The Munich Hangout of Artist Frank Duveneck and His Boys


A self portrait of Duveneck painted in Munich, and his beloved Max Emanuel Café.


We all want that local hangout where we can meet friends and enjoy life over a pint of good lager bier.   For our beloved local Germanic artist, Frank Duveneck, that hangout, while he was studying in Munich at the prestigious Academy of Fine Arts, was a place called the Max Emanuel Café, or just MaxE by the new 20 something hipsters who hang there, 150 years after he and his artist buddies did.     It’s in the heart of the Bohemian university district at 33 Adalbertstrasse.


If you go to Munich, ditch the loud touristy Hofbrauhaus and stop here first, to take in the legacy of one of America’s greatest painters and our hometown favorite.  Duvie is sometimes called the Father of American Painting, and was loved by both his contemporary artists and his students.   He was a virtuoso of the brush, but also a guy’s guy -the kind you’d want to get beers with and talk for hours.

A Duveneck Stammtisch, or reserved table at a pub, was something that he followed his whole life.   Contemporary books, like Indian Summer, and others immortalize him as the lion headed king of beer hall post painting discussions.

Born to Westfalian immigrant parents, Bernard Deckers and Katherine Siemers in 1848 in Covington, Kentucky, Duveneck was raised and adopted by his stepfather Joseph Duveneck, after his father died in his infancy.    The Deckers were from Goetta country, from the area of Damme, right next to Neunkirchen Voerden, where the Finke family – who brought goetta to Northern Kentucky in the 1870s, immigrated.   Joseph Duveneck was from the small village of Vibeck in Oldenburg, also in Goetta Country.

Joseph Duveneck and a partner, Henry Wichman bought what was the Hone Brewery in 1861 at the northeast corner of 12th and Stevens in Covington.    It had its own beer garden in a lot next door where members of the Covington German Community congregated.     Joseph was a member of the West End Covington German Pioneer Verein.  The senior Duveneck operated the brewery until the end of the Civil War in 1865, so young Frankie grew up around this beer hall spirit of German gemutlichkeit.   But by 1861, at age 13, Frankie was already apprenticed to an altar company and was travelling to Indiana, Pittsburgh, and Canada to paint the religious mural interiors of Catholic Churches.    It was this early detection of his brilliant talent that got Duvie, through Cosmos Wolfe, a funder to travel to Munich to study at the Acadamey of Fine Arts in 1870.


Elector and Ruler of Bavaria Max Emanuel.

Duveneck studied under Wilhelm Diez, who emphasized study of Dutch and Flemish masters.    Those that attended the Academy in Munich from 1850 to 1918 were taught in the Munich Style, characterized by a naturalistic and broad brush stroke and dark chiaroscuro, a deep contrast between light and dark.   Duveneck studied there from 1870 to 1873, and then returned from 1875 to 1878.    It was in Munich where he mastered his own masculine broad brush style in such famous paintings as Smoking Boy (1872), a version of which is now a larger-than-life mural on the side of the Red’s Stadium.

So why would Duvie and his buds choose Max Emanueal as their hangout of choice?   Max Emanual, after whom the bar is named, was an avid patron of the arts.   As ruler of Bavaria in the mid 1600s and one of the seven electors of the Holy Roman Empire, before Germany was unified.   He was also governor of the Spanish Netherlands, and with this access amassed a large collection of Dutch and Flemish paintings, by such masters as Peter Paul Rubeens, Albrecht Durer, and Van Dyck, among others.  This collection, now known as the Witteslbach collection was, in Duveneck’s time and today, on view at the Alte Pinakotehech Museum in Munich.    That museum is also the only museum in Germany where you can see a Leonardo da Vinci, the Madonna of the Carnation.  It was these paintings that Duveneck’s teacher, Herr Diez, encouraged his students to study and emulate in their own paintings.

Today Max Emanueal Brauerei still caters to the under 20 crowd, as it did in Duvie’s day.   It hosts a weekly Salsa Dance Night, an annual White Party, has a nice outdoor beer garden, and is dog friendly.   It serves Lowenbrau beer and a variety of schnitzel, ox knuckle, and other Bavarian standards, a far cry from the radishes and bretzels of Duvie’s day.   Unfortunately it has been renovated many times in the last 150 years, but if you go inside and close your eyes you can imagine hearing Duvie talk for hours about his ideas on painting.




After the tragedy of losing his young wife, Elizabeth, Duveneck returned to Cincinnati where he taught at the Art Acadaemy from 1890-1919, teaching hundreds of both commercial and fine American artists.  His true influence across American design has not been truly recognized.   He continued the tradition of post painting Stammtisch.  He and others at the Academy formed the Cincinnati Art Club, so they could paint female nudes, a practice not condoned at the Academey.   Their first meeting spot was Hager’s Café on Walnut Street at 9ths.  One of Duveneck’s female nudes hung infamously over the bar at Focoult’s Café in Over-the-Rhine.


