CMH Gourmand – Eating in Columbus & Ohio

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Yellow Brick’s “Tristanos” Deep Dish Pizza Test Drive

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 15, 2017

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There is no shortage of pizza options in Columbus but there is an absolute dearth of deep dish pizza of any quality grade. In the past I opined that only three were worth mentioning: Meister’s, Wholly Joe’s and Tristanos. As much as I love Meister’s, I had a very slight preference for Tristanos. Last year word came out that Lou Tristano had finally sold his business. It was long overdue, Lou makes great food but is/was a threat to himself and his employees operating a food based business.

I was sad to lose Lou and in my opinion (whether deep dish or not), one of the best pizza makers in Central Ohio. I then saw hints of a salvage operation by Yellow Brick Pizza to learn some of his Chicago based secrets of Lou before he passed the pizza peel to others. Facebook showed traces of Lou teaching Yellow Brickers how to make some of his recipes and by report the learning curve was looking good.

I don’t know when or if Yellow Brick may open a Grove City satellite in Tristanos old spot but when I saw they were offering Tristano’s Deep Dish as a special in Old Town East I knew I had an obligation to observe, investigate and act. I also think highly of Yellow Brick so I believed the Tristano’s legacy to be in good hands.

A few things you should consider before you do your own research. You can not pre-order this pizza. It will take at least 40 minutes to make – more if the place is remotely busy and a two topping Deep Dish pizza will knock you back $31.18.

The waiting is not such a bad thing, because it means someone is making it right. In order to be to objective as possible, I asked two research assistants to try a slice with me (after I fed them other pizza so hunger pangs would not influence their thoughts).

My crack team included Matt Prime. This was his opinion:

Rated it a solid 4 (on a scale of 5) noting: good crust and sauce that really complimented the spice in the sausage and a great cheese to toppings ratio. Easily one of the best Chicago pies I’ve had in Columbus in recent memory.

Also in the team was Mister Doctor who opined: Good pie Jefe.

I also brought a slice home to Mrs. Gourmand, while my two on site research assistants had never tried Tristanos, Mrs. Gourmand shared every Tristanos experience with me during my brief exile in Grove City. Her opinion was that it was good but she could detect significant differences in the sauce. Mrs. Gourmand is Italian and makes superior sauce. She also has an olfactory sense unparalleled by any other human. She can smell things that even my dog would miss. If she sniffed this out as not quite the original I will accept that as gospel.

Yellow Brick Tristanos Deep Dish Pizza

Now for my assessment. The visual presentation of the deep dish was on par with Tristanos. The slices were thick and pie like. There was a signature recurring twist in the crust ring and a foldover filled with a trace of cheese in the crust as it rises from the bottom to the top. The pepperoni were laid out in thick rows between the crust and the cheese. The pie was significantly cheesy with evidence of such presented below.

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Assessing flavor, taste, etc., based on a pizza recipe I had not had sampled in almost a year is tough but based on my memory I’d say the Yellow Brick interpretation of Tristanos is about 91% on target. Mulling over the experience for 24 hours, I believe part of the difference I noted was due to the toppings I chose. Lou made his own sausage which added a trace of spice to the mix that I doubt could be replicated by anyone else.

I also tried a slice of pizza the next day using the time-tested cold pizza test. That slice was also assessed be a very good pizza.

In recap, using subjective and objective methods as well as a team of tasters, I proclaim the Yellow Brick Tristano’s Deep Dish Pizza one of the top three of its type in Central Ohio.

Posted in Best Pizza in Columbus, pizza | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Grandview Theater – Get There

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 10, 2017

Grandview Theater

While this is and has always been a food first blog, this is not the first time I have written about a theater, nor the second nor the third. I have written about Studio 35 before, While not a food purveyor in any sense it has a long history as a local craft beer supporter and destination. So let’s do a recap on Studio 35 because it is the key to what makes the Grandview Theater tick.

In the world of megaplex movie theaters with multiple screens, extensive concessions, IMAX, 3D and other options it is hard for a neighborhood single screen theater with mo on site parking to survive. In fact most have not (nor have many drive in’s sustained either). The plucky Studio 35 continued on through the 80’s, 90’s and now in the 21st century looking for ideas to make the business responsive to the needs of the community. Owner Eric Brembeck took over the reigns after years of stewardship of Frank Marzetti and then John Conti. (Some historical notes: originally called the Indianola Theater when in opened in 1938, the name changed to Marzetti and then John Conti renamed it Studio 35 (because they showed 35mm films). Also of note, Studio 35 was the first movie theater in the nation to get a liquor license (in 1972).

