Sunday, October 28, 2012

Boston and return

To finish up our Eastern trip I'll pick up later on the day we arrived. As I last wrote we met up with additional family members for lunch at "Legal Seafood" after which we checked in to our Motel and spent time with two of our 4 Granddaughters who are current eastern residents.
A short recap: we have 5 Grandchildren working or studying in the East. None reside there permanently. Four are Granddaughters and one is a Grandson. The Grandson (Jason) currently is in VA working with the Tim Kaine election group( he will return to Harvard, after the election). The other worker is our second eldest Granddaughter (Kathryn) who is working in Wellesley for a consulting firm. The other 3 Granddaughters are all students, a Sr. at Vassar( Lilly) and 2 freshman in Boston( Harvard-Nicole and Emerson-Raina).

Our first night our Wellesley worker guided Marilyn and me to one of Barbra Lynches restaurants, "B&G Oysters" 550 Tremont St. Boston,MA 02116 ( 12 different oysters on the menu). She knew of my love for Lobster rolls and had decided "this was the place". We were not disappointed. "B&G Oyster" is slightly below street level and is a narrow seafood house that looks like a narrow seafood house should look. Long Granite counter, with seats and across and isle tables that seat 2 or 4. The kitchen is in the front or rear, depending on ones orientation. The food is terrific. Kathryn( our Granddaughter) and I each had the Lobster Rolls while Marilyn had a BLT with Lobster. We had started the meal with Deviled Eggs topped with Jonah crab( smooth and tasty).
The Lobster rolls contain over a pound of fresh lobster meat, claw, tail and all, hardly held together with a very light sauce. The plate also contains a large mound of excellently fried, thin, French Fries, cole slaw and home cured bread and butter pickles ($28 for the whole thing). The BLT has slightly less lobster but all the ingredients are perfect and comes with all the same sides, at the same price. The dinner called for a beer and that was my beverage. For dessert the three of us split a Chocolate Mouse infused with "Heath Bar" Crunch. What a perfect welcome to Boston.

The next day Marilyn and I relived her students days at Simmons College. The school has expanded, from one building to five, but it remains an all women college in its undergraduate department.
Next a visit to the "Isabelle Gardner Museum", old building like the "Alhambra", new addition, all glass on several planes. Lunch at "Cafe G" in the Museum with decent food in bright surroundings.
In the afternoon we toured the area and the met 2 Granddaughters on Newbury Street ( shopping) and spent a warm Autumn afternoon together.
That evening 5 of us met at Kathryn's apartment before meeting, Nichol our other granddaughter at "Olean" 134 Hampshire St, Cambridge, MA 02139, not easy to find for a neophyte driver in the Boston area.
The 4 girls had all agreed that this was where they wanted to go and that decision was a good one. The menu is extensive and we did our best at sampling as many dishes as would fit on our table. The restaurant theme is Mid-Eastern and some of the food we consumed is here listed: Spinach Felafel's( outstanding, moist and flavorful) Kale Salad including Apples, Almonds, Radish and herb dressing( Terrific) a new item for me but the taste and crunch will bring me back. "Sultans Delight( Tamarind Glazed beef ribs) Trout Spanakopita( a large trout fillet with all the Spanakopita treatment- philo dough, spinach, soft cheese sauce etc) Sword Fish with fresh tomato's and crumbed herbs, Tamarack Tunis Lamb( carpaccio with a kick).
After listening to everyone order, multiple dishes of various items, I wisely asked for an extra plate and had more than I could consume. Kathryn and I split a 1/2 bottle of wine( Gruner Vetlimer) and the whole table tackled dessert, Turkish Style Profiteroles- Carmel Cream, inside, topped with Caramelized Cashews and Chocolate sauce. Believe Nicole, the thinest ate the most. The chatter was as good as the food, both of which to Grandpartents were wonderful.

We headed home the next day and ate on the road at "RRR Roadhouse" in Clarion PA, recommended for proximity to the Hampton Inn and $4 Bombay's and also at "Cracker Barrel" on Wednesday( pot pie day).
Picked up some items at Costco, including chicken salad, and got home to Cincinnati late on the second day.

