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Toby and Me: Requiem for An Appalachian Porch Hound

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 25, 2018

I started writing this requiem in April of 2017, while watching Marley and Me (by accident) with Toby. I had read the book many years before. On this particular afternoon we were both home alone and I happened to flip channels just as the movie started….and I was sucked in. Looking over at Toby towards the end of the movie I knew that when the time came, I would be a wreck. That being the case, I decided to start on this post while we were still in the good times. When there were changes in our life together or if I was worried about him, I would come back to this post and tinker with it add in more details. It helped me focus on one thing – writing – instead of a dread of what was to come. There are less than a handful of things that could bring me to tears, the one sure thing is a dying dog. Especially, MY dog. My best friend and my most loyal associate – Tobias J. Dog. Readers encountered Toby many times here over the years….

I had too many chances to practice our end. Toby had a 1.5 pound tumor removed from his front leg and chest in January 2015. He barely survived that. I barely survived that. We both fought hard during his recovery to get him back to his prime form. He had a smaller tumor removed from his rear leg in August of 2015. Both times he had very bumpy convalescences. Toby does not do well with pain medications and he does not do well with being dependent. The same for me.

Our toughest challenge was December of 2016. After a two month stint of CMH Spouse and CMH Griffin being sick, I came home one Friday afternoon, looking forward to a house with no impaired inhabitants and an opportunity to catch up a gigantic backlog of work in my office. Instead, I found Toby lying in vomit on the floor having what looked like a seizure. I could see he was dying. I was not ready for that. It took about 3 hours to get into the vet, by that time, he was no longer rolling his eyes but could not walk.

As I carried him through the door I thought the odds of putting him down were against his favor. He had other plans. At the vet, I was told he had Old Dog Vestibular Disease, which mirrors a stroke. He was given some anti-nausea medication and a very poor prognosis. If I could get Toby to eat, he would probably live. If not, his stomach would twist and that would be that. Toby going an hour without wanting food was nearly unheard of, so I figured he would be back on track within a day. I was wrong. I spent the next several days carrying Toby outside to go to bathroom and helping him stay upright. During the night I slept with him on the floor or a couch to be ready to get him out the door when he needed it. When I went upstairs, Toby did not attempt to follow…. and that never happens – he is always in line of sight of me. That was a very bad sign. VERY BAD. I could always count on him being within five feet in most circumstances unless food, a fetching lass or a squirrel is nearby.

The bigger concern was food consumption. He would not eat. No ice cream. No steak. After a few days a bit of a hamburger. I did do some research and found a vet prescribed “crack-like” wet dog food that was considered a sure thing. Not quite (it smelled atrocious) but he ate some. After two days he started to get back on his feet like a drunken sailor. Then Toby decided that the wanted to go back to a steak only diet. (“Tobias, T-Bone does not stand for Toby bone”). That lasted a few more days. After two weeks he was back to about 85% of his old self and after a few months, 88%. He had taken a hit and the biggest damage was to his “irrational exuberance”. His back legs never got back to normal. Over the course of 2017, his hind legs started to fade due to old age and neurological damage. We saw the intensity of his many interests fade with one exception, he became even more of a food mooch. His ability to continually place himself in the path of CMH Spouse causing near fatal falls (daily) increased exponentially – increasing the likelihood of one accidental death (CMH Spouse) and one murder (CMH Tobias) ten-fold. As the year progressed we also saw a 420% increase in Bambi slides on any non carpeted surface and non-controlled falls down stairs. For me, barely accepting my own ungraceful aging, facing Toby’s mortality daily was increasingly demoralizing. While his mind and spirit were still strong his self-sufficiency and rock solid self-esteem was in a rapid decline.

As 2018 progressed we added daily pooping inside the house, often twice per day, sometimes thrice. The year 2018 has been an absolutely painful year for our family and the decline of my old friend was draining in many ways. Some days, I just hoped Toby would die soon. I did not want hime gone but it was painful to experience him descending into decrepitness. I felt guilty about my thoughts but it was hard to see him suffer while my heart and soul were running on fumes for related and unrelated reasons. The daily addition of poop to scoop inside our house combined with daily carpet cleaning usually right after I let him back inside or when returning from a five-minute walk was demoralizing to both of us. On occasion, I found him trying to eat the evidence. He could not stand or walk on our wood or tile floors so we kept adding more and more rugs to each of the rooms so he could move around the house without wiping out. We had a vet visit in February which showed a major increase in negative liver and kidney values and a decline in his neurological function in his hind quarters. There was a pretty good chance either of this ailments could be related to a tumor of some sort. As I talked about the struggles in our household some people told me to just put Toby down (the vet never suggested that). I knew his time was limited and I was waiting for a sign that he was ready or that it was the right time. In the back of my mind, I was hoping he could make it to his sixteenth birthday (120 in dog years) which was either March or May. His mind and spirit were still there but we were watching his body rapidly declining. He never expressed any pain and any trial of pain medication seemed to make him worse. He could half-heartily wag his tag and never at full arch. His tail was no longer the constantly curled, spring-like whip of his first 15 years. I noticed that he did not bark any more and vocalized less…but his eyes were bright and his “smile” was often wide. At night, with a lot of effort, he would find a way to make sure he was touching a part of me with part of him.

In May of 2018, we got to the point where he could not meander upstairs on his own, without falling back to the bottom four times. He could not travel down the stairs with any controlled direction. Then he could not sleep without falling off the bed several times. After two weeks of sleep deprivation, a child with croup twice, me with pneumonia and having stepped in poop at least three times, it was time for a dreaded change. At the end of May, he was exiled to sleeping in my first floor office at night. The door is mostly glass so I could see his face reflect the absolute betrayal he felt. After fourteen plus years of devoted loyalty: sleeping with me most of that time while enduring girlfriends, my extended disappearances to the antipodes, a wife that came with her own dog and then a child with an aptitude for stepping on him like a cushion – I had finally failed the pact of our pack. The year 2018 (so far) has been among my lowest of years, this moment of first exiling him in the office was the nadir of nadirs. My greatest best friend had decompensated from the epitome of vigor and the supreme example of the finest Appalachian Porch Hound of our era to an Appalling Poop Hound. There was nothing I could do to slow or stop the decline. And I had nothing left in me to fight it or to fight hard for him. As we entered June, he had two more vestibular attacks which lasted hours instead of days. He somehow rebounded slightly better than before each time and he had some semi-OK days. On some days it looked like he might rally for a run at 2019, on other days not so much. Through all of this he was still the greatest food mooch of all time. Over the last year he had dropped from 66 to 57 pounds but could still eat all day if allowed….and he tried.

