My writing pals and I get cranky if we don’t see each other at least every couple of months, and that is about how long it had been since we gathered in Berea for Christmas.
But none of us had an entire weekend to devote—well, I did, but I am more boring than the others—so we settled on Cincinnati as a place to meet up.
I had forgotten how barren and dead the stretch from Louisville to Cincinnati is, but then you swing around a large bend in the highway and the Cincinnati skyline jumps out at you as if served on a giant platter, an abundant jumble of colors and shapes and on a sunny afternoon in mid-February, it is thrilling as all get out.
I squealed, I think, when I saw it.
My cooler, younger, hipper friends had set us up at the Aloft Hotel, Newport, on the Kentucky side of the river. All glass and angles and modern lighting, this hotel is also pet-friendly, if that matters to you, with welcoming bowls of water just inside the sliding glass doors, across from the porter’s carts. It reminded me a bit of a European hotel, with clever use of space, minimalist but inviting.
My room overlooked the revitalized downtown and Hofbrauhaus and Brewery. There was a room-length desk with lots of USB ports and space for laptops and appetizers, because that is what we do when we gather. We check our phones. We eat.
Our Friday night plan ran something like this.
Let’s meet for drinks and appetizers in someone’s room, and then, at 5:30 Uber over for drinks and appetizers at the recently renovated Hotel Covington. Then, on to dinner.
As the Uber driver let us out he whispered to me that this wasn’t the best part of town, but the hotel was doing a brisk business, with people checking in and most of the plush sofas and chairs in the lobby bar occupied. We started with a little something, which included, but was not limited to: a charcuterie board, some cheeses and hummus and ciabatta, some cut up vegetables, I suppose, because that makes us feel righteous, and cornbread.
But not just any cornbread. Two large rectangular pieces of cornbread, caramelized on top and bottom with a syrup/sorghum glaze, a little cap of butter, warm and dripping off the top.
You all. Our eyes rolled back in our heads. We fought over it.
As we nibbled and drank, we took photos to send to our pal, Beth, because she made us promise to take her with us, even though she lives in France. We did, right up to the time we had to leave for Mita’s, across the river in Cincinnati.
Mita’s serves tapas, a small plate, tasting kind of menu.
We each ordered a couple of dishes to share, which is the point, and they brought the food in “waves.” We ate in those waves for a couple of hours and on the ride back to Newport someone said, “It’s hard to believe we will be eating pancakes in twelve hours.”
No one laughed, but made mental notes to set our alarms.
The Maplewood Kitchen and Bar, billed as “a west coast cafe in the heart of Cincinnati,” is famous for its ricotta lemon pancakes, but also for its organic egg dishes, the chicken hash, and probably just about everything else it serves. We managed to hit it just right…often on a Saturday the line snakes out the door.
We admired the Roebling Bridge—we crossed it several times. Linking Covington and Cincinnati, it is a prototype for its more famous brother, the Brooklyn Bridge. We visited the Cincinnati Art Museum, too, because, in addition to gourmands, we are aesthetes. It is a fine collection, and we were calm and centered after a couple of hours of wandering.
Our time was coming to an end, but since we were in the Mount Adams area anyway, we decided to stop at the Mount Adams Bar and Grill, an old tavern with a sordid prohibition past.
No one was hungry, but we ordered a few light things to share, and again took photos to share with those who peeled off early for home. We talked about them in their absence, and said funny things, and admiring our cleverness, texted and told them.
We stopped for gas somewhere out from Louisville, complaining and moaning about how much we had eaten, and purchased candy bars, and ate them in succession.
As you do.