CMH Gourmand – Eating in Columbus & Ohio

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UDF – United Dairy Farmers serves UDF – Ultimate Donut Fans! (The Ohio Donut Trail)

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 22, 2020

One downside of the Ohio Donut Trail (for readers) has been that many of the places I have written about are off the beaten path, hard to find and sometimes have quirky hours. Fans of the Ohio Donut Trail will be happy with this new addition, because a UDF is easy to find throughout Ohio and they all have very convenient hours.

United Dairy Farmers (UDF) started in 1939 in Norwood, Ohio at the time it was an innovative concept. This was a place where people could pick up milk on the go for less than the cost of having it delivered. Over the years, the company grew, locations expanded to close to 200 in three states and the range of products offered increased exponentially including the award winning Homemade Brand Ice Cream. In 2019, UDF started their own bakery with a product line including donuts. The donuts debuted in November of 2019 and consumers found they were definitely different – most are square!

Most people in Ohio are familiar with United Dairy Farmers. I have a long history with UDF, the first ice cream I recall eating came from a UDF in Clintonville. I recently wrote about some of my favorite food things and one was UDF Homemade Brand Ice Cream. I was contacted the next day by UDF thanking me for picking their Ice Cream as my favorite. I was asked if I had tried THEIR donuts. I said no so they offered to send me some samples and I said YES!

They took the delivery very seriously. UDF makes donuts for most of their locations at a new state of the art production facility / bakery they constructed in 2019. The site includes a bakery proofer made in Germany that required a flatbed semi to deliver it to its new home in suburban Cincinnati. Delivering donuts to me was much easier but I will say I was impressed. The head of their Central Ohio distribution center delivered them to me personally after calling to make sure I was home. The donuts were freshly baked that morning and I had my samples by early afternoon. My entire experience made me feel like I was dealing with a small family business instead of a moderately sized regional business empire.

I love donuts. My son LOVES donuts. My wife likes most donuts. I was hoping for a box but I received four! UDF makes thirteen varieties of donuts. I did not receive samples of each type, but I did have an opportunity to try most of their top sellers. My family and I took the responsibility of taste testing very seriously, that is after my impatient son and patient spouse observed the first directive of food writing – no one eats until the photos are finished. It was almost a photo finish for our favorite. The Sprinkle donut was exceptionally good, while that was my son’s favorite and my number two both my wife and I were smitten by the glazed croissant. Some people call them doughsants, others cronuts, we just call them delicious. We were both devastated when my wife’s dog (Stella the Destroyer) ate 1/2 of one. The dog still lives with us but is on triple secret probation. I can certainly understand her desire to steal. I am typically a cake donut eater but in this batch I was pleased to find I really enjoyed their yeast donuts as well. Also very noteworthy, our few remaining donuts still tasted good the next day and the day after that. In my experience many donuts tend to have a shelf life of about one day, these have some longevity to them which is good because I can’t see myself getting less than a dozen at a time.

Another endorsement for these donuts, I was happy to pay money for them the next time I was at a UDF. Unfortunately, there was only one glazed croissant left and yes, it was amazingly good. Thanks UDF! If you are an Ultimate Donut Fan you will want to give these a try.

Posted in donuts, Ohio Donut Trail, Product Review | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Pizza Tour Confidential

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 8, 2020

Pizza Tour(or) Stories

Columbus Brew Adventures merged with Columbus Food Adventures at the beginning of this year. It was win win for everyone, then Covid. I’m still a guide emeritus when tours resume but it will be a while before some of the tours come back. The pizza tour I created called Pitchers and Pizza had a final run at the end of 2019. One of the sites has closed for good, so that version of the tour as it was operated will never return. I do have a couple routes in mind for the future but a lot needs to happen for me to guide a new version of the pizza tour. I usually enjoyed the diverse groups of people that joined me on my Pitchers and Pizza Tour from 2013 to 2019. There were a few experiences that led me to question my profession. I can now tell the untold Tour(or) stories of the tour.

The scariest moment in tour operation occurred in 2018. A mentally disturbed gentleman screamed about the dangers of pepperoni as I was talking about the history of Late Night Slice with my guests. He would not disengage from me or my group and his voice got louder and louder and his proximity to my face became closer and closer. I used every mental health trick in my book to get him to disengage from us but none of them worked. Eventually, I gave up. As I was trying to escort my tour guests out of Ledo’s the bar staff had to step in and throw the man out just before we made it out the door.

My favorite story involves Meisters. I showed up one day about 10 minutes before the tour which is late for me. A few of my guests had already arrived. I noticed the kitchen was dark and that is when “E” came out to see me. He had come in for his shift to find the oven was broken. He thought someone had called me (nope). He was waiting around just in case I came in. By this time most of my guests had showed up. At this point he said he did not want to leave me hanging so if I could find him an oven, he could make the pizza for my group. I spent about a minute racking my mind about what to do. I then made a call. Iacanos was our second stop and the manager Chris was a stand up guy. I explained the situation and he said E could come to cook his pizza on their ovens….if he could get a slice. The deal was done. I told E where to go and who to talk to, then I stalled to give him time to cook his pizza. I had about 30 minutes to kill so I covered my normal content at Meisters then took the guests in to see the small kitchen and talked about pizza peels. When we arrived at Iaconos, we had Meisters and Iacono’s pizza waiting for us. E made two pizzas in case there was an issue with the ovens. There was not, so we had double the normal amount of Meisters minus a slice which ensured everyone could take some home.

