Monday, September 15, 2014

Running on empty

 I've had this blog since 2009 and it was quite robust for a few years. Then one of my best feeder blogs -- by the dining critic for our local newspaper -- deleted links to other local food blogs on her website. My readership dropped way off, to the point where it's half or less of what it used to be.
Not having readers takes the joy out of maintaining a blog. Not to mention I do have a day job as a journalism professor, which keeps me very busy.
So I'm going to take a break from this for a while. If and when my interest and energy revive, I'll start up again sometime in the future.
It's been fun........
Pama Mitchell, the Healthy Foodie

Monday, September 8, 2014

The real key(s) to health & happiness

First of all, health = happiness. Or at least bad health = unhappiness.
Therefore: safeguarding our personal health reigns supreme among life's priorities.
I don't mean that selfish regard for our own person trumps all other concerns, such as caring for our children, our aged parents, or others who need us.
But it should be evident that if the caregiver isn't well, the care given won't be adequate.

Okay so then, what are the keys to health (among the things that we can control or at least affect)?

SLEEP WELL. Hard to do? Yes but it's so important! My best advice about how to get sweet, restorative sleep happens to be another key to good health, which is EXERCISE DAILY.  While exercise is great for all kinds of outcomes -- such as weight control, stress relief, cardiovascular health and preventing chronic diseases such as diabetes -- one of its less touted benefits is that you will fall asleep faster and sleep more restfully if you exercise to the point of sweating for at least a half hour each day.
And what else? Here's where the healthy foodie comes in. EAT WELL! That means don't eat junk; eat nutritious food, and make sure your daily diet includes vegetables. Potatoes do not count! Green things, preferably. Learn to love broccoli or spinach or green beans.

Finally, pay attention to your body and get all your recommended screening tests. That means having a dermatologist look you over (DON'T TAN!!), getting regular mammograms (F) or prostate exams (M), and anything else that may apply to your personal situation. And then...enjoy life!






Thursday, September 4, 2014

Best places to buy wine online

More than likely, there's plenty of good wine available in your local retail shops. But unless you live in Manhattan, NYC, the selection is not going to be truly comprehensive. If you would like to try out-of-the-ordinary wines -- many of which can give you great bang for the buck -- or sample small-batch, boutique bottles, online wine shops offer wonderful options.

I've always liked winelibrary.com, but thanks to a recent article in Food & Wine magazine, I've learned about a few other really interesting sources for Internet shopping.
Check out, for instance, lastbottlewines.com, based in Napa Valley, which offers one terrific bottle per day at eye-popping discounts. Or bottlerocket.com includes all kinds of info about their wines, including suggestions for food pairing--which you can do in reverse, by typing in the food you want to serve and you'll get just a few specific suggestions (not something generic like cabernet sauvignon with steak). Winebid.com earns kudos for its user-friendly navigation system.
To see Food & Wine's article about online wine shopping, click here.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A perfect recipe for late summer

This is the time to make a big pot of GUMBO. All the veggies you need for this recipe are bounteously available at your local farm market or farm stand.


 
Shrimp, chicken and sausage gumbo

Seafood and Chicken Gumbo
Fresh okra is seasonal (late spring until first freeze), but you can also use frozen okra in this recipe. If so, eliminate step 1 below and add frozen okra in step 3.
(Serves 4-6)

Ingredients:
1 lb. okra, trimmed and sliced (about 4 cups)
4 T canola oil or butter, or a mix, divided
2 andouille sausages, made from pork or chicken (optional), sliced
1 medium green pepper, diced (1 cup)
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 small onion, chopped (1 cup)
2 T flour
4 cups chicken stock, heated
2 cups chopped tomatoes
2 T each chopped fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried) and parsley
1 large bay leaf
½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1 lb. uncooked shrimp (peeled and deveined), crabmeat, or chicken (boneless, skinless, cut into bite-size pieces), or a combination
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 T Tabasco or other hot sauce, ore more to taste
Instructions:
1.      Heat 2T oil/butter over medium-high heat in a skillet. Add okra and sauté, stirring often, for about 8-10 minutes until “roping” (thin strands of white substance) subsides. Set aside.
2.      Heat remaining oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add sausage, if using, and cook until just beginning to brown. Stir in pepper, garlic and onion and sauté until veggies turn translucent, about 5 minutes.
3.      Stir in flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add chicken stock, tomatoes, herbs, salt, and reserved okra.
4.      Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.
5.      Stir in shrimp, chicken and/or crabmeat, cover and cook another 5-10 minutes until meat is tender. Be careful not to overcook shrimp.
6.      Remove from heat. Discard bay leaf, stir in lemon juice, Worcestershire and hot sauces. Add more salt if necessary.
7.      Ladle into bowls over white or brown rice. Pass more hot sauce at the table.

