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May 29

Taste of Cincinnati – In Review

On Monday we took the day and went to Taste of Cincinnati. Kevin wasn’t as impressed with the vendors this year, but I think it was better than ever. The festival was more spread out though  – from Race Street at Saks 5th Avenue all the way down to the P&G Gardens.  Previous festivals have been held on Central Parkway, a divided street that allowed for 4 rows of booths as opposed to 2.  While I appreciate the aesthetics of the new location, I understand that it was easier to see and get to things with the old setup. You could better plan your attack instead of constantly consulting a program guide.

BBQ Action Show
I really enjoyed the food. Kevin sort of binged on BBQ while I definitely binged on dessert. I’ve always said that dessert is the best part of the meal and at Taste, you can skip the entree entirely. I was impressed by the range of ethnic food available, including Thai, German, Indian, Hungarian, Italian, Lebanese, Greek, Chinese, and more. I was surprised by several big chains making an appearance, such as Buca di Beppo, Melting Pot, and Outback Steakhouse.

Here’s a rundown of what we managed to consume, none of which was overly healthy:

  • Bella Luna: Pizza fretto (fancy name for deep-fried pizza dough) and Torta di Pane (bread pudding)
  • Buca di Beppo: Mini cannolis
  • Burbank’s Real BBQ: Smoked turkey & berry salad
  • City BBQ: Pulled pork sandwich
  • Mecklenburg Gardens: Cream puff (um, great big giant cream puff)
  • Melting Pot: Strawberries & pound cake with chocolate fondue
  • Pit to Plate BBQ: Beef brisket sandwich, Hickory smoked pulled pork sandwich w/slaw
  • Beer: Moerlein Over-the-Rhine Ale, Great Lakes Commodore Perry IPA, Spaten MaiBock, Woodchuck Amber Cider

That, my friends, was enough to keep us full into today! It’s worth mentioning that the best pulled pork BBQ I’ve ever tasted came from City BBQ. The Mecklenburg Gardens cream puff was to die for and the turkey & berry salad was excellent. The wine was bad enough it’s not worth mentioning. So we stuck with some mighty fine ales.

In the midst of all the food was music. It was Monday, so the
headliners were over and done with, but we caught a little bit here and
there of the bands. They were mostly just laid back and having fun.  We
also ducked into the Ratatouille booth. It was a blow-up Eiffel
tower that was air conditioned and showing 10-minute clips from the
upcoming Disney/Pixar film. I can’t wait for this film. I love
animation and this movie combines animation with fine food. It sounds
fantastic! There’s a line I love in the trailers – the mice are eating
cheese and Remy says, "Do you detect that? That oaky nuttiness?" It
makes me laugh every time.

There were a couple of things we would have liked to see. Instead of offering low-end wines in travel-sized bottles, we would have enjoyed seeing Cincinnati-area wineries. There’s certainly enough of them and the wine would have been much more enjoyable. The Argentinian steakhouse, Boi Na Braza, is opening soon, and McCormick & Schmick’s has already opened. Both restaurants are right there on 5th street, across from the Square, in the heart of the festival. Why did neither of these places bother with a booth? The same goes for all the new one-word restaurants, such as Mesh, Vinyl, Red, Ginger, etc. I often say that there is a food renaissance occurring in Cincinnati. Where were all these newer, trendy entries? In fact, most of the downtown restaurants (aside from Shanghai Mama’s and Izzy’s) were missing. Perhaps they are all too trendy for Taste of Cincinnati, when the average Joe comes out to try new things. I was sad to see all these missing restaurants.

For a different perspective, with different food choices, you can read "Roving Reporter" Jen’s review here.

A full photo set is posted on Flickr.

Turkey and Berry Salad from Burbank’s
cream puff

Amazing Cream Puff from Mecklenburg Gardens

Fountain Square
Fountain Square, downtown Cincinnati’s "center"
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Posted by Michelle at 3:36 pm in Beer, Beer-Guy.net, Cincinnati, Local, Restaurants | Permalink | Comments (1)

One Response to “Taste of Cincinnati – In Review”

  1. Jen Rizzo says:

    Oh, Michelle! Thanks for the review – I’ve been meaning to post mine but John recently bought a Wii and so I chose to play that for three hours tonight instead. 😉 And I don’t have any pictures… I’ll definitely link to yours, because I think we managed to try almost entirely different things.
    Two notes: One, we should totally go see Ratatouille together. John and I watched the preview… I’m a 3D animator, he’s a designer and cartoon nerd – it has everything we love in a movie!
    Two, we should have you over sometime and I should make barbecue for you. I’m from Kansas City and pride myself on my barbecue, and I like to think it might knock your socks off.

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