Friday, January 23, 2015

Explore the Jungle

You’ve never properly gone grocery shopping until you visit Jungle Jim’s International Market in Fairfield. Walk in the main entrance to be greeted by an animated corn on the cob and stick of butter. From there you’ll see animated characters throughout the store, like Elvis in the candy section or make a trip to Sherwood Forest to see Robin Hood. Jungle Jim’s is pure entertainment from the moment you walk in!

The goal Jungle Jim had in mind when creating the grocery store was that grocery shopping is boring, why not make it more fun? That’s exactly what he did! By incorporating food from around the world, animatronic characters, interesting displays, like the old Coney Island bumper cars being used for candy displays, and more, you don’t even feel like you’re grocery shopping. The restrooms are even award winning with their porta potta exteriors but with regular bathroom facilities with multiple stall interiors.

Not only can you get your grocery shopping done at Jungle Jim’s but you can get all your pets needs taken care of too! Taking about an hour-long tour around the store is a must to get insider information and even get a few samples! Here ten tidbits from Jungle John that you can learn more about on the tour: 
  1. Jungle Jim’s has 6.5 acres of land
  2. There are 13,000 labels of wine sold 
  3. 180,000 unique products are offered
  4. Approximately 100 different types of olives are available 
  5. 33,000 pickles are sold each year
  6. 1,500 different kinds of cheeses are available 
  7. Similarly, there are 1,500 different hot sauces
  8. 2,200 kitchen gadgets are available at the Gourmet Galeria 
  9. 30 different types of apples are available in October
  10. 60-70 different countries are represented with items for sale including Fiji, Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica and more!
Another great reason to visit Jungle Jim’s is for their festivals, like the Big Cheese Festival on February 7-8. Really, who doesn’t love a festival devoted to all things cheese?

Want to know the top 10 cheese sold? Here you go!
·       Blue Stilton
·       Brie
·       Cheddar
·       Gruyere
·       Jarlsberg
·       Parmesan Reggiano
·       Pecorino Romano
·       Raclette
·       Sartori Merlot Bellavitano
·       Smoked Gouda

Out of these 10, cheddar is always a crowd favorite. You can change it up and do a flavored cheddar like the spicy cheddars, garlic, horseradish, smoked, cranberry, blueberry and pepperoni. There are also aged cheddars as well, ranging anywhere from a six month cheddar to a twelve year cheddar.

Or, if you’re looking for something different, try one of these unique cheeses: Rouge River Blue, a blue made with only the summer milk and wrapped with syrah leaves, teleme cheese-cow's milk, soft creamy cheese, tangy, covered in rice flour. Or beehive cheeses cheddar-like cheeses wrapped in unique flavors like barely buzzed espresso and lavender. You could even go for seahive honey and sea-salt and teahive which is covered in bergamot and tea. 

You can also go in another direction besides cheese with the large selection of charcuterie, or prepared meat. Polish, German, Italian, Spanish and French are just a few of the meat styles carried and there is also unique butter from America and Europe. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Get Hit by Cupid’s Arrow!

It’s that romantic time of year where all you can see is red and pink and the roses are plentiful, Valentine’s Day! How are you and your sweetie spending the day devoted to love? What’s more romantic than flowers, candy and cooking together?

With a focus on local growers and using the freshest in-season product, Two Little Buds florist in Hamilton loves what they do and it shows through their designs. With typically over 100 deliveries made for Valentine’s Day you know the bouquets are beautiful. And not only do they specialize in roses for Valentine’s Day, but other top ordered flowers like carnations, orchids and tulips. And, you can’t help but love their mascot!

Or, you can check out West Chester’s Petals & Things florist. Serving the Greater Cincinnati area, Petals & Things is a proudly owned and operated family business. Their specialty, creative and elegant designs, who could ask for more for their sweet’s Valentine’s Day bouquet?

Another perfect Valentine’s Day surprise is a box, or two, of chocolates from Esther Price in West Chester. Straight from Esther Price’s Director of Marketing, Sandy Brielmaier, “Forget red roses, your Valentine wants Esther Price fine chocolates instead!    Although the 1 lb. mixed assorted box is their most popular box on an everyday basis, at Valentine’s Day they sell thousands of Valentine heart boxes packed with all milk, all dark or an assortment of milk and dark premium chocolates. They offer a myriad of Valentine heart sizes and designs; some perfect for kids to give their teachers, red velvet or pink satin ones for female Valentines, and still others specifically designed for the male recipient. Looking for solid chocolate foiled hearts – they have them too, as well as Valentine cards and other hand-packed gift items. Know exactly what types of chocolate your Valentine likes? Why not get her (or him) a custom packed box with just exactly the chocolate pieces your Valentine likes? They can hand pack a box or a Valentine heart to make the perfect gift!

