The Two Cincinnati Style Hoagies


The Cincinnati Style Steak Hoagie.


Long before Subway and other sandwich chains were on every street corner and gas station, the independent pizza chains promoted subs or hoagie sandwiches.   Of course the chili parlors had the market on the Greek double decker sandwich.     As more independent pizza chains popped up there morphed two distinct types of Cincinnati Style Hoagies – the Cincinnati Steak Hoagie and the Baked Royal Hoagie.


The term hoagie is said to have originated in the Italian-American community of Philadelpha.   Italian immigrant shipbuilders and dockworkers at Hog Island yard favored the sandwich during World War I.   Working around the clock to produce ships for the war effort, they needed a portable convenience food.   Many of their wives made them hearty loaf sandwiches stuffed with cheap lunchmeats, cheeses, and veggies, to hold them over.   The “Hog Island” sandwich became known as a “Hog-ie,” which in Italian accented English sounds like “hoagie.”


The term travelled with Italian immigrants who moved west chasing manufacturing jobs in the early part of the 20th century.     A good number of them settled in West Side Cincinnati, like Fairmount’s Little Italy neighborhood, and Newport, Kentucky’s Knob Hill or Spaghetti Knob neighborhood.      The Church festival of San Antonio Catholic Church in Fairmount is credited for introducing this new ‘pizza pie’ to Cincinnati in the early 1950s, which was still exotic to the largely Germanic wurst-eating population.     That parish nurtured the genesis of many of the early pizza parlors, including LaRosa’s and Pasquale’s.


Not to be confused with its distant cousin, the Philly Cheesesteak, which uses thinly sliced grilled steak and white American cheese, the classic Cincy steak hoagie is an oblong 8″ lightly seasoned ground steak patty, topped with melted mozzarella, or other shredded Italian cheese blend, pizza sauce or mushroom sauce, onion, and pickle on a split dense hoagie bun that can be sesame or poppy seed dusted.


The big difference across each pizza parlor is of course the difference in their sauce.   You have anything from the super sweet San Marzano style sauce of LaRosa’s (the recipe coming from his maternal Grandmother Josephine Palmire Palarno’s family recipe from Salerno, Italy) to the oregano blast savory brown sauce of Pasquale’s pizza.


The hoagie is assembled open-faced with the two bun halves side-by-side (meat on the bottom bun) topped with sauce and cheese, then popped under the broiler or salamander until melted. Then pickles are added before the two halves are married, and the hoagie is cut in half. Onions should be baked on or sauteed separately, never raw.    With the addition of sliced tomatoes and lettuce, it becames a Steak Hoagie Deluxe.


The first pizza parlor in Cincinnati, Capri Pizza, was established in 1949 by Daniel J. Vaccariello.   Capri had its Gondola Sandwich, which is the grandfather of our Cincinnati Baked Royal Hoagie.  The Gondola was an oversized footlong, on sweet sesame dusted soft Italian bread, hollowed out for a massive amount of meat and veggies.   The similarity of this hollowed out bread to the shape of a Venetian gondoloa is how this sandwich got its name.   It included Genoa salami, copocolla ham, provolone cheese, thinly sliced tomatoes, lettuce, roasted red peppers, sliced banana peppers, sliced black olives, thinly sliced red onions and dried oregano and Italian dressing.    It would never include turkey, like Subway’s Italian BMT, as turkey is not an Italian meat.   Daniel’s paternal grandfather, Michael, was from Metrica, Italy, but the Gondola was probably inspired by his mother, Antoinette Lariccia.


Now who decided to deface the Gondola and add pizza sauce is not known, but that formula – Italian sub plus pizza sauce – became the Cincinnati Style Baked Royal Hoagie.   Of course, the bun also became more dense, as the Cincinnati style hoagie bun, and the easy-to-eat soft Italian bread was shunned.


The second pizza chain in Cincinnati, Pasquale’s came out with their Stromboli Steak Sandwich in 1958. They describe it as a juicy steak patty covered with mozzarella cheese, topped with mushroom gravy or pizza sauce, onions and pickles.   The Stromboli is named after a group of islands in the Tyrrhenean Sea off the north coast of Sicily, known for its active volcano.


LaRosa’s have their Baked Royal hoagie, but they took it up a notch with the invention of their Baked Buddy Hoagie, named after the founder Buddy LaRosa, that is a Baked Royal with the addition of Pepperoni just to add to the heartburn.

