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Photos: Cravings Carryout Cafe relaunch

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One of our favorite discoveries from last year – Cookie Cravings Bakery – celebrated a re-brand and a revamp this past weekend. Newly christened Cravings Carryout Cafe, the cafe has new signage, branding, and a new menu. They dropped the “Cookie” from their name because they do so much more. The cookies are still there, but the focus is now on sandwiches, wraps, and  other sides, all highlighting the neighborhood carry out element.

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Owners Matt, Lindsey, and Joan Tewanger have made some small changes to the space. You’ll see new equipment, shelves, and menu boards.

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This includes a new retail shelve with T-shirts, granola, plus growlers and bags of Thunderkiss Coffee.

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The boards showcase the new menu, replete with rolls, burritos, sandwiches, and sides.

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There’s iced and hot coffee, plus juice and tea. I completely forgot to photograph the third board that highlights specials.

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We stopped in about half an hour after opening on Saturday, and already they were busy. Matt was working his magic in the back.

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Cravings added some more seating in the side yard, with has great promise for spring, summer, and autumn breakfasts, especially when there’s a welcoming fire in the fire pit.

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We knew we were going to visit over the weekend, but the promise of bronuts pretty much guaranteed we’d come searching. What’s a bronut? It’s a brioche donut. Cravings makes killer brioche, and they’ve mixed the dough with lemon and rosemary, fried it, and iced it. The donuts were perfectly soft, fluffy, and warm. Ours disappeared in a matter of seconds.

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And then it was on to the sandwiches. Oh, the sandwiches. They were beautiful and delicious, stacked high on golden brioche rolls.

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We started first with the Breakfast Roll, featuring cheddar, bacon, a fried egg, and a rosemary aioli. We barely managed to sneak some bites while our boys devoured it. Our five-year-old (who is not picky, but knows his stuff) said it was one of his favorite sandwiches.

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We also snagged a plate of the sausage biscuits and gravy, made using Bluescreek Farms sausage. It was thick and chunky, served with a soft biscuit, and just what you would ask for in biscuits and gravy.

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Our favorite of meal was the BLT. Like the breakfast roll, it was served on a beautiful brioche roll.

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The sandwich was stacked high with thick-cut bacon, greens, a basil mayo, and these stunning tomatoes. We did not expect to find tomatoes like this in March. Usually  you get those sad, tasteless, translucent ones in the winter, but these were dark and red. Matt roasted them to perfection.

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With the firepit going in the side yard, they set out a cute little smores kit.

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So after brunch we enjoyed some smores roasted over the fire.

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All in all, it’s an exciting new stage for the restaurant! Congrats to Matt, Lindsey, Joan, and the crew!

If you want to visit & connect:
Cravings Carryout Cafe
227 E. Third Ave. (off Fourth St. in Italian Village)
Columbus, OH 43201
(614) 725-0090
Find them on Facebook and @CravingsCafe614
New hours are Tues-Fri, 11a-7p; Sat & Sun, 9a-3p

Video: Breakfast With Nick & Karina at South of Lane

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We discovered South of Lane late last year, and last week Karina Nova and I visited for our latest Breakfast With Nick spot on 10TV! I’ve mastered the art of taking small bites on air, now I have to work on not drinking my coffee awkwardly. You can watch the clip here.

Photos: Brunch at The Torpedo Room

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One of the latest Columbus Food League arrivals, The Torpedo Room, launched a limited brunch menu this past Sunday in conjunction with a monthly event of brunch + a classic movie at the Gateway Film Center. I took my five-year-old to go check out the brunch (although I don’t think he’s quite ready for Goldfinger). The Torpedo Room is located on the main floor of the GFC; you’ll see the signs just to the left of the concession stand.

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As you might expect, the single-room restaurant uses a heavy nautical theme, with round portholes, heavy draped curtains, and a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea feel.

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There’s a good amount of seating, and the restaurant includes a full bar. It’s a cozy and quiet spot.

