S’mores Aftermath

We had some friends over last night and decided it would be fun to make S’mores — that delectable campfire combination of toasted marshmallow, Hershey’s chocolate and graham crackers.  They were a great success — who doesn’t like S’mores? — and no one got skewered by a toasting stick, either.

You learn a lot about people when you see them make S’mores.  Some carefully find a spot in the fire where they can safely toast their marshmallow to brown, bubbling, yet unblackened perfection.  Some who are more impatient go for the more direct, stick the marshmallow into open flame and quickly produce a crispy, charred cube approach.  Some people have no intention of actually eating the marshmallow and just like to watch it burn and drop into the flames.  And some people forget about the marshmallow and go directly to feasting on the Hershey’s chocolate.

But today we’re in the S’mores aftermath zone — and as good as they are as part of S’mores, the component parts are pretty tempting in isolation, too.  I find graham crackers and a glass of cold milk to be pretty irresistible.

Tools Of The Kitchen

We inherited a lot of interesting stuff from Kish’s Mom, but my favorites are some wooden kitchen implements we keep in an old wooden bowl on our countertop.  They are worn smooth, with a warm patina burnished by hands of the past, and they have that evocative, somewhat mysterious element you often sense with older things.

I’m not sure exactly how old they are, but I’m guessing they date from the 1800s.  With all-wooden construction and touches like leather straps, there certainly isn’t a whiff of mass production about them.  And their precise use isn’t entirely clear, either.  Sure, there’s a cracked cookie press, and a dough roller that would leave leaf designs on pie crust, but the uses for the three items in the middle are less obvious.  They’re built to pound . . . but pound what?  Bread dough?  Meat?  Or something unsuspected that we now buy, pre-made and pre-packaged, at the neighborhood supermarket?

The three “pounders” conjure up a long-ago kitchen of hard work, sweat equity, and muscle.

Eternal Questions

Some questions seem to be eternal ones.  Typically, they involve choices between competing views that are so obviously debatable, with good points to be made either way and strong, often passionate proponents ready to vigorously argue either side, that they’re just never going to be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.

Think Beatles versus Stones.  Apple versus Microsoft.  da Vinci versus Michelangelo.  Star Wars versus Star Trek.  Einstein versus Newton.  The Gettysburg Address versus President Trump’s Twitter feed.

You get the idea?  So, is cone versus basket filter one of them?

This is a question I’m ill-suited to resolve, because the niceties of coffee brewer technology are lost on me.  Obviously, there is a difference between the basket and cone approaches.  One directs the water flow through coffee grounds that are configured to end in a fine point, and the other doesn’t.  The difference in approach and design apparently is so significant that, when you go to buy coffee from one of those high-end coffee snob shops, the barista will ask you whether you have a basket or cone filter coffee brewer.  In short, the cone versus basket debate even affects how they grind the coffee for you.  Why?  Beats me!  But I sure as heck want to get the coffee ground in a way that is most suitable for the battered, aging coffee machine we’ve got at home — one of the basket-filtered variety.

I raise the potentially volatile basket versus cone question because we’re thinking of replacing our coffee pot with a new one.  In the past we’ve had both cone and basket design machines, and to be honest I really haven’t noticed a marked difference in the quality of the coffee they produce, because my coffee taste buds just aren’t that nuanced.  But now we’re being asked to definitively choose, again — like being exiled to a desert island and being told that you can only listen to the Beatles or the Stones while you’re there — and I want us to make a good, reasonably educated choice.  And presumably one design isn’t definitively better than the other, because manufacturers keep churning out machines with both designs, leaving people like me in a quandary on this question that evidently involves significant judgment and taste.

Can somebody out there who is knowledgeable about the topic and pays attention to their coffee let me know the competing views on the seminal cone versus basket filter issue?  Simply put: why should I care?

GOT Breakfast In The Making

It’s another beautiful Sunday morning, and the bright, uncommonly temperate weather can’t help but stimulate the appetite and put thoughts of Sunday breakfast in my head.  But, since another episode of Game of Thrones is in the offing, what kind of breakfast could help to stimulate a Westerosi mindset as well?  

Our local grocer doesn’t sell wild boar meat or unskinned rabbit, so a little improvisation is in order.  We’ll go for eggs and turkey bacon — the better to remind us of those unfortunate dragon-sizzled Lannister bannermen — some juicy fruit to simulate rivers of blood, and a cantaloupe that will allow me to get out a sharp implement and start flailing away with some satisfying thunks and hackings as I separate flesh from skin.  Put some onion in the eggs to acknowledge Ser Davos Seaworth, the Onion Knight, and you’ve got a feast worthy of Winterfell.

