Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Michigan Group

We have two groups of out-of-town, long time friends. The "Michigan Group", five men who went, together, and graduated, in 1951 and 1952, from the University of Michigan; and the "Lobster Group", four couples who, in it's inception, some 40 years ago, all lived in the northern suburbs of Chicago and who have gotten together, in various places, to share an evening built around a Lobster dinner. Our trip to St. Louis was to be with the Michigan Group.
The Michigan Group included two couples, currently living in Cincinnati and one couple each from St. Louis, Chicago and San Diego. St. Louis was the site chosen for this past weekend.
We all assembled, Friday night, for our first dinner at "Atlas Restaurant" 5513 Pershing, St.Louis, MO 63112-phone 314-367-6880. There were 11 of us in total, as the daughter of our St Louis "brother" joined us for most of our meals.
"Atlas Restaurant" is own and run by couple from San Francisco who have been in St. Louis approximately 5 years. They run a first class establishment with excellent food and service. Unfortunately they have decided to return to "Baghdad by the Bay"(Herb Caen) and have just concluded a sale of the property. Hopefully the new owners will keep up both quality and selection.
The group had various drinks, from ice tea to "Bombay" and shared several bottles of wine.
The "special" for the evening was Walleye Pike and at least 30% of the diners chose that. I had a taste and found it well prepared and perfectly seasoned. I started with Sweetbreads which were chopped into bit size pieces and sauteed in butter and a very light, herb cream sauce. The others, not being adventurous, let me consume these without sharing. For my main course I had a "house made" ricotta Gnocchi served with Julian of spring vegetables. This also had a very light "Alfredo like" sauce. The two sauces, although similar, each had their own distinctive flavor and were irritable with the fresh baked french loaf. Orders of Duck, Trout, salads, beet and several butter leaf lettuce covered most main courses. Desserts ranged from a Butterscotch pudding parfait to Berry crisp and the ever present vanilla creme Brulee.
After dinner we all returned to the Motel for conversation and planing for the next day, which I will report fully in the next posting.
Now it's off to "Graeter's" to try the Turtle Sudae ice cream before the "flavor of the month" disappears the end of this week.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

On to St. Louis

I have not been posting for almost 2 weeks and the reasons all involve family, from eating and entertaining a Granddaughter, and friends, who decided they couldn't afford Florida for their college "spring break" and came to Cincinnati instead, a smart move for their pocketbooks. To numerous visits with our daughter who is recovering from a hospital stay.
Grandparents and "good old Dad" picked up the bills for carry in Pizza, Ribs at "Walt's", Cajun at "Knotty Pine", Graeters, Skyline and most of the Cincinnati, standards and regional fare, for a very small portion of the Bates sophomore class.
For a couple of lunches I met friends and "board associates" at downtown area spots more attuned to conversation. "Via Vite" on Fountain Square, where I still rate the Cioppino some of the best in the city, especially if you like shell fish and some spice, and "Senate" where I passed the hot dogs and had wonderful mussels chaemoula. The sauce seems to be made with the broth from the mussels, butter, white wine and just enough cayenne to certainly stimulated my taste buds and make downing the Mt. Carmel Amber Ale a double pleasure.

All this is prelude to a fun filled weekend in St. Louis, which will take several postings to report. After picking up 8 pints of Ice Cream, Graeter's of course, we drove via I-70 to the Hampton Inn near Forest Park where 5 fraternity brothers, and spouses, met for a weekend of togetherness. One of the group lives in St. Louis and he chose to sleep in his own domicile.
The group planed to assemble Friday afternoon but we came a day early, as our eldest Granddaughter was in town celebrating her first year college reunion at Washington University. A lucky break for us as we were able to be with her and her hostess Thursday night.

