CMH Gourmand

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

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Don’t Be a Dining Douche Bag

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 19, 2014

I’m feeling extra hum buggy. So let’s discuss some of what inspires that. The fall and decline of civility in Western civilization as experienced at public eateries. Consider this a complimentary addendum to my Restaurant Rants series of a while back. There is a certain type of person that drains the life from the rest of us wherever they go. To better understand the slice of the pie these folks operate in outside of a restaurant I have some examples below.

There are examples those that plague us. You know who I am writing about, they:

take 17 or more items to the 12 items or less lane

take at least two parking spaces in a crowded lot

don’t flatten cardboard boxes before putting them in a public recycling dumpster / and or leave stuff outside the dumpster like mattresses or bags of trash

don’t toot or honk their horn, they lay on it long and hard and for no good reason

cluster in a crowded buffet line moving slow, lingering too long as if each item choice was a life or death decision

at a crowded party – they pick the area that needs to be the most efficient path of quick flow back and forth and plant themselves there – parked in front of the table of food, blocking access to drinks or cozy in physically blocking the egress from pre party to party central

They take a third donut before making sure everyone else got at least one.

Yes…. those people.

So what type of behaviors are causing my disdain when observed in restaurants? Well here we go.

Cell Phone Use:
Let’s treat cell phones in restaurants and public spaces like we to treat them in air travel – turn it off when we start the journey and not back on until the end.

OK, so you say that can’t work, then how about another option. Take the cell phone, turn the ringer off and place it where you can’t reach it easily or face down on the table and then engage in the company of your guest(s) or a book or enjoy the sound of silence in your mind.

If you get a call and you can not ignore it, take your phone and yourself and walk to the entrance or an area where your boring conversation is not going to disrupt my digestion.

One initiative I would like to see. Somewhere, there has to be is a warehouse with thousands of phone booths in storage, stacked on each other. It would be great to bring those back and place in restaurants so people could walk inside them to take calls. Let’s do that.

Vapor Smokers
Even if there is not a sign that says no e-cigarettes or vapors in the dining area, just don’t do it. When you use your device in a restaurant space you look like a douche.

Smoking
Don’t chain smoke by the entrance and don’t ditch your butts on the ground by the entrance, I don’t want that smell before or after my meal.

Tipping

We all think we know the rules. The first rule of tipping is to tip. The second rule is don’t overtip for average or less service and don’t undertip for exceptional service. Doing so throws the world into chaos.

Do you tip when you pick up a carry out order?

I say no, others say yes. I still say no, unless the restaurant employee went above and beyond by wrapping your food exquisitely or putting in an insane amount of extras like wet naps.

Do you tip at a buffet?
I say yes. But I’m still not sure how much. I usually do one dollar or two. One dollar for having someone bring me a drink and taking the plates away. Two dollars for refilling the drink with vigor and not making eye contact when I eat like a farm animal.

For tipping some say the baseline is 15% others (typically wives and girlfriends say 20% is the baseline). I say base the tip on service and that 20% is not a default but also weigh in some factors into the tip.

1) How busy is the place?

2) If the place was busy and the server made you feel it was not, then 20% and over for sure.

3) If my server struggled to met minimum expectations and only had my table – I might not tip 15%, if they had 10 tables and I could see one of the tables was full of dining douches then I’m going to tip on the high-end.

Dining douches don’t tip well under any circumstance. That is a fact.

Start with 15% – if service exceeds the baseline – then 20% or more. Those are just suggestions. But tip and tip with some thought that the person serving you will probably appreciate you tipping them more than 5%.

Kids in Restaurants

Kids in restaurants is not an issue. The issue is how their parents fail to feel that the rest of the restaurant guests and employees should have to endure their inability to parent effectively….or ever. Restaurants do not serve as baby sitting facilities or places where kids should run back and forth screaming and shouting and basically being amuck. If your can’t control your kids and yourself don’t leave your home.

If you want some more tips on dining with kids, check with Mrs. Breakfast (with Nick)

Noise
When you are in a public place use your inside voice. Or more importantly, use the voice I would use inside a public space which would be a 4 on scale of 10.

You have been there – the people next to you are loud or worse they are loud and obnoxious or even worse they are loud, obnoxious and drunk and no where close to asking for their check. I really hate people like that and I find this type of behavior more often at more places. As the esteemed Nick Offerman said “Its better to have 8 people with one beer each, than to have one dude with eight beers.” Oh drunk people. Typically annoying sober people are really annoying drink people and they thrive on projecting that annoying behavior to as many people as possible. If you want to annoy people with being loud and obnoxious go to an OSU game.

What can you do? You can ask them to be quiet which is awkward and rarely effective or you can ask management to ask them to shut up or you can ask your server to get you another table – if they have space – they will do it. I’ve done in more than a couple of times. You paid for a meal with also included a side of ambiance so don’t be afraid to get your moneys worth. You paid for a meal not to endure a pack of assholes.

