Featured Post

Ice Cream Chronicles - New Interactive Map

As you may have noticed, a new interactive Google Map containing all the location and links to all my Ice Cream Chronicles posts is now acce...

Ice Cream Chronicles (Vol. 16): Sticks And Cones - Knight's Ice Cream (Westerville)

Knight's Ice Cream has been scooping its ice cream to Westerville natives since 1960
Long before the coffee shop became the preferred hangout joint of the neighborhood, that honor often belonged to a place that served ice cream. Whether the ice cream they served was handmade or the offerings of a major mass-produced variety, people would be guaranteed to visit if you would do them the favor of scooping it up into a bowl, mixing it into a shake, or piling it into a mini-mountain of sugar dairy decadence with a slight hint of something healthy like fruit and nuts. Operating since 1960, Knight's Ice Cream in Westerville seems to firmly qualify in this category.

I had always been curious about this place on South Cleveland Avenue when I spotted it during some of my early travels around the metro. Not only did it not seem to be mentioned in the pantheon of the usual suspects for great ice cream in the immediate area (typically Jeni's and Graeter's, and for me personally, Mardi Gras) but the history behind the place didn't seem to easy to find, at least via the Internet. I have found out since then that there was a Clintonville store with the same name, but I admit to having no knowledge to if they're at all related.

What I did know before my first visit was that, according to their website,  the business was under new management and the store had been freshly renovated. Not knowing what the building looked like prior to the change, I will say that the blue and white paint scheme with striped awnings on the exterior was nicely appealing to the eye. The inside, on the other hand, is neat but pretty utilitarian, sporting a few tables and chairs (more lie on the outside in a small fenced off area),freezer cases, dry-ink menu boards, and the usual equipment and food items associated with an ice cream joint.

Knight's ice creams may be a notch down from the very top echelon
of local purveyors, but their KinghtSticks are quite tasty
The ice cream, while not bad, is a notch down from the previously mentioned pantheon; it's not as smooth as Jeni's, as texturally pleasing as Graeter's, nor do the flavors range toward the exotic like Mardi Gras (though their mango was the best out of the three flavors, including Butter Pecan and Buckeye, that I sampled initially.) For Knight's, this seems to be a case of not everyone can be the best; however, I found the ice cream more than good enough to quell a hankering for a scoop or two for a frozen treat for most adults and kids.

Perhaps the most winning ice cream related item on their menu is their KnightStick. Coming in 8 different variations at $3.75 each, their take on the popular frozen confection Drumstick® strikes all the right notes with plenty of nuts and a nice crunchy chocolate top; my cone even avoided for the most part the stale sugar cone texture that its commercial cousin often suffers from.

If ice cream isn't your thing, Knight's also comes through with things like frozen bananas and Only 8 Frozen Yogurt, which is advertised as a Kosher-certified and gluten-free.

Knight's Ice Cream
596 S. Cleveland Ave,
Westerville, OH 43081
(614) 890-2353
Facebook     Website     Yelp

Click to add a blog post for Knight's Ice Cream on Zomato

First Impressions: Winking Scotsman and Bentos


The Tartan panel on the side means meat pies are a cookin'
Winking Scotsman: From Honeykiss to Sassafras to Dough Mama and beyond, the Columbus area has more than its share of wonderful, generally sweet-ingredient pies from which to choose (I really don't know how I could possibly choose if they had a Columbus Underground-styled Best Bites: Pies event similar to their Best Bites: Dessert event held earlier year.)

Savory pies are a bit more of a challenge. Empanadas at the three El Arepazo locations are always an option, and Salam Market on Columbus' Northeast side has been heralded for its Middle Eastern meat pies, as noted in this Columbus Crave article.

It was about this time last year when I was getting my taste of a more English-style of savory pie in the pasties that are common through Northern Michigan. While that first tasting was decent enough, this year's take on the meat pie I've happened on this year is not only much tastier but much closer in the Winking Scotsman food truck.

I caught the this new food truck in the parking lot of Palmer's Beverage Center on Indianola Avenue in Clintonville a few times before I dropped by to sample their goods. The menu was very simple - the owner Scott, who was quite affable, said that his side items simply weren't selling, so he decided to pare it to the bare bones pies, chips and beverages. Interestingly, I had actually caught him in an unusual position: he had sold out of his original batch of pies for the night (his best sales day so far, he stated) but if I came back in a half-hour or so, he'd have some fresh baked ones and give me a pie for half-off.

To paraphrase an oft-repeated movie line, he made me an offer I couldn't refuse.

Meat pies = yummy + filling. And a lucky bonus half-off for coming back
I decided to give both pies a try, and like the Northern Michigan pastie, these pies did the trick of providing some portable, filling food. These pies were much tastier than their pasty cousins we sampled up north as well, sporting a pleasant wheaty crust and fillings that were neither too drippy or dried out. While both were good solid creations, my spouse and I gave the nod to the poultry side, with a juicy chicken interior backed up with tasty mushrooms, the light tang of feta and a touch of bacon goodness..

