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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Columbus Food Adventures - YEEEEHA!!!!!

Not sure if you've heard of it yet or not - but Columbus (a short 90 min drive to the north) has a fantastic new business called Columbus Food Adventures! I will prep you - it's a LONG entry but most of it is pictures with bits of commentary - so bear with me!

Bethia from CFA offered me a couple of free tickets ($120 value) to come up and try it out and share it with all my Cincinnati friends. The van is pretty cool...

There's Rachel and I - petting Christopher's head...This tour had 5 stops and was the Alt Eats tour. It's a tour of 5 places on the north side of Columbus that have unique ethnic foods that you definitely wouldn't normally stumble upon. We were going to have Middle Eastern, Mexican, Southern Indian, Vietnamese and Somali food - all in one day!

First up was the Middle Eastern Market & Bakery. I really didn't know what to expect - but this was my favorite stop on the tour! Anybody know of a place like this in Cincinnati?

I think the best thing about this was the stuff in the store - I love looking at packaged goods from other countries (it's odd I know). I could have spent hours in there!

Who knew you could get hummus in a box? I totally bought some...haven't tried it yet though. 

This was my purchase: hummus in a box, fizzy lemonade drink (delicious), odd honey drink with basil seeds floating in it - please click the picture - it looks like bugs and that's the only reason I bought it, and Vimto a really great drink - tasted like fruit punch soda. I haven't been brave enough to try the basil seed drink - I'm terrified it's going to feel like bugs - but it was so odd - I had to buy it!

But here was the real reason this was my favorite - there's a bakery in the back! We got these pies that were filled with all sorts of deliciousness! There was a spinach, chickpea curry, meat and CHEESE! The cheese was by far my favorite! The bread was so delicious as well - a few people snagged up the bags of bread that were for sale. The pies are like $5 and usually gone in a couple of hours because they are so delicious. It's like Middle Eastern version of a calzone. When I go to Columbus again - this is my #1 stop!

They have a big oven in the back and this poor kid just works that oven all morning long - but thank God he does!

They also had a huge tray of desserts from another place in the area. Baklava!

And um - they had other stuff - I think this was tongue - I didn't bring any of that  home! 

And who doesn't want chicken loaf in a can? 

Overall - I loved this stop - it was so interesting and the food/drink were amazing! I can't wait to go back and try new things!

Salam Market & Bakery on Urbanspoon

Next up was the Panaderia Guadalupana - a Mexican Bakery. It was going to be a cafe (thus the sign on the right) but that business didn't work out so now it's a bakery.

From what I gather the goods in the cases are different depending on what time of day you come in. Everything is fresh and they kept refilling the cases in the short time we were there. We had churros, pastries and breads. They got snapped up too quick for me to take a picture - but all were good. The churros had a creme filling - can't go wrong there!

Panaderia Guadalupana on Urbanspoon

Next up was the Southern Indian Udipi Cafe. This is very similar to Amma's Kitchen in Roselawn here in Cincinnati - it's southern india - which is VERY different from Northern and vegetarian.

I feel bad here - but I don't really know what we ate! These were akin to maybe a falafel - they were patties of vegetables & legumes with breading and 2 sauces. The green sauce was a mint...(I need to take better notes)

One girl on the tour that lives in Abu Dabi (yeah - where they went in Sex and the City 2) made hers look so perfect with the sauces I had to photograph hers.

While I really don't know what was in it - it was good! A little spicy but not too much. I really enjoyed this.

Again - not sure what these were but I considered it a burrito. The filling was really spicy and had chick peas in it. The wrap was a thin crepe. This was probably my least favorite thing of the day - just wasn't flavors I enjoy - a little too spicy. I'm not a big fan of the Southern Indian cuisine but it was very interesting to have the chance to try it!

Udipi Cafe on Urbanspoon

Next up we stopped at the Mexican grocery store that was in the same strip mall. Almost all of these places from the Alt Eats tour are in strip malls (hint: pay attention to strip malls from now on!).

There's Rachel - I made her pose for a picture with the Bimbo bread. hahahaha (brand name - really I swear)

You really don't even want to know what all that stuff is...

Chicken feet anyone? Seriously - what the hell do you do with a chicken foot? 

Pig feet then? 

The wall of peppers! Astounding! 

