Have you ever “found” a restaurant and feel like you’ve just discovered a rare gem? Even though they’ve been there for three years and they didn’t even know they were “lost”? Yeah, it’s something like that.
Much to my husband’s dismay I was having a jewelry party. Actually he’s such a good sport that not only did he not mind, he was right in the thick of it, being the backbone of the whole affair! Am I a lucky gal, or what? My sister, friends and I joke and tell him he is our “boy-toy/servant”. But let me just say this … he’s the only man in a room of 27 women. Does he really mind? Not so much, I think.
I digress (as usual). Back to my “find”. I had my heart set on having empanadas for the party. It was Cinco de Mayo, after all! After much calling around and begging and pleading, one of the local Mexican restaurants took pity on me and directed me to Costelos Restaurant. I immediately “Googled” them and that was the moment! That was the moment that the clouds parted and the heavens shone light down upon us!
I kid you not! This was just what I was looking for! I called the restaurant and spoke with Rick. He knew just what I wanted and just what I needed! It was incredible. After looking at the pictures on the website and talking to Rick, I placed my order for catering pick up for the party … without ever having even tasted the food! I know! Crazy, huh? But I was so sure. I just knew.
Bob and I did go to Costelos for dinner before the party. Brothers Brian and Rick Perez are Costelos Restaurant. Their mom Anni, makes the desserts. They opened their restaurant in February of 2007. Why am I just now finding them? I honestly do not know. I lament the loss of time and empanadas that represent the past three years. However, I plan to make up for that lost time!
Bob and I wanted to taste what we would be serving, as well as taking a look at the rest of the menu. Would this become a new favorite? We met Rick, who is not only handsome and personable, but is definitely a man that loves what he does! He talks about the food that his brother creates as if it is sacred; something precious and cherished. He speaks of it with a certain reverence.
I have to tell you that upon my first bite of the beef empanada, I understood. That is when the light bulb came on! That is when the fireworks went off! That is when the angels started to sing! This was everything I was looking for and more. The crust was flaky and delicious. The ground beef filling was flavorful and tasted like “more”. As in, “I’d like more, please!”
The chicken empanadas and crab empanadas followed suit. The fillings have so much flavor; using spices to enhance but not adding heat. And the plantains, you ask? O.M.G. The fried sweet plantains just rock. I don’t even know how to describe them to help you “taste” them. They made me swoon. And Costelos has a sauce that just defies description. It goes on the plantains and on the empanadas and anything else that stood still long enough for me to drizzle it on! Seriously, the “secret” sauce is worth the trip alone!
The yellow rice with pigeon peas is a Costelo specialty. As well it should be! It is the perfect accompaniment. We also ordered shrimp in creole sauce and it worked beautifully with the rice. There are just so many other dishes I want to try. You need to check the menu out on the website. And take a few minutes to watch the pictures of the food cycle by. Each one looks better than the last!
Before we left we definitely had to have dessert. As I said before, Brian and Rick’s mom Anni makes the desserts. We chose to order the flan and a piece of the tres leche cake to share. When they were served, I didn’t know which one was more beautiful. Flan is a classic favorite of mine. This one was a beauty. Flan is a crème caramel with vanilla custard. The texture of a good flan is one of silky smoothness. And this one was so "good" that I almost felt as if I just couldn’t cut into it. But soon I came to my senses and slid my spoon smoothly through the gently yielding custard. One bite and I knew I had indeed entered the Promised Land. Hey, it could happen!
I looked at Bob and he was having his own moment with the cake. Anni’s tres leche cake was divine. The cake was light and incredibly fresh. We were delighted to find that in between the layers were thin slices of perfectly ripe mango. It was frosted with whipped topping and had a fanned strawberry on top. The plate was a thing of beauty.
I really wanted to try the dessert empanada. I'm totally an empanada girl! ;-) Listen to this description: "Guava Cream Empanadas - Island turnovers with a cream cheese and guava paste stuffing". Imagine my excitement! Unfortunately they were out of them. I consoled myself with another bite of flan. It helped.
