Saturday, December 25, 2010

Ethnic America

It is interesting, to me, all the debate we have about immigration policies, ethnicity, population make up and how we want to see ourselves and our country. Feelings are obviously based on each of our backgrounds and beliefs, and are reinforced by our personal situation and history.
Yet when it gets time to vote with our stomach or pocketbook we often chose ethnic( foreign food) over the standard American fare. At least in this household, we do.

It is also an interesting fact that there are more Chinese Restaurants in this country than Mc Donald's and several other "fast f0od" outlets combined. Since the last posting we have supported two of them: "China Gourmet" 3340 Erie Ave. Cincinnati OH 45208 (513)871-6612 and "Jans Chinese" 10012 Montromery Rd. Cincinnati OH 45242 (513)891-3100.
Working backwards, this morning(Christmas) we had a Diem Sum Brunch at "Jans" along with three other friends. I really should try to keep a list of all the dumplings, stuffed leaves, and dough covered items that we consume, although that would probably have me losing my place as the items make their appearance. I do remember: Chinese eggplant stuffed with shrimp, two other shrimp offerings, scallops, pork buns; pork, shrimp and veggie mixture wrapped in translucent dough( as are several of the offerings), Fried chive and pork dumplings, Chinese broccoli, yam cakes, pineapple fritters and sesame dumplings and several others that were tasty but which either slipped by my grasp or memory.
One of the participants spends an amount of time in China and he believes that "Jens" can hold it's own against many of the places there. All this very good food comes at a very reasonable price; today, $12/person before tip. The restaurant was crowded and as is usual, at "Jens", from the several times we have been there about half or more of the patrons are Asian.
Wednesday evening at the "China Gourmet" we had a pleasant meal consisting of an egg role, cucumber and chicken salad( both split as an appetizer), a whole steamed walleye pike( also divided) in ginger and scallion sauce and a mixed vegetable of crisp bean sprouts and sliced scallions. The "China Gourmet" has always done fish excellently and some believe it should bill itself as an Asian fish house. The clientele has been supportive for many years and are generally well know to the servers and owners, therefore service is attentive and friendly. Prices are slightly on the high side for what one might expect at a "Chinese Restaurant" although not for a first class "fish house".

Our other venture, this week, was a return visit to "Bombay Brazier" 7791 Cooper Rd. Montgomery OH 45242 (513) 513-794-0000. Because they had a party in the main dining area(hooray) we were seated in their wine room, a lovely quiet spot with either 3 or 4 tables. Once again we put ourselves in the hands of the owners, Rip and Gee, and were delighted with the choices. Starting with "Pappadi Chaat", crisp tortilla chips topped with onion, tomato, green peppers, chickpeas, apples and 3 different ralishes( Rip's spelling) we then proceeded to two main courses. I should mention that the vegetarian, slightly sweet "Pappadi Chaat" was an excellent accompaniment to our drinks and was more than ample for the four of us.
Next came "Saag", delicately cooked and minced spinach and broccoli in a buttery garlic sauce with cream and spices, to which had been added lamb chunks and sizable pieces of fresh mushrooms. Our third item was "Mango Chicken", tandori roasted chicken in onion, ginger garlic sauce with fresh tomatoes, cilantro, spices, mango chutney and mango slices. Sweet and pungent at the same time and a wonderful dish to compliment the "Saag" and white rice with peas, which was placed on the table.
As mentioned, before, we are lucky to have this upscale Indian restaurant added to our dining scene.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Interesting Food, Interesting Places

Our eldest Grandchild, Trisha Wolf, is spending 6 months in Ghana working for a Micro Lending Organization. In her latest report she began by saying that I would be upset if she did not report on the food. What followed was an interesting and lengthy description of some of the things she eats with the family( Fufu, Kenkey and Ampesi) and some "street food" (Akyeke). You can look these items up on Wikipedia, if you can get by the State Dept. cables and gossip.
That got me to thinking of some of the different, or unusually items, we have had in the last two weeks at places you might not consider as serving these. Part of this comes from our friendship with owners and chefs and their knowledge that I love the unusual. It also drives home the fact that "one should not judge a book by it's cover" and that cooks everywhere love to expand their horizon's.

Brunch at Julie Francis' "Nectar Restaurant" 1000 Delta Ave, Cincinnati (513) 929-0525 brought a plate of sauteed Turner Farm Calf's Liver, lightly fried polenta cake and sauteed fresh spinach, accompanied by a smooth chipolte Hollandaise. The liver was tender, done medium( not overcooked) and had been basted with butter and vinegar. The polenta firm and crispy, with out being greasy, and the spinach was bright green and slightly crisp to the bite. it was an outstanding Brunch, which 3 of us enjoyed while our fourth chose smoked trout Benedict, not bad in it's own right.

