CityBeat Blogs - Alcohol http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs-1-1-1-40-178.html <![CDATA[Leftovers: What We Ate This Weekend]]>
Each week CityBeat staffers, dining writers and the occasional intern tell you what they ate this weekend. We're not always proud — or trendy — but we definitely spend at least some money on food. 

Ilene Ross: On Friday night I was “ordered” by the boy and his friend to pick up pizza from Goodfellas on my way home. Ham and pineapple for the boy, sausage for his friend, and a Taste of Naples for me — tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella. Simple yet satisfying. On Sunday night — Mother’s Day — the boy artfully arranged a giant platter of supermarket sushi and presented me with a hand-decorated box in which to store my treasures. The night was divine.

Jac Kern: I took my fiance to the Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally show at the Taft on Saturday as a late birthday present, and we went out to dinner before at Jimmy G's. We split a crab cake to start. I don't think I've ever had a crab cake I didn't like, but this one was particularly good — full of fresh crab meat without breadcrumb fillers. I stuck with seafood for dinner and ordered a rare yellowfin tuna steak. It was so flavorful, I think it was even better than the steak they're known for (which my date ordered). We shared a couple side dishes — 4 fat fries and mac and cheese — but could barely put a dent in the oversized portions. I also pretended to be fancy by ordering lemon basil martinis, which were insanely good.

On Sunday we took our moms and grandma to Bronte Bistro inside Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Rookwood Pavilion. Half of us ordered quiche (Mother's Day brunch staple!) and the others ordered a big breakfast platter, a ham and brie sandwich and tilapia. I worked at Bronte in college, so you'd think by now I'd be sick of the food I'd relied on for shift meals so many times, but nope! I'm a sucker for good ladies-who-lunch fare and a coffee shop with a full bar. We're now thinking of making it a Mother's Day tradition.

Casey Arnold: At the Aronoff on Saturday I saw the Cincinnati Ballet for the first time ever. It proved to be impressive and something I should have done a long time ago. Before the ballet, my friends Corrie, Julie, Katie and I went to Igby's for cocktails and small plates. We nibbled on seafood guacamole and bread and butter while sampling from the cocktail menu. My favorite was the Tito's Austin Blossom, a vodka and citrus cocktail with rosemary. After the ballet we attempted to go to the 21c rooftop but were thwarted by a private party. We ended up at Taqueria Mercado where we sipped Palomas and talked about our favorite parts of the ballet — all between scoops of queso and guacamole on fresh chips. 

Maija Zummo: Sunday, my husband and I had brunch at the bar at BrewRiver GastroPub for our anniversary (note to self: don't go to brunch on Mother's Day without a reservation and expect a table). We got engaged in New Orleans so a New Orleans-style brunch seemed apt. He loved his shrimp and grits and I enjoyed the texture of my eggs-and-biscuit breakfast. I've been super sick and couldn't taste any of it, but I liked how dense and square the biscuit was. I forgot how fun the atmosphere is at BrewRiver — usually I hate live music, but they had a pretty good singer there doing Tom Waits covers, and then we found out they do Louisiana crawfish boils weekly, where they fly in the little things and cook em up with like mushroom or potatoes or corn or whatever you're supposed to do. And if you get there between 5 and 6 p.m., they have super cheap beers (with like 23ish on draft). I won't eat crustaceans but I'm not opposed to beer.
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<![CDATA[A British Foodie in the Queen City]]>
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. 

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<![CDATA[Apothecary-Themed Cocktail Bar Sundry and Vice Now Open]]> Back in the day, doctors and pharmacists used to treat everything from colds and stomach aches to fainting spells and typhoid with alcoholic elixirs and tonics — wine for the plague, absinthe for intestinal parasites, bitters for indigestion, brandy for just about everything. So it makes sense that Sundry and Vice, Over-the-Rhine's newest cocktail bar, has adopted a vintage apothecary theme. 

The bar, which held its grand opening on March 27, serves fresh cocktails with housemade spirits, syrups and other concoctions. House cocktails include Dr. Shiloh's System Vitalizer ($11), with mezcal, lime, pineapple, ginger, Peychaud bitters and soda, and pre-Prohibition classics like a Clover Club ($11), with gin, raspberry, lemon and egg white. They also have local beer, non-local beer, wine and housemade sodas dispensed through a vintage fountain soda draft arm.

The interior, which is designed to hold 55 patrons, features an era-authentic storefront with antique jars, bottles and other assorted medical ephemera, including vintage prescriptions on the wall (for classics like cocaine, a former painkiller and dandruff cure). There are seats at the bar, as well as leather booths, exposed brick, era-appropriate Jazz music and a ton of mood lighting.

4 p.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Friday; noon-2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Sundry and Vice, 18 W. 13th St., Over-the-Rhine, facebook.com/sundryandvice.

All photos by Aaron Conway

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<![CDATA[Leftovers: What We Ate This Weekend]]> 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. Surprisingly, no one ate Indian food. 

Nick Swartsell: Continuing what's become an ongoing addiction, I had a falafel wrap at Dean's Mediterranean in Findlay Market on Sunday. It's easily the best falafel in town — super crisp on the outside and warm and fluffy inside. Plus, the wrap comes packed with all kinds of optional pickled vegetables you don't normally see, hummus and hot sauce. And they give you a side of their curried couscous, which has dried fruit, cilantro and what I think are chickpeas. All that for five bucks. The best part is, it's still pretty under the radar — most people don't know Dean's makes food (they also have pretty killer samosas, FYI). You just walk up to the counter at the front and say the secret code words (which are, conveniently, "I'd like a falafel sandwich, please") and they hook you up.

Rebecca Sylvester: I went to Sung Korean Bistro Saturday night. The food was outstanding. Korean doesn't seem to have an overpowering element like other Asian cuisines (salt in Chinese or sweetness in Thai); the flavor of the ingredients really came through. I ordered the dolsot bibimbap, which is rice, vegetables and a protein served in a 450-degree clay pot. They top it with a sunny-side-up egg and mix it at your table with a chili paste. The pot continues to cook your food the whole time you're eating it, so the rice gets crunchier as you go. So good.

I also appreciate any restaurant that gives me chopsticks first and makes me ask for a fork, not because I am at all good with chopsticks, but because it paces me from eating like Garfield.

