CMH Gourmand

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

Random Reflections on My Return to Fast Food

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 27, 2014

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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 | 5 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 at 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 »

Leftovers: F. Scott Francis Interview Outakes

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 28, 2014

The Summer issue of Stock and Barrel has a story I wrote about the Johnny Appleseed of Columbus Brewing, F. Scott Francis, here is the -> LINK. It was a real joy to get to know Scott and get to know more about his brewing life.

As part of the interview, I asked him to answer some questions as a sidebar to the story, I have that “bonus” posted below. I’m looking forward to learning about and maybe writing about some of our other pioneers in town like Victor Ecimovich who brought back the Hoster name in the late 1980’s.

A serving of craft beer wisdom from F. Scott Francis.

On the current movement to raise the alcohol by volume (ABV) limit to 21%.

Raising the limit to 21% is worth pursuing but other recent developments have helped local breweries more. Going to 6% was very important; it allowed brewers to brew out of a narrow range of styles. The progression to 12% allowed many new beers to come into the state and allowed local brewers the freedom to brew a much wider range of styles such as Russian Imperial Stouts. The Taproom law changes of a few years ago were also very important. As for a 21% ABV beer, those are much more challenging to brew, requiring a lot more yeast and specialty ingredients and in the end are not very profitable or sustainable for a brewing business.

Advice for budding brewery owners:

Having money for a lot of new equipment does not equate a successful brewery. If you have to manage your resources spend a little more on the brewer, which will give you a better chance of creating beer that is appealing to your intended customers. Don’t name your beers before you brew them (which can type cast them). Name the beer after you create it and taste it.

Advice for new home brewers

The first thing I tell people is to use a good quality yeast. Also have your primary fermenter surrounded by water, which will help to control the heat. A lot of heat is generated in the first few days of fermenting so controlling the heat will keep the yeast from racing. If you have time and space, do two batches exactly the same but finish one with your fermenter surrounded by water and the other without the water. You will be amazed at how different the two will taste. Talk to as many experienced home brewers as you can before you immerse yourself on Internet brewing sites.

Difference between brewing in the 1990s and brewing in 2014.

In the early days the challenge was getting people to try the beer. Today you have a big cross-section of customers of all ages and all levels of craft beer knowledge who are more willing to try new beers. Customers want flavor. Making beer that people want to buy is harder than making a beer style that is technically correct and consistent. Because you made it right does mean it will taste the way the customer expects it or wants it.

Posted in beer, Behind the Counter, Leftovers | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Donut Trail: Holtman’s Donuts, Over the Rhine, Cincinnati

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 24, 2014

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I made an accidental discovery on the donut trail. And those are often the best scenarios for finding good donuts. I was in Cincinnati to explore four breweries: Rhinegeist, MadTree, Listermann’s and 50 West. I had an elaborate plan of visiting the new Jungle Jim’s, Aglamesis Brothers Ice Cream and the Senate before meeting my contact in Cincinnati for brewery exploration. However, there was a snag in the plan. I was driving to Cincinnati, on a Friday, in the rain. That was a recipe for inefficiency. I had forgotten what a shitstorm the freeways of Cincinnati are. En route I-71 was stalled due to a semi accident and then the rain started and then Mrs. Gourmand and I hit the 275 belt right at rush hour. As the duder would say, “Suck It.” It became clear that the plan was not going to work and I might be lucky to make it just in time to start the brewery tour.

While looking for a parking garage in The Over The Rhine I spied what looked like a promising donut shop but donutery research was not on the plan…or the timeline. As luck would have it, we got to the Senate minutes before it opened, so we had just enough time to head back in the opposite direction to Holtman’s Donuts. I’m glad we made that detour.

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Looking at the outside of Holtman’s, I had a good feeling that they would deliver. It was a simple storefront with the hours posted in the door. Holtman’s is open seven days per week which is always a good sign. Another good indicator was that they are open to 9 pm Tuesday to Saturday…so they recognize that people NEED donuts past noon. Another good sign was the donut with a bite taken out of it logo as the iconic image over the threshold. I was excited the moment my hand touched the door.

