31 July 2007

The Pitfalls of Starchitecture

The trouble with getting to be a little too famous as an architect is that people with money to spare start asking you to do all sorts of projects for them. Of course, in many places, this is considered a good problem, but for "starchitects" (or star architects), it can result in some hasty business decisions.

Clearly this is all speculation on my part, as I am not currently a "starchitect" and don't aspire to be one, but when I see projects like The Ascent, scenarios such as the one I described above start running through my head. Developer Bill Butler approached starchitect Daniel Libeskind (better known as the Master Planner of the new World Trade Center) a few years ago and asked him to design a condo tower for the Covington riverfront, which faces the lovely skyline of downtown Cincinnati. The Covington skyline itself is not quite so lovely, due largely to Butler himself, who felt a need sometime in the early 90's to erect several large pink trashcans, er, office buildings, just behind the Covington flood wall. Between Libeskind's well-known "slasher" style and Butler's money, the two came up with the design for The Ascent, and much to the surprise of everyone in the area, proceeded to build it. Following are some photos.






I was trying to figure out how they built the roof. Pretty cool.

The Ascent is now almost finished and this was undoubtedly my last experience with it before it opens. I love looking at buildings in their final stages of construction, before people move in and start adding or subtracting to it. So I guess I like it better now than I probably ever will, which means that my appreciation of it will never exceed lukewarm. Stick it in the middle of a vast array of 3-4 story buildings....stick it in a field.....stick it in a dense city with other eclectic towers like it.....but sticking it right behind the big pink trashcans is, in my humble opinion, an affront to the people who will live there and the people who have to look at it.

Next time around, can we have a conversation about context, please?

30 July 2007

Otto's: Covington, KY

Otto's is a cute neighborhood restaurant on the northern end of Main Strausse in Covington, Kentucky. It has a small dining room and a small patio out back (affectionately named "Toot's", or Otto's inside-out). Otto's is notable for it's delicious lunch menu and its collection of table "flair", which includes lamps shaped like Vespa scooters and salt and pepper shakers in every imaginable shape.

Quality of food: 3
Quality of coffee: 4
Service: 3.5
Atmosphere: 4
Alcohol: 4
Overall value: 3.5

Otto's is one of my favorite lunch places, and so when I heard that they were serving Sunday brunch, I knew I had to go. The brunch menu is absolutely delectable too....I wanted to try every entree. Except....most of them were made with eggs, and I don't really eat those. I can eat French toast though, so I did, and it was pretty good. It was supposed to be some sort of banana French toast made with split croissants, but I have to be honest, I couldn't taste any banana. It was good, if a little towards the bland side. I also got a house salad, which was good as always.

The coffee at Otto's really hit the spot, as did the mimosa I ordered, which was very well balanced. I have it on good authority that they make a great Bloody Mary as well. The service staff was attentive and prompt, which made sense since the dining room was not full; one of the least appealing things about Otto's at lunch time is a wait staff that tends to get behind when they are at full capacity. But, it's not a well-oiled machine....it's a locally-owned joint, so you deal with the rough spots and you keep going back because the food is great.

The atmosphere at Otto's lovely; it's not too loud, the dining room is charming, and the natural light seems to always be at perfect levels. Overall, I think Otto's is a solid brunch experience and definitely worth going back. Whenever I am back in town!

29 July 2007

the science of hugs

This is my last full weekend in the Greater Cincinnati area before I shove off to Los Angeles for grad school. As such, I have been busy with a whirlwind of activity, including my last day at work, three going-away parties, and....lots of hugging.

There's just something about a good hug. I am admittedly a big hugger.....I'll hug nearly anyone, and last night at the end of my last party, I think I hugged several people five or six times (in between choking back tears). So that got me thinking....what's in a hug? I thought about all of the general stress I've been under, and the anxiety I've been experiencing due to intense feelings of being overwhelmed, and I wonder if the hundreds of hugs I've given and received in the past couple of days haven't helped me physiologically in some way. This article in the NY Times may be nearly seven years old but it seems to validate this theory, in lab rats anyway. And this article on the Web site for a Dutch organization called Humaniversity delves not only into the "art" of hugging, but into proper technique as well! As the Dutch are quite smart, I am inclined to follow their instructions on the matter.

