Chef David Falk's Sotto* restaurant was recently named one of the "Top 100 Hot Spot Restaurants in America" by OpenTable's Diners’ Choice Awards.
According to a press release, the winners were chosen after sorting through more than 5 million reviews of more than 19,000 restaurants in all 50 states. All restaurants with a minimum number of qualifying reviews were included for consideration.
“We are truly honored by this acknowledgment from our OpenTable diners,” Falk says in the release. “The support from our guests at Sotto is humbling and flattering and encourages us to continue creating the food we love in this incredible city.”
Reservations available. 5-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 5-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Sotto, 118 E. Sixth St., Downtown, sottocincinnati.com.
Mad Tree Brewing Beer Dinner at Mecklenburg Gardens: Mecklenburg Gardens hosts local brewery Mad Tree Brewing for a bier dinner on Saturday, March 22. The evening starts at 6:30 p.m. with a Mad Tree keg tapping at 7 p.m. and continues with a German buffet featuring German sausages, sides, salad and dessert. There will also be live music from Alpen Echoes. 6:30 p.m. $20. Mecklenburg Gardens, 302 E. University Ave., Corryville, reservations at 513-221-5353.
The Wines of Jean Luc Columbo at 20 Brix: Ryan Oliver joins to discuss finer points of this South American producer. Pairings by Chef Paul. 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 22. $50. 20 Brix, 101 Main St., Milford, 513-831-2749, 20brix.com.
But luckily for us, our snow day was going to get a little brighter: I had booked reservations at Hen of the Woods Underground.
Hen of the Woods (it’s a type of mushroom) is the brainchild of Nick and Kim Marckwald. The duo (Nick is the chef and Kim manages services) recently purchased the old J.B. Schmidt contractor space at 1432 and 1434 Main Street in Over-the-Rhine. They have ambitious plans for a restaurant and urban market there. As a run-up, they have been holding “pop-up” brunches since January in Main Street’s Street Pops space (closed for the winter months). And the very last one was scheduled for Sunday.
Now, this is just a hop, skip and jump from us, so the weather was not a concern — or was it?
Just to be sure it was all going to happen given the poor road conditions, I sneakily walked our puppy by the space, which was holding the first of two seatings that day. The windows were properly steamed up, I could glimpse small tables of people inside and the most wonderful smells wafted from the slightly propped open door.
When we arrived an hour later, our table was waiting. We were among about 10 guests. Our first course was a refreshing juice du jour — Meyer lemonade with ginger and cilantro flavors, and a jalapeno ice cube floating in the jelly jar glass.
Next, we were offered coffee. Deeper Roots Coffee’s Ryan Doan stood at the counter carefully pouring from what looked like a tiny watering can into a Chemex coffee maker. The brew was deep and rich without being acidic.
During the next hour or so, we were offered three courses and a dessert prepared by the clearly visible staff. Each was meticulously described by our server— most times it was Nick or Kim.
First came a beautiful refreshing plate made from lemongrass, tapioca, mango, fingerlime, almond, ginger and pea shoots.
Next up, another precisely plated combo — lovely pink-edged beet cured salmon was draped over a crispy seared rice cake on a bed of leeks and shiitakes with a horseradish and basil sauce.
Next, the brunch got down to business because, what’s brunch without bacon and eggs? Hen’s take on eggs Benedict was a fat, wobbly egg sitting on top of a concoction with Woodlands “back bacon” lardo, English muffin, frisee and Hollandaise, served on a wooden slab made of black walnut. One poke with my fork sent yellow yolk running hither and yon amidst the gathering of elements.
Finally, a rich bread pudding, with banana, sesame, chocolate, dulche de leche and pine. In the only misstep of the entire production, the crisp decorative chip had a distinct lack of flavor.
I’m not usually a fan of little-plate meals and such as a fill-in for a meal. They often just tease, sending you out the door looking for something else to eat. This time? Not the case. We walked home in the ice and cold, happy and full, ready to hunker down and slog through the last of winter.
I am so waiting for spring, and also for Hen of the Woods to begin doing impromptu servings in their new space while it is under construction. Nick and Kim assure me they’ll be doing it as soon as the permits are in order. The sooner the better for me!
Follow Hen of the Woods news on their Facebook page.
The wine festival was founded in 1991 to promote the wine industry and raise funds for local charities. Each year, it’s gotten bigger and better, and so has its charitable giving. Over the course of more than two decades, the annual celebration has donated more than $3.9 million to local charities across the region. Today, the wine festival is recognized as one of the largest wine events in the entire country.
The Cincinnati International Wine Festival increases in winery participation, events and attendance each year; like a fine wine, it seems to get better with age. Each year, as participation grows, so does the nonprofit’s ability to distribute grants to Greater Cincinnati area programs that support the arts, education, health and human services.
The festival itself is made up of four prominent events: Winery Dinners, Grand Tastings, a Charity Auction and Luncheon, and the annual Russ Wiles Memorial Golf Tournament. These events don’t just celebrate wine. They also foster community and charity in the process.