Just to the left of the entrance you can see the enclosed bakery area. Most donut shops block the line of sight from the counter to the production area. Letting customers see what happens in the art of donut making is a sign of pride in their craft. So at this point, not even 4 steps past the door, my donutry confidence rating scale (D.C.R.S) was registering off of the charts. Then I saw the two super comfy chairs for extended donut eating and the wooden communal table. The table has four stools attached to it with old hardware that allows the seats to swing out in many directions. Cool, retro, comfortable and practical…yep, I was simpatico with this place and I had not even made eye contact with the donuts themselves.

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So now, over 400 words in to this story…on to the donuts. There was not an overwhelming selection available which is my mind is a good thing. At places like Bill’s and Donut World I have sometimes been perplexed by having too many choices. Also since it was late in the day, a good amount of the inventory had been decimated by roaming herds of Over the Rhine hipsters. I spent a long time staring at the donuts trying to make the best selections. Exhibiting more contemplation than would be considered normal or socially acceptable I finally decided on the following: Blueberry (cake) glazed, Blueberry Cream Cheese, Cherry Fritter and Maple Bacon Blueberry Cake.

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Hot Dog (read this with the tone and inflection of George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life)! Using Mrs. Gourmand as an assistant sampler, we evaluated and deconstructed each donut in great detail. We found the best elements of all of the donuts were the glazes and icing. The Cream Cheese icing was the best I’ve encountered in my adventures in donut hunting. The regular glaze featured on the other donuts we sampled was equally impressive. The standout was the fritter. And while I only tried one, I can say with some degree of confidence, that Holtman’s has the best fritters in Ohio. They make what I call the Goldilocks Fritter which balances all of the critical elements a fritter needs to knock it out of the park. The fritter is neither too thick or too thin. It is crunchy on the outside yet incredibly soft, moist and fluffy in the inside. Each bite was a taste of perfection with the proper balance of everything an old school fritter should constitute. That alone, warrants a trip to Holtman’s. Welcome to The Ohio Donut Trail Holtman’s, I look forward to another visit.

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Holtman's Donut Shop on Urbanspoon

Posted in bakery, donuts, Ohio Donut Trail, Road Trip | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

New Category: Leftovers – First Serving: Columbus Mobile Food Timeline

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 22, 2014

Ladies and gentlemen, Boys and Girls, Gourmets and Gourmands, I’d like to introduce you to a new category on the blog, leftovers.

Working a a free-lance writer I sometimes find myself with leftover material or something that met with the chopping block when a magazine runs out of space or runs out of time to get something to print. For this first edition of leftovers, I am sharing a timeline of the history of mobile food in Columbus. This was to go with a story about Jim Pashovich (The Godfather of Mobile Food) of Pitabilities. I’d also like to thank Jim for helping with some of the details as I was putting the timeline together. The story about Jim appears in the new publication, Stock and Barrel which is just now hitting the spots where you usually find 614 Magazine. Bon Lecture.


1886 – Schmidt’s opens in Columbus as a meat packing company. A tradition of serving sausage to go begins which includes the Ohio State Fair (1914 to present) and countless festivals

1934 White Castle, the first fast food restaurant moves headquarters to Columbus

1972 Jeff Morris starts All A Cart Manufacturing, which grows to make all styles of food carts, trucks and kiosks for sale all over the world

1978 Harry Hirschinger “Hot Dog Harry” starts his company, which grows to 18 carts serving Columbus by the time it is sold in the 1990’s

1985 – The Burrito Buggy begins serving Ohio University students in Athens Ohio; it trains a generation of Columbus immigrants to crave trailer food

1986 Derek’s Gyros (founder Jim Pashovich) opens the first gyro cart in Columbus (name changed in 1994 to Skyward Grille)

1990 Bunny & Michelle’s Food trailer starts serving at an east side Home Depot

1990 Kevin & Lori Ames started a food cart (Ames to Please) and later sold it to Open Fresno in the Short North

1990’s Hot Dog and Gyro Carts are popular on the OSU campus, the County Courthouse, The Statehouse and the Arena District. As the numbers increase so does the pressure, competition results in a cart pushed into the river and new regulations for food carts in the city.