Max Void

The original Max & Erma’s restaurant, a German Village landmark for 45 years, has closed.  It wasn’t killed by lack of traffic or any of the other issues that often put restaurants out of business — it was the building in which Max & Erma’s is located that apparently was the real culprit.

The company that owns the restaurant announced that the building “can no longer maintain the standards our guests deserve,” with one of the principal problems being the lack of an ADA-accessible bathroom.  The company says it had “thoroughly explored available options, but both costs and covenants have proven to be to prohibitive.”  This isn’t surprising for anyone who’s been to that quirky brick building — a building which lent some of the quirkiness to the Max & Erma’s ambiance generally.  It was filled with little nooks and crannies and abrupt turns, and if you had to use the facilities, you had to navigate a narrow flight of steep stairs that took you into the basement.  The original structures in German Village just weren’t built for wheelchairs, walkers, and other devices that are commonplace in modern America.

The closure of the restaurant leaves a kind of weird void on Third Street, because most of the people who live in, or visit, German Village expect to find a bustling Max & Erma’s, where they can get a cheeseburger and a beer and check out the quirky wall decorations.  Forty-five years is a really long time by German Village standards, taking the original M&E’s back to the early days when the rehabbing wave was first washing over the neighborhood.  Two of our friends had their first date at the original M&E’s back in the ’70s and liked to have a meal there when they came to Columbus for a visit.  Now they won’t be able to do so.

We’ll miss the original Max & Erma’s, but German Village being what it is, the inevitable question now is:  what’s going to go into that building now?  With the closing of M&E’s and Caterina, a few blocks closer to downtown, we’ve got vacancies in two prime spots on Third Street.  If the ADA issues can be resolved, we can always use another pub, restaurant, or shop.

 

Summer Soup

It’s summer.  It’s hot — at least, it’s supposed to be, although lately Columbus has been unseasonably cool — so who wants to eat soup?  Who wants to spoon down piping hot liquid on a day when the temperature is up around 90?

All true . . . but there is one soup that is perfect for the summer.  I’m not talking about vegetable-intensive gazpacho, which always looks like a bad excuse to use up the odds and ends from the vegetable crisper drawer in the fridge.  No, I’m talking about the premier summer soup:  vichyssoise.  Vichyssoise, which rolls down your throat like a brisk stream of rich, creamy goodness and cools you to the very core.  G Michael’s has potato leak vichyssoise on its current summer menu, and it’s just what the doctor ordered on a hot summer’s day. 

Don’t you love it when you go to a favorite restaurant and see something that perfectly fits the circumstances and your taste buds?

Ready For That Special Jackfruit And Turkey Tail Recipe

In addition to allowing me to experience the succulent dumplings of Momo Ghar, my recent journey to Morse Road with Dr. Science also introduced me to the wonders of the Saraga international grocery store, where Momo Ghar is located.

Saraga is found in one of the ubiquitous Morse Road strip malls and is housed in what used to be a Toys ‘R Us store.  Many people consider it to be the finest ethnic grocery store in Columbus.  If ethnic food shoppers can be said to vote with their feet, that view may be right — when we were there Thursday afternoon, the place was packed with people of all stripes, buying all kinds of food that would be considered absurdly exotic and wouldn’t be found in your standard American supermarket.

You know that you’re going to a different kind of grocery store when the first thing you encounter on your way in is an enormous crate of watermelon-sized, and disturbingly textured, jackfruit — which looks like the kind of fruit aliens should be slobbering over in a Star Trek scene.  But the jackfruit is a pretty mild surprise compared to what you find inside the store.  There’s an entire aisle of different kinds of frozen “pot sticker” dumplings, for example, and the place is packed with every imaginable kind of sauce and spice, heaps of unusual produce, a halal butcher shop, a Mexican bakery, a bustling fish shop, large sacks of different kinds of rice, cooking implements, and even clothing.  The meat aisle is particularly impressive, with lamb, goat cubes, prepackaged duck feet, and “fresh turkey tail,” among other options.  I knew that some cultures like duck feet, but I found myself wondering where in the world people might confess to a hankering for some good old fresh turkey tail.

What Saraga tells you is that Columbus has a large and diverse immigrant population, which is one of the many things that make our community a cool place to live.  I’ll be back because I’d like to take a closer look at that pot sticker aisle and browse around in search of something interesting to have for dinner.  And now I know where to go if I run across a particularly mouthwatering jackfruit and turkey tail recipe.