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Hungry Bros. food truck to make Taste of Cincy debut


The 39th annual Taste of Cincinnati food festival will take place this Memorial Day weekend, featuring new additions and a goal of breaking last year’s record-tying attendance of 550,000.

More than 25 percent of Taste's offerings this year are brand new to the festival, with nine new restaurants and five new food trucks, according to festival director Cynthia Oxley.

Hungry Bros. food truck is one of those newcomers, and the popular mobile restaurant is coming strong out of the gate with three "Best of Taste" awards already secured.

With first-place finishes in the festival's food truck "Best Dessert" and "Best Go Vibrant!" categories, as well as a third-place finishin the "Best Appetizer" food truck category, Hungry Bros.' culinary director Matthew Neumann says he is “elated” and slightly intimidated by the honor.

This is the first year we have been invited to participate in the Taste, and we are beyond stoked to be a part of it,” says Neumann.

Festival goers who choose to sample Hungry Bros.’ winning fried cheesecake dish should also be pretty stoked, as Neumann himself is not hesitant to admit how good it is. It's a dish he and his partners wanted to put on the menu for quite some time, but it wasn’t until this year, when the team's third Taste entry was accepted, that they were forced to make it happen.

“It wasn't until two hours before (applying) that we actually dropped a piece of cheesecake in the graham cracker tempura batter and deep fried it," says Neumann. "We hoped, at the very least, it was going to be good enough that we weren't going to embarrass ourselves, but after tasting it, we knew we had just made something beautiful. It's real tragic for a chef to proclaim how good their food is — but this thing is stupid-good.”

Dishes from Hungry Bros. make up a fraction of the more than 250 menu items that will be available at this year's Taste.

Ohio’s oldest surviving municipal market, Findlay Market, will also make its first-ever Taste appearance, with vendors and “foodpreneurs” from Findlay Kitchen serving fresh, new flavors.

There will also be new beers, new signature cocktails and new, local sponsors.

For Neumann, it’s a chance for individuals to come out to see and sample everything that makes Cincinnati great.

“We want our food to show how much we love this business and how much we love the city,” he says. “Cincinnati is a constant theme in all of our lives, so how could we not be enamored with it and want to be a part of every cool thing and every event that's going on in this town?”

 


Gorilla Cinema is launching a new brand strategy that's sure to shake things up


Gorilla Cinema, the masterminds behind The Overlook Lodge, The Video Archive and Pop Art Con (its newest concept), have launched a possibly radical new marketing plan: abandoning the over-crowded newsfeeds of Facebook.

“It’s a process and evolution for how we use Facebook,” says Jacob Trevino, owner. “We’re moving away from regular posts toward more video marketing about the experiences we provide. We still want people to be actively engaged with the brand, we just don’t want to be the only ones shouting.”

Facebook users won’t see an abrupt departure but more of a gradual exit over the next year and a half. Meanwhile, Gorilla Cinema will ramp up its events and emphasize its uniqueness through other outlets.

“Life is hard, and we want to give people an escape from the every day — where the world can come to you,” Trevino says. “We want to create more experiences outside of our bars. Experiences that everyone wants to talk about because they surprise our audiences.”

For Trevino, it’s also about creating an expectation of excellence and an engaged staff. “We don’t hire ‘just’ bartenders. We look for creatives and forward thinkers who make people feel welcome and create amazing experiences, but who can also make picture-perfect drinks.”

Gorilla Cinema has several big announcements planned for the coming months, including more details on its largest cinema event to-date, which is scheduled for Aug. 2 at Washington Park, as well as more movie pop-ups and the 2018 Pop Art Con.

So if there will be fewer posts on Facebook, how will you know when there's an event?

“If people really want to be the first to know, they should visit the bars since we make announcements there first, plus the bartenders often let something slip early,” Trevino says. “We’re focusing our social media efforts on Instagram, but look for new videos on our website and Facebook too.”

For Trevino, movies are something that can bring people together to share common experiences. He's built his bars around cinematic concepts and creating a sense of community.

