Monday, April 20, 2015

American Sign Museum

 The plan was for Tom to come to Farmersville yesterday (04/19) but a chance article - and a scan of a webpage - made us rethink those plans. The American Sign Museum in Cincinnati was celebrating their 10th anniversary. Best of all the usual adult admission price of $15 each was reduced to two for $10.

 How could we pass that up?

 The American Sign Museum is exactly what it sounds like ... mostly neon signs, many from the 1950's. But it's really signs in general if you don't let the neon colors blind you to the wider message. The Cincinnati Enquirer calls it "a history lesson".

The museum opened in 2005 but in Walnut Hills. The current museum is in Camp Washington on Monmouth Street. Tod Swormstedt is president and founder; Brad Huberman is managing director.

We arrived just before 2 pm on a rainy afternoon. The "Welcome" sign - a large Genie with outstretched arms - was gray, wet and dripping. This twenty foot tall character is from a California carpet cleaning company.

 But, once inside, the brilliant color fantasy begins. Get ready to squint.

 This small Holiday Inn sign is right inside the main entrance.

 Step around a corner to the right and this is the first glimpse of what you're about to see ...

 Antique unlit signs are displayed, too.

But it's when they get the electrical treatment that they pop into a display worthy of Las Vegas.

 All of us in the Miami Valley know the Frisch's Big Boy character (even if, like me, we're vegetarians).

 Tom admires some old time signs.

 And a few more basic signs.

 Then it begins to brighten up ...

 The "Changeable Neon Letters" at the bottom is an interesting concept. Designed for indoor use, individual letters plug into sockets so that a custom message can be built. These come from Piqua, Ohio.

Crosley is a prominent Cincinnati name (think WLR, Crosley Broadcasting). This sign is from Powel Crosley's appliance store.

 Automobile and transportation signage is well-represented. Dad would have enjoyed the place. It's like traveling the early byways on the 1950's.

See the Howard Johnson's sign on the top right? When we were on spring break in Florida (about 1970), my friend Jim Saylor and myself stayed there and Jim would never miss their "all you can eat" fish fry. I always told Jim that'd he'd be the reason they went out of business.

 This homemade sign is from the 1960's and makes use of the "space race" theme of that decade. It's from Satellite Shopland in Anaheim, California.

 This McDonald's sign is familiar to everyone. It's on the museum's "Town Square".

Rohs is a hardware store from Over-the-Rhine. Much of what you see in this storefront is from the original business.

 The Wagon Wheel was a Westside bar and saloon. The Enquirer calls it "a resting spot for cowboys in the 1890's". The newspaper was responsible for "landing this piece in the museum".

 I took this close-up of some particular bright green neon.

 Located in part of the same building is Neonworks of Cincinnati. They handcraft neon signs.

 For their tenth anniversary celebration, the American Sign Museum offered attendees a slice of birthday cake and various soft drinks.

 Tom's aglow in neon.

 I suppose this Rock City sign is a recreation?

 This "Mail Pouch" sign appears older and the wood it is on appears naturally weathered.

 On the way out Tom check's out their merchandise shop. 10% off all items today for their anniversary celebration.

 And Tom settles on a hat (he only has a hundred).

 Great day in Cincinnati. The American Sign Museum is a dazzling sight and well worth the admission to enjoy a vast array of America's signage.

Monday, April 13, 2015

We Start with Macarons

 For many years, I've wanted to taste a macaron. It's a meringue-type French cookie, quite unique and different from anything else. I've considered trying to make them but was put off by the complicated directions. Better to sample one first, a macaron that was professionally made.

 A week or so ago I told Tom that the next time I was in Cincinnati, I'd love to visit the Macaron-Bar. It's in the Over the Rhine neighborhood and not so far from Findlay Market, a favorite stop of ours. So first order of business on Sunday, April 13, was to find me having my first glimpse of macarons.

 As usual, parking is always a problem in downtown Cincinnati but we found a slot a couple of  blocks away. The Macaron-Bar is at 1206 Main Street. On the picture above, it's located beneath that colorful sign. Those brightly colored circles represent macarons.

 Stepping inside we were met with the sight of plenty of the perfect little cookies, all lined up, a splash of confectionery color. They're not cheap - six for $12 - but at least the Macaron-Bar sells them for less than the Dayton price ($3 a cookie).

