Tuesday, July 31, 2007


I wish I could rave about McCarmick&Schmick's (M&S), at 21 East Fifth St. Cincinnati,OH, 45202-phone 513-721-9339, but I just can't. When M&S came to town, last fall, they did so as wonderful citizens, which to my knowledge they have remained. They spent a good deal of money building a large, beautiful restaurant in the Westin Hotel, helping to boost Downtown and they also supported the arts community with generous pre-opening meals.
Unfortunately as good a citizen as they have been the food has never been memorable and the service, while it has improved, is not first rate. Too bad.
Last night our dinners were, as they have been in the past. Drinks were fine, but slow in coming. Salad, ample for sharing and served on chilled plates. however the orders came with some small "mix-ups" and the food was only ordinary. My Maryland, fried, Blue crab (1) was lonely on the plate with about 4 Asparagus spears, under cooked and brown at the lower stem, and a slice of lemon. Marilyn had Walleye. We may be spoiled by summers in Northern Wisconsin, but hers couldn't compare. It was not firm and had very little taste. She also had the Asparagus, with the same result and good looking oven browned redskin potatoes. Bread and butter are on the table and as usual Marilyn ended with "decaf" Total bill including tax and tip was $76 for the two of us.
I want to support M&S,however, value and food seem better at Bonefish Grille and at Mitchell's.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


I know I wrote comments about Nectar just a week ago. I don't plan to write every time I go back to a place, however, last night, the couple we had dinner with, had read the Blog and wanted to go, as they had never been.
As you gathered from my earlier "jottings" I think Julie Francis is a Wizard, not Harry Potter. Her combinations of food and sauces are fantastic. She seems to have a real feel and therefore dinner at Nectar is a culinary treat.
The menu is limited and slightly unusual. Last night two groups came in, were seated and then left after looking at the menu. Nectar is not a Steak and Potato place, although there is nothing wrong with that either.
Last night I had a fresh 3 bean salad. the beans were crispy and the marinade was perfect. I followed with Chiles Rellenos, and item usually not on the menu. The chili was large and stuffed with a sauteed green and a light cheese. more cheese was sprinkled on the top and then the whole thing was run under the broiler. It was served on a spicy fresh tomato, fine, salsa with an accompaniment of black beans and sliced avocado plus a touch of sour cream. Marilyn had an excellent fresh tomato salad mixed with field greens and peppers, with small pita chips and red onion slices. For a main course she ordered Chicken Pot Pie, which also was new to the menu. She ate it all but said the Pot Pie was slightly salty for her taste.
For dessert we shared a Peach Tart Titan with Chocolate Gelloto. The Tart was topped with fresh berries and a outstanding light sauce of a simple syrup with a berry reduction. The wonderful dessert topped a delightful meal and left a beautiful after taste.
What more can I say, except now you know why I have written twice.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bonefish Grill

Shortly after Bonefish Grill opened their store( they are a chain, part of the Outback Group) at 2737 Madison Road, 45209-phone 513-321-5222 Marilyn and I became friends with the Managing Partner, that is their terminology for their top location Manager. We found the food decent,attractive, reasonable and always plenty. Marilyn usually brought some home.
Tom Schidler, the Manager, has moved on to run a P.F.Chang operation in Raleigh, NC. and has been replaced by Wes Loftus. After a fairly long hiatus we returned last evening. The restaurant still does a good job and probably is as good a place to have seafood, in their price range as there is in Cincinnati.
Last night, after the usual libations, we decided to split and order of Walleye, which the menu showed with several preparations, and an order of Whitefish. Much to our disappointment the server returned, in a few minutes, to inform us that there was no Walleye available. I am always at a loss to understand why a restaurant has items on the menu that they can not serve, or at least why they don't brief the servers so that they tell the customer during the ordering process or before.
Be that as it may, we settled on the Whitefish and Artic Char. Both turned out to be very tasty,well prepared and ample. Salad is extra, a reasonable add on charge, but the entrees come with a side, we both had "angle hair" with a Marinara Sauce and a complimentary vegetable. That plus good warm bread is sufficient. Our favorite salad is the "house" served with a citrus vinaigrette. Drinks, dinner and Marilyn's coffee with a 20% tip came to $63 for the two of us.
We have stayed away too long and will return when we want good flat fish in a relaxed atmosphere.

