Saturday, November 28, 2009

From the Vault: Jones Soda Holiday Pack

Despite just starting Cincinnati Nomerati in January, I've actually kept a few written (and occasionally witty) records of the past. Today I saw a video that made me want to drag an entry out of the vault. It was written in 2005— David and I were just friends then; and he would help me with manual tasks around the house in exchange for dinner, occasionally going along with some crazy whimsical plan at my request. Come to think of it, not much has really changed.

It was a chilly and cold night in November, 2005....

“I bought the holiday pack from target on a whim, dragging good natured David along with me. As David—such a gentleman—carried the box to the checkout and set it on the conveyor belt, the target cashier looked at us and said "Are you guys really going to drink this?" I somewhat defiantly replied “yes.”

David looked uncomfortable. This had been my idea, after all. And we all know that sometimes those aren't the wisest. I am recalling a certain fake-tanning lotion incident that ended with me looking like an oompa loompa.

But much to David's dismay, we tried each and every one of the sodas, taking turns, because only one of us could stand by the sink at one time as a precaution against vomiting on the floor. Even the cat looked apprehensive.

Sodas: Herb stuffing; Cranberry;Turkey and Gravy; Brussel Sprout;Pumpkin Pie

David and I decided to start out with the least offensive brew, cranberry.
smells like: cranberry cocktail
tastes like: watered down cranberry cocktail. go figure.
awfulness rating:1 out of 5. Not bad.

With the mildest of the Sodas out of the way, we progressed on to the next logical choice, Pumpkin pie. Taking a whiff after opening the bottle, David said abruptly, "Oh god, it actually smells like pumpkins."
My thoughts were as follows; “Great, I don't really like pumpkins”.

Pumpkin Pie:
smells like: spices and pumpkins...did I mention spices?
tastes like: pumpkin, but mostly some kind of cinnamon nutmeg flavor. The pumpkin flavor just kind of sits in the background, flipping through a magazine.
awfulness rating: 2 out of 5

Brussel Sprouts:
This soda is by far the most fearsome, both in imagination and in color. It looks like split pea soup in water. It smelled like the gates of hell, or that unwashed bum on McMillan that always asks for change. David took a sniff from the bottle and made a gagging noise. I observed his facial expression and laughed in my chair...until it was time to drink this stuff that resembled stagnant pond water.
Hell, I won't eat brussel sprouts when they occur naturally.
smells like: The inside of a trash can, a poopy cat box that no one has cleaned for weeks.
tastes like: And we thought the smell was bad. David took a swig and dove for the sink, promptly washing his mouth out three times. It tastes bitter. In my opinion, it tastes like I imagine a fart would in liquid form. upon drinking, I copy Davids move and run to the sink. Five minutes later, I still could taste it. If you've ever wondered what licking the inside of a garbage can would taste like, boy do I have a treat for you.

awfulness rating: 5 out of 5. Never again.

So we put the cap back on the bottle and tried to forget.

Herb Stuffing:
smells like: herbs and spices, broth.
tastes like: salt. herbs. alkaseltzer, sodium bicarbonate
An altogether strange experience. Salty soda. Weird. Overall, not particularly bad....for a soda flavored like a food. It is not, David and I concurred, something one would drink for enjoyment or refreshment. It tasted like I was drinking saline from a beaker in chemistry.
awfulness rating: 3 out of 5

Turkey and Gravy:

This is the headliner of the Jones Soda Holiday Pack tour. It resembled poopy toilet water, but it didn't have the ominous feel of the brussel sprouts. Before we drank, we checked to see if turkey was an actual ingredient in the soda. Alas, it is not. The question does remain, though: What is in the soda instead of turkey to make is taste like turkey? We may never know.
smells like
: not really much of anything. unexpected.
tastes like
: salt. some residual turkey taste, but very muted. Kind of disappointing.
awfulness rating
: 3 out of 5

Conclusion: Jones holiday sodas are a novelty item. Other than the cranberry, the others are not good for drinking for "funzies". It is best to stick to strawberry kiwi and green apple. And brussel sprouts should never, ever, be made into a soda. At least the sodas all boast no sugar and no calories. Apparently there is also a Salmon pate soda. I do not know what to think of this. Words fail.

Trials over, David and I settled in with a bottle of Liebfraumilch and white zinfandel to watch a B horror movie.”

Apparently Jones Soda Scientists have recently been hard at work on their holiday line and produced a tofurkey and gravy soda, which Conan made an unfortunate employee try. While hilarious, I'm sure it tasted pretty yucky. I think he can at least be grateful it was not brussel sprouts.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Mayberry opened pretty recently on Vine Street, and various bloggers have been making there way in to try Josh Campbell’s newest venture. The result of this, of course, is mouth watering pictures of BLT’s and burgers posted to the interwebs. Couple this with delicious soups that change daily put out into the twitterverse, and it was only a matter of time before David and I met for lunch at Mayberry.

