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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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Vegetarians: Tell us how you cope at cookouts

Summer has unofficially begun, and chances are you’ve already been to a cookout, barbecue or picnic to celebrate. But if you’re a vegetarian like me or my co-worker Stepfanie, you know all too well the trials and tribulations of taking part in one of these time-honored summer traditions. So, how do you deal with it? Do you resign yourself to piling your plate high with potato chips and pasta salad? Do you let the host know about your dietary restrictions ahead of time? Do you bring your own veggie burgers, dogs or other dishes? If so, what are they? We’re putting together a summer cookout survival guide of sorts for vegetarians (and for party hosts, be they carnivores or herbivores), and we’re looking for your etiquette tips, favorite products and recipes. Post them here in the comments, or e-mail them to lbishop@enquirer.com or sromine@enquirer.com. Thanks!

Thinking chicken?

Maybe it's time you started thinking about chicken. Fried chicken, to be exact. Now that school's out (or nearly so), it's time for church chicken dinners to get going, raising money for local parishes. And thankfully, there's an easy spot to keep track of them all: Thinking Chicken.

Carl Heilmann is the man you have to thank for the up-to-date chicken dinner listings. Best of all? There are two chicken dinners for you to try this Sunday, June 3. One's at St. John's United Church of Christ in Sunman, Indiana. The other's at Queen of Peace in Millville, Ohio.

Chuck Martin swears the best one in town isn't until the Monday of Labor Day weekend, September 4, at St. Peter's Church, St. Peter's, Indiana. But you have all summer to find out, now, don't you!?

Another good reason to Bee a foodie...

It could make you a better speller!

If you're a big fan of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, you probably know that the local girl , Marissa Shoji of Symmes Township (she's cute as a button), just got knocked out of the competition. The word that shattered her dreams of becoming the next Bee champ?

Beurre," which is the French word for butter.

Here's what I don't understand: In the round before that, she spelled "
butyraldehyde," for crying out loud! She must have boned up on her organic chemistry nomenclature before the Bee. Zzzz.... Want to know what's ironic? Butyric acid is the "odor-causing agent in rancid butter. A saturated fatty acid with 4 carbon atoms that is found in relatively large amounts in butter." Is that eerie or WHAT?! (That the words are related and that she misspelled the latter but not the former, I mean. Although I guess it is also a wee bit eerie that I know that nerdy/foodie factoid. I always knew that $300 chemistry textbook my parents bought for me - way back when I wanted to be a doctor - would come in handy...)

Anyhoo, it's clear she needed a foodie on her team of coaches...
Paula Deen would have been just the woman to help our homegrown speller with this one. OK, maybe Paula Deen after she studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and learned all about beurre blanc, the butter sauce so common in French cooking... I can just hear Paula, with her thick, southern drawl, now: "It's called brrrrrrr blank... Say it with me, sugar. Brrrrr... Spelled B, E, U, R-ah, R-ah, Eeeee."

Check out the comments section for a fabulous recipe for a lemon beurre blanc. There are endless variations to this creamy sauce, but this version is delish. It is fabulous on chicken, veggies, potatoes... And on fish? Mmm, mmm, mmm...

My word to the wise: The butter has to be chilled and the wine must be reduced. Or else you end up with a watery mess full of butter bits. Or so I hear... And don't let it boil or it will break on you! (I feel like the guy on the PSP commercial. "That thing will morph!")

Ice cream cake: The breakfast of champions

Earlier this morning, a black raspberry ice cream cake from Graeter's landed in what we at the Enquirer call the "coffee alley" (a narrow hallway with a coffeemaker, an overflowing fridge, two microwaves, a sink and a counter upon which communal food periodically appears). It was gone in about 15 minutes. Now, I've seen some pretty unappetizing stuff disappear in about the same amount of time, but this time it was justified, even if it was only 10 a.m. I probably should have let my slice thaw a bit more before I attacked it with my fork, but I couldn't resist the layers of chocolate cake, black raspberry ice cream and fudge topped with marshmallow sauce and whipped cream. My only gripe was that the black raspberry layer was lacking Graeter's signature dark chocolate chips, but it was still pretty darn good. However, I'll always have a soft spot for Dairy Queen ice cream cakes, which were the highlight of many of my childhood birthday celebrations. Who's your favorite ice cream cake maker?


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fountain Square - it's happening!

As a Cincinnati native, I'm excited to see that Fountain Square may actually become a bustle of activity, and potentially attract/keep people downtown. I know that Taste of Cincinnati moved for a number of reasons, but the move to me symbolizes the further decline of the Main Street entertainment area (though there still is a lot happening over that way), and the rise of Fountain Square as the center of downtown Cincinnati. When I put together a mini guide of activities for my future wedding guests, I realized that there are a bunch of great restaurants clustered around Fountain Square and the downtown hotels, which does make it a pretty cool, convenient place to spend a weekend.

And in case you missed it last Thursday, check out the video of the Mentos/Diet Coke geyser extravaganza that flooded the Square! Or read about it here.

McCormick & Schmick's seafood restaurant helped the cause when it opened late last year. And Boi Na Braza opens June 8, serving up meat, meat and more meat. Perhaps best of all, Graeter's is coming back downtown to the Square, with an opening likely sometime in July.

This is in addition to Ingredients, open DAILY for lunch in the Westin; Palomino, which has stood its ground through all the construction; Bistro JeanRo is just around the corner...

Also coming soon to the Square is Via Vite, the new Italian restaurant from the owners of Nicola's. Check back for more news on this soon. Ditto Cadillac Ranch, the rock 'n' country bar and grill that will have a mechanical bull. Now THAT should bring some life to Fountain Square!
Oh - don't forget, the 'Round Town Trolley kicks off this Friday, June 1, looping around downtown from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Print out your very own trolley map here!

Beef: Stock up!

Wow. Remke's offering a $299 freezer free when you purchase 100 pounds of beef from local NKy farmers at $4.99 a pound. Pretty amazing. I like the concept -- eat green, support local farms, etc. -- but I also don't have that many mouths to feed in my house. (When I buy beef, and want good steaks, I'm a fan of Eckerlin's at Findlay Market for great filets and hamburgers). Anyone out there placing their order with Remke's now? Seriously. I'm curious as to how popular it will be.

Cold Spring Roadhouse has closed

Another one bites the dust... Cold Spring Roadhouse in Northern Kentucky has closed, apparently a surprise to its employees. The upside is, hopefully, they'll renovate and re-open in time for Labor Day. Fingers crossed, since it's a 100-year-old landmark.

Another landmark "closed for renovation" recently: the 20 Mile House in Landen. But I don't think this one's coming back. Anyone heard anything different?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

7 Days for SIDS

I'm not sure how we already rounded the corner of Memorial Day, but it's time to start planning (and making reservations) for what has become Cincinnati restaurant's most unified effort of the year: 7 Days for SIDS, a week-long benefit to raise money for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Annette and Jean-Robert de Cavel started with a single fundraiser five years ago, in memory of their daughter Tatiana, who succumbed to SIDS at 3 months of age. Since then, the event has grown to the largest SIDS fundraiser in the country. Chefapalooza and the Father's Day brunch are signature events, but there are loads more to choose from, including specials at a variety of restaurants. There's also a Homearama Cooks for a Cause event - and tickets are only $12. Or the Friday, June 8 dinner at Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse (see first comment for full menu and wine pairings) for $200 a head.