Marilyn Harris

Marilyn Harris is probably the ultimate Cincinnati "food junkie". She is on the radio, gives cooking lessons and demonstrations, has as many contacts in the local scene as anyone, maybe more, and knows most of the hot news.
She has now returned with columns in the Enquirer and also is my wrap up speaker at the UC course I give every fall, "Let Eat Out".
More info is available on the local food situation, from her, than anyone I know. Follow her if food is a strong interest of yours. Why else would you be reading this BLOG?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Unintentionally I "low balled" the price of Marilyn's and my dinner last night at Aqua. The correct figure should be approximately $75, including tax and tip, not $65, as reported. I forgot also to mention that Marilyn has coffee after her dinner. Not that that's a big item but I try to be inclusive.


I don't know why we don't go to Aqua more often? Possibly is because one night there was a very loud group there, which management did not calm down, or because the background music is too loud for our old ears, but it is always lowered on request. Maybe it just the habits we develop.
Any way, we went last night and had a most enjoyable evening. The food was interesting and well prepared. The service and ambiance were all one could wish, and the price, while not cheap was certainly in the reasonable range. I'm pretty sure we will return.
Aqua, of course, has several seafood dishes, as the name implies, but also has meat, chicken and vegetarian. They also have a full Sushi Bar and do an excellent job in this department. They have a full Bar and are handicapped accessible. The restaurant is located in Mt. Lookout Square at 1020 Delta Ave, 45208-phone 513-919-27829(aqua). There is Valet Parking but in midweek the restaurant and square are not that crowded.
After my Bombay, you may be getting tired of this part, I chose the Scallop Ceviche, two sliced scallops on a bed of curly endive and accompanied with large plantain chips. This was followed by a Dragon Roll built around shrimp tempura with eel, avocado and of course rice. Marilyn's usual drink is either club soda or a non-alcoholic Cranberry spritzer. Last night she chose Duck Ravioli, for her first course and a beautifully roast chicken for the main. The chicken comes with fingerling potatoes and fresh, sweet green peas and mushrooms, all in a delicious sauce. The others had crusted perch and scollop's as there main courses. Two different dishes, if you're confused. Our total bill including tax and tip was approximate $65, that did not include the other guest, who each paid their own.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Vincenzo's started life as Germano's in a converted gasoline station on Route 4 across the street from Mary Knoll. When the owner, Germano, moved to Montgomery the chef, Vincenzo Mazzocca took over. He renamed the restaurant, for guess who, but stayed at the same location until he could find a better spot. Finally he took over an Asia place at 11525 Chester Road, Cincinnati, OH 45246-phone 513-771-0022. He and his wife run the very satisfying full menued Italian Restaurant where everything is cooked to order.
If you read my piece about Italian chain restaurants you will find that Vincenzo's is a good step above them. There are appetizers, Pasta dishes, fish, chicken and at least one steak for those of my friends, and his customers, who believe steak is the only thing to eat, when one dines out.
Vincenzo's has a full bar and so last night I started with the usual. My entree was a misto consisting of large shrimp, scallops, and salmon( I requested the fish be medium rare, which it was) served on Angel Hair with a sauce of fresh tomato's and an abundance of fresh sliced mushrooms. The base of the sauce was olive oil, white wine and a touch of garlic. The other main courses were; Angle Hair with a sauce of mushrooms, artichokes and asparagus to which one can add chicken, pork or shrimp, Angle Hair with fresh clams, either in a white or red sauce, the fourth, in our party had a large bowl of mussels. We all had the house salad, which comes with the main courses along with Italian Bread and an Herb butter, while I enjoyed a glass of Pinto Gees, while others had tonic or ice tea. With coffee and tip the average price is about $65/couple. Vincenzo's has a large parking lot and is handicapped accessible. Good Italian food at a reasonable price.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


We like Cumin and the feeling is mutual. We support them and they show up for us. Some of the people, who work there, showed up for my cooking adventure at "Otto"s" and Mung, our usually server, visited with Joanne, at the nursing home, several time a week. Therefore, what I write has a very personal slant.
Cumin at 3520 Erie Ave. 45208, phone 871.8714, describes itself as "Indian Fusion Cuisine". To me it is more European with Indian flavors and spices, for accents.
The restaurant is modern and trendy with an attractive bar and separate dinning room. Chargers are metal and the dishes, cups and even some glasses having their own shape and design.
I have tended towards fish and lamb but on several occasions we have ordered different things for the table and so have had 4 or 5 dishes to sample. We usually start with a drink, or two, followed by a first course and then one or two mains, depending on size and splitability( possible a coined word). The other night the first courses were shrimp egg rolls and a crab and slaw salad. One of the starters are very thin eggplant chips with more than a hint of Cumin, excellent. Duck, Lamb shanks and a very good lamb sausage dish gave us enough for four people.
The Nan comes in many flavor, all interesting, and enough for two to share. We always go for at least one or two. The wine list is well chosen and compliments the food.
As I said we are there often and have never been disappointed. as a side note, we brought home the shank bone for our symbol for Seder.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


