Sunday, November 29, 2009

the original

it has been quite some time since i have written about my grandparents, so allow me some time to reminisce before i get to the actual food portion of this post.

one of my favorite books begins, "last night i dreamt i went to manderley again...". if i was to write a book, it could very easily begin:

"Last night, I dreamt I went to my grandfather’s drug store again. It seemed to me I stood by the glass topped candy case, and for a while I could not see behind the counter for the way was barred to me. Then, like all dreamers, I was possessed of sudden supernatural powers and passed like a spirit through the store before me. The aisles lined with cards and cold creams lay in front of me, straight and narrow as they had always been. But as I advanced, I was aware that a change had come upon the store. The dream was jumbling my memories, and was twisting the shadows with long tenacious fingers. The shelves were dusty and unfamiliar, the carpet worn. And finally, there was my grandfather – my grandfather - perched on his black leather stool patched with packing tape, smoking his pipe. Time could not mar the perfect recollection of this. Nighttime can play odd tricks upon the fancy, and suddenly it seemed to me that I was a little girl again: eliciting satisfying pops from bubble wrap; sliding m and m's from pill counting trays into vials; running to the butcher to stock his refrigerator with bologna and liverwurst and cheese, dollar bills crumpled in my hand. Abruptly, sleep escaped me and the illusion went with it. I looked upon my dark bedroom, with no whisper of the past about its staring walls. I can never go back to the drug store again. That much is certain. But sometimes, in my dreams, I do go back to the days of my youth before the drug store became Mandalay Bay tanning salon."

the point of all this is next to my grandpa's drug store on rapid run road was/is empress chili. this chili parlor is another piece of my childhood memories. i always had a wiener bun with cheese; these were the days before i subjected myself to cincinnati chili. empress is the original cincinnati chili, founded in 1922. the spices are still mixed according to a secret family recipe.

a few weekends ago we were driving about aimlessly trying to decide on dinner. we happened to pass empress and decided to pull in. for me, it was not without a pang of nostalgia. i had not eaten there since my grandpa retired and the drug store closed in 1992.
similar to every chili parlor on the westside, the walls of empress are bedecked with elder paraphernalia. the tablecloths are vinyl, the flowers are faux. the menu at empress is more extensive than skyline, but less so than price hill chili. as i was absolutely starving, i ordered a chilito and a cheeseburger.

the chilito was pretty typical. i always feel there is too much tortilla and not enough filling. however, the chili was delicious. drier than skyline and more zesty, i think empress may become my new favorite cincinnati chili. although brian disagreed. he still prefers skyline.the burger was so-so, an average patty cooked for the median palate (a 3.5 out of 6 on the burger scale). but look at all those pickles and the wavy husman chips!the stop at empress was a wonderful trip down memory lane, one i will repeat. the chili is great, the ambiance quintessential westside, and the crackers are shur-good. maybe next time we'll stop by after a high school football game. too bad my grandpa isn't around to join us.
Empress Chili on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 19, 2009

road trip! madison, wi

columbus day weekend brian and i hit the road to visit jenn and mark, who left cincinnati back in june for the wilds of wisconsin. when we were about two hours away, jenn sent a text which read, "head's up - it's not snowing exactly. just some flurries". snow before halloween? i didn't know we were visiting the arctic.

jenn and mark live off fish hatchery road. i saw no fish hatchery, but i assume the road's namesake had to be somewhere nearby. what a strange choice to name a thoroughfare. to my knowledge, in cincinnati there is no "slaughterhouse avenue" or "soap suds court".

jenn and mark have already been working on establishing themselves as regulars at the great dane pub. they have a fantastic beer list, which great names like "crop circle wheat". we all tried their seasonal brew "ride the dragon". it's a heavy-hitter with 10% alcohol, so the pub actually has a limit of 2 per customer. i'm not very good at describing beer, but to me, it was light with an herby flavor, kind of like twisted thistle.

apps consisted of pretzels with mustard and fried cheese curds (it's wisconsin, after all). the cranberry horseradish mustard was absolutely to die for. pungent - stings the nostrils. the curds were what you would expect. kind of tough to screw up fried cheese.

jenn and i each ordered a sandwich and split them. one was a buffalo burger topped with cheese from a local farm and the other was the "gourmet" grilled cheese (sensing the theme?) with smoked gouda and sharp cheddar, pesto, tomato, and bacon. everything was as good as it sounds. the accompanying sides were plantains and hot applesauce. the applesauce was more apple and less sauce. it belonged on top of a potato pancake.

