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by Danny Cross 04.06.2015
Posted In: Leftovers at 10:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
pontiac brisket nachos

Leftovers: What We Ate This Weekend

Auntie Sophie's Swedish Cream. Brisket nachos. Fast food. An Easter buffet or two. And a bonus Pete Rose sighting.

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. 

Danny Cross: My girlfriend’s parents popped into town Saturday morning, which meant that we needed to eat out a couple times and they were going to pay for it all. (Not my fault; they wouldn’t even let us buy goetta at Findlay Market for Sunday brunch. Then they pretended to like it; nice people.) Here’s a tip for wandering around Vine Street in OTR with a party of four: Only send one person into a restaurant to ask how long the wait might be, rather than having a line of people shuffling into and out of the place and feeling dumb when they say it’s going to be an hour and a half (on a goddam Saturday afternoon). Fortunately, places like Krueger’s Tavern and Pontiac Bourbon & BBQ have joined the fray, opening slightly larger spaces (more seating, less waiting). We popped in to Pontiac after a couple denials at other places, and we were quite pleased with the result. We were smart enough to split sandwiches (pulled pork and a smoked turkey) because we also ordered the brisket nachos, baked beans and fries. The nachos were incredible: brisket, nacho cheese, sour cream, black olives, maybe some salsa and other stuff. They’re worth stopping by to grub on with a couple beers pretty much anytime. The food and service were excellent, as was the case at Zula later that evening, where we ate pots of mussels and talked about current events.  

Ilene Ross: Friday night’s sunset brought with it the Jewish holiday of Passover. It’s one of my very favorite meals because there are so many traditional foods and the feeling is extremely festive. My mom, aunt and sister prepared all of our family favorites including matzoh ball soup, gefilte fish — a poached mixture of ground fish that’s kind of an acquired taste — brisket, chicken, cheesy potatoes, some really fabulous Greek appetizers since my aunt is a Greek Jew, and this crazy delicious dessert that she makes called Swedish Cream. Auntie Sophie refuses to give anyone the recipe for Swedish Cream, so we’re all really nice to her under the assumption that she’ll bequeath it to the one she likes the most. Also, since we’re not allowed to eat anything that’s been leavened or made with traditional flour, we had a flourless chocolate torte.

Jesse Fox: I spent this weekend traveling back home from covering the Burgerama IV music festival and visiting California. Because of this, I found most of my diet coming from gas stations and restaurants that were open late, which usually ended up being fast food. One of the better meals came from a stop in Albuquerque at a place called the Standard Diner. My brother wanted to stop there after seeing they offered a bacon-wrapped meatloaf from an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. I opted for a standard wedge salad (sans bacon and blue cheese) and a margarita. Other than that, Redbull, Clif bars and way too many chips helped get me from Los Angeles back to Cincinnati.

Anne Mitchell: (Trigger warning: meat porn!) We had a cabin at Lake Hope, a state park in Ohio near Athens. At the lodge there they have an absolutely wonderful restaurant that specializes in barbecue, using meats from Ohio State's agriculture department. For Easter brunch buffet, they had an amazing spread of eggs, ham, scalloped potatoes and on and on. I indulged myself by filling up my plate with nothing but a heap of grilled asparagus and two big slices of their absolutely wonderful beef brisket, including an end cut that was crispy and burnt. I didn't even bother with the barbecue sauce — it would have been gilding the lily, since the meat had such perfect flavor. I'm still drooling over the memory. And for dessert I had one of their fresh baked brownies with homemade caramel ice cream.

