CMH Gourmand – Eating in Columbus & Ohio

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Awadh: An Addendum to Indian Buffet Battle & An Education in Pani Puri

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 14, 2018

What first brought me to Awadh was a pressing need to find an easy access public bathroom at Carriage Place Shopping Center because at I really had to pee. It being a Monday, Awadh was not open (that is changing soon) but the $8.99 Lunch Buffet sign put the restaurant high on my radar for a later, less pressing trip after I finished one of the lower level needs on Maslow’s pyramid. In the past, I spent a lot of time at the movie theater and restaurants of Carriage Place located near the Northeast corner of Bethel Road and Sawmill. Today, I mainly go to the area to donate blood, but, I had a new opportunity to drive the length of the Carriage Place Shopping Center (with a lot of focus) and see everything that has changed over the years – many of the restaurants have moved on and some new but familiar faces like Fitzy’s Diner have become part of the landscape.

I dropped into to Awadh the next day with pretty low expectations. The name of the space is a bit confusing. While the main signage says Awadh, there are numerous posters on the windows suggesting it may be called TGIXpress as well. One migh think it is a bar due to one large poster that is selling beer specials. The spot is small, seating 40 to 50 with some creativity and does feel “new” which is appropriate, it has only been open five months. I was greeted warmly by a very friendly hostess and I was followed in by two regular customers who were known by name and beverage preference upon arrival. I excused myself to the bathroom when I entered (this time in a less pressing manner than the day before) and by the time I returned, there was a plate with warm, fresh samosa waiting for me. The hostess mentioned this comes with the buffet and the the kitchen wants to make sure these are always as fresh and warm as possible for customers upon arrival.

Settling in, I spied ten entrée dishes available to sample as well as naan and Bhature (a puffier, slighty sweet bread), a bit of salad, chutneys, and two desserts offered at the buffet. The offerings during my visit were: Asian Style Noodles with cabbage and vegetables, Chili Potatoes, Cauliflower Potato Curry, Saag Paneer, Chicken Pea Curry (noted as Chole), Basmati Rice, Chicken Tika Masala, Chicken Biryani, Goat Curry and Tandoori Chicken.

Each dish was well labeled, looking appetizing and fresh. Entree were set up in smaller batches in the holding table so they could be rotated quickly. I found each of the dishes to be good. My favorite was the Chicken Biryani which featured whole chicken wings.

My memorable experience of this trip occurred when I made my last run to the buffet. The hostess had checked on me many times and seemed to enjoy my many questions about the business and food. She may have admired my dedication to research as I thoroughly tested out each dish. I had fallen off her radar for just a few moments which allowed the next faux pas to happen since I was unsupervised. The photo below shows how to not put together a Pani Puri. In my defense, oddly, this is not a dish I have had before, which is saying a lot since I am a long time fan of Indian cuisine.

The hostess noted my erroneous attempt and kindly walked over to me before I returned to my table. She quietly and discreetly asked me if I had Pani Puri before. I said no and looking at what I had in my dish and her look at it, I realized I had missed the mark by a mile. She then politely showed me how to construct it properly – breaking the delicate little ball of hollow, fried puri and filling it and then surrounding it with everything I had not topped it with. I was a good learning moment for me and a good opportunity for me to help her with finding the right English words to use as she struggled to walk me through some of the steps of purveying puri to my plate. I like an opportunity to learn during my meal and I was very impressed with how the hostess graciously guided me down the right path.

Jumping back to the buffet battle series from 2016, the Indian Edition, following the buffet battle format here are my initial ratings of Awadh as I make an addendum.

Value 5
Quality 4
Quantity 4.25
Highlight: friendly and attentive service and a clear desire to continue to improve the business and grow new customers
Kid Friendly Quotient 4 (some booths are kid friendly and CMH Griffin and I can pop in easily since his school is just around the corner).

Other bits of knowledge you may find helpful. Awadh is a region in Northern / North Central India. Pani puri is a common street snack in several regions on Nepal and India. It is presented as a round, hollow puri, fried crisp and filled with a mixture of flavored water, tamarind chutney, chili, chaat masala, potato, onion or chickpeas. My bill came to $9.66 with tax (my beverage was water). It was a good value for both the experience and the quality of food offered.


