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This fall, say hello maple and so long pumpkin spice

Published: Wednesday, October 11, 2017 @ 5:12 PM

Come on, admit it. You're so over the pumpkin-spice craze.

Seasonal beer, coffee drinks and cookies spiced with ginger, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon are one thing. But when those cozy fall flavors sneak their way into a Kit Kit candy bar or a stick of Burt Bees lip balm or onto a pizza, you know it's officially jumped the shark. Big time. 

Which is why some of us were glad to hear that a new flavor will supposedly supplant pumpkin spice this fall − maple.

RELATED: Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte returns with livestream to watch ‘Pumpkin Hatch’

At least that's what MarketWatch would have us (hopefully) believe, based on a report from the analytics company 1010data. It notes that even as pumpkin spice flavor continues to grow in popularity to the tune of 49 percent more products a year sales just aren't holding pace. Maple, meanwhile, "is surging." 

Measured against the same quarter last year, sales of maple-flavored beverages have almost doubled while maple-flavored cocktails have climbed 14.6 percent. Which might explain why beverage giants Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts debuted maple-pecan coffee drinks this fall. Dunkin' also is featuring a 630-caloried Maple Sugar Bacon Breakfast Sandwich. But is maple really the next big thing? And will its sweet, distinctive flavor be something that consumers naturally crave when the weather gets cooler?

While all maple syrup is made according to the same process, there's a grading system for maple products that differentiates between the natural variations in color and flavor. The lighter the syrup, the more delicate the taste. Sap processed later in the season produces a more robust and darker syrup.

Maple syrup can be substituted for honey or agave one for one, but you'll want to use only a cup of syrup for every 1 cup of white sugar in baking, while also reducing the other liquids in the recipe by 3 tablespoons. Go for the good (real) stuff, even though it's more expensive, as it takes 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup. However you enjoy fall's hottest flavor, know that you're making a nutritious choice. Not only is maple syrup high in healthful antioxidants but it also includes essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and manganese. 


PG tested

This maple cocktail is full of fall flavors, and so easy.

an ounce pure maple syrup, preferably Grade A Dark Amber

an ounce fresh orange juice \ ounce fresh lemon juice 4 dashes of Angostura bitters

an orange wheel 2 ounces bourbon Ice 1

 2 ounces chilled seltzer

In a rocks glass, combine maple syrup with orange juice, lemon juice and bitters. Add orange wheel and lightly muddle. Add bourbon and stir well. Fill glass with ice and top with chilled seltzer. 

Makes 1 drink. 

_ (c)2017 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Visit the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC. 

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3 of the best spring wines to try under $20

Published: Wednesday, May 09, 2018 @ 6:00 AM

It’s spring in Ohio and finally time to get out of the house. I feel like I’ve been hibernating for months, and by hibernating I mean drinking big, bold, warming red wines under 3 layers of blankets while I watch reality TV. Cute visual, huh? But now the sun is up, restaurants are opening up their patios and I am ready to pour something a little brighter into my wine carafe. 

Here are my picks for the best spring wines under $20: 

 >>RELATED: Downtown business issues warning to ‘parents and prudes’ about new weekly event

Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc Viognier - $13 

Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc Viognier is one of the spring wines Tess recommends trying. CONTRIBUTED

I have this theory that the most popular American wines are widely consumed because they are easy to pronounce. People know how to say “Cab-er-net” but for fear of sounding silly, no one orders a deep and beautiful Mourvedre. I would like to state for the record now that this is silly and we should all get over that. There are so many amazing and beautiful wines on the shelves, and much more interesting grapes than chardonnay, people! Step outside of your comfort zone and try the Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc Viognier blend. If you’ve been drinking oaky buttery white wines all your days, this bottle is going to blow your mind. It’s aromatic, bursting with honeysuckle and orange blossom, crisp and luscious with flavors of stone and tropical fruits. Lingering mineral flavors and a balanced acidity make for a well-rounded, dry white wine. The flavors are approachable, yet unique to anything you’ve tried before. Pick it up at Arrow Wine for a really affordable price, oh, and by the way, it’s pronounced (vee-yon-N’YAY.) 

