Saturday, December 29, 2012


At this time of year media seem to come up with year end reviews or list of there favorites, presented by  category. I've never done that but I though it might be fun to list some of the things and people that made an impression during the last year. So here in no particular order are this reporters comments, knowing full well that I will undoubtedly leave out items that rightly should be included.

Outstanding places, out of town ( if your traveling and want to try):
"Babette's Cafe"- Atlanta GA
"B&G Oyster"- Boston, possibly my favorite meal, certainly my favorite Lobster Roll.
"Fore Street" - Portland ME, the epitome of "brick oven cooking"
"Sandro's" - NYC, more wonderful specials than menu items( Of course, Italian)
"Carolina's Restaurant" - Charleston SC, a great food town but their preparation and service of Soft Shell Crabs hit the spot.

New in the Cincinnati Area (again not near all or even all we enjoyed):
"Eli's" Bar-B-Que, Eastern Ave. Limited menu but handy, good, B-B-Q, eat in or carry out.
"Wunderbar", Corner bar in Covington with good beer and terrific German food, the "dive" of the year.
"M", "Cumin's" hot sibling and our own local "Brick Oven" experience.
"Phoenician Taverna", worth the trip to Mason for an outstanding Lamb Shank.
"The Metropole", in the new 21c Hotel, good food prepared in the "Fireplace" and served in an interesting manner.
"Mantra on the Hill", upscale Indian food with service to match.
"Brew River Gastro Pub", a touch of New Orleans food, plenty of interesting "Brews" in a tavern on Riverside Dr.
"Over the Rhine", new places popping up at almost a rate of one per month.

Excellent food items and their location:
Kale Salad - "Nectar" although "Wunderbar" makes a wonderful copy.
Fried Green Tomato's - No one can touch those at "Otto's".
Baked Potato's - Never had a bad one at the "Precinct", always firm, sweet, and roasted perfectly.
Dover Sole - again, the "Precinct" had added this item, done beautifully and reasonable priced.
Red Snapper - "Orchids" preparation, "En Papillote", shows off what a top rate kitchen can do.
Elk - I have only seen and eaten this at the "Precinct" but the memory still lingers.
Desserts - my favorite is still Cherry Pie ala-mode but the best dessert selection, all year, was, again out of town, at the "Sweet Life Patisserie" in Eugene OR

And finally the people( again leaving out many) who have made my "Eating Out" special:
Guy Burgess - Chef at "The Oriental Wok" Hyde Park, eat what he suggests and you can't fail
Paul Weckman - another grandchild( not really) at "Otto's"
Todd Kelly - friend and the "top chef" in many ways, making "Orchids the city's best, in my opinion
Richard Brown - the essence of a mater-de who is helping guide "Mantra on the Hill"
Mung Moy - no better server in the city, or territory, the soul of Cumin, I'm sorry Alex
Julie Francis - inventive an a wonder with local produce always interesting an delightful at "Nectar"
Patti Brochure - owner and consummate "front of the house" presence at "The Pelican's Reef"

And thus ends my first attempt. All have more detailed comments somewhere in my posting of 2012. Let's all Eat Out and support local restaurants in 2013.
So till then have a Happy, Safe, Healthy New Year.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Two New

This past week we visited two new restaurants plus a couple of "old favorite'. Here are my thoughts on where we have gone and what we have eaten.

"M" (next to "Cumin", in East Hyde Park, and connected in ownership and Chef). Our first visit a week ago was during their opening and now after a week they are defiantly improving and on track to be a regular haunt for the 20 plus crowd and even some of us seniors. I mentioned that their menu is built around "brick oven cooking" and the items, thus produced, are incorporating what this facility does best.
Last night 8 of us went at 7 PM and after a very reasonable wait and some table arranging we ate, family style, sharing several different items. Bar service, although covering most libations, still is somewhat on the slow side. All the men, in the group, drank beer and the ladies tended towards wine or soft drinks.
The table split 4 salads, grilled Caesar and Local Greens. The Ceasar, grilled, have a mild anchovy dressing and the Greens, including sliced, crisp radishes, a light vinaigrette. Next came 2 Pizzas, Mushrooms formed the basis for one while Pear filled that role for the other. "M" offers 4 grilled entrees nightly. They are listed as Chicken, Fish, Pork and Beef. The chef decides what is best in each category each day, and what side is appropriate. We chose chicken( a full half constitutes each order and we had two orders) last night, which had a very light B-B-Q sauce applied just heavy enough to turn the skin reddish brown. The chicken was accompanied by excellent Mac 'n Cheese. I should have asked for the receipt. Sides of vegetables, one a mixture of Cauliflower and Brussel Sprouts while the other was eggplant based. Both were finished in the oven. Four desserts were as follows: Cranberry-Orange pie( slightly tart and refreshing), Pear pie, a Smore Cookie tart and finally an Apple tart. Each dessert item is topped with an appropriate Geloto. The Pear Pie has a Jalapenos Geloto and this reporter was the only one adventurous enough "to make all gone".
"M" is still a work in progress but they have conquered most of the "glitches" and from here on improvements will only make thing better.

