CMH Gourmand – Eating in Columbus & Ohio

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The Best Basement Brewing Museum I have ever seen…..

Posted by cmh gourmand on September 8, 2019

Due to a curious chain of events (certainly not the first time for me), I found myself in a brewing museum in a basement. Well, maybe not a true museum but an incredible curated collection of artifacts accumulated by Ed Heller in forty odd years of brewing in Columbus and Central Ohio, mainly at August Wagner Breweries. How does one find himself in such a place? In my case by being a “connectrovert” – finding ways to connect people and opportunities as well as asking the right question at the right time in the right way. The story starts with me in my role as Vice President (and non-resident historian) of the Brewery District Merchants Association. A member had a question about a giant Brewers Alley sign that was in his building. An individual was interested in making a good home for this sign and after asking a few questions to “vet” that it would be a good forever home for a historic sign, agreements were made to transfer custody. In the process of this back and forth, I found out that the mother of the person asking for this sign was the daughter of Ed Heller who was a local brewmaster and she had “a few things” in her basement including a Brewers Year Book from 1950. Without trying to hide my excitement I asked if I could invite myself to see this treasure trove of Breweriana and the deal was done. Well, maybe I put a lot of icing on the non cake that is me, by asking if I could also invite my friend and colleague Curt Schieber the author of “Columbus Beer: Recent Brewing & Deep Roots“.

Flash forward to this morning when Curt and I, two perfect strangers to these very kind people, found ourselves in a nicely finished north side basement looking at relics of the August Wagner Breweries (and other places) and hearing about the long career of Ed Heller. He lived an incredible life. As the oldest of nine children, Ed had to leave school in the 8th grade to find work. Eventually, through a lot of hard work, perseverance and saving a lot of money for the time, he found his way to New York city to earn a prestigious Brewmasters certificate. Being a brewer on the South Side of Columbus would have made him one of the most respected citizens of his era. He lived into his 90’s surviving throat cancer in his late 40’s and being unable to speak and then another cancer, heart attack and more later in life. For many years his family lived in one of the brewers houses on Front Street which in itself created so many memories including going to the brewery on Saturdays so that the brewers could make snowballs out of the melting ice in the brewery for children to play with.

The assortment of photos, signs, glasses, bottles and more in this basement space told more than just the story of a brewer, it tells the story of a important part of life in Columbus during his career. Our hosts Angie and Greg shared so many stories with Curt and I that I lost count. More importantly the four of us connected due to a passion for celebrating and preserving history. Much of what we saw were items that easily could have been discarded or separated over the years but keeping all of this together created a wonderful longitudinal story.

This was truly a treasure trove. Curt, spent three years working on his book but had never seen the majority of what we were looking at and hearing about today so he was thrilled with having access to this hidden history. One thing we collectively lamented on is that most families loose so much of their history and connection to the past by not having someone with an interest to pass it on to the next generation. Increasingly there is no one in the present that wants take on the role of family historian and archivist. Today Curt and I got lucky. I am sharing a few of the many photos I took below.

Posted in beer, culinary knowledge, culinary misadventure | 2 Comments »

Ding Ho, Wor Sue Gai: Columbus Institution & Midwestern Foodway

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 26, 2019

Many moons ago, I came across this interesting article about the origination of Wor Sue Gai / War Su Gai in Columbus. The claim seems credible with a strong probability that the dish started at Far East Restaurant in Bexley sometime in the 1920’s. Two of our oldest Chinese restaurants in town – Wings (1970) and Ding Ho (1956) have connections to that restaurant. The dish is simple – wok fried chicken topped with chopped almonds or peanuts depending on the restaurant and era, covered with gravy and served on a bed of lettuce. My memories of Columbus Chinese food of the 20th century recall this dish vividly anywhere we dined. Other locales call this Almond Boneless Chicken as described in an article on Eater. There are differences in how this dish is presented, especially in how the gravy is prepared throughout Columbus and elsewhere but the core of the dish remains the same. As I was reading through this research I realized I have never dined at Ding Ho and I figured I should fix that.

Ding Ho has a long history in the capital city, dating back to 1956. It has been in several locations on the west side. It has been at it’s current location on Phillpi Road since 2008 in what looks to have been a former fast casual restaurant space. The original Ding Ho (which roughly translates to -> the best) started in a converted gas station. During its prime it stayed open late, served the movers and shakers of Columbus such as Mayor Sensenbrenner and offered steaks, chops, sandwiches and more.

Today, Ding Ho might be an easy place for people to dismiss either for the location or for having a traditional, Americanized Chinese menu. For those that have not visited, it is well worth the trip. Even though it is in a newer building, Ding Ho has an old school feel about the space. It is well maintained with plenty of room for dining and even a patio area. Service was friendly and very fast. On my visit I noticed it was well populated with many regulars that the staff knew by name.

Of course I ordered the Wor Sue Gai. I ordered an egg roll. I also opted for the optional bread service – mainly because I was intrigued by this offering. My server just asked if I would like bread…so of course I said yes. I was promptly given a plate with two slices of bread on it and small vat of butter. I was told this has been a tradition since the 1950’s since the menu once included a wide variety of American and Chinese-America comfort foods. Over time, guests would see bread being served with a steak or chops and ask if they could have it with their Chop Suey or Wor Sue Gai, so bread remains an option to this day. My egg roll was good. I really enjoyed the house made sauces readily available at the table to ladle on my egg roll. Both sauces were fresh and complimented the egg roll well.

The Wor Sue Gai was served within a matter of minutes. It was piping hot and had the requisite chicken, gravy, rice, lettuce, crumbled peanuts and in my case scallions/green onions which are optional. All white meat is also optional for this dish. It was exactly what I expected. It might not be an exciting dish for a professional foodie but I felt this was a fine rendition of this traditional dish.

While my expectations were not exceedingly high for this visit or dish, all of my expectations were exceeded. The most important part of the meal was the friendly attitude of the staff and the pride they have for continuing a third and fourth generation small business. That alone justifies a trip to explore this historic dish.

Ding Ho Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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

Elite Eating Hack: Rockmill Tavern Spicy Chicken Sandwich

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 18, 2019

The absolute best sandwich in Columbus, among many worthy candidates, is the Spicy Chicken Sandwich at Rockmill Tavern in the Brewery District. Saying the best of anything food related in this city is a bit daring, in that often a flood of counter arguments and in some cases trolling will ensue. At least I am not declaring the best pizza in Columbus, such audacity would likely get me lynched.

Rockmill Tavern is no stranger to “best of”. It was voted best new restaurant when it opened in the fall of 2016 and has maintained top ten status since. In what may be the most contested best of category in the city, BEST BURGER, Rockmill has generally landed in the number one or two spot along with Preston’s. (I love Preston’s so if I was ever forced to choose between the two burgers I would just eat both and call it a draw).

The Spicy Chicken sandwich is a beautiful work of culinary art. Fried chicken style breading encases a gigantic long slice of chicken bread that extends past the bun at least two to three inches on each pole of the sandwich. It features a generous allotment of spicy (but not too spicy) honey butter. To complement the light heat, a thin layer of urfa mayo is slathered on and a small stack of thinly sliced bread and butter zucchini (not quite pickles but serving that role). Sandwich all of this between a brioche bun, add more butter and when available top with a delicious, buttery, red pepper and the end result is the Spicy Chicken Sandwich. Take this same basic concept and place on their amazing biscuits and you have essentially the same sandwich in biscuit format known as the Chicken Biscuit when you can get it

Let me cut to the chase to get to the hack, because it is a game changer. This hack was created by a regular customer (once or twice per week) which shared it with bar staff who in turn shared with me.

Elite Eating Hack for Rockmill Tavern Spicy Chicken Sandwich

1) Take the pepper off the top of the bun, remove the stem and place on the chicken.

2) Lift the bun and flip over to make it less messy to eat and to infuse more butter into the chicken.

3) Eat the sandwich. Consider ordering a second.

Suggested pairings: Rockmill Dubbel, Old Mill Rocky or Rockmill Witbier

Please note: The photo in this post is of the Chicken Biscuit Sandwich. It is similar, and equally good, but not exactly the same – however it does accurately show the bun to chicken ratio and basic sandwich configuration and proportions. I did not take a photo of the Spicy Chicken Sandwich because more often than not, I prefer to eat my meal instead of tweet it, I find it is much more satisfying.

