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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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Italia, senza aglio?

Italy, without garlic? I'm perhaps a bit late to read this story. Have any of you read it? Personally, I love garlic, as long as it's cooked. The smell doesn't bother me, but I have a lot of friends who won't eat much of it.
But could you imagine your favorite Italian dishes without garlic? Granted, not all Italian food contains garlic, but many dishes do.

Grocery store etiquette

How many items over the express limit can you go before you become a rude shopper? If I buy eight oranges, but they are all in one bag, is that one item? Eight? What if they are not in a bag? Would you say anything if you were in the 12 items or less line and the person ahead of you clearly had 20 items? Do you talk on your cell phone while you shop, or glare at the people who do? Do you "test" the cherries and the grapes?

What, in your opinion, are the dos and don'ts of grocery shopping etiquette?

Sidebar: I could be really late on this, but does anyone know what's up with the mirrors on the base of the conveyor belt thingamajig? I've seen them at Kroger and biggs, I think, during checkout. The mirrors are basically on the floor and tilted a bit, right under where the debit/credit card swipers are. I've asked the workers what they are and no one seems to know. I assume it's for security, but it's a little unnerving when you're wearing a skirt...

Holy Cross -- Immaculata festival

Just got a press release for the Holy Cross – Immaculata Summer Festival, which starts Friday night at 30 Guido Street, Mount Adams.

"Friday, August 3
Live Entertainment: Ten Foot Big
Featured Food: Hamburgers, brats, tacos, cotton candy, and much more!

"Saturday, August 4
Live Entertainment: Jennifer McNutt Band 5:30-8:30 p.m.
Tenpenny 9:00 p.m. – midnight.
Featured Food: Delicious barbeque ribs, burgers, brats, tacos, cotton candy, and much more!

"Sunday, August 5
Live Entertainment: Live performance by Harmony Hip-Hop at 3:00 p.m.
Roger Drawdy and the Firestarters at 4:45 p.m.
Featured Food: Dixie Cherrington offers her famous lemon chicken dinner with delicious sides. Plus burgers, hot dogs, brats, tacos, cotton candy, and more!"

I've never been but it sounds like a winner.

Shuttles run from the reservoir near Parkside and Martin drives. More info at their web site: www.hciparish.org

There's also an Australian wine tasting in the church 7-10:30 p.m. Friday for $20. Happy festivals!!!

Attack of the Zucchini

It's that time of the year: The zucchini are taking over the garden, the farmers market, the neighbor's porch.
My boyfriend made a (fabulous and funny) film for the 48-hour film project, and at the viewing this weekend, a film in the holiday film genre examined a holiday that gardeners know well: Drop Zucchini on Your Neighbor's Porch Day. (Google it. Apparently, it's Aug. 8.)
I picked up a monster of a squash at Findlay Market this weekend. More than a foot long (the big ones are better for baking), it yielded more than six cups shredded. What's a girl to do? Of course, I made blueberry zucchini bread. Delicious! (I didn't have any vegetable oil, so I subbed two mashed bananas. It added a nice banana flavor and didn't change the recipe too much. I also reduced the sugar to one cup and added a handful of raspberries. Plus I use white-whole wheat flour and subbed one cup oat bran and flax meal.)
This recipe made a loaf pan and a 9" cake pan.
Yum! Guilt-free baked goods!

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Remy's off the bottle

Thanks, loyal readers, for the tip-off: No chardonnay for Remy. Underage drinking opponents were among those who complained.
While I didn't exactly think it would be a hit, did people really think that a cartoon rat would encourage underage drinking? Considering the wine was to be sold at Costco, a membership-only warehouse club, and would have cost $12.99, it wasn't exactly destined to be the booze of choice for the underage crowd. (I'm guessing that a cartoon would seem uncool to a teen.) Any child young enough to mistake a bottle with Remy on it for juice or something is likely too young to operate a corkscrew.
Now we should worry if all those starlets-in-distress market lines of liquor...

Monday, July 30, 2007

Dinner party success

My book club pals came over yesterday. As usual, I stressed about what to serve weeks ago, but I was completely calm about it this weekend. I kept it all at a very leisurely pace and enjoyed every minute of the cooking. Cooking is therapy for me. I turn on the music or TV for some white noise and I just go to town.

I decided oven-fried chicken was more work than it was worth. Afterall, I've never made an oven-fried anything that actually had much crunch on all sides, which is the whole point. Instead, I made three drunken chickens (there are ten of us in the group). My Chickcans made life a whole lot easier. Just wash off the birds, rub 'em down with a little olive oil, season them inside and out, put goodies such as lemon, onion, garlic cloves and rosemary in the 2/3 full cans (you can decide what to do with the 1/3), and your on your way to some of the best chicken of your life. I also served crudités, fried green tomatoes (I made those when everyone arrived so the would be crisp), green beans with bacon and onion, and Sister Schubert's rolls. (They are so good yet so bad.) For dessert, I made these red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. (Note: I never use the entire package of powdered sugar in the frosting. You can get away with 1/2 to 3/4 of package. Any more and it just tastes like sugar to me, not cream cheese.)

Good stuff...

More Graeter's for everyone

I missed this when Graeter's announced it back in December, but they are opening a new retail store a block from Newport on the Levee, at 342 Monmouth St. in Newport (corner of Fourth and Monmouth), in the historic (1869) James W. Taylor Jr. Bank Building. The public grand opening is August 6 (next Monday). Score one for Northern Kentucky! That actually makes four Graeter's on that side of the river: a second one for Newport, one in Fort Mitchell and a new store in Florence. The new Newport spot even has a walk-up order window!

And Graeter's plans a return to Fountain Square to add to all the downtown Cincinnati hubbub that's bringing the streets back to life after 5 p.m. It's supposed to open in August, but we're checking the dates there.

And I never realized that Graeter's was made in two-gallon batches only. That gives me greater respect for it! (Sorry, I'm a UDF fan.) But I will have to give Graeter's butter pecan another try.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Un bon vin blanc,* for Remy?

