Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Chile Verde Cafe, Great (New) Mexican

I've been meaning to post about Chile Verde Cafe for a while.

We've been regular customers of this small Mexican jewel for well over 15 years and for good reason: the all-made-from-scratch food is great and the staff has always been top notch. Chile Verde has always been a family business, and even now that a new family is running the place, it's still related in some way to the old family. The current owner, Tom Anthony is just as friendly a host as our old pal Julie was (Julie, we miss you and hope you are well!). We've seen waiters come and go, too, including our old regular waiter, Rob, but through it all, one thing has remained constant, and that is the quality of the food.

Ok, start with the salsa. nice fresh chips and the best salsa in all of Columbus. This photo doesn't do it justice.
It is a bit chunky with bits of onion, tomato, and peppers. It was the first salsa Boogie dug into and is still his favorite. Chile Verde was actually the first restaurant Boogie ever went to, at a couple of weeks old (shown here with me, a still weary mommy and Julie, Oct, 2000):
It is still Boogie's most requested place to go to for a night out or a weekend lunch.

On one recent visit, I had my favorite, the shredded beef chimichanga. Most of their selections come in a shredded beef variety (Chicken, too), soft tender, slow cooked, tasty shredded beef and plenty of it, too. I only have a shot of the half I brought home:
There's just the right amount of cheese over the top with a merlot mushroom sauce, too. And the side dishes - don't be afraid to stray from what the menu says each dish comes with, substitutions are allowed without question. While the rice is just o.k., the beans and potatoes really shine. There are 2 types of potato: the fabulously thin and crispy shoestring fries (even better than Steak and Shake's), and the mashed potatoes, flecked with red pepper. I usually get one of the potatoes and ALWAYS get the pinto beans. These are not your ordinary, bland run-of-the-mill refried Mexican restaurant refrieds. No, my friends, these are spicy, house-made tender-firm, spicy moist and meaty spicy beans. And their spicy, too. If you lucky, you'll go on a night that chef is mad about something and the potatoes and beans will have that little extra "kick" to them. You'll know...

Last weekend we visited for a late afternoon lunch. It was the first time that we've been there in a looong time without having to wait for a table. Of course, we're usually there for dinner and have a wait of at least 20-30 minutes even when we call ahead to get our name put on their list. This time, though, at about 3 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, we pretty much had the place to ourselves:

Boogie and I split the shredded beef nacho
with jalepenos, sour cream and guacamole. Between the two of us, we had no trouble cleaning that plate off. Karen had the shredded beef tacos. Be sure to ask for the red sauce on the side when you order tacos. They can be a bit plain without, but red sauce is the perfect completer for them.
The shredded beef burrito is also a family fav, as well as the enchilada. We usually pair them together in the CV Duo Plate.
Other items of note: chile rellenos, fajitas, green chili stew, beer, wine, margaritas and a children's menu.

If you live in Columbus and think Vaqueros is fab, you must try Chile Verde.
Those who know, don't go Vaquero.

In a nutshell, the food is consistently good, the service warm and friendly. The prices are more mid-range other Mexican places, but worth every cent. They also have a full margarita menu with each one made from a fresh on-site made mix. With their drinks, like their food, freshness reigns.

Some other reviews:
Columbus Alive, March, 2008

CMH Gourmand


Chile Verde Cafe is located at the west end of the Carriage Place Center, at 4852 Sawmill Rd., Columbus, Ohio
Call ahead for seating.


Appetizer in a box

In our never ending quest for a quick fix for dinner, Boogie found a new little treat for us in the Kroger freezer case, Mussels in Garlic Butter Sauce from Bantry Bay Seafood, an Irish mussel producer. The 1 pound package was on sale for $2.99 and I figured, "how bad could it be?".

