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The Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar serves up whisky and whisky cocktails for everyone to enjoy.

Hanging above the door of a small Covington storefront is a round wooden sign that reads: “Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar.” The OKBB, despite its name, is the newest addition to the Mainstrasse Village entertainment district, and, according to owner/mixologist Molly Wellmann (co-owner/mastermind behind craft cocktailer Japp’s in Over-the-Rhine) is quite simply a “very small bar for drinking and celebrating American whisky.” 

The counter-to-ceiling shelving behind the bar is stocked with 127 different American whiskys. Wellmann purposely avoids using the word “bourbon” when describing the spirits because “they’re so much more,” she says. All bourbon is whisky, but not all whisky is bourbon. To be considered bourbon, the Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits dictates (along with several aging and proofing requirements) that the spirit be at least 51 percent corn whereas whisky, on the other hand, can also be made with a variety of grains including barley, rye and wheat. 

At the OKBB you’ll find rye whisky, white (or raw) whisky, experimental whisky, blended whisky, two scotches, two Canadian whiskies and three Irish whiskies. “So we can pour you a Jameson,” says Wellmann, “and then get you on to trying something new.” 

And this isn’t just a bar for men. Wellmann not only wants to celebrate the American whisky she carries, she also wants to celebrate women’s newfound appreciation for the spirit. “The first time you try whisky, all you taste is the burn,” says Wellmann. “But then your palate adapts to tasting all the flavors. Women have a more detailed and complex palate than men. In fact, more women are taste testers for beer and liquor companies than men.” 

Wellmann’s favorite whisky is Bulleit Bourbon because she finds it has a chocolate finish. Another favorite is Old Forester with its earthy flavor. And then Angel’s Envy, an artisan bourbon from Louisville, which you’d be hard pressed to find at any other local bar. “It has an almost tart taste,” says Wellmann. “It’s alive, bright and beautiful.” But everybody’s palate is different, she emphasizes, and each whisky will taste different to you, especially as your palate adapts. 

So what’s her recommended way to enjoy whisky? “Any way you like it, that’s the way to drink it,” says Wellmann. But she suggests you try it straight first so you can start to experience the taste. And if you can’t stand the burn, try it in a Seelbach Cocktail. 

STRAIGHT (UP) 

Ingredients

  • Bourbon/whisky 
  • Ice or water 

Instructions

When you order, ask for your preferred bourbon or whisky straight — and if you don’t have a preference, the knowledgeable bartenders at the OKBB can help you select one. Order a couple of ice cubes in a separate glass and a side of water. Try a small sip of the whisky first and if it’s too strong or the burn blocks the taste, put an ice cube in the glass and let it melt for about two minutes. “The water opens up the flavors and helps take out the burn,” says Molly. 

THE SEELBACH COCKTAIL 

The Seelbach Cocktail was created circa 1917 in Louisville’s famed Seelbach Hotel, but was lost (most likely during Prohibition) for many years. In 1995, during hotel renovations, the Seelbach hotel manager rediscovered the recipe and the cocktail entered popular consciousness. “It’s still a cocktail not everyone knows how to make, but it’s a great bourbon cocktail for women — and men!” 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 sugar cube 
  • Angostura bitters 
  • Peychaud’s bitters 
  • ¼ oz. Triple Sec 
  • 1 ½ oz. bourbon (Molly frequently uses Jim Beam Black or Old Forester. “Never use rye whisky,” she says.) 
  • Ice 
  • Champagne 

Instructions: Place the sugar cube in a mixing glass. Add five dashes of Agnostura bitters and five dashes of Peychaud’s bitters. Allow the sugar cube to dissolve into the bitters. Add the triple sec and bourbon. Stir, with ice, and strain into a champagne flute. Top with champagne.

513{eats} captures the culinary spirit of Cincinnati.

One of the first questions I ask is if 513{eats} generates any profit. 

Gina Weathersby, 513{eats} founder, photographer and creative director, and Ilene Ross, editor-in-chief (and Her Cincinnati columnist), flash each other deviant smiles, both exhaling hearty, bubbly laughs in sync. 

“You want to know how much we make? Look, this is how much.” With full animation, Ross forms her left hand into the shape of a zero, playfully taunting it toward my face. 

It’s tough to get a handle on exactly what 513{eats} is the first time you get a whiff of it. It’s not a blog. It’s not an online magazine. It’s not food porn. It’s a bit of each, but it’s also something greater. 

Weathersby and Ross know what 513{eats} is not — they’re sure of that. But creating a solid identity is a work in progress — a project purposely set without bounds. But the website offers some definition: 513{eats} is “a passionate journey to share the very best food related goodness, as well as the authentic lifestyles in the food community that exist in and around our region.” 

That journey began as a way for Weathersby to bolster her personal portfolio — although she currently runs a portrait photography business, Kiwi Street Studios, she knew she couldn’t realize her dream of breaking into professional food photography for a big-name magazine or image-laden cookbook without the chops to showcase her experience and creative initiative. 

