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by Hannah Bussell 04.20.2015 37 days ago
Posted In: Alcohol, Bar, Beer, Brunch, Cincinnati, Cookies at 01:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
skyline coneys

A British Foodie in the Queen City

After 10 months in America as a foreign exchange student, CityBeat intern Hannah Bussell has a few things to say about stateside cuisine

I moved from England last August to spend 10 months in the land of the free — I’m studying at the University of Cincinnati and exploring as much of the country as I can squeeze in. I’d been looking forward to the iconic American foods that the world knows about: deep-dish Chicago pizzas, stacks of fluffy pancakes drowning in syrup, apple pies topped with whipped cream. I chose to come to Cincinnati because I wanted to be in Midwestern America. Before I arrived, when people said Cincinnati to me I thought, “Bengals.” I didn’t once consider the city to be a food town — not everyone knows about Cincinnati’s chili! So I was thrilled to find Cincinnati’s exciting and expanding foodie scene, host to a wide number of delicious and vibrant eats with food so good I warmly welcomed the inevitable weight gain.

From my time here so far, I’ve noticed some differences between my food culture and yours.

Your portions are almost as big as your mountains, your national parks and your prairies. A meal at the Incline Public house in the West Side gave me delicious leftovers for two consecutive nights. The portion sizes at The Cheesecake Factory are immensely appreciated but borderline ridiculous.

The service. I feel like I’m being ushered out the door almost as soon as I arrive. Being a Brit, I am used to a slower-paced meal with a docile waiter reservedly keeping their distance. If there’s something wrong with our food we don’t say anything because, as a nation, we are too awkward to deal with that sort of thing. Over here I am given the bill along with my food and asked how I want to pay. In England this would be seen as rude, but the waiters are always so smiley and chirpy it’s refreshing. English table service really could learn a thing or two here. 

Upon my arrival I was so excited by American culture I consumed so many Pop-Tarts in 48 hours that I haven’t touched one since. I have since learned from my mistake and didn’t want to sabotage my Cincinnati scoffing (British slang for "scarfing") experience. But after coming face to face with Skyline, any attempts to monitor my chili allowance were fruitless. The thin beef chili is smooth and tender, with hints of cinnamon and cloves. Served over a hotdog and for only $2, coneys became the ultimate “drunk food” for me — especially as I lived so close to the Clifton branch. Back home we know this type of food as “chili con carne,” and it’s heavily laden with tomatoes, cumin and garlic, and served over rice. I much prefer Cincinnati’s pairing with hot dogs, a mound of shredded cheddar and a bag of oyster crackers.

Talking of cheddar, I’m sorry to say my entrenched European prejudices meant I was quick to judge the cheese you have to offer. With England so close to the cheesy nation of France, I have developed a taste for oozing Camembert, crumbly yet creamy goat cheeses and blue and salty Saint Agur. America’s painfully mild, processed and bright orange “cheese” that you find melted on burgers or stirred into bowls of mac and cheese should not share the same name. The square singles of “Swiss cheddar” taste more like the convenient plastic they are wrapped in, and are not remotely Swiss. I don’t have the words to describe the monstrosity that is cheese in a can. I was readily accepting of not being able to taste any real cheese for 10 months until I stumbled across the delight that is Findlay Market and its J.E. Gibbs cheese vendor. My predisposed scorn of cheese in America vanished along with my dollars, but the investment in Brie was worth it.

On the subject of delicious dairy, Oprah was absolutely right about Cincinnati’s Graeter’s ice cream. Its black raspberry and chocolate chip flavor is on the same standard as ice cream and gelato I’ve sampled in Florence, Italy. 

The Midwest’s booming corn supply means there are a lot of corn-involved foods to be eaten around here. In the UK you only consume this staple in the form of canned sweet corn, but here it is baked into corn puddings, corn breads or creamed up to make “creamed corn” — none of which I’m convinced by. The freshly grilled ears of corn dripping in butter I bought at the state fair were delicious, but the “corndog,” however, is just obscene.

I am now obsessed with American barbecue. Pulled pork, ribs and beef brisket with heaps of finely shredded, creamy coleslaw has changed my perception of this type of cuisine. You Americans love your contemporary backyard barbecues and you know how to do them well. In England, we associate the British summertime barbecue with a much more high-strung experience, and less delicious food. I’m used to supermarket-bought bangers slid between cheap baps (a sort of soft bread roll, like a bun) and cooked on a tiny disposable charcoal barbecue. There is no sense of patience with a British summertime barbecue — we always want to get it done as quickly as possible as you never know when it might start pouring rain. So we bite into a hastily cooked burger and the blackened, charred outside crumbles away to reveal pinkish, undercooked disappointment. In America, however, you have much more patience and respect for this kind of cooking. You slowly smoke meats at low temperatures to get the perfect tenderness; you incorporate “wet” rubs and “dry” rubs to add even more flavor. A pulled pork sandwich at Eli’s BBQ entailed a toasted bun stuffed with hickory-smoked pork, which had a tender interior, caramelized exterior and was slapped with a vinegar mop. Thank you, America, for showing me a real barbecue; I will think of you during my father’s next annual soggy barbecue disaster. 

