Sunday, July 29, 2012

Mayberry: OTR Dining

Mayberry is on Main Street, a couple of long blocks from the action on Vine Street (aka the Gateway Quarter) but still within the urban-renewal section of Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati's classically beautiful neighborhood that has fallen on hard times, to say the least. All you have to do is raise your gaze above street level and appreciate the meticulously crafted building facades to see why OTR is considered such a diamond in the rough. A century ago, it was gorgeous; fifty years ago, it was in decline; today city leaders are uniting in a great effort to restore the area to some of its former grandeur.
Chef Josh Campbell

That's a long lead-in to my post about dinner at Mayberry the other night. We already loved chef/co-owner Josh Campbell's cooking from the earlier, closet-sided incarnation of the restaurant in the central business district of downtown, plus he helped supply World Food Bar, a stall at Findlay Market (no longer there). In February they moved to a much larger and nicer spot on Main Street -- just a block or so from the excellent cocktail bar, Japp's -- and this was our first chance to have a meal there.
Speaking of cocktails, I liked Mayberry's short but inventive cocktail list (I had a tasty blackberry old fashioned) and the feel of the bar/dining room -- lots of dark wood, nicely appointed tables, a diverse crowd of all ages. The menu is short, including a handful of appetizers (listed as Snacks & Salads) and perhaps eight entrees, divided by "from the land" and "from the sea."
We split a large salad ($10) that consisted of a hefty chunk of fresh mozzarella, a smear of pesto, piles of local heirloom cherry tomatoes, grilled slices of Shadeau multi-grain bread and a mound of arugula in a refreshing lemon vinaigrette.

For entrees, I tried ("from the land") duck breast flatbread ($17) with peaches and goat cheese, while my husband had the salmon entree ($22) with roasted beets,black rice and a few other ingredients. We thought the quality-price ratio was quite favorable.
It was a stormy evening so the expansive patio in back wasn't open -- a shame, given that the outdoor space actually is larger than the indoor dining room, so the house was at capacity. Our server sang the praises of the outdoor ambiance and told us that there's also a full bar outside.
I'll go back, and hope to hit it on a night when the patio is available.
Mayberry is open for dinner Tuesday - Saturday, lunch Monday - Friday and for Sunday brunch.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

For better or for worse: health fads with staying power

Health, diet and fitness trends (let's call them fads) have various life cycles. Some are here today, gone day after tomorrow. Others stick around for years, even decades.
What follows is a guest posting of sorts -- an article sent to me by a writer from, about ideas about fitness that just won't go away.
As you can see, some of these ideas (vibrating belts, "cleansing") have dubious value, at best. Others (exercise, portion control) have withstood the test of time for good reason.
Of the list below, the truly discredited fads would include vibrating belts -- they will not make you lose weight or reduce your stomach fat! -- and cleansing/juicing.(Click here to read why cleansing is a terrible idea.)
Diet pills and plastic surgery (such as liposuction) are also not the best ways to control your weight or live a healthy life.

To read the entire article about the good and bad health fads of recent times, click here.

9 Health and Fitness Fads That Stuck Around
Everyone wants to shed a few pounds, and most people do so during several phases of life. Health and fitness fads will, by nature, come and go, but a few of them stand the test of time. Diet supplements have been used to regulate weight as far back as ancient Egypt, Greece, and China. Portion control was practiced by ancient cultures, as well. If you’re always trying the Next Big Thing, here are nine health and fitness fads that came and stayed. Some we love, some we hate, but one thing’s for sure — these nine fads are older than you.

1, Counting calories

2. Plastic surgery

3. Exercising

4. Portion-controlled meals

5. Vibrating belts

6. Working out at home

7. Very low-calories diets

8. Diet pills

9. Cleansing and juicing

For real?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Delicious Summer Cocktail Recipes

For the drinkers among us, summer can mean ice-cold beer, gin and tonic or chilled white wine. Why not try something a little different? 
Here are a few ideas for interesting and yummy summer drinks. In many cases you can reduce or even eliminate the alcoholic ingredients if you want to stay stone cold sober.
But -- why?
Pear-flavored Manhattan

2 oz rye whiskey
2 oz freshly juiced ripe pear
½ oz crème de cassis
2 dashes Angostura or other bitters
1 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Shake all ingredients together over ice. Pour into an old-fashioned glass and garnish with a lemon twist or cherry.

