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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

FTM 1st Annual Clark Griswold Decoration Challenge (Guest Post by Ben)

It goes without saying that we live in a beautiful city; a beautiful city that only becomes more incredible around the holidays. Trees are adorned with ornaments and red ribbons. Elegant lights and garland turn Fort Thomas into a literal winter wonderland. It became apparent to me that some people do not have the opportunity to take in all the incredible sights of the city, and to Fort Thomas Matters this is unacceptable.

That's why I am suggesting to the powers that be that Fort Thomas Matters host a contest to find the best, most ornately decorated house through all of the Highlands.

Readers will contribute pictures of holiday d├ęcor whether it be funny, beautiful, unique, over done (you know who you are) and then a winner will be chosen by the FTM braintrust.

With the unseasonably warm weather on Thanksgiving weekend, a lot of decorations will already be up, and no doubt the procrastinators should be working this weekend so the timing is perfect. The decorations can and will no doubt run the gambit: a modern day Clark Griswold where the home can be seen from space, giant lawn ornaments and fully operating trains-almost totally concealing the house, or just sheer beauty and elegance of a white monochromatic scheme.

This contest will give Fort Thomas Matters readers a way to show off their skills in holiday decorating, or for appreciative residents, a way to acknowledge decorating they love the most.

A few ways to submit pictures:
- First at our Facebook page - Like us!
- Second, email me at
- Third to mine, Mark's or Darrin's twitter accounts: @bpetracco @mlorencollier @murriner.

Decorations will all be uploaded to Fort Thomas Matters in a later article. The winning contributor will be awarded with $25 gift certificate to a local Fort Thomas merchant.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

NKy's Best Pizza Quest: Dewey's Pizza

Well, it's Thanksgiving weekend, and I can't think of any food more synonymous with Thanksgiving than pizza. Wait, what? I've obviously had too much coffee.

The FTM crew visited Dewey's Pizza on the Levee on Tuesday at the behest of many commenters on the blog and our Facebook page (like us here to receive more updates, join in the conversation and to register for future contests and prizes) and Ben's girlfriend, Sara. Watch the video above to find out why she loves it so much.

Dewey's was a borderline restaurant, in that I wasn't quite sure if it's considered a chain or not. When we got there and I started looking around, I don't think they quite knew either. They had awards posted on their wall for best non-chain pizza and best chain pizza from Cincinnati Magazine, just a couple years apart.

You know the drill by now. Here's what we thought:
Atmosphere (1-10 scale): 7

It's hard to knock the atmosphere at the Levee. The people watching is pretty good, especially if you sit on their indoor patio, facing the other bars, restaurants and shops. Upon entering the Levee at Christmas time, you can find elves on huge swings and people on stilts. Pretty festive environment.

Inside, the Plexiglas to the kitchen allows you to watch the pizza makers make your pizza. They do the whole thing: roll the dough, toss it, spread the sauce and place the toppings. If you have a little one in the party, like we did, the bakers will good-heartily toss flour at their onlookers.

Overall Pizza Taste/Selection: 6.3
As fun as it was to watch them make the pizza, that may have been one of the highlights of the night. We tried 4 different pizzas: the pepperoni standard, a Hawaiian pizza (ham and pineapple), the Billy Goat (a Greek type pizza with goat cheese, Roma and sun dried tomatoes, and green peppers), and the Dr. Dre (a California chicken bacon ranch) which was the pizza special of the month and whose purchase proceeds went partly toward Diabetes research.

My all-time favorite pizza is the Hawaiian and I've gotta say I was pretty unimpressed. The toppings seemed to be quartered off from one another. Huge pieces of ham, then a layer of pineapple, then ham. Intermingling the toppings would have helped here. The sauce was pretty uninspiring as well.

The Billy Goat seemed to be the table favorite. The goat cheese was a sweet surprise among a sea of ingredients, while the Dr. Dre was the pie that had the most leftovers on the table.

We were lucky to get to try to the Pepperoni, as Darrin's son Peter, killed 4 of the 6 pieces of the medium. The ranch dressing that Sara raved about did add a zesty kick to the pizza. So make sure to ask for a side of it the next time you go.

Extras: 6
The ranch dressing is a must when you go here. I'd love to tell you how they make it, which they do in house, but I can't do it justice like Sara does. Peter was loving the pepperoni/ranch combination as well.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mio's Moving In

First reported here, for what seems like at least a year ago, Mio's Pizza is moving in to the old Warner's/Pergola building and has a general contractor in making changes. Here's hoping to them opening up the dining room, which seemed to be the the downside to that location.

