Thursday, December 24, 2009

Local 127

This is not an easy report. The food and service were first class but several problems existed which took away some of the shine. I'll just report what happened and my reaction.
Tuesday evening, along with two friends we went to "Local 127" 127 W. 4th St., Cincinnati, OH 45202-Phone 513-721-1345. The location was previously "Jan Robert's at Pigal's".
The decor has changed slightly, from it's previous incarnation, but the feel of the room is about the same, even though one enters from the former cocktail lounge entrance.
Our friends were at the bar and the meeting was awkward as the passage way is narrow and the hostess, new for the night, was in conversation with another patron. Eventually she recognized us and after a pause asked us if we, four, would like to be seated. Marilyn asked if there was a coat room and the hostess replied that she would take our coats, but not until she had shown us to the table. We had already waited for the one Valet, who was away parking a car, so that we could pay the $7. At this point the evening had had a rocky start.
Our pleasant server, in Jeans and a long black apron, took a few minutes to arrive and after explaining the mission of the restaurant and it's "water policy" asked for our drink order. I was mildly surprised when she told me the only Bombay, my drink, was the Sapphire. This is a trend that I find annoying, almost as much as my "small pour".
The menu is divided into sections, first courses, small plates and entrees. Pricing is moderate to high. Our server was well versed and explained fully in answer to our inquiries. I chose a roasted beet salad ($9), as did another in our party. There were both red and yellow beets, quartered or eighth on a bed of wiped goat cheese and topped with some shaved Prosciutto. I followed with a Bison Rib eye($28) served on mashed potato's, which I asked to be left off, and topped with a black olive tapenade and a few shavings of Parmigiano and french fried onion bits. A very taste preparation. Marilyn had a "grass fed" chopped beef burger ($14) accompanied with thin cut french fries. The other man had "Chicken 2 ways", roasted chicken Brest on a chicken colis while his companion also had the "Burger", she had started with a yellow squash soup.
For desert with split a "deconstructed apple pie"($10), excellent baked apple pieces, glazed and served on a mix of crumbled pie crust and granola. With Marilyn's "decaf" came a plate of small "in house" baked chocolate chip cookies.
With my rib eye I had a glass of Rhone, served in a "one size fits all" wine glass. When I asked about a red wine glass I was informed that they only had very good red wine glasses which were reserved for bottles over $100. I hope they were kidding.
The pleasant manager asked for suggestions and as usual I didn't hesitate.
Besides her interest there were several other very pleasant touches. Marilyn did not order a "small plate" as the three of us had but the server brought her a demi-tass of soup while we enjoyed our starter. We also were served an "amuse bushe" of an excellent mushroom risotto.
I imagine that we will return but I hope some of the annoyances the next time are missing. The food is the main draw and it was uniformly good and interesting.

The night before we were at "Brio Tuscan Grille" at Newport on the Levee, 859-431-0900. As I have reported before this is a first class chain restaurant built around and Italian menu and theme. I find it well run with good food and service and can only compliment management. After "Regular" Bombay I chose Shrimp and Lobster Fettuccine in a spicy butter sauce. I asked for Capellini instead of the fettuccine, which was no problem for the server or the kitchen. The butter sauce was a little thick, to my taste, but a few red pepper flakes and some scallion pieces gave it a pleasant tang. I was also pleased to find several pieces of recognizable lobster meat. Marilyn had her usual Cranberry Juice cocktail, Pasta Bolognese and coffee and our total bill came to $48 including tax but not gratuity. The comparison, this this meal vs "Germano's", last Friday, easily come down on the side of "Brio's"
And now to wait up to see if Santa Claus brings more chocolate chip cookies to go along with those already deleived by neighbors.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Old yet New

