Tuesday, March 20, 2012


The dictionary defines ambivalence as "simultaneous attraction towards and repulsion from an object", that can best describe how I felt about my evening at "Taste of Belgium" Belgian Bistro 1133-1135 Vine St. Cincinnati OH 45202 (513) 381-4607. It was a mixture of feelings that made me come away not know whether to be supportive or not.
First, "Taste of Belgium" is located on Vine, next to the Ensemble Theatre and I feel very strongly for the restaurateurs who have pioneered in this area. This blog is not supposed to be political but I do have a positive feeling "going in" and want the area to succeed.
We had no trouble being seated at 6 PM, although the place fills up early, especially on "show nights". Unfortunately the seating was back to back to a table of very large people which left very little space for chair adjustment. Service was pleasant and fairly prompt but also came with some mistakes and errors.
I ordered the steak Tartare, which comes with fries and salad, all on one plate. The patty of tartare was decent size and contained a few capers but under seasoned, for my taste. Ground raw beef, no matter how good, needs something to help in the seasoning department.( I asked for and received Worcestershire sauce). I asked for my fries to be crispy and they were( best single item of the evening) and the medium sized portion of salad was crisp, tasty and lightly dressed. All in all my plate was very satisfactory at $20. Along with the main course I had a draft, Belgium beer, one of many, which arrived in a stemmed semi bowl shaped glass.
Marilyn ordered Carbonnades,( Belgium beef stew) which to her disappointment came shredded instead of cubed. The beer and meat flavor were evident, and vegetables mostly absent, but since Marilyn does not drink this may have been a poor choice. A split lemon meringue tart was only fair, heavy on meringue and light on filling and fairly firm crust.
There were several of us dining together and when the checks were presented they were incorrect in separating what dish was served to whom. The check total and the credit card tab were also not in sync and the explanation had something to do with a poor computer program which made the final tab slightly higher than the original amount presented. There was no effort, by management, to correct this disparity. It was a mixed emotional experience.

Other regular spots, since last posting, were: "Brio Tuscan Grill"( Newport), a large salad topped with grilled salmon, "Oriental Wok"( Hyde-Park), mixed chef's selection dinner for 6 and "Wild Ginger"( Edwards Road) 2 couples splitting 5 dishes. Asian restaurants are hardly ever, for us, a one dish meal.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

24 Hours

From dinner Friday night, thru dinner last night, was a good 24 hours of a sort of eating and wine drinking frenzy. It included, in part, the big Cincinnati "Wine Festival" lunch and auction. I am not a regular participant but this year I gave it another "shoot" both literally and figuratively.

We started Friday night at "Otto's, in Covington. Do I need to say more?
After the Bombay and shared Fried Green Tomato's I had as my main dish "Golden Tilefish". This species, as you probably know, is firm, flaky and slightly sweet. It was roasted and placed on a seasoned polenta cake and surrounded by beautifully caramelized Brussels Sprouts. Certainly enough to satisfy anyone; but then how could I resist the apricot bread pudding that came to the table, unordered. The fresh whipped cream on top was wonderful excess.

Saturday, I arrived at the Wine Festival even at approx. 10:30 to view the selections offered in the silent auction. While making the rounds a very small piece of Cinnamon coffee cake was called for. I bid on only one of the items with a high enough price to be in the running.
The "open" auction started at 11:30 and lasted almost 2 hours, prices were much above my range, as I neither drink, nor pay for excellent old vintage wine.

Lunch of three courses, prepared by Todd Kelley and the staff of "Orchid's" started with a helping of shrimp ravioli on a bed of steamed spinach and covered with a lobster sauce containing some pieces of the lobster meat. With this we were served a Foxglove Chardonnay, remember it's a wine festival even ( no restriction on the size or quantities of the pour). Our vintner host was James Varner and all the wines were his "Foxglove" label, from his winery. Next came Todd's brazed short ribs both in pieces and shredded and made into a crispy beef cake. This had small gnocchi and small amounts or root vegetables floating in the sauce. The wine was a Pinto Noir. Lastly a individual cheese plate with a very nice Zinfandel as it's accompaniment. I rose from the table around 3 PM loaded with both food and wine and dreading our diner date set fro 6:30. I picked up my winning bid, 6 bottles of Oregon Pinot Noir. I have no idea if I paid a reasonable price as there is always a frenzy of bidding around these events.

