Posts Tagged ‘food’

Seek, and ye shall eat. I set out to sample Cincinnati Chili at the four most established restaurants in the area: Skyline, Camp Washington, Blue Ash, and Gold Star. Each one had a slightly different take on the dish. One for me stood out among the rest.

I had been to Skyline before, and did not enjoy it. If you are reading this post without reading my earlier one, you have no idea why I feel that way. Because you are lazy, I will not do the work again for you. Suffice it to say that when it is not served on top of spaghetti, Skyline is great. What else would you expect from the Official Chili of the Cincinnati Reds? It is a chain, be forewarned, as many people eschew the experience of chain food dining. But I am not many people. On top of a coney dog with a bit of hot sauce, I would give the experience a 3.5 out of 4.

Camp Washington Chili is so named for the neighborhood in which it is located. Founded in 1940, it is considered a landmark in the Cincinnati area, and well worth the trip. It is more of a diner experience than the other establishments, and the atmosphere goes a long way. The chili has the most liquid consistency, and  the strongest cocoa taste. While certainly worth the visit, it is not the best chili I tasted. Still, a respectable 3.2 rating out of 4, and a must visit for the overall experience.

Blue Ash has the distinction of being known as the place where Food Network’s Guy Fieri has visited. Blue Ash Chili is unimaginatively located in Blue Ash, Ohio, just outside of Cincy. Take note: if you are going here, be sure to prepare for a bit of a wait. At lunch, this place is jammed packed, with people sometimes lined up outside. The power of Guy is very strong here.  The chili, however…meh. I found it to be the weakest of all. It wasn’t poor; just, nothing outstanding. Sorry Guy. I would not eat this off a dirty shoe, shattering my illusion that you can trust everything you see on TV. Rating: 2.7 out of 4.

Doing my best Guy Fieri.

That leads us to Gold Star. It’s another chain. It’s another chili place. And it is the best. Oh, I know this might not be the most popular view amongst the good citizens of Cincinnati; but it’s my blog and I’ll opine if I want to. I had the chili in a bowl, with side of crackers and a fantastic hot sauce that was not too overpowering. It added the right flavoring to pair with the taste of the chili. I have to give it my highest rating of 4 Yums!!!  And a yea!

To all of you not lucky enough to get to the Cincinnati area: shame. Also, there are recipes on the Internet. This one from PBS’s “Cooks Country” is probably the best of the lot. Please make it and try. You will not be disappointed.

Chili: Redux

Apr 25

A long, long time ago, in a blog post far far away (or here) I talked about the delicious tradition of Cincinnati Chili. I was at Skyline then, one of the many ubiquitous chili hot spots to be found in the Cincinnati area. It’s a very strange phenomenon to me, this regional food delight. While everyone has certainly heard of chili, almost no one I polled knew anything about how it is served in the Cincinnati area.

How much is that Chili in the Window? Oh... $5

There are two major distinctions which set Cincinnati chili apart. First, its unique ingredients. Chili, Cincy style is often made with things like cinnamon, allspice, and…cocoa powder!!!  That last one is as delicious as it sounds. Trust me.

The second oddity of this dish comes from how it is served.  Its consistency is more liquid, making it perfect to put on top of spaghetti. Oh yes. It is commonly served on top of spaghetti, with fresh diced onions, beans, and a heaping mound of shredded cheddar cheese melting perfectly over the dish.

I have to confess, my first attempt to eat it with spaghetti was a failure. But, I quickly realized that it was because of the way the spaghetti was cooked. That is to say, overcooked. Cincinnati does chili brilliantly. They don’t necessarily do spaghetti. So, this trip, I did what any self-aware person who is at least as smart as Pavlov’s dog would do: I ate it by itself, or on top of a coney dog.

The jury is in. The verdict: criminally scrumptious!  At the risk of going all Food Network on you, it’s savory, but not too meaty or chewy. The spices really bring out a sweetness that you don’t normally expect with chili, but compliment the dish beautifully.  Now, as for the best place to eat this dish…

I Can’t Belive It’s A Grocery Store

Apr 21

All of the best things in life start with the word Jungle. The song Jungle Love, by Steve Miller Band. The song Jungle Love, by Morris Day and The Time. The movie Jungle Fever…which wasn’t so good. So, a majority of things that start with the word Jungle are really good. Jungle Jim’s International Grocery Store is no exception.

Jungle Jim's International Grocery Store, Fairfield Oh

Yummm...Fresh Meat!

This is where the good citizens of Fairfield, Ohio get to shop for produce and meat and, well, as it turns out, everything on the planet that is eatable. When Jungle Jim claims that his grocery store is international, he sure means it.

