2015

After wracking my brain about what 2015’s theme could be for the blog, a friend came to me and proposed an idea that is “as much for me as it is you.”

I’ve been on a year-long journey with Weight Watchers (which, in all actuality, will be an ongoing lifestyle for me for the rest of my life) and, with using the same kind of format for the past two years, I decided it’s about time to take a different direction — a direction that doesn’t necessarily focus on food, but instead things to do around the city that don’t require the same amount of calories: places like museums, musical/theatre performances, parks, the arts, as well as “good” dining and food-related options.*

Thankfully, Blogmate for 2015 just “requires a footnote and companionship.” But thanks to her, I now have a Calories Sold Separately theme for 2015 that will coincide with a similar format followed in years past, because “You CAN get food or beer, but it isn’t the only reason you’re there.”

Happy New Year, everyone. I hope you enjoy my new journey as much as I do!

*Disclaimer: because of cost and other factors, I may not necessarily get to each of these on a weekly basis. Instead, I will simply highlight a new subject each week.

Weeks 47 – 52

I know this is a pretty cheap way to summarize what I’ve not yet written about to end the year, but I’m sure you can all agree that the holidays have been pretty crazy busy. Not to mention that I started a new job in addition to my full-time job, which has decreased my free time exponentially in the past month. I should also mention that I have a mere 11 hours to complete all 52 posts. I’ll keep this summary short[er] since I can be verbose, so here we go:

Week 47 – Betta’s Italian Oven
BK and I ate at Betta’s, a place I’d been wanting to try for a long time, before a Xavier game, to which we got season tickets this year. Betta’s was pretty awesome. I loved the place and atmosphere, and thought the food was pretty good, even if our service wasn’t amazing. I will definitely be back.

Week 48 – Delicio Coal Fired Pizza
Delicio was stop #5 on Tour de Pizzannati. I liked it. The wings were amazing, and the pizza was good. Not amazing, but good. Pizza is like French fries to me. Or ice cream. Or money: regardless, I’ll take it, but there is certainly a spectrum.

Pizza places ranked (in order):
1) Strong’s
2) Fireside Pizza
3) Red Rose
4) Adriatico’s
5) Delicio

Week 49 – Listermann Brewing
I’d never been to Listermann’s tap room until recently, where we pre-gamed before a Xavier game (it is directly across the street from Cintas on Dana Avenue). With only recently becoming more of a “beer drinker” (still a stretch), I have a new found respect for Listermann and its many amazing beers. Also, I love that they have a pre-game with either Renegade Food Truck or Fireside Pizza Wagon before Xavier home games. Big fan.

Week 50 – Otto’s
Craving a new place for brunch, BK and I headed to Otto’s in Mainstrasse, where I ordered biscuits and gravy (topped with house ground chicken sausage gravy with poached eggs) and a potato cake, while he got the crab hash (lump crab and potato hash, topped with poached eggs and a spicy sour cream sauce) and house-made goetta. Brunch was quickly served as we sat at the bar, and we both loved what we got. Especially the potato cake.

Week 51 – Nest
Beware that Nest’s hours online (and on Yelp) are incorrect. Thinking I had until 7pm a few days before the holiday, I arrived at 6:45pm to a dark building. We left pretty peeved, but still came back the next chance we had to check out what I’d heard to be a great selection of gift options. On the lookout for Cincinnati-related ornaments (seriously, nowhere around here has them, except one vendor at Crafty Supermarket), I didn’t find what I set out to, but still saw a number of good gift ideas for the future. Pretty friendly service, too. I will likely be back.

Week 52 – Brij Mohan
Having heard a number of outstanding things about this vegetarian North Indian restaurant, BK and I finally had the opportunity to try it since we were in the area (doesn’t happen often). The “vegetarian” categorization didn’t faze me, as I eat paneer (cheese) dishes anyway. I was more concerned for BK, though, except I got this message earlier today: “Just had [Brij Mohan leftovers for] lunch. That place was realllllly good.” We both agreed the naan was exceptional, too. We both cannot wait to go back to try more from the menu (especially the apps and sweets). Brij Mohan is absolutely one of our new favorites.

Happy New Year, everyone! Be safe and set out to see and eat all the great things in 2015!

Today’s the Day

The Growler House has been a long time coming, but the past week has proved that its opening has finally gotten real.

Between training sessions, stopping by to help with final touches, our final staff preview party on Sunday evening, and last night’s private party soft opening, I have been able to bear witness to The Growler House’s transformation from barren retail space to Cincinnati’s fully stocked, functional, and crowded craft brew drinkery.

