Under the Table

A chronicle of gastronomic adventures by G.A. Benton

Apr 26

Enjoy Ray Ray’s BBQ with a Beer at Ace of Cups This Weekend, Try El Arepazo’s Grown-Up Brother in Gahanna, and Check Out Some Top Notch Italian “Street Food” Sandwiches at Per Zoot, or, What’s in at terrific new food outposts

I dug into the above beautiful hunks of insanely tender ham on Easter Sunday, and sometimes I think I can still detect its powerfully sweet, smoky and salty scent wafting off my now-lonely fingers. Praise be to the lord indeed! Anyway, it came from Ray Ray’s and is very special meat.

Speaking of such special meats…tomorrow, Ray Ray’s (of “Hog Pit” and altogether killer barbecue fame) begins his reign at his new home-base location at Ace of Cups. Bonus: with these roomier digs, RR will be serving through two windows to double his speed and halve your wait.

Bonus #2: To celebrate this launch, Ace of Cups will be opening at lunchtime (it usually opens at 4:00) all weekend, thereby observing hours that coincide with RR’s billowing set-up (i.e.  the source of love letters to the neighborhood delivered via smoke signals). This means if you show up anytime after high noon this weekend, you can take your wonderful food inside of AoC, cop a squat (weather permitting, the patio will be the place to be), order a lubricating alcoholic beverage, and have access to bathrooms as well as great music. Now that’s my idea of food cart dining!

Will this brilliant all day bar-and-barbecue policy continue? Maybe, maybe not—I suppose showing up and voicing your pleasure might help.

  

In more meals-on-wheels news, the above sandwich tasted even better than it looks—and it looks damn good, right?. It came from PerZoot, a newish and terrific Italian food truck (how rare is that?) that makes excellent focaccia sandwiches like this killer Tacchino (pronouncement hints: “ch” in Italian is always pronounced like a “k,” and most Italian words are accented on the penultimate syllable).

Note that PerZoot’s amusing name is Mean Streets-like slang for prosciutto (BTW: I’m referring to the brilliant, sad and hilarious breakout Scorsese movie from the early ’70s about NYC’s “Little Italy” toughguys—the flick’s currently in rotation on, I think, Cinemax; this is good news for spendthrift cable addicts like me, who PAY THROUGH THE NOSE FOR EVERY FRIGGIN’ CHANNEL ON THE PLANET ).

Anyway, the delightful PerZoot truck is a stylish wheeled sandwich-maker that bakes its own focaccia, on which they assemble their flavor-bomb sandwiches. Though their  softer-than-classic (which makes sense for a sandwich ) rosemary-kissed and perfectly salted focaccia sometimes deliquesces under the weight of PerZoot’s totally homemede roasts and garnishes, it’s very good stuff (yet more Italian trivia: focaccia gets its name from the Latin word, “focus”, which means hearth, which is where the ancient Romans actually baked it—I learned this from the great Marcella Hazan’s books).

Here’s my review of PerZoot in this week’s Alive

Another wonderful newcomer to the local food scene is El Arepazo’s inspired Gahanna branch called Arepazo Tapas & Wine. Their no BS sangria tastes like nice, “everyday” Spanish garnacha wine simply accented with fruit. Yet more good stuff. 

Also seriously good are these real-deal, Spanish-style tapas (BTW: I’ve eaten things exactly like this in Spain, where they are about as common in bars/cafes as chips and pretzels are in the states). On the left is Spanish-style chorizo with its delicious fattiness partially tamed by an acidic red wine sauce; on the right are clean-tasting shrimp boldly flavored with garlic, chile flakes and butter. No, they’re not big earth- shaking snacks, but they certainly are classic and enticing flavor-forward tidbits that go great with adult beverages and juvenile conversation (if you’re sitting with me, that is).

Though grazing on tapas and sipping on sangria (or good—i.e. not sweet!—Latin American cocktails) is a highly recommended way to have a helluva festive time at this super-fun new Arepazo, they also have stuff like the above Cuban sandwich—and I like their take on the sometimes-called media noche (literally “middle of the night”, i.e. midnight snack).

In arriving properly toasted and smashed (thereby concentrating the filling’s flavors and providing fun crunching textures) and made with pulled pork, pickles, melted cheese, mustard, what seemed like a sorta garlicky tomato relish plus slivers of what the menu called “Serrano ham,” (but tasted kinda like capicola) it gracefully—and tastefully!— danced around a boundary between classic and eccentric.

Read the rest of my review and see some mouth-watering photos at columbusalive.com