CMH Gourmand

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

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Pay It Forward: Nancy’s Home Cooking

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 1, 2015

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Nancy’s has been a Clintonville institution for over forty years. A significant part of the tradition of the eatery has been serving the community. For years, the homeless knew they could come in for a meal, for some customers it was their only place for community and a place they could find a kind word with a warm meal, and for many years fire fighters knew they could expect a Thanksgiving meal delivered while they were at work away from their families.

The current version of Nancy’s is different on some ways from the Cindy King era (and I am working on a post where I try to sort out the good, the bad and the ugly of those differences) but that sense of service remains. The diner has started a Pay it Forward Program. Customers can buy a meal for someone who needs one – all they do is pay and write a few words of encouragement on a post it note. If someone needs a meal, they can redeem one of the post it notes. There are well over 50 post it notes on the wall waiting to be redeemed. It is a simple and direct way to serve the community the way this spot always has, one meal at a time.

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

Mallory’s Rib Shack

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 26, 2015

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Powers greater than myself may have led me to Mallory’s Rib Shack. First I received an e-mail asking me about Mallory’s Rib Shack and I had to report I did not know anything about it. Then a few weeks later, while out walking on my street, I ran into a person I have not seen in a couple of years and one of the first things she asked was “have you been to Mallory’s Rib Shack?” She has not been but it seemed to her that Mallory’s was the type of place I would frequent. That piqued my interest. A few weeks after I took a heap of left over building materials to the Restore (if you have never been drop in to check one out). Just a few blocks away (I drove right past it on the way to the Restore) was Mallory’s. I knew that if Mallory’s was open I was going.

Mallory’s is located near the intersection of Westerville Road and Innis Ave in a part of town that has seen better days. The building was once a Diary Queen. It has a drive through window, a handful of outside tables and a window to order through. Also on the plus list, a hand painted mural of a Rib Shack. While some of this might scare people away, these elements could only serve to lure me in. Since the closing and destruction of Woody and Jo’s I have been looking for a BBQ dive to meet my BBQ needs.

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On my first visit I took a cautious approach and just ordered a couple of wings and one of each side. Based on my many questions, perhaps my innate charm and the novelty of a fella from outside of the neighborhood dropping in, the owner gave me a couple of complimentary rib tips as well. Let’s begin with the sides. I tried Collard Greens with smoked turkey, potato salad, mac & cheese, cole slaw baked beans and fries. All of the sides were above average with the exception of the fries which looked and tasted to be out of a bag. The other sides were all clearly homemade. Off the lot, there are three that are well worth heading back for (which I did) the collards, potato salad and Mac and Cheese. The collard greens were some of the best I have tried. I have not had them with bits of turkey before so the novelty of that alone, makes them worth trying. The greens themselves were larger/longer/less finely cut than the typical and less cooked down. There was also a hidden kick of heat in them. The mac of cheese was the perfect balance of a blend of cheeses and cheesey consistency. Most mac and cheese in town (in my experience) is either too runny or too bland, not Mallorys Mac, in my book it runs best in show for local BBQ joints. Last, and in my experience, best was the potato salad. I rarely find a potato salad I want to have again but Mallory’s has quickly become my favorite. It is clearly “down home potato salad mixing thoroughly cooked potatoes with bits of egg, mustard, pickles and maybe a dash of mayo. Mrs. Gourmand who is a potato salad purist really liked the small amount I let her sample.

