CityBeat Blogs - Food & Drink http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs-1-1-1-40.html <![CDATA[Dining Out for Life 2014]]>

Dining Out For Life is an annual event to raise funds for licensed AIDS service agencies in 60 cities across the nation. Started in 1991 by ActionAIDS in Philadelphia, today more than 3,000 restaurants donate a portion of their proceeds from one day to the aforementioned service agencies; more than $4 million is raised each year which goes directly to the agencies (except for a $1,150 licensing fee). 


Cincinnati's Dining Out For Life event benefits Caracole, a nonprofit that provides housing and supportive services to individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS in eight counties across Southwest Ohio. Caracole currently serves more than 1,400 clients and their families.


Area restaurants participating include Arnold's Bar & Grill (donating 25 percent); Below Zero Lounge (donating 100 percent); Blue Jay Restaurant (donating 25 percent); Green Dog Cafe (donating 25 percent); Kitchen 452 (donating 25 percent); Tom+Chee (donating 25 percent); and more. Find a full list of participating restaurants and how much they're donating here.


Dining Out For Life is easy. Just follow three steps:

  1. Choose a participating restaurant.
  2. Gather a group of friends and call ahead to make a reservation. Be sure to mention you're with Dining Out For Life®.
  3. Dine out on Thursday, April 24th and enter for a chance to win fabulous prizes. Restaurants will list what time of day they're participating in fundraising.

If you would like to participate or would like more information, please contact Megan Green, Caracole Community Investment Coordinator, at 513-619-1483 or at mgreen@caracole.org.

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<![CDATA[CORV Local Food Guide Release Party Tonight]]> The annual Central Ohio River Valley (CORV) Local Food Guide celebrates its release (find one inside this week’s CityBeat) and upcoming Earth Day with a party at Om Eco Café on Ludlow in Clifton. The CORV guide is a very complete directory of area food resources that connects residents of Greater Cincinnati, Southwest Ohio, Southeast Indiana and Northern Kentucky with local farmers, markets, producers, restaurants, wineries and fresh, local, healthy food. 

Download the 2014 guide here. It has a full list of farmers markets, a story about local artisan/cottage businesses, a harvest guide, a list of local CSAs and farms and more.

5-7:30 p.m. $10 donation requested. Om Eco Café, 329 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, eatlocalcorv.org. 

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<![CDATA[Arnold's Taps Great Lakes Cherry Vanilla Edmund Fitzgerald for Autism]]> Arnold’s has partnered with Great Lakes Brewing Company and Neltner Small Batch to host a fundraiser for autism, #BeerAutismHope. Great Lakes will be tapping a cask-conditioned firkin of their fabled, impossible-to-find and extremely delicious Cherry Vanilla Edmund Fitzgerald Porter. For each pint sold, a dollar will be donated to Lance’s Room, a charity to fund scholarships for people with autism. In addition to the beer, local artist Keith Neltner will be designing a limited edition, multi-layer Great Lakes Brewing Company art print, released exclusively for the event. A portion of those proceeds will also be donated to Lances’s Room. The Hot Magnolias will perform. 

9 p.m. Friday. Free. 210 E. Eighth St., Downtown, 513-421-6234, arnoldsbarandgrill.com.

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<![CDATA[A Tavola Madeira Now Open]]> Favorite OTR eatery (and this year's Best of Cincinnati winner for Best Pizza, non-chain) A Tavola opens its new Madeira location today at 4 p.m. 

Located in a former bank that once housed a sushi restaurant, A Tavola has given the building a facelift with new flooring, lighting from Switch Lighting & Design, custom banquettes from Landeck Woodworking, a brand new patio and they've also installed a pizza oven from Naples, Italy, a solid-wood bar, a La Marzocco espresso machine and an Italforni Bull oven (which their Facebook says created the "First pizza made in A Tavola, Madeira, and first pizza made on an Italforni Bull in the U.S.!")

They don't take reservations and they're currently BYOB (with a corkage fee).

7022 Miami Ave., Madeira, 513-272-0192, atavolapizza.com.

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<![CDATA[Easter Brunch Specials]]>

A smattering of local restaurants offering special Easter menus and buffets on Sunday, April 20. Reservations required.

