Thursday, June 26, 2008

gossip girl

i hope someone can either confirm or deny this next tidbit....
sometime last year, a new restaurant, j's place, bought a building on glenway ave. and opened up for business. a small little corner of that building was being rented by coconut joe's, a seasonal ice cream stand. apparently an agreement was made between j's and coconut joe's that joe's could continue to operate. so joe's continued to pay rent all winter, while they were closed to business. when spring came, word on the street is that j's told joe's that they were not going to renew the lease after all.

to me, that seems...not nice. unethical somehow. until i hear a different version of the story, i am disinclined to patronize j's place.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

chez nora -- the missing picture

sorry its half eaten. i attempted to take responsibilty for photographing that evenings eatings....i failed after the appetizer. it was tortilla and pita and at this point and all the pita as gone. i'll stick to eating.

my first burger blog

i have been attacking my burger research with gusto; three samples this weekend (i'm a little behind in my blogging). i hardly ever eat this much red meat.

mt. adams bar and grill
the first is the mt. adams bar and grill. we actually attempted to go to longworth's, but they are apparently under new management and the kitchen is closed for a few weeks. the broadcaster attracted my attention - a quarter pound topped with grilled onions, chopped green olives, and two slices of swiss cheese on grilled Jewish rye. i was sold at grilled jewish rye, but did order it sans onions. it was a little flat in height, not taste. the patty was juicy and the olives gave the sandwich a pleasant saltiness. it was flavorful without needing condiments or salt and pepper. i was surprised they did not ask how i wanted the burger cooked. i am a big fan of medium, more to the medium-well. it is easy to cross the line to well-done, but i definitely do not like bloody meat. the broadcaster was cooked with just a tinge of pink, and was very good. i enjoyed the burger 'paired' with a stella artois. overall, a 4.5. i almost gave a 5, but i had a number of cocktails by the time i ate the burger so i can't entirely vouch for my judgement.

other notable items: brian enjoyed his fried egg sandwich and we all had a laugh at the chicken 'buddies'.

wild mike's

for lunch at work saturday, we ordered wild mike's. the black and bleu burger arrived encased in styrofoam. they also did not ask how i wanted it prepared, and it was a bit dry. the beef itself had a good flavor. the bleu was fully fatty, gloppy bleu cheese dressing. crumbles would be preferred, even though they have a tendency to fall off the sandwich. price was under $5. overall, a 3. and sorry, no photo.

cheezburger cafe

brian recommended we try the cheezburger cafe at 12092 montgomery rd. vacationing in florida has taught us good food can be found in a strip mall, and this is definitely the case with the cheezburger cafe. they feature several amazing choices, including the queen city burger, which is 1/3 lb of beef topped with a german mett, chili and cheese. i ordered the california dreamin' burger as is with swiss, salsa, guacamole, lettuce and tomato. brian chowed down on the glutinous double cheeseburger topped with a fried egg and various condiments. the patties were small in diameter with a gratifying thickness, moist and tasty. i spoke with the cook and he said they get their beef from ron's meats on loveland-madeira, but i could not find a listing for it. my sandwich was pretty damn good. the salsa and guac were a perfect complement. my only complaint is the shredded lettuce and tomato slices. they were a bit anemic and tasteless. very disappointing given the yumminess of everything else.

also delectable fries. the whole check came to only $16.10. even if i would have ordered the root beer float, we still would have made it out of the cafe, stuffed, for under $20. one con, there were tvs at some of the tables that proved very distracting. overall, brian and i agreed on a heavenly 5.5.

