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Archive for the ‘Food For Thought’ Category

My Omnivore’s Deliemma: I’m No Michael Pollan

Posted by CMH Gourmand on February 2, 2015

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One could summarize Michael Pollan’s writings into these seven words: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. Following that philosophy, one could eat well, enjoy good health and avoid many of the maladies overeating and the Western diet create. There was a time (brief as it was) that I did live by that model and I miss it. Over the last several years I adapted an approach of: Eat Food, frequently, mostly carbohydrates. I can’t make any legitimate excuses for my current food lifestyle but I do feel the malaise that comes with it.

So when I was offered tickets to hear Michael Pollan speak, I was excited for an opportunity listen to one of my favorite food writers and infuse some inspiration to get back on track.

Pollan is a great public speaker, he mixes just enough facts with humor without being preachy, just pragmatic information that hopefully will make a difference. There was not much information in his presentation that would be news for anyone that has read his work, but he did offer a lot to think about. For those of you that did not get to attend and especially for those of you that have not read his books, I thought I would offer some of the information he shared that is good food for thought.

The first thing I wrote down in my notes (with an explanation point!) was the phrase “social delusion about gluten”. I mean no disrespect to those with true gluten issues, I know several people with celiac disease and other gluten based illnesses and those truly suck. Pollan meant no disrespect either but what he was referring to was this gluten epidemic that is out of proportion to true incidence of these diseases. There is a marketing technique that creates a fear and then gives the “buyer” a solution. An example that was used was Chex Cereal. It is now marketed as Gluten Free. Well here is a shocker, it never had gluten. And it is marketed as no High Fructose Corn Syrup which is nice and all, but the company replaced that with Fructose, which is worse for you. Gluten is bad for some people, but big food is using that fear of gluten to push products and deliver a message of no gluten to get the attention of everyone.

Another example. Wonder Bread went out of business but now is back as a 100% whole grain bread. However, Pollan wonders about the math skills of the manufacturers of the food, if it is 100% grain what about the 30 other ingredients in the product?

Milk is trending as a new “super food” with big soda getting to the milk business. For generations we have been oversold on milk as a health food. There is even a beverage called Muscle Milk (which in small text mentions….contains no milk). Yogurt falls into this category as well, when you look at a typical yogurt you will see if has more sugar that an 8 ounce Coke.

Deciding what to eat is becoming more and more confusing, that are over 10,000 items in a typical grocery store and each year more than 15,000 new food products come out. Most offer single size servings, or convenience (such as a straw made our of cereal to drink milk) and in the process of creating convenience more not food ingredients are added to make to foods….easy to consume.

What is referred to as the American Paradox continues to thwart us. While we live in a country obsessed with health and spend larger and larger amounts on “healthy” foods, exercise equipment, fitness clubs, and etc., as a society more of us are getting fat and those of us who were fat are getting fatter. The Western Diet is the one diet that consistently causes health issues and our approaches to address it have gone no where. One of the best / worse examples: for children born after 2000, over 1/3 will have Type 2 Diabetes, which could be avoided with modest changes in lifestyle and diet.

Pollan offered some food wisdom that was shared with him from readers.

“The whiter the bread, the sooner you will be dead”

“Eat foods that will eventually rot”

‘If you are not hungry enough to eat an apple, don’t eat”

The best question of the night and the least expected point to ponder came at the end, with a short discussion on the importance of health soil for healthy foods and the nutrients that good soil infuses into foods. Many of the trends of modern agriculture are taking the health out of the soil, not adding to it.

It was a fun evening and it was refreshing for me to think about eating better instead of just thinking about eating.

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

New at White Castle: Veggie Slider and Desserts on Sticks. Verdict: Does Not Suck

Posted by CMH Gourmand on January 7, 2015

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There are a few things I am a sucker for: loose change lying in a busy street, a smart dame and new items at White Castle. You may recall my previous investigation involving the White Castle Belgian Waffle Chicken Sandwich. This time my investigatory reporting was hindered by the lack of my trusty assistant. CMH Tobias was unable to eat pending surgery so I had to have Mrs. Gourmand step in to aid my culinary journalism. However, she was hindered by her own condition (knocked up by this writer) so that her olfactics which are heightened off the charts normally are further expanded by her pregnancy hormones. My own drive to investigate was augmented by a strong desire to eat something other than pizza (the defacto food de jour at Chateau Gourmand since November due to the odd food obsessions and peculiarities that come with knockupedness). ((Oddly, with some reflection, I have observed that I have eaten like a pregnant person since at least 2010)).

I stalked the White Castle Veggie Slider since I first read about it “coming soon” six months ago. While starting my journey through the drive thru lane I noticed a sign for dessert on a stick! How could I not get a few of those as well.

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I picked up my order and drove home with an excitement to begin my investigation. My first reaction, after reaching into my sack of research, was a snicker when I looked at the size of the packaging of the desserts. I guess I should have expected something pint-sized from White Castle but I was a little shocked by my first impression on the size of my subject matter (see below).

