CMH Gourmand – Eating in Columbus & Ohio

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Enrico’s Pizza & Restaurant since 1988: An Immigrant Story

Posted by cmh gourmand on October 30, 2019

Regular or even infrequent visitors at Enrico’s, are often on a first name basis with Tiziana who runs the front of the house of this small, modest restaurant tucked in a strip development on the border of Dublin. She and her family commuted a long way to start their business, they are all first generation Italian immigrants to central Ohio. They settled in Grandview in 1968. Tiziana’s mother, Angelina, worked as a seamstress and Ottavio, her father, found work in construction. Both parents liked to cook so when Tiziana’s uncle opened Dante’s Pizza in Clintonville in 1973 it was only natural that they would lend a hand. Her mother’s brother, Joe Apollino, had arrived several years earlier and learned the pizza business working a variety of positions at Leonardo’s, an iconic Columbus pizzeria chain.

All of the family members worked at Dantes at different times over the years. The family, now including Tiziana’s husband Rick, decided to open Enrico’s in March of 1988. (Guess where Rick met his wife…..while working at Dante’s). The restaurant started as a largely scratch kitchen and has remained that way since day one. They make their own dough, sauce, pastas (especially beloved ravioli’s), house salad dressing, meatballs and sausage. One thing they do that few shops still practice is grinding their cheese from blocks of provolone instead of using shredded cheese. They have not changed a menu item since opening in 1988 and if they did “our customers would tell us.” It has always been a word of mouth business, they do not advertise and don’t offer coupons. Enrico’s has a loyal base of regular customers who plan in advance for the two times per year the business closes for a week for vacation. Tiziana says one of the best aspects of running the business is watching families grow up with Enricos by seeing customers bring their children and then seeing the next generation of children grow up and bring their own children in. Special orders are not uncommon with some customers asking for their pizza “extra crispy”, or triangle cut, or with all the pepperoni on top. Long time customers are familiar seeing Tiziana by the front counter greeting customers while “mom and pop” are in the back in their kitchen whites cooking away. Where does the name Enrico come from? The restaurant is named for one of Tiziana’s cousins from Abruzzo. They have visited each other in their respective home cities many times over the years. Maybe one day one of Enrico’s children will continue the tradition of coming to Columbus, starting a pizza place and naming it in honor of a relative.

Posted in Columbus, Columbus style pizza, pizza | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

(Product Review): Belle Chevre Goat Cheese Cream Cheese

Posted by cmh gourmand on October 25, 2019

Long time readers know that I am a sucker for cheese. Few know how much I love goat cheese but it well established that I love free cheese. In this instance, I was offered cheese I would gladly pay for next time I go to the store in the form of Belle Chevre cream cheese made from goat’s milk.

When I received this box I was vaulted to cream cheese heaven. Inside were eight different cream cheeses to try so I took my mission very seriously. In order of my taste preference these are the samples I received: Fig, Original, Honey, Roasted Red Pepper, Cinnamon, Pumpkin Spice (it’s not just for coffee anymore) Garden Veggie. I am still holding on to the Coffee Cream Cheese (unsampled) for unspecified and perhaps secret baking project.

My spouse was a bit skeptical of cream cheese made from goats milk. Also, her superhuman sense of smell confirmed that these cream cheeses did originate from goats, not cows. For her this fact was neutral, but for me, it was all goaty goodness.

Belle Chevre goat cheese cream cheese has some distinct advantages over standard cream cheese. Their goat cheeses are naturally gluten free and a one ounce serving offers five grams of protein which is more than double that of regular cream cheese. Compared to cow’s milk-based cheeses, goat cheese is lower in fat, provides more calcium and has two and a half times the protein. That is something that helped me rationalize eating a whole container in a day.

For my rigorous testing I did several head to head comparisons of Belle Chevre and standard cream cheese. Thinking of the creaminess and spreadability of typical cream cheese as a percentage or curve, the Belle Chevre cream cheeses were about 75% on the spectrum between regular goat cheese and regular cream cheese leaning more toward the cream cheese on the scale. Belle Chevre is dense but lighter and fluffier. It is less likely to “stick” and embed itself with it’s companion be it a bagel, salami, or whatever. The goat cheese flavor is present but not pronounced and pairs exceptionally well in the fig flavor in particular. True fact: I made my favorite sandwich of the year with a next day leftover piece of steak, the fig cream cheese and some just out of the bag sandwich bread from the store. It was simple but amazingly delicious. Over time I noticed the unused portion in each container tends to settle overnight bringing the remainder to a flat baseline by the next day which is value added for people like me that do not like big divots in the center of their dairy packaging but instead like a constant horizontal level awaiting the next knife or spoon.

