CMH Gourmand

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

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Archive for the ‘beer’ Category

Leftovers: F. Scott Francis Interview Outakes

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 28, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Advice for budding brewery owners:

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

Advice for new home brewers

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

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

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

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

What’s New at Smokehouse Brewing?

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 7, 2014

Smokehouse Brewing

So what’s new at Smokehouse Brewing? Well a lot. But I suppose I should backtrack a bit. Smokehouse Brewing is the new name for Barley’s Smokehouse and Brewpub. First, I should caution you not to panic. The Smokehouse Brewing of today is largely the same as the Barley’s Smokehouse and Brewpub of last week. The owner is the same, so are the staff, so are the brewers and the beer. And what may alleve the most panic….so are the wings. The wings are still brined, smoked and grilled before they are served to you. So now that I have made things a bit more clear and reduced the likelihood of an anxiety attack, let me go back, back in time to the origins of Smokehouse Brewing.

The building has a long history in Columbus dining. It was once Jack Bowman’s Suburban Steakhouse home of the nation’s first salad bar (although a few other places debate this). Then it was a B.J. Salvi’s…oh, Pasta Salvi, how I miss you. In 1997 (or 1998 depending on a few interpretations of various things) Barley’s Smokehouse and Brewpub was born. Most of you know of Barley’s Ale House #1 located downtown. And 95% of those folks that know, know that Barley’s Smokehouse and Brewpub was connected to Barley’s by ownership until 2012. Smokehouse Brewing is still owned by Lenny Kolada. Angelo Signorino Jr. is still the head brewer in the house. While the name change was announced a few weeks ago, today, May 7th, is the day that Smokehouse Brewing decided to go big and stay home with a new menu. Many menu favorites of the last 15+ years are still on the menu but if you are a regular afraid of change, I encourage you to take the plunge into these new selections. If you have never visited, this is your opportunity to see what a brewpub can deliver (this is not a fish and chips joint).

I visited on the first day and as a rule, I never write about a first visit or a new menu. It’s not fair to anyone, but I’m OK breaking my rules in this case. With the assistance of Mrs. Gourmand, we tried out three of the new menu items. First on the list, Smoked Bahn Mi. As a disclaimer, the Bahn Mi is a favorite sandwich of mine so my standards are unrealistically high. As an additional disclaimer and sidenote, my favorite Bahn Mi’s are at Mi Li and Indochine and my favorite Bahn Mi inspired sandwich is the Bahn Meanie by Green Meanie. Those three are stiff competition for any contender. Smokehouse Brewing’s spin on the Bahn Mi involves: a thick pile of smoked ham, ample roasted pork, pickled vegetables (mostly onions), a light slathering of sweet chili sriracha aioli, shredded carrots and jalapeno, a dash of cilantro and mint on a Dan the Baker Baguette. If that sounds good, let me assure you it also tastes good.

Bahn Mi

Next on the table, the Greek Lamb Burger. To begin, I must admit that I made a rookie mistake with the new menu. I did not look at the add on’s for the burgers. While it was not needed, I wish I had asked for Double Smoked Thick Cut Bacon on this burger. The lamb burger was simple which made it simply good – the ground lamb was well seasoned, cooked just enough and served with tzatziki sauce and crumbled Feta cheese. The burger was skewered with a toothpick impaling two of the house made pickles on top of the bun. Good Burger but some bacon….and a fried egg and maybe something else…..might have made it even better.

Lamb Burger

Finally, under the subheading of Traditional Barbecue: Smoked Pork Barbacoa Three Way. This includes: pork shank on Asian slaw, pork belly swimming in honey chipotle BBQ sauce, pulled pork butt on a bed of lettuce (makes a convenient wrap on the fly) and with my serving, I had baked beans and cole slaw (while the menu says grilled asparagus and barley risotto). I think the substitution was an error on my part for not reading the menu in detail combined with my server working hard to give me what she believed I wanted. I’m glad I made an error because I really enjoyed both the cole slaw and the baked beans. I’m frequently disappointed by both so I am happy to report both sides were among the best of their style I have tried in town. As for each single part of the three way, as a Kansas City BBQ Society Certified BBQ judge I’d say they were each executed well. I first encountered the pork shank as a tasty snack prepared by our local Manbeque Chapter at a beer event in February. It made an impression on me as well as Lenny who was at the event as well. I am a proud convert to the pork shank. I will be eating that again and again. The pork was perfectly prepared and with the bone retained it adds to the flavor and makes it very easy to eat like a lollipop. The pork belly was neither cooked too much or too little, a tough balance for some. As for the pulled pork butt – it was well done but I would have enjoyed it more served in the barbacoa style I’m more accustomed to with some more spice and juices mixed with the meat. I’m a Butt man what can I say.

