CMH Gourmand

Culinary Discovery & Misadventures in the Ice Cream Capital of the World (Columbus)

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Leftovers: Truck to Table

Posted by cmh gourmand on September 14, 2014

I’ve been writing for 614 Magazine sporadically for the last year and more frequently for their new Food and Beverage quarterly Stock and Barrel. I had pitched an idea to the editor about writing about many of our food truckers that are making the jump to Brick and Mortar restaurant spaces. When I pitched the concept they already had it in development but I was asked if they could use Truck to Table as part of the headline and I was happy to do it.

The photos were taken but the story did not develop as planned so I was contacted and asked if I could do it in 48 hours. I was up for the task since I know the subject matter well and because I have a kitchen renovation to help pay for. The article was to focus on food but I had some challenges. One site was undergoing a menu change, another was closed due to a power outage and the third I did not have time to visit. So, I opted to write “big” (going way over word count) to write the stories of the guys behind the food and hoped that the editor could condense into something useable. He did….a lot of condensing. So you can do an compare and contrast by reading this final cut for print -> HERE and the original draft with sidebars, below.


Truck to Table

Zach James
Truck – Paddy Wagon
Table – Jailhouse Rock at Little Rock

In August 2010 Zach James was a student at OSU that liked to hang out at Dick’s Den. He formed a fast friend/mentorship with JP Potter of Fusion Café one of the first food trucks in the city, which often served at James’ watering hole.

James was looking for a challenge and wanted to push his boundaries after a series of food service jobs. Potter revealed his mobile food secrets: how to get started, navigate regulations, etc. and James was a quick study. The original concept for his truck Paddywagon was a burger based menu. His original beat was a mission to dispel the roach coach myth. James learned a lot about branding in his early days which led to two big changes. James changed the wrap on his truck and shifted his focus from burgers to brisket. The first time he sold out all of his brisket was the moment the deputy shifted to thinking like a Sheriff. He knew he was ready to grow out the business and stake his claim on a permanent spot.

One dark night, while sharing beers with Daniel McCarthy (Tatoheads) at St. James Tavern, James was approached by a regular customer who told him about a new bar opening down 4th Street. The bar was looking to partner with a truck so James decided to commit to the new spot for the duration. That bar was Little Rock. After seeing how good food meant good business, owner Quinn Fallon asked James to look at a small space in the bar to see if James could do anything with it. The nook in the back had a walk in cooler, a mop sink and 150 square feet to work with. After plotting out 20-30 configurations James finally found one that was more arresting than the others. Then looking at the layout and what equipment he could shimmy in, he decided a hot dog menu was the best way to get the most out of the little space. Initial response was hot with many regulars working their way through the entire menu in a few visits, To keep customers coming back new items are integrating into the menu as specials and becoming regular items when they resonate with fans but hot dogs remain at the core of the kitchen. Since the space is small like a prison cell and to stay on the with the Paddywagon theme, James dubbed the space the Jailhouse. The operation has also taken a cue from Late Night Slice with some signature (and very, very tasty) sauces available to slather on whatever fills your plate. The Jailhouse recently added Sophie’s Pierogi’s (a truck turned cart) pierogi to the menu to mix things even up more.

What James has learned in his drive from truck to rock and roll dive is that Jailhouse serves as an anchor to consistently connect with his customers. In his experience, even his biggest fans are not going to invest time to find him online and then drive 30 minutes to eat at a different (random) location. Having Paddy Wagon inspired food at the Jailhouse gives James and his customers the consistency both have waited for. Menu items come with names inspired by the Paddy wagon law enforcement motif and the Rock and Roll vibe of Little Rock. James has also moved to Italian Village so he can be a part of the community he is helping to grow. In the meantime the truck rolls during the day and the Jailhouse rocks at night.

Matthew Heaggans
Truck – Swoop
Table – The Hey Hey, operating pop-up eatery Bebe
Table 2 – Swoop Take Over at Ace of Cups.

Forget professional objectivity, Matt Heaggans is my favorite chef to watch in action. In the kitchen he swoops into an action with the mental intensity of an Olympic athlete. A series of serendipitous events seem to be adding more ingredients and experiences to the recipe that may make Heaggans the next big thing.