“Penny De Los Santos, who is the senior contributing photographer of Saveur magazine [a food magazine] had a quote in this cooking workshop that I watched: ‘Self-assign your dream assignment.’” 

Weathersby decided to do just that: she crafted a project that would allow her to showcase her food photography skills. Voila! A portfolio and 513{eats} are born, with content fueled by Weathersby’s innate desire to stay selfless: “My dad always said, ‘We are all here to help each other and to do good.’ Do what you love, and in that way if you bring joy to other people…what more can you want?” she says. 

Instead of taking “The Gina Show” route, Weathersby handpicked friends to contribute who, too, could benefit from the exposure and experience. She selected the name and concept as a way to pay homage to the diversity and splendor of the 513 area code’s food community, which she describes as a love worthy of cultivating and spreading. 

She called Ross, a writer, actor and chef she’d met through her portrait photography work, and a friend, Nora Martini, whom Weathersby had worked with for years in production through freelance projects. 

What became a sort of an inclusive homework project for Weathersby’s “dream assignment” has blossomed into a creation she admits has grown far more rapidly than she could have imagined. 

Weathersby and Ross are the head honchos for the 513{eats} platform. They’re the pair dashing all over town, schmoozing with foodies and chefs. 

“We wear lots of hats,” says Ross. “This is really the two of us doing this and pulling in people along the way.” 

The two make a whimsical, charming pair, intuitively balancing each other out with a sense of sassy equilibrium that’s a rare, refreshing sight in the business world; they pal around in an almost sister-like fashion.

Weathersby is the yang: She’s creative tour-de-force, a dreamer type with, admittedly, a bit of an alpha personality. “I am a self-proclaimed control freak. I like things my way…I work well with people and collaborating, but when I’m in charge, I’m in charge. I want it my way.” 

Ross, the yin — in person, she seems a bit more reserved, but her spice shines through not only in her deeply expressive writing, but in the moments Weathersby catches in still; a whole series of photos for the summer 513{eats} issue is dedicated to Weathersby’s collection of Ross “licking” plates and shoving food in her mouth — Ross’s “signature,” says Weathersby. 

“I am gluttonous, and it is food porn and I like looking at good food, it makes me want to eat it,” says Ross, proudly. “I come from a Jewish family that thinks about food from the second we wake up to the second we go to sleep … Food is everything.” 

As much as she jokes, even a 513{eats} newbie could sniff out Ross’s culinary background in her writing, which possesses an exactness that comes only from a longtime history of working with food. Ross, who had to stop working behind the counter of her own catering company, Hot Food! Catering, in 2007 due to a back injury, finds writing about Cincinnati’s culinary community as an expressive outlet. “I think any food professional who loves it has to feed people…if I don’t feed them physically, I have to feed them mentally,” she says. 

Like a dash of rosemary adds an unexpected, much-needed tinge of chutzpah to the syrupy sweet down-home flavor of Weathersby’s rosemary shortbread Meyer lemon tart, one of the many recipes featured on the 513{eats} blog, something just clicks for these two.

“We are so in sync and we work really well together, it’s a perfect collaboration,” says Weathersby. 

“We absolutely trust each other. It’s food; it’s not brain surgery,” adds Ross. 

The pair’s functioning is anything but formulaic, save one ritual: Weathersby always takes the photos first before Ross ever pulls out her laptop. “I’m motivated to tell a story by the people, but most of all her (Weathersby’s) pictures. They really do inspire me to tell a story. That’s why I can’t write until I see what her ‘vision’ for the story is.” 

Flipping through the pages of a 513{eats} issue, even only on a computer screen, is much like taking a vacation. The 200-plus page issues are clearly a labor of love, but they’re also something more. Weathersby’s rustic, romantic touch adds a markedly warm, dreamlike effect, accentuated by Ross’s eloquent writing voice. 

“I don’t like shiny bright lights, I don’t like places where you go and you don’t feel like you can put your feet up— it’s not inviting … You want to bring people into that environment, that feeling, that mood,” says Weathersby. 

The result of their collaboration is so dreamlike, in fact, that it feels a bit more like flipping through the pages of a good travel magazine, its pages a form of escapism for dreary members of the hoi polloi. 

There’s nothing about it that’s cookie-cutter or corporate or conformist. It’s whatever Weathersby and Ross dream it to be. Sometimes, that means photographing exquisite dishes of food on lovely wood floors, typing furiously in the passenger seat of a car, calling graphic designer friends late at night for design advice and, yes, licking plates when warranted. 

It’s that absence of conformity that lets the page count run into the triple digits, but it’s also what keeps them from printing the issues or going monthly. Requests for both changes have flooded the 513{eats} inboxes, but neither are something Weathersby and Ross are ready to fathom. “Right now we have the freedom if we have a really great story… We can do a ten-page spread if we choose to. We are not limited to, OK, you have to tell the whole story in two pages. I know that will happen, and that is how it is, but not in our publication,” says Weathersby. 

The cost of printing 200-page plus issues, Weathersby says, is far too great for an unpaid project like theirs to handle. They also discussed the possibility of publishing monthly, but life — and justly so — would certainly get in the way. 

