In my previous post I had the audacity to suggest to you what I think are some of the best concerts and plays coming up this fall. (Yeah, all my top picks happen to be in Columbia!)
Whether it’s jazz or classical, theater or the opening of an art show, one of the reasons Sue and I love the fall is because that’s when all these excellent cultural series start up again. We love going to hear orchestras and jazz musicians. And best of all, we love to make a “night” out of it.
And part of that “night” is getting some delicious chow and libation before or after the concert. Nothing heavy—just tasty and delightful. Appetizers are just the thing!
Some of our long-time favorite appetizer-places are gone (Felini and its Greek-dip plate; Village Wine and Cheese’s goat cheese, honey, and dried fruit appetizer . . . ahh . . .), so we’ve had to find new places. Here are some current favorites.
Crostini Platter, Teller’s Gallery and Bar (820 E. Broadway, Columbia). The Crostini Platter is the perfect light meal for two. The menu describes it thus: “Toasted parmesan bread [slices] with roasted red bell pepper spread, peppercorn encrusted goat cheese, pesto, olives [both Greek and California black], tomatoes, and pepperoncinis.” The parmesan-toasted bread is tasty enough on its own, but the “schmears” are delicious, too. All the parts harmonize well, and it’s a pretty platter, besides.
I think you should enjoy a glass of good white wine with this. They have other good appetizers, too: Try the baked brie in puff pastry with honey and walnuts (with assorted crackers and fresh fruit); and the fried artichoke hearts (with chipotle aioli). Note: Teller’s house martini is fantastically “dirty”! If you love dirty martinis, you’ll love Teller’s.
Portabella Mushroom Fries, Paddy Malone’s Irish Pub (700 W. Main, Jefferson City). It’s an Irish pub, so in addition to all that Guinness, Harp, Smithwick’s, and whiskey-whiskey-whiskey, there’s a lot of fried stuff on the menu, particularly among the appetizers. (They do fried stuff well, here! And they even deep-fry burgers!) We’re partial to the Portabella Mushroom Fries because they’re big, meaty, and the beer batter coating is nice and crispy. Naturally, great beer is the perfect accompaniment to anything at Paddy Malone’s. To my Columbia friends: Seriously, you need to try this place. From the perfectly tapped Guinness to the fish and chips to the mushy peas and Dublin coddle, they do it right here. And it’s in a historic building that practically hums with history.
Italian Nachos, Sophia’s (Southern European Influenced Cuisine) (3915 S. Providence, Columbia). There are so many dishes on the Sophia’s menu to love (the Godiva Ahi Tuna is heaven!)—and appetizers, antipasti, and tapas are specialties—you can’t really go wrong if you’re wanting a small plate of something. The hardest part is making a selection among all the excellent choices. But a couple appetizers stand out.
The Italian Nachos at first seem odd, but are really addictive: “Fried pasta chips piled high with asiago, marinara, roasted red peppers, scallions, black olives, and your choice of chicken or sausage” (get the sausage). The “pasta chips” are light and crispy, and the whole thing is a fun, grown-up twist on Mexican-style nachos with their gooey orange fakey cheese. We also love Sophia’s Spinach and Portobello Quesadillas, which are made with tomato tortillas. The cumin mayonnaise that it comes with—well—I could almost take a bath in it! You should get wine with these appetizers—and Sophia’s has an excellent list!
Spicy Boiled Shrimp, ECCO Lounge (703 Jefferson St., Jefferson City). Again, there are a lot of good appetizers here, including fried green pepper rings dusted with powdered sugar; soft pretzel sticks; and huge, huge, beer-battered fried onion rings. Many people loooove the German Potato Nachos (though I honestly can’t decide if I like them or not). But I point out the spicy, boiled, peel-n-eat shrimp (served hot or cold, with cocktail sauce) because of the venerable-ness of it: The ECCO’s been serving this dish for at least fifty years, and yes, although better beers exist, Stag is the thing that pairs best. Because it’s ven-er-a-ble. You can order a half or whole pound of the shrimp, and you can get it as a meal, too, which comes with a salad and choice of baked potato, fries, spaghetti, veggies of the day, or rice pilaf.
(By the way, ECCO has been voted to have the best burgers in town, and their specials and salads are excellent, too.)
Appetizer Platter, India’s House (1101 E. Broadway, Columbia). You know I love Indian food, right? But you may not know that Indian folks are in love with finger snacks! “Street food” such as aloo chaat (spicy fried potato chunks) is extremely popular, and appetizers are a big part of India’s famously opulent, elaborate, multicourse meals. They are also popular at afternoon tea. India’s House’s Appetizer Platter is a good way to get acquainted with some of the famous Indian appetizers, with a sampling of pakoras (chicken, cheese, and vegetable, all fried in a spicy batter made with garbanzo flour) and samosas (which are sort of like little pyramidal fried burritos filled with spicy potatoes and peas). The condiments are chutneys: tamarand (which is sweet/sour) and cilantro/mint (which is more spicy). You can also order mango chutney or raita (a cucumber-yogurt-based sauce similar to Greek tzatziki), too.
Beer usually goes well with fried things, but if we’re just having the appetizer as a light meal, I often enjoy a glass of iced rose milk (a divine beverage on a hot day) or a mango lassi (like a mango-yogurt smoothie)—the creaminess harmonizes with the spices. If the weather’s cold, I’ll savor a warm cup of masala chai (Indian spiced tea) instead. The rose milk is pictured here:
Brock’s Green Pepper Rings, Murry’s Restaurant (3107 Green Meadows Way, Columbia). It might seem weird to fry up some green pepper rings the way you’d do onion rings, then sprinkle powdered sugar on them, but it really works! The sugar brings out the sweetness of the bell peppers, and the more you eat, the more you want.
Actually, Murry’s has a ton of good appetizers, such as the Blue Chips Cheese Bread (hot, gooey, grilled cheese bread with bleu cheese and shrimps), Fried Oysters, Sautéed Artichoke Hearts, and—get this—Sardines and Crackers. Maybe you haven’t had sardines in a while, but maybe it’s time you tried ’em again. Grandpa was no dummy: They go really well with a cold brewski and a bit of horseradish sauce! The wine list is excellent, too, so perhaps you’d like a nice glass of Chateau St. Jean fumé blanc—? And glory, it all goes well with good jazz!
Alligator Eggs, Shorty Pants Lounge (1680 Autumn Ln., Osage Beach; by boat, Mile Marker 21.2, Lake of the Ozarks). Shorty Pants is off the beaten path, but worth discovering! Cajun food’s the specialty, and drinking is encouraged—you know—to help with all that spicy stuff! The appetizers are really good. We like the Fried Green Tomatoes, the Crab Cakes, and the fried Duck Tenders served with Cajun blue cheese sauce. Here are the Fried Green Tomatoes:
But the real standout on the “Starters” menu is the “Alligator Eggs”: “Baked jalapeno peppers stuffed with a four-cheese blend and wrapped in prosciutto [and finished in the oven], served with a sweet raspberry-habanero sauce.” Yes, they’re spicy, and yes, they’re awesome!