A Touch of Elegance: Entrees include beef tenderloin, honey-glazed ham, fish, chicken and vegetarian choices plus a traditional breakfast including goetta and smoked salmon. There will also be a baby chick display; after brunch, the chicks will be donated to Parky's Farm. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. $23.95 adults; $20.25 seniors; $16 ages 4-10; free ages 3 and younger. 5959 Kellogg Ave., 
California, 513-231-2312, atouchofelegance.info.

Blinkers Tavern: Breakfast, lunch and dinner Easter choices featuring honey-glazed ham, oven-roasted Cornish hen and prime rib. 10:30 a.m. 318 Greenup St., 
Covington, Ky., 859-360-0840, blinkerstavern.com.

Crave: Hot and cold buffets with meat-carving stations, a pastry table and kid-friendly choices. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. $27.95 adults; $12.95 children. 175 Joe Nuxhall Way, 
Downtown, 513-241-8600, craveamerica.com.

Crowne Plaza Hotel Blue Ash: Stations including an omelet station and a waffle station plus salads, fruit, cinnamon French toast, seasoned roast pork loin, baked fish and more. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. $27 adults; $21 seniors; $12 ages 5-12; free ages 4 and younger. 5901 Pfeiffer Road
, Blue Ash, 513-793-4500.

Embassy Suites Blue Ash: Menu includes a carving station with glazed ham and beef. 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. $24.95 adults; $22.95 seniors; $9.95 ages 5-10; free ages 4 and younger. 4554 Lake Forest Drive
, Blue Ash, 513-981-3752.

Jag’s Steak and Seafood: Steak and seafood menus. 10 a.m.-7 p.m. 5980 West Chester Road
, West Chester, 513-860-5353, jags.com.

Metropole: Chef Michael Paley offers dishes including milk-braised rabbit papparadelle and house-made sticky buns. Brunch cocktails include a salty bloody mary or Morning Glory, Metropole's spin on mimosa. 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. 609 Walnut St.,
 Downtown, 513-578-6660, metropoleonwalnut.com.

Oasis Conference Center: All sorts of stations including a omelet station, salad station, carving station, dessert station and a children’s buffet. 10 a.m.-1 p.m. $22.95 adults; $17.95 seniors; $8.95 children. 902 Loveland-Miamiville Road, Loveland, 513-583-8383, oasisconferencecenter.com.

The Palace Restaurant: Executive Chef Joe West offers a traditional brunch buffet with carving and crepe stations. 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. $42.95 adults; $32.95 seniors; $22.95 children. 601 Vine St., 
Downtown, palacecincinnati.com.

The Phoenix: Brunch plus complimentary photos with the Easter Bunny. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. $28.95 adults; $16.95 children. 812 Race St.,
Downtown, 513-721-8901, thephx.com.

Riley’s Restaurant: All-you-can-eat smoked pit ham, fried chicken tenders, jambalaya, breakfast casserole, scrambled eggs and more. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. $18.50. 11568 Springfield Pike
, Springdale, 513-771-3361, rileysgreatmeals.com.

Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse: New seasonal spring dishes plus children's options. Noon. $42.95; $13.95 children. 100 E. Freedom Way
, Downtown, 513-381-0491, ruthschris.com.

Schoolhouse Restaurant: Fried chicken, fish, carved roast beef, meat loaf, baked ham and spinach-stuffed chicken breast served with sides. 11:30 a.m. 8031 Glendale-Milford Road
, Camp Dennison, 513-831-5753, theschoolhousecincinnati.com.

Via Vite: A buffet with Italian items and drink specials. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. $25; $10 ages 2-10; free for 2 and younger. 520 Vine St.,
 Downtown, 513-721-8483, viaviterestaurant.com.

 

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<![CDATA[Opening Day Festivities]]> Opening Day is probably the coolest thing about Cincinnati. What other city has its own self-proclaimed, sports-related holiday respected by Fortune 500 companies, public school systems and private businesses alike? 

No one should have to do anything on Monday, March 31 except celebrate the upcoming Reds season and the fact that in 1869 some smart person assembled a full lineup of salaried players who traveled around kicking the crap out of all the amateur and semi-pro teams. 

The Findlay Market Opening Day Parade kicks off the festivities at noon, heading south from Findlay Market toward Fountain Square along a slightly altered route to avoid streetcar construction (south on Elm to Central Parkway, then south on Race). Big Red Machine shortstop Dave Concepcion will grand marshal the parade, along with dignitaries Teddy Kremer and Anthony Munoz. 

And plenty of locations around town will have specials and events on Monday to celebrate.

