There was not a second’s hesitation for me to practically shout out that I would have the Lobster Tails. No question at all. I was having the “two 5 ounce lobster tails served with baked potato”. Tashia was right on my heals with her order. Bryan went with the Prime Rib; “10 ounce prime rib with au jus and baked potato”. Bob chose the Pecan Crusted Salmon; “with bourbon glaze and sautéed spinach.” I was quite happy with his choice. I thought that looked absolutely delicious, but not enough so that I wasn’t going to have the lobster tails. All right! With Bob ordering it I knew I could talk him out of a taste…or two.

Dinner arrived. The lobster tails looked totally divine. The presentation was so pretty. Andrea swiftly removed the shells for us and loaded our baked potatoes with a most generous spoonful of butter and sour cream. ..I’ll diet tomorrow…um, I’ll diet after Restaurant Week is over! I cut a piece of the lobster; I dunked that piece into the drawn butter; I slowly lifted it to my mouth…total and complete sensory overload. This lobster was so perfectly cooked that I swear it was a spiritual experience! My taste buds sang the Hallelujah Chorus along with the angels above. As I slowly opened my eyes fully expecting the entire establishment to be in awe of what was happening at our table, I looked around to see life as we know it going on. Even at my own table! Did they not know what had just transpired here? Well, evidently not. However, I think Tashia might have been having her own “moment” across the table from me. I didn’t ask. I just simply moaned a little I believe. Bob looked at me and smiled. Hmm, maybe he was sitting close enough to me that he heard the angels singing.

The prime rib was pretty awesome, too. Bryan shared, and I am telling you it tasted just like prime rib should taste. It was so juicy and so tender and so cooked to perfection. Tashia said the gentleman at the booth behind her commented that he didn’t even need to use a knife on his, and that it was so tender it almost melted in his mouth. We concurred with him! That was some of the best prime rib I’ve had in a long time.

Bob generously shared his dinner with me. He urged me to try the spinach and to put some on my plate. In fact, he urged me to put all of it on my plate. Bob has never been a big spinach eater. I on the other hand, could have a spinach eating contest with Popeye. (Now wouldn’t that be ugly? I’m so sorry I put that visual in your head.) I love spinach. And The Top knows how to sauté spinach. It was yummy.

My husband is really generous. He also was happy to let me taste his salmon. It was so good I wanted to slap the table, if you know what I mean. The salmon was not overcooked which is a crime in my book. It was moist and had a crust that must have had some brown sugar and it was then covered in chopped pecans and cooked to perfect doneness. The bourbon glaze just made it sing when it hit your tongue! This was most definitely a dish worthy of being showcased on any Restaurant Week menu. I am sorry to say that the one picture taken of the salmon just didn't turn out.

Even though we were completely stuffed, we still had the dessert course. And even though we were completely stuffed, we managed to eat it! Our choices were Crème Brûlée, NY Style Cheesecake and Triple Chocolate Cake. Here was our disappointment of the evening. Bryan was really looking forward to the crème brûlée. When he told Andrea this is what he wanted, she informed us they were out of it. Bryan was truly bummed. She offered the funnel cake with chocolate syrup and vanilla ice cream as a substitute. That is what Bryan and I ordered. Bob and Tashia went with the cheesecake.

The funnel cake was good. The middle of mine was a bit hard and I’m not quite sure why. Like I said, it was good. But it wasn’t crème brûlée. Bob and Tashia both liked the cheesecake. I tasted Bob’s and it was a good New York style cheesecake; smooth and a little bit tangy.

What a great meal! We really enjoyed ourselves. And we certainly enjoyed the food. The atmosphere of The Top is fun; I bet on a weekend night it is just like the supper clubs back in the day.

Why, I was expecting Frank Sinatra to walk in at any minute!

The Top Steakhouse
2891 East Main Street
Columbus, Ohio 43209

Top Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 5, 2010

Dine Originals Week - March 8th - 14th

Whatever you do next week, do not forget that beginning Monday it is Dine Originals RESTAURANT WEEK!!! I am so excited! Can you tell? Oh how I love these two weeks of the year!

Go to the website. The restaurants and menus are listed right there for you!!!

The excrutiating part is that it is no way possible to visit them all! I despair.

However, Bob and I do have a few favorites we'll return to, and some new places to visit as well. But you have to wait to see what we do!

If you go to any of the restaurants during Dine Originals Week, please let me know where and what you got!

Oh, decisions, decisions.....

Monday, March 1, 2010

J. Gumbo's Cajun Joint - Gahanna

Wheeeew Eeeee!!!

Okay, I know that was pathetic. But I just had to get it out of my system. Sorry. You know you would have done the same exact thing. Just admit it, already.

