The Foodie Report
Ruminations on food, cooking in and eating out in our area.

It's entirely possible to be a vegetarian in Porkopolis. Pop culture reporter Lauren Bishop blogs about products, recipes and restaurants she's tried for others who eat meat-free. E-mail her at lbishop@enquirer.com.

Nicci King is an unabashed foodie and the Lifestyle/Food editor in The Enquirer's features department. She loves to discover new food faves, and she's on a daily quest to answer one burning question: What's for dinner? E-mail her at nking@enquirer.com.

Enquirer Weekend editor Julie Gaw tends to order the same dish every time she eats at a restaurant, but periodically ventures out to discover something new and fabulous. After living in China, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Thailand for more than 8 years, she craves tasty Asian food. E-mail her at jgaw@enquirer.com.

Food/dining writer Polly Campbell loves every quirk and secret of Cincinnati's food personality, and is on a constant lookout for something good to eat. Keep an eye out for her restaurant picks, or see how she's progressing toward becoming famous for her apple pie. E-mail her at pcampbell@enquirer.com.

Communities reporter Rachel Richardson is on a mission to prove vegetarians eat more than lettuce. She shares both her graduate work on American food culture and food-related news.. E-mail her at rrichardson@enquirer.com.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Blue Ash Thai

It's no longer exciting to hear that a Thai/sushi restaurant is going to open: they are a dime a dozen. But I am more than usually interested in the one that's going to open in Blue Ash. Chanaka Delanerolle, who owns Teak in Mount Adams, has bought the Watson Bros building and is going to do the Thai/sushi combination, with some other Asian food thrown in. The name Apsara, he says, means the sacred dancers at a Buddhist temple and has a good meaning of blessedness.
He says his will be better than all the others because he has a master sushi chef and doesn't cut corners. That seems completely possible. He's done a great job with attention to detail at Celestial Steakhouse, anohter of his Mount Adams restaurants, and Teak is wildly popular--an hour and a half wait on the weekend he says. Plus the building is big and impressive, and has one of the nicer patios in the Greater Cincinnati area. I do miss the beer. . . . .


Ravioli time!!!

Man. How the heck did it get to be April already? Always amazes me how time flies...

Which means the Sacred Heart Church ravioli dinner has snuck up on us again. Thanks to Chuck Martin, former FoodBoy, for having brought it to my attention last year. (Read his 2004 story here.) I haven't been able to confirm the event by phone today (the priest wasn't answering!), but ZipScene says it's on.

The Camp Washington church (not too far from downtown Cincinnati, off I-75) hosts this event every Palm Sunday, and sometime in October. And it's a big deal. Pretty tasty food too! We got takeout frozen ravioli last October, but I'd love to go in for the sit-down in the school cafeteria.
Whether you go for takeout (you can even bring pots/tupperware to take home cooked meatballs and such) or sit-down, ASK someone where you're going. We stood (very unhappily, I might add) in a long line for at least 30 minutes last year, before we figured out we didn't need to wait so dang long just to get the frozen ravioli. But bring your family and friends and make an afternoon of it.


So Sturkey's in Wyoming is going to become an Encore Bistro. It's about time they changed the name, since Paul and Pam Sturkey haven't been involved in a long time. The whole story of the separation of Sturkey and his restaurants has been kind of strange. I've heard explanations about how it all happened, but nothing on the record. Everyone was the kind of tight-lipped that says "legal proceedings." Anyway, I'm glad the Sturkeys have their own apparently thriving restaurant now. The more casual Encore concept may very well be better for Wyoming, though Sturkey's was one of the few fine-dining restaurants in that whole quadrant of town, so it's certainly a loss.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


There's an opening date for Hugo now. That's the “sophisticated Southern” restaurant planned for the former Pho Paris space in Oakley. Their web site's up, too, where you can check out the menu. Sounds good: wild mushrooms with pork belly, endive and parmesan, or pork loin with butter beans, southern greens, golden raisins and bourbon.

