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Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Palmers Beverage Center: Wine Wednesdays & 10 for 10 Tastings

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 4, 2017

Palmers Sign

Palmers Beverage Center has a long history in the Clintonville community. When wine first hit big in the Midwest during the 1970’s, Palmers was a go to spot for any wine enthusiast in or out of the area. Palmer’s still offers some hidden gems today. Before craft beer was cool, Palmer’s was a destination for beer too. Things have changed a lot over the decades. In the present the competition in Clintonville is intense with numerous new beer based businesses throughout the area. At one time, a few years ago, the community worried if Palmers would sustain, after the loss of an elder/senior family member in this small family operated business. So far it has, but with a lot of hard work and by my guess many pro bono hours from the family.

Today Palmers is still known for a few distinctive traits. Interesting phrases on their sign marquee, Pinky the Bulldog, the in-house customer relations specialist and a knack for often having a harder to find beer or wine. Here are a few other things you might know about Palmer’s. The original location was across the street at the present location of the Wild Flower Cafe (a Clintonville history factoid, the same building was also home to Clintonville Academy for two years). Palmer’s moved to the Oakland Park location because they needed more room to make bottle storage. Until the late 1970’s, bottle deposits existed in Ohio so customers could bring back bottles to get a deposit returned for each bottle. Palmer’s needed the basement storage space of their current space the manage the volume of recycling the area brought in. Today, that basement houses a pretty amazing private wine collection I could only dream about.

Pinky at Palmers

Palmer’s offers Wine Wednesdays every Wednesday from 6 to 8 pm. Four different wines are sampled, with some very tasty snacks. A few hard-core regulars have taken it upon themselves to supplement these snacks with more gourmet goodies. On the honor system, you drop a buck or two in the tip jar and all is well. Emily runs these tastings and she offers a good amount of knowledge with each wine she serves. I first met her when we were both wine judges for the (now defunct) Columbus Food & Wine Affair so I know she knows her wine basics.

Once per month, on the second Wednesday of the month, Wine Wednesday gets an upgrade (like Business to First Class) as host for a Columbus 10 for 10 Tasting. These are hosted by Landon Proctor, a very knowledgeable Vinophile. This is a safe place for all with an interest in wine because Landon does not quietly suffer wine snobs. The concept is simple, he offers ten samples of ten wines for ten bucks. He knows the ins and outs of each pour. He also sometimes brings a wine maker with him. Since this is Palmer’s, the same group of hard-core regulars often bring along some extra snacks to enjoy. These tastings run from 7 to 9 pm.

10 for 10 Tasting at Palmers

Food at Palmers Beverage Tastings

No matter which Wednesday you pick, you will have the opportunity to taste new wines in a comfortable atmosphere while you enjoy yourself and support a small business at the same time.

Palmer’s Beverage Center
Southwest Corner of Indianola and Oakland Park Ave.
(One block north of East North Broadway).

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The Brewery District is Booming!…….Again.

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 30, 2017

Daily Growler Brewery District

You may have missed it but the Brewery District is BOOMING again! If you were born after 1980 or if you were new to Columbus after 2001, it may be a real shocker, but this area south of Downtown and just west of German Village was the center for city nightlife for over a decade starting in the late 1980’s.

The Brewery District has become a big part of my life over the last several years as I lead tours throughout of the area and as a member of the Brewery District Trade Association, working to improve the area for residents and businesses alike. I have been happy to see a flood of new residents to the area with the help of locally focused real estate agents like HER Realtors. It has become my second favorite neighborhood, next to Clintonville (my pal Nick beat me to that post on my neck of the woods).

But let us begin with the first boom of the Brewery District. Louis (Ludwig) Hoster established City Brewery (near the current intersection of Liberty and Front) in 1836. Legend has it that when he passed through the city on a 4th of July, he was so smitten with Columbus, he was determined to come back to establish his roots. He certainly did, over the next seventy years, he and his descendants expanded the small brewery one of the largest brewing empires in the country as The Hoster Brewing Company. At its peak in the late 1890’s the brewery took up several city blocks and produced over 500,000 barrels of beer per year. Several other breweries fermented in the area during this same era including Schlee/Bavarian, Born and August Wagner Brewing. However, the Brewery District went bust long before prohibition. A combination of a growing Temperance Movement (started in Ohio) and the Anti-Saloon League (originating in Westerville) resulted in nearly two-thirds of Ohio’s 88 counties voted dry by 1908. Add in competition from growing national breweries (Budweiser and Pabst), a large labor strike and the anti-German sentiment brewing in 1914 due World War I (which suggested drinking beer was unpatriotic), most of the breweries went bust before 1918. This history is why the area is known as the Brewery District today, because it was the center of brewing in Central Ohio BEFORE prohibition. I say this because my company Columbus Brew Adventures leads tours of the Brewery District and we sometimes find people are confused by the lack of breweries in the area.

