Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sausage Fest

In October, our meeting with Michael and Bill was scheduled to take place at MoJoe's in German Village, an historic district within Columbus that lies in the shadow of technological behemoth Nationwide Children's Hospital.

A few weeks prior to our meeting, Bug researched places where we could meet. It was at this time he recalled our last meeting and stumbled upon Schmidt's Sausage Haus und Restaurant in German Village.

Featured in a Food Network television program, Man vs Food, the take home message from the show was to check out their German Autobahn buffet, and try their Bahama Mama sausages and gigantic cream puffs.

Schmidts Buffet Bahama Mama
Bahama Mamas!

After a few wrong turns along the narrow brick alleys in the tightly woven fabric of European-style brick apartments, we stumbled upon a small parking lot that appeared out of place. It was then that we noticed several Schmidt's signs. The dashboard clock read 11:04 a.m.

Schmidts Fudge storefront
A quiet neighborhood -- Schmidt's Fudge

The lot was almost full, with 3 spaces to spare after we parked. Several Schmidt's signs directed us in different directions. Without a flashing waypoint directing us, we set out toward the most logical direction - forward.

Schmidts Sausage Haus storefront
Restaurant entrance

It was 11:07 when we walked into the restaurant. The place was bustling with the hum of diners' conversations and silverware clinking on platters, as if it had been open for hours as servers walked briskly to and fro.

Before shuffling to the hostess' podium, sausages and desserts in cold display cases were a delicious distraction, oh, the desserts! Beautiful cream puffs lined neatly in a row, ready to march into my belly. I wanted to point to one and say, "You're mine." Bug interrupted my skit and pushed me forward. We were greeted with a warm smile and seated immediately.

Schmidts Entryway
Desserts and sausages galore

Scanning the restaurant, it was already 1/3 full and the bar was starting to fill up all within 7 minutes of opening their doors.

In addition to salt, pepper, and sugar packets, each table was supplied with large glass jars of spicy brown mustard and horseradish (pictured here). Bug was overjoyed.

Bug uncharacteristically threw caution to the wind and did not check the price of the buffet. The siren song of all-you-can-eat German sausages must have called to him. I quickly ordered iced tea, then we marched over to the buffet area.

The central buffet offered German potato salad, creamy macaroni and cheese, corned beef and cabbage, sauerkraut, red cabbage sauerkraut, green beans and spätzle (spaetzle), bratwurst, Bahama Mama sausages (regular and spicy), sausage stew, and two other pans (pictured in the bottom right) of which I unfortunately do not recall their contents; perhaps they were cabbage and noodles and another type of sausage.

Schmidts Buffet Spread
The main spread

The cold table (not pictured) held fresh salads, pickled vegetables and salads, cole slaw, and apple sauce, a necessity to balance all that meat. Adjacent to the salad was a pot of fantastic chicken and dumpling soup.

It may have just been the lighting, but I thought I saw tears of joy streaming down Bug's cheeks as he ate his meal.

Schmidts Buffet Plate2
Bug patiently waiting to attack his plate

I loved the snap of each juicy bite of every sausage. The bratwurst was delicious but, compared with the smoky spiciness of the Bahama Mama, was a bit too meaty tasting for me.

The large pan of sausage stew intrigued me as I have never had "sausage stew." I've had sausage with pasta, sausage with sauerkraut, sausage with eggs, sausage in pizza, sausage in fried rice, sausage in gumbo, sausage in jambalaya...okay, maybe sausage stew isn't all that weird. I haven't had it in the same manner as it is served here -- spicy, peppery, and smoky with a slightly sweet edge, reminiscent of baked beans and rather addictive.

Schmidts Sausage Stew
Sausage stew

German potato salad can be hit and miss with me: too sour, oniony, bland, overcooked or undercooked potatoes, metallic flavored. Red cabbage sauerkraut has never done it for me, for similar reasons. When I returned for a second trip, I revisited the macaroni and cheese, red cabbage sauerkraut, Bahama Mama sausage, German potato salad, and cucumbers. The sauerkraut was mildly sweet and not overbearingly sour, with a slight crunch, not that too often mushy texture. The potato salad was perfectly cooked, appropriately applied vinegar and a touch smoky.

