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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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Look out, Jean-Robert

A few weeks ago I posted a recipe for biscotti that I successfully made for a supper club that a friend of mine recently started. We meet again a couple of weeks ago, each charged with making something French this time (I’m happy to report that no one showed up wearing a beret). I think it was our best meal yet. I made a French leek pie as a side dish and it was cheesy and delicious. (It was also one of about six recipes that came up on allrecipes.com when I checked “dinner,” “French,” “vegetarian” and ready in less than an hour. Hey, I’m a busy girl.) Appetizers included baked brie with apricot preserves and a couple of salads, including a pear salad with creamy gorgonzola dressing, which paired (ha) fantastically with a fruity Riesling. The main dish was pasta shells with tilapia (rather than the halibut the recipe calls for) with Cajun seasoning and oven-roasted ratatouille. Sorry I didn’t take pictures—that seems to be what every other self-respecting food blogger is doing these days.

Anyway, here are the recipes in case you’re in the mood for (sort of) French food yourself. I also highly recommend this whole different-country-themed supper club concept, if you’re feeling even more adventurous. I think we decided on Indian food next – I’ll be sure to report back.

Pear salad with creamy gorgonzola dressing
1 1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola
1/3 cup plain yogurt (fat-free, if you like)
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup honey
4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil

Bagged salad mix (with bitter lettuce like radicchio or chicory)
Three pears, sliced

Add dressing to salad and toss well. Top with toasted walnuts and chopped green onions (optional) and serve.

French leek pie
1 9-inch refrigerated pie crust
2 teaspoons butter
3 leeks, chopped
1 pinch salt and black pepper to taste
1 cup light cream
1 1/4 cups shredded Gruyere cheese (I bought an 8-ounce block and it was more than enough)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in leeks; cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until soft. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low. Stir in cream and cheese, and warm through. Pour mixture into pie shell. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until custard is set and golden on top. Allow to sit 10 minutes before cutting pie into wedges.

Pasta shells with halibut and oven-roasted ratatouille
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 1-pound eggplant, unpeeled, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 pound plum tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 small zucchini, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, flattened
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons herbes de Provence (dried herb mixture available at specialty foods stores and some supermarkets)
1 12-ounce halibut fillet
2 cups medium-size pasta shells

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Spread next 5 ingredients on sheet. Drizzle with oil. Sprinkle with herbes de Provence, salt, and pepper. Roast vegetables until tender, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes. Push vegetables to sides of sheet. Place fish in center of sheet; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until just opaque in center, about 12 minutes. Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water. Return pasta to pot. Add roasted vegetables and enough reserved pasta cooking water to pasta to moisten; toss. Cut fish into 1/2-inch pieces; add to pasta and toss gently. Season with salt and pepper.

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Mother's Day dining

You planning anything special for mom this Mother's Day? It's coming up May 11. Polly put together this list of spots for Mom's Day brunches, buffets and specials. Where are you taking mom this year? Or are you going the home route and cooking for her?

Reaching the Summit

The Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State isan increasingly important part of the local dining scene, as students graduate from the new program in the state-of-the-art facility. Now there's a new way for the public to get a look at the program and see what the students are capable of.
The Institute's public restaurant will be opening this month. The Summit will be a fine-dining restaurant open on weekends, giving the culinary students in the program a chance to do co-op jobs that are integrated with their studies. Dean Dan Cayse says they launched a national search for a chef to head the kitchen, and they ended up with a graduate of the program. Matt Winterrowd has worked with Jean-Robert de Cavel, at Boca, and most recently at Daveed's. He and Donna Schmidt, who will be in charge of the front of the house, are the only two employees. Everyone else working at the restaurant will be students. Cayse said he hoped the experience would be so positive that the best students in the program would want to work there. The offerings will change frequently, so students will have a chance to create dishes and shape the menu.

The restaurant has been used before now as a lab for the capstone class that students take, but this is its debut with regular hours for the public.

I haven't yet seen the menu with prices, but Case said it will be affordably elegant, because part of the restaurant's mission is to expose more people to fine-dining experiences. It will be reservation only on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. First night is May 23. http://www.midwestculinary.com/ , 513-569-4980

Rose wine tasting

Was out of the office for a few days but here's a press release straight from my inbox:

Art Central Foundation
1054 Central Ave.
Middletown, OH 45042

The Art Central Foundation is pleased to announce the hosting of its third annual wine tasting, A Taste of the Rose’ – A Kentucky Derby-themed Wine Tasting to benefit a local arts organization.

The selected organization for 2008 is the Middletown Lyric Theater. This professional theater was founded over 25 years ago and produces several shows each year.

The wine tasting will be held at the Middletown Lyric Theater, at 1530 Central Ave. in the Art Central District of Middletown. It will be held on Saturday, May 3rd from 5:00pm - 8:00 pm.

The wines will be furnished by Solera Imports, of Columbus, and J. Benton-Furrow Winery of California. Light appetizers will be donated by local restaurants and caterers, including the Olive Garden, Stefano’s, 2 Women in a Kitchen, the new All About You Catering and the Manchester Inn, which will also offer special room rates. Many area businesses and artists have donated items for a silent auction and raffle to be held during the event. One of the highlights being dinner for 8 in the home of Mayor & Mrs. Mulligan prepared for you and your guests by the Mayor.

The 2008 Kentucky Derby will be aired during the event.

Tickets are $25.00 and can be purchased at Artique Gallery, 1504 N. Breiel Blvd 422-4435, BeauVerre Riordan Studios, 1054 Central Ave 425-7312, or Middletown Lyric Theater, 1530 Central Ave or by calling 425-7140. The event will be limited to 200 patrons, so call early to reserve your tickets.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Chili capital, eh?

Did you see this story? I never would have thought Cincinnati was the "chilil capital" before I moved here three years ago. Not sure I would think of it that way today. "Unusual chili capital" perhaps... But, then again, I can't think of any other food for which Cincinnati is known.

The story makes me want to get in the car or hop a plane and do some foodie traveling. I've had a hankering to go the Gilroy Garlic Festival for a long time. Maybe this is the year....

Have you done foodie traveling? Planning to do some this year?

The Iron Horse rides again

Jason Druso has teamed up with Glendale entrepreneur Robin Thomas, and they're planning to re-open the Iron Horse Restaurant in Glendale. Druso was the co-owner of Aqua in Mount Lookout, but recently sold out his half to his partner. Before that, he spent eight years with Jeff Ruby, including time as general manager of Carlo and Johnny.
They'll be remodeling the historic building on Glendale Square. "I like to buy a building where someone else has done all the work that people don't see, and I can do the work that people do see," he says. It will be a mix of new and old, aknowledging the historic character of the building, but updating it. The downstairs dining room will no longer be red when they're through with it. Upstairs will be a supper club with a jazz trio. On the menu: New American food, simple, changing seasonally, local products, clean flavors.
Then the pair are opening an 8-room boutique hotel on the other end of Glendale Square, The Glendalia, with a restaurant called The Black Squirrel Bistro next door to it.
They hope the Iron Horse will be ready to open this summer.

Yes, but is it sushi?

I was reading our freelancer Gil Kaufman's review of Moy's Pacific Rim restaurant and sushi bar in Kenwood. I've been meaning to go there for awhile, because I always liked Kim Moy's other restaurant, Moy Moy's (so many restaurants, so little time. . .) Anyway, Kim is making and developing all kinds of sushi--surf and turf, veal, feta cheese, etc.

Which may all be delicious. But the question is: Is it sushi? And the next question is: does it matter whether it is or not?

