Posts tagged ‘Cincinnati’

Following Foodie – The Christmas Special

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season! I’m home in Philly, but I started off my celebration of Christmas with a little trip down to Cincinnati. My family and I used to spend Christmas in Cincinnati all the time, but we haven’t been there in December for at least 6? 7? years.

I started off my holiday weekend on Saturday night with a new Cincinnati tradition – Downtown Dazzle, aka Santa repelling down a building in Fountain Square.

You might remember Fountain Square from it’s appearance in my Oktoberfest post. This time, though, the Square was decked out for the holiday season

The tradition of Santa repelling has been taking place for about 5 years, and it was actually my uncle’s idea to start it! He’s an event planner in Cincinnati, and he thought it would be a great Cincinnati holiday tradition.

After watching the Cincinnati Boys’ Choir,

admiring the Christmas tree,

seeing Santa, an elf, and Rudolph scale down a building,

and watching some fireworks

my aunt, uncle, cousin, and other uncle went in search of food. After a few misses (downtown Cinci was pretty busy, what with all the spectators also looking for a good meal), we ended up at Nicholson’s Tavern and Pub, a “Scottish” pub-type restaurant.

I was immediately drawn to their impressive draught beer selection, and had no problem finding one of my favorites, Young’s Double Chocolate Stout.

We didn’t have to wait too long for a table, and after everyone ordered a drink, we were served nice hot bread

I really wasn’t in the mood for heavy pub food, and was excited to see a few interesting salads and sandwiches on the menu as well. After much internal debate (should I get traditional pub food, as I was in a pub?), I decided on the Grilled Ahi sandwich, with a side of steak fries.

It was delicious! I love ginger, and there was a definite gingery kick to this sandwich. I also appreciated the portion of fries – just enough.

However, the star of the meal was the real reason we came there in the first place – the Sticky Toffee Pudding. Before the dessert was brought out, some sugared spoons were brought to the table

And then, the dessert itself:

Yum! We split it between three people, and there was still some left over! It was so rich, but really delicious, too :D

Other highlights from my trip to Cinci included a trip to my Uncle’s in Northern Kentucky for his holiday open house. I can’t believe it, but I forgot my camera! Which is horrible, because other than the food (which included baked brie, amazing guacamole, little ham sandwiches, and chili dip), my uncle’s house is something to marvel at. For one thing, he has 7 Christmas trees. He also collects Peanuts memorabilia (specifically Snoopy stuff), and 4 of the 7 trees are Peanuts themed. Instead of looking tacky, though, it’s just really, really cool.

On Wednesday, I finally got to come home to Philadelphia, and was greeted with my family’s Christmas tree,

Christmas decorations

and the remains of the blizzard of ‘09.

In comparison, here’s what we received, in Michigan (where it’s supposed to be nice and snowy).

Christmas Eve Day started for me with a chilly and icy 4-mile run. It felt wonderful, though, and set a nice precedent for the day, as did my unpictured bowl of yogurt.

The rest of the day was spent shopping (I just needed a few more things!), baking (more on that later :) and hanging out with my family.

Before church (our parish’s version of “Midnight Mass” takes place at 10:30), we had a Christmas Eve meal of stuffed shells, bread-machine bread and salad. I made the salad, a replica of my asparagus-pomegranate-chickpea salad I made before.

Not a huge fan of stuffed shells, I had some salad and bread.

Following food, we took some Christmas photos.

After church we swapped our Pollyanna gifts, a tradition we’ve had since we stopped going to Cincinnati, I think. Instead of everyone buying gifts for each other, we each draw a name. I was so excited for my gift – I drew my Phillies-loving brother, and actually bought for him the picture that I used for that post, as well as baseball-related book.

Christmas morning, we awoke to presents under the tree!

I love Christmas so much. And although I do love opening presents, as I get older, it’s becoming more fun for me to watch others open their presents, and to enjoy time with my family and their craziness.

I got some pretty cool stuff

but it was really more fun to watch everyone else open their gifts.

The rest of today has been spent doing exactly what I think you should do on Christmas – sitting around, napping, and eating. I had a fairly tame breakfast and lunch,

but have definitely supplemented it with some (previously promised) Christmas cookies.

Yum. Now, maybe I’ll go for a run. Or perhaps sit around and watch The Nightmare Before Christmas

December 25, 2009 at 5:20 pm Leave a comment

Following Foodie – Zinzinnati, USA

First off, my apologies for the long absence. As I said, I was gone all weekend, and then I had a slightly stressful beginning to my week, so that’s my reason for the silence. But now I’m back!

So this weekend, I again ventured down to Cincinnati. This time, I went in order to experience Oktoberfest in Zinzinnati, possibly an even bigger event than the WEBN Fireworks.

Oktoberfest in Germany began on October 18, 1810 to celebrate the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. Nowadays it lasts for 16 days (17 or 18 on years when the anniversary of Germany’s reunification falls on that last weekend). It’s the largest public fair in the world, hosting 6 and a half million people over the two weeks it takes place.