“We want to take people on a new adventure and get people into exploring new places,” he says. "But we also want our bars to be for the people who already live in the neighborhood. We try to be active in the community because it’s important that the neighbors and other businesses know and love us first.”

As Gorilla Cinema ramps up its new marketing efforts, Cincinnatians can expect to see more events and experiences outside of Pleasant Ridge and Walnut Hills (where The Overlook and The Video Archive are), as Trevino and his team bring their love of cinema magic to larger audiences.
 


Artist puts unique twist on house revitalization in Camp Washington


Tucked away in Camp Washington sits a small piece of paradise that a local artist spent about three years transforming.

Builder/artist and Cincinnati native Mark Dejong has been transforming the word “art” in Cincinnati for years. In 2012, he purchased a house in Camp Washington for a mere $5,000. It's now known as the Circle House for its overall theme of circles that run throughout the house's walls and décor.

Similarly, Dejong's renovation of the Square House in Northside turned it into a work of art, transforming the house into a thematic element.

His latest work of art, however, takes the cake. Dejong purchased a three-story house on Avon Place in Camp Washington a few years ago and began the process of transforming the house, this time removing all floors and walls.

You may be asking, “What kind of revitalization project is that?”

The house now contains a swing, something that captures not only the essence of its historic architecture but also takes you through “time and space." By removing all of the floors and walls, Dejong enabled the swing to float from the front of the house to the back in a fluid motion. Not only does the house provide a sculptural invention that hasn't been seen anywhere else in the country, but parts of it were repurposed as artwork and structures that highlight the history and material of the old three-flight staircase.

The inspiration for the design came from memories of Dejong’s childhood flat that overlooked Mill Creek but also sat below hillsides looking the other direction, giving a sense of vertigo. He wanted to convey this in the Swing House design.

As the focal point of the house and inspiration for the name, the 30-foot long swing is attached to ropes that are secured to an iron beam that runs across the ceiling. The floor boards are skewed at a 5-degree angle, giving the sense that the building is moving a bit while walking through it. Although it has only been open to the public for special occasions a few times, Dejong plans to further launch his innovative project via open houses this summer (to be announced via media and social media at a later date).

In lieu of the architectural masterpiece slowly but surely becoming the talk of innovative art in the area, the Swing House has also been selected as a feature in the Contemporary Arts Center's 2017-2018 season. This particular exhibit runs until May 20, 2018, and will showcase some of the unique structures formed from the salvaged materials during construction, as well as artist-led tours of the house.

The CAC claims that Dejong has “joined the lineage of artists like Gordon Matta-Clark, Georges Rousse and Theaster Gates in the illuminating re-visioning of built space into poetic and performative interventions,” something that few artists in the area have achieved.

While the Swing House isn’t regularly open to the public, special occasions and tours will be available later this summer. To keep up with the news and happenings regarding the Swing House, visit the CAC exhibition webpage or the pages specifically geared toward the Circle/5k House and Square house, and keep up with Dejong on social media.
 


All about the beer: Three more breweries coming online later this year

 

In the second half of our exploration into new breweries, we looked at those that are opening in late summer or early fall of this year.

You might have to wait a bit longer to taste these brews, but rest assured that the experience, flavors and distinctive interiors will be worth it.

 

Rebel Mettle, 244 W. McMicken Ave., Over-the-Rhine

Opening: Spring/summer, 2018
 

“The people of Cincinnati are beer drinkers; we are a melting pot that just likes to drink,” says Mike Brown, CEO and president of Rebel Mettle Brewery.

 

The idea for the brewery started with Brown and his friends Ryan Renner, Greg Goeke and Duane Donohoo sitting around a kitchen table.

“We wanted someplace that had character,” Brown says. “I was adamant that we open up in OTR for the heritage. It has the largest number of pre-Prohibition era breweries in the nation.”

 

Rebel Mettle will offer a selection of ales, lagers and sours; there are plans for ciders as well. Brown says that they hired a secret weapon — a mysterious master brewer he wouldn’t name. He says that combining the master brewer’s education and experience with his team’s home-brewing skills will set Rebel Mettle's beer apart.

