Monday, September 27, 2010

Ann Arbor

We spent this past weekend in Ann Arbor MI with approximately 70 others who had either gone to the U of M or had married one of the guys that had attended. It was a reunion for some of the fraternity "brothers" who had graduated in the classes of 1950's.
Several of our meals were eaten at local restaurants as the group only has a set dinner, Saturday night and a group "brunch" Sunday morning.

Some of our closest, long time friends, joined Marilyn and me Friday night at "Zingerman's Road House" 2501 Jackson Rd, Ann Arbor MI (743-663-3663), the were 10 in all. The "Roadhouse" really has the appearance of what the name implies. It is right off Jackson Road and is large, several rooms, with a full bar, booths and tables configured to seat 2 to 20. The menu may have been one of the most diverse I have seen lately and all were struck by the variety of items. There were 9 fresh fish offerings alone. Various items ranged from Burgers and Bar-B-Q to Steak and fresh iced oysters.
After a good sized Bombay I followed with a plate of Fried Green Tomatoes( not as good as "Otto's", my standard), fried with a corn meal crust and doused with ranch dressing and hot sauce. I shared the plate, 7 slices. with half the table. For my main course I chose Sardines grilled over hardwood. I had tried to find then in Portugal, several years ago, but they were not "in season", the server, who was excellent, warned me that they came with "bone in" and heads on, which they did. I was not dissuaded. I combined the fish with sauteed fresh spinach and mill ground grits. I think I'll stick with Sardines from a can as they are a lot easier and not much different in taste. Marilyn had a delicious Lamb Burgoo with onion, carrot. celery, corn and wonderful halved small new potatoes all cooked together. I had several good sized tastes and the lamb was tender and flavorful while the potatoes, which had soaked up a good amount of juice and flavor still staying firm, OUTSTANDING. Just to prove that I am a "bottomless pit" I ordered the Michigan Cherry pie ala mode, again shared, a disappointment in size, flavor and cost.
Other had items ranging from oysters to fried chicken and all seemed pleased.

The next day for lunch 5 of us went to "Zingerman's Deli" the original base of the Zingerman food empire, in Ann Arbor. The deli is located downtown adjacent to the Farmers Market and is an impressive operation that has been in business for over 30 years. Many young people have worked their way thru "Michigan" working at Zingerman's. For lunch I had a Sable, scallion cream cheese and fresh tomato sandwich on pumpernickel. My "side" was a very rich Swiss cheese potato salad with fresh bacon bits and a creamy Dijon mustard mayonnaise dressing. Marilyn went for Matzo ball soup and a corned beef sandwich on light rye, real deli food.
Believe it or not I did not gain weight, which I attribute mostly to a faulty scale, or metabolism.

Before we took this weekend trip we had had dinner during the week at "Suzie Wong's" 1544 Madison Road, Cincinnati, OH 45206 (513)751-3333, our second visit. At that point they did not have a liquor licence but I believe it arrived that very evening. The table split a "Laub Gai", ground beef and lamb in a slightly spiced sauce and served with lettuce leaves into which it is rolled, an Asian wrap. I had the Bi Bim Bap a Korean stone bowl with rice covered by marinated grilled beef, sauteed spinach, kimche and bean sprouts, all topped with a fried egg and infused with a lightly seasoned sauce. Marilyn had "Chicken Chow Mein" while the others chose shrimp "Pad Thai" and "Mandarin Orange Beef". I find "Suzie Wong's" very good and very reasonable, a good addition to the East Walnut Hills-Hyde Park Asian scene.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Old places-new delights

