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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...

State of Roamance: The Bates Farm Kitchen (Sandusky)/Georgetown Vineyards (Cambridge)

When you roam around the state of Ohio as much as we tend to do, you end up at a lot of places that are definitely worthy enough of a mention despite the one singular visit. This is the case with these two venues we had the pleasure of visiting recently in The Bates Family Farm up near the lakeshore in Sandusky and the combination Georgetown Vineyards/Southside Brewing in the foothills of Appalachia in Eastern Ohio's city of Cambridge.

The diner concept is one that has proven durable over the years, and usually those that sport a unique atmosphere or those that try just a little harder for something beyond the basic are the ones that grab your attention. The latter aspect is what drew us to The Bates Farm Kitchen during a recent visit to Sandusky.

Doubling Down on Graceland: Pat & Gracie's

Pat Murnan: gambling guru of Columbus and one of the most colorful
characters in the city's history (photo from the Columbus Dispatch)
As you may have noticed in my blog posts, the history behind an eatery is something I always try to include to some degree or another.  In some ways, that has been spurred on with my increasing interest in my current hometown's history, which has increasingly become an unofficial pursuit of mine since I've moved here.

One of the more interesting stories for me relates to a retail center I have found myself passing early and during my city travels. The Graceland Shopping Center, located close to where Columbus and the southern border of Worthington meet, has its origins in one of the most colorful and famous people from the Prohibition days in Pat Murnan.

As the story goes, Murnan, a railroad worker with a flamboyant personality, ended up winning ownership of a local casino club after one exceedingly lucky night. From there, he parlayed that fling with Lady Luck to emerge as Columbus' unofficial guru of gambling during the Prohibition era.

A satellite view of the Graceland area, as shown on Google Maps
Murnan created a stir when he started a romance with one Grace Backenstoe, who earned her keep near Murnan's main operation as the madam of a downtown brothel.  The two clicked so quite well, they moved up to settle in at Murnan's 700-acre horse farm in the Clintonville area. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Murnan dubbed their homestead Graceland in honor of his gal shortly thereafter.

As it turned out, both Pat and Grace Murnan would not see the year 1940, with Pat passing away in 1937 and Grace two years later. In 1952, local developer Don Casto announced that a retail center would be built on the land that the Murnans had called home.

Ice Cream Chronicles (Yr. 4): Saying Yo to the Froyo

It's International Frozen Yogurt month, you all!
With June being International Frozen Yogurt Month (I guess every food item has to have its day or month in the sun, right?) and our first bonafide heatwave upon us, I figured it was time to take these Chronicles into an area of the frozen confection world previously untouched in this blog.

Not that I've never indulged in this sweet treat prior to moving to Columbus, mind you.  In fact, I probably indulged a bit too much in the froyo back in California (thankfully, a heavy duty running habit I had at the time more than made up for that), and that perhaps is frozen yogurt's "problem", if you want to call it that. Even though yogurt connotes something that is fairly healthy for you, the basic self-serve setup makes it incredibly easy to load up not only on a lot of yogurt but also a Halloween's worth of mix-ins in one setting.

Not that there's anything inherently wrong with that concept, mind you...

Sandwiches Around The Statehouse: Elia Athenian Grill

In the early days of my blog, I did a small little series about the sandwich options around the Ohio Statehouse in Downtown Columbus. Unsurprisingly, the sandwich is a pretty popular lunch vehicle here, as major chains like Subway and Potbelly Deli battle locally established eateries to attract the numerous hungry workers employed in the area.

Perhaps as a testament to that steady demand, many of these places are still plying their trade in some form or another, though in some cases with a twist. For example, social-mission based Freshbox seems to do all its business these days by catering. Meanwhile, Milo's Capital Cafe, located deep within the Ohio Statehouse, has refreshed its concept into the farm-to-table focused Graze.

One thing that this very distinct subset of eateries has been a bit short in is a touch of a worldly element. AJ's Cafe had been a favorite of mine with its grab-and-go creations with a touch of Indian flair, but their departure in September last year left the excellent Peruvian sandwich offerings of Si Señor (which has since expanded into Grandview) essentially all alone in this world.  That's why the arrival of Elia Athenian Grill and its Greek-oriented quick grab options perked my interest initially.

Saisons from the Hocking: Rockmill Brewery (Lancaster, OH)

Back in 2016, I had the pleasure of visiting Texas and Austin's most well-renowned brewery in Jester King. The facility's Hill Country, farmhouse-style setting was most certainly rustic and peaceful; in fact, I noted it at the time as "second on the list of the most beautiful brewery sites I have ever had the opportunity to visit."

I figured at the time I would reveal what brewery occupied that number one spot in fairly short order, but as the saying goes, stuff happens. Thankfully for me and you the reader, that distinction still exists with the same entity, Rockmill Brewery, which is nestled in the hills surrounding a town established by well-traveled Colonel Ebenezer Zane back in 1800.

You typically can't see much from the winding country road as you approach this brewery, save maybe for the sign indicating you've reached your destination (majorly helpful advice: check their Facebook page to make sure the brewery is not closed for a private event; trust us, we know.) Once you pull in, however, you start garnering the pastoral beauty that imbues the brewery property.

Modest House: Bangkok Grocery and Restaurant

As regular readers of my blog may note, my spouse and I have no hesitation gravitating toward spicy hot dishes and cuisines. Add to that a relative of ours with roots in Thailand, and we do like to keep a specific eye out for some good Thai cuisine.

Columbus isn't really what I would call a Thai cuisine hotbed, and it became less so when one of our favorite restaurants overall, Westgate Thai and its collection mouth-burning heat combined with multi-note flavor profile dishes, decided to call it a night. We still miss Westgate terribly, but thankfully Southeast Columbus' Bangkok Thai has helped soothe our loss a good bit.

