Thursday, July 31, 2008


i forgot to mention, i think i have it down now. swirl, sniff, then taste. i'll look like a pro before i know it.

oliver winery - bloomington

i am fairly inept at wine tasting. there are several reasons.
1) i drink quickly.
2) i make a wildly inappropriate faces when i taste a wine not pleasurable to my particular palate.
3) swirl, sniff, taste or sniff, swirl, taste? i can never quite remember.
4) i don't believe in wasting. nothing gets poured or spit out.
5) i describe things as 'pretty good' or 'like church wine', ignoring relative sentiments involving tannin, body, acidity, etc. you get the idea.
6) i drink quickly.

my ineptitude was readily apparent when amy, jessie and i went wine tasting at oliver winery in bloomington. we arrived about 45 minutes before closing, so unfortunately we only had time for tasting and no time to enjoy a bottle on their porch, drinking in the...scenery.

the wine list suggested we 'enjoy responsibly by selecting 6-8 varieties for tasting'. i selected 10. luckily, our....whatever the $4 word is for the guy who pours the wine....had a good sense of humor and poured away. he was also very knowledgeable and able to offer helpful tidbits, like that a wine had been fermented in a steel barrel under cold temperatures, that screwcaps are coming back in vogue, and that the best way to win a chicken wing eating contest was to not have the spiciest sauce. he was also very patient in teaching me to pronounce gewurztraminer, which i love but never order because of my embarrassing mangling of german.

here's the line-up:
valdiguie 2007: this was the winner of the malapropos grimace.
chambourcin 2007: estate bottled
shiraz 2007
zinfandel 2006: a favorite
gewurztraminer 2007: another favorite
traminette 2007: estate bottled. i liked the gewurztraminer better.
muscat canelli 2007: a great summertime wine
sky dog rose: one of their new wines that i actually saw just last week at the country fresh market in western hills. a blend of muscat, french colombard, and concord. as our pourer said, it's not complex. i thought it was a little boring.
catawba 2007: estate bottled. i bought a bottle for my dad, as it is his favorite wine. he's very manly.
port: yummy!! dare i say, robust? i don't know if i want to chance a fancy wine-word.

so there you have it. we did keep the poor folks a little late, because we needed to buy some bottles to go. (yes, i'm that asshole) the bottles were ardently enjoyed with cheese (a two-year old cheddar amy recommended and some havarti), processed meat, and pretzel crackers, while in our pajamas watching movies. slumber parties sure have changed.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

working for slugworth?

since beth and i started this blog, i have become increasing irritating to my husband and friends as i now photograph every meal. because they love me, they have accepted this as a quirk, like wearing socks with sandals or listening to michael bolton (um, neither of which i do), and patiently humor me. i don't know if the exasperation stems from them waiting, forks poised, for me to be satisfied i have appropriately represented a piece of flourless chocolate torte, or the fact i don't photograph them anymore. somehow i feel it is the former.
i also have my own self-induced anxiety about taking pictures of my food. i'm not so much worried about other people at the restaurant wondering what in the hell is wrong with me. my greater concern is interrogation at the hands of a stuffy manager who catches me snapping shots of the restaurant's artistry. as my friend amy says, i am afraid someone will shout, "she works for slugworth!" and tackle me, wrenching the camera from my fingers and dashing it to the ground. not only would this be embarassing, i would also be out a digital camera.
i really just need to get over it.

wannabe on the road - turkish food in bloomington

our friend amy is starting law school next month at iu. she just finished getting her master's there. i am a terrible friend because she has lived in bloomington for over two years and i have never visited. until now.

the first thing we did when jessie and i arrived was eat, of course. we decided on the turkuaz cafe. the decor is straight up arabian nights - the floor/seating is carpets and pillows, the tables are low. my feet were bare.
for starters, we shared the potato koftesi, which are potato pancakes with yogurt sauce and much more appetizing than this photo suggests.
our meals came with extras: red lentil soup and a trio of salads. the coban salad of cucumber, tomato and parsley was my favorite. very light and refreshing on a sultry afternoon.
i had a sour cherry as a beverage (non-alcoholic). it was quite tasty. for my main entree, i ordered the eggplant pide, which is a type of turkish flatbread. the eggplant was mashed and seasoned with garlic and paprika. the pide was very good, but the eggplant filling was a little bland. i have included a fork in the photo for scale. it is a half order. i have also included a photo of my lounging legs to illustrate the full experience.

dessert was turkish tiramisu, which the three of us shared. it was good because it was not soaked in liqueur and the cream was smooth and delicate.
the most amazing thing? my bill was under $12. they also had the most wonderful, polite service that i've seen in awhile.