But let’s journey back to the beginning before detailing the end. Born in March or May 2002, I know little about his first 18 months of life. I do know he was in at least eight foster homes before we crossed paths. I know he is was a non graduate of the Chillicothe Correctional Center’s Dog socialization program. I know he had a serial adopter named T****** (name hidden to protect her stupidity) that went back and forth on committing to him as a long-term dog and at one point had a boyfriend determined to transform Toby into a spike collared fighter. Throughout 2003, a co-worker pestered me about adopting this dog. He was in bad straits. No one would take him. I saw a photo of him in his spiked collar looking like a beast and gave a firm thumbs down. He was too big and a brute. I did not have time for a dog between work, graduate school, freelance writing, traveling and the occasional girlfriend, I was not home long enough to socialize anything, including myself on more than a few occasions. By February of 2004, I had finished school and was in between projects so I finally relented to foster Toby for two weeks. I would give his current foster a short break and could test the idea of sharing my living space with another creature (human or canine).

On a Friday night of President’s Day weekend (3 day weekend for me as a government drone), he walked into my house as if he owned it. I had a dog crate from a previous shared custody canine, a few hand me down dog items and an open mind. I discovered that what I had been told – he can’t be walked was largely true. I discovered this by having him pull, tug and generally drag me down my street with the strength of a full dog sled team. After a couple of weeks, it turned into a controlled drag with an occasional yanking out of my arm sockets. On our first night together, he crated without incident then proceeded to cry non stop for two hours. When I let him out, he pretended to head for the kitchen to get a drink then did a 180 and ran at high-speed before vaulting 5 feet high and 10-12 feet long to land in the middle of my bed. Once he spot was secure, he refused to move. That was a routine we maintained for the better part of our time together. Some nights I would hear the run, then a whoosh in the air and wait for him to land sprawled out next to me, mostly missing my body by 1/2 millimeter or less.

After the previous foster opted to extend to two week “break” to disappearing, I found myself with a long-term foster dog. I set about going to as many dog adoption events as I could take Toby to find him a proper home. Each was a disaster. He was so excited to be in those environments. He would tug, bark, whine and generally act like an enhanced version of the spirited freak he is. On only one occasion did he calm down. A woman walked toward us that must have looked similar to someone in his past because he instantly sat still and behaved in a very calm manner with only a slightly panting tongue and very big smile. I was certain she must be a long-lost owner. I was sure she was a perfect fit for him, something that could finally tame this savage beast. But she just looked (I was acting well-behaved too and maybe a bit puppy eyed) at both of us, made a face and could not get away from both of us fast enough. In my mind I thought she mouthed freak(s). We shared that rejection together which completed our bond. I was still determined to find his “real” home with someone who was home much more often than me and ideally had a child or ten to burn off some of his boundless energies.

Things did not get much better from there. I took him to an area of the park where dog owners hung out for bonding and socializing. Some dude with a giant dog started yelling – “get that Pit Bull away from here”. I looked around trying to find where the offending dog was and watched the dog in my custody running to the fray. When I retrieved Toby, I had a few choice words with this guy. This would not be the first time or the last time Toby was labeled a pit bull.

I then set Toby up with a perfect foster match. I was going to Europe for a couple of weeks and had a co-worker with acres of property and two playful dogs. I asked if Toby could stay with them while I was gone, and in the hour I stayed with them after Toby was dropped off I watched him run and play with his tongue hanging out non stop. He was in dog heaven and I pulled aways with a light heart and a smile on my face. When I returned stateside I called to check up on him (wanting to know when I should bring the rest of his things and seal the deal) and found out that while he was not a bother, he had “no personality” and I should probably come get him the next day. No personality! There are a lot of things this dog lacked: boundaries, obedience, any sense of pain, no limits to appetite, etc., but this dog was all personality.

Not long after, his previous foster asked for a week to have him back to try to “reconcile her mixed feelings” about keeping Toby. She seemed to like him and had another dog just like Toby but after a few days she asked if I could come back and get him because she was worried that he might have an expressed anal gland. WTF lady. This was also the foster whose boyfriend put a spiked collar on Toby and tried to turn him into a fighting dog. While he looks tough, the only thing this dog has ever been hardcore about is mooching. Bringing him home, I noticed no anal gland issues but I did some quick calculating and figured he was overdue for rabies and other vaccines and other needed check ups. The foster organization was out of money so I took him to a hospital that had treated him in the past. They had a few hand written records on him from one previous visit (he was neutered and had a minor surgery at the same time). The notes suggested him might be a Basenji and lab mix. Looking at the online information about that breed it seemed like a stretch but many years later when I found an audio file of a Basenji bark, I heard some similarity and found myself smirking. Toby has a very special, persistent, annoying bark that he uses when he is not getting something he wants, it was spot on to a Basenji.

At that point, doing some more calculation, I figured since I had this dog for over six months, his prospects were not looking good and mine were fading fast (the job I went to school for and wanted more than anything, was not going to happen). I was 2 points short on my immigration points paperwork to Australia and 5 points short for New Zealand. I called the foster person I could track down (they were beyond bankrupt) and told them I would consider my paid vet bill their adoption fees. Toby and I were finally legitimate.

Over time I realized we had a lot in common. We were both outcasts, misfits, misunderstood and always underestimated. Neither of use felt completely at ease as part of a pack or tribe. Toby and I were a pretty good fit.

Later on down the road, I decided to have his DNA tested to determine his true pedigree. When the vet called with the results, he was a bit embarrassed. He said the outcome we had did not happen often but Toby was inconclusive on every marker. He was sorry that I did not get a good return on my investment, but I was. Toby was a true Heinz 57 or by other words a bona fide Appalachian Porch Hound (Google that term and you will find most links lead to Tobias).

As time went on we had a good number of adventures, many of them road trips. Since I was gone from home for long periods of time, I often took him with me when I was out and about town. He loved to have his head out the window and when we got to our destination, he loved to run as fast as he could and as far as he could. Here are a few of our adventures as documented on this very blog.

Our two week road trip across America

The only dog in Columbus to have a beer named after him

Rockmill Brewery and a Dog Day Afternoon
(Note: while Matt and I were hiking, Toby in his bliss got too excited and tried to eat a small tree, while pulling it away from him, he scratched me and I have still a small scar on my hand to this day, that will always remind me our time there.

Important Research Work

If you dig through over twelve years of posts on this blog you will find a lot of mentions of Toby – often as a research assistant. For a dog that could not find a home, he certainly found many fans and even appeared in Columbus Monthly.

As a general rule I write about what I really, really like. He is like no other dog I have ever met. I would not describe him as a good dog, although he was not bad. I would never describe him as obedient but I rarely describe myself that way either. The most defining aspects to his “essence” for lack of a better term would be a profound spirit and a deep loyalty to me. I have always had low expectations for people and ultimately, if I look at my life to date, the thing I have prized (and wanted) the most in people and rarely found has been loyalty. I always had Toby’s loyalty, unless there was food to be stolen, but even I could respect that. If I get an ounce of loyalty I will give a pound back. When Toby and I were in West Virginia with my dad, on his last trip “to the hills” before heading to a new type of destruction in Honduras, we spent the night in a high-end cabin owned by a lifelong friend of my dad’s. We were surrounded by manly men. Toby was allowed in (although a “real dog” would have slept outside) but he had to stay in the kitchen. Come midnight when we all crawled into bed upstairs I started to hear the whimper on the kitchen. I knew who it was. It got louder and more frequent. I took a pillow and a sheet and slept next to that poor dog on the hard, cold tile floor until the good old boys found me there in the morning. And they watched the same dog then abandon me the second he heard a package of bacon open.

