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Archive for the ‘Food For Thought’ Category

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 »

    Judging (Cookies & Pastries) at the Ohio State Fair

    Posted by CMH Gourmand on July 31, 2017

    I’ve written about food judging more than a few times. Reviewing my archives, I think this ->right here is my best post on the subject. It covers a lot of my philosophy on the matter, but as both an art and a science there is plenty of room to grow and expand my knowledge base as well as question my own standards on how to evaluate a food item.

    This year at the Ohio State Fair, I judged a new category (for me) Cookies and Pastries (that would be 3104 for those on the circuit this year). This was a doozy! There were 135 entries in 14 subsections. Each subsection had a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winner and of all of the categories, one had to be selected for Best of Show. My understanding is this food competition gets the most entries of any contest every year and because of that, not many judges do a repeat visit to these tables the following year due to PTSD – Post Traumatic Sugar Decompensation. The sheer volume of sugar based treats to eat was initially exciting but a few sugary bites in, I found the concept of finishing overwhelming. I was fortunate this year, apparently bad weather the weekend before the contest discouraged a large number of entries from actually delivering their cookies to the show. In some categories, I would see the entries listed as 22 total but ONLY 15 presented for judging. Had every cookie made it for the competition I do not think I would be a live to write about this. But still 135 is a daunting, if less than a typical number. To make this viable for all of us, we agreed to break into two teams of two with each team evaluating one half of the cookies / categories and then sampling all of the 1st place finishers and a few honorable mentions in every category before picking the best of show. So in the end, I sampled about 80 cookies. A typical judging gig lasts about 1 hour. A professional BBQ competition with prizes of $10,000 or more typically lasts 3 to 4 hours with breaks in between samples. For this contest, it took over 4 1/2 hours to sample and evaluate my assigned cookies.

    We had some pluses going into the session that I was happy with. Each team was assigned a scribe whose job it was to write down on positive feedback for each cookie as well as our suggestions for improvement. This, I am sure, is a giant staffing and otherwise, pain in the ass for the fair but I salute the organizers for doing so. For many of the people who enter the culinary arts competitions at the Ohio State Fair, this is a big deal. It is a matter of pride and accomplishment. Sometimes it is rewarded with a ribbon and many times it is not. Often there is no opportunity to figure out what you might have done better so you can win the next year. I know in one contest I judged years ago, a woman in the crowd watch my every chew and at the end, when she did not win, she grilled me like a perp in a Law & Order episode. I was happy to provide feedback but not ready for the intensity of competition for what is in many cases a ribbon not a life changing cash award. By entering the competition, I feel strongly that entrants deserve the opportunity for feedback considering the hours a contestant spends learning their craft, considering a recipe and delivering it for evaluation to the fair.

    I was very fortunate to be teamed up with Joe. Joe has judged at the fair many times but more importantly, he has competed in national baking competitions, so I found him a great resource as I sometimes struggled with diagnosing off flavors in some baked goods. The three criteria we had to evaluate for each cookie were: Appearance, Texture and Flavor. The basics of each of those three criteria were explained on our sheet but not elaborated on. We then decided to give each a point value. We both agreed that flavor was the most important aspect of any cookie so we would give that a 50 point range and the other two categories a 25 point range each. To help calibrate each other, we sampled the first three cookies, then reviewed our point scores to get a sense of our judging styles as well as talk through how we determined appearance, texture and flavor for each. This was a good learning experience for both of us and helped us avoid having too many cookies in the center of our respective score bell curves. We found we were generally within 5 points of each other on Flavor scores and 3 for Appearance and Texture. That made it easy for us to talk through later categories when we had a clean winner but a not always a clear second or third place finisher. And so it began.

    At the end, I was not sure I could take another bite (and we were not taking giant pieces of each to sample). One would not think judging cookies could be so exhausting but it was on this day. Physically, it was a lot of sugar and carbs. Mentally, I was really trying to give helpful feedback to the contestants. You can seen not our best of show winner as well as our 1st Place Ribbon entry in the bar cookie category. Oddly, this was the third cookie I tried out of all of them and it was a slam dunk beginning and at the end when I tried it again. Our other team agreed, having tried the same amount of cookies we did. The Dulce de Leche Bar really stood out from a very competitive group of winners and earned the win. I could have brought one of these home with me and plate or two of anything I wanted from table after table of cookies (and candies across the aisle) but I wanted to have nothing to do with sugar at that point. I just wanted to drink a swimming pool full of water and maybe rock back and forth in a corner for a few hours while the withdraw tremors burned the sugar out of my veins.

