Cincinnati looks decked out for the holidays. From the tree in Fountain Square to twinkling lights everywhere, Queen City is ready to welcome Santa, the New Year, or just bring a little light to the darkest days of the year.
It’s also a time when the average American gains seven pounds. It’s easy to overdo yourself between Christmas cookies, company parties and family celebrations.
And if you’re enjoying too much, you’d better make sure it’s worth it. So let me share with you a few Cincinnati traditions to indulge in to ensure your seven pound weight gain is well deserved.
Doscher’s candy canes
Created by Claus Doscher in 1871, Doscher’s candy canes (with peppermint oil, not with artificial flavors) are as old-fashioned as you can get. While the Doscher family sold the business to Greg and Ronna Clark in 2003, the candy canes and pieces are still handcrafted on site along with the nougat-like French Chew. You can visit their store to collect your candy canes, candy cane slices, gourmet French holiday kauminis and Christmas candy buttons from their retail store in an 1835 farmhouse in Newtown or online at doscherscandies.com.
Lunch in Boca (pictured above)
Boca only serves lunch during the holidays and relies heavily on the French influence of previous tenant The Maisonette for the lunch menu. It offers favorite dishes from the evening menu as well as special lunch dishes, including a starter serving of scallops and Brussels sprouts; Oeufs mayonnaise with mustard, specially imported from France by chef David Falk for this dish; the Boca burger (with heavenly crispy fries); and their popular Wellington beef. Take a look at the snail de “Marcia”, a traditional Burgundy snail with garlic butter, parsley and breadcrumbs, which is also the favorite dish of Chef Falk’s mother and is exclusively on the festive menu.
During lunch there are also donuts from the sister restaurant Sotto, which are rolled in Christmas spices and served with pistachio, caramel and cranberry sauces. Lunch in Boca has become a tradition for many, be it for an office lunch or a special lunch with friends or family over the Christmas period.
Virginia Bakery Snails
Credit Julie Niesen / WVXU
For much of the mid-20th century, the neighborhoods of Cincinnati were littered with bakeries where residents could get bread and candy for the week. Wyoming Bakery, Bonomoni Bakery and St. Lawrence Bakery are just a few of these traditional bakeries, but the best known is the Virginia Bakery.
Virginia Bakery was located in Ludlow in the Gaslight District of Clifton and was owned by the Thie family. William Thie owned a commercial bakery in downtown Cincinnati, and his eldest son, Bill, opened the Virginia Bakery in 1927. It was in operation for over 75 years, with snails being the most popular product.
Schnecken, in case you don’t know it, means “snails” in German and refers to the shape of the pastry, which is filled with cinnamon, sugar and raisin dough and rolled, then cut and baked in a loaf of three “snails”. ” The large amount of butter and sugar caramelize during baking, making a sticky cake that has become a Cincinnati tradition.When Virginia Bakery closed in 2005, Cincinnatians were in an uproar – where should they get their snails from?
Fear not: Busken Bakery, another local family-owned bakery (which happened to open in 1928 the year after Virginia Bakery) bought the recipe from Virginia Bakery and bakes 240 snails at a time each Christmas time for sale in their bakeries and grocery store Stores across town, in a Virginia Bakery box tied with ribbon.
Servatiis German Christmas cookies
Cincinnati’s German heritage includes many baked goods. Servatii continues the tradition of German grandmas of yesteryear with its range of German Christmas cookies. My grandma was one of the German bakers mentioned above, and although I have all of her recipes, I’m not a baker, so if I want her cookies I go to Servatii. There, anise-colored Springerlekse are sold, which are either pressed with a specially carved rolling pin or into a Springerle form. They have almond croissant biscuits (sometimes also called wedding biscuits) coated with powdered sugar, German spiced biscuits (Speckulatius), pepper nuts (spiced biscuits with aniseed) as well as Stollen, a cake filled with fruits and almonds.
What’s your favorite food in Cincinnati? Let me know on Twitter @winemedineme or the 91.7 WVXU Facebook page. And have a nice Christmas time – I can’t wait to have dinner with you in the New Year!