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For each of us, every day begins as a blank slate, a way to get a “do-over” from the mistakes and stresses of yesterday and an opportunity to start fresh. And for many of us, the day starts with coffee. It all comes together at Blank Slate Coffee in Gahanna where you can snag your [...]
Laura Dachenbach

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For each of us, every day begins as a blank slate, a way to get a “do-over” from the mistakes and stresses of yesterday and an opportunity to start fresh. And for many of us, the day starts with coffee. It all comes together at Blank Slate Coffee in Gahanna where you can snag your morning cup of joe from an all-aluminum Airstream RV.

Located in the Creekside district, Gahanna’s mixed-use gathering space of park, residence, and retail along Big Walnut Creek, Blank Slate Coffee is in the business of not only serving excellent coffee, but adding to the spirit of the community. Nestled within the remains of an old self-serve car wash, Blank Slate has provided a place for caffeine, imagination and togetherness to work their magic.

“We’ve definitely found that what we’re doing resonates with a lot of people here,” said Matt Roberson, owner/operator of Blank Slate Coffee. “Our motivation in choosing to operate at Creekside has less to do with a conscious business decision, and more to do with the fact that we live here. For us, being able to build community is our main motivator. So finding a niche outside of Gahanna just didn’t make sense.”

Coming to Columbus by way of Colorado, Roberson and his wife Kayla settled in Gahanna and hit the ground running. Not wishing to be idle bystanders in the community, The Robersons started making Blank Slate more than just great coffee. In the guts of the former car-wash where a few fingerprints of old pipes and spigots remain, Roberson, a former art teacher, had custom murals painted on sides of the stalls. He contributed to the collaborative designs, and created one entirely by himself.

Yes, it’s a world of food trucks, pop-ups, and generally mobile dining opportunities, but why an Airstream?

“One of the things we’re committed to as a business is using local Ohio products whenever we can,” said Roberson. “So when we had the opportunity to use a legacy Ohio product like the Airstream to house Blank Slate Coffee, it was the perfect fit. Our Airstream is from 1971 and was in Indianapolis when we found it.”

The Airstream is finished off with black-and-white checkered tiles, wooden chairs and a slim wooden countertop, a retro feel contrasting with the modern shine of the high-tech coffee brewing machines. The old car wash office has been refurbished into “The Hart Room” and serves as a place for patrons to kick back as they sip while they check out more artwork and an antique turntable. The Hart Room more generally functions as a place for open discussion, community, and general creativity and has housed community talks, live music, coffee and canvas nights, game nights, and pop-up events.

“We refer to it as, ‘A resource for the creative community,’ ” said Roberson. “We’ve been able to allow a few artists to do their first ‘gallery show’ in the space. It’s definitely a little rough so we don’t try to brand it as a legit gallery.”

This idea of taking ownership of your day (through caffeine or otherwise) and realizing what you want is very much a part of Blank Slate’s philosophy. What may seem like a heavy mission for a local coffee shop, Blank Slate achieves quite naturally. Interactive art such as “Before I die I want to…” board allows customers to question and communicate. If you’re not sure what it is that you exactly want to do before your death (a heavy question at 8 a.m.), the hundreds of responses from guests who have already rolled through and left their mark on the board can serve as inspiration. Other interactive art pieces make use of upcycled materials.

Although it occasionally moves to meet the crowds where they are, the bright silver Airstream is now a recognizable Gahanna landmark. While many people stay in their cars and take advantage of the large front window that doubles as a drive-thru, customers can also go inside to order coffee and even sit in the small countertop area while basking in the vintage glory of the refurbished recreational vehicle, replete with succulents and classic audio equipment for a completely Instagrammable and enlightening coffee experience.

From a variety of espresso options to different blends of tea ranging from Sunstone to Black Pearl, a common or not-so-common coffee or tea drinker should have no struggles finding something to suit their palate. Additionally, Blank Slate offers speciality coffee options like the lavender latte, or the popular cold-brew coffee.

Beyond coffee, tea, and esspero, the Blank Slate menu has Italian sodas as well as Italian cream sodas—carbonated water with a flavored simple syrup. A modest food selection of doughnuts, bagels, and muffins is also available.

Roberson’s blend of community enthusiasm, amazing product, and prudent use of space lent itself to the creation of Blank and Brush Block Parties this past summer. The Blank and Brush parties brought together local artists selling goods, a few food trucks, music, and was another success for the two-and-a-half-year-old small business.

“The block party events happened pretty organically, and we were really impressed with how quickly people jumped on board and were willing to contribute,” said Roberson. “I think that shows that not only does Gahanna need community, but they want it and are willing to work to make it happen. So that helps us feel like we’re on the right track.”

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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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