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, May 28, 2008

Still here. . . .

This blog is in transition, as you may have gathered. If you're still interested in reading and commenting about eating out in Cincinnati, I will be continuing that blogging conversation. The new site hasn't been fully launched--we haven't smashed a champagne bottle on its hull yet--but you can take a look, and if you sign up, you can comment. Please comment. I 'm kind of hooked on the feedback. Here's the link: http://beta.cincinnati.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?Category=blog14

Monday, May 19, 2008

Yagoot pictures

I went back to Yagoot a few days ago and took a couple of pictures this time. I considered getting something different, but I ended up getting original flavor with strawberries and cocoa pebbles again. Why mess with a good thing?


Tango the night away...

This little happening at Twist sounds like a fun way to spend the evening...

Food blogging 2.0

Hey, all,

Don't you love the dining/restaurant news Polly dishes up? And wouldn't it be great to get cooking tips from a seasoned expert on food?

That's exactly what you're going to get when The Foodie Report branches off into two brand new blogs. Polly will continue to give you tons of restaurant news on her new blog. And the Community Press columnist
Rita Heikenfeld will blog about dining in.

Soon, any bookmarks and links to this blog will take you to the new one. And all of our loyal foodie fans will get an early look at our new Web site. If you want to post comments on the new blogs, you will have to register.

Details (and, of course, links) to come...


Dippin' Dots -- fer free

You know, I think Dippin' Dots probably qualifies as molecular gastronomy for the masses. It's ice cream, but in a different form, created with scientifically advanced methods, so it works differently in your mouth. And it's 20 years old. To celebrate, you can get it free tomorrow from 4-9 p.m. at two Kentucky locations: Florence Mall in the center food court (859-283-1798) and at Buttermilk Pike and Anderson Road in Crescent Springs. (859-360-0876) They have a new flavor: birthday cake, a combination of cake batter and frosting ice cream dots.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Vegan potluck this Sunday

From my friends at EarthSave Cincinnati:

Compassionate Communication: Speaking Peace with Jeff Brown, Certified Trainer with the Center for Nonviolent Communication

When: 4:30pm Sunday, May 18

Where: Clifton United Methodist Church, 3416 Clifton Ave., 45220

What: Please bring a vegan dish to share (vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, seeds, nuts) and your own plates, cups, utensils No animal products: No dairy, eggs, casein, honey, etc.

Contact: For more information or food tips call: 513-929-2500 Email: earthsave@fuse.net; http://cincinnati.earthsave.org

About: EarthSave educates people about the powerful effects our food choices have on the environment, our health and all life on earth, and encourages a shift toward a healthy plant-based diet.

Moving on...

A quick note to let Foodies know I will be moving to Georgia soon, so today is my last day at the Enquirer and hence at the Foodie Report.

Wishing you all wonderful gastronomic experiences. I need to start compiling my list of spots to eat at before I head to points south.'

A few quick notes on spots I've been to lately -

Relish in Deerfield Towne Center. Great fun, great atmosphere, funky music. Will definitely go back. But it's pricey. Between two of us, we had the recommended one small plate, one large plate per person, and one drink each. Nothing crazy expensive (ie, no filet mignon or lobster tail) - just yummy shrimp, scallops, a Manhattan, a lovely mojito martini.... And our total, for TWO people, was $86, which seems pretty hefty for a meal with no leftovers. One observation: they're located across from Regal Cinemas Deerfield, which is great... but are teenage movie-goers going to plunk down this kind of cash? Great concept, but prices need to come down. My suggestion: try it for lunch and (hopefully) save some $$. Or just get drinks. They are very hip for that, with a great little patio.

Sichuan Bistro on Mason Montgomery Road. Again, this continues to rock for Chinese food. We try all kinds of new dishes here, since about 9 out of 10 of them are simply stunning. Last night: stir fried potato strips (spicy), stir fried pea shoots (seasonal, not on the menu, lovely green leafy veg), chicken w/ "yacai" (some crazy preserved Sichuan veggie that also gets served w/ their stir fried string beans, which are divine) and peanuts (multiple levels of flavor, AND spicy), house lo mein (soft noodles), dumplings, pork w/ chive flowers (leeks) - just yum. And this is hugely affordable. Last week two of us had 4 dishes for $46 - and made two entire meals out of it. Can't really complain about that.