Posted in culinary knowledge, Food For Thought, sandwiches | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

A Tale of Two Cities Pizza Company, Mason

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 19, 2019

While pizza was a possibility for the day, actually any day in our household, Two Cities Pizza was not on our radar because we did not know it existed. The CMH Family was wrapping up a full 24 hours of activity in Cincinnati: (The Duke Energy) Children’s Museum, Gameworks (so CMH Griffin could play his first game of Pac Man), The Hampton Inn in Newport which is a convenient five minute walk to the Newport Aquarium which was our destination for the following day and EnterTrainment Junction (a chance discovery the year before). Of all of those experiences, the one that CMH Griffin enjoyed the most was….the Hampton Inn. In fact, he was very upset when we loaded up the car to leave after the aquarium. He thought we were going back to the hotel and repeated over and over for the next 10 minutes….I want to go to the hotel, I want to go to the hotel…….. When I debriefed him about his love of the hotel the next day he explained that he liked the elevator, the view of the city and the free cookie at the hotel. Consider that a five star review. If you are going to the aquarium and making a day of it in Cincinnati, I would suggest Hampton Inn as well.

After EnterTrainment Junction (Trains, Trains, Trains, a play area and currently a wonderful exhibit on marbles) we were hungry and wanted to have a good meal after a slightly disappointing trip to a bakery earlier in the day. I did not expect to get a great recommendation from the staff of EnterTrainment Junction (since they have in house food) but we asked the right guy in the toy store there and he suggested Two Cities Pizza and a few other places on Main Street in Mason. I was skeptical about Two Cities, it sounded like a gimmick – a pizza place serving both Chicago and New York City Pizza. However, when we pulled up I was instantly smitten. Two Cities Pizza Company is located in a 1930’s Art Deco building. Old Yellow Cabs which look like they were pulled out of NYC or the Windy City sit awaiting delivery orders. The interior has a great bar set up, plenty of industrial vibes and elements of New York and Chicago intertwined throughout the decor – signs, posters and a restroom area that looks like it was pulled from a subway station. Keeping the two cities motif going, beers from both cities are features in draft and well as select Ohio craft beers.

We started with Bootleg Bread – a mound of fresh dough, baked to be pulled apart with in fist sized chunks. The hard hat sized loaf is infused with garlic, herbs and cheese – both gooey and crispy. It is served with marinara and house made ranch dressing. The ranch was so deliciously dilly (with plenty of fresh dill embedded in the base) CMH Spouse bought a jar to go.

Moving on to the pizza we order a small New York style and a small Chicago style, both with pepperoni. We were playing it safe because we were not very hungry after the bread even though the specialty combinations looked amazing. We were pleased with both of our choices. Getting a personal sized pizza works against the core attributes of a NYC pie. The size of our pizza precluded the distinctive crust ring but everything else was true to style – the dough was dense and chewy with great flavor.

The Chicago style pie was spot on as well. The flaky, almost pastry like dense crust was true to Chicago tradition and featured a chunky tomato sauce with a touch of spice and plenty of depth from top to bottom. Any Windy City Pizza purist would find no fault with this pizza.

Our experience was great across the board. As a trained restaurant mystery shopper, every check box on my list received a check plus. Our service was great. Hearing this was our first trip to Two Cities, the operating manager came to talk to us and shared a treat from the kitchen. We studied the menu selections for future trips. It is my hope that on future trips to Cincinnati, CMH Griffin will say his trip to Two Cities was his favorite part with the Hampton Inn a close second. A dad can always have hope.

Two Cities Pizza Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Ohio, pizza, Road Trip, Travelfoodalogue | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Bonomini Bakery, Cincinnati: On the Ohio Donut Trail

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 18, 2019

The road on which the Donut Trail is paved is not always sugar and spice and everything nice. Last year, I attempted to visit Bonomini Bakery but when I showed up I found a sign on the door that the business was on vacation for a week. This year, I missed that vacation by a week. A lesson moving forward for those that visit Bonomini, and you should, if it is July, call ahead and make sure they are open.

The baking tradition of Bonomini owners goes back to the 1950’s but Bonomini’s origins started when when the family took over Blue Rock Bakery in 1976.

Bonomini has a lot to offer. The bakery is cited for having incredible cakes, especially wedding cakes and has earned plenty of accolades in that category. There is no shortage of baked goods to choose from in this bakery. The go to item by reputation and by seeing this up close would be the German kasekuchen (cheesecakes). It would be impossible for these to be anything but good. However, it was a very hot day and we had a long drive with multiple stops ahead of us and I did not have a cooler. So alas, I could not take one of these with me.

Because of my duties to the Donut Trail, I was here to get donuts. There we plenty to choose from. They all looked amazing. Of course being Cincinnati, I had to get a Klunker. A Klunker is basically a malformed, not quite square, not quite round, lump of dough for a – most say donut, some say Danish, that has a light sugar glaze to it. It tends to be darker than a typical donut and seems to have some German heritage to it. Only three places (maybe a handful more) in Cincinnati have them (Holtmans and Silverton Donut Shop – both already detailed on my donut trail) and this is one. People in Cincinnati love them but so far, for me, they are donuts without holes.

There are so many things I loved about Bonomini. The exterior and interior exude classic old school bakery. The woman that helped me was incredibly kind, helpful and patient with all of my questions. I also heard about an unknown donut type, the “pull through” (see photo above) with is a long, twisted donut. They tie their carry out boxes with string – which they pull from big cone of string. This is so old school. The only other places I have seen this still in practice are classic bakeries in Boston. I gathered an assortment of treats from Bonomini and got to my car holding CMH Spouse and CMH Griffin just before the rain started. I offered my wife first bite of an eclair …and she did not care for it. I hoped it was a fluke and gave her first shot at a raspberry filled donut with vanilla icing and she did not like that either. I could see the filling, about the size and depth of a dime hiding in the center…. bummer. She was disappointed with this offering as well. I then handed CMH Griffin a donut. He loves donuts. He even has a special intonation of the word when he sees one or asks for one. He ate his quickly but he did not ask for another one. That has never happened in his four years of donut consumption.

I tried a Klunker….it was OK. I tried another type of donut….it was OK. When we got home, I sampled more but I just did not get excited about any of my selections. Maybe it was the summer heat. Maybe a pinch of salt or 1/2 cup of sugar was missed. Maybe something did not make it to the mixing bowl while getting ready for vacation but they all lacked something. As a whole, the donuts tended to be a bit dry and a bit lacking in base flavor. The glaze/icing was good, but everything else was..meh.

I’m assuming I may have arrived on an off day. I do wish I had taken the risk to get the kasekuchen to bring home (see below). So while this stop may not have panned out for me, I would still say this is a place worth to dropping in to explore, but if you have only one donut stop to make while in town, you may want to save those calories for Holtman’s. Reflecting on my donut trail experiences to date, I find that places that just do donuts are really the places I get the most excited about and also, if donuts are a sideline for a place, you have to give some consideration for that….or try them with a grain of salt….or sugar.

Bonomini Bakery
1677 Blue Rock St
Cincinnati 45223
(513) 541-7501

Open 5:00 am – 6:00 pm Monday to Saturday

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

Gattos: Columbus Pizza, Clintonville Icon

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 13, 2019

Gattos Pizza was founded in 1952 by brothers Jimmy and Joe Gatto. It is the oldest continuously operated pizzeria in Columbus by that, meaning the same family at the exact same location for almost seventy years. Without an ounce of exaggeration, you can not create a place like this anymore. There are a few pizza shops that have a slightly longer history but the Gattos are among our founding families of pizza.

Mounted on the wall, is a large black and white photo showing the view out Gatto’s front window taken shortly after the business opened. Today, looking hard at the photo one will see little has changed from that opening day in 1952. The original vulcan gas oven was replaced by two newer models to increase production and the business started taking credit cards in June of 2019 otherwise you could still be in the 1950s. The majority of the employees over the years have been Gatto children, cousins and close friends which has continued a persistent family atmosphere to the pizzeria.

The founding Gattos grew up in Flytown, the Italian part of Columbus that is largely the Short North today. Joe’s family was living on the south side (near the original Donatos would begin in the 1960’s) when the pizza shop opened. “It was Uncle Jimmy’s idea and they chose Clintonville because the north side was growing” per Vince Gatto, a second generation Gatto who runs the shop today. Jimmy had experience working in bars and the family as a whole had a lot of restaurant experience.

Vince started working at Gattos when he was 10, wiping pans and rolling dough. He took the bus from the south side to Clintonville every Friday and Saturday to work until he was old enough to drive. Vince, his brother Joe (Joe Gatto II) and a cousin, Bill Fulcher (whose mother was a Gatto) bought the business from Joe and Jimmy in 1983 after years of working in the shop. At the time all three had full time jobs so they divided up days and responsibilities to keep the Gattos going. Vince took over many of the operational duties of Gattos in 1993 when he was one of 50,000 employees laid off from Sears on the same day. Today (2019) Joe II is no longer at Gattos and Don comes in once per week.

Vince says there are too many stories to tell from being a family run business in the same neighborhood for almost seventy years however a one day does stand out. In the early 2000’s a hurricane force storm stuck Columbus and especially Clintonville very hard causing the area to lose power for an extended period of time. Vince had the day off which he had started with a memorable day of golf with friends. He decided to check on Gattos because of the storm. When he called in he was told that they were getting ready to close the store because the power was out. Vince told the employee on the other end of the phone to “stay open and keep answering the phone” and he would be right there. He spent the rest of the day rolling dough by hand (like the old days) and prepping pizza which they could still cook out of their gas ovens. It ended up being one of their busiest days ever since no one else was open. By the end of the day, they had little product left which was great since they had no working refrigeration.