    Here are some general tips I have for you, if / when you enter the cookies category at the Ohio State Fair.

    1) Read all of the instructions and follow them (we found several that did not or were clearly in the wrong category of cookie type).

    2) Make eating your cookie easy for the judges. Secures your recipe and entry sheet to the outside or your ziplock bag or make it so it is easy to do so without digging in to your cookies inside.

    3) Taste your cookies before you plate them. I had at least four entries that were horrible. In three cases it was pretty clear they either did not mix their ingredients completely or used the wrong/poor ingredient (baking soda when they wanted powder, stale nuts, old chocolate chips, etc).

    4) Consider what your cookies will look and taste like after experiencing the heat of a hot summer day at the Ohio State Fair.

    5) Don’t enter a chocolate chip cookie in the drop cookie category.

    6) Simple is better. I tried a death by chocolate cookie, that literally tasted like death. The baker modified the recipe so much by adding extra “fancy” ingredients to make the recipe sound much better than the end product tasted. There were so many types of very different chocolates competing against each other in the batter that no chocolate flavor remained after the battle to the death in the oven.

    7) If you want a good chance of winning, enter in a category that is not as popular. This year, there were not many Molasses cookies or Short Bread cookies in their respective subsets and a well executed version in either would have 3rd place at the least with no extra effort needed.

    8) Before you enter, have people you don’t like try your cookies so you get honest feedback if they are good or need more work. There was one cookie that was so bad, it was clear that no human tasted it before it went into a ziplock bag for the ride to the fair. If someone did taste it, it must have been like the scene in the Andy Griffith Show when Aunt Bea made horrible pickles and Barney and Andy were afraid to tell her, so she made more. Friends, and enemies of your enemies do not let someone make a bad cookie, whenever something like that happens an angel LOSES their wings. Cookies by their nature should be at least good, that is a given.

    9) In some categories, especially chocolate chip, think of what a quintessential version of that cookie should taste and look like. For instance, a chocolate chip cookie should be fairly uniform in size from one to another. It should not be small or extremely lumpy. Ideally, you should be able to see there are chips in it or on it or are part of the cookie in some way. Walnuts or other nuts are a risk, you might like them but nuts often add a wild card to flavor and may not be a favorite of judges. Intuitively, you want to stand out in the crowd, and in some categories that is good but not the All-American Chocolate Chip – conformity is good in an iconic category, just focus on it tasting good.

    I hope you enter the Fair in some contest sometime. It is a great experience. Or if you judge, take your job seriously. I have sometimes worked with judges that do not. Judges also need to remember that in the world of food, one person can not judge, they can only render a subjective opinion. It is only by defending or explaining that opinion to others that have done the same, can you truly judge and evaluate what you ate. The debate makes tasting as close to objective as possible.

    Posted in culinary knowledge, culinary misadventure, Food For Thought | Tagged: | 7 Comments »

    (Off Topic) Father’s Day “Crash” Memorial: Senor Ellison Esta Aqui

    Posted by CMH Gourmand on June 18, 2017

    We are going off the topic of food (although there is an interesting note about the Wendy’s in San Pedro Sula, Honduras and I did trick my dad into eating grilled bull balls). My Father died five Father’s Days ago so the statute of limitations regarding some of this story is now up. I will spend part of my day today going to a bar I despise, sitting at my Dad’s name plated stool, drinking a bad beer, probably trying to pick a fight with someone (in his honor) and buying a lottery ticket before I leave. This story is a preamble to what eventually led to his death: neglect by his adopted family in Honduras. I wrote this in 2003 (and only updated few words as I post this). I made four more trips to Honduras prior to my dads death in 2012. The second trip was pretty comical, it involved a cross-country trip to the Mayan Ruins of Copan, my dad almost being arrested for peeing in the public square there, several attempted shotgun marriages of this writer to various Honduran cousins, and etc. Subsequent trips were less entertaining and involved me paying off various bribes, dealing with my dad being an illegal immigrant, my step brother nearly getting arrested by the marines at the US Embassy and thus me subsequently pushing him against a wall and threatening to beat the shit out of him and anyone else he wanted to bring to the table. There were many other less entertaining events and adventures. His emigration to Honduras started out mostly well before it turned into a horrible shitstorm and this is the story of how it began.