Happy eating!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Kick off weekends with Whole Foods's Friday night samplers

Disclaimer: I swear, I am not now nor will I ever be a Whole Foods Market shill nor is the chain paying me in vegan General Tso's chicken. The fact that my most recent posts are all loving paeans to the blessedly vegetarian-friendly chain is mere coincidence.

I discovered Whole Foods Market's vegan General Tso's chicken while grocery shopping on a Friday night (yes, I am that old and boring). That evening, the store also celebrated its Derby Day-themed Friday Five after Five sampler. In between grocery shopping, I talked to some patrons and Rachel DesRochers, the Norwood store's marketing specialist, about the ongoing event. My story, available online now, should appear soon in the Hometown Enquirer edition.

The events are held each Friday from 5 - 7 p.m. at both the Norwood and Deerfield Township locations and offer five different food and wine pairings for just $5. So, technically, it's Five After Five for Five, but I understand this is somewhat of a linguistic tongue-twister. Each Friday features a different theme around which food and wine are paired. Upcoming themes include:

May 16 - Local
May 23 - Grilling - great beer & wine
May 30 - Chilean
June 6 - Pool party

The samplers have become wildly
popular with both foodies and fledgling and seasoned wine enthusiasts, said DesRochers. I'd say. On the night I went, I could barely nudge my way through the crowded aisles in which tables were situated and my "Excuse me's" were all drowned out by the din of the crowd.

Recipes are offered for some of the food samplings. Below is one offered for the Kentucky horserace pie that shall not be named because it's copyrighted. The whole idea of double-broiling anything is too much for my culinary simpleton brain, so if you try the recipe, let us know how it turns out.

4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons melted butter
3 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup corn syrup, dark or light
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 cup pecan halves
1 unbaked pie shell

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

In double broiler, melt chocolates and butter. Let cool slightly.
Beat eggs in medium bowl. Add sugar, corn syrup, chocolate mix and vanilla; stir until well-blended and then stir in pecans.
Pour filling into pie shell and bake 50 minutes.
Cool before cutting.

(In photo, Rachel DesRochers and team member Lindsey Taylor)

Foie gras back on the menu

Chicago City Council has repealed its foie gras ban. Is that good news or bad news? Bad news for geese, good news for gourmets, I guess. I think if Chicago changed their mind, there's little chance that it will ever be banned in Cincinnati. Though the price of it may be a de facto ban.

Chains at Taste

For the record:
During all that discussion about Best of Taste, I never stopped to actually count up how many chains are in Taste of Cincinnati. I have the list in front of me. The only national chains are: Buca di Beppo, Buffalo Wings and Rings, Buffalo Southwest Express, Melting Pot and Carrabba's. That's 5 out of 41. There are also some Ohio chains: Max and Erma's, City Barbecue and The Rusty Bucket, and some Cincinnati-only or Cincinnati-based chains: Graeter's, Izzy's, LaRosa's, Montgomery Inn and Mythos.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Mirage Mediterranean video

Here's my latest video: Mirage Mediterranean Restaurant in Harper's Station in Symmes Township. Go here to read Polly's original review and add your own.

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This Just In

The Copper River salmon season opens tomorrow morning at 7 a.m. in Alaska. I haven't heard from any local restaurants or retailers when they expect to get a shipment, but be on the lookout. This dark-red, high-Omega-3 fish is really something special--you pay extra for it, but you get something great in return. I'll let you know about special as I find out about them.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Price of Food

I'm doing a story about how the rising price of food is affecting people's grocery shopping and dining out habits. If any of you have recently made changes--like bringing your lunch more often, not going out to eat, eating at less expensive restaurants, or working hard to spend less money at the grocery store, I'd be interested to hear from you. pcampbell@enquirer.com.

