Right as we walked through the door, I noticed an eye-catching rainbow display of macarons; row after row of every imaginable color and flavor of the French meringue-based confection. We decided to peruse the bakery during our one-and-a-half hour wait to be seated (during which we spotted Funk musician George Clinton) and I remember practically drooling on the glass at the hazelnut, raspberry, espresso, violet cassis and even Earl Grey-flavored treats.
The petite and airy French macaron (pronounced “mah-kah-rohn” and not to be confused with the coconut cookie, macaroon) is made with egg whites, almond powder, confectioner’s sugar and food coloring. It has a crispy outside, chewy inside and velvety filling. I had only eaten macarons once before then, at a café in Hollywood earlier that week. Getting a box full of them after dinner was almost too good to be true.
Although I was happy to be experiencing them for the first time in Cali, macarons have been a fad in the past few years, popping up all over the place. Foodies among others have been dubbing them the new cupcake (because, you know, Cupcake Wars is a thing and cupcakeries are everywhere).
Upon returning to Cincinnati, I tried to find the city’s Bottega Louie. I wanted to discover a place overflowing with the ubiquitous macaron that is taking bakeries all over the East and West Coast by storm. After doing a few Yelp searches, I first ventured to The BonBonerie on Madison Road, not too far from my apartment. There were only two types of macarons there when I went — salty caramel and pistachio.
Although there was a limited selection of flavors, I was excited to order the pastries in my hometown and got a few of each. They were alright, but the meringue cookie outsides and filling were a bit thick and the macaron didn’t have its expected airiness. I wanted to find a place that offered a lighter pastry with a wider selection of flavors.
I later went to Aglamesis Bro’s in Oakley Square, one of my favorite ice cream parlors, to continue my search. Some of their reviews mentioned macarons. However, they didn’t have them when I went. I left with some black raspberry chocolate chip ice cream, so the outing wasn’t a total letdown.
I then attempted to go to the S&J Bakery and Café in Findlay Market on a Sunday, but was just a little too late. It was closed. Based on Yelp reviews, the macarons are good there (and are actually sold there) so I unfortunately missed out and need to go back.
The French Crust Café on Vine came up on Yelp under the “macaron” search and seemed promising, being a French café and all. There were reviews about desserts, such as pumpkin and chocolate mousse, topped with a macaron. Upon looking at the menu on the website, though, I didn’t see the pastries listed as separate items for purchase and decided to pass.
However, the one place that stuck out to me in the Yelp search — that I’ve been meaning to try for ages and ages, not just for the macarons but for the food in general — is Taste of Belgium in Over-the-Rhine. It’s a local favorite when it comes to brunch and desserts. I finally paid the bistro a visit over the weekend and, for the first time, felt like I was in a West Coast bakery.
I instantly spotted the macarons, which took up an entire shelf. There were eight holiday flavors — Rum Raisin, Sticky Toffee, Sugarplum, Eggnog, Gingerbread, a very decorated Candy Cane, Cinnabun and Snow Ball (Coconut).
I ordered a box of them and my sister and I ate them before we even got our brunch. We really couldn’t help it, seeing as to how they’re so pretty and bite-sized. These macarons were similar to the ones I had at Bottega Louie; they were slightly crunchy, had just the right amount of chewiness and were filled with the perfect amount of ganache.
While I’m not usually into fads, this is one that I’m glad is spreading within our constantly evolving city. It might have taken me a few months, but I can finally say that I’ve found the trendy yet timeless confections I’ve been craving. And it just so happened to be in time for the holidays, in very appropriate festive flavors.
Japanese gastropub Kaze will be expanding its hours to include lunch beginning on Black Friday (Nov. 29). The restaurant will now open at 11 a.m. and stay open through their regular dinner hours ('til 1 a.m. Sunday-Thursday; 'til 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday).
The new lunch menu will include some dinner favorites plus a bento box or a sashimi lunch plate with Chef Hideki's freshest seafood and rice. All items range between $8-$23, with cheaper starters and cups of soup. And the restaurant will also be offering the option of lunch reservations plus outdoor winter seating in their heated garden patio.
For those of you who don't need a cocktail at lunch, Kaze will also be offering a selection of "mocktails," mixtures of their regular cocktails sans booze, along with their regular full-service bar.
Kaze is located at 1400 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine. More info at kazeotr.com.
If you don’t want to spend all day cooking (or all day waiting for someone else to cook), the following are some of the local restaurants offering Thanksgiving dining options to satisfy friends, family and kids. Reservations are required for pretty much all meals and buffets, so call ahead.BB Riverboats Thanksgiving Day Cruises: Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings … on the river. $40 adults; $20 children. Cruises 1-3 p.m. and 5:30-7:30 p.m. 101 Riverboat Row, Newport, Ky., bbriverboats.com.
