Saturday, December 6, 2014

Getting By With a Little Help From My Friends: 7 Tips for a Better Holiday

An extended week of Thanksgiving left me with a full belly and, even better, a full heart. With gratitude to the many friends who included me, here are 7 lessons I treasure from the time shared with them in November. Equally applicable to whatever you may be celebrating in December, or anytime of the year.


A Monday night Friendsgiving celebration kicked things off. Brian bought a 24 lb. turkey. Deb cooked it.

The rest of us contributed appetizers, sides, and desserts and helped wash the dishes.


If you're in a position not to have the weight of the whole dinner on your shoulders, make something you love. In the case of our Friendsgiving dinner, I didn't want to get into debates about whether stuffing should be cooked inside or outside the bird or how whether a sweet potato dish should include marshmallows. Instead, I spent my time and energy making gravy, starting with turkey wing stock. It had been a while since I'd made a stock, and I had fun doing it.


I've had two great opportunities to do this recently. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving Slow Food Cincinnati (I'm a proud board member) partnered with Gabriel's Place to create a pre-Thanksgiving dinner we called ThankFALL. Here are the only photos I managed to snap in the midst of helping to serve a full holiday meal to 200 people: Elderberry pie and pumpkin squares.

I also had fun attending the Main St. Progressive Dinner the Thursday before Thanksgiving, put on by local businesses Park + Vine, Iris Book Cafe, MOTR, Hen of the Woods, Macaron Bar, and Liberty's Bar and Bottle. Macaron Bar is opening to the public soon, and you don't want to miss the flavorful lighter-than-air macarons they're creating. Shop, and eat, local this holiday season!


After dinners three nights in a row that included turkey, I was grateful that my idiosyncratic friends Becky and John invited me to share their table. Although Thursday was officially Thanksgiving, we kept it simple and enjoyed a great leg of lamb with cauliflower mash and mushroom gravy.


Turkey carcasses should never go to waste. When I heard my friend Jennifer would make a jook if she had a turkey to work with, I asked Deb if she would be willing to let me share the one from our Monday Friendsgiving. "Sure," Deb said. "I'm making another turkey on Thursday."

Jennifer turned it into this jook, a soup/porridge like congee, with lots and lots of condiments.


'Tis the season of hospitality. And unpredictable work schedules and family dynamics. Just say yes. It can lead you into a wonderland.

Exhibit #1: A Wednesday night invitation with friends.

Exhibit #2: A last-minute Sunday morning invite that turned out to be a killer brunch at Fifty West Brewing. Although Fifty West does brunch every Sunday, this was a special collaboration called "Southern Brewer's Brunch" with Atlanta's SweetWater Brewing and food by the chefs of The Eagle.


I feel lucky that so many people shared their food, their time, and their tables with me. Some of my favorite dishes were ones I'd never tasted before, like this tiradito brought to Friendsgiving by my friend Salamon now of Chino Latino Catering.

And this Peruvian dish called Causa, by my friend Alex's mom.

However you choose to spend your holidays, treat your neighbors with kindness and share a great meal!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Lexington Report: National Boulangerie

Some restaurants simply inspire a road trip. Friends and I had talked about making a Lexington visit for some time. When I shared a link about National Boulangerie, it clinched the deal. We set a date and got serious.

Taking its name from the street it's located on, National Boulangerie is located near downtown Lexington in an area filled with businesses devoted to interior design.

Inside, this gem makes you feel as though you've been transported to Paris. Cases upon cases of French pastries awaited us, holding breads, breakfast tarts, sandwiches, croissants, and more.

Behind another counter: desserts, coffees, and teas.

And behind the counters, a rustic communal table where we sipped and savored our selections and  chatted with folks who snapped a photo of our group.

It was a most memorable breakfast.

I'd love to return later in the day to check out more provisions.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Brunch With a Twist at Wunderbar

Wunderbar in Covington began brunch service this weekend, and when I saw one of their offerings was "German Breakfast," I couldn't resist checking it out. Yep, it comes with their signature yeasty, bread-like pretzel, which is enormous (but reheats well at home). I ordered a side of beer cheese. It only seemed right.

The rest of the "German Breakfast" platter: Black forest ham, two eggs, cherry tomatoes and cucumber. It comes with grainy mustard and cream cheese for $9.

In the mood for something else off the beaten path? How about the Landjunge Frühstück: 2 eggs, bacon, sausage, goetta, corn beef hash, and a biscuit? Blueberry pancakes with sausage, bacon, or goetta were another option today, as well as biscuits and gravy.

