Our pick for today’s happiest of happy hours is the luscious Panama Hat cocktail served at Salsipuedes Restaurant & Bar in the lovely Bristol Panama, a luxurious boutique hotel in Panama City, Panama.

(Notice the Panama hats suspended from ceiling.)

Panama Hats Ceiling Art

Panama Hats Ceiling Art


Invented by bartender Poli (Policarpo), and named for Panama’s iconic head gear—the cocktail is heads and shoulders above other of the city’s cocktails. It’s refreshing, somewhat sweet and full of flavor. 

But don’t take my word for it. Try one with this recipe, which was given to me by Poli himself. 





Yield: one serving.

Ice cubes

1/2 ounce Seco Herrerano

1/4 ounce Mandarine Napoleon Liqueur (or other Mandarin liqueur)

1/2 ounce simple syrup made with fresh ginger

1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

1/2 ounce fresh mandarin juice (tangerines and clementine are mandarins)

Splash club soda

Orange twist, garnish

Fresh mint, garnish

Put ice cubes in a tall glass, filling glass half full. Add all other ingredients except club soda and garnish. Stir gently. Top with club soda. Garnish with a twist of orange peel and fresh mint.  




For more about The Bristol Panama, click HERE.

For more about Salsipuedes, click HERE.

For an iconic Spanish pintxo (upscale tapa) to serve with this cocktail, click HERE.  





Drum roll please.  And the grandest of them all—the winner—the best of the best resort spa in all of Mexico is…ta-da: SE Spa at Grand Velas Riviera Maya.

Not that I’ve been to all the pampering places (unfortunately, something I must correct), but have been to enough to know that this one would be really hard to beat. 

Of course I love the facility, the Water Ceremony and the menu of dreamy treatments. In addition, I adored the refreshments offered while waiting for treatments. I’m talking candy here. More about that later, but first, let me tell you about the pure bliss of the spa pampering.

First comes the incredible Water Ceremony (free for guests who book a spa treatment of 50 minutes or more or $80 for those just wanting to use the spa facilities). 

I double dipped, treatment and ceremony and here’s how it went: 

Walkway to Grand Velas Spa

Reception Desk

I arrived 80 minutes before my treatment appointment, signed in and was greeted by my personal spa valet (yep, there is such a person)

Spa Valet

Men and women have separate facilities at Grand Velas Spa and my valet took me to the dressing room to change into a bathing suit and then on to the woman’s (literally totally hot and really cool) Water Ceremony circuit. First stop: the Sensory Pebble walkway which consisted of two long pebble lined corridors, one hot, the other cold. It was suggested that I walk  three rounds to stimulate the feet and legs, but I only managed one—not feeling warm and fuzzy about cold.

Next I plunged into the super sensational Dynamic Pool which was comfortably warm and outfitted with jets to massage shoulders, neck and back (to help circulate blood) and bubble beds (for super relaxing).

I could have lingered forever, but was eventually guided to a hot tub followed by a (quickie) cold plunge.  Then came the sauna infused with cinnamon for relaxing aromatherapy.  So nice! After heating up in the sauna, I cooled down in the aptly named Ice Room (yipes), then heated up again in a steam room followed by a Sensation Shower—a bi-thermal shower alternated hot and cold sprays. Last stop was the warm Clay Room where I slathered my body with clay and my hair with fragrant seaweed and white tea conditioner to be removed after awhile with a hand-held cool shower.

Each room diffused a different scent (lavender, eucalyptus and lemongrass among them) enveloping the body with relaxing aromatherapy. And the alternating hot-and-cold, sweat-and-shiver experiences balanced body temperature, stimulated circulation and detoxified. 

So surrounded by lovely scents, relaxed, detoxified, with body temperature balanced, hair conditioned, skin smoothed and blood circulating to the max I was shown to a relaxation area to await the spa’s signature Organic Kaab Honey Experience.

