April 30, 2011

Dixie Chili

I don't often get cravings for Cincinnati-style chili.  I prefer home-made, heartier Texas-style chili with lots of onions and vegetables...and no spaghetti. 

So when I got a craving last Thursday for the local variety of chili I chose to bypass Skyline and Gold Star and head a little further north on 27 to Dixie Chili in Newport. 

I sat down and tried to pretend I wasn't a first-timer; I sat for several more minutes and no one acknowledged me so I had to blow my cover and go up to the counter to ask how I was supposed to place my order.  FYI, you order at the counter and take a tray (just like the school cafeteria!) to the end of the tray-line where you wait for your order to be prepared, and then sit down at a table. 
I ordered a small (very small) 3-way and a cheese coney with mustard.  The chili was thicker and somewhat creamy than others I've tried, not watery in the least.  The cheese melted on top of the chili and the chili stuck to the spaghetti very nicely so I basically cut it with my fork and ate it in chunks.  The flavor was great and it was served with Westminster crackers on the side, which I found very classy. 

My cheese coney was good as well; although I prefer the 3-way over the coney.  The coney didn't have enough chili or cheese for my liking; maybe a chili cheese sandwich would be a better option next time?

All things considered, Dixie Chili is a great alternative to Skyline and Goldstar and I'll definitely return to satisfy future Cincinnati chili cravings.

April 24, 2011

StoneBrook Winery

StoneBrook Winery is located in Camp Springs, KY, just south of Cincinnati in Campbell County.  They have been making wine for 6 years and growing and selling grapes for 11.  Wine tastings are offered Fridays from 5pm-9pm and Saturday and Sunday from 1pm-6pm in their tasting room; which was the first in Northern Kentucky and is located in Walter farm's original farmhouse that has been restored and transformed into a dining and tasting venue.

Walter Farmhouse
The cost of a tasting is $5 and allows you try as many of their 19 varieties of wine as you would like.  In addition to red and white grape wines, StoneBrook offers an array of fruit and berry wines. 

Tasting counter
StoneBrook also offers a weekly dinner on Saturday evenings which includes grilled meats, side dishes, salad, wine and live music in the summer.  I'm looking forward to going back this summer to partake in dinner and music; you can visit their website for more details and their Facebook page provides event updates.  In addition to the Camp Springs tasting room they also offer weekly tastings at the Newport on the Levee art gallery.

Dining area
After trying about 10 varieties of wine I chose a bottle of the Chardonelle; a chardonnay-style white wine.  Cranberry wine was the runner up.  Some of the others in my group enjoyed the Blueberry, Honeymead, Strawberry and Chambourcin.  Really, there is something for everyone and with such a variety to choose from it is difficult to pick a favorite. 
My bottle of Chardonelle
Dennis, one of the owners, was gracious enough to give us a tour of their production facility before our tasting.

First, the grapes are picked and transported from each of the three vineyards in 5-gallon buckets to be processed through a crusher/destemmer machine  And in case you're wondering, they do not use their feet to crush the grapes.  In fact, we learned the acid in the grapes can burn your skin.

After the grapes are crushed and destemmed they go into the juicer.  Once all the liquid is removed from the grapes their skins are completely dry and used as fertilizer for the vineyards.


StoneBrook uses cold fermentation and large cauldrons of the grape juice are put in a refrigerator at low temperatures.  The cold fermentation process helps pronounce the fruit notes in the final product and keeps the yeast from taking over the flavor of the wine.  Dennis taught us there are thousands of strands of yeast and you choose your strand depending on how you want your wine to taste.

After fermentation the wine goes to the lab to be tested for its alcohol volume.  It also goes through a taste test during this phase.

The lab
After the lab the wine gets filtered for sediment.  The sediment does not change the taste of the wine but it is a presentation thing.  It is a preference of most American wine drinkers to have a very clear wine; as opposed to France or other places in Europe where you will always find particles settled at the bottom of a bottle of wine.

Filtration system
The wine is then siphoned into the bottles from the large holding containers.  Pumping could allow too much oxygen to enter the bottles and result in a "corked" bottle of wine. 
Bottling area
After the bottles are filled, an automatic corker works like a hydraulic press to insert corks. The only thing left to do after this is wrap the top and put on a label.

StoneBrook produces about 6,000 cases of wine a year and distributes to most local liquor and wine stores.  They also sell directly to customers from their production facility and tasting room.

A big thanks to all the friendly people at StoneBrook, especially Dennis for taking time out of his busy day to show us the intricacies of the wine-making process.

April 21, 2011

Newport Kroger Marketplace: A Love Story

I've lived in Southgate, KY for 4 years. For a long time the closest grocery store options were Remke Market (over-priced and old-school in my opinion) and Bellevue Kroger(go there...you'll see). My only other choice was to drive further south to Highland Heights; which seemed a tad too inconvenient for groceries.