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I ordered Gooey Butter Cake and Fudge Dipped Brownie desserts on sticks. While the packages looked small, the prize inside was even more petite. This caused me to laugh a bit more as I walked the treat to Mrs. Gourmand to sample with me. Exceeding both of our expectations these pint-sized desserts were really good. Both had a dense cheesecake style quality and plenty of flavor. For two good bites each, both were well worth the 99 cent price.

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Excited by being two for two so far in the testing process I proceeded to the Veggie Burger to which Mrs. Gourmand made it clear that her services were no longer available. The first thing I noticed was the thickness of the patty. The veggie burger is just over 2 times wider than the standard White Castle slider. My next observation – the burger looks like a burger. It is round. It is the color of a typical burger. While I don’t know the pedigree of the innards, it tastes similar to a Morningstar or other higher grade veggie burger. I also liked the distinct packaging that comes with the product. I’ve sampled many a fast food veggie burger (my favorite hails from the Australian version of Burger King – Hungry Jacks) and this one is a keeper. Although I would suggest ordering this with cheese and seeing if a pickle can be placed on top for extra flavor. The only downside to this (which I noticed on a previous trip) is that the buns on non slider tend to be dry or to have a corner that seems a bit crunchy or stale vs. the alluring steamed moistness of a slider.

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I have photos of some of my research below. First I compare the size of a veggie slider and a standard slider. You can also see the difference in color.

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Next take a look at the Veggie Slider box. White Castle does a great job with their packaging and branding. The example below is a fine example, nice graphics and color coding to set products apart.

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Posted in desserts, Food For Thought, Vegetarian Friendly | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Don’t Be a Dining Douche Bag

Posted by CMH Gourmand on December 19, 2014

I’m feeling extra hum buggy. So let’s discuss some of what inspires that. The fall and decline of civility in Western civilization as experienced at public eateries. Consider this a complimentary addendum to my Restaurant Rants series of a while back. There is a certain type of person that drains the life from the rest of us wherever they go. To better understand the slice of the pie these folks operate in outside of a restaurant I have some examples below.

There are examples those that plague us. You know who I am writing about, they:

take 17 or more items to the 12 items or less lane

take at least two parking spaces in a crowded lot

don’t flatten cardboard boxes before putting them in a public recycling dumpster / and or leave stuff outside the dumpster like mattresses or bags of trash

don’t toot or honk their horn, they lay on it long and hard and for no good reason

cluster in a crowded buffet line moving slow, lingering too long as if each item choice was a life or death decision

at a crowded party – they pick the area that needs to be the most efficient path of quick flow back and forth and plant themselves there – parked in front of the table of food, blocking access to drinks or cozy in physically blocking the egress from pre party to party central

They take a third donut before making sure everyone else got at least one.

Yes…. those people.

So what type of behaviors are causing my disdain when observed in restaurants? Well here we go.

Cell Phone Use:
Let’s treat cell phones in restaurants and public spaces like we to treat them in air travel – turn it off when we start the journey and not back on until the end.

OK, so you say that can’t work, then how about another option. Take the cell phone, turn the ringer off and place it where you can’t reach it easily or face down on the table and then engage in the company of your guest(s) or a book or enjoy the sound of silence in your mind.

If you get a call and you can not ignore it, take your phone and yourself and walk to the entrance or an area where your boring conversation is not going to disrupt my digestion.

One initiative I would like to see. Somewhere, there has to be is a warehouse with thousands of phone booths in storage, stacked on each other. It would be great to bring those back and place in restaurants so people could walk inside them to take calls. Let’s do that.

Vapor Smokers
Even if there is not a sign that says no e-cigarettes or vapors in the dining area, just don’t do it. When you use your device in a restaurant space you look like a douche.

Smoking
Don’t chain smoke by the entrance and don’t ditch your butts on the ground by the entrance, I don’t want that smell before or after my meal.

Tipping

We all think we know the rules. The first rule of tipping is to tip. The second rule is don’t overtip for average or less service and don’t undertip for exceptional service. Doing so throws the world into chaos.

Do you tip when you pick up a carry out order?

I say no, others say yes. I still say no, unless the restaurant employee went above and beyond by wrapping your food exquisitely or putting in an insane amount of extras like wet naps.

Do you tip at a buffet?
I say yes. But I’m still not sure how much. I usually do one dollar or two. One dollar for having someone bring me a drink and taking the plates away. Two dollars for refilling the drink with vigor and not making eye contact when I eat like a farm animal.

For tipping some say the baseline is 15% others (typically wives and girlfriends say 20% is the baseline). I say base the tip on service and that 20% is not a default but also weigh in some factors into the tip.

1) How busy is the place?

2) If the place was busy and the server made you feel it was not, then 20% and over for sure.

3) If my server struggled to met minimum expectations and only had my table – I might not tip 15%, if they had 10 tables and I could see one of the tables was full of dining douches then I’m going to tip on the high-end.

Dining douches don’t tip well under any circumstance. That is a fact.

Start with 15% – if service exceeds the baseline – then 20% or more. Those are just suggestions. But tip and tip with some thought that the person serving you will probably appreciate you tipping them more than 5%.

