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Booze trend: Don’t be a schlub, have a shrub!

Mike Thomas

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Of all the things that are both greenery and something else, shrubs stand out as something of an oddity on bar menus as of late. In this case, the shrubs in question aren’t of the quasi-bush variety, but rather a category of trendy, vinegar-based drink concoctions.

Thanks to the modern obsession with rediscovering and revitalizing all things old, the colonial-era refreshment known as the shrub has begun to make its way back into the cultural consciousness. Also known as drinking vinegars, shrubs are a bittersweet concoction made by mixing fruit, sugar, vinegar, and aromatics. The result is a beverage that can be thought of as the 18th century’s answer to soda.

Photo by Brian Kaiser

While the term “shrub” technically refers to the vinegar and fruit mixture itself, the word is often used synonymously with cocktails that utilize shrubs as their base. As a versatile mixer, shrubs are popping up in taverns around Columbus and beyond. While the syrupy and pungent amalgams are a natural match for booze, their acidity and tartness have made them a popular base for non-alcoholic cocktails.

Trailblazers in the Columbus N/A cocktail scene and shrub revivalists, Franklinton’s Strongwater Food and Spirits offer a seasonally-rotating selection of drinks in which booze takes a back seat to fruit-and-herb-infused drinking vinegars.

Photo by Brian Kaiser

“Cocktail culture has become so large, and it’s exciting to see what different people are coming up with,” explains Strongwater general manager Lauren Conrath. “People are doing some really innovative things, so I think the next step is asking why are we only applying this philosophy to alcoholic beverages?”

Strongwater’s shrub program is the undertaking of bartender Amina Cochran, who crafts the bar’s vinegar-infused syrups to match the flavors and available ingredients unique to each season.

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“It’s a good option for a non-alcoholic cocktail, because it has that vinegary bite, where if you’re wanting to have a drink you still get that, without the alcohol,” Cochran said of her creations. 

Strongwater is joined in shrub appreciation by The Crest on Parsons Avenue, where shrubs show up as an ingredient in the locally-minded gastropub’s signature cocktail offerings. The Crest’s Fall Flute cocktail pairs a tart apple shrub with Absolut vodka, allspice dram, lemon, and cava. 

In the time that shrubs were first popularized, popping over to the corner store for a cold, sugary beverage was simply not an option. Keeping food fresh would have been a constant battle, and finding ways to preserve whatever was available was a necessity. The vinegar in a shrub not only offers flavor, but extends the shelf-life of the syrup used to make the drink. Shrubs are shelf-stable, requiring no refrigeration to maintain their freshness. When properly stored, they can last for as long as a year.

Photo by Brian Kaiser

While the health-enhancing claims swirling around apple cider vinegar (the type most commonly used in shrub making) range from dubious to absurd, drinking the stuff in small doses certainly shouldn’t harm most people. Though the science supporting vinegar remedies is shaky at best, the fact remains that apple cider vinegar is a potent preservative and has been used for its antibacterial properties for ages. Still, if you’re looking for a cure-all health elixir, shrubs probably aren’t it—vinegar aside, these things contain a ton of sugar.

They may not be the cure for what ails you, but shrubs are a novel and amusing alternative to boring old commercially-available sodas, whether by themselves or mixed with your go-to liquor. 

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Keep calm: Geordie’s English restaurant announces opening date

Mike Thomas

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No, we aren’t talking Geordi LaForge, chief engineering officer of the USS Enterprise. As it happens, “Geordie” is a slang term referring to people from from the Tyneside area in northeastern England.

Geordie’s is also the name of an English restaurant coming soon to the city’s south side at 1586 S. High St – the former location of Columbus Explorers Club.

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After months of red-tape and construction-related delays, Geordie’s co-owner Glenn Hall-Jones has confirmed an opening date of May 31 for his establishment, which seeks to replicate the true English pub experience right here in Columbus.