The last time I was in Cincinnati for Oktoberfest was when I was probably 5 or 6. I got the opportunity to go to the real Oktoberfest in Munich in 2006 while I was studying in London, so I was excited to see the differences. Cinci’s Oktoberfest is actually the largest Oktoberfest celebration outside of Munich, and is so big that it’s even been renamed America’s Oktoberfest. There is a huge concentration of German heritage in Cinci – 28 German groups from Cincinnati were there to open the festival!

Many of the German restaurants in the area come out to sell food, there’s live polka music, and there’s even a German beer tent or two :)

Cincinnati’s Oktoberfest is not only the largest Oktoberfest outside of Munich, but it’s also one of the largest fairs of its kind – there are over half a million visitors over two days.

It also is where the record-holding largest group Chicken Dance occurred, during last year’s Oktoberfest. For those who don’t know, the chicken dance is a great music and dance combination – I grew up dancing it at weddings and other celebrations. At Oktoberfest, the chicken dance is always led by the Master of Ceremonies. This year, in honor of their 20th Anniversary (and maybe his love of food and beer), the MC was none other than Homer Simpson.

Unfortunately I missed the group dance, as it took place on Sunday, but there was plenty of it around the streets.

For the opening ceremony, there was also a music group there from Germany, and a representative from Munich, who gave a little speech. It was nice to hear some German :)

After watching the Opening Ceremonies, we began the true celebration of Oktoberfest – the eating and the drinking!

Warning: Some of the food seen below might be horrifying.

Immediately when I got there, I keyed in on the Pretzels. German Brezeln are possibly my favorite food ever, and I have yet to find a suitable substitution in America (calm down, Philly, I still love your soft pretzels, but they’re just a completely different food). These, however, came pretty darn close to the pretzels I ate at Oktoberfest in Munich.

I think they actually ship them directly from Germany for the event, so I would hope that they would be good…

Next came some deep fried madness. And I mean madness. I ate some Sauerkraut Balls,

Fried Dill Pickles,

Jalapeño Sauerkraut Balls,

and Goetta Balls.

Many of those are pretty self explanatory, but goetta might be an unknown to those people who don’t have the pleasure of living in the Cincinnati area, or growing up in a family from the Cincinnati area. So what is goetta (pronounced GET-uh, or GUT-uh)? I’ll let the local company, Glier’s, explain.

Every time I would visit my mom’s parents in Cincinnati, there would always be goetta there for breakfast. I even started making it myself a few years ago. I’d really never had it commercially before (or in ball form – usually it’s in pancake form, eaten with some bread and ketchup), and it was okay tasting. I think I’ll stick to the homemade version though :)

Oh yeah! And I did drink a beer at Oktoberfest (how can you not, really?). Surprisingly, my beer was a Samuel Adams Octoberfest beer. Now, whenever I think of Sam Adams, I immediately think of Boston, but it turns out that the creator of Sam Adams, Jim Koch, actually grew up in Cinci, and today, 35% of Sam Adams beers are brewed in Cincinnati!

Jim Koch was even there to help open the ceremony, and even brought a keg to tap to officially open the ceremony!

It wasn’t quite the same experience as being in Munich, but I think they captured the spirit of it – to eat and drink and be merry – quite nicely!

September 22, 2009 at 4:27 pm 2 comments

Following Foodie: You eat *what* with your chili??

Sorry for the sudden absence, but Sunday morning I was given the opportunity to go to Cincinnati for the remainder of the weekend, and that was something I wasn’t about to pass up!

My mom grew up in Cincinnati, my dad went to college near there, and Cincinnati is where they met. I myself have never lived there, but as most of my relatives live in the Cincinnati area, I’ve spent a lot of times there over the years.

Ann Arbor to Cincinnati is only 4 hours – a big change from the 8-9 hour drive that I’m used to! I’m not such a huge fan of driving by myself, or for long drive (this would be the longest drive I’ve ever done before), but I decided to rise to the challenge – I’d like to spend a lot of time down there, and I’d rather do the drive now than when there’s a million feet of snow on the ground…

Of course, I packed snacks for the road.

This was actually my first time trying any of the Pure bars. I have to admit, I wasn’t too impressed the first few bites, but the flavor did grow on me as I ate more of it. I think I’ll have to try another before I make a decision on them :)

I haven’t driven through Northern Ohio since I was little, so I forgot how…exciting…the scenery is. Most of my drive looked like this:

The drive took a little over four hours, because I hit a snag of traffic outside of Cinci – apparently outlets opened up recently, and a ton of people were taking advantage of the holiday weekend to shop. I didn’t stop at the outlets, but the stall in traffic did give me an opportunity to take a picture of this:

Yes, that is a large statue of Jesus rising up out of the ground. He’s known by the locals as “Touchdown Jesus”…

I stayed with my aunt and uncle while I was there – my uncle was working when I first got there (at what I’ll explain shortly), so my aunt and I had a nice afternoon together. We sat outside and chatted for awhile before deciding to go out to dinner. We went to the Rusty Bucket Corner Tavern, which I believe has a few locations across Ohio.