Get your friends on board, and start making reservations.


Anyone reading The Foodie Report is certainly likely to also wish to contribute his or her two cents worth to the original interactive food rating system (Even before online blogging or bulletin boards existed). The Zagat Survey started in New York, with that trademark style that has contributors making "witty, pithy" comments that let you know whether a place is "overrated," "better than sex," or "nothing more than a greasy spoon."

There was once an Ohio edition, but I think only once. Now Ohio is included in the "America's Top Restaurants" edition once a year -- Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland are. You can contribute your ratings and comments at www.zagatsurvey.com/survey. There's a free guide in it for you.

Boi Na Braza

If you were downtown for Taste of Cincinnati, you may have noticed the signs for a new restaurant in the Carew Tower: Boi Na Braza. And if you've ever been to a churrascaria, you may very well have started salivating the moment you saw it. A churrascaria is basically a place where you can sit and eat meat as long as you want. They are popular in larger cities all over the country, and just now are coming to Cincinnati-size markets. Amor de Brazil opened in Deerfield Township about a year ago. This one, from Dallas, is a similar concept. Boi Na Braza means "steer over embers."

Many men love these places, and many have told me about how much in a sort of drooling, dream-come-true narrative. "You sit down, and have this card, and when you turn it to green, they come around with skewers of meat, and cut off as much as you want, and you can just keep eating -- they have all kinds of meat, and it's all really good and when you're done you just turn your card to red. . ."

That's basically how it works, plus they usually have an impressive salad bar with upscale stuff like smoked salmon and imported cheese. It's all one price -- at Amor de Brazil, it's $41. I don't know yet what Boi Na Braza is. At lunch, you can just do the salad bar. I'm wondering if Carew Tower and Arcade is going to smell like roasting meat all the time.

It opens June 8, will be open for lunch 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. Monday-Friday; dinner 5-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 4-9 p.m. Sunday. 513-421-7111.

Party planning made difficult

Here's the deal: I'm in a book club and it's my turn to host in July. It's still more than a month away, but I've been thinking about it for weeks... I've been going back and forth about what book to pick, whether I should send real invitations or use evite (as my fellow book clubbers have been), what to serve for dinner, to favor or not to favor, etc...? The only thing I knew from the start is that I wanted to have it in my home. Some people have opted to meet at a restaurant, but there is something soothing about getting together with girlfriends in a homey atmosphere.

I finally decided on a book: "
The Third Life of Grange Copeland," Alice Walker's debut novel. The book is set in the south, my favorite region of the States. So I want a menu that reflects southern traditions, the same good stuff my grandmother from Huntsville, Ala., made when I was growing up. Here is the most recent draft of my menu:

Fried Green Tomatoes with Crab Remoulade
Main Course
Oven Fried Chicken
Steamed Green Beans
Corn on the Cob with Chile Butter
Cheese Biscuits or run-o-the-mill Dinner Rolls
Peach Cobbler or Red Velvet Cupcakes
Sweet Tea or
San Pellegrino

So what do ya'll think? Any other ideas for the main course, dessert or drinks? There are a number of teetotalers (I'm not one of 'em!) in the group, so I was leaning toward skipping the alcohol. Maybe a cold green bean salad instead? It will be July... And if I go with the cupcakes, I plan to stack them in a cupcake tree. How cute is that? If I serve peach cobbler, I will put it in a trifle bowl so the tender crust and juicy peaches are visible.

So, come on... Help me further complicate what should be a simple task.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Taste goes Downtown

I spent most of today at Taste of Cincinnati, doing that slow festival shuffle up and down 5th St. It had gotten quite busy by 3 o'clock. Vendors were happy, having sold plenty of food in record time. I got dressed this morning in a brand-new pale yellow t-shirt, and I remember thinking "I'll just be careful and not drip on it." I'm an idiot, but fortunately, the mango sauce on Shanghai Mama's egg rolls is also pale yellow.

I like the new placement, mostly because it takes in Fountain Square and goes alongside the P&G gardens (though wouldn't it be nice if they actually let you in there?) It's just a little more interesting and feels more like it's showing off downtown. Except, of course, Fountain Square isn't exactly finished. Still. ... it's less anonymous than Central parkway.

I know a lot of people were upset that a chain restaurant won several Best of Taste awards, myself included, but I gotta say, Carrabba's chicken Marsala is very good: lots of mushrooms, tender chicken. I think a bigger problem at taste is that not enough restaurants do those kind of things: mini gourmet meals that really show off how good our dining scene can be. But they offer what sells, of course. I think they can be pretty imaginative within the constraints of serving at a temporary booth for three days. I wasn't trying to try everything, but I liked Burbank's smoked turkey salad, those Shanghai Mama spring rolls, and there's some good 'q down there, including Eddie's and Pit to Plate and City Barbeque.

There's some pretty good music, too--I don't think I'd go just for the food, but I love music outdoors, and the Fountain Square stage is a good venue. Hopefully the weather stays nice

Friday, May 25, 2007

Wow. We like Hugo.

It's only been open two weeks, but I give Hugo in Oakley a definite thumbs up. Made it over there with a friend earlier this evening, and just WOW. "Sophisticated Southern cuisine" is what they call it. Admittedly, having grown up in Cincinnati and lived in Minnesota (where the food is beyond bland) and then Asia until three years ago, I haven't had a whole lot of opportunity to eat Southern cooking, so I have little point of reference. But this place - this is good. Friendly and welcoming waitstaff. Hip bar. And some really tasty food. My friend was plesantly surprised that it was as hip and happening as Boca across the street, with a similar layout - your normal dining room, and then a bar, with a bar area - high tables and chairs, and presumably spots for ordering more off the "lounge menu." Oakley businessfolk said they'd heard that they were serving lounge meny items for half price on Final Fridays (like tonight). Keep that in mind for next month...

We loved everything we tried, though the salads were not quite as good as everything else (but still pretty darn good). I went in with high expectations and was not disappointed. Fried green tomatoes (never had those before!) with bits of tomato and subtle chunks of crabmeat. Who knew? The salads (especially the Hugo) get their flavor from smokey something in the dressing. She tried the Kobe beef - super tender, cooked medium rare (as per the kitchen's specifications), though the escarole (I think that was it?) was almost a little surprising in there. Tasty though. I had the shrimp and grits. Yum. Beef demiglace that's been cooking down for three days, coarser than usual grits, cheddar sauce (so subtle!) on the side, bits of ham off to the side, and three tasty prawns on top. LOVED IT.

Bonus? "Nest" across the street was still open when we came out (Final Friday). Fabulous gifts in there, if you're in need of a wedding, shower or baby gift...

My fiance spent a couple years living in the Carolinas. He missed this meal, but I think we'll be back before long. Something tells me it's pretty authentic stuff.

PHOTO: James Geyer for the Enquirer

It's strawberry time!!!

This just in: Blooms and Berries Farm Market in Loveland has strawberries and is picking! Start as early as 9am Saturday morning. Just call to check in advance. Here's the info straight from their email (sign up at their website) -

"The 2007 Strawberry season hours are: * 9am to 6pm Monday -Saturday * 10am to 5pm Sunday * Call or check availability at www.bloomsandberriesfarmmarket.combefore coming out in case we are picked out for the day or weatherconditions do not permit the field to be open to the public. We will be open on Memorial day unless we pick out over the weekend. Again, please call or check the website to find out if we're picked out for the day."