Esther Price is a premium chocolate manufacturer, distributor and retailer. They make all of their chocolates at their Dayton, Ohio facility producing over one-half million boxes of candy per year. They have seven retail stores, three in Cincinnati and four in Dayton. Esther Price fine chocolates are also sold in a number of Dayton and Cincinnati area grocery stores and can be purchased on-line at or by calling 855-3-ESTHER. Visit Esther Price’s newest retail store located at 8621 North Pavillion Blvd. near the intersection of Union Centre Blvd and 747 (513-860-0907).”

Finally, cooking together, what a cozy idea for a little Valentine’s Day celebration! At The Spicy Olive in West Chester you can find "heart healthy" gifts for Valentine's Day and combo packs with recipes and Valentine themes like “I'm hot for you" with spicy oils or "you are my Honey" with Honey Ginger balsamic vinegar. Getting these gifts is the perfect start for your at home Valentine’s Day.

And, if you prefer to cook outside of your kitchen, join the Valentine themed cooking class at the West Chester store on February 5 with Chef Alfio Gulisano at 6:30 p.m. Or come in to sample products. It’s a great date night to taste and make different combinations until you find your favorites to purchase. You can also check out Uncorked while visiting. Couples can also do wine tastings on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon in addition to balsamic vinegar and olive oil tastings! It is a great date night destination!

There are also several restaurants where you can enjoy your Valentine's Day weekend:

The Brandywine Inn (Monroe) – Reservations required for their Valentine’s Day Menu with seating times at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Friday, February 13, and Saturday, February 14. Please call 513-779-4747 or 513-539-8911 for reservations or more information.

Hueston Woods Lodge (Oxford) – Reservations are recommended for the Menu San Valentino on Friday, February 13, and Saturday, February 14 from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Please call the Trailblazer Dining Room at 513-664-3527 to make your reservations.

Jag’s Steak & Seafood (West Chester) – Enjoy a twist on a traditional Valentine’s Day with the Valentine’s Murder Mystery Dinner. Reservations required for the event on Thursday, February 12, at 6:30 p.m. by calling Natalie Holbert at 513-860-5353, Ext. 23.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How much do you know?

Are you a Butler County pro? Do you know where to find all of the Butler County attractions, restaurants, historical sites and venues? We’ve compiled just a few of what you can find in Butler County, use the pictures and hints to guess what each place is and where in Butler County to find it. Good luck!

1.     This spot is not only full of trees, but has a museum on the grounds focusing on all things ancient.

2.     Cozy up at this place on a comfy couch and enjoy an espresso, a tasty lunch and a good read.

3.    Yee-haw! Ladies can find all of their fashion with a Western flair at this charming boutique.

4.    This home was converted into a modern restaurant featuring Japanese cuisine.

5.     Think about warmth for this summer attraction, where the waves can be high but the jumps can be brutal.

6.    Taking you back in time, this house, part of the Amish/Mennonite settlement in Butler County, was home to the Augspurger family.

7.     Another site to dust off the history books, this historical pioneer village was the birthplace of Ohio’s nineteenth governor. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

BC Pub Crawl

New year, new beer! A lot of New Year’s resolutions involve trying new things and expanding your horizons. Why not follow that mindset with trying out new pubs and new beers? That’s exactly what a BC pub crawl can accomplish by exploring a few of Butler County’s pubs throughout the communities of West Chester, Hamilton and Oxford. 

Dingle House Irish Pub & Grub in West Chester is the first stop on the pub crawl. Decorated with stone archways and heavy, traditional wood, you almost feel like you’re entering an actual Irish pub. The paintings of castles in the back part of the restaurant add to the old-world feel and make you want to order a Guinness right away, because of these Irish touches, Guinness is actually one of the most popularly ordered beers as customers associate Irish with Guinness. Local craft beers are also very high on the most ordered list with Rhinegeist taking the lead; others include Mad Tree and Mt. Carmel. You’ll find a wide variety of beers with favorites changing seasonally, during the Winter, winter lagers and spicier beers are more ordered while in Spring, IPAs are more common.

On to the next stop, Trinity Pub, also in West Chester, you’ll find a cozy atmosphere with dark wood and stone fireplace. Take a seat at the bar, a high top table or even the outdoor area that’s covered in the winter to keep you warm. Trinity Pub is another place where you’ll almost feel like you’re in a European pub with the low lighting and variety of craft beers for you to try.
Ryan’s Tavern in downtown Hamilton is next! Continuing with another Irish pub, the wood throughout the pub’s décor and the teileafón, Irish phone booth, will make you ready to toast and drink a beer. Over the holidays, Ryan’s top seller was Great Lakes Christmas, even though four kegs were ordered they were out by Thanksgiving! Local favorites you can find include Mad Tree and Mt. Carmel and other crafts beers like Sierra Nevada Celebration, Rogue Yellow Snow and Dogfish Head Nightmare Before Christmas are top sellers. Don’t miss their new feature either, Guinness Blonde.

