Sunday, April 28, 2013

60 to 8

No, this is not a rundown on our extended family nor a list of high and low temperature that have set records but it is two evening meals, in succession, and the prices paid.

Thursday night we joined a group of Artichoke lovers at a price fixed dinner ($60) at "Nectar Restaurant" 1000 Delta Ave (513) 929-0525. Julie Francis, the owner and excellent chef, offers, once a month, a 5 course dinner build around one product. That night it was the Artichoke.
The meal started with Cream of Artichoke Soup with Lump Crab and local Radish Sprouts. The soup base was pureed baby Artichoke hearts, creamy consistency while the lump crab lived up to it's name.  For my taste the soup needed a little more "Oomph" which I accomplished by adding an amount of freshly ground pepper.
Next came Shaved Raw Artichoke Salad with Poached Shrimp, Carrot, Mint, Edamame and Pecorino. The raw heart had been shaved thin and then marinated in a lemon marinade before it was mixed with the other ingredients. The whole affair was doused with a bit more of the dressing and the Pecorino was a nice compliment to the other fairly bland ingredients. As one can tell I'm more into spice that bland.
Jewish Style Friend Artichokes ( an extremely popular rendition in Rome) with Cracked Black Pepper and Coriander Brown Butter was for me the hit of the evening. The half of  Artichoke heart with the stubs of a few leaves had been fried perfectly so the the vegetable was crisp on the outside and yet retained firmness and moisture in the center. The Artichoke was placed on a romaine leaf with just a touch of Caesar dressing.
The main course was Marksbury Farm Beef Skirt Steak with Artichoke Potato Hash and Chimichurri. The steak had just enough fat to enhance the flavor and the hash, in fairly large pieces, was a nice accompaniment but was outshone by the flavor of the meat.
For dessert Julie and her pastry chef offered Candied Artichokes in Puff Pastry with local honey cider Gastrique (sauce) and Honey Custard. The Artichoke failed to add to the light pastry and custard with the drizzled honey sauce.
All in all it was a nobel effort, which was well received, by all, to feature a vegetable with it's own unique flavor and constancy.
The next "Dinner Club", as Julie calls the meals, will be build around Asparagus.

The next night, in an entirely different vain, we ventured to "Wunderbar" 1132 Lee St. Covington KY (859) 815-8027 where at striped picnic tables we were served home made sausages, 2 for $8 dollars including a "side", for me Brussels Sprouts, and a warm roll. Marilyn had a beautiful Ruben and very good potato salad.
My sausages were an Apple spice and a Wassbi ginger, the latter having the right amount of heat.
The night before the beverage had been an Austrian White Wine but the beverage of choice at "Wunderbar" was a hoppy dark beer. At the bar there was also much more ganter with the folks around . A shift of locales and food is probably what keeps us "eating out".

As an after thought, in this posting, we did drop by "Season 52", Rookwood for a shared "spring salad" after a show. The server recommended the Stuffed Mushrooms and we were glad she did. They come in a hot dish, usually used for snails, and are button mushrooms stuffed with spinach and cheese and then covered with panko bread crumbs and light butter sauce before being heated till bubbly, under the broiler. It could be a main as well as a side., and is highly recommended.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Happy Returns

We eat out quite a bit, but as everyone else, we have our favorites and they are often as much for the feeling of belonging as for the food we are served. This is undoubtedly true for almost everyone. Whether it is the neighborhood "Cheers", "Tucker's Cafe" or "Jeff Ruby's" we all tend to go to "where everyone knows your name". It's one of the great pleasures of eating out. Since the last posting here are our spots:

"Otto's" 521 Main St. Covington, KY (859) 491-6678. Lauren met us at the door with a smile and a hug.
The table we occupy is in the back and we are often greeted by the chef, this night it was Molly Costello, bright, attractive and exceptionally competent. The pasta special, which Marilyn and our companion ordered was a Penne with asparagus, mushrooms, artichokes, sun dried tomato's and shrimp, in a very light cream parmesan sauce. They both gave it "thumbs up" for flavor and attractiveness.
I went with the newly revised pork tenderloin which has been upgraded by additional marinating and the addition of a very flavorful slaw topping doused with a Dijon vinaigrette. The meat rests on a perfectly prepared sweet potato hash. I was ecstatic.
Wednesday night was 1/2 price wine night and of course, we had to take advantage of that with a starter of the best fried green tomato's in our area, and maybe anywhere.
We ended by ordering one helping of apricot bread pudding which topped off our delicious meal.

"Oriental Wok" Hyde Park in the Regency (513) 871-6888. Greeting from all the staff and meal selection left in the hands of Guy Burgess, chef.
On Friday he started our meal with shrimp poppers ( ground shrimp mixed with spices and bread crumbs) flash fried. Along with this came numerous slices of pork belly ( a trendy menu item )  roasted and served on Hosin sauce. Our three main courses where: crispy chicken, chopped chicken pieces, bone in, which in my opinion adds to flavor, roasted to perfection, crisp on the outside; juicy on the inside, BBQ pork tenderloin on Chinese water spinach, the flavors complimented each other, and a combination fried rice( loaded with ingredients) which gave a wonderful base for the two other dishes, especially the pork and spinach which had it's own distinctive sauce.
Dessert was Mango gelatin, surrounded with fresh sliced strawberry's and fresh whipped cream drizzled with raspberry sauce. Lucky there were four of us to share everything. Guy even suggested the beer accompaniment, which complimented the food.