A contemporary Stammtisch at the Biergarten at Max E in Munich – the next generation of Duveneck Boys?

The Jug Houses of Newport Kentucky


There was a time in Northern Kentucky – particularly Newport – after Prohibition that you could only get your beer at what was called a jug house.    The laws right after Prohibition wouldn’t allow grocers to sell beer.     A separate jug house, with what is now called a (retail) package liquor license was only allowed to sell beer.      Most jug houses were also small bars.     At least in Newport they were called jug houses, because the neighborhood beer, Wiedemann Fine Beers, on Sixth and Columbia, sold beer in 2 gallon jugs.    They also sold resealable clamp-on caps so that you could refill your jug at the jug house, like we do today with growlers at our local microbrews.



The reusable Wiedemann jug beer cap used for fills at a Newport jug house.

A large beer garden, designed by Samuel Hannaford was built in 1893 in the German Romanesque style on the Wiedemann brewery complex. Many German organizations and companies celebrated at the beer garden, which specialized in a dish called ‘pitched potatoes’ which were potatoes cooked in boiling tar to make a super fluffy spud.


The last remaining Newport jug house, Jerry’s Jug House, at 414 East Seventh Street, has just been purchased by award winning historic preservationist Mark Ramler and his cousin, bar industry veteran, Stuart MacKenzie, who plan to reopen it upon renovation later this year.   They will be the fifth set of owners.

Jerry’s has a long history and started life as a jug house in the 1930s after Prohibition.   It was owned by  EDWARD “BARRELL” HEHMAN, who at the time ran the Newport Bowling Alleys.   He converted it from two renovated garages.    Barrell married Nora Degenhart Bruns in 1921,  the mother of Robert Bruns, the next owner.  Robert’s father and Nora’s first husband, Frank Bruns, died shortly after his brother Frank Jr. was born in 1913, and with two boys under the age of 2, and a single mother, Nora decided to send them to be raised at St. Joseph’s Orphanage.    The Hehmans were members of Corpus Christi German Catholic Church in Newport.   After Edward Hehman died in 1938, Nora ran the jug house until her death in 1948.   Back then it didn’t have a bar.   It was divided into 2 rooms – a sitting room for women, and a room where the beer was “iced” up.      Robert Bruns took over from his mother, and named it Bruns’ Jug House.    He was not surprisingly – given Newport’s gambling past – in the slot machine business and service calls were booked through the jug house.   When Bruns died in 1961, it was purchased by Jerry Bittner and renamed.    When Jerry died, his bartender since 1968, David Wentworth bought the business and operated it until his death last year.


Although a slice of a short time after Prohibition and before major national breweries took over what was a purely local scene, there were many jug houses in Newport, Covington, and northern Kentucky.     Upon the repeal of the 18th amendment in 1933, which ended Prohibition, only six breweries returned to the scene – Bruckmann, Hudepohl, Foss-Schneider, and Schaller in Cincinnati; Wiedemann in Newport, and Bavarian in Covington.     Wiedemann pretty much owned the bars in Newport, Dayton, and Bellevue, while Bavarian supplied those in Covington.     Bruckmann sold beer in jugs as well, but specific retail stores in Cincinnati where it could be purchased (same in Cincy that beer just after Prohibition couldn’t be purchased at groceries) were not known as jug houses, they were more commonly known as pony kegs, a term that predated Prohibition.    The jug house moniker was a unicorn of northern Kentucky.

Growing up my Mom told stories that when she was a girl in the 50s, her Dad would send her down the alley from their bakery in Dayton, Kentucky, to get a quart of Wiedemann beer for him at the carry out on the corner after he was done with the baking.    Grandpa called it Wiedy-Pop, and drank it into the 1980s, even after it wasn’t being made in Newport.


The 1950 Wiedemann beer lineup from the Wiedemann Cookbook, showing the jug Bohemian lager beer in bottom left.

There was a Harold’s Jug House at 701 Central at Seventh, owned by Harold Johnson of Newport, that sponsored a softball team in the 50s and 60s that competed with teams sponsored by Bruns and later Jerry’s Jug House.    Bruns also sponsored a women’s bowling league in the 1950s, even though it was a stag bar with only a men’s bathroom until much later in its life.     A Wigg’s Jug House operated in Covington in the early 1960s, but they most probably sold Bavarian jug beer.

A 1955 ad in the Cincinnati Enquirer noted a grocery in Newport for sale, with “room for a jug house.”

Unfortunately both Wiedemann and Bavarian suffered the same fate – they had old inefficient pre-Prohibition breweries that couldn’t compete when the national brands came on the scene.    Wiedemann sold to Heilmann Brewery in Lacrosse, Wisconsin, in 1967 and  was later acquired and brewed by the Pittsburg Brewing Company until 2007.

