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Brewnuts, Cleveland: The Ohio Donut Trail

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 19, 2018

I have been an advocate of pairing donuts with beer since at least 2010. Being a peripheral member of the craft beer industrial complex, it was inevitable that Brewnuts would come on my radar. While I wish I could say it was love at first bite, for years I had to be content to love Brewnuts from afar for alas, my life is in Columbus and Brewnuts was born in Cleveland. The description from the Brewnuts website provides some insight as to why I love what they do. I would say I “got them” the first time I heard about them.

Brewnuts is the lovechild of two Clevelanders – Shelley & John Pippin – who gave up their jobs working for “The Man” to pursue their three favorite things: donuts, beer and Cleveland.

Long story short, one night Shelley bolted up in bed and asked John what he thought about the idea of making craft beer based donuts. After a long pause he said “I like that.” The next day we went out and bought a countertop fryer and got busy hatching our plan to make Cleveland’s most unique and delicious donuts

The donuts are made with beer. They are hand crafted, in small batches without pre-made mixes. The varieties are inspired by the local beers they pour into the mix. When Brewnuts started they could be found in limited quantities in select places in Cleveland like Phoenix Coffee. When I saw they were building out a storefront that would also be a local craft beer bar I knew I had to get there somehow, someway, someday soon….but I had to wait a very long time to make my donut Haj. Brewnuts was everything I wanted it to be and more the second I walked through the door.

I had a limited time to explore since I had a child melting down and a spouse that was literally melting from the heat. I had just enough time to explore the place inside and out as well as to order two donuts. Long time readers of the Ohio Donut Trail adventures know I am a cake donut man, but in this case, I was happy to consume yeast donuts….and I liked it.

I tried one cannoli donut. It tasted like some of the best cannoli I have sampled anywhere. It was fresh, flavorful and clearly used premium ingredients. I also tried one Limoncello donut. This tasted like some of the best Limoncello I sipped in Italy years ago. This donut was also super fresh. As the menu board noted, it did contain alcohol. For most of the donuts, the ABV part of alcohol is cooked out in the donut making process but for the high-test stuff, a trace off alcohol remains. It this case it just added more flavor to the donut. Both donuts were exceptional. If I had time (and a budget) to try more I would have gladly studied these in-depth seated at the bar while creating craft beer pairings for hours on end.

Speaking of craft beer, the selections showcased the best of what Cleveland craft beer has to offer and the beer menu would rival any other craft bar in the region with a similar number of taps. Brewnuts does everything right. It is a great addition to the Gordon Square neighborhood. And it is yet another reason why I love the CLE. Donut Mess with Cleveland.

Brewnuts Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Posted in bar, beer, CLEGourmand, donuts, Ohio, Ohio Donut Trail, Road Trip | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Donut Scene, Strongsville: The Ohio Donut Trail

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 18, 2018

The Donut Scene was suggested to me by the esteemed and effervescent Liz Martin – a local super food focused person and event maker. Ohio Donut Trail research is being bolstered by some family trips to Northeast and Southwest Ohio this summer. This is good news for some of you that like a good donut and bad news for the Dining Duder (aka ChairmanL) who detests words wasted on donuts.

The Donut Scene is a bit nondescript, buried in the exact middle of a small retail strip off Pearl Road. This is a 24 hour operation, which makes it a popular donut destination for 2nd shift workers and late night revelers. The place opened in 1983 but looks much older. The decor is classic donut shop – simple counters, stools and because this is Ohio, a big American Flag draped on a wall. My teen-aged counter person was friendly and upbeat. I tried a wide range of donuts in order to be comprehensive.

This was my first donut research mission without my beloved porchhound CMH Tobias but this was the first joint team assessment (reluctantly) with CMH Spouse and (with great enthusiasm) CMH Griffin.

My wife’s go to donut is generally a blueberry cake with maple glazed a close second. Both of these were sampled and she found them to be satisfactory but unexciting. She thought the maple had a slight pumpkin flavor to it.

CMH Griffin, sampled a small piece of a cake donut with sprinkles and a small piece of a cherry donut. These were consumed with significant gusto. Over the course of the next 24 hours, CMH Griffin consumed about 1.5 donuts. Considering we have been experimenting with a no gluten diet and low processed sugar diet for him, this was a poor decision on my part. CMH Spouse was quick to point this out with her trademark sarcastic disdain. This was warranted because CMH Griffin was wound up for the rest of the evening so neither of us slept more than a few hours.

The Donut Scene has a large variety of cakes, cookies, apple fritters and such as well. I did not notice this until I left, but in reviewing my photos (see below) I spied a food item I have not encountered before: Kilatchy. Had I seen this at the time I would have ordered one. I think it may be a very interpretive spelling of Kolache. If you go to the Donut Scene, please find out for me and post here to let me know the story.

My favorite donut was a chocolate glazed French Cruller. Before I started down the strange, long and sugary path of the Ohio Donut Trail, the cruller was my favorite donut style but it lost some of is hold over me since they are harder to find in Columbus and rarely very good. This cruller was the best I recall having in this decade.

I asked about customer favorites and was told that Devils Food and Sour Cream were the top-selling donuts. If I had looked before asking I would have noticed the rack/trays for both were three times bigger than their peers.

All in all, the Donut Scene is worthy of the Ohio Donut Trail.

Donut Scene Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in donuts, Ohio Donut Trail, Road Trip | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Ho Toy: A Downtown Discovery, Oh Boy

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 8, 2018

Over the last decade I have occasionally driven by the classic Ho Toy sign and wondered about its origins. Due to its proximity to the former Lazarus Department store I just assumed Ho Toy was defunct long ago. A post by my colleague, Joe, the 614orty-Niner concerning Columbus restaurant history let me know it Ho Toy is still serving the public. Since Ho Toy was indeed open and like me, Joe had never dined there before (which is saying a lot considering he worked just around the corner for many years) this was clearly a call to action. So a text was sent and a lunch date was set.