Belle Chevre on the right

My most common test was to try the different versions of the goat cheese cream cheese on bagels, with one half of the bagel covered in Belle Chevre cream cheese and the other half spread with “a national brand cream cheese”. The Belle Chevre was always an even substitute and often a superior option depending on my flavor preference. My least favorite of what I sampled was the veggie. The veggie chunks in the cream cheese did not add to the flavor, for the most part, they just added some texture to the lump of cream cheese in my mouth. You can use Belle Chevre cream cheeses interchangeably with anything that would feature cream cheese and in my experience you will find it a flavor enhancer to whatever you are eating with it. In my research, it really excels in any baking recipe which calls for cream cheese, especially with the cinnamon flavor (which is why I am holding onto the coffee cream cheese for a future creation).

Belle Chevre is a company I have tracked for several years. They make great products and have an inspiring origin story. Their artisan cheese makers have been handcrafting traditional and original goat cheeses since 1989, combining old school European cheesemaking techniques with innovative approaches. All of this happens in Elkmont, Alabama under the chief cheese, Tasia Malakasis. The company is woman owned and led. It has won many accolades including a best dessert award for a goat cheese cheesecake and a feature on Oprah’s O List. To learn more about Belle Chevre click -> HERE.

Locally you can find Belle Chevre at Giant Eagle Market District and Meijer as well as in my refrigerator, but please do not take any of my Belle Chevre fig cream or I will give you an old copy of Who Moved My Cheese as a punishment.

Posted in cheese, Product Review | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Dante’s Pizza Serving Clintonville Since 1973

Posted by cmh gourmand on October 1, 2019

Joe Apollonio immigrated to Columbus from the Abruzzo region of Italy at age 14. He spoke little English and started working and going to school as soon as he arrived after settling in with relatives in Grandview. His first job was as a dishwasher at Romeo’s Pizzeria (5th and North Star) which was the first pizzeria in Columbus. This was also his first exposure to pepperoni, a very American invention, but he grew to like it over time. Joe worked with Romeo Sirij, one of the founders. Romeo had grown up on the east coast and brought what he had learned about pizzerias when he moved to Columbus as young man. A friend of Joe’s from school, Paul Panzera, told him about an opening at Leonardo’s Pizza so he started working there (the original location at West 1st in Grandview) and moved up the ranks. As Joe’s English language skills improved and as Leonardo’s continued to grow into the largest independent pizza chain in Columbus he was asked to be a manager at the Worthington Leonardo’s and then the Kenny Road location. Joe could not have asked for a better foundation and apprenticeship in Columbus style pizza.

As he was starting a new family he needed more income and wanted more control over his work hours so by pooling funds from his brother, sister and other family members he opened Dante’s Pizza in March of 1973. The location had been home to several restaurants over the prior years. The previous business had some struggles and had lost favor with the community so Joe knew he would need a different name and would need to very quickly establish the quality of his menu. He named the restaurant after his brother, Dante. At the start, most of the labor was via family members including his niece Tizianna who now owns Enrico’s Pizza. Many of the employees feel like family with at least two, Shirley and Pat, there for over thirty years.

Little has changed since Dante’s opened in 1973. Transactions are still cash and check only. The decor and layout are functional. Pick up customers can watch their pizza being assembled and cooked through the glass countertop. Dine in guests have about a dozen four top tables to choose from and it is not uncommon for all or most of them to get pushed together to serve a soccer team or large family. The pizza dough is made fresh daily. The pizza and spaghetti sauces are made in house as well as the signature Italian dressing and many other items. The sausage is made locally using a recipe Joe has used for decades and it remains a favorite topping for long time customers. After two heart attacks and an open heart surgery Joe is still coming in early to prep the business for the day, start sauces, knead dough and deal with deliveries but now he is typically gone before the first customers come through the door.

As is the case for most “old school” pizza shop owners Joe was a regular at The American Italian Golf Club at the (closed) Riviera Country Club and often played with the Gatto’s who own a nearby pizzeria. Joe has enjoyed seeing several generations of Clintonville families returning year after year and watching their kids become adult customers who bring their own children in. Joe foresees no changes at Dante’s. It will remain a cash business. Additional traffic from delivery services is too complicated to consider for this small pizzeria tucked in a corner spot within a busy shopping plaza. Dante’s will remain a time capsule of the 1970’s and that is the way everyone likes it.