I could have stayed in the waiting room for several hours, drinking tea and eating candy, but I was collected for my treatment, which began with a secret ancient Mayan Ritual of healing and concluded with heaven-on-earth massage and tub soak.

I am not going to tell you how divine, pleasurable, fabulous and pampering the treatment was as jealousy can rear its ugly head and there is nothing remotely ugly associated with Grand Velas Spa. Suffice it to say, that the first thing to do when you get to Grand Velas Riviera Maya is book this honey of a treatment.

Although it’s a case of you have to be there to get the full benefit of Grand Velas Spa, here are two ways you can enjoy the spa’s pleasures at home. Grand Velas shared two candy recipes served in the spa’s relaxation/waiting rooms. I have not tested either recipe, but I devoured both candies and can certify  that they promote mind, body and spirit well-being. The Cacao Energy Bites, made with “super foods” are good for the body. The Toffee, enriched with butter, sugar and corn syrup, lusciously feeds the spirt and mind. And both are hot stuff to snack on when you want to chill out (my kind of chill thrill).


16 dried dates

4 cups cashews

½ cup rolled oats

1/3 cup powdered cocoa

7 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon coconut oil

1 teaspoon maca root powder

1 teaspoon acai

For toppings: amaranth, chia, hemp seeds and/or grated coconut

Chop the dates and nuts in a food processor until they are crumbly. Add the oats, cocoa, honey, coconut oil, maca root powder and acai mix well.  Pour the mixture into a bowl and mix until all ingredients are well combined. 

Form mixture into balls a little under an inch in diameter and coat with the topping of your choice.


1-1/2 cups unsalted butter plus additional butter to grease pan

2 cups brown sugar

1/4 cup water

3 tablespoons light corn syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

About 2 cups chopped almonds and/or other nuts, toasted

Butter an 11″ x 17″ baking sheet and place on a heat-proof surface.

Melt the butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium to medium-high heat. Stir in the sugar, water and corn syrup. Stir mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved. Once the mixture comes to a boil, stop stirring. Using a pastry brush dipped in water, wash down the sides of the pan to prevent any undissolved sugar crystals from coming into contact with the syrup. Attach a candy thermometer to the pan (do not allow tip of thermometer to touch the bottom of the pan). Without stirring, continue cooking to 300°F (hard crack stage).

When syrup reaches the hard crack stage, immediately remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour onto the prepared baking sheet. Evenly sprinkle the toffee with chocolate; as soon as the chocolate is melted, spread with a spatula to cover toffee completely. Sprinkle evenly with the toasted nuts.

Cool completely and cut into bite-size pieces.

For more information about the AAA Five Diamond Grand Velas Riviera Maya ultra-luxury resort, click HERE.

For a cocktail recipe from the wonderful Grand Velas in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico, click HERE. 




Friday feels like a fine time to share recipes for cocktails—-TGIF and all that. This is the first in what I hope to be a regular Friday high-spirited heads-up to happy hour featuring one luscious recipe from a hot/cool bar/restaurant.

We start with White Wine Sangria from Mita’s Restaurant/Bar in Cincinnati.

This gorgeous refreshing and unusual sangria seems the perfect summer drink and the recipe is enough to serve a party—big party.

Chef Jose Salazar



The sangria is also classic Mita’s, as Prize winning Chef Jose Salazar fills his 130-seat Cincinnati  restaurant with menu items that are Latin American inspired, beautiful, delicious and creative.

Here let me show you his stunning paella:

So here’s the recipe. Happy happy hour. DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE


For more information about Mita’s click HERE.

For other amazing cocktails click HERE and HERE  and HERE. 



21c Museum Hotels and Granola Recipe

They are contemporary art museums


boutique hotels 


chef-driven restaurants


small shops 

and, almost always, spas.

Of course, I’m talking about 21c Museum Hotels. Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, married art collectors, founded the 21c hotel chain in 2006, opening the first in Louisville, Kentucky. Others followed (more 21c hotels and also a variety of copycat hotels that incorporate art into their offerings). In 2018, the couple sold the 21c chain to AccorHotels, a French-based hospitality company. After the sale, Laura Lee and Steve promised to stay involved, and I sure hope they do, because right now, 21c (for 21st century) Museum Hotels are delightful in every which way.

