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Swenson’s Drive-In — An ode to my favorite cheeseburger

12 Apr

If you’ve been paying attention to food trends over the past few years, you’ve probably heard the term “better burger” thrown around. Starting (at least it seems) with Five Guys, there has been a race to see who can improve on that mainstay of fast food in America: the cheeseburger.  But, if you’ve ever eaten at Swenson’s a group of seven drive-in restaurants in northeast Ohio, you’d be forgiven if you’re left scratching your head wondering what there is to improve, and why anyone would think that they could make a so-called “better burger.”

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#LovePGH — Visiting Pittsburgh (Day 3)

4 Sep

And now! The thrilling conclusion to our Pittsburgh weekend extravaganza! (For those of you following along at home here are Day One and Day Two.)

After the whirlwind of a day we had on Saturday, Tania and I knew that there was no way we’d be able to top that day’s list of activities. Among other things, we didn’t have nearly the same amount of time to spend in the city—we did after all have to go home. (And, I’m pretty sure that while Visit Pittsburgh was happy to pay for a couple of nights in the Renaissance, they weren’t going to pay for us to stay indefinitely.)

Just because we were short on time didn’t mean that we weren’t going to squeeze the most out of our last hours in Pittsburgh though. We had big things planned!

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#LovePGH — Visiting Pittsburgh (Day 2)

31 Aug

You know what happens when you move and plan a wedding all at the same time? Things go by the wayside—like blog posts about visiting new and exciting cities. Apologies to all the places we visited on days two and three of our Pittsburg trip. We didn’t like you less than the places we visited on day one. It’s just that Tania and I have lately spent a lot of mental energy on figuring out how to get our big couch out of the garage and through the front door. (Something we didn’t manage to do on moving day.)

Anyway. I pick up where I left off: Day two of our Pittsburgh trip. (If you missed Day One, it can be found here. And here is Day Three.)

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#LovePgh — Visiting Pittsburgh (Day 1)

17 Aug

This post will be in three parts, one for each day. There is just too much to do in Pittsburgh to fit it in just one. (This is Friday. Here is Saturday, and here is Sunday.)

Do you want to come visit Pittsburgh? That was the question posed by an email I received out of the blue a few months ago from Visit Pittsburgh. Actually, the question was a little different. It was: Do you want an all-expenses paid trip to Pittsburgh? So while the answer to the first question would have already been yes, the answer to the second was a resounding yes.

(This is where I provide the requisite disclaimer. Visit Pittsburgh invited Tania and I to visit over a recent weekend and provided us with admission to area attractions and spending money. They placed no limits on what we could see and do, and only asked that we write about our trip in return. What follows then is a recap of the things we did and enjoyed. Payment for the trip may have come from others, but the opinions that follow are all mine.)

I have enough friends from Pittsburgh that I know that they are as proud of their city as we here in Columbus are proud of ours. And I must say, they have a right to be so proud. Their list of cultural attractions is long enough to fill a week’s itinerary and still not see them all. And, as Tania and I would soon discover as we planned out our trip, the same can be said about the dining scene.

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Meat Lovers’ Tour — More Than Just Protein

12 Nov

I’ve mentioned before that Tania works as a tour guide for Columbus Food Adventures.  Luckily for me, I occasionally get to enjoy some of the ancillary perks of her job.  Most recently, she (and I) were invited to come along on the Meat Lovers’ Tour.  While some tours, like the German Village and Short North Tours, are run reliably each week (when in season that is), the Meat Lovers’ Tour is a less frequent offering.  So when we were invited along on the tour, we definitely jumped at the chance.

First, a bit about that name: the Meat Lovers’ Tour.  I suppose it’s accurate in one sense.  But, if you were judging the tour by just the name, you’d be left with a very one-dimensional picture of what it involves.  Yes, you eat a lot of different kinds of meat; it’s definitely not a tour for vegetarians.   At the same time though, it’s not a single-minded glutinous celebration of protein.  Instead, the tour is a celebration of the role that meat plays in various cooking styles and traditions.

Even the above description is lacking.  I’m having trouble describing the tour in a brief yet comprehensive manner.  I guess that’s why a whole blog post is necessary.  You’ll have to just read the whole thing and draw your own conclusions.

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The Twin Cities — Vacationing Up North, Vol. 2

30 Sep

Ok then.  Welcome back to part two of two about our trip this summer to the Twin Cities.  Wait.  You DID read part one of two, right?  If not, you can catch up here.  After all, you wouldn’t want to miss out now would you? WOULD YOU? And whatever else, I hope you’re not getting tired of reading about What I Did On My Summer Vacation.

