Each week CityBeat staffers and dining writers tell you what they ate this weekend. We're not always proud — or trendy — but we definitely spend at least some money on food.
Jac Kern: This weekend I finally tried my hand at the cauliflower Buffalo "wing" trend. There's plenty of recipes out there (and I'm incapable of following any precisely), but most of them involve taking raw cauliflower pieces, tossing them in a simple water-flour batter, baking, tossing again in sauce and baking again at high heat until crispy. They're pretty much fool-proof and the taste exceeded my expectations. These need to get added to bar menus stat.
I also went to the Cincinnati International Wine Festival Saturday. I didn't do much eating (though there were mini Graeter's cones and grilled cheese and tomato soup bites floating around) but I did taste copious amounts of reds, whites, roses and sparkling goodness. Fun fact: There's a surprising amount of wine tasting accessories out there today. Wine glass harness, anyone?
Ilene Ross: There are some weekends when you’re more thankful for your stretchy pants then others. Needless to say, this was one of them.
Friday started my marathon food-fest with not one, but two lunches. The first was at Park+Vine after a meeting in OTR. As I sat enjoying the zesty new OITNB Burger (black beans, brown rice, orange zest and cumin mayo) with a side of mac and cheese, who should walk in but super adorable CityBeat photog, Jesse Fox, carrying a box of macarons from next door’s Macaron Bar. My second lunch that day was during a meal at my favorite Chinese restaurant, Oriental Wok in Hyde Park. I had chicken Pad Thai and shrimp toast. I could eat Oriental Wok’s shrimp toast every damn day because unlike most restaurants, which only wave shrimp over limp, lifeless bread, OWok liberally covers crispy, crunchy hunks of toast with huge chunks of the seafood. It’s divine. Friday night I attended the Woman’s City Club of Greater Cincinnati’s 100th Anniversary Gala at the Hall of Mirrors in the Netherland Hilton with a group of friends. That place really knows how to throw a dinner. Surrounded by the splendor of the Art Deco masterpiece that is the Hall of Mirrors, we dined on marinated cucumbers and microgreens with soy sesame vinaigrette and rice crackers; grilled flank steak with Sichuan-style eggplant; and basmati rice with scallions. And for dessert, we had passion fruit cheesecake with toasted coconut. After dinner, our group headed downstairs to the Palm Court bar — easily one of the most beautiful rooms in the city — for cocktails, and proceeded to order pretty much all of the appetizers and desserts off of the bar menu.
On Saturday, I hit Findlay Market to stock up for the week, binge-watched The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and ate nothing but popcorn.
Sunday night was quite possibly the most fabulous birthday party I have ever had. My dear friend Summer Genetti —Pastry Chef at Lola Bistro in Cleveland — and I share March 11 as a birthday, so we decided to hold a joint birthday party at Myrtle’s Punch House to raise money for the Girl Scouts of Lower Price Hill. We had food donated from chefs Jason Louda of Meatball Kitchen, Andrew Mersmann of Django Western Taco and Jana Douglass of Happy Chicks Bakery. People showed up in droves to buy cookies, drink punch that Molly Wellmann had concocted to “coordinate” with the cookies, donate money, and eat the most spectacular birthday cake I’ve ever had in my whole life, which, of course, was baked by Summer. Best weekend ever.
Nick Swartsell: Some friends and I went to Amma's Kitchen this weekend, which is always rad. They're a small place in Roselawn that is South Indian-style and all vegetarian, and there are a lot of dishes you can't find other places around here. Despite the lack of meat, I think they're my favorite Indian place in town. I got the Vegetable Jalfrezi — super good and spicy. One friend just chowed down on their samosas, which are some of the best around. Another got the Madras Thali, which is a crazy-huge plate full of different curries, soups, yogurts, rice and other stuff. The Rasam (a stew with tamarind juice, tomatoes and chilis) and Avial (veggies in a seemed like a coconut sauce) were both super good. There was also some kind of cilantro-y stew in the mix I didn't know the name of that was excellent. Samantha Gellin: I ate at Pelican's Reef in Anderson. It's a seafood place tucked away in a strip mall and it's what I'd call a hidden gem. (Don't let the strip mall exterior scare you. The food is fresh and delicious.) We went on Saturday night and it was packed; there was a 30 minute wait. But it was well worth it: the warm bacon vinaigrette salad with grilled scallops I ordered was really, really good. The scallops were very tender and buttery, and the salad came with five or six, so no skimping here. My husband got a tuna steak "Oscar" style with grilled asparagus. That was also seriously delicious; very flavorful and cooked just right. The place is pricy (fish platters or specials can run you $16-$20) but the menu is large and does have other, less expensive options, like po'boys, non-fish sandwiches and burgers. It's a cozy and casual place but with upscale food. I'd definitely recommended it if you're craving really fresh, flavorful seafood or want to go out for a special occasion. Maija Zummo: I went to Sotto Friday night for a friend's birthday party. As always, it was delicious. But instead of ordering my usual tonnarelli cacio e pepe, I shared an order of penne with vodka sauce and the tagliolini con tartufo with a friend (as well as some of their cost-effective house wine). The ribbon pasta was flavored with black truffle and truffle shavings and was amazing. I'm like a little truffle pig, so I feel like the pasta was relatively worth the $27 price tag. (I buy into the whole exaggerated-cost truffle economy, and truffle is a special treat on pasta if you don't eat meat.) Add in the quality of service at the restaurant, and I'll pretty much pay whatever. It's of the best places to dine in the city. Garin Pirnia: Friday night the boyfriend and I braved the Bockfest crowd at Arnold's. We got there right after the parade ended, and it was packed to the gills. We were able to push our way up to the bar and order a couple of their 16 bocks on draft: a Warped Wing Abominator doppelbock and a Weihenstephaner Korbinian doppelbock. After, we somehow miraculously got a table in their upstairs section. We sat at a table next to a bathtub, and my boyfriend, who regularly eats food in the bath at home, joked, "I've never dined next to a tub before." I told him he should feel right at home. Their menu for that night was bock-centric and included a lot of weird foods such as camel nachos, goat (!) and elk meatballs. We both eschewed the exotic meats, and he ordered a bock Hot Brown and I ordered the wild mushroom ragout. It had mushrooms and shallots cooked in a creamy and spicy red wine reduction and beer sauce, and was mixed with bock beer grits. His sausage had fries on it, bock cheese and mustard. Note: Everything should be doused and cooked with beer. While we were dining, some guy in the nearby restroom kept cursing about something, and when he came out, he was chagrined to find out the entire upper floor heard him yelling. He apologized, saying he was jokingly yelling at his friend and didn't think anyone else could hear him. Ah, gotta love Bockfest! Go home, you're drunk.