However, the second boom of the Brewery District was related to beer as well. In 1988, the first microbrewery in Columbus (and second in the state) Columbus Brewing Company started out in the Brewery District. In 1989, the Hoster name returned to the area with Hoster Brewing, a great brewery and restaurant located on High Street. In addition to two breweries, the district was considered the premiere bar hopping area of its era with Victory’s, Hi Beck, Gibbys, BW-3 (when we called it that instead of B-dubs…) and many others fueling the weekend escapades of the city’s young professionals and college kids looking for a break from campus dives. The rise of the Short North, Easton and a change in tides in what was hip, saw the Brewery District start to nose dive in the early 2000’s as people lost interest in the area. Hoster closed in 2001 and many other areas businesses followed suit.

CBC Restaurant 2017

In the last two years, the area has started to see a resurgence in interest driven by the addition of many new businesses willing to wait it out, with the philosophy of, “if we serve it (beer, food, fun) they will come”. The venerable CBC Restaurant (not now or ever a part of Columbus Brewing Company) has survived years of nearby construction and is thriving as it celebrates its 20th anniversary this summer. Hi-Beck, Victory’s and Tony’s are still around and they have been joined by several exciting destinations including Copious/Notes, Brick American Kitchen, Rockmill Tavern, and El Arepazo Latin Grill. These destination restaurants are bringing diners back to the area and in the process, these folks are discovering what else is going on in the area after their meals.

But wait, there is more! This third boom in the Brewery District is being fueled by beer as well. Most people don’t know it, but there is one active brewery in the Brewery District. Although it is not open to the public, Commonhouse Ales is housed in the former Columbus Brewing Company space behind CBC Restaurant. There are many cool things about Commonhouse Ales, but the most compelling is that $1 of every six pack sale of their Six Point One Four Good Ale, goes to the Columbus Foundation and then pours out as grants to different Columbus charities and non profits. The previously mentioned Rockmill Tavern (voted best new restaurant in 2016) is the taproom for Lancaster based Rockmill Brewery as well as a sour beer aging facility. The Daily Growler is now established as their third location in the Brewery District and Seventh Son Brewing is starting a new project, slated to be open by the end of the year called Antiques on High. This will serve as their aging facility for sour and barrel aged beers and will host a taproom to explore these new beers as well as craft beer from the Seventh Son Brewery. More new businesses are on the way as well. It is exciting to see the resurgence of the Brewery District.

Food at El Arepazo

Arepazo Bandeja Paisa Platter

I’d like to go into a bit more detail on one of the spots leading the resurgence in the area, El Arepazo Latin Grill. Looking at the history of the area, immigrants had a huge part in growing the area in the first Brewery District Boom. Carlos and Carolina Gutierrez have maintained that tradition, they have worked hard to make their third location a destination for the area. Years ago, Carlos and his family were encouraged by area residents to open a restaurant when they served their Venezuelan delicacies to rave reviews at the Festival Latino year after year. Carolina, brought her Columbian family favorites to the menu as they were establishing the first Arepazo in Pearl Alley over a decade ago. They knew they were taking a risk when they launched the Brewery District location. They occupied a space that used to be one of the busiest BW-3’s in the country during its heyday. Then another restaurant took over and struggled. As they were getting ready to launch a few neighboring businesses went belly up but they decided to persist anyway, knowing the first year or more might not be very profitable. But they were determined to make a difference and knew the space had a lot of potential for them to showcase menu items they did not have the space to do at their other restaurants. They added in a wine room, host a weekly salsa night and more to add flavor to the space. Because I am such a fan, I am offering a prize for one of you that reads this post. Comment with either your favorite Brewery District memory or a dish you would like to try at Arepazo by midnight June 10th and one commenter will be chosen at random to win a $25 gift card to Arepazo. Good luck and I’ll see you in the Brewery District.

