CMH Gourmand – Eating in Columbus & Ohio

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  • Archives: August 2006 to Now

Pizza Gourmand = Aficionadough on Columbus Underground

Posted by CMH Gourmand on April 12, 2022

Hello my loyal three fans. You may have noticed my posts are few and far between. But have heart, you can still get a fix of my infrequent adventures with my Aficionadough monthly feature on Columbus Underground. The one year anniversary of my column is in May. If you have missed out, you can catch up on articles both old and new -> HERE.

I’d like to say that I came up with the name. I gave Columbus Underground one stipulation when I came on board and that was I wanted the column to have a name. I submitted several possible names that I was not thrilled with to generate the brainstorming process and the gang delivered a good moniker. The articles have been well received and have generated a lot of click bait. My story about Dover style pizza resulted in a deluge of emails (some started initially as deeply offended). The feature I did about Pepperoni Rolls may have placed me in the sights of the Steubenville Mafia. While just writing about one type of food my seem limiting so far I have not struggled to find some new take for each article I craft. And yes, there is a Columbus Style Pizza.

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A Review of the Reviewers of Columbus Pizza: A Slice of History – A Special Festivus Edition

Posted by CMH Gourmand on December 23, 2021

Hello Loyal CMH Gourmand Reader(s)!

My book, Columbus Pizza: A Slice of History has been out in the world for 13 months.  I am happy to report that I have crossed the $1 per hour threshold for profits.  The book has garnered largely 5 star reviews on Amazon.  Reviewers in other venues are not as generous but still fair.  The toughest reviewers are on GoodReads which makes sense since that is a cadre of book nerds that frequently read books. None of the sites allow me to provide feedback to the reviews so I am using this Festivus blog as my venue to respond to reviews to date.  To those that provided 5 Star reviews, thank you for being kind.  For those of your that provided any review, thank you for helping the inter-web algorithms that sell books.

Columbus Pizza A Slice of History Image

Now to answer the critics.

This is a review from the Columbus Metropolitan Library listing for the book.

Fascinating history of pizza in Columbus. I had to subtract half a point for not including an index; this makes it very difficult to refer back to specific restaurants. I would have enjoyed more reviews on the food, but unfortunately that is not the focus of this book. Looking forward to checking out some new pizzerias!

Dear CML Patron,

Yes, I wish there was an index too, however, History Press is a small company and indexing well costs a fortune.  It also creates a nightmare of extra work when you need to update the book on a shoestring budget and tight timeframe.  The bibliography for the book serves many of the functions of the index by listing what pizzerias were featured in each chapter.  And yes, no reviews of food in a history book.  Opinions on food tend to not be as evergreen (and are much more polarizing) than just stating the facts. For reviews and opinions, please read my Aficionadough column in Columbus Underground.  Thank you for reading the book.

On Amazon, there are a lot of reviews.

Dominic (who later changed his name to Nick)
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book, needed an editor though
Reviewed in the United States on July 8, 2021

Really great book to talk about the history of Cbus Pizza. A lot of names I recognized or know. Biggest complaint was that the author isn’t the best at organizing his information. Tended to jump around and overall could have used a better editor. Also he failed to uncover that ________ pizza (who prides themselves in their homemade sausage), bought their dough frozen for years! Might still do it.

Dear (Domi) Nick,

The book is organized in chronological order and chapters list out what years are covered,¬† you can’t get more organized than that for presenting information. As for jumping around…. again the book is in chronological order by pizzeria. Finally and what puts your review on the Festivus list, it is poor form to take a dig on a local restaurant in a book review, I appreciate your purchase but you get 1 star for the unneeded slight of a local pizzeria.

The other irksome review on Amazon comes from O – So – Fluffy.

3.0 out of 5 stars good but
Reviewed in the United States on March 31, 2021

i was disappointed that there wasn’t any info on more of the osu campus area places i remember from college. perhaps they were chains and not local so they didn’t qualify for the book? and unfortunately, all the pictures were black/white. that said, i don’t regret buying it but would not give as gift

OMG, WTF OSOFluffy.¬† Thanks for the purchase.¬† Your own review answers your questions / concerns – Yes there are countless pizzerias that resided on OSU for 0 to 10 years I did not write about.¬† There have literally been 100 on or near campus since 1950, most have come and gone and many were chains.¬† OSU spots that were mentioned were: Adriaticos, Catfish Biff’s (RIP after the book was published), Papa Joe’s and Tommy’s, that is good representation.¬† There were a few OSU pizza places I would have liked to include but there was not enough information available.¬† The one place I wish I could have included, because it was dear to so many, was the Venetian. I do have enough details now, that if I get to update the book in the future, it will be included. I don’t regret you buying the book and I would not trust you buying a gift for someone based on your fear of capital letters and punctuation.¬† Keep an eye out for my book, Every Pizza Place that Ever Existed, followed by, Every Place OSOFluffy Ate at OSU: A Comprehensive Guide to Mediocrity.

In Goodreads, two reviews mention the word redundant.  All I can say to that is, there is certainly redundancy in the book, but please keep in mind, it is a history book and one can not assume that readers will read the book cover to cover, so on occasion some information was repeated to make sure the context was understood.

I will be the first to admit that the book is good (B), but not great (A).  I outlined some of the challenges I had in writing the book (try writing a history book during Covid sometime and get back to me) in this post when it was released.

I know the book has inspired some positive actions over the last year.  I am aware of at least six groups of people that have decided to try a different place from the book each week until they complete their quest (that is 50 plus places!). Many people have emailed me with fond memories of pizza in Columbus.  For those of you that look down on the pizza offerings Columbus has to offer, let me offer you a cautionary tale.  Countless people who have moved from Columbus to Florida, North Carolina, Arizona and all destinations west of the Mississippi, long for even the most lowly of a Columbus Style Pie and they recognize and appreciate the difference between a classic Columbus Style Pizza and a lackluster pizza that just happens to be cut in squares.

Although Covid has limited my ability to promote the book in the traditional way, I have had the opportunity to discuss it on WOSU twice, online with the Bexley Public Library and in person at the Grandview Public Library as well as a sports podcast and online forums. For those of you that read the book, thank you.  For those that gave it as gifts (even with the shame of black and white photos) thank you.  Most importantly to those that emailed me with your own history, thank you for sharing your stories.

Now for regular Festivus.¬† My main grievance is directed at the large minority of humanity who made a conscious choice to make a global pandemic worse than it needed to be. They are why we can’t have nice things.¬† To those that disdain safety protocols, treat service workers like shit, disrupt airline flights, and feed the beast of Fox News I bid you a gigantic fuck you and an endless supply of black coal.

My other grievance is to those that consciously opt out of recycling.  It is not difficult to recycle in Columbus and it is not rocket science to recycle correctly.  If you can make one positive pizza change in 2022 remember that the box top of the greasiest pizza is still recyclable so cut it off and put it in your blue can.

For those of you not in the above categories, I wish you a happy holiday and better 2022.

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My Magnificent Memorable Meal at Ray Ray’s Meat + Three

Posted by CMH Gourmand on September 12, 2021

It was 6 pm on a Wednesday. I had just wrapped up a client meeting at the Downtown Newark Library and I was ready to hit the road west, back to Columbus. (By the way, the library is a beautiful building well suited to the task). A common theme in many support groups is H.A.L.T. = don’t make decisions when you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired. I was hungry. I am pretty much always angry (in an existential sort of way), I have not been lonely in this century but I was alone, which is a rarity and I was definitely tired. The rays of the sun relentlessly tried to blind me through my sunglasses and visor as I tooled along SR 161 when I recalled that Ray Ray’s Meat + Three was nearby. In fact the exit to it was about 4 seconds away. A quick tap of the breaks and short lived turn signal found me on target to Ray Ray’s.