There are many of you who are extremely familiar with all kinds of electronic devises for communication. I would only say that most of the places we eat are on "the web" with their own pages which include pictures, menus and addresses and contact info. I'll keep posting but these restaurant web pages give you info and views which I will not duplicate.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


The Hudson River Valley is always beautiful but at no other season can it compare to fall. The colored leaves, sky and water make a wonderful panorama.
We left Manhattan Saturday morning and drove to Poughkeepsie to join our Granddaughter, who is a senior at Vassar. She and 3 other young women share an apartment on the campus grounds but are separated from the underclass housing and academic area.
For lunch she had chosen "Baby Cakes" an upscale "Panera" type restaurant located near Vassar's North Gate. The individuality of the place is noted on arrival. Not only is there a long line but a fully stocked bar covers about two thirds of the dining area main wall.
I didn't know the routine and ordered my grilled ham and Swiss before being told there was a separate listing of daily specials.( Grilled shrimp salad) Too late but not a catastrophe. Our Granddaughter had a full breakfast( served all day long) and my wife her usual chicken salad. Fresh Leonade and diet Coke made up the accompanying drinks.

Our Granddaughter is the stage manager, director for the Senior Play and is a member of the Vassar drama club( slogan; FWSA (Future Wait Staff of America). We toured the set, underconstruction, and met some of her crew who were in the assembly process. After that we spent a wonderful hour or more at the Vassar Art Museum. A small museum, on campus, with a wonderful array of examples of paintings from the Renaissance to today. Some of the time a curator was with us and the time was both educational and delightful.

That night it was off to the CIA ( Culinary Institute of America) 845-471-6608, just up the road in Hyde Park NY.  They operate 2 main restaurants, as training facilities for there students, and we went to the "American Bounty" whose name implies the food and it's heritage. The other is a classic French. Drinks, appetizers, salads and main courses make up the meal. Marilyn had a Portobello salad and duck for her entree, our Granddaughter went with Caesar salad followed by a fall, vegetable Risotto while I also had the Caesar and Beef Short Ribs. I was sightly disappointed as I had ordered the "Skate Wings" and was informed that they had sold out. A substitute is hardly ever as good as your initial intent. CIA funtions well as a training school and that taken into account the food is very good, but not earth shakeing.

The next morning the 3 of us were off to Boston where after a frustrating half hour spent looking for the correct streets from crowed Harvard square we finally met more of our family at "Legal Sea Food" in the Charles Hotel.
Our son, his wife and youngest son had been in Cambridge to visit with their daughter ( a freshman at Harvard) over parents weekend. They had picked up another of are Granddaughters and the 3 of us joined the 5 of them. There is no way that I can recount what everyone ate but I do know I split an order of lump crab cakes with one Granddaughter while Marilyn and our son split a fish sandwich and a large lettuce wedge. Our youngest Grandson had a cheeseburger. So much for a well known seafood restaurant.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Typical New York Restaurant

I have been traveling to New York City since 1939. I have heard, and read, about a "typical" New York Restaurant, since then. I can only assume that people refer to a narrow, long, often below street level spot that exists with chef prepaired food and a crew of seasoned, professional servers. There are some of these but there are also just as many other spot to tempt the palate and the diner. In the last posting I wrote about "Shake Shack" and "North End Grill" neither of which could fit the "typical" category.

Our 3rd day started with a ride down 5th Ave. to 23rd St, and an adventure into "Eataly". If this spot is not familiar you have not been an up to date certifiable "foodie". "Eataly" is a combined Italian super market and food preparation( pasta, etc) and eating establishment. It has everything from books to Barolo and counters and tables serving, snacks, pasta, meat, sea food and various drinks. An Italian food praidise the brain child of Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich. It has been open 2 years and is a true "destination". We only ingested "samples" and so there will be no food report, in this posting.
A stroll up to the J.P. Morgan Library and gallery brought us to a wonderful showing of Josef Albers Paintings on paper. That plus one other exhibit prepared us for lunch at the "Oyster House at Grand Central" Another "non typical" eating estabilishment. The "Oyster House" has been in business, on the main concourse level, from the 1930's and serves approx. 6000 customers a day with a staff of about 600.
We ate at the counter, although there are two large dining rooms, along with about 100 others who were present at 1:15 PM. I had a bowl of oyster stew while Marilyn chose the fish sandwich with a side of excellent cole slaw. Due to the volume one can always be sure of fresh seafood, well prepared and served.
On to Saks Fifth Ave. and "finer stores everywhere" before returning home to clean up and rest.