I dragged myself to "Meritage" in Glendale, 1140 Congress Ave Cincinnati, OH 45246 (513) 376-8134 determined to have nothing more that a light salad with lemon juice or vinegar. I can hear you laughing, I I would have been if I were self-honest. When we left around 8 PM I had consumed a beautiful wedge of crisp iceberg with all the trimmings and several dressings( blue cheese and a topping of Balsamic). Marilyn and i split a full slab of ribs with a sweet and slightly peppery sauce as well as a side of excellent "Mac & Cheese". The only stab at less than deviant behavior was passing on anything alcoholic that evening.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Delightful Dishes

Here are just some of the outstanding "delightful dishes" which we ate last week. By no means are these our whole consumption, but then you readers are not planning either menus or diets.

Saigon Cafe, Erie Ave, Hyde Park:
Excellent Pad Thai, Marilyn thinks the best in Cincinnati, served with ones choice of meats, seafood or tofu. "Hot Mama" Sushi roll- seafood and rice wrapped in a crisp shell and flash fried, somewhat spicy but not over powering.

Nectar Restaurant, 1000 Delta Ave:
An extremely light shrimp pancake seasoned with Kim Chi. The pancake was most reminiscent of a crepe heavier in egg than in flower, the fresh shrimp were sliced very thin and the Kim Chi was spread over the dish to just added enough spice and "fire". Great with wine or beer.

Orchids at the Netherlands, Downtown:
House smoked salmon wrapped around the worlds best "tater tot"( crispy shaved potato's and herbs, pressed into a roll, deep fried) all topped with whipped mascarpone( small marble sized globules), pickled red onions and garlic chips and salmon row. Possibly the best "gravlax" presentation in the world.
Red Snapper "En Papillote" (menu spelling on all items) Beautiful fillets of fresh Red Snapper covered with a paper thin Brie( that's correct Brie) dough. served with Madras Curry Vinagrette, Vidalia Onions and tart Apple Tzatziki.
Any doubt why "Orchid's" is our favorite.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Big Raspberry Sign

Shannon Carter, a good friend, is always trying to find a restaurant, in the area, which she visits before we do. She called last weekend and asked if we had ever been to "Rima's Diner" 2520 Hazelwood Drive, Crescent Springs, KY 41017 (859)331-6444. Having admitted defeat I set out to find more about Rima and her diner.
I knew that it was somewhere near CVG (Greater Cincinnati International Airport) and so on Thursday, when I was picking up a friend from the Netherlands, I decided that "Rima's" would be good for a late lunch and a reintroduction to the Midwest for our Dutch friend.
I phoned, introduced myself to the owner, and got specific instructions, on how to find the place: Exit I-71, I-75 at the Buttermilk Pike exit,( head North), go to McDonald's( you'll see the arches) and look for the big Raspberry sign right across the street.
"Rima's Diner" can best be described as "down home". It is clean, but has a homey worn look and exudes friendship from all involved. From Rima to the server to the cashier I quickly became "Joe".
Since we were there around 2 PM, and planed drinks and dinner around 6, we decided to split a burger and fries, for a taste, but not filling meal. We chose the deluxe burger with "crazy sauce" and asked that the fries be "well done". Rima suggested a full order of slaw and we were glad she did. The slaw was wonderful, crisp, tangy and terrific as a compliment to the burger and fries, which came as ordered.
The crazy sauce is a thinned horseradish cream sauce which adds a delightful "bite" to the burger and its grilled onions and mushroom toppings.
As I mention we had planed to "eat light" but Rima insisted that we try her strawberry cake and so with our half portion each she added a small sliver of her coconut cake. Both were excellent and I can report the the strawberry had a true fresh strawberry taste, while the coconut was light and delightfully smooth.
"Rima's" has a daily special, Thursday it was chicken and dumplings. The place is open from 11 AM thru diner. Rima, my new best friend, told me that her place was voted "the best diner between downtown Cincinnati and the airport". I'll certainly add my vote to that.

I'll give a report on some of the other spots and interesting dishes that we sampled during the past week on the next posting.