A great Gatto’s tradition is the annual “Sausage Party” which started in the late 1990’s. Every year, during the third week of December a collection of friends, family and long time customers gather to spend a day making Gatto’s sausage, often up to three hundred to four hundred pounds. Everyone takes some home to serve for the holidays.

The sausage recipe hails from Sicily and was handed down to the pizza shop by Vince’s grandfather. As is often the case of Italian and Sicilian sausage recipes, the mix has a hearty dose of fennel which is the common denominator for the handful of long time Columbus pizza purveyors who still make their own sausage. When asked why he continues this labor intensive endeavor, Vince responded he has tasted other commercial sausage over the years but never found anything he thought tastes better. Another unique property of the sausage used on their pizza is cutting it into rectangular slices instead placing on the cheese as crumbles.

Gatto’s also makes its own dough from scratch as well as meatballs, sauce and the only salad dressing they offer, Italian. It is a hands on, labor intensive business following a model no new pizzeria would follow. Today the challenges of continuing the legacy are changing eating preferences, more competition, less available parking and nearby demographic of grad students and new residents who do not have the same tradition of going to Gatto’s by default. Those that have not discovered Gattos’s are missing out on good food and time capsule experience. Those that grew up with Gattos would benefit with a pizza to rediscover the shop and to confirm that nothing has changed over the decades.

And a here is a bit to connect the dots.

Pizza Community

Joe Gatto (founder of Gattos) and Romeo Sirij (who started the first pizzeria in Columbus) were best friends since their Flytown days and continued to be frequent visitors to each other’s businesses and homes throughout their lives. Tommy Iacono (Tommy’s Pizza) and Joe Gatto (Senior) were also great friends who saw each other almost daily when they retired and frequently played golf together for decades. A binding part of the original Columbus pizza community was that most of the shop owners from the 1950’s and 1960’s as well as their suppliers grew up together in the same tight knit neighborhood, attended the same churches and frequented the Italian American Golf Club (based at the Riveria Country Club for decades) when they could find a day off. They may not have worked together but they did enjoy playing together.

Posted in Best Pizza in Columbus, Clintonville, culinary knowledge, pizza | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Adriaticos OSU Campus (2.0) Carries on the Legacy of Great Pizza

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 7, 2019

I have some history with Adriaticos, almost anyone that attended The Ohio State University or worked at the OSU Medical Center does as well. When rumors started to circulate that the original building of Adriaticos was going to be demolished and the future of Adriaticos, at least on campus was uncertain there was some community despair. As one of my favorite pizzas I experienced some trepidation. A scenario involving an off campus location offered some positives such as less traffic and parking challenges but morally, I had some struggles knowing a relocation of that nature would steal an important source of sustenance from OSU students and decrease the productivity and morale of medical center staff by a minimum of 11%. An off campus location would compromise the character of the place. I’m not sure what magic staffing formula owner Greg Fortney uses to recruit and retain staff but the attitude and service provided by the largely college aged staff has always been top notch. Moving off campus would have compromised that equation. When it was later announced that a location had been secured just around the corner, there was much rejoicing.

However, I still had worries. Many restaurants lose a element of je ne sais quoi when moving to a new location. Such is not the case here. The original Adriaticos could never be recreated but the new location preserved as much as it could. First, the new Adriaticos is just a few hundred feet from the original spot. Salvaged from internment in a landfill, the original front door is mounted in a place of honor situated between the bathrooms in the new location.

The original location offered cramped, bare bones seating often surrounded by stacked boxes of supplies and ingredients, the new location offers plenty of seating. A larger kitchen allows for an expanded menu but no change in the flavor or quality of the pizza. There is an expanded beverage selection, especially on the craft beer side of the menu, which means no settling for a bottle of Bud Light. There is a bar with plenty of TV screens (a bane for me but I’d like the place to stay profitable). On a final note, and what I am most excited about, is a full case of well crafted gelatos, filling a former desert like dearth of dessert options.

Parking nearby for picking up a pizza was never easy in the past but the worst case scenario was having to pay a quarter at a meter nearby if you could not get one of a handful of designated spaces. Today the new location offers a handful of additional parking spots but most conveniently, guests with pick up orders can park in the loading zone directly in front of the entrance which makes access to Adriaticos that much easier. Adriaticos has more than survived the transition to the new location, it is thriving more than ever without losing any of the qualities that made it a great pizza parlor.

Posted in Best Pizza in Columbus, pizza | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

In Memoriam: CMH Tobias One Year After (The Story of our Greatest Adventure)

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 25, 2019

(This is food related, Toby and I had many food based adventures together and he is the only life form on the planet that could steal an Oh! Betty’s Hot dog or Donald’s Donut from me and not face my avenging wrath).

A year ago today at 1:44 PM my most loyal and best friend passed on. I posted about it that day. I miss Toby, very, very much. I still have many memories of our times together. Our very best adventure was an epic road trip around the country in 2010. I never got around to writing about the trip in detail. The day after his passing, I copied and collated all of the tweets from our adventure. It was a good way to reflect on one of our best times while adjusting to his absence from my life. It also gave me some focus as I tried to deal with my grief. To balance out the hurt of our toughest time together, I share a story of our best!

The first day after he was gone was the hardest. After 14 plus years together – all of the background routines of our life together were gone: waking up, feeding Toby breakfast, letting Toby outside, going for a walk… daily rituals that had been on autopilot forever. When I was home, he was my satellite usually within ten feet of me anywhere in the house. It was his job to finish any near empty yogurt cup I had. It was his job to clean plates and later the floor when CMH Griffin came into our lives. I could not leave the house without telling him (A) “be back in a little bit” or (B) “going to work” so he could determine if he was going to (A) nap or (B) sleep for eight to ten hours. I knew he would be at the door waiting for me every time I came home. After he was gone, the first time I came home and he was not there – was the most painful moment of his loss. Even when I was not doing something with him, he was always the background noise in my life. As someone who worked at home during Toby’s last 5 years I was now truly working alone everyday. We created a silent rhythm and low hum together and now there was only silence. Adjusting was hard, I did not have to save plastic bags for scooping poop, food scraps became scraps not mealtime supplements. His hair was still everywhere and several tenacious strains are still embedded in odd places today.


In April 2010, at the very start of the darkest period of my life, I decided to take a Travels with Charley style trip across the county with my beloved porchhound Tobias J. Dog. While we had been on several in state adventures I was not sure how he would hold up to the rigors of a multiple week cross-country adventure. I did a lot of preparation for the both of us. I created a special area in the passenger area of my beloved 1998 Subaru Impreza Outback (I was also not sure how well it would hold up either) for Toby. This set up would allow Toby to sleep and have an area to sit instead of rolling around the car. This included a gigantic sleeping bag to fill in the leg spaces between the driver and front passenger seats and the back passenger seats. Also in this configuration were two bungee cords connecting the headrest bars of the two front seats to create a barrier between the driver’s area (mine) and the passenger compartment (Toby) area. This worked most of the time. Toby frequently had his head mounted on the center armrest so he could watch me and what was coming via the front window throughout much of the trip. The cargo area in the back was stocked with a tent, dog food, snacks, rawhides, water, etc., to sustain us for at least two weeks. I also had a national hotel guide for Motel 6 which allows dogs to stay for free. I had some goals: spend a lot of time with Toby (23/24 – 7), visit all the fly over states I had missed, visit four eateries that had been on my list at least a decade, explore any park or roadside oddity that struck our fancy and have fun. We did not have a set itinerary just a rough route and a determination to never double-back along the way. I had plenty of maps, an atlas and printed sheets of information on parks, restaurants, and etc., to guide us on our quest. It was one of the best experiences of my life and it is one of my greatest of Toby memories. My schedule rarely allowed me to spend the amount of time Toby deserved to have with me so this trip was part of an amends to him for the time I has missed with him during our relationship to that date.

The story of our greatest adventure was recorded via Tweet. I created a twitter account – @CMHTobias for Toby to serve as a a play by play account of our adventure.

Below are twitter notes of our trip with some of the the best of the photos interspersed.

This was the description on the CMHTobias account.

I am an Appalachian Porch Hound. I go on road trips with CMH Gourmand. He drives, I dictate the tweets and we both eat.

Tweets: 263 Following: 7 Followers: 81

Our adventures were announced April 25th 2010.

Tobias J. Dog‏ @CMHTobias 25 Apr 2010
I have been told that I will be traveling around the USA for two plus weeks. Response: Pant, Pant Tail wag.