And Rachel with her El Presidente beer. It's her husband's favorite and hard to find - so she snagged some up for a fantastic Saturday evening surprise!

Next - Mi Li Cafe. I've always heard about the Banh Mi Vietnamese sandwich and finally I'd get to try it! This little cafe used to be called MiMi's but then whoever owns the franchised version made them change their name - really????? Way to screw the little guy there - like this little strip mall Vietnamese restaurant is going to confuse folks? So they changed their name to Mi Li and on they went!

There's the sandwich - and wow it was great! Fresh crusty bread, pork, jalapeno, mayo, carrots, cucumber and more! The banh mi sandwich is so popular - there's even a blog dedicated to it! While I have nothing to compare this to - I really enjoyed it! Udipi had been pretty spicy so I pulled out a few of the jalapenos. I have to say - I can't wait to have another version of this!

Where in Cinci could I get one? Cilantro? Song Long?

Mi Li Cafe on Urbanspoon

Last up was the Solay Bistro - a Somali restaurant - again - something new for me!

We learned a lot about the Somali culture as Bethia frequents some of these stops. This business is unique because it's owned by a woman - yeah for her! I guess many Somali restaurants have "men only" rooms and are a bit uncomfortable for Westerners like ourselves. Solay is more Americanized in its look and feel. 
It's pretty similar to Ethiopian food like Emanu here in Cincinnati. There was chicken, spinach, lamb and vegetables all in communal bowls.

Then a thin bread to eat it with - the Ethiopian bread comes rolled up and is soft - this Somali bread is more crispy and tortilla like but thicker. It was really good.

Then she brought out some Goat - my camera was doing some weird blurry thing so I apologize for the photo. It's like the old days of the show Moonlighting - when every shot of Cybil Shepherd had this haze over it to make her look younger...My camera wanted the goat to look young and vivacious apparently.

This was delicious though! I can't say it tasted like pork or beef - it tasted like goat. I'd say in between pork & beef - there is goat. I haven't had goat since some friends from Ecuador made me dinner...so this was a happy memory to have again. At this point I was extremely stuffed from the entire day of munching so I really couldn't handle any more food - but when she brought out the goat - I found room!

Solay Bistro on Urbanspoon

So that was the end of the food tour - it was fantastic! We were completely stuffed - in our bellies and our brains. Bethia taught us so much about all these different spots - it was great! I'll have more on the tour and details at the end of the blog.

But we weren't done with Columbus yet!

Afterwards, we decided to drive around and hit up the Short North neighborhood since we've heard so much about it. Saw this interesting walkway over the road and had to snap a pic.

Then we found the Foodie Cart - Bethia told us about this and if we hadn't been stuffed we would have gotten something. They make Japanese crepes with really awesome fillings right here on the street - like $6 a crepe. Definitely something to come back for!

The best part was since we were so stuffed - the Short North had all sorts of little shops that we could walk through and walk OFF some of that food! We definitely felt better after shopping and walking. 

And we couldn't leave Columbus without a stop at Jeni's Ice Cream! It's like the Graeters to the north except the flavors are more unique. I took home Buckeye (pb & choc chip) and Sweet Corn & Raspberry!

The pints are $10 each which is expensive but they have coolers & dry ice to send you home with - so that's nice. It's not ice cream you scarf - it's ice cream you savor!

The flavors are wild and always changing - though they do have some "signatures" that are always on the board. Best part was they don't use eggs in their ice cream so I could bring some home to the hubby! I was sure he'd be stuck eating sherbert - but nope - he ate that whole pint of Buckeye all on his own! 

Jeni's Ice Creams (Short North) on Urbanspoon

Wow - what a day!

Why Should You Go? I can't say enough about the tour and Columbus. We had a fantastic day and it was so much fun to learn about all the different cultures and try so many unique kinds of food. CFA has a few tours to choose from - one is the Taco Trucks tour - I think that's my next one! The taco trucks there have been around for 15+ years so they are an institution in the city!

I don't get to Columbus near enough - especially since it's only 2 hours away. I definitely can't wait to go back and explore on my own as well as take another tour. The schedule is on the web site and you can even get a group together and have CFA do a custom tour just for your group!

If you have out-of-state friends or you just have a free day - I would highly recommend checking out the CFA tours! And I'm not just saying that because they gave me free tickets - it was so much fun! Plus - they just added a Dessert tour...hells yeah!

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