Like the rest of the food at Wunderbar, including their rotating selection of house-made sausages, the brunch menu will shift, I'm told. Hours are 10:30-2:00 Sat. and Sun., although this place is so laid back that they were happy to serve up a couple more orders after the 2:00 hour rolled by. You can get the regular menu during brunch hours as well, which features sausages, burgers, an eclectic selection of sandwiches, some killer vegetables (their Brussels sprouts are rave-worthy), home-made mustards and a curry ketchup.

Serious food comes out of the kitchen of this dive-bar looking joint lined with picnic tables and sporting half a VW bus at one end. It's a comfortable place to while away an hour or two sipping a (spicy!) Bloody Mary or a craft brew on tap with some great blues on the jukebox. Oh, wait. There isn't a jukebox. Wunderbar just kind of lulls you into thinking it's the kind of place that would have one.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Guest Post on 513{eats}

Photo by Bob Schwartz of 5chwar7z

I had a chance to interview talented photographer and blogger-about-town Bob Schwartz for 513{eats}. Check out the guy behind the photos at the blog 5chw4r7z. My thanks to Bob, and to the ladies of 513{eats}, Gina Weathersby and Ilene Ross, for the opportunity to guest post.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Scenes from a collaboration dinner: Please at Pallet23 2.4.2014

Tonight's Please pop-up dinner was not only tasty and inventive, it was especially fun to have a kitchen-side seat to watch talented chefs work together. It was billed as a collaboration dinner between chefs Ryan Santos of Please and Julie Francis of Nectar, and included a couple more talents.

My thanks for a memorable and delicious (left to right) Dave Taylor, Ryan Santos, Julie Francis, and Amanda (sous-chef and pastry chef at Nectar).

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Changes at La Poste

Chef Dave Taylor and GM Kelly Lough have left La Poste, and Andrew Mersmann has been promoted to Executive Director of Operations and Executive Chef at both La Poste and sister restaurant Django Western Taco, according to Jens Rosenkrantz, owner of both restaurants. Travis Hale has been promoted to Assistant General Manager at La Poste. No word yet on the next ventures for Taylor and Lough.

The press release:

CINCINNATI, OH January 15, 2014 -- Effective immediately Andrew Mersmann has been promoted to Executive Director of Operations and Executive Chef at La Poste Eatery and Django Western Taco. Andrew is an award-winning chef and 14 year veteran in the local restaurant scene. In addition, Travis Hale has been promoted to Assistant General Manager at La Poste Eatery.

David Taylor and Kelly Lough, who opened La Poste more than three years ago as founding partners, have embarked on new opportunities. They will be assisting in the transition as we continue to maintain the high level of cuisine and service that La Poste has been known for since its opening.

Andrew Mersmann is a graduate of Walnut Hills High School and attended the Fine Arts program at the incinnati Art Academy. He has also attended the Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago and the Midwest Culinary Institute. In 2010 and 2011 he was the Gold medalist in the Chaines des Rotisseurs’ Young Chef’s competition in Cincinnati. He has worked in the finest local restaurants in Cincinnati with increasing responsibilities. The list includes Pigall's, Jean-Ro Bistro, Pho Paris, Greenup Cafe, Otto's, Honey, and Jean-Robert's Table. He joined La Poste Eatery in 2011 as Chef de Cuisine. In 2013 he assumed the position of General Manager and Executive Chef at Django Western Taco.

Travis Hale is also a 14 year industry veteran and has been at La Poste for more than two years. Previously he worked at Nada for four years as a server and manager.

La Poste Eatery is a 75 seat fine dining restaurant serving French inspired New American cuisine located in Clifton's Gaslight District around the corner from the Esquire Theatre. There is an extensive wine list that is stored in a 2,000 bottle temperature-controlled wine cellar. It is open for dinner from Tuesday to Saturday and available for private parties. There is live Jazz on Wednesdays with the Faux Frenchmen, and valet parking every day.

Django Western Taco was opened in June of 2012 in Northside and serves an eclectic mix of Southwestern and “Cowboy Fusion” cuisine. And tacos too. The atmosphere is casual with weekly live music and a full bar.

Jens G. Rosenkrantz Jr., an award-winning fine-art photographer, and retired wine salesman and financial securities executive, is the owner. He has a studio at the Pendleton Arts Center in OTR.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Fourth Blogiversary

The past year was marked by a couple of events I completely did not see coming. First, the bad news: I was laid off from the law office I’d worked at for five years. Putting blogging on the back burner, I spent an unsettled five months job hunting and grappling with that itchy question: “What do I want to be when I grow up?” I had already changed careers once, from publishing to the legal profession. Did I dare try to reinvent myself again?