Kids in Restaurants

Kids in restaurants is not an issue. The issue is how their parents fail to feel that the rest of the restaurant guests and employees should have to endure their inability to parent effectively….or ever. Restaurants do not serve as baby sitting facilities or places where kids should run back and forth screaming and shouting and basically being amuck. If your can’t control your kids and yourself don’t leave your home.

If you want some more tips on dining with kids, check with Mrs. Breakfast (with Nick)

Noise
When you are in a public place use your inside voice. Or more importantly, use the voice I would use inside a public space which would be a 4 on scale of 10.

You have been there – the people next to you are loud or worse they are loud and obnoxious or even worse they are loud, obnoxious and drunk and no where close to asking for their check. I really hate people like that and I find this type of behavior more often at more places. As the esteemed Nick Offerman said “Its better to have 8 people with one beer each, than to have one dude with eight beers.” Oh drunk people. Typically annoying sober people are really annoying drink people and they thrive on projecting that annoying behavior to as many people as possible. If you want to annoy people with being loud and obnoxious go to an OSU game.

What can you do? You can ask them to be quiet which is awkward and rarely effective or you can ask management to ask them to shut up or you can ask your server to get you another table – if they have space – they will do it. I’ve done in more than a couple of times. You paid for a meal with also included a side of ambiance so don’t be afraid to get your moneys worth. You paid for a meal not to endure a pack of assholes.

Special Orders….don’t upset us?

We seem to have so many people with food issues these days. Some are legit, some are “self-created.” People have gluten issues, special diets, vegans, vegetarians, etc. I’m all for asking for adjustments to a menu – hold the onions, substitute fries for a salad, etc. Most businesses can and are happy to make adjustments if needed. But asking and expecting are two different things. I can’t count the times I’ve overheard people demanding what seem like multiple and ludicrous adjustments to their entire order. It goes beyond the level of Meg Ryan’s character in When Harry Met Sally. All I can say is if these people get their food spit into, they had it coming. If you are going to a place to eat and feel you need to ask for a modification to each item you order, then you made a bad choice – so politely explain that with your server and leave.

The Customer is not always right

Complaining:
Having worked in the service industry I can say, the customer is not always right. Often if they are almost right or wrong but asking nicely, you give them a recourse to their real or perceived wrong. However sometimes customers are both wrong and rude and that should not be rewarded no matter what the threat is. Assholery should never be rewarded.

If you have an issue with a meal or food you were served your first course of action is not to get on your phone to write a negative review. Address it with the manager of the place and if they don’t address the issue or don’t care at all that you had a bad experience, then go online and go to town.
And if you have a legitimate concern, do know that a good business wants to know if they missed the mark with you and they will want to fix it for you and know it is something they need to address to provide good service for all of their customers. Identifying an issue to be resolved is proactive. Creating and issue online about something that was an easy fix is reactive and douchebaggishness.

Time Management
You paid for a meal not rent at the table. Take your time to enjoy your meal. Enjoy the company of your friends and family. However, if it is a busy night and other people are waiting over an hour for a table and you can see the place is packed and bordering on anarchy….enjoy your stay but don’t linger. When you are done….leave, don’t hog your table chatting away and asking for multiple water refills. Have your credit card ready for your bill and expedite your ass out the door.

Herd Behavior
The larger the group, the more issues they create and compound for the restaurant and by default the rest of us that could get seats. The large groups typically have no plan for sharing payment and most of the members underrate what they ate and drank and then the table comes up short for the communal bill and we all end up waiting longer for the tables and the server gets a crappy tip because people can’t do math or fail to recognize the rule of herd eating – it is going to be 40% less fun and should cost you 30% more than what the menu says and what you expected because at least one of the members of your pack is a low down, dirty, cheap skate. The weakest link in the chain always skimps on their share, makes the meal longer and less fun and makes group activities as dreaded as group assignments in graduate school.

It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure in bad behavior

Your server is a person not a plaything. Don’t make them endure your bad jokes, poor or worse wardrobe choices – dirty tank tops with shorts that are too tight, sexist jokes or act as a babysitter for your kids while you linger at the bar. Some servers and bartenders are bad. Recently I have started to feel that the bad ones are made worse and the good ones are made average by the soul sucking behavior of dining douche bags. So the moral of this story. Don’t be a dining douche.

Posted in Food For Thought | 4 Comments »

Green Bean Delivery to the Rescue

Posted by CMH Gourmand on August 18, 2014

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* Update and special: Hey Readers, you can use this code: 15CMHGml for $15 off your first Green B.E.A.N. order if you are a new customer. This deal expires August 27th 2014. *

As you have been reading Mrs. Gourmand and I have been living on fast food, pie and Pasta with Jam Sauce. Having become a bit hazy on what a vegetable might be, I felt it was time for an intervention. Going back into the CMH Gourmand Wayback machine, my memory was prompted by -> this <- post on Green B.E.A.N. delivery from back in 2011.

