Sunday, October 31, 2010

On to Poughkeepsie

Monday morning, Oct 18, we loaded our car and headed for Poughkeepsie NY. We have a Granddaughter who is a Sophomore at Vassar College. The routing took us off the Interstates on to Route 206 in the vicinity of Princeton NJ. The hour ride along that route was absolutely beautiful with the fall foliage combining with the beautiful homes, lawns and well maintained stone fences. That plus the Hudson River Valley area were several of the high points of our 2000 mile journey.
We arrived in late afternoon and after checking in at our Motel we drove to the campus to meet our Granddaughter and see her dorm room. She is not an adventurous eater, although she did manage to survive the summer in Alexandra Egypt, her favorite seem to be Pud Thai and so we were not surprised when she recommended "Spicy Thai" near the campus. We were a little surprised when she ordered Pineapple Fried Rice instead of her favorite. Marilyn had the Pad Thai and I tried a cold salad which besides the usual had a generous portion of well prepared crispy roasted duck.
The next day things fell more into our hands. The three of us headed to Rhinebeck about 20 miles north, still in the Valley. Rhinebeck has a number of shops and eating places and has developed as a regular tourist destination. The oldest continuing INN is at the main intersection, as it probably was in Colonial days, long before dress, wine, souvenir and patisseries made the sceen. We chose a local tavern for lunch and GD continued her experimenting with a "tuna melt". I tried a combination of local cheeses and sausage. Our server was experienced, humorous and a delight
In the afternoon we drove south to Hyde Park and toured the Vanderbilt's Mansion, operated, as are the Roosevelt properties, by the National Park Service. Marilyn and I have visited the Roosevelt home and Library so this was a new addition for us.
Tuesday night the three of us had dinner at the Culinary Institute of America(CIA). Marilyn and I had eaten there a good 15 or more years ago, with another couple, when it was a much smaller and less known school. Tuesday night we chose "American Bounty", which as the name implies, is the "finishing school restaurant" for soon to graduate students. Kitchen, front of the house and back up are all Seniors about to graduate. Our server, Frank, was scheduled to graduate the Friday following our visit.
The room is beautiful but our table had a poor location, at the far end next to a serving station. Everyone can't be in "Booth #1".
The menu is well thought out and several specials are added nightly. The place, incidentally was full. Reservations are a necessity and are made either on the web or by calling 845-471-6808. The campus is located in very southern Hyde Park NY less that a mile from Poughkeepsee.

I followed the Chef''s suggestion and went with the Pork Chop, grilled medium, served with a light tomato sauce including white beans, clams and chorizo. It was the largest single bone in pork chop that I have ever seen. I didn't have a ruler but I would not be surprised if it was 4" thick and covered at least half the plate. That said, it was prepared perfectly and it was a shame that since we were traveling it could not "go home with us". I had started with the usual Bombay followed by a Country Salad of greens, cranberry's, pear, nuts and blue cheese crumbles.
Marilyn began with Gnocchi and followed with Beef Short Ribs while GD settled for Caesar salad and Steak, as Marilyn commented the students have to learn to cook the basics.
For dessert we shared an Apple Tart done very well with apples just the right consistency and a tart crust, flaky and sufficiently crisp. Since we are from Cincinnati most ice cream, which in this instance was the accompaniment, pales by comparison to "Graeter's".
The evening was very pleasant and the student servers, while not quite yet professional, were pleasant and very interested in us as guests.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


The hardest thing for me, as for many people who write, is to sit down and get going.
We arrived back in Cincinnati last Wednesday night, Oct 27, after a 13 day sojourn along the East Coast and passing thru the land in between.
I am going to recap some of our adventures, and as usual put a little emphasis on "Eating Out"

The purpose of our trip was a family wedding in Baltimore, visits with three Grandchildren at their eastern colleges, or in the vicinity, and a visit with a cousin and good friend in the NYC area. We accomplished this all with the help of our 1999 Honda CRV, some current, approved, credit cards and too much clothing, but who knew the weather would be so beautiful and so warm.

