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Photos of events, breakfast dishes, revisits to breakfast spots, and so on.

Photos: North Market Coffee Roast 2014

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Yesterday North Market hosted the third Coffee Roast on a perfectly beautiful spring day. This year the event moved outdoors to the farmers market plaza (and the date was pushed back from March), with the roasters lined up in front of the market. Together as a family we beat most of the crowds by hitting up the event just as it started.

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We strolled up and down the lines, saying hello to some favorites and trying a couple new roasters. Like every good event – and every day, let’s be honest – we started with a stop at One Line Coffee. Mrs. Bfast w/Nick is there often enough that she knows the baristas by name; they were pulling delicious, delicious shots of espresso.

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Down on one end stood Das Kaffee Haus‘ table, complete with their modified ambulance (labeled the Emergency Kaffee Unit) parked nearby. DKH is located in Lithopolis, but their coffee can be found around Columbus at places like Milestone 229 and the Columbus Brewing Company Restaurant. Amy and Joe (aka Frau Burkhardt and Herr Joseph) told me their place is modeled on the European coffee shops they’ve encountered while traveling and serving abroad in the military.

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And of course we were on the lookout for Jason and Emily from Thunderkiss Coffee. They’re the coolest. Also, their coffee is great. Some of my favorite in town. Jason has a small but mighty roasting operation; you can find his beans at restaurants and on store shelves all around town.

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Strolling down the line we took in brews from Crimson Cup, Backroom Coffee Roasters

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…plus Silver Bridge and the newer Roaming Goat Coffee. The fun thing about this event is that everyone is excited to talk about coffee – and not just their coffee, but coffee in general. And you could witness nearly every type of coffee prep available.

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Dayton-based Boston Stoker has established their presence in Columbus with a shop near OSU’s campus. Like a couple other places, they displayed coffee beans for smelling or to reference the colors of the roasting process.

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Stauf’s Coffee Roasters, one of the mainstays of the Columbus coffee scene, was on hand with a tiny electric roaster. The portable setup roasts in small sample batches, allowing them to treat the same beans in different roasting lengths quickly.

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Rich the roaster showed me samples of his roast in progress. The machine roasts in 80 gram batches.

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The most unique offering of the day came – not surprisingly – from Cafe Brioso. They served two excellent hot brews – some of the standouts from the morning – but they also featured coffee sno-cones.

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Yes, coffee sno-cones. J. J. explained they used a rare Ethiopian Nekisse bean, cold-brewed, mixed with a dash of Ohio honey, and served over shaved ice. It was as delicious as you’d expect. I think we have a new definition of summer in Columbus.

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Further down the line – right next to Snowville Creamery with their samples of milk and yogurt – we found Actual Brewing‘s roastery crew in full swing.

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They make superb beer, really strong coffee roasts, and they’ve got some of the best beards in the biz.

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The event space indoors was dedicated to coffee education, with Brioso’s crew kicking off a demonstration of espresso preparation. On the other end of the room, baristas from a mix of shops made espresso drinks for customers.

We couldn’t have had a better day for the event. The move outdoors and to a Sunday (see photos from 2012 and 2013) offered more space and prevented longer lines. The one thing that confused me was the branding of it as a “brunch.” When I hear “brunch” I assume there will be food involved, but what that really meant was “you can go into the market to find food.” Many vendors had special $5 brunch bites, but the market opens at noon on Sundays (the Coffee Roast started at 10), so a majority of the stalls were closed during the first half of the event (although the newly moved and re-branded Taste of Belgium was hopping). I was also a little disappointed that attendees were given generic North Market mugs, and not the fun branded ones with colorful Clinton Reno artwork like years past. I know it’s gimmicky, but I like having a memento that references the specific event.

Aside from those details – it was a wonderful event that really featured Columbus’ great coffee roasters and brewers. We have much to be proud of, and our coffee keeps getting better and better.

