What I Learned This Week: #233

Monday, March 7 – Sunday, March 20, 2022

The Week in Words: Covering two weeks in this post, and I’m still having a bit of trouble just putting week one into perspective. There was a LOT of minutiae that nevertheless made me quite happy. Silly stuff, really, made up most of the week, like eating Avril Bleh hotdogs all week with my eggs for breakfast, eating lunch with a college friend who was in town for a work event, and walking home through one of the last snow showers of winter. The highlight was a Yola concert (see below) and the juiciest part was a couple fighting at the bar (obviously, see below).

The Week in Music: Newish, genre-defying artist Yola played Cincinnati last week. I’ve been a fan since her first 2020, Grammy nominated album. In fact, I had planned to see her on her 2020 tour with friends in North Carolina. The pandemic upended that, and I thought is was poetic that one of my first shows “post” pandemic was Yola. I like her music because she’s a story teller and I can hear Dolly Parton’s influence. She put on a lovely show.

The Week in Margarita Drama: Friday of week one, that snow shower was blowing in and I decided on a whim, to grab a margarita at my home away from home kitchen, the Taqueria. Well. What a choice. At the bar and clearly way ahead of me on the tequila initiative, were a couple of my acquaintances, friends of friends. We’re all neighborhood folks, and soon enough, the friends we had in common had joined us. And then…the woman decided it was time to launch into a story of something her boyfriend had done to her on vacation that she found rude. She wanted to “tell the truth” to all of us. I should note, none of us asked for the truth.

It became clear very quickly that her story was striking a nerve with the boyfriend. He stormed off and for another 20 minutes we got to hear more of “the truth” from her. Finally, she headed back to her apartment. (She was offered safe haven at our mutual friends apartment if things went south.) Taking a deep breath after her departure, we had a great chat about how fascinating it is to watch couples fight in public. I want to seem like I don’t want to listen, but I really want to pull up a bowl of popcorn and watch and listen intently.

The Day in Pi/Pie: Yes! Though I work in a decidedly not math based office (lawyers!), we went with the Pie pun on March 14 (π, approximately equal to 3.14159) Pie Day. People brought in, and we ate, pie, a lot of pie. We had two quiches (which we called egg pie), but the rest of the pies were sweet tooth heaven! While there were some generic store bought pies, some folks made the effort to stop at real bakeries, and some folks made the effort to make their own pie. I was hyped up on sugar all day, crashed at my desk at 4, and made damn sure to eat a salad for dinner.

The Week in Musical Theater: This week the Temptations Jukebox musical, Ain’t Too Proud, rolled into town. The show got great reviews on Broadway and apparently only shut down due to pandemic related casting issues. Filled with great Temptation hits, plus an appearance from Motown’s other big group, The Supremes, the music and the story intertwine in such an uplifting way, the crowd was on it’s feet before the final song even started, clapping and cheering. A super fun show.

The Week in Soccer/Real Football: The home club FC Cincinnati came into town on the heels of a road win. The smallish crowd on a chilly, damp day, cheered the team onto a 3-1 victory, just their second win at home. The team played well the entire match, not flagging in the second half as has been their sad, sad tendency. It was a thrilling victory.

Also, I was a few minutes late meeting my friend to head to the match. I told her I was going to tell her why I was late without actually telling her why I was late. I said, “I’ll give you a dollar if you can find the FC scarf I bought last year.” LOL! It’s in my apartment somewhere even though my time-consuming search didn’t find it.

FCC Wins!

What I Learned This Week: #232

Monday, February 28 – Sunday, March 6, 2022

The Week in Renewal: My birthday was this week, and more than New Year’s, my birthday is my reset day. If I’m going to make a change, say, trying to shed some pandemic pounds, that starts after my birthday week. Yes, I celebrate the whole week. Why not? I can’t possibly squeeze the thrill of completing another year into a single day! And, though I don’t always take off from work on my birthday, I have done so during both of my pandemic birthdays, and I’ve actually found it to be therapeutic. Maybe I’ll take my birthday off every year.