Similar in a way to SouthView at Newport, though I think it sounds more culinarily serious.

Sean Daly's the chef/owner. He's one of several chefs with this story: went to Cincinnati private high school (Summit), went to culinary school, spent time in another city, then came back to open a restaurant with some private financial backing. (The others I'm thinking of are David Falk, whose restaurant Boca is across the street, and also went to Summit; Jonathan Dwight, of Fresh, and Julie Francis of Nectar, who went to Seven Hills.) Only notable because I imagine there was a day not so long ago when parents who'd just spent their money on a private high school education would have been pretty upset if their kids wanted to head for the kitchen.
Hugo will serve dinner Tuesday-Saturday. 3235 Madison Avenue, Oakley, www.hugo-restaurant.com

Candy's dandy

I've been shopping for Easter candy, and I'm so glad I made the effort to get up to Loveland to visit Loveland Sweets. What a perfect little store it is. owner Gloria Wilson took a storefront on the main street, just by the bike path, and turned it into an old-fashioned candy store fantasy. There's dark wainscotting, marble counters, and a tile floor. A glass-fronted counter is full of Michel Cluizel chocolates (little corks! pretty hearts! Strawberry truffles iced with a strawberry!) Wilson's own fudge and turtles, and all kinds of truffles. TThere are beautiful gold and silver dragees, and seasonal fun stuff. Then there are big glass jars full of jellybeans, gummy candies, Boston baked beans, and everything else that makes a kid feel like he's in a candy shop. It's all so neatly and attractively arranged and laid out. Check it out for Easter. 124 W. Loveland AVe., 513-583-8305

More ch-ch-changes

Lauren Bishop is just back from a press conference now, where she was finding out more about plans to change Neon's into a wine and tapas bar. With Vinyl owners Roula G. David and Michael A. Spalding leading the charge for the change, I've got a good feeling about this. I think everyone agrees we need more LIFE in the nightlife aspect of the Main Street nightlife district.

And Dancing Wasabi (love the name!) has taken the place of Sushi Ray in Mount Lookout. It still amazes me how many sushi joints there are in town.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

open/closed/maybe/maybe not

Oh, my, it's hard to keep up. Twenty Mile House, maybe closed, or maybe just for renovation. Wild Bill's in Lebanon closed a few weeks ago, but now is going to re-open. Brinkley's was going to change to a make-your-own pizza restaurant, but now they're closed.

I am very glad about Wild Bill's: and I think it will be better than ever. it had been a bar/wings/live music/hangout as well as a restaurant with lots of specials crafted from local ingredients, all with a spicy theme. Bill Schroeder says they went smoke-free a month before the ban; smokers found other places to go, and they're still going to some of them, since the ban's not being enforced. Which is so messed-up, don't you think? So he and his wife are going to take it a little easier by not serving lunch and concentrating on the good food that his customers missed.
So if you're one of those Lebanon folks (Lebanese?) who was sad when Wild Bill's closed, be sure to go to the re-opened version.

I was kind of looking forward to the make-your-own pizza place, too. Apparently, deals betwen the owners of hotel and owners of restaurant (Stevens Hospitality, who used to be owners of the hotel) didn't agree on a lease. It's not an easy spot, kind of on its own in Norwood, but handy if you live in P. Ridge, Norwood, Bond Hill, N. AVondale, so I hope they find some good new concept.

Haagen-Dazs contest

I missed the early rounds of Scoop: the Haagen-Dazs Flavor Search. But it's now up to the public to vote on the final three contenders, as chosen from thousands of create-your-own ice cream flavors. Carmelized pear & toasted pecan, coco y cacao, and blueberry Belgian waffle. Let's just say I'm a huge fan of Mounds candy bars.

Speaking of candy, here's some eye (and ear) candy on another Haagen-Dazs site, Mayan chocolate. I love this stuff as background noise in the office. Have any other favorites?

BTW I love the background of Haagen-Dazs, with its exotic name and its blending of sex/romance and food. GREAT marketing. Read the history here.

