Wednesday, June 1, 2011

ANOTHER TERRIFIC WEEKEND IN THE COLUMBUS AREA

Saturday and a good portion of Sunday found this Old Biddy and a buddy down in Columbus once again.  After our trip last spring to the Short North, it's been on my to-do list to get back down to the Worthington area for a weekend.
This is where we ate this week.
Nancy and I set out Saturday morning bright and early with the thought of stopping in Mansfield for breakfast.  We did this last time and had a charming time at the Coney Island Diner.  Thinking we were duplicating our stop, we came upon the town square in Mansfield and promptly found Coney Island Inn Diner across the square with parking directly in front.  Once through the front door we realized we were in a different place but stuck around anyway for a pretty good breakfast and some nice conversation.  

This is where we ate last time in
Mansfield. How many Coney Islands
can one little town have?
It's hard to imagine a town the size of Mansfield having two distinct diners with nearly identical names, but that must be part of the quirkiness of smaller towns.  I had corned beef hash at both locations and will give two thumbs up to the first meal at the Coney Island Diner.  However, the Coney Island Inn Diner was a bit friendlier so I'd suggest tossing a coin if you are trying to choose between the two.  My next trip down will be to spend the entire day in the Mansfield area.  I really want to see the reformatory and get out to the gardens at the Kingwood Center.  Maybe yet this summer.......



Vendors lined up along High Street
 WORTHINGTON BOUND
Once we got back on the road we headed directly to Worthington which is a northern suburb of Columbus.  Founded in 1803, Worthington was one of the first planned communities in the midwest. 

We came upon the center of town during their Memorial Day weekend celebration and there were vendors lining the main street selling things ranging from jewelry to plants to farm produce.  One stand was selling maple syrup products and I picked up a small package of maple sugar (which is for a specific recipe I saw that looked really terrific.....wonder where that was?)  We parked at the northern end of town and wandered the streets and shops, stopping for a break at a local coffee shop where we found a table out on the sidewalk and watched the locals stroll by. 

Cupcakes at the Blue Frost!
High Street is the main drag through town and shops and pubs line this central part of town known as Old Worthington.  Consignment shops, dress shops, pubs, coffee houses, a wine shop and several little nick-nack shops were all open for the busy day. 

There were lots of fun things to see and, for today, this appeared to be the place to be seen if you were a local.  Nancy found a fantastic little dresser in one of the shops that she was fascinated with and I was taken by the Irish Chocolate Guiness Cupcake I found at the Blue Frost cupcake shop.

OFF THE BEATEN PATH
A couple hours later, we headed back to the car and took a drive through the community.  I had found mention of Rush Creek Village on the internet and we wound our way through it ooohing and awing over the houses.  Rush Creek Village is a community in which each house is uniquely designed for the lifestyle of the homeowner, but also fits into an architecturally integrated pattern, inspired by the organic architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright.

The quilt pictured here was likely the
largest of the group at about 3ft x 4ft. 
A LITTLE ART INFUSION
After our tour of the Village, we headed a bit north to the McConnell Arts Center to view the newly installed Basted Vision exhibit.  According to the website, "Basted Vision is the latest in an ever growing body of work by Off Our Blocks, an informal group of fiber artists who are basted together through a shared interest in the creation of art quilts".   They were lovely and quite unique.  Vibrant colors on most, some subdued and softer. 

After the Art Center we headed to our hotel for a quick refresh and then were back on the road again, this time going south on High Street seeking somewhere to settle in for a drink and a chance to do some more people watching.  We landed at Mad Mex mexican restaurant on High Street in the South Campus neighborhood where we snagged a table outside and ordered a lovely, cool sangria to sip on. 

The crowds were mostly college students who had stayed in town for the holiday weekend and the atmosphere was laid back....really laid back.  Service was slow as they were shorthanded, but it was fine since we had nowhere to be until our dinner reservations at 7:30.  We ordered a late lunch of their Picadippa (3 of their dips with chips) and a plate of fish tacos.  I'm becoming quite a fan of fish tacos and these were delicious.  Grilled talapia in a crispy, freshly fried tortilla. One of the dips was an unusual item made with pumpkin seeds, garlic and peppers in hummus that was very tasty and might be worth trying at home sometime.

Where are all the PEOPLE???
With our leisurely lunch over, we headed back to the Worthington area and a quick shopping stop at Worthington Square.  This older shopping center is absolutely beautiful and I was shocked that we were the only two in the entire complex on a Saturday afternoon.  With stores like Talbots, Chico's, Black and White and Jos A Banks, this seemed like it ought to be a hopping place but I think a bowling ball tossed down the center court wouldn't have disturbed anything. 

DINNER ON GRANDVIEW
We had dinner reservations at Spagio's on Grandview Avenue.  The on-line menu looked very intriguing and we assumed from the description that this would be a bit of an upscale restaurant.  We arrived a little bit early to find people strolling up and down Grandview.  Lots of people.  Families with their kids.  Families with their dogs.  Lots and lots of people and cars cruising up and down looking for a parking space. 

It might be a testament to my clean living and sunny disposition that we found a parking spot directly in front of Spagio's.  OK - probably it was only due to sheer luck, but still, I pulled in front of the valet guy who said "ma'am, feel free to pull up into the next spot and it's free for the evening".  Wow.  I was totally anticipating paying $4 for valet but hey, free is ALWAYS better. 

