Monday, October 29, 2012

Cold weather: Bring on the (healthier) Beef Stew

Beef stew doesn't have to be a no-no for the healthy foodie.
If you emphasize a pot full of delicious, hearty vegetables made even more scrumptious by a judicious amount of high-quality, grass-fed beef, you can enjoy this delightful comfort food without a shred of guilt.
While my family doesn't eat much red meat, for health reasons, a little meat in most diets is not a bad thing. Iron and other minerals are more plentiful in red meat than in any other food.

And while I'm totally against supermarket or fast-food meats for ethical reasons--see "Food, Inc" or read Michael Pollan and others if you don't already know about the horrors of our industrial food system and its treatment of animals--humanely raised and butchered meat is a treat the healthy foodie can allow herself once in a while.

In addition to the traditional beef-stew veggies, this version tastes even better thanks to the inclusion of flavorful porcini mushrooms and leeks.

Recipe: Healthier Beef Stew
(Serves 4)

  • 8 ounces stew beef in bite-size chunks
  • 3 T canola oil
  • 2 leeks, rinsed well, white and light green parts only, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 3 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 lb new potatoes (red or white), cut into bite-size chunks
  • 3 large carrots, cut into bite-size chunks
  • 1 large onion, peeled and cut into bite-size chunks (optional)
  • 12 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 2 cups hot water for 15 minutes, drained and chopped
  • 2 T flour
  • Mushroom soaking liquid, strained to remove sand from mushrooms, about 1 1/2 cups
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 3 cups beef stock or beef broth
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 T dried thyme
  • 2 large bay leaves
1.     Heat oil in your largest saucepan or a Dutch oven over medium high heat. When oil begins to sizzle, add beef and cook, stirring, until beef begins to brown. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate or bowl and keep nearby.
2.     Add leeks and garlic to pot, stirring for 1-2 minutes until they begin to soften. Stir in remaining vegetables (potatoes through porcini mushrooms) and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the vegetables begin to heat up and start to cook, about 3-4 minutes.
3.     Sprinkle flour over the veggies, stir well, and cook for another 2 minutes.
4.     Return beef to the pot.
5.     Add liquids (mushroom soaking liquid, wine and stock/broth), stirring well.
6.     Cover the pot and bring the mixture to a low boil.
7.     Remove cover, reduce heat to medium and add thyme, salt, pepper and the bay leaves.
8.     Cook for another 30 minutes or until carrots and potatoes are your desired level of tenderness by testing with the point of a knife.
9.     Discard the bay leaves before serving.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Maribelle's in Oakley

Maribelle's used to be located in a cute house with patio on the east side of town, but a few months ago it moved to Madison Road in Oakley, in part of the space that was home to Hugo's.
Interior of Maribelle's
This week, we had a chance to try it out for dinner.
Mostly, we were disappointed -- because it's not really a dinner place. The menu is mostly salads, small appetizers and sandwiches, although they do have three entree features per night.
Unfortunately, they were out of one of the three even though we did not arrive late (7 PM reservation), which gave us only two entree choices. We were OK with the one we chose -- the fish called wahoo, accompanied by a few vegetables -- but a larger selection would have been nicer.

Fish dinner entree

Another bummer: everything is completely a la carte, and none of the appetizers or salads particularly appealed to my husband or me. So I asked for the baguette that was listed as an appetizer for $5, and could not believe the tiny piece of bread the waiter brought. They could easily have given us twice as much bread -- the only accompaniment was a slab of butter -- and still made a tidy profit on the dish.
The wine list was marginally adequate (IMHO) while the beer list was much more extensive, it seemed to me.
We enjoyed our waiter, and the dining room/bar combo has a warm feel. But since Oakley is on the other side of town for us Cliftonites, my husband and I agreed that we are not very likely to return.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Weekend in St Pete FL

I took a short trip to Florida to visit my brother and meet his fiancee. That part was great -- he is happy and they are wonderful for each other. While there of course I had to eat! The weather was lovely -- it had cooled off and become less humid, thank goodness -- so many of our meals were enjoyed al fresco. Best? First of all, these fried oysters were excellent, not at all greasy, crunchy, and full of briny oyster flavor. Maybe the best single thing I had there, and this was at St. Petersburg Beach at a place called Hurricane.
Perfect oysters, St Petersburg Beach

For Saturday dinner we went to the renowned Bern's Steakhouse in Tampa, a "must" when you're in the Tampa Bay area. My brother, his lady and I split a chateaubriand for three with all the trimmings, delish. Bern's has a separate dessert floor that your waiter reserves for you when you order entrees. Here's a posed shot of me about to chow down on my coconut cake (which was a little disappointing by the way and I wished I'd chosen something else). Drinks there are fabulous; their wine list is one of the most extensive in the world, and their spiked coffees with dessert are worth saving room for.
Hamming it up at Bern's

