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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...

Life on a Cinnamon Whirl (Pt. 2) - When the 'Ssants Come Rolling In

Yes, nice layers of cinnamon lie underneath the icing in these
beauties from Italian Village's popular Fox in the Snow Cafe
My cinnamon/new places in the metro quest mentioned in my last blog-related post brought me to a coffee cafe I hadn't visited since my early days here (Olde Towne East's Upper Cup Cafe), the granddaddy of bakeries in the metro (Resch's), and the only full-service Kosher bakery in the area (Matt's Bakery.)  But I was only halfway done on this day, as my travels took me into the tony community of Bexley and to another city bakery institution whose original location I had never visited prior to this day.

I Could Be Happy The Rest of my Life on a Cinnamon Whirl (Pt. 1)

The Moravian Sugar Cake from Laughlin's Bakery, topped with
cinnamon, one of my most favorite spices ever
When it comes to sweet treats, those that have cinnamon are hard to beat in my book. In fact, one of the first sweet treats I enjoyed here during one of my first visits to Columbus was the rather substantial (and tasty) rendition put out by the North Market's Omega Artisan Bakery. A recent "Best of Columbus" article by Columbus Monthly provided me some inspiration to try something that I hadn't done in awhile in the form of a food crawl. Add in a desire to seek out parts of the metro I hadn't necessarily wandered much into, and you got yourself one sweet journey indeed.

Lovin' The Oven: Forno Kitchen & Bar

If Corso Ventures isn't one the hottest restaurant development groups in the Columbus area right now, it certainly ranks in the top tier. Their Short North area ventures such as The Short North Pint House (their first) and Standard Hall (their latest to open) are popular destinations to grab brews and food. Down the road, their Food Hall concept, featuring a full bar and four kitchens meant for rotating culinary experiences, is one that we and other area diners are anticipating.

The funny thing is that despite all the good things we have heard about the previously two mentioned eateries, we find ourselves still working through the menu at their second Short North eatery in Forno, and really there's nothing wrong with that.

Going for the Whole Grains: Return to Yellow Springs (Pt. 2)

A few of the memorial cobblestones you can find at The Women's Park
located in the southern reaches of the village of Yellow Springs
After ingesting our daily allotment of fiber with a little bit of a sweet treat (courtesy of the 22nd Annual Wool Gathering at Young's Jersey Dairy, the subject of my last blogpost) we ventured further down US 68 into the downtown area to grab our whole grain allotment for the day, in the form of some finely distilled spirits and brewed beers at two Yellow Springs institutions, conveniently located at the same light industrial complex just north of downtown.

Plenty of Fiber and a Little Dessert: Return to Yellow Springs (Pt. 1)

Yellow Springs is one of the intriguing places in Ohio for me, in that there's a little slice of what I regularly encountered in places like Berkeley and San Francisco in this village of around 3,500 people. In fact, this hamlet holds the distinction (in southwest Ohio, anyway) of being at the forefront of various social causes such as the anti-war and anti-discrimination movements, as well as sporting large arts-oriented and LGBT communities.

Street performers from the 2015 summer edition of the Yellow Springs'
bi-annually held Street Fair, a rite of passage for many area residents
As I discovered, these leanings don't stop folks from all walks of life from coming in and enjoying the charms of this small Southwest Ohio hamlet, especially during their bi-annual Street Fairs, if one were simply to judge from the myriad of T-shirts I saw worn the day of my visit. Of course, there is much more to Yellow Springs than these fairs, as we uncovered on a recent return visit to get our share of fiber, whole grains, and a little dessert to boot.

Cincy Trip Pt. 3: From Sleepy Bees to Screaming Trees

Our Sunday focus in Cincinnati was to grab some screen time in front of the TV for a little football action. But of course, we needed some fuel in the system after a good night's sleep, so we headed to the Blue Ash branch of the popular local breakfast and lunch purveyor Sleepy Bee Cafe.

Started in December 2013 in the Cincinnati suburb of Oakley by John Hutton and Sandra Gross, the eatery's popularity prompted a second location a ten or so miles up Interstate 71 in Blue Ash (a third location in the heart of Downtown Cincinnati is nearing completion.)