The Ho Toy name goes back to 1959 when it opened at its original location on Town Street. In 1980, it moved the current location at 11 West State Street taking over a former two story Burger King location. The decor dates to the 1980’s or even earlier and it’s Burger King roots show: formica counters, vinyl booths (now covered with plastic sheeting), Burger King style primary colors in the background as well as the carpeting and flooring with some faded Chinese paper lanterns added for character. During the heyday of Ho Toy both floors were busy and up to seven servers would work the front of the house. Today a busy shift might see two servers in service. What Ho Toy does consistently deliver is Americanized Cantonese Chinese comfort cuisine classics.

The current owner purchased the restaurant in 2003 (a few years before Lazarus closed) after working in the kitchen for many years. He incorporated Thai cuisine into the menu. Joe and I opted to work as a team by ordering three items from the menu: Lo Mein, Chop Suey and Phad See Ew. We chose Chow Suey since it is the epitome of a dish created for the American palate. Joe brings considerable expertise to this table having grown up in the Bay Area with Filipino parents, trips to authentic Chinatown restaurants were part of his formative years. And like me, his formative years also included a fair amount of La Choy Chinese food and a liberal amount of Spam and Vienna sausages.

We found the Chop Suey to be more than passable. We both commented in the freshness of the vegetables as well as the chicken in the dish. I was most intrigued by the fried rice offered with the entrée. It was a deep brown with just a trace of vegetables incorporated into it and had a very light, un-fried flavor to it. Looking at some Yelp reviews for Ho Toy this presentation of fried rice seems to have created a lot of ire with some customers over the years who were unable to wrap their heads around any non traditional approach to a non traditional Chinese dish.

The Lo Mein featured fresh vegetables and offered no surprises so both Joe and I found this dish to meet expectations.

Moving on to the Thai side of the menu, I dug in to the Phad See Ew. I was offered the choice of mild, medium or hot on my space level. Since I was not familiar with the baseline heat of Ho Toy I opted for medium which I would rate at a 6 on a 10 point scale for heat and spice. This dish combined wide egg noodles about the size of a tortilla chip, broccoli, carrots, napa cabbage and eggs in a flavorful brown sauce.

I had visions of a Kahiki racing through my head when I ordered a lunch time Mai Tai. However, there was no umbrella and a only trace of alcohol in the pint sized concoction I was served so my dreams were dashed.

Overall we found the menu to resemble the Lake Woebegone of Chinese and Thai food, everything was above average at an average price. If you are a downtown worker or visitor Ho Toy is worth dropping in for a nice lunch with a side of time warping travel to the 1980’s or earlier. If you happen to host a progressive retro dinner club, this would be the right environment to eat your daddy’s Chow Mein. You will also find a bit of dining history from other places on your table.

Our server was friendly and diligently answered my numerous questions about pretty much everything.

When you make you haj to Ho Toy, I’d suggest a trip to the second floor. In my case, it was necessitated by a need to go to the only functional restroom but I discovered a nice view of the Statehouse (see the photo below) as well as some interesting bathroom “humor” (see the photo below the majestic view).

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

Posted in restaurants, Vegetarian Friendly | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Toby and Me: Requiem for An Appalachian Porch Hound

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 25, 2018

I started writing this requiem in April of 2017, while watching Marley and Me (by accident) with Toby. I had read the book many years before. On this particular afternoon we were both home alone and I happened to flip channels just as the movie started….and I was sucked in. Looking over at Toby towards the end of the movie I knew that when the time came, I would be a wreck. That being the case, I decided to start on this post while we were still in the good times. When there were changes in our life together or if I was worried about him, I would come back to this post and tinker with it add in more details. It helped me focus on one thing – writing – instead of a dread of what was to come. There are less than a handful of things that could bring me to tears, the one sure thing is a dying dog. Especially, MY dog. My best friend and my most loyal associate – Tobias J. Dog. Readers encountered Toby many times here over the years….

I had too many chances to practice our end. Toby had a 1.5 pound tumor removed from his front leg and chest in January 2015. He barely survived that. I barely survived that. We both fought hard during his recovery to get him back to his prime form. He had a smaller tumor removed from his rear leg in August of 2015. Both times he had very bumpy convalescences. Toby does not do well with pain medications and he does not do well with being dependent. The same for me.

Our toughest challenge was December of 2016. After a two month stint of CMH Spouse and CMH Griffin being sick, I came home one Friday afternoon, looking forward to a house with no impaired inhabitants and an opportunity to catch up a gigantic backlog of work in my office. Instead, I found Toby lying in vomit on the floor having what looked like a seizure. I could see he was dying. I was not ready for that. It took about 3 hours to get into the vet, by that time, he was no longer rolling his eyes but could not walk.

As I carried him through the door I thought the odds of putting him down were against his favor. He had other plans. At the vet, I was told he had Old Dog Vestibular Disease, which mirrors a stroke. He was given some anti-nausea medication and a very poor prognosis. If I could get Toby to eat, he would probably live. If not, his stomach would twist and that would be that. Toby going an hour without wanting food was nearly unheard of, so I figured he would be back on track within a day. I was wrong. I spent the next several days carrying Toby outside to go to bathroom and helping him stay upright. During the night I slept with him on the floor or a couch to be ready to get him out the door when he needed it. When I went upstairs, Toby did not attempt to follow…. and that never happens – he is always in line of sight of me. That was a very bad sign. VERY BAD. I could always count on him being within five feet in most circumstances unless food, a fetching lass or a squirrel is nearby.