Feels like all we talk about is pizza, nowadays, but if you'd like to join the FTM crew, we'll be at Dewey's on the Levee tonight continuing our quest for NKy's best pizza.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Turkey Week News & Notes

A few random items as we all give thanks and enjoy the family later this week:

1. The City of Fort Thomas is selling an older fire truck using a surplus auction - I assume it was replaced by the newer pump truck that was purchased recently.  I am thinking this would make a great tailgating machine.  I have seen old fire truck's re-purposed at multiple tailgates so who is interested in donating to FTM's new Bengals bus.

2. The Planning Commission this past week raised the car weight limit to allow commercial vehicles to be parked in front of a home in the Fort.  I think this was a good move as more and more people are small business owners that drive work vans - no point in making it difficult for these same small business owners to live in our great city.

3. After the revenge game (is it OK to call it revenge if the Blue Birds didn't lose? It was the closest game of the year) against Covington Catholic, Highlands plays Lexington Catholic this weekend for the right to play for their fifth straight state championship.

A little FYI for those following the pizza challenge - we plan to be at Dewey's on Tuesday night at 7 - we would still love to see you come out and join us.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Beat Cov Cath (Again)

It's fun beating Covington Catholic. And no, it's not because I'm still bitter about our friends who were girls going to hang out with them sometimes during our senior year. Okay, maybe it has a little to do with it.

After the thumping the Birds handed the Colonels last weekend to put Highlands into the Final Four of the KHSAA playoffs, it would just be fun to beat them in another competition and help out needy children through the Brighton Center.

Charles Keller, the National English Honor Society Sponsor at Highlands, is helping to do just that:

We will hold our annual book drive beginning Monday, November 21 and will end November 30.

We are looking for new and gently use books for children ages beginner to about 12 years old. We have expanded this year’s drive to include a competition with Covington Catholic and, of course, we would like to beat them again. Perhaps your readers would like to help us. They could drop off books at the high school or they may contact me at to make arrangements. All of the books will be donated to the Brighton Center for holiday gifts for children. We have normally collected about 1,200.

Come on Fort Thomas Matters. Let's help.

The Importance of NKU to Fort Thomas

When I have read or engaged in discussions of why Fort Thomas is great the conversation usually comes around to the schools, safety, location, or housing.  But there is one overlooked factor that I think deserves a little additional attention - the role of Northern Kentucky University as our neighbor.

This role in Fort Thomas' success and possible future success was highlighted in my mind over the past couple weeks as I read articles like this one in the Louisville Business Journal about NKU's imminent move to Division 1 next year.

Some of the ways that Fort Thomas gets the benefit of its proximity to NKU include:

  1. Students attract retail business like the new development where I-471 becomes US27.  Having a Chipotle, Jimmy Johns, and Smashburger would likely only be possible due to its proximity to a University.
  2. Faculty and students move here.  Enrollment at NKU is 16,000 but the campus can only accomodate 2,000 students.  This means undergrads are forced to look at off-campus housing if they want to be near the university.  Fort Thomas is a prime location for students to look at and even more appealing for professors.
  3. Supports housing and rental pricing to have a base of residents locked in.   A recent study by had this to say about college towns - "Housing demand in college towns is generally high and vacancy rates are usually low. Combine the supply and demand ratio with rising admissions and the 5 percent rise in rental rates expected by the end of the year"
  4. New Bank of Ky Center means we have even more entertainment options at our disposal since it opened we have had River Monsters arena league football, Paul Simon, Trace Adkins, and Cirque du Soleil to name just a few
  5. Access to higher education.  It is nice to have the option to go down the street and get access to summer school for students that are home for the summer, or the retiree who may want to audit a class for the fun of it.
All of these benefits are only enhanced as NKU takes the leap to Division 1.  Enrollment has been increasing as standards have been strengthened, the campus has been transformed, and its reputation grows.  Going to Division 1 in athletics only increases the reach and appeal of the University and that can only be a good thing for Fort Thomas.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Fort Thomas Weekend News and Notes

A few items of note from around the Fort:

1. The Transportation Department announced this week the beginning of the I-471 resurfacing project.  This has to come as welcome news for those living along or near the highway as it should go a long way towards reducing noise.  But generally this will be a big giant pain for months as there will likely be lane and ramp closures while the resurfacing work is completed.  The work could last into 2013

The work will begin in the spring and should make for a much quieter drive in and out of Fort Thomas. Apparently the concrete used on the highway is the original concrete from the 1970's.  The new surface will use new concrete technologies that will reduce tire noise - which apparently creates most of the noise you hear along the highway.