Today there are eight 21c Museum Hotels and more opening soon. Each property is unique, with contemporary art, cool style and sweet hospitality the brand’s unifying thread.

Here, Let me tell you about 21c Museum Hotel Cincinnati.

The hotel is located in the city’s art-rich central business district and built into a 100 year old structure that was the former Metropole hotel (listed on the National Register of Historic Places). Designers strived to keep the historic character of the grand hotel alive while transforming the space into a stylish 21st-century cultural center.

Much of the hotel’s public space is devoted to art—fun, interesting, thought-provoking, surprising, unsettling, dramatic art in the form of sculptures, paintings, videos, installations, film, photography…well the whole shebang. Art fills walls, halls, floors, ceilings and dedicated galleries, which are open to the public 24/7 with free, docent-led tours on specific days. 

As if to counteract the art’s high-energy pizzazz, the hotel’s 156 guest rooms (some pet friendly) remain subdued and soothing with furniture custom made for comfort and decor colors that run to light natural wood, whites, beiges and grays.

Guest room delights include:  Malin & Goetz bath amenities, a Nespresso coffee machine, a 42 inch HDTV flat screen television, a stocked minibar and free (yes free) Wi-fi. A rubber duckie plus sculptured body parts embedded in a few of the shiny white tiles lining bathroom walls add playful whimsy. I spied a nose, lips, a woman’s breast, an ear and something that looked quite private, but was said to be a collarbone (still not convinced). 

Chef David Kelsey

As with everything associated with 21c Cincinnati, the unpretentious Metropole bar and restaurant pleases on many levels. The bar stocks craft beers and excels in house invented cocktails, bourbons and good wines. Executive Chef David Kelsey fills his menus with farm-fresh dishes described as constructed with a “contemporary take on old world techniques.”






I have to confess that Metropole’s food had me at good morning—or breakfast, where I became addicted to granola with berries and yogurt. Here’s the recipe so you can see why:


Last and but not least, penguins. All 21c hotels have a flock of large penguins made of recycled plastic that guests move about as they desire. Color defines the penguins at each hotel and bright yellow penguins add sunshine happiness to Cincinnati’s space.

Guests can buy the hotel’s signature rubber duckies, body part tiles and penguins in the small shop adjacent to the hotel’s lobby.

For more information about 21c Museum Hotels, click HERE.  

For more information about 21c Museum Hotel Cincinnati, click HERE.

For more information about what to eat in Cincinnati click HERE. 




Tequilas sold in The Market at Grand Residences Riviera Cancun

I was lost, but now I’m found. Lost in a murky, all-is-acceptable-when-it-comes-to-drinking-tequila-sort-of-a-way. But now my cup runneth over with knowledge. I credit Javier Moreno, the charming sommelier at the Grand Residences Riviera Cancun resort (located on the Caribbean coast of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula). Javier conducted a tequila tasting seminar for a few guests of the resort and, like the resort itself, the seminar couldn’t be better. Nor could the tequilas that we sipped and sampled in the tasting. (Thank you Javier). 

In the spirit of generosity, here are takeaways from the classy class. Of course, you’ll have to provide your own tequila for tasting, or even better (much much much better), get yourself to Grand Residences Riviera Cancun and do your tasting surrounded by resort glory.

Villas at Grand Residences Riviera Cancun

Javier says: 

1. Tequila is distilled from the juice of blue agave plants. 

2. The best tequila comes in bottles labeled “100% de agave” or “100% Puro De Agave Azul.” Labels stating just “tequila” contain a mix of agave and various sugars. Check labels. Buy and drink 100 percent blue agave tequila. 

