8.13.2013

{Travel} Road Tripping to Lexington & Cincy

To continue the streak of short, cheap value-conscious trips, Husband and I jumped in my beloved 2006 Jetta and drove to Lexington to meet our friend James, who recently moved to Nashville. {Evidently it shall not be referred to as NashVEGAS, which is likened to calling San Francisco, 'Frisco. Oops.} You may remember James from his guest post during Pittsburgh Craft Beer week last year.  Anyway, according to Meetways.com, Covington, KY is the mid-point between these two fine cities. Covington is across the river from Cincinnati, so we called for a road trip.  
Cincy is about 4 and three-quarters hours from Pittsburgh, so we left around 2pm...to get stuck in PGH traffic! Lesson learned.
Husband and James love craft beverages, thus we made a side trip {or a starting point?} of Lexington, Kentucky. We rolled into town around 9pm on Friday night, amidst the rain. Husband and I had just finished listening to Wave, so we were definitely in the mood for a drink.



 We started the night at a Biergarten, or a cement building with pool tables and a huge selection of beers. Glowing refrigerated cases of bottles lined one wall of Marikka's Restaurant und Bier Stube, and James and Husband ordered adventurously. See the beer bottles above. I, on the other hand, stuck with some safe German lager, and a pepperjack cheese-stuffed pretzel. Ahh.
After a few rounds, we were getting hungry. Since we'd mentioned we had never been, James insisted on going to White Castle for little burgers. Mistake.
 That's all I'll say.
- - -
The next day we moved on to our distillery tours. Our first one started at 10AM, and we were sipping by 11. Town Branch crick Bourbon and All-Tech were our first stops, just to the side of downtown Lexington. 
 They take pride in the little river/creek that runs through, as that's their water source for the beer and spirits. Oh, did I mention that they brew beer and distill bourbon?!
 My favorite beer I tasted was the Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, which combines beer and bourbon barrels in their process. Such an interesting flavor that you don't typically get from beer.
Barrel details.
 The distillery portion was next. Their barrels and copper stills were gorgeous. I was the one taking photos of the scenery, somewhat ignoring the tour guide. Dell, the guide, did a good job for the novice sipper.


 We packed up and headed out to Woodford Reserve to another tour. With a cat.
 I want to say the cats name was Millford or Marshall. Adorable nonetheless. Matted, outdoor cat.
Woodford Reserve did not have the same city feel that Alltech had. This was out in the country. Lovely rolling green hills, surrounded by white fences. Just what you think of when Kentucky comes to mind.


It was nearing noon, so I had my first sip of bourbon. It was bourbon all right.

 Then came Wild Turkey.
 Go on, use that as blackmail.
We hopped over the bridge for a brief look at Wild Turkey. 
They're so fun over there. No pomp and circumstance, just delicious American Honey.
We then drove over to Frankfort, less than a half hour away, on a recommendation for a BBQ lunch. The place was Staxx BBQ, which may or may not have been on Food Network, according to the folks at Wild Turkey. 
We ordered far too much. Simple as that. 
Pork, ribs, sausage, cornbread, macaroni and cheese... the list just goes on and on.
It was decent, but nothing like the wet, juicy barbecue I am used to. This place was a smidge too lean for me.

The coleslaw, however, was some of the best I've ever had. Just the right amount of sugar. Crunchy vegetables.

James said his sweet potato fries were the best he's ever had. So, that must be good, yes?

If you're in the area, check it out. Otherwise, save yourself a drive and go somewhere closer.

Staxx BBQ on Urbanspoon
 - - -

When we were finished and driving back towards Lexington to grab our luggage to head to Cincy, Husband spotted a sign of his childhood memories and hearsay:
That's right, we then {after Xlbs. of BBQ} purchased Husband a junior burger from Frisch's Big Boy. PARTY TIME. 
I had a good bite, and it was reminiscent of Whataburger. No wonder people rave.
After a gut-settling hour drive to Cincy, we checked into our hotel and headed for the Red's game we'd booked at the Great American Ball Park. 
We stayed in the downtown area, so it was a quick walk over to the game.
 We lost, and I ended up wearing Padres' colors on accident. This is the story, my friends.
We then walked back downtown toward the Horseshoe Casino, which had a line 100+ people long, and chose to head to the bar. Like we hadn't done enough drinking!
We saw a Paddle Wagon on the way!
We headed to Nicholson's Tavern & Pub, which seemed to be somewhat of a local watering hole, for downtown, that is.
It turned out to be a fantastic way to end the night.
 - - -
The next day we grabbed a coffee and walked about a mile {we needed it} to Findlay Market, in the Over-The-Rhine neighborhood of Cincy. This is a must-do, as the market is the last surviving market in the city, which used to operate more than a dozen. The market was bustling on Sunday morning, with kids, families, foodies and couples. 
A large part of the market is covered and air conditioned, but there are side streets and alleys that have tons of vendors. We stocked up on eggplant, heirloom tomatoes, wine, and loose-leaf Earl Grey before walking back to the car to drive to our lunch spot.
We lunched just north of Hyde Park {the schmantzy neighborhood in Cincy} at Seasons 52, a Darden 'fresh' concept, where each item on the menu is less than 450 calories. How can that be bad?
We started with a fig and bacon {tiny baby shards of it} flat bread. that could have easily fed 5 people as an appetizer. It was huge!
Next, the chef himself brought us some tasting spoons of tuna seasoned with avocado, chile, and watercress. I love unforeseen perks!

We also ordered the two hummus pair, one made from mint and edamame, and the other with red peppers. The men dove into this one.
James' lunch attire:
James, along with several people around us, ordered the buffalo burger, which came out peppered with black and white sesame seeds. Just enough burger to satisfy you.
Husband and I split the tuna 'crunch' salad, aptly named because of it's seriously crunchy toppings: crisped coconut, dried beet and rutabaga, toasted almonds, among others. The tuna was perfect, and you can't go wrong with a light miso vinaigrette.
The desserts were in shot glasses, the perfect size to satisfy you. See a trend?
James had the blueberry cheesecake, Husband had the key lime parfait, and I was a good Southern girl and had the pecan pie creme.

Seasons 52 was surprising, and I'll seek another one out when I travel anywhere but Pittsburgh evidently. We are healthy, too, ok!

Neighborhood: North Hyde Park, Cincy
Good For: Healthy Meals Out
Gems: Dessert Shots that are actually good
Drawbacks: No PGH locations!

Seasons 52 on Urbanspoon
 - - -
We ended our weekend by taking in Eden Park. The park features scenic overlooks, walking/biking areas, ponds, and historic sites. For instance, did you know that Cincy held The Capitoline Wolf?
A replica given to Cincy by Italy.
 And adorable geese?
 And biking folks?
 And a conservatory? {Close but can't beat Phipps.}
 With cacti?
 And cute little water spouts?
Cincy is a fun city, and I'd love to go back soon. Lexington can take the wind out of you if you're not careful - and I'm sure they're proud of that.

Are you roadtripping anywhere this year?

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