Italianette Pizza, started in 1957 in Silverton, has a Cincinnati steak hoagie, but also has a Dagwood Hoagie, their version of the Baked Royal with salami, pepper loaf, pepperoni, pickles, pizza sauce, and cheese.

The term originated in the 1930s after a comic strip character named Dagwood Bumstead. According to the creator of the comic, Murat Bernard “Chic” Young (1901-1973), the only thing that Dagwood could prepare in the kitchen was a mountainous pile of dissimilar leftovers haphazardly arranged between two slices of bread. Dagwood became known for these huge sandwiches he created for midnight snacks.   The Dagwood is a multilayered sandwich with an infinite variety of contents.

My mother used to make something called a Tuna Bumstead, which is also named after the 1930’s comic strip character. It’s broiled tuna salad with hardboiled egg on a coney bun.   Most Cincinnati pizza joints also have a Tuna Hoagie in their repertoire.

Papa Dino’s Hot Royal hoagie was made from salami and capicola, rolled in paprika and red pepper, and served with banana pepper.   After 58 years, Papa Dino’s closed their doors in 2012 in the highly competitive Clifton UC Campus pizza market.

The Hot Royal from Angilo’s has hard salami, ham, pepperoni, onions, lettuce, Italian dressing, cheese, pickles and pizza sauce.   Angilo’s, started by in 1958, also has the Big John, their version of the steak sandwich with pizza sauce, mushroom sauce, or pickles and onions.

The Cincinnati Style Hoagie also expands outside of Hamilton County to Butler County legacy pizza joints. Richard’s Pizza in Hamilton, has a regionally famous steak hoagie, which they describe as seasoned lean beef, crunchy pickles, sweet Spanish onions and Richards original sauce on a hot buttered Italian or whole wheat bun. It can come with provolone or mozzarella, mushroom sauce, pizza sauce, grilled onions and peppers, jalapenos, or banana peppers.

Tin-to-Table: The New Canned Fish Trend



Tinned Fish – it’s the latest food trend reaching the U.S. from the European continent.   In this new Tin-to-Table movement, bars serving tinned, or canned fish, are becoming the new hipster hangout.   Seattle has its JarrBar, serving half a dozen tinned fish plates from Spain.   Boston has its recently opened Saltie Girl.   Brut in Minneapolis, has tinned seafood available at the bar.   And, Portland, Oregon, Bar Vivant offers cans of baby eels the size of oversized macaroni.   It’s like stepping into a tapas bar in San Sebastian, in Spain’s Basque country.   Maiden Lane, a New York City bar that opened in 2013, is said to have kicked off this new American interest in tinned seafood.


So what is the difference between tinned and canned fish?   Well, it’s at least 5 dollars and apparently, a world of flavor.   In Europe – particularly Spain and Portugal – canned, or tinned fish doesn’t have the same low brow connotation as here in the U.S.   The nasty, gray canned tuna fish is nothing like say, a Minerva gourmet canned mackerel from Portugal.       The U.S. canning industry has always been about thrift and industrialization – popping out a can of tuna for 99 cents.   Europe has never shared that mindset – it’s always been about preserving fish at the peak of their season.     The more of these restaurants that open in the U.S., the more we will see previously unavailable high quality tinned seafood from Europe.


In Portugal conservas restaurants – restaurants whose star ingredient comes from a tin can, are as popular as gourmet burger joints in the U.S.    There are stores in Portugal that sell only tinned fish, and in a kaleidoscope of varieties other than tuna and salmon. Imagine, scallops, oysters, squid packaged in its own ink, and even urchin caviar.


In artisanal fish canning, the fish is cooked first and then put into the tin.     This makes all the difference in flavor.   In normal canning, fish is cooked after being packed in the can, which imparts a boiled fish taste.   A well canned sardine will develop a wonderful umami flavor over the years, from the enzymes in the fish’s belly.


An industry of microcanneries, like microbreweries, has popped up in the U.S. with this trend.   Microcanners in California and Washington, such as American Tuna and Ekone Oysters, are using the Spanish-style and making high-quality tinned seafood.


So, how to get this trend moving in the U.S.?   Apparently the taste sells itself.   Open a can of ventresca, or tuna belly, taste it on some crusty bread, and there’s no turning back.   Gone are the days of mayo and Chicken of the Sea on white bread.     The question arises –which innovative chef in Cincinnati will be the first to bring this trend to the Queen City?

Schwartenmagen – German Meat Jelly


Schwartenmagen or Head Cheese.