I do miss the classic British biscuit tin. Graham crackers and cookies don’t suffice for the Jammie Dodgers, shortbreads and chocolate digestives that we love to dunk in our tea. I miss the chocolate. In a sibling rivalry between American and British chocolate, Cadbury will always win over Hershey's. 

The American obsession with peanut butter is something I’ve learned to love as well. Your peanut butter is arguably much better, smoother and creamier. I understand the appeal of a classic PB&J sandwich. I have still yet to try a Buckeye though.


In my first few weeks in America the only beer I was exposed to was grim Bud Light served in red Solo cups at student parties. Pre-departure to the states I was warned, “American beer sucks!” It took me until Oktoberfest, when I discovered the plethora of craft beer and breweries that Cincinnati has to offer, that I learned this was absolutely not the case. My favorite Cincinnati beer is MadTree’s seasonal Sprye, which manages to be spicy, citrusy, piney and earthy. Cincinnati brewing veteran Christian Moerlein and the Moerlein brewery also makes a great watering hole; with so many beer options to choose from I felt like I was back in my local pub.

The morning after a night of craft beer, my first thought goes to a full English breakfast. A plate of fried eggs, tomatoes, sausages, toast, baked beans and black pudding has been curing British hangovers since the invention of the frying pan. But I’m in America now, where baked beans are for barbecues only and black pudding is unheard of. My next thought is for bagels: the classic beloved breakfast bread that has become iconic to New York and American food culture. An egg and cheese bagel with bacon and sausage from Bruegger’s bagels is everything I want but more. A freshly made bagel topped by most of the commodities of a full English breakfast, but with less calories. If I can, I drag myself to quirky breakfast joint Hangover Easy in Clifton that also does an excellent brunch and breakfast fix.

With only a few more weeks left here, I am sad to leave Cincinnati's eclectic options of places to eat and drink. I'll certainly be returning to the UK a couple pounds heavier but I'll have a coney shaped hole missing from my life. 

 
 
by Maija Zummo 10.17.2013
Posted In: Cookies, News at 01:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
bettie page cookies

Sweet and Sexy Edibles

Queen City Cookies goes pin-up with new shortbread

Find Queen City Cookies' new line of Bettie Page-printed shortbread cookies at this week's City Flea (10 a.m.-4 p.m. in the American Can Building in Northside) and at the bakery

See (and eat) the "Queen of the Pin-ups" in classic Page poses. Queen City Cookies also has special Halloween-themed treats with black cats, skeletons, spiders and more printed on sugary shortbread — broom delivery or pick-up available. 
 
 
by Staff 03.09.2015 79 days ago
 
 
girl scout cookie cake

Leftovers: What We Ate This Weekend

Cauliflower Buffalo wings, Amma's Kitchen, Pelican's Reef, Girl Scout Cookies

Each week CityBeat staffers and dining writers tell you what they ate this weekend. We're not always proud — or trendy — but we definitely spend at least some money on food. 

Jac Kern: This weekend I finally tried my hand at the cauliflower Buffalo "wing" trend. There's plenty of recipes out there (and I'm incapable of following any precisely), but most of them involve taking raw cauliflower pieces, tossing them in a simple water-flour batter, baking, tossing again in sauce and baking again at high heat until crispy. They're pretty much fool-proof and the taste exceeded my expectations. These need to get added to bar menus stat.

I also went to the Cincinnati International Wine Festival Saturday. I didn't do much eating (though there were mini Graeter's cones and grilled cheese and tomato soup bites floating around) but I did taste copious amounts of reds, whites, roses and sparkling goodness. Fun fact: There's a surprising amount of wine tasting accessories out there today. Wine glass harness, anyone?

 

Ilene Ross:
There are some weekends when you’re more thankful for your stretchy pants then others. Needless to say, this was one of them. 

Friday started my marathon food-fest with not one, but two lunches. The first was at Park+Vine after a meeting in OTR. As I sat enjoying the zesty new OITNB Burger (black beans, brown rice, orange zest and cumin mayo) with a side of mac and cheese, who should walk in but super adorable CityBeat photog, Jesse Fox, carrying a box of macarons from next door’s Macaron Bar. My second lunch that day was during a meal at my favorite Chinese restaurant, Oriental Wok in Hyde Park. I had chicken Pad Thai and shrimp toast. I could eat Oriental Wok’s shrimp toast every damn day because unlike most restaurants, which only wave shrimp over limp, lifeless bread, OWok liberally covers crispy, crunchy hunks of toast with huge chunks of the seafood. It’s divine. 