Dinner, Thursday night, was at "1111 Mississippi" where we had eaten last spring during Graduation week. "Eleven Eleven" is located at 1111 Mississippi( fancy that) St.Louis, Mo 63104, phone 314-241-9999. Our granddaughter chose to go there again and it was an excellent choice. At 7 PM when we arrived the dining room was almost full and had a pleasant hum but not enough to be distracting. E-E has an extensive wine list, approximately 175 different wines and we had no problem choosing and appropriate and well priced bottle, which the two young women and I shared. The wine was from "Tamas Estates" a California vineyard, previously unknown to me, but then I'm really no too well versed on all the California vineyards.
For my dinner I started with a beet salad, including besides the roasted beets, watercrest, sliced pears, red onions, walnuts and parmigiano-reggiano, all lightly dressed with a honey orange vinaigrette. I followed with the elven eleven "BLT" a wonderful sandwich of bourbon apples, large chunks of Maine lobster, done perfectly, and firm and sweet, thyme remoulade and watercrest, an excellent buy at $11.99.
Others choose the soup du jour, a lightly creamed tomato and dill, Beef Medallions, medium rare, and Lamb Ragu, large chunks of roasted lamb mixed with Pappardelle, broad egg noodles, in a light tomato and cheese sauce. We all tasted everything. The girls also split a "daily salad".
My only slight discomfort was with the attentiveness of our server but this was easily overcome with the preparation and quality of the meal. Total cost, including all beverages( wine, coffee, etc.), for the four of us, including tip and tax was $132, most reasonable
More in the next few days about the whole weekend.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Today I had lunch with one of the people very much involved with 3CDC, the Cincinnati Development Corp. in their effort to correct years of neglect and decay in the "Over the Rhine" Area. We ate at "Senate" and took a walk up Vine St. and down Race St. to see the progress that is being made.
I have written about the "Senate" 1212 Vine St. 45202-phone 513-421-2020 several times and have had lunch there twice within the last 7 days. A week ago I had the Lobster BLT which to me was not a great combination as I found the cured bacon, they use, overpowering the lobster. Today, on my project to work my way thru their menu, I chose the Gazpacho which was very good and was beautifully garnished including small avocado slices, a fine compliment to the seasoned pureed tomato base. For my lunch filler I had the lobster Mac&Cheese and again was questioning, in my mind, whether the dish would be better with a stronger mixture of cheeses and a finesse of the small amount of Lobster. But I digress.
The main point in the the "Senate" is one of the bright new spots drawn to the "Gateway" district by the work of 3CDC and all of the private entrepreneurs who are moving into this vital part of the downtown extension. They deserve our patronage and our thanks.
The walk, after lunch was illuminating. From 12th St almost to Liberty, on Vine, 3CDC has bought, and with the help of many private contractors and laborers, are restoring building after building, often using the original architecture and color schemes going back more that 150 years. Among these are new shops, dwellings and a myriad of other services occupying the newly renovated space.
Moving over to Race St. you find the same system in place although the reconditioning and occupancy are several years behind the Vine St work. This summer 3CDC will move their offices from the Kroger Building, on Court St. to space at 14th and Race.

Very briefly I will touch on a few meals downed during the last couple of weeks.
"Mitchell's Fish Market" at "Newport on the Levee"-859-291-7454 served up their version of the Iceberg wedge, good but not as good as "Otto's" and a thick seafood Gumbo along with an order of Louisiana Oysters. The soup had a reasonable amount of seafood but the mixture lacked the New Orleans punch. The Oysters were quite small but tastee and well season and served with enough crusty white bread that the melted butter and slightly spicy seasoning did not escape this eater.
Also we returned to "Honey" on Hamilton Ave. in Northside. As I mentioned previously they were nice enough to stock the regular Bombay, which I prefer, and so I feel it is my obligation to help them with the dispensing. For my main course I had the 8oz burger served with the "Honey fries" and a very tastee dip. The fries came crispy, as I had requested but unfortunately the burger had past medium rare long before it made it's appearance. Marilyn had the mushroom ravioli which remains excellent.
Our trainer marvels that I don't weight 200 pounds, especially after the weekend reported, last, at the Murphin Ridge Inn, but it is only done by a week of with fish and salad to make up for "eating out". This is the week.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Murphin Ridge Inn

