CMH Gourmand

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

Archive for the ‘culinary knowledge’ Category

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 »

My Editorial about the Crest on WOSU’s Columbus Neighborhoods

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 9, 2014

I have been a huge fan of WOSU’s Columbus Neighborhoods since the series launched a few years ago. As a lover of Columbus and history, the series has been fun and informative. So when the Clintonville episode premiered I was glued to my seat absorbing every factoid and cherishing every minute of it.

As a writer and a person that creates content for a radio show, I understand the limits of time and space constraints to the daunting task of presenting every possible person, place and event in a community over the course of over two hundred years. So while a few segments ran a bit long on one subject or another, I say to each their own and kudos as well as a job well done on the episode.

With one exception.

The Crest Gastropub had a very long segment as part of the program. I’m no hater of the Crest but I was a bit irked that a business with barely a year in the community would warrant so much air time while our other long time food businesses were left out. Granted there was a 1/2 second frame with an image of Nancy’s but that was it. As for the Crest, it is a story about the future of Clintonville and I want the restaurant to thrive and succeed and continue to do better. However, I am more interested in the food businesses that have held the line for decades in our community which has been restaurant deprived since my earliest memories.

Again, there is no way all of what I will list could be presented in the few minutes that were devoted to the Crest, but I would have loved to have seen a montage or brief mention of each of these places instead as a tip of the hat to these small family businesses which have been the heart and soul of the Clintonville Community.

Villa Nova has been a gathering place for decades. The original owner came back to save the business from failure and since then it has never looked back. It has done so well that it could buy the parcel of land next door, knock down the original Just Pies location and pave it over with a parking lot to fill with customers to take their cars off the neighboring streets.

Just Pies original location is gone but what a great success story. The business has garnered national attention by just making pies.

Moving south down High Street the new Mozart’s in the old Beechwold Tavern space. The building has served as home to many businesses over the years. It was a hot spot in the 1930′s as a tavern and dance hall. It survived other less exciting purposes afterwards. It was vacant for a long time until Cord Camera picked it as a location but then they moved to the revitalized Graceland Shopping Center. The building was almost home to a national fast food chain but luckily Anand Saha from Mozart’s put all of his chips on the table to get the building first. He has restored the charm and character of the place and made it a true community treasure. The story of an immigrant who came to Columbus with little more than a dream and grew a business over twenty years that has done so much for the community is a more compelling story that the Crest.

Or how about the oldest vegetarian restaurant in Columbus, Whole World Bakery and Cafe? Nancy’s Home Cooking has been the unofficial Town Hall of Clintonville since the mid 1970′s, while it is not the same place in our hearts as when Cindy King was alive and Ed King was behind the grill, it still is a community icon with countless stories connected to it such as catering weddings, feeding the homeless, making special meals for firefighters and so on.

Weiland’s Market was just a meat market at the original location when I went there to pick up supplies while I worked for Knight’s Ice Cream in the 1980′s. It has since blossomed into one of the best gourmet markets in town and it revitalized a strip center which was on the downward spiral for years. Round all of this out with Dante’s Pizza and Gatto’s Pizza and you have over 200 years of food history in just a few businesses.

I’ll add a few more places in. Flippos, was a burger and shake restaurant named after long time TV personality Flippo the Clown. It was located on High Street, just a bit north of East North Broadway where Donatos is today. I used to go there after T-Ball games as a kid. The Marzetti’s plant on Indianola may be too industrial to be a sight for sore eyes, but the company has an incredible history in Columbus including a nationally known restaurant decades ago. And while Clintonville received a bad rap for being unwelcome to food trucks (not really true) the rise of mobile food owes some debt to a community which supported Ray Ray’s, Mya’s, The Coop, Boston Berts and others through the years.

It is not all about food, but there was a lot in Clintonville that was overlooked in favor of the new whippersnapper on the block. So for non food related memories I would have liked to see a mention of Clintonville Academy (since 1978 – guess who was in the first class of students there) and the original Columbus Zoo which has a few buildings and bridges still hidden away in Beechwold.

