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What if I told you there was a place you could go where you could try as many different types of wine as you wanted, and have it served to you by fancy robots from Italy? A place with delicious food, local beer on tap, and friendly hosts to introduce you to wines—both old favorites [...]
Jeni Ruisch

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What if I told you there was a place you could go where you could try as many different types of wine as you wanted, and have it served to you by fancy robots from Italy?

A place with delicious food, local beer on tap, and friendly hosts to introduce you to wines—both old favorites and new.

It’s not a classy fever dream, folks.

It’s called Tastings, and it’s a new way to experience wine in The Short North.

Ross Bailey, Chief Operating Officer at Tastings, grew up in Indianapolis, and opened the original Tastings with his father. They had seen a new development in wine technology and were taken by what it could mean for the industry and experience of wine.

When you enter Tastings, these futuristic machines are the first thing you’ll notice. Huge black and brushed stainless steel behemoths of streamlined Italian design, they’re ringed with bottles of wine and small display screens. Using Nitrogen pressure and a series of tubes, the machines allow customers to dispense two-, four-, or six-ounce pours from any of the 70-plus bottles on offer, without oxidizing the wine selections.

“Oxygen is a wine’s worst enemy,” Bailey said. “Usually when you open a bottle, it’s a ticking time bomb. You have two, three, four days before it starts to get oxidized. These are all still sealed, and preserved with food-grade nitrogen. It keeps the wine preserved, so you’re not sitting there wondering, ‘How long has this wine been open? Is it still good?’ The software tells us all of that.”

The large, round machines sitting on the floor of the restaurant, like mountain islands of spirits, are lined with reds. The refrigerated cabinet dispensers against the wall keep the whites at a slightly chilled temperature.

Guests can sit at a table and get service if they prefer a sit-down experience, or they can peruse the floor of the restaurant, get some appetizers, and mingle. When you arrive, get a tastings card. This is the ticket to paradise. Fill the card with any amount of dough that you want, and—like a boozy little hummingbird—visit the various bottles displayed on the service stations to taste samples or whole glasses of wine. The service style is flexible, and the wine hosts work on a tip pool system, so you’re free to roam. And experiment.

Which turns out to be mutually beneficial for customer and owner.

“As a restaurant owner, you don’t want to open a $100 bottle of wine and hope that you’ll sell four glasses, so those are generally just [offered] by the bottle. And usually anything you can get by the glass is a much lower price point. Here, we can have wines that are over $100, but we have a lot of people that are like, ‘Yeah, I’ll spend $15 or $20 on a taste because I’ll never buy this bottle at a restaurant or in the grocery store.’ The beauty in the concept is, it allows us to really have a big by-the-glass list; which unless you have this technology, 74 wines by the glass is unheard of.”

And yes, there’s a full bar with spirits, and four local beers on tap for those who are tapped out on wine.

“We know not everybody wants to drink wine. There’s a lot of times I want to have a cocktail after work. We’re a wine bar first and foremost, but our cocktails and beers are always supplementing that other crowd that has had enough wine and doesn’t want any more, or just isn’t into wine.”

Tastings has a dynamic kitchen that is open late. You can get a bite here until half-past midnight on the weekends; build a cheese plate with over 20 options; or go for a filet or a flatbread.

Bailey, an Indiana University grad, originally moved to California with a plan to head to law school. He soon found himself captaining a boat off Catalina Island, and cycling up and down the California coast, camping at wineries. Back home in Indiana, Bailey started up his first Tastings to rave reviews, and soon started scouting the region for a second location.

“We’ve had family here and in Cincinnati, so we’ve been here a couple times and we were always looking for other markets near Indianapolis, similar to Indianapolis. And we looked at a lot of cities. Columbus is awesome… it takes you by surprise. The city itself is amazing, easy to navigate. The more time we spent over here before we even started to look at properties, [the] more it became where we wanted to spend our time. We had traveled over here enough with friends and family that we fell in love with Columbus.”

That love and his business undertaking has Bailey in Columbus three to four nights a week, staying in hotels and tending to his fledgling business.

“We are family-owned; we aren’t a huge chain that has a ton of capital to dump into this for executive chefs, and research and development, so a lot of it has been us experimenting and flying by the seat of our pants—doing what we love.”

And who wouldn’t love cheese plates and endless wine options?

Tastings – A Wine Experience

958 N High St

tastingsbar.com

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Food & Drink

What it’s like to work at Buckeye Donuts for 24 hours straight

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It was late. I didn’t plan it. It just happened. It always just happens, right? I don’t recall many of the details, but I know I left happy and satisfied, with a big smile on my face. From that moment on, I was in love—with Buckeye Donut that is.