 >>MORE: This rosé is so last season -- so make some spring sangria

Gassier Rosé - $17.99 

Gassier Rosé is one of Tess' picks for a spring wine to try. CONTRIBUTED

It’s no secret, I love me some rosé, especially when the temperatures outside start to climb. Rosés are bright, crisp, and refreshing - so refreshing, in fact, that they are slightly dangerous! A few sips can quickly turn into a few gulps, and next thing you know, your glass (or bottle!) is empty. One of my favorite rosés to sip on (and yes I do mean sip and savor) is the 2017 Gassier rosé. This beautiful French wine is a lovely shade of light (millennial) pink, a nice floral nose, and soft flavors of peach and grapefruit. Since rosés are growing in popularity, it’s hard to know what to look for, or even where to start. When I’m thinking about trying a new bottle, I personally look for two things: 1) If it’s from France, and 2) how light it is in color. This is a personal preference, of course, but I think the best rosés are coming out of France. I also prefer a light light pink over a blush wine. You’ll see a huge variance in rosé colors on the shelves, and I find the lighter wines are cripser and more floral while the darker shades taste more of berry and are a little bolder. The more you try, to more you can figure out what you like, and at a price like Gassier - you can try again and again! 

 >>RELATED: At this patio event, ‘pounding’ your favorite Rosé is encouraged

Stella Pinot Grigio - $15 for a 4 pack of small cans 

Stella Pinot Grigio is one of the spring wines Tess recommends trying. CONTRIBUTED

There is almost nothing better in this life than wine on-the-go. Those who know me best, know that I rarely see a movie without a contraband can of champagne in my bag. (Sorry movie theaters.) A new wine is out on shelves here in Ohio and they are the cutest and most refreshing cans of white wine out there. This Pinot Grigio from Sicily is a mature wine in a fun package! The delicate flavors of white peach, and lemon peel are light and refreshing, perfect for one of Ohio’s hot spring days, enjoy it out at a picnic with some gal pals, or cool off with it in a movie theater! This wine will be even better in the summer, pool side! No matter where you enjoy it, this is a lovely and sophisticated wine for a great price. 

>>GUIDE:  Where to go for the perfect picnic in Dayton 

Happy spring drinking, cheers and ciao!

Tess Vella’s blog can be found at

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tess is a young professional, home-baker and downtown Dayton dweller who spent years working in the restaurant industry. When she's not mixing drinks for restaurant patrons, she's drinking champagne, buying shoes, or writing her blog, Ciao Vella. You can read about her home recipes, party planning tips, and more at

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The recipe for an amazing Derby Day party: Bourbon, tasty treats and a fabulous hat

Published: Friday, April 27, 2018 @ 6:00 AM

The signature drink of The Kentucky Derby is the Mint Julep. The Mint Julep is an extremely strong bourbon drink, with minimal ingredients. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO / TESS VELLA-COLLETTE
The signature drink of The Kentucky Derby is the Mint Julep. The Mint Julep is an extremely strong bourbon drink, with minimal ingredients. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO / TESS VELLA-COLLETTE

Derby Day is just a few weeks away, and even though I’m a “Yankee” through and through, if you live as close as we do in Dayton to Kentucky, you better get your derby hat ready.

>>WATCH: Emily Mendenhall of Lily's Bistro shows how to make a great Mint Julep

The signature drink of The Kentucky Derby is the Mint Julep. The Mint Julep is an extremely strong drink, with minimal ingredients. 


  • 2 oz. Bourbon (Yes, it has to be bourbon) 
  • 1 oz. simple syrup 
  • 2 oz. crushed ice 
  • Mint sprigs for garnish 


Seriously, that’s it. It’s basically like a bourbon slushy. There are two components that make this drink so awesome.

>>RELATED: Future downtown speakeasy’s name pulls from Dayton history

Number one is the crushed ice. That’s absolutely key for the perfect Julep. It keeps you cool on a hot spring or summer day, but more importantly, crushing ice is the MOST SATISFYING THING EVER.

Experiencing a little pent up aggression? Smack a Lewis Bag of ice with a big mallet and your stress will melt away, the booze helps too.

>>Looking for things to do? These are the TOP 10 events in Dayton this week

The other component that makes a mint julep especially enjoyable is the sterling silver julep cup. Much like a Moscow mule mug, the ice stays nice and cold for longer, and basically you just look really cool drinking out of it. Many cups come with a spoon/straw hybrid just like a slushie at the 7/11 but much classier, and for adults. 

Try some nice bites sure to satisfy all of your party guests. Stuffed mushrooms are always a crowd pleaser and they are incredibly easy to make. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO / TESS VELLA-COLLETTE

>>MORE: What’s better than one Cinco de Mayo celebration? El Meson says two

Not that I care about horse racing by any means, but I’ve decided to throw a party for Derby Day (mostly because last year I spent $60 on a hat, and I wanted to wear it again 😳). And it is the perfect opportunity to hang out with some friends, throw a couple juleps back.

