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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...

All I Owe O-Hi-O: A Return to the Ohio State Fair

It's taken a few years, but now I think I've come to truly appreciate the entity that is the state fair.

I visited California's version of the state fair a few times both as a college student and later as young adult, but during those years my enjoyment of carnival and roller coaster style rides was waning, and the more informational exhibits weren't all that interesting to me at that time.

My first visit to the Ohio State Fair was something akin to the movie/musical "State Fair", where my spouse and I were still deeply experiencing the thrills of a young romance alongside the midway. The next couple of visits were more for the concerts, with Dolly Parton in 2016 (a fabulous show that I wrote about on this blogpost) and then comedian Gabriel Iglesias the following year.

This year, we got the full on fair experience, with a little help from some long time fair participants.

We've Got Five Years, What A Surprise: Kolache Republic

One of my first blog posts ever was related to Kolache Republic, the cozy little shop lying where German Village and the Brewery District meet, that had by circumstance become our launch spot for special trips to the south.  Their hand-sized kolaches, a pastry of Czech origin that my spouse had first discovered during a stint in Texas, paired up with coffee (brewed from Cafe Brioso beans, in this case) was just about the perfect travel food.

This initial blog post was written right around their first anniversary as a brick-and-mortar operation. And while their celebration of their fifth anniversary this week may not truly be a surprise (I couldn't help toss in the Bowie reference), how they reached it might be a bit surprising.

Central Cooling: Java Central (Westerville, OH)

Once nationally known as "The Dry Capital of the World", the Columbus
suburb of Westerville is attracting a new wave of culinary and beverage treats
For those unfamiliar with the San Francisco Bay Area, the "Casual Carpool" was and is a familiar concept to numerous area commuters.  Essentially, anyone driving a vehicle into or out of San Francisco who needed passengers to (legally) cruise the carpool lane would drop by designated pickup spots, typically at area Park & Ride lots. There, they would find commuters who either weren't keen on driving themselves and/or didn't want to pay a transit fare.

As it turned out, there was one very talkative driver in a small pickup that by sheer coincidence I'd ride with every 4-6 months. It turned out this was enough time to advance the narrative that he had shared during the last drive, whether it would be a new job assignment, family-related issues, and possible future developments.  Interestingly enough, this unique "several months later/new developments" has been duplicated over here whenever I've dropped by Java Central in Westerville.

Ice Cream Chronicles (Year 5): It's Clean Clear to Flag City, C'mon

The stately Hancock County Courthouse, located in the heart of Findlay, Ohio
When TourismOhio, the agency charged with enticing people to visit the Buckeye State, announced the launching of the Ohio Ice Cream Trail, I thought it was an idea that was a bit overdue. Not only is there a plethora of great ice cream in the state, and not only is there a plethora of other food-related trails in the state covering everything from beer, coffee, donuts, and wine, but they also were beaten to the punch by the folks of Hilliard, who launched their own version back in April.

Still, better late than never, as the old saying goes, and of course my curiosity was perked considering I've visited my share of ice cream places around the state during my time here.  Out of the 15 destinations listed, I have visited 11, in either the location listed in the trail promotion or a branch thereof. Well, that is, until just recently, when I made it an even dozen when I made it up to the town that has been dubbed "Flag City USA."

Break The Chains of Love: A Look At "Best Of" Lists (Part 3: Columbus's Counterparts)

The Tech Museum Of Innovation in San Jose, CA, our first of ten cities
we compare with Columbus in regard to "Best Of" lists
In Part 1 of this "Chains on "Best Of" Lists" series of blog posts, we looked at how Columbus locals voted on various media-based polls, and in Part 2, we compared and contrasted Columbus's "Best Of" lists to those produced in the four largest cities in the Buckeye State.

Well, it only seemed right to continue the progression to its logical conclusion. How do cities that are Columbus's counterparts in terms of population size chime in on their local "Best Of" polls?  The selecting was pretty easy: I took 2015 population statistics and took the five cities ranked just above and just below Columbus (I used the list found on Politifact for my numbers, which at the time of this post dated to 2015) and found a the best "Best Of" list that I could find.

In many ways, the look at these ten cities kind of cemented my initial thoughts I posted on the first blog post looking at Columbus's reader poll list.  While Columbus wasn't alone in the questionable nods to chains as "Best Of" category, the fact that it did and has happened in the past shows that improvement is there to be had.

With that said, the right kind of outsider chain love can be a good thing: the arrival of Chicago's Giordano's and its stuffed deep dish pizzas was eagerly anticipated, and there is growing anticipation related to the arrival of Akron-based Swenson's Drive-In. And if you look at Seattle's polls, three of their "outsider" chains would be great additions to any scene, including here in Columbus.

Break The Chains of Love: A Look At "Best Of" Lists (Part 2: Ohio in the House)

The Art-Deco style "Guardians of Traffic" totems provide an
eye-catching sight for those on Cleveland's Hope Memorial Bridge.
As noted in my previous post, a news story on Taco Bell being named this country's "Best Mexican Restaurant" gave me a story idea about "Best Of" lists and how often outside-the-area chains appear on these lists.  Part 1 of my series  focused on three local Columbus-based reader polls from some of the major media sources here, where I found a decent amount of chain love, including a couple of head-scratchers that named P.F. Chang's as "Best Asian" and Chipotle as "Best Burrito."

It only seemed natural that Part 2 of the series would stay within the Buckeye State and focus in on Columbus's largest state neighbors. Would we find similar results in cities of similar stature (namely, Cleveland and Cincinnati) or cities of more modest size (Dayton and Toledo)?  As you might have judged from the picture above, we're going to start with a city that has gained quite a bit of prominence in the national scene in Cleveland and work counterclockwise from there.

Break The Chains of Love: A Look At "Best Of" Lists (Part 1: The Locals)

With a new location in Pittsburgh, the popular Columbus-based Condado
now rates as a small but growing restaurant chain.
Certainly, a few eyebrows were raised when most media outlets reported that Taco Bell was voted as this country's Best Mexican Restaurant for 2018. Discounting the fact that only six restaurant chains were eligible for this voting category, and that the actual designation was "Brand of the Year", the "Best Of" list is pretty a common thing you'll hear in the news, from nationwide media powerhouses down to the small town publications that you might find in the clutter of the local coffee house.

While these lists feature everything from businesses, events and even celebrities, one thing pretty much universal in these lists is a food and drink element. While sometimes it's strictly limited to the opinions of the publishing staffs, most of these "Best Of" lists have a vox populi element, where the public can put in their proverbial two cents into the process.

Unsurprisingly, Columbus is a metro area large enough to have several such "Best Of" lists, and unsurprisingly, these lists have a large food and drink component to them. And in certain cases, the ultimate winners of various poll categories have caused some consternation and head-shaking among certain readers, especially when a chain restaurant is nominated for the top spot.