I have always loved seeing the origin of where our food comes from, learning about the amount of science, community, and labor that goes into each flower, each vegetable, each herb, and getting to know the people that help make our outdoor and indoor spaces a bit brighter. The longer that I live in the city, however, I find myself even more appreciative of all that goes into our local fresh produce and gorgeous stems. I grew up going to greenhouses and florists like Rahns, and Adrian Durbans, and I even worked on a pumpkin and tomato farm a couple Summers back. I did it to study a bit more in depth the root of where our food comes from, to know the hard work that goes into it, and to bring me a bit closer to nature. I will tell you one thing, working in the hot sun, picking tomatoes, will definitely make you appreciate your produce and flowers the next time you walk into a farmers market, grocery store, florist, or nursery. Below are 7 places for plants and le fleurs. The list of greenhouses and florists to visit this Season will keep on growing throughout the Summer – but how brilliant is it to see and know that even after a crazy year like 2020, the blooms still keep growing.
I have been slowly getting back into writing about food, and with the city starting to wake up, I am seeing creative minds in action everywhere. The momentum is helping me to really put a spotlight on our local magic makers, our restaurateurs and chefs. On top of highlighting all things culinary on the blog on Foodie Fridays, I will be highlighting the Chefs in our community on a weekly basis. I have had my eye on the community of Pleasant Ridge, which is one of my favorite communities in the Cincinnati, Ohio area, of which the restaurant ,The Lonely Pine Steakhouse, is most pleasantly nestled. The entire experience at Lonely Pine Steakhouse was more than phenomenal. Even before we stepped foot inside the restaurant, a fire greeted us, upon entrance a prosecco was presented to us, if we did so choose to drink, and oh we did. Every detail was sought out, every plate gorgeous, the service impeccable, and the design/decor was a mix between a western, and a 1950s James Bond film, and goodness did they make me feel like a bond girl that night. Now lets talk about Mr. Sam Mischenko, the chef behind the most delicious steak in Cincinnati, Ohio right now.
Sam is the butcher, baker, and Chef at Lonely Pine Steakhouse. With an in house butcher, who is also the Chef, there is no question that he knows how to pick out, and cook his meats. What also is not to question is his respect for animals. I can guarantee 8/10 people cannot tell you what a proper cut is, what makes for a tender piece of meat, and more, but you know who can, Sam Mischenko, the Chef that can do it all. In acting many people say you need to have a triple threat to really put a knife in the competition, Sam Mischenko is that triple threat, and not only is he in the competition as one of the best chefs in Cincinnati, the butcher knife he puts in the fight is not one to be missed. Sam also throws down in the baking world, really showing his ability to be versatile. To make a steak sexy in the era of salt bae, isn’t that uncommon, but to master that with passion for the culinary world, and the ability to want to care to have the knowledge and history of what you are cooking, is not only respect for the culinary world, its really respect for humanity. The only bad thing about this bloke, his goat cheese chocolate cheesecake is more than sinful, and you’ll want to eat ten of them. So lets start with what we ate that made me come to the conclusion that Pleasant Ridge has one of the best chefs in the city cooking up a storm in that neighborhood. We started out with a dozen of Don Juan style oysters, broiled, with tomatillo-cream, urban stead quark cheese, nixtamalized corn gremotola served with 16 bricks bread. The start to the night was brilliant and upon some research about Chef Mischenko, I found out why, he learned much of what he knows from Grandma Mischenko as well as his father, and even at the beginning of the dinner, I could tell it was a generational gift passed down. The nod to southern appetizer classics, were divinely executed with spins on cooked oysters and the Kentucky favorite, pimento cheese.
Now lets talk about the entrees we ordered, including what I am definitely stamping as THE best steak in Cincinnati, Ohio and maybe in all of the midwest. The best steak in the city right now is most definitely at Lonely Pine, and is the Wagyu 8 oz Patricks petite tender from Sakura farms, the platting, the cut, the juices, and every bit of wonderful buttery goodness, made this rich delight even richer. Readers, get your masks on, and head to the wild midwest, of the Lonely Pine Steakhouse, for literally the most wonderful steak of your life.