I plied my way through the door knowing exactly what I wanted to order, a sampler. I then paused a bit while I pondered on my side choice options. Here I decided to go for that bridge too far. The sampler showcases multiple meats so good sense would dictate one or maybe two sides. I opted for three. I did show restraint by getting one dessert instead of two. Then just as I was completing my order, I decided that I would live it up by having my monthly alcohol allotment with a Rockmill Brewing White Ale.

The sampler including the following: Brisket, BBQ Chicken, Sausage, Pork Belly, Pulled Pork, Pickled Onions and Pickles. Three sauces, to use as I see fit were included. As a Kansas City BBQ Society Certified BBQ judge, professional food judge and lifelong eater every single item on this samples was perfect. My sides were macaroni and cheese, corn pudding and a Scotch Egg. Once again, each was excellent, the dishes showcasing the epitome of perfect for what I prefer about these sides. I will expand more on the Scotch Egg as the end of this dispatch.

I sat in silence, at a picnic table by myself literally sucking all of this in. I wanted to enjoy the moment but I also wanted to get home in time to tuck in my son and share a few of the best bites with CMH Spouse. The weather was perfect, on this final day of August it was neither hot nor humid, there was no threat of rain and a light breeze kept me cool and blew most of the insects away and kept them at bay. It was also refreshing not to eat from my kitchen counter/office or out of a bag. I soaked in the peace, the quiet, and the food. In my mind, my sole thought was a recurrent, “this is so fucking good”. I’m not often prone to profanity but the quality of this meal warranted more adjectives while the pleasure centers of my brain blocked my ability to think of anything more eloquent. In this altered state of consciousness, I think I may have started to mouth, then mumble and finally, possibly audibly articulate “this is so FUCKING GOOD!” over and over again, when a figure appeared in my peripheral vision.

It was not figment of my imagination, it was Jamie “Ray Ray” Anderson himself. I waited for him to say “Sir, can you please stop scaring my guests”. Instead, he said “I thought I saw you, I have not seen you in forever, where have you been?”. My stock answer to this question is I got married, I have a six year old son and also, Covid. He asked if this was my first time visiting and I, much to my shame since the place is well established now, said yes. He asked why I did not call ahead for VIP treatment and I shared that this literally was a spur of the moment trip. We talked briefly about the food. However, since my brain was still fogged by pure joy, I could not produce any fan boy assessment. All I could jumble out was, “the chicken is great, the pork belly is great, the brisket is great…..” I was too out of clinical practice to go into to detail about how the brisket was the perfect. Neither too tough nor too tender. Sliced to the optimal thickness. Just enough of a smoke ring to add to both appearance and flavor. I did not tell him that I have not had a better serving of chicken in my recollection, and on and on.

What Jamie and I did speak of was happiness. The joy of being able to spend time with our families. The joy of after a very long journey feeling that this project and his assorted businesses were hitting the mark he wanted them to without taking away from family or lowering the high bar he sets for what is served. We spoke of the dream team that has created at Ray Ray’s Meat + Three including, of course, Chef Bill Glover. Jamie also spoke of the how this business threw in a new variable – being a property owner. Buying / investing in property is a different dynamic as well as a choice/act he is proud of.

Jamie mentioned that he was doing a special tasting menu for Scott Woods, local writer and poet whom we both follow with an interest. Scott was kind enough to give my book an unsolicited shout out a few months back, which was much appreciated. Since Scott and I were unlikely to cross paths again in the near future, I was happy to be able to drop by his table and thank him both for the endorsement and for his contributions to our community.

In short summary, my meal at Ray Ray’s Meat + Three was magnificent! That was no surprise but why is this blog worthy? I have written about my most memorable meals before, most recently in June of 2019, and this ranks within the top seven without hesitation. The Meat + Three concept is a blend of some menu items you have seen on the Ray Ray’s food trailers for years, with specials and extra dishes a full kitchen and meat cutting area can provide in a fusion of best parts of Central Texas BBQ joints (think Lockhart Texas) and classic Nashville Meat and Three eateries.

I had no plan to write about Ray Ray’s Meat + Three because my decision to dine there was spur of the moment. I just hoped to have a good meal. Don’t get me wrong, apathy and Ray Ray’s are words that will never be paired together for me. I have been dying to eat there since it opened in June and I heard about the eatery’s development since shortly after birth of the concept. What made this meal magnificent is the same thing that drives me to write (much less now that in the past), which is the human component. I was not Jamie’s first customer but I was among the first. I might not be the first to write about him, if so, then I was second to write about him and what he set out to do years ago. I have watched that journey and eaten the results along the way. What made this meal magnificent was being able to see the arc of Jamie’s story land where he is today and see him experience joy first hand. In the world of food, Ray Ray’s Meat +Three is the equivalent to shooting a three pointer to win a national championship in the last second of a game. As Jamie departed he noticed I has set aside a few choice bites to take home from my wife. He insisted on making a VIP to go bag for Mrs. Gourmand. It was an honor to have him curate a trophy for me carry into my home. I really lucked out here. Not only was I the hero when I walked through the door but his care package included the two things I wanted to eat but did not order – greens and homemade bread! I asked Jamie, many years ago what his go to item was at Ray Ray’s and he said without hesitation, it was greens, he eats them everyday. So there you go kids. If you eat your vegetables everyday good things may happen.

This is not a story I set out to write. But it is a story I felt compelled to write about as I walked to my car after my meal. As I looked down at the parking space by my car I saw two pennies waiting for me to plunder. Those that know me well know that I love to find loose change and that I will one day die picking up a penny from the street. It was at that moment of everything coming together for me, that I felt the need to turn around a take a photo so I would have an image to go with the story I knew I needed to write.

Ray Ray’s Meat +Three Details

Sidedish: The Scotch Egg, The Bee and Me.

The first photo you see below was me trying to emulate the photographic styling of Mr. Tony Layne – The Man, the Myth and the Legend behind Porketta and the creator of high end food pornography. This bee was fascinated with the Scotch Egg I ordered at Ray Ray’s Meat + Three. I was happy for the bee to focus on this while I focused on the rest of my meal. By the time I circled back to this round orb of cardiac concern, as the last item of my meal, the Bee was gone. I took one bite of the Scotch egg and was instantly beyond full. At this point, I noticed the bee was now prone by the tray. Unmoving but not dead. I believe he overdosed on the sweet sauce of the Scotch Egg. His inability to move and absolute lethargy turned out to be a prelude to how I would feel about 30 minutes later. I understand and respect the bee’s bliss and hope he was able to fly away on his own power by the next day.

Ray Ray’s Meat + Bee

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Covid Confessions: Confections, Crackers and Corporate Food

Posted by CMH Gourmand on August 22, 2021

One score and 500 days ago a global pandemic brought froth a new plague to this nation.  It could have been an opportunity to unify to fight a common foe, but it quickly devolved into another offshoot of the culture wars.  So here we are today, few of us sadder, very few of us wiser and so many people gone before their time.

I have had this post on the back burner all of 2021.¬† I was waiting for the right moment to drop this to my 43 fans.¬† Well, the criteria kept changing.¬† End of the pandemic….nope. The date Ohio hit herd immunity – negative. Griffin completing a whole week of Kindergarten….not even close.¬† The day we used up all of our pandemic meat supply…..I just found some sausages buried at the back of the freezer. So today, I have decided that it is the week that CMH Spouse and CMH Griffin have two negative Covid Tests in a row so we can end quarantine a bit sooner.