Last year I made loads of pies - too many, in fact - and froze a bunch. (There are still some in the freezer, in fact!) I think I'm going to wait for blueberries this year. Decided that removing the strawberry caps was too much trouble, personally. Maybe next year. But I do have great memories of picking as a child. (Maybe that's b/c all I did was pick, and my mom sorted out what to do w/ them afterward!)

Find directions and plenty more you-pick farms in Polly's list.

Pick a winner!

Cheers, to a good cause

I was really excited when this e-mail from the Bacchanalian Society arrived yesterday afternoon. Have any of you ever attended this event? The YP group has four events a year, and I went to my first one this winter at the CAC, and I met my new best friend Kristen there. It was a massive event, and dozens of people were turned away. Truth be told, it's more about the socializing than the wine. However, it's a great event, and one of the best ways to meet people in the city, in my opinion.
The idea is simple: YPs gather to drink wine, socialize and help a good cause. (This time, the tasting benefits 7 Days for SIDS.)
When: Thursday, June 14 7-10 p.m.
Where: Newport Syndicate, 18 E. 5th St., Newport
Cost: $20 per person, plus three bottles of the same wine per team (teams can be 1-3 people)
The wine for this tasting is NEW WORLD WINE which is any wine from South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Chile or Argentina. Each invitee, or team of up to 3, must bring 3 bottles of THE SAME NEW WORLD WINE.
There's an after-party at Jefferson Hall. Their Web site hasn't been updated yet, so I'll attach the e-mail in a comment!

The perfect summer beverage

It was late. It was hot. I didn't feel like cooking. So last night, I stopped by bigg's to pick up some sushi and stumbled upon a treat I hadn't had since last summer: Bolthouse Farms Perfectly Protein Vanilla Chai Tea with Soy Protein. This stuff is quite possibly my favorite beverage of the moment: It's refreshing and just about as tasty as a vanilla milkshake or egg nog, only a lot more nutritious. One 8-ounce serving has 160 calories, 3 grams of fat, 530 mg of potassium (15 percent of what you need in a day) and 10 grams of protein, plus lots of vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc. And it's "all natural" (although who knows where the "natural flavors" listed in the ingredients come from). The only problem is, it's so good that you could easily drink most of the 1-liter bottle in one sitting. The high school-aged guy who rang me up says he buys exactly what I bought last night almost every day. Yikes. Anyway, there are lots of other Bolthouse flavors that I haven't tried, but for now I'm kind of stuck on the vanilla chai. Darn it, why didn't I bring some into work today?


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Road trip: wine country

OK, so it ain't Napa... But we do have wineries worth visiting not so far away. This weekend, Harmony Hill Vineyards in Bethel, Ohio, has an open house/summer kickoff for its wines. It's noon-6 p.m. May 26 (Saturday) and 28 (Monday). Owners Pat Hornak-Skvarla and Bill Skvarla invite visitors to pack a picnic lunch, and tour their new wine cave. Guests can also sample Harmony Hill's award-winning estate bottled wines, as they release their 2006 vintage. Call for more details (513-734-3548) or get directions here.

Or stay close to home and check out Taste of Cincinnati. Print out your map here, or grab one in this week's CiN Weekly, or Friday's Weekend section.

Great American Bake Sale

If you're like me, you don't need an excuse to bake. I'm constantly testing out low-fat and egg- or milk-free versions of baked goods. I've even done a pretty decent soy chocolate mousse! So why not bake for a good cause?

Rachael Ray is promoting the Great American Bake Sale, which will raise money for programs that help hungry children.

I'm thinking of doing one. My friends like to bake. It would be fun, hard work. Maybe we could even do a Foodie Report bake sale!

I know summer isn't bake sale season, but what do you make for bake sales?

Think of all the lovely fruit muffins and crisps you could make!

And for your daily dose of soy sense: Did you know that you can substitute silken tofu for eggs in most recipes? 1/4 c pureed silken (it MUST be silken) tofu= 1 egg. If you're using the egg for texture, like a mousse or souffle, this won't work. But I do it with blueberry buckle, brownies, cookies, cakes...

Half-priced martinis Saturday night

Here's a good excuse to stick around downtown Saturday night: Jeff Ruby's is offering half-price martinis after the 8 p.m. showing of "Mamma Mia!" at the Aronoff Center! Sure it's a marketing schtick, but hey, one I won't argue with. Too bad the deal wasn't on Tuesday night, when I saw the show. LOVED IT! And that's a lot of song and dance. (Even Jackie thought it was yummy!) But I can't get those dang ABBA songs out of my head.... (PS, the show goes till about 10:30 p.m.)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Birthday party

So it's my 26th birthday on Sunday, and my friends and I are throwing a soiree. The theme: A 50s cocktail party, heavy on the kitsch! (Really, my friend Kris just wanted an excuse to wear her pretty new dress!)
I've found a few Web sites that have retro recipes, and I've started gathering ideas for the (vegetarian) menu:
Tang martinis
Veggie meatballs (anything on a toothpick is perfect cocktail party food)
Sandwiches with the crusts cut off
Mushroom pate
Cheese straws
Jell-O salad
California onion dip
Chex mix (I have this childhood friend whose mom is a perfect June Cleaver clone. She always served us Chex Mix and Tang! No joke!)
along with some more modern items: hummus and homemade guacamole with vegetables, a pesto whole-wheat pasta salad and mini pizzas (whole-wheat crust from Trader Joe's!)
I've got a great polka-dotted dress, and my boyfriend is in charge of music. Check out the foodtimeline for fun food facts. Ooh, and I can make old-school punch. You know, the kind with 7-Up or Sprite, fruit punch and sherbet!
Any other suggestions? I didn't live through the 50s, so I don't really know what sort of fun foods to make. What about cocktails? Any suggestions?

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Grilled mango sundaes

Yum. Wild Oats Wild Mail sent this latest, greatest recipe today: grilled mango sundaes. Pity I'm allergic to mangoes. Heck, I might have to try it sometime anyway just to have a bite or two.

So somehow I have ice cream on the brain (could it be that we're looking at 89 degrees outside today? And a smog alert?)...which reminds me that the Banana Split Festival is coming up in Wilmington, Ohio, June 8-9 (yes, it does start on Friday). (Oh - turn the sound down, or way up, if you prefer, when you go check out those jaunty banana splits!)

But closer to home, it's Taste of Cincinnati time! Yes, we can lament that Carrabba's chicken dishes were chosen as Best of Taste, but really, it's all about meeting up with old friends, wandering through downtown Cincinnati - it's now at Fountain Square, you know? - and getting powdered sugar from a funnel cake all down your shirt. Or maybe that last one's just me...

We're back!

Geez Louise! Due to some extremely irritating technical difficulties (and no fault of our own), we were missing in action for almost a week! We couldn't alert you because we couldn't publish entries. Not even the comments would show up!

Are you guys OK? Are you shivering as you endure withdrawal? No? That's just me? Oh...

Well, let the foodie-ing continue!


Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Humvees of the food world

I recycle. I don't eat meat. I take the bus. I rarely drink bottled water. I take my own bags to the grocery store, reuse containers when possible and often wrap gifts in newsprint. (Hey, I work for The Enquirer. It's fitting and environmentally friendly!) And I often eat organic produce. It hadn't occurred much to me how that produce is affecting my carbon footprint.
Then I started reading "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life," by Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver.
Kingsolver, her husband and two daughters decide to move from the Arizona desert to a farm in Virginia that Hopp had bought years before. The mission: To remove themselves from the gas-guzzling mass market food web for a year and rely solely on home- or locally grown, organic food -- with a few key exceptions. The book doesn't lecture or take the moral high ground; rather it is part memoir, part novel as you follow the family's gastronomic journey.

Six eyes, all beloved to me, stared unblinkingly as I crossed the exotics
off our shopping list, one by one. All other pastures suddenly looked a lot
greener than ours. All snack foods come from the land of Oz, it seems, even the
healthy ones. Cucumbers in April? Nope? Those would need passports to reach us
right now, or at least a California license. Ditto for those make-believe baby
carrots that are actually adult carrots whittled down with a lathe. And all the
prewashed salad greens emanate from California... As fuel economy goes, I
suppose the refrigerated tropicals like bananas and pineapples are the Humvees
of the food world.

Kingsolver, a lifelong foodie and avid gardener, writes chronologically, from the family's last day in Tucson to their enjoyment of their first asparagus of the season. Though the family's diet is limited by the season, they eat meat they and their neighbors have raised, along with local eggs and dairy. The book includes essays by biologist and college professor Hopp, which expand on and reinforce with scientific fact the topics Kingsolver addresses. Camille adds her own thoughts and recipes.
The book has topped countless best-seller lists, including ours.
Kingsolver points out that "The average food item on a U.S. grocery shelf has traveled farther than most families go on their annual vacations (4)." Kopp, her husband, adds: "If every U.S. citizen are just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country's oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels (emphasis added) of oil every week. (5)
U.S. farmers now produce 3,900 calories per U.S. citizen a day, twice what we need and 700 calories more than in 1980 (14)... mostly in the form of soybeans and corn.
I'm only a few chapters into the book, but already I'm hooked -- and I'm conscious of my own food-buying habits. I've got two brown thumbs and an apartment, so growing my own nourishment is out of the question. But I did consider this: If I'm buying lettuce from California and organic red peppers from Chile, how good should I feel about that? In the long run, is organic produce really that much better for me if it's increasing my carbon footprint?
I plan to blog more about this as I keep reading. Have you read the book? What did you think? Do you pay attention to where your produce originates?
Later this week, I'll write about how produce has been selected and cultivated for better transport and appearance with little regard for taste, along with the story behind heirloom vegetables. I love this illustration that Kingsolver offers to show the growing season. It's a nutritional pyramid but in calendar form.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Did parenting just get harder or easier?

Anyone who talks to me for more than five minutes knows I'm on the baby track. In fact, I've lapped a few of my friends who have been benched with their little bundles recently. So I often have babies on the brain. I have always assumed some things - like how to keep babies healthy and happy - are common knowledge. "You'll be a natural when you have your little ones..." my grandmother assures me. Being naive, I figured being a mom goes something like this: Feed. Smooch. Diaper. Adore. Bathe. Repeat. A lot. Oh, and I forgot one: Spend.

Leave it to Beech Nut to make parenting even more confusing with their new line of baby food called Good Morning and Good Evening. According to the pitch, the products give "key ingredients to infants already eating solid baby foods, based on the time of day that they are fed and the associated nutritional needs." The Good Morning products are supposed to have fiber and a low glycemic index to maintain baby's blood sugar (and mood) throughout the early part of the day and keep her alert. On the other hand, Good Night products are packed with protein to help babies build muscle while she sleeps. It also contains "prebiotics," nutrients that promote good bacteria in baby's digestive system. (I bet life as a parent is better when you can use the words "good," "baby" and "digestive" in the same sentence.)

Do you think these products are good, or just a gimmick? It sort of sounds like food combining for babies. It make sense to limit the amount of simple and refined carbs you give your kids, and to make sure they get plenty of protein. Then again, what happened to the good old days when you just fed the baby without having to check to see whether there was a moon or a sun on the label?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

What heals you?

My boyfriend is home sick with strep throat today, so I thought I'd make him a hot, nutritious dinner tonight. Most people would go with chicken soup, but I don't eat meat. I haven't found another healing comfort food. Perhaps just a veggie broth-based soup?
On "Sex and the City," Samantha wanted her mom's slushies made from cough syrup and Orange Fanta. Doesn't seem like a good idea.
This guy says drink red wine... tempting, but I'm guessing that won't go well with the antibiotics. I know garlic is good for you when you're sick, so maybe pasta aglia olio?
I'm tired, so maybe I'll -- gasp -- get him some take-out soup! (Likely not!)
What do you eat when you're not feeling so hot?

Is there really joy in these soy treats?

Have any of you guys tried the new SOYJOY bars? You can get them at most grocery stores, so says their Web site. And you can get a $1 off when you buy three.

The only problem is that, in this case, saving a buck would be an exercise in futility if you end up with three bars that taste like tree bark with a hint of poo. I didn't know it, but my mom signed me up for a "Try Free SOYJOY bars" offer a month or so ago. (The site says they ended that offer.) I received a little box of three bars yesterday. The gimmick that came with the free bars is that you eat one and then promise to give the other two away to friends.
I have serious concerns that these will not be tasty. I keep imagining that I'll get a mouthful of that gross grass and chemical-y flavor found in so many "healthful" bars. If you've tried them, tell me what you think.

I'll go ahead bite the bullet - and a SOYJOY bar - when I get home tonight. Better yet, I'll bring all three of the bars into the office tomorrow and cut them up into sample sizes so I can try all of the flavors and keep my word.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Freebies for foodies...

We all love free stuff, right?

Like Kashi? Sign up for a free bowl...

Want to see if the future for the new Diet 7UP is brighter than, say, what fate had in store for New Coke? Sign up to get a free 2 liter.

And, if you're over 21, you can get a sample of Pravda Vodka.

The good thing about freebies? Well, the free stuff, of course. But there is a downside: Lots and lots of junk mail you get when the companies share/sell/loan the consumer information they collect from you.
My tip? Have an e-mail account that you use just for special offers like this. That helps keep your spam in check while you rake in some free goodies.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Good and cheap wine fave...

Wine is a wonderful thing. But, in my opinion, some people make wine drinking too complicated. Although I am interested to know whether or not an "expert" found a wine to be vegetal, I still want to try it for myself! I refuse to allow anyone to steer me away from a wine, just because they find a flaw. Perhaps that taster was battling allergies and a bit congested, thus rendering her taste buds useless. Or maybe our palates are just very dissimilar. Who knows?

My cheap-o fave of the moment is a chardonnay from Barefoot Cellars. It's only about $8 a bottle. No frills, but good stuff. The pear and vanilla flavors are crisp and perfect as the weather turns warm. And the deliciously buttery finish will make it hard to put your glass down... Of course this wine is nonvintage and isn't anything that you could age. But it is perfect for a casual girlfriend-get-together out on the patio or a romantic date on a breezy summer night. And the price is so easy on your wallet that you can afford to invite friends over every weekend through the summer. Heck, maybe every day...

