Zen Lunch

Zen Cha Tea Salon in Columbus, Ohio’s Short North district is one of the best places to go on a snowy winter day. It’s warm and steamy inside, and the staff is always helpful and friendly. It seems that every time I visit Zen Cha I’m offered a free sample of the day’s featured tea, complete with a brief but illuminating explanation of its flavor and benefits. I usually linger for a few hours working, socializing, or both, and the staff is always pleasant and nice. They never try to hurry me along, and appear to be quite happy to host me for as long as I stay.

The tea selection at Zen Cha is hard to beat. They have Chinese, Japanese, Indian, French, and English teas (And more!) and a delightfully creative menu to complement this selection. I’m a fan of their hazelnut chai, personally, and get it almost every time I’m there.

This time, I also ordered the Earl Grey Apple Brie sandwich (above), which comes with tea-infused apples, cinnamon, cranberry compote, walnuts, and lettuce. It was absolutely incredible: warm, sweet & savory, and flavorful without being overpowering.

For dessert, I split the Tea Cookies (a set of 2 for $2.50, pictured above) with a friend. We got 1 lavender cookie and 1 chai cookie, and they were well worth the small cost.

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A Sweet Start

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I used to eat at Jeannine’s Bakery and Restaurant when I still lived in Santa Barbara, California. I remembered them for their relaxed and sunshiny atmosphere and their scrumptious baked goods, and when I went back after about 7 years, they were just as good as I remembered them. Perhaps better, since their menu strikes me as being more creative than it was last time I was around (but that’s based sheerly on old memories, so don’t quote me on that). I knew immediately that I had to try their coconut and pineapple scone (pictured above). Oh man, it was incredible. And my friend ordered the strawberries and cream scone (below), which was equally delicious. The strawberry scone was milder and would have been great with a glass of cold milk, while the coconut scone was just amazing all on its own. Of course, for old time’s sake I also had to get a croissant for later (pictured at bottom), and it was just as light and fluffy as I remembered it being. I’ll be back next time I’m in town, and you can believe I’ll be counting down the days for this treat.

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Tiny Bakery

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The French Loaf Bakery in Grandview, Ohio, is a great little place that dishes up quality pastries, pies, and cookies (plus an assortment of other baked goods) for surprisingly low prices. The tiny bakery is staffed by friendly and helpful people who let you take your time as you peruse their bountiful cases. When I went in, I purchased this adorable cherry pie (pictured above) that was tasty and fresh — and how cute are those star-shaped cut-outs? They’re a nice touch that made the pie really fun to eat! I also couldn’t help myself and grabbed a Croissant Amandes (a croissant filled with almond pastry cream and topped with powdered sugar and sliced almonds). It was beautifully messy, and unbelievably delicious. If you have $5 and feel like a nice sweet treat, swing by this charming little bakery and check out their delectable selection.

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Food on the Fly

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I don’t even know where to begin with San Francisco’s Fly Bar & Restaurant. I went to their Sutter location with a small group of friends, and it was a good experience. First off, the restaurant is really cute — they have some really interesting mirror and bottle cap wall-art, they have some great exposed brick walls, and their menu is really creative. We ordered the Hummus & Tapenade plate (pictured at bottom) to start, and our server was more than willing to bring us extra pita bread at no extra charge when we ran out. For my entree, I ordered the Southwestern Pizza (pictured above) which comes topped with black beans, corn, roasted red peppers, onions, pepperjack cheese, and cilantro. It was surprisingly light, even with all of those toppings, and the flavoring was really nice. Finally, for dessert I just couldn’t resist the homemake chocolate chip cookies (served warm) and glass of milk (pictured here). Overall, it was a delicious meal with friendly service and a nice atmosphere.

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Sweet Surprise

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So I ended up at the Brown Bag Deli in Columbus’ German Village…again. This time, it wasn’t the amazing custom-made sandwich that got me drooling (well, okay, it was that, too) but this amazing peanut butter cookie with two Hershey’s kisses snuggling up together in the middle of it all. What a delicious and happy surprise this was! This was not the first time that the Brown Bag’s selection of baked goods reeled me in. Give dessert at the Brown Bag a try sometime!

Pie Bird

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Piebird is perhaps the most wonderful place in the world. Or at least in North Carolina. Definitely in Raleigh! I mean, it doesn’t get much better than a food establishment that serves all kinds of pies — sweet, savory, and creative. The pie pictured here is a slice of Honey & Sea Salt pie (à la mode, of course) drizzled with honey and served up warm. It was probably the best pie I’ve ever had, and certainly the most original!

