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Archive for the ‘chocolate’ Category

Small Bytes: Pistacia Vera – Brunch and Other Stuff

Posted by CMH Gourmand on December 17, 2011

I had an axe to grind regarding brunch at Pistacia Vera. Don’t get me wrong, I love Pistacia Vera and I think the world of Spencer and Anne. Here’s the thing, as you know, I am not a fan of breaking fast (reasons outlined logically in previous posts). I might even be the Grinch of breakfast. I was miffed during the most recent Dine Originals Week. Historically my Dine Originals Week ritual is to get the $10 Pistacia Vera tasting box to cap off the week. Well, last time there was no box just a brunch deal. Hrumph!

I started to hear high praise for the brunch options from many credible sources. I am not a fan of quiche (only because it is so often prepared poorly) but quiches as well as Shirred Eggs and a Cottage Ham & Brie Sandwich were repeatedly mentioned in my presence. Hmm. Sandwich on a Pistacia Vera Croissant….I could do that and sniff out these other offerings in the process.

I went on a reconnaissance meal with my diner-in-chief. I was happy to see Jim Budros sweeping the front walk at the German Village shop (Jim is a BBQ Master, Pizza Purist and father of Anne and Spencer). Looking at the menu, I was hooked so we committed to two dine in brunch options.

We tried the Shirred Eggs: two eggs, baked in cream with parmigiano, oregano, garlic, herbs, and tomato fondue. This is served with a toasted, sliced croissant and house-made preserves.

The verdict? Superior, perfect, excellent. This now on my top three breakfast/brunch picks (the other two being the Pattycake Bakery Orange Sticky Bun and the Egg Sandwich at Explorer’s Club).

Selection number two was the Cottage Ham and Brie Breakfast sandwich: smoked cottage ham, fromage d’affinois, Dijon mustard, cornichons, fresh greens on a toasted whole wheat croissant. Thoughts on this one? Also excellent, easy to share and conveniently, could hold its own in the lunch category.

These two entrees made for a great meal, but there is much more than makes brunch at Pistacia Vera special and well worth the effort. Columbus is fortunate to have several excellent coffee roasters. One that tends to stay off the radar due to a consumer unfriendly approach to opening hours is Cafe Brioso. Pistacia Vera serves several Briso blends and sells bags of ground Briso coffees. Having access to this coffee to drink and buy at more customer friendly hours is a boon. Pairing Pistacia Vera with Brioso is genius.

Maybe this is starting to read like a commercial or product endorsement? Well, this paragraph is brought to you by Pistacia Vera Preserves. My modest serving with the Cottage Ham and Brie sandwich was good enough to inspire me to purchase two jars. If you are reading this before Christmas, a few purchases at Pistacia Vera could cure your own Grinchness or make you the hero of a holiday gift exchange.

And, let’s not forget the primary reason to visit Pistachia Vera – chocolates, macaroons, tortes and more, oh my! We opted for a pre-brunch appetizer of a Buche de Noel (Christmas Log). A slice of log is a great way to celebrate the season and Pistacia Vera makes the best in Columbus.

Humbug? I am now the Grinch who ate breakfast. Thanks Pistacia Vera. One final, but vital note. the Hot Chocolate at Pistacha Vera is the best in town. Better and less expensive than Northstar and Jeni’s. This proclamation may be sacrilege to these two culinary holy cows but if you charge $4.50 for hot chocolate it should be orgasmic, Pistacia Vera hits the mark at $3. Now I am off to put antlers on CMH Tobias.

Pistacia Vera
541 South Third Street
German Village

Pistacia Vera on Urbanspoon

Posted in bakery, beverages, breakfast, chocolate, desserts | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Travels on US 68: Urbana to West Liberty (Food Trail)

Posted by CMH Gourmand on October 24, 2009

Readers may recall the post about Urbana’s Crabill’s Hamburgers back in September. Well that was just the beginning of my day. My journey of discovery and rediscovery took me through Urbana then up Route 68 to Kenton, Ohio and beyond. So months after the fact, here is the recap.