Rally on the Square: Give Back Cincinnati is partnering with Christian Moerlein and Local 12 for Rally on the Square. The event is a great way to enjoy the excitement before the game with food, drinks and music, all while supporting charity. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Free. Fountain Square, Fifth and Vine streets, Downtown, myfountainsquare.com. 

Opening Day Celebration: The celebrations continue at Washington Park with family-friendly activities, concessions and live music from local rock band Cherry on Top. View the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade from the park at noon and stick around to watch the Reds defeat the Cardinals on the giant LED screen. 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Free. Washington Park, 1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, washingtonpark.org. 

Opening Day with Via Vite: Chef de Cuisine Joel Warner will be preparing authentic Italian dishes alongside drink specials on the restaurant's open-air Piazza Bar on Fountain Square. Get an Italian-style coney, veal and ricotta meatballs, Findlay Market grilled Italian sausage with peperonata plus Peroni drafts and Miller Light buckets. 520 Vine St., Downtown, viaviterestaurant.com.

Arnold's Opening Day: Arnold's Opening Day tradition continues with breakfast, keg tappings, live music, live theater and Jim Tarbell. The day kicks off with breakfast at Arnold's 9-11 a.m, plus seven keg tappings (Three Floyd’s Alpha King, The Brew Kettle’s White Raja, Founder’s Imperial Stout, Great Lakes Chillwave Double IPA, Blank Slate’s Long Way Home Chocolate IPA, Rhinegeist’s Saber Tooth Tiger and MadTree’s Rounding Third and Heading for Home Red IPA) at 9 a.m. Random keg cups will be marked; if you get a marked cup, you can win more than 80 prizes ranging from free Cincinnati Reds rookie cards, game-used memorabilia cards, vintage cards from the '50s and '60s and autographed baseball cards. Starting at 11 a.m., pianist Todd Hepburn will play every baseball song you can think of, plus the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's Jeremy Dubin and Justin McCombs will be performing Casey at Bat and Who's on First. Tarbell will also be in the house dressed as Peanut Jim Shelton and playing the mouth harp. 210 E. Eighth St., Downtown, arnoldsbarandgrill.com.

Opening Day at Neons Unplugged: Neons unlocks their doors at noon for a party debuting the Neons Anniversary Porter, brewed by Listermann Brewing Co. They'll also have plenty of MadTree's Rounding Third Amber IPA and selections from Revolution Brewing in Chicago. Taste513 starts the grill at noon, serving burgers and sandwiches. Mazunte Mexican takes over the grill at 6 p.m. 208 E. 12th St., Downtown, facebook.com/neonsunplugged.

The Opening Day game against the St. Louis Cardinals starts at 4:10 p.m.
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<![CDATA[Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza Coming to Mason]]> Blaze Fast-Fire'd Pizza, a fast-casual build-your-own pizza restaurant, is coming to Mason mid-May.

Using the assembly-line format (similar to Chipotle, Fusian, etc.), each guest can walk down the counter and create their own custom-built pizza, fired in a blazing oven and ready in 180 seconds. Each customer starts with a house-made 11-inch crust and then selects toppings — either from existing menu options or customized. Housemade sauces include classic red and white cream plus unique choices like barbecue or pesto. Toppings range from grilled chicken and crumbled meatballs to standard veggies plus arugula, pineapple and several cheeses, including vegan.

Every Blaze Pizza restaurant makes its own dough from scratch, using a recipe that requires a 24-hour fermentation period. But if you don't want that crust, they also offer a gluten-free choice. The menu also features fresh salads, signature lemonades and house-made S’more Pies. 

Order online or head to the 73-seat restaurant.

Blaze Fast-Fire'd Pizza, 9341 Mason-Montgomery Road, Mason, blazepizza.com.
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<![CDATA[Washington Platform's 28th Annual Oyster Festival Starts Friday]]> Washington Platform kicks off its 28th annual Oyster Festival Friday, March 28. Enjoy more than 40 fresh oyster dishes, including smoked oyster salad, oyster-stuffed jalapenos, fresh-shucked oysters on the half-shell and more, through May 3.

And, like any good food festival, Washington Platform will also be hosting oyster-related contests and events, including a pearl count contest and trivia. (All special event donations go to the Saint Francis Soup Kitchen in Over-the-Rhine.) Check your shells for a "Big Red 28," and win $28 in Washington Platform gift certificates. 