The bigger concern was food consumption. He would not eat. No ice cream. No steak. After a few days a bit of a hamburger. I did do some research and found a vet prescribed “crack-like” wet dog food that was considered a sure thing. Not quite (it smelled atrocious) but he ate some. After two days he started to get back on his feet like a drunken sailor. Then Toby decided that the wanted to go back to a steak only diet. (“Tobias, T-Bone does not stand for Toby bone”). That lasted a few more days. After two weeks he was back to about 85% of his old self and after a few months, 88%. He had taken a hit and the biggest damage was to his “irrational exuberance”. His back legs never got back to normal. Over the course of 2017, his hind legs started to fade due to old age and neurological damage. We saw the intensity of his many interests fade with one exception, he became even more of a food mooch. His ability to continually place himself in the path of CMH Spouse causing near fatal falls (daily) increased exponentially – increasing the likelihood of one accidental death (CMH Spouse) and one murder (CMH Tobias) ten-fold. As the year progressed we also saw a 420% increase in Bambi slides on any non carpeted surface and non-controlled falls down stairs. For me, barely accepting my own ungraceful aging, facing Toby’s mortality daily was increasingly demoralizing. While his mind and spirit were still strong his self-sufficiency and rock solid self-esteem was in a rapid decline.

As 2018 progressed we added daily pooping inside the house, often twice per day, sometimes thrice. The year 2018 has been an absolutely painful year for our family and the decline of my old friend was draining in many ways. Some days, I just hoped Toby would die soon. I did not want hime gone but it was painful to experience him descending into decrepitness. I felt guilty about my thoughts but it was hard to see him suffer while my heart and soul were running on fumes for related and unrelated reasons. The daily addition of poop to scoop inside our house combined with daily carpet cleaning usually right after I let him back inside or when returning from a five-minute walk was demoralizing to both of us. On occasion, I found him trying to eat the evidence. He could not stand or walk on our wood or tile floors so we kept adding more and more rugs to each of the rooms so he could move around the house without wiping out. We had a vet visit in February which showed a major increase in negative liver and kidney values and a decline in his neurological function in his hind quarters. There was a pretty good chance either of this ailments could be related to a tumor of some sort. As I talked about the struggles in our household some people told me to just put Toby down (the vet never suggested that). I knew his time was limited and I was waiting for a sign that he was ready or that it was the right time. In the back of my mind, I was hoping he could make it to his sixteenth birthday (120 in dog years) which was either March or May. His mind and spirit were still there but we were watching his body rapidly declining. He never expressed any pain and any trial of pain medication seemed to make him worse. He could half-heartily wag his tag and never at full arch. His tail was no longer the constantly curled, spring-like whip of his first 15 years. I noticed that he did not bark any more and vocalized less…but his eyes were bright and his “smile” was often wide. At night, with a lot of effort, he would find a way to make sure he was touching a part of me with part of him.

In May of 2018, we got to the point where he could not meander upstairs on his own, without falling back to the bottom four times. He could not travel down the stairs with any controlled direction. Then he could not sleep without falling off the bed several times. After two weeks of sleep deprivation, a child with croup twice, me with pneumonia and having stepped in poop at least three times, it was time for a dreaded change. At the end of May, he was exiled to sleeping in my first floor office at night. The door is mostly glass so I could see his face reflect the absolute betrayal he felt. After fourteen plus years of devoted loyalty: sleeping with me most of that time while enduring girlfriends, my extended disappearances to the antipodes, a wife that came with her own dog and then a child with an aptitude for stepping on him like a cushion – I had finally failed the pact of our pack. The year 2018 (so far) has been among my lowest of years, this moment of first exiling him in the office was the nadir of nadirs. My greatest best friend had decompensated from the epitome of vigor and the supreme example of the finest Appalachian Porch Hound of our era to an Appalling Poop Hound. There was nothing I could do to slow or stop the decline. And I had nothing left in me to fight it or to fight hard for him. As we entered June, he had two more vestibular attacks which lasted hours instead of days. He somehow rebounded slightly better than before each time and he had some semi-OK days. On some days it looked like he might rally for a run at 2019, on other days not so much. Through all of this he was still the greatest food mooch of all time. Over the last year he had dropped from 66 to 57 pounds but could still eat all day if allowed….and he tried.

But let’s journey back to the beginning before detailing the end. Born in March or May 2002, I know little about his first 18 months of life. I do know he was in at least eight foster homes before we crossed paths. I know he is was a non graduate of the Chillicothe Correctional Center’s Dog socialization program. I know he had a serial adopter named T****** (name hidden to protect her stupidity) that went back and forth on committing to him as a long-term dog and at one point had a boyfriend determined to transform Toby into a spike collared fighter. Throughout 2003, a co-worker pestered me about adopting this dog. He was in bad straits. No one would take him. I saw a photo of him in his spiked collar looking like a beast and gave a firm thumbs down. He was too big and a brute. I did not have time for a dog between work, graduate school, freelance writing, traveling and the occasional girlfriend, I was not home long enough to socialize anything, including myself on more than a few occasions. By February of 2004, I had finished school and was in between projects so I finally relented to foster Toby for two weeks. I would give his current foster a short break and could test the idea of sharing my living space with another creature (human or canine).

On a Friday night of President’s Day weekend (3 day weekend for me as a government drone), he walked into my house as if he owned it. I had a dog crate from a previous shared custody canine, a few hand me down dog items and an open mind. I discovered that what I had been told – he can’t be walked was largely true. I discovered this by having him pull, tug and generally drag me down my street with the strength of a full dog sled team. After a couple of weeks, it turned into a controlled drag with an occasional yanking out of my arm sockets. On our first night together, he crated without incident then proceeded to cry non stop for two hours. When I let him out, he pretended to head for the kitchen to get a drink then did a 180 and ran at high-speed before vaulting 5 feet high and 10-12 feet long to land in the middle of my bed. Once he spot was secure, he refused to move. That was a routine we maintained for the better part of our time together. Some nights I would hear the run, then a whoosh in the air and wait for him to land sprawled out next to me, mostly missing my body by 1/2 millimeter or less.

