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Tis the Reason(s) to Choose Watershed Distillery & Kitchen for the Season

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 20, 2017

During the holidays, I prefer to have all of my shopping completed before Thanksgiving. My lifelong goal, is to shop at as few places as possible and if at all possible, only one. However, I like my gifts to be a unique and original fit for the recipients. I don’t get out of the house much nowadays. I’m no longer the go to guy to get intel on all the new places and up and comers in the food world. With this as my criteria and my growing lack of hipness a big liabilities, what is a fella to do? Go with what I know well, Watershed Distillery. Although they do not know it, the gang at Watershed has worked hard to solve my holiday gift giving challenges by consolidating my needs into one entity.

My knowledge base of Watershed goes way back to 2013. I started running tours that showcased Watershed as one of our up and coming local businesses. Popping in a few times per month for almost four years, I experienced the equivalent of a time-lapse slide show of their growth. Every time I would bring in a group I would see a new piece of equipment or a wall knocked down or hear about another new spirit being distilled. Seeing how hard everyone worked, it was a true joy to see Watershed gradually realize success for their efforts. And one sure sign of “making the grade” is having a detailed overview of your business on Wikipedia. If you are new to the Watershed story, read a summary of their history and endeavors on Wikipedia -> HERE.

In sharing some more of that story, I make the case for how my holiday challenges are alleviated by what Watershed has to offer. Let’s start with the business. Two local guys create a local distillery that sources a fair amount of local ingredients. Supporting local businesses, that supports other local businesses is always a feel good decision and when those products are given as gifts, it certainly reflects well on the gift giver.

My first break out spirit from Watershed was their bourbon. Some would say bourbon can only be made in Kentucky, those folks are incorrect and may be suspect of spreading fake news. Watershed Bourbon, like the company, has evolved a bit over the years. From the start, Watershed bourbon has been a bit different from the corn squeezin’ crowd. In particular, Watershed double distills their bourbon (less common) and uses a four grain malt bill of corn, wheat, barley (much less common) and spelt (almost unheard of). Multiple grains are not unique in the world of distilling but the addition of spelt is a rare thing. Ohio is a major spelt producer so sourcing it for bourbon adds to the unique flavor and terroir of this barrel aged beverage. The version bottled today (late 2017) is aged three and one half years and is shifting to barrels crafted in Jackson, Ohio. The proof has shifted from 94 to 90. All of this combined gives the bourbon something that won’t get picked up by most palates or in reviews. Watershed Bourbon has a lot of the heart of Ohio mixed in to it. That ensures it will taste just a touch better. It will be interesting to see how Watershed Bourbon evolves over time since they have a goal of eventually aging each barrel 6 years.

My next Watershed moment was the addition of Nocino to the lineup. As you can read -> HERE, I am a fan. Nocino is a black walnut liquor that we can all thank a guy named Charlie for. The 2017 version will be released shortly after I post this so you should seek out and probably stockpile it before it is gone. It’s smaller bottle size makes it perfect stocking stuffer and its smoother, sweeter taste makes it an easy ice breaker for any gathering.

But wait there is more! Watershed recently added another unique spirit to their growing cast of local alcohol all-stars, in the form of apple brandy. Released in October 2017, Watershed brought apple brandy back after a one hundred year absence from the shelves of Ohioans. Made with Ohio apples, this brandy packs at punch at 80 proof. Each batch is aged for a minimum of two years with charred oak barrels. When I first caught a whiff of this in 2015 I knew it would be worth the wait, let’s just say I was smitten. The brandy is not in a climate controlled barrel house so the old style expansion and contraction of the wood in the barrels ensures this product has character and some old-timey goodness to it.

I picked up this little tip of how introduce others to this tasty treat, courtesy of Chris who works with the Watershed gang.

A great place to start for those who are not familiar with apple brandy or brandy in general is to switch out bourbon for apple brandy in a classic cocktail like a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned. Here are two quick recipes that we served at the launch party.

The Big Apple
1.5 oz Watershed Apple Brandy
.5 oz Watershed Bourbon
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
3 dash Angostura Bitters

Old Granny Smith
2 oz Watershed Apple Brandy
.25 oz Simple Syrup
3 dash Angostura Bitters
3 dash Molé Bitters

So that gives you three spirits to seek out for the holidays but don’t just take my word for it, let Watershed help you feel even more secure in your choices. Last year, Watershed added a restaurant their operation. Watershed Kitchen and Bar adds a needed element to the Watershed experience, an immediate way to sample their spirits in their preferred habitat, a cocktail glass, instead of as thimble sized sample served straight during a tasting. The bar offers well thought out and hand crafted cocktails to show off what the spirits can do when they team up with other ingredients. The kitchen crafts exceptional food so you can enjoy a meal, while ensuring your have the fortitude to try out more than one cocktail and educate yourself on what you might do with several of their base concoctions.

