Fleabag, Amy Winehouse, and The Most Unique Cafe in Columbus

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*Editor’s Note: It’s been a long time since we have done a traditional Netflix & Grill and the writer of the piece has an unhealthy obsession with Phoebe Waller-Bridge. You’ve been warned.

Recently, I was introduced to Amazon Prime, Fleabag, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge and my television watching world was turned upside down. In a really, really good way.

We will further discuss the critical darling/programme de jour that is Fleabag (and hope this article isn’t exhibit number one in my divorce trial) later in the column, but first let’s explore one of Columbus’ best hidden gems: Belle’s Bread.

BELLE’S BREAD

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In honor of the cafe/bakery featured in Fleabag, this entry will detail Belle’s Bread (located in the Kenny Centre Mall) which has been serving Japanese/French fusion desserts, sandwiches, crepes, ice cream and bread (duh) since 2011. For those familiar with the area, it is worth noting that Belle’s Bread is managed by Pacific Food Inc, which also owns and operates the following Japanese themed restaurants and groceries.

  • Akai Hana
  • Sushi 10
  • Tensuke Market
  • Tensuke Express

That is a pretty solid portfolio and for the record, the Spicy Scallop entree at Akai Hana is on the short list for my favorite thing to eat in all of the 614.

In short, Belle’s Bread is a concept that is superbly well executed and unique to central Ohio. Are you looking for a fresh deli Pork Tenderloin or Smoked Salmon and Avacado sandwich? Belle’s has you covered.

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Looking for something a little more traditional? Belle’s has that too with breads ranging from Raisin to White as well as the more adventurous Green Tea and Mocha Marble.

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Of course, there are more traditional dessert options available, as well as a wide assortment of macaroons.

 

 

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On my most recent visit, I picked up a trio of desserts for my wife and her girlfriends and expertly luckily chose the Lemon Cake, Strawberry Cake, and Blueberry Cheesecake.

The summertime educator/DINK/house husband life is the good life, I assure you.

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The lemon and strawberry cakes were both EXTREMELY light and fluffy with small hints of their respective flavor and the cheesecake was more whipped cream based that a traditional New York Cheesecake. All three were a hit and left no one feeling guilty for indulging.

Subtlety is the name of the game at Belle’s and their carefully curated (remember the whole French/Japanese fusion thing), menu might intimidating for some in the Midwestern meat and potatoes crowd, but it shouldn’t be. Friendly service, knowledgeable staff and delicious goods abound. Give it a shot.

FYI, I never leave without a small Green Tea soft serve.

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AMY WINEHOUSE – FRANK

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In the wild, hard living, and charming vein of the protagonist in Fleabag, we are going to pair our food and program with Amy Winehouse’s 2013 debut album Frank. Jazzy and funky with a lot of R&B and Soul, Frank paints a portrait of an artist grabbing life by the horns and refusing to let go.

The themes presented on Frank overlap with the themes on Fleabag so succinctly, that it would have been a mistake to feature them on the actual program. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t broaden my horizons and listen to something new.

The album is littered with the lamenting of lust, heaps of heartbreak and brigades of booze and was streamed in the car everywhere I went for three straight days. Frankly (dad joke alert), I was astonished at how good this album is and what a bright burning star Winehouse was. After some basic internet research, I found out she was a multi-instrumentalist, wrote the majority of her songs and collaborated with musical royalty such as The Dap Kings, Tony Bennett and Mark Ronson.

All along, I thought Winehouse was a product of studio magic, but it appears that she brought magic to the studio. Oops. I should have got to the party sooner.

My recommendation? Stream this album and see what Amy Winehouse is all about, especially if you aren’t familiar. If you are familiar, give it another spin. Frank is a fun and versatile album and is perfect to accompany dinner, ride shotgun on a road trip, or to get on the treadmill with.

