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Collective Espresso goes mobile to reach more Cincy coffee drinkers


Dave Hart is co-owner of Collective Espresso, a business that is synonymous with quality coffee in Cincinnati. It currently operates out of brick-and-mortar coffee shops in Northside and Over-the-Rhine, and just recently, a mobile coffee truck was added to the blend.

This development, called Collective Field Services, began around the same time Hart and his business partner Dustin Miller lost their lease at the Contemporary Arts Center. That was their third coffee shop; it was replaced with a second Bottle & Basket, a deli owned by the ever-expanding Wellmann’s Brands.

The coffee truck, a 1982 Chevy G30, made its first venture into the city at the first spring City Flea, and later that day, at the Pollination Festival in Northside. Hart spoke with Soapbox about what led to the acquisition of the truck and what it means for Collective Espresso’s presence in Cincinnati.

So what's the story behind the truck?
The truck also comes from Berlin, Ohio. It’s kind of an interesting story, how this all came about. It started in a very organic way. We had a meeting with the guys from Such and Such to fabricate a bike for us, and we’re building this bike — it’s a pedicab that’s going to haul kegs of cold brew — and it’ll just do weekend events. It’s not like a staple of the business or anything like that, it’ll just be for special events.

When we first started talking about this, we thought this could be the launch for a whole mobile food and coffee operation. At the time, this truck had been in the fold. Dustin’s brother had two delis up in the Berlin area and he does a hot dog cart during special events. He bought the truck to sell hot dogs, but he’s got a million things going on. Right around the time of our talks with Such and Such, we found an espresso machine, a Synesso, for a really reasonable price outside Philadelphia. It’s similar to what we have at Collective Espresso Northside but  smaller — it’s a two-group Synesso. We found a heck of a deal on it and we kind of just bought it with no real intentions. We knew at some point we would need it. It could have been a backup.

At this point, we have no CAC location and we have an espresso machine. We needed to do something. It was a week later when Dustin’s brother, Ryan, called and said he was selling the truck and asked if we wanted it. It all happened in the span of two or three weeks and it made perfect sense to us as a logical progression. We have a killer staff from CAC and we figured we could absorb them into something new that we do, so all signs pointed toward it as a no-brainer.

The truck is named after a bus that hauls Amish people from where Dustin and I are from, and it’s called Pioneer Trails. It takes Amish people from Berlin to Florida. A lot of Amish people go to Sarasota in the winter. We want to get “Pioneer Trails” painted on the front of the truck.

When did you buy the truck?
We bought the truck in November. It sat at my parents’ house for a while and we’d go up on weekends to work on it. We gutted the whole thing. It used to be a book mobile — growing up in the country, if your town doesn’t have a library, the book mobile will come to your school and once every two weeks, you’d get a break from class to go look at what’s in the book mobile. The truck had been decommissioned years ago and then it was owned by a television station.

What can customers buy from the truck?
It’s a basic coffee shop menu. We’re looking to do something with a keg for cold brew, but it’ll be just like any of our coffee shops. We’ll have light baked goods. Lots of food trucks have miniature espresso machines, but we have a full-sized espresso machine, so we’ll be able to work at the exact same pace as we do in any of our shops.

Are there any long-term plans where the truck can be found?
We’re going to start doing things to see what ultimately ends up being successful. The idea is twofold: to service the food truck areas — we have a customer base downtown from our CAC location, so it makes sense to stick near Fountain Square’s food truck space. Weekdays we’ll be there and also at Washington Park on nice days.

Weekends, it’s not just a mobile vending thing, it’s an opportunity for us to get in front of people we’re not normally in front of. If there’s a neighborhood that might warrant opening a Collective Espresso in it, this is a great way to go there, meet people and test market the business. We’d like to be in various different neighborhoods on the weekends: Walnut Hills, College Hill, maybe somewhere on the West Side. New people. Special events are also a given. We’ll see as it goes along.

Going mobile, what’s the truck’s maximum radius going to be?
If there was a big event, we could take it far out of town, but it’s an ’82 — an older piece of equipment. I don’t think it’s going to be taking trips to Louisville every weekend. We kind of exist in these little bubbles where everybody knows what Collective Espresso is, but then I go to some big event in town and realize there are all of these people out there who still have no idea. There are even people in OTR who ask when we opened and it’s weird to tell them almost five years ago. I think that the truck gets rid of that limiting factor of having to be in these little, obscure up-and-coming neighborhood situations. There’s nothing wrong with a bunch of people knowing what we do.

To keep up with the coffee truck, follow @collective_field_services on Instagram.
 


NKU Six @ Six lecture series showcasing Appalachian arts, culture and talent


With success in its previous Six @ Six interactive lecture series, which began in 2010, Northern Kentucky University’s Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement is in the midst of its next series, held in conjunction with the Cincinnati Art Museum.

