New Kid on the Block

Trendy New Lodging in Greater Cincinnati

Feeling Refined @ Hotel Covington

I’m back!  First a quick shout out to my fantastic guest bloggers – my very own parents, Jack & Linda, and fellow OHLAer, Christi.  When you surround yourself with other people that love travel, it’s never an issue finding people that want to share their experiences when you’re out discovering the world!  In the next few posts I’ll be scattering amazing photos and stories from our anniversary trip to Europe among posts from around our great state.  To kick off my return, I want to share with you one of my favorite new hotels.  Sadly, it isn’t in Ohio, but it’s so close you can smell the bourbon wafting from its bar, you can feel the luxurious furs adorning its lobby and rooms and you can see the sparkle across the river, glittering from the chandeliers…I present to you the fabulous Hotel Covington located just across the river, within Greater Cincinnati in the town of Covington, KY.

Trendy New Boutique Lodging in Greater CincinnatiThe Hotel Covington is an example of my favorite type of hotel formula – historic space with luxury, modern amenities. If you haven’t been, downtown Covington,  has lots of great old buildings and the Hotel Covington is no exception. This building was the state’s first modern skyscraper and high-end department store.  If you didn’t know this going into the lobby you might have had an inkling – you’ll find touches of the past swept into the decor, including my favorite – a blinged-out manikin bust is the main focus of a floating wall full of fashion related knick-knacks, dividing the front desk area and the lounge.

If you’re like me, as soon as you’ve see sparkly things your eyes start to wonder, looking for more.  The public space is full of reminders of luxury – from the furs draping chairs and window seats to the immaculate lighting fixtures throughout the lobby and dining areas.  The bar sits dominantly in the center of the first floor, wrapped in dark woods with shining bottles of bourbon lining its shelves.  One of my favorite pieces on the entire first floor is the ode to our region, penned by Kentucky native, Jesse Stuart,

“If these United States are to be considered a body, then Ohio would be its Heart and Kentucky its Soul.”

Trendy New Boutique Lodging in Greater Cincinnati

 

 

So let’s step into the elevator and head upstairs, because the guestrooms are just as impressive.  I opened my door and the first thing I noticed was the floor. It’s not too often you’re greeted with

Trendy New Boutique Lodging in Greater Cincinnati

such fantastic entry flooring in a hotel room. The room was decorated in rich blues, grays and tans.  I was INN LOVE. At this point, it has been a very long day, and all I wanted to do was curl up in that amazing looking bed, but there were so many intricate details, I couldn’t close my eyes now!  The trash can was gold and looked like a

Trendy New Boutique Lodging in Greater Cincinnati

shopping bag; the shelves were lined with interesting local books and games; the hangers (!) had cute phrases like “simply lovely” and “hello handsome.”  I headed to the bathroom and was greeted by one of my favorite pieces of bathroom art (pictured below)- right up there with the wet dog photo at the Kimpton Schoefield in Cleveland. This piece is a picture of Cincinnati’s Roebling Suspension Bridge and it reads, “Sorry, Brooklyn, I was first.” (John Roebling built Cincinnati’s Roebling Suspension Bridge in 1866 making it the time’s longest suspension bridge, which came almost 20 years before his son built the nearly structurally identical Brooklyn Bridge.)

I wish on this particular trip I would’ve had more time to check out some of my favorites nearby Hotel Covington – the famous Mac n’ Cheese at Keystone Bar & Grill or a sip of that fine Kentucky spirit at the Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar. But I guess this just means… I’ll have to go back!

Trendy New Boutique Lodging in Greater Cincinnati

 “People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck

 

 

What’s in a Brand? Doubling Down

Understanding the Hilton family of Brands - DoubleTrees & Ohio Lodging

Have you ever thought to yourself while traveling – “ooohhh, this is a…{insert brand here} Hilton?!”  Sometimes I take for granted my vast and probably useless knowledge of hotel brands and families. If you’ve jumped on the brand loyalty programs, you probably have a better knowledge of the different brands within, say, Hilton, ChoiceIHG or Marriott (now includes Starwood!), but I’m surprised sometimes how little the consumer understands about a family of brands, so let’s talk about it!

In the past week(ish) I have spent 3 days in 2 DoubleTrees by Hilton.  It was in that time that I realized – these two hotels are both vastly different from each other. Don’t get me wrong, one of the benefits of a brand is the consistency a consumer can expect in service and quality. But it’s kind of cool when they’re unique, ya know?  Granted, that isn’t for everyone. I know some people that travel a lot like to feel like they’re “home” and the layout, rooms, etc., are identical from city to city. Don’t worry, Hilton has a brand for that too!

The first time I specifically realized I was at a DoubleTree I was a kid. This particular visit was in Nashville. The hotel there has a strange entrance.  If I remember correctly, you come in at street level, but need to go up a floor to get to the lobby. I walked up to the desk to check in with my dad.  After the check-in process, the front desk associate leaned over  and handed me a warm, delicious-smelling paper bag.  I was confused at first, but then it hit me! I looked at my dad and said, “Dad!  They do this at the Hotel Roanoke!” To which my dad, the wise traveler he is, said, “Yes sweetie, that’s because it’s a DoubleTree.”  This was my ah-ha moment whenI realized, at a young age, that not all hotels are equal. It didn’t look like the Hotel Roanoke, it didn’t feel like the Hotel Roanoke, but it sure smelled like the Hotel Roanoke – warm, gooey chocolate chip cookies at check-in – the signature DoubleTree move.

Fast forward to my life in the industry and now I understand a bit more about families of brands.  What I like about the DoubleTree brand is it used to be the solution for independent or unique properties that sought out a flagship.  And when it isn’t a branded, former independent hotel, they’re still unique. I learned recently that DoubleTree is the “conversion” brand for Hilton and this is why they are rarely alike.  Hilton will often convert and renovate a property and make it a DoubleTree. That explains a lot!

In Cleveland, I stayed at a massive DoubleTree with lots of event space.  There were standbys of the

Understanding the Hilton family of Brands - DoubleTrees & Ohio Lodging

SweatSesh @ DoubleTree CLE Beachwood

brand- nice gyms (my favorite treadmill made an appearance!) , the chocolate chip cookies and service Hilton stands behind.  But this hotel had a really cool copper (looking, at least) wall in the lobby dividing the lounge space from the hallways.  The restaurant, The Sanctuary, featured a fireplace and great, cozy seating. The following week, I spent two days back-to-back at a DoubleTree in Columbus.  The cookies and service were there, but not the copper wall! Instead, the wall separating the front desk from the atrium was a water feature.  This hotel lobby is enormously different

Understanding the Hilton family of Brands - DoubleTrees & Ohio Lodging

Bringing the Outside In @ DoubleTree Cbus Worthington

than the first, with a large elevated seating area in the middle of the hotel surrounded by big beautiful trees, making you feel like you’re outside. Both properties featured expansive courtyards, but on these particular days, I was avoiding a

typical Ohio-winter day.  These two properties had minor differences, despite the name, but some DoubleTrees have more noticeable uniqueness.

I wrote about the Hotel Roanoke a few months ago – it started as an independent, historic property and became a DoubleTree when I was a kid.  Eventually it dropped the DoubleTree flag, made a brief stint as an independent hotel again and eventually picked up the new Hilton boutique brand – Curio.  Some unique hotels, however, still rock the DoubleTree name, such as the historic Tudor Arms in Cleveland.  I haven’t had the chance yet to visit the Tudor Arms, but look forward to the opportunity – stay tuned!

