Kevin and I are often downtown for shows and end up at different Happy Hours. So welcome to my new feature: At the Bar.
Recently, we were in
search of an affordable dinner and we ended up at McCormick &
Schmick's for their $1.95 Happy Hour.
Yes, you read that right. In the bar area only, McCormick &
Schmick's offers a $1.95 Happy Hour menu, available with the purchase
of two drinks per person. Don't roll your eyes – those drinks do not
have to be alcoholic. Yes, for the purchase of a coke and an iced tea,
you can have a giant $1.95 hamburger.
I absconded with a menu. The $1.95 munchies include a half pound
cheeseburger with cajun fries (also available as a cajun burger),
steamed mussels, beer battered fried mushrooms, fish tacos, and spinach
& artichoke dip. There is also a $3.95 menu that includes crab
& shrimp dip and fried calamari. I went with the gigantic 1/2-pound
burger, cooked to order, and Kevin chose the fish tacos. We also chose
the spinach & artichoke dip. The food is excellent, especially
considering the price.
They have several drinks on the Happy Hour menu. I tried a peach
apple sangria for $5.50, around the average price of their Happy Hour
martinis. Draft beer includes Blue Moon, Stella, and Guinness for
$5.75/glass. For those not as picky about their beer, Michelob Light is
The one-time events this week are few, but of high quality. In particular, I want to call out the Aussie & New Zealand event at 20 Brix. 20 Brix is this great little place in Milford that I've never reviewed because my timing is always terrible. Whenever I intend to review it, I experience some personal upheaval and the review sort of falls through the cracks. So, go to this tasting, if only to help make up for my poor timing.
Don't forget that tonight and tomorrow are your last chances to enjoy Downtown Cincinnati Restaurant Week. Kevin & I are taking the opportunity to eat in the actual restaurant at Jeff Ruby's, instead of just sitting at the bar. For $35/pp, why not?
Remember, all the recurring events, those dependable weekly tastings,
are displayed on our calendar. The one-time events are after the jump.
There is a nifty wine dinner event coming up at the end of August called Goddesses of the Harvest. Organized by Amy Tobin of Amy's Table, the event showcases five local and extremely talented female culinarians: Chef Renee Schuler (Eat Well Celebrations and Feasts), Chef Julie Francis (Nectar), Chef
Anne Kearney (Rue Dumaine), and Chef Summer Genetti
(The Palace). To add to the excellent food, wine expert/Big Fish Farms owner Renee Koerner will
pair each course with wines from female winemakers (donated by
The Party Source).
The dinner will take place at the newly renovated Krohn Conservatory on Friday, August 28. Cost is $75 and you can register online via The Party Source.
This is a great opportunity to enjoy samplings from some of our area's fantastic chefs, all in one gorgeous location.
Here's the menu:
Salad (Chef Julie Francis): Trio of Chilled Salads: Chick Pea and Eggplant with Harissa,
Soy braised Beet with Walnuts, Curried Okra
Entree (Chef Anne Kearney): Pinot Noir braised Veal Short Ribs served
atop locally grown and ground polenta with goat cheese topped with a
relish of roasted corn, cucumbers, tomatoes and edamame with summer
Dessert (Chef Summer Genetti): Chocolate Zucchini Cake, Cream Cheese Ice Cream with Black Peppered Hot Fudge Sauce
Once every month, wine bloggers the world over drink wine with a common theme. This month is the 5-year anniversary of Wine Blogging Wednesday (originally started by my friend Lenn at Lenn Devours) and the willing host was Megan of Wannabe Wino. Megan asked us all to enjoy a nice Zinfandel with a meal cooked on the grill. Kevin and I took one look at our in-house Zinfandel choices and knew we just had to celebrate this WBW with a Cincinnati twist.
The meal: Pork (since Cincinnati is famous for, um, flying pigs) with a baked potato. The pork was marinated in Barleycorn's BBQ sauce, made right down the road in Cold Spring, KY.
The wine: 2006 Zincinnati Zinfandel, Mendocino, CA
What? A Cincinnati Zinfandel? You bet your flying pigs! A local distributor, Tramonte & Sons, got together with Rich Parducci, the wonderful winemaker at McNab Ridge. Together they created the limited edition Zincinnati Zin. In fact, the 2007 vintage was just released this month.
