Monday, February 21, 2011


As we finished dinner Friday night at "Orchid's" at the Hilton Netherland Plaza the Wine Stewart and Maitre'De stopped by our table to ask how our dinner was; I could only think of one word "Outstanding". At the time I thought I was only describing our meal of that evening. As it turned out I was to be describing most of the "eating out" over the weekend.

But lets start with Friday night and the meals that 4 of us enjoyed at one of, if not the, top restaurants in the city. I and our women guest had the regular Tasting Menu while Marilyn chose her dishes from the main menu and the other man in the party had the Vegetarian Tasting ( a rarity in Cincinnati and according to him the best selection of Vegetarian dishes he had ever had) I am not going to rave about each dish and it's presentation but they all deserved the accolades which we bestowed upon them.
The regular Tasting menu that evening was:
Maine Lobster Salad( organic "fried" egg, parsley, creme fraiche and caviar cream)
Loup de Mer( caramelized cauliflower, Nantucket Bay scallops, orange and sage)
Veal Sweetbreads( haricot vert, braised cardoons, Shiitake mushrooms and sherry vinaigrette)
Jamison Farm Lamb, grilled perfectly( celery root, oyster mushrooms, salsify, almonds and juniper berry sauce)
Dessert Duet( warm chocolate custard and frozen Carmel mouse)
This meal was prefaced with a bite of "house cured Pancetta' first, with our bar drinks, and accompanied with an excellent "Boony Doon 'le Cigare' Volant". Beautiful wine with a beautiful meal.
To satisfy curiosity the Vegetarian tasting( not fully described) was:
Tart Greens
Spinach Gnudi
Crisp Tofu
Fettuccine( truffles and mushrooms)
Dessert Duet- same as above
Marilyn had full portions of Spinach Gnudi (hedgehog mushrooms and preserved tomatoes) and the Jamison Farms Lamb.
"Orchids" is by no means inexpensive but the value is great and the kitchen and front of the house, lead by Todd Kelley, are both memorable.

Saturday night was an interesting evening of nostalgia with a Presbyterian Minister whose first pulpit was in a small town in Northern WI where I have spent many summers for the last 70 years.
Or dinner was at the "National Exemplar" in the heart of Mariemont. There were 8 of us and this restaurant does a better than adequate job of preparing their well known standards with great consistency.
Marilyn and I split everything: Hungarian Mushroom soup( very rich and flavorful), Crisp Iceberg wedge with blue cheese, bacon and tomato, Veal Suzanne( 2 cutlets dipped in an egg wash and sauteed served on fettuccine) and calf's liver( one of the better places around for this special item) with onions, bacon and creamy mashed potato's
A short stroll down the street to "Greater's" for a bowl of toffee chip topped off a pleasant evening with new friends.

Sunday night I was a guest at "Jean-Robert's Table", Vine and Garfield Place, for a "Chaine des Rotisseurs" dinner. The "Chaine" is a world wide organization of foodies with a chapter in Cincinnati. They support restaurants and provide funds for the education of young chefs.
Again a tasting menu( over the top) with wines to match.
Upon arrival we were met by servers with trays of Champagne and others with an assortment of hors dourves, ranging from smoked salmon on thin toast points to crisp pastry filled with sweetbread mousse.
The dinner and wines were as follows:
Maine Lobster salad( firm good sized pieces, pomegranate, grapefruit, "carrot, celery root and snow pea slaw") Wine- Pouilly Fume, Loire 2009
Arugula and endive salad( with duck leg confit and foie gras served over a most interesting and tastee apple, blue cheese and quinoa in phyllo - a first for me, but hopefully not a last) Wine-Schloss Vollrads Spatlese, 2007
Boston sole pinot noir in light truffle sauce( parsnip, wilted rapini, spaghetti of black trumpet mushrooms) Wine- Chteauneuf-du-Pape, 2008
Venison( medium) with poivrade sauce( Duo of potatoes gratin, medley of mushroom, fondue of cabbage, goat cheese flan, chestnut puree and cranberry chutney) Imagine the textures and flavors all on one plate, the sole paled by comparison. Wine- Clarendon Hills Genache, 2004
Dessert was an assortment of sweets, about two small bites each: Cake with apricot filling topped with cinnamon gelloto, Shortbread round with citron mouse and fresh raspberry, chocolate tart with shredded hazel nuts and last but not least a Latte mouse.