Toby played an important part in my life in many ways. Toby saved my life on one occasion, but that is a very, very long story with a lot of appendices, notations and more than a few theories so we will skip those details. Paying attention to how Toby felt about a few of my girlfriends could have saved me (and them) from misspent time. Toby was important in many more ways but the critical lesson was learning to share my space and having an opportunity to be accountable to someone other than myself. He gave me a lot when I gave him a home. The most important lessons I learned from my special needs dog were the skills I would need to help my special needs child as a human father.

I was glad that he was around to see me get married and to have some time with my son. I do wish CMH Griffin could have experienced CMH Tobias at his prime – they would have both been a true match for each other. I wish my boy could have fully experienced Toby as I did so he would have a template for a dog that would be a good fit for him or any boy with a curious disposition, thirst for adventure and general disdain of pack mentality. Toby lived long past his prime, probably out of loyalty to me. I did not want to wish for his death but I impatiently waited for it. Even when he was 14 1/2, he was still spry and vibrant and described by a vet as an “exceptional dog” (at least physically). He was and will always be, exceptional.

From November 2017 to today (I watched and hoped for him to decide it was time to go): his walks became shorter; he stopped running and/or showing interest in squirrels, (but could always rally for one good bark at a dog or cat); he slept in later. He lost more bits of his lifestyle. Starting in May 2018 he stopped trying to climb the steps and then he stopped trying to do a controlled fall down them. Then he stopped expecting to be carried upstairs to sleep. He stopped whimpering if he could not be in the same room as us….as me. He stopped ambling to the door when someone came home. Car rides were now a horror for him, not a treat. He lost the essentials to his life and our lives with him. His tail lost it’s spring like curl and whip like speed stopped wagging and shifted to a sag. However, he never stopped being a mooch. He lost most of what made him – Toby, but he only lost an ounce of his intense spirit and none of his loyalty.

As June began there were a few nights I was sure were his last. I stayed up as late as I could each night so he could go outside to pee or poop. As July, started to beckon, on a Friday afternoon his bladder started to fail and his hind legs increased their ineffective flailing. This could not go on, for either of us. He stopped wanting to walk farther than one pee and one sniff and even those were more out of habit than a need to mark territory. At this point he could linger on few weeks or maybe a month of existence or I could pick a day for his departure while a little bit of his essence was left and his spirit not completely broken. I decided we would put him down at home so he would not have to be stressed by a trip to the vet and have a hospital be his last sight and smell before passing. Also, I did not want him to bambi fall across the slick tile floor of the vet as his last act of living. As a family money is very tight for us right now but the cost of dying at home was worth it. All of the home vet services were busy and while our regular vet does not do home visits, they must have felt sorry for me (I did mention that we only live 150 yards away), so they said they could do it but the earliest they could schedule would be Monday (about 52 hours later). After we made arrangements I was not sure Toby would make it to Monday or not. He rallied strong on Sunday and was pampered to the extreme for his final 48 hours. I pulled out our old adventure sleeping bag and we tried to sleep on it the last two nights before his time to go. Maybe he knew what I knew but he did not show it. He even managed to not poop in the house during his last 24 hours. His final meals and snacks were filled with brisket, donuts, ice cream, pizza and meatballs. Waiting at the door to let in our vet in to end Toby’s life by my own choice made every second feel like a century. The only plus in the situation was being able to cry in the privacy of my own home away from any witnesses.

I miss my friend and he leaves a tear in my heart that will not be mended. He headed for Porch Hound Heaven at 1:44 pm, Monday June 25th.

R.I.P. Toby (Tobias J. Dog) March or May 2002 to June 25th, 2018


Porch Hound Post Script:

The dog socialization program continues at Chillicothe Correctional Institution where select inmate handlers work 1-on-1 with dogs and puppies to learn basic commands. The prison coordinates with DASH (Danielle’s Animal Safe Haven) a 100% volunteer based non-profit 501c3 rescue. If you want to make a Donation to Dash in honor of the most notorious of Appalachian Porchhounds here is the -> LINK.

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Posted in FooderHero | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Baba’s Porch – Dan Kraus

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 2, 2016

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You may not know it but you have met Baba’s Porch before – in the form of That Food Truck and in particular, Dan Kraus.

I had an opportunity to have a sideline seat to the first generation of food trucks and the privilege to work with an All-Star Team of these early mobile food mavericks such as Ajumama, OH! Burgers, Pitabilities and That Food Truck.

All of these wheeled purveyors are my friends, but the one that has pulled the string of my stealth heart has been Dan Kraus from That Food Truck. I have seen the highs (being on Nightline) and lows (the break-up of the first team for the truck) and the ups (being named a tastemaker) and downs (the engine of the truck dying). I’ve had countless conversations with Dan over the last five years and have felt he was a bit of a Charlie Brown, having the ball pulled away from him at the last-minute for one project or another.

When the engine of That Food Truck died, Dan had to find another path to your stomachs. A bit tight on cash while building out his restaurant Baba’s Kitchen, Dan found a trailer and started working on a concept to compliment his brick and mortar project. He also took what he learned from a few years of smoking meats on the fly and built a new smoker to add to Baba’s Porch. Baba’s has been serving Friday nights at Seventh Son Brewing and occasional Saturday afternoons to fill in for other mobile vendors. As Baba’s Kitchen slowly….but surely, comes close to completion Dan says he will continue to keep to Porch out for Friday night service and catering.

When Baba’s Kitchen opens you will find the Restaurant at 2515 Summit Street near the intersection of Hudson Street and 3rd Ave. You can expect to see the Baba’s trailer at Seventh Son and special events.

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I checked in with Dan between courses and construction to find out more about Baba’s Porch.

1) Let’s start with the smoker you built for Baba’s, any design enhancements or special features on this smoker from the previous one you built. What makes this smoker extra special to you?

This was the first smoker I fabricated and welded from beginning to end. It was an education during the whole process and being so intimate with the whole thing gave me a chance to really understand the dynamics of space and draft. Making sure its airtight between the firebox and cooking chamber is what kicked this up to another level and maintain consistent temps regardless of barometric pressure.

2) What was the transition like from Truck to Trailer? You are accustomed to tight spaces but its looks like you have to get creative with the space. What do you like best about trailer life?

In many ways it’s a lot easier. Building the trailer out after having That Food Truck for so many years, we knew exactly what was needed and shed the rest. Simplifying the line and having only what is absolutely necessary makes it a breeze to have everything within reach – trim the fat to save the meat. The best thing about trailer life is no rusty ass engine to break down. I can rest knowing as long as I have access to a truck, I can make the gig, no problem.

3) Baba’s Porch will continue after you open Baba’s Kitchen, how do you think the Porch may change as the kitchen grows and you start the grocery aspect to the business?