Turkuaz Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 28, 2008

we ate it, might as well rate it

one particularly blistering sunday afternoon brian and i left the reds game early. they were losing, sweat was pooling under my sunglasses as well as everywhere else, and we were hungry. so even though it breaks burger rule number 1, this is a review of rock bottom brewery's burgers.

first, we shared an appetizer, the asiago cheese dip with beer bread. i have always enjoyed consuming the hundreds of calories this starter provides.
on to the main event - brian had just a plain cheeseburger (not pictured) and i had the bourbonzola burger, blossoming with fried onions, gorgonzola cheese, and jim beam bbq sauce. this is far from the realm of things i would normally order, but it just sounded good. add about another thousand calories to the running total.
like i said, normally i would not order anything with bbq sauce, but this was actually pretty good. sweet and tangy sauce, flavorful cheese. an overall satisfying combination of flavors. brian said his burger didn't have much taste as a sandwich, even though the meat itself was good. the bun was unusual; very starchy and dense. this was both a pro and a con, as it stood up well to the burger and didn't disintegrate as some buns are wont to do, but it was very filling. we averaged our rating out to be a 3.5. acceptable, and will do in a burger-craving pinch.
Rock Bottom Brewery on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 24, 2008

how is your garden growing?

for the past few years i've only had a few tomato plants, which i put very little work into. they have been good to me though. this picture was taken right before my first canning experience last year. that was an adventure, but a successful one. i feel that in the future i will have a better grasp on the process and it shouldn't be as timely. yes, those buckets are full of tomatoes as well. this year my plants look healthy but i don't appear to be having many red tomatoes, 12 so far. there are plenty of green ones, but something seems to be holding them up......

i also built a garden box to expand the garden even further this year. basically this year i have have nearly tripled the size. i have also expanded into a few other vegetables, including cucumbers, eggplant, and loofah (this is just an experiment to see if i can really make my own sponge like product). so far so good.

my basil is oddly not liking the sun as i have read it would, but its staying alive and should be a wonderful combination when all the tomatoes coming out of my ears. i will not be eating them with homemade mozzarella.

oh and i did not update on this before, but my two tomato plants in my front garden are doing wonderfully (tomatoes hopefully on the verge of turning red that is). only one neighbor has commented and that was nearly seconds after i finished putting them in the ground. she asked "oh, what kind of flowers are those?" to which i had to immediately explain they aren't flowers, but a tomato plant. in the evenings we have been walking and i have noticed at least 3 other houses in my neighborhood with edibles plants in their front yard as well.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


last night, i cooked with leeks for the first time ever. and my husband ate it, no complaints as usually accompany my meandering into strange and unusual territory. i suspect that is because the dish involved a lot of cheese and bacon, rendering the leeks palatable.

doing a little reading, i learned that the leek, allium porrum, is a member of the onion family, but with a more subtle and sweet flavor than the standard onion. thought to be native to the mediterranean area and asia, leeks have been cultivated for more than 3,000 years. leeks are actually mentioned in the bible as one of the foods greatly missed when the hebrews left egypt. another interesting leek tidbit is that in france, the leek is known as poireau, which is also a derogatory term meaning "simpleton."

the british also seem to have quite a love affair with leeks, as a google search revealed everything from bridget jones's blue leek soup to the wickham leek club to this victim of leek sabotage in leadgate (he has some big leeks!).

here is the recipe i used (borrowed from rachael ray). it was quite good, and we will be enjoying leeks for the rest of the week, as it makes a ton. and in no way is it good for you. other caveat: my timing never seems to work out as well as rachael's (go figure), so my pasta was cooked way before the bacon mixture. luckily, the resulting clump of pasta was easily broken apart with the greasy bacon mixture.

