CMH Gourmand

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

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  • Archives: August 2006 to Now

Mad About Making Cider at Mad Moon Cider!

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 29, 2015

One of the best things about Columbus Brew Adventures is the diversity of people I get to work with and learn from. Several months ago I met Peter Moon, one of the owners of Mad Moon Cider at a tasting. After trying his products and hearing a bit of his story, I knew I had to get some tour groups into his space. I tested out the concept with private groups over the winter and each trip there was a crowd favorite. At each tour, I picked up a bit more of his story while meeting his wife and cider making partner Sally. I really became hooked on the craft of craft cider.

When Peter mentioned that they sometimes need volunteers to help with cider production I promptly volunteered. Then the stars and the Moons aligned and I had my opportunity to report for duty. Our team was small – the two Moons, myself and a fella I think may one day become a folk legend, Vic. I’ll digress about Vic for a bit. Vic has been there, done that, survived countless mishaps and misadventures and somehow thrives on doing great acts of endurance and physical strength – most of this seems to be fueled by a daily regimen of honey, apple cider vinegar and some assorted juices. As I observed at the end of my service, if Vic had lived in an earlier era, we would today measure speed and production on Vicpower, not horsepower.

Anyway, step one of cider production is the sort apples. In our case, we had some multiple 800 lb crates of apples that had been stored over the winter. While these apples make great cider, they also require significantly more sorting than other batches. If you have heard the phrase “one bad apple spoils the bunch”, it is true and we had to search for them among 1000’s of apples in each crate.

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As the apples get sorted into milk crates and buckets, the apples go down a chute of a device that looks a lot like a chipper to get mashed into apple pulp.

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The pulp gets wheeled over to get crafted into sheets of “cheese”. The job of the cheese maker is to take scoops of pulp, and using a plastic mold and cheesecloth, create squares of apple pulp to stack on other squares to slide down to a press to squash (with 1000’s of pounds of pressure) to create juice.

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Once the press gets going, the juice really starts to flow (down a long open trough) to a bin. Once the bin gets to a certain height, a pump gets switched on to transfer the juice to a holding tank (during my tenure I think we made about 300 gallons over four hours). After the pressing, the square molds are unfolded to start the “cheese” making process again. After the pulp is mashed, the residual looks like a very dry energy bar made by an eighties era hippy.

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All in all, I was a great afternoon. If you are familiar with the story of John Henry (there is a statue down where my kin reside) if there was a production contest between a machine, Vic and myself, Vic would beat the combined efforts of the machine and my human self. It was hard, messy work but worth the effort. You can see my work shirt below….taken near the beginning of my labors.

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For my efforts I was rewarded with good company, a nice lunch and plenty of cider to take home.

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Others things I could do in the future include bottling and capping, using the equipment you see below. The capper is pretty amazing, it was made out of a broken drill press Peter picked up for $50 (worth more than that by weight alone at a scrap yard) and mounted with a special capping mold he found on the internet. The MacGuyvered tool works like a charm. In fact much of what is in the cider house is customer made, crafted, reverse engineered and conjured up which is the nature of any small start up business. Mad Moon has a lot a stories to share and these are just a few of them. (FYI: the next Columbus Brew Adventures Tour to Mad Moon is August 30th).

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Posted in Behind the Counter, beverages, culinary knowledge, Locally Sourced | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Lisska Bar and Grill: Crossed off My Bucket List

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 10, 2015

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For the last two years, on my way to Actual Brewing and over the last year on my way to pick up tools at the tool library (worst name ever, Rebuilding Together Central Ohio) I have passed by a bar that looks lost out of time. Lisska Bar and Grill probably looked ancient when it was a day old. From the outside, it looks like a neighborhood joint one might find in the hills of Pittsburgh or the east side of Cleveland. It is old and battered now, like the neighborhood it resides in.

In my mind, I envisioned the inside to look like the Nick’s bar (a bizarro Martini’s, from the alternate universe of a world without George Bailey) of It’s a Wonderful Life, with people slumped over tables with empty shot glasses and empty eyes. In spite of that vision, I still had a nagging interest in the place. In June, Lenny Kolada from Smokehouse Brewing shared that he spent part of his birthday at Lisska enjoying a $3 burger with his wife Joan. That sealed the deal for me. The place had food as well so I had to check it out.