If you hadn't guessed from the restaurant's name, the Sleepy Bee has an apiary theme, borne out of the owners' love of bees.  Honeycomb tile clusters and vaguely-beehive-shaped wire lamp covers dot the ceiling, while a flowery glass sculpture hangs over the bar area (unlike their Oakley location, the Blue Ash eatery has a liquor license.)

From The Healthy Land to the Banks of the O-Hi-O

Cholera - most people in the USA today may recognize it these days in the title of a novel turned into movie by Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez. However it wasn't too long ago when this malady was an issue here in this country. The quaint Cincinnati suburb of Mt. Healthy (roughly 6,000 residents these days) earned its name due to cholera, or rather, the ability of town residents to largely avoid the ravages of the intestinal infection (typically caused by poor sanitation) unlike the residents of Cincy proper. Because of this rather handy little happenstance, the town renamed itself from Mt. Pleasant to Mt. Healthy when it incorporated as a city in 1893.

Mt. Healthy may also not be the first place one thinks of for craft brews and mathematical equations, but indeed one can find it here in one place in the form of Fibonacci Brewing, which was the second stop on our recent venture down to the Cincinnati area.

Repurposed With A Purpose: Municipal Brew Works (Hamilton, OH)

Mural dedicated to Hamilton-based writer and illustrator Robert McCloskey
As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, breweries that re-purpose older historic spaces are among our favorites to visit. Earlier this summer, we trekked up to Ohio's far northwest along highway US 127 to visit the remade 19th century Methodist Church turned brewery and restaurant in Father John's Brewing Company and were truly captivated by its unique atmosphere.

On a recent weekend, my spouse and I, along with a couple of relatives, got to head a little farther south along that same road into Hamilton, the county seat of Butler County, to visit another uniquely renewed urban space that now houses Municipal Brew Works, the first brewery operations in the city in nearly 80 years.

Final Sweep Across The Plains: Three For The Road

Similar to Columbus and its North Market, Cedar Rapids, IA sports
its own upscale public market in the form of the Newbo City Market
Not unlike any of our previous excursions to far away places, we end up covering a lot of ground in a short time. Perhaps it's making up for lost time, and perhaps it's just the way we roll, but nevertheless we encounter a lot of places and destinations that are definitely worth your consideration should you be in the area. We close out our grand Great American Eclipse vacation journey with a blog post about three eateries that fit that definition to a tee.

Feeling Minnesota: I-94 Hot Dish with a Side of Big Ole

Minnesota has its share of towering structures to attract state visitors like
the Jolly Green Giant, which we encountered back in 2013.
A regional specialty, the Minnesota Hot Dish is typically a casserole consisting of a starch, a protein (typically meat), and vegetables (canned or frozen) all brought together with canned cream soup. Our trip up to this point into Minnesota was something of a tourism hot dish as well, with a little protein (Spam from Austin's Spam Museum), a little starch (ice cream from Izzy's), and some "soup" in the brews from Surly Brewing.

Okay, I admit that's a bit of a stretch, to say the least. Most would agree though that for spending one whole day in the state, that is a pretty full platter in and of itself. But my friend, we got in much more on this brief 24 hours or so in the state, because, well, that's how we roll, you betcha'.

Going on a Quick Bender: Surly Brewing (Minneapolis, MN)

The Christmas season the last few years has typically brought some delicious
brews from the Upper Midwest to our joy (and enjoyment)
It's always nice to have some well-placed friends: every Christmas season, we looked forward to a visit from a long-time friend of my wife who lived out in Minnesota for the holidays. Aside from the very good company, we looked forward to her presents of some highly sought after regional brews with cult-like followings in Wisconsin's New Glarus and Minnesota's Surly Brewing.

On our recent vacation travels, we tried but couldn't make Wisconsin work with our timeline; however, we calculated a quick jaunt through Minnesota would be more than doable. With that determined, we figured a visit to Surly Brewing was a definite must-do.

Ice Cream Chronicles (Yr. 4): Have We Got A (Mini-)Scoop For You

Some fun mural art found on the walls of Marshall Liquors, St. Paul, MN
The tasting spoon is a somewhat underrated part of any ice cream shop, but it does have its limits. The dream scenario would be to sample every freaking concoction on any one visit, but obviously that's just generally not possible, if only for common courtesy's sake.