For the uninitiated (assuming there are any of you out there) Buckeye Donuts is a 24 hour restaurant located in the campus area, on High Street. It’s a place to grab a quick meal on the cheap. But for a Columbus girl like me, Buckeye Donuts is so much more than just a place to eat. It’s a local institution. Nothing says “home” to me more than driving down High Street and spotting its big, red sign with the picture of a giant donut on it.

Buckeye Donuts is a gathering place to sit and talk about the weather, politics, or just about anything else on your mind over a plate of some very satisfying, down home comfort food. Eat there often enough, and the staff will start treating you like family.

So, one day, when my editor magazine came up with the idea to write about some of Columbus’ finest round the clock institutions, I shared my idea: I would try my hand at working there—for 24 hours straight! “Go for it,” he said. Somehow, the good folks at Buckeye Donut agreed, and before I knew it, I was there, ready to make it happen.

First Shift
“Go wash up or put some gloves on,” says Jimmy, the owner of my new place of employment for the next 24 hours. I chose the first option and headed off to the bathroom at the back of the kitchen, where I scrubbed like Leonardo DiCaprio in The Aviator. Beats a pair of latex gloves, two sizes too big for my hands.

7:00am
1970’s disco pours out of the sound system. The percolator pops in time to the beat as coffee bubbles out onto the burner. Bacon and eggs hiss and sizzle on the grill. Cookware clatters. Above the chaos, Jimmy’s mom Tula shouts out orders in Greek. It’s busy and the breakfast crowd is full of regulars. Jimmy introduces me to one named Johnny Boy. Johnny Boy has eaten there every day—sometimes twice a day—since the place opened in the 1970’s. He drinks ten coffees a day and eats four donuts.

7:30am
I meet Yanni, the head baker. He has been working here since 1977. He holds out a floury hand for me to shake. He is a master donut maker and
the backbone of the operation. I also meet Victor and Miguel, the first shift cooks. They are master chefs in their own right and their grill game shows it. I can already tell they will be great teachers.

8:00am
Jimmy asks me if I am ready to try my hand at preparing a couple of orders. Um, no. He convinces me to frost some freshly baked Buckeye Donuts instead. The iconic item is a crowd favorite, along with newer offerings like the maple bacon cream filled variety. Beside me, dough is being rolled out in giant sheets and glazes of all sorts are being prepared in vats. Frosting donuts seems simple enough: fill a spoon and spread. It melts on contact and oozes down the sides and onto the countertop, leaving me with a chocolate mess. Yanni comes to my rescue.

8:30am
I switch to the grill and squirt a generous amount of liquid butter (literally the grease that keeps the wheels of Buckeye Donut spinning) onto the surface. My first hash browns look decent but I flub the omelet flip, so into the trash can it goes. Victor nudges me aside and prepares a textbook version.

10:30am
The restaurant slows down enough for Jimmy to give me a crash course on sandwich prep. I do my best to turn out gyros, Philly steak and Greek sausage. After rolling five or six, I feel like I’ve got the hang of it. At least, if I’m making one order at a time.

11:00am
Lunch break. I have the falafel wrap—a pita filled with grilled veggies, onion, lettuce, tomato and tahini sauce. It’s pretty good, but the falafel is overcooked and the wrap comes undone, causing some to land in my lap. I’ve got no one to blame but myself—I made it.

12:30pm
The lunch rush is in full swing. Johnny boy is back, along with another regular, known as Yanni the Maintenance Guy. He got this name because he fixes things at the restaurant as often as he eats there. Jimmy pauses from his orders long enough to tell me the story about the time Andy, a nightshift manager who happens to live upstairs, passed out drunk with his shower running. Water came pouring through the kitchen ceiling right in the middle of donut production. It was Yanni who came and saved the day.

Second Shift
16 hours to go! My feet hurt and my face is greasy but thanks to all the donuts I’ve sampled, my blood sugar is soaring and I’m feeling pretty damn good.

5:00pm
The dinner crowd has begun to arrive and Dave and Gary, the second shift cooks are getting ready for action. “Want to clean the grill” Dave asks? Ugh. I roll up my sleeves and do it. Shower please!

6:00pm
Some other important customers have arrived. My kids. One laughs. The other two look shocked. Do I look that bad? I serve them perfectly formed glazed donuts and milk – no doubt the best ones I have made all day.