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The current brunch menu (it may change) features seven items, lots of sides, plus drinks (including the bar). There’s a heavy southwestern theme, with burritos, enchiladas, and huevos rancheros taking the lead. Like every CFL restaurant, you can rely on solid vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options.

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I took the opportunity to finally try a Rambling House ginger beer. Rambling House produces their own natural sodas out of a small space in southern Clintonville (where they host a LOT of live music), and their sodas are showing up on tap around town. The ginger beer is bright, fizzy, and a delightful balance between sweet and a nice gingery pucker. The last few gulps were especially strong with the ginger. You could make some great cocktails out of this.

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I chose the egg and cheese enchiladas, because you don’t see many breakfast enchiladas out there. The two enchiladas are filled with eggs and cheese, and topped heavily with a spicy verde salsa; I added the optional chorizo, because… well, chorizo. They’re served with a small plate of hash browns.

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Will asked for the breakfast burrito, a good-sized one filled with eggs, cheese, beans, sausage, and salsa, plus a side of potatoes.

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It was as filling and tasty as you would expect from a breakfast burrito.

Overall, it’s a solid brunch that’s just getting started. Expect the menu to change and hopefully regular hours to be established.

If you want to visit:
The Torpedo Room
1550 N. High St. (inside the Gateway Film Center)
Columbus, OH 43201
(614) 247-4433

Currently brunch is just served with this event. Upcoming movie brunches (cost is $15 for both your meal and the movie ticket) include:
April 6th: Breathless
May 4th: Annie Hall

UPDATED: Regular brunch hours are Sat & Sun, 11a-2p; Cinema Classic brunches start at 12p, movie is at 2.

The Torpedo Room on Urbanspoon

Event: Brunch & A Classic at Gateway Film Center

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I know dinner and a movie is a thing, but what about brunch and a movie? Well, the Gateway Film Center is trying to rectify that. Starting this Sunday, March 2nd, the GFC is hosting a monthly brunch + movie series, starting with Goldfinger. The event will pair a classic movie with a special brunch at the new Torpedo Room, one of the latest openings from the Columbus Food League group of restaurants.

Brunch kicks off at noon; the movie starts at 2pm. $15 gets you brunch and the movie ticket (or $7.50 if you just want to see the movie). You can pair your meal with all sorts of Ohio beers and specialty cocktails. The event will be hosted by Johnny DiLoretto (director of ops at the theater) and John DeSando, known for their Cinema Classics program on WCBE. Expect to see participation from other local businesses like pur-suit as well. Once you’re impressed by Sean Connery’s gray three-piece suit in Goldfinger, talk to Nate DeMars about buying your own.

I always enjoy pairings like this. I love the theater, with its combination of first run movies, independent films, and classics. (We recently took our 5-year-old there for his first movie-in-the-theater ever, The Lego Movie.) Plus, their beer and cocktail list is solid. And I’m a big fan of Liz Lessner-led Columbus Food League restaurants. The match-up of Gateway + Torpedo Room is brilliant. I got a sneak peak at the brunch menu, and it’s looking pretty awesome. It’ll include things like bourbon-glazed French toast with toasted almonds and maple syrup, egg & cheese breakfast enchiladas, huevos rancheros, and bottomless silver dollar pancakes. True to CFL form, expect to see lots of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options, too!

If you can’t make it this month, you can catch Breathless on April 6th and Annie Hall on May 4th. Look for more offerings to join the list in coming months.

Sunflower Chinese Restaurant & Lounge | Dublin, OH

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Sunflower Chinese Restaurant & Lounge (Facebook)
7370 Sawmill Rd. (map it!)
Dublin, OH 43235
(614) 764-7888
Open Mon-Thurs, 11:30a-11p; Fri, 11:30a-12a; Sat, 11a-12a; Sun, 11a-11p
(smaller dim sum menu served daily; full dim sum served Sat & Sun, 11a-3p)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N

Visited: Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 11:00 a.m.

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Oh, it’s been too long since we’ve been to dim sum at Sunflower Chinese Restaurant & Lounge. Sadly, there aren’t many places for dim sum around Columbus now (the nearby Lee Garden closed a couple years ago). While there are a plethora of Chinese restaurants around town (some the Americanized, some very authentic), there aren’t many that serve authentic dim sum.