Barbacoa

All in all for day one and based on only three brand new menu items, I’d say Smokehouse Brewing is well on the way to defining (and maybe refining) their new name with this menu and truly making a new name/mark for themselves which will please regulars and converts alike.

Pork Shank

Barley's Smokehouse & Brewpub on Urbanspoon

Posted in BBQ, beer, restaurants, sandwiches | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

An Ode to Tobias: The Best Beer You May Never Have

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 26, 2014

Tobias Stout

So…..three weeks ago I got hitched. It may have been a surprise to some that had not seen me in a while. For others, it was noted that the past winter had been historically cold and frozen with some speculation that perhaps hell might be freezing over. Let me assure you such was not the case. I got the better end of the deal.

While all of the wedding planning was unfolding (this may be a future post) something else was going on behind the scenes. Angelo from Barleys Ale House was getting information from a few of my friends – in particular the Dining Duder – and he contacted Colin from Seventh Son to work on a collaboration beer in honor of my nuptials. All without my knowledge. The final product was a marriage of Barleys Bourbon Barrel Aged Scotch Ale and Seventh Son’s Oubliette Russian Imperial Stout. Kegs were available at each of the wedding venues, Barley’s for the Friday night pre-game and Seventh Son for the Saturday wedding and reception. It packed quite a punch with the result that those that imbibed heavily on the beer Friday night limited themselves to one pint on Saturday. It was a perfect covert operation, I had no idea all of this was going on until we walked in to Barley’s with some supplies at 5 pm on Friday. Well done Angelo, Gabe, Jason, Colin and all others involved in this worthy project.

The greatest honor of this entire endeavour was the naming of the beer. In honor of my esteemed dog and because this is a “beast” of a beer and blending of two great beverages it was christened Tobias! Long time readers are aware of my Appalachian Porch Hound, Toby, also known as CMH Tobias on Twitter. While Toby has been on many adventures with me, having a beer named in his honor is the greatest tribute I can think of and the largest exposure of this exceptional porchhound to the masses.

There is a small amount of Tobias held in reserve and it will be released for a Studio 35 Beer Tasting sometime this year. Having the last of this nectar served in the heart of the Ville is a fitting Bon Voyage.

Posted in beer, FooderHero | 1 Comment »

The Road Warrior: Angelo Signorino Jr. – Brewer, Biker, Beloved!

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 21, 2014

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I debated whether to write about Angelo. Not because he doesn’t deserve a wagonload of kudos but like, me, he’d rather stay out of the spotlight and the limelight and practice his craft quietly. I mean he does work underground for part of the week. A couple of things tipped the scale for me. First, I recently wrote about Dan Kraus from That Food Truck and in the process of that I decided to add a new occasional series with the category heading – Fooderhero. There are many people in our community that have been quietly growing and planting seeds of greatness and Angelo is definitely at the top of the list.

The other thing that guided my decision was a story that Angelo recently told. He rides his bike to work nearly everyday, even in the weather we have had this year. As he was sharing the story, he described how he had the snowy Olentangy bikeway to himself and while riding along appreciating solitude and scenery he saw a Blue Herron. He then observed, for some people having a moment like that would be the highlight of their day as they commute to a job they don’t love. However, Angelo does pedal to a job he loves and he engages in his craft with a passion that is infectious. Angelo bikes to Barley’s Ale House #1 a few days a week and to Barley’s Smokehouse and Brewpub a few other days per week. At each destination he creates exceptional beers served from towers, engines, casks, barrels and firkins.