Tobias J. Dog‏ @CMHTobias 14 May 2010

Does Toby want to go – yes – he jumped a 5 foot fence to get into the car while I was packing…

Ipods and magnets don’t mix. Glad I checked the ipod before I left – looks like we will be going to the Apple store in Memphis today… FRAK

Leaving right now – Adios Columbus….and ipod.

Hey we are back getting the charger for the laptop. Let’s try this again. Restarting the mileage counter.

If confused in text CG = @CMHGourmand and CT = CMH Tobias…CT barks “go already!!”

Sign on road says Hell is Real. So is the horrible gas I am having in the car this morning.

Two lessons so far: trackpants are not good for drying hands. KY is not OH.

Now taking requests after cabaret versions of I Can’t Drive 55, Take It Easy, WKRP in Cinn, and BJ and The Bear theme.

@racheltayse um clarification we alternate driving and tweeting Toby has amazing paws

There are Kangaroos in KY. I think they should stick with bourbon. Nashville in sight.

Road sign says Fireworks and Beer. I wonder how close the ER is?

(Travel Notes for May 14th). It was a horrible downpour from Cincinnati to Memphis. Traffic was so bad that I got off at a random stop for BBQ and for both of us to pee. In Memphis, my first stop was an Apple store to try to fix my I Pod but since the power was down, there was little they could do, so I bought a new one. It took me about 30 minutes driving in circles to get to our hotel. It was a long day. Toby was excited to stay at the hotel. I had to leave him there while I went on a food run.

Tobias J. Dog‏ @CMHTobias 15 May 2010

CT milestone: marked territory in three states: OH, KY and TN.

Motel 6 in downtown Memphis – dogs stay free. Worst towels and pillows in the history of accommodation. Glad I packed my own

Short story: 30 GB iPod is dead Jim. New emergency nano loaded for the road. Less than ideal Apple Store service but apple ntwk is down

Long story if the network was up could have made an appt in Oklahoma city on Sun to get-if in stock-30 gb iPod for $137 or 10% off replacement

Last night rain and ride of the Valkeries style lighting but we stopped to enjoy BBQ at Charlie (RIP) Vergos Rendevous and Gus’s Fried Chicken

CT ate bacon in Graceland’s parking lot to honor Elvis. On to Little Rock.

Left Toltec Mounds State Park and now near the Little Rock Farmers Mkt waiting for the Flying Fish to open for Po’ Boy per Chef Garms rec.

(Note: Chef Drew Garms did great work at Details in the Short North in 2009 and he gave me some good road food suggestions)

BBQ Shrimp Po Boy at Flying Fish was awesome capped with a Boulevard Bread Co chocolate chip cookie

Riverwalk area in Little Rock is incredible. CG likes the mixed use smart design, CT likes the dog water fountains.

RT @cmhgourmand Alma, AR – Spinach Capital of the World. And big Popeye billboard. Oops identity crisis

Billboard says “Roland is thinking about Arby’s. Roland, Oklahoma not our @Roland3k

Lil snack at Robertson’s Hams #4, 50 miles east of OKC-dress your own ham sandwich with homemade sauces, jerky, jalepeno sausage frakin good

At Sid’s Diner for an onion burger; suggested by George@Motzburger Motz, Chef Drew Garms and the two El Reno Police cars out front.

The Sids burger topped with homemade slaw was one of the greatest burgers of my life, owners and staff were the best!

Intersection of Garth Brooks Ave and Route 66 – can’t be more heartland America than that.

I think that owning and driving a Subaru might be illegal in these parts….it was made in Indiana OK nice Oklahoma pick-up drivers.

CG: Traveling with a Tobias is 1000x easier than traveling with a child or most people.

New addition to the team a plastic pink hippo found on the road in Arkansas (Note: I gave this to a co-worker when I got back)

@cmhgourmand & @cmhtobias = roadweary roadwarriors, 1239 miles in 36 hours.

Tobias J. Dog‏ @CMHTobias 16 May 2010
CT: New Benchmark – Marked Territory in 4 states: TN, MS, AR and OK. Dog tired now.

Replying to @elrenoburgerday
@elrenoburgerday beyond awesome!

A dog is a mans best friend, a boy and his dog, get your paws off that = inspired by 1000’s of yrs of human canine relations & road trips

The mementos on the fence at the Oklahoma City National Memorial are the most moving part of the site. 😦

OKC is way underrated, we like: medians with trees, river trail with dog friendly walks, the historic heritage area-great houses and FOOD!

(Note): I did eat at Chef Drew’s Restaurant in OKC but did not connect with him there other than by text.

Drinking a beer at Bricktown Brewery in OKC, phone tag with Chef Drew Garms, he sends his regards to Columbus.

The Vietnamese hostess at Sand Hill Winery has marketing persistence that would put anyone to shame-sold me a bottle of wine in 2 min

@Hungry_Woolf I am ashamed to go into detail but it was best to give up early or she would have sold me two cases

Motel 6 in OKC on 44th was a great value, the slightly chewed rawhide CT forgot was not a good tip.

Saw on the road many, many OK wildflowers, the worlds largest cross, near Groom, TX, and the Jesus is Savior Travel Center and gas station.

Passed by a large wind farm in OK, looks as good or better than other towers. If an oil state can do wind then why not Ohio.

After 200 miles of signs that said “free 72 ounce steak” at the Big Texan we are eating at Deyers BBQ in Amarillo instead. Think CT wanted steak.

CT on dog food hunger strike so late night taco truck run for mulitas with cabeza (head) and masisas (cheek) due to @cmhgourmand influence

@SlowFoodCMH but @cmhgourmand is trying to make me eat dogfood. 😦

The shower unit at the Amarillo Motel 6 is so compact, efficient and sleek it must have been designed by NASA or the midget div. of IKEA.

Tobias J. Dog‏ @CMHTobias 17 May 2010

We are now in mountain time. Hola New Mexico.

Route 66 Auto Museum in Santa Rosa, NM is cool even for a non car nerd. Bozo’s Garage is famous for restorations inc. lime green 74 Gremlin

Here I am:,-106.609025
Catching up on tweets at Two Fools Tavern in Albuquerque, NM drinking a Monks (From Abbey Brewing Co.
(Note: coordinates which appears above are for the restaurant which is now closed)

Backtrack: in OK randomly drove down Ellison Ave/St in EL Reno and OKC…I reckon some of us kept moving when the ox cart broke.

WOW moment of the day the vista looking towards Santa Fe on 285 and I had the road to myself.

Santa Fe will be base of operations for a while. Going to Farmers Mkt and Taos via some wineries tomorrow.

(Note: because we both needed a break, we spent two days in Santa Fe)

In honor of nerd night I listened to Eugene Sledge on The Costs of War courtesy of iTunes U.

(Note: Nerd Night is a group of people who get together to watch a show on Monday nights. At the time we were watching The Pacific about Marines in WW2)

The iPod Nano is a bit unwieldy on my old Belkin car adaptor but it works. It would have been a long ass trip with out my music & podcasts

radio stations out here scare me, maybe I don’t pay attention at home – Is over 1/2 the USA crazy, angry & afraid of not having the right god?

@Belkin and how! If you can use you vast resources to legislate a national frequency just for my iPod I would be obliged.

There was an Ellison Ave in Albuquerque too, is there a family secret I was not told.

We went to Petroglyph National Monument this afternoon. The Ranger gave CT 4 dog biscuits. Then we went to the dog park down the street.

Wish we could stay in Santa Fe until May 22 for the three-minute film festival.

@SlowFoodCMH negative the Heavener runestone a few states back…well that is another story

@SlowFoodCMH um you want me to record myself getting shamefully bloated and drunk, see the earlier responses

Reading a good story by @eating_wrong about the New Mexico Beef Council’s gate to plate tour. Seeing the meat cycle can change things.

Tobias J. Dog‏ @CMHTobias 18 May 2010

Stopped at Clines Corners travel center yesterday, home of the “worlds best fudge”, CT loved the peanut butter fudge.

The staff at Clines Corners are incredibly diverse, from all over the world, I enjoyed speaking with my server from South Africa.

So many people are interested in getting a Tobias we have formed the Appalachian Porch Hound Preservation League, @cmhtobias president

(Note: Everywhere we would go, people would ask about what type of dog Toby was and where they could get one – as some of you know, he was truly one of a kind).

Motel 6 is the hotel of the proletariat, these are the “American People” pundits keep speaking of, diff. is I really meet & speak with em.

Trying Yak chili, goat milk squeaky curds, marinated goat milk Feta, and a got a tamale for CT at the Santa Fe Farmers Market.

Sign says “candy, ice cream, beef jerky”, CT says stop.

@trx0x yak meat rocks! Better than Bison and rivals goat.

CG second Wow, vista in RT 68 from Dixon into Taos, NM, CT first bow-wow swimming in the Rio Grande River Gorge on the way back!