Pama Mitchell: I had a super fun time at Salazar on Friday. We sat at the bar, which has a cool design wherein each end has a rounded seating for five — which happened to be our group's number. I was impressed by the craft cocktails, very meticulously made by two bartenders. My "Spy versus Rye" (made with rye whiskey, obviously) was delicious. Also loved the fried Brussels sprouts appetizer (yes!) and an entree of "everything"-crusted salmon. Also notable was the first sign of fiddlehead ferns in the scallops dish. Splendid!

Danny Cross: My girlfriend and I dropped my sister off at Horseshoe Casino Sunday morning — she had made it through Day 1 of a big poker tournament there and was among the final 80 or so players out of 600-something going after a six-figure first place prize. Unfortunately, she was knocked out in 67th place, just five spots away from the lower-level prize monies. She should have just skipped it and went to the Metropole at 21c with us for brunch, because that place is pretty great. I ordered the Breakfast Sandwich (pimento spread, egg, bacon) but without the pimento spread because I'm a child with a terrible palate. This led to a brief discussion about a recent Deadspin article I read detailing tips for eating at a fancy restaurant. Sounds simple, but these are things I sometimes don't know how to do. (I hate tasting wine in front of servers as if I know anything about it or would even consider sending it back.) Katie had the Quinoa Hash (sweet potatoes, avocado, sunny side eggs and cilantro creme fraiche) and thought it was terrific. We split a side of goetta because this is Cincinnati. 

Casey Arnold: My boyfriend's sister* was in town for a poker tournament, so we had a little get together for her, which involved making our own tacos and margaritas. Since she went to the next round, she didn't get to the party until after midnight when all of the taco makings were turned into late night nachos. We stayed up late catching up, which is why we didn't roll out of bed until noon on Saturday. That's when my boyfriend and I crawled our way to Hangover Easy in Clifton. It was packed as usual!

*Editor's note: Casey Arnold is in a relationship with Danny Cross' brother and they are indeed talking about the same sister and the same poker tournament.
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<![CDATA[Leftovers: What We Ate This Weekend]]>
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: I stocked up on groceries Friday night in preparation for a weekend full of snow, pajamas and movies. Pizza-making is a perfect snow day activity, so that's what I made for dinner on Saturday. My two go-tos are classic pepperoni and a fig and prosciutto inspired by A Tavola. The local eatery's version includes fontina, parmigiano and balsamic arugula; I used the fresh mozzarella and spinach I had on hand, plus fig jam and prosciutto. It's no A Tavola — my oven pales in comparison to their Italian wood-burning beauty — but it was tasty and easily consumed in the aforementioned pajamas. Also: Plenty of popcorn during the Oscars!

Ilene Ross:
I feel as if I did nothing but eat out this weekend, but given what I do for a living, this should come as no surprise. On Friday night I attended the ninth annual Art of Food at The Carnegie in Covington. This event, a combination of art and food, never disappoints; it’s a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds. Local artist Pam Kravetz put on quite a spectacular show — the theme was Candy Land — with even chef Jean-Robert de Cavel getting into the act with a starring role as Lord Licorice. Some of the more outstanding dishes were The Littlefield’s house-cured and smoked bacon with house pickles; Wunderbar’s bacon, spinach, brie and fig jam finger sandwiches; The Rookwood’s Porchetta, with Marksbury Farm pork belly, Beeler's Farm pork cheek rillettes, rosemary-cured lardo, carrot mostardo, shaved celery and red cress; The Sleepy Bee’s flatbread stalactites with Moroccan chicken and date herb chutney; Bouquet Restaurant and Wine Bar’s whipped goat cheese with popcorn, pickled fennel and pear gastrique; and Django Western Taco’s beer-braised pork belly with corn relish, guacamole and corn chips.   

On Saturday my son and I got to try one of O Pie Os latest creations, a honey vinegar pie. Now, that might sound a tad bit strange, but believe me, it’s not. Picture a rich, slightly tangy, not-too-sweet custard filling in a perfectly flaky crust. A little packet of crisp sea salt comes along with the pie so you can sprinkle a bit on top to taste, therefore achieving a nice salty balance. We also dug into an apple pie with rosemary caramel. I have to say that O Pie O’s apple pie is so good, I didn’t care one bit that I forgot to buy ice cream.   

Saturday night I got to be a guinea pig of sorts during a trial run for the staff at chef Jean-Robert de Cavel’s latest restaurant, the soon-to-be-opened Le Bar a Boeuf in The Edgecliff. The restaurant will be opening quite soon and I was overjoyed to be able to participate. While I can’t divulge too many details, I can say that the space is beautiful, the staff — under the watchful eye of hospitality expert Richard Brown — is charming and diligent, and as far as the food, well, you’re in for a real treat.   

I have a good friend who lives in Indianapolis, and her daughter is a Girl Scout. This year was the second time I’ve bought cookies from her and the two have driven in and delivered them to me on a Sunday. It’s also the second time that we’ve met at Maribelle’s eat + drink for brunch to make the cookie drop off. My son and I took them to Maribelle’s for the first time last year and they loved it so much that they specifically requested it again. I don’t blame them. Brunch at Maribelle’s is a crazy good combination of breakfast and lunch foods everyone loves. The four of us had White Bean and Frog Leg Chili; a Pig Tostado (shredded pork, cumin crème, pickled red onion, queso fresco and cilantro); fried cashew butter, jelly and banana sandwiches; a hamburger; some sort of yummy egg dish that I can’t remember the name of; and, of course, bloody mary’s for the adults. Yes, it was a lot of food, and there were leftovers, but for me the best thing about a busy weekend is a Sunday afternoon nap followed by not having to cook. My Oscar watching dinner consisted of Maribelle’s leftovers, Samoas and bourbon.  

Samantha Gellin: I ate a grilled chicken club at Anderson Pub & Grill on Beechmont Avenue, aka APG. Normally I shy away from chicken sandwiches because they tend to turn out dry and tasteless. But I've never been disappointed with the food at APG so I decided to give it a try. It was worth it. So juicy and full of flavor. It's topped with bacon, lettuce, tomato, American cheese, onion, pickle and chipotle mayo. Probably one of the best grilled chicken sandwiches I've had in a long time. If you're on the East Side and you're looking for simple but really satisfying bar food (at decent prices too) this is the place to go.

