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Archive for the ‘Food For Thought’ Category

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.

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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.

Posted in Food For Thought | 1 Comment »

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.

Posted in BBQ, Food For Thought | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

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).

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

It’s Book Week at CMH Gourmand

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 26, 2018

There was a time, long, long ago, in a lifestyle far away when I read many of books of all varieties and types on a weekly basis. I may have read three books in the last five years. I do not have much unstructured free time in my life so when I have it, the choice is choose between reading a book or sleeping or trying to find something to do that generates money to pay bills. I do miss reading books the way I used to. I hope others still read. I know a good many of book clubs out there are really secret happy hours but I don’t have time for that. But I do have hope for other bibliophiles out there.

I don’t read blogs like I used to either. In fact, most people do not. Although all types of studies and statistics show blogging continues to grow, it is not what it started out as which is a Web Log, information and stories with an authentic, personal spin on it. Marketing people will harp on the need to blog to drive web traffic and increase SEO etc., etc. Studies show about 43% of blog readers just skim content and do not read the actual post. I certainly understand that, we are all pressed for time and a lot of blog content out there does not seem genuine, more often it is self promotion or boiler plate (did I get enough work count, buzz words and links to attract promotional dollars) written to attract Google Bots or ad money.

All of that being stated, I though this would be a good time to reconnect with writing in some way. Last year, during the early dog days of August, I created Sandwich Week in a mad grab for ratings and to challenge myself to create more than one post per month on this dying media.

There are other reasons why I choose this month / week for Book (writing) Week. Twenty years ago I was paid to write for the first time for a publication call the Columbus Web Observer. I then went on to do a lot of freelance work for publications throughout Ohio that would typically go out of business or change format a year or so later. I had a giant article on Ice Cream in Ohio Magazine nineteen years ago. While I always enjoyed writing it was never more than a supplement to my income. I really wanted to be a travel writer but I could never connect to anything that would stick or try to pretend I could support myself doing i and I did try hard to land with Frommer’s and Rick Steves. My early content was more about the web and how to use it but in time I found my best shot at getting published was food so I stuck with that. Eighteen years ago, I started my masters degree in Library and Information Science. I learned a lot in the program but I did not accomplish my primary goal of getting the degree, a job at OCLC. I did not accomplish my back up option which was the presidential merit scholar program which would have had me spend one year with the Social Security Administration and one year with the Library of Congress….because my advisor forgot to send in his recommendation. While all of this was distracting me I overlooked the fact that for a one year period that was a shortage of librarians that could have finally gotten me to Australia as a citizen. I was so focused on one goal I forgot about the other, I missed that window by two months. Fifteen years ago I saw my first book deal fall part (pizza) and fourteen years ago my second (regional sandwiches). Twelve years ago my pal Saucisson Mac suggested that I take up blogging so I did. August has been the alpha and omega of many major events in my life. In some aspect each August I await a Charlie Brown moment of something important to being pulled away as the last second.

I the spirit of the above, I thought I would write a bit about books this week (all with a food focus) to try to reconnect with this old school media. I will also use some of my library training in my analysis and treatment of these books using some of the following criteria where I see fit and most likely somewhat randomly.

American Library Association Selection Criteria

Examining and Evaluating Books / Reference Sources

Evaluating Internet Sources

Most good writers will tell you if you want to be a better writer, you should read. A few good writers will tell you that you can’t be a good writer or even a good person unless life has punched you hard in the face a few times. As a “master” of the library and information sciences, one of the things I learned was to objectively and critically look at all types of media to assess it’s information value, credibility, authority, etc. In the world of so called fake news this is an invaluable skill because I have a very strong and effective bullshit meter and can sniff out fakery pretty quickly.

And now….Book Week.

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

An Airing of Grievances for Festivus

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 23, 2017

December 23rd is the day Festivus is observed. An important part of this holiday tradition involves an airing of grievances. I embrace this tradition with great passion. I will not list out my very long list of personal grievances but I will detail one small subset of grievances as they relate to the realm of food & drink.

Some related musings can be found in previous posts Restaurant Rants and Restaurant Rants the Sequel.