If you’re still not sure what counts as a Hilton, check out their website to spot some of your favorites.  Here are some of mine: Hilton, Waldorf Astoria, DoubleTree, Hilton Garden Inn, & Curio, and I can’t wait to see the new Tapestry brand!

Understanding the Hilton family of Brands - DoubleTrees & Ohio Lodging

 “People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck

Jazzy Weekend in Dayton

Discovering Ohio - Lodging in Greater Dayton

I’m an Ohio girl, born and raised.  From the Cleveland area, went to school in Cincinnati and now live in Columbus.  I tell people I get around the state quite a bit, but I definitely have had my go-to entertainment districts and up until this weekend, Dayton was not one of them.  I’ll be honest, nearly every time I’ve gone to Dayton it’s been raining and there’s construction. But a few weeks ago I had a taste of something I wanted to sink my teeth into and I had to schedule a time to go back.  Our trip centered around one key adventure – the Blue Note Bistro & Lounge.  You probably haven’t heard of it, and I’m a bit nervous to divulge my secrets, but if you’re looking for something new to try – follow me…

Miamisburg, OH is about an hour and twenty minutes from Columbus. We decided it would be best to make an overnight out of our trip to the Blue Note. Word on the street? They’ve got great music and a wine cellar – ’nuff said.  This particular Saturday afternoon was unseasonably perfect and we didn’t want a minute of it to go to waste.  We thought the best bet would be to stop somewhere on the way that we could check out – walk around, see some shops, (for TJ) drink some beer – so we set our sights on Yellow Springs, OH. I had the chance to visit Yellow Springs a few months ago and wrote about its cool new hotel the Mills Park Hotel.  That time, I didn’t get a chance to explore the town which has a huge art scene, but I wanted to. It was too cute! There are little shops everywhere and musicians on the street.  Who would have thought?

Discovering Ohio - Yellow Springs

Feeling Funky – Yellow Springs

As we’re driving, TJ proclaims that he is pretty sure there is a brewery in Yellow Springs (he would know!).  After a quick Google search I confirm this and now he is interested.  Yellow Springs is situated on a bike path (or maybe the bike path is situated around Yellow Springs, but you get the picture!) and today, bicyclists were out in full force.  Despite the crowds, we found easy parking on the street (it’s free! for all you city slickers), just across from the Mills Park Hotel. We headed to find a latte for me – very important when the sun is setting and you’re window shopping.  We found the cutest store – Oats.  They sold all kinds of neat antique pieces for the home. You

Discovering Ohio - Yellow Springs

Feeling Funky – Yellow Springs

probably could guess that we left with an old metal BEER sign for our at-home bar. After that we wound our way to the Yellow Springs Brewery and Taproom, located a few blocks from downtown.  This place was happenin’. A food truck was parked outside and nearly every seat indoor and outdoor (in February!) was full. Something a bit different about this taproom is that there wasn’t a TV in sight.  The place was filled with artwork and there was a big cart of games for people to play. A startling idea – a bar not having TV’s, but instead you walked in to the sound of conversation, laughter and glasses clinking.  We decided to have a light appetizer because our dinner reservation was late.  The food truck parked outside, Smokin’ Bee-Bee-Q, was

dishing out Mac n’ Cheese Waffles with Pulled Pork & Slaw – so we split one!  Delicious!

With full bellies, we decided we should make our way to Miamisburg with a quick pit stop at our hotel.  We were so fortunate to have been graciously hosted by the team at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Dayton Mall/I-675.  The staff was super friendly and ready to make our night a memorable

Discovering Ohio - Lodging in Greater Dayton

Holiday Inn Express & Suites – Miamisburg

one.  Our room was beautiful!  I’ve said it before, but if you haven’t been in a new package Holiday Inn recently, make sure to check one out. Our suite was spacious and beautiful.  I loved the homey accents – rounded ottomans and small lamps.  This hotel had a pool (which we didn’t have time to use) and great fitness center and complimentary breakfast. Highly recommend it!

Even better, the hotel is a straight shot to downtown Miamisburg, where the Blue Note was located. We were running a bit ahead of schedule so we swung into A Taste of

Discovering Ohio - Miamisburg

I’ve Got That Feeling, Inside My Sole @ A Taste of Wine

Wine for a glass of vino.  We were pleasantly surprised to see a packed house and a live band. The staff selected fantastic wine for us and we spent an hour listening to the sounds of Mind Reels.  We were walking distance to our final stop, so parking and navigating was easy.  We arrived at Blue Note just before the next show started and were quickly seated at our stage side table.  There are so many amazing things about this venue, I can’t capture it all in one post.  To begin, this space is a converted bank building, so it’s unique and in a great location.  The high ceilings and beautiful archways are a fantastic backdrop for a live music venue.  The whole place is lit by blue lighting and portraits of famous jazz musicians.  The menus? They light up!  The food was delicious.  I started with the Blue Note Salad and had the Chicken La Poire. TJ also started with the Blue Note Salad and had the Tournedos Dumas.  We split a great bottle of wine with our company, sat back and relaxed.  On stage that night was The Satchmo Show featuring Dean Simms – a Louis Armstrong impersonator. They were amazing and kept the crowd engaged all evening. After an outstanding show, good food and great company, we tucked in for the evening, but not before grabbing donuts at Bear Creek Donuts for breakfast the following morning.

One of my favorite things is discovering new ways to enjoy the great state of Ohio.  No matter how much  I travel, or how many people I meet, there are surprises around every corner.  If you haven’t yet visited Yellow Springs or Miamisburg, you are missing out on some amazing experiences. So what are you waiting for?

Discovering Ohio - Miamisburg

 “People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck

 

Video

Season of Love – Step it Up!

Ohio Date Ideas

All Smiles @ Cedar Point – Sandusky

I love holidays, particularly ones that give me an excuse to really wow someone – birthdays…Valentine’s Day. It’s the month of love, so I thought I’d step in to give you some ideas to really amp up your dating game or, your life experiences game. Whether you’re committed or single – these are some fun ways to get that extra mile out of love and life. Follow me as we try this, not that!

THAT – Buying chocolates

There are people in life who say, “don’t buy me flowers, they just die.” That’s depressing, but also true. Food isn’t just the way to a man’s heart – it’s the way to mine. But this time of year, stores roll out display after display of overpriced chocolates in heart shaped boxes. You could to that. Or, you could do…

THIS – (SAFE!) Raw Cookie Dough

Ohio Date Ideas

NomNomNom @ Cookie Dough Creamery

Good thing I surround myself with some pretty cool 11 year olds. I give full credit for this discovery to one of my favorite babysitees.  Next time you’re in the market for buying you’re loved one something sweet, stop by the Cookie Dough Creamery in Worthington, OH.  You can choose from containers of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (my favorite), Sugar Cookie Dough, Oreo Cookie Dough and Peanut Butter Cookie Dough; Chocolate covered Oreos filled with cookie dough and all kinds of other delectable “raw” treats. In the event you’re worried about the safety of eating this raw dough (I certainly am not), this dough doesn’t contain eggs and they use heat treated flour.  GENIUS.