3. Tequilas are classified according to age. Blanco is not aged or aged only up to two months. Reposado is barrel aged, but not more that a year. Añejo sits in a barrel for at least a year, but no more than three years. Extra Añejo describes tequila aged three years or more. Tequila takes on color, flavor, smoothness and price as it ages. 

4. Some people drink shots in 2-ounce “caballito” glasses. Not Javier. He is picky picky picky about glasses and about shots. He claims that glasses for tasting superior tequilas should be as finely crafted as good wine glasses and brandy snifters. High-quality tequilas are best appreciated when slowly sipped from glasses large enough to allow fragrances to be released and flavors to unfold. 

5. As to shots with salt and lime. No. No. NO. Tequila aficionados don’t go the shot/salt/lime route.

6. Steps to tasting prime tequila: Pour a small amount of tequila into an appropriate large and finely made glass. Notice the color of the tequila by holding the glass over a white background. Tip the glass and notice the “tears” or legs; If the tears are slow to dissipate, the alcohol level is high. Swirl the tequila in the glass. Then sniff, first at one edge of the glass, then in the center, and then above. Take your time. Take a sip. Swish a bit in the mouth. Swallow. Take a breath. Try another sip for a more developed flavor. 

Javier Moreno sniffing, sipping, smiling.

7. Don’t drink too fast. 

8. Don’t drink too much. 

9. As to Mezcal—being made from the agave plant, all tequilas are mezcals, but not all mezcals are tequilas. Confusing huh? Unlike tequila, mezcals are made from a variety of agave plants and have distinct smoky flavor due to the processing method of roasting in pit ovens.

10. Blanco tequilas are fine to use in mixed drinks being inexpensive and sporting a strong agave flavor. Which brings us (at last and never least) to the ever-popular margarita. Javier says that he favors the habanero margarita, so I scored Grand Residences’s recipe for you. 

Word of warning, habaneros are a very hot variety of chili pepper. To tame the heat, Grand Residences seeps the peppers in simple syrup to make habanero margaritas.


Yield: one serving.

2 lime wedges, divided

Tajín  (a seasoning mix of chili peppers, salt and dehydrated lime juice) (See NOTE)

2 ounces blanco tequila

1 ounce fresh lime juice

1 ounce triple sec or other orange-flavored liqueur

1 ounce habanero simple syrup (recipe follows)

Rub one of the lime wedges around the rim of a rocks glass. Put tajín in a small bowl and dip rim of glass in the tajín to coat rim. Shake off excess Tajín.  Fill glass with ice.

Put tequila, lime juice, triple sec and habanero syrup into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into prepared glass. Garnish with remaining lime wedge.


1 cup sugar

1 cup water 

2 habaneros, each halved

Put ingredients in a small saucepan and set over low heat. Cook and stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Set saucepan aside to cool. Strain syrup into a jar, removing habanero pieces. Cover jar and refrigerate until ready to use.







To make a tequila mojito margarita, click HERE.

To make tequila infusions for flavored margaritas, click HERE

To make a Loopy Lu with mango-flavored tequila, click HERE




For those who have never been to San Sebastián, Spain, put it on your bucket list. If you have already been—then you know. You’ll return.

What makes the city so appealing?

Food, glorious food, and more food.

Of course the setting is lovely. Once a small fishing village, San Sebastián now spreads from the sea up over verdant hill-like mountains and offers a cornucopia of tourist pleasures that includes: unusually beautiful urban beaches,

graceful promenades and pedestrian-only streets,

Belle Époque architecture and enough museums, monuments and activities

to win the title of European Capital of Culture, 2016.  

But the city amenities provide only a tidbit of San Sebastián’s draw. Food is the main magnet. 

The region boasts more Michelin star restaurants per capita than nearly any other area in the world and is considered the epicenter showcase of avant-garde cuisine. 

Superstars of San Sebastian’s Gastronomy

But it’s not even the overload of palaces of haute cuisine that makes San Sebastián a gastronomic goldmine.