This year’s line-up of Winery Dinners is filling up fast, but tickets to many of the special events are still up for grabs. The dinners celebrate cooking and winemaking as art, and aim to combine the two to create perfect pairings that are sure to please any palate. The popular dinners showcase the skills of visiting winemakers from around the world alongside the area’s finest chefs. Together, the chefs and winemakers work together to create what the Wine Festival describes as a harmonious experience filled with fine wine and masterful cuisine.
Reserve your seat at the table of a very special Winery Dinner celebrating a special evening with 2014 honorary chair Leonardo LoCasio, the founder of Winebow, Inc. at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherlands Plaza’s Orchids at the Palm Court on Wednesday, March 5 at 6:30 p.m. ($175)
Wineries and some of the Cincinnati area’s most beloved restaurants team up all across the city on Thursday, March 6 at 6:30 p.m. Reserve your seat at the table for some serious wining and dining at the following restaurants:
The festivities continue with The Wine Festival’s main event: the 2014 Grand Tastings, which take place March 7 and 8 at the Duke Energy Convention Center. More than 700 wines from more than 100 wineries are available to sample as you enjoy live music, delicious food and a silent auction.
The Grand Tastings are the centerpiece of the Cincinnati International Wine Festival as they showcase new, rare and exciting wines from around the world. Whether you're a seasoned expert or an intrigued beginner, winemakers and winery representatives welcome you as they mix useful knowledge with exquisite samples of their art.
This year, access to the special tasting room will give you VIP access to seven tastes of high-end wines an hour prior to each night’s Grand Tasting at the Grand Ballrooms of the Duke Energy Center. ($40 prior to the event, $45 at the door. Tickets the special tasting room are only available with the purchase of a Grand Tasting ticket.)
After the special tastings room closes its doors, the celebratory Grand Tastings take center stage at the Duke Energy Center’s Grand Ballrooms on Friday evening, Saturday afternoon and Saturday evening:
Charity Auction and Luncheon
Continue your celebration with Silent and Live Auctions at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza’s Hall of Mirrors on Saturday, March 8. The auctions boast a phenomenal catalog of limited-release bottles, winemaker-signed grand format bottles, rare wines coaxed from the cellars of notable Cincinnatians, chef's table dining opportunities at exclusive Cincinnati homes, fantastic trips, wine cellar tours, and more.
Afterward, experience a luncheon filled with savory cuisine from the Hilton Netherland’s Chef Todd Kelly paired with incredible wines presented by winemakers and winery principals from across the country.
The charity auction and luncheon will begin at 9:30 a.m. with a reception, silent auction, and live auction lot preview. At 11 a.m. the live auction will begin, followed by the winery luncheon. Tickets to the reception, auctions and luncheon are $125.
The Russ Wiles Memorial Golf Tournament
The festival might only last a few short days this March, but the celebration and charitable giving continues in June as the Wine Festival promises a tournament unlike any other. This summer, Russ Wiles Memorial 2013 Honorary Chair Dan Temming hosts a golf outing at TPC River's Bend. Enjoy wines from around the world at 5 holes during play along with food provided by some of Cincinnati's finest restaurants.
The day kicks off with a Dom Perignon toast and a shotgun start. 36 foursomes will compete in a scramble format tournament where the 3 winning teams will take home large-format bottles of wine. Golfers will also be eligible to win amazing prizes when they compete in the Closest to Pin Shootout, Hole-in-One Contest, Putting Contest and the Skins game. An After Party will then be held at the end of play where live music, food and drinks will be served under beautiful tents overlooking the 18th green. As a special thank you for supporting our Cincinnati charities, tee gifts will also be presented.
Organizations Benefiting from the Cincinnati International Wine Festival’s Proceeds
Kentucky Symphony Orchestra
Last Friday night, hundreds crammed into The Carnegie to witness local artist Pam Kravetz and a band of merry revelers open the show with a fanciful recreation of “The Mad Hatter's Tea Party.” While the artists entertained on a center stage/table surrounded by diners supping on handcrafted china, the rest of us enjoyed creatively crafted bites fashioned by local chefs. Especially tasty were the diminutive Belgian waffles topped with caramelized apples, shallots, goat cheese mousse and Sirop de Liège by chef David Kelsey of Taste of Belgium; a salad of spinach, pistachio relish, fig purée and goat cheese, topped with a tart cherry vinaigrette and wrapped in a cone of sopressata by chef Andrew Mersmann of La Poste Eatery; and The Rookwood’s chef Jackson Rouse’s offering of head cheese with frisée, pickled mustard seeds, crispy pig ear and blood orange.
And then there is of course the art. Art made of food. Art made to look like food. Look, but most definitely do not eat. And, without giving away any spoiler alerts, I will tell you two things: One, think twice before standing under the work of local artist Eric Brass — it could quite possibly put fear into the hearts of even the bravest of souls. And two, I was exceedingly tempted to lick the installation by Eye Candy Creative. It brought back one of my fondest childhood memories.
The Art of Food exhibition runs through March 15. More at thecarnegie.com.