Boi Na Braza: A three-course meal with 16 cuts of meat, including turkey. $37.99. Noon-7 p.m. 441 Vine St., Downtown, boinabraza.com.
Cascades Restaurant: Entrées include roast turkey with andouille cornbread stuffing plus Coca Cola and brown sugar-glazed ham with pineapple cranberry compote. Garlic mashed potatoes, sweet potato, green bean casserole and desserts round out the menu. $12.95. 5:30-8 p.m. 4554 Lake Forest Drive, Embassy Suites, Blue Ash, 513-981-3752.
Chez Nora: Buffet with turkey and cornbread stuffing, ham, sweet potato casserole, biscuits and gravy and more, including pecan pie. $21.95 adults; $11.95 children; free for under 5. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. 530 Main St., Covington, Ky., 859-491-8027, cheznora.com.
Claddagh Irish Pub: Buffet including a salad bar, roast turkey and extensive dessert bar. $24.95 adults; $9.95 children. 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Multiple locations including 5075 Deerfield Blvd., Mason, 513-770-0999, claddaghirishpubs.com.
deSha’s: A Thanksgiving dinner buffet with a carving station, entrées including smoked gouda pasta, sides and a variety of desserts. $32.95 adults; $12.95 children. 11 a.m.-7 p.m. 11320 Montgomery Road, Montgomery, 513-247-9933, deshas.com/cincinnati.
Fall Feast: This is the ninth year of Give Back Cincinnati’s community Thanksgiving celebration. Join 4,000 neighbors, homeless and underserved individuals for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner plus free coats, haircuts, health screenings, pediatric dental checkups, live music and a big-screen TV. Free. 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; doors open at 9 a.m. Duke Energy Convention Center, 525 Elm St., Downtown, fallfeast.org.
The Golden Lamb: Special Thanksgiving menu featuring an entrée choice of oven-roasted turkey with sage stuffing, slow-roasted prime rib, both or vegetarian Shaker tomato pie. $24.95-$29.95 entrée; $13.95 for 10 and under. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. 27 S. Broadway St.., Lebanon, 513-932-5065, goldenlamb.com.
La Petite France: All-day Thanksgiving buffet with breakfast until 2 p.m. plus dinner items until 6 p.m. Appetizers include escargots bourguignon and pâté maison; entrées include roast turkey with all the trimmings and baked ham in champagne; assorted international cheeses; and desserts including crème brulee, pumpkin clafoutis and more. $32.95 adults; $15 children ages 4-12. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. 3177 Glendale-Milford Road, Evendale, 513-733-8383, lapetitefrance.biz.
McCormick and Schmick’s: Serving their full menu plus a Thanksgiving plate with soup or salad and a turkey dinner. $24.99; $9.99 children 12 and under. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. 21 E. Fifth St., Downtown, 513-721-339, mccormickandschmicks.com.
Metropole: Chef Michael Paley mans the fire for this classic Thanksgiving feast with farm-to-fireplace menu items. Prices vary. 2-8 p.m. Metropole, 609 Walnut St., Downtown, 513-578-6660, metropoleonwalnut.com.
Mitchell’s Fish Market: Three-course Thanksgiving menu with oven-roasted turkey, stuffing and cranberry relish plus mashed sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie. Regular menu also available. $24.99 adult; $8.99 children. 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Multiple locations including Newport on the Levee, Newport, Ky., mitchellsfishmarket.com.
National Exemplar: A traditional dinner with prime rib or turkey. $27.95. Noon-7 p.m. 6880 Wooster Pike, Mariemont, 513-271-2103, nationalexemplar.com.
The Palace: Traditional Thanksgiving day buffet with prime rib, turkey, vegetable lasagna, side dishes and dessert. $49.99 adult; $39.99 senior; $24.99 children. Noon-7 p.m. 601 Vine St., The Cincinnatian Hotel, Downtown, palacecincinnati.com.
Restaurants at the Palm Court: Thanksgiving buffet with turkey, ham, prime rib, short ribs, salmon, stuffing, potatoes, squash, pecan pie and more. $65.95 adults; $49.95 seniors; $19.95 ages 5-12. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. 35 E. Fifth St., Downtown, 513-421-9100, orchidsatpalmcourt.com.
Palomino: Slow-roasted turkey dinner with apple-sausage stuffing, garlic herb mashed potatoes, herb-roasted vegetables, homemade cranberry relish and turkey gravy. $26. Noon-8 p.m. 505 Vine St., Downtown, 513-381-1300, palomino.com.