Mt. Adams Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 23, 2008

this really is the last post today

just have to write a quick note on two fabulous festivals coming up this weekend.

westfest, presented by the city of cheviot. get a good look at the westside right in the heart of cheviot. saturday and sunday, beginning at 1pm. i hate to admit this, but i've only been once. the problem with attending westside events is i will see cousins, former classmates, ex-boyfriends, high school religion teachers. let's be honest, sometimes anonymity is bliss.

panegyri greek festival at the holy trinity-st. nicholas greek orthodox church. shuttles run from st. x. the shuttle line is usually long. one year we decided to walk from st x to the festival and were rewarded with blisters. friday, saturday and sunday. lots of food, wine, dancing. you get the idea. admission is free if you bring 2 non-perishable food items.

the quest begins

sam, friend and former co-worker who abandoned cincinnati for the wilds of wisconsin, posed a question to me recently. where are the best burgers in cincinnati? zip's is often mentioned, but while i enjoy them, i don't think they are the best (i think many agree). arthur's came to mind first, but i felt it was definitely a topic that required further investigation. i sent sam a link to the cincinnati burger guys, who plainly have consumed copious amounts of beef around the city. but beth and i decided we could still do a little digging of our own.
so, the unicorn hunt for the great cincinnati hamburger begins.
some ground (haha, ground, get it?) rules:
1) friday's, applebee's, mcdonald's, etc, are ineligible for obvious reasons
2) we're going to try to stick to beef burgers, but a veggie or turkey may creep in. sorry.
3) burgers will be graded on a scale of taste, texture, presentation, thickness, price, and whatever else strikes us.
4) ratings are 1-6, 1 being the beef would have been better off staying on the cow, 6 being divine bovine.
5) we can make up other rules and regulations at whim and blatantly ignore the ones we already have. except rule 1.
6) we want suggestions!

chez nora

i know i am getting old because i seriously considered bringing an umbrella to a bachelorette party on saturday night. these days, 'be prepared' is not just a girl scout motto - i can take on the world armed with my umbrella and a cardigan sweater. pretty soon you will see me sporting a plastic kerchief with colorful daisies, tied under my chin in the same style as my great grandmother.
for the bachelorette dinner, we went to chez nora. i enjoyed a glass of rancho zabaco zinfandel while perusing the menu. beth must have been affected by the full moon, because she drank white zinfandel. we shared a starter. i have to compliment the dip sampler appetizer. what a great idea. four kinds of dip and two kinds of dippers? fantastic.
for the main course, i had the turkey and brie sandwich. it was really delicious. the turkey was thick and browned before being topped with brie. no slimy lunchmeat here! as alyssa put it, i was trying to be virtuous by ordering vegetables instead of fries. this was a bad decision. i suffered from potato envy. also envy of the mini-muffin that came with alyssa's salad. ellen had her staple, the chicken sandwich, while beth indulged in the philly steak.

there were quite a few tasty looking entrees on the table, but i thought it would be mildly obnoxious to ask 20 people, most of whom just met me, if i could photograph their food.

i found a new friend with a sweet-tooth who was easily convinced to split the turtle cheesecake. caramel is one of my favorite things. and yes, i am from the westside, so i pronounce it 'car-mel'. at least i don't spell wash with an 'r' like some members of my family.

the evening continued with much debauchery and drinking for our bachelorette. many shots were consumed, and she was appropriately verschnickered. i was home, in bed, by midnight. even without the umbrella, i'm getting old.
Chez Nora on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 22, 2008


i don't know what it says about a restaurant that doesn't spell check chalkboard menus, including flagrant misplacement of the letter 'e'. it's not like editing is difficult. this was taken last night.

beth then discovered this morning, we aren't the only white people who are disturbed by such matters. (white people problems: typos on menus)
more on our evening later....

Saturday, June 21, 2008

the big to do

beth, eric, brian and i greatly enjoyed the big to do last night, sponsored by do downtown. by greatly enjoyed, i mean all of us suffered minor headaches this morning. but it was a beautiful evening and well worth the minor discomfort.

here is the breakdown of the offerings:

boi na braza: dough stuffed with cheese and beef, served with brazilian hot sauce. when they say hot sauce, they are not lying. dear god. the risolis were very tasty, even though brian was hoping for a big pile of meat.

blackfinn saloon: bailey's or double chocolate mousse. yummy, yummy. great texture, very light. not too rich to enjoy the whole cup. well, i would have eaten it all even if it was too rich.

havana martini club: pomegranate martini, appearing on the menu as the katharine hepburn. what a stunning name, i love katharine. the cocktail was stunning as well, not the disgustingly sweet concoction olives had offered. i drank two.