TGIXpress Bistro & Bar – Awadh India Restaurant
awadhindiarestaurant.com

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Posted in Buffet Battle, culinary misadventure, restaurants | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Happy Hour at Rockmill Tavern

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 8, 2018

Rockmill Tavern has a lot to offer and that is not just me, who is likely to be biased, saying that. It was voted best new restaurant when it opened in fall 2017. It has been a top ten restaurant in Columbus in both 2017 and 2018. A big part of this is Chef Andrew Smith and his focus on great, local when possible ingredients that pair well with Rockmill Brewery beers in particular, Belgian styles. Another part of this is the freedom owner Matt Barbee gives the kitchen to do their thing. Matt is no slacker when it come to food pairings and an eye for good ingredients and great talent. All in all the front of the house and the back of the house work well together to deliver a good meal consistently. Over the last year, Rockmill Tavern has been quietly crafting and testing the waters for a happy house menu. It launched over the summer with little fanfare. The offerings, which are still occasionally tweaked, have consistently make me happy. It was recently announced that Chef Smith will be leaving Rockmill Tavern to embark on a new culinary venture adventure but he leaves behind a tightly run kitchen that can execute what he crafted and maybe even crank it up a notch.

Below you can see the current offerings. My guess is some items may ebb and flow over the winter but the key elements will stay the same and keep me coming back. The most critical element of the happy hour is the price point – nothing is over $5. Additionally, each item is designed to be a hefty snack but each offering showcases something from the kitchen you typically do not see on the menu or at least with a different preparation. The Happy Hour runs Tuesday to Friday from 3 to 6 P.M. often paired with a beer special.

If you have never been to Rockmill Tavern, you have probably heard at least one word associated with the menu – biscuit(s). These are so good, in any format – large or small, with or without a massive egg or something sweet or something savory that one local young lady will honor them as currency. Ms. Cheryl Harrison, a local expert on beer, bacon, board games and biscuits, values a Rockmill biscuit over even Bitcoin. The Happy Hour menu offers a mini version of the biscuits and for $3 per order why not have several and if you know Cheryl, take a few home for her.

An unexpected item in the menu is an English standby, Tea Sandwiches. Why, do you you say, should a Belgian inspired Taproom, in the heart of the Midwest and apparently as red as can be, offer a British afternoon staple? And I say back, why not old chap or my lady, they are quite good and provide just enough tasty carbs to carry one over to the next draft.

A crowd pleaser, which also find their way onto (OSU) game day menus (because….America) are the Adobo Wings. These are whole marinated Filipino style wings served crispy with a hint spice and Korean pickles to offset the heat and accentuate the flavor of the offering.

Last and not least, because this is a personal favorite is the Croque Monsieur. This mini sandwich makes perfect sense since it is a traditional French bar snack. This Sandwich is always offered with a fried egg (unless you opt to decline the egg which would be foolish) which technically makes this sandwich a Croque Madam. Gender confusion aside, this simple sandwich, is simply divine and one of my favorite food items of 2018. The quality of the bread paired with Muenster cheese and Prosciutto creates a messy although perfect blend of layers to make for a delicious sandwich. The eggs at Rockmill are sourced from Amish farms making the fired egg just a bit better and typically fresher, often same day fresh. The flavors of all of these ingredients exceed even the very high quality of the individual parts. At $5 per sandwich, this item meets my current budgetary restrictions and this snack has saved me from having a totally shitty day on more than one occasion this year.

There is no good reason not to have this happy hour on your end of the year bucket list so go do this.

Rockmill Tavern
Brewery District
503 South Front Street
plenty of parking all around

Posted in Locally Sourced, restaurants | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Swenson’s Sweeps into Columbus (A Special CMH Spouse Post)

Posted by cmh gourmand on October 29, 2018

Due to a schedule that is a mix of grueling and chaotic this week, I called in CMH Spouse to pinch hit for me to check out the soft open / test drive of the first Swenson’s in Columbus.

Hello CMH Gourmand fans! This episode of “The Gourmand Eats” is being brought to you by Mrs. Gourmand, a.k.a. CMH Spouse. The Gourmand has been super busy guiding beer and ghost enthusiasts around town, so I was asked to fill in for him this weekend at the soft opening of Swenson’s Drive-In, located at 7490 Sawmill Rd. in Dublin. To say that I was happy to serve as his proxy is an understatement. I, and many of my fellow Northeast Ohio transplant friends, have been enthusiastically sharing articles about Swenson’s opening in central Ohio for months.

