Category Archives: Columbus

The Manhattan Project

best manhattan columbus , cocktails columbus

The Manhattan Project – a guest post by Bear

A few of us have recently been inspired by the CMH Gourmand to turn a recreational evening or two into a quest for quality cocktails.  The Gourmand’s evening of Mojito Madness, while fun, got very confusing in the face of countless variations, so we decided to choose a well-known standard, the Manhattan:  in its most classic form, two parts whiskey, one part vermouth, a dash of bitters, stirred and served up rather than on the rocks.

To keep our wits about us, we spread six Manhattans over two nights.  We developed a scoring system based on appearance, texture, flavor, and other (a residual category that could include any bonus points that were earned for reasons not covered).  We chose six restaurants based on personal experience, their reputation, and the reputation of their house mixologists.  In the end, the individual results were not nearly as interesting as the lessons that we learned over the course of those two evenings:

Style matters.  Cocktails should be drunk while cold and shouldn’t be too watered down; both considerations argue for a smaller glass.  We were charmed immediately by Mouton’s Manhattan, a graceful cocktail in an elegant coupe, and equally happy with DeepWood’s five-ounce conical cocktail glass.  Glasses that hold half or two-thirds of a pint are monstrosities (not to mention, if filled with properly made cocktails, irresponsible to serve) and rarely show off their contents well.

Substance matters even more. All of the ingredients matter, to an extent that might be surprising.  Vermouth can be an afterthought, for example, and most vermouth is  pretty bad.  The Manhattans that were made at the Rossi, DeepWood, and Mouton with two top-shelf vermouths, Carpano Antica from Italy and Vya from California, really stood out.  By contrast, Knead’s Gallo vermouth killed what would otherwise have been an excellent cocktail.  Bitters are also crucial:  the Barrel 44 Manhattan was so light on both that it received one of our lowest ratings.  And while many of the house-made cherries we tried were truly excellent, the dense little cherries produced by Luxardo are downright amazing.  Either made ordinary Maraschino cherries seem sad by comparison.

For mixologists curiosity is crucial.  We were struck by the impact that curiosity had on the end result.  DeepWood’s cocktail list shows constant experimentation and innovation, and their Manhattan variants were dazzling.  The Rossi, too, recently rolled out an innovative and edgy list, and the focus on quality ingredients comes through loud and clear in the glass.  At Knead, the bartender quizzed us on the best Manhattans we’d had — and when we answered candidly, he grabbed a pad of paper and pen and asked us for more details.

For consumers, curiosity is crucial too. It may matter even more than choosing the right bar.  At most places we visited, the “base” Manhattan was not the best Manhattan that they could produce.  (The exception was the Rossi, which made a Corner Creek-Carpano Antica knockout right out of the gate.)  Asking about what they could do (and knowing your own taste) was the key to getting the best result.  The best example of this phenomenon was DeepWood, whose solid base Manhattan nevertheless gave no hint of the dizzying matrix of possibilities on offer with a little prodding: classic, modern, or Italian (with a touch of Fernet Branca)?  Rye, bourbon, or Johnny Walker Black?  We especially liked the rye variant at Mouton and the Italian and classic variants, with rye, at DeepWood.

These two evenings also highlighted our responsibility as consumers for the end product in the long run.  M was on our list largely because of the talent of their mixologist; their Manhattan did not fare as well as others, however, in large part because of the narrow selection of key ingredients behind the bar.  Simply put, asking about, and making, good choices supports your restaurant’s or bar’s ability to provide them.

best cocktails in Columbus

Manhattan Project — Results

Highly Recommended (and tied in a statistical dead heat):

DEEPWOOD.  Ordering a straight Manhattan will get you a very solid entrant, made from Bulleit bourbon with Vya vermouth.  Asking for a custom-made version opens the door to beverage manager Catherine Morel’s creativity.  DeepWood revels in bending the rules, but it’s hard to argue with the results.  One variant even included a dash of the (to most) near-undrinkable Fernet Branca, used to excellent effect.