That is sort of the way I feel about myself, some times, and definitely the way I feel about this season of the year. I am writing about restaurant experiences and a couple of them this week fit into the category of the title.
Last Monday night, with a friend, we went to "Mecklenburg Gardens", 302 E. University Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45219 Phone 513-221-5353. I believe Mecklenburg's started in 1865. I'm not sure if the present location was the original one but I have been going to this location since the 1930's, although I wasn't old enough to drink, at that time. It has gone through several reincarnations but is getting back, under the guidance of the Harten family, to it's roots as a German Beer Hall and dining establishment. This was our first evening experience, under the new owners, and I was pleasantly surprised.
Monday, was still a time of business holiday parities and Mecklenburgs was jammed. I had called ahead, always a good idea, and our table, the last unoccupied, was waiting. Service in the begging was spotty, because of the crowd, but as people departed we received more and more attention. The food was great and the beer selections plentiful. After a sample I choose a medium dark German brew with which I was very pleased. The menu list appetizers, soups and salads, small plates and main courses. I started with the Mock Turtle soup, our servers suggestion, and am happy to report it was excellent. This I followed with a "small plate" containing 3 types of sausages, Bratwurst, Knackwurst and Bier, all sliced and served on a bed of sauerkraut and shaved green peppers. This came with a side of spicy mustard and requested pumpernickel, warm and sliced. Our friend had an onion tart, also a small plate, while Marilyn had very good Weinershnitzel served with spatzela noodles and red cabbage. All the dishes were well prepared with the exception of the red cabbage which in my opinion was over cooked. A pleasant discussion with one of the owners, Tom Harten, brought thanks for my comment about the cabbage and an offer to replace, which was turned down. We had a most pleasant evening and will return, although I remain nostalgic for the old German waiters, the "schmercasse" and the small tenderloin sandwich.
After several days at home I next ventured to "Virgil's Cafe", 710 Fairfield Ave, Bellevue, KY 41073-859-491-3287. This fairly new restaurant is getting to be old hat to me as people want to try, for a first time. My guests were Marilyn Harris and he husband. I enjoyed a bowl of bison chili, my usual, while they each had a cup of soup, chili and a shrimp bisque, followed by very rich sandwich of ham, cheese, fried egg and a cheese sauce on a croissant, wow the calories, even split.
They ended with a piece of coconut creame pie. A filling lunch which I am happy I observed rather than partook. I left with a "homemade" Pastrami sandwich, always good, which I took to my "shut in" friend.
Friday night, along with two other couples, we went to "Germano's Restarante" 9415 Montomery Road, Montgomery OH-513-794-1155. "Germano's" is not "on our radar screen" and so even though it has been in it's current location for several years, having moved from a filling station on Route 4, this is only the second time, within memory, that we have been to their Montgomery site.
I find "Germano's" pricey and have left both times with a feeling that a return is problematical, not a good feeling for a restaurant. Service was very slow, they were full and possibly understaffed, and with the exception of wonderful, rich Oyster stew, most of Marilyn and my meal was a disappointment, others had somewhat the same reaction. We decided to split a Veal chop($40) and although the meat was prepared perfectly the cut, in my opinion, should not have been served. Veal chops, by nature have an amount of fat, but this chop was over 30% fat and very gristlely. I had a very pleasant, long talk with Dominic Germano, owned and Executive Chef, who insisted in removing the chop from our bill, proper handling for something not "up to par". The table shared their signature dessert,Raspberry pie, which all enjoyed.
I'm, now, off to take my Granddaughter to lunch and start another week of culinary adventures.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Several people have referred to this Blog as a restaurant review. To recap, what I have always said, I report on where I go, what I eat and my reaction, if any. I don't try to comparatively rate or even cover all aspects, such as ambiance, food preparation, ingredients etc. of my experiences or place of dinning. It's just one persons report on activities, mostly centered around food and "eating out".
Quite a bit of activity since last posting has been either private parties or meals here.
We were included in a very nice Birthday dinner celebrating one of our friends major birthdays, of course at our age they all are. A chef from the Cincinnati convention center prepared the meal, for about 30 of us, which centered on beef tenderloin. This he served with excellent cous-cous, mixed with chopped apples and dried cranberries and a platter of roasted vegetables. His extremely light, wonderful meringues served with creme-fresh and fresh strawberries finished a lovely dinner.
Not to be out done, the following week I fixed a large amount of brazed, beef, short ribs and root vegetables. I have been asked for the recipe but since I cook without one all I can do, when asked, is send a list of the ingredients and leave it up to the individual, to take it from there. The amount ended up serving almost 12 people, at three different sittings. The process of preparing takes, from start to finish, almost 6 hours and so it is not for the faint of heart or the heavily committed, family or work, oriented person. Also I consider it a "cold weather dish". Marilyn contributed Grapefruit and Grape Jelly another family passed down, side.
Our one major excursion was the "The Summit", the restaurant at Cincinnati State. We went to celebrate our daughters 54th Birthday and it was strictly a family affair. Their menu and presentation are both interesting; and I was somewhat surprised this time to see "Pot Roast" and Turkey as 2 of the 6 entrees. Several of our party had rack of lamb, two chops, while our daughter had "red snapper" pieces in a stone bowl fixed oriental style. I chose Fettuccine with mushrooms and Brussels sprouts, in a light cream sauce with specs of truffles. For an appetizer I chose a smoked trout and beet combination. This was very interesting with the beets chopped and marinated ant the trout served in several different forms, mouse, chopped and a spread all on a firm horseradish soft crust. A treat entirely new to me. The meal was all first class and the service, while not speedy, is certainly attentive. I was please to see the there were a numbers of filled tables so that obviously "The Summit" is serving it's purpose as a training ground for culinary students.
During the past few days I have had several lunches and one other dinner,out, all at regular spots, "Oriental Wok", "Pelican's Reef" and "Coldstream Country Club"
Sunday morning I did go to "Otto's" where I fixed scrambled eggs and onions for the owners family and the restaurants staff. I took along pecan roles from "Shadeau Bread" which I feel are by far the best in the city.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


