Posted by cmh gourmand on December 9, 2013
In my high school days, we were frequent flyers of the Iacanos pizza buffet. If memory serves me, I think it was all we could eat for $6. While, I never forgot about Iacanos, I did forget about the buffet in college and afterwards.
As the years went by the general concept of pizza buffet downgraded significantly – equating with low quality pies and mass-produced mediocrity. Strangely although I love a true value meal I had forgotten about the Iacanos pizza buffet. During my temporary exile from Clintonville, I have required a centrally located base of operations for business meetings, so on a whim, I popped into Iacanos to meet with a client. I had forgotten how much I like Iacano’s and it was a bit of a homecoming as well bringing back memories of good friends and good times.
The pizza buffet is a great value. For $8.75 you get unlimited trips to the salad bar, plenty of pizza, soup and a bottomless fountain drink. I think we all have low expectations for salad bars today. The Iacano’s salad bar does not have any surprises, it is stocked with the basics of what we expect in a Midwestern buffet bar: peas, carrots, cottage cheese, macaroni salad, potato salad, pudding, sunflower seeds, a multitude of dressings including a tasty homemade Italian house dressing, and more things that I have forgotten. And while what I have listed are standards, we often don’t expect them to be good. The peas are fresh and still have a pop to them. The carrots are freshly cut. The potato salad tastes good. The soup choices change daily. There are typically two pizzas available throughout the afternoon.
On my visits I have always observed staff asking arriving guests what their pizza preferences are and adding those requests to the pizzas coming out next. Shawn, the afternoon manager, greets guests and makes an effort to get to know repeat customers by name. And the pizza is as good as I remember it. Iacano’s history dates back to 1953. The Iacano family was among the founding pioneers of Columbus pizza. The crust has a nice “crackery” crunch and the sauce to cheese ratio is finely balanced. I always have a little lower expectation for buffet pizzas but what I have sampled to date has been on par with any dine in or carry out pizza.
If you have low expectations of a pizza buffet – prepare to raise them with a trip to Iacanos. The buffet is offered weekly Monday to Friday 11 am to 2 pm.
Posted in Columbus, Columbus style pizza, pizza | Tagged: Iacanos | Leave a Comment »
Posted by cmh gourmand on December 6, 2013
I finally have time to start freelance writing again. We begin with what I started with years ago – ice cream. Thank you 614 Magazine for the opportunity.
Ice Cream essay from 614 December issue.
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Posted by cmh gourmand on November 30, 2013
Long time readers know about my fond memories of the Galaxy Cafe which closed years ago. Starliner Diner and The Explorer’s Club have Galaxy connections in their kitchen DNA. So when I heard that Jerry Burgos, co-founder of the original Galaxy Cafe and long time driving force at the Starliner Diner, was opening a new place I was curious to see how this new restaurant would compare to my memories. Jerry sold his share in Starliner about 4 years ago but wanted to come back into the business of owning a restaurant and running a kitchen.
This new incantation in the Galaxy Universe opened in mid-November. Long time fans will find the elements they associate with the name. The fare will be comforting to Starliner and Explorer’s Club fans. Most of the dishes are southwestern / Cuban themed eclectic classics. The decor is a hodgepodge of folk art, flea market and cool cookie jars mixed with bright walls and black and white checkered ceiling tiles.
Jerry has teamed up with his wife Jenny and a small staff to add the Galaxy to the dining choices of Hilliard. This is good news for people like me who feel that there are only a few good dining choices west of the Scioto (Olive Tree and Starliner Diner for me). However Jerry has some challenges to face with this new location so old-time fans that have been thinking about dropping in could give this new business a great holiday gift by dropping in before Christmas. Challenge number one is location. Jerry’s Galaxy is buried in a semi-residential area off the beaten path in Hilliard. It does not have a sign (look for City Kids Daycare to know you are close). It is near a bar names Nasty’s (really) ((Really??)) and the Lil’ Donut Factory (which often runs out of donuts). Challenge number two – the menu at the Galaxy is about the same as the Starliner and Louie’s (a Starliner spin-off) so they are competing against two mirroring concepts that are both less than one mile away.
