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Archive for the ‘Food For Thought’ Category

Burger King’s 5 for $4 vs. Wendy’s 4 for $4

Posted by CMH Gourmand on April 4, 2016

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Two back to back fast food posts? Speculation may arise that I have bottomed out. I hope not, both are in the spirit of investigative food journalism. I’ve noticed Wendy’s and Burger King plugging $4 meals for months and both are near my headquarters so I decided to pick up both within minutes of each other to do some side by side analysis. Thanks to those hard fact driven folks at Fox News, I seem to have stumbled onto a -> fast food war with a little smack talk on the side. The King decreed “5 for $4, because 5 is better than 4”. But is that really the case? I decided to challenge the two head on using qualitative and quantitative research. This post was spur of the moment but perhaps fated since it was conducted on April (Four), 4th.

Let us open the sacks and see what we find.

The Burger King deal includes: a bacon cheeseburger, crispy chicken nuggets (4), small fries, small drink and a chocolate chip cookie

The Wendy’s deal includes: the choice of Junior Bacon Cheeseburger or Crispy Chicken Sandwich, a small beverage, value natural cut fries and 4 piece chicken nuggets.

First let’s look at the actual retail price. At Burger King, the price is $4.06 whereas at Wendy’s the total comes to $4.08. Score one for the King. (The differences seems to be how each empire calculates Ohio sales tax for the beverage that comes with the deal. What an odd anomaly).

Second we compare beverages. Both are the same size so that is a draw.

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For the third area of analysis, I opted to go head to head with the bacon cheese burgers. Wendy’s version offers a slice of tomato and a large piece of lettuce whereas Burger King piles on the pickles. Both add two strips of bacon and a slice of American cheese. The hamburger paddies are about the same size. The BK burger tasted better than it’s counterpart from Wendy’s and the bacon flavor was stronger. (Side note: while Wendy’s did not have a pickle on this burger, they typically do feature them on value items, Burger King uses better pickles and my BK test subject had 5 – that did not influence my choice but it is noteworthy). Two points for the King.

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Moving along to the third shared menu item and our fourth comparison point: chicken nuggets which generally are among the most terrifying of fast food items in my opinion. Wendy’s chicken nuggets were vastly superior to their royal cousins. The Wendy’s offering were thicker, fluffier and had some taste of chicken to them. The Burger King Nuggets were….crunchy. Score one for the girl in pin stripes.

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Our next head to head in the competition is fries. My serving from Burger King was almost twice as much as Wendy’s. Wendy’s fries had better potato flavor. Burger King’s fries had better texture and crispness. I’m giving a slight edge to the King for this one more so due to quantity than quality. The King: 3, The Kid: 1.

Burger King offers a chocolate chip cookie as their fifth item, Wendy’s does not, so it is now 4 to 1 in favor of the King.

Looking at some subjective items. At the Wendy’s I visited Coca-Cola Free style is offered so I had more beverage choices and I had the option of either a burger or chicken sandwich. Both companies offer a choice of dipping sauces with the nuggets and neither include ketchup unless you ask for it. Wendy’s slightly greater variety has merit but not enough to earn a point so the score remains unchanged.

Let’s look, for the sake of value at some nutritional facts about the meals. The Burger King 5 for $4 has (not including the beverage and cookie): 820 calories, 26 grams of protein, 39 grams of fat. Wendy’s combo (just the burger, nuggets and fries): 790 calories, 32 grams of protein and 45 grams of fat. I’d like to see how the difference would be if the servings of fries were really the same but on paper a few more calories and a little less fat is probably marginally better for health and if you are living on the cheap – that’s more fuel to sustain a person. We will call nutrition a draw but objectively, both fail. Adding in a non diet beverage for both you go well over 1000 calories and toss in the cookie close to 1200. If you hit hard times and only have $4 to eat – the BK deal may be a sustainer.

I thought this contest would have been a closer call. Since I go to Wendy’s more than Burger King (and I go to both very rarely) I thought Wendy’s was going to do a better job on the the three core items. The King is the King of value meals here. Note: I’ve had my share of fast food chicken nuggets for the rest of this decade (4.5 of the 8 were consumed by me to taste them with and without the dipping sauces).