THAT – A Round of Golf

It’s OK, you can admit it.  You’re re-purposing some old Silent Auction item you won as a “super cool” gift.  Let me guess, it’s at a ritzy-titzy, exclusive course and perfect for 4!  If it’s so great, why haven’t you used it?  Because it isn’t so great. Wonder if you could recreate the golf experience in a private setting and when you’re ready to take a break from the links of Pinehurst, you can sit right down in your lounge seats, crack open a beer and enjoy a filet?  Next time, try…

THIS – Golf Simulator @ The Capital Club

What? Yes! You’ve totally been missing out. I had the chance to experience the Golf Simulator firsthand. Not just the golf simulator itself, but the opportunity to wow my Sig-O with an experience he didn’t even know existed.  We were escorted up to the Capital Club (by way of the DoubleTree Suites Columbus Downtown) to the Simulator room. We were able to select from over 20 courses.  We pre-ordered TJ’s favorite beer to the room (CBC Bodhi!) and you can even order food.  This is seriously one of the coolest dates I’ve been on. I’m pretty sure TJ has already lined up friends to join him next time. I’m thinking this would pretty cool for a Bachelor party too! Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a Capital Club member to take advantage of this place!

****Special for Followers!*** Just in time to polish those skills before golf season hits! Now through March 30, 2017, mention this blog post and receive 1 Hour of Golf & a Free Appetizer for $15! Contact Kyle to book.

Love sports but not in Columbus? Have you checked out TopGolf in West Chester, OH?  That’s next on my list! Or what about Canton’s own Pro Football Hall of Fame? Hall of Fame Village coming soon!

THAT – Wine Tasting

Don’t get me wrong, wine tasting is fun. I love wine!  There are a million great places to do a wine tasting in Ohio…but, that’s old school, what about….

Ohio Date Ideas

Bourbon Cocktails @ Buckeye Bourbon House

THIS – Bourbon Tasting

This week, I got to check out a super cool new place, the Buckeye Bourbon House. I love Bourbon. Believe it or not, this girl has been on the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail (highly recommend eating breakfast before visiting Jim Beam). The new Buckeye Bourbon House located on Gay Street in Columbus has over 50 curated Bourbons and Whiskeys (they are not the same, people!).  If you stop by, you can try a tasting and they ‘guarantee’ they’ve got something you haven’t tried.

Want more Bourbon? Try the Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar in Covington, KY! I haven’t been in a while, but last time I checked, it’s still happenin’!

THAT – Date Night

It’s OK. Date night dinners are still cool, but there is something a tiny bit cooler…

THIS – Date Morning

What about fantastic brunch?  Fortunately, Ohio has finally figured things out.  People like to eat all times of day! Lucky for you, cities across the state are

Ohio Date Ideas

Brunch Farrotto @ The Whitney House

seriously stepping up their breakfast game.  So no matter where you are, there are places to brunch. Some new faves:

Hoof Hearted Brewing – Columbus, OH (Hate the name, love the food <3)

TownHall Ohio City – Cleveland, OH (Patio is perfect!)

Taste of Belgium – Cincinnati, OH (It’s been around a while, but those waffles. They still do Chicken & Waffles the best)

Blue Note Bistro & Lounge – Miamisburg, OH (On the menu next week, have you tried it??)

The Whitney House – Worthington, OH (I sold my sole for the Brunch Farratto)

Cherry Street Pub – Lancaster, OH (Christi’s pick!)

 

THAT – Shores of the Atlantic

Don’t get me wrong, I hit the Atlantic coast every year and I count down until that vacation. But, let’s get real, when was the last time you checked out Ohio’s shores? Have you even tried…

THIS  Shores of Lake Erie

When was the last time you visited Sandusky? I am not just talking about Cedar Point (but go there too). Downtown Sandusky has had a revitalization.  One can now have a fantastic dinner, settle in for a cocktail at a local speakeasy and book a night at a trendy hotel, all within walking distance.  Go. Now. Check it out.

There are so many more cool ways to experience life with someone you care about – share your favorites from around the state!

 “People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck

 

Pit Stops Ohio – All Shiny & New

New Lodging around Ohio

Twenty20 Taphouse @ Holiday Inn Canton

OK, gang, we’re getting down and dirty. Well, I guess not dirty – these places are all shiny and new!  But speaking of dirt, in the event you’ve been living under a rock, Ohio has all kinds of cool things popping up across the state. Anything from a face lift to a ground lift (new build!) there are so many hotels to be excited about.  Luckily, I’m in the biz, and have the somewhat daunting task of keeping track of all things hotel across the state. Today I’m going to take you into (or outside of) three exciting changes to our great state.  Buckle up!

The Timberlanes Inn – Salem, OH

New Lodging around Ohio

Boneshakers @ The Timberlanes – Salem

My road trip started with a crazy flash back.  But before I get there, let me set the stage. I drove through winding roads and a blustery wintry-mix storm through the American Standard plant on the south side of town, finally arriving at Boneshakers in Salem, OH. I was meeting a local businessman who had taken the old Timberlanes complex under his wings, opening first Boneshakers.  Trying to avoid wet feet or hair, I sprinted into the new restaurant without much of a look at the outside. I was greeted by very friendly staff, even though I was a few minutes ahead of the opening bell.  I used my extra time to check out the new place.  I will be completely honest, I was shocked. I did not expect to see such a trendy looking joint in Salem, OH.  After a quick, yummy Cobb salad, I was ushered through the restaurant to the hotel which is still undergoing renovation.  A little history on the way – the old complex used to house bowling lanes (hence the name!) and it caught fire mid 1900s. When they rebuilt the property, they did not rebuild the bowling lanes (much to my dismay), but focused on the banquet hall, restaurant and motor inn. The Timerblanes complex was shut down in 2009.

New Lodging around Ohio

The Timberlanes – Salem

My two hosts swept me into the lobby.  As I was checking out the new guestroom furniture, I started to get this feeling…just a little something creeping through the cobwebs of distant memories.  I paused and took a moment to scan my surroundings.  The lobby is surrounded by floor to ceiling glass windows.  I looked outside – noticing that the valet area ran under the front and then continued along the side of the building to the banquet hall, running parallel to the street, thus serving dual purposes – valet for hotel guests and valet for banquet guests, something you don’t see everyday.  I turned back around as my hosts were explaining the inverted motel concept.  I followed their gaze through the lobby doors into the room corridors.  There’s something here and I can’t put my finger on it! I kept thinking.   We walk through the doors and I’m greeted by cold.  My host explaining that the rooms are connected by an outside corridor covered by a glass roof.  We walk into the first room and she’s saying “this room used to be greens and” burgundy, I say.  I’ve been here! I’ve been here!

New Lodging around Ohio

The Timberlanes – Salem

I blurted out.  She looks at me perplexed, “really?!”  Yes!  It has such a unique layout.  The valet. The small, cozy glass lobby, the reserve motel room layout.

And… I’m in Salem!  My memories come crashing back to me. I stayed here in high school as a Rotary Youth Leadership Awards participant.  It was a big, annual “over-nighter” hosted by the Salem Rotary Club for high school students demonstrating leadership. Of course, in high school, I didn’t drive myself there so the valet only played a small role in my memory. It was the late nights of running between rooms, gossiping and sharing stories that I remembered. Although in my high school memory, the old Timerlanes was fine, but in my adult memory, this place needed a major overhaul and Brooke & Brandy are the ones to do it.  They are moving those cool restaurant grade indoor heaters into the center space with nice patio furniture for lounging. I can picture myself cozied up under a blanket of winter snow on the glass roof with a blanket and a book. This place is going to be really neat. The lobby has been fitted with reclaimed barn wood and the new bedroom furniture has a similar feel.  Sticking to a modern, clean and simple design, Brandy is working hard to transform the space.  The banquet space is massive for any size town, but for Salem, OH and the surrounding areas, it’s a game changer, seating 400 in rounds. I’m excited to check out the hotel when it’s complete and you should be too.