Dinner at the Blue Corn Cafe and Brewery in Santa Fe sampling: 7 of their micro brews, Diablo Margarita, chips with fiery salsa, & platter

Tequila Diablo Margarita: four white liquors, gold tequila, lime juice and cranberry juice-16 oz Long Island Margarita

En route to Taos: Chiripada Winery the first in NM, good wines spoke with the owner as he was rebricking the floor.

At @Vivacwinery in the am, they have good wines-86 and 88 in wine Enthusiast, a few awards and some incredible homemade chocolates

Lunch: Michaels Kitchen & Bakery, a Taos institution since 1974, wish I had gotten the atole pancakes with blue corn flour saw that too late

CT had the kiddie burger at Blakes Lotaburger, 75 locations in NM, there are independent burger joints everywhere.

Blue Corn Beer Flight: honey wheat, blonde, Atalaya Amber, RdRunner IPA, End of Trl Brown Ale, Gold Medal Oatmeal Stout, Cask Ale, Sp Bitter

CT wow dos: Pablos chipotle and green chile beef jerky-like canine crack. At SR 503 and 68 between Taos and Santa Fe. Eat local, eat often.

Tomorrow Greenchile Cheeseburger at Bobcat Bite in Santa Fe then off to Utah.

Tobias J. Dog‏ @CMHTobias 19 May 2010

At Real Food Nation just outside Santa Fe, this is a Slow Fooders dream restaurant, great staff.

Taos was a hardcore, hippy hitchhiker Mecca, they were everywhere, we have not picked one up yet we are always going in the wrong direction.

As the Real Food Nation folks say: vote with your fork! CT liked the tofu and free range eggs.

As it turns out Chef Kim Muller at Real Food Nation is also the Slow Food Santa Fe president so I saw the kitchen, farm, and garden.

Now at Bobcat Bite for their world-famous green cheese burger, it is 1 mile from Real Food Nation.

The view from the counter at Bobcat is great! I can see trees, mountains and the almost done bird bath. Regular customers are real nice.

The parking lot of Bobcat Bite has lizards, CT almost caught two.

So long Route 66, we are glad so many people are preserving the heritage of this highway. If anyone sees the hubcap we lost it is a donation

Took 550 to Aztec ruins in Aztec, NM, now off to Utah.

View on 491 in NM and CO was incredible, I could see for what seemed like 100’s of miles. We are staying in Monticello UT, ran short of Moab.

Tobias J. Dog‏ @CMHTobias 20 May 2010

We had a late dinner at Tacotime a small chain where each location makes their own tortillas, etc. Supplemented with @Realfoodnation leftovers

NM was the first place that felt really different: landscape, attitude, pace. Like terrior influences wine, land shapes people.

Things I do on the road that I don’t do at home: sport a ball cap, wear trackpants (I make fun of those people), sing, enjoy driving

Aligned ourselves with a pair of French Bon Femme Cougars in Moab, they were smitten with CT but CG said @cmhtobias is priceless-can’t have.

Moab is booked, no room at the inn or camp for CT. Sign at the Moab Visitor Ctr lists places to shower. People are camping in their cars

My Dirty Franks shirt is a great conversation starter, I have talked at least one person into visiting.

I was mistaken a for Alton Brown twice today. If Food Network wants me, my show is: Around the World in Eighty Meals.

Sign on the road: Old Menu, New Waitresses

iPoding Mountain Stage podcasts for 1st time. The Hooters did a great cover of Boys of Summer. Now more convinced Neko Case & I are fated

Arches National Park was great, we beat the rush and CG got two 5 minute hikes in while CT was being spoiled and lizard hunting.

Happiness: When you have about 30 miles of gas left and the next town is 25 miles away.

I keep seeing this name all over the NM and UT: Kokopelli. Who are these prolific people.

Steinbeck called his mode of transport Rocinante. We have dubbed our 98 Subaru Impreza Outback – Roo, (The Insect Slayer).

Lost another hubcap. Took the last two off, now instead of looking like an east coast greenhorn, the car and I look like rugged drifters.

Late dinner at SLC icon, Moochies Meatballs and More Had Atomic Meatball sandwich with handmade Feta and a Philly cheesesteak-awesome

Took CT on a walk at Liberty Park. CT Law of Attraction: any body of water: mud puddle, fountain, pond, etc. will attract a Tobias.

LOVE SLC: hippy chicks galore, light rail, tree lined streets, great food scene, 2 well written indie weeklies, mtns. SLC had me at hippie.

@itinerantfoodie there are abandoned couches lining the streets of SLC….these folks are all right.

Tobias J. Dog‏ @CMHTobias 21 May 2010

Open all of 10 days, I found myself at Epic Brewing to try their Brainless Belgian Golden Ale. Good stuff.

The organizational zealot in me loves the grid street system of SLC. Tomorrow 300 East, 300 South for baked goods.

Multiple attempts by CT to enter the cockpit area from the crewcabin today. CG is consulting with Homeland Security for tomorrows drive.

After a walk in Pioneer Park, doing bakery research: Gourmandise and Carlucci’s.

@AmandyAnderson CT liked Carlucci’s cookies the best. Both bakeries were exceptional.

Visited the aviation museum at Hall Air Force Base outside SLC.

Lunching at Johnny B. Goode’s in Pocatello, ID. Steak Fingers with tater tots and peanut butter milkshake to share with CT.

Best peanut butter shake ever.

Refused an offer to buy my @surlygirlsaloon “Bacon is the new black t-shirt. I need all the clean clothes I have at this point.

Also at Johnny B. Goode’s: Iron Port a pre carbonation soda mixed by hand. Fry sauce a mix of ketchup and mayo, an ID icon.

@tgoodnight wish we had time to go NW, we are aiming for Jackson tonight and Grand Teton tomorrow.

Here I am:,-112.045918
Note: 500 Lindsay Blvd, Idaho Falls

CT almost caught a snake snack on the Snake River.

Cool name: Psychedelicatessen.

Uh oh, in Jackson Hole. CG has fallen in with a pack of Australians at the wine bar.

Another restaurant name: Ante pas Thai. I don’t make em up.

@SlowFoodCMH they worry about stealing their beers, though once again the international sensation of CT is amazing. He goes to Oz if I go.

Now dining at Mountain High Pie – Thai pie: seasame sauce, mozzarella, chicken, green onions, cabbage, cilantro, carrots and peanuts. (pizza)

Washing down with a Grand Teton Brewing Co Workhorse wheat ale.

Snow in Jackson Hole – no camping tonight. Another night in our euro/Ikea styled Motel 6 with NASA designed shower, this rocks for $50.

CT would like the thank Motel 6 in SLC for the welcome pack-biscuits and a rawhide as well as the rangers at Arches for the treats.

Tobias J. Dog‏ @CMHTobias 22 May 2010

CT sleeping in the car. CG braving a dangerous whiteout at Jenny Lake in the Tetons, heading back to the boat dock like a wimp.

CT not sure if an Elk is a wild beast or a very large Tobias. Not sticking around to find out.

@JennyBrodie Snow and a brief window of microhail. The boat ride back was “refreshing!”

CT is a huge fan of Elk Jerky. The clerk at the Buffalo Meat Co is from Maldavia as is desk clerk at my motel. Turns out they are roomies.

Tonight one of us dines at Sweetwater Restaurant in Jackson Hole & then searches for local microbrews while the other searches for varmints.

Beat the crowd to Sweetwater: starting with homemade bread, beef barley soup.

Sweetwater cocktail: sweettea infused vodka, homemade lemonade,
a splash of Sprite, and a homemade candy cane to stir: make that a double

Sweetwater: next course, Buffalo slider with sage au jus.

Now eating Elk Ossobucco perfectly paired with garlic mashed potatoes and green chile mac and cheese. Survey says: all awesome.

Carry out desserts from Sweetwater, for CT-Elk bone, for CG bread pudding. Food coma has begun.

The sun finally came out so we are at Phil Baux Park playing with some Wyoming Porch Hounds.

Weather looks better today, off to Yellowstone.

Yesterday we stocked up on baked goods at The Bunnery.

Some roads closed at Yellowstone but the snow makes for a nice glaze on every thing. CT is obsessed with Elk.

Here I am:,-110.791435 Old Faithful.

Famous duos in the parks: Yogi and Booboo, Shaggy and Scooby, & @cmhgourmand and @cmhtobias

Tobias J. Dog‏ @CMHTobias 23 May 2010

CG Native American name: Dances with Dogs.

@Morningglorycof CG Native American name: Dances with Dogs. Alas missed you.

Yes Charley (Travels with Charlie) was obsessed with Moose. It seems that CT is also enamoured with horses, he wants to eat Elk and woo horses

Take a wrong turn in Wyoming and it will take about 30 minutes to diagnose and 30+ minutes to fix.

Tobias J. Dog‏ @CMHTobias 24 May 2010

Late dining at Montana Brewing Company in Billings, Montana. Like that they have old school board games in the bar.

