Sunday, May 31, 2009

a night out in newport

awhile back, veggie option offered to satiate my curisosity and take me to the crazy fox for some absinthe. last week we were finally able to meet up.

we had dinner at the pepper pod, a classic greasy spoon on monmouth in newport.
unfortunately, the table juke boxes no longer work. we figured, based on the selections, they stopped working sometime in the 80s.

salisbury steak slathered with gravy, mac and cheese, fries - all for $5.50! it was pretty much what one would expect. note the shine on the gravy.on to the crazy fox. it was a pretty low key crowd, but it was a wedensday. veggie said on weekends it can get pretty packed, especially if there's a band.

the crazy fox has a sense of humor about itself

we had a blanche and a verte absinthe, i cannot remember the names. i believe, from what i've read, that it was prepared in the classic french absinthe ritual. basically, a flat, perforated absinthe spoon is laid across the rim of the glass, and a cube of sugar is placed on the perforated area of the spoon. the sugar is used to balance the bitter taste of the wormwood. ice cold water is dripped into the absinthe from a small pitcher. this very slow and gradual addition of the water forms the heart of the absinthe ritual, and is done with or without the sugar.

it is desirable for absinthe to gradually demonstrate increasing turbidity or turn partially translucent as ice water is gradually added to it, known as the louche effect. the louche effect is primarily produced by the herbs anise and fennel, and the precipitation of the herbal essential oils. (reference here)

the louche effect in all its glory

my first glass of absinthe

i have to say, the absinthe smelled much better than it tasted. it smelled subtly of anise, but the actual flavor was much more pronounced. it also became significantly more potent as it warmed to room temperature while veggie and i gabbed about everything from fresh popcorn to traveling abroad. i liked the licorice flavor; it was like jagermeister with the frat boy removed (beth's paraphrasing of my description). definitely more refined and complex than jager, it is still not really something i ever see myself drinking a lot of. i barely had a third of the glass and was beginning to feel warm and tingly. oscar wilde is quoted as saying of absinthe, "after the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. after the second, you see things as they are not. finally, you see things as they really are, which is the most horrible thing in the world.” regrettably, i don't even think i could drink enough to see things as i wish they were.

i did have a fab time hanging out with veggie option, even if absinthe didn't make my list of favorite liquors. maybe next time i'll try it in a cocktail, like the chrysanthemum.

Pepper Pod Restrnt on Urbanspoon

cloudy with a chance of meatballs

did anyone else love this book when they were a kid? such a creative story, and what a fantasy. can you imagine all the food you ate everyday just falling from the sky at the appropriate time?it was absolutely one of my favorites, especially the part where things start to go haywire and it does nothing but rain cream cheese and jelly sandwiches all day (another childhood favorite - cream cheese, strawberry jelly, and bananas on pumpernickel). well, they have made it into a movie, and people, it's 3-D! i saw my first preview for it today, before up (a great 3-4 kleenex pixar endeavor). it looks like they changed the plot a bit, save the food falling from the sky. we'll see. it opens fall this year.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

first watch: a brief review

this is pretty much the most boring review ever. first watch - it's good. it's consistent. they bring a huge pot of coffee to the table so there is no wait for refills. why not personally a caffeine addict, i can appreciate that convenience because i am a water drinker and they also bring a pitcher of water.

i always order either the key west crepe or the chicken salad melt. they are reliable. the sourdough toast and breakfast potatoes are good.

i don't feel the need to describe anything there in glowing terms laced with stunning adjectives. the food doesn't deserve it. "good" is the most appropriate descriptor. and unlike some other restaurants mentioned previously (ahem. montgomery inn.), the crowds around first watch on sunday morning (and every other day of the week) are completely justified.

sorry so unimaginative. i don't even have pictures to jazz it up.

First Watch on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

the boathouse

i literally have no idea why the montgomery inn at the boathouse is so popular. we were there friday before our final playhouse performance of the season, and it was a veritable who's who in cincinnati - oscar robertson, the hamilton county coroner (don't ask, brian recognized him), the real housewives of indian hill, and us.

everytime i go to the boathouse i expect to have a gastronomical epiphany, and i will suddenly understand the spellbinding capabilities of the montgomery inn barbeque sauce. but alas, this most recent excursion did not lead to enlightenment.

we arrived promptly for our 6pm reservations, but unfortunately jenny and john had babysitter issues and were running late. at the boathouse, no one is seated until the entire party arrives. this left brian and i hanging out at the bar, people watching. the boathouse does provide an excellent opportunity for sociological study while sipping a $3 happy hour martini (the lemon one. not very good. reminiscent of pledge.).
we were finally settled at an awesome table right by the window, which john commented would be a great view if it wasn't the ohio river we were seeing. our server was really wonderful and very personable. the crostini appetizer arrived promptly at our table.this was actually my favorite part of the meal. the bread was crisp, the bleu cheese a nice blend with the other cheeses. a nice, light start to the meal.