A few years ago, Heaggans, a Columbus native was practicing his craft (he might say, getting schooled) in a French restaurant in DC. What he learned in that kitchen, “there was no way I would learn it all”. That did and still does serve as his daily inspiration to continue to learn and strive for the best quality in his craft. As he was pondering on what his next life lesson would be, a friend from Columbus contacted him for advice on starting a food truck. Heaggans offered to advice on finding and equipping a truck, consulted on a menu and volunteered to spend two weeks to help train the staff to execute the food he conjured up. While this was in process, his mother had an accident and then needed extra help at home, which was an excuse for fate to nudge Heaggans back home. The offer to help turned into an unexpected business venture and Heaggan’s was back in student mode again.
He figured out early on – to be a sustainable food truck business he needed to change the food he was serving. He “had to adjust to dishes that were tailored to shorter prep time, quicker turn around and tight work space of a truck. His style demands fresh food – which means he had to serve almost everything created earlier that day by the end of the day. A fresh food menu takes a lot of prep, space and forethought but along that path somehow his signature dish became tater tots.

According to Heaggans, “most cooks are in the kitchen to learn, and grow so the natural progression is to keep growing by expanding the business or the menu”. In the fall of 2013, when the opportunity of the Hey Hey popped up (passed to him by Angela Theado of The Coop) he was ready to have a little more elbow room in a slightly bigger kitchen.. He expected everyone would flock his way right away but the customer rush started with a trickle instead of a stampede. So he had an opportunity to spend more time with his customers, which at the Hey Hey is a very diverse clientel – a little bit of everything– every class and palate He had to create a menu that will connect with people with at any level. It was a lesson in adaptation.

This summer another opportunity presented itself. This one passed along by another food truck peer, Jamie Anderson of Ray Ray’s Hog Pit. Anderson has a good gig set up next to Ace of Cups but the spot needed food the days that Ray Ray’s is not there and it needs a wider range of food and longer hours that Ray Ray’s could do sustainably. So Heaggans and Anderson agreed to pursuing menus that don’t step on others toes. Now Ace of Cups can offer food when its doors are open so owner Marcy Mays does not need to close the doors from exhaustion of running a bar and kitchen. So what is Heaggans lesson from the Swoop Ace of Cups Take Over? Delegation. He can’t be in three places at the same time but he can set the standards for the menus for all of his locations, make the sauces used on all menus and check on the other two when he is not cooking up a new creation at the Hey Hey. While the food at the Hey Hey leans towards comfort foods, the menu at the Ace of Cups plays out as classic bar food for sharing between beers or bands.

Daniel McCarthy
Truck: Tatoheads
Table: Public House

You can blame PBS for the interesting path which drove Daniel McCarthy to the food business. One might even say he entered it out of necessity. His single mother always worked so he had a choice of TV dinners or to make something that he wanted. Public Television was a constant so he grew up with the Frugal Gourmet and Julia Child instructing him in the background. As a teenager he would cut school and make everyone food when they snuck over to his home. As he got older he took a concept of Malcolm Galdwell’s which is one needs 10,000 hours doing something to be skilled at it so he decided at that point in his life, the only thing he had done for close to 10,000 hours was cooking, so he would make cooking as his livelihood.

When I spoke with Daniel McCarthy (I call him Tater) he has just spent the day reconfiguring all of the tables at the Public House (formerly Hall and Al’s). He had also been training staff and fine-tuning some mechanical concerns with his Tatoheads truck. It was well after 9 pm on a weeknight. McCarthy was tired. Running two businesses will take a lot out of a fella but this summer has been a busier that usual. After getting an 11th hour loan he was able to secure the capital he needed to take over the reins of Hal and Al’s but that also meant he had to move to a new house, open a new restaurant and change the home base for his food truck in ten days….during peak food truck season. Luckily, McCarthy is no stranger to a rapid life changes.