Another Meisters story involves the Cleveland Browns. Meister’s has long been a Browns Backers Bar. This typically meant a good sized crowd on Sunday afternoons and I would have to come early to help clean up the Bird’s Nest where we started the tour. The crowd kept staying later and later and seemed to get drunker too, so I kept pushing back the start time of the tour. In 2018, the Browns were having a good season and the place was now packed to capacity. One Sunday, I was threatened by a couple of the fans in front of our guests which did not make the best impression but I asked my customers to stick it out. A few weeks later, I was dreading going to Meisters. I do not follow sports but that morning I decided to check on the game. It was a playoff game, the first the Browns had in a long time. Initially it was to start at 1 pm and would have a TV blackout but as I read more, it turned out the TV black out was cancelled and the time had been changed due to fan protests……too shortly before our tour start time. I had to change my plans quickly. I contacted all of my guests and told them we would still meet at Meisters but outside instead of inside and we would end the tour there.

When I pulled up the Brew Adventures van to start the tour – all of my guests had beat me there and a few looked terrified. The visual at Meister’s looked a lot like a scene from Lord of the Flies. The place was beyond packed and there were no parking spots on the length of the street. Two of my guests had to park at Kroger, almost one half mile away. I assured my guests that everything would be OK by the time we returned. Ledo’s was our second stop for the night. As I watched the game there, it appeared that it might go into overtime and the Browns might win. I was terrified of the vision of what Meister’s might look like if the Browns won. I was even more terrified of an overtime option that would place the game as still going on when we were to arrive at Meisters. I have never hoped for the Browns to lose but I did that night. At Houndodgs I snuck away to watch the game and with a few seconds left, it looked like the game might go into overtime. I decided to stall as long as I could. As we were leaving, the Browns lost in the last few seconds and no overtime happened. I still took my time getting to Meisters. When we arrived it was still busy so I asked my guests to wait outside while I checked out our area. I found one person semi- conscious in a chair and crushed PBR cans at a depth of two cans covering the entire floor of the Birds Nest. It took me ten minutes to partially clean up the area before I could lead my guests in. E saved a pizza just for my group – all of the food had been wiped out long beforehand. I vowed never to run the tour during a Browns game again.

My last best story involves Late Night Slice. In January of 2015 a few hours before tour time, I received an email from the manager of Clintonville Late Night Slice. He wondered if anyone had told me that they were having their all company holiday party that night therefore all of the locations were closed. Nope. I had just over two hours to figure out my game plan. I could not cancel because most of my guests were coming from out of town and were already on the road. My wife saw the wheels spinning in my head and suggested I sub in Adriaticos, one of our favorites and the pizza we served as the late night snack at our wedding. Initially I said no, because they would be too busy and did not have craft beer which was a part of the tour. After considering all of my other options, I determined that Adriaticos was my only possibility. I also figured that If I called they would just say no. So I went in person to beg. I also needed to be on site to figure out where I could park a 14 passenger van on a crowded campus. I explained the concept of the tour and how much I would pay. The manager thought it was a neat idea. But he said no. When we saw the look on my face he elaborated, “next Sunday is one of our busiest days of the year, that is when all the students come back”. I smiled. I told him, I was looking to arrive in just a few hours….today. The manager said that would be perfect because this particular Sunday was probably the slowest day of the year.. So for one time only, the tour featured Adriaticos – with cans of Seventh Son and Four String to take home since I did not have a craft beer to sample at Adriaticos. Mission accomplished.

Posted in Food For Thought, pizza | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Columbus Style Pizza Not Your Thing? Try These Other Regional Styles Inside 270

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 1, 2020

Columbus has changed a lot over the last twenty years. Franklin and Delaware counties are among the fastest growing in the country. Today, many residents are transplants to our city. This may come as a surprise to some of you but there are some among us that do not like Columbus style pizza – thin, cut into squares and piled with pepperoni. There are others that do have an affinity for our preferred pizza pie but want to expand their horizons while staying in place this summer and fall. If you can’t travel to the style of pizza, I’ll tell you where you can find it here in Columbus.

New York Style Pizza

The first pizzeria in the United States was most likely Lombardi’s in New York City opening in 1904. Over the years, New York style pizza became defined as a pizza with the thin, floppy crust with a thick, dense and chewy crust ring and high gluten flour. Can cut into big triangle slices. Most New York transplants assume a good version of this style is not be be had in the capital city. They are mistaken. Here is where you can find bona fide New York slices or pies.

Paulie Gee’s

The Paulie Gee’s in the short north is the first westward expansion of Paulie Gee’s in Brooklyn. Terry Gibbs crafts authentic NYC style pies with high end ingredients and some of his own variations as well.

Borgata Pizza

Borgata Pizza now has two locations. In the early days, it was a little known spot on the Northeast side of Columbus. Today, even expat-New Yorkers make an effort to find their way to the doors of either Borgata.

Sarafino’s
This long time North Market fixture continues to please the taste buds of even the more hard core slice eater. Grab a slice while you support other North Market merchants on your next shopping trip.

Late Night Slice

Unicorn (formerly Slut Sauce) need I say more?


Detroit Style Pizza

Detroit Style pizza is definitely different. The origins of this style go back to 1946 at a place called Buddy’s Rendezvous (still open today as Buddy’s Pizza). This style has some relationship to Sicilian style pizza – it is rectangular in shape, thick like focaccia bread and originally baked in drip and parts pans used by automotive dealerships. It is also typical to char the ends of the crust to make it extra chewy and crunchy.

Paulie Gee’s

The aforementioned Paulie G’s also makes incredibly good, albeit pricey, Detroit style Pizza. The quality of the ingredients justify the price but $20 for six slices is hard to swallow on a regular basis.

Jet’s

Yes, I am mentioning a chain. Jet’s Pizza makes a respectable Detroit style pizza and I have heard many local foodies quietly admit that they have a hankering for the Turbo Crust at Jet’s.