This study was supervised by CMH Griffin (who had yogurt). My research assistant CMH Tobias was quite happy to dispose of the leftovers.

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If there is another head to head study I should have my research team investigate, let me know.

Posted in culinary knowledge, culinary misadventure, Food For Thought, Gastronomic Stimulus | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Small Bite: Wendy’s Black Bean Burger; Big Picture Why Fast Food needs a Veggie Burger and why they aren’t working

Posted by CMH Gourmand on March 14, 2016

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Ok, well one of many things you may not know about me, I have a strong internal calling to try out new veggie burgers at fast food places, especially when created by locally owned White Castle and Wendy’s. In my past, I had the fortune to do product sampling for both companies and tried a few veggie burgers at each over the years. (Please note previous White Castle Veggie Burger research -> HERE

So let us now cut to the chase. The new Black Bean Burger at Wendy’s looks and tastes like a Morningstar Farm Black Bean Burger I have tried many times. It includes some bean chunks and a few pieces of corn mixed in for variety. The price was $4.49. It rests on a very nice looking bun and is complimented by some fancy pepper jack cheese with some fluffy and pseudo artisan greens that had the taste and consistency of paper. Visually everything looked good. The flavor profile would best be described as bland and mostly flavorless – a good source of fiber and that is the best positive I can comment on. As served it is 560 calories and 24 fat grams. A Wendy’s single with Cheese is 550 calories and costs less.

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Now that the review is done, we can discuss the socioeconomic and philosophical points about fast food veggie burgers. I’ll add some additional background. I’m not here to attack veggies burgers. I lived off them multiple times per week throughout the first decade of this century. I used to drive to the Morningstar outlet store in Worthington to save a few dollars on patties and see what new products where out there. I had a great fast food veggie burger at an Australian Hungry Jacks (Burger King) in Melbourne in 1989. I have tried them throughout the USA and the world, mostly out of curiosity. I believe in the teachings of Michael Pollan and others (although I certainly do not practice those beliefs in this second decade of the century) that we are better off as individuals and as a society if we “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Our health and planet improves when we do so. I get it.

The key to making a fast food veggie burger work is to do what White Castle did to make the first fast food burgers work in the 1920’s – make them cheap and sell them by the sack. An expensive, fancy veggie burger does not drive consumption the way a dollar menu burger would or should. Anyone that is not a veggie person is not going to pay that price point for something they do not want. Someone that does want a veggie burger is going to pay three times as much at Northstar but get a better product with better nutrition. Give it a fast food veggie burger a basic bun, a slice of cheese and a nice pickle, plop it on the value menu then give it a generation to sink it and it will work by altering the eating habits of consumers with the balance of price and convenience. Make it (and price it) for the masses so the masses will eat it – better for business and maybe better for body mass. While this may seem far-fetched, it is good business sense. In India – where few eat beef, Burger King has been progressive and aggressive in launching a vegetarian line of sandwiches that are doing well – I’d love to try any of them here. In that subcontinent – Wendy’s offers a potato patty which by description and with a bit of research sounds better than their black bean offering here.

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

Hounddogs Hallowed Delivery Icon(s)

Posted by CMH Gourmand on January 18, 2016

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4 cars, 3 rockets and 2 dogs make one Iconic Columbus Car
(The story of Houndogs delivery machine)

Chances are even if you have never tried Hounddogs Pizza, you have wondered about the iconic car that delivers “pizza for the people”. In the beginning, or 1997 in this case, this dog star was born as non-traditional marketing. The inspiration came late one night. Owner Jeff Stewart had a vision of a Hounddog strapped to a rocket that he could mount to a classic car he recently acquired. Stewart started the project the next morning.

The original dog was make by a local artist, Mike Foley. Stewart called CCAD to find a sculptor and was eventually referred to a former student. When asked about his credentials, Foley replied “come over to my house on Indianola to see my work.” Stewart found a house filled with sculptures of all sizes and shapes and knew he found the right person to craft his canine.

The first night out was quite memorable, the rocket was sheared off of the dog when it caught on a low hanging parking garage roof. Since then, things have really taken off for the car and the pizza joint.