Pama Mitchell: We had brunch at the Palace for Easter. Best bite was the made-to-order dessert crepes. Bonus: Pete Rose sighting as he was eating there, too.

by David Watkins 04.06.2015
at 09:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
Taft's Ale House

Taft's Ale House Opens Today

The 19th-century Protestant church is now a three-level bar and restaurant

Over-the-Rhine's new three-level bar and restaurant, Taft’s Ale House — named for William Howard Taft, the 27th president of the United States, former Supreme Court Justice and native Cincinnatian — opens on Monday, Red’s Opening Day, and will feature a variety of specialty beers, as well as an emphasis on tri-tip beef (cut from the bottom sirloin). Helmed by Cincinnati local Kevin Moreland, former brewer at Listermann/Triple Digit, and partners Dave Kassling, a New York restauranteur, and Dave Williams, a UC grad, the bar, which is located at 1429 Race St., inhabits a building that formerly housed the 19th-century St. Paul’s German Evangelical Protestant Church.

Moreland describes his first experience in the building as walking into complete disarray. He had to use the side doors on Fifth Street to get in and, after entering, he walked into “straight dirt” and looked up to see holes the size of office spaces in the ceiling. To save the church, which was on the verge of destruction, he contacted 3CDC. Through their partnership — 3CDC helped stabilize the building, which had been abandoned for almost 50 years — they were able to restore the building, emphasizing it's historical appeal and architecture. The structure still retains it's dramatically high 40-plus-foot ceilings, large, Gothic-style arch windows and former bell tower. But now, instead of parishioners, it can hold more than 200 patrons.

“Part of what’s going on in OTR is saving something that used to be there,” says Taft’s Ale House General Manager Keith Maloy. “It would have been easier for us to start from scratch and build a new place. It would have been easier to construct and less expensive, but we would have lost a lot of the charm that’s in this building.”

The building’s three levels essentially create three different environments depending on an individual’s mood. There is the main beer hall level, with picnic tables, bar games and TVs; a mezzanine level for casual dining; and then Nellie’s Tap Room on the lower level. Nellie's, named after William Howard Taft's wife, is more of a cocktail bar than a beer hall, though the drink menu is still beer-centric; Nellie's serves Taft brews with eight guest taps from local and regional brewers, plus wine and cocktails. 

The entirety of the building's décor, with Rookwood tiles and assorted antique ephemera, is inspired by the William Howard Taft National Historic Site in Mount Auburn, Taft's boyhood home. 

“As soon as you walk in Taft’s home, you see this kind of laid-out pattern of multiple colors," Moreland says. "I wanted that to be something as a key feature in our place, so we did it. We had some hand-cut tile made to match that pattern. … A lot of the furniture matches and the color of the wood as well.”

Moreland considers Taft’s Ale House to be a gift to the city, specifically to OTR.  “I wanted to keep things here in the heart of OTR and try to work with our neighbors because they’re going to be our patrons as much as we’re going to be their patrons,” he says. And in terms of patronage, Moreland started by working with other local vendors, linking local products and businesses to his passion for creating unique and innovative craft beers. 

Taft’s partnered with Maverick Chocolate in Findlay Market to create their Maverick Chocolate Porter, featuring Maverick's cacao nibs and roasted cacao husks. Moreland also incorporated Findlay vendor Dean’s Mediterranean's products into the Culebra Cut Coconut Brown, an American brown ale infused with toasted coconuts. And Taft’s Mooly Wooly Coffee Milk Stout is made with oatmeal, lactose and coffee that comes straight from Coffee Emporium. 

“You can classify it however you want, but I classify beer by what it is," Moreland says. "There are these style guidelines that people like to follow, but I’m not that person. You can only brew so much IPA that tastes like everyone else’s IPA, so we have that but we wanted to spin it around.”

Other favorite brews include a Caribbean style ale — Nellie's Keylime Caribbean Ale —that focuses on key lime and coriander, and an IPA called Rookwood Mosaic, with mosaic hops. 

With creative beer, comes a creative menu, so don't expect pizza or burgers at Taft’s Ale House. During his time studying breweries and pubs around the country, Moreland saw different variations of the same menu time and time again, but his discovery of tri-tip beef changed the game. And General Manager Maloy could not agree more. The restaurant trims and ages the steak for 21 days, massages it with a dry rub, chars it, smokes it over hickory chips and then bakes it. 