1) Sportsball People that shout at TV’s

I’m not sure how it found its way into the constitution but a large segment of people seem to believe it is their god given right to scream at TV’s during sporting events. Usually with unnecessary loudness, vigor and typically laced with profanity. I will allow that if one is at a clearly designated sports bar and everyone at that establishment is clearly there to watch the same sporting event, then this type behavior is marginally acceptable but still juvenile and annoying. Such hooliganism in another environment and especially a restaurant where people have paid to eat a meal while enjoying the company of others, is not acceptable and it is indeed reprehensible. After the first offense / the offending shout, the party or head shouter should be asked to leave after paying the tab for anyone in earshot.

2) Large parties without reservations

There is many a weekend evening I have seen a large party amble in to a restaurant and expect to be seated immediately and served with great speed. Who do these people think they are? Reservations are both a courtesy and a practical step to improve the experience for those on both sides of the order.

2 a) These same people often exhibit other poor behaviors. Often they treat their dining area like their family room. They and their ilk exhibit space creep physically or through hooting, hollering and other uncouth behaviors spreading their lack of decorum to all that can see and hear them. When they leave, they typically tip poorly and leave a giant mess in their wake. It is herd mentality at the lowest.


3) Loud talkers at restaurants and bars

A restaurant or bar is a public space. Yet, many find that for some unknown reason they have an inherent need to raise the volume from 5 to 10. For some, this change starts the moment they walk through the door, for others, it ramps up as each drink is quaffed. Not needed, not appreciated and not cool.

4) Loud music at restaurants and bars

Continuing with the theme. There are few places where music adds to the ambiance. Where this does apply, using a muted, background music can create a pleasant white noise to mute some of the noise pollution caused by those that commit grievance number 3. There are so many places that have music cranked up but no one can hear it and often what is selected is just something the bartender likes not something that adds to the mood the business might want to create.


5) Different rules of engagement because one is drunk or buzzed

A sizable majority of people seem to feel that they are not accountable for being an asshole when they are drunk. In my experience, whatever annoying habit or personality issues a person brings to the table only amplifies when they are drunk. An asshole by any name or state of intoxication is still an asshole and accountable for it.

6) Family dining is not a license to trash your table

I have a high energy 29 month old. When we go out to eat, he makes a mess. We clean it up before we leave. We might miss a pea or two, but we always make the effort. Our server is not our servant. Many people I observe out and about have a different point of view.

7) Bartenders that do not tend the bar

I spend a lot of time in a lot of taprooms. The level of service varies significantly. There are many places that seem to invest no time training their staff and seem to do not value quality control on how their staff tend bar. People that were good at whack-a-mole as kids are usually pretty good bartenders. Good bartenders have an ability to observe the entire bar. Bad bartenders tend to focus only on what is right in front of them. Good bartenders prep and clean when they have downtime. Bad bartenders gaze at their phone when they have less than 2 customers waiting for a beverage. Good bartenders know their cocktails and craft beers and can ask a few questions to help you make a good first pick. Bad bartenders might pass you a menu if it is not inconvenient. Good bartenders make great tips. Bad bartenders lose a customer after the first long wait for a bad drink and cost their businesses they work for a lot in lost profitability.

8) Businesses that do not tend to their parking lots and bathrooms

I do not expect a restaurant or bar bathroom or parking lot to be immaculate or fully stocked all the time. However, when it is clear it has not been cleaned in days or weeks, it is usually a safe bet that other key things are being missed as well. The same applies to things like clearing out leaves, yard waste, etc. It might not be their businesses property but a mess still reflects on the business and attention to detail for the entire guest experience.

9) Resisting Recycling

There are not many good recycling options available or area restaurants and bars, but at bars in particular, when I see trash cans full or bottle and cans on their way to the trash, it breaks my heart.


10) Dogs in bars and taprooms / children in bars and taprooms

I am not against all dogs in all bars and taprooms. I am not against all children in all bars and taprooms. And I am not against all adults in each of these places. However, there are some adults, some children and some dogs that should never go to any of these places. And there are some places no creature should go to. To be safe, it is probably best that I be the sole arbitrator of these decisions.

