Monday, June 30, 2014

Pigs and Chili

When we were in downtown Cincinnati, we noticed several pig statues.

Why, you ask? According to my friend, Wikipedia:
The Big Pig Gig was one of many projects inspired by CowParade, which had been featured in Chicago the previous year. Laura Pulfer, a columnist at The Cincinnati Enquirer, wrote about seven-year-old Alexander Longi's proposal to Mayor Roxanne Qualls for an event similar to the one in Chicago.[2] The idea to build statues of pigs recalled Cincinnati's annual Flying Pig Marathon and the city's nickname of "Porkopolis". The nickname dates from the mid–19th century, when the Cincinnati meat packing industry led the country.[3

I once visited a slaughter house and don't ever want to do that again. But I did enjoy the pig statues.

Another trend in Cincinnati seems to be chili. We saw chili restaurants all over the place. And I don't mean the chain restaurant, Chilis. Again, I quote from Wikipedia:
Cincinnati chili (or "Cincinnati-style chili") is a regional style of chili con carne characterized by the use of seasonings such as cinnamon, cloves, allspice or chocolate. It is commonly served over spaghetti or as a hot dog sauce, and is normally of a thin, sauce-like consistency, unlike most chili con carne. While served in many regular restaurants, it is most often associated with several restaurant chains, such as Empress Chili, Skyline Chili, Gold Star Chili, Camp Washington Chili, Pleasant Ridge Chili, Blue Ash Chili, and Dixie Chili. Restaurant locations are found pervasively in greater Cincinnati with franchise locations also throughout Ohio and in Kentucky, Indiana, and Florida. Restaurants that feature Cincinnati chili are frequently called "chili parlors."

According to the Greater Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau, Cincinnatians consume more than 2,000,000 lb (910,000 kg) of chili each year, topped by 850,000 lb (390,000 kg) of shredded cheddar cheese.[1] Each September, the city celebrates “Chilifest” at Yeatman's Cove on the Ohio River, with food and entertainment.[2]

While shopping the other day, I even saw a frozen meal called chili on spaghetti. Today, while fueling the truck, we saw a Skyline Chili restaurant and had to try it. This is what the container of chili looked like. It comes with a bag of shredded cheese and a bag of crackers that I would call oyster crackers.

We added the cheese.

And the crackers.

One dish was enough to satisfy both of us for lunch. The chili has a touch of hot flavor, no beans. It is served with spaghetti noodles. And we agreed, it is good. We are glad we tried this Cincinnati trademark.

Sunday, June 29, 2014


I can't say that a visit to Cincinnati, Ohio, was anywhere near the top of my bucket list. In fact, we ended up here this summer because we were unable to find a good RV park any closer to Jefferson County, Indiana, where we wanted to do some genealogy research. After planning the visit, we discovered that John's great-great-great grandfather is buried in Cincinnati.

After the last four days here, I would suggest Cincinnati for anyone's bucket list. It is a beautiful, clean, interesting old city and we have encountered numerous very helpful people in the cemetery and libraries we have visited.

Yesterday, we checked out the Findlay Market, Ohio's oldest continuing operating public market and the location of a weekend farmers' market during the summer.

Both inside and outside, the aisles were crowded with shoppers.

We immediately came on a long line at the Blue Oven bread stall. We decided the bread must be good, so we got in line and bought a loaf of spelt bread. We will eat it with our meal this evening, so I don't know if it is really good or not.

Markets like this always bring out some interesting people.

There was lots of good looking, local produce, as well as seafood and beef--including ox tails. I wonder what you do with them?

Along the street across from the market, the empty buildings were at least made pretty on the outside.

A couple of blocks away, it wasn't as nice.

We did see a community garden in the neighborhood.

The neighborhood around the market was the only place in Cincinnati that wasn't really, really nice. Our GPS takes us on the fastest route, supposedly, and it took us through a number of residential neighborhoods during the past few days. The old houses, mainly built of brick, are well-maintained and beautiful. There are numerous parks and woods. Cincinnati is very hilly and large areas of forest are maintained for public use. On all our drives, we only saw one small piece of tagging.  Many cities, Denver and Phoenix included, can't say that.  Downtown, near the main library, we saw some really nice old buildings and murals.

This is at the entry to the library.

This is the Cincinnati City Hall.

The Roman Catholic Cathedral of Saint Peter in Chains is an impressive building.

So is the Plum Street Jewish Temple.

Friday, June 27, 2014

And Now, For Something Really Different

This blog post will be of the most interest to our family. And before you read it, you need to understand that we used to own a funeral home; John grew up in a funeral home; his dad, his brother and he were all funeral directors; the family used to own two cemeteries.

Today we drove to the Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati to visit the graves of John's great-great-great grandfather. More about that in another blog. We have been in many cemeteries over the years and this is the most beautiful one we have ever seen.

Our first stop was in the cemetery office. As we approached the front door, a woman walked out and said, "I've never seen a cemetery with a visitor center!" We went and asked for directions to the grave we wanted to visit.  David Simon, family service advisor, said "I can help you."  He asked us to have a seat, gave us a map to find the grave, and graciously gave us much more information than we had expected.