    Senor Ellison Esta Aqui


    Learning to Do Nothing:
    A curious reflection on the journey of a man, with his father to the Central American country of Honduras; specifically the southern region and the city of Choluteca


    There comes a time in a man’s life when the son becomes the father and watches by as his “son” does some pretty unusual things.
    -Jim Ellison, 2003

    I have been around the world a couple times and back again, and hope to keep doing so. The more I travel, the longer my list of places to see gets. However, Honduras never really made my list. In January of 1999, my father went to Honduras for the first time with a group from the watering hole he frequents known as El Dorado. Prior to 1999, EL Dorado, burrito and maybe taco, were the only words of Spanish my father knew, although I suspect he figured they really originated from Texas. The “gentlemen” from El Dorado are a rough and tumble bunch but know the area well from many hunting trips there – primarily for doves in theory but in practice it was to “hunt” for two-legged animals as well. My dad fit in well with this crew, so much that they named him “Crash.”

    Dad’s trips to Honduras became much more frequent – climaxing in the period January 2002 to January 2003 when he sojourned there 5 times, usually calling me at the last-minute to find a good flight for him – so I knew how much this was costing him. I also knew this was money he did not have. This piqued my interest. My intuition and some snickering I would occasionally hear from the El Dorado boys indicated something was going on. However, Ellisons don’t talk about much of anything except for how to avoid other Ellisons. While having dinner one night in February of 2003 I noticed something odd about my father – well, something new – a wedding band and quite stylish at that – very much not something he would pick out. I asked him point-blank if he went and got himself married, he nodded. In Honduras? “Yep.” Well, with that the deal was done, Honduras moved from number 117 on my list to number 1, bumping Iceland back several months. The Ellison boys were off to Honduras. I booked the trip. I was not getting any usable information from my dad so I consulted other sources of knowledge. The El Dorado boys were drunk at the time I interrogated them so I could not get any authoritative information other than if I “wanted to get into trouble or out of it” a gentleman named Omar was the person to speak with down there – however his last name and phone number were not available. Two books from 1983, a travel guide from 1999, and some Web sites gave me enough information about Choluteca to determine it is the (my analysis) “West Virginia of Central America”. It was also the “murder capital of the world”, oh boy! My dad spent his first 18 years in West Virginia and I reckon I have enough of the state in the recessive cells of my DNA to let me adapt in my own way.

    In Houston, our flight was delayed for an hour due to reports of visibility problems in Central America and in particular Tegucigalpa. It seems this is the time of year that everyone in Central America burns their sugar cane fields so with current weather conditions, the smoke was not going anywhere except for Tegucigalpa. This was not a good thing. Flying into “Tecuz” is one of the finest experiences in modern air travel. The airport runway is hacked out of the stone at the top of one mountain surrounded by several others. The brakes of the plane go full tilt on impact and typically there are only a few inches of runway to spare at the end. The road has to be shut down at take off so the taxi’s, bicycles, and street vendors are not blown to El Salvador by roaring jet engines at take-off. It is always in the list of top 5 most dangerous airports in the world. I looked forward to that quite a bit. We departed Houston for a 2 hour, forty minute flight. Upon approach we were informed, belatedly, that we were going to circle to see if visibility would improve. And hour and one half later the pilot let us know that it was time to give up – he could not land and we were heading to San Pedro Sula in Northern Honduras. And anyway – we were almost out of gas.

    In San Pedro Sula we took care of customs, relieved ourselves, and eventually sauntered onto a bus to take us to our destination. There were also some self-employed gentlemen with large sums of US Dollars and Honduran Limperia’s acting as roving ATM’s to meet our monetary needs. After everyone was rounded up, bottles of water, miscellaneous Wendy’s sandwiches, and various Biggie size drinks were loaded unto the bus to pacify our gringo mouths while the airline tried to figure out how to pack all of the medical equipment one of the medical missionary groups had brought with them onto two coach buses. With some creativity and an extra mini van, the mission was accomplished and we were on our way. My dad was a bit surly at this point because he could not figure out why the above process would take slightly more than an hour. I promised him I would disown him and go home from San Pedro Sula if he caused any more trouble. We began our bus segment of the trip. A five-hour tour….. a five-hour tour.

    The trip was interesting; the buses drove through the center of town, past swarms of young kids selling all types of food and beverages. Then we scooted through villages and mountains, past swarms of young kids selling all types of food and beverages. As the scenery faded and we started to make some time, the buses stopped. It seems there was some type of mutiny in bus number one. Twenty odd American women needed to pee and there was no bathroom in the bus. We had a toilet in our bus so the gringas were herded onto our bus but at the rate of one female every 10 minutes – we were never going to leave. So after the third woman emerged from the fragrant sauna which was the on board bathroom (right next to my dad) the driver told the rest to cross the highway, do what they needed to do and get ready to move in five minutes. This was a good thing, for many reasons, the chief benefit being that if one more missionary started talking to my dad about God and how much she had to pee, there was going to be a lot of paperwork for me to fill out at the Embassy.

