CMH Gourmand

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

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Archive for the ‘food’ Category

A Radio Show and Slight Summer Siesta

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 30, 2011

Posts will be sporadic this summer. In exchange for less written content you will now get more audio Gourmand. Starting July 2nd, listen to FoodCast on WCBE. I share the table with great talent: Andy Dehus, Johnny DiLoretto and Bethia Woolf. Behind the scenes taking care of recording and making sound decisions (as well as deleting my bloopers) is the magnificent Mike Beaumont. Ten episodes are complete. Each covers a theme starting with BBQ.

You can keep track on Facebook as well.

Posted in food | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Johnnie’s Beef and Status Report

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 23, 2011

One of the top 100 meals in the world consists of the following:

“Beef, wet (dipped in au ju), hot (giardiniera pepper mix); Chicago dog (comes with a handful of fries); Ice (lemon Italian ice), large.

Where:
Johnnie’s Beef
7500 West North Avenue
Elmwood Park, IL 60707-4140
708.452.6000

This meal never fails me, ever. I drove eight miles in the rain after a long ten hour day of driving in Chicago and hot doggery to have this meal. It was great, and it was simple and it made me happy. This is one of the best meals anyone could eat anywhere. It is also a true taste of Chicago.

Posts are going to be sporadic for a while. I have plenty to write about but not much time to do it. It is also Taco Truck and Street Eats season so there is lots of tracking and eating and updating to do for the world of Columbus mobile food. Click on Taco Trucks Columbus and Street Eats Columbus to watch the growth of these mobile food kitchens.

On CMH Gourmand there is a lot of donut information coming your way and pizza places and several miscellaneous things I have not had time to write about. Stay tuned.

Posted in food | Leave a Comment »

A Food-Based Mailbox Mystery

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 13, 2010


And now for something completely different.

Some readers may recall the Eat Trout Mystery. I have a new one to add to the files. We will call this CMH Gourmand and the Case of the Placecard Quandry.

A couple weeks ago, late at night, on an evening that might best be described as wretched an unusual occurrence transpired. I was slumped and dazed on my couch with a very concerned CMH Tobias bringing me every toy he could locate. I heard some shuffling on my porch and heard the clunk of my mailbox closing. There was no knock at the door, this was intended as a stealth mission I suppose. I did not bother to check, for a variety of reasons. We have a new mail person on the street who is having problems getting mail to the right houses so I thought it might be a neighbor bringing a wayward letter home.

The next day I found what looked like a post card in the mailbox. I set it aside and forgot about it for days. When I finally picked it up I determined it was a placecard from a restaurant with no postage, address label or other mailing information. It is not unusual for me to get restaurant materials but it is unusual to have it personally delivered. It is also very unusual that the card is from La Bombonera in San Juan. See exhibits one and two below (the front and back of the card).

The odd thing is as follows: Seven people know the significance of this restaurant to me. I may have suggested it in passing to a handful of people traveling to Puerto Rico. No one in this small group of insiders has been to Puerto Rico this year or did the late night delivery of the card to me. I searched the interwebs to see if I ever wrote about La Bombonera or mentioned it in the public record – negative.

I have no idea where this came from or why. If I could dust it for fingerprints I would. I am happy to have the card for the good memories but I am perplexed by the manner of delivery.

While I continue in my puzzled and perplexed state let me share a bit about La Bombonera. This cafe is located in the heart of Old San Juan. It opened in 1902. I have a menu that a friend stole for me (sorry restaurant owners). The place is a bit run down but is full of class and character. The menu features Puerto Rican and Spanish dishes. Waiters are decked out in tuxedos, the clientele are mostly regulars and all were probably born before 1950. The fresh squeezed orange juice is prepared in front of you and pairs well with the hot climate. Pastries are over the top good and trace their roots to Majorca in Spain with items such as grilled Mallorca (rich, buttery, yummy pastries).