Over the weekend we went to "Pelican's Reef" 7261 Beechmont Ave, Cincinnati 45230 (513)232-2526, with another couple, after drinks and nibbles at our place.
"Pelican's Reef", a sort of Key West Seafood Bar, has always been good for not only food and service but a general, relaxed, atmosphere as well. Maybe it's because we have been close to the owners for several years we feel that way.
Any way I believe the food quality and preparation have improved, from a good level, to one approaching any top seafood restaurant in the area.
Each week they send out an email notice of the weekend specials( I'm sure they will add you to the list) and I have found tempting items, almost without exception. One special this week was a killer dessert but we'll get to that shortly.
Our friends had a crumb crusted fresh John Dory, a firm, flaky white fish. The fish was crusted and baked and then placed in individual baking dishes on a bed of pasta and then baked again for a short time, heating and melding all the ingredients. It was outstanding.( I stole a fair sized taste)
I had large shrimp(scampi), split in the shell and stuffed with a crab stuffing. The shrimp were broiled and were firm and juicy while the stuffing was grainy, a good contrast, and had enough crab to give it a definite crab flavor. This was served on 3 cheese grits, in a large flat soup bowl, with a Southwest sauce( tomato's, peppers, onions etc) well seasoned but not overpowering. Another winner.
Now for dessert, and this may have been what brought us to the Reef. A large bowl, the four of us didn't finish it all, of deep fried chocolate, pecan, Carmel brownies, cut into strips and wrapped in an egg roll shell and popped into the deep fryer. When you cut into them the chocolate oozed out and mixed with the very large scoop of praline ice cream which made the center piece. As if this wasn't enough the ice cream was topped with whipped cream. No wonder we have an obesity problem in this country. Unconscionable but absolutely delicious. Total cost for the two of us with beer, salads, tip and tax $48.

The other pleasant surprise, at a favorite, was lunch at "Otto's" 521 Main St Covington KY 41011 (859-491-6678) I have posted comments about "Otto's, one of my emotional favorites, so that it is unfair to write more. The good news is the Paul Weckman is very much back in evidence and the food and service show it. The lunch menu seemed somewhat expanded and everything came out of the kitchen hot, tasty and delicious.
Sticking to my diet(Ha) I had an item that used to be only on the brunch menu, a Fried green tomato, bacon, lettuce sandwich, on a croissant with a fried egg added. Undoubtedly as many calories as a bacon cheese burger. To continue my wayward behavior instead of fruit, salad or soup I choose the home made, wonderful Saratoga chips.
My companion, a vegetarian had the excellent tomato soup followed by the always great tomato cheese pie. After all how much longer will the fresh tomato season last?
It was a great weekend of eating and I am thankful that our trainer doesn't have a computer and that the new treadmill, in the work out room, is functioning as it should.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Rib's N Things

This mornings newspaper said that among the most distrusted things are Blogs. It made me feel that once again I should reiterate my philosophy of what I post.
I try just to report on places I go and things that I personal eat and what I feel about each establishment. I don't hold myself out to be a restaurant reviewer, a chef or a professional in the service field in any way. I appreciate comment, of which I receive very few in writing, and several verbally and I am well aware the my tastes are not in any way universal. I am not a trained writer and never learned either to type or spell. So to sum it up, "What you see is what you get" That said her is my latest post.

Every since "Walt's Hitching Post", in Northern KY closed I have set out to try different preparations of Bar-B-Q Ribs. The closest to "Walts", or possibly even better, are at the "Ravinia Grill" in Highland Park IL a long drive from out base in Cincinnati.
Last night, upon notification of the chef, we went to the "Oriental Wok" at the Regency(513-871-6888) to have the Chinese Ribs, which he has prepared and is serving this week, as part of his "Restaurant Week" special $26.10 dinner. We, 3 of us, were on our way to theatre and so only had drinks and several appetizers( pot stickers, egg rolls, etc). The ribs were meaty, not at all fatty, done perfectly(firm on the bone) and covered with a sweet heavy Chinese Bar-B-Q Sauce. We ate with our fingers and were pleased to be served steaming towels and lemon slices to clean our hands and mouths as we finished. They will be on the menu this week and I'm not sure when he will repeat.