I have a hard time with this, particularly when I'm reviewing a restaurant that serves sushi. I think classic sushi, especially nigiri sushi, is one of the most inspired food creations ever, and a pretty-near perfect thing to eat. Vinegared rice, a dab of wasabi, a morsel of raw or lightly cooked fish, a touch of soy sauce. Simple, beautiful, inexplicably delicious. Rolls are the next-best, with the nori wrapper, and a more varied range of things inside. So I hated it when sushi bars started making rolls with 10 things in them, with spicy tuna and ranch dressing and cream cheese, etc. But there's no way to hold the line--these rolls are the reality of American sushi bars and it seems like snobbery to ignore or disdain all of them--worse, it just seems irrelevant, like griping about kids playing video games. (And, let me just say before the comments begin, please eat whatever sushi you'd like. I won't try to stop you.)

Does anyone else share my wish for better, simple sushi and less playing around with the form? Or am I hopelessly out of fashion? Is there an unusual sushi you've had in town that you think worked well?

Monday, April 28, 2008


The countries south of ours have an amazing number of variations on cornmeal dough filled with something delicious and savory: tamales, gorditas, enchiladas, arepas, sopes. A couple of days ago, at Sabor Latino in Springdale, I had two of the more delicious examples: pupusas and Guatamalean tamales. Pupusas are from El Salvador: fatter than a tortilla, thinner than a tamale, they're like a chubby filled corn pancake. I had one filled with cheese, which was delicious though a little bland--it was that young white cheese that gets kind of stringy when it melts, and the masa dough was just a little sweet, very corny and crisp from the griddle. The one filled with chicharron--savory pork bits-- was even better. But the Guatemalan tamale was the real find: I had just one, stuffed with chicken. The corn dough part was fluffy, almost souffle-like, it was so creamy and smooth. It was filled with bits of spicy chicken and a little red pepper. I asked the server if you can buy them in large amounts to take home and I think she said you could. Which would make one heck of a good thing to serve at a party.

Sabor Latino will be at the Cincy-Cinco fest May 3 & 4, along with many other Latino restaurants and caterers. I went last year and made a feast of it. You'll be able to try many of the variations of masa and filling I mention above, along with Colombian empanadas, churros, raspados, etc.

Sabor Latino is where Sabor Peruana used to be: 11512 Springfield Pike, Springdale, 513-772-5503

power tables

Did you see this in the Wall Street Journal? Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse is the place to be in Louisville during Derby week. (Maybe not the most glittering list of celebrities but obviously people who can spend a lot of money.) I can't think of too many other situations where kicking a customer out of your restaurant turns out to be a brilliant marketing plan.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Margaritas plus chocolate

A new dessert/nightspot/bar is opening in Kenwood, probably making it the first dessert/nightspot/bar in the area. It's called The Chocolate Tequila, and it's going to be in Jalapeno's on Hosbrook Road. So it's not a brand-new place, but more of a concept within a restaurant.
Lori Levy is the woman behind it. Her idea combines Mexican food with chocolate desserts and drinks, plus live music and dancing. The signature drink will be a margarita in a chocolate and salt-rimmed glass. (I'll have to try that before I decide what I think.) There will be salsa music with Salsa Caliente once a month, and live music on Fridays and Saturdays. She's planning to do a teen night on Thursdays. "There are tons of restaurants in the area. You can go out to eat, maybe go to a movie, but then you go home," she said. "This is a way to make a whole evening out." On Second Salsa Saturdays, you can spend your whole Saturday night in one place with dinner from 8-9:30, salsa lessons from 9:30-1030, and dancing after that. She plans to open May 16.

Sometimes I wish I lived in San Francisco. Not always

From a press release:

Uva Enoteca Opens Tonight in San Francisco

The Executive Chef & Partner: Ben Hetzel

Ben’s to be Signature Dish: Himalayan Red Salt Crudo
Found deep within the Himalayan Mountains, this Red Sea Salt is considered to be one of the most ancient of all sea salts. At Uva Enoteca, the rectangular salt slabs are about 5" x 2.5" and are brought to the table along with thinly sliced crudo. The guest is instructed to place the scallop on top of the red salt. The salt slab salt-cures the fish while at the table, imparting a mineral-rich salty flavor. Sear as quickly as 5 seconds or leave on for 30 seconds for a ceivche-like finish.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Clover Coffee

I had a story in the paper yesterday about the Clover coffeemaker at Rohs St. Cafe. Best coffeemaker in the world, unless that's all hype, Starbucks bought it to squelch competition, or maybe to improve coffee all over the world. There's been a lot of discussion about it by anyone who cares about good coffee.

I thought the coffee was wonderful: not just rich and strong, but full of nuance and flavors if you pay attention as you smell and drink it. It's an absolutely natural addition to any wine-lover's interests. Fine coffee is a lot like fine wine: an agricultural product that is affected by land, climate, and farming techniques. One difference is that the making of wine is in a winemaker's hands before it goes into the bottle, where it is then relatively stable in quality; with coffee the brewing is far more variable. That's why the Clover's such a big deal.

At Rohs Street, it's all about getting people to appreciate good coffee so they have reason to pay fair trade prices for it so small farmers in developing countries can be in charge of their own destiny.

so: Has anyone else tried it? Any coffee snobs with thoughts? I highly urge a trip to Rohs St.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What's for dinner?

It's been a long week. Last night I had tortilla chips, salsa (I'm still working on my Nada leftovers - man that salsa is good!), and sleep for dinner. Oy... But today is a new day. I hear Kroger has a pretty good deal on crab legs - $9.99/lb. Sounds like a plan.

I bake mine with garlic and butter. More butter for dipping, corn on the cob, roasted red peppers (just because I have some that are beginning to wrinkle) and lots of lemon wedges. Mmm.... I'll put my "recipe" for the legs in the comments section.

What are you having?

*I tried to add the recipe in the comments, but it wouldn't work. It will probably show up, like, 20 times a little while from now. Anyway, here it is:

Baked Legs
2 lbs king crab legs, split
1/2 cup butter, salted
8 garlic cloves, minced
Juice of 1 medium lemon
Parsley, dried or fresh and chopped (or not - it's really just pretty as you won't be able to taste much of it with all that garlic!)
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil (tasty and this and the butter temper each other)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium to medium low heat. Stir in garlic and saute (do not allow it to brown or it will be bitter - start over if this happens). Stir in lemon juice and parsley (if you want it). Whisk in olive oil, reduce heat and cover.

Arrange the crab legs in a large baking dish. Use a pastry brush to put butter on the legs. Bake until the legs are hot all the way through, about 25-35 minutes, depending on how big they are.

When I make these for friends, I put the whole baking dish on the table and we eat family-style, dipping the tasty meat in the butter sauce in the bottom of the pan.

Messy hands and faces are the rule. And double dipping is tempting but verboten!


Would Mikey eat it?

We grow fruits, grains and vegetables. Can we "grow" meat, too? Research has already begun in producing in vitro meat, that is, meat grown in a lab and not harvested or hatched from an animal. Now Peta is offering $1 million to any scientist who can create lab-grown meat that is commercially viable and tastes like the real deal.

An impossible task? Maybe not. But will people eat it?

Here's how it works? Researchers take stem cells from animals and place them in some kind of growth medium - some kind of fluid that supplies nutrients blood would normally supply. Sheets of cells are then administered electric shocks or stretched mechanically. Wait. Harvest. Eat. Sounds straight out of a sci-fi movie, right?