Puigy Abraham
La Bombonera
Cafeteria Mallorca
259 San Francisco Street
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
787.772.0658

Posted in food | 2 Comments »

Why Mobile Food Matters

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 4, 2010

What is the skinny on Street Food? Mobile food vending has exploded in Columbus over the last two years mirroring a national trend. I fell into the world of Taco Trucks on a whim with my good friends Bethia and Andy. We started a website called Taco Trucks Columbus and spent 2009 engrossed in all things Mexican street food. It was a great experience. I learned about parts of town I had never traveled and made very special friends among the owners and the enthusiasts I would not have met in my day-to-day life. This year Street Eats Columbus was created to track and promote the growing non-taco truck vendors that are popping up all over town.

Why has mobile vending gone vogue across the country and especially in Columbus? To quote the 1992 Clinton campaign, “It’s the economy, stupid”. A brick and mortar restaurant costs a lot of money to get going: rent, utilities, (in Columbus) a complicated and confusing series of building and business codes, long hours, etc. The failure rate for new restaurants for the first year is 25% or greater and cumulatively over three years 60% or more. (Other studies report a failure rate as great as 90%). The restaurant business is hard going in good times and perilous in a recession. If you pick a poor location – you are stuck with it.

For many people, getting a loan is the hard part. In a risk adverse economy, money for a new business can be in short supply. Start up costs for a food cart, Taco Truck or trailer kitchen can range from $30,000 to $100,000 or more. Finding used, serviceable equipment is easy so if you are a do it yourselfer and a good cook, you could have your own business for a fraction of what a restaurant would cost. Mobile food means mobility. If you have a bad location – you can move in an hour. If you know where a concentration of hungry people is – you can go there. Mobile operations have smaller menus and usually a quicker turn around for product. Most operations cook what they need for the day or week with little or no food going to rot. This is good for eliminating food waste but a bit frustrating for folks new to street food when they find an item is unavailable.

A food entrepreneur with a good idea can test it out with minimal risk when their cafe is on wheels. A strong concept can spawn additional food carts or a loyal following that will follow the owner to a brick and mortar location. In San Francisco, a good number of mobile food vendors are making six digit profit margins per year. Mobile food can work if you do it right. Another positive of going mobile is customer interaction and instant feedback – chefs love this and often feel disconnected from their customers in a larger operation.

Here are a few local examples. Super Torta II is one of the oldest Taco Trucks in the city. Last year they opened a restaurant near their location. Skillet, a darling of local food enthusiasts, started a mobile operation to spread the gospel of their food first, local, in season cuisine to other parts or town and untapped audiences. Ray Ray’s Hog Pit in Clintonville has grown a loyal following serving BBQ until in runs out (it often does before posted closing hours). Owner Jaime Anderson previously operated restaurants but has found mobile food to be more rewarding and less hassle.

There are some challenges to what I may have painted as a sure thing, slam-dunk profit magnet. Winter weather shuts many of the vendors down or reduces their hours. More than a few Columbusites have a fear and loathing of “street meat”. Some people believe that the food and workspaces are unsanitary. In my experience, I am happy to take chances with a kitchen and cook I can see in operation verses a hidden kitchen and preparers I cannot see. In the world of Taco Trucks, I would often tell people to order one taco and watch how it is prepared and if they see something that scares them – they are only out $1.25. I prefer my odds with a mobile vendor. There are other “perception” problems as well but these are slowly being addressed and acceptance is growing.

Mobile food is not new to Columbus or our country. It was a pathway to being a business owner for early 20th century immigrants selling sausages, hot dogs and more. This food fed factory workers throughout the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s spawning creations including Italian Beef sandwiches, Po Boy’s, hot dogs and more. Mobile food fueled a transition to fast food establishments and a new way of eating. Today, entrepreneurs are relearning and expanding on something old while adding new elements to street fare with vegetarian, locavore and new immigrant food options.