Yay, Yagoot

I finally made it to the new Yagoot store in Rookwood Commons last night and I agree with Polly: It's amazing. I got the original flavor with strawberries and cocoa pebbles and it was like breakfast, only better. Seriously, if they served Yagoot in the deli in the lobby of the Enquirer building, I'd probably get that exact combination every morning. (They have fruity pebbles, too.) It tasted totally unlike any frozen yogurt I've ever had -- it's the whole tangy/tart thing -- but it's so, so good. There was a wait at 8:30 last night, so I predict long lines once it really starts warming up. Also, the place is just so cool looking, with lots of bright yellows, greens and oranges and modern furniture. I only wished they had outdoor seating (maybe they'll add it at some point?).

A commenter on Polly's last Yagoot post asked about the ingredients, so here's what's in the original flavor, according to one of the cards they have by the cash register: Skim milk, sugar, corn syrup, water, cream, whey, stabilizer (mono and diglycerides, guar gum, cellulose gum, carrageenan) and active yogurt culture. The coffee flavor also has natural and artificial flavors, caramel color, water and propylene glycol. Both flavors contain live active yogurt cultures. And it only has 120 calories and 1 gram of fat per 1/2-cup serving, but even the small appears to be at least a 1-cup serving (plus you have to factor in whatever toppings you get). But who cares when it's this good?

And on a related note, here's a hilarious critique of the marketing of yogurt to women. So far Yagoot's marketing seems refreshingly non-gender-specific.

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Eat Here, Get Gas

Starting Friday, if you order $25 of food to go at Izzy's, and they'll give you a $5 gas card. They'll also give you another gas-producing item: A pint of sauerkraut.

all 7 Izzy's locations "While gas cards are still available." Not sure how long that is.

Best of Cincinnati

OK, let's do this: In your pure fantasy "Taste of Cincinnati," where you're the only judge, who would be there and who would win the awards?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Best of Taste

The Best of Taste event has its winners.

2008 “Best of Taste” Awards

Best of Taste: Burbank’s Real Barbeque - Southern Smoked Chicken Tenders
Award of Excellence: Buffalo Southwest Express – Wings & Egg Rolls
Award of Merit: Bangkok Bistro – Crab Rangoon

Soup & Salad
Best of Taste: Indigo Casual Gourmet Café – Black & Blue Tuna Salad
Award of Excellence: Carrabba’s Italian Grill – Mama Mandola Sicilian Chicken Soup
Award of Merit: Market Street Grille – Potato Soup

Best of Taste: Carrabba’s Italian Grill– Chicken Bryan
Award of Excellence: Taz Restaurant – Chicken Kabob Sandwich
Award of Merit: Pit to Plate BBQ – Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork

Seafood Entrée
Best of Taste: Shanghai Mama’s – Seafood Shanghai Noodles
Award of Excellence: Carrabba’s Italian Grill – Grilled Salmon
Award of Merit: La Petite France – Crabmeat Crepe

Vegetarian Entrée
Best of Taste: Arloi Dee – Vegetable Pad Thai
Award of Excellence: Balboa’s Philly Steaks & Pizza – Slice of Cheese Pizza
Award of Merit: Bella Luna – Grande Ravioli

Best of Taste: Buca di Beppo – Tiramisu
Award of Excellence: Bella Luna – Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding
Award of Merit: La Petite France – Chocolate Berries & Fruit Crepe

Best Damn Dish: Chicken Bryan

Best of Taste event

"Best of Taste" is today, and open to the public. This is the pre-Taste of Cincinnati event where the "best of taste" awards are given. 23 restaurants are participating and going for awards in six categories: appetizer, soup/salad, entree, seafood entree, vegetarian entree and dessert. One of those winners is designated "Best Damn Dish."
After the judging, the event is open to the public from 5-8 p.m. It's $25 per person and you can sample as much as you want. It's $10 for veterans; all proceeds go to the Cincinnati location of the Fisher House, a foundation that provides free lodging to the families of hospitalized military personnel.

It's being held in the Duke Energy Center's third-floor atrium.