Proponents of "cultured meat," as it's called, say it's not only safer for personal consumption, it's better for the environment, too. Meat grown in a petri dish would be safe from diseases like Avian Flu and Mad Cow Disease and free from growth hormones or antibiotics used in many factory farms. Researchers can also adjust the fat content of lab-grown meat and even substitute artery-clogging beef fat with heart-friendly salmon fat. Lab-grown meat would also reduce emissions and pollution associated from cattle productions. And vegetarians/vegans laud it because it eliminates animal suffering and death.

Research on cultured meat has taken on greater proportions in light of the current fuel crisis. Last year 16 percent of the grain grown in the United States went to produce ethanol, but 70 percent of U.S. grain production was fed to livestock.
Cultured meat would allow us to divert grain usage from cattle to alternative fuel development - without resulting in a rising of food prices or food insecurities around the world. This is especially significant considering that as use more and more of our own grain to produce ethanol, we then have to import more grain, grown in poorer nations, to feed our livestock. Eventually, poor nations will be unable to compete and will become less and less likely to be able to feed themselves - a phenomenon we're already seeing today in Mexico, Pakistan and West African countries.

Cultured meat is a novel idea, and one many find, well, yucky. But with global meat production expected to double between 2001 and 2050, the need for bio-fuels and world food security should ultimately triumph over our gag reflexes.

What do you think? Would you eat cultured meat? Should we eat meat grown in a lab?

The belly of the beast

I was just now looking at the new menu from Mesh (Nicci posted it a few posts below) and see that it includes the latest in culinary chic: pork belly. Nineteen hour braised pork belly with sweet potato and apple hash and natural pan reduction. You'll find pork belly on the menu at Slims, where I first had it, Chalk and Seny. It has been delicious wherever I've tried it, but particulary at Seny, where it's in a cherry sauce. it's an interesting trend, I think it's the emblem of new nutritional ideas about low-carb being as healthy as low-fat, that animal fat maybe isn't as bad as we thought, I don't k now. It's also a great thing for a restaurant menu because it must be very hard to mess it up: it's so fatty that it could not possibly dry out. And it tastes soo good, the texture is so luxurious, and it matches up nicely with slightly sweet flavors or earthy accompaniments.

Has anyone else come across a good belly that I've missed?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

das is goot

Have you tried Yagoot? (Sorry, I can't figure out how to do the umlauts) I tried it when they were first testing it at Buskens, but hadn't really gone in and bought it like a regular customer, so I did last night--ordered a small with raspberries and granola. It's as good as I've been remembering, and just as good as pinkberry, which is so big in L.A. It's light, very milky, with a pleasant tang. It melts easily into a consistency that indicates its made out of real ingredients, not a lot of emulsifiers and so on. It wasn't quite frozen enough, though, a little soft.

Buskens is opening a freestanding Yagoot store in Rookwood Commons, in the former Maggie Moo's store. (on the P.F. Chang's side) Brian Busken told me that the freezing equipment in the store will be better, so it will freeze a little more stiff. In addition to the original flavor, which isn't exactly vanilla, they'll have coffee flavor. That sounds good. They're also serving that old yogurt "salad" they used to have in the cafes, with lettuce, fresh fruit, granola, coconut.

They hope to open in a few weeks. In the meantime, you can try it at the Hyde Park Busken. It's low-fat and good for you, so don't succumb to a Maysville while you're there.

Monday, April 21, 2008

What's for dinner?

One of my colleagues had a business lunch today at Nada. I asked him to bring me back the barbacoa tacos with a side of the corn tamale. I had one taco and a few forkfuls of the tamale for lunch and I was stuffed. Now, I'm about to have the rest for dinner...

What are you having?



A reader called to tell me that The House of Tam in Finneytown has closed. With Chinese take-outs on every corner, that may not seem like a big deal. But House of Tam was a step above the standard strip-mall Chinese; an old-guard Chinese restaurant with a more formal feel, where you'd sit and spend a few hours in a nice dining room. It used to get star ratingss from Mobil. I talked to K.C. Yang, the owner for the last five years, and he said the price of food recently was a real factor in deciding to close it. A 100-pound bag of rice that always cost $23 is now $39, just for instance. (This may be a sign of things to come.)

I'll miss the old-fashioned Chinese places when they're all gone. I'm talking about the kind of place with a sense of ceremony, a personable, hostly owner, elaborate hanging lanterns and art, (and often Zombies and other nutty drinks borrowed from the Trader Vic's school of bartending.)
Szchewan Wok was of that type, and it's closed, too. There's still China Gourmet, of course, and Oriental Wok, as the very best of the type. Grand Oriental on Fields-Ertel is a huge, grand version of it. Does anyone else have their favorite that fits the description?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Relish opening next Saturday in Deerfield Township

So I made it last weekend to a preview night at Relish Modern Tapas in the new buildings (otherwise empty at the moment) behind Deerfield Towne Center. Polly blogged about it earlier this month, and the Relish Web site is now working (though the menu listings seem to be having technical difficulties...) The restaurant opens next Saturday, April 26.

The food's a lot of fun, and I can't really pigeonhole it. Thankfully they seem to be steering clear of calling it fusion, but it really is an intriguing combination of flavors. I enjoyed the "relish signature chorizo and medjool dates wrapped in smoked bacon and garnished with grilled red pepper sauce" ($9.50) - and I don't even like red peppers. Nor do I normally eat dates. Ditto the "balls of Italian sausage mix tossed with roasted red pepper tomato sauce and topped with baked croutons and fresh parmesan cheese" ($9.75).

The "stuffed breast of chicken with asparagus, mozzarella, fresh herbs and prosciutto served over the house beurre blanc" ($14.50) was light, delicate and easy to eat more of. And I haven't seen a dessert menu (they weren't serving any last weekend), but I'd be interested to see what's in store beyond the fresh fruit and local farmers goat cheese listed on the small plates dinner menu.

Some other interesting dinner menu listings:

wasabi rubbed petite filet mignon... $16.25
signature baby back ribs w/ bbq sauce, fried tortillas and micro greens, $12.50
wild mushrooms and bay scallops infused w/ fresh herbs and butter $14

Asian spicy shrimp fried w/ mae ploy $8.50
tuna tartar w/ crostinis $9.25
humus du jour $3.25
smoked salmon w/ capers, bermuda onions, butter lettuce, truffle oil $12.25

Relish is housed a cool space (check out the photos), which is pretty decent considering the strip mall location. It's behind the main part of the towne center, and just across the street from Regal Cinemas, which seems like a smart move. There are two distinct dining areas inside, as well as a chef's table (it's a booth that could seat up to five or six people) that looks directly into the kitchen (but is separated by a glass wall) and a cool bar area in the back, with three tall communal tables that run diagonally through the space. Yes, it's a fun spot for drinks too.

I'm excited that there will be another non-chain spot in the area. (My other nearby standbys include Sichuan Bistro and well, that's about it - otherwise you're up to Pitrelli's in Mason or The Works in Loveland).

What's for... dessert!

I'm not thinking too much about dinner. I'll probably just go back to Diner on Elm for another Mediterranean salad.

But later today, a friend of mine is going to stop over for wine and dessert. He and I both love chocolate, and I love
Nigella. So I'm going to try my hand at these Chocohotopots. (And I will try to remember to take pictures!) I think I will add a pinch of grey salt to the batter though... I asked my friend to bring a nice port to pair with it. Do you have any fun dinner or dessert plans for tonight?