It was around 11:30 when we began hearing names announced for seating for the approximately ten people crowded near the front door.

I was not leaving without having the vanilla cream puff ($2.95 with buffet) so I stopped after my second trip, already feeling sated. Other temptations on their dessert menu were apple strüdel (strudel / struedel), banana, coconut, and chocolate cream pies, and German chocolate cake.

Pâte à choux is my favorite pastry and vanilla is my favorite dessert flavor. Three cream puff flavors are offered, vanilla, chocolate, and peanut butter. I was tempted to order the peanut butter filling, but I went with vanilla. Feeling a tinge gluttonous, I rather reluctantly shared the cream puff stuffed with thick pastry cream with Bug even though I knew it was impossible for me finish the whole plate myself.

Schmidts Vanilla Cream Puff
Weighing in at 1/2 lb in the dessert corner, Schmidt's Vanilla Cream Puff

When the check arrived, I picked up the check, glanced at the total, placed it back down, then picked the check up again to register the total. For two buffets, dessert, iced tea, plus tax, the check came to a nominal $25!

As busy as this restaurant was, our server was always cordial, our water and iced tea glasses were never under half-filled, and empty plates were not on our table for long.

We left the restaurant around 11:45, dodged the large crowd of people waiting at the front door and outside, and stopped to smell the flowers for a few seconds in a garden alcove between Schmidt's Fudge Haus and Gifts and the restaurant. Bug was already planning our return trip to the restaurant.

Schmidts Fudge outside
A quiet moment

Near the fudge counter pictured, there is a display that shows how fudge is made. We walked out with a pound of pumpkin spice fudge and a couple of cherry cordials and peanut butter cups.

Schmidts Fudge Case
Fudgepalooza, because everything is somethingpalooza

Michael called wondering where we were. If we walked, we would have arrived at our meeting spot in 5 minutes, but the roads are unkind to strangers with handheld GPS units when driving more than 10 mph, so we circled around the same quarter mile radius for 10 minutes. Every turn we made was met by a recalculation, every straightaway we took was another recalculation.




- Cassaendra

Schmidt's Sausage Haus und Restaurant
240 E Kossuth St
Columbus, OH 43206
Tel: (614) 444-6808

Hours of Operation:
Sun - Mon: 11:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Tue - Thu: 11:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Fri - Sat: 11:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m.
Buffet available from open until close
Closed Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas

Schmidt's Fudge House
240 E Kossuth St
Columbus, OH 43206
Tel: (614) 444-2222

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Black Friday

After a day of self-reflection for Thanksgiving...

'Tis the season for material conquests, fa-la-la-la-la la-la la la.

Black Friday.

It was our first foray into what we thought would be sheer madness, where nothing or no one is sacred -- kids in flannel one-piece pajamas crying in the corner, orphaned, or lying lifeless, trampled under the boots of possessed shoppers, and little old ladies brandishing .44 Magnum revolvers cocked to your head as you reach for the last Dutch apple pie candle on the shelf for $1.59.

We drove up 30 minutes prior to the midnight opening at a game store. The Old Navy nearby had a line of at least 100 people.

There were 8 drenched loons standing out in the cold rain at the game store. At least the rain stopped as we got out of the car and joined the line-up.

Thirty minutes felt like an hour as I stood there in a t-shirt and sweatshirt with Bug. 30°F wind howled from the north every 3-5 minutes. To make it interesting, large globules of cold rain intermittently drenched us all as if we were standing under a rotating schoolyard sprinkler.

At 12:01, everyone trotted into the store in an orderly fashion, 8 people before us and around 20 people behind us, to stand in line at the register. Requests were fulfilled by either a runner or the cashier. Of the 8 people who came before us, only 3 people were present to purchase games or systems. The first person came with 3 friends, the second person was with their mother, and the third person came with a friend.

