Saturday, November 29, 2008

give the gift of food!

i saw this on wine me, dine me as well, but thought it was worth mentioning twice!

i personally hate going to the mall, especially at christmas. i am not one of those people who experience a shopper's high when i knock down an old lady with a walker and grab the last elmo live! from the shelf. since i worked in retail and my poor husband still toils away in the red and khaki, mostly i just feel sorry for the employees. for the most wonderful time of the year, people sure are crabby.

i digress. my point is, i find gifts elsewhere. i was excited to learn that greater cincinnati independents is offering gift certificates good at any of their 32 restaurants. *most* people like to eat, and it supports our local businesses, so it's a win-win.

here's the list:
Andy's Mediterranean Grille, Behle Street Cafe
Bella Luna, Brown Dog Cafe
Chalk Food + Wine, China Gourmet
Daveeds at 934, deSha's American Tavern
Dilly Deli Cafe, Wines & Gourmet, Greenup Cafe
Holy Grail Tavern & Grille, Hugo Restaurant
Jag's Steak & Seafood, Jean-Robert at Pigall's
Kona Bistro, Mac's Pizza Pub
mesh, Molly Malone's - Covington
Montgomery Inn Boathouse, Nicholson's Tavern & Pub
O'Bryon's Irish Pub, Pompilio's
Primavista, Pub at Rookwood Mews
Red, Seny Tapas Bar
The Polo Grille, The Pub at Crestview Hills
Tink's Cafe, Vineyard Cafe and Wine Room
Washington Platform Saloon & Restaurant

Friday, November 28, 2008

thanksgiving: a pictorial

the pre-planning. two turkeys = two sinks. this bathroom was off limits during the defrosting process. the second turkey was cooked at my grandparents'.golden turkey stock for basting.we deviated from our normal turkey brining. i entrusted brian to salt the turkey rather than get up early and do it myself. he did a good job. even though it involved touching raw meat.
6:30am thanksgiving. i couldn't do this again to my hair if i tried.
the schedule. i make the list so i don't have to think for the rest of the day.

my mom (sous chef) peeling.bacon for the green beans.
the first item finished.time for a snack.
turkey stuffing.
honey glazed carrots.
the appetizer.the finished product.
imagine this whole process set to a soundtrack of frank, dean, and ella. there were a lot of other side dishes not pictured. i realized in my next life, i need a double oven and a refrigerator less full of wine.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

new york style pizza on the westside

on a tip from another loyal westside foodie (thanks, john!), brian and i went to check out noce's pizzeria on north bend road. i've been wanting to try it since i first saw the sign go up. i was not disappointed.
the place is tiny and clean and friendly. the kitchen is open and you can watch as they hand toss the dough and spread on the toppings and cheese.
we carried out, but you can eat in or get delivery.
right off the bat, noce's gets major points because the sauce for dipping the garlic knots is warm. nothing pisses me off more than ordering breadsticks or cheese sticks and having some nasty cold sauce that was in the fridge 15 seconds before it was on my plate. and the garlic knots are good, not drenched in butter or salt.
now, the main event. we asked the guy tossing the dough what his favorite is. he said plain cheese is the most perfect way to eat pizza, but if he's getting toppings, he likes the noce pizza. the noce pie is topped with sausage, onions, banana peppers, sprinkled parmesan, oregano and black pepper. i am not the biggest banana pepper fan, so we ordered it with light peppers.
all i can say is, that pizza oven at noce produces some pretty fabulous crispy crust. it is easily some of the best crust i have ever had. if you're looking for super thick and doughy and chewy, this isn't it, but i think this crust will win you over cause it's that good.
i have to admit i wasn't entirely sold on the sauce at first, but by my second piece i had decided i definitely liked it. it's subtle and flavorful, not sweet. a good complement to the crust and toppings.
there was a distinct lack of grease on both the garlic knots and the pizza. a plus, in my mind. i hate feeling like i need to sop up puddles of fat from my pizza before i can eat it (pizza hut).
so, two thumbs up for new york style, westside location. brian gave it a garbled "really good", his mouth being full. they also offer calzones, subs, ziti and stromboli, and they sell pizza by the slice. i look forward to trying them all. although i do have to agree with the pizza guy, i think my favorite is plain cheese. i'm a simple girl, really.

