Saturday, May 28, 2011


It's been another very big week of eating out but I'm going to start with a Wednesday night dinner at Cincinnati State.
"The Summit" is the restaurant open Thursday thru Saturday, for dinner, at Cincinnati State. It is staffed by recent graduates of the Culinary Institute and is a bridge for both the kitchen and front of the house, staff, before they move on to other spots.
On Tuesday and Wednesdays, near the end of each semester, the location is taken over by students who are in their last weeks, before graduation. Those nights it is a requirement that they be there and take the jobs to which they are assigned. They practice on "customers" who are in the most part family and college staff. We were happy to find out about this and were pleased to be included last Wednesday night. The food and service were both very good and there was very little difference between what happens later in the week and the meal we had that night.
The menu, ala carte, consists of first courses( one prepared "table side"), salads and Main. I had 3 excellent courses, White Gazpacho, pureed cucumbers, onions, grapes and apples in a semi-thick base ( slightly sweet for my taste but otherwise refreshing), Roasted Beet and Arugula Salad, drizzled with Virgin Olive Oil, and a Main course of Artic Char, done perfectly( crispy skin and juicy flesh) on a bed of sweet and sour Kale and a sweet potato puree. All had wine while the others had a variety of dishes. The prices were very reasonable and the whole staff could not have been more attentive.

The rest of the week were familiar places and well prepared items, some seasonal and some "main stays". Monday night at "Bonefish Grill", Edwards and Madison Roads, I dove into soft shelled crab stuffed with a lump crab cake, wonderful, while Marilyn had Tilapia. It was pouring rain and the dining room showed it, but the service and food were of their usual high standard. Still a very good seafood chain restaurant.
Speaking of service, I don't know how they do it, but "J. Alexander's", Rookwood Plaza, seems to higher and train attractive, well groomed, efficient servers who almost never disappoint. We join another couple there Thursday night and the only disappointment was that they ran out of the "side" of roast beets before our order was fill, the server was also disappointed as she had told us they were her favorite and she planed on some that evening. Oh well, the Cheeseburger and Hugh mound of French fries over stuffed me and my cholesterol count for the next 36 hours. Very good and very naughty. Marilyn had her regular Prime Rib Sandwich and baked potato which is one of the best buys around.

Last night, again with friends, we drove up the block to "Nectar Restaurant", Mt. Lookout Square, and let Julie Francis over satisfy us with her wonderful cooking. The table divided the Mediterranean Meze a collection of mid-eastern tastes and textures from Farfalle to Humus and also including, pickled beets, eggplant relish, thin sliced cucumbers and yogurt with marinated onion strips to name some. It's a large appetizer which the four of us made "all gone" Three of us, including the writer, had fillets of Flounder sauteed with a cornmeal crust and served on a combination sweet corn and green pepper and bean cold relish. All surrounded by a fairly strong mint coulis. A beautiful dish even more flavorful than it looked.
This wasn't enough so we split a Peach Tar Tartan covered with Carmel sauce and topped with a scoop of Lavender Gelato, overkill.
Who knows what may come next.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

One never knows

When any of us go out for dinner we never know how it will turn out. That's one of the joys of the whole dinning experience. Even if you're like Marilyn and usually order the same item, that she has eaten many times before, she nor anyone knows if it will be exactly the same. For those of us who like to be challenged, and menu hop, each time is a new experience.
So it was on the last three times out.

"Oriental Wok" Hyde Park, which I write so often about, even I feel guilty, always seems to come up with something different. Maybe Guy Burgess, the chef, hides things till we arrive, but I doubt it.
Friday night we started with Egg Rolls, as our granddaughter, who spent the winter in Ghana, had brought home a sauce she said we had to taste and it was "perfect" on Egg Rolls. Well it would only be "perfect" if one had a cast iron esophagus and stomach lined with asbestos.
"Devil's Fire Paste" is my best description. I put a reasonable amount on the end of the appetizer and after one bite grabbed for my half finished Bombay. I should have had a quart of milk. We love our granddaughter but will use the sauce sparingly, if at all.
The rest of the meal was a delight. Marilyn and another women shared a whole Flounder beautifully prepared and served with crisp Chinese vegetables while I had broiled frogs legs, medium sized, and tender, on a bed of semi-sweet tomato and herb sauce. Whose to know what to expect at this unusual Chinese restaurant.