That's where the St. Paul-based Izzy's Ice Cream, located in the Merriam Park area of town, has something in their freezer cases that does that tiny little tasting spoon one better, in the form of the so-called Izzy Scoop. And we were lucky enough to drop by during our recent eclipse travels to experience it in person.

As ice cream shops go, Izzy's is a relatively new but seasoned arrival onto the Twin Cities' scene, opening up in its Marshall Street digs in July of 2000.  Despite some national exposure and fame (a nomination by Reader's Digest in 2005 as best ice cream in the land and a showing on a Chef Bobby Flay show), Izzy's has played the expansion phase nice and easy, only opening a Minneapolis branch in 2013.

The inside of the store was a little bit plain-spoken compared to many other ice cream places I've visited, but it was more than functional, with large freezer cases toward the back hold pre-packaged pints as well as other confections like sandwiches and their "Izzy Pop", essentially an ice cream lollipop sporting a small scoop of ice cream coated in a chocolate shell on a stick.

Izzy's ice cream flavors, posted on a LCD TV display, leaned mainly to the more familiar flavors with a some excursions into the more eclectic (such as the Umeshu Chocolate, which contained Japanese Plum Wine, and the Blue Mountain Spice, which was a Chai Tea confection with hints of cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg.) Unbeknownst to us at the time, Izzy's sports a unique "Flavor Up!" system, which keeps you up to date both on the latest flavor being scooped as well as an e-mail option to let you know when your favorite is being served.

Here is where Izzy adds an extra-dimension to the tasting spoon with their so-called "Izzy Scoop". Of course, those tiny spoons are at the ready, and we went ahead and sampled our fair share of what looked good.  As we discovered, any single or double scoop you order comes with an "Izzy" mini-scoop right on top (a waffle cone wedge is also offered as an option, and who are we to refuse that?) For me, it was kind of a neat little "what the heck" way of trying a flavor that I hadn't sampled via the traditional tasting spoon, and it makes your scoops just look that much more visually appealing.

All our flavors, from the previously mentioned Blue Mountain Spice to the Salted Caramel (with a little more salty punch than others I've tried, a welcome thing) to the delicious Flavor Contest winners (a past winner Lemon Sponge Cake and this year's winner, the Little Italy (a raspberry Marscapone with chunks of chocolate and raspberries) were all highly enjoyable, made even better with a dose of perfect weather for sitting outside at the sidewalk tables.

Izzy's Ice Cream Cafe
2034 Marshall Ave. (Google Maps)
Saint Paul, MN 55104
(651) 603-1458
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Feeling Minnesota: Spam, Spam, Spam, Coffee and Spam

The SPAM Museum, located in Spamtown USA aka Austin, MN
On our last jaunt through "The Land of 10,000 Lakes" aka Minnesota, we had planned a stop at a museum featuring a product that was massively prevalent in my household.  My family was the type that would pick up caseloads of Hormel's Spam luncheon meat for everything from Spamsilog (essentially fried Spam and eggs with a side of garlic rice), Spam Fried Rice, and other bits of easy-to-prepare items my Dad could think of for a family of six kids.

After this childhood experience, coupled with a growing understanding of the history of Spam plus my move out to the Midwest, meant the discovery that an actual museum dedicated to this rather unique food product meant a road trip was in order.  Sad to say, our first attempt to visit resulted in failure, as we arrived but 20 minutes before closing time.

This time, we made sure to arrive in plenty of time to bask in the sheer kitsch and glory that is Spam, which recently reached its 80th anniversary.

Plains Spoken Brews: Fargo Brewing (Fargo, ND)/Thunderhead Brewing (Kearney, NE)

A multi-colored bison is a quick-and-easy photo op if you're
skedaddling through Fargo in relatively short order
Our recent vacation allowed us to knock another state off our "visited" list via a quick jaunt through North Dakota via Fargo. With a crammed day of travel (one of these days, we'll learn to slow boat it a little bit, but until then...) ahead of us, we could only spend a couple hours in town for some quick sightseeing and a quick lunch meet up with a friend.  Thankfully, the largest city in the state makes it pretty easy for some concentrated tourist-type activities, simply by dropping by the local Visitors Center.