In late 2009, the native Chicagoan was given the opportunity to pursue his two passions. His girlfriend was moving to Columbus to go back to school, so he decided to chase her to the capital city. He also decided it was time to make a living by opening a restaurant. That deal fell through but while visiting Columbus he saw the Late Night Slice Truck in action so he decided, “I can do my thing without a restaurant”. McCarthy moved to Columbus in April 2010, bought the truck that May and opened for business on the September 3rd OSU home game that year. He learned a lot in a truck that reached 140 degrees inside. His first three outings were “dismal”. Then he decided he would stay at the same spot until he broke even for the day….that took 16 hours. After a few months he “figured out the trick to the food truck business…work, work, work”. The next step in his transition from truck to table occurred while he was working on a collaborative restaurant project that fell through at the last moment. While disappointed that the endeavor did not launch, he did walk away with an established team, a finished business plan and an extended network of supporters. One was the owner of Hal and Al’s who was looking for the right person to take over the Parsons Ave tavern, a spot that is as much about the community it serves as the food it plates. Having heard of McCarthy’s struggles and frequently experiencing McCarthy’s passion for his menu and desire to grow out his business, it was time for destiny to knock at Daniel’s door.

What McCarty learned in his transition from truck to table was the never-ending need to constantly change the business to accommodate what he learned on a daily basis and how to reconfigure the design and equipment in his truck kitchen to work best with the menu he wanted to execute. While Tatoheads has won the hearts and minds of the TatoNation through fries, McCarthy is excited to have the elbow room to flex his cooking muscles and show the public a diversity of menu he has wanted to do for years. In the process, Public House also become home base for the Tatoheads truck so he can prep menus for both concepts from one kitchen. His girlfriend will be using her horticulture skills from college to create and expand a community garden for the restaurant and the neighborhood. McCarthy has planted his roots on Parsons Ave. by moving his household there as well and he plans to grow with the community as the business blooms.

The original concept of Tatoheads was to have a rotating menu but McCarthy could not run with that concept because the fries were so popular. Now with Public House he plans to add dishes like Shepards Pie, Chicken and Potato Pot Pie and more. He is also excited to have the space to do catering, events and parties. He is even more excited about growing a new business in an area where he feels his business can make a difference in the community. Maybe patrons will be watching PBS instead of NFL at Public House?


Sidebars

Table To Truck (Restaurants that have gone mobile)

White Castle – two food trucks
Donatos – One food trailer
Cuco’s – one food truck
Pizza Cottage – one food truck
Schmidt’s – two food trucks
Giant Eagle – Market Place Food Truck
Explorer’s Club – food truck
Los Jalapenos – Tortillas Food Truck
Costello’s (closed) – now the Cilantro Food Truck
Yabos Tacos – one Truck

More Truck or Cart to Table
Skyward Grille – from multiple carts to brick and mortar base of operations and restaurant
Late Night Slice – went from Shack, to Truck to over 8 locations across town
That Food Truck – Dan Kraus is working on a concept in Italian Village

Posted in FooderHero, Leftovers, Mobile Food, restaurants | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Sophies Pierogi 2.0

Posted by cmh gourmand on September 11, 2014

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Cuisine: Pierogi and more
614 715 3210
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InstaGram: Sophies_gourmet_Pierogi

There are many paths into the Food truck field. There is Truck to Table – where ones goes from truck to their own restaurant. There is Table to Truck, where an established restaurant opts to go mobile to expand service or get out of the brick and mortar life. There is also the cart to truck progression. But Steve Redzinak took a different path. He started with a truck back in 2012. Then he got out of the business for a year and 1/2. But with the encouragement of many in the food truck community including: Swoop, Ajumama, Pickled Swine, Green Meanie, Matija Breads to name a few – he came back with a cart in May of 2014. You can read more about the earlier history of the truck in our previous post about Sophie’s.

The name of the cart, like the name of the truck, was inspired by two Sophie’s. The first is Steve’s mom, who paved the way for his passion for food. His grandmother inspired many of the recipes. You can see her below.

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The other Sophie, is Steve’s daughter. You can see both of them in the lead photo for this post.