CT is worn out. His m.o. At home is sleeping 16 hours+ per day not being awake the whole time on this whole trip.

Wretched weather: hrs of heavy rain (6 in), fog, winds up to 45 mi per hr, tornado watches, Flood warnings. Things that make me say frak.

Tobias J. Dog‏ @CMHTobias 25 May 2010
Breakfast: Fry bread Indian Taco. Fry bread is like an elephant ear but not sweet.

Rain also let up in Broadus Montana long enough for CT to take a big run in the town park. Sheriff clocked him at 25 mph.

Drive to the Black Hills wiped out CG. Stopped at Prairie Berry Winery in Hill City for a refresher and snack.

When the sun came out, the wind picked up to 45 MPH.

Saw the Crazy Horse Memorial. CG has wanted to see it since it was on Real People. Who remembers that show.

The Black Hills are a playground – nature, good diners, wineries, good hikes, and more.

There were only 50 people at Mount Rushmore – I guess everyone else heard about the flood warning….opps.

Took a stroll with CT in downtown Rapid City, SD. Pretty cool downtown with statues of the presidents on each corner.

Had a snack at the Firehouse Brewery in downtown Rapid City. Good beer, average food. Great Atmosphere.

Sorry to be a twitter sh*tter, no internet access today. Expect the same tomorrow. Our mission, find a Runza.

Yesterdays lost tweet. Big Rain in Big Sky Country. At least Roo is not encased in mud any more.

@madisonjps Thanks. Would have enjoyed speaking with you some more but I had to pee really bad after the boat ride : ). (Note: people I met at The Park on the freezing boat ride)

Badlands was serene today and SUNNY! CT almost snatched a Prairie Dog gal pal.

Now in Valentine, Nebraska.

CT with combo car cabin fever and car sickness-multiple Kamakazie attacks from crew cabin to cockpit today. Car went into neutral twice.

CT won the car wars and rode shotgun for the rest of the morning.

You can have NPR or iPhone coverage not both. Radio off, Cowboy Junkies on.

Runza: kind of like a White Castle Hot Pocket.

Car exterior: 35% mud, 41% bug parts, 14% road grit, 10% parts of car I have lost.

I thought I hit a bird 5 or 6 states ago…. Looks like that was the case, nasty. : (
(Note: found it embedded in the grill of the car)

Interior of car: aroma is what I call essence of APH, with faint scents of rawhide and mud.

Tobias J. Dog‏ @CMHTobias 26 May 2010

I was told that Yia Yia’s Pizza on “O” Street in Lincoln, Nebraska was great gourmet pie, I was told right. Hipster heaven hangout.

One of CG’s favorite books is My Antonia by Willa Cather. Driving through Nebraska today hitting some of those spots.

If the role of Ohio was being cast for a movie, Nebraska could get the part.

Battle of Wills: while driving today CT made a second foray into the cockpit – while going 75 on 218, CG had CT in a headlock for 30 minutes.

New anti Tobias/Terrorist cockpit defense system being tested out in Roo today. Maybe an extra bungee cord will do it.

Comment to hotel guest terrified of Tobias: “He would hurt a flea, squirrel, or any varmint, but you are safe if you carry no ice cream.”

Nebraska History Museum is really good. The World War II at home exhibit was exceptional.

Lunch at Oso Burrito on O Street. Good Thai Peanut Burrito, great Sioux City Root Beer with cane sugar.

We are driving part of the Lewis and Clark Trail in Kansas.

Not surprising: CG’s uncle served time at Levenworth for arms smuggling. Surprising: He escaped. Just drove by the prison.

ToTobias we’re not in Kansas anymore.

CG: 1st food book I read was by Calvin Trillin. He said Arthur Bryant’s BBQ is the best BBQ & best Rest. in USA. After 15 yes, I am here. (Kansas City, MO)

@CMHTobias,-94.444050 we found a Paw Paw tree while walking at Henry Clay Kritzer Park.

Tobias J. Dog‏ @CMHTobias 27 May 2010

Departing KC for CMH

KCLC in St Lo is great radio.

Entering IL.
After significant debate, CT will be in the passenger seat for the rest of the trip, his smile of victory is a bit obnoxious.

Hello IN. CT has resumed hostilities, this time….GAS. : (

ETA for Tobias 6:30 PM, may do a dinner stop in West Jefferson or Los Potosinos.

We picked: Ann & Tony’s Italian comfort food. (West Jefferson OH)

Stats: drove 5933 miles, 16 states (CT marked territory in each), 14 days, 5 national parks, 2 lost hubcaps (NM, UT), avg cost 108 per day.

Tobias J. Dog‏ @CMHTobias 2 Jun 2010
Final epic trip thought: what CT needed fit in a copy paper box; what CG needed fit in the trunk. Simple is best.

Our route included these states (in rough order): Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi (for about 25 minutes), Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and back to Ohio. We drove from Kansas City to Columbus in about 12 to 13 hours. For whatever reason, CMH Tobias was really ready to go home by the time we got to Kansas City so instead of taking the slow road home we moved with a great focus. I should also mention, I had the Subaru from February 1998 to December 2012 and I really loved that car too, it still has a lot of life left when I sold it. I hope that someday I can take a trip like this with my son so that he has a chance to have similar memories with me.

NOTE: Our next trip was to Marietta OH for a BBQ Festival just a short time later – here are some of the memories from that:

Next adventure is to Marietta on June 11 & 12 to judge for the Brick Street BBQ contest. CT staying in a historic hotel eating leftovers

CT is not sure about elevators but he is certain he is the most popular dog at the Lafayette Hotel. This dog is an attention magnet.

Judging is done. CG is bloated and disoriented. CT is wondering why there is only 1 1/2 lbs of BBQ scraps to consume (took 45 seconds).

Stopping at Donalds Donuts in Zanesville on the way home. Might be the best donuts in Ohio. Donut or Doughnut that is the question.

Why was it so quiet in the back while I got gas? CT was eating the donuts. He got 3 including my favorite.

Translated from dogspeak: donuts are the new squirrels.

Epilogue: I compiled all of this in the 48 hours after Tobias passed. To say I was heavy-hearted would be an understatement. Doing this gave me something to focus on about our time together. The giant green sleeping bag you see in some of the photos was used on many of our trips together. For our last night, I unrolled it so we could sleep together one last time. Then I moved it to the living room while we waited for the vet to come to our home. It gave him a sense of comfort and familiarity as I held him while he passed. I no longer have the bag since it was shared ownership and because a lifetime of cleaning would never remove the dog hair from it. Today, when I do get to hit the road, which is not often, a little bit of him remains with me. Even though I clean my car regularly, some of his velcro like hair continues to turn up in unlikely places. So as long as I have my Subaru, I’ll have Toby with me. (My last Subaru served me over 14 years and I’ve only had my current one a few years). A year later, a big hole remains in my heart, I miss Toby dearly and have thought of him each day. As the months progressed on the reminders decreased – there was less dog hair when I swept and in the dryer lint trap. The area of grass that he killed with his toxic pee in the last months grew back after a lot of work by the following spring. I gaze at the box with his ashes everyday I am in my office. I still feel the loss. If the thoughts go dark I lighten up thinking of our cross-country adventure and find some joy knowing some of his adventures will live on here.

Post Script: A Dog and his Boy and the Boy’s Little

In April of this year we moved to a new house. I said goodbye to the the small amount of ashes I left in the backyard of our old house. On my last afternoon there, I took the wooden box that holds the bulk of his ashes and set it on the back porch rail so his spirit could sunbathe in one of his favorite spots a final time. As I cleaned the old house before leaving I would find Toby hairs in unusual spaces. For each one, I took it outside and made sure it was in the sun instead of a trash bag. As we adapted to our new house which has much less square footage I continue to find Toby hairs intertwined in the threads of old clothes I was purging and placing in the donation pile. Each one of his hairs was safely escorted to the back yard so they can become a part of our new home and “Toby” can feel the sun on a good day. I’m sure I looked odd to the neighbors as I would walk out of the door solemnly holding something they could not see, placing it on the ground like the most delicate and precious item in the world and then pausing for a few words or a flashback of a memory before I went back into the house.

When CMH Tobias passed I was concerned about how it would register with my son, CMH Griffin. The passing occurred while he was at daycare as was the plan. I did not tell him what was happening. He did pet Toby and say “bye Toby Dog” when my wife took him to daycare that morning (and I was trying not to weep because I knew I would be saying good bye in a different way in less than five hours). The absence of Toby did not really register with Griffin. At the end of the week, Griffin “borrowed” my cell phone which has a screen image of Toby on it. When he saw the image he said – “theres Toby Dog. Hi Toby Dog”. We did not have to have the talk about Doggie Heaven, I was happy to sidestep that. Griffin was not old enough to have a deep connection with Toby but he had just enough to retain a memory. A year later, when Griffin looks at photos of dogs, he can tell the difference between A dog and THE Toby Dog. My hope is he will have a slim memory of Toby for the rest of his life but not so much that he will always have a sliver of hurt like I do.