The restaurants who'll be there are: Arloi Dee, Balboa’s Philly Steaks & Pizza, Bangkok Bistro, Bella Luna, Buca di Beppo, Buffalo Southwest Express, Burbank’s Real Barbecue, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, City Barbecue, Courtyard Café on Main, Indigo Casual Gourmet Café, La Petite France, LaRosa’s, Laszlo’s Iron Skillet, Mama Vita’s, Market Street Grille, Montgomery Inn, Pit to Plate BBQ, Pompilio’s, Shanghai Mama’s, Taz Restaurant, Washington Platform, and Wertheim’s Restaurant.

Taste of Cincinnati itself (which includes more than these restaurants) is Memorial Day weekend May 24-26. It's noon-midnight on Saturday and Sunday, noon-9 p.m. Monday. Admission is free, and you'll find it along 5th Street, downtown.

Friday, May 09, 2008

TJ faves

CinTwin wants to talk about her favorite products at Trader Joe's. Good idea. When the one here was about to open, I asked my sisters who live in the Bay Area what they like there, and they fell all over themselves telling me what to buy. You get very attached to your favorite things

My#1 TJ Product: Dark chocolate-covered pretzels. Great for road trips

Their organic yogurt is the same price as conventional elsewhere. The Greek is more expensive, but I buy it because it's so good: either their brand or the Fage.

the frozen asparagus, artichoke hearts, green beans and soycutash

The tapenades in jars: great to have around.

frozen chicken pot stickers



I reviewed Boca today. Perhaps you can tell, I love the place. Not everyone does--I get emails and calls from people who think it's a lot of hype, too expensive, and the portions are too small. As I said in the review, I think the portions could be a little larger, myself--especially the pasta. But one thing to note is that the dishes are sized to be part of a three-course (plus dessert) meal. In which case, the size makes sense. If you do that, the price does go up. But if you just look at entree prices, it's not outrageously different than other restaurants of its class in the city.
Lamb's $29, filet's $39. It's not a huge porterhouse, but the price here is for flavor and refinement, not size.

One thing about the size of the dishes: it makes it hard to share. You give your friend a ravioli (raviolo?) and you only have two left! So I suggest a moratorium on the practice if you eat at Boca--I think people overdo it, anyway. Just eat your own dish--it's been created and sized for that. (That doesn't apply to me, of course. All food on the table is up for my grabs)

BTW, they know me there, so that probably affects my experience. But in this case, I don't think you could fake the service, or just put it on for one person. Good service like this has to do with the whole system and philosophy, not just attention paid to one person.

Your experiences?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Let's make a deal

I rarely shopped at Wild Oats, but after Whole Foods bought the chain out, I've been finding new reasons to fall in love with the new store with each and every shopping trip. Lower prices tops the list, but it's their hot and cold bars that make me swoon. My husband and I are vegetarian, but we're bad vegetarians. I am not down with tofu; I am not seitan savvy; I cannot make brilliant bulgar-based meals; I do not even know how to pronounce quinoa. And my inability to follow even the most simplest of directions precludes any possibility of following recipes for such fabulous meals. I also do not keep track if I am getting enough protein or calcium or any of those other nutrients my mother still anxiously asks when I politely decline her breakfast casserole surprise.

I say this to preface why it is seeing vegan General Tso's chicken on Whole Foods' deli bar sent me squealing in delight, dropping my bags and speed dialing my husband.

General Tso's chicken was my dish before I went vegetarian and I haven't had anything like it since. Until now. The texture of Whole Foods' faux brand was a bit off, but overall it's pretty tasty and as close to the real thing as I'm going to get, unless, of course, my appetite ever triumphs over my morals. Whole Foods also has an awesome vegetarian meatloaf and vegan dal and a stellar curry tofu chicken salad. (And no, I am not a paid shill for Whole Foods nor have they promised me my body weight in their vegan General Tso's chicken for extolling all the ways in which I love the chain - but on the chance any Whole Foods execs are reading, let's talk).