We also ordered the New York strip steak a 20 oz dry aged steak from revier farms, with trusty sidekicks like the onions and mushrooms, which were slow roasted with fresh herbs, and butter, the asparagus which was roasted and topped with citrus cinsoy miso butter, the fingerling potatoes, which were delightfully twice cooked and roasted with fresh herbs and butter. We then ordered one of the dreamiest, creamiest, gooey macaroni and cheeses, cooked with smoked gouda, cheddar and cellentani pasta. Then when we didn’t think we could eat anymore, Chef Mischenko surprised us with the perfect pairing to a heavy steak dinner, the most gorgeous cheesecake. Now one may ask how can you indulge so much and still have room, well this cheesecake, is not like any other cheesecake, which seems to be the theme with Chef Mischenko, the ability to take a classic recipe and put his own Mischenko touch on it, so even though steak has been done in this city, I havent seen a steak and potato dinner this fantastic in a long time, and yes I know we live in a Jeff Ruby town.
Dessert, lets keep talking about this cheesecake. This light yet rich cake was not to be missed, and much like the meats, this dish highlighted Chef Mischenkos ability to kill it in the skillet and oven. The goat cheese chocolate cheesecake, had a grippos pretzel crust, which is another nod to a Cincinnati establishment, Grippos. Chef Mischenko has the community in mind in each dish it seems, not only highlighting the animals that we have grown so accustomed to mindlessly devouring, he also seems to put a spotlight on hard working people in his community, by incorporating a bit of himself, a bit of Cincinnati, in all of his dishes.
Cincinnati, get your knife sharpener out, because we have a new contender in this kitchen fight. Welcome to fight club Chef Mischenko.
Happy Women’s month! Meet featured Cincinnati, Ohio artist of the month, Mary Barr Rhodes. Mary has to be one of my favorite artists to work with, her art literally extends with the times, while still freezing history in time by capturing it through great emotion and color, with various mediums. Her pieces are absolutely stunning, they are more than thought provoking, and many of her pieces have really spoken to me. You can find many of her pieces for sale at VADA GALLERY, as well as many galleries in Cincinnati, and throughout America.
Mary Barr Rhodes Artist Statement:
“Painting is my personal journey, my spiritual practice, and the expression of my whole being, reflecting my reverence for the natural world and my place in it. I mindfully explore the colors, shapes, and textures in the vistas of our world. It is in this mindfulness that I feel the vibration, the rhythm, and the flow of the universal collective in the present moment…
At the intersection of space and time is the point of creation. In that first moment of acknowledging the white of the canvas, to the beginning lines creating structure, to the final moments in the development of the composition, I mindfully balance the formal elements to work in harmony. And then, there is that moment when I know that I have created what I was meant to create; that direct knowing, which constitutes, for me, that space between thoughts and words, the wordless knowledge, where beauty, truth and justice are captured…
Greatly influenced by the magnificent masters of abstract expressionism, I study the purity of color, as well as the magic of over painting, the stroke of the hand guided by my whole body, and the wonder of opening up space. My artistic mission is to create a balance, realizing mastery lies within the tension that is created by the rhythms of the back and forth.”
Keep checking the blog for more spotlights on women artists this month + more.
VADA Gallery IS OPENING OUR OTR LOCATION THIS SUMMER 2021 and we are getting so excited! We are needing more space, to bring you more incredible shows Follow our progress on our Instagram story, leading up to our grand opening. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to the artists we represent, to our clients, family and friends, and to the community in @overtherhine Thank you for following us on our journey, and supporting a dream of ours. Let’s keep creating, creatives www.VADA-GALLERY.com
This Winter I wished for snow, and well, I believe I got my wish. Now my wish is for Spring to come in with some speed. I love living in Covington,Kentucky, but I have also spent a number of years living in downtown, Cincinnati. With Spring around the corner, and the lift of the restrictions, we all are safely coming out of hibernation. Below is my list of ten stores to check out in Cincinnati, OH for the month of March. Each month, I’ll pick ten favorite shops to check out and feature. Check the blog for updates on this and more. I absolutely love doing research with my friends, and now I get to share the best spots to check out this Spring with all of my readers. Enjoy + happy shopping.
