Cincinnati and a big surprise

Earlier this month I went on my longest business trip in years: first a daylong meeting in Chicago, then 3 days of meetings in the Cincinnati area. Travel likes this means living in an artificial world of airports, dining out, meeting rooms, and taxis. There's nowhere to go for a walk, nowhere to buy groceries let alone prepare food. I ran 15 miles during the course of the trip, but never outside--it was all on hotel treadmills. It was a fruitful trip though, and I am grateful to have hilarious coworkers to travel with. Here are some food photos that help tell the story.

A shaved beet salad eaten in a hotel restaurant called Andiamo, which is inside Chicago's O'Hare airport. The green part of the salad was mostly arugula and mustard greens, so quite piquant. There were sticky-sweet bits of lemon-almond praline rather randomly scattered about.

The next night's dinner was also at O'Hare, Romano's Macaroni Grill. Here are drinks for three--a margarita, a bloody Mary, and I had the La Rossa.

I ordered appetizer romano meatballs and they were actually amazing. They definitely had some orange zest going on. Also a mediocre house salad.

Then on to Ohio. The facility where we worked had a barista machine: the buttons say things like cappuccino, whipped coffee, coffee latte, whipped milk. I need one of these.

We dined at a Malaysian restaurant (Straits of Malacca) that was pretty good. My dish was called Hokkien Mee—it was thick, chewy, delicious rice noodles with shrimp, chicken, and baby bok choy. Our dinner conversation with local hosts revolved mostly around baseball teams and beer, one of these topics being of great interest to me. (We discussed Vermont's small-batch and highly sought after Heady Topper by The Alchemist, as well as the Over-the-Rhine area of Cincinnati which was home to 38 breweries before Prohibition and is staging something of a comeback. If I ever visit again I want to go on a Cincinnati Brewery Tour.)

The facility with the awesome coffee machine also provided a breakfast buffet (hardboiled eggs, yogurt, berries, granola, bagels, cream cheese) and a hot lunch buffet. Above is lunch on Italian day--meatballs, grilled chicken and vegetables with a creamy pesto sauce.

At another dinner I got a semi-local beer, Commodore Perry IPA by Great Lakes Brewing in Cleveland.

Aladdin's Eatery was a Middle Eastern place; I ordered beef kibbee. It looks a bit dry here, but once I asked for tahini sauce and hot sauce to douse the kibbee it was excellent. Rich savory spiced beef studded with pine nuts. I want some more right now.

This wasn't my beer, but it's evidence that we were in Kentucky on this trip. Because the Cincinnati airport is actually in Northern Kentucky. Who knew?!

My beer this time was a Goose Island IPA, from Chicago.


We were at an Outback Steakhouse so we had to get a Bloomin' Onion.

My bacon cheeseburger was surprisingly delicious. Tip: Don't order a steak at an airport steakhouse, because they will NOT give you a proper steak knife. A fellow diner had this problem. We saw a guy at another table actually pick up his steak and start gnawing it.

And then...

When I got home from this trip, late on a Friday night, I was met with a rather major surprise. It was something that had been brewing without my knowledge for weeks, and took three in-laws and several close friends to pull off.

You may recall that a few months back in July I reluctantly traded in my VW Jetta TDI for a Subaru. I missed the VW. It was fun to drive and it had a certain unique class that a Subaru doesn't have. In fact, everybody in Vermont has a Subaru. When I go to drop my son off at his progressive preschool I park in a line of seven other Subarus. Oddly, this dropoff was also one of the times when I would encounter my Jetta being driven around town by the guy who took the trade. I traded it to him for the bare minimum price, in my opinion, being $300. But being a mechanic, he saw its potential and proceeded to fix it up and use it as his driving-around car. So I kept seeing my beloved car, that I'd let go for a pittance, being driven around town and seeming perfectly fine! It's true I couldn't afford to fix it, but still... it bugged me.

At the same time, my spouse's even more ancient car had finally become illegal at the stroke of midnight on Halloween. That's because it was only inspected up until October 2014, and we didn't think we could get it renewed easily without pouring in money for repairs. (For instance, why bother starting your car with the correct key when it will start just as well with a screwdriver? Which is what my husband was using. It was in that kind of shape.) So all week while I was traveling, I kept thinking about how that old Benz would probably be gone when I got home--maybe sold to someone for $300.

These two car stories collided the moment my ride from the airport pulled onto my street to drop me off at 11:30 at night. There in the driveway, in the dark, next to my Subaru, and in the place where the Benz used to be, was MY JETTA. I peered at it as I tried to piece together what I could possibly be seeing. As I struggled to compute, I noticed that a) it really was my Jetta, not some bizarre doppelganger, because it had dents in all the right places, b) it really seemed to belong there, because it was bearing the same license plates that had earlier in that week been on the Benz, and that I knew for a fact belonged to my husband, c) my husband was coming out of the house saying, "Look at my new car! The kids love it!!" He'd been waiting up for me to enjoy the surprise that he'd been working on for days. It was so funny, and I was so totally flabbergasted! What a guy.

Home again. I love my family.

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