Parkers Blue Ash Tavern: Thanksgiving dinner with a carving station, side dishes, salad, a seafood bar and homemade desserts. $31.95 adult; $10.95 ages 5-10. Noon-7 p.m. 4200 Cooper Road, Blue Ash, 513-891-8300.
The Phoenix: Traditional turkey, prime rib or beef dinner. Includes live music and family photos. $29.95 adults; $16.95 children; free for 4 and under. Noon-6 p.m. 812 Race St., Downtown, 513-721-8901, facebook.com/phxrestaurant.
Red Roost Tavern: Buffet including turkey, ham, salmon, beef, cheese, charcuterie, pumpkin ravioli and dessert. $49.95. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. 151 Fifth St., Downtown, 513-579-1234, cincinnati.hyatt.com.
Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse: A traditional three-course turkey dinner with choices like gumbo, Caesar salad, steak house salad, oven-roasted turkey breast with gravy, sausage and herb stuffing, cranberry relish, mashed potatoes, pumpkin cheesecake and more. Full menu also available. $36.95; $12.95 children 12 and under. 1-8 p.m. 100 E. Freedom Way, The Banks, Downtown, 513-381-0491, ruthschris.com.
Seasons 52: Dinner offering Plainville Farms roasted turkey with gravy, traditional stuffing, mashed potatoes, maple-glazed butternut squash, French green beans and house-made cranberry relish. $25.95; $12.95 children. Noon-8 p.m. 3819 Edwards Road, Norwood, 513-631-5252, seasons52.com.
The Northside Tavern is hosting the sixth annual Faces without Places chili cook-off. Faces without Places is a local nonprofit focused on removing barriers to education for children experiencing homelessness.
The family-friendly chili party will feature live music by Murray & Company, a kids craft area, raffles, door prizes, the Bengals on TV and, of course, chili. Each guest will receive three ballots to vote for their favorite chili out of more than 15 entries.
Funds raised will go to support educational and enrichment programming, school transportation, school supplies and other specialized services for school-aged children experiencing homelessness.
Noon-4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 10. $10; free for ages 5 and under. Northside Tavern, 4163 Hamilton Ave., Northside, faceswithoutplaces.org.
Cooks'Wares cooking school and retail store is hosting a chili challenge, awarding the best chili prizes ranging from $25 gift certificates to Cooks'Wares to an 8-quart Le Creuset Stock Pot and a $50 gift certificate. And everyone's a winner, with every entrant receiving $5 to use at Cooks'Wares.
Bring 16 to 24 ounces of your already prepared chili in a dish that can be heated, plus any necessary toppings. It will be heated before judging and judged by a panel of experienced cooks, culinary professionals and/or chili lovers. All proceeds will be donated to charity.
11 a.m.-2 p.m. Nov. 2. at the Shops at Harper's Point, 11344 Montgomery Road, Montgomery, 513-489-6400. For more information visit cookswaresonline.com.
The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's Greater Cincinnati Chapter is holding its inaugural Meat Ball.
On Saturday, Nov. 2, join the foundation for a five-course chef's gala featuring, what else, a ton of meat. Meat from Cincinnati meat companies like Fresh Sausage Specialists, Rose Packing Company, Birchwood Foods and more will be prepared by Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati chefs. After dinner, Meat Ball emcee Jeff Thomas of the Jeff & Jen Morning Show on Q102 will lead an evening program, followed by a live auction and music by Johnny Clueless. All proceeds and evening activities will go to raise funds and awareness to support the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's mission to "assure the development of the means to cure and control cystic fibrosis and to improve the quality of life for those with the disease."
Schedule of events:
5:30 p.m. Registration begins
7 p.m. Five-course dinner begins and silent auction ends
8:20 p.m. Program begins
8:40 p.m. Live auction begins
9 p.m. Dancing and entertainment by Johnny Clueless
5:30 p.m. $200 ($102 is tax-deductible). Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati, 1000 Broadway St., Pendleton, cff.org/chapters/cincinnati.
As far as changes, the restaurant will be extending its hours to include lunch (starting Nov. 5) and Saturday brunch (starting Dec. 7), which will feature a make-your-own bloody mary bar. Chef Johnson will also be updating the Local 127 menu to include more seafood and beef choices with seasonal preparations, plus adding a bar snack menu with pork belly bites, devils on horseback (a pub snack with a fruit like dates wrapped in bacon), fries inspired the by the In-N-Out Burger chain and more.
And for fans of the "local" in Local 127, fear not: Chef Johnson will remain true to the restaurant's pledge of serving responsibly sourced foods, according to the press release.
Local 127 is located at 413 Vine St., Downtown. For more information visit mylocal127.com.