Sicilian

Adriaticos

Adriaticos’s makes three types of pizza, the most beloved is their Sicilian Pizza in the form of a Buckeye Pizza. The Buckeye is a large 18 x 24 sheet of Sicilian style pizza that can feed 10 – 12 or more people with ease. It is offered at a bargain price on Mondays and Tuesdays.


Chicago Style

Chicago style pizza has origins going back to 1943. Ike Sewell had a vision to make pizza a family meal and as thick as a pie so it could be eaten with a knife and fork. The guy back in the kitchen figuring out how to make this new style work was John Malnati. Ike’s place changed names a few years later to Pizzeria Uno. Lou Malnati’s took his fathers know how and recipes to start a chain of his own. Chicago style pizza is thick. It is cooked at lower temperatures for a longer period of time, typically about 40 minutes. The order of ingredients is typically different that other styles – sauce on top, then cheese, then toppings resting on the dough in that order.

Yellow Brick Pizza – Tristano’s Chicago Stuffed Pizza

Tristano’s Pizza in Grove City closed in 2016. Before the end, Yellow Brick apprenticed with Lou Tristano to learn how to make his version of Chicago style pizza. I considered Tristano’s among the best in Columbus. Lou made a good pie. He started working in his family’s Chicago area pizzeria before high school. The Yellow Brick version is about 94% as good as his, I will take that any day.

Giordano’s Pizza
Yes, the legendary Giordano’s pizza has a location in the Columbus area located near Polaris. I like their salads more than their pizzas. They are good but something is lost in the move to Columbus.

Meister’s Pizza

Meister’s Pizza is hard to find, tucked in the back corner of Meister’s Bar but it is worth the effort to find.

Massey’s Pizza
Massey’s does a respectable version of Chicago style pizza which I need to try again.


Rhode Island Style Pizza

Typically served in strips – this pizza sometimes features a sauce with a kick. It has roots in what is called Tomato Pie.

Yellow Brick

Yellow Brick has Rhode Island roots and inspiration but not quite a true to style Rhode Island Pie.


New Haven style Apizza

New Haven style pizza goes back to the 1920’s at a place called Frank Pepe’s. This is a thin crust pizza, coming out of a coal fired oven. Traditionally this is served as sauce with some pecorino romano sprinkled on. If you want mozzerella you need to ask for it (this is similar to the early pizzas in Columbus). White Clam Pizza is a signature style at Frank Pepe’s which was adopted by other pizzerias in the area. It is white style pizza (no red sauce) with littleneck clams. Frank Pepe’s and Sally’s Apizza are the most famous of the shops. I went to both in one day. I like Frank Pepe’s better.

Taft’s

Oddly, you can find a good version of this style of pizza in Franklinton, at Taft’s Ale House which is based in Cincinnati.


Steubenville / Ohio Valley Style Pizza

DiCarlo’s

Steubenville style pizza, also called Ohio Valley Pizza, originated in the 1945 in Steubenville by the DiCarlo family. It is a thick crust, rectangle shaped pizza that has a layer of sauce and a dusting of cheese when in comes out of the oven. Cheese is then dumped on the hot pie with the original concept being that it will melt by the time the customer gets home. In the old days this was not always the case. Today DiCarlo’s has a Columbus location and you can decide if this style works for you or not.


Cincinnati – not really a style

If are from Cincinnati, you have heard of LaRosa’s Pizza. If you miss it, there is a location in Dublin.


Let me know what I missed.

Posted in culinary knowledge, pizza | Tagged: , , , | 10 Comments »

The Perfect Summer of Covid Gift?

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 20, 2020

My guess is you are still living in some sort of stay in place lifestyle. You may be using spaces differently, spending a lot more time with fewer people and trying to multi-purpose any room you can to have some sense of variety. That is what I am doing.

I receive a multitude of press releases and one caught my eye recently. It was for a company called 30 Watt. They now offer Capski, a self adhering wall mounted bottle opener you can take anywhere. The back of the bottle opener uses a special technology (think of a post it note on steroids) that allows it to stick on many “shiny” surfaces.

Two full disclosures: 1) I was sent a free Capski to try out (if I do not like a product, I don’t write about it but I do send feedback). 2) CMH Gourmand is a now a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for this site to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. I have never done this before but wanted to see how and if this works. If you click on Amazon links in this post it could put money in my pocket. If you buy this product from Amazon, even better.

30 Watt is already well known for their Sudski Shower Beer Holder and Joeski Shower Coffee Holder.

The Capski is a perfect gift for people that are constantly changing their minds about where things should go. This could work well for those that do not want to commit to screwing something into their walls or perhaps someone that is in the go all the time that needs a bottle opener that requires minimal contact and is easy to wipe down.

Of course you can find the Capski on Amazon.com and have it just in time for your next socially distanced cook out or as a belated Father’s Day gift.

I liked the packaging of the product – with a strategically placed “Beer Me” located on the back tab. The product can be placed in locations that would be helpful to have a bottle opener including refrigerators, metal tool boxes, a grill (not sure if the heat will make it fall off, I’ll find out soon) and more.

The instructions for this product are straightforward and located on the removable and reusable cover on the back side.

If you get your own Capski let me know the most unique spot you used it.

#StaySafe this summer

Posted in Food For Thought, Gastronomic Stimulus, Product Review | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

TOP TEN Top Ten Columbus Lists: These are a few of my favorite food things……

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 14, 2020

Many Top Ten lists are based on a criteria of one person’s opinion of what is the best or a poll for the masses that often has an aggregate of mediocre. In the world of food and drink – the best is always subjective and personal and variable. Best does not always mean the finest execution, or ingredients, or the finest person behind the counter. My Top 10 is based on what I crave. Like music, the most technically perfect singer or a master of an instrument is not always the one with the most awards or the most money. A pop star strikes a cord with people based on much more than skill or craft.

