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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, June 29, 2007

Wedding (fare) to remember

I've been meaning to post something about this article for a while. In it, the writer references some message boards where people are suggesting that brides-to-be skimp on food at their wedding because no one will remember it...

Skimp on the food? At your WEDDING?! What's after that? You don't buy your kid a 1st birthday cake because she won't remember it?

My two cents: If you need to skimp on your reception because of your budget, take an axe to your list and trim the people who: A. you have not talked with in six months; B. have ever said, "Are you sure he/she is 'the one'?". Take the money you would have spent on those who, truth be told, could not care less about your 'nupchals and have a reception to remember with the people who actually matter. If you're skimping just to skimp, be a true miser: Cancel the wedding and save the money. In addition to the cash, you'll also save yourself 137 headaches and approximately three gray hairs.

Whatever you do, try to avoid the convention victuals. You know, the tasteless chicken breast stuffed with what is somehow an even more tasteless something, placed ever so carefully next to a pile of unseasoned veggies and a puddle of potatoes, all served lukewarm. Unless you are certain your caterer can make 350 plates of deliciousness, avoid the "Attack of the Cloned Entrees" if you can. I would rather go to a reception with ultra-casual food done right than one with high-falutin' food gone wrong. In other words, quality over quantity.

Here is what we had at our wedding (we had 90 guests) and folks are STILL raving about it:
Passed hors d'ouevres
  • Grilled orange coconut shrimp skewers
  • Crisp vegetable springrolls brushed with honey soy sauce
  • Brie baked in buttery brioche with fresh grapes and seasonal berries
  • Chevre, artichoke, and kalamata olive tarts


  • Pumpkin ravioli with brown butter sage sauce
  • Fresh spring salad with pears, apples, Danish bleu cheese, pecans, and a honey sherry vinaigrette
  • Mini roast beef sandwiches with horseradish mousse
  • Mini grilled chicken sandwiches on focaccia with roasted red and yellow peppers and artichoke parmesan spread
  • Mashed Potato Station - Serving redskin potatoes mashed with roasted garlic and cream as well as your add-ins including cheddar cheese, scallions, spring peas, whipped butter, sauteed onions with sausage and bacon, and a velvety veloute sauce
  • Hibachi Station - Featuring beef tenderloin medallions and rock shrimp along with orzo pasta salad and a confetti of vegetables
  • Focaccia with parmesan spread
  • White and dark chocolate-dipped strawberries
  • And, of course, wedding cake

I sort of feel bad for the people who say, "No one remembers the food at your wedding." Perhaps they mean, "Boy, I hope no one remembers the food at my wedding."

Snack recall

So, as you probably know by now, they've found salmonella in the Veggie Booty.

Is there no haven from food contamination? I never tried the Veggie Booty, but I'm a fan of the Pirate's Booty.

According to the Web site, no other Booty's are affected at this time... (And this was not just an excuse to type the word "booty." Grow up, you.)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Champagne wishin', caviar dreamin'

So we're getting some new "Italian" restaurants. (My sources tell me the quotes are warranted.) I'm none too excited about more pizza in Greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky, especially if it's a chain. Mom-and-Pop pizza shops (you know the ones) are the best.

What restaurants (chain or not) would you wish here if the Foodie Genie granted you a wish? I haven't had a great slice in a while so, right now, I would wish for The Original Gino's Pizza (located in Toledo and Maumee).

Pros and cons of the recipe archive

Adding recipes to our new online database is a pain in the aspic. But it's a great feature for our Web users, and, as you all know, food is one of my many passions, so I think it's well worth it. Busy work aside, doing this gives me the chance to see the fabulous recipes The Enquirer has published over the years. Check out this one for Pear and Gouda Bruschetta, and the one for Spinach Balls (both at right). You'll have to search for the latter because Blogger won't let me link to both for some odd reason. Anyway, they sound delish and reason enough to have a cocktail party.

Keep coming back to the virtual recipe box since it's growing all the time. And if you want to add recipes of your own, send them to recipes@cincinnati.com, along with your name (or an alias, if you like) and your neighborhood.
Photo by Kats Barry

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

How scary is this?

This food/commerce story from The Times. And what's scary is that while there have been numerous international food scares involving products exported from China and other countries, the recent flurry of scrutiny seems to stem from the pet food recall.

The whole thing makes communal living, with acreage dedicated to sustainable food sources, sound like a really, really good idea... OK, so maybe that's a bit extreme, at least for me. But I do think I will join a co-op...

Interested in doing that? Here's some info:

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs function as co-op farms and provide freshly harvested produce to members, who pay membership fees and sometimes donate labor.

Gravel Knolls Farm, 9424 Cincinnati-Dayton Road, West Chester Township. 513-779-1190; www.gravelknollsfarm.com.

Turner Farm, 7400 Given Road, Indian Hill. 513-561-8482.

Martin Hill Farms, Aberdeen. Pick up weekly box on Sunday at Findlay Market or Hyde Park, Wednesdays in Northside. www.growmaster.com.
Compiled by Polly Campbell and Janinne Thompson for The Enquirer

Because vegheads need love (and cookouts), too...

Be sure to check out today's Life centerpiece, written by Stepfanie with an assist from Lauren. It's all about vegetarians and barbecues. Whether you are a veghead going to a cookout, or your hosting the outdoor food fest, you'll find some great advice in this article.

Here are more tips Lauren and Stepfanie rounded up (And check out the comment section for some product info.):

  • Microwave or parboil vegetables before marinating or grilling. The vegetables will be easier to skewer and will cook faster.

  • Marinate vegetables for 30-60 minutes before grilling to add flavor.

  • Cook over medium high heat. If you are using charcoal, allow the coals to burn long enough to turn white.