All 3 of us love mussels, but have only had them out, at restaurants and wedding parties. Yes, I know they're quite easy to prepare, and I have a great recipe for "mussels prodotto" that I saw Lidia Matticchio Bastianich make on a cooking show on PBS a few months ago. I think it is from her book, Lidia's Family Table. I also just stumbled on "Tapas of Mussels" on The 64 Sq Ft Kitchen blog. I will try them both soon.

In the mean time and until I have the patience to do it myself, the Bantry Bay frozen mussels weren't bad at all!

We fixed them as an appetizer a few nights after we bought them . They cooked up quite easily and we were very happy with the taste.

To prepare them, the sealed package is opened and dumped into a large saucepan:

After heating on high for about 4 minutes and simmering for another 2-3 minutes,
I just transfered them to a big bowl and sat them in front of the family.

The mussels were sweet and tender and the sauce was good, not too bold, not really bold enough, but pleasant. It wasn't anywhere near the heavenly broth my table was fighting over at the Scottsdale, Arizona "Bobby's, A Mancuso Restaurant" back in August, 2006, but it wasn't bad at all, and certainly worth the effort of scooping up and slurping from an empty mussel shell.

The package went quickly that night, and we've since tried the "Tomato and Garlic Sauce" variety. Boogie really preferred them over the garlic and butter, but he was out voted 2-to-1 on our last shopping excursion (still $2.99).

Better luck next time , Boog...


Monday, April 28, 2008

A New Family Member

Last September (2007) I wrote about Emily's 20th birthday. The morning after Christmas, 2007, though, she had a massive stroke and died. Though at 20 years, she was very old, her death was still quite sudden.

We miss her immensely.

We also found the house to be so very quiet, just too quiet. And though we knew we could never replace Emily, we began to realize that we needed to bring another little one back into the house. I had thought we would wait until the fall, but that just wasn't going to happen. My boss told me about one of their cats that needed a different home, a more settled and quiet place, and we decided we couldn't wait until the fall, the time was now. So we went to meet our new cat, it was decided that we would call him Nick.

Nick has such a bittersweet/sad story; He was adopted by my boss's partner about 7 years ago from the Licking County Animal Shelter, where he arrived after being rescued from a his original owners who raised him for about a year in a closet (why, oh, why do people do stupid thing like that?). She took wonderful care of him and tried to look after all of his needs, but he is a bit scared and skittish, even after all these years, and was afraid of some their other animals, especially one other cat that completely terrorized him (strangely, that other cat looks a lot like Emily did...).

We brought him home on 3/27, and after a couple of days, he began to make himself right at home, claiming my side of the bed as his own:

In the month we've had him, we've found out that he's just a great big ol' baby, sweet, gentle and very loving. He absolutely loves to be be held, cuddled and pet, purrs very loudly and will rollover and cover his eyes while getting a belly rub.

Nick's mostly calm and relaxed now, though he's still a bit scared of people walking around him, and he REALLY doesn't like the doorbell or the vacuum. Overall, though, he's settled in real well and our house feels complete to us again.


Monday, April 14, 2008

A Cub Scout Outing - A visit to CD101.1

A fun tour of the locally owned and operated Alternative music station, CD101.1

What do you think, Future DJ's or no?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Fresh Basil all winter long

Last September ('07), Dave posted about starting some basil cuttings hydroponically. This was about at the beginning of the start of the end of the basil season. After years of disappointment and complete inability to grow anything that even resembled basil, I had finally had a successful planting in the herb garden for summer '07 - I actually grew basil!
I know, it isn't really that big of a deal for most, but for me I always seemed to have a brown basil thumb. No longer. I even was hoping that I would have enough in the garden to make some pesto. That was a big fat joke. I'd only put in one plant (figuring I'd kill it just I had murdered all of the others) and I babied that plant all summer long. Around the beginning of September, though, I began pulling pieces off to use at a furious pace and though my lone plant began to grow infinitely better, it just wasn't going to make a pesto load in return. No matter, I thought, I'll just use what I have and maybe try out Dave's experiment on my kitchen window sill...

