Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cooking Lessons

As I was cleaning and preparing fresh Brussels Sprouts,which we will serve tonight, at our annual "pot luck", along with Chicken Pot Pie, I thought should I try to post a year end review. Since I do not consider myself a restaurant reviewer, but just a reporter of what I feel, after "eating out" it didn't seem the way to go.
The thought also came to me that the biggest change in the food area, at least in our immediate family was our Granddaughter's interesting in learning to cook and spending some time with Marilyn trying to see what goes into their favorite dishes.
We have 5 Granddaughters, age 22 to 14, and they are quite often here, especially for the holidays. The two eldest, who are domiciled in Cincinnati, are both away at college but manage to make it here for Passover, Thanksgiving and often Christmas, with or without "boy friends" (my old fashioned term). The others, all in California, seem to alternate, one family a year, for one of the major events
This years highlights, on our menu, for various occasions were "German or Austrian" Matzo Balls, Cracker Crumb Pie, actually a nut torte with whipped cream and shaved dark Chocolate on top, Baked Tenderloin ( my Mothers recipe) and dessert Pizza, a refugee from Camp Nebagamon. The girls assisted in the preparation of all.
All recipes are available with a self addressed envelope and a small mailing and handling charge, only kidding.
In the mean time have a Healthy, Happy and Joyous New Year and remember "Let's eat Out".

Thursday, December 25, 2008


I'm sure I have written, before, about "The Precinct" at Columbia Parkway and Delta Ave, 513-321-5454 but I must again report on another excellent meal and superior service.
Since the day it opened, under Jeff Ruby's supervision, "The Precinct" has had their act together. Friday night they proved it again.
Any business that has a strong customer service ethic has a major jump on any that do not. Read Danny Meyers book,"Setting the Table" to understand the hospitality business. "The Precinct" is a prime example.
We arrived, at 7 PM, with a couple, both in their 90's and were greeted, on the sidewalk, at the service door. The women is on a walker and the service entrance has a ramp. We were shown to a table, I requested, in the least noisy part of the dining area, and were welcomed, as usual by several staff members. The food was prepared as ordered and brought on a schedule so as to not rush our drinks, but also not leaving us wondering where are dinners were. Our companions mentioned that the onion straws were too salty and without a word two new orders arrived, which were totally satisfactory. Attention to detail is a mark of any well run organization.
The meal was pleasant, the food very good and the hospitality first rate.
Instead of steak, my usual, I had an excellent pan seared Groper in a light citrus butter, delightful. Try it sometime when your not in the mood for beef.
I remain impressed with the training and follow through of this way above average restaurant.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Rookwood

"The Rookwood Bar and Restaurant", 1077 Celestial St., Mt. Adams, Cincinnati, OH 45202-513-421-5555. Has changed it's name, slightly, and it's ownership and it's menu. We went there last night, with another couple. It is the same relaxed bar and restaurant but the menu seemed a bit smaller and the food a bit better. It's a fine place to go for a pleasant bite and good conversation.
Dress is very casual and the food comes from the kitchen hot and promptly. There is full bar service and choices from appetizers to desserts.
I chose one of the specialty burgers, of which there are 6 or 8. Mine was loaded with crushed avocado, grilled bacon, grilled onions and lettuce and tomato, all top with a jalapeno mayo. I asked that they leave the jack cheese off this combination. It is served on a toasted, buttered bun along with kettle chips; french fries, which looked good are at an "up charge". It was delicious and plenty. The draft beer selections are fine but there are only 3 of them plus a dozen or so bottled beers. Wednesday is half priced wine night but since I was the only drinker we passed. Marilyn had a plain Cheeseburger while the other couple both had grilled chicken breast sandwiches. The other man had the homemade chili which was hot in temperature, medium in spice and quite thick. Pricing runs $15 to $20 per head, including tip, depending on the item and the drinks.