Saturday night, before Symphony( a Mozart Violin Concerto preformed by Hillery Hahn) I reveled in a special seafood treat at the "Oriental Wok" ( sorry about that Ed) in the Regency, Hyde Park, corner of Dana and Madison Road. Guy Burgess, the chef, and another friend, had called to say he was picking fresh, clams, oysters and crabs, at the airport, which he was going to serve for the next few days. It took us a couple of days to get there and by then he had turned the little neck clams into a wonderful Clam Chowder, but the Oysters had been kept on ice and were still exceedingly fresh. One could taste the sea water in the oyster liquor.
I feasted on a large very hot bowl of beautifully prepared chowder, creamy, but not heavy on flour, with diced firm potato's, chives and of course, bursting with good sized sizzling whole clams. The seasoning was perfect with just the slightest touch of sweetness. The oysters, which were expensive, but you pay for what you get, were also exceptional, firm, flavorful and a full mouthful each. Not wanting to diminish the taste I ate them with a slight squeeze of fresh lemon and no heavy sauce.
Ambrosia for a frustrated coast dweller.
Marilyn who had joined in the calf's liver, at "Nectar", went with the "Oriental Wok's" fine Won Ton Soup and a mixed plate of their wonderful appetizers.

Our dining out, this past week or so also saw us at the "Sky Galley" at Lunken airport, for a week night dinner with friends( Hamburgers) and at "Bonefish Grill" Hyde Park at the corner of Madison and Edwards. "Bonefish" remains a perfectly acceptable, seafood based, chain operation with good food and service. I am partial to their house salad and often ask for a larger portion to augment whatever else I order. On this last visit it was Ceviche.
We have been fortunate to be included in several Christmas celebrations so some of our eating has taken place at the hosts well laden holiday tables, but then it's that time of the year.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Number 275

According to the web-site this is posting #275 in something over 4 years. That's a fair amount of commenting on meals we have eaten out. When I go for a period without posting I do get comments so it seems some of the readers pay attention to my ramblings.

I thought of titling this this entry "Outstanding" as I am about to comment on the meal 4 of us enjoyed at "La Poste" 3410 Telford St. Cincinnati( Clifton) OH 45220 (513) 281-3663, last evening. In my opinion "La Poste" has improved with each visit. Food, service and ambiance all combined to make the evening memorable and this a go to spot.

I usually only report on what I actually eat but since we split several dishes, and everyone tasted some of everything served I plan to give each item, brought to the table, a mention.
Contradicting myself, I was the only one with the "Bombay", which was not shared. Three of us did share a "Wellington" Syrah which had enough body to go with all the food.

We started with a bowl of mussels, plump, cooked perfectly and well bathed in a white wine and butter sauce. Along with that we had an order of their delightful Ricotta Fritters, which are actually sweet enough that they could be served for dessert and hold their own with a dessert wine.
My main course was made up of two different salads; the Lemon Ceaser, which I have had before and which has a very nice tang to compliment the romaine, chopped pimento and sweet pepper strips, and a Nicoise beautifully arranged on a plate with slightly seared tuna and a salmon deviled egg topped with red caviar topping the bed which consists of strips of thinly sliced cucumber enclosing asparagus( french cut), cherry tomatoes and a few pieces of greens. Both salads were crisp, tasty and somewhat complimentary.
Marilyn had their justly famous Mushroom Ravioli, light, flavorful and not overwhelming in taste or portion. Our young women friend had the same. The other man, who prides himself on "eating clean", ( although he did share all items served) had a season salad, greens, pomegranate, nuts and cherry tomato's. His main course was a large perfectly grilled piece of salmon served on what to me appeared to be medium sized grain.
With coffee( not for me) we all shared and order of cherry bread pudding, a true delight and a perfect ending.
To me the evening could not have been better and I certainly put "La Poste" near the top of my "eating out" list.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


As I thought about our dinner Friday night at "Nectar Restaurant" 1000 Delta Ave( Mt. Lookout Square) Cincinnati, OH 45208 (513) 929-0525 I couldn't help repeating, to myself, the first lines of the refrain of "Swanee", the song Al Jolson made famous. If I'm not mistaken it goes;"I've been away from you a long time. I never thought I'd miss you so". That pretty well sums up my feeling about Julie Francis' interesting, well thought out offerings which she always prepares with style, flavor and attractive presentation.