 

Also known as the former Clyffside and Sohn Brewery, the 40,000-square-foot space will host the brewery, a tap room and the Clyffside Event Center.

 

 

Humble Monk, 1641 Blue Rock St., Northside

Opening: Late summer, 2017
 

Mike Kemp and his son Paul are the head brew master and CEO, respectively, for Humble Monk Brewing Company. As the name suggests, Humble Monk will utilize a process similar to the famous Trappist Monk style of brewing.

 

“My dad prides himself on full-bodied, in-your-face style beers,” Paul says.

 

Trappist style means that each brew can yield three different types of beer, known as partigyle. The partigyle used in this method of brewing guarantees that there will be a variety of flavors and gravities, or alcohol levels, in each beer.

 

The brewery and taproom will be in a warehouse space a block and a half from Northside’s main thoroughfare. The Kemps describe the space as “barren but cozy” with an industrial feel.

 

Sonder, Duke Boulevard, Mason

Opening: Late fall, 2017
 

Justin Neff, president of Sonder, started out brewing beer at home but had dreams of his owning a brewery. When he met his business partners Daniel Schmerr and Jennifer Meissner, those dreams came true.

 

Neff fell in love with the meaning behind the word sonder, which is defined as the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.

“It became so much more than just a word — it’s a culture we started our company on. We believe every beer has a story just like every person does.”

 

With the help of New Glarus Brewing's Chase Legler, Sonder will focus on high quality and true-to-style beer.

 

“We’ll ensure that a German hefeweizen tastes like the same hefeweizen that was brewed in Germany generations ago,” Neff says.

 

Sonder is building its own two-story facility in Deerfield Township. The 6.5-acre property will include bars and outdoor patios on both floors. Neff says that they hope to grow their own hops on-site and the green space will be a gathering place for community events.

 

Neff says Sonder will be a place “where Mom and Dad can bring their kids and have a date night as well.”

The ambitious campus will include sand volleyball, a wiffle ball field, fire pits and a walking path where visitors can sip a beer as they go for a stroll.
 


Local musician opening coffee shop and jazz club in Walnut Hills

 

Walnut Hills is quickly redeveloping into one of the top places to find food, beverage and entertainment in Greater Cincinnati. With that, it has become the foundation for many new businesses, making it a destination neighborhood not only for residents but also tourists.

In a move to make Walnut Hills the center of jazz in Cincinnati, Brent Gallaher and his wife are opening Caffe Vivace, a combined coffeehouse and jazz lounge, on the first floor of the Trevarren Flats development on E. McMillan.

Slated to open this fall, Caffe Vivace will provide drinks, bites and a constant flow of music, highlighting the rich jazz heritage in the area. "Caffe" is Italian for coffee and "vivace" is a musical term that means lively, so the literal English translation is "lively coffee,” a phrase that resides in the core of what the Gallahers hope to bring to Walnut Hills.

Their concept was inspired by Brent's own jazz career — he broke into the jazz scene at the former Blue Wisp.

He plays three instruments (saxophone, flute and clarinet) while also being a leader in the local jazz community by teaching, composing and leading a local band. He currently holds positions with both the Cincinnati Contemporary Jazz Orchestra and the Blue Wisp Big Band, which now plays Wednesday nights at Urban Artifact in Northside.

As the focal point of the business, jazz music will be constant, as Gallaher plans for live performances Monday-Saturday with local school groups and talent performing early in the week and more seasoned jazz musicians slated to play on the weekends. Students and other local talents will have the opportunity to showcase their skills and passion for music, something that the area is no stranger to.

From the first recordings of Louis Armstrong to the lengthy shows of Bix Beiderbecke and Walnut Hills' graduate Frank Foster, who wrote the hit “Shiny Stockings,” Cincinnati has seen many jazz greats shape the genre.

Walnut Hills is also home to longtime jazz club The Greenwich, maintaining not only the presence of jazz music but also poetry readings and visual arts over the last several decades.