What are you waiting for? Go vote!!!

Green tea = calorie burner?

A promotional piece for Enviga landed in my inbox today, compliments of Daily Candy. The pitch in a nutshell? Drink 3 cans of this sparkling green-tea, antioxidant-rich mix daily, and you (the average 18-35 year old) can burn up to an additional 100 calories a day. It's 5 calories a can, and has 100 mg caffeine per serving - and 200 mg of calcium, for good measure.

Me? I'm a skeptic. Green tea may be good for you, but I prefer Earl Grey, thank you very much. Besides, brew your own tea, and between getting up from your chair after boiling the water, and letting it steep, you may burn just as many calories on your own. Besides, that's a lot cheaper than paying $1.29-$1.49 per CAN for this stuff. Go figure.

Has anyone tried it? Enviga doesn't even sound good to me.
PS - When I was traveling over Easter break years ago in backpacker haven Yangshuo, China, I asked about the restaurant's "specialty." (There was, indeed, fried bamboo rat on the menu.) However, the waiter informed me that the ginger tea was the shop's "special tea." But it was pretty dang good!

Wine in a box. Again.

So AP now reports that wine in a box "is now the fastest growing wine category." I suppose there aren't a lot of other innovations in the industry that would be growing more quickly, but I'm still hesitant about wine in a box. I'm much more amenable to screwcap wines. But it's an image thing for me. Can you imagine a waiter at Boca or Jeff Ruby's pouring your wine at the table - from a box!? Ew. Besides, no 3-liter boxes for me. Keep me at a liter, and I can sample more, and find more of what I like - without getting stuck w/ a massive box in the fridge or eating up my counter space.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Chocolate beer!

I don't think I'll try this one (not much of a beer drinker), but here's the latest Bier Mail from Hofbrauhaus:

"Come try April's Bier! 7 pm on Wednesday, March 28, 2007.

"Join us for a keg tapping celebration presenting our seasonal bier for April, Schwarzbier (5.6 % Alc. by Volume). A darker version of our Kunzel Lager characterized with a distinct chocolate flavor, accentuated with a balance of hops. Made for Eric Kunzel of the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra."

local cookbook

I was at Party Source last week, looking for fun Easter chocolate--and buying wine of course while there. There was a lot of activity over in the teaching kitchen, so I stuck my nose in. Amy Tobin, Party Source cooking teacher and candidate for our local Martha, (only nicer and more down-to-earth) was working on styling and shooting photos for her cookbook. First I'd heard of it--she said it would be published this summer. Looks like it's going to be nice-looking
If there's good food, I have to nab a bit, so I tried her peppered tuna appetizer--square chunks of tuna with a peppered rim--really good. But what will make the cookbook worth whatever price they sell it for is the churros: those delicious fried mexican pastries rolled in cinnamon sugar. Amy's are especially tender and moist. Don't usually deep-fry at home, but these would be worth it.

We all scream for... pizza?

For more than 20 years, the good - but obviously slightly deranged - people at Aldrich Beef & Ice Cream Parlor in Fredonia, N.Y., have concocted a joke of sorts for patrons on April Fools' Day. (Oddly enough, they don't have a Web site! I called and asked...) My guess is it's kind of like that phenomenon when your friend says, "Oh, this is SO gross! Taste it!!!" And, even though your friend is turning green, you totally do. Why? Because you're human, silly! And curious by nature...

This year, you can get a scoop of pizza-flavored ice cream. It is an, um, interesting blend of cream, sugar, pepperoni, mushrooms, tomato flavoring, and cheese. And because pizza/ice cream wouldn't be the same without sprinkles, they'll also have Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper. I wonder if the cone will be cake, sugar or pizza dough?

Some of the past gag (no pun intended) flavors include succotash (vanilla ice cream, corn, lima beans and pimentos), bacon and eggs, pork and beans, creamed corn, bologna and sauerkraut.