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I am not a huge chicken wing fan but I did like the wings especially the breading. On my second trip back I intended to get a slab of Turkey ribs but they were out (note that many not have any ready if you order mid-week). I did get a 1/2 slab of pork ribs and my consolation prize MeMe’s Special. The special is a great intro to what the shack has to offer. The special includes two wings, 2 pork ribs, 2 rib tips and your choice of a side dish for $13.50. The pork ribs I have sampled so far have been very meaty as were the meat tips. I’m still trying to sort out my feelings about the BBQ sauce at Mallory’s. As a certified Kansas City BBQ Society BBQ judge and culinary traveler I have sampled countless styles of BBQ sauces: Kansas City, St. Louis, Memphis, Texas. North Carolina (3 to 4 regional styles), South Carolina, mustard and more. This sauce defies categorization. It is moderate in consistency and does have a glue like cling to the bones, it has a trace of sweetness and a very light hint of brown sugar. It reminds me or a blend of an asian BBQ sauce and a sauce I have most often found in Cleveland on Polish Boy sandwiches.

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Mallory’s does a great job putting orders together. The meat area of the bottom of the styrofoam carry out container has a sheet of aluminum foil to hold the sauce and retain the heat. On top there is a sheet of wax paper to protect the sides. On top of the wax paper is a plastic bag with two slices of white bread in side – perfect boxing and presentation.

Mallory’s has been open about three years. The origin of the recipes come from father Ralph Mallory who came to Ohio from Luvern, Alabama. The tag line for the shack is “best soul food in Columbus”. I’ll have to visit a few more places before I can endorse that fully but based on my trips to date, the shack is a strong contender.

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Mallory’s Rib Shack
3386 Westerville Road
Columbus, OH 43224
614.269.8981
Facebook:MallorysRibShack
Open:
Wednesday & Thursday 11 am to 7 pm
Friday & Saturday 11 am to 11 pm
Sunday Noon to 4 pm

Posted in BBQ | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

My Take on Hot Chicken Takeover

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 14, 2015

Well, it took a while, but I finally caught up with what all of the cool kids have been talking about, Hot Chicken Take Over. It started out as a pop up and then popped over to the North Market. Things started hot and have gotten hotter with long lines and chicken selling hotter than hot cakes. The origins go to Nashville where hot chicken has been a thing for generations. (Authors note: I had hot chicken for the first time with Jane and Michael Stern of Roadfood fame back in 2007). The concept is simple so I will walk you through it with photos.

Step One:
Go to the North Market (early) and stand in line. The folks at Hot Chicken Takeover will count down the number of pieces left on a chalkboard so you can figure out your odds of getting chicken.

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Step Two:
Study the simple menu and make your selections. If you are not sure what you want, you can gaze at the communal picnic tables full of people eating various types of chicken so you can eyeball what seems best for you. Choices are light and dark, sandwich or dinner, hot or hotter.

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Step Three:
After you order you can self-serve a beverage for yourself and then step back to soak in the ambiance and gloat that you have ordered while others are just starting to stand in line.

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Step Four:
Wait for this guy, or another guy or girl to bring you your chicken, they will call your name.

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Step Five:
Get your chicken (check to make sure you have the right box, it will have your name and order written on it).

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Step Six:
Eat the food.

This is the sandwich. It comes with a double order of mac and cheese. A bit of cole slaw (which I called cold slaw or slop until I was 10). It comes with 4 pieces of bread. It also has a couple of pickles, they are a nice addition. I will also say the mac and cheese is exceptional – creamy, cheesy and tasty. Mrs. Gourmand who has a significant obsession with this dish found it exceeded expectations.

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These are the wings. Note the trend, they come with bread and pickles.

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This is the dinner, it looks a lot like the sandwich but it has two less slices of bread and does not have double mac.

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And this your dessert option – banana pudding.

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A word about the chicken. It is hard to find good fried chicken in town. Even harder to find hot chicken. The verdict – well done. The breading is just the right amount and holds he hot sauce well. The chicken is moist and tender with plenty of flavor. Check it out….and go early.

Posted in restaurants | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Seventy Five Years of Dairy: UDF, United Dairy Farmers

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 1, 2015

Spring has sprung and ice cream is on your mind. In my case, it never leaves but it is more on my mind after Easter. Although July is national ice cream month, May usually marks the beginning of ice cream season for most, especially once Memorial Day hits.