Now that we have been through the wayback machine when Eric Brembeck took over the theater was still limping along so he and his team started to focus on what customers connected with – mainly craft beer and special events. The bar developed a reputation for a finely curated craft beer selection. In addition to movies paired with special beer tastings, Studio 35 started to develop other special events most notably the Dudeathon (a tribute to the film The Big Lebowski). And file under if you can’t beat them, join them, the theater invites the public to come watch OSU games for free.

The theater was renovated a few years ago to make the bar much bigger with more seating and tabs and to make everything much more comfortable.

Now that the back backstory is completed let’s finally talk about The Grandview Theater. I have a long relationship with this spot as well. It was favorite destination for me when it was a Drexel Theater. When the previous owners took over in 2012 (?) I met them while I was at ECDI and tried to brainstorm ideas to help them keep the theater afloat. Both owners worked all day and ran the theater all night but their passion for the art of movies did not balance out the demands of keeping their business sustainable while burning both ends of the candle. Enter new owner Eric Brembeck who thought he could take the Studio 35 model and adapt it to Grandview. His first step was to acquire something the theater lacked – a liquor permit. After he obtained that, a lot of demolition and construction later we have the new Grandview Theater.

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There is a lot to like. The layout of the space is fun and functional with plenty of movie posters and such to decorate the space. The bar is deep in seating and beer selection. While popcorn is the main attraction for on site food there is an array of different seasonings to sprinkle or smother on as you see fit. Pizza can be ordered in for delivery just like at Studio 35.

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Moving into the theater itself, the seats are wide, deep and comfortable with wide aisles between seats. There are tables at the top of the seating area so you can dine while enjoying the cinema. All in all everything works well and recreates the magic of Studio 35 using the same focus on connecting with the community and being a neighborhood hangout that just happens to have movies too. Here is where civic duty comes in. Independent businesses like this contribute to the character of our neighborhoods as well as our sense of community. If you want places like this to continue they have to survive and thrive so that they are not constantly trying to rub two pennies together to keep the marquee lit. All you need to do is drop in for a beer and/or a movie once in a while. The Grandview Theater has made this an inviting place do so. So, just do it.

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Rockmill Tavern in the Brewery District

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 29, 2016

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Rockmill Brewery opened to the public in Lancaster in September of 2010. I was there shortly thereafter in November of 2010. It is interesting to reflect how much the world and in particular my world has changed in the span of just six years. In the world of local craft beer, imagine if you will the thrill when Rockmill nudged central Ohio breweries closer to the number ten. At my last count, we can expect to see well over forty microbreweries in Central Ohio by spring.

With all of these changes afoot, owner Matt Barbee knew he needed to get a bigger footprint in the Columbus market and he realized the best way to do that was to establish a taproom(s). An attempt to open a location in German Village fizzled out but another location he had in the works in the Brewery District found some solid traction and uncommonly launched close to on time.

Rockmill Tavern opened it’s doors to the public at the end of October this year. This was pretty amazing turn around, the previous occupant, World of Beer closed without warning on October 31st 2015. Barbee had much of his attention devoted to making the prospective German Village location come together so the Brewery District tavern was fast tracked as the other project got sidelined. The space has a lot of history that fits well with his concept. The space was literally made for beer. The original occupant of these hallowed brick walls was Hoster Brewing Company. Up until 1919 this address on Front Street was part of one of the largest breweries in the state churning out up to 500,000 barrels of beer per year. Rockmill’s production is a bit below that number (by about 490,000 or so). The particular space the tavern fills was once part of a stable for 125 horses for Hoster Brewing. So it is fitting that Rockmill’s logo is that of a horse. This truly was a match that was meant to be.