I've been very lax about reporting on our 48 hours in Chicago last week. I've heard from several about my lack of diligence.
Marilyn and I drove to Chicago, with our Granddaughter, to meet our son and his son who were there for four days. Incidentally, if you plan to drive, to Chicago this summer, please, check with someone who knows the expressway repair schedule for your own sanity and speed of travel.
It was our Grandson's first visit and our son, who grew up there, wanted him to have the ultimate "Chicago experience", whatever that means. He left some plans in our hands.
For the first night dinner we chose Gene & Georgetti, 500 North Franklin, 60610, phone 312-527-3718. G&G has been in business 66years and is rated in several food magazines as one of the top 5 steak houses in the USA. Having been there I requested a table on the first floor, for the four of us, our son had a dinner meeting and Board meeting that evening and the next day.
G&G specializes in Meat, steak, and Italian and the staff is all professional. With the servers help we decided on a half order of fried calamari, a large strip steak, an order of ravioli, and an order of sauteed mushrooms. With the meal came one salad, which our server who understands tipping, brought divided in four, possible augmented, and excellent "home fried potatoes". For dessert we divided one very rich, large, piece of double chocolate cake. All of the food was excellent and prepared exactly as ordered. Marilyn and I each had a drink and we were very surprised when the total cost, including a 22% tip came to $140.
We all spent the night at the W Hotel at Ontario and Lake Shore Drive. The two of us were the oldest guests by at least 25 years. The place is very hip and when we returned from dinner the scene was 3 deep at the bar, in the lobby, with almost all in black and on cell phones.
The next morning the four of us, our son was still working, had Breakfast at Lou Mitchell's. The bakery and restaurant is located in the 500 block of Jackson Blvd. near Union Station. On the weekend or early morning this place is a zoo. We arrived after 10 AM, on a weekday, and so walked right in. If you are in line, or when you arrive you are greeted with fresh donut holes and a small box of mike duds. The breakfast menu is complete with all the egg dishes served in skillets and with very good hash browns and toast. The only problem is parking during the day, but parking lots have to live also.
After breakfast we dropped off our Granddaughter at the train for Highland Park and proceeded to Millennium Park, where we saw all the structures, including the wonderful curved bridge that crosses Lake Shore Drive and the Shell, both of which we designed by Frank Gehry. The Grant Park Orchestra was practicing for the evening concert so we sat and listened for a good half hour. Next was Buckingham Fountain and then is was on to The Chicago Institute of Art. An art report will come if I establish another BLOG.
We met our son for a late lunch of excellent "deep dish pizza" at Bacino's, 2204 N. Lincoln Ave, 60614( Lincoln Park). Phone 773-472-7400, that's important as the pizza is in the oven about 30 minutes, so it's best to call ahead. The four of us shared one Spinach Supreme ($15.25), which is their blend of spinach, herbs and spices, low fat cheese and mushrooms. One "small" comes cut in 6 mammoth wedges with the pie about 4" deep and the only crust being the bottom and back. We shared a large salad and all had drinks.
We took our son and Grandson back in the direction of the loop and headed to Glencoe. That night we joined 3 other couples, our infamous "Lobster group" for dinner at Demetri's, 660 Lake Cook Road, 847-940-0777. Demitri's is Greek with a smattering of other Mediterranean and specializes in fish. Besides their regular menu they had you a separate list of the fresh fish, a dozen or more. All of us had fish, except for one lamb shishkabob. We started with group appetizers for the table: Fried Smells, with a dipping sauce, wonderful grilled Calamari, with some tomatoes and mushrooms mixed with the grill and three dips, eggplant, cucumber and herbs and yogurt and caviar and cheese, with rye toast accompaniment. All had salads and the top fish of the evening was a fresh, grilled, whole Dover sole, never inexpensive but not outrageous. We had brought Graeter's to our host couple who shared with all.
There was a fair amount of imbibing, from Bombay to Greek beer with wine, Stoli and others making their appearance. Cost $45/person including a tip that was built in.
Next morning we all met at the " Walker Brothers original Pancake house" in Willmette. We picked up some other friends and there were 9 in all. A lot of sharing, Baked Apple Pancakes, Dutch babys, crepes and plain. After everyone's several days the appetites were beginning to react, so there were leftovers to be taken with.
A mandatory stop at a deli, on the way out of town and not following my own advice on routes got us to Cincinnati about 7 hours later.