So we had a test day in the kitchen Sunday. Just a few of the dishes from the Geordie’s menu. Traditional English Sunday…

Posted by Geordie’s Restaurant. on Monday, May 20, 2019

Once open, Geordie’s patrons can expect beer offerings from the United Kingdom, such as Newcastle Brown Ale, Guinness, and more, along with taps pouring local craft beer. There will also be a full bar and food menu full of favorites from across the pond.

Keep calm and check this spot out on May 31.

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New, unique brand of ice cream hitting freezers near you soon

614now

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Just in time for summer, a new ice cream company will be expanding into the Columbus market! Perry’s Ice Cream Company, Inc., a Great Lakes regional brand and Upstate New York’s #1 ice cream choice, will begin stocking over 600 local freezers and scoop shops with its unique flavors like:

  • Bad Breakup (Sea salt caramel chocolate ice cream with milk fudge swirls and fudge-filled hearts)
  • Grasshopper Pie (fudge swirls and mint ice cream will tingle your taste buds while the crème-filled cookies add a refreshing crunch)
  • Off the Grid (Chocolate ice cream with peanut butter swirls and chopped peanut butter cups)

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The ice cream will be also appear at a number of local events, such as the Columbus Jazz & Rib Fest, Ohio State Fair, and at Huntington Park for Clippers games.

As a result of this expansion into both Columbus and Cleveland, Perry’s has created 49 jobs in Ohio and will directly invest about $6.3 million in the state in 2019.

The Great Lakes-regional and Western New York-based, family-owned company has been making ice cream for more than 100 years and prides itself on its slow-cooked, exceptionally creamy and delicious ice cream made from local ingredients. 

For more information, visit PerrysIceCream.com

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“Cinco stars” for new and improved Cinco Tacos

Mike Thomas

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Located in the heart of downtown Columbus near the intersection of Broad and High, Cinco Tacos has been serving the lunch crowd for quite some time. Like many of its fast-casual peers, it was a decent enough place to grab a quick meal that was just a notch above fast food burger chains.

Now, under new ownership, Cinco is done settling for “good enough.” This means more than just a fresh coat of paint on the walls, but a completely new menu highlighting traditional Mexican preparations, executed with patience and care.

Already a veteran of the food truck scene, Fransisco Garcia took over Cinco Tacos a short time ago, and quickly got to work making the space his own. First, he put together a staff well-versed in traditional Mexican cooking. He and his team got to work, completely overhauling and expanding Cinco’s array of offerings.

The results speak for themselves, with tacos, burritos, and other diverse items bursting with authentic flavors that put their Americanized counterparts in the national chains to shame.

Carnitas taco, “suprema” style. Photos by Kelsey Cowan

The secret to Cinco’s superior fare seems to be in taking the time to let flavors develop. The house-made barbacoa takes up to 8 hours to prepare. The carnitas take even longer, and it’s time well spent – both of these proteins are exceptionally tender and flavorful.

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Small touches also demonstrate the care that Garcia takes in his approach to cooking. Not satisfied to serve just another taco, he sources yellow corn tortillas from a purveyor in Chicago that are simply the best available in the region, and perhaps beyond.

On this menu, classic sides like chips and various salsas (all made in house) are joined by unique offerings like pozole – a rich Mexican soup with pork and hominy that is a rarity even among the city’s many traditional Mexican establishments.

Cinco’s pork belly taco – one of the restaurant’s rotating specials

In keeping with the great flavors found on its regular menu, Cinco features a lineup of killer specials that rotate depending on availability of ingredients. The pork belly taco, made with pork belly hand-trimmed and marinated in house, offers an explosion of juicy, porky flavor. Topped with Cinco’s next-level guacamole, this is one special to look out for.

With the new-and-improved Cinco Tacos open for business, it’s hard to justify visiting chain restaurants. Cinco has everything you would find at those other places (plus much more) but with deep, traditional flavors. Try it yourself the next time you’re downtown looking for a quick lunch, or make a special trip of it – Cinco is definitely worth it.

Cinco is located at 1 S High St, Columbus. They currently serve lunch through 4PM, with plans to expand to dinner service in the future.

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