If you live in the south-western half of the United States, look for me to be hugging along a route near you next week....

26 July 2007

Let's talk about movies.

I love movies! I love watching them as much as I love talking about them, critiquing them, researching them and figuring out how they are made. I especially love watching them outside. I think that the drive-in, when it was still open, was probably one of my favorite summer activites. And so cheap!

One thing I am looking forward to when I get to Los Angeles is visiting Cinespia, where they show old movies in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery every Saturday night. Unfortunately I will not be there in time to see Pee Wee's Big Adventure, which is a classic 80's film. I think I'll manage though.

25 July 2007

Architorture: The Documentary

If you were ever an architecture student, you've experienced it in 3D....now you can see it in....2D? Architorture is a documentary that attempts to "capture five diverse students in a single studio at one university throughout the entirety of their thesis project. The film will convey a mere sliver of time, wholly representative of the experience to create a student’s paramount work. The footage will illustrate the range of emotions and process of this extremely intense period at the conclusion of an academic career."

I like their two-line Sustainable Initiative on their info page: "To explore environmentally sensitive alternatives throughout the entire filmmaking process that are sustaining to this project's needs." Hmmmm. It's a step in the right direction I suppose....

And of course, what would a creative indie movie be without some merch on sale to support the film?

However, I think the real question is, do we get to burn anything when the movie ends?

24 July 2007

Deja Vu

Upon reading the news today that GM is developing a plug-in electric passenger car and hopes to have it in customers' driveways by 2010, I have to ask; haven't we been down this road before?

I mean, don't quote me on this but General Motors was the very same car company that produced the EV1 in the late 1990's and then, for reasons that no one really knows, took them back and destroyed them. Literally, crushed them. Observe:


Image courtesy of treehugger.com

The EV1 and its eventual demise was even the subject of a movie, entitled Who Killed the Electric Car? After watching that movie (and getting quite disgusted over the whole situation), I actually came away thinking that General Motors themselves killed the electric car....if nothing else, they certainly gave the "Do Not Resuscitate" order.

The news article on MSNBC goes on to describe how GM is seeking to regain market share against their Japanese competitors, whose fuel-efficient cars have been beating up their top-heavy American counterparts quite badly the past few years.

So why in the world did they crush all those perfectly good electric cars in the first place?

23 July 2007

Trying to shed a few pounds.....

....of carbon dioxide? Look no further, TerraPass is here!

Ok, so global warming isn't really that simple, but programs like TerraPass can surely help. Say you take a flight from New York to Los Angeles. Unfortunately flying is one of the worst things you can do in the fight against global warming....a typical passenger plane uses 100 gallons of jet fuel per passenger on a cross-country flight. And that flight to LAX from New York will produce 1,920 lbs of CO2. With hundreds of thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide floating into the atmosphere every day just because of people taking flights, it's no wonder the earth is warming.

Enter TerraPass....according to their Web site:
When you buy a TerraPass, your money funds renewable energy projects such as wind farms. These projects result in verified reductions in greenhouse gas pollution. And these reductions counterbalance your own emissions.

...which is great.

However, we are still flying planes that produce a bunch of carbon dioxide!!! So by buying carbon offets, we are certainly advancing the green cause but we can only go so far. To truly slow down the effects of global warming, I hate to tell you this, but we need to fly less. Or produce more fuel efficient planes. Or do all of the above!

Reversing global climate change is going to require a lot of personal change by a lot of people. Think about that the next time you step foot on plane.

22 July 2007

Calling all photography.....

My new apartment in Los Angeles is very new....as in, never been lived in before by anyone else. As such, it has brilliant white walls just waiting to be covered with artwork. So I am asking anyone with an attachment to Cincinnati, or myself for that matter, to offer or perhaps donate an image to a "mini-gallery" on my new walls. I would like contributions that remind me of my home and my friends, in order to fend off the inevitable homesickness that will wash over me at some point.

Those of you from whom I want specific items ....you have already been notified!

Methinks the mini-gallery will go here:

Suggestions? Email me!