Aside from being a jazz club, Caffe Vivace will also serve as a bar and restaurant. It will offer coffee and espresso drinks from Carabello Coffee, as well as maintain a full liquor license to serve mixed drinks and craft beers. In terms of a menu, the club will offer breakfast sandwiches and bagels in the morning and salads and sandwiches for lunch. There will also be a separate, smaller menu for dinner. Gallaher plans to keep it simple and use local vendors and bakers for most of the menu items.

For more information regarding Caffe Vivace or to keep up with announcements on an opening date, visit its Facebook page.
 

All about the beer: These breweries will be pouring near you this summer

 


It starts with a beer and a dream. Homebrewers and entrepreneurs around the Tristate are reviving Cincinnati’s heritage as a world brewery capital. Breweries are bubbling up all over town with unique flavors, nods to nostalgia and taprooms to suit every sort of hangout.

In a two-part series, Soapbox is taking you on a "tour" of the breweries that are planning to open before the end of the year.

Bircus Brewery, 322 Elm St., Ludlow
Opening: Spring 2017

“Real clowns subvert authority,” says Paul Miller, chief “goof officer” of Bircus. Miller and his team plan to disrupt the craft beer market by pairing beer with the circus.

Circus Mojo already calls the old Ludlow Theatre home, but they’re in the process of renovating the building to accommodate the brewery operation. The site is home to an eclectic assortment of events, including high school reunions, monthly square dances, professional wrestling and of course, circus acts. Miller says he’s excited to pour Bircus' own beer for these events.

Bircus’ brews promise to celebrate Ludlow nostalgia and the circus with its innovative recipes — and names. The Belgian blonde owes its namesake to another blonde, Anne Lee Patterson, a Ludlow native who won the Miss USA competition in 1931. Bircus also partnered with Blue Oven Bakery to create “The Breaded Lady”, a bread-beer hybrid brewed with an Old World process to referment bread into beer.

The debut of its beers around various bars in Kentucky will feature fire-eaters, live acrobats, jugglers and hula-hoop artists.

13 Below Brewery, 7391 Forbes Rd., Sayler Park
Opening: Early summer 2017

Doug Menkedick noticed that the homebrews from his friends Dick Busche, Ray Busche and Bob Luebbering got better year after year. He said they should talk if they were ever serious about starting a brewery, and that's how 13 Below was born.

13 Below will have classics like a West Coast IPA, a Belgian white and a Scottish ale. The brewery is also inventing its own kinds of beer, including a “darker beer with some sweetness to it — somewhere between a porter and a brown ale," says Menkedick.

13 Below occupies the riverside space that was once the Mariner’s Inn in Sayler Park. Its one-story taproom is fully handicap accessible with an area of the bar where guests using wheelchairs can sit and enjoy their beer. Menkedick says his team imagines their brewery will be a family-friendly place with views of the river and nearby marina. With easy access off Route 50, he says it’s the perfect place to stop on the way to or from a ball game.

16 Lots, 753 Reading Rd., Mason
Opening: Summer 2017

Mike Burton was the chief marketing officer at Sunny Delight until he decided to switch his focus to the hard stuff — or beer. His partner, who wishes to remain anonymous, has been home brewing for about 20 years.

“The consumer knows what they’re going to get when they buy our product,” Burton says.

16 Lots will emphasize a “focus on style,” and will feature six beers that will rotate seasonally. Although the brewery hasn't officially opened, it has already released its Warhorse IPA and will follow that soon with its Muddy Creek Oatmeal Stout.

The brewery will occupy the former Mason Pub in the heart of downtown Mason. Burton describes the taproom's interior as an industrial farmhouse with intimate bar seating, gaming areas and a full view of the brewery.

Burton believes that the community has to come first. In fact, the name of the brewery references the 16 lots of land purchased by revolutionary war hero Major William Mason that eventually became downtown Mason.

“If you satisfy the neighborhood, you can build a nice thriving business,” Burton says.

Stay tuned for next week's issue of Soapbox, where we'll continue our list of up-and-coming independent breweries.
 


"Alternative" art fair at center of immersive art experience in Camp Washington


Although their neighborhood doesn't got a lot of local coverage, the Camp Washington Community Board has been working around the clock to build up and expand the Camp Washington community and what it has to offer.

