My Gentleman Associate is at a woodworking workshop at Lost Art Press, so I’ve been set loose to find my own adventures for 3 days while he’s building his toolchest. In deference to the traditional cuisine of the area, I decided to take a half-day tour with Riverside Food Tours, exploring Cincy’s top 10. The tour isn’t just about food, but there were 5 stops that fed us, and our guide probably gave us more like Cincy’s top 20 as he talked about his favourite places. I mean, I’ve got 2 more days of wandering around with my own list of things to see, but seeing a city through the eyes of a local is a nice way to get the *feel* for a city.
The fellow who did our tour found out that I’d be coming from Covington, Kentucky over the Ohio Bridge to Cincinnati, so he even picked me up at my hotel. I’ll remember that the next time I have uncharitable thoughts when I’m watching the blue and red colour map of the US on election night(s).
So, to the food, then!
First stop: Taste of Belgium. I’m not going to elbow old ladies out of the way to get me a big deep-crevaced waffles at fancypants brunches, so when our hosts brought out the perfectly fragrant sweet-crusted waffles to our group, I took notice. Turns out, these waffles aren’t made from batter in a beer pitcher (although they do have 54 taps at this location), they’re made from *dough*.
See the white stuff in there? That’s cane sugar. It melts into a caramel when the dough is in the iron. That’s what makes the crust. So good. 10/10. Would waffle again. Of course, our host talking about mussels in Belgian beer broth with Belgian frites just whet my appetite to go back again before we leave. Did I mention the 54 taps?
I feel like I could convince Mike that we should eat here before we leave on Sunday. They open at 7am, and the taps (all 54!) open then too. Because, “You can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning”. Also, because if you’re on nightshift, you shouldn’t be denied the tasty tasty offerings after *your* workday ends. Huzzah!
From there, we walked around a bit, visited Smale Park, where there’s an indoor carousel. Carol Ann’s Carousel has all hand carved animals that are somehow related to the Cincinnati area, including team mascots, the state bird, horses, and, oddly, a giant cricket. At least I’m hoping it’s a cricket and not a mantis. Because if it’s a mantis, I’ll be having nightmares for years. Thanks, Cincinnati. Anyway, we couldn’t go in because it was too early – the animals were still sleeping. Clever signage, carousel peeps. We took pictures by the Roebling Bridge (the proof of concept for the Brooklyn Bridge). We visited Great Amerian Ballpark’s statues of honour, and saw the Cincinnati Red’s hall of fame (but didn’t go in).
Next foodie stop: Skyline Chili. This is a Cincinnati institution. We had Cheese Coneys (a mini chili cheese dog). The chili here is Cincinnati style – with cinnamon, cloves, and cocoa in addition to the spicer spices. It was interesting to try. It’s not going to convince Mike to change his recipe for Cool Cat Daddio’ chili, though. Bonus props to them for serving oyster crackers with the Cheese Coneys. I do love me some oyster crackers.
We talked about Rookwood tiles and walked to Fountain Square, where they were just removing the ice rink, and for some (amusing to me) reason, playing the first 30 seconds of Journey songs over and over on the speakers. Then, ice cream.
Graeter’s Ice Cream has a bunch of flavours, but apparently, THE flavour is their Chocolate Raspberry. They make it in small kettles, and don’t just toss in handfulls of chocolate chips like barbarians. Oh no, they drizzle a stream of chocolate in, and then beat the side of the kettle with a spoon to break up the chocolate into crackley bits. So you might get slivers, and you might get chunks. Bonus funfacts: This ice cream hits Oprah’s Favourites list, and a local brewery partners with Graeter’s to make a chocolate raspberry stout. In fact, a few of the folks in Mike’s woodworking class ordered it at dinner, so it’s not just frivolous.
We wandered around some more, looked at some of the murals. There are many delightful murals all around the city… I would have liked to have been able to photograph a few more of them, but alas, doughnuts called.
Holtman’s Donuts. This is a small storefront with a cult following, apparently. I got a cherry filled donut with cream cheese frosting. There were massive fritters and maple bacon cream-filled donuts, and hoppin’ johns… I have to be in the right mood for donuts, so this was definitely solid, but I’m not sure it was the transcendent experience that it was supposed to be. That might be because from the window, I could see a soft-pretzel bakery, which I would have likely enjoyed better.
So, as we walked around, we talked about where we were from and if we’d taken any food tours before. I said I liked the idea of getting to experience a place’s regional cuisine, and I wasn’t a picky eater so it’d be pretty hard to throw me off with anything. They all giggled because what came next *might* do just that. I knew what it was and said, “Friends, I eat haggis on purpose most weekends of the summer. You don’t scare me.” Silly muggles.
To the final stop, then: Goetta from Eckerlin’s Meats. Goetta is a big deal. There are 2 goetta festivals in Cincinatti every year. It’s a dish that local Germans used to stretch their meat into more meals. It’s not something that they have in Kitchener in that German population, but I can see how it would be easy to adapt it in times of scarcity. It’s pork and beef (used to be just pork – and the more undesireable cuts, at that), mixed with pin oats and spices, formed into patties (where we had it, anyway. Could also be made into hash, I suppose) and then fried. It was good. I’m glad I took the tour just to get to experience this. The young man we spoke to was a 6th generation Eckerlin’s butcher/deli guy. He was particularly interested in my thoughts on the comparison between goetta and haggis. To be frank, my meatloaf is beef with oatmeal, so it wasn’t just palatable for me, it was enjoyable. If I didn’t take the tour, I wouldn’t have gotten to try, so that was an excellent way to end the tour for me.
One final note. At dinner, I had Cidergeist from Rhinegeist Brewery. I feel like there are a ton of breweries and cideries here, as perhaps everywhere. When we were talking at dinner, after I talked about my tour, everyone in Mike’s class volunteered their “regional specialty”. I had to think about what ours was. Someone else (non-Canadian) suggested poutine. Which yes, is from the GIANT region of Canada. But surely there’s something else, more regionally regional. Butter Tarts? I don’t know. There’s some homework here. I mean, I could take people to the Cambridge/K-W institutions, but what we’re *known* for? That feels like more of a mystery.