The year 2020 started out with great promise.¬† After years of running Columbus Brew Adventures, I was ready to go to new adventures and very much looking forward to spending more time with my family.¬† Brew Adventures created many opportunities and connected to me to countless wonderful people. It also allowed me to do what I enjoy which is study a new culture, learn it’s mores and traditions and eventually hope to be accepted into yet another tribe, this time the community of craft brewers, distillers and their ilk. Brew Adventures gave me the flexibility during the week to make my son school and other schedules work. The trade off was most weekends away from my wife and son and that much time away had become untenable and less profitable. So as 2020 dawned, I was looking forward to more family time.¬† I certainly got that.

In mid March I sat alone at the bar of Rockmill Tavern. The first elements of the lockdowns were getting ready to be implemented which canceled guide training for a tour I created, the Brewery District Walking Tour.¬† I had planned to help start things off right for the season then ride off into the sunset.¬† That did not happen.¬† I did decide to pass out old Hoster Brewing bottles as thank you gifts for my veteran guide team.¬† I figured it could be a month or two before I saw them again (wrong) and I wanted to complete my hand off’s so I could feel I accomplished something for the weekend. I wore a new mask my wife made for me the night before when I headed down to the rendezvous.

I sat at Rockmill’s bar talking to John at the bar. He comped me a my favorite sandwich (to celebrate a hoped for return of tour season) of the era, the Spicy Chicken Sandwich so I bought a beer and tipped more than appropriately.¬† It would be my last meal inside a restaurant.¬† (John would go on to be the manager at Rockmill working many a 100 hour week, then Rockmill closed for summer of 2021 but has a planned return in the fall). Between bites, I handed off the bottles – mostly on the sidewalk.¬† When I finally walked out the door around 2 pm that Saturday – I looked down Front Street to the right and saw no cars or people.¬† I looked to the left and saw the same.¬† One thought came to mind.¬† We are fucked.¬† This was clearly going to last more than a month.

I drove home along empty highways and looked for more stay in place supplies as I pulled off 315 getting ready for the lockdown after I closed the garage door.

I’m sure I’m adding to the cliches of Covid but it did change the lives of myself and my family. We are now well beyond a year of the strange, surreal days of the beginning of the shutdown. I recall coming home from work and never going back, being excited to find a pack of napkins when all the paper towels were gone, calling my friends when I found disinfectant wipes off the beaten path at Lowes. We partnered with our neighbors to maximize grocery runs and shared supplies. My wife made over a 1000 masks in record time. I watched friends lose their jobs, businesses and outlook on the world.

I also watched people dig in, double down, reinvent themselves or their businesses while keeping calm and carrying on. The moment that made the pandemic the most…real…. to me was when we had to cancel our joint family weekend in the Hocking Hills with our old neighbors.¬† No O’Betty’s, No Little Fish, No West End Cider House, No Avalanche Pizza, No fun, No (Lake) Hope.

If you want to read the diary of the restaurant that white-knuckled it through the downs, speed bumps, and more downs of the last 500 plus days, check out the Instagram feed of Smokehouse Brewing which provides a daily play by play of what it is like run a restaurant and brewery when all forces are focused against you.

As the contrarian that I am, in 2020 when everyone else was gaining the obligatory Covid ten pounds, I dropped thirty.  I then put on much more than that when restaurants started to reopen in 2021.

There were some unusual and unexpected things that were good for the morale of our family.  The best decision of record in the Covid era was 100% from my wife Рa giant inflatable swimming pool which she bought the second the lock down was announced, they were unavailable a few weeks later. It ensured we all had a little exercise and a lot of recreation and it became the only effective way for CMH Child to engage in Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy Рthere is a lot you can do with Zoom, two parents and a pool with our outstanding team from Bridgeway.

As a family we had worked hard to get Griffin to the right school for him and Covid took that off the table quickly just after the positives of that decision were starting to kick in – online school sessions were an effort in futility for us.¬† We had worked hard before Covid to limit his screen time for many reasons, but eventually as spring started to wane, we had to relent.¬† This was a difficult and stressful pill for me to swallow.¬† And this meant much more exposure to childhood programming which I despise.¬† I’d rather watch four hours of Fox News than one episode of Ryan’s Playhouse, Paw Patrol, Peppa Pig, or the ilk.¬† One night as I was in the other room in a deep mental fog, I heard some familiar Australian accented phrases in the background.¬† I wandered into our living room to see a family of cartoon dogs.¬† I was saved by Bluey which I view as highly as Calvin and Hobbes. This is an absolutely perfect cartoon for children to watch.¬† The writing is good.¬† The humor is universal.¬† I never feel pandered to and the associated merchandise is very limited. The show models functional family behavior without feeling like someone reviewing the script said, “Oh, shit, we forgot to throw in an insincere 10 second value lesson in this episode.”¬† For me, it reminds me of an earlier era when I was a wayward traveler roaming Australia as often as I could.¬† There are many episodes of Bluey I have watched at least thirty times and I gladly look forward to watching a hundred more times. For those inclined to “give this show a go” my favorite episodes in order are: 1) Sleepytime, 2) Dunny, 3) Baby Race and 4) Ice Cream.

I listen(ed) to a lot of Pandora while working from home, not uncommonly with a sick child in the next room.  My very unexpected Pandora station which accounts for 90% of my listening time is Rox Radio which is almost exclusively British Female R&B singers of the last last two decades: Rox, Sade, Duffy and the like.  Strange to most, but true.  Have no fear, I still get Metallica and Iron Maiden in sufficient, although occasional, doses.

Now on to food, which is what we are here for.¬† What is my truest Covid confessions? Skittles.¬† I had forgotten about Skittles, those round little bursts of fruit flavor.¬† I’m not sure how the first bag found it’s way into our locked down home.¬† It could have been a left over from a neuron mapping exercise my wife does with her AP Psychology students but I can assure you over the last 500 days, we have never been a Skittleless home.

Next and this is specifically for me, Hershey Special Dark with Almonds Nuggets. The Special Dark Bar became part of the Hershey’s line up in 1971.¬† My first exposure to it came among the piles of Halloween candy during my youth.¬† The Hershey’s miniatures were always a mild disappointment when found among regular sized Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups, Mini Almond Joys, Popcorn balls and bullseye candies.¬† The small, bite sized bars where viewed as the cheap man’s way out of bringing joy to the preteen masses.¬† However, I always hoped for mini Mr. Goodbars and¬† during those not so wonder years, the Special Dark Bars.¬† I would gladly trade 2-3 of the standard Hersey Miniature chocolates or offer an even one on one exchange of a Krackle for a Special Dark with my prepubescent peers. I liked the exotic nature of the Special Dark and I would save them to savor as the last of my Halloween loot. I also figured out these were great dipped into a jar of Skippy peanut butter. In my twenties, when I discovered dark chocolate was not so hard to to come by, the Special Dark became an afterthought. However, during Covid shortages, I found that Kroger was never short of Special Dark Nuggets because most people did not discover what I did in their misspent youth.