To repeat. Good Job WOSU Neighborhoods you did a fine job of compressing 200 years of history in less than 1 hour but I think you could have represented the history of our community better with a brief mention of a few of the businesses listed above and less time devoted to the Crest. Maybe there are some gems in an extended edition DVD that will come out in the future. If not, I hope you will have an opportunity to come back to Clintonville to profile more of the history that was missed out on. The would mean the world to the hearts of those of us who have lived our lives here and made it a true community.

Posted in Clintonville, culinary knowledge, restaurants | Tagged: , | 6 Comments »

North Market Cookbook Recipes and Stories from Columbus Ohio’s Historic Public Market

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 7, 2013

I have had a while to peruse North Market Cookbook – Recipes and Stories from Columbus Ohio’s Historic Public Market. It is written by Michael Turback, a well-known food focused writer. The forward is written by former Dispatch food editor, Robin Davis, the writer of the first North Market Cookbook. There are no surprises in this book – it provides a quick history of the market and recipes from many of the vendors, growers and personalities of the market. Local chefs and mixologists contribute to book as well.

What I like the best about the book – it is constructed to survive a kitchen or getting crushed on the couch with a slick cover and fold outs front and back for marking pages. There are over 100 recipes to choose from in six major areas: soups, small plates, salads and sides, main dishes, desserts and ending with beverages and cocktails. The best way to use this book to turn to the back and look for the names of your favorite purveyors or chefs and/or to look at the sections one by one instead of getting lost going through the book page by page.

If you have a favorite restaurant in town and a favorite North Market vendor then you are guaranteed to find a recipe that you will want to make and more importantly, that you will be able to make. Nothing is overly complicated or driven by extreme ingredients. If you are a North Market regular this cookbook would be a good fit for your bookshelf or kitchen counter.

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Posted in culinary knowledge, markets | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Food Truck Tour via Columbus Food Adventures

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 16, 2013

One might think that as writer and tri-creator of Taco Trucks Columbus and Street Eats Columbus (as well as my daily work with the food truck community) that I would be food trucked out. Quite the opposite. I found that I wanted a fresh perspective and different point of view on mobile food. I hoped to feel like it was my first taste into this culture again. I wanted to see the world of food trucks through fresh eyes once more. So instead of being my own guide, I opted to ride along on the newly added Food Truck Tour with Columbus Food Adventures as an anonymous rider and to listen to the questions “greenhorns” would have.

One might say, with the two websites in place, why would anyone want to go on a tour of food trucks when you can DIY. I would counter with – why wouldn’t you not want to take a tour? If you have never tried a food truck, then you want to do a tour for sure. First, the tour ensures you are sampling some of the best in the city. Second, you are being educated on the culture and nuances of the food truck world at each stop as well as additional background and commentary between each destination. Third, you typically get to meet the owners of the food trucks and have one on one time with them. Often they are creating a sampler of some of their favorite dishes to share with you to make a first good impression to get you to come back. Fourth it is fun. Fifth there are five trucks to try. Sixth it is a great way to meet new people who share a common interest….or at least a curiosity. And seventh, you will be full by the middle of the tour and definitely stuffed at the end.

So if you are a newbie to this world, the reasons above should sell you on the concept. But what if you are an experienced Taco Trucker or Food Truck enthusiast like me? In my own experiences, my personal interaction with food trucks for food has become pure hunter and gatherer mode…wham, bam, thank you ma’am of sir as I get my food and go. On the tour, I was able to go back to the good old days where I could sit back and leisurely enjoy my food while getting to know the owner and finding out why they decided to do this as their living. That was a big part of the joy for me in the beginning of my mobile food exploration phase where I could appreciate the personal connection between the customer and owner. The experience changes from transactional to educational and conversational. Plus, the sampler plates are often unique to the tour. Indecisive and don’t know what to order, these mobile amuse bouches (can I use that word?) will give you a quick and efficient sample of what the truck boss thinks is the best.

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The current tour presents a variety of menus and a mix of old pros and new kids on the block.

Our first stop was Ajumama which is based at the future site of Zauber Brewing in 5th Ave. Chef Laura Lee creates a mini sampler of 3-4 of her signature dishes. She is very articulate and passionate about her business and takes pride in explaining her Korean cuisine.