THE ROSSI. Corner Creek bourbon, Carpano Antica vermouth, a healthy dose of bitters, and house-made cherries added up to a Manhattan that was hard to fault in any dimension — a delightful ruddy cocktail served icy cold, with just enough viscosity and a bitter-tinged complexity that was simply a pleasure to drink.

Recommended:

MOUTON.  Classic styling earned some of the highest marks for appearance.  One of the Manhattans we ordered, made with rye, was generally deemed excellent — a considerable step above the house-made bourbon version.  The latter were less complex and noticeably variable from one glass to the next, some much sweeter than others.

To Watch:

KNEAD. Knead uses rye exclusively for their Manhattans as well, which based on other results was a good omen, but the vermouth — Gallo — did not show it off to best effect at all.  They were exceptionally curious about our results, however, and by the time we’d left had pumped us for information about the best entrants on our list.  We suspect they’ll move up a category or two very soon.

M. From previous experience we knew M’s cocktail list to be among the most creative and thoughtful in the city.  For the Manhattans they opted for a variant using rye (thumbs up) but only had ri(1), the Jim Beam premium brand, and Martini and Rossi vermouth on hand.  This lack of variety, rather surprising behind a bar with enough space for a Sherman tank, was far and away the establishment’s biggest handicap.

BARREL 44. Few establishments can match Barrel 44’s stunning advantage in whiskey.  Unfortunately, such an impressive endowment can lead to over-reliance on a single asset, and that seems to be the case here:  our Manhattans, though made with rye, scarcely tasted of vermouth, and it took multiple sips to catch a hint of bitters.  Simply put, this is a whiskey drinker’s Manhattan; even more simply put, this is whiskey.  If they learn to love vermouth and bitters, they could become a force to be reckoned with.
Advertisements

8 Comments

Filed under cocktails, Columbus, Drinks

Food-Truck-A-Palooza

street food columbus ohio

Tomorrow is the Ohio Historical Society Food Truck-a-Palooza from 4-7PM!  Admission to the event is FREE, and admission to the Historical Center is FREE!  The event will take place on the plaza level, so stop by on your way home to pick up dinner or have your friends and family meet you here!  They have some great Columbus food trucks and carts lined up for the event, including:

3 Babes and a Baker (cupcakes)

Da Levee Cajun Cuisine

Foodie Cart (Japanese-style crepes)

Fusion Cafe

Junior’s Tacos

Leslie’s Creperie (European-style crepes)

Lucky Ladle (soups and savory pastries)

Mojo TaGo (California-style tacos)

Slabadabado BBQ

Veggielicious (vegetarian wraps and quesadillas)

Smaller versions of the customer favorites will be for sale, so people have a chance to sample food from several vendors.

Confirmed Vendors:

The Other Paper

Promo West Productions

What the Rock?!

Remember that the food trucks are CASH ONLY, so you’ll want to make an ATM stop.

Museum admission will be free during the event but regular rates will apply beforehand from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Diners will be able to enjoy a slide show of historic photographs of Columbus street scenes. Afterwards visitors can see the museum’s exhibits, including The Nature of Ohio and Ohio: Centuries of Change.

Facebook page for the event.

The hashtag for the event is #ohsfoodtruck

IMPORTANT DIRECTIONS: Due to an event at the Ohio Expo Center, 17th Avenue will be closed. We can be reached by taking Clara from 11th or by the 17th Avenue exit on I-71.

Leave a comment

Filed under Columbus, special events, street food, Taco trucks

Local Foods Week

local foods week

It’s really exciting how much buzz there is about local food in Columbus at the moment: farmer’s markets, Edible Columbus, new restaurants committed to local sourcing like Skillet and Knead, field to table dinners and the cow to cone marketing at Jeni’s. We are lucky to live in an agricultural state and have so much wonderful fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy.

This week is Local Foods Week, organized by Local Matters and there are more events than any one person could reasonably attend and a wealth of fun activities and dinners to choose from. Last year’s Local Foods Week was a lot of fun, and this year’s line up is bigger and better. Our special Columbus Food Adventures Local Foods Week tour pretty much sold out within 24 hours.

