CMH Gourmand – Eating in Columbus & Ohio

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TOP TEN Top Ten Columbus Lists: These are a few of my favorite food things……

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 14, 2020

Many Top Ten lists are based on a criteria of one person’s opinion of what is the best or a poll for the masses that often has an aggregate of mediocre. In the world of food and drink – the best is always subjective and personal and variable. Best does not always mean the finest execution, or ingredients, or the finest person behind the counter. My Top 10 is based on what I crave. Like music, the most technically perfect singer or a master of an instrument is not always the one with the most awards or the most money. A pop star strikes a cord with people based on much more than skill or craft.

When Columbus Alive, Columbus Underground, 614 Magazine and etc., run a best of poll the internet trolls come out to complain about which the “best of” are listed. In the case of these polls the term favorite would be better served than best. Best implies quality which can be objective in the world of food and drink, but there is still a subjective component to the decisions process. For instance when best brewery is listed, the winner is more often the place that people have heard of or where they like to hang out instead of the place that most accurately brews beer that is true to style or would win the highest rankings from trained beer judges. In the case of Mexican restaurants, more often than not a chain scores the “best of” win. Objectively and subjectively a chain Mexican restaurant could not be the best in Columbus but they get the win because more people have dined at a chain than one of our great authentic Mexican restaurants in town. Condado is not the best Mexican Restaurant in town, nor Chipotle.

When I was leading brewery tours (pre-covid) people would always ask me what the best brewery was. I would respond with my typical response. “Most of them are my friends so where I go and what I drink depends on my mood, budget and what style had me most intrigued at the time”. The same question came up when I was running my pizza tour, I’d throw out a top ten instead of an answer to the best pizza in town.

So after a long time of ducking the question of what my favorites are…..here is my top ten top ten.

Ice Cream

Ice cream was my first food obsession. When Graeter’s had their yearly T-Shirt promotion I always earned my shirt early. I still have all of my shirts in storage. I toured the United Dairy Farmers Ice Cream plant in Cincinnati – it was heavenly. I was given two table mats. One side explaining how ice cream is made and the other side detailing how milk is processed. I had these framed and still have them today. When Denise’s was open in Clintonville, I spent a day making ice cream with Stan, the owner so I could get the story right. My first featured article in Ohio Magazine was about the best ice cream spots in Ohio. Last, but not least, my first job was at Knight’s Ice Cream in Clintonville. I worked there for two years in high school and saved up to pay for 1/2 of my 1979 Camaro! So yes, I do love ice cream and I know enough about it to objectively know what is needed to made a quality ice cream.

Top Ten – Ice Cream

1) Homemade Brand Ice Cream – favorite flavors: Coconut Almond Chip and Peanut Butter Chip.

Some may be shocked by this choice, in my case, the tipping point is the price to value ratio. United Dairy Farmers – the makers of Homemade Brand, regularly run a buy one, get one promotion which usually translates to $1.75 per pint – that is a bargain considering the quality of ingredient in Homemade Brand.

2) Graeters – favorite flavors: Coconut Chip, Buckeye, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Chocolate Coconut Almond Chip.

3) Taggart’s Ice Cream, Canton Ohio – favorite flavor – Chocolate Pecan

4) Mitchell’s Ice Cream (Cleveland)

5) Mitchell’s Ice Cream (San Francisco)

6) Handel’s Ice Cream (Youngstown / Powell)

7) Honey Hut Ice Cream (Cleveland)

8) Jeni’s Ice Cream

9) Mardi Gras Ice Cream

10) Johnson’s Ice Cream


Top Ten Pizza Joints

(OK a disclaimer here – these are not listed in exact order – my favorite depends on my mood but these are all my top ten)

1) Adriatico’s – both the Sicilian and New York Style (always with extra sauce)

2) Hounddogs – Smokin’ Joes style. The taco pizza is a recent favorite

3) Iacono’s – specifically in Buffet form. It is not likely the buffet will come back anytime soon but that is a price to value decision. One of my favorite simple pizza’s is cheese only at Iacono’s. They sprinkle a little Romano on top when it comes out of the oven.

4) Tommy’s – Tommy’s last name is Iacono and these two pizza places are connected. The founder of Iaconos was Tommy’s son. However, these two pizzas are very different.

5) Pizza House – in addition to pizza, I really love their open faced meatball sandwich.

6) Cheese Board – Berkley, California

7) Zackary’s – Berkley, California

8) Bexley Pizza Plus

9) Meister’s

10) (TIE) Both RIP – Tristano’s and Lost Planet Pizza and Pasta

Addendum (11) Punch Pizza – Minneapolis



Top Ten Restaurants I Miss:

1) Galaxy Cafe

2) Lost Planet Pizza and Pasta

3) Tapatio

4) Niki’s (Greek)

5) Cancun (best Mole Enchiladas ever)

6) Dagwoodz

7) Tristano’s

8) Kahiki (not so much for the food but for the atmosphere)

9) Alana’s

10) Daddy-O’s – specifically double batter fries at 1 am


Top Ten Donuts in Ohio

Followers of the Ohio Donut Trail take note.