The latest whereabouts of the Winking Scotsman can be found on their feed on Street Food Finder.

Winking Scotsman Food Truck
Various locations around the Columbus Metro
(614) 556-1190
Facebook     Instagram     Twitter    Website

Click to add a blog post for Winking Scotsman on Zomato


Bentos Food Cart offers freshly made, modestly-sized meals
with an eco-friendly touch

Bentos: my experience with the bento box is fairly limted, ranging from a fairly traditional culinary version (those offered by the Japacurry Food Truck in San Francisco) as well as an athletics-related food version (in triathlon terms, the bento box is a little bicycle case where I would keep those nasty tasting gels and other energy supplements in triathlon-style events.)

In terms of the Columbus food cart Bentos, owner Shannon Bowman offers an American take on the traditional type of Bento Box, providing freshly made, organic-when-possible meals that can be catered to various dietary needs (paleo, vegan, etc.) Bentos even sports a eco-friendly aspect to its meals, as the containers and eating utensils are composed of biodegradable materials.

In many ways, the boxes sold from the food cart would be a perfect side item for another food truck's entree dish, or a perfectly-portioned side dish for a midday bite. Prices all are fairly reasonable, with everything we saw priced at $4.

The Peanut Thai Noodle Salad with salted Edmame sported some overly chewy noodles but otherwise was pleasantly tasty . The Dueling Salads, a newer item, was a better creation, with a zingy yogurt dressing to link the coconut rice salad and raw carrot salad (while some may prefer to keep the salads apart, the two dueling entities mixed together proved to be a winning combo for my palate.)

A selection of more comprehensive catered lunch items can be ordered through the Bentos website. Those who order 10 or more of these can receive free shipping of their orders depending on the zip code provided or may be picked up at their 231 E. Livingston Street location (Bentos uses the facilities found at The Kitchen to prepare their meals.) These lunches also generally include their pecan rum cake, a decadent creation I had the fortune to sample at a recent event of theirs.

Whereabouts of the Bentos Food Cart can be found on their website.

Bentos Food Cart
Various locations around the Columbus Metro
(614) 715-4515
Facebook     Instagram     Twitter     Website


Fried Chicken Bender (Pt. 4): The Greenhouse Tavern


Greenhouse Tavern is one of Chef Jonathan Sawyer's
quadfecta of Cleveland-based culinary delights
Recent James Beard Award winner Jonathon Sawyer and, more specifically, his culinary ventures have been on the radar of many Columbus-area food-oriented folks for quite awhile. Tavern Vinegar Company, a collaboration with Columbus-based Middle West Spirits, has produced a well-received line of craft vinegars. Also, Sawyer's popular American take on Japanese Ramen, Noodlecat, has after much speculation announced its arrival into the Columbus market, hopefully set for the start of 2016 at the latest, per this Columbus Crave interview with the chef himself.

Of course, a roughly three-hour drive north on I-71 will bring you into the Cleveland city limits where Team Sawyer's eateries are located. Other than the previously mentioned Noodlecat, diners have the Northern Italian-based Trentina and his flagship eatery, the eco-friendly Greenhouse Tavern, to choose from. On recent travels up to this area, I had the chance to drop by the latter for a quick fried-chicken oriented dinner.

Cleveland's East 4th Street Neighborhood reminds me a bit of a more modern, fashionable combination of San Francisco's Maiden Lane and Belden Place, both pedestrian-oriented streets lined with restaurants and shopping. Greenhouse Tavern, which has no lack of hip flair within its space, lies more or less smack dab in the middle of this corridor.

Dining at the bar gives you a good look at the bicycles, burgundy
walls, and bustling space at the tavern while you
choose from a base menu of gastropub-style items.
Solo dining does have its advantages in that it's often fairly easy to grab a seat at the bar when its crowded (as was the case this day) and people who work the bar are generally pretty good about getting food and drinks to you. This turned out to be the case with my visit: my orders were handled pretty quickly and the light conversation with the bar staff was a pleasant distraction in what was overall a very bustling and sometimes noisy space.

While the Tavern does have a few craft beer choices, adult beverage choices lean more toward wine and the harder spirits, with a single malt whiskey and scotch menu. A separate menu contains coffee beverage selections from Cleveland-based Phoenix Coffee as well as options from their rare tea cellar.

Greenhouse Tavern's Barrel-Aged Tabasco Fried Chicken
While the Crispy Chicken Wings Confit (served with roasted jalapeño, lemon juice, scallions and garlic) had initially grabbed my attention, Greenhouse Tavern's Barrel-Aged Tabasco Fried Chicken eventually got the call on this night. As has been said, butter makes everything better, and a large gob of it was slathered on the two pieces of fried chicken on my platter, melting quite temptingly over both pieces. Suffice it to say, the butter only accentuated moist meat within; meanwhile, the Tabasco gave just a light tinge of heat to the crispy exterior. While some may think a double-digit price tag is a bit much for the dish (in general, Greenhouse Tavern's prices do range on the higher end of scale for their respective items) it was nevertheless a tasty rendition of the fried bird.