In 2012 the  Newport based Geo. Wiedemann Brewing Company, LLC, re-established the brand and started brewing Wiedemann Special Lager as a  craft beer. The brand was acquired by beer brewer and journalist Jon Newbury.   Just last year Jon and his wife Betsy, opened the Wiedemann Brewery and Beer Garden in the old Imwalle Funeral Home in St. Bernard, Ohio, to carry on a tradition started in 1870 by Germanic immigrant Georg Wiedemann.     They do this very well with over twenty varieties, more than the original Wiedemann ever brewed.    I visited the new Wiedemann Beer Garden with my brother and nephew for the first time last weekend and had a great time and enjoyed the food (which included goetta tator tots) and, of course the beer.

Hanging prominently on the wall inside the new Wiedemann is a large photo of the Jerry’s Jug House sign,  which will remain hanging in place in Newport as the last of its kind.

The Parmageddon: An Ohio Slavic Fusion Sandwich to Preserve Eastern European Cuisine


Cleveland Ohio’s Melt Bar and Grille’s Parmageddon Grilled Cheese, created by owner Matt Fish.

Eastern European food, like Germanic food, is not currently the hippest nor highly trending food in America right now.    But Ohio has one of the highest percentages of those who can trace Germanic or Eastern European ancestry.   In Southwest Ohio over 50% of residents can trace back to a Germanic immigrant.    Here in Cincinnati, we love our schnitzel, spaetzli and native sausages, but its increasingly hard to find them in restaurants.  Travel north toward Cleveland and Akron, you cross the Bratwurst -Kielbasa Line north of Columbus, south of Route 30 (above which sausages will have more paprika and garlic, than the nutmeg, ginger, or mace of the brat), and the Sauerkraut Ball Trail’s Cream Cheese line, and you are definitely in Slavic food country.    South of Akron there’s even a Cevapi-Kielbasa line that distinguishes Slavic sausage from Polish varieties.    The same dynamic exists for Eastern European food that old restaurants who served the food are closing in northern Ohio at alarming rates.

But there’s a formula to preserving the ethnic foods of our grandparents, or if you’re a middle aged GenXer like me, the foods you grew up with.    It’s about making these foods hip by creating over-the-top immigrant fusion ingredients with American traditionals.   It’s a way to bring sexy back to Eastern European and Germanic comfort foods, and make them more approachable to a new generation.    And Ohio has a knack for this method.      See, for example the epic goetta grilled cheese – a carb-on-carb sandwich you can find at Newport’s annual Goettafest and on brunch menus throughout Cincinnati.    My favorite chef, Jared Bennett, of the new Karrikin has put an amped-up, charred butternut squash spaetzli on the menu that has put ‘spaetlzi’ into the mouths of a new generation of hipster.


Well, enter Matt Fish –  Cleveland area restaurant mogul, and former punk-rock drummer (for the band Rocket from the Crypt), who has preserved Slavic food and put Ohio on the map with his Parmageddon Grilled Cheese.  It’s another carb-on-carb sandwich of creamy potato pierogi, caramelized onions and Vodka kraut with melty sharp cheddar cheese.     And I think he should receive a Food Preservation Award from the Ohio History Connection.


Chef Matt comes from Parma, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, where Ohio’s Serbian, Croatian, and Slovenians moved from the factory immigrant neighborhoods when they became more prosperous.      Matt also makes another nod to Parma – the Hungry Hungarian – a grilled cheese sandwich of another Slavic dish of chicken paprikash and spaetzli between Muenster cheese.    And within the Slavic community there is the Czech version, in which the sauce is thickened with sour cream, and the Serbian version, which is not.      You can find the Serbian paprikash in the chicken houses in and around Barberton, Ohio.   Both of Matt’s grilled cheeses have preserved Slavic food in an interesting and delicious way for over a decade.

Matt started his Melt Bar and Grille in Cleveland in 2006, and now commandeers 13 locations, including a right field stand at the Indian’s Progressive Stadium, where he’s won the USA Today award for Best Ballpark Food.    He’s also been on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives and Man vs. Food and won Ohio’s Best Grilled Cheese award.  While he’s humble about all his recognition, he’s not afraid to get into costume – whether its a turkey or a bacon getup to promote his restaurant.     He has over 20 grilled cheeses, weekly and seasonal specials, but its the Parmageddon that is the most famous.

It’s the creaminess of the potato pierogi filling mixing with the tanginess of the onions and the bite of the Vodka Sauerkraut that is the magic of the Parmageddon.      Melt makes its own Vodka kraut, spiced (according to a hacked recipe online) with celery seed, coriander, caraway seed, chili powder, salt, pepper, and brown sugar.    This brilliant mix is added to  Napa cabbage sautéed in a 50 % vodka and 50% apple cider vinegar brine.     Germans know that adding acid like kraut to a high carb or high fat dish allows the body to digest it better.      That’s what the tangy kraut allows in this dish.    But you might still wanna pack your Lipitor if you’re over 40.