Titled Appalachia: An American Story, this series focuses on workshops, readings and discussions showcasing Appalachia’s traditions and ongoing contributions to the world of literature and art. According to the Center for Civic Engagement, the region has been an especially powerful artistic lens for novelists, poets, essayists, painters, photographers, musicians and others to interpret the American character and spirit.

The staple event of the six-part series will be a symposium at the CAM on April 28, when five artists who have depicted Appalachia in unique ways will take the stage. According to Mark Neikirk, the executive director at the Center for Civic Engagement, this is the fourth year that NKU has connected with the CAM for such an event.

“We began with a discussion of Machiavelli on the 500th anniversary of The Prince, the next year our topic was Moby-Dick and last year it was the environment as a muse to writers and other artists,” Neikirk says. “The topic changes each year. The constant is our collaboration with the Art Museum to host our discussion. The Art Museum symposium is a way for us to export the University’s intellectual capacity to community audiences — and to give the Greater Cincinnati community a taste of the rich life of the mind at NKU.”

Neikirk says the planning committee believes that the discussion of Appalachia, the mountains, mountain people and understanding mountain art should be of importance to people outside of the mountains themselves. The title of the series shows this as it reflects themes that are held by many Americans: love of kin, love of land, love of place, love of individual independence and love of neighbors.

Why Cincinnati and not the actual mountain area?

Neikirk says they hope to present a broader picture of Appalachia with more depth and a variety of voices. “No, I would not consider Cincinnati Appalachia, but yes, there are strong Appalachia ties here," he says. "Many of us, myself included, are descended from mountain families. People came here for jobs and opportunity, and we brought that heritage with us. There is a very active Appalachian community in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, including around the arts.”

While the CAM symposium is the main event of the series, there are other events scheduled that will feature poets, literature figures, artists and more. Some of these events are open to the public, while others are only offered to NKU students. The lectures and events are free of charge (with the exception of the photography workshop) as a method of getting people involved and interested in what the history of Appalachia entails.

Be sure to check out NKU’s Six @ Six lecture series in the events listed below:


• April 22, 1 p.m.: Readings by poets and writers and a discussion at Kenton County Public Library, Covington branch

• April 25-27: Malcolm J. Wilson photography workshop at Baker Hunt Art & Cultural Center, Covington

• April 28: Robert Gipe, writing workshop, NKU (students only)

• April 28, 6:45 p.m.: Symposium, CAM (tickets are available here)

• May 2, 6:30 p.m.: Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman, reading and discussion, Grant County Public Library, Williamstown

• May 18, 7 p.m.: Poets' reading and discussion, Center for Great Neighborhoods, Covington

• June 17, noon: Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman, memoir writing workshop, Roebling Point Books & Coffee, Covington
 


New ocean-inspired Eighth and English brings more than fresh fish to O'Bryonville


Longtime Cincinnati chef Chase Blowers is branching out on his own, with his new restaurant, Eighth and English, and a plan to deliver seafood-centric fare and eccentric flair to O’Bryonville.

Last month, Blowers hosted a series of soft launches in the space at 2038 Madison Rd., most recently home to Enoteca Emilia — a choice of both neighborhood and building that the new occupant says was very much intentional.

“I love O’Bryonville,” Blowers says. “The space itself is historic. The building from 1861 originally served as Mary O’Bryan's house. It has a lot of character — the exposed brick is genuine, and the mezzanine and private room double the size of the restaurant on busy nights.”

Though still new, Blowers says Eighth and English has received a warm welcome, with visiting foodies offering feedback and suggestions that his team is keen to hear.

In his first venture as a restaurateur, Blowers taps into years of experience cooking at local institutions like Boca, as well as industry relationships he’s forged peripherally in wine and spirits, to bring guests an experience he hopes will be a refreshing change from overly rich and heavier menu options often associated with fine dining.

The menu — which, according to the restaurant’s website, is subject to “change with season or rhythm” — currently emphasizes ocean fare with a daily raw/oyster bar and dinner menu featuring items like smoked rainbow trout, Sardinian baby octopus stew and grilled lobster.

“I wanted to fill a void in the market,” Blowers explains. “Although the cost of seafood is high and, if not managed correctly, the waste involved can be truly damaging, I think we have the right team to make it work.”

But Eighth and English also offers much in the way of turf — and at a very manageable price point compared to other restaurants of its caliber. An extensive array of pasta dishes, roast chicken, duck and lamb options round out a playful-yet-deliberate spread punctuated by thoughtful wine, champagne and cocktail pairings.

Eighth and English is as much about the vibe as it is about the food. The space features rotating installments by local artists, as well as a chilled-out private dining option. Second only to creating good food, Blowers expresses a desire for visitors to treat his restaurant like a second home.

“I want the staff to know by name and listen to every guest, and I want every guest to know the staff by name,” says Blowers, who has no desire to cater to any one type of patron. “If you want to drink a $200-plus bottle of wine or if you want to throw back a few High Lifes and eat some bottarga fries before a Reds game, we are here for both.”