11) cell phones

If you are in a public place, please don’t share your conversation with the rest of us. We don’t want to hear it. Don’t answer your phone. If you do go to the lobby or parking lot, or perhaps into the nearest street if you do need to have the conversation. Also, in a public place, place all of your tones, alarms, etc., on mute. And if you have an obnoxious YouTube video you want to share with everyone at your table, e-mail it, don’t play it at your table at high volume.

These are a FEW of my least favorite things.

Please feel free to air your own grievances here as comments.

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

Tis the Reason(s) to Choose Watershed Distillery & Kitchen for the Season

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 20, 2017

During the holidays, I prefer to have all of my shopping completed before Thanksgiving. My lifelong goal, is to shop at as few places as possible and if at all possible, only one. However, I like my gifts to be a unique and original fit for the recipients. I don’t get out of the house much nowadays. I’m no longer the go to guy to get intel on all the new places and up and comers in the food world. With this as my criteria and my growing lack of hipness a big liabilities, what is a fella to do? Go with what I know well, Watershed Distillery. Although they do not know it, the gang at Watershed has worked hard to solve my holiday gift giving challenges by consolidating my needs into one entity.

My knowledge base of Watershed goes way back to 2013. I started running tours that showcased Watershed as one of our up and coming local businesses. Popping in a few times per month for almost four years, I experienced the equivalent of a time-lapse slide show of their growth. Every time I would bring in a group I would see a new piece of equipment or a wall knocked down or hear about another new spirit being distilled. Seeing how hard everyone worked, it was a true joy to see Watershed gradually realize success for their efforts. And one sure sign of “making the grade” is having a detailed overview of your business on Wikipedia. If you are new to the Watershed story, read a summary of their history and endeavors on Wikipedia -> HERE.

In sharing some more of that story, I make the case for how my holiday challenges are alleviated by what Watershed has to offer. Let’s start with the business. Two local guys create a local distillery that sources a fair amount of local ingredients. Supporting local businesses, that supports other local businesses is always a feel good decision and when those products are given as gifts, it certainly reflects well on the gift giver.

My first break out spirit from Watershed was their bourbon. Some would say bourbon can only be made in Kentucky, those folks are incorrect and may be suspect of spreading fake news. Watershed Bourbon, like the company, has evolved a bit over the years. From the start, Watershed bourbon has been a bit different from the corn squeezin’ crowd. In particular, Watershed double distills their bourbon (less common) and uses a four grain malt bill of corn, wheat, barley (much less common) and spelt (almost unheard of). Multiple grains are not unique in the world of distilling but the addition of spelt is a rare thing. Ohio is a major spelt producer so sourcing it for bourbon adds to the unique flavor and terroir of this barrel aged beverage. The version bottled today (late 2017) is aged three and one half years and is shifting to barrels crafted in Jackson, Ohio. The proof has shifted from 94 to 90. All of this combined gives the bourbon something that won’t get picked up by most palates or in reviews. Watershed Bourbon has a lot of the heart of Ohio mixed in to it. That ensures it will taste just a touch better. It will be interesting to see how Watershed Bourbon evolves over time since they have a goal of eventually aging each barrel 6 years.

My next Watershed moment was the addition of Nocino to the lineup. As you can read -> HERE, I am a fan. Nocino is a black walnut liquor that we can all thank a guy named Charlie for. The 2017 version will be released shortly after I post this so you should seek out and probably stockpile it before it is gone. It’s smaller bottle size makes it perfect stocking stuffer and its smoother, sweeter taste makes it an easy ice breaker for any gathering.

But wait there is more! Watershed recently added another unique spirit to their growing cast of local alcohol all-stars, in the form of apple brandy. Released in October 2017, Watershed brought apple brandy back after a one hundred year absence from the shelves of Ohioans. Made with Ohio apples, this brandy packs at punch at 80 proof. Each batch is aged for a minimum of two years with charred oak barrels. When I first caught a whiff of this in 2015 I knew it would be worth the wait, let’s just say I was smitten. The brandy is not in a climate controlled barrel house so the old style expansion and contraction of the wood in the barrels ensures this product has character and some old-timey goodness to it.