You can imagine my glee a few years ago when excavation began on Grand Avenue and there was talk of a Kroger Marketplace! So I waited, and waited (and whined) and waited some more. Every trip heading southbound on I471 offered a view of the progress and left me on pins and needles. Construction was pushed back with the whole real estate collapse but the store finally opened about a year later than expected in October 2009.

Here is a list of all the reasons I love Newport Kroger Marketplace(NKMP).

1.) NKMP has 1/2 carts. I've never seen this before, maybe I don't get out much??  When I saw a 1/2 cart for the first time it made 2009 seem worth it after all. Why didn't someone think of this sooner? I mean come on, sometimes you need to purchase more than fits in a hand-held basket and less than fits in a whole cart. You can't maneuver around slow shoppers with a regular cart. 1/2 cart baby!

2.) NKMP has the most kick-ass cheese selection you will ever see. And they give you samples. And they have cheese experts who will offer to help you pick out a wedge. The first time I shopped at NKMP I stared at the cheese for at least 15 minutes...just stared.

3.) NKMP has a Magic Pop maker and a an employee who coerces me into buying a bag every time I'm there. He's all friendly and convincing about it.

4.) I've never been to another grocery store where the meat/seafood staff prepare lobster bisque and serve samples to customers. This happened a few weeks ago and my love for NKMP intensified.

5.) The organic food selection at NKMP is extensive. It's not just a 1/2 aisle of random things; which means I don't have to make a separate trip to Whole Foods if I'm feeling like some organica.

6.) Every time I shop I get to sample a vast array of food. If I time my shopping trip right, I'm able to substitute lunch with free samples:) Herb Gouda, Jarlsburg, Magic Pop, Puffins, fresh guacamole, deli sandwiches, dips, Greek yogurt. These are just a few of the items I have purchased thanks to sampling them first.

7.) The fresh produce selection and quality are never lacking.

8.) Starbucks is located inside the store!

9.) NKMP has 12 Uscan lanes. This means I always get to check out my own groceries. I don't know why I enjoy this so much; it's a control thing.

10.) Last, but certainly not least. NKMP employees are a class act. I've never had a bad experience. At first I thought it was because of the newness of the store, but their level of customer service continues to impress.

Shop at NKMP, you will fall in love too!

April 20, 2011

Stuffed on Vine

I tried Stuffed on Vine!  Finally!  It seems like I've been waiting for ages but realistically it's only been about 2 months.  T'was everything I dreamed.

We went on a Sunday evening to have the option of the "Sunday meal" in addition to a Big Lene or other menu item.  The restaurant is partially under construction with the main bar area fixed up and the side room still a work in progress.  We had a larger group so we sat in the side room and enjoyed it to ourselves.

Charlena is one of the co-owners and was our server.  She basically wrote the book on hospitality.  After answering our questions, making menu recommendations and sharing information about the building's history she took our order and explained how the whole stuffed burger bit got started.

From the 1930's until the late 1980's the ground floor of 1720 Vine Street was a bar and grill of sorts.  At one point in the early 1990's it was turned into a wine bar...admittedly well before the whole wine bar craze.  Needless to say, it didn't last long.  The building was subsequently owned by someone for a couple years who did nothing with the space and then re-sold and put up for lease. 

Charlena's grandmother was living in an apartment upstairs and that is how she became aware of the vacancy on the ground floor.  They signed the lease even before they knew what they would sell in the space.  The stuffed burger niche was decided and they never looked back. 

All the rehab work was done themselves; including refinishing the original bar.  Behind the bar is a refrigerator displaying a nice selection of canned soda you can purchase with your meal (may I recommend the Vernor's ginger ale).  Menu items are beyond reasonably priced. Check out their Facebook page to get updates on what they're serving for Sunday dinner and hours of operation.

This particular day I went with the Sunday dinner special: Salisbury steak, garlic mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, green beans, macaroni and cheese and a dinner roll for $8.

Several of my friends chose the mushroom Swiss stuffed burger:

And one order of naked wings sprinkled with seasoned salt.

Can't forget the Big Lene (named after CharLENa) and all of its stuffed goodness.  The inside houses a combination of cheese, peppers and mushrooms among others.

Everyone who ordered fries raved about their taste, texture and seasoning.  My first trip to Stuffed on Vine left me satisfied but longing to go back.  Yes, Big Lene, you are on my radar and your side of fries too.

I love the new food experience.  I believe the only way great-tasting food can get better is when you know the food is cooked from someone's heart.  Stuffed on Vine undoubtedly serves food from the heart. 

Stuffed on Vine on Urbanspoon

April 17, 2011

Bellevue Beach Park

I spent a lovely Sunday afternoon in Bellevue.  Decided to hit up Clothesline Laundry at 619 Fairfield Avenue to wash some blankets that don't seem to fit in my own washer.  I've been there before; it's clean, not crowded and very un-laundromat-like.  Once my clothes were in the dryer I headed out for a walk.

