Archive | May, 2009

big night out, take two

31 May

Last night we headed out on the town to go to opening weekend of a new restaurant: Rosendale’s Modern Bistro. Although Rosendale’s opened a couple of years ago, Chef Richard Rosendale switched things up this past year, putting the formal, white-gloved service restaurant upstairs, and making the downstairs into the Modern Bistro. Getting back to basics with custom dining, the bistro is a more social experience, with moderately-priced dishes that are simple yet complex, and perfect for sharing. In light of the economy, Rosendale’s Modern Bistro is music to a foodie’s ear.

We’d made reservations in advance, and I’m glad we did – they were bustling! As we waited for our table to be ready, we were greeted by Vince, who offered to make us something special from the bar. More than a bartender, Vince wowed us with what he prepared – we had to track him down and make him give up the ingredients. My drink, on the left, included Creme de Cassis, orange Vodka, Triple Sec, a splash of cranberry juice and a squeeze of lemon. E’s drink, on the right, has (from what I remember!) Rye, Elderflower Liqueur and fresh lemon juice. I’m usually a lightweight, but these were so good that I had 2, along with a couple of sips of Malbec later in the evening.


Palates open and bellies growling, we were happy to see our appetizers and get dinner started! I didn’t want anything heavy or cloying, so I chose the Ham and Melon Skewers, composed of watermelon topped with prosciutto, which sat atop a reduced sherry vinegar syrup. Salty, cool and sweet, this was a perfect way to start off.


I normally don’t mention E’s meals too much, but I’ll make an exception. E chose the White Truffle Popcorn as his starter, and after I tried a piece, I was hooked. Tossed in butter, sea salt and truffle oil, it was reminiscent of the escargots in garlic sauce that I grew up with. Then again, I have a really strange palate, so maybe it’s just me.

We also had some really fresh bread, which was just how we like it; soft on the inside with a crisp crust, and sliced somewhat thin.


It was served with butter that was sprinkled with Himalayan sea salt and black pepper, which enhanced the butter’s creaminess and flavor.


When it came to mains, Chef Rosendale had me at “braise”. I ordered the Olive Braised Lamb Shank, which was described as “traditional braise, rosemary, natural sauce”. The lamb was perfectly tender, and the flavor was deep and complex. The meat fell off the bone, and was somehow tender and luscious at the same time, making it the perfect comfort food.


Since the menu was sharing-friendly, E and I split several sides. I normally hate sharing, but this weekend has been really fun – why limit yourself to one dish when you can try two?

The definite star of the meal were the French Beans with smoked honey, toasted almonds and tangerines. Absolutely magical, the beans were perfectly tender and the honey was smoky-sweet, with a slight bacon undertone. The almonds and tangerines rounded out the dish fabulously, adding just the right amount of crunch and acidity. Complex yet simple, this was a must-try.


I love ketchup, to the point that I was shipped two giant bottles of Canadian ketchup to tide me over last year. The sweet potato fries were so good that I didn’t even want the ketchup, as good as it was.


I loved that the Steamed Asparagus was subtle. Flavored with Hawaiian sea salt and lemon oil, they had a slight crisp left to them, and tasted just like they should. Simple works, and I wish more chefs would understand that the way Chef Rosendale does.


We were lucky enough to have the chef take a moment away from his busy kitchen and come to our table. It was especially great for E – in high school, he was at the Greenbrier in the middle of a culinary competition, and needed to crack a coconut and be able to use the shell, meat and water for various dishes, but had no idea how. In a world of hurt, E spent dinner preparing himself to crack the coconut using (sterilized) machinist tools his shop teacher had brought along. Thankfully, the then-sous-chef came over to his table, bringing over a chef’s knife and coconuts, and taught him how to do the cracking.

You may recognize Chef Rosendale from numerous specials shown on Food Network, and was the youngest member of Culinary Team USA and the captain of the team in 2008. He’s also a certified ice carver, the youngest chef to be on active status for the Certified Master Chef exam, and an all-around nice guy.

We had a hard time choosing a dessert to share, but finally decided on the Lemon Curd, which also had ginger ice cream, toasted meringue and crushed berries. Refreshing, tart, crunchy, sweet and soft, it was a great ending to a wonderful evening.


We were also brought out a teeny bit of creamy tapioca to try. Olivia (our server) was right – this was just like Grandma’s, only better.


Check out the tiny spoons, especially compared to a sugar cube!

In all honesty, it has never taken me this long to write a review, let alone post it. Having worked in several restaurants and eaten in many others, I’m pretty critical. I kept waiting to find a flaw, but I couldn’t. Dinner at Rosendale’s Modern Bistro was, in all honesty, the best meal of the year, and one of the best of my life. The food was fantastic, and had a price point that allowed us to spoil ourselves, and try some of everything. The staff was amazing – after we were done, Olivia apologized for being so short-staffed. Apparently, there were only 3 servers that night handling a full restaurant, and we never even noticed. We must have had every single one of them at our table at one point or another, and not only were they friendly, attentive and fun to be around, but they genuinely seemed happy to be there, even with all the stresses of opening weekend. The blog actually came up in conversation, and Olivia even wrote down the URL and later invited me to a girls-only brunch the next time I was in town. So Olivia, if you’re reading, thanks for an amazing time, say hi to the rest of the crew for us, and give yourself a huge pat on the back for all of your hard work.