We ventured into a Wal-Mart to see for ourselves what hundreds of humans armed with carts thrown together in a Black Friday frenzy would conjure.

It was a mess. Clothes were flung everywhere, draped along cardboard boxes, jammed between crevices, and lying on the floor. Games, DVDs, and toys were treated as poorly. People were standing in lines everywhere. People were crawling everywhere. People were yelling everywhere. Carts were being driven haphazardly like they were possessed.

Those poor employees. I no longer felt miserable for standing out in the rain for 31 minutes.

- Cassaendra

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Aloha

For Thanksgiving, when I was in elementary school at Playmate, we sang the following song each year:

We are thankful for sunshine, for wind, and for rain.
We are thankful for taro and tall sugarcane.
We are thankful for fish, for rice, and for poi.
For my mother and father, and thanksgiving joy.

It sums up well how I feel each day, even when it's icy or humid out - just not to the same degree. Putting my adult hat on, I am additionally thankful to have a job that I enjoy, a relatively warm room that blocks most of the wind to sleep in, and my family and friends are in good health and spirit. Unfortunately, food and a place to sleep are still privileges even in the land of plenty and, as such, should be appreciated when available.

Warm Thanksgiving wishes to all!

- Cassaendra, Sicklybug, Yoru, and Akemi

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Last July, when we met with Michael and Bill in Columbus, we were unaware the annual Doo Dah parade was going to be held that day. The line at Jeni's was out the door and past a few storefronts.

After a nice walk along High Street recently, we noticed the coast was clear...

Jeni's Storefront
Jeni's storeside

...and strolled in. With just a few people ahead, it felt like we were somehow cheating.

Jeni's Store
I'd like...yes

Bug and I were awed by the choices of unusual and tweaked standard ice cream flavors. I wanted to try everything. A few that immediately stood out were star anise with candied fennel, celery with rum soaked sultanas, Oakvale young gouda with vodka cranberries, ... I could go on. No, really, I could.

As we gawked around with cameras in hand, a chipper greeting drew my attention to the man smiling behind the counter. With tasting spoons in his hands, the painfully obvious question was asked, "Is this your first visit?"

We were offered sweet corn and black raspberry ice cream, wrapping up its final week of the season. My knees buckled as the dark berry sweetness burst forth and left a light, nostalgic essence of summer.

He would have happily obliged with a spoonful of each flavor, but a logjam had formed behind us of similarly dazed tourists and politely waiting regulars. Michael and Bill had ordered and were already seated. Bug and I ushered 3 families to go ahead of us as we chirped excitedly about which ice cream, yogurt, or sorbet to try.

My jaw dropped when I read the creative sundae and float concoctions. Aside from the scoops, I was torn between:
- Black and Tan (salty caramel ice cream, smoked almonds, chocolate and caramel sauces)
- Manhattan float (bourbon brown sugar ice cream, Maker's Mark soaked black cherries, Boylan's black cherry soda)
- Ohito sundae (mint ice cream with lime, muscovado rum sauce, turbinado)
- pumpkin tiramisu parfait (black coffee and heirloom pumpkin 5-spice ice creams, marsala caramel sauce soaked cake, mascarpone and dark chocolate shavings)
- Chocomole (cayenne ice cream, caramel sauce, Spanish peanuts, cinnamon sugar)

The Manhattan float was at the top of my list, but we were concerned the alcohol would pose a problem for me, so I ordered the Ohito sundae ($6.50). Bug, who had his eye on several other ice cream flavors, was gracious and ordered the Manhattan float ($5.50) so I could try a sip.

Jeni's Ohito Sundae

Standing at the register, I noticed a small glass refrigerator with bottled drinks. It reminded me of the thirst that always follows ice cream, so I nudged Bug to get a soda.