Jeni’s is a default community favorite and while they may be out of the picture for a brief interlude, the brand is still relatively new. We have other great places to try in town and I do have my favorite flavors and spots but there is also my go to ice cream when time is short and cash is crunched. While United Dairy Farmers means convenience stores to many, to me, it has always meant great ice cream. And in my humble and somewhat well-trained opinion, it is an exceptional ice cream, especially their Homemade Brand. I can’t say for certain what the first ice cream was that I had, but I can say the first I remember having is UDF and from when I was three to at least ten years old that would have been either chocolate chip or rainbow sherbet. As my tongue became more attuned to finer ice creams, Homemade Brand has remained a favorite of mine. In particular, Coconut Almond Chip. In the pint or by the cone (I now live a 2 minute walk from a UDF) this is the best value ice cream I have ever enjoyed and I consider it one of the best ice creams I have ever tried (- having sampled in 40 states, 12 countries and countless flavors).

One of my best memories and maybe my first food adventure occurred at the UDF plant in the mid 1990’s. I had planned an overnight trip to Cincinnati to visit all of the places I have heard of or read about (including the then exotic Skyline Chili) with the highlight being a tour of the UDF Ice cream and dairy plant in Norwood, Ohio. On the day of the tour, a scheduled group did not show up so it was just me and my companion with one tour guide for a very personal and detailed tour of the whole operation. The guide was overjoyed because he did not have to use a megaphone, he could just have a personal conversation with two people for the tour. We learned about how milk was processed and handled and watched ice cream being made. We sampled a lot of products. It was a really amazing tour. At the end, I received two place mats intended for kids (one showing how milk is made and the other how ice cream is made). I loved them so I had them both framed. It was a great day and that framed bit of dairy art is still a reminder that I cherish. So yes, I am still a big UDF fan.

That being the case, I am happy to share that May 8th is the 75th anniversary of United Dairy Farmers. To celebrate 75 years of serving many Ohio communities, all 182 UDF locations will offer 75¢ single-dip ice cream cones on Friday, May 8. That my friend is a good deal. Also, UDF will offer a Stock the Ice Box sale, where customers can purchase five 48 oz. UDF ice creams for $15 – also an exceptional deal.

The history of UDF is pretty amazing, but since I may be the only person interested in that I will just leave you with this -> LINK and this bit of trivia: when the first store opened in 1940, they offered a gallon of milk for 28 cents and a triple-dip ice cream cone for 17 cents.

UDF is always a good choice for ice cream and on May 8th, it will be an incredible value as well.

Original United Dairy Farmers

Posted in ice cream, Ohio | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

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 »

A Tale of Two Coney Island Joints in Mansfield (and a dialogue about Small Town Ohio)

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 20, 2015

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I was in Mansfield for business visiting Phoenix Brewing Company. I visited a brewery for work. Yes, that is pretty cool. I had only passed through Mansfield very briefly before. My inner nature is to explore any new place so I blocked out a little time to drive around downtown and get a feel for the place. About one minute into the journey I spied a sign for Famous Coney Island. Regular readers know that by the Code of Gourmand, I was obligated to stop – hungry or not. I did. I walked in 6 minutes before closing time (7 pm) to look around. The waitress (that would be the proper term here) asked me if I wanted to order. I said that I didn’t want to be a pain, so I would just look around. She said “sweety, go ahead and order it’s not problem at all.” There are not many places that would gladly welcome a customer that close to closing time. I also found out that the sign outside is somewhat new, the original sign was inside over the counter (from 1936) when coneys were 5 cents each (that is part of the reason they took the sign down).

Of course I ordered a coney. The coney dog is an institution in many towns, especially smaller towns and I always visit one when I can. There is culture to a Coney Island joint, the same as a diner. There are stools at a counter and a few booths. A simple menu and the banter of regulars served with the insights of the folks behind the counter that have been gained from decades slinging hot dogs or one liners at the same place. You can’t find that at many dining establishments. And those few places are disappearing every day.