1) Donald’s Donuts – Zanesville

2) DK Diner – Grandview

3) Family Donut Shoppe – Londonderry

4) Bill’s Donuts – Centerville

5) Jack Frost Donuts – Cleveland

6) Brewnuts – Cleveland

7) Holtman’s Donuts – Cincinnati

8) The Original Crispie Creme Donuts – Chillicothe

9) Buckeye Donuts

10) Auddinos Bakery (Home of the doughsant / cronut)


Top Ten Foods I can not enjoy life without

1) Cheese – of all types. A few favorites: Any Blue Cheese from New Zealand, King Island from Australia, Cowgirl Creamery – San Francisco, Pearl Valley – Ohio

2) Ice cream (see above)

3) Pizza (see above)

4) Pattycake Bakery Tollhouse cookie

5) Eggs Rolls with house sauce from The Rice Bowl

6) Almonds and Cashews

7) Peanut Butter – chunky

8) Killer Brownies – Dorothy Lane Market

9) Dark Chocolate

10) Hot Dogs – ideally from O’Betty’s in Athens


Top Ten Breweries

(OK, please note beer snobs and the trolls from Columbus Craft Beer Consortium – the whole is greater than the sum of the parts so in addition to beer I am including – ambiance, customer service, etc. Other than #1, the rest are not in specific ranked order.

1) Little Fish – Athens.

2) Barley’s – Angelo! The Pre-game for my wedding and the co-creators of Tobias!

3) Seventh Son – Where I had my wedding and co creators of Tobias.

4) Restoration Brew Worx – Frank!

5) Smokehouse – Lenny!

6) Sideswipe – Famous Craig and Brewer Stew!

7) New Glarus

8) Three Floyds

9) Granville Brewing

10) Tie: Pretentious Barrel House – it should not work but it does / Endeavor Brewing

True disclaimers, there are so many great breweries in Columbus, it is so hard to limit to less than 25.


Top Ten Best Food Trips

If I only has ten days to live, would teleport to each of these cities for my final meals.

1) Berkley

2) Austin

3) Athens (Ohio)

4) Chicago

5) Cleveland

6) Bend, Oregon

7) Yarra Valley, Australia – pick up a bottle of Yering Station Fortified Shiraz

8) Melbourne, Australia

9) Cinque Terre, Italy

10) Columbus – don’t knock our city, this is an incredible place to eat.


Top Ten Places I need to get to in Columbus (not in exact order)

There are so many great places to try in Columbus. The great hidden treasures are the many immigrant kitchens serving incredible food in Columbus. If you are not adventuresome enough to test these out, I would like to suggest you take a leap of faith and try a Trust Fall Dinner from my pals Columbus Food Adventures – see some videos -> HERE

1) Yemeni Restaurant

2) Hoyo’s Kitchen

3) Jiu Thai

4) Huong Vietnamese

5) Addis Restaurant

6) Dabakh Restaurant

7) Afra Grill

8) El Arepazo

9) Poong Mei

10) Mediterranean Food Imports


Top Ten Places I am eating from During Covid / Stay at Home

Some places are much more stay at safe than others, and places that do not make an effort to create good social distancing will not get my business. All of these are pick up locations.

Other than the first place, these are not in exact order.

1) At home – my wife is a great cook and we are eating about 95% of our meals in house.

2) Iaconos Pizza (Kenny Road)

3) Lavash

4) Fibonacci’s Pizza – at Studio 35

5) Gallos Kitchen

6) Neighbors Deli

7) Smokehouse Brewing

8) Hounddogs Pizza

9) Pho Asian Noodle House

10) Taco Bell (yes it happened) – just once so far.


Top Ten Places I want to eat at when Covid is over.

1) Rockmill Tavern

2) El Arepazo – Brewery District

3) Ambrose and Eve

4) Gallos Kitchen (our carry our was good, I’d like to see how in house goes)

5) Wolf’s Ridge

6) Iaconos Pizza Buffet

7) Amal Indian Restaurant Buffet

8) Studio 35 – Fibonacci’s Pizza

9) Caleb and Robin’s house – our old neighbors from Oakland Park Avenue – we have missed our friends and Griffin cried when he could not play with his pals Violet and Landon when they did a drive by this week.

10) O’Betty’s – Athens Ohio – best hot dogs ever

Those are ten of my Top Tens. I’d love to hear about your favorites, especially places that are doing a good job for pick up or delivery in Columbus.

Be Well and eat even better.

Posted in Best Pizza in Columbus, culinary knowledge, donuts, Food For Thought | Tagged: | 6 Comments »

Top 13 Independent Columbus Pizzerias to Support During Covid (and After)!

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 21, 2020

Let’s just say Covid and the Ides of Covid have been a trying time. Many of my friends own and/or work in local restaurants, breweries and distilleries. The stories of their grit and determination to keep going are amazing. It is expected a large percentage of restaurants may not come back when we return to whatever the new normal becomes. There is one sector of food service that has seen a glimmer of “Okayness” during Covid – PIZZA!