Photos: Brewing Beer at North High Brewing

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Where does a craft beer enthusiast go for his birthday? He brews some beer with friends! A couple weeks ago I gathered with a group of friends at North High Brewing to make our own batch. North High is Columbus’ first brew-on-premises shop, which means you can brew, ferment, and bottle beer under the guidance of experienced brewers.

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I’ve been to North High a number of times already – their bar has some great history behind it, which you can learn about on Columbus Brew Adventures downtown tour – but this was the first I’ve brewed there. The brewhouse is a separate room from the bar, with eight brew kettles centered around a chandelier with 21 bulbs symbolizing the 21st Amendment (the repeal of Prohibition).

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The process took about three hours total. We began by copying down the recipe, then heading into the brewhouse to be begin boiling water. North High lets you brew in 15 gallon batches; their system uses steam to heat the kettles, which speeds up the process.

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Another streamlining step is the use of extracts in brewing. Extracts are concentrated syrups that save on boiling time. North High uses primarily extracts, but not exclusively. We added about three pounds each of caramel malts and peat smoked malts.

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These were measured out…

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…and then milled right there are the brewery.

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We loaded the grains into muslin bags.

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And then these were steeped in the hot liquor (aka the hot water), much like tea.

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Then the extracts go in. On the right are the thirty pounds of amber malt extract. On the left is the five pounds of Ohio honey. The honey helps round out the big, malty body of the wee heavy. It gives the yeast something feed on during fermentation, and it just plain tastes good.

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Honey and extract into the tank!

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Throughout the boil we added pelletized Fuggle hops in small, calculated amounts. Fuggle is a sweeter English hop – appropriate for a Scottish style like the wee heavy.

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While you’re brewing, there’s down-time to check out the bar and order some food or drink.

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North High usually has about 10 of their beers on tap, plus a good selection of other breweries. They also run special brews like this one: their wee heavy on firkin with vanilla bean, cocoa nib, and bourbon-soaked oak chips.

By that point, brewing was done. The beer just had to cool and get filtered into the fermentation container. We’ll be coming back soon to bottle it.

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But the fun didn’t stop there! As it was dinner time, we hit up Marino’s Seafood Fish & Chips in Grandview (look for a separate post on that soon). It was lots of fried goodness.

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And then we rounded out the evening by hitting up Zauber Brewing just down the road. All in all, a great birthday celebration – especially getting to hang out with friends and make something together.

North High Brewing on Urbanspoon

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

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.

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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!

Photos: Lunch at Founder’s Brewery

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Over Christmas break we traveled up to my hometown of Grand Rapids, and any visit there usually includes a stop at Founder’s Brewery. I’ve written about Founder’s before, but only from the perspective of enjoying their beer, and prior to recent renovations.

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Since that visit, Founders has expanded their production facility, the front patio, the seating area, the gift shop… well, everything. The space is still beautiful and open, with lots of natural light, a big long bar, and plenty of tables. The live music stage has also been raised.

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One of the additions is a small expansion of the seating area in the former space of the gift shop. It wasn’t as big as I expected, but more seats are more seats. They also installed a second smaller bar (not pictured); it’s the original bar from Founders’ first space.

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You sometimes have to play the wait-and-hover game to find a table. We expected lunch to be less busy, but I’m guessing everyone had the same idea, to stop in for lunch when on winter break. After a short wait, we found a group of diners packing up and snagged their table.

The first order of business was buying a round of Founders Sweet Repute, the latest entry in their Backstage Series of specialty brews. Sweet Repute is a wheat wine (a strong and typically malty ale containing at least 50% wheat on the grain bill) that’s aged in both bourbon barrels AND bourbon barrels that held maple syrup. So, sweet and boozy is the name of the game. I loved the Sweet Repute: it’s rich with a 12.6% ABV bite.

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My brother also ordered the oatmeal stout on nitro tap. The addition of oats to the beer lends a wonderful smoothness.

