What I Learned This Week: #226

Monday, January 10 – Sunday, January 16, 2022

The Week in Food, Drink, and Neighborhood Regulars: On Thursday, I had an unintended weeknight, downtown walkabout, working in a couple stops on my way home from work. First I popped into Mid-City for a Gin and Tonic and their tempura battered brussels sprouts. Mid-City’s menu is very small and it’s made up of small plates. Everything they make is delicious, but they are getting a reputation for their tempura batter, of all things. The batter is shatteringly crunchy and light and loud and they serve a tempura battered vegetable of the day. The small plate of brussels, with the aioli drizzle, made for an easy, relatively healthy light snack. Most nights, just that, and maybe a second cocktail, would qualify as a light dinner But Omicron made me not want to linger and I decided to head home. Taking the long way, something made me stop into Nicola’s before I called it a night.

I had planned to get a salad, but their eggplant parmesan roulade was too good to pass up. It’s a small serving, designed to go with other offerings on the menu, but it worked for me as a stand alone without making me feel like a stuffed pig after my surprise progressive dinner.

But just as good was running into one of the neighborhood bartenders I’d lost track of. Thomas is a good dude, last seen slinging beer at Braxton. I would pass him often on my nightly walks while he was out on his smoke breaks. I’ve got a book he recommended in my “to read” pile. As I finished my eggplant, he offered me an after dinner Orange-Chocolate-Cello liquor, a liquor he makes for the restaurant. The creamy drink served as my dessert for a more filling night of food than I’d planned. Lovely.

The Week in Bangs: I don’t care a lot about my hair. I can’t even see more than half of it. But what I do care about is my bangs. I see them, and I want them cut right. I had a stylist downtown for a few years who did the best job, but he moved to the suburbs. Since I try not to drive if I don’t have to, I decided I could find a decent haircut at a walkable salon. That might be true, but that was not the case at the salon I chose.

I’m no hairstylist (I don’t even own any hair products), but I do know the basics of what a hair stylist should do to properly cut bangs. Suffice to say, there’s just a little more to it than running a pair of scissors across my eyebrow line. After three haircuts in the new, nearby salon, I knew I would have to get into my car to go to the burbs. My bangs were killing me.

When I walked into the suburban salon, me and Kyle reunited with a big hug. And when he got to the bang part of the haircut, I could tell I was home.

The Week in Football!: My Bengals, oh my Bengals. Their last Superbowl appearance was Superbowl 16 in 1982. I don’t need to call too much attention to this, but I would like to note that the half-time show was Up With People presents a Salute to Motown. A totally different era!

And since that pinnacle, and a one-and-done playoff appearance in 1991, the Bengals have been breaking hearts in Cincinnati. The 31 one year playoff drought, the so-called curse of Bo Jackson, was on every local sports fan’s mind at the Bengals faced off against the Las Vegas Raiders in Cincinnati Saturday night.

All day at work on Friday, everyone was talking about where they would be watching the game. One of my co-workers was going to the game…as a Raiders fan. That caused a sensation! I, however, could only mumble my game plans, as on gameday, I was going to one of my previously bought symphony concerts (see below).

Are you effing kidding me?!?! I cannot remember a Bengals game interfering with January plans. I stayed at home watching until the last minute before I had to head to Music all, the end of the third quarter, with the Bengals up by 10. On my walk over I got a game update from a guy in a Joe Mixon jersey who’d stepped out onto the sidewalk for a smoke. I passed that info to the police officers directing traffic at Music Hall. They were pleased with the update.

I went straight to my seat and as I was pulling out my phone to get updates until the house lights dimmed, I realized the guy in the row behind me was watching the game on his phone. And as I looked around, I could tell there was a strong contingent of Bengal fans in the hall.

As soon as the first piece ended, phones went up and the murmur of relief when through the sports fans, Bengals win 26-19.

The Week in Music: With just a few minutes left in the big game, the house lights dimmed and associate conductor François López-Ferrer, along with violinist Nicola Benedetti, walked onto the stage. Her commanding presence and the opening notes of Mark Simpson’s Violin Concerto were immediately captivating.

The performance of the 40 minute piece, co-commissioned by the CSO, marked its U.S. Premiere. Simpson wrote it during COVID and it is a sprawling, emotional piece, befitting of the times. Benedetti is a charismatic and physical performer. From the quiet, reflective moments, to the frantic battles with the percussionist, and even a bit of humor, she embodied the heart and soul of the music. A real WOW!

But what also struck me, is how much she was enjoying herself. There was a lovely moment toward the end of the piece, just after a prolonged solo, where she and the conductor looked at each other and a big smile swept across her face. It was wonderful.

And speaking of that conductor and joy, López-Ferrer, he was a delight to watch. Stepping in for Maestro Louis Langrée, Lopez-Ferrer conducted Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier Suite as if he was going to jump right off the podium. The restraint he showed conducting the Violin Concerto was replaced by pure, unabashed joy. There was a moment, just as the piece was winding toward the conclusion, where he literally leaned back on the back bar of podium stand and just listened for a few seconds, like he was caught up in the music! His enthusiasm was palpable.

Full recording is not yet available. This is a taste.

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