While I won’t bring up the bitter debate as to who invented the Sauerkraut ball – Akron or Cincinnati, I will challenge a food fight to Melt to bring the Parmageddon up against the Goetta Grilled Cheese to see who wins the Ohio Immigrant Fusion Grilled Cheese Challenge.

Springboro’s Austin Landing has Porkopolis Roots


Every morning for the past year or so, I have been commuting up I-75 to the Austin Landing exit.  I then head west on Austin Boulevard to Miamisburg.   The cool thing I noticed on that drive west is the large number of antebellum brick farmhouses that dot the rolling landscape.   This was originally all farmland, settled in the several decades before the American Civil War.   So, it was no surprise when I found out the man for whom the Boulevard and new development is named, Isaac Austin, was a farmer.

You can now eat Tex-Mex, Mexican, Asian noodles, bagels, Italian pizza and even Nashville Hot Chicken on what used to be Austin’s 75 acre farm that extended from Springboro Pike/Us741 to Yankee Street.     His farmland was originally part of a section deeded to Edmund Munger, a general from Ohio, who led troops in the War of 1812.    What’s now Austin Boulevard was the route to get to the mill in Franklin from the original Munger settlement.   Austin’s 1859 built farmhouse, now covered in aluminum siding, still stands amongst newer cookie cutter residential developments on Austin Boulevard/Social Row, near the corner of Yankee Road.   The home has been owned for the last half century by the Granato family, who still use some of the original Austin farm to grow corn and other grains.   They even ran a farmstand in front of the old Austin homestead for many years.


The 1859 Isaac Austin House in Springboro, Ohio, on Austin Boulevard near Yankee Street.

Even cooler is that Mr. Austin was not just any farmer.   He was one of the pre-eminent breeders of the huge Poland China Hog, a breed created in Southwest Ohio by the Shakers.   It’s the only breed of pig in America (and anywhere in the world, that I’ve found) that has its own monument.    That monument sits on the old Hankinson farm, where the first breed record was written.    This is the breed of hog that were led to many Porkopolis slaughterhouses in Cincinnati, and from the 1860s to the 1930s, ended up in our many Germanic sausages, and of course, our goetta.

In 1885, the Ohio Poland China Record Company described its breed.   The head is small and broad; jowl, neat and full; brisket, full and deep; shoulder, broad and deep (great for goetta); ribs, well sprung; belly, wide and straight; loin, broad and strong; ham, broad full and deep; and flank, well let-down.

Chalk it up to porcine pride, but more portraits of Mr. Austin’s Poland China hogs survive than even of him or his family – his wife Celestia, sons Nathan and Francis, and daughter, Martha.  All the piggy portraits were drawn by itinerant livestock artist and Germanic immigrant, Carl Freigau, who illustrated the first Poland China Hog pedigree record, all of whom descend from the Queen Sow, Lady Pugh.

Isaac Austin was born about 1819 in New Jersey, and made it to Warren County, Ohio by the early 1850s.  His farm is listed as being in Sugarcreek Township and Spring Valley Township in Green County, and in Springboro – all of which are next to each other.    But his famous Poland China Herd was named the Yankee Street Herd, after the street where his livestock show barn was located – a short walking distance from his historic house.    Austin boulevard was in his time known as the Miamisburg and South-eastern free pike.  Austin’s near neighbor, Eliza Prater, was a rare female toll gatekeeper of the Pike.

In 1887, Isaac invited hog farmers to see his prized pigs.  “Persons visiting my place by railroad can stop off at Miamisburg, Ohio, either on the C.C.C.I or the Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton, or on narrow gauge railroads running from Dayton to Lebanon, at either Centerville or Roseville Stations.   I will be glad to show my stock, except on Sundays.”    Each stop, however, would be another thirty minute bumpy carriage or horseback ride to his farm.

He also bragged about his herd, “In establishing and keeping up my herd, my object has been to use nothing but the very best specimens of the most fashionable strains, thereby securing that uniformity in color, markings, and general make-up that is so desirable in hogs of this breed.”    Poland China hogs were either all black or dark spotted.


Part of the fun for the breeder must have been naming his pedigreed hogs.   Some of the names of Austin’s herd earmarked the geographic area – like Belle of Yankee Street, Gem of Yankee Street, Beauty of Warren, and Buckeye Boy (who I’m sure wasn’t draped in scarlet and gray).    Others were named after family members and neighbors.   He even named a few after himself – Sir Austin (farrowed in 1885) and Austin’s King (1883).   One sow, Bessie Austin was surely named after a relative, and Empress H and Bessie H were probably named after his next door neighbor, Elizabeth Hawke, whose husband Charles, was a farmworker for Austin.  Even more names of Austin’s herd revealed the popular celebrities of the time – actress and singer Jenny Lind, Victoria (the Queen), and even Ohio politician John Sherman, who served as secretary of the treasury after the Civil War and helped to redesign our monetary system to the current stable gold-backed standard that stabilized swinging farm commodity prices.     Lastly, there were the cooky hog names like Topsy, Booca, Wild Dutchman, Indianola, Lady Bon Ton, and Sambo.    Considering each sow could farrow a litter of from 7-10 hogs, and his herd had two sires and over ten breeding sows every year, the fun naming process was constant.