As a new business that has only been open a few weeks there are a few glitches to tweak. Service was a bit spotty on my visit. The volume of the music is too loud, especially when the spaces are quiet. The menu is familiar but could use more detailed descriptions of some dishes. And the coffee cups are too small and too thin to offer an optimal coffee experience one expects at a diner.
All food sampled was good and worthy of the Galaxy name I just hope that Jerry will get the business needed in the early months to have a full opportunity show what he can do in the back of the house.
Jerry’s Galaxy Cafe
4920 Scioto-Darby Road
Posted in Diners, restaurants | Tagged: Galaxy Cafe, Jerry's Galaxy Cafe | Leave a Comment »
Posted by cmh gourmand on November 13, 2013
I have written about Latitude 41 before. As a quick recap, the restaurant is located in the Renaissance Hotel downtown. While many people have low expectations for hotel restaurants, the Renaissance and their culinary partner Chef Dean Max, have very high expectations. The hotel sourced several very impressive chefs to date, including one of my personal favorites the departed (and missed) Chef David MacLennan. (Note: The downtown Hilton has Bill Glover at the helm so hotel restaurants in Columbus are bringing back the hey day when hotels restaurants were THE destination for diners).
Michael Koenig became executive chef at Latitude 41 in July. He brings over 20 years of culinary experience to the kitchen. Restaurants on his resume include these bay area notables: Café Delluchi Kuleto’s Restaurant, Scala’s Bistro, Restaurant Zibibbo (Palo Alto) and the Renaissance Stanford Court Hotel restaurant. Some local residents will want to know that he attended Michigan State University so we know the chef is well grounded in midwestern palates and football etiquette. The chef credits his mother and her Lebanese heritage for teaching him about food and ingredients. As with previous chefs at the restaurant, he is committed to sourcing local where possible and integrating those flavors into dishes. I had an opportunity to sample a tasting dinner with the Chef and I was very impressed with what he had to dish out.
Chef Koenig continues to source local when possible and plans to expand on that commitment with a larger roof top garden and if the stars align – a chicken coop for fresh eggs for the restaurant. If that happens, I hope to write about that and hope not to report that a chicken tried to swim in the Renaissance’s pool. Chef is also looking into adding a beehive to the mix on the rooftop. I like how he thinks.
A few notable local purveyors featured in the menu. Watershed bourbon is a star ingredient in the house made caramel sauce. Empty Watershed bottles were used for water at our table which was a nice aesthetic and good repurposing to boot. SaraBee Honey is also incorporated into some of the dishes for sweet results.
Favorites from previous menus will continue including the Lobster Mac & Cheese but we should expect to see some changes in the menu as well as weekly specials based on what is fresh and in season. I have always enjoyed the flat breads at Latitude 41 however I now look forward to rediscovering them since Chef Koenig has changed the dough recipe and is focused on the dough being prepped by hand instead of rolling pin….that is old school and should make a good thing even better. Chef Koenig has interests outside of the kitchen as well. He has an interest in making mixers for the bar and makes an excellent Limoncello, both regular and creamy.
I asked the Chef, how his transition has been to Columbus. I know for me, if I was in the bay area as long as he was, I would have a little trouble transitioning to the Midwest. Chef reports that he has adapted quite easily to life in the capital city, he has discovered some fine restaurants and as well known, the cost of living is much more palatable. He also enjoys being a 4 1/2 hour drive from family instead of a transcontinental flight. Welcome to Columbus Chef, I look forward to the new ideas you bring to the table.
Latitude 41 website
Posted in beverages, Locally Sourced, restaurants | Tagged: Chef Michael Koenig, Latitude 41 | Leave a Comment »
Posted by cmh gourmand on November 10, 2013
I’ve written about O’Reilly’s before. My feelings about the pepper burger are well-known. And other than a pepper burger a side of sweet potato fries and an interest in their daily specials I have never tried, I had little more to write about this favored dive bar.
