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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Monday, April 30, 2007

Drum roll, please...

I'm happy to present The Foodie Report's very first Reader Recipe of the Week! *raucous applause* Thank you, thank you... OK... Settle down, folks...

Shannan B., a Park Hills, Ky., resident and loyal Foodie Report fan and commenter, sent me this recipe and the story behind it!


I am about to share with you the best cookie recipe ever. For someone like myself, that cannot cook, finding this recipe (thanks MOM!!) was the best thing that could have happened to my children and my co-workers. I first made the recipe last year when my company had a bake-off. I was horrified. Did they know what they were doing? Since there wasn't going to be a paramedic on hand, I turned to my mother for help. She gave me the recipe below and the confidence to not try and pass store-bought cookies off as my own. The results... I took first place in my heat of the company cookie bake-off!!! Enjoy! Here is the version for traditional chocolate chip cookies:

Mom's Save-the-day Cookies
1 (18.25 ounce) package moist yellow cake mix*
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.
Pour cake mix into a large bowl. Stir in the oil and eggs until well blended. Mix in chocolate chips. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove from pan to cool on wire racks.

Makes 12 servings

* What is great about this recipe is you can use it to make just about any variety of cookie. Personally I like using chocolate cake mix and then adding chocolate and peanut butter chips.

Thanks, "Don't spell my name with an 'o' " Shannan!
Wanna be cool like her? Well, you too can have your name and recipe in lights as the Reader Recipe of the Week. E-mail me your favorite recipe, the tasty tale behind it and a picture of your concoction, and we'll go from there...

Have a great week!

Friday, April 27, 2007

A new meating place

If you put "sumptuous" in your description of food, you have my attention. Let's analyze that word for a second:

Of a size or splendor suggesting great expense; lavish

Say it. Your mouth forms a sultry pout, doesn't it?! For me, the term evokes images of beautiful, sexy foodies around a table of exquisite food, enjoying course after course of fabulous food with wine.

Well, the word appears in an advertisement for
Boi Na Braza Churrascaria. I'm highly-suggestible when it comes to marketing (especially food) so I have to go, especially since they're throwing around the "s" word. They are supposed to open in Carew Tower (441 Vine Street, call 513-421-7111 for more info) "May 2007," although I'm not quite sure if that means May 1 or May 31. I'll have to ask Polly...

This type of restaurant has been trendy for the last few years. I've been to other Brazilian steak houses, also known as all-you-can-eat meat fests, and they were pretty darn good. So it will be interesting to see how this one is. I think it's more about the crowd you're with at places like this.

What do you guys think about the meat-on-a-sword trend? Been to
Amor de Brazil, the Brazilian steak house in Mason? Do you like the concept of such places, or are you thinking "Não mais!"?

What's not ever going to be for dinner?

I don't have kids yet, but I know I will be a good mom one day. And when that time comes, I know exactly what I will NOT be serving my little crumbsnatchers for din-din: This evening-meal-of-terror-on-a-stick!

So, they're suggesting that people should give kids chicken nuggets, "biscuit dough" and squash on a pointy object? I don't need to have my own brood of foodies-to-be to predict how that scene would go down at the average dinner table. The nuggets would be inhaled. The squash, otherwise known as "green and yellow-y thingies," would end up on the floor where the dogs would sniff them for a second before looking back up, praying (and preying) for a clumsy kid and a stray nugget. The honeyed biscuit pieces would, without a doubt, end up stuffed into an ear or a nostril, or thrown across the table at another child. And once the novelty of biscuit-throwing was over (and the dogs had snagged the spoils of the doughy warfare), the kids would be left with no choice but to swordfight with the skewers.

Yeah. Just what Dr. Spock ordered.

Goodbye, Gertie... Hello, sushi skin...

Gertrude "Gertie" Gateway, my laptop, died last weekend. She was 7.

The cause of her death is unknown, but I think it was just a matter of old age. (I'll let you guys determine for yourselves whether or not it had anything to do with her, ahem, "family name".) Gertie will rest in peace - as soon as the good people at FireDog perform the autopsy to find my screenplays and lit papers from yesteryear that I just know I'll need again one day. I'll bury the wireless card (she was born long before "hot spots" were on every corner) with her, just as she would have wanted.

As a certified Web and computer junkie, I had to buy a new one. I'm still battling some pangs of buyer's remorse, just as I always do when I spend more than $500 on something. But it's a cool one and I know that , for me, it was a necessary purchase. I was looking for some laptop skins when I found this one. It would sorta' match the thumb drive I blogged about a while ago. Sweet! (Why not rock one of these while I'm at it? Gotta love Cafe Press.) And I like the fact that it is easy to change the skin, so I could change it if I got tired of seeing sushi. But I'm sure some people wouldn't want to have a conversation starter sitting on the table when they're laptopping it up at Panera, Starbucks or airport cafes. I mean... HELLO? Just because you're sitting in a public place doesn't mean you want to actually interact with other people... Am I right, or am I right?

Any writers - or public laptoppers - out there? Do you have favorite places to nosh and sip while you steep in your unpublished/unproduced funk, glaring at the blinking cursor? To what cafe or restaurant do you go so you can be left alone with your literary thoughts?

Mount Lookout Cinema Grill to be revived

I never even knew it went away, but the former Mount Lookout Cinema Grill (see 1997 photo above) will re-open as something called Jaspers in July.

It's located at 3187 Linwood Avenue in Mount Lookout Square.

The landmark theater "will offer a variety of entertainment, including live music from local and national acts, dance shows and karaoke." And it sounds like tasty burgers and steaks will keep patrons well fed.

Always good to see local landmarks preserved and open to the public. Some other great examples (for nightspots more than food, but hey, let's not get too picky) include Southgate House in Newport, Oakley's 20th Century Theatre and the Esquire Theatre in Clifton.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Sunday brunch coming at Nectar

On May 6, Nectar Restaurant in Mount Lookout will begin serving Sunday brunch and open a new outdoor seating area. Reservations are now being taken.