Special Orders….don’t upset us?

We seem to have so many people with food issues these days. Some are legit, some are “self-created.” People have gluten issues, special diets, vegans, vegetarians, etc. I’m all for asking for adjustments to a menu – hold the onions, substitute fries for a salad, etc. Most businesses can and are happy to make adjustments if needed. But asking and expecting are two different things. I can’t count the times I’ve overheard people demanding what seem like multiple and ludicrous adjustments to their entire order. It goes beyond the level of Meg Ryan’s character in When Harry Met Sally. All I can say is if these people get their food spit into, they had it coming. If you are going to a place to eat and feel you need to ask for a modification to each item you order, then you made a bad choice – so politely explain that with your server and leave.

The Customer is not always right

Complaining:
Having worked in the service industry I can say, the customer is not always right. Often if they are almost right or wrong but asking nicely, you give them a recourse to their real or perceived wrong. However sometimes customers are both wrong and rude and that should not be rewarded no matter what the threat is. Assholery should never be rewarded.

If you have an issue with a meal or food you were served your first course of action is not to get on your phone to write a negative review. Address it with the manager of the place and if they don’t address the issue or don’t care at all that you had a bad experience, then go online and go to town.
And if you have a legitimate concern, do know that a good business wants to know if they missed the mark with you and they will want to fix it for you and know it is something they need to address to provide good service for all of their customers. Identifying an issue to be resolved is proactive. Creating and issue online about something that was an easy fix is reactive and douchebaggishness.

Time Management
You paid for a meal not rent at the table. Take your time to enjoy your meal. Enjoy the company of your friends and family. However, if it is a busy night and other people are waiting over an hour for a table and you can see the place is packed and bordering on anarchy….enjoy your stay but don’t linger. When you are done….leave, don’t hog your table chatting away and asking for multiple water refills. Have your credit card ready for your bill and expedite your ass out the door.

Herd Behavior
The larger the group, the more issues they create and compound for the restaurant and by default the rest of us that could get seats. The large groups typically have no plan for sharing payment and most of the members underrate what they ate and drank and then the table comes up short for the communal bill and we all end up waiting longer for the tables and the server gets a crappy tip because people can’t do math or fail to recognize the rule of herd eating – it is going to be 40% less fun and should cost you 30% more than what the menu says and what you expected because at least one of the members of your pack is a low down, dirty, cheap skate. The weakest link in the chain always skimps on their share, makes the meal longer and less fun and makes group activities as dreaded as group assignments in graduate school.

It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure in bad behavior

Your server is a person not a plaything. Don’t make them endure your bad jokes, poor or worse wardrobe choices – dirty tank tops with shorts that are too tight, sexist jokes or act as a babysitter for your kids while you linger at the bar. Some servers and bartenders are bad. Recently I have started to feel that the bad ones are made worse and the good ones are made average by the soul sucking behavior of dining douche bags. So the moral of this story. Don’t be a dining douche.

Posted in Food For Thought | 2 Comments »

O’Reilly’s Revisited Again: Daily Specials and Subs

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 14, 2014

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I’ve written about O’Reilly’s before to acclaim their burgers and heap on accolades about the wings. I also wrote about a Clintonville cocktail I tried to invent with some inspiration from O’Reilly’s and I’ve mentioned a few epiphanies that occurred in the booths there.

Although O’Reillys has been around just over thirty years and I’m a life long Clintonvillian I’m a late comer to the place, having only started visiting ten years ago. I found a post from 2011 where I mention an awareness of their daily specials but it has only been recently that I started to explore them. The daily specials are offered Labor Day through Memorial Day and are posted on a board weekly. The specials are offered Monday to Saturday and change each week. The only constant I have noticed so far is the presence of the two chili dogs and chips. This is offered one day each week with the day changing each week. Other specials I have seen, but not quite weekly include: stuffed green pepper soup, tuna noodle casserole, meatloaf with mashed potatoes and veggies (vegetables at O’Reilly’s are typically canned green beans or canned corn), Sloppy Joes, Meatball Sub and Chili Mac with a side salad and roll. There are other specials to choose from as well. All are priced well under $8.

During the summer the specials disappear but Tuna and Egg Salad return. I’m still deep in my investigation of the daily specials but initial research has been promising. Something not related to the food but equally important is the vibe. Enjoying one of these meals, especially at lunch time reminds of the community feeling that I experienced when Cindy King was still with us serving Chicken and Noodles, with a side of commentary and advice from behind the counter at Nancy’s. There are regulars that come to experience a “family” meal with the staff and other regulars. Many of the recipes at O’Reilly’s have a back story.