Originally hailing from Kent, I grew up dining on Swenson’s burgers and shakes. Every time the Gourmand, myself, and CMH Griffin head to Kent to see my family, Swenson’s is one of the locations we always stop at. Their burgers and shakes are deliciously simple and taste like no other burger in the world. (I feel like I can say this as an authority on burgers having dined with the Gourmand at many burger and dog joints around the nation). ((CMH Gourmand Note: We don’t get out much these days, but pre CMH Griffin, investigatory dining as an occupational hazard of being my spouse)). Swenson’s has been open in the Akron/Kent area since 1934 and has been a favorite of my family for many generations. My grandparents were frequent customers, parking in their giant Lincoln Town Car, flashing their lights, and ordering a couple of Galley Boys, the signature and award winning burger Swenson’s is famous for.

The Gourmand himself is a big fan of the Galley Boy. I like to try to steal the green olives they place on the outside of his burger before he eats them, but prefer to order a good old-fashioned cheeseburger. My typical order is two cheeseburgers, with just ketchup and a grape milk shake. (And yes, you read that correctly, a GRAPE shake. Try it, you will love it.) No matter what burger you decide to order, the bun is always lightly toasted. Growing up, rumors circulated that the bun (or maybe the patty itself), had a little brown sugar added to it. I cannot honestly say whether this is a fact, but the burger definitely has a slight sweetness to it, that pairs really well with the heavy coating of cheese that they add to it.


Swenson’s also produces delicious fried side items you can add to your order. Throughout the years, I have sampled fried mushrooms, fried zucchini, French fries and my all-time favorite, onion rings. I don’t often indulge in the Crispy Extras, because the shake and burgers are quite filling, but if you have never been to Swenson’s before, they are a must try.

Another perk of dining at Swenson’s is that you don’t even have to get out of your car. As soon as you pull in, a highly enthusiastic server will already be sprinting to your car to greet you. If you are a Swenson’s regular, they will immediately take your order, if not, you will be advised to turn your lights on when you are ready to order, and the first server to see them will be there to assist you. Orders turn over fast, and will be delivered to your car on a tray that fits over your window (along with your check). When you have gobbled down the last crumb of your meal, you simply flash your lights and a server will be there immediately to take your tray and payment. The servers all share the tips, so everyone is compensated for their hustle. And hustle they do, rain, shine, or snow.

The grand opening of the Sawmill location is November 9th, and I already know that teams of Kent-ites will be arriving to get their Swenson’s fix. If you are a Swenson’s virgin, check it out, you won’t be disappointed. A second location will eventually be opening on Ikea Way in the Polaris area, conveniently located just down the street from the school that I teach at!

Posted in hamburgers, kid friendly dining, Ohio, restaurants | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

The Boat House at Confluence Park: Dinner and a View with a Nod to 1958

Posted by cmh gourmand on October 12, 2018

I know you have heard, I don’t get around much anymore. However, CMH Spouse and I had an unprecedented third date night for the year. We went to the Boat House at Confluence Park. This is a spot we have been to once in the past while CMH Spouse was pregnant. This is where we told CMH My Mother that CMH Spouse was with child. That was a big deal, for a lot of reasons. This time, it was just a big deal for us to be out of the house and feeling alright about doing so. I will be forthright in sharing that we were there as guests of the Boat House for a big deal for them, the sixtieth anniversary of Specialty Restaurants Corporation the operators of nationally known restaurants including the Boat House, The Rusty Pelican, 100th Bomb Group and 94th Aero Squadron.

My mission, which I gladly chose to accept was to try out the 1958 Reef Throwback Menu offered to celebrate the anniversary of the company. This special menu is offered through October 21st and features signature dishes from The Reef which opened in 1958 as the first restaurant in the company.