I finally made it. It was what I expected and maybe more than I expected. It is definitely a beat up place. It features a large area to sell lottery tickets. Next to that is an old, old bar with a lot of booze piled on the back shelves. The bottles do not look like they move much but the frosty cans of Bud Light look like they do not linger long in the cooler. Sliding down that sight line, is an old grill area that efficiently churns out what you see below.

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Intermixed among these areas are some bits and pieces of furniture one might expect to see at a third hand flea market. There are some Polish themed jokes, a pencil sketch of an ancestor or grandfather of the proprietors in a 19th century Austrian uniform showcasing a sharpshooters medal and a long, narrow photo of an amateur football team from 1933. The place has a lot of character. The characters that come through the door come for the wisecracks as an entrée and the food as a side. The customers are mostly long in the tooth and have probably been coming here since it opened decades ago. Listening to the banter going back and forth from the counter is well worth an investment of time to walk through the door and linger a while. And the food, is not bad and reasonably priced. The standouts seem to be the homemade desserts (pies, spice cake and cookies were spotted) as wells as soups and chili.

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Posted in bar, culinary misadventure | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Chicken Corners / Chicken District

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 8, 2015

Chicken District

Columbus has become known for it’s districts: Arena, Brewery, University, Discovery, Dentist (Clintonville between Henderson and Weber) and so on. One of the oldest but lesser known is known as both the Chicken District and Chicken Corners. Centered in Milo Grogan at the intersection of Fifth and Cleveland Avenues there is an area with not one, not two, not three, but four chicken frying establishments within mere yards of each other. At one time, there were six. Back in the day, three were located in a four section intersection of Cleveland and Fifth, today, two are still standing.

Today, we have Churches Chicken at the Northeast corner. Buckeye Express Chicken is located at the Southeast corner (it used to be Popeyes). There is nothing at the Southwest Corner and while there used to be a place at the Northwest Corner but it burned down. Royal Fish and Chicken is about 1/2 mile to the east at Fifth and Peters and KFC is just west of the intersection of I 71 and Fifth Ave. Back in the day, Woody and Jo’s was at the intersection of Fifth and Fourth but it has been torn down. I don’t know how this area can support so many menus that are based on the most eaten white meat of our continent, but it is.

Why did the customer cross the road? To eat the chicken on the other side.

And now…..you know.

Posted in culinary knowledge | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

KDB: Kitchen Den Bar, the bar has been raised.

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 7, 2015

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I loathe Easton. Everything in my essence is pre-disposed to have my skin crawl at the thought of an area dedicated solely to the pursuit of consumer goods in a suburban environment. I have gone to great lengths to avoid the lifestyle zone with a few exceptions. I would go at off-peak hours to visit the Apple Store when it was the only location in town. I made trips to the Container Store on the periphery to appease my inner need to organize, but even that was reluctantly. And the only time I was ever recruited for job was at the Ocean Club, it was an exceptional meal even for a person allergic to fish. As a person that has never been reluctant to visit the rough parts of the city, or the world for a good meal, the aura of Easton was enough to make me hesitant to stuff my face. With that as a background, when I received an invitation to visit KDB, I was game to go. KDB is in the former space of Gameworks. I had been hankering for some good old-fashioned video shot em up action and when a chance to do so to my hearts desire had me on board. My expectations were low. My expectations were exceeded within moments of stepping in.

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The space has been completely redesigned with emphasis given to showcasing all three aspects of the name. Kitchen: these guys are serious about their food. There is a pride in what is on the menu. The pizza/flatbread dough is made in-house. Den: Forget man cave, this space is filled with games grouped together by type: racing, first person shooter, sports, etc. Many of the materials are repurposed. The furniture is set up to be inviting and comfortable with our a frat boy eye for fashion. Bar: Local Craft beer are more than an afterthought here and you will be hard pressed to find a better Bourbon selection in town. To the point that they could change the name to KDBB. And they might add an extra D for decor, this place is not some dark man cave, it is set up to be an inviting bar, a cosy eatery and an arena for the arcade.