The timing was good because I was contacted shortly thereafter by Green Bean to see if I wanted to take them for a test drive again (good seremdipity there). Green Bean is as easy to use as ever, maybe even easier. A few things that I noticed this time around was that they stay very active with their blog with plenty of recipe ideas for the in season produce coming your way. The selection process is still quick as a few clicks. You get to pick the frequency of your deliveries. You can start with the default of weekly or you can pick and choose what weeks produce will come to your door. Speaking of which you can leave very specific instructions for where to leave the bin when dropped off and control when and how you are reminded about delivery dates, specials, etc. Your order starts with a weekly update of what is currently in the core delivery and then you can adjust your order from there by increasing or decreasing each item. You can also select from a broad range of other local, fresh and/or organic ingredients to add to your order including staples like milk, cheese, snacks and etc.

Mrs. Gourmand and I opted for the standard bin with no adjustments because we wanted lots of green items and because we also wanted to challenge of cooking some items that were not on our regular rotation at the grocery store.

So this is what we received in our order:

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If you can’t see all that is in there, this is what we received:
4 apples
3 peaches
grapes
mixed tomatoes
kale
cucumber
leeks
raspberries

This quickly translated into several quick and easy salads with little to no effort on our part. It was also helpful because Mrs. Gourmand was still using a walker when this was delivered. This made me think that this could be a great gift for someone you know that has a busy schedule or has broken a leg or fallen ill and can use a little fresh (and easy) food in their life. So let Green B.E.A.N. help you think outside of the box – both their delivery box and you your rut of items you get at the store to eat healthy and support local food businesses.

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

Random Reflections on My Return to Fast Food

Posted by CMH Gourmand on July 27, 2014

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I have a dark secret. I spent the last month eating a lot of fast food, almost daily. This confession could easily get me kicked out of the Foodie Hipster Club. I’m neither proud nor forsaken of my choices. I’ve always been an equal opportunity eater but I’ve rarely steered myself to the drive in window. Over the last decade I’ve probably averaged 1-2 trips to Wendy’s a month or an occasional White Castle run.

But Mrs. Gourmand and I bought a new house in June and we had a month to get a lot of work completed on it until we moved in. We both averaged 8-12 hours a day working on the house – it was hot, sweaty and relentless work. We looked bad and at least one of us smelled bad. The new house was not ready for cooking and at the old house we were avoiding buying anything from the store we would have to move. So the perfect storm was created to dive into the world of the drive thru window. It was ironic because Mrs. Gourmand and I had just returned from Italy where we were living the Slow Food life.

These are my observations:

Taco Bell

Mrs. Gourmand loves Taco Bell. There is also a food writer in town whose love of Taco Bell is notorious but she fears that it would become public knowledge and then people would judge her. I don’t judge her and I hope, if you ever find out, that you will not either. I took the opportunity to explore the menu – trying a few different items on each different trip but I could not find anything that would make me want to make an intentional trip back. Nothing about Taco Bell tastes like it is real. But I have some mental barriers that keep me from connecting with Taco Bell. I live within a mile of a pretty good Taco Truck. More importantly I have never forgiven Taco Bell for contributing to the demise of Zantigo in Ohio. I miss Zantigo. I miss it a lot. And I am one to hold a grudge.

Burger King

I had not been to Burger King in ages, and I had not had a Whopper in an ever longer period of time. The Whopper is pretty darn good. All hail to the king. I think it is a matter of the whole being much, much better than the sum of the parts. If you have not had a Whopper – there is something about how the large gobs of ketchup and mayo mix together with the other topping that creates an explosion of flavor. And I really like the Burger King Bun it may be the best in the mass produced burger business. Another discovery was a frozen orange drink they have for the summer. Mrs. Gourmand, thinks if tastes like Bayer baby aspirin (in a good way), I can’t think anything thing else that I want to drink when it is over 85 degrees.

Wendy’s

Wendy’s has been my go to for this century. When I’m running late their dollar menu, especially when the double stack was a buck, was my savior. I can’t think of another fast food place that consistently tastes as fresh as Wendys. But now that I have spread my fast food wings for a brief while, I think Wendy’s needs a new bun, and they should source them from Burger King.

McDonald’s

We didn’t make any trips to McDonald’s. McDonald’s sucks.

We are mostly moved in now. Mrs. Gourmand christened the new place by falling down the stairs and fractured her ankle and tibia and getting a load of hardware to put it back in to place. I’m still working on the house but our house is full of food brought in by a horde of relatives and friends – so instead of fast food we are living off of free home-cooked fare and we are both happy to be eating real food again.

Posted in culinary misadventure, Food For Thought | 9 Comments »

When in Rome: The Art of Eating, Drinking and Traveling Abroad

Posted by CMH Gourmand on June 12, 2014

I will modify the classic saying: When in Rome, eat as the Romans eat. While only in Rome long enough for lunch between connecting from plane to train, I was in Italy for an extended period of time. It was the first time in four years that I have the time and opportunity to travel the way I prefer: longer than a three-day weekend and with an opportunity to spend several days in one place to really drill down into a town to a point that I feel I know it well and feel like a local. The place I chose to cocoon was Monterosso al Mare in the Cinque Terre. I was in Monterosso about ten years ago as a detour during a Contiki Tour (for all of 6 hours). I told myself that if I came back to Italy, this would be exactly where I would spend my time. It as great. But let me back track to the big picture.