My husband, the avid Slate reader, sent me a link to one of the most hilarious stories I've read in a good long while, "Meatless like me" by Taylor Clark. The story is a must read for anyone who's vegetarian/vegan and those meat-eaters who know and love 'em anyway. For those of you who happen to think us all to be a collective mass of tree-hugging, Kum ba ya-singing, hand-holding, Peta fanatics, think again. Vegetarians like food as much as any meat-eating foodies and some of us even like and miss the taste of meat; we just now don't eat foods that once had a face. I'm talking to you, Max & Erma's, and your burgers that come with fries while the charred frisbee you call a veggie burger is served with a side of limp lettuce.

Writes Clark:

Imagine a completely normal person with completely normal food cravings, someone who has a broad range of friends, enjoys a good time, is carbon-based, and so on. Now remove from this person's diet anything that once had eyes, and, wham!, you have yourself a vegetarian. Normal person, no previously ocular food, end of story.

It might surprise you, meat-eaters, that many veggies, including myself, find Peta to be as obnoxious as you do. Perhaps the antics of Peta radicals is why, whenever I offer up my vegetarianism as simple fact, I have apologetic carnivores falling all over their leather shoes disqualifying their dietary choices. Clark articulates it much better than I, though:

Which leads me to a vital point for friendly omnivore-herbivore relations. As you're enjoying that pork loin next to me, I am not silently judging you. I realize that anyone who has encountered the breed of smug vegetarian who says things like, "I can hear your lunch screaming," will find this tough to believe, but I'm honestly not out to convert you.

I've met my share of arrogant vegetarian evangelicals at the veggie potlucks I used to attend years ago and trust me, I 'm not one of them. Nope, not even close. There were the pure raw foodists, who looked disdainfully on the vegans for molesting potatoes to a sad, mushy pulp. The vegans, in turn, looked down on the vegetarians, as if we drank milk right off the cow's teat and like Rumpelstiltskin, stole the first-born eggs of every poor mother hen. You could always spot the vegetarians in this crowd, especially the recently converted: We were the ones standing about looking a bit bewildered, wondering where to set our macaroni salad with eggs and mayonnaise among the melee of raw, vegan, lacto-ovo, and ovo marked tables.

Stereotypes and misunderstandings will continue to be par for the course between herbivores and carnivores, but I just ask that we all follow the golden rule of dietary cuisine: I won't inform you in gory detail on how exactly that factory-farmed bovine you're biting into died or speculate if it might contain Mad Cow Disease, if you won't make jokes on how I can go pick my dinner from the flower bed or lecture me on how humans have naturally and genetically evolved to dine on flesh.


two kinds of soft-serve

Baskin-Robbins is now selling soft serve ice cream. I wouldn't have bothered to mention it a few years ago, because there was only one Baskin-Robbins in the area, in the Florence Mall. There are now several, all connected with Dunkin' Donuts. I just had a wistful conversation with a couple of colleagues, who grew up on Baskin Robbins and have to have their Rocky Road or World-Class chocolate.

I am very high on Busken's new Yagoot, which I've blogged about before. Wednesday night, I went to their new store in Rookwood. Had a coffee yogurt with almonds and oreos. It rocked--strong coffee flavor (decaffeinated, though--I checked, since it was after 11 in the morning. I am a sensitive soul.) and I just love the smooth, not too creamy texture and the tang. If you've had it at the Hyde Park bakery, this is much better because their new machinery freezes it much colder, so it's stiffer and stays frozen longer. The plain is really good, too, and the toppings are high-quality: lots of fresh fruit. (I don't quite get the idea of crunchy sweet cereal that goes along with this kind of yogurt, but that's probably my age) This is tangy, low-fat yogurt, and I think it's a lot like Pinkberry, only probably better. (A little hard to arrange a side-by-side testing, but I'd had Pinkberry not too long before I first tried Yagoot.) Especially since it turns out Pinkberry is more fake than they were letting on.

I hope Busken's opens a hundred of them.

