Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Peace, Love, & Little Donuts

Photo by OHventures

115 S. Prospect Ave.
Hartville, OH 44632
(330) 877-3043

While driving through the City of Hartville in Stark County one day, I happened across a small and colorful bakery that caught my eye with its tie-dye and peace symbols on the storefront. The name of the confectionery was Peace, Love, and Little Donuts - and with a name like that, it's hard to pass by without stopping in!

Talk about a place that is adventurous with its flavors! Inside this tiny donut shop were tiny little donuts in a not-so-tiny display case full of sugary goodness. It was sensory overload, with the rainbow of sprinkles, and the sweet aroma of chocolate, cinnamon, and other delights. My friends and I were flabbergasted by the impressive selection of traditional and obscure flavors and varieties.

As if the name of the joint didn't give it away, a bit of a hippie theme was going on, as evidenced by the donut categories: Groovy, Far Out, and Funkadelic.

Groovy Donuts included any donut topped with cinnamon and sugar, powdered sugar, cinnamon, honey, or maple sugar. Far Out Donuts are donuts with "far out" frosting, including vanilla, chocolate, maple, raspberry, strawberry, orange, banana, lemon, and mocha. 

Funkadelic Donuts are the ones that get the most attention, as they have "far out" frosting along with fun and exciting toppings that you'd be hardpressed to find at any other donut shop: Oreos, coconut, pretzels, marshmallows & graham cracker (s'mores), maple bacon, salted chocolate, M&Ms, Nestle Crunch, apple pie, blueberry French toast, strawberry shortcake, samoa, and the list goes on (and on and on)!

Each of us ordered a half dozen little itty bitty donuts to gorge on. Mine are all shown above, with the stand-out flavor being the Funkadelic Fruity Pebbles donut! That one definitely wins the award for most bizarre (but bizarre in a good way, of course).

Peace, Love, and Little Donuts is not just in Hartville. There are 4 other Ohio locations: Massillon, Canal Fulton, North Canton, and Cleveland. There are also 6 in Pittsburgh (where it started), one in Grove City, Pennsylvania, one in Oregon, and one in Florida. So, while it's not entirely exclusive to Ohio, we are definitely fortunate that this wild and adventurous bakery has a large presence in Stark and Cuyahoga Counties!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Rhinegeist Brewery

Photos by OHventures

1910 Elm Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202
(513) 381-1367

Rhinegeist is a brewery situated in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Over The Rhine in Cincinnati (which is located in Hamilton County). The name is in reference to The Rhine, which is a European River running in and along France, Germany, and the Netherlands. Early Cincinnati settlers believed that the Ohio River resembled The Rhine of Europe, and therefore named the neighborhood as such. 

The brewery's name "Rhinegeist" is German, and translates to mean "Ghost of the Rhine" in English. This was fitting, due to the fact that the large building in which the brewery is housed was once the Moerlin Bottling Plant, serving up beer from 1895 until prohibition in the 1920s. The new owners "resurrected" the building to make it once again a beer-making facility, in the skeleton of the former bottling plant. The first Rhinegeist beer was brewed in June 2013, and it has become one of the fastest growing breweries in the state.

The spooky name was also fitting due to the fact that we visited on Halloween day. The branding of the beer cans and bar taps has a ghostly/skeletal figure that makes it easily recognizable and memorable.

We learned about all of the history of Rhinegeist by taking a tour of the brewery. Free hour-long tours are offered at various times throughout the week. You can sign up online for priority placement, or sign up when you arrive at the tasting room. Typically, visitors have access to over 25,000 square feet of space, which composes only a fifth of the total square footage of Rhinegeist. The tour gave us an in-depth look into the other four-fifths of space in this gargantuan facility.

We were able to see some of the high-tech stainless steel tanks and other production aspects of the beer brewing process. There was also a great deal of office space (see the leather couch juxtaposed against the beer-making machinery above?), spacious events center, and some unfinished space that will soon be transformed to make Rhinegeist an even cooler spot to visit!

Stacks of barrel-aged beer lined the walls of the basement, right next to the new canning machine that will allow Rhinegeist to increase its production quantity. Down the hall from this was a gigantic freezer, which housed all of the canned beer, ready for distribution to local bars and stores. All Rhinegeist beer is self-distributed by their team so your beer will be fresher and tastier.

You can find these hop-filled cans at many locations in and around Dayton, Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Kentucky (this list will soon grow). You can check out the Beer Finder to determine where you can get your hands (and lips) on some Rhinegeist for yourself!

We were able to bring glasses of Rhinegeist beer along with us on the tour, which was poured for us in the taproom. After the tour, we continued sipping and sampling the beers we had just learned about by ordering tasting flights. I opted to taste: Zen (a very balanced session pale ale), Homie (an American double imperial pale ale, on tap exclusively while we visited), Workhorse (my favorite of the day, a lager), and Panther (a chocolatey and robust porter).

Other featured beers include: Truth (IPA), Cougaer (blonde ale), Franz (Oktoberfest), Dad (a holiday beer that I have heard is amazing), Puma (pilsner), Pure Fury (hoppy pale ale), Hustle, and more. There are also "bombers" which are larger 22-ounce limited edition bottles. Two hard ciders are also available.