Sky Galley

Marilyn says the Sky Galley at Lunken Airport maybe the best airport restaurant in the country. I haven't eaten at them all, neither has she, but who am I to agree.
We went last evening, with another couple and found the place, as it has been for the last 20 years, or more. The clientele is anything from golf group to families, age 90 to a few months. There are parties of 2 to 10 and the Sky Galley is structured to take care of all.
The food is decent to good and the menu, which seldom changes, has everything from burgers to steaks. There are several fish dishes, friend, broiled or grilled, many chicken specialties, either as a dinner or a sandwich and Pasta, "World Famous Chicken livers", know as far away as Norwood, and starters which are large enough to share.
The Sky Galley is relaxed, decent and reasonable. A good place to drop in, have a drink, they have a full bar, and relax, either for lunch or dinner; it's the same menu for both.
Lunken airport is handicapped accessible by parking on the side and going in thru the back entrances, which once served as the main doors to the commercial flights, long since gone.
A shade of Cincinnati's past but still the kind of place to go and leave for well under $50 per couple.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Nectar Restaurant

Julie Frances, the owner and Chef, at Nectar, 1000 Delta Ave (Mt. Lookout Square),Cincinnati, OH 45208, phone 513-929-0525, is one of Cincinnati's most interesting and talented preparers of delectable food. The menu, at Nectar, is limited but everything is done with attention to detail, flavors and quality. As you have already noticed I like the place.
My only complaint is, that to me, it is very noisy. Julie says the simple solution to that is to come on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, when they are less busy. We were there last night, Friday at 7:30.
As usual we dined with another couple. They got the time mixed up and arrived a half hour early and so were well into a bottle of Red wine, which they had ordered after a glass of white. Nectar has a small bar which has a good but limited selection of whiskeys, wine and beer.
After my usual Bombay I ordered the Charcuterie plate, which is large enough to share, although I didn't. It contains liver pate, marinated cucumbers, Prosciutto, whole grained mustard, shrimp pate, marinated sweet onions and some picked olives or peppers. It is served with as much fresh bread as one wants and that plus wine would certainly be a light meal in and of itself. Of course, I went on and had Wild Alaskan Salmon, grilled MR and served on a bed of Mediterranean fine grain. There was enough light sauce to moisten the grain and the dish was garnished with quarters of fresh cooked beets that had been slightly chilled. Along the ends of the plate were thin slices of 3 kinds of mushrooms cooked to resemble small country fried potatoes, an interesting and delicious accompaniment.
The others had as main courses beautifully prepared duck breast, a medium rare flank steak, which Marilyn said was "chewy" and another serving of salmon. As First courses the women had a beautiful tomato salad, with a lot of "goodies" and the other male had wonderful looking Shrimp Fritters, three good sized with a citrus sauce. Three coffees finished the meal.
Total cost for the 4, including tax, $182. Go and try Nectar, if you like quiet, try a week night.

Tom's Chicken Pot Pies

In a little shop at 915 Vine St., Cincinnati, OH, 45202, phone 513-235-2400, resides Tom Wolf a gregarious Chicken Pot Pie maker. Tom settled on this avenue of expression after trying the Priesthood and several other callings. He thinks he has found his niche, and who am I to argue.
I stopped by the other day and purchased 2 of his pies; one, Original Chicken Pot Pie and one, Alfrredo Chicken, Broccoli Pot Pie. Took them home, reheated and shared them for dinner with Marilyn.
The Chicken is billed as made with Crust, savory sauce, sausage, peas, carrots and all white meat chunks of chicken; the Alfredo has fresh Broccoli, Chunks of all white meat chicken in a light Roasted Garlic and Parmesan sauce.
The Crusts are excellent. Slightly sweet, flaky and backed to perfection. The sauce is more than generous in the Chicken PP and a much smaller amount in the Alfredo. The stuffing's, at least in our two, were sparse. All ingredients, advertised, were there but in a very small amount.
Tom says the pies weight approximately one pound each and I don't doubt his word. If you like crust and sauce, with some filling you'll enjoy Tom's creations. They certainly are enough for one if you are a reasonable eater.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Palace Restaurant at The Cincinnatian Hotel