UPDATE: They were FAB! And so easy it's silly... Here are a couple of pictures:

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Habanero now has moving date

Habanero has set their date for opening their second store at Newport on the Levee: April 24. That's a nice thing, adding a little more localness and variety to the Levee. I love the one in Clifton--they've been making interesting burritos for longer than a lot of their competition, and they still have their own distinctive feel. I adore their regular salsa, and their salads. It will be a nice place for a teenage date or a family after-movie dinner, among other occasions. it replaces Moe's Southwest Grill, which had pretty ho hum burritos in my opinion. It will be open 11 a.m.- 11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday.

Top Chef, anyone?

Any Top Chef fans, here? My husband and I are avid fans, despite the fact that 99 percent of the recipes featured are meat-based and that even if we weren't vegetarians, we are total and complete culinary dullards.

We started watching at the conclusion of season one and quickly caught up. We really got into seasons two and three, but we're having trouble rooting for anyone in particular in season four. Although they appear to be more skilled, the current competitors seem to be lacking the character and charisma of previous contestants. Sigh, it's just not the same without Mikey.

So, who are you rooting for? Have you ever tried a recipe featured on the show? Do you really care what Padma is wearing? Which judge are you?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

What's for dinner?

I'm making halibut. I think I'll season the filets, smear some fig preserves over them and then bake. Maybe finish it off with a couple of minutes under the broiler for a little added crispiness... I have some Granny Smith apples, red grapes and slivered almonds, so I think I'll make a take on a Waldorf salad for a side dish. I'll brighten it with a little extra lemon juice and a bit of zest. The crunch and the tartness should be a nice counter to the soft fish and the sweet preserves.

What's on your menu?



I had lunch at the Parkside Cafe in Walnut Hills today--it's a converted Frisch's, and an unusually nice place for what it is. Breakfast all day, booths, burgers, salad bar, etc. Not expensive at all. There aren't enough independent places like that.

Great service, perfect example of how that doesn't have to correspond with the price or fanciness of the place, (or the size of the tip, since that's our big topic lately.) No obsequiousness, no script like they follow at chains, no fake trained smile. My server (I hope I remember correctly that her name was Trina) pointed out they had breakfast all day in case I hadn't noticed, asked if I wanted fries for $1 extra, but also told me the sandwich (a Reuben) came with Saratoga fries (which were very good) She stopped by to tell me it would be out in a minute, and it was. She brought me my check early because I was in a bit of a hurry and said I should pay up front. All the information I needed, with a nice smile. Very pleasant. It's at 1026 East McMillan, near victory Parkway; 513-221-2026


The Spring menu at Mesh...


Chefs Paul and Pam Sturkey are cooking up some fresh new menu offerings at mesh Restaurant just in time for Spring. Their spring/summer menus will be available starting Monday, April 21, 2008 and feature some exciting new dinner dishes for guests to savor, including:

panko crusted oysters ‘rockefeller’
pernod creamed spinach + peppered smoked bacon

smoked chicken andouille flat bread
cheddar cheese + onions + sweet chili sauce

weathervane bay scallops
balsamic brown butter + toasted pecans + micro greens salad

vine ripened tomato salad
buffalo mozzarella + honey balsamic onions + micro basil
herb champagne vinaigrette

meat and potatoes!
pork tenderloin – sweet potato and apple hash + honey bacon reduction
veal tenderloin – parmesan shoestring potatoes + truffle butter
beef tenderloin – tasso ham + bleu cheese and onion mashed potatoes + black pepper demi glace

mesh surf and turf
pepper crusted petite filet + sesame crusted ahi tuna + napa cabbage
cognac cream + ginger veal demi glace

nineteen hour braised pork belly
sweet potato and apple hash + natural pan reduction sauce

summer peach bread pudding
blueberry caramel + brown sugar pecan ice cream

chocolate orange frozen soufflé
grand marnier sauce + orange almond salad


Well, that was fun. I learned a lot from people's posts about tipping. Obviously, we'll return to the subject.
In the meantime, a subject that people probably don't get quite as worked up about: corned beef, sauerkraut, rye bread, Russian dressing and cheese. I've been thinking about trying to find the best Reuben in the Greater Cincinnati area. Which I think will be hard, because they don't vary in real obvious ways. But I had a bad one the other day and I have faith that someone does them really especially well. I have a few ideas but would be interested in your nominations. Do you like them at Paula's downtown, Izzy's? Have you ever come across any interesting variations? Is it the only way you ever eat sauerkraut?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What's for dinner?

It's not even close to quittin' time and I'm thinking about dinner. Sigh...

Tonight I'm going to saute (would be better on the grill!) thin-sliced sirloin with balsamic vinegar and garlic. I'll serve that with polenta fries and a peppery, creamy salad of arugula, watercress, red onion, mozzarella and plum tomato dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. To save time, I'm going to cheat a bit tonight and use a tube 'o' polenta. I'll slice it up, brush the "fries" with olive oil, season and saute them until they're golden and crispy on the outside.

And in case you want to try my longer - and better, I think - version of the fries:

Polenta Fries
2 cups milk (I would say no less than 2% to get the best result - this is not a time for skim...)
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups polenta
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (plus more for finishing)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup grated Parmigiana Reggiano
1/4 cup melted clarified butter (or olive oil, if you prefer)

Bring the milk and water just to a boil in a large saucepan. Add polenta, stirring constantly. Stir in the salt and reduce the heat to medium or medium-high. Continue stirring until the polenta gets thick (in my experience, the amount of time it takes really depends on the polenta). Stir in the cheese. Remove polenta from heat and spread out 1/2-inch thick onto a baking sheet using a spatula. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour (or you can make it ahead and chill overnight). Cut into wide fry shapes. Brush a big of butter (or olive oil) over each. Bake at 450 degrees until crispy and golden, about 20-25 minutes. (Flip them halfway through baking for even color and crispiness.) Sprinkle with a bit more salt to taste before serving, but while they are still hot!

These are also great with (what else?) burgers. I like them in lieu of a bun...


What the heck: Tipping

I tip, of course I tip, it is willfully misunderstanding me to say I don't. I understand how it works. I would never take advantage of the system by not tipping because I know servers depend on it. I'm not cheap. (I'm not even spending my own money most of the time.) If I've ever under-tipped, it's probably because my arithmetic skills failed me. (Why would servers like a system that depended on the arithmetic skills of people like me who've just finished a couple of bottles of wine?)

I realize that changing the system would be like suddenly having everyone drive on the left side of the road. It won't change. (Service compris didn't last long at Pigall's) Therefore I will continue to tip--I'm not trying to start a movement or anything and I'm not going to call you names for having a different view. But my opinion has nothing to do with being cheap.

The tone of some people who have commented here proves its dangers: that we go out to eat and are waited on by people who judge us and think we owe them, and going by the kind of comments on server's websites, often despise us. I would rather be waited on by someone who is doing their job and being paid and evaluated by their employer, who should be motivated to make sure everyone in their establishment gets good service. Service in general would be better if it depended on a restaurants' attention to it than on the skills of individual servers.

I see the advantage of giving a direct motivation to servers. But I don't tip the nice lady at the Gap who helps me find my size. I don't tip the cheerful, accurate cashier at the grocery store. No one ever sends me a tip in the mail for a well-written story. (and when I cooked in a restaurant, I made far less than the servers made.) I think restaurant owners should pay servers a wage that makes sense, and then train them in service. It's a valuable job, and therefore servers should be paid the wage that it deserves. I don't see why servers like a system that puts them at the mercy of customers' whims.
Why should the people who can afford to tip lavishly be the ones being treated nicely? Why shouldn't the person I once was (and many of my readers are), someone who loved to eat out but could only afford it on special occasions, not be treated just as well as some fancy rich person who throws money around? Eponanymous's comment describing why tipping is good demonstrates to me the opposite: a system where you're sitting getting free drinks and i'm being given the once-over by the server who thinks my hesitancy or my clothes or my gender mark me as a potential bad tipper. It creates people who call me names and tell me they're going to spit in my food. Nice. The whole thing is like a caste system and seems very un-American to me.