One of the focuses of this Local Foods Week is the Eat Local Challenge. There are a number of different ways that you can pledge to eat local, but I hope that everyone will try at least one Ohio grown food this week, whether it’s one of the many varieties of local apples or a scoop of Jeni’s pumpkin ice cream.

Last year’s theme was Localicious – this year’s is ‘OH so good’.  What local foods do you think are “OH so good’?  I’d love to hear about your favorite local foods, and also what events you take part in this week. I’m starting the week off with my third market to market ride tomorrow morning.

1 Comment

Filed under Columbus, Ohio, special events

Kings of Pastry

kings of pastry columbus

Kings of Pastry is showing until October 7th at the Gateway Film Center. I highly recommend seeing it while you can.

It is a quirky, touching, funny and overall captivating documentary about 16 chefs competing in the prestigious Meilleurs Ouvriers de France MOF) competition. This is the Olympics of French patisserie, a three day competition that takes place every 4 years and involves years of planning and months of practice and preparation. The documentary closely follows three of the competitors (one of whom is based in Chicago), giving insights into the grueling competition and it’s toll on the competitors. For the winners status, validation and jubilation and for the losers despondency and the question of whether to devote another 4 years of their life to a second attempt. At times the pressure of the event is hard to watch and you will develop a profound appreciation for the fragility of sugar.

pistacia vera

You don’t need to be an avid baker to enjoy this movie. It’s more about craftsmanship, the pursuit of excellence and intense competition. While the arena is pastry rather than athletics, the physical and emotional toll is the same.

Some additional pointers- This is not a movie to watch hungry. The Gateway Film Center has a cafe serving sandwiches and other food which you can take into the theater. They also have 20 beers on tap. Wexner members can watch the movie for $5.

Today’s matinee was accompanied by a reception hosted by Pistacia Vera and watching the documentary renewed my appreciation for the skill and precision that goes into each macaron or slice of gateau. Thanks to Pistacia Vera for such a wonderful spread.

pistacia vera

1 Comment

Filed under Columbus

Taste of Grandview

You may have noticed that there are a lot of ‘Taste of…’ events in September, including some pricy fundraiser events, like ‘Taste the Future’. Following close on their footsteps next weekend is the far more accessible Taste of Grandview Heights on Sunday October 3rd from 2-7pm at McKinley Park, 1661 Goodale Boulevard. Unlike the others, there is no three-figure entry fee – you simply purchase whichever dishes catch your fancy.

The Taste of Grandview Heights will showcase almost 20 restaurants and food vendors, with each offering appetizers, entrees or desserts (or any combination thereof). Many of the Grandview area restaurants will be represented including Third and Hollywood, Grandview Cafe, Mazah, Trattoria Roma, Noodles, Hoggies, Minuteman Pizza, Jeni’s and Stauf’s. Some restaurants from neighboring areas such as Cap City Diner and the Fish Market will also be in attendance. In other words, there will be just about something for everyone.

I was lucky to be included in a preview event last week (it was fun to be on a food tour organized by someone else!). We made a staggering nine stops and really experienced the wide range of restaurants in the area, and sampled some of the dishes that will be on offer at the Taste of Grandview event itself.

So, if the lure of finding all of that food in one place isn’t enough to lure you to McKinley Park on Sunday, here are some of the standout dishes that might tempt you:

The sampler plate from Mazah. I thought the tzatziki and tabbouleh were particularly good and the hummus was amazingly smooth. Their baklava sundae was also a crowd pleaser.

taste of grandview

The delicious signature cheese biscuit from Third & Hollwood filled with their pimento cheese spread, frisee and Tennessee ham. It is probably worth going to the event just to search out this rare treat (hint – it’s not on their regular menu).