You are so thinking what I'm thinking, aren't you? ROAD TRIP!!!!! You gas up the car and I'll grab the antacid-flavored soda! Sweet!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Art imitates life, in my mind anyway

Read this and then hit the back button on your browser...

Why did this "only in Cincinnati scene" pop into my head:

A couple enjoy their meals in Ruby's Bootsay's (not to be confused with Ruby Tuesday's) while old-school funk blares in the background.

Guy (yelling): This steak is really good!!

Girl: Please?!

Guy (yelling): I SAID this steak is really good!!!

(The music stops suddenly.)

Girl (yelling at the top of her lungs): Please?!?!

Guy: Why are you yelling?

C-O-O-L site for foodies

One of our loyal blog readers (who will remain anonymouS until sHe Allows me to post her picture aNd a recipe, or at least her NAme aNd a recipe) sent me a link to what is one of the coolest food-related sites I've ever seen. Check out http://www.grouprecipes.com/profile/. I signed up (it took all of 30 seconds), and my screenname is AntiFoodSnob. Why? Because foodie and snob are NOT interchangeable. You can be a foodie and a snob, but it is not one in the same. But you already knew that...

Alright. I'm feeling a little shaky and looking a little green today (maybe the shark video is just now hitting me). No more food talk for me until this passes...

As you were, my dear foodies.

Sugar cookies for spring

I don't necessarily eat a lot of sweets, but when I do, I want them to be really good. (Translation: no jam in my Christmas cookies!!!) I did come across this sugar cookie recipe (posted within the first comment) from a Martha Stewart article not so long ago, and can honestly say it's the best sugar cookie I've ever made. Here is a slightly different sugar cookie recipe from Martha's site that might be worth trying, and the accompanying royal icing recipe. (I have never tried it with meringue powder, but it takes a long time to dry with the egg white. But it's good!) A good idea for easy Easter egg cut-out cookies. My best advice on these: make the dough first and chill it. I tried to skip this step, and my cookies were a bit unruly as a result. They spread out a little more than I might have hoped, which is why more generic (i.e., circles, egg shapes, stars) cookies work better than really detailed ones. But if you get creative with the icing, you can cover anything up.

My original sugar cookie recipe comes from a childhood Sesame Street book - Cookie Monster's Sugar Cookies. My aunt and mom both asked me for the recipe again last year, since they remembered making them when I was a toddler. They're good, a little too flour-y, but better eaten just as dough than baked! (We used to make them and they'd never make it to the oven). Oh well!

More black holes

I see the 20 Mile House is closed. Owners say it's for remodeling, but the phone's disconnected. On the corner of Columbia and Montgomery up in Landen, it has been a number of things. I think I first went there when it was the Hyde Park Steakhouse, then a seafood place called Blake's, then back to 20 Mile House, which is what it had been to begin with.

I wouldn't be surprised if it's having a hard time: there's the absolute monster presence of all kinds of chain restaurants in the Fields-Ertel/ Mason-Montgomery Roads areas.

Interesting to note, however, that over on Mason-Montgomery, several chain restaurants have closed over the last year or so at Deerfield Towne Centre and nearby. Romano's Macaroni Grill followed Red Star Tavern and Nothing but Noodles. They each had individual reasons for failing.

(Rumors that Claddagh Irish Pub is closing were denied)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Galerie au Chocolat

Now that Valentine's Day has come and gone, it's time to start plotting my next trip south to Hebron's Galerie au Chocolat outlet. Check out some of the cool Easter stuff! This is where you can get some good bargains on Choxie too, which Target carries.

Mediterranean/Ethiopian feast

A postcard showed up in my mailbox with this (seemingly) unlikely combination of events.
On April 23, in celebration of Israel’s 59th birthday, the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati is hosting a Mediterranean and Ethiopian feast (6-7:15 p.m. April 23) followed by an Israeli jazz concert, featuring the Mattan Klein Quartet (starts at 7:30 p.m. April 23). And it's all in Oakley's 20th Century Theatre.
Who says there's nothing interesting happening in Cincinnati!?
RSVP for tickets: 513-985-1521, or go online.