An "I" on the Old School: A Platter of Midwest Dining

The center of this country is well known for gut-filling eats, and on our road trip, we decided we'd go with the flow with occasional breaks to at least look for healthier eats. This toothsome threesome covered in the post definitely has an "I" (as in three states we traveled through that start with "I") toward the hearty.

Flap-Jacks: I think every small town in the Midwest has a place like Flap Jacks. Located northwest of Indianapolis in downtown Brownsburg, this diner-styled-food mini-chain (four locations throughout the Indy area)  has all the trappings of small town America, with plenty of good old red, white, and blue, an appreciation to local law enforcement and the military, and support of sports teams both local and regional. This eatery is a definite hangout for the locals.

Little Road Trip on the Prairie: Saying Hello to The Ingalls Family

The normally sleepy streets of De Smet, South Dakota
If you're traveling out in the Plains area of the United States, one small town may appear much like the next one you encounter. This would seem to apply to the tiny hamlet of De Smet, a town towards the east-central portion of South Dakota which tallied just over 1,000 people at the end of 2016.

But if one happens to park the car and walk around the downtown area, one may notice there's something a little more special about this tiny dot on the landscape.

With enough searching around, one will figure out that the town was the home to the Ingalls Family, who became a familiar name to millions of children's book readers and TV viewers.

Brews and 'Ques: Rhubarb in the Midwest Pickin' Out Brews

The "World's Largest Rhubarb" lies in Aledo, IL, the self-proclaimed
"Rhubarb Capital of the World" and annual Aledo Rhubarb Festival
I had started a new series of "'Brews and 'Ques" blogposts (link to the original post here) that highlighted some of the favorite antique store and craft beer/brewery pairings that we've encountered during our travels. Well, it didn't seem right to not test out that combo during our recent vacation road trip, and as it turned out, this one included something of a famous one, especially if you're a History Channel fan.

Beer along the National Road: Black Acre (Indianapolis, IN) and Hairless Hare (Vandalia, OH)

The Unofficial Official Map of Breweries Visited: 614ortyniner Edition
Now mind you, we have done our share of brewery hopping (we stand at about 150 breweries visited between the two of us heading into August), but our most recent road trip/vacation was really focused on the Great Eclipse of America.

So the multiple number of breweries we actually ended up visiting in seven different states was something of a happy (and tasty) accident. We thought we'd start looking at our beery contingent with the two breweries that provided the bookend experiences for our big road trip, which both happen to lie next to US Route 40, more famously known as The National Road.

The Great American Eclipse 2017 (Cornhusker Style)

The eclipse in Nebraska (as seen through a special-filter telescope)
Normally I keep the highlight of any of our road trips closer to the end of my series of posts about it, but in this case I thought it was best to go first with it. After all, it's not every day that one gets to experience a total eclipse of the sun.

But that is the experience that my spouse and I, along with millions of others were able to immerse themselves in this last Monday. I'm sure everyone has their interesting tales related to their viewing, but our venue was as unique as any of them.

Brews and 'Ques: Our Favorite Buckeye State Combos (Vol. 1)

This staircase found at Van Wert's Years Ago Antique Mall pretty
is a primer why shopping for the old-school is always so cool

I generally try to stay away from lists on my blog posts, but there's really no good reason for this, because lists can be quite useful for picking up potential destinations and things to do on our travels. Also, it's not like I haven't used the list format before, as noted by Ale Trail Series of posts that I've undertaken twice now.

Combining antique hunting and brewery hopping has turned into one of our favorite past times over the last several years, and I've had a couple people ask me about what antique shops we've liked, or have suggested a couple shops to check out.  With that in mind, I thought I'd toss out a select list of favorite antique stores that we've visited in our travels as well as some suggested destinations to slake that thirst afterward.

Ice Cream Chronicles (Yr. 4) - Toasted Marshmallows and Other Miscellany

The Mitchell's of ice creams (both San Francisco and Cleveland renditions) are
no longer my only case of California-Ohio deja vu after a visit to Cincinnati
Some time ago, I wrote a bit about Mitchell's Ice Cream. However, depending on the part of the country you were from, it could refer to the longtime ice cream maker in San Francisco which married tropical flavors like jackfruit, ube and mango (its most popular flavor, even now) to its dense, old-school, high-butterfat content ice creams to consistently long lines into its cozy Bernal Heights shop. Or it could refer to the Cleveland-area confectionery which spins hand-crafted, locally focused artisanal ice creams that have time and again earned it "Best Of" honors in Northeast Ohio as well as one of the top ice cream purveyors within the Buckeye State.