After a few hamburgers and investigation of the food scene in downtown Urbana, I started my backroads journey to Ravenhurst Winery in Mt. Victory. Driving out of town, I rubbernecked seeing the image of a potato chip person out of the corner of my eye. Meandering back to the site of my sighting, I found –

Mumfords since 1932

Mumford's since 1932

Mumford’s Potato Chips.
325 North Main St

The Mumford clan started crafting potato chips in 1932, back in the day when there were many regional potato chip companies in Ohio. Mumford’s is still at it, although as charming as the store looks from the outside, they started outsourcing production of their chips years ago. On the plus side, you can buy two pounds of potato chips on the cheap for emergency roadfood. For the full chip story click here.

Back on track, I recalled that I would be passing by a good source for ice cream in West Liberty. Looking at the clock, I figured I had an hour of extra time for reconnaissance and an ice cream cone. The last time I was on US 68 was in 1998 while researching the best Ohio ice cream stands for Ohio Magazine. I had wandered by the Ice Cream Parlor by accident. The place has changed owners since then but everything else has stayed the same. The waffle cones are still made fresh daily with a touch of malt. The moniker is still The Ice Cream Parlor. Since it is the only ice cream parlor in that neck of the woods there is no need to worry about a snappy name.

The servings are still on the enormous side and they still scoop Nafzigers a hard to find ice cream from Northwest Ohio. The time it takes to consume one cone of ice cream is exactly how long it takes to wander downtown West Liberty.

I had forgotten there are plenty diversions (Piatt Castles, Ohio Caverns and the highest point in Ohio) in this part of Ohio. However, with only 30 minutes left before I needed to get back on my timetable, I needed to get back on track. I still wanted to explore a new candy store which had taunted me with several signs on the way into West Liberty.

I had not heard of Marie’s before so I figured this would be a 5 minute peek and walk through visit. I thought wrong. This turned out to be one of the best chocolate and candy stores I have visited.

Marie’s Candies
311 Zanesfield Rd. (US 68)
West Liberty
Closed Sundays

This candy company started in 1956 so there is some history behind the name. However, there is even more history to the place. The current location is a restored railroad depot from the days when trains were to key to travel. The depot building was saved by owners Jay and Kathy King before it was used for fire department training. In 1993 they moved the depot to its present location and started the long process to restore the building to use it as a retail shop for their candy. The location finally opened Thanksgiving weekend in 1996.

The depot was brought back to life and restored to it’s former glory and additional space was added for retail sales, candy preparation and meeting space. The whole history of the building can be tracked on the walls surrounded by many artifacts from the glory days of railroad travel.

History is the side dish here. There is an incredible assortment of candy and chocolates. I spent almost an hour wandering around the store looking and sampling the selections. The service was great. I spoke with several of the employees as well as the owner at length. They were happy to answer all of my questions. At no time did they tell me I had a big smear of chocolate on my nose from the Ice Cream Parlor. Maybe they thought is was a birthmark or some type of disfigurement.

I left Marie’s with a few treats for the road and hauled tail for Mt. Victory hoping to get to Ravenhurst winery before closing. Along the way I sped by farmers market stands, drive in eatery’s and some sections of Amish country. There is a lot more to explore in the area but my first stop on my return will be a restocking mission at Marie’s.

Posted in chocolate, food, ice cream, Ohio, Road Trip | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

North Market Apron Gala – May 17th (and More Market Mayhem)

Posted by CMH Gourmand on May 11, 2008

The 12th Annual North Market Apron Gala

Saturday, May 17th

Doors open and aprons on at – 7 PM

North Market

59 Spruce Street

Short North

Who: Me plus anyone one else that likes to eat and/or loves the North Market

What: Three courses of appetizers, tastes and samples of entrees, desserts, beer from Columbus Brewing Company, Ohio wines, multiple North Market vendors, a silent auction, fortune tellers, raffles, prizes, and a contest to see who has the coolest apron.

When: See Above

Where: North Market – the mecca of food goodness

Why: To support the North Market, proceeds go to support our North Market

How: Through the hard work of North Market vendors, staff, local restaurants, and the Friends of North Market

Tickets – $75 (worth every penny); $65 for registered Friends of the North Market

If you have never been to the North Market or have never been to a North Market event, this is the night to go. If anyone wants to meet up and talk food with me send me an e-mail, I will be there all evening.