Many of the recipes are based on what was on the menu at placed called Tangos, which was popular in the 70’s/80’s, the recipe for tuna salad came from Cindy King’s mom, the “crack sauce” for the sweet potato fries was passed along by Tim Lessner from Tip Top Kitchen and Cocktails. Most of the staff has stories are well, many have been there for decades and many knew Marty, the owner, when then they were kids. There is a lot of history at O’Reilly’s and it is just not on the walls, it is in the relationships among those that work there.

There are two of the specials I’ve tried during my research to date, the first is meatloaf with mashed potatoes, corn and a roll.

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The second special is chili macaroni with a salad and roll.

O reillys Chili mac

I’ve also branched out (a bit) on my exploration of the regular menu. The two most noteworthy items are the chicken tenders and the Italian Sub. The chicken tenders have never disappointed me. They are always substantial and while a choice of sauces are available, the best option is buffalo sauce paired with a side of blue cheese. As for the subs, Mrs. Gourmand fancies herself an expert on subs and this is one of her favorite in Columbus (the best for her so far seems to be at Thurman’s, while I’m still inclined towards Susie’s Sub Shop). The O’Reilly’s sub adheres to all of the rules for a good submarine sandwich: the bun is toasted, the meat is grilled, the ingredients are ample and there is just enough crunch to the bread and the cheese.

Sub

O'Reilly's Sub

One final note, O’Reilly’s finally has a local craft beer on tap, Brass Knuckle Pale Ale from Four String Brewing. I’m looking forward to seeing more local beer on the draft menu there. As for what to do in between bites. The Galaga video game I mentioned in a previous post is gone but there is still plenty to entertain guests. There is always the option to people watch as well as a mix of board games and a few books including The Complete Irish Pub Cookbook. You won’t see any of those recipes on the menu but you will experience the feel of an Irish Pub at O’Reilly’s.

I hope that I have given you at least one reason, if not more to give O’Reilly’s a visit.

O'Reilly's Pub on Urbanspoon

Posted in Clintonville, Sub Dude | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Athens Adventures: Bagel Street Deli

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 2, 2014

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Mention three words to any Ohio University graduate from the last two decades and you will see their facial expression light up and a bit of drool slide out of their mouth. Those three words are Bagel Street Deli. Oddly, in ten years of intensive eating in Athens I’ve never dropped by. Mrs. Gourmand is a big fan so we opted to get a couple of sandwiches to go after our latest Athens Adventure.

Bagel Street Deli is not the typical college sandwich shop, but the place is not atypical to the Athens eating experience. The business focuses on using locally sourced ingredients whenever possible and collaborates with other businesses as well including sourcing bagels from Sammy’s and Blocks in Columbus and cookies from Fluff Bakery around the corner. Whether a carnivore or vegetarian there is plenty to fill the bellies of both here. They offer 20+ varieties of custom bagel sandwiches, over 10 different meat & tofu options, six specialty cream cheeses and forty different toppings choices. There are truly too many choices but it is often too crowded to stand and ponder what to order.

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The exterior is unassuming, the brick interior is filled with signs to guide you through the ordering process and maintain the cultural etiquette expectations of Bagel Street Deli. I was also intrigued by what appears to be an informal collection of mini tinfoil sculptures randomly placed and attached to the walls and others areas.

I enjoyed the experience (we arrived at an off-peak time and I have a veteran customer with me). The steamed bagel sandwich I consumed, was really good – plenty of ingredients piled on top of each other and flavorful cream cheese to hold it all together. I’d go again and have added it to my Athens to eat list. A bit of trivia to wrap up, Art Oestrike, the owner of Jackie O’s is also one of the original owners of Bagel Street Deli.

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Posted in Athens, Ohio, Road Trip, sandwiches | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

West End Cider House, Athens Ohio: This Cider House Rules!

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 30, 2014

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In other posts I’ve mentioned my approach to appreciating Athens which usually goes something like this: visit O’Betty’s, Casa Nueva, and Jackie O’s, then depending on time allowed repeat the previous and/or add in one or more of the following: Avalanche Pizza, Miller’s Chicken, Burrito Buggy, (new) Bagel Street Deli and then head home or repeat. I’ve added a new mandatory stop to the list, West End Cider House.

I’ve known Kelly Sauber for a couple of years. I met him in passing at Marietta Brewing Company many years ago and came to know him well when we started to put together the Athens Tour for Columbus Brew Adventures. Kelly is a whiz with all things brewed, fermented and distilled. He was a brewer for Marietta Brewing Company for about 15 years. He grew tired of the commute (about 1 hour) and decided to try his hand at distilling. Originally his distillery was known as Dancing Tree but there is another business with a slightly similar name so Kelly had to change the name to Fifth Element Spirits. Regardless of the name, Kelly crafts some divine distilled delights from vodka and whiskey to an extra tasty rum made with sorghum. I’ve never sampled anything I did not enjoy. Kelly is a wealth of knowledge so it is difficult not to spend at least several hours at his distillery (about 15 minutes southeast of Athens) when dropping in. Apparently Kelly found himself with a few hours of free time and was looking for another challenge so he partnered with his significant other to open West End Cider House in May 2014.