I then realized, I had never put any thought into what made Special Dark special. It is not like Hershey has a Regular Dark, Undervalued Dark bar or Cleveland Browns Bar. As it turns out, from 1939 to 1971, the bar we know as Special Dark was called Hershey’s Semi-Sweet bar. Clearly the name change was needed.¬† The Special Dark Bar has higher percentage (45%) of ¬†cocoa solids, chocolate liquor and cocoa butter than milk chocolate. So it is indeed special.¬† Add in a sliver of an almond as found in the nuggets and it is practically a health food.¬†¬†

What I found I missed the most during our restricted interaction with the world of restaurants was Taco Trucks and authentic Mexican Food.  In my last in store shopping run at the beginning of the Pandemic I picked up a discounted bottle of Herdez Guacamole Salsa.  It quickly found itself buried in oblivion in our pantry until one day when I was desperate to eat something remotely different from our standard fare.  I hoped for the best when I dumped the Guacamole Salsa on a pile of hastily made nachos.  I was instantly surprised by the flavor and light, spicy heat of this product.  Then I decided it was worth trying again so using the power of online ordering at Kroger I looked for other Herdez salsas I might like as well.  I tried several and never felt any were a bad decision.  In fact, when I look at the very important quality to price ratio that I apply to all mass produced products, I think Herdez is hard to beat. Tied for first on my Herdez Hierarchy is the Queso Blanco Dip. The price is right.  The heat is just enough without overpowering anything else and in a dire emergency it goes great on potato chips.

Not featured in the photo with this post but a rediscovery nonetheless, Wheat Thins.¬† We always have a box on hand.¬† They don’t go stale, they don’t break easily and they are never hard to find at a store. They were not a pre pandemic staple but in our house there are now a few things we always have a spare of: loaf of bread, toilet paper, paper towels, peanut butter, Parmesan cheese and Wheat Thins.

There have been other discoveries along the way.¬† For pick up meals, we have yet to find anyone that does better than Iaconos Pizza and Cuco’s for ease and speed from order to pick up. Kroger and Giant Eagle curbside services have been a valued asset to our family and something that will persist after the pandemic is really over. The biggest discovery is not mind shattering but important.¬† I have been embedded with my wife, son and my wife’s dog almost 24/7 for well over a year and I would not trade that for anything.¬† I don’t want to kill them and they don’t want to kill me (however my wife does watch a lot of Dateline episodes and listens to an insane number of true crime podcasts). I don’t think all families, pods or domestic partnerships feel that way after 500 and counting days embedded together.

What are your Covid discoveries, confections, connections or conundrums you care to share?

Posted in food | 4 Comments »

Over One Million Served

Posted by CMH Gourmand on June 28, 2021

 CMH Gourmand Logo

Today (June 28th, 2021) is the day, page view One Million happened on or about 10 AM EST. It took just short of fifteen years to get here. My first post was August 28th, 2006. A few years ago, I when checked the numbers I thought I had a long shot of hitting 1 million by the fifteenth anniversary if I could get my traffic to trend back up to their heyday. I knew with life, parenthood, etc., that would be a long shot, but Covid gave this blog a shot in readership as people who were very bored started reading more. So here we are two months ahead of a schedule that I figured was a bridge too far.

The one million page views were made by just over 287,000 unique visitors. The best month for traffic was January 2009 which was pretty much where I peaked in life in general to date. The most page views of one post in a single day was 3685 on April 22nd, 2020 for a pizza post I did. No surprise there, people became really interested in pizza during Covid. And the post with the most traffic over time was a post I did about the history of Pizza in Columbus (October 5th, 2008) – it is also the most copied.

There have been 1861 comments, 785 posts and I have 41 uncompleted drafts which are story ideas for rainy days. I do not know who has viewed the most posts the most often but I can tell you Cindy Leland has commented the most. Thank you Cindy!

One million is a nice milestone but in the world of blogs, one million is exciting if you get that in a month or two, not 15 years. In the heyday of Columbus Food Blogs, some may recall Lisa The Waitress, whose blog hit one million views pretty early. I am the last of the old school, old school bloggers who blog for the sake of blogging and while I may be a bit burned out, I will not fade away quite yet. I am not ready to go gently into that good night, or any night for that matter.

Let’s talk about another food entity that has served millions……..billions. McDonalds.

McDonalds used to maintain a running total of how many billions of hamburgers they served the world over and this number would be updated on their signs at regular intervals.

In 1958, the company reported 100 million served. In 1961, it was 500 million. In 1963, it was One Billion served! The year 1993 saw the official number hit 99 billion. In April of 1994. McDonald’s announced they would change the sign to Billions and Billions Served (because they were tired of updating the signs). Please note – McDonalds counts each hamburger patty as a serving so the Big Mac got those billions up faster than the Hamburglar can get to the drive thru window.

Thank you for your viewing

Posted in food | 2 Comments »

Pearl Valley Cheese Please!

Posted by CMH Gourmand on February 27, 2021

I love cheese. I like to support local foods. I’m also proud of any award winning Ohio food. Putt all of these things together and you have, Pearl Valley Cheese. I first discovered the company by accident. In the 1990’s I spent many weekends roaming the back roads of Ohio looking for places to hike and bike. One day while enjoying the hilly roads of State Route 93, I spied a sign for Pearl Valley Cheese Company. I braked hard, back tracked and saw a small red building and a deserted parking lot. I figured it must be a manufacturing facility closed for the weekend but I drove on anyway and saw an open sign so I popped into a turophiles wonderland.

When I arrived it was close to closing time but the staff were generous with samples and suggestions therefore I happily left with several sampler bags and pounds of cheese. Later that day, I had a mini-cheese tasting somewhere along the backroads of Holmes County. Pearl Valley is far off the beaten path in Amish country but it became a mandatory stop for any adventure in that part of the state.

Pearl Valley is not as as well known as the other Amish / Swiss Cheese makers and destinations in Ohio but the company is no less distinguished. It has won countless awards at the state, national and international level for a variety of their cheeses. Pearl Valley is a perennial winner at the Ohio State Fair, which offers stiff competition in all cheese categories.

The company has a almost of century of cheese making experience, dating back to 1928. The company is still family owned and was started by Swiss immigrants. While the company follows traditional recipes and techniques, it has never been reluctant to be innovative and progressive. In 1969 they started a whey drying facility that allowed them to recycle waste from the cheese making process into a useful commodity. In 2010, they built a wastewater treatment plant which uses the waste water from cheese making and the methane created to generate 1/3 or more of the electricity for the operation.

Life, world travels and parenthood curtailed my Ohio roaming but I still sought out Pearl Valley cheese where I could. At this point, I am going to take us on a detour to share the story of my latest trip to Pearl Valley. In the summer of 2020 during the mid point of covid quarantine, cabin fever and a 5 year old with too much energy and too little world exposure prompted our family to get out of the house to do something that would be different, far away and contactless. We typically do a mini adventure every July for CMH Griffin’s birthday. In the summer of 2020, we decided to visit a drive through petting zoo in Amish country. When CMH Spouse presented the idea my face lit up. I made an expression that she is all too familiar with because she saw the wheels turning in my head as I was making a PLAN. I asked if we could tag on a trip to Pearl Valley Cheese since it is on the way and would give us some nice scenery to look at. I proposed that I would maintain distance, double mask and just go in and out quickly so we could cheese up of the afternoon. She reluctantly agreed and the deal was done. (For other plans gone awry, please refer to past posts where I went somewhere with the grumpy old man)

The journey started with high spirits and jubilation until we came across a detour sign on the way to Fresno, Ohio, the home of the cheese company. At this point I “heard” my wife direct a LOOK at me so I averted my eyes and tried to assume the fetal position as best as I could in the passenger seat. As it turns out CMH Spouse has a medical condition that involves vertigo, this makes hilly, twisty, up and down driving a neurological nightmare for her. I could not offer to drive because she gets car sick on long drives if she is not the driver. So we endured about 15 minutes of narrow, gravel-roaded terror as we made our way to Pearl Valley Cheese company. When we pulled into the parking lot there was silence. I very quietly said I would be back in 5 minutes and slinked to the front doors and safety. With great haste and focus I gathered as much cheese as I could carry. As I was checking out I asked if there were any detours for the rest of our journey, I was relieved to hear that we were done with our gauntlet run for the day. I was gifted with a map that highlighted a route that would ensure we had smooth sailing on the way home. I returned to the car, delivered the news and we proceeded on. Our destination was the Farm at Walnut Creek. The Gourmand family highly recommends this drive thru petting zoo with two caveats: 1) Get twice as much animal food than you think you will need 2) Carefully read the instructions that warn you about what animals to avoid on the route BEFORE you start your drive down the road.

