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Food

Best of the City 2009

Gelato

At Dojo Gelato in Findlay Market, owner Mark Christner makes small batches by hand using local ingredients. Porkopolis (maple gelato with candied bacon) and Lavender Honey are our faves, but we heard a businessman in a natty pinstripe suit declare that he had driven 10 miles out of his way for one scoop of their smoky, sexed-up Dutch Chocolate.
(513) 328-9000


Hot Brown

It has long been known as the perfect hangover food, but even when your head feels fine, the Kentucky hot brown at Kennings Circle K in Mack will pleasure your palate. A thick slice of Texas toast provides a sturdy foundation for thinly sliced turkey and a rich but not overwhelming blanket of melted cheese drizzled with crumbled bacon and diced tomatoes. (513) 574-5613

Bread Pudding

When it comes to recycling food, there are few leftovers more irresistible than bread pudding, and fewer still are more perfect than Primavista’s. Simple yet elegant, rich yet delicate, Executive Chef Chris Prince adheres to a classic preparation of gently spiced, custardy white bread topped with Marsala-soaked raisins on a puddle of house made caramel sauce. (513) 251-6467

Hot Dog

This is a Chicago-style hot dog: One Vienna beef hot dog on a steamed poppy seed bun with two tomato slices, a dill pickle spear, yellow mustard, chopped raw onion, two sport peppers (sort of medium-hot gherkins), celery salt, and a neon green relish referred to as “nuclear relish.” Where does one find one of these delicacies? Head to Hot Doggin It in Montgomery. (513) 831-3644

Vegan Dessert

Melt Eclectic Deli to the rescue! The vegan friendly eatery in Northside offers at least five housemade vegan desserts—including muffins, cookies, and brownies—daily. We even wowed carnivores with the chewy chocolate chip cookies and decadent chocolate pudding. (513) 681-6358

Cup of Coffee

Steve Luckman, owner of Luckman Coffee Company in Mt. Washington and Anderson Twp., knows the secret to a smooth-tasting cup of joe: “You can’t get the beans too hot when you roast them.” His artisan blends come from small estates all over the world. “I try to get beans no one else is using,” he says. His biggest seller: Peg Leg Jim, 60 percent sweet yellow bourbon beans from Brazil, 20 percent Colombian, and 20 percent Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. (513) 231-1040

Pork Belly

Every part of a pig is scrumptious when it’s been bathing in it’s own fat, but none more so than the belly, and nobody does pork belly better than Slims. Chef Joanne Drilling sears it “really hard” before braising it for several hours in apple cider and Herbes de Provence on a mirepoix bed (a fine dice of onions, celery, and carrots). The result is a beautiful crackled char of caramelized skin yielding to an unctuous ooze of meat and fat. And when you’re talking flavor, fat is where it’s at. (513) 681-6500

New Sandwich

Ah, Venezuela. Beauty queens, beaches, oil fields, and arepas. These Venezuelan-style sandwiches have scored a spot in the global olio of lunch offerings at Bootsy’s. The name refers to the bread—actually a savory cornbread. It’s split, dressed with roasted red pepper and cilantro-laced greens, filled with spicy chorizo or pork belly, then topped with a fried egg. Bring on the Plavix! (513) 241-0707

Microbrew

The storied Cincinnati brewing tradition lives on with some tasty microbrews that aren’t always easy to find but always worth the search. At the top of the list, Mt. Carmel Brewing Company’s Nut Brown Ale delivers a rich and assertive wallop of nutty sweetness softened by a smooth, understated finish. The folks in Mt. Carmel know their caramel malt, balancing it with their hops to create a clean, surprising taste worthy of the city’s brewing heritage. (513) 240-2739

Tea Selection

With nearly 100 choices, Essencha Tea House & Fine Teas is this town’s reigning aromatic champ. Black, green, white, oolong—whatever you’re looking for, this place probably has it. Most sample tins of loose-leaf teas cost $3–$5, so go for a classic like Gunpowder (a staple in Asian countries) or branch out and try one of the herbals like the Ayurveda-approved Tulsi Apple Pear Iced, a seamless blend of fruit and spice. Less interested in brewing your own at home? Attend afternoon tea 2–4 p.m. daily. Either way, you’ll be enlightened. (513) 533-4832

Quirky Produce Market

Don’t be fooled by the tattered strip mall surroundings. If Whole Foods Market and Jungle Jim’s had birthed a small, crowded grocery in 1980 and raised it country proud, it would have grown up to be Country Fresh Farm Market. “Folks, our bunch radishes are Ohio-grown!” declares one of the many signs. Whether it’s homegrown Seckel pears, Ohio-grown prune plums, or field greens grown in Alexandria, the fruits and veggies are fresh and competitively priced. And should you need a carton of Yoo-hoo, a package of crumpets, or bag of sugar coated fennel seeds, they’ve got that too. Wyoming, (513) 821-5335; Anderson Twp., (513) 474-9167