Angelo serves as a role model in many things he does. He has biked to work for years, commuting by two wheels long before others considered making that type of commitment. As for brewing, he has engaged in that trade for over twenty years. And while the volume of award-winning beers he has helped craft are well worthy of the accolade of being a Fooderhero, what really tips the scale is all of the encouragement and support he gives the rest of the brewing community. I’ll provide a few examples. If you see a bike parked in front a brewery afterhours, there is a good chance Angelo is inside sampling a beer, buying a growler or sharing beercraft lore with someone. There is also a good chance he is laughing. In the not so distant past, he was en route to meet his wife for dinner and just before his destination, he noticed that the lights were on at Four String Brewing so he popped in to see how Dan Cochran was doing. At that time, Dan was working fulltime during the day and then fulltime at night brewing and growing his own business. Angelo, without a prompt, spent 30 or more minutes helping Dan mash (that is the pre beer mixture that requires a lot of intensive physical work) while he waited for his dinner to get plated. As a third and final (but a mere drop in the bucket for what Angelo has done in the craft community) example, as much as Angelo loves people, he (like me) is an introvert so spending time in the public eye on a brewing day is not the most energizing activity he could engage in. Yet he does it like a pro. For Columbus Brew Adventures, Angelo walks guests through the history of Barleys in the course of four beers. Each beer has a great story and Angelo is a master storyteller. Interspersed with the information is the most memorable, distinctive laugh I’ve ever heard. It is a laugh of pure joy, passion, inspiration and celebration. And by the second beer there is not a person in the room that does not love Angelo. I have listened to him speak about the beers Barley’s brews over twenty times and I could listen to the spiel another 200 more. Each time to shares his tales, I learn something new and I get the satisfaction of watching 14 people transformed from casual observers to passionate craft brewing evangelists in less than 30 minutes.

As if the above was not more than enough there are a few more things I would like to share. Angelo started in beercraft as a part-time worker at the Winemakers Shop, which inspired two generations of home brewers and more than a handful of the brewers in practice at breweries around town today. Angelo is a lover of food and a long time supporter of the local restaurant scene, but it is in the arena of Food Trucks that he has excelled as a supporter. You are as likely to see his bike parked at a food truck as at a brewery and he offers the same infectious support to these new businesses as he does to every brewer he crosses paths with.

So as a tip of the hat to Angelo, I am only showing his bike in the post, instead of one of my many photos of him in action so he can stay under the radar. Cheers!

Posted in beer, beverages, culinary knowledge, FooderHero, Sub Dude | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

First Bite: Bar 145 (A Dual Review)

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 28, 2014

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I have long wanted to do reviews with more than just my spin on things. Think about Siskel & Ebert or American Idol style restaurant reviews. I always thought more perspectives equate to better information. I finally had my opportunity to try this out when I had a chance encounter with one of my 43 fans. Karl M. dined with me at Bar 145 and I asked him for his view of things and he delivered some fine prose. His review and comments will be in italics and mine will be in bold or regular font. I hope you enjoy this spin on things and if you would like to give this a whirl with me sometime, e-mail me at CMHGourmand@gmail.com


Serendipity — it’s more than just a 2001 movie starring John Cusack. This past December I brought my wife out to German Village for a date during the annual Village Lights Christmas open house. As we walked along the snowy, bustling sidewalks, we came across a booth for Columbus Food Adventures and Columbus Brew Adventures. The name was faintly familiar, so I inquired of the gentleman behind the table.

“Do you happen to know the author of the CMH Gourmand blog?”
“Yes,” he responded, “I’m the author, Jim”.

Serendipity, how you delight me. You see, when I first moved to Columbus in 2008, one of my first priorities was learning more about my new city. Stumbling across the CMH Gourmand website was a true blessing and has inspired many a food adventure. I was excited to meet Jim and to thank him for helping me appreciate the amazing culinary diversity and opportunity here in central Ohio. Having now met him in the flesh, I asked him about meeting for lunch sometime and after a little back and forth we settled on a new gastropub in the Grandview / 5th by Northwest area called Bar 145. It is an honor to be able to share my perspective, however pedestrian, on Jim’s blog.

I’m a details-oriented kind of guy and whenever I go into a restaurant it’s always the little things that catch my eye. Bar 145, set back in the new plaza on 5th Avenue that also houses Romeo’s Pizza and Firehouse Subs, is a very pleasant place to have lunch. The decor is an interesting mix of what I consider to be industrial and modern. There’s a subtle scarlet and gray thing going on too between the color and material choices (dark red and lots of exposed metal). The location features a good-sized bar, a wall full of windows, a sizable patio and even an upstairs loft seating area. With a view into the kitchen and free wifi, there’s plenty to keep you entertained.

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Upon being seated, the servers helpfully explained what exactly a gastropub was (a bar with a menu crafted by a chef), and pointed out a few of the highlights on the one-page food menu. Not being much of a drinker myself, I bypassed the drink menu and focused on the food. Immediately several items caught my eye, including Bavarian pretzel bites (being the good German that I am) and Poutine fries with truffle, duck confit, gravy and cheese curds. Eventually we both ordered the make-your-own burger (a $5 Wednesday special) and a few dishes to share – the pretzel bites, the fries and the bar wings.

My burger, a meat patty with artisan lettuce, goat cheese, mayo, bourbon steak sauce and tomato on a pretzel bun, was good, but didn’t blow me away. Jim and I both agreed that while the condiments stood out, the meat was stoic and was just that — a meat patty. For $5, I’d definitely get it again, but Thurman’s, you still have my heart.

