Category Archives: Travel

Eckerlin Meats (Findlay Market); Review


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Eckerlin Meats

1812 Pleasant Street Breezeway

Cincinnati, OH 45202

(513) 721-5743

Website

 

Since moving to Cincinnati in 1999 I have discovered very few great finds like Eckerlin Meats. Eckerlin Meats is a Butcher in the famous Findlay Market. The staff is always friendly and engaging swapping stories and jokes with customers. I’m sorry but I’ll pay extra for customer service and the feeling that I’m important to them. We need to support businesses like these or they will fade away. Customer service is excellent not to mention their meat selection and homemade sausages. Employees are quick to make suggestions and don’t look at me like I’m crazy for asking if there is something I should try. I love this place and will be spending my money here rather than give it to a corporate grocery who deceives me and offers terrible options.

I highly recommend Eckerlin Meats; love what they’re doing!

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Tequila and Mezcal; Save the salt and lime for your fish tacos! Part 1


Carlos Camarena

Carlos Camarena of La Altena and El Tesoro Tequila.

Of all of my travels, Mexico and Oaxaca were my favorite. In May of 2007 My Party Source colleague and friend Jay Erisman and I traveled to Mexico to learn about Tequila and Mezcal. As we flew to Guadalajara I leaned over to Jay and said ” this may be one of the best cultural experiences of our lives!” Well, it was…  Jay and I visited La Alteña and Herradura Tequila Distilleries near Guadalajara and Various Mezcal palenques in the Southern state of Oaxaca. Jay and I not only got to try the best Tequilas and Mezcals in the world but we also had some of the best meals of our lives. I’m Writing this almost six years after the trip so my recollection of chronology may be a bit fuzzy but it all seems to be coming back to me. I would also like to thank The Party Source for all the wonderful opportunities and education.

Day 1:

Jay and I arrived in Guadalajara mid afternoon and were quite hungry. Jay and I share a love many La Chatathings; one of them being good food. I asked our cab driver in Spanish if he knew of any good restaurants near our hotel. He recommended La Chata a local chain of restaurants. I was skeptical of a chain but Jay and I walked around until we found it. One look and we knew La Chata was going to be dinner. La Chata’s open storefront gave us a view of a large comal (steal cooking bowl) filled with manteca (lard) and a lady making fresh tortillas in a tortilla press. Jay and ordered Chile Rellenos, Pozole, Guacamole, pork with green chili and several others. The food was absolutely wonderful and we finished everything. Jay and I took in some sights and walked around central Guadalajara before retiring for the night. Guadalajara is not a place to be wandering around to late, this is where people get kidnapped and worse. Don’t get cocky while traveling!

Day 2:

Jay and I woke up early to make our way to La Alteña in Arandas 1 1/2 hours to the east and higher Tequila Ochoelevations. We arrived at La Alteña around mid morning not expecting to see owner and Master Distiller Carlos Camarena but as luck would have it he was there. Carlos gave us guided tour of La Alteña and explained the entire process. Along with the popular Tapatio Tequila, La Alteña is also home to the Ultra Premium El Tesoro and Tequila Ocho. Tapatio Tequila is crafted much differently than El Tesoro and Tequila Ocho, the agave are roasted and the juice is extracted via machine. El tesoro and Tequila Ocho are crafted with much more care. Carlos explained how their agave are harvested only when ripe regardless of size. The agave we saw were already turning brown. Ripe agave have much more residual sugar than unripe mass harvested agave of the more popular brands like Patron or Herradura. More sugar aids in fermentation as their is no need for chemicals like urea to speed up the process. These additives produce a foul or funky smell in the Tequila.

Ripe Agave at La Altena

Ripe Agave at La Altena

Roasted Agave

Roasted Agave

The agave are cut and and the bitter stems are removed from the male agave. La Alteña is one of the few tequila distillers to remove the bitter stems from their agave; one the many things that separates their “Ultra Premium Tequila” from other makers. The ripe agave are roasted in large ovens for 72 hours where their starch is converted into sugar. The roasted agave are now very sweet and sticky, we ate some like candy. Our driver took some home for his family for desert. The agave is then taken to the Tahona where it is mashed. A Tahona is a large pit with a stone wheel pulled by a burro in the old days. The whole agave mash is used in  fermentation for El Tesoro and Tequila Ocho; another reason for the big flavor.

Tahona

The agave mash is fermented for 4-5 days using natural yeast in wooden fermentation tanks. The
fermentation rooms have no windows allowing for more air flow. After fermentation the the juice is Picture 009distilled twice. The first  is a 3600 liter stainless steel still and the second being a 600 liter copper still. These stills are quite small compared to the larger stills we would see at Herradurra. Carlos explained much of the heads and tails of the distillation are used because they contain much of the flavor. The tequila is then either bottled as Plata (un-aged) or placed in used American whiskey barrels. The barrels used at La Alteña have already been used at least 6 times before they get used for Tequila Ocho or El Tesoro. The used barrels are said to effect the tequila with a more subtle touch allowing the tequila to express itself.