In Cincinnati we’re known for our weird meat products of Germanic origin.   And when someone asks you to “Please pass the jelly,”   the last thing you’d expect in return is one made of meat.   Last week I learned of another of these funky meat products classified as just that – a meat jelly.   Its Germanic name is schwartenmagen.


I heard of this funny sounding meat jelly from an 86 year man I interviewed.   Lou grew up over a German saloon in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine.   The interview was part of an oral history project I’m helping initiate.   As a food historian I naturally questioned him about the type of food they served at the saloon.   That’s how I learned of this funky meat concoction.   As with most saloons of that era, free lunches were a ploy to sell more beer.     Oddly enough this saloon was across the street from the Hudepohl Bottling Plant, so they brought employees in with these free lunches.   Ah the days when it was ok to drink several beers over lunch and then operate heavy machinery!


Flamm’s Saloon about 1930, note the card tables with lower shelf to place your beer while playing.


Founded in 1905 by Baden-German immigrant Blasius Flamm, the saloon sat on the first floor of an 1880s Italianate on McMicken and Elder.   The second story housed a meeting hall.   It became the meeting place of many Germanic organizations – beneficial societies like the Baden, Swiss and Alsacer Unterstutzungsvereine; singing societies, like the Hudepohl Brewery Men’s Choir; and other organizations like the Daughters of Pocohontas.   Above the hall were the living quarters where seventeen people shared one bathroom and two kitchens between them.   The basement cooled the kegs, but also had a boxing ring for training. So, in addition to beer, the saloon had to serve food to a lot of people.


Blasius Flamm, Founder of Flamm’s Saloon in OTR.


The initiation ‘spanker’ of the Baden Unterstutzungsverein, which met in Flamm’s Hall above the saloon.  It was loaded with a shell blank to make it seem to the blindfolded initiate that he was shot in the rear.


In addition to Hamilton and Leona Metts, true Cincinnati Germanic sausages, Flamm’s served this luncheon meat called schwartenmagen, in the 1950s.   Lou said his mother loved it, but his Dad would not sit at the table when she or anyone else ate it.   It sounded like sougmagen, a miscellaneous-meat-parts stuffed cow stomach dish from Germany I’d previously blogged about.   As it turns out, it’s a miscellaneous-meat-parts cousin.     Schwartenmagen is the Germanic term for what we in America call head cheese.   It’s classified as a ‘meat-jelly’, because the meat parts are encased in gelatin and it’s formed into a lunchmeat loaf to be sliced.   Imagine a sliceable savory jello salad.


Schwartenmagen or Head cheese is sort of the Frankenstein of miscellaneous meat products.    All the meat parts are seen in cross section ‘stitched’ together by the gelatin.   It’s another of those peasant foods, dating back to the Middle Ages, invented to deal with the off cuts and use all the byproducts of slaughter.   Because of the mystery of said meat parts included, head cheese is not the most popular of deli products.     I’ve never sampled head cheese.   For me, it ranks up there with any type of blood sausage.   I just can’t get over its contents.   I’ve been told that if you can get overlook the different levels of crunchi from the different parts embedded in each slice, you will like it.   And those who were brought up eating it, crave it.


The process of making head cheese begins by boiling the head of a cow or pig.  What head parts are included vary, but often the eyes, brain and ears are usually removed.   This version served in Cincinnati, from a Findley Market vendor, according to my interviewee, included brains.   Other varieties include the tongue, feet, or heart.   The cooked flesh is removed from the head and allowed to cool in the broth, which thickens as it is concentrated in collagen from the bones.   Spices like black pepper, allspice, and marjoram are added to the broth.   A version pickled with vinegar in America is called souse or hot souse if spiced with peppers.   The German term for the souse pickled version of head cheese is sülze.


In the Franconian region of Germany schwartenmagen or sülze is served sliced in a salad with vegetables and a vinaigrette. There’s even a spam-like canned version sold throughout Germany. Here in the U.S. schwartenmagen is typically served as a lunchmeat sandwich, which was how it was served at Flamm’s Saloon.


Today the indie meat markets like Stehlins and Avril-Bleh, still make schwartenmagen from centuries old Germanic recipes.   Although one must respect the age and uniqueness of this meat jelly, it’s one Cincinnati meat product this Food Dude is not rushing out to try.


