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Liquid gold: Craft Brew Fest at Easton

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Craft Brew Fest (the American editiondon’t even think about it foreign brews) is at Easton Town Center World of Beer Saturday. Appoint a designated driver now.  Angela Perley and the Howlin’ Moons, The Lovebenders, and ekoostik hookah will be the entertainment of the night, not that it will be necessary after 170 different brews have been sampled though.

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Tea Time: Spritz puts new twist on bubbly beverage craze

Mitch Hooper

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It’s Friday night and you and your friends are at the bar. While everyone else is sipping back glasses of wine, cocktails, and beer, it’s your turn to be the designated driver of the night. We all take our rounds, and these rounds are usually a reminder that being out at the bars sober while everyone else is working on getting intoxicated just feels off. As your friends reach for their glasses to toast in celebration, you might take a sip of your ice water, or just wait to get the nod to round up the crew and go home. However, Kathyrn Dougherty is hoping to change this all-too-common situation with her line of non- alcoholic sparkling teas called Spritz.

Spritz is a new beverage hitting the markets based out of Dublin, Ohio. In a world where grocery stores offer seemingly endless options of sparkling waters and flavors, it was really only a matter of time until the trend took to tea. But, unlike the famous La Croix and Bubly on the market, Spritz is much less carbonated, giving it a lighter mouthfeel. They’ve even coined a phrase for it: softly sparkling. Combine that with flavors such as green tea with pomegranate, lemon, and peach, and Spritz might quickly become both your mid-day pick-me-up as well as that refreshing drink you enjoy in between a night of cocktails.

The idea for Spritz comes from Dougherty’s background in health and fitness. A few years ago, she and her friends were training for an Ironman competition. These competitions are not for the light of heart, as they feature 2.4-mile swim, a 112- mile bicycle ride, and a 26.22-mile marathon in this exact order. It goes without saying that training for and competing in this leaves little room for hangovers. As Dougherty and her friends would hang out more after workouts, they noticed they were craving a more sophisticated drink that wouldn’t cause a splitting headache the next day. Thus, an idea was born.

It started simple for Dougherty. At the time, she was (and still is) a big fan of sparkling waters. She also had grown a heavy affinity towards Teavana, a tea provider now owned by Starbucks. After scrubbing used Gatorade bottles with disinfectants and cleaners in her very own kitchen, Dougherty and her step-daughter began the process of brewing what would eventually become the basis for Spritz. While she no longer uses Teavana for her tea blends, she still holds a special spot for them in her heart.

Fast forward to present day and Dougherty is ready to release Spritz to the public in December. The first iteration of the teas will be hibiscus with dragonfruit, guava, and mango with no caffeine. Dougherty said this tea is great for unwinding after a long day, or simply treating yourself after a good stretch at a yoga class. The zero calorie, zero carbs, and gluten-free drink is both vegan and keto friendly so it fits essentially any diet. And while the idea for Spritz began during a time of looking for an alternative to alcohol, the drink maintains its fitness roots as Dougherty works to get the drinks in places such as PAI Yoga and Friendship Fitness in Dublin.

“I want something I can grab and say, ‘Hey, I get a treat now,” Dougherty explained. “But, it’s not going to be something I feel bad about.”

Spritz also serves a second purpose, and it’s something Dougherty feels is very important to the brand of the business. It’s women’s empowerment, and through channels such as hiring more women at proper pay rates to close the pay gap, or promoting other women business leaders through their hashtag #FemaleFounderFridays on Facebook, she hopes to change a few practices within the industry. In her mind, the best way to do so is to lead by example.

From her team being comprised of women, to working out of the space at Haven Collective—a woman-owned and -operated co-working office—Dougherty is very much walking her talk. Add in the fact that 1% of all sales this year will be donated to charities and nonprofits that empower women, and it’s clear that she is just as much invested in uplifting women as she is with concocting delicious beverages.