Danny Meyer and his book "Setting the Table" are spoken about as the quintessential practitioner of "hospitality". Danny is a good friend of ours but I am not sure that her didn't sneak a peak at Sherry and Darryl McKenney the Owners and hosts of the "Murphin Ridge Inn" 750 Murphin Ridge Road, West Union, OH 45693-phone(toll free) 1-877-687-7446.
Their staff; Joanne Drilling-Chef, Candis Dryden-Front Desk, Levi Grooms and Joshua Catone are all young, attractive, know their business and can't do enough to make the guests visit pleasant and memorable. If I'm raving it's only because they deserve the accolades.
Marilyn and I plus a good friend arrived Saturday afternoon to celebrate our 56th wedding anniversary. After unpacking in our pleasantly appointed "guest house" room( approx.$150/night including breakfast) we adjourned to the "Adirondack Chairs" on the spacious green space between the "guest house"and the "dining house". The day was beautiful, the sun past it's zenith and the spring flowering trees were all trimmed and blooming. After a few minutes of conversation between Marilyn and me our friend joined us and very shortly, thereafter, Darryl came into view waving a bottle of "Bombay". I knew immediately that this was going to be a special evening. We 5 had drinks and a good visit and decided we would meet for dinner, together, at 7:30 P.M.
Dinner in one of the smaller, colonial dinning rooms at a round table centered by a large "lazy Susan" was a special event. Darryl brought out two wonderful wines, a Meursault and a Chateuneuf du Pape. You readers should not be asked to have any suspense so let it be known that 3 of us had no real trouble emptying them before the evening ended.
Sherry has run the kitchen since they bought the place, 13 years ago, and so with her guidance we went the "lazy Susan" route having 4 entrees as well as soup and salad. Thus we all had a feast of Joanne's and Sherry's creations. Our meal was as follows, all in house prepared:
Tomato Bisque- Sherry adds herbs and Parmesan cheese to the creamy bisque
Green salad, very lightly dressed- Arugula and Fava Beans, well cleaned and almost polished
Brazed Sausage- served on a compote of cherry tomato's, okra and corn
Manila Clams steamed in a tomato fennel broth over a bed of Isrealie Cous-Cous
Halibut Cheeks- on wheat-berry and seasoned lightly with a soy and ginger sauce
Skirt Steak- grilled, medium rare resting on fresh garden veggies.

Sherry is, besides everything else, the desert Queen and had prepared Brownies, the night before and an outstanding fresh rhubarb and raspberry cobbler, both of which had to have vanilla ice cream accompaniment. Not to be out done Joanne made a chocolate and vanilla trifle which made sure none of us left the table without being "over stuffed" and ready either for a restless night or a comatose sleep.
The next morning besides the regular breakfast, juice, home made cinnamon toast, fresh fruit, and home made pancakes, we snuck in fresh farm eggs and grilled sausage. You've heard the expression "you shouldn't leave hungry" and that has to be the motto of the "Murphin Ridge Inn".
If there was a carnival weight guesser in West Unity Ohio he'd clean up. Are all guest treated as well as we were, I hope not, or the obesity campaign is bound to fail. Dinners are $20 t0 $30, deserts extra.
Find your way there and treat yourself to and outstanding time.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Something Old, Something New

You know the rest of the line.
Saturday night, with another couple, we had dinner at "Otto's", Main St. Covington, KY. From postings on this Blog, that's old news. Saturday my meal was outstanding. After the usual Bombay I had the iceberg wedge, good sized, crisp and with the balsamic dressing, cheese crumbles and bacon bits a wonderful salad. I ordered for my main course the salmon, medium rare towards rare and received a beautiful plate with a large piece of salmon, done to perfection and topped with a semi-sweet slightly spicy glaze, The accompaniments were excellent, crisp, sweet potato fries and roasted and sauteed Brussels Sprouts with a butter and bacon sauce. It was a meal done perfectly and reinforced my admiration for the restaurant that Paul Weckman, his wife and his staff have built. The current kitchen staff are to be complimented for the meals they prepare and serve.