Sunday, October 21, 2012

New menu, bartender, pastry chef and beverage director at La Poste

La Poste restaurant in Clifton (Cincinnati) is our neighborhood fine-dining option, and we're happy to have such a high quality place within walking distance of our house. But it's also worth a drive across town, if you haven't been -- and return visits if you have, of course.
We went last week to try the new fall menu -- I had the salmon entree pictured, which has spaghetti squash in its "bed" -- a nice sweet touch to the dish.
Salmon entree at La Poste

 Here also is a photo of the new head bartender, whose name is Nikki (didn't catch her last name).
Among new personnel are a beverage director (Tucker, again did not get his last name) as well as the restaurant's first-ever pastry/dessert chef.

Before now, desserts were a significant weak point at La Poste. Thank goodness, that has changed! We split this pumpkin cake with cinnamon ice cream for our dessert.

All good!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fall Food Festival -- and pie-baking contest

The Fall Food Festival is coming up soon -- Sunday October 28 -- at our own Findlay Market from 12-4 PM. This year the fun will include a "For the Love of Pie" contest. (Pies, mmmmm.....)
The contest rules include that you have to bake the whole thing from scratch, use a 9-inch pie plate, and it must be a dessert pie (not savory, such as quiche).

The festival also includes children's activities and games, four bands performing and of course plenty of FOOD.
For more information about the pie contest or anything else about the festival, go to or get in touch with Karen Kahle, a Market organizer, at

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Anchor: Excellent new dining option downtown

The Anchor opened on Race Street facing Washington Park in mid-September. My husband and two of our friends had a chance to try it for dinner on Saturday, and we were all completely delighted by this new spot. (No website yet, but they do have a Facebook page.)

The restaurant is in one of the brand-new buildings along the park -- ground floor for some upscale condos. However you may feel about the gentrification of that part of OTR (I like it), this restaurant will be a godsend for Music Hall patrons, who up until now have had zero places to eat within walking distance, which means eating somewhere else, getting in your car, parking and making it to an 8 PM show. Now you can arrive early, get a choice parking spot, and have a lovely time at The Anchor before the symphony, ballet, opera or other event.
As the name suggests, the menu is almost entirely seafood, and it's a small menu of perhaps five appetizers, 3-4 salads, and less than a dozen main courses--the latter of which includes a couple of hearty, filling and less-expensive sandwiches. Our friend had a trout sandwich on thick bread with a bacon aoili; it came with a pile of fried onion rings and amounted to a meal that would satisfy even the biggest appetite. She shared the onion rings and took half the sandwich home.
My husband and I both had the "filet fish of the day," which was a fresh water bass, nicely grilled and set on top of a salad of avocado, corn and other ingredients that melded together beautifully with the buttery fish (that's my dish in the photo).
Fish filet entree at The Anchor

There were rich choices and virtuous ones on the menu, which is a great thing in my book.
The house also features a few interesting cocktail concoctions and a short but well chosen wine list.
We'll be back!!
The Anchor is open Tuesday - Saturday from 5 PM for dinner, and will start serving lunch this coming Thursday - Saturday.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

More on Breast Cancer Awareness Month -- local promotion

Here's a way to do a little bit toward breast cancer research, sent to me by a reader:

Join Klosterman Baking Company this October and support young breast cancer survivors by purchasing a Pink Ribbon Loaf of bread. The Cincinnati family-owned bakery kicks off its Pink Ribbon Loaves donation campaign, benefiting The Pink Ribbon Girls, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Throughout the month of October, Klosterman Baking Company will donate $0.10 for every Pink Ribbon Loaf sold to The Pink Ribbon Girls. Pink Ribbon loaves can be purchased at Kroger and Meijer retailers throughout Cincinnati.

Klosterman Baking Company’s Pink Ribbon loaf products are available in Whole Grain White, 100% Whole Wheat and Honey Wheat, as well as the traditional White and Wheat. Each loaf of bread features an innovative active baker’s yeast with high levels of vitamin D. The revolutionary ingredient, which was first introduced to Klosterman in 2009, creates bread with anywhere from 10% to 100% of the recommended daily intake per 50 gram serving.

For more information on Klosterman Baking Company, visit For more information on the Pink Ribbon Girls, visit

 And here are the "Pink Ribbon Girls"!

Monday, October 8, 2012

How long to atone for 24 HOURS OF TOO MUCH RICH FOOD???