Mexico comes alive and Jungle Jim's International Grocery Store

All the Food in Mexico is Now Here

Now imagine rows like this of British food (yeah, marmite essentially, and some horlicks); German food, Japanese food; Ukrainian food; insert country with food here, food. This endless expanse of groceries and goods from every corner of the world is as exciting as it is dizzying. Things talk. Not living things, but soup cans, and Robin Hood in Sherwood Forrest. It’s as if Graceland  – and 1970s Elvis, I suppose –  had both exploded and began to sell foodstuffs. A quick peak inside turned into a 2 hour detour and a shopping cart loaded with sauces and spices and rubs and other items that would never be found outside their natural habitat.

Also, for no reason, there’s a monorail outside.

Monorail, Jungle Jim's, Grocery store

Hungry Yet?

Oh, it may not work, but who cares? Everything else about Jungle Jim’s does!

Mark me as SPAM™!!!

Aug 28

What?  You don’t like Spam™?  What’s wrong with you?  Spam™ is the single greatest food-type item that has ever been created in the history of the world!  The world!!! Not convinced?  Then you have to – absolutely must – go to the Spam™ Museum in Austin, Minnesota! 

Spam™ is important enough to have a whole museum dedicated to its greatness: are you?  Well I haven’t been to yours but I have been to the one for Spam™ and let me tell you I am convinced about Spam™.  The All Good and All Giving Hormel company that is responsible for making Spam™ has its headquarters here in Austin, and the sweet smell of Spam™ begins to call out to you the moment you turn onto the street.  All streets should smell like Spam™!

Once inside the museum, you are greeting by two unbelievably friendly boosters of the product of Spam™. These two senior citizen cheerleaders for Spam™ bring you inside a wide, open corridor filled with images of Spam™ in cans (complete with an entire wall of 3500 cans of Spam™ called their Spam™ Wall).  You are welcomed with open arms, given a map of the museum, and invited to play one of the interactive Spam™ games just behind where you are now.  Wander and enjoy is the theme of the attraction. And how could we not enjoy this?!? (you too can play the interactive games on their website

As we made our way around this intoxicating celebration of squared, pink pig flesh in a can, we dressed as Spam™ factory workers and pretended to make Spam™ (Spam™ is actually cooked in its own can! Fascinating!!!)

A conveyor belt of cans of Spam™ revolves overhead as you play a mock game show designed to show-off your knowledge of Spam™, and also as you read the displays showing the history of Spam™.  Spam™.  They even have a TV set up which plays the Monty Python Spam™ skit on continual loop. There is so much Spam™ here, it’s akin to Disney World™, but about Spam™. And admission is free! Take that, Disney™!

At the end of the tour you are in the gift shop where you can buy Spam™ in different flavo(u)rs (like hickory smoked, garlic, cheese, and REAL BACON), and we did buy lots of Spam™ and bumper stickers and shot glasses and I almost bought a hoodie and…

It takes about 15 minutes of driving away from the Cult of Spam™ before you start to realize: what the hell are we going to do with all this Spam™? 

Deprogramming and re-assimilation into non-Spam™ society will be hard, but worth it. A few knocks to the head and a salad should just about do it.

You Eat What You See

Aug 22

Amongst the ever present gaze of the collective Presidential stare on the mount, lies a territory with vast foliage, mountains, and wildlife.  Mostly, I wanted to see a buffalo, and Rob wanted to drive up really small roads and through very narrow tunnels, straight into Custer State Park, right next to Mt Rushmore.

The park, as you can surmise, is named after General George Custer of the “Custer’s Last Stand” fame.  For those who may not know the story, this will help.

Located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the park is a natural wildlife preserve, and, therefore, the perfect place for me to finally see a buffalo up close and personal.  It is worrisome to me that the only Buffalo with which I am acquainted is a place where I used to go clubbing* in my university years.

We drove for some time, and finally, I saw what I had come for.  A lone, sleepy buffalo lay in a patch of grass.  He was docile, unaware, and very un-entertaining.  I had waited all this time to see one of these great creatures, and this was a big disappointment.   Imagine cows, but with fur around their heads, and a more vacant look in their eyes.  That’s the mighty buffalo.  Well, at least the scenery was nice.

But nature never disappoints for long. Another five mintues of driving and we noticed the cars ahead of us all stopped.  And then, for everyone to see, was a herd of a hundred or more buffalo(e)s, charging down the path, seemingly obvilious to our presence. 