The drive to Baltimore went smoothly till we hit the Baltimore County line. Friday night traffic on the East coast make our local traffic look like we're still in the horse and buggy age. It took us almost 2 hours to get across the city to our hotel at the "inner harbor". Baltimore has done a wonderful job of development of that harbor area.
After unloading we joined a number of the "out of town wedding guest" at the "Pratt Street Ale House", about 4 blocks from our hotel. The Ale House is a fairly large establishment which looks as though it dates back one or more centuries. It has a large open area on the street, Friday night, and I am told most others, filled with 20 and 30 year olds. There specialty is Ale and there are over a dozen on tap. We had a private room on the third floor with a buffet table loaded with dips, bar foods, pasta's, shrimp and crudities. Eating and drinking to fast sent me home early.
The next day, Saturday Oct 16, Marilyn and I took the train into Washington to meet Marilyn's nephew and his family for lunch and the Norman Rockwell exhibit( wonderful) at the National Portrait Gallery. That evening, back in Baltimore, was a "welcoming party" for all the families and again "out of town guests", at "McCormick & Schmick's", part of the national seafood chain, in the Inner Harbor.
Food was again buffet style but this time I showed better sense and concentrated of the crab cakes (acceptable) and a few sides. All went well.
Sunday morning we joined a cousin's daughter and her twin boy for brunch at "Miss Shirley's Cafe" again in the Inner Harbor area, on Pratt street. After a half hour wait, for a table, we were seated, outside( beautiful day) and presented with the largest Breakfast menu I have ever seen.
I had a glass of fresh squeezed Orange Juice and then a delightful plate of Crab Benedict. The poached eggs were placed on fried green tomato slices which rested on a bed of lump crab meat, fresh sweet corn and diced tomato's. All was covered with a delightful light Hollandaise sauce. The service lacked, but the food didn't.
That afternoon we boarded buses for the 45 minute trip to a Manor House and grounds between Baltimore and Washington, the wedding site. Beautiful and stately house and grounds and a lovely personal ceremony. After the wedding there were drinks and passed Hors d'oeuvre's on the terrace, loaded tables of col appetizers in an anti room and full seated dinner, served family style, is a covered garden room. Only the main course came on an individually served plate with is appropriate side( I had Short rib with potato). The wedding cake was cut and another room stocked with deserts, so no one went hungry.
We left the festivities around 9:30 PM in preparation of our departure next more for Poughkeepsie, NY. There the report will continue.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tough business--Tough weekend

If you are a Cincinnati sports fan, and I can not be put in that category, this has been a tough weekend. The Reds who gave us 6 months of pleasure tangled with some of the best pitching in the major leagues and the Bengals began showing the results of intransigence ownership who, in my opinion, will never be responsible for a professional winning organization.
All of that said I once again saw what a difficult business the restaurant business is and how inside and outside forces make demands that only well trained professionals, at all levels, can overcome. As I tell people who have attended my OLLI course at UC " if you are thinking of going into the restaurant business go buy a parking lot".

Friday night we met another couple at "The Quarter( Bistro)" 6904 Wooster Pike Mariemont, OH 45227 (513-271-5400). The food, once again was very good to excellent. The service "ordinary", but I'll get to that in a moment. After my usual Bombay, a nice pour, I followed with the evenings special, Tobia( a firm, flaky, white fish) grilled perfectly and served on Risotto, beautifully done, with asparagus, caramelized onions and chopped mushrooms. The plate was decorated with a lime, citrus sauce which added just the right touch to the two main items. I like my food exceedingly hot( temperature) and so I ask that some additional heat be applied, which was done promptly.
Marilyn had French onion soup, well crusted, and a Mushroom Pizza, at least we thought it was listed that way, which was good but did not seem to have the mushrooms in attendance. Possibly we had read the menu incorrectly.

As mentioned the service was "ordinary". Friday night was the second "playoff game" for the Reds and so there was an extra large crowd and numerous distractions, both for customers and help. It was also the second day of a new menu and a shortage in the serving staff. I titled this "tough business". Although the General Manager worked diligently along with the staff it could not compensate for all the things effecting the tempo and details.
I spoke to the GM the next day( he returned my call very promptly) and he graciously thanked me for my interest and for pointing out many of the specifics. I am sure he covered them with his staff later in the day.
As I noted the food was great and everyone, or place, has a "bad hair day".

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

La Poste

Last night, Tuesday, five of us went to "La Poste" 3410 Telford St. Cincinnati, OH 45220 (513-281-3663). The location was the former home of "Tink's" and is well located near the Esquire Theatre and "Graeter's"." La Poste" had opened for business the previous night. The dining room, and adjoining wine room, have been lightened and minimally decorated with several paintings and prints. Tables are nicely spaced and all have white linen, and last night yellow, fresh flowers. David Taylor is the Executive Chef and he and several others of the service and kitchen staff were previously at "Honey" in Northside.
After my signature Bombay, the cocktail onions had not yet arrived, I shared, with the others, a helping of ricotta fritters. The fritters were the consistency of a "doughnut holes" but slightly larger. They were excellent, just the right amount of ricotta had been worked into the dough to have a nice flavor but not be overwhelming. A "Smoked Lemon Caesar Salad" was next and was also large enough for several of us to share. The greens and other ingredients were well chopped, except the anchovy fillets, and the flavor again was more than satisfactory.
Marilyn and I divided a brazed lamb shank served with French fried potato's and a rich, but not too thick, gravy. Some of the potato's soaked up some of the juice and the others remained crisp. Lastly I ordered, for the table, sour cherry Bread pudding. Two good sized slices, probably from a baked loaf with a crusty outside and a firm overall consistency. The sauce was a syrup mixture of sugar, cherry juice, possibly some alcoholic beverage and lots of poached sour cherries. A fitting finish for an excellent meal.
Prices seemed reasonable and although we were guests I would imagine a dinner with drinks would run in the $40 range. Service and hospitality were evident throughout the evening.