After the previous foster opted to extend to two week “break” to disappearing, I found myself with a long-term foster dog. I set about going to as many dog adoption events as I could take Toby to find him a proper home. Each was a disaster. He was so excited to be in those environments. He would tug, bark, whine and generally act like an enhanced version of the spirited freak he is. On only one occasion did he calm down. A woman walked toward us that must have looked similar to someone in his past because he instantly sat still and behaved in a very calm manner with only a slightly panting tongue and very big smile. I was certain she must be a long-lost owner. I was sure she was a perfect fit for him, something that could finally tame this savage beast. But she just looked (I was acting well-behaved too and maybe a bit puppy eyed) at both of us, made a face and could not get away from both of us fast enough. In my mind I thought she mouthed freak(s). We shared that rejection together which completed our bond. I was still determined to find his “real” home with someone who was home much more often than me and ideally had a child or ten to burn off some of his boundless energies.

Things did not get much better from there. I took him to an area of the park where dog owners hung out for bonding and socializing. Some dude with a giant dog started yelling – “get that Pit Bull away from here”. I looked around trying to find where the offending dog was and watched the dog in my custody running to the fray. When I retrieved Toby, I had a few choice words with this guy. This would not be the first time or the last time Toby was labeled a pit bull.

I then set Toby up with a perfect foster match. I was going to Europe for a couple of weeks and had a co-worker with acres of property and two playful dogs. I asked if Toby could stay with them while I was gone, and in the hour I stayed with them after Toby was dropped off I watched him run and play with his tongue hanging out non stop. He was in dog heaven and I pulled aways with a light heart and a smile on my face. When I returned stateside I called to check up on him (wanting to know when I should bring the rest of his things and seal the deal) and found out that while he was not a bother, he had “no personality” and I should probably come get him the next day. No personality! There are a lot of things this dog lacked: boundaries, obedience, any sense of pain, no limits to appetite, etc., but this dog was all personality.

Not long after, his previous foster asked for a week to have him back to try to “reconcile her mixed feelings” about keeping Toby. She seemed to like him and had another dog just like Toby but after a few days she asked if I could come back and get him because she was worried that he might have an expressed anal gland. WTF lady. This was also the foster whose boyfriend put a spiked collar on Toby and tried to turn him into a fighting dog. While he looks tough, the only thing this dog has ever been hardcore about is mooching. Bringing him home, I noticed no anal gland issues but I did some quick calculating and figured he was overdue for rabies and other vaccines and other needed check ups. The foster organization was out of money so I took him to a hospital that had treated him in the past. They had a few hand written records on him from one previous visit (he was neutered and had a minor surgery at the same time). The notes suggested him might be a Basenji and lab mix. Looking at the online information about that breed it seemed like a stretch but many years later when I found an audio file of a Basenji bark, I heard some similarity and found myself smirking. Toby has a very special, persistent, annoying bark that he uses when he is not getting something he wants, it was spot on to a Basenji.

At that point, doing some more calculation, I figured since I had this dog for over six months, his prospects were not looking good and mine were fading fast (the job I went to school for and wanted more than anything, was not going to happen). I was 2 points short on my immigration points paperwork to Australia and 5 points short for New Zealand. I called the foster person I could track down (they were beyond bankrupt) and told them I would consider my paid vet bill their adoption fees. Toby and I were finally legitimate.

Over time I realized we had a lot in common. We were both outcasts, misfits, misunderstood and always underestimated. Neither of use felt completely at ease as part of a pack or tribe. Toby and I were a pretty good fit.

Later on down the road, I decided to have his DNA tested to determine his true pedigree. When the vet called with the results, he was a bit embarrassed. He said the outcome we had did not happen often but Toby was inconclusive on every marker. He was sorry that I did not get a good return on my investment, but I was. Toby was a true Heinz 57 or by other words a bona fide Appalachian Porch Hound (Google that term and you will find most links lead to Tobias).

As time went on we had a good number of adventures, many of them road trips. Since I was gone from home for long periods of time, I often took him with me when I was out and about town. He loved to have his head out the window and when we got to our destination, he loved to run as fast as he could and as far as he could. Here are a few of our adventures as documented on this very blog.

Our two week road trip across America

The only dog in Columbus to have a beer named after him

Rockmill Brewery and a Dog Day Afternoon
(Note: while Matt and I were hiking, Toby in his bliss got too excited and tried to eat a small tree, while pulling it away from him, he scratched me and I have still a small scar on my hand to this day, that will always remind me our time there.

Important Research Work

If you dig through over twelve years of posts on this blog you will find a lot of mentions of Toby – often as a research assistant. For a dog that could not find a home, he certainly found many fans and even appeared in Columbus Monthly.

As a general rule I write about what I really, really like. He is like no other dog I have ever met. I would not describe him as a good dog, although he was not bad. I would never describe him as obedient but I rarely describe myself that way either. The most defining aspects to his “essence” for lack of a better term would be a profound spirit and a deep loyalty to me. I have always had low expectations for people and ultimately, if I look at my life to date, the thing I have prized (and wanted) the most in people and rarely found has been loyalty. I always had Toby’s loyalty, unless there was food to be stolen, but even I could respect that. If I get an ounce of loyalty I will give a pound back. When Toby and I were in West Virginia with my dad, on his last trip “to the hills” before heading to a new type of destruction in Honduras, we spent the night in a high-end cabin owned by a lifelong friend of my dad’s. We were surrounded by manly men. Toby was allowed in (although a “real dog” would have slept outside) but he had to stay in the kitchen. Come midnight when we all crawled into bed upstairs I started to hear the whimper on the kitchen. I knew who it was. It got louder and more frequent. I took a pillow and a sheet and slept next to that poor dog on the hard, cold tile floor until the good old boys found me there in the morning. And they watched the same dog then abandon me the second he heard a package of bacon open.