Yesterday Bob was driving home from church and I was checking in on Facebook. There was an entry from J. Gumbo’s Cajun Joint about “Bloody Mary Sunday”! Well, yeah it caught my eye! It’s been open for a bit now and we haven’t had a chance to stop. So I mentioned this to him, he turned the car around and cut through the neighborhood to come up the back street. We pulled in and the sign said they weren’t open yet. So with empty stomachs growling, we started to leave. But then the door opened up and we were greeted by a great smile that had a nice guy attached to it (that would be Charlie) and he said to just come on in! We didn’t need to be asked twice!

Charlie explained how things worked at J. Gumbo’s. He let us sample several items and told us which one he especially liked and which ones were spicy and which ones not so much. He also told us what items went together really great in combo bowls. All of the “Big Bowl Entrées” were served over a bed of white rice with a slice of house bread. They had appetizers (dips and nachos) and Po Boys and Sandwiches. There were even vegetarian options for those so inclined. There were red beans and rice, jambalaya, gumbo, etouffée, white chili; oh I could just keep going! Some things you are just gonna have to find out for yourselves.

Now there was a problem. A big problem; not insurmountable, but a problem nonetheless. There comes a point when you have to make a decision. They frown upon you standing at the counter with a spoon, tasting the afternoon away. At least the line forming behind us did! (I jest…the line formed after we’d already taken our seats. Remember? We got in early!)

I chose a combo of Drunken Chicken and Bumblebee Stew over white rice. The slice of bread I mentioned earlier? Change that to a hunk of bread…and good bread! Bob went with Jambalaya and Voodoo Chicken. These were some serious portions, too! You’d all better be hungry when you get to J. Gumbo’s!

Now let me tell you about my meal. Oh my, was it good. Bob was a little surprised I had gotten the Drunken Chicken because; well let’s just say it out loud, I-AM-A-WUSS! The menu shows the Drunken Chicken with 3 bottles of hot sauce. The description was “Tender chicken with garlic, olive oil, stewed tomatoes and Cajun spices slow-cooked with beer.” And it certainly did pack some heat. But when paired with the Bumblebee Stew, “A blend of yellow corn, stewed tomatoes, onions and black beans in a creamy sweet and spicy butter sauce,” it attained a level of heavenness…is that a word? (It is now!)The chunks of chicken were so tender they just fell apart. And there was that hunk-o-bread to sop up all of the juices. It really was so good I just can’t even do it justice!

Bob’s combo was seriously good, too. I will take his word on that. I opted not to try the Voodoo Chicken. The description was “Slow-cooked chicken in a spicy Cajun tomato sauce with garlic and crushed red pepper, sprinkled with our Voodoo spice.” He really liked it but did encourage me to stick with the Drunken Chicken  I did dip into his Jambalaya. And boy I am glad I did! ‘Cause I know that’s what I’m getting next time! The description was, “Traditional Creole-style jambalaya with tender chicken, sausage and the “trinity” (bell pepper, onion and celery).” The sausage was smokey and absolutely delicious!

Right now during their opening, all of their menu items are $6! Insane! Crazy! Wonderful!!!

The owner, Brandon came over to greet us as we were finishing our lunch. He told us that their full service bar opened last Friday and they’ll be having live blues & jazz soon. There is also a dining section at the side where he has local artists display their artwork. He’s all about community and that certainly puts a smile on our face.

J. Gumbo’s Cajun Joint is located in the building that used to house Panera on Granville Street. We totally enjoyed our lunch and meeting Brandon & Charlie. Great food, great friends, what more can you ask for?

Visit soon! And tell them you saw them on Dishing-It-Up-Columbus! Tell them Bob & Jean sent you. It won’t get you anything free…except maybe a big smile. But you’ll get that anyway!


J. Gumbo’s Cajun Joint – Gahanna
64 Granville Street
Gahanna, OH 43230

p.s. I just received a great email from Brandon (who hasn't even seen this review yet!) and here are a few more details of interest from him:

"Please keep in mind that we will be introducing desserts in the next few weeks, and a light salad menu will follow that. Also, as mentioned on Sunday, we currently offer Free Wi-Fi anytime, a new local artist each month with a gallery style feature, a full bar (including a long list of premium and Louisiana Brews), specialty made from scratch bloody mary's on Sundays, and very soon we will have live Jazz and Blues on Saturday evenings."

Two of my favorite food writers

Hey all

Check out this blog from two of my favorite food writers: Meredith and Carla write for me at Disney FamilyFun magazine. And -- I swear -- every dish that I've tried from them turns out fabulous. Not only do I turn to them for great recipes for the magazine, I also have their cookbooks, which I use extensively. Enjoy!