Monday, I knew going in what we were in for. We had a date with a top flight local chef and his wife and I had told Marilyn that we would let him have the lead on the evening. when one chef goes to anothers dining room for dinner you can count on the food and wine both flowing at an amazing level. Monday was at the "Palace Restaurant" in the Cincinnatian Hotel. Jose Salazar is the new chef and we started dinner at 7 and made our first move to leave at 10:30 ( made it out by 11).
We started with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc planed to get us thru our first course. As you remember Marilyn doesn't drink, so the job feel to the 3 of us. For a first course I ordered a lime cured Fluke( their take on Ceviche). Marilyn passed as she pland a whole Dover Sole for her dinner. Before our appetizers arrived the kitchen sent 4 plates of items we had not ordered, Roast Duck Confit with apricots, Roasted Pork belly laced with mousse, a lovely arranged salad ( various grilled, roasted and raw vegetables) and two Manicotti is a light Italian spiced, stained, meat sauce. These, of course, were complements of Chef Jose.
Our starters came as ordered and were followed by a bottle of Pinot Noir( all alcohol was, of course, on the four of us) to accompany our main course. As mentioned Marilyn had Dover Sole, perfectly prepared, while I had equally well handled crispy skin Redfish served on a bed of spicy lentils with strips of white asparagus.
We debated desert, but we shouldn't have, as the pastry Chef sent four plates of her specialities which we all shared. A strip of Chocolate Mousse Cake with a clinging Butterscotch sauce and ground nuts; Strawberry-Rhubarb short cake, presented on wafer's of English short bread and accompanied by a small scoop of double vanilla ice cream; Buttermilk Creme Brulee with fresh red raspberries while the fourth plate contained a Chocolate Cherry Crepe. An after dinner drink and a stiff bill sent us on our way stuffed and full of memories.

In a posting a couple of times ago I wrote glowingly about "Pelican's Reef" and their treatment of our daughter. We returned last night to a less crowded but still nicely full side dining room. I love Soft shelled crabs and since they had them on the menu, I ignored the warning that they were served fried in a beer batter. The dish turned out to be too heavy, for my taste, and although the new item, sweet and spicy crispy cole slaw, turned out to be a pleasure as well as the twice baked potato, I was mad at myself for making a poor choice. One of the party had a piece of the recommended Barramundi, and gave me a taste, which in this instance, it would have been a much superior choice. Live and learn, even at our age. as I said "one never knows". Still love "the Reef" but will listen to their suggestions the next time.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A couple new

Last week we ate out several times, I reported two earlier. Of the other evenings we hit two new spots, for us, and renewed our acquaintance with one.
The renewal was with "J. Alexander's Restaurant" 2629 Edmondson Rd (Rookwood Center) 45209 (513) 531-7495. We were on our way to a show with a 7:30 "Curtain", a quaint old term as most live theatre does not use a curtain anymore. We arrived at the restaurant around 5:30 and had no trouble being ushered to one of many open tables.
Our excellent server, I find most of them well trained and helpful, there, suggested we try the nights featured appetizer, smoked Salmon salad( more a spread), which we happily did, as accompaniment to our drinks. It was more than enough and very tasty. I settled for the evenings "special soup", the Chef's family recipe, Polish Gumbo, thick brown broth well seasoned with chicken, Kielbasa and rice. A filing dish. That and the appetizer would have been enough but I added a half portion of Ceasar salad, large enough to be a main course. All the food was good and the service, from everyone, was excellent.

The two new spots, for us were both downtown.
"Bar 5-0-6" is the new cocktail lounge at the renovated "Residency Inn at the Phelps", 506 E. Fourth St. Cincinnati, OH 45202. We went with two other couples Saturday night, before the Symphony concert, to watch the Kentucky Derby, have a drink and try their "bar food". Nothing was disappointing, if taken in that context. Large TV screens made the Derby easily accessible, the drinks came as ordered and the food was what one would expect. Service was attentive. The table started with two orders of Saratoga Chips, warm, crisp and with two dipping sauces. I had a Gourmet Grilled Cheese and Bacon sandwich( including caramelized onions and slices of Granny Smith Apples) served on an oblong plate with a bowl of steaming tomato soup. The quintessential camp lunch, or Sunday night supper. Marilyn had the Mini Mo Sliders, beef patties on small buns. Others had the Kobe Beef sliders or a fish taco. At 6 PM there was no crowd and on street parking was easy( no ball game).

The other newbie was the "Walnut Street Grill" 631 Walnut St( space previously "Bootsie's) Cincinnati (513)-241-0707. This new effort by Jeff Ruby, and his group, lives up to their reputation of good food well prepared and served. WSG is not a steak house and their menu is varied and somewhere between "down home", chicken pot pie, meatloaf etc, and big city bar and grille. I found the ambiance "hard" ( hard walls, ceilings, tables, bar fronts etc) and very very noisy. I would return if I could be assured of a table in the small alcove, in the rear, were we would have a chance of somewhat normal level conversation.
Marilyn and I split a "Shanghai Salad", chopped greens, tomato's, green onions, bacon bits and Chinese crispy noodles in a light and very tasty ginger vinaigrette( good sized and appetizing) I had the Lake Superior Whitefish, perfectly done and a more than fair sized portion plus broccolini, while she went for the Chicken Pot Pie, which she managed to down half while the rest followed us home. The others had a salad with grilled shrimp and one of several specialty burgers. It is not cheap, especially with the $8 valet parking, but the portions are generous and compaired to the proprietors steak houses the tab is reasonable.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wonderful people

To often we take for granted the people who serve us, in many ways. This is especially true of those working in the restaurant business. From chefs to busser we wonder if that is really their vocation or if they are just filling time till something else comes along.
Regardless of their "long term plans" the great majority of these folks really are dedicated to what they are doing and deserve our respect and thanks.

Following this thought let me report on just two, outstanding examples, of the kind of "special interest" of which I refer.
"Pelican's Reef" 7261 Beechmont Ave Cincinnati, OH 45230 (513) 232-2526 is a place I have posted numerous times. Fun, "Key West" Seafood based and almost always good companions and food to match.
But this posting is a "Love Letter" to the management and serves. Our daughter, an MS patient, is wheel chair bound. She also needs help with all her daily activities. Friday night she, along with her husband and daughter joined us for a somewhat special evening (she had just been released from a hospital stay and our granddaughter was on her way overseas). In the afternoon I called "the reef" to tell them we would be coming, around 7. I was giving them a "head up" for our daughters special needs. I spoke only with whoever answered the phone, not expecting "special treatment". When we arrived there was the usual mob, which the place richly deserves, waiting patiently their turn in line, as we all do. To our surprise one of the owners meet us outside the restaurant and took us thru another door to a perfect table, for our group, which was open and obviously set for us and the wheeled chair. A wonderful server appeared and we were under way. I don't know if any explanation was given, or needed, to those waiting but the treatment of our daughter was outstanding. Who doesn't love people who are nice to ones children?
Incidentally the food that night was as good as always but a couple outstanding items were the "tomato basil lobster chowder" and the "chocolate eclair pie', very much like the "Boston Cream Pie" I remember as a child.

The other special mention is "La Poste" 3410 Telford Ave, Clifton, (513)281-3663. Last night three of us went to dinner at 7 PM. It was the first night of a new menu and that is always exciting to me and my taste buds. Our waitress, Amy, explained each new item thoroughly as
well as bringing our guest ( first time for her) up to speed on the "old standbys".
I wished to try several of the new items and Amy was extremely accommodating, especially with one which was just the side item for another main course( sweetbread hash to go with a steak).
We mixed and matched through the whole meal and ended with a wonderful "old favorite"( written about many times)the superb cherry bread pudding, covered with Carmel sauce, plus a "newbie" lemon panna cotta with apricot sauce. The meal was handled flawlessly by Amy and the whole kitchen staff. Besides the sweetbread hash, chopped sweetbreads and mushrooms in an excellent wine emulsion, I had started with a lobster salad which contained not only the lobster meat but pineapple chunks, sweet peppers, orange bits and arugula all tossed in a light vinaigrette. A blown away evening.

More on a new place of two in the next posting.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Places and comments

In no particular order here are some spot, all in the Cincinnati area, we visited in April since our return from the Cruise.

"The Precinct" Columbia Pkwy and Delta 321-5454. Always dependable with good food, service and management. They are nice as can be when we split a steak, potato and onion rings. Drinks are small and expensive but at least that should keep one away from DUI's.

"Indigo" 2637 Erie Ave 321-9952. Went the other night with a young Mother and her 7 year old twins. That seems to be the crowd that "Indigo" attracts, although that night the 7 year olds were slightly on the high side for children in attendance. I'm not a fan of their food. Little flavor or seasoning. Pizza was fair ( I had one slice which I doctored with extra cheese and red pepper flakes), Apple Walnut Salad decent but fairly expensive at $14 and dressing was overly sweet( no Balsamic vinegar). Marilyn's Tomato Pasta( they don't have spaghetti which is strange with the number over very young who thrive on "white spaghetti") close to tasteless. We hardly ever go and you can see why.

"Trio" 7565 Kenwood Road 984-1905 Lunch for 3 at a $66 cost, which to me is on the expensive side. Marilyn had a cup of soup and a half Cobb Salad ; our guest Caesar Salad with Ahi Tuna and Diet Coke and I a Groper Ruben. I had noticed the price increases the last time we had dinner there but this $22/person including tip didn't resemble Cincinnati pricing. The place still draws a crowd so I probably have to adjust my thinking. Food is good but not remarkable.

"The Quarter Bistro" 6904 Wooster Pike, Mariemont (513) 271-5400. The place is "jumping". Lively, fairly young crowd, to us ( but we're ancient) but service remains good and food comes out promptly and in most cases hot. I had another Apple and Gorgonzola Salad, this one with crisp Belgium Endive and a nice complimentary dressing, $7, and a main course of fish Tacos ($14) in which I found the fish slightly chewy and dry. The other items in the Taco were enough that I enjoyed the soft Taco's with some of the fish removed. Marilyn had a rich, if somewhat salty, Mushroom Pizza with plenty of cheese and mushrooms.

"Otto's" 521 Main St. Covington KY 859-491-6678. I'm not objective and admit it, being too involved with Paul and Emily. It was during Passover and we brought our own box of Matzo. Martini's were on special so my Bombay, with no Vermouth, was only $5. Marilyn had her usual Duck but since I was fighting a cold and loss of appetite I had and order of Fried Green Tomato's, which I dearly love for their crispness and flavor, and an Iceberg Wedge Salad, filling enough.

There you have a rundown with my personal feelings. There is a place for comments, if one is so inclined.