For the first time in several years I went, yesterday, to the "Dilly Cafe and Wines" 6818 Wooster Pike, Mariemont, OH 45227 (513)-561-5233. I meet a young man for lunch and found the food and service good and the atmosphere conducive to conversation. There is both inside and outside seating and an almost full house at 12:30 PM. An extensive menu guarantees that I will return again. For lunch I had excellent Gazpacho, while he chose tomato basil soup. The Gazpacho was nicely seasoned, although I add a little extra Tabasco, and had nicely chopped tomato's, green and red peppers, onions and celery in a "not to thick not to thin" tomato base.
We both followed the serves suggestion and had the grilled Salmon Burger, very tasty, served on toasted facahio with a slight covering of dill aoli. I removed the top piece although my guest ate the whole thing as a sandwich. This was accompanied by nicely done sweet potato fries($11). Pleasant lunch and mission accomplished.

Also this week we had dinner with our young friend and her 7 year old twins in the garden at "Arthur's" on Edward Road in Hyde Park. Dinner with this group is always a fun evening( we are extra grandparents to another family). Monday night was "Burger Madness( $7) which gave us all a choice of as many topping, up to 12, as we wanted at no extra cost. On my burger( medium, next time it will be medium-rare) I added blue cheese, sauteed onions and mushrooms, banana peppers and topped it all off with A-1 sauce. Messy but good. This and a Mt Carmel Amber covered dinner and held me till we got around the corner to "Graeter's" and several tastes of jelly roll and Marilyn's toffee chip cone.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


After 3 or 4 nights eating at home we decided to venture out to Hyde Park Square and try the current occupant of the space in the square which seem to turn over regularly.
"Poco a Poco" (which translates to "little by little"), 2724 Erie Ave. Cincinnati, OH 45208 (513) 321-7626 now occupies the space formerly operated by "Red". I have heard that one of the owners also owns the real estate and that is one of the reasons behind the switch.
The menu has a number of small offerings meant to taste and share. Our server, John, was new to the restaurant business but was very patient and knowledgeable and therefore was able to guide us in making decisions. "Poco a Poco" turned out to be a good choice as neither of us wanted to eat heavily. Marilyn had more trouble with the menu than I but then she is more restrictive of her choices than am I.
After my Bombay, yes, they have a full bar, which I would class as no more than a medium pour($9) I followed with a fine Ceviche consisting of firm, sweet shrimp, sliced calamari and some small pieces of white fish, well marinated and served in an "old fashion" glass; and an order of Chili Rellanos, pablano pepper stuff with the shredded pepper insides, chess and a few bread crumbs, then deep fried, but not heavily or greasy, on a light bed of lightly spiced tomato sauce.
The pepper was only medium sized and would not have given more that a couple of bites if shared by more than one other person.
Marilyn chose fish tacos(2) rather small and slightly spicy. The fish was firm and the other fillings standard. Upon request, John brought a basket of chips which being warm and very crisp tuned out to be a good addition( no charge). The bill before tip came to slightly under $44.

A couple of other spots since last posting where the "Oakley Pub and Grill", for lunch with a friend. She had the grilled Grouper Fillet, which I think they do very well, and I tried the Chef's Special Hamburger, based on the article in "Cincinnati Magazine" about the best hamburgers in Cincinnati. This offering had A1 sauce, pepper jack cheese, deep fried onion rings and some mayo. Luckily I removed the bottom of the bun with the mayo and probably limited my intake to less than 1000 calories. The burger was fine but I'll return to the grouper.

Last night we returned to "Prima Vista" for the second time in 8 days and although I like the owners very much and the food is always as advertised this rapid of a return is not recommended. The menu changes very little and even the "specials" are often repeated. Last night was highlighted by the excellent bread pudding with rum soaked rasins and Carmel sauce with which we ended the meal. If I go soon again I may just stick to the house salad, adding Gorgonzola and fried Calamari and have the bread pudding all to myself.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Two more new

In the last ten days we have been to four new restaurants in the Greater Cincinnati area, almost a record for us. We have not neglected our regular haunts as we keep eating out 3 or 4 nights a week.