Noce's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

harry connick, jr riffs about skyline and graeter's

more proof that non-natives do not appreciate the artistry which is skyline chili. at his concert last night, harry connick, jr explained that he just can't get into skyline chili. an audience member presented him with a gift bag of canned skyline. while reading the can, he mused that "spices" mean something different up here than it does down in new orleans. truer words were never spoken. he did admit to a love of graeter's. i will assume he is appalled as i am at the disappearance of eggnog ice cream from the seasonal menu.

now i have to gush for a second like the 14 year old catholic school girl i am deep inside. harry connick is adorable and did a fantastic concert and seems like a great guy to have a drink with and he wears vests and i told brian he should wear vests, too.

gushing complete.

where did we eat before the show? nada. brian and i split the negro modella short ribs, a new menu item that is very good, even though it reminded me of the stew my mom used to torment us with as children (turnips and potatoes disguised as one another - evil!). highlight of the meal was the dessert. warm chocolate torte with bananas foster gelato - simply divine.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

j & j restaurant

nestled in a westside strip mall is j& j restaurant, serving up double deckers the size of a le car and piles of fried potatoes that are not to be taken lightly.

we sat down and were welcomed by possibly the sweetest person ever to work in the food service industry. shur-good oyster crackers were provided to snack on while we perused the menu, which listed tons of sandwiches, breakfast, and like any westside establishment, chili.

this first picture is brian's brinner. on the right? a mountain of potatoes with cheese. to answer your question, yes, he finished almost all of it.
my mom had the hot ham and cheese. the fork is in the picture for reference. the ham was really good - grilled before being put on the sandwich. cheese melted on top. just the right amount of mayo (so she says). mom said she would have preferred it on a different bun, maybe kaiser instead of sesame.
i had the bacon and tomato double decker. the bacon was good and crunchy, and i may have snagged some of my mom's ham to make a double layer of pig products. very yummy.
all this food, plus drinks, was a mere $30. the only disappointment? the menu promised pie, but there was no pie to be had. they stopped serving it awhile back. i guess not everyone wants to eat pie after a heaping double decker, but i sure did.
J & J on Urbanspoon

halloween mac & cheese

our halloween traditions do not revolve solely around tormenting our dogs with costumes and seeing how many reese peanut butter cups we can hide from the neighbor kids. we also indulge in the annual halloween mac and cheese. do not let this imply the mac and cheese is in any way halloween-y, we just eat it every year on halloween. i think we figure we're going to eat candy and drink beer, we may as well do it up right with a super calorie-packed side dish.
i have to say this, i make some badass macaroni and cheese. the secret to my pasta casserole prowess? the 19th edition of the better homes and garden cookbook, published 1949. back when people ate butter and weren't afraid of lard and bacon. the binding may be cracked and the pages yellow, but it holds a treasure of classic recipes. (this may be the same recipe as in the current cookbook, but i can't say)

baked macaroni and cheese (i usually double this recipe, cause it's that good)

8oz macaroni
3 tbsp butter (BUTTER, people, not margarine)
3 tbsp flour
2 cups milk (go for the whole milk. you know you want to.)
salt and pepper
1/2 lb grated american cheese (i use sharp american. cheddar is good, as is the casserole mix championed by my friend elisa)
1 cup dry bread crumbs

cook macaroni in boiling, salted water. Drain and rinse. make white sauce of butter, flour, milk, and seasonings; add two-thirds of the cheese; stir until melted. (whisk count: 1) pour over macaroni in greased baking dish. sprinkle remaining cheese and bread crumbs over top. bake in moderate oven (325) 30 minutes.

only once when making this have i accidently grated my finger. ouch.

i saw mac and cheese recently on 'throwdown with bobby flay' that is 7 cheeses and 2000 calories a serving. looked incredible and may be duplication worthy.


here is crosley as a pumpkin. yes, we're those people.

Monday, November 10, 2008

halloween fun

so kirssy and i dressed our dogs up for halloween, but some were more interested than others to be dressed up. we had a pumpkin (to be posted soon), a lady-bug pug, a pair of shih-tzu's as a lobster (surf) and cow (turf). the surf 'n turf weren't enjoying halloween at all.

francie as a lady bug

salvador as a lobster

salvador with the cow hat on

roscoe as a cow (and not pleased at all)