The Porch will be our place to shine a spotlight on the smoked meats. Simple, smoked sandwiches will always be flying out the window. Having access to more produce and homemade items from Baba’s Kitchen will allow us to play with specials and sides.

4) You have a secret weapon at Baba’s now – Tim. Can you share your history with him and why he is such a great addition to the team?

I met Tim in Culinary school in Portland OR ten years ago and we clicked right away. We have parallel ways of thinking about food and how it should be prepared. We started this conversation about our own place way back then with intent to open a truck in Portland. Literally life happened as my wife and I found out we were pregnant and decided to move back to Ohio. Tim went on to Hawaii and Minnesota and really honed in on some tight culinary skills. His high end expertise and managing a huge line at Lafayette Club has really matured his kitchen nature and often reels my more wild eyed approach. We can challenge each other in respectful ways to find the most delicious and efficient ways to build a plate.

5) Your other secret weapon is your wife Caroline. What are some of the ways she has helped with both projects over the last year?

Can I just say everything, lol? Caroline has supported every crazy idea and move I wanted to make. She gives me the foundation and real support anyone trying to do this would need. She gives words to my ideas and helps organize the chaos. Outside of the actual cooking she is involved in every aspect of the business. Concepts, construction, finance, design, and and networking, Caroline is all over it. Its so cliche, but she is my rock.

She is itching to get Baba’s blog populated with stories of the line and gorgeous food photos.

6) What one (or two) things do you want people to know about Baba’s Porch?

First that we have felt the support for the change of business. We lost TFT and were worried about re-branding and loosing some of the steam we had with the old truck. But Columbus people are awesome and have showed up hungry and left with smiles.

Its an elementary introduction to the food Tim and I can cook. Simple and quick as truck food needs to be. But what flies out of Baba’s Kitchen is elevated with the luxury of time and space. Basically, if you like the Porch food you will love what Baba’s is serving up!

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Phone: 614-262-2227

Posted in BBQ, FooderHero, Mobile Food | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The Sidedished Food Blogs of Columbus

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 31, 2016

Blogging ain’t what it used to be. “Lifestyle” blogs seem to dominate the focus of most new blogs today with more focus on photography and aesthetics over substance and content. And what some call I blog I would by any definition define as a website. And for competition for grabbing people’s time and attention there are so many competing medias, social and otherwise, there may not be much mental space for a traditional blog any more. Since I am no longer a man about town, I did a quick search for new food blogs to see what I am missing but I have not found many of interest. So I decided to block out some time to get caught up on the “establishment food blogs” to see what the “base” is up to. I found that many blogs of the “good old days” are gone, inactive or on extended hiatus so my reading was shorter than planned. After doing so I thought it would be a good idea to share a few food blogs that may have flown under your radar over the course of time. These may give you a sense of what else there is to eat out there. For each, I’d suggest going back a few years to read older content then work your way to the present. I went straight to the source and posed these questions to a few bloggers.


Jarsloth

Jarsloth Blog

Year Started:
2010

Speciality/focus/favorite subject:
smaller, independent restaurants; Asian food

Short description of your blog:
jarsloth blog highlights the places I like to eat and drink (as well as chronicles some of my travels). The restaurants featured aren’t always the most glamorous, but they serve good food and drink and are local businesses well worth supporting.

Day job:
graphic designer

Why you started:

Blogs like Taco Trucks Columbus, Alt Eats, and CMH Gourmand opened my eyes to a whole new world of eateries that were in my neighborhood. These blogs helped me get out and discover places I never knew existed and I wanted to share them with others. Most of these small, independent restaurants didn’t have marketing budgets or any way to advertise except word of mouth and I wanted to help spread the word.

Why you continue:
There are always small restaurants that are overlooked or forgotten because they don’t advertise in popular publications. I like blogging and reading blogs because (unlike publications) bloggers tend to explore the places that aren’t always on the radar. There tends to be a more genuine appreciation of food in the blogging community as most of us do it as an unpaid labor of love.

What is the state of Columbus Food today:
The Columbus food scene is probably the biggest I’ve seen since I moved here in 2000; I can’t begin to count how many new restaurants have opened in the past year alone. While this is generally a good thing, both for our economy and for the food community, many seem to be following current trends and there’s a lot of commonality across the board in the dishes being served. However, there is also a growing selection of ethnic offerings (a benefit to our growing immigrant community) which adds some real depth to Columbus food options.

A favorite place you think is overlooked by others:
Diaspora on campus is my favorite Korean restaurant in Columbus. Because it doesn’t feature the table top grills, it’s often overlooked by those looking for the Korean BBQ experience. On any given night, however, it’s packed with Korean students from OSU (a good sign) and they have been consistently turning out good food in the 6 years I’ve been going there


Weber Cam

Webercam

Year started:
2005!

Specialty focus:
cooking methodology,
re-examination and exploration of simple foods
bread baking
smoking
pizza
grill fabrication/destruction (occasionally)

1-2 sentence description of WeberCam
I strive to bring versatile, reproducible preparations of deceptively simple foods to the masses.

Day job:
A job.

Why I started?
weber_cam is proof my memory is not good. My site was created for myself, an electronic kitchen notebook, but shared publicly. It’s not overly organized or pretty, just a good reference for myself and a handy place to offer links from. When I look back upon a bread I made 5 years ago, I’m often surprised at the appearance and it takes a few minutes to recall that I actually made it. It’s a memory prosthetic.

Why I continue?
My memory is only getting worse, I need every tool possible.

State of Columbus Food.
I’m so proud to be here. Our Japanese haven there on Henderson, all the Asian places on Bethel and Olentangy, MiLi, Huong’s, plenty of bbq, so much to be grateful for. I’ve honestly not embraced food trucks before, but as I meet more and more proprietors of the trucks, largely by hanging out at The Commissary, I’m getting hooked on them and seek them out. I’ve always needed a personal connection to engage with something I like. And most recently, I’ve come to meet a few more people in the business with my small mobile knife sharpening business (BladesOfGlory.org). I’m enjoying that immensely. (ha, shameless plug).

Overlooked food find:
The Growl / Lavash combo is a blast. Fantastic selection of brews and a Lavash menu. It’s a favorite collaboration for me to enjoy.


And some status updates on other blogs.

Nothing Better To Do
Jared was the most post-lific of food bloggers in town and one of the earliest. He also focused on vegetarian cuisine. He has/had a knack for finding vegetarian options in the most unlikely of places. He moved to Chicago which has put his blog on hold but he may resume it in the Windy City later this year.

Pie Are Round
When two blogs collide! Pie are Round married the author of another blog out of commission, Tania Explores Columbus. And they followed a similar path as me (just a few months behind me) – get married, take a honeymoon, buy a house, get really busy and struggle to keep up with writing.

Breakfast Grub Guy
When I first became aware of this blog I thought “who is this um,…dude…. , have they not heard of Breakfast with Nick”. But then, I figured out he was a blogger who was transplanted to Columbus and just picked up here where he left off on the east coast. After a few years of Columbus adventures including one with me our attempt to eat a 30 inch pizza, James has headed back to to the greater Philly area. He writes posts of places I’d love to try out but will have to be content to read about from afar.