I am excited about this development for many reasons. I have stayed in touch with Barbee since our first meeting years ago and have always been impressed by his vision and focus on how he wanted to grow the brewery and engage with the community. As for the Brewery District, I feel that the opening of Rockmill Tavern marks the official rebirth (3.0) of the Brewery District. If you are not a native of Columbus then you are probably not aware that the Brewery District was the place to be in the 1990’s. And in the early 2000’s it very quickly became the place to flee. A few businesses stuck it out and in the last year the area has seen a significant upswing with the success of Copious, Arepazo and other new hot spots.

The main downfall of the World of Beer location was a lack of food. Some failed attempts were made to try to coordinate with food trucks but those efforts were…uncoordinated. Barbee saw the potential in the space but knew the key was to squeeze in a kitchen to churn out something better than fried fare and wings if he wanted guests to stick around for more than one beer. He ensured a slam dunk for food by engaging great talent in both the front and the back of the tavern. In particular, Chef Andrew Smith, most often cited for his work at Salt and Pine but in my book, well respected for his work at the Rossi.

As for the food, they have nailed it. Open a short two months, I have seen Rockmill Tavern listed as the best new restaurant of 2016 as well as noted on the short list of best overall. Not bad considering they have just started cooking. I can only speak to the lunch menu but looking at dinner and brunch offerings I see nothing to fear in this line up. I shared lunch with a few members of the Columbus Ale Trail team and was lucky to be in the company of two young ladies that share the same affinity for Brussels sprouts and beets that I do.

I’ll start with the sprouts. While they seem to be ubiquitous to any new menu in town I rarely find them executed to my liking. Those that I sampled at Rockmill Tavern were cooking to my loving. The portion size was perfect. They had just a bit of char to them and a trace of carmelization. They tasted fresh and flavorful with just a hint of crunch and chewiness.

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Moving on along, the beet salad was a slam dunk. I don’t often fret about presentation but in the case of this salad it certainly looked good enough to eat but more importantly the layout of the ingredients made the salad easy to enjoy. The goat cheese was an ample portion and placed in such a way that I could easily control how much or how little I wanted with each bite. The beets themselves were cooked to pure perfection. I could not have been happier and I commit to ordering this salad whenever I am at Rockmill Tavern, even when I am not there to eat.

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Here is an insider tip. I usually don’t get excited about biscuits. In my world I associate them with breakfast more often that lunch, brunch or dinner. More importantly, I encounter bad biscuits 90% of the time. Finally, I found a biscuit worthy of this quote -> Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits. – Carl Sandburg. The addition of a bit of cheese and a lot of love has produced the finest biscuits in the city. And since readership of the blog is down, I am going to give my readers a little insider knowledge (but don’t spread this around). If you know Cheryl Harrison (and you probably should because she is a good idea) then you should know that she LOVES these biscuits. If she had her way, they might become a form of currency.

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And last, but not least, the Tavern burger – made from good ground beef and not dolled up too much but I did appreciate the ciabatta bun and the bacon jam. It continues along my burger mantra of keep it simple to make it special. A burger should just be a burger but most places threw this belief out the window years ago. Don’t pitch this burger, pinch it in your hands and hold on to it for dear life until you finish it.

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In conclusion, most importantly, I am very happy for Matt Barbee. The Rockmill Tavern is a place and space that truly reflects his passion(s), not just for beer but the design of the interior and the rugged feel it projects connects with both the history of the building and the history of his brewery. When I met him six years ago, I enjoyed a great afternoon at a time when I really needed to reconnect with the good things he had going on in Lancaster and I feel all of those elements have successfully landed in this Brewery District space. (And extraneous note, I am writing this piece sitting next to my co-pilot on that first Rockmill trip – my dog CMH Tobias). Go for the food and stay for the beer and equally important, stick around in the Brewery District and help rebuild the area, one beer or bite at a time.

Rockmill Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in beer, restaurants | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Watershed Distillery Nocino & The Vintage 2015 vs. 2016 Tasteoff

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 25, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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8 Sisters Bakery, Mt. Gilead (The Ohio Donut Trail)

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 11, 2016

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To begin, there are not eight sisters working at 8 Sisters Bakery. The owner is one of 8 sisters in her family with a long baking heritage. Although in the beginning there were four of the sisters working together, now it is one sister with at least 3 locations, probably 4 (Marion) and maybe five (Marengo)? It was difficult for me to determine with an online search how many total locations are open to the public. The business opened in 2010 but the baking tradition started in the Amish upbringing of the owner (who left the community later in life) and some exposure on farmers markets in the early days.

