Tuesday, February 23, 2010

M to U/Continued

Friday night, Feb 19 a group of us met at "The Pelican's Reef" on Beechmont Ave. near 5 mile. Phone 513-232-2526. My description of the "reef" has always been that it is a Key West seafood bar. Now my knowledge of Key West is extremely limited as I have never actually been there and have only heard descriptions from some of our friends, who I am not sure have ever been to "The Pelican's Reef". That aside, they have good drinks, good food and good prices. I chose an unusual salad, one of the "specials", of baby spinach, crisp fried Oysters, hard boiled eggs and blue cheese crumbles all in a light citrus vinaigrette. It was quite delicious and sufficient for a light dinner. Remember I had had "Banger and mashed" for lunch. Marilyn had grilled Walleye while others had crab cakes, grilled Salmon, chowder and even a hamburger. We ate at a high table which seated 6 easily. One thing that was again reinforced; 6 to7 PM on a Friday night during Lent is "big business" at seafood restaurants.
Sunday night we met another couple for a 6 PM dinner at "Aroma" a recently opened restaurant next to the new Norstrom store in Kenwood Town Center. The address is 7875 Montgomery Rd. Cincinnati, OH 45236 and phone 513-791-0950. They have been open less than a month but "seem to have their act together". The place is modern, open and well lighted while the noise level is very manageable. The service is pleasant and very prompt, from greeting to food delivery.The sign outside says "Restaurant and Sushi Bar" and so after my Bombay I tried the "soft shell crab roll". It came as advertised and was sufficient for a one course dinner. So far I have not found "rolls" that live up to those at "Wild Ginger" on Edwards Rd. in Hyde Park, but I imagine like everything else it is a matter of personal preference. Sushi is certainly available almost everywhere and I wonder when I will find it on an Italian menu. Marilyn had short ribs with mashed potato's and asparagus which I tasted. Again I am partial to the short ribs, bone in, fixed in our kitchen. The menu covers some interesting sounding standard items; Cobb Salad, Rack of Lamb, Salmon sliders, etc and I am sure I will give "Aroma" another try.
Monday my friend and long time secretary joined me for lunch at "Otto's" 521 Main St. Covington KY 41011. Phone 859-491-6679. Unless you are a first time reader you know of my feeling and relationship there. They have added "sliders" to their menu, as reported earlier, but this is the first time I have had them for a meal, and I'm glad I did. An order comes with three decent sized meat patties, cooked perfectly, medium rare, with three different combination toppings. Our favorite was the Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onions but each are interesting and different. With our split order we had an order of crisp sweet potato fries with a honey dipping sauce, again split. Plenty of lunch for $19 for the two of us, plus drinks and tip.
Today lunch was at the new "Cafe Bistro" in the Nordstrom's store in Kenwood Plaza. Their menu is interesting and what one would expect at a "department store cafe". Soups, Salads Pizza, Sandwiches, specialties(plates), Chef's specials and Desserts. We two males chose a cup of Bistro Crab Bisque, a creamy, spicy tomato based soup with small pieces of crab, red pepper, tomato's and scallions. Then I had an open faced, at my request, grilled ham and Gruyere sandwich, accompanied by a nice side of crisp, favorable tossed salad with a dark cherry vinaigrette. My lunch companion had Rosemary Chicken on Ciabatta. Items came hot, well prepared and taste. It is not cheap with soups $3.50 to $4.50/per cup and sandwiches $9.95 to $11.50 depending on the ingredients. Drinks run from water thru beer and wine.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mundane to unusual