My point is that when it comes to wine I like to keep things simple. Drink the wine. If you like it, continue to drink it. Whether it costs a little or a whole lot. Tell anyone who turns their nose up at your wine fave to stick a cork in it.

If you want to spend a little more money on a chardonnay, I posted some suggestions in the comments section.
What's your favorite inexpensive wine?

Just a bibliophile in a foodie world

Good books and good food go hand in hand. After all, good cookbooks contain the key to help you unlock the secrets good food...

In the kitchen of my dreams, I have a pantry as well as a library. There I will store a cookbook collection for the ages, I tell you! I'm too unorganized to implement the
Dewey Decimal System, but I'll know just to look when I want to make a specific dish.

My prized items will undoubtedly be the cookbooks my grandmother gives me (replete with handwritten notes containing her modifications and reviews), and my
vintage books. I only have about 30 books in my collection right now, but I love adding out-of-print gems to it. I have a deep and abiding love for 19th-century cookbooks and recipes, as I find them to be rather fascinating. I love to observe the trends that ebb and flow when it comes to good food. For instance, I found a recipe for Fourth of July cake on the Web site for Allaire Village, a "living museum" in New Jersey. I don't think that will come out looking anything like this Fourth of July cake with which you are probably more familiar...

Who among you are foodies and bibliophiles? Just admit that you like to read 'em, too. If I'm alone in this, good... More books for me!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

One of those days...

Do you ever have hamster days? The ones where you feel like you're in the cage, in the wheel, running at breakneck speed... going nowhere fast?

Yeah, neither do I.

But if I DID have a day like that, I bet I wouldn't feel up to cooking dinner that night. In fact, I'd probably think about calling ahead to a restaurant and grabbing some curbside grub on my way home.

But my experiences with curbside takeout have been rather hit or miss. They forget to give me the salad dressing... or the salad! The breadstick is missing in action... The penne could have used a few (or eight) more minutes of boil time... There's usually something. But I never find out until I'm home, in my kitchen, plating the food. (Life is oft a charade.) By then, it feels like the restaurant is on the other side of the equator, even if it's really just 10 minutes up the road...

I know lots of people say they are anti-chain, and I understand that. But for those of you who do frequent chains, what restaurant has the best grab-n-go service?

A toast to Mom

Of course, you've got your plans for Mother's Day all set. No? If it involves eating out, you'd better start calling around. I did a list of brunches, and some dinners, which you can find on our site here: http://news.enquirer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070509/LIFE01/705090309/-1/all

One more to add: Napa Grille in Hyde Park (in the old J's) which has a big long wine list, will have all their sparkling wines and champagne 1/2 price on Sunday. Could be a good excuse for you (and your Mom, of course) to try something fancier than usual.

2444 Madison Road, Hyde park

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Hugo blows in

Hugo, the sophisticated Southern restaurant taking over the Oakley Pho Paris space, opens to the public on Thursday, May 10.

Bahama Breeze

As noted in the comments on the Smokey Bones location, Bahama Breeze in Springdale has closed, too. It's another Darden restaurant. They closed Saturday. Mike Bernstein, the director of communications, told me that it in "no way reflects on the staff and the management," and that they'd all been offered jobs in other Bahama Breeze or Darden locations. He said it had to with location, that they have clarified their site development strategies since they first opened this local restaurant, and it longer fits what they need.

They closed 9 around the country, but they still plan to grow the concept in the right markets and locations. They're putting the building up for sale. It's huge--I wonder what could work there.

Edamame dearest

The people who know and tolerate, er, love me are aware of my foodist quirks. I wrote about my seasonal eating before. Some might think that makes me a few fries and a toy short of a happy meal. A sandwich short of a picnic. And so on and so forth... But true foodies know how it is when a hankering hits you.

My latest food addiction is edamame. Again. It happens just about every spring. I like to get it fresh whenever I can. But I've settled for frozen the last couple of days. You can spice it up a bit if you like. But, for me, nothing is better than steamed edamame sprinkled with a good, coarse salt. It's so good. The beans are buttery and sweet and the salt is the perfect foil, making for some marvelously simple snacking.

One question: Why the heck don't they offer this at movie theaters? It's way more healthful and far tastier than the oddly yellow, butter-flavored popcorn they try to sell you for $50 an ounce... OK, so movie popcorn isn't THAT expensive. But edamame would be a nice alternative, don't cha think? Would I be wrong to sneak it in for snacking the next time I go? I promise I'll keep my shells to myself...

Ruby wouldn't serve O.J.

In case you've been hiding under a rock and haven't seen this yet today, go read about how Jeff Ruby kicked O.J. Simpson out of his Louisville restaurant before the Derby last week. Post your comments here. With nearly 200 comments up already, there'll no doubt be more on this story showing up in the Enquirer throughout the week.
PHOTO CREDIT: The Associated Press Amy Sancetta

Fusion who?

I'm thrilled that salsa dancing has moved into Pacific Moon at Newport on the Levee on Saturday nights. But their latest "Asian-Spanish Fusion Menu" addition for that night may be taking things a bit too far:

• Shrimp Gazpacho
• Szechuan Chicken Taco
• Filet Mignon Burrito
• Paella
• Pineapple Custard Flan

I like good food, but my take is, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Why on earth would I roll my filet mignon in a tortilla and smother it in anything? In a Chinese restaurant, no less?

On the plus side, Tropicoso starts playing salsa tunes at Pacific Moon at 11 p.m. every Saturday night.

What's for dinner? stuffed shells, with leftovers

Like Nicci, I start asking myself this question around 4 p.m. each afternoon. Monday, I took the afternoon off because of allergies, and I napped and watched Food Network. Giada, Paula, Ina and Elie did their thing while I dozed.
Soon 5 p.m. rolled around, and I got hungry. Watching Food TV is not a good idea when you're hungry. A bit of rooting around online turned up this recipe. But I'm not a meat eater, so I changed it a bit.
As I wrote on Monday -- from the couch -- I usually cook for one. But Monday night, I cooked for a friend, too. With this recipe (just half a box of shells), we each had dinner and lunch the next day, plus leftovers. (Serving size was 3-4 shells.) Reader Kelly says she and her boyfriend often do the same thing.
I added spinach for added iron and calcium, plus mushrooms for protein because I omitted the turkey. And I substituted half a package of silken tofu for half the ricotta. (My friend never figured it out.) My mom and I frequently do this when we need ricotta in a pasta dish. Tofu cuts calories, has the same texture and adds protein!
Stuffed shells with artichokes, spinach and mushrooms
1/2 box large shell pasta, cooked but still firm
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T olive oil
1/4 c onion, diced
1 c frozen spinach
1 c frozen artichokes, chopped (Trader Joe's carries these)
1/2 package mushrooms
8 ounces low-fat ricotta cheese
1/2 package firm silken tofu (make sure it's silken)
1 egg white
1/2 t oregano
1 jar pasta sauce (I only had tomato-basil, but Giada used arrabiata.)
1/2 c shredded mozzarella cheese
salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste
In a saute pan, heat olive oil and garlic over medium, add onion and cook until translucent. Add mushrooms, cook until nicely browned. Add spinach and artichokes and cook until heated through and most water has evaporated, about 5-7 minutes. Allow to cool slightly.
Mash tofu in a bowl with ricotta, egg white oregano and salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Add vegetables, stir well.
In a large baking dish, spread a thin layer of sauce. Fill shells with mixture, then cover with remaining sauce and mozzarella cheese. Bake at 400 degrees until cheese is brown, about 20 minutes.
(I hope this recipe is OK, but tell me if I forgot something. I'm no expert -- obviously!) You could easily double this recipe for guests -- I only used half a package of shells. Or, even easier: Use it as a lasagna filling... I love no-cook lasagna noodles.
Share your meat-free pasta recipes with me!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Goetta news flash