jeff ruby's: classic louisiana gumbo. ok, i have not eaten a lot of gumbo, and if it all tastes like this, i probably won't. bland. unattractive. disappointing. it looks especially unappetizing in the photo - like dirty dishwater.

palomino: grilled asparagus and prosciutto, garlic herb crostini with pesto and parmesan. a perfect little bite. so small it was gone before i could get a photo. as was my lavendar cosmo.

via vite: penne bolognese. good, but nothing stand out spectacular.

nicholson's: strawberry daiquiri cheesecake with drambuie cream sauce. um, if this was nicholson's chance to win friends, they failed miserably. i would not want this one taste to represent my restaurant. nice presentation, but it tasted like strawberry yogurt that had been left in my backpack all day. i think beth liked it, though. the picture is out of focus cause balancing was a problem.

trattoria roma: stuffed mushroom caps. we did not have these because we got tired of waiting and sweating. it was really warm in there.
the oceanaire: halibut ceviche served with sweet potato crisp. what a fun restaurant. the woman giving out the samples was a trip. beth even enjoyed the taste, despite her dislike of all things seafood.

jeanro bistro: watermelon steaks with feta and black olive cavier. i could have eaten ten of these. and jenny, the bartender and a family friend, mixes some excellent pear martinis. she also serves a delicious belgian brew, la chouffa.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

sounds like a winner

as i am watching the reds lose again (sniff), i am excited to enjoy the long ball cellars from charity wines that celebrate the past, present, and future of the cincinnati reds. as a bonus, they benefit charity.

barry larkin merlot 2006 - benefits the champions sports foundation
ken griffey jr. cabernet sauvignon 2006 - benefits the ken griffey jr. family foundation
homer bailey chardonnay 2006 - benefits outdoors without limits

they retail at $13.99 and i got mine at the white oak piazza discepoli, my favorite westside wine store and the only wine bar i know of this side of vine street.

3 non-westsiders walk into price hill chili...

my friend suzanne is interning this month at bernen's pharmacy on the westside. bernen's window displays featuring pink panther stuffed animals demonstrating the use of convalescent supplies are a westside landmark. i am interning at hart pharmacy, a couple blocks down. in between is mecca, price hill chili. suzanne has never been to phc. that needed to be rectified. after work monday night; suzanne, pete, and riley (all non-native westsiders) met up with brian and i at phc. the first thing i had to point out was all the news articles posted about dick cheney's visit. riley foolishly believes there are more democrats on the westside than eastside. he is going to do research to prove this point. i don't know what he'll find. i can say from personal experience growing up on the westside, if you knew a declared democrat or a protestant, it was like knowing bill cosby.

price hill has quite an extensive complex that has expanded over the years. it now includes the golden fleece lounge, original steam table and dining counter, and a party room, plus all the seating in between. sam, the owner, is usually hanging out by the bar. a popcorn machine in the lounge provides a snack while enjoying beer and waiting for food. the menu also is extensive and encompasses chili, greek salad, salmon, and goetta, to name a few. mac and cheese is available fridays after 4pm, and the noteworthy beef barley soup is only available tuesdays. oh yeah, and they only take cash.

first, we needed a few beers. brian enjoyed a cincinnati favorite, hudy delight. pete sampled some not quite pale ale by magic hat, but switched to hudy delight soon after. phc always provides good food at great prices. i would have to say my favorite thing on the menu is the greek bread appetizer (in background of photo), although sometimes it gets to be pretty salty. i enjoyed a deviation from my normal glt (goetta, lettuce, and tomato) with the landmark - steak hoagy with bacon and cheese.
the double deckers are very generous.

everyone enjoyed their meals. riley is below, trying the pasta with greek sausage and feta. the best treat of all, bernen's surprised us by covering our tab. thanks!!

some people (yes, native westsiders) claim phc does not deserve all the hype. ok, it's not gourmet. it's a neighborhood place with friendly staff, free-flowing beer, and straightforward food. the perfect westside establishment.

