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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Columbia Eats: Crepes and Croissants

The spaces inhabiting the strip on Sumter Street behind the Marriott Hotel, despite it's prime location in the downtown area has been an oasis of bad news bears. While M Cafe and Greek Boys are genuine staples of the area, everything in between has been in a losing battle for survival, Cabo Fresh Taco and Palmetto Sandwich Shop being the most recent victims. Crepes and Croissants, however, looks to change all that with incredibly authentic French cooking on the fly with some actual French cooks behind the counter. What happens when you put people who know what they are doing in the kitchen? Really damn good things.

Inside the sleek, contemporary eatery is a very lean, but ideal menu of, of course, crepes and croissants. I've been by a handful of times now, and I can confirm that the crepes are in fact, light, soft, chewy and more often then not packed with delicious things. The Greece, for example, is stuffed with a a fifth of a pound of goat cheese, with spinach and honey. The Provence comes with a light ratatouille of summer vegetables and more wonderful cheese (reasons to love the French). The sweet crepes are properly sinister and live up to their descriptions. Try the classic brown and try to tell me there isn't enough butter and cinnamon in it. Even with all of that stuffed in, the crepes are so light that you don't really ever feel like you committed a crime.

Better yet, and perhaps the reason you may want to go here on a daily basis is for something not in the cafe's namesake. Tarts. Amazing, buttery, tarts filled with incredible seasonal vegetables cooked in the right amount of butter that perhaps only a Southerner or Frenchman could understand, they definitely are well worth the visit alone. Unlike the crepes, these are every bit as filling and satisfying as you want them to be, between the pastry and wonderfully crafted ingredients packed on top of these rich tarts. Make sure you check the case when you walk in and see what's available as items are always rotating from the menu.

They've just recently started adding some weekend hours to the mix and doing brunch for the weekend crowd (something that'll be much admired when the new Main St. farmer's market opens in October). Primarily open weekdays for breakfast and lunch, if you're looking for a little change-up from your usual soup and sandwich, make the walk out to Crepes and Croissants and get a tomato tart or savory crepe. I promise, it will be worth it.

Crepes & croissants on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Update: What's Happening in Columbia, South Carolina

So, it's been kind of busy in the capital city this week. Things moving around, new places opening, and a lot of events either around the corner or in the making. About seven years ago when I moved to Columbia, SC, admittedly it kind of sucked living here. Nothing was going on outside of a few festivals and the food scene was kind of a whisper. In the past few years though, some good souls have done wonders in changing all of that, and now the cities buzzing with events all the freaking the time. Check out what's going on this week:

Cafe Strudel Reopens at its New Location on 300 State St.

Strudel closed it's doors last month to make a short move down the street to its new, larger location on State St., adding more hours and more events to their menu. You can still get those amazing hangover hashbrowns seen here that earned them a mention in Southern Living, or try out their new Vista West Sandwich, a roast beef thing that comes more excitingly with duck fat fries. They're also doing Sunday suppers every week from 5-10 PM. Round up a few friends or family and head over to Strudel for a family style meal this weekend!

Drip Starts Construction on New Main Street Location

Nickelodeon Theater helped push the word this week on facebook that they'll be getting some nice new neighbors soon with the construction of a second Drip in the works. Two places to get the best coffee in town along with incredible baked goods and a host of amazing sandwiches? Yes, please. Keep a tab on things at Drip on Main's facebook page.

New Restaurant Called "The Oak Table" Opens this Week on Main!

Foraged salads, truffled fries, duck confit fritters, and hearty entrees, the Oak Table promises solid American bistro dining on Main, bringing a new affordable lunch spot to the table along with a new upscale evening eatery all in one. Their menu is a lot of American favorites, but with some clever culinary twists here and there to set them apart. The menu sounds promising, here's hoping for yet another welcome addition to the continuing Main Street renovation.

Viva la Vista is Back this Weekend!

