Sunday, July 24, 2011

The National Exemplar Sets a Fine Example

      I have a confession.  I've been having an affair for 25 years this month and it's time to let everyone know.  Who's my silent partner and why expose us at this point?  It's The National Exemplar inside the Mariemont Inn and it all started with our first meeting.  I've come to fondly call her "The Inn" for short.  Why is she so special? Because I not only consider her a neighborhood gem, but also a Cincinnati gem!  She's beautiful inside and out.  She has gone through two major facelifts since our first liaison and perfectly complements the English Tudor architecture of the planned Mariemont community.  As a service to the hotel, she serves food and libations all day long.  I've shared her willingly with family and friends over the years, and Eric and I even had a ménage à trois with her on our first date!

Entrance to the National Exemplar inside the Mariemont Inn
      Her morning and lunch menus may look familiar if you are a patron of the many First Watch restaurants in the area.  Both are part of the Phoenix Restaurant Group and many of the National Exemplar offerings were used as the basis for that venture when they first opened.  (The Phoenix, downtown, is another sibling as well as the Golden Lamb in Lebanon.)  However, that's where the similarity ends.  The National Exemplar is a traditional, fine dining
restaurant in every sense of that genre.  Her grand entryway is immediately welcoming with two spacious dining rooms off to each side as well as an outdoor seating area.  Take your pick...there is the pub with its aged wood paneling and bar; the dining room with a fireplace and views of outside; or the on-street seating capturing the vibrancy of the area. Several years ago, Sotheby's was born (I had nothing to do with it) as an off shoot to the Mariemont Inn lobby.  He provides libations and lighter food fare in a cozy inn atmosphere.  Recently, my lady took over a space next door allowing her to offer an area for conferences and special occasions seating around 50 people.  She is a restaurant that is in tune to her customers’ wants and needs.  And I'm willing to share!

Wood Paneled Pub
The Main Dining Room
Southerby's for Casual, Lighter Fare

      Since "The Inn" is open for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner, we've dined there at all of those times.  Through the years, we've found her to be the most consistent dining spot in Cincinnati with food, value, and service.  It's a hard combination to beat!  

      Breakfast and brunch have the traditional fare with lots of twists.  One of my favorites is the CrepEgg dishes and I usually go for the California with avocado, mushrooms, onions, ham and jack cheese topped with sour cream.  I like to mix a little of the sour cream with the house dressing for added flavor.  It was once on the menu that way and I still miss it!  Eric is fond of the Eggs Benedict with spinach, avocado, and tomato.  Most breakfast plates are served with potatoes and an English muffin, if not part of the entrée.  Other favorites are the Sensational Skillets and the plate-sized pancakes.

California CrepEgg
      For lunch, I tend toward the Al B. Core tuna sandwich or the Wooster Club.  My sister always orders Chicken Little (English muffins topped with chicken salad), and our friend Paul goes for the BLTE (a traditional BLT topped with a fried egg).  All sandwiches are accompanied by potato wedges and a marinated salad.  The entrée salads are winners too.

Al B. Core Sandwich
      In the evening the atmosphere changes to candlelight dining.  There are many of the lunch favorites on the menu in addition to what we believe are the best values in town for traditional fare with creative touches.  The dinners include a choice of soup (the Hungarian Mushroom is a winner), house salad, or Caesar salad.  

Caesar Salad
On a recent night out I had the Parmesan Crusted Trout with basil hollandaise sauce and seasonal vegetables.  The trout is always perfectly cooked with just enough parmesan and sauce to lighten up the fish.  

Parmesan Crusted Trout
Sautéed Calves Liver
Eric chose the Sautéed Calves Liver with caramelized onions, smoked bacon, and boursin mashed potatoes.  Although not his favorite of all time, he does consider them to be some of the finest in Cincinnati.  Desserts are what I really find practical as they serve mini-sized portions of Crème Brulee and Key Lime Pie as well as the World's Smallest Sundae, which is a hot fudge sundae served in a cordial glass.  It’s just 
World's Smallest Sundae
enough to satisfy the sweet tooth.  Of course, there are regular sized portions including the chocolate Post Mortem, which I have only allowed myself to have once.

      Like all relationships, we've had our minor disagreements over the years, but only for fleeting moments.  Now, as we celebrate our Silver Anniversary in public, I can only hope that everyone in Cincinnati, as well as her visitors, will find "The Inn" as memorable as I have.

Well,—Neil certainly let the cat out of the bag with that one!

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