When Columbus Alive, Columbus Underground, 614 Magazine and etc., run a best of poll the internet trolls come out to complain about which the “best of” are listed. In the case of these polls the term favorite would be better served than best. Best implies quality which can be objective in the world of food and drink, but there is still a subjective component to the decisions process. For instance when best brewery is listed, the winner is more often the place that people have heard of or where they like to hang out instead of the place that most accurately brews beer that is true to style or would win the highest rankings from trained beer judges. In the case of Mexican restaurants, more often than not a chain scores the “best of” win. Objectively and subjectively a chain Mexican restaurant could not be the best in Columbus but they get the win because more people have dined at a chain than one of our great authentic Mexican restaurants in town. Condado is not the best Mexican Restaurant in town, nor Chipotle.

When I was leading brewery tours (pre-covid) people would always ask me what the best brewery was. I would respond with my typical response. “Most of them are my friends so where I go and what I drink depends on my mood, budget and what style had me most intrigued at the time”. The same question came up when I was running my pizza tour, I’d throw out a top ten instead of an answer to the best pizza in town.

So after a long time of ducking the question of what my favorites are…..here is my top ten top ten.

Ice Cream

Ice cream was my first food obsession. When Graeter’s had their yearly T-Shirt promotion I always earned my shirt early. I still have all of my shirts in storage. I toured the United Dairy Farmers Ice Cream plant in Cincinnati – it was heavenly. I was given two table mats. One side explaining how ice cream is made and the other side detailing how milk is processed. I had these framed and still have them today. When Denise’s was open in Clintonville, I spent a day making ice cream with Stan, the owner so I could get the story right. My first featured article in Ohio Magazine was about the best ice cream spots in Ohio. Last, but not least, my first job was at Knight’s Ice Cream in Clintonville. I worked there for two years in high school and saved up to pay for 1/2 of my 1979 Camaro! So yes, I do love ice cream and I know enough about it to objectively know what is needed to made a quality ice cream.

Top Ten – Ice Cream

1) Homemade Brand Ice Cream – favorite flavors: Coconut Almond Chip and Peanut Butter Chip.

Some may be shocked by this choice, in my case, the tipping point is the price to value ratio. United Dairy Farmers – the makers of Homemade Brand, regularly run a buy one, get one promotion which usually translates to $1.75 per pint – that is a bargain considering the quality of ingredient in Homemade Brand.

2) Graeters – favorite flavors: Coconut Chip, Buckeye, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Chocolate Coconut Almond Chip.

3) Taggart’s Ice Cream, Canton Ohio – favorite flavor – Chocolate Pecan

4) Mitchell’s Ice Cream (Cleveland)

5) Mitchell’s Ice Cream (San Francisco)

6) Handel’s Ice Cream (Youngstown / Powell)

7) Honey Hut Ice Cream (Cleveland)

8) Jeni’s Ice Cream

9) Mardi Gras Ice Cream

10) Johnson’s Ice Cream


Top Ten Pizza Joints

(OK a disclaimer here – these are not listed in exact order – my favorite depends on my mood but these are all my top ten)

1) Adriatico’s – both the Sicilian and New York Style (always with extra sauce)

2) Hounddogs – Smokin’ Joes style. The taco pizza is a recent favorite

3) Iacono’s – specifically in Buffet form. It is not likely the buffet will come back anytime soon but that is a price to value decision. One of my favorite simple pizza’s is cheese only at Iacono’s. They sprinkle a little Romano on top when it comes out of the oven.

4) Tommy’s – Tommy’s last name is Iacono and these two pizza places are connected. The founder of Iaconos was Tommy’s son. However, these two pizzas are very different.

5) Pizza House – in addition to pizza, I really love their open faced meatball sandwich.

6) Cheese Board – Berkley, California

7) Zackary’s – Berkley, California

8) Bexley Pizza Plus

9) Meister’s

10) (TIE) Both RIP – Tristano’s and Lost Planet Pizza and Pasta

Addendum (11) Punch Pizza – Minneapolis



Top Ten Restaurants I Miss:

1) Galaxy Cafe

2) Lost Planet Pizza and Pasta

3) Tapatio

4) Niki’s (Greek)

5) Cancun (best Mole Enchiladas ever)

6) Dagwoodz

7) Tristano’s

8) Kahiki (not so much for the food but for the atmosphere)

9) Alana’s

10) Daddy-O’s – specifically double batter fries at 1 am


Top Ten Donuts in Ohio

Followers of the Ohio Donut Trail take note.

1) Donald’s Donuts – Zanesville

2) DK Diner – Grandview

3) Family Donut Shoppe – Londonderry

4) Bill’s Donuts – Centerville

5) Jack Frost Donuts – Cleveland

6) Brewnuts – Cleveland

7) Holtman’s Donuts – Cincinnati

8) The Original Crispie Creme Donuts – Chillicothe

9) Buckeye Donuts

10) Auddinos Bakery (Home of the doughsant / cronut)


Top Ten Foods I can not enjoy life without

1) Cheese – of all types. A few favorites: Any Blue Cheese from New Zealand, King Island from Australia, Cowgirl Creamery – San Francisco, Pearl Valley – Ohio

2) Ice cream (see above)

3) Pizza (see above)

4) Pattycake Bakery Tollhouse cookie

5) Eggs Rolls with house sauce from The Rice Bowl

6) Almonds and Cashews

7) Peanut Butter – chunky

8) Killer Brownies – Dorothy Lane Market

9) Dark Chocolate

10) Hot Dogs – ideally from O’Betty’s in Athens


Top Ten Breweries

(OK, please note beer snobs and the trolls from Columbus Craft Beer Consortium – the whole is greater than the sum of the parts so in addition to beer I am including – ambiance, customer service, etc. Other than #1, the rest are not in specific ranked order.