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Quick background, in case you’re not familiar with dim sum. Dim sum is essentially Chinese brunch. It’s a late morning/early afternoon meal that’s typically eaten as a group. The meal consists of tea and mostly small plates meant to be shared.

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In the true dim sum experience, the small plates are served tableside from carts. Different servers wheel their carts from table to table, allowing you to select plates that interest you. A typical dish is already divided into pieces for easy sharing.

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The carts come quickly at first, so your table will fill up in no time. I remember the first time we had true dim sum, at a place called Jing Fong in New York City. The carts came at us so fast that we barely had time to react. The experience is a little more subdued at Sunflower, and the servers are all very polite, so don’t feel bad if you decline a plate. And don’t hesitate to ask what’s what.

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We started with a lot of dumplings, some steamed and some fried.

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The dumplings are loaded with things like shrimp, pork, and veggies.

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They’re steamed in metal or wood containers that stack on the carts, and the servers deposit them with tongs.

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There are also plates with stir fries of rice noodles and veggies. Our boys loved these.

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This dumpling (I don’t know what it was called) had a delicate and flaky exterior.

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I also love these rice noodles, filled with shrimp and doused with a sweet soy sauce.

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These dumplings were similar, filled with shrimp.

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These fluffy steamed pork buns were a hit, too, with a big, pillowy breading surrounding sweet and rich pork.

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One dish includes chicken, rice, veggies, and a quail egg steamed in a lotus leaf.

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Here’s the interior of the lotus leaf, complete with quail egg.

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There’s a cart with drinks and desserts, too, so you can supplement your tea with cold bubble tea and finish off the meal by indulging your sweet tooth.

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At the beginning of your meal, you’re given a card listing the general categories of the dishes. As you select plates from the cart, the server will mark the appropriate line with a stamp or initials. Then at the end of your meal, you take the card up to the cashier and they add everything up.

The dim sum experience at Sunflower is delightful, especially if you go with a large group and enjoy the company while sampling dishes. We were pretty conservative with our choices (because this was a first experience for our boys), but there are more adventurous plates, too, like fried chicken feet.

Is Sunflower the best Chinese restaurant in the city? Probably not. Is it one of the only restaurants serving dim sum? Yes. And a very fine meal it is.

Sunflower Chinese Restaurant & Lounge on Urbanspoon

Grandview Grind | Columbus, OH

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Grandview Grind (Facebook / @GrandviewGrind)
1423-A Grandview Ave. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43212
(614) 485-9005
Open Mon-Wed, 6a-8p; Thurs-Sat, 6a-10p
Accepts cash & credit/debit

Visited: Sunday, January 12, 2014 at 12:30pm

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Columbus has no shortage of coffee roasters and coffee shops, and the closer you get to Ohio State, the more you’ll find coffee shops that are perfect for studying or just hanging out. Shops like these are valuable community hubs, especially in the winter. They’re a warm place to gather for studiers, freelancers, book clubs, or the casual newspaper reader. Grandview has no shortage of these shops, including the relatively new Grandview Grind.

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Grandview Grind is located in the Grandview Center, a little plaza with shops and restaurants surrounding a small parking lot. GG is tucked in the northwest corner of the plaza, next to Local Cantina. It was just announced that the Panera which sits on front corner of the plaza will move to the Grandview Yard and be replaced by a new Cameron Mitchell steakhouse. Panera’s exit will certainly benefit Grandview Grind.

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The coffee shop is a sizable space – bigger than it looks from the outside – with a curved counter in one corner and the requisite number of tables, chairs, stools, and comfy seats. It’s bright and tall and open, while still feeling pretty cozy. In one corner are shelves stocked with local gifts.

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The coffee menu is sizable, and offers the range you would expect: hot and cold coffee, lattes, espresso, specialty drinks, smoothies.

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They don’t prep food on premises, but plenty of local treats from places like Patisserie Lallier are available.