Remy the rat from "Ratatouille" is getting his own wine. (I'm such a dork: I saw the headline "Remy the Animated Rat Gets His Own Chard in Movie Tie-In Twist" and I assumed it was a varietal of Swiss chard! But what a great way to get kids to eat their greens -- tell them Remy loves to eat rainbow chard.)
I wonder whether a wine, inspired by a kids movie, will be a hot-seller. It's $12.99 at Costco, but no word on if it's available in Ohio. The story says it's not available everywhere. Let us know if you try it!

*Trivia for you francophiles out there: Each word in "un bon vin blanc" contains a different French nasal vowel. The phrase is used to help students master the difficult sounds.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

More tapas in town

Looks like a new tapas spot is headed our way in a couple of months or so. Yay!

Gotta love little bites of food that are packed with flavor. And what goes better with cocktails? Nada...

Photo credit: The Enquirer/Michael E. Keating

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Organize this

In today's food story, Polly wrote about the plethora of food storage containers.

Gone are the days when Tupperware was the end all. The company that gave birth to product-pushing "parties" now has lots of competition. Heck, I can't remember the last time I've heard of someone even having a Tupperware party. But I do have fond memories of the orange, brown, green, etc... cups. How I loved those little lids that came with them. When I could find them, that is... (Peep this sweet ad from the November 1975 issue of Better Homes & Gardens! So vintage... Wait, I was born two years later. Does that make me vintage? Oh well. The frightening thing is my mom still has and uses her Tupperware canisters! She refuses to trade up! If you go to her pantry, you'll find sugar, flour, etc in a yellow version of the green ones seen here. Ha!)

I like containers for leftovers (great moneysaver), but I also think about which are the best ones for staples like flour, cereal, etc... I have the ubiquitous stainless steel set of canisters, but I think of them as more for show than practicality and better for leftover Halloween goodies than keeping goods fresh.

In my mind, I have a well-organized pantry, The cans are sorted with labels facing outward, and my pasta, rice and cereal (and food for my 10-year-old dog and my 4-month-old puppy) are all in clear containers labeled with sell-by dates. The truth is just the opposite. I can live with the fact that a can of tuna is upside down and sitting on top of the cannelini beans, or that the bags of dog food - which are closed with chip clips - are sitting on top of my Crockpot. But I hate the barely reclosed boxes of pasta, bags of rice and boxes of cereal that have been in there for months.

How do you keep your pantry in order? Do you have favorite storage containers?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Jack Quinn's reborn

As Molly Malone's? Indeed. No relation to the existing Molly Malone's in Pleasant Ridge. This is the "original" from Louisville. Check out the details here.

Mamma mia, learn to spell!

I'm a copy editor. My job is, among other things, to correct spelling, grammar and inconsistencies. One of my biggest peeves is misused and misspelled foreign words.
If I ever poured tons of money into opening my dream restaurant, I'd spell-check the menu and let someone else edit it, too. (A fool edits his or her own copy, my mentor says.) It's amazing how many (upscale) places have spelling and grammar errors on the menu. It's a little more excusable to make errors in a foreign language, but in this Internet world, a foreign-language dictionary is only a click away. Or, if you're using more than a few foreign words, find a native speaker. While living in Korea, a friend and I wanted to start a service to spell-check signs for businesses. We'd have made a fortune!
Today's example: portobello. Those delicious, meaty fungi are not portabella, portabello or portabello. It's p-o-r-t-o-b-e-l-l-o. Do a google search for portabella. Know what you get? "Did you mean: portobello"
That's all.
I'll climb down off my soapbox now. Happy Tuesday.
(CiN Weekly photo by Leigh Taylor)

Monday, July 23, 2007

We "HEART" salads

I'm oddly intrigued that my father's been on a quest for a great Greek salad in Cincinnati lately. (I think his friends have been raving about them or something). We never make Greek salads at home, and three of his most despised foods - cucumbers (makes him burp too much), red/green peppers (ditto) and oregano - are among the main components of Greek salad. Add to that the fact that I have never seen my father eat any kind of an olive, and it's a mystery to me. But I am also intrigued to look online and see that Greek salads (unlike any I have ever had in a restaurant, including Mythos in Newport), by and large, do not actually contain lettuce. Epicurious has this recipe, and here's a fun video "how to" on Greek salad. I'll have to buy some feta and try these one of these days. But I've been into other creative salads lately.
When I was a kid, I remember thinking that salads always tasted better in restaurants, I guess because they contained so many more ingredients. But now that I buy my own groceries, I make sure we have plenty of tasty add-ins -- not just iceberg (read: non-nutritional crunchy water product) and Ranch (pasty white stuff) dressing. During vacation with extended family last week, we tossed together what has become our standard salad around the house, which can always be amended based on whatever is in the fridge. The basic ingredients:
Romaine hearts
Baby carrots, sliced
Fresh Campari tomatoes
Parmesan cheese, shredded
Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (recently replaced blue cheese, since it's a bit milder)
Dried blueberries (or cranberries/craisins)
Dried currants (by SunMaid - like raisins but smaller and daintier)
Pine nuts
Freshly ground pepper - lots of it
Optional add-ins
Green onions, sliced.
Avocado. Yum.
Pecans or walnuts. Lately, it's been candied pecans from Trader Joe's.
Grapes or cherries
Sea salt. This is my latest thing.
Mushrooms, in small quantities, sliced.
I'll happily just eat a salad for dinner these days, or add a little pasta and a few slices of toast to feel satisfied. Dressing? That's up to you, but I alternate between balsamic vinaigrette and olive oil, and Brianna's ginger mandarin.

Another lobster fest

I came across another upcoming Lobsterfest while trolling through some calendar listings at Cincinnati.Com. This one's at the Farm Beer Garden between Ross and Milville on Route 27, near Hamilton. Never heard of the place? Neither have we. But it looks like it could be pretty cool. They apparently fly in lobsters from Maine for the experience. And what's not to love about the Hillbilly Fest they have every October? $30 for a lobster and fixins.... not bad!
Have you been to the Farm Beer Garden? Tried the lobster at Lobster Fest? I'd love to go but it's a bad weekend for me (ultimate frisbee tournament and all).
If all else fails, I'll buy some live lobster at Jungle Jim's. They'll actually cook them there for you to save you the trouble.

