CMH Gourmand – Eating in Columbus & Ohio

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Pizza Tour Confidential

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 8, 2020

Pizza Tour(or) Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Perfect Summer of Covid Gift?

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 20, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#StaySafe this summer

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

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

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 14, 2020

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

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

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

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

Ice Cream

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

Top Ten – Ice Cream

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

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

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

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

4) Mitchell’s Ice Cream (Cleveland)

5) Mitchell’s Ice Cream (San Francisco)

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

7) Honey Hut Ice Cream (Cleveland)

8) Jeni’s Ice Cream

9) Mardi Gras Ice Cream

10) Johnson’s Ice Cream


Top Ten Pizza Joints

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

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

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

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

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

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

6) Cheese Board – Berkley, California

7) Zackary’s – Berkley, California

8) Bexley Pizza Plus

9) Meister’s

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

Addendum (11) Punch Pizza – Minneapolis



Top Ten Restaurants I Miss:

1) Galaxy Cafe

2) Lost Planet Pizza and Pasta

3) Tapatio

4) Niki’s (Greek)

5) Cancun (best Mole Enchiladas ever)

6) Dagwoodz

7) Tristano’s

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

9) Alana’s

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


Top Ten Donuts in Ohio

Followers of the Ohio Donut Trail take note.

1) Donald’s Donuts – Zanesville

2) DK Diner – Grandview

3) Family Donut Shoppe – Londonderry

4) Bill’s Donuts – Centerville

5) Jack Frost Donuts – Cleveland

6) Brewnuts – Cleveland

7) Holtman’s Donuts – Cincinnati

8) The Original Crispie Creme Donuts – Chillicothe

9) Buckeye Donuts

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


Top Ten Foods I can not enjoy life without

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

2) Ice cream (see above)

3) Pizza (see above)

4) Pattycake Bakery Tollhouse cookie

5) Eggs Rolls with house sauce from The Rice Bowl

6) Almonds and Cashews

7) Peanut Butter – chunky

8) Killer Brownies – Dorothy Lane Market

9) Dark Chocolate

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


Top Ten Breweries

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

1) Little Fish – Athens.

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

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

4) Restoration Brew Worx – Frank!

5) Smokehouse – Lenny!

6) Sideswipe – Famous Craig and Brewer Stew!

7) New Glarus

8) Three Floyds

9) Granville Brewing

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

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


Top Ten Best Food Trips

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

1) Berkley

2) Austin

3) Athens (Ohio)

4) Chicago

5) Cleveland

6) Bend, Oregon

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

8) Melbourne, Australia

9) Cinque Terre, Italy

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


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

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

1) Yemeni Restaurant

2) Hoyo’s Kitchen

3) Jiu Thai

4) Huong Vietnamese

5) Addis Restaurant

6) Dabakh Restaurant

7) Afra Grill

8) El Arepazo

9) Poong Mei

10) Mediterranean Food Imports


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

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

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

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

2) Iaconos Pizza (Kenny Road)

3) Lavash

4) Fibonacci’s Pizza – at Studio 35

5) Gallos Kitchen

6) Neighbors Deli

7) Smokehouse Brewing

8) Hounddogs Pizza

9) Pho Asian Noodle House

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


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

1) Rockmill Tavern

2) El Arepazo – Brewery District

3) Ambrose and Eve

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

5) Wolf’s Ridge

6) Iaconos Pizza Buffet

7) Amal Indian Restaurant Buffet

8) Studio 35 – Fibonacci’s Pizza

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

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

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

Be Well and eat even better.

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

Elite Eating Hack: Rockmill Tavern Spicy Chicken Sandwich

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 18, 2019

The absolute best sandwich in Columbus, among many worthy candidates, is the Spicy Chicken Sandwich at Rockmill Tavern in the Brewery District. Saying the best of anything food related in this city is a bit daring, in that often a flood of counter arguments and in some cases trolling will ensue. At least I am not declaring the best pizza in Columbus, such audacity would likely get me lynched.

Rockmill Tavern is no stranger to “best of”. It was voted best new restaurant when it opened in the fall of 2016 and has maintained top ten status since. In what may be the most contested best of category in the city, BEST BURGER, Rockmill has generally landed in the number one or two spot along with Preston’s. (I love Preston’s so if I was ever forced to choose between the two burgers I would just eat both and call it a draw).

The Spicy Chicken sandwich is a beautiful work of culinary art. Fried chicken style breading encases a gigantic long slice of chicken bread that extends past the bun at least two to three inches on each pole of the sandwich. It features a generous allotment of spicy (but not too spicy) honey butter. To complement the light heat, a thin layer of urfa mayo is slathered on and a small stack of thinly sliced bread and butter zucchini (not quite pickles but serving that role). Sandwich all of this between a brioche bun, add more butter and when available top with a delicious, buttery, red pepper and the end result is the Spicy Chicken Sandwich. Take this same basic concept and place on their amazing biscuits and you have essentially the same sandwich in biscuit format known as the Chicken Biscuit when you can get it

Let me cut to the chase to get to the hack, because it is a game changer. This hack was created by a regular customer (once or twice per week) which shared it with bar staff who in turn shared with me.