Most important for my slice of history, Dante’s was the source for the very first slice (square that is) of pizza I consumed as a young four year old in Clintonville. I vividly recall eating this very tentatively sitting on the landing that divided the staircase from the first floor to the second floor. I do not know why I choose this for my dining spot. I do recall being unsure, almost wary of pizza…..that did not last long. As I grew up, Dante’s pizza was a frequent feature on Friday nights in our household and in fourth grade, at the newly created Clintonville Academy (the original location which is Wildflower Cafe today, we would have Dante’s Pizza for lunch in a shared art space, multi-purpose room, play area either once per week or once per month (my memory is hazy with the years). It was here I first learned the utility of sharing square slices and the importance of trying to avoid the smaller corner pieces for my pizza allotment among the group. It is interesting how one food can imprint in a person’s mind in such a strong manner but such is the case with pizza.

Dante’s Pizza
3586 Indianola Ave.
Clintonville
614-268-5090
(Bring cash!)

Posted in Columbus style pizza, culinary knowledge, pizza, restaurants | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Another Elite Eating Hack: Rockmill Tavern Beet Bahn Mi

Posted by cmh gourmand on September 25, 2019

I did not expect another elite eating hack in 2019. Nor did I expect said hack to present itself at Rockmill Tavern but when serendipity strikes, it should not be dismissed. I would like to say I could take credit for this culinary advancement but, like the other elite hack, this higher plane of consumption was created by another. I can say, I was present for the inspiration and I had the second ever sandwich created with this configuration.

Rockmill Tavern does a fine job with meaty dishes and they have always offered vegetables that your momma would not need to bribe you to eat but over the last year, the kitchen has been very focused on creating destination level dishes which showcase vegetables. Hence, the a new lunch menu addition, the Beet Bahn Mi.

You may be familiar with the famous Vietnamese Bahn Mi Sandwich – the best version I have encountered in Central Ohio is at Mi Li Cafe. Rockmill Tavern took that inspiration and put their own spin on it for their weekday lunch menu. They ditched the meat and replaced it with braised golden beets then add Vietnamese pickles and garlic miso aioli layered between two halves of a wonderful Maitja Breads Ciabatta Hoagie Roll. No one needs to beat me to get me to eat this Beet Mi, it is an excellent sandwich as presented. However, it just so happens that Rockmill Tavern makes an exceptional pork belly and if the place is not too crowded and you ask nicely they will add pork belly to this sandwich. The end result is AMAZING. Now you have another Elite Eating Hack for Rockmill Tavern. Thank you Chris for this gift to humanity. Thank you to Rockmill Tavern for allowing us to eat this.

My other inside tip – always order the pasta special, you will never be disappointed but do make sure you order bread to go with it.

Where to go:
Rockmill Tavern
503 South Front Street
Brewery District, Lunch Time

Posted in culinary knowledge, sandwiches | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Product Review: Folios Cheese Wraps

Posted by cmh gourmand on September 20, 2019

As a food writer, blogger, mystery shopper, social media person and more, I get a multitude of press releases to try new food items. Sometimes these pitches offer free samples. Often the sample is barely enough to get a true sense of the product or the offer itself is unappealing. While I will write for food, I would prefer more than one bite per byte. In the case of Folios Cheese Wraps such was not the case – their pitch was strong and the product seemed appealing.

In my hierarchy of pitch responses, the word FREE might get my attention, but the word CHEESE will demand my attention.

New Jersey based Lotito Foods is a specialty foods manufacturer and importer of Italian foods. They were kind enough to send one each of their three varieties of Folios. At first I was a bit skeptical. The products have the magic marketing words of Gluten Free and Lactose Free but typically for me, free in this context does not demand my attention. Lactose Free cheese (?), I pondered (very quickly) how that was possible. Before I became emotionally invested in the outcome I decided to see how I liked the cheese by tasting it as is immediately out of the package. It tasted pretty good, not how I would expect lactose free to be. (In case you are thinking…duh, why would you wonder, I have a BA not a BS). So here is what the Folios website has to say about how this is possible.