The menu, obviously, focuses on Pierogi – which have never been widely available in Columbus. In addition to being delicious, this menu really fills and ethnic food niche. A pierogi, in case you have never tried one is boiled, stuffed dumpling from Poland and eastern Europe. The Sophie’s versions take that as a base, add interesting fillings on the inside and tasty toppings on the outside. Steve is an experienced, trained chef with plenty of experience to back up his family recipes.

During his break from the business, he took what he learned from Sophie’s 1.0 and applied it to the cart to make it a leaner, more viable business. This is what Steve shared with me. “We scaled down our mobile unit, simplified the menu while increasing our production ability. Our commissary is at Smokie’s BBQ / Little Tony’s Pizzeria on 900 Columbus Ave. in Marysville. As of Sept 1st, our Pierogi will be available Monday through Saturday for Dinner 4-9pm at Smokie’s BBQ. We are also supplying a few restaurants with our Pierogi such as Jail House Rock @ Little Rock Bar and Explorers Club” (Jailhouse is the brick and mortar version of Paddywagon and Explorer’s Club also has a food truck).

If you can’t find the cart out and about head to the other locations listed above. We have an example of a typical pierogi menu below.

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And here is a photo of a Sophie’s pierogi at it’s finest.

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Posted in Mobile Food | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Back to the Basics: Villa Nova

Posted by cmh gourmand on September 1, 2014

Oddly, I’ve never written much about Villa Nova. I checked the Gourmand archives and found this post about “Big Beers” in their bar back in 2006. And a brief mention, while I was exploring the pizza options of Clintonville. For a restaurant that could best be described as a powerhouse of North Columbus that is a major oversight on my part.

For many years, Villa Nova was one of few restaurant options between Clintonville and Worthington. Frank and Donna Colleli started the place in 1978, converting a bar into a restaurant with a bar. As you can see from my linked post above – the bar business never suffered. The family had also operated Franco’s Pizza just down the street (another area icon). The place quickly became a cash cow so Frank sold the business and moved to Florida in 1986. His son John, convinced his Frank come home and buy back the restaurant in 1998. The restaurant has never looked back since then. It is still a family affair with three generations working in the front or back of the house everyday. As for popularity, you can see the parking lot full of cars seven days a week. In fact, the original lot was so full, Villa Nova eventually bought the lot and building next door (Just Pies) and turned it into a large lot just for the overflow traffic.

The formula is, and has always been simple. Offer Italian American Fare that is quick to serve and at a low to medium price point with no surprises. The food is basic, filling and comforting in large portions. Proximity to a large residential neighborhood and a retirement community don’t hurt business either. Of note, should you drop in is the extensive collection of pressure gauges and brass kettles numbering in the 100’s. One of the things that keeps people coming back are the daily specials. One special, which I believe has been a Sunday mainstay for 20 plus years. This was once a 1-4 times a month ritual for me. The only thing that has changed is a very slight change in price the meal is now $10.95 instead of the $8.95 of the early aughts.

I’ll walk you through the Sunday Spaghetti Special.

The special includes: your choice of soup either Italian Wedding or the soup of the day, a basket of bread sticks and a salad with your choice of dressing (I’d suggest the house Italian).

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Then you receive a plate of spaghetti with one meatball and one Italian sausage served with plenty of thick, rich sauce on long, thick noodles.

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And then your meal is topped off with a cup of Spumoni ice cream.

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Villa Nova Ristorante on Urbanspoon

Posted in bar, pizza, restaurants | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Eight Years of Eating: Still Typing and Typoing Along.

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 28, 2014

CMH Gourmand began eight years ago today. And I’m still at it. Looking back, I’ve amassed a big body of work. Looking a the whole media empire, over 800 posts have spewed out of the Factory: CMH Gourmand 580+, Street Eats Columbus nearing 50, Taco Trucks Columbus 40, WCBE Foodcast 50, Alt Eats 8 and Bricks of Ohio Blog over 120 and a handful (so far) for Columbus Brew Adventures.