The soup of the day on Monday was maple sausage potato. I was not about to pass that up. I called David and asked him to meet me for lunch.

I cannot resist soup's siren song

Mayberry offers one size of the soup of the day--a big bowl--for $5. It came with a little crunchy cheese bread that I liked. Also, the portion size of the bowl is enormous. Seriously. I had to take half my soup home. The maple sausage was tender and tasty, with cut carrots, potatoes, a little onion and a lot of well roasted garlic.

The artwork and the paint on the walls is a little funky—black and white Cincinnati scenes and spirals, which are fun to look at.

David got “the burger” ($8.00). It’s a lot of beef, tender and juicy and cooked to order. Onion marmalade and peppered bacon sit atop the patty. Lastly, a poached egg completes the burger, which is then put between a toasty bun. David said the texture of the patty reminded him a little of meatloaf—there was definitely some onion mixed in. We concurred it was indeed a tasty burger.


See? Not overcooked.

The place is pretty small—Josh mentioned it only had 28 seats, and can get toasty during lunch. Things turned over pretty well, food was prepared quickly and to order, my soup was piping hot in its giant mug.

Chef Campbell

We met Josh, who knew that we were coming. I guess it’s not hard to spot a food blogger, they are usually the diner with their camera an inch away from their food, their spouse pleading “Can I eat now?” while their dinner is meticulously photographed.

I asked if I could poke back in the kitchen while I talked to Josh a little. Mayberry has a half partition in the Kitchen, and there is a long narrow hallway that runs beside it. Guests are welcome to come back and take a peek at the various items cooking away.

Josh said that the goal of the restaurant was to have good food, at good prices. As I was photographing the biscuits leftover from breakfast, I was given a tantalizing hint of what is to come from Mayberry brunch, which will be served on weekends in a few weeks. The “Elvis Killer”. I won’t give it all away, but let me just say that it involves waffles. And peanuts.


I also tried the tater tot casserole ($3), which I found to be very good with the soup. Next time I will try the mac n cheese.

I spied the sloppy Josh pork happily cooking on the stove

I watched some Cobb salads ($8) be put together

David loves the fact that poached eggs are on the menu. In the back of the kitchen, a large pot of water seemed to constantly have eggs poaching in it.

The only thing I recommend change with is the drink prices. Little bottles of Coke and Diet Coke at $1.50! That seems a little high. Everything else on the menu is priced extremely reasonably (all of the sandwiches are under $10, with interesting and quality ingredients), and the portions are very generous.

Mayberry will open for Dinner on December 4th, and in addition to that, is BYOB until they get a liquor license; so you if you want to bring your favorite beer or wine to have with dinner, that's cool with them.

The full menu can be found through Urbanspoon—but be aware it may change based on what is locally available and what’s in season. I know I’ll be back to the Mayberry soon, and we are eager to see what else Josh will come up with!
Update: the beverage situation has been resolved--and 20 ounce bottles are now $1.50. For pictures of Mayberry's Sunday brunch, see this Cincinnati Nomerati post.

Mayberry on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Forkable Feast:

We spotlighted A Forkable Feast for November’s Eastside Eats. I wanted to take the opportunity to review it as well and put some more pictures we took to use.

We arrived at the end of the day, and we were lucky enough to meet Stu and Randy, who own the place, and Michael, the head chef.

Housemade dressings

David and I were both impressed at how the food was packaged—sealed in cute oven safe containers— as well as the variety.

A major plus is their availability of gluten free cupcakes and desserts—even stuffing!

100 % gluten free, 100 % delicious

A nice selection of beer and wine is also available to take home. We spied Victory Prima Pils, a nice pilsner, Lambic raspberry, and even a gluten free beer.

Stu selects the wines that he thinks will complement a tasty meal.

House made pasta and pesto can be purchased and doesn’t take long to cook. We were sent home with some pasta and also the veal ricotta meatballs, which are tender and tasty. David says they are, and I quote: "frickin delicious!" The texture of the pasta was excellent. I've never really had a pasta quite like it. We really enjoyed our visit (and our dinner). I recommend you check out the online menu on their website, and take the night off from cooking if you get the chance.

everyone gets a complimentary little baggie to munch on while their food heats
A Forkable Feast on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The 28 mile journey that took 15 years:

If you had asked me when I was 10 if I would ever live downtown, I would have been taken aback, if not horrified. Live downtown? People actually live downtown?

My limited view of the city from living in the suburbs of Loveland included my parents shuttling my brother and I to and from the Aronoff to see my sister in the Nutcracker. To my younger self, downtown was dirty, dark, and scary, with lots of panhandlers. Also, there were pigeons.

I think that living in Clifton while David and I attended classes at UC toughened me up a bit. Plenty of panhandlers there, and the Hughes high school thug wannabes could seem menacing at times. We learned to perfect the rebuff of “Sorry. I don’t carry any cash.”

But after the cat caught his fifth mouse, and our neighbor’s toilet upstairs began leaking through the ceiling, (clean water, our landlord claimed, surely not a big deal) our time in our cheap Clifton hodgepodge of an apartment had come to an end.

