Steady Diet of Everything: Anthony Bourdain's "The Hunger"

Anthony Bourdain: The Hunger
Palace Theatre
October 29, 2016

The book that put chef/author/media personality Anthony Bourdain on the map
Whatever one may think of "Kitchen Confidential", chef/author/major media personality Anthony Bourdain's exposé on the culinary world published in 2000, there were two notions that the reader would've wondered back then when it came to the author himself.  One notion would lie in the author's self-obsession, in that there was nothing in the world that would've crossed Bourdain's path to change his primary focus to someone other than himself.

Never doubt the power of a child, however. At the age of fifty, Bourdain was blessed with the birth of his one and only child Ariane, an event he acknowledges came at the right time for him in his newest literary release "Appetites: A Cookbook." As he noted in the introduction, "I was no longer the star of my own movie - or any movie. Like most people who write books or appear on television...I am a monster of self-regard. Fatherhood has been an enormous relief, as I am now genetically, instinctually compelled to care more about someone other than myself."

The Pork In The Road: Mom Wilson's Country Sausage

Heading on up on highway Twenty-Three
Easing past the North Side Fix
Praying the traffic ain't too bad
As we drive up into the sticks

Heading into Delaware town
Always tempted by their craft beer
Or maybe stop by the gas station where
One President Hayes once rested here

Just before the roadside honey stand
Perched along road two two nine 
A well-worn yellow & red arrow beckons 
Along with a series of rhyming signs

It's not like we have to make
A time deadline on most days
So into the Porkin' Lot we drive
Mom Wilson's, we're on our way

Out On The CAT-walk: Buckeye Lake Brewery (Buckeye Lake, OH)

CAT (Columbus Ale Trail) Brewery: Buckeye Lake Brewery

First Impressions: "Garage doors...patio...a perfect warm season hangout."

Reality: Most everyone familiar with Central Ohio knows about the struggles that the businesses surrounding Buckeye Lake, located roughly a half-hour east of Columbus, have gone through the last two years. The moment, while dreaded, was inevitable - the 180-year-old earthen dam that created the lake was determined to be on the verge of failure, requiring upgrades to prevent a major flooding catastophe. However, the completion of this work would require a drastic reduction of lake levels for a few years, a reduction that would seriously constrict what has long been the area's historical financial lifeblood: tourists coming out to the area enjoy a day on and around the lake.

However, one wouldn't suspect the area was going through a crisis was going on if you looked at the area's namesake brewery. Since its opening in early 2012, the brewery has undergone two separate expansions, including bottling and distribution of their brews in bottles to local area stores and the removal of their brewing equipment to a separate space to accommodate more guests at their brewpub.

A Tale of Two Diners (Westerville Grill and Fitzy's Old-Fashioned Diner)

Westerville's The Best Breakfast & Sandwiches in happier days
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

This well-known line from Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities" could easily apply to one our early favorite places for brunch after moving to the Buckeye State. Westerville's The Best Breakfast & Sandwiches, which featuring some of the best fresh corned beef hash in the area, special in-house hot sauces manufactured by local all-things-spicy gurus CaJohn's, plentiful portions, and some of the better diner-level coffee you can ever hope to get, proved to be a regular destination spot for us and many other locals.

Alas, an ownership change in 2014 brought warning signs via social media reviews that the place wasn't quite what it was. Indeed, our visits were a mixed bag - the corned beef hash was still good, but the portions seemed just a touch smaller, the service just a bit more scattershot and the coffee was on the weak side of the diner coffee ledger. We hoped that the eatery would find its footing again, but alas, The BB&S bit the dust officially summer of this year.

That begged the question: when we were in the area, where do we go when we want a good hearty diner-style meal?  What follows is a tale of two diners...

CNN: The C(raftbeer) News Network

With the Internet creeping closer and closer to its 50th anniversary (this momentous occasion will take place in the year 2019), one can imagine that a lot of websites have come to live...and its history. Some sites are gone for good, but if you're lucky and remember the web address, you can still relive that site's glory days via portals like the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.

Other websites that are ostensibly long gone still have little snippets alive in the deep dark recesses, and a chance search through a website like Google can creak open the covers. This happened to me recently when doing some research related to the history behind the Burkhardt Brewery, the home of Akron's Thirsty Dog Brewing (that related blogpost can be found here.)