 

FLEABAG

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Premiering on Amazon Prime (in conjunction with the BBC) in July of 2016, Fleabag is the eponymous adaptation of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s British award winning, one woman play. In short, Waller-Bridge plays a hard living, self destructive, down-on-her-luck single female Londoner who is known only as Fleabag.

Through the entirety of the twelve incredibly dark, tragic and funny episodes, Fleabag steals, lies, sleeps, and drinks her way through London. Fleabag does this against the backdrop of owning and operating a cafe and mourning the recent loss of both her mother and cafe managing partner/best friend Boo (Jenny Rainsford). In fact, the loss of Boo seems to impact Fleabag the most and while I can’t tell you why, pulling off this bit of the story was smart and ballsy and like everything in Fleabag, extremely well done.

For many viewers, it may not be difficult to pass judgement on a female character who lives this type of lifestyle and if that includes you, that is fine – just make sure you judge Don Draper, Tony Soprano and Jimmy McNulty with the same puritanical justice. All of these characters are cut from the same self destructive, alcoholic, and promiscuous cloth and gender shouldn’t be a factor in the likability of the characters.

Personally, the judgement and demonizing of Fleabag is non existent because the role is incredibly created, gregariously executed, and charmingly portrayed by Waller-Bridge and I fell for both she and the Fleabag character hook, line, and sinker. With her brains, smile, charm, and wit, Waller-Bridge could sell ketchup Popsicles to a woman wearing white gloves and appears to be ready to take the United States, just like she did with the United Kingdom, by storm. This is her moment.

Continuously breaking the fourth wall by talking to the audience and winking at the camera, the viewer develops empathy for Fleabag through a course of flashbacks that tell the story of how her life has come to shambles. Making matters more difficult for Fleabag is the love/hate relationship she shares with her best friend and sister Claire (Sian Clifford).

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On the surface, it may seem that Claire has her life much more together than her sister, but behind the facade of an important corporate job, Claire is trapped in a loveless marriage/family dynamic with her alcoholic husband Harry (Brett Gelman) and hilariously awkward step son Jake (Angus Emrie).

Complicating the relationship between Fleabag and Claire is the fact that their recently widowed father (Bill Paterson) is dating his wife’s former student who just happens to be godmother to Fleabag. In a quirky but fun twist, no name is given to this character who is expertly portrayed by Olivia Colman.

To be clear, Fleabag is a study of a character whose only goal is not self-destruction but self-annihilation and whose life is in a state of catastrophic free fall.  Through the course of the series, the viewer roots for Fleabag escape the disastrous predicaments she has put herself in, but if the character had her act together, the show wouldn’t exist.

Darkly funny, wickedly smart, and achingly sad, Fleabag is perfectly executed through the course of two six episode seasons. That’s right, we only get twelve 30 minute episodes in total, but damn, what great episodes they are. Fleabag has extremely well executed character arcs that don’t make a third season necessary and by what is the second season (and hopefully series) finale, the viewer is left cautiously optimistic for the future of Fleabag and her inner circle.

Watch Fleabag and watch it now.

 

BENDERS & BROKEN HEARTS

  • Waller-Gates created the BBC series Killing Eve and Crashing. Admittedly, I am not familiar with either series, but they are on the short list of series to start.
  • Waller-Gates also has been given the green light to write the script for the 25th James Bond film and had roles in Goodbye Christopher Robin and Solo: A Star Wars Story. 
  • Go to ALL of the aforementioned restaurants that make up Pacific Foods Inc. I truly believe that I haven’t had a bad meal at any of them.
  •  Winehouse broke onto the American scene 16 years ago. That doesn’t seem possible.
  • ‘What is your favorite period piece? Carrie’. Holy Cow that is a good one.
  • Brett Gelmann finally has been given a role that he can really sink his teeth into and for my money, turns in the best performance of his career.
  • Waller-Bridge and costar Andrew Scott have stupid good chemistry. While not quite James Gandolfini/Edie Falco territory, the chemistry is in the Keri Russell/Matthew Rhys conversation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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