I visited the newest location in the 8 Sisters empire which opened in September of 2016. Located in the Bonecutter Mall (on SR 95) a short hop off of I-71 (exit 155) the exterior would be described at best as nondescript and unassuming. Inside the space is warm, inviting and fairly expansive with some seating and a lot to look at. Within the confines there is a coffee shop, some hand painted baking themed signage and of course a cornucopia of baked goods coming from a deep and very busy open kitchen.

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A handful of breakfast and lunch items are available. The tagline of the business is “You Name it, We Bake it” so I will offer a sample of the baked goods available at this location: donuts, specialty donuts, cookies, handmade candies, fruit pies, cream pies, pies, sandwich breads, brownies, pumpkin bars, muffins, bagels, cupcakes, cheesecakes, cakes and wedding cakes. Oh, my!

I asked for a random assortment of a dozen regular and specialty donuts. I sampled the following: buttermilk, red velvet, chocolate, strawberry cheesecake (in stick form) yeast/glazed, sticky bun, apple fritter & Cookies and Cream (cookie bits). Two donuts I did not try but am very intrigued by are Buckeye (peanut butter and chocolate of course) and Chop Suey Roll.

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My first impression of these donuts was good. While these are the most expensive dozen donuts in my donut trail research (by about $5 more) these were without a doubt the heaviest by weight and volume, easily weighing twice as much as the typical box of a dozen donuts. The cake donuts in particular were very dense. The icing and fillings in all the donuts were fresh and flavorful. The verdict, these are good donuts.

As I departed, I decided this would be a good opportunity to explore Mt. Gilead. I have only had two previous exposures to the county seat of Morrow county. In high school, when I listened to Q-FM 96, the tag line of the station was “We Rock Columbus” but DJ’s would localize it by saying we rock -> Clintonville, Whitehall, Westerville, etc. Every once in a blue moon they would say, Mt. Gilead….and then giggle a little. My second encounter involved a shattered dream. I once knew a young lady named Anna Bell F (name hidden to protect you stealing a good idea from me). She was easily one of the three best bakers I have encountered in my lifetime. I had big dreams of, like a Kentucky Colonel with a prized racehorse, taking her on the Ohio County Fair circuit and dominating all of the prize ribbon contests for a decade or more. She never bought into this agenda. Perhaps she was afraid of the fame or terrified of me wearing a Kentucky Colonel suit all of the time. That was all I had to work with as a frame of reference for Mt. Gilead.

The last 11 miles of my trip to 8 Sisters Bakery involved a white knuckled drive over a long stretch of black ice on I-71. Therefore, I decided that it was worth the seven mile drive to downtown Mt. Gilead to take the long way home via State Route 42. On my journey up, the last few miles before I made the turn off on exit 155 all of could think of was “I am going to be really pissed if I die on a f**king donut run).” And I did not want to drive back thinking “I’m going to be really pissed off if I die before I eat all of these f**king donuts.”

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Downtown Mt. Gilead is charming and features all of the elements we expect in a small Ohio town: mom and pop shops, a town square, an old movie theater, some Donald Trump/Pence signs and a civil war monument (this time an Obelisk instead of the typical bearded general statue). There was (as I previously documented there is a state law mandating this) a small bakery as well which just happened to be another 8 Sisters location. I decided to pop in here as well for perspective. The shop on South Main street is very small and does not have 1/10th of the offerings of the other 8 Sisters I stocked up at earlier. But, as I would have expected, as I entered the door I was greeted warmly and called honey, just like the other location. Some things never change.

8 Sisters Bakery
6200 State Route 95
Mount Gilead
(Closed Sunday)

8 Sisters Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in bakery, desserts, donuts, Ohio, Ohio Donut Trail, Road Trip | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Godfather: Massey’s Deep Dish Pizza

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 27, 2016

There are not many good deep dish options in Columbus and among those, by my count only three good choices. Unfortunately, that number dropped to two this past summer. Tristano’s was my favorite but the business finally closed and the some of the best pizza in Central Ohio was taken off the table.