The other thing I did was survey the menu for “the thing“. Just about every diner or Coney Island has an off beat dish that is unique to the place or a carry over from another time. A signature or iconic item that sets this place apart from any other place like it (and often there are a lot of place like it). Here the thing was pea salad. There was no description of what it was but I knew I was going to get it and probably enjoy it. The base of the salad was ice berg lettuce with a mayo based dressing, peas, shredded carrots, cheese, shredded cabbage and bacon bits. It tasted a bit like a seven layer salad. It was simple and it hit the spot. A comfort food classic.

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The place itself could have come from a Norman Rockwell painting. There was a small ice cream stall at the end. The walls were decorated with year books from the local high school, photographs from the old days, a soap box derby car, and the like. It was a decent meal. A respectable coney (no Oh Betty’s but what is) and a great pea salad. There are all types of culinary tourism. This type is where the food, while good, is secondary to the stories and the traditions. That is OK.

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I got back in my car, drove by a bakery that looked interesting, a place called the Squirrel Den (that sells candy and cards), an old school newspaper stand and a pizza place (Two Cousins) that claims to be the best in the world. All were closed. I would have liked to drop in to each. It took a minute to drive by those spots and that is when I saw something else on the other end of the square – Coney Island Inn. And oddly (it was after 7 pm) it was still open – until 8 pm, which in this case made it the Late Night Slice of Mansfield. I decided I needed another coney so I would know which was best.

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Coney Island Inn is a bit bigger, a lot less brighter and it has an in house Ohio Lottery sales counter. I grabbed a stool to survey the extensive menu – which may very well include every comfort food classic of the Midwest but I knew that I would only be having coney. I have standards, this was my second meal in 20 minutes. The dilemma I encountered was that they offer a regular coney and a King Coney (and foot long versions of each). It turns out the King Coney was a bigger, all beef hot dog and the coney was smaller and not all beef. I had to order both which I did with slaw and coney sauce. Then I asked the waitress if there was anything else I had to get and she suggested the rice pudding (with or without raisins and with or without whipped cream). The coneys were good (not Oh Betty’s good) and I would say better than what I had at Famous Coney Island (and less expensive). The rice pudding on the other hand was exceptional. I had good conversation with the other staff and the one other customer in the place (she sized me up pretty quick – “you’re not from around here are you, or you would know what to order”).

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I was glad I took a detour, I usually am.

So now for a short dialogue about small town Ohio. The impromptu adventure I had is something many people would avoid. Others would just write off these places or the places I could not get into as not worth their time because they figure the food is not up to their standard or because it is middle west bland. Sometimes the food might not be worth it, but again, each place has “the thing” and all have a good story or two that will connect you with the place. Both Coney Islands I visited have long histories in Mansfield and longer traditions.

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Actually Mansfield is not technically small town Ohio, but the town square sure feels like it so I’ll just use that as an excuse for my commentary.

Posted in Food For Thought, hot dogs, Ohio, Road Trip | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Por’Ketta: Mobile Food Trailer with Pork and Chicken

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 13, 2015

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Por’ketta

Facebook: Porketta
Twitter: PorkettaCbus
Instagram: Porkettacbus
Web:porkettacbus.com
614 570 1107

I’ve known Tony Layne for a few years and I have known his wife for a few more, meeting her for the first time when she started working for Pitabilities. They have a good thing going. In case you did not read this (exact) post on Street Eats Columbus I am posting here so you do.

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Por’ketta launched in March of 2015, serving to the last sandwich, ahead of schedule time and time again. The simple menu of pork and rotisserie chicken with a few sides may mean limited choices but it is heavy on quality and flavor. The trailer may be a bit harder to maneuver than a food truck but you will see it most places that mobile food can be found. And on a historical note, the trailer has some back story, it used to be a Ray Ray’s Hog Pit Trailer. We spoke to owner Tony Layne to find out about this business of getting pork to the people.