There have been three rockets over the years. The second was remounted on the original Hounddog and then attached (in order) to: 1971 Cadillac Coupe de Ville (1997 to 2001), 1988 VW Golf (2002-2003), 1985 Cadillac Fleetwood Broughham Limo (2003 – 2013). After a hiatus, a new dog with a new rocket was mounted on a 1962 Cadillac Fleetwood in the summer of 2015. The “new” car is red like the original with diamondback plate mounted on the roof as a base for a hallowed hounddog creating an unforgettable delivery vehicle.

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Bonus stuff below:

It Takes a Village to Craft a Car

Jeff Stewart is not one to toot his own turn, for anything Hounddogs, he is quick to state all accomplishments are a team effort. His team for the mobile delivery service encompasses twenty years of hands on experience. One of his drivers has over a decade of service under his belt. Andy, at Campus Auto has served has ER and surgeon to keep Hounddogs classic cars clunking along since the original rolled onto his lot nearly a of score years ago.

Quick Facts
The first rocket took 15 hours to fabricate. The second took off in just a few hours.

Stewart had a basset hound in college, which was part of the inspiration for the logo and car art, but because of the long hours he put in for the pizza shop, he had to give him up to a friend.

All cars except the Golf have been called into service to run family and friends to the airport, creating a memorable start to many vacations.

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Posted in culinary knowledge, Food For Thought, pizza | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

What’s Up at White Castle: Turkey, Breakfast and Whatnot

Posted by CMH Gourmand on November 13, 2015

As some readers are aware, I’ve written about White Castle before. I have a compulsion to try new products when they release them to the masses. I don’t love White Castle but I have always respected the company and their institutional commitment to innovate.

First for discussion, Turkey Sliders….just in time for the holidays.

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I tried the Turkey Dinner Slider: square (Butterball) Turkey patty, a big squirt of cranberry sauce and in my case a giant malformed sweet potato waffle fry. Verdict, one was enough. If you want to save some money I would suggest ordering the Cranberry Turkey Slider for 40 cents less and investing that savings in a full order of Sweet Potato Waffle fries. I’m glad I tried this concoction, don’t get me wrong but this is a novelty item but a destination sandwich.

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Second for discussion, Breakfast 24/7.

White Castle beat McDonald’s to the punch in making breakfast an all day affair. This pleased me immensely because as many readers know, breakfast is my fourth favorite meal. Other than anything at Starliner Dinner, anything served at Explorer’s Club and home fries with sausage gravy at Nancy’s, there is only one other breakfast item that I ever crave – the White Castle Breakfast Sandwich. I order the version on the bun (not the toast option) with egg, sausage and cheese. Doing very thorough analysis, this is the best value of any White Castle menu item. And since I am typically not near a White Castle at traditional breakfast times, being able to get this sandwich anytime has guaranteed a significant higher volume of consumption on my part. Good job White Castle.

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Third for discussion, smart ingredient integration that gives the customer the sense of an upgrade.

White Castle takes a clear plastic cup, fills it with Sprite and adds a dash of cranberry juice and markets it as a Cranberry Spritzer. Genius way to up sell a product using what they already have in-house.

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Stay tuned for my next White Castle adventure….whenever a new product rolls or slides out.

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

The Nine Year: A) Itch, B) Stretch, C) Anniversary D) All of the Above

Posted by CMH Gourmand on August 26, 2015

It has been a tradition for this blog to recognize the last year of CMH Gourmanding with a reflection on the launch date anniversaryn to include some thanks and a look forward. Welcome to the end of the ninth year of eating with me. It has been a busy year.

There definitely is an itch. An itch to rebrand the blog, to write more, to write better, to hit the road or ride to the end of the street to discover something new or rediscover something that was forgotten. But I won’t be scratching those itches much. Nine years is a long stretch. Nine years is a lifetime in the blogging world. I have seen many people start a blog strong then very quickly go long stretches without posting and then sputter out. I have seen a few – not many – end a blog well – with a great sign off or an insightful or meaningful denouement. Most old blogs don’t die, they just fade away.

