Welcome back to another edition of App Hop, where I get to go around town with my wife, Meredith, eating delicious food and you get you read about it! In case you missed the inaugural story in the last issue of Stock & Barrel, here is a quick summary on what an App Hop is, and how to do one yourself:
“App hopping” is an idea my wife and I came up with years ago, and is our favorite date night. The idea is to visit three-to-five places, ordering one, two or three small plates to share—maybe add a couple drinks in there, pay the tab and move on to the next spot on the list. Think bar crawl, but for the sake of the food, and without the hangover. With a slew of new bars and restaurants continuing to open here in Columbus, it’s a great way to experience places you haven’t been before and taste different items from different chefs all in one evening.
Last issue, we hung out in the Short North, visiting Basi Italia, The Table, Tastings and Mouton. This time around I decided on Gay Street Corridor downtown, starting at The Keep in the newly renovated LeVeque Tower (not Gay St., I know, but close enough), Latitude 41 at the Renaissance, Due Amici, and finished up at the Buckeye Bourbon Room.
Having only been in Columbus for 10 years, I never stepped foot in the LeVeque Tower until now, so I can only imagine the extent of the transformation. But, I can tell you that it’s impressive and definitely worth the visit. Our server explained that the floor where The Keep sits now used to be an immigration office, and that after opening they occasionally had to direct people to the fifth floor where the office has been moved to. I like it when a space has a story to go along with it—gives it depth and adds to the experience. After glancing at the menu, we decided on salmon ceviche, foie gras mousse, and to drink, the Leveque 75—a bubbly concoction of Watershed Bourbon Barrel Gin, lemon, simple syrup and cava. I especially liked the port gelee atop the mousse. The sweetness of the port gelee helped tie everything together into tasty bites on top of the grilled baguette. Then, in true Meredith form, she ordered the crepes dessert after our waiter recommended them, and I’m glad we did! The warm sweet filling was delicious and was our favorite bite of the night so far.
Our second stop took us over to Latitude 41 at the Renaissance Hotel on Gay and 3rd. While it’s true that the bar area is cooler in decor than the main dining room, the food and service at both sides of the lobby are equally appealing. Here, I ordered a traditional manhattan while deciding on the crispy brussel sprouts and the warm beet salad. Both dishes feature perfect flavor combinations; small but thick pieces of Benton’s Bacon accompany the roasted brussel sprouts and caraway seeds and then roasted fennel to go with the warm beets with scattered Blue Jacket Dairy chevre cheese. It’s the kind of comfort food that I love to have this time of year.
A quick walk down the street took us to our third stop, Due Amici. A long time favorite of ours, we’ve been going to Jeff Mathes’s contemporary Italian restaurant for years. Enjoying the ambiance and the incredible service here is nothing new. What is new, however, are several new menu items including ones we tried that night. I’m a sucker for lamb, and the New Zealand lamb chops were just fantastic. Meaty and tender chops served on top of an interestingly flavored fig slaw that was sweet and subtle. The fried lobster ravioli is a fun twist on a traditionally delicate dish. The spicy tomato butter sauce has the right amount of kick to make you notice it, but without having to reach for a glass of water. It goes great with the soy braised beef on top of the herb breaded ravioli. The winner of the night for me though, was the baked brie bruschetta. Initially I was worried the focaccia bread would be too filling (we still had one more spot to hit before the night was over, after all), but it wasn’t. It was light and airy, soaking up the flavors of the olive tapenade. As if that wasn’t enough deliciousness, the white truffle honey made me want to lick the plate clean. A nice glass of 2014 Marchesi Biscardo was a nice choice, especially with the lamb.
Rounding out the evening was Buckeye Bourbon House for dessert and one more round. Inside the converted lobby of the Marriott Residence Inn, the space is welcoming—even if you’re not a bourbon drinker. And if you are, this place is a gold mine. The bartender hooked me up with a classic Old Fashioned, and for Meredith (who isn’t a bourbon girl) a variation on an Aviation, complete with a roasted dehydrated lime and Absinthe spritz. The bourbon caramel on the cheesecake and pecan pie was quite tasty.