Back to Buckeye Boy, who was the sire of Austin’s herd in 1883.    This prized pig took seventeen first premiums in local Ohio fairs, and was later sold for a premium price.

Austin sold many of his best hogs to other breeders, who used them to start their own prized herds, like the Maple Lawn Herd of J. H. Lackey of Jamestown, Ohio.

Unfortunately, no goetta today is made with Poland China Hog, as Ohio breeders had stopped raising them by the 1930s and most of the breeders were in the upper Midwest states.     Now the more typical heritage breed of hog being raised are Berkshires.    But at one time, Germanic Cincinnatians enjoyed Poland Chinas in their goetta, from breeds like Mr. Isaac Austin.




Barberton Ohio’s Sweet Tradition: Serbian Fried Chicken and A Dum-Dum


Cincinnati has its Peppermint Patty and a Threeway tradition.  Well, Barberton, Ohio, a city south of Akron, has its own sweet tradition:  Serbian Fried Chicken and a Dum-Dum.   Barberton is known for its many Serbian fried chicken houses.   After a filling meal, kids look forward to topping it off with their favorite flavor Dum-Dum lollipop from a large bowl at the cash register.      This is standard at any of the four surviving chicken houses.   It’s the same thing we – both adults and kids – do with our chocolate mints at a Cincinnati chili parlor.    This is an essential part of the Barberton chicken house experience.

And, it’s no coincidence that Dum-Dums are the chosen after-dinner sweet treat.   The little lollis, with seemingly hundreds of flavors (mine being coconut-pineapple) are an Ohio original, invented in 1924 by the Akron Candy Company.  We’ve all grown up with them at doctor’s offices, banks and auto repair shops.    But I never knew there were from the Heartland.


They’re now made – on the order of a whopping 3 billion a year – by the Spangler Candy Company of Bryan, Ohio, who purchased the company in 1953.    They made news late last year when they announced purchase of the Necco wafer and Sweetheart brand chalky candies after its parent company closed its doors.    Spangler is still a family run company in its third generation and also make candy canes and those weird, rubbery Circus Peanuts, that taste like bananas instead of peanuts.   No one in the Candy World seems to know why that flavor decision happened.

The Dum-Dum sales manager at the time of the invention, I. C. Bahr, named the little candy after the Dum-Dum expanding bullet used in World War I, which they sort of resemble.  The bullets themselves were named for a British arsenal in the small town of Dum-Dum in the Bengal region of India.    Bahr also thought the name was catchy and easy for a kid to remember to beg their parents to buy them some.


The Ohio lollipops were also originally larger than they are today.  But the rising costs of sugar in the 1960s forced the Dum-Dum on a diet and the candy dropped a few grams and got smaller.

Originally Dum-Dums were only available in butterscotch (my second fave), cherry, grape, orange, coconut-pineapple, lemon and lime flavors.     But since Spangler took over, they’ve expanded – immediately offering root beer and then chocolate flavors.    Now there are over 40 flavors, including the brilliant Mystery Flavor, which is just the mixing of two when they change out a line.    It’s so smart to turn what could be their waste into a cult favorite, which is different every time.

Newer flavors have included watermelon, bubble gum, cotton candy, sour apple, peach-mango, and buttered popcorn.

Dum-Dums were first advertised on television in 1966, as was the trend for big national candy brands.  But that proved to be too expensive.   That experiment did create a cool mascot, the Dum Dum Drum Man, who still champions the brand with his cool cadence.   And, before the Juul, Dum-Dums were known to be a tool to help people, like actor Telly Savalas, quit smoking.


Just last year, Spangler sued its rival Tootsie Roll Industries, which makes Charms branded lollipops for trade dress infringement and unfair competition.   Unlike trademark infringement, trade dress is a legal term that relates to the look or packaging of a product.  The claims are that Tootsie previously packaged its Charms Mini Pops in a yellow bag that was easily distinguishable from Dum-Dum bags.   But in early 2018, a consumer tipped off Spangler that Tootsie had copied the distinct red design of its own packaging and was selling the newly designed bag at Costco, Amazon, and other retailers.

And, back in Barberton – two chicken houses – White House and Hopocan Gardens – have done the unthinkable and converted from Dum-Dums to Charms at the register.