The Rochester Garbage Plate Comes to Hyde Park


Recently I met my friend Jim at the Echo in Hyde Park for lunch.  The Echo, founded in 1945, is the closest thing we in Cincinnati have to a diner.  On the weekends, it’s lined out the door with hungover Xavier U students awaiting starchy comfort food to doctor them back to health.   In the day, the Echo is a different crowd of older steadfast regulars.

After ordering my open faced tuna melt, Jim ordered the Go Green Mess.  I had to look at the menu to see what this was.    The menu describes it as, “Layers of home fries, scrambled egg whites, spinach, zucchini, avocado, and feta cheese, with a side of salsa.”

“Jim,”  I said, “you’re eating a ‘somewhat healthier’ (making the air quotes sign)  version of the famous Rochester garbage plate!”     Wow, I thought, the Rochester garbage plate has finally made it to Cincinnati, and to Hyde Park, no less.   Of course, the Hyde Parkified version had a healthier spin than the standard form.

The Rochester Garbage plate is really their diner version of our threeway.   It’s like St. Louis’s Slinger, or Montreal’s Poutine, in that manner.  Credit for its invention is given to Nick Tahou Hots, founded in 1918.  The dish is a choice of two of the following:  hamburger, cheeseburger, white hots or red hots (the Rochester version of our Cincinnati mett and brat, respectively), Italian sausage, chicken tenders, fried haddock , or eggs; and two sides of either home fries, French fries, macaroni salad, or baked beans.     On top of all this, are options of onions, mustard, and a Greek meat sauce similar to Cincinnati chili.


A red hot version of the Rochester Garbage Plate at Nick Tahou’s.


I know it sounds ridiculous, and of course t was named the fattiest food in the state of New York by     But the Rochester Garbage Plate is a right of passage to New York state college students.  A charitable Garbage Plate run is sponsored every year by a local Rochester fraternity where a relay team of three run to Nick Tahou’s, eat a garbage plate and run back.  A charitable Ironman is run by only one person, who has to eat a Garbage plate at Nick Tahou’s.

Nick Tahou’s concoction spawned other versions at diners around Rochester.  The Sloppy Plate, the Compost Plate,  the Trash Plate, and the Hog Plate are just a few examples.  Nearly every food show on Food Network and the Travel Channel have featured the Garbage Plate at one time.

The owner of the Echo says her Go Green Mess is a version of the Hot Mess, yet another version of the Rochester Garbage plate.  Jim says, although a healthier version, Echo’s version, the Go Green Mess, is  still a big plate of food, but certainly a tasty one!


At the Panegyri – Cevapi, the Bosnian Coney Island

A common Bosnian cevapi.
Harka doted on me like an Eastern European grandma.  She refilled my mini coffee cup at the free breakfast lounge at the Atlanta Holiday Inn, even before thinking to ask.   A colleague and I discussed how last night’s Brexit would affect our OEM business with the German manufacturer who we were about to promote to said hotel chain later this morning.
Conversation quickly led to types of coffee with Harka, as I thanked her for the generous java pours.
She said, “I could tell you’re coffee guy, ’cause you like our coffee. I’m  coffee  connoisseur myself.”
Like a truffle sniffing swine, Harka admitted her super power  was smelling out good coffee even before tasting it.
“We use only good European coffee here,”  she said.
After revealing we were in the food biz,  I asked her where in Europe she was from, given away by her Balkan accent.   When she said Bosnia, I told her my city was having their annual Panegyri festival this weekend, which had one booth serving Bosnian and Serbian food amongst the standard Greek delicacies.    I asked her what was her favorite Bosnian dish
“Do you eat pita?”  Harka asked.
 I said, “Yes, but only the dry store bought kind.  I’ve never had home made pita.”
Harka proudly pulled out her iPhone and showed me a photo of her wonderful homemade Pita.   It was so much more than the pita I knew.   It was about the size of a medium LaRosa’s hand-tossed pizza and filled with a white cheese.
“All Bosnian dishes start with good pita,” Harka said.  And then she said cevapi (pronounced chevapee)  was her favorite dish.
“You walk out of train station in any city in  Bosnia and you smell it in  air.  Cevapi is everywhere .   It’s national dish of Bosnia.”
I asked her to explain it.  Her eyes lit up and she began her cevapi soliloquy.  Cevapi is a dish of small finely ground skinless  beef sausages, grilled, and stuffed into fresh pita with grilled onions.    They are usually sold on the street in varieties of 5, 10 and 15 sausages, all the size of our American breakfast sausage.     Think of them as the coney islands of the Balkans, because Bosnians dress their cevapi with a variety of toppings similar to our coneys.    They can be topped with dairy –  like sour cream, and cottage cheese;  or a  savory sauce reminiscent of Cincy chili – like adjvar (a spicy vegetable puree – the Balkan salsa) , or minced red pepper.    She said , nearly tearfully, one bite of a cevapi and you can taste the history of Bosnia.   I thought her explanation was beautiful.
A more coney island-looking version of cevapi, topped with sour cream and spicy adjvar.
After a quick search on the Panegyri 2016 app, I confirmed the Bosnian/Serbian booth was indeed offering cevapi this year – score!!   I could taste this national dish Harka gushed over.   I learned also cevapi comes from the Persian word kebab, and the ‘i’ is the Slavic diminutive meaning ‘little’ – so in the end cevapi means ‘little kebab.’
In addition to being found in Bosnia and Serbia, you can find this street food in all the countries that made up the former Yugoslavia – Macedonia, Croatia, Slovenia-and neighbors Bulgaria and the Czech Republic.   It’s been a street food in Serbia and Bosnia since the 1860s .  During the Ottoman empire, it was a convenience campfire food of the hadjuks or freedom fighters.    Like a coney, it could be easily made, topped, and, swaddled in pita, could be carried around for eating on-the-go.
So if you go to Panegyri this weekend, step out of the Greek box and like Harka exclaims, taste the history of Bosnia (and perhaps the Balkan great grandmother of the coney island)  with a cevapi.