The base model Pommes Frites were a treat
I couldn't not say anything about the frites; apparently none other than Cleveland-based chef Michael Symon gave his "Best Thing I Ever Ate: Guilty Pleasures" designation to Greenhouse Tavern's Gravy Frites. That was not in the cards for me this night (my arteries were clogging from just thinking of topping my fried chicken off with this dish) but it didn't mean I couldn't NOT try the base model of their frites. Not that their Pommes Frites, fried in duck fat and coated with rosemary and raw garlic with a side of aioli, were that much healthier, but I at least felt mentally more relieved from a health standpoint as I consumed this delicious dish.

Greenhouse Tavern
2038 East Fourth Street
Cleveland, OH 44115
(216) 443-0511
Facebook     Instagram     Twitter     Website

Click to add a blog post for The Greenhouse Tavern on Zomato

Breakfast Via The 415: Tasi Cafe

Being nestled off the main traffic pathways of the Short North
hasn't hurt Tasi Cafe's popularity one bit
Living three decades in the San Francisco Bay Area, I've grown attuned to people in this area who have connections to my former stomping grounds. On one of my early visits to the Columbus, a brunch date with my spouse brought me (unknowingly at the time) to a Short North institution whose origins more or less came from the city by the bay..

As detailed in this Short North Gazette article, Anastasia Rigsby (or Tasi for short) spent her childhood years growing up in San Francisco. Her experiences as a youth with her restaurant-owner father gave her a feeling she would go into the restaurant business long before a chance meeting with her future husband Kent at his pioneering Short North restaurant Rigsby's Cafe gave her a channel to bring that notion to life in her namesake cafe, Tasi. The pair has expanded their eateries since the cafe's opening in 2008, adding the Short North-based Eleni-Christina Bakery (which provides all the pastries to the cafe) as well as their newest venture, the Bexley-based Zoe Cafe.

Interestingly enough, this somewhat off-the-main-drag location in the Short North at the corner of Brickel and Pearl gave me the vibe of a neighborhood-type place I might find in San Francisco during my first dining experience there. In terms of a local comparison, I found Tasi eventually reminding me as a slightly less expensive but slightly more conventional take on what Northstar Cafe brings to their diners.

Not much has changed with Tasi's general interior atmosphere,
operations, or popularity since my spouse and I made our first visit here
Despite new eateries arriving in the neighborhood since Tasi's opening and the general increase in brunch/breakfast service by area restaurants in general, Tasi has remained popular with neighborhood denizens. This fact, along with the rather cozy quarters within this brick-lined space (warning: the practice of diners "reserving" seats at empty tables before they place their orders at the counter is really frowned upon) makes having time to burn, a willingness/ability to go during off-peak hours, or a desire to take something to go a must for non-neighborhood visitors.

Not much has changed either with the ordering process: diners queue up at the counter (on our latest visit, staff seemed to be making a conscious effort to take no new orders until seats open up, which wasn't always the case on earlier visits) to place their orders. When things are busy, visitors to Tasi have plenty of time to peruse the length-of-the-room breakfast and lunch chalkboard menu above. Once an order is placed for those dining in-house, Tasi adds a colorful touch by giving you a placard representing a particular dog breed to place on your table instead of the usual numbered tiles.

Along with regular menu items like the Pastrami Hash (upper left), Tasi's
specials like the Chorizo Frittata and Crabcake Benny with Asparagus
have provided us many tasty options to pair with our cup of java
Tasi's entree items for breakfast (which is served all day) and lunch are typically priced at $10 or less and cover the gamut of crowd-pleasing choices from Fish Tacos to Frittatas, Cubano Sandwiches to Challah French Toast, and so forth. We've learned that the specials often are quite good, such as the Crab Cake Benny we ordered on our last visit. Sides to supplement your meal are as varied as the entrees, ranging from the usual (sausage,bacon and fries) to the more novel (Potato Latkes and Zucchini a la Grecque, zucchini slices simmered with various herbs and spices.)

Beverages circulate around the usual coffee variations (Lavazza is Tasi's preferred coffee of choice), as well as pop, tea and water; a small selection of adult beverages (beer, wine and cocktails) is also available to diners. Tasi also makes a point of featuring local vendors, including some from the nearby North Market (North Market Spices and North Market Poultry) and milk shakes featuring Bexley-based Johnson's Ice Cream.