Truly, an awesome sight.  One can only imagine what the original explorers of the west first thought when they saw millions of them freely roaming across a vast open plain.  Umm…probably the same thing I did when I saw them earlier that day: Yea! Dinner!!!  And wouldn’t you know it, buffalo is now available in hotdog form!  That’s progress. Progress deliciously topped with some relish and a sweet pickle! 

*Back in the day, when crossing the border was about going to a club in Buffalo, NY because they accepted Canadian money at par.  And they were open until 3am.

THIS is What You Do With Beef

Aug 20

Art imitating life imitating food is a recipe for the yums!  Many of you out there may remember the episode (and eventual story line) on the sitcom Roseanne when Jackie returned from her adventures as a trucker with a great food idea: Loosemeats sandwiches*.  Hilarious!  And, as it turns out, true. 

At the Tastee Inn & Out in Sioux City, Iowa, these little gems are served up instead of burgers.  It’s not a manwich, it’s not a sloppy joe.  It’s just steamy seasoned beefy goodness on a bun with a pickle and some mustard.  As those wacky kids say today: it’s Gourmet!

*Loosemeats is always written in plural. ie: One burger is “A Loosemeats”

Everyday is Like Sundae

Aug 19

Along with everything else that I have mentioned, the Iowa State Fair is notable for a very special item that touched the lives of many Hamiltonians – as brought to them by Rob and his vision.  That item is the introduction of the Hot Beef Sundae.

Fluffy mashed potatoes lining a bowl, layered with shredded slow roasted beef, covered in gravy sauce, cheddar cheese, and a cherry tomato on top.  Festival food Heaven in a Bowl.  This concoction was the brain-child of the Cattlemen’s Beef Quarters, the body of beef(?) responsible for promoting the consumption of beef in Iowa (to compliment the corn, clearly).  

Rob and I replicated this recipe and brought it to the good people of Hamilton at the World famo(u)s Festival of Friends two years ago.  Coming here to taste the original, to see how ours compared to the One That Started It All was thrilling and a bit humbling.  Here I am, standing in front of its place of birth, ready to admit defeat at the hands of our beefy masters.

Ours was better.  Far better.  Sorry, Iowa.  What happens in the cornfield  may stay there, but the rest of us will take the beef and make it better.

Food on a Stick

Aug 18

The destination: The Iowa State Fair.  The Objective: Fun.  The Mission: Accomplished! 

Held annually in Des Moines, the Iowa State Fair dates back to 1854.  One wonders what kind of things there were to put on a stick and deep fry over 150 years ago.  With over 200 food vendors, it’s hard to image how they could come up with new and innovative ways to put food on a stick.  But they do.

There was deep-fried pineapple on a stick shrimp on a stick, chicken on a stick, rice crispy squares on a stick, salad on a stick, hard-boiled egg on a stick, and bologna on a stick.  The bologna, as it happens, also comes on a bun.  Sometimes, a stick just isn’t enough.

Chicago: My Kind of Dawg

Aug 16

It’s hard to drive by a town like Chicago and not stop by for at least a peek.  I could spend hours telling you about the really big buildings (apparently they’re quite famo(u)s), or about some President guy who was born there, or how windy it is; but frankly, I was only there for about an hour, so I’ll pick and choose my subject.  And I choose dawgs.

One of the great things about Chicago is its hotdogs. I love hotdogs. Chicago does them amazingly. The dog is steamed, placed in a poppyseed bun, and topped with mustard, a really green sweet relish, chopped onions, diced tomato, peppers, and a pickle spear. Garnish with celery salt. Bite. Savo(u)r. Chew slowly. Swallow when ready. Cry when dog is finished.

The place we went to is called Superdawg. It’s a drive-in hot dog stand opened in the 1940s, and their recipe hasn’t changed since then. Why should it?

A clearly uptight woman sporting the kind of jogging clothes one wears when one is not doing any jogging was vocally annoyed by the experience.  “It’s only a hot dog stand”, she said to her hapless companion while reading all of the accolades pinned to the waiting area wall.  Only a hot dog stand?  For shame, woman! They don’t call it Super for nothing.

Just passing through, thankfully

Apr 28

In America, if you go to a McDonald’s, you will find McChicken on the dollar menu.  Delicious!  And a deal!  But in the South, sometimes they serve something called the hot and spicy McChicken.  I have some issues gastronomically, and try to avoid that one.

When we stopped in Arkansas to get a quick bite to eat, I ordered a McChicken and it wasn’t until I unwrapped it that I discovered it was hot and spicy, and, therefore, inedible for me.  They never told me.  They never said a word!

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, after all, this is the state that gave us the Clintons.

And that is the tale of why Rob and I didn’t go to Arkansas.