Ice Cream Chronicles (Yr. 4): The Second Time Around

"But you can't keep runnin' away from love
'Cause the first one let you down, no, no, no
And though others try to satisfy you, baby
With me true love can still be found
Love can still be found

The second time around
Ooh, the second time is so much better, baby"
"The Second Time Around" - Shalamar

An underrated factor in trending food lies in its visual appeal, especially in a world where Instagram continues to entice the eyes of millions of users. One of these foods that has washed ashore in the United States relatively recently is "pan-fried" ice cream, more commonly referred to here as Thai Rolled. Popular in many Asian countries, the basic frozen creation is created when a milk base is poured onto a very cold metal plate. Once solid enough, the ice cream is scraped off the surface into figurative rolls. Enhancements and mix-ins can be added in at various parts of the process.

As one might gather from the lyrics, there is a hint of redemption in this particular Ice Cream Chronicles post, and it comes with a relatively new arrival in Columbus' Simply Rolled.

Another Blogiversary: A Little Spring Cleaning

Anyone who has read this blog through its three years of existence will know
that there is no need to feel sad about ice cream at anytime
(image from one of my childhood favorites: ABC TV's Schoolhouse Rock)
Last year when I wrote up my second "Blogiversary" post, I received a nice comment from one of the deans of local blogger-types in the CMH Gourmand, noting that on average a "sustained" blog generally lasts on average about 33 months and that I was just about there.

Well, I guess its time to celebrate a little bit then with this third "Blogiversary" post. After putting up a initial statement post back in late May of 2014, three has proven to be a magic number indeed. While this venture was meant as more of a fun lark and a way to keep mentally sharp when I started, I have noticed the traffic to this blog grow surely but steadily over time. For those of you who poke their heads here on a regular (or even semi-regular) basis, I thank you for your time and I hope you have been entertained by the ventures of my spouse and I over this span.

Post number wise, things have remained pretty steady: after a blazing (and unsustainable) three posts a week during my first year of blogging, I have striven for and pretty much have reached the two posts per week mark these last couple years. As Goldilocks might say, that number seems to be just right, and no changes will be made on that front for the time being.

Big Craft Beer in a Small City: Small City Taphouse (Sandusky, OH)

Access to Lake Erie is just one of the reasons why locals and tourists
alike flock to Sandusky, the county seat of Erie County
The northern Ohio tourist destination that is Sandusky, best known for the world-famous roller coaster mecca Cedar Point Amusement Park, is not the first place I would expect a craft beer destination to reside. Not to say that this town of roughly 26,000 hasn't seen the effects of the state's craft beer boom - two nanobreweries in the forms of Ferndock Brewing and Amusement Ales and Brewing are currently cranking up their operations within the city limits.

Nor would I pick Sandusky as having certifiably solid restaurant specializing in Asian dishes. Heck, even a big city like Columbus still has its own issues in that department, considering a chain like P.F. Chang's can win (614)'s "ColumBest 2017" nomination for "Best Asian Restaurant."

But as the saying goes, appearances can be deceiving. Small City Taphouse, comfortably embedded within Sandusky's downtown, proved to be a winning enterprise on both those points to my spouse and I during a recent visit to their location with family.

Ice Cream Chronicles (Yr. 4): Head North of the Kosciuszko Lands and Hang a Left

Revolutionary War patriot Thaddeus Kosciuszko sports ties to lands
in and around Dublin, Ohio (image from The Kosciuszko Foundation)
Driving northbound on State Route 257 through the northern portions of Dublin, Ohio, one might spot one of those numerous state historical markers along the roadside (according to the Ohio History Connection, 1,500 such plaques dot the state.)  As you're generally driving at a fairly fast rate of speed by the time you reach this marker, the thing the might catch your eye is the lack of anything remarkable as you zip by.

If you do stop and take a look, you will learn that the lands you're traveling through once belonged to a Revolutionary War patriot with Polish roots, General Thaddeus Kosciuszko. As written on the marker, the site you are standing on "marks the northern boundary of the "Kosciuszko Lands"", which was given to him by the government of the United States as payment for his work in constructing the defenses for the Delaware River. Interestingly, what is considered Koscuiszko's most important contributions to the country happened years after the war when he designed the fortifications for West Point.

Of course, many people in the area also this road as one of the main roads leading to one of the top attractions in the area in the Columbus Zoo. Not that I have proof, but I suspect only a select number of folks veer left on Glick Road before the road curves toward the zoo, and even fewer folks veer right onto State Route 745 after Glick crosses the Scioto River to head into the sleepy little village of Shawnee Hills. It is here where the relatively obscure ice cream shop named Dell's resides.

The Science of Good Taste: CoSi + C-B-C + Ac(tual) BeEr

Before and After: 20 years and still going strong for CBC Restaurant
Reliability can be considered a boring concept in the food and drink world, but frankly I'm good with that, especially if that reliability ventures onto the positive side of the ledger.

Let's start with long time Brewery District mainstay CBC Restaurant. Formerly associated with Columbus Brewing Company via area restaurant maven Cameron Mitchell, CBC has pretty much kept the slightly more upscale than typical brewpub theme, crowd-friendly hangout (plenty of parking as well as an outdoor patio) atmosphere going for 20 years now, long after Mitchell sold the brewpub to its current owners and Columbus Brewing left the space for its current west side climes (Lenny Kolada's Commonhouse Ales now occupies the brewery area in the back of the space.)

Return to the Trails (Pt. 4): Go (North)west, Young Craft Beer Seeker

Earlier posts from this current "Return to the Ale Trails" series:
Part 1: Jumping Onboard The Trail Train - Newcomers to the Scene
Part 2: Ales for what Ails You - A Closer Look at Fresno, California's Ale Trail promotion
Part 3: The Columbus Ale Trail (Year 3) - Bigger and Better Than Ever

Part 1 of my original 4-part Ale Trails series (written in November 2016) can be found here.

This final part of my current Ale Trail series proved to be one that piqued my curiosity the most, as it delved into a scene that I knew existed but did not have many real details about.

While it doesn't make up the entire equation of what gets an area's craft beer scene noticed on a larger scale, overall exposure plays a huge role. In some ways, that's what Fresno (Part 2 of this series) and Columbus (Part 3 of this series) are seeking, albeit at different stages of the process.