Tasi Cafe
680 N. Pearl Street (Short North)
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 222-0788
Facebook     Instagram     Twitter    Website

Click to add a blog post for Tasi Cafe on Zomato

Ice Cream Chronicles (Vol. 15): Todos Gritamos para el Helado - Diamonds Ice Cream


With a series like the Ice Cream Chonicles, you figure this blog would have a write-up on an ice cream experience on the proclaimed National Ice Cream Day, held on the third Sunday of July.

Never fear, because you've struck gold here...or would that be Diamonds?

In many ways, the feeling in visiting Diamonds is a lot like my last visit to Young's Ice Cream in Yellow Springs: in both places, I found out that there was a lot more to the place than just the ice cream.

In Diamonds' case however, the more proper term would nieves or helado, depending on whether they are water- or milk-based. Diamonds offers the Mexican-styled version of this frozen confection and offers a variety of flavors, from the standards (vanilla and strawberry) to more novel flavor variations like Piñon (Pine Nut), Queso (Cheese) and Tuna (Cactus Fruit.)

Diamonds throws south-of-the-border flavor combos into the
mix for their solidly made ice cream scoops
I started off with the standards for me: Mango and Nuez (Butter Pecan) - the flavors were both fine, with big chunks of nuts in the Butter Pecan and a pleasant fruit flavor in the mango (not quite enough to supplant Mardi Gras for my favorite mango in the area, however.) Both scoops had a chewy texture right out of the case, but acquired a more smooth mouthfeel once they warmed up.

You could go here strictly for the ice cream, but you would be missing a lot. In fact, this place reminds me of a place I liked to frequent back in California in Vallejo's La Michoacana.  This paleteria and panaderia (which is NOT related to the Columbus-area La Michoacana Markets or the paleta brand originating in Mexico (for a fascinating side story, this Wharton School of Business article has a nice summary on the attempts to trademark the brand name)), as detailed in this Vallejo Times-Herald newspaper story, offered delicious paleta popsicles that, similar to their ice cream, are both water- and milk-based. These paletas generally put most typical American-style popsicles to shame with their intriguing flavor profiles and combos and large and often visible ingredient chunks.

In Diamonds' case, we've had a chance to sample their Nuez, Fresa (Strawberry) and Mango con Chile paletas so far. Interestingly, as much as we like spicy items, the latter flavor turned out to be merely okay in our books with a one-note spicy heat and most of the mango fruit  chunks concentrated on the bottom. Much better were the Fresa (nice refreshing berry flavor) and the Nuez (big chunks of nuts in a creamy base.) Other than the plethora of flavors, a frequent buyer card should be more than incentive for anyone to continue exploring Diamonds' paleta inventory.

Diamonds matches its unique ice cream offerings with an equally
novel flavor collection in its paletas, a selection of aguas frescas
and horchatas, and other unique-sounding edibles.
While La Michoacana back in California had bakery goods (including excellent bolillo rolls) to complete its trifecta of offerings, Diamonds adds a trifecta of other product offerings to inspire future visits for us to their Northwest Columbus location. These items include various flavors of horchatas and agua frescas, elote (flavored grilled street corn) and a menu of fruit and vegetable-oriented "Specialties."These items basically consist of chip-based dishes (nachos and potato chips with hot sauce, for example) as well as intriguingly prepared fruit and vegetable salads that fuse sweet, sour and tangy profiles in various blends depending on the main focus of the dish, whether that be Piña (pineapple), Sandia (watermelon) and Pepino (cucumber.)

Diamonds Ice Cream
5461 Bethel Sawmill Center (Northwest)
Columbus, OH 43235
(614) 718-2980
Facebook     Yelp

Click to add a blog post for Diamonds Ice Cream on Zomato

Mediterranean Musings: Lavash Cafe, Little Lebanon (Update)

The exterior of Latif Nasir's well-regarded Lavash Cafe
Lavash Cafe: Experiencing food at the source often spoils you for future renditions farther away. This is the case with me in relation to Mediterranean fare, when an eight week stint in the Middle East several years ago gave me access to some very delicious renditions of dishes fairly familiar to Americans like falafel and kebabs, as well as newly experienced dishes I have rarely seen here since my return (the spicy Aleppo-area dip muhammara and a big platter of freekeh with chicken, for example.)

While I haven't found anything since my move to Ohio that has completely blown my socks away along these lines (the best falafel sandwich I've ever had is still from a more or less anonymous corner stand in the middle of the Christian Quarter in Old Town Damascus), I've found Columbus restaurants to be pretty consistently good in this regard. One of the better purveyors of these types of dishes lies in the heart of Clintonville with Lavash Cafe, owned by long-time veteran of the Columbus restaurant scene Latif Nasir.

Many long-time residents may recognize the Firdous restaurant name, which Nasir founded and was present in several locations in the metro from the 1980s through the mid-2000s. Nasir got out from Firdous and took a break from the restaurant business in the mid-2000s, but marked his return to the Columbus culinary scene in late 2008 with the opening of Lavash.