    Arrival in “Tecuz”

    After the bathroom mutiny was put down and my father was appeased, we continued on to Tecuz. We arrived at 7:30 p.m., 8 hours late. My step mother Miriam and party had been waiting there the whole time, not really knowing what was going on. This was after getting up early in the morning for the three hour bus ride to the airport. She was as happy to see us as we were to be almost done with our initial journey. Now she could eat and not wander around the airport trying to figure out what was going on (This was before cell phones were commonly used). My dad found his man Carlos, who is his personal car rental guy at the airport and picked up his Montero. Carlos was happy because now he could go home as well. We loaded up our tribe and headed to the Pizza Hut across from the airport to provision ourselves before the 2 1/2 hour journey to Choluteca. In addition to Miriam, there was my stepbrother Roger (Row-hair), Miriam’s sister Ingrid and nephew Fernando. Well, Fernando Jose. As it turns out my dad thinks it is immensely funny to say Fernando Jose repeatedly. “Hey Fernando Jose…ha, ha, ha.” “Fernando……Jose…..ha, ha, ha.”

    Language Lessons

    My dad did not tell me much to prepare for this trip except for a few names of key people, the name of the city we were going to and that “Miriam speaks English real well and many people also speak a lot of English and most of the people understand English even if they do not speak it much.” Boy was that a misperception. Miriam speaks English about as well as I speak Spanish – Kindergarten level. Roger, no habla ingles – but he does speak a lot of Spanish….rapidly. Ingrid and Fernando Jose – don’t seem to speak anything at all, expect that Fernando Jose will smile and grimace after the third or fourth time my dad would chuckle out a “Fernando Jose”. My dad also implied he was becoming a bit of a whiz with Spanish. That was also a grave misperception. I was able to identify 10 – 11 words in his vocabulary while driving – including righto, lefto, and straighto. Occasionally he might say, “hey boy, what does that word mean?” He did not understand Miriam when she repeatedly yelled “Cuidado” (careful), “lento” (slow), “Peligroso” (dangerous), “Tumblos” (speed bumps) and “muchas curves” (many curves).

    Later, while not driving, I did overhear a conversation between dad and Miriam, it reminded me of the black and white Tarzan movies of the 1930’s – “Me and boy sleep now”, “Senor Jim pee pee now, comprende.” Oh, the language of love! As it turns out this was a big change from when things kicked off for these two in 1999. Miriam told me that they had met and danced briefly one night. My father obtained her phone number somehow and called her when he returned to the USA. She did not know who he was or understand most of what he was saying. He then had a friend at work write a letter to her in Spanish for him to send to her. Then things just took off from there. After eight days of observation I can say that in spite of my father’s inability to speak Spanish and Miram’s questionable at best English, the communication between these two was much better than the communication I observed between my parents during their last years of marriage.

    Driving to Choluteca

    My good friends the Lopez sisters are from Puerto Rico. Two of the sisters are married to two other very good friends of mine and a third dated my good friend and former roommate. Therefore, I had six different sources of information about trips to Puerto Rico and an interesting phenomenon called “slug people”. In Puerto Rico it is custom for people to stand, sit, or recline right on the edge line of the road and watch cars go by or occasionally see how close they can lean into the road to watch the action and not get hit. Apparently, this is a custom in all of the Spanish speaking regions of the Caribbean. Not only were there slug people, but there were drunken cowboys on bikes maneuvering in such a manner on the road one might think they were breaking a bull. That was hard to dodge at 45 – 70 miles per hour. Another common sight was two people on one bike. Roughly 80% of bikes on the road have two passengers. One-person pedals and steers, the other person sits on the main bar sidesaddle. That is quite a masterful display on bumpy rocky roads. The 20% of bikes with only one passenger usually featured a person hauling tools, or a mattress, or some other large unwieldy object.

    Choluteca, the West Virginia of Honduras, which is the West Virginia of Central America

    My father had a pretty difficult life growing up. He did not have running water in his house until he was a high school junior. He hunted so the family could eat. He feels younger in Honduras, the climate is much better for his many health problems so he usually has a spring in his step down there. He also does not have any running water in the Ellison-Rodriquez compound, which is also a way for him to feel young again. I was not made aware of this until I was in the bathroom and tried to flush the toilet. Nothing – nunca. Not a problem on my part, I am not a high maintenance type of person but I like to know these things before I engage in certain activities. I settled into Roger’s room, had a short conversation with him about the operation of the fan and the location of a water source, and then I went to bed. The compound consisted of three small 20 x 20 buildings, a small water tower, and a central yard, all connected by 10 foot high stone walls with barbed wire on top and a 2 inch thick steel door to drive the car through. So began my first day in country about 26 hours after we departed.