  • Use aluminum foil or lightly oil the cooking grid to prevent sticking. Punching holes in the aluminum foil will allow the smoke to penetrate and flavor the food.

  • Basting vegetables with a marinade will help them remain tender and moist while giving them a caramelized crust. For a quick marinade, use low-fat or fat-free salad dressing.

Veggie Grilling Tips

Artichokes: Parboil until tender. Cut in half and marinate. Grill for 120-15 minutes.
Corn: Husk and wrap in foil. Add 2 Tbsp. water. Grill for 15-20 minutes. Or keep in husk, remove silk and soak in cold water for 10 minutes. Grill for 20-30 minutes.
Garlic: Remove papery outside and cut off top. Place the whole head in a small cup made from aluminum foil. Drizzle olive oil over the head of garlic and add herbs, such as thyme or rosemary, as desired. Place to the side of a covered grill. Cook for 45-60 minutes.
Eggplant: Cut eggplant into one-quarter-inch slices. Spray eggplant slices on both sides with oil spray. Grill until tender–about 4 minutes on each side.
Mushrooms: Clean and brush with oil. Cook small white mushrooms on skewers 4-8 minutes, rotating. Cook portabella mushrooms 7-8 minutes per side.
Onions: Trim and slice into quarters. Drizzle with olive oil and chipped basil. Wrap in foil and cook for 15-30 minutes.
Peppers: Wash and cut in half, quarters or chunks for skewers. Grill until tender, about 10 minutes. If using whole, grill until blackened. Roast whole peppers by grilling until blackened. Place in paper bag for 10 minutes then remove charred skin and seeds before using.
Potatoes: Wash and slice into rounds, quarters or halves. If using whole, parboil first. Brush with oil and grill for 15-25 minutes or until tender.
Summer squash: Wash and cut into chunks or halve lengthwise. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until tender. Source: Nutrition Council of Greater Cincinnati

Photo credit: The Enquirer/Michael E. Keating

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

It's good to be a girl... friend, that is

Somewhere along the way, neo-feminist tenets said it's OK to be a woman and a girl. As a woman who believes you can wear pink and still be strong and smart, I don't mind if my friends refer to me as a girl. And I like the concept of "girl power," although I'll never utter those words (I never "got" the Spice Girls). But it irritates the heck out of me when a stranger refers to me as a girl. I won't bother explaining the difference if you don't see it. You'd probably just chalk it up to me being... well, a girl.

But last Thursday was a great night to be a girlfriend. Three friends and I went to the Summer Girlfriend Get-Aways at Marble Hill Chocolatier. Bill Sands (shown at right with some of his fabu chocolate) owns the specialty shop, located in O'Bryonville. The theme? "Champagne Spun Nights." We had five fabulous chocolates:

Pairing One
Chocolates: Passion Fruit Tahitian Vanilla Truffle and another called Pina Colada

Pairing Two
Wine: Castellblanch Rosado Cava (A bright, fruity non-vintage Spanish rosé)
Chocolate: Cardamom Almond (It was my absolute favorite. The sweet and savory flavors along with a hint of crunch from the almond strike a perfect balance that is divine, to say the least.)

Pairing Three
No wine for this one.
Chocolate: Mojito

Pairing Four
Wine: Lodi Old Vines Zinfandel or Dow's Tawny Porto (I picked the zin since I tend to associate this port with cooler months, although I know it is fabulous with chocolate.)
Chocolate: Salted Caramel Truffle (My second favorite of the night. Madagascar cacao and fresh cream, bittersweet chocolate, and a hint of Maldon sea salt. How can you go wrong with that combination?)

The Marble Hill schedule reveals that the next Girlfriend event is on July 19, and I recommend you stop by for that or to shop. The chocolate is so fabulous that someone other than my friends could have called me a girl that night, and I probably wouldn't have even noticed...
Photo credit: The Enquirer/Carrie Cochran

Sexiest vegetarians

Yay! Veggies are sexy!
From the Associated Press:
NEW YORK – Carrie Underwood and Kevin Eubanks have been named the "world’s sexiest vegetarians" in PETA’s annual contest.
Results were released Tuesday by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Underwood, 24, a Grammy-winning country singer, won the title in 2005. Eubanks, 49, leader of NBC’s "Tonight Show" band, is a newcomer to the winner’s circle.
Eubanks leapt ahead of his competitors with help from Jay Leno, who encouraged viewers to vote for Eubanks and “bring honor” to the late-night NBC talk show.
"I’m gonna keep this campaign going," Leno said during a recent show after sharing a photo of a shirtless Eubanks with his audience. Leno said the shot, in which Eubanks is holding a backpack and posing against a woodsy backdrop, wasn’t doctored.
Runners-up in the contest, which the animal rights group said drew more than 110,000 votes on its Web site, included Joaquin Phoenix, Milo Ventimiglia, Kristen Bell, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jared Leto and Lisa Edelstein.
Last year, Prince and Bell, who starred on the "Veronica Mars" TV series, were picked as the two sexiest vegetarians. Previous winners also include Natalie Portman, Andre 3000, Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Shania Twain, Tobey Maguire, Lauren Bush, Josh Hartnett and Alicia Silverstone.

Wonder who else is a vegetarian?

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There's food, and then there's "food"

It was many years ago when I first became interested in the subject of quasi-food. I was about 10 at the time. I was at the store with my family (we went every Saturday) when I picked up a yellowish-orange brick from the refrigerated dairy case. I asked my mom, "What is 'cheese food'?" She gently took the "cheese" singles from me, put them back in the case and said, "You wouldn't like it."