The Week in Dining: I ate out all week like I didn’t even own a kitchen. Highlights –

Monday: Bolognese Night at Nicola’s, a Monday night neighborhood tradition for years. I went by myself because no one I know wants to go out on Monday night. Not that asked anyone. Sometimes, actually, a lot of the time, I prefer to sit by myself with my book. It was a great kickoff to the week.

Tuesday: Seafood Posole at Mita’s. I’ve been obsessed with posole over the last several weeks. Mita’s is always excellent…chef Jose Salazar is nominated for a James Beard Award this year, and the posole was no exception. I’ll have to redouble my efforts.

Wednesday: Octopus, Squash Gnocchi, Fatoush Salad and Beef Short Ribs at Abigail Street where the menu is made up of Mediterranean small plates. Abigail Street has the tenderest octopus I’ve ever eaten. My dining pal had never eaten it before so it was great to be there when she tried it for the first time and set her expectations so high! She doesn’t even know.

Thursday: A killer Charcuterie Board (the “Mother Board”) and Smoked Duck at Bouquet, a farm to table restaurant just across the river. Sharing a board of food is something I’ve missed. It’s so handsy and not pandemic friendly. In other words, awesome. The smoked duck and barley was also outstanding.

Friday: A random brat, at a random Bock Fest party. It was perfect. Not every meal has to worthy of a magazine spread!

The Week in Bock: Speaking of Bock Fest, back in 2020, Bock Fest was the very last event I (and many of my neighbors) attended before the COVID shutdown. I remember how clever I was drinking Corona beer…a joke That. Did. Not. Age. Well.

In 2022, Bock Fest essentially marked the return to life (mostly) as we knew it. There were a couple changes. The traditional main venue closed during the height of COVID with no plans of reopening. But Bock Fest cannot be held down. The main venue was moved to tents, the parade and the 5K went on, and a new Sausage Queen was crowned. The entire event was both fun and reassuring!

The Week in Art: Speaking of reassuring, one of my birthday gifts to myself was to return to the Art Museum. They’ve been re-opened for months, but I didn’t want to go until I could visit without wearing a mask. That restriction was lifted this week, and off I went.

It took me a little bit to regain my ability to navigate the exhibits (I still missed a couple of my favorites), but every time I came around the corner and saw something familiar it was like running into an old friend. I’ve always been especially enamored by the very large paintings on the second floor, especially Ophelia by Benjamin West, a painting as big as one of the walls in my apartment. When I got to it, I might have actually said out loud, “There you are.” LOL! While I was looking at it, some teenaged kids came into the room and one of them hesitated for just a second before exclaiming, “Whoa!” Yep. I’m glad the Art Museum is back in my life!

Big and emotional.

The Week in Looking Forward: On Saturday it was 75 degrees and sunny. Buds and spring’s first flowers are poking out and spring is in the air. For the summer, I’m hired to work concessions at the Reds stadium when (optimistically) the owners and players come to an agreement and they actually play ball. That should be a fun part time gig with new skills and new people. Also, yes, I’m going to try to shed 5 pounds (God, being an adult is so disheartening sometimes!). But I also bought season tickets to the opera and laid out a series of others shows I plan to see. I’m not planned all the way out until my next birthday, but I’m off to a running start!

What I Learned This Week: #231

Monday, February 21 – Sunday, February 27, 2021

The Week in Beef: I made a stir fry beef recipe that called for 12 oz. of sirloin. Since I’d planned to stay in all week (the theme of the week, it turns out) I decided to splurge for the expensive cut. Well, the butcher was having none of it. He asked me what I was making with it and suggested I try a cut called Teres Major. I don’t cook a lot of beef at home, I have been cooking for a long, long time, and have never heard of this cut, but as soon as he said it out loud, the lady next to me practically swooned in her love for teres major. I bought, cooked it, and had to admit, it is a really great cut of meat. And, to the joy of my frugal heart, clocks in at about $14 per pound, as opposed to $21/pound for sirloin. Suddenly, I’m weirdly looking forward to the next time I crave Beef and Broccoli!

The Week in Sophistication: I stayed in every night this week (M-F) but, since I’m not used to that kind of nesting, I got a little stir crazy. On Thursday, a cold and rainy night, I craved a glass of deep, dark red wine. I just wanted to leave my place for a little bit, so I headed to the new wine shop on my block to see what they could do.

