Archive for April, 2011

April 26, 2011

A ticket to good taste: Please and Phro*Zen tasting dinner

Hello there friends! We’ve been busy. With what, you ask? Oh, you’ll see. But first, let me tell you about a little event we’re hosting along with Park+Vine, and Please catering.

Saturday May 14th 6p.m.

Park+Vine on Main St.

If you buy your ticket (there are a limited number to keep it fire code friendly of course), you’ll be joining some fellow tasters in a completely vegan experience including Phro*Zen ice cream, complimentary culinary creations by Please, and coffee pairings provided by Park+Vine.

That’s right. An entirely vegan upscale ice cream social of sorts. I’m not going to give away any of the flavor combinations or anything, but believe me, you’ll want to be there. If you read our post about Please’s dinner on April 1st, you know it’ll be an experience you and your tastebuds won’t soon forget.

So where do you get your ticker? Park+Vine of course! Go down and head to the register, where you can buy your ticket and say hello to a friendly P+V associate. Join us, won’t you Please? ; )

More soon my dears! For now, love, Meg.

April 19, 2011

Adventures with Ida and an invitation to you

I would like to take this particular blog opportunity to introduce you to one of my four-legged friends, Ida.

Ida’s smiling at you.

If you follow us on Twitter, you know a little bit about her already, seeing as a lot of my tweets seem to focus on our craft time together (and by craft time I of course mean she just puts up with me being in the same room with whatever I’m doing, and sighs when I show her what I’ve done). A few of you might have even met her, as she’s often at the other end of a leash on her way downtown to Park+Vine with me. But for those of you that don’t know Ida, here’s a little bit about her (this is leading up to a bigger point, I promise).

Ida is about two years old, and she’s an adopted greyhound. A few months back, Derek (taste-tester and boyfriend o’ mine) searched through a whole bunch of websites, breeders, adoption organizations, etc. for a greyhound. He’d always wanted one, and while I wasn’t exactly thrilled at the thought of one more responsibility at a time when I was holding a full-time job and running Phro*Zen, I am so glad we got Ida.
Derek found her through the Greyhound Pets of America (Greater Cincinnati division) adoption program, where she was taken from the race track, to a foster home, to an adoptive home that was right for her – which happened to be Derek’s!
Now, even though I spend a good portion of my day alone, running around Cincinnati, and doing whatever I have to do that day, I’ve got Ida to hang out with. We go to Park+Vine together, we go for rides in my car, and we go to Neon’s for a drink at the end of a long day.
So many smells to smell.

So, you must be wondering why Im writing about a greyhound, no? Well, first off, she is not just any greyhound – she rocks. Secondly, the organization we got her through is having a fundraiser at Neons on the 29th of April in order to raise funds so that more greyhounds can go from the track to loving homes, and more people will get to adopt these great animals. Ida will be there, as will I, armed with an ice cream scoop and plenty of Phro*Zen for those that attend. You don’t have to buy tickets or anything, just show up from 5 to 9 pm at Neo’s on April 29th, and maybe donate the dollar you save at happy hour to the group. Ida would love to meet you, you can bring your dog if youve got one, eat some good food and drink great cocktails. There will be some pretty cool two-legged friends there, too! Please join us?Come see Ida at Neon’s 5-9 on April 29!

April 15, 2011

April Isn’t Just Earth Month…

…it’s also Autism Awareness Month. I personally have seen plenty of public awareness ads about autism, even read a few chapters about it in one of my psychology courses in college, but when it came down to writing this, I had to do a whole lot of research about what exactly autism is. Unfortunately, that sense of confusion about the condition is not uncommon in modern medicine, either.

While I don’t know anyone affected by autism, the prevalence of the disorder is increasing with each passing year, so it’s unlikely that that will remain the case for long. According to the Center For Disease Control (CDC) in 2007, autism affected 1 in every 150 births. That seems like an awfully high and worrisome number to me, especially considering that the cause of the disorder is thus far unclear.

From what I understand (and it really isn’t much aside from a general idea), autism doesn’t affect just one group or another based on any one characteristic. It does, however, affect boys more often than it does girls, and there seem to be some genetic connections.

As far as the symptoms, autism is a spectrum disorder, so the extent to which the social and communication skills are affected is dependent on the severity of the disorder. Just as each person with autism is unique, so is their experience with the disease.

Honestly, I feel overwhelmed and little lost about what autism is, how it develops, and how I can help this month and in the future, but I’ve found a few really great resources, one of which is Helping Families With Autism. I’ll be writing a little more about the subject, and I hope you all will enjoy them and learn along with me! If anyone has any information or helpful links, I’d be grateful for those, too!

April 8, 2011

April’s Please dinner: six courses and a five-star experience

April 1st was a big day for us – it marked the first day of my birthday month (yes, I celebrate all month darn it.), the day we found out we had been named Best Vegan Dessert in Cincinnati for 2011 by CityBeat, and it was the day Derek and I attended Please catering’s dinner that featured Phro*Zen as an amuse bouche. Needless to say, I was pretty excited about the whole thing.