That night the two of us were on our own. We have found at small "typical" Italian restaurant at 81st and 2nd Ave. "Sandro's " 306 East 81st, yellow awning over the doorway, (212)-288-7374 is named for it's chef and owner Sandro Fioriti. Sandro is wider than the aisle that runs down the middle, and makes it his habit of stopping by each table, in his apron and pajama pants, to make sure the everything is "all right". He is a genial host and exceptional site. Go to Goggle for info on the restaurant and the chef.
There is a printed menu but the many specials, for the evening, are the way to go.
After our usual libations we started our meal by splitting a "special salad"; sliced fresh tomato's, extra thin, marinated, green beans(haricots verts) and a perfectly prepared potato all drizzled with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Taste, color, combination a perfection.
For her main course Marilyn ordered veal "Scaloppine Limon" a large plate with beautifully thin pieces of tender veal in a light lemon sauce with an accompanying mound of "angle hair" pasta, lightly herbed.
I chose a "special" of crimini Fettuccine, the slender mushrooms were infused in the dough, covered with a Wild Boar Ragu, seventh heaven. Not only delicious but to me adventurous. I forced myself to accompany this dish with a glass of fine Italian wine( Aglianico). Sandro sent a couple "after dinner drinks" and the walk home in the cool autumn air was a good antidote.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Dining with Danny( almost)

Whenever we are in Manhattan we make it a point to have at least one meal at one of the many excellent Union Square Hospitality Group( USHG) restaurants. Danny Meyer, the head "honcho" of this dedicated, knowledgeable group of people is part of the Meyer family that have been friends with our family for 4 generations. His book "Setting the Table" is a manual on the use of "Hospitality" in any business and in my opinion a MUST read for anyone in the hospitality business.

Our 2nd day in Manhattan we hit the street in mid-morning and walked to the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 82nd and 5th Ave. The show which we went to see was the effect of Andy Warhol on the art of the second half of the 20th Century. (This blog is not an Art report but we seem to combine art and food in our travels- both sensual pleasures).
From the "Met" we walked West thru Central Park to 77th and Columbus Ave(366 Columbus) for our first visit to a "Shake Shack" (646) 747-8700. "Shake Shake", modeled, somewhat, after "Ted Drews" in St. Louis( Danny and my birth place), is USHG take on what a burger and shake emporium should be.
From the help of the "Wal-Mart" greeter, who helped us as new customers, to the efficient service and friendliness of all the staff it was a true exposure to what can be done to upgrade any concept. Our 2 burgers, cooked to order, stressed the freshness and taste of the ingredients, especially the meat. Marilyn had the "Shack Burger", a cheeseburger with lettuce and tomato, while I had a "Smoke Shack" same as the previous with the addition of bacon, onion and pickel. Both sandwiches come with the SS special sauce. To drink we had a diet coke and a fresh lemonade. One can sit inside, outside or on the lower level, or carry out and eat elsewhere.
Then is was on to The New York Historical Society to view an exhibit of Hudson River artists, and past the Natural history Museum to catch a bus back to the East Side and our abode.

The evening started with a viewing of the Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass religious windows at the World Bible Museum in Columbus Circle. Then a long cab ride down to the foot of Manhattan and a terrific dining experience at the "North End Grill" 104 North End Ave( next to the Conrad Hotel).  This is the newest venture for the USHG. The ambiance is modern, youthful and business oriented, all rolled into one. Our group (3) where by far the eldest but that didn't dampen either the atmosphere, service, food, or hospitality, if anything it may have heightened our reception.
After my usual Bombay I set out to have my own special tasting, too much food but you know the cliche about "only living once". Here is my indulgence plus tastes and divisions of other dishes:
Sweetbreads and beet nuggets Tempura- crispy batter on perfectly prepared fillings, different tastes and colors;
Fig Salad- Crisp frisse( curly endive, I think) surrounded by cut fresh figs and topped with caramelized onions and pecans. All my favorites served beautifully on one plate.
Upma( Indian)- a wonderful large patty of Polenta topped with roasted vegetables and a light sauce from the roasting.
Others in our party had a snow crab appetizer, a green salad, Suckling pig( not often seen on menus) and lamb, all done perfectly.
For desert the 3 of us split a slice of Concord Grape cake, a totally new experience for all and a piece of "mile high"( my description) Lemon Meringue pie.
Remember these are my descriptions, from memory, probably deviating from the chefs input, of a stuffing , magnificent feast.
I must protect the server at the "North End Grill", a delightful young women, who suggested I order less. at the 3 AM she was correct.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Heading East