On two visits to the Watershed Kitchen I have found the food pairs well with libations. If your mom always told you to eat your brussels sprouts, this is the place where you will do so with glee. Let your mom know and she might just take you off the naughty list.

So this is my fool-proof plan to help you cover all of your holiday shopping in one short visit and treat yourself at the same time.

  • Step One: Visit Watershed Kitchen and Bar to sample all of their wares.
  • Step Two: Buy some restaurant gift cards for your friends that love food and/or do not drink.
  • Step Three: Pop into the Watershed store to stock up on bottles for you and for others. They even have some helpful recipe fliers to guide those that did not make it to the bar on how to craft cocktails to their liking. Pick up one for yourself and a few to go with your gifts.
  • Step Three Point Five: If you are pressed for time, the nice people at Watershed can create some gift packages for you to hand out as your own spirited Santa. Add in a flask, handy wooden crate, a t-shirt or whatnot to add to others holiday cheer. Your hard thought out efforts will much appreciated this holiday.
  • Drop in to Watershed Distillery, Kitchen & Bar.
    1145 Chesapeake Ave, Columbus, OH 43212

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    Posted in beverages, culinary knowledge, Food For Thought, Locally Sourced | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

    Mad About Making Cider at Mad Moon Cider!

    Posted by cmh gourmand on July 29, 2015

    One of the best things about Columbus Brew Adventures is the diversity of people I get to work with and learn from. Several months ago I met Peter Moon, one of the owners of Mad Moon Cider at a tasting. After trying his products and hearing a bit of his story, I knew I had to get some tour groups into his space. I tested out the concept with private groups over the winter and each trip there was a crowd favorite. At each tour, I picked up a bit more of his story while meeting his wife and cider making partner Sally. I really became hooked on the craft of craft cider.

    When Peter mentioned that they sometimes need volunteers to help with cider production I promptly volunteered. Then the stars and the Moons aligned and I had my opportunity to report for duty. Our team was small – the two Moons, myself and a fella I think may one day become a folk legend, Vic. I’ll digress about Vic for a bit. Vic has been there, done that, survived countless mishaps and misadventures and somehow thrives on doing great acts of endurance and physical strength – most of this seems to be fueled by a daily regimen of honey, apple cider vinegar and some assorted juices. As I observed at the end of my service, if Vic had lived in an earlier era, we would today measure speed and production on Vicpower, not horsepower.

    Anyway, step one of cider production is the sort apples. In our case, we had some multiple 800 lb crates of apples that had been stored over the winter. While these apples make great cider, they also require significantly more sorting than other batches. If you have heard the phrase “one bad apple spoils the bunch”, it is true and we had to search for them among 1000’s of apples in each crate.

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    As the apples get sorted into milk crates and buckets, the apples go down a chute of a device that looks a lot like a chipper to get mashed into apple pulp.

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    The pulp gets wheeled over to get crafted into sheets of “cheese”. The job of the cheese maker is to take scoops of pulp, and using a plastic mold and cheesecloth, create squares of apple pulp to stack on other squares to slide down to a press to squash (with 1000’s of pounds of pressure) to create juice.

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    Once the press gets going, the juice really starts to flow (down a long open trough) to a bin. Once the bin gets to a certain height, a pump gets switched on to transfer the juice to a holding tank (during my tenure I think we made about 300 gallons over four hours). After the pressing, the square molds are unfolded to start the “cheese” making process again. After the pulp is mashed, the residual looks like a very dry energy bar made by an eighties era hippy.

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    All in all, I was a great afternoon. If you are familiar with the story of John Henry (there is a statue down where my kin reside) if there was a production contest between a machine, Vic and myself, Vic would beat the combined efforts of the machine and my human self. It was hard, messy work but worth the effort. You can see my work shirt below….taken near the beginning of my labors.

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    For my efforts I was rewarded with good company, a nice lunch and plenty of cider to take home.

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    Others things I could do in the future include bottling and capping, using the equipment you see below. The capper is pretty amazing, it was made out of a broken drill press Peter picked up for $50 (worth more than that by weight alone at a scrap yard) and mounted with a special capping mold he found on the internet. The MacGuyvered tool works like a charm. In fact much of what is in the cider house is customer made, crafted, reverse engineered and conjured up which is the nature of any small start up business. Mad Moon has a lot a stories to share and these are just a few of them. (FYI: the next Columbus Brew Adventures Tour to Mad Moon is August 30th).