 In the back of the shop is the kitchen. It was early (just after 11 am) and it didn't appear any macarons were being made.

 I ordered six ... how could I go home with less? Tom bought a single cookie, a chocolate one.

 And here's what was in the bag. My opinion? As good as I had imagined. Incredibly sweet, both crunchy and sticky, they're perfect little things. One certainly isn't enough but I stopped there just the same. Which one did I sample first? Randomly chosen, it was the macaron at top right.  I have no idea what the flavor was, only that I loved it. I suppose I nearly lost consciousness.

 A sign in the window proclaims Macaron Day in Cincinnati. Which day? Every day, I'd say.

 The entrance to the shop says "Family" in the tile. Certainly the building dates to Victorian times.

 A few doors to the east, a dark empty building allowed me to shoot a reflection of the opposite side of the street in their window. Across the street, the lettering is reversed while the sign in this shop's window is normal (right corner).

 Looking down the block, it's a nice place to visit but a hard place to find a parking spot, even early on a Sunday morning.

 Then, time for lunch. Tom suggested Tom+Chee, a joint that specializes in grilled cheese.

 Tom said he'd never been here before but has wanted to try it. This was the Court Street location.

 We arrived about noon and though there was a continual string of customers coming and going, the place wasn't busy. We ordered quickly. We both had their traditional "The Tom+ Chee", a grilled cheese with diced tomato, garlic seasoning and three kinds of cheese: mozzarella, cheddar and something they call 'hardy white'.

 Their menu board showed quite a range of offerings. The grilled cheese sandwiches are considered "fancy" and are a bit expensive. Ours was $4.95. The most expensive runs $6.95.

 While waiting for our order, we each had Cokes from their "Freestyle" machine. The possibilities seem endless. I started with a raspberry Coke; Tom chose lime. The machine also offers Coke plain or with cherry, cherry vanilla, orange and vanilla flavorings. Tom and I agree on this suggestion: add lemon!

 I look a bit asleep but I'm hungry and the grilled cheese will wake me up.

 And here it is. The sandwich is made on thick "Texas" toast and is quite good. The garlic seasoning is potent, though, and the chunks of tomatoes were less than ripe (probably hothouse). Three other veggie offerings were Grilled Mac+Chee (just what it sounds like), Hippy+Chee (hummis, cucumber, mixed greens, tomato, cheddar and wheat berry) and Swiss+Shroom (mushrooms, swiss cheese on pumpernickel rye).
 They also offer "Select your toppings" to custom- make the grilled cheese of your choice.
 Their tomato soup seemed popular but we opted for just sandwiches.

 After we sat down, Tom asked me, "What's today's date?" I had to look it up on my phone. April 12. National Grilled Cheese Day! How could we have hit it so perfectly?

 Looking out onto the Cincinnati skyline from inside the Tom+Chee.

 And here's their paper cup which gives the history of their business and menu options.

 Since this was "the" day for grilled cheese, samples were offered. The shot above is a taste of their Grilled Cheese Donuts. When I saw the offering on the menu board I didn't think it sounded good. But it is. It seems to be made with a glazed donut and the contrast of sweet with the cheese is very unusual and tasty  indeed.

 Here's how they promote the offering.

 Then we drove back to Northside and walked about Tom's neighborhood.

 Magnolias were in full bloom ...

 This building once housed their Bell Telephone exchange. The architecture is beautiful and sure beats today's utilitarian buildings. Look at the intricate stonework.

 This magnolia was blooming in Jacob Hoffner Park, just south of Tom's apartment.

 We ended the day with a walk through Hauck Botanic Garden on Reading Road. Since many of the spring flowers and trees are in full bloom, the day proved a perfectly-timed choice.

 Yellow daffodils with ruddy orange centers were beautiful in the late day sun. Under blue skies and temperatures that rose into the low 70's, the day was wonderful for being outdoors.

 Daffodils present themselves annually with little (or no) work. Just plant the bulbs and watch them expand and spread. Once planted they're on automatic pilot.

 A few tulips were in bloom, too. But Tom said the park wasn't up to its former grandeur - was money the problem? He could remember when it was better cared for and seemed more remote and wild.

 We got a laugh out of this "non" historical marker, marking the spot where "absolutely nothing happened".

 That was unlike our day. Plenty happened. In fact we never stopped. It's amazing what two guys can squeeze into six hours.