2. Highlands football had another big win this weekend setting up a rematch with Cov Cath for next weekend.  Keep in mind that Cov Cath always plays the Blue Birds strong and gave Highlands the closest match of the year (in addition to the Elder game that they played without Pat Towles) back in September.

If you look at the playoff brackets you will see that a potential opponent in the semi-finals is Boyle Co (if they get past Lexington Catholic - which is doubtful) whom Highlands beat in the first game of the year 35 - 14.

3. Construction on the New Garden seems to be progressing well.  I have heard rumblings of an opening in the near future which should add an extra dining option to the Midway district.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

NKy's Best Pizza: Newport Pizza Company

After polishing off three different and distinct pizzas, a dessert calzone and a few libations, the FTM crew figured out a few things that we now know will be a running theme throughout the quest of finding Northern Kentucky's best pizza.

1) We were correct in our assessment that Ft. Thomas Pizza would be the beneficiary of being the guinea pig in this feature.

2) If NKy's Best Pizza was American Idol, Ben Petracco would be Paula Abdul.

Atmosphere (1-10 scale): 8

Again, never been to Newport Pizza Co., but I knew exactly where it was. If you've ever drive down Monmouth Street in Newport, I'm sure you do too. I was a little nervous about the parking situation, but was soon put at easy when I pulled into their own lot to the side and behind the restaurant.

As soon as I stepped out of my car, the smell grabbed me by the nose, my feet dragging behind me, I slunk into the open dining room. About 10 tables and 8 spots at the bar. Darrin's son, Peter, was already posted up at the Ms. PacMan. Immediately I realized I was flanked by three HD TVs. The hand painted mural (below) of the Cincinnati skyline also added a touch of character you don't see everywhere.

I felt cozy, even though we were seated as close to the door as we could get.

Overall Pizza Taste/Selection: 8.7

Newport Pizza Company made the top 50 on Cincinnati Magazine's Best Pizza Places and we could tell why. They make a more New York style. Thinner crust, which almost has a buttery taste and feel. You can tell they take pride in selecting their menu (picture below) and toppings (33 total).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What Can Fort Thomas Tree Trails Do for You?

Two UC researchers recently published a paper on how living near nature trails can have a significant positive impact on home values.  According to the research study homebuyers are willing to pay a $9,000 premium to be 1,000 feet closer to the Little Miami trail. (In other words, home prices went up $9 for every foot closer to the trail’s entrance.)  The story continues with a couple of interesting quotes about the value of nature trails:

“For the ‘New Urbanist’, multipurpose trails provide the potential for bicycle commuting; help alleviate noise, pollution and congestion, and expand the means for green transportation and a community’s walkability,” the report says.  It’s an interesting proposition. Americans increasingly don’t have the money to take big vacations, so living near a park or nature trail gives them a cheap and highly enjoyable means of relaxation.

This brings up an interesting question about Fort Thomas' tree trails that are currently confined to Tower Park.  I have always contended that these are some of the most under-utilized assets the city has.  It took me living in Fort Thomas for five years until I discovered how amazing they are.  With little or almost non-existent signage and no promotion of these trails they have become a truly hidden gem.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Prepare Affair (Guest Post by Ben Petracco)

This weekend there is an outstanding opportunity for people of all ages to volunteer and help citizens of Ft. Thomas.

The Prepare Affair is taking place on Saturday November 12th. The great event is put on by People Working Cooperatively, and it is providing a service to elderly citizens in Ft. Thomas who need help preparing their homes for the winter seasons.

Volunteers are asked to meet at Christ Church, located across the street from the post office at 9 a.m. The work crews will be assembled into groups of 5 to 10, and each group will be assigned three homes where the work is to be done. (Please note the homes have already been chosen) The fall chores that are being done include, but are not limited to, raking leaves, yard maintenance, putting lawn furniture away, turning off and storing hoses, and cleaning gutters.