In recent months, my spouse and I have noticed the appearance of Canadian craft beer on the shelves of our local stores, and the few bottles that we tried were a far cry from anything produced by a couple of big time north-of-the-border beer producers that happen to rhyme with Cabatt and Polson.

This is why a couple of Canadian newcomers to this compendium of ale trails particularly intrigued me. We had mentioned the Niagara Ale Trail in the first part of this series, and it is nice to know it's not that hard to grab a craft beer after coming up close and personal with one of the most spectacular natural wonders in North America.

However, it was the existence of the British Columbia Ale Trail, an area that I had known mainly for other things (the best Chinese food outside of China, numerous natural wonders, and one of the most popular movie filming substitute locations for various other world cities) that inspired me to dig deeper into the world of craft beer both in our neighbor to the north and British Columbia.

Return to the Trails (Pt. 3): Seeking The Paddle-Tested - Year 3 of the Columbus Ale Trail

Earlier posts from this current "Return to the Ale Trails" series:
Part 1: Jumping Onboard The Trail Train - Newcomers to the Scene
Part 2: Ales for what Ails You - A Closer Look at Fresno, California's Ale Trail promotion

Part 1 of my original 4-part Ale Trails series (written in November 2016) can be found here.

A strong finish was in the cards for Year Two participants in what's turned
out to be a very popular and successful Columbus Ale Trail promotion
As it turned out, Columbus area craft beer seekers proved they know how to pace themselves, at least in regard to the second year of the Columbus Ale Trail promotion.

According to Jim Ellison, owner of Columbus Brew Adventures and co-organizer of the Ale Trail, April saw a huge surge in those completing the entire trail of 28 breweries for the ultimate prize of a specially-designed card deck, with many cards featuring logos of the participating breweries and trail partners. Starting with just over 300 redemptions at the beginning of the month, participants turned in enough completed passports to push the number to over by April 30th, the last day of Volume 2 promotion.  In addition, Ellison added that over 1,700 pint glasses were awarded to people who visited at least four of the participating breweries.

My spouse and I were one of those who finished strongly and claimed both the card deck and pint glass. When the card deck had been initially announced as the ultimate prize for completing the Volume 2 Ale Trail, I personally thought it was one more unique (and coolest, IMHO) offered by any ale trail. That feeling seemed to be validated by my research revealed in a series of posts last November which looked at ale trail promotions across the country.

I also wondered what could Columbus Ale Trail promoters could do the top themselves. As it turns out, the third edition of the trail I believe is the most fun yet.

Return to the Trails (Pt. 2): Ales for What Ails You (The Downtown Fresno Ale Trail)

Earlier posts from this current "Return to the Ale Trails" series:
Part 1: Jumping Onboard The Trail Train - Newcomers to the Scene

Part 1 of my original 4-part Ale Trails series (written in November 2016) can be found here.

What if I told you that an ale trail was the key to relieving the economic ails of a downtown?

As written, that question is a bit overstated. But come fall of this year, a prominent California city is poised to see just how far beer can them in their continuing downtown revitalizing efforts.

The skyline of Downtown Fresno, California (photo credit to The Fresno Bee)
While I have said in the past that, for me, the capital of California, Sacramento, shares the most similarities to my new Columbus home, its neighbor to the south, Fresno, sports its own interesting parallels. For instance, the general sports landscape in both cities centers around its college football team; in fact, Fresno and its love of its Bulldogs may be the closest thing you get in California to the college football game day hoopla in cities like Columbus and similar big college football towns more commonly found east of the Rocky Mountains.

In addition to sporting professional Triple-A level Minor League Baseball teams (the Clippers and the Grizzlies), both cities find themselves as pro sports loyalty battlegrounds due to their central locations within their respective states. Cleveland and Cincinnati pro teams battle for attention in Columbus, while Fresno residents are mainly divided between San Francisco and Oakland to the north and Los Angeles and soon, Las Vegas (with the impending move of the Raiders) to the south.

Other interesting parallels include their unique ethnic concentrations in Columbus' Somalis and the Fresno-based Hmong (interestingly, both cities share their distinction with the Minneapolis/St. Paul area in Minnesota) as well their "flyover country" status. In Fresno's case, though, I have a feeling it's more a case of lying in "drive by country" - most travelers going through the area stay on the main north-south artery, Interstate 5, which lies an hour or so to the west of Fresno.

Return to the Trails (Pt. 1): Jumping Onboard the Ale Trail Train

The Summit Brew Path, Ohio's second ale trail promotion behind
the Columbus Ale Trail, has happily exceeded all expectations
In November, I wrote a series of posts sampling some of the ale trails of the country, starting with what has been a very successful such promotion here in the Columbus, Ohio area. I also then compared some of the other similar promotions in relation to metro areas similar to Columbus on a population basis as well as both a general and specific look at some of the other more interesting promotions that I found across the country.

Six months later, I thought it would be fun to update this series with a look at some of the mostly newer promotions that have appeared for craft beer aficionados to tackle, as well as take a look at what awaits those who undertake this year's version of the Columbus Ale Trail as well as the associated Columbus Craft Beer Week.

A Family Affair: Meshikou Ramen

For awhile, the ramen-focused eatery was one of the hottest food concepts to waft up within Columbus' culinary bowl.  Places like Jobu/Mashita, Fukuryu and Menya; and food trucks like Tokyo Go Go and Capital Ramen, joined old-time brick-and-mortars like Tensuke Express and other Japanese eateries within the metro to give locals many more choices than ever before. Toss in the speculation of a possible local branch of a Cleveland institution in Jonathon Sawyer's Noodlecat, and the enthusiasm might have been seen as scalding at times.

The talk of the latter has pretty much descended to nothingness, and with an occasional rogue wave (Tensuke's expansion and the relocation of Menya from Powell to Dublin), the ramen scene here has settled into a steady lapping of broth upon the side of the bowl. That seems to have suited the city's current collection of ramen purveyors, including the Northwest neighborhood's Meshikou.