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Next on our route was Ray Ray’s, now based at Ace of Cups in Old North Columbus. The sampler here is a mix of brisket, pork, a rib, a chicken wing from Jamie’s new venture inside the bar and his personal favorite sidedish, a mini serving of greens (which he says he eats with every meal).

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Ray Ray’s former location is the new home of Mya’s Chicken. Mark the chef, owner and chief chicken fryer presents a slightly different sampler each time based on his signature items as well as what his daily special may be. And thank goodness, there is a biscuit, one of the best in the city.

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Our fourth stop was Aromaku the only Indonesian food truck in Columbus (and probably the only Indonesian food based experience to be had in central Ohio). There really is nothing like this in town. As a bonus, Aromaku shares a parking lot of Taco Nazo, one of the favorites of the Taco Trucks Columbus team so a little Taco Truck history is thrown in as a no calorie side dish.

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The fifth and final destination for our tour was Tokyo GoGo based at Brothers Drake in the Short North. In addition to getting an education on authentic Japanese style late night bar food there is an opportunity to try some very unique Ohio made mead in the process.

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The itinerary I joined may not be the same as the one you take on your tour but you can expect to try five or more of the best trucks in town and then be well prepared to continue on your own food truck adventures afterwards.

For more information on the Food Truck Tour, cruise over to the Columbus Food Adventures website.

Posted in culinary knowledge, Mobile Food, Road Trip, tour | Leave a Comment »

How To Find Food A Truck in Columbus

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 11, 2013

One person that responded to my poll a few weeks ago requested less about food trucks. Two people said they wanted to know more. How about if I just let you know how to find them on your own?

(Below is from a page I wrote for one the other websites I write for: Street Eats Columbus).


So you are looking for a food truck but can’t find one? What to do? Here are your options.

Food trucks are mobile in concept but such is not always the case. Almost all of the Taco Trucks in Columbus are stationary and keep standard hours – you can find most of them at Taco Trucks Columbus.

One of the most famous of Columbus Food Trucks is not mobile at all – and it started as a trailer. That would be Ray Ray’s Hog Pit.

However most street food vendors….are on the streets going from location to location looking for people to feed. In Columbus the business model for most mobile food owners is to schedule locations to serve lunch at Monday to Friday then supplement with a few evening locations as well as festivals and events on the weekends. These trucks look for corporate lunch locations with the goal to serve fifty to one hundred customers in a two-hour period as long as they have the permission of the property owner and the business site.

In the evening, they look for business sites that have a second or third shift of hungry workers or a bar with some patrons in need of a snack or two. Dick’s Den, Seventh Son Brewing and St. James Tavern host food trucks one to three days per week.

You can try twitter to find a food truck – if you know what the twitter address is and if they continually tweet where they are serving. This is not practical for most people nor is it helpful if you do not know what truck(s) you are looking for or want to look for.

The same can be said for Facebook. While many vendors post where they will be for the day or the week, if that is all they post the content soon becomes boring. Plus, with recent changes to Facebook you may not be able to find these posts in a timely manner. And again, you need to know the truck exists….to find it. Another downside, most people can’t access Facebook from their workplace computers….so finding a truck at lunch can be a struggle.

There is a website called Ohio Food Truck Finder which lists many of the twitter feeds for food trucks in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati and elsewhere – this can be a good way to see much of the variety of vendors but it is not a complete listing and food trucks that throw in the towel or take a long hiatus are often in this stream as well.

The same group also coordinates mobile vendors for lunch at ten plus Ohio State University Medical Center locations. You can find a schedule -> HERE.

And HERE is a map of sites. The vendors currently serve lunch at most sites Monday to Friday.

App(lication)s exist to find food trucks. Some have come and gone (Hungerly) and others have come and fizzled (Eat Street, Roaming Hunger and Street Food (Columbus)). The only app / finder worth your time is (and it should continue to get better) Street Food Finder. What makes this the best? It works. It meets the needs of the Food Truck owners because it is easy to use and saves them time. It is good for customers because it is good food food truck owners, so there is actually current information on Street Food Finder which makes sure information is there to look at and easy to put to use. The creator of Street Food Finder lives in Columbus and consulted with Food Truck owners and Street Eats to make sure his product met the needs of everyone. It started as a chicken or the egg situation: if the owners don’t put information into StreetFoodFinder then customers won’t us it, but food truck owners had to be OK with putting in information when no one was using StreetFoodFinder so that people could see that it does work. Make sense?