Social media has been a source of confusion between the two Mitchell's, with people using one shop's media handles to tout their latest ice cream experiences when it belongs to the other (and I won't even mention another Mitchell's Ice Cream in Chicago that I've seen bandied about.)

On a recent jaunt into Cincinnati, I found another Buckeye State ice cream purveyor that reminds me greatly of one of my favorites in the Bay Area, so much so that it's put both of them for visits in the future for more exploration.

Time to Splurge: 101 Beer Kitchen Beer Dinner feat. Jackie O's Brewery

The Rainbow Trout dish courtesy of Graze Restaurant in Madison, WI,
at their November 2013 beer dinner featuring Tyranena Brewing.
Our first experiences with the beer dinner actually happened outside of the Buckeye State: my spouse enjoyed her very first one back in the late 2000s in Grand Rapids with the popular brewpub HopCat and New Holland Brewing. And as a couple, we took the lovely evening backdrop of the Capital Building in Madison, WI, while indulging in the sublime preparations of Graze Restaurant matched up with the brews of Tyranena Beer.

However, it wasn't until recently that we were able to experience this format here, with the incredibly fun Columbus Craft Beer Week "Weird Science" dinner, which mixed food from CBC Restaurant, beer from Actual Brewing, and a dose of science from COSI.

Our second encounter came this week with, a nice celebratory splurge to celebrate a months' worth of special days for us both.  And in this case, we were particularly excited as this dinner paired one of our favorite brunch spots in Gahanna's 101 Beer Kitchen (originally opened up in Dublin in 2012 and now also sporting a Westerville location) as well as one of our favorite Ohio breweries in Jackie O's.

Dough Yay Me! Clintonville's Dough Mama Cafe and Bakery

Granted, as one of the Columbus' main thoroughfares, High Street has plenty of room for all manner of businesses. But for the baked goods and pastry-styled treats fan, this roadway has become the home of more than its share of drool-worthy options in recent years. Starting up in Worthington and ending in the Brewery District, one could theoretically embark on a non-big-chain, brick-and-mortar crawl from north to south that could include:
If one wanted to be even more of a glutton, places like Laughlin's Bakery and the treasure trove in the North Market (Destination Donuts, Brezel Pretzel, Omega Artisan, and Pistacia Vera) all lie within stone's throw of High. Combined together, these places could easily carbo-load the runners for the Columbus Marathon this coming October and have plenty left over for the race volunteers.

Of course, it would be a cardinal sin if you forget the pie. If you're seeking out the pie and only the pie, the long-standing Just Pies near Graceland Mall fits the bill perfectly. If you want just a little more variety, two very similar places are right up your alley: Worthington's Sassafras Bakery, a favorite destination of ours since I've moved over here, and Clintonville's Dough Mama, which holds down the subject matter of this latest blogpost.

Conscience With Your Coffee: The Roosevelt Coffeehouse

I had written about the socially-minded Roosevelt Coffeehouse, founded by Kenny Sipes, early in my blogging career back in November 2014, and well before they actually opened to the public six months later in April 2015.

As it turns out, Roosevelt has done just fine for itself, celebrating a second anniversary this year with much fanfare.  With the addition to the metro of similar coffee-focused/charitable ventures (Bottoms Up, the one-year old cafe in Franklinton focused on infant mortality, as well as the still evolving South Columbus-oriented Community Grounds on Parsons Avenue), I figured this was as a good a time as any to do a followup post detailing how Roosevelt has evolved.

Case Study #3: Over The Counter (Worthington)

Though I didn't know it when I started, Worthington's Over The Counter is the third of a trifecta of places I had targeted in this mini-series. The first blog post, featuring Pat and Gracie's in the Graceland Shopping Center, is a great neighborhood-style hangout in an place I always expected to have a little more restaurant action than it does. Meanwhile, Old Beechwold/Clintonville-based Bareburger and its burgers that strive for something higher (grass-fed beef as well as more exotic proteins like elk, duck and boar) had been a bit on an culinary island in the metro but now find themselves surrounded by competition.