20 July 2007

Honey: Northside, Cincinnati, OH

(This review is from Sunday, May 20.)

Disclaimer: Honey is my favorite restaurant in Cincinnati. Their dinner menu is teeming with amazing ingredients and savory entrees at fairly innocuous prices, and I have never been disappointed with my experiences there. So I wanted to warn you that my review will probably be tainted with Honey-love.

Honey is a 2-year-new restaurant in the neighborhood of Northside in Cincinnati, which is home to not only the best record store in the city but also a population diversity unmatched anywhere else in the region. Honey and its neighbor, Slim's, attract a good deal of foodies to the area too, so it was a natural choice to celebrate a number of things, including Liz's recent swearing in and my big news.

Quality of food: 4
Quality of coffee: 4
Service: 3.5
Atmosphere: 4.5
Alcohol: stupid Ohio Sunday serving rules!
Overall value: 4

The food was great. All of us shared a couple orders of special fries (the name escapes me), which were outstanding. Adam and Liz had Eggs Benedict and thought it could have been warmer, but were otherwise pleased. Brandon had an plate full of Huevos Rancheros and did not finish. Brian's soft shell crab sandwich was definitely different but reportedly "fine". And my French Toast had some sort of magical substance in the middle of it which took it from good to super. So, as expected, the food was better than most other places.

The house fries:


The coffee was fine. I couldn't drink that much but if anyone has any other complaints, by all means, chime in. The service was our biggest sticking point: Brandon asked for orange juice about 3 times and although our server acknowledged him, he never got the OJ. We did get billed for it though! Which we then quickly fixed, but still. Bring us the OJ! Not that hard.

The atmosphere was about as good as it gets. Their back patio sits next to the most luxurious wall of green leaves I've ever seen. And it was gorgeous outside. And I had good company! That counts for something :o)



Anyway, overall value is a 4, which is very good by my standards. Honey is what we all want to believe Vinyl could be if they actually tried (see Brunch review #6). Alas they are not....so we'll keep going to Honey. Honey is better for you than vinyl anyway.....

19 July 2007

Orchids at Palm Court: Downtown Cincinnati, OH

(This review is from Sunday, April 29.)

The restaurant at the Omni Netherland Hilton in Carew Tower is called "Orchids at Palm Court", and Liz and I heard that the Brunch buffet was outstanding, so we decided to suck it up and pay whatever it cost to get it. We were rewarded handsomely!

Quality of food: 4.5
Quality of coffee: 5
Service: 3.5
Atmosphere: 3
Alcohol: sure they had it, but didn't try
Overall value: 4

First off, this is unlike previous Brunch outings in that it was a buffet....you walk in, grab a seat, order some coffee and go to town. Buffets are instant gratification since you can eat right away, but you take your chances with food that is mass-prepared and sits festering in metal trays for god knows how long.

Fortunately our worst buffet fears were not realized at Orchids. All of the food tasted fresh, and was warm (if it was supposed to be). There was an omelet-making station and a waffle station, both with all the best ingredients. There was fresh seafood salad, strawberries marinated in balsamic vinegarette (surprisingly tasty), shrimp cocktail, smoked salmon, and pastries galore. Not full yet? There was bacon and sausage and ham as well. And if you still had room left, there were the tarts and treats at the end. ALL of the food was delicious....observe:

First course:


Desert course:


Regarding the other factors, it was easy to concentrate just on the food, since there was so much of it and it was so good. However the coffee was also the best we've had so far. The service was pretty good - we sat in the "lounge" which reduced our cost from $30 a person to $25 each, so we weren't doted on, but we weren't smothered either. The atmosphere was decent: the space itself was beautiful and there was live piano music playing, however, neither of us were quite sure if we could just mosey in in street clothes, even though we did. There was also a large group of junior high school girls who created a small shriek fest, but it wasn't overly disturbing.

All in all, a great experience, and if you don't mind shelling out $25 and putting on a something more than the pajamas you just rolled out of bed in, I highly recommend it.

