Monday, May 23, 2011

Cincinnati Eats Part 2: Graeter's Ice Cream

I haven't spent enough time in Ohio to know if this should be surprising, but the Buckeye State has a large share of delicious ice cream. In our past travels we stumbled across Jeni's in Columbus and raved about their creative flavors in this blog post. Where the people of Cincinnati are split on the virtues of their chili, everyone is behind their hometown ice cream favorite: Graeter's. As I was leaving for my trip a business associate who had previously lived in Cincinnati said, "get anything with chips!" (as in chocolate chips!).

Where Jeni's greatest strength may be in their edgy signature and seasonal formulations, Graeter's may be in their "french pot" process. In this process the small spinning pot receives the ice cream mix that freezes against the sidewall as it slowly scraped away. For ice cream with "chips" the chocolate is drizzled in at the end and the operator manually breaks it into pieces before each pint or gallon container is hand-packed. While this may all seem quaint and appropriate for a super-premium ice cream, for this Food Scientist it is amazing to think about this happening on the industrial scale with each 20 minute batch only yielding two gallons of finished product. Graeter's (a company with $35MM in revenue) not only sells out of their 47 stores, but also through retail grocery through Kroger, Meijer, and Giant Eagle stores.

Our Cincinnati hosts picked up five flavors to try . . . my favorite was the Black Raspberry Chip. My coworker was right about the chips, they are astounding in their individuality . . . one that wound up in my bowl must have been a half ounce of pure chocolatey goodness. The Black Raspberry was not to be under-shadowed with a bright tartness that helped cut the creaminess from the high level of butterfat.

Can we agree to love both Jeni's and Graeter's?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cincinnati Eats Part 1: Cincinnati Chili

On a recent trip to Cincinnati I asked one native about it as a food town and she framed her answer with the idea that "Cincinnati doesn't know if it is in the North, South, East or West" (the local airport is in Kentucky) so their cuisine pulls a little from all these directions. It seems that the residents are equally conflicted about a local staple -- Cincinnati Chili. You hate it or love it . . . if you love it then you likely have an opinion about if it is served better at Skyline or Gold Star.

Urged on by some and warned by others we ventured out to the local Skyline. If you are from anywhere else then this dish will likely bend your definition of chili. The meat is simmered in a spice blend containing cinnamon, chocolate, cumin, allspice (among other things) and served in a watery sauce over a pile of spaghetti and topped with a huge mound of shredded cheddar cheese. If you stop there you've got what is called the "three-way." Adding onions will get you a "four-way" and the addition of beans is a chili "five-way." Nixing the onions, but adding the beans is a "four-way bean" -- got it?

My overall impression of our lunch time meal was of flavorful, seated fast food. You can't effectively eat the dish in your car, but since they key components hot and ready there is little lag time from order to assembly to your table. I had a small order of the chili five-way and chased it down with a coney dog and a diet Dr. Pepper. It's hard to tell but there is a chili dog under that giant pile of cheese, making me wonder if these foods were really vehicles for shredded cheese consumption? This thought was further fueled by the same shredded cheddar appearing in the hotel breakfast buffet near the egg station.

Have you tried Cincinnati chili? What did you think?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Signs of Spring!

Thank goodness- spring is coming and with it, lots of deliciousness. We couldn't resist buying the first cherries of the season at our farmer's market. We also bought fava beans, asparagus, lettuce with edible flowers and farm fresh eggs.

What are you eating in season?