On April 30, the Board is partnering with Wave Pool Gallery to bring an alternative art fair, studio sale, temporary mural unveiling and the grand opening of a refugee-run retail shop will put the neighborhood front and center in Cincinnati's arts-and-culture scene. This event, according to Wave Pool Gallery, won’t be your run-of-the-mill art fair.

Titled 9x18: The Parking Lot Art Experiment, the art fair will take place at 2927 Colerain Ave. and feature performance art, art actions, experimental engagements, ephemeral works and more.

Inspired by the growth of the Camp Washington community, Wave Pool curated the event in conjunction with Girl Noticed, the Camp Washington Community Board and the Welcome Project Café/Boutique.

The public will be able to enjoy an array of art from local artists who want to convey that art can be about immersion and not just about purchasing it. Artists will include Ingred Alexandra, Marc Governanti, Annie Brown, Elise Barrington, Nina Devine, Hugh Patton, Caravan, Erin Drew, POPP=D Art, Camp Washington Art and Mobile Produce and many more.

The range of work showcased by these artists will offer something for everyone. Alexandra and Governanti focus on visual arts with multimedia and video vignette performances, and CAMP provides a cart-and-bike produce and art immersion experience with fresh produce from the Camp Washington farm alongside coloring books with vegetables, recipes, etc. POPP=D Art runs under a mobile trend like CAMP, traveling in a repurposed rainbow caravan and bringing to the forefront that “it doesn’t have to be in a gallery to be considered art,” which is what the 9x18 event is all about.

9x18 aims to change the way that local (and national) art is perceived. Not all artists sell commodities to the general public; in fact, many artists run their careers on immersive experiences. They still want to showcase their work to a large audience, but until the idea of 9x18 came about, there has not been an art fair of this nature in the area.

In addition to the parking lot art fair, visitors can also view the studio sale in Wave Pool’s upstairs space (featuring gently used art supplies, home furnishings, etc.), the debut of a new temporary mural completed by Lori Practico from Girl Noticed (bringing awareness to the important role and the value of females in society) and the grand opening of the Welcome Project Café/Boutique, a storefront on Colerain for refugees and immigrants to sell their crafts and handmade goods. The new business was started by Wave Pool in collaboration with Heartfelt Tidbits.

The project was funded by a grant from The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation. The event will run from 1 to 5 p.m. and is free and open to the public. For more information, visit http://www.wavepoolgallery.org or call (513) 600-6117.
 


Tom McKenna creating own niche in OTR community with Allez Bakery


Allez Bakery, located at 1208 Main St., is the newest addition to Over-the-Rhine’s already impressive line-up of locally-owned restaurants, breweries and cafes.

Owner, baker and Cincinnati native Tom McKenna hopes to play a positive role in the community. His business approach is steeped in social conscientiousness and affection for the city he calls home.

“I genuinely want to be a positive force in the neighborhood by being a staple of people's diets and routines," he says. "Interactions, as small as they may be, can change someone's day, and if I can do that while making a living, I'm way ahead of a lot of people."

While Allez is new to the OTR scene, McKenna got his start years ago. He learned the ropes at the New England Culinary Institute and then did a stint at Blue Oven Bakery before branching out on his own to provide fresh bread to the community.

“I opened the bakery because there wasn't the job I saw for myself already in existence in the city," McKenna says. "I wanted more control over what I did for a living and I had a skill that wasn't very widespread at the time. A lot of people are very good bakers but they either have other successful jobs or just don't want to do it as a career. I needed a career and had loads of support from friends and family and was able to turn that into a bakery."

The menu includes variations of the classic sourdough, such as urban sourdough, seeded sourdough and rye sourdough, along with items like ciabatta, French baguettes and sandwiches.

Morning offerings will soon include scones, biscuits and toast. The afternoon menu will feature sandwiches and beer, in addition to fresh bread. The craft bakery’s signature items are its sourdough and whole grain breads .

Items are available at both retail and wholesale prices to local restaurants. Fresh bread and sandwich delivery are offered via bicycle courier service.

Allez is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.
 


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.
 

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