Two other spots, without special greetings but yet hospitable were; "Montgomery Inn - Montgomery, 9440 Montgomery Road  (513) 791-3482. Marilyn and I have learned the secret, for us; split a wedge salad and a chopped steak dinner, which is accompanied by onion straws and Saratoga Chips. Plenty of tasty food and a meal rivaling the works at "Skyline" in price.
"Brew River Gastro Pub" 2062 Riverside Dr. (513) 861-2484. We stopped there twice in the past week, to be with friends, and had Gumbo, BLT, East End Salad, Stuffed Mushrooms (an outstanding appetizer) and a more than adequate burger and fresh cut fries, with house made ketchup.

Friday, April 12, 2013


Cincinnati has another star in the downtown restaurant firmament.
"Sotto Restaurant" opened 2 weeks ago in the space occupied by "La Normandie" at 116 E.6th St.. Phone (513) 977-6886. We went last night, with another couple and had a wonderful evening.
The ambiance remains one of scrubbed wooden tables, brick, cement and wood walls and subdued lighting. The noise level is a bit high in the main dining area ( out came the hearing aids) but is considerably reduced as one sits further from the bar and open kitchen. Our table was excellent and enjoy by our ourselves and our young, but over 50 companions. Reservations, in my opinion, are a necessity and there is also an elevator to assits those who choose not, or can't, navigate the steps from street level.

I did not "cop" a menu, but from memory, the four sections seemed to be Bruschetta's, Antipasto and Salads, Pasta's and Main Courses. Without total recall here is what the four of us ate, shared and tasted:
Mozzarella, doused in olive oil, with slivers of fried onions and served with grilled Italian bread.
Arugiua Salad with oil and balsamic vinegar
Baby Kale Caesar Salad, croutons and strips of Parmesan
Polenta topped with a fried egg - smooth, creamy and outstanding
Spaghetti with olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes - spicy but truly basic Italian
Linguine Carbonara - house made bacon and a rich preparation
Small Ravioli ( different name on the menu) stuffed with braised short ribs
Penne in a spicy tomato based sauce
(All Pasta dishes are a manageable size, served hot, and of course, as a separate course).
And a wonderful piece of grilled Cod, not an easy fish to cook, and served flaky and moist.
For dessert we split an order of Ricotta Doughnuts with three sauces, Pistachio, Berry and light Carmel (yum)
We also managed to finish 2 bottles of red win, one a Volpolicella and the other a "super Tuscan"

The service was most satisfatory and the "Hospitality", which goes beyond service, was obvious from all of the staff; from the owner to the floor Managers, servers and food runners. In summary a blissful, most satisfying evening.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Louisville KY

We went to Louisville over last weekend, not to bar hop and watch the final four, although that was what a lot of Louisvillians were doing, but rather to attend the Humana Festival at "The Actors Theatre". We had a package deal that covered 5 plays in 3 days plus a reception, with food, and a gala ( which we missed, Michigan was in the late night game).
The theatre was uniformly well staged, well acted and thought provoking. There were mixed reactions among our group to the new American plays, which we saw and then discussed.

To me the outstanding dinner was at "Milkwood" 316 W. Main St., in the basement of the Actors Theatre. Reservation highly recommended The chef, David Lee, is defiantly one of the cities top food personality, with a national reputation. His food lived up to the billing.
I started with a Sweetbread Salad, mixed greens, perfectly marinated and chopped, mixed with blue cheese, country ham slivers, sweet red pepper bits and all topped with crisp Sweetbread nuggets, delicious.
Marilyn had a share of a Romaine salad which she pronounced great.
Our main course was Peking Duck, served on a garnished platter with the breast sliced and the leg meat shredded and chopped and mixed in a light duck sauce. Scallion Pancakes, light and warm were provided as well as Hoisin sauce and shredded scallions. A perfect dish meant to serve at least 2 ($38). We stretched it to serve 3 with no trouble.

David Lee recommeded "Hillbilly Tea" for breakfast or Brunch the next day. The extended tea room, actually a restaurant specializing in tea, is on 1st Avenue just a block away from the downtown Marriott Courtyard, where we stayed with a special Festival rate.
The tea at "Hillbilly Tea" is served piping hot meant to steep and be poured thru a strainer. The menu is definitely "down South". Marilyn had poached eggs on biscuits covered with Mushroom Gravy while I had deep fried chicken livers and a plate of grilled catfish. A fun, good recommendation from the Chef.

Besides the two memorable places we chowed down at "O'Shay"s", an expanded bar, before the Saturday night show. Marilyn had a "Hot Brown"(sliced turkey, tomato's, bacon, covered with a cheese sauce) made famous by the Brown Hotel. while I shared "fish and chips'. The fish was crisp and hot, the chips ordinary, 50% "ain't bad". Buffet breakfast, Sunday morning, at "Milkwood", plentiful but not outstanding.
A salad Sunday at 2 at the "Old Spaghetti Factory" 235 W.Market St. again Marilyn and I split. Typical chain.

Good weekend and next time, and there will be a next time, we may survey more of the dining scene in Louisville.