“Folios are naturally lactose free. The wraps are made with aged cheese; during the cheese making process, enzymes naturally convert the lactose to lactic acid over time. Typically, people with lactose sensitivity can still eat aged cheese, like Parmesan, Swiss, and aged Cheddar.”

Continuing my detective work, I wondered what made these folios functional as a replacement for gluten filled wraps – how could they be more rigid than a slice of cheese yet sturdy enough to hold fillings. My hunch was that there was something unnatural involved, so I checked the website again. Here is what I found for ingredients for each.

Cheddar: Pasteurized milk, salt, enzymes and annatto coloring.

Jarlsberg: Pasteurized part-skim milk, cultures, salt, rennet

Parmesan: Parmesan Cheese made from non GMO pasteurized cow milk, enzymes, and salt.

Ok, nothing unnatural here. The only thing I did not recognize was Annatto, which some Googling indicates: “is the ingredient used to dye cheese bright yellow, orange or bright red. Annatto is a natural ingredient, created from the pulp of the Achiote tree seed and is used as a natural food additive for cheese, as well as other foods”.

So far so good. The directions suggest letting the folio rest for 5 minutes before using (instructions for my use are similar). My testing suggests that letting the cheese acclimate to room temperature does allow one to enjoy more flavor but it is not critical to the cheese experience.

Each folio slice is placed on a piece of parchment which for at least short bursts of time in a microwave and conventional oven held up well and did crisp the cheese if needed. Each of the three types has recipe suggestions on the package for the specific variety of cheese folio in the package. I tried some of these out and I created some of my own. The Jarlsberg made for a good wrap with tuna salad. The Parmesan did well as an extra layer of cheese on a frozen pizza and it performed well as an Italian style wrap. The Cheddar was a good all purpose wrap for lunch meats and vegetables. I tested a sample of each with my resident expert on the eating habits of a four year old, CMH Griffin, and he approved. He liked the Jarlsberg the best of the three.

Each package has four servings each. The size, shape and consistency are comparable to a typical wrap (see the image at the end that compares a paper towel, flour wrap and folio for size). The cheese flavor is good. The only challenge I had was trying to figure out how the PEEL & RESEAL feature on the front side worked but by the third package I had it mastered.

Currently, Folios are a bit hard to find in the marketplace. They are available locally at the three Central Ohio Fresh Thyme locations. They can also be purchased online: Supermarketitaly.com

Folios serve as a good substitute for someone looking for a wrap without gluten or for a person that appreciates a more portable cheese source.

Gourmand tested, (CMH) Griffin approved

Posted in cheese, In the Grocery Store | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

R.I.P. and Reflections on The Grumpy Gourmet, Doral Chenoweth

Posted by cmh gourmand on September 17, 2019

The King (of local food writers) is dead. The Grump is gone.

Doral Chenoweth, best known locally as the Grumpy Gourmet, missed his first deadline, when his passed away on Sunday (September 15th). I had not heard from him for a while so I checked in with him via Facebook earlier last week. I hope that if he did see my message, he knew he was in my thoughts.

The “Grump” was the “food critic” (a term we both detested) for the Columbus Dispatch from 1982 to 2000 as both the Grumpy Gourmet and Doral Chenoweth. His writing was engaging, authentic, personal and reflected his wry and sometimes subversive sense of humor. I miss him, he was a true free spirit, revolutionary, big thinker and old school journalist that shared countless stories of misadventures and mishaps he survived throughout his life. Before the Dispatch he wrote for the Columbus Citizen and the Columbus Star.

I first met him in the early 1990’s when he would invite readers to share a meal with him and assist in writing a review. We dined at Chef’s Place in Hilliard. At that time, I was fumbling for way to become a writer of some sort and because I enjoyed his style of writing so much, I jumped at the opportunity to eat with him. I was not disappointed. He was the curmudgeon I expected but also a caring person who offered me a lot of wisdom and some tip sheets on food writing. Later in life, I dined with him socially, instead of professionally, at Bono Pizza which was operated by his good friends Bill and Peggy Yerkes. I then visited the Grump at his home many times where I had the opportunity to sit in his office filled with countless stacks, piles and shelves of books, articles and archives galore. Peggy Yerkes was still in his life, this time, as a caregiver for his wife and later the Grump himself. He loved ham salad from the Hills Market so I would take a quart with me whenever I saw him as my tribute.

