Monday, March 14, 2011
Ups and Downs, Shrimp and Grits
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.
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.
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.
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.
So, kids, buoy my spirits, and share something uplifting in the comments :)