As per the request of the chef, Ryan, who orchestrated the menu, I created a fennel vegan ice cream. Not being a fan of fennel, the experimentation process was a bit of a challenge, but Ryan was happy with what I came up with, so I made a bunch of it and brought it to the dinner. After dropping the ice cream off to the chef hard at work in the kitchen downstairs, Derek and I went upstairs to the space where the dinner was to be held. We were greeted with favors on a side table, carefully arranged by Rosie, who owns The Brush Factory boutique with locations in Brighton and Oakley.


Favors of seed cones to welcome guests and spring.

The space itself was open and beautiful, and had a view of the city that I love so much that made for a perfect backdrop as the evening began. The table was set and ready for guests to sit down to enjoy a few drinks and conversations before the dinner began.

Before guests arrived. It gets considerably more crowded with conversations and "mmm"s.

The attention to detail was already apparent in the place settings and favor table, and was carried over to a greater extent in the menu. A copy of the menu was provided at each setting, and gave guests a preview of what they’d be tasting. First up? Phro*Zen.

Our fennel flavored Phro*Zen created for Please's dinner.

After being named the best vegan dessert in Cincy, I can’t say I wasn’t a little nervous to see everyone’s reaction to an often disliked anise flavor. It’s like licorice, or those little Christmas cookies, and a whole lot of people (myself included) aren’t fans. Ryan being the artist that he is, however, was able to pair it with exactly the right flavors to make it something everyone enjoyed – I did immensely! A scoop of anise flavored Phro*Zen was placed atop a plate of “coffee soil,” and drizzled with sesame oil. What is coffee soil? I’m not sure exactly, but it was sort of like a coffee cookie crumb. In short, the combination was delicious, and totally changed my view of what anise should taste like.

The night continued with five more courses, all crafted to highlight the unique flavor of each ingredient, many of which were chosen for their seasonality and local availability.

We stayed at the table for hours, while Ryan presented each dish, and everyone enjoyed the food and the company. We even stayed past the meal’s finish, which was a completely delicious take on peanut butter and celery. I’ll never think of that snack in the same way again. Ryan came up to visit with the dinner guests after he was finished with everything in the kitchen, and we all got to munch on extra goodies leftover from our favorite courses (we had seconds of the Phro*Zen to my delight).

The menu, which you can see more of on Please’s Facebook page, was unforgettable, and wrapped everyone in an experience that allowed us to explore some different food, some interesting combinations, and some lively conversation for an entire evening worthy of repeat. We’re proud to say that Please is coming to Cincinnati in May, and we’ll be working with Ryan on a dinner, the details of which are to come. Love.

April 7, 2011

We’re grateful for Grateful Grahams

This month’s feature flavor, “Earthly Delights,” was inspired by a little brainstorming between myself, Ellen, and Rachel DesRochers who bakes up Grateful Grahams. If you haven’t tried these soft and chewy graham cracker/cookie confections, go get ’em! But, wait, before you go buy a bag and devour every single one (I don’t know how it happens, but it does. Trust me.), read a little more about Rachel and what she does.

Q: First things first – introduce yourself. What’s your name and what’s your business?
 Hi! My name is Rachel, owner and baker of Grateful Grahams; the handmade vegan graham cracker!  
Q: When did you start your business? What inspired you to start it?
Rachel: I started my business 1 year ago this month! April, 2010. A lot inspired me to start, actually. Inspiration is my family. My husband’s complete love and support. My growing family, Camden who’s 9, Rosalee at 17 months, and baby number three due at the end of the this month! My parents and their support and love. My community from my supportive mamas to local business owners that have supported me since day one. The ability to have dreams come true. All the people that have come out to support me. The emails and such that I get telling me how much they love my product. 
I think it was in my blood to do something too, considering that my great grandfather owned a restaurant, my grandpa ran it, my dad grew up in it, and my mom worked there. My mom and dad owned a pizza place, and my dad is a published poet, so I come from an entrepreneurial family. Really, I wanted to teach my kids to DREAM and BELIEVE in themselves. 
Q: What’s your favorite thing about running a business?
Rachel: My graham fans. My freedom to make choices and do good. The family aspect. The community aspect. The fact that I want my kids to follow their dreams, no matter what they are.  The fact when my husband talks about it the passion in his voice about me doing this, what it means to me, him and us. 
I have conversations, emails, facebooks, texts from other women, moms, friends, community members, strangers- telling ME how I am inspiring them by balancing it all and following my heart and my dream. I had one mom of three tell me she wants to be me when she grows up. Yeah. That knocks my socks off. Honestly I get teary-eyed thinking about it(if only they knew how grumpy I can get, haha!). It is an honor. A blessing. I am beyond grateful for that. 
Q: What’s been the most challenging aspect of running a business? What’s been the most exciting part?
Rachel: Hmm challenges- babies, husband, kid, being 8+ months pregnant and trying to keep up, fast growth, keeping up. The exciting part – teaching, inspiring, loving, being, doing, dreaming, creating, conquering.  
Q: How have people reacted to your products? Do you have any memorable moments with customers?
Rachel: People love them. Or at least that is what they tell me! 😉 No the feedback has been great. Remember those grahams that your grandma used to give you- my grandma and mom ALWAYS had graham crackers. I hated them. Ugh. Really a stale, flat, sweet cracker?!?  I didn’t want that to be the norm any more. These are different. They are thick, like a cookie with a soft center, and a hard outside – a little piece of heaven. People always get caught off guard their first taste- they can’t believe that can be a graham cracker! But they are, and we hand roll, hand cut, sugar, poke, bake, and pack thousands a week. 