My husband and I drove down to Bardstown, KY, reputed to be one of the prettiest small towns in America, this past Saturday. We spent one night at a new Hampton Inn on the outskirts and enjoyed walking through the town and visiting some sights in the area. It's on Kentucky's "bourbon trail" -- and I am a fan (see post just below this one) -- and near some lovely horse farms.
Before we went, I did a little research to find out where we should eat and came to the conclusion that the best restaurants in town probably were Circa and (for much more casual fare) Mammy's Kitchen (no website).

We arrived in town on a beautiful, sunny, and cool day in time for a late lunch. After stopping in the visitor's center for advice, we cruised the few possible choices and ended up at a place called Pat's, where I had a veggie burger (the healthiest thing I ate) and split a piece of really good coconut cream pie. That pie was the start of my downfall.
What I learned there was how hard it is to eat healthfully in so many of America's small towns -- especially those in places like Kentucky, which not only is landlocked but also has one of the nation's highest obesity rates. Restaurants stay in business by giving their customers what they want. Apparently in Bardstown customers want a lot of fat and calories!
The restaurant Circa is indeed a pleasant place to dine, set in an historic building right in the center of town and sporting two cozy dining rooms. But the menu just didn't have much in the way of healthy choices. We often order seafood, but the options on Circa's menu were fried (!) lobster tails, or Brie-stuffed (!) salmon. Instead, we opted for meat: lamb ragu for me and a pork chop for my husband.
Lamb entree, Circa

The meal was tasty, of course -- and here's a photo of the lamb ragu with its side dishes -- but loaded with butter. Atop the lamb are pieces of butternut squash, which was too delicious not to be butter-laden. The potatoes in the little side crock also was rich as can be.
Next morning we had breakfast at Mammy's, where I could not resist the (gasp) chicken-fried steak. It's something my dear mother used to make -- she's from Georgia, where it was too hot to cook anything except quickly on a stove, in a frying pan -- and I don't even eat once a year. Of course it was delicious, too. But really!

There's a photo of my husband at Mammy's, waiting for his eggs, and also a shot the window welcoming you to the popular restaurant.

It was only 24 hours of indulgence, but 36 hours later I still feel overfed.
We did enjoy touring around -- out to the Bourbon Heritage Center at Heaven Hill (a distillery) and the Stephen Foster related site nearby called My Old Kentucky Home.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Recipes for whiskey drinks

I know that many of my readers don't drink hard liquor, but for those who do (at least occasionally), I've found a site that offers nifty ideas for cocktails with Scotch, bourbon or rye as their main ingredient. While I like to have a bit of bourbon from time to time, my repertoire of what to mix with it has been rather limited. If you're interested, check out this slide show with recipes from Food & Wine magazine's website.
As an example, try the following variation on a whiskey sour (ah, a drink from my long-ago youth....), made with Tennessee whiskey.

Tennessee Rose (makes one drink):
2 ounces Tennessee whiskey
3 ounces fresh grapefruit juice
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/4 ounce creme de cassis
1 lemon wedge
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the lemon wedge and rose petals; shake well. Strain into an ice-filled collins glass. Garnish with the lemon wedge 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Butternut squash and curry -- super combo

All it takes is a slight chill in the air for the hard squashes to start showing up on my menus. This is even more likely now that I've discovered pre-peeled, seeded and cut butternut squash in the grocery stories. Trader Joe's in particular reliably carries good quality, ready to cook squash.
And I love the flavor of curry in winter squashes.
Here's a recipe from last fall that I'll share again.

Recipe: Curried Butternut Squash with Cilantro-Yogurt Sauce
(Serves 2-3 as main course, 5-6 as side dish)

3 cups peeled butternut squash, cut into one-inch cubes (one large squash or 16-18 ounces)
3 T olive oil
2 T mild curry powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
One can black beans, rinsed well and drained
1 cup plain, lowfat or nonfat yogurt
1 cup baby spinach, coarsely chopped
3 T cilantro leaves, chopped
1 T fresh lemon juice

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl, toss squash cubes with olive oil, curry and pepper. Spread evenly in a single layer on a large cookie sheet that has been lightly coated with cooking spray. Roast in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until tender.
  2. About 5 minutes before squash is completely done, sprinkle the black beans over the squash to heat them and get some curry flavor in the beans.
  3. While squash cooks, put spinach in the microwave for 10-15 seconds, to allow leaves to wilt slightly. Cool briefly.
  4. In a small bowl, combine yogurt, cilantro, lemon juice and wilted spinach, stirring well
  5. Remove squash and beans from oven and place in a serving bowl. Spoon half the yogurt sauce onto mixture, passing remaining sauce at the table.You also can add a little sauce at table, to taste, if desired.