Obviously, the price of dinner would go up. (My goodness, people must think I'm stupid!) But personally, I'd prefer prices to be upfront: the price of the evening's special, the price of the fancy cocktail, the price of the bottled water. You tell me what it costs, I'll pay it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


If something is a fad in the restaurant world, just wait and it will soon become tired and passe, passed up by new thinking. Sometimes it's nice to be the person who never cared about the fad, and without doing anything different, is now the person in tune with the zeitgeist. I'm thinking of water.

Cincinnati was never as heavily into this water thing as other cities, but there was getting to be the danger that you would sit down at a restaurant, be asked whether you wanted still or sparkling, be brought a bottle of still and pay $10 or more for it. I don't like unclear charges--that's why they put prices on menus (also why I'm not a tipping fan, but maybe we shouldn't go there on this blog) --and I just could never bring myself to think that there is anything wrong with water out of the tap. So I always said tap water was fine, making me feel cheap and unsophisticated. Then they began to offer ice water, which is a nicer way of saying it.

Now, bottled water is becoming acknowledged as largely ludicrous, un-environmental, responsible for unnecessary solid waste, often not spring water at all (Though I don't think that's really the case with water sold in restaurants.) I'm happy, my inclinations have been blessed with the latest thinking, and I no longer feel like a rube.

In France, I felt soo American. "Un carafe d'eau," we'd beg after traipsing around all day in the heat, and get a tiny little pitcher. (Hmmm. maybe it's une carafe, and that's why we never got any.) I liked drinking mineral water there, but wished always for someone to come by with a big pitcher of abundant iced water. I do, though, love the idea of being given a chance to donate some money to the people in the world who don't have water when I drink that abundant cold glass.

Winning chef

The American Culinary Federation Northeast Region had their convention in Cincinnati last weekend—I saw a lot of chefs late last week walking around in their tall toques. Along with workshops and seminars, there were cooking competitions, held at the kitchens of the Midwest Culinary Institute. The ACF Northeast Regional Pastry Chef of the Year award went to Kat Kessler, the pastry chef at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza. She made a chocolate souffle cake in the competition. Now that she's described it to me, I'm hoping it goes on the menu at Orchids so I can try it. Nothing but semisweet chocolate, eggs and butter, puffed like a souffle--but not fallen or molten like so many popular cakes at the moment. No flour, no sugar.
She’ll compete in the national contest in Las Vegas in July.
Jessica Pope, a student at MCI, won the Northeast Region Chair’s $1,000 Scholarship, given to exemplary culinary students.

Free lunch for the kiddies...



McCormick & Schmick's Supports
“Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work Day”
with Free Lunch for Children
Popular Cincinnati restaurant encourages parents to
share a “business lunch” with their child

Cincinnati, Ohio -- McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurants in Cincinnati will offer all school-aged children a free lunch meal on Thursday, April 24, 2008, in support of the national “Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work Day.”

“For more than 35 years, McCormick & Schmick's restaurants have hosted countless important business lunches. I can’t think of a better business lunch than one with your child,” said Doug Schmick, chairman and CEO of McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurants. “Family is a cornerstone value at McCormick & Schmick's and we’re proud to support the efforts of parents who take the time to share a work day with their children.”

In support of this national initiative, on April 24, McCormick & Schmick’s will serve a free entrée and beverage to any school-aged child that dines for lunch at the restaurant with a parent as part of “Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work Day.” Children can order from McCormick & Schmick's legendary daily printed menu.

“What better way to connect with a child than to spend a quality meal together,” said David Heismann, general manager of McCormick & Schmick’s. “This is a fun way to interact with our local communities and to invite parents and children to come to our restaurants to eat lunch together on a work day when they’d normally be eating apart.”

McCormick & Schmick's Cincinnati restaurant is located at 21 East Fifth Street (across from Fountain Square). To make reservations, please call 513-721-9339

What was for dinner?

I didn't get to post yesterday... But I baked salmon, and made a sweet and hot Cajun-lemon butter with a cayenne, lemon juice and a touch of brown sugar to go over it. I roasted red, orange and yellow bell peppers and onion with olive oil, grey salt and fresh ground pepper. And I served everything over couscous.

I'm probably going to play kickball after work tonight so I might have leftovers. Not sure...

What did you make last night? What's on the dinner agenda for today?


Monday, April 14, 2008

Hey, Napoleon, gimme some of your tots

As far as eating contests go, I think the one at Bar Louie on Thursday is pretty genius: How many tater tots can you eat in 6 minutes? Tots are so easy to pop into your mouth, I'd think in 6 minutes, you could get a pretty impressive count, and they don't take much chewing or anything. It seems less gross than, say, an oyster or hot dog eating contest.
It's a national contest: the winner here moves on.
Rock the Tot 2008”.
Thursday, April 16, 10 p.m.
Newport on the Levee. s

Deep-fried turkey without the oil

Has anyone tried The Big Easy Oilless Turkey Fryer? It's a new gadget that deep-fries turkey, but without oil. I know that sounds improbable. But it's some kind of infrared--vacuum--propane deal. I have never once wanted to deep-fry a turkey, because it just seems so unsafe. (Do mothers ever deep--fry turkeys?) But this looks pretty excellent. If anyone has one, please invite me over to try it.

Friday, April 11, 2008

What's for dinner?

I am so not in the mood to cook. So, I'm not.

I'm going to Diner on Elm (formerly Marrakech) to get a Mediterranean salad. Gyro meat, tomato, cucumber, olives, onion and feta over romaine. Plenty of tzatziki on the side... Yum! It's simple, flavorful and one of the best salads I've ever had...

What are you doing for dinner?




Midwest Culinary Institute Presents 1 Night 12 Kitchens

Cincinnati, OH – The Midwest Culinary Institute’s 4th annual scholarship fundraising event 1 Night 12 Kitchens will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. on Sunday, April 27 at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. The annual culinary event features generous tastings of signature appetizers, main courses and desserts prepared by Cincinnati’s top local chefs in Cincinnati State’s 12 state-of-the-art teaching kitchens.

This year’s event features the following local chefs:
· Sarah Wagner, Barresi’s Italian Restaurant
· Paendin Yongkanaysin, Beluga
· David Falk & Jono Fries, Boca Restaurant Group
· Shawn McCoy, Brown Dog Café
· Marilyn Harris, Cooking with Marilyn
· Yajan Upadhyaya, Cumin
· David Cook, Daveed’s at 934
· Renee Schuler, Eat Well
· Cole Arimes, Embers
· Sean Daly, Hugo
· Chris Burns & Jared Whalen, Jean-Robert French Restaurant Group
· Jimmy Gibson, Jeff Ruby Entertainment Group
· Brian Whisman, Kroger
· Paul Sturkey, Mesh
· Jon Corcoran & Chad Smith, Mitchell’s Fish Market
· Julie Francis, Nectar
· Cristian Pietoso, Nicola’s and Via Vite
· Todd Kelly, Orchids at Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza
· Kathleen Kessler, Orchids at Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza
· Marc Trottier, Ovations Food Service at the Duke Energy Center
· Thom Milliken, The Polo Grille
· Chris Prince, Primavista
· Anne Kearney, Rue Dumaine
· Travis Maier, Seny
· Matt Winterrowd, The Summit at Midwest Culinary Institute
· Mark Eggerding, U.S. Food Service

1 Night 12 Kitchens offers two levels of admission. For the $150 per person VIP admission, guests receive food and wine sampling, kitchen tours, exclusive tasting stations, a private reception with area chefs and a souvenir apron. For the $80 per person general admission, guests receive food and wine sampling and kitchen tours. To purchase tickets, please call 513-562-2777 or visit www.cincinnatimagazine.com.