Sunday we were lounging, at home, when friends called and asked if we would like to join them at "JeanRo Bistro". Never missing a chance we were on our way and met them at 7 PM. To our surprise the place was packed, and it wasn't the football crowd. Our friends are in the wine business and again it was "half priced" night so we started with a Cabernet Franc. The table shared an appetizer of Lobster Macaroni & Cheese, about a good bite each, and I shared Beef Tartre with the other women. My main dish was a fish stew, very much along the lines of bouillabaisse. Marilyn and the other women each had calf's liver while the other man had a cassoulet. I tasted the cassoulet which had good flavor but was on the dry side. My fish stew had fine seasoning but came out luke warm. After a trip back to the kitchen it came back acceptable but not steaming. I like hot food hot and cold food cold and am willing to let time adjust temperature to my liking. JeranRo food on the whole is very good and we are fortunate to have a good french bistro downtown. Sunday night they were probably surprised by the turn out and so the food lamps in the kitchen came more into play.

Saturday, our daughters Birthday, we had a late meal at "The Summit". "The Summit" is the restaurant run by the culinary division of Cincinnati State. I have reported on it before. It is staffed with student chefs and servers with professional over site. This is our 2nd or 3rd visit and things to be going well although the room seems fairly empty each time we are there. We started with a bottle of Argentine Malbec and a round of first courses, mine being a Jonah Crab and Lobster salad, excellent. I followed this with Hemacci on Kimchee. The fish was served in a stone bowl with slices of breaded eggplant, a fascinating, slightly spicy dish. For dessert I tried to throw the kitchen a curve, being late and all, and ordered one of the salads. Even though they were about to close the salad arrived, as advertised, romaine, fresh figs et al. Our server was starting her second career and had exceptional knowledge of the food but was still in the process of learning about wine.
There were six of us and I was obviously the most adventurous. The table had 2 orders of duck breast, prepared perfectly and 3 orders of Gnocchi with a marvelous mushroom sauce made with four varieties of the fungi. The Gnocchi were not the usual, made with potato's, but was a light pastry rolled around the stuffing. Grocchi was the hit of the evening.
"The Summit" is not cheap and the service is somewhat slow but it is well done and the effort should be supported.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Today I had lunch scheduled with a good friend for 11:45. She is attractive, intelligent and very good company and so I look forward to being together. I was sending an email at 12:05 when the phone rang, next to the computer, and the voice on the other end asked if she had mistaken the date, time or meeting place? Good lesson, look at your calendar at least every morning and possibly more as you age.
With much chagrin I threw on some cloths, hopped in my car and hurried to "Yat Ka Mein" Noodle House, 3546 B Edwards Road, Hyde Park Station, Cincinnati, Oh 45208-phone-513-321-2028. A new spot for us both.
"Yat Ka Mein" had been recommended by several oriental employees of Saks Fifth Ave. as there favorite Chinese place in Cincinnati. No ambiance in this small strip mall off Edwards Road but good, steaming food , made to order and all served in bowls, except spring rolls and the like.
I am currently reading "The Fortune Cookie Chronicles", a Birthday gift from our Mendocino family. It is written by Jennifer 8. Lee and tells about her experiences as an American Born Chinese(ABC) and her exploration of Chinese restaurants and dishes. I had just finished the Chapter on General Tao's Chicken and so I was anxious to try the dish.
Arriving late my lunch companion had already had a spring roll and a pot of Green Tea. I ordered the chicken, which came high in temperature, low in spice while she chose Dan Dan Noodles. As is our custom we each tasted the others dish. I found "Yat Ka Mein" more than satisfactory. The lunch portions of each item were $5.25. I will return for good Asian food in a very local setting. Carry out is readily available.
Monday night was another ethnic treat. "Cafe Mediterranean"-513-232-2400 in the Beechwood shopping center serves excellent Turkish and Mediterranean fare, also, and not to be overlooked bottles of wine are half priced Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. We shared a Oregon Pinto($23).While 3 or the four had lamb Shishkabob I chose marinated and grilled chicken thighs, I was not disappointed. Marilyn and I shared a Sheppard's Salad, plenty for each, and the warm pita, which comes with each diner, plus sides make a filling and delicious meal.
That's the nights out so far this week. Wednesday we entertained and we both cooked, but that's another story.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Cheddar Cheese