Holiday Inn Canton – Canton, OH

New Lodging around Ohio

Shiny & New @ Holiday Inn Canton

Yowza!  You know when you go somewhere you’ve been before and you think you know what you’re walking into, but then it isn’t anything like you remembered? That’s what happened to me at the newly renovated Holiday Inn Canton. Ask any of the staff here and they will tell you, “it’s about time!” They’ve been waiting to show off this renovation for a while and for good reason.  I was delighted that Emily was willing to take me on a full tour of the space. If you haven’t been in any Holiday Inn in a while, you might be surprised to know, the brand is making some big changes.  The new HI package is extremely modern with sleek finished, bright colors and well-placed art. Last time I was at this specific property, the lobby was in a different place, so that was confusing, but once I found my way, it was breathtaking. GOOD JOB!

New Lodging around Ohio

Shiny & New @ Holiday Inn Canton

The new lobby is an open floor plan with lots of seating for guests, computer stations and windows.  The rooms are – stunning.  I love all of the blues and silver.  One of the suites I saw has a pretty neat feature – the option to connect to a small board room. I think this would be great for groups hosting large or multi-day meetings on site.  It makes for a great private office space for meeting organizers. Or, traveling into town for an event at the Hall of Fame?  What a great place to order in and share with family so you don’t have to sit around on the beds.

The Holiday Inn Canton is in a great location – just off the highway but next to the former Belden Village Mall area. But should you not feel like navigating mall traffic for a cold beer or dinner, another addition is Twenty20 Taphouse, the new restaurant and taproom. And, you guessed it! There are 20 beers on tap for your pleasure.  Even if you’re just passing through and not looking for a place to stay, check it out. I bet it’ll wow you too!

Cobblestone Hotel & Suites Project – Orrville, OH

New Lodging around Ohio

Nearly new! Cobblestone Hotel & Suites – Orrville, OH

This one is near and dear to my heart and unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of pictures to show you. My hometown is Orrville, OH. A quaint little industrious town nestled between Canton and Wooster along historic Route 30. When I first heard news that Orrville, home of the Red Riders, Bobby Knight and this little jelly place called the J.M. Smucker Company, was getting a hotel, I was aghast.  What do we need a hotel for? I thought to myself.  But I left “home” 10+ years ago, and a lot has changed. Smucker’s is booming, industry is moving in and Orrville now has overnight guests that aren’t just family visiting loved ones.  It was a pet project of mine to find out more about a new project in Ohio – a small town hotel chain concept out of Pennsylvania breaking ground in Ohio in my very own hometown.  The new hotel will have 40 rooms, a bar/restaurant and a pool. The Cobblestone brand is built for towns just like Orrville, focusing on small town values and “big town” amenities. The hotel should be open in the coming months, but here is a sneak peek about what locals are saying about the build and the brand. For a full story on the property, check this article written by Megan Coddington, student at The Ohio State University. Cobblestone Hotel & Suites Introduction to Ohio by Megan Coddington Rumor has it, Cobblestone is already scoping out other communities across our state, one could be coming to your backyard soon!

We have some many great things happening around our state.  If you are wondering just what’s going in at this corner or if a rumor is true, let me know!  I’m happy to give you the scoop.

 “People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck

 

A Hidden Gem

Unique Ohio Lodging @ Sebring Mansion & Spa

Stately Beauty @ Sebring Mansion & Spa

I am such a lucky girl.  I finally found that perfect career that allows me to immerse myself in something I’m passionate about.  I love travel, I love culture, I love experiences.  Lodging big or small, I’m a firm believer that the lodging you choose can make or break an experience.  And, over the past few months, I’ve actually had people tell me they like when I let them in, just a little bit, to come along with me on these experiences, from the comforts of their desk, their home or wherever InnLove finds them each Friday morning. Today I’m going to let you in, just a little bit more, into something I discovered this week while traveling for work.  For many of you, it’s in your backyard and it’s truly one of Ohio’s hidden gems.

As most of you know, I’ve worked in a few hotels, but what some of you might not know is that my childhood dream has been to own an award winning inn. I’ve been collecting favorite breakfast recipes for years. So when I find one that gives me so many feels…I must share it with you. This week, while making a very windy tour of Northeastern Ohio, I visited one of my favorite people, Lynne Biery at her hospitality masterpiece – Sebring Mansion Inn & Spa.

Unique Ohio Lodging @ Sebring Mansion & Spa

I’ve never been to the Mansion, but I have heard stories.  All good, of course, but THIS. I did not expect. I hadn’t heard of Sebring, OH until I learned of Lynne’s place –

Unique Ohio Lodging @ Sebring Mansion & Spa

Rotunda @ Sebring Mansion

how could there be something this spectacular in a place I’ve never been? Even though the day was typical January in Ohio weather – you know the sort, gray, 33° and raining – the mansion was sparkling.  It is massive and stately, sitting

 

on the corner, beckoning me into its warmth.  I sprinted across the street, snapping a quick picture of the entrance, and ducked inside. As if he was waiting for me, I was greeted by Dick, a cheerful member of the Mansion’s team. He ushered me inside the most breathtaking foyer I’ve seen in quite some time. Once you catch your breath,

Unique Ohio Lodging @ Sebring Mansion & Spa

Dining Room @ Sebring Mansion

you immediately gaze upward into a rotunda with 3 floors of views to a stained glass dome.  While waiting for Lynne, I snapped a few pictures of the foyer before being escorted into the dining area.  I was told a bride would be arriving soon and this was to be the dinner room.  The room was dripping with winter decor that made you feel

 

like you were in a fairy tale. Lynne walked me through the many rooms of the first floor including the parlor and oval music room.  The piano in the music room is original to the home!

Unique Ohio Lodging @ Sebring Mansion & Spa

Oval Music Room @ Sebring Mansion

Sebring Mansion has 9 rooms with more being built.  Each room is individually decorated and is named after a famous potter. (Sebring, OH is the Pottery capital of the world!) Each room has a beautiful, hand selected bed and whirlpool.  In many of the rooms, you can be served dinner for two on the balcony or in the sitting area and each guest is greeted with a rose. No children are allowed at Sebring at this time, which allows for an indulgent adults-only retreat. Make sure to check out all of the room pictures in the 2017 Visual Adventure Gallery because there are a million!

Unique Ohio Lodging @ Sebring Mansion & Spa

Stained Glass @ Sebring Mansion

The third floor of the Mansion has another dining area where Lynne and her team had set up an immaculate dining experience for the weekend’s wedding party.  The room is surrounded by stained glass and little private alcoves. There is a built in bar to serve guests.  Lynne also tells me she hosts a number of special events such as Murder Mystery Dinners.  I think I should sign up for one of those really soon!

The lower level of the Mansion houses the spa, with a maze of rooms for massages, mani/pedis, hair, mud baths and more. All guests are able to soak in the 102° indoor or outdoor therapy pool.  Even on a dank day like the one I was visiting on, I could have easily slipped into the outdoor pool, surrounded by plants and stone walls.  Also on the lower level are his and hers locker rooms, a wine cellar and The Pub – a bar area for guests to order evening cocktails.

Sadly, I was not visiting Lynne for an overnight stay, just a quick tour and some history.  But, if anyone has ever convinced me to make a weekend out of Sebring, OH, it was Lynne, her team and this spectacular Mansion. I’ll be counting down the days until we can stay.  (Hunny, are you reading this??)