“The tri-tip beef is great," Maloy says. "It’s a great cut of beef — we char it, smoke it. You can slice it thin and make a sandwich or cut it bigger like a traditional steak. We have interesting sides too: roasted vegetables, tater tots instead of french fries and sweet potato fries.”

Moreland and Maloy’s main focus is “marrying the [tri-tip] beef with the beer” while still making it affordable. They understand the importance of serving customers at a rate where it's cost-effective to come back. Sandwiches, like the Alehouse (tri-tip steak, onions, blue cheese and red ranch sauce) run between $7.50 and $10, while platters, which are served with mashed potatoes, gravy, roasted veggies and cornbread, are $17 (for grilled chicken breast) to $20 (for 12-ounces of tri-tip steak). A small kids menu features little steak and chicken sandwiches and chicken wings, served with tots. For vegetarians, there's a large selection of salads with housemade dressing. 

The experience of the customer is an ongoing theme in the vision of Taft’s Ale House. Many restaurants could say the same, but Taft’s physical setup lends itself to attaining customer satisfaction. Quality, an experience, and being passionate about what you do is how Moreland describes their mentality.

“Sometimes I have to pinch myself," he says. "I don’t feel like it’s real yet. I’ve learned a lot. I can tell you it’s been an awesome experience. Passion breeds success. The passion we’re putting into crafting great beers is incredible.”

Taft’s Ale House opens Monday, on Moreland’s birthday. The first 100 people to arrive receive a free Red’s-Cincy-W.H.Taft-inspired T-shirt along with a glass of First Pitch Pale Ale. As for the future, Moreland is already thinking about taking the brand national, hoping to bring “big dollars” back to the city’s hotels, bars, eateries and more. “That is my focus: putting Cincinnati on the map for great craft beers,” he says.

Taft's Ale House is located at 1429 Race St., Over-the-Rhine. More info at taftsalehouse.comfacebook.com/taftsalehouse, @taftsalehouse on Instagram and @bigbillytaft on twitter.


by Maija Zummo 04.03.2015
Posted In: Alcohol, Bar, Cocktails, Openings at 11:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
sundry and vice_aaron conway

Apothecary-Themed Cocktail Bar Sundry and Vice Now Open

A new concept and a new place to drink in OTR

Back in the day, doctors and pharmacists used to treat everything from colds and stomach aches to fainting spells and typhoid with alcoholic elixirs and tonics — wine for the plague, absinthe for intestinal parasites, bitters for indigestion, brandy for just about everything. So it makes sense that Sundry and Vice, Over-the-Rhine's newest cocktail bar, has adopted a vintage apothecary theme. 

The bar, which held its grand opening on March 27, serves fresh cocktails with housemade spirits, syrups and other concoctions. House cocktails include Dr. Shiloh's System Vitalizer ($11), with mezcal, lime, pineapple, ginger, Peychaud bitters and soda, and pre-Prohibition classics like a Clover Club ($11), with gin, raspberry, lemon and egg white. They also have local beer, non-local beer, wine and housemade sodas dispensed through a vintage fountain soda draft arm.

The interior, which is designed to hold 55 patrons, features an era-authentic storefront with antique jars, bottles and other assorted medical ephemera, including vintage prescriptions on the wall (for classics like cocaine, a former painkiller and dandruff cure). There are seats at the bar, as well as leather booths, exposed brick, era-appropriate Jazz music and a ton of mood lighting.

4 p.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Friday; noon-2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Sundry and Vice, 18 W. 13th St., Over-the-Rhine, facebook.com/sundryandvice.