On top of the great food, the waitstaff is friendly, helpful, and fun. How often can you really say you had fun ordering food at a restaurant? Well, I did. Our waitress offered great suggestions, found me this amazing slice of pie when they sold out of the Coconut Cream pie I was about to order (this wasn’t even on their menu!), and generally made our entire visit a good time. If you find yourself in Raleigh, you should definitely make some time for Piebird. You won’t be disappointed!

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A Chocolatey Christmas

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I recently found myself in Winan’s Fine Chocolates and Coffees in the German Village in Columbus, Ohio. It was a cold, gloomy day, and I was delighted to discover that not only did Winan’s have beautiful holiday decorations up, lending the already-cute shop a cheerful ambiance, but they also had a nice assortment of special holiday drinks. I ordered a hot chocolate drink that had milk- and white-chocolate in it, and it was the perfect way to warm up on a cold Columbus winter day. I also got some of their handmade peppermint bark, and it was both beautiful and tasty: the perfect balance of peppermint-crunchiness and chocolatey-richness. Next time you’re in the German Village, stop by Winan’s and treat yourself to something special. You’ll find plenty of things to eat and drink for less than $5, and you’ll leave feeling happy and satisfied.

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chocolate café (need I say more?)

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The Chocolate Café in Upper Arlington can be summed up in one syllable (and one letter, at that): mmmm. This chocolate cake, warmed up and serve à la mode, was spongy and gooey (and when I say that, I mean it in a good way). They’re open late, especially on Fridays and Saturdays, which makes for a great place to go when you’re craving a midnight snack on a weekend. The atmosphere is casual, and the food is reasonably priced.

Chocolate Cafe on Urbanspoon

Italian delight

I’m a sucker for olives, and boy does Marcella’s Ristorante have the perfect appetizer for me! Just look at this iron serving dish filled with several different varieties of olives, warmed up and covered in flavorful herbs and olive oil.
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This is a great way to start a meal off, and I was not disappointed when my meal came. I ordered the eggplant parmesan, and it was cooked very well. The eggplant was still firm (I hate it when it gets all mushy from being overcooked…or worse yet, unfrozen and reheated), and the flavors were really nice.

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And the dessert. Oh, the dessert. Tiramisu. One of my favorite desserts…this one was pretty good. Not the best I’ve ever had (a bit firm and non-cake-like for my taste), but it was also gone before 5 minutes had transpired. So I’m not really complaining, but trying to explain how this tiramisu was a little different than others I’ve had.
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The atmosphere at Marcella’s was really fantastic. Very romantic. High quality and speed of service. Candlelit. Nicely decorated. All of the things I love most in a date-restaurant. If you like Italian food and a little bit of romance, this is a great place to go.

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chocolate and gold…for dessert!

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This delicious “Brazilian” is an amazing little cake. It’s filled with almond cake, pecans, coffee, and milk chocolate. And of course, you can see the gold shavings decorating the outer milk chocolate layer, as well as the other pieces of chocolate, the bits of fruit, and the various syrups and whipped cream that adorn this well-plated little dessert from Spagio. Another great little edible from that wonderful restaurant!

PB and what?

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The Heirloom Café is the new eatery downstairs in the Wexner Center art museum at Ohio State University. It replaces Taste of Belgium (which still has a location in the historic North Market), which replaced Cam’s on Campus, and it promises to stick around for a while with its original menu and reasonable prices. This sandwich, odd as it sounds, is a peanut butter & honey & banana sandwich served up nice and warm with a free side (I chose the fruit). It was light but filling, and delicious without being artery-clogging. Having glanced over their hot beverage menu, I can tell you now that I’ll be back at the Heirloom in the winter to sample their inventive and numerous hot drink options. Perhaps I’ll post again soon….

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thank you, jeni!

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This beautiful array is a combination of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream‘s Peach Buttermilk (left) and Coriander Raspberry (right) flavors served up in a recycled/able paper cup, wearing their signature house-made sugar cone as a hat. And what a tasty hat it was…. I don’t think this amazing treat even lasted 5 minutes before I was licking the bowl. There’s a reason Jeni’s is a citywide must for locals and visitors alike, and why their book is selling faster than their ice cream. If you visit Columbus, or if you live in one of the many nationwide metropolises where Jeni’s is sold (they ship!), make a beeline for Jeni’s. And bring your friends!
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