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In Sync With The Shack?

My first visit to Shake Shack came at an advantageous time - on a weekday, just after the prime lunch rush. Even better: most of the electronic kiosks were open, and seeing a tiny bit of a line at the front counter, I figured this would be as easy-peasy a time of ordering the ballyhooed ShackBurger, a creation hyped to outdo all other burgers in this whole wide world.

Shake Shack's touch-screen menu ordering kiosk gave me a bit of a rude
surprise during my first visit into their Easton Town Center location
I slid my payment card in the slot, and punched in my order: a Double ShackBurger and a side of fries. I wanted a milkshake badly, but seeing I'd be pushing 2,000 calories with that trifecta, I figured I'd give my waistline a break by ordering a Fifty/Fifty, a half lemonade/half iced tea combo that sounded pretty refreshing on what was a fairly warm day.  After punching in my personal info, I submitted my order, ready to start my countdown clock for this first time experience

The screen went black, that familiar white swirl holding court in the center. And then, puzzlement, as I tried to decipher the message in front of me.

"Your Order Is Out of Sync"

I duplicated the order again, this time starting without the card in the slot and then inserting it at the end. Again, no dice. I tried again a third time at a different kiosk, and again, the Shack would not abide. Were the burger gods sending me a warning message of some sort?

Brimful of Dishes on the Northwest Side

The regional cuisines of India were, through circumstance, not something I explored a lot while living in the Bay Area. That changed for the better when I moved to Central Ohio, where the dishes of the numerous Indian restaurants here have quickly become favorites for me and my spouse.

For the most part, the Indian restaurants here, from basic curry joints to more fancy establishments and most recently Indian-fusion places (Indian-themed bowls, wraps and salads from places like Curry Up in the Sawmill area and Lewis Center's Rollz Rice) aren't chains. The Indian-fusion chain restaurant actually has become a more prevalent sight around the US as noted in this May 2016 Eater.com article, but Columbus's biggest Indian chain arrival decidedly does not follow that fusion route in the Michigan-based Neehee's.

Could it be...Seitan?

The inside of the tasty Seitan Shawarma from Pittsburgh's B52 Cafe
For all the hype meat substitute like the Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat have received in the past few years, perhaps the most original of O.G. meat-substitutes, seitan, has been creeping into more menus as well. Essentially wheat gluten, this has been used in Asian countries in cooking for centuries, though the word itself dates back only sixty or so years to Japan, where George Ohsawa coined the term. For many vegans, seitan is a pretty standard staple in their diet.

Also, while it would be easy to pronounce the term like the name of the oft written about Prince of Darkness Satan, most folks I’ve chatted with state that say-TAN or say-TAWN (emphasis on the second syllable) is the accepted pronunciation.

We probably wouldn’t have paid this bit of trivia any mind even a few months ago or so - we had an occasional dabbling here and there, but it never made an impression on us until this year’s trip into Pennsylvania. Our visit to Lawrenceville’s B52 Cafe opened our eyes wide to seitan’s possibilities, with dishes like their tasty Kofta Tofu Scramble and the even better Seitan Shawarma. On this meal, we didn’t miss the traditional meat or pork proteins one bit.

As it turns out, two Columbus culinary entities, one spanking brand new and one well-established, have come out with their own seitan-based items. Would they fulfill our dreams of something just as tasty here as we had that morning in the Steel City?

From Zane's Trace to Outer Space: A Journey into Muskingum County

An original and somewhat worse-for-wear National Road
mileage marker located outside the National Road
and Zane Grey Museum in Norwich, OH
The long road trip test isn’t always recommended for potential relationship testing, but it will almost always give you a definitive answer about viability of a partnership after a single experience. Our first road trip together covered at least 500 miles over a several day period. Our second trip was even longer, including a 350-mile circuit of Oregon in one day that started and ended in Bend, but in between included an 8-mile hike on Mt Hood, donuts in Portland, and dinner with relatives in Tigard.

An off-the-cuff trip recently into Muskingum County proved to be a fairly short jaunt by those standards, but the sites we visited for the most part were all about the longer journey, including one instance which covered approximately 75,000 miles.

Triple-Hopped: On The Ohio Summer Brewery Prowl

Despite signs of slowing growth, craft breweries are most certainly still a thing. According to an article in USA Today, the craft beer industry surpassed the 7,000 operating breweries by the end of 2018, according to the Brewers Association. Furthermore, the Association expects another thousand or so breweries will join the fray by the end of 2019. And while Ohio may not match the sheer numbers of craft breweries found in other states, they are more than holding their own in volume, ranking fourth in the country according to the Brewers Association.

These sheer numbers have made it more important than ever to tune in to their surrounding community. If you can’t draw the locals in on a regular basis, your chance to achieve that next level of destination brewery pretty much rates as nil.

In many ways, that had changed way of writing about the breweries from here on out. A few select ones are going to be just plain outstanding and likewise a few select ones are going to just plain terrible. Most are going to fall in that big bell curve area in the middle, and as long as they’re keeping the locals happy, they can be quite successful.