Nectar, owned by chef Julie Francis, features a seasonal approach to cooking. The brunch menu will includes dishes such as smoked salmon hash with poached farm eggs and roasted tomato hollandaise, and a seasonal vegetable frittata with asparagus, leeks, salsa verde and roasted potatoes.

The enclosed stone deck is attached to the back of the restaurant, and will available for private parties and events.
Brunch will be served 10 a.m.-2 p.m. every Sunday. It’s at 1000 Delta Ave., Mount Lookout, 513-929-0525.
-- Polly Campbell

Beer: Beverage/"Secret" ingredient

Like many men I know, my dad throws a huge dollop of improvisation into just about everything he cooks.

Especially when he makes barbecue sauce. He gets a twinkle in his eye and a little extra pep in his step as he bounces about the kitchen, grabbing honey from the pantry, an orange from the fruit bowl, vanilla extract and peppercorns from the spice cabinet, etc... If the spirit moves him and the season is right, he'll run out to his well-tended garden to grab a handful of jalapeno peppers to heat things up. It's obvious that he loves the ritual of it all: Add a dash of something. Stir. Taste (while staring at the ceiling as if the recipe is up there). Repeat. Who needs measuring cups/spoons?

And, to "balance it out," a fair amount of beer always ends up in the pot. And even though it's always a little different each time, the result is always fabulous, and better than the last batch he made.

I know some guys who would put beer in a cheesecake if they thought they could get away with it. (And, apparently, you can.) So the only thing that surprises me about the new Guinness Draught Beer Blend barbecue sauce from Bull's Eye is that it's just now coming out. I would think brand managers would have been huddled around conference room tables, planning to launch a line of beer-flavored foods long before now. The stuff wouldn't even have to taste like beer. I have a hunch that, for many beer lovers, just knowing it's in there is comfort enough.

What do you love to cook/eat that just doesn't taste right without a splash (or a pint) of beer stirred into it?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Cinco de Mayo is just around the corner

...and according to my Wild Oats Wild Mail, that means... time to start thinking about tasty guacamole! Looks like a great recipe. If you've never made it from scratch, get yourself some nice, shiny green avacados from bigg's (where I always have had the most success with ready-ripe avocados, though no doubt Wild Oats, Fresh Market, Trader Joe's, Jungle Jim's have good ones too) and follow along. The best part? You mix it by hand, with a fork. E-A-S-Y! It's always good to keep it chunky. Make it fresh, but let it mellow for a couple hours in the fridge for the flavors to blend in. The lime or lemon juice gives it just the right tang, and keeps it from turning yucky brown. Check out Chuck's video on Marilyn Harris making guacamole too. Good stuff!

Save up your appetite for a visit to the Cincy-Cinco Festival at Riverbend Plaza May 5-6. The organizers assure me that all the money raised goes right back into the Latino community. And they're pretty particular about what food vendors come to the event - it's only authentic stuff. Here's the menu - yummers!

Derby means tea time

There's something so civilized about proper English tea, served with scones and clotted cream and on fancy china with fine silver. I have fond memories of my first English tea, at the venerable Strand Hotel in downtown Rangoon, Burma, where the British obviously had plenty of influence over the years. As Polly wrote for today's Enquirer, Churchill's in downtown Cincinnati's Tower Place Mall have a queen's tea of their own in early May. I also came across this Cream Tea in the Garden, free (but space is limited) at Macy's Kenwood this Saturday. It's 11am to 12:30pm this Saturday; call 513-247-6411 for reservations. Give us a shout out if you make it - and don't forget to raise your pinky finger just so as you hold your teacup ever so daintily.

Passing the bar exam

If you've ever been to Mesh in West Chester, you've seen the wall of wine that dominates the dining room. It houses over 2,000 bottles, some that sell for $22, a few that sell for $3,500. Mesh also has a guy who knows every bottle, can answer your questions about any of them and match them to the food you order. He's always been a cork dork, but now he's certified.

Bretton Lammi just become the second person in the Cincinnati area to become a Certified Sommelier, and the only one at a restaurant here. The other is Evelyn Ignatow, who owns Hyde Park Gourmet Food and Wine.

Certified Sommelier is one step on the way to becoming a Master Sommelier. That's the highest level at the Court of Sommeliers, and there are only 144 of them in the world, 85 in the U.S. But the Court also gives tests for three other levels, beginning, certified and advanced. The certified level was added only recently, since, says Lammi, there was such a gap between the beginning and advanced. "90% passed the first test, 10% passed the next," he said. Of the 42 people he took the test for certified level with, 20 passed.

The test includes a written, multiple-choice section and a blind testing of two wines "You have name the grape, region, vintage, and describe it in wine terms," said Lammi. "But it's the service part that's hardest because of your nerves." His test was serving champage, and he was nervous, but not as nervous as some. "There were people who dropped trays of filled champage glasses."

Try him out next time you're at Mesh--they have their own brand of bubbly wine. Or ask him for recommendations. That's the best part of a restaurant with a knowledgeable wine server or sommelier: the chance to chat geeky wine details if you're into it, ask questions if you want to know more, or just put yourself in good hands if you're simply looking for an interesting taste match-up with your meal.
Mesh is in West Chester at 6200 Muhlhauser Rd, 513-777-7177

31-cent ice cream scoops

Wednesday (May 2) is 31 Cent Scoop Night at Baskin-Robbins. Every scoop of ice cream is only 31 cents, and Baskin-Robbins donates $100,000 to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. It’s 5-10 p.m. at BR’s only area location. 6641 Dixie Highway, Fairfield; 513-874-4756; http://www.baskinrobbins.com/.
-Polly Campbell

Blue Wolf sighting up north

The Blue Wolf Café is open for business in Sycamore Township. If you worked downtown from 1997 to 2001, you may recognize the name: Jeff Jernigan also owned the Blue Wolf Bistro on Elm Street. (That's him back in 1999 at the downtown spot.)