    We spent the next seven days exploring the sights of Southern Honduras. Apparently, one of the major sights at the time was a very white male from Ohio with blue eyes speaking fragmented Spanish while accompanied by a posse of 3 to 8 step-relatives and an older looking version of himself that would occasionally say “Fernando Jose” then laugh. This never ceased to fascinate people. This aside, there was quite a lot to see and do.


    Cedeno is a nice little black sand beach town on the Gulf of Fonseca. There are several beachside shacks that serve some fine seafood and offer a place to observe the various people and activities on the beach as well as the occasional roaming pig. Or the less occasional roasted pig.

    Hacienda Gualiqueme Hotel
    Tel. 882 2750
    Choluteca, Honduras C.A.

    This is the most famous and popular hotel in Choluteca, (there are about three). The name has something to do with the very large tree in the center of the courtyard. This hotel is a one story, sprawling compound with a large courtyard, a pool and landscaping. The entire hotel was buried in over ten feet of mud during the hurricane of 98. They did a hell of a job digging the thing out. Most of the city’s infrastructure was wiped out by this hurricane and is just now starting to be rebuilt. This is a good hotel and I would suggest staying here if one was in Choluteca for whatever reason. It is probably the only place you could stay and wake up alive the next morning.

    Isla del Tigre (Tiger Island)

    I found out about this place doing my own research and pretty much demanded to check this out. We drove to the small fishing village of Coyolito and took a little boat over to the cone shaped (former volcano) island and the town of Amapala. We then paid for a ride to the Hotel Playa Negra. This place is busy in December and January as a local getaway spot but for the rest of the year it is pretty dead. We had the whole hotel and beach to ourselves. The beach looked like something out of an Ernest Hemmingway story. There was a small cabana on the beach where we were served paella and beer. There were fishing boats 150 yards down the beach with men mending their nets and preparing their catch for market. An occasional burro would wander on the beach and we watched two little boys dig for crabs. It was great. I swam in the Pacific Ocean as if it were mine. At that time about 2 square miles of it were mine.

    Parrilla El Torito – Choluteca

    We ate at this restaurant three times. It is great, the owner is very kind. The menu is English on one side and Spanish on the opposite. Some of the English words are creatively misspelled and don’t make sense. In some cases, there may be 14 items on one side and 20 on the other – so it is difficult to determine which items correspond with the opposite side of the menu if you don’t read Spanish. That just makes it more fun.

    San Marcos

    We drove to this small town near the Nicaragua border. It is famous for it’s market, which was closed. There is a nice restaurant in town with trees growing inside and a fine ice cream place with no name. At the border we met a German couple that was traveling from Argentina to Alaska on horseback. They were about 1/2 through their trip and if they were allowed to cross the U.S. border they estimated the whole trip would take four years. The horses were a bit of a problem at borders because of foot and mouth disease and various other maladies. The border guards did not know what types of forms would be needed to cross into Honduras and they we not sure who they could contact for further instructions. So the German couple was trying to figure out how to get the right forms to the border so they could cross. While this was an inconvenience it was not as bad as Peru, in that, the horses were almost shot there because the couple had the wrong paperwork.

    Valle de Angeles and Santa Lucia

    This is a tourist driven area that has a landscape that looks like western Oregon – large rolling hills and small mountains with lots of pines mixed in. The climate was cool. There were many clusters of nice houses in the area – most occupied by staff from the U.S. Embassy. The villages sell any type of tourist thing you could think of including some nice hand woven hammocks but it you want a real deal just buy one on the road in between Choluteca and Tecuz. You can also buy parrots, coconut milk, water and anything else along the road – if you drive slowly enough.


    We drove back to town to see the National Museum, which is housed in the green palace-like former governor’s mansion. This is located in the center of downtown Tegucigalpa – a maze of narrow one-way streets and insane taxi drivers intent on killing as many people as possible. The museum was closed because someone had stolen a valuable treasure from the museum that morning. The outside looked cool. Also of note in town is Pollo Campero (country chicken), a restaurant across from the airport. This is a major Central American restaurant chain known for chicken cooked the Central American way. There are three of these restaurants in the U.S, and they have made a fortune feeding homesick Central Americans and gringos. When the L.A. location opened there was a line for ten hours to eat there. I was unable to eat here because it was closed for Mother’s Day. It looked good.