About Cincinnati State
Cincinnati State Technical and Community College offers more than 75 associate degree programs and more than 40 certificate programs in business technologies, health and public safety, engineering technologies, humanity and sciences and information technologies. Some 14,000 students are enrolled annually at Cincinnati State in credit and non-credit classes. Cincinnati State has a 93% graduate placement rate within 3 months of graduating, and its students have a 91% pass rate on required licensing and registry exams.

Cincinnati State has the largest co-op program among two-year colleges in the United States, placing students in such major companies as Procter & Gamble, General Electric, Disney World, 5/3 Bank and the Health Alliance. For information on Cincinnati State visit

Gift certificates

Just are reminder:

A few times a year, Greater Cincinnati Independents offers gift certificates at a reduced rate. The next sale starts April 11, with 30 percent off certificates for 30 restaurants. The certificates are on sale for 30 days, but act fast because they sell out.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Another cool find...

I also found some great salt at TJ Maxx last weekend. I finally tried it last night. It's French Grey Sea Salt from Pepper Creek Farms, a "family-run company based in Oklahoma." In addition to being beautiful, this salt has an incredibly pure taste. And the texture adds another dimension to it and to the dishes. It would also be great as a finishing salt. The 10 ounce jar retails for $6. I got the max for the minimum: $3.99.

I'm not that into baking (baking is a science, cooking is an art - I'm more of the artsy type), but this salt has inpsired me to work on a recipe for a grown-up cupcake. I'm thinking some sort of chocolate-caramel-grey salt flavor explosion would be grand...

What's for dinner?

Hmm... I'm trying to think about what's in my refrigerator. Chicken breasts, a bottle of Pom, goat cheese, baby spinach...) so here it goes...

Goat cheese stuffed chicken breasts with a pomegranate reduction over a bed of spinach and slivers of fresh garlic that I'll saute in a little bit of olive oil. Never tried it, but the flavors/textures sound right. The only thing I might do different is scratch the garlic and just wilt the spinach with the heat of the chicken and a splash of vinegar, rather than sauteing it, to keep the flavors bright and light.

What are you having?


Have backpack, will travel (to Front Street Café)

As a communities reporter, I am considered, in newspaper jargon, a “mojo.” No, not that kind of mojo, but a mobile journalist. My office of choice is usually any local Panera or Mammoth Café in Newport. Last week however, I had the pleasure of working out of the newly opened and wifi-connected Front Street Café in beautiful New Richmond.

Of the nearly 20 communities I cover, New Richmond is one of my favorites not only for its historicity, but for the scores of passionate resident volunteers there who are devoted to revitalizing the village. Café owner Bob Lees grew up in New Richmond and later moved to Asia where he headed a large Asian-Pacific company. Lees never forgot his roots, however, and frequently returned to New Richmond where he began purchasing and renovating once-doomed properties. Lees is now back in town for good and has been busy working on economic plans to benefit the area.

Front Street Café is ideally situated along the village’s historic business district, offering breathtaking views of the river outside. An outdoor patio allows patrons to soak in the sun and enjoy the occasional river boat passing lazily by. One of the ladies in the photo above declared it to be "the jewel of New Richmond."

In addition to its extensive artisan coffee menu, the café also offers salads, daily soup specials, baked goods and a kid’s menu. Seven sandwiches and/or Paninis are offered on your choice of six different breads – all around $6 to $7 – or create your own sandwich. Limited breakfast options also available.

If you go: Café hours are 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with an open mic on Thursday evenings. Front Street Café is at 120 Front Street and can be reached at 513-553-4800.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

What's for dinner?

I'm making mushroom risotto (sounds way more difficult than it is) and broccoli sauteed in olive oil with sliced garlic. Parmeggiano-Reggiano and a squeeze of lemon over everything just before I dig in...

What about you?


Locally grown potluck dinner

Thousands of Americans have embarked on campaigns to think globally by eating locally. The Cincinnati Nature Center will celebrate food fresh from till to table with a potluck dinner at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 16 at its Rowe Visitor Center at Rowe Woods.

If you go, bring a dish made from local ingredients, along with copies of your recipe to share. You should also provide your own plates and utensils. A discussion on sustainable agriculture and related issues will be held after dinner.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call the nature center at 513-831-1711 or go to www.cincynature.org.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Wine Festival winners

A visit to the Cincinnati Museum Center's "Bodies" exhibit and celebration of Union Terminal's 75th anniversary kept me from attending the Cincinnati International Wine Festival late last month. But wine lovers might want to check out the list of 2008 medal winners. I'm printing it out and stashing it in my purse for my next trip to Liquor Direct . The Gold Medal winners are:

Domaine Chandon 2006 Pinot Meunier, Carneros
Folie a Deux 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Louis M. Martini 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County
Napa Ridge Winery 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Napa Ridge Winery 2003 Syrah, Napa Valley
Pine Ridge Winery 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
Robert Mondavi 2005 Private Selection Vinetta, Central Coast
Solaire 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles
Toasted Head Winery 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, California
Toasted Head Winery 2005 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast
Veleta 2007 Tempranillo Rosé, VT Contraviesa Alpujarra Granada, Spain

Glad to see that Louis Martini in there. I've tried that by the glass at Carlo and Johnny and always been a fan. Lots of other fun ones to try too.

I'm less enthused that the Joseph Carr 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, only got a bronze medal this time around (the Carr 2004 was gold last year, and one I bought by the case...except that vintage is sold out).

I don't know much about wine, but I know what I like... and then bummer, it changes from year to year. But I guess that's part of the adventure.

Starbucks' new brew

I was craving Starbucks this morning after a staff meeting where it seemed like everyone had a cup except for me, so I stopped by and ended up getting a free cup of their new "everyday" brew, Pike Place Roast. According to this story, Pike Place Roast -- named after Starbucks' first store in Seattle’s famous public market -- is supposed to have a bold, robust flavor profile but a smoother, more buttery finish. As the baristas dutifully explained to me, it's ground at the stores (they'd been serving pre-ground coffee for years), and they throw out any batch that hasn't been served within 30 minutes. I don't get Starbucks very often these days because I'm making more of my own at home, but I did like Pike Place Roast better than the mild blends I typically get, I think because it had less of an aftertaste. Have you tried it yet? What did you think?

AP photo by Ted S. Warren

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What's for Dinner?

Well, I thought I knew what I was having for dinner. That was until I walked into our kitchen 20 minutes ago where one of my colleaugues was heating up her lunch. It smelled so good! She told me she got the recipe from a CinWeekly feature, CinCook. It's a fast(er) version of Chicken Tikka Masala. So that's what I'm having for dinner (and lunch tomorrow). Yum...

What are you going to cook/grab/reheat/nuke tonight?


Cool food finds...

You probably know this, but TJ Maxx (no, I'm not on the payroll - although it would be awesome to have an employee discount... hmm...) is an awesome place to find food, spices and cookware. You can even find baking mixes and other treats. It's like shopping in a really good clearance section of Williams-Sonoma. I've found great vanilla, spices and other yummy treats there, all for much less than I would have to pay elsewhere.