Rothenberg School's Rooftop Garden is hosting a unique fundraising dinner at Eighth and English from 5 to 9:30 p.m. on April 27. Thirty-five percent of the proceeds from the event will support the garden in providing enhanced education to its students in an outdoor classroom setting. Garden lessons integrate math, science and reading into hands-on experiences that complement the students' academic curriculum.

Reservations are required; call 513-386-7383 or visit Eighth and English's website to book a table.
 


Cincinnati Type & Letterpress Museum to celebrate city's rich printing history


Off Eighth Street in Lower Price Hill sits a piece of Cincinnati history, one that Gary Walton learned to operate in middle school and consequently, turned into a 40-year career.

Cincinnati's rich printing history and a passion for the craft led Walton, a long-time professor at Cincinnati State, to partner with BLOC Ministries to open the Cincinnati Type & Print Museum and the BLOC Letterpress Shop.

The museum, set to officially open to the public early this summer, is a hands-on opportunity for visitors to not only see what the history of the printing press was from a Cincinnati perspective, but also to experience it firsthand.

One of the goals of the museum is to showcase the history that is the Cincinnati Letterpress — from former printing companies to those that continue to show success in the area, such as CJK Print Possibilities.

Today, printing is more commonly seen on handmade cards and announcements, but there is a solid history behind printing both on a national and local level. The printing press, invented by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440, has evolved over the centuries from wood block type and print to large, heavy metal printing machines. According to Walton, the Cincinnati Type Foundry was a large manufacturer of typefaces, matrices and other type equipment from 1826-1892 (when it merged with American Type Founders).

Henry Barth, a German immigrant, was employed by the Foundry in the late 1840s/early 1850s and helped to make Cincinnati the center of the industry. He contributed to the invention of a number of special machines for the Cincinnati market, including the first cylinder presses, a double casting machine and an automatic casting machine. When the merge with the American Type Founders Company occurred, Barth’s work was exclusively owned and patented, as he was an expert in the field.

Aside from the historical nature of the museum, BLOC intends to make the print shop into a job creator, specifically for Lower Price Hill residents. In learning about the history of printing, the artistic character behind it and the skills required, both BLOC and Walton hope to see an increase in the number of students that wish to pursue a career in printing.

The building where the museum is located was renovated to the tune of $250,000. While this may seem like a thing of the past to some, printing is still a growing career. Plans to expand the facility, add more machines and historical context and offer classes are in the works as well.

For more information, visit the museum's website and stay tuned for more information as its opening nears.
 


Second Sight Spirits looking forward to new products, expansion and the Bourbon Trail


This week, we're exploring the burgeoning craft beer and spirits industry in Ludlow, Ky. Check out our story about Bircus Brewing here.

Rick Couch and Carus Waggoner, founders of Second Sight Spirits, shared an innovative dream. They knew what it took to make a world-class product, as their earlier careers involved creating Las Vegas shows Cirque du Soleil LOVE and Viva Elvis. The sights and sounds of their roots are the inspiration behind Second Sight and the unique and creative experience it has brought to Northern Kentucky since it opened in 2015.

Second Sight originally offered white rum, but has since expanded to include spiced rum and bourbon barrel rum, as well as several flavors of Villa Hillbillies moonshine. New products and projects are in the works for 2017 and 2018, says Couch.

“We will be releasing several new products this year, including a smoked cherry rum, dark rum and bourbon,” he says. “We are also working with local officials and other businesses to develop a local bourbon themed experience.”

A recent expansion has allowed for Second Sight to further connect with other local businesses. The $70,000 expansion, which included turning the 1,200-square-foot facility into a 3,500-square-foot operating space, connected the distillery with neighboring Wynner’s Cup Café for special events. It was partially funded by a Duke Energy grant.

Driven by the passage of Kentucky Senate Bill 11 in July 2016 that allows distilleries to operate more like breweries (in terms of what they can sell and what size samples they can offer), the expansion will allow the distillery to operate an event space, meeting space, cocktail bar and more.

Second Sight has also recently launched a new bourbon program where customers can invest $500 in grain and barrels to make a batch of bourbon and be involved in the distilling process. In doing so, the customers can taste their product during the aging process and be part of the bottling party where they can sign each bottle of bourbon that they helped produce. The original $500 can then be used to purchase a bottle of bourbon and the barrel it was aged in.

This is just one of the many elements of Second Sight that set it apart from other local and national distilleries. The process, in addition to the atmosphere, help to build a one-of-a-kind experience for customers.

“We have taken the idea of craft distilling a step further by not only handcrafting spirits from high-quality ingredients but by constructing our own still and the theatrical elements in our tasting room as well,” Waggoner says. “We developed a theme based on the future and designed our still to look like a fortune teller with a custom crystal ball condenser. We think we may have created the world’s first themed art still.”

Couch says that Second Sight will be increasing its bourbon production this year in hopes of joining the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in 2018.