The Grandview Cafe showed that you don’t have to head downtown to satisfy a hotdog craving – they use Nathan’s Famous Franks and get their New England style buns from the Orlando Baking Company in Cleveland. They used us as guinea pigs to test their new stadium dog topped with nacho cheese sauce, pickled jalapenos and crushed tortilla chips. It seemed to be a winner.

hot dog columbus

We also had some exceptional scones and pretzels at Stauf’s, some or all of which I expect to also see at the event.

You can get more details about the event on Facebook or Twitter. I hope to see you there.


Leave a comment

Filed under Columbus, special events

Rogue Bakery

cookies columbus

If you are an avid twitterer in Ohio you have probably come across @roguebakery. Rogue Bakery is not a conventional bakery with a store front and they don’t advertise. It is more of a secret cookie club spreading by word of mouth on social media, and knowing the secret is part of the fun.

Like Columbus Food Adventures,  Rogue Bakery is a business born from unemployment. Owner and baker Carl is an engineer by trade, who’s been baking cookies for friends and decided to start selling them. The cookies, baked in a church kitchen in Cleveland, are made with as many locally sourced ingredients as possible. Order your cookies by Friday night, pay online (via facebook) and if you are lucky enough to live in Columbus or Cleveland the cookies will magically be delivered to your door on Saturday. If you order 2 dozen you can also get a 1/2 gallon of Snowville milk delivered with your cookies. Mail order (without milk) is under beta testing.

cookies columbus

Cookies are $15 for a dozen and choices include an experimental dozen, 12 of a favorite flavor or a gluten free or vegan selection. Flavors include: Ancho peanut butter, I’m not a snickerdoodle, honey toasted cashew cranberry, chocolate liberator, milk chocolate chunk, shape shifters, oatmeal dark chocolate pecan cherry and experimental flavors that vary each week. I’m not a snickerdoodle is one of the most popular, but I’m all about the oatmeal and the honey toasted cashew.

columbus desserts

If you think that nothing could be better than having fresh baked homemade cookies delivered to your door, there’s more. While the cookies are good, I get as much enjoyment from reading the quirky labels. The cookie descriptions are not your average hyperbole. As you can tell from the photos, Carl has a sense of humor and labels may say anything from ‘we like rainbows and unicorns’ to ‘turkey on a cookie? yes or no?’ Carl claims that his cookies are made with ‘less than 15% love by volume.’ I would say that they’re made with more than 15% laughs.

rogue bakery

Carl’s quite obviously a twitter addict who likes to interact with his customers on a wide variety of cookie and non-cookie related topics. Are you awesome? Are you having relationship issues?

ohio valley wine tour

My favorite label is the custom one he designed for our Ohio River Valley wine tour picnic. Please wait until the tour bus stops before shoving cookies in your mouth. Thank you.

1 Comment

Filed under Columbus, Ohio

Support Columbus Metropolitan Library

Keep Our Library Strong

While I was out of work the library was a wonderful place. I could borrow books and movies without worrying about spending money I didn’t have. I could test out new cookbooks, escape in some fiction or research career options. Here’s a post I wrote about my library love last year.

Now the library is a great resource for books on the history of Columbus, marketing, small business start up and a wealth of other topics.

We are extremely lucky in Columbus – we have one of the best libraries in the country. We can order books online and get emails telling us when they are ready to collect. We can watch our favorite TV shows and attend free programs on grants, job hunting, small business. That’s not to mention the great programs that they have for kids.

But our library’s funding is under threat.

“Because of state cutbacks and other funding reductions, Columbus Metropolitan Library’s  [CML] budget has been cut by $11 million since 2008, forcing the library to reduce hours at all locations, reduce staff by 160 positions, reduce book and reference materials budgets, defer maintenance, delay technology upgrades.

To protect the services we provide to the community, we are placing an operating issue on the November ballot. The issue will replace the original 2.2 mills and adds .6 mills to help make up for the huge cuts by the state. It has been 24 years since CML has had an increase in local funding”.

On November 2nd, please vote FOR the Columbus Metropolitan Library. Please support our public library and help to keep it number 1.

More information:

Leave a comment

Filed under Columbus