La Altena Stills

La Altena Stills

The Tequila at La Alteña is some of the best in the world expressing the true agave flavor. By harvesting only ripe agave, using small stills, no chemicals and cutting out the bitter leaves of the male agave; La Alteña strives to maintain the traditional ways of making tequila. The best Tequila!

After our visit to La Alteña we decided to have lunch at Jaime’s restaurant in Arandas. Jaime’s was being touted as one of the best for Carnitas in all of Mexico. When we pulled up we saw a huge “Comal” filled with manteca “Lard” and cooking pork parts and intestines. I knew we were in for quite a treat. Jay and I were about to have one of the best meals of our lives. Jay and I ate as much as we possibly could before driving back to Guadalajara. Jay and rested a bit at the hotel before going back out to sample some local Tequila in Guadalajara.

Carnitas

Best Carnitas Ever!

Day 3:

Our third day started when we were picked up by a representative of Herradura Tequila. Mexico 07 Pics 148The drive northwest from Guadalajara to Amatitán took about an hour. Amititán was in the lowland region for Tequila production and said to exhibit a more herbaceous flavor than the larger sweeter agave of the highlands. Herradura was quite impressive; upon arrival Jay and I were brought to a room with a video projector and tray of soft drinks and cocktail wieners. The video was in my opinion Tequila propaganda for tourists telling the story of Herradura. After the video we were given a quick tour by a company representative that could offer very little insight into the company and production. Jay and I did get some good pictures as we figured out some things on our own.

Herradura Agave

Herradura also produces the El Jimador brand of which is a very good inexpensive Tequila. The production level at Herradura was massive compared to La Alteña. As Jay and I walked toward the Huge expanse of roasting ovens we noticed mountains of Agave Piña being dropped off by trucks. The Agave were huge but not the brownish color of those from La Alteña.

There were around 24 large stainless steel stills at Herradura to help them keep up with production. The stills were brand new most likely due to the acquisition of Herradura by the Brown Forman company for 776 million in 2006.

Herradura Stills

Jay and I started back for Guadalajara, Somewhere about half way back we asked our driver to pull over so we could try some Pulque a fermented drink made from the agave. Pulque is sweet and sour with a milky color. The small stand where we stopped was a little sketchy but it’s what we had. The Pulque was good but not my cup of tea; I was glad we tried it though.

Jay and I were traveling to Oaxaca later in the day so we stayed close to the hotel for the remainder of the day. We had a flight connecting in Mexico City on our way to Oaxaca and the second part of our trip… MEZCAL! We would arrive starving in Oaxaca after midnight to a deserted city and nothing open, or was there?

I will be posting the Mezcal and Oaxaca portion of our trip in a few weeks.

Father Son Trip 2010


Half Dome Yosemite

Chris and I in Yosemite

Recently I was laid off from my job of almost 12 years. I was a little dismayed and decided I should take some time to spend with my son Christian. When I was 13 my Dad and I traveled to the west coast and visited National Parks, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco; a trip I will never forget. The plan was to visit National Parks on our way to Santa Cruz to visit Grandpa Brown and Grandma Rachelle. In all we drove 6,800 miles, went to 10 National Parks and drove through countless scenic routes along with State and National Forests in 13 days. Following is a recap of our trip. I hope all fathers get to spend a trip like this with their sons and daughters.

Day 1: We rented a nice little car from Budget; a Chevy Cobalt with a sunroof, satellite radio and very comfortable leather seats. I recommend using carrentals.com; they have some awesome deals and we got ours for $320 for 13 days with unlimited mileage. We set off at around 11:00 AM from Cincinnati driving through some horrendous storms in Illinois and Missouri. It turns out that we would not see rain again for 12 days.

One of my goals was to explore and eat some great food along the way. The first stop for food on our trip was the legendary Arthur Bryant’s BBQ in Kansas City MO. Arthur Bryant’s was very good, however, my all time favorite BBQ is still ,the now out of business, Farmer Brown’s from Chicago. Just before we reached KC I received a call from a friend that I haven’t seen since 1990 when he left for Iraq. Chuck Barges was a good friend and invited us to stop by his new Chicago fast food restaurant after we had Arthur Bryant’s. I wanted to get a lot more miles in today but I could not refuse Chucky B. Chris and I rested by Chuck for 1 ½ hours before driving on to Topeka KS, for the night. I found a great APP for my Droid phone called, Hotels by Me. It’s a great APP for finding and booking hotels. After arriving at our motel in Topeka my decision to bring and carry my pistol on the trip was confirmed as a good idea. Our first motel was not in the best area and we were very tired.

Arthur Bryant's

Day 2: I woke up quite early, around 5:00 AM. The showers were ice cold; no hot water at all. Chris decided wisely to skip a shower today so we were on the road by 5:45 AM. This would turn out to be the day with the most miles driven at over 1,000 miles and would take us all the way to Moab UT. As we were driving, Chris started looking through my old CDs and found TOO Short’s first album. We were driving through Kansas over beautiful country with the sun rising behind us listening to Too Short, priceless!