The West End Cider House is the sum of all of my obsessions: Athens + Craft Beverages + Block Pavers!

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I’ll just briefly mention the excellent integration of historic block pavers into the design and decor of the Cider House here and go into excessive detail on one of my other blogs -> Bricks of Ohio.

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Before we discuss the crafts of the business I’ll cover the details of the aesthetics of the building. The building itself dates back to 1880’s. It was once a confectionary or bar of some sort and it showcases some beautiful, original woodwork and cabinets from that era. The Athens area also serves as home to several great wood workers and they have had an opportunity to showcase their craft with some updates bar tops and other accoutrements. The block pavers I mentioned before are showcased on the back patio and the front of the building and include versions from about 20 or more Ohio brick / block making companies from the turn of the 20th Century. They not only look great but they highlight and preserve the history of the region. The space as a whole is just wonderful. It is easy to plant yourself at a seat at the bar and spend all day enjoying the space and what they have to serve.

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The cider is made in-house with the tanks featured in the middle of the space. Kelly typically has 4-5 of his (constantly rotating) ciders on tap with 3 to 4 guest ciders featured as well. The bar features cider samplers with detailed descriptions of each. The beverage choices also include a few craft beers (notably a selection of harder to find beers from Portsmouth Brewing Company) and plenty of local/ regional craft spirits, wines and locally inspired cocktails (like the Meigs i can). While there is no kitchen, there are several locally made bar snacks available and they often pair with local mobile vendors to have food near by. And, it is only a two-minute walk to Millers Chicken.

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So yes, this Cider House is the perfect Athens area hangout, you won’t have to steer around students cramming in cheap beer but you are still close enough to the other local hotspots that you can walk (if you need to) to pace out your evening (or day) while in town. Oh, the the bathrooms are cozy and pretty cool to boot (note the sign below).

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You can check out what is going on at the West End Cider House at their Facebook Page below
West End Cider House

Posted in Athens, bar, cocktails, Ohio, Road Trip | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Ohio Donut Trail: Jack Frost Donuts – Cleveland

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 27, 2014

After extensive south of 70 research of Ohio’s bountiful selection of donuteries I finally had an opportunity to start exploring what Northeast Ohio has to offer. What I describe for you next may sound like a fantasy – but it did indeed happen. On my way to the Ohio Craft Brewers conference in Ohio City I had a little downtime and decided to check Jack Frost off of my list. The place had come in as a reader suggestion and in several online searches. I’m glad I made time for donuts. Well let’s be honest, I’m almost always glad to make time for (good) donuts.

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The first thing that Jack Frost has going for it is how conveniently located it is to Ohio City (which is the best square mile of food and beer in Cleveland). Located on Pearl Road, it only took a few zigs and zags through neighborhood streets to get back on track on Pearl Road and more tasty treats after I left the parking lot. The next plus, was close proximity to a windmill. Yes, nothing panics me more when looking for a new place than not having some easy to find landmark as a reference point in case I decide to drop in on a whim in the future. A windmill is an easy thing to remember. The next thing that made me feel warm and fuzzy before I pulled in to the parking lot was the exterior. A bit beat up, weathered and industrial, this was no foo-foo donut shop, Jack Frost was clearly an old school neighborhood hangout. Confidence was high for scoring a classic donut before I walked through the door.

I was worried as well. It was past 3:30 pm on a Tuesday and I was concerned that the cupboard might be close to bare (they frequently sell out). Fortunately, the shelves were packed with too many choices (Jack Frost was conveniently open to 8 pm) and ready to fill boxes for people heading to 2nd shift jobs or heading home. In fact, there were so many choices I was overwhelmed.

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Also adding to the pressure, this was my first trip into Northeast Ohio Donut research and I had just found out the place was voted best of Northeast Ohio (competing against more than a baker’s dozen other donuteries) the desire to get one of each was squelched by the fact that they had 35 – 40 different varieties ready to serve and I still had three breweries, Mitchell’s Ice Cream and a Mansfield Pizza place to visit (as well as some possible random stops) before I was call the day done. So I opted for eight different donuts to try. This was quite a Sophie’s choice – trying to decide on which donuts would go home with me, knowing it may be months or years before I would be back. I opted to go with: Salty Carmel, Maple Bacon, German Chocolate, Blueberry, glazed, Raspberry, Maple with peanuts and Peanut Butter cream. Oh, My, Goodness they were good. The kind store clerk also threw in a couple of complimentary donut holes as well, she mentioned they were a fan favorite and based on my (many, many) questions, she figured I might appreciate them.