As I said in the title "Outstanding" weekend.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Eating alone

Eating alone is subsisting. Eating with one companion or more is a social event enhanced by company and the chance to share and taste more dishes than you would ever consume on your own.
Obviously the more people, and the more sharing, the better, at least in my opinion.

Valentine weekend we ventured, with 2 other couples to "Cafe Mediterranean" in the Mall, just past "5 mile" at 7454 Beechmont Ave. Suite 300, Anderson Township, 513-232-2400. We found it lively and full, the first time we have seen it in that condition since we have been going their for our Turkish and other Mediterranean dishes. With six of us we could eat as one ofter does in other ethnic restaurants, sharing several items.
In the center of the table were placed Baba Ganoush, Shepard's Salad, Excellent Tabbouleh and a regular Greek Salad( to me the least interesting). They were accompanied by hot thick Pita and all made the rounds for several nice tastings. My favorites were the Tabbouleh and the Baba Ganoush. Marilyn and I both had the marinated and grilled chicken thighs, butterflied, off the bone and served with mixed vegetables( nothing to rave about) and rice. The thighs are tender, juicy and slightly peppery. Others had Sea Bass, worth a nice taste, Moussaka, Salmon and lamb kabobs. All items nicely done and plenty of food for all. Several of us had Turkish beer( EFFS) and a couple others had wine. We ended a very nice meal splitting a Pistachio Baklava. We still think they serve the best Mid-eastern food in the area.

Another venture to "LaPoste", our 4th or 5th, 3410 Teleford, Clifton, 513-281-3663 found us again splitting but this time only with another friend. As I have mentioned some of the help has deserted "Honey" and even thought the menu at La Poste" is not quite as extensive as "Honey" the food and service, on our visits, have been first class. our server, who had taken care of all 3 of us before, asked if we wanted out regular libations and when we answered in the affirmative my "Bombay" and Marilyn's Cranberry arrive promptly. House supplied roasted red pepper humus with pita points accompanied the drinks, and an order of "frites" with a mustard dipping sauce held us though our social drinking and conversation period. The kitchen sent each of us a seared scallop on Melba toast and a bed of greens, which may have been the "extra" for regulars that evening.(Good business, some places send a drink, others dessert, you get the point).
I chose the John Dory special, grilled with a strawberry sweet onion salsa and accompanied by bitter greens. Marilyn had her favorite Mushroom Ravioli, and one taste confirmed why, while the other member of our group had veal prepared in several fashions, including sweetbreads, hard for me to turn down a taste. All items were delicious and quite different.
We couldn't resist the warm cherry bread pudding covered with Carmel sauce and topped with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, one of the best, and always filling, deserts in the area.

If you must eat alone, grab a burger and fries or an egg sandwich and save the real eating out till you have at least one companion and hopefully more.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Disenting opinions

Usually I get no feed back from my postings, but two people thought the I was being unfair to "Jean Robert's Table" in my last posting, and voiced their complaint. The particular discussion focused on the Lamb Shank and I was accused of being to harsh and expecting too much.
Others who ate the dish, last Wednesday, argued that the shank was perfectly prepared, coming off the bone easily and that the accompaniment of polenta and spinach was most appropriate. They even reminded me that there was sufficient sauce.
One of the party, who had the lemon tart, said that I should have raved even more about this dessert.
Writing a Blog, or running a restaurant ends up with opinions that are very subjective, and often divergent. Lamb Shank lovers, don't unite, but go try it for yourselves.