It takes a lot of hard work and dedication for a restaurant to survive, never mind thrive. I have a feeling that we’ll be seeing Rosendale’s for many years to come.

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saturday

31 May

I’m not sure if it was that we left the blinds open or the feather pillows, but I couldn’t sleep worth a damn on Friday night, and woke up bright and early Saturday morning. With E still fast asleep and breakfast not being available for another 3 hours, I headed down to the hotel gym for an early morning swim. I was shocked at how small the pool was! At most, it was 15×10, with the deep end being 5 ft. I swam a few laps, but after 20 minutes I was totally bored, and without being able to tread or do pull-ups, I headed back up to our room.

Post-“workout” snack” – 1/2 each of a Bartlett pear and a gala apple, plus some Barney Butter. E wanted to eat the pear without cutting it, so I had to wait for him to finishing munching on his half before he’d cut up mine – silly boy!

I got a couple of packets of Barney Butter right before we headed out of town, so this was the perfect time to give it a try!

pros:
-very smooth consistency
-made in a completely peanut-free factory
-kosher
-low in sodium and sugar
-comes in both jars and single-serving packets
-roasted peanut flavor

cons:
-hard to find in brick-and-mortar stores
-unlike MaraNatha which contains only almonds, Barney Butter also contains evaporated cane juice, palm fruit oil and sea salt. While the additives are natural, I don’t know that they’re necessary.
-very similar consistency and mouth feel to peanut butter, which is evidenced by E, Mr. PB himself, liking Barney Butter when he’s never like any other nut butter before. Great if you love PB, not so much when you don’t.

I’d definitely buy the single-serve packets because they’re super-portable and great for traveling, but when it comes to jars, I’m sticking with my MaraNatha – sorry, Barney Butter!

Once we were finally ready, we headed out for breakfast at ZenCha. A little under a mile away from the hotel, we decided to walk it, and I’m glad we did. The Short North is one of our favorite neighborhoods, and it was really great to be able to stroll by on such a beautiful day. As we were walking, I couldn’t but think how less than 6 months ago, there were days when it was a struggle to walk half as far – we’ve come a long way!

Check out the greatest advertisement ever – given more time, we would’ve totally hit it up for kicks!

ZenCha is what tea heaven must be like – with 120 or so varieties from all over the world, and everything from Bubble Tea to French tea lattes, you just can’t go wrong! E picked a sampler of 3 – silver tip white tea, Earl Grey, and a Pu-erh which is an aged and fermented black tea. E loved them all, and got somewhere between 7 and 9 cups of tea out of the mix, which definitely jazzed him up.


I’m a simple gal, and had an iced Cinnamon Mint Chai. Creamy, refreshing and soothing, this was the perfect pick. I really loved that they added the ice cubes to the filter inside the pot, so not only was this constantly cool, but the tea wasn’t watered down a single bit.


With so many great dishes to choose from, we decided to share two, and thankfully we were on the same wavelength!


Our first pick was the Arabian Night, a delicately crisp yet fluffy cardamom-scented waffle. With dates baked right in and topped with sliced almonds, orange supremes, a little creme fraiche and served with an orange-cardamom syrup, these were some serious waffles! Not too sweet and definitely satisfying, these were spot-on.

Check out the cross-shot of waffle goodness!


For our second choice, we went savory with a Vegetable Okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake/omelet hybrid filled with veggies like shitake mushrooms and crispy napa cabbage, and topped with Kewpie mayo and a mysterious sauce similar to a hoisin. This was our time to try okonomiyaki, and it will definitely not be our last! I can just imagine how great the chicken and seafood varieties are.

We decided to take our time coming back, and checked out a few of the little shops lining the street. We also took a side trip to one of our favorite spots, North Market, where E convinced me to try some Morbier, a super-stinky cheese he’s been wanting for years. Surprisingly delicious, the Morbier turned out to be much milder than it smells, with a nice nuttiness. I shared in, and ate about 1 1/2 oz. of the cheese with a little more than half of a wholemeal roll.

We headed back to the convention for a few hours, and picked up a small lunch since we weren’t eating dinner for a while. I had another packet of salmon and avocado sushi.

I also had a few of these teeny hash browns, were were really fresh and crisp. Yum!


Later on, I’ll be posting our experience at dinner, and don’t forget to vote for me here. Also, Eating Bird Food is having a sparkling giveaway which you need to check it out, so head on over!

big night out

31 May

great drinks.

amazing meal.

fantastic company.

what more can a girl ask for?

on the road again

30 May

I made a pretty important decision this morning – I’m not tracking my food or exercise intake all weekend. I tend to get a little obsessive, and I’m trying to eat like a normal person, and normal people to obsess over or record every bite and step. Don’t worry – I’m not going to take this as an excuse to shovel down everything in sight! I will pay attention to what I eat, and enjoy every bite, meaning if I don’t enjoy the first taste, there will be no second. We’ll see how this works; if nothing else, it’s an interesting experiment!