This is a similar restaurant, open for breakfast and lunch, but with a more extensive menu. It includes blue-plate specials, such as turkey pot pie or lasagna, every day, plus burgers and fries, and vegetarian dishes including quesadillas, veggie wraps and black bean soup. The Blue Wolf also does catering and delivery. It’s at 10764 Montgomery Road, in Duffy Square, open 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday. 513-247-0198.
-Polly Campbell

Southern Trails opens in Erlanger

Southern Trails restaurant and banquet center opened in Erlanger a few months ago. It’s in the homey-looking house that once held Andriola’s Italian restaurant. Southern Trails concentrates on down-home Southern food, particularly for banquets and large parties, but it’s also open to the public as a restaurant.

The menu features drop biscuits, fried macaroni and cheese, shrimp baskets, burgoo, catfish, burgers, fried chicken, pork fritters, country fried steak, pies, cake and cobblers. It’s open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday, with a Sunday brunch buffet until 3 p.m. 480 Erlanger Road, Erlanger, 859-342-9300; www.southerntrailsrestaurantandbanquet.com.

-Polly Campbell

Cincinnati Originals hosts top chefs

Greater Cincinnati Originals, a group of local independently-owned restaurants, host their annual event, “The Original Spring Mix,” May 9. The group’s 23 restaurants, including Jean-Robert de Cavel’s restaurants, Jimmy D’s Steakhouse (pictured here), Kona Bistro, the Tavern Group restaurants, Encore bistros, Daveed’s and Brown Dog Café, put on a five-course dinner with wine pairings, and give guests a chance to meet the chefs. Part of the proceeds go to the Tatiana de Cavel scholarship program at Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State College.

It’s 6:30-10 p.m. May 9, at the Midwest Culinary Institute, 3520 Central Parkway, Clifton. Tickets are $150, or $175 to sit and mingle at the chef’s table. Buy tickets at www.cincinnatioriginals.com or 513-605-4700, ext. 18.

-- Polly Campbell

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Corn syrup: Out. Hemp milk: In!

Here are three food trends to look out for, according to an e-mail I got today from the Intelligence Group's Trendcentral. I can't really see hemp milk catching on, but then again, I never thought I'd see the day that Burger King would sell veggie burgers, and they've been doing that for several years now. What do you think?

"Anti-Corn Syrup Movement: Joining popular food catch phrases such as low calorie, low carb, and trans-fat free is anti-HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup). HFCS is found in everything from soda, juice drinks, canned soup and yogurt to cereal, crackers and salad dressing, and has gotten serious flak for its not-so-healthy ability to turn to fat quicker than any other carbohydrate. Jones Soda, well know for its quirky flavors and colors, is one of the first soda brands to make the switch from HFCS to pure cane sugar. As consumers continue to re-think their diets, with a focus on the fight against childhood obesity and diabetes, we can expect the HFCS issue to generate more controversy, as well as more pure cane sugar products to emerge.

Healing Foods: While organic and all-natural foods and beverages have become popular choices when it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle, another category of products that boast medicinal or healing properties is also growing. From digestive health products such as Kashi Vive and Dannon Activia to joint health products such as Minute Maid Active with Glucosamine, we’re beginning to see food and drink emerge as alternatives to taking medicine. Expect to see this category rapidly expand in the near future, with new and innovative food options designed to combat other common health issues.

Hemp Milk: No longer confined to head shops and hippie threads, hemp products are generating major buzz in the food industry as the next dairy alternative. Made from ground hemp seeds, hemp milk boasts high levels of protein, omega fatty acids, amino acids, and a slew of vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, iron, and GLS (Gamma-Linolenic Acid), a substance which claims to fight cancer, inflammation, and auto immune disease. From vegan to lactose intolerant, as well as curious foodies, consumers now have yet another non-dairy option to satisfy their tastes."


Monday, April 23, 2007

Cincy State benefit

Here's a cool event I've toyed with going to in past years but never quite gotten around to attending. Cincinnati State hosts "1 Night, 12 Kitchens" for the third year. The fundraiser, which benefits the Cincinnati State College Foundation culinary scholarships, showcases signature recipes from top local chefs cooking in twelve kitchens - appetizers, main courses, desserts and wines for guests to sample. Yum! (I should not write things like this when I am hungry. It's like grocery shopping when I'm hungry!) Chefs include Toon Yangkanaysin (Beluga), Michelle Brown (Jag's), Julie Francis (Nectar), Jeff Ledford (Red), David Falk (Boca - that's him in the photo), Chris Burns (JeanRo Bistro) and more.

It's 6-9 p.m. this Sunday, April 29, at the Midwest Culinary Institue at Cincinnati State College, 35209 Central Parkway. General admission: $75 includes food and wine sampling and kitchen tours. $150 VI Ptickets include the sampling plus a bit more - "exclusive culinary stations," private meet-n-greets w/ top chefs, recipe cards, etc.

Get your ticket: 513-562-2777.

And now that age-old question...what's for dinner? Hm, might be some beef stew with dumpling that we froze when it was a lot more frosty than it is today.

Food for thought

It's time for me to choose a book for May book club (always a challenge, since I still haven't read the last 180 pages of last month's book!), and I've got food on the mind. "Garlic and Sapphires" looks like fun - the third book by former NY Times restaurant critic Ruth Reichl, who went to great lengths to disguise herself ; her photo was reputed to hang in the kitchens of the city's finest restaurants. Not surprisingly, she got better service when she was dressed to the nines and became a high-society wife, versus "becoming" a mousy housewife.

The other possibility showed up in the office last week - "Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally," by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon. The authors resolved to eat only food produced within a 100-mile radius of their Vancouver home. Wow. That's the kind of commitment I could have only by quitting my day job and devoting myself fully to finding local foods. Yes, it's easy enough to find some local produce (though maybe not as much this year after the early freeze), but everything? No Cheerios? Where does Eckerlin's beef come from? Even if I don't pick this one for book club, I'm interested in reading about their experience. Makes me want to seek out more local foods.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Why did I cross the road?