18 July 2007

Eco-Style

I was recently made aware of a clothing line that is about to start stocking environmentally-friendly shirts and pants. It's called Alternative (formerly known as Alternative Apparel), and this "Alternative Earth" label will have items made of organic cotton and non-toxic dye. Presumably these items recycle fairly easily as well. Alternative is known for stocking high-quality basic wardrobe pieces that are available to individual customers and in bulk.

And then there's shoes....I also just found out about Simple Shoes, which is "a nice little shoe company" that produces a line of sustainably-constructed "Green Toe" shoes. As a shoe addict I can verify that these are, in fact, some cute kicks.

So, the next time you want a basic t-shirt or a pair of sneakers, think twice about where it came from, what it's made of, and....consider the simple alternative.

(Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

17 July 2007

Inspiration '08

If you're paying attention to the already lively Presidential race, I'd say it's best to view it with a good sense of humor and a healthy amount of cynicism. I mean there's what, 18 candidates already? And several who are probable but undeclared? And we are still 17 months away from the election....it's both remarkable and a bit frightening to realize how much more posturing we'll have to endure before this is all over with.

There are several candidates - on both sides even - with whom I agree, at least partially. From the moment he stepped into the ring though, I have been fascinated with Barack Obama. He sparked my interest with his charisma and he hooked me with his unwavering sensibility, and as his stances on everything from environmental policy to health care reform have evolved, so has my support. Obama knows more about global warming than some of my friends, which is impressive since I won't shut up about it.

Most of all, I am hopeful that Obama maintains his independence from all the influences that have tainted the other candidates. Fortunately with his broad populist support and his talent for whipping crowds into a frenzy, I don't think he'll have a problem.

I got to see him today in Cincinnati....it was damn near inspiring. I can't remember the last time I thought that about a politician! I don't know if I ever have.

16 July 2007

Scooter Mania

Having been admitted into my very first "Motorcycle Safety Course" this evening (as a stand-by, through a lottery, thank luck), it is now time for me to start seriously thinking about my options re: scootering.

Upon moving to LA for graduate school, I have committed to giving up my auto-based lifestyle in favor of a "tread lighter" approach, partly because I don't want to make car, insurance, and parking payments while in grad school; and partly because I am tired of paying for gas. But, realistically speaking, LA is a rough city to live in while relying solely on bicycle and public transportation, so I am looking at scooters. Scooters are great because you can take them anywhere but they are small and easy and also get upwards of 60 mpg in gas mileage.

However, I am torn. I have an opportunity to buy a used scooter at what I think is a fair price; my original plan was to buy a small "beginner's" scooter for only a little bit more. The newer scooter gets much better gas mileage than the used scooter. But I like the idea that I'm reusing an existing scooter. Hmmmm...

New scooter: The Buddy by Genuine Scooter


Used scooter: Aprilia Scarabeo 150 (looks like this one)


I should mention that they are slightly out of scale with each other and that the Buddy's wheels are actually smaller than the Aprilia's.

Thoughts, anyone? Votes? Chuck them both and get a motorcycle? Just kidding....

15 July 2007

Exurbs and the 7 deadly sins

This past weekend I spent some time in the town of Naperville, IL with my best friends. Not much time, but enough so that I was able to reinforce a few observations that city-dwellers like to make about people that live beyond the beltways.

Now I'm just generalizing here.....but this "exurb" seemed to have a much more limited demographic than its big sister, Chicago. And while there, we ate, drank, danced and had a good time. But when we ate....we ate a lot. And when we danced....well, we had fun dancing but we felt like we may have been out of our element. Which is not to say that we felt ostracized, but our skirts were longer and our shirts covered up a lot more than many of the local females. We also visited a fine establishment that specialized in chocolate and, well, let's just say we didn't need to eat lunch when we left.

Finally, while we did get to walk around when we arrived, we all got there by car.....and this is not someplace that is well-served by a large pedestrian or biker population.

All of this got me thinking.....why do I feel so guilty when I visit a place like this? I thought about the "Gluttony" that we engaged in at the chocolate shop....and then I thought about the other deadly sins and realized we probably either participated in or saw all of the others.

Is it ridiculous to wonder if these commuter towns that exist around major cities in America tried to escape the vices that city life presented, only to eventually perpetuate them as they evolved?