The culture of street food is growing in Columbus. In October, there were two well-attended mobile food events (Food Truck a Palooza at The Ohio Historical Society and Food Cart Food Court at Wonderland). The response to these food cart conglomerations and demand for more of them was overwhelming. Several of the vendors ran out of food. It can be a good thing when supply does not meet demand as long as people keep wanting more. This bodes well.

Now it is time to drive my subject matter home. Why does mobile food matter? The ability to go out and cook food one believes in promotes diversity and innovation in the food the rest of us eat. Entrepreneurs that would not have a chance with a brick and mortar location are getting the opportunity to follow their dreams while we benefit from new menus instead of safe stagnation. Columbus has long sought an opportunity to find an identity. With support and designating some permanent food court areas, our city can establish a niche on the culinary map. Food and food styles identify a city (Chicago: Hot dogs, Pizza, Italian Beef Sandwiches), New York (hot dogs, Reuben’s, bagels), Philadelphia (Philly cheesesteaks)….. You get my drift. We may not find our signature sandwich but we can blow away our old moniker of fast food capital of the world by becoming known as a progressive, innovative food town. Mobile food can be part of that movement. If we eat it, they will come.

Posted in Columbus, food, Gastronomic Stimulus | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Freshbox Frenzy: Feed Your Appetite. Nourish Your Community

Posted by cmh gourmand on October 15, 2010

I seem adept at creating opportunities for others so continuing with that habit, today, I introduce you to Lindsay Warren a food enthusiast and general raconteur on the “reg”. Story by Ms. Warren. Photos and consumption by CMH Gourmand. The scene: the workplace at one of my jobs.


Recently I introduced my co-workers to a new lunch option that is not only really delicious but meaningful to our community as well: FreshBox Catering. This boxed-lunch business is the brainchild of dear friend of mine, Joe DeLoss, Chief Sandwich Operator and Social Enterprise Director of the Lutheran Social Services of Central Ohio. It’s his vision for profitable social change and gusto for delicious, fresh food to come together to create this dynamite win of a catering business. Let’s discuss.

First, a boxed lunch from Freshbox is not what you found in your superman lunchbox when you were 10. Freshbox delivers a tasty little package comprised of sandwich, pickle spear, kettle chips, apple, and (drooling as I type) a chocolate-covered Oreo. There are six sandwich options served on either ciabatta or wheat bread. Or, if you’re going the bread-free route, their signature salads are served with all the above yummy extras, too.

We placed our order a day before delivery by ordering online. The next day our Freshbox delivery person navigated through the maze of our cubicle farm to deliver our lunches. Everything came perfectly as ordered, on time, fresh and ready to be devoured. Having just celebrated their first anniversary, Joe and his tiny family of lunch-boxers are doing a great job of keeping up this reputation of great service. Just take a look at Bloomberg Business Week – Joe is a 2010 finalist for America’s Best Young Entrepreneur!

Our small group hit almost every sandwich option on the menu.

The Red Caprese features fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and roasted red peppers on ciabatta with basil pesto on the side. So simple, so delicious, and so satisfying. A great vegetarian option!

The Prime lays on layers of roast beef with roasted red peppers, provolone and shaved red onions. The side of horseradish aioli is super-important, don’t be shy about loading this on!

We did a little family-style sharing of the Roasted Red Pepper Hummus served with cucumbers, tomatoes and warm, chewy pita bread. Some of our co-workers were weary of what they might get for $9 but they were wowed by their meals. Considering the quality of the ingredients, the cause and the delivery, they found the price to be reasonable.

In the Freshbox job-training model, employees learn everything from important food safety techniques to engaging in the banking system. The aim is to find people with a disadvantage in the workforce (someone that is homeless, a person with a developmental disability or other barriers to entry level employment) ann opportunity to build job skills or create a fresh start. Not only is Freshbox serving us tasty little lunches, it’s empowering our friends in need with job skills that will carry them to independence. So if you’re looking for a new lunch option, go no further than the church basement kitchen of Freshbox, located at the corner of 3rd and Broad Streets downtown. No doubt you will be delighted with the quality of your lunch and you will be satisfied with contributing to the purpose behind Freshbox!