The two already have healthy, active family lives, which both agree takes precedent over their duties to 513{eats}. The work has proven, at times, overwhelming. “There are days when we go, ‘We’re just going to get in the car and drive away,’” says Ross. 

Between constant idea-generating phone calls and Skype sessions, photo shoots, interviews, writing, layout and editing work, things are wont to get a bit stressful. 

“When we’re putting together an issue, I go into what I call ‘Grey Gardens’ mode…because I let everything go. I’m just sitting in my bed, glasses on, hair up in a ponytail,” chuckles Ross. 

“It’s a tremendous amount of work but it’s so fulfilling, it’s delightful,” says Weathersby. 

It’s a worthwhile toil for two such creative souls, who continue to make magic of the Cincinnati food world with each page, blog post, tweet, photo. 

“In the end, if you honor your own individuality as an artist in any area, your own voice will come through and that’s what should set you apart from anyone, ever,” says Weathersby. “I think any artist should strive for that, because in this world today there’s so much we can see and it’s easy to copy. Find—be inspired by something, but make it your own. How do you make it your own? It’s your journey. And nobody has taken your journey. And if you honor your own journey and your own voice, it will be your own art and nobody can take that away from you.”

Photography by Gina Weathersby/Kiwi Street Studios

The lush greenery that makes an appearance this time of year practically demands that we join in the fun. With breezy accessories and verdant finds, it’s time for ice cream, gardening projects and cinematic road trips.

Clockwise from top: Recipe for a good time: one scoop of mint chocolate chip, one scoop of vanilla. The combination of rich and sweet, cool and creamy is the best thing that ever happened to summer. Aglamesis Brothers ice cream, Iris Book CafeA vintage apron makes cooking in heels and a pointy bra seem like a good idea. $10, Atomic Number 10Throw on this sheer print tunic over a bikini and cutoffs. Dappled Sea Blouse, $138, AnthropologieGrowing your own food — even if it’s just a few herbs in a container — is surprisingly rewarding. And by “rewarding,” I mean badass. Garden vegetables and herbs, $5.99, Whole FoodsBright green nail polish may be the only way to legitimately claim a green thumb. I’ll take it! Revlon nail polish in Sassy and Posh, $7, Walgreens. I’ve managed to grow three tomatoes and enough basil to feed all of Italy, so I’m clearly a gardening expert. Grow Cook Eat: A Food Lover’s Guide to Vegetable Gardening is a wonderful guide to growing and cooking delicious veggies, as well as harvesting and storing them. $29.95, Joseph-Beth Booksellers. A pretty leaf print bag big enough to hold everything you own is perfect for road trips! Beaded-handle bag, $24.99, Charming Charlie. For us DIY types, this ice cream starter kit comes with everything you need (sans ice cream maker) to make your own batch. Get creative with add-on in- gredients! Mint Chip Ice Cream Starter, $12, Williams-Sonoma. 

A glimpse into beauty trends today and through the ages.

One of the things I love about Cincinnati is that we have incredibly gorgeous women from all over the country — not to mention the world — living shoulder-to-shoulder in this mid-size city. And, even though we may come from various ethnic backgrounds and beauty ideals, the women that have come before us, and the women living across the globe, inspire our beauty choices every day. 

Some of the earliest and most recognized beauty icons are Egyptian queens like Cleopatra and Nefertiti. With hair as black as coal, dramatic cheekbones, blunt bangs, heavily lined eyelids, rouged cheeks and lips of red, thousands of years later, women’s beauty choices are still influenced by this look. Blunt bangs, cat eyes and red lips are still in! 

In Cleopatra’s time (69 B.C.-30 B.C.) stocking up on cosmetics was not as simple as a trip to the local department store. Red lipstick was made by adding crushed carmine beetles to a base of ants. Hair dye was created using the henna plant or by crushing black gazelle horn into an unguent with oil. And the classic almond-shaped cat-eye was applied with paint made from materials imported from distant regions. Green eye paint was usually made of malachite, a green ore of copper; and kohl was made of galena, a dark grey ore of lead. Although imported materials were expensive, women were willing to invest in these luxury cosmetic items. 

So next time you fork over the extra cash for that new eye shadow palette from Chanel, don’t feel guilty — women have been doing this for thousands of years! 

Fast-forward to the early 20th century, and the flapper era comes to mind. In the early 1900s, the use of makeup was frowned upon (as Queen Victoria thought it was only for prostitutes), but as Prohibition, the age of jazz and revolutionary art movements de- livered via film took hold of American culture in the 1920s, women were liberated in fashion and mindset: Skirts rose, hair was cut short and make- up became acceptable. Even suntans became desirable. Having darker skin became all the rage as French women idolized African American entertainer Josephine Baker for her exotic look, and fashion icon Coco Chanel “accidentally” returned from a Riviera vacation with a tan. Both were a stark contrast to previous beauty ideals, which prized pale skin as a symbol of delicate femininity and wealth. 