While you should definitely try finding the beers at a bar or store near you, nothing beats the atmosphere at Rhinegeist. The wide open interior is available to reserve for private events, or you can come anytime to play cornhole, ping pong, foosball, or watch a ball game - all while relaxing with some locally brewed booze. You are welcome to bring your own food in from other nearby restaurants, or (in warm months) head up to the brand new rooftop bar for amazing 360-degree views of Cincinnati in all of its glory.

Rhinegeist is waiting for you! 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Kingmakers | Columbus Board Game Parlour

Photos by OHventures

17 Buttles Avenue
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 223-1358

If I didn't know any better, I would have thought had died and went to heaven when I walked into Kingmakers for the first time.

Located in the Short North Arts District in Columbus, Kingmakers is a relatively new "board game parlour" that offers over 500 unique board games paired alongside a nice selection of cocktails and beers on draft. Visitors are required to pay a $5 "library fee" that lasts the entire night, and allows them to play any and all of the board games of their choosing.

With shelves of games from floor to ceiling, you are bound to find an old classic, or discover a new favorite! There is a wide range in skill level, time required to play, type of play, and number of players required to fit any group. 

The board games are categorized on the shelves in groups such as "Classics" (Clue, The Game of Life, Trivial Pursuit), Party Games (Taboo, Apples to Apples, Guesstures), Strategy (Settlers of Catan, Dungeons & Dragons, Axis and Allies), and others. Colored stickers are on the boxes help to indicate what type of game it is, as well as a label showing what the estimated length of time and ideal number of players.

Folks known as "Board Game Sommeliers" are available to help give suggestions on what your group might enjoy, and guide you through game set up, rules, and play (which, by the way, would be a super awesome job to have). It's nice and bright inside this underground parlour, purposefully so that you can see all of the game pieces and parts more easily. 

My buds Steve and John joined me for an impromptu visit to Kingmakers this past October, and we had an absolute blast! Our group particularly was drawn to the party games. We tried a couple that we had never heard of before, such as Hoopla (from the makers of Cranium), and Smart Ass (an awesome trivia game that I ended up winning!). 

We ordered some refreshing beers on tap, served to us in mason jars, and we admired the incredible collection of games, taking note of all the ones we wanted to try when we were to come back. I honestly can't wait to bring other friends and family to Kingmakers on future visits to Columbus! I hope to see you there sometime, and you can challenge me in a riveting game of Operation.

(Editor's Note: I have also come to learn that a similar place exists in Cleveland, called Tabletop Board Game Cafe)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Great Pumpkin Run Cincinnati

Pile of Pumpkins! Photos by OHventures

One of the most awkward things I have ever done is run a 5K with an 8 pound pumpkin.

I experienced this on October 31 (Halloween!) when taking part in The Great Pumpkin Run in Cincinnati (another one took part in Hartville, near Canton). This is a running series that challenges you to tackle trails and conquer corn mazes each fall on various farms around the country. 

By paying an extra fee, participants can choose to run while carrying a pumpkin in what is known as the "Tough Pumpkin." If you complete the course with the gourd in tact, you will receive an extra special "Tough Pumpkin" medal in addition to the Great Pumpkin Run medal. Double the bling? Sign me up!

Folks kept asking why on earth I would choose the Tough Pumpkin option. I have a history of doing crazy stunts (jumping in freezing cold water, sprinting up skyscraper stairwells, and getting electroshocks in the Tough Mudder, to name a few). Aside from the extra medal as an incentive, I view the Tough Pumpkin as a fun way to challenge myself and (pumpkin) spice up my typical 5K run!

My friend Matt (of Ohio State 4 Miler and Ultimate Beer Fest fame) and I drove on down to Bonnybrook Farms - the setting for The Great Pumpkin Run Cincinnati. We came to find that Bonnybrook was technically located in the city of Clarksville in Clinton County, which is about 40 miles north of downtown Cincinnati. Apparently, race organizers billed the event as "Cincinnati" since it was the closest metropolis around (a bit misleading, but that's OK).

We arrived at the farms and went straight to the giant pile of pumpkins to pick our poison for the race. I strategically chose a pumpkin that had an extra long stem so that it might serve as a handle as I ran with it. We weighed our pumpkins on the nearby scale - Matt's was 10 pounds on the dot, and mine was 7.3 pounds. It was a chilly and cloudy day, so we huddled in the barn and by the nearby campfire for warmth before our 10:00 AM wave.

When the race began, Matt and I soon learned firsthand about the awkwardness I described above. There was no easy way to carry our pumpkins as we ran! We tried doing it with one hand, with two hands, on our shoulders, cradled in our arms, at our side, against our chest, and every which way you can imagine. The easiest way for me, I discovered, was carrying it by the stem, alternating from hand to hand every so often. You can see my technique above.

Our minds were taken off of the pumpkins, however, when we approached the giant corn maze at the final mile of the course. Running among the cornstalks provided an awesome vantage point that was the epitome of autumn! There were so many surprising twists and turns, and the only way I knew which way was which was due to the finish line music I could hear in the distance!

Soon, after navigating through the maze (there were signs telling you which way to turn), the finish line was in sight! I completed the run in just over 31 minutes, which is far longer than my typical 5K run. That pumpkin definitely slowed us down - and we definitely earned those two medals!