1996 Skyward Grill left the sidewalks of Columbus to serve at Columbus State Community College and OSU Medical Center.

2002 taco trucks first appear in Columbus on the west side

2009 a website called Taco Trucks Columbus launches after three food writers find out that instead of four or five taco trucks our city supports almost 45.

2010 Boston Bert’s takes over a space in Clintonville that has been home to a lunchtime food trailer serving Marzetti workers

2010 – the first of a new wave of food trucks and carts takes Columbus by storm – including Ray Ray’s Hog Pit, Mojo Tago, Late Night Slice and Leslie’s Creperie

July 2010 Those previously mentioned food writers start another website, Street Eats Columbus

August 2010 first large food truck events occur at Wonderland and The Ohio Historical Society

Spring 2011 Jeni’s ice Cream adds a truck and a Bajaj to their mobile scooping options

July 2011 Los Guachos gets national attention in Maxim Magazine

July 2011 The Food Fort opens helping entrepreneurs start in the mobile food business through consulting and food cart rental (I work there October 2011 to September 2013)

August 2011 First Food Truck and Cart Festival at Columbus Commons

May 2012 Hot Dog Harry passes away

Summer 2012, the marriage of food trucks and taprooms begins at Zauber Brewing Co

August 2012 First Vendy Awards at the Food Truck and Cart Festival

Fall 2012 Schmidt’s launches their first food truck

December 2012 Serious Eats shares 5 Incredible Tacos from Columbus with the nation

March 2013 – That Food Truck is featured on Nightline

Summer 2013 – City of Columbus investigates possible pilot program for food trucks – while the effort was appreciated, the outcome was as popular as a flat tire

Summer 2013 White Castle launches two food trucks to serve Cravers across the nation

September 2013, The Cooking Network program Eat Street visits Columbus to profile six different food trucks. Episodes should air summer of 2014

April 2014 – Led by Council Member Michelle Mills, the city of Columbus passes what may be the most progressive food truck regulations in the USA

Spring 2014 – more food trucks launch in a community which including Taco Trucks, Food Carts, Trailers and Food Trucks exceeds 150 mobile kitchens. This number includes operations with multiple trucks including Late Night Slice, Mojo Tago, Pitabilities, Schmidt’s and more

May 2014
Mobile Food Advisory Board formed by the City of Columbus. Board members include Jim Pashovich from Pitabilities, Mikey Sorboro from Late Night Slice and Jim Ellison, listed as “Citizen at Large”

Posted in Leftovers, Mobile Food | 1 Comment »

When in Rome: The Art of Eating, Drinking and Traveling Abroad

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 12, 2014

I will modify the classic saying: When in Rome, eat as the Romans eat. While only in Rome long enough for lunch between connecting from plane to train, I was in Italy for an extended period of time. It was the first time in four years that I have the time and opportunity to travel the way I prefer: longer than a three-day weekend and with an opportunity to spend several days in one place to really drill down into a town to a point that I feel I know it well and feel like a local. The place I chose to cocoon was Monterosso al Mare in the Cinque Terre. I was in Monterosso about ten years ago as a detour during a Contiki Tour (for all of 6 hours). I told myself that if I came back to Italy, this would be exactly where I would spend my time. It as great. But let me back track to the big picture.

No matter where you travel, you can enhance your trip by doing a small amount of research to figure out what the locals eat and what foods are unique or special to the area. Just about every place has a style of food it excels in or some regional fruit or vegetable you won’t see on your table at home. Food defines a place and a culture. From the Aborigines of Australia to the neighborhoods of Chicago, every tribe has something that is unique that is worth trying and remembering as part of your experience. Figuring out these signature foods and seeking them out can really make a holiday more fun and enjoyable and more importantly connect you to the people and place you have invested your time and your money to explore. I’ve eaten bush tucker in Australia (ants, roots and more), Kava in Fiji, Bull Balls in Honduras, Poutine in Montreal, 13 Italian Beer Sandwiches in one day in Chicago, etc. etc.