I had done some research for our trip considering the open carry of a firearm since I didn’t have a CCW permit. It turns out many states out west allow the open carry of a firearm either in your vehicle or on your person. Despite the politics and drawbacks of my decision to open carry I weighed the pros and cons and decided to open carry in states that would allow it. I just did not want to break down somewhere along our 6,800 mile journey without a little discouragement for some human garbage that might cause us harm. That said, once we hit Colorado I strapped on my pistol.
The very first time I stopped for gas in Colorado a fellow from PA, comments on my pistol and asked if I was expecting trouble. My reply was, “No sir, just silly comments”. I explained to him we were traveling and it was perfectly legal to open carry in Colorado; he was amazed and unaware of the legality. This was the only time someone (not local) commented on my firearm.

Once we hit the Rocky Mountains Chris perked up and started having a real good time. I got him involved by asking him to pick us a route around Denver through the mountains. Chris did a great job navigating; however neither of us figured that one of the roads down a mountain was unpaved with a 9% grade. Oops, always read the legend of your Atlas! Chris’s route added about 2 hours to our drive but took us through some beautiful mountains; we even saw some wild elk and other wildlife. As we continued through Colorado the winds as well as temperature rose exponentially. The smell of pine in the Rockies was awesome and Chris kept commenting about it. One of the highlights of the trip was when we entered the Colorado River Canyons on I70 as we were getting close to Utah. Chris had this constant look of amazement and awe; I was torn between watching him and taking in the view myself. I think the breathtaking views and changing landscape today made it possible for me to drive so many miles. After dinner in Grand Junction Colorado I decided to continue on to Moab. About 25 miles into Utah we picked up US 128 that took us south and east of Arches National Park along the Colorado River. This route took us longer but was absolutely breathtaking at sunset. At some point along that route, Chris said “hey dad, I took 488 pictures already”. We made it to Moab just before dark to find out there were only a few places left with rooms. We should have just stayed in Grand Junction where rooms were $50 opposed to the $120 we paid. The last part of our drive the wind took a lot out of me. Winds were around 25-30 with 50 MPH gusts. Chris went down to the pool around dark only to return saying it was too cold. “Too cold!?” I said. “it’s over 100 degrees” The winds were so high that it was creating a cold wind chill because he was wet.

Park Avenue Arches National Park

Park Avenue Arches National Park

Day 3: What a great day we were about to have in Utah. In my opinion, of the 40 plus states that I have visited, Utah is the most beautiful. Chris and I started the day at Arches continuing on to Canyonlands, Capital Reef and Bryce Canyon National Parks. My personal favorite was Capital Reef. Moab is a great start for a trip with breakfast at the Moab Diner. I highly recommend the Green Chile Breakfast Burrito. National Parks charge fees ranging from $10-$40 for entrance. If you plan on visiting several parks, they offer an annual pass for $80. In previous days the temperatures in Moab were around 100 degrees; we were very lucky this day with a high of 78 degrees without a cloud in the sky. We left Bryce Canyon for Las Vegas at around sunset arriving at 10:00 PM. Chris was excited to see Vegas for the first time; I was excited to eat at La Florida Café inside the Howard Johnson just down the street from Stratosphere. After making a trip down the strip for Chris we headed for the Howard Johnson and a fabulous late Cuban dinner. Immediately after arriving I asked about the restaurant. “What do mean they’re closed?!” Epic Fail! We missed them by 10 minutes. Chris and I were very tired so it was tacos and then a double Bourbon. I would like to stress, if ever in Utah, a drive down US 24 through Capital Reef is a must.

Courthouse Towers Arches

Courthouse Towers Arches National Park

Balanced Rock Arches National Park

Balanced Rock Arches National Park

Day 4:

Chris slept in today and I wrote some postcards by the pool while smoking a Casa Torano Maduro Lancero with coffee. Chris was very happy to get some sleep. We talked the night before and decided to skip the Grand Canyon and head straight to Death Valley National Park. We drove the same route my dad and I took 27 years ago; I was very excited. It was so hot and dry we had to stop for some visine and more ice for our cooler. As we entered Death Valley the temperature quickly rose to 105 degrees; it was just 10:30 AM. I told Chris that when grandpa and I came through it was close to 130 degrees. Death Valley is my favorite National Park; not the most beautiful but there is something about the unforgiving landscape that draws me to Death Valley.

Zabriskie Point

We stopped at Zabriskie Point for our first breathtaking view of Death Valley and the salt flats below us. Chris mentioned how hot it was yet we weren’t sweating. I explained we were sweating and that it was evaporating. We drank 12 Gatorades and 10 waters from Las Vegas to Fresno with only several bathroom breaks. Badwater Basin in Death Valley is the hottest and lowest place in North America. The highest recorded temperature was 134 degrees. We did not stay long in Death Valley; we continued over the mountains headed toward Owens Dry Lake in California near the China Lake Naval testing range. As we looked down from the mountains of Death Valley we were given one of the most spectacular views of the trip; a desert valley with the snow capped Sierra Nevada mountains just beyond. WOW! As we drove past Owens Dry Lake the winds picked up; all of a sudden we were in a dust storm, 95 degrees with 25-30 MPH winds. Chris and I continued on through the Sequoia National Forest past Lake Isabella on our way to Casa de Bishop in Fresno. Chris was happy to finally arrive at my friend Matt’s house and get out of the car for a while.