Foodies love San Sebastián pintxos (pronounced “peen-chos”). These high-flavor, low-cost, two-bite size snacks, often described as upscale Spanish tapas, were born in San Sebastián and the city remains the best place on earth to sample the bounty.

Bar after bar, especially in Old Town, stack their counters with the little culinary jewels and the local custom is to enjoy a movable feast, going place to place devouring one or two pintxos along with a small drink.

Favorite beverages include zurito (a small beer), txakoli, a semi-sparkling young white wine, and cider, that bartenders pour from a high arching curve hitting the bullseye of a small glass. 

Pintxos translates “to poke or skewer” thus some of the pintxos are skewered on wooden picks. Others towered on a base of bread. Some are hot. Some are cold. Some are fancy (think foie gras, fish cheeks that all time delicious old cow) and some are simple to the core (for example the iconic Gilda, served in every bar). 

Gilda pintxos show up in most San Sebastian pintxo bars.

Whatever the individual pintxo’s characteristics, it takes on added pleasure when enjoyed in an atmosphere of congenial chaos of a San Sebastian bar.


Like its namesake, Rita Hayworth’s femme fatale character in the movie Gilda, this pintxo is bold and spicy, well-put together and well-loved. The blend of salty spicy flavors plus the ease of preparation make the Gilda a perfect party appetizer. 

To make the Gilda: skewer Guindilla peppers, Cantabrian anchovies and Manzanilla olives onto a wooden cocktail pick and serve. That’s all there is to it. Easy. Delicious.

The three ingredients can be purchased in jars or tins, online or in food stores that specialize in Spanish products. Be sure to order the real things:

Guindilla peppers, the traditional pepper of the Basque region, are yellowish-green with a narrow, elongated shape. They are typically pickled in  white wine vinegar and sold in jars.

Cantabrian anchovies are wild-caught in the spring in the waters of the Cantabrian Sea. They are cured in a brine of water, fat and sea salt and then hand-filleted and packed in olive oil in glass jars or tins.

Manzanilla olives are plump, lightish green olives— the best of which are handpicked in Andalusia, pitted and packed in glass jars or tins in a high-quality brine. They are sometimes sold stuffed. If you buy the stuffed variety, poke out the stuffing before skewering the olive in the Gilda.

And now:

Where to stay in San Sebastián: Hotel Maria Cristina

Favorite places to eat in San Sebastián:

The Michelin three-star Arzak 

and the great pintxos bar

La Cuchara de San Telmo 





Of all the travel products and paraphernalia that Sweet Leisure sampled and scrutinized lately, two rise to the surface like cream. Take one to the beach, the other on the road. But before I tell you about these useful products, I have to add a disclaimer. These are not ads. I am not paid (Damn!).



is strong, sophisticated and stylish, but even better, it’s practical. Here is a good looking beach bag that offers enough space for towels, sunscreen, wine, books, picnic edibles (cookie recipe below), and other beach essentials. As to the unique part, the bag has a woven-base that sheds sand, crumbs, dirt like a sieve. Put it on the sand. Unpack. Repack. Pick it up and the sand (and other small particles), flow out the bottom of the bag. NICE!  And once home, the bag folds for easy storage. A tote that gets our vote. For more information, click HERE.



is a multi-useful tool to jump start most cars, trucks, SUV’s, ATVs…well…just about any vehicle including motorcycles and can be used on boats and lawnmowers to boot. The cables are tucked into a compact heavy-duty carrying case that includes a powerful 330 Lumen LED flashlight and a Power Bank for charging mobil phones, tablets, cameras and other travel necessities. Cool, compact and multi-useful, the JUMPSMART can help cope with a variety of emergencies when on the road. Safe and sound all around. For more information, click HERE.

And now to add to your gear to go—a cookie to take to the beach, on a road trip or enjoy any time you want a sweet that is awesomely delicious, easy to make and good for the body as well as the spirit.


Yield: About 20 cookies.