TGH1 TGH2

TGH will always feature 30 varied local, regional, and national craft beer on tap (with space for 40 total taps). For the first week it is open, all 30 taps will be dedicated to Cincinnati breweries. Most beers will be available in all four sizes: 5-ounce “Benchers,” 12- or 16-ounce glass pours, 32-ounce growlettes, and 64-ounce growlers. Benchers can be purchased individually to create flights, while there will also be happy hour specials.

To stay up to date on the latest specials, goings-on, beers on tap, and beers on deck, check out The Growler House on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

woodgrain_facebook  woodgrain_twitter  woodgrain_instagram

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Weekly+ Recap

The past week and a half has proved to be quite eventful in the realm of all things Cincinnati. It was 10 days of gluttony, which — while it lasted — was pretty awesome, but now I must get back to my regimen of not totally letting myself go.

The Thanksgiving holiday started with our first tryst with Delicio Coal-Fired Pizza* in Montgomery. The following day I had off from taking PTO, so BK and I had lunch (okay, breakfast) at Taste of Belgium, then we visited HOMAGE‘s new store just a block north. Since we have season tickets to Xavier basketball games, we decided to pre-game at Listermann Brewing* where we had a beer and Fireside Pizza Wagon. We then went to the Cintas Center for the game, which we followed by Pleasant Ridge Chili — a Xavier tradition I like to partake in with BK.

Some friends had a birthday get-together the following day (Saturday) at Rhinegeist, where we each had a beer and got to socialize with family. We called it a relatively early night so that we could make our way down to Rhinehaus to watch Liverpool on Sunday morning. But not before I got the two of us our favorite coffee drinks from Coffee Emporium. I really wanted to try a new brunch place after Liverpool’s game, when we found ourselves giving Otto’s* a try. No weekend is complete without getting Sunday carryout, and that time it was from Yat Ka Mein.

Season tickets to Xavier meant that we had tickets for another game the following day, Monday. BK had something else going on, so I offered our second ticket to a friend of mine. We went to FUSIAN before the game at the Cintas Center, which is Weight-Watchers friendly (a necessity for both of us). The rest of the week consisted of meeting a couple of friends from out of town at Neon’s, where we had a beer to catch up, then we went to Quan Hapa for an appetizer, then The Eagle OTR for our main course. Having a half-day on Wednesday before the holiday meant meeting BK at our former favorite lunch spot, Kyoto Japanese Cuisine in Symmes Twp. From there, I picked up a race packet from Bob Roncker’s Running Spot in O’Bryonville, then we went to Myrtle’s Punch House during its soft opening to check out one of my favorite bands, Buffalo Wabs and the Price Hill Hustle. We didn’t stay long, seeing as I had the Thanksgiving Day Race 10K in the morning.

After the race, the rest of Thanksgiving we spent with family, while Black Friday I specifically wanted to avoid the malls. Instead, I went to The Spotted Goose (checking in with my former employer), The Growler House (helping with final touches at my new place of employment), and had lunch with BK at Suzie Wong’s. In the 2.5 years we have been dating, BK and I had been to the movie theater one time. Friday night made number “to,” as we went to Stone Bowl for dinner before seeing Dumb and Dumber To at the Cinemark in Oakely.

Saturday morning we went to Rhinehaus for Liverpool at 10am, and again I got us some breakfast and our favorite coffee drinks from Coffee Emporium. From there, I went to Crafty SupermarketHOMAGE, and MiCA 12/V so that I could get some local Christmas shopping done. (I got some shopping done for myself, too.) Saturday night meant going to MadTree Brewing for a friend’s 30th birthday. Sunday was spent doing a lot of bumming around and putting up Christmas decorations, but it also meant getting Fireside Pizza carryout for the Bengals game, and going to The Growler House to help with finishing touches as well as to enjoy a beer at the staff preview night before Opening Week.

The past week and a half proved just how much there is to do in this city I am so thankful to call home. Between the many great restaurants, breweries, retail stores, and events, there is always so much going on. And as I’ve said, “To say there is nothing to do here is more of a reflection of how unwilling a person is to get out and do things, than it is a reflection of what there actually is to do here.”

*More on this later.