And last and not least because it is not a blog, but served an important function, RIP the Columbus Underground Messageboard which was a source of food news, discussion and was a primary research resources for the early days of Taco Trucks Columbus and Street Eats Columbus. I met a lot of friends through the message board and used it to create Pizza Grand Prix among other things. It also served as one of the primary referring sources to CMH Gourmand so I will miss that extra traffic and interest.

And now, so you know there are still people out there exploring and discovering new places for us, there is a blog that is crossing the two year threshold – still a whippersnapper compared to the rest of us, but I think blogging with the right spirit.

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614ortyNiner tracks the discoveries of a California native transplanted to the capital city.

Specialty/focus/favorite subject:
I lean toward the Central Ohio food scene, but I’m excited by other aspects here like beer, music, arts. My spouse and I also love to travel, and I enjoy sharing our adventures.

1 to 2 sentence description of your blog

Long-time West Coaster learning (and still learning) about life in and around Ohio.

Day job
Administrative

Why you started
I’ve had other blogs before, but for very specific topics and audiences. The description above really explains why I continue to have a lot to write about.

Why you continue

The blog itself helps keep me mentally limber and document our experiences. Perhaps more importantly, I have met some wonderfully nice and talented people through my writing and travels – this blog really wouldn’t mean as much personally without that interaction.

What is the state of Columbus Food today.
The promise is undeniable, with lots of booming areas (craft beer and food trucks come quickly to mind) and plenty of energy and talent within the scene. However, there is the “safe” mindset that is still prevalent: there is a reason why this city is still considered prime testing ground for chain restaurants. The evolution away from that will take time, but it is happening slowly but surely and I am real excited to be here during this time.

A favorite place you think is overlooked by others.
I don’t think any of my favorites are necessarily overlooked by others. I think there are segments of the local restaurant scene (namely the African restaurants) that are just waiting to be uncovered by the public as a whole. I admit myself that they don’t immediately pop into mind when we’re thinking of places to eat, and that’s something that we need to change.


That is a taste of what is out there for you blog readers. If you know of a new (and good) food blog I have missed let me know.

And do keep in mind, every time you read a blog, an angel gets their wings….and we need a lot more angels in this world.

Posted in Columbus, culinary knowledge, FooderHero | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Victor Ecimovich: Brewer Laurate of Columbus

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 27, 2015

Victor Ecimovich III is a name you probably can’t pronounce and may never heard of. While interviewing Ecimovich (at a bar of course) we were approached by Kelly Sauber. No slouch in brewing experience, Sauber brewed for Marietta Brewing Company for fifteen years, then started Fifth Element Spirits and West End Cider House in Athens. Sauber apologized profusely for interrupting but he wanted to “shake the hand of (Ecimovich) one of his brewing heroes.” Sauber shared that one of his inspirations to pursue brewing was the beer Ecimovich was crafting in the 1990’s.

Introduced to brewing when a friend threw in the towel on a home brewing kit, Ecimovich decided he would “like to give it a shot.” He always enjoyed cooking and figuring out how to make things so he quickly discovered that he preferred yeast and hops to his electrical engineering studies. On some level, he was fated to ferment since his grandfather had been a brewer for Meister Brau when it was a favored Windy City beer. Ecimovich found his way to the Siebel Institute’s brewing program (luckily located in his hometown of Chicago) “as an independent.” Ecimovich was one of only two students paying his way for an eleven-week course, the rest of his colleagues were sent by breweries from around the world. Ecimovich made an impression on his instructors so before he studies were over, he found himself brewing beer on weekends at Millstream Brewing in Iowa (a 3 ½ hour drive away). When offered the position Ecimovich recalls “I knew if I thought about it too long, I would talk myself out of it, so I just said yes.”

Ecimovich’s recollections of brewing with the traditional German brewers at Millstream sound (to this writer) like drill instructor scenes from the movie Full Metal Jacket. After a few years of training (or surviving the heavy handed hazing) in the traditional techniques of lagers, helles and bocks, Ecimovich found his way to a new upstart called Goose Island back home in Chicago. In 1994, Ecimovich, having never visited Columbus signed on as brewer from the Hoster Brewing Company in the Brewery District. During the hey day of the 1990’s the corner of High and Hoster was the place to be in Columbus in part due to the wide variety of highly regarded beers Ecimovich was brewing.

In the case of Hoster (closed in 2002) the glory days ended when, the Brewery District lost its allure as The Arena District and Easton caught and kept customers attention. In 2004, Daniel Myers partnered with Ecimovich (Vice President of Brewing) to buy the rights to the Hoster brand and recipes in order to revive Hoster’s signature Goldtop beer. Production resumed in 2005 with Ecimovich balancing overseeing offsite contract brewing of Goldtop (currently in north east Ohio) while working in the construction business.

Today Ecimovich finds it is “an exciting time for beer drinkers and brewers alike”. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, Ecimovich (like his other band of microbrewing brothers) had to brew beer that “would win the hearts and minds” of a new wave of beer drinkers. If someone “tried a craft beer they didn’t like, you lost them” as a customer and a craft beer drinker. “Subpar breweries either had to get their act together quickly or go out of business” and many did tap out during the craft beer bubble of 15 years ago. Craft beer has changed a lot since then. “Thank goodness” say Ecimovich, “now there are so many bars with fifty taps, more breweries than I can count, and new brewery seems to open every month or even every two weeks.” Ecimovich equates the “old school” brewers and the new, bearded kids on the block, with downhill skiers and snow boarders doing half pipes – he can appreciate what the new brewers are doing but he is happy to keep speeding down the mountain doing what he knows best.


Gold Top

The Three Eras of Hoster Brewing

1836 to 1919
The Hoster’s were the first family of brewing in Columbus. The Hoster Brewing Company was open longer than any other brewery past or present. During the heyday of the beer barons of the 1890’s, Hoster was one of the top ten breweries in the country producing up to 300,000 barrels per year; in comparison Columbus Brewing Company (today) does about 12,000.

1989 to 2002
The brewpub located at Hoster and High was the center of nightlife, food and beer in the Brewery District until other entertainment areas stole the limelight and allure of the area. The brewpub closed in 2001 and brewing stopped in 2002.

2004 to present
While production has waxed and waned, Hoster Goldtop (a signature beer of all three eras) had been brewed and kegged our of town for limited consumption under the watchful eye and experienced palate of Victor Ecimovich. The most likely spot to find a pour of Goldtop is Quaker Steak and Lube at Polaris.

What is Hoster Goldtop?
Goldtop is a flagship from all three eras of Hoster Brewing in Columbus. The beer is a Dortmunder / Export Lager. The gold / pale lager is named after a city and a brewery in Germany – Dortmunder.