All photos by Aaron Conway

by Maija Zummo 04.02.2015
Posted In: Cincinnati, Events, local restaurant, Food news at 10:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
carriage house farm dinner

Pop-Up Dinners Return to Carriage House Farm

The popular intimate outdoor dinner series kicks off in May

North Bend's Carriage House Farm is fully embracing the farm-to-table movement with this year's pop-up dinner series. From May through November the farm will play host to a variety of local chefs, who will be preparing more than two dozen seasonal dinners, utilizing ingredients available on the farm, like garlic, ginger, beans, heirloom tomatoes and comb honey. The intimate dinners seat 13 patrons in an open-air dining terrace, where the chefs will prepare their multi-course meals over a wood-fired oven — right in front of the guests.

Some dinners will also include special appearances by guest chefs, like Todd Kelly and Megan Ketover of the five-star Orchids, Jose Salazar of Salazar, Dan Wright of Abigail Street/Pontiac/Senate, Nino Loreto of food truck panino and others. To complement the bounty of Carriage House, chefs will also be working with additional artisan producers to complete the dinners, like Mudfoot Farm, Sheltowee mushroom farm, Weber Family Farm, Sixteen Bricks Bakery and more.

Here's a list of current dinners (some may be added later in the year):
  • May 17 - Chef Dana Adkins of the Eagle OTR and chef Jason Louda of Meatball Kitchen
  • May 31 - Chef Ryan Santos of Please
  • June 7 - Chef Mark Bodenstein of NuVo at Greenup
  • June 21 - Chef Mike Florea of Maribelle's eat + drink
  • June 28 - Chef Ryan Santos of Please's Kickstart Thank You dinner (sold out)
  • Aug. 16 - Chef Renee Schuler of eat well celebrations and feasts
  • Aug. 30 - Chef Stephen Williams of Bouquet Restaurant and Wine Bar (sold out)
  • Sept. 20Chef Mark Bodenstein of NuVo at Greenup
  • Sept. 27 - Chef Jared Bennett of Metropole
  • Oct. 4Chef Dana Adkins of the Eagle OTR
  • Oct. 11Chef Ryan Santos of Please
  • Nov. 1 Chef Mike Florea of Maribelle's eat + drink
Dinners start at 4, 5 or 6 p.m. (Carriage House is about a half-hour drive from downtown Cincinnati) and cost between $80 and $85. Reserve seats here

Carriage House Farm, 10252 Miamiview Road, North Bend, carriagehousefarmllc.com. 
by Staff 03.30.2015
dean mediterranean imports

Leftovers: What We Ate This Weekend

Sung Korean Bistro. Salazar. Dean's Mediterranean. Goetta.

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. Surprisingly, no one ate Indian food. 

Nick Swartsell: Continuing what's become an ongoing addiction, I had a falafel wrap at Dean's Mediterranean in Findlay Market on Sunday. It's easily the best falafel in town — super crisp on the outside and warm and fluffy inside. Plus, the wrap comes packed with all kinds of optional pickled vegetables you don't normally see, hummus and hot sauce. And they give you a side of their curried couscous, which has dried fruit, cilantro and what I think are chickpeas. All that for five bucks. The best part is, it's still pretty under the radar — most people don't know Dean's makes food (they also have pretty killer samosas, FYI). You just walk up to the counter at the front and say the secret code words (which are, conveniently, "I'd like a falafel sandwich, please") and they hook you up.

Rebecca Sylvester: I went to Sung Korean Bistro Saturday night. The food was outstanding. Korean doesn't seem to have an overpowering element like other Asian cuisines (salt in Chinese or sweetness in Thai); the flavor of the ingredients really came through. I ordered the dolsot bibimbap, which is rice, vegetables and a protein served in a 450-degree clay pot. They top it with a sunny-side-up egg and mix it at your table with a chili paste. The pot continues to cook your food the whole time you're eating it, so the rice gets crunchier as you go. So good.

I also appreciate any restaurant that gives me chopsticks first and makes me ask for a fork, not because I am at all good with chopsticks, but because it paces me from eating like Garfield.