There's a lot too look at inside Lavash's well-attired space
Lavash Cafe lies in a culinary-oriented block of Clintonville: La Patrona Mexican Restaurant, Lineage Brewing and the Growl! beer growler shop surround the cafe on that side of High Street; with Cup O' Joe and Pattycake Bakery within stone's throw as well. Its clean, brick-lined exterior is matched up with an interior filled with swaths of color as well as plaques denoting "Best Of" designations from various local media outlets and groups (one of the eatery's more recent honors was its selection as the Clintonville Chamber of Commerce's Business of the Year for 2015.)

While the space is large enough to allow for sit-down service, the atmosphere is very casual with food ordering performed at the front counter. This front counter area gives the diner quite a bit to see, from the menu above to the spinning slabs of shawarma and gyro meat behind to the display counter below, which features various kebab skewers, bowls filled with side dishes and baklava-styled sweet treats.

Clockwise from Left: Falafel Platter, Mojadara, and the Lamb Shawarma
Lavash offers up the standards such as Falafel, Shawarma, Kefta and Gyros, dishes we have tended to stick with and enjoyed on our visits. However, this eatery gives visitors a chance for a more fancy meal with red snapper, lamb chops and tiger shrimp kebabs. Another favorite of mine has been their
version of Mojadara: rice and lentils cooked with spices, topped with onions and served with a side salad. Their homemade pita bread which accompanies meals is conveniently bagged for purchase and home consumption.

Lavash Cafe
2985 N. High St (Clintonville)
Columbus, OH 43202
(614) 263-7777
Facebook     Instagram     Twitter     Website     Yelp

Click to add a blog post for Lavash Cafe on Zomato


Little Lebanon continues to evolve as a restaurant after a rough start
Little Lebanon: A recent visit to this Polaris-located eatery shows that things continue to evolve and trend upward since my original post about this restaurant last year. Their dinner selections have been more or less finalized into menu form, and their existing space continues to be refined (the husband half of the husband-wife ownership duo stated they are converting the interior to more of a standard dining room area sans the existing counter.)

Their lunch menu also seems to have expanded since our last visit, with a few items with colorful names that seemed geared to mirror the slaw/french fry topped sandwiches of Pittsburgh-based Primanti Bros. Their Lebanese Hamburger, featuring a Lebanese spiced beef patty and cheese along with that slaw/fries combo within a hollowed-out homemade bun, has a decent enough taste but a lot of the sandwich's interior ends up on your plate before you know it.

The Missle was much more successful: this kefta-layered baked pita topped with same slaw/fry mix along with garlic sauce, tomatoes, onions and parsley had a nice flavor profile and a much more sturdy structure to hold the ingredients at bay.

Some things have not changed. As mentioned prior, the owners continue to be very friendly hosts and the fattoush salad continues to be my favorite in the area, with fresh cut greens and radishes coated with a sumac-laced vinaigrette

Our host that day also let us know that expansion is in Little Lebanon's future. The second location of the eatery has yet to be completely finalized, but the most likely location will be in the Dublin area.

Little Lebanon Bistro Bakery
8495 Sancus Blvd. (Polaris)
Columbus, OH 43240
(614) 781-1814
Facebook     Website     Yelp

A Gambrinus Gathering: Columbus Brew Adventures' Brewery District Walking Tour

A Brewery District welcome sign and a stone relief depiction of the old
Hoster Brewery found in Brewers' Alley
In September of 2012, my spouse and I had our first experience with Columbus Food Adventures (CFA), a food tour company offering numerous ways for both locals and visitors alike to explore the culinary gems of this area. The first tour, which was a walking tour through Columbus' picturesque German Village, not only touched on the culinary treats within this area, but also gave participants a nice introduction to the rich history of the area.

Flash forward to the summer of 2015. Now reaching its fifth anniversary, this tour company has grown, increasing its offerings both in terms of neighborhoods (Grandview Heights has become another neighborhood-related tour offering, for example) and themes (Nick Dekker, author of the well-known "Breakfast With Nick" blog, now leads area breakfast- and brunch-oriented area excursions.)

In addition, CFA has expanded into another growing part of the area's food scene with Columbus Brew Adventures. Started in September 2013 by CFA co-founder Bethia Woolf and writer Jim Ellison (himself involved in numerous area culinary ventures including the Alt Eats Columbus and Taco Trucks Columbus websites and his own blog (The CMH Gourmand)), these tours offer novel ways to to explore the area's flourishing craft beer scene along with other aspects of Columbus' culinary scene (for example, their "Pitchers and Pizza" tour offers an exploration of iconic area pizzerias along with tasty local brews.)

As a pair who likes to seek out beer-oriented destinations in their travels, I think it was surprising to both of us that we hadn't actually taken a tour with Columbus Brew Adventures when we received an invite by Mr. Ellison himself to join us as guests on their Brewery District Tour, held on a what turned out to be an against recent trends sun-soaked Saturday.