>>PHOTOS: Derby Day 2017 in the Oregon District

Also, the promise of Spring has been long awaited, and with that, the bounty of beautiful fresh veggies popping up all over. Here is my recipe for the perfect Derby Day Soireecomplete with plenty of bourbon, lots of tasty treats, and yes, a fabulous hat

>>RELATED: 5 events to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Dayton

Another easy to please and fool proof dish which highlights spring veggies in a light and bright way: ricotta and asparagus bruschetta. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO / TESS VELLA-COLLETTE

You’ve got the drink recipe down...but for food, try some nice bites sure to satisfy all of your party guests. Stuffed mushrooms are always a crowd pleaser. And they are incredibly easy to make. Let some cream cheese get to room temperature, a dollop of ricotta, a pinch of chives, and a healthy dose of fresh parsley. Mix them together, and spoon them into some fresh white mushroom tops. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, they will be ooey-gooey, and if you top them with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, they will be irresistible to all of your party pals. 

>>PHOTOS: Get inspired for Derby Day with these looks from Dayton Heart Ball’s ‘Heart of the Derby’ gala

Another easy to please and fool proof dish which highlights spring veggies in a light and bright way: ricotta and asparagus bruschetta. Slice a few pieces of French baguette, drizzle with olive oil and toast in the oven for 7 minutes. Spread that extra ricotta cheese across the bread, top with roasted asparagus, and a pinch of sea salt. Right before your guests arrive, zest lemon on top, and again, a glug of balsamic. They will pop on a serving plate, and your guests will gobble them up. 

Take your favorite brownie, or chocolate cake recipe and top it with bourbon whipped cream. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO / TESS VELLA-COLLETTE

And of course, you can’t skip dessert. Take your favorite brownie, or chocolate cake recipe and top it with bourbon whipped cream. Yep, you heard me, boozy whipped cream. All of the world’s problems could be solved if people just added liquor to their dessert topping. 

You heard it here first, people. In a mixing bowl, add heavy whipping cream, a pinch of sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla and a glug of that bourbon you’ve got on hand. Whisk until you’ve reached stiff peaks and spoon on top of your chocolatey confection. 

Your friends will leave your party slightly toasted, full of delicious food, and ready to get their derby on. And by that, I mean checking out the Wiener Dog Race in the Oregon District. I guess you could watch some horses run too, if you’re into that kind of thing.

It's not Derby Day if you aren't wearing a fabulous hat. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO / TESS VELLA-COLLETTE(Tess Vella-Collette)

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Nurse your hangover with help from Dayton's bartenders

Published: Saturday, December 26, 2015 @ 12:00 PM
Updated: Friday, March 16, 2018 @ 3:38 PM

5 Secret Hangover Cures

We’ve seen this movie before.

Here we are again, prostrate on the couch with a head pounding from excess alcohol and heavy dehydration. Somehow, we lost ourselves last night between a bottle of red wine, or one too many Fireball shots, or the random Long Island Iced Tea. 

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Though it feels like we’ll never revive, there are ways to beat back the hangover beast. Your local bartenders have many tricks up their sleeve – they are, after all, used to nursing their customers — and themselves – back to health. 

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We asked a few of our neighborhood bartenders their most effective techniques. May they serve you well.

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Ginger, miso, tofu, spinach, green onion are piled in a bowl, then doused with broth. Soup, instantly. (Food styling by Joan Moravek) (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune/TNS)(Bill Hogan)

Vitamin Water, miso soup, Chinese buffet, booze

Amber Brady serves up delicious (and dangerous) cocktails at Lily’s Bistro, and offered up her step-by-step process for recovery:

“For me, hangover remedies are an intricate ritual of as many 'cures' as I can possibly ingest,” Brady said. Try one, some or all of the following with her recommendations:

"Revive" Vitamin Water. "This is a must. This purple potion is packed full of B vitamins, potassium and electrolytes. All things your body is begging for. If the store is out, shed a single tear and get another flavor; however, Revive is where it's at."

Coconut water. "Tons of electrolytes and hydration goodness. Just pound one. Sure way to get some moisture back into your poor dehydrated body."

Miso soup. "I know the sodium is a throw off here, but it actually helps you retain water. Lots of good vitamins and minerals here too, plus it's just a feel good soup."

Tons of water. "You should be drinking water throughout your boozy adventures, but let's be real, that rarely happens. So at the very least, chug as much as you can before bed. Then chug one more glass. When you wake up, drink it all day. Force yourself. After your Revive and coconut water, of course."

Food. "Once you can eat, feed the beast. When the battle of the hangover comes to the point where I can eat, I eat tons of food. Preferably Chinese buffet, or if I'm not capable of removing myself from my cave of shame, get Chinese delivery. Go all out. You’re going to need to eat it like three times that day."

