Thursday, January 26, 2012

Vine Street

I am impressed with the eating and drinking establishments that have grown in the area of the "Ensemble Theatre" on Vine St. in the last couple of years. Two years ago there was one, "LavOmatic" now there are at least 5 top flight places and several others, who while not rated as highly, are still acceptable. Just to name the other 4, all within a block of the theatre: "A Tavola", "Abigail Street", "Senate" and "Taste of Belgium" (short name "Belgium Bistro"). I have been in all except that I have not eaten, yet, at the latter.

Lunch Tuesday at "Senate" 1212 Vine St. 45202 (513) 421-2020 consisted of a good sized bowl of "mussels charmoula", deadly delicious, and a draft St Ambroise Apricot Ale.
The mussels seem to be all plump and firm and done perfectly. The broth is full of salt, butter, and spices and compliments the mussels beautifully. Of course the 4 pieces of well buttered and toasted french bread, for dipping, makes both calories and taste bud alight.
The beer is a perfect compliment and is served in a 7oz glass shaped like a Brandy sniffer and is the proper amount at lunch and again a great companion.
The "Senate" is famous as a gourmet "hot dog" emporium but anyone who likes mussels must try them, as, so far, they are the best I have had in Cincinnati.

Dinner, last night, at "Abigail Street" 1214 Vine Street 45202 (513)421-4040, was another most pleasing introduction. "Abigail Street" is right next to "Senate" but the only hint is a small painted sign on the window and some colored light panels differentiating it from it parent.
There were 4 of us and at the servers suggestion we ordered with the express thought of sharing all that came to the table. They describe the size portions as "tapas size" and they are correct. Some are quite sufficient for two to have a defined share while others only provide a hint of what eating a whole portion would be like. We had many tastes and none left hungry.
The table started with a very reasonably prices bottle of Pinot Gris( $28) and Chirizo stuffed dates in a spicy tomato sauce and a beet salad, both red and golden, sprinkled with nuts were our beginning. Both items give more that a taste when sharing. There was a wonderful gnocchi, in lamb ragout, a Bouliabaisse( heavy in mussels and shrimp) with a delightful broth, grilled and seasoned shrimp and a helping of cubed, roasted potato's and chopped fresh tomato's in a lemon oil, slightly spicy sauce, unusual and delicious.
Several of us also had a glass of Zinfandel to go with the main courses. Total for the 4 before tax and tip $100. Not inexpensive but then nothing good is.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Too much Good Food

As usual I have consumed too much good food this past week. It's all the fault of the the guy who shows up, when I go out to eat, and the forced feeding he inflicts. Oh well, we all must carry a burden. Here's a report on the burden I'm carrying, mostly around the waist.

Last Sunday we had a farewell brunch for our granddaughter, who returned to Bates College that afternoon. "Cumin Eclectic Cuisine" 3520 Erie Ave. 45208 (513)-871-8714, as I reported, began serving Brunch about two months ago. Their menu lives up to the name "Eclectic". Several weeks ago, on our first brunch visit I had Shrimp and Grits( great) this time it was "Cumin Benedict", two half's of English Muffins covered with thin sliced, roast pork, fresh steamed spinach, perfectly poached eggs and a pork based creamed sauce with various herbs and spices. Everything blended perfectly and was prepared without a flaw. Others had Shrimp and Grits and "Eggs ur Way", in this case they were fried and served with diced potatos, bacon and a warm croissant. Obvious we were delighted.

Next it was "Nectar Restaurant" 1000 Delta Ave. 45208 where one of my current loves, Julie Francis, puts together meals that are not only interesting but delicious. I had given Julie a recipe for tripe, one of my favorite innards, and to no ones surprise the dish was a "special" that evening.
I had three different items plus a glass of white wine. Starting with a piece of flat bread with ground sauteed sausage layered on a light cheese sauce and topped with caramelized onions and a fried egg. Different textures and flavors, again blending perfectly. This was followed with a crisp romaine heart salad with a wonderful light, tasty dressing and accompanied with a slice poached pear half. My last item was the tripe in a wonderful light spicy tomato sauce with three to four bite croutons. Most of the others had the Moroccan Chicken, served on lentils with Mediterranean vegetables.
For dessert I was treated to a Carmel Brulee. Not a pudding but but a firm custard with both Carmel and Maple flavors, prominently on display. Julie, thanks.