Vinyl COHvers: Lima, Dulcimer Hotbed of the Country

"Vinyl COHvers" is a regular blog segment centered around my vinyl record collecting hobby and specifically focused on those albums with an Ohio-centric focus.

As I've come to discover, the state of Ohio can hold its own in terms in the world of music. Of course, Cleveland touts its Rock and Roll connection, made famous by radio deejay Alan Freed and codified in its Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, Dayton proved to be the hotbed of funk for many years as bands like The Ohio Players, Slave and Zapp sizzled the R&B charts in the 1970s and 80s.

The Cleveland Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (photo courtesy of GoodFreePhotos.com)
On the local level, I've personally come to know and enjoy Columbus and its own diverse music scene, getting enjoyment from both national (exampled by Twenty One Pilots and Lydia Loveless) as well as local favorites like Angela Perley and the Howlin' Moons and Mojoflo,

Lima, located in the northwest reaches of the state, may not pop into mind as a music hotbed, being best known for its railroad, oil, and school bus manufacturing industries. However, the city has its intriguing own place in the musical world: those of a certain age and/or family makeup will recognize this city as the home of the fictional William McKinley High School from the TV series Glee.

That's all well and good, but what if I said that Lima could once rightfully claim the title of dulcimer hotbed of the country, as host to one most important festivals to feature this unique instrument? I certainly would not have suspected this myself, had I not uncovered the vinyl album featured in this blog's "Vinyl COHvers" segment, which led me to a very fascinating journey of discovery afterward.

From Computer Sci to Pizza Pie: Halwani Cuisine

As my time residing in Columbus continues to climb, I've come to realize that you can find pretty good examples of almost any style of pizza you care to name. Of course, Columbus has its own style of pizza that I've grown to highly appreciated, and my spouse and I have found quite a few favorites throughout the metro area of many different styles and price ranges.

Occasionally, you'll find an example that doesn't quite fit into a neat package, and this was definitely the case for us with Halwani Cuisine in Columbus' Fifth by Northwest neighborhood.

Destination Dayton: The Wright Stuff and A Little Hop Funk

While "The Gem City" may be Dayton, Ohio's official nickname (for an interesting look at the origins of the nickname, check out this article by Yellow Springs-based radio station WYSO 91.3), it is the city's motto, "The Birthplace of Aviation", that most people latch onto.

Two prominent examples of this aviation bent lie in Wright-Patterson AFB as well as its resident popular destination for plane nerds around the world in the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Other hints of this heritage lie in the mascot of the University of Dayton (the Flyers) and one of the most prominent craft breweries in the area in Warped Wing.

Of course, the king daddy of all this lies in the form of two local natives with the last name of Wright, who hauled their winged construct from Ohio down to Kitty Hawk, NC, for the first ever heavier-than-air powered aircraft flight in 1903. This history, and a lot more than you might expect, is available for viewing at the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.

Ice Cream Chronicles (Yr. 4) - Who Could Ask For More?

At the Coppa....Coppa Gelato...the coldest spot north of Scioto (okay, I can hear the collective groan out there.)

To get serious again, I had always considered gelato something of a sipper, much like a higher gravity beer: it's something you take a little time to swirl around your mouth and savor. Not that you can't savor its frozen cousin ice cream, but I'm definitely more likely to gobble down ice cream a lot faster depending on the circumstances and the quality..

This is until I spied one of the chalkboards at Westerville's Coppa Gelato, which conveniently points out that a serving of gelato has roughly half the calories of a comparable serving of ice cream.

Whoa!  Maybe I've been going at this the wrong way the whole time.

The Smell of Success: Middle West Spirits

As I wandered deeper into the inner works of Columbus' Middle West Spirits distillery space, I fully expected the sight of shiny tanks and coppery stills, and the taste of sampled spirits, to be my prime attention-grabbers. Those did grab my attention indeed, but it was surprisingly my sense of smell which moved to the forefront of my thoughts.

"Mmmm, so nice....smells like a bakery," I mused, as did many fellow Columbus-area food bloggers who I had joined on this day to take this special tour.  We learned that the flour smell came from the ground wheat from around the town of Fostoria, Ohio, considered some of the finest in the country and just one of many signs of this distillery's local-when-possible focus. It was definitely not an experience I had anticipated for this particular tour, but it is this reaction that helps explain the passion behind and the evolution of the city's first micro-distiller.

The grinding of some of the finest Ohio wheat leads to the smell
of distilling success at Columbus' Middle West Spirits

4 Years, 6 Months and 9 Days in the Life of...G. Michael's Bar & Bistro

Like its resident eatery G. Michael's Bar & Bistro, Columbus' German Village
neighborhood has hints of a horse-oriented lifestyle scattered about
One general guideline I have about restaurant-related posts is that do my best to get more than one lone experience. However, exceptions do exist: one of the main ones comes in relation to vacation excursions, where a second visit may never be in the cards and my general impression may persuade or dissuade you to visit yourself.

The other main exception lies in fine-dining experiences, where another singular experience may be all we get (as my spouse and I observed, we are a decidedly unfancy couple in general.) For example, we felt the tasting menu of Delaware's Veritas Tavern, which my spouse and I agreed has been one of our best dining experiences in Central Ohio, was definitely worth a shout out (with Veritas' upcoming relocation to Downtown Columbus, we're definitely aiming to make a return visit,)

Belle of the Bowl: Brassica

Back in when I lived in the Bay Area, I always made a point to visit the Liba Falafel food truck whenever it was feasible. As good as the falafel itself was, their unique toppings (all made from scratch by truck owner Gail Lillian) found on their so-called "falafel bar" (including but not exclusive to spiced carrot ribbons, cardamon and dill pickles, and harissa hot sauce) elevated your sandwich or bowl to unexpected heights.

Lillian has retired the truck as of 2016, but her falafel and toppings bar lives on at her brick-and-mortar location in Oakland, CA. I would love to try their brick-and-mortar one of these days for nostalgia's sake, but that pursuit I admit has lessened significantly when Brassica arrived upon the local Columbus scene.