Saturday I walked over to the TJ Maxx at Tower Place to rummage through their pantry, as it were. I found a bottle of O Ginger Rice Vinegar. It retails for $12, but I got it on clearance for $5. I splashed it over my salad last night along with a fruity extra virgin olive oil and it was fabulous. Would have been even tastier with an infused oil. They also had some other O products.

I also found a big, pretty glass container of grey sea salt for $3.99. I'm planning to cook with that tonight, so I'll write about that after I try it.

Where do you go for fabulous food finds?

Yay downtown!

Who else loves downtown and is looking forward to this?



DATE: Every Tuesday from June 3 through August 26
LOCATION: Fountain Square
TIME: 11am – 2pm
Sponsored exclusively by Strauss & Troy, LLC

Sponsored by Strauss & Troy, LLC, Market on the Square promises to be one of this summer’s most unique and exciting events. Every Tuesday from 11am to 2pm, stroll through the Square, visit more than a dozen vendors, and take home some fresh goodies or perhaps a unique handmade gift item. Enjoy a light lunch, or network with other busy downtown professionals.

This free event is open to the public beginning June 3 through August 26, with a Grand Opening celebration scheduled on the first day of operation. Vendors are expected to be announced in mid-April.

For more information on this event, please contact Kelly Leon at kleon@3CDC.org.

new job for Mrs. De Cavel

Annette Pfund-de Cavel has become a Catering Account Executive at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza “I’m basically going back to where I started,” she said. “Back to the hotel business—that’s what I’ve been trained in.” She’ll be planning and executing a variety of catered events at the hotel. She worked previously at the Netherland Plaza when it was the Omni, before she began working with her husband Jean-Robert de Cavel as manager of Jean-Robert at Pigall’s. And no, it has nothing to do with her marriage, she says, or with whether the Jean-Robert restaurants are doing well.

What did you have for dinner?

I didn't get to post about my dinner yesterday, but I, of course, made time to eat it.

I made my
Not-Your-Mama's Meatloaf; roasted fingerling potatoes seasoned with salt, pepper, parsley and splashes of olive oil and lemon juice; and a green salad with a great ginger rice wine vinegar that I found over the weekend (more about that and another find later).

What did you have last night?


Monday, April 07, 2008

Road Food

I just got the new Roadfood book; Jane and Michael Stern's guide to the kind of restaurants that are now called "Roadfood" places. It's a list of places that actually serve good American food, particularly regional specialties, mixed in with more kitschy entries. In other words, a lot of places that seem they ought to serve great regional food, don't, but still have som ekind of throwback to another way of doing things, great mottos or signs, fun gimmicks or servers. My last trip (Tennessee and Virginia) following Roadfood was disappointing but I have had some wonderful experiences other times.

You can judge by what they choose in Cincinnati. I don't have the old one here, so I can't tell completely for sure which are new, and which have been dropped. But Putz's is still in, and Camp Washington Chili and Blue Ash Chili. They've also added Hathaway's, though I think they visited before the new owner/decor. As the long as the waitresses stay, I think it qualifies. I think this is new: my favorite ever rootbeer stand The White Turkey in Conneaut.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Cinner's in Chicago

Check this out: A Cincinnati native named Tony Plum has opened up a Queen City-themed eatery in Chi-town called Cinner's Chili Parlor and Cocktail Lounge. It actually opens today, so if you're headed up to Chicago anytime soon, check it out and let us know how it was. Naturally, they serve Cincinnati-style chili and coneys, plus veggie entrees with names like Mt. Healthy and Greenhills Salad. The drinks have Cincinnati names too (Fountain Square, Red Leggs, etc.). Be sure to click on the "Am I a Cinner" link (although you might have already seen that list going around as an e-mail forward or MySpace bulletin). According to Time Out Chicago, the city is "freaking out" about this place. Thanks to former Enquirer reporter and native Chicagoan Cynthia Hanifin for the tip!
Update: I talked to Tony yesterday and he e-mailed me these photos of his place. Look for a story in Wednesday's paper and online.


Biting the Dust

They're saying we "might" be in a recession. Do restaurant closings count as an indicator?
Amor de Brazil, Stables, Romano's Macaroni Grill Kenwood, Salsarita's, Pike St. Press (now doing catering), Wild Bill's, Apna India, Royal India, probably Iron Horse Inn, Mike and Jimmy's Chophouse. Don Pablo's, I know there are more I can't bring to mind at the moment.

It's hard to know: restaurants come and go allt he time--some of those were replaced with something new. But I just have a feeling it's hard times ahead.

Panera: I don't get it!

Why do people seem to love Panera? The bagels are tough and resemble hockey pucks by day's end, the soup is overly salty and any sandwich I've ever had was dripping with mayo or oil. Not good eats.
This morning I was on my way back from an assignment in Montgomery, so I stopped at the one in Kenwood. Bad idea. Multigrain bagel wasn't bad, but the low-fat veggie cream cheese was awful!
Have you ever tried it? Even the Philadelphia version has bits of "real" veggies (minuscule but nonetheless present). This stuff was chock full of dried vegetables that were really chewy, and the only flavor/smell I could discern was pea. I thankfully only put it on one bite to try it so my bagel was not ruined.
Oh, and while I'm complaining, the soy cappuccino I'm drinking is cloyingly sweet.
Are you a Panera fan?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Benefit wine tasting gala

Voltage, Inc. will host a wine tasting event at 6 p.m. Friday, April 11 to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation at its Oakley furniture store at 3209 Madison Ave.

Sample and learn the basics of fine wine while enjoying boutique wines from Tramonte & Sons, dinner-by-the-bite from some of Cincinnati’s finest restaurants and musical entertainment provided by The Paul Otten Band and Ten Foot Big as well the latest European furniture, lighting and accessories.

Ticket cost is $50. Tickets to the VIP reception, which includes hors d’oeuvres provided by Hugo Restaurant and a specialized tasting with Australian importer Damian Serong, are $125 per person or $200 a couple.

Tickets can be purchased at the door, online at www.cincinnati.cff.org or by calling the foundation office at 513-533-9300.

What's for dinner?

I'm exhausted. So a sandwich it is.

I'm going to stop by the grocery store and grab a rotisserie chicken and some Brownberry. When I get home, I'll cut off a hunk of the breast, chunk it, mix it with a little mayo, curry powder, key lime juice (just because it's what's there) and mango chutney. Then I'll add some sliced red grapes, celery and slivered almonds. Mound that on the bread, add some romaine, and call it a day...

What are you cooking up?


Video review: Bouquet

Got a minute? Watch this video I shot of Bouquet, a new-ish restaurant in Covington's MainStrasse Village. I haven't had a chance to eat there yet, but if you have, leave your thoughts in the comments and/or here.

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Farewell, Foodie Report

Farewell, Foodie Report readers. It's been fun. We've laughed, we've shared, we've bickered.
I'm leaving the Enquirer on Friday for a fitness and health editor/writer position at sparkpeople.com. I wouldn't want you to worry that anonymous had scared me off or something like that.
I'll still be in Cincinnati, and I'll still be eating, cooking and likely blogging. And of course, I'll still be reading the Foodie Report.
Thanks for reading, and it's been a pleasure getting to know you all!