First stop- Bellevue Beach Park.
Belleve Beach Park sits on the edge of the Ohio River and offers amazing views.  I often tell people the reason I prefer living in Northern Kentucky is because I get to experience the beautiful views of Cincinnati on a regular basis.

Big Mac bridge partial downtown

Mt. Adams w/ the Western Southern Bldg to the left

View from far east corner of the park
Bellevue Beach Park has a playground, basketball courts, a gazebo and also an amphitheater.  A concert series is held monthly during the summer featuring local bands.  You can visit their Facebook page for more details.

Amphitheater hosts weddings, live music, plays.

The park is also dog friendly and provides bags for pet waste disposal.

After a couple trips around the small trail that surrounds the park I decided to head east towards Dayton to the flood wall.

I walked to the end of the flood wall and back to Fairfield Avenue, where I discovered this beautiful building on corner of Fairfiled and O'Fallon.
Side and rear view

Store front- it's for rent!

Bellevue is a wonderful city and I recommend spending a lazy afternoon taking it all in.  Looking forward to First Friday so I can experience everything Bellevue has to offer.

April 11, 2011

Newport Kroger Marketplace: Eat.Laugh.Love.

Every time I go to Newport Kroger Marketplace it is packed.  This past Saturday was rainy icky weather; so it was even more crowded with people getting their grocery shopping out of the way before the weather cleared up.  Good thing I don't mind walking from the far corners of the parking lot; it's so worth it!

I discovered something brand new at Kroger, Eat Laugh Love  What is this?  The friendly woman preparing samples briefly described it as a monthly recipe program.  Kroger creates a simple and wholesome recipe and then displays a kiosk with all of the non-perishable items you need for preparation. (my pictures were lacking today)
Next to the product kiosk is the sample counter.  She prepared this month's Eat.Love.Laugh.; Unstuffed Pepper Bake.  It was delicious!  Basically a rice/ground beef/pepper dish topped with cheese.  She suggested serving it over lettuce or in a tortilla.  Both excellent options.  She also recommended some ingredient swaps if you or your family have a picky palate.  I snagged one of the recipe cards so I can make.  Doesn't it look yummy??  It tasted just as delicious as it looks.
This is an unbelievably creative way for Kroger to promote wholesome, family meals that can be prepared quickly and easily with Kroger ingredients. 

Thank you Newport Kroger Marketplace!

April 6, 2011

Sweet Tooth Candies

On my way from Southgate to The Carnegie I passed an adorable little candy store with a sign on the outside that read "Home Made chocolates and ice cream".  Hmmmm, yes please! 

Sweet Tooth Candies is located on 11th Street in "west" Newport, close to Covington. It's the kind of place you would only know about if you a.) grew up in Newport, or b.) your mapquest route randomly takes you past it en route to your destination. 
I was in the mood for ice cream but the smell of chocolate candy as I walked through the door almost changed my mind.  The site was just as wonderful as the smells.  Hippity hoppity, Easter is on its way at Sweet Tooth!

There were opera cream samples and chocolate ganache samples, I tried one of each.  Opera cream are their specialty and can be ordered directly from their chocolate factory on Saratoga Street in Newport.

Ultimately, I stuck with my gut and went for the home-made ice cream.  It took some time to make up my mind, look at all the choices!

Once I spotted the banana ice cream I needed to look no further.  Best. I've. Ever. Had.  Paired nicely with the light cinnamon flavor in the home-made waffle cone.  I typically only get banana ice cream from Aglamesis.  I hate to admit this, but this banana ice cream blew all others out of the water.  The flavor was perfect, the texture was smooth and creamy but not too heavy. 

Instead of eating in the car I decided to soak up the ice cream parlor ambiance and sat at one of these tables to enjoy my cone by the light of the lamp post.
There is nothing more satisfying than discovering a new ice cream, food or coffee venue that far outweighs the competition.  It puts a big smile on my face and makes me want to jump up and down and tell everyone I know how great it is and then jump up and down some more. That is how I felt after going to Sweet Tooth.    
Sweet Tooth Candies on Urbanspoon

April 3, 2011

Newport Kroger Marketplace: Pineapple

The highlight of this week's grocery adventure was, by far, the sale on whole Pineapple; $1.99 each.  I hesitate to buy fruit that is labor intensive to peel, cut or prepare in general.  But I couldn't pass up a deal and pineapple seemed appropriate for a 70 degree day. 
As I was leaving I spotted staff from the meat and seafood department preparing CRAWFISH to sample!  I failed to get a picture.  Samples, in general, were scarce that day.

When I got home I cut the pineapple and the creative juices started flowing.  Last week there was a nice sale on on Greek Yogurt so I stocked up. 
So I combined the fresh pineapple and Dannon Greek Yogurt, along with a frozen banana and 1/2 an orange to make this:

Pineapple/Orange/Banana smoothie in a bowl.
Thank you Newport Kroger Marketplace!