It was good to get reacquainted with the Boat House after a four-year absence. I recall a day in my past when it was easy for me to keep my list of restaurants I wanted to try out very short, but in the last five years, the number of good options has increased exponentially and my opportunities to try them out has decreased factorially. I drive by the Boat House almost weekly as I go about my duties in the city but I had forgotten some of inherent perks this restaurant has to offer. First, parking, parking, parking! Most restaurants we seek out do not have much in the way of easy parking so it was refreshing to have our pick of spots close to the entrance. Second, location, location, location! The Boat House rests at the confluence of the Scioto and Olentangy rivers offering an exceptional view of downtown Columbus. The evening we visited offered absolutely perfect patio weather (observationally, I would say 2018 has offered the city three evenings as climatically perfect as our night out so I am glad we snagged the last one this year is likely to offer). I had never dined outside at the Boat House or in the past when the site was called River Club however within a few seconds I decided this is an experience I could easily get attached to. Our view was great, our table was comfortable and we were in the care of a phenomenal server.

We started out with the house bread. Bread service seems to have lost favor in the world of current dinning trends but I miss that tradition. As our household has been largely gluten-free for the last five months, we both missed our good friend gluten and were happy to dive into the loaf of bread offered to us. The bread was light yet filling. It is proofed and baked in-house and lightly brushed with butter, parmesan cheese and roasted organic garlic.

At this point our drinks arrived. We sampled two signature cocktails, Dave’s Margarita and a classic Mai Tai. The margarita is named for SRC’s founder and World War II veteran, David Tallichet since this was his favorite in-house drink. He added his signature to the classic drink by showcasing fresh lime juice and orange liqueur, for the anniversary version of Dave’s namesake drink the restaurant adds Camarena Tequila, Grand Marnier Italia and Cointreau. Served with a slice of lime and hardy glaze of salt on the rim, this was by far the best margarita I have had in a long while. The Mai Tai was a treat as well. It reminded me of days past at the Kahiki. Most of the Mai Tai’s I’ve had in this decade were disappointing, The Boat House did not fail me on this cocktail, it was one of the best of the style I have tried.

Moving on along to appetizers, I enjoyed the Throwback special of a crab cake with Tiki sauce, fresh mango was a highlight of the tower of tiki inspired ingredients resting atop the crab cake on my plate. As CMH Spouse is intensely allergic to mango so opted for the house crab cake (lump crab with a spicy remoulade). Having lived in Maryland for ten years, she found these crab cakes meet her high standards.

Not on the Throwback menu, but definitely something I would throwback all night is the calamari. At the Boat House, the squid is sourced from Rhode Island and never frozen. The breading is infused with buttermilk and served with a mildly spicy Thai sauce. The flavor of this dish was great, it was clearly fresh and was not over-fried or greasy in any way. We also discovered that the remoulade from the crab cake was an outstanding alternative dipping sauce for the calamari.

My next course on the Throwback menu was Teriyaki steak with jasmine rice and steamed broccoli. This was a simple, straight forward dish. My steak was perfectly cooked and marinated. While the steak did not need the sauce served with it, the blend of flavors in the sauce perfectly accentuated the steak and went well with both the rice and broccoli when I was so inclined to drizzle some on each.

CMH Spouse dined on the Pan Seared Tasso Chicken which was a chicken breast served with sliced marble potatoes, asparagus and Tasso ham with all parts of the dish swimming in creole cream sauce. When my wife started to fill up with plenty left on her plate, I gallantly offered to finish it for her. We both loved the rich flavors offered in this recipe. The Boat House will be launching a new menu for the season later this month so we were happy to hear this entrée would continue through the winter.

Last and not least on the Throwback Menu was Pineapple cheese cake. This dessert was executed brilliantly. The slice was generous in size, the crust of the cake held up to the weight of the cake filling itself with the flavors in both complimenting each other nicely. The pineapple was gently piled on top but added a noticeable pop of flavor to each bite. This was not something dumped out of a vacuum sealed bag, it was fresh pineapple diced, then cooked down with sugar.

I’ll also restate again, our server was phenomenal. I apologize to her for not asking for the proper spelling of her name, but “Raye” was friendly and fun while being both poised and professional. She had deep knowledge of all of the dishes both on the regular menu and the 1958 Reef Throwback menu and made good recommendations to us throughout the evening. While she has only been at the Boat House for ten months her depth of knowledge might suggest to first time guests that she had been there for many years.

I enjoyed the 1958 Reef Throwback Menu as well as my wife’s selections for dinner. We could not have had a better evening and I appreciated the opportunity to do something fun with my wife knowing that everything would be great as soon as we entered the threshold. We were so stuffed we had to head home instead of dropping in to Seventh Son, the site of our wedding which was one of our last big nights out, so for CMH Spouse to decline an opportunity to extend an evening means we did not need to add to an already perfect experience. Thanks Boat House and happy anniversary to the company.