Great Dane Pub & Brewing on Urbanspoon

the rest of the time we just hung out. sunday night we cooked a delicious dinner of marinated pork kebabs (see marinade recipe here), eggplant salad, and lemon-lime tart.

the eggplant was grilled, then topped with goat cheese, basil, mint, and pine nuts. the finishing touch was a light drizzle of balsamic vinegar. in retrospect, i probably could have lived without the inclusion of the mint.

the lemon-lime tart recipe came from luscious lemon desserts. at the last minute we decided to add the whipped cream. it was a good decision. the tart was very tart. our drink of choice for the day was sparkling wine, simply limeade, and a splash of rose's pomegranate infusion.

i'm so jealous of their kitchen! you can't see it in this photo, but they have a double oven, too.

it was really a fantastic trip. we plan on returning after the spring thaw and seeing more of the city.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

guest post: sourdough pancakes

i have at least five posts simmering on the back burner. i am way behind. i've been wanting to write about my friend elisa's sourdough pancakes for about a month cause they are amazing. so i asked her to write about them for me.

background: i was introduced to these pancakes through our running/breakfast club. in general, i do not really care for sweet breakfast food, so these pancakes are really right up my alley. they have a more complex and distinct flavor than regular pancakes. by trade, elisa is a chemist and has this delightful hobby of baking, which i frequently benefit from.

Adapted From Breads from the La Brea Bakery

510 g (18 oz) sourdough starter
2 T. vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder

Preheat griddle to 375F. Whisk starter to homogenize. Whisk in oil and eggs. Sprinkle dry ingredients on top and whisk thoroughly. Or, just whisk all 6 ingredients together… I’m always paranoid the leavening will get clumpy. Cook on one side until slightly dry around the edges and bubbles form, flip. Also, I find I don’t need to grease a non-stick surface.

My starter was created using the method described in Breads from the La Brea Bakery by Nancy Silverton. Hers is a complex process, but her attention to detail and weight measurements appealed to chemist brain. I’ve also made her basic bread recipe with great results. However, I decided not to use her method for maintenance. I would have gone poor from purchasing flour and crazy from the three times a day feedings.

So then, both Joe Pastry and Sourdough Home are good resources for making and maintaining. For me*, I leave my starter in the fridge (feeding it once a week) when I’m not using it regularly, and if I am keeping it at room temp, I feed it twice a day. Feedings consist of equal weights of water (softened, filtered “city” water, because that’s what comes out of the tap) and Gold Medal bread flour, with amounts ranging on just enough for maintenance to whatever I need to add to build it up for making bread or pancakes. And contrary to what you might think, a starter is actually pretty easy to take care of and use. Just don’t completely forget about them, kinda like a house plant.

*Some sourdough purists out there might look at what I do and want to ban me from the club, but I say, to each their own. This is what works for me.

serve with real maple syrup...mmm!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

eww, gross.

so, i wasn't even going to post about my meal at claddagh in newport on the levee last night. a couple of girlfriends and i had been hoofing it around newport all day begging donations for the newport gangster's monster's ball, and decided to pop in for a bite to eat. it wasn't a big deal, nothing special. the food there is generally reliable, the seating packs you close to strangers and friends alike, and the notre dame game is on the telly.

but then something absolutely appalling happened.

we were signing our credit card slips when suddenly randy slams down one of the lingering plates on the center of the table and says, "don't look". well, we all know the easiest way to get people to look is to say "don't look". randy then reveals we have been joined by a six-legged friend, lifts the plate, and discovers he is gone. no matter. the little guy quickly resurfaced and was battered with a barrage of slaps by pleather check-holders, accompanied by cries of, "eww, get it" and maybe a girlish shriek or two. (i would like to point out through this whole exchange, no one even looked at our table. maybe they thought we were just really into the notre dame game)

that little bastard would not die. i think he still was twitching (it may have been a post-mortem twitch, who's to say) when i snapped his photo:

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

shameless plug!

dear everyone,

please allow me to captivatingly convince you that halloween night, you simply must attend the monster's ball hosted by the newport gangster tour. festivities begin at eight o'clock at the syndicate.

tickets are $20, with all proceeds benefiting global service learning, a local non-profit dedicated to providing meaningful learning experiences to high school students.

tickets can be reserved by emailing or they can be purchased at the door (from me!) halloween night.

even better, you can pick up your tickets by visiting the gangsters on one of their tours, saturdays during the month of october.

oh yeah, and costumes are strongly encouraged, as there will be prizes awarded to the best of the best.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

there's a girl in my soup

it's 1970. peter sellers and goldie hawn make there's a girl in my soup, which despite the title and the fact the main character is a tv gourmet, has very little to do with food and everything to do with sex. the tangling of food and sex is always intriguing. a few key scenes: peter sellers' lothario character is having an intimate moment with a woman and comments, "you taste delicious"...a few scenes later an intimate moment with a different woman occurs while he is watching his own tv show about wine and food, and the descriptions sort of match up, if you know what i mean.