PS. I may be anti-exurb, but I am still very pro-chocolate.

12 July 2007

Biking - It does a body good

I just want to take a moment to extol the virtues of bike commuting.

By using a bike to commute to work, school, or just the store, you do the following:

-emit ZERO pounds of greenhouse gases
-use ZERO gallons of petroleum gasoline
-waste ZERO dollars on aforementioned petrol
-spend ZERO dollars on parking
-burn somewhere between 50-100 calories per every 10 minutes of riding

With that in mind, why wouldn't you bike whenever you could? I realize that many people live atop some wild hills, but then again let's not forget about public transportation....most buses have bike carriers on the front.

That said, I finally have a bike with which to commute and I plan to do it whenever possible. Thanks to Reser Bicycles for hanging in there with me when I thought my bike would *never* arrive. If you're ever in Cincinnati and you need a bike, go visit these guys....they rule.


Darcy the Dahon

10 July 2007

Urban Oasis

I'm not sure when I came to the realization that living in a community and buying locally from my neighbors always seems to work out better for me. It may have been when I was living in New York City and I got a donut and a coffee from the same guy on the corner of 57th and 7th Ave every morning. It got to the point where he not only remembered my face, but he had it waiting for me when I got off the Subway. With a smile!

It seems such a simple concept, to have a general store in a neighborhood. Yet so many neighborhoods that I have lived in and championed have no such service. Or if they do, it's a slightly dodgy bodega, and I would hesitate to buy gum there, let alone anything else. Which is why I am so pleased to see a general store go in a few blocks away from me....not only that, but a "green" general store.

Park + Vine is a new little place that opened up very close to the corner of Vine and Central Parkway in Downtown/Over-The-Rhine, Cincinnati. It only sells organic, sustainable, or otherwise green products. It's basically shopping guilt-free. And it's great! I would recommend that anyone who live in the area go and check out their stuff, because they have a lot of imaginative products and they are constantly adding more. I would also recommend riding your bike to get there, and taking your own shopping bag. But that's just me.

In addition to their eco-friendly items, the store itself is also going for LEED certification, so when they are done, you can shop for green products in a more sustainable shopping habitat.

As an avid shopper and environmentalist, I give this concept a gold star!

PS. If you do go, tell Dan that Emily says hello. :o)

09 July 2007

Stop Junk Mail AND Plant a Tree!

Even though it's only Tuesday, I've already decided that my discovery of the week is a Web site called GreenDimes.com. For $36 a year - a dime a day - GreenDimes will track down everyone who sends you junk mail and make sure that you stay off of their mailing lists. This includes those pesky credit card offers, insurance offers and direct marketing! Additionally, GreenDimes will plant a tree each month on your behalf. And, other household members can be added to your membership at no cost.

What a great service! Recently, I started writing notes to some of the organizations that solicit money from me telling them that I will not give them anything if they keep wasting trees by sending me junk mail. My efforts were unsuccessful thus far....

...enter GreenDimes. Awesome.

Vinyl: OTR, Cincinnati, OH

(I originally posted this review in April, but I think that Vinyl has since stopped serving Brunch on Sundays. As you can see, this was probably a good move on their part.)

Vinyl occupies what used to be the Diner on Sycamore on the corner of Sycamore and 13th Streets in Over-The-Rhine. They updated the space, from what used to be a dark and traditionally styled diner, to a modern space with soft pastel leather booths, graphic wall covering, contemporary furniture and flat-screened TVs.

Quality of food: 1.5
Quality of coffee: 2
Service: 2.5
Atmosphere: 2
Alcohol: too expensive to bother with
Overall value: 1.5

I should start off by mentioning that when Vinyl opened up at the end of last summer, I had really high hopes. This restaurant is just down the street from my apartment, and so I really wanted it to be good. I wanted it to be cool, and interesting, and affordable, and most of all, tasty. The brunch menu for the first several months of its existence looked like it could be all of these things.