The first thing I noted about the donuts is that they are just a bit smaller than the typical donut. However based how the massive amount of toppings and extras piled on to each, I felt no reduction of value, if anything the smaller donut may be a public service, in theory, less bulk could mean more consumption. Their cake donuts (my preferred style) were light and fluffy but sturdy enough to bear the weight of the toppings.

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I picked up two blueberry donuts for Mrs. Gourmand since it is her favorite donut variety and her litmus test for donut quality. She liked the blueberry flavor in them but still gives DK Diner the nod for best in (Blueberry) show.

The absolute best of what I sampled was the German Chocolate donut. It was full of rich flavors in both the donut, the German Chocolate base and the regular chocolate intermixed in the frosting. This was exceptional. A close second was a tie between the peanut butter donut and the salty caramel. Jack Frost has been in the business since 1937. I do not think the business has had the same family of owners for the entire history but whatever has been handed down during the decades is impressive. The base donuts are old school good – simple and true to style. The flavor combinations are much more modern, riffing off of what gourmet cupcake places wanted to be but typically did not deliver on during the cupcake crave bubble of the early 21st century. If cupcake places had the flavors of Jack Frost with the prices to match – they would be as ubiquitous as Starbucks. If you are heading to Cleveland or nearby, this place is well worth a small detour. Note: By report their Paczki are legendary resulting in the need for a tent and pre ordering during Easter time.

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

The Challenge of Joseppi’s Mega Meat Challenge

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 24, 2014

Once upon a Thursday dreary, while I waddled bloated and weary,
after many a salty and curious volume of meats galore-
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly in my stomach there was a tapping,
As of something gently, rapping, rapping at my digestive system engorged
Tis too much pizza for two men I muttered, tapping on my laptop, I started to deplore
Quoth the Gourmand “Nevermore.”

Setting the Stage

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I’ve known about the Mega Meat Challenge for about a year. My last attempt at epic eating was a two-time wash out – the Mighty Monolith at Neighbors Deli defeated me twice. I wanted an opportunity for redemption and was waiting for the right opportunity. The Breakfast Grub Guy joined me on the pizza tour I offer with Columbus Brew Adventures and during course of our adventure we started to talk about doing the Mega Meat Challenge. By the end of the tour we committed to team up together to take on the Mega Meat Pizza. I was excited. In fact so excited, I was already pre planning to defeat it a second time with Brian Thornton, from OH! Chips as my wingman for round two. I was not cocky, but I was confident about this challenge. I regularly eat a 14, 15 or 16 inch pizza with minimal effort. Stories that James told assured me that if I could just eat 45% of the pizza, we would be champs.

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The Mega Meat Challenge defined

I met James at the Lincoln Village location of Joseppi’s. We were greeted by the manager Jeff Thompson. He explained that it would take about thirty minutes to prepare our pizza. Jeff shared that on several occasions, he has had people (scoundrels) order the pizza and not show up – considering the time, effort and cash that goes into creating this megalith they now have to make it to order and only after both competitors are in the house.

The pizza is 28 inches in diameter. Unlike other meat lovers pizzas, the ingredients for this pizza are not a scattering of meats but thick layers of Topper pepperoni (made for their Topper pizza – this is the old school, crisp at the edges pepperoni that is harder to find in the pizza biz today), Italian Sausage, ham, ground beef and bacon. It is cut in squares (tavern cut or party cut is the term used in the industry). I counted 8 rows and 58 slices. Jeff was kind enough to bring the pizza out for us to look at periodically as he was putting it together.

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The rules are as follows, the two competitors must:

Sit at the round table near the counter
Stay near the table at all times – they can get up to do a lap around the tap, stretch or get more pop from the soda fountain.
They may not go to the bathroom or leave the building
They have 60 minutes to consume the entire pizza (no knocking meat on the ground or under the table)
Buckets are provided in case one or both lose intestinal integrity (no one has used these to date).
Dipping sauces are provided on request to help slide the slices down the hatch
No one was allowed to sit with us at the table or approach near us while we are in competition mode
The challenge can only attempted Monday to Thursday from 4 to 9 pm.

My mindset at this stage? I was confident but it was clear this was going to be a bit of work. In my notebook, I made this note for the blog post “Two men enter, One pizza leaves.” Jeff shared a few other tidbits about this beast of meats. The Lincoln Village location is the only Joseppi’s currently offering this challenge. Interest waxes and wanes, some weeks 2 or 3 groups will try this challenge and some months not one will try. To date, only one team has succeeded. I have included a photo of them below.

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Winning the challenge offers more than just a boost to self-esteem. The winners get $100 in cash, $150 in Joseppi’s gift cards, two t-shirts and your photo on the wall. That is well worth an hour of my time. The cost if we lost, $50.00. Jeff was a real gentleman about the challenge. He offered a few tips to help with our attempt to consume to heart clogging pie including the suggestion of having containers and ranch and hot dipping sauce nearby to help change-up the relentless taste of pork in our mouths. Jeff did not have to be nice to us, at $50.00 for the pizza he is not making a profit when he serves this monstrosity. He also let the pizza sit in front of us to cool down so that we could eat it at the temperature we desired. Once it was to our liking, we just needed to let him know so he could start the timer. James and I locked eyes after 5 minutes of cool down and gave Jeff the thumbs up.