Although pizza sales have slumped 8% this year, that is nothing compared to double digits in other food industry sectors except grocery stores. Whereas other food businesses are laying off staff, the big pizza players such as Papa John’s, Pizza Hut and Domino’s are hiring thousands of staff to meet increased demand for delivery. It is great that jobs are created, so many people need a paycheck. And I would say so many people need pizza, however, the chains will survive Covid or not, our around the corner shops, may not.

This is a crucial time for our local mom and pop pizza shops. For the last two decades the number of independent pizzerias has rapidly declined due to fierce competition from corporate chains. In Columbus, the former Pizza Capital of the USA (true fact in the 1990’s), the decline of independent pizzerias has had a more shallow curve than most other cities, but is still significant. During the heyday of Columbus Pizza, there were more pizzerias per capita here than anywhere in the country, today, Columbus does not even place in the top fifty. The end of 2019 saw several old school Columbus pizzerias close including the original Minelli’s on Sullivant. The closing trend was expected to continue during 2020.

Before Covid, many of our local independent pizzerias were struggling to keep their doors open. A bevy of factors contribute to the teetering fate of mom and pop pizza shops: fierce competition in the pizza industry, a greater variety of food choices that can be picked up and delivered, more late night food options, the high price of quality ingredients and more. The biggest hit to the continuation of independent shops has been a lack of desire of third and fourth generation children to take over the family business. Families today are typically smaller than their first generation pie slingers which means – less family to work the business to continue the legacy and cut down on payroll. A profitable business and strong local support might change a few minds about shutting off their pizza ovens. Covid can slow the decline of independent shops and each of you can do something to help with that, order from a neighborhood pizzeria.

My primary research tool on Columbus pizza consumption is Instagram, which seems to show a lot of pizza consumption from local shops. Keep it up, support your neighborhood shop and try to add at least one new spot to your list – ideally one per week, but once per month would be OK.

Here is a list of favorites (not in exact order). And there are more than 13 that are list worthy.

Tommy’s

Iaconos

Adriaticos

Hounddogs

Meisters (hours may be very limited)

Pizza House

Little Sicily

Enricos

Dantes

Josies (The Bottoms)

Rubinos

Panzeras

Gattos

Posted in pizza | Tagged: , | 22 Comments »

TAT: Talk of the Town, Ninety Years and Counting

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 3, 2020

The story of TAT Ristorante begins in 1929 in the former Flytown neighborhood of Columbus. The address was 409 West Goodale Street. The name itself is directly related to a historic moment in Columbus history. Pete and Philomena Carrova were looking for a name for their new restaurant. Prior to opening the doors to the public, a historic event occurred at the city’s airport, the Columbus Municipal Hangar (CMH) on the east site. On July 9th of 1929, the first transcontinental flights in the United States were launched. Passengers started their journey in New York via train, the first stop was Columbus where train passengers were transferred to a waiting Ford Tri-Motor aircraft to fly them to their next destination. In the course of 48 hours, a person could travel from New York to Los Angeles. It was an amazing feat for the era and the talk of the town that Columbus was a part of it. The name of this new airline was Transcontinental Air Transport or T-A-T. Legend says that Pete Corrova would watch planes from Transcontinental Air Transport flying into and out from the airport and decided to use the initials he saw on the planes as the name of the restaurant. Another legend suggests the once officials from T-A-T came by to ask about the use of the name and Pete replied it stood for “take any table”. The airline did not last long and faded from memory quickly and we do know that Pete’s son Jimmy Corrova started to tell customers that TAT did indeed stand for take any table. Today. The current home for TAT features a wonderful mural by local artist Carl Weisenberger which depicts the history of TAT..the airline in a series of images.

“Progress” in the form of new highways, cut up the Flytown neighborhood in the early 1950’s and forced TAT to move. Pete and Philomena opened the new location on the growing east side at 3280 E. Main St at South Hampton Road (it remained there until 1965). The couple continued to serve food that reflected Pete’s Sicilian (Ficara) roots and the recipes Philomena brought from Naples…and of course pizza. In 1955 (or 1954), Jimmy Corrova and his wife, Dolores, opened a second TAT at East Broad Street and James Road. In 1962 the family added a location at Livingston Avenue and Beechwood Road. This was followed by a pizza focused location on the west side, the TAT Pizza Carry Out at 3858 Sullivant Ave (which became Minelli’s Restaurant & Pizza Carry Out in 1967). During the brief tenure as a TAT, the west side location was very busy with Jimmy Corrova recalling they used “five to six delivery wagons and sold 600 pizzas per night on Friday and Saturday”. After the death of patriarch Pete, followed by Jimmy having a heart attack, the family decided to merge the two remaining east side TAT’s in 1980 which remains TAT’s location today, 1210 South James Road (at Livingston Avenue).

As the oldest continuously owned family restaurant in Columbus with over ninety years of service, a plethora of memories and stories have accumulated. Maintaining a tradition followed by most of the original pizzerias and many Italian restaurants in town, recipes are not written down. Kitchen staff (or family members) are shown how to make something and then they follow suit. Before Jimmy had heart surgery in the 1980’s, he made sure that video tapes were made showing him creating all of the essential recipes for the kitchen.