Huge innovations in the cosmetic industry, which affect the way we use makeup today, also happened in the 1920s. Cosmetician, chemist and wig maker Max Factor developed the “color harmony” principle, coordinating powder, lipstick and rouge into color groups based on skin tone. He also developed “Pan-Cake” makeup, a breath- able greasepaint for actresses that soon turned into the first commercially available foundation. Twist-up lipstick (for easy public application) and suntan oil were also products of this era. So we can thank the women of almost a century ago for our cute bobs, tanned limbs and the ability to publicly paint our lips! 

As we progress into the 21st century, we see the world becoming more connected. American women today take fashion and beauty cues from their sisters across the globe. They look east to India for accessories, spa treatments (think ayurvedic options like those available at Sia Spa in Kenwood) and clothing styles (think the rise of Bollywood and the popularity of films like Slumdog Millionaire). Henna tattoos are now common in North America as are tunic blouses with exotic patterns.

Women in America also look south of the equator to countries such as Brazil and Argentina for beauty inspiration. Brazil is famous for its natural and holistic approach to beauty (think Gisele Bündchen) while Argentina, on the other hand, is hailed as the cosmetic surgery capital of the world. Gorgeous women are constantly emerging from both countries as well as all over Latin America. American women have taken to admiring their unique femininity and style. 

Today, many different types of women, independent of their age, race and ethnicity, are hailed as beauty icons in American pop culture. Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez and Kim Kardashian all defy the traditional blonde-haired blue-eyed beauty. And Andy MacDowell, Cynthia Bailey, Angela Bassett and Nicole Kidman defy beauty standards beyond a “certain age.” 

Forgive the pun, but the beauty in all of this history and connectedness is that women from different countries and time periods all influence each other. And we are lucky enough to have a bevy of beauties from different backgrounds in Cincinnati. So remember, we all have some common threads in our history as women and in the beauty choices that we make everyday. We should celebrate what brings us together as well as what makes us unique. 

DID YOU KNOW: Women Throughout History, Including Cleopatra, Are Said To Have Bathed In Milk To Keep Their Skin Supple. Milk Is Full Of The Alpha Hydroxy Acid, Lactic Acid, Which Naturally Softens Skin By Removing Dead Skin Cells. Make Your Own Milk Bath By Adding 2 Cups Of Powdered Milk (And A Few Drops Of Essential Oil) To A Lukewarm Bath.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of Libby, Perszyk, Kathman Inc. or any of its affiliates.

The Enright Ridge Ecovillage branches out.

A woman in her late fifties adjusts her straw hat and then places a thumb over the end of a hose, spraying a shower of water over sapling raspberry bushes, which are lined up in a garden plot like products on a shelf. She holds the hose in her left hand and waves to a neighbor with her right.

Across the street, a goat nudges its muzzle through a backyard fence opening. A dog runs from around the corner toward the open fence and starts to herd the goat back inside. 

“Do you need any help?” says the woman in the straw hat. 

“No, thanks. I think he’s got it under control,” says her neighbor, pointing to the dog. 

In Price Hill’s Enright Ridge Ecovillage, the people, animals and backyard gardens have been working in harmony to provide local food to their neighborhood for the past two years. Now, Enright Ridge’s community supported agriculture program (CSA) is reaching out beyond the neighborhood by sharing skills and advice with the broader community. 

“The demand for local produce is bigger than what is satisfied right now,” says Suellyn Shupe, board director of the Enright Ridge Ecovillage and CSA shareholder. “We’re trying to put together a distribution system in Cincinnati where local growers can combine resources to make enough food available.” 

CSA is a neighborhood-based model of farming where shareholders plant, harvest and enjoy the seasons’ produce yields. Shareholders pay an annual fee (which they can offset by volunteering for garden work, bookkeeping or other handiwork) and get a weekly ration of local produce for six months out of the year. In addition to weekly food shares, members learn gardening techniques from each other and get to support an eco-friendly and community-based way of life. 

According to their website, the Enright Ridge CSA was created in 2009 by the folks in the Enright Ridge Ecovillage. It started with 20 shareholders, but now includes 60. This year, the Enright Ridge CSA will feed more than 150 people with food grown from garden plots that cover about an acre of land. 

This summer, gardeners from the Enright Ridge CSA program are collaborating with gardeners at Findlay Market Farms, one of Cincinnati’s many farmers markets, to talk urban farming. The goal is to educate local farmers about urban agriculture practices — which are anything but easy — and to create a food hub in Cincinnati that will promote urban agriculture and make local food available to everyone. 

“To be able to grow a lot of food in such a little space requires expertise,” says Nancy Sullivan, who is also a member of the Ecovillage and Enright Ridge CSA. “It’s a very complicated algorithm. You have to know how much the soil can take, where certain plants work best, and what variations of plants work best in city environments.” 

Enright Ridge is different from other CSA gardens because of its urban location. Most CSA gardens, like Turner Farms in Indian Hill or EarthShares CSA in Loveland, are located in rural areas or in areas that have already been farmed. Since space is limited, Price Hill’s CSA members grow fresh produce in the Terry Street community garden, the community greenhouse and in plots at home. Members agree it’s worth the effort. “If you eat food directly from the garden, it’s just better tasting, fresher and better for you,” says Shupe, who has a garden in her backyard. 

