By Allen Dale "Ole" Olson   |   Monday, July 21, 2014 at 9:43 pm   |   Leave a Comment »

I learned to spell Cincinnati as a childhood baseball fan of the Chicago Cubs. Even before television, I knew how many n’s and t’s go into the name and where to put them. By age 7, I could spell cities like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and Brooklyn. The baseball teams, I knew; the dining scene I did not.

As I grew up, I learned that this Ohio queen city was famous for chile. Later I learned that some of the best wines in early America were grown and produced on both banks of the river not far from Cincinnati. Hard times and Prohibition stymied the wine business for a very long time, but in recent years it has returned to the Ohio Valley. And lately, the city has been host to one of the most expansive wine weekends in the Midwest.

Now it plans to celebrate its food and wine heritage. The Cincinnati Food and Wine Classic is coming to Washington Park in Over-the-Rhine on September 12-13.  I haven’t seen a final program yet, but what I have seen is impressive. Two Grand Tasting evenings with book signings, wine seminars, and a chance to meet the most recognized chefs in the city. It’s been called a crowning “Culinary Tourism” event.

Tickets are available at $125 for one of the Grand Tastings, $390 for a two-day VIP pass which includes after parties.  For tickets and more information:

But I haven’t checked the baseball schedule to see if the Reds are hosting the Cubs on that weekend!

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By Sue Shelden   |   Sunday, July 20, 2014 at 9:46 pm   |   Leave a Comment »

As an event coordinator, I am constantly exposed to drinks of all kinds. A few weeks ago, there was the wine produced by the groom’s family. The labels showed photos of the bride and groom, along with the family name and the type of wine. There were five types: Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and a Moscato–all produced by the family. They not only produced enough bottles for the wedding rehearsal and reception, but also enough for each family to take a bottle home. Much better than most wedding favors, for sure!

I tried all five–just a sip of each, and knew before I did so that I’d like the Moscato, best. The family was kind enough to give me a bottle, which I enjoyed, later, when I could share it with my husband.

At another wedding, years ago, the bride produced bottles of limoncello and arancello to give as favors–a bottle of each for each couple. Talk about a labor of love. But with her Italian background, and with vases filled with sunflowers and lavender, these bottles of Italian inspired liqueurs were a perfect and meaningful favor, or, as the Italians would say, “ricardo” of the special day.

Yesterday’s wedding had a signature drink of muddled blackberries and mint–fabulous! Today’s wedding ceremony included the pouring of a red wine with a white to symbolize the marriage. I have seen lots of instances using sand, flowers and candles, but the wine ceremony was new to me and I think a fabulous idea. AND the Mother of the Bride presented me with a lovely bottle of El Molino de Puellas, a Spanish red wine, which made my day even more eventful!

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By Allen Dale "Ole" Olson   |   Saturday, July 19, 2014 at 7:33 pm   |   Leave a Comment »

In the fall of 2012 I had dinner in several restaurants in the Napa Valley. The California ban on the production and sale of foie gras in the state had just been put into effect, though it had passed the legislature some eight years earlier. I did not meet one chef who was pleased with the new law.

At La Toque in Napa City, a server said there were plans to offer a slice of foie gras free to select customers who ordered a glass of Sauternes (a perfect wine match for this ancient delicacy) if they can get around the production restriction. (I have since learned that that happened and that La Toque has been on the brink of legal action ever since.) Readers may remember that the Chicago City Council passed a similar ban in the Windy City that didn’t last very long because diners quickly found places in the suburbs willing to offer fine foie gras.

The objections — even in France, arguably home to the best of the best foie gras — stem from the dish resulting from the force feeding of ducks and geese to fatten their livers, a practice dating to Roman times. Some claim this is cruel and harmful treatment. Others say the ducks and geese come willingly to the gavage to take in the feed.

The California law, however, had unexpected consequences in at least 13 other states where producers say the ban unconstitutionally interferes with interstate commerce and their own production and distribution. Attorneys for the 13 states and a Canadian organization of goose and duck farmers agreed to a brief supporting the case as important to the preservation of state sovereignty. Proponents of the ban claim that the issue is not worth a court’s attention, but the constitutional question could get the attention of the Supreme Court on the grounds it violates the Commerce Clause.

Later this year, the Justices will start selecting the cases to hear in the next session, but until we know and until they rule, we will have to go to Europe or elsewhere than California to enjoy foie gras with our Sauternes.

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