Soooooooul Food

There's a new food festival this summer--in fact, the Soul Food Festival kicks the summer off, on May 31. It's at The Hamilton County Fairgrounds, and features soul food from restaurants both around Cincinnati and the region. There's also entertainment: Morris Day and the Time, Jeffrey Osborn, Mikkie Howard and Dru Hill/Sysco.
The food's coming from local restaurants The Dukester, Soul Food to Go, New Orleans to Go, Gilly's Family Restaurant and Richie's. Sofia's is coming from Chicago, and Indy's from Louisville. I'll have more information about the food later.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

How to Like Wine

So a new book includes a study in which a wide variety of wine drinkers were given unlabeled glasses of wine and asked to rate them. Overall, they liked the cheaper wine better. Cheap sparkling wine won, in general, over Dom Perignon. Great! say the people who feel a little cowed by all the people who seem to know what they're talking about and who will pay as much for one bottle of wine as some of us pay for a case at Trader Joe's -- and feel it was worth it. Those people are making it all up!

But it turns out those people who truly appreciate and understand wine can tell the difference. Wine professionals in the study did prefer the Dom Perignon. So the conclusion can't be that there is no difference between wines, the conclusion has to be that a lot of us just can't taste it.

It takes some development of your senses to get it. Just like listening to classical music, or learning Chinese. When you first start listening, you can't tell the difference between Mozart and Wagner. If you listen enough, you can tell Mozart from Hayden, then one Mozart symphony from another, then whether you like a particular interpretation, and finally you can identify who's conducting it and who's probably playing bassoon. Chinese goes from babble to a real language that means something. It always did before, you just couldn't hear it. So if you have the inclination, the time, and the money, you can do the same thing with wine. It's a great adventure of the senses. I enjoy every new thing I learn, and I have waaay more I could begin to comprehend.

But you don't have to! It's completely optional. It's a hobby, like collecting vintage jazz or train-spotting. If you don't have much money, it's probably better never to try, and you can be perfectly happy with Charles Shaw Sauvignon Blanc.

Which I think is a win-win proposition. Just make sure you're comfortable at whatever level you're at, and don't let anyone push you into a different one. Don't pretend you like pinot noir over merlot if you can't actually tell the difference, and never, never, let a restaurant snob you into paying more for wine than you can appreciate.

Where to eat?

I've got a little time today and the next couple of days. Anyone want a restaurant recommendation for the weekend?

Italian lessons

Speaking of my unsatisfied travelling lust, I'm still pretty ticked off that I've never been to Italy or owned a house in Provence. So I tend to avoid books by people who describe those experiences in loving detail. I also get annoyed at the "It's so wonderful in Europe. they take 5 hours for dinner. We suck" conslusions that people inevitably come to. So I'm one of the last book-loving people I know to read Eat, Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. (Even though I recently read her book The Last American Man, which I admired greatly.)

But I enjoyed her descriptions of Italy so much--and her spiritual experiences in India. (I'm still in Indonesia with her now) Which is weird, because the other reason for me not to like this book is that her writing is so good it would usually make me return the book to the library before it was due and go lie down quietly until my jealousy and envy faded enough that I could make it back to the keyboard. She has that gift of putting something so well that it's hilarious, but you don't know why, exactly.

But---her lessons from Italy, where food taught her about pure pleasure, are good ones. Different from the pleasures of food that's too much, too fast, too functional. I'm sure you don't have to go to Italy to learn that ,one way or another.

Has anyone else read it?

Croissants, part deux

I don't want to get all Jean-robert restaurant group obsessed on this blog, but the discussion about croissants needed a follow-up. First I called Burke Morton, the manager at Lavomatic and he said that they get their croissants from Greenup Cafe. They are exactly the same. So then I stopped in Greenup this morning and got a plain, a chocolate and an almond. I thought the plain was a little better than the one I had at brunch at Lavomatic, but probably it was just a little fresher.

I haven't had the chance to travel as much as I'd like, so I remember the travel experiences I've had. When I was about 20, I spent a week in Paris by myself. The first morning, a handsome French man knocked on my door and brought me a bowl of cafe au lait and a croissant and a brioche. (This was in a cheap hotel a few blocks from the train station with a very saggy bed. I don't think they do that any more.) So I have an old taste-memory of flaky flaky buttery layers. That's what these are up against in my mind. But Covington isn't Paris and I'm not 20 . . . Still, I don't think I'm wrong.