The gardeners at Enright Ridge have been harvesting produce like peppers, tomatoes and radishes since their first plantings, and they are introducing hazelnut, elderberry, peach and plum trees to their gardens this year. Although the Enright Ridge CSA shareholders are primarily from Price Hill, people in Cincinnati who are interested are welcome to participate in the program. Shareholder applications are available online, and rates run from $275-$700 per share. 

And while Enright Ridge welcomes new faces, members also encourage people to consider developing CSA gardens in their own neighborhoods. Shupe says the benefits of having a community garden are bountiful, and the learning never stops. 

“There are three words in Community Supported Agriculture,” says Shupe. “Agriculture, I’ve learned through the years. The other one’s are Community and Support, and they are an important aspect of the whole system.”

As they plant, water and tend their urban crops, Sullivan, Shupe and others look forward to another season of working with and learning from each other -– and their gardens.

Making take-out favorites at home is easy (and healthy).

American women are super busy. Besides taking care of our families and chores on the home front, most of us have jobs outside the house as well. And with today’s technology, it’s very unusual to find someone living a typical nine-to-five business day anymore. There always seems to be enough time to fit in another office call or answer just one more email. The one thing we don’t seem to have time to do is to cook and eat well. For many people, the local take-out joint has become their go-to place for dinner, be it for convenience and/or economics. We’d like to be able to say we can do it all, but if it’s at the expense of our health, what are we saving? 

Our nation’s eating habits have gotten completely out of control, and fast food restaurants aren’t doing much to help. Have you seen some of their offerings lately? They always seem to take advantage of how strapped we are for time and cash, but, boy, it’s gone a bit too far. Now, I love pizza as much as the next person, but for some strange reason, the pizza makers seem to think that we’ve become bored with the basics. Pizza crusts are now being stuffed with … things. They started with pepperoni and have moved on to macaroni and cheese. Seriously? How many meals do we need in one simple slice? 

Pizza is one of the easiest things to make at home — and super healthy when you use whole wheat crust, lots of veggies and low-fat cheese. I love to entertain with a top-your-own pizza party. Keep your costs in check by visiting your local farmers market for fresh produce, and I highly recommend investing in a pizza stone for baking. This time of year is also wonderful for preparing your pizza on the grill. The smoky flavor imparted is almost as good as having your own wood-fired oven. Check out epicurious.com for some recipes. 

Chinese take-out is another easy food to make at home. As a child, Sunday night in my house always meant heading to our local Chinese restaurant. Even though it was supposed to be an appetizer, my parents let me order the Pu-Pu platter, an assortment of fried delicacies surrounding a small Sterno fire. I’m not sure if it was the taste of the food or my caveman-like fascination with cooking my own dinner that was more of the draw, but to this day, I’m still a huge fan, especially of egg rolls.

Contrary to popular belief, when done correctly, deep frying isn’t the fat-laden monster it’s made out to be. The heat from the oil essentially activates the food’s own moisture and steam cooks it from the inside, leaving it with a light, crispy crust. Fill your rolls with lean protein and lots of fresh vegetables and you’ve got the perfect starter. Egg rolls are another one of those great party foods, and I find that since everyone always winds up in the kitchen anyway, why not set out bowls of filling ingredients and let them roll their own? 

Susanna Wong Burgess of Oriental Wok offered us these tips for having an egg roll rolling soiree at home. “Always chop all of your ingredients the day before,” she says. “They’ll keep fine for a day in the fridge, and that way you can enjoy your guests.” Wong Burgess also suggests purchasing a wok for frying the rolls. If a wok isn’t in your budget, or you don’t have the space, egg rolls can also be made in a sauté pan.

When replicating Wong Burgess’ recipe for egg rolls at home, remember this deep frying rule: Always fry in a vegetable oil with little or no taste and a high smoke point, such as safflower or sunflower oil. You DO want the food’s taste to shine through. You DON’T want your smoke detector to go off. Also, don’t overload your pan. This will bring down the temperature of the oil and leave you with greasy egg rolls. When the rolls are done frying, use a paper towel or brown bag- coated cookie sheet as a landing spot.

Oriental Wok Egg Rolls 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup bean sprouts 
  • 1?4 cup shredded carrots 
  • 1?4 cup shredded bamboo strips 
  • 1?4 cup shredded peapods 
  • 1 tsp. rice wine 
  • 1 tsp. salt 
  • 1?2 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder 
  • 1?4 tsp. white pepper 
  • Cornstarch, as needed 
  • 6 spring roll wrappers 
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Water or egg wash for wrapping 

Instructions: 

  1. Heat the vegetables in a large skillet or wok until hot and softened. Add salt, rice wine, five-spice powder and white pepper. Sprinkle in cornstarch to thicken as desired.
  2. Remove the vegetables from the heat and allow them to cool. Divide the veggie filling into 6 portions. Place the egg roll wrappers, diamond shaped, in front of you and then place the veggie filling horizontally on the lower third of wrapper. Fold the point nearest you over the filling, and then fold over the left and right corners.
  3. With the palm of your hand, complete by rolling the egg roll tightly away from you. Seal the edge of the wrapper with water or egg wash. Fry the egg rolls in oil heated to 350 degrees until golden brown.        