A weekend of good eating

I got a Korean food fix not once but twice this weekend. My friend Sarah and I reminisced about our year in Korea over bibimbap and kimchi jjigae (stew) Friday night, washed down by a bottle of baekseju (100 years wine). It's a new addition at Riverside, not yet on the menu. We overheard a waitress telling another table about it. We haven't had the delicious, pungent concoction since we left Seoul more than a year ago. It's chock full of herbs, mostly ginseng, along with licorice, cinnamon and ginger. At $18 a bottle, it's not a bad deal. We admittedly left a bit giggly. (But we walked to our destination, no worries!) We returned last night before Sarah left for steaming hot stone bowls of bibimbap with tofu.
Sarah lives in Athens right now, where it's a bit tricky to find all the Korean ingredients she needs. There's a small market that has most items, but they're a bit pricey. Every time she visits, she loads up on pickled daikon radish, spicy cucumbers and cabbage kimchi at Jungle Jim's, along with other goodies.
The Korean section was actually pretty barren this trip, but we did find some dried squid and three small packages of laver for snacking. But this time, the star of the visit was Snofrisk cream cheese from Norway. We sampled the rich, creamy goat-cow cheese and immediately wanted more. This is the richest, creamiest cream cheese I've ever tasted. I'm usually able to resist the temptation of cheese, but at 2 for $3, it was too good for either of us to pass up. Get some today!

Friday, July 20, 2007

A Korea state of mind

I spent a year teaching English in South Korea, and I fell in love with the people, the culture, and most importantly, the food. Korea is where I learned to love spicy food, and that wonderful feeling that comes after your mouth is on fire. Pleasure after pain, it's a great feeling!

I'm lucky to live in Covington, where we have a delicious, authentic Korean restaurant,
But quite often, I get a hankering for Korean food at home.

Polly gave me this barbecue sauce the other day. Annie Chun's line of prepackaged products is pretty good, as far as processed food goes. There's no corn syrup in this sauce, and I can pronounce every ingredient. I tried it on vegetables and grains, and I liked it. It's tangy, just like the barbecue marinade I remember from the bulgogi (fire-meat) and kalbi (ribs) I ate there.
Barbecue in Korea is quite different than here. Year-round, groups gather at small tables, sometimes inside but more often outside, with a grill inside. Some restaurants have gas grill-tables, while at others, a man brings your table a can full of hot coals.
You line up meat, tofu, kimchi and vegetables -- ooh, and whole cloves of garlic on the grill and pull the goodies off as it's ready. The meat goes on in one piece, then is cut into bite-size pieces with kitchen shears as it cooks.
Wrap it up with a few seasoned scallions, a slice of pickled daikon radish, some hot pepper-bean paste and that roasted garlic inside a piece of romaine lettuce, pop the entire thing in your mouth and wash it down with a shot of soju or a sip of mekju. It's especially comforting food on a bitterly cold winter's night in Seoul. When you leave, your belly's full, and everyone on the subway can smell the meat, soju, kimchi and charcoal fumes still clinging to your hair and clothes.
Annie Chun's sauce would make a great marinade with your protein of choice. Here are some tips on making your own Korean BBQ at home! You don't need a grill table to do it. (Annie Chun's products are available at Kroger, Wild Oats, Meijer and more...)
Tonight, my childhood friend Sarah is coming to visit. She loves kimchi as much as I do. We taught in Korea together, and we shared my 300-square-foot apartment (yes, 30x10 feet!) for two weeks when she first arrived. And our friendship survived. We're going to Riverside for dolsot bibimbap and kimchi bokum and will no doubt test our spicy-food threshold.
Any other kimchi lovers out there?

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Hot stuff

So is anyone else planning to attend the "Weekend of Fire" at Jungle Jim's? It's August 4th-5th and it sounds like so much fun!

We love spicy food in my house. The last time my parents and my sister came to visit us, my dad spent lots of time in the kitchen. He hovered over my stove and rummaged through the fridge, pantry and my spice-filled lazy Susan, making the barbecue sauce. Well, everyone got a big surprise when we sat down to eat. The sauce he made was tasty but it was SO hot! He looked around the table, a tad sheepish, and said, "That's not regular hot sauce you guys have in there, is it?" Um, no!

It was Spontaneous Combustion, and that stuff is way up there on the Scoville chart. We all had a laugh. And we enjoyed every bite of that bbq, wiping our brows along the way...

I love spicy African, Indian and Asian cuisine. And I've had candied habanero peppers that were fabulous, but I'm still looking for something to knock my socks off. Maybe I'll find it during the "Weekend of Fire"!

What's the hottest thing you've ever eaten?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Caveat eater

Careful if you eat hot dog chili sauce. It seems some of the canned varieties are chock-full-o' botulism...

Morton's move

The next piece in the new and growing downtown dining district will be the new location of Morton's The Steakhouse. It will move out of the lower level of Tower Place mall and re-open in the second floor of Carew Tower on August 6.
Unlike their original location, located in a basement, with the classic windowless, dark-wood steakhouse feel, the new location will have windows. In fact, it will be the first American Morton’s to have them, and they'll look over a full view of Fountain Square. (This makes sense to me--cozy is very outdated, and I think people would probably rather eat out in the open than in a secluded hideaway these days. It does make me wonder if anyone will ever take over the old Maisonette/LaNormandie space.)
Morton's will also feature a new wine room, and a new concept called Bar 1221, with a full menu of less-expensive bar food items, and two happy hours daily. There will be an entrance directly from Vine St., with both an elevator and a staircase. Like most of the new restaurants downtown, Morton's will be open for dinner nightly. In a year or so, there will be lots of options for downtown eating on Sunday night, even for lunch on Saturday, which is one of the most encouraging things about all the new restaurant activity.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Cupcakes don't grown on trees...