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Back to the Kitchen. With the D and the B, the place could slide on the Kitchen component but that did not happen. This is no place to park the kids while you sneak a drink, this is a spot where everyone gets what they want without having to compromise the quality in the food, games or spirits. I tried the flatbread and have it two thumbs up. The crust was perfect and the topping were generous and of very high quality. The wings are not something frozen dumped out of a bag and the options here are more than typical, you can choose dry rubs like old bay or lemon pepper or wet rubs such as the standard buffalo of the off the beaten path spicy sriracha or curry. The whole menu is pub grub on the high-end.

So, and this is a big deal, I’ll be back to Easton for KDB.

Posted in bar, beverages, pizza | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Louie’s Daybreak Diner: Eating Lunch at a Breakfast Spot

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 5, 2015

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Old School advertising brought me to Louie’s Daybreak Diner. During my daily walks with CMH Tobias I walk by the sign you see above. This battered banner is right in front of a church / school so during the school year and every Sunday, hundreds of people walk by this sign. In the age of social media, SEO, etc., you have to respect someone with the thought to try some old timey marketing. Granted, I have walked by this sign for almost a year, but it worked.

Another thing that inspired me is the proximity to Susie Sub Shop, the best place for subs in town.

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My first visit was on a Wednesday, which did not work out so well because the business is closed on Wednesdays – but looking at the menu on the door, it seemed like they had some good specials. On my next trip, I took a very pregnant Mrs. Gourmand. She has the BLT which she reported was exactly what she wanted: well toasted Texas Toast, crispy, meaty bacon, lettuce and tomato with a little mayo on the side. I ordered the Reuben. I must admit I was very disappointed. The Reuben is $8.00, the version I had was worth $4.00. It was generic wheat bread, with three slices of corned beef, some cold sauerkraut, an afterthought of melted cheese and a volume of salad dressing from a bottle which had greater weight than the meat, cheese, and bread combined. My report, it was a let down and a definite “meh” sandwich. On the other side of the plate, the hand cut fries, although a trifling portion, were among the best I have had anywhere. Mrs. Gourmand agreed. I can’t fault the place, only myself. I violated the a cardinal rule: only get a Reuben from a Deli.

In spite of the fries, if I come back to the area for lunch, I’ll be going to Susie’s next door. However, I will be heading back for breakfast sometime. The breakfast menu is extensive and has two off the beaten path menu items. The first is Bill’s Breakfast Rice: Rice, sausage, Onions, mushrooms, soy sauce, with cheddar cheese and served with toast. Intriguing to say the least. The second item f note is the Panhandler: choice of pancake, french toast or biscuit on the bottom then sausage gravy, hash browns, two eggs, then cheddar cheese and choice of meat.

A final point of interest. I noticed there is a service window connected the diner to the sub shop next door. I asked our server / grill cook about it and she shared that the owners of both businesses and best friends and that family members work shifts at both locations. These two places definitely put the neighbor into neighborhood business.

Posted in breakfast, Diners, restaurants | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

S.W.A.T.

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 24, 2015

SWAT

If you missed my article about the late Roger Gentile in Stock and Barrel, I’d suggest you read it -> HERE, before you proceed.

S.W.A.T. stands for Secret Wine Appreciation Tastings. These were outings by a small number of friends that traveled to the best wine regions of the world to learn about wines and stockpile the best of them. This small cadre of gentlemen was composed of the Who’s Who of Columbus’ upper echelon with the means to live large while expanding their collections. However, this was no collection of rat pack style playboys, this group was one and all, on a mission to do some good with their good fortune. For years, they have taken some of the best of their collections to make dream packages for auctions to support charities such as Recreation Unlimited. This group has largely chosen to remain in the shadows and well….secret. I’ll keep their identities classified but I will offer a small insight into what they do.

This group periodically gets together to share the company of each other, an excellent meal and too many bottles of wine to count. I was given the great honor to attend one of these lunches, the first after the passing of Roger, as a thank you for writing about the group’s defacto leader, heart, soul and chief instigator.

The group met at Worthington Inn for lunch. Lunch was of course, excellent. Each member brought a guest with them (typically new potential member) and some of their best wines. In my invitation I was advised to “make sure I had a way to get home after, just in case.” While I did not partake to that extreme, I did indeed have wines that I have never had and most likely will never sip again. Of the 50+ bottles on the table I spied a bottle from at least 20 countries with price tags greater than what I earn in a week, maybe a month in a few instances. The oldest bottle of wine was from 1974 the youngest was not from this decade. Each had a story of being a rarity, a tale of how it was obtained, or an epic on how it was “stolen” at auction.