As usual, my mother was right. Years later, newly-made friends re-introduced me to the frighteningly uniform "cheese" slices and another odd cheese product: "cheese" in a spray can. I was a college freshman, living off the fat of the land (read: my parents money), but I was "independent." (This particular blog entry requires an inordinate amount of quotation marks.) I could eat "cheese food" if I wanted to. It was less about the "food," more about the fact that I could step out on my own. I was actually a bit disgusted by the sight (take a gander) of the smooth, bright orange swirl sitting atop the cracker. But, hungry to exercise my new independence, I tried one. Needless to say, my mother's voice rang in my head, "I told you that you wouldn't like it."

I'm nowhere close to being a member of the food police. But I don't see the point of "food" when I can buy the real deal. Here is an interesting article on MSN about faux food.

An alarming factoid from the story:

"Some processed nuggets can have almost double the calories, five times the fat, and six and a half times the sodium as an equal amount of regular skinless chicken breast."

I realize one should never say never since I can't be sure of exactly what I'll do when I'm a parent, but I can't imagine giving that to my kid when I could make a far more healthful version at home in about 25 minutes.
About the photo:
Cotswold Double Gloucester cheese with chives from Hyde Park Gourmet Food and Wine.
Photo by Leigh Patton/Cin Weekly

Monday, June 25, 2007

Graeter's just got bigger

I know the bigger sizes of Graeter's ice cream will make lots of Cincinnatians happy - 56 ounces for $12.99. But man, that's a heck of a lot to pay for your ice cream! It's an unpopular view, but I grew up eating UDF - United Dairy Farmers, so I tend to favor UDF ice cream to Graeter's, which strikes me as too creamy and sickeningly sweet. (It sticks in my throats and makes me want to drink gallons of water). But fans can order Graeter's here.

Do you have a favorite ice cream? I always come back to UDF butter pecan, and UDF Turkish coffee (which is a little sweet, but great in small quantities - coffee ice cream with swirls of caramel). And Breyer's natural vanilla always rocks my world.

PHOTO CREDIT: Malinda Hartong The Enquirer

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Mechanical bull, anyone?

Cadillacs: Hank Williams died in one, country singers write songs about them, and a guy in Texas has buried a whole collection of them in the desert, the original Cadillac Ranch. You can see a 1959 Cadillac, outrageous tailfins and all, perched above your head over the entrance to Cadillac Ranch, a new restaurant at the corner of Sixth and Walnut. It opens tomorrow.
This is something new for downtown Cincinnati: a country-themed restaurant and bar, with a mechanical bull and a menu of barbecue, steaks, overstuffed sandwiches, pulled pork, along with salads, salmon, pasta. There are lots of big-screen TVs, and big garage doors on the 6th St. side. They open to create a large outdoor dining patio, with firepits and more TVs. Music is new country mixed with classic rock from the '70s and '80s. This is the second Cadillac Ranch restaurant; the first is in Nashville.
The atmosphere is family-friendly and casual during the day and dinner; after 10 p.m. it's for age 21 and over. Open daily from 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Sunday brunch from 11 a.m.- 4 p.m. Open to the public tomorrow at 8 p.m., then starts regular hours on Friday. 513-621-6200

Papa John's thin crust

I'd heard of people ordering Papa John's thin crust before, but never tried it before I went over to a friend's house last week. Good stuff - highly recommended. I like the usual Sicilian crust at Papa John's, but find it's usually undercooked and a bit too gooey for my liking. The thin crust eliminates that problem, as it comes out crispy and seems less greasy. And less messy.

What to eat, when

Here's a cool guide to making your fresh produce last - i.e., do one trip to the grocery store a week, and eat the most perishable stuff first, and save the others for the end of the week to reduce wastage. Some of it's surprising, some you already know.

Just a reminder...

Don't forget to snag an iced coffee from Caribou tomorrow. Get one for the low, low price of nothing. You only have an hour. So plan accordingly, I guess... Click here to find a location near you.

Eating Alone

I got a review copy of "Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant" yesterday. It's a collection of essays about eating and cooking by yourself. I think Beverly Lowry explains well the reason the subject merits a book. ". . . whatever we do for pleasure, we should try to do, or learn to do, and practice on occasion, in solitude. A kind of test to gauge our skills and see how deep the passion lies. . .. " I rarely cook for myself, but every now and then, it's satisfying to take the time -- last weekend, after craving a steak for days, I went to the store, bought a porterhouse, came home and grilled it, did a potato on fast-bake, went to the garden for chives, made a salad, opened a mini bottle of wine, and had a dinner I would never make for the family while the family was out doing other things. Placemat, wine glass and all.
My mother had six kids, and she stayed home and took care of things. When I was in elementary school, we walked home for lunch, and we never never ate out (maybe once a year we went to McDonald's, brought our own milk and ate in the car). So for years my mother rarely made anything just for herself. But every once in awhile, she would make herself a dish of cottage cheese salad. It involves getting a lot of ingredients out of the refrigerator and chopping them up, so it's a certain amount of trouble. I was always impressed that she would do that just for herself, and it was a small shock to my childish self-involvement that she would take a break from caring for us. Like perhaps she existed outside her role as mother.

Her cottage cheese salad is delicious, and I often make it for myself, especially in the summer when the ingredients are always around and I want something light and fresh. It's one of those things that is more than the sum of its apparently simple parts. There's no recipe, but here's the basic idea:
1 cup of cottage cheese, but don't bother unless it's Breakstone or Michigan brand.
1 scallion, sliced
Maybe 1/3 a green pepper, diced
a similar amount of cucumber, diced
A sprinkling of fresh minced parsley
Lots of fresh ground pepper, a sprinkle of salt
Mix. Eat alone. (If you use a cup of cottage cheese, you can save some for later. You could even share with someone else.)