No matter where you travel, you can enhance your trip by doing a small amount of research to figure out what the locals eat and what foods are unique or special to the area. Just about every place has a style of food it excels in or some regional fruit or vegetable you won’t see on your table at home. Food defines a place and a culture. From the Aborigines of Australia to the neighborhoods of Chicago, every tribe has something that is unique that is worth trying and remembering as part of your experience. Figuring out these signature foods and seeking them out can really make a holiday more fun and enjoyable and more importantly connect you to the people and place you have invested your time and your money to explore. I’ve eaten bush tucker in Australia (ants, roots and more), Kava in Fiji, Bull Balls in Honduras, Poutine in Montreal, 13 Italian Beer Sandwiches in one day in Chicago, etc. etc.

If there is not a local food then there is certainly a local place – a diner, favored restaurant or tavern where the locals go and the tourists don’t. You can search Yelp and/or Trip Advisor or Rick Steves and/or Frommer’s to find these places but it is critical you to validate those suggestions with some local interaction. Ask someone, anyone when you arrive – a store clerk, cab driver, anyone you interact with about where the locals eat and you are bound to find a great spot that no one has written about that is as good or better than any place that is on the radar of everyone else.

I’ll use my honeymoon in Italy as an example.

A quick google search, supplemented my own knowledge and notes I made from the various travel guides I browsed before departure. I had be a good idea of what to look for that was unique with a minimal investment of time. I found overviews from Rick Steves, The New York Times, and Walks of Italy to name a few.

Italy, in particular, is a food lovers dream. While Italians might not be overly concerned with their trains running on time, they certainly take their foods very, very seriously. The first example of that is DOC. In a nutshell, for a food to use the DOC label they must be able to show that it was produced in a defined region, using specific methods while maintaining a high standard of quality. The Italians also have an upgrade of that listed as DOCG. The European Union uses Protected Designation of Origin in a similar manner. As a general rule, if you see this notation, you can count on a high level of quality. The DOC applies to (the items I ate in great quantity) wines, cheeses, meats and even pizza. Yes – in Italy, the best pizzerias take pride in displaying their DOC certificate and using DOC ingredients.

Speaking of Italy and food, gelato was a priority for me and this in particular is a food you need to do some research in advance to enhance your experience. First know the rules. It is OK to ask to taste flavors as long as you don’t taste too many and it is not too busy. Italy is very civilized in how it approaches ordering gelato. You pay for your treat first and then you take a ticket to have the order filled. How many times have your ordered ice cream only to find that you are balancing your wallet and other things while trying not to drop your cone. Know what you want. When you walk in to a good gelato shop it will be busy and filled with people who pop into one every day buzzing around like a beehive, so when to wander through the door like a deer in the headlights you need to know what you are doing. Don’t freeze at showtime – know if you want a cup or cone, and if you want 2, 3, 4 or 5 scoops and don’t be afraid to point if you can’t pronounce the flavor that looks good to you. Look for this phrase by the name of the shop – gelato artiginale. The Translated term is artisanal gelato – which means small batch, all natural ingredients and made fresh daily. Also keep an eye out of metal storage containers and serving scoops, plastic does not fly for holding or delivering the good stuff. Yet another term to look for is produzione propria which means made on premises.

There were definitely foods that I was on the look out for because I knew they would be unique to the regions I was in or at the very least the best of the best in the areas that excel at producing and extol the merits of their labors. Number one on the list – mozzarella di bufala or Buffalo Mozzarella. You can find this in the states – but it is typically really expensive, not overly fresh and rarely exceptional. In Italy, it is easy to find, almost always reasonably priced and exceptionally good. Having eaten enough pizza in Italy to the point that I opted not to order any in our final three days, I have decided the only thing that really justifies the intensity in which people rave about “real” Italian pizza is buffalo mozzarella – that shit is good and it makes the pizza.

Other foods I sought out due to my pre-trip research: Mortadella ham, speck, pesto and any cheese I could lay my hands on.

I think that gives you an idea of some of what a small investment in time can give you in return.

Something else that is work researching is making sure you know how to say a few basic food and transactional related phrases in the language of the country you are visiting. Hello, Goodbye, Please, Thank You, Excuse Me, How Much, and Check Please (otherwise it may never come). Those few phrases will grease the wheels of international exchange and reduce your likelihood of being perceived as an asshole.


I’m going to list our a few of our favorite places in Italy

Rome: Lunch near Termini Station
Da Tudini
Via Cavour
This place was chosen at random after looking at the menu and seeing there were plenty of seats. We had one of the best pizzas on our trip, a good pasta dish and one of the best salads as well. Our service was decent, if not a bit befuddled and confused with our table being traded off by 6 or more employees.

Naples
L’Antica Pizzeria – Da Michele
Via Cesare Sersale 1
This was a great old school pizza place. It looked exactly like I would have wanted a pizza parlor to look. Our pizza was good but we made an ordering error. We did not know this was the place mentioned in Eat, Pray, Love until we finished our meal. It was then that we saw the quote from the book on the wall which said that the pizza with double buffalo mozzarella was the way to go. That is what we wished we would had ordered.