Posted in beer, beverages, Columbus, culinary knowledge, FooderHero | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Leftovers: Truck to Table

Posted by cmh gourmand on September 14, 2014

I’ve been writing for 614 Magazine sporadically for the last year and more frequently for their new Food and Beverage quarterly Stock and Barrel. I had pitched an idea to the editor about writing about many of our food truckers that are making the jump to Brick and Mortar restaurant spaces. When I pitched the concept they already had it in development but I was asked if they could use Truck to Table as part of the headline and I was happy to do it.

The photos were taken but the story did not develop as planned so I was contacted and asked if I could do it in 48 hours. I was up for the task since I know the subject matter well and because I have a kitchen renovation to help pay for. The article was to focus on food but I had some challenges. One site was undergoing a menu change, another was closed due to a power outage and the third I did not have time to visit. So, I opted to write “big” (going way over word count) to write the stories of the guys behind the food and hoped that the editor could condense into something useable. He did….a lot of condensing. So you can do an compare and contrast by reading this final cut for print -> HERE and the original draft with sidebars, below.


Truck to Table

Zach James
Truck – Paddy Wagon
Table – Jailhouse Rock at Little Rock

In August 2010 Zach James was a student at OSU that liked to hang out at Dick’s Den. He formed a fast friend/mentorship with JP Potter of Fusion Café one of the first food trucks in the city, which often served at James’ watering hole.

James was looking for a challenge and wanted to push his boundaries after a series of food service jobs. Potter revealed his mobile food secrets: how to get started, navigate regulations, etc. and James was a quick study. The original concept for his truck Paddywagon was a burger based menu. His original beat was a mission to dispel the roach coach myth. James learned a lot about branding in his early days which led to two big changes. James changed the wrap on his truck and shifted his focus from burgers to brisket. The first time he sold out all of his brisket was the moment the deputy shifted to thinking like a Sheriff. He knew he was ready to grow out the business and stake his claim on a permanent spot.

One dark night, while sharing beers with Daniel McCarthy (Tatoheads) at St. James Tavern, James was approached by a regular customer who told him about a new bar opening down 4th Street. The bar was looking to partner with a truck so James decided to commit to the new spot for the duration. That bar was Little Rock. After seeing how good food meant good business, owner Quinn Fallon asked James to look at a small space in the bar to see if James could do anything with it. The nook in the back had a walk in cooler, a mop sink and 150 square feet to work with. After plotting out 20-30 configurations James finally found one that was more arresting than the others. Then looking at the layout and what equipment he could shimmy in, he decided a hot dog menu was the best way to get the most out of the little space. Initial response was hot with many regulars working their way through the entire menu in a few visits, To keep customers coming back new items are integrating into the menu as specials and becoming regular items when they resonate with fans but hot dogs remain at the core of the kitchen. Since the space is small like a prison cell and to stay on the with the Paddywagon theme, James dubbed the space the Jailhouse. The operation has also taken a cue from Late Night Slice with some signature (and very, very tasty) sauces available to slather on whatever fills your plate. The Jailhouse recently added Sophie’s Pierogi’s (a truck turned cart) pierogi to the menu to mix things even up more.

What James has learned in his drive from truck to rock and roll dive is that Jailhouse serves as an anchor to consistently connect with his customers. In his experience, even his biggest fans are not going to invest time to find him online and then drive 30 minutes to eat at a different (random) location. Having Paddy Wagon inspired food at the Jailhouse gives James and his customers the consistency both have waited for. Menu items come with names inspired by the Paddy wagon law enforcement motif and the Rock and Roll vibe of Little Rock. James has also moved to Italian Village so he can be a part of the community he is helping to grow. In the meantime the truck rolls during the day and the Jailhouse rocks at night.

Matthew Heaggans
Truck – Swoop
Table – The Hey Hey, operating pop-up eatery Bebe
Table 2 – Swoop Take Over at Ace of Cups.

Forget professional objectivity, Matt Heaggans is my favorite chef to watch in action. In the kitchen he swoops into an action with the mental intensity of an Olympic athlete. A series of serendipitous events seem to be adding more ingredients and experiences to the recipe that may make Heaggans the next big thing.

A few years ago, Heaggans, a Columbus native was practicing his craft (he might say, getting schooled) in a French restaurant in DC. What he learned in that kitchen, “there was no way I would learn it all”. That did and still does serve as his daily inspiration to continue to learn and strive for the best quality in his craft. As he was pondering on what his next life lesson would be, a friend from Columbus contacted him for advice on starting a food truck. Heaggans offered to advice on finding and equipping a truck, consulted on a menu and volunteered to spend two weeks to help train the staff to execute the food he conjured up. While this was in process, his mother had an accident and then needed extra help at home, which was an excuse for fate to nudge Heaggans back home. The offer to help turned into an unexpected business venture and Heaggan’s was back in student mode again.
He figured out early on – to be a sustainable food truck business he needed to change the food he was serving. He “had to adjust to dishes that were tailored to shorter prep time, quicker turn around and tight work space of a truck. His style demands fresh food – which means he had to serve almost everything created earlier that day by the end of the day. A fresh food menu takes a lot of prep, space and forethought but along that path somehow his signature dish became tater tots.

According to Heaggans, “most cooks are in the kitchen to learn, and grow so the natural progression is to keep growing by expanding the business or the menu”. In the fall of 2013, when the opportunity of the Hey Hey popped up (passed to him by Angela Theado of The Coop) he was ready to have a little more elbow room in a slightly bigger kitchen.. He expected everyone would flock his way right away but the customer rush started with a trickle instead of a stampede. So he had an opportunity to spend more time with his customers, which at the Hey Hey is a very diverse clientel – a little bit of everything– every class and palate He had to create a menu that will connect with people with at any level. It was a lesson in adaptation.

This summer another opportunity presented itself. This one passed along by another food truck peer, Jamie Anderson of Ray Ray’s Hog Pit. Anderson has a good gig set up next to Ace of Cups but the spot needed food the days that Ray Ray’s is not there and it needs a wider range of food and longer hours that Ray Ray’s could do sustainably. So Heaggans and Anderson agreed to pursuing menus that don’t step on others toes. Now Ace of Cups can offer food when its doors are open so owner Marcy Mays does not need to close the doors from exhaustion of running a bar and kitchen. So what is Heaggans lesson from the Swoop Ace of Cups Take Over? Delegation. He can’t be in three places at the same time but he can set the standards for the menus for all of his locations, make the sauces used on all menus and check on the other two when he is not cooking up a new creation at the Hey Hey. While the food at the Hey Hey leans towards comfort foods, the menu at the Ace of Cups plays out as classic bar food for sharing between beers or bands.

Daniel McCarthy
Truck: Tatoheads
Table: Public House

You can blame PBS for the interesting path which drove Daniel McCarthy to the food business. One might even say he entered it out of necessity. His single mother always worked so he had a choice of TV dinners or to make something that he wanted. Public Television was a constant so he grew up with the Frugal Gourmet and Julia Child instructing him in the background. As a teenager he would cut school and make everyone food when they snuck over to his home. As he got older he took a concept of Malcolm Galdwell’s which is one needs 10,000 hours doing something to be skilled at it so he decided at that point in his life, the only thing he had done for close to 10,000 hours was cooking, so he would make cooking as his livelihood.