Dunkin' Donuts report

Just went to the Dunkin' Donuts in the Fifth Third building on Fountain Square to pick up my free 16-ounce iced coffee and there were only a couple of people in line ahead of me doing the same. So go get yours, and happy first day of spring!


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Put your lunch away

*Disclaimer: Don't click on these links if you can't stomach Fear Factor.

I'm not sure what I am cooking for dinner tonight, but I know what I am not... It won't be this or this...

Um, bon appetit?

Indy dining

I'm planning a fun weekend in Indianapolis soon - some shopping, some dining...but wondering what the must-hit restaurants are. I definitely want to check out Traders Point Creamery in Zionsville, which has an awesome brunch menu for Saturday mornings. Local, organic, seasonal food - what's not to love? And you can watch the cows being milked!

Beyond St. Elmo Steak House, which I tried during Restaurant Week last year, I don't know what Indy's other hot spots are. Sought out a few Chinese restaurants last year too, but was not so impressed that I had to go back.

Any suggestions for great Indy eats?

Buttercream icing?

Between taking a cake decorating class and shopping for a wedding cake, I'm learning more about icing than I ever knew before. I am a cream cheese icing snob, and insist on plain ol' boring white cake with cream cheese icing - usually purchased in a plastic tub, or mixing plain white icing (also in a tub) w/ a pack of Philadelphia cream cheese. But when you're frosting a cake for class that insists on a bit stiffer icing - one you can make flowers and (ugh) clowns with - you have to make it yourself.

The four-week intro decorating class I'm taking at Fantasy in Frosting uses the Wilton Method. The frosting recipe I was given looks a lot like this, only there's NO buttter - just Crisco and powdered sugar, and FAKE vanilla extract (since it's clear). Yuck. So I'm looking for a better recipe - that tastes good, and has the stiffer consistency you need for decorating.

I think I'll try one of these buttercream recipes, or maybe this cream cheese one. Unless you have any favorites you'd like to recommend?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Global (re)treats

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of being in a room full of people in which at least 10 countries were represented when I attended a dinner hosted by the Global Center of Greater Cincinnati YPs. I only recently became involved with the group after learning about it from the director, Julie Arostegui. So this was a great way to meet some of the members. It was an evening of enlightenment as the YPs gathered to meet a very interesting group of international visitors who are visiting the United States to study ways to combat human trafficking. It was amazing to have the chance to discuss the matter in the presence of such a wonderful mix of people. Gareth L. Howell, president and CEO of the group, opened up his lovely home to all of us for the dinner. The cozy setting made discussion and milling about effortless. The countries that were represented included Albania, Germany, Jamaica, Kosovo, Madagascar, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Wales, Yemen and, of course, the States.

In addition to the sharing of global ideas, it was a potluck so we were able to enjoy cuisine from all over the world, too. One YP brought a taste of the American South with a big dish of Shrimp and Grits. Another made a timely (it was St. Patrick's day, for those of you who didn't spend Sunday testing hangover remedies) dish of Beef and Irish Stout Stew. We also got to sample a heavenly and hellaciously spicy pot of Chicken Biryani that another YP made. I made sambusas, an Ethiopian appetizer (see recipe in comment section). They are very similar to Pakistani samosas, Jamaican meat patties, Puerto Rican meat pies, etc...
And that's just scratching the surface of all the cultures/cuisines that were represented that evening. When I left, I wasn't just full of tasty food... I was inspired and brimming with creative energy. It was a great reminder that the world really is small. After all.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Tink's wine tasting

This sounds yummy. I get e-mails from theEwinestore.com, and some group cumbersomely titled "Association for Affordable Great Food & Wine" is hosting its first AAGF&W dinner at Tink's, 7 p.m. next Tuesday, March 20. It's $40 per person. Reservations: 513-984-9463 (by noon Monday). The menu looks something like this. I am tempted!

