CMH Gourmand

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

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The Best Sub in Clintonville….is not at India Oak Bar and Grill

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 26, 2015

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Since my return to being a full-time Ville-Billy, I have heard mention that the best sub in Clintonville is ballyhooed as coming from the India Oak Bar and Grill. There may have been a time when I might have bought into that proclamation. I ate a lot of subs at the Oaks in the 1990’s but that was a different time with different owners. I’ve had the sub there recently, a couple of times in fact, and while it was respectable, I can’t pull out anything from my experiences that would suggest it would be the best. Granted there are not a lot of candidates for the title in Clintonville, but seeing as there are more than one to contend for the honor, I decided to revisit some places to see if my standards are flawed or if the bar had just become lower.

As many of you know, I’ve written about O’Reilly’s more than a few times and they have a very good sub. But I am an O’Reilly’s loyalist so my objectivity could be compromised. Therefore, it became critical to even out the field. I recruited Mrs. Gourmand who never lacks for an interest in a submarine sandwich. I asked her to join me to sample four other Clintonville (traditional) subs and she gladly accepted. She recently stated “I can never be a vegetarian” and has been observed eating more fruits and vegetables that is her norm. That combined with her state due to her pregnant nature, she has had a lot of hankerings for meats and bread. She was hungry for some subs. It also helps that she is Italian-American so she has plenty of experience in all things Italian and high expectations for sub consumption.

There are not many sub purveyors in Clintonville, but I did find four others that seemed worthy of consideration. I called in all of the orders and picked them up in the order of when orders were placed.

Patrick J’s – Indianola Italian Sub
Hot ham, hard salami, ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and banana peppers with Italian dressing. Served with a side of kettle chips and a pickle for $7.50.

Gatto’s Pizza – Italian Sub
Salami, pepperoni, ham, provolone, tomato, banana pepper and lettuce for $5.50.

Dante Pizza – Hot Sub
Cappacola, salami, pepperoni, lettuce, tomato, banana peppers with their special house made salad dressing for $6.25

Smith’s Deli – Super Sub
Ham, salami, pepperoni, provolone cheese, mozzarella cheese, Romano cheese, spices, lettuce, tomato, hot peppers, onions and dressing for $6.19. I oped for this over their Roman Sub which seemed light on the meat and cheese.

To maintain the highest level of objectivity – Mrs. Gourmand watched me unwrap the subs and cut each into pieces to be evaluated. All were still warm to the touch when delivered and were all picked up by me within 5 minutes of each other. I ate in a separate room, recording her observations as she shouted them out. I made my observations silently. These are our field notes from our submarine adventure.

Patrick J’s had the best presentation of all four subs. It was cut in half with great visuals and a big pile of chips with a pickle placed in the the center of the styrofoam carrier.

Gatto’s was clearly the best value of the pack. It was 69 cents less expensive than the second lowest priced sub and it was not smaller or less tasty than it’s peers.

Neither Mrs. Gourmand or I felt that our recollection of the India Oaks sub was clearly better than any of the four we tried in this tasting. Therefore their title of best sub in Clintonville is officially revoked.

We found all of the subs to be of good quality with none radically better that the other. With contention being very tight, my favorite sub was The Gatto’s Sub and my second favorite was Dantes. Mrs. Gourmand liked Smith’s sub more than the other three and she gave second place to Gattos.

These are our tasting notes. All of the buns appeared to be from Auddinos. All of the subs were baked in an oven and had a crusty, toasted texture. Smith’s was the most toasted and Patrick J’s was just lightly toasted. In the case of Patrick J’s the veggies were applied after cooking so they were not cooked with the other ingredients. That manner of vegetable placement is my preference going back to my sub making days at Knight’s Ice Cream. I also liked that the bun at Patrick J’s was not sliced all of the way through so it had a clam shell-like quality to it, which can help with consumption.

Patrick J’s was Mrs. Gourmand least favorite sub mainly due to the possible presence of mayo or a dressing she did not like and because the hot ham was too fatty for her liking.

We both liked Gatto’s sub because the bread had a garlic bread flavor and quality to it. I liked Dante’s because all of the meats had distinctly strong and fresh flavor to them – more that the other subs. Additional diagnosis determined that Mrs. Gourmand liked the Smith’s sub due to the extra cheese embedded throughout the sandwich. I found that I liked this sub as well.