Toby played an important part in my life in many ways. Toby saved my life on one occasion, but that is a very, very long story with a lot of appendices, notations and more than a few theories so we will skip those details. Paying attention to how Toby felt about a few of my girlfriends could have saved me (and them) from misspent time. Toby was important in many more ways but the critical lesson was learning to share my space and having an opportunity to be accountable to someone other than myself. He gave me a lot when I gave him a home. The most important lessons I learned from my special needs dog were the skills I would need to help my special needs child as a human father.

I was glad that he was around to see me get married and to have some time with my son. I do wish CMH Griffin could have experienced CMH Tobias at his prime – they would have both been a true match for each other. I wish my boy could have fully experienced Toby as I did so he would have a template for a dog that would be a good fit for him or any boy with a curious disposition, thirst for adventure and general disdain of pack mentality. Toby lived long past his prime, probably out of loyalty to me. I did not want to wish for his death but I impatiently waited for it. Even when he was 14 1/2, he was still spry and vibrant and described by a vet as an “exceptional dog” (at least physically). He was and will always be, exceptional.

From November 2017 to today (I watched and hoped for him to decide it was time to go): his walks became shorter; he stopped running and/or showing interest in squirrels, (but could always rally for one good bark at a dog or cat); he slept in later. He lost more bits of his lifestyle. Starting in May 2018 he stopped trying to climb the steps and then he stopped trying to do a controlled fall down them. Then he stopped expecting to be carried upstairs to sleep. He stopped whimpering if he could not be in the same room as us….as me. He stopped ambling to the door when someone came home. Car rides were now a horror for him, not a treat. He lost the essentials to his life and our lives with him. His tail lost it’s spring like curl and whip like speed stopped wagging and shifted to a sag. However, he never stopped being a mooch. He lost most of what made him – Toby, but he only lost an ounce of his intense spirit and none of his loyalty.

As June began there were a few nights I was sure were his last. I stayed up as late as I could each night so he could go outside to pee or poop. As July, started to beckon, on a Friday afternoon his bladder started to fail and his hind legs increased their ineffective flailing. This could not go on, for either of us. He stopped wanting to walk farther than one pee and one sniff and even those were more out of habit than a need to mark territory. At this point he could linger on few weeks or maybe a month of existence or I could pick a day for his departure while a little bit of his essence was left and his spirit not completely broken. I decided we would put him down at home so he would not have to be stressed by a trip to the vet and have a hospital be his last sight and smell before passing. Also, I did not want him to bambi fall across the slick tile floor of the vet as his last act of living. As a family money is very tight for us right now but the cost of dying at home was worth it. All of the home vet services were busy and while our regular vet does not do home visits, they must have felt sorry for me (I did mention that we only live 150 yards away), so they said they could do it but the earliest they could schedule would be Monday (about 52 hours later). After we made arrangements I was not sure Toby would make it to Monday or not. He rallied strong on Sunday and was pampered to the extreme for his final 48 hours. I pulled out our old adventure sleeping bag and we tried to sleep on it the last two nights before his time to go. Maybe he knew what I knew but he did not show it. He even managed to not poop in the house during his last 24 hours. His final meals and snacks were filled with brisket, donuts, ice cream, pizza and meatballs. Waiting at the door to let in our vet in to end Toby’s life by my own choice made every second feel like a century. The only plus in the situation was being able to cry in the privacy of my own home away from any witnesses.

I miss my friend and he leaves a tear in my heart that will not be mended. He headed for Porch Hound Heaven at 1:44 pm, Monday June 25th.

R.I.P. Toby (Tobias J. Dog) March or May 2004 to June 25th, 2018


Porch Hound Post Script:

The dog socialization program continues at Chillicothe Correctional Institution where select inmate handlers work 1-on-1 with dogs and puppies to learn basic commands. The prison coordinates with DASH (Danielle’s Animal Safe Haven) a 100% volunteer based non-profit 501c3 rescue. If you want to make a Donation to Dash in honor of the most notorious of Appalachian Porchhounds here is the -> LINK.

Posted in FooderHero | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

From the Archives for Fathers Day: Apple Cake Podcast

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 17, 2018

At Copan Mayan Ruins in Honduras 2009

Today marks my second year that I am the Father on Father’s Day. I never figured that is was going to be an easy assignment but I must say the last five months in the role have been a marathon. It is soul wrenching when your child has a challenge that you might not be able to help him with or know if what you are doing is helping or not.

However, I’m so happy for all of the time I get to spend with CMH Griffin. Spending time with him it makes Fathers Day a little easier to bear since my dad died on Father’s Day.

I have shared some of my dynamic with my father before: Apple Cake Eulogy and Senor Ellison esta aqui.

Recently, I found this audio episode from my short lived podcast, (the original) Columbus Foodcast. The sound quality is very good (although I must admit I started crying when I was testing out the audio file to make sure it was good quality). The amusing part for me and for anyone listening that may have known my Dad aka “Crash”, is how hard he is trying to be “good”. Throughout this recording I can hear him trying to restrain his language and more typical demeanor. You also get some sense of his “special” relationship with Tommy, from Tommy’s Diner in Fton.

This very special, “lost” episode of Columbus Foodcast lasts about 17 minutes.

Listen -> Here

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Big Daddy’s BBQ Truck at Campus Pitt Stop

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 10, 2018

Let me begin by sharing three words lead to intense disappointment when used in the same sentence: New, BBQ and Columbus. When I amd told about a new BBQ joint in Columbus, I get a bit giddy but just like Charlie Brown running to kick the football, new BBQ spots are most often like Lucy, pulling the ball / my enthusiasm away at the last possible moment. Columbus, as a metropolitan area has a very low bar for what I consider good BBQ. Many people still seem to view this as some type of exotic food that must be nurtured and supported until it can stand on its our merits without massive support. I still chase any new BBQ joint like I did any new girlfriend in the first decade of the 21st Century, with hope but somehow knowing I would be disappointed or burned in the end.