Friday night I attended the Woman’s City Club of Greater Cincinnati’s 100th Anniversary Gala at the Hall of Mirrors in the Netherland Hilton with a group of friends. That place really knows how to throw a dinner. Surrounded by the splendor of the Art Deco masterpiece that is the Hall of Mirrors, we dined on marinated cucumbers and microgreens with soy sesame vinaigrette and rice crackers; grilled flank steak with Sichuan-style eggplant; and basmati rice with scallions. And for dessert, we had passion fruit cheesecake with toasted coconut. After dinner, our group headed downstairs to the Palm Court bar — easily one of the most beautiful rooms in the city — for cocktails, and proceeded to order pretty much all of the appetizers and desserts off of the bar menu. 

On Saturday, I hit Findlay Market to stock up for the week, binge-watched The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and ate nothing but popcorn. 

Sunday night was quite possibly the most fabulous birthday party I have ever had. My dear friend Summer Genetti —Pastry Chef at Lola Bistro in Cleveland — and I share March 11 as a birthday, so we decided to hold a joint birthday party at Myrtle’s Punch House to raise money for the Girl Scouts of Lower Price Hill. We had food donated from chefs Jason Louda of Meatball Kitchen, Andrew Mersmann of Django Western Taco and Jana Douglass of Happy Chicks Bakery. People showed up in droves to buy cookies, drink punch that Molly Wellmann had concocted to “coordinate” with the cookies, donate money, and eat the most spectacular birthday cake I’ve ever had in my whole life, which, of course, was baked by Summer. Best weekend ever. 

Nick Swartsell: Some friends and I went to Amma's Kitchen this weekend, which is always rad. They're a small place in Roselawn that is South Indian-style and all vegetarian, and there are a lot of dishes you can't find other places around here. Despite the lack of meat, I think they're my favorite Indian place in town. I got the Vegetable Jalfrezi — super good and spicy. One friend just chowed down on their samosas, which are some of the best around. Another got the Madras Thali, which is a crazy-huge plate full of different curries, soups, yogurts, rice and other stuff. The Rasam (a stew with tamarind juice, tomatoes and chilis) and Avial (veggies in a seemed like a coconut sauce) were both super good. There was also some kind of cilantro-y stew in the mix I didn't know the name of that was excellent.

Samantha Gellin: I ate at Pelican's Reef in Anderson. It's a seafood place tucked away in a strip mall and it's what I'd call a hidden gem. (Don't let the strip mall exterior scare you. The food is fresh and delicious.) We went on Saturday night and it was packed; there was a 30 minute wait. But it was well worth it: the warm bacon vinaigrette salad with grilled scallops I ordered was really, really good. The scallops were very tender and buttery, and the salad came with five or six, so no skimping here. My husband got a tuna steak "Oscar" style with grilled asparagus. That was also seriously delicious; very flavorful and cooked just right. The place is pricy (fish platters or specials can run you $16-$20) but the menu is large and does have other, less expensive options, like po'boys, non-fish sandwiches and burgers. It's a cozy and casual place but with upscale food. I'd definitely recommended it if you're craving really fresh, flavorful seafood or want to go out for a special occasion.

Maija Zummo: I went to Sotto Friday night for a friend's birthday party. As always, it was delicious. But instead of ordering my usual tonnarelli cacio e pepe, I shared an order of penne with vodka sauce and the tagliolini con tartufo with a friend (as well as some of their cost-effective house wine). The ribbon pasta was flavored with black truffle and truffle shavings and was amazing. I'm like a little truffle pig, so I feel like the pasta was relatively worth the $27 price tag. (I buy into the whole exaggerated-cost truffle economy, and truffle is a special treat on pasta if you don't eat meat.) Add in the quality of service at the restaurant, and I'll pretty much pay whatever. It's of the best places to dine in the city.

Garin Pirnia: Friday night the boyfriend and I braved the Bockfest crowd at Arnold's. We got there right after the parade ended, and it was packed to the gills. We were able to push our way up to the bar and order a couple of their 16 bocks on draft: a Warped Wing Abominator doppelbock and a Weihenstephaner Korbinian doppelbock. After, we somehow miraculously got a table in their upstairs section. We sat at a table next to a bathtub, and my boyfriend, who regularly eats food in the bath at home, joked, "I've never dined next to a tub before." I told him he should feel right at home. Their menu for that night was bock-centric and included a lot of weird foods such as camel nachos, goat (!) and elk meatballs. We both eschewed the exotic meats, and he ordered a bock Hot Brown and I ordered the wild mushroom ragout. It had mushrooms and shallots cooked in a creamy and spicy red wine reduction and beer sauce, and was mixed with bock beer grits. His sausage had fries on it, bock cheese and mustard. Note: Everything should be doused and cooked with beer. While we were dining, some guy in the nearby restroom kept cursing about something, and when he came out, he was chagrined to find out the entire upper floor heard him yelling. He apologized, saying he was jokingly yelling at his friend and didn't think anyone else could hear him. Ah, gotta love Bockfest! Go home, you're drunk.


 
 

 

 

 
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