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    Posted in Behind the Counter, beverages, culinary knowledge, Locally Sourced | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

    Por’Ketta: Mobile Food Trailer with Pork and Chicken

    Posted by cmh gourmand on April 13, 2015

    trailer

    Por’ketta

    Facebook: Porketta
    Twitter: PorkettaCbus
    Instagram: Porkettacbus
    Web:porkettacbus.com
    614 570 1107

    I’ve known Tony Layne for a few years and I have known his wife for a few more, meeting her for the first time when she started working for Pitabilities. They have a good thing going. In case you did not read this (exact) post on Street Eats Columbus I am posting here so you do.

    pig graphic

    Por’ketta launched in March of 2015, serving to the last sandwich, ahead of schedule time and time again. The simple menu of pork and rotisserie chicken with a few sides may mean limited choices but it is heavy on quality and flavor. The trailer may be a bit harder to maneuver than a food truck but you will see it most places that mobile food can be found. And on a historical note, the trailer has some back story, it used to be a Ray Ray’s Hog Pit Trailer. We spoke to owner Tony Layne to find out about this business of getting pork to the people.

    logo

    1) In a few sentences, what do you want people to know about Por’ketta.

    I would want them to know that we are a family run business. We love Columbus and promote it shamelessly. Also that our family’s love of food, gathering and community translate into our food. It is also important to note that we searched far and wide within Ohio’s borders to source the best local ingredients that we could find simply prepared with passion

    2) What is Porketta (Porchetta)? How do you make yours?
    Porchetta is the pig’s skin, belly wrapped around meat and layers of fat, usually with herbs and spices thrown in…all tied up around a spit. Usually roasted over an open fire..this is the traditional Italian method. My version is the belly piece with the loin attached, then we butterfly the loin, rub with salt, pepper, fennel, parsley, garlic, rosemary, lemon zest, crushed red pepper, roll it up, tie it up and let air dry under refrigeration for at least 24 hours, then roast for four and a half hours in a high low temperature combination, let rest for thirty minutes and then ready to slice. Very labor intensive, but yields very moist pork…there are no shortcuts to the method.

    3) What inspired your menu?
    This is an easy one I love cooking with fire..whether it be a grill, smoker, camp fire, Meat and fire are primal and treated correctly yield incredible results. So that is the method I choose..we have a Rotisserie on the truck, The items I chose also easy..I am a pork fanatic…such a versatile animal…so many different cuts, tastes and textures…I chose Porchetta because it’s the belly and the loin and nobody is doing it, enough said. A great roasted chicken, was my other choice it brings back such comforting memories of cooking with my grandmother. For our salads and sides, we wanted to make sure they were tasty and let the ingredients speak for themselves. Our dishes are not hidden in mayonnaise or heavy dressings. We offer both the pork and chicken as sandwiches, meals, and bulk to go items.

    4) What inspired you to get into mobile food?

    Thirty years in commercial kitchens, always wanting to do something on my own, but with five kids I chose security and stability for my family over the opportunity of starting my own venture. Finally the planets started lining up …my youngest was a senior in high school in Hilliard. My job with Marriott was starting to feel like the movie “Groundhog Day”…every day felt just like ever other. I was losing passion for the craft, finding joy only cooking for our weekly family dinners. One day I snapped , quit my job cashed in my 401k and decided to go into business with my wife and children…Mobile food is hot in Columbus…a lot of great food coming off trucks. With a lower cost to entry than a traditional brick and mortar restaurant my decision and direction was made.

    sandwich

    Sandwich 2

    5) What did you do before Porketta?
    Before this spent the last thirty years doing the Chef thing around Columbus….Umberto’s, the Clock, Crowne Plaza, the 55 group, R.J. Snappers and Marriott hotels…from mom and pop shops to corporate and everything in between

    6) How did you get ready to launch?
    I left Marriott shortly before Thanksgiving, and basically took the winter, while the trailer was being built out, to come up with the menu, work on branding, build the social media presence, obtain all the proper permits and documentation, purchase equipment, test recipes, try and find spots to park and sell our food at…and the list goes on. They say the devil is in the details…everyday we worked task lists to shoot for a mid March opening. And here we are!

    7) Porketta is a family affair – tell us about team Layne and what each person does in the trailer.

    Team Layne consists of my son Conner…who is learning the craft and picking so much up. I so proud of him, my wife Michelle who is our backbone, she runs the window and is great with our guests. My other daughters float in and out as time allows. Basically we all do what needs done. I couldn’t be working with a better bunch of people. (Writers note: Michelle worked for Pitabilities for several years so she is no stranger to mobile food customers).

    8) You source from Matt Swint (Matija Breads) – where else do you source from?