The editorial bug that bit me at my first NYC publishing job and followed me to Cincinnati, Columbus, and back has never really left. When I needed a new hobby in 2010, I started this blog. Given a chance to edit a book by a friend or relative during my 14 law office years, I always welcomed the opportunity to reconnect to my blue-pencil roots. As I sent out resume after resume last summer and fall, I couldn’t get my last editorial project out of my head, my nephew Mike’s book, Hot Dogs, A Little Marketing, and a Lot of Fun, which he followed with How Can I KETCHUP and Find My Hot Dog Stand?

Practical, punny, and reminiscent of Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Mike’s books include real-life lessons he learned putting himself through The Ohio State University by running a campus hot dog cart, one of his favorite parts of attending OSU. He’s gone on to a successful ad sales career for a sports radio station in Columbus, launched a website called Marketing Fun With Mike, and is always tackling new challenges, like blogging, podcasting, and public speaking focused on inspiring others to merge their passion, profession, and community involvement. His genuineness and giant smile are infectious. As I slogged through the legal want ads and completed endless online job applications, I kept holding out a wee bit of hope I would find my own “hot dog stand” too.

One fall afternoon I received a message from my friends at Tom+Chee inviting me to stop by for a video shoot. Glad I didn’t have to beg off due to a 9-to-5 job, I happily headed down to their Court St. shop. Since the first week Tom+Chee opened in a food tent on Fountain Square in 2009, just steps outside my former law office, I’ve been rooting for these guys. I’ve gotten to know founders Corey Ward, Trew Quackenbush, their wives, and families by being a loyal customer and eventually blogging about them. I had the good luck to be present when Adam Richman came to town to film Travel Channel’s “Man v. Food Nation,” T+C’s first national TV appearance. And I’ve been following their explosive success on the franchising front since they appeared on ABC’s “Shark Tank” last May.

The shoot that fateful October afternoon wasn’t another national TV gig. Their new staff videographer was filming a quirky T+C promo to support Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I met a couple more new staffers of what is now called Tom+Chee Worldwide, LLC, and wistfully mentioned to founding wives Jenn Quackenbush and Jenny Rachford that I was on the job market and hoped they would keep me in mind the next time the corporate office was hiring. Fast forward: I started writing press releases for Tom+Chee two days later and now am on staff in their marketing department.

Wow. I get paid to write. About food. And small business. And entrepreneurs. The things I've blogged about here for the last four years.

Funny, making money has never been my goal for this blog. But it has prompted me to get more involved in my local food community and led to friendships and experiences that are priceless.

Speaking of food and community, I will take this opportunity to mention two upcoming events I'm particularly excited about.

Next Monday (1/13/14) Maribelle's is hosting another "Food Fight." Inspired by the TV show "Knife Fight," it's part competition, part potluck, and a great opportunity to mix and mingle with local chefs and food lovers in a casual setting. The first one, in November, drew a great crowd, so get there early. Cost is $10, or *$15 if you'd like to compete/judge (open to both professionals and home cooks). Bring a dish to share if you're so inclined, but it is not required. You can purchase cocktails, wine and beer. MadTree Brewery is bringing some new beers you can try, and a growing list of local farmers and purveyors – including Carriage House Farm, Napoleon Ridge Farm, Brooks Meats, and Butcher Bettie's – are contributing ingredients for the mystery baskets competitors will have to cook with. In addition, Chris Weist of Cincy Sharp will be on hand to sharpen your knives (just $1 per inch). Fourteen names from the $15 pot will be drawn and those folks will be randomly assigned to either cook or judge. There are two initial battle rounds of three cooks each, followed by a head-to-head match between the winners, and Chef Josh Campbell, who won the whole she-bang in November, gets to defend his title. For more details, check the facebook event page. *ETA: Cost has been changed to $10 for all.

The following Saturday (1/18/14) Slow Food Cincinnati is hosting a potluck of a different ilk, a brunch and brainstorming session from 10:30 to 1:00 at the Deeper Roots Coffee roastery in Mt. Healthy, where we had a great turnout for our tour last year. I've loved being on the Slow Food Cincinnati board during the past year and am looking forward to even more exciting events for our chapter in the future. If you care about local, sustainably raised, and delicious food, please join us and share your suggestions about what you'd like to see us do in 2014. More details here.

I hope to get back to blogging on a more regular basis this year. But you can always find me sharing info, events, and food adventures on my facebook page. It's an exciting time for food in Cincinnati, and I'm thrilled to be part of it in my own little way!

From the bottom of my aubergine heart, I thank all the friends – old and new, near and far – who I've met thanks to this blogging thing. Your inspiration and appreciation mean more than you know, especially after a year like I had in 2013. But I have a feeling awesome things are in store. After all, it seems I've finally found my hot dog stand.

xoxo, eggy