The mold, if Doral could ever be temporarily confined, was broken when the Grump was born, we don’t have writers or personalities like the Grump anymore. He did shape my style of writing in many ways. He did not compromise on using his own “voice” in his writing which mirrored how his spoke. His approach, at least later in his Grumpy Gourmet days was to visit a place several times before he wrote an actual review and where possible, if he could offer constructive feedback, he did so, with the goal of making the place better. We both were of the opinion, that a bad restaurant did not need a poor review as extra help in closing but only rated such a negative review if the owner(s) needed to be knocked down a notch or two or if they were resting on assumed laurels.

I have been reading a lot of old Grumpy Gourmet columns over the summer (you can too by reading through the Columbus Dispatch Archives via the Columbus Metropolitan Library) which has brought back memories of my own misspent youth when I always looked forward to what he had to share each week. Later in my writing life there were more than a few times I would receive a call from the Grump beginning… “Ellison, I have an idea……” He was never 100% sure about this blogging thing but I took some satisfaction in his statement that I “was one of the good ones, and did it for the right reasons.”

The Grumpy Gourmet is unlikely to Rest In Peace, my guess is that he is already Ranting, Inciting and Pranking wherever his soul may be.

Goodbye Grump, it was a good ride.

(If anyone has any memories of the Grumpy Gourmet, please post and share with the rest of us).

Posted in culinary misadventure | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

The Best Basement Brewing Museum I have ever seen…..

Posted by cmh gourmand on September 8, 2019

Due to a curious chain of events (certainly not the first time for me), I found myself in a brewing museum in a basement. Well, maybe not a true museum but an incredible curated collection of artifacts accumulated by Ed Heller in forty odd years of brewing in Columbus and Central Ohio, mainly at August Wagner Breweries. How does one find himself in such a place? In my case by being a “connectrovert” – finding ways to connect people and opportunities as well as asking the right question at the right time in the right way. The story starts with me in my role as Vice President (and non-resident historian) of the Brewery District Merchants Association. A member had a question about a giant Brewers Alley sign that was in his building. An individual was interested in making a good home for this sign and after asking a few questions to “vet” that it would be a good forever home for a historic sign, agreements were made to transfer custody. In the process of this back and forth, I found out that the mother of the person asking for this sign was the daughter of Ed Heller who was a local brewmaster and she had “a few things” in her basement including a Brewers Year Book from 1950. Without trying to hide my excitement I asked if I could invite myself to see this treasure trove of Breweriana and the deal was done. Well, maybe I put a lot of icing on the non cake that is me, by asking if I could also invite my friend and colleague Curt Schieber the author of “Columbus Beer: Recent Brewing & Deep Roots“.

Flash forward to this morning when Curt and I, two perfect strangers to these very kind people, found ourselves in a nicely finished north side basement looking at relics of the August Wagner Breweries (and other places) and hearing about the long career of Ed Heller. He lived an incredible life. As the oldest of nine children, Ed had to leave school in the 8th grade to find work. Eventually, through a lot of hard work, perseverance and saving a lot of money for the time, he found his way to New York city to earn a prestigious Brewmasters certificate. Being a brewer on the South Side of Columbus would have made him one of the most respected citizens of his era. He lived into his 90’s surviving throat cancer in his late 40’s and being unable to speak and then another cancer, heart attack and more later in life. For many years his family lived in one of the brewers houses on Front Street which in itself created so many memories including going to the brewery on Saturdays so that the brewers could make snowballs out of the melting ice in the brewery for children to play with.

The assortment of photos, signs, glasses, bottles and more in this basement space told more than just the story of a brewer, it tells the story of a important part of life in Columbus during his career. Our hosts Angie and Greg shared so many stories with Curt and I that I lost count. More importantly the four of us connected due to a passion for celebrating and preserving history. Much of what we saw were items that easily could have been discarded or separated over the years but keeping all of this together created a wonderful longitudinal story.

This was truly a treasure trove. Curt, spent three years working on his book but had never seen the majority of what we were looking at and hearing about today so he was thrilled with having access to this hidden history. One thing we collectively lamented on is that most families loose so much of their history and connection to the past by not having someone with an interest to pass it on to the next generation. Increasingly there is no one in the present that wants take on the role of family historian and archivist. Today Curt and I got lucky. I am sharing a few of the many photos I took below.