A few weeks ago I caught a glimpse of a deep dish pizza at Massey’s on a commercial. It immediately caught my attention adding a glimmer of hope that I might be able to go back to three go to options for deep dish pizza. I do like Massey’s and had a notion that they could pull this off. (Long time readers may recall previous appearances of Massey’s in such memorable posts as Buffet Battle: Pizza and Columbus Pizza History a Slice by Slice account).

Could Massey’s deliver? Well in my case I live too far away from Massey’s so I opted for the pick up option.

When I picked up my order, my hopes were high. There was a very noticeable difference in the weight of the deep dish box vs. the other pizza box I was transporting home.

When I opened the lid, the visual and olfactory indicators were trending upwards.

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Cognitively I had high hopes, believing Massey’s Godfather had potential to knock it out of the park because Massey’s history literally involves the godfathers of Columbus pizza.

Jim and Dan Massey (original family name was Massuci) learned their trade from Romeo Siri. They opened the first pizzeria (by name) in Central Ohio. Guido Casa (also one of the early godfathers of pizza) took over the Massey’s empire in 1962. Massey’s grew through the late 1990’s then stumbled in 1999 closing all locations. Jim and Dave Pallone (cousins of the Casa’s) have been bringing the chain back in the last 15 years maintaining the traditions and techniques of the original godfathers of pizza going back to 1949.

And the verdict? Massey’s tagline is “The Cadillac of Pizzas” but my assessment of the Godfather is this interpretation is more of a Dodge Dart.

The Godfather features Deep Dish crust, Pepperoni, Italian Sausage, Mozzarella and Provolone and is only available as a 12” inch pizza. The toppings are generous (as you will find on any Massey’s Pizza). For my pizza, the bottom crust was over baked and I found the crust ring, doughy and a bit undercooked. Sections of the cheese were undercooked as well. This version was a bit light in sauce. The overall product seemed to me to represent more of a pan pizza (which was once the rage….back in the day) in taste and appearance. A Chicago Deep Dish purist would not consider this true to style. Most would probably consider this to be a thick crust pizza with a high crust ring. Another style difference is the order of ingredients. A traditional deep dish pizza typically has sauce on the top, followed by cheese, toppings then crust at the base. Massey’s Godfather follows the traditional layout of toppings on top, then cheese and sauce on top of the crust. Overall on a scale of 5, I’d give this one a 3.3.

While not a bad pizza by any means, I’ll stick with Meisters and Wholly Joe’s for my Central Ohio deep dish needs.

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Copious: $5 Burger is worth at least $10

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 23, 2016

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Copious may be a spot just off your radar. The restaurant, bar, music venue and event space opened just over a year ago in the Brewery District. A half-decade ago the location alone would have been a kiss of death but the Brewery District is in the mist of a resurrection. The multi-tasking approach of Copious (and Notes for the music end) has been the key to keeping all of the plates spinning to keep this place open while the Brewery Districts slowly bounces back.

A burger is ubiquitous to any Columbus menu. A burger deal is a dime a dozen and is a frequent card up the sleeve of a business looking to bring is traffic on a slower day. Copious offers a $5 burger deal on Tuesdays. In the interest of my readers, I thought is was necessary to investigate this. My pronouncement, this $5 burger is worth at least $10. The key to this burger is simplicity. Most “special” burgers in town make an effort to go over the top with special ingredients or techniques or too many toppings I don’t want or need. This burger uses better grade ingredients and executes the parts to make the whole much greater than I expected. The two key ingredients form the base of this burger – a perfectly cooked four ounce aged Angus beef patty and an excellent locally made brioche bun. Then you have a choice of either hand cut fries or sweet potato fries and a few house made bread and butter pickles on the side. If you want to build up your burger you can add a choice or cheeses for $1 and/or other toppings for 50 cents to $1. However, this burger stands on its own so you will be perfectly content with it as is. The serving of fries is generous, the pickles are superior and the burger is divine and all price of $5. I can’t think of a better deal that balances quality with quantity as well.

Two side notes. I tried the butterbean hummus on a whim and was glad I did. It was great serving size for $8 with plenty of tortilla chips and veggies to scoop out the mound of hummus made with local lima beans and sweet peas. I was nearly filled up before my first bite of my burger. The second item of note is the secret weapon behind the bar at Copious, Michael Kuch. Michael is a genius at sourcing local craft beers and his selections at Copious are truly impressive. I hate to use the term – curated – but that is exactly the depth and diversity of choices that I continue to see offered at that taps. I’m looking forward to another Tuesday afternoon at the bar stool with a burger in one hand and beer in the other.