In the Shadow of Giants (Pt. 2): Big Beer vs. Big Beers

When it comes to Budweiser plants being the only game in town, the cities of Fairfield, CA (as detailed in my last post on Heretic Brewing) and Columbus share that distinction. Established in 1968, the Columbus-located production brewery predates its west coast counterpart by about 8 years.

Unlike its California brethren, however, Columbus' Budweiser plant opened up with some brewing competition in the area, mainly in the form of August Wagner. At that time, Wagner, which launched in 1905 as Gambrinus Brewing and Bottling, held the unique distinction as the only brewery in the city established prior to Prohibition to actually survive and function as a brewery after the law's repeal.

The Brewery District-located King Gambrinus statue, said to be modeled on
longtime Columbus brewer August Wagner, is the most prominent reminder
of Wagner's pre-Prohibition-era brewery remaining in the city
Six years later, Anheuser Busch emerged as the lone area brewing presence. Beset with aging equipment and financial problems, August Wagner Brewing was forced to shut operations early in 1974. Since then, Budweiser reigned as the only commercial brewer in the area until the second iteration of Columbus Brewing, started up by current Temperance Row Brewing brewer Scott Francis, set up shop in 1988.

Nowadays, Columbus' craft brewery roll call numbers closer to forty, but even combined they almost certainly don't compare volume-wise to the local Budweiser plant's roughly 10 million barrels of production in 2015, according to this Dayton Daily News article.  Perhaps it's only appropriate that the Columbus craft brewery within closest stone's throw of the city's "Big Beer" representative comes at the term from a completely different direction.

In The Shadow of Giants (Pt. 1): An Oasis for the Heretics

Fairfield-based Jelly Belly, one of the top manipulators of sugary media
you can find in California's Solano County
As one travels eastward on Interstate 80 into the Suisun Valley in California's Solano County, a billboard or two may alert the uninformed that Fairfield, the county seat, is home to one of the most famous of candy confectioners in Jelly Belly. As my spouse and I will attest, the factory tour is definitely more than worth the time, with a weekday far preferable as you can see the machinery in full action,

Driving up a little farther up the freeway, this same newcomer to the area may catch a whiff another uniquely sweet smell not too long afterward. The source of this scent is quickly identified - just to the south of the interstate, the sizable structure (700,000 square feet worth, in fact) that is the Fairfield branch of international beer maker Anheuser Busch chugs away, like it has since 1976 and all by its seeming lonesome.

Digging deeper, one will discover that this has not always been the case - the small but plucky brewpub Blue Frog Grog & Grill plied its craft beer offerings for locals in the know starting in 1999, making a solid run as an independent business until the owners sold their business in 2013 (in a somewhat odd twist, the brews have been adopted as restaurant chain Fuddrucker's craft beer offerings in the Bay Area.)

But what Fairfield may have lost in 2013 by the Blue Frog's disappearance it gained back in spades later that year. Some would even say there was a great deal of heresy involved.

Going Back To Buellton: Firestone Walker/Barrelworks

The Hans Christian Anderson Museum, one of popular attractions that
brings visitors to Solvang and the Santa Ynez Valley yearly
Yes, the thought of leaving sun-drenched lands such as San Diego did give my spouse a tinge of sadness; this feeling was further enhanced as the skies grew more overcast and the a persistent mist to light drizzle met us as we traveled out of the greater Los Angeles metro northward.

Yet, we actually still had something to look forward to on the long trip back to the Bay Area, courtesy of a detour we knew we needed to make, to complete a journey over three years prior that had been derailed by an inadvertent early arrival to a prime destination on an otherwise excellent Christmas-time trip down to the Santa Ynez Valley some three years ago,

We were headed to Buellton, and if things went to plan, this would be a rather tart affair.

Desayuno Departures: Until Next Time, San Diego

Yes, you have arrived in San Diego's Golden Hill district, one of three
locations from which Dark Horse Roasters operates
Alas, all vacations must end, and our sun-drenched romp through San Diego reached its invitable conclusion. Without a doubt, we were pleased with how it all came out, as we received our fill of yummy craft beer, lovely ocean shore vistas, and a healthy dose of natural Vitamin D.

However, we didn't want to depart without mentioning our most favorite meal of the day in breakfast and brunch. Typically, this is where we spend most of our going out money back home in Columbus, but it turned out to take a bit of a back seat on this particular jaunt. Not that there weren't worthy places available (one such place, Hash House a Go Go, even offers a touch of the Midwest as an option), but those will have to wait until a more lengthy and more easy-going return back to the area.

With that said, there were plenty of nice little finds on our trip, the first of them residing in the Victorian home-laced neighborhood of Golden Hill.

Ice Cream Chronicles (Year 4) - A Taste of Tuscany

As I've entered year four of these chronicles, I've begun to realize that the world of frozen confections is much more than just ice cream. I've ventured a touch beyond that when it came to Whit's and their frozen custard, but I figured why should I be limiting myself?  Time is short, and there's plenty of places I haven't gotten to yet.

So why not gelato, ice cream's silkier Italian cousin? And why not start in a place where you can find two ladies having a deep conversation in that very same language in the corner of the cafe?

Craft Beer San Diego (Pt. 3) - Boerewors and Bjergsø

When you start seeing zebras after a few beers in San Diego and you're
NOT at the zoo, it's time to go get yourself something to eat
Successful brewery hopping requires a few things to make it through to the end in good shape. In lieu of a hired/designated driver, pacing is vital, along with common sense things like proper hydration and keeping well fed throughout the journey. After visits to Longship Brewing and White Labs (contained in this previous blog post) we figured it was time to pack our bellies with some sustenance. But then the next obvious question popped up: where?

Here's where a nice chance glance came into play. I had noticed what seemed to be a restaurant called CapeTown, as in the western port city located in South Africa. My spouse had had a niece spend some time in that country during her educational studies, and Columbus itself has a food truck that features South African specialties in Fetty's Street Food - could this actually be a South African cuisine restaurant?

A quick check of the smart phone confirmed our suspicions, and we made the short drive over.