Badwater Basin Death Valley

Day 5:

We started the day with a great breakfast at one of Matt’s favorite places. Chris and I got to go Co-pilotfor a plane ride in a California Highway Patrol Cessna thanks to Matt; Chris was the co-pilot. I am not a fan of flying at all and I hate turbulence; well our little plane was tossed around up there like a paper airplane. I almost lost my breakfast several times. I only went up for Chris; this picture of Chris speaks a thousand words. The CHP pilot’s landing and approach was not something I ever want to experience again but chris loved it. Thank god we’re on the ground again! We headed back to Matt’s to smoke cigars with Bill Berris who drove down from Modesto. Bill broke out a Partagas Cuban Culebra for the three of us to smoke; simply wonderful! Matt’s lovely wife April cooked us a feast on the grill with her and Chris launching water balloons at us. Chris loved the pool and stayed there most of the day. I retired early after drinking Bourbon all afternoon and eating all of that great food. All that driving was finally catching up to me. It was great to finally meet my great friends Matt, Bill and April. I will not forget the good times and hospitality they showed us.

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Bill, Matt and Me with our Culebras

Day 6: Father’s Day

Cioppino

We hit the road today to make the final trek over to Santa Cruz. One the best Father’s Days ever; we drove over to Cambria and took Pacific Coast Highway north towards Monterey and Santa Cruz. We welcomed the cool and sunny weather after the heat of the desert and California Valleys. Chris and I had lunch in Monterey at Abolanetti on Fisherman’s Wharf. I had Ciopinno and Chris had a spectacular Calamari Salad. Just outside our window seals played in water and were scattered all over the shore. With our bellies full we drove the final leg to Santa Cruz and have our Father’s Day dinner with Grandma and Grandpa.

Pacific Coast Highway

Day 7:

Today we went to the Monterrey Aquarium with Grandma and Grandpa. The exhibits at the aquarium were very nice, however, not as many as I would have thought. On our way back we dined at the famous Phil’s Fish Market in Moss landing. Very nice and famous for their cioppino but it seems their dishes are hit or miss. I had perfectly cooked fried oysters and Chris had Calamari that was overcooked and plain. However, all the fish was fresh and my dad tells me it’s one of the most reliable Fish Markets on the coast.

Day 8:

Golden Gate Bridge

Today started off great as we headed north to San Francisco for the day we stopped in Pescadero at the famous Duarte’s Tavern for breakfast. As I looked at the menu, I noted how uninteresting it was. I settled for a green chili omelet with a bowl of green chili & artichoke soup. My omelet was just okay but the soup and amazing French Sourdough was awesome. My dad took a chance and asked if the cook could make him a special request, a Hangtown Fry. A Hangtown Fry is scrambled eggs and oyster, with bacon. The waitress asked the cook and he said no problem. Lorenzo, the cook, knocked the ball out of the park; simply one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. I asked for a manager and told her they must add this to the menu. I also told her their breakfast menu was pretty lame considering the phenomenal talent they had in the kitchen. The manager said they would only make the dish as a special request. It will be my mission in life to get that dish on their menu AND get back to Pescadero for Duarte’s Tavern.

We spent the remainder of the day driving up past San Francisco on PCH and then walking through Chinatown exploring the interesting markets. To end our day we went to the fabulous Seakor European Deli, 5957 Geary Blvd. San Francisco, CA 94121. Seakor Specializes in sausage and deli meats. I bought some dry sausages for Chris and I to eat on the remainder of our trip.

Day 9:

Mariposa Grove

Chris and said our goodbyes to Grandma and Grandpa then quickly headed to Yosemite. We arrived in Yosemite at mid morning. To our dismay, there was quite a bit of road construction in the park costing us about 2 hours of time just waiting for them to open the roads. Yosemite is beautiful but the valley floor should be avoided if you don’t want to be surrounded by thousands of people. Glacier Point and the higher elevations of the Tioga Pass were the highlights of Yosemite. Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias was cool but it took us almost 45 minutes to find parking. We got to see Matt’s CHP rescue helicopter working with park rangers; Matt had told us the CHP worked with Yosemite and other parks for rescue operations.

Half Dome from Glacier Point

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We’ll leave the light on for ya!

Leaving Yosemite we headed east avoiding I80 taking US 95 through Schurz Nevada and the Walker Indian Reservation. Chris and I found that there were some Basque Dining restaurants in the area; when we arrived in Fallon we decided on Brenda’s Basque Dining for dinner. Basque Dining is served family style and I counted seven courses. One has to be famished to attempt Basque Dining; more food than I could eat. The French fries were reminiscent of my favorites at Gene & Jude’s in Chicago.