Washington’s Birthday – A Long Forgotten Candy Holiday


The front window of Mullane’s Candy and Soda Fountain in 1900 decorated with hanging hatchets and patriotic boxes of chocolate for George Washington’s Birthday.

In the first quarter of the nineteenth century, Washington’s birthday was a big deal for candy makers, especially in Cincinnati.   People would send each other boxes of chocolates, maybe filled with Bissinger’s opera creams, or Dolly Varden’s chocolate cherry cordials.   All sorts of cherry flavored candies like gumdrops and hard candies in the shapes of hatchets and cherries were abound at the local candy shops in honor of our nation’s first president.    Crunchy cherry logs were another favorite.   Local ice cream manufacturer French Bauer even claimed George Washington invented ice cream to increase sales around his birthday.


A George Washington candy container.

Makers of candy boxes advertised in January and February editions of the National Confectioners’ Journal, the catalogue all candy makers turned to for seasonal products.   Figural Candy containers of George were filled with candy and given to children.   Schools threw children’s parties with mock hatchets, cherry flavored treats, Valley forge cannons, and crackers that were pulled and exploded red, white, and blue confetti.   These party accessories certainly wouldn’t fly in today’s gradeschool environment.


A great photo f the Mullane Candy Store and soda fountain downtown in 1900 shows it all decked out for Washington’s Birthday.  Hatchets hang from the front display window, and a pyramid of boxes of chocolates donned with the American flag is piled high.


Were we more patriotic as a nation back then, or were our local candy stores just more aggressive in marketing a spectacular candy day?   Was pageantry more popular in Victorian America?   Well, maybe a bit of all three.   The other answer might be that at some point we combined two separate presidents’ holidays- Washington and Lincoln.    Lincoln’s birthday used to be celebrated separately on February 9th, with candy boxes in shapes of log cabins.    Washington’s birthday was celebrated on February 22.   At some point, in about the 1930s, both celebrations were combined into Presidents’ Day, the third Monday of February, and perhaps each day’s separate appeal was lost.


One great confection still to be had locally on Washington’s birthday , is the deep fried Cherry Thing-a-Ling fritter, made by Schmidt’s bakery in Batesville, Indiana.  People line up for the confection every year by the hundreds. And, did Washington really chop down a cherry tree anyway?

Peppermint Patty And a Threeway: Part Two


The Sam Haggis Sweet Shop at the Hollywood Theater in College Hill 1927.

Cincinnati Chili lovers know well the tradition of eating a peppermint patty after a threeway.   Every chili parlor in Cincinnati has a box of either York Peppermint Patties or Andes Chocolate Mints at the counter.   Both are a sweet ending to a great chili experience.    But they’re also a necessary way to get rid of bad breath, especially if, like me, you add onions to your chili.    Before it was York or Andes, it was a Haggis Cream Mint and a bowl of chili.

Skyline Chili in Clifton, the oldest continually operating franchise in the organization, reported they go through 1600 peppermint patties a week   Another anonymous Skyline location confessed to selling three to four boxes of 175 patties per day.  Averaging two boxes per day times 84 Skyline locations in Greater Cincinnati, a rough estimate yields 29,400 YPD (Yorks Per Day).  That’s 882,000 patties per 30-day month and over 10 million a year, just for Skyline.    That’s no small business, and who’d have thought a small chocolate mint could be so lucrative?

Well, there apparently was someone.     But until recently that person who started the Peppermint Patty and a Threeway tradition could not be pinpointed.   There was no specific connection between Greek candy family and Greek chili parlor family.   Many Greek family names like Aglamesis, Kalomeres, and Droganes were painted on signs of candy shops in Cincinnati.   But this tradition has gone on for more than a half a century.    We knew that the Cincinnati candy industry was dominated in the 1910s through the 1930s by Greek immigrants from Sparta, and that the Chili industry was started by the Macedonian Greeks.   They both worshipped at the same church – St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, and formed a tight knit community that helped each other out and gave back immensely to the Queen City over the last 100 years.

The great thing about history is that it is continuously being unraveled.   A magnification of a recent photo find on Facebook showed the Haggis candy shop at the Hollywood Theatre on Hamilton Avenue in College Hill.     The date of the photo was 1925, the year the Hollywood theatre opened with great fanfare.   I knew that my paternal uncles Freddy and Fuzz were ticket takers there as young boys.   As with most small neighborhood theatres at the time, each side of the main entrance held a small storefront for a chili parlor, candy store, or sandwich shop.   In this case there was the Haggis Sweet Shop, which opened with the theatre in 1925.    I knew the Haggis family was chili parlor royalty, but candy royalty too?   I consulted my inside source, the candy store owner’s grand-niece, Karen, and a lovely story unfolds.


Samuel Antonin Haggis, the inventor of the  Peppermint Patty and a Threeway tradition.