Food and music collide in the Vista this Saturday with the yearly festival, featuring loads of great eats from your favorite Vista restaurants including Motor Supply Bistro, Gervais and Wine, and more. Word is there will be some quail stuffed with scallops in the works. How can you miss that? The area will be closed down for the festival, which goes from noon to night this Saturday, featuring three stages of music and other great events all along the area.

Possible New Farmer's Market in the Works on Main Street, Coming Soon!?

Eva Moore at the Free Times reported that Soda City, a major project which originally planned for the Rosewood area but sunk, is now currently in the works for a weekly Main Street invasion. The proposed market would expand on the things going on at 711 Whaley, bringing more local produce vendors, crafts, and artisans into Columbia. City Council votes on the plan this week, stay tuned to find out what goes down.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Columbia Eats: Mojitos Tropical Cafe

I was really excited about finally being able to find some time to venture out to Mojitos Tropical Cafe. The talk around it was glowing since it's opening a year or so ago, and with myself firmly back in the city, I had been eager to make it out and finally get a taste of the Caribbean that I had been hungering for all these months.

It was a late weekend night when my crew arrived at Mojitos, not wasting much time to order some of their namesake along with beef empanadas and a smashed plantain thing kind of like a flatbread. I am certainly no mojito expert, but they packed a giant mint punch which tasted great and really refreshing. Certainly worth a glass if you are open to one. The flatbread plantain things weren't as crispy and crunchy as I was expecting them to be, but came with a damn fine sauce that kind of resembled thousand island with more of a twist to it that I can't explain. Not bad, but not as great as the empanadas which were flavorful and wonderfully rich. Nothing like meat pies to make you happy.

For my entree I decided to go for a bit of everything in the roasted pulled pork plate, which came with choice of red or black beans, rice, yuca and fried plantains.

So, the roasted pulled pork was really good; lots of flavor, tender, and pretty much perfectly cooked as advertised. For the extra four dollars over a vegetarian plate, it might not be a worthwhile investment because I would have been totally happy with the sides alone. The black beans and rice were flavorful and a great combination together, the yuca was starchy and delicious, and the fried plantains that came with the plate were exactly what I was looking for in the meal. Together, these were pretty darn filling and worthwhile in every way. The roasted pork was good, but for the extra price maybe not the price of admission if you're on a budget. If you want a little more, try the empanada plate which comes almost exactly the same way, but with those great empanadas that we talked about earlier instead, and for a bit less of the cost.

Overall, I was fairly pleased by Mojitos, though not entirely blown away like I had hoped to be from all the talk around it. The food seemed decently authentic and flavorful; totally worth the occasional lunch visit for sure. It didn't, however, stand out for me in anyway to call it one of the cities best restaurants. Definitely good, but not great. Not yet. That being said, I'm totally open to returning for more plantain and empanadas. Mojitos is a more than welcome and much needed addition to the Vista, one that I hope to continue seeing there for a long, long time.

Mojitos Tropical Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Follow Me on Tumblr!

Get more foodie news and extra reviews in the future at I'll be doing everything from recipes to book recommendations to other more hipster-ish foodie stuff over there. Don't fret though, you can still expect to find more restaurant reviews and updates here at The Foraging Foodie. In the meantime, here's a recipe from the new blog:

Fire Roasted Tomato Soup
Simple enough that anyone could do, but clever enough that it sets itself apart from the usual and looks really fucking fancy, this fire roasted tomato soup is a pretty nifty pantry recipe to have on a cold, gloomy day. I basically took a glance at this recipe from Heidi at 101 Cookbooks and ran with it, adding my own touch here and there to jazz it up the way I like it and make it slightly pretend Asian-y with some sriracha. 

1 medium onion, diced
2 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon sriracha
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
3 cups water 

Serves 4. 