For the chicken, of course! I was up in Fairfield doing some important journalistic work (shopping in Latin American markets) and thought I'd finally try El Pollon, a Peruvian chicken place several people have told me was worth a visit. It's on Dixie Highway, and I just had an address. You know impossible it is to find addresses on that kind of street? So I was driving back and forth, though I'd cross over four lanes to turn around in a driveway, which turned out to not be a driveway but a ditch. I stopped just in time.

But I got there. Peruvian rotisserie chicken is famous in some cities, and it's great to have a place here. I ordered a whole chicken to go, with fries and salad--about $15. The chiekn has a nice glossy, crisp skin, with a citrusy marinade. The meal comes with several little cups of the yellow peruvian mayonnaise, and of spicy green sauce. It's good on the fries, and adds an exotic touch to what is a pretty straightforward meal. I also got a cup of chicha morales, a purple Peruvian drink that tastes like apple pie. El Pollon is going to be at Cincy/Cinco, if you can't make it to Fairfield.
6560 Dixie Highway

Salut de Paris!

Yes, I know I'm on vacation and thus supposed to be as far away from a computer as possible, but my sister and I needed an e-mail fix. So we spent 4 euros each for an hour at Milk Internet Hall near the Centre Pompidou. I'm done, and now I'm killing time waiting for her. My sister just saw that travel and leisure story on CNN's home page, so we plan to check out a couple tomorrow. She loves crepes with Nutella, and pain au chocolat has become her new obsession. Today I introduced her to mille-feuille and eclairs! Change of plans, I'll be in London next week, so I might blog about the fabulous food we've been eating this week.
Expect to hear about:
Un Zebre a Montmartre, Le Vrai Paris and all the other bistros we've visited!Oh, and there's a fabulous artisan bakery down the street from our hotel...
OK, back to Montmartre to dress for dinner! Last night our dinner (risotto for me and roasted duck for Rach, plus soup) was free! More to come... Au revoir!

Mmm...French pastries

Stepf, if you're checking in from Paris, check out Travel+Leisure's "Best boulangeries". Sounds great. I'm not expert on French pastries, but I do know that Greenup Cafe in Covington is a tasty spot to stop for flaky pastry treats. Polly clued me in to a few more good local spots: Frieda's Bakery in Madeira, Shadeau Breads in Over-the-Rhine and Servatii's, with multiple locations.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Walt's in Colerain re-opened

White Oak residents who drive up and down Colerain Avenue are happy to see that Walt's Barbeque (yes, with a Q, and not Walt's Hitching Post) has re-opened. Read what Polly has to say about it. I live not too far away, and watched them tear down the old Walt's to erect what looks like a huge red aluminum barn immediately next door. I've only eaten there once (back in the old building), for takeout, but it was still pretty packed fairly late (8:30?) on a school night. And I'd certainly go back. (That's Walt Bohn in the picture, tending the smoker a few years back.) What's your favorite spot for BBQ?

Cheesy chips

I will admit that, here in the office, we are ADDICTED to potato chips. Despite rising cholesterol levels that we try to keep in check with "zero trans-fats" chips, we keep at it. But mediocre potato chips and tortilla chips don't do it for me. Personally, I'm a big fan of the plain kettle chips -- Shearer's are a bargain at Costco (about $2.69 for a big yallow bag), and Meijer's are awfully good (also a yellow bag - I sense a theme here). Nice and crispy.

We also have dedicated fans of Snyder's of Hanover Hot Buffalo Wing pretzel pieces. Also highly addictive.

But today's latest find, thanks to Chuck, are Kettle Brand Chips Tuscan Three Cheese. Wow. We may have a new favorite here. He found them at the Fields Ertel Costco. And I don't know what the deal is, but I can't find them at their web site. Dig in! (oh - and they have a great tagline - "A Mediterranean VACATION in a bag"!)

Road Food

So I was on vacation last week--well, only the parent of a high school senior would call driving ten hours to tour a university campus a vacation. I used to avoid road trips but I find I like them more and more: the scenery rolling by, the aimless chatter. But this time it was pouring rain and mostly chilly the whole time. My idea to wring some amusement from the trip was stopping in every place in Jane and Michael Stern's "Road Food" that we could. I know that nowadays, people look at Chowhound or the Stern's site to find good places on the road, but my husband and I have been lugging around every edition of that book for at least 20 years, and it has helped us find great places. We did a trip in Louisiana's Cajun parishes that I'll never forget.

But what a bust this time! The Sterns are so lyrical in their descriptions that they can't help but get me all worked up: they described luscious pies, delicious chicken and dumplings, must-have burgers. In Knoxville, I had a Thunder Road burger at some famous burger place, and it was good--it was slathered with pimento cheese--crazy. But hte red velvet cake: cake mix! Then Mrs. Rowe's in STaunton Virginia was just boring southern food, nothing special. The Southern Kitchen in Charleston WV seemed great in decor, and the apple dumplings were pretty good, but the chicken and dumpligns with heavy Bisquick dumplings and chicken gravy from a can.
And our exchange student from Italy was with us. He's very easy-going about food, but still, I was sort of embarassed.

Iwonder who really takes the time to do those classics right anymore?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Where's the Caspian?

I was flipping through the latest issue of CiN Weekly this morning and came across a new restaurant they wrote up, The Caspian (far left). It apparently opened March 10 at 3299 Montgomery Road in Loveland, dishing up Mediterranean and Persian food. (I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I had to do some googling to locate the Caspian Sea. To save you the trouble, just know that it's surrounded by Iran and the -stans -- Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan -- and Russia. I'm intrigued to try the grilled kabobs, falafel, stews and gyros.

I only hope The Caspian meets a better fate than some of the former ethnic restaurants up north -- Aralia (Sri Lankan) in Loveland (formerly downtown); The Kolache Factory in Mason; Phoenicia on Montgomery Road at I-275...

Let's just hope that Samarkand Cafe at Fields Ertel manages to stay afloat (top right photo). I've only been there once, for takeout pilav (pilaf) and some meat dumplings, but I think it'd be better to eat in. Mm, pilaf...greasy lamb rice and a big chunk of lamb!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Eat your veggies!