    Yes Matt Swint and his incredible breads…the best in Columbus. Pork was a tough one…to find an Ohio producer of the exact piece I needed was a daunting task so I turned to THE MAN..Albert Thurn…if anybody could find it he could. And he did, sourcing a farm in Sandusky, Ohio. He is my pork connect. Chicken had to be all Ohio…so we turned to Vitale Poultry. Produce comes from Midwest for the time being as spring rolls into summer much more Ohio produce will be used. we like to park at local breweries and tap rooms, because these high quality local beers compliment our food. Even our T-shirts were printed by Traxler. Local was key to our business model, sometimes more expensive, but always the right thing to do.

    chicken

    Posted in Locally Sourced, Mobile Food, sandwiches | Leave a Comment »

    Lake Hope Lodge – Not your typical dining hall

    Posted by cmh gourmand on April 7, 2015

    For no good reason, when I think about a dining in a state-owned park, cafeteria quality food comes to mind. While that may apply to many dining options with government oversight, such is not the case of the Lake Hope Lodge Restaurant. Lake Hope is a state park located about 20 miles from Athens. I have journeyed there at least once per year since the mid 1990’s and it very quickly became my go to state park (after a fair amount of vetting). While my tent camping days are probably over, my first cabin experience was at Lake Hope and now an “Iron Furnace” Cottage is as close as I get to roughing it. I can’t say we visited the lodge in the center for the park for anything other than picking up keys but I did visit shortly after it burned down around 2005 or 2006. The lodge was rebuilt in 2012 with a lot of attention to detail considered through the construction. The lodge is largely built out of locally sourced wood and stone. The design and decor reflect the history and heritage of the area – with photographs throughout the lodge showcasing the people, places and structures of the Lake Hope area from the 1800’s to the 1950’s. The restaurant in the lodge is privately owned and operated with a result that is both appetizing and appropriate to the current culture of the area.

    The proprietor/chefs are Matt Rapposelli and Eric Lee, both highly training chefs with plenty of experience including gigs at Ohio University and operating Big Chimney Bakery among other ventures. The menu reflects the locally sourced focus that residents and visitors to the area prefer. The beef for the burgers comes from the Ohio State farm, chips in the nachos are sourced from local favorite Shagbark Seed and Mill, Raven’s Glen Wines add an Ohio option to the wine list and craft beers include Great Lakes and Elevator Brewing Companies. The meats are smoked on site and pizzas (evening only) come fresh out of the wood-ired oven. The menu is not extensive but is “right sized” to have just enough options with a selection of appetizers, salads, burgers, sandwiches, pizzas and desserts as well as a non insulting kids menu to provide a good choice for any picky diner.

    On our visit we tried the nachos featureing a mountain of Shagbark chips, cheese, smoked pulled pork, lettuce and a more diced tomato de gallo than pico de gallo with a side of sour cream. The nachos were good but they would have benefited from more “goo” either more cheese, a side of BBQ sauce, or something to add some wetness to the dryness (not a bad dry) to the chips and pulled pork.

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    I tried the Smoked Turkey, Bacon and Swiss sandwich with: smoked Ohio turkey topped with giant slices of cured bacon and Swiss cheese on freshly made bread. The smoked turkey was exceptional with great flavor and juiciness. The sandwich would have benefited from more and stronger Ohio Swiss cheese. The side of hand cut fries were very good.

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    Mrs. Gourmand opted for the Warm Brisket and Bleu salad (opting to sub in cheddar due to her knocked up state) which included: slabs of slow-smoked, Ohio-raised brisket served warm on romaine lettuce with cheese, red onion, carrots and tomato. Mrs. Gourmand and I thought the brisket was very well crafted – tender and flavorful without being overly smoked. CMH Tobias also gave the scraps two paws up when he tried them later. The salad came with a fresh baked roll which could easily be converted to a sandwich bun for some of the brisket.

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    For those with challenged digestive systems and eating preferences, the lodge does have a good veggie burger and gluten free pizza crust. For those that like BBQ you can buy all of the meats by the pound to enjoy at home or for a party (or to pretend you are “roughing it” at your cabin.

    In addition to very good food, the lodge offers a great view of the lake as well as several good walking trails to allow you to burn off the calories after a meal. The lodge is obviously popular with visitors to the park whose nearest dining options are 15 miles away. But the lodge is liked by locals as well who drive the 40 mile round trip from Uptown Athens and beyond to dine. In fact, I ran into Kelly Sauber (Marietta Brewing, Fifth Element Spirits and West End Cider House Fame) who confirmed that Athens, Meigs and Vinton County residents are more than happy to head to the lodge for a meal.

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    Drive time from Columbus is about 1 hour and forty minutes (or 1 hour 29 minutes in my old Subaru which handled SR 278 much better than my current cars). If you are staying overnight and want to explore the area in more culinary depth I can also strongly suggest and endorse the following in Athens: O’Betty’s Hot Dogs, Casa Nueva, Bagel Street Deli, Millers Chicken, Jackie O’s Brewpub, Avalanche Pizza, Purple Chopstix, The Athens Farmers Market and West End Cider House (and yes, I often visit almost all of those places in one day).