Posted in food, sandwiches | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

The Art of Solo Dining: Table for One

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 31, 2010

“A lot of people find solo dining an unpleasant experience, and it is certainly true that many restaurants can make it intimidating as they lead you through a crowded restaurant to a seat where you will be so conspicuous that you should have a large neon sign above your head reading “Sir William of No Mates”. Others in the restaurant will stare at you, many will compose their facial features to express pity, others contempt. All will be hugely glad they are not in your situation.

-Simon Makumdar, in his book Eat My Globe

It is frequently brought to my attention that I am atypical. Recently, I was speaking with a female friend and she shared she has never seen a movie by herself because it freaks her out. We then started to discuss dining and the solo question came up again – many people are uncomfortable eating alone inside and outside their abode.

While I think any meal is better shared with friends, by circumstance and my own nature I frequently dine alone. Apparently I do so much more often than a typical person. I do have some advantages in the area. I am an only child so I am well practiced at entertaining myself. I have lived alone almost as long as I have lived in the company of others. Because I have rarely had the luck in life to have instant access to people that have the combination of the time, money and interest to pursue my passions to the extreme extent that I do, I often head off on my own since I figure if I wait for someone to be ready…..I’ll keep waiting. As for temperament, for those of you that follow the Myers Briggs, I am an INTJ, a rare personality type known for being fiercely independent.

All of the this being said, I decided to start asking around about the art of eating alone. This is a summary of what I found (accuracy is +/- 91%). Women are more uncomfortable with dining alone than men. Most of us seem comfortable dining out sans company at breakfast and lunch. Dinner seems to be the apex of discomfort. Friday and Saturday night solo dining is absolutely feared especially if it is at a fine dining establishment such as Alana’s or the Refectory.

For those of you new to the world of solo dining, I would suggest reading the book – Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant. The book is a buffet of stories about eating, cooking and dining alone. For some a meal shielded from the world is a can of cold refried beans and for others it is an extravagant meal without the pomp and circumstance needed by the presence of others. I discovered the writer/blogger Erin Ergenbright in the book and have found her to be a great source for Portland area dining establishments and advice in general (guess where one of my next trips will be).


It you are ready to test the waters of independent dining – here are a few suggestions from years of experience:

Take a magazine, not a book.

A book says to people – “don’t approach me, I am deep in thought” and it says, “I am a nerd, I eat alone all the time”. That can be a good thing – if I don’t want to be bothered, I take a book. I more often take a magazine along for the meal. Magazines are easier manhandle and maneuver around appetizers, entrees and cocktails. If you spill on a magazine, no big deal, it you spill on a book – well – it may bring you to tears or get you in deep trouble with the library. You are likely to read through a magazine while eating a meal which allows the opportunity to leave the place with two accomplishments – a completed magazine and a finished meal. A magazine says, come interrupt me… if you must, while a book says – I am here to hide so don’t come and fill my water glass when I am thirsty. Magazines are great for quick bursts of distraction between bites.

Buy an iPhone.
I hate those people. You know them. People that cannot and will not disconnect from their electronic worlds and must interface and interact with their handheld devices constantly – even during a conversation or in the company of their companions. Not cool. I have started to do this on occasion and I think I have caught myself most times. When dining alone, a “crackberry” is OK, but an iPhone is so much more fun. It is also the perfect tool for a food writer or food enthusiast. Having quick access to notes, a camera, the Internet, Urbanspoon, etc., makes discreet food research much more viable. While between courses you can make lists, check e-mail, twitter about your meal instead of twittering your thumbs and have an quick and easy way to avoid unwanted attention or conversation. This is the perfect tool for creating a “shield” from others at a bar. Or it can be a quick way to strike up a conversation if someone is looking for directions or hoping to settle a bet.