But you can buy a really cute tree/stand to diplay your cupcakes. I've wanted one for the longest, and with my book club friends coming to my house July 29 (I'm planning to make a Southern spread with red velvet cupcakes for dessert), I knew there was no better time to get it.

I saw them online, but I really wanted to get the best deal and to see it in person to make sure it was right. Well, I found the best deal on it at Sur La Table. (Don't you just want to live in that store?) And it was on clearance, to boot! (I saw lots of other good stuff in the clearance section, so you might want to stop in to check it out.) Regularly anywhere from $25.99 to $29.99, I got the cupcake stand for $19.99. And it's not like I should ever have to buy another one. I expect to use it for years to come at showers for friends, more book club meetings, general girlfriend gatherings, kids birthday parties, etc... It's so adorable. It holds 23 cupcakes. I'm pretty sure that's because you're supposed to make two dozen cupcakes and then scarf one down before your guests arrive... Just be sure to wipe the frosting off the corner of your mouth! I'm putting one of the red velvet recipes I'm considering in the comment section. Only thing is it seems like a ton of oil for a cake recipe. But I'm not really into baking, so what do I know?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Mediterranean birthday feast

I just finished reading this great book, Mediterranean Summer, by David Shalleck and Erol Munoz. David, a chef living in Italy, takes a summer job on a private yacht owned by a wealthy Italian power couple. He can't repeat any menu item, and he must only serve Italian food. (Il Dottore is outraged when David serves an Israeli avocado with prosciutto.)
More than just a travel and food memoir (my two favorite genres of books), it's David's personal voyage to find his culinary future and confidence. You must read this book! I couldn't put it down.
The book's final chapters are full of recipes for the mouth-watering dishes David serves along the Cote d'Azur and Costa Bella. Panzanella, halibut in crazy water, spuma di tonno, oh, the list goes on and on.
My boyfriend and his family lived in Naples for a few years, and he was weaned on classic Southern, coastal Italian dishes. I've spent a bit of time on Capri, Ischia and in Salerno with a good friend and his family. We're both crazy about Italian cuisine.
Tonight is his mother's birthday, and we're planning a dinner. In the Italian spirit, dinner won't start until quite late, but we'll still be rushing to get ready. We bought two baguettes yesterday with no hope of eating both before they went stale, so I'll definitely make panzanella. Fred's going to make his mom's classic red sauce, handed down -- I believe -- from his godmother, who lives on Ischia. From there, we're not sure. Perhaps a bit of limoncello with dessert. Any suggestions? We're much more fans of simple, light Italian fare. Any favorite Italian food memories?

Friday, July 13, 2007

I *heart* sporks, not spraws

Just when I'm sure nothing in the world of food can surprise me, Kellogg's invents "cereal straws." They describe them as "Fruity, crunchy tubes for milk-sippin' fun!"

This is exactly what I've been missing all my life. It sickens me to think about all the time and energy I wasted as a kid, eating breakfast with my family at the table, or watching Saturday morning cartoons and actually having to lift a spoon to my mouth. When I think about all that effort... The horror of it all. It's amazing that my parents weren't cited for making me do such hard labor.

I thought food companies - particularly Kellogg's - were supposed to be changing how they market to children? Then they come out with sugar/edible straws and smoothie cereal.

Maybe I should come up with some goofy food-related product. Let's see... "Cereal spoons" that are hollow and contain a teaspoon of sugar to sprinkle over your shredded wheat. "Ketchup knives" and "mustard knives" that squirt the condiment and cut food. Who has the time to to do both? How about pickle-mustard-onion-flavored cheese for burgers? Who can be bothered with the long, drawn out process of slicing cheese AND onions, getting the pickles out of the fridge and then stacking it all on a burger.

Second chances for slandered vegetables

There are very few vegetables I don't like: mung bean sprouts, plain red radishes (though I will eat them a la francaise, thinly sliced with sweet butter on bread) and -- until recently -- beets.
Sprouts (while packed full of nutrition -- they're like the stem cells of the vegetable world) and radishes are just too bitter for me. My beet aversion dates back to childhood, when a friend's mother was on a canned beets-and-cottage cheese diet. (Hey, it was the '80s. It was a crash diet that didn't work.) She ate them straight from the can, and the earthy smell and texture was overwhelming to my 7-year-old palate. Beets weren't common in my house, so I never tried them again until my French host mother served me a pickled beet salad. It was OK, but I still wasn't on board the beet wagon.
This summer, I have a goal to pick one vegetable I've never cooked or eaten each week. So far, I've discovered that rainbow chard (eaten but never cooked at home) is my new favorite green, kohlrabi is a great in a gratin and mung bean sprouts are tolerable in small doses when doused with a sweet Korean barbecue sauce.
And beets, glorious beets! I'm a fan. I roasted them with olive oil and rosemary from my garden, cooked up some quinoa and mixed grains and sauteed the beet greens. Two hearty nutritious lunches. Beets are high in sugar, but they're fabulous! They're still not as high on my "veggies I heart" list as chard, red peppers or broccoli, but they're a great second-string vegetable. I imagine that this fall, they'll find a place on my table more often.
Are there any vegetables you once loathed that you've learned to love? Any vegetable you just can't stomach?
Are you a fan of bean sprouts? How do you serve sprouts?

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Dateline Beijing: Bad baozi

OK, this just grosses me out. Turns out dumpling (baozi) vendors in Beijing have been chopping up soggy cardboard with their fatty meat to make dumplings. GROSS. It's all amazing how China's finally doing something to "investigate" this little problem with tainted foods, all going back to the pet food recall. China even executed the former head of its food and drug safety agency this week.

Admittedly, I lived in China for two plus years and don't think I ever ate anything truly objectionable, but eesh, you never know. A friend once ordered some chicken dish late one night during our travels, and the shop owners kept giggling as he tore into his food. That was one time when we were pretty sure it wasn't chicken. But I didn't (want to) try it, and he has no idea what they served.