i decided to jump in and order the smokehouse trio of sandwiches. while not montgomery inn's famous ribs, the tiny sandwiches could give me an idea of the inn's flavors without requiring a bib. mac and cheese on the side, of course.i ate the pulled pork. it was ok. the sauce was a little sweet, but what i expected. the brisket i ate half of; it just wasn't as tender as i would like and if it had any smokey flavor, it was totally obscured by the sauce.finally, the chicken. i only had one bite of it and that was enough. while the sauce on the pork was tolerable, on the chicken it was unbearably sweet. that sandwich was quicly transferred to brian's plate, as was the rest of the mac and cheese. the mac and cheese was just ok and i couldn't see any reason to continue eating it.

brian thought he had died and gone to heaven when he saw this dessert on the menu. he was still talking about it the next day.the strawberry shortcake was decent. the shortcake was a little hard, but the strawberries were fresh.

overall, i felt the same as i always have after a meal at montgomery inn, the champions of mediocrity. so, can anyone please explain to me the attraction of the boathouse? i feel like i'm missing something.
Montgomery Inn at the Boathouse on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 22, 2009

tastes like chicken

i am a picky chicken eater. i hardly ever order it out because it is usually 1) dry or 2) full of those little chicken tendrils that are sinew-y and nasty.
but, the silver spring house proclaims to be the chicken joint. it says so right on the sign. and they have been declared "best chicken" by cincinnati magazine. it says so right on the menu. so i decided to give the tender, amish-raised, marinated in citrus juices and spices, grilled to perfection chicken a go. but a chicken dinner with a breast, wing, leg, and thigh is a bit too much chicken for this girl. luckily, there is an ample selection of chicken sandwiches to choose from.

i went with the baja chicken sandwich, which was the famous chicken breast topped with salsa and monterey jack cheese. it was fantastic - juicy, with a lack desecration by sinew. literally cooked to perfection. now that's truth in advertising. the sweet potato fries were also delicious. not too sweet. even the pickles were good. brian got the actual chicken dinner, with a salad (!) and fries. he ate every last bit. of the chicken, at least.mark's heart shaped buffalo chicken sandwich. jenn had the chicken (are we noticing a theme here?) taco salad, which is clearly enormous.also noteworthy were these amazing loaded wedges, yes, that's ranch you see drizzled on there. a cardiovascular surgeon's delight; job security.there were a few cons to our silver spring house experience, however. first, the place was absolutely packed. i guess that's to be expected at the best chicken joint in cincinnati, but it was also very loud. don't go if you actually want to converse with the people you're with. additionally, i guess because they were so busy, jenn had to ask our server three times for a glass of water. which she finally brought when i asked for a fourth time. she never came by to refill either.

next, the following picture speaks for itself.finally, exhibit c is the quesadilla. we chose to order it without chicken (~$13), so basically we paid $8 for a tortilla with melted cheese inside. we thought there would at least be tomatoes or jalapenos or something extra than what we could create in a microwave in 30 seconds. not so much. the salsa was tasty, though.

bottom line: if you've got a hankerin' for some chicken, hit up the silver spring house. just expect that other people had the same idea.

Silver Spring House on Urbanspoon

butter art

i just thought this was cute. why can't there be more butter art? (i mean, besides big butter christ on I-75)

Monday, May 18, 2009

break out your blowtorch

i'm on a martha stewart kick, and i like desserts that involve fire. my friend elisa, an accomplished baker, adapted this martha stewart recipe to make a s'mores cake, using a springform pan. (when she sent me the email with the recipe link, she wrote "Ok, so I didn't know that "she" had anything to do with it!")
mountains of marshmellow-y goodness, slightly runny because of the heat
elisa is from minnesota, so no pansy williams-sonoma kitchen torch for her. this is a hardware store version, directly from her dad's garage. besides flaming marshmellow on s'mores cakes, it also comes in handy for soldering pipes.
we each got to toast our own marshmellow to desired browness. mmm....campfire flavor on a plate!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

gangsters and chili

in the 1930s and on into the 50s, newport was a haven for gambling and gangsters. dixie chili has seen it all. founded in 1929 by greek immigrant nicholas sarakatsannis, it is the second oldest cincinnati-style chili parlor in the area behind empress.