If there is not a local food then there is certainly a local place – a diner, favored restaurant or tavern where the locals go and the tourists don’t. You can search Yelp and/or Trip Advisor or Rick Steves and/or Frommer’s to find these places but it is critical you to validate those suggestions with some local interaction. Ask someone, anyone when you arrive – a store clerk, cab driver, anyone you interact with about where the locals eat and you are bound to find a great spot that no one has written about that is as good or better than any place that is on the radar of everyone else.

I’ll use my honeymoon in Italy as an example.

A quick google search, supplemented my own knowledge and notes I made from the various travel guides I browsed before departure. I had be a good idea of what to look for that was unique with a minimal investment of time. I found overviews from Rick Steves, The New York Times, and Walks of Italy to name a few.

Italy, in particular, is a food lovers dream. While Italians might not be overly concerned with their trains running on time, they certainly take their foods very, very seriously. The first example of that is DOC. In a nutshell, for a food to use the DOC label they must be able to show that it was produced in a defined region, using specific methods while maintaining a high standard of quality. The Italians also have an upgrade of that listed as DOCG. The European Union uses Protected Designation of Origin in a similar manner. As a general rule, if you see this notation, you can count on a high level of quality. The DOC applies to (the items I ate in great quantity) wines, cheeses, meats and even pizza. Yes – in Italy, the best pizzerias take pride in displaying their DOC certificate and using DOC ingredients.

Speaking of Italy and food, gelato was a priority for me and this in particular is a food you need to do some research in advance to enhance your experience. First know the rules. It is OK to ask to taste flavors as long as you don’t taste too many and it is not too busy. Italy is very civilized in how it approaches ordering gelato. You pay for your treat first and then you take a ticket to have the order filled. How many times have your ordered ice cream only to find that you are balancing your wallet and other things while trying not to drop your cone. Know what you want. When you walk in to a good gelato shop it will be busy and filled with people who pop into one every day buzzing around like a beehive, so when to wander through the door like a deer in the headlights you need to know what you are doing. Don’t freeze at showtime – know if you want a cup or cone, and if you want 2, 3, 4 or 5 scoops and don’t be afraid to point if you can’t pronounce the flavor that looks good to you. Look for this phrase by the name of the shop – gelato artiginale. The Translated term is artisanal gelato – which means small batch, all natural ingredients and made fresh daily. Also keep an eye out of metal storage containers and serving scoops, plastic does not fly for holding or delivering the good stuff. Yet another term to look for is produzione propria which means made on premises.

There were definitely foods that I was on the look out for because I knew they would be unique to the regions I was in or at the very least the best of the best in the areas that excel at producing and extol the merits of their labors. Number one on the list – mozzarella di bufala or Buffalo Mozzarella. You can find this in the states – but it is typically really expensive, not overly fresh and rarely exceptional. In Italy, it is easy to find, almost always reasonably priced and exceptionally good. Having eaten enough pizza in Italy to the point that I opted not to order any in our final three days, I have decided the only thing that really justifies the intensity in which people rave about “real” Italian pizza is buffalo mozzarella – that shit is good and it makes the pizza.

Other foods I sought out due to my pre-trip research: Mortadella ham, speck, pesto and any cheese I could lay my hands on.

I think that gives you an idea of some of what a small investment in time can give you in return.

Something else that is work researching is making sure you know how to say a few basic food and transactional related phrases in the language of the country you are visiting. Hello, Goodbye, Please, Thank You, Excuse Me, How Much, and Check Please (otherwise it may never come). Those few phrases will grease the wheels of international exchange and reduce your likelihood of being perceived as an asshole.