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Bringing New Life to the Neighborhood

Just over two months ago I moved to East Walnut Hills. In the ten or so weeks I’ve been here, I’ve seen a slow trickle of new businesses calling the community* home. Over the next couple of months, we’re going to see the flood gates really burst open, starting with openings at Myrtle’s Punch House, Mardi Gras on Madison, and O Pie O — all located at or near DeSales Corner. Considering the outstanding establishments that already call the Walnut Hillses home (Suzie Wong’s, Parkside Café, Brew House, Fireside Pizza, Café DeSales, Kitchen 452, and a number of existing establishments and retail spaces to name a few), we are experiencing a really exciting time.

When I moved into the neighborhood in mid-September, I knew it was exactly where I was supposed to be. As a lifelong resident and zealot of this great city**, I knew it would be a fun yet daunting task to find the perfect neighborhood for me (and there are 52 of them!). Merely walking to and from DeSales Corner leaves me feeling a love and energy I’ve never felt before, and reaffirms the decision to move here. To be a part of this community — especially during its so-called “renaissance” — is special in a way that is difficult to describe. And I’m not one for being speechless.

Cheers to The Growler House!

Cheers to The Growler House!

64 oz. growlers at The Growler House

64 oz. growlers at The Growler House

Finding a part-time job (in addition to my 9-to-5) was something that I really wanted to do, and I am so unbelievably fortunate that I found one in my neighborhood (five blocks north of my place, to be exact). The ability to work a couple of shifts per week at The Growler House isn’t just an opportunity to socialize and make friends (though we all know there will be plenty of that), but what I consider to be the most important aspect is that it will give me the opportunity to truly be an advocate for this historic, beautiful, charming, picturesque, walkable neighborhood. Being a resident allows me to advocate for and push for the advancement of the community, but working for a neighborhood establishment, in my opinion, will afford me the opportunity to promote the neighborhood to people who don’t live in the area, to support the success of a local business, and to give back by providing my “service” to the community.

I am incredibly excited and fortunate to be working for the owners and GM with bringing The Growler House to life. I have never been a part of opening a local business, and it has proven to be a motivating, energizing, and exciting journey, much like moving to East Walnut Hills ten weeks ago. More than anything, it has been invigorating to bring new life into the neighborhood.

The Growler House opens on Tuesday, December 2. Regular hours will be:
Tuesday – Thursday, 3pm to 9pm
Friday, 3pm to 11pm
Saturday, 12pm – 11pm
Sunday, 12pm – 6pm

Follow The Growler House on social media:
woodgrain_facebook   woodgrain_twitter   woodgrain_instagram

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Week 46 – Strong’s Brick Oven Pizzeria

Week 46 is also Pizzannati Tour Stop #4, as we continue our venture for greater Cincinnati’s Best Cheese Pizza. We could very easily stop here and have had the best in the area. Alas, we trudge on…

Strong's Brick Oven Pizzeria – Exterior

Strong’s Brick Oven Pizzeria – Exterior

Top: cheese pizza; bottom: large pizza with vodka cream sauce (half extra cheese; half pepperoni and bacon)

Top: cheese pizza; bottom: large pizza with vodka cream sauce (half extra cheese; half pepperoni and bacon)

Swarles, BK, The Sisters, and I met at Strong’s, where we were seated in what we commented felt like was inside a house (in quaint Northern Kentucky fashion). The interior was, of course, great, and our service was pretty great, too. We decided against appetizers and went right for the good great stuff. BK’d had Strong’s a number of times previously and couldn’t recommend the vodka cream sauce enough. So we went with one standard large cheese pizza and one large pizza with vodka cream sauce — half with extra cheese; half with pepperoni and bacon. And ranch. I can’t forget the ranch.

Guys.

This is the Pizzannati tour stop to end all tour stops. From here on, all pizza places will be compared to Strong’s. Is was that good. And we have had some seriously good pizza so far. The rankings:

1) Strong’s
2) Fireside Pizza
3) Red Rose
4) Adriatico’s

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Midweek Must Mention – Liberty’s Bar and Bottle

We recently met up with some friends who live near Liberty’s Bar and Bottle, one of Cincinnati’s newest drinkeries that opened its doors not quite two months ago. Before the weather broke for the colder, we were there one day that was sunny and still pretty warm. Therefore, the front windows of the place were open, which made for a really great atmosphere and experience.

We parked a few blocks away on Main Street downtown, as the parking situation isn’t what you’d call ideal. But the trek was worth the opportunity to see Liberty’s, its new space, hang out with friends, and get a couple of drinks in the process.