Check out the Life centerpiece on Wednesday. It's all about getting kids to eat their vegetables (and fruit, although that is usually easier because it's sweet) . Truth be told, there are plenty of big kids who snub veggies, too. But there are lots of things you can do to keep veggies tasty (and healthful).

Don't overcook them - You know who you are, you brown-broccoli, flaccid-floret eating maniac. Just step away from the stove. Slowly... Slowly... Try steaming your veggies until they are just tender and the color is bright and gorgeous. They will taste better, retain more of the nutrients and have a far more appetizing (at least according to many palates) texture. Don't have a steamer? Try a metal colander and a saucepan with a few inches of water. Add a lid and you're cooking with gas. Or electric. Or wood. Or whatever...

Season, season, season - Did I mention you should season your veggies? I'm not just talking about salt and pepper. Green beans, for instance, take on a sweet yet savory flavor when you add a little onion and basil. Garlic is heavenly on just about anything... I also recommend a bit of real butter or a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil just before serving. Rosemary and lemon juice (add it just before you eat, or it can bleach your pretty colors) are also delish with veggies.

Ro-, ro-, roast your veggie - If you just HAVE to cook the heck out of your veggies, roast 'em. I can't promise the nutrient value is what it would be if you were to eat them raw, but heat and a slight char might make you fall in love with vegetables. (Even brussel sprouts!) Overcooked or not, at least you tried, right?

What do you do to perk up your veggies? And drowning them is "cheese food" doesn't count, cheater!


Photoillustration by Michael E. Keating


Monday, April 16, 2007

Deerfield Town Center - Rumor has it...

that Romano's Macaroni Grill (now closed) in Deerfield Towne Center may be turned into a Bravo Cucina Italiana. Kind of amazing, considering that there's a Bravo not too far away (2.25 miles, or a 5-minute drive), at Montgomery and Fields Ertel Road. But the folks who work at Deerfield Towne Center (who told me about this) are all for it. Considering the 30-minute wait for two we had around 8:30 last Friday night, I think the demand's there. And the new Regal movie theater is supposed to open behind Deerfield Towne Center sometime this spring.

Coffee wars: Whose side are you on?

In case you missed this AP story, there's a coffee war brewing among Dunkin' Donuts, McDonald's and Starbucks. Dunkin' Donuts and McDonald's are expanding their offerings, remodeling their stores, giving away free coffee and upping their advertising in an attempt to unseat Starbucks from its No. 1 spot. I'm writing a story about this and I want to hear from loyal fans of DD, Mickey D's and Starbucks, as well as detractors, who live in Greater Cincinnati or Northern Kentucky. (FYI, Polly Campbell just wrote a story on local coffee shops, although unfortunately I can no longer find it online.) If you have an opinion about the coffee sold by any of these three companies that's as strong as your morning cup of joe, e-mail me at lbishop@enquirer.com. Thanks!


Thursday, April 12, 2007

My debut Foodie Report posting

Thanks, Nicci, for that warm welcome to the Foodie Report. I start my blogging with a confession: As my bio says, I'm a veggie lover, a whole-grains enthusiast, a soy devotee. I heart tofu in every shape and form. My veggie-tofu curry recipe is even this week's CiN Cook column. But... this health freak has been on a fat and sugar bender this week. I blame my upcoming vacation. I'm going to Paris and Morocco for a week each. I'm going with my sister, and it's her first time overseas. In anticipation of pain au chocolat, Nutella-filled crepes and all those rich dishes, I think my stomach needed to be prepared.
No one starves in our office, and today I've indulged in belated frosted Easter cookies and a chocolate cupcake with fat-free ice cream.
In the future, expect posts about the joy of soy, but today all I can think about is sugar, chocolate and all those baguettes in my future!

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Claim your deductions, then claim your free burrito

So I've kind of taken it upon myself to bring Foodie Report readers any and all news about free food. The latest: Participating Chipotle locations are giving away free burritos on tax day, Monday, April 16. But there's a catch: You also must buy a burrito on April 14 or 15, save your receipt and attach it to something called a BurritoEZ-FWI form, which I'm assuming is available at Chipotle locations. It sure beats dressing up like a burrito on Halloween, but I'm not sure it'll be worth standing in what's sure to be an even longer than usual line at the Chipotle on Paxton Avenue in Hyde Park (or is it Oakley?), which is perpetually more packed than a supermarket before a snowfall. Seriously, are any other local Chipotles as crowded as that one?


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The incredible stinking lunch

Let me start by saying I am a big believer in packing your lunch for work. It's easy on your wallet, and it's almost always more healthful than the stuff you can grab at a deli or, worse yet, in a drive-thru on your lunch break.

Having said that, PLEASE continue to observe Office Lunch Etiquette. Yes, there is such a thing. It's right there in your employee handbook. Don't see it? Just trust me on this one. Your colleagues will thank you.

I was greeted by an incredibly strong fish odor that nearly knocked me over when I walked through our galley-style kitchenette earlier today. (In this case, kitchenette = a coffee machine, two microwaves, a sink and a college-dorm-size fridge chock full of dirty Gladware and what I suspect is the very first container of Yoplait to ever roll off the production line in America.) As I threw away a napkin, I saw the culprit behind the odoriferousness was sitting in the trash: An open, empty (and unrinsed!) sardine can. You have GOT to be kidding me. Sardines? At the office? Really? And it was the largest sardine can I have ever seen in my life. Or maybe the scent caused me to hallucinate... Who knows?

My point? Please be considerate when you pack your lunch for work. Be a dear and dine on your 'dines at home. Same goes for popcorn that gets microwaved to death, the leftover takeout that is left to rot in the community fridge for weeks on end...

A new foodie to report...

I'm excited to announce Stepfanie "Don't-spell-my-name-with-a-PH" Romine is joining the Foodie Report family!