Photography by Gina Weathersby/Kiwi Street Studios

Become a self-sufficient, fresh-catch samurai with these tips…

If you’re anything like me, you rarely think about the process of how baked tilapia, grilled salmon, or lemon and pepper trout arrives at the table for a scrumptious seafood meal. As far as I was concerned, fish came ready-made in those cute little rectangular slabs, right? Much to my surprise — or revelation — there is a skill needed to bring fresh fish from the water onto your plate. 

I chatted with Tom Keegan, owner of Keegan’s Seafood in Mount Washington, about how to fillet a fish. Unlike us, landlocked in the heart of the Midwest, Keegan grew up with seafood at his doorstep in Long Island, as well as in the Bahamas. And he brought his love of East Coast gourmet seafood shops to Cincinnati, offering fresh fish, crab and other underwater goodies in his own store. As an encyclopedia of under-the-sea knowledge, Keegan offers a plethora of piscine cooking lessons at his shop, including this fillet primer. 

First, you’ll need to pick out a nice piece of fish. Remember the words “eyes, gills, smell.” The eyes should be bright, the smell should be of clean water, and the gills should be bright red. Good, fresh fish should feel firm when you touch it, like touching your arm. Trout is perfect for filleting and deboning, and Keegan also suggests porgy or sea bream. For this demonstration, he is using bluefish.

What You Need: 

  • Cutting Board 
  • Sharp knife, preferably a fillet knife 
  • Tip: Put a little bit of salt on your fingers to make it easier to hold the delicate tip of the fish. 

Steps:

  1. Place your knife at the head of the clean fish, behind the gills, and slice down until the knife meets the spine. “Cut toward the head. There’s a lot of meat between the gills and the head,” says Keegan. 
  2. Using the tip of the knife, cut back along the spine in one smooth motion, parallel to the cutting surface. “You want to go from the head of the fish to the tail of the fish and scrape [the knife] right alongside the spine,” says Keegan. “Cut as close to the center of the fish as possible, pull your knife down; that exposes you to the meat and you can guide your knife.” 
  3. If you have a really sharp knife, Keegan says you can feel it scraping along the edge of the bone, which is helpful. “You want to get as much of the fish off the bone as possible,” he says. Gently cut the meat of the fish away from the bone. Now you have one side of the fish filleted.  
  4. Flip the fish over. Again, cut toward the head to access the meat un- derneath the gill spot, and then scrape the tip of the knife along the belly bone. Cut the fillet loose. 
  5. To remove the ribs, slice between the bones and the meat and then pull the ribs out. Remove the smaller, “floating” pin bones with your fingers and/or tweezers. 
  6. Admire your fine fillet work, and fry, bake, sauté, or whatever your gourmet heart desires for your newly deboned delicacy.

Twin tween sisters create a cookie mix charity to help families.

Sisters Amy and Emma Bushman are generous beyond their years. The twins (with a little help from their mom, Alison) created Bake Me Home, a charity that provides families transitioning out of homeless shelters with jars of homemade cookie mix and baking supplies as well as other unique services. The surprise? These philanthropic entrepreneurs are only 11-years-old. 

In 2008, three things occurred for Amy and Emma, then 7, which would be the ingredients that led them and Alison, a former stay-at-home mom, to start Bake Me Home. First, Emma saw a Teen Kids News special on children who had launched their own businesses and started to wonder if she could start her own business, too. Second, Amy’s passion for cooking led her to attend “Camp Cuisine” at the Mercy Health- Plex where the theme of “food as gifts” sent her home with a jar of handmade cookie mix. Finally, the twins celebrated their seventh birthday and had guests bring items to donate to the Bethany House Shelter, where the girls had been volunteering since they were 4, in lieu of gifts. Thus the concept of starting a charitable business that involved cooking was born and directly led to the foundation of Bake Me Home. 

The idea began with simply giving a jar of cookie mix to families leaving the shelter, but the Bushmans quickly realized that cookie mix might not be enough. Amy and Emma began to wonder what families without adequate cooking supplies would do with a jar of cookie mix. A bowl, spoon, spatula, cookie sheet, potholder and more were added, as well as a gift card to Kroger to purchase the eggs, butter and other ingredients needed to make the cookies. They put all of the supplies into an eco-friendly reusable tote bag. 

Alison started emailing everyone in her address book to tell them about Bake Me Home and to ask for small donations. She was overwhelmed by the response — Bake Me Home raised about $11,00 that first year. However, as Alison says, “That first year, the money just poured in. And then it got really hard.” 

Bake Me Home started in 2008, just in time for the economy to go bad, and for about five months, donations were few and far between. “We went to every booth, every festival, every speaking engagement you could possibly imagine to stay afloat,” she says. “It was an exhausting five months, but it paid off.” 