Posted in beer, culinary knowledge, culinary misadventure | 2 Comments »

Ding Ho, Wor Sue Gai: Columbus Institution & Midwestern Foodway

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 26, 2019

Many moons ago, I came across this interesting article about the origination of Wor Sue Gai / War Su Gai in Columbus. The claim seems credible with a strong probability that the dish started at Far East Restaurant in Bexley sometime in the 1920’s. Two of our oldest Chinese restaurants in town – Wings (1970) and Ding Ho (1956) have connections to that restaurant. The dish is simple – wok fried chicken topped with chopped almonds or peanuts depending on the restaurant and era, covered with gravy and served on a bed of lettuce. My memories of Columbus Chinese food of the 20th century recall this dish vividly anywhere we dined. Other locales call this Almond Boneless Chicken as described in an article on Eater. There are differences in how this dish is presented, especially in how the gravy is prepared throughout Columbus and elsewhere but the core of the dish remains the same. As I was reading through this research I realized I have never dined at Ding Ho and I figured I should fix that.

Ding Ho has a long history in the capital city, dating back to 1956. It has been in several locations on the west side. It has been at it’s current location on Phillpi Road since 2008 in what looks to have been a former fast casual restaurant space. The original Ding Ho (which roughly translates to -> the best) started in a converted gas station. During its prime it stayed open late, served the movers and shakers of Columbus such as Mayor Sensenbrenner and offered steaks, chops, sandwiches and more.

Today, Ding Ho might be an easy place for people to dismiss either for the location or for having a traditional, Americanized Chinese menu. For those that have not visited, it is well worth the trip. Even though it is in a newer building, Ding Ho has an old school feel about the space. It is well maintained with plenty of room for dining and even a patio area. Service was friendly and very fast. On my visit I noticed it was well populated with many regulars that the staff knew by name.

Of course I ordered the Wor Sue Gai. I ordered an egg roll. I also opted for the optional bread service – mainly because I was intrigued by this offering. My server just asked if I would like bread…so of course I said yes. I was promptly given a plate with two slices of bread on it and small vat of butter. I was told this has been a tradition since the 1950’s since the menu once included a wide variety of American and Chinese-America comfort foods. Over time, guests would see bread being served with a steak or chops and ask if they could have it with their Chop Suey or Wor Sue Gai, so bread remains an option to this day. My egg roll was good. I really enjoyed the house made sauces readily available at the table to ladle on my egg roll. Both sauces were fresh and complimented the egg roll well.

The Wor Sue Gai was served within a matter of minutes. It was piping hot and had the requisite chicken, gravy, rice, lettuce, crumbled peanuts and in my case scallions/green onions which are optional. All white meat is also optional for this dish. It was exactly what I expected. It might not be an exciting dish for a professional foodie but I felt this was a fine rendition of this traditional dish.

While my expectations were not exceedingly high for this visit or dish, all of my expectations were exceeded. The most important part of the meal was the friendly attitude of the staff and the pride they have for continuing a third and fourth generation small business. That alone justifies a trip to explore this historic dish.

Ding Ho Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in culinary knowledge, restaurants | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Elite Eating Hack: Rockmill Tavern Spicy Chicken Sandwich

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 18, 2019

The absolute best sandwich in Columbus, among many worthy candidates, is the Spicy Chicken Sandwich at Rockmill Tavern in the Brewery District. Saying the best of anything food related in this city is a bit daring, in that often a flood of counter arguments and in some cases trolling will ensue. At least I am not declaring the best pizza in Columbus, such audacity would likely get me lynched.

Rockmill Tavern is no stranger to “best of”. It was voted best new restaurant when it opened in the fall of 2016 and has maintained top ten status since. In what may be the most contested best of category in the city, BEST BURGER, Rockmill has generally landed in the number one or two spot along with Preston’s. (I love Preston’s so if I was ever forced to choose between the two burgers I would just eat both and call it a draw).

The Spicy Chicken sandwich is a beautiful work of culinary art. Fried chicken style breading encases a gigantic long slice of chicken bread that extends past the bun at least two to three inches on each pole of the sandwich. It features a generous allotment of spicy (but not too spicy) honey butter. To complement the light heat, a thin layer of urfa mayo is slathered on and a small stack of thinly sliced bread and butter zucchini (not quite pickles but serving that role). Sandwich all of this between a brioche bun, add more butter and when available top with a delicious, buttery, red pepper and the end result is the Spicy Chicken Sandwich. Take this same basic concept and place on their amazing biscuits and you have essentially the same sandwich in biscuit format known as the Chicken Biscuit when you can get it

Let me cut to the chase to get to the hack, because it is a game changer. This hack was created by a regular customer (once or twice per week) which shared it with bar staff who in turn shared with me.