The almond and chocolate ones are pretty good, though. Because they have chocolate or almond paste in them.

Also, Burke said the rooftop garden at Lavo will be open possibly this weekend but more likely next weekend. Everything will taste better up there, I'm sure.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Sushi downtown and other news

Remember we were bemoaning the lack of sushi downtown? Well, now KoSho, the only place besides Benihana where you can get hamachi and barbecued eel, is going to move to a little place in Northside! The new mecca for restaurants, I guess. It will take over the Madison's Grocery spot. Not until June or July and Chef Yukio says he'd love a little place downtown, too. . ..

NuVo in Florence is open for lunch. Barleycorn's in Lakeside Park has re-opened after renovating. So has Pelican's Reef in Anderson Township after they renovated and expanded. Mitchell's Fish Market in Newport is remodeling, too: they'll be closed for a week starting next Monday. (They are now owned by Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, the least intuitive name for a business since Fifth Third Bank)

Also, John Phillips at Crestview Hills is opening on Monday.

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Great Outdoors

I love to eat outdoors. I don't even mind heat and bugs, but for sure, this time of year is prime, before you have to deal with those summer hassles.

I had lunch at Nada today. It turned out to be the inauguration of their patio. Most pleasant: far enough from the street to not be exhausty, with two young trees big enough to give shade, a barrier that turns it into an outdoor room. There's even a lounge with couches and chairs out there. Lucky if you grab that for drinking margaritas.

Fountain Square was packed with people as I walked over there, and Rockbottom's outdoor area was open, too, planted nicely and looking very attractive. They must be glad the Fountain Square project is done.

Those are just two of a lot of nice outdoor patios in town: I like The Blind Lemon (well, just for drinking) Gajah Wong, York St., Molly Malone's in Pleasant Ridge, among many others. Click here to tell us your favorite? Here are some of the favorites so far.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Stables of Cold Spring closes doors... again

Polly noted the closing of The Stables (Cold Spring, Ky.) in her food notes last month, but I was only now made aware of the site's second closing in a year after driving by the restaurant this evening. The Kentucky horse-racing-themed restaurant's commonwealth comfort food menu earned 2 stars from Polly when she reviewed it in October.

The restaurant opened Labor Day weekend last year to replace the Cold Spring Roadhouse, which closed May 27. Florence-based 3G Development purchased the restaurant for $1.5 million last April and spent $800,000 and three months remodeling the venue both inside and out. The restaurant has now closed once again, with only a sign advertising that the building is for sale or lease. The answering machine at the business announced it closed March 31, but gave no reason why.

The 110-year-old barn is considered to be a local landmark. Situated alongside a lake, it was built as a horse livery in the 1890s, became an inn in the 1920s and then housed a series of restaurants and nightclubs. Longtime locals best remember it as the site of the Guys and Dolls nightclub of the 1960s and 1970s, which drew people from hundreds of miles to dance, listen to music and party.

In towns and economies like this, historic properties have a way of disappearing, quietly falling prey to demolition and neglect. Building by building, site by site, evidence of a community's heritage can be gradually lost, taking with it much of the community's character, individuality and vitality. Here's hoping the building finds new ownership - and purpose - soon.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Chalk Food + Wine video

The latest in our series of video reviews. (Note: We had planned to shoot this video well before recent comments on this blog related to the Jean-Robert French Restaurant Group.)

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Blog-only preview

All I'm going to say is--check out NuVo in Florence. My review won't appear for awhile, but since you're a loyal blog reader, I'm just going to let you in on that.
Meanwhile, next week, I'll be reviewing Boca. I thought it was time for a re-visit. I took a young Italian friend--that was fun.
And speaking of fine dining: I think some of the speculation and gossip that's appeared in comments in earlier posts about the Jean-Robert French Restaurant group is a little overheated and premature. At least that's my conclusion after talking to those involved. I hate to see people pounding nails in a coffin before anyone's in it.