Guest Blog, the Little Sister: What I ate in Cincinnati

So, I came to Cincinnati from Colorado for the weekend for our (K and me) Dad's 60th birthday party. I miss the Cincinnati cuisine, though Colorado Springs has many delightful restaurants including a Moroccan place that I've only been to once, but it may be my favorite.
After a string of debacles at various airports across the country on my longer-than-necessary journey, I arrived at the party to surprise my dad with my presence. He said, "What are you doing here?" I had several drinks and found that I am a champion in alcohol consumption at sea level, which is a huge elevation decrease from the 6100-6300 feet I usually drink at. If you ever want a particularly cheap night of drinking, go up a mile or so and have two beers, you'll probably be lit. But I digress. The bar tenders were awesome (and they did all the clean-up, super awesome), the ambiance was lovely (because of k's decorations), and the food was provided by Catering Excellence, specifically a guy named Joe Whitton. Joe attended the party as well; I found him to be a very cordial fellow. There were finger foods like cocktail sausages, meat wraps, cheese, a broccoli salad and pasta salad. It was all quite delightful, especially the meat wrapped around horseradish cheese. I didn't eat much however, in anticipation of Skyline later that night!
Having been born and raised in the Nati, I simply cannot express my love of Skyline in mere words. It is the whole reason I visit Cincinnati instead of having my family come to Colorado to see me. Skyline is just not the same when you have to eat it from a can with Kraft 2% Milk sharp cheddar cheese as a topping and Oscar Meyer turkey dogs for the dog part of the coney. Apparently Skyline has expanded their menu in a significant way since I last lived in Cincy, but I always stick with the traditional coney and 3-way to get my annual fix. Needless to say, Skyline = fact I think that's what the angels serve as a snack in Heaven.
I did the rounds, I ate at LaRosa's. Still delicious as usual. I even drank the tasty draught root beer, though I normally don't drink pop. I wanted to get the full effect.
Saturday night we ate at Mecklenburg Gardens, a Cincinnati staple...probably even more so than Skyline. Because the place has been there since the Cenozoic era of Nati-time, it has the coolest atmoshpere, fun German beers and food. We ate: Saurkraut balls, potato pancakes (my favorite), pretzels with beer cheese (also favorite), Mecklenburg pie, German chocolate cake, and a bavarian cream puff (the tastiest dessert). My entree was the Portobella Spaetzle. It was good, the mushroom was the best part. I thought there was a bit too much cream sauce that ended up overpowering the fun of eating spaetzle. The waiter was not the best, he didn't even bring the dessert tray over, which the most fun thing about eating out. But overall, Mecklenburg Gardens rocks.
Next, we ventured into downtown to check out the revitalized night life. Very swank, never thought I'd see people out in downtown Cincy on a Satruday night. Palomino was the first stop, which is a great place to eat also, but we only had Lavendar Martinis there, which are pretty much the best martinis ever. I've never found them anywhere else, not even California (and they are supposed to be hip out there). Our friend Melissa works there and she is the best server they have.
Last stop of the night was a bistro a block from the Palomino that started with a J and is a hard word to remember, especially if one was drinking that night...which this one was. K can provide the name. The bar tender, Jen, is the greatest. We let her decide our drinks and they were excellent. A Washington Apple Martini and another Martini that had pineapple and was equally well-made and delicious. Totally recommend this cool locale for a stop on the downtown bar circuit. See Jen, ask her to make something up for you, she'll know exactly what you need!
The whole Nati experience seems to have changed since I last lived there, almost a decade ago. The westside is still, mostly, delightfully unchanged (still lacking in stand-alone Starbucks, WTF?), but it looks like the city is becoming more metropolitan and sophisticated. I even saw a Brazilian Steak House dt, excellent work with the revitalization, city council!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

my famous husband

this has nothing to do with food, but the guy in the fleece is brian...

Chock Full Of Shopping Carts @ Yahoo! Video

camp washington chili - the short story

a great rarity happened this week - brian and i were off on the same weekday, and it happened to be a glorious sunny november afternoon. so we decided to go to the zoo.
our family's default restaurant when going to the zoo used to be zino's, but since they closed, we have not found a staple after-zoo eatery. we opted this time for camp washington chili, which i have previously only visited drunk.
the place was packed and gets two thumbs up for great classic atmosphere. the server was very friendly, although she seemed frazzled by the lunch rush. i ordered the grilled cheese with turkey, brian with ham. the sandwich was good; hot and melty. i wish it would have had real turkey breast instead of lunchmeat, but whatever. the big disappointment was the chili cheese fries we split. i hate to say it of such a cincinnati institution, but i thought the chili lacked flavor and the fries were kind of cold. i kept eating them hoping i just had a bad bite, but to no avail. they just weren't good. we left half the plate.
to end on a more positive note, when my grandfather was a firefighter he did insurance inspections of restaurants. every time we drive past camp washington, he comments that it had the cleanest kitchen he ever saw.
Camp Washington Chili on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