That is until I tried their wings. I am not sure how the wings escaped by roving eye. Well, actually, I know how they escaped. I don’t have much ardor for wings. I find them frequently disappointing. In our city, I can not think of many wings worth the effort. Roosters are pretty good. Barley’s Smokehouse brines, smokes and grills their wings, it is a lot of extra work but the end result is very good. I did have wings at the original Anchor Bar, I liked those, as much for the tradition as the taste. I can’t think of any other wings that have made an impression.
If you know of a place that does serve really good wings, let me know.
So a few words about the wings at O’Reilly’s. They are sold by the pound. They are large and meaty. They are deep-fried to a fine crispness. And they are densely breaded. The breading holds the sauce to the wings, so that it clings to the entirety of the surface. I tried the “Scott’s style” which is extra hot, but not painfully so. They are typically served with extra sides of chunky blue cheese sauce. Not too hot but really close to being too hot to handle. My intuition and taste buds suspect that the wings may have been liberally dosed with Franks Red Hot Sauce or something from that family. Other than the 25 cent wing special of decades ago at the fabulous Mill Tavern (Wilson Mills Road) in Cleveland, I can’t think of another wing I wanted to go back and have the next day. I want 2 lbs. of O’Reilly’s wings right now but probably one lb. of wild and one lb. of mild – which are far from that – the mild are served traditional buffalo style with a dab of heat.
Posted in Clintonville | Tagged: O'Reilly's | Leave a Comment »
Posted by cmh gourmand on November 7, 2013
I have had a while to peruse North Market Cookbook – Recipes and Stories from Columbus Ohio’s Historic Public Market. It is written by Michael Turback, a well-known food focused writer. The forward is written by former Dispatch food editor, Robin Davis, the writer of the first North Market Cookbook. There are no surprises in this book – it provides a quick history of the market and recipes from many of the vendors, growers and personalities of the market. Local chefs and mixologists contribute to book as well.
What I like the best about the book – it is constructed to survive a kitchen or getting crushed on the couch with a slick cover and fold outs front and back for marking pages. There are over 100 recipes to choose from in six major areas: soups, small plates, salads and sides, main dishes, desserts and ending with beverages and cocktails. The best way to use this book to turn to the back and look for the names of your favorite purveyors or chefs and/or to look at the sections one by one instead of getting lost going through the book page by page.
If you have a favorite restaurant in town and a favorite North Market vendor then you are guaranteed to find a recipe that you will want to make and more importantly, that you will be able to make. Nothing is overly complicated or driven by extreme ingredients. If you are a North Market regular this cookbook would be a good fit for your bookshelf or kitchen counter.
Posted in culinary knowledge, markets | Tagged: North Market Cookbook | Leave a Comment »
Posted by cmh gourmand on November 3, 2013
I have driven by Rice Bowl a few times in my day. It is located at the intersection of South High Street and SR 104. The sign looks like it is from the 1960′s but it turns out it is circa 1991. The Rice Bowl has a long history on the south side. It has existed with three owners and two locations since 1962. Rice Bowl 3.0 is a family affair that has operated the restaurant for a few decades. Judging from the outside and the location, I did not have great expectations for the Rice Bowl. However immediately on entering I had a good feeling. Looking at the menu, I had a very good feeling and starting with the egg rolls, I knew that I had stumbled in something very special indeed. You can not judge a book by its cover nor a restaurant by its mailing address.
So let us begin with the egg rolls. The lowly egg roll rarely gets much respect mainly because they are typically reheated frozen fare. The eggs rolls are made from scratch at the Rice Bowl and are hand rolled each week. They are filed to capacity with to the point of being stuffed. The exterior is soft and crunchy and do not disintegrate with a light bite. The sauces are also made from scratch. The mustard sauce is hot and thick. The other sauce is made with fresh citrus and spices. It is much better than any egg roll sauce I have encountered.