Anne Mitchell: I've barely left the house since Snowmaggedon began, but luckily we are within slogging distance of several MainStrasse eateries. So Friday night we slushed up to Dee Felice Cafe for cocktails and appetizers. I had the fried oysters with cream sauce, a cup of gumbo, and a delicious Manhattan made by Ron the Awesome Bartender. I may have even had a second, just because even numbers are luckier. On Saturday, we went to Otto's. Their beef short ribs were cozier than a fleece snowsuit, and twice as sexy. I sipped on the Ginger Punch special. I should have deduced, when they said they were trying it out for the menu at their eagerly-anticipated Frida, that it was tequila based. Ole!

Rebecca Sylvester: To pre-game before The Price is Right Live! my husband and I decided to try one of the restaurants in the Horseshoe Casino (where the show was). We weren't wearing elastic waistbands so that ruled out the buffet and we were (luckily) turned away from Margaritaville, which I guess was every other audience members' plan, so we ended up at the fancy option: Jack Binion's Steakhouse. It was easily the quietest place in the casino, even with a live trio playing lounge versions of Nirvana and top 40 songs. The booths look like nap-worthy couches, but we sat at the bar since we were only ordering drinks and snacks. The super exciting part of the menu (for a vegetarian) was The Potato Bar, which listed a few heavily topped baked potatoes, pub fries and a few other potato-based sides. Also a pleasant surprise was the list of salads, all vegetarian friendly and a little more interesting than the standard steakhouse iceberg wedge. The servers were really nice and the wine selection was good. If I'm ever back there and need a place to rest my slot machine arm that is probably the best spot in the building.

Maija Zummo: I went to an Oscar's potluck on Sunday and I was tasked with bringing dessert. Usually I'll make something fruit based — a pie or a cobbler — but my friends wanted chocolate. I'm not a huge fan of brownies or anything really cakey and chocolately, so I made cute little chocolate pot de cremes in bright teal ramekins. I found a super easy recipe that just calls for pouring your hot custard into a blender and then refrigerating it to set versus making a water bath and baking the little things. They turned out really well — I added some vanilla and coffee to the custard mix because I'm fancy like that —  and were super easy. Top them with some homemade whipped cream and they seem much more impressive and hard to make than they actually are.

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<![CDATA[Leftovers: What We Ate This Weekend]]> 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.  

Ilene Ross: It wasn't exactly cold this weekend, but most frigid winter days find me jonesing for a body-warming bowl of congee, a type of rice porridge popular in many Asian countries. On Saturday, I enjoyed a tasty bowl of dried pork congee at Quan Hapa in OTR. It's filled with chicken, and there's a poached egg hiding in there. On top is yummy fried pork, five-spice oil and green onions. Deeply satisfying, no matter what the thermometer says. 

Rebecca Sylvester: LaRosa's! Did you know LaRosa's garlic butter dipping sauce contains no actual dairy, so it's vegan/lactose-intolerant friendly? If you think about it too much it's super creepy, but if you just don't think about it then it is a delicious option to dunk your cheese-less veggie pizza. #thestruggleisreal 

Jac Kern: Yesterday I had fajitas and margs at Cancun, my home away from home. The Western Bowl-adjacent cantina is a great brunch alternative for lazy/antisocial people: fast service, standard but consistent Mexican grub, dim lights and crack-like frozen margaritas. Come hungry; leave stuffed, tipsy and with a frost-bitten tongue. That's basically how all of my (frequent) Cancun adventures go.  

Samantha Gellin: I ate at Eli's BBQ for the first time. The inside was packed so we ate at a picnic table inside one of their big white outdoor tents. It was like 30 degrees outside, so thankfully I was able to nab a spot right by a working heater, but it was still pretty chilly. But now I know what all the fuss over Eli's has been about: It's freakin' delicious. And seriously cheap. A meat-stuffed sandwich and two generous sides will run you eight bucks. That's it. There's not many other restaurants in Cincy (at least not that I know of) that are so generous with their portion size and yet so easy on your wallet. And it's BYOB. I mean, what else could you ask for?!

I got a pulled pork sandwich with a side of baked beans and macaroni and cheese. The deliciousness of everything made me forget I was cold. The macaroni is to die for; it's everything you want a side of macaroni to be with a barbecue dinner — super rich, creamy and calorie-laden. The baked beans were also delicious: savory, with hints of bacon and brown sugar and something more complex that I can't put my finger on. And the pulled pork was pretty much everything you've heard Eli's pulled pork to be: savory, tender and with just the right amount of sweet. Will I go again? Most definitely, but I'll wait until it's warm out. 

Jesse Fox: On Saturday I did a freelance photo job for Ena's Jerkmania and fell in love with their fried plantains. I had never even had a regular plantain before so I wasn't sure what to expect. The texture reminded me kind of of like a thinner version of French toast, a little crunchy on the outside but soft in the middle. They were great on their own but would have been really good with some agave nectar on, too — but that's probably the sugar addict in me talking. 

Garin Pirnia: I’ve been nursing a cold, so I decided to stay in this weekend and make a few things. First up was homemade chai tea. You just throw a lot of spices — crushed cardamom, pepper, vanilla bean, star anise, ginger, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves — into boiling water and then add black tea and brown sugar. When I bought the spices at Findlay Market a couple of weeks ago, the guy was like, “Do you work at a restaurant or something?” I don't.

Next, inspired by The Comet’s housemade ginger ale, I took it upon myself to make my own. A caveat: If you hate ginger you will not like this; it’s super strong. You chop up a few ounces of fresh ginger and let it simmer in water for 45 minutes, and then dissolve sugar into it, which makes a simple syrup. Just add carbonated water and you have ginger ale that tastes better than Vernors and anything else on the market.

Finally, I made bagels. Yes, bagels. It’s so easy! You mix bread flour, yeast, a pinch of sugar and salt and malt syrup (I use honey) in a mixer or food processor. Form the dough into a ball and wait for it to rise. Then you shape the dough into the semblance of bagels and flash boil them. The hardest part is forming the dough, but the most fun part is sticking toppings like sesame seeds and poppy seeds onto the bagels. You can get a little crazy and creative — anything goes. Bake 'em in the oven for about 20 minutes and, voila, bagels without weird stuff like yoga mat component/flour whitening agent azodicarbonamide. You can freeze the bagels to make them last longer. Damn, I should open a café.