Their determination got Bake Me Home through a rough patch, and now things couldn’t be going better. Bake Me Home now helps 10 to 11 charities in four counties, and, when it’s all said and done, more than 300 families each year. They hope to expand production into a larger location in the near future, which would allow more volunteers to physically help them, as they consistently have to turn people away because of space restraints. 

Bake Me Home was also able to expand their services beyond the supply totes. Now, in addition to the cookie supply tote bags, they offer portrait photography sessions at the shelters, which provide free, framed family portraits. They also send cookies to soldiers overseas for a donation through their Bake Me Back Home program, and encourage kids to volunteer through their newest program, Bake it Forward. 

Bake it Forward was inspired by a $5,000 grant Bake Me Home received through the Sodexo Foundation, and offers $100 grants to kids in grades 2-9 to get them started on their own summer volunteer project for a charity of their choice. Amy and Emma are so enthusiastic about starting new projects that Alison has to tell them that they can’t start anything new for a little while (“Maybe!” say the girls). 

Even though the Bushmans’ lives have changed significantly since founding Bake Me Home, they wouldn’t give up it up for anything. Amy and Emma plan to continue Bake me Home well into the future, and continue to dream big: Emma wants to be a lawyer when she grows up, and Amy hopes to be an architect. As for Alison, she says that she can live without the perfectly organized closets she had time to arrange before she began Bake Me Home. She also defines why she loves what she does: “I think the best thing a mom has said to me was that not only were the cookies delicious, but that it made her feel so proud that she had accomplished something.” 

Bake Me Home isn’t just about cookies; it’s about bringing together family and charity. Though Emma and Amy are right when they ask, “Who doesn’t love cookies?” 

Go to bakemehome.com to donate, learn how to volunteer and for more information.

… From my single mother.

“Spring is coming and it’s like a mass explosion of men chasing after me,” my 70-year-old mother cried me a river over the phone recently. On the other end of the line I rolled my eyes and flipped through my own datebook, blank page after blank page. 

Dad left us quietly five summers ago, despite my mother’s stern orders — while hitting his legs with a pillow — to stick around. After my initial shock of losing a parent muted, the next traumatic realization struck me nearly as hard: My mother is now single. Single like me. 

Only not like me, as it turns out. It seems that single in the retirement years is a different animal than single in life’s prime. Let us count the ways my mother’s newfound singlehood differs dramatically from mine:

Mr. Right. My personal ad: SWF seeks healthy sperm count in the form of fit, ambitious, financially responsible male willing to share the household chores. Mom’s personal ad: SWF seeks fun-loving companion to share conversation and laughs and road trips to visit grandchildren.

Dating tactics. Last weekend, Mom went on a four-wheeling date with “The Rancher.” She was too “scared” to ride the four-wheeler by herself (wink, wink) so she climbed behind “The Rancher” and shared his four-wheeler. That same day, I hiked with my own date and grew secretly irritated when he couldn’t keep up with me, then downright annoyed when he tried to pass me on the trail. What is this, a competition? 

Sex. Still a firm believer in the stork, no matter how old I get, I will forever refuse to acknowledge my parents as sexual beings. Mom, on the other hand, loves to corner her daughters on the topic of sex when she’s not dwelling on her other favorite topic: How to dispose of her body when she dies. Thus the unbearable afternoon a week after Christmas in stand-still traffic in the mall parking garage, when she got on the topic of, er, self-love. See, I can’t even say it. I’m blushing. Let’s move on to the next category. 

Internet dating. From what I understand, there’s this magical place for the 50-and-over-only crowd called SeniorPeopleMeet.com. One of Mom’s winning strategies is to email the men her age seeking women 20 years their junior and call them on it. “You old crony, who do you think you are?” They love this, and she gets all kinds of dates this way. Meanwhile, I’m over on blasé Match.com, resorting uncreatively to the electronic “wink.” 

Communicating. Texting. Skyping. Instant messaging. Not me — I’m referring to Mom and the many modern ways she communicates with her dates. She reports that “The Cowboy” (not to be confused with “The Rancher”) Skypes her each morning at 6 a.m. Never mind the state of my hair at this hour, but who has the time? I need to get ready for work. Anyway, what would you even find to talk about at 6 a.m.? Oooohhh … never mind. It was the stork, I said, the stork! Next category, please! 

Self-image. I honestly worry about things like the first time he’ll feel my bare tummy and detect in it the slight curve evidencing the cupcake stop I made yesterday before hitting the gym. Mom lets him know upfront that her body’s not perfect, but that she makes a mean pan of dumplings and sauerkraut. 

The endgame. Maybe it’s because I’ve never found him — or maybe because I’m still in search of a baby daddy — but I devote ridiculous amounts of energy to finding “The One.” So, maybe because she’s already had “The One,” my mother’s goals are entirely different: companionship, simple as that. “The Rancher” and “The Cowboy” and “The Electrician” and “The Beekeeper” weave in and out of her life in a flurry of first dates and giddy phone calls and Skype break-ups. Reminiscent of love at age 16, when marriage and babies were still the stuff of teenage dreams and prom was the end game. The lack of pressure must be nice. 