Toby played an important role in Griffin’s development. During our last year with Toby, Griffin had significant speech and language delays which was a source of much duress for my wife and I. One of our first glimmers of hope when our struggle with Griffin’s speech and other issues were at the darkest moments was when Griffin said his first sentence, “Go away Toby Dog.” Toby was not a dog to me, he was my very best friend. Originally, he was not the dog I wanted but he was very much the dog I needed. In a small way, he continued his legacy by helping Griffin before he did indeed go away. Thank You Toby Dog. We Love You. You were a once in a lifetime porchhound. I’m more than OK with not having a dog in my life right now but not having my consistently inconsistent companion and best friend, that was also a porchhound is a loss I still feel.

Posted in FooderHero | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

A Very Big Night at Ambrose & Eve

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 12, 2019

I had a very big night at Ambrose and Eve.

I have consumed one to five meals per day for my entire life which is now one half century but only a handful of those meals are memorable. As a point of reference I am listing my other memorable meals in short order. 1998: Wine Dinner at Lost Planet Pizza and Pasta. 2002 Dinner with friends at the Minh Minh in Melbourne. Although we had a reservation and three bottles of BYOB wine at our table, the owner was determined to flip each table every thirty minutes. We assertively declined to do so until we finished our last bottle. Due to our assertive, but polite determination to enjoy our meal and resolute stance that we would not be treated like an assembly line we received a round of applause from the rest of the diners when we departed because we stood our ground. The food was good. The wine was great. The commentary from our server was surreal. 2004 Lunch in Cinque Terre with friends I made in Europe. I vowed to return to the same spot someday and I did for my honeymoon in 2014. 2008 The First Slow Food Shake The Hand That Feeds You Dinner. 2008 During the third or fourth day of a massive power failure in Columbus a feast made with all of the collective food getting ready to spoil gathered and prepared by an elite group of “foodies” in Victorian Village. 2011 My third Hot Dog Palooza Party. 2012 A whole pig pork roast led by Dan Kraus (of Baba’s) in my backyard. The guests included many of the best food truck chefs in the city and it was epic. I now add wonderful dinner at Ambrose and Eve on June 8th 2019 to this list.

A memorable meal can not be created and in this case it was not my goal but I did stack the odds in my favor (although not consciously). My wife and I rarely get out of the house. We do not have the budget or time to do so and our schedules often do not align well but in this case we had free baby sitting and a special occasion to observe. Specifically for me, I had a Saturday off. For the last six years I have worked nearly every Saturday and have only had a handful of Saturdays followed by a Sunday off. And to be honest, as a small business owner, I did not really have the whole Saturday off – but I only worked for an hour and that was close enough.

From an exceedingly long list of places I would like to try out one place stood well above the rest, Ambrose and Eve. It us run by the chef team of Catie Randazzo and Matt Heaggans. Both are excellent chefs. Both are friends and former clients. I had several opportunities to walk though the space during build out but never had an opportunity to dine in for dinner. I knew my wife would enjoy the experience. Because we rarely get an evening for us, I wanted this to be something we would both enjoy. Back in the “old days” we used to explore next places together all of the time but as parents, the few times we do go out we look for Griffin friendly spots (a 3 year old without an off switch) and as a rule, stick to a few tried and true places due to wanting Griffin Friendly places. As an added bonus, the date in question was my birthday and I had vowed for over a year that I would not work the weekend in question. In an attempt to thwart my wife trying to create any surprises, I did not tell her where we were going for dinner until the afternoon of our evening out. I did tell her who was going a few days before and she strongly approved the guest list. Getting ready to head out for dinner I was in an exceptionally good mood. I had finished spending almost four hours with my son at Chuck E. Cheese for quality guy time. I rarely get to spend any time with him on Saturdays so for the two of us to have that block of time together doing something he was excited to do was awesome. And….we did not eat while we were there so I can still say I have never eaten at Chuck E. Cheese. On most Saturdays I feel of guilt for being away from Griffin for most of the day and until recently often all day. I did not have that on my plate on this Saturday.

When I was considering my guest list, I weighed in several factors. First, having a guest list was exciting because typically when we are out on the town we are either with family or have a short window to get back home. For this occasion, we would be with adults and having adult conversations and adult food and with no need to cut food for anyone else and we had no kid gear to pack. I decided that a party of the six would be the perfect number. Not too many people nor too few. It is the perfect size for a restaurant -> parties of eight are harder to place, larger than that is a pain in the ass and I do not want to be a pain in the add to Matt or Catie….they know where I live. Also six is a good number for having good conversation and for exploring a menu in depth without someone getting lost in the crowd.

There is a long list of people I would like to have dinner with, people I have not seen in years or people I might like to know better, but for this day, I wanted my party of six to be a sure thing=. I invited Angelo and Kathy Signorino and Lenny and Joan Kolada. Angelo and Lenny are people I have worked with for nearly every Saturday for the last six years so how could I spend a Saturday without them. Angelo is the head brewer at Barleys and Lenny is the owner of Smokehouse Brewing and Commonhouse Ales. I knew both love to eat as much as I do and we would have plenty to talk about, both are great conversationalists. I know Joan pretty well too and can not think of many people that I would consider to be as kind or thoughtful. I had only met Kathy once or twice but knew her well enough to know she would be an excellent dinner companion. I was pretty sure none of us had eaten at Ambrose and Eve so I made a reservation.

We all approached the meal with the same mindset. We also started with a cocktail – none of us ordering the same thing and as seems to be a default setting, Angelo surmised that ordering a bottle or two of Prosecco was in order. Eventually we got around to ordering and did so with breadth and depth.

We started with:

Garum, honey, pecorino

Local mushrooms, Shagbark grits, red wine

Ritz crackers, cucumber relish

Ritz crackers with the dish (which I could not eat) of course, it was the perfect thing to serve and we all appreciated and celebrated that.

Roasted beets, beet romesco, citrus salad, pistachio dukkah

It was nice to be surrounded by people that all appreciated beets, which so often are unappreciated.

I think we ordered….

Fish sauce caramel, celery root curry

However I am allergic to fish and because I was eating and talking so much, I did not take any notes as is appropriate for an enjoyable dinner.

We also ordered both bread options.

Stratcciatella, housemade jam, olive oil, soft herbs, focaccia

CORNBREAD (I loved this dish more than all others, and that is saying a lot)
Maple, pimento cheese, watercress

It seemed that Chef Matt had an extra order of the cornbread in the kitchen so he sent that out after we inhaled the first. I am fairly certain I ate all of it on my own and that point my memory and judgment may have been suspect.

Also, Chef Matt seemed to notice there were a few items we did not order so he somehow used his spider sense to determine that he should send out an order of ->

Szechuan peppercorn vinaigrette, shiso, pumpkin seed, black togarashi

It was amazing. There was not dish we ate that anyone in our group of six thought was less than excellent but this one seems to be the sleeper hit of the evening. We almost ordered it but hesitated yet Chef Matt knew that we would be remiss not trying this, and he was right. It is a simple dish of razor thin slices of cucumber with the the right amount of vinaigrette drizzled on and pumpkin seeds which perfectly complimented every other flavor on the plate and a modicum of black togarashi to knock it out of the park.

We also ordered EGGPLANT PARMESAN (Oven dried tomatoes, capers, pecorino, thyme, tomato butter sauce) from the dinner menu. Everyone was fairly stuffed at this point but I strongly felt that not ordering the Fried Chicken Supper for Two (I could have been gluttonous by ordering the Four Person Supper) which includes several pieces of perfectly fried chicken, perfect green beans in the tradition of haricots verts, potato salad (which was delicious and borders on having the consistency of smashed potatoes) and the absolute finest biscuits I have had in my life, and I mean that, the best biscuits with no other contenders a close second. I only ate one half of one biscuit at the restaurant but I ate three for lunch two days later with nothing on them and they were still amazingly perfect.

At some point Chef Matt sent out an order of Carolina Hot Chicken (not Nashville, Carolina), that was consumed with a focus.

At this stage of the game all of us were full. I knew some of the chicken was going home (and a few green beans for Griffin who loves all fruits and vegetables) but in the spirit of Shackleton and Mallory I mustered the courage to make the group continue on. I ordered a cherry fry pie with ice cream for dessert and carefully dissected it into small portions so that each person could have a bite. Using his great wisdom, Chef Matt sent out some incredible (and completely vegan) chocolate mousse which we consumed slowly but surely, mostly by force of will.

Between bites, we enjoyed great conversations and good company. It was enjoyable to explore a new place together as a group. We wondered about some of the dishes and discussed what we enjoyed about each. We shared stories of past meals and adventures and in doing so what felt like 45 minutes was nearly four hours. I do not think I have had such an enjoyable evening since my wedding over five years ago.