Julie personifies the "locavor" movement. She has always stressed locally grown, fresh, organic products and items produced by individual small producers who either grow or process into other items that are based on item combinations, such as pickles or kim-chee, jams or spreads. She also has instigated a "Dinner Club" whose four course, price fixed, menu includes one item used in the preparation of all four courses( mustard to mushrooms).

After, you know what(Bombay), I decided to sample 3 first course offerings for my meal.
Starting with Shrimp Fritters I then moved on to salad and ended with a plate of scollop's and sweetbreads.
The Shrimp Fritters(3) were crispy on the outside and moist within. Each contained a medium sized crustacean. They were topped with small dab of mustard, mayonnaise remoulade type sauce and came on a bed of chopped mango and avocado- delightful.
Next the salad, and I should have stopped there, came, filling a large bowl with mixed organic greens, beets, sliced apples, candied pecans and large blue cheese crumbles. The dressing, which seems to me to be an oil and vinegar mixture, whipped and possibly slightly thickened may have had a touch of honey or some other sweetener. It was a meal in itself and the flavors blended beautifully.
My semi-main, course was the combination of scollop's, sauteed, with golden edges and sweetbreads, crisp and mild. They were surrounded by citrus sections, orange and grapefruit, and drizzled lightly with a lemon butter. I am a sweetbreads devotee and I have feeling Julie starts preparing them when we make a reservation.
My only slight disappointment was the shared dessert, which I certainly did not need. It was listed as a pear and Michigan cherry cobbler, with vanilla bean ice cream. I mentally envisioned a light pastry, crisp with lots of fruit; instead it was a fairly heavy dough with some cubes of pear and a few cherries. next time I'll lobby for Cherry Pie Ala mode.
Marilyn had a sliced sirloin, medium rare, served on cous-cous with dried cranberry's and pine nuts. One does not have to eat innards.

Julie promises real calf liver, another favorite, within the next couple of weeks and so it wont be a "long time" before I'm back on the "Swanee".

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bombay Brazier

Following the advice of Marilyn Harris four of us last night made our way to "Bombay Brazier" 7791 Cooper Rd. Cincinnati( Montgomery) OH 45242 (513) 791-0000. When I say "made our way" it is because this somewhat unique Indian restaurant occupies the "graveyard" of other places, for whom the location has been the death knell. I only hope this does not repeat. The location is off of Cooper Road, to the west of Montgomery Road, and behind "Gattle's", the upscale linen emporium.
It takes some effort to find the restaurant and the entrance but I am hopeful that enough people do, as they will be richly rewarded.

"Bombay Brazier" now occupies the space formerly serving as "Jimmy D's", a suburban steak house. It is run by Rip Sidhu and his wife and is attractive to the eye and to the taste. It is a "cut" above the usual Indian restaurant both in decor and food. The large space contains a bar, large dining area( actually two rooms) and a fire place, inviting on any cold night.
One is first struck by the rich colors and the attractive, but serviceable, china included in the well set tables.

After drinks, and they have a full selection of liquor, wine and beer, we allowed Rip's wife to suggest a first course.
She brought us a platter of diced chicken breasts which had been marinated, then baked with mixed diced peppers, onions and tomato's in a slightly sweet sauce. Moist and crunchy at the same time. A wonderful starter and a compliment to our before dinner drinks and the wine and beer that followed.
In no way do I feel even remotely able to try to decipher the cooking techniques nor spices or other ingredients use in preparing this special food. There are cooking classes offer by the chef for those who want to learn( healthy eating). At the moment I remain only a reporter.
We then shared 3 different items which showed the chef's(Rip) skill in different food media. Cubes of lamb mixed with slices of Okra and some onions and herbs made a hearty meat entree. Large, perfectly cooked, shrimp floating in a coconut milk bath again spiced, but not in anyway to detract from the seafood, left a sense of sweetness and the sea as well.
Lastly the creamed spinach, to which had been added sizable mushroom pieces, at our request, was not only smooth but blended perfectly to provide a compliment to the heavier meat and light seafood.
Two different Nans( oven baked flat breads), both crisp and flavorful gave us useful pushers and moppers for the mixture of flavors adorning our dinner plates.
We took home a very small amount of Okra and Spinach but should have "carried out" more and not had to waddle to our car.

The owner and his wife are not only hospitable but generous, as well, and we all hope that this first class dining spot will draw the kind of following it deserves. Turn on your GPS or call and get exact instructions to treat yourself to a fine dining experience.