"The Metropole" at the 21c Museum Hotel 609 Walnut St. Downtown Cincinnati (513) 578-6660. Four of us ventured there in the middle of the week. The hotel is decorated with contemporary art and some spills over into the restaurant and bar. The tile floor goes back to the original building and the noise level is fairly high. Instead of touting "brick oven cooking" this restaurant call it's preparation "Fireplace cooking". We did not see the actual cooking, even though there is an open kitchen. Our table was out of sight of the "Fireplace". They have a full bar and some guests were seated there and ordered from an edited rendesion of the menu presented to us. Several items came with interesting presentation but all items were well prepared and quite tasty. My food dishes were all vegetarian, that evening, by choice. I began with a Cauliflower Soup, thickened with a puree of Cauliflower instead of cream. Floating in the middle were serveral spices and panko bread crumbs, a nice addition. My Brussel Sprouts, as discribed by out server, came shredded and mixed with with several other calciferous vegetables. The whole melange was served room temperature. ( My first surprise, although I had been warned). My other main item was a Walnut- Porcino pate, a smooth paste in a small dish on a board with two pieces of buttered rye toast and a garnish of greens and Granny Smith apple strips( surprise #2).. I'm sure I had expected a piece of "Farm Pate". For dessert I ordered "Apple Cheese Cake"( surprise #3) this came in an attractive jar with the pie crumbs on the bottom, the cheese filling next and the apples on top. As the spoon proceeded downward you picked up all the flavors and textures. Others had Trout proceeded by salads and several other tasty desserts. We will return but I imagine I will leave my hearing aids at home.

Other spots since last posting have been regulars, "Otto's" and "The Oriental Wok". Unless this is your first venture here you don't need more details about these two favorites.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Salad Days

We have had a lot of interesting meals in the last 10 days and one of the things, that stands out, have been the wonderful and different salads that accompanied several. In no particular order here are a few.

"Nectar Restaurant" 1000 Delta Ave (Mt. Lookout Square). A fresh chopped local Kale Salad consisted of the leafy green plus Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts tossed with a delightful lemon vinaigrette. The contrasting flavors and textures were outstanding.( "Wunderbar" in Covington copied this salad, for lunch one day, under my direction) The rest of my meal was grilled salmon and an unusual pineapple upside down cake with a pumpkin custard. Marilyn had roast chicken.

"The Summit" at Cincinnati State. The room is large and quiet. The night we were there our party of 5 were join by only one other table of 3. There is no trouble in holding conversations. The food, that evening was only ordinary, although we have had some very good meals there, and the service was too relaxed considering the number in attendance. However, my Watercress salad was terrific. The crisp watercress was served over a poached pear and sprinkled with spiced pecans and crumbled blue cheese. The combination was made a delightful first course. My main course was Pasta Florentine, noodles with fresh, English peas and spinach, in a very heavy cream sauce. Others had Lamb Chops, over done, Pork Shank, the best main course, that evening, and beef Tournedoes.

The Fried Green Tomato's at "Otto's" 521 Main St. Covington KY, have only improved, if that is possible. I'm not sure if they count as a salad but it is a super way to start a meal. The Pasta that evening, which both Marilyn and I ate, consisted short Fusilli with shrimp, sun dried tomato's, artichokes and mushrooms, all in a light oil based sauce. Some combination. I know I'm prejudice.

Another prejudice is Todd Kelly, the Executive chef at "Orchids" the dining room of the Hilton Netherlands Plaza. Still, in my opinion the finest dining in the area. Starting with a fresh Maine Lobster salad, which could easily be the lobster stuffing in a good sized lobster roll, Todd tops it with a coddled egg and fried parsnip shreds. If that dish wasn't enough I moved on to a main course of Red Snapper "En Papillote"( paper thin potato dough) served with very small, roasted, Vidalia onions all surrounded by a wonderful warm Madras Curry Vinaigrette, which actually had a light orange flavor. The whole dinner called for wine and the table shared a bottle of light red. Marilyn had a perfectly prepared and sliced Duck breast.

"M" next to "Cumin"( 3520) on Erie Avenue opened this past weekend( Friday night) they are working out the kinks and so there is still some tweaking necessary until it is up and running smoothly. It is an attractive room with a large open kitchen that concentrates on "brick oven" cooking. One excellent feature is that the restaurant is engineered to be sound absorbent and so it is easy to have a conversation no matter how crowded.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Three interesting dishes

The last posting highlighted a five course dinner with matching wines. This will just mention main courses at three different restaurants, all of these dishes I believe deserve accolades.