Craft Beer San Diego (Pt. 2): Beeramar - The Nerdy and The Newbie

The F-14 Tomcat, one of the many fighter planes to find action in the former
NAS Miramar's Top Gun program (original photo from Wikimedia Commons;
original photographer - Photographer's Mate Airman Jhi L. Scott)
1986 saw the release of the smash movie "Top Gun" (the nickname for the Navy Fighter Weapons School), where Tom Cruise's character Maverick overcomes long odds and tragedy to earn his place among the best pilots in the service. As the film roared to be the top gun at the box office (just edging out, yes, Paul Hogan and his "Crocodile Dundee"), I doubt anyone people who lived around NAS Miramar and the surrounding Miramar neighborhood, which had served as home for the program since its inception in 1969, would've or could've suspected that just ten years later, the program would be literally flying the coop.

Indeed, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission in 1993 recommended the base be transferred to the Marine Corps to consolidate their area presence into one location, and that the Top Gun program be transferred to NAS Fallon in the high plateau of Nevada. Despite local objections, the last of the program's planes roared off Miramar runways on May 29, 1996, never to come back to San Diego.

Similarly, if one were to poll the locals during the final days before the program's departure in 1996, I suspect very few if any of them would have foreseen that their neighborhood would become the craft beer hub that many have dubbed "Beeramar" one decade later.

A Lovely Sessions Ale: Balboa Park and The Museum of Man

"Niki Gator" by Niki de Saint Phalle is one of the works of art
you will find scattered throughout San Diego's Balboa Park
For the first time visitor to San Diego, it's hard to go wrong by scheduling a visit to the urban playground that is Balboa Park. Built on land that was designated for recreation even before the Mexican government was forced to cede the area to the United States due to the Mexican-American War, Balboa Park offers numerous attractions to keep anyone entertained, including gardens, museums, and the internationally-renowned San Diego Zoo.

The trees and other plant life in Balboa Park have their own unique origin
As we drove in this day, my spouse and I noticed that the park was teeming with trees, a development that would not be anything out of the ordinary. However, appearances can be deceiving - as we walked toward the main thoroughfare in the park, the El Prado, we noticed rather uniquely barked tree that resembled an Banyan Tree with fruit of some sort growing overhead. As it turned out, the trees were Moreton Bay Fig Trees, a native of Eastern Australia.

Ice Cream Chronicles (Yr. 4) - Just A Little Clowning Around

And now, a temporary break in my current sun-drenched San Diego series of blogposts for...a little sun-drenched Ohio(?!)

I remember being asked in jest by one of my spouse's friends shortly after my first winter here in Ohio if the cold weather had scared me away yet.  As it turned out, other than having the two coldest, iciest days of that season take place on moving days, it really wasn't all that bad.

Another colleague butted in immediately after my response, "Oh, no, you really haven't experienced an Ohio winter yet, trust me." Sure enough, the next two winters, including the dreaded "Polar Vortex" winter, froze me to my bones, but they say what does not kill you makes you stronger. Ohio had officially toughened me up.

Fast forward to the present - I think most Central Ohioans would be in happy agreement that for the most part, winter has been a no-show this season. I mean, patio weather in February in the Midwest region in general is something to, well, spend some time on the patio hoisting a beer or two.

Or maybe down a couple cold scoops of ice cream. It seemed it was time to revive the Ice Cream Chronicles for the new year.

Craft Beer San Diego (Pt.1): Where Even Chains Strive to Tread

 Bine & Vine, in San Diego's Normal Heights neighborhood,
operates as one of the best beer & wine bottle shops in the area
It's impossible to deny San Diego's status as a craft beer mecca: as I type, the region is on the verge of 140 total breweries, While the abundant sunshine that San Diego is known for was more than enough reason for our visit, this particular status provided the proverbial foamy head of affirmation on our "where shall we go?" destination stein.

However, it's easy to forget that, at least by California standards, this area was late to the party. Tom Acitelli's all-encompassing book on the emergence of the U.S. craft beer scene, "The Audacity of Hops", noted for several decades up until 1989, beer choices for the local consumer were either U.S. big beer adjunct lagers or their Mexican counterparts (Corona, Tecate, etc.) As detailed by Acitelli himself, "the craft beer movement...seemed a world away; the odd Anchor (Steam Brewing) tap or six-pack the only glimpse a San Diegan might catch of it."

Seal Pups and Fish Tacos: A Day in La Jolla

Perhaps the most idealized perception of what a beachfront community like La Jolla aims to project came through very early during our visit, when we passed a rather nattily-dressed senior couple, toting their bicycles next to them, along the main trail

"We kind of got a late start today, dear."
"Oh, really?" The man glanced casually over to his silver-haired companion.
"Yeah, it's already past ten in the morning."

Hmmm, if getting out the door for a causal bike ride after 10 AM when I'm older is wrong, I don't think I ever want to be right.

A Look Around Liberty Station (aka Stone, In Love With You)

My dad, a U.S. Navy veteran, once told me that he received some of his training down at the former San Diego Naval Training Center. Not having visited the city before, I wasn't quite sure where the facility would have been, but as luck would have it, we inadvertently found it by sheer coincidence when visiting Liberty Station for some craft beer and a look around.

A bench in the shape of a boat, perhaps a nod to the property's Naval
Training Center past, lies in front of Liberty Public Market
If you haven't guessed it by now, the land where the Liberty Station development resides is the home of the former Naval Training Center, which was targeted for closure by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission in 1993. Some communities around the nation have struggled with base closures, most familiar to me being Vallejo and the closure of Mare Island Naval Shipyard (a little bit of that history is detailed in my previous post on Mare Island Brewing.)

Despite continuing controversy related to developer demands and other viable alternatives brought up by social, Tribal and airport expansion advocates, the former training center has for all intents and purposes been remodeled into an all-encompassing mix of residential, commercial and recreational uses. For our purposes, two of Liberty Station's residents enticed us to drop by for a visit on this vacation.