Of course, some of the things that get eaten in China are objectionable to most of us, but standard over there. Some of the grosser things...

dog. This I can't stand!
camel's paw. Good to warm you in the winter (so I'm told).
yak penis. Kinda chewy. Yuck!

Maybe you've eaten some gross foods on your travels. But maybe we don't want to hear about them.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Double-standards and sticky subjects

I'm a recent (or rather a returning) vegetarian of sorts. I eat fish, and I have faltered a couple of times since deciding to stop eating meat.
For everyone, the road to vegetarianism is different. Some people go -- ahem -- cold turkey, while others, like me, ease into it.
I try not to judge others who take the path toward a more healthful diet, and I don't want others to judge me.
That said, what do you think about people who say "There's no meat in it" but use animal broth or some other animal product? Other examples: Flavoring food with bacon or cooking meat and vegetables together.
I have this issue with some members of my family.
I find the double-standard amusing: Many omnivores would be outraged if I served them faux meat or tofu though there's no good reason for them to not eat such food. Yet, I have moral and ethical problems with eating meat (primarily I oppose the use of hormones and antibiotics in meat and dairy) and people seem to think it's OK to sneak it into my diet.
No one bats an eye when someone says, "I don't like broccoli, and I wont' eat anything that has touched broccoli," for example. Yet, my meat aversion becomes an issue.
Vegetarians, has this happened to you? How do you handle it? Omnivores: What do you think about having to accommodate vegetarians?

Allure open for lunch

Allure, the recently opened contemporary American restaurant in Montgomery, where Pacific Moon used to be, has added lunch. It carries sandwiches and salads ($7-$14), including a lobster roll, shaved prime rib sandwich, fried green tomato BLT, Kobe beef burger, a lobster salad, carpaccio salad, and several pasta dishes. They also can customize lunch plates for vegetarians. 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; 8300 Market Place Lane, 513-891-0120; http://www.allurecincinnati.com/.

-Polly Campbell

Washington Platform is back

“Restaurant open, drive-through closed” reads the sign outside Washington Platform Restaurant, downtown.

New T-shirts for servers are emblazoned “100 Elm Street: You can’t miss us.”

In May, a car skidded through the intersection in front of the restaurant and smashed through the front door. A week later, it happened again, in almost exactly the same way. Owner Jon Diebold is maintaining a sense of humor about it, and chose today, Friday the 13th, to re-open.

He’s taken advantage of the two months the restaurant was closed to do some maintenance and repairs. Washington Platform re-opens for lunch today at 11 a.m.

Regular hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and 5:30-11 p.m. Saturday. The annual Wing Fling, serving 101 chicken wing flavors, is July 27-Aug. 11. 513-421-0110; http://www.washingtonplatform.com/.

--Polly Campbell

Kitchen stockpiles

Growing up in Cincinnati, I used to joke that we'd never starve if there was a nuclear disaster, since we had such a massive stockpile of canned goods in the basement. (Talking to my friends, I think this is a generational thing).

But I notice that everyone has something that they can't live without a massive pile of.

For my dad, it's frozen chicken breasts and frozen chicken thighs. He loves to make stir fries and chicken curry.

For my fiance, it's jars and jars of spaghetti sauce. We can have 12 jars in the kitchen cupboard, and he'll buy a pack of three more as we're walking through Costco. Oh, and butter. He can't be without butter. I think there are five or six four-packs of butter (yes, REAL butter!) in the fridge at the moment. (His cholesterol is just fine, thank you very much, and he loves his toast slathered with real butter.)

At the moment, I stockpile tea - Lipton, and Red Rose tea. I make iced tea all summer long (with REAL sugar), so I bought a bunch when it was on sale. Fiance's reaction? "Why did you buy all that tea!?" However, he never complains that he has iced tea to drink. Nor me when I have plenty of chicken Parmesan with loads of red sauce to keep me happy.

What's multiplying in your cupboards?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

more tofu entrees

I tried Helen's Cheese Enchiladas with Tofu Steaks in Spicy Red Sauce. It was good for a frozen meal, but I never eat frozen, prepackaged food at home, and this is probably the third or fourth time in a year that I've eaten one at work.
It was delicious, but I kept thinking that I should have been eating the roasted beets-beet green-fresh dill-and-mixed grains salad I brought from home. That will be tomorrow's lunch...
The tofu had a really great, firm, almost dry texture. It was spicy enough, with a good corn taste on the tortillas and plenty of cheese. (Almost too much cheese, but is that a bad thing!?) I want to see more vegetarian entrees at the grocery store, so I'd like to see these in the Cincinnati area soon.
These are organic, GMO-free food, and the sodium levels are lower than most frozen entrees! I ate both, which was 300 calories but two servings. (Who's going to eat just one? If you can, more power to you, but I can't! I think the lure of these frozen meals is that they're single servings and controlled portions, right?)
If you're going to eat frozen entrees, choose Helen's (or Amy's or Linda McCartney, which are available around here... )you can always pronounce the ingredients, and there are no crazy chemicals added! I'll climb down off my soapbox and go to bed now! :-)
So, now, Helen's: When are you going to be available in Cincinnati stores? I'd choose this frozen meal over all others! Way to go with the tofu!

Get a free combo meal at Chick-fil-a on Friday. "All" you have to do is dress up like a cow. I don't think you have to moo or anything. It's Cow Appreciation Day, which is apparently a big deal at many locations, where 200 people might show up in black and white spots. There are several Chick-fil-a locations in Greater Cincinnati. Find them at www.chick-fil-a.com

Curry in a hurry

I tried Helen's Kitchen's Indian Curry with Tofu Steaks over Rice and thought it was delicious -- it's very flavorful but doesn't have a ton of sodium, which is a big complaint of mine about many supposedly healthy frozen meals (this one has 300 mg of sodium, or 13 percent of what you're supposed to get in a day). And I love that the certified organic. But the photo on the packaging, which shows the dish with chopped onions and a fresh sprig of cilantro, made me laugh. Isn't the whole point of buying frozen meals that you don't have to chop anything yourself? And who's going to bring an onion and a bunch of cilantro to work? (Although I have seen stranger things in our coffee alley.) But my biggest complaint is that no stores in this area seem to carry them yet -- the only Ohio location is Port Clinton. Boo!