In light of the above, it is unlikely I will travel to Pearl Valley Cheese again with my wife in this decade, however, I have a good alternative. You can order online from Pearl Valley Cheese. Here are a couple pointers for ordering from them. First, sign up for their mailing list, they sometimes have promotions that offer 10 to 15% off. Second order in the winter months. In the summer, they include cold packs to keep the cheese at temperature, so this adds weight to the box and thus more shipping charges and extreme heat in the summer could lessen the flavor of your cheese. Lastly, looking at shipping charges, your best value is getting 4 or more cheeses which is the weight point where the price per wheel percentage starts to decline to create a good value. Using these strategies you will get a wider variety of their cheeses for less than you would pay at a store if you can find it (often you can not).

Over the years, I have identified my favorites Pearl Valley Cheeses: Lacey Baby Swiss, Smoked Swiss and Farmers Cheese. I have never consumed any of their cheeses I did not enjoy, but these are the three I always order. The quality is very good. I have eaten Swiss Cheese in Switzerland and our Ohio Swiss cheese is as good or better than what I had in the mother country.

Here are a few fun facts about Swiss Cheese in Ohio:

– Ohio produces 61% of the Swiss cheese in the united states

– All of the large Ohio cheese producers are family owned

– Pearl Valley makes 35,000 pounds of cheese per day, five days a week and all
milk is sourced from ohio dairy farmers

Since our July excursion I have had two boxes of cheese delivered to me and was highly satisfied with what I received. I even shared some.

Posted in cheese, culinary misadventure, Locally Sourced, Ohio, Road Trip | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

gosun Portable Solar Oven: Kind of Cool, but Still Hot

Posted by CMH Gourmand on February 14, 2021

Here I am writing about another gosun product. How did this happen? Last summer I was asked if I wanted to try out the gosun Solar Oven for free. I said, yes of course. In addition to being a recycling nerd and zealot, I am also a huge sustainability fan with a trace of survivalist thrown in. There was no way for me to resist this offer, especially since the opening pitch mentioned hot dogs. As it played out, the item was on back order for a while so I ended up getting it in the late fall. Due to the delay I was asked if I wanted to try our the gosun Flatware. I ended up getting both at the same time. I am late on reviewing both products but review the oven I will with no good excuse for the delay other than a lock of no free time until recently.

Let’s start with the cool factor. This oven is portable and lightweight (2 pounds). This is easy and intuitive to use. The oven is the size of a small purse. It also comes with easy to understand instructions and sample cook times based on the amount of sun and the type of food being cooked. There is also a lot of stuff that comes with the stove – a nylon bag to carry everything including a tube cleaner and silicon food trays to hold food in the tube.

The diameter of the tube is a bit more that the typical paper towel cardboard cylinder. You are not going to cook a meal for a family of six with this oven and you are not going to get anything as quickly as a microwave. In this case the journey is more important that the destination. The stove does work! It worked during an Ohio winter (I have photos to prove it!).

The only downsides I have identified for the solar oven in my first uses are tubular in nature. I think cooking 6 hot dogs (as noted in the book) is a bit optimistic and may not be logistically possible. Also, I wish at least one of the silicone tubes was the length of a hot dog. Otherwise, all is good.

How do I see people using this? This would be great for a picnic where you had enough leisure time to add a warm entree or side for two. This would be great for ice fishermen looking for an extra source of hot water. The oven is also a great way to teach teach kids about the power of solar – this would be a fun experiment for an elementary school science class.

Because I like the Swiss army knife aspect of gadgets, I would love to see the addition of a cell phone or USB charger added to the product. Otherwise, as long as you have reasonable expectations and some time on your hands, this oven will be something you can enjoy for a long time.

P.S. You are probably wondering how you boil water with the oven – set the item vertically with the cap on the top and you have created a no spill container for the water to heat up. It has a boiling capacity of 13.5 fl. ounces.

If you live in the Columbus area and want to borrow this for a a while – shoot me an e-mail. My hope, is that I can lure the Instagram legend, @Seligmansdog to try this oven out in a series of mad science experiments. If so, we will report the outcomes via Instagram.

Posted in Product Review | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

gosun: Flatware – Be the Change

Posted by CMH Gourmand on February 7, 2021

An uneducated guess would suggest that your eating habits have changed over the last year.¬† In the tradition of Carnac the Magnificent, I predict you have experienced a surge of take out eating.¬† If you are like me, you are¬†more often eating in your car or in good weather, in an outdoor spot distanced from the crowd.¬† Sometimes it can feel like an epic picnic until you discover, you have nothing to eat with.¬† This has happened to me at least three times over the last year.¬† As a professional eater, I am aways ready for this circumstance because I have an “emergency kit in my car with a cork screw, zip lock bags, pocket knife, hand sanitizer and misc. plastic ware.¬† So I can save my own day. However, I have still had to improvise on my own a few times and when I’m not the driver, I am at risk for the “no flatware blues”. If you do not want to get “forked over” to you, try gosun Flatware.

This handy kit is the size of a credit card, dishwasher safe, and reusable.¬† A statistic on their packaging states that the average American uses 322 disposable plastic utensils per year.¬† So in addition to always being prepared to enjoy a meal on the go, you can also help reduce the massive amount of plastic filling our oceans and landfills.¬† Here is yet another spin for you to consider.¬† Yes, it can suck when you don’t get the needed plasticware for your takeway meal but in my case, more often than not, when I am eating I home, we get more than we need so what we receive gets wasted (we have an in-house Moratorium on filling our overflowing “emergency” plasticware box with anyone more spares).¬† When possible I will ask restaurant to “hold the plastic” if they can or they don’t ask themselves.

Many of us have been trying to figure out ways to help locally owned restaurants during the pandemic, it may seem like a small thing but asking them to hold the plasticware is not only good for the environment, it saves them money.  It may not seem like much but each disposable plastic spoon, fork and knife as well as every napkin, sauce pack and straw adds up to a lot of money over time.  I found this -> article breaking down the costs of your carry out meal.  Every bit makes a difference.

So if you are a tree hugger and equal opportunity eater like me wanting to do right by the environment while helping our my restaurant friends just say no to disposable plastic utensils and yes to an option like gosun flatware. It is a win win.

I did receive a complimentary set of gosun flatware for my services.¬† As mentioned in other posts, I don’t write about something I do not like.¬† In this case, there is a lot to like about this flatware. I mentioned the size before, and this product makes good use of space by being credit card sized.¬† Convenience is the key to behavior change so having your own flatware wherever you go makes doing the right thing that much easier.

The flatware set is the thickness of 4 credit cards, so it will not fit into the typical credit card slot in a leather wallet but it does fit snuggly in the the pocket that is typically underneath the slots or in the billfold section of a wallet. If you have a badge for work with a plastic holder, this would fit in with many work ID’s.