A staple of Midwestern Chinese restaurants is General Tso’s Chicken. The Rice Bowl executes this dish better than any restaurant I have visited. Each gigantic piece of white chicken meat is drowned in a spicy rich sauce. The portion size can easily feed two people. Looking around the restaurant I saw several other mainstay dishes that looked like they were award winners as well including Wor Sue Gai, Chow Mein and Frogs Legs.
What else did I like? The service was great. Rice Bowl has what looks to be a pretty well stocked bar. If you have kids, they serve burgers, Fried Fish Sandwiches and Grilled Cheese with Bacon.
I look forward to exploring the menu much more and will gladly be adding an egg roll to each meal.
Rice Bowl Restaurant
2300 South High Street
Rice Bowl Web site
Posted in Columbus, kid friendly dining, restaurants | Tagged: Rice Bowl Restaurant | 3 Comments »
Posted by cmh gourmand on October 24, 2013
There are two Moretti’s Restaurants in Columbus. One is on Sawmill and the other is at the Tremont Center in Upper Arlington. Those that go to either of these locations are usually in one camp – they like one more than the other and tend to be staunch loyalists. I have only been to the Upper Arlington location so I can choose not to pick sides. Well take that back, I did go to the Sawmill location once in 1990, I remember because someone else picked up the tab.
Moretti’s has impressed me on my last three visits. During warm weather, their patio is packed. During all weather their bar seems to be packed by a hardcore group of regulars. There is a lot to like about the place. The service is consistently good. The only complaint I can think of is that the live music is a little too loud, that may mean that I am a little too old.
Tim Moretti is the owner. He lists the philosophy of his family and the restaurant on a page of the menu. The message from Tim takes up three paragraphs. I like that. It sets the stage for the meal.
The meal starts with fresh bread and seasoned butter. Your server will refill bread service gladly. As an appetizer you can order two giant meatballs. I highly suggest trying this out. Meatballs are simple, classic Italian American comfort food. And frequently in restaurants they are mildly disappointing. These balls will not let you down. They come with plenty of sauce. They are tightly packed and seasoned just right.
Moving along, lasagna is another Italian-American classic. Morettis’s does this one right too – the perfect ratio of meat to cheese to sauce to noodles. If this is one your comfort classic list, you will not be disappointed.
Another classic dish they do well is eggplant parmigiana. The eggplant is neither too mushy, too firm or too “eggplanty”. The sauce ratio is also good and as well as the proportion it has to the breading. There is just enough crisp crunch of each bite of the dish to make it perfectly balanced.
For dessert, among your choices is cheesecake. The cheesecake is made fresh and delivered by Jamie. I think she may work there too. She makes a variety of flavors including the classic cherry as well as some seasonal favorite such as pumpkin – pictured below. I declined the cheesecake the first time it was offered because I was too full. But it looked so good, I decided to go looking for it later elsewhere. Save room for a slice to share with someone, it is worth it. Moretti’s is much more than the typical Americanized Italian Comfort food restaurant du jour. It is worth the effort to try them out. If you are a Moretti’s of Sawmill loyalist – let me know what I should try there or if I am tempting choosing the wrong side.
Posted in restaurants | Tagged: Moretti's of Upper Arlington | 1 Comment »
Posted by cmh gourmand on October 15, 2013
Nasir Latif has a long history in the Columbus Mediterranean restaurant business. He stepped out for a while but came back with Lavash several years ago. He planted a fast casual restaurant in south Clintonville and it has been a huge hit, especially with me since, it opened. I will mention a few things I really appreciate about the place: great daily specials, very good vegetarian and carnivore friendly offerings and a wide selection of baked goods, many from Nanak Bakery.