Casa Infante
Via Toledo 258, Piazza degli Artisti 4-5, Via Chiaia 189, Piazza Vanvitelli/Via Scarlatti 84
Really good gelato in the quintessential gelateria.

Pizzeria Attanasio
Via dei Tribunali 379
Really good deep fried things and good pizza. The place was not crowded, as were our other two choices, but they did an incredible amount of carry out business while we were there which is a good sign that the locals liked that place.

We stayed in Naples for two days, that was more than enough time. Naples is the armpit of Italy, avoid staying there if you can. Our hotel there was excellent which helped a lot.

Monterosso al Mare

Where to stay
Albergo Marina Via Buranco 40
Owned by a great couple who provide breakfast and lunch everyday as well as plenty of beach gear including a kayak.

Where to eat
Da Eraldo
Piazza Matteotti
The owners of Albergo Marina (named after the wife) also have a tiny cafe just down the street named after the husband. The Antipasta for two is an artisinal delight and was my best meal in Italy. Read the Trip Advisor review for good photos and pics (just ignore the June 11th review, that woman is clearly an idiot).

Enoteca da Eliseo
3 Piazza Matteotti
I’ll defer to the Trip Advisor review for pics and details. Mrs Gourmand and I visited five nights in a row and only missed a sixth because they were closed. The local wine selections were deep, the grappa list was numbered in pages and the knowledge of the owners on everything in the shop was extensive. This was also where we discovered the concept of the bar snack (cicheti), which is ubiquitous in this region of Italy. Here the snacks were three small glass dishes with peanuts, capers and olives.

Pizzeria La Smorfia
Via Vittorio Emanuele, 73
I loved this place. They have 78 pizza combinations to choose from. I’m deferring to Trip Advisor again.

Our greatest discovery in Italy you ask? Lemon Fanta. We consumed this at almost the same rate and volume as we consumed wine (everyday, as often as possible). What makes this Fanta better than Fanta stateside. The sugar was real and there is 12% real lemon juice in each can or bottle. This was addictively good.


Now I’ll add some bonus content with a list of rambling general suggestions for traveling

    Yes you can travel with just one bag. I used a bag that converts to a backpack. Mrs. Gourmand received the same pack for Christmas and she used it on this trip with great success!
    Make copies of your passport, credit cards and all of your tickets to keep in your bag in case you lose your primary items
    Make a visit to a used book store to take some reading material you can leave behind when you finish each book
    Look at every travel guide you can find at / from the library before you buy one. I prefer Rick Steves for Europe and Frommers for elsewhere
    Sometimes I just pack a guide from the library and hope I don’t lose it
    Post It Tape flags are really handy, take some
    Stay at a bed and breakfast when you can, it is a great way to connect with people
    Try to travel off-peak (Mondays to Wednesdays) for better airfare and fewer crowded flights
    If you are like me and you have enough reusable shopping bags for a lifetime take a couple with you in your bag. They come in handy for lots of things: dirty laundry, an extra bag, extra padding if you need to wrap something to bring home or a unique gift (or trade) for someone you meet on your trip.
    Always take more socks and pens than you think you will need
    The best all around travel footwear in a pair of Merrill (Saugatuck Fisherman Sandal) or Teva closed toe sandals – light weight and easy to slip on and off – they are the perfect second pair of shoes, great for hiking or the beach
    Take a couple extra 1 quart ziplock bags. They come in handy for things like packing a lunch for the day (that you purloin from the breakfast bar) or covering dirty shoes before you pack them for the day
    When someone from the USA asks you where you are from, say Columbus. When someone from another country asks you where you are from say Ohio

Posted in culinary knowledge, Food For Thought | 2 Comments »

The Official Food of Columbus?

Posted by CMH Gourmand on May 24, 2014

The Dispatch is running a poll, until Wednesday May 28th, for people to vote on what should be the official food of Columbus.

After some vetting, five candidates were selected:

Columbus Style Pizza

Schmidts Cream Puff

The White Castle Slider

Schmidts Bahama Mama

Buckeyes (the candy for those of you not from Ohio).

I would cut that list down to three. If something is going to be the official food of our fair city then it should be iconic. The candidate should be unique to our city….or ubiquituous within 270. The connection to our borders and our people should be strongly defined and documented. Using that criteria (mine) then we eliminate both the Schmidt’s Cream Puff and Buckeyes. Cream Puff’s are far from unique to Schmidt’s or our region so that is an immediate write off. Just being good does not make it our official food.

As for http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/food/2014/05/21/official-food-poll.html, the origins of this tasty treat start in the 20th century but no sources connect the candy with Columbus. Also – the desire of many to somehow connect this peanut butter and chocolate delight to our local football cult is too distasteful to consider adding fuel to that fire.

And then, there were three.

Let us consider the White Castle Slider. While not created in our city, it has been perfected and refined here (Columbus has been the company corporate headquarters since 1934). That gives the burger some credibility. If White Castle had originated here instead of Kansas, then I would have supported the slider as the ONLY choice….but alas, the slider, slides out of the running.