This work will take place from 9 to Noon. PWC does ask for donations to help with the overall cost of the event, and there is a lunch provided at Christ Church following the Prepare Affair.

For more information on the Prepare Affair, or future opportunities like this one, go to the People Working Cooperatively website or visit the Christ Church website here:

Sunday, November 6, 2011

I don’t know about you but I can never remember a general election (especially one for a statewide office like Governor) with less fanfare, media attention, or discussion than this upcoming election on Tuesday.  I have seen almost no yard signs and heard almost no ads. 

One thing to consider before going to the polls this year is that some locations have changed.  My location changed from the High School to the Methodist Church across the street.  If you need a confirmation you can contact the Campbell County Clerk’s office.  I had intended to send you to the Board of Elections website ( ) but they still have the old precinct information on there.

Regardless of where you are voting or the fact that no one apparently cares about this election I felt it was important to do a quick refresher on what we are voting on this coming Tuesday.  To do so I am providing a few resources to help you make informed decisions:

Campbell Co. 4th in Kentucky Deer Strikes

The deer issue hasn't been brought up in a while, so my interest was piqued when I saw the above chart put out by the Kentucky State Patrol. In it, it shows that Campbell County ranks fourth among all Kentucky counties in amount of incidents with deer caused vehicle collisions.

The rolling undeveloped hills of the Highlands is in direct correlation with high deer population in Fort Thomas. According to the city's website, between 2003-2006 (which are the only statistics give on deer/vehicle impacts) close to 12 deer are hit in Fort Thomas each year. Most of those are on Memorial Parkway and Route 8/Mary Ingles Highway.

Looking at the deer census within the context of this study, it follows that the deer collisions should begin to subside with the deer hunting ordinances that were imposed.

The deer census showed 205 deer in 2010 and 170 deer in 2011. So it looks like the steps council has taken to control the deer population in Fort Thomas are doing their part in helping to lower the ranking for Campbell County.

Happy Sunday.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

YMCA Membership Changes Provide Opportunities

The YMCA of Greater Cincinnati has recently introduced a couple of membership changes that should prompt you to consider Y membership if you haven't lately.

The first is the change in activation fee from $150 to $50 that is completely paid back in program gift certificates.  This basically means no activation fee if you want to sign your child up for any activities.

The second change involves the introduction of "My Y Rewards" launched on October 1st.  This program allows members the opportunity to earn points for positive lifestyle choices.  Some ways you can earn points include:

  • 100 points for signing up for the program
  • 10 points for each time you visit
  • 50 points for completing an Active Trax workout
  • 50 points for completing a YMCA program such as youth sports, aquatic programs, or personal training
These points can be redeemed in the following levels:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Nky's Best: Pizza Pecking Order - Ft. Thomas Pizza & Tavern

Hopefully by now, you've done your homework and googled Mel Brooks' quote on bad pizza, or lack thereof. Someone please just post it in the comments so I don't have to keep answering emails asking what I'm talking about.

The FTM crew just got back from our first crusade to search out Northern Kentucky's best pizza and I gotta say, I'm pizza wasted. Not chocolate wasted. Pizza wasted. I ate too much and I already know early into this quest, my challenge it going to try to be to write my thoughts before my fingers get too greasy and all I want to do is go home and take a nap.

Darrin, Ben and I (along with the ruminations of our better halves and others that decide to join us) will independently rank on a 1-10 scale four main categories at each establishment. Overall Pizza Taste. Atmosphere. Extras. Service.

A couple of ground rules:
#1- We'll generally order two pies. A pepperoni pizza will be the staple. Everyone does a pepperoni and this way the restaurant won't be able to mask the true essence of their pizza.

#2 - We'll usually leave the second pizza up to the restaurant. No one knows their pizza better, so we'll basically ask the server to "give us your best shot."

#3 - We'll try our best to keep our thoughts to ourselves during the challenge, then we'll average each category to come up with a master score. Sound good? Ready? Break!

Fort Thomas Pizza & Tavern

Overall Pizza Taste: 5 (One large 12" Pepperoni, One large 12" California Ranch Chicken Pizza, Pretzel with cheese appetizer)

The California Ranch Chicken Pizza (henceforth referred to as CRCP) was the table's favorite. When we were signing for our bill, I looked down and there was the lone piece of CRCP, with about 5-6 pieces of pepperoni. It was a mixture of pizza sauce, ranch, onions, generous shards of chicken breast and mozzarella.