1) Little Fish – Athens.

2) Barley’s – Angelo! The Pre-game for my wedding and the co-creators of Tobias!

3) Seventh Son – Where I had my wedding and co creators of Tobias.

4) Restoration Brew Worx – Frank!

5) Smokehouse – Lenny!

6) Sideswipe – Famous Craig and Brewer Stew!

7) New Glarus

8) Three Floyds

9) Granville Brewing

10) Tie: Pretentious Barrel House – it should not work but it does / Endeavor Brewing

True disclaimers, there are so many great breweries in Columbus, it is so hard to limit to less than 25.


Top Ten Best Food Trips

If I only has ten days to live, would teleport to each of these cities for my final meals.

1) Berkley

2) Austin

3) Athens (Ohio)

4) Chicago

5) Cleveland

6) Bend, Oregon

7) Yarra Valley, Australia – pick up a bottle of Yering Station Fortified Shiraz

8) Melbourne, Australia

9) Cinque Terre, Italy

10) Columbus – don’t knock our city, this is an incredible place to eat.


Top Ten Places I need to get to in Columbus (not in exact order)

There are so many great places to try in Columbus. The great hidden treasures are the many immigrant kitchens serving incredible food in Columbus. If you are not adventuresome enough to test these out, I would like to suggest you take a leap of faith and try a Trust Fall Dinner from my pals Columbus Food Adventures – see some videos -> HERE

1) Yemeni Restaurant

2) Hoyo’s Kitchen

3) Jiu Thai

4) Huong Vietnamese

5) Addis Restaurant

6) Dabakh Restaurant

7) Afra Grill

8) El Arepazo

9) Poong Mei

10) Mediterranean Food Imports


Top Ten Places I am eating from During Covid / Stay at Home

Some places are much more stay at safe than others, and places that do not make an effort to create good social distancing will not get my business. All of these are pick up locations.

Other than the first place, these are not in exact order.

1) At home – my wife is a great cook and we are eating about 95% of our meals in house.

2) Iaconos Pizza (Kenny Road)

3) Lavash

4) Fibonacci’s Pizza – at Studio 35

5) Gallos Kitchen

6) Neighbors Deli

7) Smokehouse Brewing

8) Hounddogs Pizza

9) Pho Asian Noodle House

10) Taco Bell (yes it happened) – just once so far.


Top Ten Places I want to eat at when Covid is over.

1) Rockmill Tavern

2) El Arepazo – Brewery District

3) Ambrose and Eve

4) Gallos Kitchen (our carry our was good, I’d like to see how in house goes)

5) Wolf’s Ridge

6) Iaconos Pizza Buffet

7) Amal Indian Restaurant Buffet

8) Studio 35 – Fibonacci’s Pizza

9) Caleb and Robin’s house – our old neighbors from Oakland Park Avenue – we have missed our friends and Griffin cried when he could not play with his pals Violet and Landon when they did a drive by this week.

10) O’Betty’s – Athens Ohio – best hot dogs ever

Those are ten of my Top Tens. I’d love to hear about your favorites, especially places that are doing a good job for pick up or delivery in Columbus.

Be Well and eat even better.

Posted in Best Pizza in Columbus, culinary knowledge, donuts, Food For Thought | Tagged: | 6 Comments »

Top 13 Independent Columbus Pizzerias to Support During Covid (and After)!

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 21, 2020

Let’s just say Covid and the Ides of Covid have been a trying time. Many of my friends own and/or work in local restaurants, breweries and distilleries. The stories of their grit and determination to keep going are amazing. It is expected a large percentage of restaurants may not come back when we return to whatever the new normal becomes. There is one sector of food service that has seen a glimmer of “Okayness” during Covid – PIZZA!

Although pizza sales have slumped 8% this year, that is nothing compared to double digits in other food industry sectors except grocery stores. Whereas other food businesses are laying off staff, the big pizza players such as Papa John’s, Pizza Hut and Domino’s are hiring thousands of staff to meet increased demand for delivery. It is great that jobs are created, so many people need a paycheck. And I would say so many people need pizza, however, the chains will survive Covid or not, our around the corner shops, may not.

This is a crucial time for our local mom and pop pizza shops. For the last two decades the number of independent pizzerias has rapidly declined due to fierce competition from corporate chains. In Columbus, the former Pizza Capital of the USA (true fact in the 1990’s), the decline of independent pizzerias has had a more shallow curve than most other cities, but is still significant. During the heyday of Columbus Pizza, there were more pizzerias per capita here than anywhere in the country, today, Columbus does not even place in the top fifty. The end of 2019 saw several old school Columbus pizzerias close including the original Minelli’s on Sullivant. The closing trend was expected to continue during 2020.

Before Covid, many of our local independent pizzerias were struggling to keep their doors open. A bevy of factors contribute to the teetering fate of mom and pop pizza shops: fierce competition in the pizza industry, a greater variety of food choices that can be picked up and delivered, more late night food options, the high price of quality ingredients and more. The biggest hit to the continuation of independent shops has been a lack of desire of third and fourth generation children to take over the family business. Families today are typically smaller than their first generation pie slingers which means – less family to work the business to continue the legacy and cut down on payroll. A profitable business and strong local support might change a few minds about shutting off their pizza ovens. Covid can slow the decline of independent shops and each of you can do something to help with that, order from a neighborhood pizzeria.

My primary research tool on Columbus pizza consumption is Instagram, which seems to show a lot of pizza consumption from local shops. Keep it up, support your neighborhood shop and try to add at least one new spot to your list – ideally one per week, but once per month would be OK.