Corrova started working at TAT when he was seven, when he was nine he stood on a crate to run the cash register. Today his wife, Dolores is the general manager and his brother Anthony is the maitre d’. Defying generations of Sicilian tradition of leaving everything to the first born son, his daughters Michelle (back of the house / kitchen) and Marianne (front of the house) are ready to take over the family business when Jimmy decides to give up the reins.

A favorite story of Jimmy Corrova involves his David vs. Goliath fight with several big businesses in his cease and desist lawsuit involving the use of the the term, Poor Boy sandwiches in Ohio. At the time, several companies including Kroger were selling frozen Poor Boy sandwiches locally. A barely adult Jimmy decided to bring a lawsuit against these companies including the local grocery store chain. Shortly after word got out about what he was planning to do, he was asked to meet with “a few people” at Romeo’s Pizzeria. When he arrived, the place was full of various Italian community leaders as well as powerful Democratic and Republican lawmakers. He was very strongly “encouraged” to stop his legal fight so as to not stir up the pot. He was told the suit would destroy the family business and be bad for the Italian-American community. Afterward, he went to church where he “received a message from Heaven” that he would win the case. When he asked his lawyer how much he should sue for he was told $100,000. He recalls thinking that was a lot of 0’s (zeros). He did win the case after six years and TAT still owns the Poor Boy Trademark to this day. Jimmy believes the headline in the Citizen Journal (local newspaper of the era) was “Judge Slices Up Sandwich Attorneys” on the day he won the suit.

TAT is known for having many employees who have worked front and back of house for decades as well a countless regular customers that span the generations. Many customers have a favorite booth and/or server. One booth even has a plaque dedicated to a long time customer who passed away, now the booth is reserved for her forever. TAT puts the old, into Old School in every aspect one can imagine. This family business has survived the Great Depression, countless recessions, treads, fads and an endless stream of new competition by not changing a thing. The only thing that has changed at TAT is their style of pizza served which has evolved from their original thicker crust interpretation with American cheese to the classic Columbus style today with just a few tweaks since the 1950’s.

Posted in Columbus style pizza, culinary knowledge, restaurants | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Panzera’s Pizza: A Story of Persistence and Pluck

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 19, 2020

Panzeras Pizza

The origin of Panzera’s Pizza reads a lot like a Horatio Agler rags to riches tale. The Panzera family immigrated to the Grandview area in 1955 just before Nick Panzera observed his fifth birthday in his new home country. They arrived from the Abruzzo / Abruzzi section of Italy speaking little English and immediately set themselves to work. Nick, started working at Tedeschi Italian Bakery (at Third Ave. and Doten) in Grandview. Initially he was bagging bread but over time he took on many other roles. Nick and some of his brothers would sometimes work at nearby Leonardo’s Pizza as well. When Nick was 12, Tedeschi Bakery closed so he and brothers were out of a job in the case of his brothers, one of their jobs). In late 1964, Nick and brother Phillip with the help of many family members decided to run the bakery space as a pizzeria and called it Panzeras. It was a small operation open seven days per week with one oven and dough mixed by hand….managed and operated by 13 year old Nick Panzera.

One of the keys to making this work was one of Nick’s teachers, George Sotiris Georgas. As Nick was getting ready to open the pizzeria, George kept asking him questions about what items would be on the menu and how much Nick was planning to charge for each specialty offered. Nick was surprised by a stack of menus given to him by George who make the on the schools mimeograph machine as a surprise for opening day! George also knew that Nick was working late nights at the pizzeria so he arranged for Nick to have a “job” in the school book room which allowed Nick to sleep and/or study the first two periods of the day. The first $5 sale at Panzera’s Pizza was from George and it was framed on the wall for years.

In 1966, older brother and business partner Phillip was working at the nearby quarry but it was laying off employees. He came to Nick and said “I’m moving”. Having just moved to a new house, Nick was confused and asked Phillip why he would so move again so soon, to which Phillip explained he was not moving to another house, he was moving to California to find work. At this stage, Nick was 15 and in high school and didn’t feel he could run the business on his own. He considered putting the business up for sale but after a less than desirable offer he decided to figure out how to make it work. He decided he would start advertising but knew before he could start marketing the business he needed to upgrade everything in the pizzeria so he could increase his production volume. Nick worked with Stan Becker a salesman at Wasserstrom to order $10,000 of equipment: another oven, a mixer, slicer, double door refrigerator, pots, pans etc., everything needed to allow a few people to make a more pizzas in less time. The price tag for these upgrades was high so an owner was needed to sign on the bottomline. Nick was 15 so Stan told him he was too young to sign the contract. Nick replied to Becker that his dad would sign it but Stan knew his dad did not speak English. So Nick countered that he would read the contract to his dad. Stan was a bit wary of that. In the end, Nick signed the contract with his dad’s name while Stan looked the other way.

After the new equipment was in place, Nick worked with a customer to print 10,000 menus including coupons. Then Nick loaded up a car to drive his nieces and nephews around the Grandview neighborhoods dropping them off at one end of the block and picking them up at the other side to deliver fliers throughout the area. People started calling in orders and dropping in the first day of flier delivery leading to some very busy days. Phillip came home to visit shortly thereafter and was amazed at the stacks of pizzas waiting to be picked up in the shop.