Other improvements: fresh dill or cilantro, diced red pepper. A big leaf of lettuce, quartered tomatoes alongside.

Irons Fruit Farm

Got this e-mail blast from Irons Fruit Farm this morning. I'm going to try to make it out there Saturday morning for fresh blueberries - if they're still available. (Picked strawberries there last season). You'll find it at 1640 Stubbs Mill Road, Lebanon. Enjoy!

"Spring is almost gone and summer is just around the corner! We are open for the season!
The late spring freeze and now the drought have not helped with growing crops! We have a limited supply of the following items. If you are coming out for something specific, please call ahead for availability 513-932-2853.
Blueberries (very limited)
Strawberries (very limited)
We always have jams and jellies!
Come on out to the farm to see the animals and spend some time in the country!"

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Nicola's comes to Square

I think the best part of all the new restaurant activity around Fountain Square is that Nicola Pietosa, of Nicola's, has the lease for the restaurant right on the square. It seems fitting that this prime downtown spot should go to someone who has stuck it out in the city-- in Over-the-Rhine --all these years.
Nicola and his son Cristian have been serving delicious high-end Italian food on Liberty Street as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
Now they've got a real showcase. It sounds like the new location--the restaurant is called Via Vite, which means Vine Street-- is going to be fabulous. It's a two-story restaurant, on the northeast corner of the Square. The first floor dining room will have three walls of glass, including one looking directly onto the fountain. Upstairs, two sides of the restaurant will be outdoor terraces: perfect for people-watching and adding some extra life to the activity on the square. They'll be open seven lunches and dinners a week. (somewhere for lunch downtown on Saturday!) Wood-fired pizza oven, a second-floor lounge and private dining rooms, an Italian brunch on Sunday. . . . I think it's very exciting.

And Nicola's is staying in Over-the-Rhine, too, so it's not even a trade-off. In fact, Cristian will be mostly there, though supervising at both. The chef at Via Vite will be Michael messmer, who worked at Nicola's before going on to culinary school and stints at The French Laundry and Dean and Deluca.

They hope to open by the end of August.

Good news: Sorrento's re-opens Wednesday

After much rebuilding, Sorrento's in Norwood re-opens on Wednesday. Finally! For those you looking to check it out, it's Sorrento's Pizza and Restaurant, 5143 Montgomery Road, Norwood, 513-531-5070.

I'm probably not the first to notice, but there is another Sorrento's - Sorrento's Restaurant and Lounge, at 8794 Reading Road, Reading, 513-821-6666. I'm not sure if they're related at all, or if their food is even remotely similar. Any experts out there to weigh in on this?

At any rate, here's wishing the DeLuca family the best!


FYI, I wrote this blurb (see below) to run in the Life/food section tomorrow. But, because you guys are my foodie friends (and because I know for a fact that you have Web access), I want to know what you think about our new recipe archive... This feature is so fresh that it still has some specks of dirt on it, so be nice. But I would appreciate your feedback. For me, it has been a labor of love and, with time and more recipes, the database will grow into something really fabulous.


We clip them out. We pass them around. And we hand the most treasured ones down from one generation to the next. They are recipes.

Now you can find more of the recipes you need and want at www.cincinnati.com/recipes. Or, use the keyword: recipes at Cincinnati.Com.

Whether you want a recipe for cookies, a vegetarian side dish, or you need an idea for tonight’s dinner, you’ll probably find it in our virtual recipe box, which includes more than 500 recipes. Check back often; we are frequently adding to the archive. And if you want to contribute your recipes to the archive, e-mail recipes@cincinnati.com. Be sure to include your name, neighborhood and a daytime phone number.


One of the pleasant surprises I discovered upon moving to Cincinnati 3 1/2 years ago was the large number of breakfast/brunch/lunch-only restaurants here -- there's nothing I love more than a leisurely weekend brunch. It's a pretty competitive market, as evidenced by this press release I received from First Watch today. (I like First Watch and everything and will probably sign up for this if only to get a free meal, but I think my favorite "daytime-only" eatery is Daybreak in Hyde Park Plaza. What's yours?)

Daytime Café Rewards Customers with e-Loyalty on June 18

BRADENTON, FLA. (June 19, 2007) – First Watch, the nation’s fastest-growing daytime-only restaurant, enhances its commitment to serving "You First" with the launch of a new website and customer e-loyalty program on Monday, June 18.

"Our new website is a way to effectively communicate all that First Watch has to offer through a consistent image and brand," said Chris Tomasso, Chief Marketing Officer for First Watch Restaurants, Inc. "We are also pleased to become more connected with our customers through our new e-loyalty program."

First Watch is now expanding its community of customers by launching the First Watch Sun eClub, an e-mail-based customer loyalty program. Sun eClub provides incentives to regular First Watch guests by sending e-mails with the latest company happenings, featured menu items and even personalized greetings on birthdays and anniversaries. Customers can register online or at any First Watch restaurant, and they will receive a free menu item for signing up.

The new website, www.firstwatch.com, is a user-friendly, visually appealing and interactive solution for guests seeking more information about First Watch restaurants. The site now features vivid pictures of First Watch menu items, enhanced printable carry-out menus for each of the more than 70 locations, a search function, and an online newsbureau equipped with a downloadable media kit and an image request section. Reinforcing First Watch’s commitment to freshness and health, the site also features full nutritional information and highlights the menu’s gluten-free options.

First Watch offers a smoke-free, attractive environment and specializes in daytime dining with unique breakfast, brunch and lunch creations freshly prepared to order. The company recently introduced its new Sunrise Select Premium Blend of 100% Columbian coffee, hand-selected for its rich worldly flavors and pleasant aromas. Complimentary WiFi Internet access is also available at all First Watch restaurants.