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1) In a few sentences, what do you want people to know about Por’ketta.

I would want them to know that we are a family run business. We love Columbus and promote it shamelessly. Also that our family’s love of food, gathering and community translate into our food. It is also important to note that we searched far and wide within Ohio’s borders to source the best local ingredients that we could find simply prepared with passion

2) What is Porketta (Porchetta)? How do you make yours?
Porchetta is the pig’s skin, belly wrapped around meat and layers of fat, usually with herbs and spices thrown in…all tied up around a spit. Usually roasted over an open fire..this is the traditional Italian method. My version is the belly piece with the loin attached, then we butterfly the loin, rub with salt, pepper, fennel, parsley, garlic, rosemary, lemon zest, crushed red pepper, roll it up, tie it up and let air dry under refrigeration for at least 24 hours, then roast for four and a half hours in a high low temperature combination, let rest for thirty minutes and then ready to slice. Very labor intensive, but yields very moist pork…there are no shortcuts to the method.

3) What inspired your menu?
This is an easy one I love cooking with fire..whether it be a grill, smoker, camp fire, Meat and fire are primal and treated correctly yield incredible results. So that is the method I choose..we have a Rotisserie on the truck, The items I chose also easy..I am a pork fanatic…such a versatile animal…so many different cuts, tastes and textures…I chose Porchetta because it’s the belly and the loin and nobody is doing it, enough said. A great roasted chicken, was my other choice it brings back such comforting memories of cooking with my grandmother. For our salads and sides, we wanted to make sure they were tasty and let the ingredients speak for themselves. Our dishes are not hidden in mayonnaise or heavy dressings. We offer both the pork and chicken as sandwiches, meals, and bulk to go items.

4) What inspired you to get into mobile food?

Thirty years in commercial kitchens, always wanting to do something on my own, but with five kids I chose security and stability for my family over the opportunity of starting my own venture. Finally the planets started lining up …my youngest was a senior in high school in Hilliard. My job with Marriott was starting to feel like the movie “Groundhog Day”…every day felt just like ever other. I was losing passion for the craft, finding joy only cooking for our weekly family dinners. One day I snapped , quit my job cashed in my 401k and decided to go into business with my wife and children…Mobile food is hot in Columbus…a lot of great food coming off trucks. With a lower cost to entry than a traditional brick and mortar restaurant my decision and direction was made.

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Sandwich 2

5) What did you do before Porketta?
Before this spent the last thirty years doing the Chef thing around Columbus….Umberto’s, the Clock, Crowne Plaza, the 55 group, R.J. Snappers and Marriott hotels…from mom and pop shops to corporate and everything in between

6) How did you get ready to launch?
I left Marriott shortly before Thanksgiving, and basically took the winter, while the trailer was being built out, to come up with the menu, work on branding, build the social media presence, obtain all the proper permits and documentation, purchase equipment, test recipes, try and find spots to park and sell our food at…and the list goes on. They say the devil is in the details…everyday we worked task lists to shoot for a mid March opening. And here we are!

7) Porketta is a family affair – tell us about team Layne and what each person does in the trailer.

Team Layne consists of my son Conner…who is learning the craft and picking so much up. I so proud of him, my wife Michelle who is our backbone, she runs the window and is great with our guests. My other daughters float in and out as time allows. Basically we all do what needs done. I couldn’t be working with a better bunch of people. (Writers note: Michelle worked for Pitabilities for several years so she is no stranger to mobile food customers).

8) You source from Matt Swint (Matija Breads) – where else do you source from?