    Where School Buses go to die – or be reborn

    Have you ever wondered what happens to school buses when they retire in the United States, well, unlike old people from Ohio, they don’t go to Florida; they go to Honduras for a new life. This is odd because on occasion, the buses still have the full name of the school on the side such as “Redneck Springs Exempted Schools” or “Coonskin Creek High School”. More often the names are blacked out or painted over but these things are everywhere – in the cities as public buses, on the highways as “Greyhounds”. Usually the name of the driver or some inspirational slogan is painted on the back – kind of a large bumper sticker. The buses are well cared for and seem to be living a good life other than working 16-20 hours per day

    Local Culture

    In total, I estimate I met 1279 step relatives in 8 days. Whenever we went somewhere – we would pick up several people, visit a while with others, drop some people off, pick some more up, and take a quick turn at the last minute to hit a country road to visit with some more relatives. This was good for my Spanish practice. It was also an unusual experience for the relatives because the only other gringo they had ever met was a man who laughs, drinks a beer or two or three and occasionally says “Fernando Jose”. At one time, I think every one of these people was in our rented Montero – at once. This is a family oriented country; the people can be generous and hospitable. They have a lot of questions about the United States. My younger male step relatives were disappointed to find out the USA is not populated entirely by supermodels. I was in cities and country farms and everywhere in between. Some people have to get a ride to a drop off point then ride a horse for an hour to get home. Others travel for hours just to get to work or school. There is no complaining – I doubt most people I know could deal with day-to-day life in Honduras. The scenery could be great but everyone litters – that was the only fault I could find (on my first trip, that changed quickly on my subsequent visits) but that is just how it is. My father and I both like to cook, we live by ourselves and are known to do our own laundry. This type of behavior is very uncommon in Honduras even for gay men – which we are not – even though that is not a problem. I kept finding that my clothes would disappear and come back clean the next morning. I will say this for my dad, he cannot speak Spanish and may never learn but he remembers the names of each of those 1279 relatives and various other people and makes his best effort to pronounce each name correctly.

    Goat and Bull Balls

    We ate well. Fresh goat cheese was a delicacy for us gringos. We got a big ball of it from the grandmother of my father’s goddaughter (Hicela Suyana Mendoza) when we were out in the country visiting and picking her up to take her to school. My dad and I were fond of all the goat had to offer, especially in grilled form. We spent the better part of our last day grilling goat meat for our adios fiesta (start time 1:00 so people show up about 5:00). My stepmother was kind enough to get Bull Balls for dad but I had to promise not to tell him what they were. In fact, I spent the better part of the day building up this special delicacy and acted slightly depressed when the dog ate one of the four we has spent an hour cooking. Anyway, he ate it. I told him what it was. I had to swear an oath not to tell the El Dorado gang what happened. FYI – Bull balls taste like liver – I suggest you go with the goat.

    In Review

    For an only child, with virtually no family and a pretty dysfunctional family on my dad’s side when it does show up – meeting and living with my 1279 step relatives while on an unplanned Spanish language and cultural immersion course was a unique experience which could not have been conceived of even for a Seinfeld episode. I learned a lot, acquired S.A.S.S. (Sudden Accelerated Shit Syndrome), learned to love all things the goat gives us and spent some quality time with my dad, new family additions, and two great dogs named Porsche and Spy. I also meet some good hombres that work for Trek Safaris (the company that carts the El Dorado Gang on Hunting expeditions) when they can, including the famous Omar. Omar turned out to speak fluent English, to be quite a world traveler and well versed in just about everything as opposed to my vision of a dangerous mercenary pirate from a bad B movie. Unfortunately, I did not meet Omar until my last day. I’ll have Omar’s number for the next time I am in Honduras. Honduras is no longer 117 on my list of places to go to. Plus I found out that my blue eyes – are quite an asset in Central America – as my stepmother kept telling me. Hopefully she will give up on marrying me to my 16 year old step cousin.

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

    A Wistful Wendy’s Eulogy for #22

    Posted by CMH Gourmand on September 19, 2016



    A little bit of restaurant history disappeared last week, well at least my history. The Wendy’s located at 3592 North High St was demolished to make way for a new design. It should be up and running by early 2017. While Wendy’s is ubiquitous in Central Ohio my hazy early childhood memories can recall when it was a new concept. The location in Clintonville was the 22nd Wendy’s since the company started in 1969. It opened in 1973. By 1976, there were 500 Wendy’s all over North America. Today there are about 6500 worldwide.