Elite Eating Hack for Rockmill Tavern Spicy Chicken Sandwich

1) Take the pepper off the top of the bun, remove the stem and place on the chicken.

2) Lift the bun and flip over to make it less messy to eat and to infuse more butter into the chicken.

3) Eat the sandwich. Consider ordering a second.

Suggested pairings: Rockmill Dubbel, Old Mill Rocky or Rockmill Witbier

Please note: The photo in this post is of the Chicken Biscuit Sandwich. It is similar, and equally good, but not exactly the same – however it does accurately show the bun to chicken ratio and basic sandwich configuration and proportions. I did not take a photo of the Spicy Chicken Sandwich because more often than not, I prefer to eat my meal instead of tweet it, I find it is much more satisfying.

Posted in culinary knowledge, Food For Thought, sandwiches | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

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

Posted by cmh gourmand on September 30, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by cmh gourmand on September 1, 2018

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

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

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

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

American Fried: Adventures of a Happy Eater by Calvin Trillin

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

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

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

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

The Gastronomical Me by M.F.K Fisher

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

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

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

American Food Writing – edited by Molly O’Neill

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

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

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

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

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 31, 2018

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

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

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

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The Brew Your Own Big Book of Clone Recipes

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 30, 2018

The Brew Your Own Big Book of Clone Recipes was released in May of this year. If you are struggling to find a gift for the home brewer in your life, get him or her a Columbus Brew Adventures gift certificate and a copy of this book. It was produced by Brew Your Own magazine which has helped home brewers clones recipes from their favorite breweries since 1995. The book features 300 recipes that have been tested and retested and troubleshot by the magazine.

So what is a clone beer you ask? Is it related to Star Wars in some way? Thankfully, no. Clone beers are created to very closely resemble the famous and infamous commercial beers they are modeled after. In the case of Brew Your Own Magazine, they often work with the actual brewers to make sure they get the recipes right. So why would a home brewer want to make a clone of someone else’s beer? There are many reasons. For some it is an homage to the beer that inspired them to start brewing. Sometimes it is price, they don’t want to pay retail for a beer they love. Other times, it may be to create a beer that is no longer on the market or impossible to find. In some cases it is a quest to take that base and tweak it just a bit to determine the what if’s of brewing.

The book has a brief forward and overview of the philosophy of clone brewing then very quickly jumps into the actual recipes. These are the 17 categories the beers are divided into: Pale ales, India Pale Ales, Specialty IPA’s, Amber ales and lagers, brown ales, porters, stouts, Imperial Stouts, Barleywine and strong ales, Belgian Style ales, British style ales, European ales and lagers, North American ales and lagers, Pilsners, fruit, spice and vegetable beers (pumpkin), Sour, Wild and Wood Ages beers and Winter beers. If that seems like a lot, it is, the book is 272 pages. You will find a wide variety of beers in here including Dogfish Head, Southern Tier, etc. This definitely not a book for beginners but it is worth having as a reference or inspiration for anyone that have the home brewing bug. I also like the title, when I was a young lad, I recall there were a lot of Big Books of __________ but I never saw one of beer. Now I can take that off my bucket list.

(I was offered a free copy of this book by the PR firm working with the publisher and I responded to that e-mail query very quickly. My vocation puts me in almost daily contact with home brewers and home brewers whose hobby has gotten out of control causing them to then start breweries, so I knew I would find a good home for this book when I was done with it, some day will actually make one of these recipes).

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The Columbus Ale Trail is a book among other things

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 28, 2018

Have you heard of the Columbus Ale Trail? Did you complete Volume 1, 2 and/or 3? Are you working on Volume 4? I am one of the founders of the project and have invested about 60 to 100 work hours each year to make it happen. While I have not yet published a book…Book, I suppose in some sense, this was my first book project. Each year I have helped get it to print doing various duties and for the last two years I have been a project manager of sorts taking care of gathering the content, editing it, determining the formatting and special features, deciding on the lay out, how the maps will be put together, etc. Each late March / early April I can count on having one or two really shitty weeks pushing to get all of this to print by deadline and I can always count on some last-minute glitch to come up the make sure we are cutting things right to the wire. The greatest challenge for Volume 4 was when I came to get the final copy of the book and do last-minute proofreading so I could hand off the USB of the product for the printers at noon. I arrived at the designers house at 10 AM to discover he thought the turn in day was the day after and the maps had not been started yet. In that situation only one thing could be done – take a shot, pull up two chairs and start making two maps from scratch. The maps look pretty good considering they were created in less than ninety minutes. As for the proofreading, I can tell you where the errors I could not catch in the twenty remaining minutes are located.