Unique Ohio Lodging @ Sebring Mansion & Spa

“People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck

Taking on the Queen

Excellent lodging in Cincinnati

Art in the City @ 21C Museum Hotel

Whew! I’m back in the saddle and on the road again (how many cheesy phrases can I use?). I kicked off 2017 in the Queen City – visiting one of my standbys and checking out something new. It’s one of our unspoken traditions that we spend New Year’s Eve in Cincinnati.  This year was

Excellent lodging in Cincinnati

Feeling at Home @ Kingsgate Marriott

exceptional because so many friends traveled in from afar to be there. We checked in at my Alma Mater’s hotel – Kingsgate Marriott located in the

Uptown/University Area of Cincinnati. Kingsgate is perfectly situated for access to the University of Cincinnati Main Campus and Medical Campus, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens, Xavier University and just a short ride to downtown Cincinnati.  I have stayed at Kingsgate many times and it’s the phenomenal staff that keeps me coming back. Usually around New Year’s Eve it’s a quiet place, but not this year. With a wedding in house and a much anticipated Cincinnati Bengals game, the place was packed!

We checked into our corner suite to get ready for the big night out.  As tradition, TJ always makes a trip down to the Bearcat Lounge for a drink

Excellent lodging in Cincinnati

Feeling at Home @ Kingsgate Marriott

while I get spruced up for NYE. The same bartender has been on duty for 4 years running.  In an industry with a lot of turnover, it’s amazing to see staff there year after year. You know this is because the hotel treats its employees well.  Not only is the bartender a familiar face, but many of the banquets staff and front office team are the same.

Finally! It’s time for a night on the town! We had big plans. I love holidays and planning one in the Queen City is my forte.  We met up with friends for dinner at one of my new favorite restaurants, Mita’s.  Chef Jose Salazar knows how to wine & dine his guests. I could have sat there for hours, sipping bubbly, passing tapas and people watching. Mita’s is situated on the corner of 5th & Race with floor to ceiling windows.  And on New Year’s Eve? EXCELLENT people watching. We shared a Cheese plate consisting of Manchego, Valdeon and Murcia al Vino. YUM. Then we passed around an Ensalad Mixta and an Ensalad Jicama Y Mango – both delicious. We opted for a round of Tapas in lieu of entrees and shared the Coles de Bruselas Asadas (brussels sprouts!); Pulpo Gallego (galician style octopus!); Arepa Con Queso Fresco Y Chorizo (Cheese & chorizo cornmeal cakes!) and the special of the evening – Blood Sausage.  We each had a favorite – obviously we either all have exceptional taste or Jose only makes awesome dishes (or both!). We wrapped up the evening with an Olive Oil Rosemary Cake for dessert.  If you haven’t been to Mita’s, you’re missing out. BIG TIME. And they’re open for lunch!

Excellent lodging in Cincinnati

Art in the City @ 21C Museum Hotel

After Mita’s we met up with friends at 21C Museum Hotel.  I’ve been to

21C before, but this time I had a chance to check out some of the aspects that make it unique including the “body art” in the shower and the beautiful art display on the guestroom floors. One of the signature’s of the 21C brand are the fun little penguin mascots.

Excellent lodging in Cincinnati

Art in the City @ 21C Museum Hotel

We left 21C and headed to our final destination – a new cocktail lounge in The Banks called The Stretch. The Stretch is swanky with double bars and a narrow space that allows for an intimate atmosphere. It was packed for NYE, but the outdoor space was a nice retreat from the sweat of the dance floor with fire places and cozy furniture on a chilly Ohio winter night. I’d love to come check it out on a regular weekend night – I guarantee it’s just as busy!

Believe it or not, after a night on the town, I’m still hitting the gym in the morning.  I told you before, this was not my first rodeo at Kingsgate, so when I walked into the all-to-familiar gym I was ECSTATIC at what I found.  I’m a gym snob, we know this.  Rarely do I come across one of my

Excellent lodging in Cincinnati

Fitness Center @ Kingsgate Marriott

favorite pieces of gym equipment. I love it so much that even if I wasn’t planning to run, I do. I’m totally going to geek out on you guys for a second.  LifeFitness makes these super cool treadmills with courses you can run all around the world! It is seriously the coolest invention.  If you haven’t been on one, try it. If you run a hotel, get one!

But honestly people, what would this trip be without a final food suggestion?  I’m not much for hotel breakfasts and normally I head somewhere else, but I knew that the breakfast buffet at Kingsgate would be just what I needed on New Year’s Day. Those omelettes…OH!

If you find yourself in Cincinnati, check out one of these two great hotels and most definitely eat at Mita’s – you’d be a fool not to.

“People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck

I’m Back! And My Belly is Full of Cookies!

 

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

Beautiful Ohio Amish Country

I’M BACK! I seriously missed you guys. Traveling is hard work! A quick “thank you” to Christi and Cindy for stepping in and sharing with you some of their most recent experiences!
Guys. I LOVE CHRISTMAS. I love everything about the “holiday season.” I need the cheer, I want the decorations and I gotta have the snow. Good lord, how do people in no-snow places even do it? TJ and I were in California recently (you’ll hear about that next week!) and it just isn’t the same. It’s like, Christmas on the surface – Christmas music playing, holiday décor, cinnamon pine cones everywhere… but it just isn’t. It doesn’t have the same…feeling. But you know what puts me in the holiday spirit? Holiday traditions. And I am so happy to report that we successfully completed the 9th Annual Amish Country Cookie Tour for the second year in a row. If you have no idea what I’m talking about or for some reason don’t associate cookies with Christmas – I guess I’ll just have to show you! To explain further, this is a tour of inns in Amish Country (OHIO!) that comes complete with Christmas decorations, Christmas cookies, Christmas music, this year – snow (!) and even a goat. So! Feet and hands inside the sleigh…

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

Guggisberg Swiss Inn – Charm, OH

1st Stop – Guggisberg Swiss Inn

If someone blindfolded you and dropped you at the Guggisberg Swiss Inn you would think you were in Switzerland. Holiday décor aside, innkeepers Julia and Eric Guggisberg have done an excellent job of making this inn feel authentic. One of my favorite aspects of the inn, although I didn’t get a chance to snuggle them this year, are their horses. They roam free on the property and are happy for a pet or to take you on a trot around the property. Decked out for the holidays, the Guggisberg Swiss Inn is exactly where you picture yourself with a warm mug of hot chocolate and a book. As always, at this stop, you can taste some of their Doughty Glen Wines!

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

The Barn Inn – Millersburg, OH

2nd Stop – The Barn Inn
Every. Time. Innkeeper Loretta Coblentz out does herself. The Barn Inn is magnificently decorated for the holidays – although she gives her staff all the credit. Each guestroom is immaculately appointed, each with its own holiday theme. Some extra special touches are always waiting for you at The Barn Inn – quilts handmade by Loretta (check out this one that is the 12 Days of Christmas!) and during the tour, this sweet little goa—ahem—reindeer greets you at the door.

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

Berlin Resort – Berlin, OH

3rd Stop – Berlin Resort
Yowza! Talk about a non-traditional Amish Country lodging experience. The new suites at the Berlin Resort are top of the line. Covered in all things shimmery and glittery for the holidays, the Berlin Resort is the type of place I want to have a Girls Weekend. The massive suites building is ideal for a Bridal Suite or the whole family! Rooms are cleverly situated to continue to be joined until you have just the right number of impressive bedrooms, fireplaces and enormous bathrooms to suit you and your guests. I couldn’t get over the views from the suites facing the lake. The crew here did a great job of accenting the contemprary nature of the design with the contemporary Christmas pizzazz!

