Sunday, August 24, 2008

A gastronomic return to the land of my people

We packed up and headed back to Cincinnati for a few days of indulgence in the culinary offerings of the Queen City as it was known in my youth, Porkopolis 80 years before then, and currently the Natti. Either way, the visit was punctuated by visits to cultural landmarks and museums as well as restaurants and familial haunts.

One of the first food items that we need upon our return is Camp Washington Chili. It is one of the most amazing places on earth with a varied menagerie from all social classes. Phenomenal spot for people watching, as well as the best iteration of Cincy Chili that I have encountered. most go for Skyline Chili, however this pales in comparison. In addition to 3-5 ways (chili, spaghetti, onions, cheese, beans), they have what is referred by father as the best turkey club ever.

After a bit of back and forth Cait wrangled together the order consisting of 15 cheese coneys with mustard and onions, 2 coneys with cheese, 2 three-ways, 3 turkey clubs and 2 orders of chili cheese fries. After being placed on hold repeatedly, and then having them refuse to read back the order to confirm, Cait was dubious about how close to what was intended would actually be delivered. Once my dad and I got there however, and I saw that the woman behind the counter had a 3" script tattoo that read 'KEITH' in old english script on her neck, I knew all would be well. I mean hell, I'm sure that Keith learned her proper, and as expected the order was spot on. The coneys surpassed all expectation and recollections. This will always be my first stop upon my return.

My father has become a true conisseur of the greasy spoon, and when the conversation turned to cheeseburgers he knew just the spot. A nondescript joint just the other side of the river in Covington Kentucky that has been around since 1939. It was up the hill, and away from the business district. It was an amazing example of simple food done great. Chip manned the small flatiron grill, and about 10 minutes after arrival we were treated to a simple feast of burgers, Hussman potato chips, and a coke each. 3 of us got out of there for $14, almost unheard of in this day and age, and one of the more memorable meals of the trip.

Pizza was a mixed bag, 2 of my favorites Pommodori's which specializes in wood fired pizzas, and Adriaticos that had done a thick crust garlic infused gem. Well, Pommodori's despite the sign reading 'Cincinnati's Best Pizza' had slipped considerably. There was none of the blistering of the crust that wood fired pizzas are known for, and I was told that Adriaticos had slipped so far that it was not worth pursuing, and that I was better off with my memories unspoiled on this front. The upside came from Dewey's, a relative newcomer, but certainly a welcome addition to the regimen.

One of my earliest childhood memories is of shopping at Findlay Market. It has certainly had it's share of ups and downs over the last few decades, and has made an amazing recovery. There are tons of organic farmers with stalls, as well as surrounding shops carrying Asian spices, African wares, meats and cheeses. It draws all races and income stratas and they not only get along, they actually interact with each other. Hell even the old black blues musician played a Loggins and Messina song in his set. Certainly something for everyone.

The other childhood food shopping experience that I was able to faithfully relive was Avril's meat market in the heart of downtown. A Cincinnati institution since 1894, serving up some of the most amazing German Sausages that I have ever had. My grandfather used to stop by there every Friday to pick up the fixins for the Sunday cookout. Although the bratwurst are stunning, it's the hot mets or metwurst that I always enjoyed, preferably on their salt rye with the homemade horseradish cheddar and brown mustard.
We made it to the old art deco Union Terminal train station that has been successfully transformed into the Cincinnati Museum Center which houses 3 museums, a reference library, the historical society, and an imax theater. Oh yeah, it's still an Amtrak station as well. There are a series of mosaic murals that are absolutely stunning, and for some time it was the world's largest free standing half-dome.

Next on tap was a field trip to Pyramid Hill sculpture garden, about 20 minutes outside of Cincinnati. A truly amazing collection that should be on anyones list of must sees if visiting the area.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The failed triathlete and the success of the construction worker

There's always a silver lining it seems, even in the most adverse of circumstances it's surprising how quickly things can turn around, and this day was no exception. Somehow we again managed to grab defeat from the jaws of victory.

I have lived in Cincinnati, Chicago, Los Angeles and Nashville, but never have I witnessed what I saw in San Antonio. While traversing across town in search of our location we witnessed the typical cat call from a construction worker to an attractive woman walking down the street. Something that I have seen dozens of times over the years. Until that day I have only seen 2 outcomes:
1 Damsel issues an FU, and keeps walking.

2 Damsel shakes head slightly in disgust and quickens pace as she saunters on.

But not this time! She stops, makes a quarter turn, ponders her options and approaches the gentleman. She cocks her head to the side and rests her hands on her hips. Next thing I know he is entering her phone number in his cel. WTF, if chivalry isn't dead, there is definitely now a more effective alternative.

The plan was to start at Van's Vietnamese, then hit Taco Taco for tacos and the Liberty Bar on the way out of town for dessert. All started off well enough, and the food at Van's was absolutely exceptional! We started with the beef kabob with peanut sauce, some sushi rolls and hot and sour soup with shrimp. The latter bore little resemblance to the Chinese counterpart that you may be familiar with. It was amazing with just the right amount of lemongrass, spices and broth.

We then moved on to Bo Luc Lac or Shaky Beef, and and order of Basil Chicken and Shrimp. The Bo Luc Lac was exceptional, and the Basil dish was solid. I think that if we had it to do over again that I would be more than happy with the soup.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Is that a brat on your grill, or are you just a masochist?

Sheboygan's finest sausage product. Marinated for a day in onions and beer, then grilled to perfection. Nothing says summer quite like it.

What I'm Reading


What I'm listening to lately

  • Ben Kweller-Changing Horses
  • Trojan Country Reggae Box Set
  • The Grand Archives
  • Sun is Shining- Bob Marley vs Lee Scratch Perry
  • A.C. Newman-Get Guilty
  • Justin Townes Earle-The Good Life
  • Bon Iver-Blood Bank
  • Breathe Owl Breathe-Ghost Glacier
  • Noah and the Whale
  • Conor Oberst
  • Frightened Rabbit-The Midnight Organ Fight

Smitty's Barbecue

Smitty's Barbecue