When you travel with a person, you find out a lot about who they are, what they love, what they eat, what their necessities or rituals for travel are, their little quirks, and sometimes kinks. However, thankfully I lucked out, and Franz is the captain of all captains, when it comes to setting sail on adventures. He also pulled off the biggest surprise of my life, and I am the hardest person to surprise. Every year for my birthday, for the past three years since we have been together, Franz flies us down south, right as the snow comes into Ohio. However, because we are opening VADA GALLERY in OTR this July, and with the pandemic still going on, I thought birthday plans of us leaving the cold, for palm trees, would be out of the question. Franz didn’t let me down, and followed through, with a new vacation wardrobe in tow, we were ready to relax. Two days before my birthday, we flew down to Florida for an eight day vacation at his familys beach house, a trip that was much needed. I have always had a love for the ocean, and I have no problem getting sand everywhere, and could be on the beach for hours. I have absolutely no fear diving into cold waters, but thankfully even in January, the water in Pompano was warm compared to Nantucket’s cold waters, even at the end of its Summers. After a year of not seeing the ocean due to the pandemic, and just keeping it safe, I was more than happy to feel the hot sun, have a food tour of Pompano, and be in my bikini all week with my honey.
We checked out amazing eats Pompano Beach had to offer, the best part was that over half of the restaurants we dined at were not only fresh , delicious, and ocean front, they were also within walking distance from the house, and all local (no chain restaurants) . A couple of our absolute favorite places to eat between beach walks, and beach naps, was the Lucky Fish, which not only had a swing outside looking over the ocean but also had on their menu the most amazing coconut shrimp, served with the best Mango pineapple salsa, pineapple rum marmalade. Another gorgeous beach side restaurant we love is called Oceanic, with an additional favorite restaurant right beside it, called the Pompano Beach House.
We were met with gorgeous weather daily, with our bedroom only steps from the beach, we spent less time in the car, and more time soaking in nature, me doing yoga while Franz napped, swimming in the ocean, embracing the local seafood, and exploring the area. On the days where we were not beach babes, we went out to eat, and met up with his parents who are residents of Florida, and also Cincinnati. So after a long year, it was more than amazing to see them, and know that they received their vaccines and are okay. The food, the love, the family, friends, and being in the sunshine, even with masks on, really boosted our souls to another level. Another restaurant that we dined at, that I definitely want to go back to when in Florida, is Sea Watch on the Ocean.
Even though it’s not located in Pompano Beach, and is actually located in Fort Lauderdale, FL, it’s worth the little bit of the drive and traffic. This place has gorgeous views of the ocean, amazing service, and delicious raw and cooked oysters. We ordered the crispy calamari, of course the raw oysters, and Boathouse Baked Oysters with Cayenne pepper-apple wood bacon butter, garlic, watercress.
Another go-to spot for brilliant romantic eats in Pompano is to grab a pizza, or a sandwich from Carlucci’s Brick Oven Trattoria & Pizzeria, a blanket, some bubbly or soda, and walk to the beach (only footsteps away from the pizzeria). We were able to walk to the restaurant from the house, and as soon as we walked in, I knew we were going to have authentic gourmet pizzas, salads , homemade breads and pasta. Wood fired pizza has to be my absolute favorite style of pizza, as it transports me back to my time living in Florence,Italy.
Another favorite of ours is the Rusty Hook, but don’t let the name fool you, I had one of the best mouthwatering, and tender Moroccan lamb dishes, of my life at this restaurant. Nick, a friend of the family’s, suggested we go to this establishment, and all of our taste-buds were more than delighted that we took his word for it. There is an abundance of culture in the Pompano+Miami Beach area, and Franz and I are more than excited to continue to come back here to delight our palettes with eats from all over brought together in two cities.
Even though I was already in bliss with Franz on vacation, the best day of my life was still just moments from happening. On my birthday I woke up to the most darling outfit, and our bags packed for the beach, we spent the day in the sun celebrating my birthday. Franz made his Castle V rock ( a sand castle we make yearly) and as we ran to the ocean hand in hand, he asked a family friend to take our picture, I was so elated that I just grabbed on to him and smiled as the waves came crashing into us. I felt him slip down and I looked over to my right and Franz was on his knee, he looked up at me and said “Virginia Blair, I want to spend the rest of our lives together, will you marry me”, I screamed with every cell in my body “YESSSSSSSS”! He picked me up, and we kissed and I cried, and our family friend that took the picture of the engagement started laughing and crying with us and said, ” you can’t do that to me, you almost gave me a heart attack”, when in fact I think we all almost had heart attacks. Franz did it, Franz is the only man to ever surprise me, to ever help me learn to trust, he helped with a life long dream of owning a gallery, and we eventually opened VADA gallery, he helped me open my mind to pave a brighter future, and on top of that he helped me have the ability to not be afraid to LIVE. Most importantly, he showed me how to not be afraid to love. My heart is full, skin warmed by the sun, and soul warmed by a man who saved my life, and my spirit.