We have 5 Grandchildren working or attending school in the East. None are natives of that part of the country. We decided to drive to visit as well as enjoy the area in mid-October. The weather and tree color co-operated and we had a wonderful ten days.
Some of the Cincinnati readers say that I should stick with that area, in reporting, but since some travel and, believe it or not, others outside of our area read the Blog I report on where and when we "eat out".

Our first day, leaving late morning, after OLLI class, took us as far as Clarion PA. Clarion is a town about 65 miles north of Pittsburgh off I-80. On the road our usual lodging is a Hampton Inn and Clarion has a well run, new facility. Asking the usual questions of the desk personnel( where do you eat on your Anniversary or Birthday) found us headed to the "Wayside Inn" off of PA Rt. 66 in Lucinda, PA( goggle for more exact instructions). The Inn occupies an old building marked by a fading Coco-Cola sign and notable only by the gaggle of cars parked off of the country road( dinners).
It is currently owned by a couple and has been a stopping place since the 1870s. Food is cooked to order and served hospitably by several young women from the area. They did have Bombay($8) and for a main course I chose lump crab cakes, excellent. Dinner included a nice salad, starch and veggies($20). Marilyn had Veal Parmesan($18) which she enjoyed and could not finish the accompanying pasta. Undaunted we tried the warm home made double chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream. We were lucky to make it back to Clarion and bed.

Next day, heading East to NYC, we stopped for lunch in Bloomsberg PA at the local "Cracker Barrel" Wednesday, at all "Cracker Barrels" the special is chicken pot pie($6) which Marilyn always orders and enjoys. I stuck with a fish sandwich.
Hit the George Washington bridge around 4 PM and our friends apt. about 20 minutes later. After unloading and taking the car to a neighborhood garage($50/24 hrs) we settled in for our 3 days in the city.
That evening the 5 of us , our host and cousins, went to L'Absinthe on East 67th( more on Goggle). This restaurant has been in the same location since opening 15 years ago and is designed to be a typical French Brasserie with looks, food and wine all following the theme. I had an interesting Johna Crab salad with the crab mounded on a log shaped mould of avocado and grapefruit, pureed. Tasty but might have been better served separately. I have nothing negative to say about my Steak Tartare, which followed, and was as good as any I can remember, spiced and blended perfectly. Marilyn had delicious Calf's Liver with a balsamic reduction. Others had beef, snails, pike Quenelles and a repeat of the liver.
We split a bottle of Goat-Roti a fairly heavy red which was a new item to me.
All in all a pleasant evening and a welcome to the "big apple"

Monday, October 8, 2012


I have been meditating for over 35 years. As you may know everyone has their own personal word on which to concentrate while meditating, in this country this word is referred to as their Mantra. You might imagine when I heard that there was a new Indian Restaurant named "Mantra on the Hill" at 934 Hatch St ( the recent home of "Daveed's") in Mt Adams, phone 621-1100, my surprise and delite.
The restaurant has been open a couple of months and is a reincarnation, in my opinion one step higher, of the original "Cumin" with the same talented Chef in charge of the food and menu. Assisting him in the front of the house is a wonderful Cincinnati fixture, Richard Brown, functioning as M'tre de, wine advisor and General Manager.
Little has change in ambiance, from the original Daveed's, in both the inside and the outside patio but the service the night we were there couldn't have been better; knowledgeable, agreeable and guiding.