First Watch Restaurants, Inc. is one of the largest, privately owned, daytime-only restaurant companies in the United States. Headquartered in Bradenton, Fla., First Watch has set the standard for quality daytime dining since its inception in 1983. It is the frequent recipient of "Best Of" accolades in cities where it operates. Currently operating 74 restaurants in 11 states, general expansion plans call for several new locations to open in 2007.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Wasabi? Avocado!

So avocados aren't exactly low in fat (248 of 276 calories from fat), but I get the craving once in a blue moon. I bought a nice ripe one from the Mason Kroger last night with a mind to put in on my salad (and the hamburger I never ended up eating), and remembered how a Japanese girlfriend taught me to eat them: halved, pit removed, with a dash of soy sauce and a squeeze of wasabi. Like eating sushi, minus the rice and fish. Grab a spoon and dig in! Yum. Pity I didn't have any wasabi in the house at the time. But it's not entirely crazy; I found this recipe (minus the wasabi) for Asian avocado.

Perhaps the farthest from guacamole you can get is an Indonesian avocado and chocolate shake. I tried it in Bali - it's the quintessential backpacker food. And before you poo-poo the odd combo, try it. Even Saveur has a recipe for it. I'm going to try it with Hershey's syrup. And scroll down on this entry for a slightly less sweet and more icy version. Mmm. Summer. Sweet. Avocado!

Arm yourself with knowledge...

Anyone who has a personalized Google page knows the joy of the fun little tidbits iGoogle provides.

Today's gem on my Google homepage is found under the "How To's" of the day.
File this away in your mental rolodex. You'll be ever so glad you did if you should find yourself in the middle of nowhere, foraging for sustenance... My favorite part of the "lesson" is No. 6:

Prepare a small portion of the plant part. Some plants are poisonous only when raw, so it's a good idea to cook the plant part you are testing if possible. If you can't cook the plant or if you don't anticipate that you will be able to cook it in the future, just test it raw.

I guess they assume you will have the means to actually cook something...

Well, if you're lost in the desert, here is a pretty simple one: Keep an eye out for the prickly pear cactus.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


I went to Homearama with a couple of girlfriends last night. It was my first time going to the one in Cincinnati. It was a great night to go. The weather was beautiful and it was the night of "Homearama Cooks For A Cause," part of the 7 Days For Sids benefit.

So I got some ideas to use in my home and in my yard (albeit on a smaller scale), the chance to donate to a great cause and some fabulous food from area chefs.

The "best bite of the night award" has to go to Jag's for their fabulous steak kebabs. The mushrooms and onions were great. The red and green bell peppers were still crisp with just enough char on them to bring out their natural sweetness. And the steak... Oh, the steak. So juicy and tender that it absolutely melted in my mouth. The banter about the gorgeous decor quickly came to a halt while we noshed on those little nuggets of heaven. In fact they were so good that the three of us went back at the end of the tour to snag another taste.

Then we made a date to go to Jag's. West Chester's Biggest Office Party will be perfect for a girls' night next week...
Photo information:
The Leland Group home kitchen area utilizes stone and tile accents.
Michael E. Keating for The Enquirer


Say it ain't so

Man, am I bummed. My favorite lunch place is closing. Chez T in Mount Lookout is going to close for lunch and breakfast. Thresa Flaherty, the owner and such a good chef, is going to focus on catering and special events. Nice for catering clients, and I see how it makes sense for her. But I just loved the French-o-phile atmosphere and the grilled romaine and the feeling I got of being not a working stiff, but a lunching lady when i went there.

She's keeping the space, and you can book it for small parties: book club meetings, dinner parties, bridal showers. . . . . So it's not gone for good.

Theresa has sent me some recipes for a new feature we'll be starting soon on Wednesdays of local chefs and their recipes, so look for that.

Last day is Friday, June 22. 1004 Delta Ave., Mount Lookout. 321-2053--but don't call her and whine. A businesswoman's gotta do what she's gotta do.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

They're back: Banana Twinkies!!!

Banana Twinkies pre-date my time, but I have to admit, I did grow up living across from a Hostess bake shop. So I ate my fair share of Twinkies, Hostess Ding Dongs and cherry pies. I just haven't had any in a long time. But if banana-creme Twinkies are your idea of a good time, you're in luck: they're coming back. Read all about it!

PHOTO CREDIT: AP Photo/Hostess

Coming June 21: Cadillac Ranch

Cadillac Ranch rolls up to the Square

That light blue Cadillac up above your head at 6th and Walnut isn’t the result of a freak car accident. It’s the mascot of the Cadillac Ranch Rock-n-Country bar, which should open Thursday, June 21, complete with an outdoor patio, multiple big-screen TVs and a menu of grilled chicken, ribs and steak. 513-621-6200.

--Polly Campbell

(THANK GOODNESS for more to eat on the square!!! Have you seen the tables and chairs on Fountain Square!? Makes it easy to grab a bite and then sit outside to enjoy. Even when it is 90 outside. -jg)
*And thanks to Sara Pearce for the photo above. Check out more about the art on the Square on her Arts blog!

Mythos expanding

Mythos Greek restaurant will open a third location, its second downtown, later this month or in early July. Owner George Psihountakis says that the new location at 410 Vine St. will have a menu that’s less extensive than the Mythos in Newport, but more than the original location in the Aronoff building on 7th Street. Mythos also plans to open an express location in the Chiquita building in early fall, with an express menu and free delivery.
Newport: 859-581-7555
7th Street: 513-977-4192
(No phone number yet on the new spot).
--Polly Campbell

Coming to Montgomery: Allure

My sources tell me that a new contemporary American restaurant called Allure is opening soon (this week?) in The Marketplace in Montgomery, where Pacific Moon used to be. (Also in the complex - Sukhothai Thai cuisine, Mei Japanese and Go Bananas Comedy Club). We should know more about it soon...