Doing It

Heat some oil in a medium-high heat pan and throw in the onions with a sprinkle of salt to get them going. Once the onions start losing their color, add the curry and cumin to open up their flavors for about 30 seconds. Pour the entire can of fire roasted tomatoes into the pan, along with the three cups of water. Season with some salt and pepper to your liking. Add sriracha to your liking (no more than a half teaspoon in my opinion, don't die), stir and let the pot simmer for about 10 minutes on medium heat. Take a taste at this point and see how you feel about it. If you want it a little sweeter or if it is too tart or spicy for your taste, add a squeeze of honey to balance the flavors. I like it sweet regardless, so I usually add a bit. Let simmer for a few more minutes, then take it to the food processor or blender (hand blender works too) and get it pureed to your liking.

I prefer this as Heidi proposes, over some brown rice with some toasted almonds and a dollop of yogurt. You can drizzle some good oil over the top to get that kind of Italian fancy shit going, or do as I did and be hipster-ish with a drizzle of some honey on top for both nice effect and an extra bite to the dish. The combination of the nutty rice, toasty almonds, creamy tang of the yogurt with the sweet and spicy tomato stew along with the occasional pop of honey here and there, really special.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Columbia Eats: The Rosewood Round-Up Edition

It's been busy times for this blogger, which means a bit of neglecting on the blogging side in the past few weeks. That doesn't mean this foodie hasn't been around and about though. Productive, sometimes stressful times call for some relief, and Rosewood provides plenty of that with the vast land of pubs, taverns, and bars hiding all along the street. We're talking about the three of the better today, including one made famous by a presidential visit years ago.

Rockaways Athletic Club

Even though President Bush made a visit to this local dive years ago to take a bite of the iconic state burger, this Rosewood mainstay somehow still manages to avoid most of the city's radar with their sign-less business-like brick building, almost nonexistent internet presence and slightly ironic name. It's a real neighborhood joint that sort of aims to stay that way, thanks to its loyal clientele that's kept the place running. The majority of the menu is good old American bar food, filled with fried things and burgers with fried things on it. There's really only one reason you need to come to Rockaways for: the pimento cheeseburger. Oozing in pimento cheese, it's a big, messy, tasty burger cooked just right with juices dripping everywhere. Washed down with a beer or root beer float, and you've got one of the best "this day sucks and I need something crazy" meals to get you through your day. Avoid the pimento cheese fries though, as they can be one of the most hit-and-miss items you'll ever have, and stick with the burger. Also, don't expect to be in and out in a hurry here. It's a bar, so plan on staying awhile if you want dinner at Rockaway.

Rockaway Athletic Club on Urbanspoon

Cock n' Bull Pub and Grille

Formally down the street where the Tap Room is now, Cock n' Bull moved to it's new location closer to USC about a year or so ago. It's a real football pub, and we're not talking about the football going on down the street. Signed soccer jerseys and memorabilia fill the walls of the restaurant, and games are constantly going on their screens when the major seasons are going on. For a pub though, their menu is limited and more American bar-ish, with burgers, po boys and the such. For the most part, it's decent, but rather ordinary stuff. I had their shrimp po boy the other day, which came with not that much shrimp, and overall just an okay eating experience. They have "bistro french fries," basically just shoestring fries, but admittedly pretty crispy. Overall, if you are a soccer fan, this is the place you need to be going, but for the food I would rather take a hike down to Rockaways for better versions of the same fare.  

Cock n' Bull Pub-Grille on Urbanspoon

Tap Room

I usually just focus on the food, but for the Tap Room I have to say it's all about the beer. They've got the best selection of beers on tap hands down in the Rosewood area, and some very generous, knowledgeable guys behind the counter always willing to let you try out what they've got or talk beer in general. Located in the old Cock n' Bull location, as far as food is concerned they have the most limited menu of the three, but for just a relaxing, chill location for beer, it's pretty nice. For a drink, and maybe some team trivia Bingo on Tuesdays (not as mundane as it sounds, I promise), worth a visit.

Tap Room on Urbanspoon