6:30pm
The dinner rush is still going strong. The next order is mine and I’m shaking. Seating is limited, so the goal is always to get people in and out quick. I give it my best shot.

7:30pm
My best friend shows up and I fix her a perfect veggie wrap and fries. She is impressed. Thank goodness somebody is!

Third Shift
It’s getting late and I’m getting nervous. Not too much longer before the crazies start coming. During a brief lull, the night crew takes a moment to tell me about the time a baller limo pulled up at 2am and Prince got out. “He spent half an hour in the bathroom and then ordered donuts for his entire entourage,” they explained.

11pm
The calm before the storm. As I brace myself for the bar rush, I remember that today just happens to be Friday the 13th. I start thinking about every horrible thing my friends and I did to restaurant employees back when we were teenagers. My karma is coming for me. I can feel it. I pray silently that Curtis, Bunny and the rest of the late crew will have my back.

Midnight
I dare not sit down for fear of falling asleep. I start to open my heart and mind to the coming chaos. I need it. It’s my only hope of staying awake.

2am
The witching hour is well in the rearview. And just like that, they start to come. The talk is louder and orders crazier than during the day. There are tables full of booze soaked college students. Laughter rings out and F-bombs fly. The place is packed and I help out in the kitchen. My wraps are Instagram-worthy! Bring it on!

3am
An OSU t-shirt wearing kid orders and a few minutes later, his food is in his lap He is hunched over. I have come to call this the Buckeye Donut lean. He’s pale and in bad shape. Gary, the late cook fixes him a new plate, on the house. Once he gets some of it in his stomach, his color improves and smiles woozily at his friends. Thankfully, it all stays in his belly and he and his wasted buddies hit the door. All hail Gary, the savior of the night shift.

4 am
The late rush is over and the staff receives deliveries. Yanni is back and donut production is in full swing again. Overall, it was a pretty tame night. No fights or thrown food. Everyone who works at Buckeye Donuts has stories. “Back in the old days, the cops would typically come rolling in around midnight, and the ambulance would get here by two,” Gary explains. But for now, all is well.

5-6am
This period is little more in my memory now than a distant and faded spell of delirium punctuated by black coffee. I recall my ramblings on a litany of subjects ranging from the bizarre to the intellectual only because I’ve recorded them in voice memo.

7am
I made it! 24 hours at Buckeye Donut! Jimmy is back and he slaps me a high five. I stumble to the bathroom sink where I had scrubbed in the morning before, splash water on my grease soaked face and somehow manage to drive home.

After 24 hours on the inside, I can still say that Buckeye Donut is one of my favorite places to eat. Why? Because its more than just a place to grab food. It’s an experience. It’s filled with people from all walks of life, all looking for a little bit of happiness and community—like a microcosm of the city itself. And although its not always perfect, it’s a beautiful thing. Just ask Jimmy.

Oh, and if you have never been there, get going! Trust me, you will never forget your first time.

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Food & Drink

“Eco-chic” healthy eats restaurant opening in Easton

614now Staff

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Searching for the truth? Find it at Easton's newest restaurant.

True Food Kitchen is a relaxed, "eco-chic," health-conscious food chain opening at 4052 Worth Ave. this spring, according to the company website.

Without sacrificing flavor, creativity, or indulgence, True Food Kitchen offers vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-friendly options on its brunch, lunch, and dinner menus.

Guests can enjoy their gluten-friendly Lasagna Bolognese or vegetarian pizza from the bright dining area or outdoor covered patio.

Craving a cold libation with your meal? Hit up the scratch bar featuring fresh-pressed fruit and vegetable juices, seasonal cocktails, local beer, and wine.

To learn more about True Food Kitchen Columbus, click here.

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Food & Drink

Tastebud Traveling: Free tasting event coming to North Market

614now Staff

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Take a family tastebud trip with the return of Kalamata’s Kitchen Tasting Tour at the North Market this weekend.

Kalamata’s Kitchen will kick off a 12-month, 12-city tasting tour in Columbus on Saturday, February 22. This premier event for kids and families will feature tasty bites from North Market vendors representing food from around the world.

According to a release, every child participant is treated like a VIP as they discover new foods and learn about unique perspectives from celebrated chefs. Kids receive a VIP badge and a Food Adventure Passport that is stamped each time they try a new food. They will also have the opportunity to meet Sarah Thomas, co-founder and author of the Kalamata’s Kitchen book series.

This event is free and open to the public.

For more information, visit kalamataskitchen.com and/or northmarket.com.

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