(Let me take a moment for a brief tangent. It is highly likely there will be some odd typo somewhere in the post. For the last couple years, this has been a consistent quirk of this web log. Let me assure you three or six months later or maybe one of two years from now, I will reread this post and correct it while I am rewriting at least two or three sentences of this. I do this with almost everything I write. For some reason, I need to read it fresh a few days or weeks later to spot the typos and fine tune my message. The whole reengineering process to posts makes them at least 3% better in the end (so reread the last 700 posts to see what I am talking about). So let me assure you, this will eventually be a perfect post, but probably not in the first month of online life).

When I heard about Big Daddy’s it was from an unlikely source – the Grumpy Old Man (known to some readers) aka The Chicken Whore (known to a very small subset of the CMH Gourmand readership). When he mentioned he had eaten Big Daddy’s three times already and was miffed that I have not told him about it first I was shocked. But the big shocker was that these meals had been obtained by his lovely but very status conscious wife. I could not imagine her going to a food truck or taking a risk on such a meal. However, she did and apparently was very enthused about it. This was disturbing to my world view but it provided great hope. I have well over a dozen BBQ places profiled in the annals of CMH Gourmand and almost all of them are in parts of town the bravest of my readers would fear to tread. Big Daddy’s is at Campus Pitt Stop located at the northeast corner of Lane Avenue and Kenny Road. This may be among the least intimidating areas in Central Ohio.

(Another brief note): Campus Pitt stop is an odd type of business, the Columbus equivalent of Mos Eisley on Tatooine from Star Wars. At one time this was a gas station. In theory this should be a thriving retail outpost with easy proximity to Ohio State, Upper Arlington and other thriving areas. This lot is packed with cars that need a parking spot for OSU Football home games but otherwise it is often desolate. This is a carry out of sorts that also houses an odd assortment of what looks to be a rotating selection of flea market items. The only thing notable about the Pitt Stop is that they have the largest selection of Ballreich’s snack products I have seen anywhere outside of the Ballreich’s factory in Tiffin Ohio. The Pitt stop also offers a wide assortment of rental trucks and always seems to have a random number of cars on the lot with no owners or someone working on one of them. I also observed that is has been the home of many food trucks that probably never should have entered into the food truck trade.

Moving on to Big Daddy’s. The back story begins near Detroit. Big Daddy – who is not small but certainly not a large man, is very friendly and hard-working soul. He works as an electrical contractor during the week and runs the smoker connected to the Big Daddy’s Friday and Saturday (only open on these days) and on the seventh day, he rests. This is a family affair with his daughter and often a niece working the truck window while he tends the smoker. His BBQ origins begin with his father near Detroit. By report Big Daddy’s father was not an all-star at BBQ but he was a “foodie” before there was a name for such an affliction. Big Daddy’s Dad was always passionate about the journey to find the best of any food. While on this pilgrimage his son (Big Daddy today) discovered BBQ and decided to study it in-depth. This led to his own trips all over the country sampling all styles of BBQ from South Carolina to Texas. It took Big Daddy a long time to perfect and fine-tune his craft. He has now taken his hobby out on the streets in food truck format. He says the food truck business has not been easy (it never is) but he has learned from mistakes and is feeling good about the current location at the Campus Pitt Stop.

As an aside here, before I forget, let me say that there are a couple of elements to having a great food truck. Any good food truck needs to have good food, that is the baseline. But a great truck as a personality to it. Usually in the form of the owner or sometimes the team that works it together. Often owners become detached from their food trucks over time and let others operate them – these trucks are doomed to be average or they may start to suck. The food and the truck are a reflection of the owner and if the owner is not there – or if the owner is not interesting and/or passionate about their food you experience will not be the same. In a brick and mortar example, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants are consistently good but they were better when he was working his own kitchen and the place resonated that energy. In the same vein, Jeni’s ice cream was much better when Jeni was scooping her own ice cream. When you remove the creator from the creation something is lost.

On my initial trip to Big Daddy’s I played it safe, I selected a four meat sampler and a side of Mac & Cheese. I knew I was going to be pleased the moment I lifted the styrofoam lid.

I was intrigued by the giant piece of bread topping the mountain of meat. Big Daddy’s steers clear of the typical slice(s) of generic store loaf white bread with a slightly toasted, buttered and seasoned piece of Italian style bread. This holds up well to the rigors of large amounts of BBQ sauce and can be used as a napkin in a pinch. I moved on to the small cubed pieces of brisket. These were full of flavor and not fatty. The smoked sausage was well cooked and true to the roots of the Texas style favored by Big Daddy. Next, because it was my favorite, the grilled, BBQ chicken wings were absolutely fantastic by any rating scale.

The wings are served in their entirety – not just the drum but the entire wing. It was grilled properly and significantly sauced. The meat hiding behind the skin was moist, succulent and resonated with chicken flavor. As a Kansas City BBQ Society Certified BBQ judge I can say with some authority that these wings are competition quality. I also tried the ribs. By tried I really mean devoured with an intensity that would terrify a lion or tiger or bear with rabies. These ribs were perfectly cooked – plenty of meat and very flavorful with just a bit of char. Often when I try ribs in Columbus, they have been cooked to the point of mummification or are dry or the meat clings to the bone like a drowning man to the bow of a sinking ship. Not the case here these were also competition quality.

Based on this one visit, I was very hopeful. I had an obligation to go back. I had to make sure I was not dealing with a BBQ fluke or the possibility I had lowered my standards subconsciously after so much mediocrity in the past. Also, I had promised I would be back. While chatting it up with Big Daddy’s daughter and asking too many questions about the sauces (sweet and tangy are the two choices) and inquiring if the Daddy’s Boy sandwich was similar to the Cleveland cult classic Polish Boy, I was told I had to have that sandwich. There was a clear call to action.