We headed down the road pretty late yesterday, and kept waiting and waiting until we were finally both so hungry we couldn’t stand it. We headed over to a Burger King, where I had a pretty mediocre grilled chicken sandwich. Other than it not being the best of condiment choices, I really dislike mayo on most things, so I just got mustard instead.

Thankfully, I’d made my favorite fruit salad earlier in the day, so E and I munched on that for a little while – it definitely made up for the earlier sandwich! Apple, pear, walnuts and cinnamon mixed together with a small container of vanilla Oikos – super simple and delicious!

Side note: Oikos has got to be my favorite yogurt of all time. It’s thick. tangy, high in protein, fat free and low in carbs, and is a great substitute for sour cream or mayo. Love it!

An hour or so later, we got pretty munchy, and broke into the Krinkle Sticks. OMG, these were amazing, and were like a thicker Pringle! Light, crisp and totally yummy, they’re also gluten-free, cholesterol free, dairy free and vegetarian, which means pretty much everyone can enjoy them. E and I were totally fighting over the bag, and it fulfilled both of our snacking needs. It really is Snacident Prevention!


After all that driving it felt really nice to have a room.


Especially one with a view!

We got a corner room on one of the top floors, and the views of downtown are amazing, especially at night. Too bad the internet’s ridiculously expensive! As soon as we checked in, we headed down to the convention, picked up our passes, and headed to the food court to get some dinner. Sushi and Thai? Yes please!

I had an order of salmon and avocado sushi, which was really fresh and tasty.

E and I also shared a plate of veggie Pad Thai – really flavorful, but didn’t taste the same without lime juice, crushed peanuts and tofu.


Tattoo conventions are some of my favorite places on Earth – great people, amazing artists and a heck of a lot of fun. We spent a fair amount of our time at Innerstate, a new live painting exhibition. 40 of the world’s best tattoo artists paint live for 5 days straight from morning to midnight, with convention attendees streaming in and out and a DJ spinning tunes. I honestly could’ve stood there and watched for hours, and we’ll probably be back today and tomorrow. This painting by Muriel Zao had me entranced:

Finished off the night with a trip to the bar, which is always the most popular part of the convention! Started off with some bar mix and a Pearl Harbor Punch – Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, pineapple juice, sweet and sour , a grenadine float and a cherry. Fruity and tangy, this went down like nothing at all! At 92 proof, one was enough for this lightweight!

We needed sustenance to even out all the booze, so E and I split an order of veggie nachos, which were the cheesiest nachos I’ve ever had! I ate a little less than half.


We’re heading to a tea house today for brunch, but expect a recap tonight! If you know of anywhere totally awesome in Columbus, OH that we should check out, leave a comment or e-mail me at livelaughgrow AT gmail DOT COM.

rundown

29 May

I know I say this a lot, but gosh, it’s been too long! I uploaded my camera, and had over 150 pictures to sort through – yeesh. E’s calling for me to help him with some yard work, so I’m going to have to make this quick!

My weight’s been pretty much the same over the last couple of weeks, but between my mom being in town, being sick and eating out all the time, I’m okay with it! A loss may be better than no loss, but it definitely trumps a gain. This week, I’ve only been able to get into the gym a couple of days, but the hotel we’re staying in this weekend seems to have an awesome gym, so we’ll see how well that goes! We’re heading to Columbus for Hell City, and have plans to stop at a few awesome restaurants, including one which is opening this weekend, and go to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Neither of us have been to a WF before, so we’re both really excited! I’ll be (hopefully) posting all weekend, so I’ll have you along for the ride.

In other news, my sister-in-law was due last week, and she had really strong contractions last night. I’ve been on serious baby watch for 3 weeks now, and I was worried that we’d miss the birth. Well, Sarah went to the doctor today, and it looks like our niece is a stubborn little thing! She has until Tuesday to come out on her own, or else they’re going in. Hopefully, she’ll wait, because we’re coming home on Monday. What a selfish Aunt Carly!

In even more news, I went into Old Navy a couple of days ago, and tried on a shirt in a regular size and it fit!!! Granted it was still a big size, designed to be roomy and the other two were a bust, but this one fit and that’s all that matters to me! Proof:


My running shoes are absolutely shot, especially after gardening in the pouring rain on Sunday. E and I checked out Dick’s, where I found these beauties:

Livestrong Nike Air Pegasus kicks! Between a coupon and a expired promotion that was left up, I was able to pick these up for $45 – Happy early Birthday to me!!!

I’ve also picked up a new hobby of jewelery making – so far, all I can make are bracelets, and I’m having a hard time being creative, but it’s actually really calming, and gives me something to do with my hands. I’ve made probably 10 so far, and even made holders for my grandmother’s reading glasses. The first three I’ve made:


We’ve tried a ton of new snacks lately, and I can’t wait to post about them. Until then, check out this Snackcident Prevention kit that arrived on my doorstep a couple of weeks ago. Thanks Kyser!


We’re heading out pretty early tomorrow, so I’ll be back tomorrow night. Have a great weekend!