Monday, March 14, 2011

Ups and Downs, Shrimp and Grits

It's been a week of ups and downs, although the most fun thing I ate this week was the Shrimp and Grits Waffles (plural) I ate for lunch (the first time) from Taste of Belgium at the Underground Railroad Freedom Center on Wednesday. Yummy lookin', eh?

Plans to go to Findlay Market last weekend did not come to pass when Cindie couldn't make it (a down). Mardi Gras weekend is apparently the biggest weekend of the year at Findlay, and I had been especially intrigued to learn Taste of Belgium, the waffle stand that also offers those to-die-for macarons I keep posting about, was making savory shrimp and grits waffles for the weekend.

Instead, I made a quick solo trip to Lobsta Bakes of Maine in Newtown for their second anniversary customer appreciation party, where I discovered that in addition to offering fine seafood, owner Kevin makes some seriously delicious smoked pulled pork.
In the spirit of Cincinnati's Bockfest spring beer festival, I purchased a couple of Lobsta Bakes' house-smoked seafood brats.
And at Bigg's I grabbed a six-pack of old-time Cincy brewery Hudepohl's "Festival Edition" Bock Beer.

Back to the work week, and I was delighted to learn Taste of Belgium's shrimp and grits waffle special had been extended through the week at their new digs at the Underground Railroad Freedom Center. So I made my way there for lunch on Wednesday, when the rain wasn't too oppressive. The Freedom Center is less than a block south of Third Street, just over Ft. Washington Way, on the west side of Walnut. The cafe has its own entrance on the river side of the building, so you don't need to pay museum admission to get into the restaurant. It's a light and airy space with floor to ceiling windows on the south side of the building. Service is designed for you place an order at the counter, take a number on a pedestal, and have your food brought to your table when it's ready. The place is clearly a favorite with a lot of construction workers at The Banks, and on Wednesday there was also a large group of students on a field trip (it appeared their food had been ordered and prepared in advance and was efficiently delivered to their tables).

I suspect this location of Taste of Belgium is not accustomed to many "to go" orders, but they happily accommodated mine, and I was thrilled with what I got on Wednesday for $7.50. Two, count 'em, two crispy savory Liege waffles made with grits, cheddar, and cayenne.
Plus a side container of shrimp in white wine and cream sauce that smelled so tantalizing I could hardly wait to get back to my office desk and dig in.

With the shrimp poured over, and the sauce pooling in the waffle crevices, this tasted every bit as good as it looks.

The waffle special also came with a side salad I was told to select from the open refrigerator case that features a variety of fresh and healthy options. I found this "side" salad generous in size, and loved the balsamic vinaigrette I chose to go with it.

This was so good I went back on Friday, wanting to taste this seasonal special one more time. Alas, on Friday, my order was half the size for the same price. One, count 'em, one waffle. And with the shrimpy goodness already poured on top, it was rather soggy by the time I walked the two and a half blocks back to my office.
My salad on Friday, although still reasonable in size for a "side," was about half the size of the one I got on Wednesday too.

I'm intrigued with what Jean-Francois Flechet, the entrepreneurial spirit and force behind Taste of Belgium, is doing. In addition to the company's flagship stand at Findlay Market and new gig running the concession/restaurant at Cincinnati's Underground Railroad Freedom Center, he also has outlets in Columbus at the North Market (the Columbus equivalent of Findlay Market) and the Wexner Center, another museum cafe, on the campus of The Ohio State University. I wish him and his staff well in all their ventures. I hope they rise to the challenge of providing a little more consistency in their offerings at the Freedom Center. And I'd love it if they had a menu (with prices) available online somewhere and shared more info about their specials.

In other up, and down, news from my corner of the world, the Ohio River is seriously up. (Telling photos from one of my favorite Cincy photographers, Thadd Fiala, here and here.)

Here's a photo from Cindie's place on the river she took several days ago, with puppy Oscar in the background. I was visiting Cindie just before the 1997 flood and, as much barge traffic as I'm accustomed to seeing from her house, when the barges looked as though they at the same level as the house, it was so disconcerting, I left. Fortunately, I had a house on higher ground to come back to. Cindie, and the rest of the village, had to evacuate . . . then return to massive clean-up.
On Saturday, Cindie had 6 inches of water in her basement. Rain has returned to the forecast, and while it may not make the river rise further, it will at least mean it goes down more slowly. Which means our much-anticipated trip to Louisville next weekend is in jeopardy, a serious down.

So, kids, buoy my spirits, and share something uplifting in the comments :)


Alessandra said...