>> Where to get the best Chinese food in Dayton

Lily's Bistro Bar Manager Amber Brady shares her top hangover cures. Provided photo.(HANDOUT)

The classic hair of the dog. "This isn't always possible, especially if you are also nursing a 'shameover' and you've done or said things that will not allow you to be seen in public for a few days. However, if you can, my go-to hangover booze is a shot of whiskey, a beermosa, or at Lily’s, we offer the fine cocktail ‘Corpse Reviver #2,’ (made with Citadelle gin, Lillet blanc, lemon juice, orange liqueur, Pernod rinse, and Luxardo cherry garnish). However, it comes with the warning that too many will just put you back where you started. It's delicious and one or two of these really does help ease the pain!"

The bubbles settle your stomach; the booze clears your head just enough to start functioning. Plus you feel fancy again. File photo

A little bubbly could do the trick

Corner Kitchen bartender Callie Young admits that she is “terrible at being hungover.”

“I usually just lay in bed all day,” she wrote. “If I do drink, it is champagne with grapefruit juice and then some Taco Bell.”

Food and lifestyle blogger Tess Vella-Collette, also a contributor to, gave a rundown of her hangover cure routine.

  • "First of all, a shower is essential. It sounds terrible, but once you get in there, let the steam hit you, and reflect on your bad decisions from the night before; you can wash it all away and start again.
  • Second, champagne. I don’t like to muddy something already perfect with fruit juice, so no mimosas for me.
  • Third, a runny egg – in ramen doesn’t hurt.
  • Fourth: I must spend the rest of the day horizontal. Hulu is my friend."

Whatever crazy method you use to relieve a hangover, please don't try this one. Black coffee alone can make your hangover worse, according to researchers. But combine black coffee with Tylenol and the effects could be deadly, suggest scientists. Caffeine triples the amount of a toxic by-product created when Tylenol is broken down. It's the same substance responsible for liver damage when alcohol and Tylenol react together. Just don't do it.(Business Wire photo/William Berry/ AJC Special)

Amateur hour:'s personal cures

Lastly, we may not be bartenders in our day jobs, but several of us served plenty of time in the restaurant business to pick up a few tricks to getting the job done while feeling less than amazing. Plus, college. The following is a sampling of our staff recommendations.

  • "Smart Water. Lots of it. If you have pickles in the fridge, sip that pickle juice. Fill your belly with Stouffer’s Macaroni and Cheese. But the all-time winner when you need to revive in a hurry is a glass of ginger ale with a few dashes of Angostura bitters, any flavor. At almost 45 percent alcohol, even just a touch of these bitters will bring you back to life."
  • "Two huge glasses of water and Tylenol before bed. Also, Gatorade the next day, especially if you were too drunk to remember to drink water and have Tylenol before bed."
  • "Bagels and Bloody Marys. Plus, heavy lounging and Netflix."
  • "Dry Life cereal and Gatorade. If you can afford it, upgrade to Pedialyte: world of difference. They even make Pedialyte popsicles and suckers."
From the staff to all of you: Good luck, and wishing you a speedy recovery.

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Where to find king cake on Fat Tuesday in Dayton

Published: Thursday, February 23, 2017 @ 6:00 AM
Updated: Tuesday, February 06, 2018 @ 12:00 PM

Some facts about this Marci Gras delicacy.

To us in Dayton, king cake may seem like a bit of a novelty. However, those from or living in the Gulf Coast area take it very seriously.

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Commonly enjoyed on Fat Tuesday -- which will be celebrated on Feb. 13, 2018 this year -- the origin of the king cake goes back to Biblical times as part of the celebration of the Epiphany, celebrated on Jan. 6. Its popularity spread across Europe as a Christmastime delicacy before making its way to North America. 

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French settlers brought the recipe to the Gulf Coast in the 1700s, where the cinnamon-flavored treat was later associated with carnival season.  

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French settlers brought King Cake to North America in the 1700s.(Jim Ingram)

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King cake recipes have transformed into various forms over the centuries, with a small baby doll being included somewhere inside the cake itself to symbolize the birth of Jesus at parties. 

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Tradition holds that the party guest who gets the piece of cake with the doll in it will be blessed with good fortune and be crowned the king or queen of said party. But royalty has its obligations as well, as the winner must provide the king cake the following year.


Ashley’s Pastry Shop - 21 Park Avenue, Dayton 45419

* Big Sky Bread Company - 3070 Far Hills Avenue, Dayton 45429

* Dorothy Lane Markets - Oakwood, Washington Square and Springboro 

* Ele Cake Company - West Carrollton, Beavercreek and Austin Landing 

* Evans Bakery - 700 Troy Street, Dayton 45404

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