Stepfanie has shown off her writing
chops with Life section centerpieces on Hot Spots in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. And she is a great cook. Her colleagues benefit when she catches the baking bug. She can make a mean (and healthy) cookie... You can find out a little more about our new member in the bios listed down the left side of the page.

So, please welcome Stepf to our food-obsessed corner of the blogosphere!


Come Back to Sorrento's

Looks like Sorrento's should be re-opening soon. Fingers crossed on this one. (A fire in April 2005 burned down the building and ultimately killed owner/founder Willie DeLuca.) I was only there once, but it's a good neighborhood spot. (And hey, it might be a good choice for where in Cincinnati to eat like the Sopranos!)

Moto-vation for Mallory

In the American culture, food and drink go with everything. We eat and drink at joyful occasions, during tearful times, in the midst of brainstorming sessions... It seems food is a factor in just about every aspect of our lives.

This story from The Enquirer's Cincinnati City Hall reporter,
Jane Prendergast, reveals food is a perfect paring with politics, too. Good to know the city's leader can get a good caffeine fix to lift the fog before he makes important decisions...


Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory’s bragging about a new O’Bryonville shop where he had coffee Tuesday. It’s called the Coffee Shop on Madison, and it’s been open just two weeks (March 28).
The shop’s claim to fame, other than the mayor drinking there: It’s the only place east of the Rocky Mountains to use beans roasted by Café Moto, a small San Diego company that roasts organic and Fair Trade beans. Coffee Shop on Madison owner Pat Wynne tasted some Café Moto coffee while on vacation and decided to use it.

"It’s just really smooth, with none of that kind of burnt aftertaste some coffees have," said barista Kathy Schmitz.

The shop also serves pastries and cookies made by local bakers and others from Zingerman’s Delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Mich. Schmitz and Elaine Potter also make sandwiches and toast bagels and English muffins.

The store, at 2030 Madison Road, sits between Hemptations and From the Ridiculous to the Sublime. It opens at 6:30 a.m. every day. They’re still figuring out consistent closing hours, but Schmitz says right now it’s usually open until at least 9 p.m.
- Jane Prendergast

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Peep show

Yes, Easter is over. But the Peeps are still lurking in some baskets. And in dioramas, as designed for a new contest at the Washington Post. It's sick but you have to look!

Restaurant gift certificates

Greater Cincinnati Originals promotes area restaurants, and part of the deal is, they sell restaurant gift certificates online four times a year, at a discount. There are still a few left for The Grand Cafe and the Pub at Crestview Hills ($25 for $17.50), but more go online around 9 a.m. Friday. It's not a bad list to look at: Andy's, Brown Dog Cafe, Daveeds, Jean-Robert at Pigall's, Pho Paris, Kona Bistro, Mesh, One, Red, to name a few.

At Costco last weekend, I saw Mesh gift cards packaged in lovely plastic packaging, but I can't say I've ever seen them marketed in such a way - at a discount store like Costco. A new concept; pretty good marketing. Would you ever buy them there? I'm thinking about it (haven't been to Mesh yet). Good deal too - I think it was two $50 gift cards for $75. Pretty good savings.

A new beer for Over-the-Rhine

More good news from OTR - a new beer AND a new bar to serve it in (albeit for only five days): Christian Moerlein Brewing Co.'s Moerlein Over-the-Rhine Ale debuts in a five-day celebration starting April 25. Keg tapping takes place at the former Elder Haus, at Elder and Elm streets, a saloon dubbed "OTR Ale Haus" for the festivities. A fitting nod to the area's history as a brewery district.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

When to send your wine back

I hate when this happens, but I had to send a glass of wine back last night. Friday night, end of a long week, relaxing with my fiance, getting ready to go to the comedy club...and served a glass of wine that tastes not quite right. We were in a Northern Kentucky restaurant better known for its family fish and chicken dinners than for its wine, so it's not like I was going to get a sommelier to confirm that the wine was corked, or bad, or whatever. I'm no expert, but the Seattle wine blog says corked wine "smells like wet cardboard, sweat socks or running shoes." This was none of those, but there was something very off, and perhaps kind of vinegary about the wine (a Kenwood red zinfandel).

This is how sending wine back is supposed to happen. Our not-so-good waiter last night took away the offending wine, brought me the wine list, let me choose another selection - a white this time, always safer in restaurants where wine is not necessarily a mainstay - and promptly returned to the table 30 seconds later to ask, again, what was the name of the wine was that I ordered the second time around. "Uh, I think we'll just skip the wine tonight." I didn't want to work that hard for it. And really, I didn't want another bad glass.

I do hate sending things back, but if they are bad, they're bad. I decided not to take it anymore after I decided - against all better judgment - to be adventurous in a Cajun restaurant in Hong Kong 10 years ago. I ordered the alligator, and that, unlike the wine, tasted and smelled like dirty sweat socks. I suffered through that (what was I thinking?). But never again!

Do you have horror stories about sending back wine - or food for that matter? Hopefully you don't have to do any of that this weekend. Happy Easter!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Getting a table at your fave restaurant

For better or for worse, this story in the Wall Street Journal applies more to Napa Valley or NYC restaurants than Cincinnati/NKy, but it's full of good tips if you take your act on the road, on how to get a table at a perpetually-booked restaurant. In Cincinnati, as far as I know, this applies mostly to spots like Mesh and Boca and Pigall's on a Friday or Saturday night. What are some of the other hard-to-get-into restaurants?

If you're reservations-challenged, consider trying Open Table, which now lists 19 Cincinnati area restaurants - including Mesh (but oddly, not Boca). Or just book several weeks out, or try your luck w/ a last minute call. Me - I need to try Mesh, as I keep hearing great things about it. (That's it pictured above. Cool, huh?)

Fish & chips & free

Here is a cool bit of information from Enquirer staff writer John Johnston (jjohnston@enquirer.com), the go-to person when it comes to family issues.


Turns out there is a free lunch. For kids, anyway.

McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant, 21 E. Fifth St., downtown, will offer a free lunchtime entrée and drink to any school-aged child who dines with a parent on April 26. The occasion: Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. Reservations: 513-721-9339.