Yes Matt Swint and his incredible breads…the best in Columbus. Pork was a tough one…to find an Ohio producer of the exact piece I needed was a daunting task so I turned to THE MAN..Albert Thurn…if anybody could find it he could. And he did, sourcing a farm in Sandusky, Ohio. He is my pork connect. Chicken had to be all Ohio…so we turned to Vitale Poultry. Produce comes from Midwest for the time being as spring rolls into summer much more Ohio produce will be used. we like to park at local breweries and tap rooms, because these high quality local beers compliment our food. Even our T-shirts were printed by Traxler. Local was key to our business model, sometimes more expensive, but always the right thing to do.

chicken

Posted in Locally Sourced, Mobile Food, sandwiches | Leave a Comment »

Lake Hope Lodge – Not your typical dining hall

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 7, 2015

For no good reason, when I think about a dining in a state-owned park, cafeteria quality food comes to mind. While that may apply to many dining options with government oversight, such is not the case of the Lake Hope Lodge Restaurant. Lake Hope is a state park located about 20 miles from Athens. I have journeyed there at least once per year since the mid 1990’s and it very quickly became my go to state park (after a fair amount of vetting). While my tent camping days are probably over, my first cabin experience was at Lake Hope and now an “Iron Furnace” Cottage is as close as I get to roughing it. I can’t say we visited the lodge in the center for the park for anything other than picking up keys but I did visit shortly after it burned down around 2005 or 2006. The lodge was rebuilt in 2012 with a lot of attention to detail considered through the construction. The lodge is largely built out of locally sourced wood and stone. The design and decor reflect the history and heritage of the area – with photographs throughout the lodge showcasing the people, places and structures of the Lake Hope area from the 1800’s to the 1950’s. The restaurant in the lodge is privately owned and operated with a result that is both appetizing and appropriate to the current culture of the area.

The proprietor/chefs are Matt Rapposelli and Eric Lee, both highly training chefs with plenty of experience including gigs at Ohio University and operating Big Chimney Bakery among other ventures. The menu reflects the locally sourced focus that residents and visitors to the area prefer. The beef for the burgers comes from the Ohio State farm, chips in the nachos are sourced from local favorite Shagbark Seed and Mill, Raven’s Glen Wines add an Ohio option to the wine list and craft beers include Great Lakes and Elevator Brewing Companies. The meats are smoked on site and pizzas (evening only) come fresh out of the wood-ired oven. The menu is not extensive but is “right sized” to have just enough options with a selection of appetizers, salads, burgers, sandwiches, pizzas and desserts as well as a non insulting kids menu to provide a good choice for any picky diner.

On our visit we tried the nachos featureing a mountain of Shagbark chips, cheese, smoked pulled pork, lettuce and a more diced tomato de gallo than pico de gallo with a side of sour cream. The nachos were good but they would have benefited from more “goo” either more cheese, a side of BBQ sauce, or something to add some wetness to the dryness (not a bad dry) to the chips and pulled pork.

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I tried the Smoked Turkey, Bacon and Swiss sandwich with: smoked Ohio turkey topped with giant slices of cured bacon and Swiss cheese on freshly made bread. The smoked turkey was exceptional with great flavor and juiciness. The sandwich would have benefited from more and stronger Ohio Swiss cheese. The side of hand cut fries were very good.

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Mrs. Gourmand opted for the Warm Brisket and Bleu salad (opting to sub in cheddar due to her knocked up state) which included: slabs of slow-smoked, Ohio-raised brisket served warm on romaine lettuce with cheese, red onion, carrots and tomato. Mrs. Gourmand and I thought the brisket was very well crafted – tender and flavorful without being overly smoked. CMH Tobias also gave the scraps two paws up when he tried them later. The salad came with a fresh baked roll which could easily be converted to a sandwich bun for some of the brisket.

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For those with challenged digestive systems and eating preferences, the lodge does have a good veggie burger and gluten free pizza crust. For those that like BBQ you can buy all of the meats by the pound to enjoy at home or for a party (or to pretend you are “roughing it” at your cabin.