If you can't stand the heat...

... maybe Helen's Kitchen will send you something for lunch. Well, they sent me something: a box of samples of the frozen meals from Helen's Kitchen Simple Health. The unifying theme: They all contain tofu. I found this on their Web site:

Helen's Food is:
Young, Hip, & Innovative
We are a young, hip, innovative health food company behind the Helen’s Kitchen brand, based in progressive Orange County, California.

We get it. You're young, hip and innovative. Oh, and progressive.

Polly, Lauren, Stepfanie and I are trying them. We'll conduct our oh-so-scientific testing and report back a little later... I don't see any distribution info, so I don't know if they're at local grocers. Anyone out there tried 'em?

Monday, July 09, 2007

Try it: Pike Street Press

An errand took me across the river to Covington last week, and I was looking for a quick spot to grab a bite to eat to bring back to the office. Suggested were the great cod sandwiches (it was Friday) at Chez Nora, steaming bibimbap from Riverside Korean (delish but not so portable in those big stone bowls), chicken tortilla soup from Fontova's, and Polly's suggestion, Pike Street Press, a little panini and coffee shop just around the corner from the Madison. I'd heard great things about the little coffee shop but never had an occasion to go. Now, I think I'll make occasion to get there more often.

It's really tasty sandwiches done right. Or turn it into a wrap (that makes it a "newsie"). Don't worry if you don't know the newspaper/food lingo - they're amenable to new customers like me struggling through, especially considering they've only been open five months. I tried the Sopresatta and Fresh Mozzarella Panini with Baby Arugula and Balsamic-Basil Oil. Yum. But they were out of arugula so substituted tomatoes. The takeout packages -I mean, messenger bags - come with drinks and a side, so I got the tortelloni. Good stuff but more than I wanted with my sandwiches. The vinegary slaw is tasty too, but a few bites is enough for me.

I'm not coffee addict so you'll have to form your own opinions there. But check it, and let us know what you think! I'm starting to compile, in my head, favorite sandwich spots. Pike Street Press definitely qualifies. (Subway does NOT!)

PHOTO INFO: Betsy Kuhr, one of the owners of Pike Street Press, 222 W. Pike St., Covington. Shot by The Enquirer/Patrick Reddy.

Cool local tasting July 26

Busy day here, but I wanted to pass this along, as it sounds like a great event featuring local food and wines. (NOTE: Reservations required.) Here's the press release, verbatim:

CINCINNATI (June 25, 2007) – Enjoy a wine tasting where the American wine industry was born. Join the Nutrition Council to celebrate the best food, art and wine the Tristate has to offer at the Taft Museum of Art on Thursday, July 26, from 6 to 8 p.m.

Nicholas Longworth, who lived in the house that is now the Taft in the 1850s, is known as the Father of American Grape Culture. He is credited with planting the first commercial vineyards in the country. It’s fitting that during Celebrating Local Treasures: Food, Art, and Wine guests can sample locally produced wine in the gardens where his vineyards flourished.

The evening will feature a wine tasting with wines from two local award-winning wineries – Kinkead Ridge, from Ripley, Ohio and Burnet Ridge in North College Hill. Learn more about how wines are made from the people who know. Signed bottles of wine will be available as part of a silent auction.

Fresh local produce will be highlighted in the evening’s fare prepared by the Taft Museum’s executive chef Mark Bowers. Sample locally produced cheeses, breads and confections.

Cost for this event is $50. Reservations are required. For tickets and information call the Nutrition Council at (513) 621-3262 or order online at http://www.nutritioncouncil.org. The ticket price includes parking, admission to the Museum, and the special exhibition Hiram Powers: Genius in Marble.

Proceeds benefit the Taft Museum of Art and the Nutrition Council.

The Taft Museum’s Café is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. For reservations, please call (513) 352-5140. For more information and a current menu, please visit www.taftmuseum.org/cafe.htm.

The Nutrition Council is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that has served Greater Cincinnati since 1974. Their mission is to promote healthy lifestyles in Greater Cincinnati through nutrition education, physical activity programs, and community partnerships.
The Taft Museum of Art is at 316 Pike St., in downtown Cincinnati. The Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $8, $6 for seniors over 60 and students and free to everyone on Wednesday. Children under 18 are free. Free onsite parking is available. The Café is open for lunch Tuesday through Saturday.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Hook yourself up

The moocher. We all know at least one. Whether they want to "borrow" change, your BlackBerry, your new CD or your car, they always have their hands out. It pains me to say this, but they are... *sniff*... hook-up addicts.

But before you plan the intervention, here is a hook-up that everyone should get in on: If you go to the Web site for the local hip-hop/R&B station 100.1 WIZF-FM, you can snag $50 gift cards for just $25. The current offers are for Arnies On The Levee, Cumin, Funny Bone, New Orleans To Go, Papa John's Pizza, Shane's Rib Shack, Sully's, The Garage Sports Bar & Grille, and Vinyl. And they also have a deal going with WashPro Carwash so you can hook up your car on the way to dinner...

"High-end" Mexican food

So it seems we're getting another restaurant downtown. I love the name: Nada. But the food better be otherworldly good because the negative puns would be endless...

I hope that, in this case, "high-end Mexican" translates to authentic cuisine on pretty plates in an urbane space. It's too often that high-end is code for "mucho dinero y poca comida."

Whatever the case, it would be fabulous to have a Rick Bayless/Topolo-esque hot spot in Cincinnati. Gotta love a town where you can get a phoney coney (hold the hot dog) and langosta al ajillo, all within a few blocks.