The owner of the Haggis Candy store was Samuel Antonin Haggis (1898-1961), who immigrated by himself to Cincinnati from Greece in 1913 at the age of 15.    His two brothers Peter (1893-1963) and Thomas came later in 1920, with a group that included Peter’s wife Cleopatra, their infant daughter, Lucille, and Cleo’s father Sotirios (Sam) Shoukas (1877-1946).   The families had immigrated from a small village called Giannihori, near Kastoria, from where the Lambrinides family of Skyline Chili originated.   Sotirios got his start working for the brothers Kiradjieff at the newly opened Empress Chili at the Empress Burlesque theatre, and then opened his own confectionery on Vine Street not far away from the Empress.


The family of Peter and Cleopatra Haggis (standing) and Cleo’s father Sotirios Shoukas (seated).

In 1924 the brothers Peter and Sam Haggis signed a five year lease on  the storefront of 3704 and 3706 Eire Avenue on Hyde Park Square in the Burch Building.    It was a good location for a candy shop, as it was two doors down from the Hyde Park Theater, which had opened in 1915.   Here, Peter would make and store cream candy that he would use to supply his own and his brother Sam’s Sweet Shop at the Hollywood Theatre, and several other Greek candymakers in the area.    Unfortunately this only lasted three years, as a fire in the storeroom in fall of 1927 sent Peter into bankruptcy.     But their location is still a confectionery, home to the Hyde Park Graeter’s Ice Cream and Candy store, which pushes lines out onto Eire Avenue in summer ice cream season.


in 1945, while managing the officers’ dining hall at Ft. Thomas, Peter Haggis, not to forget his candy roots, created an American flag made out of the same cream candies (and cream mints) he made for Sam Haggis’ sweet shop.

But Sam Haggis soldiered on with his candy shop.    A 1930 ad for the Haggis Sweet shop tells us that Sam sold sweets, light lunches and delicious homemade ice cream at 50 cents a quart.   What exactly was served as light lunch.  Could it be that an early form of Cincinnati Chili was served?   It’s very possible, given that Sam’s brother Pete’s father-in-law worked at Empress and learned how to make chili.    Serving food in a candy store meant there was always dessert around, and a chocolate mint after a light lunch before or after seeing a movie with your buddies or your sweetheart would have been a no brainer.  And Sam took this tradition of a sweet after a meal to his next career – owning and operating chili parlors.

By 1930 there were at least three legit Cincinnati Chili Parlors in Cincinnati.  It surely hadn’t reached pop status as today, and the shredded cheddar cheese had not yet been added to chili-spaghetti at Empress, which opened in 1922 at the Empress Burlesque Theatre.  One of Empress’s first workers, Nicholas Sarakatssanis had crossed the Ohio River in 1929 to open his Dixie Chili Parlor.   A third chili parlor, Famous Chili Parlor, opened on 6th street in 1929 by Paul Taleff.     And word spread fast through the tight knit Cincinnati Greek community, as other parlors were opened and the industry being built.

Sam operated the Haggis Candy Store until the late 1930s, when he opened his chili parlor at W. 8th Street Downtown and called it Haggis Grille and later the Sunshine Coffee Shop, which he sold in 1946.     But why would the Haggis brothers both go from candy to chili parlors?   Well, Peter’s father-in-law had worked at Empress, and Peter’s son, Peter Jr. had married into chili parlor royalty to Flora Manoff, the daughter of Petro Manoff.   Petro Manoff had been an original partner of Nicholas Sarakatssanis of Dixie, and then left, opening the Strand Chili Parlor.   Petro’s son, Thomas opened Tip Top Hamburgers, and then Hamburger Heaven, which was sold in 1965 to four Daoud brothers from Jordan, who renamed it Gold Star Chili.

Peter opened a chili parlor at Brighton Corner on Central Parkway, then one in Bellevue, Kentucky, and finally one in Ludlow, Kentucky, called Haggis Grille, which he sold in the 1960s.   It was still called Haggis Grille into the 1980s, until the name was changed to Lynna’s which is still open today and still serves Cincinnati chili.   Peter’s son, Peter Jr. went back to the confectionery business, owning the Covedale Creamy Whip in the late 1970s and dearly 1980s which he called Cookies and Cream.  He then owned the Baskin Robbins downtown on 6th Street, while working as a doorman at the historic Terrace Hilton Hotel.   His son operated the store for him.

The Manoff family chili parlor connection didn’t stop there.    Petro Manoff had a cousin, George Manoff who ran the Oakley Chili Parlor across from the 20th Century Theatre.    There was also a Manoff daughter who married Phil Bazoff, who opened Park Chili in Northside.  So you see how connected the Haggis family was through marriage and faith, and how quickly the Peppermint Patty and a Threeway deal would spread.

So with both brothers going from candy to chili, and then having all these connections with other chili families, we can thank Sam Haggis and Peter Haggis (who made that first Haggis Cream Mint) for giving us our beloved tradition.




