Thursday, January 19, 2012

First Tastes of Columbus

It had been a few years since I spent any time in Columbus, Ohio. I had come each November to cover a tennis tournament every year, but never got to spend much time downtown. Since then, I had heard the city had welcomed a new food and drink scene and I was anxious to check it out.

After I left Rockmill Brewery, I went straight to the Hampton Inn and Suites Downtown to check in. I was met there by Scott Peacock, Public Relations Manager for Experience Columbus.  Scott took me to M at Miranova, one of Cameron Mitchell’s restaurants, which is known for its drinks as much as its food.

We started the evening at the bar trying out some of those famous cocktails made by Cris Dehlavi, a mixologist extraordinaire who has brought her award winning skills to this restaurant for nearly a decade. Scott and I were joined by another local celebrity, Angela An. The local morning news anchor has an interest in food and drinks that brought her and her husband to develop Food Hop, a series of culinary and beverage tours.

Cris did not let us down when it came to mixing it up behind the bar. Her creations were both tasty and beautiful and included Black Orchid, with Belvedere Black Raspberry, St. Germain Elderflower, white cranberry and lemon juice, served over a frozen black orchid.

There was also Marquee, with Belvedere Cytrus, Cointreau Noir, agave nectar, blood orange puree and lemon juice, and a citrus-free creation made just for me with hibisucus syrup, Plymouth Gin, ginger liqueur and Veuve Clicquot Champagne (so many of my favorite liquids!).

We talked about the big foodie movement in Columbus and how the distilleries have joined in as we sampled a few of the appetizers at M. Scott and Angela raved about the Butter Poached King Crab while I relished the Kobe Beef Mini Burgers with Monterey jack cheese, caramelized onions and sea salt fries. It was the first meat I had in weeks and I was starting to appreciate it even more know that I was eating mostly vegetarian.

Angela had to get home (morning anchors have early morning wake-ups) and Scott and I continued to talk about all there was to do, see and eat in Columbus, where Cameron Mitchell is just one of the restaurateurs bringing in interesting eateries. For dinner we shared the Beer Short Ribs with glazed carrots and celery root puree, and the Veal Mignon, a braised veal cheek with an asiago crepe and shitake mushroom sauce. Both were great, but the Macaroni & Cheese with Tillamook cheddar and black truffles was phenomenal.

The dessert menu looked as good as the main one and it took a while before we narrowed it down to the Root Beer Float with warm chocolate chip cookies, root beer granite and chocolate syrup, and the Apple Pie, with warm apples, almond crumble, Apple Jack ice cream and cider caramel. They were perfect choices and we were both stuffed when we left.

Scott dropped me off at the hotel and I got a good night’s sleep. After the wonderful meal the night before I was in no rush for breakfast and took my time walking over to the North Market, located just behind to Hampton Inn in the Short North area. I was quite impressed with the selection of cheese, meats, fish, poultry, chocolates, breads, kitchen items and more. I learned a bit about the evolution of markets throughout Columbus in the early 20th century, leading to this one now.

I wandered for a while, trying to decide what to try. The scent of waffles at Taste of Belgium beckoned me and I watched them turn one of the balls of dough into a delectable treat. Then there was Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, where treats like Goat Cheese with Cognac Figs have garnered them a reputation even out of the Midwest.   Before I left I also tasted one of the Bavarian pretzels at Brezel, and picked up a loaf of Sourdough bread (my daughter’s favorite) to .bring to New York with me from Omega Artisan Baking

In addition to everything you find in the 35 stalls, there is a Farmer’s Market here outside in the spring and cooking classes upstairs. The Columbus Dispatch also films a weekly segment from here.

I had to leave North Market because I had a full day ahead of me with lots of eating and drinking. I was excited to be visiting some of Columbus’ distilleries, but first I was heading over to meet my organizer for this trip, Amy Weirick, to make some candles. 


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