Hart & Cru has just been open for a couple of months, and all their marketing suggests that the place is too expensive for me to make regular trips. Their wine shop seems to cater to bottle $50 and up and I’m a $20-$24 a bottle of wine girl. I especially love to find an under $15 bargain and this is not the place to make such a discovery. But, for one glass, and to get out of the house, I was willing to pony up. I found a red wine, a modest pour for $14, and not exactly what I was looking for, but close enough. The staff was friendly. The sound system, while too loud for the number of people, sounded great as the staff played actual albums. They have a small selection of food and I can see myself being the old lady who comes in and asks for the cheapest glass of wine and a bowl of soup!

The Week in Community: A buddy of mine runs a community organization, Spring in Our Steps, dedicated to preserving the history and reclaiming alleys, sidewalks, and steps of the downtown corridor. Yes, that is a niche interest, but he does great work that I support. This week he had a fundraiser at a local brewery, Listermann, across from Xavier University. Unbeknownst to my friend, Xavier basketball had a home game that overlapped the fundraiser. The place was packed. A bunch of basketball fans who bought the special dark beer contributed 10% of the sale to the cause. I love that!

The Week in Cheap: The charity drinking in the afternoon led to a marathon of drinking at various spots, a friendly bar crawl and something I haven’t done in quite a while. I faired pretty well, in my opinion. Our last stop was at the Drinkery, one of the bars twenty-somethings fill up every weekend. Me and my friend are WAY to old to be in the Drinkery on a Saturday night, and we were not there long. Two things struck me. First, the place was dead at 9:45 but there was a line at the door shortly after 10. And second, we order the 16 oz. Miller and a shot special…$9 for three of those. Holy Cow! That’s a deal! I had one and went home! LOL!

What I Learned This Week: #230

Monday, February 14 – Sunday, February 20, 2022

The Week in Dining: I had a weird dining experience at Khora this week. I’m a big fan of the food they serve which focuses on very good ingredients often prepared in unexpected ways. The food is pricey, but worth it, especially combined with the laid back, friendly staff.

This week a me and friend immensely enjoyed the starters to the evening, a really nice beef tartare, and a burnt carrot salad. Both were outstanding. Then came the pasta dishes. The Bucatini pasta with cannellini beans and chorizo jam was, as expected, was delicious, packed with flavor and tossed in a brothy sauce. The Rigatoni, however, was one of the worst dishes I’ve ever had out at a nice restaurant. They dish was dry, bland, and worst, the rigatoni wasn’t cooked through. It wasn’t al dente, it was raw. We couldn’t eat it. When the waitress came to clear our plates, we told her our pasta issue. She seemed more surprised than concerned, but said she would take it off the bill.

Then two things happened in quick succession. We realized she didn’t take anything off the bill, not even the dessert, and we decided we would pay anyway. I’ve spent the week trying to figure out why neither of us spoke up and I think we’re just tired of fusses and don’t want to be involved in any, even if they are legitimate. Anyway, the type of mistakes Khora made, both in service and cooking, suggest they won’t be in business that much longer. And that’s a shame.

The Week in the Gurgle: A good chunk of my work team was out on Thursday with what they all classified as a stomach flu. Once we had clarified that it wasn’t COVID I spent the rest of the day wondering how this illness missed me. And then, around 4, my stomach gurgled. I’m old and my stomach makes all kinds of noises, but this gurgle got my attention. Worthy of preventative measures or not, I went home, ate chicken soup, bundled up and slept through the night. Woke up fine and gurgle free.

The Week in Cheap Pockets: Lured by the promise of 50% off sale items, I clicked on an email for Avalanche Clothing. I do not need clothes and don’t (generally) buy things just to buy them, but then I saw the picture of the two piece pajama set and the pants had pockets. Pockets in women’s pajama bottoms is unnervingly rare for a pocket lover like myself, yet there I was, staring at the holy grail of pjs. I clicked and bought. I don’t know if it was a good deal, but it makes me happy.