Four of us went this week and I will try to describe our excellent dinner. ( You know my spelling is terrible in English so expect no improvement in Hindi).
At our servers recommendation we started by the 4 of us dividing an order of Papri Chaat, a salad of chickpeas, potatoes, onions and tomato's with a light, compelling, piquant dressing. Next came Braised Lamb Shank, two large to a single order, with oven crisp potato bits( perfect) and both a light lamb gravy as well as purred spicy tomato sauce. The other entree was ten medium sized shrimp that had been prepared in the Tandoor oven but remained, flavorful, firm and juicy. The two dishes complimented each other. Our vegetable was Tarka Dall a mixture of lentils and spices, again with various herbs. This dish was also pureed and came in a cone shaped copper container.  For dessert we had a Lemon Thyme tart, a perfect ending.
Three of us drank wine, 2 a white Indian( Sauvignon Blanc) one a red and I, of course, had my usual Bombay, what better in a Indian restaurant unless an IPA. Along with coffee the total bill, including tax was $109. A very fair price for a princely meal.

Referring back to the previous posting, "Pub Food", Saturday night we carried out from the "Oakley Pub and Grill" their excellent grouper sandwiches. I asked that they pack the fish separately, so that it could be easily heated, and they did a wonderful job of complying. All; bread, slaw, tarter sauce, et-al came thru transporting and dinner beautifully. Terrific work by the kitchen staff.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Pub Food

What is "Pub Food"? Is it a "Zippburger" from " Zips Cafe" 1036 Delta Ave in Mt. Lookout Square? Phone 513-871-9876, a place that has been in business well over 50 years.
Is it a grilled Grouper Sandwich from the "Oakley Pub and Grill" 3924 Isabella Ave. Oakley (513-531-2500) which incidentally is excellent.
Or is it instead a fairly full menu from "Keystone Bar & Grill", Erie Ave. East Hyde Park ( 513-531-2500)?
As far as I can tell there is no definitive answer or limit as to what comes under this title; it's sort of like the Supreme Court Justice who, when discussing a definition of pornography is reported to have said,"I can't really define it but I defiantly know when I have seen it". I don't mean to imply that any of the fore mentioned places are pornographic or titillating.

To me "Zips is an old time Hamburger joint, with an acceptable burger and a wonderful mix of customers from young families to old retirees. The "Oakley Pub" draws more on young and midlife couples and has a decide small, local, bar and grill feel, with some emphasis on the sport scene.

The "Keystone Bar and Grill is trying to cover more bases and is trying to build a business on regulars returning, not just to take advantage of the Monday and Tuesday half priced "specials" or sit in nice weather in their spacious patio. The Monday "special", all day, is 10 or more combinations of "Mac and Cheese", while Tuesday it's the same half price, all day, Quesadillas of different fillings but all heavy on cheese.
On a recent Tuesday 3 of us went for dinner. The salad are quite large and easily serve 2 and in our case was stretched to three which serves as a small but ample side. We also ordered a side of "Keystone Chips", done in house, and accompanied with a bottle of their distinctive, tangy Bar-B-Q sauce.Three different Quesadillias, each order containing 4 good sized pieces and some Bell's Oberon, on draft completed a filling meal. But we didn't stop, and ordered a Mixed Berry Bread pudding, which came ward with a light sauce. Total cost for the 3 of us, including tax was $48.15.
One warning; servers, and ours was very attentive and accommodating work for tips, so just because you don't pay "full price" for any reason( specials, gift, event) don't penalize the people taking care of you. "Thanks" doesn't spend well at Kroger's.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Second visit

Saturday night, before the Symphony concert at Music Hall, we once again went to "The Anchor" 1401 Race St. (513) 421-8111. They do not take reservations but the restaurant, at this point has tables available. We get there between 6 and 6:15 PM.
That night the Mid-Point Music Festival was in full swing across the street, in Washington Park, but the restaurant had seating easily available. There is both inside and outside seating.
The crowd had grown for the week before and the service and handling had also improved. They are in the learning curve and are doing a good job of coping.
Marilyn and I split a very good Caesar salad, with smoked trout strips substituting for anchovies and a "whole fish of the day, Red Snapper. The later was prepared Thai style and I am at a loss to describe it's preparation in detail, although the fish was deep fried, fillet table side, and had a pinapple salsa and lemon flavored finish. We added an order of the excellent Vidalia Onionn rings. Total check including drinks and coffee was $53.25.

We also carried in from the "Oriental-Wok" Regency, over the weekend. All very good food cooked and packed perfectly. I am qquickly coming to the conclusion the several of the Chinese restaurants are the very best place to order fish. They seem to do "flat" fish better than most.