Muddle together in a tall glass:
4 pitted cherries, chopped
6 mint leaves
1/4 lime, cut into chunks
1 ounce simple syrup
Add 2 ounces white rum and ice cubes
Fill glass to top with sparkling water (lime-flavored Perrier is tasty)
Cherry-lime Mojito

Make a pitcher of strong, sweet iced tea (sweetened artificially if you want to cut calories)
Pour a tall glass 3/4 full of tea; add 2 T fresh lemon juice
Add 1 1/2 ounces bourbon and 1/2 ounce Amaretto
Stir well, then add ice cubes
(No photo -- but this has been a go-to summer cocktail for me this year!)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

How to get your kids to exercise

With one in three American children now overweight or obese, and with the pervasiveness of passive childhood activities such as texting, playing video console games, and watching screens of various sorts, parents have to be extra vigilant and creative in encouraging healthy habits in their little ones.
How can we interest our kids in exercise? According to this article ("8 Fun Ways to Get Your Kids to Exercise"), the answer is "by giving them activities that are fun, stimulating and unexpectedly burn lots of calories."
The suggestions:
1. Play interactive video games (the kind that "get players up and moving")
2. Create a rewards system to give them an incentive to acknowledge good behavior
3. Make your backyard a playground
4. Take up family sports -- play together!
5. Sign them up for sports -- try different ones early in their lives and let them find out which ones they are good at and like the most
6. Take the family to sporting events -- let kids see for themselves how being physically fit can pay off
7. Walk or bike to your destination (or park halfway there and walk the rest of the way)
8. Get in the water -- especially relevant in the summer, when most everyone wants to splash around in a cooling environment.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Healthy Foodie's New York Dining Adventures

Notes from a five-day visit to a culinary wonderland:
TOP MEAL was at the marvelous Le Bernardin in midtown. The restaurant is renowned as one of the best seafood-oriented restaurants in the world, and it didn't disappoint. (We had been only once before, for lunch a few years ago.) As fine as the food was, by the way, the wine that I had with my meal was even more memorable. Photos show first course (favorite of the three) of fluke with a jalapeno/lime sauce; crab salad; and a lobster entree. The wines included a deeply satisfying Meursault (white Burgundy, some of the world's best chardonnay), a fine Barolo, and with dessert a Sauternes.
First course @ Bernardin: fluke fish
Crab salad, 2nd course
Lobster entree at Le Bernardin
Trout with fava beans @ Met Museum
Other fine dishes sampled along the way include a scrumptious roasted artichoke appetizer, redolent of truffle butter, at Isabella's on the upper west side, near our hotel. (No photo of that.) We enjoyed lunch at one of the restaurants inside the fabulous Metropolitan Museum of Art -- including this trout with a lovely medley of summer veggies.

I had lunch at one of Daniel Boulud's places at the beginning of New York Restaurant Week (going on as I write, in fact), and loved this "Summer Old Fashioned" cocktail. Finally, here's a shot of a favorite Italian appetizer (beef carpaccio) at a theater district spot before we saw the wonderful, Tony Award winning musical, "Once."
Summer Old Fashioned, yum

Appetizer at Osteria al Doge
I wasn't too "bad" as far as eating rich food in mass quantities -- a hazard of visiting a great restaurant city like New York -- but I did have a few indulgences. I guess the worst in that regard was dinner at Carmine's near Times Square (fried calamari and penne in a tomato cream sauce) followed by cheesecake across the street at Junior's. We were with my brother and his son, and the food choices were for the kid, so we kind of had to go with the flow. I must say, the calamari was excellent and the chocolate cheesecake on my plate wasn't half bad, either.
Back home now -- picked up a cold along the way,  alas -- and getting back to regular exercise and eating.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Eating -- and carousing -- in New York City

We're spending several days in the art, music, sports, shopping and (of course) restaurant capital of the U.S. What a blast! But also very busy and tiring.
Here's a shot of me on top of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
As soon as possible, I'll post some tips and photos of the places we've seen, particularly some of the foodie highlights.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Weight-loss "magic" -- ?

Which diet is better: low-fat or low-carb? Which calories do your body require more work (and therefore burn the calories faster) to digest: white bread or whole-wheat bread? What is the magic formula for weight control and/or weight loss?
According to a doctor who has been researching obesity for more than half a century (!) and who is quoted in a New York Times health column today, no diet is better than any other, a calorie is a calorie, and the only formula for controlling your weight, or losing some, is to eat less and exercise more.
Here is a small excerpt of what Dr. Jules Hersch told the interviewer, or click on this link to read it all. "The study" refers to a research finding that seemed to indicate that those on a high-fat, Atkins type diet burned more calories than those eating a more balanced diet.

