Wednesday, February 25, 2009


We find a lot of places we go fit the "ethnic" category. Sometimes it's to try something new and others it's just to cater to a hankering.
Saturday night, Marilyn and I stoped at "Sung Korean Bistro" 700 Elm St. Cincinnati, Ohio 45202. 513-721-7864. "Sung" is a cousin, figuratively and literally, of "Riverside Korean Restaurant" in Covington. The decor is bright and more modern and the food not as authentic.
Marilyn and I have different tastes, especially on seasonings so when we set out to "split" a meal it is a bargaining process.
Our server, who was tall, and had to duck to miss a light fixture, was very helpful and patient, and we settled on "Haemul Pajeo", an egg pancake stuffed, and I use the word loosely, with seafood, bean sprout and several other items. The pancake was light and fluffy the stuffing was an essence rather than a presence. Our other item was "Bulgogi" a marinated and grilled beef which to us was very reminiscent of Japanese Sukiyaki. The egg dish was very mild and the beef was sweeter than spicy. The beef plate was adorned with shaved veggies and of course white rice, which was perfect with the marinade.
With drinks, the total was $37.50 before tax and gratuity. Dinner was prompt, hot, good and met our requirements in amount and timeliness. Next time I will "go it alone" and will be more adventurous.

"Ban Thai" 792 Eastgate South 300, Cincinnati OH 45245-513-752-3200 came to us via the current issue of "Cincinnati Magazine". They list their choice of the "top ten", I don't always agree, but I do with # 1, and then show five places where the chef's like to go to eat. "Ban Thai" was the place the #1 winner chooses for his family and so we though, what the heck, we'll give it a try. We're glad we did.
"Ban Thai" is located in the Eastgate Mall, a far drive when we have Thai around the corner, across the street from "Mac Donald's". It is amongst some stores in a strip mall and is pleasant in the ambiance category but in no way special. The food however is.
The magazine write up mentioned the stuffed chicken wings and so that is how we started our meal. Our navigator and companion is the priest from St. Rose Parrish and he is great company as well as a worthy trench man. I wont spoil the surprise but the "wings" are unlike any you can imagine and make a great introduction. Marilyn had Pad Thai, our friend spicy chicken and I settled for Seafood Dynasty. All were good sized serving, served hot from the kitchen, without fanfare and seasoned, in hotness, just as we ordered. The ingredients are fresh, the food tasty and it is worth the ride, if you have that hankering, or Eastgate is one of your regular haunts.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


When you find a talented Chef with a good idea and wonderful execution it's time to pay attention.
Julie Francis, the proprietor and Chef of "Nectar", 1000 Delta Ave-513-929-0525, has been staging "Dinner Club" events for the past year, or so. She has covered, Garlic, Mustard and others. Thursday night it was "Spinach, A Tasty Green" with Turner Farm. The evening was a treat.
There are five courses, all using, in one way or another, the featured item. One seating, about 7 PM and a price fixed charge for the dinner of $55 per person, not including beverages and gratuity. The portions are moderate but I doubt that any left hungry or dissatisfied.
The courses and their ingredients are as follows:
Baby Spinach Salad( three types, Bordeaux, Space and Winter log lasting, all small leafed and crisp),Organic Shiitake Mushrooms, Red Onion, Chestnuts, Grated Hard Boiled Egg. The salad was dressed with an excellent Warm Bacon-Sherry Vinaigrette. A wonderful combination.
Second came Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi with Grana Parmesan and Lemon Brown Butter. The Gnocchi were delightful. The mixture of the spinach and ricotta with the dough made not only from a mild taste but the preparation produced wonderfully light and fluffy, melt in your mouth, pasta. This is a winner.
The fish course was Pomegranate Glazed Hawaiian Marlin with Spinach flan. As you know, Marlin is a relative of Sword fish and has many of the same qualities. The Glaze was very light and the flan very creamy so it produced an interesting combination.
Next came Lamb Kibbi with Creamed Spinach( not your steakhouse variety). The Kibbi came as two balls, slightly larger than golf balls and was mildly seasoned. The Spinach was whole baby leaves with a light yogurt sauce. Each setting off the other.
Dessert was Spinach, Goat Cheese, and Current Filo Pastry with Carrot Sorbet. The accompaniment was diced tropical fruit. The filo was a mix of Spanicopita and Baklava. The sorbet was so frozen that I just popped it in my mouth and let nature take it's course.
There were two featured wines, at a reasonable price, as well as there usually wine list and bar items, and the whole evening, while not inexpensive is a very fair value.
To quote Mikey, "try it you'll like it".