The tour started off at the Columbus Brewing Company Restaurant,
which provided tour-goers a nice Santa Fe pizza for snacks and
a taster of the Columbus Brewery's Pale Ale and IPA.
The Brewery District tour offers participants a walking perspective around this historic area, a journey that we found touched on many aspects of the past and current district occupants. For us personally, it also helped us visualize some of the places we knew were in the area that we had heard quite a bit about. Also neat was how this tour turned out to be the perfect pairing with the previously mentioned German Village Tour we took nearly three years ago. These two areas are inextricably linked together by the German immigrants who settled on these once less-than-desirable areas across a ravine (now occupied by Interstate 70) on the south side of Columbus and set up those very same breweries on lands just to the west.

Our tour starting point at the Columbus Brewing Company Restaurant,
along with our tour guide Jenna and one half of a double-sided
hand-drawn map of the Brewery District given to participants
 
We soon found out we weren't the only ones on our first Columbus Brew Adventures excursion: we discovered our tour guide Jenna was leading her first tour ever for the company, She made an excellent debut, providing a smiling and enthusiastic presence throughout the tour and relating most of the details about the landmarks and places we were visiting off the top of her head. We also had the pleasure of meeting Jim himself, who accompanied our group for roughly the second quarter of our tour and provided some extra illumination on an area and food scene overall that he knows extremely well.

In many ways, we discovered that this particular tour is, to use a university euphemism, the equivalent of "Columbus Brewing 101." Not only do you get introduced to Columbus' brewing history prior to Prohibition, which was all centered in the Brewery District, but also you get an idea of what currently exists in the area as well as an introduction to what is available in the local craft brew scene. While this tour is suited for all levels of craft beer aficionados, there is enough history and other tangential aspects given to make those either not as enthusiastic about beer (one of our party fell in that category) or are neophytes to beer (Jenna encouraged us to bring our inner "beer snob" and put our samples through the gamut of sensory tests before tasting, as well as brought up conversation starters such as what differentiated ales from lagers) and/or the local beer scene feel comfortable.

The influence of the original Hoster Brewery, once the largest in Columbus,
was seen throughout the walking tour, with numerous current businesses like
World of Beer and Via Vecchia Winery now occupying its facilities.
While the focus on the tour leans often on structures related to the Hoster (not surprising with it being the largest brewery at the time in Columbus) and Schlegel (later Schlee) breweries, numerous landmarks and points of interest are covered on the tour. This includes some of the area's eateries (Brick American Kitchen and the third location of Latin-influenced El Arepazo), beer-oriented enterprises (World of Beer and the Columbus Brewing Company Restaurant) as well as the home of Shadowbox Live, a unique performance troupe that has now been operating for over two decades. At each of these locations, participants get a taster of a local purveyor of craft brews (on this tour, local breweries such as Columbus, Elevator, and Homestead, as well as renowned crafters of mead Brothers Drake, were represented.) The eateries also serve a useful purpose in providing more than enough small bites to keep both alcohol effects and hunger pangs at bay.

Brewery District eateries like Brick American Kitchen and El Arepazo
provide tour-goers a chance to sit down, sample their culinary wares
and have a taste of some of locally crafted brews
With all the history and details related to the places and landmarks we visited, we found there was still plenty of time to chat with your fellow tour-goer. Beer is by its nature a social beverage, and that seemed to hold true at all our stops with plenty of back-and-forth between fellow tour-goers and our guide herself about beer, common experiences and just topics in general helped made the tour length of three-plus hours go by like a breeze.

For us personally, the Brewery District tour turned out to be a wonderful way to learn about what made this area important in Columbus' long history, as well as introduce us to some of the landmarks and businesses in the area that we had only heard about but never had a chance to visit. Add in the tastes of delicious local beers and eats and some good company alongside, and we had a day King Gambrinus (the patron saint of brewers) himself could celebrate.

The King Gambrinus statue (actually modeled after Columbus brewery
owner August Wagner) offered a colorful end to a great tour
Columbus Brew Adventures
Tour and ticket information can be found on their website at
www.columbusbrewadventures.com
Other Social Media Links:
Facebook     Instagram     Twitter


Fried Chicken Bender (Pt. 3): Bonchon

Bonchon's new location in Northwest Columbus
As I have mentioned in a previous post about the Ajumama food truck, Korean cuisine was something I just didn't pursue too much when I was living in San Francisco. There really was no good reason for it except I just didn't. That also probably explains why I never even attempted to pursue the dish that local Bay Area food-oriented types seemed to be always on the look out for in the years before I left for the Buckeye state: Korean Fried Chicken, often referred to informally as "KFC."

Since I have moved to Columbus, my pursuit as well as appreciation of the cuisine has slowly and steadily increased. My spouse and I have both started exploring the local scene and cooking up some Korean dishes at home (my spouse inadvertently created the absolute most tongue-burning Korean-style beef and regularly mixes up a homemade kimchi for consumption at dinner.)

