Cafe food in most museums I’ve visited over the years consists primarily of packaged food like chips and crackers, soda, and MSG-laden, microwaved entrees if hot food is served at all.
The one notable exception is the Louvre which does offer an amazing array of Parisian made foods along with my all-time favorite, French crepes.
So, you can imagine my delight and surprise when I discovered Real Food featured front and center at the Tampa Bay History Center where I spent the day on a field trip for my children’s school recently.
The cafe at the Tampa Bay History Center is a mini version of the hugely famous Columbia Restaurant at East Broadway and 22nd Street in Ybor City.
Ybor City is the historical Spanish neighborhood just north of downtown Tampa that is home to many shops and restaurants along with at least one remaining cigar factory.
The Columbia is the gem of all Spanish restaurants in Tampa and this little cafe at the Tampa Bay History Center does its namesake justice with the excellent food offered on the menu for museum visitors to enjoy while overlooking the beautiful Harbor Island just to the South.
The recipe for Spanish Bean Soup on the cafe placemats immediately caught my eye as everything about it was traditional from soaking the beans overnight to using beef and ham bones to make the soup broth. Even lard is used to fry the onion and bacon.
I thought I would share this recipe with you as it is simple and fast to make and one of the most delicious blends of meats, beans, and broth you will ever try.
If you will be visiting the Tampa Bay area during Spring Break this year, be sure to visit either the Columbia Restaurant or the Tampa Bay History Center for a taste of authentic Spanish cuisine.
And, for those of you who already live in the area, what are you waiting for? Go and check this place out! If you are in a hurry, it doesn’t seem that you even need to gain entrance to the museum itself to sit down and enjoy a quick lunch at the museum cafe, which is very near the entrance.
Here’s one of the excellent recipes on the menu using meat stock as the soup base!
Traditional Spanish Bean Soup Recipe
Traditional recipe for Spanish bean soup that nourishes with properly prepared legumes, vegetables, and a meat stock base blended with chopped chorizo.
Soak chickpeas overnight with a TBL of sea salt in sufficient water to cover the beans. When ready to cook, drain the salt water from the beans and put beans, beef bone, and ham bone in a large pot with 2 quarts of water. Cook for 45 minutes on low heat.
While the beans are cooking, fry the bacon and onion in lard until onion is caramelized. Place the bacon, onion, potatoes, and saffron into the pot with the simmering beans and bones.
When the potatoes are cooked, remove the pot of soup from the heat and add chorizo cut into think slices.
Add sea salt to taste and serve with an optional dollop of homemade creme fraiche.
I second the recommendation for the Mitsitam Cafe at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC. Most of the museums along the national mall have ok food, but this one goes above and beyond. It’s also great for people with food allergies as everything is labeled for common allergens (corn, gluten, dairy, etc) and most of the food is cooked at stations where you can actually ask questions of the chefs. I also recommend the cafe at the Sculpture Garden, which has nice salads, though they aren’t all organic so you have to choose carefully. The area around the national mall is otherwise a desert of hot dog stands and Starbucks, so we’re thankful for these two good options!
Is Columbias the same one in central Florida, Orlando Celebration, and St. Augustine? I made the soup tonight and it was a big hit! I had all the ingredients which made me happy! Thanks for the post.
You may want to remind everyone that all these ingredients should be organic in nature otherwise they are subject to GM contamination and de-natured nutrients.
Girl With Curl
I plan to visit the History Center soon especially knowing that there is a bowl of delicious bean soup waiting for me there.
Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, OK also has WONDERFUL food in it’s cafe…buffalo, hand-made pasta, amazing desserts, etc that change with the season. It’s a little more than you would normally spend at a museum restaurant – but worth the price for the quality. It’s not at all what I was expecting when I visited with family. It also had a great view!
The museum is awesome too. Not a boring, left brained approach to museum displays with word heavy placards everywhere next to the exhibits, but living breathing exhibits that hit you from all 5 senses with personal guides asking for observations and pointing out very interesting cool stuff the whole way through. . I highly recommend it.
SFMOMA here in San Francisco has a lovely cafe. They even serve stew type dishes in winter all with ethically raised meats. They do sometimes serve potato chips but at least they have made them, themselves!
Add the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art (Kansas City) and the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art (Overland Park, KS). The on-site award-winning culinary school at Johnson County Community College prepares and serves wonderful lunches. And The Nelson-Atkins Art Museum, an exceptional experience, also serves ‘real’ food, on the lighter side. Check them out: http://www.nermanmuseum.org/ , http://www.kemperart.org/ , http://www.nelson-atkins.org/ .