Tres Leches Cake at Arepazo Brewery District

Tres Leches Cake at El Arepazo


Disclosure: this giveaway is a partnership with Nakturnal. Opinions, content and photos are my own.

A winner was selected on June 10th and the contest is closed. Thanks for reading and an extra thank you to those that commented.

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Eating Lunch at Baba’s Kitchen

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 21, 2017

Even though I am late to the show, I’m happy to announce that Baba’s Kitchen is open. Please note it has been open since November of 2016. The eatery had what some would call a soft opening in November, I would call it a stealth opening. Because breakfast is not my bag (luckily you have Breakfast with Nick for his a.m. perspective on Baba’s) I have just been going for lunch since January.

I have a LONG history with the owners Dan and Caroline (see the links below for a few chapters of that relationship).

(Dan in his food truck)

(Dan in his food trailer)

I have delayed writing about the place until I felt there would not be anything new to add to the story. However, I have come to appreciate that Baba’s will always be a work in progress which is how Dan approaches his craft. There is always something new or different to try, always something that can be perfected more and Dan and Caroline work hard to respond to the needs of their regular customers so the result is constant evolution. During the short period of time since they opened I have seen the hours change, the table set up (changed from one large communal table being replaced by several smartly house crafted tables for two). Elements that have not changed since opening day: a passion for fresh food and ingredients, a nod to their grandparents in some classic baked good recipes and some killer smoked meats.

It has been a long time coming. I have checked in with Dan constantly as he and Caroline put sweat, tears and in Dan’s case, blood (several times I am sure), building out this dream over at least two years. The original building was lost at the last minute, funding fell through, construction needed to be deconstructed then reconstructed and much more. The outcome is a place that really reflects the character and spirit of the couple.

The menu is simple: a few breakfast times, a handful of lunch items and often a daily special. There are typically three to five types of baked goods available to supplement your meal or to enjoy later. The baked goods move pretty quickly but if anything is left at the end of one day, it is offered at 1/2 price the next day. If you see any, grab them, they are well worth the discounted price.

Although Dan is a meat focused fella, the kind that likes to butcher and parcel all of the meat he uses himself, there is always a vegetarian / vegan offering available reflecting the dietary direction of many of his SoHud / Old North Columbus neighbors. These dishes are good on their own, but as a bonus, any of them can be “upgraded” by piling meat on top – even the soups.

The house made bread is a fusion of a muffin and bun works well in breakfast sandwiches. It is the perfect consistency for a grilled cheese and makes a fine a burger bun. A frequent lunch special is three smoked ribs with some of the best French fries you will find in town. While the menu and the space is small, there is a much to enjoy. I encourage you to drop in to enjoy good food made by great people.

Due to all of the changes made to lanes on Summit, parking can seem a little confusing to people unfamiliar with the area, but there is a good amount of street parking nearby. You can also park in the lot just north of the restaurant – just look for the shell of That Food Truck and more days than not the Baba’s Porch Trailer.

Baba's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Burger King on 5th: Best Fast Food Twitter Account in Ohio?

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 20, 2017

In a world overloaded with social media and in particular generic, mundane and uninspired corporate tweets managed by disconnected third parties churning out content from soulless cubicles, there is a refreshing ray of sublime sunshine, Burger King on 5th. If you are a twitter user, follow @BK5th. If you are not click on the link below and start reading.

Burger King on 5th

I am displaying a few choice tweets below.

If you’re looking for a great place to park and “make out”, the back of our lot is perfect. Buy something first though.

reviewing security footage for the past month; a rusty chevy cavalier parks in back of our lot for 30min between 2-5 am every night. Creepy.

Apparently @SUBWAY chicken is only 50% chicken. Ours is probably 100% but most importantly comes in french fry format, as God intended.

If you’re getting hammered in Columbus and it’s too late to go to @LateNightSlice just drink for a couple more hours then it’s #BKBreakfast

I wondered if this content was legitimate, and hoped it was not some type of fake account. In the spirit of investigative journalism I visited the Burger King on 5th to dig deeper into the story by showing them this tweet I received:

Show this tweet to the employee at the register and they’ll get you a special offer…if they’re in a good mood.