Or get in on one of their oyster specials. For $28, sample any three dishes from their "Oyster Munchies" menu after 5 p.m. Monday-Thursday. And from 4-7 p.m. Monday-Friday, enjoy a buck-a-shuck. Get fresh-shucked oysters for $1, along with happy hour drink prices.

Download the Oyster Festival menu here.

Washington Platform, 1000 Elm St., Downtown, 513-421-0110, washingtonplatform.com.

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<![CDATA[Strauss Troy Market Vendor Application Due Friday]]>
Are you looking for a place to sell your crafts, produces, snacks, etc.?

Vendor applications for Fountain Square's Strauss Troy Market are due by 5 p.m. Friday, March 28. The market, produced by 3CDC, happens Tuesdays, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., April 29-Oct. 28.

3CDC will be accepting applications from three types of vendors: 

1. Non-food or prepackaged items (flowers, crafts)

2. Basic food items (breads, meat, cheeses, produce)

3. Ready-to-eat food (snacks and sandwiches)

According to the press release, "For application purposes, Strauss Troy Market on the Square is divided into three sessions (April 29-May 20, June 3-August 25, and September 9-October 28). Vendors may apply for one, two, or all three sessions. Fountain Square is also considering the addition of a Thursday market option, open to vendors participating in session two; a final decision will be made depending on vendor interest."

Visit myfountainsquare.com for more information.  


 

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<![CDATA[Q&A with Lavomatic's New Executive Chef, Cameron Serrins]]> There’s a new face in the kitchen at Over-the-Rhine eatery Lavomatic. The restaurant's former executive chef, Josh Campbell, recently left to pursue another opportunity, leaving his position in the kitchen open. And Cameron Serrins — a Cincinnati native — stepped in. 

“I'm Cincy born and raised," Serrins says. "So many people close to me have left to chase dreams or look for opportunity elsewhere. The open road is beautiful and great for the mind, but so is home. I'm a lifer cook turned chef because I love to learn, share and show my work. One day Josh Campbell called me and said to come talk with (Lavomatic general manager) Brian Firth; I would like what he had to say. Josh was right, and I was welcomed to the Lavomatic team."

Now at the helm of Lavomatic, Serrins is making some very delicious changes. CityBeat's Ilene Ross recently got to chat with him via email about his background, his philosophy and what we can expect to see on his menu. (Outline lettering Serrins own.)

Ilene Ross: What’s your general food philosophy?

Cameron Serrins: A. Cook it and they will "come.” B. Think organic. C. I’m only in it for the money. D. Love what you do, do what you love.

IR: Who do you cook for; yourself, or the diner?            

CS: Both. I wouldn't be here without them and vice-versa.

IR: Who influenced you most in the kitchen?

CS: A. Anyone who has gave me tasty food is an influence. B. My mom. C. Meals with friends who introduce me to traditional dishes from their families and home. D. Girls I wanted to like me — kinda kidding, but there is some truth in it.

IR: What changes have you made to Lavomatic since taking over?

CS: A. I’ve made it more vegetarian/vegan friendly. B. I’ve added more features. C. The menu is a bit lighter and there are more snackier options. D. There’s more in-house product being made and we’re using more local meats, veggies and cheeses.

IR: Spring has finally sprung. What seasonal items can we look forward to seeing on the Lavomatic menu?

CS: A. Cadbury eggs — just kidding ... maybe. B. Shoots, sprouts and fresh greens. C. All things pea. D. Everything organic I can get my hands on.

IR: What does your day off look like?

CS: Ha ha, day off? We might not always be open for business but... I'll go skateboarding and think about food, play guitar and sing about work; I sleep and hear the ticket printer filling the rail.

IR: What tools do you find essential in the kitchen and why?

CS: Fire and knives.

IR: If you could cook for anyone in the world, who would it be?

CS: Nikola Tesla.

 

 

 

 

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<![CDATA[Taste of Belgium is the Official Waffle of the Cincinnati Reds]]>

Taste of Belgium has announced that it's partnering with the Great American Ball Park to become the "Official Waffle of the Cincinnati Reds." (Do any other teams have an official waffle? Didn't think so.) 

Starting on Opening Day, fans can now grab a Belgian waffle with toppings such as sweet cream, fruit or chocolate during a game, starting at just $5. If fans are looking for something more savory (with a bit more protein), Taste of Belgium is also offering their signature chicken and waffle combo. Add a side of twice-fried frites (Belgian french fries) for the complete experience.