Over The Counter (OTC, as I'll call them from here on out) turns out is in a location that I never even considered for a restaurant, but succeeds not only because of that location but also because of its quality-for-the-price comfort classics focus.

Antiques and Brews: From The Tee Box to The Pulpit

Downtown Defiance, Ohio, named for the historic Fort Defiance
and home to the similarly named Fort Defiance Antiques shop.
If this summer is any indication, my spouse and I have confirmed our blood types as AB, as in Antiques and Breweries. Our last trip took us into north-northwest Ohio into Mercer County, where antique hunting led us to drop by places like Tailspin Brewing in Coldwater and Moeller Brew Barn in Maria Stein. Other recent jaunts have taken us into Cambridge (where we stopped at Southside Brewing) and down to Lancaster and Logan, with a finishing duo of Little Fish Brewing and Jackie O's in Athens.

This lovely combination has again led to another fun road trip to explore both, as we wandered into even farther up into true Northwest Ohio, starting at the tee box and finishing up at the pulpit.

Ice Cream Chronicles (Yr. 4): All Aboard the SS Rotterdam

Earlier this year, I wrote about Clown Cones & Confections, a place in the Linden area that's been plying its trade for four decades. While that area in general is hardly a tourist magnet, it most certainly is a neighborhood magnet, a place that folks who grew up there probably frequently visited and have fond memories about.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have the eatery in the very early steps of establishing themselves. Most folks know that the restaurant business is a tough thing to break into, and that all manner of places (innovative, mediocre, just plain awful, etc.) fall by the wayside. Out of that group, there are places and people you root for more than most, and such are the folks behind the very freshly minted Double Happy in the southwest part of the metro.

Food Truck Dossier: Sobremesa

Food Truck: Sobremesa

My First Thought: Pretty snazzy trailer...and vegan to boot?

Reality: This relative newcomer to the Columbus food truck scene (starting up roughly during the winter of 2016) features Venezuelan Rafael Simo, who escaped the corporate world to follow his dream of "making good food that would be worthy of a conversation between old friends, family, lovers or even strangers", and touting itself as "Columbus’ first Latin-infused, plant-based mobile food service", as described on its main website.

Based on the menus I've seen at Sobremesa's stops, Simo is following through on that dream in spades. Sobremesa's dishes that are most definitely plant-oriented, with nary a hint of meat in the ingredient listings.

A Case Study: Bareburger Clintonville

Bareburger, a modest-sized chain of now 40+ locations in 9 states and a smattering of international countries, arrived on the Columbus scene in spring of 2014 in what seemed to be a mini-wave of gourmet burger places such as Easton's Flip Side and Gahanna's B Spot.  Bareburger differentiated itself by promising a more esoteric take on the standard burger via the use of organic ingredients, vegan options, as well as grass-fed beef and other exotic meats such as elk and ostrich. This combination, plus their creative take on the old downtown Yankee Trader space, was good enough to earn it a Best New Restaurant of 2014 nod by the readers of Columbus Underground.

When the eatery decided to open up a second Clintonville location, their general food philosophies seemed initially to me at least to be a perfect fit for the area. Interestingly enough, as time has gone on, this branch has become for me one of the more interesting eateries operating at this time within the Columbus metro, mainly for how the food scene has developed around this location.

West Side Story: Tailspin Brewing and Moeller Brew Barn

Once a former major port along the Miami-Erie Canal, the town of
Delphos in western Ohio is a much quieter destination these days
Perhaps one of the more underrated inspirations behind our travels (and, by default, this blog) has been our increasing pursuit of antiques and any far-flung shops we can find. As we've discovered, Ohio has plenty of fun such shops scattered within its borders, and that fact has in the past couple months taken us to both sides of the Columbus metro on Interstate 70 (Dayton/Springfield and Cambridge) and to the southeast along US 33 (Lancaster, Logan and Athens.)

Well, similar to our I-70 travels, we decided US 33 was worth a drive up to the northwest side of the state with antique stores in Delphos and Van Wert turning out to be pleasing looks into days gone by. We've also found nothing quite closes out a day of antique-seeking like a few good brews, and these travels allowed us to visit two of the more remote of Ohio's ever-growing collection of craft breweries.