Second Sight's tasting room is open from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursdays, and from noon to 8 p.m on Fridays and Saturdays. Tours are given at 12:30, 2 and 4 p.m. on Thursdays and at 12:30, 2, 4 and 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Tastings and tours are free. For more information, call 702-510-6075 or visit Second Sight's website.
 


Bircus Brewing serves first beer, focuses on community partnership

 

This week, we're exploring the burgeoning craft beer and spirits industry in Ludlow, Ky. Check out our story about Second Sight Spirits here.

A local clown is taking major steps to rejuvenate and nurture Ludlow's business interests, and he’s not joking around.

Paul Miller, a.k.a. Pauly the Clown from Circus Mojo, is a forward-thinking businessman. His newest venture into beer brewing, Bircus (pronounced beer-cuss) Brewing Co., is projected to be a means to an end for his already existing circus education program that provides both job training and entertainment to Ludlow’s residents.

Bircus thinks, acts and spends locally. Inhabiting the old Ludlow Theater, Miller and his troupe aim to invert the old idiom of “the circus comes to town,” and instead, bring the town to the circus.

“We are not going to worry about canning, bottling or putting Bircus on grocery shelves," Miller says. "The goal is to become a destination. For seven years, we’ve been doing events in Ludlow, but we’ve been selling other people’s beer. The margins just aren’t there.”

Mixing hospitality with live entertainment, this business model is nothing new. Miller has collaborated with Matthias Vermael of Circus Planeet, a similar brewhouse-circus venture in Ghent, Belgium. The intent is to mix the theatrics of circus performance and the concessions of a brewery to maximize showtime profits.

The first public batch of Bircus beers was recently sold in the brewery’s parking lot patio area during this past weekend's Shop in Ludlow event.

Crowdfunding is the primary source of income for the fledgling brewery, whose funds currently stand near $300,000 of the $500,000 goal. Bircus is the first brewery under a new section of federal law that allows crowdfunding investors to buy equity.

“I did that so I can maintain control because I don’t want to argue with someone about whether or not 'bellydance night' made sense, or something like that,” says Miller. “I’ve said no to money for a long time, where people have said ‘I’ll give you all the money you want, I just want 50/50.’”

The goal, he says, is to keep the heart of the business beating and to refuse any notions of straying from the best interests of his circus and his local community of investors.

“I don’t want to be a Rhinegeist, I don’t want to buy 8,000 kegs and 40 trucks, there’s no reason. I can’t depreciate what I didn’t spend and I don’t have any loans, so there’s no amortization. Our self-distribution will be the biggest turnaround. Instead of making maybe fifty cents each six-pack, we hope to be making four or five bucks a pour.”

Bircus has signed a three-year lease with Norfolk Southern for a parking lot near the brewery to ensure convenience for visitors. This was procured so the brewery’s adjacent parking lot can be utilized for outdoor patio space.

The brewery is still under construction with no established opening day yet announced. Keep tabs on its Facebook page for up-to-date information.
 


The Center hosting two-night pop-up restaurant featuring local home chef


On April 7 and 8, The Center for Great Neighborhoods will host a pop-up restaurant featuring Covington resident and home chef, Chako. It will be a culinary dining experience in omotenashi, or the Japanese art of hospitality.

“When people eat my food, I want them to experience omotenashi, a concept intrinsically attached to the Japanese culture,” Chako says. “In English, it’s translated as hospitality, but to us Japanese, it involves so much more. Cooking and baking are my passion, therefore, I want my customers to be pleased and feel satisfied in all of their senses. I want them to feel welcomed, excited, unique and special.”

The two-day pop-up restaurant is the culmination of The Center’s pilot Chef Fellowship Program, which was funded by a FreshLo grant from The Kresge Foundation. Grants were given to organizations that were developing programs to help create healthy, vibrant communities strengthened by the deliberate integration of creative placemaking and food-oriented development.

The Chef Fellowship Program is a two-month kitchen and art workforce development internship that gives a home-based cook who is interested in starting a restaurant the chance to experience what it would be like to run one.

The Center also partnered with the Life Learning Center to provide interns with a real-world hospitality training program that includes learning hospitality skills, cooking techniques and arts-related skills. The interns will be the ones running the popup’s front of house, as well as helping Chako in the kitchen.

“It’s important to us to support local entrepreneurs and help them get the tools and resources to turn their ideas into a reality,” says Kate Greene, The Center’s program manager for community development.

For $45, guests will receive an authentic Japanese meal featuring salad, miso soup, housemade Japanese pickles, Japanese-style potato salad, chirashi zushi (scattered sushi) and two entrée choices — pork cooked in black tea topped with a fragrant sauce or agedashi tofu, which is deep fried and topped with tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms, fried eggplant and a green onion sauce. The main course will be followed by wasanbon mousse, which is a Japanese dessert made in the traditional Shikoku method.