 

4th Stop – Comfort Suites Berlin

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

Comfort Suites – Berlin, OH

It’s a funny feeling when you think you know what something will be like and you’re wrong. That is exactly what happens every time I visit a Comfort Suites, particularly the one in Berlin. With so many great lodging options around the area, the Comfort Suites Berlin has made sure you have a unique experience while enjoying the comforts of brand recognition. I absolutely loved what the staff did for the holidays. The rooms were festively decorated in different ideas of Christmas – from blue, gold and all things glitter, to a classic farmstead Christmas with plaids and wood. The Comfort Suites Berlin always does a great job of showcasing local

businesses in the area at the end of the tour too – those cupcakes were phenom!

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

Berlin Grande Hotel – Berlin, OH

5th Stop – Berlin Grande Hotel
Always one of the hot spots on the tour, the Berlin Grande Hotel was pulsing with holiday spirit and people! The tree that greets you in the lobby is nothing to contest with. One of my favorite decorations on the tour was what we playfully called the “Winter is Coming” room (Game of Thrones – anyone?). The white fur blanket on the bed was a luxurious touch! At this point in the tour, I was ready to cozy up for a nap with that blanket. This stop is also the hub for the shuttle that takes you to two more stops – onward!

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

Carlisle Country Inn – Berlin, OH

6th Stop – Carlisle Country Inn
Wow. This is the first time I’ve been to this property and I was glad we went. Innkeepers were welcoming guests into a warm cozy living room (it was freezing that day!) and Jim was busy cookie (I’m going to leave this typo here to give you a sense of where my mind is at…) COOKING** up a special Apple Cider on the stove top – complete with whipped cream and spice! The rooms at this inn had the highest ceilings! I found one of the best wingback chairs near a fireplace at this stop. If I’d only brought my kindle!

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

Garden Gate Get-A-Way – Millersburg, OH

7th Stop – Garden Gate Get-A-Way
Also a new stop for me on the tour and we were impressed. Far removed from the bustle of downtown Berlin, this little spot is a great “get a-way.” The main room was packed with people clamoring for an iced Ginger Cookie (my favorite cookie of the tour!) and some of their German Tea. We snagged a tea and headed to one of the cottages. The cottages would be a great place to spend a weekend away from home – no doubt! I also loved their Teddy Bear Christmas Room – something unique for the tour!

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

Oak Ridge Inn – Walnut Creek, OH

8th Stop – Oak Ridge Inn at Walnut Creek
Exhausted yet? We should have done this in two days for sure. Luckily, the crew at Oak Ridge Inn was ready to save the day. Not only did they have our cookies, but little containers of grapes and cheese. After all, it was almost dinner time and we were working hard! I have visited several Nivea Hospitality properties but the Oak Ridge Inn was something different. Right around the corner from the ultra-modern Wallhouse Hotel Walnut Creek, this quaint little inn is tucked back off the main drag. The guest rooms here are massive with big Jacuzzi tubs and fireplaces waiting to help you unwind. Definitely worth a longer visit (and soak!) next time I’m in town.

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

Carlisle Inn Walnut Creek – Walnut Creek, OH

9th Stop – Carlisle Inn Walnut Creek
Talk about competing with your siblings. The Carlisle Inn Walnut Creek and Carlisle Inn Sugarcreek were battling it out for most over the top, awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping holiday display. The Christmas tree at the entrance to the Carlisle Inn Walnut Creek is impressive to say the least. Actually, the cool thing about this place is there are many entrances. We came in from the “bottom” level and were greeted by a secondary lobby display where we were able to snap an official blog picture (Check out that shirt!). Carlisle Inn Walnut Creek is a big property and they made sure not a corner went unturned. Every inch of the property was dressed for the holidays.Thank you for a great back drop!

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

Inn at Walnut Creek – Walnut Creek, OH

10th Stop – Inn at Walnut Creek
New Kids on the Block – Welcome! Not totally new, just new to the tour! We are SO GLAD you joined us this year and it sounds like your staff is too! I was pleasantly greeted by the new innkeeper’s mother who was handing out handmade French Madeleine’s – YUM. I was on my way out of the Welcome building when I overheard someone was getting a room tour – so I jumped in line. The guestrooms were classically decorated for the holidays with festive wreaths and Christmas trees. This place is a great stop for a visit to Amish Country – centrally located, easy to access and great hospitality.

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

Carlisle Inn Sugarcreek – Sugarcreek, OH

11th Stop – Carlisle Inn Sugarcreek
We made it! Not to be outdone by its sister property, the Carlisle Inn Sugarcreek has an even more impressive tree and lots of them. I have to give them kudos for my favorite room of the day. I took so many pictures of this room and immediately turned to TJ and asked, “could we do this?” to which he rolled his eyes and said, “No. We’re missing a jacuzzi tub, a four-poster bed, a fireplace and a miniature lamb.” SHOOT. I wasn’t the only one taking pics of this room. The photos say enough. Nice work.

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

Inn at Amish Door – Wilmot, OH

12th Stop – Inn at Amish Door
Sadly, we hit our step count by tenfold, stood in the frigid December air for the shuttle and digested as many cookies as possible, only to come up short of hitting the LAST STOP before the end of the tour. Luckily, I’m from Amish Country so I’ve had the fortunate pleasure to visit the Inn at Amish Door many times before and know that it is an excellent addition to the tour this year. The team there was happy to share some pictures with me to share with all of you so please check them out in the Visual Adventure Gallery!

Lesson learned. Two Day tour tickets next year!

Of course, I can’t miss the opportunity to thank Leon Troyer and the staff of the Wallhouse Hotel Walnut Creek for hosting TJ and me for our 2nd Annual Tour. The Wallhouse is one of my favorite places to stay for an awesome breakfast, beautiful views, and excellent hospitality. Until next time…

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

“People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck

Pit Stops – What’s in My Backyard?

Visit this Columbus Landmark, an Historic Hotel of America

Something old, something new @ The Westin Columbus

Sometimes we take for granted what our own backyard has to offer. That’s part of why Staycations have become so popular! In last week’s post, you learned I’ve had a lot of backyards, but this week, we focus on three in our semi-regular “Pit Stops” edition.  Someone said to me this week, “you get around!” I used to take that as an insult, but now I know it means my blog gets around! You might be shocked where I’ve pulled out my laptop to write to you from, or where others have. Just wait until you see where Christi was this week!

But until then, let’s check out some of the neat things going on around Columbus & Greater Cincinnati. I visited all three of these places in the past week. We’ve got a little of the new, a little of the old and a whole lot of Buckeye. That’s right, I said it…

The Blackwell Hotel & Pfahl Conference Center – Columbus, OH 

Buckeye Fans Unite @ this Luxury Lodging in the Heart of Columbus

The Preferred Life @ The Blackwell Hotel & Pfahl Conference Center

“Halle, is that The Shoe? How’d you get that view?!” you might ask.  That’s a Stadium View Suite at The Blackwell Hotel & Pfahl Conference Center! The Blackwell Hotel is located in the heart of campus. As a member of the Preferred Hotel Group family, I was familiar with The Blackwell because of my time at a Preferred sister property, The Cincinnatian, but I hadn’t spent much time there until I moved to Columbus. The Blackwell is very popular for meetings. The Pfahl Conference Center is beautifully appointed and very well laid out for us

Buckeye Fans Unite @ this Luxury Lodging in the Heart of Columbus

The Preferred Life @ The Blackwell Hotel & Pfahl Conference Center

meeting planners. And to top it off, the food here is inventive and delicious.  When you’re a meeting attendee, the grand staircase and open lobby floorplan really makes for an impressive entrance if using the hotel meeting space.  If you’re in the neighboring Pfahl Conference Center, you’ll notice scarlet & gray touches throughout the hallways.  The Blackwell has been gracious enough to host me twice in the past few months for different events.