Green Mustang Grape Pie – Texas Hill Country’s Answer to Concord Grape Pie



The American Indians were the first to discover the native grapes of America.   This was way before Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were transplanted here from Europe.   There are hundreds of Native American grape varieties that have been identified over the last 200 years.   But, very few are in cultivation, due to the low demand for these grapes.   As a result, there’s low incentive to study these grapes.   That means our comprehension of them – their unique aroma compounds, how they must be cultivated, and what special winemaking techniques they require – is sorely lacking.

It’s from one of these native American grape varieties, the Concord grape, of the species Vitis Labrusca that the ‘grape’ flavor we know and love is derived. We use it in grape juice, jelly, jello, grape soda, candy, and even Kosher and church wines.   This flavor baffles Europeans who taste our Concord grape juice.   The Catawba and Isabella grapes are also a member of the labrusca family. It was these grapes that local millionaire winemaker Nicholas Longworth used in the early 19th century, to make his award winning sparkling and fortified wines.   It wasn’t necessarily the flavor that is the reason we don’t drink Catawba wine as much as we do European varieties.   It’s that the Catawba was very susceptible to an aphid pest that caused black rot called phylloxera.   Most of the grapes used in winemaking are of the species Vitis vinifera.

The distinct Concord grape flavor is caused by a chemical compound called methyl anthranilate.   This flavor is disdained in wine, and given the flavor descriptor “foxy.”     But this grape makes a fabulous Concord Grape Pie, like the one German immigrant – Margaret Habig – made at her family’s restaurant on the West Side of Cincinnati. This recipe lived on for almost 100 years at the restaurant.    Its sweet jammy filling makes a great pie, and the thick black skins are easy to separate from the pulp during the pie making process, which also allows for the removal of seeds.

Texas has its own native grapes, of the species Vitis Mustangensis, called the Mustang grape, that grows wild all over in Hill Country, along the Colorado River.   They’re not easy to eat – they’re full of seeds, bitter with tannin, and very sharp with acidity.   There were references to Mustang wines before the Civil War.    But the Mustang’s unique flavor make it a target for piemakers in Texas Hill country.     There’s even a German-American recipe for Green Grape Marmeladenkucken (Marmelade Cake) in the Texas German cookbook,  Guten Appetit , published by the Sophienburg Museum.   And a green mustang grape pie recipe also exists in the Texas Hill Country between Austin and San Antonio. The trick is to get the green grapes just before they ripen in mid summer, before their seeds develop.


Hill Country German-Texas pressing mustang grapes for wine.


There’s also a pie recipe for the fully ripened Mustang Grape, and ice cream companies, like Justin’s in San Antonio, who integrate it into sorbets and creams.   One local Texas company, Fischer & Wieser, is probably the only company that makes a Green Mustang Grape Jelly.   But there are probably hundreds of German-American housewives and culinarians who still make this in small batches every year from foraged grapes.   I plan to find both pie versions on my upcoming summer food trip to Texas Hill Country.