Anne Mitchell: I ate a fancy dinner at Covington's 200th birthday celebration gala. For giant catered-meal food, it was great — especially the bundles of green beans tied up with red and yellow peppers. Bean bondage! Seriously, there was real bacon on the salad and bourbon in the chicken sauce, so bravo COV200. I hope the next 200 years are just as tasty.

Kristen Franke: This weekend, I had a lot of things. 1. Dollar oysters at Anchor OTR. Thursday nights are the best. We were seated by the window and ordered a dozen delicious little numbers. Their granita topping — basically caramelized red onions that have been frozen into slushy-like goodness — and the fluffy fresh horseradish are dynamite. Our kickass server also brought Sriracha, which is a game changer when it comes to oysters. 


2. The volcano roll at Ichiban (half-price sushi, hell yeah!) on Friday night. The roll features a tower of crab meat on top of a deep-fried eel roll. That and a standard spicy tuna roll and I was set. No, it's nothing stellar, but when your bill comes back with $10.57 printed on the bottom, it's hard to resist doing your happy dance.


3. Homemade meatloaf, whipped potatoes and crisp green beans at my dad's house. His meatloaf is essentially a giant, baked meatball made with soaked french bread, fresh garlic, Parmesan and parsley. Dip it in those buttery potatoes and you can just feel your soul relax.


4. Late-night spoonbread at The Eagle OTR. Eagle is fantastic late night. We arrived at 10:41 p.m. and waited 30 seconds for a table for four. Their maple syrup-soaked spoonbread goes GREAT with a Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, an on-tap staple at this place.


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<![CDATA[Leftovers: What We Ate This Weekend]]>
Each week CityBeat staffers tell you what they ate this weekend. We're not always proud — or trendy — but we definitely spend at least some money on food. 

Danny Cross: A couple of my friends' girlfriends had a birthday death wish on Saturday night, taking a party of more than 15 to Krueger's Tavern. My girlfriend and I showed up late, kind of assuming everyone would be standing on the Vine Street sidewalk like a bunch of tourists. Apparently, Krueger's will seat your giant party as long as half have arrived, though, and no one was mad when the final two of us showed up like 40 minutes after the reservation time. Krueger's is owned by the same people who run Bakersfield and The Eagle OTR, and its concept is similar: loud, hip atmosphere; really good, relatively inexpensive food; and pretty great service considering how crowded and busy the place is. We split the Cuban sandwich, fries and a kale salad someone told us was going to be awesome (true). It's nice to have an OTR option aside from Taste of Belgium where you can sit down with more than four people without forcing the restaurant to rearrange the entire room. CityBeat food writer Kristen Franke had good things to say about Krueger's last week, so you should probably take her word for it. 

Jac Kern
: I’ll tell you where I did not eat: Bridalrama. Cupcakes and macaroons and cakes at every corner, and I didn't touch any of it. I was proud of my self-control until the next day when Jeff insisted on ordering Pizza Hut during the Super Bowl. And we're not talking some regular fattening pizza. No, we had to order the Triple Cheese Covered Stuffed Crust Pizza. So, needless to say, any pride I had left was gone at this point. I wanted to be disgusted by it but I reluctantly found it really tasty. 

Rebecca Sylvester: Best Friday night: ordered too much Indian food and went to sleep. Since it was obviously too cold to leave the house, my boo and I took advantage of the fact that Amol delivers and made someone else deal with the frigid 2.5-mile trek between their kitchen and my couch. The food was great, but the best part of the meal was the fact that their delivery minimum is $25, meaning it is just a dollar or two out of reach of ordering only two entrees, so we were (I was) justified in ordering A THIRD ENTREE for additional feasting. 

Mike Breen: I largely had a depressed, shut-in kind of weekend, for which I loaded up on supplies from that gourmet food haven Walgreens and barely left my apartment. The cashier told me we might get eight inches of snow over the weekend as I checked out; even though I knew that wasn’t true, I hoped my sad purchases were seen as “stocking up” for the impending Snowmageddon (or at least as treats I was taking to a Super Bowl party). I should have grabbed a bag of rock salt to make it look less pathetic.

Along with the wasabi-flavored almonds, the best thing I grabbed on my junk food spree was a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Truffle Trifecta, which I first discovered last year. It’s only available at Walgreens (which seems weird; B&J’s also has “exclusive” flavors at Target, which is somewhat understandable, but Walgreens seems to be a weird place to have to go to score ice cream). It’s Ben & Jerry’s, so of course it’s really good. And pretty simple — chocolate ice cream with marshmallow, fudge and caramel-filled truffle candy. It’s become one of my favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavors.

I was proud of myself for not devouring all of the crap food I bought. Seemed like a good purchase at the time, but I just couldn’t stomach eating the small bag of Ruffles’ Deep Ridged Bacon & Cheddar Loaded Potato Skins flavored chips I bought. But there’s always next weekend. Grammys viewing party at my place, y’all! 

Jesse FoxI wanted to get some film that I shot developed on Saturday and apparently the Walgreens in Highland Heights is the only place around here that still does that. I didn't want to drive down, go home and drive right back, so I went with my freelancer Catie so we could talk or something while we waited. The guys working said it would take two hours so we did what any respectable humans would do — we went and bought mini vodka bottles from the liquor store nearby and ate at Taco Bell. Despite ordering different things, the total of both of our meals was $6.66. The next day I woke up with strep throat, so thank you Taco Bell satan.

Maija Zummo: I finally went to Packhouse in Newport to eat some vegetarian meatballs. (My computer keeps auto-correcting that to "packhorse," which is an altogether different type of meatball.) I had been to the meatball restaurant in Corryville, Meatball Kitchen, which has a different vibe (you order at a cash register there). I had been warned that the Packhouse menu was a little bit confusing — there's a ton of choices and you fill boxes in on your menu with a marker to order — but it wasn't so bad. The waitresses help you navigate.

You pick a type of meatball — I got quinoa and veggie and the rest of my party got one of each other type of meatball on the menu: fried chicken, turkey and sage, something with sundried tomatoes and blue cheese, a normal meatball and then a lasagna meatball (lasagna shaped into a ball and fried). Then you choose a sauce (marinara, parmesan cream, some type of stew sauce, and a couple others) and how you want it served. You can get it on a sandwich, on a slider, on pasta, with Brussels sprouts etc., etc. There are like a million possible combinations. I got three quinoa meatballs on some boursin mashed potatoes with parmesan cream on top and a quinoa slider with cheese and marina sauce because, as a vegetarian, I never get to eat sliders.