Pama Mitchell: I had a super fun time at Salazar on Friday. We sat at the bar, which has a cool design wherein each end has a rounded seating for five — which happened to be our group's number. I was impressed by the craft cocktails, very meticulously made by two bartenders. My "Spy versus Rye" (made with rye whiskey, obviously) was delicious. Also loved the fried Brussels sprouts appetizer (yes!) and an entree of "everything"-crusted salmon. Also notable was the first sign of fiddlehead ferns in the scallops dish. Splendid!

Danny Cross: My girlfriend and I dropped my sister off at Horseshoe Casino Sunday morning — she had made it through Day 1 of a big poker tournament there and was among the final 80 or so players out of 600-something going after a six-figure first place prize. Unfortunately, she was knocked out in 67th place, just five spots away from the lower-level prize monies. She should have just skipped it and went to the Metropole at 21c with us for brunch, because that place is pretty great. I ordered the Breakfast Sandwich (pimento spread, egg, bacon) but without the pimento spread because I'm a child with a terrible palate. This led to a brief discussion about a recent Deadspin article I read detailing tips for eating at a fancy restaurant. Sounds simple, but these are things I sometimes don't know how to do. (I hate tasting wine in front of servers as if I know anything about it or would even consider sending it back.) Katie had the Quinoa Hash (sweet potatoes, avocado, sunny side eggs and cilantro creme fraiche) and thought it was terrific. We split a side of goetta because this is Cincinnati. 

Casey Arnold: My boyfriend's sister* was in town for a poker tournament, so we had a little get together for her, which involved making our own tacos and margaritas. Since she went to the next round, she didn't get to the party until after midnight when all of the taco makings were turned into late night nachos. We stayed up late catching up, which is why we didn't roll out of bed until noon on Saturday. That's when my boyfriend and I crawled our way to Hangover Easy in Clifton. It was packed as usual!

*Editor's note: Casey Arnold is in a relationship with Danny Cross' brother and they are indeed talking about the same sister and the same poker tournament.
by Katie Holocher 03.25.2015
Posted In: Recipes, local restaurant at 09:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

From Otto's Kitchen: Smoked Tomato Aioli

Chef Paul Weckman, owner of Covington mainstay Otto's, is getting ready to launch his second restaurant, Frida, in MainStrasse this May. Frida, named after Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, will be the first and only mezcal bar in town. Mezcal, of which tequila is a specific type, is really a community-oriented beverage, in both style and process. “Mexican moonshine, they call it,” Weckman says. The restaurant will also offer Latin-inspired street food, boasting tortas, empanadas, tacos and lime-zested wings. 

While you wait for Frida, recreate some of Otto's magic at home with the restaurant's popular smoked tomato aioli, which is served with seared scallops. It is also a great “go-to” condiment when looking to add a smoky hint. 

Smoked Tomato Aioli 
Recipe provided by Paul Weckman 

4 large ripe tomatoes 
3 cloves garlic 
6 cups mayonnaise (Hellmann’s) 
Salt and fresh ground pepper 
Hickory chips 

Instructions: On the grill, smoke tomatoes over soaked hickory chips until skins turn dark brown. Remove and add remaining ingredients with tomatoes to blender or food processor. Blend on high until all ingredients are mixed and aioli has smooth consistency.

Read more about Weckman's journey here.
by Staff 03.16.2015
at 11:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Leftovers: What We Ate This Weekend

Ilene Ross hits up Nicola’s and tea time; Zula, Gaslight Cafe and snackin commence

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.

Ilene Ross: As a food writer, I get to spend a lot of time with chefs. Sometimes it’s work-related, and sometimes it’s not. Chef Jimmy Gibson and I meet for coffee regularly to catch up on world news, local gossip and of course food ideas. The surroundings aren’t fancy, our coffee shop of choice is Jimmy’s “office,” the back hallway off the kitchen at Jimmy G’s, but the coffee is good and strong, and the company is sublime. Thursday was off to a wonderful start.