Days later, it seems all of us are still thinking about and talking about this meal, which means we did it right. It was also enjoyable for me to eat and enjoy the food of Ambrose and Eve created by two people I have a lot of respect for. Catie was at Preston’s (one of their other restaurants that evening) but Matt made time to come out to see us. I was glad to see him enjoying what he was doing and I think he had at least the slightest of smirks seeing and hearing about how much we enjoyed the fruits of his labors in the kitchen. During our meal, Keith and Yanka Smith formerly of the Green Meanie Food Truck stopped in at the bar for a snack so Jamie and I had a chance to catch up with them. The Green Meanie was one of the food trucks that catered our wedding and we had not seen Keith or Yanka in almost four years. I saw a few others that I knew throughout the course of the evening and it was nice to see my circle of people….which has a very far radius these days, making the same decision to try Ambrose and Eve and love it. It was the most social evening I have had in many years. I do not think I could have experienced anything any better – food, service, company, etc., everything was what I would want it to be. It was a perfect night out and I was with the perfect people to share it with, especially my wife.

It will probably be a while before I have a night like this again, but I hope it will be sooner instead of later. Ambrose and Eve is a special space. Years ago, the Galaxy Cafe was the place for my posse, a place we dined at several times per month. We loved the food and became fast friends with the owner and and staff. I felt at home in the Galaxy space(s). I was always part of the place instead of an anonymous satellite. The Galaxy sometimes had aspects of being our private club. Alana’s was a restaurant I enjoyed very much, it was never THE “place” for me like the Galaxy but I loved the approach to food and ingredients that Alana incorporated into her menu. Ambrose and Eve is a rough fusion of the spirits of these two places and in doing so, and because of my personal connection to the Matt and Catie, I believe that Ambrose and Eve is going be my special place for the decades to come.

Thank you to my wife, Lenny, Joan, Angelo, Kathy, Matt and all who made it such a memorable night. For anyone that has seen the movie Big Night, the evening felt very much like the last meal in that film. I had bits of the soundtrack of that movie in my head as I drove home. Or maybe that was the cocktail I had at Antiques on High.

If you care to have a memorable meal, or at least a very good one, get yourself to:
Ambrose & Eve (Brewery District)

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Reflections on Anthony Bourdain and his demise

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 8, 2019

June offers several of memorable dates for me. My dad died on Fathers Day while I was talking to him on the phone. He was in a country far away and there was nothing I could do about it. It was not how I wanted him to go and at the time, in his mind, he was still just one winning lottery ticket away from changing his life. In my mind I needed to refine a covert operation and deliver another big bribe save him. I will never forget that day.

My beloved CMH Tobias died on June 25th, 2018. It was my choice to pick the time and the day of his demise, that did not make it any easier. I knew his time was coming but I wanted it not to be my birthday and I wanted it to not be be Father’s Day. He held on long enough to get me past those days but more importantly, I gave me his company for one more of each.

Anthony Bourdain died on June 8th 2018. June 8th is my birthday, a date I never willingly admit to or share with anyone. I have often fled the country to avoid conversations about or observances of, said date. It is a day I go to lengths to try to live unobserved and avoid being “bothered”. When I woke up on my birthday in 2018 the first words I heard were….”Anthony Bourdain killed himself”. For many, many reasons, I will never forget the date of his death. On the flip side, it certainly took some attention away from me, which is always my goal. Thanks for the favor Tony but you took it too far. June seems to be the month for my own personal ides of March more often than March, et tu, fate?

To the best of my knowledge, no tell all book has been written yet, dissecting his life and presenting a theory of what caused him to kill himself: was it a shattering relationship; the burden of success; doing too much and too often for too long; did he drift back into drugs; did he just have a really shitty day? Again we will never know. I can’t speak for every person that has ever killed themselves nor can they, but I can say, at least observationally, no one ends their life for one reason. Most often it is an accumulation of bad things. Or it can an accidental pushing too far on a bad idea or their brain literally turned on them at the wrong moment, maybe even for split second. It could be he changed any meds he was on and the meds turns on his neurochemistry like a hairpin turn. It happens more often that we are told – listen to the disclaimers on pharmaceutical ads on TV. Don’t try to understand it. If you have been lucky enough to be sane all of the time, you will never be able to understand what a misfiring brain feels like or the loss of logic and reason it creates.

When Bourdain died he was in France, one of his favorite places, with some of his favorite people, eating some of his favorite foods and truly on top of his game with Parts Unknown. And then, he killed himself. What unknown part(s) of him took him to that dark place so quickly and destructively? We will never know and he probably did not know even up until the very last seconds that he would take himself that far into the darkness.

Reflections on mental illness: If you are smart, creative and have a “heavy heart” the ways of the world will chew you up. You can be surrounded by people yet feel isolated and alone because few if any, even those in your current circle can see the world as you do. And most often not one of that circle can comprehend seeing it through the same lens. We can live similar lives but not the same life so the combination of DNA, life experiences, luck or lack thereof, privilege or lack thereof, etc., can not be replicated well enough for one person to understand another person’s life or how their brain has processed it. Explaining mental illness to someone who has not experienced it is like speaking in two unrelated languages or for a sighted person trying to decipher braille without a guidebook. It is a recipe for frustration on both sides of the conversation. Everyone has bad days, sometimes people feel down in the dumps but most do not understand hardcore, bona fide depression. Bourdain once mentioned that if he was not doing what he was doing he would probably have been a good air traffic controller – my intuition is that his mind was attuned to seeing many things coming at him at the same time and the interconnections between things. That is a great skill for a chef. However when your brain is wired this way, you can see the infinite possibilities…you also start to see the infinite challenges, and then the infinite problems and finally infinite barriers….and it can spiral from there. Even a great air traffic controller can have a day with one plane too many or too few that throws everything out of synch, starting an unrecoverable spiral. When all the dominos fall at once you can’t stop it. That may have been what happened to Bourdain, some random thing took his brain from 100 mph to 666 mph in a flash and he could not stop it, or he did, but too quickly.

What should we remember about Anthony Bourdain one year after and all of the years after today? First, that he loved his daughter. Second, anything else he did that you valued. For me, it was his book Kitchen Confidential, a refreshing voice in the world of food writing. Refreshing because it came across as authentic and genuine – a rare thing in our food celebrity culture. I think each of his shows had value but his great work was Parts Unknown which fused food with culture and personalities with a narrator’s voice that could ask questions he had not already determined the answers to before he asked them. Most food celebrities focus on themselves, or technique, or the superficial aspects of food but Bourdain saw that food was secondary to the stories and experiences of the people that create it and the passion they have to use it as a way to connect with others.

Here are some other memories. I think this article -> article from the Guardian did the best summary of Bourdain to be found out there in the cyberspace.

Here are some of his better quotes:

It’s a lethal error to always critically evaluate meals. I’ve certainly learnt to take food less seriously and try whenever possible to experience it emotionally rather than as a professional or critic. I like nothing more than seeing my daughter Ariane eating and liking food.

When you’ve seen what I’ve seen on a regular basis it changes your world view. I’ve spent such a lot of time in the developing world, I was caught in a war in Beirut, been in Liberia, the Congo, Iraq and Libya and realised how fast things can get bad, how arbitrary good fortune and cruelty and death. I suppose I’ve learnt humility. Or something.

The great Warren Zevon was asked, close to death, whether he had any important words of wisdom to pass on and he said, “Enjoy every sandwich.” I definitely enjoy my sandwiches, given how low I fell and how likely it was that there was going to be a different and tragic outcome. I’m a pretty lucky man. I enjoy my food and presenting Parts Unknown. I have the best job in the world.

This is the Best of the Best of lists:

And this is something I was not aware of but found to be fascinating, his special connection to -> Cajun country,

Reading through scores of articles and information after his passing, I came across an obscure source where he listed his favorite Paris picks. I think he would want others to have them as a reference. I am lucky to have willed myself to travel the world extensively (but not to the Bourdain level which was my ideal). One of the final fifteen places on my bucket list is Paris. If I make it to “la Ville Lumière” I will think of him as I experience a few of his favorite foods there.

La Comptoire

LAvant Comptoire (next door)

Le Dome – shell fish tower

Rue Mouffetard (markets)

sandwiche Jambon

As a final consideration, what Bourdain understood or at least figured out later in his career, is that food is not the most important thing. Food is a bridge to conversation – we all have to eat and most of us have a passion, at least at some level, about at least one type of food. As a bridge to conversation, food gives us a commonality with the person on the other side of the table. This can open up the possibility of a conversation, a friendship or even a better, an understanding of a person, community or culture. This is what Bourdain used food for in Parts Unknown and that is a lesson about food few people learn in their lifetime.

R.I.P. Anthony Bourdain, may you know a peace in your passing that you could not sustain in your life.

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