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Both Karl and I liked the build your own burger option and with a checklist to help and the special $5 Wednesday price it was irresistible to us both. One of the options was artisan lettuce which intrigues both of us. Outside the lettuce, we tried to work as a team to sample as many different options on the burger as possible. I opted for this on my burger: beef patty, pretzel bun, artisan lettuce, pickle chips, cucumber relish, spicy bourbon mustard, cheese and chicago style BBQ sauce. I requested the burger 145 style which I would describe as medium raw. Next time, I’ll get the burger medium well. The whole was greater than the sum of the parts with this burger. I liked everything but the hamburger patty itself. It lacked any flavor, it could have been a veggie burger for all I could tell. I kept waiting to see Gordon Ramsey or Robert Irvine burst through the kitchen shouting “you call that a burger, where is the salt and pepper and the bloody flavor man!”

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The warm Bavarian pretzel bites, though good, weren’t what I was expecting. The menu describes them as “Butter Baked Pretzel Roll Bites, garnished with Chopped Bacon & served with Cheddar Chive Sauce.” Once again, Jim and I, clearly both great minds that think alike, commented on the fact that the pretzel bites were more like toast. They were tasty, especially paired with the cheddar chive sauce, but not satisfying if you were excited about pretzels. In addition, the pretzel buns – thick nuggets of soft toast that kind of look like a pretzel – didn’t really taste like one. Admittedly, I did finish them all.

Karl was spot on with the pretzel bites. The sauce was great but I felt that I was the victim of a bait and switch, I could consider the bites to be toasted bits of bread.

The loaded fries were served poutine style — that is, covered with gravy. This was my first experience with gravy and fries and I must say, it was delightful. Similar to the pretzel bites, the fries were good in a surprising sort of way. The menu painted an exotic picture of ducks wading in a stream lined with truffles. Instead, all I tasted were decent fries smothered in gravy. Definitely tasty, but not the destination fries that I was expecting. If anything, it heightened my desire to try other poutine-style fries. Any fry would be hard-pressed to dethrone the current king in my book – the fries at Loops.

In my eyes – the fries were good but again, the bait and switch effect was in. I can’t say I think much of the truffle oil fad/trend so I did not order the fries for that. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised to find I could not taste any truffle in the fries. The gravy was OK and I’ve never met a cheese curd that I did not consume” but this was probably the weakest poutine I have ever encountered and might make a Montreal native mildly irked.

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The bar wings — now those were fantastic! I’m not much of a bone-in wing guy, more of a BW3 boneless wing special sorta gent. These wings are far and away the best I’ve ever had. The skin was crisp and as you bit in there was a little heat followed by the meat literally falling off the bone. Next time I might just order the wings. They managed to put together a great tasting wing without resorting to smothering it in sauce. If your thing is to find the hottest wings around, these aren’t it. But if you are looking for a tasty bit of chicken wing and don’t mind just a touch of heat, definitely check these out.

While described as wings on the menu, these are really legs (as was pointed out to me by an astute observer of the obvious). These were fabulous and I would say the top three in the deep-fried wing/leg category in our fair city. Four legs (wings) cost $12.00 which is little steep in my book.

In conclusion, Bar 145 is a nice addition to the neighborhood. The only truly noteworthy dish that from my must-have food perspective were the wings. Granted, the menu boasted some potential winners that I didn’t get a chance to try — the apple pie burger, for example, or chicken and waffles. I could see myself returning for the burger special or to sit on the patio when the weather is nice – especially if it’s a chance to hang out with Jim. It’s a good addition to the 5th by Northwest corridor as it continues to experience a recent revitalization.


At the end of our meal Karl and I were pleased with the overall experience but felt we may have missed out on what Bar 145 excels at. After extensive quizzing of our server I decided I needed to return for the Chicken and Waffles, Coffee and Donuts and another order of the wing/legs. My report on trip two is below. But first let me digress by bringing a new term to your attention.

I first encountered the term Gas Bro Pub while engaged in conversation with three of the foremost lady experts in the field of food and beer analysis. I will not name which of the three threw out the term but as soon as I heard it, I thought of Bar 145. When you visit, think of what that term says to you and them let me know if that diagnosis is accurate.


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Now on to my second trip. I sauntered up to the bar and made the order you see listed above. Initially I was concerned about whether I could finish so much food. Fortunately for my girth and constitution the portions sizes were much smaller than I expected.