Nick got married in 1969. He started buying rental properties in the area to expand diversify his income. Many of the pizzeria’s customers were police officers and they would often say “Nick you should be a cop”, so when Nick turned 21 (1972) he applied for the police academy and was accepted. Eventually Nick’s wife told him he had to give up at least one business so he decided to sell the shop to Fred Lombardi and his wife (Nick’s sister) in 1976. Fred had worked at Panzera’s (and Leonardo’s Pizza) for years including managing the shop since Nick started working as a police officer. (Nick was once called Panzera’s Pizza in response to a robbery call items stolen included the frame dollar bill from the first sale at Panzera’s).

Panzera’s Pizza moved a few times since opening in 1964, in 1983, Fred Lombardi moved the shop to the present location at Grandview and Third Avenues. Today, although Fred is “retired”, which seems to mean he is working what most would consider a normal work week Fred remains a fixture in the kitchen. Fred is still at Panzera’s making dough, sauce and preppy pizzas. Many of the extended family have worked at the shop over the decades. The recipes are all Panzera family recipes with no changes since 1964. None of the recipes is written down all are passed along by one person showing and expecting the other person to continue doing. Panzera’s still makes their dough, pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce and many other Italian specilaities from scratch. Fred passed on the pizza peel of day to day operations to his son Carlo many years ago and today guests can often find Fred, Carlo and (grandson) Andy kneading and tossing the dough behind the counter.

A non pizza menu item that has been popular since the 1980’s is the Monster Sub which is a fusion of a Italian sub and meatball sub wedded between two buns. Another thing customers can count on at Panzera’s is Nick dropping in several times per week (when he is not visiting brother Paul at Paul’s Pantry just around the corner). You will find a lot of important things at Panzera’s that are not on the regular menu: three generations of family that are proud of their pizza, connected to their neighborhood and their customers in a way that few businesses can compete against. All of this because a 13 year old needed a job and the extended Panzera/Lombardi family always helped each other out to keep the family business going. That alone, is worth a visit, the pizza is a bonus.

Historical side dish:

Phillip Panzera came home from California to visit the pizzeria shortly after Nick expanded the kitchen operation and started his marketing blitz. While Phillip was walking in, he noticed a man walking out of the nearby insurance agency, which was a new neighbor to Panzera’s. At the same time, the insurance agent in question did a double take noticing Phillip as well. Each sensed they knew each other and after a lot of conversational sleuthing figured out they had met in Italy, during World War II (over twenty years before) when the jeep the insurance agent was riding in picked up a hitchhiking Phillip on a dirt road far from Grandview, Ohio and the United States.

Posted in Columbus style pizza, culinary knowledge, pizza | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

(Product Review): TheCrazyCap and the quest to keep water clean

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 31, 2019

CrazyCap Bottle

I am the father of a four year old boy. Nothing on this planet seeks out dirt, grime and general chaos with more gusto than a four year old boy….except maybe the three year old version of the same. When CMH Griffin (CMH Son) entered the world of daycare when he was just over two years old we began a year of guerilla warfare with germs. For the first three months of school he was out sick (home with daddy) more often than he was in school. Making it to school three days a week was a GOOD WEEK! As the person that “never gets sick” I was sick more often over that 18 months than I had been in the previous 18 years, I even picked up a case of Foot and Mouth Disease (yes, eww).

We are doing better at Daycare/Pre-School today but in the course of a school day he is embedded with up to twenty three other chronic germ machines and so his his water bottle. When I saw the Crazy Cap pitched in a back to school press release, I volunteered to take one for a test drive for my family to see if it could survive the four year old challenge.

Here are some of the Crazy Cap selling points!

– The deep UV LED provides 500,000 water treatments during its lifetime

– CrazyCap’s battery lasts up to 1 week, comes included with charger

– The CrazyCap can be used to sanitize any surface. Simply shine it on cell-phones, laptops, tablets, etc.

– CrazyCap is compatible with most 9, 12, 15 and 17 oz insulated stainless steel bottles. In case you don’t have a compatible bottle, the brand also offers double-walled, vacuum-insulated bottles that are designed to keep beverages cold for up to 24 hours or hot for up to 12

– It contains deep UV LED sterilization technology to destroy microorganisms completely (unlike traditional filters, which trap but do not destroy). Purify your water on the go and keep your go-to bottle sanitary at the same time

– “CrazyCap’s makes sure that your bottles do not smell funky or moldy. It is our guarantee!!”

All of the above seemed impressive.

I tested this out at home from fall to Christmas break. Overall, I found the product easy to use and understand. The charger was easy to use. A color coded light system in the cap helps you understand what the battery level is in the CrazyCap and it allows you to determine what level of sanitizing you want to use. An added bonus of the CrazyCap is it can be used to sanitize items other than your water and the bottle itself, you can use use in on keyboards, phones, and etc. This could be a handy item for a camping trip or an emergency preparedness kit (if you keep the charge fresh).