Where to dine:
The Boathouse at Confluence Park
679 West Spring Street
(where the Scioto meets the Olentangy River)
(614) 469-0000


The Boat House Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Pizza in Columbus Podcast with This Week News

Posted by cmh gourmand on October 5, 2018

There are just a few conservational topics one should prep for if moving to Columbus or to better assimilate into our society: 1) How ’bout them Bucks! – you can respond with any affirmative phrase or O H….pause. 2) How about that humidity! – again any affirmative or profanity will suffice. 3) What is your favorite pizza place? To this inquiry I would say, point behind the person then run. You are likely to encounter a highly partisan response. The good people of Columbus are passionate about pizza in general. In the 1990’s Columbus was decreed to be the pizza capital of the USA based on both the number of places serving pizza per capita as well as our frequency of consumption. The first pizza in Columbus is easily tracked back to TAT Ristorante in the 1930’s but the rise of pizzerias as we know them started in 1949 and never looked back. A favorite pizza place will tell you where someone grew up, often if they are a native and almost always what part of town they live in now. Pizza is not a light-hearted topic for casual conversation. This Week News had a few people come together to discuss the best pizza in Columbus and it was no easy matter. You can listen to episode 1 -> here.

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The White Castle Impossible Burger: A CMH Gourmand / 614ortyNiner Joint

Posted by cmh gourmand on September 30, 2018

I received a text from a colleague suggesting I try the Impossible Burger at White Castle. Based on the location of this venture, I decided it was a great opportunity for another joint evaluation with the esteemed 614ortyNiner.

I actually thought the location of this Impossible Burger to be a bit….improbable. A White Castle at SR 161 (Dublin-Granville Road) and Karl Road? This is an area that has not been known for food innovation since the early 1990s. However, I did confirm the venue via an Impossible Burger locator and found that the Impossible was not only probable, but true, it was indeed at this White Castle as one of the first sites in the city.

What makes a burger impossible? It is a vegetarian burger which has been challenging all types of food businesses to create a tasty sandwich using their creation as a base. Their philosophy, if you want to make a good burger without meat, it is possible to get people to eat more of them and this consume less cows and such.

The mere mention of an Impossible Burger and White Castle in the same sentence is likely to make a large percentage of the population snicker to the point of derision. However the two Venn diagrams of non believers are unlikely to have much overlap. On one side we have the Foodies and the general White Castle haters who see no value in fast food in general and “sliders” in particular. To that Venn diagram I say, dig a little deeper and you might find something that is not worthy of ridicule. I have editorialized in the past about my respect for White Castle as an innovator in food technology, work force development and etc. While I do not go to White Castle often, I have been a sucker for their breakfast sandwich for many years and typically I am drawn to any new menu item the company offers like a sailor to shipwreck by sirens.

As for the other Venn diagram in this online soliloquy, those that snicker at attempts to offer vegetarian alternatives to our military/industrial/oil/meat-focused complex economy I say, look to the future. The things that give use cheap meat are getting more expensive: gas, water, land, cheap feed, agribusiness, etc. Add to that, there is a lot to question about what is going into the meat we eat. It has been a decade and about seventy pounds since I was a six day a week vegetarian but I respect a good vegetable based burger and will support any effort to make such palatable to the masses. We need it. Me more than most.

Fast food is the perfect environment to try out a good vegetable based burger and of course Columbus with our long-standing reputation as the premiere food test market is the place to do so. This is not the first time White Castle has come on board with a meatless burger (some way they have been doing so since 1921). They debuted their veggie burger years ago and I was there to try it. White Castle still serves a veggie burger and it is still 99 cents – that it has persisted is a win.