3 ripe bananas

About 1-1/2 cups oats

About 2/3 cup chocolate chips

About 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Puree bananas in a blender. Transfer puree to a bowl. Stir in enough oats to make a dough that is moist, but not runny (amount of oats depends on size of bananas). Throw in a generous handful of chocolate chips and nuts. Drop 1 heaping tablespoon mounds of dough onto parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Press top of mounds to flatten and press lightly around edges to make compact. Bake at 350°F until deep golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool slightly before removing from parchment paper. The cookies are good eaten warm, at room temperature, or frozen—without thawing.


Ta-Da! Drum roll please! And now, dear readers, I’m going to share my secret family recipe for the best ever (really really succulent and delicious) sugar baked holiday ham.


Yield: Plan on serving 1/2 to 3/4 pound per person, but buy enough to have leftovers. This ham makes fabulous bean soup and sandwiches. (See NOTE below)

1 large, bone-in, fully cooked ham (or half a fully cooked, bone-in ham)

Whole anise seed


Granulated Sugar

Preheat oven to 325°F. 

If necessary, trim any tough skin and excess fat from ham, leaving about 1/4-inch fat around ham. Cutting through fat and slightly into meat, score top of ham in a diamond pattern and place ham, scored side up on a rack in a large roasting pan. (If roasting half a ham, place it on the rack cut side down.)

Add 1 inch water to bottom of roasting pan (water can touch bottom of ham). Sprinkle ham generously with anise seed, paprika and sugar.

Place roasting pan in 325°F oven and bake for 30 minutes. Then open door of oven and baste ham generously with water from pan. Again sprinkle ham with anise seed, paprika and sugar. Continue baking, basting and sprinkling with anise seed, paprika and sugar every half hour or so until ham is browned, glistening with sugar glaze and warm throughout. (As a general rule, bake about 18 to 22 minutes per pound. Remember the ham is fully cooked, you are just heating it.)

Let ham rest 15 minutes before slicing.


NOTE: Dill Mustard makes a super addition to cold ham sandwiches. (Click HERE for recipe).








Love food? Headed to Cincinnati? Lucky you. 

Forget your diet. Cincinnati is the place to gorge, gobble and gluttonize on high-fat, low-cost and pig-out delicious specialities. Whatever you do in the city—wherever you go, be sure to sample:


There is nothing like this chili anyplace else in the world. Unlike traditional chili, the Cincinnati version lacks beans and heat and is almost never served by itself in a bowl. The semi-sweet concoction shows up on top of unflavored spaghetti buried under a mound of shredded Cheddar. Some swear chocolate is responsible for the chili’s unique flavor. Others say cinnamon. I say, who cares. Just give me more. I thought Cincinnati chili would be an acquired taste, and I was correct. I acquired the taste at first bite.

Although a slew of restaurants and chili parlors make Cincinnati chili, I like the  3-, 4- or 5-ways served at Skyline Chili. (Three is just spaghetti, chili and cheese. Four adds beans or chopped onions and the five adds beans and onions.)

 While at Skyline, you must try the Cheese Coney, a hot dog topped with mustard, chili, cheese and onion. OMG good!!! While waiting for a chili order to arrive, locals load up on “cracker bombs,” made by splashing hot sauce over oyster crackers. Go figure.



Hand-crafted French Pot ice cream from Graeter’s can seduce even rigid dieters. 

Flavorwise, black raspberry chocolate chip ranks first in popularity. I prefer the cookie dough chocolate chip because both chunks of cookie dough and chocolate manage to stay soft and chewable despite being encased in cold. Truth be told, it doesn’t really matter what you choose— black raspberry, cookie dough, salted caramel, Oregon strawberry, toffee chocolate chip, etc.—all of Graeter’s  creamy, dreamy incarnations delight.


Gotta try it. Developed in Cincinnati’s German community as a way to stretch a scant supply of sausage, Goetta (pronounced GET-uh), is a sort of cold meatloaf made of ground pork combined with steel-cut oats and seasonings. The loaf is sliced into thin patties and fried until crispy brown outside and melting rich inside. One can find goetta on menus at various diners and breakfast places throughout the city and folks can buy goetta to cook at home at most all Cincinnati supermarkets and grocery stores.