Shrimp & grits, paired w/ Taz Pinot Gris, Santa Barbara 2005
Fried green tomatoes, Big House Red, California 2004
Grilled salmon, Irony Pinot Noir, Monterey 2005
Chocolate chocolate torte, 337 Cabernet Sauvignon, Lodi 2004

Pity I already have dinner plans Tuesday.

Free coffee alert

Tomorrow, Thursday, March 15, from 10 a.m. to noon, Starbucks will give away free tall (i.e. small) coffees. More details here.

Not to be outdone, next Wednesday, March 21, Dunkin' Donuts will celebrate the first day of spring by offering free 16-ounce cups of iced coffees all day.

So how many different Starbucks locations do you think you can squeeze into a two-hour period tomorrow?


Pi(e) Day

My daughter went off to school today toting a gorgeous Dutch apple crumb pie she made last night for today's special meeting of the Pi club. This is a school club where they meet to talk about pi and eat pie. (And, no they're not complete geeks, they're just silly)

Today is the biggest day of the year in Pi club circles: it's Pi Day: March 14-- you know, 3.14?

So make a pie tonight. You could make a square one since, as you may recall, pi r square. But a circle, of course, is the more appropriate use of the pi ratio.

By the way, it's also Einstein's birthday.

Here's a great recipe for an easy pie that's appropriate for this time of year when there's no seasonal fruit. It's from an old favorite cookbook of mine, Real Food by Marian Tracy
1 cup tart applesauce
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar or more to taste
3 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 9-inch unbaked pie crust.
Preheat oven to 400.
Put everything but the crust into a blender or food processer and process until well blended. Pour into the unbaked shell. Bake 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 300. Bake about 45 minutes more. The filling becomes firm as it cools. Serve it then, or chill.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Are you shitake-ing me?

While I can't speak on the grow-your-own-morels kit, I can tell you that the shitake logs are sweet. I had one about four years ago. It's basically just a section of hardwood that has been inoculated with shitake spawn. Mmm! Sounds appetizing, doesn't it? OK, not really. But I'm a science buff as well as a foodie so I loved it. I took care of and I had a batch of yummy shitakes every two months or so. I gave the log to a friend and last I heard (about six-eight months ago), it was still fruiting... You can buy them from tons of places via the web, and they'll cost you as little as $20 and as much as $50 or more, depending on the size of the wood, where you get it, etc...

What's not to love about a shitake log? The 'shrooms are tasty, and having a log covered in fungi sitting on your kitchen island is a GREAT conversation piece. Add a few bottles of wine to the mix and you really ratchet up the awe factor your visitors will experience as they try to figure out what the he** it is...

Whether you want to grow fungi in your house or you prefer to just grab some from the grocer, here are some great recipes to try the next time you get your hands on some...

Seattle-style chili??

I found out something interesting the other day when I was talking to the K.C and Jim Thrasher, the new owners of The Chili Company, who have re-opened the original store in Colerain Township. K.C. says she practically grew up at the restaurant, because her father took her so often and was close to the original owner, Papa Bill Poulis. Apparently, Papa Bill's father, a Greek immigrant, had originally made his chili in Seattle before he brought it here to Cincinnati. Not that he invented it: other Greek immigrants were already making chili here before he showed up. (His son still has the recipe and makes it for the Thrashers.) But it makes me wonder if there's something more to the story of the origins of Cincinnati-style chili. Did it have some other originating point, go to several places, but only survive in Cincinnati? What if it had caught on in Seattle? It would probably be a trendy national dish by now. . .
Oh, well, SEattle doesn't know what it's missing.

Cake decorating time!