Then sometime in late fall, they changed head chefs, and the brunch took a turn for the worst. They went from having colorful, mouth watering dishes of Eggs Benedict and Ranchos Huevos and waffles to having colorless, side-free dishes that are overpriced and frankly, not that great. Observe:



Oh sure, they have sides that you can order. They range from Indian Turkey Sausage ($4, tough and cold) to potatoes ($4, unimaginative) to Toast and Jam ($4 for two slices and something stringy that poses as jam) to "Tropical Fruit Salad" ($4, see below).



This whole experience is just heartbreaking for me. The service is fine and the diner itself is lovely but neither of these things can rescue Vinyl's brunch. Brunch is about socializing..... about dragging yourself out of bed to treat yourself to a meal that encompasses both breakfast and lunch because technically it is too late for either......it's about being loud and staying tipsy and eating greasy hash browns because you can.

Brunch at Vinyl is a waste of time and money. The food isn't good, filling or worth the extra cash that you have to shell out for it. What's worse is that all of the interesting people that you hope to entertain yourself by watching whilst eating brunch have stopped coming to Vinyl, probably because of all the reasons I have already mentioned.

I'm not sure what they can do to turn Brunch around at Vinyl....but until they do, I'm going to have to keep driving someplace for my favorite meal, because I'm not going back here.

First Watch: Various Locations

First Watch is a chain breakfast and lunch restaurant that closes at 2:30 pm, so you know their specialty is going to be brunch-like items. We don't intend to make it a habit of reviewing chain restaurants, but it's not an obnoxious chain, and they do have a lot of healthy options, so I think it is worth talking about.

Quality of food: 3.5
Quality of coffee: 3
Service: 2.5
Atmosphere: 3
Overall value: 3

Ok, first, the food. I have visited no less than four locations of First Watch throughout the Greater Cincinnati area, and I have tried the same dish in every location: the Key West Crepe. This is a fantastic combination of all my "fantasy team" brunch items: crepes, turkey, jack cheese, avocado, and bacon, with sides of potatoes, salsa, and some bread product toasted. They have several varieties of these "crepe-eggs" which are like a combination of a crepe and an omelette. This works even better for me since I don't eat eggs outright, but they are mixed in enough here so they do not cause problems.

Anyway, it's extremely tasty, as are many of the other menu items, including their salads. I would also highly recommend the Power Wrap, which is nutritious and low in calories but delicious. The really good thing about First Watch is that if you are on a special diet or watching your calories, all of the nutrition information is readily available.

What is most unfortunate about the food is the consistency. 4 out of 5 times I will not have a problem with my meal but on that 5th time, I might get something that is burnt or oily. This has never been so bad that it stopped me from eating it, I have to say.

The coffee at First Watch is fairly average, thus the 3 rating. The service, depending on what location and what time of day you go, can vary from acceptable to sketchy to downright bad. It's never been an issue with a particular server, but with the sheer volume of work that each one of them has to handle on any given day, thus resulting in our waiting times. The servers themselves are quite cheerful - they do, after all, wear pastel plaid. How can they not be cheerful?!

The atmosphere of your average First Watch is bustling and often times entertaining. There is some great people watching to be had here! I ate at the Downtown Cincinnati location one recent Saturday morning, lines were out the door as usual, and sitting right behind us were a couple of professional football players. The head-to-toe orange and black gear may have been an indicator but the amount of food on their tiny two-person table was the real give-away. We couldn't help but stare - not at the football players but at their food. It took 3 people to bring it all out, and well....it all looked so darn good.

So in conclusion, if you are actually still reading, First Watch is a pretty good overall value and definitely a tried and true Brunch destination. However, I would recommend it for beginners with a lot of spare time, as opposed to the "hair of the dog" crowd, since you are going to wait a while to get in, and well, they don't serve alcohol. (I should start deducting points for this....)

Coffee Emporium: Downtown Cincinnati, OH

Brunch at the Coffee Emporium in the old Emory Theater on Central Parkway doesn't quite qualify as a full-fledged brunch; a better description might be a "coffee and sandwich shop that happens to serve waffles on Saturdays". However, my brunch-seeking crew thought it so good that we decided to add it to the mix:

Quality of food: 4
Quality of coffee: 5
Service: 2.5
Atmosphere: 2.5
Overall value: 3.5

Ok, first of all - do not go to the Coffee Emporium expecting to have your selection of Ranchos Huevos or mushroom and sausage omelette. They ONLY serve waffles, and a few other cafe-like items, including a spinach and ricotta pie (which we tried, and it was good), some danishes, and sandwiches. However, the waffles that we got were excellent. For $5.50, you can get a waffle with any combination of the following items: fruit, walnuts, chocolate chips, powdered sugar, and whipped cream. It comes with maple syrup of course. But beyond that, who would want anything else on a waffle? I got almost everything (no chocolate chips) and it was delicious, and fresh, and just plain great.