Sit at the bar

Most restaurants will serve you the full menu at the bar or in some cases offer an even better and cheaper bar menu. In between bites if there is too much dead time – you can always drink. Bartenders are used to the fine art of chatting with customers that want the company or drifting away when chatter is not on your plate for the night.

Take a notebook
As much as I love my MacBook, when I need to get big thinking done or reason through a challenge, a notebook and a pen can’t be beat. If I am not writing and plotting then I still have plenty to do. I find my best thoughts come when I am unplugged and only focused on one thing – eating. I am constantly making lists of things I need to do when I plug back in. I find the piece of paper a good guide to get everything done. And I find crumbling the list and pitching it in the recycling bin provides a tangible sense of accomplishment, you can’t get that from a deleted word document.

Don’t chat on your cell phone

Sitting in an eatery chatting on your phone is rude and among my biggest pet peeves. It disrupts digestion (thanks Alana). I would love for public places to bring back phone booths to serve as containment areas for long, loud cell phone talkers so they can take their conversations into a private place instead of a public forum. If you are bored between courses, try the strategies I have listed above or send a text. Unless someone is dying there is no reason why I need to listen to your conversation in the small spaces of a restaurant…take your phone and yourself outside.


Surefire solo dining experiences:

OK, now that you are mentally prepared and have some strategies for killing time between courses, here are a few suggestions for your solo flight into solitary dining.

Northstar Cafe
Northstar caters to large parties and individual diners with several types of eating spaces. There are large communal tables where people can intermingle. There are also round counters with a center placed pillar to shield from eye contact and other counters placed at the windows facing out to the views of the street. At Northstar, you place your order at the counter, get a number so your meal can be delivered to you and while you are waiting there are plenty of magazines to read for free or buy for later.

Deepwood
I am deeply devoted to Deepwood. Their bar menu and cocktail selections provide variety at a good value. If you have time to kill between bites – just read the menu and the wine list – each provide entertainment for twenty minutes or more. The bar staff can talk food and spirits in depth if you are looking for some education to pass your time.

Nancy’s
Nancy’s is the original eat it and beat it destination in Clintonville. For dinner, you have one or two choices for your meal. So you do not need to waste time or conversation with the ordering process. You could probably get by with just pointing if need be. You pick what you want to eat. You eat it. And then, you beat it. With an empty stool and some focus you could be in and out in under five minutes. Or if it is slow, you can leisurely hang out, read the paper and talk local comings and goings to your heart’s content.

If you have more tips, please share them.

Posted in culinary knowledge, culinary misadventure, food | Tagged: , | 9 Comments »

The Ides of March III: Another 15 Favorite Food Moments from the Past Year

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 14, 2010

This is the time of year when I reflect on what I have eaten, learned and done in the last 365 days that made an impression on me. The most important part of each involves the people that joined, supported or read about these moments in time. These are in order of magnitude.

1) TacoTrucksColumbus.com
When Hungry Woolf and I started researching Taco Trucks in early 2009 she was working on a research paper and we were both thinking we might do a blog post. Then we discovered there were over thirty taco trucks in Columbus. We added Taco Drew to the crew and a blog was born. The Taco Trucks became a sensation with a newspaper, social media and television blitz. We made friendships and received help from Johnny DiLoretto, Robin Davis, Kevin Joy, a score of taco truck owners and many, many Mexican food fans. I learned a lot about the Latino community of the West Side and felt a sense that what I was doing was more than just eating well but may also be about making something better!

2) Someone cares!
Being named top Columbus Underground events for 2009! Best Columbus Underground Event of 2009 – Pizza Grand Prix IV and runner up – Taco Truck Meet-Ups

No event is a the result of one person. Working with my friends as well as Walker, Wild Goose Creative and a cast of fooders (an alternative to foodies) makes for some memorable nights and meals.

3) O’Reilly’s
I have always loved O’Reilly’s but in the last year I have really reconnected with the place. I also found my muse there, a discovery which is priceless. Everyone should have a muse, especially if that muse knows when and how to kick you in the ass (when needed) and forces you stay out late for inspiration.