Last month, I called Fantasy in Frosting in Newport, and was pleased to discover that their cake decorating classes for the month of March were still available. I'd tried to sign up before but they were always booked. But there was space! The next beginner's course starts in April.
It's a four-week course, and after the first week, when the instructor shows you what you'll be doing, it's hands-on, so you have to bring a frosted cake every week, and make a ton of frosting. Needless to say, I wasn't bored this weekend. But I was quite pleased with my first effort.
Instruction is in the "Wilton Method," which sounds a little more intimidating than it is, but apparently Michael's and Hobby Lobby have the classes as well.
Everyone thinks I'm taking the class so I can make my wedding cake (no way!). I'm just doing it for fun - and it's a pleasant diversion. Tonight, I practice making the bases for roses, which we learn next week. (This week was very simple - the star tip, dots and writing).

Grow your own morels?

A company selling "grow-your-own" morel mushroom kits e-mailed us here at The Enquirer. I remember looking at these last year, and the year before, and wondering, Do they really work? I grew up in White Oak with a yard full of huge oak trees and massive compost pile of leaves, and we always had morels growing up from underneath all the leaf litter, around May 15 every year. In case there is any doubt, let me make this clear: I LOVE MORELS. We'd soak them in water, then sprinkle the water (with the spores in it) outside, where they'd come up, to ensure more the following year. My dad would fry them up in butter in a cast-iron skillet, and I remember thinking, Mmmm, they taste like steak!

Can you replicate this with a kit? The web site doesn't really specify what climates it works in, though it does have a money-back guarantee. But from what I've heard, it's pretty hard to grow your own mushrooms - especially morels. Anyone have any experience with this?

(There are also a core group of dedicated morel hunters, but I just don't have the woodsy knowledge to know where to look. Unless, of course, you want to take me to your secret hunting spot...)

There's even a morel festival in Boyne City, Michigan. Mmm. Tasty... But if you're like me, you'll just buy yours from Madison's. Brian over there said they're coming in soon from California - maybe even this week!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Blueberry morning

On rainy, lazy Saturday mornings, I'm thankful for my stash of hand-picked blueberries, stored in the freezer, that I pour onto my Cheerios every morning, with either brown sugar or honey, and skim milk. I've picked blueberries at an Indiana farm for the past two summers, and thankful I picked considerably more this past summer. The year before, I'd run out of blueberries by now. I certainly have no memories of eating blueberries when I was a kid (it was going to pick strawberries here in Cincinnati, and having raspberry vines in the backyard). But all my friend's babies (including my niece, in the picture) seem to LOVE blueberries - even if they do get a little messy.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Restaurant Bermuda Triangles

I ate at the new Pho Paris recently (the review will be in Weekend on the 16th). This Vietnamese-French fusion restaurant moved from its original Oakley spot, which was originally Andiamo!, into its new spot, which was originally Scalea's and then Bistro 318 and then the Continental Lounge. (Am I forgetting one?) I think it's brave of Jean-Robert de Cavel to move into a space that has been unsuccessful for others, though I'm glad he did. It's a great space, and I love that block, so it's seems like a good move. I guess there are spots that are intrinsically bad locations, and others that just coincidentally house several unsuccessful tries. But there could be some kind of metaphysical jinx, and that's what makes the next tenant brave. (It's an old block; ghosts are a possibility)

I think the two restaurant addresses that I have visited the most often over the last decade are the one in Harper's Point that was Ciao Baby, then I think an Elliot Jablonsky spot I don't remember the name of at the moment, then Ferrari's, then Restaurant for about ten minutes. (I'm sure I'm forgetting one now) It didn't seem like a bad location, so I think someone had definitely hexed it--it's hard to imagine ghosts in a suburban shopping center (Bad feng shui is my other hypothesis) The other is the place in Covington on Madison that was a Cuban restaurant and di John's and Pelican's Reef and Razzberry's. I wonder what location holds the record?

Then there are those restaurants in weird locations that do well anyway. I never thought the Eastern Avenue location of A'meretto would work, and it didn't. But now it's Bella Luna, and it seems to be doing well, thank you, still dishing up Italian.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Things I'm looking forward to.