    Lake Hope Lodge
    27331 State Route 278
    McArthur, OH 45651
    740-596-0601

    lakehopelodge.com/menunew

    Winter Hours (end April 1st):
    Monday & Tuesday: CLOSED
    Wednesday & Thursday: 11am-8pm
    Friday & Saturday: 11am-9pm
    Sunday: Brunch Buffet 10am-2pm

    For more about the history of the rebuilt lodge and the origins of the restaurant, click -> HERE.

    Lake Hope Lodge on Urbanspoon

    Posted in Athens, BBQ, Locally Sourced, pizza, restaurants, Road Trip | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

    Thurns: A Celebration of Lunch Meats

    Posted by cmh gourmand on March 11, 2015

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    Spring has always seemed like cold cut sandwich time. After the winter, as much as I enjoy the heat of rising temperatures I’m not interested in anything artificial coming from an oven or stove. The grill, seems more appropriate to summer. A sandwich comes together quickly with no need for prep or cleaning, just get it done and go out to embrace the spring time. When in comes to a good sandwich, the elements are simple – good bread, sometimes a pickle, a nice slice of cheese and a choice of mustards (I feel naked without at least five mustards in the pantry). Those are the basics and we all know where to source those, but what I really get excited about is semi exotic lunch meats. And for that there is only one choice – Thurns.

    I’ve written about Thurn’s before but I have not done justice to one of several things they excel at – offering a wide assortment of freshly made cold cuts and lunch meats. Choices include but are not limited to: baked ham, roast pork, hot and mild souse (head cheese / terrine), head cheese, salami, capricola, Schinken (dry cured ham), honey loaf, thuringer (sausage), pressed ham, pepper loaf, bolonga, Dutch Loaf, veal loaf and German Bolonga. As a side note, there are some other sandwich friendly encased meats and spreads – most notably the best ham salad I have ever tried. The Thurn’s know meat, they have been butchering and processing meat for over 120 years so that forms a strong foundation. The freshness of the meats is a major bonus – something that we rarely experience anywhere with overly processed and transported meats encased in plastic packaging. And variety – well look at what I listed above, most of you have never heard of several of these before.

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    So follow a pattern I have done during springtime the past few years. Pop into Thurn’s on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Buy a 1/4 pound of two to four meats each time and keep trying them out between bread until you find your favorites. Although I like them all, my favorites are on the bottom row of their chart.

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    Posted in Locally Sourced, sandwiches | Tagged: | 5 Comments »

    Flat Top Pizza Company: New to the Streets

    Posted by cmh gourmand on May 20, 2014

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    Cuisine: Pizza, Ice Cream, Soda and Seasonal specials

    Website
    Facebook
    Twitter
    614.285.4309

    We begin with a bit of Columbus Mobile Food culture. You may have heard of Mikey’s Late Night Slice, a guy named Mike started the first mobile pizza empire in the city. Then you may have heard of Pizza Mike, Mike Evans owned the first restaurant (pizzeria) in Westerville to serve booze in the dry city. Then his pizzeria burned down. Mike was on the Great Food Race and used that experience to start a food truck last year. And then there is Mike and Other Mike. In 2012 a couple of lads working on a food cart decided they needed to do something different to stand out from the cart crowd, so they started doing a grilled cheese style pizza on a cart. The concept worked but they found a cart limiting so they started working on a truck. It took a lot longer to build out the truck than expected so Mike opted for full-time employment while Other Mike continued plugging, painting and paying away on the Pizza Truck. Other Mike is owner/operator/dough slinger Mike Cyan. The lesson of this paragraph – if your name is Mike you are probably running a pizza truck. The name of the truck is an homage to how the pizza is crafted, on a flat top grill.

    Flat Top pizza is much more than pizza. The menu also includes truck made ice cream and craft soda. Future menu items may include pepperoni rolls, cinnamon rolls and soups.

    The pizzas start with homemade dough and high grade ingredients. The sauces and pesto are made from scratch.

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    The ice cream is made in small batches and served in scoops or floats.

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    The soda pops are hand crafted as well with a mix of traditional with not so traditional flavors. Mike makes special syrups and flavorings for each pop, which are mixed to order.

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    As for the name, Flat Top Pizza is made on a grill not in a pizza oven. The end result still combines pizza with a little grilled cheese char.

    We like the look of the truck as well (as do many of the other food truck owners in town). Mike spent a long time crafting his truck, doing almost all of the work on his own. There is a cool retro look to the Flat Top (a Grumman truck, older than Mike is) with wood doors integrated into the design. Adding to the retro, pizza to go is served in paper bags (the way pizza was served back in the 1940’s and 1950’s). Flat Top officially launched in May 2014 so keep an eye out for truck as it starts to build a following at the usual spots. The easiest place to find Flat Top in action will be at Zauber Brewing Company, check with the truck and the brewery for schedule information.