Spring was in the air, so after a two-mile walk in Ault Park, I decided that lunch should be something fresh and light in order to match the mood of the weather. I’ve been meaning to give the new juice place in Hyde Park, The Weekly Juicery, a try. I ordered Two Roots and a Fruit — carrot, ginger and apple juice — and the teensiest salad comprised of jicama and kale I have ever seen in my life. I left feeling sticker shock at the $17 price tag and still starving. For the same price, I’ll stick to the lunch tray at Jean-Robert’s Table.

I love having friends in from out-of-town so I can show off our locally owned restaurants. On Saturday night I took a Chicago native to Nicola’s for dinner, and of course Chef Joel Molloy’s cuisine wowed the socks off of him. We had the Scallops with spiced fumet, celery root and scallions, the Roasted Beet salad with avocado, black quinoa and goat cheese, the Butternut Squash Tortelloni with speck and fregolotta, the Short Ribs with sunchoke, shiitake mushroom and sunflower seeds, the Duck with wild rice, lavender and sweet potato, and the most delectable pistachio sfoglia. The service was exceptional, and my friend was dually impressed. I, naturally, needed to be rolled home.

My friend Kelly is the consummate party giver. From her son’s first birthday party — an elaborate backyard shindig which turned out to be her own surprise (for us!) wedding — to opening up her home during a snowstorm for all to be wined and dined, every day for Kelly is a celebration of family, friends and love. Sunday was no exception. Afternoon Tea at The Cincinnatian is a truly elegant affair complete with pots of perfectly brewed tea, delightful little sandwiches, scones, pastries, Devonshire cream and of course cocktails. Yesterday, Kelly decided to get a group of her best girlfriends together to “take tea,” and thankfully I was included. It was the perfect way to relax and unwind after a busy weekend with a great group of ladies.

Nick Swartsell: My girlfriend and I went to Music NOW Saturday night, but we forgot to eat dinner beforehand so we just had some beers and ate a ton of that fancy chocolate they sell at Music Hall because you can do that kind of thing when you're grownups at a big grownup event and one of you is wearing a tie.

Jac Kern: I went to a friend's St. Patrick's Day party and tried a bunch of homemade Irish favorites: beef and potato stew made with Guinness, Irish soda bread, corned beef sliders, grasshopper brownies (they're green, OK?), plus plenty of Jameson. I think it's a definite sign of adulthood when you trade in kegs of green Bud Lite for a Celtic-inspired dinner (also when you're partying in West Chester), but don't worry, I still got pretty drunk. Sláinte!

Jesse Fox: I went to Chicago this weekend to see my friend’s band The Orwells play and I consumed a lot of strawberry vodka and High Life on Friday evening.  On Saturday I went to The Chicago Diner for my only proper meal that weekend. I got the vegan Poutine, a chocolate and peanut butter milkshake and a Titanic BLT burger. The poutine was incredible and I kind of wish I would have just got two orders of that because the burger, although super filling, didn't have much flavor for being something made up a variety of grains and veggies.  

Rebecca Sylvester: If you're 30-plus and want late night pizza but know you're going to have night terrors if you call Adriadico’s, there is a respectable solution for you: flatbread at Zula. They have a late-night “flatbread” menu (flatbreat is adult for pizza). I recommend the Bulgarian Feta. :)

Danny Cross: A friend’s housewarming party in Pleasant Ridge led my girlfriend and me to stop by Gaslight Café on the way, where we were met by many people in full St. Paddy’s Day party mode. Gaslight has a super neighborhood feel and the locals were plenty welcoming even if they were mostly shouting and unabashedly dancing in very near proximity to our table. A girl asked us if her cell phone was left at our table. It wasn’t but she found two quarters on the floor and a guy with her asked me to hand him the green man suit sitting in the corner of the booth, which I gladly passed along. Our burgers were pretty straightforward but I tried an onion ring and it was better than I expected. Probably shouldn’t have waited 15 or so years between eating them.