UPDATE! This just in from Polly:

A new restaurant will open soon in the Marketplace of Montgomery. Allure will be a contemporary American restaurant, taking the space that was Pacific Moon. Dr. Chin Cheng, the landlord of the Marketplace, owns the restaurant. His son Marty Cheng will be general manager. The chef is Ron Perez, who has worked at Jeff Ruby restaurants, and most recently at Napa Grille.

Cheng says the space has been completely renovated, staff is being trained and that he hopes to be open by next weekend (June 23). He described the menu as high-end, with steaks, prime rib and contemporary dishes, but with entrée prices kept below $30. Allure will be open for lunch and dinner daily, and will have a lounge that will stay open late. Food will be served until about 10 p.m., the lounge until midnight.

8300 Marketplace Lane, Montgomery. 513-891-0120; www.allurecincinnati.com (there’s nothing much on the website yet.

Stake your claim...

Or steak it, if you want. Whatever you do, be sure to check out our steak story in Life today. Assuming you're a carnivore...

My favorite way to cook a steak involves just a handful of things: A burnin' hot oven (500 degrees), a cast-iron skillet (my grandmother gave it to me so it's beyond seasoned), a dab of peanut oil, Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, and a nicely-marbled porterhouse.

How do you cook your steak to perfection?
Photo by Michael E. Keating/The Enquirer

Monday, June 11, 2007

Sticker shock

Ever notice those stickers on your tomatoes, apples or onions? Me, too. But did you ever wonder what those numbers mean? Me, neither. I thought the codes were randomly assigned by the supermarket.
Nope, it turns out that those codes can tell you a lot about your food, according to this great book I spent four hours reading yesterday! (The book is a little old, so I've been cross-referencing the information. I'm fascinated by what I've learned, and I took notes. I'll share more this week!)

Conventionally grown produce bears a four-digit number beginning with a 4 or sometimes a 3.
GMO (genetically modified organisms) produce is labeled with a five-digit code beginning with an 8. (Now you know how to avoid the icky stuff!)
Organic produce also has a five-digit code, but organic codes begin with a 9.
Look before you buy!
4011= conventional bananas
84011=genetically modified bananas
94011=organic bananas

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Picture this...

So, after months of anonymity, there we are. What? Not what you pictured in your head? Deal with it... But come back and visit though!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Poor, poor Paris...

So Paris Hilton is getting carted off to the big house. Again. And by big house, I don't mean her 50,000 square foot mansion...

The TMZ report says she was screaming and crying and had to be "physically escorted" (read: pulled) from the courtroom. Geesh... You would think she was about to have her last meal! She'll get
bad food while she's locked up, I'm sure. But she'll be fine...

Speaking of which, have you ever been macabre enough to read about
last meals? I think it's rather fascinating... Personally, I can't imagine being able to eat at a time like that.

It's an Italian kinda weekend

Italian happenings seem to be everywhere this weekend. Italianfest is back in Newport. It's your typical area festival, complete with food (Italian this time!), beer and tunes. (Newport Mayor Tom Guidugli competed in a bocce ball tournament Wednesday night at Pompilio's in Newport to kick off Italianfest.)

On TV, "The Sopranos" celebrates its swansong Sunday at 10 p.m. We'll be at a graduation party, but you can bet we'll be tuned in to HBO for the finale. Take our poll on who gets whacked. Or read Chuck's take on where to eat like Tony Soprano. Even if you've never seen the show, it's a fun look into some of the area's more traditional Italian spots.

A dinner party with a purpose

"Changing the world one dinner at a time." That's the tagline used to describe the purpose of Dining For Women.

All you have to do is form a group of diners, set a date and ask everyone to bring a dish. Then, all of the guests donate the amount of money they would have spent if they had gone to a restaurant that night. The money is used to support international grass-roots programs to provide "education, healthcare, vocational training, micro-credit loans and economic development, and through our members’ combined donations, we encourage women to believe they can improve their living situations." The group was founded by Marsha Wallace in Greenville, S.C., and the first dinner party was Jan. 20, 2003. That night, the group raised $750. Now, there is a Cincinnati chapter. For more information, contact Ilene Ross at 513-477-6771.

That's my kinda charity work...

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Valet parking is out of control

As if it isn't already in enough completely unnecessary places (Rookwood, Kenwood Towne Centre, etc.), valet parking is now available at the bigg's in Hyde Park from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday through Sunday. You know, the one located at the back of the vast Hyde Park Plaza parking lot on Paxton. It's free, but naturally you'll want to leave a tip. Who wants to bet how long it will be before the Kroger on the other side of the plaza, where parking actually is a nightmare, starts doing this too?


Kasper coming to town

Some cooking events with Lynne Rosetto Kasper of The Splendid Table coming up July 21:

A Tast of Findlay Market, 11 a.m., Internet Cafe at Findlay Market, 1801 Race St., Over-the-Rhine. Author Lynne Rosetto Kasper offers her insights on the Market's activities and flavors. Benefits WVXU (97.1 FM) and Corporation for Findlay Market. $50. 513-621-2787; www.cincinnatiarts.org.

The Italian Country Table: Food, Stories and Lore from Italy's Countryside, 8 p.m., Music Hall Ballroom, 1241 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine. Reception at 6:30 p.m. Lynne Rossetto Kasper explores cuisine of the Italian countryside. Author signs "the Italian Country Kitchen: Home Cooking from Italy's Farmhouse Kitchens." Benefits WVXU (91.7 FM) and Corporation for Findlay Market. $75 presentation, VIP reception and book; $25 presentation. Reservations required. 513-621-2787; www.cincinnatiarts.org.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Entertaining anxiety?

