The Random Restaurant Tour (XXXIII)

Yesterday Kish and I legged it over to the Franklinton part of town to catch a matinee performance of a play by Red Herring Productions.  We decided to do a little exploring of the area and to grab lunch, too.  We ended up at BrewDog — which was jammed for a Sunday afternoon and even had some overflow people braving the cold but sunny weather and sitting outside by a fire pit.

BrewDog would fall squarely into the gastrobrewery tranche on the restaurant spectrum.  With gastrobreweries, you never know if the focus is really on the brew, and the gastro is more of an afterthought.  I’m happy to report that while BrewDog is clearly serious about its beer — it offers 48 options on tap for its thirsty patrons — it doesn’t give short shrift to the food part of the menu.

I was interested in something lighter than a burger, and the BrewDog menu offers an array of solid non-burger choices.  It’s been a while since I’ve had a hot dog and, well, BrewDog does have “dog” in its name, so I tried the bacon chipotle dog.  It was excellent.  The dog was juicy and beefy, with just the right snap when you bite into the casing, and the toppings added lots of great flavor and texture.  After carefuI analysis, I decided the best and least messy way to attack the dog was from the top. I needed two bites to get fully through each segment of the dog and the toppings, with the first bite taking care of the toppings and part of the dog and the second bite polishing off the rest of the dog and the bottom of the bun.  The fries were great, too — nice and crunchy.

It was a very satisfying meal, indeed, and the transitioning Franklinton area, where new ventures are next door to old-time welding shops, is an interesting setting.  BrewDog is well worth a visit.

When Christmas Comes Early

Normally I hate the too-early anticipation of the Christmas season.  When I  walked past a Starbucks this week and saw that the outdoor sign was advertising all of the sugary Christmas concoctions, I groaned.  When I walked past St. Mary Church and saw that they were setting up the Christmas tree holders for their annual Christmas tree sale, I groaned  again.  And when I saw that the Hausfrau Haven was selling egg nog, I groaned still more — and also felt a little sick to my stomach at the thought of the coating, cloying taste of egg nog, because I really don’t like egg nog.

IMG_9059In my book, Christmas shouldn’t be anticipated until Thanksgiving is over, period.  I know that some people can’t resist jumping the gun, and have already started listening to Christmas music. wearing red sweaters with reindeer on them and watching the saccharine Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel, but I’m not one of them.

I do make one exception to my no Christmas before Thanksgiving rule, however.  If I see that Great Lakes Christmas Ale is for sale, I’ll always pick up a six pack, whether Thanksgiving has passed or not.  The Great Lakes Brewing Company can be depended on to brew a high-quality, spicy, holiday ale that Old Fezziwig would have loved.  I picked up some of this year’s batch yesterday, and it’s excellent — packed with flavor and a little holiday dash, besides.  After savoring a bottle, I felt more in the Christmas mood already.  Hey — when is the first showing of It’s A Wonderful Life, anyway?

If you like a seasonal brew, I highly recommend this year’s edition of Great Lakes Christmas Ale.  But be forewarned: consistent with the generous spirit of the holidays, it comes in at 7.5% alcohol by volume.  Pace yourself, or you might not be able to finish trimming the tree.

Future Stars

Last night we joined friends at The Art of Jazz fundraiser for the Jazz Arts Group at the Columbus Museum of Art. It was a terrific affair that featured performances by the Columbus Youth Jazz All-Stars, who played a mix of jazz classics and some impressive original compositions by the young performers in the band, and a closing concert by with Byron Stripling, the Artistic Director of the Columbus Jazz Orchestra, engaging vocalist Niki Harris, and Bobby Floyd, Andy Woodson, and Jim Rupp.

The music was great, from beginning to end, but the segment that really blew me away featured two of young men from the Fort Hayes high school, Jaxon Dixon and Jack Thompson, getting up on stage to play with the pros and showing great poise and awesome talent as they performed. They fit right in, and their contribution to a memorable evening was a great way to illustrate the value of the educational and youth outreach programs of the Jazz Arts Group.

I love jazz, and it’s great to see that it’s alive and well and in the hearts of young people who will carry the jazz torch forward.