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Detour
While you wait to hear about the outcome, I am going to digress a bit and share some of what I learned about Joseppi’s. Joseppi’s has been around since 1969 and now has several locations in and near Columbus. The family business is well represented by the third generation of Thompson’s and other family members. Jeff started working in the business the summer of his 12th year. It was his 32nd birthday on the day we came in for the challenge (November 20th). He has cousins and uncles working at many of the locations and is best friend (since he was eight, is the manager for another of the locations). Jeff really committed to the family business after his grandparents (the founders) died in a motorcycle accident, the family as a whole wanted to honor their legacy while making a living. The pizza business has been slow for several years and has just started to bounce back in the past year, so the family really relied on regular customers during the lean times (two were dining near us as they have almost every Thursday for a decade). The shop makes heart-shaped pizzas for Valentines Day and made breast cancer ribbon pizzas for some special customers. If you want to see the 30 inch pizza without committing to eat all of it, you can often see it served during the lunch buffet they offer during the week. I was really impressed by Joseppi’s and the background Jeff shared with me.

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The Meat of the Matter
When James and I began, we started with gusto. I opted to use the corn on the cob approach, pick a row and work my way down right to left. He aimed for a military approach by making a hard drive to the center. We were both happy that the pizza tasted really good. We both observed that it really was a MEGA meat pizza. We started consumption at 7:58 PM. After the first slice the table got really quiet and the atmosphere subdued. I became very focused on my prey, zeroing in on each piece with all of my attention. After the 3rd piece, I decided I needed to make sure I chewed each piece 100 times to ensure I had the room I needed for sweet victory. After the fifth piece, I started to falter in my plan. Originally, I was going to limit my pop consumption to one glass with small sips spaced out at long intervals so as to not overfill with carbonation. But my rate of pizza consumption was slowing as my need for fluids was increasing. At 8:24 PM. I communicated with James for the first time in 20 minutes. He was in the zone as well so I may have startled him. I just said, “I’m getting up.” I rose to do a lap around the table, fill my glass with more Coke and then a returned to my seat. I wrote the following in my notebook: “salt+bacon = salt lick”. At 8:27 PM we had some awkward side talk while I took the photo below.

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I started my next piece and 1/2 way into it I knew I was not going to eat my 45% of the pizza as planned. At the end of that piece, I thought that I would have to throw in the towel. At the end of the thought I glanced at James and could tell by his body language and demeanor that he too was struggling with his will to go on.

After a brief, dejected, conference, we opted to capitulate at 8:38 pm. Shortly after Jeff’s sister (who also works there) came in to the shop, walked by and gave us a look of pity that was painful to behold. She and all present thought we had what it takes to win the Mega Meat Challenge but as you can see from the next photo…..we were not even close. (We only ate two more pieces). #agonyofdefeat

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Reflection, Remorse, Reconstruction and Deconstruction

I don’t like to lose. Like anything in life, if I can’t obtain my goal I obsessively reconstruct the events to determine where I went astray with the intensity of the investigators of the JFK assassination. My first observation and deduction was at the end when I was (shamefully) boxing up our leftovers. Each box had 8 to 10 slices in it. Using a style of pizza dead reckoning, I determined that each of the four boxes weighed 1 1/2 to 2 pounds. Next, I cut one of the pieces in half for a side profile. Take a look below. That is a THICK slice of pizza with a layer of each of the meats. Doing some quick and imprecise math, I estimated this pizza to be about 10 to 12 pounds of meat and dough. In my best food challenge performance to date I consumed 3 pounds of food. Sadly, I think that the Mega Meat Challenge was never meant to be for me. Oddly, I think I could do the challenge if it was cheese only.

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The score: Mega Meat Challenge 1, Gourmand 0

Post Script
The pizza was really good as a cold meal the next day. CMH Tobias was pleased to eat any morsels offered to him. I think if it had been served cold, with the meat and cheese chilled and condensed, I might have consumed more than I did the fateful night but I would have still missed the mark. If you try this – and I think you should, use this tale as an inspiration and to guide your training, but don’t ask me to join you, I might have flashbacks. You can read The Breakfast Grub Guy’s tale of this trial -> HERE.

Joseppi’s Pizza
Lincoln Village location
4764 W Broad St.
Columbus, OH 43228
Tel: (614) 878-7291

Joseppi's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Posted in culinary misadventure, events, pizza, restaurants | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

HELLoween at Double Comfort: October 24th and 25th

Posted by cmh gourmand on October 20, 2014

The kitchen at Double Comfort is heating things up for the Halloween Holiday with Helloween – a tribute and showcase for what they can do with hot, hot heat. I’ll turn it over to them below.