Liberty's Bar and Bottle

Liberty’s Bar and Bottle

Liberty's Bar and Bottle

Liberty’s Bar and Bottle

I got Cava (a champagne-like Spanish sparkling wine) followed by a pumpkin beer, while BK, of course, got a couple of decent beers he ordered of the chalkboard menu. The taps are often rotating, so the menu changes frequently. Liberty’s also sells beer by the bottle, which BK really liked, too.

We really liked this place and, if the parking situation was a bit better, we’d go back more, but we’ll go back regardless.

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Week 45 – Tellers of Hyde Park

I have a confession. BK and I went to Tellers for the first time within the past year but I didn’t write about it. I didn’t love my first experience and I think that was because — due to my current eating habits — I am not able to eat as much food in one sitting, and I found myself to be uncomfortably full. That’s all I could think about, which tainted my overall impression of our first Tellers experience.

We were given a gift card to Tellers by my mom as a sort of congratulations for moving in together, so we decided to give it a second try. Thank goodness we did, as our second tryst far outweighed the first.

Soy Glazed Salmon

Soy Glazed Salmon

Sausage Bolognese Pizza

Sausage Bolognese Pizza

I wanted to start with Chop Salad, while BK started with his usual beer. He got Soy Miso Glazed Salmon, and I ordered the Sausage Bolognese Pizza [with ranch]. All of it was very, very good, and from my first experience at Tellers, I’d been wanting to try the pizza. For good reason!

Our service has been outstanding each time, and I have loved the atmosphere sitting both inside and outside. I am glad I got to go back for a much better experience the second time and will happily return in the future — hopefully for brunch on the back patio in warmer months.

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Week 44 – Deep India

Located on McMillan Street, Deep India is another Indian restaurant that makes up Clifton’s notorious conglomerate of North Indian restaurants; another Indian restaurant BK and I thought necessary to try, especially as we have recently made eating Indian food on Sunday nights a sort of tradition.

Deep India’s setup is perfect for ordering carry-out, as its no-frills interior — truly no frills, as everyone but a few people seated when I went appeared to be waiting for carryout orders — lends itself to doing just that. And seeing as the parking situation isn’t ideal, the setup is also great for being dropped off out front, then being picked up the same upon getting and paying for our food.

shahi paneer (front); chicken tikka masala (back)

Shahi paneer (front); chicken tikka masala (back)

BK got his standard Chicken Tikka Misala, which he seemed to really like, I got my new favorite dish, Shahi Paneer, and we got garlic naan, which is a staple across the board. I recently got Shahi Paneer from Delhi Palace, a new Indian restaurant in town, and fell in love. Delhi Palace truly does it the best, so maybe I should only get it there and continue getting my staple dish (Paneer Makhani) everywhere else. Everywhere else, it just doesn’t quite compare.

To be fair, as with most to-go food, it isn’t quite as good and fresh as eating it inside the restaurant. So, while Deep India does to-go well, I think Indian food is best suited to eat it fresh and in the restaurant from where you get it. If and when we find ourselves jonesing for to-go Indian, Deep India is certainly an option, but I would love to try eating it in instead.

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Week 43 – Coffee Emporium

My coffee “expertise” goes a little something like this: the more creamer, the better.

That being said, it’s easy to draw the conclusion that maybe I’m not the most discerning coffee drinker. Or even at all knowledgeable. But I know what I like and what I don’t like, and I love me some Coffee Emporium.

My first tryst with this Cincinnati institution happened at Yelp’s Summer Bucket List Bash this past summer, when I was fortunate to try the life-changing Glacial Mocha. It was truly monumental in my coffee(ish) drinking experience, and it has opened my eyes to all the possibilities that Coffee Emporium provides to its lucky patrons. BK is a coffee guy through and through, so I think he’s really enjoyed taken advantage of my new found love for a coffeehouse. I mean, I make the trek around the corner to Coffee Emporium for a bagel, Glacial Mocha, muffin, and mocha to fuel up for early morning soccer at Rhinehaus every weekend; of course he’s a fan. (The East Hyde Park location is almost as awesome.)

They got it right the first time!

They got it right the first time!

And, to think, they even spelled my name right one time. I can imagine the inner-monologue going on in the barista’s head like this:
“Linsey. L-I-N-S-E-Y. Wait, what kind of moron would spell her name that way? I’ll get it right the second time.” Ah, well. You had it right the first time.

Coffee Emporium is so much more than just coffee, and that is why I love it. But don’t be fooled: it does that well, too.

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