Nu restaurant in Kentucky

I just talked to Mark Bodenstein, a chef who opened a restaurant in Florence on Tuesday. He calls it NuVo. He says he's cooking Modern American Cuisine, and is trying to keep the focus on local ingredients, or at least American ingredients. He's got some local rabbit right now, Kentucky tomme cheese, leg of lamb, but also calamari , American Kobe or Wagyu, foie gras, risotto with Oregon truffles. "I call it dining finely, not fine dining," he said, to make the point it's good food but not hugely expensive. Entrees are $14-$27, and the $27 is the Kobe steak.
I hadn't heard any rumors about this place: Bodenstein said he wanted it to seem like it came out of nowhere. He wasn't too forthcoming about where he came from--out of nowhere also, I guess.
It sounds like something rather differentfor Northern Kentucky and worth checking out. It's 111 seats, in a former Pizza Hut at 7915 Dream Street in Florence, which is off KY 18. OPen 4-10 p.m. Sunday and Tuesday-Thursday; 4-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Phone: 859-283-2100


OK, it's cranky curmudgeon week for Polly. I have complained about too much salt, about the cult of the tyrannical mean chef and oh, wasn't I griping about something else, too? But when it comes to peeves I keep around as pets, mine is tipping.

I would have thought that American society would have evolved past tipping by now, but instead it's spreading. You know those annoying tip jars on counters? Well, last weekend I took SkyBus to Boston (I mean, to an airport in the same general part of the country as Boston. A shuttle, a bus, a ride on the T and a taxi ride got us to where we were going eventually) The t-shirted flight attendant, after selling the in-flight food announced that "tips were happily accepted, though never expected."

I did not tip on my $2 bottle of water. Though my reasonable voice told me that I had only paid $35 for the flight, surely I ought to.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

What's for dinner?

It's 4:30 and my brain has officially switched into "what should I eat tonight?" mode. So here's my menu:

Roasted Asparagus and Portabella Mushrooms
Fried Egg with Parmesan Cheese

A hot oven, olive oil, good salt and fresh pepper are all you need for the veggies. And the egg takes next to no time... Just put it in a hot skillet (I prefer cast iron) and cook it to order, sprinkling the parmesan over in the last minute or so of cooking. You won't need any additional salt... I like mine over-hard, with slightly crispy edges. Very spring-y, super fast and tasty...

What are you having?


gift certificate sale

A few times a year, Greater Cincinnati Independents offers gift certificates at a reduced rate. The next sale starts April 11, with 30 percent off certificates for 30 restaurants. The certificates are on sale for 30 days, but act fast because they sell out.

Wonton imagination...

I think the best kind of party is one that's relatively impromptu. Friends show up, you rummage through the pantry and the refrigerator and create a veritable smorgasbord of otherwise mismatched offerings. The wine is flowing and all is well in your little corner of the world. But I also enjoy planning a party and that's just what I'm going to do.

I want to make it a game party of sorts. I'll put Monopoly, Scattergories, Taboo and the Wii out (I dare anyone to challenge me to a round of anything...). A little music for background noise... But the most important and memorable thing is the menu. To encourage frivolity and mingling, I'll stick with finger foods. I think small bites should be beautiful and have big flavors, leaving a lasting impression. "Remember the ______ we had at Nicci's? Man, was that delicious. Good times. Goooood times....," they'll say (I hope).

Planning a menu is also a good opportunity to create recipes. I'm going to make it an Iron Chef-esque challenge for myself... The main ingredient? Wonton wrappers. I already know what we're having for dessert:
Chocolate-Hazelnut Ravioli. I saw Giada make them a while back and I've been looking for an excuse to fry up such decadence. And I think a tart lemon-berry reduction as a dipping sauce would be a nice touch.

So I'll need to have a bunch of savory wonton-wrapped bites as well. Steamed, baked or boiled... I've been thinking miniature meat (and a few vegetable) lasagnas would be fun. Or shrimp and cabbage with a spicy sesame sauce. I've filled wonton wrappers with butternut squash, cardamom and cinnamon and they were fabulous (the sage-butter sauce I put over them didn't hurt). There are a million variations.

Any filling ideas?

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Bleepin reality

I rarely watch reality TV--it's against my religion (The Church of the Unreal) but one can hardly avoid it, and I've seen my share of cooking shows, and people in bikinis scheming to annihilate each other. I watched the first episode of this seaon's Hell's Kitchen last night by accident. Jeez. I think food cooked under those conditions is essentially toxic, no matter how well it turns out. I know that restaurant kitchens aren't like Grandma's, (and this is an exaggerated version of any restaurant kitchen) but it's such a disconnect from what cooking at its most fundamental ought to be: one person nurturing another with food.

That's hard to reconcile with my job, I know. I've eaten lots of food cooked like that that tasted delicious, and I certainly don't try to guess how much bleeping, name-calling, and fake retching were involved in its production when I review it. But I don't see how the cult of the a-hole chef makes people excited about going out to eat, or helps people understand what the art of cooking is about or if there's any good reason for this guy to get early Alzheimer's from busting all those capillaries in his brain.

Here's an interesting contrast to that spectacle, focusing on one man's morality and integrity in an unlikely context: the demise of a chain restaurant. My book club recently read "Last Night at the Lobster" by Stewart O'Nan. It's about the manager of a Red Lobster in an anonymous Northeastern mall that's being closed. (It's OK, he's going to be assistant manager at an Olive Garden.) It's short and almost plotless, but I found it very moving. Let me know what you think if you read it, especially if you've ever worked in the same setting.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Little dishes in Deerfield

A new locally-owned restaurant serving drinks and small plates is set to open in Deerfield Towne Center April 19. Relish Modern Tapas will serve an eclectic menu of small dishes with intense flavors, said Chef James Kankowski. “We’re offering indulgence but not over-indulgence,” he said, a philosophy reflected in their mini-martini menu and the price range, which is from $350-$23. Kankowski, a graduate of Culinary Institute of America, has had a long career in country clubs, but was most recently a private caterer. He is partnering with two local businessmen and former catering clients, JoJo Prisno and Francis Victa. They hope this is the first of several Relish restaurants. The restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner daily. Kankowski said the small-plate concept is appealing because it allows customers to create their own dining experience and budget. “You’ll be able to stop in for a glass of wine with hummus and crostini before a movie and not spend much, or have a whole dinner,” he said. He said the dishes will always have a dramatic presentation, though are essentially simple. Asian ribs in a ginger marinade and chorizo and dates wrapped in bacon will be among the dishes, served in a contemporary dining room that will seat 150, with 50 seats on a patio. Hours 11 a.m.-midnight daily. 5974 Deerfield Blvd., www.relishmoderntapas.com

Conversation and dinner

I just received word of this through my local vegetarian email group:

Imago's First Friday Conversation

Friday, April 4, 2008

Great Good Places: What does a Community Gathering Place Look Like?
What do you look for in a community gathering place? Ray Oldenburg calls them "Great Good Places," and he identifies several aspects of these "third places" that are neither home nor work. In Great Good Places conversation is the primary activity. The "regulars" are folks you can count on seeing, and there is always room to be yourself on neutral ground in spots within the community.

Join your Imago friends to talk about what you think makes a great good place, and where you find such spots. Is our monthly Conversation such a place for you?

Place: The Imago Earth Center, 700 Enright Ave., Cincinnati, OH, Price Hill

Time: 6:00 PM: Vegetarian catered dinner. (We suggest a donation of $10 for the dinner, but if that stretches your budget, pay what you can) If you'd like to have wine or beer with your dinner in our own "great good place," you are welcome to bring it with you.

6:45-8:30 PM: Discussion. RSVP is suggested but not required via email or to 921-5124.

(This topic is carried over from March which was cancelled due to snow.)

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