I was talking recently to Nicola Pietoso of Nicola's and his chef-son Cristian. They're excited about the new restaurant they've got planned for Fountain Square, even though work is going very slowly. They don't even really have a nailed-down lease yet. I'm excited, too. Cristian talked about how he plans to make all the classic Italian dishes, but the original, simple, best version of them.
That is such a great niche to fill. We were talking about how you can eat the world's great dishes many times without ever really understanding what the fuss is about. Great dishes become popular because they're so good, but because they're popular, they're made in all kinds of degraded ways. French onion soup made with bad beef bouillon and wimpy bread and too much cheese: have you ever wondered why it's a classic? Have the real thing, and you suddenly get it.
So I'm looking forward to seeing how this approach works at Via Vite i with spaghetti and pizza and bistecca Fiorentino and so on (I wonder if he'll do osso buco? that's one usually not done well.) It certainly won't be before this summer.

McDonald's bigger burger

So McDonald's is considering a bigger burger - a one-third pound, higher-end Angus burger. At least they are in Southern California. But does McD's NEED a bigger burger? Would you eat one? Not me.

The only time I stop in at McD's is when I'm on the road and it's the quickest, easiest option. In that case, I'm looking for something lighter and quick, since I don't want to fall asleep at the wheel (food coma!). But with the success of McDonald's coffee (better thank Starbucks), it wouldn't surprise me if this mongo-burger made it all the way to Cincinnati.

As for me - If I want a thick, juicy burger, we'll usually make them at home. But for a restaurant burger, I'd take Zip's over McD's any day, no matter how big McDonald's makes its burgers.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Fondue is back....really?

So this AP story claims that fondue pots are back. Does anybody really think so? I haven't completed my wedding registry yet (the wedding's not till September, so plenty of time), but I can guarantee one thing that will NOT be on my wish list: a fondue set. Please no. My parents last dragged theirs out in the 1970s, and after much effort spent dusting it off and using it once, I think it went to Goodwill. The only time any sort of fondue made sense to me was when my Swiss German friend Marcel hosted us in his home - in Singapore - and made raclette. It's a little different from fondue, but it's part of his culture. The only melted cheese I want is on a grilled cheese sandwich, made in a toaster oven - which I still need to register for.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Pringles in crazy flavors

I obviously was in Christmas rush when this news came out in mid-December, but P&G has released Pringles in BAGS. The Pringles minis, which come in normal flavors - original, sour cream & onion, cheddar cheese - YAWN! - fail to excite me. (I don't pack kids' lunches, though they'd make sense for that reason). But I am a little more excited about Pringles Selects, packed in a bag (revolutionary!), which come in four flavors: parmesan garlic, sundried tomatao, Szechuan barbecue and cinnamon sweet potato (!!!). They haven't jumped out at me in the grocery aisles, but maybe I'm not looking hard enough. Saw a coupon for them in this Sunday's Enquirer, which made me think more about them. (For those of you who think Pringles aren't real potato chips - I'm sorry. My uncle was on the original R&D team, so I was chowing down on Pringles samples well before they hit store shelves. I was young, I was impressionable...) Of course, barbecue is not exactly a hallmark of Sichuanese (Szechuan) cooking - mouth-numbing hot pepper is - but I'll reserve judgment till after I've tried them. If they're spicy, we'll be in business.

Friday, March 02, 2007

For all the nerdy foodies...

First, please know "nerd" is a term of endearment in my world. I was always teacher's pet. I started wearing glasses when I was five. FIVE!! And astigmatism = crazy-thick glasses, by the way. I have always been passionate about reading, science (and sci-fi) and writing. I know a thing or three about nerdism.

The nerd/foodie in me adores these Sushi USB drives. Most of them are 256 MB (one is 512 MB, one is 1 GB) and the prices range from $99 to $219. They also have one that looks like a little bottle of sake. So cool!
I don't exude nerdiness as much as I used to (at least I don't think I do), but it's still there. And you know what? I'm not ashamed. Nerds (and good food) make the world a better place...

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