That night we ran into the house, started drinking champagne with our family and friends, flutes in hand, looking over at the ocean, we saluted, and the entire time I wore heart shaped sunglasses. In that moment I realized what life was all about, and I believe me I have lived many lives, I learned that life was really simply about … love; and good food.
Getting ready for our engagement dinner, I tried on three different gowns Franz got for me, a black dress, red dress, and white. I almost had to lay down because of all of the excitement, I am the hardest person to surprise. Franz in a linen shirt, and our faces both red from the sun and excitement of getting engaged, we finally headed to Pompano’s Oceanic restaurant, a place that will forever hold a special memory in my heart. As soon as we walked in I somehow felt like everyone knew we were engaged, I was met first with two women who approached us with a loud and in unison “congratulations!”, they grabbed my wedding band and turned it around twice, when I asked what that meant – she said it was an Italian tradition, meant to bring good luck, she also told me something that I will always hold true, “to never forget how happy I feel on this very day” and I never will. The views and lighting while dining at the Oceanic restaurant, on top of being met with such hospitality and love, made this birthday and engagement dinner, more than unforgettable. Franz and I ended the night on the beach, with a bonfire, an ocean of champagne, waves crashing, and the stars and moon blanketing over us. So even during a pandemic, when the world seemed to be splitting at its seams, and at its darkest time, love prevailed, love challenged hate, and love kept swimming, even in the sinking state of Florida. I love you Franz Diedling, you saved my life, my soul, my heart, and I cant wait to dance into the many years and waves with you.
It has been a while since I have written on the blog, and a lot has happened since then. We have a new president, the polar vortex has put us in a literal snow globe, as most of us in the United States are still on lock down, or their cities are just now opening back up. We sadly lost many people in the food + beverage community this year and last, restaurants have opened, but many have closed due to the pandemic. I have seen food icons say goodbye to the old world of culinary practice, and set sail onward, riding the waves in uncharted waters, to a food world currently being discovered and challenged. I’ve seen young and seasoned chefs and owners alike, band together to save an art, the art of food. The culinary world has had their spirits fucking obliterated, yet with darkness comes light, and with that rebirth. So on this journey, I pick up my dusty modern day pen and piece of paper and write how to learn to fight this pandemic, safely with a mask on, a fork in one hand, and a pen in the other. The culinary world of Cincinnati, Ohio, and NKY is in the start of a renaissance, picking up the pieces from the aftermath, and creating Michelangelo pieces of art you can eat.
I am seeing passions re-ignite, creativity spark, and true grit stand up and run towards this revival of Cincinnati, Ohio + Covington, Kentuckys food scene. These two cities should be on everyone’s watchlist and is still in the running for one of the best food cities in America. Cincinnati, Ohio food kings and queens like Chef/Owner Daniel Wright, Dwan Juan,Jacob Trevino, Sabyle Zeringis + more, are re-opening their restaurant doors again, and in doing so, I urge our community to continue to support small businesses so we can continue to see our food community grow and flourish through the Spring.
Without further ado, lets start with a spotlight on semi-newbie to the food scene, Haven:Cafe, owned by Sabyle Zeringis. As soon as I walked into Haven, I knew that this coffeehouse was going to be a staple in the community. Located in Covington, Kentucky, Haven has such a safe, clean, design forward, and inviting vibe, with brilliant classic coffee, and even more brilliant breakfast sandwiches from brown bear bakery and stupid good, gorgeously designed, doughnuts by Charneese Doughnuts. If you are in Cincinnati, make sure to check out even more bakery goodness, at the Brown Bear Bakery brick and mortar, located in OTR. Let’s talk about doughnuts now. I would like to say I am self proclaimed, doughnut obsessed, and Charnees’s Doughnuts are turning out THE best doughnuts in the tri-state right now. The colors are gorgeous, and the ingredients are dairy-free, grain-free, gluten-free, but definitely not taste free. Haven Café also uses organic syrups, local dairy with zero hormones or antibiotics, dairy alternatives like oat milk. This place is definitely a must visit, and mind you – even with 10 inches of snow on the ground, nothing will stop me from supporting local this Winter (and eating doughnuts).