Friday, June 13, 2008


last night i ventured to olives. enough time has passed and i am ready to move on after the destruction of one of my favorite undergrad/grad school hangouts, uno's. (it seems like i've had to let go of a lot of them, including inn the wood) without describing the dynamics of the group in too much detail, i went to celebrate my friend's dad's birthday and to watch him drink his first irish car bomb. i myself do not partake in car bombs. i have an unreasonable fear the shot glass will hit me in the teeth and i will, for the rest of my life, look like i should be feuding with the hatfields.

for a place called olives, the pomegranate martini i ordered was a nightmare. sickeningly sweet cough syrup with a cherry. i almost sent it back, but i try not to mess with people who prepare food. there was also some confusion by the bartender on how to prepare car bombs. the car bombs eventually came out alright, but i chose not to tempt fate and switched from martinis to blue moon.

we sat in the bar area, which has a pleasant atmosphere and interesting metal sculptures. this was fine until the premier of 'the turtle' let out from the esquire and the bar was bombarded with the after-party. the cacophony rendered conversation impossible. i would probably eat downstairs next time.

for an appetizer, my mom and i shared the mushroom and artichoke strudel. my mom liked it very much, but i found it to be a little flat. if there had been salt and pepper on the table, i would have been happier.

the crabcake sandwich i had for dinner was much more flavorful (surprising) and had a great crispy outside. it was served with red cabbage (i think. that's what it tasted like.) and kitchen chips. the kitchen chips had a good balance of crispness and softness. my meal was pretty yummy overall. my mom had the cobb salad, which was somehow devoid of avocado, but she said it was good.

my friend's dad enjoyed his first car bomb experience. he had three of them.
plus an extra shot of jameson. and some beer.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

reading about local eating

here is an interesting perspective on local eating by one of the co-authors of freakonomics, stephen dubner here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

cheesemaking, part three

today i arrived home from work at 7:14 pm to deal with the huge pot of whey. we opted to mix the whey from both the 2% and whole milk to make just a massive mountain of ricotta. upon examination, i found the whey, which i had left to acidify on my stovetop, to have a vaguely greenish pallor and a not-so-fresh smell (dracula cheese?). i started the heating process. fankhauser says to heat it to near boiling, or 220 degrees. when it reached 197, there were large bubbles beginning to burst in the center, so i stopped, covered, and removed from heat. i thought it would be better not to push it to the higher temperature. my thermometer is also not the most reliable.

this proved to be the wrong decision, i guess. after 3 hours of resting, undisturbed, on the counter, the mixture had achieved a 'comfortable' temperature. (cheesemaking, at least in this experience, requires A LOT of waiting. we will have to investigate the 30 minute kit jknepfle suggested in the future) i tried to gently remove the curds that had formed, only to discover there were hardly any. what i saw on the surface was all there was. i drained it over cheesecloth anyway, but, alas, lasagna with homemade ricotta was not in the cards. maybe next time.

i sent a text to beth at quarter after eleven - 'ricotta: abysmal failure'.

cheesemaking, part two

despite the fact that our endeavors in no way resemble the photos on the website after 24 hours, we decide to forge ahead...
we cut apart the curds and heated and stirred as dr. fankhauser suggested, bringing the temperature to 108 degrees and holding for 35 minutes, during which time we drank wine and discussed other fun future projects. the mixture resembled cottage cheese. we poured and drained. i was only moderately scalded by hot whey (scalding not pictured. obviously, it happened when i was not holding my camera).

a quick taste proved a bad idea. it tasted like squeaky milk. that's the only way i can describe it. we drank some wine to wash away the taste. after adding the salt and microwaving, it actually mirrored cheese and we were able to mold balls. unexpectedly, the 2% milk had a smooth texture and easily formed balls. the whole milk was more texturally analogous to cottage cheese, but had a better taste. kind of buttery and rich. the balls were placed in gladware salt baths and i headed home with two balls of mozzarella and a very large pot of whey to further process into ricotta.
a disturbing note about cheesemaking: many people, including myself, will not drink milk or eat yogurt that has been out of the fridge for more than roughly 7 minutes. and yet here we are, planning on consuming a milk product that has been sitting at room temperature, in various pots and forms, for what will be a total of approximately 72 hours. i also try not to think about the chilled monkey brains in temple of doom...this picture to the right might be a little too similar for comfort...

