Gadling TAKE FIVE: Week of May 24–May 30

Although, finding deals are still on our minds (poor Iva in Moscow is having little luck), food and drink has been one topic of interest this week.

  • Iva, for example, has found some solace in the vodka. She’s discovered loads of it, and all brands are not the same.
  • Aaron has clued us into saying good-bye to free peanuts–even though they cost peanuts– and has told us where the best places to drink in 2008 are located.
  • Tynan was wined and dined at the Lalu Hotel in Taiwan and found out that while staying in luxury you can eat vegan.
  • Kent shared the advantages of a two-day trip to San Juan, one being eating Mexican food overlooking the ocean, Must be tough.
  • But, if you want to know what it’s like to work on an organic farm, ask Jerry. He has first-hand experience. It sounds tough. Check out part two tomorrow.
  • I’m the one, though, who knows all about White Castle hamburgers, and I’m proud of it.

Have a great last half a weekend in May. Sunday is June 1. Hope you find something yummy.

Ode to hamburgers, but mostly White Castle

Since this is National Hamburger Month, they are on my mind, particularly since Ohio is home to three hamburger chains: Wendy’s, White Castle and Max and Erma’s. Max and Ermas started with the gourmet burger as a focus, but morphed into more over the years.

Here is a bit of hamburger history to help you dazzle your friends with hamburger know-how:

  • In 1921, White Castle became the United States’ first hamburger chain when Billy Ingram, a real estate businessman type, and Walter Anderson, the man who first flattened hamburger into a flat patty with a spatula and grilled it on a bed of shredded onions, formed a partnership.
  • The company moved its headquarters to Columbus, Ohio in 1934.
  • White Castle’s name and signature building were designed to evoke the image of purity, cleanliness, stability, permanence and strength.
  • In 1930, White Castle commissioned a study through the University of Michigan to prove that White Castles are good for you. A college student ate nothing but White Castles for 8 weeks. He was fit as a fiddle after wards.
  • The hamburger was considered low-class food before White Castle changed the public’s mind about it through targeted ad campaigns and PR initiatives. One initiative was printed coupons that offered 5 White Castles for 10 cents.
  • White Castle is credited to making the hamburger America’s first ethnic food. Up until White Castle, people tended to eat their own ethnic background food. As more people ate White Castles, beef production went up.
  • In 1961, White Castle was the first chain to sell a billion hamburgers.
  • Wendy’s is credited as being the first restaurant to have a drive-through, pick-up window. That restaurant is on Henderson Rd. in Columbus. The original Wendy’s that was located in downtown Columbus closed last year, partially because it didn’t have a pick-up window so that adversely affected its sales.
  • This year marks the 50th anniversary that a Max and Erma’s has been in the historic building in the German Village section of Columbus. Max and Erma Visocnik opened the original Max and Erma’s as a bar/tavern back in 1958. It was bought by Todd Barnum and Barry Zacks in 1972 with the intention of turning it into an eatery that sold gourmet hamburgers.
  • Of the three chains, the only one that is still family-owned is White Castle.

As you are eating a hamburger sometime this summer, thank Billy Ingram. If you are my cousin, Brad you can thank Billy and Walter for starting off the path to your wife. Without the Slyder® hamburger, there wouldn’t be White Castle, and without Billy, the chain wouldn’t have existed.

My cousin and his wife first met in a White Castle parking lot in Florence, Kentucky in 1977. They are still happily married. Now, that’s a real hamburger story.

Revisiting the Guy Who is Drinking Starbucks Around The World

The guy who is traveling the world by visiting each Starbucks was in Columbus, Ohio yesterday. A Columbus Dispatch reporter wrote this short article about Winter. Like Cher and Madonna, Winter has just one name after legally changing it-probably, a good idea when one is searching out celebrity. Justin wrote about him in a post back in March. I read about Winter again this morning when I was drinking my own coffee brewed at home.

Just think. Starbucks drinking does appear to be one way to become a self-made celebrity. Winter is getting interviewed and a movie made about him. Neat idea. I’ll never be this kind of celebrity though. My problem is, I’d get bored. I’d visit, say, ten Starbucks and proclaim, “Nah! I don’t like the stuff. Not really.” This is true. I’d rather visit every White Castle and have their coffee; it’s cheaper and, I think, tastes better, but that wouldn’t take me much further out of Ohio than Northern Kentucky, and I’ve been there. I’d also wonder while I was sitting in a Starbucks what other interesting thing I might be doing, like visiting an out of the way place where Starbucks isn’t.

We did collect Starbucks mugs when we lived in Asia which I have to say are pretty cool looking. At three mugs (London, Bankok and Taiwan) it’s not the biggest collection, but their size make them stand out items.

I am curious about Winter’s Starbucks visits and the documentary that goes along with it. Unlike Coca Cola, whose icon is recognized everywhere as an every person’s drink, Starbucks, to me, is more elitist. At least Coca Cola has soft drink brands that match the tastes of each country’s population. (Visit the Coca Cola museum in Atlanta, Georgia and you’ll see what I mean.) Mind you, I’m not a big pusher of Coke products either. It’s just some musings here. I wonder as Winter travels if he notices that the crowd he’s hanging out with isn’t necessarily the every person crowd-but those who can afford a cup of java, and the price is over that of a cup of coffee in a New York City diner. The diner version generally comes with free refills. But then again, I drink White Castle.

The comments that accompany this photo of a Shanghai mug that was posted on Flickr by chubbo129 reflect a Starbuck dilemma.