St. Anthony’s Kibbeh- the Lebanese Goetta


My meal at the St. James Food Festival, with kibbeh, malmouf (cabbage rolls), hummus, pita, and salad.


In Greater Cincinnati, June is the month of Middle Eastern church food festivals. Probably the most well known is the Panegyri Festival, celebrated by the Greek Orthodox community of St. Nicholas-Holy Trinity Church in Finneytown.     The Maronite Catholic community of St. Anthony of Padua in Walnut Hills, celebrates their festival the same weekend.   St. Anthony is made up of Syrians, Jordanians, Lebanese, and Israeli immigrants.    The Maronite Catholics were united in speaking Aramaic, the language of Jesus, and was the only of the Eastern churches to maintain ties to the Pope.    Finally, there’s the community of St. James in Loveland , which is made up of Syro-Levantine Christian Arabs, refugees from the former Ottoman Empire,  who come from chiefly Turkey, Damascus and Aleppo, Syria; and Beirut, Lebanon.


All three have been home parishes of the Cincinnati Chili pioneers who hailed from Greece, Turkey, the former Macedonia, and Jordan.     The Kiradjieffs of Empress and the Lambrinides of Skyline congregated around St. Nicholas, while the Jordanian Daouds of Gold Star helped to start the St. James community.   Other pioneers, like the Mislehs, who owned Skyline franchises and other restaurants, congregated around St. Anthony.


It’s a complicated history between the Arabs, Armenians, Greeks and Turks, but their food is very similar.    Theirs is the food of the New Testament.    The foods are  thousands of years old, and, as many doctors now promote, it’s some of the heart-healthiest cuisine in the world.


This past weekend was the start of this season with St. James Antiochan Orthodox Church’s food festival.      They’ve opened their community for this wonderful food festival for the past ten years.   I’d never gone, so decided to go this past Sunday for a taste of this wonderful Levantine food.         Like the Greek Panegyri festival, some of the highlights at St. James, were the desserts.   The Maamoul, were my favorite. They’re round Easter cookies filled with dates, to symbolize Christ’s crown of thorns.     They could be described as a round, crispy fig newton.


Lebanese desserts at the St. James Food Festival – the delicious maamoul are the round date-filled cookies in the foreground.


The Western Church was not so nice to the Eastern Church, and it’s no surprise there was a schism.    During the crusades, the Western Church stole the majority of the relics of the early church from what would become the Orthodox churches, for ‘safe keeping in the West’ from the Muslim invaders.     But, we never returned any of this holy booty.  Emperor Constantine and his mother famously went on relic collecting trips to the Middle East, securing such items as the true cross, while other crusaders stole the Shroud of Turin, and the Mandylion of Edessa, purported to be the image of the risen Christ transposed onto a silk shroud, lain on his face in the tomb, and often mistaken to be the Shroud of Veronica.     There’s still an argument over whether the Vatican’s shroud of Veronica, and one an isolated town in Italy called Mannoppelo is the true Mandylion of Christ from the tomb.


The icon of Christ at the entrance to St. James Church, based on the Mandylion of Edessa.


In addition to stealing the East’s holy Christian relics, we also did a good job of stealing their foods.   Austro-Germanic strudel, for example is said to be a modification of baklava.        We took the Turkish baharat spice blend, fused it into the Greek makaroni mi  kima, and created Cincinnati style chili threeways.    We stole their cabbage rolls – that the Lebanese call Malfouf.      And, as it turns out, we might have stolen what would become goetta from a Middle Eastern food cousin called kibbeh.


Kibbeh is the national dish of Lebanon, and is made with ground beef, bulgar or cracked wheat, pine nuts, fine chopped onions and assorted spices.     Ask a chef from the Middle East how to make kibbeh and you will get different answers from each chef.      Like goetta, it’s an ingenious way to extend meat scraps with a grain, in this case cracked wheat instead of steel cut oats.     The St. James festival’s version is a crispy, deep fried, football shaped, oversized meatball.      The taste is remarkably similar to goetta and is delicious.  As took my first bite of the kibbeh, I felt myself wanting to dress it with ketchup, as I do my crispy goetta.    But kibbeh is at least a millenia older than goetta, and so wins the origin award.


The next time I sit down to a plate of crispy goetta, I’ll think of it as a holy food with an old heritage spanning back to the time of Jesus.   I wonder how Jesus would have dressed his kibbeh?







How Legacy Recipes Travel


Chef Luciano Moral’s Sauerkraut Balls at the Augusta Irish Pub in Augusta, Kentucky.