Blogging is not what it used to be. There are a lot of choices out there. Some are great, many go dormant and it seems like trend of everyone having their own blog has died off. Unfortunately, the ubiquitous (hobbyist) Mommy blogs and self-absorbed social blogs persist. CMH Gourmand persists as well – readership is still flatlined – neither growing or dropping, so I thank each of you that still keep with it.

I’d like to do a shout out to a couple of blogs that are worth reading and are written by two guys that have been slugging away for a very long time.

Dave, aka the Clintonville Curmudgeon, has explored the science of grilling, bread baking and more at Weber_Cam since 2003. There is an art in his science. Embrace it, you will be assimilated.

While Jared may have nothing better to do, I’m glad he decided to speed what sometimes feels like every spare moment looking for the vegetarian spin on a wide array of food choices in town from fine dining to the finest dives. Jared is prolific, he writes well and he seems to get the least amount of recognition of the food bloggers out there with the exception of Urbanspoon where he is the king of the pack. Jared started in 2007 and in his first year out he wrote 231 posts. That alone was impressive.

If you have not read these two blogs, give then a shot, just make sure to keep reading mine.

cmhfoodcast

Posted in events | 8 Comments »

Green Bean Delivery to the Rescue

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 18, 2014

green bean 1

* Update and special: Hey Readers, you can use this code: 15CMHGml for $15 off your first Green B.E.A.N. order if you are a new customer. This deal expires August 27th 2014. *

As you have been reading Mrs. Gourmand and I have been living on fast food, pie and Pasta with Jam Sauce. Having become a bit hazy on what a vegetable might be, I felt it was time for an intervention. Going back into the CMH Gourmand Wayback machine, my memory was prompted by -> this <- post on Green B.E.A.N. delivery from back in 2011.

The timing was good because I was contacted shortly thereafter by Green Bean to see if I wanted to take them for a test drive again (good seremdipity there). Green Bean is as easy to use as ever, maybe even easier. A few things that I noticed this time around was that they stay very active with their blog with plenty of recipe ideas for the in season produce coming your way. The selection process is still quick as a few clicks. You get to pick the frequency of your deliveries. You can start with the default of weekly or you can pick and choose what weeks produce will come to your door. Speaking of which you can leave very specific instructions for where to leave the bin when dropped off and control when and how you are reminded about delivery dates, specials, etc. Your order starts with a weekly update of what is currently in the core delivery and then you can adjust your order from there by increasing or decreasing each item. You can also select from a broad range of other local, fresh and/or organic ingredients to add to your order including staples like milk, cheese, snacks and etc.

Mrs. Gourmand and I opted for the standard bin with no adjustments because we wanted lots of green items and because we also wanted to challenge of cooking some items that were not on our regular rotation at the grocery store.

So this is what we received in our order:

green bean 4

If you can’t see all that is in there, this is what we received:
4 apples
3 peaches
grapes
mixed tomatoes
kale
cucumber
leeks
raspberries

This quickly translated into several quick and easy salads with little to no effort on our part. It was also helpful because Mrs. Gourmand was still using a walker when this was delivered. This made me think that this could be a great gift for someone you know that has a busy schedule or has broken a leg or fallen ill and can use a little fresh (and easy) food in their life. So let Green B.E.A.N. help you think outside of the box – both their delivery box and you your rut of items you get at the store to eat healthy and support local food businesses.

Posted in Food For Thought, Vegetarian Friendly | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Honeykiss Bakery: Pie of the Month Club

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 14, 2014

I’m not really sure I need to write much in this post – the title says it all. Honeykiss Bakery offers a pie of the month club. Yes, indeed. You can have a pie delivered to your house once per month. A very pleasant pie pixie, makes a wonderful pie and delivers it to your house. You can choose your monthly pies or go with the seasonal selections suggested. Whatever route you choose, the pie will rock your socks.

So like Fight Club, there are rules for Pie Club, well at least the rules I made up.

The first rule: of pie of the month club is that you do talk about pie of the month club.
The second rule: of pie of the month club is that you DO talk about pie of the month club.
The third rule: If someone says “stop” or goes limp, the pie from the pie of the month club must be gone.
The fourth rule: Only two people per pie.
The fifth rule One pie at a time.
The sixth rule: No pies, don’t cry.
The seventh rule: The Pie Club will go on as long as you eat pie.
The eighth rule: If this is your first time for Pie Club, you HAVE to eat all of your pie.