Without sausage, a lighter dish

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Summer treats, continued: Bell Peppers

Like most cooks these days, I rarely pick up a green bell pepper, preferring instead the other colors. My favorite, at least to eat raw, is the orange pepper. But there's one dish in my repertoire where only a tangy green pepper will do: gumbo.
I'm about to make a batch of gumbo -- with shrimp, crabmeat, chicken and andouille sausage -- and will post that recipe soon. But today there's an article in the Food/Dining section of the New York Times extolling the virtues of the green pepper.
Here is one of the recipes accompanying the story. It's a Basque dish that the author says can be used as a side, a main (perhaps with the addition of some meat) or a condiment.
Peppers and tomatoes: Piperade



RECIPE: Piperade
Makes about 3 cups


Ingredients:
  • 3 plum tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped, about 2 cups
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium green bell peppers, stem, seeds and ribs removed, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon piment d’Espelette (or substitute hot paprika) 
NOTE: You also can mix red/yellow/orange peppers with the green, which makes a colorful presentation

Instructions:
1.
Cut a small X into bottom of each tomato. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add tomatoes and cook until skin begins to wrinkle and peel at the edges of the cuts, about 30 seconds. Drain, rinse with cool water and peel off skin with your fingers. Roughly chop tomatoes and set aside.
2.
In a 12-inch skillet over medium high heat, heat oil until hot but not smoking. Add onions, peppers and salt and sauté, stirring frequently, until onions are translucent and peppers have started to lighten in spots, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and continue to sauté for 1 more minute.
3.
Stir in tomatoes, sugar and piment d’Espelette, reduce heat to medium, cover and cook until tomatoes are starting to fall apart and peppers are soft but still hold their shape, about 15 minutes. Remove cover and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens like a slightly runny relish, about 5 minutes more. Adjust salt.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Healthy breakfast recipes: something a little different

Tired of the same old breakfast every day? As with anything else in life, the saying about variety ("the spice of life") holds true for the morning meal. The following excerpts an article from Eating Well about 5-Ingredient breakfasts.
Here's one of the recipes. Otherwise, go here for the article and the remaining ideas, which range from granola bars to other ways to incorporate protein-rich eggs when starting your day.



Recipe: Quick Breakfast Tacos
(Makes 2)

Ingredients:
  • 2 corn tortillas
  • 1 tablespoon salsa
  • 2 tablespoons shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup liquid egg substitute, such as Egg Beaters (or go with whole eggs, if you prefer)
Instructions:
  1. Top tortillas with salsa and cheese. Heat in the microwave until the cheese is melted, about 30 seconds.
  2. Meanwhile coat a small nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Heat over medium heat, add egg substitute (or eggs) and cook, stirring, until the eggs are cooked through, about 90 seconds. Divide the scrambled egg between the tacos.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Restaurant Review: Ruth's Parkside Cafe

This Northside lunch and dinner place -- open every day but Sunday -- has been quite a hit. Lately the lines for a table have been so long that we've left and gone elsewhere, so I've learned not to show up in prime time. That means lunch at 1 instead of 12, or dinner before 6:30 or after 8:00.
It's a neighborhood place, populated mostly by people 40+, and so the main crowds are relatively early.
Lovely setting for RUTH'S
Ruth's takes up part of the ground level of a newly renovated and redone canning factory on Blue Rock Road. Upstairs are spacious condos; there are a couple of other businesses on the ground floor as well as a garage for residents. There's also plenty of parking for restaurant patrons. Ruth's opened in October 2013.

The first thing that greets you is this bar, and you'll also be impressed by the fanciful light fixtures (which the host calls pendants), sculptures, and paintings by local artists.
Fanciful decor, including the bar

The menu has lots of healthy choices, which always makes me happy. At lunch, I usually get either one  of their house-made soups with a half-sandwich or a vegetable/spinach stir-fry with feta cheese over brown rice.
A newer addition is this short cocktail list. Their wine choices are limited but they had a couple of yummy wine specials that we really liked.
Cocktail list
My dinner choice here is the "airline chicken breast" with a lemony sauce, some sauteed kale and white beans, along with a few roasted potatoes. This time the chicken was a bit overcooked, kind of disappointing, but usually it's a delicious flavor combo. (No photo)
My husband usually gets the grilled salmon, which he liked just as well as always this time.
Grilled salmon
The homemade pies and other desserts are a treat here, but we passed. My favorite is the two-crust raspberry pie -- hard to resist!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Restaurant review: Presidents Room @ the Phoenix (Restaurant Week)