Taft's Ale House will be a new OTR brewery and pub, christened after Cincinnati's greatest political export, William Howard Taft — the 27th president of the United States, the 10th Chief Justice of the United States and the first person to hold both positions in their lifetime. He's also probably our greatest mustachioed export as well (and reportedly the last sitting president with facial hair). Taft's will be a full-service restaurant serving local beer as well as a variety of in-house brews.
The ale house will reside on all three floors of the former St. Paul's location. The historic Greek Revival church was built in 1850 and then abandoned in the 1980s, falling into disrepair. 3CDC started stabilization efforts several years ago.
Read more about the history of the building and its preservation in this Enquirer article or this fantastic piece from Digging Cincinnati History. And keep up with the progress of Taft's Ale House on Facebook.
According to an article in LA Weekly, Cincinnati-based McDonald's franchisee Lou Groen invented the Filet-O-Fish sandwich in 1962. Apparently, he was having an issue selling his burgers to our huge Catholic population during Lent.
So he called up McDonald's founder Ray Kroc and explained his dilemma, suggesting they try selling a fish sandwich instead. Kroc said OK, but only if they also tested his invention: the Hula Burger, a slab of grilled pineapple and cheese on a cold bun. Kroc and Groen had a contest to see which would sell better. The fish sandwich won and fast-food fish sandwiches were born to the happiness of pescetarians, Catholics and cows nationwide. Wonder what would have happened if the pineapple burger won?
Read the whole article here.
The Queen City is hosting a plethora of Mardi Gras parties this coming week (you can read about some here), and our local bakeries and restaurants are dishing up some serious New Orleans flavor.
On Sunday, Findlay Market will have a Mardi Gras parade led by Lagniappe, plus live Cajun and Zydeco music all day. There will also be a traditional lowland seafood boil beginning at 12:30 p.m. And on Fat Tuesday (4 p.m. March 4), BrewRiver GastroPub is doing a Louisiana-style crawfish boil with a special Abita tapping (Abita is a New Orleans brewery).
But if you want to host your own party, you'll need some provisions. The centerpiece of any Mardi Gras party is, well, booze. Second would be beads, probably. But then after that, most certainly comes the King Cake.
A King Cake is a round cake, typically made with twisted strands of cinnamon-dough, and sprinkled with super gaudy purple, green and gold sugar. Sometimes there's white icing under the sugar coating, and sometimes people toss Mardi Gras beads on top of the cake for good measure. Generally, there's a little baby figurine hidden inside the cake and whoever finds it gets good luck (unless they choke on it...).
King Cakes are traditionally served during King Cake season, starting with the Epiphany (Jan. 6), which commemorates when the three kings/Magi came to visit baby Jesus, and ending on Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent — the six-week Christian practice of self-denial and repentance leading up to Easter. So King Cakes are named as such for baby Jesus, the King, and have a representation of him hidden inside.
Nowadays, if you're less religious, the cake is a colorful symbol of Mardi Gras and a necessary edible Mardi Gras decoration. And if you're looking to pick one up, these local bakeries have your back:
If you know of more bakeries, leave them in the comments!
And if you're feeling super Martha-Stewarty, here's a recipe to make your own.
CreativeMornings, the free monthly breakfast lecture series, offers cities around the world a chance to celebrate their local creative communities and create a space for like-minded individuals to gather and discuss — and have breakfast. CreativeMornings/Cincinnati is one of more than 68 chapters, spread across the globe.
"Every month, we’re challenged to pick a speaker that can address our global theme," CreativeMornings/Cincinnati organizer Jeremy Thobe says via email. "We have a wonderful team of volunteers that are always keeping an eye out for our next speaker, and since we're inherently community driven, we often get suggestions from our friends, colleagues and attendees. Our events are for people like us, so we start by looking for people we find really interesting and build our list from there. We have so many talented people in our community and there’s never a shortage of people we’d love to hear from."
Their next event on Friday, Feb. 28, will feature Ryan Santos of Please. "Those familiar with Ryan know him from Please and his pop-up dinners, which have been a huge success in Cincinnati. But this month, we'll get more of a behind-the-scenes story," Thobe says. "I don’t want to give too much away, but attendees will get to hear the path Ryan has taken to be where he is today and how he challenges himself to stay successful and stay hungry for the future."
The theme for Friday's lecture — the organization's 12th — is "rebel." All CreativeMornings events are free and open to the public and include coffee and breakfast from sponsors. Speakers present for 20 minutes, after which the floor is opened for questions. Past speakers have included Todd Henry of Accidental Creative, Santa Ono from the University of Cincinnati, Chris Glass of Wire & Twine and, most recently, Tommy Rueff of Happen Inc. Each event is filmed, so if there's an event you want to make but can't, you can see past presentations on creativemornings.com.
Feb. 28th's event will be held from 8:30-10 a.m. at POSSIBLE, 302 W. Third St., Suite 900, Downtown. Registration opens Monday, Feb. 24, at 11 a.m. Learn more at creativemornings.com/talks/ryan-santos. And read CityBeat's June 2013 profile of Santos here.