On my second visit I ordered the Daddy’s Boy sandwich and more wings. The wings were great the second time around. The Daddy’s Boy is similar to a Cleveland Polish Boy. The sandwich features a foot long BBQ Sausage (I did measure it), pulled pork, cole slaw, french fries and a lot of sauce (I opted for sweet on the second visit).

This is a good sandwich. It has many similarities to the Polish Boy of Cleveland. The Big Daddy’s tangy sauce does have the unique flavor and a slight purple or pink hue to it like the Polish Boy sauce but it is a different sandwich. I could not eat this in one sitting and I could not consume it with my hands. The use of the Italian style bread here is a plus because it holds up to the weight of the sausage, pork and fries and does not disintegrate due to the saturation of sauce. The sandwich is a good introduction to Big Daddy’s because it lets one sample about one half of the menu in one box.

I tried the mac and cheese. The Big Daddy’s version is true to the tradition of most BBQ and/or soul food joints, it leans toward a reduced ratio of cheese (creamy) to macaroni. I liked that Big Daddy’s was not reluctant to limit peppering their version. I prefer my Mac and Cheese to be cheesier but that did not limit me from enjoying this and finishing the container.

The greens were good. This is saying a lot. The best greens I have ever had came from Woody & Jo’s which as been closed for years. I rarely find greens that I enjoy. Typically they lack flavor or seasoning or both. Often they are overcooked or undercooked. And sometimes the greens are not sufficiently diced before serving. The only place I have ever ordered greens more than once is Ray Ray’s therefore those serve as my current standard. Big Daddy’s runs a close second in my hierarchy of greens. These are properly cooked, seasoned well and have a large amount of tasty meat integrated into the mix.

In conclusion, Big Daddy’s is likely to please your palate. Tips go to the college fund to send Big Daddy’s daughter to college and my guess is so will much of the profits. Enjoy good food while supporting a small family business at the same time.

Big Daddy’s BBQ on Facebook

Posted in BBQ, Mobile Food | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

The Late Night Slice Pizza Box

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 29, 2018

Let me introduce you to the Late Night Slice pizza box, at least the current version (#4). The economics of pizza boxes are more challenging than you think. If you want something fancy, with art work and all, like the Late Night Slice box, but you also want to stay in business, you need to buy by the semi load to make the price point affordable.

Late Night Slice started with a “cover” on each box by year. But the dynamics of pizza box ordering make ordering tricky because one does not want to under or over order if you are linked to a year. Due to this, the 2016 boxes premiered late in said year. Then I waited, and waited and waited for 2017 to appear but I keep seeing vintage 2016’s each month. I then wondered if the 2017 box would be skipped or premiere in December until I saw the box showcased at the beginning of this post. This box caused a bit of bewilderment because I wondered how I missed #1, #2 and #3. However, the number of the boxes does make sense when you consider the previous changes in cover art that were to be by year not by version. All of the art is created by local artist Pat Moore. Pat has a long history of supporting local business and hanging out with the Late Night Slice gang so this local collaboration makes sense.

Late Night Slice box

Some features carry over from box to box no matter what the version is. You can always count for two of the sides to spell out the mantra that has allowed Late Night Slice to grow into an empire: PAY, EAT, LEAVE. The bottom of the box also has artwork on it and is always changed when the front cover is updated. The “mascot” you see on both is named Mr. Pizza Face. You may be glad or disturbed to know there is a life sized costume version of him complete with leg hair. Classy.

Late Night Slice Pizza Face

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Arrivederci Adriaticos (1.0)

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 19, 2018

Adriaticos spent much of 2018 in a state of limbo. In the Fall of 2017, The Ohio State University announced a plan to take their building as part of an expansion for the OSU Optometry program but a firm date has not be released to the public other than by September 2018. There were talks of a relocation near the campus but no site was indicated. No new site could ever reflect the character of original Adriaticos which has called this small brick building home since at least 1987, when I first attended Ohio State as a freshman. The University and Adriaticos were committed to finding a spot near the original location. For Adriaticos this would be an opportunity for a larger kitchen and more dining space. For many, but especially south campus dorm students and all of the nursing staff of the OSU Medical Center, Adriaticos was more than just food, it was a public service and in many cases a critical need. By this I mean the Buckeye Pizza Special – a large sheet of pizza that would be a tight fit in Car to Go and can feed 12 or more people with ease and at a low price. Cheap pizza is rarely good, but this a great pizza at a great price.

I only had Adriaticos a few times while I was a student and never on site, it was always too crowded. I can vaguely remember having a few slices of a Buckeye Pizza (really big, square-shaped Sicilian pizza at a party). My budget did not supporting buying a whole pizza so I would just throw in a few bucks when on campus friends ordered it.

I do recall in detail, meeting there with some of my older friends who were back in town for the weekend to visit with other friends in the OSU MBA Program. It was not until the inception of the long running Nerd Night started around 2009 that Adriaticos became a regular fixture in my life and for many years, a weekly fixture. In early 2014, a reliable source told me that Adriaticos was slated to close at the end of the year so the university could use the building. I contacted the owner about the rumor and he strongly denied such a thing as a remote possibility and urged me not to write anything about the rumor so as to not spread panic. I was relieved. That was a good thing because later in 2014, Adriaticos was the featured late night snack for drunk revelers at my wedding in April 2014. It was a mainstay for my wife during pregnancy and continues to be the default emergency meal (with great frequently because it has been one crisis after another since we got hitched) after we moved into our new house and started to raise a pizza loving child.

In early spring 2018, word came out of a new location for Adriaticos. They will be taking over the old Aveda space, just around the corner at 1681 Neil Avenue. The new location is an upgrade in many ways: more dining space, more craft beer selection and a larger kitchen which equals a greater choice of items on the menu. Parking will still be a challenge but that does maintain at least one tradition of the original. The new location is expected to open by the end of summer just in time to serve a new generation of freshmen as they move into the dorms. The old location will close mid summer 2018 so there will be little to no down time for people who need their pizza fix.