4) Collaboration
The food community in Columbus is incredibly interconnected and collaborative. I am lucky to be able to have access to an amazing group of people that create events I love. Wild Goose Creative, The North Market, Slow Food Columbus, Columbus Underground, Columbus food bloggers, social and traditional media writers, the Betty’s family of restaurants, Pattycake Bakery, House Wine….. the list goes on. There are hundreds of people in town that when asked if they can help, donate, volunteer or promote doing something will always say yes. That is how fun things get done.

5) The Pattycake Bakery Tollhouse Cookie
This cookie has saved my mental health on at least five instances.

6) Restaurant Weeks in Columbus
From zero to four in one year. I enjoy the Dine Originals version much more than the 614 incantation but both have inspired some great meals and have gotten people out to a few of our star restaurants for the first time.

7) Pistacia Vera
Spencer and Anne are among the nicest people I have met. They create great treats that earn attention outside of the capital city.

8) (8) Jeni’s Ice Cream
Another business that puts Columbus on the map and seems to be willing to donate time, money and resources to countless noble causes.

9) Surviving my first “big” event
I planned a two day tour of the Athens food community for Slow Food Columbus in June of 2009. I had a lot of help. There were a couple of moments when I thought I might not survive the weekend, but I did. The rain stopped at the last possible moment and each of our hosts were incredibly generous with their time. In particular I want to thank the Taylor family (Snowville Creamery) for letting our group camp at their farm.

10) Lola’s (see August 2009 post)
I missed this restaurant when it first opened. I am glad I found it later.

11) Deepwood (see April 2009 post)
This place continues to improve and refine. Deepwood is under-appreciated. Amanda is my favorite server. We both amuse each other between courses and I appreciate that she encourages me to eat multiple desserts. If you have not delved into Deepwood, give them a shot.

12) Montreal (see my August 2009 post)
Unlike many only children, I have never enjoyed any event when the focus is on me. Therefore, whenever possible I flee Columbus to avoid any recognition of my birth. I find a place to be alone and recharge for another year. Montreal was the perfect place to hide and the second time I chose Canada as my hideout country.

13) Austin (see my December 2009)
There are three places in the world where I feel I belong: Australia, Athens and Austin. I created my perfect trip to Austin and would be happy to recreate it every year.

14) Defeat
I caved in. I started twittering and bought an iPhone. I think that makes me a Social Media guru? Getting an iPhone is a food writers dream. Everything I need (web, wordpress, maps, camera and etc.) is in my pocket including the Fromage app which allows me to think about cheese when I need a break from something less important.

15) An Omnivores Dilemma and Curse – Corrected
I went way overboard in 2009. I enjoyed too much food, too often, for too long. The consequence was an extra 50 pounds and a lack of focus. I might blame 8% of my initial downfall on Details and a great late night cocktail list with an inspired menu. Details is gone. My weight is moving back in the right direction. I have returned to saying no to food on occasion and I have become reacquainted with my kitchen. Some of my best days are when I can come home from work, cook something simple then sit with my dog and a (food related) book with the intention to do nothing else for the rest of the day.

Posted in food | 4 Comments »

La Buche de Noel a la La Chatelaine

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 21, 2009

I had wandered in to La Chatelaine on the way home from a long day at work. I had a hankering for a good loaf of bread to serve as the base for a perfect peanut butter and jelly and sandwich as comfort food. While my bread was sliced, I saw a sign about ordering Yule logs and figured what the heck so I ordered two on a whim (I also needed to meet the minimum credit card charge). I had no idea what they were. I had a small soiree on the books for Monday and figured this would mix things up a bit.

As an afterthought I decided to research what a bought when I got home (it typically works the other way with me). The more I read the happier I became. I am typically a bit of a bah humbug type for the holiday. For me Christmas is just something to be endured as I wait for the promise of New Years Eve. However when I found out that I had just ordered two alcohol soaked logs of pastry, I was pleased with my random choice (my heart went from two sizes too small to three sizes larger).