The Dry sodas intrigued us. Should we try the lemongrass? Rhubarb? Lavender? Kumquat? Juniper berry? Vanilla bean? Back and forth. THE DECISIONS!

Rhubarb Dry soda at Jeni's
Rhubarb Dry ($3.00)

Before taking a bite of my sundae, I took a conservative sip of the rhubarb soda. Crisp, dry, effervescent, slightly tart with a fruity tinge, and most importantly, not very sweet. The perfect drink to accompany rich and creamy ice cream.

For flavors that highlight summer simplicity, the Ohito sundae was decadent. The Backyard Mint ice cream was luxuriously creamy, not Day-Glo green. Another creamy bite captured a squirt of lime that reeled me back from the dark, sweet, and smooth rum sauce swoon.

Mint leaves tend to be inedible. To my surprise, I tore a piece to munch on and found no bitterness, just the spritely flavor of mint and the crunch of several rogue turbinado crystals.

Jeni's Ohito Sundae Rhubarb Dry Soda
Lovely afternoon

Before my lips brushed the straw of Bug's Manhattan float, my nose wrinkled. One whiff would make a recovered alcoholic stammer. Oozing with black cherry goodness from the Maker's Mark soaked cherries and Boylan's black cherry soda, the bourbon brown sugar ice cream lent a really sweet, indulgent, boozy creaminess.

Jeni's Milk Bottle Lamps
Milk bottle glasses

On the way out, I noticed a small refrigerator filled with ice cream sandwiches near the entrance, and wanted to kick myself for not noticing it earlier.

Earl grey ice cream with cherries sandwiched between almond macarons?!?!

My fingers extended fruitlessly toward the treats as Bug pulled me across the threshold onto the sidewalk. I cried out, as a tear welled up then trickled down my cheek, "Earl grey ice cream sandwich! I will be back for you!"

(Played in my mind, of course.)

- Cassaendra

714 N High St
Columbus, OH 43215
Tel: (614) 294-5364

Sunday, November 7, 2010

On Paper

Even as a child, I have been enamored with paper and collected all sorts of stationary made in Japan, Italy, and India to name a few.

I grew up watching my mother writing on delicate handmade Japanese paper with flowers she pressed. My father created customized stationary for me out of postcards, pictures, maps, adding his own line drawings, and taught me to write in gothic calligraphy.

For the past 25 years, my correspondences have crept away from handwriting on stationary to clicking away on my keyboard along with the rest of the world. I still buy stationary and crafted paper, but have succumbed to collecting -- hoarding -- as stationary stores have slowly disappeared.

While sightseeing in Columbus, Michael and I became giddy when we peered into the doorway of On Paper, a stationary store on N High St. The space is small, but well utilized, and beautiful with it's creaking wood floors and red brick walls. Many of the stores in Short North have creaking wood floors and red brick walls, it's almost a cliche.

Short North On Paper
On Paper

Bill and Bug humored us by walking in. Bug, an avid reader, was disinterested once he reached the back of the store having seen nothing but blank paper, quickly walked out. Bill was more interactive with the table props.

At the entrance, various contemporary paper hang likely printed in Italy judging by its texture. For me, images and color are half of the stationary. The other half, the half that ultimately draws me in, is the texture.

For serious writers, I am sure the preferred texture would be an extremely smooth finish. I prefer paper with rough textures, knobs, crevices, imperfections...earthy (an overused word, I admit, but it perfectly describes my tastes, in art and food...or is it one and the same?).

Along with the large variety of paper, hung on display, over racks, and stored in long wooden shelves, printed paper from rococo Italian to Bauhaus, there are numerous small batch, handmade cards for every occasion.

On Paper Menagerie

Recently, I read a poll asking whether it should be mandatory for schools to teach children to write in cursive. The first thought that comes to mind is, "why bother when everyone sends email or text messages?" It may be my old age showing, but a handwritten letter means considerably more to me than a typed response. I have received and been guilty of quickly shooting off an email response without consideration. I believe that teaching children to write in cursive is a form of meditation - teaching one to focus, to think before one "speaks."

