If you couldn’t already tell, I’ve had a couple of really busy weeks. I’ve been home less than a handful of days in the last two weeks, so I have plenty of catching up to do. To kick off the madness, I took my family to New York for five nights to attend a good friend’s wedding in New Rochelle and to take in all the sights in Manhattan.

Our first day was pretty much a travel day as we took a plane and multiple trains to get to our destination in New Rochelle. The next day we skipped the wedding mass to let the kids play for the afternoon and then had an amazing time at one of the most incredible wedding receptions I’ve ever attended. Congrats Bryan and Stephanie! The day after the wedding we departed New Rochelle and headed for Manhattan.

After checking in to The Court Hotel, we spent the rest of the day walking around midtown Manhattan and eventually going to the Top of the Rock for an incredible view of the entire city. The next day we spent downtown to meet with the Roberge family, have some fun in Rockefeller Park, and visit the World Trade Center. Our final day we spent back in midtown, primarily visiting Times Square and Central Park.

My previous trips to NYC have always been without kids, so this trip was full of things I haven’t done before. I can’t wait to visit again as the kids grow older as there are still things that I haven’t done and I know they will enjoy in years to come.

After spending the better part of an afternoon at the Cincinnati Zoo for their HallZOOween event my wife and I wanted to get something to eat nearby. Some friends of ours mentioned they like going to Zoup! before or after the zoo, so we decided to give it a try. Zoup! operates 60 locations in 15 U.S. states and Canada. The Cincinnati location can be found just off Martin Luther King Dr near the University of Cincinnati at Stetson Square.

Outside

Outside

The inside of Zoup is pretty large with a ton of seating areas, which makes sense considering the close proximity to the University of Cincinnati, especially the Medical Center. Free Wi-Fi is also offered. Orders are placed at the counter and are prepared just behind the counter in open view.

Inside

Inside

Soup is obviously the specialty item here, and they have a dozen unique creations available daily, but they also have a variety of sandwiches and salads. I tried the southwest turkey sandwich with pepper jack, tomato, and chipotle mayo on toasted country fresh bread ($6.50 for whole). The sandwich was prepared fresh and toasted beautifully. The ingredients were fairly standard, though the chipotle mayo was a nice touch.

Southwest Turkey

Southwest Turkey

My wife and I split a side of the chicken potpie soup ($4.25) and this was excellent, though a bit expensive for the serving size. I think on a return visit I would order a combo half sandwich and a side of soup for myself, which start at $7.50, which I find to be an acceptable price for a solid lunch.

Zoup! Fresh Soup Company on Urbanspoon

Penn Station, home of the best-tasting subs, is giving you a chance to score tickets and ultimate getaway package to the Big Game. Enter the code printed on your receipt for a chance to win one of the three Big Game Getaway prize packages outlined below.

  • Grand Prize: Winner will receive a three (3) night stay at the Holiday Inn Express Scottsdale North, two (2) tickets to the Big Game, access to PrimeSport’s VIP Pre-Game Experience featuring an open bar, great local cuisine, live entertainment and celebrity guests, round-trip transportation to the University of Phoenix Stadium, official Big Game souvenirs, Pepsi suitcases, professional event staff to assist you for the Big Game and more!
  • Big Game Viewing Party: Winner will receive 70” TV and Blue-Ray player, team jerseys to wear for the Big Game, a Pepsi bean bag toss set, Penn Station East Coast Subs party for 20, Pepsi cooler and Oakley sunglasses.
  • Big Game Digital Prize Pack: Winner will receive Samsung Galaxy Note 8, Penn Station East Coast Subs party for 20, NFL jerseys and hat to wear for the Big Game and a Pepsi Mini Fridge.

