Darkness blossoms early and often during these shortest days of the year, which trough-out on Dec. 21, the winter solstice (aka, for doomsday preppers, the “Mayan apocalypse”). It’s no surprise, then, that cold, sun-deprived humans have always huddled together around manufactured wintertime light. That’s partially why yule logs, ceremonial candles and decorated Christmas trees historically were used to — and still do — brighten-up the holidays.
In Columbus, a new snow-season tradition is creating late evening glows along the once all-but-barren area now commonly celebrated as the Scioto Mile. Starting around Thanksgiving with “Grand Illumination” proceedings and continuing through mid-January, about 150 wired-up trees and 200,000 glittering lights defiantly puncture the nighttime gloom. A great place to view this fanciful, candy-colored scene — while warming up with a snack and a drink — is Milestone 229.
There, through a wraparound bank of windows, you can gaze at this electrified riverside profusion of indigo, pink, purple, amber and emerald — and enjoy a festive mood inside too. Underneath Milestone’s oversized but tasteful Christmas tree bulbs — which dangle from tree branch-like rafters radiating from a trunk-like garde manger/pizza oven station — you can light up your palate as well with the many-spots-hitting Four Snacks appetizer platter ($10.50; $6 at happy hour).
Hitting a dynamic range of texture and flavor notes, think of the platter as a little edible Christmas carol in four parts served on a quadruply sectioned plate. You get: A vibrantly red, muscular, chilled homemade giardiniera with big chunks of vinegary and chili-fied vegetables such as cauliflower, celery and carrots paired with slices of pleasantly gamy Spanish chorizo-like peppered salami; seared, pliant and haunting lamb meatballs whose lambiness is alternately intensified and mitigated by salty feta-sprinkled tzatziki sauce; super-indulgent mini-bundles of warm and crispy bacon wrapped around nectarous dates and molten gorgonzola cheese; and naturally sweet cashews aroused by a blast of fresh black pepper. O come all ye faithful, indeed.
Photo by Meghan Ralston