Well, if it is just about meditation, why not replace it with yoga or tai chi? Hmm, I'll get back to you on that.

- Cassaendra

On Paper
737 N High St
Columbus, OH 43215
Tel: 614 424-6617


After our lovely meal at Northstar, we walked along High Street and came across a boarded development.

Short North Board Beehive

When I tried to locate this spot on Google maps, it showed the original boards for the development which included just the tall boards shown above.

Short North Board Alice

This is the site of the apparently stalled Ibiza condos. I ran across a write-up that mentioned that the spaces will be apartments instead, once built.

Short North Board Beholder

Short North Board Bombling

Reading a couple of local Columbus blogs and magazines tell a story of the Short North neighborhood that came about much like Tremont in Cleveland, a shady neighborhood no one felt safe to visit during the day 25 years ago, vitalized to a destination with art galleries, restaurants, and luxury condos.

Short North Board Uniworm

Short North Board Kitsune

I'm rooting for the apartments to be built!

- Cassaendra

Monday, November 1, 2010


Bug and I traveled to Columbus to meet with Michael and Bill visiting from the Northwest. The months couldn't come quickly enough when I first heard they were planning a visit.

We met in German Village and strolled the beautiful rows of European brick apartments and alleys that were made more stunning by the searing red and golden brilliance of the fall foliage.

After catching up a bit and getting lost within the eclectic Book Loft's maze of 32 rooms stuffed from floor to ceiling with books, we headed to Northstar Cafe's Short North location.

Northstar storefront

Northstar Cafe is a fast food restaurant that serves locally sourced (as possible) New American organic dishes with vegetarian, vegan, and free range poultry options at a modest price.

When ordering, no one can miss the flames flickered in the large pizza oven churning out ~14" flatbreads ($7.50 for tomato and cheese + $2/topping) behind the counter.

Despite the reasonable prices, I was taken aback by the price of a single glass of ginger ale ($3.50). What arrived was not a tan bubbly fountain drink, but a translucent off-white effervescent slurry of crushed ginger and a touch of sugar. Bill liked the drink as is, but Michael would have preferred it sweeter.

Michael enjoyed his smoked turkey breast sandwich with applewood bacon, rosemary aioli, and focaccia baked on the premises ($13.00). A blend of wild rice, brown rice, red peppers, nuts, and parsley accompanied the sandwich that went half eaten.

Northstar Turkey sandwich
Turkey sandwich with rice

Having food remaining was not a sign of displeasure, but a result of the humongous serving size. This is not a complaint!

Bug and Bill ordered the sweet basil burrito ($9.50 each). Bug ordered the rotisserie chicken, while Bill ordered his with seared tofu.

Northstar Chicken Sweet Basil Half
Chicken sweet basil burrito

Both were pleased with the freshness of the red onions, lettuce, and red peppers, the tofu/chicken filling, and the basil pesto. We all agreed that there was quite a bit of brown rice.

Bug loves tortilla chips and salsa, but didn't eat much of it, so I figured it was probably not particularly exciting. I figured right.

The aroma of my bowl of chicken korma ($9.50) was probably a tease (or curse) to those who could smell the spicy cumin and tomatoes.

Northstar Chicken Korma Bowl
Chicken korma bowl

The tangy sauce with cashews was ladled over chunks of roasted Bell and Evans chicken and brown rice, and topped with blanched broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and red cabbage. With the discrete flavors of each ingredient and crunchy (yet cooked!) vegetables, it was as if someone created this dish just for me.

I, okay, Bug must make this dish at home!

Northstar's dining area can be a bit loud from the music and other patrons, but the food was tasty and fresh. Had we been from the area, we would have all had enough to eat 2 full meals for under $50 -- not a bad deal for four adults.

- Cassaendra

Northstar Cafe
951 N High St
Columbus, OH 43201-2406
Tel: (614) 298-9999

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