First let me thank those who tell me that they read these jottings and like them. My ego knows no bounds, and the feed back feeds me in several ways.
It has been an interesting week and I'll give it a shot in today's posting:
Wednesday started at the "Blue Elephant" 2912 Wasson Rd. Cincinnati, 45209 (513) 351-0123. I mentioned a week ago that they had just opened and so with an adventurous friend we hasten to give it a try. "Blue Elephant" is in a new, stand alone, building and is clean bright and attractive. The servers are interested and accommodating but the food was only ordinary. Possibly it was our choices so I will have to return and choose other items. I had a "lunch box", some of which I took home. The selection comes in an attractive Black and Red divided carrier and mine consisted, a small crisp spring roll, an equally crisp crab Rangoon, chopped iceberg lettuce with a mild dressing, very bland fried rice and two "rolls', spicy tuna and a mixed seafood combination. My companion had a soup containing shrimp and crisp Chinese vegetables. Looked good, tasted bland. We both had be greeting with a small bowl of Miso soup. In a crowded market, 15 or more Asian Restaurants in the Hyde Park area, it will be interesting to see how they all survive.
Wednesday night was a fun evening. Paul Weckman and Emily Wolf, the owners of "Otto's" and our YOUNG friends joined us at "Terry's Turf Club" the neon strewn, peanut shells on the floor,
much too popular, but deserved, Hamburger Joint on Eastern Ave. I have written about Terry's as has everyone from Polly Campbell up or down. In fact the newest rumor is the "Diner's, Drive In's and Dives" will be there sometime later this year. it's worth the hassle.
Thursday night was a real switch. Julie Francis, of "Nectar", Mt. Lookout Square, 513-929-0525, gives a theme dinner once or twice a month. It is called Nectar's Dinner Club but is open to anyone interested an with $55 a head to pay the tariff. Each dinner has a common ingredient in all the dishes. Thursdays was "Chocolate", a winner with Marilyn, and obviously from the look of the crowd, quite a few other women. I believe you can get her menu's "on line" but there are always 5 courses plus wine and other drinks, which are not included in the price. As a couple of examples the Fennel, Endive, Baby Spinach and Blood orange salad included White Chocolate covered Pistachios. This was followed by a Crostini, chocolate rub on the toast and then on to a fish dish featuring mole followed by a Bison ravioli. Of Course, how could you not have some sort of Chocolate Mousse and truffles on the desert plate. Wine, tip, tax and the meal brought the total to over $80/person. A strong price for an interesting but "tasting sized" dinner. Julie's food is always interesting and that appeals to me and my eclectic food tastes.
Speaking of unusual who would have ever thought that I would end up at the "Oriental Wok", in Hyde Park for an "English Pub lunch" on Friday. Guy Burgess, the chef, is a beer expert and he received one of only 12 barrels, sent to the USA, of a light( 4% alcohol) English Pilsner brewed by a small brewery in the south of England. For the tapping he fixed wonderful "Banger's and Mashed", all made in his kitchen. It was a treat. The Banger's were twice ground beef, seasoned beautifully and grilled perfectly and the "mashed" were out of the world, 80% potato's and 20% parsnips which added the correct amount of fiber and sweetness. He produced a wonderful beef gravy and topped it all with grilled or sauteed onions. A dish fit for king or commoner. You never know what Guy is going to send out of his kitchen so it is understandable that you read often, from me of this restaurant.
I'm running later so I'll save the rest of the week for a follow-up either later today or later in the week.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Quick Bites

Just a couple of random comments on some Asian establishments in our neighborhood.
"Blue Elephant" 2912 Wasson Road, Cincinnati 45209 phone 513-351-0123, opened last week. I stoped by and picked up a menu, yesterday. It is mostly Thai with a few other dishes( mostly pasta's) for those who don't want to order our area's most prevalent cuisine. By my count, and I may have missed some, there are at least 15 Asian restaurants in our "hood". They run the gambit from expensive, white table cloth, to strip mall "carry out". "Blue Elephant" has a clean modern dining area and also does "carry out" I will give it a try shortly.
A snowy evening dinner, last Tuesday , at the "Bangkok Bistro"3506 Erie Ave, Hyde Park 513-871-0707, with four of us, turned up very little new. A small crowd, because of the weather, 3 different servings of Pud Thai and two spicy sushi rolls convinced me that there is nothing very special, for my tastes, about this popular East Walnut Hills spot. The crispy Pud Thai was the best of the selections we had and the rolls were definitely pedestrian and inferior to others in our area.
Thursday night back to our usual stand, "The Oriental Wok" at the Regency, Hyde Park. There were four of us and two ate regular menu( Marilyn's chow mein was crispy and fresh) items while the other two had only specials. I had a non-Asian meal consisting of two chops from a delicious New Zealand rack of lamb, which we four shared for a table first course, followed by crisply sauteed soft shelled crabs served on greens, diced red peppers, celery and sweet onions with a very light dressing, excellent. The sauce on the roasted lamb was also outstanding; lamb reduction, a splash of wine, tomatoes and onions. I know that I seem to enjoy the food at the OW more than most so maybe I am prejudiced by the reception, service and friendship with the chef, but I hope not. I know that if something that I am served is not how I feel it should be I will react there as I would elsewhere.
Now to go dig out of 5 to 7 more inches of the white stuff,

Monday, February 8, 2010


I was cleaning off my desk this morning and came across a couple of notes I though might be worth while posting. Although not really a lot of restaurant reporting they do tie in with my food feelings.

A while back before one of our dinners at the "Oriental Wok" at the Regency, Guy, the chef and our friend, asked if we would like to start with some hors d'oeuvres? We of course answered in the affirmative, expecting egg roles, pot stickers and the like. To our surprise, and pleasure, he brought us each a small plate containing 3 items, untasted by us previously. The first, "white chicken", his name not ours, consisted of silver dollar sized medallions of poached chicken breast topped with shredded scallions and ginger marinated in a salt and oil marinade. Next was a steamed Chinese dumpling stuffed with Bar-B-Q'd shredded pork, the pork in an appropriate sauce and lastly a Taro Root Puree, seasoned beautifully, which had been rolled in crushed egg role wrappers and flash fried. The surprise was only topped by the wonderful flavors.

On the advice of a friend, who is "into wine" I made a special stop at Trader Joe's, Kenwood, and introduced myself to the head of the wine department. Our friend had told me that TJ's often make special buys and if they are on hand the wine is a worth while buy, at their price point. This trip yielded a very decent Chardonnay at $4.99. Nothing for a fine gourmet dinner but very acceptable for light food or as what I call "ice-box" wine, when someone stopping by wants a glass. It may turn out to be a very good connection.