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Who Are You? And Why Are You Reading This?: A Readers Poll

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 1, 2013

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This is post number 500 for CMH Gourmand. While you may know something about me, I know nothing about you. That hardly seems fair. Please take a few moments to do the poll below and I’ll share the results in the future.

Here -> is the link, tell me what you think. There are ten questions, one involves pizza and another discusses donuts.


May 2nd Poll update:
I am surprised by your pizza choices.

Posted in culinary knowledge | Leave a Comment »

ManBque: An Anthropological Analysis of an Urban Mens Movement

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 25, 2013

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A few months ago I was invited to ManBQue. A what the what? Man – B – Que. Simply put this is a gathering of men who want to celebrate and extol three things: Meat, Beer and Rock n Roll. This month I was invited again by Chef Ed Kowalski. I looked at the ManBque website, read his pitch and decided I may have to give this a shot. I have sampled Ed’s culinary work in several places over the last couple years so I knew I would eat well. And, I was honored, this was an invitation only event. I was uniquely qualified for invitation because I am a man.

A few disclaimers and notations before I begin. Most of my friends are women. The few male friends I have, while valued, would, like me, never be accused of being high-test, testosterone manly men. I can’t speak for them but for most men of the Midwest I must be an absolute conundrum. Well, a manly man would not use that word, he would probably just grunt or something. I just never fit in with roaming herds of males. What are some of my failings: OSU Buckeyes….who cares, sports – meh, cars and muscle machines – I drive a Subaru, playing lots of blood and guts video games – nope. Sporting a ball cap, driving a pick up truck, while wearing jhorts and engaging with other dudes in horse-play….is not something I can pull off. I never adapted to being in the pack. I dropped out of Indian Guides because it was too structured. I did a Fraternity rush my junior year of college and just could not drink the Kool-aid. The only man based group I have ever been associated with on a long-term basis is called Nerd Night which involves watching TV and eating pizza with a female librarian. There is one exception to this long history of lack of manliness. You might call this a fling. For two years I was a member of the Loyal Order of the Moose. I joined so I could eat a really good $2 hamburger and play pinball during lunch time and then walk back to work in two minutes. I was often the only one there. Now don’t get me wrong, I like the ladies but I don’t hang out at the Stitch and Bitch classes or watch Grey’s Anatomy. I have never been one to run with the herd. Usually, I just saunter off in the other direction and do my own thing. The only really macho thing I can say about myself is that I am an Appalachian Porch Hound Trainer.

So as cool as it may seem to gather as a tribe and worship Meat, Beer and Rock N Roll, three things that rank high on my hierarchy of needs, it is not by my nature to do so in an organized pack. But, because I care about my readers and I have a mission to explore the world of culinary trends I was resolute to investigate the ManBque meat up which is quickly becoming a world-wide thing. On the plus side of going, the April Manbque was at Savor which is close to my house and would ensure quick access to good beer. I also knew than Rin, the Beer Knowledge Goddess of Savor would smack down any out of control mantics (man-antics) and made sure I had someone to talk to in a pinch.

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I approached the location with caution. After parking, I heard the music of Bob Marley wailing through the air. I could smell smoke….of charring meat and cigars….. floating through the air. I followed these sensory clues to the back lot of Savor to find one green egg, three grills, 2 large speakers and twenty plus males from 22 to 62 engaged in grilling, eating, drinking, smoking and laughing. After taking a few more whiffs of the meats being cooked, I knew I was in the right place and my sense was I made the right choice.