Portion sizes were big and the quinoa meatballs tasted like little arancini; they were little fried tasty nuggets. I loved them a lot more than I expected because I hate quinoa. The rest of my party, however, didn't love their meatballs. There was some confusion as to which was which, like they couldn't tell the difference between the turkey and sage an the sundried tomato one. But I was happy, which is the most important part. They also have bottles of wine for $19, and the service staff is paid a fair wage so you don't tip, which is a cool novelty. I'd go back for more sliders and cheap wine, and my one friend wants to go back to tackle their eating contest, where you need to eat like 25 of the same meatballs in an hour or something. 

Samantha GellinI had brunch at BrewRiver Gastropub. It's a New Orleans-style place. The food was delicious but the prices ... not. The entrees were all in the $12 to $16 dollar range, so I opted for two "sides": two sunny-side up eggs and a small bowl cheese grits. The eggs were delicious; the grits, while tasty, weren't life-changing. My husband got poutine and eggs, and the beef short-rib gravy was really rich and delicious. It had strips of really tender meat in it. For anyone who doesn't have to watch their cholesterol, it's a solid choice. The server was a bit pushy and anxious to get our party of eight out the door by the afternoon closing time, though. I'm not sure I'd go back, partly because of the prices and partly because I'm over brunch dates. Maybe I'm just getting too old to be drinking three mimosas at noon.
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<![CDATA[Apothecary-Themed Cocktail Bar to Open in OTR]]> If there's one thing we like in Over-the-Rhine, it's enjoying a bit of updated history while we dine and drink. And that's what proprietors Stuart King and Julia Petiprin aim to bring to the corner of 13th and Republic streets with their new apothecary-themed cocktail bar. 

While the name has yet to be revealed, the theme is sound. The bar will be nestled in a historic storefront, replete with turn-of-the-century antique medicines, jars, bottles and sundries, along with dark wood, leather booths and vintage lighting; more moody and romantic and less American Horror Story

King and Petiprin, cofounders of the Circle Hospital Group, are striving to create a warm, comfortable bar with a design aligned to the ethos of OTR. Petiprin, the designer of the space, will also oversee the cocktail program. It's slated to feature spirits, syrups and other homemade concoctions in a strategy developed with assistance from former Los Angeles bar manager Brandyn Tepper (Hinoki and the Bird) and Matt Landes of Cocktail Academy of Downtown Los Angeles. 

The 1,200-square-foot space will hold 55 people and is slated to open in March.
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<![CDATA[Horse & Barrel Bourbon House Opens Downtown]]> After a long history with bourbon, the Tavern Restaurant Group (The Pub, Nicholson's, deSha's) recently opened their latest bar concept in the former Bootsy's/Walnut Street Grill space across from the Aronoff downtown: The Horse & Barrel Bourbon House.

Inspired — and named after — the former award-winning bourbon bar (named one of the world's three best bourbon bars in 2008 by Whisky Magazine) attached to deSha’s now-shuttered Lexington, Ky., location, the Kentucky-style Horse & Barrel Bourbon House is the latest in the area's ever-growing collection of bourbon-focused drinkeries, joining MainStrasse's/Molly Wellmann's Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar and Northside's The Littlefield

The bar, which is on the ground floor and seats about 40 (the upstairs will function as an events space, with space for 100-150 people and various complete event packages) offers 80 different bourbons, several flights and bourbon cocktails, plus a small menu of shareable plates with a Southern theme. The savory snacks and desserts run $6.50-$12, and include items like chicken tenderloin flash-fried and tossed in Maker's Mark barbecue sauce; gouda mac and cheese smothered in pulled pork with a Maker's Mark barbecue sauce; and a Queen City Pie, with bourbon, pecan, chocolate and banana served with salted caramel ice cream. 

Their $9 bourbon cocktails range from a fruity Old Fashioned Woodford Reserve Personal Selection — orange, cherry, simple syrup, Angostura Bitters — to the refreshing Mint Julep Maker’s Mark. The premium bourbon selection also includes Old Forester Birthday 2014 Edition, Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel, George T. Stagg and Woodford Reserve Personal Selection (this bourbon is only available at Tavern Restaurant Group locations, which has personally curated bourbons from both Woodford and Buffalo Trace).

Horse & Barrel also does happy hour, available from 4-7 p.m. Tuesday-Friday. The “Old” One & A Cold One special includes your choice of any draft beer and one shot of the “Olds” for $5. The “Olds” include: Old Crow, Old Forester Classic, Old Grand-Dad 80 and Old Overholt Rye. 

The Horse & Barrel Bourbon House
Go:
631 Walnut St., Downtown;
Internet: facebook.com/horseandbarrel;
Hours: 4-11 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday-Saturday.


 


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<![CDATA[Lachey's Bar to Open Jan. 1 ]]>
The Lachey brothers are officially in the bar business. Cincinnati natives and boy band superstars Nick and Drew Lachey held a preview night for their bar, Lachey’s Bar, Dec. 19. It opens to the public on Jan. 1. 2015. Mayor John Cranley, 3CDC and 4EG/Lachey’s Bar partner Bob Deck were on hand to help the brothers cut the red ribbon. 

“We’re literally cutting the red tape,” Drew Lachey joked to the crowd. Cranley gave the brothers keys to the city and declared December 19 98 Degrees Day, er, Lachey Day in Cincinnati. As the event unfurled, A&E was also there rolling cameras for the upcoming reality show surrounding the opening of the bar, which will start airing in March 2015. 

“Nick has been talking about this, I swear, it has to be at least a decade,” Justin Jeffre, a childhood pal of the Lacheys, fellow 98 Degrees member and editor for newspaper Streetvibes, says. “They’ve been more serious about it for the past couple of years. After hearing so many conversations, it’s nice to see it finally come to fruition.”  

The sports bar, located on the corner of Walnut and 12th Street in OTR, is huge and bright, so there’s no way you’ll miss it. Because of its large windows, you can easily stand on the street and gaze inside at Drew and Nick, and read the LED sports ticker crawling underneath the 10 or so TVs hovering above the long bar. 