When you're the foodie in your group, you're held to a higher standard. You're expected to make the extra effort, serve the more intricate meals, host more parties. Usually you like it, right? After all, we foodies are sometimes control freaks. (Or is that just me?)
Did any of you read this NY Times article?
Has it ever happened to you? Performance anxiety on the eve of a party? Have you ever shown up to a dinner party, expecting to be a guest, and you end up in the kitchen all night?
Share your foodie anxiety tales!

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

What's better than clearance prices?

FYI, a free iced coffee could be yours later this month...

WHAT: All customers who visit a local Caribou Coffee shop between 2 and 3 p.m. on June 21 will receive a free 12-oz. Northern Lite Cooler drink in a choice of chocolate, vanilla or caramel.

WHEN: Thursday, June 21, 2-3 p.m.

WHERE: All Caribou Coffee locations (excluding airport shops)

In addition to a free Northern Lite Cooler during Coolerfest, visitors will also receive a $1-off coupon for any Caribou Cooler to be used June 22-July 22, 2007.


Top Chef All-Stars

I love Top Chef. I got hooked during season one. I had just returned from Korea and Europe and was living with my mom, pondering my next move. Drama, intrigue -- and food! There was a great line that can't be repeated here. (Dave said it to Tiffani. Look it up!)
And in Season 2, there was Marcel. Head-shaving, cheating and someone kicked off!
Tonight at 10 on Bravo, season one all-stars take on season-two's best. I work until 10, so I might miss some of it!
Do you watch Top Chef? Whom do you love/hate?
Season 3 starts June 13.

Update: cooking lessons

I'm not a kid person. I taught English for a year to little Korean children, and it was incredibly rewarding. But, I'm much more of an adult person. I hate "kid" food, in all its processed and artificial glory. That said, I'm having a ball with my "little sister" from Big Brothers Big Sisters. But when you're dealing with a kid that's not your own, you have to build good eating habits step by step.
Last night we cooked together. She tried broccoli and mushrooms for the first time, and we made tarragon chicken (for her -- leftover sauteed tofu for me) with mushroom sauce and steamed broccoli. I loosely based it on a Rachael Ray recipe. I was rushed last night, and I didn't have time to get kids cookbooks from the library as I'd planned.
(Many of you wrote about your dislike for Rachael Ray. I agree with you, but hers was the simplest cookbook I had. Plus, my little sister has seen her on TV. Let's talk another day about our mutual dislike for RRay. I used to be a fan, but I'm slowly joining the anti-RRay camp!)
Here's the recipe we made, with modifications in parentheses to make it (the sauce) vegetarian. (I also simplified a few things for Tabitha and substituted unsweetened soymilk for the red wine. And, I ran out of rosemary, so I used tarragon, which is my favorite herb.)
Tarragon chicken breasts with mushroom sauce
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • Coarse salt and black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons tarragon
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 package mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 tablespoon whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened soymilk
    Heat a grill pan over high heat. Drizzle chicken breasts with oil, season with salt, pepper and tarragon. Grill chicken 5 minutes on each side and remove from heat to rest for 5 minutes.
    In a separate, medium skillet, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, saute crushed garlic and chopped onion over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add mushrooms to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Saute mushrooms 10 minutes, or until dark and tender. Add flour and cook 1 minute. Add stock and soymilk to the pan and reduce by 1/2, about 5-7 minutes. Slice chicken breast Ladle thick mushroom sauce down over sliced chicken (or tofu) and serve.
    My little sister knows I don't eat meat, but I'm OK with cooking it for other people. Maybe some day she'll be vegetarian, but I am not pushing her that way. I just want her to try new foods, whether they're meat, seafood or vegetables. My boyfriend, who happily eats tofu and veggies alongside me, was happy to eat the leftover chicken.

We also baked chocolate-chip cookies, but I substituted a banana for the butter. (Oops. I thought I had bought some.) I reduced the eggs to one, and they turned out great! My sister took two dozen to her family, and my boyfriend shared the rest with his co-workers. Not a cookie remains. (I've also substituted equal amounts of silken tofu for butter and eggs. The texture changes a bit, but the flavor is good.)

What's in YOUR desk drawer?


I just tried to open my desk drawer, but it wouldn't open all the way. So, after yanking in vain for a minute or so, I got out of my chair and got eye level with the ornery little bugger.

I quickly spotted the problem: A Dole pineapple cup that has probably been at The Enquirer as long as, if not longer than, me. I can't remember whether or not I put it there. There is a chance that I inherited it, just as I inherited a box of Mike and Ikes, an R.W. Knudsen juicebox, a stick of Trident and a butter knife. The knife is actually kinda cute...

I finally reached it, but not before I felt sticky wetness. All that yanking opened the package. So now my cubicle smells like a pineapple upside down cake... that someone baked several years ago... I repeat: Ew.

So, what foodie abominations dwell in your desk drawer? Give us a virtual peek...

(Above) A pineapple during happier times, like before rotting in someone's desk drawer...

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Speaking of cooking with kids...

Here is a cool brief from Polly. So, Stepf, if you and your little sister come up with a masterpiece, you can join in the fun.


A cookbook by kids and for kids is also going to help kids, and if you’re a kid, you can be part of it.

"Small Fries” is a cookbook being put together by
Teri Studios, a commercial food photography studio, to benefit Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. A contest is being held to collect recipes for the book. It kicks off at Joseph-Beth Booksellers at 11 a.m. June 16, with Marilyn Harris doing a cooking demonstration. Recipes should be something a child can make, with a little help from an adult. Enter online after June 16 or by filling out a recipe entry form at Joseph-Beth, 2692 Madison Road, in Rookwood Pavilion, Commons, Norwood.
Polly Campbell

The next time your tummy aches...