In the case of the Impossible Burger, the approach appears to be more high-end than the typical slider. Both 614ortyNiner and I approached this taste test with great seriousness. Also, without planning to do so, we both used the same approach in our ordering. We each got a “standard” slider, a veggie burger, an Impossible Burger/Slider plain and an Impossible Burger with cheese (the default cheese for these is a smoked cheddar). We both wanted to start with a baseline and work our way up so as to fairly compare the Impossible Burger to what else is in the White Castle Universe. The FortyNiner shared he had limited experience with White Castle since he grew up and lived a large part of his life on the Bay Area. So on this trip not only did he try an Impossible Burger he also tried a regular, nothing added, run of the mill, plan White Castle Slider (I had mine with jalapeno cheese). We progressed in our burger consumption and made similar observations. The prep time for the Impossible Burger is about two times longer than the other items. The burger patty is about 2.5 times thicker than a standard slider. While we know it is a vegetable based burger, it does not really look like one (unlike the White Castle Veggie Burger which has visible vegetable parts in the patty). We do not know what vegetables are in this burger but we both thought it has a slight aroma of mushrooms as well as a slight hint of mushroom in the flavor profile. The patty was textured somewhat like a hamburger but was light and fluffy. It was edible, neither horrible or delicious. The Impossible Burger with cheese was significantly better than the plain Impossible burger. We both thought this burger would benefit from more add on’s, such as pickles. It was at the moment we both agreed to this pickle upgrade that we noticed the marketing poster shows pickles with this burger….so we say, make sure you get yours. We also noticed that the onions served with the Impossible Burger were very different that the typical finally diced and fried slider onions. These were bigger, wider and looked and tasted like they came out of a microwave. To make the product cycle lifespan of the Impossible Burger – Slider edition longer, this product would benefit by having the addition of the standard White Castle heap of onions.

Does this Impossible Burger actually accomplish the impossible of being a great burger? No! However, it is a passable product if you add on the right add on’s. In particular, I have always felt that any White Castle slider was a case of the whole being much greater that the sum of the parts so adding more parts to your Impossible Burger is the right call. I do, think this burger is destined to fail. The origins of fast food as well as the reality of fast food today is based on two elements – food served quickly at a low price. I’d also suggest dumping the smoked cheddar cheese, you can’t taste the difference and a standard slice of American or Jalapeno cheese will help them cut down the price. For the Impossible Burger to succeed it will need to reduce the price and the cook time by one half so it can be assimilated by the masses. Thanks for the assist 614ortyNiner.

Posted in culinary misadventure, Food For Thought, Vegetarian Friendly | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

No Menu Mondays at The Market at Italian Village

Posted by cmh gourmand on September 9, 2018

Let us begin with a quick overview of The Market at Italian Village before we get into the meat of the matter. The Market at Italian Village or Market IV which I sometimes hear people say, opened in the summer of 2014. It creates a European flair by combining the services of a butcher, deli, bakery, wine shop, bar and cafe offering small plates and entrees for lunch and dinner. You could, in theory, tell your spouse that you are going out to pick up some milk but in the process get some fancy cheese, a nice snack and a refreshing cocktail while still bringing a glass jug of Hartzler Milk home so as to not have your errand excuse tainted.

No Menu Monday was my first visit to the Market (really). Here is the concept for No Menu Mondays, starting at 4 PM the kitchen serves one-night-only experimental items created by Chef Tyler Minnis. The menu items change weekly allowing the cook team to flex their creative juices and have fun while showing off what they can do. The menu is hand written with some highlights on the wall mounted chalk board. On some Mondays there are also some pairings with classes. The night I dropped in there was an Amaro (Italian liqueur) making class that CMH Spouse and I would have loved to have attend but our schedule did not cooperate.

Speaking of CMH Spouse, this outing was also a date night. We do not get many of those. Our disposable income is nearly non-existent as is our unencumbered free time. Our schedules and energy levels rarely overlap. When the possibility of a date night does come up which is a rare opportunity, it is hard for us to justify the cost of a sitter and meal/activity since the cost of a few hours away would pay for a speech therapy session and an occupational therapy session both of which are not cheap and not covered by insurance. On past date nights we have: bought a cell phone, picked out a treadmill and at least 80% of the time if a meal was involved, one or both of us has had some type of gastronomic distress shortly thereafter. On this magic Monday, we had an in-house sitter, a school orientation we were both required to leave the house for anyway and (disclaimer) I had a credit to cover part of the meal from the kind folks at The Market at Italian Village. Plus this was a Monday which is often the only day of the week where both of us have our schedules remotely line up.