The bûche de Noël (Yule log) has a long tradition in France. In cake form it serves to represent a special wood log that was burned from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day in the Périgord (a holdover from a pagan Gaul celebration).

You can read more here, from our friends at La Chatelaine.

There are four flavors to choose from (Vanilla, Chocolate, Mocha, and Grand Marnier). I picked up a Mocha and a Grand Marnier. The sampling report from the usual suspects at the soiree was one to two thumbs up. I often forget about La Chatalaine’s pastries which I should not because they make a very good King Cake. Since Marti Gras is not so far away, I need to keep these French folks on my radar.

Posted in food | 2 Comments »

Thanks? For Giving

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 22, 2009

It feels good to give. However a pause is sometimes needed between thought and action. Feeling good about doing something does not mean you met your intention of doing good.

I occasionally volunteer at the Clintonville Community Resources Center (CCRC) usually for the Sunday breakfast program. When there, I am reminded that there are many people in need. The people that serve those in need are in need of many things: time, money, volunteers, resources, etc. As I sort through donations I see many items that are not really donations but good intentioned misrouted trash or recycling. A used coloring book, a water damaged college textbook on computer science from the 1980’s and one odd sock are not gifts. The saddest thing that I see are donated food items.

CCRC has a Wall of Shame, which is really a set of shelves. The wall is a collection of the most unusual and upsetting food donations. I took some photos to share with you.

The black stuff were mini corns....

Cheese Whiz turns brown after a while, this one is from 1994

Moldy Marshmallow Creme - not even full

Food Club is from the Big Bear era.....

Chrome Polish..mmm, mmm, good!

I know many of these items arrived by accident. However a few extra moments could have saved the wrong items from arriving at the wrong place. Whenever you drop off a box of donations it needs to be sorted – that takes time and labor. When your donation can’t be used it needs to be disposed of – that takes time and money. A donation that can’t be used is actually an anti-donation – it steals resources from the organization.

In the realm of food, the item that has been lurking in your cupboard because you did not want to eat it….. someone else probably will not either. How will your donation be used with the more typical items that are donated? A breakable glass jar of exotic olives, is not going to pair too well with the more typical and easily transportable bulk donations of pasta, peanut butter, canned tuna and canned tomato sauce. Many of the food donations go to families with small children who are not known for their culinary courage.

The best donation to make is often monetary which does not need to be sorted, shelved or carried and has an infinite shelf life. Information I have read indicates that a $1 donation can translate to a meal for five people – that is impressive. The Mid Ohio Food Bank is a an organization that does an exceptional jobs getting food to those that need it. A growing percentage of their meals are coming from Ohio farms to avoid having fresh produce perish in the fields.

So now that I am done with that rant, let me move on to another that is exacerbated by the holidays. People also feel good about recycling but too often I see people recycling wrongly especially around the holidays. The thing that drives me to absolute rage are overflowing recycling dumpsters. Here is a general rule to be a good citzen – if the dumpster is full – don’t dump your materials on the ground nearby and complain as you drive away that “someone should do something.” That someone is you. If the dumpster is full move on to another location or find out when the dumpsters are going to be emptied and come back later. The massive amounts of recycling and junk floating around overstuffed dumpsters after the holidays do not inspire non-recyclers nor do they inspire people to want to offer their property as a dumpster location. As for the heaps of materials that are left at the side of the dumpsters and scattered by the wind – that is known as litter – which is illegal – and cleaning up that mess takes time and money that could be invested in better recycling services. Please flatten and cut up your cardboard boxes, crush aluminum cans, smash down plastic bottles and try to leave room for the next person that wants to feel good about dumping recycling instead of having it in their trunk for another week.

So, if you want to do good – do so with more than good intentions and know that everything you give needs to be received to make the effort used to get it from you to the person that receives it worthwhile. No one wants a rusty can of mushroom soup. When you recycle, remember that recycling saves resources but costs money, so when you recycle poorly, you are taking money away from the recycling system.

