Origins has lost some of its appeal for me. I'm no longer playing roleplaying games avidly, and I find myself unable to identify whether I'll enjoy a board game based on the writeup in the program book. The biggest appeal is to see the friends that I only see at Origins. So we've moved towards a pattern of going just for the party and relying on the folks we see there to introduce us to the best games of the year.
I think this won't be one of my great trip reports; we're about to leave on another trip, so I'm just jotting down memories as fast as possible.
Saturday, June 26
For lunch on Saturday, we stopped at Mehlman's Cafeteria in St. Clairsville, Ohio.
My roast beef was very good, moist and tender.
Lori got the stuffed chicken, which I found only okay. I believe that stuffed chicken is one of those dishes that becomes splendid only if every detail is just right. This might have had nine out of ten things perfect, but it didn't impress me. Both her macaroni and cheese and her broccoli casserole were gooshy and soft, and good if you like broccoli you can cut with a stern look.
Lori got the Dutch Peach Pie for dessert, and it was very good, with a bright sweet peach taste.
I got the raisin pie, which may have been my first experience with raisin pie. I liked it quite a lot; it definitely had the dark deep sweetness of raisins in spades. Both pies had notably good crust as well, staying flaky instead of succumbing to the pastey doom that awaits pies left out for long.
We made it to the convention center about an hour before the dealer's room closed, and didn't feel we had time to find parking, register for the dealer's room, and see any of it in time. Particularly since a drive around the block seemed to indicate that ComFest was taking all the parking. But the parking for North Market customers was open... So we stopped in at Jeni's.
I got a trio of three ice creams: Bourbon Butter Pecan (nutty and creamy with a definite bourbon kick), Meyer Lemon with Blueberry (cool and tart), and a seasonal cherry-plus-something flavor that I unfortunately forgot to write down.
Lori chose a trio of Strawberry Buttermilk (a great tangy flavor), Meyer Lemon with Blueberry, and Chocolate.
I was fascinated by the sundae offerings, particularly the Mock Turtle and Black and Tan, but didn't have the appetite to sample any.
From there to the hotel and then to the party. I didn't hear substantial buzz about many games at the party. I played in three games:
Revolution!, by Steve Jackson Games. I'm glad I got a chance to play this, because SJG had hyped it enough that it had raised my interest--but it turns out to be an auction game, and auction games hit some sort of blind spot within me that leaves me playing dismally and having no fun. I felt so utterly unable to strategize effectively that I pulled out an iPhone dice-rolling app to make decisions randomly. (It didn't help, but it couldn't do any worse than my previous play.)
Who Would Win? This was a very fun party game. The premise: two people are each dealt a random famous person, and a judge announces a domain of competition. Each player then has twenty seconds in which to argue that their famous person would dominate in that category. Some examples that I remember: Steven Hawking almost beat Superman at a contest of Massage through an excellent argument from one player. Helen Keller won a competition at Lion Taming through a truly inspired display of rhetoric. The game was a hoot, and I'll pick it up.
Red Dragon Inn. We own both this game and the sequel, but hadn't played in a while. I was doing well with Gog, the half-ogre, but forgetting one of the rules led me to misplay in a way that possibly cost me the game and certainly prolonged it long past what I wanted.
Sunday, June 27
Down to the convention center for a run through the dealer's room and a bite to eat.
Since I joined Roadfood.com in September 2009, I have been planning to submit a review of Krema Nut Company as soon as I got around to taking some pictures. I had a lead-in planned: "A food court in a convention center can be a dismal place to find great food, and Columbus Convention Center's food court is no exception. But fifty feet away, there is a marvel: Krema Nut Company makes superb peanut butter sandwiches."
Unfortunately, Krema Nut Company is no longer making peanut butter sandwiches at the convention center location. They now sell pre-made sandwiches there - but only one weekend a year, for Origins. They do still make sandwiches to order at the Goodale Blvd location - but I haven't visited that location, or taken pictures from there. So a review will have to wait until my next visit to Columbus.
The storefront of the convention center location:
Both Lori and I had the Old-Fashioned: crunchy peanut butter, strawberry jam, and sliced strawberries on whole wheat bread. Even pre-made, this was a really fine sandwich, all that a PB&J could hope to be. Among its many fine qualities: the bread is really well-suited for a PB&J. A bread with large holes would risk leakage; a bread with the plentiful long gluten chains of, say, ciabatta would risk having the filling squoosh out as one bit down. But this bread has a fine, dense crumb that perfectly complements the filling. It's nigh-impossible to eat one of these generously-filled sandwiches without getting jelly on your fingers, but suitable bread makes it possible to avoid getting jelly on one's shirt.
Before leaving the convention center, we made another stop at Jeni's. I apparently neglected to record Lori's selection; I had a duo of goat cheese and roasted red cherry ice cream and cherry lambic sorbet. The goat cheese and roasted red cherry ice cream was smooth and creamy with nuggets of tart cherry; the cherry lambic sorbet was splendidly tart and refreshing for a hot humid day.
We started thinking about dinner near Cincinnati. We tried Price Hill Chili, but it was closed. So we went across the state line to Greyhound Tavern, which had been recommended by Roadfood poster rumaki. The decor was very nice:
We started off with a half order of onion rings that turned out to be massive. They weren't my favorite style of onion rings; they were cooked to the crisp-tender level (which is fine for many vegetables, but I prefer onions more fully cooked), and the batter was thick enough that I encountered a few nuggets batter that weren't crisp.