“We felt like we wanted it be a sports lounge,” Nick says. “Sports bar, you kind of think of peanut shells on the floor, more Buffalo Wild Wings vibe, which I love, but we wanted to create something that was a little bit more upscale from that but still approachable to everybody.”

The plethora of TVs, the sports ticker and glowing rectangular colored lights wired into panels underneath the bar countertop creates almost a sensory overload. There’s already a sports bar (Rhinehaus) and a craft beer emporium/taco joint (Half Cut, Gomez Salsa) across the street, but keep in mind Lachey’s is more commodious, with 100 seats and a 150-person occupancy. Chefs Jonathan Price and Brian Duffy (of Bar Rescue fame) are building a menu of high-quality, non-frozen pub grub, including tater tots, pork sandwiches, bison burgers and salads, so you can stuff your face while you watch golf. 

The big draw here is not only the bros, but also the booze. Three tap stations serve an array of craft beer and Miller Lite (Nick’s fave), but there’s also Nobilo wine on draft (it’s fancy and it’s good), cocktails on tap, a beer cocktail called Una Noche and non-alcoholic sodas for the teetotalers. Sports and non-sports fans will be able to imbibe their Miller Lite and Mad Tree Thundersnows sitting on barstools at the bar, sitting at one of the high top tables or lounging in the back of the bar on a comfy couch. Or, the ladies can take their business into the bathroom and lounge on couches in there. Note: The ladies room is nicer than most sports bars’ bathrooms. 

But what’s the appeal of a sports bar to those who aren’t into sports? Nick assures, “It’s really about the people. I think I go to places because I want to be around good people and great atmosphere, and this is going to have that, for sure.” 

Like many bars in OTR, Lachey’s will have happy hour, which will be yet another reason to hang out at the bar in hopes of catching a glimpse of the bros. And if you’re into the Pedal Wagon, the bar has a garage that enables the wagon to pedal right into the bar. 

Currently, the only framed photos hanging on the red-hued walls are of The Bengals and Reds, and when asked if he’ll hang photos of 98 Degrees, Nick says, “We’re still decorating.” So here’s hoping some of those ‘90s-era shirtless pictures of the guys will make it onto the wall of shame.

Lachey’s Bar is located at 56 E. 12th St., Over-the-Rhine. For more info, go to lacheys.com.


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<![CDATA[Seasonal Winter Releases from Local Breweries]]> Tis the season for winter microbrews, and with MadTree, Rhinegeist, Christian Moerlein and plenty of others putting out unique and distinctive beers this winter, Cincinnatians have plenty of options to choose from.

Your favorite craft brewers have been hard at work combining the flavorful aspects of winter into their latest creations; ones that will surely keep you warm through the rest of the year — or at least drunk. You’ve probably worn thin of the ubiquitous Pumpkin Ales and the dull Winter Lagers, so here’s a list of the latest and upcoming craft beers. You should be able to get everything at the respective brewery's taprooms, but call ahead for availability and other serving locations.  

Blank Slate 
  • Long Way Home: A companion to Blank Slate’s “Fork In The Road” and “The Lesser Path,” this IPA is brewed with chocolate malt and aged on cocoa nibs. It has five different varieties of hops and a 10.4% ABV. 

Christian Moerlein
  • Christkindl Winter Warmer: Unwrap this large-malt bodied ale with the essence of chocolate sweetness, and a balanced hop finish that creates a subtle spice flavor. On draft at the Moerlein Lager House. 6.95% ABV.

Fifty West
  • Coffee Please: Made with local coffee from Madeira's coffee please, this dark stout has a 7/1% ABV. Creamy and made with cold brew.
  • Home Sweet Home: An American brown ale with all the makings for a sweet potato pie, including cinnamon, sage, molasses and pecans. Who needs dessert when you have this. 7.1% ABV.

Listermann Brewing Company/Triple Digit
  • Chickow! Coconut and Chickow! Cinnamon Roll: These two beers will be released on Black Friday, with a limit of four bottle of each beer per customer.
  • White Death: A winter warmer ale with cinnamon, fermented in Kentucky bourbon barrels. 

MadTree 
  • Thundersnow: This sweet and bread beer has an 8.5% ABV, with hints of ginger, nutmeg, vanilla and cinnamon. It's rare, so drink up while you can (or download the recipe at madtreebrewing.com). Look for it at Arnold's, Igby's, Boca, the Moerlein Larger House, Metropole and more; MadTree has a handy zip code locator on their site. 
  • Pilgrim: This is a super limited beer, with hops, malted barley, cranberries, walnuts and vanilla beans. With 5% ABV. 

Mt. Carmel 
  • Winter Ale: An ale with scents of spruce and ginger, and flavors of orange-spiced bread. 8% ABV. 

Rhinegeist 
  • Dad: A hoppy red ale you can take home for the holidays; it will be served in cans for the first time this year. This ale balances crisp hops with juicy malt, and notes of citrus and cherry life savor. 6% ABV. 
  • Panther: Malty with notes of milk chocolate, carob and light molasses. 5.8% ABV. 

Rivertown
  • Winter Ale: This spiced winter ale is thick and creamy, with hints of caramel, toffee and cinnamon. Serve in a snifter. 8.2% ABV.
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<![CDATA[Barrio Tequileria in Northside to Reopen]]>
The relatively short-lived Barrio Tequileria in Northside is re-opening next weekend, under new management and ownership. 

Starting with a grand re-opening Friday and Saturday evening (6 p.m. Nov. 28 and 29) the weekend after Thanksgiving, new owners Thomas Placke and 3TC entertainment say the restaurant will still serve Tex-Mex-style food, with updated offerings including smoked wings, house-cured smoked bacon and Texas-style smoked beef brisket chili. They'll also be serving up imported tequilas and specialty cocktails, like the Helltown Hooch, Pineapple Mint Margarita and Mango Habanero Margarita, plus non-alcoholic libations for kids (and non-drinking adults) like strawberry cucumber lemonade. 

An added bonus? The huge outdoor patio will double as a dog-friendly bar with a fire pit and a s'mores menu in winter, then games when the weather gets warmer.

A recent press release also says, "In commitment to the neighborhood, Barrio will continue with fan favorites such as open mic Jazz on Tuesdays, trivia night on Wednesdays and karaoke thursdays. Barrio will also offer live music nights and delve into the local Northside character by showcasing local artists and talent."