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I’ve been a big fan of Rachel Eaton’s pies since almost day one of operation. I’ve written about her peanut butter pie and I interviewed her back in my radio days. I have eaten quite a bit as well, mostly at The Ohio Taproom. Taproom owner John Evans must have seen how many slices I was consuming when he was tallying his monthly sales because he signed me and Mrs. Gourmand up for the pie of the month club as our wedding present.

Honeykiss

The timing could not have been better. Our first pie was delivered after our first week of rehabbing our new home. My better half and I were stinky and tired as we were wrapping up another long day of painting, scraping and building when we spied our first pie on the porch. The second pie came a few days after Mrs. Gourmand broke her tibia, fibia and ankle slowing her down a notch and raising the need for pie considerably. We look forward to our soon to arrive August pie as I write this. Oh Boy! So if you are looking for more pie in your life, I’d suggest you have it delivered to you via the Honeykiss Bakery Pie of the Month Club.

Posted in desserts, pies | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Day in the Life: Pasta with Jam Sauce, Take a hit for a Noble Cause

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 13, 2014


I receive a good number of e-mails, the bulk inform me that I have won money or can obtain money by helping out someone in a foreign country that needs all of my personal information. I also get a lot of information on penis enlargement and women that are very interested in marriage even though I have never met them. I also get a lot of offers to plug new fast food items and from people who want to add “content” to my site so I can make a fortune.

But sometimes, I get some legitimately great offers. Read below:

Hello,
My name is Katie and I am participating in an international scavenger hunt called GISHWHES which stands for the Greatest Internet Scavenger Hunt The World Has Ever Seen. The items on this list are very out of the box and crazy, and I was wondering if I could enlist your help with one of the items. Here is the item:

VIDEO or IMAGE. It’s time the Internet’s burgeoning Culinary Master was recognized… or panned. Prepare West Collins’ “Pasta with Jam Sauce” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90tZUltzRBc) and have a noted food critic review it. It must be a qualified, published critic. If they’re not a published critic, don’t submit.

If I could prepare this myself or have it prepared by someone near you today, tomorrow, or Friday. Would you be able to help with this before the hunt ends Friday night? I would be forever grateful for your help! Please let me know as soon as possible!

Thanks,
Katie Lee

I e-mailed Katie back and let her know it would be my honor to help out. I was intrigued by the Greatest Internet Scavenger Hunt The World Has Ever Seen – because I love to do things like this myself. Some people take the whole week off from work to do this challenge because it is so demanding. In Katie’s case she lives in Cincinnati and she drove up with one of her teammates to serve me this dish. Katie’s team also includes people in New Zealand – good thinking – two hemispheres and two time zones can help with a contest like this.

Last week was pretty busy, so it was not until about 10 minutes before Katie showed up that I researched what Pasta and Jam sauce was. As soon as I started to read and watch the video I started to reconsider my offer to help….but it was too late.

You can learn more about Pasta with Jam Sauce here and here.

I’ll let you enjoy the research above but let me include some of the ingredients from the dish below.

goldfish crackers
apple with a few bites out of it
wheel pasta
cranberries
blackberries
an orange
chocolate chips
carrot juice……..

At this point, having just finished the video and feeling a bit of dread, Katie showed up on my porch with the dish ready to serve. I’ll say the dish did not look overly appetizing but it tasted slightly better than I would have expected. Which means, it did not taste good at all.

pasta with jam

The blending of all of the ingredients together created an almost tasteless brownish gray sauce-paste that clung to the pasta. The crumbled goldfish on top were a blessing by providing some texture and flavor to a dish that would be best described as less than bland. I took one bite to meet the criteria of the challenge and a second bite out of morbid curiosity and I was done. They took the left overs with them for proper disposal. I offered what was left to CMH Tobias but he just looked at me in disbelief and went back to sleep.