I had seen signs announcing the opening of a restaurant up in the highly-retail-oriented area of Northwest Columbus at Sawmill and State Route 161. I took note of this what appeared to be a Korean-oriented eatery but didn't pay it much mind at the time; little did I know it was going to be the newest location of Bonchon, an internationally reknowned purveyor of a fried treat known in Korea as Yangnyeom Tongdak, or what most state-siders refer to as Korean Fried Chicken or "KFC."

The Korean style of preparing fried chicken results basically is a twice-frying/twice-flavoring affair. Twice-frying the pieces gives the bird an eminently crackly crust, while the twice-flavoring (usually done via marinading or a dry rub on the bird before frying followed by a coating of the finished pieces in sauce) gives the bird a unique blend of flavor profiles.

Well, geez, we can't let this opportunity go to waste, can we?

Bonchon's interior space is dominated by red and black tones and
reminders of their global and major media reach
Founded in 2002 in South Korea, Bonchon has expanded internationally with numerous locations throughout Asia, with additional franchises in Bahrain and the United States (the first location was opened in Fort Lee, New Jersey in 2006) and much notice in numerous media outlets throughout the world. The new Columbus location is now one of 30+ franchises within this country.

Bonchon has transformed the interior of the former Asian Go home into a cool, clean but not overly busy space dominated by red and black color tones. The large mural displaying famous landmarks and the city names where Bonchon franchises reside is perhaps the most prominent outward display of its worldwide recognition factor for visiting diners.

Yes, the chicken is good: for us, we got as much pleasure from the sensation of the biting into that crackly thin skin as much as the taste of the chicken. I am betting there are better versions of Korean Chicken out there, but Bonchon's wings have set a pretty nice control score for future explorations. Being the spiceheads that we have evolved into, we did slightly prefer their Spicy over their Soy Garlic wings, but we found them both quite delicious.

Bonchon offers select draft beer and other Asian/Korean standards
like Bibimbap, but their fried chicken is the star of the show
After tasting how good the chicken was, Bonchon's other mains in my almost seem relegated to side dishes in my mind. We did sample their Bulgogi Bibimbap, which I thought could've used a little more bulgogi in the mix; it did have plenty of rice for diners to balance their protein intake with a starch. Other Korean and Asian standards available on their menu include Japchae, Tteokbokki (a stir-fried dish combining cakes of both rice and fish with glass noodles, onions and Korean red pepper sauce) and Takoyaki (octopus balls, familiar to fans of Columbus' Freshstreet.)  The actual advertised side dishes, including the pickled daikon radish and kimchee coleslaw provide a tangy-enough change-of-pace for diners' palates.

Beverage offerings are a fairly standard-issue affair, with the usual pop choices and a small draft beer list, including Columbus Brewing's base-model IPA, available.

In an experiment, I wanted to see if that textural experience with the regular chicken would translate over to their chicken strips. Based on this sampling, the flavor profiles match up, but I found that unique crackly texture found in their regular chicken only spottily duplicated on the strips.

Bonchon
3586 W Dublin-Granville Rd. (Northwest)
Columbus, OH 43235
(614) 389-4026
Facebook     Instagram     Twitter     Website

Click to add a blog post for Bonchon Chicken on Zomato

Ice Cream Chronicles (Vol. 14): Always Young's At Heart

Starting as a Jersey cow milk seller around 1960, Young's Jersey
Dairy has evolved into a multi-faceted provider of numerous dairy

products, food, and family-fun-oriented attractions over the years
Truth be told, I found out on my first visit to Young's Jersey Dairy that it is not a destination strictly for the ice cream. My scoops of butter pecan and strawberry were solid but a bit lackluster when compared with some of the more celebrated Ohio-based ice cream purveyors I have managed to visit. In fact, their ice cream may be best experienced in milkshake form: on this particularly hot and humid day, I admit it would've been easy to stray from the immediate task at hand of reviewing the ice cream on its own merits based on the numerous milkshake orders from folks in front and behind me and their subsequent satisfied reactions after their first sips.

Young's ice cream may be a notch below other Central Ohio purveyors
of this frozen treat, but it's still plenty good enough to please the crowds
However, in this particular case, Young's ice cream must be considered as part of what is an overall winning package. From their start in 1958 selling their Jersey cow milk to the public, this family-owned dairy has slowly but certainly expanded their product and food offerings. Along with basic cheese varieties such as Colby, Baby Swiss and Pepper Jack, Young's offers up cheddar curds in a multiple variations, including cajun, dill and habanero. Their deep-fried curds were prominently displayed on a menu of their other lunchtime offerings such as burgers, hot dogs, and chicken strips; as delectable as they looked, I decided they would have to wait for another visit.