The No Menu Monday format turned out to be the perfect fit for us. We both were able to go to a place we had never been to. Since we were walking in for a menu that had never existed before and would not exist again, we had both no expectations of what we might have and a guaranteed unique experience that we could not exactly replicate again (which is great because we are unlikely to have another date night for at least six months). Most importantly the way No Menu Monday works ensured that we would get to work as a team – evaluating the menu together, deciding what the best candidates seemed to be as well as which were both mutually acceptable. If you are familiar with the Tom Cruise film, Oblivion, this may make sense, in my mind I constantly hear the phase from Mission Control “Are you still an effective team…Jim.” Yes, yes were are. CMH Spouse and I have way too much practice with team work. We planned our wedding and honeymoon in less than two weeks both of them perfectly executed and under budget. We sold two houses, moved twice and bought one house in eight months. Then things started to get complicated. Three days after we moved into our house she fell down the stairs breaking her ankle thus requiring three surgeries, eleven screws, a few metal plates, months of physical therapy and some interesting scooter rides at stores around Columbus. Within a week of her being “released” to walk independently and off her pain meds, she was pregnant with CMH Griffin. Griffin was born exactly one year after she broke her ankle so I often tell people I kept my wife incapacitated for a full year. The pregnancy and the post pregnancy had a lot of complications. Passing by that, raising CMH Griffin has had more than the average share of challenges. We have been in almost constant teamwork and problem solving mode for our entire marriage. So it was refreshing to have a teamwork exercise where the most pressing problem was how to maximize the probability that we picked the very best menu items for our tastes!

On to the meal. We started with Toast! Not your typical hipster Avocado toast but a very good house made bread, toasted and topped with fresh peaches, tomatoes, arugula and other tasty tidbits on an olive tapenade base. The verdict -> great!

Moving on along, we had a charcuterie plate with an assortment of meats, sauces, berries, pickled beans and other things, cheese, whole grain mustard and the best pork rind I have ever crunched on. This was paired with a plate featuring more house made bread. This was a huge hit as well.

Our main course was a shared plate of ravioli. My wife makes her own and she is of strong Italian descent so the standard is very high. The marinara inspired sauce with this dish was a winner as was the base of pasta it coated. This was the favorite of our selections for the evening. My wife was a bit concerned about the corn in the sauce but found it added a needed bit of sweet to the entree and although outside her realm of tradition, she embraced this in the dish.

We wrapped up with a dessert of a homemade ice cream sandwich with homemade cookies. This was just enough to ensure we were both stuffed without being incapacitated.

We had a very good meal with no mishaps which if not a first, is at least a rarity for at least our parenting years of our marriage. We will collectively take that as a win. Thanks for getting us out of the house, at the same time, No Menu Mondays.

If you care to supplement the musing on my No Menu Monday experience, The Market often posts photos of No Menu Monday menu items on their Instagram feed.

Market Italian Village Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Lost & Forgotten Restaurants Podcast with This Week News

Posted by cmh gourmand on September 7, 2018

I was on a podcast with This Week News where we discussed lost and forgotten restaurants of Columbus.

Of course, I led off with The Galaxy Cafe

You can listen to the Podcast -> HERE (part 1 at least).

Which leads to some questions for you enlightened or mournful readers.


What Columbus Restaurants do you miss?

What Columbus Restaurants are you afraid of losing / would rock your world if they closed?

What is the Columbus Restaurant scene missing or what do you think could do well with an encore performance (a resurrected restaurant)?

Posted in CLOSED, Columbus, culinary knowledge | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Wrapping up Book Week: What I would read again if I had the time.

Posted by cmh gourmand on September 1, 2018

I have always disliked the word foodie and have never wanted to be associated with it in any context. There are a lot of foodies out there and when I hear the term, I twitch a bit and then think of -> this.

If you are interested in good food writing as something both intertwined with and outside of the act of eating, these are the books I’d consider.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