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Rob the vice-president of the Columbus Manbque cell, seeing I was a newbie, greeted me and showed me where the communal beer cooler was. I tracked down Ed inside Savor buying more beer. I mingled among the members and listened in on some of their conversations. I asked a lot of questions. While this is a very fraternal group it is not a fraternity-style group…well probably not, I was told there is not any hazing or odd rituals. Members do not need to wear weird hats like in the Flintstones (I was bummed about this). The most common thread I found among each of these guys was a passion to eat meat that is cooked really, really well. After Ed was done preparing some exceptional bone marrow, he as both my host and the president of the Columbus chapter of Manbque explained more about the group both locally and nationally. Each month members bring meat to cook and share with the group as well as beer to do the same. Among the feast of meats I dined on: bone marrow, pork loin, bacon wrapped chicken breast, bacon wrapped shrimp, and several cuts of marinated and seasoned beef cooked to perfection.

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ManBque started in Chicago and has since expanded throughout the USA and abroad. More than just a manly meet-up, the group hallows the holy trinity of cooking meat, drinking craft beer and celebrating great rock n roll pretty seriously. Each of these three elements are respected for the skill of art and science it takes to craft them. The growth of these local ManBque groups has been expansive and is expected to become exponential after the release of a cookbook in the near future. While “no girls are allowed” this is not a he-man woman haters club. Locally there will be a mixed group meeting in June. In Chicago – there is an all female group with the same goals who have engaged in a competitive but friendly rivalry with their male counterparts. In Columbus, as the group continues to grow, Ed and company want to add in classes, special events and serve charitable causes too.

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There are a few rules to the group. New members must be invited by a current member. Meat-ups occur during the week, not on weekends. At the end of the evening (this is where I started to worry about the hazing part) new members are given their ManBque name while the group stands in a circle. I think there may be something to this ManBque thing. I had to cut out early, so I did not get issued my official ManBque name but…I would go back, to the pack, to do so.

Want to learn more?
ManBque.com
Facebook

Interested in membership? Contact Ed: e.kowalski@yahoo.com

Posted in BBQ, beer, culinary knowledge | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Time to Make the Donuts – Part II: OH! Nuts from OH! Burgers

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 10, 2013

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The donut scene is heating up. We mentioned Destination Donuts last time. A few local restaurants including Deepwood and Latitude 41 have dabbled in donuts on occasion and we have a few other folks in the research and development stages…..or so they say.

The pathway to donut pioneerdom is not always intentional, it sometimes the mother of invention. But before we go down that rabbit hole, let’s profile the man behind the donut. First thing you should know about Brian Thornton from OH! Burgers he is a classic food trucker. He epitomizes and balances the qualities of a pirate, handy man, entrepreneur and kitchen rat. He went to culinary school but his undergrad was not so culinary and he thinks as much as a chef as he does an engineer. He worked on the line at the Refectory and worked in an office in a factory. There are some polarities involved for sure. Oh, did I also mention, he is known as Thor.

When I first met Brian he said he was going to do a food truck. I lot of people tell me that (as I told myself as well). He was not sure how it would pay for it, but he would figure it out. Shortly thereafter he bought the defunct Hot Pita Truck (I did not think anyone would do so on more than a few occasions) and transformed it into OH! Burgers. If you have ever seen the old movie PT 109, where the ragtag crew first sees the beat up old patrol boat and then works on it to get it shipshape then you can understand my observations of Brian and his food truck. He tinkered and rebuilt, reconfigured and tweaked and eventually got it on the streets. His approach towards mechanics and the culinary arts are about the same: 1/2 mad scientist and 1/2 wizard.

His menu is simple, burgers and sweet potato chips. I experienced his scientific approach to chips over the winter of 2012. He kept at them. Changing one thing, then another, trying multiple variations until every aspect of the chips were what he wanted and then he stopped. Then he worked on sauces for the chips. The weird science of OH! Burgers continued when the concept of pickles crossed his mind. He learns, tests, tweaks, tests and refines. In a couple of weeks we had a wide variety of pickles.

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Then one day we were discussing other things he could do with sweet potatoes (he had a lot of them) and thought fritters might be a good offshoot. The fritters (they were good) became sweet potato donuts after short time. Then sweet potato donuts became more traditional donuts with flour instead of sweet potatoes as a base. The exploration continues. “What if I try this………”, “Today I found a really good flour so I changed up recipe” X to X+1…. Alton Brown and Galileo would be equally proud of this approach to culinary investigation. However, OH Nut donuts in one form or another or both are here to stay on OH! Burgers.