CrazyCap with charger

There were two downsides for the “back to school” uses for this bottle and they mainly apply to the audience I tested this with. While this would be a good back to school item for a high schooler or even an older middle school child, I would not suggest this for young children, especially those in daycare and probably elementary school. First, the CrazyCap is not dishwasher safe which means it is not kid safe nor exhausted adult proof. Second, there is a warning not to look directly at the CrazyCap UV light…..you know that is bound to happen with a toddler and even some teenagers and adults. I do think this would be a great gift for the techie in your life.

To find out more about CrazyCap check our their website -> TheCrazyCap.com

Posted in Product Review | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

(Product Review): TwentyFifty Compostable Spoons

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 25, 2019

Compostable Spoons

True Fact 1: I am a recycling and sustainability nerd who would like to progress to being a zealot.

True Fact 2: I am a sucker for anything FREE!

When I received a press release about TwentyFifty compostable tableware I was beyond intrigued so I made a pitch to test drive some of their product. I also asked if I could run a contest to help get the word out about their products and what their mission is. The company said yes to both of my requests. If you want the opportunity to have a box of compostable spoons sent to you so you can try them yourself, follow me on Instagram at: CMHGourmand and you can participate in my Instagram contest on January 1st – to help make your own New Year’s Resolution to be nicer to our planet. One commenter to my New Years Day Instagram post about these spoons will win a box of spoons.

TwentyFifty is a San Diego based company with noble purposes. One goal is to create methods to allow cutlery to be made around the world using locally sourced grains.

Named after the year 2050 – the year the population is projected to reach 10 billion and when it’s estimated that the amount of plastic waste in the ocean will exceed the amount of fish – the brand has one mission: to stop, or at least significantly reduce, plastic pollution. They are doing this with cutlery. The first, and only, compostable alternative to single-use plastic you can compost in your own backyard compost pile.

A few facts about plastics that I hope terrify you. As a parent of a child I hope has a liveable world after 2050, here are a few things that could keep me up at night.


Over 40 billion plastic utensils go into landfills and oceans every year.

There are about 300 million tons of plastic that are produced every year with half of them estimated to be for only single use and they are then dumped in the oceans after use. This then creates an underwater smog of plastic debris and this then affects the seabirds and marine life that ingest it which can then affect the health of the people that consume the affected animals later.


From a documentary that was filmed by a journalist Craig Leeson, a director of A Plastic Ocean discovered discarded plastic bottles on the ocean floor while he was filming whales underwater in the India Ocean off the coast of Sri Lanka. He then traveled to about 20 locations so as to show the effects of plastic on the marine ecosystem and his documentary then talks about how the plastic in the ocean breaks up over time to become tiny pieces called microplastics. This then enters the food chain and it brings toxins into the fatty tissues of the fish and other animals which will then be transmitted to human during consumption. – from The Heart Beat

There are other compostable cutlery options out there but most require a lot of energy to produce and then break down after use. The design of the TwentyFifty fork, spoon or knife allows it to be fully decomposed in a typical home composting bin within 30 days. You could even stick one in the ground of your garden and let it release nutrients into the soil after eating some of your garden produce at a picnic – how do you like that for cycle of life?

Spoons side by side

If you are searching for a real alternative to single use plastic that is a win/win for the environment, TwentyFifty has a sound solution for you. I received a box of 12 that I tested out in various ways for typical things my family does at home and away. The spoons are both aesthetically pleasing and practical to use. They hold up well to any use I could think of and did not add any aftertaste or discoloration to foods. I soaked one in a glass for four hours and it was still usable. After one hour of soaking, it showed no signs of wear or decomposition, at 4 hours, it was pliable and could be broken with some effort but still retained its shape. The spoon is made with a mix of wheat, corn and soy flours. I was impressed after my thorough usability testing and am excited to see what other products that will produce over time.

Box 0f Twenty Fifty Spoons

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Enrico’s Pizza & Restaurant since 1988: An Immigrant Story

Posted by cmh gourmand on October 30, 2019

Regular or even infrequent visitors at Enrico’s, are often on a first name basis with Tiziana who runs the front of the house of this small, modest restaurant tucked in a strip development on the border of Dublin. She and her family commuted a long way to start their business, they are all first generation Italian immigrants to central Ohio. They settled in Grandview in 1968. Tiziana’s mother, Angelina, worked as a seamstress and Ottavio, her father, found work in construction. Both parents liked to cook so when Tiziana’s uncle opened Dante’s Pizza in Clintonville in 1973 it was only natural that they would lend a hand. Her mother’s brother, Joe Apollino, had arrived several years earlier and learned the pizza business working a variety of positions at Leonardo’s, an iconic Columbus pizzeria chain.