Stuffed, Chris and I got back on the road until we reached Winnemucca, NV; Ahhh time for some sleep. I poured myself a Bourbon and quickly fell asleep. At around 2:30 AM Chris woke me up with a terrified look on his face telling me something bad was happening in the parking lot of the Motel 6. Jumping out of bed and out the door I see a Lexus driven into someone’s room. That’s not the worst of it; four cars had been hit and the car had driven through the wall of the room just adjacent to us as well. The cars final resting place had pinned some poor bastard naked in his shower. Thankfully, everyone was okay but my idea of getting some sleep was not going to happen.

Day 10:

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Logan Canyon Utah horseback riding.

Never really falling back to sleep, Chris and I headed out early through the salt flats of western Utah towards Salt Lake City. We arrived in Salt Lake around lunch. Although I have seen Salt Lake featured for food on television; I just don’t think there is much to eat here. McDonald’s Double Cheeseburgers for lunch hit the spot.
Chris had been bugging me about horseback riding the entire trip but our money situation was starting to become an issue. I did not plan for the extreme room rates of the motels. As we headed north towards Yellowstone I stopped in Logan Canyon Utah to inquire about horseback riding. The young lady at the visitor center told me about the Beaver Creek Lodge; this was it. I quickly called and asked for directions and times. The guy on the phone told me he had a 1 ½ hour ride going out in half an hour; I was still 27 miles from them. I did some of my best driving through Logan Canyon to get us there with time to spare.

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Chris with his aviator glasses.

Our horseback ride through the mountains of northeastern Utah was simply awesome and I was quite proud of Chris who handled his horse masterfully. After about 45 minutes it became exponentially more uncomfortable for me to remain on the horse. I would feel the effects of our horseback experience for 3 days, OUCH!
The guides at The Beaver Creek Lodge told us we should get the raspberry shakes at Bear Lake on our way to Montpelier, ID were we would spend the night. The shakes were awesome; Chris and I devoured them quickly and made the drive to our hotel.

Chris and I had dinner at a surprisingly good Mexican restaurant in Montpelier, ID that night and I found a some Elijah Craig 12 year at the only liquor store in town. I really needed it after our horseback ride. I will never ever get on a horse again for any reason!

Day 11:

Grand Tetons

Grand Tetons 2

Look at all the sage!

We woke up early to find the continental breakfast at the Super 8 motel was much more. A local woman came in everyday to cook homemade biscuits and gravy and other yummy breakfast Items. We met some older Korean gentlemen that were school buddies traveling across the United States together. They explained how they made trips like this to places all over the world every year since college. Chris and I made our way north towards Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Grand Teton was majestic and very beautiful in the morning. I hadn’t been here for 32 years; I’m glad I got to see it again. Yellowstone and Grand Teton are so close they might as well be the same park. Chris and I walked about 5 miles today and saw most of the main geysers and attractions. I think Yellowstone is spoiled by the number of tourists and bratty kids. We left Yellowstone and headed northeast to Sheridan Wyoming through Big Horn and over Bald Mountain. As we made our way up Bald Mountain we stopped and looked back over Big Horn towards Yellowstone and Grand Teton; one of the best views of the entire trip. The sun was low in the west over the Grand Tetons. We saw some Elk and a giant moose near Medicine Wheel at about 10,000 feet elevation. My body was very sore from the horseback riding and driving all day. We stayed in Sheridan Wyoming that night, apparently the mosquito capital of the world.

Old Faithful

Big Horn

Day 12:

Badlands National Park

We left Sheridan and headed east toward South Dakota through the Black Hills. Our final National Park was Badlands; Badlands was very small with not much to do other than check out the scenic points. Badlands is a fragile place; visitors are not really allowed to venture very far from the scenic areas to protect the park. Chris and I were very tired and decided to make our way home as quickly as possible. I90 east through South Dakota has very little to offer after Badlands. Food was very hard to find and we were racing tornadoes heading our way. We abandoned our plans to stop in Chicago due to the storms in Minnesota. We detoured South on I29 towards Iowa where we spent the Night.

Day 13:
Back in the Midwest! There was nothing interesting to report on our last day except we had lunch at Culver’s in Central Illinois. We arrived home before dark.

In 13 days we visited 13 states, 10 National Parks and drove 6,800 miles. I’m so glad I got to do this with my son and hope he does the same with his kids someday. I love to drive through the desert windows open with 100 plus degree temperature; very peaceful.

Buona Vita Pizzeria Dayton KY; Review


Buona Vita Pizzeria

(859) 261-6792

441 6th Avenue, Dayton, KY4 4107

Menu

Map

Price: $$$$

Dress: Casual

Great food runs in the family with four brothers from Northern Kentucky. Mark Frommeyer owner of Blue Oven Bakery, Nick Frommeyer owner of Dolce Vita Gelato and now Joe and Mathew Frommeyer bring us Buona Vita Pizzeria in Dayton, KY. I have been buying bread from Mark and Gelato from Nick for past few years so when I heard their brothers had a Pizzeria (Buona Vita) just minutes down the road… I had to check it out. I could go into how cool the location is, the bar and the decor but food is the real attraction here. The pizza is absolutely phenomenal using fresh ingredients and sporting a very thin crust that crisps up nicely on the edges. I tried three pizzas on my first trip; the Margarita, Jeremy’s Meat Pie and one of my creations. I must say these pizzas follow the Italian cooking theory of simplicity. Jeremy’s Meat Pie had sausage, pepperoni, prosciutto and bacon. I liked that they didn’t overload the pizza with meat; just enough to compliment the crust cheese and sauce. I really liked the Margarita a great version of the classic pizza. Buona Vita is the best pizza in the Cincinnati area and some of the best I’ve ever eaten. Please support these four brothers and their businesses as they improve the very weak Cincinnati food scene.

