Monday, May 24, 2010

Before Triple D

Tonight Dinner's, Drive Inn's and Dives (Triple D) start highlighting Cincinnati area spots. The program is on the Food Network, several times per week. If I am not mistaken the places, to be featured, are "Virgils", "Terry's" and "Blue Ash Chili". We hear that the camera crews are at each location for about 20 hours and the on air segments are edited down to 6 or 7 minutes.
To get ahead of the crowd, Friday night, we went to "Virgils Cafe" 710 Fairfield Ave. Belleview, KY 859-491-3287. There were six of us and this was probably Marilyn's and my 4th or 5th visit. It was full but the service was good and we never felt rushed, nice on a Friday night with a 7 PM reservation at a popular spot.
I started with "Hendricks" Gin on the recommendation of a Rabbi friend. It my be holier and more trendy but I plan to stick with Bombay, as I did the next evening. Followed with a nice poached pear and green salad, mixed with some coated pecans and accompanied with two large toast croutons, or Melba toast like slices topped with melted cheese. A balsamic dressing provided a nice touch to the combination., sweet and a little pungent.
For a main course I chose the homemade Pastrami sandwich, their version of a NY Ruben. It has aways been good, and Friday was no exception although it seemed a little extra salty, possibly because I am in the middle of fighting an URI( upper respiratory infection) although I have no idea what effect that might cause. Marilyn had a cup of the vegetable soup and the fresh pasta topped with roasted chicken.

Saturday night, not connected to Triple D, we went to one of our "homes away from home", "Otto's" 521 Main St, Covington, KY 859-491-6678. I say it is a "home away from home" because of our relationship with owners and staff. Besides this, we almost always see acquaintances, there, and Saturday was no exception. We were probably greeted by as many as 6 other guests. "Otto's" has a real family feeling although it is not "clubby" and everyone is treated well and equally. With another couple, after drinks, we shared the, to me, famous fried green tomato's, the best, and each then had a separated entree. The other women and I had the evening special, grilled pork chop, while Marilyn had her usual Tilapia and the other man settled for the pasta of the evening.
My pork chop, about an inch thick, was grilled to perfection, medium rare, and was topped ( everything in this posting seems to be topped) with a light amount of apple slaw and a very light "pan" gravy. It came on a bed of mashed sweet potato's and had all the appearances of a "down home" Kentucky dish. Saturday night in the Blue Grass, only the fiddle and banjo were missing. Unfortunately, as I have no resistance, Paul Weckman, owner and chef, sent over 2 deserts, a warm apricot bread pudding, well worth dying over and a rich flowerless chocolate cake on Raspberry coulis and half covered with real whipped cream. Don't diet at "Otto's".