And then we got to meet Anni! She came into the restaurant and Rick introduced us. No way could this gorgeous woman be Rick & Brian's mother ... she was way too young! And her smile lights up the whole room. She is just as sweet as her delicious confections. A new friend! Could this night get any better?
As full as we were, it did not take us any time to take care of those gorgeous desserts. Then there came Rick with coffee that he had insisted on making himself. I’m not quite sure what magic or mojo he used to make this coffee, but I loved it! It was the perfect strength, with the perfect sweetness and the perfect amount of cream. I need to go back just for the coffee!
There was no decision to be made here! We confirmed our order for Cinco de Mayo with the assurance that we were in good hands. Rarely do Bob and I have a party that we don’t do the cooking. We love to cook! But with me just getting out of the hospital, we felt that this time that just wasn’t going to be possible. So we put ourselves in Brian and Rick’s hands. What a tremendously good decision that turned out to be!
Wednesday came and Bob headed out to get the food. I set the oven at 200 degrees for warming, I was a little anxious, but that could be because pregnant Brooke was having conversations directly with the salsa and guacamole. When a 7 months pregnant woman begins to converse with her appetizers, well that’s pretty much a red flag. We diffused the situation by systematically testing the mild salsa, hot salsa, guacamole and chili con queso. All three required their own type of chip. Having sorted this out we were feeling quite prepared, because we knew we were the girls for the job. And anyone could have taken one look at us and recognized that was true by the dribbles of salsa and con queso on our shirts. Brooke and I are what we eat! And we wear it well, too!
Jane made the con queso dip and it was muy bueno! I've encouraged her to blog about it so that we can all have the recipe. It is a definite must for a Super Bowl party or for next year's Cinco de Mayo! Brooke made the salsa and guacamole. In fact, if you're a regular reader of Dishing-it-Up! Columbus, then you might remember Brooke's post on her salsa. Yum!
Bob came in and the aroma that wafted through the house was mesmerizing. Oh my goodness! Guests followed him in so they could see the unveiling.
We loaded platters with beef empanadas, chicken empanadas (excuse the tongs; had to get the picture quick before the masses descended on them),
and yellow rice with pigeon peas.
A bottle of the “Secret Sauce” was passed around and around and around. Oh, that sauce! We had to watch a few of the ladies to make sure they didn't slip it into their purse and walk out with it. I thought Laurie was going to start drinking it right out of the bottle! (Hey, I've seen her do worse!) Yes, I'm telling you it is that good!
For the party Dianne, our very own pastry chef, made us two incredible Tres Leche Cakes, served with tropical fruit. I'm sorry I can't show them to you. They, uh, got devoured before I could even think to photograph them! Dianne is amazing! And her cakes are right up there with Anni’s. These women kill me! I gained 20 pounds just looking at those cakes. Okay, so maybe I did have a teeny piece … or two. Hey, I kept losing my plate! ;-)
Everyone at the party loved the food. I lost count of the compliments! I'm still getting calls and emails about what a wonderful Cinco de Mayo feast we had! The combination of foods that Rick helped me choose was absolutely perfect.
Hopefully you will find your way to my little gem. Maybe I’ll see you there. Most likely I’ll be the one with a beef empanada in one hand and a plantain in the other, with sauce dripping down my chin! Or maybe I’ll be eating the Mofango! Or maybe I'll be having a Cubano. Who knows what I'll be enjoying? There is so much I want to try. For sure, I’ll be the one with the big smile on my face!
See you there for some of the best Latin Cuisine in Columbus ...or anywhere for that matter! When you go, tell them you "found" them on Dishing-it-Up! Columbus!
2492 Home Acre Drive
Columbus, OH 43231
p.s. Chef Tony is coming into town on Saturday ... guess where we're going for dinner!