Here is a list of favorites (not in exact order). And there are more than 13 that are list worthy.

Tommy’s

Iaconos

Adriaticos

Hounddogs

Meisters (hours may be very limited)

Pizza House

Little Sicily

Enricos

Dantes

Josies (The Bottoms)

Rubinos

Panzeras

Gattos

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TAT: Talk of the Town, Ninety Years and Counting

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 3, 2020

The story of TAT Ristorante begins in 1929 in the former Flytown neighborhood of Columbus. The address was 409 West Goodale Street. The name itself is directly related to a historic moment in Columbus history. Pete and Philomena Carrova were looking for a name for their new restaurant. Prior to opening the doors to the public, a historic event occurred at the city’s airport, the Columbus Municipal Hangar (CMH) on the east site. On July 9th of 1929, the first transcontinental flights in the United States were launched. Passengers started their journey in New York via train, the first stop was Columbus where train passengers were transferred to a waiting Ford Tri-Motor aircraft to fly them to their next destination. In the course of 48 hours, a person could travel from New York to Los Angeles. It was an amazing feat for the era and the talk of the town that Columbus was a part of it. The name of this new airline was Transcontinental Air Transport or T-A-T. Legend says that Pete Corrova would watch planes from Transcontinental Air Transport flying into and out from the airport and decided to use the initials he saw on the planes as the name of the restaurant. Another legend suggests the once officials from T-A-T came by to ask about the use of the name and Pete replied it stood for “take any table”. The airline did not last long and faded from memory quickly and we do know that Pete’s son Jimmy Corrova started to tell customers that TAT did indeed stand for take any table. Today. The current home for TAT features a wonderful mural by local artist Carl Weisenberger which depicts the history of TAT..the airline in a series of images.

“Progress” in the form of new highways, cut up the Flytown neighborhood in the early 1950’s and forced TAT to move. Pete and Philomena opened the new location on the growing east side at 3280 E. Main St at South Hampton Road (it remained there until 1965). The couple continued to serve food that reflected Pete’s Sicilian (Ficara) roots and the recipes Philomena brought from Naples…and of course pizza. In 1955 (or 1954), Jimmy Corrova and his wife, Dolores, opened a second TAT at East Broad Street and James Road. In 1962 the family added a location at Livingston Avenue and Beechwood Road. This was followed by a pizza focused location on the west side, the TAT Pizza Carry Out at 3858 Sullivant Ave (which became Minelli’s Restaurant & Pizza Carry Out in 1967). During the brief tenure as a TAT, the west side location was very busy with Jimmy Corrova recalling they used “five to six delivery wagons and sold 600 pizzas per night on Friday and Saturday”. After the death of patriarch Pete, followed by Jimmy having a heart attack, the family decided to merge the two remaining east side TAT’s in 1980 which remains TAT’s location today, 1210 South James Road (at Livingston Avenue).

As the oldest continuously owned family restaurant in Columbus with over ninety years of service, a plethora of memories and stories have accumulated. Maintaining a tradition followed by most of the original pizzerias and many Italian restaurants in town, recipes are not written down. Kitchen staff (or family members) are shown how to make something and then they follow suit. Before Jimmy had heart surgery in the 1980’s, he made sure that video tapes were made showing him creating all of the essential recipes for the kitchen.

Corrova started working at TAT when he was seven, when he was nine he stood on a crate to run the cash register. Today his wife, Dolores is the general manager and his brother Anthony is the maitre d’. Defying generations of Sicilian tradition of leaving everything to the first born son, his daughters Michelle (back of the house / kitchen) and Marianne (front of the house) are ready to take over the family business when Jimmy decides to give up the reins.

A favorite story of Jimmy Corrova involves his David vs. Goliath fight with several big businesses in his cease and desist lawsuit involving the use of the the term, Poor Boy sandwiches in Ohio. At the time, several companies including Kroger were selling frozen Poor Boy sandwiches locally. A barely adult Jimmy decided to bring a lawsuit against these companies including the local grocery store chain. Shortly after word got out about what he was planning to do, he was asked to meet with “a few people” at Romeo’s Pizzeria. When he arrived, the place was full of various Italian community leaders as well as powerful Democratic and Republican lawmakers. He was very strongly “encouraged” to stop his legal fight so as to not stir up the pot. He was told the suit would destroy the family business and be bad for the Italian-American community. Afterward, he went to church where he “received a message from Heaven” that he would win the case. When he asked his lawyer how much he should sue for he was told $100,000. He recalls thinking that was a lot of 0’s (zeros). He did win the case after six years and TAT still owns the Poor Boy Trademark to this day. Jimmy believes the headline in the Citizen Journal (local newspaper of the era) was “Judge Slices Up Sandwich Attorneys” on the day he won the suit.

TAT is known for having many employees who have worked front and back of house for decades as well a countless regular customers that span the generations. Many customers have a favorite booth and/or server. One booth even has a plaque dedicated to a long time customer who passed away, now the booth is reserved for her forever. TAT puts the old, into Old School in every aspect one can imagine. This family business has survived the Great Depression, countless recessions, treads, fads and an endless stream of new competition by not changing a thing. The only thing that has changed at TAT is their style of pizza served which has evolved from their original thicker crust interpretation with American cheese to the classic Columbus style today with just a few tweaks since the 1950’s.