“For some people, [women’s empowerment] means being a stay-at-home mom and having 10 kids—that’s wonderful. I will celebrate that that’s your path in life and that’s amazing,” Dougherty said. “If you’re a woman who doesn’t want to be married and doesn’t want to have children, that’s amazing. Go do that. My number one thing here is that women can feel like they can choose the path that’s right for them and not apologize for being too ambitious, or ‘not ambitious enough.’”

Keep up with Spritz on their Facebook page at facebook. com/SpritzBev or visit the website at spritzbev.com.

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Sweet News: Macaron pop-up opens in Short North

Regina Fox

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We've adopted many things from the French—kissing, press, bread—but perhaps the sweetest is the macaron. Cincinnati's Macaron Bar recently opened a pop-up location in the Short North at 668 N High St., just in time for the holiday season.

The bakery offers "a premium texture and flavor experience enhanced by our vibrant, cosmopolitan stores," according to its Facebook bio.

Several core flavors are available in the Short North, as well as 3-5 seasonal selections. All the macarons are gluten free. Macaron Bar also offers pour over coffees and loose leaf teas.

Macaron Bar is open Tuesday through Thursday from noon- 7pm, Friday from noon- 9pm, Saturday from noon- 10pm, Sunday from noon- 6pm, and closed on Monday. Visit macaron-bar.com for more information.

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Strip Mall Surprise: North Columbus Vietnamese restaurant is a tasteful treasure

Aaron Wetli

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Welcome back to Strip Mall Surprise, where we highlight locally-owned restaurants and bars that just happen to be located in a, wait for it, Strip Mall.

Let’s warm up with a big bowl of Pho, along with many other Vietnamese delights, in one of Columbus’ best kept secrets: Huong Vietnamese Restaurant.

Pho

Nestled away in the southwest corner of Northland, Huong Vietnamese Restaurant is an unassuming haunt that has kept neighborhood residents swimming in Pho since 2008.

Upon entering, you will discover a quaint and cozy dining area containing a seasonal holiday display and a television paying VCR tapes of 1980’s MTV Christmas videos. Yes, you read that last sentence correctly. If the Boys 2 Men and Kenny Rogers "Oh Holy Night" collaboration doesn’t warm your soul, the Pho will.

Served in a bowl the size of a football helmet, the Pho is piping hot, rich and flavorful. You can order beef, chicken, shrimp, or noodles only, and could be split between two adults (I said could, NOT should).

Noodle bowl

If you are in a hurry, Huong offers three different options for carry out Pho: eating at home, eating at work, or eating in the car. Each option is prepared differently for the different environments the Pho will be consumed in. How neighborly is that?

If you aren’t in the mood for Pho (weirdo), the Canh Ga will certainly warm you up as well. Deeply seasoned, but not breaded, these fried chicken drums are crunchy and juicy, come with a Sweet and Sour Chili dipping sauce. They rival ANY fried chicken in Columbus and are guaranteed to warm you up on a cold day.

Fried chicken drumsticks

A menu item to definitely consider splitting, for no other reason than saving room for other delicious treats, is the FOOTLONG Banh Mi sandwich. Choose between chicken, pork, and beef options, enjoy the toasted bun and accompanying small army of cilantro, jalapeño, carrots, and cucumbers. Just be warned that finishing the sandwich in one sitting is a one-way ticket to a food coma.

Banh Mi sandwich

As for the less well known Vietnamese fare, Huong also offers Crepes (I suggest the shrimp), assorted rice dishes (get the pork chop and fried egg), and rice vermicelli salads with choice of proteins and peanut sauces, as well as a concise but versatile selection of vegan options.

Huong Vietnamese is a funky, fun, and festive holiday destination that doesn’t break the bank unless, of course, it becomes your new obsession. You have been warned.

Huong Vietnamese Restaurant is closed on Tuesdays, does not serve alcohol, and is located at 1270 Morse Road.

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