Five courses of progressively hotter food will be served at Double Comfort restaurant, 505 N. High St., Friday and Saturday, October 24 & 25 at 7 p.m. to only those brave enough to submit themselves to the restaurant’s HELL-oween menu. Specially priced meal (exclusive of beverages) is $25, and guests can see Highball festivities from inside the comfort of Double Comfort!

“Think ‘Russian Roullette Meatballs’ and mouths on fire,” said owner Mary Lyski. “There’s no better way to satisfy a taste for hot and do something good at the same time. This event is definitely for all those folks who love hot chili peppers. We hope Columbus is up to the challenge”

Serving Memphis-style fried chicken in a casual sit-down setting, Double Comfort is guided by the mission of “Buy a Meal. Give a Meal™ ”, donating a portion of its proceeds to local food banks. Since opening in July 2014, Double Comfort has donated nearly $1,200 to local food banks in it’s first 90 days of operation. This season’s food pantry partner and proceed recipient is Broad Street Presbyterian Church’s Food Pantry.

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La Poblanita New to Clintonville

Posted by cmh gourmand on October 2, 2014

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La Poblanita
3589 Indianola Ave, Columbus, OH 43214
(Lot of Starlite Cleaners )
Corner of Arden and Indianola (across from Weilands Market)
614.598.9539
Open Monday to Sunday 10 am to 10 pm (closes at 6:00 pm on Sunday if business is slow)

It seems fitting that a Taco Truck is now serving food on a lot that served home to a soft serve ice cream stand that was a local favorite for years. La Poblanita opened at this spot in late September in the very heart of Clintonville. It is a one woman operation. Marcelita (Marci) the owner is happy to be running her first business and reports great feedback from the community so far. She is originally from Puebla Mexico but she has lived in Columbus for a long time and speaks English well.

Her trailer is small which limits the menu she is able to serve but what she does have is excellent. The standard menus includes: tacos, tortas, burritos, quesadillas and chuletas (pork chops). La Poblanita also offers the following specials when possble: Carne Asada Platter, Grilled Shrimp Platter and (some weekends) Tamales. The Taco Truck Tasting team has sampled the following on two visits: burritos, quesadillas, pork chops, Carne Asada, and grilled shrimp. Based on two trips and in spite of the fact that this business has been open less than 1 month, I declare this is one of the ten best taco trucks in town. Portion sizes and prices are very good. The vegetables in the side salads and inside the burritos are fresh and served in generous portions. Meat choices are steak, chicken and pork.

For platters in addition to the main dish you receive a side of seasoned rice, a side of pinto beans with queso blanco mixed in, a small salad with lettuce, cucumber and radish and when available a piece of candy. Platters are typically served with 4 fresh tortillas which are served steaming hot and fresh. Do use caution with the two house salsas – both the green and the red are very, very hot.

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The burritos are densely packed with meat and any other items you would like included. The pork chops were a surprise to see on the menu (not a typical taco truck standard). They were well cooked and lightly seasoned. They are not available every day and do not last long due to popularity. Although a one person operation, service has been very good and friendly. It is a one minute walk to Weiland’s Market across the street which is a nice way to spend some time if you are waiting for a large order. Check out La Poblanita muy pronto.

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

Arepazo (Tres) Tapas Bar & Grille

Posted by cmh gourmand on September 29, 2014

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The opening of (El) Arepazo is of interest for at least three reasons. First – the authentic Venezuelan and South American themed menu is amazing. Second, owners Carlos and Carolina Gutierrez have a great story of rising from rags to (someday) riches in Columbus. Third, this new location in the Brewery District (their third) may mark the tipping point for the third renaissance of the Brewery District.

I wrote about the couple in the early days of CMH Gourmand when they had just one location located in Pearl Alley. The couple were early adopters of the alley as an area to grow a community and it certainly has changed a lot since they opened there in 2005.

Their next move was to go mobile, which I detailed in this post from 2011. They opened a second location in Gahanna shortly after and they just sold the trailer a few weeks ago. The Brewery District location debuted at the end of August and is drawing in some good foot traffic is a short amount of time.

The Brewery District location is distinctly different from its sister restaurants. There is a lot of space inside and a nicely sized patio on the outside. There is a small takeaway / grab and go counter where you can score some of their addictive cilantro sauce, a dessert or some small dishes to go. Another corner has a pool table for those that would like to linger on between meals of cocktails. The bar space is ample with plenty of room to spread out while exploring the world of latino cocktails such as Mojitos and Caipirinhas. Unique to this space is a larger party room with an extensive wine rack which the couple plans to stock deeply with South American wines. All of the aesthetics aside, they did a great job to create a fun space to enjoy a wonderful menu.