First, let me begin with my second order of the wing/legs. These were just as good as the first, maybe better because I felt I had a bit more sauce with these. These four legs were damn good. There is shredded carrot slaw underneath which is a bit bland, but when mixed in with any remaining blue cheese dressing from the wing/legs becomes a great dish by itself.

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As for the chicken and waffles. Overall I would say meh. However, there are some real gems in this dish. The side of macaroni with cheese meets expectations but the pairing of tasty bacon with the mac bumps things up a notch from mediocre. The fried chicken part of the chicken and waffles was really good. The chicken was juicy and tender and the breading was perfect. This may have been the best fried chicken I have had in town for a couple of years. The waffles were nothing to blog home about and the syrup tasted cheap and watery. All in all, it would be a good meal at $10 but I felt gouged at $12 for 1 1/2 chicken breasts, 1/2 of a waffle and a small side of mac and cheese.

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Last and somewhat least is the coffee and donuts. I was excited about this offering and had hoped for something to add to the Ohio Donut Trail. The coffee was really good, and that says a lot because I am not much of a coffee drinker. It had an added surprise of what looked and tasted like a giant junior mint floating on top of it. The donuts, would be what I would call fried dough croutons. They were small, hard, yet chewy squares of dough about the size of a 50 cent piece. These were good but overpriced and not what I would consider a donut.

All in all. I like Bar 145 and what they have to offer. I do want to try some more dishes and I’d gladly go back for the wing/legs and the Wednesday $5 build your own burger special. If you are looking for your first Gas Bro Pub experience and want it to be a good one, this is the place to go. At the time of this writing, Bar 145 has been open less than a month so I anticipate that it will improve and refine over time.

Bar 145 on Urbanspoon

Posted in bar, beer, hamburgers, restaurants | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Columbus Brewing Company Restaurant – Revisited

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 31, 2013

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It has been over six years since I wrote about Columbus Brewing Company Restaurant. However, It has not been 6 years since I have eaten there or even six weeks. I am also happy to report that not much has changed in six years, and that is a very good thing.

Many people do not know that Columbus Brewing Company and CBC Restaurant have different owners. Eric Bean has been brewer and owner of the Brewery for quite some time now. While the two business share a roof and a name, they are very different entities. The restaurant continues to feature and serve Columbus Brewing Company brews as well as to make the beers active ingredients in some recipes. As the Brewery has continued to expand as a business, the restaurants CBC offerings have contracted a bit. If you are a fan of CBC’s Bohdi (Double IPA) the restaurant is still one of the best places to find this award-winning beer but they also run out fairly frequently. However, there is no need to fear, the restaurant does a fine job of sourcing guest beers into their line-up with a strong focus on local breweries such as Actual Brewing Company.

As for food, Brian Cook is still in the kitchen which is good news for me and some of my favorite dishes. I think CBC Restaurant has some of the best nachos in town and if you are dining with mixed company (vegetarians and carnivores) they do a fine job of deconstructing their nachos to meet everyone’s tastes when needed. The Cuban Burrito with a mix of meats, chips and plantains remains nearly the same as the version I raved about years ago. Another favorite of mine is the beer cheese soup which is typically available in the evening is a perfect starter for a fall or evening meal. Desserts are top notch as well (insider tip: sign up for the restaurant e-mail list for a free dessert of your choice with your next meal). Another dish worth mentioning is the Bye Bye Miss American Pie: a wood-fired pizza with house-made fennel sausage, banana peppers rings, pepperoni and smoked provolone cheese.

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The restaurant recently expanded hours to include Sunday Brunch so there are plenty of opportunities to see the depth of the menu the kitchen can push out. I’m happy to report that six years later that this place has retained everything that made it a great dining spot and if anything, has upped their game.

A final side note, I am slightly addicted to the house smoked chipotle sauce found on the nachos and the burrito. The restaurant partners with CaJohn’s to bottle their sauces so you can take them home with you. So there are two types of bottled products originating under the same roof.

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Posted in bar, beer, pizza, restaurants, Vegetarian Friendly | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Brewed Awakening

Posted by cmh gourmand on October 7, 2013

So what have I been up to you might ask? Well, I moved back to a buzz cut, finally conceding that I have more head than hair now. I neglected to mention that I won a Vendy Award and last and very much not least have you heard about Columbus Brew Adventures.

Brewed awakenings

I have often immersed myself in a subject to learn more about it. I became fascinated with Australia so I got myself there six times for a total of 4 1/2 months, visited all the states and territories and make several lifelong friends in the process. Then I wanted to get a job at OCLC and improve my research skills for writing so I earned a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science….well, I did become a better researcher. And as you readers know, a few other things caught my attention: donuts, pizza, Food Trucks and such.