"Suzie Wong's" Asian Eats, 1544 Madison Ave. Cincinnati, OH 45206, phone 513-751-3333 was a new experience for Marilyn and me. I commented in previous postings about the number of Asian type restaurants that have settled in the Hyde Park area, I believe at least 15, but "Suzie Wong's", from my first experience, is a very good addition.
The restaurant is under the professional management of Alex Chin, who previously operated "Pacific Moon" in the Market Place of Montgomery. If I understood Alex correctly he functions as the Executive Chef, Manager and operator while the ownership is with a group of partners based in Chicago.
We had been warned the they have not yet received a liquor licence and so we brought an excellent Petit Shyra, a very full bodied red, which fit perfectly with the items ordered. Incidentally the "corkage" is $5, very reasonable.
The four of us split and order of "Pot Stickers", pan fried, but also available steamed if one really wants to behave. I chose Bi Bim Bap, as recommended by our server. This is a Korean dish prepared in a heavy iron pot with rice covered by marinated beef strips, fresh spinach, heated kimchi and raw bean sprouts. The very spicy red Korean sauce is wisely served "on the side". I found everything excellent from presentation to flavor and temperature.
Marilyn had her standard Asian dish, Pad Thai, beautifully served on a stainless steel platter and accompanied with a few colorful vegetables as decoration. The other women ordered Korean Kalbi, marinated and Bar-B-Qued beef ribs, off the bone, served with ones choice of rice. I tasted the beef and found it very satisfying. It was an extremely large portion, as all seemed to be. The fourth dish was Vietnamese Pho. the famous beef soup with noodles and vegetables. The only comment on this item, since I didn't taste, was it came steaming, as soup should, in a very large bowl, looked rich and was more that the other male could eat.
The total evening, except for the cost of the wine, which in this case was a gift and expensive, was $36/couple including gratuity. Very reasonable for fine food and service.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Restaurant Week

You would think that we, who eat out an average of 3 times per week, would take the chance to try several restaurants during "Restaurant Week" at only $26.10. The truth is we went to none, for that purpose, and the only positive we received from the promotion was being able to split the special menu at the "View" Edge cliff Condos, 2200 Victory Parkway, after the Cincinnati Symphony performance Saturday night.
They were very accommodating and we and our companions both put together a fine "after Symphony" repast, from their special "restaurant week" menu. Not counting drinks and gratuity that averages about $13/head.
Marilyn and I chose to divide a Shrimp cake with a mild remoulade on a bib lettuce leaf, followed by a mixed green salad, lightly dressed, surrounding a cheese grits medallion. Our main item was a small rack of lamb, 3 ribs, basted in a mild brown curry sauce and served on mashed potato's and green beans. Most of the potato's we managed to finesse. It was good food, well served and very appropriate for the end of a pleasant evening. "View" seems to have their act together and it is a good "stopping off" place since the kitchen is open till at least 11 PM on Friday and Saturday.

Speaking of "good and accommodating" last night, with another couple we, again, went to "Maggiano's" in the Kenwood Mall. This large, chain, Italian makes a real effort to be accommodating both in customizing food and providing service.
Our server asked if this was the first visit and when we said "no" she said, with a sight, that then she didn't have to warn us of serving size, which is quite large. We usually split 1/2 orders and find that sufficient for 3 or 4 diners. After a chopped salad we followed with an order of deep fried Zucchini accompanied by a lemon aoli. The dish is terrible for you and absolutely delicious. The Zucchini strips are crisp, and "salted" with Parmesan cheese while the aoli is tart and smooth. A terrific combination.
Marilyn had veal while the others chose a shrimp dish and a pasta. Unfortunately we topped it all of by splitting a large apple crostada with a very large scoop of vanilla ice cream. This excellent. filling meal came to approximately $39 including my Bombay(Sappihire) and Marilyn's decaf. As I said our service was excellent and the Manager promised to have "regular"Bombay, my drink of choice, the next time; we'll see.