Spagio's - our table was straight
up front by the big windows.
Spagio's is a bit of a strange place.  They've managed to mix together white table cloths, hammocks hanging from the ceiling, fine art and oddball posters into one location.  The service was very good, the menu a little out of the ordinary as a mixture of pacific rim and European, and our seats directly in front of the main windows were perfect for watching the multitudes wander by. 

My meal began with a Roasted Red Beet Napoleon appetizer- layers of sliced beets and whipped goat cheese served with candied walnuts, arugula, and an herb vinaigrette.  Really very yum!  The sweetness of the beets with the tartness of the salad is a perfect combo - no wonder these are classic pairings.

My entree decision was between the Bacon-Wrapped Berkshire Pork Tenderloin - with roasted smashed red skin potatoes, collard greens, and a jalapeño buerre blanc sauce or the Grilled Chicken and Spinach-Filled Ravioli - served with Parisian carrots, sugar snap peas, tomatoes, creamy pesto sauce, all topped with shaved Parmesan Reggiano.  The pasta won.  And it was very good.  It took Nancy and I a little while to define the little round orange balls in our pasta as carrots.  I have no idea how they managed to get carrot balls created but it was a unique (at least for us) addition to the plates and a little whimsy while we chased them around the plate with a fork. 

AT THE HOP!
Once dinner was over and we wandered back outside, we discovered that we had stumbled into the monthly Grandview Hop.  According to their web site, "the Grandview Hop is a celebration of all of the best that Grandview has to offer. Come check out the unique mix of food, drinks, shopping, live music, art, and fun along Grandview Avenue between 1st and 5th Avenues. The Grandview Hops will be held the last Saturday of the month from April through November from 5 to 9pm". 

Seated at the front windows of Spagio's on Third, we were definitely in the center of it all.  Across the street was a live band.  Up and down the street were vendors selling jewelry, handmade soaps and oils and many other things.  Once we got outside we decided to join the parade.  Up the street we discovered a newly renovated movie theater showing the new Johnny Depp Pirates movie.  Nancy is a big movie goer, but I am not.  However it's really hard to pass up a chance to see Johnny Depp on a big screen, so it we went in for the 9:30 showing. 

I had a nice chat with Jennifer (who, along with her husband David, are owners of the Grandview), about their renovations and plans for the future.  Since I hadn't been there before I had no concept of how far they'd come, but the place was clean, modern and comfortable.  Oddly enough, even with the hundreds of people that had packed the streets earlier, there were exactly four people in the theater for the movie.  What surprised me even more was that when the movie was over around midnight, the lobby was filled with people.  Jennifer explained that they were getting ready to host a free midnight movie (The Terror with Boris Karloff) and people flocked in for that sort of thing.  Frankly if I hadn't already been exhausted, I might have asked if we could have stayed for that too.

The patio at Le Chatelaine in
Old Worthington
A LAZY SUNDAY
Sunday morning was actually the main reason we were in Worthington for the weekend.  We had looked forward to having an al fresco breakfast at Le Chatelaine French Bakery  and were not at all disappointed.  We'd stopped here on a whim last year and were so happy to have found this that we made a point to return.  This is a gem of a place with a beautiful dining room inside (imagine sitting in front of a cozy stone-faced wood fire in the winter in their main dining area) and ample seating outside for warmer weather. 

La Chatelaine opens its doors on Sundays at 8am to offer fresh baked croissants, beignets or bread and its variety of coffees, teas or juices. You can also choose eggs with roasted potatoes and bacon or sausages, or specialty omelettes, as well as quiches and fresh fruits. Just inside the front door is a pastry case filled with these tempting treats - apple turnovers, croissants, boules, baguettes, Napoleons and cute little chocolate mice.  You have to stop and stare at the beautiful tarts lining the next case but a little further on is the breakfast buffet. 

This morning I chose a tender spinach quiche and fresh fruit pour ma petit dejeuner.  Tender, flaky crust with eggs cooked just so - fantastique!  We settled in on the patio with all the others who were enjoying their morning papers and cafe and felt very "French" smack in the middle of Ohio.

Millersburg courthouse as seen from
front window of a shop across
the street.

HEADING HOME THE HARD WAY
We had tentatively put the Barbecue Festival in Columbus proper on our schedule for Sunday but the temperature was already well into the 80's and sunny by 10am and Nancy nor I are very well suited to the heat.  A quick consultation and we decided to simply head home but to take the "scenic route" rather than the interstate.  We headed out of town on Route 62 and wound our way up through Millersburg right around lunchtime.

Parlor of the Millersburg Hotel
Amish country is a big destination and I've been many, many times, however I think this was my first stop in Millersburg.  Much like Wooster, there is a charming downtown area with a beautiful old courthouse, a few antique shops and a restaurant or two.  We strolled down the main street and wandered through the open shops and decided to have lunch at the

If you get the impression after reading this entry that we managed to eat our way through the weekend - you'd be accurate in your assessment.  However, I'm proud to say that I still managed to loose an additional 2 pounds so I must be doing something right. 

Weekends like this are always fun and relaxing.  Getting away from worry about family or house projects is good therapy but I think it might be time to stay close to home for a few weeks to clear away some of the things that need done.  Two fun projects in the immediate future - insulation installation in the upstairs sewing room and getting the garden planted out in Springfield.  Oh boy - can't wait.

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