Apparently, famed media mogul Ted Turner's baby, the Cable News Network (CNN), had a section on its webpage featuring the world of home brewing back in the day.

The Brewer and the Bahn Mi: Three Tigers Brewing/Mai Chau on Prospect (Granville, OH)

Intent is as constant a force as there is in the explorer's vocabulary. The phrases are familiar and off-repeating: from "that's on my list of to-dos now" to "hey, we should check out such-and-such place this month" to "oh, yeah, that's somewhere we haven't gotten to yet." So it figures when you unintentionally visit a place several times in a short span after seemingly infinite "intending to's", it's about time to get writing about it, especially when that something's initial incarnation has evolved numerous times since we first learned of them.

Mai Chau originally started as a Granville-based food truck. Inspired by time spent in Vietnam, owners Scott and Ashley Wilkins brought their love of the country's food back to Granville starting in 2013, and both my spouse and I heard nothing but good things about their offerings from friends and family in the area.

As it turned out, we never could make it out to the truck itself before the Wilkins clan opened up their brick-and-mortar Mai Chau on Prospect eatery in November, 2015. Even more intentions built up prior to their latest venture: the opening of the companion Three Tigers Brewing but five months afterward when the space next door came available, and something of a flip of the typical fledgling brewery adds food service model.

A couple months later in July, Three Tigers announced a weekend brunch service. Geez, our favorite type of meal for my spouse and I. Twist our arms enough already, why don't you...

Pickers and Peanuts - A Venture into Vintage at the Peanut Shoppe

As the years have gone by, my spouse and I have gone quite a bit away from so-called "appointment television" routine. However, a few shows still make it into a semi-regular viewing rotation, including the History Channel's "American Pickers." For us, the combination of catching a glimpse into the history of a region or familiar brand product, plus the give-and-take between the hosts of the show (Mike Wolfe, Frank Fritz, and Danielle Colby Cushman) and those who collect the memorabilia, make this an appealing way to spend an hour or two per week.

On Monday's season's opening episode, the pair traveled to Springfield, Missouri, and visited Don Johnson, a man with a gigantic stash of collectibles (over four warehouses worth, according to this Springfield News-Leader article detailing the filming.) The climax of their pick involved a vintage 1920s-era peanut roaster featuring one of the most recognizable advertising mascots ever: Mr. Peanut of Planters Peanut fame. As the negotiation played out (Frank did eventually bite at $13,000, despite some alterations to the mechanism), it was implied that only twenty of these vintage machines were left in the whole country.

Of course, this exchange caught our attention immediately - as residents of this fair city, we had had several encounters with what seemed to be a similar machine at one of downtown's long time businesses, The Peanut Shoppe (detailed at this blogpost written earlier this year.)  I was curious to find out the truth, and I figured the best spot to go was straight to the source.

Bakery 'Round The Corner: Laughlin's Bakery

I've learned that traveling down High Street in the Short North area often gives me a bit of tunnel vision. When I'm in a car, the traffic during the most traveled times slows down to a trudge, caused by a combination of COTA city buses and bicyclists being squeezed along car-lined sidewalks, keeping my focus mainly on the road around me.

When I ride the bus or walk through the area, other distractions predominate. The streams of people traversing this once sketchy neighborhood are natural attention grabbers, not to mention the surrounding buildings, which like a chameleon change over time due either to constant construction or the latest business venture hoping to strike success in one of the metro's most attractive neighborhoods.

These aspects make it easy to lose track of what might lie in the areas block or two over on either side of High, and is certainly a big factor for me personally as to why it took me so long to get over to the very compact space that is Laughlin's Bakery, just a couple dozen steps off the main strip on East 2nd Avenue.

Punching Up In Weight: Hoppin' Frog Brewery (Akron, OH)

In my mind, the two biggest breweries in Akron paired together sound something like the beginning salvo to the Biblical plagues of Egypt. Perhaps this would be the case if there was a third beer-oriented place in the area (Lupulin Locust Brewing? Hail and Fire Brewpub?) to back up this line of thought, but that's probably not the image the Rubber City would like to put forth for area visitors.

In reality, all you have to fear from these Akron mainstay breweries is to miss out on some pretty delicious beer. After our brief visit to survey the taproom of Thirsty Dog (detailed in this blogpost), we made the trip across the metro to have dinner and brews at Hoppin' Frog, which celebrated its 10th anniversary of operation just this summer.