Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Slice of Neighborhood Cheer at Parkside Café

Parkside Café Dining Room
      Sometimes we’re just in the mood for basic food done well in a place where we can relax with a friend for some great conversation while people watching.  Such was the case on a recent Sunday morning when we met Paul and headed to his

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mila Kunis, Option “Rules of Civility” Now!

Dexter Appears on the Book Jacket
      In Rules of Civility by Amor Towles recreates Manhattan in 1938 as completely and as evanescently as Billie Holiday singing “Summertime” with Count Basie.  There hasn’t been a comedy of manners novel in a while and there is an elegiac

Friday, January 27, 2012

It’s a Bright Red + Yellow Day at Tom+Chee

      One has to be a little envious when two entrepreneurs take such a simple idea (in this case tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches) and turn them into a mecca for lunchtime diners.  Add some creativity, along with the will to make people happy, and you have a positive force in the downtown area.

Chalkboard Menu
      Katherine and I decided to stop by the Court Street location after a seminar.  The extensive chalkboard menu was

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"Picasso Master Prints" at the Cincinnati Art Museum

Picasso Master Prints Exhibit
      As Neil and Eric have said before, the Cincinnati Art Museum is always worth a visit because it has excellent pieces from all the major periods of Western art.  There are always interesting special exhibits or collections as well.  One of these current exhibitions displays about fifty Picasso prints from the ‘30s to the ‘60s.  I happen to think that Picasso was the greatest artist of the 20th century and, arguably, the greatest western artist since Michelangelo because he excelled in multiple media and painted a cat like me playing with a bird.  

Profile in Three Colors, 1956

      The pieces in this exhibit display Picasso’s mastery not only of printmaking, but also of styles ranging from late Cubism, Neo-Classicism, Surrealism, Expressionism, and a subdued Impressionism.  Some figures are from Greek myths, while others are very personal characters from Picasso’s extensive and complicated romantic life.  One set deals with the entire sequence of a bullfight and it’s both dreamy and redolent with violence.  It’s amazing to realize Picasso’s influence on contemporary graphic design in color and patterning of line and shape.  

Two Clowns, 1954
The exhibit runs through May 13, 2012.

Cat Devouring a Bird, 1939
(not included in the exhibit)

Monday, January 23, 2012

AmerAsia: Kung Fu Pow Fun in Covington

      The owners of AmerAsia understand that a restaurant must combine food, service, ambience, and a loyal customer base to last.  Although customers may focus on the food during a first visit, they’ll return again and again only if the service and ambience somehow entice them.  If the interior resembles a dump (and I am recalling a couple of restaurants in the region), then there has to be value either in price, very personable service, or incredible food.

The Fun Begins at the Bar
Johnny's Chalk Art
      AmerAsia’s co-owner, Johnny, works the lively bar and checks in with customers throughout their visit to the restaurant.  It’s a younger crowd and the very fair pricing caters to them.  However, Johnny welcomes all and includes them in the fun.  His ever-changing artwork on the chalk mural around the bar, Bruce Lee posters, and other wild accessories set a tone that makes it seem like a sports bar, though mercifully there’s only one TV and I didn’t even notice it.  Chef Chu (Johnny’s dad) circled the room to ask about the food and our server couldn’t have been more gracious about detailing the items on the menu and the specials even while reminding us

Saturday, January 21, 2012

“Out of Oz”: “The Wicked Years” Concludes

An Autographed Copy

      Gregory Maguire’s Out of Oz was released in November and I read it over the holiday break.  Neil asked me why I don’t write book reviews.  It’s because books don’t have the same currency as movies and, to some extent, television.  Plus, the book audience is more segmented than those for other media.  However, books are worth more than other forms of media because they can be kept longer, referred to more thoroughly, and lent to others.  So, I may as well start with a book that meant a lot to me because the original Wicked

Thursday, January 19, 2012

You Won’t Be Able To Put Down the Next Chapter

NOTICE: Actually, one will be able to put it down and we will be the first! On subsequent visits, our review is basically irrelevant.  The menu has changed (our brunch items are sadly no longer available) and the service was misfortunate to the point of us leaving after our drinks were served.  We're very sorry to find that this establishment has not lived up to its original potential.

The New Bar Area

      Next Chapter Restaurant and Café is a reincarnation of Chapter 13 and Mt. Adam’s Fish House appearing as a bar on the surface with much better than the average pub grub.  We were there on a Saturday for brunch and sat at one of the five bar height tables surrounding the dominant bar.  My first reaction was that almost every table had a TV to go with it (there were three).  After looking at the menu, there seemed to be a disconnection with the interior.  The space was a bit generic and a tad cold (literally too…it was a cold day) from the newly installed tiled surfaces.  (We only saw the one room so others may be different.)  The food looked more adventurous as I found some old favorites that sounded more current.

      Everything was served on square plates that can sometimes make the portions look small.  Not the case here. They were very generous and fairly priced.  

Locos Biscuits
Eric ordered the Locos Biscuits from the brunch section.  Two perfectly flaky homemade biscuits sliced and covered in

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" and "The Iron Lady": Britain in the 1970s

London Streets in the '70s
      My family lived in England during the ‘70s and I remember the country held hostage through power cuts, strikes, and various other incidents by the trade unions.  Edward Heath’s Conservative government and Harold Wilson’s and James Callaghan’s Labour governments were incapable of leading a

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Get Ready for a BIG Year in Cincinnati

Barry Larkin
      Cincinnati is off to a great start in 2012.  The weather is mild, Lonely Planet has rated us #3 in U.S. destinations for the year, and Barry Larkin has been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame for induction on July 22.  It’s time that we tooted our horn and shared with everyone what’s been our secret for way too long.  

The World Choir Games
      Leading the way this year is the World Choir Games, or as most people will relate to…the Olympics of Choirs.  For the first time, the games are in North America and will take place

Sunday, January 15, 2012

El Pueblo Esto Dos Hermanos Construido

      Authentic Mexican restaurants can be hard to come by.  That’s why I’ve been particularly interested in trying El Pueblo since I worked in Blue Ash last fall.  The story goes that two brothers started El Pueblo after training in the kitchen and front of the house of other Mexican restaurants.  Then came

Friday, January 13, 2012

“The Artist”: A Beauty Mark of a Movie

      I was skeptical.  About 20 minutes into the film I was thinking it was going to be a long hour and 40 minutes.  It was fluff.  A cutesy story that was reminiscent of the silent era.  Eric was yawning.  I had seen an interview with Harvey Weinstein, the producer, on CBS This Morning (BTW…it’s the most intelligent of the morning news shows) where he was asked

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Literary Torture Porn or Feminist Parable: "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"

      Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is an international phenomenon.  I remember seeing Dragon Tattoo for the first time in hardback in Nashville the summer of 2009.  It was at Border’s so that goes to show what a different era it was, though I bought Tana French’s debut In The Woods instead because it wasn’t as long.  (By the way, it’s an excellent portrait of a sociopath and the best of French’s three

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Light in the Piada

Piada Sets the Mood for Dining
      I had been to Piada a couple of times and wanted Eric to experience it on our last visit to Columbus.  It’s a take on Chipotle…Italian style.  The interior is more restaurant like, a reinterpretation of an Abercrombie store with moody lighting and large

Monday, January 9, 2012

Head To The Morgan House For Lunch Classics Done Well

      I was visiting family in Columbus and this was the day for Martha and me to have lunch and “shop around”.  She wanted to go to The Morgan House and since I had not been there for lunch I was happy to go along with her idea.  The two of us are well known for being late so our arrival was at the end of the lunch rush.

The Morgan House Dining Room
      The dining room was pleasant, colonial in décor, and welcoming.  The large mural set the mood.  There was a fire going and we

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Affordable Super Bowl

      Family and friends will gather as always to watch Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday, February 5th.  But with the games at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis, those close by have the opportunity to experience more…for free or at affordable prices!

Artist's Rendering of the Super Bowl Village
      Beginning Friday, January 27 and running up through game day, Indianapolis will become the Super City.  The centerpiece is the FREE Super Bowl Village, a three-block plaza with live concerts, light shows, and fireworks.  The concerts will be on two stages and sport big names like Patti LaBelle, Darius Rucker, O.A.R., and Brett Michaels to name but a few.  Food and beverages will be available for purchase.  The village will also have zip line rides above Capitol Avenue for $10 that spans 800 feet long and 96 feet high.  The iconic 30-foot roman numerals will be displayed at

Friday, January 6, 2012

The ‘90s Are Back? Oh, if only . . .

AllSaints Spitalfield's Chic Rock 'N' Roll Fashions
      In the last four or five years, it seems like American fashion is stuck in a time warp that is Ralph Lauren, circa 1973, and pop/rock music has recalled an amalgamation of 1970s glam rock and 1980s New Wave.  I’m not saying this is exactly a bad thing, but it does seem like American culture is in a transition period and trying to find a way forward through the past.  Perhaps artists aren’t going back far enough to find a key to s future development that might last longer than a couple of seasons or, at the least, a Presidential term.  Kurt Andersen is very concerned about this phenomenon in “You Say You Want A Devolution” in the latest Vanity Fair.  He thinks that we’ve reached a stasis in the culture that is a symptom of a lack of creativity and laziness.  We’re the fattest nation on earth so do we have the energy to create?  The next question is whether we’ll have the energy to lead?  And, after that, have we lost our edge or are we in decline, etc., etc.  Yeah, well Neil and I have talked privately that way since the 1990s when we noticed that everyone and the family dog was desperate to invest in either the stock market directly or in a tax-deferred IRA.  Both options would surely lead to incredible wealth and early retirement.  Ah, the 90s!

      One cultural signifier that Andersen misses is personal electronic technology.  Twenty years ago, William Gibson was still exploring the idea of cyberspace (his coined term) in science fiction.  Hello?  Now, everyone and the family cat

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Iris Book Cafe: An Enchanting Spot Both Inside and Out

Iris Book Cafe on Main Street
      We were crazy about Iris Book Cafe with our very first visit back in 2009.  Eric appreciated their collection of used books for sale, and I wanted to spend every afternoon in the courtyard.  At first, we thought the co-owner, Julie Fay, was actually “Iris”.  It was only years later that we realized it’s the name of the building.  She, along with her business partner Mike Markiewicz, are a large part of the arts and entertainment scene on Main Street and can be seen helping out at the coffee house often.   

Latte and Apricot Pecan Scone
      I have to admit, all of our visits have been mostly for a latte and the occasional dessert or scone (Julie makes them and they are almost always exceptional, especially the Apricot Pecan Scones).  On our most recent venture there, we were celebrating Eric’s birthday so a more extensive

Monday, January 2, 2012

Looking at LUNA and The World

      The other night we went out with Susan and Kurt to LUNAFEST, an omnibus package of nine short films “by, for, and about women,” though we three men were able to relate.  Susan initiated the outing and we didn’t realize until we arrived that this was sponsored by the LUNA snack bar for

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Cincinnati Art Museum Keeps Humming While Renovating

CAM Raises the Roof on the Old Art Academy for Renovation
      We visited the Cincinnati Art Museum (CAM) last week and were impressed by the variety of exhibits currently on view.  Hats off to Museum Director Aaron Betsky for keeping the museum open and rethinking its space while it undergoes a renovation on the second floor.  A few years ago, the Cleveland Museum of Art kept the special exhibitions space open, but closed the rest of the museum for a renovation.  I realize it may have been a more extensive renovation than Cincinnati’s, but I wonder about its affect on tourism.

A Very Creative String Curtain Entrance
Mrs. Philip Thicknesse
by Thomas Gainsborough
CAM has taken out the changing vintage automobile at the entrance, which is a shame, but also moved the dreary sculptures from antiquities from the Schmidlapp Gallery– yeah, I know the Egyptian and Roman pieces are important, but it seemed like walking into an ancient funeral parlor or