Where the boys and girls are

So say you have some friends who live in Hyde Park and have young children and you haven't seen them for awhile. Stop by Noodles and Company on Wasson Road. You'll probably run into them. I stopped in for dinner last night before going grocery shopping (I spent $7 on dinner so I wouldn't go to biggs hungry and spend more.) The place was packed with families with kids--mostly under 10. They were all pretty well-behaved, too. I enjoyed being there, watching the little family dramas that are no longer part of my life -sigh-

Anyway, I know why all those families are there. Easy-they've got buttered noodles on the menu. A whole generation of picky American children is growing up on buttered noodles. And macaroni and cheese, which is also on the menu. (We used to go out to Skyline because the kids could have spaghetti and cheese. They seem to have turned out alright. )Meanwhile, the adults can have something more sophisticated like sate peanut noodles.


I got some help reviewing brunch for today's Weekend. (Doesn't Joanne Drilling look great in that photo with those delicious ricotta lemon pancakes?) I do like brunch. it's funny, though, brunch is either too much or not enough. Buffets always seem like they have too much to choose from, while a la carte brunches are never quite enough food. Buffets are nice because they stretch things out, and the very idea of brunch is that it should be leisurely. That's its best feature--you know you're not at work if you're relaxing over your third cup of coffee in the middle of the day. And that's why brunch is a nice thing for taking your mother out to eat. She wants to spend time with you!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Oceanaire has opening date

A lot of people have been looking forward to this swanky seafood place opening downtown. I'm just going to post this straight from the press release:

The Oceanaire Seafood Room -- with furnishings and a décor reminiscent of classic 1930’s ocean liners -- will be permanently docking in downtown Cincinnati beginning June 2. Located on the ground floor of the 580 Building on the corner of Sixth and Walnut streets, this will be the sixteenth Oceanaire Seafood Room to open in the U.S., and the first in Ohio. All of the restaurants are privately owned and run.
The Oceanaire offers more than 25 species of “ultra fresh” seafood and shellfish flown in daily from around the world. The ultra-fresh promise is printed on every menu and is the hallmark of The Oceanaire Seafood Room concept. The menu changes daily and is based on market availability of the freshest top-of-the-catch fish from the world’s most highly regarded providers.
Popular menu items include Nantucket Bay Scallops, Yellowfin “Ahi” Tuna and Gulf Red Snapper. Perpetual favorites are Chesapeake Bay Style Crab Cakes, Jumbo Shrimp Scampi, Cioppino and Grilled Hawaiian Swordfish. The restaurant will also feature Alaskan Red King Crab Clusters caught by the Time Bandit, one of the boats featured on the Discovery Channel’s The Deadliest Catch. Additionally, the Oceanaire Seafood Room is known for its raw oyster bar, which offers a selection of fresh (and often difficult to procure) oyster varieties from around the world.
General Manager and Operating Partner for the Cincinnati location is Donna Seal. Seal is a six-year veteran of the Oceanaire system, and held leadership positions at Oceanaire locations in Minneapolis and Baltimore before overseeing construction of the Cincinnati restaurant from the ground up. In addition to her extensive experience in the foodservice profession, she also holds a B.A. in Business and Marketing from the University of Minnesota.
The Executive Chef and Operating Partner for the Cincinnati location is Justin Dumcum. Chef Dumcum has far-reaching experience, including work at The Saint Paul Hotel in Minnesota, and serving as Executive Chef at Kincaid’s in Norfolk, VA. In Cincinnati he has served as Executive Chef of RUI’s Palomino Euro Bistro and as Executive Chef at the South Beach Grill at the Waterfront.
The Oceanaire Seafood Room in Cincinnati will be open for dinner seven days a week, Sunday through Thursday from 5:00-10:00 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 5:00-11:00 p.m. The restaurant seats 285 guests and the bar seats 30. In addition, a large private dining room offers guests the opportunity to host business meetings and social occasions.
For more information about The Oceanaire Seafood Room please call 513-381-8862 or visit www.theoceanaire.com. Reservations are available by calling 513-381-8862 or through Open Table by visiting www.opentable.com.

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