So the year leading up to the diamond anniversary begins with semi-retirement or dormancy. The next 365 days may mark the end of this blog. I’m not sure if the next 1-12 months will be a hibernation, a sabbatical or capitulation. Blogging has been more chore or a duty than a passion in 2015. And frankly, this blog is not what it used to be (and the readership attests to that). I don’t get out much anymore. I’m not the first guy at the unknown and undiscovered places and my words have a little less zing and a lot less alliteration. And when it comes to it, blogs are so – 2000, it ain’t what it used to be and there are a lot of new kids on the block (and in my old man voice, I don’t think many of them do that great of a job and are too focused on promoting themselves).

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Gourmand Junior is here and needs my attention as I Mr. Dad around town looking forward to introducing him to his first foods. My wife is not miserably pregnant anymore and her tibia, fibia and ankle have mended, CMH Tobias is mostly healthy again and the Gourmand Abode is finally – almost finished – after a year of renovation, in part by Gourmand General Contracting. Brew Adventures has been going well but needs even more attention and focus from me I want to grow the empire bigger and better before we get too far away from the second anniversary of the business.

If I get the gumption to do ten posts from now until August 2016, then I will do a tenth anniversary recap and see where we go from there. Good eating all.

Posted in Food For Thought | 1 Comment »

S.W.A.T.

Posted by CMH Gourmand on June 24, 2015

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If you missed my article about the late Roger Gentile in Stock and Barrel, I’d suggest you read it -> HERE, before you proceed.

S.W.A.T. stands for Secret Wine Appreciation Tastings. These were outings by a small number of friends that traveled to the best wine regions of the world to learn about wines and stockpile the best of them. This small cadre of gentlemen was composed of the Who’s Who of Columbus’ upper echelon with the means to live large while expanding their collections. However, this was no collection of rat pack style playboys, this group was one and all, on a mission to do some good with their good fortune. For years, they have taken some of the best of their collections to make dream packages for auctions to support charities such as Recreation Unlimited. This group has largely chosen to remain in the shadows and well….secret. I’ll keep their identities classified but I will offer a small insight into what they do.

This group periodically gets together to share the company of each other, an excellent meal and too many bottles of wine to count. I was given the great honor to attend one of these lunches, the first after the passing of Roger, as a thank you for writing about the group’s defacto leader, heart, soul and chief instigator.

The group met at Worthington Inn for lunch. Lunch was of course, excellent. Each member brought a guest with them (typically new potential member) and some of their best wines. In my invitation I was advised to “make sure I had a way to get home after, just in case.” While I did not partake to that extreme, I did indeed have wines that I have never had and most likely will never sip again. Of the 50+ bottles on the table I spied a bottle from at least 20 countries with price tags greater than what I earn in a week, maybe a month in a few instances. The oldest bottle of wine was from 1974 the youngest was not from this decade. Each had a story of being a rarity, a tale of how it was obtained, or an epic on how it was “stolen” at auction.

In the past I have judged wines for competitions and poured wines at festivals but I never saw an array of alcohols of this caliber. However, my second favorite memory of this time involved a wine encased in tin foil to hide its identity. The experts around the table were asked to guess where the wine hailed from. After tasting, smelling and swirling there was no consensus. Guesses ranged from a specific region of France to a specific Napa Valley Vineyard. The man who poured this sample for everyone was a man who has hosted and supported this group over many, many years, Kamal Boulos from the Refectory. I was able to see the glint in his eye and a trace of a smile as he unveiled the bottle which was from none other than Ravenhurst from Mt. Victory Ohio!

My favorite memory of this meal was witnessing this fellowship of a group of old friends as we made a Toast to Roger Gentile, the leader of the pack. Roger made his mark with these fellas and they continue their work for charity so that his spirit will live on in their efforts.

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

Pay It Forward: Nancy’s Home Cooking

Posted by CMH Gourmand on June 1, 2015

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Nancy’s has been a Clintonville institution for over forty years. A significant part of the tradition of the eatery has been serving the community. For years, the homeless knew they could come in for a meal, for some customers it was their only place for community and a place they could find a kind word with a warm meal, and for many years fire fighters knew they could expect a Thanksgiving meal delivered while they were at work away from their families.