Additionally you can't go to a place called the Coffee Emporium and expect bad coffee. We had iced coffee drinks but they were excellent as well, and I usually get fresh coffee beans from here too. So a 5 for the coffee.

Service was a bit sketchy but we think that's because there were only 2 people working. The atmosphere was good, very bright and sunny and well, like a coffee shop should be. However the atmosphere has to get kicked down a couple of notches because of the poor seating situation. There were only a couple of tables with chairs, and we were lucky enough to get a couch with a table, but before this became available, we almost got into a fight over a table. I fear that this situation will only get worse if they keep making such wonderful waffles.

Overall, food and coffee were great, and atmosphere was good, but I'm going to keep the value rating at a 3.5 because I don't want too many people to catch on to how good of a quasi-brunch experience this place really is, or else I'll never get a seat again.

08 July 2007

Salsa and Bagpipes

In the Over-The-Rhine neighborhood in Cincinnati, they close down a 4-block stretch of Main Street every second Sunday of the month for what amounts to a big block party. All of the small shops and galleries in the 'hood put up tables and tents, local eateries sell hot dogs, cookies, and beer, the SPCA taunts people with adorable animals for adoption, and several musical acts play.

Being that the epicenter of this street party is 2 blocks away from my bedroom, I always try to wander down there to catch some of the action, if only for a bit. Today was bittersweet because it was my last Second Sunday before I leave town to move to California for grad school. However, it was a really special day, because I got to see two of my favorite types of live musical acts: a salsa band and bagpipers.

Yes, that's right, a salsa band played down the street from me in the glaring summer sun, and soon after that, the bagpipers marched out. The pipers actually started to practice in the alley behind the salsa band before the band was finished, which yielded some very dissonant sounds, but it gave me my favorite picture in weeks....


I love me some bagpipes.

07 July 2007

7-7-7

Happy luck day, everyone.

Here's a lovely image taken from the Flickr group for 7-7-7:




Meanwhile, concerts are taking place on all 7 continents today to bring awareness to the issues of global warming and environmentalism. Yeah, Antarctica! That band of scientists rocked out.

06 July 2007

Dance....and Generate Electricity

There's a new concept for clubbing that's been announced in the Netherlands. It's call the Sustainable Dance Club, and on this, the day before the Live Earth concerts of 7/7/7, it sounds like a great way to engage young people in environmentalism. Here's more on the SDC from their Web site:

The Sustainable Dance Club combines contemporary lifestyle with the latest ideas on sustainability. Soon you can generate energy while dancing on the energy (re)generating dance floor and flush the toilet with rainwater. The color of the walls changes without any energy use as a reaction to the heat and you can drink a biological beer near the water basin on the ‘relax roof’. These are just a few examples of what the Sustainable Dance Club can entail. The Sustainable Dance Club is developed as a brand: with time you may find sustainable dance clubs all over the world!




One club that's already opened up with these principles in practice is Worm, in Rotterdam. Worm employed recycled materials for at least 80% of its construction, and it uses an electricity-generating dancefloor to produce some of its electricity.

Club owners admit that a less popular DJ might have an adverse effect on the light bulbs....

(Heard originally on Marketplace Morning Report)

04 July 2007

Greenup Cafe: Covington, KY

The Greenup Cafe in Covington, Kentucky occupies the space of what used to be Wildflour. It is owned by Jean-Robert de Cavel, who owns the neighboring Pho Paris, and a cafe and prix-fixe restaurant downtown. It's a cute place, and definitely a boon for a neighborhood that is on the upswing. This will most likely continue once the Ascent opens.