"Oriental Wok" Hyde Park. Guy Burgess, the Chef, fixes a steamed fish, the name of which escapes me, but ask him if you go.
He bones the fish, with skin on, and turns it inside out before steaming. Then the meat is chopped into several serving sized pieces and covered with a delicious sauce containing Chinese Vegetables, sweet peppers and shitake mushrooms all finely chopped plus several spices( maybe even a hint of wine). The whole combination is delightful , firm white fish in a slightly dark pungent sauce.

"La Poste" 3410 Telford, Clifton 513-281-3663. David Taylor, their talented Chef, presented another fish dish. This time is was Grouper filet's, pan sauteed and lightly seasoned, served on a melange of sauteed Brussels Sprouts( halved), Onions pieces, multicolored peppers and thick bacon bites. I'm sure some Olive Oil or Butter made an appearance in the process, although the bacon, by it's self could produce the smooth, very slightly salty flavor. All items bite sized and cooked so that the flavors blended and formed a delightful base for the flaky, mild  fish. It came hot from the kitchen and stayed that way throughout the meal.

"Otto's" 521 Main St. Covington KY (859) 491-6678. Away from the fish but on to a perfectly roasted and sliced pork tenderloin, pink center but done with the outside tending to brown. The meat, I believe had been coated with a maple syrup glaze either while cooking or promptly when removed from the oven. The slices were topped with a "Southern Slaw"; roughly chopped thick bacon, sweet potato's( cubed) and cabbage. I can't swear that other ingredients had not snuck in. The creation, a work of Paul Weckman and Molly Costello had a flavor and overall texture that was truly amazing. A light maple run off covered the plate and made a wonderful dip for the meat. All together a wonderfull dish.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Five Courses with Five Rieslings

Wine( and Beer) dinners are becoming a trend in our Cincinnati area. We may be a little late in joining the parade but we are catching up and actually leading the way in one aspect, PRICE, very reasonable.
I wrote about a wine dinner at our country club but now I want to alert all to the fact that "Mantra on the Hill" 934 Hatch St. 45202 (513) 621-1100 is producing every 2 or 3 weeks a wonderful wine dinner at a variable cost, depending on the food and wine. Those who are interested should contact them and ask to be put on their email list, or check the website with some regularity.

The dinner this week, with my comments, was as follows:
1st Course
Bhel Poori- puffed rice, green mango, jalapeno, pomegranate, red potato, chickpea vermicelli, date-tamarind sauce & mint( The mixture arrived "room temperature" in a ramekin dish with the look of breakfast cereal. All items were uniformly chopped and the flavors went from bland thru mild and on to sweet and then spicy.)
Wine-Revelry Riesling, which we had sampled upon arrival.
2nd Course
Reshmi Kebab- ground chicken kebab( sausage shaped), cashew, basil, ginger, mango salsa. (The kebab had been formed and grilled inside a firm casing. The meat contained numerous spices and was defiantly not mild. Evident was garlic, red pepper flakes, coriander, etc. The plate was garnished with small cashew pieces and the salsa was a base presented in a rough chopped form. (Very tasty.)
Wine- Selbach Riesling "Incline" 2011 Wine pours were about 2 to 3 oz, initially, but pouring continued as requested.
3rd Course
Moilee- red snapper, coconut leek sauce, mustard seed, curry leaves, tomato rice( Most interesting presentation and a real contrast from the previous course. The fish was steamed and cut into small chunks, placed in a copper, individual serving container(with handle) and covered with the sauce( soup). The tomato rice, in an individual bowl had the mustard seeds and curry leaves. We each had an attractive soup bowl into which we ladled as much of each item as we desired. I found the dish delightful)
Wine-Leitz Riesling "Leitz Out" 2011 All wines complimented the food excellently
4th Course
Vindaloo( Hot spicy, sauce, tomato based)- tangy tandoori pork tenderloin, potato bhaji, spinach-goat cheese naan (The tenderloin was thin sliced and covered with the sauce, not for the timid. The tiny purple potato's had been cut in half and oven, maybe tandoori, maybe not, roasted to perfection. The naan was stuffed and of the proper crispness.)
Wine- Geil Bechteiner Rosenberg Rieling Kabinett 2011
Halwa- roasted pumpkin, semolina, cardamon whipped cream( The pumpkin had been roasted and cut into cubes which covered the semolina. As you know semolina is a grain( wheat) and this had been moulded into a pudding. The whipped cream was, of course, the topping. A nice sweet dessert but not "clawing")
Wine- Merkelbach Urziger Warzgarten Riesling Spatlese (sweet) 2011

Service, atmosphere and hospitality all first rate. I'm waiting to see what "Mantra" offers next.