Elite Eating Hack for Rockmill Tavern Spicy Chicken Sandwich

1) Take the pepper off the top of the bun, remove the stem and place on the chicken.

2) Lift the bun and flip over to make it less messy to eat and to infuse more butter into the chicken.

3) Eat the sandwich. Consider ordering a second.

Suggested pairings: Rockmill Dubbel, Old Mill Rocky or Rockmill Witbier

Please note: The photo in this post is of the Chicken Biscuit Sandwich. It is similar, and equally good, but not exactly the same – however it does accurately show the bun to chicken ratio and basic sandwich configuration and proportions. I did not take a photo of the Spicy Chicken Sandwich because more often than not, I prefer to eat my meal instead of tweet it, I find it is much more satisfying.

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

A Tale of Two Cities Pizza Company, Mason

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 19, 2019

While pizza was a possibility for the day, actually any day in our household, Two Cities Pizza was not on our radar because we did not know it existed. The CMH Family was wrapping up a full 24 hours of activity in Cincinnati: (The Duke Energy) Children’s Museum, Gameworks (so CMH Griffin could play his first game of Pac Man), The Hampton Inn in Newport which is a convenient five minute walk to the Newport Aquarium which was our destination for the following day and EnterTrainment Junction (a chance discovery the year before). Of all of those experiences, the one that CMH Griffin enjoyed the most was….the Hampton Inn. In fact, he was very upset when we loaded up the car to leave after the aquarium. He thought we were going back to the hotel and repeated over and over for the next 10 minutes….I want to go to the hotel, I want to go to the hotel…….. When I debriefed him about his love of the hotel the next day he explained that he liked the elevator, the view of the city and the free cookie at the hotel. Consider that a five star review. If you are going to the aquarium and making a day of it in Cincinnati, I would suggest Hampton Inn as well.

After EnterTrainment Junction (Trains, Trains, Trains, a play area and currently a wonderful exhibit on marbles) we were hungry and wanted to have a good meal after a slightly disappointing trip to a bakery earlier in the day. I did not expect to get a great recommendation from the staff of EnterTrainment Junction (since they have in house food) but we asked the right guy in the toy store there and he suggested Two Cities Pizza and a few other places on Main Street in Mason. I was skeptical about Two Cities, it sounded like a gimmick – a pizza place serving both Chicago and New York City Pizza. However, when we pulled up I was instantly smitten. Two Cities Pizza Company is located in a 1930’s Art Deco building. Old Yellow Cabs which look like they were pulled out of NYC or the Windy City sit awaiting delivery orders. The interior has a great bar set up, plenty of industrial vibes and elements of New York and Chicago intertwined throughout the decor – signs, posters and a restroom area that looks like it was pulled from a subway station. Keeping the two cities motif going, beers from both cities are features in draft and well as select Ohio craft beers.

We started with Bootleg Bread – a mound of fresh dough, baked to be pulled apart with in fist sized chunks. The hard hat sized loaf is infused with garlic, herbs and cheese – both gooey and crispy. It is served with marinara and house made ranch dressing. The ranch was so deliciously dilly (with plenty of fresh dill embedded in the base) CMH Spouse bought a jar to go.

Moving on to the pizza we order a small New York style and a small Chicago style, both with pepperoni. We were playing it safe because we were not very hungry after the bread even though the specialty combinations looked amazing. We were pleased with both of our choices. Getting a personal sized pizza works against the core attributes of a NYC pie. The size of our pizza precluded the distinctive crust ring but everything else was true to style – the dough was dense and chewy with great flavor.

The Chicago style pie was spot on as well. The flaky, almost pastry like dense crust was true to Chicago tradition and featured a chunky tomato sauce with a touch of spice and plenty of depth from top to bottom. Any Windy City Pizza purist would find no fault with this pizza.

Our experience was great across the board. As a trained restaurant mystery shopper, every check box on my list received a check plus. Our service was great. Hearing this was our first trip to Two Cities, the operating manager came to talk to us and shared a treat from the kitchen. We studied the menu selections for future trips. It is my hope that on future trips to Cincinnati, CMH Griffin will say his trip to Two Cities was his favorite part with the Hampton Inn a close second. A dad can always have hope.

Two Cities Pizza Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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