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    Posted in gelato, ice cream, Locally Sourced, Mobile Food, pizza | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

    The Zen State – Brunch: Purple Chopstix; Athens, Ohio

    Posted by cmh gourmand on April 4, 2014

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    Over the last few years, I may have gotten a bit cocky about my knowledge about eating in Athens – my North American Home away from Home. In fact, as you will read in a later post, I developed a very happy rut of a cycle of places that I visit over and over again. Until one day when Dr. Balbo, Medicine Woman mentioned “why didn’t you go to Purple Chopstix?” “Purple what the who?” Apparently it is the Bees Knees of downscale hippy dining in the locavore mecca of Athens. Not only had I never eaten there, I had never heard of it. On my recent Bachelor Sabbatical to Athens, I was determined to try out the place. Unfortunately, I started my journey of discovery in a non Zen like state. Purple Chopstix Sunday hours on their website indicated that were open to 1 p.m. and I was running late in picking up my companion for the trip, the vice president of marketing and creative endeavours for Ohio Pop. In theory, we did not have time to make it before closing, but I was focused on meeting my need to dine at this place. Thank goodness for the Nelsonville Bypass, light traffic and good weather because we made it a few minutes before 1 pm. I was happy to see that the proprietors had hand written on to the hours sign closed….1:30 pm which allowed me to not feel like a complete douchbag for coming just before the door shut.

    Upon arrival, my companion was a bit skeptical about my choice of dining establishment for first lunch. He was very hungry to the point of pre-crankiness and by nature he is very focused on the appearances of things and design. The exterior of the place would best be described as unassuming. While I am a variant of hippy my companion is anything but and I think he experienced minor discomfort when we saw the sign below.

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    So of course I banged the gong. We waited quite some times and the gong was not responded to so I barged into the room and asked the most hippy looking person if it was OK to seat ourselves. It turned out that person was a customer but a very pleasant young lady then took care of us and gave us her favorite table for two. You can see the table below, the booth we sat in reminded us of an old train car dining station. I am happy to report I could fit in. Looking out the window I saw a peaceful, babbling brook, many trees, some interpretive art and an odd assortment of eclectic items decorating the landscape including numerous block pavers (expect a post about that in Bricks of Ohio Blog soon). I knew the second I sat down I had found my new spot.

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    However, Purple Chopstix only offers a buffet on Sundays and we were arriving at the end of service. Some of the dishes were already wiped out and the rest looked unassuming at best. I was concerned that my dining companion would be displeased but to the contrary after we loaded up on our first plate he was completely in a blissful state I rarely see him in unless we are both intoxicated. The first item he sampled was a mini crepe which was exquisitely well executed. My first bite was a curry dish with vegetables and tofu. We quickly devoured our first round of breakfast items, salads and biscuits and returned for more. While my dining companion enjoyed coffee, I went out the patio area to explore and check out the landscape. I was pleased to see there were a few patio tables for use in better weather. I was pleased indeed.

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    I’d write more about the food but our friendly server shared that the buffet is different every week. We stared at the regular menu long and hard then made a verbal pact to come back in the future for three days in a row so we could explore the dinner menu in the depth it deserved. My colleague Jared from Nothing Better to Do, wrote a fine post on this spot a few years ago which I will share -> HERE. The next day we ran into our server again at Farmacy, where she also works and she once again served us well by helping us find the best place in town to restock our supply of spirits for the rest of my sabbatical. I look forward to writing about Purple Chopstix in-depth later this year. In the meantime – please share your experiences here and let me know what to order on day one.

    Purple Chopstix on Urbanspoon

    Posted in Athens, Locally Sourced, Ohio, restaurants, Road Trip | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

    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 »

    A New Chef at Latitude 41

    Posted by cmh gourmand on November 13, 2013

    I have written about Latitude 41 before. As a quick recap, the restaurant is located in the Renaissance Hotel downtown. While many people have low expectations for hotel restaurants, the Renaissance and their culinary partner Chef Dean Max, have very high expectations. The hotel sourced several very impressive chefs to date, including one of my personal favorites the departed (and missed) Chef David MacLennan. (Note: The downtown Hilton has Bill Glover at the helm so hotel restaurants in Columbus are bringing back the hey day when hotels restaurants were THE destination for diners).

    Michael Koenig became executive chef at Latitude 41 in July. He brings over 20 years of culinary experience to the kitchen. Restaurants on his resume include these bay area notables: Café Delluchi Kuleto’s Restaurant, Scala’s Bistro, Restaurant Zibibbo (Palo Alto) and the Renaissance Stanford Court Hotel restaurant. Some local residents will want to know that he attended Michigan State University so we know the chef is well grounded in midwestern palates and football etiquette. The chef credits his mother and her Lebanese heritage for teaching him about food and ingredients. As with previous chefs at the restaurant, he is committed to sourcing local where possible and integrating those flavors into dishes. I had an opportunity to sample a tasting dinner with the Chef and I was very impressed with what he had to dish out.