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Beans (available for bulk purchase) come from around Columbus – Thunderkiss, Brioso, Backroom, Luck Bros, Boston Stoker – with the exception of Denver-based Novo.

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Mrs. Bfast w/Nick and I were in the mood for something simple, so I ordered a shot of espresso and a cubano. Both were good, although just a tad sour.

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If tea is more of your thing, Grandview Grind still has you covered.

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Lots of local love on the door. Grandview Grind was busy when we stopped in, a sure sign that it serves that all important need of a community space. They seem to be doing something right, and here’s hoping that success continues!

Video: Breakfast With Nick and Karina at Starliner Diner

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Fans of the blog know that I love Starliner Diner, and I’m looking for any excuse to get back there. So I took Karina Nova there for our latest Breakfast With Nick spot on 10TV! You can watch the clip here.

Dan the Baker | Columbus, OH

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Dan the Baker (Facebook / @thebakerdan)
1028 Ridge St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 928-9035
Open Mon & Tues, 9a-5p; Wed, Fri, & Sat, 9a-4p
Accepts cash & credit/debit

Visited: Friday, January 10, 2014 at 9:00 a.m.

Daniel Riesenberger, aka Dan the Baker, has long been selling his breads, croissants, and pastries at farmer’s markets around town. I first encountered his goods at a workshop at Wild Goose Creative‘s Too Many Cooksa couple years ago, where he taught everyone how to roll sourdough croissants. We’ve been following Dan’s work ever since then, finding him at the Clintonville and the Worthington farmer’s markets. I also keep seeing his name pop up on restaurant menus, as his breads and pastries are turned into sandwiches and desserts.

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Well, finally Dan and his team have opened up a small retail space attached to their production kitchen in Grandview. The space is a little hard to find, down an odd side street off Dublin Road (just east of the Grandview Avenue intersection), but it’s a bright, clean little space with a few tables, decorated in blues with light wood accents.

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The space includes a small counter and a few shelves. The main shelf behind the counter shows off Dan’s picturesque breads. Serious, follow him on Instagram to get a daily dose of his breads. We ended up picking a loaf of sunflower flax seed bread (bottom center) which was simply delicious. He preferences local and organic ingredients in his bread. The price point is a little higher than grocery store bread, but the flavors, textures, and overall quality are hard to beat.

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He also sells smaller pastries, croissants, and scones.

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Plus cookies, shortbreads, and “tiles.”

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That day there were some fresh and crisp apple galettes.

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Dan also offers full coffee and tea service, with a variety of loose leaf teas.

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He also serves espresso, lattes, macchiatos, cappucinos, V60 pour overs, and more, using beans from Chicago’s Intelligentsia Coffee and Columbus’ Cafe Brioso.

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I had a smooth and creamy shot of espresso to go with the galette.

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The cafe space has a window into the pastry kitchen. It was dormant when we visited, but I can imagine it’d be some fun watching while enjoying coffee and a snack.

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Daniel took us through their production kitchen, too. The space used to be owned by The French Loaf, so when Daniel took it over, it was mostly ready for production. He added some equipment, including a new oven, but it was good to go as a bakery!

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We saw delicious savory croissants.

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And cheddar bacon scones.

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Around the kitchen you can see the remnants of Daniel’s small start, like labeled equipment from his time baking out of the Hills Market’s kitchen.

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As expected, they were busy. We found Colin scoring loaves of sourdough bread and loading them into the oven.

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Daniel and his crew are still getting started with the shop, but they’re already doing quite a bit with it. They’re open most days of the week, and look for an official grand opening soon. You can stop in to grab a snack, or hang out with a pastry and some coffee. It’s a quiet little spot, perfect for some reading, studying, or conversation with friends!

Dan the Baker on Urbanspoon

Photos: Columbus Brew Adventures Distillery Tour – Part 2

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This post continues from Part 1 of my post on Columbus Brew Adventures‘ distillery tour. Our third stop on the tour took us to Grandview to Watershed Distillery. We gathered in their front room, where Greg gave us an overview of the business and shared their particular take on distilling.