The current version of Nancy’s is different on some ways from the Cindy King era (and I am working on a post where I try to sort out the good, the bad and the ugly of those differences) but that sense of service remains. The diner has started a Pay it Forward Program. Customers can buy a meal for someone who needs one – all they do is pay and write a few words of encouragement on a post it note. If someone needs a meal, they can redeem one of the post it notes. There are well over 50 post it notes on the wall waiting to be redeemed. It is a simple and direct way to serve the community the way this spot always has, one meal at a time.

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

A Tale of Two Coney Island Joints in Mansfield (and a dialogue about Small Town Ohio)

Posted by CMH Gourmand on April 20, 2015

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I was in Mansfield for business visiting Phoenix Brewing Company. I visited a brewery for work. Yes, that is pretty cool. I had only passed through Mansfield very briefly before. My inner nature is to explore any new place so I blocked out a little time to drive around downtown and get a feel for the place. About one minute into the journey I spied a sign for Famous Coney Island. Regular readers know that by the Code of Gourmand, I was obligated to stop – hungry or not. I did. I walked in 6 minutes before closing time (7 pm) to look around. The waitress (that would be the proper term here) asked me if I wanted to order. I said that I didn’t want to be a pain, so I would just look around. She said “sweety, go ahead and order it’s not problem at all.” There are not many places that would gladly welcome a customer that close to closing time. I also found out that the sign outside is somewhat new, the original sign was inside over the counter (from 1936) when coneys were 5 cents each (that is part of the reason they took the sign down).

Of course I ordered a coney. The coney dog is an institution in many towns, especially smaller towns and I always visit one when I can. There is culture to a Coney Island joint, the same as a diner. There are stools at a counter and a few booths. A simple menu and the banter of regulars served with the insights of the folks behind the counter that have been gained from decades slinging hot dogs or one liners at the same place. You can’t find that at many dining establishments. And those few places are disappearing every day.

The other thing I did was survey the menu for “the thing“. Just about every diner or Coney Island has an off beat dish that is unique to the place or a carry over from another time. A signature or iconic item that sets this place apart from any other place like it (and often there are a lot of place like it). Here the thing was pea salad. There was no description of what it was but I knew I was going to get it and probably enjoy it. The base of the salad was ice berg lettuce with a mayo based dressing, peas, shredded carrots, cheese, shredded cabbage and bacon bits. It tasted a bit like a seven layer salad. It was simple and it hit the spot. A comfort food classic.

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The place itself could have come from a Norman Rockwell painting. There was a small ice cream stall at the end. The walls were decorated with year books from the local high school, photographs from the old days, a soap box derby car, and the like. It was a decent meal. A respectable coney (no Oh Betty’s but what is) and a great pea salad. There are all types of culinary tourism. This type is where the food, while good, is secondary to the stories and the traditions. That is OK.

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I got back in my car, drove by a bakery that looked interesting, a place called the Squirrel Den (that sells candy and cards), an old school newspaper stand and a pizza place (Two Cousins) that claims to be the best in the world. All were closed. I would have liked to drop in to each. It took a minute to drive by those spots and that is when I saw something else on the other end of the square – Coney Island Inn. And oddly (it was after 7 pm) it was still open – until 8 pm, which in this case made it the Late Night Slice of Mansfield. I decided I needed another coney so I would know which was best.

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Coney Island Inn is a bit bigger, a lot less brighter and it has an in house Ohio Lottery sales counter. I grabbed a stool to survey the extensive menu – which may very well include every comfort food classic of the Midwest but I knew that I would only be having coney. I have standards, this was my second meal in 20 minutes. The dilemma I encountered was that they offer a regular coney and a King Coney (and foot long versions of each). It turns out the King Coney was a bigger, all beef hot dog and the coney was smaller and not all beef. I had to order both which I did with slaw and coney sauce. Then I asked the waitress if there was anything else I had to get and she suggested the rice pudding (with or without raisins and with or without whipped cream). The coneys were good (not Oh Betty’s good) and I would say better than what I had at Famous Coney Island (and less expensive). The rice pudding on the other hand was exceptional. I had good conversation with the other staff and the one other customer in the place (she sized me up pretty quick – “you’re not from around here are you, or you would know what to order”).

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I was glad I took a detour, I usually am.