today brian and i ventured to newport for the historical walking tour and also stopped for some of the historic chili. dixie chili has the typical chili parlor decor and menu, with a few creative twists, like a juke box and "the alligator". i was kind of intrigued by the alligator, a hot dog with a pickle, cheese and mayo (i would get it without mayo, of course), but decided to stick with chili cheese sandwiches, sans onions.

the chili at dixie is thicker, heartier, with more complex flavoring than skyline. it was pretty darn good, although i thought it could have used a little salt. i think next time i would get it with onions. onions would really add to the overall sandwich taste. brian also enjoyed it, but did not like it more than skyline. i thought it tasted fresher than skyline, and therefore was more appealing.we got a little german flag to mark us as waiting for waffle fries. i'm not sure if there's an association, like german flags symbolize waffle fries and the greek flag maybe a 3-way. but i doubt it's that complex of a system.

the tour was full of interesting tidbits of newport's history. among other tales of mayhem and murder, we learned the brass ass (brian's most favorite strip club experience ever. it still makes his skin crawl.) used to be called the stardust, mimicking the casino in vegas. note the star still shining on the facade.

Dixie Chili on Urbanspoon

for martha, wherever i may find her

whatever happened to martha stewart? it seemed for a time she was an empress rivaling cleopatra in notoriety. she and john lennon could have shared in being more popular than jesus, as martha had an army of stepford-wife disciples behind her.

so what happened? why did we fall out of love with martha?

was it the jail time? the realization by the public that good things take a crack team, including employees with the actual job title "crafter", to accomplish? the rise of carrie bradshaw as the new feminine prototype?

i was looking through some old papers and i found a poem i wrote for an undergrad creative writing class. this was the late 90s, at the height of martha stewart frenzy. i post it for fun, not for judgement. poetry never was my strong suite.

Martha Stewart Sleeps In

I overslept
My alarm clock
Went off
And when I woke
The world was
No one's watch
Gave the same time
And on some
The time moved
And on others
I tried to have
But it was time for
I started to
And called work
To see where
I should be
But there was
No answer
I asked everyone
What time it was
But no one seemed
To know
I turned on the TV
And I only saw
I cried and wandered
Waiting for the
To go down
Then I saw
My Backyard
Had filled with huge
Blue flowers
And People were running
Through them
Because they were

i can't wait for this movie

julie & julia.

it's everything i dream of in a movie, and everything my husband dreads. he looked terrified when we saw the preview yesterday and made a point of telling me he wasn't going to see it.

meryl streep as julia child? inspired. amy adams? adorable. story based on a blog about food? yay!

you know where i'll be august 7.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

boycotting pill prom

i would like to share a little known fact. being in pharmacy school is exactly like being in high school. there is girl drama, there are people sleeping with each other's steadies, there are the plastics, and there is a formal. affectionately known to the student body as "pill prom", this event features music and an open bar. a dangerous combination. i heard that this year, the first year students all got drunk and were puking in the bathroom sinks. gross.

that is why a discriminating group of us decided to boycott and enjoy our own night out. we hit up palomino for dinner and twist for drinks. we had a great time. much better than being around sink-puking bubblegummers. i'm too old for that shit.

dinner at palomino really consisted of a barrage of cocktails and appetizers. the smoked pork belly pictured below was terribly delicious. surrounded by lamb sausage, fingerling potatoes, caramelized fennel, and mustard aïoli, the whole thing was perfectly harmonious. two thumbs up.
the mojitos and lavendar cosmopolitians put in quite a showing at our table. i've had palomino's mojito in the past and was not really crazy about it, but a number of others at the table sang their praises. my personal favorite is the lavendar cosmo. my fingers may get sticky, but i sure do love them.there are not pictures of the other things we enjoyed, including the cambozola cheese plate with garlic (totally not enough cheese) and prosciutto brick oven pizza. several reasons for lack of photos, including, but not limited to, the battery dying on my camera and too many cocktails. everything was good, but i do have to say, i wish palomino offered a more diverse bread selection. they have the foccacia, which is soft and flavorful, and the pizza crisps (which double as pizza crust) which are super thin and kind of flavorless.
for dessert, we shared the bread pudding (divine, the one bite i had) and the chocolate torte. the accompanying strawberries were ridiculously good. brian thought the chocolate torte was "very tasty, rich, good with ice cream". i thought it was ok.
my palomino fortune card was very appropriate. (and slightly out of focus)
Palomino Euro Bistro on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

culinary tourism

midwest living this month lists the midwest's top five food towns. they are, as listed:
1)madison, wisconsin
2) traverse city, michigan
3) ann arbor, michigan
4) bloomington, indiana (this i totally agree with; you can get any kind of food there, except kosher)
5) des moines, iowa

the magazine then goes on to list 60 other restaurants/eateries "worth the trip". not one is in cincinnati, but there are 3 in dayton. what the hell?