Young's also can accommodate those who would like a picnic-style experience or those looking for a more formal meal. For the former, Barnabe's Walnut Grove can be rented by groups of 50 or more with catering provided by the dairy; these diners are allowed access to other aspects of Young's attractions (more on this later.) In regards to the latter, the Golden Jersey Inn, opened in 1998 in a timber-lined building to the north of the main dairy facility, offers Amish- and home-styled dishes for lunch and dinner as well as weekend breakfast hours.

Besides their dairy products, Young's Dairy offers attractions that
have proven to be pleasing over all age ranges and continues
to draw the crowds to its Yellow Springs-area facility
Perhaps the biggest part of the Young's appeal lies in the previously alluded to attractions. These lie firmly in the pre-Internet/video game/mobile device style of activities that continue to appeal to numerous generations and all age ranges. From activities related to the dairy's everyday functions (visitors are encouraged to experience what goes on on this working farm) to fun physical pursuits such as golf (both putt-putt and driving-range variations), batting cages and pedal carts, to seasonal/annual events like corn mazes, pumpkin picking and vintage truck shows, it's no surprise why Young's has continued to be a destination in the Yellow Springs area of Ohio over the years.


I can now rest assured that I will be much better "prepared" on my next visit to Young's. I will hopefully have in tow a group of friends or family who will engage me in savagely competitive games of putt-putt golf or endeavor to knock solid liners back up the middle in the batting cages. I also hope to have some younger folk who would appreciate the goat petting pen and "ooh and ahh" at the sight of milking cows. And finally, I want to sample some of Young's other dairy products, perhaps those visibly-enticing deep fried cheese curds I spied on this first visit.

And I will top it all off with a milkshake. And I am sure it will be quite tasty indeed.

Young’s Jersey Dairy
6880 Springfield-Xenia Rd
Yellow Springs, OH  45387
(937) 325-0629
Facebook     Instagram     Twitter     Website

Click to add a blog post for Young's Jersey Dairy on Zomato

Takeout Pizza of the Month: Dante's Pizza

The plain white box containing our pizza in many ways represents
Dante Pizza's functional and no-frills approach to producing their pies
Keeping with my intention to do a takeout pie/cold pizza test from a previously untried Columbus-area pizza place roughly once a month, this month's candidate is a Clintonville institution on the Indianola Avenue side of the neighborhood: Dante's Pizza.

Atmosphere: In many ways, the plain white box which our takeout pizza came in perfectly reflects the functional, no-frills operation that is Dante's. Located in a smallish space near Weiland's Market, Dante's matches a simple exterior with a functional interior. A central hallway (stacked with supply boxes along the wall as you progress farther into the space) divides the pickup/kitchen area and a wood-paneled, straight from the 1980s eat-in space. Customers who are there for takeout pies can easily catch Dante's staff members plying their pizza-making skills behind the counter.

Like its pizza boxes, Dante's exterior and interior is simple and
functional, offering a cozy wood-paneled space for those who choose
to dine in and eat and a chance to watch pizza-making in action
Dante's is a cash and check-only outfit, which helps explain the relatively inexpensive prices they charge for their pies. With that said, they do have coupons on their website, which sadly for our pocketbooks we neglected to check for before we put in and picked up our order.

Pizza (hot): Some very quick research mentioned that Dante's homemade sausage was the way to go, so we opted for a large sausage and onions pie.

The stars for us on this pie were the sausage and sauce. We prefer spicier red sauces, and Dante's provides a decent zing with theirs. The sausage sports a nice chew and pleasantly savory taste profile. Together with the plentiful but not overbearing amount of cheese and just enough onions to provide a textural contrast, it turned out to be a winning combination for us.

The pie was cut Columbus-style, but the crust wasn't as cracker-thin as others you might find. In a way, it acts as the functional part of the pie - while it may be a touch on the bland side by itself (we thought it could use a little bit of salt ourselves), the crust forms a firm base that won't easily sag into a greasy mess.

Although bland, the strong crust in Dante's pizzas allows the zesty sauce
and tasty sausage to please your taste buds unencumbered
Pizza (cold): I'm starting to think the more simpler the pizza, the better a candidate it is to eat cold. Unlike previous month's Pizza House's "All The Way" loaded pizza, this Dante's pizza made for a far better cold pizza. A great contributor to that is that crust - while the chill doesn't bring out any extra flavor in it, its solid structure still held the gathered toppings well and allowed their flavors to take front stage.

Future Visits: Dante's sausage-based pie offers a good deal of taste for a relatively inexpensive price. Overall, their pizza ranks just a bit below some of the others we've had for takeout based on initial impressions, but it's good enough for us to give it another shot or two in the future.

Dante's Pizza
3586 Indianola Ave (Clintonville)
Columbus, OH 43214
614-268-5090
Facebook     Google Plus     Website

Click to add a blog post for Dante's Pizza on Zomato