Sunday, May 16, 2010


The last couple of weeks have been fairly routine. We seem to eat out, at restaurants, about 3 nights a week and home 3, with the other some kind of event. I usually don't post anything about event food as it is usually not memorable.
A few places we have eaten lately, with comments, are as follows:
"Nectar Restaurant" 1000 Delta Ave, Mt Lookout. 513-929-0525
Julie Francis is still in the kitchen preparing interesting food from fresh local ingredients. I had a fairly thick pureed eggplant soup decorated with strips of roasted eggplant and creme fraiche. I am an eggplant lover and thought this was delicious. This was followed by a spring Risotto, also delicious, including fresh peas and spring onions along with bay scollop's and mussels in the shell. The rice was done perfectly and the light combination was also seasoned with a light touch. The table shared a chocolate mouse and this plus a California "Cab" made for a wonderful meal. "Nectar" has an outdoor patio, open in the good weather, but by the time we arrived, at 9, it was full.
"Lavomatic" 1211 Vine St. 513-621-1999
An early, light, before theatre meal brought us to this Martin Wade spot in OTR(over the Rhine). With another couple we literally had a few bites before going to the second part of "Angels in American" at the Know Theatre. The old camp throwback, grilled cheese and tomato soup had been upgraded with the cheese being Boursin plus English Cheddar and the soup a tomato bisque topped with pesto. A light enough meal not to interfere with the emotions from the stage.
"Knotty Pine on the Bayou" Route 915 in Northern KY 859-781-2200
My favorite, very relaxed spot, for Cajun, this week on the swollen Licking River( lot's of rain). I skipped the Grouper, which they do beautifully, and chose 3 first courses plus a dark beer. Starting with a somewhat spicy Etouffee with lots of seafood and followed by the house tossed salad, then I was ready for my half dozen fried oysters. Plenty of food and variety. There were five of us so I also received a taste of the Grouper and seared medallions of beef.
"J.Alexander's Restaurant" in Rookwood Plaza at 2629 Edmondson Road 513-531-7495
Following a suggestion from our trainer, Pat Gaito, Marilyn and I split a large house salad as a first course. This was followed, for me, with a piece of grilled Salmon and a baked potato which comes looking like the Icelandic volcano erupting. No kidding mine was served standing on end with some of the potato mashed and piled out of the open end. If one can stay away from the butter and sour cream it is a very healthy dinner. I used some restraint.
"Cumin Eclectic Cuisine" 3520 Erie Ave. 513-871-8714
I don't know if I have reported since "Yash" is no longer in the kitchen but the new menu shows a decrease in the stress on "Gourmet Indian", although several items remain. Mung is still serving and therefore the sparkle of a dinner there remains.
In bad company, too much booze, I had more Bombay's than usual and so settled on two first courses, as I seem to be doing more often. An interesting Sweetbread Slaw with chopped pieces of meat, potatoes and spring onions along with the shredded cabbage and a light dressing made up this not particularly satisfying starter. Sweetbreads alone or a flavorable slaw are both fine but the combination didn't seem to work. I followed with a lobster salad which to my taste was on the salty side with very little lobster taste. A Nan stuffed with golden raisins and pistachio nuts completed my meal. Chalk it up to too much to drink or poor ordering but my experience that night was not totally satisfactory. The standard lamb shank got passing marks so maybe I'll have to try again after a shake down period for the changed kitchen or for me.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sandwiches, Burgers and Fries

Today, at lunch, and employee of the David J Joseph and I went to "Wicked-wich" 425 Sycamore St. Cincinnati, OH 45202, 513-421-wich (9424) a new sandwich shop around the corner from "Skyline Chili" at 4th and Sycamore. The "wich" opened within the last 30 days and owes it's Geniuses to Elliot Jablonski of Cincinnati restaurant fame.
Unfortunately my eyesight is not 100% and the black menu boards were hard for me to read. I do know that they serve a variety of meats, corned beef, turkey, roast beef, ham, etc. and cheeses on 4 or 5 breads along with several soups and one or two prepared salads. All sandwiches are made to order along the serving line with choices of garnish and condiments. I chose a ham and Swiss on rye while my companion had a southern chicken salad, on a hard bun, and chicken-rice soup. Each item, the soup and sandwich were classed as one(combo), were $5.95. All the normal drinks are available.
I found the bread, salt rye, very fresh and the apple smoked ham very good. I believe all meats are prepared and roasted on premises. The Swiss cheese was one very thin slice, which I later learned was an error as I was supposed to receive several slices, aggregating to a full oz of cheese. All sandwiches came with a "side" and I chose egg salad which was excellent. The egg whites are sliced, not mashed, and the yellows are mixed with a light dressing plus small bits of red onion, celery and green pepper, to me it was a treat.