In the past I have judged wines for competitions and poured wines at festivals but I never saw an array of alcohols of this caliber. However, my second favorite memory of this time involved a wine encased in tin foil to hide its identity. The experts around the table were asked to guess where the wine hailed from. After tasting, smelling and swirling there was no consensus. Guesses ranged from a specific region of France to a specific Napa Valley Vineyard. The man who poured this sample for everyone was a man who has hosted and supported this group over many, many years, Kamal Boulos from the Refectory. I was able to see the glint in his eye and a trace of a smile as he unveiled the bottle which was from none other than Ravenhurst from Mt. Victory Ohio!

My favorite memory of this meal was witnessing this fellowship of a group of old friends as we made a Toast to Roger Gentile, the leader of the pack. Roger made his mark with these fellas and they continue their work for charity so that his spirit will live on in their efforts.

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

El Conquistador

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 16, 2015

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El Conquistador
5225 N High St, Columbus OH 43214
-parking lot of the Blue Pickle (bar)
west side of High Street, north of Graceland Shopping Center
614 804 0330
Open Monday to Saturday 11 am to 9 pm

Greater Clintonville now has not one (El Mantinal Latino), not two (El Mantinal Latino 2), not three La Poblanita), not four (La Moreliana) but now five Taco Trucks. When I first spotted El Conquistador I had hoped this was the original – which served Dominican dishes. Well, this trailer now has a new owner whose menu is traditional taco truck fare but it is well worth checking out. The trailer is based as the newly renamed Blue Pickle (formerly Porter’s Pub). As I approached the trailer, several Blue Pickle patrons without being solicited shouted out to me that the food was great and I should try it. That was a good sign. I sampled the Flautas (rolled, crispy taco) sometimes called a Taquito. Flautas are served in groups of four with plenty of toppings on top. These were great. This is definitely a spot I look forward to trying out more this summer.

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Posted in Clintonville, Mobile Food | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Hounddogs debuts new delivery vehicle

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 15, 2015

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In the early days of Hounddogs Pizza, the business had a couple of trump cards in their small business deck: they served pizza 24 hours per day and they had a kick ass car with a hounddog mounted on top. Starting January of this year, the business is no longer open 24 hours. And for well over a year, the iconic black limo with a hounddog mounted on top languished in a parking space unused. In March, it was finally taken to the scrap yard to open up a spot for the new car. Several cars with a mounted canine on top served as the calling card for the business since the early 1990’s but for the last several years that was a missing piece of the delivery pie. This week, we will start to see limited run by the new Hounddogs mobile. How many pizza delivery guys do you know drive a car with a historic car license plate? The hounddog on top is new (the original has been preserved) and was created by the maker of the previous versions. Many are unaware that the dog was modeled after the owners (now deceased hounddog).

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hounddogs

Posted in Columbus | 1 Comment »

Pay It Forward: Nancy’s Home Cooking

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 1, 2015

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Nancy’s has been a Clintonville institution for over forty years. A significant part of the tradition of the eatery has been serving the community. For years, the homeless knew they could come in for a meal, for some customers it was their only place for community and a place they could find a kind word with a warm meal, and for many years fire fighters knew they could expect a Thanksgiving meal delivered while they were at work away from their families.

The current version of Nancy’s is different on some ways from the Cindy King era (and I am working on a post where I try to sort out the good, the bad and the ugly of those differences) but that sense of service remains. The diner has started a Pay it Forward Program. Customers can buy a meal for someone who needs one – all they do is pay and write a few words of encouragement on a post it note. If someone needs a meal, they can redeem one of the post it notes. There are well over 50 post it notes on the wall waiting to be redeemed. It is a simple and direct way to serve the community the way this spot always has, one meal at a time.