Cheesecake

Bill Gregg’s cheesecake recipe was passed down from his great uncle, who owned a pastry shop in New York City’s theater district. Every cheesecake Gregg makes at Reality Tuesday Café in Park Hills is a derivative of that classic New York style. We love the chocolate rum espresso—Puerto Rican rum, two pounds of dark chocolate, real espresso, and a dark chocolate topping—and the seasonal pumpkin, with a gingerbread crust and white chocolate topping. Gregg, a one-man show, only offers five flavors each day, but he will bake any flavor into cheesecake bars—perfect for holiday gatherings. (859) 261-4939

Handcrafted Sauce

Begun as a community project, Over-the-Rhine residents John Spencer and Ken Cunningham paid neighborhood kids for each Wild Irish Rose flask they collected, then sanitized and filled them with Spencer’s hot sauce recipe using local organic peppers, honey, and spices. Sweet Hot Momma was a red hot success—the partners not only cleaned up the streets (the bottles are now purchased from a manufacturer), but created a cottage industry. (513) 241-8222

Eggs Benedict

We¹ve tried other versions of the rich morning indulgence, but there¹s just none better than the one Chef Shoshannah Hafner cooks up at Honey. Hafner uses a lightly toasted croissant, sliced country style ham from a local farm, perfectly poached eggs, lacy oven-dried tomatoes, and a wicked good hollandaise sauce‹just the right balance of lemon and butter‹freckled with basil. It¹s enough to make you forsake sunny-side-up for all time. (513) 541-4300

Falafel

Done right, this Middle Eastern fast food delicacy is relatively prep-heavy, calling for uncooked chickpeas, fresh herbs, raw garlic, onion, spices, flour, and baking soda, which are blended, refrigerated, then deep fried. Is it any wonder most places use a mix? Their house-made labor of love is why Andy’s Mediterranean Grille serves the best falafel in town. “I just visited Lebanon, and my falafel is better than anything there,” boasts co-owner Andy Hajjar. Well, the chefs at Andy’s do sometimes over-fry, but even then the freshness breaks through. (513) 281-9791

Bagel

First, the perfect bagel should be house-made, daily. Second, the taste should be enjoyable even without any butter or cream cheese veneer. Third, the texture should be firm (crisp if toasted) on the outside, and effortlessly chewy on the inside. The bagels at Skip’s Bagels and Deli hit all of those points. While their selection does include two varieties that may offend bagel purists (cinnamon crunch and chocolate chip—heresy!), most of their offerings are classic. And tasty. (513) 677-3354

Fish Tacos

You wouldn’t think we’d get good fish tacos here in landlocked flyover country. But the ones Nada serves up are delightful: chunks of lightly battered mahi fried super-crisp, fresh guacamole, cabbage, and diced tomatoes. We like ours with a strong squeeze of lime and a Dos Equis or two on the side. (513) 721-6232

Milk

It may be strange to rhapsodize about milk, but the milk from Warren Taylor’s Snowville Creamery in Pomeroy, Ohio, deserves accolades. Snowville’s milk comes from a multi-breed herd of pasture-grazing cows so the flavor is sweet, rich, complex. It’s bottled on the farm and delivered to stores within 12 to 48 hours so it’s the freshest you’ll drink. It’s not homogenized, so the cream rises to the top. Just shake, pour, and enjoy.www.snowvillecreamery.com 

Cheese Selection

When the 69-year-old Murray’s Cheese opened this past year in the new Kroger Fresh Fare at Kenwood Towne Place, it brought a cache of award-winning artisan cheesemakers and a reputation for serious discourse. Manager Brandon Schilling guides you through nine countries and roughly 170 varieties with the excitement of a junkie on a tweak mission. Behold, a veritable cheesegasm of luscious cheeses made, say, in the French Pyrenees, by Benedictine monks. Or cold smoked over hazelnut shells. Mmm. (513) 686-7943


Onion Rings

Greyhound Tavern

Out of all of the rings on this list, these are visually the most impressive. It’s not necessarily the peaks and valleys of their chunky light tan breading, it’s their size. These rings are massive cruller-donut-looking things that explode any notion of what constitutes a “side dish.” (859) 331-3767

Zip’s Café

The simple preparation of Zip’s onion rings is no accident, says manager Mike Burke. “We just make it as easy as possible on us because we sell so many of them.” An uncomplicated beer batter plus white Spanish onion plus deep-frying equals what you want with your burger. (513) 871-9876

Great Scott Restaurant

These self-declared Colossal Onion Rings live up to the description, but they’re set apart by a touch of Cajun seasoning, which adds just the right kick. It’s both offset and heightened by the house-made chipotle ranch dressing. (513) 752-4700

Hyde Park Tavern

This place claims to be the original Cincinnati gastropub. We don’t know about that, but it’s clear that they do know their rings. They’ve confidently named their hand-battered onion rings O.M.G. Rings. And SRSLY, these are good enough to let them get away with it. (513) 321-3869

* Please note that the information listed in this section was accurate at the time the issue went to print in 2009 and that addresses, menu items, company status, etc., may have changed. Please contact the companies to confirm details.