Last week I bought a chunk of Cheddar Cheese at Costco. I was seduced by the price, just over $4 a pound. This afternoon I'll open the cryopack and cut it into pieces, which I'll distribute to family and friends.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday we had 12 for lunch and dinner Thursday, Friday and Saturday. A lot of trips to Kroger's, Sheadeau Bread and Finley market. Thursday was the typical Thanksgiving dinner with all the tried and true regular dishes except for dessert for which Marilyn and the granddaughters made a French Cracker-crumb pie (actually a nut torte). The next morning I fixed Egg's and Onions to go with the pecan rolls.
Friday night we had Baked Beef Tenderloin, my Mother recipe along with German, or Austrian, Matzo Balls, also home made with granddaughter help, and Brussels Sprouts. Actual we had Brussels Sprouts both nights, Marilyn Harrises recipe Thursday night and mine Friday, the sprouts were on sale at Costco and were small and sweet.
Saturday night was carry in Pizza, from "Pomadore", and tossed salad. Lunches were "clear the refrigerator" plus "carry in". By Sunday we were down to 5 and we had a marinated Pork Tenderloin. Five added pounds and 12 people later we were ready to slow down, but still eat out.

The three restaurants we have visited since last posting are: "Nada", "Trio" and "Honey"; interesting how many restaurants have single names.
"Nada" 6th and Vine is great for dinner, drinks and talk either before a downtown event, when it is crowded, or after an early evening meeting or show, around 9 PM when you can eat and linger. Modern Tex-Mex, as I have reported.
"Trio" in Kenwood is the home of the North Suburb regulars. Their food is consistent and the service is good. The night we went I had a nice chopped salad and a Thai Chicken Pizza, both very well presented and tasty.
"Honey" Northside on Hamilton Ave. remains a favorite. We had an "OLLI" Brunch there and I was so taken by the crab cakes, they served, when we went for dinner I had a double portion, of that appetizer for my main course. Others, for there entrees, had wild mushroom Ravioli, Lamb Shank and Beef Short ribs, all excellent.
So that's the holiday and time since. UC Football has been amazing and I hear there is also another team in town.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"It's a hard knock life"

As I tell anyone that takes my course"Let's Eat Out", at the UC adult education division, the restaurant business is one to avoid unless you really have an unbelievable commitment. It's full of surprises, disappointments and changes in perfect planing. A case in point:
Our family, 12 strong, gathered for Thanksgiving weekend. Age spread 83 to 11. I thought it would be fun for all to go to "Vito's Cafe", 654 Highland Ave. Ft Thomas KY-859-442-9444. Vito's has signing servers and a wonderful new menu. It had been highly recommended, in my prior Tuesday class, by Marilyn Harris. I called Saturday morning and left word, which was returned about 2 hours later. Vito, the owner and I had a long pleasant discussion and he said they would be handle our party at 6:45. That in itself was remarkable for a last minute Saturday night, possibly because it was the Thanksgiving weekend.
Two hours latter some family matters came up and we were force to cancel.
Now if you run a restaurant you make special arrangements to handle a large party, at the last minute, and I am sure we caused extra work, and possibly cost, for them by our reverse of plans, for this we apologies. Hence the title of this entree. Marilyn and I will try Vito's and give a report after eating there, I'm sure it will be delicious.

For ED: Thursday night our LA family and those of us from Cincinnati went to "Walt's Hitching Post". I've written about this Ft. Thomas Road House on numerous occasions. There were 11 of us seated at one large round table. Walt's is famous for the hickory Bar-B-Qued Ribs, justly so, in my opinion. I had been told by several people that their Fried Chicken Livers were "out of this world" and so instead of ribs I ordered chicken livers, mac and cheese and apple sauce. Nothing was bad, it really was OK, but next time it will be back to the ribs.
The rest of our group had, Ribs, Steak or Prime Rib. all were well satisfied and it proved to me to stick with what you know is good. The last time I deviated was in Cody, WY, at a bar, when I ordered fish instead of a hamburger, a huge mistake.

Today at lunch a friend and I went to "The Rusty Bucket Corner Tavern", 2692 Madison Road, Norwood, OH-513-841-2739. The restaurant is in the Rookwood Shopping Center. Rusty Bucket is part of a small chain, this is the 12th store, out of Columbus OH. It is a tavern with an extended "bar food" menu. My friend had root beer, a Philly Steak sandwich and onion rings while I had a very good Char Grilled Chicken Salad with greens, blue cheese, diced onions and an excellent light vinaigrette dressing. Total for the two of us, including a coffee was slightly under $27
plus tip. I'll try it again. It is what it is.

"It's a hard knock life"