So now for a short dialogue about small town Ohio. The impromptu adventure I had is something many people would avoid. Others would just write off these places or the places I could not get into as not worth their time because they figure the food is not up to their standard or because it is middle west bland. Sometimes the food might not be worth it, but again, each place has “the thing” and all have a good story or two that will connect you with the place. Both Coney Islands I visited have long histories in Mansfield and longer traditions.

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Actually Mansfield is not technically small town Ohio, but the town square sure feels like it so I’ll just use that as an excuse for my commentary.

Posted in Food For Thought, hot dogs, Ohio, Road Trip | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

The Best Sub in Clintonville….is not at India Oak Bar and Grill

Posted by CMH Gourmand on March 26, 2015

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Since my return to being a full-time Ville-Billy, I have heard mention that the best sub in Clintonville is ballyhooed as coming from the India Oak Bar and Grill. There may have been a time when I might have bought into that proclamation. I ate a lot of subs at the Oaks in the 1990’s but that was a different time with different owners. I’ve had the sub there recently, a couple of times in fact, and while it was respectable, I can’t pull out anything from my experiences that would suggest it would be the best. Granted there are not a lot of candidates for the title in Clintonville, but seeing as there are more than one to contend for the honor, I decided to revisit some places to see if my standards are flawed or if the bar had just become lower.

As many of you know, I’ve written about O’Reilly’s more than a few times and they have a very good sub. But I am an O’Reilly’s loyalist so my objectivity could be compromised. Therefore, it became critical to even out the field. I recruited Mrs. Gourmand who never lacks for an interest in a submarine sandwich. I asked her to join me to sample four other Clintonville (traditional) subs and she gladly accepted. She recently stated “I can never be a vegetarian” and has been observed eating more fruits and vegetables that is her norm. That combined with her state due to her pregnant nature, she has had a lot of hankerings for meats and bread. She was hungry for some subs. It also helps that she is Italian-American so she has plenty of experience in all things Italian and high expectations for sub consumption.

There are not many sub purveyors in Clintonville, but I did find four others that seemed worthy of consideration. I called in all of the orders and picked them up in the order of when orders were placed.

Patrick J’s – Indianola Italian Sub
Hot ham, hard salami, ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and banana peppers with Italian dressing. Served with a side of kettle chips and a pickle for $7.50.

Gatto’s Pizza – Italian Sub
Salami, pepperoni, ham, provolone, tomato, banana pepper and lettuce for $5.50.

Dante Pizza – Hot Sub
Cappacola, salami, pepperoni, lettuce, tomato, banana peppers with their special house made salad dressing for $6.25

Smith’s Deli – Super Sub
Ham, salami, pepperoni, provolone cheese, mozzarella cheese, Romano cheese, spices, lettuce, tomato, hot peppers, onions and dressing for $6.19. I oped for this over their Roman Sub which seemed light on the meat and cheese.

To maintain the highest level of objectivity – Mrs. Gourmand watched me unwrap the subs and cut each into pieces to be evaluated. All were still warm to the touch when delivered and were all picked up by me within 5 minutes of each other. I ate in a separate room, recording her observations as she shouted them out. I made my observations silently. These are our field notes from our submarine adventure.

Patrick J’s had the best presentation of all four subs. It was cut in half with great visuals and a big pile of chips with a pickle placed in the the center of the styrofoam carrier.

Gatto’s was clearly the best value of the pack. It was 69 cents less expensive than the second lowest priced sub and it was not smaller or less tasty than it’s peers.

Neither Mrs. Gourmand or I felt that our recollection of the India Oaks sub was clearly better than any of the four we tried in this tasting. Therefore their title of best sub in Clintonville is officially revoked.

We found all of the subs to be of good quality with none radically better that the other. With contention being very tight, my favorite sub was The Gatto’s Sub and my second favorite was Dantes. Mrs. Gourmand liked Smith’s sub more than the other three and she gave second place to Gattos.

These are our tasting notes. All of the buns appeared to be from Auddinos. All of the subs were baked in an oven and had a crusty, toasted texture. Smith’s was the most toasted and Patrick J’s was just lightly toasted. In the case of Patrick J’s the veggies were applied after cooking so they were not cooked with the other ingredients. That manner of vegetable placement is my preference going back to my sub making days at Knight’s Ice Cream. I also liked that the bun at Patrick J’s was not sliced all of the way through so it had a clam shell-like quality to it, which can help with consumption.