Funny how my mother always seems to know best. If ever we daughters had any qualms about going downhill from here, my mother is living proof that loving only gets better as we age. When we stop taking ourselves so seriously, when we have more time for people, when beauty by force of nature becomes less about our skin and more about our souls … maybe that’s when we really learn to love.

DID YOU KNOW: The University Of Cincinnati Communiversity Offers A Summer Class On How To Write Your Internet Dating Profile. Along With Other Tips, This Boot Camp Will Give You “Ten Ideas Designed To Increase Your Chances Of Meeting Your Ideal Date Online.”

The Moerlein Lager House has views, booze and serious food.

I am typically not the most fancy diner, or person, really. I’m 24. I live in Clifton. People in the 18-to-25 demographic who reside in college towns are kind of relegated to “cheap but good” ethnic food or Chipotle. And then there’s also a formula I like to call “Proximity to My Lazy Butt,” which is the closer a restaurant is to my one-bedroom, even if it’s subpar, the more likely I am to eat there. But I guess I’m growing up because no longer does “easy” food appeal to me as much as it once did. I want something different. 

Armed with my desire to try something new — and residual cash from my tax refund — I made a date with my best friend, and we met at the new(ish) Moerlein Lager House at The Banks to try our luck. 

My trusty bestie, Ana, had already been seated and told the host/greeter that I would be arriving. While I was led to our table, I admired the glass-encased, gigantic beer fermentation vats that greeted me upon arrival and the openness of the entire first floor. I passed a huge staircase leading to a second floor, a glossy, wooden front bar and arrived at my table for two in a huge dining room with beautiful windows framing a pan- oramic view of the city and river. Our actual view from the table was a little lackluster, as the construction across the street from this side of The Banks has yet to be finished, but I know it will be absolutely gorgeous upon completion. 

Ana had already ordered a whisky on the rocks (my best friend goes harder than your best friend) and our server came right over after I’d been seated. He introduced himself as Ferdinand and asked if he could get me something to drink. Now, when I order a beer, I only order Moerlein OTR because I’m scared that if I order a different beer, I won’t like it, and I won’t find another beer that I do like. I get all anxious and self-conscious, ordering in a fluster, but I felt safe here. Ferdinand was very nice and well spoken with a mild temperament, so I didn’t feel any undue pressure. So I ordered an OTR. And then he told me they were out. 

I freaked out momentarily and then decided to be an adult and re- lay my beer fear to him. I told him I didn’t know much about beer, but I told him what I typically order and how I’d been scared to venture into the beer world. He listened, nodded and immediately suggested a Moerlein Barbarossa, a double dark dunkel lager. It was perfect. 

The next step was appetizers. I generally tread lightly on this ground, but I threw caution to the wind, and, after consulting with Ana, we selected something called a meat and cheese board. And, yes, it’s as delicious as it sounds. You select two or three of both different meats and cheeses from a list and they’re served to you on a fancy little wooden board. Ana and I chose smoked salmon, goetta (duh), a goat cheese fritter and bacon-chive cream cheese. Ana is lactose intolerant, but a team player, so she tried the teensiest bit of the goat cheese fritter and even she declared it a winner. 

Our entrees were probably the hardest to choose. We agonized over the impressive selection of hearty salads, classy burgers, pasta (with a note on the menu: “Just to keep the Italians quiet”), sandwiches, classic entrees and rotisserie items. I finally selected the Chicken Scaloppini, and Ana the Bone-In Pork Rack. Cue silence for the next 16 to 24 minutes because we were in absolute heaven. My chicken was fall-off-the-bone tender, the roasted asparagus was perfectly done, and the bleu cheese mashed potatoes … oh, the bleu cheese mashed potatoes were something else. Ana was equally enraptured. 

And the portion size was perfect. No semi-pretentious, half-palmful bites of this and that. No, this was food served the way my mom would make it: no-holds-barred, serious grub. I’ve been to restaurants that serve tiny, bird-like portions, and while that might appeal to a serious foodie who enjoys just enough to coat the tongue and really “appreciate the flavor” or whatever, I eat to get fed. I like having enough food to feel satisfied and the Moerlein Lager House didn’t disappoint. There was enough food on my plate for me to feel full and still have some to take home. 

Ana and I were heading into food comas when I remembered that I was eating for my job, not just for fun. So in the interest of investigative journalistic integrity, I ordered dessert. The dessert menu was short and sweet. I was torn between the Orange Panna Cotta and the simply named S’mores. We went with the S’mores because Ana loves marshmallows and I love chocolate lava cake. 

It probably would have been to our advantage to extract us from MLH with a crane, but somehow Ana and I managed to escape before fully committing to our impending food comas. It was barely 11 p.m. when I crawled into bed cradling my leftovers. Actually, I put them in the refrigerator and, it must be said, they were delicious for lunch the next day. 

I will be back at Moerlein Lager House many times this coming summer, especially as the construction along The Banks is completed and the nightlife beckons even louder than the food