Monday, May 11, 2009

westside bar crawl by cincinnati imports

please come hang out on my home turf. it's safe and fun. a friend visiting from florida once said it reminded him of key west. honest.

cincinnati imports is hosting the swingin' good time this friday, may 15th.

here's the breakdown (copy and pasted):
Bar 1: Luckey’s Irish Pub (A)
Location: 3722 Harrison Ave. Cincinnati, OH 45211, 513-662-9222
Time: 7:00 pm
Drink specials: $0.50 off all drinks

Bar 2: 2nd Street Saloon (B)
Location: 3703 Harrison Ave. Cincinnati, OH 45211; 513-389-1900
Time: 8:00 pm
Drink specials: $3.25 Jeremiah Weed Lemonade (sweet tea vodka and lemonade), $1.50 16 ounce domestic drafts

Bar 3: Cheviot Sports Tavern (C)
Location: 3613 Harrison Ave. Cincinnati, OH 45211; 513-661-9464
Time: 9:00 pm
Drink specials: $1.50 domestic drafts

Bar 4: Rootie’s (D)
Location: 3609 Harrison Ave. Cincinnati, OH 45211; 513-481-0200
Time: 10:00 pm
Drink specials: TBD

Bar 5: Black Sheep (E)
Location: 3807 North Bend Rd. Cincinnati, OH 45211; 513-481-6300
Time: 11:00 pm
Drink specials: TBD
Food: $2.00 pizza slices and snacks
Band/Music: Less than Zero and DJ

hope to see you!!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

where have all the nachos gone?

dear great american ballpark,

i am writing to let you know how much i truly enjoy all you have brought to the cincinnati reds. you offer charming vistas and a scoreboard game involving skyline three-ways.

it sure was super nice of you this year to offer hot dogs for $1. i almost thought about waiting in line, but decided i needed to eat before i chewed my arm off.

i applaud the return of the fantastical onion dispensers and goetta dogs. i am happy you also got a clue and started selling nacho cheese at the same stand with the soft pretzels. my "pretzelzilla" was quite attractive, with slightly sweet dough and not too much salt.

however, i have to ask, what in the hell are you trying to pass off as nachos? pre-packaged quarter-sized chips with a cup of plasticky room temperature cheese? the vacuum sealing must have sucked all the flavor out. the chips looked anemic.

above is what real nachos at the ballgame should look like. and i shouldn't have to tramp around the whole f-ing stadium looking for them. believe it or not, some people actually go to the ballgame to see baseball and would appreciate readily available, edible refreshments. not crap in a shiny wrapper for $6.75. i could smuggle these in and save myself 5 bucks.

thank you for your time and consideration.

Friday, May 8, 2009


after driving around clifton trying to decide what ethnic taste sensation we should indulge in, my friend jessie and i settled on habanero. neither of us had ever tried it before, so we thought we'd give it a go.

waiting in line, i glanced around and saw the banner broadcasting them as the best burrito in cincinnati, as determined by citysearch. that was promising. they were also cooking up some chicken on the grill and hand slicing it. very nice touch.

i ordered the tofu tango burrito and jessie the chicken quesadilla.

my burrito was stuffed with pinto beans, rice, and fire-roasted corn salsa, sprinkled with the occasional eggplant or tofu. it was spicy, but all i tasted was heat, not flavor. i ended up dumping out the contents and eating them with a fork rather than maintain the burrito wrap.the plate was overflowing with chips, and the chips were quite tasty. however, the salsa was, well, weird. i can't put my finger on the flavor - maybe it was the smoky tomato? it wasn't unpleasant, but it wasn't exactly good either.jessie, a self-proclaimed avid quesadilla eater, rated her dish a "c". she said it tasted dry.

our favorite thing? the gucamole, not pictured because it was quickly consumed.

i think i would go back for some chips and guc and to give one of their margaritas a try, but overall it was not a meal i am eager to repeat.

Habanero on Urbanspoon

just a pic

as referenced in several posts by krissy, liz and liberal foodie here is a picture of dinner that night.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

before there was vegas, there was newport, ky

WARNING: shameless plug!

explore newport's murky past on a historic walking tour. see the casinos, murder sites, and major locations that gave newport a national reputation while hearing true stories of the town's colorful history.

all proceeds from this event will go to support international service trips to central america. this year, the group from lloyd memorial high school in northern kentucky will be traveling to jamaica to work in a school. money raised from this event helps the group purchase supplies and digital equipment for the school.

go here for more information and tickets.

addendum 5/10/09: i've just learned that anyone who attends this walking tour will receive a coupon from the syndicate for a free steak dinner when two or more dine.