    Chef Koenig continues to source local when possible and plans to expand on that commitment with a larger roof top garden and if the stars align – a chicken coop for fresh eggs for the restaurant. If that happens, I hope to write about that and hope not to report that a chicken tried to swim in the Renaissance’s pool. Chef is also looking into adding a beehive to the mix on the rooftop. I like how he thinks.

    A few notable local purveyors featured in the menu. Watershed bourbon is a star ingredient in the house made caramel sauce. Empty Watershed bottles were used for water at our table which was a nice aesthetic and good repurposing to boot. SaraBee Honey is also incorporated into some of the dishes for sweet results.

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    Favorites from previous menus will continue including the Lobster Mac & Cheese but we should expect to see some changes in the menu as well as weekly specials based on what is fresh and in season. I have always enjoyed the flat breads at Latitude 41 however I now look forward to rediscovering them since Chef Koenig has changed the dough recipe and is focused on the dough being prepped by hand instead of rolling pin….that is old school and should make a good thing even better. Chef Koenig has interests outside of the kitchen as well. He has an interest in making mixers for the bar and makes an excellent Limoncello, both regular and creamy.

    I asked the Chef, how his transition has been to Columbus. I know for me, if I was in the bay area as long as he was, I would have a little trouble transitioning to the Midwest. Chef reports that he has adapted quite easily to life in the capital city, he has discovered some fine restaurants and as well known, the cost of living is much more palatable. He also enjoys being a 4 1/2 hour drive from family instead of a transcontinental flight. Welcome to Columbus Chef, I look forward to the new ideas you bring to the table.

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    Latitude 41 website

    Posted in beverages, Locally Sourced, restaurants | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

    The Crest Gastropub Makes the Grade

    Posted by cmh gourmand on July 13, 2013

    outside

    About two months ago, the night before I dined at the Crest Gastropub for the first time, I had a quick meeting with a well-known Clintonville Curmudgeon. We sat at O’Reilly’s as I shared that I had tried to get into the Crest but it was too crowded. To which he said (at least the gist, I was not taking notes), “Yeah, the place is OK, but it does not deserve to bear the name of the Crest.” “That place is just the shell of the building, everything else is different”. I could feel the pangs of nostalgia in his words. Unfortunately I could not share his feelings, I never connected with the Crest in my visits there. It always seemed like a place that could be much more than it was with little effort. I know from oral history there were many high points and a great community within those walls in the decades it was open but I never viewed the place as an asset to the community or I place I would want to go. (Pauses….waiting for the outraged comments to come).

    When new owners took over there was a lot of excitement about Gastropub. Advance renderings were shared with the public, there was plenty of information shared about the food, the beer list and the plans to use lots of local, organic goodness throughout. Although some were concerned I was being a hater, I merely disagreed with one aspect of their marketing. I drove by daily watching the progress. After the Gastropub opened I drove by at night to see the place packed. That makes me happy.

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    One my first visit, the past and the present intermingled again. As I was finishing my meal a late 50’s chronic alcoholic couple walked into the Crest and joined me at the bar. They admitted they were already drunk and acted accordingly. They both had the emaciated look and smell of deepwoods methheads. The couple was intent on loudly sharing their stories of their 42 years of patronage of the former Crest. They knew one set of past owners, admired the work that has been done on the place, asked how the rehab went as far as dodging around the old Edison era wiring and etc. They generally annoyed the undying shit out of me. The purpose of their trip seemed to be to sniff out the place, get a quick shot (of booze) and offer some suggestions on improving the parking woes. Their rightfully true observation was….this place is not the Crest. No siree. As the Clintonville Curmudgeon had stated the day before, “this is the Crest in name only”. (Please note, I am not typing to typecast former Crest patrons just showing that yes….things have changed). I will also note the staff handled these potential customers and definitely lifetime neighbors very well and professionally. Even though some have commended my own patience, I would have been hard pressed to endure these two professional drinkers for any size tip or any length of time.

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    The building was gutted and rumor has it nearly one million dollars was invested in the building to make it something that is absolutely not the old Crest Tavern and very definitely a Gastropub in look, feel, decor and mission. The interior is full of recycled, repurposed and re-imagined items. Other than the exposed bricks in the walls and few critical structural pieces, I doubt much of the former Crest remains. RIP The Crest. All Hail The Crest Gastropub.