All of the family members worked at Dantes at different times over the years. The family, now including Tiziana’s husband Rick, decided to open Enrico’s in March of 1988. (Guess where Rick met his wife…..while working at Dante’s). The restaurant started as a largely scratch kitchen and has remained that way since day one. They make their own dough, sauce, pastas (especially beloved ravioli’s), house salad dressing, meatballs and sausage. One thing they do that few shops still practice is grinding their cheese from blocks of provolone instead of using shredded cheese. They have not changed a menu item since opening in 1988 and if they did “our customers would tell us.” It has always been a word of mouth business, they do not advertise and don’t offer coupons. Enrico’s has a loyal base of regular customers who plan in advance for the two times per year the business closes for a week for vacation. Tiziana says one of the best aspects of running the business is watching families grow up with Enricos by seeing customers bring their children and then seeing the next generation of children grow up and bring their own children in. Special orders are not uncommon with some customers asking for their pizza “extra crispy”, or triangle cut, or with all the pepperoni on top. Long time customers are familiar seeing Tiziana by the front counter greeting customers while “mom and pop” are in the back in their kitchen whites cooking away. Where does the name Enrico come from? The restaurant is named for one of Tiziana’s cousins from Abruzzo. They have visited each other in their respective home cities many times over the years. Maybe one day one of Enrico’s children will continue the tradition of coming to Columbus, starting a pizza place and naming it in honor of a relative.

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(Product Review): Belle Chevre Goat Cheese Cream Cheese

Posted by cmh gourmand on October 25, 2019

Long time readers know that I am a sucker for cheese. Few know how much I love goat cheese but it well established that I love free cheese. In this instance, I was offered cheese I would gladly pay for next time I go to the store in the form of Belle Chevre cream cheese made from goat’s milk.

When I received this box I was vaulted to cream cheese heaven. Inside were eight different cream cheeses to try so I took my mission very seriously. In order of my taste preference these are the samples I received: Fig, Original, Honey, Roasted Red Pepper, Cinnamon, Pumpkin Spice (it’s not just for coffee anymore) Garden Veggie. I am still holding on to the Coffee Cream Cheese (unsampled) for unspecified and perhaps secret baking project.

My spouse was a bit skeptical of cream cheese made from goats milk. Also, her superhuman sense of smell confirmed that these cream cheeses did originate from goats, not cows. For her this fact was neutral, but for me, it was all goaty goodness.

Belle Chevre goat cheese cream cheese has some distinct advantages over standard cream cheese. Their goat cheeses are naturally gluten free and a one ounce serving offers five grams of protein which is more than double that of regular cream cheese. Compared to cow’s milk-based cheeses, goat cheese is lower in fat, provides more calcium and has two and a half times the protein. That is something that helped me rationalize eating a whole container in a day.

For my rigorous testing I did several head to head comparisons of Belle Chevre and standard cream cheese. Thinking of the creaminess and spreadability of typical cream cheese as a percentage or curve, the Belle Chevre cream cheeses were about 75% on the spectrum between regular goat cheese and regular cream cheese leaning more toward the cream cheese on the scale. Belle Chevre is dense but lighter and fluffier. It is less likely to “stick” and embed itself with it’s companion be it a bagel, salami, or whatever. The goat cheese flavor is present but not pronounced and pairs exceptionally well in the fig flavor in particular. True fact: I made my favorite sandwich of the year with a next day leftover piece of steak, the fig cream cheese and some just out of the bag sandwich bread from the store. It was simple but amazingly delicious. Over time I noticed the unused portion in each container tends to settle overnight bringing the remainder to a flat baseline by the next day which is value added for people like me that do not like big divots in the center of their dairy packaging but instead like a constant horizontal level awaiting the next knife or spoon.

Belle Chevre on the right

My most common test was to try the different versions of the goat cheese cream cheese on bagels, with one half of the bagel covered in Belle Chevre cream cheese and the other half spread with “a national brand cream cheese”. The Belle Chevre was always an even substitute and often a superior option depending on my flavor preference. My least favorite of what I sampled was the veggie. The veggie chunks in the cream cheese did not add to the flavor, for the most part, they just added some texture to the lump of cream cheese in my mouth. You can use Belle Chevre cream cheeses interchangeably with anything that would feature cream cheese and in my experience you will find it a flavor enhancer to whatever you are eating with it. In my research, it really excels in any baking recipe which calls for cream cheese, especially with the cinnamon flavor (which is why I am holding onto the coffee cream cheese for a future creation).

Belle Chevre is a company I have tracked for several years. They make great products and have an inspiring origin story. Their artisan cheese makers have been handcrafting traditional and original goat cheeses since 1989, combining old school European cheesemaking techniques with innovative approaches. All of this happens in Elkmont, Alabama under the chief cheese, Tasia Malakasis. The company is woman owned and led. It has won many accolades including a best dessert award for a goat cheese cheesecake and a feature on Oprah’s O List. To learn more about Belle Chevre click -> HERE.

Locally you can find Belle Chevre at Giant Eagle Market District and Meijer as well as in my refrigerator, but please do not take any of my Belle Chevre fig cream or I will give you an old copy of Who Moved My Cheese as a punishment.