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One of Watershed’s signatures is their Four Peel Gin.

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Greg passed around bottles of the key aromatics added to the Four Peel, letting us guess what was what. The Four Peel includes orange, grapefruit, lemon, and lime peel (sorry, I spoiled it for you).

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He then took us back into the production space, showing us everything from the stills to the bottling and labeling machines, to their storage, barrels, and even the new milling room.

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A batch of gin was boiling away, so Greg opened the hatch to let us sniff. It was like sweet, floral mulling spices. Afterward, Greg took us back to the front room to sample the gin, the barrel-aged gin, and their bourbon.

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From there, it was time to hit up our last stop: Till Dynamic Fare. At Till we were treated to a cocktail and some food. The bartender Branden created a special cocktail that day using Watershed gin.

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I appreciated getting to sample the gin previously, and then see it at work in a cocktail. I’m no expert on cocktails, but I enjoyed this one, and that seemed to be the consensus around the table.

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Chef Magdiale Wolmark prepared a special spaetzle to complement our cocktail, with bacon, spinach, goat cheese, and an egg. We devoured it. The meal and cocktail was a nice, quiet way to wind down the tour and talk about what we had seen that night. Jim then took us back to Middle West, and we departed from there.

I’ve both taken and led Brew Adventures’ downtown brewery tour already; my knowledge lies more in the beer realm, but I learned a lot on this tour. It gave me an even greater appreciation for what these distillers and mead makers do. Like many elements of the Columbus culinary scene (meat, spices, coffee, beer, etc.), these businesses are made up of individuals who are passionate about and proud of what they do, and we got a glimpse of it.

I highly recommend the Distillery Tour, if you get the chance. The tour runs alternating Thursdays; you can get more information here.

Photos: Columbus Brew Adventures Distillery Tour – Part 1

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Last week I took part in another one of Columbus Brew Adventures‘ offerings: the distillery tour. The tour makes four stops total, visiting a couple distilleries, a meadery, and a restaurant that features their work in a cocktail. It started very appropriately at Middle West Spirits in Short North; Middle West is Ohio’s first micro-distillery. Jim got the tour going with an overview, then he turned things over to Josh, who took us around the space, talked about MWS’s mission and style, then had us sample a couple of their spirits.

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Josh spread out the sampling. He began by having us compare a sip of Grey Goose vodka to Middle West’s signature OYO vodka. This helped frame Middle West’s mission to “build spirits around a palate,” as Josh said. Meaning that their vodka is not meant to be the plain, tasteless, clear spirit like most vodkas. Instead, it’s built to have a flavor, which is pulls from its Ohio wheat base.

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He also had us sample the honey vanilla bean vodka, which is one of my favorite offerings from Middle West, and then he led us around the distilling operation. It’s a small but mighty space. The walls are lined with barrels of aging spirits, alongside vinegars from Tavern Vinegar Co., a collaboration between Middle West and Cleveland chef Jonathon Sawyer.

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We were fortunate to see some of the distilling in progress. Here’s 190 vodka coming off the still.

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Josh finished the tour by sharing a sample of their deliciously smooth bourbon. The three samples provide a nice contrast: the wheat-based vodka, the flavored vanilla bean, and the aged bourbon.

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We walked next door to our second stop: Brothers Drake Meadery. Brothers Drake has been preaching the mead gospel around Columbus, and their bar has become a favorite spot to enjoy some unique drinks, live music, and some Japanese food truck delicacies. We were led through the small production area by Justin, one of the assistant mead makers.

IMG_8860Brothers Drake sources their raw honey from Marysville. Justin opened a bucket of it so we could sample it.

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Justin even poured a glass of some unfiltered mead in-progress; it has a foamy and sweet taste.

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It’s easy to think of mead as just an overly sweet dessert wine, but Brothers Drake demonstrates the variety of meads available. We sampled their Wild Ohio and Bergamot Blue meads. The Wild Ohio is a semi-dry mead, while the Bergamot Blue is spiced with scarlet bee balm and blueberries from Ohio.

That’s the beginning of the tour; read on for Part 2!

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