Friday, July 3, 2009

Pattycake Vegan Bakery, Taste of Belgium, Jeni's Ice Cream, Columbus OH

After a long month in the ICU and 7.5lbs of dropped weight secondary to q4day overnight call my first weekend off was 4th of July weekend – with the annual Red White and Boom downtown plus a gallery hop in the same weekend. Having seen neither family nor friends outside of my roommate in over a month I decided to indulge my foodie sensibilities with those closest to me in and around Columbus. While not nearly as walkable as the metropolises of New York and San Francisco, a car and a trip down High Street coupled with a big appetite led to a pretty delicious morning and afternoon before a big dinner at Luce in Powell in the evening.

After a morning trip to the gym the first stop on my food-day was at Pattycake Vegan Bakery – a spot I’d been meaning to check out for some time but hadn’t yet made the trek to. Certainly not a vegan but most definitely a fan of naturalistic/trans-fat-free/whole wheat bakeries such as Chicago’s Bleeding Heart and New York’s Babycakes I went in with big expectations. A quaint shop tucked in a little shopping center on High I’d have most certainly driven by if I hadn’t been looking – and if it hadn’t been for the cute signage of Adam Brouillette (a great local artist who I’m proud to own a couple pieces from.)

Walking in the door I was immediately struck by strong scents of Banana, Cinnamon, and Vanilla and surprised by the entirely-too-small shop that already contained 6 other shoppers. Cookies, cakes, bars, muffins and more greeted my eyes and while the pricetags certainly didn’t scream “cheap” they also didn’t seem out of line for the size and quality of the goods. Watching others make selections and snapping a few pictures I decided I’d get one muffin and one cupcake and make my way to the street to eat – asking the wonderfully friendly clerk what she suggested I was told I couldn’t miss the blueberry muffin so I opted for that and a chocolate cupcake.

Beginning with the muffin, entitled “Marry Me Blueberry,” I was first impressed by the sheer density of the item – if I had to guess, more than 8 ounces. My next impression was the smell – heavy on cinnamon and vanilla but clearly buttery in tone. Finally, the taste – simply amazing and quite possibly the best blueberry muffin I’ve ever had, vegan or not. Rich and juicy blueberries, buttery and salty crumb topping, great texture and well balanced throughout.

Moving next to the cupcake I must admit I was a little disappointed that Pattycake didn’t do a Red Velvet – I’ve been looking for a beet-sweetened Red Velvet for quite some time – no big deal though, chocolate will always suffice. As hefty as the muffin and strongly scented with cocoa and perhaps a bit of vinegar there wasn’t a whole lot of nuance to the cupcake, just a whole heckuva lot of flavor. Deep, dark, moist, potent, and delicious – without a shadow of a doubt the best cupcake I’ve experienced in Columbus and on par with Kara’s in San Francisco for best “pure-chocolate” cupcake to grace my palate.

I always get a tad annoyed when people act like “organic” or “whole wheat” means something isn’t as good as the white-bread version – especially since I pride myself on often baking all-organic or natural muffins and cupcakes. With that said, I must admit that on the whole I’ve frequently found vegan baked goods to be rather boring and bland – something that Pattycake most certainly is not. All told, while I certainly don’t see myself becoming vegan anytime soon, I certainly do see myself coming back to Pattycake again – like Dragonfly, this place proves that with the right skills, a lot of dedication, and great ingredients one can make wonderful food without buying into America’s infatuation with all that is processed and rendered.

Following Pattycake I traveled south to the North Market to meet some friends and their toddler for breakfast. Having never been to the North Market on a weekday I was surprised to find every business open and a line 10 deep for our destination – Taste of Belgium. Opening recently (boy, Tommy Biscotti’s piss-poor customer service didn’t last) and featuring authentic Li├Ęge waffles – essentially an adapted brioche recipe fried crisp and topped with sugar, my friend who has spent significant time overseas was particularly thrilled.

Walking up to the stand I must admit I was impressed by the setup, the crepe stones, and the menu. The servers, two college-age girls who clearly lacked much restaurant experience, were mostly friendly and modestly efficient (they only dropped one crepe and one waffle during our 16 minute wait) in dealing with the crowd – taking frozen chunks of dough from a freezer and placing it on the irons for the waffles and spreading crepe batter thin on the stones for the crepes. Service was relatively uneven in that I got my waffle (packed in plastic) almost 5 minutes before my crepe was done and my friend got her crepe approximately 8 minutes before her husband got his.

Making our way to the outdoors to eat (after grabbing a great cup of Highlander Grog from Expressly for only $1.50) I must say we couldn’t have had better weather to sit and chat. Digging into my options, first up was the Traditional crepe with Gruyere, Egg, and Ham. Featuring a well cooked and toothsome whole-wheat crepe and ample succulent Gruyere, I must admit the crepe was a little underwhelming with regard to the bland and watery ham – for $7 I would expect either twice as much ham or at least ham from a sourcer like Neiman Ranch. With regard to the egg – filler, quite frankly, and largely undetectable.

Following up the average crepe my next choice was the $5 Waffle with fruit and cream – specifically some wonderfully ripe organic strawberries from California and Snowville creamery whipped cream. Crispy, warm, and sugar-laden I will fully admit that this was one fine waffle and the berries and cream were a wonderful treat – unfortunately I received it so far ahead of my crepe that the dish was already somewhat cool and soggy by the time I got to it. Tasty, but for the $12+$1 tip I could have bought four more items from Pattycake or a couple cinnamon rolls, a cupcake, and an omega egg from Omega. Decent, especially in a city lacking much in the way of breakfast, but not great – perhaps once they work out the kinks and develop better sourcing things will improve – for now I’d suggest just getting the waffle sans topping. Additionally, having tasted a bite of my friend’s lavender sugar crepe – skip it…the taste is quite reminiscent of soap.

Not quite full after the Taste of Belgium I made my way back into the market for a little more Highlander Grog…and some Jeni’s. In traditional fashion I was greeted by the wonderfully friendly staff and sample after sample ranging from a downright delectable Riesling Poached Pear to a relatively overpowered Apricot Yogurt. Tasting the Berries and Burgundy for the first time I was torn, but once again returned to my roots – a small with one half goat cheese and roasted red cherries and one half sweet corn and black raspberry. While I much prefer the autumnal Goat cheese with fig, the cherry was an excellent changeup and the smoothness of the goat cheese icecream contrasted well with the gritty texture of the sweet corn option – my favorite of all Jeni’s creations. Great staff, great icecream, and a business model to be envied – to quote Forrest Gump – “I love you Jeni,” Columbus is lucky to have you.


caitlin said...

what is this about the ICU and lost weight? hope everyone is healthy

great post as always!

uhockey said...

Working - not being a patient - in the ICU. I'm fine, albeit exhausted. I simply lose weight on service months, that is all.