ok, i have to admit i only watched about half of the film. i was tired, and even goldie hawn's terrifically witty dialogue couldn't keep me engaged.

on a related but totally random side note, at work this week we had several morbidly obese patients, so it sparked conversation about what leads to that kind of weight gain, etc. one of the docs i work with told me the story of this woman he treated(? i think) who at the time was about 400 pounds. her husband kept wanting her to gain more and more weight. during sex he would feed her and rub her belly and talk to it.

insert your own commentary.

charleston, SC

a few months ago we ventured to charleston, SC. here are some pictures and links to places we visited.....

Jestines Kitchen

they don't have an actual website. we had stayed at a bed and breakfast and the owner had recommended this restuarant to get some good southern cooking. we arrived and were seated immediately.

they started everyone off with a bowl of pickles.

we ordered some cornbread.

i had ordered the meatload, mashed potatoes, and macaroni. my meat had come out a little overcooked. our server noticed it and immediately brought another serving of meatloaf. now maybe my standards are skewed but i didn't think the first serving as all that over cooked. the portions were HUGE. far more than two people could (or should) consume in one seating.

eric had gotten the fried chicken, black eyes peas and red beans and rice.

dinner was followed up with dessert to go -- when you can't decide go with both -- chocolate cake and key lime pie.

although i didn't take any picutres one of the best meals we had was at Slightly North of Broad ( ). it was extrememly busy that weekend since the university of charleston had graduation and it was mother's day. for that matter the entire the entire city was pretty busy.

we stopped in beufort, SC when going between savannah, ga and charleson, sc. the had the "best burger in the world". i would have to disagree, but it wasn't that bad in a general. just not the "best".

Friday, September 18, 2009


in the shadow of mt. rumpke spread the lands of the vinoklet winery. yearly they host a wine and art festival. beth and i hadn't been in awhile, and frankly don't remember much about our previous visit. so we decided to give it another go. well i can tell you its been about 5 years or more. maybe more. we stopped at steak and shake on the way home that time.

the picturesque entryway. you can't see it in the photo, but the man in shorts is actually a one-eyed pirate. i know i shouldn't mock, but he wouldn't move for the photo. he piped up when we walked pass, "you know you can eat the grapes", and popped a big juicy one into his mouth. his parrot was no where to be found. we just kept walking. no need to encourage more conversation.

me, with my tasting tray. the dress proved to be a bad clothing choice. not only is it completely unflattering in this photo, i also got a wicked sunburn.

beth. and that's ellen in the background.

the wines.

here are the opinions of three winos on the offerings of vinoklet, from left to right, top to bottom.

cincinnatus: "robust and hearty red" gets a big "boo!" from all three of us. the closest to heart that this gets is communion wine (get it? the blood of christ? haha. never mind. i'm so alone.)

sunset blush: three out of three of us loved it. nice summer wine, not too sweet, not too dry.

la dolce vita: i think they just served us grape juice. gets a non-committal "ehh". beth said she would get tired of drinking it. also that it's for someone who doesn't want to think they're drinking alcohol. also someone who has no taste buds.
tears of joy: this brought no joy. dry as the desert. this was not an "ehh" but a "bleckt" for ellen and i. beth actually really liked it, giving it a "strong approval" rating of 33%. hey, that's better than obama's doing. i'll refrain from comment and state that this blog does not endorse any political parties.....

dreamer: "sweet delicate blend". a perfect description. three out of three found it drinkable and enjoyable.

vino veritas: super sweet. the exact note that i wrote down for this wine (a consensus opinion) was "not a hot dog wine. an oatmeal cookie wine. maybe a fudge round".

after deliberation and a trip to the port-o-lets, we settled on sharing a bottle of the sunset blush. all of the wines are extremely sweet. i'm not a wine expert but i believe that is pretty typical of midwest wines. if you are looking for a nice dry red, this is not the place to go. if you prefer the sweeter variety then there are definitely a few options for you. we paired it with everyone's favorite wine complement - cheese, crackers and processed meat. mmm, mmm. love that cheese on a hot summer day.

the aftermath.

all in all a great afternoon of wine, friends, and live music. i found a fantastic print of a pug for my kitchen that looks just like crosley, only, you know, lime green. i wish we would have gotten a picture of the budweiser truck. hell, the winery's in colerain - what do you expect?

vinoklet offers dinner, special events, receptions, and a bed and breakfast. we plan on returning sometime soon to give the menu a try.

