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Pickled vegetables at City, O' City: My favorite dish of 2011

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What makes City, O' City such a marvelous place to dine and drink? The location, right in the heart of downtown, the staff's ability to make the best mocha latte I've had in quite a while, and the quirky-vegetarian treasures on the menu -- notably the signature house-pickled vegetables.

I ordered the pickled vegetable plate on a whim while dining out one evening with my girly-pals, and once the plate hit the table and the first slice of pickled lemon cucumber hit my mouth, I ignored my friends and gave the food my unfettered attention.

The pickled vegetables are on the permanent menu, but the pickles themselves are changed up according to availability -- and the chef's choice. Chef Brendon Doyle keeps the pickle-rotation fresh, and new creations are always in the works. "We had green beans in hot sauce for a while, pickled okra, and I'm making pickled Brussels sprouts right now," he says.

How will those Brussels sprouts go over, given many diners' inexplicable aversion to the vegetable? "Well," Doyle says, laughing. "If they don't like pickles, I'm not really gonna talk to them, but if they don't like Brussels sprouts I'm gonna feed them to 'em, anyway."

The current pickled offerings include spicy golden carrot planks, even spicier pickled radish coins, milder but flavorful cucumber spears, gherkin-style lemon cucumber wedges, and pickled red onion-fennel-jalapeno relish, placed right in the middle of the dish.

Every bite of pickle on the plate is worth more than what City, O' City is charging for the entire dish, but the real stand-outs are the lemon cucumbers. Slightly sweet, with notes of lemony cider vinegar and lovely yellow peels, they take two to six weeks to make, and about two to six minutes to eat. And the homegrown, local nature of the cucumbers is an added bonus.

"We have a one-acre micro-farm in Lakewood," says Doyle. "That's usually where the pickles come from."

The best way to eat the pickled vegetable plate at City O' City is to order one, eat everything on it quickly (if you aren't a wussy and can handle the heat) and then order another one to take home, where you can eat those pickles with some steamed rice.

"We sell quite a few plates," says Doyle. "But we could sell more..."

City, O' City will be selling quite a few more to me in 2012.

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