This promotion runs from October 1, 2014 to November 30, 2014. Hurry in to get your code. Let me recommend the chicken teriyaki sub and an order of fresh-cut fries. That’s what I order nearly every time when visiting my local Penn Station restaurant.

big_game_outdoor

 

One of the Cincinnati area’s next breweries, Braxton Brewing Company, launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to build their taproom of the future. Some of the plans include:

  • Multi-functional co-working space – If you’re going to spend the morning at a coffee shop, why not spend the afternoon at the brewery? They’ll have the space that allows you to do just that.
  • They’ll be the first microbrewery in the U.S. with Gigabit Internet – Never wait on a web page again! Feel free to use their speeds to change the world.
  • The freshest growler fills available provided by their 20 tap Pegas Growler Filler!
  • Fully-custom Mobile Application – Redefining how you interact with us in their taproom.
  • Private Events Space - Want to host a team off-site, Fantasy Football draft, or neighborhood movie night? They’ll have the perfect room for you. With 8 metered taps, they won’t even interrupt while you use the space!

Sounds like I may have a new spot to check out while working remotely! For more information on Braxton Brewing Company check out the Brew Professor’s post from April.

This past Saturday was the University of Cincinnati homecoming football game against Miami University. It all kicked off with a parade across downtown. Normally the parade would take place up on campus, but as I mentioned earlier the on-campus stadium is being renovated this season and all games are taking place downtown instead.

The Bearcat and Cheerleaders

The Bearcat and Cheerleaders

The UC Band is Damn Good

The UC Band is Damn Good

President Santa Ono

President Santa Ono

This weekend was also Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, America’s largest Oktoberfest with more than 500,000 people attending every year. So the parade and other weekend activities took on the Homecoming Zinzinnati theme.

Alumni Association

Alumni Association

Maypole Float

Maypole Float

After the parade was over we spent some time tailgating in one of the large lots surrounding the stadium before heading in for the 119th Battle for the Victory Bell.

Kim and Paige at the Tailgate

Kim and Paige at the Tailgate

A record 41,926 people turned out to watch the Battle for the Victory Bell. The game started off a slow for the Cats but they eventually took control of the game and brought home the Victory Bell for the ninth straight year, 31-24.

Ring of Red

Ring of Red

Next up for the Bearcats is an away game at Ohio State this weekend before returning back to town October 4th to take on Memphis.

Previous reviews that I’ve read of J & W Sandwich Shoppe have all been 100% positive and I finally made the short drive over to Norwood to give it a try. The shoppe is located on Worth Avenue, a mostly vacant commercial street in a predominately residential neighborhood. The outside of their building and the surrounding ones are in desperate need of maintenance, as if nothing has changed in the 23 years they have been in business.

Outside

Outside

Inside J & W offers just two tables and a handful of chairs, so I’m assuming the majority of their customers come in for carry out orders, just as I did. Printed menus can be found at the counter. In addition to a wide variety of cold and hot sandwiches, various soup and salad selections are also available.

Double Decker BLT

Double Decker BLT

I ordered the very highly reviewed double-decker BLT with chips and a pickle ($4.75). This is a massive sandwich about four inches tall and it was packed full with plenty of bacon. It was a little messy to eat due to the size, but it was a very good sandwich. I’d like to give some of the other sandwiches a try, but this BLT will be hard to pass up in the future.

J & W offers delivery to a pretty wide area of town and charges just $1 for the service (minimum order of $10). They also offer party trays with 24 hour notification and those can be delivered as well. J & W Sandwich Shoppe is a hidden gem that is very affordable and quite delicious.

J & W Sandwich Shoppe on Urbanspoon

The UC Bearcats football season finally kicked off this past weekend, two weeks after most other schools. All of this year’s home games are taking place down at the Bengals’ Paul Brown Stadium, while the on campus Nippert Stadium goes through some renovations. I’m not the biggest fan of PBS but I rarely miss a Bearcat game.