I know that Hamburgers are one of the quintessential foods associated with the USA, right along with Baked Beans, Mac and Cheese and Apple Pie. I like Hamburgers but because I am now an ancient and trying to ingest a reasonable amount of calories I usually choose something else, although not always something thinning.
That said I did have two Hamburgers during the last week at two quite different "joints", but more about that as we progress.
Monday night we drove to Kenwood for dinner at "Maggiano's" in the Kenwood shopping center. "Maggiano's", part of a chain, is known for very large portions and quite decent food and so we and the other couple decided to split orders, all billed as "half". After drinks, which we didn't split, we shared a Chopped Salad, Lobster Fettuccine, Ravioli stuffed with Veal and Mushrooms and a Seafood Cannelloni(diced crab and shrimp). The Fettuccine had a light butter and wine sauce while the Ravioli came with a Veal reduction and the Cannelloni a light Alfredo, one can see how diligently I am watching calories. The food was served hot and tastey and we all left satisfied.
Tuesday lunch, was also not a calorie saver. My friend and past secretary and I stoped by "Detroit Joe's" in Newport KY where we shared a "Whaler", a large deep friend piece of fish served on dark rye with sides of slaw and an appropriate sauce, either "cocktail or tarter". Not to spare the grease there is a large mound of potato chips. We also tried their "mock turtle soup" which in this instance was not up to par, too thin.
Tuesday came the first Hamburger. After a late Camp Nebagamon Reunion, Marilyn and I went with two of the camp directors, from Boise ID, to "Terry's Turf Club", Eastern Ave, Cincinnati. We have been devotees for several years but last year it received a review, in the Cincinnati paper, and has been impossible to get in easily from 5:30 to 9 PM. Luckily we arrived after 9:30 and had our choice of tables. After beer and peanuts, shells go on the floor, and a visit with the server, who pulled up a chair, we all ordered Hamburger's and "well done" French Fries. My burger was topped with banana peppers, grilled onions and a potabello mushrooms, one of the less exotic combinations. I believe "Terry's" does a great job and is certainly my favorite "Burger Joint".
Wednesday I had a bowl of "Bison Chili" at "Virgil's" 710 Fairfield Ave, Belleview KY 859-491-3287 for lunch and went to dinner at "Honey" Hamilton Ave in Northside. Shoshanna Haffner, the chef, is one of the most iteresting and original in our area. She must stay up nights dreaming up combinations of flavors, which almost always work. I wish "Honey" had regular Bombay but I am forced to suffer with "Sapphire" or go without, unthinkable. For my main course I chose Broiled Red Snapper accompanied with pan sauteed oysters and served on a savory bread pudding all bathed in a tomato broth. The food was delicious although I would have liked a little more "heft" than the broth provided but that might have covered some other flavors of the combination.
Thursday lunch was "Quatman's" Norwood, OH, just off Montgomery Road. A bar, meat market and Hamburger emporium. "Quatman's is neither long on abidance or accoutrement's. The burgers and fries come on paper plates with yellow mustard and ketchup in plastic squeeze bottles on the table. Not in real competition with "Terry's" but a true neighborhood establishment that has been around for years.
The last "eating out" was back at my club, "Otto's" Main St. in Covington. Shared a 1/2 price bottle of Chardonnay, very good selection, and then ate "light" with a small tureen of their excellent Tomato Soup, a shared plate of "fried green Tomato's and a large piece of iceberg lettuce with blue cheese and bacon crumbles. A fitting prelude to several nights of home cooking with some stress on cutting consumption.


This Icon popped up on my screen and I want to see if it is really an easy entree point for the Blog?