I have enjoyed each meal from a simple shawarma to any of the daily specials. However, I never visit without ensuring I get a serving of hummus with a side of their freshly made pita bread. Hummus is one of the basic staples of any middle eastern restaurant but not all are created equal. The Lavash hummus blends ground chickpeas, tahini sauce, lemon juice, garlic and extra virgin olive oil in just the right proportions. The balance of all of the flavors mixes together in just the right proportion and pairs perfectly with the pita bread. Lavash pita is thicker than what you typically encounter elsewhere. The outer crust offers just a bit of resistance while the inside of the circle of bread is doughy, bubbly and has just the right amount of firmness yet is porous enough to soak up the hummus from the plate so you leave no evidence of the dish behind.
Lavash is frequented by a wide variety of guests, many walk from their homes in Clintonville, many more journey up from the campus area and a diverse range of cultures seem to make this a destination meal. Lavash is relaxed and casual. You can count on the staff to be friendly and helpful. An on the right night, you can sit outside to soak in the sunset on a table under the vines.
Posted in bakery, Clintonville, restaurants | Leave a Comment »
Posted by cmh gourmand on October 7, 2013
So what have I been up to you might ask? Well, I moved back to a buzz cut, finally conceding that I have more head than hair now. I neglected to mention that I won a Vendy Award and last and very much not least have you heard about Columbus Brew Adventures.
I have often immersed myself in a subject to learn more about it. I became fascinated with Australia so I got myself there six times for a total of 4 1/2 months, visited all the states and territories and make several lifelong friends in the process. Then I wanted to get a job at OCLC and improve my research skills for writing so I earned a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science….well, I did become a better researcher. And as you readers know, a few other things caught my attention: donuts, pizza, Food Trucks and such.
And now…..Beer and Business.
Partnering with (and learning a lot, every day) Bethia and Andy from Columbus Food Adventures we have been working on and since September 7th running beer tours. There have been countless meetings with brewers throughout the area. Even more e-mails and phone calls. There has been a good amount of time “product” testing as well. The brewing community is a great group of people – passionate about their craft and growing a craft beer culture in our city. I am honored to be able to work with these business owners and immersing myself into their culture. I am learning about more beer and myself every day.
Our downtown brewery tour has been very popular. We explore four breweries and even through I have done my research, I learn something new from each place we visit and each brewer we work with every time I guide a tour. We have also run a tour out to Licking County to visit Brews Cafe, Granville Brewing, Homestead Beer Company and Buckeye Lake Brewery. We made a run to Rockmill Brewery, Dancing Tree Distillery and Jackie O’s in Athens. As fun as that tour was, I was amazed that a couple drove in from Dayton to join us for a multiple hour tour and then drive back home. We are adding more tours this month to explore the breweries of Grandview and our local distilleries. Other ideas are fermenting as well. Pizza and Beer sound good? Maybe a progressive tour of a league of restaurants?
And of course, our tours include food to go with the beer. As you can guess, we take that part of the tour pretty seriously too. As for our beer tourists, each group has been fun to guide around. From craft beer neophytes, to home brewers and beer experts everyone has enjoyed the tours, tried beers they might not have tried before and even at places they might have visited on their own, taken something away they would not have without being on the tour. We learn something at each brewery be it history, how ingredients influence the brewing process, or sampling a beer flight that showcases twenty years of microbrewing in Columbus. In every case, I guests leave wanting to explore even more and go back to try these places again.
In the process I have learned to drive a 14 passenger van, initially felt like a freshman at Food Tour University, lost the company cell phone (which was one of the top 13 worst days of my life), and every day found myself nudged further out of my comfort zone. While learning I have found that there is so much more to learn, I guess that makes sense, beer has been around since the 5th century BC. I knew a good deal about beer before I walked down this road. Now that I jumped into the brewing culture of Columbus I find myself in the catbird seat observing something I believe is going to become a big part of the character of Columbus, a craft beer and distilling culture that will earn a lot respect in the industry. Columbus Brew Adventures is exactly that, an adventure. Care to join us on one?
Posted in beer, Behind the Counter, beverages, cocktails, Food For Thought, Gastronomic Stimulus | Tagged: Columbus Brew Adventures | Leave a Comment »