... you can try what works for Jiang Musheng. Grocers in Hyde Park or Liberty Township might not have an assortment of goods that is as exotic as what you might find in Jiangxi province, but I'm sure you can find live frog, mice, etc... about town if you insist on using his method to cure what ails you.

Let me know how that works out for you...
Photo by Bob Greenlee/The Enquirer (No frogs were harmed in the making of this photograph.)

Cooking lessons

I've just started mentoring a 13-year-old girl as part of Big Brothers Big Sisters. We've only had two outings, to the Cincinnati Art Museum and the butterfly show at the Krohn. Now, she's decided that she wants to learn to cook.
She says she's only made grilled cheese before, and she claims she burned them. I have a couple of Rachael Ray cookbooks, which I think are a good place to start. I'm going to let her choose a protein and vegetable at the grocery store and go from there.
I can't remember the first thing I ever cooked, but I have countless memories of being in the kitchen with my mom, Grandma Willie and Papa Jim.
What was the first thing you ever cooked?
Have you taught your children to cook?
What do you recommend?
Check back tomorrow to read about how our cooking lesson went. I hope I'll have found a future foodie.

If "Fast Food Nation" didn't turn you off fast food forever, maybe this will

Via USA Today's Pop Candy blog, here is a photographic comparison of how various fast foods appear in ads vs. in real life. What looks the most similar? My vote's for the Filet o' Fish. Despite the disclaimer, the Arby's Beef 'n' Cheddar really does look like it was run over by a car. Gross.


Monday, June 04, 2007

A good deed

Nothing feels better than giving back, especially when you think of how fortunate you really are...

Tomorrow is Hunger Awareness Day and here is your chance to do a lot with little more than a click of your mouse. America's Second Harvest and ConAgra Foods have paired up to make a difference for some people. Each click will help provide FOUR bags of groceries for hungry families in America, thanks to donations from ConAgra. Here is the link.

Go on. Feel the foodie love...

Great Italian in Columbus

It's become a tradition for us to go with friends to the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield every year (where the crowds follow Tiger even when he's nowhere to be found on the leaderboard!), then have a great Italian meal at Moretti's before driving home to Cincinnati. Wow. Who knew you could find great Italian in a strip mall on the north side of Columbus? My friends used to live in Columbus and have been eating there for 20+ years. It's all about the homemade pasta (see the menu). Just don't order the penne, which I think is the only pre-made pasta on the menu. (I made that mistake last year and regretted it, when I could have so much better with the homemade stuff!) I tried the special - fresh walleye served over homemade pasta with green beans and lemon butter. I'm a fish skeptic when it comes to restaurant dining, but I took the plunge. Amazing stuff. Happily scarfed the leftovers for dinner last night. The web site doesn't show the wine menu, but I was underwhelmed by a house chianti, but thoroughly enjoyed a glass of Filadonna Pinot Grigio 2005, a great Italian white. My problem now? I can't find a local wine store that carries the stuff! Will keep looking though. It's a nice, light refreshing white for the summer heat. And it paired well w/ the walleye.

Boca's still beautiful. But...

We hadn't dined at Boca Restaurant in months, and went back Friday for a meal in the main dining room, which is set at a two- or three-course meal ($55 for the two course), both of which automatically include dessert. (We normally eat in the more casual trattoria.) Beautiful food, beautiful people, as always. But the portions remain a little too small for our tastes - much more so in the main restaurant, I think, than in the trattoria. And yes, we did eat a fair amount of bread, when it finally did come out the second time around. The food there is delicious. And at the risk of sounding sacreligious, it is almost bordering on too fussy. It's certainly not the kind of place my parents would ever want to go. They're value-for-money, no-nonsense folks. They wouldn't find that here.

And having eaten at Hugo the previous week, right across the street, I have to say, I'd choose Hugo over Boca next time.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Lucky lobster

Check out this cool video showing a half orange, half brown lobster that was spared the pot. Apparently it's not that unheard of, though, since I found a couple stories about a similar find last year in Maine. The best part is that the stripe goes straight down the middle of this one's back.

Mmm... Speaking of, it's been awhile since I've eaten fresh lobster. Might be time to start up again soon. I've always wanted to have a backyard bash and ask Kevin Smith of Lobsta Bakes of Maine to come cook up a feast for me and my friends. It's not exactly cheap ($35 a lobster, then you can choose sides ala carte), but for all the cooking and cleanup he's doing, I think it's worth it.

More on "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle"

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about a book I'd started reading, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life," by Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver.
As I wrote before, it's about a year of local eating. I'm reading it slowly, savoring the stories of Kingsolver's asparagus crop and her cheesemaking hobby.
Cursed with lactose intolerance, Kingsolver makes her own cheese! She makes it seem simple enough. Now I'm curious. I'd love to try to make my own cheese, just for fun.
She attended a workshop at the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company in Ashfield, Mass. Kingsolver and her fellow fromage enthusiasts make six kinds of cheese during the daylong class.
I checked out the Web site, and the 30-minute mozzarella kit intrigues me. At $24.95, the site claims you can make 30 pounds of cheese from the cultures, vegetable rennet, etc. (And, vegetarians take note: The company offers vegetable rennet. No calves are killed in the making of your cheese.)
Fresh mozzarella in 30 minutes? My mouth is watering. It likely wouldn't compare with Campagnia's mozzarella di bufala, but we're in the U.S., where we can't have unpasteurized fresh cheese anyway!
Have any of you tried making cheese? What were the results?

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