Sunday, June 8, 2008

cheesemaking, part one

the reason why we were heading to beth and eric's armed with streusel and pugs is because beth and i decided to try our hands at making cheese. really, beth is more research and development and i'm supply procurement, since i work in a pharmacy and can obtain 500 grams of citric acid at a moment's notice. we decided to attempt american mozzarella, which also yields ricotta. as my friend crystal pointed out, we're going the long way around to make lasagna. true, but who could resist the lure of fankhauser's cheese page?

so we gathered our supplies and began heating milk. we tried both 2% and the diesel whole milk (kroger brand). in a scene out of muppet laboratories, three different thermometers were used to determine the temperature of said milk. 88 degrees is apparently the magic temperature at which the flux capacitor renders time travel and cheesemaking possible. beth added some dissolved junket (rennet), some citric acid, and we left the warm milk undisturbed for an hour while we played with the dogs and drank some wine. after the hour, it looked like watery cottage cheese. so we left it undisturbed for another 1/2 hour. still not producing the fabled 'clean break' necessary to proceed to step 10. we waited another 1/2 hour. the husbands were getting restless. rambo was over, they had little patience for cheese-watching. so we decided to put the lids back on and let it sit, undisturbed, over night.

to be continued....

unhappy accident

yes, this is what you think it is. a pawprint in the middle of my rhubarb streusel. one may ask, how does this happen? well, i am now an authority. i put the streusel, covered with aluminum foil, on the front car seat because we were headed to beth and eric's. i went back inside to retrieve some other things. i came back out to see my husband, WHO APPARENTLY CANNOT BE TRUSTED TO APPROPRIATELY MONITOR ANIMALS, grabbing at francie as she jumped from the back seat to the front seat, right into the streusel.
i think she was surprised to find hot streusel on her foot. luckily, most of it was salvageable and delicious. thank god i foiled.

Tacky nor Not?

so i'm finally getting around to planting the last few tomato seedlings. i apparently over estimated the space i had since i now have two more seedlings and no where in the back garden to place them. recently this spring i had to pull two bushes that had not surived last summers heat. that being said, i have just enough space in my front yard for those two tomato seedlings. so is it tacky to place vegetable plants in the front yard? i personally think that its a good use of space since i haven't replaced those bushes yet (and no great ideas for replacesments). i've asked a few people and opinions seemed to be divided. just curious to get everyone elses thought on the subject........

Saturday, June 7, 2008

rhubarb rapture

when i was a kid, i always wanted the muffins with strawberries and red celery. rhubarb is really fascinating and beautiful, and has a name that is fun to say. plus, other people think it's weird, so you never have to share.

rhubarb came to the US around 1800, but records of rhubarb use date back to 2700 BC in China where it was cultivated for medicinal purposes. the name of the genus, rheum, is said to be derived from rha, the ancient name of the volga, on whose banks the plants grow. others derive the name from the greek rheo ('to flow'), in allusion to the purgative properties of the root. the greek discorides spoke of a root known as "rha" or "rheon". whatever the origin, it is an excellent addition to pies, muffins, breads, streusel, etc, etc.

saw some delicious looking rhubarb and was inspired to bake. following are some photos and a yummy recipe.

heat oven to 350. combine 1 cup flour and 1/3 cup powdered sugar. using a pastry blender, cut in 1/3 cup butter until crumbly. press in bottom of ungreased 9-inch square pan and bake for 15 minutes. while that's baking, combine 1 1/4 sups sugar, 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 eggs slightly beaten, and 3 cups sliced rhubarb. pour the filling over crust. to make topping, combine 3/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/4 tsp cinnamon. cut in 1/3 cup butter until crumbly. sprinkle over the filling. bake an additional 45-55 minutes or until topping is golden brown and rhubarb is tender.

i won't tell you how much fat there is per serving. i ate mine with haagen dazs honey vanilla.

for more rhubarb lore, check out the rhubarb compendium or the rhubarbs article on (one of my favorite websites).