Situated in the heart of Miami University Oxford’s college town, Quarter Barrel Brewery & Pub is the final pit stop. Not only can you enjoy a variety of beers in their bar area, in front of the pub there’s outdoor seating. This hot spot for Miami RedHawks is the perfect ending pub where you can also fill up on a tasty pizza while sipping on craft beer.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Butler County Winter Road Trip

Who said road trips are only for the summer? Winter’s the perfect time to enjoy indoor activities and events, so let’s pack up, gas up and hit the road!

First stop, the Fairfield Community Arts Center for a night of music on Saturday, January 24, with the Guys with Guitars: One Stage Series. Starting in 2011, Doug Wood had the goal to “present regionally touring musicians who have developed their own solo careers” with a focus on performing in Ohio. With this concept in mind, he and other musicians, currently Darren Frate and Patrick Woods, can display their solo skills then combine to create an entertaining and diverse show with a variety of music. Audience interaction and a fun environment is key for these three artists.

You can expect to hear a rock meets jazz sound from Doug Wood

Darren Frate mixes it up by playing the bass like a guitar 

Patrick Woods jams from a finger style guitar.

Then, let’s test out your skills on the ice rink at Goggin Ice Center where the Miami University RedHawks show off their hockey moves. When the ice rink is open to the public, there are approximately 12,000 ice skaters throughout the year and about 90% of visitors rent there are approximately 10,800 skate rentals per year! Take a break when the Zambonis are doing their work and cleaning up the ice, the two ice resurfacers make approximately 15-20 ice cuts per day on the 2 sheets of ice.
Keeping the competition going, next stop at The WEB Extreme Entertainment. The games, go karts, indoor putt putt, mini bowling and laser tag make it easy to tally up the scores and have a lot of fun. For all those sci-fi enthusiasts, picking out which laser tag vest you want to wear will be half the battle! Are you more of a Jabba or a Khan?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Foodie Feature: Steak & Seafood in Butler County

Who doesn’t love a decadent meal of steak and seafood? Biting in to a juicy filet or cracking open a crab shell are two of the best things about fine dining.

With a visit to Jag’s Steak & Seafood your taste buds will never be the same. Filets topped with onion straws and so tender you can cut them with a butter knife, how could you not go back? And, as voted by OpenTable Diners, Jag’s is one of the 2014 Best Steakhouses in America out of 20,000 restaurants from across the country.

Another top steak spot with a more casual flair is Dakota’s in Oxford, bringing the bold flavors of the Southwest to Southwest Ohio. Start your meal out with the most popularly ordered appetizers like the ultimate cheese fries, boneless and original wings or nachos. Known for their fun promotions every night and picking from delicious meals like steak, rib, burgers and prime rib on Friday-Sunday, Dakota’s is proud to “hand-cut our USDA Certified Sirloins & Ribeyes daily from specially-aged-beef and grill-to-order over an open-flame".

On the seafood side of things, with a tag line like "Fish any fresher would still be in the ocean!!!" how can you not expect to be blown away with shrimp and crab and lobster, oh my! Mitchell’s Fish Market puts the “fresh” in fresh catch; you can even see part of the kitchen and the seafood offerings you’ll be enjoying.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Explore: EnterTRAINment Junction

EnterTRAINment Junction
All aboard the insider track to EnterTRAINment Junction! Not only is the 25,000 sq. ft. train display an attraction of its own, but the extra interactions with the display take the experience over the top and make you feel like you’re part of the exhibit instead of just viewing it.

If you love adding a challenge to any experience, be sure to pick up a Can You Find? sheet at the Gift Shop. On the Engineer’s Edition, there are 30 items listed for you to hunt and find throughout the exhibit as well as a note to keep an eye out for the 10 dinosaurs hidden through the display. Ranging from 15 cannons lined up to 4 yellow ducklings on a pond to a policeman eating a donut, this just adds a little game and a little more fun to your trip.
Another extra touch to your walk through the display are the floor stickers and wall posters pointing out interesting facts to help you further appreciate the complexity of the train display. Some of the facts talk about the over 60,000 hours put in by volunteers for portions of the display and other stickers discuss some of the structures being replicated after actual past and present structures. Did you know that the highest mountain in the train display is over 16’?