Every morning, Rita's Italian Ice's dessert-makers show up to work and start smashing fruit to bits. They extract the juices, natural sugars, and sweet flesh of each to infuse into their freshly-made italian ices. The ices pair well with custards and creams for mixed treats, or serve as refreshingly cool treats on their own. The staff even take small groups on behind-the-scenes tours of their kitchens, teaching the secrets to freezing mango juice into a silky-smooth texture or milking a banana.
The two drive-thru lanes on either side of Mudslingers Drive-Thru Coffee pave the way to more than just caffeinated drinks. In addition to their South American roasts and flavored-espresso drinks, the baristas inside the petite coffee joint whip up smoothies and shakes from their signature line of ice creams carried during the summer. Outside, a small sunny patio hosts potted flowers and two park benches where clients can sit and sip or duel over who gets the last mini donut in the box of a dozen.
In 1997, friends Dena Tripp and Debra Shwetz set out to create a luscious, melt-in-your-mouth bundt cake. What began as an endeavor in their own home kitchens soon blossomed into a bustling business with bakeries in 21 states. Rich cocoa browns and soft pastels lend a nostalgic feel to each bakery, where every day ovens warm up cake batter made from fresh eggs, real butter, and cream cheese. Flavors such as chocolate chocolate chip, red velvet, and white-chocolate raspberry are favorite staples, and a new seasonal flavor makes a guest appearance each month. Cakes come in several sizes, from the standard 8- or 10-inch bundt to the single-serving bundtlet and the bite-size bundtini, all crowned with signature cream cheese frosting.
Intricate notes emanating from a nearby piano. Steam rising off a teacup as it sits on a delicate saucer. Signs of old-world elegance permeate every corner of Mozart's Bakery and Piano Cafe, and owners Anand and Doris Saha wouldn't have it any other way. The European-trained couple have been slinging their famed sugary delicacies in the Columbus area for more than 20 years, after honing their skills in some of Europe's best restaurants and hotels.
However, even their most frequent diners will be astounded by their new, expanded location in a formerly abandoned Beechwold restaurant. While guests still get to enjoy more than 80 European delicacies?some of which helped earned Columbus Monthly's Best Dessert in Best of Columbus 2014?they can now do so on a patio or in one of many rooms stocked with the aforementioned pianos. And even the menu has gotten a slight makeover, with an extensive breakfast selection of savory strudels, quiches, and omelets as well as lunch and dinner entrees including angus burgers, authentic schnitzel, beef stroganoff, and chicken paprikash. The Columbus Dispatch praised the latter for its "excellent sauce of sweet paprika, cream and chicken stock that tastes house-made."
But as proud as the Sahas are of their elegant, continental cuisine, they take just as much pride in helping the community. They were recently honored with the first Columbus Small Business Community Heroes Award from Direct Energy for their fund-raising contributions. The funds have gone toward aiding many different parts of the community, a few of which are a local food pantry, programs for senior citizens, and after-school activities for children.
Divine De-lites owner Kim Herring didn’t set out to become full-time baker. “I was really more of a cook,” she says, “but then whenever we had family functions I always baked stuff.” But not just any "stuff"––breads and cookies that had family and friends raving. For nearly 10 years, others tried to convince her to turn her part-time passion into a career, and when the economic downturn led her to leave her job in the corporate arena, she decided to do exactly that.
To craft her treats, Herring employs family recipes––including one for a much-lauded banana bread––and formulations she developed herself using organic and local products whenever possible. Cookies are her No. 1 specialty, which she whips up in flavors such as oatmeal apricot, peanut butter, and almond butter with fig, and can be made gluten-free, sugar-free, or disguised as salads to suit a range of dietary concerns. But it’s her chocolate-chip cookies that are the real crowd pleaser. “They’re kinda crispy on the outside, but when you break ‘em open they’re real soft on the inside. And [there are] lots of chocolate chips.”
The scent of freshly roasted beans emanates from Travonna Coffee House, luring passersby into a café where they can sink into a black leather couch and sip from mugs filled with creamy lattes and cappuccinos. The friendly staff of baristas prepares café beverages behind a simple wooden counter, pairing iced or steamy drinks with vegan baked goods, flatbread pizzas, and gourmet sandwiches. When they aren’t engaged in caffeine-fueled conversation, patrons can surf the Internet on waves of free WiFi or walk across the café’s hardwood floors to peer into a full-size fish tank. The café stays open until 2 a.m. seven days a week; on Thursday and Friday nights, local poets and musicians stage performances for the crowd, who signal their approval by snapping and pelting the stage with packets of nondairy creamer.