Last night our family, six of us, battled the crowd at "Jean Robert's Table" 713 Vine St. Cincinnati, OH 45202 (513) 621-4777. We were celebrating a 26th Anniversary, of our children, and a 21st Birthday of a Grandchild. The only time available, when the reservation was made, several week ago, was 8:30 PM. We all arrived a couple of minutes early but were not seated until 9. The place was full, including the bar, and people were standing around the hostess stand.
It is great to see something so successful, however, I would avoid Saturday night, if possible, and if not, only go with an early seating, unless, of course, you enjoy eating late.
The building has gone thru many iterations, housing stores and restaurants, the latter running from "Longhorn Steak House", thru Thai and now an upscale French Bistro. The current food matches the current Chef and proprietor. The staff is professional, competent and all the servers and managers have come from other prominent food emporiums.

Our group is into sharing and so I was able to taste most of the dishes presented although my two courses, both starters, because of their nature, were a little less popular.
The table shared a bottle of French Bordeaux, compliments of the Manager( because of the wait) and tried the special heirloom tomato salad, which although very nice, always seems overrated and priced, to me, since the local tomato's are wonderful, and in season.
I stared with a Snail and Frog legs combination both in the same garlic-butter and pureed parsley sauce. This was placed in a large bowl around a green, grilled tomato slice and a small mound of grated, mashed potato's with a few bacon crumbles( I believe the item just described had been run under a broiler before added to the dish.( Details would have to come from the kitchen) The three snails( of which I had two) were very good but the two frog legs I thought were tough. I mopped the plate with excellent French Bread, from the tables bread basket. My other item was a single Sweetbread served on a medium sized pastry shell and accompanied by button mushrooms and roasted grapes. The sauce was a wine reduction which added to the combination.
Others had, for their main courses, Salmon wrapped in Bacon, served as a rouille, "Trio Cochon" ( pork for us who need translation) consisting of an excellent perfectly done pork chop, one slightly fatty pork rib and a small amount of pork belly, which I always question if served with the large amount of fat in place. Lastly there were two orders of the lamb special, three medium rare chops, per order, and a fair sized piece of spicy lamb sausage. All items came with appropriate sauces and starch or vegetables.
We finished with coffee, for those who wished, and a shared Lemon Tart with spots of raspberry coulis on the plate. Our tab just a little over $200, including tax and tip.

Wednesday we journeyed to Loveland Ohio to meet a friend, at a place she recommended, "Tano's" 204 West Loveland Ave. Loveland OH 45140 (513)683-8266. We're glad we did.
"Tano's" owned and run by Gaetano Williams, formerly a chef at McCormick & Schmick's, is a small( 20 tables) Bistro and Bar on the main street of downtown Loveland.It serves as a pleasant restaurant and a base for a very nice catering business. The menu is varied, if not extensive, and there are always one or two fresh fish specials. Drinks, including wine, are reasonable.
I started with the "house" salad, mixed, upscale greens, including spinach, with nuts, cranberry's and cheese crumbles while the other two had "heirloom" tomato salad.( see comments above). For my main course I had Pacific Coast striped Sea Bass with a wonderful "house made" pineapple and sour cherry chutney and accompanying rice and broccoli rabe. A lovely plate, well prepared with a marriage of interesting tastes. Marilyn had Pasta Pomodoro with fresh tomato's, fennel, spinach and onions, in a light favorable broth. Our friends diner was the same as mine and with a $24 bottle of wine, and coffee the entire evening ran less than $45 a head including tax and tip.
I can't leave "Tano" without commenting on the two serves working that evening. Besides being attentive, attractive and efficient they were both intelligent, interesting young women. Our friend had a current best seller with her which evoked from our serves, with our encouragement, a detailed discussion covering literature and the arts. Unusual to say the least. I'm sure we will return although its a long haul from the Ohio River.