McNab Ridge is a fantastic winery out in Mendocino that participates in the Coro line of zinfandels. We had the opportunity to meet Rich and try several of his wines, including the Coro, back in March at the now-defunct Oceanaire. Rich makes some excellent wines, so it came as no surprise that the 2006 vintage of the Zincinnati struck just the right chord.
On its own (and admittedly a bit too warm), the wine was a little acidic. Cooled down to the correct temperature, we picked up a nice structure. On the nose, we got a lot of black raspberry and some chocolate. Dare I say it was as fragrant as Graeter's Black Raspberry Chip? On the palate, we easily picked up more black cherries, as well as some nice earthiness. (I love to taste some earth in my wines.) Finally, the wine has a supple and long finish, lingering in your mouth. I want to point out that this wine comes in at 14.8% alcohol. I'm usually sensitive to higher alcohol wines, but this one was balanced enough that I wasn't bothered by the alcohol content.
When we paired it with the marinated pork, we were pleasantly surprised. It was an excellent pairing. We had picked Barleycorn's sauce over the Montgomery Inn sauce because Kevin isn't a big fan of the Montgomery Inn sweetness. Turns out, Barleycorn's sauce is almost as sweet. This actually worked in our favor. The sweetness in the sauce brought about a softness in the wine. It wasn't overly tannic anyway, but the sauce seemed to soften it even more. For its part, the wine seemed to bring out a bit of spice in the sauce that might otherwise have been overwhelmed by the sweetness. Note to all local BBQ restaurants: put some Zincinnati on your menu!
The 2006 vintage is no longer available, but I know you can find the most recent vintage at the Dilly Deli & Cafe in Mariemont for $16.99.
Overall, this was a great pairing and a great theme. Our rating, for both the meal and the wine, is a
. Thanks to Megan for hosting and happy birthday WBW!
Growing up in Cincinnati, I vacationed a lot in the Smoky Mountains. And why not? It's an easy 5-hour drive south. In fact, way back in college, I visited Mountain Valley Winery in Pigeon Forge. It was the first winery I ever visited.
We spent this past weekend in the Pigeon Forge area and discovered that Mountain Valley Winery has become part of the Rocky Top Wine Trail. It's not really a wine trail. It's three wineries, owned by the same folks and I believe sharing a winemaker, which are all close together along the beginning of the Pigeon Forge "strip."
We didn't make it to Mountain Valley this time around. However, we did visit the Apple Barn Winery (at the venerable old Apple Barn) and Hillside Winery (near the sprawling outlet mall complex). Apple Barn Winery focuses on apple and other fruit wines, whereas Hillside had more Italian-style wines.
It's funny how impressed we always are with these small wineries. We shouldn't be; we know the little guy can produce some great wine. And with our recent experience judging Wines of the South, we shouldn't be surprised by Tennessee wines. In fact, there were signs proclaiming several gold and one silver medal from Wines of the South displayed at Hillside Winery. We helped award those medals.
Again, we only tasted at Hillside and Apple Barn. Both wineries have split their list into dry, semi-sweet, and dessert/sparkling. At the Apple Barn, our favorites were the Apple-Raspberry wine and the Raspberry port. At Hillside, we didn't like the Sangiovese at all, but we enjoyed several of their other wines. I think their sparkling wines are excellent, and we purchased the Sonata – a sparkling wine made from Chenin Blanc.
Tastings are free at all three wineries. They'll give you a Wine Trail passport at the your first stop. Visit all three wineries and you'll receive a free souvenir wine glass embossed with "Smoky Mountain Wineries."
You can turn your entire trip into a winetasting excursion. The Smoky Mountain Winery, specializing in mostly French-American hybrid (Chambourcin, Muscadine, Chancellor, etc) grapes is in Gatlinburg in Winery Square along the main strip. Kentucky and Tennessee have several wineries just off I-75 as you head to and from the mountains, including Shady Grove Meadery, Jean Farris (review), and Acres of Land.
Who says you have to camp in the mountains? Instead, you can drink wine. Cheers!
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