I ordered the Kentucky Hot Brown, which uses cheddar cheese in their sauce and country ham instead of the more traditional turkey. It was pretty tasty, but it was very very salty. Far too salty for me. There's a fair argument that I should have known better.
Lori ordered the fried chicken. Since this trip involved several different examples of fried chicken, I'll try to describe fried chicken carefully. My word for this chicken's crust is fragile. The crust broke apart at a touch, but the pieces of crust stayed on the surface of the chicken, instead of falling to the plate. I noticed nothing special about the meat itself; it tasted like chicken.
We were feeling a bit full, so we skipped the Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen, but we stopped at Graeter's.
Lori chose the blackberry chip sundae with bittersweet fudge sauce. The bittersweet fudge was very dark and intensely flavored, so much so that I don't remember much of the flavor of the ice cream.
This is my peach cone, held by the very friendly assistant manager Justin. The peach ice cream was awesome - it was more peachy than a mediocre peach. I think Lori ended up envying my choice.
We had some great recommendations from Louis for the drive through Indiana: he had recommended Claudia Sanders' Dinner House, Wall Drive-in, and a scenic drive paralleling I-64. But we were driving through late at night, and we missed all of these. We did honk at Mayor Al's exit, as he suggested; unfortunately, we weren't able to meet him face to face on this trip.
As we were driving through the night, guided by our GPS, streaming Pandora internet radio through my phone, using the iPad to look up motel reviews before we made a reservation over the internet, I had a strong sense that we were living in The Future. In this future, we are not yet able to stop an oil leak in the Gulf - but we are able to use the internet to search for country songs more cheesy than "Brand New Girlfriend" while we drive, so we at least have that going for us.
Monday, June 28
We met Roadfood poster Louis at Bon Ton Mini Mart. It is an entirely unassuming building:
At my first bite, I was unimpressed with the Bon Ton fried chicken; I'd expected a much bolder taste from the Roadfood writeup. But as I ate more, the taste developed into a broad round savory delight. This was really outstanding fried chicken, so much so that after finishing the chicken, I kept picking up crumbs to nibble to keep that big warm flavor alive. My key adjective for this crust is crisp: the crust broke at a bite, but not at a mere touch, and when it broke, it did scatter crumbs below. I'm very glad that we made a chance to eat this chicken.
Louis mentioned that buffetbuster had found the chess pie outstanding, so we sampled a piece of that. It was indeed superb chess pie, gooey and sweet, with a crust like flaky shortbread.
Louis then led us to Bell's Drugs, a classic old drugstore in nearby Sebree, for an orangeade.
The orangeade was good, but I am more refreshed by really sour flavors. I apparently neglected to get a picture of the orangeade, but I got a picture of its manufacture:
I was intrigued to notice "Tiger Blood" among the snow cone flavors. The proprietor gave us a sample, and told us about the young boy who believed that she prepared the flavoring by killing a tiger every day. To us, it tasted like cinnamon and coconut. A later google search indicates that tiger blood snow cones should taste like watermelon, strawberry, and coconut.
From there, we sought out Thomason's Barbeque in Henderson, but found it closed. So we went to Mr. D's, last proponent of Colonel Jim's chicken recipe. My word for this chicken's crust is crunchy; it was significantly thicker than Bon Ton's, and it fell from the chicken in nuggets instead of crumbs. The chicken was flavorful, but not the joy in the mouth of Bon Ton.
Mr. D's fits the Roadfood tradition of statuary of the food to be eaten:
Louis next took us across the state line to Evansville to try out Bar-B-Q Barn.
Bar-B-Q Barn also uses animal statuary, but much more discreetly; this genial pig is just at the entrance.
We noticed unfamiliar sodas for sale there, and each tried one. I found the strawberry soda too sweet, but the orange-pineapple soda was delicious.
Louis recommended the smoked chicken and the smoked hamburger. The smoked chicken was nicely smoked, full of smoke flavor.
The smoked hamburger tasted mostly of char to me, with a second, milder smoke taste.
Curiosity led me to add a smoked bologna sandwich to our order. The smoked bologna was quite tasty, with strong flavors of pork, garlic, and smoke. The rye bread it was served on was wholly forgettable.
Our last stop with Louis was at G. D. Ritzy's, once a larger chain, but now down to just a handful of locations.
I ordered the mountain blackberry ice cream, which I didn't find very flavorful.
Lori ordered the chocolate. I believe she felt it was fine, but not in the league of Graeter's.
From there, we parted ways with Louis and drove on to Paducah.
At buffetbuster's recommendation, we had planned a stop at Jewell's Open Bit Bar-b-q in Princeton, Kentucky. Jewell's thwarted that plan by being closed. A bit of roadfood.com searching informed us of another barbecue joint in Princeton: Heaton's, operating in a gas station. We took a bit of an accidental detour finding Heaton's, because we focused too strongly on the Citgo sign shown in the Roadfood listing; Heaton's is now a Marathon station.
The pulled pork sandwich we got at Heaton's was curious: although the outside of the store was redolent of hickory smoke, so I know there was smoking going on, the pork itself did not taste very smoky. The sauce was very citrusy.
That's all I have time for now. Coming up in a later report: Doe's Eat Place, Rough River State Park, Lynn's Paradise Cafe, Young's Jersey Dairy.