In April to ensure CMH Griffin Gourmand had enough original Adriaticos in his DNA I took him for a dine in experience. We both discovered something we did not know. Their bread sticks are amazingly delicious.

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R&M Bakery – Newark (Back on The Ohio Donut Trail)

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 13, 2018

Family Gourmand has been kicked in the nuts for the bulk of 2018 with one calamity, illness, etc., after another. So there has been little time for writing and even less for donut exploration. This post is the result of pure “serendonutipity”. I never had R & M Bakery on my radar but while doing a brewery run in Newark, I happened to notice the sign for the bakery. Then I spied a donut display case I could see through the window while I was waiting for a stop light to change. Although I was very pressed for time, I decided to pop in for a look. From outside appearances, I thought the place had a lot of potential. The building looks to be at least 100 years old. The nearly non existent parking lot is made of turn of the 20th century brick street pavers. I nearly did not see the business signage because it is old and faded. Walking into the shop, I had pretty low expectations. Interior design and decor is definitely not a priority of the owners but that is neither a pro nor con on the donut trail but did help to lower my low expectations It was late on a Friday afternoon and no self respecting bakery should have much stock at this time of day. R&M delivered on that unwritten law of bakeries, the shelves were nearly bare. Donut Trail criteria is based on dough alone.

I typically judge a potential Ohio Donut Trail spot the merit of their cake donuts (because those are the best) but all I had to choose from were a few yeast donuts, long johns and a few specialty items. While chatting up the young fella at the counter, I discovered that the bakery is very well-known for the quality of their cakes and cut-out cookies. None of those were available to sample and to be true to form, this is the donut trail so that is not relevant but still noteworthy. However, I should mention that I did try one Oreo ball and it was beyond divine. It was a small dense and moist ball of chocolate cake with a touch of Oreo flavor to it that was encased in dark chocolate. Really good. Best Oreo Ball ever. Small in size but big it flavor. It will not disappoint. (Written in Trumpian style for no reason).

Moving along to the donuts, although what I tried were items that would typically be on the second tier of my donut consumption pyramid, each variety I tried was exceptional for the category it represented. I tried a vanilla glazed yeast donut. The icing was flavorful and the donut tasted crazy fresh for a Friday afternoon. I tried a maple long john. The icing was lightly glazed on to the top of this tube-shaped treat but tasted true to the maple traditions of most Ohio donut shops. I sampled a vanilla cream as well and was impressed with the light fluffiness of the icing as well as the flavor. I also tried a baked good I had not encountered before which is called a Chop Suey Roll. I picked it because it was the last of its kind left in the display case. The base of this treat is a cinnamon roll style dough that looks to be cut in thick noodle or French fry form that is then mashed together and covered with a thick layer of vanilla icing. This was very good so I saved a few bites for CMH Griffin Gourmand to munch on one hour later when I picked him up from daycare. He gave it two thumbs up. My boy is no slouch when it comes to donuts so I hope you can appreciate his opinion although he is still under three years old.

I also tried an apple fritter, a staple of any Ohio Bakery. The fritters here are leaner that the typical fat and sassy fritter found in these parts but it did not fail for flavor. There was a very good sugary glaze coating throughout the exterior and the interior housed several fresh apple bits. I was impressed.

For an unplanned exploratory mission, I tried enough to want to visit again. If you go, I advise you to look for off street parking nearby. The bakery is at a pretty busy intersection. The brick parking lot is short and narrow, it might fit two cars if the drivers are considerate of each other and not in a rush to get in or out.

Doing a bit of sleuthing, the bakery has been around at least thirty years with a largely supportive local following minus a few Facebook rants back and forth in the past.

Note:
The correct phone number seems be: (740) 345-3615.

R & M Bakery Incorporated Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in donuts, Ohio Donut Trail | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Kolache Republic (German Village / Brewery District)

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 30, 2018

A bit of back story before I get to the meat of the matter. I am biased about Kolache Republic. I will not even pretend to have the pretense of objectivity. I met Dusty Kotchou, Rick Jardiolin & Doug Sauer in the first week of my tour of duty at the Food Fort. At the time, they were figuring out how to use a food cart to market two things still foreign to Columbus, mobile food and Kolaches. They gave up on the mobile aspect but they went whole hog into the Kolache aspect as one of my first clients to open a brick and mortar location. I lost track of them for a short time as I worked with the likes of Pitabilities, OH! Chips, Dos Hermanos, Ajumama and more but I did stalk them on social media. I was recently invited to get reaquainted with them and Kolaches so get ready for an education.

First, you need to figure out what a Kolache is. And that is not always a straightforward matter. Let’s begin with pronunciation: pronounced ko-LAH-chee. The origins date back hundreds of years to Central Europe and Czechoslovakia. They made their way to north america and settled with central Texas with Czech immigrants. Over time they transformed from a snack or treat to a meal and the fillings changed from simple cheeses and fruits to all manner of things such as savory meats in Sloppy Joe format. They have been the rage in Texas for decades and have slowing spread to a few select places via migrant Texans and super fans.

While Columbus is a long way from Texas, our fair city shares a lot of characteristics with Austin Texas so Dusty, Rick and Doug saw an opportunity to make Kolaches a thing in the capital city. Their location on South High Street (Brewery District/German Village) churns out Kolaches for breakfast, lunch and catered orders.

Here is a handy graphic I borrowed from them to walk you through how it all works.

And pictured below is a typical menu of daily offerings.

As you can see Kolache Republic has diners covered for sweet and savory – breakfast, lunch and even dinner to go. The daily specials are areas where they really excel in creativity. The in-house chef is allowed to push across the traditional boundaries of fillings and toppings. I hope you will block out some time to explore what they have to offer.

Kolache Republic Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in desserts, sandwiches | Tagged: | 2 Comments »