gruet winery

this is a picture of the gruet winery in albuquerque, nw tasting room when eric and i were there in early october (yes i'm not the most timely poster). we were unfortunately there b/c the balloon festival was canceled that day but what better way to spend your afternoon instead that at a wine tasting? we (krissy and i) had coincidentally tasted this wine the weekend before when we went to nectar. they had approximately 8 champagnes, about 4 of them were reserve. all the wines had mixture of pinot noir and chardonnay. all of them were very good. they also had a chardonnay, syrah and pinot noir. although i though i thought all of them as ok, i would say that the pricing was a bit high for the ones that were not champagnes. all the the champagnes were quite excellent and priced very well. i would def. recommend these to anyone. we bought a bottle of the rose.

argentine bean

we went to argentine bean the other night. when we arrived there were a handful of people, not too many but we were there a little on the early side (6:30). we ordered a bottle of the malbec to start with. great wine. for dinner we had started out with the caprese salad. it arrived quite soon after ordering. tomatoes were fresh, cheese was delicious and just the right amount of balsamic vinaigrette. we also ordered skirt steak with chimichurri sauce and the chicken skewers with mango sauce. needless to say i was sans camera. sorry. about 15 - 20 minutes later our skirt steak arrived. it was getting to the point where we were watching the kitchen door to open. they were supposed to have chimichurri sauce and unfortunately i was unable to see that there was any on it. it had a parsley dipping sauce next to it but no chimichurri. very disappointed. next the chicken arrived a few minutes later. i tasted no mango sauce. i saw some grilled chicken. it wasn't over cooked, but it didn't have much flavor either. the service was good aside from the wait on food. we didn't have dessert, but we could see them in the case and they did look tasty. we left pretty disappointed. i really wanted to like this place, but i can safely say that we will not be returning.

Argentine Bean on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 3, 2008

question: where to take an out of town guest

my sister is coming in town this weekend for my dad's 60th. friday night we are pretty much booked with that, but saturday brian and i want to take her out for a night on the town.

i need suggestions. desperately. where do you take guests to show off the city?

some background: she's 26. married. doesn't drink beer. prefers cocktails. in all other ways is the total opposite of me.

the werks

my mom and i have been stalking the werkhaus (formerly mio's) on werk road awaiting the arrive of their seasonal pumpkin praline torte. we have been interrogating the servers. we have been examining the dessert case. we made brian call to see if it was available yet. our persistence was finally rewarded two fridays ago.

we eat at the werkhaus fairly regularly because the food is decent and the prices reasonable. it's kind of like something easy i would cook at home - straight-forward sauce, pasta, pizza. but it's nice to take a break and have someone else do the work (i resisted the urge to very cheesily say "werk"). i love their caesar salad and recently my favorite dinner has been the baked mostacolli. brian's crazy about the lasagna. it's warm, hearty wintertime food.

their desserts are always good - chocolate decadence, double lemon, cheesecake. but we really adore the pumpkin praline, made extra special by the fact it is only available a few weeks out of the year. luckily, they are very generous with the recipe, which i will in turn pass on to you. i made it last thanksgiving and it was met with good reviews, although i don't think it tasted as yummy as at the werkhaus.
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 3 tbsp whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans

in a heavy saucepan, combine brown sugar, butter and cream. cook and stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Pour into two well greased 9x2 round cake pans. sprinkle with pecans. cool.

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 2/3 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups canned pumpkin
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt

in a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, sugar, and oil. add pumpkin and vanilla. combine dry ingredients, add to pumpkin mixture and beat until just blended. carefully spoon over brown sugar mixture. bake 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. cool for 5 minutes, remove from pans to wire racks to cool completely. place one layer cake, praline side up, on a serving plate.

  • 1 3/4 whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • additional chopped pecans

in a mixing bowl, beat cream, sugar, and vanilla until stiff. spread 2/3 over cake on plate. top with second layer (praline side up) and spread remaining cream in center of cake. sprinkle with additional pecans. refrigerate.

makes 10-12 servings.

Werkhouse Pizza on Urbanspoon