Gonna' Soak Up The Sun: Sauntering into San Diego

California's Central Valley seems to stretch on forever while on Interstate 5
One downside that I have discovered about moving to the Columbus area (one that my spouse warned me about) was the area's high ranking in the cloudy day charts: in fact, it rates as one of the Top Ten Most Cloudy Cities in the United States.  As my spouse further explained, by the month of February, any chance to escape for more sunny climes, even for a few days, is a welcome one.

Well, this year provided us the perfect opportunity: a planned big family gathering in San Francisco gave my spouse and I a prime opportunity to add on a few extra days for some extra sun-drenching. After a quick look, San Diego seemed to be a prime hunting ground for this quest, and a warm temperatures on departure day seemed to portend a good few days ahead.

Food Truck Dossier: Capital Ramen

Food Truck: Capital Ramen

My First Thought: Hardly the most fancy food truck in the world....but, ramen!

Reality: I admit, hot steaming bowls of soup aren't something I go for much during the warmer days of the year. However, get me to the late fall to the early spring, and its hard to beat the comfort and warming power of a fresh batch of soup.

Winter can be a very tough time for those in the mobile food industry here in Columbus, when the choice between shutting down and braving what can be some harsh winter conditions and lowered customer visits isn't so clear cut.  However, when I saw Capital Ramen, who has been making a go of it here in the area since 2015, parked nearby during a recent workday, I was pretty pleased to see them making a run at it.

The Persian Version: Jeddo Kebab

If you look closely enough, you can trace a similarity in base food items from places like Greece and Turkey eastward into China and its environs. This is hardly surprising, considering the history of the famed Silk Road, a network of passages and roadways that helped foment the trade of spices and other goods from China to Syria and everywhere in between, as well as the number of empires which once claimed this vast geographical area.

Despite the turmoil and the wages of time, the cuisine of the Persians (now modern-day Iran) stood the test of time and the changes in area rulers. Back in the Bay Area, there are several Persian eateries of note, but I admit the cuisine was not on my radar as I beginning my area explorations. It wasn't until I got to Columbus when I started digging into this tasty word via the metro's one and only Persian eatery: Jeddo Kebab.

Vinyl COHvers: Dalton and "The Mighty Morton" of the Ohio Theatre

Vinyl COHvers is a regular series of blogposts reflecting my side hobby of seeking out old vinyl records. Specifically, this series will focus on the history behind records that I have found during my travels which hold some connection to the Buckeye State.

Downtown's Ohio Theatre has a storied history ever since its grand opening to the public - the Greta Garbo film "The Divine Woman" premiered here in March, 1928. However, it is unknown whether workers putting the final touches on the then-called Loew's Theatre before its grand opening had grasped the true impact of what premiered the October prior.  Al Jolson's "The Jazz Singer", the first talking motion picture (in what Warner Brothers dubbed "Vitaphone") became an undeniable sensation. By 1929, almost all Hollywood motion pictures by Hollywood were of the "talkie" variety.

The entrance to the historic Ohio Theatre, located in Downtown Columbus

OH Beer Travels: Mother Stewart Brewing (Springfield, OH)

Death and Temperance: sounds like it would be a great name for a high-powered craft beer brew, right?

Well, if anyone does brew it, there may be no current craft beer brewer more qualified than the newly established Mother Stewart's Brewing Company in Springfield, Ohio. This brewery, founded by the Loftis family and open to the public in the summer of 2016, seemingly came out of nowhere to land a spot on Beer Advocate's "Class of 2016: 34 of the Best New Breweries in the US," We figured a visit was more than in order after dropping by some of the antique shops in the area.

Mother Approved: Amul India

Recently, we had the chance to meet up with a long-time Indian-American friend of ours, who had dropped by town with his wife and two very young children to visit family. With the limited time we had to meet up, we determined it would be easiest to meet up at his parents place to watch some football, eat, and just hang out and enjoy each others company.

As the night went on, the conversation somehow turned to the Indian restaurants around the Columbus metro. Our friend's mother asked us what our favorite places in the area were. When we mentioned Amul India, she nodded and smiled, saying that was one of her favorite places.

It's always good to get confirmation from someone who should know their stuff.

Tea for Two and Ma Po Tofu - Tripping into San Francisco

The South of Market (SoMa) neighborhood in San Francisco stands a bar with a
name many Columbus residents would recognize in Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker's
Christmas in San Francisco has become a tradition for us on our trips back to the West Coast. Perhaps the most unusual thing about this trip was it was the only day we made our way into "The City by the Bay" (cue background "whoa-whoas" by Steve Perry now.)

Of course, with the day being Christmas, the venues that are open are limited, and those that are are often jam-packed with people wanting to get out of the house for the day. We both agreed very early on that the touristy places were generally ones to avoid, but slowly but surely they have made an appearance on our itineraries with a bit more regularity. On this day, we journeyed to Golden Gate Park for a visit to a place neither of us had ever visited before: the Japanese Tea Garden.

Berkeley Brew-seeking: Fieldwork Brewing/The Rare Barrel

A close up of the "non-protest" side of the "Berkeley Big People" sculpture tandem
from Scott Donahue, located (somewhat oddly) on a freeway pedestrian bridge
In craft beer terms, one generally thinks of the San Francisco side from a historical perspective: Fritz Maytag's efforts with Anchor Brewing provided the inspiration for numerous homebrewers of that era and the original wave of modern craft breweries. However, Berkeley, located on the opposite side of the bay and generally is better known for non-craft beer topics, has a little bit of its history here as well in Triple Rock, opened in 1986 and touted as the oldest original brewpub in the country.

These days, the craft beer scene is looking up: one of the companies spawned by Maytag's efforts, Sierra Nevada Brewing, opened up a hub for their beer along Fourth Street in the form of The Torpedo Room in November of 2013. Other newly established efforts such as Fieldwork and The Rare Barrel, both of which we visited during our time in town, have been earning their own acclaim.