The Bahama Mama, a slightly spicy pork and beef sausage has been around since at least 1968. It’s past includes a lawsuit against Nassau Nellie for trying to imitate the unique mix of meats, spices and preservatives that make a sausage a Bahama Mama. Schmidt’s won that lawsuit. But – ultimately, it is a still a common sausage with a bit of customization and good marketing.

My vote, goes to Columbus style pizza. For origins, we can go back to about 1953 when the first pizzeria’s opened in the city. Examples of the style include Donato’s, Massey’s, Rubinos and more. And in my book, if you choose to pick a food to be an icon for a city then that food should generate passion. Columbus style pizza does that, people either love it or hate it. So I say we vote for Columbus style pizza.

Thinking long and hard, I could only come up with one other candidate, The Frosty. The signature dairy based treat (it is not ice cream) has been the mainstay of Wendy’s since day one in 1969. As a dairy product – it does have a unique recipe and chemical composition that is not easily imitated outside the walls of Columbus’ premiere fast food chain. The only problem is, it is not exceptionally good, just exceptionally easy to find.

So what food deserves to win?

If you want to cast your vote, the link is -> HERE.

It is too late for a write in vote for another food.

We will see who wins the Dispatch Poll on after May 28th, but because it is in print does not mean it is right for our city or right for you. But being the Dispatch, we can assume that it will lean to the right. I do hope Columbus Style Pizza wins the votes of the people of Columbus.

I’m saying Columbus Style Pizza is the best food, of all we serve in our city, but I think it does serve as the best Icon, let me elaborate why. Back to CMH Style pizza and my thought process. And iconic food should be ubiquitous to the place. There is more than one place in NYC to get a New York style hot dog, New York style pizza, a reuben ora New York style bagel. The same is the case with the Chicago style dog or beef or deep dish pizza – ubiquitous. Philly Cheesesteak – Ubiquitous. Columbus style Pizza….ubiquitous (and in its best form Iaconos, really very good). Not taking anything away from Buckeyes, Bahama Mama’s and cream puffs, you just can’t find them in multiple places from multiple people. You can’t line drive a softball in our city and avoid a Columbus style pizza, so like it our, not, I think it is something to stamp some civic pride on.

(My name is Jim Ellison and I approve this message).

Posted in Food For Thought | 1 Comment »

Belgian Waffle Chicken Sandwich at White Castle & and An Editorial

Posted by CMH Gourmand on April 28, 2014

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First, old school advertising still works. At present, I live near a White Castle which I drive by 2 – 6 times per day depending on where my projects take me. Over the last week I perpetually passed by a sign for the new White Castle Chicken and Waffle sandwich. I did not want the sandwich. I needed the sandwich. How could I resist trying a fast food interpretation of an American classic, Chicken and Waffles.

So, I made my move, picked one up and brought it home to evaluate and rate with my able assistant CMH Tobias. My first thought was that the waffle was good. I had expected a Leggo my Eggo style waffle but the sandwich features a real deal, Belgian style waffle. It was neither too soft nor too hard. It fell in to the Goldilocks zone of just right. (A bit of post consumption research indicated the waffles originate from a company in Belgium which had been in the business since 1932). The gravy and bacon bits were an afterthought on my sandwich but complemented the flavor profiles well. Their true purpose is to serve as a brick and mortar to hold the sandwich together. The chicken patty was lightly breaded and kind of meh but still palatable. All together it was an acceptable fast food sandwich. I would not rush to get it again but I don’t regret my choice. I respect the effort made to try something different and off the beaten path. The only negative I can hone in on is the price. It was not worth $2.69. I’d say $1.99 might be fair market value.

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I offered CMH Tobias an opportunity to try the sandwich. His approach was different from mine. He ate the waffles first and the chicken second. I can’t say he wolfed it down as quickly as other items, but from our long-standing relationship and shared understanding, I believe he would rate the sandwich a B. (For future reference Tobias’s hierarchy of food starts at ice cream, then cheese, rawhides, almonds, beef, squirrel meat, other meat by products and then dog food). Since Toby refuses to participate in the labor economy he had no opinion on the price of the sandwich.

And now the editorial. White Castle gets a lot of snarky comments and snickers from a significant segment of society. I don’t think it is deserved. I’ve always had a soft spot for this underdog in the fast food wars. For the most part, the company has quietly gone about its business under the shadow of the Wendy’s, Burger King and the like. However, White Castle has done a lot of earn my respect. I’ll highlight a few of the items of note.

The company started in 1921 in Wichita, Kansas. It moved its corporate headquarters to Columbus in 1934 and has remained here as a family owned business for 70 years. That’s pretty local in my book.

White Castle was among the first employers to hire women and minorities. It was the first fast food restaurant as we know it. It has countless patents and food service inventions credited to the company. It has no franchises, each location is company owned. White Castle inspired a movie. So next time someone snickers at a slyder let them know you are proud that a local company has continued to stay in Columbus and stay true to its origins.