Guests 21 and over will be able to taste different types of Japanese beer or they can purchase a handcrafted sake glass for an additional $10, which comes with a sample of sake.

Chako uses fresh products and ingredients sourced locally or imported from around the world to achieve the taste and texture that she’s looking for.

“When I cook or bake, I try to anticipate what it will take to please my clients: first their sight, then taste and touch,” she says. “When they eat, I strive to make them feel as never before. I want my food to be a special gift for each person individually.”

Seatings are at 5:30 and 8 p.m. each night, and are limited to 25 people each seating. Tickets can be purchased here until April 1.
 


The Art of Food ignites nuclear-themed food and art


French chocolatier Shalini Latour, founder of Chocolats Latour and co-owner of Northside’s sweet shop The Chocolate Bee, faced a conundrum when she learned of the theme of The Carnegie’s upcoming event, The Art of Food.
 
“This year’s theme is the '50s, the atomic age,” Latour says. “Thinking about TV dinners, The Joy of Cooking — it was actually a hard theme for me because this is contrary to what I usually do.”
 
Latour has been in the chocolate business for seven years, and in that time, she’s been recognized for her commitment to locally sourced, fresh, natural ingredients. Her interpretation of 1950s cuisine was that everything was mechanized for ease and convenience, which is in complete contrast to her general culinary outlook and handmade chocolates. So, she partnered with Kate Cook, garden manager of Carriage House Farm, to accept the challenge posed by The Carnegie.
 
“The two of us sat down and brainstormed,” Latour says. “We’re going to be making Atomic Truffles, which will be real spicy, made with scorpion peppers Kate grew.” The truffles will be molded in the shape of atomic bombs. Latour is also planning to use unusual ingredients to make a chocolate that she might name "Radioactive Sludge."

The 11th annual Art of Food event will feature a total of 20 local chefs creating dishes around the 1950s theme, and guests will enjoy art exhibitions and performances that will bring the '50s to life. This is the second year that The Art of Food will be stretched over two nights, with the first night reserved for an intimate-style dinner. (Space is limited and reservations are required.)
 
"One reason I really like this event is because every year there is a different theme and it pushes us to try new things maybe I wouldn’t think of otherwise," Latour says.  “People are there to enjoy themselves and eat good food, so people are laughing and joking and enjoying music. It’s just a big party.”
 
The Art of Food takes place 6-9 p.m. on Feb. 23 and 24. Tickets for Thursday night are $100 ($75 for members); Friday night tickets are $50 ($35 for members). Tickets are available through The Carnegie's box office, open noon-5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, by phone at 859-957-1940 or online.
 

25th annual Ohio Sacred Harp convention keeps folk tradition alive


On March 4 and 5, more than 100 regional and international "shape-note” singers will come together for the 25th annual Ohio Sacred Harp Singing Convention. Shape-note singing is a folk tradition first popularized in the late 19th century in the United States.

Shape-note singing uses four notes on a sheet of music, as opposed to the seven-note scale most commonly taught.

At the Ohio Convention, which takes place in Cincinnati every three years, participants will sing from the Sacred Harp songbook. Sacred Harp is a term that refers to the human voice, and the Sacred Harp hymnal book was first published in 1844. At the time, it was one of hundreds of hymnal collections written in shape-note notation.

Historically, groups of singers would gather for marathon all-day singing sessions at public conventions. These events were not performances or religious services, but were seen as inclusive, collective spiritual experiences. This folk tradition continues today, and the Sacred Harp is still the most enduring and widely-used shape-note songbook.

According to convention planner and founding member John Bealle the convention is nondenominational and inclusive to all.

“Some are devout Christians, and others are not — it’s really a personal thing,” Bealle says. The unique sounds of sacred harp singing are influenced by colonial era fugues, baroque composers and sometimes feature four-part, cascading harmonies. The songs touch on themes of praise and the shared experience of death.

“It’s a real physical experience, putting every bit of physical energy into music,” Bealle says. "We’ve even broken windows sometimes because the singing is so loud.”

Convention attendees do not come to watch a performance by professional singers. Rather, everyone in attendance participates in the a capella chorus.

According to the Sacred Harp Musical Heritage Association, sacred harp singing is “a living, breathing, ongoing practice passed directly to us by generations of singers, many gone on before and many still living.”

Bealle says that the convention is the perfect time to experience sacred harp singing for those unfamiliar with it. “The best singers are going to come to this,” he says.

The event is free, open to the general public and will take place at First Lutheran Church on Race Street in Over-the-Rhine. All ages are welcome to attend. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 4 and 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 5. For more information, visit the website.
 

Father and son team up to bring their brand of distilled spirits to Over-the-Rhine


In German, “stadt” means “city.” But for Mike and John Funcheon, that word means the start of a new business venture. The father-son team plans to open Stadt Distillery in Over-the-Rhine this summer.
 
“We want to bring something that’s not quite ‘here’ yet,” John says. “Craft distilling is a new trend, and we want to see more craft distilleries coming to OTR. It’s the scene for distillers, and will add another facet to the neighborhood.”
 
As a former tour guide for American Legacy Tours, John is familiar with OTR's history, and says that he pursues his own personal education in things that interest him.
 
Craft distilling is no different.
 
Seventeen years ago, Mike and John brewed their first batch of beer together, when John was just 11 years old. About 10 years ago, they had their first taste of moonshine, which sparked an interest in craft distilling and has lead them to open their own craft distillery.
 
Until September, the Funcheons were only planning to open a production facility, but a new Ohio law was passed that now allows distilleries to function like breweries and wineries. Plans have changed, but that’s not a bad thing, John says.
 
“Starting this business has been one of the most exciting things we’ve ever done, and I can’t imagine doing it with anyone but my father,” he says. “We’ve both realized we couldn’t do it without each other.”
 
John will be Stadt’s master distiller, and Mike will focus on the business side of things. They want to keep each side of the business separate in order to do the best they can in every facet of the distillery.
 
Since John has worked most of his adult life in the tourism industry, he wants to incorporate tourism into Stadt in some way. He plans to give tours of the distillery and tell customers about his family’s history and the distilling process.
 
“Distilling can be kind of intimidating, but since my background is in storytelling, I want to make distilled spirits as approachable as possible and get people involved,” John says.
 
Although Stadt’s exact location and design plans are still undecided, the Funcheons have a huge lead time because they already have their stills, which were purchased from Kothe Distilling in Urlinger, Germany.
 
The space will have a contempor-rustic feel, and will be open and inviting. Customers will be able to see the production facility while enjoying a drink at the bar. By law, there has to be food in some way, and the Funcheons are planning something unique that speaks to craft distilling.
 
Stadt will have a full bar featuring its own distilled spirits — bourbon, gin, absinthe, vodka, bitters and moonshine — and bottles will be available for purchase. The Funcheons are also going to distribute their products, starting in Ohio, then Kentucky and Indiana, and growing from there.
 
If you’re interested in learning more about Stadt, email mikef@stadtdistillery.com.
 

Upcoming event series at Know Theatre to focus on active citizenship


For an upcoming three-night event, Know Theatre is encouraging area residents to be more active citizens.

The theater company is known for showcasing “unexpected voices, new works and plays that embrace the inherent theatricality of the live experience." Democracy in Action is a three-part event series that addresses how to be a more active citizen in local government issues via political, humanitarian and artistic means.

According to Alice Flanders, the managing director for Know Theatre, the idea to create the series stemmed from the 2016 presidential election.

“The results were not what we expected, nor what we desired, but they incited us to action,” Flanders says. “Maggie (education director for Know Theatre) and I both have scheduled weekly calls to those in power to voice our minds and to make sure our opinions are heard by our elected representatives.”

Once word spread about the plan they were developing, more people wanted to get involved. “A friend of ours suggested a sort of ‘citizen training’ evening where we taught people what we knew about affecting change on a local level,” Flanders says.

The first event, “Getting Involved in Local Government,” will be held on Jan. 31 and invites local politicians and representatives to help answer questions about how to get involved. The panel, including Aftab Pureval, Tamaya Dennard, Chris Seelbach and others will answer questions about what local government can do and how getting involved on a local level can affect change nationally as well.

Tuesday's event will be hel at Greaves Hall at Northern Kentucky University, which is located within the university's Fine Arts Center. NKU's campus is located at 100 Louie B. Nunn Dr., Newport, 41099.

The second event, “Arts and Politics: A Group Discussion,” will be held on Feb. 7 as more of a group discussion that will center around how the arts and culture community can use their professional skills and talents in the current political climate.

“We're very committed to this being open to all art forms, not just theater,” Flanders says. “We want to know how writers are combating the attacks on civil rights, we want to know how crafters are using their embroidery and knitting to fight for equality, we want to know how performance artists are campaigning for our natural resources.”

The third event, “Bystander Training,” will be held on Feb. 21 to teach people how to react when faced with an altercation, from being a simple witness and calling for help to standing in solidarity for what you believe in. This could be groundbreaking, as many people are concerned about raising their opinions about local and national issues due to fear of controversy.

“The Know has always been a place that has striven for equal representation, and we believe a program like this falls well within our mission statement to give a stage to voices that are traditionally underrepresented," Flanders says.

Know Theatre, a contemporary black-box theater, is located on Jackson Street in Over-The-Rhine. For more information on the event series, visit the Facebook event page or the Know Theatre website.
 

Another restaurant concept coming to Pendleton neighborhood this summer


This summer, a new restaurant concept is joining the 1200 block of West Broadway in Pendleton. Boomtown Biscuit Bar, which is slated to open in June, will specialize in traditional American fare that was favored by pioneer settlers.

Boomtown’s menu was designed by head chef Christian Gill, formerly of the Terrace Cafe at Cincinnati Art Museum.

“The story we’re trying to tell through food and beverage is the life of prospectors,” says owner PJ Neumann. “From waking up at a campground at the base of the mountain, making a breakfast in cast iron, and going up the mountain and coming back to pass the whiskey around.”

Neumann says Boomtown will be a biscuit bar by day and whiskey bar by night, with an extensive whiskey selection and specialty cocktail list. The menu is still being tweaked, but is so far slated to include Pick & Shovel (fork and knife) biscuit sandwiches, Prospector plates (entrées) and Sweet Fixins (pastries and desserts), as well as a selection of Sundries (sides).

The menu will also provide alternative options for people with dietary restrictions, including a gluten-free griddle cake that can be subbed for a biscuit, and a mushroom and truffle gravy for vegetarians.

“No one will categorize us as health food,” Neumann jokes of the comfort food menu, “but we are hyper-focused on food quality.” He says that the restaurant will develop purveyor partnerships with distributorships to source local ingredients such as micro-greens, lards for biscuits and other key ingredients.

Neumann, a 17-year food-and-beverage industry veteran, says that he’s been wanting to open a biscuit restaurant for years and has been on the hunt for the perfect property. He formerly worked at the nearby Nation Kitchen + Bar, which opened in Pendleton in 2015. That location is what inspired him to look at properties in the neighborhood.

“I’m really excited to be a part of the neighborhood," he says. "There are so many talented people there."

The restaurant is part of the Broadway Square project being developed by Model Group at the corner of East 12th and Broadway streets. The restaurant will occupy a 1,400-square-foot space, with seating capacity for about 70 patrons. It will open at 7 a.m., offering breakfast, lunch and dinner six days a week.

For updates on the project and its official launch date, keep an eye on its website, or follow @boomtownbiscuitbar on Instagram and Twitter.
 

Nine local nonprofits and individuals receive funding from NEA for creative projects


For its first round of grant funding in 2017, the National Endowment for the Arts doled out more than $300 million to nonprofits and individuals in 48 states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
 
This year’s grants cross all artistic disciplines, and fall into one of the four grant categories: Art Works, Art Works: Creativity Connects, Challenge America and Creative Writing Fellowships.
 
Nine local organizations and one individual received a total of $180,000 in this round of funding.
 
Center for Great Neighborhoods
The Center received $20,000 in funding, which will be used for the design and art commissions for the lobby at the new Hellmann Creative Center. The goal is to turn the lobby into a work of art; additional funds will be used for collaborative art pieces, open workshops and artist or resident-led classes.

Cincinnati Ballet
Hip-hop choreographer Jennifer Archibald, as part of the Kaplan New Works Series, will use the Ballet's $20,000 grant to help support the creation of a new piece. New Works is an all-female choreographic production that will explore poverty, hope, finding beauty in surprising places and shared connections between choreographer and artist. Performances will be held at the Aronoff Center for the Arts later in the year.
 
Cincinnati Opera
The $20,000 NEA grant will support the Opera's performance of “The Magic Flute” by Mozart. Music will come to life through larger-than-life animation and visual storytelling, and concerts will combine film, performance and music to give the traditional piece a fresh and unique look. Up to three performances will take place at the Aronoff this summer.
 
Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park
The $10,000 grant will go toward the premiere of “All the Roads Home” by Jen Silverman. The production will feature three generations of women and the legacies they inherit, which aligns with the Playhouse’s mission to produce new work to help support the evolution of the American theater canon, as well as its continued commitment to celebrating women’s stories and the issues they deal with. Performances will be held at the Shelterhouse Theatre this spring.
 
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company
The $10,000 in grant funds will be used for PROJECT38, an arts and education initiative. Throughout the year, students will explore Shakespeare’s canon, and students from local schools will work with Cincinnati Shakespeare’s Resident Ensemble of teaching artists to co-create 38 interpretations — dramatic, musical, visual and dance — of his 38 plays. The project will culminate in a weekend festival where students will come together to share what they’ve created with family, friends and the community.
 
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
The $40,000 NEA grant will support the CSO's Classical Roots concert, which will feature guest artists and the Classical Roots Community Mass Choir. The concert will be held at Crossroads Church, and will serve as a community-wide celebration of African-American musical heritage.
 
Contemporary Arts Center
The CAC received $25,000, which will be used for Ugo Rondinone's “Vocabulary of Solitude” series — an immersive experience that will combine a variety of materials and objects, gallery architecture and visitors as collaborators. The installation will feature a neon rainbow, colored gels on windows, floating mandalas, paintings, painted windows, life-sized clown sculptures and public programming that will be developed in partnership with a variety of community organizations. There are plans for the piece to be recreated in several other venues.
 
Contemporary Dance Theater
The $10,000 grant will be used to support the presentation of CDT’s 44th and 45th Guest Artist Series. In addition to performances, artists will share a variety of activities with the community, such as classes, lectures, workshops and receptions. Performances will be at the Aronoff in partnership with the Cincinnati Arts Association.
 
Corey Van Landingham received $25,000 for a creative writing fellowship.
 

Fab Ferments expands operations to include a taproom in Lockland


Since 2008, Jordan Aversman and Jennifer De Marco have been serving up traditionally prepared fermented foods with their company Fab Ferments. Over the past eight years, the duo has been hard at work building their “revolution for real food,” as De Marco refers to their company’s vision.

While they started with sauerkraut, they have since expanded their business to offer a full range of raw cultured veggies, hot sauce, a tonic drink called beet kvas and fermented tea, or kombucha.

In December, Fab Ferments opened a kombucha taproom at their Lockland production facility, which is in the same complex as Rivertown Brewery & Barrel House and La Terza Artisan Coffee Roasterie.

“We knew we always wanted to have a taproom,” De Marco explained. “We’ve been waiting for more and more people to find out what kombucha is. We’ve been doing basic education — what does it taste like, why is it good for you?”

For the uninitiated, kombucha is a beverage made of black or green tea brewed with a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, also known as a SCOBY. It’s tangy, slightly sweet, carbonated and often features additional flavorings. Because it is naturally fermented using traditional techniques, some alcohol is present in the finished drink, but it is typically no more than 1 percent alcohol by volume. Proponents regard it as an overall health tonic.  

Fab Ferments' taproom offers a line of 12 kombucha flavors on tap, including rotating seasonal flavors like pumpkin pie and wild-harvested persimmon vanilla. Many of Fab Ferments' kombuchas, which are also available in bottles, incorporate fresh juices like the Perky Pink Grapefruit or the Go Go Ginger.

“We don’t use natural flavorings — if you’re going to buy something from us, it is fresh juice and ingredients, so you can enjoy all the benefits that come from those flavorings as well,” De Marco said.

She expressed excitement about bringing “high-quality, nutrient-dense foods” to the larger community through the opening of the new taproom.

To start, the Fab Ferments taproom will be open from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday, with future weekend hours planned. Prices run $4 for a pint, $7 for a 32 oz. growler fill and $13 for a 64 oz. fill. Flights are also available. Patrons are encouraged to bring their own growler or purchase one at the taproom.

De Marco encourages patrons to stop by to try an authentic glass of kombucha or to purchase a gift certificate to give for the holidays or any occasion. To stay up-to-date on all things Fab Ferments, visit their website or follow them on Facebook.
 

Findlay Market plans City Kitchen pilot program for new year


In January, Findlay Market plans to launch City Kitchen, an eight-week workforce development program that will partly be managed by CityLink Center, the nonprofit’s partner in this new venture. The program will run from Jan. 16-March 11.
 
“There’s a great food scene here, but the barrier is the availability and reliability of a skilled workforce,” said Joe Hansbauer, executive director for the Corporation for Findlay Market.
 
Although Greater Cincinnati has a higher unemployment rate, there are restaurant jobs just waiting to be filled. The workforce doesn’t have the skills needed, so City Kitchen will help workers develop those skills.
 
City Kitchen’s first cohort will include 12 people that will spend one month learning soft skills and hard skills in a low-pressure environment. The second month of the program will continue the hard skills training and will culminate in running a pop-up restaurant at Findlay Kitchen each week.
 
Students will learn knife skills, kitchen vocabulary and math, as well as all the skills needed to run and work at a restaurant.
 
Findlay Market will manage the hard skills and restaurant portion of the program, and CityLink will manage and operate the soft skills and wrap-around services.
 
City Kitchen is modeled after similar restaurants and programs across the country, including Fare Start in Seattle, Café Reconcile in New Orleans and Edwin’s in Cleveland. Hansbauer says the goal is not to compete with programs like it in Cincinnati, such as Cincinnati COOKS! and Venice on Vine, but to complement them.
 
For example, students from Cincinnati Cooks could graduate from that program and come to City Kitchen to learn more about the restaurant side of the food world.
 
When the pop-up restaurant goes live, seatings will be held for four weeks in February and March on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with two seatings each night. You can purchase a seat for $45, a table for $250, a seating for $1,500 or an entire evening for $3,000.
 
The menu will be unique, with three courses and two options per course. Wine pairings will be available each week for an additional cost per person and can be purchased on site. There will also be a cash bar with local beer and wine by the glass.
 
“The goal is to learn as much as possible by leveraging the program and physical assets of CityLink and Findlay Kitchen,” Hansbauer said. “We want to ensure we can deliver on the promise and execute a great culinary and service experience. If we’re able to accomplish this, the next steps would be to ensure that we can operate in a sustainable and profitable way that serves the needs of Findlay Market and the community we are looking to assist.”
 
Sponsorship levels are available for City Kitchen. Please contact Hansbauer at jhansbauer@findlaymarket.org for more information.
 
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