For The Sake of Sake: The Takara Sake Museum and Tasting Room (Berkeley, CA)

Berkeley, California: where free speech monuments and
sake museums can reside next to each other in peace
My first experience with sake, the Japanese beverage fermented from rice that dates back to roughly 300 BC, was an indirect one, Back in high school at a party hosted by a mutual friend, we found a fairly ornate bottle containing this truly exotic beverage (for us at that time, Corona qualified as exotic.)  One of my friends particularly found the sake to his liking...too much so, as it turned out. That was the first time I had seen anyone so stinking drunk in my presence, and it still ranks well in the top 5 examples of this unofficial and ignominious personal category.

Flash forward to today, where my spouse and I have made craft breweries one of our top targets during our travels. If nothing else, this has led to a pursuit of other forms of adult beverages on a lesser scale, including wines, cocktails and spirits, and mead. When it came to sake, our experience pretty much amounted to combination of nil, nada and zilch. Combine that status with a willingness to try new things and some free time to kill before the holiday family gathering, and we found ourselves in, of all places, Berkeley, California.

California Brunching (Pt. 2): Cabin Fever and a Keller Instinct

A look down at the cities of the East Bay from the Berkeley Hills
The second of my California breakfast/brunch posts for 2016 takes our first peek into the San Francisco Bay Area proper, where we enjoyed the a fine sit-down meal inside a vintage catalog house.  Also, a glance at a Wine Country town known worldwide for its gourmet restaurants and some of the prettier pastries you could ever lay your eyes (or taste buds) on.

You don't exactly go looking for log cabins within the urban landscape, nor would you expect to actually find one. However, Sam's Log Cabin, located along a main thoroughfare just outside of Berkeley proper, is worth seeking out for some scrumptious early day eats.

Built in 1930 from a Sears Roebuck catalog home kit, the space which houses Sam's has served many different capacities: speakeasy, roadhouse, and a gambling institution (as in off-track horse race betting.)  Current owners Mike Daillak and Rhasaan Fernandez took over the space in 2010 and have implemented a focus on organic and local food sources as well as an expanded backyard that doubles as a community/music event space and a customer waiting area.

California Brunching (Pt. 1): Motorbikes and Explorer Hikes

We stopped into a shop we passed along the way
Well we sat down on our seats and we began to say
We know you like you to bake, and you know we're gonna' stay
California brunchin' on such a winter's day
(Inspired by "California Dreaming" by The Mamas and the Papas)

The North Coast of California is full of drive-thru coffee establishments
such as the uniquely designed Gold Rush Coffee in Eureka, California
One thing we noticed during our first excursion through California's North Coast area is the plethora of drive-thru coffee places. Anchored by the Grants Pass, Oregon-based Dutch Bros., a franchise with 270+ locations scattered through the Western U.S., it seems every town you pass has at least one such place, perhaps inspired as much by the long distances you have to drive between towns as much as the sheer number of overcast days found in the region. When Mother Nature's natural pickup is blocked overhead, a little caffeine enhancement is almost a must.

For us, drive-thru coffee was not in the cards on this California excursion, but it didn't mean we didn't find places to enjoy a good cup of java. Even better, the places we stopped by provided both unique atmospheres and some good eats to accompany our morning caffeine.

Brews Among The Redwoods: Loping Around the Lost Coast

As we drove into the southern portions of Eureka, California, on US 101 during our recent California travels, we couldn't help but struck by the flashy, Las Vegas-style sign that points the way to Lost Coast Brewing (sadly, we couldn't quite make it work to stop by here on our travels, but it's on the docket next time we're in the area.)

Lost Coast's new sign means no one will ever have a problem
finding their brewery (image from Lost Coast Outpost)
It struck me that this rather easily noticed sign is a bit of a paradox: historically, the so-called "Lost Coast" has been a reference to the section of along the Humboldt County shoreline which is not blanketed by either US 101 or Highway 1. Deemed too challenging to cut a highway through, this especially rugged part of the California coastline remains sparsely populated and little visited, acting as a haven for select hikers and other wilderness lovers, whale watchers, or those who are seeking a luxurious, more private view of California's picturesque coast at Shelter Cove's Inn of the Lost Coast.

(Fort) Bragging about the North Coast

In terms of rugged beauty, it's very hard in this country to beat the coastline of the Pacific Ocean. Some places get more publicity than others, and rightfully so; the Bixby Bridge leading into Big Sur, the Oregon Dunes, and Washington's Shi Shi Beach. But really, your odds for a spectacular view are tremendously good along any of the pacific coastal highways or small towns.  On our latest California visit, we decided a tour of the north coast was in order, including a stop in Mendocino County's Fort Bragg.

Sporting a population of just over 7,200 people, Fort Bragg started off as traditional hunting grounds of the Pomo Indians. As settlers moved in, this town alternately served as military post, Indian reservation, and later as a central point for fishing, railroad and the lumber industries. These days, this tony town's economy is much more diverse, including a fair number of tourist dollars.

Serene and Spiritual: New Clairvaux Vineyard (Vina, CA)

The majestic Mt. Shasta, which towers over the northern reaches
of California's Central Valley
As one drives northward into the upper reaches of California's Central Valley on Interstate 5 during the winter months, an enticing piece of eye candy grows more prominent on the horizon. This white-capped, jagged precipice is Mount Shasta, a member of the "Ring of Fire" volcanoes which rim the Pacific Ocean and deceptively serene-looking (the last eruption for this stratovolcano was back in 1786, a relative blink of the eye in a geological sense.)

Chico and the Plan: Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

My first ever experience with Sierra Nevada Brewing's products involved, like many others I'm sure, their signature Pale Ale back in my college days. As is the case with most college students, the more inexpensively you could do something, the better. In beer terms, this often meant copious amounts of cheaply made lagers.

Every now and again, however, I would encounter a bottle of Sierra Nevada's flagship Pale Ale at a party. Many of my fellow students hated the bitter taste profile, now considered fairly tame by current standards. I was not one of those people: I didn't hate it, but I wasn't really sure if I liked it or not. As time has gone on, though, I have come to appreciate this beer, especially when it's the lone craft beer selection in a sea of macro beers.