Because you can't get ENOUGH goetta in a town that has not one, but TWO goetta festivals, MainStrasse Village is thrilled to announce that they've added an extra day to the 7th Annual "Original" Goettafest - Friday, June 15, on top of June 16 and 17. Wow. That one's in Covington's MainStrasse Village.
The other one is Aug. 3-5: Glier’s Goettafest at the Newport Riverfront. How do you choose which one to go to?
Haven't tried goetta? Get hoppin'. I'm a big fan of the tasty oatmeal/pork mixture as part of an all-day breakfast at the Anchor Grill.

Eating competitions - on TV

This just moved on the wire services. On TV this Saturday, May 11:

"World Hamburger Eating Championship" (8 p.m.) and "Hot Dog Eating Contest" (9 p.m.), ESPN2. Before you enjoy this too much, you might want to see the next paragraph.

"CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," 9 p.m., CBS. These rerun centers on the death of an obese man. Detectives look into the nasty world of competitive eating.

Yuck! Not sure how competitive eaters do it (or WHY, for that matter).

The photo at right shows a watermelon eating contest that took place during a Kentucky Kid's day celebration at A.D. Owens in Newport a couple years ago. That just doesn't even LOOK good to me!

Forgot one!

Ah-sah! I'm so excited to hear about the new Korean restaurant, though I'm partial to Riverside, which is just a mile or so away from my apartment! I lived in Seoul for a year, and I love spicy Korean food. Kimchi, mmm!
And yes, Julie, you missed one: Moon Garden in Fairfield is another Korean spot. Their kimchi is the best I've had outside of Korea. I recommend the sun dubu jjigae. (Soft tofu stew/soup)
P.S. If you don't like kimchi, try grilling it alongside your meat at one of the DIY barbecue places. It gets all caramelized and rich in flavor. Mash-ees-ah-yo! (Delicious, in Korean!)
Koreans eat kimchi at every meal. There's even a museum for all 187 varieties!

New Korean spot

Polly Campbell reports that Harrison now has its own Korean restaurant:

"Bulgogi, kimchi and seafood pancakes have come to Harrison. Kim’s Korean Restaurant is open in the K-Mart Plaza at 10548 Harrison Ave. Owners Larry and Chun Mae Haire offer traditional Korean food at lunch and dinner. 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5- 9:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday. 513-367-2040."

This adds to the small but growing list of Korean spots in town. My personal favorite remains Riverside in Covington (see bibimbap in the photo), but the dining guide lists a few more:

*Chung Kiwha in Florence (DIY, family friendly, from what I've heard. And who knew it'd made Time magazine in 2004?)

*The Korea House at Harper's (decent but not better than Riverside)

*Riverside in Covington (yum!)

Am I missing any Korean restos??

Gourmet fundraiser

The date has been set for A Gourmet Sensation, the fundraiser for Hospice of Cincinnati that brings in renowned chefs from all over the country and a few from Europe. It’s 7-10 p.m. September 8 at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason. Tickets, $175, are available from Diana Fogel at 513-745-1617.

-Polly Campbell

Mentos + Diet Coke = Fun on the Square

You may have read - or seen the videos - that dropping 3-4 Mentos candies into a bottle of Diet Coke results in, well, explosive behavior. The geyser fiasco is coming to Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati on May 24 - and 500 citizens are invited to join in. I for one plan to sneak out of work early to be there!

Tell us your favorites

For all of you who rail against chain restaurants (and yes, even those who love them), here is your chance to be heard. Your Hometown Enquirer is conducting a poll of favorites around town, from your favorite Italian and pizza spots and romantic restaurants, to spots for family dining, to spas and golf courses and dry cleaners. Best of all, it doesn't take long (10 minutes tops), and you can skip over any questions that don't apply to you. Check back with Hometown after May 25 to see the results!

Re: Barbecue

Smokey Bones Barbecue chain is closing lots of its restaurants and selling the rest. I called the Florence location and the manager said the locations here: Florence, Cherry Grove and West Chester, are among the ones being sold rather than closed. But they surely won't be Smokey Bones for long. So if you love their'q--go get yourself some right now.

I thought they did a pretty good job with the food, it just didn't have any soul, and if anything needs soul, it's barbecue. Some people observed that it didn't work to lump together all the different kinds of American barbecue in one place. It is a food that needs geographic context, and should be eaten closer to the source.

Monday, May 07, 2007

'Cocaine' energy drink pulled from shelves

I can't say that I follow energy drinks all that closely, but this is kind of amazing: an energy drink with mega caffeine (try 280 mg in one can, versus 80 mg in one can of Red Bull) being marketed as "Cocaine" is being pulled off the shelves after an eight-month run. Pretty amazing it took the FDA that long to pull it. It contains no actual cocaine, just a ton of caffeine. Just wild. The drink's former web site contains "RIP" videos from YouTube fans.

Festival food

I watched some of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival live on a streaming broadcast over the weekend; the performances were fun to see -- but it was the shots into the crowd that caught me up in nostalgia. My husband and I used to go down for Jazzfest every year for almost a decade. Everything about it was fun: the $11 guest house room we stayed in, the music, the city, the crowds. . . .yeah, and the food--food I'd never had before, because it was just at the beginning of the Cajun food craze of the '80's. Nothing like waiting in line for Natchitoches meat pies, alligator on a stick, church-lady fried chicken, shrimp etouffe, turtle soup, Italian ice, jambalaya, big buckets of crawfish, and eating them with a Cajun band or gospel choir as sonic sauce. . .

We didn't go this year--haven't been for awhile. Instead, we went to Cincy-Cinco out at Riverbend on Sunday. On a smaller scale, it had the same feel. The vendors are caterers, little restaurants, grocery stores--not professional concessionaires. And we explored some new foods, all with the right music for background. My daughter, having been to Argentina last summer, wanted to try every kind of empanada--there were several, and all different. She also was excited to find alfajores, rich little butter cookies filled with dulce de leche. We loved the Colombian arepas: a thick corncake stuffed with white cheese, with fresh salsa to put on it. A short little lady was standing on a step stool to cook the papas rellenos at another stand: hot fried mashed potatoes filled with spicy meat. My husband bought a coctel de frutas, with cucumber, melon, guava and mangoes. With some salsa music in the background, Panamanian dancers, or a solo mariachi guitar player singing songs with amateur accompaniment, it was a nice cross-cultural day. Try it next year. . .