The Week in Kettles: For the past several months I’ve really been into hot tea. There’s a local tea shop that has interesting flavors. A tea made with hot peppers has been fun to drink on cold nights, and they keep me supplied with my traditional Early Grey and single estate Assam. While I enjoy the tea, I know I’m missing the rituals of tea drinking, most significantly in how I boil water. I do it in a sauce pan. It works fine, obviously, but I decided I needed an electric kettle.

I wanted to try an inexpensive one to see if I liked it. People at work told me they swear by their $20 kettles from Walgreens and Walmart so when I bought a cheap one at TJ Maxx I thought I was set. I turned it on and could hear it doing its thing and then I walked away (I live in a small place, so I was not far). When I next put my eye on the kettle, expecting it to have auto-shut off, it was shaking violently on the counter. Holy Cow. I unplugged it and felt like a superhero saving the world. (When you live by yourself you can overestimate your actions as much as you want.) Undeterred, I bought a second kettle for the bargain price of $16 and so far, so good. I feel like a much classier tea drinker.

The Week in Genevar: I’m reading an old-fashioned crime novel, The Snow Leopard by Sigmund Miller. It takes place in the late 1950’s in Amsterdam and in one of the scenes the main character orders Genevar. I did not know this drink so a made a special trip to Japp’s bar to get educated. I read the name of the drink from the book, completely butchering the pronunciation, but they knew what I was talking about and, the actually had a bottle of it on the shelf! Genevar is a Dutch Gin made with rye, malted barley or corn, like whiskey, but it’s clear and it’s essential flavor is juniper and other spices. They poured me a taste. I found it more like fernet than gin, but I kind of liked it.

I also like ordering drinks that the characters in the books I’m reading order. The last time was a 1940’s Philip Marlowe detective novel. He and I both order gimlets while we were together through the mystery.

What I Learned This Week: #229

Monday, February 7 –

(Super Bowl) Sunday, February 13, 2021

The Week in Broadway: The second of my Broadway Across America shows rolled into town this week, the classic My Fair Lady. Despite the excellence of the music, I was hesitant to see the show because of the wildly out of date sexism in the way Professor Higgins treats Eliza Doolittle. Still, it was written in a different time and for a different audience, so I was going to roll with it.

I was very pleased that, with very minor tweaking, this version of the show becomes a story about Eliza as she overcomes her circumstances to become a very capable women. Higgins and Eliza are closer in age in this production than the somewhat gross age difference between Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn in the movie. The relationship between the two in this show is more like George Bernard Shaw intended in the source play Pygmalion, and the result seems very modern. The cast was also energetic, something I don’t always see in the traveling shows, and the audience, a near full house on a Wednesday night, was highly appreciative. When Freddy finished singing “The Street Where You Live,” and as the audience was applauding, the lady behind me gushed, “I just love that song.” It’s one of several great ones and playing Eliza as a strong character should keep this show around for a long time to come.

The Week in Pre-Gaming – Apparel: The week before the Super Bowl was the most Orange and Black I have ever seen. People pulled out their old gear and went nuts buying new stuff. I walked into a sporting good store and they had pushed all the other team merchandise out of the way to make room from Bengals items. The store was packed. The checkout line was long, and, on the Saturday before the game, the racks were getting rather bare. Around town, shoppers could find an array of non-NFL sanctioned items as plenty of empty parking lots around the city and suburbs became homes to pop up tents loaded with knock off merch. I bought a Joe Burrow scarf from a random guy on the corner standing with an armload of them. It’s a good scarf!

The Week in Pre-Gaming – Mood: Besides dressing up, we all got very, very happy. Despite all the weirdness of our world and the blah mood we’ve been under for 2 years, this week Cincinnati perked up. As I walked home on Saturday night, downtown was busier than usual for a cold, Covid-era night. The streets were filled with groups of people shouting Who Dey at each other. It was magical.

To add to general atmosphere, several buildings around town bathed their buildings in orange light. From Union Terminal and TQL stadium to the north, down to the Courthouse, the Great American Insurance building, and the Proctor & Gamble towers all showed their team support.

Phone picture does not do the orange lighting justice.