Copious Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Honeydip Donuts & Diner – Redux (Ohio Donut Trail)

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 16, 2016

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Take a look at this blast from the past, a -> 2007 posting on Honeydip Donuts. My how things changed. Back then in the primordial stage of this blog, I was less interested in donuts than I am today. Clearly I have evolved into more of a donut docent. During that time Honeydip Donuts evolved into a diner. An update is highly warranted so here we go. But first a detour with a few questions related to the old post. One: is it donut or doughnut (see the previous post). Two: why did I tag the entry Ohio Donut Girl – I clearly had something else on my mind in 2007 – an apparent conflict of priorities.

Here is the not so skinny on Honeydip Donuts & Diner. They do have donuts. Their selection is OK, they tend to run out before they close for the day. In my tasting trips there has not been a specific standout donut. Their Pumpkin donuts seem to be the most popular they have a good stick donut, some turnovers and muffins too.

On the diner side of the business they do seem to have a fair number of regular customers. Most of them are pretty long in the tooth and several appear to drop in on an almost daily basis. I like that.

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Breakfast appears to be the go to menu choice here. The pancakes are good. There are three donut related special sandwiches to bridge that dark world between breakfast and lunch. On the lunch side, there is a different soup offered each day. These have some merit. I don’t often issue a dire warning but I have a fiduciary obligation to my blog base to tell you – DO NOT waste your time with their gyro or fries they would be best served inside a bag of deplorables.

Honeydip

There are two reasons to pull me back here. 1) A fond Thanksgiving memory from my youth. 2) Honeydip has an incredible variety of old photos related to donuts. It is well worth the time to drop in and spend several minutes looking at history of a very democratic snack (as well as a wall dedicated to photos of regular customers) between bites of a donut.

honey-dip-diner-sign

Honey Dip Donuts & Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Spudnut Donuts- Berea (Ohio Donut Trail)

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 7, 2016

Spudnuts sign

The call of duty for the Ohio Donut trail led me just south of Cleveland – Berea, Ohio. I’ve had my eye on Spudnuts for several years and as luck would have it, this special spot is not far Fat Head Brewing and what better way to prepare for drinking beer than loading up on donuts.

Spudnuts Building Berea

Let’s take a quick step into the Wayback Machine to discuss the place Spudnuts has in American Donut history. The first Spudnuts started in Salt Lake City in 1940 by a couple of brothers with a knack for kneading a special potato based flour. The uniqueness of the recipe and wartime shortages made Spudnuts a favored snack. Fueled by low franchise fees by 1954 there were over three hundred Spudnuts in 38 states. In the early 1970’s numbers continued to swell including 170 Japanese Spudnut locations. However by 1979 the company ceased operation and the franchises were left on their own without access to the special Spudnut flour. Today about 37 independently owned Spudnuts soldier on throughout the country (including one in nearby Mentor).

box of Spudnut Donuts

This location features about thirty kinds of donuts, including the bestsellers Toasted Coconut, Butter Pecan and Maple Bacon. Most of the styles are round, yeasty donuts with special fillings such as key lime pie, apple jelly, maple bacon, raspberry, strawberry, apricot, custard/cream, cherry, blueberry, peach and chocolate cream. Because it is Northeast Ohio, there is a maple donut and because Cleveland Rocks there is a Maple Bacon donut. The donut makers fry about twenty pounds of bacon a week to meet demand. I’ve encountered a few bacon donuts in my donut daze but to date most have had bacon as an afterthought or gimmick. At this Spudnuts the bacon is piled on thickly and it tastes great!

My favorite here was the Cruller. A donut style that I rarely encounter but the version here was exceptional. It was fluffy and airy but had an incredible flavor and mouth feel.

I continued to sample from my box of twelve over the next three days and found these Spudnuts are long lived and maintained a fresh flavor well past 72 hours. So next time you are passing by, drop in for a spudnut.

Spudnut details

Spudnut Donuts Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in CLEGourmand, donuts, Ohio, Ohio Donut Trail, Road Trip | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

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

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