I was happy to help Katie out and hope her team did well in the challenge. If anyone out there wants to form a team for next year, let me know, I’m game.

Posted in culinary misadventure | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Random Reflections on My Return to Fast Food

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 27, 2014

BK

I have a dark secret. I spent the last month eating a lot of fast food, almost daily. This confession could easily get me kicked out of the Foodie Hipster Club. I’m neither proud nor forsaken of my choices. I’ve always been an equal opportunity eater but I’ve rarely steered myself to the drive in window. Over the last decade I’ve probably averaged 1-2 trips to Wendy’s a month or an occasional White Castle run.

But Mrs. Gourmand and I bought a new house in June and we had a month to get a lot of work completed on it until we moved in. We both averaged 8-12 hours a day working on the house – it was hot, sweaty and relentless work. We looked bad and at least one of us smelled bad. The new house was not ready for cooking and at the old house we were avoiding buying anything from the store we would have to move. So the perfect storm was created to dive into the world of the drive thru window. It was ironic because Mrs. Gourmand and I had just returned from Italy where we were living the Slow Food life.

These are my observations:

Taco Bell

Mrs. Gourmand loves Taco Bell. There is also a food writer in town whose love of Taco Bell is notorious but she fears that it would become public knowledge and then people would judge her. I don’t judge her and I hope, if you ever find out, that you will not either. I took the opportunity to explore the menu – trying a few different items on each different trip but I could not find anything that would make me want to make an intentional trip back. Nothing about Taco Bell tastes like it is real. But I have some mental barriers that keep me from connecting with Taco Bell. I live within a mile of a pretty good Taco Truck. More importantly I have never forgiven Taco Bell for contributing to the demise of Zantigo in Ohio. I miss Zantigo. I miss it a lot. And I am one to hold a grudge.

Burger King

I had not been to Burger King in ages, and I had not had a Whopper in an ever longer period of time. The Whopper is pretty darn good. All hail to the king. I think it is a matter of the whole being much, much better than the sum of the parts. If you have not had a Whopper – there is something about how the large gobs of ketchup and mayo mix together with the other topping that creates an explosion of flavor. And I really like the Burger King Bun it may be the best in the mass produced burger business. Another discovery was a frozen orange drink they have for the summer. Mrs. Gourmand, thinks if tastes like Bayer baby aspirin (in a good way), I can’t think anything thing else that I want to drink when it is over 85 degrees.

Wendy’s

Wendy’s has been my go to for this century. When I’m running late their dollar menu, especially when the double stack was a buck, was my savior. I can’t think of another fast food place that consistently tastes as fresh as Wendys. But now that I have spread my fast food wings for a brief while, I think Wendy’s needs a new bun, and they should source them from Burger King.

McDonald’s

We didn’t make any trips to McDonald’s. McDonald’s sucks.

We are mostly moved in now. Mrs. Gourmand christened the new place by falling down the stairs and fractured her ankle and tibia and getting a load of hardware to put it back in to place. I’m still working on the house but our house is full of food brought in by a horde of relatives and friends – so instead of fast food we are living off of free home-cooked fare and we are both happy to be eating real food again.

Posted in culinary misadventure, Food For Thought | 9 Comments »

Hello Mr. Chips: OH! Chips and Brian “Thor” Thornton

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 20, 2014

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Have you ever been present at the moment of something big? Were you one of 20 people who saw Nirvana play at Staches during a blizzard when they toured from a van or did you see the rise of the Phoenix that is LeaderOptics? For me, as a compulsively creative idea brainstormer, there are few things better than seeing the light bulb go off in someone’s head and then watch what happens. I’ve been following the growth of OH! Chips for almost three years now and it has been a fun ride.

I met Brian “Thor” Thornton when I was working for a food business incubator called Food Fort. Brian was of the mind to buy a food truck and he was just wrapping up his business plan when I met him. At the time (fall 2011) there was only one truck on the market, The Hot Pita Food Truck (RIP) which I had looked over and did not think much of what I saw. That did not dissuade Thor, he saw where he could make adjustments and modifications and even though the truck was far from perfect it was the vehicle he could use to launch his business and he was ready to go. So in typical Thor fashion, the gap between thought and action was nearly unmeasurable.