A new bar, "Bag Pipes Irish Pub", has moved into the spot formerly "Redfish" at 700 Race St( corner of Race and 7th St) and opened about 2 weeks ago. Phone is 513-421-7468 and FAX, if you want to carry out, is 513-421-7471.
We went Thursday night with a younger couple( but most are) who live downtown. The population, that evening seemed mostly in their 30's and 40's and the noise level is at decibels which they can live with, but we find difficult. The bar and front room was quite active( noisy) with the clients imbibing and ordering some of the Irish Themed bar food. Bar prices are reasonable and food runs in the $10 to $15 dollar range for most dinner items. There are some nightly specials both in food and drink.
After my Bombay($6), again no onions, I followed with a cup of chili, good flavor and plenty of ground beef, and a salad of greens, goat cheese and pecan bits. Marilyn had Irish stew, which had the consistency of my chili, with several pieces of lamb or beef included. The other couple had a Ruben( which she deconstructed) and "Bangers and Mashed", which turned out to be two Bratwurst's on a mound of mashed potato's.
We all ate our dinners but none completely finished, what they were served( except for the cup of chili) and even though I am somewhat touchy, at the moment, I can say without too much fear of contradiction that the food is very ordinary.
If you like an active bar scene you may want to give the place a try.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Our daughter has been in the hospital for two weeks. This has curtailed our eating out and the time available for postings. One thing that has happened, however, is that we have found a whole new group of professionals who are interested it the various dining places in the Cincinnati area.
Several new readers have commented that it would be easier if there were some sort of alphabetical way to find restaurants about which we Blog. Not being, in any way, computer literate I have to leave it up to someone with a lot more knowledge to give me some idea about how this could be accomplished.

So in the last 10 or 12 days where have we eaten out and what have we enjoyed:
"Jean Robert's Table" 713 Vine St., Cincinnati 513-621-4777. We were guests so the only comment I can have on the wine was that it was a Bordeaux and six of us went through several bottles. I paid the price afterwards. The "Bombay" came without cocktail onions so I may have to start carrying my own. For a first course I had excellent sweetbreads served on a mild blue cheese tart and covered with a plentifully veal reduction. The plate was decorated with sweet grape halves. The dish was terrific.
My Lamb Shank was plentiful and done nicely but really had nothing to differentiate it from those served elsewhere. It was plated on a bed of polenta, to which had been added a few mushroom pieces. Divided desserts were the lemon tart, wonderful, and a pleasant pumpkin moose and spice cake which unfortunately seem either slightly too chilled( the cake) or stale.

Todd Kelly, the Executive chef at the Netherlands Hilton, which includes Orchids, gave a cooking demonstration at "The Party Source" in Belleview KY (859) 291-4007. He is a delight and his food is always good and interesting. The evening we were present he made a wonderful salad of bitter greens, served with blue cheese Beignets( with local honey) and the greens in a vinaigrette were topped with a light almond brittle, absolutely outstanding. This was followed by Braised Short Ribs and Ricotta Gnudi. The short ribs were good, but I have invited Todd to try mine and the Gnudi seemed like a small dumpling in search of some filling. I have some nerve commenting like this on food from one of the best chefs in the area.
Dessert was Liquid Center Chocolate cake which by the time it was served had turned into a lovely most chocolate cake round. Three wines, a Chenin Blanc, Riesling and Carmenere topped off the evening. It is a wonderful event at only $55 per person. Fun, education and good food. Call "The Party Source"and get their calendar of events.

Two other evening, at chef owned and run establishments filled out our time. "Honey" in Northside served me beautiful grilled salmon on cauliflower puree and ala carte a very large side of roasted Brussels Sprouts and for Marilyn favorable short ribs over barley and mushrooms. There were enough Brussels Sprouts for us to trade large taste of each of the accompaniments. As a starter we single had large sized ravioli stuffed with golden squash in a very light butter and wine and cream sauce. Chef centered restaurants remain our favorites.
Staying with that theme we also enjoyed another trip to "Nectar" 1000 Delta Ave for a repeat of the Turner Farm calf's liver which we had enjoyed a few weeks ago at brunch there. This time the liver was accompanied by spinach, potato au grautine and a "gritz cake". Our appetite had been heightened by a small ramekin of superb cream of celery soup containing strips of tart firm apple. The meal was wonderful and it is only though the pressure of present circumstances that my weight has remained in bounds. Of course, having cocktails before these feasts have added more than a few "empty calories"