 

Holiday Crime Prevention & Personal Protection


The Holidays can be a wonderful time of year year for most bringing cheer, holiday parties and good times. However, the holidays bring burglary, larceny, scams, internet scams and credit card fraud. There are record numbers of people out of work and some communities are seeing a significant rise in drug use. Heroin is a major problem in my area of Cincinnati and Northern KY. Unfortunately these  people turn to crime to fund their habits or provide for their own.

Protecting Your Home

One of the best things you can do to protect your home is to get a home alarm system. Alarm systems along with the yard signs and window stickers lets burglars know to choose another home.  I have also put up “No Trespassing” & “No Soliciting” signs to keep the scammers away from my property. Security cameras are also a great idea; no criminals want to be on camera anywhere. Just having and alarm system is not enough; you have to use it! Set your alarms every time you leave and even when your home. Make sure all your windows & doors are locked and shades drawn when home or away. Don’t take your safety for granted because you live in a low crime area; crime can happen anywhere.  Do not leave valuables or purses in plain view of windows or doors. In my city, people have opened doors or windows to grab valuables quickly and leave. This happens even when residents are home in the middle of the day. Porch lights or motion sensor lights are a great idea. Criminals like to work in darkness; don’t make it easier for them! Criminals and scammers take advantage of the the holidays spirit to prey on the generous and unsuspecting. Don’t open the door until you are sure it is okay. Even then, you don’t need to answer. I have told people “No Thank You” or “Get Lost” through a closed door. Call the police if you feel someone is scamming or scoping out the neighborhood homes. Here’s a good video by self defense instructor Massad Ayoob on how to deal with strangers at your door (Don’t Answer The Door). Reporting suspicious activity is one of the best ways we can aid the police to prevent crime and identify criminals. Having a firearm in the home is your last line of defense in my opinion. It’s not for everyone but if you do; make sure you know how to use it as well as knowing the use of deadly force laws for your state.

Your Vehicle:

It’s never a good idea to leave valuables in your vehicle; there are junkies out there that will break your window for some spare change! Do not leave any valuables in your passenger compartment, even if you’re parked in your driveway. Don’t leave coats/clothing, GPS, phone, change, gift cards, wallets, purses, firearms or any personal identifying information in your vehicle. Putting these items under seats or in your glove compartment is not a solution; put them in your trunk if you have to. One of the biggest mistakes people make is leaving multiple chargers plugged in telling a criminal you put the electronics in the glove compartment or center console. Try to park under street lights or as close to your home as possible. And lastly, always check your back seat before getting in your car.

Parking Lots & Garages

Parking lots and parking garages are areas to be very mindful of. Be careful of scammers that stage accidents. The scammers wait for a victim to back out of a space or turn a corner then get purposely hit to claim medical damages. The scammers could be on foot or in a vehicle. Do not park next to vans or cars with dark tinted windows. Park in well lit areas that allow you to see the area around your car. Don’t leave your car running unoccupied with children in the car. Be aware of your surroundings, scan the parking area for potential threats. Make sure to remember exactly where you parked. Do not approach your vehicle if there are potential threats around it. Have your keys in your hand before you get to your car. Something we see a lot of in my area are people begging for money in parking lots with the terrible stories about “a sick relative that they just need $10 in gas money to go see before they die”. Do not give them the time of day! I usually call store security or the police to alert them. If they’re there begging for money; they will most certainly break into cars or take advantage of a door left open. And lastly; do not leave packages in your back seat; it’s likely you will return to a broken window and no packages.

Driving:

I try to predict what people are going to do when they are driving based on their body language. You’d be surprised how well this works. My son laughs when I tell him to watch this car or that car; he knows someone is about to do something stupid. At stop lights never stop directly behind other vehicles; leave yourself enough space to get out in the case of trouble. While stopped, be aware or your surroundings. Use mirrors and look around for any potential threats. I like to make eye contact with people for an instant to let them know I’m aware of them. Do not get involved with your smartphone, facebook, texting, stuffing your face with food or fixing your makeup. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. If you get into an accident; there is no need to leave your vehicle until the police come unless you feel the situation is safe and can be resolved quickly. This is a personal decision, but in the interest of security, trust instincts.