When can you find the latest refinement to mobile donuts? Brian often serves a three donut combo (one of each flavor) from the OH! Burgers food truck. On occasion, he takes over the back section and one fryer in the Ajumama Food Truck to pair his donuts with Ajumama’s Korean comfort street food.

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What types of donuts can you expect to sample? Bacon, Fruity Pebbles and mini M & M’s are frequent toppings. Krema Spicy Peanut Butter has appeared a few times. The current “money” donut has Tequila in the dough, a vanilla glaze on top and lime zest for flavor and fun. That is a winner. Watch for more “research and development” in donuts and more from OH! Burgers and the mighty Thor.

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As as side note, the infamous CMH Tobias has assisted in the donut review process. See below.

Photo 1: OH Nut sighted
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Photo 2: OH Nut requested
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Posted in culinary knowledge, donuts | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Time To Make The Donuts – Part 1: Destination Donuts

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 9, 2013

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With all of my hubris about the death of the cupcake and my pontificating about the merits of the classic donut, one might think I was building up to something. That is correct. Readers of CMH Gourmand are bright, astute go-getters who can see a preamble from long across a long counter. Time for the ballyhoo!

It is high time for the donut to go gourmet. The right gal for the job is Heather Morris. She is not some fly by night money grabber, this donut dame had her sights set on donut dominance for quite some time. She loved donuts as a kid. She saw a hole in the local donut market: independent shops making the treat by hand. And she knew she needed to find a niche, grocery stores and large chains sell donuts cheap. There are incalculable costs we pay for a lower price tag on a donut: less flavor, more preservatives and a loss of creativity among them. Heather wondered if people would “get it”. Would they pay more for a mere donut? She knew she needed to make her products different and memorable, so she named them Destination Donuts.

But if you fry them, will they come? Heather had faith that the common man in Columbus would pay a little more for a much better product. But she need she needed to get her donuts in row first. Heather did her homework. She dusted off some lesser used culinary skills and training before she got started. Spent a lot of time perfecting her recipes and craft at home – testing, retesting, tweaking, tasting, etc. She even shadowed a place called Dynamo Donuts in the city by the bay to get a sense of how to make a good donut better. And, like me, she read about, studied and stalked donuts shops and trends around the country.

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Instead of going out of the frying pan and into the fryer, she decided to start slow. She secured commercial kitchen space she could rent by the hour. She set her sights on the North Market and arranged to be a guest vendor there on alternating weekends. She launched in November of 2012. She kept her day job while staying up late and getting up early to make the donuts then transporting them to sell at the market. In spite of sleep deprivation and little word of mouth other than social media, she kept a smile on her face, asked customers and others for feedback and kept tweaking the art of donutery. She sold out. And then she almost sold out again. Then she started leaving no donut behind consistently. After that she added more slots at the North Market while forging a relationship with the Hills Market (prime or uptown) and Hills Market Downtown. She recently added Luck Brothers Coffee…because coffee goes well with donuts and everyone can use a little luck in a new business. She is now crafting her treats over 100 hours a month and looking for more places to sell her doughy love bombs.

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What gets people interested and keeps them coming back? Her flavors combinations are inventive, some combine complimentary tastes while others compare and contrast ingredients. Examples include: Blood Orange and Dark Chocolate, Butterscotch Sea Salt, Pink Grapefruit, Lemon Blueberry, Strawberry & Rose Water……. You get the idea. The flavors vary from occasionally bold to mostly subtle but never unbalanced.

So with the concept proven and the sell outs persisting what is next? More flavors…of course. More locations to sell at… yes? But what am I waiting for the most? More cake donuts. So far most of the cake donuts have been holes. I waiting for the full size, deluxe cake donuts. And maybe some type of apple, bacon, sausage and something fritter. If things go well, maybe Heather will get her own donut bakery some day soon. If she does, what part of town do you think would be the best fit?