Posted in food | 1 Comment »

Travels on US 68: Urbana to West Liberty (Food Trail)

Posted by cmh gourmand on October 24, 2009

Readers may recall the post about Urbana’s Crabill’s Hamburgers back in September. Well that was just the beginning of my day. My journey of discovery and rediscovery took me through Urbana then up Route 68 to Kenton, Ohio and beyond. So months after the fact, here is the recap.

After a few hamburgers and investigation of the food scene in downtown Urbana, I started my backroads journey to Ravenhurst Winery in Mt. Victory. Driving out of town, I rubbernecked seeing the image of a potato chip person out of the corner of my eye. Meandering back to the site of my sighting, I found –

Mumfords since 1932

Mumford's since 1932

Mumford’s Potato Chips.
325 North Main St
Urbana
937.653.3491

The Mumford clan started crafting potato chips in 1932, back in the day when there were many regional potato chip companies in Ohio. Mumford’s is still at it, although as charming as the store looks from the outside, they started outsourcing production of their chips years ago. On the plus side, you can buy two pounds of potato chips on the cheap for emergency roadfood. For the full chip story click here.

Back on track, I recalled that I would be passing by a good source for ice cream in West Liberty. Looking at the clock, I figured I had an hour of extra time for reconnaissance and an ice cream cone. The last time I was on US 68 was in 1998 while researching the best Ohio ice cream stands for Ohio Magazine. I had wandered by the Ice Cream Parlor by accident. The place has changed owners since then but everything else has stayed the same. The waffle cones are still made fresh daily with a touch of malt. The moniker is still The Ice Cream Parlor. Since it is the only ice cream parlor in that neck of the woods there is no need to worry about a snappy name.

The servings are still on the enormous side and they still scoop Nafzigers a hard to find ice cream from Northwest Ohio. The time it takes to consume one cone of ice cream is exactly how long it takes to wander downtown West Liberty.

I had forgotten there are plenty diversions (Piatt Castles, Ohio Caverns and the highest point in Ohio) in this part of Ohio. However, with only 30 minutes left before I needed to get back on my timetable, I needed to get back on track. I still wanted to explore a new candy store which had taunted me with several signs on the way into West Liberty.

I had not heard of Marie’s before so I figured this would be a 5 minute peek and walk through visit. I thought wrong. This turned out to be one of the best chocolate and candy stores I have visited.

Marie’s Candies
311 Zanesfield Rd. (US 68)
West Liberty
937.465.3061
866.465.5781
Closed Sundays

This candy company started in 1956 so there is some history behind the name. However, there is even more history to the place. The current location is a restored railroad depot from the days when trains were to key to travel. The depot building was saved by owners Jay and Kathy King before it was used for fire department training. In 1993 they moved the depot to its present location and started the long process to restore the building to use it as a retail shop for their candy. The location finally opened Thanksgiving weekend in 1996.

The depot was brought back to life and restored to it’s former glory and additional space was added for retail sales, candy preparation and meeting space. The whole history of the building can be tracked on the walls surrounded by many artifacts from the glory days of railroad travel.

History is the side dish here. There is an incredible assortment of candy and chocolates. I spent almost an hour wandering around the store looking and sampling the selections. The service was great. I spoke with several of the employees as well as the owner at length. They were happy to answer all of my questions. At no time did they tell me I had a big smear of chocolate on my nose from the Ice Cream Parlor. Maybe they thought is was a birthmark or some type of disfigurement.

I left Marie’s with a few treats for the road and hauled tail for Mt. Victory hoping to get to Ravenhurst winery before closing. Along the way I sped by farmers market stands, drive in eatery’s and some sections of Amish country. There is a lot more to explore in the area but my first stop on my return will be a restocking mission at Marie’s.

Posted in chocolate, food, ice cream, Ohio, Road Trip | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

 
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