And now…..Beer and Business.

Partnering with (and learning a lot, every day) Bethia and Andy from Columbus Food Adventures we have been working on and since September 7th running beer tours. There have been countless meetings with brewers throughout the area. Even more e-mails and phone calls. There has been a good amount of time “product” testing as well. The brewing community is a great group of people – passionate about their craft and growing a craft beer culture in our city. I am honored to be able to work with these business owners and immersing myself into their culture. I am learning about more beer and myself every day.

Our downtown brewery tour has been very popular. We explore four breweries and even through I have done my research, I learn something new from each place we visit and each brewer we work with every time I guide a tour. We have also run a tour out to Licking County to visit Brews Cafe, Granville Brewing, Homestead Beer Company and Buckeye Lake Brewery. We made a run to Rockmill Brewery, Dancing Tree Distillery and Jackie O’s in Athens. As fun as that tour was, I was amazed that a couple drove in from Dayton to join us for a multiple hour tour and then drive back home. We are adding more tours this month to explore the breweries of Grandview and our local distilleries. Other ideas are fermenting as well. Pizza and Beer sound good? Maybe a progressive tour of a league of restaurants?

And of course, our tours include food to go with the beer. As you can guess, we take that part of the tour pretty seriously too. As for our beer tourists, each group has been fun to guide around. From craft beer neophytes, to home brewers and beer experts everyone has enjoyed the tours, tried beers they might not have tried before and even at places they might have visited on their own, taken something away they would not have without being on the tour. We learn something at each brewery be it history, how ingredients influence the brewing process, or sampling a beer flight that showcases twenty years of microbrewing in Columbus. In every case, I guests leave wanting to explore even more and go back to try these places again.

In the process I have learned to drive a 14 passenger van, initially felt like a freshman at Food Tour University, lost the company cell phone (which was one of the top 13 worst days of my life), and every day found myself nudged further out of my comfort zone. While learning I have found that there is so much more to learn, I guess that makes sense, beer has been around since the 5th century BC. I knew a good deal about beer before I walked down this road. Now that I jumped into the brewing culture of Columbus I find myself in the catbird seat observing something I believe is going to become a big part of the character of Columbus, a craft beer and distilling culture that will earn a lot respect in the industry. Columbus Brew Adventures is exactly that, an adventure. Care to join us on one?

Posted in beer, Behind the Counter, beverages, cocktails, Food For Thought, Gastronomic Stimulus | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

QuickSip: Pub Out Back

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 24, 2013

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The Pub Out Back is an unlikely bar in a likely place. If that makes sense. It is tucked into a small space in a small strip of shoppes hidden behind the main drag of Olde Worthington. It is an easy place to miss. That is part of the charm of the place and why it is the pub out back. While Olde Worthington might not seem to be a pub crawl destination of choice, the area offers one of the best areas to do so, in a compressed block. In addition to easy to spot pubs like Old Bag of Nails and PK O’Ryans, the choices out front also call home to the bar at Rivage, House Wine, La Chatelaine and a really good happy hour at the bar of the Worthington Inn. Insiders, like Robert Kramer, of the independent village of Riverlea, know the upsides of the drinking choices of this mini-downtown and for folks like them, the Pub Out back was created.

This small place packs quite a compressed punch. The front bar seats just over a dozen and maybe 16 or so more at five tightly placed tables. Upon entering, you might think you entered the Cheers of Worthington. Everyone does not know your name but they are glad you came. The front bar also features seven large screen TV’s which is what was missing from the other bars of Worthington – lots of large TV’s. Free peanuts in the shell were promptly offered upon arrival. While the pub does not have food service, like many successful bars, the owners forged an alliance with a nearby pizza place to provide quick access to food for eating with beer.

There are 5-6 good drafts on tap and a deep selection of craft microbrews in the bottle to choose from. Hidden in a back corner is a barrel of games to share. While the place is small, it is not as small as I originally thought. In the back bar there are four tables, a few stools and a small table top shuffle board game of some sort. To show community pride a Worthington Cardinals image graces the wall in back. All in all a good bar especially for manly activities of drinking beer with other men interested in sports. I did my initial reconnaissance with The Drinking Duder. His response to our inaugural visit was “yeah, it was not bad.” In Drinking Duder terms, that means it was a good bar. As for me, my loyalties run deep with O’Reilly’s and St. James but since I have my hair cut nearby and I enjoy a bar off the beaten path, I think I may find myself back at the bar again munching on peanuts and cheering the next person to walk through the door.