Bringing Back Carolina Rice Breads, A Slave Invention that Saved the Confederacy From Starvation

South Carolina Rice Bread
In what’s called the Low Country of coastal Charleston, South Carolina, to Savannah Georgia, rice was king of the economy. Carolina Gold rice, anchored the two states’ economy from the late 1600s up to just before the War of Northern Aggression, as many Southerners still call the Civil War. Rice was not native to the Low Country, nor the Americas, but colonists planted Madagascar seed rice, like the Carolina Gold, and saw it flourish in their swampy soil. With slave ingenuity and labor, they built this new cash crop into an industry that brought wealth to the two states until the abolition of slavery made it unprofitable. White plantation owners paid high prices for slaves from the rice growing regions of West Africa. The wealth of old Charleston families like that which named the Ravenel Bridge, were built on the backs of these slaves. The slaves imported from West Africa to the Low Country, would become known as the Gullah-Geechie people, who banded together in what became the most isolated and preserved former slave community in the United States after the Civil War. The artist Winold Reiss, who designed Cincinnati’s Union Terminal industry murals, painted many portraits of the Gullah-Geechee people in the Carolina islands in the 1930s.


Sugar Cane Boy, St. Helena Island, Winold Reiss, 1927.

It was these slave people who did all the cooking in the South before and after the Civil War. We owe much of what is known as Southern food to their ingenuity and frugality in the kitchen. So, as most of these slaves came from rice producing areas of West Africa like Sierra Leone, they were familiar with a type of bread that uses rice grains instead of wheat. Their breads were dense sweet breads that used ripe plantains, were spiced with ginger, and more like what we know of as banana bread than a sandwich bread. But these slaves also knew that rice breads kept longer than wheat breads, especially in the hot, humid climate of the south, which was similar to their homes in West Africa. Liberia, the West African country founded by former American slaves, has a rice-plaintain bread still very popular today, indicating that the former slaves again transported their bread back to Africa from America.

So when these slaves cooked breads for their white owners, they cut the wheat flour with rice flour to extend it (about 20-25% rice, because rice without plantains, still needs an amount of wheat to make a strong bread structure) and invented the Charleston Rice Bread, a uniquely Southern American bread. It’s kind of the country cousin of Salt Rising Bread from Appalachia. Both breads were modified to make due with what ingredients were cheap and available – for the Southerners – leftover rice, ground into paste, or the cheap broken rice. These broken or imperfect rice grains were called middlins (where the term “Fair to middlin” originated). These were used to make another forgotten dish – rice grits, as well as their rice breads. In 1800s Charleston, a bowl of rice grits might have included a glossy sauce of peas, thickened with nutty bennecake or sesame flour, just like the healthy one bowl meals of West Africa.

In the production of rice, female slaves worked with a mortar and pestle and what was called a winnowing basket to hand pound the grains and release the outer chaff. But because of the delicacy of the local rice, it resulted in 30% broken grains, a result that was never improved even with modern equipment. As slave cooks included the broken middlins into cuisine, Southerners developed a fondness for this grain.

The first commercial production of rice middlins bread started in 1808 and the first recorded recipe appeared in The Charleston Courier in 1812. According to the instructions, once the middlins were cooked and cooled, the rice was used as is, smashed, or put through a sieve. It was blended with a wild yeast culture, enough wheat flour to make a kneadable dough, and salt. Most publications recommended substituting rice at a 1:3 ratio in a standard wheat flour recipe. The recipes followed standard wheat bread ones of the time. A change to this bread came in 1854, when finely ground rice flour replaced some, or all, of the cooked rice. Another branch on the family tree occurred in the 1880s when fast-acting chemical leaveners, grandparents of today’s baking powder and baking soda, began to replace the wild yeast starter. The life of rice middlins bread spanned a century, starting to disappear by 1900. From a sensory perspective, it began as a chewy white sourdough style loaf and evolved into a sweeter, airier pan loaf, with a tender bite and a quick chew, like the Liberian rice bread today. By the end of its time, Charleston rice bread would have looked like the original middlins bread as a whole wheat muffin bears to the classic French baguette.

During the Civil War, Union blockages of Confederate ports like Charleston and Savannah, forced the Low Country slave cooks to rely even more heavily on rice, substituting hard to obtain wheat in greater quantities. The poor subsisted on scampy rice griddle cakes. Another benefit to using rice as a grain was that it was good for soothing stomachs before the invention of Alka-Seltzer.


Thanks to their owner, Glenn Roberts, Anson Mills, of Columbia, South Carolina, has, brought the heirloom non-aromatic long grain Carolina Gold rice back to the Southern table. And bakers like Lionel Vatinet, of La Farm Bakery in Cary, North Carolina, and others like Half Crown Bakehouse, which uses a mobile 18th century clay oven to bake their rice breads, are helping to establish the heirloom grain.