Lastly I bought a large bag of Brussels Sprouts on my last visit to Costco, about $4. I think it is two to two and a half pounds. After cleaning I "par" cook in a steamer, 5 to 7 minutes, depending on the volume and throw them into the freezer. This way I have made my own frozen vegetable for further preparation. Thawing from our freezer takes at least a half a day. I have done this several times. I like Brussels Sprouts and have used then in "home-made" beef vegetable soap, mixed in a black cast iron skillet(for ambiance) with cut cherry tomatoes and sauteed with a "spicy sauce" of my making and lastly again in the cast iron skillet with sauteed onions, mushroom slices, nuts and a sauce of Worcestershire, Maple syrup, mild taco sauce and herbs. Following my recipes is an adventure, as is reading this Blog

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A different View

This week has been a big one. We have been out for dinner every night in the last 4. Now at least we'll get a little break. We hit 2 regulars, one absolutely new and one we haven't been to in at least 3 years. Here is the report.
Tuesday night was "Bonefish Grill" Edwards and Madison Rd in Hyde Park. We tried to "go light" as we knew we had a big week ahead. I am very fond of their Bonefish salad, especially the citrus vinaigrette, so I started with than and followed with the "Bang-Bang" Shrimp Tacos served with the house made chips. The chips are fairly heavy in salt and I'll try to remember to ask that they leave that off the next time. I washed this all down with and Amstel Lite. Marilyn had fish and chips and brought part home.
Wednesday on the way to the Ensemble Theatre we stoped, with a friend, at "Maribelle's Tavern" 2062 Eastern Ave. 45202, 513-861-2484. Dinning is upstairs and when we arrive at 6 we were the only occupants in the dinning area. Later others joined us including one fairly large party. After the Bombay, a nice pour, Marilyn and I decided to split the "special", Pan Seared Pork Loin served on grits and oven browned Cauliflower. Along with this came one side and we chose roasted Brussels Sprouts the sauce of which included chopped walnuts, mushrooms and onion. I will probably try to duplicate this at home. There was plenty of food and it was an interesting meal. We easily made it out for a 7:30 curtain.

The next night was a new experience at a restaurant which had been open two days. Don't count this as a review but rather as a report on a beginning effort. "The View" 2200 Victory Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45206, 513-751-8439 is the newest venture of Gay and Harry Stephens who operate "Bella Luna" on Eastern Ave. They are the 3rd or 4th operators to try their hand at this spot. The concept, to me, seemed a little fuzzy but as the waiter and Gay explained they are trying to serve a fairly standard menu, "with a twist". It is essential that one reads the details on the menu. Marilyn and I came from an opening at the Taft Museum, which is always accompanied by interesting, delicious food, and so once again I started with the premise of not eating a whole meal. We were with 3 other friends and so we got to see an assortment of their offerings. I started with the usual Bombay, a nice pour, and followed with a second, which was minuscule. Our sever, who was very attentive, noticed my displeasure and when he asked I know that he consulted with Gay and very shortly she brought a good sized 2nd drink, they know their business.
For dinner I had a shared helping of a "seared iceberg lettuce wedge" with bacon strips and a rich mayonnaise blue cheese dressing. Those of us who chose this agreed the the searing did not enhance the salad. Next came a shrimp cocktail. I had not read the small print and was surprised when it was a taste shrimp salad in the same type dressing as the salad minus the blue cheese. I followed with a ramekin of macaroni and cheese. I had read the description which spoke of crab, two kinds of cheese, a sharp white and a yellow cheddar and truffles. The dish came nice and hot but to my taste I could find not the crab, the sharp cheddar nor the truffles. Gail explained that they use truffle oil, and I may have missed that.
Marilyn had the Lamb Ragout, a shredded lamb in tomato sauce served on penne pasta and a medium sized house salad, which comes with most entrees. Others in our party had bison steak, grilled pork tenderloin and an other pasta dish. We all shared a cheese cake with an orange marmelade topping. Our tab, before gratuity was $66. We will try again.

Last night, with another couple we went to "Beluga" Edwards Road just off Hyde Park Square. It had begun to snow and I sure that cut down on the crowd. When we arrived we were the only party in the main dinning room, although others joined us as the evening progressed, and our attentive and knowledgeable server asked if we would like the lights raised, a help to older eyes in reading the menu and a nice gesture. Again Bombay and then a division of two of their custom made "rolls". One with soft shelled crabs and the other with Bar-B-Qed and spicy tuna. Marilyn had an orders of excellent Asia Pork Ribs and a vegetable spring roll. Other rolls for the other guest make a delicious past around evening. I had a large Kirin beer to go along with the slightly salty, nicely seasoned food. We all split the check, as we had the food and once again before gratuity it came to slight under $60 for the two of us. Good food, good service and a fun evening.