“We at Taste of Belgium are honored to be counted among the Cincinnati brands supported by Great American Ballpark,” Taste of Belgium owner Jean-François Flechet said in a recent press release. “Our food has been embraced with open arms in Cincinnati, Columbus, and Friendly Market in Florence, Ky., and now we are delighted to show the best fans in baseball how to eat like a Belgian.” 


Great American Ball Park also offers local food favorites including LaRosa's pizza and Skyline chili plus beer from local brewery Rhinegeist. The Official Waffle of the Cincinnati Reds goes on sale Opening Day at Great American Ball Park in Section 130 of the Ballpark, near The Kroger Fan Zone.


Full Menu:

Waffle – $5

Chocolate & Cream Waffle – $7

Strawberry & Cream Waffle – $7

Waffle & Chicken – $10

Frites – $7


Taste of Belgium also has local locations in Over-the-Rhine, on Short Vine, in Findlay Market and in Florence, Ky.'s Friendly Market. Full-service bistro, 1133-1135 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine; Clifton, 2845 Vine St., Corryville; Findlay Market, 1801 Race St., Over-the-Rhine; and Friendly Market, 10050 Norbotten Dr., Florence, Ky., authenticwaffle.com.


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<![CDATA[USA Today Names Cincinnati a Top "Small City" with a "Big Food Scene"]]> For those of us lucky enough to call Cincinnati home, we know you don't have to travel to either one of the coasts to get some of the best food in the nation. And USA Today agrees. 

They recently named Cincinnati one of the nation's top six small cities with big food scenes. We probably wouldn't call ourselves small, per se — we are home to more than a handful of Fortune 500 companies and the 25th largest city in America — but any additional recognition of our food scene is most welcome.

The article, which also recognizes Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Asheville, N.C., and Boulder, Colo., name-drops David Falk of Boca, Sotto and Nada; Dan Wright of Abigail Street, Senate and the future Pontiac BBQ; and newly opened downtown bar Obscura.

Here's the entire write-up on Cincy: "Ohio is rarely thought of as a food destination. But thanks to explosive growth in its restaurant scene (nearly 200 restaurants have opened downtown in the past 10 years), Cincinnati has lots of great dining options. After honing his skills in Rome, Chicago, and Florence, Ohio native chef David Falk moved back to Cincinnati in 2001 to contribute to the food scene in his home state. Falk now runs three restaurants — Sotta, Boca and Nada — each of which reflect his international cooking experience and Midwestern upbringing in different ways. At Senate Pub, critically acclaimed chef Dan Wright offers an explosion of taste in his gourmet hog dogs. Try the Dan Korman 2.0, with spicy black bean-lentil sausage, mushroom pico de gallo, avocado, chipotle mayo, and pickled jalapeño. If you're looking for an upscale watering hole, Obscura offers the best in craft cocktails, pressed coffees, and loose leaf teas. Don't miss the Cosmowobbleton, a jellied version of the classic Cosmopolitan."

Read the whole article here.




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<![CDATA[Sotto Named at Top 100 Restaurant by OpenTable]]>

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.


*The original press release was corrected to say Sotto was honored
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<![CDATA[Upcoming Beer and Wine Dinners]]>
Here's a list of upcoming curated wine and beer dinners: 

Experience the Dynamic Flavors of Wines from Argentina at Blinker's Tavern: Robb Rapp of Cutting Edge Selections brings dynamic wines from Argentina to Blinker's Tavern for a four-course dinner. Reservations required. 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 20. $65 plus tax and gratuity. Blinker's Tavern, 318 Greenup St., Covington, Ky., 859-360-0840, blinkerstavern.com.

Summit Wine Dinner: Clay Shelton, wine educator and district manager of Excelsior Wines, will bring an informed selection of wine from Chile and Argentina to pair with a multi-course dinner. The Gran Reserva Serie Riberas and Trivento wines have been chosen to complement the five-course dinner prepared by Summit's executive chef Sean Kagy and his team of Midwest Culinary Institute students. The greeting course will feature Concha Y Toro Sauvignon Blanc with scallop, puff pastry, truffle and butter; the first course will pair Marques de Casa Concha Pinot Noir with potato-wrapped salmon, wilted greens and Pinot Noir sauce; the second course will pair Serie Riberas Gran Reserva Malbec with short rib empanadas and vegetable hash; the third course will pair Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere with lamb chops and sweet potato and rosemary demi-glace; and the fourth course pairs Concha y Toro Late Harvest with cheesecake and Apricots. 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 20. $60 per person plus gratuity. The Summit, 3520 Central Parkway, Clifton, 513-569-4980, cincinnatistate.edu.

