Monday, April 5, 2010


The first beautiful weekend of spring found this old biddy and one of her buddies wandering the streets of Mansfield and Columbus. My friend Nancy and I planned a trip to the monthly Gallery Hop at the Short North in Columbus so decided to get a place to stay overnight and make a full weekend of it.

We lucked out on the weather because it was beautiful. Aside from some brisk wind for the early part of our Saturday afternoon, it was warm and sunny most of the time.

We decided to take a short stop for a late breakfast in Mansfield. Neither of us had been there before and all I knew about it was the Haunted Reformatory (which we did not get to see). A little research piqued my interest enough to suggest the detour off the I-71 trip to Columbus. We arrived about 11am on Saturday and found a few shops and cafes open for business. We walked by a bakery that had a steady stream of customers coming and going and a few small antique shops not open that early.

Breakfast was wonderful at the Coney Island Diner at 98 N Main (not to be confused with the Coney Island Inn down the street). It’s one of those little gems that old towns sometimes manage to preserve that serve up home-style food with friendly service. My corned beef hash was perfectly made – crispy exterior on the potatoes and plenty of corned beef to give it flavor. Sometimes there isn’t anything much better than traveling for an hour or two and then stopping for a good breakfast on the road!

We wandered the town for a few blocks and stopped off at the Richland Carrousel Park at 75 N Main to watch the painted ponies for a bit. It’s been years since I’ve seen a carrousel outside of Cedar Point and this was a lovely example of a stand alone one. Built in 1991, this was the first new, hand-carved carrousel built and operated in the United States since the 1930’s. All 52 figures (30 horses, 4 bears, 4 ostriches, 4 cats, 4 rabbits, a goat, giraffe, lion, tiger, zebra and a mythical hippocampus) were designed, carved and painted in Mansfield. The happy music is provided by a Stinson Band Organ and accompanies the animals as we went around and around at 3.7 miles per hour. Our ride cost 75 cents. They were preparing for an afternoon Easter Egg Hunt so kids were arriving in steady streams and lining up for rides and photos with the Easter Bunny, who just happened to hop by for a visit.

The next highlight of the weekend was a short trek through German Village in Columbus. While I’ve been to the city many times, I never had the chance to stop at the village. Since Nancy is an OSU alumni, she’s spent many months in the area so she showed me some of her favorite areas. It’s quite charming and we oohed and awed over the houses and the architecture.

SHORT NORTHThe afternoon found us wandering the shops of the Short North. It’s been years since I last visited and I cannot recall nearly this much activity. Nancy recalled it was mostly homeless and empty store-fronts from her days in the area. As it was Easter weekend, we figured the place would either be empty or packed and we were pleased to discover that it was indeed very busy.

The first Saturday each month is designated “Gallery Hop” and all the shops, galleries, bars and restaurants are open late. We spent a couple of hours wandering the antique shops and after a short stop back to the hotel for a brief rest, headed back down for the evening. Musicians were on many corners playing everything from jazz to folk songs and rap; people of all ages were busy weaving in and out of galleries and shops.

We stopped briefly at Zeta European Market for a wine tasting and to browse the shop and promised to come back for some of their “life altering Baklava” later in the evening.

A few galleries down, we got a table at The Burgundy Room Short North, 641 N High Street for dinner. This claims to be the first tapas/wine restaurant in the Columbus area and it was cosy and inviting. They have a large 5 page wine list and their tapas selection was difficult to choose from. We ended up sharing a Roasted Beet Dip with Warm Chèvre Toast Points and decided that this was something we should definitely try replicating at home. I had an Altun Rioja wine with my meal that was hearty and smooth. My next tapas was the Roasted Asparagus with Poached Egg, Pancetta, Garlic Chips & Porcini Hollandaise and it was delicious. I've never tried this classic dish before (although I love all of it's individual elements) and now I've decided it will appear on my home table many times. Nancy ordered the Pulled Confit of Duck Leg with Cheese Tortellini in Creamy Jus and although she ate it all, said it wasn’t tremendous, but still pretty good. She ordered the suggested Edmunds St. John Old Black Magic wine and liked it.

We didn’t have room for dessert and I’m sorry we didn’t get to try anything because their Root Beer Float (Root Beer Vodka, ice cream and coke) sounded over the top! This is something I must try at home!

A couple of hours later we’d seen beaucoup art, weaved around and through hundreds of people and pretty much wore ourselves out. A short stop back in for a taste of that Baklava that promised to alter our lives was the nightcap to our busy day. I didn't FEEL any different after I ate this (it WAS delicious) but the shop owner swore I looked 10 years younger than I did when I first walked in. Case closed!

WORTHINGTONThe next morning we made an impromptu stop in downtown Worthington. Again, I’d been to Worthington many times when the Continent and French Market were out by I-71, but never to the town proper. Nancy suggested we stop to see if there was a place for breakfast and indeed we found La Chatelaine Bakery & Bistro open for business on Easter Sunday. This is a lovely place fashioned after what I would imagine a real French bistro would be like. Lots of wood on the walls and quaint little rooms filled with small tables and a huge patio overlooking the main drag with lots of wrought iron tables and chairs. We got awestuck as we first walked in looking at the pastries in the front case, but were soon directed to the breakfast line a bit further on. I ordered a small Quiche Lorraine (ham with bacon), a fruit bowl and orange juice and decided to take some pastry home as we left. My meal was great – the quiche was made in a shell of something closer to a croissant dough than a pie crust and the filling was creamy and lovely with large bits of ham and bacon.

Today I am munching on the Apple Turnover that I brought home and it’s also lovely. I cannot wait to dive into the Chocolate Brioche bread I also brought back, YUM!

We finally hit the road for home but made one further detour to scope out Malabar Farm. We’d both heard of it but never stopped to see it. Of course it was closed for Easter Sunday so we didn’t get to look around much. It’s a beautiful setting but pretty far off the beaten interstate. I’d guess that unless you have a specific reason for going there, it’s not a place to revisit on a whim.

So we got Spring off to a great start on the road! Thanks Nancy for going with me – I had fun and you made a great tour guide. Now that I know my way around, I’ll probably be back several more times.

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