The fork works great.¬† The knife / spoon combo can cover the basics.¬† The knife does not have much of a serrated edge but it will cut cheese, donuts, and spread butter.¬† I’m not going to complain because a sharper edge would mean slicing my tongue.¬† The spoon is good for mashed potatoes, hummus, pudding and the like but trying to eat soup with it would be an exercise of Sisyphean futility.¬† Overall, this is a good option to have with you at all times.¬† I also like that the company practices what it preaches.¬† The packaging and the utensil holder are recyclable. The inside of the packaging has 6 detachable information cards featuring their website and a recycling fact (every day, enough plastic forks, spoons, and knives get thrown away to fill more than 3000 garbage trucks).

In a nutshell: Save your meal, save the environment and help our restaurant friends some money, by saying hold the plastic and using gosun flatware.

Now if they could somehow make a combination straw, ketchup dispenser and salt and pepper shaker that is the same size, I will be ready for any food emergency.

(No plastic spoons, knives or forks were wasted in the production of this post.)

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

Paulaner: Pils in a can, Weizen-Radler and Salvatore – A Bavarian Rhapsody!

Posted by CMH Gourmand on January 31, 2021

I recognize that you might be confused.¬† Yes, you did come to the right blog.¬† Why am I, a local beer guy, that used to run our local brewery tour company writing about German Beers? Let me explain. I receive a lot of offers to write about food related things.¬† Most offers go straight to the trash can.¬† However, when an offer catches my eye or provides an opportunity to learn, I will accept a product to write about.¬† If I don’t like it, I don’t pretend to do so and the content shows it or more often I decline to write about it.¬† In this case, I replied back twice to two opportunities from Paulaner and I ended up at least twice removed from my promised deadline. In the case of Paulaner there are four reasons why I said yes: Memories of my youth, a Covid-caged wanderlust, a love of history, and well, duh, free beer. Well, nothing is free, writing about these beers took several hours as well as dedication to objective research.¬† (Side note:¬† The return address on each package sent to me listed a contact with the last name Stout – how appropriate).¬† I’m glad I said yes to my offers, because I like these beers.

Let’s start with memories of youth.¬† Back in the 20th century, before the second wave of craft brewing began, finding a Paulaner in a local beer shop or restaurant was a sign of luck and persistence.¬† The act of drinking a real beer from Germany was downright progressive.¬† I spent some time in Germany after I graduated from college drinking my share of Paulaner in Munich.¬† Paulaner was hard to find in Ohio “back in the old days”.¬† Today, Paulaner has a Beer Finder, which means you are one click away from discovery.¬† Just type in your zip code, click search and Bam!, beer.¬† In the case of my zip code, 37 locations have Paulaner products within 10 miles of my house. The finder even lets you drill down to which type of beer you want to find, so I typed in Paulaner Weizen-Radler to find 4 locations.

My next reason for saying yes to Paulaner, I love to travel.¬†Parenthood combined with Covid means I’m lucky to leave my house to go pick up a pizza.¬†Drinking a Paulaner, in a very small way, transports me to Germany for a few moments. Any beer definitely connects you to the place it was brewed through the water used, the people that crafted it and the tradition they follow.¬†The Paulaner brewing tradition goes back to 1634.¬† There is some deeply hidden component of my Scottish / German ancestry that resonated with these beers (Scottish – Free, German – Beer) but more important to me was the history of the brand itself.

On the history front, Paulaner offers plenty of history, about 400 years worth.  The oldest (still operating) brewery we have Columbus is Columbus Brewing Company which has all of 40 years. Paulaner was started by monks in Munich.  When the monastery had leftover beer it was given to the poor or served in the cloister pub. In 1773, a monk commonly known as Barnabas started to brew for the order and developed techniques that were quickly adopted throughout Europe.  There are some beers named in his honor to this day. Paulaner beers were served at the first Oktoberfest celebrations and are still poured to the masked, socially distanced masses today.

Whenever I drink a new beer, I consult our local sage of fermentation, Pat Woodward of Pat’s Pints. Pat KNOWS beer.¬† He is a chemistry professor, home brewer, trained beer judge and prolific drinker. He has also traveled extensively writing about beers all over the world.¬† I found a few of his posts were helpful in my research for this review so the student (me) texted the master (him) to get some thoughts on the Paulaner Salvatore I dropped off to him.¬† I will include some exclusive Pat’s Pints content on the Salvatore later.

My next thought was to contact a real German.¬† Constantin is my former Clintonville neighbor who returned to Germany in 2019.¬† I contacted him for his spin on Paulaner but I made a critical error, I forgot that “Connie” is from Hamburg and living there now. In Germany, beer drinkers are fiercely locally loyal.¬† A real Hamburger would not be caught dead drinking a beer from Munich, unless they were in Munich.¬† Connie did say that if he was in Munich, he would drink a Paulaner and that is about the best compliment to be expected in this situation.

I had a brainstorm after this.  What is the next best thing to a German living in Munich?  In my case it was Cameron Lloyd, American brewer at Endeavor Brewing and Spirits.  Cameron received his brewing training in Germany so when he was not making beer, he was drinking it in travels around the country.  Although Paulaner brews massive quantities of beer, as in millions of hectoliters, much more than most German breweries, he said their quality is well respected.  It makes sense that Paulaner would distribute to 70 countries around the world, due to the uber-loyalty to local brands in each of the German states, their only way to grow is to sell outside of Germany.

Having completed my baseline investigation research, it was time to start drinking.

I started with the Paulaner Weizen-Radler (Non-Alcoholic).  This is a Hefe-Weizen with the alcohol removed (well most of it, less than .05% ABV (alcohol by volume) blended with lemon juice.  Paulaner brewed the first non alcoholic Weissbiers in the world and the radler originated in Germany, so I had high expectations for this non alcoholic malt beverage.  I was not disappointed.  This transported me to sitting in a beirgarten in Munich without the threat of a hangover or the monotony of a layover.  The Weisen-Radler was a pleasure to consume, as much as I loved it, I did to share some with my wife.  She liked her sample and was disappointed we did not have more.

Next, I moved on to the 1 pint, 9 fluid ounce, Paulaner Pils in a can.¬† This beer has been off the North American radar for some time. ¬†After years of living under the shadows of mega hopped beers of the US IPA wars of the 2010’s, the Pils (Pilsner) returned to the US market in November of 2020.¬† The canned Pils comes in four packs. The ABV on this is 4.8% so it is very sessionable as a smooth drinking, palate pleasing all purpose beer. Pat’s Pints provides a good insight into this style he describes as the “rock stars of the lager world.” (It should be noted that while Pilsner originated in the Czech city of Pilsen, it was Bavarian brewer Josef Groll who created it there in 1842). Today Pilsners are ubiquitous as the dominant beer style around the world.¬† However, we have lost our appreciation of what makes this style so good because it has been dumbed down through decades of macro-level mass production (Budweiser). Drinking the Paulaner Pils did remind me of what I like about well crafted Pilsners. It was true to style, well balanced and epitomized the Paulaner motto of Gut, besser, Paulaner. (Good, better – Paulaner).