The response to my query was unenthusiastic. If you recall the show Different Strokes, then the phrase “what you talkin’ about Willis” would most equate the look I received back. So we may never know, is this the real deal from a cutting edge local fast food franchisee or the work of some prankster? In an age of #Fakenews or #QuestionableTweets who knows?

If this has whetted your appetite for questionable food related social media, you may be pleased to know there is more.

Nihilist Arbys
(279,000 followers vs. 60+ for BK on 5th)

“Tweet it your way at Burger King!”

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Seventh Son: Their Sign of the Times?

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 26, 2017

Commuters on Fourth Street often miss out on much of the scenery along the way as they dodge traffic on their way home or while looking for some place to park in the area. The billboard above appeared in November of 2016 and at that time many of us were trying not to pay attention to political advertising so we gazed right through the sign without reading it. You may have done the same yourself but look closer…….

That is no politician vying for your vote, is Jim, the dad of Seventh Son’s brewer Colin Vent and he does have an important message to share with Columbus Commuters, you just missed Seventh Son. This savvy, stealthy sign was created by Seventh Son with a bit of humor in mind. Their ad replaced a similar looking ad for a local judge. They got the distinguished looking Jim Vent on board and he even dressed up for the photo.

As a visitor to Seventh Son almost every Saturday on the Columbus Brew Adventures Downtown Tour I did not notice the sign until late December. I checked with the “other Colin”, Collin Castore who is one of the owners of Seventh Son and he had this to share. “We have the billboard for twelve months and are planning on changing it quarterly. Next one will probably be a little more artsy and reserved (don’t want to try and crack a joke all the time). Jim might come back for an encore at the end of the run though. Yes we are considering an assistant manager cat billboard of course.”

Meet me, the cat and see the billboard most Saturdays on the Downtown Tour with Columbus Brew Adventures.

(Authors Note: A new Seventh Son sign went up the day after this post – so now this is historical data).

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Alana’s: Adios, Au Revoir, Auf Wiedersehen, Arrivederci, Aloha, Annyeong

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 10, 2017

How do you describe Alana’s to someone who never dined there? Bohemian, eclectic, eccentric, artisan (before the word was over saturated), whimsical? No one word suits the place nor do the series of words I threw out touch the surface.

The doors are shuttered at Alana’s and the kitchen has thrown in the towel. The bar made it’s last call. Alana’s is closed for the count.

Alana Shock and husband/co-owner Kevin Bertschi launched the restaurant just over 18 years ago. The restaurant was housed, in a house but the previous tenant was A La Carte which was where college students dined if they wanted to upgrade from (of the era) the Cooker and wanted a fancier name than Casa di Pasta. Alana took care of the back of the house. Her kitchen experience including a stint in New Orleans and some very fine dining spots. She supplemented this with weekly trips to local markets (ahead of the trend or fad for some) for the freshest ingredients. Kevin took care of the wine, curating (before that word was over saturated) one of the better wine collections in the state and some of the best pricing as well. The bar offered creative cocktails with the same focus on ingredients and technique as the kitchen. The bar itself was upgraded in 2008 when the bar which had previously been tended at Jai Lai and Stache’s was installed on site here.

One aspect that has been part of the atmosphere from day one has been a lack of pretense. Another ongoing feature would be service (if occasionally uneven and in the case of one long time server perhaps a little unhinged) in the style of fine dining but in an atmosphere which was always informal. The walls and interior hosted a hodgepodge of colors and art. The atmosphere was always quiet and comforting with well-considered and eclectic music lightly playing in the background. To give you a sense of the food and the style it was served in, take a look at the (PDF may take a few clicks) menu below (from the second to last night of operation).

Alanas Menu

Reports and rumors of Alana’s demise started in 2015 and continued through December 2016 At first it was going to change locations, then it was sold, then the deal fell through, then it was going to be around another few years, then on the chopping block again. I found out definitely at an unlikely place in an unlikely manner, while having lunch with my wife at O’ Reilly’s in Clintonville (a favorite spot for Kevin and Alana). I saw them at the bar. Kevin told me I had better come in that weekend (February 25th) because it was likely to be their last, the paperwork had just been signed. Familial and professional obligations caused me to miss those dates but there was a short reprieve in transferring the space so an extra weekend became available and I was able to dine in on their second to last night of business. I am happy to say, everything selected from the menu for my last meal was exceptional which ensured my memories of my last meal at Alana’s would be memorable. In particular, while many places offer cheese plates, this is one of the few restaurants, in the world (I’ve been around) that really delivered a consistently exciting cheese plate – with delicious and hard to find cheeses. Alana came out not once but twice offering small bite sized Amuse bouche which were always a fun and interesting through the course of the evening. I can’t say there was a time that I did not see her do so herself. It was one of many quirks about the place that was amusing to most.

As you are reading this, you may wonder why you did not hear of Alana’s. For many food focused people it was in their top ten lists for nearly two decades but there were some barriers to Alana’s being fully mainstream. A big part of that was former Dispatch Restaurant writer Jon Christensen refused to list Alana’s in the top ten for many years. This was attributed to Alana’s interaction with a guest and Christensen determining that such treatment (if as alleged was true) disqualified providing any acknowledgment of the place. In addition to this incident, I heard a few stories over the years involving interactions with both patrons and staff but never saw such firsthand. The best tale, which may or may not be true but reads like a tall tale. The story involved a customer that may have taken too many special requests to an extreme so Alana walked across the street to a convenience store to get a microwaveable burrito to serve as an answer to one of those requests. If that truly happened, then I would just say it was a great story. As a personal aside, I always thought of Jon Christensen as the Gertrude Stein of Columbus Food writers – repetitive to the point that each of his reviews read like a template, bland and boring writing which did nothing to inspire a person to seek out a place or provide any insight to the spirit of dining therein. Those attributes to his writing, I feel may indicate that as a diner, he would have never understood Alana’s even under the best of any circumstances. To those that mattered and those that cared, Alana’s was a destination and in some cases a community not just of food but thought. If that worked for you, then you took the side of eccentric quirkiness and enjoyed the journey.

Alana’s will be missed but I think we will still hear stories of Alana and Kevin as time goes by.

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Kenny’s Meat Wagon (Truck, 2.0, Kenny’s Mikewagon)

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 2, 2017

Let’s start with some mobile food math. What happens when you take this:

Flat Top Pizza

Then add one of these:

Kennys Meat Wagon Cart

The end result equals this, the breakaway favorite of the winter 2017 food truck season, Kenny’s Meat Wagon (2.0).

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I have enjoyed watching this transformation of both businesses over the last four months. Mike from Flattop was a client of mine when I was at the Food Fort. I watched him transform from a guy helping out a friend with a hot dog cart, to taking a wild idea of trying to grill a pizza on the same flattop grill of said hot dog cart (I was there to orchestrate the first field trial) to slowly building a food truck to deliver said pizza to the masses. I was also at the Food Fort when Kenny started his cart. I helped him get his first site placements and became used to his extreme indifference to adversity. I watched Kenny slowly grow as well. This unique idea of using Flattop as the (almost literal) flatbed to boost us Kenny’s Meat Wagon was a novel idea. I was embedded in this enterprise for two reasons. First, my original plan to escape my Shawshank Redemption like existence as an employee of the state was to create a food truck rental program similar how this arrangement kind of works. When that idea and my ownership of O’Betty’s 2 in Athens failed swiftly and miserably I fell in to the Food Fort. Second, I was in communication with the team weekly as this whole enterprise evolved so I was very interested in seeing how it might work for a great number of reasons.

Kenny’s Meat Wagon has established a reputation on serving big, man sized sandwiches with lots of fresh ingredients and exceptional locally sourced breads. See a few examples below.

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Kenny’s Meat Wagon started as a cart in 2013. Being a bit under the radar and a smaller profile cart he won notoriety at several food trucks events including best food cart in Columbus in 2014 at the Columbus Food Truck Festival, in 2015, best overall vendor at the Q FM 96 food truck festival, in 2016, 2nd place overall in the Columbus Food Truck Festival.

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In the late fall of 2016 inspired by a spin of the Lend Lease Act between England and the USA during World War Two, Kenny’s Meat Wagon brokered access to the Flattop Pizza Truck (with the arcane knowledge of its owner Mike Cryan) thus Kenny’s Meat Wagon (2.0, Truck, Kenny’s Mikewagon) was born. This true Meat Wagon has been pounding the pavement pretty hard over the winter, something Kenny could not do in cart format. His timing was good since he was also expanding his family with a second child concurrently. The truck offers a more expanded menu than the cart could as well as the capacity to serve more people in a shorter period of time. I checked in with Kenny to find out more about his Meat Wagon.

1) What was the tipping point for you to start Kenny’s Meat Wagon?

I had been working an office job for 8 years and not going very far. I really didn’t like the office life and wanted to do something else but I felt stuck. I had always wanted to get into the restaurant industry but the thought of cooking someone else’s food and working crazy hours didn’t sound great to me. My wife had been pushing the food cart idea for a while. We saved up as much as we could, then, one day while staring out the window of the office I decided to go for it. My wife backed me 1000% of the time and we jumped in feet first. My last day in the office was a Thursday, we got married on Friday, took a little honeymoon and I was a full time food cart owner/operator when we got home

2) You operated as a cart for over three years, what are the pros and cons of operating from a cart vs. a truck. Is there anything you miss about being a cart operator?

I have to say that there’s not a whole lot that I miss about running a food cart! I had a ton of fun and got to work some really fun events and meet a countless number of amazing people. But, it is hard, physical work, hot in the summer and nearly impossible to operate in the winter. The food truck has given me the opportunity to run through the winter. It has also allowed me to expand the menu in ways that I never could with the cart. It has opened the door to use ingredients that I could never use on the cart. The thing that I do miss the most about the cart is not having the face to face contact with the regulars I’ve built up over time. I’ve met some really amazing, interesting people over the years and I’ve had some great conversations while cooking their food. I also think that people really like to be able to watch their food be prepared in front of them.


3) What type of culinary experiences did you have prior to starting the cart?

I had no professional cooking experience when I started the cart. I had never gone to culinary school. I am pretty much completely self-taught when it comes to cooking. I grew up helping my mom in the kitchen, reading recipes and helping as I could. I started to really learn watching Alton Brown on the Food Network. He really got me interested in the science of cooking, and how and why you use different techniques in the kitchen. I practised as much as I could. Anytime friends or family had parties, tailgates, etc. I would always jump on the opportunity to “cater” the event and try new things. Everyone I knew became guinea pigs in whatever experiment I was on at the time. They enjoyed that most of the time but trust me, not everything is a winner! Just learn and adapt and keep on moving!

4) When did you know that you loved to cook and wanted to do so for a living? Do you have strong food traditions in your family growing up?

I enjoyed food from a very early age. As I was getting out of high school and beyond is when I really stared to realize that cooking was my future. We didn’t really have strong food traditions growing up. My mom did make sure that we always had really good home-made food on the table every night. She had her core recipes that she stuck with (some that I still cook today), and she would experiment when she could. Being around and having good food so often is what really got me interested in cooking. Without my mom, I don’t think I would be the cook that I am today.

5) Most of your menu is sandwich based and often skews toward items like Italian Beef Sandwiches as well as what objective people such as my wife consider to be the best Italian sub in the state of Ohio. What inspired your choice of sandwiches? Do you have Italian family connections where you grew up? Did you discover Italian Beef while in Chicago?

I’ve spent my whole life making everything into sandwiches. Having pasta for dinner? Butter some bread and eat it like a sandwich! Breakfast? Pile it all between your toast and eat it like a sandwich! I discovered Italian Beef on my first trip out Chicago and I was hooked. The au jus soaked bread with tender, thin sliced beef with giardiniera and roasted peppers immediately became my favorite sandwich. I started trying to recreate it as soon as I got home. When starting the cart I needed something that no one else had and Italian Beef was it. The rest of the menu has come since then based on my favorite things to eat. I put a ton of thought into every item on the menu. Everything on the menu has been tested and tweaked countless times before you even see it as a customer. Quality is not something to take lightly. Our THE Italian Sandwich that you referenced has been an evolving sandwich for the last 3 years. We’ve finally gotten it to where I’m 100% happy with it. It is absolutely my favorite sandwich on the menu.

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Kenny’s Meat Wagon Facebook
Kenny’s Meat Wagon Instagram
Kenny’s Meat Wagon Twitter

Phone: (614) 425-0556

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Watershed Distillery Nocino & The Vintage 2015 vs. 2016 Tasteoff

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 25, 2016

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Let’s breakdown everything in the title in case you need any recaps.

Watershed Distillery is one of three, going on four distilleries in Central Ohio. An interesting story of their inception, while at a trade show they encountered a salesperson from the company working on their still who excitingly told them it was ready when he heard they were from Columbus. Since they had just ordered it and knew there was a long wait ahead they were both confused and excited. As it turned out, the still slated for delivery was for Middle West Spirits. That was how Watershed found out they were not going to be the first distillery in Central Ohio. There are many great stories and milestones accumulated while this libation creator has grown and expanded over the years. My favorite story and spirit are the same – Nocino.

Nocino originated in Italy. It is made from walnuts harvested as a very specific time. I’ve sampled Nocino in Italy on each of my forays there and found a liking for it. It is a labor intensive and messy process to make so it is not commonly found in the United States and typically not in large quantities. To my knowledge only four companies produce it the United States, one of those being Watershed of course.

Nocino was not in the original business plan nor phase two for growth of Watershed. A local physician hailing from Upper Arlington persistently pestered owners Dave and Greg to try a Nocino he made using an old family recipe. They deferred as long as they could. In the spirits business it is not uncommon for people to ply distilleries with homemade hooch begging to add a new recipe to the line up. However, to everyone’s surprise, the doctor’s prescription was easy on the palate and pleasant to the taste buds. Oddly, all the doctor asked for as compensation was a thank you, so every bottle of Nocino says Thanks Charlie on the back of the label.

“Season three” of Nocino was released a few weeks ago. It is very likely most of it will be gone by March or early April. This concoction is as Ohio as a spirit can be. Ohio grown black walnuts soaked in alcohol made from mostly Ohio raw ingredients with so sugar and spices blended in and aged to create a dark, slightly sweet liquor. It goes good in a glass, goes great on ice cream or as a deft drizzle on top of some egg nog. Tis the season for Nocino.

When I brought my first bottle of 2016 Nocino (bottle 229) home, I discovered I still had an unopened bottle of 2015 in the cupboard (bottle 4965). I was mildly surprised at this. I am not one to horde alcohol but then I recalled another development / expenditure in 2015 – CMH Griffin, my son. This in turn has reduced my alcohol consumption significantly because I don’t drink alone but fatherhood has, in part, reduced my socializing about 94%.

In the spirit of research and socialization, I decided the 2015 and 2016 Nocinos needed to be evaluated head to head to see if one was better than the other. This might seem odd in that most alcohols by design are created to be consistent, to always taste the same and deliver the same flavor profile. In the case of Nocino with the base being walnuts we can expect to see a similar terrior effect that we see in wines – flavor variations due to soil, climate (thank goodness there is no climate change to worry about), etc. For my tasting team I recruited El Jefe (not previously mentioned in this blog) and the Grumpy Old Man (mentioned in Ohio Donut Trail expeditions). El Jefe is a professional drinker. The Grumpy Old Man is a conundrum wrapped around an oxymoron. He lives in a sliver of Venn Diagram that can not have much overlap an artist that is also an ultra conservative with some other far right rantings. Part of this involves an unexplained dislike for any locally made spirits or beers. It seems odd that an artist would be so uninclined to support another craftsperson. I had tricked him into drinking Nocino New Years Eve of 2015 so he had to begrudgingly admit that he had consumed it. I also started to build up his paranoia about this tasting. I placed both bottles on the table and shared nothing about the goals of the tasting other than both bottles needed to be sampled and both El Jefe and Grumpy Old Man had to determine the differences between the two bottles.

Astute readers will note some slight labeling differences in the bottles in the photo included with this piece but I did not point this out to The Grumpy Old Man which further fueled his apprehension about this being another one of my “schemes”. Tasting was conducted with great earnest by Jefe and myself. The Grumpy Old Man vacillated back and forth muttering to himself while talking smalls tastes from each bottle repeatedly.

The final verdict. There are discernible differences between the two years. Both versions of the Nocino will enjoyed…..sampled several times over the evening by all parties. The 2016 Nocino prefered over the 2015. The 2015 version seemed to show some slight “separation” within the bottle. There was a slightly different aroma between the two. The 2015 smelled more of alcohol whereas the 2016 had a trace of molasses wafting from it. There is .01 difference in alcohol by volume between the two years with the 2016 Nocino yielding the extra kick. Our unanimous winner is the 2016 Nocino which is great news for you because there is still time to buy some.

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Morone’s Italian Villa: Buffet Battle – Pizza (Addendum)

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 17, 2016

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This is a late entry to the Buffet Battle – Pizza, Series.

Morone’s Italian Villa
Bethel Centre
1490 Bethel Rd
(614) 457-7444

My connection to Morone’s goes back to my high school days in the area. Morone’s was a little more fancy than the other pizza places in North Columbus, so if you were heading out with a group – Morone’s was a big deal. I recall in high school eating carry out Morone’s Pizza (sausage and pepperoni) at a friend’s house many Saturday nights and looking forward to it week after week. The last time I could recall dining there was 1991? But as fate would have it, I wrote about it in 2007 when I tried their French Fry Pizza at an evening buffet. (I did not figure this out until I got home and started writing this).

The lunch buffet is offered Monday to Friday from 11 am to 2 pm. In addition to pizza, there is a salad bar featuring mixed salad, tomatoes, cheese, three dressings, cottage cheese, chocolate pudding, two pasta salads, cole slaw and a few other things for a total of nine items. There are also two pastas, a soup (that is hard to reach unless you go to the opposite side of the station), and some toasted Italian bread.

The pizza I tried was a bit fluffier, airy and more doughy that most other Columbus pizza places. There was a bit of char of the crust ring which had some crispness. The pepperoni seems like a slightly cheaper grade – but did have the curl I like to look for. The sauce was lightly applied to the dough and seemed a bit generic. The potato pizza I tried was a bit daring and added diversity to the offerings. The price for all of this with a beverage included was $9.69.


(Scale of 1-5)

Value 4
Quality 3.5
Quantity 3.5
Pizza Grade 3.25
Kid friendly Quotient 4


The food, especially the pizza did not taste like I remembered it (in 2007 or 1985 to 1991). While chatting with one of the cooks (when I still thought I had not been there since the 1990’s,) he mentioned he worked at Morone’s in the 1990’s but left and since that time, there had been three different owners until the present. So that explained the disparity between my memories and my dining experience at the buffet.

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Morone's Italian Villa Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Anthony Bourdain brings “The Hunger” to Columbus

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 31, 2016

Does this guy look familiar to you?

Anthony Bourdain

I wish I could say this photo was taken at my house but in all my travels and shrinking social circles, I have never met Anthony Bourdain. The photo and the information below, were sent to me as part of a press release for his live show – The Hunger.

Internationally renowned best-selling author, television host and multiple Emmy-award-winner Anthony Bourdain is roaming the country for The Hunger, an 11-city North American tour launching October 25 in New York. Bourdain’s first cookbook in 10 years, APPETITES (published by Ecco), also hits shelves October 25. The Hunger serves audiences an all new live show featuring an unyielding, brutally honest monologue reflecting on diverse culture, street cuisine and his travels to lesser-known locations around the world, followed by an open Q&A session. Currently filming the hit CNN original series Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown (season seven premiered Sunday, April 24; 9pm ET/PT), Bourdain will bring audiences a menu loaded with lots of laughs, serious discussions and unapologetic irreverence.

For more information including tour dates and tickets, visit www.AnthonyBourdainOnTour.com, because his show is coming Saturday, October 29, 2016 to Palace Theatre to Columbus!

Keep reading there is more….and a big incentive to keep reading. One of the first books I read that got me excited about food was Kitchen Confidential. As “food TV” and the celebrity chef craze grew I was never able to drink the Kool-Aid for it, with a few exceptions (mainly Michael Symon), the best example being Anthony Bourdain. While I can’t say his hard-drinking, chain smoking, New York style bravado appeals much to my personality style, I always enjoyed his views on food and straight forward approach to everything without any pretensions. He definitely raised himself to a high level of respect in my view when he started the show Parts Unknown. His blend of love for food and how it intertwines with local culture and history strikes a chord with me because it reminds me of how I prefer to travel and explore the world. So while I do not normally get giddy about a show coming to town, I am stoked that he is coming to Columbus as one of his eleven stops on this tour.

So here is your chance to get really excited…..

Stay tuned to my twitter feed – CMHGurmand because sometime before the show I will have a ticket giveaway for two tickets for the show. Whether you win the tickets or buy your own I hope to see you there, this is well worth one of our rare babysitter covered nights out on the town.

In the meantime, since there is a Q & A segment during the show, how about sharing a question you would ask him if given the chance.

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