Wednesday, March 31, 2010

6th Week of Lent: St. Joan of Arc, Powell, OH

Once again, the gauntlet had been laid down! Did you know that there are two “Best” Fish Fries in Columbus? As we explored earlier, St. Margaret’s stakes that claim, but so does St. Joan of Arc in Powell.

For all of you “Amazing Race” watchers who were aghast when the racers were recently in France and had to find St. Joan of Arc’s statue, and had no idea she was a real person, take comfort in the fact that she is honored here in our own backyard. I wonder what the young French saint would think of Fish Fries? Though, if she was in favor of fund-raisers she would surely approve, because from what we can tell, the Fish Fry is an effective one.

We were joined once again by our Catholic friend B, as the four of us ventured up to Powell on Friday. Since the Buckeyes were playing at 7:00, we headed north on 315 early to beat the rush which turned out to be a good thing. The parking lot wasn’t too full at 5:30, but it filled up quickly once we were there.

St. Joan of Arc’s, like several of the other Churches we’ve visited, serves their Fish Fry as an all-you-can- eat buffet. Also, like several of the other churches, we were seated family style with other people at our big round table.

We found out that each week, a different group in the Church does the serving. The cooking though is done by the ever popular Knights of Columbus. Our dinner options were both baked and fried fish, French fries, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, green beans and the ever popular roll.

Perhaps it is because we were early, but St. Joan of Arc’s managed to get all of the food on their buffet at the right temperature, at least on our first try. I tried both the baked and fried fish as did B. T and Z had the macaroni and cheese with their fried fish and we all had the beans, fries and coleslaw.

Our first batch of fried fish was very good, and all of us gave it a “thumbs up”. While the baked fish was moist and did taste good it was not the best we had in our adventures. We all loved the fries and the coleslaw. The fries were hot and salty and the coleslaw was tangy and creamy. We all thought that they could have done a better job on the green beans.

Z, our macaroni and cheese critic, said it was OK, but not great. T was not so kind. He thought it tasted like pasta and paste.

We were also less than impressed with our second batch of fried fish. The batter failed to cling to the fish, perhaps a result of the high turn-over and cooking too quickly. Overall, it was very good and one of the best we had but I’m not sure any of our group would have rated it the “Best”.

Since this week is Holy week, this was our last Fish Fry for the year. This week we will have a special guest blogger from Fiji. There, the tradition is for churches to raise money with a Lovo, the Fijian version of the Luau. So, tune in next week, and have a happy Easter!

Monday, March 22, 2010

5th Week of Lent: St. Andrew's- Upper Arlington

I’ve mentioned that I grew up Lutheran.  I was always amazed by the big Catholic Church down the street in my home town.  I’m pretty sure we never went to any fish fries there.

There are lots of ways that churches can fundraise and feed the people. I know that my current church, Clinton Heights Lutheran, has a pasta dinner on Shrove Tuesday and a Pancake breakfast in the summer.  I have also seen signs for pasta dinners in front of the Methodist church on Broadway.

Lutherans are famous for is a good potluck supper, just ask Garrison Keillor. I am not suggesting that other churches can’t pull off good pot luck; I am just going by what I know.

 I have memories of heaving tables of food.  I grew up in communities with lots of Eastern Europeans.  So, there were not only deviled eggs,  myriad Jello salads, and green bean casserole, but cabbage rolls and goulash.

 I am pretty sure I have at one point or another tried every form of Jello and enjoyed most of them. Yes, I know that it isn’t vegetarian, so it is all a memory, but a fond one. I think the only one I didn’t like was carrots and raisins. But then I have never liked raisins.

I also remember these as wonderful feasts with lots of fellowship and children running around having fun. The only downfall being that my Father always insisted we go through the line together and as the minister he went through last.  That’s a sure way to miss out on the deviled eggs.

When we have visited the various Catholic Churches over the weeks I have seen this feeling of community there, too. It is good to see.  I think it is something that we should look for in our lives whenever we can.  It may be at church or school or your sports team, but it is good to sit down for a meal together, enjoy each other’s company and watch the children play.

This week we ventured over to Upper Arlington to St. Andrew’s on McCoy Rd. We were lured by the promises of salad.  It sounded a little healthier than your average fried fish fare.
My first suggestion for St. Andrew’s would be:  better signage. It was easy enough to find the church but once we were in the parking lot it was difficult to decide what door to go through.

Once we found it, we discovered yet another twist on how to serve a fish fry! The ladies at the door take your initial order, baked or fried or kids pizza, fish or macaroni and cheese. You then proceed to the cashier to pay and get your dessert and drink tickets.

The meal is served in a buffet style and they have figured out how to do that and keep it hot. It is not all you can eat, but the portions are large and should be filling for most people.  T and F both had fried fish with fries, coleslaw and F had green beans. Z went for the kid’s macaroni and cheese, fries, applesauce and salad. I had the baked fish, baked potato, and green beans. Warm rolls added to the starch factor.

The fried fish was very good. The baked fish, while flavorful, was tough. I thought the baked potato was great and the fries were just the way I liked them, hot and salty.  The others thought they were too salty.  Z thought the macaroni and cheese tasted good, but was too runny. The coleslaw was creamy and tangy.  The servings were large.

 If you grew up liking the canned green beans your school served like I did, you will love their green beans, too. As for the salad I was disappointed; iceberg lettuce and dressing.

This was the second church that we noted having milk as a drink option with both chocolate and white. Also, the desserts were all homemade and with lots of variety. Drinks and dessert were included in our dinner price.
The prices are $8 for adults and $4 for kids so our whole family ate for $28.