Posted in Columbus, culinary knowledge, Food For Thought, sandwiches | 2 Comments »

The Ice Man Cometh: Dan Kraus – That Food Truck

Posted by CMH Gourmand on February 14, 2014

Some of you have heard of That Food Truck. The name might not be memorable but the owner is. I met Dan when he first started building the truck in 2012. I’ve watched him finish out the truck, saw his first day serving to the public and was happy to see him featured on Nightline and noted as a Tastemaker in Crave Magazine back in 2013. Dan is the real deal. His guiding passion is the art and craft of cooking. He butchers his own pigs, smokes his own meat and never considers cutting a corner that would compromise his “order up”.

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For the last several months, Dan has been hanging his hat at Seventh Son Brewing Friday nights and Saturday Noon to 5 pm. Dan loads up his smoker with wood on Friday and keeps smoking through Saturday afternoon. Out of those hallowed smoker doors come brisket, chicken, pork and occasionally lamb. Oh, the lamb. The food is amazing. But the story behind the meal is even more intriguing.

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You may have noticed it has been very cold all winter. That has not hindered Dan. Schools and businesses may close. Seventh Son was even hit by a truck – but Dan has continued to press on. Rain or shine, cold or colder, Dan monitors his smoker all night and throughout the morning. He checks on his meat every 45 minutes to one hour. You may be scratching your head at this point so let me elaborate. Dan takes cat naps in his truck all night, getting up to check his temperatures every hour. If he loses his fire or his temperatures go under his target mark, he will need to cook an additional four hours to make up for every 1 hour he loses. So how exactly does one comfortably sleep in a food truck? Well, one does not. See the photo below as Dan demonstrates how he spends his late night Fridays and early morning Saturdays.

Before
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After (Dan places himself on the counter, note it is shorter than he is)
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One night the interior temperature dropped below 20 and Dan could see ice on some of his inside equipment. Is he tucked under layers of blankets and buried in expensive Arctic explorer style parkas and snow pants? No way. Only one thing protects him from the elements – Carhartt. So next time you grab something to go from Dan or complain about the walk from your office to your car, think about the journey your sandwich made to get to your belly and throw an extra dollar in the tip jar. Dan earned it.

Posted in CLOSED, culinary misadventure, Food For Thought, FooderHero, Locally Sourced, Mobile Food, sandwiches | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Brewed Awakening

Posted by CMH Gourmand on October 7, 2013

So what have I been up to you might ask? Well, I moved back to a buzz cut, finally conceding that I have more head than hair now. I neglected to mention that I won a Vendy Award and last and very much not least have you heard about Columbus Brew Adventures.

Brewed awakenings

I have often immersed myself in a subject to learn more about it. I became fascinated with Australia so I got myself there six times for a total of 4 1/2 months, visited all the states and territories and make several lifelong friends in the process. Then I wanted to get a job at OCLC and improve my research skills for writing so I earned a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science….well, I did become a better researcher. And as you readers know, a few other things caught my attention: donuts, pizza, Food Trucks and such.

And now…..Beer and Business.

Partnering with (and learning a lot, every day) Bethia and Andy from Columbus Food Adventures we have been working on and since September 7th running beer tours. There have been countless meetings with brewers throughout the area. Even more e-mails and phone calls. There has been a good amount of time “product” testing as well. The brewing community is a great group of people – passionate about their craft and growing a craft beer culture in our city. I am honored to be able to work with these business owners and immersing myself into their culture. I am learning about more beer and myself every day.

Our downtown brewery tour has been very popular. We explore four breweries and even through I have done my research, I learn something new from each place we visit and each brewer we work with every time I guide a tour. We have also run a tour out to Licking County to visit Brews Cafe, Granville Brewing, Homestead Beer Company and Buckeye Lake Brewery. We made a run to Rockmill Brewery, Dancing Tree Distillery and Jackie O’s in Athens. As fun as that tour was, I was amazed that a couple drove in from Dayton to join us for a multiple hour tour and then drive back home. We are adding more tours this month to explore the breweries of Grandview and our local distilleries. Other ideas are fermenting as well. Pizza and Beer sound good? Maybe a progressive tour of a league of restaurants?

And of course, our tours include food to go with the beer. As you can guess, we take that part of the tour pretty seriously too. As for our beer tourists, each group has been fun to guide around. From craft beer neophytes, to home brewers and beer experts everyone has enjoyed the tours, tried beers they might not have tried before and even at places they might have visited on their own, taken something away they would not have without being on the tour. We learn something at each brewery be it history, how ingredients influence the brewing process, or sampling a beer flight that showcases twenty years of microbrewing in Columbus. In every case, I guests leave wanting to explore even more and go back to try these places again.

In the process I have learned to drive a 14 passenger van, initially felt like a freshman at Food Tour University, lost the company cell phone (which was one of the top 13 worst days of my life), and every day found myself nudged further out of my comfort zone. While learning I have found that there is so much more to learn, I guess that makes sense, beer has been around since the 5th century BC. I knew a good deal about beer before I walked down this road. Now that I jumped into the brewing culture of Columbus I find myself in the catbird seat observing something I believe is going to become a big part of the character of Columbus, a craft beer and distilling culture that will earn a lot respect in the industry. Columbus Brew Adventures is exactly that, an adventure. Care to join us on one?

Posted in beer, Behind the Counter, beverages, cocktails, Food For Thought, Gastronomic Stimulus | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »