CMH Gourmand

Eat, Drink, Repeat: Culinary Discovery & Misadventure in Central Ohio

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Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Bloggers Exposed: So True It Hurts

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 30, 2012

Watch this, it is worth three minutes of your life. Really, dead on perfect expose of my world. I want to be the Grizzly Bear.

WATCH THIS NOW!

Posted in food | Leave a Comment »

Listen Up! One Hour WCBE Foodcast: Monday January 2nd

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 28, 2011

We have a really big show coming up. Twelve times better in fact. Our weekly five minute radio program is going to be twelve times longer for our special hour long (first of 2012) show.

The show airs on the dial at WCBE 90.5 FM, 1 pm on Monday January 2nd. If you miss it, there is no need to fear….the interwebs are here. Audio for each show as well as links are posted at WCBE FoodCast

This episode of Foodcast features an introduction of Mike Beaumont, our producer and sound engineer; the back story of our theme song, our typical ranting and four interviews with food folks that made a mark in 2011 and who plan to do more of the same in 2012. Our Liz Lessner interview has a world premiere announcement about a new restaurant venture (not the Grass Skirt).

So listen up. Tune in often and tell all your friends. Good Night and Good Luck.

Posted in Columbus, food | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Writer’s Block?

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 19, 2011

Sorry for another pause in content. Prepare for an onslaught of posts in the next two weeks. In the previous six weeks I left a job and started a new career, traveled in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Pittsburgh, Cleveland (x2), Huron, Sandusky and Zanesville. I have donuts, restaurants, wineries, breweries, food trucks and Green Bean Delivery to write about. I also gained 20 pounds in the process. I promised CMH Tobias I would stay home more than 8 hours in a row to get caught up with him….and you. As for the new gig, I get to take this, this and this to help Columbus mobile food vendors grow their businesses. Cool, fun….meaningful.

And I have a new blog to launch – Bricks of Ohio Blog (BOB).

Stay tuned or watch your RSS feed for more.

And finally, what do you think about WCBE Foodcast?

Posted in food | 2 Comments »

Gourmand, Interrupted: Prologue

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 30, 2011

There was a season of the show Dallas that was so bad, the writers decided to write it off by having a killed off character from the bad season walk out of the shower at the beginning of the following season to indicate the previous season was a dream. A dream – that was a stretch. If I could rewrite August for myself, I might do the same. I may share more down the road or it may be the longest of chapters in my memoirs after the “What in the hell am I doing in Honduras and how do I survive the next 12 hours” chapter.

This blog now returns to its regularly scheduled content….currently in progress. Expect something tomorrow.

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A Radio Show and Slight Summer Siesta

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 30, 2011

Posts will be sporadic this summer. In exchange for less written content you will now get more audio Gourmand. Starting July 2nd, listen to FoodCast on WCBE. I share the table with great talent: Andy Dehus, Johnny DiLoretto and Bethia Woolf. Behind the scenes taking care of recording and making sound decisions (as well as deleting my bloopers) is the magnificent Mike Beaumont. Ten episodes are complete. Each covers a theme starting with BBQ.

You can keep track on Facebook as well.

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Johnnie’s Beef and Status Report

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 23, 2011

One of the top 100 meals in the world consists of the following:

“Beef, wet (dipped in au ju), hot (giardiniera pepper mix); Chicago dog (comes with a handful of fries); Ice (lemon Italian ice), large.

Where:
Johnnie’s Beef
7500 West North Avenue
Elmwood Park, IL 60707-4140
708.452.6000

This meal never fails me, ever. I drove eight miles in the rain after a long ten hour day of driving in Chicago and hot doggery to have this meal. It was great, and it was simple and it made me happy. This is one of the best meals anyone could eat anywhere. It is also a true taste of Chicago.

Posts are going to be sporadic for a while. I have plenty to write about but not much time to do it. It is also Taco Truck and Street Eats season so there is lots of tracking and eating and updating to do for the world of Columbus mobile food. Click on Taco Trucks Columbus and Street Eats Columbus to watch the growth of these mobile food kitchens.

On CMH Gourmand there is a lot of donut information coming your way and pizza places and several miscellaneous things I have not had time to write about. Stay tuned.

Posted in food | Leave a Comment »

A Food-Based Mailbox Mystery

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 13, 2010


And now for something completely different.

Some readers may recall the Eat Trout Mystery. I have a new one to add to the files. We will call this CMH Gourmand and the Case of the Placecard Quandry.

A couple weeks ago, late at night, on an evening that might best be described as wretched an unusual occurrence transpired. I was slumped and dazed on my couch with a very concerned CMH Tobias bringing me every toy he could locate. I heard some shuffling on my porch and heard the clunk of my mailbox closing. There was no knock at the door, this was intended as a stealth mission I suppose. I did not bother to check, for a variety of reasons. We have a new mail person on the street who is having problems getting mail to the right houses so I thought it might be a neighbor bringing a wayward letter home.

The next day I found what looked like a post card in the mailbox. I set it aside and forgot about it for days. When I finally picked it up I determined it was a placecard from a restaurant with no postage, address label or other mailing information. It is not unusual for me to get restaurant materials but it is unusual to have it personally delivered. It is also very unusual that the card is from La Bombonera in San Juan. See exhibits one and two below (the front and back of the card).

The odd thing is as follows: Seven people know the significance of this restaurant to me. I may have suggested it in passing to a handful of people traveling to Puerto Rico. No one in this small group of insiders has been to Puerto Rico this year or did the late night delivery of the card to me. I searched the interwebs to see if I ever wrote about La Bombonera or mentioned it in the public record – negative.

I have no idea where this came from or why. If I could dust it for fingerprints I would. I am happy to have the card for the good memories but I am perplexed by the manner of delivery.

While I continue in my puzzled and perplexed state let me share a bit about La Bombonera. This cafe is located in the heart of Old San Juan. It opened in 1902. I have a menu that a friend stole for me (sorry restaurant owners). The place is a bit run down but is full of class and character. The menu features Puerto Rican and Spanish dishes. Waiters are decked out in tuxedos, the clientele are mostly regulars and all were probably born before 1950. The fresh squeezed orange juice is prepared in front of you and pairs well with the hot climate. Pastries are over the top good and trace their roots to Majorca in Spain with items such as grilled Mallorca (rich, buttery, yummy pastries).

Puigy Abraham
La Bombonera
Cafeteria Mallorca
259 San Francisco Street
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
787.772.0658

Posted in food | 2 Comments »

Why Mobile Food Matters

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 4, 2010

What is the skinny on Street Food? Mobile food vending has exploded in Columbus over the last two years mirroring a national trend. I fell into the world of Taco Trucks on a whim with my good friends Bethia and Andy. We started a website called Taco Trucks Columbus and spent 2009 engrossed in all things Mexican street food. It was a great experience. I learned about parts of town I had never traveled and made very special friends among the owners and the enthusiasts I would not have met in my day-to-day life. This year Street Eats Columbus was created to track and promote the growing non-taco truck vendors that are popping up all over town.

Why has mobile vending gone vogue across the country and especially in Columbus? To quote the 1992 Clinton campaign, “It’s the economy, stupid”. A brick and mortar restaurant costs a lot of money to get going: rent, utilities, (in Columbus) a complicated and confusing series of building and business codes, long hours, etc. The failure rate for new restaurants for the first year is 25% or greater and cumulatively over three years 60% or more. (Other studies report a failure rate as great as 90%). The restaurant business is hard going in good times and perilous in a recession. If you pick a poor location – you are stuck with it.

For many people, getting a loan is the hard part. In a risk adverse economy, money for a new business can be in short supply. Start up costs for a food cart, Taco Truck or trailer kitchen can range from $30,000 to $100,000 or more. Finding used, serviceable equipment is easy so if you are a do it yourselfer and a good cook, you could have your own business for a fraction of what a restaurant would cost. Mobile food means mobility. If you have a bad location – you can move in an hour. If you know where a concentration of hungry people is – you can go there. Mobile operations have smaller menus and usually a quicker turn around for product. Most operations cook what they need for the day or week with little or no food going to rot. This is good for eliminating food waste but a bit frustrating for folks new to street food when they find an item is unavailable.

A food entrepreneur with a good idea can test it out with minimal risk when their cafe is on wheels. A strong concept can spawn additional food carts or a loyal following that will follow the owner to a brick and mortar location. In San Francisco, a good number of mobile food vendors are making six digit profit margins per year. Mobile food can work if you do it right. Another positive of going mobile is customer interaction and instant feedback – chefs love this and often feel disconnected from their customers in a larger operation.

Here are a few local examples. Super Torta II is one of the oldest Taco Trucks in the city. Last year they opened a restaurant near their location. Skillet, a darling of local food enthusiasts, started a mobile operation to spread the gospel of their food first, local, in season cuisine to other parts or town and untapped audiences. Ray Ray’s Hog Pit in Clintonville has grown a loyal following serving BBQ until in runs out (it often does before posted closing hours). Owner Jaime Anderson previously operated restaurants but has found mobile food to be more rewarding and less hassle.

There are some challenges to what I may have painted as a sure thing, slam-dunk profit magnet. Winter weather shuts many of the vendors down or reduces their hours. More than a few Columbusites have a fear and loathing of “street meat”. Some people believe that the food and workspaces are unsanitary. In my experience, I am happy to take chances with a kitchen and cook I can see in operation verses a hidden kitchen and preparers I cannot see. In the world of Taco Trucks, I would often tell people to order one taco and watch how it is prepared and if they see something that scares them – they are only out $1.25. I prefer my odds with a mobile vendor. There are other “perception” problems as well but these are slowly being addressed and acceptance is growing.

Mobile food is not new to Columbus or our country. It was a pathway to being a business owner for early 20th century immigrants selling sausages, hot dogs and more. This food fed factory workers throughout the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s spawning creations including Italian Beef sandwiches, Po Boy’s, hot dogs and more. Mobile food fueled a transition to fast food establishments and a new way of eating. Today, entrepreneurs are relearning and expanding on something old while adding new elements to street fare with vegetarian, locavore and new immigrant food options.

The culture of street food is growing in Columbus. In October, there were two well-attended mobile food events (Food Truck a Palooza at The Ohio Historical Society and Food Cart Food Court at Wonderland). The response to these food cart conglomerations and demand for more of them was overwhelming. Several of the vendors ran out of food. It can be a good thing when supply does not meet demand as long as people keep wanting more. This bodes well.

Now it is time to drive my subject matter home. Why does mobile food matter? The ability to go out and cook food one believes in promotes diversity and innovation in the food the rest of us eat. Entrepreneurs that would not have a chance with a brick and mortar location are getting the opportunity to follow their dreams while we benefit from new menus instead of safe stagnation. Columbus has long sought an opportunity to find an identity. With support and designating some permanent food court areas, our city can establish a niche on the culinary map. Food and food styles identify a city (Chicago: Hot dogs, Pizza, Italian Beef Sandwiches), New York (hot dogs, Reuben’s, bagels), Philadelphia (Philly cheesesteaks)….. You get my drift. We may not find our signature sandwich but we can blow away our old moniker of fast food capital of the world by becoming known as a progressive, innovative food town. Mobile food can be part of that movement. If we eat it, they will come.

Posted in Columbus, food, Gastronomic Stimulus | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Freshbox Frenzy: Feed Your Appetite. Nourish Your Community

Posted by cmh gourmand on October 15, 2010

I seem adept at creating opportunities for others so continuing with that habit, today, I introduce you to Lindsay Warren a food enthusiast and general raconteur on the “reg”. Story by Ms. Warren. Photos and consumption by CMH Gourmand. The scene: the workplace at one of my jobs.


Recently I introduced my co-workers to a new lunch option that is not only really delicious but meaningful to our community as well: FreshBox Catering. This boxed-lunch business is the brainchild of dear friend of mine, Joe DeLoss, Chief Sandwich Operator and Social Enterprise Director of the Lutheran Social Services of Central Ohio. It’s his vision for profitable social change and gusto for delicious, fresh food to come together to create this dynamite win of a catering business. Let’s discuss.

First, a boxed lunch from Freshbox is not what you found in your superman lunchbox when you were 10. Freshbox delivers a tasty little package comprised of sandwich, pickle spear, kettle chips, apple, and (drooling as I type) a chocolate-covered Oreo. There are six sandwich options served on either ciabatta or wheat bread. Or, if you’re going the bread-free route, their signature salads are served with all the above yummy extras, too.

We placed our order a day before delivery by ordering online. The next day our Freshbox delivery person navigated through the maze of our cubicle farm to deliver our lunches. Everything came perfectly as ordered, on time, fresh and ready to be devoured. Having just celebrated their first anniversary, Joe and his tiny family of lunch-boxers are doing a great job of keeping up this reputation of great service. Just take a look at Bloomberg Business Week – Joe is a 2010 finalist for America’s Best Young Entrepreneur!

Our small group hit almost every sandwich option on the menu.

The Red Caprese features fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and roasted red peppers on ciabatta with basil pesto on the side. So simple, so delicious, and so satisfying. A great vegetarian option!

The Prime lays on layers of roast beef with roasted red peppers, provolone and shaved red onions. The side of horseradish aioli is super-important, don’t be shy about loading this on!

We did a little family-style sharing of the Roasted Red Pepper Hummus served with cucumbers, tomatoes and warm, chewy pita bread. Some of our co-workers were weary of what they might get for $9 but they were wowed by their meals. Considering the quality of the ingredients, the cause and the delivery, they found the price to be reasonable.

In the Freshbox job-training model, employees learn everything from important food safety techniques to engaging in the banking system. The aim is to find people with a disadvantage in the workforce (someone that is homeless, a person with a developmental disability or other barriers to entry level employment) ann opportunity to build job skills or create a fresh start. Not only is Freshbox serving us tasty little lunches, it’s empowering our friends in need with job skills that will carry them to independence. So if you’re looking for a new lunch option, go no further than the church basement kitchen of Freshbox, located at the corner of 3rd and Broad Streets downtown. No doubt you will be delighted with the quality of your lunch and you will be satisfied with contributing to the purpose behind Freshbox!

Posted in food, sandwiches | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

The Art of Solo Dining: Table for One

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 31, 2010

“A lot of people find solo dining an unpleasant experience, and it is certainly true that many restaurants can make it intimidating as they lead you through a crowded restaurant to a seat where you will be so conspicuous that you should have a large neon sign above your head reading “Sir William of No Mates”. Others in the restaurant will stare at you, many will compose their facial features to express pity, others contempt. All will be hugely glad they are not in your situation.

-Simon Makumdar, in his book Eat My Globe

It is frequently brought to my attention that I am atypical. Recently, I was speaking with a female friend and she shared she has never seen a movie by herself because it freaks her out. We then started to discuss dining and the solo question came up again – many people are uncomfortable eating alone inside and outside their abode.

While I think any meal is better shared with friends, by circumstance and my own nature I frequently dine alone. Apparently I do so much more often than a typical person. I do have some advantages in the area. I am an only child so I am well practiced at entertaining myself. I have lived alone almost as long as I have lived in the company of others. Because I have rarely had the luck in life to have instant access to people that have the combination of the time, money and interest to pursue my passions to the extreme extent that I do, I often head off on my own since I figure if I wait for someone to be ready…..I’ll keep waiting. As for temperament, for those of you that follow the Myers Briggs, I am an INTJ, a rare personality type known for being fiercely independent.

All of the this being said, I decided to start asking around about the art of eating alone. This is a summary of what I found (accuracy is +/- 91%). Women are more uncomfortable with dining alone than men. Most of us seem comfortable dining out sans company at breakfast and lunch. Dinner seems to be the apex of discomfort. Friday and Saturday night solo dining is absolutely feared especially if it is at a fine dining establishment such as Alana’s or the Refectory.

For those of you new to the world of solo dining, I would suggest reading the book – Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant. The book is a buffet of stories about eating, cooking and dining alone. For some a meal shielded from the world is a can of cold refried beans and for others it is an extravagant meal without the pomp and circumstance needed by the presence of others. I discovered the writer/blogger Erin Ergenbright in the book and have found her to be a great source for Portland area dining establishments and advice in general (guess where one of my next trips will be).


It you are ready to test the waters of independent dining – here are a few suggestions from years of experience:

Take a magazine, not a book.

A book says to people – “don’t approach me, I am deep in thought” and it says, “I am a nerd, I eat alone all the time”. That can be a good thing – if I don’t want to be bothered, I take a book. I more often take a magazine along for the meal. Magazines are easier manhandle and maneuver around appetizers, entrees and cocktails. If you spill on a magazine, no big deal, it you spill on a book – well – it may bring you to tears or get you in deep trouble with the library. You are likely to read through a magazine while eating a meal which allows the opportunity to leave the place with two accomplishments – a completed magazine and a finished meal. A magazine says, come interrupt me… if you must, while a book says – I am here to hide so don’t come and fill my water glass when I am thirsty. Magazines are great for quick bursts of distraction between bites.

Buy an iPhone.
I hate those people. You know them. People that cannot and will not disconnect from their electronic worlds and must interface and interact with their handheld devices constantly – even during a conversation or in the company of their companions. Not cool. I have started to do this on occasion and I think I have caught myself most times. When dining alone, a “crackberry” is OK, but an iPhone is so much more fun. It is also the perfect tool for a food writer or food enthusiast. Having quick access to notes, a camera, the Internet, Urbanspoon, etc., makes discreet food research much more viable. While between courses you can make lists, check e-mail, twitter about your meal instead of twittering your thumbs and have an quick and easy way to avoid unwanted attention or conversation. This is the perfect tool for creating a “shield” from others at a bar. Or it can be a quick way to strike up a conversation if someone is looking for directions or hoping to settle a bet.

Sit at the bar

Most restaurants will serve you the full menu at the bar or in some cases offer an even better and cheaper bar menu. In between bites if there is too much dead time – you can always drink. Bartenders are used to the fine art of chatting with customers that want the company or drifting away when chatter is not on your plate for the night.

Take a notebook
As much as I love my MacBook, when I need to get big thinking done or reason through a challenge, a notebook and a pen can’t be beat. If I am not writing and plotting then I still have plenty to do. I find my best thoughts come when I am unplugged and only focused on one thing – eating. I am constantly making lists of things I need to do when I plug back in. I find the piece of paper a good guide to get everything done. And I find crumbling the list and pitching it in the recycling bin provides a tangible sense of accomplishment, you can’t get that from a deleted word document.

Don’t chat on your cell phone

Sitting in an eatery chatting on your phone is rude and among my biggest pet peeves. It disrupts digestion (thanks Alana). I would love for public places to bring back phone booths to serve as containment areas for long, loud cell phone talkers so they can take their conversations into a private place instead of a public forum. If you are bored between courses, try the strategies I have listed above or send a text. Unless someone is dying there is no reason why I need to listen to your conversation in the small spaces of a restaurant…take your phone and yourself outside.


Surefire solo dining experiences:

OK, now that you are mentally prepared and have some strategies for killing time between courses, here are a few suggestions for your solo flight into solitary dining.

Northstar Cafe
Northstar caters to large parties and individual diners with several types of eating spaces. There are large communal tables where people can intermingle. There are also round counters with a center placed pillar to shield from eye contact and other counters placed at the windows facing out to the views of the street. At Northstar, you place your order at the counter, get a number so your meal can be delivered to you and while you are waiting there are plenty of magazines to read for free or buy for later.

Deepwood
I am deeply devoted to Deepwood. Their bar menu and cocktail selections provide variety at a good value. If you have time to kill between bites – just read the menu and the wine list – each provide entertainment for twenty minutes or more. The bar staff can talk food and spirits in depth if you are looking for some education to pass your time.

Nancy’s
Nancy’s is the original eat it and beat it destination in Clintonville. For dinner, you have one or two choices for your meal. So you do not need to waste time or conversation with the ordering process. You could probably get by with just pointing if need be. You pick what you want to eat. You eat it. And then, you beat it. With an empty stool and some focus you could be in and out in under five minutes. Or if it is slow, you can leisurely hang out, read the paper and talk local comings and goings to your heart’s content.

If you have more tips, please share them.

Posted in culinary knowledge, culinary misadventure, food | Tagged: , | 9 Comments »

 
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