New Depths Of Embarrassment

There’s just something impossibly bizarre about the Cleveland Browns franchise since it returned to the NFL 20 years ago.  Even in victory, over a long-time rival in an important game, it somehow manages to find a way to embarrass its city and its fans.

hi-res-a781c941b1771e4c6158fa6ea697b4f1_crop_northLast night’s win over Pittsburgh, and the dangerous brawl and helmet-swinging episode that occurred as the game ended, reaches a new low for the Browns.  If the incident weren’t so thuggish and savage and physically hazardous, it would almost be comical — the perfect demonstration of how the Browns inevitably snatch utter humiliation from the jaws of victory.

I have no desire to pile on Myles Garrett, the player who swung the helmet at the opposing quarterback’s head.  Garrett has apologized, and I have no doubt that his apology is heartfelt.  But there’s a big difference between losing your cool and doing something that could have caused catastrophic injury.  Somehow, for some reason, this year’s version of the Browns lacks the discipline to restrain on-the-field behavior and keep it in the proper channels.  There have been lots of penalties, and personal fouls, and then last night’s assault reaches new depths of egregious misconduct.

What’s wrong with this team?  Is it coaching?  Is it lack of leadership, or players who will set the right tone?  Whatever it is, something really needs to change.  The Browns have more than a week before they play their next game.  I hope everyone involved in the organization, from players to top management, are doing some soul-searching today, and giving some serious through to how they can fundamentally, and permanently, change the culture of this team and this franchise.  If they don’t, the ranks of Browns Backers are going to grow a lot smaller, and quickly.

Hostile Spaces And Homelessness

In many large cities, public spaces have been modified.  Metal bars and blocks and bolts and even spikes have been added to benches and ledges and other seating areas, to make it uncomfortable, or even impossible, to stretch out and lie down.  In other places, the public spaces have no seating areas of any kind.  The underlying purpose of the additions and modifications seems painfully clear — to keep homeless people from sleeping or otherwise camping out in the spaces.

ae22fd62-197a-42f7-9714-d9d2702dc70c-2060x1236A recent New York Times article addressed this phenomenon of “hostile architecture” in public places.  The article reported that such actions have “increasingly drawn a backlash from critics who say that such measures are unnecessary and disproportionately target vulnerable populations. They have assailed what they call “anti-homeless spikes” for targeting those who have nowhere else to go at a time when many cities are grappling with a homelessness crisis.”  The article quotes an NYU professor who says:  “We’re building barriers and walls around apartment buildings and public spaces to keep out the diversity of people and uses that comprise urban life.”  Supporters of the modifications argue, on the other hand, that this new approach to public spaces is necessary to help maintain public order and safety and security.

So, what’s a city to do?

Most cities are struggling to deal with homelessness.  In Columbus, which doesn’t seem to have homelessness issues to the same degree as, say, San Francisco or Los Angeles, it’s not unusual to see a homeless person stretched out on a bench or sidewalk from time to time.  No one wants that — including, presumably, the homeless person.  Is it wrong to try to discourage that behavior by adding internal armrests to benches that prevent someone from lying down on the bench, but that aren’t going to bother office workers who are sitting outside eating their lunch, rather than trying to sleep? Are we really to the point where taking steps to prevent sleeping and camping out in public spaces are criticized as contrary to “the diversity of people and uses that comprise urban life,” as if dealing with homelessness, aggressive panhandlers, and public sleeping were part of some rich tapestry of city living?  Or, put another way, by not taking those steps, are city planners enabling conduct that also interferes with the real, intended public use of public spaces — because most people aren’t going to want to hang out in a square filled with sleeping homeless people and their stuff?

Proponents of “broken windows” theory would argue that allowing public sleeping and camping out creates an atmosphere of disorder and lawlessness that encourages criminal activity and other improper conduct.  I strongly support trying to help the homeless, but I also think trying to maintain order and promote the personal security of the non-homeless is an important goal, too.

Doughnuttery

I’m getting ready for a morning presentation and asked that an assortment of doughnuts be provided. Doughnuts both help to assure decent attendance — who doesn’t want a doughnut in the morning? — but also an engaged and alert audience that is dealing with the initial doughnut sugar rush.

It’s important to get to the conference room early, to open the doughnut boxes and let that unique doughnut fragrance fill the room. Once a doughnut is sensed, it’s impossible to resist.

There’s a good assortment here, including my favorite — a cake doughnut with dark chocolate icing. Also a few new doughnut options, like one with crumbled Oreos and another with pretzel sticks.