Lastly we were off to "Otto's" 521 Main St. Covington, Ky 41016 (859) 491-6678. What can I say, that I haven't already about our "home way from home". New people went with us so we started with the excellent Fried Green Tomato's, a must at "Otto's" and in my opinion the best in the area. For my main course it was one of the evening specials, Golden Tilefish roasted beautifully, firm but still quite juicy. It was served atop a polenta cake with both roasted, caramelized Brussels Sprout, with slivers of brown sugar curred bacon and a portion of sweetened grilled kale . Terrific combination well prepared by Molly and her kitchen staff. Chenin Blanc and white chocolate, apricot bread pudding completed my meal and my week.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

First week out

We really do "eat out" a lot. As I have said before, it is a large part of our social life. Having no Children or Grandchildren in our house there is nothing to keep us home, except wear and tear on the body and the mind.
So here is a rundown of the first week of 2012:

Three of us started our restaurant journey, for the New Year, at "Hugo" 3235a Madison Rd. (513)-321-4846. On a Tuesday night the place was nearly empty with only one other table of 7 or 8 young women filling a spot in another part of the room. With the sparse attendance the noise level was excellent and the service attentive.
We started splitting an order of Fried Green Tomato's, ""Otto's" does not have to worry. They were warm, not hot, and slightly soggy but the biggest revelation was that they were fairly tasteless. Luckily things improved after the first course. I chose several of the smaller plates, Sweetbreads and a Hugo salad, along with a glass of Grunner Veltliner( Austrian white).
The Sweetbreads were a good sized appetizer portion with the meat fried and served on a bed of soft polenta. The preparation was nice and the taste all that one could ask. I followed with the Hugo Salad, mixed greens, quartered new red-skin potatoes, cheese, dried cranberries and chopped nuts, lightly dressed filling, crisp and enough to fill any desire for additional sustenance.
We also split one order of a fresh apple crisp, room temperature, topped with vanilla ice cream.
Besides my disappointment with the tomato's they only other negative was a $5 up charge for biscuits and honey, we had not been informed when the item was discussed during ordering.

Next we returned, once again, to "View Cucina" 2200 Victory Parkway 45206. The restaureant is becoming more popular and thus inhabited. I keep returning for the eggplant salad, grilled eggplant slices topped with chopped fresh tomato's and sprinkeled liberaly with crumbled fetas cheese and pistacio nut kerrals. The slightly tart, light dressing sets it all off. To me is is the best new salad in the area, of course one must like eggplant. I had the ala-carte size, 5 or six eggplant slices and the divided, with Marilyn, the lamb meatloaf, topped with a tomato jam. There is a $5 charge for a split entree but the compensation is that each plate comes with a full serving of vegitable (spinach) and starch (mashed potato's).
Since the 4 of us had visited over drinks and appitizers before we went out the dinner was quite filling.

An evening with a vegetarian and his wife took us to "Dusmesh" 944 Ludlow Ave. 45220 (513)-221-8900, our vote for the best Indian food in the city. We have not hit the suburbs and there are plenty of everything in that geographic area.
"Dusmesh" has no liquor licence and so it is BYOB. Most tables have either wine of beer or both. I brought a bottle of a crisp Italian white which went well with what we and the other couple ordered. Most items a large enough to split between the two of us and still give others at the table a taste. We ordered, chicken tiki marsalla, spinach and mushrooms, cauliflower in a garlic sauce and a nan stuffed with ground lamb, all wonderful. Very tasty if slightly on the salty side. One of the joys is that all the food comes piping hot and is served on warm plates. Most was devoured but a bit of the chicken and cauliflower came with is and served as lunch the next day. Each couple received, besides a large helping of log grained white rice, a fitter dessert, "on the house".

Lastly it was a return to "Enoteca Emilia" 2038 MadisonRd. 45208 (513)-834-5773. I rated, although I am not a food critic, rather a reporter on my activities, Emilia the best new restaurant in Cincinnati. The concept, execution and service( most of the time) are great. I am beginning to come to the conclusion the the kitchen has too heavy a hand with salt and my mouth often has that sodium coated feeling. I know several items, are by their nature, salty; cheese, liver pate, sausage etc but the need for that much "taste enhancer" in pasta, lentils, cauliflower etc is debatable.
Last nights visit was with some friends from the Beechwood home, 2 in mobile chairs, and so the service both to our table and within was important. Our server, Cat, was petite, attractive and very competent while the service amoung the 5 of us enabled all to enjoy the evening and eat the food provided.
Instead of wine I had a Yuengling, the new hot beer in Cincinnati, and tasted both the duck liver Pate and the cheesy bread which others at the table had ordered. My main course was a "special", grilled slices of Italian sausage served of a bed of lentils and topped with watercress leaves. I returned to the kitchen the lentils( way too much salt) but enjoyed the sausage both for flavor and crispness.
Marilyn had her regular pasta Bolognese. Once she finds a dish she returns to it with great regularity.
And so now it is a few nights at home and a chance to unwind and rest our taste buds.