I picked up this little tip of how introduce others to this tasty treat, courtesy of Chris who works with the Watershed gang.

A great place to start for those who are not familiar with apple brandy or brandy in general is to switch out bourbon for apple brandy in a classic cocktail like a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned. Here are two quick recipes that we served at the launch party.

The Big Apple
1.5 oz Watershed Apple Brandy
.5 oz Watershed Bourbon
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
3 dash Angostura Bitters

Old Granny Smith
2 oz Watershed Apple Brandy
.25 oz Simple Syrup
3 dash Angostura Bitters
3 dash Molé Bitters

So that gives you three spirits to seek out for the holidays but don’t just take my word for it, let Watershed help you feel even more secure in your choices. Last year, Watershed added a restaurant their operation. Watershed Kitchen and Bar adds a needed element to the Watershed experience, an immediate way to sample their spirits in their preferred habitat, a cocktail glass, instead of as thimble sized sample served straight during a tasting. The bar offers well thought out and hand crafted cocktails to show off what the spirits can do when they team up with other ingredients. The kitchen crafts exceptional food so you can enjoy a meal, while ensuring your have the fortitude to try out more than one cocktail and educate yourself on what you might do with several of their base concoctions.

On two visits to the Watershed Kitchen I have found the food pairs well with libations. If your mom always told you to eat your brussels sprouts, this is the place where you will do so with glee. Let your mom know and she might just take you off the naughty list.

So this is my fool-proof plan to help you cover all of your holiday shopping in one short visit and treat yourself at the same time.

  • Step One: Visit Watershed Kitchen and Bar to sample all of their wares.
  • Step Two: Buy some restaurant gift cards for your friends that love food and/or do not drink.
  • Step Three: Pop into the Watershed store to stock up on bottles for you and for others. They even have some helpful recipe fliers to guide those that did not make it to the bar on how to craft cocktails to their liking. Pick up one for yourself and a few to go with your gifts.
  • Step Three Point Five: If you are pressed for time, the nice people at Watershed can create some gift packages for you to hand out as your own spirited Santa. Add in a flask, handy wooden crate, a t-shirt or whatnot to add to others holiday cheer. Your hard thought out efforts will much appreciated this holiday.
  • Drop in to Watershed Distillery, Kitchen & Bar.
    1145 Chesapeake Ave, Columbus, OH 43212

    Posted in beverages, culinary knowledge, Food For Thought, Locally Sourced | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

    The Sandwich Chronicles: A Prelude to Sandwich Week

    Posted by cmh gourmand on August 7, 2017

    Welcome to the beginning of Sandwich Week. Which means, like Shark Week, etc, this may be a ploy to get the ratings up. It is a long and rambling road that got his here, so I will begin, with an explanation to how we got here and why.

    Why do Sandwich Week now you might ask? Because this blog is eleven years old today. And why did I start this blog? It was not so I could serve up Sandwich Week eleven years later. The short answer is I started this because my friend A. Conway suggested I look into doing a blog. Back in the old days, they were just taking off. I was weary of this hipster, electronic method of self disclosure. A. Conway has an interesting ability to make subtle suggestions for how I might improve my lot in life which started my senior year of high school. The downside is that because he was subtle, I often missed these queues and did not recognize his hints as potentially helpful until years or decades later. A few of these nudges did fight their way through to my single-minded skull. One of the most important was suggesting I join him to learn about different committees with the Ohio Drake-Unions Activity Board. I took a shine to the Fine Arts Committee and the people I meet there became 99% of my friends in college. And unlike most other cohorts in my life, this group of friends “stuck” and have remained loyal for decades. Through this group I had many important post college experiences. Great road trips, a “camping” tradition that lasted ten years, a few girlfriends, my post college roommate and the man who I orchestrated to be the first Dudeist Minister in the state of Ohio so that I could be married by a guy wearing a bathrobe.

