Chicken and Egg Noodles at Wildflower Cafe
3420 Indianola Ave., Clintonville
Open up and say Ahhhh-mish.
The Wildflower Cafe is an unpretentious and neighborhoody place that deserves more attention and acclaim. Clintonvillians know this, and they flock to it, especially for Wildflower's daily specials.
On Wednesdays, Wildflower features a deeply soulful dish inspired by a stiff-upper-lipped people whose proud denial of creature comforts famously and abruptly ends at the table. It's the Athens County Amish Raised Chicken and Egg Noodles ($8.50), and it's terrific.
A mound of homey and perfect mashed potatoes forms the base. But the soothing star is a generous ladle of long, thick and delectably toothsome homemade noodles wading in a viscous and flavorful chicken gravy with big chunks of meat plus bits of carrot and celery. Warning: Enjoying this wonderful meal might have you wondering, "With food this good, who needs electricity?"
Cassoulet at Kitchen Little
59 Spruce St., North Market
The quirky prepared-foods arm of a great local meat purveyor, Kitchen Little is committed to two things: the best ingredients (many fresh from nearby farms) and real rib-sticking grub. Practically anything on KL's menu could be on this list.
But since high-priest visiting chef Rick Bayless tweeted that he loved it as much as I do, I'm picking KL's outstanding cassoulet ($5 for 8 oz.).
It's a powerhouse, French peasant-style casserole made with an intensely rich and smoky stock, creamy white beans, simple seasonings (some garlic, some thyme) and a veritable butcher's case of incredible meats that might include duck confit, bison, wild boar bacon, smoked turkey, polish sausage, maybe all of the above and more.
To eat this is to see the hidden beauty in an ugly day.
Vol au Vent at La Chatelaine
Vol au Vent ($12.75) might look hard to pronounce, but believe me, it's easy to eat. It's French for "wind blown" and that refers to the airy lightness of the hollow puff pastry that serves as the cap and base of the vol au vent (vole-ah-vahn').
To make what is basically a refined and deconstructed chicken pot pie, La Chatelaine ladles a lusciously creamy and nutmeggy gravy graced with extra large and tender chicken chunks plus mushroom slivers between layers of La Chatelaine's housemade, super-flaky puff pastry.
As the glossy and brittle pastry shells start to soften and yield to the meaty flow of glorious gravy, the smitten, "sopping up" diner is liable to begin softly cooing "vol au vent" with a suddenly believable French accent.