Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ice Cream Road Show: The Cincy Adventures

Fuschia and I have been having so many adventures lately (some pleasant, some the complete opposite) that I've been struggling to find time to wash our delicates, much less update our loyal readers.  Luckily we've hit a lull in the action, so let the stories commence.

Ahhh, September. Just a few short weeks after our rockin good time at the KY State Fair Fuschia and I were offered a couple of free tickets to King's Island during a private P&G event.  With a policy of  turning down only free colonics, we jumped at the chance to check out this classic amusement park just  2 hours to our north. Being random roadtrip adventure junkies, we went ahead and planned an entire weekend around our windfall. 

With a three day window of opportunity for fun we decided on a modest itinerary: inspirational meditation at The Temple of IKEA, ambling stroll through downtown Cincy to admire architecture and locals' handguns, pilgrimage to the original Graeter's, supremely delicious culinary exploration at overpriced gastropub, topped off by our day with Snoopy and the gang at King's Island.

Unbeknownst to Fuschia, I had discovered that Cincy was hosting the country's largest Oktoberfest that weekend and had remembered that Cincy is home to the Findlay Market, a mecca for Ohioan foodies.  Clearly the weekend was going to be nonstop, action-packed awesomeness.

We actually made it to about half our planned events and still had ample time to enjoy a lie about.  By far my favorite part of the weekend was the trip to Findlay Market.  I'm sure my slack-jawed countenance marked my newbie status, but the Cincy locals were kind enough to look the other way. We strolled among the vendors, marveling at the cheeses, meats, spices and prepared foods on offer. 

Seeking a substitute for breakfast we stopped by Taste of Belgium, where they make waffles (didn't see that one coming, didya?) as big as your face.  Opting for a classic, no namby-pamby topping for us, we got the traditional and a few soft drinks.  The waffle was unlike an Americanized version of a Belgian, with a thickness and beautiful yeasty smell that nearly made me swoon.  I managed to control myself and actually share a few bites with Fuschia, but it was touch and go for a moment.

In true Cactus and Fuschia style we followed the taste of Belgium up with a little taste of Italy: gelato.  At the end of the market, just pass the spice guy sits Dojo Gelato, Findlay's awesome gastropub, fusion Italian creamery.  On offer that day were flavors previously unimagined: malted milk, amber lager, Italian hazelnut, dulce de leche de salt, etc, etc, the end.  Clearly, we would need to order the bucket size.  Served in a foursome, our gelato was a delightful mix of malted milk, hazelnut, classic chocolate and dulche de leche de salt. Words fail me.  The chocolate alone was worth driving to Cincy.  You must go there immediately.

We did eventually move on to Oktoberfest where we sampled  solid bier cheese, pretzels, fried pickles and enough draught cider (yay Woodchuck Amber) to make crowd navigation just a tad more like competitive sport.  After enjoying the vibe of a downtown for a couple of hours (read: sobering up) we located our car and sped off to find more debauchery in the Rust Belt.

Hours later , nap time and showers having been indulged in, we arrived in Over-the-Rhine for a trip to Senate.  A simple, modern hot spot with wood details and exposed brick, Senate was a rare find: trendy food without the snotty hipster scene.  As this was a meal we had really been dreaming of, Fuschia went with a signature dog, the Hello Kitty 2.0 (wasabi peas, cabbage slaw and bacon) while I stuck with the Lobster BL (you know my feelings on tomatoes) and truffle fries. I washed it all down with a Kitten Fizz (some vodka/raspberry yumminess) while Fuschia looked on with regret that she lost her license somewhere between Louisville and Cincy. 

Rolling ourselves back to the car we determined that only a movie would make the evening more perfect. We headed north to Springdale to see 'Contagion', a relentlessly cheerful flick, if ever I've seen one.  Sufficiently revived at the cinema we indulged in classic American ice cream for dessert: 2 delicious scoops of Ben and Jerry's Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz.

Over the course of our weekend we did make it to Graeter's somewhere in the land of the yuppie suburbs where we sampled new flavors and each had a monster scoop of deliciousness.  At King's Island we managed to have an excellent time despite my fear of roller coasters and other trauma-causing automated adrenaline milking machines.  One of the better parts of the Island?  Free P&G stuff just for showing up and the (yes, I ate tres) huge blueberry soft serve ice cream cones that the park is famous for.

If spending a weekend exploring Cincinnati taught me anything it's that I have sorely misjudged the Midwest.  Cincy had so much great food, some really excellent things to do and an interesting vibe in most areas.  Perhaps we'll have to visit again.