One place I tried that I'm going to have to try in its home setting is a restaurant called Santo Domingo in Hamilton, which served up big plates of carbohydrate-heavy food: plantain, rice and beans, yucca and stewed meats.

the single life

The other day a friend came over for dinner. He was surprised to open my fridge and find it fully stocked with food.
"But you live alone," he said. "Doesn't it all spoil before you eat it?" His refrigerator has little more than orange juice and condiments.
I'm single, I live alone and I cook dinner every night. It might be frozen veggies and chickpeas with some curry sauce from Trader Joe's, or it might be pistachio-crusted salmon with fresh broccoli and a whole-grain mix, as I had the night my friend came over. It might be a mushroom burger and baked potato wedges or a tofu stir-fry, but I take time to make and eat a balanced meal. Open my freezer and you won't find frozen dinners or pints of ice cream.
Lots of cookbooks, TV shows and blogs have been devoted to finding time to cook for a family, which can be challenging. But single people have busy lives, too. And without anyone else to cook for, many of my single friends opt for takeout or yogurt and cereal for dinner.
I promised my friend some tips on cooking for one, so I thought I'd share them here, too.
* I take my lunch to work every day. I eat leftovers for lunch almost every day. It's cheap and delicious, plus I know that I won't be wasting calories on a fatty, sodium-laden lunch.
* I freeze extras. If I make a big curry or a pot of soup, I freeze single serving portions. Then, if I'm running late or am too tired to cook, I have dinner on hand. Then I'm not tempted to eat something that's bad for me.
* When I buy fresh vegetables, I commit to eating them. That might mean that I'm eating asparagus for three meals or salads every day for the rest of the week. I hate food ennui, but I hate wasting food even more.
* I don't eat meat. I first stopped eating meat because I didn't want to cook an entire package of chicken or a package of ground turkey all at once. Vegetarian proteins (veggie burgers, mushrooms, TVP, tofu, tempeh, etc.) seem to be in smaller packages, so they're easier to cook. But when I did eat meat, I bought bags of frozen chicken breasts from Trader Joe's so I could pull one out when I needed one.
Any other single foodies out there? Tell me how you cook without wasting food. Do you have any just-for-one recipes?

Coffee or tea? Or both?

After a stimulating weekend of picking out new lighting fixtures, I decided I needed a pick-me-up a little stronger than usual today. Considering that I really dislike coffee (unless it's coffee ice cream) and prefer hot tea, I reverted to a Hong Kong recipe -- yin yang tea -- which I haven't had in ages. It's a pretty simple premise - half coffee, half tea. Purists make it super smooth (and sweet) with the addition of lots of sweetened condensed milk -- and it's closely related to "pantyhose tea" (though that's a new name to me). I just had a shot of coffee, and added hot water with a vanilla tea bag, plus sugar, and voila! At least I'm awake again.

Speaking of tea, does anyone in this town still drink bubble tea? Or is that a trend that's come and gone? Pacific Moon used to serve it in their Montgomery location, but I can't even find it on the menu in the new Newport spot. Essencha might serve it, but again, I don't see it on their menu.

But Essencha is having a tea tasting Thursday - space is limited! Check it out:

"New Teas Tea Tasting
"Date: Thursday May 10th, 6:30-8:00PM. What: Be one of the first to sample and learn about our newest arrivals, paired with some of our newest and most popular menu items on Thursday, May 10th, all while learning how to prepare and serve these delightful blends. $15/person. Reservations: Required. Space is limited to 15 people!" To reserve: 513-533-4832.

Goodbye to Mr. Pig

A very sad weekend, to lose two masters of great African-American art forms: boogie-woogie piano and barbecue.

Big Joe Duskin and Paul Sebron both passed away in the last few days.

It's amazing to think about the great American culture that has came from a place of hardship, deprivation and discrimination. From the saloons of the poor side of town came the down and dirty, rythmic and wild style of playing the piano that Big Joe Duskin was one of the last authentic practitioners of. It may have had humble origins, but there were true virtuosos of the form who made it an art.

Barbecue and southern soul cooking too, came from humble materials that had to be made the most of. Ribs, greens, hog jowls, black eyed peas, all became masterpieces in the right person's hands. Ribs may be fatter and greens meatier than they used to be, but it still takes someone who knows what they're doing to turn them into a feast. Paul Sebron, Mr. Pig, carried on that tradition. His greens had a silky, rich quality I haven't had anywhere else, and his ribs and chicken were succulent, smoky, and right in that equilibrium between spicy, tangy and sweet. His barbecue barrels sure made shopping at Findlay Market smell good, and I had to sometimes have lunch even though I wasn't planning to when I was down there.

Mr. Pig also used to do a great crawfish boil at Stenger's when he owned it: he'd pour huge steam pans full of crawfish, potatoes corn, and sausages on paper-covered tables and let everyone chow down while he sang a number of two with the band. I'm sorry he's gone--and at only 54.

Friday, May 04, 2007

What the...?

Have you seen this video game from Wii?

Um... all righty...

Inspired, ready for spring

When I left for Europe three weeks ago, Cincinnati was having a cold spell. Farmers markets, you-pick farms and fresh produce were far from my mind. I wanted roasted veggies, hot tea, spicy soups.
The weather in Paris, by contrast, was warm and sunny. Walking down the street near our hotel in Montmartre, the produce stands boasted ripe, sweet tomates cerises; giant, perfectly displayed strawberries with an intoxicating fragrance; and crisp white asparagus almost an inch in diameter.
Each morning and afternoon, my sister would impatiently drag me past. We had no kitchen (quel dommage!), so I could look but not cook, sadly enough. Rach also got sick of me taking pictures of food in France. (She's a foodie, but she only likes to eat it, not write about it, cook it or photograph it!)
We did buy a few things for picnics -- one day in the Jardin de Luxembourg, where my sister was attacked by pigeons, and another day at the Place des Invalides.
A few days later, when I made it to Tours to visit an old friend, we had a light lunch of Poilane bread that a third friend had brought from Paris and fresh cherry tomatoes bursting with flavor. A drizzle of homemade (!) mayonnaise, a sprinkling of salt and pepper. There was nothing better!
This weekend's weather forecast isn't very sunny, but no matter. I'm headed to Findlay Market. And in the mean time, don't forget to send us your picks for you-pick farms!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Noodle news

Noodles & Company, a Boulder, Colorado-based noodle restaurant, will open a store in Cincinnati this fall. It will be moving into a building, now under construction, at the corner of Paxton and Isabella Avenues in Oakley. The location is across the street from Mio’s Pizzeria.
The restaurant is a quick-casual, globally-inspired restaurant, serving Asian, Mediterranean and American noodle dishes. It recently opened its first store in Ohio, in Grandview Heights, and plans to open two or three locations in the Greater Cincinnati area this year.

The menu includes dishes such as Japanese pan noodles, Wisconsin macaroni & cheese, pesto cavatappi and Bangkok curry. They also serve soups and salads and sautéed pastas, made to order. Tofu and vegetables are an option in many dishes.
Polly Campbell

An early Mother's Day of sorts

When I was a kid, my mom had a "no, thank you" rule. Every time she cooked a new food, I had to have a "no, thank you" helping, which amounted to a bite or two. After that, I was allowed to decide whether I ever wanted to eat that food again. (Apparently it worked, because sprouts are the only vegetables I dislike, despite countless "no, thank you" helpings.)
My mom is here for a couple of days because I'm not going to be able to make it home for Mother's Day this year. Last night I took her to One World Wednesday and introduced her to my fabulous friends. After, we went to Aqua for some late-night, half-price sushi.
While sushi is one of my favorite foods, my mom is still a sushi neophyte. She's had California rolls, avocado rolls, maybe a shrimp tempura roll. Those are good, but I usually prefer nigiri or sashimi. But last night, we were a large group and opted for a huge variety of rolls.