Patrick J’s was Mrs. Gourmand least favorite sub mainly due to the possible presence of mayo or a dressing she did not like and because the hot ham was too fatty for her liking.

We both liked Gatto’s sub because the bread had a garlic bread flavor and quality to it. I liked Dante’s because all of the meats had distinctly strong and fresh flavor to them – more that the other subs. Additional diagnosis determined that Mrs. Gourmand liked the Smith’s sub due to the extra cheese embedded throughout the sandwich. I found that I liked this sub as well.

All in all, we did not have a clear winner, but I think we have established that there are some great subs in Clintonville that are not at India Oaks. I was also happy that none of the subs sucked, they were all significantly above the average marker so that is a great benchmark to judge from.

Posted in Clintonville, culinary misadventure, Food For Thought, sandwiches, Sub Dude | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

La Poblanita: A Winter’s Tale (or a Mobile Food Moral on Morale and Marketing)

Posted by CMH Gourmand on March 3, 2015

Oh, there was great joy last fall when La Poblanita opened in a used car lot across from Weiland’s Market. Then it moved to the parking lot of the dry cleaners 100 feet away. Then it got a professional looking wrap. Then it changed its orientation to face another part of the parking lot. All seemed like good, positive changes. The food was great, service was good and a community was rooting for the new chica in town. Then winter came and hours became erratic. Not that hours were perfectly consistent before, but even factoring in weather, one never knew when the trailer might be open. A competitor just down Indianola Ave, La Morelina, left its spot as winter progressed, then La Poblanita disappeared for a while. I found it a few weeks later in the parking lot of a barber ship near Boston Bert’s Seafood Trailer, four or five streets north of the original spot. On the plus side, the parking lot was bigger and nicer and for the vendor, it looked like they had plug-in electric hook up which makes a big difference in the winter time. (This barber shop used to host a coffee trailer in the past). And in theory, the proximity to Boston Bert’s could be good for both by creating a de facto Mobile food court. But then hours were erratic again. In mid February I dropped by to find the sign below.

Poblanito

On March 1st, I went looking to Poblanita at the new site….and nothing. I found Poblanita back at the old spot (minus the sign)….and there was no sign of life. I hope Poblanita comes back, I like the food and Clintonville needs that type of culinary diversity. Granted, this winter was sucky for any mobile food vendor but Poblanita made some avoidable errors that could have improved the odds for more customers on the good days.

OK, now for mobile food 101. The first rule of mobile food club is: Be Consistent. The second rule of mobile food club is: Be Consistent. The third rule: communicate to your potential and regular customers in as many ways as you can as often as you can. If you follow these rules, you could have average food and still have better than average chances of being successful.

These are some things Poblanita could have done:

Write your hours on a laminated sign and post to the trailer.

When you can’t keep those hours, have another sign that indicates when you will be back during normal business hours.

Make sure you have a sign that says open that can be easily seen from the road (100 or more feet away).

When allowed (sometime you can’t use stand alone signs on some properties in some parts of town ) buy or make a sign (use two by fours if you need to, paint it orange if you need to), so that when people drive by they know you are open for business.

If you can’t maintain your hours, change them and communicate to your customers what is going on, they will be more likely to visit you if they know that you can’t maintain the hours they might prefer.

Don’t just rely on Twitter, or Facebook, or Instagram to communicate to customers. If you picked one of more of those tools – keep with each and use them every day. If you did not, pick one and learn to use it. And no matter how many of those that you use, assume that few if any of your customers are paying attention to your social media at any given moment. And if you have a sign with your business hours, that sign or another one should list the social media you are using. Not just that you use it but the exact handle or address that you are using.

There are hundreds of other things that small businesses need to do to make it, but the first business that ever opened, and each one since then, has used signs to let customers know that they are open for business…..and when they are closed for business.

Post Script (March 2015)

Poblanita did not move, it can be found in the parking lot of Beechwold Barbershop at 3825 Indianola Ave (Intersection of Northridge and Indianola.). Open Tuesday to Sunday 10:30 am to 9 pm. Cash only.

Posted in Clintonville, culinary knowledge, Food For Thought, Mobile Food | 4 Comments »