Last, and absolutely not least, I sampled the Paulaner Salvator (Double Bock). This comes in a 11.2 fluid ounce bottle with an ABV of 7.9%.¬† Having led brewery tours for seven years, one of the most common points of confusion came up when discussing bock beers.¬† They are not as common around town today, but many older beer drinkers fondly recall the bocks of their youth and those memories have faded over time. In a barley shell, Bock is essentially a lager beer that is darker due to the type of malt selected. This makes for a rich, hearty beer.¬† A double bock even more so with a bit more alcohol to boot.¬† The Bock name, derives from the style of beer that started in the northern German town of Einbeck.¬† As the style traveled south to Bavaria, it was misheard as ein-bock which means Billy Goat.¬† Concurrently Northern Italian monks found their way to the Munich to set up a monastery.¬† During Lent, they were not allowed to eat solid food so they started to make a lager that was darker in color using what is now often called Munich malt.¬† This created a darker color, a higher alcohol content with a much needed caloric boost in the beer to sustain them through the lingering days of winter.¬† When the monks provided some leftover bock as alms to the poor, other local brewers were outraged and started to write letters of complaint.¬† This dark beer push back occurred in 1634 which is considered the birth of the brewery and why the Salvatore style is strongly associated with Paulaner.¬† The monks originally called their creation “blessed father’s beer” and “holy oil of St. Francis,” before changing to a simpler latin term for savior – Salvator.¬† I’ll be turning the tasting notes over to Pat’s Pints for this beer, the bottle I drank taught me that my alcohol tolerance has declined steeply during Covid.<

Paulander Salvatore Tasting Notes from Pat's Pints:
What is the sensory experience associated with the modern iteration of this historic beer? Visually the beer is tawny brown, with reddish highlights. Running somewhat counter to my expectations for a German Doppelbock, the beer is slightly hazy. I lean in for a smell and am greeted with the aromas of caramelized sugar with background hints of fig, plum and a bit of booziness. Enough with the prelude, it’s time for a taste. The rich caramel flavors come to the fore, accented by dark fruits, something in the vein of black cherries or plums. Peeling away the layers of flavor I find something suggestive of nuts. The beer sports a medium body, not as thick as the flavors might suggest. For a beer that clocks in at nearly 8% it’s dangerously drinkable, but there is a subtle warming sensation that lingers after the first few sips. The overall impression is that of a flavor-packed winter treat, one that might just get you thinking of sugar plum fairies. Despite the perceived decadence it still retains a surprisingly high level of drinkability, just right for pairing with a hearty winter meal.

Backtracking to wanderlust, my post procrastination has allowed me to add a bonus for my loyal readership.¬† Paulaner is sponsoring a contest to win a trip for two to Paulaner’s Salvatorfest,¬† March of 2022 in Munich.¬† This annual festival celebrates Paulaner‚Äôs / Munich’s Stark biers (Stark being strong),¬† it is the oldest beer festival in the region even predating Oktoberfest. For second place, ten people will win six Paulaner glasses and a scarf.¬† I hope to win this trip because I really need to get out of the house.¬† If, not, I would be happy to see one of you win (feel free to take me as your number two).

If you are looking for Paulaner beers out and about it may take a while for old time fans to find them.¬† The company launched a new bottle style and labeling last year (it looks really good) which includes the Paulander name embossed on the bottles.¬† I am still a local drinker so when you pick up a 4 pack or six pack of Paulaner grab another six pack of Land Grant, Seventh Son, Outerbelt, Wolf’s Ridge, Endeavor, Sideswipe…… you get my drift.¬† Our local brewers still need our support and you could all use a drink so doubling up on your beer supply is a good way to go for 2021.

Posted in beer, Product Review | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

What are your 12 Eateries and Drinkeries for Covid Christmas?

Posted by CMH Gourmand on December 13, 2020

On the first day of Covid, Corona gave to us…. the equivalent of a tactical nuclear strike to our local food and beverage industry.

I can still recall the early days of March vividly Рeverything became very surreal super-fast. I remember sitting at the bar of Rockmill Tavern talking to the manager about what the future might bring. We had just cancelled our Brewery District Walking tour for the foreseeable future, and called off our guide training for the day.  I was hanging out to pass out historic beer bottles to my team as a thank you for their work the previous year. When I left, and looked out at Front Street and across the Brewery District to an empty neighborhood I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach.  That feeling never left.  At the time, we hoped that things would be better by summer and PPE would keep some places going until then. Well, you know the story from there.

This time of year is typically the bread and butter season for restaurants – holiday parties, family gatherings, corporate gift giving, events, etc. Such is not the case for this December. You have probably heard dire / grim numbers about how many restaurants have closed so far this year, we know at least 100,000 have already closed nationwide. Looking at the end of this year to the first quarter of 2021, reliable data suggests about 30% of existing restaurants will 86 their dreams and shut down. This might be an optimistic estimate, independent local restaurants will see a higher rate than that. Typically January and February are the dead zone of sales. So after a lean year with no icing on the cake in December, the light at the end of the 2021 tunnel is dim until March at the earliest when patio season may return.¬† Right now our eateries and “drinkeries” are the Tiny Tim of local businesses and need much more than a lump of coal to persist.¬†¬†

For our local breweries and distilleries Рthe glass is not looking one half empty or even an eighth full. The better analogy is trying to scrape enough peanut butter out of the bottom of the jar to make a sandwich. These businesses do best when you visit them on site so they can reap the rewards of selling you pints and cocktails directly instead of the cut they get from retail sales at bars and stores. If you are a local beer fan you know our taprooms are now lightly visited, those with patios have lost that option for the winter and for those that package their product there is a looming shortage of aluminum cans for most except the the large players like Budweiser.  Bars like St. James Tavern and Little Rock have shut down until Covid goes away.  A few breweries and taprooms are very likely to make their last call in early 2021. 

If what you have read here so far and elsewhere seems dire, I have bad news for you, it is worse that what you have seen in the media. The bulk of my friends are brewers, distillers, taproom bartenders, restaurant owners, and such. In my day to day interactions with them the situation is greater that what we see on the surface. Salaries have been slashed, rent renegotiated or unpaid, staff laid off,¬†any corner that can be cut, was slashed months ago, bills are piling up, and many are thinking long and hard about their future not knowing what next year brings. For many what the ledgers look like at the end of this month will determine their path forward. These folks are my extended family and I feel like a war time medic without a medical kit. Most are putting on a good face and going day by day however the hope of a last minute PPE or other stimulus funding funneling down the chimney for a last minute save is long gone.¬† Stimulus tends to go to big business and rarely trickles down to a small business.¬† In my life-time we have bailed out Savings and Loans, the Auto Industry and Big Banks – all of these businesses made bad decisions in good times and did not have to pay the price for their greed.¬† Our Mom and Pop businesses were hit hard by a once in a hundred years pandemic that has knocked them to the ground.¬† They don’t have the lobbying power to get the help they need.¬†¬†

So what can we do? Money is tight for many of us, so much so that today one on four children in Columbus is not sure where their next meal will come from. We can still do something. If you don’t have the deep pockets to do carry out every day there are still ways to contribute. You can like social media posts and share them with your network. If you forgot to write a glowing review of your favorite spot, now is the time to do it. If you are still stumped for holidays gifts – give the gift of gift certificates. If you have an old gift certificate from a local, independent restaurant consider “losing it” and make not using it a gift to the restaurant when you order without using it. When you can, tip well.¬† While many have shifted to delivery services for their meals keep in mind that delivery costs more that what you pay in fees, most delivery services charge the restaurant as well, often that fee is most of their profit – they would rather sell you a meal and break even than have you take your business somewhere else and not come back.¬† So when you can, and where a business does a good job of safe / contactless pick up, – go get your order and get out of the house.¬†

Small businesses do matter.¬† I wish I could eloquently pitch to you the gravity of the situation in the style of George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life….¬† it is these small businesses that are taking the hit and (“Mr. Potters of Columbus”) these restaurants and other businesses I’m talking about… “they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community”.¬† These are the business that support little league teams, that give a starving artist a place to work, that add character to our neighborhoods and tend to buy local from farmers, suppliers and etc.¬†

For your twelve days of Covid Christmas pick a different restaurant, brewery or distillery to support each of your twelve days in any way you can.  Even sharing this post can help, if you want to share this to twelve people even better. 

