CMH Gourmand

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

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Archive for the ‘culinary knowledge’ Category

What’s Up at White Castle: Turkey, Breakfast and Whatnot

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 13, 2015

As some readers are aware, I’ve written about White Castle before. I have a compulsion to try new products when they release them to the masses. I don’t love White Castle but I have always respected the company and their institutional commitment to innovate.

First for discussion, Turkey Sliders….just in time for the holidays.


I tried the Turkey Dinner Slider: square (Butterball) Turkey patty, a big squirt of cranberry sauce and in my case a giant malformed sweet potato waffle fry. Verdict, one was enough. If you want to save some money I would suggest ordering the Cranberry Turkey Slider for 40 cents less and investing that savings in a full order of Sweet Potato Waffle fries. I’m glad I tried this concoction, don’t get me wrong but this is a novelty item but a destination sandwich.


Second for discussion, Breakfast 24/7.

White Castle beat McDonald’s to the punch in making breakfast an all day affair. This pleased me immensely because as many readers know, breakfast is my fourth favorite meal. Other than anything at Starliner Dinner, anything served at Explorer’s Club and home fries with sausage gravy at Nancy’s, there is only one other breakfast item that I ever crave – the White Castle Breakfast Sandwich. I order the version on the bun (not the toast option) with egg, sausage and cheese. Doing very thorough analysis, this is the best value of any White Castle menu item. And since I am typically not near a White Castle at traditional breakfast times, being able to get this sandwich anytime has guaranteed a significant higher volume of consumption on my part. Good job White Castle.


Third for discussion, smart ingredient integration that gives the customer the sense of an upgrade.

White Castle takes a clear plastic cup, fills it with Sprite and adds a dash of cranberry juice and markets it as a Cranberry Spritzer. Genius way to up sell a product using what they already have in-house.


Stay tuned for my next White Castle adventure….whenever a new product rolls or slides out.

Posted in culinary knowledge, Food For Thought, sandwiches | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Mad About Making Cider at Mad Moon Cider!

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 29, 2015

One of the best things about Columbus Brew Adventures is the diversity of people I get to work with and learn from. Several months ago I met Peter Moon, one of the owners of Mad Moon Cider at a tasting. After trying his products and hearing a bit of his story, I knew I had to get some tour groups into his space. I tested out the concept with private groups over the winter and each trip there was a crowd favorite. At each tour, I picked up a bit more of his story while meeting his wife and cider making partner Sally. I really became hooked on the craft of craft cider.

When Peter mentioned that they sometimes need volunteers to help with cider production I promptly volunteered. Then the stars and the Moons aligned and I had my opportunity to report for duty. Our team was small – the two Moons, myself and a fella I think may one day become a folk legend, Vic. I’ll digress about Vic for a bit. Vic has been there, done that, survived countless mishaps and misadventures and somehow thrives on doing great acts of endurance and physical strength – most of this seems to be fueled by a daily regimen of honey, apple cider vinegar and some assorted juices. As I observed at the end of my service, if Vic had lived in an earlier era, we would today measure speed and production on Vicpower, not horsepower.

Anyway, step one of cider production is the sort apples. In our case, we had some multiple 800 lb crates of apples that had been stored over the winter. While these apples make great cider, they also require significantly more sorting than other batches. If you have heard the phrase “one bad apple spoils the bunch”, it is true and we had to search for them among 1000’s of apples in each crate.


As the apples get sorted into milk crates and buckets, the apples go down a chute of a device that looks a lot like a chipper to get mashed into apple pulp.


The pulp gets wheeled over to get crafted into sheets of “cheese”. The job of the cheese maker is to take scoops of pulp, and using a plastic mold and cheesecloth, create squares of apple pulp to stack on other squares to slide down to a press to squash (with 1000’s of pounds of pressure) to create juice.




Once the press gets going, the juice really starts to flow (down a long open trough) to a bin. Once the bin gets to a certain height, a pump gets switched on to transfer the juice to a holding tank (during my tenure I think we made about 300 gallons over four hours). After the pressing, the square molds are unfolded to start the “cheese” making process again. After the pulp is mashed, the residual looks like a very dry energy bar made by an eighties era hippy.


All in all, I was a great afternoon. If you are familiar with the story of John Henry (there is a statue down where my kin reside) if there was a production contest between a machine, Vic and myself, Vic would beat the combined efforts of the machine and my human self. It was hard, messy work but worth the effort. You can see my work shirt below….taken near the beginning of my labors.


For my efforts I was rewarded with good company, a nice lunch and plenty of cider to take home.