I'm getting a real spring mindset and preparing to plant for summer '08, which will definitely include multiple basil plants, and they're all going to come from my window sill. I'm pleased to report that I've had fresh basil all winter long as a result of the hydroponic growing and frequent clipping:

The above photo was taken around Mid December of a clipping growing for about a month and a half. I had two others that I thought had good enough roots to plant in a small container. I placed them in the window of the upstairs room with a nice eastern exposure, but it was either too cold, too eastern, too dry, too something, and they withered and died. of course, I began to get paranoid that my brown basil thumb had returned, but I still had my kitchen hydroponic basil going, growing, so we soldiered on. I babied it, changing the water every 2 weeks and adding a small bit of the only fertilizer I had in the house, Schultz African Violet Plus™ Liquid Plant Food. I put a couple of drops in 2 cups of water, drained the plant's bottle and refilled it with the fertilized water. I didn't cut any until mid January, then I went to town, using whatever I needed whenever I needed. The plant responded well. We even had plenty of large leaves for the beautiful Caprese salad that Boogie helped to make on Easter Sunday:
(Boogie's own Caprese salad recipe, sans salt and pepper on the platter -
people can add those if they want them, he reasons, and that way Grandpa won't get too much salt)

This week, I snapped this photo:
The last remaining original cutting is on the right, and while it looks pretty spindly, it has provided well. It has grown well and been snipped at quite a bit. I started the 3 other bottles about 2 weeks ago for future spring planting, and they've already grown 1 ½" roots. I'll probably keep the original in the house for the occasional quick access.

Thanks for the idea, Dave!

I wonder if this would work for oregano, too?


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Last Honeycrisp

When I was a kid back in the late 60's and early 70's, I loved the crisp, sweet juiciness of a great big white dotted Red Delicious apple. The disasters that go by that moniker in the stores today are mealy, dry and bland. I had all but given up on apples a couple of years ago when I discovered the Fuji. Not bad, I thought. then I tried the Jonagold and the Cameo. Pretty good. Maybe there really are good apples still to be found, I thought.

And then I came upon the Honeycrisp. Sweet. Juicy. Crisp. Bright. Tasty! A Great apple, finally!
I don't think I've ever had any fruit better than a fresh picked Honeycrisp apple.


True, they're pricier than other apples, but I don't care. I think I even paid $3.99/lb for some at one point this past winter.
So it was during a bittersweet moment that I snapped this photo back in the middle of February. I was eating the last of the Honeycrisp apples. I was surprised to still find them in the store. I had found a small basket of them at Giant Eagle in mid-January and bought a bunch (I think I bought about 4 lbs @ $2.99/lb).

And this was the last one...it was almost an Iron Eyes Cody moment.

Goodbye my honeycrisps, 'til next fall. I will miss you.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Thank goodness that's over...

It's been almost a month since winter hit Columbus in a big, big way with 18 inches of snow in our neighborhood over about a 24 hour period.

Boogie shot this as I attempted to dig the cars out.
Little did I know I'd be digging another 6 inches later on.

Since then we've had rain, sleet, rain, hail, sun, wind, cold rain, sun, warm rain, cold rain and more rain. And I think that was just the following week. Welcome to Ohio weather. What's that old saying?,"If you don't like the weather, wait ten minutes."? Coined by an Ohioan, I'm sure.

Nothing new here, just some of photos of the "Blizzard of 2008":

First, my "winter wonderland" picture
ok, everyone say "aaaawwww...

Our snowy backyard

The driveway - this one car LONG driveway was a real pain to clear. I only did one side, right up the side of the house and was running out of places to move the snow to. The wind blew the snow to carve the shapes on the cars. My wife thought they looked like the ugliest vehicle on earth, the Pontiac Aztec. She made me clean them off right after she noticed.

There were a few others out, mostly dog walkers. The dogs seemed to really like the end of my driveway.

I'll have to check the weather report before I really believe it's all over - for now.