From Spring Grove

We were given a sheet of information on the iconography used in cemeteries. He also gave us a list of revolutionary soldiers and Civil War generals that are buried there. He directed us to the Cedars of Lebanon Chapel and Mausoleum, which has 33 magnificent stained and faceted windows. Here are just a few.

From Spring Grove

From Spring Grove

From Spring Grove

From Spring Grove

The mausoleum also has several sections of crypts for urns holding cremated remains. We had seen such crypts with marble or brass fronts. These were all glass and the urns inside were beautiful and allowed families to reflect a little of the person who has died.

From Spring Grove

From Spring Grove

From Spring Grove

From Spring Grove

The cemetery grounds are also lovely. Spring Grove was dedicated on August 28, 1845. Members of the Cincinnati Horticultural Society formed a cemetery association to provide proper interment facilities for the city. Today, it is named Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum. The public is invited to not only visit the graves there, but also to enjoy the peace and beauty, to learn about the trees and plants growing there, and to use the roads for walking and running.

From Spring Grove

From Spring Grove

From Spring Grove

The gravestones are beautiful sculptures and monuments, works of art on their own.
From Spring Grove

From Spring Grove

From Spring Grove

The weather today was hot and as we were walking around the grounds, the security guard who patrols the cemetery stopped and gave us each an ice cold bottle of water.

We came away impressed with the beauty of the place, with the work they go to maintain the grounds for families whose loved ones are there, and how friendly and helpful and caring the staff are.  We admired and appreciated all that Spring Grove is.

If you want to see all the photos we took in the cemetery, you can access the online album here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Biking and Kentucky

Monday we rode our bikes 15 to 16 miles on the Legacy Trail in Lexington. We don't bike very often, but we are carrying the bikes with us and it is a good opportunity to explore outside the highways and city streets. The path passes through the University of Kentucky's Agriculture Experiment Station. We saw someone cutting hay.

And another tractor raking the cut hay.

I think these are the University's barns.

And this may be an old barn once used by a private farmer.

At one point, the trail took us through a tunnel, underneath the road we had driven on to get there.

We saw this garden on the University's land.

This agricultural activity is very different from what we saw during most of our time in Kentucky. Often, we passed miles of fields devoted to horses, I think. Most of the fences were white, like these. Once in a while, we saw black fences.

Earlier, we had made one stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Kentucky's water, which is filtered through the limestone throughout the state, tastes really good and is one of the reasons a lot of bourbon is made in the state. They are really proud of the water, just look at what it says on this water tank.

We have enjoyed our time in Tennessee and Kentucky.  They are beautiful states.  Almost everyone we met in Tennessee was very friendly and helpful.  We liked Kentucky, too, but the folks are not quite as outgoing and friendly.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Bourbon and Beer

Who knew these two beverages would be made in the same facility? That is why Town Branch in Lexington calls itself a brewtillery. We enjoyed a tour there last week.

Our first clue was the hop garden we passed on our way to the start of the tour.

We were a little late for the tour and came in just in time to taste the beers Town Branch brews. We learned that beer can be aged in barrels that had previously held bourbon. The brewtillery calls that beer Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale and it was my favorite. So much so, we even bought some at the end of the tour. These barrels explain the beer brewing process.

Did you know that whiskey must contain at least 51% corn to be called bourbon? In Kentucky, charred white oak barrels can be used only once for bourbon. The mixture of water, yeast, rye, malt and corn is distilled, producing a clear liquid. Aging (at least 6 months) in charred oak barrels gives it the characteristic brown color.

After mixing the ingredients, they are placed in these fermenting tubs.

This is the still where the mixture is distilled to produce alcohol.

This small apparatus is called the spirit safe. Here, alcohol levels are read and recorded.

Once the proper alcohol level is reached, the mixture is held in these tanks until they are ready to pour it into the barrels.

We saw lots of barrels of aging bourbon.

Including some that had just been filled two days earlier.

Each tour ticket came with four tasting tickets. We each used two for beer and two for spirits and we shared our samples, so we were able to taste all four spirits and four of the beers. The spirits were all tasted straight or with a little water or ice. That isn't the way we usually drink bourbon. In my opinion, the Town Branch Rye was the best for sipping. I like the aftertaste, which they described as peppery. It is made with only water, yeast and rye.

This is the Town Branch Bourbon. The only difference in the two bottles is the color of the label. We were told the blue label was made to celebrate when UK made it into the final four. Is that the United Kingdom? No, I have to keep reminding myself UK also refers to the University of Kentucky.

We didn't taste the Pearce Lyons Reserve malt whiskey. It is made with only water, yeast and malt.

Bluegrass Sundown is a Citadelle Haitian coffee infused with Kentucky bourbon and sugar. When heated and topped with heavy cream, it makes a delightful after dinner drink. Everyone got a taste of that. If we often entertained and served after dinner drinks, we would have bought some of that. It is reminiscent of the famed Irish Coffee.

We learned a lot and had fun on the tour.