whisk count (for beth, who mocks the sheer volume of whisks in my kitchen): 1

BLT pasta bake: bacon, leeks, and tomatoes

coarse salt
1 lb elbow macaroni
1 tbsp evoo
8 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
2 large leeks, trimmed of roots and dark green tops
coarse black pepper
3 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
3 cups whole milk
1 cup chicken stock
3 1/2 cups grated gruyere cheese (i used a mix of gruyere and gouda. too much $$. and have you ever tried grating gruyere? what a bitch!)
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 pint cherry tomatoes
3/4 cup plain bread crumbs

cook the pasta with salt.

while the pasta cooks, add the evoo and chopped bacon to a large skillet over medium heat. cook until crisp. split the trimmed leeks in half lengthwise and thinly slice into half moons. clean the leeks in a bowl of water and towel them dry. add to the bacon skillet, season with salt and pepper, and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes.

start the cheese sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. add the cayenne, paprika and flour and whisk until it bubbles. cook for 1 minute more. whisk in the milk and stock and bring to a boil. simmer to thicken; about 5 minutes. remove the sauce from heat and stir in 3 cups cheese and mustard. set aside.

add the tomatoes to the leeks and continue to cook for 2 minutes. remove from heat and reserve.

preheat broiler.

drain the pasta and combine it with the leek mixture and cheese sauce. season with salt and pepper.

transfer to a baking dish and combine the remaining grated cheese with the bread crumbs. top the pasta with the mixture and place the dish under the broiler until the cheese melts and the bread crumbs are brown.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


luckily this burger review was a consensus from three prolific burger consumers - my husband, his friend kevin, and ramon. i was going to order a burger, but i never can quite resist arthur's turkey mushroom grill (sans mayo, of course. gotta watch that figure).

here's the contender, arthur's burger in miscellaneous incarnations:

i thought the black and bleu looked particularly amazing. seeing this pictures now, i think brian and kevin got the same thing. also, seeing them lined up like this, there is a definite disparity in the amount of fries on each plate. (hmmm....racist fry distribution?)

all three panelists agreed the burgers were over-cooked from the requested 'medium'. ramon said he would like the patty to be flatter. it was a good amount of meat, but the love needed to be spread around to be easily bite-able. kevin commented that the beef had good flavor. brian said nothing. his mouth was full.

overall, the boys agreed on a 4.8. kevin was willing to go higher, but detracted points for our mediocre service, a rarity at arthur's.

Arthur's Cafe on Urbanspoon

pure gluttony

my dearest friend from college, crystal, and her husband, ramon, are moving to korea for an undetermined amount of time (at least a year). so this past weekend they came in town for one last hurrah before they depart to the far east next week. ramon has spent limited time in cincinnati, so what better way to show cincinnati's personality than through her food?

last time they were here, ramon gave skyline a try and actually LIKED it the first time out of the gate. please note, liquor was not involved. it was straight up middle of the afternoon.

so we started this visit at larosa's, where we all enjoyed the big italian lunch in various combinations. plus the new cheesy flatbread (nice and greasy) and beer. onward to the zoo, where we sweated like whores in church, saw the new giraffe exhibit, and ramon became acquainted with the fact that everything in cincinnati is somehow uphill.

at that point, we weren't feeling as if we ever wanted to eat again. but we persevered and headed to gajah wong in northside. i wanted to pick a restaurant that was unique and maybe a type of cuisine they hadn't tried before. we sat in the garden, which was beautiful since the sun was sinking and the air had cooled. however, then we proceeded to wait TWO HOURS for our food. i don't know if this is common practice, since i have only been there once before. but that whole feeling like we never wanted to eat again had definitely dissipated by the time our food arrived and we had filled up our time with cocktails (their ploy all along?). their cocktails are really quite remarkable. i never thought of putting a cucumber in liquor, but in their pimm's cup, it really works. between us girls, we tried the bloody mary (has quite a kick), pimm's cup, coconut lime squash (refreshing), and indo iguana (i can never get enough of technicolor drinks). the food finally put in an appearance, and it was good, but not as good as i remembered from my first visit. isn't that always the way? crystal got the colossal prawns. they were quite colossal and quite stubborn. she bent her fork removing them from skewers. for dessert, i had the kalhua cake. it's pretty fantastic. crystal had a coffee drink. amy had samples of both. the boys just drank more beer.

