Pat and David

Pan de Muerto: sustenance for Día de los Muertos

Pan de Muerto: sustenance for Día de los Muertos

We don't need to be convinced that food plays a central role in people's lives and cultures that goes way beyond the basic need for sustenance. But if we did need proof, Mexico's Day of the Dead observances would be Exhibit A. On November 1, families decorate the graves of their lost loved ones with marigold flowers. It's a custom, several women told us, that brings them close to their loved ones and makes them feel contento (content). The bright orange flowers almost cover the gravestones and their pungent aroma fills the air. We've really never seen anything else quite like it. As we looked more closely, we realized that families also leave personal belongings and mementos that their loved ones had enjoyed in life....Read More
An appetite for Day of the Dead in Michoacán

An appetite for Day of the Dead in Michoacán

Thanks to the many Mexican families who have settled in the United States, we have had a good introduction to Day of the Dead observances. In recent years, we've even caught some stateside glimpses of both the pageantry and the solemnity of the occasion. Last fall we decided to go to the roots of this holiday that blends All Souls' and All Saints' days in the Christian calendar with pre-Columbian ceremonies connecting the worlds of the living and the dead. The lakeside mountain community of Pátzcuaro is the most celebrated spot in Mexico for Day of the Dead ceremonies. It is one of what the Mexicans call the pueblas mágicas (magic towns). We joined the throngs who flocked there at the end of October and...Read More
Commonwealth Bistro explores rich edges of Kentucky

Commonwealth Bistro explores rich edges of Kentucky

Chef Chris Burns of Commonwealth Bistro (621 Main St., Covington, KY; 859-916-6719; commonwealthbistro.com) refers to the Mainstrasse neighborhood of Covington, Kentucky, as “the Brooklyn of Cincinnati.” And though he worked for a number of years in Jean-Robert Cavel's Cincinnati restaurants (see previous post), he and his wife Tess self-identify as Kentuckians. “I came out of a classical French kitchen and wanted to get away from all that,” he explains. “We're in an agriculturally rich region. I wanted to explore what Kentucky cuisine meant without resorting to stereotypical Southern dishes.” Open three years this month, Commonwealth Bistro is the realization of that vision. Burns jokes that it only took seven years to open, three of them devoted to construction after shifts and on his days off....Read More
Restaurant L: approachable French haute cuisine

Restaurant L: approachable French haute cuisine

Restaurant L in Cincinnati is the kind of dining treasure we always hope to find in a mid-sized city but rarely do. The most formal of chef Jean-Robert de Cavel's empire of French eateries in the Queen City region, L bills itself as a “Parisian-style restaurant, with a little New York attitude and an abundance of Cincinnati charm.” That pretty much nails it. The elegant dining room in the rather new Queen City Tower is the culmination of de Cavel's decades-long saga as Cincinnati's leading proponent of French cuisine. If we lived in Cincinnati, we'd probably eat more often at Frenchie Fresh (his casual bistro) or Le Bar au Boeuf (his beef-oriented bistro), and treat ourselves to lunch at the bar at the swanky Jean-Robert's...Read More
What’s for dinner? Meike Peters has a plan for that

What’s for dinner? Meike Peters has a plan for that

We consider ourselves adventurous eaters who enjoy trying out recipes and experimenting with new dishes at home. But, like most people, we have a few old reliable dishes. This summer, we ate lots of Caprese salads with just-picked garden tomatoes and a cold pasta that we concocted with basil pesto, corn, and grilled chicken. We can't help but be impressed with Meike Peters, who chronicles a new dish for every day in 365: A Year of Everyday Cooking & Baking, Prestel, $40). Peters has been sharing recipes on her Eat in My Kitchen blog (meikepeters.com) since 2013, drawing inspiration from the hearty German comfort food of her youth and the lighter Mediterranean diet of Malta, where she spends part of the year. Even so, coming...Read More
Deco decadence at The Bar at Palm Court

Deco decadence at The Bar at Palm Court

Even if we didn't enjoy a good cocktail or a nice glass of wine, we would find an excuse to visit the Bar at Palm Court. It occupies a prime spot in the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza Hotel. One of the most glamorous buildings in the city, it's at 35 West 5th Street. The hotel, which opened in 1931, oozes French Art Deco style. There's barely a surface that's not embellished with a lotus pattern, a bird, or a sun. One of the best places to admire the masterful mix of rich woods, polished marble, frescoes, and ceiling painting is from a padded fan-shaped banquette in the bar. (The wooden bar itself, by the way, was originally a ticket booth at Union Terminal, the city's...Read More
Getting a well-designed sandwich at Cheapside Cafe

Getting a well-designed sandwich at Cheapside Cafe

Selecting the single best sandwich in every state is a pretty tall order. But when People magazine published its list in May of this year, they made a great selection for the state of Ohio. First of all, Cheapside Cafe (326 East 8th St., Cincinnati; 513-345-6618, cheapsidecafe.com) is not an obvious choice. The stylish little place, with a long counter made of wood from an old paper mill, sits a bit off the beaten path in a design-oriented neighborhood. It's open every day, but for breakfast and lunch only. Jon Mouch and his partner Joseph Creighton opened Cheapside in May 2014. “We've been offering the same menu since day one,” Mouch told us when we stopped in for breakfast. Chief among those menu items is...Read More
Sixteen Bricks Bakery makes Cincy’s daily bread

Sixteen Bricks Bakery makes Cincy’s daily bread

Ryan Morgan is not a man you can easily forget. Neither is the bread that he creates at Sixteen Bricks Bakery (sixteenbricks.com). We'd been eating our way around Cincinnati for a couple of days before we had the chance to tour the bakery that supplies bread to many of the city's restaurants—both casual and high end—that insist on a high-quality product. Morgan revels in his role as the most unlikely of bakers. He left a career as a mechanic making medical equipment at Johnson & Johnson to help his mother in her struggling bakery. Not one to pull any punches, Morgan told us that the bakery turned out “some of the most garbage bread.” He shakes his head at the memory. “I don't know why...Read More
Cincinnati chows down at Montgomery Inn Boathouse

Cincinnati chows down at Montgomery Inn Boathouse

Not many people noticed when Ted and Matula Gregory opened the homey Montgomery Inn in Montgomery, Ohio, in 1951. But when Matula started serving her barbecued ribs a few years later, people began to pay attention. You might even say that a dynasty was born. Ted and Matula eventually became known as the king and queen of ribs. Those hand-spiced, slow-roasted ribs are still the foundation of the Gregory family's two-restaurant empire. One of those restaurants is in downtown Cincinnati on the banks of the Ohio River. The Montgomery Inn Boathouse (925 Riverside Drive, 513-721-7427, montgomeryinn.com) is an impressive curved building with a wall of windows overlooking the river. The interior walls are covered with sports memorabilia which seems fitting since athletes have been known...Read More
Cincy specialty hits apex at Camp Washington Chili

Cincy specialty hits apex at Camp Washington Chili

There's one resource we always turn to first when we're looking for a welcoming place to eat with lots of local character. That's the listing of eateries designated as America's Classics by the James Beard Foundation. The late chef and cookbook author appreciated homey diners just as much as he relished temples of haute cuisine. The America's Classics shine a light on these usually family-run establishments that play a big role in their communities. If we're lucky, we'll discover one or more Classics at an upcoming destination. That was the case on our recent visit to Cincinnati, where Camp Washington Chili (3005 Colerain Ave, Cincinnati; 513-541-0061; campwashingtonchili.com) has been a neighborhood fixture since 1940. Maria Papakirk was there to welcome us with a big smile,...Read More