Shopping:

Try to shop with and a companion; groups of people are less appealing to criminals. For women I would suggest carrying a small purse or even a wallet with only the essentials for shopping. By not carrying a purse it frees up your hands and you won’t have to lug that purse around all day. Some women may use their purse to conceal a firearm. I applaud the carrying of a firearm but I don’t like the idea of it being in a purse; It’s much better concealed on your person.  All we really need is a drivers license, credit card and cash. I don’t think checkbooks are are a good idea because they contain bank account, routing numbers and personal information. A debit card acts the same way as a check nowadays and takes a lot less time at checkout with more security. Leave the checkbooks at home! Do not carry passports, social security cards, pin numbers, or account information. All I carry in my wallet is my drivers license, debit card, grocery plus card and my Concealed Deadly Weapons Permit. I very rarely carry cash because I think its unnecessary (most of the time) and very dirty; but when I do carry cash it goes in my front pockets. When I’m carrying large amounts of cash I keep the bulk of my money in my left pocket and a smaller amount in my right pocket. This way I can pay for things without revealing all my cash. I learned this practice while traveling to foreign countries.  Never set your wallet or purse down on or near the register. Thankfully stores have credit card machines that allow you to swipe your own card and select a method of payment. If allowed, this is a good place to get cash back for debit transactions. Just be aware of the people in line around you. Much safer than outdoor ATMs.

ATMs:

I avoid ATMs at all costs. Avoid ATMs at night if possible. Scan parking lots and areas around drive through area. Secure your vehicle and  do not leave it running. Bring someone with you if possible. Shield your transaction and limit your time at the ATM. Continually scan your surroundings. ATMs are a prime location for robberies. I would much rather go into a convenient store and buy a water and  get cash back. ATMs located inside other businesses are a better option than stand alone outdoor ATMS. Avoid ATMs that obstruct your view or are not well lit. Do not leave your receipt or conduct more than one transaction. Get your money and get out!  Respect the space of other people getting money from ATMs. Stand back or wait in your car. This will make others feel at ease when they are making transactions. I generally think ATMs are a bad idea. Maybe the worst place to get money.

Personal Safety:

Having good “Situation Awareness” is probably the best way to avoid being the victim of a crime. Pay attention to your surroundings and the body language of people around you. Check out this video about “Street Survival” and body language. Trust your instincts, if it doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t. Walk and conduct yourself with confidence. Criminals choose victims. Many people are potential victims and they don’t even know it. Quite simply, don’t look like a victim. Avoid conflict while out or driving. Don’t take shortcuts through unfamiliar areas. A few extra minutes is worth the safety. Identify potential threats before you get too close. Take alternate routes around threats or undesirable people. Make eye contact with people and keep your head up when walking. Ipods and musical devices can distract you and limit your ability to identify trouble. Don’t walk around wile texting or facebooking. Wear clothing that will allow you to get away from trouble. High heels, skirts and dresses are very hard to run in or quickly get out of danger.

More and more states are allowing citizens to carry openly carried or concealed firearms. Carrying a firearm is not for everyone but I do recommend it if you feel comfortable with it and have received the proper training with the weapon and know your use of deadly force laws. OC and pepper sprays are another way to protect yourself if you’re not comfortable with a firearm.

I hope this helps enlighten and keep you safe!

Enjoy The Holidays!

Nuevo Leon Restaurant Chicago Review


Nuevo Léon Mexican Restaurant.

The new and improved sign and makeover.

1515 West 18th Street

Chicago, IL 60608

(312) 421-1517

Located on the near south side just east of Ashland Ave

Price $$$$

Food: Excellent

Service: Excellent

Attire: Casual

Menu

I first went to Nuevo Leon about 28 years ago with my parents. I was 15 and absolutely loved Mexican Food.  As we were walking in some gangbangers were flashing me signs and talkin all kinds of shit. I learned real quick how to survive on the streets with the gangbangers. Neutrality, and of course packing a Glock 19 when I was old enough! The neighborhood has changed since then but Nuevo Leon remains with the same quality and authenticity.

Nuevo Leon is nothing fancy and the food is very affordable. I was there recently with my buddy Paul and we ate until we were stuffed with our entire bill with three entrees being about $30. I ordered my favorite dish Pollo en Mole ($8)

Pollo en Mole

I also ordered the fried pork tacos that you can order ala carte but I don’t see them on their website menu. I don’t remember the third dish we ordered but I’m sure it was amazing. When you arrive at the tables there is a bowl of condiments including salsa and carrots & jalapenos. I love the carrots and jalapenos so much I make about ten pounds worth over the summer using my garden jalapenos. It was a very busy Friday lunch the day we went so the servers brought us some taquitos (small corn tacos rolled and fried) on the house. Now that’s service!  I always get Horchata to drink, a sweet rice water with cinnamon. All the dishes are quite large and satisfying. The authenticity and quality of Nuevo Leon is very high making them one the best restaurants in Chicago. Nuevo Leon’s menu is extensive and not fully represented on their website.  Aside from the food I had in Guadalajara and Oaxaca, this is the best Mexican food I have had with a price you can’t beat.