Although this famous thick and tangy wow of a sauce (tomato based with garlic, onions, molasses and spices) is sold in supermarkets and online, the very best place to try it is slathered over ribs at The Original Montgomery Inn and/or The Montogomery Inn Boathouse. Great ribs. Great sauce. Great fun.



United Dairy Farmers (UDF) is a chain of convenience stores that started out selling dairy products in 1940 and, today, sports 170 outlets spread over three states, most selling gas. What UDFs have in luscious common is ice cream, with an emphasis on handmade milkshakes and old-fashioned malts. Although UDF’s classic strawberry shake took “best in the Buckeye State” honors, I say their chocolate malt ranks as my personal favorite. Go ahead. Try both. Make up your own mind.


One photo is worth a thousand words.



Maverick’s co-founders, Paul and Marlene Picton, start from scratch in producing their prize-winning chocolate. Scratch means sourcing the beans from around the world, then taking every step necessary to turn the beans into luscious bars, truffles and drinking chocolate. I suggest visitors stop at the Maverick Chocolate Co. shop/factory in Findlay Market to sample and savor, although one can buy Maverick Chocolates online to devour at home—wherever in the world home is. (Oh the glory of online shopping!)

Paul Picton


In addition to Maverick Chocolates, Findlay Market merchants sell a rich variety of locally sourced, artisanal and speciality foods and craft products. Findlay is the oldest continuously operated public market in Ohio and well worth a visit. Best way to explore Findlay is on a Cincinnati Food Tour led by Barb Cooper. Barb makes sure her “clients” find and sample the best of the bounty.

Barb Cooper


If I could only choose one restaurant to try in the cornucopia of Cincinnati’s best, I would pick Mita’s. James Beard Nominated Chef Jose Salazar’s interpretation of Latin American and Spanish dishes shine in Mita’s  pretty, casual, upscale dining room. Perhaps it’s the pitcher of white sangria that preceded my meal, but I loved everything I ordered from the freshest ever jicama and green mango salad to the octopus with potatoes and potato foam to the paella.

Jose Salazar


The drinking crowd will find Japp’s Bar particularly interesting, primarily because it’s owned by the exuberant, colorful, delightful Molly Wellman, the Queen City’s recognized “queen of cocktails.” A historian, Molly whips up historic cocktails as well as contemporary craft concoctions. Although the bar is staggeringly good on its own, Molly adds a unique spirit that’s positively intoxicating.

Molly Wellman




So here is  the way I was told to drink the Comfortably Numb cocktail served at Union 30, a restaurant located inside the smashing Hotel Saint Louis. 

See that little bud sitting in a white dish at the side of the drink? It’s a Szechuan button flower. I was told to eat the button and then take a soothing sip of cocktail.  Can’t believe I listened. That bud packs a whole lot of OMG-hot into a nibble.

Take a bite and your mouth feels hit by lighting—as if you stuck your tongue in an electrical outlet—as if you bit into a cherry bomb…no… make that a hand grenade. You grab the cocktail and gulp, then your mouth goes comfortably numb.

Truth be told, it’s not really the drink that eases the pain. It’s the button doing the damage and then the numbing. In some circles this crazy plant is known as the toothache plant due to the eventual numbing qualities when chewed.

When consumed together, the button and cocktail are no less than explosively enjoyable, agonizingly delightful and miserably marvelous. But just as the button can numb without the cocktail, two or three cocktail can make everything well…beautifully numb without the preceding pain. See for yourself. The Union 30 bartender gave me the recipe:





Yield: one serving.

2 ounces Hendricks Gin

3/4 ounces St-Germain (elderflower liqueur)

3/4 ounce Curacao (orange-flavored liqueur)

1/2 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice

1/2 ounce white grape juice

1 Schezwan button flower 

Put all ingredients except button in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Serve with the Schezwan button flower on the side.