All in all, we did not have a clear winner, but I think we have established that there are some great subs in Clintonville that are not at India Oaks. I was also happy that none of the subs sucked, they were all significantly above the average marker so that is a great benchmark to judge from.

Posted in Clintonville, culinary misadventure, Food For Thought, sandwiches, Sub Dude | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Thurns: A Celebration of Lunch Meats

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 11, 2015

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Spring has always seemed like cold cut sandwich time. After the winter, as much as I enjoy the heat of rising temperatures I’m not interested in anything artificial coming from an oven or stove. The grill, seems more appropriate to summer. A sandwich comes together quickly with no need for prep or cleaning, just get it done and go out to embrace the spring time. When in comes to a good sandwich, the elements are simple – good bread, sometimes a pickle, a nice slice of cheese and a choice of mustards (I feel naked without at least five mustards in the pantry). Those are the basics and we all know where to source those, but what I really get excited about is semi exotic lunch meats. And for that there is only one choice – Thurns.

I’ve written about Thurn’s before but I have not done justice to one of several things they excel at – offering a wide assortment of freshly made cold cuts and lunch meats. Choices include but are not limited to: baked ham, roast pork, hot and mild souse (head cheese / terrine), head cheese, salami, capricola, Schinken (dry cured ham), honey loaf, thuringer (sausage), pressed ham, pepper loaf, bolonga, Dutch Loaf, veal loaf and German Bolonga. As a side note, there are some other sandwich friendly encased meats and spreads – most notably the best ham salad I have ever tried. The Thurn’s know meat, they have been butchering and processing meat for over 120 years so that forms a strong foundation. The freshness of the meats is a major bonus – something that we rarely experience anywhere with overly processed and transported meats encased in plastic packaging. And variety – well look at what I listed above, most of you have never heard of several of these before.

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So follow a pattern I have done during springtime the past few years. Pop into Thurn’s on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Buy a 1/4 pound of two to four meats each time and keep trying them out between bread until you find your favorites. Although I like them all, my favorites are on the bottom row of their chart.

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Posted in Locally Sourced, sandwiches | Tagged: | 5 Comments »

B Spot gets a B+

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 8, 2015

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I have been a fan of Michael Symon before I ever ate his food or saw him on TV. I read about him in Michael Ruhlman’s Soul of a Chef and made note to keep an eye out for him and his restaurant. There has been no shortage of reminders since I read that book years ago. Recently, one of his spin-off concerts, B Spot opened on Hamilton Road. I was not surprised by the expansion to Columbus, that is a logical step that many Cleveland icons are taking (Melt, Noodlecat) but I was surprised by the location. My first thoughts were “why not the Short North or somewhere more hip?” But with more thought and six other locations in the growing empire, it made more sense. On some level, getting some of the Symon philosophy of food outside of city centers makes sense and cents for him and is the key to growing a chain to be.

The concept is simple: burgers with several twists and maybe a turn or two, a few other comfort food sandwiches – bologna, brats and chicken, a couple of salads and sides and several shakes with lots of added in ingredients. The menu is small and (hopefully) easy to execute. A nice addition is the ability to add-on to and customize almost everything. Burgers can be: beef, turkey, chicken, veggie or bologna. Added toppings include nine types of cheese, eight additional meats (garnishes – such as pastrami, bacon, chorizo and etc,) and various other topping such as a fried egg or bacon slaw. So pretty quickly, what seems like a simple menu becomes overwhelming with an endless array of possibilities.

Fans of Michael Symon get a glimpse of what his original restaurant offers with the option of Lola Fries (think cut fries with a big dash of rosemary). Or you could go hog-wild with porky fries which include pulled pork, cheese whiz and pickled chilies.

Speaking of pickled, Michael Symon has a long fascination with pickling things (as do I) so I was happy to see B Spot features a self-serve pickle bar with several types of pickles and pickled vegetables.

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So what is the verdict? My grade is a B+. The burgers were good but did not blow me away. The space was comfortable with bits of bric a brac(y) fun, such as the letter B spelled out in a beer can collection to that takes up most of a wall. Hamburgers are ubiquitous but I think where gourmet burgers go south is by trying to be too complex, often simple is best. What adds to plus to the B spot? Bad A** shakes. Standard shakes include the standards Chocolate and Vanilla Bean as well as more adventurous such as Vanilla Bean Apple Pie and Bacon. Putting pie in milkshakes is something that should happen more often. So much in fact that I once drove an extra 100 miles while researching pork tenderloin sandwiches in Iowa so I could have one at the Hamburg Inn #2 in Iowa City. On my visit to B Spot I sampled a seasonal shake infused plenty of peanut butter and cookies. When he server described it, I actually blanked out for a moment and had to have her repeat the ingredients for me because I could not believe the combination was that perfect. Another thing that excited me was a selection of four tasty sauces (for burgers, fries, onion rings and more) Coffee BBQ, Shasha sauce, Lola Ketchup and of course, a Cleveland classic, Ballpark Mustard.

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To sum it up. Check out B Spot and if you can’t decide what to get, order two milkshakes.

B Spot on Urbanspoon

Posted in food | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

La Poblanita: A Winter’s Tale (or a Mobile Food Moral on Morale and Marketing)

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 3, 2015

Oh, there was great joy last fall when La Poblanita opened in a used car lot across from Weiland’s Market. Then it moved to the parking lot of the dry cleaners 100 feet away. Then it got a professional looking wrap. Then it changed its orientation to face another part of the parking lot. All seemed like good, positive changes. The food was great, service was good and a community was rooting for the new chica in town. Then winter came and hours became erratic. Not that hours were perfectly consistent before, but even factoring in weather, one never knew when the trailer might be open. A competitor just down Indianola Ave, La Morelina, left its spot as winter progressed, then La Poblanita disappeared for a while. I found it a few weeks later in the parking lot of a barber ship near Boston Bert’s Seafood Trailer, four or five streets north of the original spot. On the plus side, the parking lot was bigger and nicer and for the vendor, it looked like they had plug-in electric hook up which makes a big difference in the winter time. (This barber shop used to host a coffee trailer in the past). And in theory, the proximity to Boston Bert’s could be good for both by creating a de facto Mobile food court. But then hours were erratic again. In mid February I dropped by to find the sign below.

Poblanito

On March 1st, I went looking to Poblanita at the new site….and nothing. I found Poblanita back at the old spot (minus the sign)….and there was no sign of life. I hope Poblanita comes back, I like the food and Clintonville needs that type of culinary diversity. Granted, this winter was sucky for any mobile food vendor but Poblanita made some avoidable errors that could have improved the odds for more customers on the good days.

OK, now for mobile food 101. The first rule of mobile food club is: Be Consistent. The second rule of mobile food club is: Be Consistent. The third rule: communicate to your potential and regular customers in as many ways as you can as often as you can. If you follow these rules, you could have average food and still have better than average chances of being successful.

These are some things Poblanita could have done:

Write your hours on a laminated sign and post to the trailer.

When you can’t keep those hours, have another sign that indicates when you will be back during normal business hours.

Make sure you have a sign that says open that can be easily seen from the road (100 or more feet away).

When allowed (sometime you can’t use stand alone signs on some properties in some parts of town ) buy or make a sign (use two by fours if you need to, paint it orange if you need to), so that when people drive by they know you are open for business.

If you can’t maintain your hours, change them and communicate to your customers what is going on, they will be more likely to visit you if they know that you can’t maintain the hours they might prefer.

Don’t just rely on Twitter, or Facebook, or Instagram to communicate to customers. If you picked one of more of those tools – keep with each and use them every day. If you did not, pick one and learn to use it. And no matter how many of those that you use, assume that few if any of your customers are paying attention to your social media at any given moment. And if you have a sign with your business hours, that sign or another one should list the social media you are using. Not just that you use it but the exact handle or address that you are using.

There are hundreds of other things that small businesses need to do to make it, but the first business that ever opened, and each one since then, has used signs to let customers know that they are open for business…..and when they are closed for business.

Post Script (March 2015)

Poblanita did not move, it can be found in the parking lot of Beechwold Barbershop at 3825 Indianola Ave (Intersection of Northridge and Indianola.). Open Tuesday to Sunday 10:30 am to 9 pm. Cash only.

Posted in Clintonville, culinary knowledge, Food For Thought, Mobile Food | 4 Comments »

Hounddogs Three Degree Pizza: Revisited, Reviewed….Revived

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 28, 2015

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Reviewing the extensive archives of CMH Gourmand, I find a few references to Hounddogs but nothing extensive. Of course there is a brief listing in the Slice of CMH section of the blog and back in 2012, there was the Nerd Night Clintonville Pizza Challenge, but that is it. That is an oversight on my part so I’m going to fix that.

I have always been a fan of Hounddogs but I have become even more of a loyalist over the last year. I lead a tour of four of the best pizza places on the city with Hounddogs as one of the stops. There is a big change of perspective when one shifts from a fan to a pizza docent focusing on what is great about a place. Over the past year, I have learned much more about a business I have patronized for over 20 years and it spite of that, I still feel I have more layers to peel off of the onion that is this pizza place.

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Ultimately, what makes Hounddogs stand out from the pack is variety. It starts with the crust, there are three to choose from: Thin crust, Smokin Joe’s style (a thick garlic butter crust right paired with a mild, sweet sauce) and a Gluten free crust. All are good, but the people (Hounddogs is “pizza for the people”) go with Smokin’ Joe’s style 70% of the time.

Then there is the sauce, well, make that sauces, the five choices: pesto, Joe’s (mild, sweet), regular, spicy, and howlin’ hot. There are also some interesting speciality pizzas to choose from in case all of the options available make creating your own, overwhelming. Three speciality pies that pop out to me are: The hot mama, pesto pie and BBQ chicken. The hot mama combines smoked, sliced Cajun hot links, ham and bacon with sauerkraut. Yes, sauerkraut, think of this as a Reuben with pizza sauce and it works. The pesto pie is a vegetarian pie that is a carnivore’s delight. There are mounds of provolone, mozzarella, tomatoes, black olives and feta cheese over pesto sauce on thin crust. The BBQ Chicken pizza begins with a spicy garlic BBQ sauce with chicken, red onions, bacon and cheddar cheese.

I could go on, but then I would be giving the tour away for free. There are so many stories in the place from the murals on the wall to the beer cans collections in the bar. There is a lot to look at in between bites. However two recent changes are true game changers for the business. First, the iconic black limo that was used for deliveries was finally sent the the scrap year after sitting in the back lot for years. It could not be repaired and they need the parking spaces. The good news is the Hounddog mounted on top was removed and may appear on another classic car for delivery in the future.

Most importantly, 24/7 service has ended. Hounddogs made a name for itself and kept it by being a 24 hour pizza place since 1992. That changed January of 2015. I have posted a photo of the new hours below. While the place has always been a destination for an eclectic mix of guests, the new hours and other changes have made it a destination for families over the last year or so. If you have not visited here since college or before 4 am, you may want to drop in and reacquaint yourself with pizza for the people.

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Hounddog's Three Degree Pizza on Urbanspoon

Posted in pizza, restaurants | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Roadtrip: Coccia House Ristorante & Pizzeria – Old School in Wooster

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 10, 2015

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As a citizen in good standing of the allied members of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association, when Mary MacDonald asked me to moderate a panel on Effective Media Interaction, I said yes. When Mary was marketing director of the North Market and asked me to do anything, I said yes. That is a good habit to follow when Mary is involved. It has never steered me wrong. Now granted, Wooster in the winter might not be every person’s dream but in that it was the first Ohio Craft Brewers Convention paired with the first Ohio Hop Growers Convention how could I avoid standing in the middle of history?

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As is the per usual for me, when I am anywhere new and I have more than one hour for free time, I’m going to explore and see what the area has to offer and find an authentic spot to assimilate with the locals. While encamped at the local watering hole, the Great American Beer Festival awarding JAFB (which stands for Just Another Fucking Brewery – at least that is what I am told) Brewery I decided I had time to go on a food expedition, I had some initial research on where to get food but then I recalled I had an ace up the sleeve. I know Wooster’s Golden Girl, who now resides in Columbus ( she has a Ph.D and is a certified Policy Duder). I texted her to ask where to go and she replied Coccia House Pizza. This was promising because when I mentioned this to Cheryl Harrison, from Drink Up Columbus, who at that moment had allowed me to be part of her entourage, she too had been told Coccia House Pizza. Then, over the next 10 minutes, I saw several JAFB customers walk in with 2-4 boxes of Coccia House pizza. I then checked with the bartender and he too said……Coccia House Pizza. Finally, it was confirmed by one Angelo Signorino Jr. that in in 20 years of trips to Wooster his relatives had steered him to Coccia House many times. At this point, there was only one thing to do – call.

I called in an order for pick up (Coccia was only 1/2 mile away) and was given a one hour pick up time. I arrived 20 minutes early to observe this place in operation and following my standard checklist for likable small town Ohio haunts things looked promising before I even tasted a a slice of pie. Let us review the rankings on the S.C.L.S.T.O.H

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Restaurant located in an old house with multiple additions: Check

Parking lot full before 6 pm on a Thursday in poor weather conditions: Check

Pizza slingers instantly recognize me as a non local because I don’t know what to do when walking through the door: Check

Inside of house converted to restaurant is full of customers who every server knows by name while an endless string of pizza pick ups occur with each pizza slinger knowing each customer by both pizza preference and first name: Check

Photos of customer holding Coccia pizza boxes taken all over the world including places like Papua New Guinea: Check

Place is closed Tuesdays and open for carry out (Pizza, salads and Antipasta only) only on Sunday. Those non standard hours are the “You complete me” of small town haunts: Check.

Old menus and information about a place dating back to 1958 placed in the trophy case: Check

Three generations of ownership: Check

Ships pizzas around the world: Check

There appears to be at least one menu item that is not on the menu but known by all, pepperoni bread: Check

Noted on the menu: homemade bread and butter, anchovies (real) charcoal peppers: Check

Last and not least, with Wooster being just outside the Ohio Valley Pizza belt the place still abides by the rules of all Ohio pizza preferences: Topping on top of the cheese….or below, cheese charred, half-baked or unbaked: Check, Check and Checkmate!

At this point it did not matter what the pizza tasted like, this place was old school in all the right ways and I was glad I was putting money in their pockets to keep things going. During my 15 minutes waiting for my two large pepperoni pizzas I sat on a bench and watched these pizza slingers at work. They ranged from 16 to 22, working as an efficient team of four (one wearing sunglasses). The pizzas had big square slices of cheese on top. Pizzas were assembled in a frenetic yet focused manner. If pizza makers could rock stars these kids would have been the Rolling Stones.

Now on to the pizza. I quickly transported one pizza to JAFB while the other stayed in my car for delivery back to Mrs. Gourmand home in Columbus town. The first thing I noted was the weight of the pizza boxes. They were heavy from a high volume of cheese and a thicker than typical crust. I had one slice at the brewery and instructed the brewers to consume the rest (which is the only time I think they might listen to something I say). My initial response to my first bite, other than…TOOO HOTTT, was hmm. The topping to cheese ratio was proportionally pleasing. I thought the core crust was too crunchy. At this point it was time to head back to Columbus with the other pizza.

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Arriving home 90 minutes later. I found the pizza even more pleasing to my palate. The oil/grease had soaked into the crust making it more malleable for mastication. The rest of the pizza minus my assessment slice was placed on the refrigerator for the next day. The next morning, Mrs. Gourmand texted me to let me know she was very pleased with the sauces because it smelled and tasted like it had fresh tomatoes in it. Mrs. Gourmand is a bit of a hard ass when it comes to sauce so this boded well. I then spent the next two days assessing my pizza one slice at a time. I continued to find the cheese, the level of cheese char at the end of the crust ring, cheese ratios and pepperoni quality to be exceptional. Sometimes I liked the crust a lot and other times I just thought it was OK. The crust is about 3/4 inch thick. On the bottom these is a 3-4 mm thick browned crust and then from there to the top, the crust sometimes had a focacia quality and other times a dense, doughy toughness. The result, I like this pizza a lot but I have my feelings about the crust are still mixed. Not that I don’t like it but I don’t know how to feel about it. Doing some more research, I found the style in practice here is Abruzzi which is not too far from where Mrs. Gourmand’s old world people live, so that explained her satisfaction with the sauce. The only solution I can come to resolve my ambiguous feelings about the crust is to sample more. If you pass near Wooster, check this place out but be prepared for a long wait on the weekends. The wait is worth it and there is a lot to watch while you pass the time.

Coccia House Pizza on Urbanspoon

Posted in Ohio, pizza, restaurants, Road Trip | Leave a Comment »

My Omnivore’s Deliemma: I’m No Michael Pollan

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 2, 2015

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One could summarize Michael Pollan’s writings into these seven words: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. Following that philosophy, one could eat well, enjoy good health and avoid many of the maladies overeating and the Western diet create. There was a time (brief as it was) that I did live by that model and I miss it. Over the last several years I adapted an approach of: Eat Food, frequently, mostly carbohydrates. I can’t make any legitimate excuses for my current food lifestyle but I do feel the malaise that comes with it.

So when I was offered tickets to hear Michael Pollan speak, I was excited for an opportunity listen to one of my favorite food writers and infuse some inspiration to get back on track.

Pollan is a great public speaker, he mixes just enough facts with humor without being preachy, just pragmatic information that hopefully will make a difference. There was not much information in his presentation that would be news for anyone that has read his work, but he did offer a lot to think about. For those of you that did not get to attend and especially for those of you that have not read his books, I thought I would offer some of the information he shared that is good food for thought.

The first thing I wrote down in my notes (with an explanation point!) was the phrase “social delusion about gluten”. I mean no disrespect to those with true gluten issues, I know several people with celiac disease and other gluten based illnesses and those truly suck. Pollan meant no disrespect either but what he was referring to was this gluten epidemic that is out of proportion to true incidence of these diseases. There is a marketing technique that creates a fear and then gives the “buyer” a solution. An example that was used was Chex Cereal. It is now marketed as Gluten Free. Well here is a shocker, it never had gluten. And it is marketed as no High Fructose Corn Syrup which is nice and all, but the company replaced that with Fructose, which is worse for you. Gluten is bad for some people, but big food is using that fear of gluten to push products and deliver a message of no gluten to get the attention of everyone.

Another example. Wonder Bread went out of business but now is back as a 100% whole grain bread. However, Pollan wonders about the math skills of the manufacturers of the food, if it is 100% grain what about the 30 other ingredients in the product?

Milk is trending as a new “super food” with big soda getting to the milk business. For generations we have been oversold on milk as a health food. There is even a beverage called Muscle Milk (which in small text mentions….contains no milk). Yogurt falls into this category as well, when you look at a typical yogurt you will see if has more sugar that an 8 ounce Coke.

Deciding what to eat is becoming more and more confusing, that are over 10,000 items in a typical grocery store and each year more than 15,000 new food products come out. Most offer single size servings, or convenience (such as a straw made our of cereal to drink milk) and in the process of creating convenience more not food ingredients are added to make to foods….easy to consume.

What is referred to as the American Paradox continues to thwart us. While we live in a country obsessed with health and spend larger and larger amounts on “healthy” foods, exercise equipment, fitness clubs, and etc., as a society more of us are getting fat and those of us who were fat are getting fatter. The Western Diet is the one diet that consistently causes health issues and our approaches to address it have gone no where. One of the best / worse examples: for children born after 2000, over 1/3 will have Type 2 Diabetes, which could be avoided with modest changes in lifestyle and diet.

Pollan offered some food wisdom that was shared with him from readers.

“The whiter the bread, the sooner you will be dead”

“Eat foods that will eventually rot”

‘If you are not hungry enough to eat an apple, don’t eat”

The best question of the night and the least expected point to ponder came at the end, with a short discussion on the importance of health soil for healthy foods and the nutrients that good soil infuses into foods. Many of the trends of modern agriculture are taking the health out of the soil, not adding to it.

It was a fun evening and it was refreshing for me to think about eating better instead of just thinking about eating.

Posted in culinary knowledge, Food For Thought | 1 Comment »

Rubinos: A Bexley Classic, My Pizza Pilgrimage

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 1, 2015

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I had never been to Rubinos. Never, ever, although I know a lot about the place and its history. I once had a slice that someone brought to a Pizza Grand Prix. I never walked through the hallowed doors of one of the oldest, most famous pizza places in central Ohio. First: WTF. Second: I can sense the disappointment that you all feel knowing my dark secret now that I have come clean. Reviewing the archives of CMH Gourmand and cross checking with a short list of “classic” Columbus eateries, I’m trying to get my culinary history ducks in a row by visiting the few remaining outliers.

Any lifelong resident of Bexley has a militant love of Rubino’s bordering on obsession. The landmark spot feels out of place and out of step with the times in comparison to its neighbors. It is as older building with an interior that might have been refreshed in the 1970’s. Rubino’s is the type of nondescript joint one would expect to walk in to on the far west side, or near east side or just about anywhere other than downtown Bexley. The demeanor feels more like a diner than a pizzeria. Anyone that walks in knows what they want to order, so there is no need to hand out menus. The menu, mounted on the wall, is famously small – pizza, spaghetti, a pasta dish and salads. Beverages are served in a can and while pasta is served on a plate, if you order pizza, you are presented with a small paper plate. Based on my observations 99.9% of customers are regulars who are largely known by first name and who have clearly made Rubino’s a big part of their family traditions. Anecdotally, Rubino’s most famous customer, Bob Greene, made the spot internationally famous in his reminisces of growing up in Bexley. In research to ready myself for Rubinos I searched for other perspectives and reflections on the place so I could order the quintessential meal. I found this -> post which may be the most detailed pizza post I’ve ever encountered.

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I’ll now offer a few observations on my pizza experience. I would not place Rubino’s in the Columbus Pizza Category. First, and this may be hard for many of you to imagine, Rubinos to TOO thin to meet the criteria for Columbus style. The thickness is about the same as a Wheat Thin with about the same amount of crispness. The quantity of cheese would be considered to be on the light end of the spectrum (our server mentioned that most people order extra cheese). The sauce had a bitterness to it (unlike the characteristic sweetness of most Columbus Style pizzas) that was a little shocking on the first bite. If you weighed one of the 14 inches pies, I doubt it would weigh in over one pound. I ordered sausage on half of our pizza and I would say that this topping is the most memorable of any pizza topping I’ve ever encountered. The sausage is cut in rectangles and is even thinner than the crust – roughly the thickness of 2 sheets of paper. I’ve encountered countless pizzas, in over 50 cities and ten countries in my culinary life and nothing has been as unique as what I ate at Rubinos. This shop is one of the original shops in Central Ohio, opening in 1954. If you are not a Bexley native, do be advised that Rubino’s is not for everyone, including, Mrs. Gourmand who noted this is the first pizza she has had with me that she would never have again. Do come for the history and the tradition and a slice of the past. And to best experience the pizza like a typical Bexley native order your pizza “well done, with extra cheese, pepperoni and sausage” which appears to be what most people order.

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Another thing of note, especially for pizza history buffs, Rubinos uses special paper sleeves for their pizzas, which harkens back to the early days of these cheesy pies. The sleeves are “tented” to allow the heat to flow up from the pizza which is the perfect way to transport a classic pie home. And most importantly, take cash, Rubinos does not take Visa, Discover, Mastercard, American Express, Travelers Checks or barter just greenbacks and hard American currency.

Rubino's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Posted in culinary knowledge, pizza | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

DK Diner: Kind of Dynamic

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 22, 2015

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My primary and secondary references to DK Diner have focused on their donuts. There are three reasons for that: 1) These donuts are among the finest in the state anywhere and I have the research to prove it 2) DK stands for Donut Kitchen – the previous name of this former Lawson’s location 3) As has been established before, Breakfast is my fifth favorite meal behind Second Lunch and Midnight Snack but I do make an exception for Breakfast – donuts. (Writer Note: I ordered 200 DK Diner donut for my wedding and there was only one box left the next day mainly because I hid it).

DK Diner originally established themselves as a breakfast destination (which can be confirmed any Saturday or Sunday Morning). I had forgotten I had breakfast there – once – I had to go through my notes to confirm such but I did indeed have breakfast there and it was good. I’m sure I had donuts. But there is more to dining life other than donuts and breakfast so DK Diner has continually been tweaking their approach to dining after Noon. (Writers Note: This post is dedicated to The Dining Duder who is the least favorite fan of the Ohio Donut Trail).

All of this came about then I was picking up some donuts for Mrs. Gourmand. I noticed some specials listed near the cash register including a coney special. I love a classic hot dog snadwich but Columbus does not support a hot dog or coney culture so I felt a need, well actually mission, maybe even an obligation to support a coney special. So I made note to come back on a Monday so I could belly up my support.

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The coney special includes two coneys with cheese and onions with a hearty serving of hand cut fries. My coney cliff notes: Good combo and a great price. While consuming a coney I noticed another weekly special, Meatloaf. Meatloaf is the litmus test or the canary in a coal mine of any true Diner, so I planned on coming in during my next open Wednesday for more research. This special includes a fist sized serving of meatloaf, mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans (that are cooked not poured out of a can then reheated) and one half of a bun grilled to toast level crispness with a bit of butter. The meatloaf was cooked to perfection with just the right amount of ketchup baked in to the meat. This dish is all DK Diner needs for official diner status.

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Another item that caught my eye in the side dish category was potato chips. Well actually this caught my eye and kept it, so I ordered these as my appetizer for my meatloaf main course. Wow, these chips are great, they are spindle cut and deep-fried to order coming out fresh with plenty of crispness with just enough slightly chewy pieces intermixed in the mess of potatoes piled into a basket. Other than OH! Chips, you will not find a better fresh potato chip in Ohio.