Q: Should people stay on diets that are high in fat and protein if they want to keep the weight off?
What they did in that study is they took 21 people and fed them a diet that made them lose about 10 to 20 percent of their weight. Then, after their weight had leveled off, they put the subjects on one of three different maintenance diets. One is very, very low in carbohydrates and high in fat, essentially the Atkins diet. Another is the opposite — high in carbohydrates, low in fat. The third is in between. Then they measured total energy expenditure — in calories burned — and resting energy expenditure.
They report that people on the Atkins diet were burning off more calories. Ergo, the diet is a good thing. Such low-carbohydrate diets usually give a more rapid initial weight loss than diets with the same amount of calories but with more carbohydrates. But when carbohydrate levels are low in a diet and fat content is high, people lose water. That can confuse attempts to measure energy output. The usual measurement is calories per unit of lean body mass — the part of the body that is not made up of fat. When water is lost, lean body mass goes down, and so calories per unit of lean body mass go up. It’s just arithmetic. There is no hocus-pocus, no advantage to the dieters. Only water, no fat, has been lost.
The paper did not provide information to know how the calculations were done, but this is a likely explanation for the result.
A: So the whole thing might have been an illusion? All that happened was the people temporarily lost water on the high-protein diets?
Perhaps the most important illusion is the belief that a calorie is not a calorie but depends on how much carbohydrates a person eats. There is an inflexible law of physics — energy taken in must exactly equal the number of calories leaving the system when fat storage is unchanged. Calories leave the system when food is used to fuel the body. To lower fat content — reduce obesity — one must reduce calories taken in, or increase the output by increasing activity, or both. This is true whether calories come from pumpkins or peanuts or pâté de foie gras.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Seasons 52 Coming in the Fall

I've eaten at the Seasons 52 restaurants in Atlanta and in suburban Chicago, and the news that the small, Florida-based, health-oriented chain will open in Cincinnati this fall could not be more welcome.
Its location, in the Rookwood shopping area (Hyde Park/Norwood) is also great news, since there are so few interesting eating choices (IMHO) in that neighborhood. Also, I go over there a lot for various reasons. Seasons 52 will become my #1 lunch-with-a-friend choice as well as an excellent spot for dinner. That assumes that the Cincinnati version will be as fine as the ones I've tried elsewhere, and there's no reason to doubt that outcome.

What's so great about Seasons 52? Food, food, food. The ambiance and service are similar to many other upscale chains, and what sets this one apart is that the menu offers healthy AND delicious food, with (get this) no menu item weighing it at over 450 calories -- including entrees. In other words, it's a HEALTHY FOODIE approach to dining: letting us enjoy delicious food while staying fit and healthy.
The chain also promises to change the menus seasonally and be conscientious about sourcing ingredients that are healthful and environmentally responsible -- which I trust includes a commitment to avoid industrial meat and poultry.
Check out the current lunch menu, with such tasty treats as Sonoma goat cheese ravioli (had that twice, it was SO GOOD) and a Summer Vegetarian Tasting that looks just as good.
Keep your eyes open for news about when the Rookwood location will be up and running.
Healthy flatbreads are a specialty

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Better Fast-Food Choices

It's hard to avoid the world of drive-through eating -- for convenience, and price. And many people find the stuff irresistably delicious.
If you have a yen for something from a fast-food joint, try the strategy of substituting a more-healthful (less caloric, lower fat and sodium) option for the one that's in the front of your mind.

Here's an article from Reader's Digest: "10 Healthy Fast Food Choices that Satisfy Any Cravings." (Click to read, but here are some excerpts:)

Fast-Food Burger

Craving: Burger King Half-Pound Whopper
670 calories, 40 g fat, 11 g sat fat, 28 g protein

Healthier Choice: Burger King Veggie Burger
410 calories, 16 g fat, 2.5 g sat fat, 22 g protein

Fast-Food Dinner for Three

Craving: KFC 8-piece Bucket, Extra Crispy 
breast 510 calories/33 g fat; drumstick 150 calories/10 g fat; thigh 340 calories/24 g fat; wing 190 calories/13 g fat

Healthier Choice: Subway Fresh Fit 6-inch Oven Roasted Chicken, three subs
320 calories, 5 g fat (per sub)