10 foods for the rest of your life

Polly just told me that she read that a great number of Americans live on 10 foods or so. (I hope I'm not stealing her thinder by blogging about this!) Among the most popular are: fried chicken, french fries, chocolate chip cookies and Kraft mac-n-cheese. Hmm. All I'm going to say is you are what you eat. But it made me think: What if I had to live on 10 foods for the rest of my life? Assuming I want to live a long life, I can't make those foods champagne, chocolate truffles and French cheeses. I'm a food geek, I know.
OK, so here is my nutritionally responsible list, because I'm in a good-food mood. Condiments don't count, right? Not on my list, they don't! What a tough list! This was a silly plan! Honestly though, these foods form the basis of my diet now!
1. Tofu. Rich, creamy, delicious. Fried, made into smoothies, substituted for ricotta in pastas. Yum!
2. Red peppers. In pasta sauces, sauteed in stir-fries, mixed into salads. So sweet when roasted, so packed full of goodness! (A great source of Vitamin C, with tons of beta-carotene)
3. Tomatoes. Seriously. I know it's a fruit, but have you ever met a more versatile one?
4. Eggs (cage free, vegetarian, certified organic. I'll pay the $2.50 a dozen at Madison's to know my eggs come from happy chickens.)
5. Rainbow chard good raw or cooked, it's as good for you as spinach and it's fairly mild in taste. Plus, it's just so pretty. Look up the nutrition on this one. It's a superfood in my book. And unlike a lot of greens, it doesn't taste like grass! 1 cup=35 calories!
6. Blueberries (or raspberries). Tough choice, but I think I like blueberries (especially wild ones) a little more. I love them with yogurt or just as a snack or dessert. Berries are SO good for you!
7. Yogurt. Not that HFCS-sweetened, fruity stuff in mini plastic cups. Nope, I want real, plain yogurt, low-fat or full-fat, never fat-free. Tangy, rich and full of active cultures that keep your insides happy!
8. Whole grains (probably quinoa or Trader Joe's Harvest Grains orzo-baby chickpeas-red quinoa-couscous blend)
9. Salmon. Alaskan wild. Be kind to the fish.
10. Chickpeas. Delicious, rich, and the basis of hummus! Who could resist!

So what 10 foods would you choose? (I just realized that I left out chocolate! Can I start over?!)


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Italian dessert

I have a sort of ridiculous love for food that looks like other things, especially if it looks like other food. I am insanely delighted by my most recent project. We had an Italian exchange student living with us for the last six months. Alessandro broke with most expectations by absolutely loving it here and having no particular sentiment about Italy. It drove him crazy that everyone always gushed about Italy and Italian food. He also wondered why everyone asked him about spaghetti and meatballs.

So before he left (he was very sad to go) I made him a dish of spaghetti and meatballs. Out of ice cream.

I did not take full credit for this: I got it from a book. You push the ice cream through a potato ricer for the spaghetti. (Trauth vanilla is a nice color). The sauce is pureed strawberries. TI did come up with the idea to use Ferrero Rocher candies for the meatballs, and you can't quite see it, but coconut for Parmesan. Isn't it fabulous?

In cahoots

Blue Ash/Kenwood could use some restaurants, I think. There's a good handful of independent restaurants like Trio, Cactus pear, Baxter's, Marx and Brown Dog, but the amount of people and money in the area north of Kenwood Mall surely could support another one or two.

In October (or thereabouts) there will be one more.
InCahoots is going into the former Bilker’s Kosher Grocery at 9708 Kenwood Road. They start renovations next week. Howard Zuefle and his niece Nicole Zuefle are behind it. He was the original owner of Bacalls Café in College Hill (and the other locations that closed in the 1980’s). She has been a cook at Mullane’s, downtown, and Honey, in Northside.

Other than the name, this has nothing to do with the original InCahoots restaurants in Clifton and Kenwood, if your memory goes back to the '80's. But Zuefle always liked the name. “We chose it because my niece and are “in cahoots” on this venture, and partly with fond memories of the InCahoots in Corryville,” he said. Possibly a little confusing, but there's nothing really wrong with recycling a name--and it was legally available.

The restaurant will seat 140-150, with a small private dining room and some outdoor café seating. The menu will include comfort food such as stuffed pork tenderloin, burgers, and homemade chili, along with more eclectic choices such as asparagus fries, mussels in white port honey and miso soy broth, and dates stuffed with chorizo and cream cheese. Zuefle said the price point would be "about a third less than Trio," with the highest entrée price about $18 for a strip steak. Zuefle described the décor as comfortable yet sophisticated with earth tones and clean lines a la Frank Lloyd Wright.

Get your manna raw!

After that posting about unsafe snacks, here's one that's good and presumably safe! We often get to try new snacks here, which can be good and bad -- the snacks and their tempting availability!
On Tuesday, we got Wild Bars: raw, organic cacao-based nutrition bars that are full of goodness like wild blue-green algae (1,700 mg of it) and dark agave nectar. (No sugar or corn syrup -- this is the only sweetener.) The bars also contain maca, hemp seed and mesquite.

They are crazy good for you! 55% of your daily fiber! Plus tons of Omega-3 fatty acids and B12 (great for blood and nerve cells)!
A couple of others tried them, but no one else wanted anymore than a taste. I finished a Mayan Spice bar and tried the Mountain Mint. (It's in my desk, waiting for an afternoon when I need a pick-me-up!)
The bar has an odd look: black and a bit green with bits of macadamia nuts throughout. But don't judge. The Mayan Spice was quite spicy, with a really rich raw chocolate flavor. (More cocoa powder than dark chocolate. It was tasty though.) They're not lying when they say there's blue green algae -- my tongue turned green! And after, the cayenne's heat lingered on my tongue.
They boast that the bars boost energy, and I believe it. I was a bit hyper later that afternoon. (Oh, and they're $5, raw, certified organic, vegan, kosher and gluten-free!)

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

More bad snacks

*We interrupt your holiday festivities to bring you this foodie update*

This has been a rough week for Robert's American Gourmet Inc. Although they have "American" in the company name, Robert's imported the flavoring they use in some of their snacks. Happy Fourth, huh? So in addition to discovering salmonella in the Veggie Booty, it's also in the Super Veggie Tings Crunchy Corn Sticks.