Last night Marilyn and I took a couple to "Terry's Turf Club" 4618 Eastern Ave Cincinnati, OH 45226 513-533-4222. The outing was to celebrate their 50th Wedding Anniversary and Terry's was their choice. On each visit Terry Carter, the proprietor, seems to have found and hung another neon sign. In my opinion the Hamburgers and fries are the best in Cincinnati. Terry's will be featured on the Food Channel on Guy Ferrie's(sp), "Dinners, Drive Inn's and Dives" as well it should be. After our first or second visit, shortly after they opened, several years ago; and before the word spread, we have learned that if you don't want to wait, an indeterminate amount of time, for a table one must be there before 5:30 or after 9 PM. Last night we hit the earlier hour.
A new menu item, and they keep changing, was a topping of English white Cheddar Cheese and caramelized onion. I had to try and am glad I did. The burgers are sizable and after shelled peanuts, which are on all tables, and wonderfully cooked, to order fries, I like mine extra crisp and Terry's compiles, there has never been room for their dessert, which the last time I looked was Geloto. I drink draft beer but full bar service is available.

A different experience, all together, is "Five Guys Burgers and Fries" which a few weeks ago opened a branch in the Rookwood Pavillion at 2743 Edmonson Rd. Norwood, OH 45209 513-351-5274. This is store #1056 of a national chain. Their basic menu is, as the title says, burgers and fries, although they do have hot dogs and possibly one other sandwich item. Ordering is done in line, at the counter, versus Terry's where everything is table service, and the order is passed electronically to the cooks and sandwich makers.
There were 5 of us, three adults and 7 year old twins, and all, except me, had single burgers with their choices of toppings and sauces. I tried the double and found that less than Terry's single, although the price is also several dollars less. One should not compare the two operation.
We also ordered one large order of fries which more than adequately served us all. Free peanuts, in the shell, are available as well as a full array of drinks. Toppings are all "included" and there are choices covering all the standards. The entire order is packed in a brown paper bag with each burger separately wrapped and numbered corresponding with the order give by each participant at the counter. A good system. We met at 6 PM and the place was busy, mostly families, during the time we were there, which was under an hour. Total price for the 5 of us was $33.34.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Finley Market

I have not gone to Finley Market, lately, expressly to eat lunch, so when a friend suggested we try it I bought in without hesitation. Yesterday the two of us took off around 11:30A.M. and devoted a couple of hours to exploring and sampling. We perused all the stalls inside the "market building" and the shops on both the south and north side that are adjacent to the main building.
A good deal of time was spent talking to the owner of the new wine store(north side), a past employee of the "Party Source", and even more with Stefan Skirtz the proprietor along with Andrew Johnston of "Skirtz & Johnston a new bakery and pastry shop at 113 West Elder St( market south side) 513-381-1286. Stefan gave us a full tour and samples of breads and pastries. They were all delicious. The shop opened officially this morning.
Back inside we debated as to what to call lunch, which we needed less after Stefan's generosity.
Among the options were, an array of sandwiches, made to order, a pasta or two, Gyro's, salads, meatloaf, Belgium Waffles, crepes, Gelato and various sweets. We settled on splitting a Gyro, large "village"(Greek) salad and a drink. Total cost $11, a good value with good food.
Last evening Marilyn and I took a 95 year old friend to "Bonefish Grill", Edwards and Madison Road. We had made an early reservation and arrived while it was "happy hour" a fact that made the Bombay half price. A nice reward for battling Friday night at a fish restaurant.
Our server was pleasant and competent. After drinks, he has white wine, also half price, we ordered dinner.
Our salads came within a normal period but we had hardly started on them when the main courses appeared. Marilyn and our friend had ordered shrimp pad thai, which came, steaming, directly from the stove but I had chosen planked Artic Char, which I like, as salmon, medium rare. This presented a problem as I knew if I sent it back it would be too well done and if I kept it it would a best be luke warm. I chose to keep the plate. Sure enough, when I finish my salad, and took a bite of the fish my worst fear was confirmed, it was cool The fish was done exactly as I ordered but after one or two bites I yielded and sent it back to be "zapped". It did come back acceptably warm and not over done.
The nice new manager, Rene, stoped by our table and asked how thing were. As you would expect I gave him my personal tail of woe. We commiserated while he told us his life's story, restaurant related, and we told him our history at "Bonefish". The outcome was that he insisted that we try the new dessert, Strawberry Short cake, "on him". He had our server bring two portions of excellent short cake and strawberry's with enough wiped cream to over satisfy the whole dairy industry.
Rene, as any good food service manager will, turned a pit fall into a pleasant experience. They say the "proof is in the pudding", (or short cake) so we'll have to see, on our next visit, if their timing has improved.
I still encourage all to tell a food establishment what is good and not so good about their produce and service.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Big Chill