    The place received a lot of attention in the early weeks. A little too much attention in my opinion. You can’t judge a book by its cover and you can’t critique a new restaurant based on what they can or can’t do in the first week of operation. For a place like this – with all of the pre-opening expectations and the ongoing love affair with the place and space – multiple trips over time were warranted.

    Let me run through my observations, my meals and why I believe The Crest Gastropub makes the grade.

    The beer and spirits menu is deeply stocked full of local and Ohio craft beverages. In my visits I have counted 15 – 20 at any given time. The beverage list changes…. a lot. That can be frustrating to some and on occasion, I have had my heart set on having one beverage only to find it was gone. However in the world of multiple taps (60 here) – beer than moves fast stays fresh and tastes better. Also, that means the Crest is probably making money, that helps with sustainability. When you have just dropped a giant wad of cash on a business…..sustainable profit is great. You can be idealistic later after you pay the bills. In addition to a host of buckeye brewed beers the menu features local favorites likes Brothers Drake, Middlewest Spirits and Watershed Vodka. You will find a few wines on the list as well. Cheers!

    Speaking of the bar, it looks good. It looks inviting, it looks…..expensive. The bar top is copper-topped. The chairs are sturdy and comfortable. There are six 32 inch television screens mounted near the ceiling, so there is enough to support people who want to watch a game but not so many that it feels like a sports bar. To counter balance the TV’s – there are purse hooks strategically mounted at knee level at bar side. Purse hooks are important, all of my female friends tell me so. As for the rest of the decor, the bathrooms look great – small but functional with lots of tile. They (well at least the men’s room) have the look of a 1930’s tavern in the heart of Chicago or London. The inside dining area is a mix of high-backed booths, high topped tables and lower placed four tops. There are plenty of seating styles and arrangement to meet the needs of the solo gourmand, the party of seven or the family of three. All of the spaces are filled with items such as windows from a former school, wood from a barn and so on, creating a place that while just a few months old has a character of an establishment much older. The patio is perpetually filled and covered with plenty of umbrellas for protection from the elements. On the outside there is a bike rack (which seems continually full) to comfort bike enthusiasts and Millennial hipsters alike. So The Crest Gastropub may sound busy to readers and let me assure it is….to the point where the neighbors have grown a bit irked by the lack of easy parking access in front of their homes. The owners have made an effort to be good neighbors to their neighbors by asking guests not to park on certain streets near the business.

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    Some of you, maybe several of you, wince at the term gastropub. And according to the traditional definition of a gastropub the Crest….fits the mold. The menu is varied with choices suited from brunch, lunch, dinner or bar snacks. The ingredients are simple. Presentation is upscale. The end result are selections that are very good most of the time. Two items I would like to highlight are the Ohio Cheeseboard (with jams and nuts) and the Brezel Pretzels…with a twist (insert groan).

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    burger and fries

    The Crest Gastropub makes an effort to source locally as often as practical which is reflected and showcased on some menu items. They do have a roof top garden, as well as a patio and parking lot community garden so they have put their money as well as a lot of soil as well as a parking space or two where their mouth is. Some of those garden greens are starting to make their way onto plates now. More than just a gimmick, the gardens add to the character of the business and the aesthetics of the exterior. Throw in some rain barrels and a ladder that leads to the rooftop garden (not sure how sustainable that aspect is) and they have added quite a bit of green to urban Clintonville.

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    The kitchen is on the smaller side but it packs a punch. The menu is reasonable in size but limits choices to one page which is a good idea for any restaurant but especially a tavern with limited cooking capacity. The best and most consistent bets will be the burger selections. The honey-glazed cheese balls (that would be with flash fried goat cheese) are my consistent starter of choice. The only main menu item I have been disappointed in so far was the grilled cheese. The grilledness (my own invented word) of the bread and how the varied ingredients comingle do not quite mix together.

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    There are two things I can’t reconcile about the Crest Gastropub. It is really hard not to say….The Crest instead of the proper name of The Crest Gastropub. I am not sure how to resolve that. Three words is too much but just saying The Crest seems to be tempting the ghosts of the bar of the past and hurting the feelings of the Clintonville Curmudgeon. The second aspect of the Crest Gastropub I have a hard time abiding is the serving of most items on wooden cutting boards. It looks kind of cool but it is not practical, is probably a bitch to clean all of those and just too bulky on the tables. I have not been back in a while so maybe those were 86’d. Another note, service has been a bit spotty (especially if you read Yelp) but I would expect that for new staff in a new place and when I had less than ideal service I always felt the server was trying to the best of their ability. Overall a very promising start for a place I think will continue to improve and refine over time.

    2855 Indianola Ave
    Clintonville
    614.261.7128
    FB: TheCrestGastropub

    The Crest Gastropub on Urbanspoon

    Posted in bar, Clintonville, Gastronomic Stimulus, Locally Sourced, restaurants | Tagged: , , | 7 Comments »