We moved to East Walnut hills, an outpost of the “Hyde park near” area. On the front lines of the gentrification effort on Woodburn, we did begin to feel a little isolated. We also were down the street from a fire station, which was extremely noisy. But at least we had a dishwasher; and no mice.

Downtown still remained a labyrinth of one way streets, shrouded in mystery. I was thrown into the deep end and forced to learn my way around when I got a job downtown close to Third Street. I cautiously explored around the office, in block by block sections. Eventually, I learned my way around, for the most part. I started Cincinnati Nomerati and began reviewing restaurants, including some around my workplace.

But live downtown? Nah, that was not in the plan. At least, not until we actually became friends with some downtowners and local bloggers, the 5chw4r7z’s. They are very proud downtowners and adore it. They are very emphatic about how much they love their condo and the location.

So when David mentioned maybe moving downtown from our last place to a bigger apartment, I jumped on it. Within three days, I’d found a place and we were close to signing a lease. I know it seems fast—but that’s just how I roll with things I really want to do. I planned our whole wedding in 28 days.

So far, we love living downtown. I feel a lot more connected to the city and the many unique, creative and talented bloggers that we’ve become friends with. I’m able to take the skywalk to work and come home at lunch. Kitty and I watch the pigeons out the big windows and the hipsters smoking outside of FB’s. We have a dishwasher and more space, no mice and no fire trucks.

It’s been a long journey, both in actual location and in our view of Cincinnati as a city. I can honestly say I feel proud to be a part of it. We’ll see you downtown.

December 30th, 2007

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hamburger Mary's:

Despite a somewhat hectic moving day and the movers dropping a box on my foot, we’re finally getting settled in at our new apartment. Last Friday we walked over for cocktails and dinner at the newly re-opened Hamburger Mary’s.

Happy hour makes most of the cocktails made with well liquor $5, and they have an assortment of lawnmower beers—Hudy Delight, PBR, and Burger Classic for $1.

The inside of the place is fairly large, with two bars—one larger and in the middle of a dance floor to the right of the entrance, and a smaller bar is right by the door.

On the left is the dining room, which has lots of bright colors and space.

I started with a “raspberrita”. It’s exactly what it sounds like, a raspberry margarita. The bartender must have read my mind, because it has sugar, not salt, around the rim. It was pretty good, but also very sugary.

David decided to get not one, or two, but the whole ménage a trois of the $1 beers. Yes, I tried to talk him out of it. I pointed out that HM has Dogfish 60 and 90 minute in bottles. It didn’t work.

Don't do it, David!

Our group did insist he drink them with his pinky out.

See, this is why you should listen to your wife.

I got another cocktail, the “pop your cherry tini” made with red cream soda. It was good, though also very, very fruity and sweet. My friend Janelle got a cocktail made with champagne and red bull, the "Chambull", she liked it a lot.

For food, Janelle and I chose appetizers. She got the nachos. Lots of toppings, lots of cheese. Can’t go wrong there.

David ordered his second beer.

I chose to get the Mary’s Handbag ($13), a sampling of most of their appetizers, and the mini Mary—a mini burger with cheese. ($2) I was a bit surprised when they asked how I wanted it cooked—is it even possible to get anything other than a well done mini burger? I didn’t think so. I was right. Regardless, it was delicious.

Everything on the Mary’s handbag is fried. Chicken tenders, onion rings, wings, calamari, and fried macaroni and cheese. There were a few little pieces of iceberg lettuce on there—which David and I both found funny in juxtaposition with the rest of the plate's contents.

The fried macaroni and cheese is very tasty, and it was probably my favorite appetizer. The calamari was not too chewy, and I really liked the marinara sauce that was served for dipping.

Happy hour Friday shot!

David ordered his last beer, Burger classic.

David says: "They tried to add some flavor..."

"but I'm not sure it went to a good place."

While the Burger classic may not have gone over well, the actual burger, with mushroom and sweet potato fries, did.

My last drink the Mary’s punch, which I couldn’t finish. This was the drink I liked the least—it was incredibly sugary and tasted a little like grape Dimetapp.

The checks come inside shoes, which our server chose based on what she thought we would like. Janelle got a silver one with glitter. It was a good match.

We dropped David back off at the apartment and Janelle and I ended up going back to Hamburger Mary's to dance later. We had a good time, though there was a some sort of reservation mix up--some sort of reservation for two booths for a private party had been booked earlier, and their DJ went rogue and attempted to kick everyone out of the entire bar. I'm sure you can imagine that did not go over well, but the manager was quick to correct the problem and was very apologetic about it--even showing us the actual contract-- when I asked her to explain.

Despite the snafu at the end of the night, we enjoyed our dinner and will definitely be back for Mary-oke on the days that it's held. The staff was friendly and courteous the whole night. I might get a whole plate of mini-Mary's with cheese!

Hamburger Mary's on Urbanspoon