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As for the Brewery District here is a quick history. The area supported six breweries in its heyday, the age of the beer barons on the 1890’s. Prohibition marked the official end of the prosperity of the area although the area started to decline in the early aughts due to a combination of increased competition from Cincinnati and out-of-state breweries, the Anti Saloon League, labor strikes, the “drying of Ohio” as well as grain rationing and anti-German sentiments during World War I.

The second renaissance of the area was in the 1990’s when the Hoster Brewing Company Brewpub was the place to eat and drink and a string of bars led by Gibby’s, Victory’s and Hi Beck Tavern drew the masses to the city’s south side. The opening of the Arena District and Easton caused an entertainment ADHD which drew visitors away from the area and closed many businesses that had once thrived.

This third renaissance officially (according to me) started this year. While Columbus Brewing Company Restaurant, Shadowbox and World of Beer have held their own and kept people in the area, a burst of new blood entered this year starting with Brick (and American Kitchen) in the former Handke’s location and now El Arepazo. Some other spots including Kolache Republic have popped up on the High Street border of the Brewery District and German Village. The addition of the Cbus Circulator (a free bus which travels between The Short North, Downtown and the Brewery District) is bringing in more people to explore the area.

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History lesson concluded I’ll now set the table with a sampling of the food and drink available. Not content with just one Cerviche, Arepazo offers five or more made fresh everyday including Ohio Cerviche made with Walleye and Ohio Sweet Corn. In the cocktail department, the staff behind the bar know what they are doing whether mixing a Mojito, Margarita or Caipirinha. Mix in some Sangrias, Mimosas and Pineapple infusions to the lineup and you won’t find it hard to opt for an alcohol inspired siesta some afternoon. Since this location is designed for more than just dinner, the menu also offers small plates / tapas for those that are looking to linger around for people watching or to hop from place to place in the Brewery District. (What may be) Mayan inspired murals will keep an eye on you while you look over the menu trying to decide what to order. The two Arepazo standbys – Empanadas (consider this a stuffed, fried dumpling) and Arepa (the namesake corn cake which inspired the name of the restaurant) are well represented. You can see my Arepa sandwich below.

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It is easy to decide to head to the German Village / Brewery District El Arepazo location. You are supporting a local business while eating a great meal and fueling the rebirth of the Brewery District.

Arepazo Tapas Bar Grille on Urbanspoon

Posted in cocktails, restaurants, wine | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Double Time It to Double Comfort

Posted by cmh gourmand on September 24, 2014

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Chicken is hot! The last year saw the rise of the Hot Chicken Takeover and other special chicken creations. In spite of this recent uptick in what has historically been a foul attitude to supporting progressive approaches to poultry, finding good chicken has never been easy. Doing a little Wiki-research I found a morsel of history which indicated regular chicken eating is a relatively new dining choice. KFC did not really take off until the 1960’s. While Columbus does boast the infamous Chicken Corner / Chicken District even this chicken churning center has taken some hits over the last couple years. One business burned down, another went out of business and nearby Woody and Jo’s shuttered its bullet ridden shutters. Yes, if you are a chicken lover it has not always been an easy time to fill your need to feed.

Well Double Comfort is here to help. This restaurant has a little bit if a twist that is noteworthy. Double Comfort gives a portion of their proceeds to local food pantries. The space also has a little challenge. Double Comfort took over the former space occupied by Knead. Knead, not unlike chicken, struggled to be fully embraced. Something about this high traffic section of High Street seems to not draw the foot traffic neighbors just a black away can count on.

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On the plus side, Double Comfort has two things going for it. One is owner Mary Lyski. She lived in Memphis, a city that does chicken right, for a decade. Wanting to get the taste of southern style fried chicken right she spent two years tweaking a recipe. Then she teamed up with Ben Walters from North Market Spices to get the special herbs and spices right. The second plus, and in my eyes the biggest, is Chef Dan Varga. Chef Dan has been one of my local favorites. He did amazing food at Explorer’s Club. I came to know him through the restaurant, helping him launch a food cart for the restaurant and gave him a strong endorsement by having him cater my wedding. Dan has worked hard to get the other dishes on the menu dead on good. At Explorer’s Club he excelled at figuring out the nuances of ethnic cuisines and putting menus together that would have made anyone from the country of origin proud. At Double Comfort Dan gets to cook from recipes inspired by his own rural roots. And he gets to pickle vegetables to perfection. While Fried Chicken is the focus, there are plenty of other Southern favorites to enjoy. One of the guys in the kitchen has been frying chicken for over 40 years.

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So is the fried chicken good? Yes, yes it is. The breading is neither too thick or too thin with just the right amount of seasoning. The meat is juicy and tender and cooked to perfection. Double Comfort is the total package for southern fried favorites and your meal supports efforts to make sure someone else than needs a meal gets one. That is a double treat.

Double Comfort on Urbanspoon

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