If you are stumped in filling in your list of twelve shoot me an e-mail because I have hundreds more suggestions I have not covered here, these are the first twelve that came to my mind in no particular order. 


Was one of the original micro breweries in town. If you are a beer person in Central Ohio you have hoisted a beer at Barleys.¬† Covid hit Barley’s harder than most.¬† Their location, directly across from the main entrance of the convention center was a boon since the center opened….but conventions are gone.¬† Riots scared others away from Downtown.¬† The brewpub is running on skeleton crew with long time manager Jason cooking, cleaning, hauling out spent grain and much more seven days per week.¬† The food and beer have always been good.¬† The business did a great job redoing their space to be socially distant and they do a fine job on curbside pick up.¬† If none of this calls you to action, them do it for Angelo, dang it!¬†¬†

Smokehouse Brewing

Lenny Kolada at Smokehouse Brewing had guided the business through over twenty fives years of highs and lows. This year is different.¬† This year is the flatline on an EKG looking for that first bump up.¬† His son Alex juggled brewing and kitchen duties for months.¬† If you want a perspective of life on the frontlines check out the restaurant’s Instagram account Smokeandbrew for a day by day take – as I type. this is Day 275.¬† The wings are good, the beer is great in person or in a growler and they have a gift card special through the end of December.¬†

451 Spirits 

Chad at 451 has a very different take on just about everything.¬† His spirits are unique and carefully crafted. This little gem is hidden behind a United Dairy Farmers, in a former car wash building, in Clintonville and if all that makes sense to you and you have not been to 451, what is your problem? They (Chad) does a great job on curbside pickup.¬† And just before Thanksgiving Chad broke ( as in really shattered) his right arm requiring a massive surgery….and his is still distilling away.¬† Buying some of his spirits in the holiday spirit would give him some cheer.¬†

Rockmill Tavern 

Rockmill Tavern is fighting the good fight in the Brewery District.  In fact, they are about the last food business standing in their section of the neighborhood.  They do a good job with their online ordering system and curbside pick up is easy via Liberty Street. Matt Barbee and the Rockmill team have more than just Covid to contend with. The Brewery District was on an upswing going into 2020 with plenty of new businesses and energy in the area. Covid took the steam of that economic engine.  Rockmill is also in between a rock and a hard place with the road construction and other projects churning around it.  It is worth the effort to order from Rockmill and they have some killer beer to boot. 

Echo Spirits

Timing has frequently been against the gang at Echo Spirits but they aways press on. They opened their bar to the public on December 10th. The bar offers several unique and flavorful cocktails. Like our other local distillers they quickly shifted to making sanitizer when Covid kicked in. They would like you to drop in so they don’t get kicked to the curb. The tagline of Echo Spirits is know your distiller so -> HERE <- you go.

TAT Ristorante

The Corrova family has operated TAT Ristorante since 1929. The location has changed over the decades but not the family that runs it. Jimmy Corrova has been a fixture at the restaurant since he was 8 years old. The restaurant is his pride and joy but due to health problems and protocols he has not been at TAT since March. One good reason to crush the corona virus is to get Jimmy Corrova back in his favorite booth to greet guests when they start to pour through the doors again. In the meantime, they do have distanced dine in service and do a great job on curbside pick up. Their food is very good and their pizza is among my favorite in the city. Let’s help them sustain to 2029 so they can ring in their first century of business with a bang.

Gatto’s Pizza

Gatto’s is not the oldest pizzeria in town, but it is really close. It is the oldest pizza place in the same location run by the same family since 1952. They make their own sausage and they have made some changes for 2020 – Gatto’s takes credit cards, engages in social media and for those outside of Clintonville you can order via Doordash and Grubhub (but please just go pick it up).


A lot of people think Preston’s makes the best burger in town and they are right. However, many more have never tried Preston’s and that needs to change. I love Preston’s but I LOVE the guy that crafted the concept, Mr. Matt Heaggans. I have followed his career since the day he came back to Columbus and I can tell you no one is as obsessed with getting everything “just right” than Matt. This is a tough time to open a new location and the North Market is not as busy as it once was but for the sake of an excellent burger, we need to treat Preston’s like a national treasure so we can keep eating their tasty burgers, chicken sandwiches and even more the special dinners created for pick up that are just now starting to come from Matt’s spell book of recipes.

Columbus Food Adventures Trust Fall Dinners and Gift Baskets

What do you do when your award winning food tour company can’t do (many) tours for the foreseeable future? You pivot as fast as you can to meal delivery with a twist. The company’s Trustfall dinners deliver a hearty meal for two from restaurant the diners have probably never heard of. You place your trust in them that they will select a meal that you will enjoy. In the process, you avoid the mundane rut of eating the same euro-centric food day after day. In the process Columbus Food Adventures has helped support 60+ local businesses by selling food and gaining exposure to new customers. Their themed gift baskets do the same – showcasing the best foods of the city.

Ray Ray’s

Everyone knows Ray Ray’s…..well almost everyone but that was not always the case. No so long ago, in parking lot in Clintonville no one knew Ray Ray’s BBQ. Jamie “Ray Ray” Anderson is not a man of many words but he can let his food do the talking. Jamie is passionate about his craft, so much so that he raises his own hogs. Chef Bill Glover came on board this fall. The two have known each other for about a decade and together they have showcased the best of Columbus to the James Beard crowd. Let’s keep this dynamic duo together by keeping this empire going so we can all have nice things AC (After Covid).

Lavash Cafe

Nasir Latif¬†is no stranger to the restaurant business and in the 1980’s he brought one of the first ethnic restaurants to Columbus. He came back to Columbus to bring us Lavash Cafe in Clintonville. The location does an excellent job with curbside pick up. Even more importantly the menu is authentic, the quality is exceptional and price is reasonable. Lavash is a type of bread common to the MiddleEastern region of the world and the lavash and pita breads mades in house are worth a trip on their own.

Hounddogs (Pizza for the People)

The hallowed halls of Hounddogs have been quieted by covid but the iconic Old North Columbus hangout still offers pick up and delivery of their beloved pizzas both earlier and later in the day than most pizza purveyors. On my last visit I saw signs of interior construction / redesign in the works which could indicate that owner and craftsman Jeff Stewart is working on some distanced solutions to get people back inside.

These are twelve of countless local restaurants, breweries and the like you can support and we wrap up the year and try to regift it to the trash can. If you want to jump on this band wagon – share this with your friends. If you are a social media user consider tagging you works in this task with #My12RestaurantsofCovid (sorry everyone else – breweries, distilleries, farmers markets, The Hills and Weilands, there just is so long a hashtag can be).

For some more name dropping here are twelve more places you can rotate in if you are stumped for twelve of your own: Endeavor Brewing, Lineage Brewing, Iaconos Pizza, Teritas Pizza, Emelio’s Pizza, Bexley Pizza Plus, Mama Mimi’s Pizza, Ange’s Pizza, Studio 35, Punk Pigs, Portia’s Diner and Hisham’s Food Truck.

These are tough times. Do what you can, when you can. If you can be kind to someone please make that choice. This pandemic is a war and we can only win it if we stick together (at a distance).

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