Italian Food and Cocktail Pairing Event at Barresi's: Three courses of Italian food paired with vodkas from Columbus, Ohio's OYO vodka. First course pairs blue crab and gorgonzola fritters with spiced pecans, sugar-roasted pear and citrus-dressed field greens with a dirty martini. The second course pairs fingerling potatoes, fried pearl onions, fava beans, caramelized prosciutto and smoked sundried cherry demi glace with an OYO stonefruit vodka margarita. The final course pairs a chocolate pate with OYO vanilla bean vodka fresh espresso, brown sugar and simple syrup. Limited seating; reservations required. 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 20. Barresi's Italian Restaurant, 4111 Webster Ave., Deer Park, 513-793-2540, barresis.com

Vine & Dine at the Art of Entertaining: Vine & Dine is a new Friday event series at O'Bryonville's Art of Entertaining featuring food and wine pairings and live music. Michael and Jill Denton perform March 21 and 28; Burton Story on April 4; Tery Metcalf with special guest Kelly Richey on April 11; The Billy Rock band on April 25; and Burton Story again on May 2. Reservations are not required, but are recommended. No refunds or cancelations. 5:30-8:30 p.m. $30 for pre-registered guests; $35 at the door. Art of Entertaining, 2019 Madison Road, O'Bryonville, 513-871-5170, cincyartofentertaining.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.

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<![CDATA[Hen of the Woods Underground Preps for a Brick-and-Mortar Location]]> It was midday a couple Sundays ago and the weather was getting iffy in Cincinnati. Winter was having one last go at it. My husband Jon and I had already stocked the kitchen of our OTR abode. Normally, we would have just settled in and waited it out.

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.


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<![CDATA[Cincinnati International Wine Festival]]> Get ready to raise a glass all around the Cincinnati area as the Cincinnati International Wine Festival celebrates 23 years of uncorking bottles for a good cause.

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.

 

Winery Dinners

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:


Grand Tastings


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:

  • Friday, March 7: Friday Evening from 6:30–9 p.m. ($70 prior to event, or $75 at the door. $110 for Grand Tasting plus Special Tasting (5:30-6:30 p.m.) ticket, $120 at the door)
  • Saturday, March 8: Saturday Afternoon from 2:30-4:30 p.m. ($60 prior to event or $65 at the door. $100 for Grand Tasting plus Special Tasting from 1:30-2:30 p.m. ticket, or $110 at the door); Saturday Evening from 6:30 – 9 p.m. ($70 prior to event, $75 at the door $110 for Grand Tasting plus Special Tasting (5:30-6:30 p.m.) ticket, or $120 at the door)

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.

Purchasing Tickets


Tickets are available online through March 5 at winefestival.com or at the door for many Wine Festival events. Visit winefestival.com for more information.


Organizations Benefiting from the Cincinnati International Wine Festival’s Proceeds

 

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<![CDATA[The Art of Food ]]> It’s not often enough that the worlds of food and art collide. And why not, I ask? We first eat with our eyes, and after spending hours traipsing through museums and galleries gazing at masterpieces, we get really, really hungry. This is just one of the many reasons I always eagerly anticipate the opening of the exhibition known as The Art of Food at Covington, Ky.’s The Carnegie. This show never disappoints the palate or the eyes.

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.

La Poste's Sopressata salad
Photo: Jens G. Rosenkrantz, Jr.

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.

Art by Eye Candy Creative
Photo: Jens G Rosenkrantz, Jr.

The Art of Food exhibition runs through March 15. More at thecarnegie.com.

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<![CDATA[Taft's Ale House Groundbreaking]]> Head to the old St. Paul's Evangelical Church (1429 Race St., OTR) at 11 a.m. on Friday, March 7 to check out the groundbreaking for the new 3CDC project, Taft's Ale House, as well as interior renderings of the project.

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.

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<![CDATA[Cincinnati-Based McDonald's Franchisee Invented Filet-O-Fish]]>

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

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<![CDATA[Where to Find a King Cake]]> Cincinnati may be a German town but we certainly get a little Cajun in us around Mardi Gras. 

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.


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