Others things I could do in the future include bottling and capping, using the equipment you see below. The capper is pretty amazing, it was made out of a broken drill press Peter picked up for $50 (worth more than that by weight alone at a scrap yard) and mounted with a special capping mold he found on the internet. The MacGuyvered tool works like a charm. In fact much of what is in the cider house is customer made, crafted, reverse engineered and conjured up which is the nature of any small start up business. Mad Moon has a lot a stories to share and these are just a few of them. (FYI: the next Columbus Brew Adventures Tour to Mad Moon is August 30th).



Posted in Behind the Counter, beverages, culinary knowledge, Locally Sourced | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Chicken Corners / Chicken District

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 8, 2015

Chicken District

Columbus has become known for it’s districts: Arena, Brewery, University, Discovery, Dentist (Clintonville between Henderson and Weber) and so on. One of the oldest but lesser known is known as both the Chicken District and Chicken Corners. Centered in Milo Grogan at the intersection of Fifth and Cleveland Avenues there is an area with not one, not two, not three, but four chicken frying establishments within mere yards of each other. At one time, there were six. Back in the day, three were located in a four section intersection of Cleveland and Fifth, today, two are still standing.

Today, we have Churches Chicken at the Northeast corner. Buckeye Express Chicken is located at the Southeast corner (it used to be Popeyes). There is nothing at the Southwest Corner and while there used to be a place at the Northwest Corner but it burned down. Royal Fish and Chicken is about 1/2 mile to the east at Fifth and Peters and KFC is just west of the intersection of I 71 and Fifth Ave. Back in the day, Woody and Jo’s was at the intersection of Fifth and Fourth but it has been torn down. I don’t know how this area can support so many menus that are based on the most eaten white meat of our continent, but it is.

Why did the customer cross the road? To eat the chicken on the other side.

And now… know.

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

Victor Ecimovich: Brewer Laurate of Columbus

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 27, 2015

Victor Ecimovich III is a name you probably can’t pronounce and may never heard of. While interviewing Ecimovich (at a bar of course) we were approached by Kelly Sauber. No slouch in brewing experience, Sauber brewed for Marietta Brewing Company for fifteen years, then started Fifth Element Spirits and West End Cider House in Athens. Sauber apologized profusely for interrupting but he wanted to “shake the hand of (Ecimovich) one of his brewing heroes.” Sauber shared that one of his inspirations to pursue brewing was the beer Ecimovich was crafting in the 1990’s.

Introduced to brewing when a friend threw in the towel on a home brewing kit, Ecimovich decided he would “like to give it a shot.” He always enjoyed cooking and figuring out how to make things so he quickly discovered that he preferred yeast and hops to his electrical engineering studies. On some level, he was fated to ferment since his grandfather had been a brewer for Meister Brau when it was a favored Windy City beer. Ecimovich found his way to the Siebel Institute’s brewing program (luckily located in his hometown of Chicago) “as an independent.” Ecimovich was one of only two students paying his way for an eleven-week course, the rest of his colleagues were sent by breweries from around the world. Ecimovich made an impression on his instructors so before he studies were over, he found himself brewing beer on weekends at Millstream Brewing in Iowa (a 3 ½ hour drive away). When offered the position Ecimovich recalls “I knew if I thought about it too long, I would talk myself out of it, so I just said yes.”

Ecimovich’s recollections of brewing with the traditional German brewers at Millstream sound (to this writer) like drill instructor scenes from the movie Full Metal Jacket. After a few years of training (or surviving the heavy handed hazing) in the traditional techniques of lagers, helles and bocks, Ecimovich found his way to a new upstart called Goose Island back home in Chicago. In 1994, Ecimovich, having never visited Columbus signed on as brewer from the Hoster Brewing Company in the Brewery District. During the hey day of the 1990’s the corner of High and Hoster was the place to be in Columbus in part due to the wide variety of highly regarded beers Ecimovich was brewing.

In the case of Hoster (closed in 2002) the glory days ended when, the Brewery District lost its allure as The Arena District and Easton caught and kept customers attention. In 2004, Daniel Myers partnered with Ecimovich (Vice President of Brewing) to buy the rights to the Hoster brand and recipes in order to revive Hoster’s signature Goldtop beer. Production resumed in 2005 with Ecimovich balancing overseeing offsite contract brewing of Goldtop (currently in north east Ohio) while working in the construction business.

Today Ecimovich finds it is “an exciting time for beer drinkers and brewers alike”. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, Ecimovich (like his other band of microbrewing brothers) had to brew beer that “would win the hearts and minds” of a new wave of beer drinkers. If someone “tried a craft beer they didn’t like, you lost them” as a customer and a craft beer drinker. “Subpar breweries either had to get their act together quickly or go out of business” and many did tap out during the craft beer bubble of 15 years ago. Craft beer has changed a lot since then. “Thank goodness” say Ecimovich, “now there are so many bars with fifty taps, more breweries than I can count, and new brewery seems to open every month or even every two weeks.” Ecimovich equates the “old school” brewers and the new, bearded kids on the block, with downhill skiers and snow boarders doing half pipes – he can appreciate what the new brewers are doing but he is happy to keep speeding down the mountain doing what he knows best.