Parka

A little ways across town from where we were staying in Minneapolis sat Parka.  A relatively new restaurant (it opened just this year I believe), Parka occupies a corner of a home furnishings store.  Perhaps it was because it was so new, but Parka almost didn’t make it onto our radar.  All of the credit for finding out about Parka goes to Tania.  I’m not sure how or why she found it, but all I can say is that I’m glad she did.  So also is she.  I’m pretty sure Parka was her hands-down favorite place we ate the entire time we were on vacation.

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The Twin Cities — Vacationing Up North

29 Sep

Life having settled back into some semblance of routine and normalcy, I’ve finally managed to get around to some important and oft-neglected tasks.  No ordinary tasks these, they’re the type that are intimidating to begin with and only get more so the longer you delay.  Things like reading a three-month-old and growing stack of New York Times magazines, rectifying my embarrassing ignorance of most things Guided By Voices by finally wading into the band’s massive (official) discography and, most relevant to this post, finally updating this blog with some of the growing backlog of things I have to write about.

Jumping in with both feet, I will attempt to tell the tale of my (and Tania’s) summer vacation.  Long before becoming an Ohioan, Tania lived up north in the Twin Cities.  And for as long as I’ve known her, I’ve heard about how great Minneapolis is (also: the Minnesota State Fair).  So, this year it was time to put those claims to the test.  We made plans for a road trip, with the added benefit of being able to stop and see lots of friends of mine from college. (Hi Adam, Kjerstin, Pat, Kate, Marty, Anna, and HBC!)

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Amuse Bouche — The Coop (Inside of The Hey Hey)

20 Feb

There are some occasions where I’ll go to a restaurant, or make something at home, and while I’ll want to share some aspects of the experience, I don’t feel that an entire post is warranted.  Interested in delivering more content—in a more timely manner—I’ve decided to create a new category of post for this blog.  These posts will be light on written content (there will be some still!) and heavier on things like photos.

I toyed around with what to call them.  The first couple of titles that came to mind, quick bites, short orders, were already in use.  And so I’ve settled on “amuse bouche.”  Literally translated as amuse the mouth, an amuse bouche is the small single bite appetizer that is occasionally served at some restaurants.  Usually every diner on any given evening will get the same thing.  Which is: whatever the chef feels like making.  It seems like a fitting title for this new series.

The first in the series features a well-respected Columbus food truck, The Coop, in a new and unexpected location, the kitchen of Shumaker Place neighborhood bar, The Hey Hey.

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San Diego — Or, What I Did on My Winter Vacation

2 Feb

Tania and I just got back from a whirlwind of a trip to San Diego.  The main purpose of our visit to California was a wedding of some close friends.  (I was in the wedding, ostensibly because the groom and I grew up next door to one another.  But it may also be that I just happen to look damn good in a tux.)  As would be expected of someone who cares enough about food to write about it on the internet, we did our best to eat our way through San Diego as well.

We ate incredibly well at the wedding itself.  The rehearsal lunch was fantastic, and dinner at the wedding reception exceeded all my expectations for wedding food.  As good as those meals were, it’s the many other meals that will be the subject of this blog.

Rather than a chronological listing, I’m going to recount our trip by category.  Looking over those meals, with one notable exception, they appear to break break down into three main classes: breakfast, fish, and drinking.  Because this is a long post, here’s a quick list that will jump you right to each place we went:

The Mission
Mystic Moca
Mariscos German
Oscar’s Mexican Seafood
Hamilton’s Tavern
Stone Brewing Company
In-N-Out Burger

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Premier Pizza — Borgata Pizza Cafe

12 Jan

A few years ago, word began to spread of a new pizza place in town.  Located somewhere along the rather nondescript 161 corridor, it was said that this pizza transcended its unassuming surroundings.  Those in the know, well-versed in Columbus’s other pizza offerings, said that this pizza was special; that it stood out.  Eventually, the trickle became a flood, and it became accepted as common wisdom among a certain set that Borgata Pizza Café made some of the best pizza in town.

I don't know what too me so long to try this pizza! It tastes as great as it looks.

I don’t know what too me so long to try this pizza! It tastes as great as it looks.

Despite all that, despite the recommendations from numerous reliable sources, it took me years to finally make the trip myself.  Every time I thought about getting pizza, my thought was “Oh, that’s too far away.  Let’s just go to [closer pizza shop]. I mean, can the pizza really be that good?”  You know how, as you get older and wiser, you look back and think “If only I could go back in time and tell my younger self what I know now”?  That’s how I feel about my pre-Borgata self.

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