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This smoothness is compounded by the nitrogen. A nitro tap uses a majority of nitrogen when carbonating the beer, rather than the standard carbon dioxide (so it’s technically nitrogenation and not carbonation). There’s typically the beautiful “waterfall” effect after the beer is poured, where you can watch the tinier nitrogen bubbles cascade upward to the surface to form a soft, pillowy head. Nitrogen bubbles are smaller and they don’t infuse into the liquid as well, so they help produce that creamy mouthfeel that pairs especially well with stouts.

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But it wasn’t just beer for lunch! We sampled a variety of Founders’ deli menu, too. I’m a sucker for a good reuben, so I had the Rubin’s Reuben. It did not disappoint: crusty rye bread sandwiching corned beef, 1000 Island, Swiss, and pungent but not overwhelming sauerkraut.

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There’s also Charsie’s Reuben, which substitutes turkey, havarti, cole slaw, and sourdough with a load of veggies like spinach, tomato, red onion, and avocado.

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Finally, there’s the toasted Founders Cheesesteak, with roast beef, provolone, peppers, onions, mayo, and a surprising bite of horseradish. Their menu says it’s their most popular sandwich.

Almost all sandwiches are available in half or whole; it’s really a better bargain to get the full. Plus, the sandwiches are excellent. It’s a nice balance between Founders’ solid beer line-up and good bar grub.

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At the end of lunch I requested a sample of another taproom-only special: the Infiltrator, a clear, golden triple IPA that starts sweet and then punches you with bitterness on the back end. I loved it, but having this first would have ruined our palates for lunch.

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One of the major points of renovation was the addition of giant outdoor patios, partly covered and with two big firepits. This eliminates the small amount of parking out front, but in the warmer months will easily double the amount of space for customers.

In summation: I already knew Founders had great beer. Now I can confirm they have great food, too.

Photos: Roasting with Thunderkiss Coffee

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Last week I spent the evening with Jason Valentine of Thunkerkiss Coffee while he roasted coffee. Jason is a small batch coffee roaster here in Columbus; he roasts out of his garage and distributes his beans to area vendors and restaurants. Even if you don’t know his stuff directly, chances are you’ve had it or seen it around Columbus.

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I’ve taken a number of workshops on coffee and coffee roasting, attended tastings, etc., but I’ve never had the chance to just sit and ask endless questions about the roasting process. We began in Jason’s basement, where he stores bags of green coffee beans. He roasts 1-2 nights per week. Before roasting, he weighs and sorts the beans into labeled containers, all based on a spreadsheet listing the customer, the roast(s) they’ve requested, and how they are to be delivered (6 oz bags, 12 oz bags, etc.). Some vendors brew his coffee for their restaurants, some retail bags of whole beans, and some do both.

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Jason roasts single origin coffees, meaning they come from one specific place, although he does make some of his own blends, such as the espresso blend. The green beans can be stored for a long time; they are processed out of cherries from the coffee plant. The cherries have been pulped so we’re left with just the internal bean, and sometimes the mucilage, a thin layer surrounding the bean itself. Some Ethiopian beans, for instance, are dried out before de-pulping, which lets the mucilage harden around the bean, adding a certain flavor when roasting. Even before these beans are roasted, you can identify different characteristics just by sticking your nose in the bag.

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Roasting takes some time, so we started with a shot of espresso made from his espresso blend.

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Jason has been roasting for a couple years now. He keeps detailed notes of the timing and temperature from each roast.

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All of the essential supplies.

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As the roaster is heating up, the green beans are placed in a hopper on top.

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Jason roasts on a Diedrich infrared roaster. This type of roaster is compact, more energy efficient, and it uses a radiating heat to roast the beans, rather than a direct flame on the drum.

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The entire roasting process takes roughly 20 minutes, depending on the bean, the amount you’re roasting, and the type of roast you’re aiming for. The real factors of roasting include time, temperature, and air flow. The final roast depends on the manipulation of these three elements. While certain beans innately contain different flavor and aroma profiles (some are naturally earthlier, some brighter and fruitier), they can be roasted at different temperatures and for different times to highlight these characteristics.