Monday, February 16, 2009

Happy Birthday, Abe

We left Cincinnati, Tuesday, Feb. 10, in our old green Honda CRV headed for Springfield, IL and Lincoln's 200th Birthday celebration. Six hours later we arrived and registered at the Hampton Inn, a block away from where President Obama spoke Thursday evening, where we meet the rest of our party. There were 10 of us, in all, the men had all gone to the University of Michigan and been in the same fraternity. That friendship has lasted 60 years and we all try to get together, with spouses, at least once a year. Geographically 4 of the couples are in the mid west while the other join us from California.
We had taken rooms including one suite, so that we had a meeting place throughout the day and evening.
The genesis of the idea came from an Elder hostel trip which perked our interest. We decided that we could do it on our own and divided the effort with one charting activities and the other handling logistics. I got the food, surprise.
After wine and "munchies" the first night, and all others, in our suite we went to "Indigo", 3013 Lindberg Blvd,-217-726-3487, a steak and seafood restaurant in the Southwest suburbs. The ambiance is a mix between a nice cocktail lounge and white table cloth restaurant. They had one long table for the 10, not the best arrangement, for conversation, and were served by a very attractive and competent server. I wish the kitchen service had been as competent. The food was good, but not outstanding. I had very good fried Oysters with a very interesting, spicy, non mayonnaise, remoulade sauce, a large Caesar salad and an appetizer portion of "jerk" rubbed, braised short ribs, enough to serve 3 people. I never saw such a large portion listed as an appetizer. I ate one and shared the others with the table. On the whole my meal was satisfactory, although the kitchen seems to function one order at a time, which slowed the whole process and the enjoyment.
The next morning, after Breakfast, always provided free at the "Hampton Inn", we took off for downtown Springfield. First stop, the Lincoln Library, which we found to be mostly research, over 12,000 books have been written about Lincoln.
Part of the group moved on the the Lincoln Museum, across the street while 3 of us went to an enactment of Lincolns life in Springfield thru his departure, as President, for Washington. The enactment was attended by more that 5000 school children and a fair number of adults.
We meet up with the rest of the group, had lunch in the museum cafeteria and spent the early part of the afternoon touring the museum. The displays are well done and quite a bit is interactive. A very good presentation and quite educational. It was then on to the Lincoln Tomb and a talk by a docent after a tour of the edifice.
That evening, after rest, our "get together" and much conversation it was on to"Maldaner's",222 South Sixth St.-217-522-4313. "Maldaner's" first opened in 1886 and reminded me of "The Tadish Grill", in San Fransisco or "Lockober's" in Boston, in the ambiance. Again we were seated at one long table, this time one side being a banquette under a mirror with gaslight fixtures, modernized. Being downtown, near the Capitol, it is a home for many politicians, lobbyist's and locals. After my Bombay, Marilyn and I split a salad which I followed with Calves Liver for my main course. The sauteed onions had been combined with some chopped bacon and served in a light sauce. I asked for pollenta instead of mashed potato's and the dish was appetizing if not memorable. For dessert I had a piece of dark chocolate and cranberry tort with whole, pitted, marinated dates on top, very interesting and delightful.
Thursday, Feb 12, the day, we visited and then left early for an 11:30 Lincoln Society lunch. Over 350 people showed to listen to Steven Burlingame who has just published a large, two volume, history of Lincoln. This time we had a round table which we all enjoyed, but not quite as much as the wonderful, entertaining talk by professor Burlingame. He is knowledgeable, speaks well, laces his talk with humor and historical information. A real treat.
After lunch our group split, with one couple returning to St. Louis and the others, 4 and 4 going in some what different directions. We went to the C Span mobile studio to learn about their coverage, then on to the old state house to buy Lincoln first day cover stamps and then for a tour of the Lincoln home and visitors center. Incidentally the Lincoln home is the only National Park in Illinois and is run by the US Park Service. The other group after buying stamps went to the Governor's Mansion for an open house and to meet the new Governor.
That evening, the 8 of us, followed our set routine and then went for dinner, this time with a round table, at "Sabastian's Hideout", 221 South Fifth St., a block away from the previous evening but miles away in decor.
After or typical chicken luncheon we all ate lightly. I chose a Perrine salad, baby greens, dried cranberries, raisins, pine nuts and Stilton followed by very good Tuna Tartare, served on as rice cake with all the appropriate condiments. Marilyn had a Caesar Salad and a stuffed Portabella Mushroom. The food was very good and it was a wonderful way to end a delightful time of being together.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