    So in the summer of 2006, A. Conaway said something a long the lines of hey man, you might want to look into doing a blog. These are the series of events that lead up to me being in Chicago and his suggestion. In 1998, I blundered into free-lance writing and had some success with it. I even assisted in research for some popular food books. But after surviving Y2K, missing getting trapped in Ireland by 911 by a few hours and basically spending a lot of time doing a lot of things but not really making any forward movement in my life I decided to double down on a few life goals. 1) Leave my job that I decided I hated in 1995 (not so much because the job was bad but that the majority of my peers and especially superiors were wretchedly horrible humans) 2) Emigrate to Australia 3) Write a book so I could be a “real writer”.

    Number one took a lot longer than I planned. My initial plan was graduate with a degree in Library and Information Science, with a focus on the information part so I could work at OCLC which had the potential of getting me to Australia some day. That did not happen. I did get the degree but not the OCLC. As it turned out, I was so focused on getting into OCLC I overlooked an important reality, there was a shortage of librarians in Australia at that moment of time which would have given me enough points to make my move. The sad thing about that job that sucked, that even though I increasingly found most of my co-workers and all of my superiors deplorable, I finally found my niche and really started to excel but I made a critical mistake, the very second I trusted “them” – they pulled a Lucy on my Charlie Brown and took the football away from me at the last possible second. That was devastating. That moment in time created a level of pure hatred that persists to this day. So that explains part of the outcome of goals one and two. During the middle of all of this I had not one, but two opportunities to write a book. The first was about the history of pizza. I had a partnership with an editor, I wrote the entire book outline and completed much of the research. But the publisher decided to go in another direction and gave the book to another team. Their book was not that good but they did manage to get on the History channel to talk about pizza. About the same time, Ed Levine released his book on Pizza which I consider to be one of the best. I was not bummed about the outcome of “book one” because at the same time I was working on the pizza book, I was asked what type of book I wanted to work on for a new publishing company that had just launched. I immediately said “regional sandwiches” and was given the green light to start after the pizza book was completed for the other company. When that fell through, I was told to “start now” and given an advance to do sandwich research. I jumped in deep to that project but had to make a hard decision. I needed to travel around the country to visit all of the sandwich spots for my book. To do that I needed money and a lot of vacation time. My sucky job had that, so I sucked it up I stopped looking for another job or trying to figure out a back door to the land down under so I could do this book right. Well, I almost gave up on that back door. I made a “hail Mary” attempt to get Down Under non traditionally, but I could not seal that deal either. And the week after I got back from that exploratory mission (my sixth trip there) I got the call from my publisher. My book project was canned because they were closing shop. I told I could to keep the balance of my advance and I would retain the rights to all of my material. That is a good deal for a company that was ending. But it was not a book. I found myself back where I started years before and my tail was very much between my legs.

    It was shortly thereafter I found myself in Chicago visiting A. Conaway. He knew about the sandwich project because the previous fall I had used his house as a base of operations twice. The first time, I passed through after eating Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches in Indiana and before I started to eat Limburger Cheese Sandwiches in Wisconsin, more Pork Tenderloins in Iowa and a few others on my way back east. The second time, he drove me around Chicago while I sampled Italian Beef Sandwiches at 15 places in 4 hours. On this occasion, I was passing through on my way to Wisconsin to judge BBQ near a small town called Ellisonville. He asked about the book, and the hail mary attempt at Australia and the job I had worked so hard to get (OCLC) and I had to regrettably share that all had gone down in flames. And he said, “you might want to try a blog and use that sandwich material in it.” That is how we got here.

    I never used the sandwich content in the blog, because it still stung a little….a lot, that it did not happen. After over a year of working twenty plus hours a week on this book, I could not look at it anymore. I had too much of my heart invested in it. But eleven plus years after, it does not bother me as much. Hence, we have Sandwich Week. I am dusting off old content and sharing a a few bytes of my archive of regional sandwich lore.

    Thanks A. Conaway. This blog did not lead to another book, but it created countless opportunities over the last eleven years and more importantly, it connected me to many people, most of whom, did not suck. So this blog thing, was well worth doing.

    Posted in Food For Thought | 1 Comment »