In addition to very good food, the lodge offers a great view of the lake as well as several good walking trails to allow you to burn off the calories after a meal. The lodge is obviously popular with visitors to the park whose nearest dining options are 15 miles away. But the lodge is liked by locals as well who drive the 40 mile round trip from Uptown Athens and beyond to dine. In fact, I ran into Kelly Sauber (Marietta Brewing, Fifth Element Spirits and West End Cider House Fame) who confirmed that Athens, Meigs and Vinton County residents are more than happy to head to the lodge for a meal.

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Drive time from Columbus is about 1 hour and forty minutes (or 1 hour 29 minutes in my old Subaru which handled SR 278 much better than my current cars). If you are staying overnight and want to explore the area in more culinary depth I can also strongly suggest and endorse the following in Athens: O’Betty’s Hot Dogs, Casa Nueva, Bagel Street Deli, Millers Chicken, Jackie O’s Brewpub, Avalanche Pizza, Purple Chopstix, The Athens Farmers Market and West End Cider House (and yes, I often visit almost all of those places in one day).

Lake Hope Lodge
27331 State Route 278
McArthur, OH 45651
740-596-0601

lakehopelodge.com/menunew

Winter Hours (end April 1st):
Monday & Tuesday: CLOSED
Wednesday & Thursday: 11am-8pm
Friday & Saturday: 11am-9pm
Sunday: Brunch Buffet 10am-2pm

For more about the history of the rebuilt lodge and the origins of the restaurant, click -> HERE.

Lake Hope Lodge on Urbanspoon

Posted in Athens, BBQ, Locally Sourced, pizza, restaurants, Road Trip | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

The Best Sub in Clintonville….is not at India Oak Bar and Grill

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 26, 2015

sub

Since my return to being a full-time Ville-Billy, I have heard mention that the best sub in Clintonville is ballyhooed as coming from the India Oak Bar and Grill. There may have been a time when I might have bought into that proclamation. I ate a lot of subs at the Oaks in the 1990’s but that was a different time with different owners. I’ve had the sub there recently, a couple of times in fact, and while it was respectable, I can’t pull out anything from my experiences that would suggest it would be the best. Granted there are not a lot of candidates for the title in Clintonville, but seeing as there are more than one to contend for the honor, I decided to revisit some places to see if my standards are flawed or if the bar had just become lower.

As many of you know, I’ve written about O’Reilly’s more than a few times and they have a very good sub. But I am an O’Reilly’s loyalist so my objectivity could be compromised. Therefore, it became critical to even out the field. I recruited Mrs. Gourmand who never lacks for an interest in a submarine sandwich. I asked her to join me to sample four other Clintonville (traditional) subs and she gladly accepted. She recently stated “I can never be a vegetarian” and has been observed eating more fruits and vegetables that is her norm. That combined with her state due to her pregnant nature, she has had a lot of hankerings for meats and bread. She was hungry for some subs. It also helps that she is Italian-American so she has plenty of experience in all things Italian and high expectations for sub consumption.

There are not many sub purveyors in Clintonville, but I did find four others that seemed worthy of consideration. I called in all of the orders and picked them up in the order of when orders were placed.

Patrick J’s – Indianola Italian Sub
Hot ham, hard salami, ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and banana peppers with Italian dressing. Served with a side of kettle chips and a pickle for $7.50.

Gatto’s Pizza – Italian Sub
Salami, pepperoni, ham, provolone, tomato, banana pepper and lettuce for $5.50.

Dante Pizza – Hot Sub
Cappacola, salami, pepperoni, lettuce, tomato, banana peppers with their special house made salad dressing for $6.25

Smith’s Deli – Super Sub
Ham, salami, pepperoni, provolone cheese, mozzarella cheese, Romano cheese, spices, lettuce, tomato, hot peppers, onions and dressing for $6.19. I oped for this over their Roman Sub which seemed light on the meat and cheese.

To maintain the highest level of objectivity – Mrs. Gourmand watched me unwrap the subs and cut each into pieces to be evaluated. All were still warm to the touch when delivered and were all picked up by me within 5 minutes of each other. I ate in a separate room, recording her observations as she shouted them out. I made my observations silently. These are our field notes from our submarine adventure.