20 Brix

"It's a long long way to Tipperary", my age is showing, not quite so far to "20 Brix" 101 Main Street, Milford, Ohio 45150- 513-831-2749(Brix) and a lot more pleasant journey.
Last night, with an older couple, can you imagine, we made our first visit, it will not be our last. Most of the diners seem to be in their 30's and 40's so as you might imagine we raised the average age considerably, enough on age, which I must be feeling today.
"20 Brix", a wine term, has been in business a little over a year. It is located in a reconditioned building, which once housed a barber shop, and is attractive with 2/3 seating and the balance wine bar and wine sales area.
The service is attentive, from bussers thru owners and all are knowledgeable and helpful. They are proud of their establishment and want one to have a pleasant time. I had the feeling that if something was not right it would be made so promptly.
The wine list is extensive and divided by categories. There are many selections available by the glass and all by the bottle. Pour size comes as 2 oz or 5 oz and the latter is certainly a reasonable amt. Our table had 3 different wines, Marilyn doesn't drink. The other couple each had a glass of the same Willamette Valley Pinto while I started with a Barbarra, from the Piedmont region and then a Nibbollo( I'm sure it is misspelled) also Italian. The later is slightly higher in price and I found a slight bit lighter and smoother.
For dinner Marilyn and I chose to split a Cesar Salad, lightly dressed, which as a first course was sufficient. She followed with Walleye, a favorite, beautifully done and served on a bed of sliced vegetables. I got to taste and it was excellent. I ordered two "small plates" one of "crispy duck Brest" which was not "crispy" and slightly underdone, for my taste. The orange sauce was rich but again too salty to be totally satisfying. Her again it maybe that I try to eat as little sodium as possible. My other selection was a risotto ball with ground Italian sausage slightly baked and then popped in a deep fryer till golden brown. This went beautifully with the 2nd glass of wine. It it served, very cleverly, on a plate holding the 3 balls in separate compartments where they rest on a sweet red pepper coils with a dab of pesto on top of each ball. I only managed 2 and the other resides in our refrigerator. The meal ended with the 4 of us splitting an apple tart, with a very good light crust and chunks of fresh apples.
The total cost was approximately $50/person including tip and tax. Not cheap but reasonable for a fine evening with good food and an excellent selection of wine.