The restaurant will also seek out a variety of nonprofits to donate portions of proceeds to.  

Barrio is located at 3937 Spring Grove Ave., Northside. Follow along with updates on Facebook.
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<![CDATA[Molly Wellmann's Myrtle's Punch House Opening Nov. 28]]> Forget your Kool-Aid and your Sprite and whatever else goes into your office party’s punch bowl, for soon dignity will be restored to punch. Molly Wellmann’s newest creation, Myrtle’s Punch House, will specialize in handcrafted punch and a wide array of wines and craft beers. (The Wellmann Brand also owns Japp’s, Neons Unplugged and Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar.)  

Myrtle’s is located in the historic DeSales Corner of East Walnut Hills, and surprisingly punch itself is also heavy with history. It’s been around since the 1600s and is believed to have been first concocted by British sailors working with the East India Company. With months on deck, beer became flat and stale, and so an alternative was created. Punch originally comes from the Sanskrit word “panch” meaning five, referencing the five ingredients in the original classic punch: lemon, alcohol, sugar, spices and water or tea. Of course, like the rest of the world, punch has evolved, but despite the ingredients, the flavor template has remained the same. 

The opening event on Friday, Nov. 28, will begin at 7 p.m. with ribbon-cutting ceremony with Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, followed by a red carpet entrance, live music and food from Fireside Pizza. 

2735 Woodburn Ave., East Walnut Hills. More information on Facebook.
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<![CDATA[Homemade Happy Hour: A Tavola]]>

A Tavola has made its mark on Over-The-Rhine with its rustic wood fired pizzas and superb flavor combinations. What you might not know about the high-end pizza joint is that its craft cocktails are one-of-a-kind. CityBeat sat down with A Tavola’s head bartender Aaron Strasser to pick his brain, and it turns out he is as personable as he is creative and stirs up one hell of a cocktail.

CityBeat: How did your career in bartending start?

Aaron Strasser: I was a history major at UC, and my favorite period of time was Prohibition. I found it very interesting that you could ban one of the greatest things in the world — the cocktail. I really got into studying that when I was in college. I also started flavor profiles. I grew up in the kitchen with my mom and she always baking stuff and I loved tasting all the flavors and figuring out, ‘Oh, you can pair this with this.’ I got my start here at A Tavola almost four years ago. I didn't know much, but what I did know is flavor profiles and combinations. So the owners gave me a chance and allowed me to make the bar what it is now.

CB: What’s your favorite spirit?

AS: I usually go with my whiskeys and bourbon. Rye whiskey for sure.

CB: What’s the strangest ingredient you’ve used in a cocktail?

AS: I have a couple. I always saw that simple syrups were being made with fruits and some herbs and spices, but I wanted to make a simple syrup out of a vegetable, so I made a red beet and ginger simple syrup, which goes great with gin. It’s very unique, it’s a beautiful color and the taste was very interesting. I didn't want to just use fruit. Another strange ingredient in our new cocktail menu is the jalapeño jam instead of a simple syrup. It’s a recipe that one of my kitchen people and I have worked on. I wanted to have something that was sweet and savory. We do a lot of that as far as combinations go — even in our food — lots of sweet and savory.

CB: Do you see a change in cocktail culture around OTR?

AS: Oh, yeah, its definitely growing. There is a lot more appreciation as far as drinks go. A lot of people are not just ordering cocktails that they know, instead they are actually looking at the cocktails and asking, ‘What does this place have to offer that I haven’t tried before?'

CB: If you had to pick one cocktail to drink for the rest of your life what would it be?

AS: An Old Fashioned.

Old Fashioned

2 Amarena cherries
1 slice of orange
1 sugar cube

1 or 2 dashes of Angostura bitters
2 oz. rye or bourbon whiskey

Club soda

Place the sugar cube in a glass and add one or two dashes of Angostura bitters and a splash of club soda. Muddle the the sugar cube. Add whiskey and ice. Stir until sugar is dissolved. With a lighter, singe a strip of orange peel and pinch the peel to release oils. Add the orange peel and the Amarena cherries to top it all off.

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<![CDATA[The Palace's Chef Joe West Wins CityBeat's Iron Fork]]> Wednesday, Oct. 15, kicked off CityBeat’s maiden voyage for Iron Fork Cincinnati, a Iron Chef-esque cooking competition complete with famous chefs from around the city, closed-circuit television and, of course, plenty of food and drink to keep the attendees happy and buzzed.

The event, which raised money for local nonprofit Gabriel’s Place and its Junior Culinary Institute, took place at the Christian Moerlein brewery in Over-the-Rhine. The restaurants represented (Jimmy G's, Django Western Taco, LaLa's Blissful Bites, Invito Chef, El Rancho Grande, Huit BBQ, Redondo Taqueria, Axis Alley on the Levee, Seasons 52, Silver Ladle, Elephant Walk Injera & Curry House, Washington Platform, Swad, O'Malley's in the Alley, Mazzaro's Place, The Pub, Boswell Alley and Moerlein Lager Houseeach provided a small sample of their favorite items for attendees to nibble on, from mini-steak sandwiches to shot glass-sized pecan pie. Some of the vendors were parked in the more polished taproom, while the majority of the booths and the competition itself appeared in the “basement chic” room next door. Attendees wandered from booth to booth, balancing small plates and frothy cups of Moerlein beer as they waited for the main event to begin. Everyone looked slightly confused at first, but it didn’t take long for everyone to catch on and figure out where to go — the Four Roses bourbon cider probably helped.

Iron Fork’s version of Kitchen Stadium was a small-ish cooking space set up at one end of the very large room. It was fully stocked with brightly colored produce from SYSCO, plenty of spices, gas burners and shiny stainless steel cookware from Cooks'Wares. Scattered across the room were large TVs (not in HD, our spoiled selves lamented) for those who may not be able to find a spot in the small area in front of the kitchen to watch the action. The three judges were perched to the left of the kitchen, presumably starving.

Frances Kroner of Sleepy Bee, Jose Salazar of Salazar and Joe West of The Palace at The Cincinnatian were the three chefs chosen to appear for the event. Each of them had one hour to create a dish using the elusive secret ingredient: figs. (Most of the crowd had left before the secret was revealed; it had to remain a secret to make the competition fair for everyone.) Each chef also had a Junior Culinary Institute student from Gabriel’s Place on their team; all three of the students, it must be said, were incredibly impressive in their professionalism and skill. 