You will not find the address too helpful in finding the Pub Out Back, but here it is:

679-C High Street, Worthington, Ohio 43085

Their Facebook page will help you: ThePubOutBack

For quick directions. Turn west at the intersection of New England Ave. and High Street. Turn north into the large parking lot. Park your car near the northern fence line and follow that to the second line of shoppes. The Pub Out Back with be tucked at the end waiting for you to visit.

Posted in bar, beer | Leave a Comment »

CLEWeek – A Maker and a Shaker: Sam McNulty

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 14, 2013

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I meet so many people who have a passion for something but lack the focus or sense to make it work. Many have a passion for food but not a lick of business sense. And as many people are so focused on every cent they create a soulless business that can’t keep a customer. It is a rare spirit that can blend the two – a focus on fun, a directed passion but just enough common sense and structure to make the dream a reality and to keep the whole thing fresh, financially afloat and sustainable. I truly believe that a business that connect with their community stands a much better shot at sustainability than one launched by someone with a riveting business plan and a MBA to boot.

The heart of Ohio City is West 25th Street. The soul is definitely West Side Market but epicenter of growth and vibrancy has been fueled by alcohol, passion and good food on West 25th. Bier Markt was an early entry (2005) on what is now a brewery district by any other name. Ask any passerby to name a favorite spot on the street and they are likely to mention one of more of the following: Market Garden Brewery, Bar Cento, Speakeasy or Nano Brew. What do all of these spots have in common other than good libations, good food and distinctive style? The answer Sam McNulty. The key to the success of his enterprises – there are several and he would have all on a cool key ring no doubt.

I had the opportunity to tour all of these locations with McNulty back in October of 2012. I have done many meet and greets with restaurant and bar owners. Most are short, somewhat forced and canned and usually not so memorable. Not the case for McNulty, he spent many hours with the group of writers in my pack – on a busy weekend night. He walked us through every nook and cranny of each of his businesses. He told us the history and inspiration of each. My notes were extensive and throughout his genuine caring for his community, employees and partners shined through. He knew every employee by name. How did he begin the evening – he did not talk about himself, his “brand”, etc., he asked where else we had been and when we mentioned CROP – he raved about the place, how his competitor’s restaurant was so good for Ohio City. When we asked him what was his next project – he shared the next focus would be whiskey, rum and bourbon distilling…..which led to him raving about Middlewest in Columbus.

smile at the brewery

Many of the little things that set his places apart, start to turn into big things. There is definitely a desire to increase the DIY capabilities of all operations by creating a space for fermentation, aging cheeses and charcuterie and more. McNulty shared that he started to think about the carbon foot print of bringing Italian prosciutto to Cleveland. Then he asked himself, why he was doing it when Cleveland had everything he needed to do it in-house? He has the right people and ingredients. Then he broke the process down into the small steps to make it a big idea: build relationships with local farms to source the right types of pigs, then find the right way to process the hogs, build out a curing room and…… Although a lot of work, the end result is that because he now knows where everything is coming from and who is putting it together, he feels better about serving it. he can serve something that is Ohio to the heart and what his neighbors would want and what his chefs like to create. Another key to making this work (and why all of this works) is he finds the right people who share a passion for what they do – cooking, brewing, serving and he lets them take risks and pursue these projects with the resources they need and the freedom to experiment.

cured meats

What inspired each concept – mainly the people of Ohio City. McNulty lives within steps of his establishments. When he moved to Ohio City he ditched his car for a bike and a scooter. When not working in or on one of these spots, he is roaming Ohio City as an informal mayor and ambassador. He asks himself and his Ohio City peers what they like….and creates what reflects their values. If you go to the right juice spot in West Side Market and ask for a McNulty – you will get a special blend created for his high energy / hectic lifestyle. A telling aspect of his muse comes from the newer kid on the block, Nano. Since McNulty and his neighbors are so pedal happy, he decided he needed to create a new kind of biker bar….but this time for cyclists. Nano sports an inside bike repair station while the outside features a repurposed shipping container that was built as a bike parking area (to keep his customers bikes from getting wet). Cool and inventive, sure, but it also required working with the city to get a variance to make it work – not the easiest path but it created something unique that is distinctive for the space and for the customer.

bike station

McNulty takes care of his staff – mainly by giving them the tools and environment to succeed but also supporting them. Nearby Black Pig is operated by one of his former chefs. And for employee appreciation – here is an example and benchmark to aim at for those in the restaurant trade. McNulty closed operations down the Sunday before Super Bowl (2012) and created a space for four food trucks to serve his team. Then he hired four party busses to bar hop his group around town which he paid for deep cleaning of the kitchens while they were out having fun. If you are in the food biz, having some fun at someone else’s place then coming home to a clean workspace, can’t be beat. Take care of your people and they will take care of your business and your customers – an easy lesson but missed by many.