Fast-Food Dessert

BK veggie burger
Craving: McDonald's Hot Fudge Sundae
330 calories, 54 g carbs

Healthier Choice: McDonald's Fruit 'N Yogurt Parfait
160 calories, 31 g carbs

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Green is Great

Braised Greens
I like to have something green on my plate whenever possible -- with the exception of breakfast, that is. Salads will suffice; and salads are a great way to start a restaurant meal to keep you from overeating later. (Just be sure not to have a fat- and calorie-laden salad!)
Here's a recipe for braised greens that's a delicious and super-healthful side dish with any meat or seafood you might be serving.
Substitute kale, Swiss chard, or even spinach for some of the greens in the recipe. Make it vegetarian by using veggie broth instead of chicken broth; also omit the cheese, and it's vegan. Or you can kick it up in flavor with 1/2 cup of diced ham and/or a dash of cayenne pepper.
The recipe makes a large amount, so there will be plenty for leftovers, or you can serve a big group first time around. The greens taste good hot, room temperature or even cold from the fridge. Looking for something healthy to bring along to a summer cookout? This could work!

Recipe: Braised Southern Greens
Serves 8-10

2 T olive or canola oil
2 cups finely chopped aromatic vegetables (a mix of onion, celery, carrots and bell peppers)
1-2 T minced garlic
1 10-12-ounce package sliced mushrooms
11/2 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
1 lb. rinsed, chopped Southern greens (collard, mustard, turnip)
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 T toasted nuts (such as pine nuts, almonds or pumpkin seeds, or a mix)
Shredded mozzarella cheese, to taste (optional)


Heat oil in a large, deep bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add vegetables and stir well. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook until vegetables soften, about 3-4 minutes. Uncover and stir in garlic, then add mushrooms. Add a little broth if the pan seems too dry. Cover again and let mushrooms soften, about 3-4 minutes.
Increase heat to medium, uncover and add the rest of the broth and one-third of the greens along with salt and pepper. Keep adding greens a little at a time while their volume reduces. Once all the greens are in the pan, cover and cook on low for 25-30 minutes, until the greens are tender. Remove from heat, adjust seasonings as needed, and stir in vinegar.
Ladle into a serving bowl, sprinkle with nuts and (if using) cheese. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Nicholson's Tavern & Pub -- Under-appreciated Chef?

Mark Bodenstein has made a splash at other area restaurants, most notably the departed (and lamentedl) Chalk, in Covington. For several months now he's been cooking at Nicholson's in downtown Cincinnati. His talent shines through despite the lackluster, pub-grub menu.
Chef Bodenstein
We dined at Nicholson's on Friday near the end of the "Taste of Tavern Restaurant Week" -- a promotion at this and the group's three sister restaurants (Polo Grille, deSha's and The Pub at Rookwood) -- offering three courses for $25.
Our server forgot to give our party the special menu, and for the first 10 minutes we pondered the aforementioned pub menu. When we asked for, and she brought, the promotional menu, all four of us knew right away that these were the dishes that came from Chef Mark's heart.
The first course was a choice between Summer Corn Bisque with pickled chanterelles (yum) and a watermelon salad; we all chose the bisque and found it delicious.
Second course: potato gnocchi with summer beans or baby vegetable ratatouille; I had the veggies and the others went with the gnocchi.I'd say the gnocchi was more satisfying if only because the ratatouille had a too-rich cream sauce that overwhelmed the delicate vegetables.
Potato gnocchi

Finally, the main course was either pan roasted scallops or beef sirloin (my choice). Again, I thought the dish that I didn't choose was the more successful. My beef was very tough, and a tiny portion.
All told, it was an interesting meal and definitely a significant value.
As far as drinks, Nicholson's specializes in a mind-boggling selection of Scotch (not my thing, alas) and a lot of beers (also not anything I would drink). The cocktail list wasn't impressive, but the bartender is quite knowledgeable; he made me a personalized Old Fashioned with a little orange flower water that rocked. Also of note, Nicholson's offers Purple Trillium by the glass for $9 -- significantly less than I've seen it for elsewhere.
The place was fairly empty during the dinner hours, which I hope is just a summer aberration. I'd like to see this chef do well, and hope also that the regular menu will continue to move more in the direction of eclectic, regional American and away from the original Scottish-pub food that Nicholson's started with.
Pan roasted scallops