Vinoklet Winery & Vineyard on Urbanspoon

we expanded

ok not really. ive been MIA for a while because my husband and i had a daughter on 8/11. in this case its really not going to increase posts.......

As someone pointed out earlier i didn't mention her name; claudia joy.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


the 50th season of the playhouse in the park has begun, and of course we have season tickets again. the first show, sleuth, i cannot comment on because i am still digesting my thoughts about it. but i would like to comment on the couple we refer to as "the crabby people". for the last two seasons, this couple has sat stone-faced in the front row. they don't laugh, they rarely clap, and they never stand for the ovation except to leave. this would be fine, i suppose, if they weren't in two of the most conspicuous seats in the house. it must be a real downer for the actors to not be able to see much of the audience except these completely unresponsive visages. i just wonder why they come if they aren't engaged or enjoying the performance (assuming, of course, their crabbiness is indicative of displeasure).

anyway, dinner before the show. we tried to go to the rookwood, but we were curtly informed by the hostess they weren't taking walk-ins because they had a party of 100, blah, blah. so we went to teak. i've eaten at teak many times, and it's always ok, but for some reason it was exceptional saturday night. we were seated on the very charming patio.

i started off with the chicken coconut soup. the coconut broth was delectable and the chicken pieces were nice, big, and identifiable as breast. presentation was a plus because i loved the blue and white dishes, and my soup came with its own little lid.

next came the level 4 panang curry with beef and kaffir lime leaves. if this was level 4, i'm pretty sure level 10 would kill me - my nose was running and i drank at least 2 glasses of water. the dish itself was pretty delicious, although i ended up leaving most of the broccoli because the segments were too large to be bite size. in no way is this a complaint, but i had expected more of a lime flavor. i wish i had something more creative to say, but my curry experience is fairly limited so i can offer no additonal intelligent commentary other than i liked it. a lot.

my cocktail was the pom pom pear, a mix of pear sake and pomegranate. it looked pretty but was just ok, nothing special.
really the highlight of the meal was our waitress - a petit, militant, sassy, hilarious asian woman who told us she was a lawyer by day but we suspect she is actually a ninja.

Teak Thai Cuisine and Sushi Bar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 6, 2009

saturday breakfast club

this week the girls came over to run westside style. this does not mean our morning run consisted of fleeing the police and/or an assailant. it means lots of hills, including the slow, painful negotiation of harrison avenue. we were bolstered by the cool weather and the promise of breakfast, including fresh fruit, bacon from eckerlin, and bacon and tomato biscuits (can never have too much bacon!).

bacon and tomato biscuits
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
8 strips of bacon
1/2 onion chopped
1/2 cup mayo
dried basil
3 oz swiss cheese
instant buttermilk biscuits- the regular size, not big fat grands

these are a really easy breakfast treat. preheat oven to 375. slice the bacon and fry it up to desired level of crispness. (i usually find pre-slicing is easier than crumbling later, but obviously it can be done either way) mix all ingredients save biscuits in a bowl. spray a mini-muffin tin and fill each well with half an instant biscuit. scoop some bacon 'n' tomato mixture on top of each. bake for 10-12 minutes and be prepared to eat 5 of them yourself.

totally brill

ladies and gentlemen, i would like to offer a salute to the target corporation for bringing us what every wine enthusiast needs: the adult juice box.
i've only sampled the above white sangria and it definitely wasn't too shabby. if only they came with a straw...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

johnny rockets

ok, so, i've never really cared for johnny rockets. kind of lackluster and overpriced. but i was meeting some friends at newport for a movie, so we decided to give it a try.
they immediately pissed me off because i tried to order a kid's coke and the server said no. now, i know i am over the age of 10, but i seriously don't drink more than about 4 sips of coke. i am willing to pay a dollar something for those few sips, but not $2.59. and my girlfriends all drink diet, which i think is totally foul, so i can't snake a couple gulps from them. hence, i order a kid's coke. most places oblige. our server helpfully offered to put more ice in the $2.59 coke. i told her i'd have water.
she redeemed herself, though, cause she brought me a kid's coke anyway. plus, she bought us paper hats and her ketchup happy face was superb.
i ordered the route 66, a patty with swiss cheese, grilled mushrooms, and grilled onions. it was actually pretty good. the beef was a bit dry, but the overall effect of the sandwich was satisfying. i can almost imagine being in a convertible cadillac cruising along with the wind in my hair. not really, but the burger rates a 4/6. plus, the classic chrome plated atmosphere is kind of fun.

Johnny Rockets on Urbanspoon