For information about the national Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day program, visit www.DaughtersandSonsToWork.org.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Easter dinner

Still figuring out what to cook for Easter dinner? Lots of suggestions on Recipe Link. Good luck!

Me? Still scheming on what to make for dessert. I think I've boiled it down to chocolate cupcakes (some people, ahem, don't like white cake the way I do!), but I have yet to decide how to decorate them with my newly-learned cake-decorating skills.

Madieu Williams benefit event

Just heard about this one on the radio this morning: Madieu Williams of the Bengals is hosting the "Uncorked Connoisseur Night" at Jungle Jim's new Oscar Events Center in Fairfield, on Thursday, May 3. There'll be wine tastings, along with food from area restaurants, including Mike Fink's, One and Latitudes Cafe, with music by The Chozen. Tickets are $100 in advance; sign up online. Attendees are asked to bring a pair of children's shoes that will be donated to children in need. Great to see the Bengals giving back!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Last chance for fish fries

It's not a fish fry without the CODfather...OK, maybe that's just at Mary, Queen of Heaven Church in Erlanger, where they serve a Holy Haddock platter (above), which I've eaten for the past two weeks in a row. Awesome, but you'll have to wait till they come back around next year. But there are still plenty of fish fries this week, on Good Friday, the final Friday in Lent. You can see a photo gallery of fish fries, or watch a video of one of the first ones of the season.

Non-Network celebrity chef

Tom Douglas isn't on the Food Network, but he owns five successful Seattle restaurants: Dahlia Lounge, Etta's, palace Kitchen, Lola and Serious Pie. He's also written "Tom Douglas' Seattle Kitchen," " Tom's Big Dinners" and "I Love Crabcakes." Don't we all.
He'll be here, at Macy's in Kenwood, at 6 p.m. on May 2, where he'll teach a cooking class . It's free, but you have to make reservations by April 27. Call 1-800-292-2450.

Deen There, Done That

Did you want to go see Paula Deen at Moonlite Pavilion later this month? Aw, too bad. The tickets to the event went on sale at Joseph-Beth yesterday at 6 a.m., 650 were sold by 8 a.m. and they were all sold out by 11. They were $40, which included the book she's going to talk about.

Frankly, I've gotta say I don't get it. I was over at a friend's house and her teenage daughters were excited about the Food NEtwork stars coming to the area, wishing they could go meet Paula or Giada. Their father sort of kiddingly said maybe he could get them some backstage passes. You'd think he'd promised to get them backstage at the next Raconteurs concert, or up front for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. . . .

I mean, I can see getting excited about eating the food of a cook I admired, but the whole Food Network celebrity thing --- I don't know. I thought food was about eating, not watching, but clearly I'm in the minority.

I did enjoy watching Paula Deen on Oprah a few weeks ago when she added flour to a moving mixer and it all flew out, all over her and Oprah.

You tell us: Where to eat like the Sopranos

To celebrate the final season of the hit HBO series, we’re asking you where – in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky – to eat like Tony and his family. You know, a place with real Old Italian atmosphere, just like Nuovo Vesuvio on the show, where you can get tender veal scaloppine and tasty macaroni and gravy. Send name of restaurant, why you think Tony would approve, your name and daytime phone number to cmartin@enquirer.com. Deadline: April 20. (Or just post your comments below.) Thanks!

Great steaks

When we want steaks for a special occasion, we get them from Eckerlin Meats at Findlay Market. They're fresh and quite honestly, so good, I haven't bothered looking elsewhere for anything better. (I'd almost rather eat a filet from Eckerlin's, grilled at home, than at Ruby's or Carlo & Johnny!). But I'm open to suggestions - especially on the north side of town. So for Easter dinner Sunday, I'll be having filet mignon, grilled, with a little salt and pepper, medium rare. It may not be grillin' weather, but it will still taste so good with a bit of ground horseradish. Still trying to fugure out what we'll serve for dessert, though.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Tax-time treats coming up

This from guest blogger Jim Knippenberg:

Well you gotta love this. Turns out McCormick & Schmick’s, the new seafood restaurant on the ground floor of the Westin downtown, feels our pain – yours, mine, the butcher’s the baker’s and the candlestick maker’s too. What’s even better, the place is trying to ease it.

M&S is throwing a "Tax Relief" party on April 17, this year’s IRS filing deadline, postponed from its usual April 15 because that day falls on a Sunday and even the IRS doesn’t want to interfere with the Lord’s work.

Anyway, the restaurant is offering a whole bunch of $10.40 dinner specials (in the bar) for tax payers looking to drown their sorrows in food. (The menu is TBD, based on what's fresh that week.) To further drown the sorrows, it’s offering a "Tax Relief Dining Certificate" good for $10.40 off your next meal there.

For those who’d like to drown the sorrows in, uh, booze, it’s offering a few specials ($6.75 each):

"In the Clear," a basic straight up martini.
"In the Green," a Virginia Mint Julep, a modern twist on the old Kentucky favorite.
"In the Black," a classic Irish coffee.
"In the Red," a bizarre concoction of lime vodka, cherry puree and lime juice.

Good it? Good, now go finish your returns and we’ll see you there.

How many restaurants?

Over the weekend, a few people asked me if I thought Jean-Robert de Cavel was going to start stretching himself too thin. They were talking about the news that he's going to open a cafe in Over-the-Rhine, near the new condominiums and other developments in the "Gateway Quarter" on Vine St.

It's something to think about: you don't want your best-known chef running around opening restaurants instead of paying attention to the quality of food at the ones he's got. But I don't think this particular enterprise is one that would stretch him too far. It's basically a coffee shop, they'll be selling the pastries that they already make at Greenup Cafe in Covington, will open for lunch if breakfast works, and open for dinner only if lunch works. It's not a new concept, there's not really a kitchen there.

De Cavel told me that "Greenup 2" is partly business, but that it's also "good will" too, and a desire to be part of a project that will help the city. It is a little risky, of course, but he opens restaurants that mean something to him. And in this climate, owning just a fine-dining restaurant is probably riskier. I'm glad he's willing to spread himself a little thin, and so far, I trust him to know when it's too much.