My mom practiced what she preached and dug in to the sushi. She -- along with two of my other friends -- were squeamish about eating anything raw. So the three of them simultaneously took a piece of a rainbow roll. Verdict: 2 of 3 of the women had more of the "real sushi," as they called it.
She said she'd actually order some of the things on her own, the next time she finds herself at a sushi restaurant.
As my profile says, I'm trying to get through most of, if not all, of our area's sushi restaurants. I'm still new here (one year at the end of the month), so I certainly haven't gotten very far.
So tell me, where do you go for sushi? What's your favorite?
A friend's birthday is in two weeks, and we're planning another group sushi outing. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Chicken marbella and strawberry mousse

I lived in New York City from about the year that The Silver Palate opened on Upper Columbus, then a little desolate and scary, until the year after Silver Palate owners Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins published The Silver Palate Cookbook. I brought it with me to Cincinnati, clinging a little to what I thought was my New York sophistication, eager to make just about everything in it. Of course, I was not alone; the whole country was soon cooking from the book--it had fabulous recipes that worked (a lot relied on rich ingredients) that presented classics in appealing, accessible ways, had cute illustrations and useful information.

That was 25 years ago, and the book is being re-issued, with color photos. Author Julee Rosso will be at Joseph-Beth on May 12 at 1 p.m. to sign it.

Looking it over, I'm surprised at how many recipes I still use. I started using it when I didn't have a million cookbooks, and many became my default recipe. I still make:
The Chili for a Crowd: some weird ingredients, but boy does it work. (I add way more beans than the recipe calls for.)
Strawberry mousse: I used to put this in cream puffs. I did it again recently--delish.
Linzer heart cookies: so delicate and pretty
The asparagus with sesame mayonnaise--once every spring--it's rich and perfect wth asparagus
Pork chops with black currant preserves
Chicken Monterrey, with oranges and tomatoes and all kinds of bright summery flavors
chicken raspberry: I thought this was the height of sophistication, with raspberry vinegar, which was so unusual then. It seemed a little too one-dimensional last time I tried it., though it's very pretty
And, of course, chicken Marbella, which I recently came across at one of those assemble-your-own dinner places. A true classic. Prunes and olives--how could anyone resist making it?

A new haven for veg heads

Mark Stroud wants to emphasize that Gratitude Restaurant, his place that will open this summer in Clifton, will offer healthy, natural, delicious food. "Vegetarian" will not be splashed across the front, or emphasized in the name or image. But, he won't be serving meat. Which is great news for the restaurant scene, I think. There aren't huge numbers of vegetarians, but it's a way of eating that more and more people are familiar with and interested in. Vegetarian restaurants can be inventive and a great way to introduce people to food they may not otherwise try. Stroud's menu isn't finalized, but he mentions things like pizza and sushi that can be completely vegetarian without anyone noticing.

Gratitude will share a building with a movement studio offering classes in disciplines such as tai chi, yoga and belly dancing. Owner Mark Stroud says he hopes the combination creates a “spiritual urban village” in the building at 268 Ludlow His partners are Anna Ferguson, who’ll run the movement studio, and his son Graydon.
If you've been eating healthy in Cincinnati for a long time, you'll remember Stroud, who was the
owner of Christos and Drivakis, a vegetarian restaurant in Winton Place open in the late ‘80s. It was such a gorgeous restaurant; an old ice cream parlor with beautiful fittings. I wonder what's become of it? It was a Jamaican restaurant for awhile.

Another exciting thing about Gratitude is that it will be the first local restaurant certified by the Green Restaurant Association, meaning it will be dedicated to an environmentally sustainable operation, with toxic-free paints, recyclable materials, compact fluorescent lights and other energy-saving operations. Green Restaurant certification doesn't depend as much on the food, but Stroud will also emphasize organic and local products in his cooking.

Think Global, Shop Local

A new series starts today in the Life section. We call it "Think Global, Shop Local." It is all about markets that sell authentic foods. It kicks off with a features on stores that sell Latin American goodies.

I think it's so cool that people from all over the world come to the United States, creating a rich tapestry that is unique to this country. The blending of cultures, ethnicities, languages, etc... keep things interesting. And need I mention how it spices up our collective menu? In Cincinnati, you can get a taste of the foods you would find in Thailand, Peru, Ethiopia, France, and more...

Everyone knows you can go out to eat to try exotic cuisine. But why limit yourself? Why not try to make some of the dishes at home? You're probably sick of eating the same thing every week anyway.

I can imagine that many people see ethnic markets as places of refuge. If you've traveled abroad, you can relate. It's comforting to see packaging with which you are familiar. Heck, if you're born and bred in America and you're out of the country long enough, you might just kiss the ground in front of the Golden Arches when you see them in, say, Apia, Samoa. (Although it's probably not a good idea since I don't think Purell should go on your mouth.) Not necessarily because you have a hankering for a Big Mac. It's just nice to see something you associate with home. So this series is all about places that do just that.

I hope you enjoy it. And don't hesitate to e-mail Polly and me suggestions if you know of stores in Greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky that carry the authentic foods that take you back home...

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

And the winners are...

Winners of the Taste of Cincinnati “Best of Taste” awards have been chosen. These, along with dishes from about 40 restaurants in all, will be served at the Taste of Cincinnati during Memorial Day weekend. It will take place in a new location this year along Fifth Street, downtown; noon-midnight May 26-27 and noon-9 p.m. May 28.

Best of Taste – Veggie Wrap with Spicy Chicken, Market Street Grille
Award of Excellence – Steamed Mussels, Bella Luna
Award of Merit – Cabbage Roll, Laszlo’s Iron Skillet

Best of Taste – Bleu Cheese Pecan Chopped Salad, Outback Steakhouse
Award of Excellence – Smoked Turkey & Berry Salad, Burbank’s Real Barbecue
Award of Merit – Creole Gumbo, Washington Platform Saloon & Restaurant

Best of Taste – Chicken Bryan, Carrabba’s Italian Grill
Award of Excellence – Chicken Marsala/Carrabba’s Italian Grill
Award of Merit – Jambalaya, Market Street Grille

Seafood Entrée
Best of Taste – Wasabi Ginger Glazed Salmon, Mike Fink
Award of Excellence – Seafood Shanghai Noodles, Shanghai Mama’s
Award of Merit – New Orleans Shrimp Alfredo Pasta, Indigo Casual Gourmet Café

Vegetarian Entrée
Best of Taste – Veggie Mango Spring Roll, Shanghai Mama’s
Award of Excellence – Vegetable Pad Thai, Arloi Dee
Award of Merit – Veggie Stuffed Pizza Pie, LaRosa’s

Best of Taste – Chocolate Raspberry Crepe, La Petite France
Award of Excellence –Torta di Pane (Bread Pudding), Bella Luna
Award of Merit – Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Sundae, Indigo Casual Gourmet Cafe

Best Damn Dish (best overall dish)
Chicken Bryan, Carrabba’s Italian Grill

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