    One of my earliest food memories is Burger Chef, I can not recall anything about the food there but I do remember the prizes with their kid’s meals. In contrast I can distinctly remember the first burger and first chili I had at Wendy’s. The burgers served were bigger and fresher. And with their square patties, as what was once the the tag line for Wendy’s, they seemed old fashioned compared to their competition. The Wendy’s chili of the 1970’s was so much better than what is served today.

    I can recall finding out that there was a double and a triple burger and feeling determined to try these larger offerings. I think my third or forth Wendy’s burger ever was a triple. Not bad for five year old. I finished it of course but it was the only time I have consumed a Wendy’s triple. I can recall the original decor involved high top tables covered with recreations of old ads. The decor was very similar to Farrell’s at Graceland…..which did not last too long lots of wood, some beads creating a 1920’s feel. Some of the old school tables can be found at Thurman’s in German Village.

    My next memory was the Wendy’s salad bar (originating in 1979) which seemed amazing to me. I can remember frequent trips there to make salads to bring home. There was a poppy seed dressing we loved to get and things like bacon bits and fresh croutons seemed like a big deal. As a reflection of how times have changed as an 8 year old I could ride my bike there and order food and eat it there by myself. I can’t imagine eight year old’s doing that in Clintonville today. I’m not sure I can imagine myself riding my bike there in the present, although I need to.

    On one of my later bike rides there (when I was 13) I lost my retainer. I rode my bike home to tell my mom I could not find it and she told me to ride back and keep looking for it. Three hours later when I had not returned home, she drove down to check on how I was doing. I was digging through bags of trash at the rear dumpster. She walked up and the very first thing she pulled out…..was my retainer.

    The next big deal for me at Wendy’s is something that did not last long enough – the SUPER Bar! When it started, for $2.99 it was all you could eat salad, baked potatoes, Mexican Taco bar, pastas and more. It was phased out in the early 1990’s but in my first years of college, it was a splurge meal option that fit my budget.

    My last memory was in college as well. I was eating at Wendy’s with my girlfriend and somehow at a four top table, I thought I had pulled the chair out to sit down but there were only three chairs at the table….so when I squatted to sit, my ass landed on the floor. About twenty people stared at me wondering if they were watching someone loose their mind…..that happened about twenty years later.

    While the corner will only be empty for a few month before it is replaced with a new state of the art Wendy’s restaurant it will not be the same for me. It is interesting how something as mundane as a fast food restaurant can intertwine in your life in ways you don’t recognize until it is gone.

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

    A Decade of Dining, Discussion and Digressions

    Posted by CMH Gourmand on August 28, 2016


    Well, here we are ten years later and CMH Gourmand….continues.

    For the last few years, I have struggled on whether to continue with this blog, occasionally stepping back and asking myself why I do this? Readership has not been what it was during the zenith of this (and other blogs) years ago but there is still a reader base none the less. I certainly like my base better the Republican base (which scare the shit out of me). I can take some solace in the fact that other media, like newspapers, have had the same decline as well. I’ve come to equate my base as comparable to people who still collect and seek out vinyl records.

    I am also quick to acknowledge (knowing there are those that would be quicker to point out) that there is much I could do, fairly easily, to grow my own base: more social media especially Instagram, a dedicated Facebook page, updating layout and graphics and such. I could start doing all types of promotion – shameless and otherwise. However, I have no interest in any of these options. I’m content for this to be a true blog in the spirit of when blogs started way back (in 1994, 1997 or (mainstream by all accounts in 2004) depending on who you ask, a web log of my adventures and thoughts.

    In the last months as I have asked myself, why blog? I have not felt the need to justify the answer back to myself. My response has been “why not?”

    Another solace is that the heat is off since now that I am ten years into this, I have a body of work that can stand on its own without the perceived need and pressures to continue to churn out material on a regular basis. On a positive note, I did have a bit of a rally this year and crafted a respectable number of posts including a few I thought were really good or at least at least creatively different from other things I read day-to-day. Most people would not have noticed but I did invest several hours updating, fine-tuning and cleaning up some junk in this archive over the last year.

    I updated the Eating Athens and Pizza pages, I added and will continue to work on my Ohio Ice Cream page. I deleted some older posts that were no longer relevant, updated and cleaned up errors in other posts and created a new category – CLOSED – for all of the places that no longer exist. Sadly 43 of my posts are about places that are no longer open, several of which were among my favorites. Links have been updated as well as my About/Bio section. To the dismay of the Dining Duder research has continued on the Ohio Donut Trail culminating in a dedicated page for those activities. For fans of the Donut Trail, I have almost completed the southern part of the state. I have one trip to Jackson and one trip to Cincinnati before I turn my attention north. Looking at my notes, when (if ever) the Ohio Donut Trail is completed there will be at least forty and potentially fifty great Ohio donut spots listed.