Ice Cream Chronicles (Yr. 4): The Perfect Matcha

Perhaps due to its reputation as a fast-food haven and test market, Columbus finds its ethnic eats remaining a bit under the radar. I sure did not expect the large number of Mexican markets and food trucks in Columbus when I initially moved to the Buckeye state, much less the number of African restaurants that are just waiting to be discovered by locals and out-of-towners alike.

I was pleased to find out early on about another somewhat unexpected Japanese presence, something that made me feel a bit more at home early on. While this particular scene has gotten a bit more publicity than some of Columbus' other hidden culinary treasures (as in this 2016 NPR article spotlighting the scene), it still turns out to be a pleasant surprise for newcomers to the metro. A great place to start exploring this scene is the Japan Marketplace, which lies in the Northwest neighborhood in the Kenny Centre Mall.

Raising The Cap Level: Hot Chicken Takeover - Clintonville

With the recent arrival of National Fried Chicken Day on July 6, I figured it was more than appropriate to touch on the subject with a return to an old favorite. I have blogged about Hot Chicken Takeover (HCT) in the past (with this blogpost), a definite sign I've been at this blogging thing a lot longer than many.

But now as in any future return posts, I think the mission behind this now mini-chain of restaurants will always be the prime story when it comes to this Columbus-based eatery. Founder Joe DeLoss's commitment to hiring employees with significant social challenges has been a core staple and strength of its business since it started as a weekly pop-up restaurant in the Olde Towne East neighborhood in 2014. It is a model that, as noted in this recent Columbus CEO article, "has the potential to revolutionize the way restaurants and other entry-level employers approach hiring and retention."

Where The Best Once Held Court: Delaney's Diner

One of the first and most fun "buzzy" Columbus eateries that my spouse and I became acquainted with shortly after my move here was Westerville's Best Breakfast and Sandwiches. This compact diner, located in a non-descript south side strip mall, was an example of an eatery that was able to punch above its dining category and achieve something a little more.

We didn't mind the typical wait when it meant we would be grabbing their corned beef hash, or adorning one of their omelettes with some of their specially produced hot sauce from local fiery condiment maker CaJohn's. At its peak, a pop-up taco shop (Yeah Baby Tacos) emerged during the week to offer diners an unorthodox destination to grab some Mexican-styled eats.

And then, a familiar narrative unraveled: a few not-as-complimentary reviews started appearing in the usual review websites, then a change in ownership, and even more buzz about things not being as they used to be.

And then...nothing: The Best Breakfast was no longer as of the summer of 2016.

Fast forward a year now. Other eateries, most notably a new branch of local favorite Northstar Cafe, have come in to fill the void. It is in this new environment where the space has come to life again in the form of Delaney's Diner, a place we were eager to try once we heard the word of its opening.

Pick of the Liter: Combustion Brewing

One of the blaring headlines in the craft beer world to hit early in 2017 was one that might worry aficionados at first glance. Growth in what seemed to be at times an unstoppable juggernaut of a business model in the 2010s slowed dramatically in 2016: Brewers Association statistics noted that the segment grew only 6% in volume (compared to 12-15% in prior years) and ticked up only a notch (0.1%) in total market share.

What is somewhat hidden in the statistics is that the smaller segment of younger brewpubs and breweries that open up in under-served communities continues to boom. Typically, these establishments are much more tuned in to their surrounding community and, when done correctly, are transformed almost instantaneously into local hangouts. This niche is one that the newly opened Combustion Brewery and Taproom definitively falls into.

Tacos Twos-Days: Hass and Bakersfield

When I think of the concept of the food crawl, the taco is just about the perfect vehicle for an elongated effort. When I first got the foodie bug back in San Francisco, my first such quest was all the local taco trucks I could find within a week's period. Once I moved to Columbus, one of my favorite food related excursions turned out to be Columbus Food Adventures' Taco Truck Tour, which shined a light on something I hadn't expected when I moved over here but found quite exciting in Columbus' plethora of traditional taco trucks.

My first preference is almost always going to be the taco truck street taco, but being a fan of the taco concept in general, I like venturing into pretty much anything taco-related, whether it be traditional, fusion, or homemade (our own Filipino adobo shredded chicken tacos have become some our own dinnertime favorites.) This post covers two places I had been intrigued by for awhile in the northwest-based Hass Taqueria and the Short North's popular hangout Bakersfield.

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 SeƱor (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.