Find out more:
Destination Donuts
HeatherDonut on Twitter

Destination Donuts Heather Morris

Posted in bakery, culinary knowledge, desserts, donuts | Tagged: , , , | 7 Comments »

A Conversation About the Fall and Timely Demise of the Cupcake Fad

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 2, 2013

I carry a lot of grudges. However all of mine are rightly held and only maintained for significant transgressions against me or my honor. While I know this may not be healthy for me, it is unavoidable – due to my pedigree – Scottish DNA and a distant connection to the Hatfield’s if I want to grind an axe, it is best to let me do so.

That being said, let me say for the record that I hold no malice for the cupcake or any cupcake maker. I have eaten more than my fair share in my day and I still do. In fact, I am paid to eat cupcakes. People come to my place of employment and a good 4% of them tell me they make the best cupcakes ever. Unfortunately, while many think they make the best cupcakes sadly, few people really do, they usually make one component pretty well. So I eat the cupcake, make a few suggestions, point out that no retailer or wholesaler wants to see another cupcake vendor for at least the rest of the decade and I wish them well. And I suggest that look to expand their product line and diversify their baked good offerings.

The heyday of the cupcake craze occurred almost a decade ago in New York City and the Ivy League areas of the east coast. The high point of cupcakery was when a cupcake shop was prominently featured in the show Sex in the City. There was a cupcake gold rush afterwards. Bakers rushed to expand and liven up their cupcake offerings and some choose to specialize in this baked treat to get in while the getting was good. The problem is as popular as the cupcake became, very few were very satisfying and even fewer were good enough to crave and want to have again sooner instead of later.

Don’t get me wrong, there were and still are some fine cupcakes out there but most of them are a consistent “meh”. Name one cupcake I like, you challenge: Pattycake Bakery Lemon. This never disappoints and I never feel ripped off when I buy one. Name another, Local Bake Shop, anything with booze in it. Both vendors make a wide range of items and keep their cupcake inventory low. Large numbers of cupcakes in multiple varieties sitting around waiting to be bought has never boded well.

That being said, let me share with you what has been wrong of 99% of the cupcakes I ever tried. Let us refer to the below listed scenarios as the cupcake conundrum. One of two things is typically wrong, often both of these two things are wrong.

Problem 1: The cake part is good, flavorful, moist, dense but the icing sucks.

Problem 2: The icing is good, maybe even great, but the cake part sucks, it dry, airy, an afterthought merely included as a holding area for icing.

Other variants of the cupcake conundrum.

Combine 1 and 2 above, both suck

Have either 1 or 2 above and charge $3.00 or more for one cupcake that is too small.

The cupcake won’t fit into my mouth or a more normal and appropriate person can not take a single bite of the cupcake without it falling apart, using a fork, or some other logistical nightmare. A cupcake was designed to be eaten by hand without the need for a place setting or a handful of napkins. It should be a portable treat. Most often this is because the icing to cake ratio was 10:2 – with 4 to 6 inches of icing rising up from the cake. Sure this looks good, but it is impractical to eat. As a rule, I would say a good cupcake would be the size of a clenched fist. Unfortunately most of the cupcakes I have tried made me clinch my fists afterwards. The high-end cupcakes left me feeling overcharged or underwhelmed. To sum things up and to steal the lyrics from the Monks and their 1979 hit, “Nice Legs, Shame About The Face.”

Is it just me that is down on the cupcake? No. The Age of the cupcake is over. Locally, this is shown in the closing of Bakery Gingham, the only business that really showcased the cupcake fad in Columbus. I liked the early days of the business when in occupied a small space in Brown Bag Deli. When in moved to a larger spot in German Village something was lost in translation. I think that some of the magic of cupcakes is lost when they go from micro production to retail production. When a second sales location started in the Short North, I knew the business was destined to end, too much, too fast and too spread out.

Before you wonder if it was just a case of Columbus, or Arch City as some call it now, not being ready to play with the big boys of Food Fads New York City, San Francisco and Boston, think again. Multiple writers and publications have announced and eulogized the death of the cupcake fad starting in 2009.

So is this just me piling on to an already beaten path of cupcake slam dunking? No! I am merely preparing you for an upcoming series about the rise of a new trend, not a fad, a trend. Donuts, are the new black and they are going to hit the capital city with a vengeance in 2013. Stay tuned for more details and stories soon.

Posted in culinary knowledge | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

 
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