Gold Top

The Three Eras of Hoster Brewing

1836 to 1919
The Hoster’s were the first family of brewing in Columbus. The Hoster Brewing Company was open longer than any other brewery past or present. During the heyday of the beer barons of the 1890’s, Hoster was one of the top ten breweries in the country producing up to 300,000 barrels per year; in comparison Columbus Brewing Company (today) does about 12,000.

1989 to 2002
The brewpub located at Hoster and High was the center of nightlife, food and beer in the Brewery District until other entertainment areas stole the limelight and allure of the area. The brewpub closed in 2001 and brewing stopped in 2002.

2004 to present
While production has waxed and waned, Hoster Goldtop (a signature beer of all three eras) had been brewed and kegged our of town for limited consumption under the watchful eye and experienced palate of Victor Ecimovich. The most likely spot to find a pour of Goldtop is Quaker Steak and Lube at Polaris.

What is Hoster Goldtop?
Goldtop is a flagship from all three eras of Hoster Brewing in Columbus. The beer is a Dortmunder / Export Lager. The gold / pale lager is named after a city and a brewery in Germany – Dortmunder.

Posted in beer, beverages, Columbus, culinary knowledge, FooderHero | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

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

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 3, 2015

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


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

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

These are some things Poblanita could have done:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post Script (March 2015)

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

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

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

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 2, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Eat foods that will eventually rot”

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

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

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

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

Rubinos: A Bexley Classic, My Pizza Pilgrimage

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 1, 2015


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

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


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


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

Rubino's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Posted in culinary knowledge, pizza | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

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

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 12, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monterosso al Mare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Belgian Waffle Chicken Sandwich at White Castle & and An Editorial

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 28, 2014


First, old school advertising still works. At present, I live near a White Castle which I drive by 2 – 6 times per day depending on where my projects take me. Over the last week I perpetually passed by a sign for the new White Castle Chicken and Waffle sandwich. I did not want the sandwich. I needed the sandwich. How could I resist trying a fast food interpretation of an American classic, Chicken and Waffles.

So, I made my move, picked one up and brought it home to evaluate and rate with my able assistant CMH Tobias. My first thought was that the waffle was good. I had expected a Leggo my Eggo style waffle but the sandwich features a real deal, Belgian style waffle. It was neither too soft nor too hard. It fell in to the Goldilocks zone of just right. (A bit of post consumption research indicated the waffles originate from a company in Belgium which had been in the business since 1932). The gravy and bacon bits were an afterthought on my sandwich but complemented the flavor profiles well. Their true purpose is to serve as a brick and mortar to hold the sandwich together. The chicken patty was lightly breaded and kind of meh but still palatable. All together it was an acceptable fast food sandwich. I would not rush to get it again but I don’t regret my choice. I respect the effort made to try something different and off the beaten path. The only negative I can hone in on is the price. It was not worth $2.69. I’d say $1.99 might be fair market value.


I offered CMH Tobias an opportunity to try the sandwich. His approach was different from mine. He ate the waffles first and the chicken second. I can’t say he wolfed it down as quickly as other items, but from our long-standing relationship and shared understanding, I believe he would rate the sandwich a B. (For future reference Tobias’s hierarchy of food starts at ice cream, then cheese, rawhides, almonds, beef, squirrel meat, other meat by products and then dog food). Since Toby refuses to participate in the labor economy he had no opinion on the price of the sandwich.

And now the editorial. White Castle gets a lot of snarky comments and snickers from a significant segment of society. I don’t think it is deserved. I’ve always had a soft spot for this underdog in the fast food wars. For the most part, the company has quietly gone about its business under the shadow of the Wendy’s, Burger King and the like. However, White Castle has done a lot of earn my respect. I’ll highlight a few of the items of note.

The company started in 1921 in Wichita, Kansas. It moved its corporate headquarters to Columbus in 1934 and has remained here as a family owned business for 70 years. That’s pretty local in my book.

White Castle was among the first employers to hire women and minorities. It was the first fast food restaurant as we know it. It has countless patents and food service inventions credited to the company. It has no franchises, each location is company owned. White Castle inspired a movie. So next time someone snickers at a slyder let them know you are proud that a local company has continued to stay in Columbus and stay true to its origins.

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

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

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 21, 2014


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 »


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