The "Michigan Group" met Saturday morning and drove to the "Gate Way Arch". If you are not familiar you can go on "google" to get the history and details. It is impressive.
Underground, at the arch are historic displays, gift shops, theatres and an information center. We were there not only to see the arch but to view the half hour documentary, done by Charles Guggenheim, on it's construction. The film is as exciting as the structure, a "don't miss".
From there is was off to the "St. Louis City Sculpture Garden", in the heart of downtown. A full 2 block area which has been beautifully landscaped, planted and full of modern sculpture, Jim Dine to Mark De Suvero. As part of this development "The Terrace View" restaurants sits at 810 Chestnut St phone 314-436-8855. It is built almost entirely of glass and has unobstructed views of the whole area. They serve everything from sandwiches and salads to St. Louis Ravioli and one or two "specials" I chose a Chesapeake Bay fish, whose name escapes me, I should take notes. It was a nice size portion, grilled and served on a warm, lightly dressed, chopped slaw.

The afternoon was a delight. The Missouri Botanical Gardens (Shaw's Garden) are world famous and the oldest (1851) Botanical Garden in this country. The director, who has had the job for 33 years, Peter Raven, is a patient of the group member from St. Louis, and he had requested that we all be his guest for a private tour, which he lead. I am not a "garden person" but one would have to be blind an a lot more of a clod, to not be greatly impresses and awed. The tour was by tram and the only draw back was the inclement weather, wind, drizzle and some rain.
We left early and luckily stepped into the motel lobby as the sky's opened with cloud bursts, heavy wind and a small tornado (oxymoron) in west St. Louis county.
Dinner that night was "carry in Chinese", planed before the storm, for 17 topped by 2 cakes and pints of Graeters.
The next morning we gathered for the last event at "Vin de Set" 2017 Chouteau Ave, St. Louis-phone314-241-8989. "Vin de Set" is under the same management as "Eleven-Eleven", reported on earlier. On Sundays they serve only a buffet, which lacks nothing. The word awesome, in my opinion, is much overused but I know nothing better to describe the unreadable offerings. Since it was approximately ten-thirty those with will power had omelets, made to order, breakfast potato's, breakfast meat, baked goods, fresh fruit, etc. I on the other hand had prime rib, eggs Benedict, nova scotia salmon, shrimp and artichoke salad. While some of the others split strawberry short cake or a rich double chocolate cake I went for the Cherry Pie which a chef heated and topped with Vanilla Ice Cream, as if I hadn't had enough Graeters the night before.

One of the couples had left on an early morning plane, to return to California, for a wedding, and the rest of us split up around noon. Marilyn and I had chosen to stay an extra day to visit with friends and so in the afternoon we did just that as well as drive our Granddaughter, who was returning to her job in Sidney MT to the airport.
That evening, with a friend, we ate dinner A "Oceano" in Clayton MO. A seafood place which remains open on Sunday night. After my Bombay I tried to make amends with a cup of seafood chowder, too thick, and an excellent salad with a small piece of grilled Salmon on top.
The table had a warm rhubarb, berry cobbler, but guilt prevailed and I had only one taste, while the two women joined the "clean plate club".
The next morning we embarked on out 6 1/2 hour journey home with several brief stops, one including very good bowls of soup at "Culver's" in Corydon IN. Dinner Monday evening was refrigerator "nibbles" while we caught up on mail and laundry. End of a wonderful weekend.