White Out

White Out

The Cats welcomed the Toledo Rockets to town for the annual “white out” game. The student section was jam-packed and the total attendance was 31,912, which is pretty great for a non-conference game. The team did not disappoint at all with a huge 58-34 victory and a couple of new figures for the record book, including quarterback Gunner Kiel’s impressive debut. The action continues with homecoming taking place this coming weekend and the 119th Battle for the Victory Bell with Miami University. Go Cats!

While attending Covington’s MainStrasse Oktoberfest over the weekend, we stopped into Piper’s Cafe for ice cream. They have a walk up window and feature 24 flavors of soft serve ice cream in addition to hot dogs, burgers, and breakfast served all day.

Outside

Outside

All of their flavors start out as vanilla, flavor extracts are added and mixed in, then the newly flavored ice cream is pressed out into a cone. You can combine up to three flavors, or we found that the $1 kid’s cone was a great way to give multiple flavors a try without mixing.

Kid's Cone

Kid’s Cone

Piper’s is located near Goebel Park and with so many festivals taking place in the MainStrasse Village I’m sure we will be back for more.

Piper's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Other than lounging by the pool, playing on the beach, going out for lunch and dinner, and the occasional bike ride we didn’t do much during our recent trip to Hilton Head. One exception was a quick trip to the Audubon Newhall Preserve. A very short hike from a small parking lot leads to a scenic pond and a pocosin (the Indian word for bog).

Pond

Pond

The hiking trail is lined by a diverse variety of trees and plants and many of them are labeled. Our three-year-old loved this and was inquisitive about all the different species and what made them all different. The pocosin was really dry and not as full of life as I had hoped other than some passing birds, but we spotted both turtles and an alligator at the picturesque pond.

I don’t think the preserve is worthy of its own trip by car, but it makes a wonderful and quick addition to a trip out for dinner or could be a nice destination for a bike ride.

For our last meal on Hilton Head Island, my family and I headed to Skull Creek Boathouse, a place my parents couldn’t say enough great things about. The restaurant sits cleverly on the shores of the Skull Creek at the northern end of the island. The views are pretty nice, but keep in mind that it does not sit on the ocean side of the island.

Skull Creek Overlook

Skull Creek Overlook

Upon our arrival at 6 PM we were told it would be a twenty-minute wait for a table inside for our party of four, but we could have a table outside immediately. We all agreed to go ahead and sit outside.

Inside

Inside

The outside dining space is much larger than what is available inside. It was a little hot throughout our visit, but large oscillating fans helped to cool us down a bit. The majority of the outdoor dining are is uncovered, but there is a fairly large covered bar area with some tables undercover.

Outside

Outside

There are numerous games throughout the outdoor area that make for a great way to pass the time while waiting for a table, waiting for your food, etc. My three-year-old ran from giant jenga to connect four to sidewalk chalk and finally to the elevated sandbox. I wish more restaurants had these, I’m sure adults wouldn’t mind playing some of the games too.

Games

Games

For dinner I had the Cajun chicken past with andouille sausage, bell peppers, Cajun cream sauce over linguine ($16.75). This was one of a pretty good selection for the non seafood eaters. The pasta dish was filled with plenty of chicken and sausage but I thought the sauce could have used a bit more spice. But perhaps I should be thankful it wasn’t too spicy as the weather outside was hot enough.

Cajun Chicken Pasta

Cajun Chicken Pasta

My wife went with the crab, artichoke, and hearts of palm stuffed flounder with Savannah red rice and season vegetables ($18.75). I did not try a bite but I think she was happy with her choice. The sides were okay, but I wish she would have skipped the rice and tried the Yukon gold smashed potatoes instead.

Stuffed Flounder

Stuffed Flounder

The kids menu is lengthy and affordable. The corn dog we ordered was served with fries ($5.50), and after the meal was over the server gave each of our kids a token that they could exchange inside for a small toy of their choice. It was a very nice touch to make the kids’ dinning experience way more memorable than others. Skull Creek Boathouse is truly one of the most family friendly dining establishments I’ve visited, and the food is good too.

Skull Creek Boathouse on Urbanspoon