The hour-long cooking time per chef allowed attendees to continue to wander and stuff their faces with local treats. The amount of sweet options seemed high (possibly because it was hard to locate the free water to cleanse your palate). The beer line never seemed to shorten, which was fine. If anything, it allowed for more socializing with the other food enthusiasts. Watching the cooking itself was only really entertaining near the end of the hour-long time limit — Jose Salazar straight up ran to the judges’ table with his dishes at the end, and that’s just good TV. 

Once each chef’s segment was complete and the three judges were served, a fourth dish was auctioned off to a lucky audience member. (Frances Kroner’s dish went for a whopping $150.) 

"All the chefs did a great job and we had a lot of fun sharing our thoughts and our food with the crowd," says judge and CityBeat food writer Anne Mitchell. "Frannie Kroner's lamb chop entree was wonderful, and (Ilene Ross, CityBeat food writer and judge) had a great idea — she added one of her lamb chops to the auction for Gabriel's Place." 

"I ate all three of mine and gnawed the bones clean, so that shows you where my heart resides," she continues, laughing. "Jose's appetizer, lamb tartare, was amazing. Ilene licked her plate. It was the kind of dish that separates ordinary food from art." 

The audience did not hear from the judges until the end, when they named The Palace’s Joe West as the winner for his appetizer and entree dishes. 

"Joe West's appetizer and entree blew us away," says Mitchell. "The scallop crudo was another work of art, and it was the perfect starter for Joe's main dish. I wish I could be 100 percent sure of the description but things got a little crazy at the end and we really didn't hear what Joe said, but I think it was halibut in veloute sauce with bacon crumbles for a garnish, flash-fried potato 'chips' from tiny fingerling potatoes and the figs." 

"Figs were the 'secret ingredient' that all the chefs had to incorporate into their dishes," she continues. "It would have been fun to see them utilized a little more essentially in the dishes instead of used as a (yummy) garnish, but that seems a little like splitting hairs."

Overall, the event’s first run was a success. Did I want to snag one of Kroner’s scallops or a bite of Salazar's lamb tartare right off the judges’ table? Sure. But I didn’t, and it still turned out to be a nice little Wednesday night. 


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<![CDATA[Taste of Belgium Clifton to Host World Cup Viewing]]>
The Clifton location of Taste of Belgium — Cincinnati's only Belgian-inspired eatery — will host a World Cup viewing party for the Team USA versus Belgium game on Tuesday, July 1. (The game begins at 4 p.m.)

The Clifton locale of TOB has seven HDTVs, one large HD projector screen, a big bar and a large beer selection. Afraid of who to cheer for in the Belgian bar? Owner Jean-François Flechet, a Cincinnati resident and Belgian native says, "What better place to come watch USA vs. Belgium than at Taste of Belgium? The entire staff and all our customers have cheered for both teams so far — we hope to see some good soccer."

“I’d be happy either way for either my homeland or my adoptive land to make it to the next round,” Flechet adds

TOB will also be giving away one official Belgian and one official American soccer jersey. Patrons can enter to win the American jersey by ordering a Budweiser and the Belgian jersey by ordering a Duvel. (Those under 21 can simply enter their names.)

Parking is behind Taste of Belgium by the corner of University and Vine streets. Taste of Belgium Clifton, 2845 Vine St., Corryville, 513-394-7105, authenticwaffle.com
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<![CDATA[Rhinegeist Zen Now Available in Cans]]>

Rhinegeist Brewery yesterday released its third canned beer, Zen Session Pale Ale. The brew is described as "like walking barefoot through a citrus grove in the morning. Earthy and orange zest hop character permeates this Session Pale."

The dry hopped brew promises to be a perfect summer companion with notes of grapefruit and pine. Zen features Golden Promise malt and Citra, Mosaic and Cascade hops with a 4.8 percent ABV, all making for a bright and drinkable ale.

You can find canned Zen, along with Cougar Golden Ale and Truth IPA (released in cans earlier this year), at several area retailers. Find one close to you here. Zen and other core and rotating beers are also available on tap at the Rhinegeist Brewery on Elm Street.

Rhinegeist brewed its first batch just under one year ago.

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<![CDATA[Hofbräuhaus Keg Tapping Tonight]]> Hofbräuhaus Newport taps their seasonal June selection tonight — their summer Marzen. The amber-colored beer offers a rich, malty character with a hint of hops and a 5.8 percent ABV. 

The beer will be paired with Ofenfrischer Leberkase, a grilled pork and beef loaf featuring Munich-style finely textured sausage topped with a sunny side up egg and served with German potato salad.

The evening's festivities kick off at 7 p.m. with a tapping followed by German entertainment, jugglers, magicians and a ceremonial keg tapping parade. 

Free. Hofbräuhaus Newport, 200 E. Third St., Newport, Ky., 859-491-7200, hofbrauhausnewport.com.


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<![CDATA[Fort Wright Izzy's Hosts Beer Dinner]]> Atlanta-based SweetWater Brewing Company is heading North to the Fort Wright, Ky., location of Izzy's (1965 Highland Park., izzys.com) for an evening of brews paired with the restaurant's famous corned beef at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 8.

The paired three-course beer dinner will include an appetizer (grilled bacon-wrapped onion rings with Sriracha dipping sauce), entree (Izzy's Mex corned beef with a potato pancake), and dessert (fried ice cream sandwich with raspberry drizzle) with SweetWater's LowRYEder rye IPA, 420 extra pale ale and SweetWater IPA. 

Cost is $25 per person and includes a complimentary beer glass. Reserve a spot by calling 859-331-4999 or emailing jjbent@izzys.com.
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<![CDATA[Tap That Brew Tour]]>

CityBeat hosts an afternoon of drinking and not driving. Start at one of the participating breweries — Rhinegeist, Listermann Brewing Company, Ei8ht Ball Brewing, Christian Moerlein or MadTree — and then hop on a shuttle to the next one. After you’ve visited each, hop back on the shuttle to be driven to your starting location. Tickets include beer at each brewery, a custom CityBeat Tap That growler, lunch from Tom+Chee and shuttle rides. 


Noon-6 p.m. $40. citybeat.com
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