Monday night we went to "Allyn's" an Eastside fixture. Located at 3538 Colombia Parkway, in Columbia Tusculum 45226 (513-871-5779) it has been in operation, I believe over 20 years. We were drawn by the Monday music provided by the "Faux Frenchmen" a string jazz ensemble, playing our kind of music.
Over the years "Allyn's" has upgraded their mostly Tex-Mex and beer menu to now include various dishes and a wide selection of wines. I had Red Snapper picatta( sauce on the side) with a nicely baked potato and a side salad. Marilyn chose the Tillapia and also the potato and salad, both items were $14.95. The food was decent and the entertainment fun and exciting.

Sunday night "Cafe Mediterranean" 7454 Beechmont Ave. (513-232-2400) beckoned to us after drinks and conversation at home with our dinner companions. "Cafe Mediterranean" is our favorite Turkish dining place in the area. We all divided Lahmacum, a three level Turkish pizza, with very thin dough covered with ground, seasoned lamb placed on a very light tomato sauce. It is served with fresh lemon, chopped onions, romaine and thinly sliced tomato's which are eaten on the pizza wedges. Marilyn and I split an order of marinated, grilled chicken thighs, beautifully done and flavorful, accompanied with fresh steamed vegetables. I sampled a dark Turkish beer (Efes) which I found fit perfectly. Total for our share before tip was $32.50.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Dream-realized, partially

For years it has been my dream to open and run a first class, Jewish Deli in Cincinnati. There have always been a few things that have stood in the way; MONEY, actual restaurant experience and partners who were as enthusiastically as I and more knowledgeable. Now my dream has been partially answered.
"Rascals (NY) Deli", Blue Ash Ohio, (513) 429-4567 opened about a month ago in a strip center at the corner of Kenwood Rd and Cooper Rd in Blue Ash, behind the US Bank building. We went Thursday for lunch, along with another couple, and tried an array of their items. Some were "tastes" or "samples" and others were regularly sized portions. I asked for and received, willingly, a taste of both the chopped liver and the Sable. The first I found only fair, to my taste, and the second was fine, standard, cured Sable. Incidentally the servers and managers( probably partners) did everything possible to be accommodating.
I ordered "soup and half sandwich". My soap was the sweet and sour cabbage, a favorite of mine, which I found to heavy for my taste with too much beef, other delis versions run from no noticeable beef to very light, and two thick a sweet base. It came only warm (temperature) but was soon corrected to nice and hot. Along with this I had a half of a pickled tongue on dark rye which was exactly as advertised. The tongue had good flavor and the rye, while too thick for my preference, was hard crusted and with good rye flavor. The table ordered the two kinds of cucumber salads and we were very please with the standard vinegar one but not happy with the Israeli seasoned version which had a fermented taste.
Marilyn had beef barley soup and a half corned beef on light rye which she reported to be just fine, on both. The others had Matzo Ball and noodle soup and one tongue and one Pastrami.
The restaurant is fair sized and I would guess seats around 50. We arrived at 11:30 AM and were seated immediately but before noon there was a line waiting for seating. All items can be "carried out".
The menu is extensive and runs from breakfast items to dinner plates. Prices for these not too usual Cincinnati items seem to be in line with costs in other locals. The "soup and sandwich" was 7.95 and also included one potato pancake, a small cup of apple sauce and a generous slice of dill pickle.
I wish them luck and will return to try the Sable in some form, sandwich, plate or omelet, and possibly some of the other fish or deli items.

Also we split our time this week from eating in and going out, hitting "Pelican's Reef", "Suzy Wong's" and the "National Exemplar' in Mariemont. The first two are regulars but the last has been absent from our dinning scene for several years.
"The National Exemplar Restaurant" in Mariemont, OH is on the village square in the "Best Western Hotel". It is large, quiet and frequented by many of the "older" set, of which we are prime examples. Nice place to go for relaxed dining and a menu that rarely changes. They have a full bar and serve a decent sized drink. Starting with my Bombay I followed with the excellent rich Hungarian Mushroom Soup. For a main course I chose calf's liver, medium( which was slightly too done) that is accompanied by creamy mashed potato's and in my case fresh spinach. The calf's liver was both tasty and tender.Others had prime rib, salmon and halibut. All the food was well prepared and nicely presented We should venture there a little more often.