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

Mallory’s Rib Shack

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 26, 2015

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Powers greater than myself may have led me to Mallory’s Rib Shack. First I received an e-mail asking me about Mallory’s Rib Shack and I had to report I did not know anything about it. Then a few weeks later, while out walking on my street, I ran into a person I have not seen in a couple of years and one of the first things she asked was “have you been to Mallory’s Rib Shack?” She has not been but it seemed to her that Mallory’s was the type of place I would frequent. That piqued my interest. A few weeks after I took a heap of left over building materials to the Restore (if you have never been drop in to check one out). Just a few blocks away (I drove right past it on the way to the Restore) was Mallory’s. I knew that if Mallory’s was open I was going.

Mallory’s is located near the intersection of Westerville Road and Innis Ave in a part of town that has seen better days. The building was once a Diary Queen. It has a drive through window, a handful of outside tables and a window to order through. Also on the plus list, a hand painted mural of a Rib Shack. While some of this might scare people away, these elements could only serve to lure me in. Since the closing and destruction of Woody and Jo’s I have been looking for a BBQ dive to meet my BBQ needs.

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On my first visit I took a cautious approach and just ordered a couple of wings and one of each side. Based on my many questions, perhaps my innate charm and the novelty of a fella from outside of the neighborhood dropping in, the owner gave me a couple of complimentary rib tips as well. Let’s begin with the sides. I tried Collard Greens with smoked turkey, potato salad, mac & cheese, cole slaw baked beans and fries. All of the sides were above average with the exception of the fries which looked and tasted to be out of a bag. The other sides were all clearly homemade. Off the lot, there are three that are well worth heading back for (which I did) the collards, potato salad and Mac and Cheese. The collard greens were some of the best I have tried. I have not had them with bits of turkey before so the novelty of that alone, makes them worth trying. The greens themselves were larger/longer/less finely cut than the typical and less cooked down. There was also a hidden kick of heat in them. The mac of cheese was the perfect balance of a blend of cheeses and cheesey consistency. Most mac and cheese in town (in my experience) is either too runny or too bland, not Mallorys Mac, in my book it runs best in show for local BBQ joints. Last, and in my experience, best was the potato salad. I rarely find a potato salad I want to have again but Mallory’s has quickly become my favorite. It is clearly “down home potato salad mixing thoroughly cooked potatoes with bits of egg, mustard, pickles and maybe a dash of mayo. Mrs. Gourmand who is a potato salad purist really liked the small amount I let her sample.

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I am not a huge chicken wing fan but I did like the wings especially the breading. On my second trip back I intended to get a slab of Turkey ribs but they were out (note that many not have any ready if you order mid-week). I did get a 1/2 slab of pork ribs and my consolation prize MeMe’s Special. The special is a great intro to what the shack has to offer. The special includes two wings, 2 pork ribs, 2 rib tips and your choice of a side dish for $13.50. The pork ribs I have sampled so far have been very meaty as were the meat tips. I’m still trying to sort out my feelings about the BBQ sauce at Mallory’s. As a certified Kansas City BBQ Society BBQ judge and culinary traveler I have sampled countless styles of BBQ sauces: Kansas City, St. Louis, Memphis, Texas. North Carolina (3 to 4 regional styles), South Carolina, mustard and more. This sauce defies categorization. It is moderate in consistency and does have a glue like cling to the bones, it has a trace of sweetness and a very light hint of brown sugar. It reminds me or a blend of an asian BBQ sauce and a sauce I have most often found in Cleveland on Polish Boy sandwiches.

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Mallory’s does a great job putting orders together. The meat area of the bottom of the styrofoam carry out container has a sheet of aluminum foil to hold the sauce and retain the heat. On top there is a sheet of wax paper to protect the sides. On top of the wax paper is a plastic bag with two slices of white bread in side – perfect boxing and presentation.

Mallory’s has been open about three years. The origin of the recipes come from father Ralph Mallory who came to Ohio from Luvern, Alabama. The tag line for the shack is “best soul food in Columbus”. I’ll have to visit a few more places before I can endorse that fully but based on my trips to date, the shack is a strong contender.

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Mallory’s Rib Shack
3386 Westerville Road
Columbus, OH 43224
614.269.8981
Facebook:MallorysRibShack
Open:
Wednesday & Thursday 11 am to 7 pm
Friday & Saturday 11 am to 11 pm
Sunday Noon to 4 pm

Posted in BBQ | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

 
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