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.

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