Once he had the truck in development, he started working on recipes and that is where I came to know him much better. I am certain for the first two years of his OH! Burger food truck, I sampled any menu item he developed. And he and I talked about, debated and conceived a lot of neat new concepts along the way (The $1 Dollar Hollar Hot Dog sandwich for a late night menu comes to mind – Thor thought better of that) that were just too wrong to unleash on the public. I even had Thor talked in to donuts for a while.

There were a lot of adventures along the way, I wrote about one of them (see the link below).

It Takes a Village to Serve an OH! Burger.

Between burgers, Thor was always working on a tweaking recipes for potato and sweet potato chips. I’m sure on the fist couple months of OH! Burgers I sampled a slightly different version of a chip (potato type, different oils, etc.) It was always in Thor’s vision for the chips to be a signature item on his truck menu (they were and still are) but I don’t think a week went by where he did not tweak or experiment with the process in some way. I was there the day he decided he had finally made the perfect chip and having tried one, I was inclined to agree with him. The popularity of the chips was instant and sometimes overshadowed his own burgers. So in typical Thor fashion the process of thought to action to make the chips their own business was put on fast forward in a flash.

So let’s bring you up to date. It has been a big year for OH! Chips. With a lot of hard work and a small business loan, he secured a space for a factory in a former food cart commissary (appropriately enough) and may have the space in full production around Labor Day. In the meantime he has continued to labor on his food truck and the factory and well as all of the many things that need to happen between making batches of chips to grow the business from 100’s of bags to 1000’s.

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The business began to expand with partnering by other food trucks to sell his chips both as is and with customized spice mixes. Here is where you can find the chips now.

Actual Brewing Company
Ajumana (Food Truck)
Blu Olive (Food Truck)
Catawba Island Brewing Company
Four String Brewing Company
Kenny’s Meat Wagon (Food Cart)
North High Brewing Company
The Ohio Tap Room
Pam’s Market Popcorn
Strongwater Food and Spirits

You may have noticed a trend in there – Breweries and beer based businesses. You have read here before that craft breweries and food trucks are the perfect pairing. That partnership potential applies to other small businesses as well. Taprooms benefit from good food and great chips go well with beer.

What makes these potato chips so good? A couple little things add up to a big difference in taste and quality. OH! Chips are hand crafted in small batches. The potatoes are thinly sliced then blanched before being fried in peanut oil then lightly seasoned with sea salt. This might not sound like much but the reason why so many people crave these chips is because the extra labor that goes into the chips and because they are fresh.

I think there has been a pent-up demand for good potato chips. Many years ago, Ohio had many more local potato chips companies than today but most were eaten up by the big guys. If you have friends from other parts of Ohio you may be familiar with names like Mike-Sells, Grippos, Ballreich’s, Gold n Crisp, Jones, Mumford’s, Tastee, Schearer’s, Wagner’s and more. I remember Buckeye Potato Chips as a kid and if my memory serves me right, they seemed to be the only potato chip in the world. We still have a lot of Ohio based chips to choose from today and our heritage supports that. While “Saratoga Chips” were invented in New York, it was Ohio where they went big fast. Ohio was home to the first trade association of potato chip makers. So with that in our collective DNA, it is the priming of the pump to want to eat and support the first new local potato chip maker in my lifetime. I’m glad I was around to see OH! Chips get born and I look forward to watching the company mature.

If all goes to plan, by the end of the year you will see the chips some more locations (probably Weilands). In the meantime find them (or ask for them) at a local brewery, The Ohio Tap Room or select food trucks while we wait for more of a good thing.

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Posted in Behind the Counter, culinary misadventure, FooderHero | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

My Interview on Columbus BBQ

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 1, 2014

I was approached by a writer working on a book about the 100 Best BBQ joints in the country. He asked me a few questions about our BBQ scene in town. The link to the interview is -> HERE.

So what do you think? Where is the best BBQ in Central Ohio?

Posted in BBQ | Leave a Comment »

 
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