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Dante’s Pizza Serving Clintonville Since 1973

Posted by cmh gourmand on October 1, 2019

Joe Apollonio immigrated to Columbus from the Abruzzo region of Italy at age 14. He spoke little English and started working and going to school as soon as he arrived after settling in with relatives in Grandview. His first job was as a dishwasher at Romeo’s Pizzeria (5th and North Star) which was the first pizzeria in Columbus. This was also his first exposure to pepperoni, a very American invention, but he grew to like it over time. Joe worked with Romeo Sirij, one of the founders. Romeo had grown up on the east coast and brought what he had learned about pizzerias when he moved to Columbus as young man. A friend of Joe’s from school, Paul Panzera, told him about an opening at Leonardo’s Pizza so he started working there (the original location at West 1st in Grandview) and moved up the ranks. As Joe’s English language skills improved and as Leonardo’s continued to grow into the largest independent pizza chain in Columbus he was asked to be a manager at the Worthington Leonardo’s and then the Kenny Road location. Joe could not have asked for a better foundation and apprenticeship in Columbus style pizza.

As he was starting a new family he needed more income and wanted more control over his work hours so by pooling funds from his brother, sister and other family members he opened Dante’s Pizza in March of 1973. The location had been home to several restaurants over the prior years. The previous business had some struggles and had lost favor with the community so Joe knew he would need a different name and would need to very quickly establish the quality of his menu. He named the restaurant after his brother, Dante. At the start, most of the labor was via family members including his niece Tizianna who now owns Enrico’s Pizza. Many of the employees feel like family with at least two, Shirley and Pat, there for over thirty years.

Little has changed since Dante’s opened in 1973. Transactions are still cash and check only. The decor and layout are functional. Pick up customers can watch their pizza being assembled and cooked through the glass countertop. Dine in guests have about a dozen four top tables to choose from and it is not uncommon for all or most of them to get pushed together to serve a soccer team or large family. The pizza dough is made fresh daily. The pizza and spaghetti sauces are made in house as well as the signature Italian dressing and many other items. The sausage is made locally using a recipe Joe has used for decades and it remains a favorite topping for long time customers. After two heart attacks and an open heart surgery Joe is still coming in early to prep the business for the day, start sauces, knead dough and deal with deliveries but now he is typically gone before the first customers come through the door.

As is the case for most “old school” pizza shop owners Joe was a regular at The American Italian Golf Club at the (closed) Riviera Country Club and often played with the Gatto’s who own a nearby pizzeria. Joe has enjoyed seeing several generations of Clintonville families returning year after year and watching their kids become adult customers who bring their own children in. Joe foresees no changes at Dante’s. It will remain a cash business. Additional traffic from delivery services is too complicated to consider for this small pizzeria tucked in a corner spot within a busy shopping plaza. Dante’s will remain a time capsule of the 1970’s and that is the way everyone likes it.

Most important for my slice of history, Dante’s was the source for the very first slice (square that is) of pizza I consumed as a young four year old in Clintonville. I vividly recall eating this very tentatively sitting on the landing that divided the staircase from the first floor to the second floor. I do not know why I choose this for my dining spot. I do recall being unsure, almost wary of pizza…..that did not last long. As I grew up, Dante’s pizza was a frequent feature on Friday nights in our household and in fourth grade, at the newly created Clintonville Academy (the original location which is Wildflower Cafe today, we would have Dante’s Pizza for lunch in a shared art space, multi-purpose room, play area either once per week or once per month (my memory is hazy with the years). It was here I first learned the utility of sharing square slices and the importance of trying to avoid the smaller corner pieces for my pizza allotment among the group. It is interesting how one food can imprint in a person’s mind in such a strong manner but such is the case with pizza.

Dante’s Pizza
3586 Indianola Ave.
Clintonville
614-268-5090
(Bring cash!)

Posted in Columbus style pizza, culinary knowledge, pizza, restaurants | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Another Elite Eating Hack: Rockmill Tavern Beet Bahn Mi

Posted by cmh gourmand on September 25, 2019

I did not expect another elite eating hack in 2019. Nor did I expect said hack to present itself at Rockmill Tavern but when serendipity strikes, it should not be dismissed. I would like to say I could take credit for this culinary advancement but, like the other elite hack, this higher plane of consumption was created by another. I can say, I was present for the inspiration and I had the second ever sandwich created with this configuration.

Rockmill Tavern does a fine job with meaty dishes and they have always offered vegetables that your momma would not need to bribe you to eat but over the last year, the kitchen has been very focused on creating destination level dishes which showcase vegetables. Hence, the a new lunch menu addition, the Beet Bahn Mi.

You may be familiar with the famous Vietnamese Bahn Mi Sandwich – the best version I have encountered in Central Ohio is at Mi Li Cafe. Rockmill Tavern took that inspiration and put their own spin on it for their weekday lunch menu. They ditched the meat and replaced it with braised golden beets then add Vietnamese pickles and garlic miso aioli layered between two halves of a wonderful Maitja Breads Ciabatta Hoagie Roll. No one needs to beat me to get me to eat this Beet Mi, it is an excellent sandwich as presented. However, it just so happens that Rockmill Tavern makes an exceptional pork belly and if the place is not too crowded and you ask nicely they will add pork belly to this sandwich. The end result is AMAZING. Now you have another Elite Eating Hack for Rockmill Tavern. Thank you Chris for this gift to humanity. Thank you to Rockmill Tavern for allowing us to eat this.

My other inside tip – always order the pasta special, you will never be disappointed but do make sure you order bread to go with it.

Where to go:
Rockmill Tavern
503 South Front Street
Brewery District, Lunch Time

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