My family recently cruised up the East Coast aboard an enormous ship called "Celebrity Summit." Stopping at ports in Maine and Canada, I tasted local beers in Portland, Bar Harbor and St. John. At Halifax, I enjoyed (endured?) the strangest tour of all time at Alexander Keith Brewery — which was (if possible) a bit too long on singing, dancing, flirty wenches in period costumes.
Tracy Monson is the kind of person who gets an idea into her head and then goes for it. In college, she dreamed of seeing the world, then spent two and half years visiting places like Morocco and Sri Lanka. She speaks almost reverently of her time in Japan, where she learned to appreciate the importance of tea to one’s physical and mental well-being.
We often lament that Cincinnati restaurants featuring very ethnic (or creative) menus seem to have difficulty gaining traction and a consistent audience. Fortunately, it looks like Sultan’s Mediterranean Cuisine might prove an exception to this regrettable rule. Ethnic cuisine is its bread and butter, or "pita and olive oil," if you will.
At Vanguard Distributing's recent wine trade show, I got to meet Jose Pastor, the 29-year-old face of his family's Spanish wine import business. With his tinted rectangular glasses and baseball cap hiding what appears to be a thick head of unruly black hair, he could easily pass for the Food Channel's newest hipster celebrity chef.
Dan Listermann's supply shop near Xavier University has been a mecca for beer and wine "do-it-yourselfers" since 1995. In fact, he's like a pied piper of home brewing and many of his customers are in the vanguard of Cincinnati's craft brew renaissance, including Mt. Carmel and Rivertown.
Most people recognize Tony Ricci even if they can't place the name, and if you don't know his face just wait until he starts talking. He has a seductive, FM-deejay voice you've heard in the ubiquitous radio ads he made for former employer, Jeff Ruby. Working the room, Tony looks like he could play the smooth, well-connected manager of a high-end Vegas steakhouse in a Scorsese picture.
Chatting with the Lebanese owner of a halal grocery, I casually mentioned Chateau Musar, a highly respected winery in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. A smile spread across his face. "But I cannot sell them, of course," he said. "I should not even be talking about them!" For Muslims, alcohol is haram (forbidden).
On Monday you'll be able to taste (and learn about) 30 craft beers from 15 different breweries at Teller's in Hyde Park Square. The $50 admission includes an event sampling glass and all the beer samples you can reasonably consume between 4 and 11 p.m. Brewery reps will present free mini seminars throughout the evening, while appetizers and bar food will be available for purchase.
"I'm a vegetarian," Krista Tevar explains, "and I didn't want to feed my 2-year-old son junk. So we decided there was probably a market for a healthier alternative to other sweets." Last year, she and her sister opened Sugar Cupcakery, featuring delicious organic, gluten-free and vegan cupcakes.
Our Saturday night date begins surprisingly early. Our food will be prepared in BBQ Revue's kitchen and loaded onto the train just before departure, so we have to order entrées and desserts for our four-course, fixed-price dinner on Thursday. We're offered chicken, salmon or prime rib; dessert choices include cheesecake and chocolate cream pie. When Saturday rolls around, the parking lot is packed and a 40-year-old GP-30 diesel locomotive looms over Madison Road.