Buckeye Fans Unite @ this Luxury Lodging in the Heart of Columbus

Art and All Things Nice @ The Blackwell Hotel

Every time the food was something to remember and the service was impeccable. These factors aren’t a surprise though, Preferred Hotel Group sets a high standard.  The Blackwell is an independent hotel, but by being a part of Preferred Hotel Group, they have some backing and support for marketing and sales efforts.

Buckeye Fans Unite @ this Luxury Lodging in the Heart of Columbus

The Preferred Life @ The Blackwell Hotel & Pfahl Conference Center

Although I’ve visited as a meeting attendee a number of times, until this week, I haven’t had a chance to see the sleeping rooms.  The good news is, when you’re an independent property, you can make some fun additions to your room package.  You’re in the heart of OSU’s campus, why wouldn’t you want the ‘O’ to guide you at night? I’m told the hotel will undergo a major room renovation in upcoming years, but in the meantime you can rest assured a visit of luxury and style.

If they’re in your backyard too and you haven’t had a chance to visit, consider stopping by for lunch at The Bistro 2110!

The Westin Columbus – Columbus, OH

Oh, my. Hopefully you’re quick to realize that I love food and historic hotels. You could ask me to spend a week at The Westin Columbus wandering around and I’d be a happy girl.  To be honest, I don’t get there enough.  I was jumping up and down, clapping in my office when I realized I had the chance to

Visit this Columbus Landmark, an Historic Hotel of America

Luncheon of Champions @ The Westin Columbus

visit The Westin this past week for a luncheon.  Why? THAT BALLROOM.  What a dream, to get married in The Westin Ballroom.  Sadly, that dream has passed for me (my band and guest list were too big!), so I take every opportunity to visit it. In the spirit of all things delicious, we find ourselves at yet another

culinary experience.  You will never receive “banquet chicken” at The Westin.  Our table was seasonally dressed to impress and the menu followed accordingly.  After our luncheon was over I asked for a quick room tour.  Luckily, I was led into a complete surprise. I stayed at the Westin well over 5 years ago, so what I thought I was about to see was completely wrong.  The Westin recently began the process of transforming, and I mean transforming, the sleeping room package. When you have an historic hotel, trust me, I’ve worked in two, it can be very difficult to do a remodel. How do you move modern without upsetting the historic charm enthusiasts?  They nailed it. Picture this. You walk into one of the oldest hotels in the state.  From the outside, you aren’t sure what to expect. It’s simple and timeless building that leaves much to the imagination. All I can assume is that what stands on the other side of the doors is dignified. But is it old, or is it new? The lobby, a three story marble room with arching reception area and a chandelier the size of Texas, greets you. The staff is waiting to assist you at every turn.  There are hints of contemporary – a living wall, modern artwork.  You ascend the elevator. The doors open.  The carpet is new. Brand spankin’… This could be a ploy. You open your door and BAM! Never would have expected it. Somehow, the team at The Westin has managed to pull off a feat. Incorporating modern luxury into a (nearly!) 120 year old frame. Just look at it!

Visit this Columbus Landmark, an Historic Hotel of America

Visit this Columbus Landmark, an Historic Hotel of America

Visit this Columbus Landmark, an Historic Hotel of America

Visit this Columbus Landmark, an Historic Hotel of America

But seriously, if you haven’t been to The Westin Columbus recently, stop by and check it out!

Hotel Covington – Covington, KY

Visiting Greater Cincinnati? Check out what's on the other side

Chic as Chic Gets @ Hotel Covington

Yep, I get around!  I’ve been waiting for a chance to check out the new Hotel Covington.

Visiting Greater Cincinnati? Check out what's on the other side

Chic as Chic Gets @ Hotel Covington

If you didn’t know, this little gem is located just across the river from downtown Cincinnati.  The Hotel is still finishing up construction, but I needed to see the public space. I’ve read so many articles about it!

The building itself was originally the home of John Coppin’s department store. Located on Madison Ave, it was in the heart of it all. The style of the hotel mimics the

Visiting Greater Cincinnati? Check out what's on the other side

Chic as Chic Gets @ Hotel Covington

buildings history- dripping in lux modern and fashion whimsy, the lobby is

breathtaking. Virtually the entire first floor is enclosed in windows. When you walk inside, you feel like your part of the display case. The stylish lounge chairs and banquets are lined with fur blankets and sparkling pillows. The bar sits in the middle of the lobby, tempting you for an afternoon drink.  Although I was visiting on a Tuesday afternoon, I would bet this place draws the locals and the visitors to the lobby bar nightly.  Stopping by for a drink or listening to some live acoustic, you will be transported to another time and another place. I cannot wait to go back to stay!

And with that, I leave you with some hot spots in my backyard. What’s in yours?

Visiting Greater Cincinnati? Check out what's on the other side

The View @ Covington, KY

“People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck

An Adventure for Your Mouth

Ohio Best Kept Secrets

BEST ICE CREAM EVER @ The Dairy – Mt. Vernon, OH

I like food.

OK, you probably already knew that. A few weeks ago, a friend asked me what my favorite restaurant of all time is.  I panicked.  I actually broke a sweat and I’m pretty sure my heart started racing. What a question! My favorite restaurant? Of ALL TIME? Like, I only get to choose one?  Yikes. So this got me thinking. Fortunately, I’ve been to a lot of restaurants in a lot of places. Why not post about it?  After all, an excellent dining experience is like an adventure… for your mouth!

So let’s get started.  I did have to give my friend an answer, so I’ll give you one too. But, I do live in Ohio, and since I frequent the cities here the most, I’ll also tell you my favorite places in the Three C’s. If you’ve been there too, let me know. Have another place I should try? Share away!!

My first home – Cleveland (sort of… you get the picture)

This is a new favorite of mine and I’ve only been twice.  We’ve all heard of it, or at least the mastermind behind it. Lola (Michael Symon’s restaurant!). It’s located in the East 4th Street entertainment district. First of all, if you haven’t been there, shame on you.  Cleveland has done wonders to transform its social scene over the past few years and this area is the heart of it all. Lola is located on a small section of a pedestrian only street.  This is fine dining, folks. They welcome you in your game attire, but let’s not make a habit of it.  The service is impeccable and the food, top notch. The first time I visited Lola I was by myself. I took some study materials as I was teaching a class the following weekend. NOT RECOMMENDED. It’s hard to concentrate with good wine and low lighting.  Luckily, my food was out in minutes and it was phenomenal.  A sweet corn gnocchi. ‘Nuff said. The second time we visited, the item that stood out the most were the pierogies on the appetizer menu. I married a Pole, so I am required to like pierogies, but these were delicious. Better than any pierogi I’ve ever had – stuffed with beef cheek and mushrooms. YOWZA.