All about oysters

Lest we forget, Washington Platform celebrates its annual Oyster Festival for the remainder of the month of April. It's another great downtown restaurant to check out - especially before heading to show at Music Hall. (Just be sure you make a reservation.) Oysters continue to be strange things to this Midwestern gal, as they certainly weren't harvested on the shores of the mighty Ohio when I was a child (which means they only made it to Cincinnati in cans back then). But my mouth waters when I think of the fresh ones I ate on the harbor in DC last fall, with a squirt of lemon and a dash of cocktail sauce. Mmm...

A much needed downtown revival on the way?

As a longtime Cincinnati resident, I'm hesitant to say that downtown Cincinnati is coming back, in terms of restaurants. But things are certainly looking up. Of note:

Uno's on Walnut Street is the possible venue for a new restaurant collaboration between Jeff Ruby and Bootsy Collins.

Noted chef Jean-Robert de Cavel plans to open a cafe in Over-the-Rhine, at 12th and Vine streets.

The owners of Vinyl (the former Sycamore Diner) in OTR plan to convert Neon's into a wine/tapas bar.

I suppose we've come a long way from when I rolled out of the Aronoff after the INXS concert at 10 pm on a Sunday night, only to find everything in immediate sight of the Aronoff closed. Let's hope these plans become reality. And those Fountain Square restaurants open up sometime soon....

Monday, April 02, 2007

No Jungle Jim's for Oakley

I guess we shouldn't be surprised that Jungle Jim's dropped their plans for a new store in Oakley. Bummer. I guess it would be hard to compete with Fresh Market (opened July 2006) and Wild Oats.

I haven't been up to Jungle Jim's in a while, but I probably should go check it out. I generally pick up a couple of fun cheeses, and always get great wine recommendations from the guys in the wine department. (They turned me on to Borsao - a great cheap Spanish red that's never failed me. Check out the upcoming tastings.) And the all-natural, slow roasted Amish chicken in the deli looks awesome. Too bad it's not closer to me that I can swing by before dinner after work.

Take me out to the ballgame

In celebration of Reds Opening Day, check out dining options at the Great American Ball Park. Tell us your favorite!
1. Nacho Grande
2. Skyline Three/Four-Way
3. LaRosa's Pizza
4. Hot dog
5. Skyline Cheese Coney
6. Big Red Smokey
7. Servatii's Creme Puff
8. Servatii's Mousse Brownie
9. Mr. Redlegs Hard-Dip Sundae
My favorite? Probably a Big Red Smokey (though I'm a fan of brats too. With 'kraut.) And peanuts. Quintessential ballpark food.

And dessert? The creme puff. Just the right amount of creme to balance out the chocolate. Though the folks I'd go to the game with would rather err on the side of chocolate, so I could be persuaded into the new mousse brownie.

Do they still have funnel cakes at Great American Ball Park? Or is that just me fantasizing about summertime?

Books you can eat

UC's Edible Books Festival is tomorrow, April 3, at 1 p.m. I can honestly say I've never heard of this before, but it's a fun idea for lit fans and foodies - and yes, those who like to play with their food. It's usually celebrated on April 1, the birthdate of a French foodie/author. (Learn more here.) The above entry, from a few years back, shows "The Bridges of Madison County." And I can't figure out what edible stuff these are all made of, but check out the cool photos here and here.

Food on the brain... er, face?

Opening soon in Napa Valley...Spa Terra (of the earth) at the Meritage Resort. It's a plush underground spa, reputed to be the world's first, in the "22,000 square foot Estate Cave." Of course, there's also wine tasting in the massive wine cave. What's not to love?

It's unclear if they're playing up the grapes/wine/massage/body care link, but if I were them, I'd go for it. Wonder if any of the local wineries will ever go this route?

While I haven't had the privilege of a grape seed scrub (on the Spa Terra menu), I have tried sea salt scrubs...and I can vouch for the efficacy of certain foods in terms of skin care. When I lived in Thailand, I found that anything papaya enzymes in it was great for my face (which needed lots of love in the heat, humidity and pollution of Bangkok). Elemis Papaya Enzyme Peel works wonders, but other options (I've not tried these) include Alba Papaya Enzyme Facial Mask and Kiehl's Pineapple Papaya Facial Scrub. You can also make your own, if you can find the papaya. Wow, and here's one that has pumpkin and papaya!

Of course, The Spa at the Hotel Hershey has chocolate-themed treatments... but this seems like too much for me. (I'd rather eat my chocolate, thank you!) Closer to home, Spa Chocolat opened late last year in Loveland with all its chocolate treatments.

I guess I just want to pick and choose what gets slathered on my skin. And I'll stick to eating my chocolates. Papaya - that'll go both ways.

Wining and dining onboard the Titanic

Watch for the following food & drink events - tied to the Museum Center's Titanic exhibit - coming up. (This comes straight from the CMC's eNewsletter).

Tea-on-the-Titanic Lecture
Visit the Newsreel Theater as the proprietors of Churchill’s Tea Room present and demonstrate high tea as it would have been served on the Titanic. April 3 at 4 p.m. Fee: $20 includes 5 p.m. admission ticket to Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition

Haute Cuisine on the High Seas
Chef John Kinsella of the Midwest Culinary Institute discusses the role of cuisine on the Titanic and how the famous last meal on the Titanic was prepared and served to its elite first–class passengers. April 10 at 7 p.m. Fee: $25 includes 5 p.m. admission ticket to Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition

Third-Class Bash
Relive the famous movie scene as Museum Center’s South Gallery is turned into the Titanic’s steerage quarters, with beer, “pub food” and an Irish band providing danceable musical entertainment. April 12, 6 to 10 p.m. Fee: $35 includes food, three beer tickets, music and one admission to Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition.

Personally I think the Third-Class bash sounds the most fun. But maybe that's because I'm just re-living the movie??!

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