July was so exciting that I feel like we should all take August off. With the amazing Bunbury festival, the spectacular Choir Games and the red-hot Reds, c’mon! Maybe we’ve done enough for this summer, and it’s time to chillax. But then we’d miss out on the Farmers Markets, City Flea at the gorgeous new Washington Park and planning for September and the MidPoint Music Festival. This town is on a roll, people!
Do you love seeing the Big Pig Gig pigs back in town? It took me weeks to figure out the “Do Re Wee” thing. Do Re Mi never crossed my mind. Re-do and wee-wee, yes, but anyway, my favorite is in the Westin Hotel lobby. Have you seen “Wee Feed the World” pig? Stephen Geddes from Local 127 was one of the designers, and our friends at Sugar N’ Spice Restaurant — home of those Wispy Thin Pancakes — in Bond Hill are the sponsors. Both Chef Geddes and the grill cooks at Sugar N’ Spice love pigs, and their sculpture is fun and very sweet.
Speaking of fun and sweet, you’ve got to stop at Hello Honey (633 Vine St., Downtown). This new ice cream shop is run by an adorable young couple, Brian and Pook Nicely. They opened in mid-July, and on my daily lunch search I happened to wander in on their very first day. After asking a dozen questions and trying a complimentary taste of the Butter Scotch Cake flavor, I was so charmed that I decided an ice cream sundae would indeed make a perfect lunch!
Everything at Hello Honey is homemade, so it’s not easy to choose.
I went for Dark Chocolate Almond, and was convinced to have a roasted marshmallow on top. Pook carefully selected one of the homemade marshmallows while Brian fired up his blowtorch (not a dramatic flamethrower, just one of the little ones that Julia Child used to finish her crème brûlée). As he stepped back and looked at the finished product he commented, “That’s a perfectly roasted marshmallow.” And it was. The ice cream was filled with whole toasted almonds and the sundae was better than a fresh campfire s’more.
Flavors will change, but for now, they’ve got Thai Coconut, Brown Butter Caramel, Creamy Brownie, Cookies & Cream, Strawberry Sorbet and Banana Chocolate Chip. Single scoops are $3.50 and doubles are $5.50 — the amazing marshmallow is $1.50. Go for it!
My other new favorite is Texas Joe. Joseph Garcia’s yellow taco truck can be found at the Bellevue Farmers Market, and it’s worth a visit. My friends and I got to know him when we were on our way to a birthday party and spotted Blue Oven Bread at the market, not sold out and with no line. That’s a reason to slam on the brakes and run across four lanes of traffic! As we prepared to dash back to the car with our Bad Boys and Seedies, Joe chased after us and insisted we try a taco. How could we refuse? I’ve never said no to a taco in my life. And after one taste of his homemade salsa, I was a fan.
Garcia was raised in Houston, where he got his start in his family’s tamale business. In Bellevue, he uses farm fresh eggs and produce from Holiday Harbor Farm, another market vendor, to make breakfast and lunch until 1 p.m. on Saturdays, and dinner on Wednesdays from 3:30-7:30 p.m. You can get an egg taco — with beans, bacon or veggies — or a big plate of Huevos Rancheros with bacon and country potatoes for breakfast, from 8-10:30 a.m. Joe then switches to lunch, with braised beef brisket, chipotle pulled chicken, carnitas and more for his tacos, tostados, quesadillas and tortas. I haven’t gotten to try a torta yet, since they sell out fast, but I can testify that the chicken quesadilla is delicious.
Bellevue’s Market, in the parking lot of the Party Source, is great even without Texas Joe, but with him, it’s a must.
One last thing. Mark your calendars (and make reservations) for Do Downtown’s Restaurant Week. From Aug. 6-12, participating restaurants — including Arnold’s, Boi Na Braza, Campanello’s, Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse, Lavomatic, Local 127, Mixx Ultra Lounge, Moerlein Lager House, Morton’s The Steakhouse, Nicholson’s Tavern & Pub, Nicola’s, Orchids at Palm Court, Palomino, The Palace, Trattoria Roma and Washington Platform — will offer one three-course prix fix menu or two dinners for $35. You’ll find the details and menus at dodowntowncincinnati.com.
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