Summer is the season for road trips.    It’s time to get out and explore the country and sample the arts, food, and fun of America’s small towns.  Last Saturday, I decided on just one such roadtrip to Augusta, Kentucky.     It was their annual Art in the Garden weekend      Augusta is a charming Ohio River town, known for being the home of Rosemary Clooney, the aunt of George Clooney.     It is also famous for a long time restaurant it had called the Beehive, of which Rosie was a regular customer.   The  drive there is a scenic one along Route 50, with a few minute ferry across the Ohio on the Jenny Ann.    One of my friends, Ken, a Maysville area artist, was exhibiting new works from his recent stay in Oauxaca, Mexico, and I was excited to see them.   I was also carrying a stash of gochugaru Korean pepper for him I had bought in large quantity for an upcoming kimchee experiment.. 


What I didn’t expect to come out of this trip was a lesson on how legacy recipes travel.    My friend Ken knew I’d written about Historic Restaurants of Cincinnati, and while visiting him at his booth he said he wanted to introduce me to someone.      It turns out he knew the former chef of the Beehive, Luciano Moral, a Cuban born chef, opera singer,  and artist.       With a Cuban name, you’d never know he had one of the best recipes for sauerkaut balls in the area.    While Luciano had closed the Beehive a few years ealier, he did still make the said kraut balls for the local Augusta Irish Pub.   


So where does a Cuban get a great recipe for a German-American dish like sauerkraut balls?   As it turns out, from the former owners of Forest View Gardens in Monfort Heights on the West Side of Cincinnati.   Forest View Gardens was a Broadway-meets-Bavaria place which used CCM students to wait tables and perform a nightly show of opera and showtunes.    I had written about this historic restaurant in my book, which closed in 2001 after a phenomenal 61 year run.    Luciano had learned this recipe from the second generation owners of the restaurant, Trudie Seybold, which she had learned from her mother, Jennie Klose, a German immigrant.    This recipe was over 76 years old, and had travelled over 50 miles southeast from its origin, and through now three restaurants. 


Moral was born in Bon Candelaria, Cuba, 78 kilometers west of Havanna.    He came to Florida at the age of 14, with the other refugees of the late 60s Castro regime.   Trudiy was a music teacher at the time, and picked Moral’s dulcet tenor out of a school choir.  She became his legal guardian and vocal coach and later helped bring his family to America.   Moral won a scholarship to Curtis Music Institute and Acadamy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia.   He made money on the side cooking for restaurants.   Later he sang and worked at Forest View Gardens, before opening the Beehive in the early 80s     I told him how I’d written about Forest View Gardens, and he told me that he still made their recipe sauerkraut balls for the Pub in Augusta and I could taste them while I was here.


So, I decided to visit the Pub for a taste of this wonderful legacy recipe.     Up until this time, I ranked Mecklenburg Garden’s homemade sauerkraut balls as the best in Cincinnati.    I have to say  I  now consider the Forest View Garden recipe via Luciano Moral to be the best I’ve tasted to date.  But since the recipe only exists in Kentucky, Mecklenburg’s title  still exists!   Moral’s kraut balls  have a great crunchy textured outside, with a dense, sauerkraut, creamy, meaty interior.  It’s almost the perfect ratio of cream cheese-to-sausage-to-kraut.   They’re almost as dense as a hushpuppy, but still not so dense as to be recognized as a sauerkraut ball.    And, with the cream they are definitely a Cincinnati-German version of the sauerkraut ball.   (Sauerkraut balls made north of the 275 loop do not include cream cheese)



Chef, Operatic Tenor, visual artist, and kraut ball maker, Luciano Moral.


There’s a great deal of props in order for a recipe that can travel 50 miles, across a river through two states, and  through two successful legacy restaurants and still be demanded by former customers at a new location.   It’s this exact type of foodway that keeps our family food traditions alive, and brings our hyper-regional foods to new mouths and generations.  The travel of this wonderful legacy recipe is the epitome of food etymology and archeology.     It’s what keeps this Food Dude inspired!



National Donut Day


The Blue Melvin Donut at Hotman’s


Every first Friday in June is National Donut Day.     It may be another invented holiday, but who doesn’t love a good donut?     We love celebrating birthdays with donuts at work.


But the man (or woman) behind the donut is seldom celebrated in the manner he or she deserves.     The donut man is an artist – an early morning artist, to be exact.   While we’re still dreaming of our favorite donut, he is up in the wee hours of the morning, making sure all the wonderful varieties of donuts are ready for the first rollers in at 5 am.