If you need more encouragement to go, see my photos from the North Market Cinco D’ Ohio Festival below. The photos are a taste of the culinary wonders you can expect at events like this. I was one of the judges for the salsa contest. Nine people pitted their salsas up against the palettes of four lucky judges.

Then, I was also a judge for an array of tacos from for a fiery and heated competition with local professional chefs. Five Top chefs mixed their skill, creativity, and some North Market ingredients for a United Nations of flavors in the Taco Taste Off. The winner – in a tummy pleasing close call contest was Steve Lawrence from Cajohn’s Caboom Chili Company with his Asian Taco (in a soft, yet crunchy Wonton shell). Alana Shook (Alana’s) and John Dornbeck (Basi) were neck and neck in my book for a heartbreaking second place with my palette.

North Market is fun, fun, fun and the people are great so come support our market the night of May 17th.

Finally….If the Apron Gala does not work out for you or the other events seem too large scale, consider a more intimate experience with some of the best chef’s and cooks in Columbus:

To sign up drop by the North Market office or call to register at 614-463-9664.

Shop with the Chef Series, Saturdays, 10AM-1PM

Limit 20 people, cost $45 per person; $225 series

Saturday, June 7 – John Dornback, Basi Italia

Saturday, June 21 – Paul Yow, Barcelona

Saturday, July 5 – David Tetzloff, G. Michael’s Bistro

Saturday, July 19 – Matt Langstaff, Bexley’s Monk

Saturday, August 2 – Alana Shock, Alana’s Food + Wine

Saturday, August 16 – Robin Davis, The Columbus Dispatch

Summer Evening Chef Series, Wednesdays 6:30-8:30PM

Limit 26 people, cost $60 per person; $300 series

Wednesday, June 4 – John Skaggs, Chef at Large

Wednesday, June 18 – Jason Shelley, Mitchell’s Ocean Club

Wednesday, July 2 – Paul Yow, Barcelona

Wednesday, July 16 – Chef Rocco, Pastaria

Wednesday, August 6 – Matt Prokopchak, Trattoria Roma

Wednesday, August 20 – Matt Langstaff, Bexley’s Monk

Fall Evening Chef Series, Wednesdays 6:30-8:30PM

Limit 26 people, cost $60 per person; $300 series

Wednesday, September 3 – Henry Butcher Sr., Creole Kitchen

Wednesday, September 17 – Kevin Jones, The Columbus Fish Market

Wednesday, October 1 – Paul Yow, Barcelona

Wednesday, October 15 – David Tetzloff, G. Michael’s Bistro

Wednesday, November 5 – Matt Prokopchak, Trattoria Roma

Wednesday, November 19 – Matt Langstaff, Bexley’s Monk

Posted in bakery, cheese, chocolate, Columbus, culinary knowledge, food, ice cream, markets, Short North, wine | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Wittich’s – America’s Oldest Confectioner? – Circleville Roadtrip Part 2

Posted by CMH Gourmand on April 1, 2008


117 West High Street

Circleville, OH

740 474 3313

After my run to the Original Hamburger Inn, I drove a block or so to the northwest for a visit to what may be the nations oldest confectionary – Wittich’s. This chocolate and candy shop has been operated by the same family since 1840. It is currently run by Fred Wittich the great grandson of the founder. I did some quick research on confectionaries in the country. I am not sure it is the oldest – but it probably is the oldest run by the same family (I am still researching this).

My party sampled the candy selections with a venegence and found all to be very good. I really enjoyed the dark chocolate covered peanut brittle. Wittich’s is overflowing with character, charm and history – I felt good walking through the door and those feelings just continued to get better.

What really caught my eye was the 1930’s era soda fountain/counter. Some people know that I am an ice cream lover. One or two people know my first job was at Knight’s Ice Cream in Columbus and because of that I am a big fan of ice cream lore. There are just a handful operating of soda fountains in the country and I had accidently stumbled upon one.


As I sat there on one of the twirling counter seats, I was thinking of memories of a soda fountain in the the part of Columbus I grew up in. At about that moment, a small sign caught my eye. It explained the soda fountain I was sitting at was purchased from the former Beechwold Pharmacy in 1997. Guess where I used to go as a child….. yep!

Posted in chocolate, culinary knowledge, ice cream, Ohio | Tagged: | 7 Comments »

North Market – good to me and great for Columbus

Posted by CMH Gourmand on February 19, 2008

59 Spruce Street
Short North

This is what 12 samples of chili look like….