We have one more Friday for our review. I have ideas for blogging our family diner breakfasts and other adventures with our adolescents.  I am looking for ideas for a name….any suggestions?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

4th Week of Lent: St. Margaret's of Cortona

It is a very bold statement to bill yourself as the “best” of something, but that is what St. Margaret’s of Cortona, on Hague Av, does at their Fish Fry with big, bold signs and T-shirts. This required our intrepid family of Fish Fry connoisseurs to investigate.

If numbers of people make you the best, they certainly have that in their favor. Because F and I were traveling this weekend we had an early dinner at St. Margaret’s. T. met the kids and I there and reported that patrons were wrapped around the building at 4:30! Police were there for crowd control.  At 5:00 we definitely hit the senior crowd and crowded it was. Their dining hall was stuffed to the gills (pun intended).

St. Margaret’s managed to put a new twist on how to serve a Fish Fry.  Once we entered and purchased our tickets we were sent off to find seats among the long a banquet tables. We worked our way through the crowds and staked out our four seats. Then we were told to wave our tickets in the air and one of the servers came to take our order.

Options for dinner were: fish, baked or fried, baked potatoes, French fries or steak fries, apple sauce or coleslaw and a roll. T, F and Z all had the fried fish and I sampled the baked. Everyone had French fries.  Z had apple sauce while the rest of us tried the coleslaw.

 I thought the baked fish was fabulous! It was nice and moist and had a lovely dill sauce.  Z grumbled a bit about the lack of macaroni and cheese, but enjoyed the fish. T and F both thought the fish was good, but T said he prefers less of a breaded batter that was served at St. Margaret’s.  We all thought the fries were good. The coleslaw was both creamy and tangy and enjoyed by all three eaters. It is important to note that everything came out hot. Dessert was also included and while we did not confirm this we think that the desserts were home made.

On the down side St. Margaret’s was the most expensive Fish Fry we have eaten at. Children ten and over are adults so we paid the $8 price for all four of us. They also charge .75 for cans of soft drinks and $2.00 for beer domestic beer. You are able to get free “seconds” on your fish however our portions were large enough that it wasn’t necessary.

You could also spend $10 on a commemorative t-shirt.  (I thought it was cool looking, but didn’t buy one.) Another smart move on their part, St. Margaret’s has a cash machine at their entrance. Maybe it was for the fish, maybe for the bingo that seems to be played at other times. 
Overall, it was a very good meal.  Many in the crowd commented that this was the Best Fish Fry in Columbus, but among us, it was no one’s favorites so far.

On side note, F and I stopped at Max and Erma’s on our drive back to Columbus and he tried the fish and chips dinner. He decided that the Catholic Churches serve better fish!  I couldn’t get him to be any more descriptive , but since he is a teenager we will have to settle for that.

Next week:  St. Andrew’s in UA! See you there!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

3rd Week of Lent: St Catherine's-Bexley/Columbus

In the interest of full disclosure, I was a Delta Zeta in college. T was a Delta Sigma Phi.  I am telling you this because this week I became curious about the Knights of Columbus.  So far we have visited two fish fries that were sponsored by the K of C. Interestingly, the Catholic friends that I asked were not really sure what the K of C did, so I thought I should check this out. First of all I went to the K of C website and while I did not read every page I did get the general idea.  I disclosed my greek-ness because to me it looks like the K of C is essentially a fraternity for Catholic men. Founded in 1882 in Connecticut as a fraternal benefit society, they are to strive for charity, unity and fraternity.  It seems that they are to take care of their community of families and the community around them.  Like many fraternities they have some pet charities. Two that the website highlighted were: Coats for Kids and the Global Wheelchair Mission.  Also, as an extension of their goal to take care of their community they offer health insurance.  I will say that I did find an issue or two that concerned the liberal side of me. Not surprisingly, for a Catholic organization the K of C website had a very pro-life bent. I know that this is part of the Catholic doctrine, though it would make me feel better if I thought my fish money was going to wheelchairs or coats than to pro-life rallies. Hmmm, something to think on. Of course, there are websites with conspiracy theories, but I’ll leave that one for Dan Brown. One thing I do know is that the K of C at St. Catherine’s makes really good homemade donuts.  I am taking that on the word of my friend N and her parents J and S. I figure who can I trust better on donut quality than one of my favorite eleven year old girls?
J, S, N and her brother E joined us at their parish St. Catherine’s, at 500 S. Gould Rd. on the East Side of Columbus, for our third Friday of Lent Fish Fry.  Proving that there are many ways to host a Fish Fry St. Catherine put their own twist on things. Like our first two F.F’s you were able to purchase an adult or child meal but at St. Catherine’s you could also purchase a family meal for $24. This covered a family of two adults and two children.  Another twist is that St. Catherine’s served their meal as an all you can eat buffet. Finally, they were the first we’ve seen  to offer baked fish as well as fried.  Both types of fish were tasty. I especially enjoyed the baked fish. It had great flavor and I liked the dill seasoning.  Also offered, were the standard fries, coleslaw, applesauce, and macaroni and cheese. Punch, water, and ice tea as well as a trip to the dessert table came with your meal and you have the option of soda for .50 cents and beer for $2. Overall the flavors were very good and most of our group thought that the creamy coleslaw was tasty. The girls liked the macaroni and cheese,  but thought the cheese sauce could have been creamier. The two boys, 13 and 14, seemed to pretty much gobble down everything on their plate without complaint. The one downfall to the meal  stems from the buffet style. Most of our food was not hot. I am sure that this stems from the fact that they are trying to have masses of food ready and out at the buffet table. Once they master getting it served hot I think that it will be an even better experience.  Overall our family had a great time with our friends and enjoyed our meal.
We are taking suggestions for this Friday. Let us know!