Yes, it's a Special occasion place and a Special restaurant. Expensive, but not oppressively so, dressy, for this day and age, I even wore a coat, but noticed one or two men with out them, and decorous. Four of us went last evening and with drinks, dinner, liberal tips' all around, including Valet Parking it ran about $75 a head.
The Palace is located on the main floor of the Cincinnatian Hotel at 6th and Vine. Phone # 513-381-3000. It is on a par with the other 4 and 5 Star restaurants in the city.
Their menu is constructed so that you can have whole or half portions and they are very happy to oblige in any way they can. The Chef greeted us and with my questioning suggested the lamb or beef, which most of us bypassed. We settled on fresh Dover sole, one of the few, or only, places it is available in the city.
Marilyn and I had two half orders of the Heirloom Tomato Salads, the server recommend this as it was more tomatoes than splitting one whole order, and also split the Dover sole, which gave us each two fillets. The sole comes with excellent wax beans and two small potato cakes. A butter, fresh herb, sauce is offered for the fish. Fearing I might be hungry I also ordered the Salmon Tartar, in a half portion which was about the size of two checker pieces stacked. It was fresh and very tasty but not enough for this gourmand.
The other couple had a full order of the Dover Sole and a half order of lamb. They both started with beautifully prepared scallops, which I was lucky enough to taste. Three of the four had coffee and the restaurant provides small "dolces" as a compliment.
The service was excellent and the room lively although not noisy. All in all a very satisfying evening.

Finger Food

A coupe of short comments:
Otto's, one of our favorites has tweaked their menu. Among the additions are a delicious Shrimp and Grits, with some fresh mushrooms and tomatoes. A little "zing" but in no way overpowering. Try it with the Iceberg Wedge for a pleasent dinner.

Some friends wanted to go to "Chicken on the Run" in Deer Park, so we obliged. I may have been there once before with some construction industry friends. It is the kind of place that I usually classify as worth two visits;"a first and a last".
It's not bad, but I'm not drawn to neighborhood bars with game rooms and standard food. Regulars come to visit and play cards while their children run around and play electronic games. If you go I suggest the Turkey Club salad which was fresh and sufficient. There is also plenty of beer.
To me it is a level below Zips and the Oakley Pub, but then they are in my neighborhood.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Boi Na Braza

I've now been to a "Brazilian Steak House", or more truthfully a roasted meat emporium.
It is interesting, fun, a show and decent, not great food. It's a good addition to the Downtown dinning scene, located on the street level at Fifth and Vine, in the Carew Tower-441 Vine St., Cincinnati, OH, 45202, phone,513-421-7111. The restaurant is large, attractive and nicely decorated, although some say there are too many dark tones. The people, tonight, seemed genuinely glad to see us and the service was first rate. Management was "on the floor" and spent time with us and other customers. Price is standard, $44.50, each, for the "full meal"and I believe $20.50 for the Buffet. The Buffet table is in the center and probably has about 35 cold items and half a dozen hot.
You are encouraged to eat as much as you want and no one should leave hungry, thirsty, yes, because of the high sodium content, but hungry, no.
I made a real effort and held back on the buffet items sampling only three cheeses, one thin slice of Italian Salami, an artichoke heart with dressing, 2 different pickles, to go with my cheese, one piece of excellent Nova and some marinated Green Beans. Also I took one very small spoon of a shreded salad of hearts of palm, sun dried tomatoes, cabbage and mixed vegetables.
I tasted a couple of the complimentary hot items placed on out table, a meat Empenada, fried Polenta and a hot Plantain.
The meats I chose were the Special Cur Rumproast, the house specialty, and probably the healthiest, leg of lamb, a half of a small pork sausage, Lamb Chops and slices of beef ribs. All were done perfectly and served in small portions, but as often as one wanted. There are 15 choices in all. A manager brought a ramekin of mashed potatoes, which no one touched and another of mushrooms, which almost all disappeared.
It was a pleasant evening in a less than half full space and we were on our way in less than 2 hours, after we entered, although that was our choice. Drinks, desert, tax and tip are all extra but still for an "all you can eat" dinner the price is not outrageous.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Well, I did it

Today, I took my first step, and possible only one, towards being a professional chef. Paul Weckman, of Otto's, invited me to cook the J.P.Ruben as a special for his Sunday Brunch.
The sandwich, which is a version of a "southern Ruben" which I had in Atlanta was a success, although we think it would be a better lunch item that Brunch Special.
On two pieces of rye bread toast, one top and one bottom, unless you would rather have it "open face", we put my special sauce, sort of a mixture of thousand island and remoulade plus spices, a piece of country ham, a fried catfish fillet, Swiss cheese and a horseradish slaw. Along the way it is put in a broiler to melt the cheese before the slaw is added.
People seemed enthusiastic although part of the patrons, who ordered, were friends from other restaurants and different parts of our lives.
Paul is going to try it on his lunch menu this week.
We sold out but only planed to make about a dozen. The people in the kitchen were all helpful and I now know how a tiny space, with lots of heat feels for 4 hours on ones feet.
I think I'll slide back into retirement, at least on Sunday mornings.