It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In the case of the Columbus Ale Trail we were not flattered by the Route 33 Brew Trail, a product of the Fairfield County Convention and Visitors Bureau (aka Visit Fairfield County). Their first version was released in May of this year. It was not an imitation it was an outright copy (wording, layout, formatting, etc., etc.) to the point of being blatant intellectual property theft. When I met with their executive team in June they seemed baffled that I would have any concerns about what they presented as some type of misunderstanding. It was an absolutely frustrating experience to get stonewalled. At the time of this writing they have never provided a feasible explanation as to what happened. There are only two plausible options: 1) They made a conscious decision to copy the ale trail or 2) Their designer decided to make a twenty plus hour project a two-hour copy job and over-billed the good taxpayers of Fairfield County. Anyone that has put the two books side by side has come to the same conclusion, there is no way to accidentally copy whole paragraphs.

The end result is that they have now produced a new version of their Brew Trail which is closer to being an original work and by report they dumped 3500 of the 6000 copies they printed earlier. The bigger consequence of their lack of remorse and in my opinion professionalism and class in dealing with the situation is they and their Brew Trail have a big black mark with the craft beer community in Central Ohio. I could further explain the damage that was done, but by doing so, I would once again be doing them a favor for free.

Last year over 2370 people visited all 38 brewery sites listed in the Columbus Ale Trail (Volume 3). If you conservatively estimate that $6 was spent at each brewery then each brewery saw at an absolute minimum of $14,220 in business for a listing that cost them $600. A minimum total revenue for the craft beer community as a whole is $540,360. That is a minimum because that number does not count the people who only went to four, eight or any number less than 38 breweries. I’d settle for 1% of the revenue as compensation but I can assure you I have not seen anything remotely close to that. What I did earn was the respect of the people I worked with to have made this happen for the last four years. So if you happen to have an inclination to steal the creative property of the Columbus Ale Trail, you are making a lot of people very angry. That can not bode well for anyone or any organization, that is classic bad Karma.

That is one story of the Ale Trail, there are literally thousands more and most of those are significantly more upbeat and positive.

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Book Review (and Cultural Discussion): Cook Your Marriage Happy

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 27, 2018

I have been receiving many offers for books to review over the last six months. I have declined all of them for various reasons, but most importantly, I don’t have the luxury of time to read for fun. However, this book title caught my eye: Cook Your Marriage Happy by Debra Borden LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) aka The Sous Therapist. The pitch was well written but what clicked for me was the blending of two worlds psychology/therapy and cooking. In a previous life, I earned a bachelors degree in Psychology and then went on to get 1/3 of a Masters Degree in Social Work supplemented by other graduate courses in counseling. I worked in a related field for nineteen years. I have also been the informal counselor to the local food truck industry and breweries for the last seven years. The concept of cooking therapy held some appeal. More importantly, a cook book is not complex reading and can be consumed and evaluated quickly. Most of the reading I needed to make time for in 2018 is very complex and clinical and sometimes depressing. I felt I could take a minor reading break and still stay on theme.

The basic premise of this book to present a marital issue with a heading such as “Cook Your Financially Frustrated Marriage Happy. The writer/therapist presents the issue in a broad sense then a few details on how issues may arrive by a couple not having the same style or being in synch. Recipes are presented to cook through the issue often with a punny title or one laced with innuendo such as Tune in and Talk to Me Tacos or No More Monotony Meat Loaf related to the topic.

The book was a fast read since is was about one-half recipes. At the end I did not find I had more insight on couples therapy, cooking or how I would actually do this in my own marriage. Would have liked more therapy examples or more detailed recipes and ideally both. Overall, I’d give this a C+. It was not a waste of time to read it but had I found it at a book store, I would have skimmed it for a minute and put it back on the shelf.

The background message in this book, which I agree with, is that cooking together is a good recipe for a good marriage, it promotes teamwork and communication but it also reinforces that on occasion one person has to lead and the other needs to follow to get a task done and depending on the dish (or the family crisis) – who is the executive chef and who is the sous and we will change who is calling the shots based on what skill set is needed for what is in front of you as a couple.

To sum up, I did not connect with the book on a personal level, but it did cause me to think of the culture of cooking, specifically kitchens. Many in the restaurant industry refer to it as a sickness, something they can not get out of their blood. Those that love it hate the hours, more often than not do they not earn much and get burned out by a community that has a high rate of substance abuse and other dysfunction that leads to constant staff turnover. In spite of those things, there is a strong if somewhat incestuous community and sense of purpose in a well run kitchen that is addicting. And it is a place where things will quickly fall apart if everyone can not get on the same page, even if they think the ship is going on the wrong course, they have to blow with the winds or walk the plank if they want to survive.

(Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book via a PR promotion. I do thank the author and the publishing company for the opportunity to check out the book. I will make sure it finds a good home).

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