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Panzera’s Pizza: A Story of Persistence and Pluck

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 19, 2020

Panzeras Pizza

The origin of Panzera’s Pizza reads a lot like a Horatio Agler rags to riches tale. The Panzera family immigrated to the Grandview area in 1955 just before Nick Panzera observed his fifth birthday in his new home country. They arrived from the Abruzzo / Abruzzi section of Italy speaking little English and immediately set themselves to work. Nick, started working at Tedeschi Italian Bakery (at Third Ave. and Doten) in Grandview. Initially he was bagging bread but over time he took on many other roles. Nick and some of his brothers would sometimes work at nearby Leonardo’s Pizza as well. When Nick was 12, Tedeschi Bakery closed so he and brothers were out of a job in the case of his brothers, one of their jobs). In late 1964, Nick and brother Phillip with the help of many family members decided to run the bakery space as a pizzeria and called it Panzeras. It was a small operation open seven days per week with one oven and dough mixed by hand….managed and operated by 13 year old Nick Panzera.

One of the keys to making this work was one of Nick’s teachers, George Sotiris Georgas. As Nick was getting ready to open the pizzeria, George kept asking him questions about what items would be on the menu and how much Nick was planning to charge for each specialty offered. Nick was surprised by a stack of menus given to him by George who make the on the schools mimeograph machine as a surprise for opening day! George also knew that Nick was working late nights at the pizzeria so he arranged for Nick to have a “job” in the school book room which allowed Nick to sleep and/or study the first two periods of the day. The first $5 sale at Panzera’s Pizza was from George and it was framed on the wall for years.

In 1966, older brother and business partner Phillip was working at the nearby quarry but it was laying off employees. He came to Nick and said “I’m moving”. Having just moved to a new house, Nick was confused and asked Phillip why he would so move again so soon, to which Phillip explained he was not moving to another house, he was moving to California to find work. At this stage, Nick was 15 and in high school and didn’t feel he could run the business on his own. He considered putting the business up for sale but after a less than desirable offer he decided to figure out how to make it work. He decided he would start advertising but knew before he could start marketing the business he needed to upgrade everything in the pizzeria so he could increase his production volume. Nick worked with Stan Becker a salesman at Wasserstrom to order $10,000 of equipment: another oven, a mixer, slicer, double door refrigerator, pots, pans etc., everything needed to allow a few people to make a more pizzas in less time. The price tag for these upgrades was high so an owner was needed to sign on the bottomline. Nick was 15 so Stan told him he was too young to sign the contract. Nick replied to Becker that his dad would sign it but Stan knew his dad did not speak English. So Nick countered that he would read the contract to his dad. Stan was a bit wary of that. In the end, Nick signed the contract with his dad’s name while Stan looked the other way.

After the new equipment was in place, Nick worked with a customer to print 10,000 menus including coupons. Then Nick loaded up a car to drive his nieces and nephews around the Grandview neighborhoods dropping them off at one end of the block and picking them up at the other side to deliver fliers throughout the area. People started calling in orders and dropping in the first day of flier delivery leading to some very busy days. Phillip came home to visit shortly thereafter and was amazed at the stacks of pizzas waiting to be picked up in the shop.

Nick got married in 1969. He started buying rental properties in the area to expand diversify his income. Many of the pizzeria’s customers were police officers and they would often say “Nick you should be a cop”, so when Nick turned 21 (1972) he applied for the police academy and was accepted. Eventually Nick’s wife told him he had to give up at least one business so he decided to sell the shop to Fred Lombardi and his wife (Nick’s sister) in 1976. Fred had worked at Panzera’s (and Leonardo’s Pizza) for years including managing the shop since Nick started working as a police officer. (Nick was once called Panzera’s Pizza in response to a robbery call items stolen included the frame dollar bill from the first sale at Panzera’s).

Panzera’s Pizza moved a few times since opening in 1964, in 1983, Fred Lombardi moved the shop to the present location at Grandview and Third Avenues. Today, although Fred is “retired”, which seems to mean he is working what most would consider a normal work week Fred remains a fixture in the kitchen. Fred is still at Panzera’s making dough, sauce and preppy pizzas. Many of the extended family have worked at the shop over the decades. The recipes are all Panzera family recipes with no changes since 1964. None of the recipes is written down all are passed along by one person showing and expecting the other person to continue doing. Panzera’s still makes their dough, pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce and many other Italian specilaities from scratch. Fred passed on the pizza peel of day to day operations to his son Carlo many years ago and today guests can often find Fred, Carlo and (grandson) Andy kneading and tossing the dough behind the counter.

A non pizza menu item that has been popular since the 1980’s is the Monster Sub which is a fusion of a Italian sub and meatball sub wedded between two buns. Another thing customers can count on at Panzera’s is Nick dropping in several times per week (when he is not visiting brother Paul at Paul’s Pantry just around the corner). You will find a lot of important things at Panzera’s that are not on the regular menu: three generations of family that are proud of their pizza, connected to their neighborhood and their customers in a way that few businesses can compete against. All of this because a 13 year old needed a job and the extended Panzera/Lombardi family always helped each other out to keep the family business going. That alone, is worth a visit, the pizza is a bonus.

Historical side dish:

Phillip Panzera came home from California to visit the pizzeria shortly after Nick expanded the kitchen operation and started his marketing blitz. While Phillip was walking in, he noticed a man walking out of the nearby insurance agency, which was a new neighbor to Panzera’s. At the same time, the insurance agent in question did a double take noticing Phillip as well. Each sensed they knew each other and after a lot of conversational sleuthing figured out they had met in Italy, during World War II (over twenty years before) when the jeep the insurance agent was riding in picked up a hitchhiking Phillip on a dirt road far from Grandview, Ohio and the United States.

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(Product Review): TheCrazyCap and the quest to keep water clean

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 31, 2019

CrazyCap Bottle

I am the father of a four year old boy. Nothing on this planet seeks out dirt, grime and general chaos with more gusto than a four year old boy….except maybe the three year old version of the same. When CMH Griffin (CMH Son) entered the world of daycare when he was just over two years old we began a year of guerilla warfare with germs. For the first three months of school he was out sick (home with daddy) more often than he was in school. Making it to school three days a week was a GOOD WEEK! As the person that “never gets sick” I was sick more often over that 18 months than I had been in the previous 18 years, I even picked up a case of Foot and Mouth Disease (yes, eww).