I’m going to list our a few of our favorite places in Italy

Rome: Lunch near Termini Station
Da Tudini
Via Cavour
This place was chosen at random after looking at the menu and seeing there were plenty of seats. We had one of the best pizzas on our trip, a good pasta dish and one of the best salads as well. Our service was decent, if not a bit befuddled and confused with our table being traded off by 6 or more employees.

Naples
L’Antica Pizzeria – Da Michele
Via Cesare Sersale 1
This was a great old school pizza place. It looked exactly like I would have wanted a pizza parlor to look. Our pizza was good but we made an ordering error. We did not know this was the place mentioned in Eat, Pray, Love until we finished our meal. It was then that we saw the quote from the book on the wall which said that the pizza with double buffalo mozzarella was the way to go. That is what we wished we would had ordered.

Casa Infante
Via Toledo 258, Piazza degli Artisti 4-5, Via Chiaia 189, Piazza Vanvitelli/Via Scarlatti 84
Really good gelato in the quintessential gelateria.

Pizzeria Attanasio
Via dei Tribunali 379
Really good deep fried things and good pizza. The place was not crowded, as were our other two choices, but they did an incredible amount of carry out business while we were there which is a good sign that the locals liked that place.

We stayed in Naples for two days, that was more than enough time. Naples is the armpit of Italy, avoid staying there if you can. Our hotel there was excellent which helped a lot.

Monterosso al Mare

Where to stay
Albergo Marina Via Buranco 40
Owned by a great couple who provide breakfast and lunch everyday as well as plenty of beach gear including a kayak.

Where to eat
Da Eraldo
Piazza Matteotti
The owners of Albergo Marina (named after the wife) also have a tiny cafe just down the street named after the husband. The Antipasta for two is an artisinal delight and was my best meal in Italy. Read the Trip Advisor review for good photos and pics (just ignore the June 11th review, that woman is clearly an idiot).

Enoteca da Eliseo
3 Piazza Matteotti
I’ll defer to the Trip Advisor review for pics and details. Mrs Gourmand and I visited five nights in a row and only missed a sixth because they were closed. The local wine selections were deep, the grappa list was numbered in pages and the knowledge of the owners on everything in the shop was extensive. This was also where we discovered the concept of the bar snack (cicheti), which is ubiquitous in this region of Italy. Here the snacks were three small glass dishes with peanuts, capers and olives.

Pizzeria La Smorfia
Via Vittorio Emanuele, 73
I loved this place. They have 78 pizza combinations to choose from. I’m deferring to Trip Advisor again.

Our greatest discovery in Italy you ask? Lemon Fanta. We consumed this at almost the same rate and volume as we consumed wine (everyday, as often as possible). What makes this Fanta better than Fanta stateside. The sugar was real and there is 12% real lemon juice in each can or bottle. This was addictively good.


Now I’ll add some bonus content with a list of rambling general suggestions for traveling

    Yes you can travel with just one bag. I used a bag that converts to a backpack. Mrs. Gourmand received the same pack for Christmas and she used it on this trip with great success!
    Make copies of your passport, credit cards and all of your tickets to keep in your bag in case you lose your primary items
    Make a visit to a used book store to take some reading material you can leave behind when you finish each book
    Look at every travel guide you can find at / from the library before you buy one. I prefer Rick Steves for Europe and Frommers for elsewhere
    Sometimes I just pack a guide from the library and hope I don’t lose it
    Post It Tape flags are really handy, take some
    Stay at a bed and breakfast when you can, it is a great way to connect with people
    Try to travel off-peak (Mondays to Wednesdays) for better airfare and fewer crowded flights
    If you are like me and you have enough reusable shopping bags for a lifetime take a couple with you in your bag. They come in handy for lots of things: dirty laundry, an extra bag, extra padding if you need to wrap something to bring home or a unique gift (or trade) for someone you meet on your trip.
    Always take more socks and pens than you think you will need
    The best all around travel footwear in a pair of Merrill (Saugatuck Fisherman Sandal) or Teva closed toe sandals – light weight and easy to slip on and off – they are the perfect second pair of shoes, great for hiking or the beach
    Take a couple extra 1 quart ziplock bags. They come in handy for things like packing a lunch for the day (that you purloin from the breakfast bar) or covering dirty shoes before you pack them for the day
    When someone from the USA asks you where you are from, say Columbus. When someone from another country asks you where you are from say Ohio

Posted in culinary knowledge, Food For Thought | 2 Comments »

The Big Pitch: So You Want to Be a Culinary Rock Star?!