I think that I don't know anything about Belgian food (a part from beer and chocolate)!. I need a week like that, and for many more countries too!


ThatJewCanCook said...

Liege waffles with cheddar and grits? Seafood brats? You're talking my language!

moi said...

I make shrimp and grits all the time for dinner. It's one of my favorite dishes. But to pair it with waffles? Is there no END to the utters joys of life?

Sorry to hear about the weather. As often as I fantasize about moving to someplace next to water, the truth is, it scares me. I hope Cindie's not dealing with too much of a mess, especially booted.

Something to cheer you up? Them lil' shrimp pack quite the nutritional punch: a top source of selenium, iron, omega-3s, and protein. Eat up!

Buzz Kill said...

So they make a batter out of the grits and pour it in a waffle iron? I've never heard of that. I think I would like to try that some time. I did a quick recipe search and didn't come up with much, so this must be cutting edge - or not popular. Bwahahaha

We got about 4" of rain last week. No real local damage but people near the Delaware River and some of it's branches had flooding, though not as bad as they expected.

Several years ago during a huge rainstorm, my gutter pulled away from the house roof and flooded my newly renovated basement. It took 2 shop vacs and a dehumidifier to get all the water out. I had to cut the carpet into small sections (because of the weight of the water) and put it all out on the curb. The trashmen loved me. Fortunately, I had an insurance adjuster who was a descent guy (and, as it turns out, a Huricane Katrina survivor) and the insurance covered the damage. Tell Cindi I said good luck.

Sharon Rudd said...

Alessandra, the shrimp & grits waffles aren't very Belgian, but they sure were good. I'm with you on exploring the food of more countries!

Andy, yes, we seem to speak the same language - even if pork is not involved :)

Moi, thanks for your kind thoughts for Cindie. Fortunately she is out of her orthopedic boot, although she wished she had some rubber boots when slogging through the six inches of cold water in her basement. The river has crested, although it will be slow to fall. But as of tonight, Cindie thinks we'll still be able to make our weekend trip. Fingers crossed . . .

Buzzy, if I can manage to track down a recipe, I'll let you know. There didn't seem to be a lot of cheddar in the waffles (which would probably make a mess of the waffle iron), but the cayenne definitely lent some zing!

Sorry to hear you've been contending with heavy rains too. And what a mess you must have had with your basement. Cindie works in insurance and I'm sure will have her costs taken care of. But insurance doesn't cover your own effort cleaning up the mess. Fortunately, friends have pitched in.

Jenny said...

waffle grits??? I just learned about grits two years ago and I can't say I'm a big fan. However, I think I could get my head around waffle grits. Especially the the ones you've descibed. I hope you do post a recipe.

Really sorry to hear about your weather. Our March is one of the wettest on record and we've had mud slides/etc. It seems Mother Nature is really handing out some punches this year? When our basement flooded five years ago we got a big goose egg from our insurance company so Buzz is lucky.

Keri said...

Eggy... you're the best. And you're so right about making your photos do the talking. Cuz they certainly do. You always leave me inspired and hungry. Your suggestions and input re: blog design are awesome. That is exactly what I want to do with mine. Get rid of all the damn clutter and focus on SANDWICHES! Love your new header by the way. It looks so cool and you're so clever. So... I'm weighing it all out and will see if this person who did yours is priced within my budget. thank you so much. You took time from your day to offer such great input, and I really appreciate it very much. Take care, friend, Keri

LaDivaCucina said...

Ok, I'm glad I didn't comment on this post when I first read it yesterday cuz that was before my friend who is moving to the UK GAVE ME HER WAFFLE IRON THIS MORNING YE-UGH!!!!! Dat's right, La Diva's Waffle House of Shrimp and Grits n Chicken and Waffles will take your order now! HA! I loved the idea of the crunchy grit waffle as soon as you posted it and the gears started turning. Sounds damn good and a nice interesting texture to grits. Also, there probably IS a bit of cheese in the waffles, I find I put tons of it into corn meal muffins and yet it still tends to be subtle.

I'm sorry about Cindi, can the girl catch a break? Sheesh. Wishing you both dry and flood free days ahead for your weekend trip.

LaDivaCucina said...

PS: Yes, Eggy, see if you can get the recipe please!~

Sharon Rudd said...

Buzz, Boxer, and Diva - let me see if I can come up with anything resembling a recipe or approach . . .

Keri, thanks for your sweet words, and best of luck with your redesign!

To all, it looks like this weekend's trip to Louisville is ON! Cindie and I are SO ready for it. Woot!