Monday, February 2, 2009

California Rt 128

If you have ever driven California Rt 128 from Hwy 101 to US 1 you have had a varied view of Northern California compressed in about 55 miles. There are foot hills of two coastal ranges, with hills, hairpin curves and beautiful valleys. Hills laiden with grape vines and the accompanying winery's, small rivers and streams, small to tiny towns, food of various ethnic origins(mostly Mexican) and several Redwood groves. I though of all this as we made our way from Santa Rosa to Mendocino.
Last week we were on a 6 day jaunt to visit our two California families, one in Mendocino/Ft. Bragg and the other in LA, but that another story.
Monday we had flown from Dayton, OH to San Francisco. We drove to Dayton, took a 30 minute, or less, flight and endured a 3 hr and 40 minute wait at the Cincinnati Airport to save about $500. You decide if it's worth it? We rented a car at SFO and proceeded to Rhonert Park, California, just south of Santa Rosa. We stayed at an excellent Hampton Inn and ate dinner around 9 P.M., local time, at a very good "Red Lobster". Both Marilyn and I were surprised at the ambiance, service and quality of the food. Of course, it's a chain but can easily hold it's own with "Bonefish" and others of that ilk. I had Salmon, done perfectly, while Marilyn had her usual Tilapia. My Salmon had an interesting fresh pineapple and sweet spicy sauce, served on the side. It was a good meal and a pleasant way to end an arduous trip.
Tuesday, after driving Rt 128, we met our son for lunch at the "Mendocino Cafe" 10451 Lansing St. Mendocino, CA. The cafe is "California Coast Down Home", at least in my lexicon. Walking in we had seen a plate of Caesar Salad, topped with a sizable crab cake. Raven, our son, and I decided to split that and a very unhealthy, wonderful grilled sausage with grilled red and yellow peppers and onions. That afternoon we were forced to sunbath and think of the snow and ice storm in the Midwest.
Dinner was at "Nit's Cafe", Main St. Ft Bragg CA . CASH ONLY. Nit is an Asian women who turns out exquisite cuisine from a closet sized kitchen, where she does everything. The cafe seats about 25. The meal was marvelous. I choose a seafood platter, sauteed, there is no deep frier. My plate came loaded with perfectly cooked and seasoned Petrolie Soul, Shrimp and Cali maria all on a bed of crisp oven baked "Yukon Gold" potato chunks. Along with this on the plate was a good sized mound of spicy Asian Slaw. What a meal in Ft. Bragg CA or anywhere.
Our Motel, in Ft. Bragg is located on a bluff overlooking Noyo Harbor. After shopping, the next morning at our daughter-in-law's upscale stationary and art store, "Racines" we rolled down the hill for lunch at "Charter and Moon" 32150 N. Harbor Drive, don't ask me what the name stand for? ""Charter & Moon" is a cleaned up waterfront shack where the husband runs the front of the house, as the host and also the single server, and his wife the kitchen, as the single cook. Don't let the place fool you, I had one of the finish salads, Waldorf with greens, pears instead of apples, candied pecans, white raisins and covered, several inches deep, with fresh Pacific Crab. Outstanding! Another interesting item is that this salad was served in a multi paneled, wooden salad bowel the size that we use to "toss" salad for 6 or 8 people. Don't panic, the portion did not fill the bowel. The chef had carved a large rose from Celeriac to decorate the whole thing.
After an afternoon spent with our Granddaughters, including a trip to the "Glass Beach" we decided to meet at their favorite Thai restaurant. We did at 6:15 and found that we were a day early as they are now only open on the weekend. Not daunted we took off for "V'Canto" 124 Laurel St, Ft Bragg CA 707-964-6844. This is a small town Italian Restaurant with full bar service. The food is good, all cooked to order by a Hispanic kitchen staff and served promptly. I shared a large salad and followed with a bowel of Fettuccine, Scampi and Pesto. "V'Canto" is not outstanding but certainly better than adequate. I had been spoiled by the days lunch and previous nights dinner. The wine list is all California but I choose the closest to Italian I could find. The server volunteered a taste, at least a third of a glass, and I followed with a whole. I was duty bound. The pours are large as are the servings and dinner ran about $25 each including tip and tax
The next morning the four adults, at least age wise, had brunch at the "Rt. 1 Cafe". It is in a "Travel Lodge", but don't be fooled, the food is all organic and cooked to order. I had wonderful "Heuavous Rancheros", fitting for a morning departure from the California North Coast.