Chips

While masticating meatloaf I spied this on the regular menu: “Schlamager Bratwurst – DK’s special recipe, served on a grilled torpedo bun with sauerkraut, grilled pepper and onions”. So I looked for a day to come back and tried this. Verdict: Sehr gut. I asked my server if she knew anything about the name of the bratwurst or the special recipe, clearly she knew I was trying to get some “intel” so she feigned ignorance. Heading back home, I did some internet research to “crack the Schlamager code” and while I found lots of references to DK Diner I could not find a Schlamager on my screen. What ever Schlamager subterfuge is going on here, the end result is that it is an exceptional bratwurst sandwich experience served with a side of chips (and during my meal, a free donut at check out). What could be better than that? Well. While I was doing research I discovered DK Diner did offer a special featuring this brat with baked beans and pierogis, that would be slightly better than what I had and I would like to see that as a daily special.

Brat

So what is the key to success at this dynamic diner? They adapt to the times. Over the years the business has added patio space, focused on building up their bar business with local craft beers and some locally sourced spirits from Watershed Distillery. Another cool thing in the beer offerings, each beer is displayed in a baseball card style format to help guide your drinking decision and to help DK avoid constantly printing new beer menus. While all of this is being crammed into a small amount of space, DK Diner does not challenge guest with complicating anything. Booths feature instructions on how to interact with the diner: Drinks are self-serve, when it is time to leave, go to the counter with your table number and they will ring you out. Want the wi-fi password? It is listed on the information sheet. Another handy feature is the donut menu so you can see what they have to offer. This simple approach to diner satisfaction because most old school diners cater to their regulars that already know “the rules” while DK Diner wants to make you an “insider” on your first trip.

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DK Diner on Urbanspoon

Posted in bar, beer, Diners, donuts | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Tremont Goodie Shop: New Discoveries at an Iconic Old School Spot

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 18, 2015

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After eight plus years of charting my eating and drinking I sometimes lose track of what I’ve written about. While taking Mrs. Gourmand to Moretti’s I noticed a sign at the Tremont Goodie shop that said they served Riverside Ice Cream. This intrigued me. As an ice cream scholar I had never heard of it. Luckily for me, Mrs. Gourmand and I usually dine out like the elderly, often arriving at our destination around 5 pm. This worked out well, because when I looked at the Goodie Shop’s hours, I observed the Friday closing time was 7 pm, which allowed time to dine and then a dash into the shop for goodies.

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As soon as we walked through the door, two very friendly teenagers told us we had to try the cinnamon sticks. They had some samples out and they were getting ready to bring a fresh tray out for the counter. I was intrigued by this since it is odd for a bakery to stock items less than 1 hour before closing time. My answer came soon enough. Within a few minutes of sampling the cinnamon sticks and checking out the other treats behind the counter, several people came through the door to pick up large orders of these delightful little treats. Interrogating the kids behind the counter I quickly discovered that these small squares of chewy, gooey goodness are beloved item for regular and new customers alike. Orders have been shipped all over the world and it is not uncommon to sell out every day.

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The cinnamon sticks are about three times larger than a fig newton and about as thick. They are light yet dense and a little chewy. They taste and consistency are like a blend between a cinnamon bun and a cake donut. As good as these were I was surprised that I had not heard of these or tried them before. I was certain I had included the Goodie Shop in (The Dining Duder’s favorite series) The Ohio Donut Trail but checking the archives, it is not listed. Then I realized I had only been to the place once years ago. Then I found that the only mention of the shop was one of the few CMH Gourmand guest post written by the avowed champion of The Tremont Goodie Shop Molly Kurth.

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Go figure. Now on to what lured me in to a place that deserved more of my attention. I’m pretty sure I had visited or sampled every homemade ice cream spot in Ohio. Back in 1997, I spent weekends traveling around the state to find the best ice cream in the state for an article for Ohio Magazine. So when I saw on the Riverside Ice Cream package that it has been made since 1953 I was truly befuddled. As it turns out, it does have a long history but distribution is limited to a few stores north of Columbus. I took a pint (plus) of Butter Pecan home to sample and found it to be good. Tremont Goodie Shop stocks a few flavors of the ice cream year round. If you live in Delaware or Marion you can find a larger number of flavors at Kroger.

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Tremont Goodie Shop on Urbanspoon

Posted in bakery, desserts, ice cream | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

 
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