The score probably would have been a higher had we only had the CRCP. The pepperoni was, for a lack of a better term: a lot. A lot of cheese, a lot of sauce, a lot of pepperoni. I picked it up and it was pretty heavy, which could be a good or a bad thing. In this case, I don't think it was inspiring. It was average.

Atmosphere: 3.5
They had redone their dining room a few years back to make it more sports oriented and the front of the house looks nice. There are a few regulars who post up almost daily, according to the server. Unfortunately for people going there to eat, and not to drink and smoke, the front part of the tavern is also the smoking section.

The back part is non smoking and does have an LCD flat screen, so were were able to watch the UK basketball game. But as Ben described the other TV back there, "It looked like Doc Brown got in his Delorean to bring that TV back from the future."

I can see how it could get pretty crowded, pretty quick on a weekend, though. It would be great if the two rooms were a little more conjoined, and less choppy.

There was also a pretty good view of the kitchen, ice machine and storage racks in front of the old brick facade. Not a good thing in our view.

Extras: 6.5
There's no real way to quantify what an extra is. Extras include different or unusually good appetizers, good beer selections, or cool Man vs. Food type challenges. In this case, Ft. Thomas Pizza had all three.

We ordered pretzels with cheese app, expecting big, fluffy pretzel sticks with the standard dressing type cup of queso cheese. Instead we got the pretzels, split down the middle, with melted mozzarella cheese baked into it. Hadn't seen them presented that way and it was definitely innovative and scrumptious. Good stuff.

The bottled beer selection was really surprising. I'm a beer snob and when I saw a Delirium Nonturnum, I knew whoever was responsible for putting that beer in their cooler was too. Good stuff, again.

Didn't get to the challenge, as it wasn't quite the weekend yet. But there are three beer challenges, that if nothing else, would provide good entertainment to watch someone else try it. The Midget: a team of 2 gets 2.5 minutes to drink 144 ounces of beer. Das Boot: One person gets to try to drink a 48 ounce beer, shaped as a boot, in 20 seconds or less. Do either and the drinks are on the house.

Respective records are posted at the bar.

Service: 6.5
I'm not one to get down on servers. I was a server in college and I know how damn difficult it is. The girls we had (yes, we had two servers) were awesome. They changed the channel to the UK for us, were attentive and obliged us when we were bothering them about the beer challenges.

The cook time was a little on the slow side, but as long as you are there to hang out, it's no big deal. They also offer delivery and carry out.

Our servers also pulled out the crayons and tic-tac-toe sheets when the kids were getting tired of watching the adults eat. We are so boring.

Final Score: 5.375
It was difficult to do the first challenge because you have nothing to compare it to. I grew up in Fort Thomas and had never actually eaten here, so unfortunately (or fortunately) Fort Thomas Pizza was our guinea pig because I was really anxious to try it.

Great first experience. I'd for sure go back.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Possible Coffee Shop Needs Your Help

Coming on the heels of the exciting news about Mios - I have even more exciting news.  Eden McDermett is considering a coffee shop in the Midway area of Fort Thomas in the Nevada building.  She is reaching out to Fort Thomas Matters to gather input from the community about what would make a great coffee shop and entice you to come and buy coffee or snacks.

I am including a brief intro from Eden about who she is and what she wants to create in the Midway.  She would really love your input by completing the linked form.  Lets not disappoint - we have an opportunity to provide input on something we can all be proud of - go spend 5 minutes and let her know what you think.

Hello, Fort Thomas.  My name is Eden McDermott.  After nearly nine years in the commercial real estate industry and being laid off from my most recent position as Marketing Manager at Neyer Properties, I took the time to seek out where my passions lie and not hesitate to go after them.  I rediscovered my dream of owning a small business & decided a coffee shop is where I wanted to be.   

Eden Perk will be a community-minded coffee shop in the heart of Fort Thomas' historic Midway District located in the Nevada building.  Eden will serve organic, fair-trade, and locally-sourced coffee, tea, and specialty drinks, along with a small selection of baked goods, in an inviting and inspiring environment where guests can share their time with friends, family or a good book.  Eden's drinks are prepared by skilled and creative experts to empower its guests throughout the day. 

Eden Perk’s mission is to increase respect for the craft, art, and science of coffee; lead by example the responsibility to support our neighbors; and offer an environment in which to share a memorable experience.