So take the above and a lot more and that is how one builds sustainable businesses in Cleveland and elsewhere. There are many of McNulty’s peers doing the same but of those I have met to date, no one does it with the vigor and radar guided smart bomb focus of Ohio City’s favorite resident.

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(Two side notes) During our tour it was raining heavily. McNulty grabbed a patio umbrella from one restaurant and used it to keep his guests dry moving to the next destination. A young McNulty delivered newspapers to Michael Ruhlman for ten years, and the esteemed Cleveland food writer was noted to be a good tipper. McNulty might give Ruhlman a tip or two these days.

Posted in beer, CLEGourmand, Locally Sourced, Ohio, Road Trip | Leave a Comment »

Seventh Son: The Marriage of Microbrewing and Mobile Food

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 30, 2013

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The two surging trends in the Columbus Food scene for the last two years have been microbrewing and microrestauranting – in the form of food trucks. The exponential growth of both has been staggering. In the case of microbreweries as well as specialty beers stores and bars focusing on locally and regionally brewed beer, the number of businesses tapping into this trend has at least quadrupled since 2011. As for Food Trucks, although some have asked if this is a fad that is jumping the shark, the evidence shows this trend has shown no sign of going off the road at the curve. My observation indicates our choices have grown by nearly ten fold in the last couple years.

Some of the elements these two microenterprises have in common include: a desire to own a business, to be able to create something unique to the owner/brewer/team, a focus on local ingredients as well as supporting other local businesses and a sense of contentment of not having to be all things to all people and to not have to dumb down quality for the additional opportunities of being on more shelves or serving more people at more locations. Such is not the case for all owners…some food truck owners view their business as a pathway to a restaurant or other food business. Some Microbreweries have an eye on additional products or markets, but for the most part, the people behind these businesses are happy to have a sustainable business that allows them to earn a living and create something that is a reflection of themselves and their values.

The pairing of these two businesses is a natural fit. The costs of adding a full kitchen to a microbrewing enterprise is daunting. The challenge of finding a location to park and serve to a captive audience that has a reason to stick around and access to amenities like tables, chairs and bathrooms is helpful to a food truck. The trucks need a place to set up. The breweries need food to help draw in customers and to keep their customers on site longer. The marriage of these two types of independent businesses is a marriage that is destined to last.

In the early days of mobile food, bars and food trucks established a quick bond. St. James Tavern, Dick’s Den and a few other watering holes were quick to see the advantages of having fresh food to serve to their patrons…good for the bar business. Access to a set location is key, though maybe counterintuitive, to most mobile food businesses. While not mobile, the expansion of Mikey’s Late Night slice to Woodlands, the Newport and other bar venues was critical to the growth of that business and to the success of the businesses Mikey and Company paired themselves with.

Geoff Towne at Zauber Brewing Company was the first to pair microbrew with regular scheduled appearances by multiple food trucks. What started as growler pours at lunch or dinnertime grew into larger monthly events. We can expect to see more of the same from Zauber in 2013.

At the dawn of this year, Seventh Son Brewing Company started a similar pairing but what makes the place unique is that the layout and design of the brewery, bar and space was with the intention of having food trucks on site on a regular basis. Currently, Seventh Son hosts mobile food Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Saturday and Sunday lunch and brunch service are in the works. Seventh Son just started to offer their own beers to the public in April. In addition to their own brews, the bar maintains a focus on local and regional beers and spirits. These pair perfectly with the food truck offerings. All in all the combination of location, beer and food makes Seventh Son a Hipster Heaven and acts as an anchor for the growth of the Italian Village neighborhood. This is a partnership where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. More than two types of businesses benefit, the community does as well with the addition of more food choices in a neighborhood lacking them and on the end there is a stronger community.

Now for a photo tour of Seventh Son.

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Customers can see the brewery in action as they walk through the front entrance.

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The open space of the main bar provides quick access to food trucks and an easy view of 4th Street.

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The rear bar area is a bit more intimate and can be used as event space or for spillover traffic.

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The large outdoor patio has plenty of tables, quick access to the inside as well as to the food trucks in the parking lot and a fire ring to allow to space to continue to be cozy in the frigid late fall and wet early spring of Columbus.

Seventh Son Brewing Co on Urbanspoon

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

 
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