When I spoke with Daniel McCarthy (I call him Tater) he has just spent the day reconfiguring all of the tables at the Public House (formerly Hall and Al’s). He had also been training staff and fine-tuning some mechanical concerns with his Tatoheads truck. It was well after 9 pm on a weeknight. McCarthy was tired. Running two businesses will take a lot out of a fella but this summer has been a busier that usual. After getting an 11th hour loan he was able to secure the capital he needed to take over the reins of Hal and Al’s but that also meant he had to move to a new house, open a new restaurant and change the home base for his food truck in ten days….during peak food truck season. Luckily, McCarthy is no stranger to a rapid life changes.

In late 2009, the native Chicagoan was given the opportunity to pursue his two passions. His girlfriend was moving to Columbus to go back to school, so he decided to chase her to the capital city. He also decided it was time to make a living by opening a restaurant. That deal fell through but while visiting Columbus he saw the Late Night Slice Truck in action so he decided, “I can do my thing without a restaurant”. McCarthy moved to Columbus in April 2010, bought the truck that May and opened for business on the September 3rd OSU home game that year. He learned a lot in a truck that reached 140 degrees inside. His first three outings were “dismal”. Then he decided he would stay at the same spot until he broke even for the day….that took 16 hours. After a few months he “figured out the trick to the food truck business…work, work, work”. The next step in his transition from truck to table occurred while he was working on a collaborative restaurant project that fell through at the last moment. While disappointed that the endeavor did not launch, he did walk away with an established team, a finished business plan and an extended network of supporters. One was the owner of Hal and Al’s who was looking for the right person to take over the Parsons Ave tavern, a spot that is as much about the community it serves as the food it plates. Having heard of McCarthy’s struggles and frequently experiencing McCarthy’s passion for his menu and desire to grow out his business, it was time for destiny to knock at Daniel’s door.

What McCarty learned in his transition from truck to table was the never-ending need to constantly change the business to accommodate what he learned on a daily basis and how to reconfigure the design and equipment in his truck kitchen to work best with the menu he wanted to execute. While Tatoheads has won the hearts and minds of the TatoNation through fries, McCarthy is excited to have the elbow room to flex his cooking muscles and show the public a diversity of menu he has wanted to do for years. In the process, Public House also become home base for the Tatoheads truck so he can prep menus for both concepts from one kitchen. His girlfriend will be using her horticulture skills from college to create and expand a community garden for the restaurant and the neighborhood. McCarthy has planted his roots on Parsons Ave. by moving his household there as well and he plans to grow with the community as the business blooms.

The original concept of Tatoheads was to have a rotating menu but McCarthy could not run with that concept because the fries were so popular. Now with Public House he plans to add dishes like Shepards Pie, Chicken and Potato Pot Pie and more. He is also excited to have the space to do catering, events and parties. He is even more excited about growing a new business in an area where he feels his business can make a difference in the community. Maybe patrons will be watching PBS instead of NFL at Public House?


Sidebars

Table To Truck (Restaurants that have gone mobile)

White Castle – two food trucks
Donatos – One food trailer
Cuco’s – one food truck
Pizza Cottage – one food truck
Schmidt’s – two food trucks
Giant Eagle – Market Place Food Truck
Explorer’s Club – food truck
Los Jalapenos – Tortillas Food Truck
Costello’s (closed) – now the Cilantro Food Truck
Yabos Tacos – one Truck

More Truck or Cart to Table
Skyward Grille – from multiple carts to brick and mortar base of operations and restaurant
Late Night Slice – went from Shack, to Truck to over 8 locations across town
That Food Truck – Dan Kraus is working on a concept in Italian Village

Posted in FooderHero, Leftovers, Mobile Food, restaurants | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Hello Mr. Chips: OH! Chips and Brian “Thor” Thornton

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 20, 2014

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Have you ever been present at the moment of something big? Were you one of 20 people who saw Nirvana play at Staches during a blizzard when they toured from a van or did you see the rise of the Phoenix that is LeaderOptics? For me, as a compulsively creative idea brainstormer, there are few things better than seeing the light bulb go off in someone’s head and then watch what happens. I’ve been following the growth of OH! Chips for almost three years now and it has been a fun ride.

I met Brian “Thor” Thornton when I was working for a food business incubator called Food Fort. Brian was of the mind to buy a food truck and he was just wrapping up his business plan when I met him. At the time (fall 2011) there was only one truck on the market, The Hot Pita Food Truck (RIP) which I had looked over and did not think much of what I saw. That did not dissuade Thor, he saw where he could make adjustments and modifications and even though the truck was far from perfect it was the vehicle he could use to launch his business and he was ready to go. So in typical Thor fashion, the gap between thought and action was nearly unmeasurable.

Once he had the truck in development, he started working on recipes and that is where I came to know him much better. I am certain for the first two years of his OH! Burger food truck, I sampled any menu item he developed. And he and I talked about, debated and conceived a lot of neat new concepts along the way (The $1 Dollar Hollar Hot Dog sandwich for a late night menu comes to mind – Thor thought better of that) that were just too wrong to unleash on the public. I even had Thor talked in to donuts for a while.

There were a lot of adventures along the way, I wrote about one of them (see the link below).

It Takes a Village to Serve an OH! Burger.

Between burgers, Thor was always working on a tweaking recipes for potato and sweet potato chips. I’m sure on the fist couple months of OH! Burgers I sampled a slightly different version of a chip (potato type, different oils, etc.) It was always in Thor’s vision for the chips to be a signature item on his truck menu (they were and still are) but I don’t think a week went by where he did not tweak or experiment with the process in some way. I was there the day he decided he had finally made the perfect chip and having tried one, I was inclined to agree with him. The popularity of the chips was instant and sometimes overshadowed his own burgers. So in typical Thor fashion the process of thought to action to make the chips their own business was put on fast forward in a flash.

So let’s bring you up to date. It has been a big year for OH! Chips. With a lot of hard work and a small business loan, he secured a space for a factory in a former food cart commissary (appropriately enough) and may have the space in full production around Labor Day. In the meantime he has continued to labor on his food truck and the factory and well as all of the many things that need to happen between making batches of chips to grow the business from 100’s of bags to 1000’s.

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The business began to expand with partnering by other food trucks to sell his chips both as is and with customized spice mixes. Here is where you can find the chips now.

Actual Brewing Company
Ajumana (Food Truck)
Blu Olive (Food Truck)
Catawba Island Brewing Company
Four String Brewing Company
Kenny’s Meat Wagon (Food Cart)
North High Brewing Company
The Ohio Tap Room
Pam’s Market Popcorn
Strongwater Food and Spirits

You may have noticed a trend in there – Breweries and beer based businesses. You have read here before that craft breweries and food trucks are the perfect pairing. That partnership potential applies to other small businesses as well. Taprooms benefit from good food and great chips go well with beer.