Patrick J’s had the best presentation of all four subs. It was cut in half with great visuals and a big pile of chips with a pickle placed in the the center of the styrofoam carrier.

Gatto’s was clearly the best value of the pack. It was 69 cents less expensive than the second lowest priced sub and it was not smaller or less tasty than it’s peers.

Neither Mrs. Gourmand or I felt that our recollection of the India Oaks sub was clearly better than any of the four we tried in this tasting. Therefore their title of best sub in Clintonville is officially revoked.

We found all of the subs to be of good quality with none radically better that the other. With contention being very tight, my favorite sub was The Gatto’s Sub and my second favorite was Dantes. Mrs. Gourmand liked Smith’s sub more than the other three and she gave second place to Gattos.

These are our tasting notes. All of the buns appeared to be from Auddinos. All of the subs were baked in an oven and had a crusty, toasted texture. Smith’s was the most toasted and Patrick J’s was just lightly toasted. In the case of Patrick J’s the veggies were applied after cooking so they were not cooked with the other ingredients. That manner of vegetable placement is my preference going back to my sub making days at Knight’s Ice Cream. I also liked that the bun at Patrick J’s was not sliced all of the way through so it had a clam shell-like quality to it, which can help with consumption.

Patrick J’s was Mrs. Gourmand least favorite sub mainly due to the possible presence of mayo or a dressing she did not like and because the hot ham was too fatty for her liking.

We both liked Gatto’s sub because the bread had a garlic bread flavor and quality to it. I liked Dante’s because all of the meats had distinctly strong and fresh flavor to them – more that the other subs. Additional diagnosis determined that Mrs. Gourmand liked the Smith’s sub due to the extra cheese embedded throughout the sandwich. I found that I liked this sub as well.

All in all, we did not have a clear winner, but I think we have established that there are some great subs in Clintonville that are not at India Oaks. I was also happy that none of the subs sucked, they were all significantly above the average marker so that is a great benchmark to judge from.

Posted in Clintonville, culinary misadventure, Food For Thought, sandwiches, Sub Dude | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Thurns: A Celebration of Lunch Meats

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 11, 2015

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Spring has always seemed like cold cut sandwich time. After the winter, as much as I enjoy the heat of rising temperatures I’m not interested in anything artificial coming from an oven or stove. The grill, seems more appropriate to summer. A sandwich comes together quickly with no need for prep or cleaning, just get it done and go out to embrace the spring time. When in comes to a good sandwich, the elements are simple – good bread, sometimes a pickle, a nice slice of cheese and a choice of mustards (I feel naked without at least five mustards in the pantry). Those are the basics and we all know where to source those, but what I really get excited about is semi exotic lunch meats. And for that there is only one choice – Thurns.

I’ve written about Thurn’s before but I have not done justice to one of several things they excel at – offering a wide assortment of freshly made cold cuts and lunch meats. Choices include but are not limited to: baked ham, roast pork, hot and mild souse (head cheese / terrine), head cheese, salami, capricola, Schinken (dry cured ham), honey loaf, thuringer (sausage), pressed ham, pepper loaf, bolonga, Dutch Loaf, veal loaf and German Bolonga. As a side note, there are some other sandwich friendly encased meats and spreads – most notably the best ham salad I have ever tried. The Thurn’s know meat, they have been butchering and processing meat for over 120 years so that forms a strong foundation. The freshness of the meats is a major bonus – something that we rarely experience anywhere with overly processed and transported meats encased in plastic packaging. And variety – well look at what I listed above, most of you have never heard of several of these before.

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So follow a pattern I have done during springtime the past few years. Pop into Thurn’s on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Buy a 1/4 pound of two to four meats each time and keep trying them out between bread until you find your favorites. Although I like them all, my favorites are on the bottom row of their chart.

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Posted in Locally Sourced, sandwiches | Tagged: | 5 Comments »

 
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