by Staff 03.09.2015
girl scout cookie cake

Leftovers: What We Ate This Weekend

Cauliflower Buffalo wings, Amma's Kitchen, Pelican's Reef, Girl Scout Cookies

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.

by Maija Zummo 03.05.2015
Posted In: News, Beer, Events at 11:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Rhinegeist to Release Saber Tooth Saturday

The rare Imperial IPA is only available to-go in bombers

If you live for IPAs or are just looking for a reason to get a lil tipsy this weekend, Rhinegeist is releasing its highly sought after and limited Saber Tooth Tiger IPA with a party on Saturday. 

The "prehistorically hopped" Imperial IPA has a bit of a bite, with notes of papaya, mango, peach and a clean, bitter finish (IBU 95). The launch party will be your first chance to get ahold of the beer, and the only place to get it to go. Each person is allowed to take home two 22-ounce bombers of Saber Tooth. That's it. They won't be filling growlers, howlers, crowlers or any other "owlers." 

The brewery opens at noon. Live music from Peter Dressman starts at 1 p.m., followed by Grady Burton at 4 p.m.

Free. Rhinegeist, 1910 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, rhinegeist.com.
by Maija Zummo 03.02.2015
Posted In: Food news, Openings, local restaurant, News, Cincinnati at 12:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Jean-Robert's Le Bar a Boeuf Opens Today

After a slight delay, the French neo-bistro opens in the Edgecliff building

Jean-Robert de Cavel's latest venture, the whimsically titled Le Bar a Boeuf (literally translated to "beef bar"), opens today in East Walnut Hills' Edgecliff building (2200 Victory Parkway). The neo-French bistro will only be open for dinner to start, with lunch and brunch service following shortly after. 

“It’s taken us a little longer to open than we anticipated," says de Cavel in a recent press release. "We have a wonderful team in place and we are ready." 

The restaurant, which was originally slate to open in November, will feature a new take on classic French and American dishes. The atmosphere — a funky 70-person dining room and 20-24 person separate lounge, designed with help from HighStreet — is more casual than Table, with the intent that everybody will be able to share (at least the appetizers). A 35-person patio, with panoramic views of the Ohio River and Northern Kentucky, will open when the weather warms.

"It's not a classic bistro, like when I did Jean Ro," de Cavel told CityBeat in November. "This neo-bistro is something from the past you are familiar with but in a modern way." 

The menu features everything from escargot to calves liver and macaroni and cheese to ground steaks, with entree prices in the $11-$25 range. CityBeat dining writer Ilene Ross got a sneak-peek dinner at the restaurant this past weekend. She tried everything from the steak tartare and the lamb and beef burgers to snails in parchment and a pot de crème, saying "It. Is. Perfect." 

Le Bar a Boeuf's Chef de Cuisine is Mirko Ravlic with sous chef Travis Reidel, both from Table. Table's wine director Evan Abrams has developed the moderately priced and global wine list. The bar will also serve classic cocktails, and local, import and domestic beers. Local hospitality expert Richard Brown, who worked with de Cavel at the Maisonette and Jean-Robert at Pigall’s, serves as general manager, assisted by Leslie Brunk.  

The Edgecliff previously hosted restaurants, including The View, all of which rested on the laurels of location. De Cavel's vision is different. "I never want to promote the view; the view, for me, it's an extra," he said to CityBeat in November. "It's an extra thing. I want it to be a fun restaurant; a destination restaurant. Fun for the younger generation to the older generation."

Le Bar a Boeuf's current hours are 5:30-9:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and 5:30-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Reservations are available for early seating times (5:30, 5:45 and 6 p.m.). For more information, call 513-751-2333 (BEEF) or follow along on Facebook and Twitter @baraboeufcincy.