The first stage of roasting is called the drying out phase. It lasts approximately 4-5 minutes, and heats the beans to the point where the water in them evaporates. Even at this stage, Jason can control how much air is flowing around the beans. Adding more at this point results in a brighter, more acidic roast.

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This tool allows Jason to check samples of the beans during roasting. He can examine the color and aroma.

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At this point the beans are entering the second phase: the maillard phase, also known as the “cinnamon phase.” This happens around 300 degrees F, and here the color begins to develop. (I learned later that “maillard” refers generally to the browning that happens when food is cooked, like bread or meat.)

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Once the cinnamon phase has passed, the roaster is working toward first crack. At this point there’s a literal crack – a whole lot of them, in fact – as the center of the bean is fracturing and the sugar in it melts. It sounds a like tiny little popcorn popping. After this you are headed for second crack, when the sugar crystallizes and burns into carbon, and the beans express oil that can coat them. Most roasts are stopping just short of this point because the burnt sugars lead to more bitterness. Once the roasting is complete, Jason opens the hopper that dumps the hot beans into a lower tray. The darker the roast, the smokier the process, and the more oily the beans will look.

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A series of levers in the tray begin swirling the beans around. At this point, Jason shifts the airflow to a fan that draws air down through the beans. This cools the beans and stops them from baking any further. Given the colder temperatures of December, the beans cooled quickly.

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At the front center of the tray is a flat plate without any air holes. Once Jason turns off the levers, he brushes the beans off this plate. The plate has heated up after coming into contact with them, so brushing the beans away keeps them from burning.

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Here’s a full cooled batch.

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Once they’re cooled, he can slide the plate open, turn on the mechanism, and the arms sweep every last remaining coffee bean into buckets. While this is happening, the roasting drum is brought to temperature and prepped for the next batch.

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The completed roasts are labeled and dated, and ready to be delivered or sorted and sealed into smaller bags.

I very much enjoyed hanging out with Jason. He does incredible work, and his passion for coffee and everything about it shows through his willingness to talk about it and teach it. We’ve been sampling a number of his roasts at home, and have loved every one of them. If you haven’t tried his coffee yet, do so soon. Look up his website (thunderkisscoffee.com) for a list of where to purchase his beans or which restaurants are serving them.

Photos: Latitude 41′s new fall menu

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Last week, the Mrs. and I were invited to sample Latitude 41′s new fall menu. The night was hosted by Chef Michael Koenig, who took over as executive chef a few months back.

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We started with appetizers of bacon popcorn. Popcorn = yes. Bacon = very yes.

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We also started with an assortment of jams, butters, and pates, most notably the maple butter (made with Snowville cream) and the bacon butter.

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Plus olives and bread.

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Chef Michael also treated us to some of his lamb bacon, made with Bluescreek lamb and seasoned with cumin, nutmeg, cayenne, cinnamon, and maple syrup. Very, very delicious.

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He then served us a hearty banana squash soup.

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He brought out a banana squash, just to show us its size. A banana squash that size yields about a gallon of liquid, enough to allow him to make the soup without adding any cream.

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The meal was complemented by a wine tasting, ranging from a bright pinot grigio to a much richer and heavier sirah and a pinot noir.

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The salad – very light and sweet – is topped with apples, feta, hazelnuts, and a lemon honey vinaigrette.

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Of the entrees, we tried the veal osso bucco with baby root veggies on a bed of polenta.

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Our favorite of the night was a pair of seared scallops on a saffron risotto.

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We finished the meal with a little trio of desserts, from a tiny red wine truffle to an apple rum bread pudding, and the real stand-out: a PB&J pot de creme. I’ll never look at PB&J sandwiches the same again.

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As a parting gift, Chef Michael shared some of his homemade sauces: a limoncello and a caramel sauce made with Watershed bourbon.

All in all, it was a delightful meal for both the food and the company. Chef Michael is continuing Latitude 41′s streak of producing innovate and surprising food.

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