I survived the Fiery Foods Festival at the North Market on February 16th. I had the opportunity to be a judge for the Chili Competition. I sampled 12 chilis in the professional category (with offerings from Alana’s, L’Antibes, Basi Italia and others.) One of the offerings had Mako shark in it…..yep, shark. There was a brief moment of terror on my part. As I was taking my first spoonful, the ingredients were being listed off. Shark was not the the first item mentioned. I am allergic to fish – but maybe not shark as it turns out. After a short pause, it was back to work for the amateur competition and another 12 chilis. Other judges included G.A. Benton from Columbus Alive, Miriam Bowers Abbott from the Other Paper, Lisa – the Restaurant Widow and other local notables. I was in great company. Special thanks to Mary Martineau (marketing director) and David Wible (executive director) for having me there and listening to me ramble on about food. Their continued hard work keeps the market vibrant and appealing to Columbus natives and visitors. Sopressata – did a superb summary of the festival and she (Heather) was able to cover the wing eating contest which I missed out on.

The next day I was at the North American Pizza and Ice Cream Show across the street at the Columbus Convention Center. Many of the people in line to pick up passes were asking me about what to do in our fair city. I had a lot to tell them with North Market on top of my list. Several attendees waiting in line overhead my comments and mentioned their own visits to the market the day before and how impressed they were with what we have here in Columbus.

North Market is a treat for those of us that live here – offering a home to Jeni’s Ice Cream, Curds and Whey, and so many other great independent vendors. The market also supports incredible food events – the Ohio Wine Festival, the Saturday Farmers Market, and the Fall Harvest Festival. All of these North Market endevours put Columbus on the culinary map and keeps it there.

At the Fiery Foods Festival, I spoke with some of the volunteers that do so much to support the market by helping with events….I may have to get my ass in gear and pitch in as well.

Anyway, if you have never been to the North Market, now is the time to support this community asset. I usually go early in the morning on a Saturday to scoop up some farmers market specials, then I pop inside to stock up on cheese, free samples and usually a Jeni’s Ice Cream sandwich for later. On Sundays, I like parking for free near Goodale Park, then walking over for lunch which I take upstairs so I can watch the market in action below.

Posted in cheese, chocolate, Columbus, culinary knowledge, ice cream, markets | 3 Comments »

Mail Order Cheese, Chocolate and Brownies… oh my!

Posted by CMH Gourmand on December 2, 2007

Dedicated readers may recall my run to Amish country a few months ago. I drove by a sign for Steiner Cheese (a place I had never sampled) but I did not have time to check out their store because I was trying to get to Pearl Valley Cheese before closing time. Shortly after this cheese trip, I read that Steiner won several awards at the Ohio State Fair for their cheeses….drat.

I could not let this missed opportunity slip by but alas, I had no time to drive back. I did some research and found I could order online.

Steiner Cheese

I ordered the Farmer’s Cheese, Aged Cheddar and Aged Swiss. All three were great. The pricing was reasonable even with shipping added in. The Aged Cheddar was my favorite and the two pounds I ordered did not last a week.

I should mention that Pearl Valley does mail order as well. I tried them out a couple years ago and they did a fine job. The only downside with them is they sell in gift packs online.

On a related note, at about the same time I ordered from Steiner, I ordered chocolate from my favorite mail order chocolate company – Bissingers.

The photo of the chocolate did not come out so well. However, this is a photo of 1 pound of chocolate. If you order from the catalog at select times of year, Bissingers will send you a free pound of chocolate – Milk or Dark. I have tried different things with this free chocolate over the years, but my favorite thing to do is break off a piece of dark chocolate (I don’t bother with milk chocolate) and spoon on some chunky peanut butter. The best regular catalog item is the Almond Nut Bark. Bissingers Chocolate is among the best dark chocolate I have tried anywhere. They are based in St. Louis (I discovered them while there for work) and trace their roots to French chocolate making in the 1600’s.

A final find. Dayton’s Dorothy Lane Market does mail order – which for me means mail order Killer Brownies. If you place an order, say Sandie – via the Gourmand sent you.

Posted in cheese, chocolate, culinary knowledge, Ohio | 2 Comments »