The Week in Pre-Gaming – Shit Show: On game day, downtown was astir earlier than normal and the bars were already mostly full by 3 pm (for the 6:30 game). I took a walk around thinking I could grab a beer at one of my local favorites, but they were all full and they were full with people I didn’t know. A whole bunch of non-regulars had appeared and were ready to party. Around 4 I walked though the Banks area where the City had set up a few screens for an outdoor watch party. That place was packed with lines to get in the bars (bars that no one was leaving). There didn’t seem to be enough food trucks or beer vendors for the size of the crowd and I was very happy that I had a friend’s house to watch the game at in comfort.

The Week in the Super Bowl: And finally, the game. My Bengals lost, but they gave us the best season and the best run up to a game we’ve had in a long time. They gave us the greatest week to be a Cincinnatian, as if we needed an excuse. This town and our extended Cincinnati fans know what’s up. Plus, we’ve all got new gear! Who Dey in 2023!!!

What I Learned This Week: #228

Monday, January 24 – Sunday, February 6, 2022

Two weeks…the weather and the Bengals are throwing me off. I don’t mind the weather, and I’m loving the post-season Bengals run, but my routine, oy, it’s out the door.

The Week in All the Weather: Two weather invents make the minutiae news this week. The first was a 3 inch snow storm which was predicted as a light dusting. As it continued to snow all day, the prediction was that the snow would stop “soon.” They clearly meant “eventually.”

That was a small time event compared to the second storm a couple days ago that started shyly with a warm day of rain. That warmth and rain gave way to an ice storm before settling into snow event. It isn’t often that I check my phone app to see it is both 60 degrees and sunny with a winter storm watch on the horizon. That’s a lot of weather. My office was closed for two full days, as was most of downtown. Finally, on late Friday afternoon, a couple places were able to open for business. With a layer of ice under the snow, walking was a bit treacherous. Still, loved the chance to get out the winter gear and drink with neighborhood friends! By Sunday the sun returned with temps in the high 30’s. Except for the snow mountains in parking lots, it’ll all be a memory by mid-week.

All the weather

The Week in Sportsball: When you live in a small-ish city and your team is going to the Super Bowl, even people who don’t care one iota about sports become vaguely aware that something big is happening. The Bengals won the AFC championship and I gotta tell you, it seems to me that the town is seconds away from a big effusive, football-themed, city-wide Bollywood style dance routine. My co-worker, who watches zero sports gave me a “Go Bengals” salute before and after the win. (Truly, the salute is “who dey” not go Bengals, but I’m giving him 1,000% credit for making the attempt.) The local news ran a montage of people all over the country watching newly crowned local saint Evan McPherson kick the winning field goal. I teared up. (It was a beautiful montage.) Our Mayor is all over national media selling the city as the best one in America (he means it!) I can buy shirts, and cookies, and even Bengal striped pancakes for brunch. Cincinnati Public Schools have announced the day after the “Bengals Super Bowl Win” is a school holiday. The playoffs started with fans asking, “Why Not Us?” The Team picked up on that and they say, “It Is Us.” It is. And it’s blast.

The Week in Swiss Steak: I’ve been seeing cube steak at butcher shops the last couple of weeks and I decided to revisit a childhood recipe, Swiss Steak. My mom used either cube steak or round steak to make either a brown sauced mushroom dish, or a red tomato and onion dish. My Mom says she mostly used round steak, but she pounded it. I remember the pounding! Cube steak is a similar cut that the butcher tenderizes. We sometimes referred to the meat as minute steaks. They were cheap, and could be tough, but if cooked right, delicious and tender. Cooked right means a quick sauté, and a long braise in the oven.

I was surprised that I couldn’t find either the brown or red version in my recipe collection, but I settled on Alton Brown’s Swiss Steak because it looked familiar. It was. This last wave of the pandemic and the snow and the cold has made me a little nostalgic. I grabbed a nice bottle of wine from the local shop and snuggled up to a plate of Swiss Steak and rice. P.S. We would have eaten Minute Rice with our minute steak. I make “real” rice. Truly, nostalgia can only go so far. LOL!

The Week in Stock: It is a known fact among my friends, that I’m kind of a snob about chicken broth/stock. The two words are used pretty much interchangeably by home cooks, though technically, stock is made with bones and broth is made with meat and vegetables. I am usually talking stock but I almost always say broth. But what I’m really pushing is the idea that everyone should be making their own.