My grandpa was a donut man – a true artist.    He learned the secrets from German bakers at the Cookie Jar in Newport, Kentucky, after serving in WWII.   He was a Donut DaVinci, and a master of icing. I remember watching him ice a birthday cake for my mother.   From scratch, he mixed and dyed a batch of icing.   Then, curling a piece of looseleaf paper into a piping bag, he artfully created a bouquet of roses on the cake.  I watched amazed, perched onto their teardrop-shaped,  formica mid-century kitchen table.   I thought Grandpa was a magician.


I have a wonderful poem my great grandfather wrote to him on Father’s Day about 1966, referencing all the types of donuts Grandpa made in the bakery:


Those golden donuts we love to fry

that make the housewives and children sigh

I will say again as I said before

pass them around  for I want some more

Wither you dunk them in coffee or milk

they go down just as smooth as silk

the French donut so nice and round

a nicer one could not be found

when nicely iced with crumbs on top

and you start eating, it is hard to stop

the glazed, severts, squares, twists, and long johns too

we will try them all before we get through

no matter how tired and hungry you feel

just tickle those Taste Buds with a Virginia Reel

So what are we waiting for while the Parakeet (Peetey) sings

Get something nice and tasty at Ling’s


Mother and I are proud of our son

for the straight forward way that his business is run



I always thought that was such a lovely bit of history and a record of some old names of donuts, some still used around town.


There are basically ten types of donuts:   yeast, cake, jelly, cream, old fashioned, cruller, long john, twist, cinnamon roll, and the fritter.     The ubiquitous glazed donut falls into the yeast category.


Most local donut shops carry these varieties.   And most also have a signature donut that is a mashup of one or more of these.


The Davy Crocket, for example is a name for a maple iced cinnamon roll, that sometimes has chopped peanuts sprinkled, which is also sometimes called a peanut roll.     Stan the Donut Man in Westchester carries this breed, and my uncle used to make this donut – it was one of my favorites.


Country Cousins Bakery in Alexandria specializes in giant sprinkle donuts, which at other bakeries, like St. Lawrence in Price Hill, are also called Jimmy Rolls.



The Boston Crème donut is a yeast, vanilla crème filled donut with chocolate icing. It’s a mini version of the Boston crème pie.   Another slightly varied version is the Bavarian Crème.   Silverton Donuts, has what they call the Honeymoon donut – a yeast donut, fried, glazed and then filled with either lemon or Bavarian crème.


The Old Fashioned is a variety of cake donut prepared in the shape of a ring with tapered edges around it.  Sometimes it uses sour cream in the dough, sometimes cider, or even pumpkin and chocolate. It is typically deep fried, may have a crunchier or crisper texture compared to other styles of cake doughnuts, and have cracks and pores on its surface. After being fried, it may be glazed with an unlimited number of icings and toppings.


The Virginia Reel referenced in Grandpa’s poem is a version of the French Cruller, which is a light eggy donut in a round twirled shape.   It can be iced in a variety of icings.   My secretary in my first post-college job loved the white-iced French Cruller, and it was an easy way to keep her happy!


Tiger Tails, are a version of the twist that includes two different types of dough twisted together – like normal yeast and chocolate yeast – so that it resembles the tail of a tiger.   There are also chocolate twists, which can be found at St. Lawrence Bakery, and cinnamon twists.


Then there’s the fritter.   It’s the closest to the donut’s early roots with the Johnny Cake. It’s a deep fried delicious mass of like 100 tiny donuts stuck together.   It’s dense and heavily glazed.  Most commonly it comes in apple flavored, but some local shops go crazy with flavors like pineapple, which I’m going to have to try soon.   Busken’s has a fritter-like filled donut they call the cheese triangle, which probably has like a million calories, but is a decadent treat.   Bonomoni has the Clunker, which is a deep fried cake-fritter mashup that’s very popular.


Some crazy versions of donuts can be found around town.   The old Skirts and Johnston bakery at Findley Market used to carry an apricot-goetta Danish, which is a variation on the yeast dough.   The cult-popular Holtman’s Donuts in Over-the-Rhine, carries what they call a Blue Melvin Donut – a blueberry cake donut (another of my favorites), which is chocolate glazed, blueberry iced and sprinkled with chocolate curls.


So whatever is your favorite donut, please patronize and thank your local indie Donut Artist today on National Donut Day!