Perdomo Cigar Trip; Esteli Nicaragua


In February of 2010 I and two colleagues were fortunate to be invited by Tabacalera Perdomo to visit their factory in Esteli Nicaragua.  The trip was a an eye opening journey into the cigar manufacturing process from seed to finished Cigar. My travel companions were Kevin (That Turkey Attacked Me) McKenna and Micah Dennison. We were representing The Party Source in Bellevue, KY along with two other vendors. Our plane ride from Miami was pretty cool for me as I sat across the isle from Jonathan Drew of Drew Estate Cigars who was hosting a client trip of his own. We arrived in Managua to 98 degree tropical heat. Nick Perdomo  and Arthur Kemper were on the same flight. There were SUVs waiting for us and Nick invited us to ride with him, Nick was filming a documentary of Perdomo Cigars on our trip. Juan Liranzo was taking care of all the production and photography. The trip from Managua to Esteli was about 2 hours steadily gaining in altitude; the higher we got, the cooler it got. It was 80 degrees by the time we got to Esteli. Some of us immediately went to see the fields and some went to the hotel. We stayed at a perfect little hotel on the Pan American Highway. The owner a citizen of Great Britain and his wife ( a local) took great care of us and fed us very well.

These two ladies cooked and took good care of us.

On the first full day of our trip we went to the fields were Nick Perdomo explained all the facets of caring for the plants and the painstaking measures taken to keep the plants healthy and free from insects and disease. We were right next to the Don Pepin’s newly constructed My Father Cigar factory. Arthur Kemper walked walked us over to the “Alpha Plants” that had hoods over the top of them; these are the plants used for seeds. Very Interesting! We then proceeded to the factory that had more bicycles out front that I have ever seen. Nick was eager to show us some new technology that he was pioneering in the cigar industry.

Perdomo Cigars had an  agricultural machine that selected single seeds and placed them into trays. Perdomo also has a transplanting machine that carefully places the tobacco plants in the ground with water without shocking them. At the time , Perdomo was the only company using this technology. Nick said this technology drastically reduced his labor cost enabling Perdomo Cigars to absorb most of the SCHIP tax that hit the industry hard. Perdomo Cigars went as far as reducing the price on several lines while their competitors were passing on price increases. After our agricultural lesson we made it the curing barns where the Tobacco leaves are strung onto poles and hung up to cure. The leaves are harvested as a group from the same height of the plant because they produce the same flavor and burning properties. The tobacco goes from the curing barns to the fermentation buildings where the leaves are carefully layered into large stacks to begin the fermentation. The tobacco heats up to over 90 degrees then the stacks are taken apart and rotated. The temperature rises and the process is repeated until the temperature stabilizes indicating the fermentation process is completed. The fermentation rooms were hot and very hard to breath in. The amount of nitrates and ammonia in the air made us choke and our eyes water. Aristides Garcia is in charge of the curing and fermentation process. Aristides is a Cuban citizen once in charge of Cuban cigar manufacturing zones, Aristides showed us how he checked to see if tobacco was ready to be rolled into cigars in these two videos. I like the way Aristides used newspaper as the mold for the cigars.

We finished off our day with dinner and some cocktails back at the hotel. The food was good and fresh. We had fresh eggs and freshly killed poultry from the hotel’s supply of chicken, guinea hen and vicious turkeys. One day while filming, a turkey viciously attacked Kevin. I laughed so hard I thought I was going to piss myself. I was very fortunate to travel with Kevin and Micah, we had many laughs, shared great experiences and learned a lot.

On the second day we toured the factory and watched as the cigar rollers took great pride in their craft. The rolling tables were set up with three people per table. The Middle spot was the where the bunch was constructed with wrappers being on both sides. The Cigar Rolling process is quite efficient. The “Buncher” constructs the the binder and filler with the help of a machine widely used in the cigar industry. The bunch goes into a press and then rotated before being given to the people putting on the wrapper.

After lunch on the second day we toured the Perdomo box factory. Perdomo has their own state of the art mill and box factory where all their boxes are produced. I never knew how much time, effort and money went into the boxes. You should have seen Nick’s face when I told him I used empty cigar boxes as fire starters.  That concluded the tour but the fun was not over.

We returned to the hotel for dinner and found that the young lady that was working at the hotel had gone into town and got us some local Nicaraguan coffee. The coffee factory was located very close and we could smell it all day if the wind was right. After dinner Nick Invited us back to his house for Rum, Cigars and Dominoes. We had a great time and even got to play dominoes. Cuban’s take dominoes very seriously. Nick’s Uncle Tony and Aristides were talking all kinds of shit to each other in Spanish and made everybody laugh.

Dominoes at Nick's House

The following day we returned home via Miami where I was detained as a suspected terrorist. We had a three hour layover so I made it to the next flight. All I could think about was getting some Cuban food from La Carreta with multiple locations inside the airport. I barely made it to La Carreta with Kevin and Micah just grinning from ear to ear. We made it back to Cincinnati without any more problems and tons of great experiences. I am very grateful to Nick Perdomo and Arthur Kemper for the opportunity to visit Nicaragua. Nick’s hospitality is unparalleled.

Kevin not really working!

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