One moment that I remember is when a mom saw they had no dairy in them, she was so excited because she said- wow a treat my kid can eat (he had a dairy allergy) and it tastes good. I love that. All kids need treats. 
Q: What’s ahead for Grateful Grahams?
 Rachel: A lot! We are locally in about 16 stores. We ship to Sacremento, Seattle, Massachusetts, and Minnesota. We have 2 online companies that ship the grahams all over the country. We have been contacted by a store in Canada. We just got approved in the Whole Foods Market Mid-Atlantic Region. Really right now we are adding new stores. Growing. Loving. Trying to keep up. I have an awesome mama, Stephanie, working for me now- she is leaving because she started a green cleaning company and it is growing! I am looking to hire one or two people to help me run the place! We have some fun events lined up with our gourmet s’mores bar! We are changing the way people eat grahams. Also so fun new products that are in the works. Graham babies is one that I can’t wait to roll out! 
Q: I was lucky enough to visit the kitchen a few days ago and I tried a graham fresh out of the oven – so so good! Do you have a favorite way to eat Grateful Grahams?
Rachel: YES! The hot out of the oven graham. Really that is how I landed this interview I think. That gets them all. I tell ya! 

Honestly that is one of the only ways I can eat them, something about them HOT HOT HOT. And really s’mores are one of my favorite treats of all time, so that way too! And we just made some crusts with them- ya that way too, haha! 
Q: Finally, do you have a favorite place in Cincinnati? A favorite vegan dish available in the city? A favorite local business?
Rachel: Hmm, favorite place in Cincinnati. We love to go to Otto Armleder park, it is right by our house. So maybe pure convenience but the walking right by the river, kids can run and play- it is really tranquil there. I love being at home too. Maybe it’s the fact that I am 8+ months pregnant that really makes me just want to be home enjoying the madness of my so called life! 
Favorite vegan dish, is my mom’s reuben. Hands down my favorite. So maybe not the most available to the city – but I am sure my mom won’t mind if you stop by for a bite! ;-p I also used to share kitchen space with Five Star Foodies and Val would whip up the most delicious meals for lunch.
Favorite local business, hmm. Having lots of friends own local shops I won’t and can’t pick just one. What I can say is that I find it an absolute honor to be amongst them. They are awe inspiring dreamers, creaters, believers, doers, lovers, amazing people. I am grateful beyond words to be present with them!! You know who you are. (DK) 😀  
For even more Grateful Graham goodness, check out their facebook page. Grab a bag at Park+Vine, and a pint of Phro*Zen’s feature flavor “Earthly Delights” and make a big vegan ice cream sammich! Love.
April 5, 2011

April’s Feature Flavor: “Earthly Delights” feat. Grateful Grahams

It’s April, meaning Earth month has arrived, and we wanted to get into the spirit of appreciation for all things earthy with this month’s feature flavor. We collaborated with Grateful Grahams to create a play on “Mississippi mud,” and came up with “Earthly Delights.”

Chocolate Grateful Grahams. Yes, the bag is almost empty. Yes, I had something to do with that.

The ice cream flavor is pretty simple – it’s a plain vanilla – but it’s chock full of some really good stuff, sorta like our planet here. We whipped up some dark mocha frosting, chopped some roasted walnuts and chocolate chunks,  crumbled up chocolate Grateful Grahams, and threw it all in to create one tasty mix.

Celebrate Earth month with us this month and every month! When you’re done diving into your pint, please toss it into the recycling bin. Or, do what we’re doing, and start your spring seedlings in your empty pint! Wash it out first, of course. We may love eating Phro*Zen, but plants probably do better with some sunlight and soil. Happy Earth month everyone!

April 1, 2011

No Foolin’! (Best Vegan Dessert in Cinci!)

It’s Friday, April 1st, and I got a phone call from Ellen (the other half of Phro*Zen) at 8 a.m. That she was awake at 8 was strange enough, so I was a little wary when she said that we had been named “Best Vegan Dessert” in CityBeat’s Best of Cincinnati edition this year – but it’s true! We’re both completely overjoyed about the announcement, and will be working hard to honor the title!

Read about us in this week’s CityBeat, which you can pick up all around Cincinnati – I got mine at Coffee Emporium downtown – or check the link below. We’ll keep you up to date here, and on our Facebook and Twitter pages, too! Our feature flavor announcement is coming next blog post, so watch for what we’ve created for April (hint: Earth day hits this month…). Love.