What makes these potato chips so good? A couple little things add up to a big difference in taste and quality. OH! Chips are hand crafted in small batches. The potatoes are thinly sliced then blanched before being fried in peanut oil then lightly seasoned with sea salt. This might not sound like much but the reason why so many people crave these chips is because the extra labor that goes into the chips and because they are fresh.

I think there has been a pent-up demand for good potato chips. Many years ago, Ohio had many more local potato chips companies than today but most were eaten up by the big guys. If you have friends from other parts of Ohio you may be familiar with names like Mike-Sells, Grippos, Ballreich’s, Gold n Crisp, Jones, Mumford’s, Tastee, Schearer’s, Wagner’s and more. I remember Buckeye Potato Chips as a kid and if my memory serves me right, they seemed to be the only potato chip in the world. We still have a lot of Ohio based chips to choose from today and our heritage supports that. While “Saratoga Chips” were invented in New York, it was Ohio where they went big fast. Ohio was home to the first trade association of potato chip makers. So with that in our collective DNA, it is the priming of the pump to want to eat and support the first new local potato chip maker in my lifetime. I’m glad I was around to see OH! Chips get born and I look forward to watching the company mature.

If all goes to plan, by the end of the year you will see the chips some more locations (probably Weilands). In the meantime find them (or ask for them) at a local brewery, The Ohio Tap Room or select food trucks while we wait for more of a good thing.

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Posted in Behind the Counter, culinary misadventure, FooderHero | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

An Ode to Tobias: The Best Beer You May Never Have

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 26, 2014

Tobias Stout

So…..three weeks ago I got hitched. It may have been a surprise to some that had not seen me in a while. For others, it was noted that the past winter had been historically cold and frozen with some speculation that perhaps hell might be freezing over. Let me assure you such was not the case. I got the better end of the deal.

While all of the wedding planning was unfolding (this may be a future post) something else was going on behind the scenes. Angelo from Barleys Ale House was getting information from a few of my friends – in particular the Dining Duder – and he contacted Colin from Seventh Son to work on a collaboration beer in honor of my nuptials. All without my knowledge. The final product was a marriage of Barleys Bourbon Barrel Aged Scotch Ale and Seventh Son’s Oubliette Russian Imperial Stout. Kegs were available at each of the wedding venues, Barley’s for the Friday night pre-game and Seventh Son for the Saturday wedding and reception. It packed quite a punch with the result that those that imbibed heavily on the beer Friday night limited themselves to one pint on Saturday. It was a perfect covert operation, I had no idea all of this was going on until we walked in to Barley’s with some supplies at 5 pm on Friday. Well done Angelo, Gabe, Jason, Colin and all others involved in this worthy project.

The greatest honor of this entire endeavour was the naming of the beer. In honor of my esteemed dog and because this is a “beast” of a beer and blending of two great beverages it was christened Tobias! Long time readers are aware of my Appalachian Porch Hound, Toby, also known as CMH Tobias on Twitter. While Toby has been on many adventures with me, having a beer named in his honor is the greatest tribute I can think of and the largest exposure of this exceptional porchhound to the masses.

There is a small amount of Tobias held in reserve and it will be released for a Studio 35 Beer Tasting sometime this year. Having the last of this nectar served in the heart of the Ville is a fitting Bon Voyage.

Posted in beer, FooderHero | 1 Comment »

The Road Warrior: Angelo Signorino Jr. – Brewer, Biker, Beloved!

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 21, 2014

bike

I debated whether to write about Angelo. Not because he doesn’t deserve a wagonload of kudos but like, me, he’d rather stay out of the spotlight and the limelight and practice his craft quietly. I mean he does work underground for part of the week. A couple of things tipped the scale for me. First, I recently wrote about Dan Kraus from That Food Truck and in the process of that I decided to add a new occasional series with the category heading – Fooderhero. There are many people in our community that have been quietly growing and planting seeds of greatness and Angelo is definitely at the top of the list.

The other thing that guided my decision was a story that Angelo recently told. He rides his bike to work nearly everyday, even in the weather we have had this year. As he was sharing the story, he described how he had the snowy Olentangy bikeway to himself and while riding along appreciating solitude and scenery he saw a Blue Herron. He then observed, for some people having a moment like that would be the highlight of their day as they commute to a job they don’t love. However, Angelo does pedal to a job he loves and he engages in his craft with a passion that is infectious. Angelo bikes to Barley’s Ale House #1 a few days a week and to Barley’s Smokehouse and Brewpub a few other days per week. At each destination he creates exceptional beers served from towers, engines, casks, barrels and firkins.

Angelo serves as a role model in many things he does. He has biked to work for years, commuting by two wheels long before others considered making that type of commitment. As for brewing, he has engaged in that trade for over twenty years. And while the volume of award-winning beers he has helped craft are well worthy of the accolade of being a Fooderhero, what really tips the scale is all of the encouragement and support he gives the rest of the brewing community. I’ll provide a few examples. If you see a bike parked in front a brewery afterhours, there is a good chance Angelo is inside sampling a beer, buying a growler or sharing beercraft lore with someone. There is also a good chance he is laughing. In the not so distant past, he was en route to meet his wife for dinner and just before his destination, he noticed that the lights were on at Four String Brewing so he popped in to see how Dan Cochran was doing. At that time, Dan was working fulltime during the day and then fulltime at night brewing and growing his own business. Angelo, without a prompt, spent 30 or more minutes helping Dan mash (that is the pre beer mixture that requires a lot of intensive physical work) while he waited for his dinner to get plated. As a third and final (but a mere drop in the bucket for what Angelo has done in the craft community) example, as much as Angelo loves people, he (like me) is an introvert so spending time in the public eye on a brewing day is not the most energizing activity he could engage in. Yet he does it like a pro. For Columbus Brew Adventures, Angelo walks guests through the history of Barleys in the course of four beers. Each beer has a great story and Angelo is a master storyteller. Interspersed with the information is the most memorable, distinctive laugh I’ve ever heard. It is a laugh of pure joy, passion, inspiration and celebration. And by the second beer there is not a person in the room that does not love Angelo. I have listened to him speak about the beers Barley’s brews over twenty times and I could listen to the spiel another 200 more. Each time to shares his tales, I learn something new and I get the satisfaction of watching 14 people transformed from casual observers to passionate craft brewing evangelists in less than 30 minutes.

As if the above was not more than enough there are a few more things I would like to share. Angelo started in beercraft as a part-time worker at the Winemakers Shop, which inspired two generations of home brewers and more than a handful of the brewers in practice at breweries around town today. Angelo is a lover of food and a long time supporter of the local restaurant scene, but it is in the arena of Food Trucks that he has excelled as a supporter. You are as likely to see his bike parked at a food truck as at a brewery and he offers the same infectious support to these new businesses as he does to every brewer he crosses paths with.

So as a tip of the hat to Angelo, I am only showing his bike in the post, instead of one of my many photos of him in action so he can stay under the radar. Cheers!

Posted in beer, beverages, culinary knowledge, FooderHero, Sub Dude | Tagged: | 3 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.

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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 »