we met up with more friends at o'bryon's. a bit of a distance from northside, but beth and eric were at a rehearsal dinner across the way at the art of entertaining (which she will write about...hint, hint).

oh yeah, and on the way home we got white castle.

saturday morning, my belly was starting to revolt. but there was cincinnati food to be eaten! next up on the list - goetta. and of course, where does a westsider go for goetta? price hill chili. ramon actually ordered a 5-way with a side of goetta. i was so proud. crystal wrinkles her nose at goetta, but ramon deemed it 'pretty good'. i think he ate it with ketchup. i encouraged him to try it with syrup, cause i know some people are fans, but i think that was a little too much for him to swallow.
the late afternoon took us to hyde park. stopped in hyde bark to shop for the pooches (who doesn't need a $375 juicy couture carrier?), but refrained from any purchases. met up with a friend of ramon's from grad school at awakenings. a perfect summer saturday afternoon treat - 2007 elio perrone sourgal moscato d'asti and decadent, rich chocolate desserts. for dinner, we drifted over to arthur's, where i had a panel discussion to rate their burgers (see other entry. this one is getting too damn long).

after dinner, my stomach was ANGRY. that's what happens, i guess.

i wonder how much it costs to send goetta to korea?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

burgers and a movie

my husband and i go to the movies almost every weekend. we've seen some good ones and we've seen some...let's say 'disappointing' ones.

nearby the western hills showcase cinema is abby's pub and grill. we can frequently be found on their deck, enjoying miller lite and margaritas. this time, however, we were all business. there are burgers to be rated.
abby's dishes are mostly named for cincinnati high school sports teams, so their burger is called the bomber, after st. x. i have many fond memories of football games at st. x. my first boyfriend was a bomber, and yes, i wore his jacket and we cuddled in the stands during every home game (obviously, he didn't play football. he was a soccer player). but i digress. back to burgers.

the bomber is very thick and hearty, and was definitely cooked according to specifications. juicy, too, as a burger needs to be dripping down your arm to be really a good meal. there are a variety of cheeses available, including monterey jack, and you have a choice of rye bread (which maybe should be toasted) or a bun. the tomato and lettuce were fresh and the fries crisp. despite all these great attributes, the meat itself lacked any complex flavor, meriting a score of 4.
the burgers did score higher than the movie.

Abby's Pub & Grill on Urbanspoon


i've been slacking a bit, and the hamburgers have been piling up.

the first is honey in northside. the way i understand it, the restaurant is named honey because the owners call each other 'honey'. which is really pretty sweet.
their patio is a pleasant place to wile away the afternoon, enjoying a bottle of pinot grigio. i had a grilled asian pork burger with spicy mustard. it was probably the pinkest burger i've ever eaten. it was tender and thick and quite delicious. however, as much as i love mustard, the burger was fairly lathered and it overpowered the flavor of the meat. while it was a good sandwich, i probably would not order it again. too spicy - made my nose run. overall, the burger gets a 4.

the real star of the meal were the honey fries, which were a mix of sweet, yukon, and idaho potatoes with chili lime honey for dipping. good saltiness. really fantastic.

Honey on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 5, 2008


congrats to henke winery! their 2006 norton was awarded the director's choice award at the 2007 ohio quality wines program for the best red wine in the state.

check out the news release from the ohio department of agriculture here.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

just cured

when i read on cincinnati locavore about just cured, i had to try some of their salmon for myself. recently, there has been a disruption in their supply chain, so michael decided to experiment a bit with a wild salmon - alaskan sockeye salmon. i emailed him to see if i could reserve a side and he graciously agreed. i served it at a small get together sunday, with fresh dill and cream cheese, and everyone said it was fantastic. the texture was smooth and soft, delicate almost. the flavor was subtle and thoroughly enjoyable. much, much better than what i've had at a lot of restaurants.

go get some. as soon as possible.