It was quite a nice and relaxed place to eat – it had a bit of a “sports bar” feeling to it, with a bar in the middle and lots of exposed brick and booths. The service was really good – my aunt and I ordered a salad to split, which they put into separate bowls for us.

We had the Double Nickel Salad, which had a really good dressing, bleu cheese, onion, and bacon (yes, please!). I wish the lettuce had been something other than just iceberg, but other than that, it was quite good.

I was starving for dinner (I hadn’t really eaten anything except for my road snacks), so I ordered the Rusty Bucket Burger, which has lettuce, pickles, tomato, onion, cheese, and relish, and is served with fries. No substitutions for me!

I liked the pickle/relish combo – sweet and savory. And the fries were really good – crispy and seasoned to perfection. I pretty much polished off the whole plate :)

Sunday night I got to experience something I’ve never witnessed in Cinci before, and that’s saying a lot! Every year the local radio station, WEBN, puts on a fireworks display and Riverfest celebration. WBEN started the festival 33 years ago, to celebrate their tenth anniversary, and it’s grown to be one of the biggest fireworks displays in the Midwest. There’s food and music and a general fair-like festival along the Ohio River (which separates Cinci from Northern Kentucky), but my cousin and I decided to just go for the fireworks. And although we got there just as they were starting, we didn’t let the crowd of nearly 500,000 people deter us – we got a spot right up front, so close that we even got covered in debris! This is also the reason my uncle was at work – he works in event planning and Riverfest is one of his biggest productions all year. Specifically, he works to put on the USO Riverfest Gala, which provides support for both the USO and troops that have been injured in the line of duty.

The fireworks were awesome. They’re unique in that they’re shot off a barge on the river and two bridges crossing the Ohio River – the “Purple People Bridge” and the “Taylor-Southgate Bridge”. At one point, “waterfalls” of fireworks even cascaded off of one of the bridges! Honestly, it was one of the most spectacular fireworks displays I have ever seen.

Afterwards I went with my cousin to both the Biergarten at the Hofbrauhaus Newport (the first Hofbrauhaus in America) and a bar near his college. There was a fair bit of alcohol consumed, and maybe a few wings as well :)

Monday we all had a bit of a late morning. My uncle had to go back to work, so my aunt and I took their dog, Ebbe, to Wags Park, a “swim club” for dogs. There’s a pond for the dogs to swim in, an agility course, lawn chairs for owners, and even a doggie bathhouse next door. It’s pretty impressive.IMG_3797

For lunch, we stopped at a Cincinnati institution, Skyline Chili, home of Cincinnati-style chili. Yes, Skyline is technically fast food, but it’s such a treat for me, that I just can’t pass it up whenever I’m in Cinci. Cincinnati Chili is definitely unlike any other chili. There’s typically no beans (and really no vegetables except tomato paste and maybe onions), there’s not a lot of heat (but there is a lot of flavor), and it’s served over noodles.

Skyline also has very distinctive cheese (all natural, I’m sure) – it’s bright yellow and shredded very thinly. Their plates of chili also have quite the amusing names – I had a regular-sized Four Way, because I had onions on mine. A Three Way is just the chili, spaghetti and cheese, and a Five Way adds onions and beans. Classy, right? Eaten with oyster crackers (which you can kinda see in the upper right corner), this is a little piece of heaven.

I also might have had a Cheese Coney, which is a chili dog with onions, cheese, and mustard.

Healthy? Nope. Delicious? Heck yes! (And I might have bought a few cans of the chili, but only to bring home for my brother!)

We lazed about the rest of the day (my aunt might have gotten me hooked on NCIS – we’ll see), and then for dinner, I drove over to Northern Kentucky to have dinner with my uncle and his partner (who is  a wonderful cook). Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures, but the meal of roast pork with potatoes and carrots, broccoli, rosemary bread, and ice cream for dessert was delicious :) Hopefully next time I’ll be able to take a few pictures of their house – they’ve lived in some interesting places (such as Hawaii and New Orleans), and their house reflects that. And that visit might be sooner than later – I think they convinced me to come down in two weeks, when Cincinnati celebrates Oktoberfest. It’s supposedly the biggest Oktoberfest celebration outside of Munich (Cincinnati has a lot of German history), and I haven’t been since I’ve been to the actual Oktoberfest in Munich – I want to compare!

Driving to my uncle’s house was also actually my first time ever driving through Cincinnati myself. And since the drive took me right through Cinci at night, it was a good time to do it – I love the downtown!

I drove back this morning, back into wonderful, rainy Ann Arbor. Not so excited to be back, actually. Visiting Cincinnati made me really think about my original plans, which were to move there – I’m not going to lie, I’m having some regrets right now. But at least I’m close enough to visit (which I’m planning on doing a lot!), and who knows what’s going to happen in the future!

September 8, 2009 at 3:41 pm 2 comments


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