Our ratings for Greenup Cafe:

Quality of food: 4
Quality of coffee: 3
Service: 2.5
Atmosphere: 3.5
Overall value: 3.5
Alcohol: ???

We like the food here. I have tried several menu items but the only thing I've ever ordered is the avocado and brie croissant, which is amazing. They also have this dish where they take day-old croissants and press them to make them like pancakes.....I don't know what is involved but they are very good as well.

However, there is room for improvement. Although it is a French-themed cafe, their Eggs Benedict is not the best thing on the menu. Also, their service is a little sketchy, but we might just chalk this up to "Beginner's Suck". To their credit, we have never had to wait very long and we have shown up with some big groups.

Lastly, this is the perfect place for a mimosa or a bloody mary, however, at last check they did not have a liquor license, and Kentucky does not allow wine - or champagne - service before 1 on Sundays (blah!).

All in all, this is definitely a solid Brunch choice if you are indecisive or don't feel like trying something new.

The Echo: Hyde Park, Cincinnati, OH

The Echo Restaurant is located on Edwards Road just off Hyde Park Square in Cincinnati.

Quality of food: 3.0
Quality of coffee: 3.5
Service: 5.0
Atmosphere: 2.5
Overall value: 3.5

Due to some extenuating digestive circumstances, I was not able to finish my brunch of Belgian waffle and baked apples. However I tasted it and it was pretty good. The ratings system is a group decision anyway.

It was easy to overlook the Echo's shortcomings when you factor in the incredible service. It could have just been our server but she was clairvoyant, and provided us with extra beverages and samplings of their potato selections without us even asking.

The atmosphere was OK but there were a LOT of babies there. The one next to me looked like it had just left the hospital and its mother seemed to think it wanted to walk the dining room floor. It was a little strange.

We'll probably go back. Maybe later next time, at a proper brunch hour (we went before 11 which hardly even counts as brunch).

Mokka: Newport, KY

Mokka is located at 527 York Street in Newport, KY, just across the river from Cincinnati.

Please refer to the blog entry on the "Brunch Evaluation Scale" to figure out what these numbers mean.

Quality of food: 4.0
Quality of coffee: 2.5
Service: 4.0
Atmosphere: 4.0
Overall value: 4.0

This place is very cute, but very small. If there had been more than two of us we would have waited a while. However, everyone was friendly, the food was quick, and our neighbor's brunch looked as good as ours did. They do not serve alcohol. We think this place probably benefits from flying under the radar.

All in all, a good brunch experience.

03 July 2007

Brunch...because it sounds better than Leakfast.

In addition to ranting and raving about whatever I feel like at a particular time, I determined several months ago that I would embark on a mission to try as many different Brunch places as I could, and rate them for the good of the waffle-eating public. With my friend and fellow foodie Liz in tow, we came up with a basic way to rank each restaurant on a scale of 1-5. The qualifiers are as follows:

5 - Forget about wherever you thought you wanted to go to Brunch, and proceed directly to this place for unparalleled Brunch excellence.
4 - Very good. A solid Brunch experience will usually include at least one 4.
3
- Average. Good enough for hangovers but you don't wake up wanting to go here.
2
- Tolerable. Typically experienced when you think you want to try something new and then realize you shouldn't.
1 - Just don't go there. Ever.

Architectural Idol?

It's a "Wonder" full world, indeed.

Apparently the New Seven Wonders of the world are set to be announced this weekend in Lisbon, Portugal, and they were chosen "American Idol-style" by a panel of expert judges, and the public - 70 million members of it.

Here, a contender....

02 July 2007

Buying Into the Green Movement.

There was a great article published in the New York Times yesterday about "green" consumerism and the temptation to buy into a green lifestyle. You can read it here:
Buying Into the Green Movement by Alex Williams.

This is the first of many posts relating to sustainability!

01 July 2007

This country is broken.

I've just seen the movie "Sicko". And I'm distraught. So distraught that I finally created my own blog.

How can we possibly fix a system that is so undeniably broken? Who will stand up for us? How much will it take for Americans to notice that life is about more than making a profit?

I need to go cry myself to sleep. I need sleep so I won't get sick. Getting sick is not a good idea in the United States.