I'm not in the business of manufacturing food, so I don't know the ins and outs of it. But it seems as though it would be a serious risk to import food products from a country that has different quality standards. I imagine that it is a cost-cutting measure, but it seems like the savings are irrelevant if people get sick.

Here's a novel idea: Use a safer, better-quality product and jack up the price 20-30 cents. That's a trade off with which most people can (literally) live. Why not even make that part of your marketing spiel? Everybody knows you get what you pay for...

What gets me is that we keep seeing these stories about tainted products, but no real specifics until they find something or an illness is reported.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

RIP: Chili Company

Boo. One of our freelancers was slated to take his kids up to the Chili Company in White Oak for a Yum! write-up in the Enquirer's Weekend section. He kept calling, trying different numbers, and never got a living soul. So this just in: there's a sign on the door that says "CLOSED FOR NOW." Bummer. I guess business never took off. I know they spent a lot of money making over the place before they opened earlier this year. But now you can buy fresh corn from Burwinkel's farm in the parking lot of the Chili Company, which is a nice perk for those nearby. (They usually set up outside Reister's Tavern down the street, but the construction on Hubble Road, I think, is keeping them away.)

Curds and whey

We often discuss food over here in our corner of the newsroom. Shocking, I know.

Yesterday, rather polarizing food came up: Cottage cheese. It seems people either love it or hate it.

I love it, especially with a bit of fresh peach, mango or pineapple stirred in. I know people who like it with salt and pepper and nothing else. And Polly told us about
the way she and her mom prepare it. Polly and I are at odds on the issue of sweet vs. savory, but we agree that Breakstone's makes just about the best cottage cheese you can get around here. But then the issue of curd size and texture come up (give me larger curds and a creamy texture any day).

If you do like cottage cheese, know you're getting a whopping 14 grams of protein in every ½ cup serving you eat. And it's even better (your nutritionist will probably tell you) if you pick the low-fat version.

There are lots of recipes in the online archive that call for cottage cheese. Here are a few of them (some relatively diet-friendly, some not-so-much):

Cheese Pie*
Three Cheese Spicy Shrimp Pizzas*
Cool Fabulous Fudge Cheesecake Ice Cream*
Chocolate Amaretto Cheesecake*
German Ksekuchen*

*Blogger doesn't always get along with the links to the archive, so they might not go directly to the recipes. But it's easy to search by name or ingredient.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Goin' downtown - Cadillac Ranch - The Lodge

I had a downtown-centric weekend, starting with a pretty tasty Saturday night lobsta bake at City Cellars to celebrate its one year anniversary. (It's a cool little - and I mean LITTLE - wine shop at Ninth and Race downtown. Brian only sells wine that he has tried and actually likes, so you can trust that you're probably going to like what you're buying). Owner Brian was gracious, the company was good, and I found a new wine I like: Labbe Abymes, from Savoie, in eastern France. I don't know enough wine to know how to describe it "properly," but it was bright and pleasant and felt like it was going to get sweet like a Riesling, but then the sweetness (and cloyingness associated with that sweetness) never comes out, which is great. Very smooth. We bought a few bottles - and it's only $10.99.

I then decided to check out all the hype on Fountain Square, since I rarely walk over there at night. But it is actually "happening" nowadays. Saturday night at 8 p.m. saw movies on the big screen above Macy's - "The Incredibles" and "Batman." It's pretty cool to see families hanging out on the Square. The movies continue every Saturday night through Sept. 1. Check out the list of films here.

From there we moved on to Cadillac Ranch All American Bar and Grill, newly opened, just on the other side of the Fifth Third Bank Center. It's the second location of a Nashville chain, and takes up the entire block, which is pretty amazing. There's seating both indoors and on an outside covered patio, and garage doors which they can close when the weather turns cooler. It seems to have a good vibe, though we were there around 8:30 p.m., after the Reds fans had gone to the game and before things really picked up as families were finishing up their dinners.

Overheard in the ladies room: great servers, good to the kids, etc., but S-L-O-W service. Ditto a colleague who tried to eat there for lunch two days last week, only to report empty tables outside but a 45-minute wait to be seated. (My suggestion: make a reservation!) So they're still working out kinks, but I wish them all the best. Downtown really needs a spot like this.

On the walls in fun design groupings: hubcaps. license plates from out West. an entire wall of guitars. And of course there's the obligatory mechanical bull! Just saw a few folks ride it (it was early yet), but I imagine that'd be a fun spot to be come midnight.

Next: The Lodge Bar, just a block up from McFadden's, at 35 East 7th St. Wooden paneling and taxidermy galore. And I do mean GALORE. (Note: not a bar for vegetarians!) But it's fun, the crowd's young, and they serve BEER TOWERS. The towers look like giant test tubes with a spigot on them - a fresh take on pitchers, I suppose. They hold something like 6 glasses of beer, but I think they stop serving them early (maybe 9 p.m.). I liked the music, and the buckets of peanuts on the tables.
It looks like The Lodge has stolen a bit of McFadden's thunder, but McFadden's still has it - big space, good pours, fun people watching, and the dark woods that scream "you're in a bar."
Haven't been downtown lately? It's worth checking out.

In search of good bacon

I can't believe I'm asking this, but I need help. I've cooked bacon a grand total of twice in my life. Once was so long ago I can't remember - maybe I used that funky microwave tray to cook the bacon. Once was a couple months ago, when I decided to make spaghetti carbonara for the first time, and the bacon was just not the quality you need to get really good carbonara sauce.

For the Fourth of July party I'm going to, I've decided to make my grandma's German potato salad, which I have never done before. It's the kind full of vinegar and bacon fat that makes your mouth water just thinking about it. I had to ask my aunt for the recipe, and she had to make it and measure it out to figure out how to write it down. It's just one of those things that she grew up making.

So the recipe looks pretty much like this or this. I'm excited to try it.

So here's the question: where do you get good bacon? Not too fatty, not too meaty, but plenty of full bacon flavor. I haven't had luck just picking off the Kroger shelves. I have no idea what I'm looking for. HELP!

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