    Moving forward this year and beyond, other than when I post the last entry in CMH Gourmand (which has been written) I will no longer posts marking off the anniversaries. There will be more “dining diatribes” as I increasingly become a grumpy old man. What I look forward to the most as CMH Griffin ages, is backtracking to all of the road trips documented here and having him enjoy each of these spots with me with fresh eyes, an open mind and very likely a large appetite.

    My other shared “bodies of work” continue as well. Although I am not embedded in the Food Truck world as much as I was, Street Eats Columbus keeps on trucking as does (although very much in need of an updated census) Taco Trucks Columbus. Looking at the Venn diagram of CMH Gourmand and Bricks of Ohio Blog readership (overlap of 3), while I have not been on a brick foraging mission in 2016, I do believe I will find more as time goes on. One day the two worlds will collide when I finally create time to build a brick pizza oven.

    A final observation. This is post 666, which my high school self, who loved heavy metal (although was wary of the culture that went with it), would have found hilarious.

    Posted in Food For Thought | 4 Comments »

    Whopperrito: I did it for you.

    Posted by CMH Gourmand on August 24, 2016


    There is a young man living in the greater Grandview area that I am a bit of a fan of. However, had it not been for him and his social media baiting, I would not have known about the Whopperito. In fact when I first saw him mention it, I thought is was hoax, perhaps a prank. Well, the Whopperito does indeed exist. In fact, word has been out most of the summer with the general theme of the conversation being disdain. Apparently, this Whopperito is a thing.

    Unless you have lived under a rock or are a very recent immigrant from an obscure country you have encountered a Whopper in your life time and most likely eaten one. But just in case you are not familiar with the Whopper let us digress for a bit of history. The iconic burger debuted in 1957. The classic Whopper consists of: flame grilled quarter-pound burger, sesame seed bun (since 1970), mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, pickles, ketchup and sliced onion. In college I could get two Whopper’s for $2.22 and for a while that became a late night snack to soak up Natural Light or if I was living large a well drink cocktail certainly my tastes have changed with time but I can still be nostalgic. Maybe I’m responsible for the Whopperrito, especially if the parent company has been tracking my blog posts and eating patterns for the last year of so. Perhaps they were emboldened by their decisive win in the epic Burger King vs. Wendy’s 4/5 for $4 face-off.

    As for the Whopperrito, it is a Whopper in burrito form with minor tweaks. It is a mix of the regular Whopper ingredients minus the ketchup and mustard. The meat is served in large chunks of broken up Whopper flame grilled beef that is seasoned with a special blend of spices and thin queso-like pepper cheese. Nutritionally it is 570 calories, 29 grams of protein and 11 grams of saturated fat vs. a traditional Whopper which is 630 calories, 26 grams of protein and 11 grams of saturated fat.

    In addition to a bit of subliminal twitter taunting, the existence of a Whopperrito drew me to eat it like the USS Palomino to a Black Hole. It was inevitable that this would happen. Typically I am impervious to most fast food advertising and gimmicks with a few exceptions: White Castle, occasionally Wendy’s if the item is “bold” and when Burger Chef included Legos on their kids meals. This new product merged my positive leanings towards Whoppers with my affinity for burritos. What was the result? The Whopperrito is greater than the sum of its parts. While not enjoyable it was edible. If any BK executives are monitoring this post, these are my suggestions: make the pickle pieces smaller and replace the pepper cheese queso sauce with a thicker, cheesier American cheese/Velveeta styled sauce to hold all of the parts together more cohesively.


    My verdict. I would always pick a Whopper over a Whopperrito. If my suggested changes are put into place, I’d still choose a Whopper nine times out of ten. My experience with the Whopperrito did give me a better appreciation for the Whopper. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts with the Whopper and the key to that burger persisting for nearly 60 years is the power of proportions – it has just the right blends of all of the ingredients, nailing the ketchup to mayonnaise ratio.

    A brief side note. I was not sure how I would feel about the Whopperito or if I could finish it. So as a preemptive strike, I ordered a hot dog too. For the price Burger King serves a respectable hot dog. They use a good quality bun that seems lightly steamed (?) or at least it is fluffy, and grill the all beef hot dog then add a right amount of mustard, relish and (heaven forbid, ketchup). In an emergency it will do.

    hot dog

    Posted in Food For Thought | Tagged: , | 6 Comments »