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 9, 2014

There is an event called the Big Pitch coming on June 21st and June 28th.

If you have been kicking around the idea of launching a food based business and needed some extra help to get started, this will be well worth your time.

If you don’t have a pitch but would like to sample selections of from some of the city’s up and coming food phenomenons then you should enjoy this as well. Please share this with a friend that has been talking able making the “jump” into the big leagues. And please share this with friends that like to eat.

A link to buy tickets to both events (June 21st and June 28th) is HERE.

Below I have more information on the event from Bob Leighty, the event coordinator.


Calling all Food Entrepreneurs! We need YOU and YOUR FOOD at The Big Pitch at http://www.FoodStartOhio.org.

On June 21st, at Franklin University, we’re going to have 30+ entrepreneurs providing “tastings” of their products. The general public will buy tickets to attend, and each person attending will be able to taste one of each entrepreneur’s products, and then vote for their pick for best restaurant, best mobile food, and best food product. We’re estimating that about 200 members of the public will attend, eat, and vote. We’ll tally up the votes at the end, consider your business plan info, and select the top three finalists in each of the three categories (9 total entrepreneurs) to invite back on the 28th.

On June 28th, at Franklin University, we have a panel of judges for each category (4 to 5 judges per category) and each of the nine finalists will cook for their panel of judges. In addition to cooking, you will make your “big pitch” to the judges for why your product is good and why you should win the cash and mentoring. Each panel will rank their top three entrepreneurs. We’ll announce the results, and then have a party, pizza from Donatos and ice cream from Jeni’s. The intent of the party is to give folks the opportunity to mingle with the judges, other winners, and general public. This should be a great networking opportunity.

These are the prizes in each of the judged categories:

1st place: $1000 plus a year of free mentoring
2nd place: $500 plus 6 months of free mentoring
3rd place: 6 months of free mentoring

For mentoring, we will match two or three mentors with each entrepreneur. Each mentor has committed to at least 1 hour of mentoring per month. I am looking to match mentors with entrepreneurs according to your needs. We have packaging experts, marketing experts, restaurant experts, mobile experts, business plan experts et al. So, if you get mentoring, you will get two or three experts giving you a least an hour of their time each month.

Judges are: http://www.foodstartohio.org/meet-our-judges.html

Mentors are: http://www.foodstartohio.org/meet-our-mentors.html

To register, we need you to fill out the online form from this page: https://www.wsbaohio.org/about/big-pitch.html

We need your info, $25, and a commitment to prepare tastings for 200 folks for the 21st.

Both events will be covered in the Metropreneur, Business First, and other places as well as lots of publicity through social media. And of course, on the 21st, direct in-person exposure to over 200 potential customers.

All questions to: Bob Leighty at: bobleighty41@gmail.com

Posted in events | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

The Official Food of Columbus?

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 24, 2014

The Dispatch is running a poll, until Wednesday May 28th, for people to vote on what should be the official food of Columbus.

After some vetting, five candidates were selected:

Columbus Style Pizza

Schmidts Cream Puff

The White Castle Slider

Schmidts Bahama Mama

Buckeyes (the candy for those of you not from Ohio).

I would cut that list down to three. If something is going to be the official food of our fair city then it should be iconic. The candidate should be unique to our city….or ubiquituous within 270. The connection to our borders and our people should be strongly defined and documented. Using that criteria (mine) then we eliminate both the Schmidt’s Cream Puff and Buckeyes. Cream Puff’s are far from unique to Schmidt’s or our region so that is an immediate write off. Just being good does not make it our official food.