I’m reading Kitchen Confidential this week. I finally got it from the library, having requested in on the day of his death. At some point in the next year or so, I will write something about him. But before I do I feel I need to reread this book and watch every episode of Parts Unknown now that I know the outcome of his life so I can look for clues for understanding its end. I don’t believe any of us can know what led him to take his life. I think there is a good chance he did not know either. In some cases your mind is not your own and that may have been his fate. In my opinion, many food writers do not have an authentic voice. When I was trying to learn how to write my professors and in some cases editors, did not allow me to have my voice in what I wrote, instead pushing me to be generic and inauthentic in my world view. For my style, if I would not say it, I would not want to write it either. Computers can churn out content with precision, humans can inflect some of their own character into the words they choose. The writing of a person that chooses to write should be a signature for or unique thumbprint of the person that creates it. That is voice, to me. The only person whose writing, voice and view of the world (at least looking at him from the outside) that I connect to on all planes is Anthony Bourdain. I’m not sure if I would have liked him in person or at certain stages of his life, but I oddly think that we would have instantly understood each other. I am sorry I did not get a chance to meet him. I would have been interested in what he had to say off the record and off the camera and off the cuff. When asked the typical question of who you would like to have dinner with living or dead, he would be one of my top three choices. And if I could do such a thing, I would ask him about his final days. I would want to see if he knew what path he was going down to his end or if it was just a random misfire of fate. So far Kitchen Confidential is as good as I remember it.

American Fried: Adventures of a Happy Eater by Calvin Trillin

This is the first food book I read. I want to say it was suggested to me by the Grumpy Gourmet. I really enjoyed this book and because of it, I went to Arthur Bryant’s in Kansas City.

The United States of Arugula by David Kamp
This is the best food history of the United States I have read. It is well written, informative and a book I have in my book shelf for reference.

Between Meals An Appetite for Paris by A.J. Liebling

I’ve never been to Paris (but I would very much like to go). Although this is about the city in 1926 to 1927 the best of the traditions and culture of food in Paris have changed little since then by all reports. This book opened the door for modern food writing and makes sure to get the story of the people who make the food right.

The Gastronomical Me by M.F.K Fisher

M.F.K. was a complex woman. I’m not sure if I could have endured her for longer than a meal at a time but I have a lot a respect for what she did in her time. She is the reason I have the CMH in CMH Gourmand. In additional to being the airport code for Columbus I wanted to do an homage to M.F.K. This book is probably her best and feels that it is from her heart.

The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection by Micheal Ruhlman

I have not read all of Ruhlman’s books but of what I have, this is the best. The hero of this book is Michael Symon, I wish he would have avoided most of his Food Network and other projects after and stuck harder to his restaurant roots but at least he is still a Clevelander through and through.

American Food Writing – edited by Molly O’Neill

I wanted to like this book more than I did but there are select stories in here that I would not have found otherwise, in particular, by M.F.K. Fisher and H.L. Mencken. I wanted to like Molly O’Neill better as well. She is a good writer and a hometown heroine – Clintonville of all places. When I read her memoir I was turned off by many gaps and gloss overs in the narrative. I wanted a writer to have more angst, humor is often borne out of adversity and as someone that had to fight hard through a male dominated industry and New York to boot, there had to have been more dark moments. Bourdain and Sedaris can capture those moments and run with them, in the case of her memoir it read like she hid from the dark places.

The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars by Joël Glenn Brenner

Even though I like Mars candies much more than Hershey, the two companies could not more diametrically opposed in all things. Mars is truly an evil empire and this book spells it out in a most delicious way.

Posted in Food For Thought | 1 Comment »

Char Broil Great Book of Grilling: 300 Tasty Recipes for Every Meal

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 31, 2018

I do not cook as much as I like or as I was accustomed to in a previous life. However, I still grill enough that I do not feel I have atrophied at that skill as well. When offered a copy of Char-Broil Great Book of Grilling: 300 Recipes for Every Meal I said yes, please. The book was released earlier this year just in time for prime grilling season. I was looking for inspiration and hoped to find some in this book. Apart from a few Guy Fieri quotes, I did find what I was looking for. The recipes were easy to follow and in some cased offered quick tips on how to enhance the flavor of the dish of avoid common mistakes.

Recipes are divided into these categories: appetizers & snacks; beef, lamb & veal; pork; poultry; seafood; vegetables, sides & salads; desserts; and marinades, sauces & rubs. The book leads with some basics for grilling including safety tips and some very handy charts covering grilling temperatures and times for various meats. There are also reminders for grill cleaning and basic care (something I need to be better in following but at least I am not abusive).

The color photography for the completed recipes is very good quality and as you progress through the different sections you will find morsels of information, quotes and etc., related to the recipe or general section you are going through. There are some in-depth features in the book as well such as how to grill a whole turkey (page 200). If you are struggling with something new to grill, the 336 pages in this book with cure that problem faster than you can cure your own bacon.

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