My second home – Cincinnati

Cincinnati has one of the best culinary scenes in the state. My guess is, this is the work of the chefs that led the iconic Maisonette – for the longest time, North America’s highest rated restaurant in our very own state of Ohio. One of its last chef’s Jean Robert de Cheval is still in Cincinnati, perfecting his skills as the owner of The Table. Since, many other great chefs have hit the ground running in Cincinnati and I was fortunate enough to indulge in their epicurean masterpieces for 7 years. Since its fall in 2005, the Maisonette building has at least been resurrected and thank God, not by apartments or a law firm or something boring like that, but a fabulous restaurant that also ranks high on my list of favorites – Boca. The atmosphere is one of my favorites of all time. You just have to go, people. I can’t tell you anything more.

A number of Cincinnati’s chefs have won awards, been on TV and more. But one chef in particular stands out in my mind – Jose Salazar. Everything he creates is amazing. He opened his namesake restaurant, Salazar, almost three years ago.  It is still, by far, my top pick when returning to the Queen City. Jose was nominated and a semifinalist for the 2016 James Beard Award. The restaurant is small and bustling.  Most nights, good luck getting a table. The menu is always changing and I could choose

Best Craft Cocktails in Cincinnati, OH by Mixologist, Andrew Rettig

The Best Cocktail. Ever. @ Salazar – Cincinnati, OH

something blindfolded and not be disappointed. Jose recently opened a second restaurant a few blocks south, Mita’s, named after his grandmother.  This restaurant has distinct Latin flair, but one thing you

can expect no matter which of his restaurants you choose – the food will be amazing, the drinks all handcrafted and beautiful, the service will be impeccable and he will be there, expediting in the kitchen. I swear the man lives at his restaurants, but it’s that love that shines through in everything he does.  If you haven’t been to either of these places, add them to your bucket list. You will not be disappointed.

My home – Columbus

This is a tough one. And I’m a tough critic.  As you can probably tell, I have high food and service standards.  I also do not believe in not taking reservations.  No place that doesn’t take reservations is so good it’s worth an hour or month long wait. Sorry.  There are too many excellent restaurants I’d rather go to that respect my time. In Columbus, this happens more than it should. Luckily, I have some favorites lined up for you (all take reservations!) and one in particular that you probably haven’t been to before! Because, heaven forbid, it isn’t in one of the Columbus entertainment districts.

Columbus is different than Cincinnati in that it has a lot of GREAT, bistro type restaurants. Restaurants that specialize in one thing or another.  Cincinnati on the other hand, has a handful of excellent, hands down best freaking restaurant, fine dining experiences you’ll find. Good news! I can afford more of the quick stops in Columbus.  Some of our standbys are Marcella’s (or anything Cameron Mitchell, really), Wolf’s Ridge Brewing (the brunch… oh, my…) and Hubbard Grille (Gorgonzola & Walnut Gnocchi – every. time.). We also love to brunch, so if you serve breakfast too… and before 11AM? SOLD.

This leads me to my favorite restaurant, situated on a busy little corner in Powell, OH – Kraft House No. 5 (KH5). KH5 was an accidental discovery. See, there’s this winery. It stole my heart. We go there A LOT. I don’t even drink that much, people, but set me up with a bottle of Jeff & Gina’s wine at Powell Village

Winery and I’m set… for life.  (The picture below is one for the history books. Who thought we could sit on the patio — without a fire and a coat — the last weekend in October?!) If you’re going to try KH5, you need to make this part of your trip. Great news, Powell is small. Park your car at one place or the other and you can easily walk between the two. Anyway, we’re here for food. KH5 has so many good things, it’s hard to pick out what to discuss. Here’s what you have to try: KH5 Burger, Muscles & Fries, and

Brunching in Columbus

Chicken & Waffles @ Kraft House No. 5 – Powell, OH

seasonally, if they have it, this quinoa, lima bean salad thing on the menu with skirt steak. MUST TRY. One of my favorite dishes at KH5 comes after the savory.  There is this dessert, that is mind blowing – their S’mores Creme Brulee. It’s seasonal. But when it’s there, they’re in trouble. It goes so fast. We actually went there once (for my birthday, of course) and it was gone. Ask when you get there if they have it and make that server hold it for you!!! OK, so I mentioned brunch. it’s important.  TJ and his man friends swear by KH5 brunch. Not only do they serve excellent craft beer, but look at the Chicken & Waffles!  If you plan it right, you might catch them on a Distillery Tasting morning. Gin and Breakfast?

OK, OK.  At this point if you haven’t already abandoned this post to find something to eat then you’re probably thinking, “And none of these are your all time favorite?” You’re right. They’re not.

How does a girl choose her all time favorite restaurant? Is it somewhere I frequent? Somewhere where I can always name my favorite entree or dessert? No. For me, it was somewhere that I always tell people to go. I’ve actually only been there twice. My first experience was so impactful that when I think about my first visit, it makes me smile.  Does this restaurant know how it makes me feel? Probably not.  Could it be skewed because of the time in my life that I found it? Maybe. But either way, I know if you go, it’ll make you happy too, or at least your belly.

My one-time home! – Charleston, SC

Slightly North of Broad (S.N.O.B.)

There! I said it!  That’s it. Kind of a funny name, right? Or at least its nickname is. Guys. This place is magical.  If you’ve ever traveled by yourself, you know what it’s like to eat alone. Sometimes it’s hard.  A restaurant quickly moves to the top of my list when they cater to solo diners. So here’s the story –

I lived in Charleston, SC for 4 months.  I was still in college and I was on the last week of an internship. My roommate had left a month ago. I was so homesick. I wanted to go home so bad. Don’t get me wrong, Charleston is my favorite city in the US, it wasn’t Charleston’s fault. I missed my family, friends, my boyfriend.  I decided I would treat myself that last week to what our hotel told people was one of the best low country dining experiences you could find.

I had a reservation, so they knew I was a loner, but I always find it hard to admit “it’s just me” when at a restaurant.  This is the moment of truth, folks. Where do they seat you? It’s the make or break of the experience. The hostess smiled at me and said, “would you like a regular table or would you like to sit at the community table overlooking the kitchen?” WHAT?! You mean, I get to watch the crew without paying for a chef’s table? You’re rewarding me for being alone?! (Well, that’s probably not what she was thinking, but whatever). I almost squealed at the opportunity.

This table overlooks the kitchen and had neat little stacks of books about Charleston. I flipped through

Best Low Country Fine Dining in Charleston, SC

My Favorite Restaurant of All Time – Slightly North of Broad (S.N.O.B) – Charleston, SC

some of them, but was immediately interrupted by a member of the kitchen staff who wanted to see how my evening was going.

This was at least 6 years ago, so I do not remember what I ate. I know, I wish I had a memory that good. But, I’m in the service industry, and that is what stood out to me the most. It’s why it’s my favorite restaurant. They took better care of a solo, not-yet-of-age diner with a very low bill than they would a royal family. It meant so much to me. Over the course of my dinner, multiple members of the kitchen staff stopped by to talk to me.  I left and quickly returned on my next trip to Charleston one year later with my friend, Sam (the same one that asked what my favorite restaurant is!).  This time, I know exactly what I had. My favorite was a Pork Belly appetizer that was the perfect balance of sweet and salty.  The wine was exceptional.  Needless to say, the service paid off, and this time, my tab wasn’t so low!

If you’re ever in the low country, make a stop at S.N.O.B. I hope that it gives you the same feeling it gave me.

And with that – I hope you can discover some great epicurean adventures and share them with me!

Best Local Winery in Ohio!

Wine. @ Powell Village Winery

“People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck