Posts Tagged ‘northside’

if you have not yet filled your christmas lists there is still time to shop locally, save money, and do good all at once:

your purchases at the downtown coffee emporium this weekend send 20% of sales to the know theatre.  while you’re there, pick up an ornament tag to buy a gift for a needy child; gifts accepted through monday the 16th.

the folks at park & vine  (which just earned their second notch in cinti mag’s “best of” belt, as well as 2008 recycling award) “are in love with” (honestly — that’s what dan said) the folks at the spotted goose (which also won a 2008 cinti mag award for best children’s clothing store). evidence? any purchase at p&v thru 12/31 earns you 20% off at tsg, a shop where a discount might come closer to making some (very nice) things affordable.

as you wander the gateway quarter you might notice that the storefronts between mica 12/v and metronation are now full and humming: switch (a new lighting store) and mahatma are both open, along with incredible creations hair salon. just next door the buzz from lavomatic fills metronation with a nice urban vibe, while across the street a lucky step is open for business. if you still need holiday greenery stop in at city roots for all things wreathy and swaggy.

so hop on the bus or grab and friend and carpool, head to otr, buy lunch and a latte on central parkway, meander through the gateway quarter, and end your evening with a cocktail. what better pre-holiday treat to yourself? c’mon…you know you want to.

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we’ve touched on the joy that is slim’s previously, and i don’t want to get into the habit of repetition. but on a return visit there this past sunday, i found myself thanking my lucky stars that cincinnati has a restaurant like this. plus, the experience was very different than our previous visit. earlier, we’d gone on a friday evening — the joint was hopping, a table of a dozen twentysomethings were celebrating one of their cohort’s maiden voyage into thirtysomething status (and imbibing accordingly), and the place had a slightly rambunctious feel. not so this past sunday, when we were one of three occupied tables at the tail end of a long holiday weekend, the place was suffused with summer evening light (which looks great against the blond-wood interior, by the way), and the atmosphere was one of pleasantly fatigued leisure.

highlights from this visit:

  • over the course of the evening we learned that our server wears several hats at slim’s: he is the staff pickler, and makes the house root beer. accordingly, we requested a sample of his pickled wares and were presented with cipollini onions, fennel, and kumquats (this last was a revelatory taste).
  • peaches bathed in rosewater for two weeks. perhaps the favorite flavor in an evening of great flavors, and one i’ll look for again.
  • lechon asada: a traditional puerto rican sunday dish — the roasted suckling pig. less assertive than the more-spiced pernil asada (roast pork shoulder with a cumin-oregano-pepper spice rub), but the preferred entree at our table.
  • fig tart, with lemon and thyme custard. needed salt, but still an excellent dessert choice.
  • corn pudding. simple, summery, and incredibly satisfying. the best part is that the chef readily offered the recipe, so we will be trying this at home.
  • we concluded with a sip of the root beer — it was not quite ready, but had a yeasty sweet flavor that may have ruined me for mass-produced versions from this point forward.

but wait — we weren’t done. we’d asked for directions to slim’s urban garden space, where they grow the greens and herbs and figs and other growables for their recipes. so off we toodled around the corner to check it out. it’s not much to look at, and it’s even a bit incongruous — a hoop house garden in a previously empty lot between two urban buildings. but it’s pretty cool that a portion of our dinner had made the trip from just around the corner to our plates — talk about eating local.

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what little i know about the slow-food movement can be captured in fewer words than it has taken to write this sentence. it’s italian in origin. it’s good for you.

and now i know it makes some damn fine eats.

it’s not hard to guess at that last piece, since almost anything that any sentient person makes at home, from something reasonably close to “scratch,” will beat the taste buds off of anything purchased quickly and made industrially. and since i’m a girl who loves to grow her own food, and eat food that other local folks have grown in their own back acres, i know — and love love love — the difference between that sun-ripened tomato just picked off the vine and eaten while still warm and the hydroponically-grown tom that’s been warming on my kitchen window sill. but i didn’t know how much i didn’t know.

and the truth is, i’m not usually a girl for movements of any sort — i’m the kid who is always left out of the clique. but i have a brand new appreciation for … hell, devotion to the slow food movement. thanks to slim’s.

as a token of love for a much-missed child whose nickname was slim, we were given a gift certificate to this über-everything restaurant nestled on the corner of hamilton and blue rock in northside. i was in love the moment i realized it is right next door to shoetopia and directly underneath yoga ah!, and i had a brief existential crisis when i remembered that we chose to live in a different neighborhood. (what were we thinking?) slim’s is super-hip but also totally genuine — leave your snobbery and ‘tude at the door (or in the next-door alley), thank you very much. it’s laid out like an art gallery but lined with group-friendly tables. it’s the kind of place where happy people enjoy being happy and find themselves getting happier the longer they stay.

but my real love affair didn’t begin until i’d been seated and was on my way to ordering.

it took me a while to work my way through the prix fixe menu (just what is mofongo, anyway, and why is it only pequeño?) and it took a while for our menus, our water, and our server to all be present, simultaneously, at our table. but this was good, because it gave me time to settle in to the rhythm of the night: a three-hour long gastronomic tour through slow food, puerto rican style.

yes, that’s right. it took us three hours to eat dinner. and i wouldn’t ask for a single minute of it back.

some might complain that the pace of dinner is attributable to slow service. they’re not entirely wrong in that observation, but perhaps wrong to make that complaint. slow is the point. slow is so the point that slim’s grows its own greens — lettuces, watercress, etc. — just across the street. i had happy visions of my easy-going server strolling across the street to pick the watercress that arrived on my plate. i know he didn’t — i know because i watched for it — but he could have. it was all that delightfully happening-in-the-moment, so wonderfully slow.

for the first time in, oh, maybe my life, i ate a salad slowly, amazed at how different a variety of organic greens taste — different from each other, i mean — when they have been picked recently and haven’t traveled 1500 miles in an air-conditioned truck. i thought i knew how good fresh food tasted. but good food, good fresh food, served so slowly that you’d be a fool not to pause between bites simply to relish the pure deliciousness of all — well, that i knew nothing about. now i know. it is heaven. heaven, i say. pure heaven.

so head to slim’s. byob — several nearby tables had planned well and had brought coolers of wine and beer — and plan to relax. relax and enjoy. slow-food style.

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man, i dig northside.

the same coworker who introduced me the downtown scene at cafe de paris took me for lunch yesterday at melt. just being back on hamilton reminded me of all the reasons we considered living in northside — tons of small, local businesses, all within walking distance. for some reason, though, now the drive to northside — which can distract me if i take ludlow through clifton so that i never quite make it to northside anyway — feels long, so i rarely make it. but this lack of exploratory spirit on my part makes discovering little nooks in northside all the sweeter.

i loved melt. loved loved loved it. i think i have loved a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant like it in almost every city i’ve lived in. madison (yeah, not a city, i know) has (sadly, had) savory thymes. the twin cities has trotter’s, hell’s kitchen, swede hollow. seattle had too many places to name. and now i find melt. i’m in restaurant nirvana.

melt is super-cute, but not that in that gag-me super-cute way. the floors are a little dingy and the paint job is chipping on the corners. it has striped panels lining the wall at head-height when you’re seated, a pressed-tin ceiling overhead, and fewer than 10 tables. the walls are currently displaying not wall-art but hand-made jewelry, all the pieces of which are stones wrapped in silver. they are kinda cool, with just a hint of hippie that does not go all the way to hemp hippie. which would be too far.

although it is TINY it feels bright and open. when you walk in the door you can feel the good health radiating outward from the kitchen. but this isn’t your wheat-germ-laced, raw-foodist-haven of health: this is good, good food that is well- and locally-made.

since i’m not a reporter and always forget to ask things like this, i’ve turned to google for more info. cincinnatiusa.com has this to say about melt’s food:

Sandwiches are made on Shadeau’s preservative-free, vegan bread, and dressings, soups, pesto and hummus are made in-store. All poultry used is antibiotic- and hormone-free. Other dishes include vegan chili made from Melt’s own recipe.

i can vouch for that chili. for lunch i had the nachos: a bed of sun chips covered (and i mean covered) in the house-made chili (with chopped red peppers and a lovely smokey taste that was not, i felt pretty confidently, liquid-smoke), black beans, yummy tomato salsa and a bit o’ sour cream on the side. lunch was at one o’clock, and i was still too full to eat a proper dinner that night. not a bad bargain for $6.95.

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