Anyone who has talked food with me for my than 5 minutes will hear me championing homemade chicken broth. I do so with the type of fervor you might find from someone whose parents were killed by a rogue can of store bought broth. I’m a zealot on this issue. I realize people are humoring me and I’m cool with that because every now and then, someone will make broth. And I know this, because they make sure they tell me about it. I love when people tell me they made their own broth. I like that they want to brag on themselves a little. Also, it’s great to give someone a positive experience from a distance. Cooking is love.

The Week in L’ Amour: I’ve always found a great source of great reading material to come from bartenders. Over the years, I’ve gotten several recommendations that have been terrific. My Braxton bartender recommended Last of the Breed by Louis L’ Amour, a book he said was one of his favorites because he and his Mom have read it, one of the few titles they have in common. I’ve not read any of the prolific author L’ Amour. He’s known for westerns, but in the early 80’s he wrote a cold war themed book that played on the main character’s American Indian heritage (so kind of a western?). I ordered the book used, and it was literally falling apart in my hands. That was the book’s only challenge. It’s a simple page-turner where America, and especially an American Indian, is superior. Fun.

This book will self destruct in …

What I Learned This Week: #227

Monday, January 17 – Sunday, January 23, 2022

The Week in Oysters: Oysters, and seafood in general here in the landlocked heart of the country is fine, just fine. Deep fried cod (and catfish) can be very good, of course, because batter and fry pretty much anything and you’ve got a culinary win. But freshly prepared seafood, especially seafood meant to be eaten rare or raw suffer greatly in the plane ride over. I try to treat myself to restaurants that spend money to get the freshest seafood possible to Cincinnati. They charge a premium, but man, sometimes I want a decent raw oyster.

A few months ago a new seafood based, and especially oyster forward restaurant, Pearlstar, opened on Vine St. Sadly, it replaced one of my favorite pizza, Italian nosh restaurants, but I must persevere and go forth. Pearlstar has a nice selection of oysters, at $3 each! They are the best oysters I’m currently finding in the city. I also had an open-faced shrimp sandwich accessorized with aioli, plenty of herbs, and a few potato chips for extra salt and texture. I liked it a lot. I’m glad to have a decent safety net for my serious seafood craving.

A Midwest Plethora of Oysters

The Week in Ear Ache My Eye (or, More Accurately, My Foot): The insurance company denied coverage for the name brand ear drops prescribed to to my Mom. The key word here is ‘ears’. The drops we had to settle for are branded to cure athletes foot, and, we found out while going over the directions, jock itch. I told her that her ears may not get better, but she might get the urge to go to the gym and shower with a bunch of beefy guys. She said she might consider that.

The Week in the Humble Bagel: A few times a year, I take my Mom to the good bagel store, Marx, where she buys a dozen or so to throw in the freezer. She eats them eat here and there for breakfast over several weeks. We went to Marx this week for one of her stock-ups and, for the first time in a long while I bought myself 5 bagels (one for breakfast for each workday.)

I have to confess that I did this because I had one brick of Philadelphia Cream Cheese left over from the holidays. I felt like a Queen eating breakfast all week casually schmearing on one of the hardest to find condiments of the holiday season. My favorites are pumpernickel, “everything”, and sunflower seed. It was a good and simple week for breakfast.

The Week in Bengals Fans: Those of use who haven’t seen a Bengals playoff win in 31 years, were pretty happy with last weeks win, but this week’s playoff win has unleashed a wave of astonishment. We. Can. Not. Believe. It. Many long time fans had to wake up on Sunday and recheck the 19-16 win over the Titans. We are stunned, amazed, and besides ourselves. Super fun!

The Week in Bengals Non-Fans: On my way into work Monday, there was a man in the lobby waiting for one of the offices to open. I couldn’t place his accent exactly, but somewhere in the middle East is my best guess. I asked if he was a Bengals fan and if he had watched the game. He smiled and said no, but, and he gestured to his head and then to his chest and said, “But all the people wear the hats and shirts.” He said he liked that. I laughed and told him a lot of that stuff hadn’t been worn in quite a while and it was nice to wear all of it for the home team.