We are doing better at Daycare/Pre-School today but in the course of a school day he is embedded with up to twenty three other chronic germ machines and so his his water bottle. When I saw the Crazy Cap pitched in a back to school press release, I volunteered to take one for a test drive for my family to see if it could survive the four year old challenge.

Here are some of the Crazy Cap selling points!

– The deep UV LED provides 500,000 water treatments during its lifetime

– CrazyCap’s battery lasts up to 1 week, comes included with charger

– The CrazyCap can be used to sanitize any surface. Simply shine it on cell-phones, laptops, tablets, etc.

– CrazyCap is compatible with most 9, 12, 15 and 17 oz insulated stainless steel bottles. In case you don’t have a compatible bottle, the brand also offers double-walled, vacuum-insulated bottles that are designed to keep beverages cold for up to 24 hours or hot for up to 12

– It contains deep UV LED sterilization technology to destroy microorganisms completely (unlike traditional filters, which trap but do not destroy). Purify your water on the go and keep your go-to bottle sanitary at the same time

– “CrazyCap’s makes sure that your bottles do not smell funky or moldy. It is our guarantee!!”

All of the above seemed impressive.

I tested this out at home from fall to Christmas break. Overall, I found the product easy to use and understand. The charger was easy to use. A color coded light system in the cap helps you understand what the battery level is in the CrazyCap and it allows you to determine what level of sanitizing you want to use. An added bonus of the CrazyCap is it can be used to sanitize items other than your water and the bottle itself, you can use use in on keyboards, phones, and etc. This could be a handy item for a camping trip or an emergency preparedness kit (if you keep the charge fresh).

CrazyCap with charger

There were two downsides for the “back to school” uses for this bottle and they mainly apply to the audience I tested this with. While this would be a good back to school item for a high schooler or even an older middle school child, I would not suggest this for young children, especially those in daycare and probably elementary school. First, the CrazyCap is not dishwasher safe which means it is not kid safe nor exhausted adult proof. Second, there is a warning not to look directly at the CrazyCap UV light…..you know that is bound to happen with a toddler and even some teenagers and adults. I do think this would be a great gift for the techie in your life.

To find out more about CrazyCap check our their website -> TheCrazyCap.com

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(Product Review): TwentyFifty Compostable Spoons

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 25, 2019

Compostable Spoons

True Fact 1: I am a recycling and sustainability nerd who would like to progress to being a zealot.

True Fact 2: I am a sucker for anything FREE!

When I received a press release about TwentyFifty compostable tableware I was beyond intrigued so I made a pitch to test drive some of their product. I also asked if I could run a contest to help get the word out about their products and what their mission is. The company said yes to both of my requests. If you want the opportunity to have a box of compostable spoons sent to you so you can try them yourself, follow me on Instagram at: CMHGourmand and you can participate in my Instagram contest on January 1st – to help make your own New Year’s Resolution to be nicer to our planet. One commenter to my New Years Day Instagram post about these spoons will win a box of spoons.

TwentyFifty is a San Diego based company with noble purposes. One goal is to create methods to allow cutlery to be made around the world using locally sourced grains.

Named after the year 2050 – the year the population is projected to reach 10 billion and when it’s estimated that the amount of plastic waste in the ocean will exceed the amount of fish – the brand has one mission: to stop, or at least significantly reduce, plastic pollution. They are doing this with cutlery. The first, and only, compostable alternative to single-use plastic you can compost in your own backyard compost pile.

A few facts about plastics that I hope terrify you. As a parent of a child I hope has a liveable world after 2050, here are a few things that could keep me up at night.


Over 40 billion plastic utensils go into landfills and oceans every year.

There are about 300 million tons of plastic that are produced every year with half of them estimated to be for only single use and they are then dumped in the oceans after use. This then creates an underwater smog of plastic debris and this then affects the seabirds and marine life that ingest it which can then affect the health of the people that consume the affected animals later.


From a documentary that was filmed by a journalist Craig Leeson, a director of A Plastic Ocean discovered discarded plastic bottles on the ocean floor while he was filming whales underwater in the India Ocean off the coast of Sri Lanka. He then traveled to about 20 locations so as to show the effects of plastic on the marine ecosystem and his documentary then talks about how the plastic in the ocean breaks up over time to become tiny pieces called microplastics. This then enters the food chain and it brings toxins into the fatty tissues of the fish and other animals which will then be transmitted to human during consumption. – from The Heart Beat

There are other compostable cutlery options out there but most require a lot of energy to produce and then break down after use. The design of the TwentyFifty fork, spoon or knife allows it to be fully decomposed in a typical home composting bin within 30 days. You could even stick one in the ground of your garden and let it release nutrients into the soil after eating some of your garden produce at a picnic – how do you like that for cycle of life?

Spoons side by side

If you are searching for a real alternative to single use plastic that is a win/win for the environment, TwentyFifty has a sound solution for you. I received a box of 12 that I tested out in various ways for typical things my family does at home and away. The spoons are both aesthetically pleasing and practical to use. They hold up well to any use I could think of and did not add any aftertaste or discoloration to foods. I soaked one in a glass for four hours and it was still usable. After one hour of soaking, it showed no signs of wear or decomposition, at 4 hours, it was pliable and could be broken with some effort but still retained its shape. The spoon is made with a mix of wheat, corn and soy flours. I was impressed after my thorough usability testing and am excited to see what other products that will produce over time.

Box 0f Twenty Fifty Spoons

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