As for http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/food/2014/05/21/official-food-poll.html, the origins of this tasty treat start in the 20th century but no sources connect the candy with Columbus. Also – the desire of many to somehow connect this peanut butter and chocolate delight to our local football cult is too distasteful to consider adding fuel to that fire.

And then, there were three.

Let us consider the White Castle Slider. While not created in our city, it has been perfected and refined here (Columbus has been the company corporate headquarters since 1934). That gives the burger some credibility. If White Castle had originated here instead of Kansas, then I would have supported the slider as the ONLY choice….but alas, the slider, slides out of the running.

The Bahama Mama, a slightly spicy pork and beef sausage has been around since at least 1968. It’s past includes a lawsuit against Nassau Nellie for trying to imitate the unique mix of meats, spices and preservatives that make a sausage a Bahama Mama. Schmidt’s won that lawsuit. But – ultimately, it is a still a common sausage with a bit of customization and good marketing.

My vote, goes to Columbus style pizza. For origins, we can go back to about 1953 when the first pizzeria’s opened in the city. Examples of the style include Donato’s, Massey’s, Rubinos and more. And in my book, if you choose to pick a food to be an icon for a city then that food should generate passion. Columbus style pizza does that, people either love it or hate it. So I say we vote for Columbus style pizza.

Thinking long and hard, I could only come up with one other candidate, The Frosty. The signature dairy based treat (it is not ice cream) has been the mainstay of Wendy’s since day one in 1969. As a dairy product – it does have a unique recipe and chemical composition that is not easily imitated outside the walls of Columbus’ premiere fast food chain. The only problem is, it is not exceptionally good, just exceptionally easy to find.

So what food deserves to win?

If you want to cast your vote, the link is -> HERE.

It is too late for a write in vote for another food.

We will see who wins the Dispatch Poll on after May 28th, but because it is in print does not mean it is right for our city or right for you. But being the Dispatch, we can assume that it will lean to the right. I do hope Columbus Style Pizza wins the votes of the people of Columbus.

I’m saying Columbus Style Pizza is the best food, of all we serve in our city, but I think it does serve as the best Icon, let me elaborate why. Back to CMH Style pizza and my thought process. And iconic food should be ubiquitous to the place. There is more than one place in NYC to get a New York style hot dog, New York style pizza, a reuben ora New York style bagel. The same is the case with the Chicago style dog or beef or deep dish pizza – ubiquitous. Philly Cheesesteak – Ubiquitous. Columbus style Pizza….ubiquitous (and in its best form Iaconos, really very good). Not taking anything away from Buckeyes, Bahama Mama’s and cream puffs, you just can’t find them in multiple places from multiple people. You can’t line drive a softball in our city and avoid a Columbus style pizza, so like it our, not, I think it is something to stamp some civic pride on.

(My name is Jim Ellison and I approve this message).

Posted in Food For Thought | 1 Comment »

FREE: Be a Guest at the Jeni’s Book Launch Party on Friday May 30th

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 23, 2014

Hey Duders. Do you want to take a friend with you to a book signing party with Jeni Britton Bauer on Friday May 30th starting at 7 pm? Not sure? You can read more details -> HERE.

The book is her second and is titled Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts.

If you are still on the fence about wanting to go, watch this VIDEO.

I’d go but next Friday I’ll be in Italy eating gelato. My holiday is your gain.

I have two sets of two tickets so there will be two winners.

To win you must answer one of the following two questions correctly. The first two people to provide correct answers win the tickets. If you win I will e-mail your name to the will call table at the event and I’ll contact you by e-mail to let you know you won.

The contest ends Sunday at 1:00 pm.

Question 1: Jeni worked at two Upper Arlington area businesses as a teenager. Both played a big part in planting the seed of her ice cream dreams. Provide the name of one of the two businesses.

Hint: The businesses are neighbors. Another Hint: The answers are within the body of work in this blog.

Question 2: What was the name of Jeni’s original ice cream business?

Hint: See the other hints.

OK, now is your time to win. Post your answers and your e-mail so I can let you know you won!.

Posted in events, ice cream | 3 Comments »

 
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