We took the opportunity of Cincinnati Restaurant Week -- which runs through 8/18 -- to try the newly reopened restaurant at the Phoenix, downtown. The chef who opened Enoteca Emilia a few years ago is now chef at the Phoenix, and you can see some of the same menu items that he cooked at Enoteca.
But I think the cured meat and cheese plate, pickled dishes and such unusual pasta dishes as Spaghetti Nero actually worked better at the casual, boisterous Enoteca than at the staid -- and rather stuffy -- old Phoenix.
For Restaurant Week, as at all the other higher-end participating establishments, you choose three courses for $35 from a significantly limited menu. First course choices were a couple of salads or what they called clam chowder, which my husband and I both ordered. It was a tasty enough soup but the greenish puree included just a few tiny pieces of clam and was lukewarm. It was only OK.
Same had to be said for the entree choices -- quail, the spaghetti Nero, a vegetarian dish with polenta and a fried egg, and a pork dish. I tried the polenta and it too arrived lukewarm; the fried egg didn't add anything special to the flavor profile and all in all was rather bland.
My husband had the spaghetti, which was spicy thanks to chorizo breadcrumbs tossed throughout, but I'm afraid it was otherwise unremarkable.
Popcorn Polenta (but nothing popped--?) @ Phoenix

Another thing we didn't care for was the "fried biscuits" that they served instead of rolls or regular dinner bread. They were greasy and unappealing.
Dessert was somewhat better -- I enjoyed the sweet corn panna cotta but didn't like the (again greasy) little crullers that came with it. He had their version of German chocolate cake with a small scoop of vanilla bean gelato. The cake was cloyingly sweet and the gelato ho-hum.
Phoenix desserts: German Cake (l) and Panna Cotta

The evening started with a very good Sazarac cocktail, and (I remember this from the old Phoenix) the wine by the glass choices were nice. That's a reliable thing carrying over from the restaurant's glory days: excellent libations.
I hope this experience was just a Restaurant Week (RW) miscue, but alas, it didn't make me want to rush back.
I think many restaurants screw up RW by trying to serve the least expensive things they have in the kitchen so they can make money on the $35-for-three-courses deal. But in my opinion RW should be seized as an opportunity to gain new customers. Serve your very best stuff and make everyone want to bring their friends and family again. We've see other local restaurants do that -- for instance, La Poste and Metropole last year. It seemed to us that the new Presidents Room was filled with people who hadn't been there before, all ordering from the limited menu (even though the regular menu was available), and I can't imagine that too many fellow patrons made return reservations on their way out.
It was disappointing, but so it goes.

Monday, August 11, 2014

New in Oakley: Stone Bowl (Sushi and Korean)

We had a terrific meal last weekend at Stone Bowl, which has been open for about three months on Madison Road in Oakley, near Oakley Nails and in a building that was a chop house. It still has the chop house decor -- an old Tudor style building, it has no Asian touches whatsoever. And it's set back from Madison Road enough that it can be easy to miss.
But don't miss it! This family-run restaurant -- the owners live upstairs with their two young sons -- is the real thing.
Now, I have to admit that I didn't know much about "the real thing" when it comes to sushi OR Korean dishes, so we brought along my sushi-savvy friend Beth and another couple who have some affinity for Korean cooking.
Beth in particular was a huge help. When we looked at the long list of sushi offerings, scratching our heads a bit, Beth took charge and selected a range of delicious options. In fact, we heard from a staffer that when the order came in to sushi master/chef/owner Young Park, he remarked something to the effect that someone out there knows a thing or two about sushi.
Our first sushi boat was so excellent that we ordered another selection.
Artistic, yummy sushi: Stone Bowl

The evening turned into a feast!
 
After all that marvelous sushi, we couldn't manage five entrees, so we split two: Stone Bowl Bibim-Bap, the crown jewel of Korean dishes (we had ours with chicken, but you can add beef, pork, seafood or tofu) and a seafood version called Hwe-Dup-Bop (with, to quote from the menu, 2pcs of fresh tuna, salmon, white tuna, shrimp, white fish, avocado, lettuce, cucumber, sesame seeds and seaweed salad on a bed of sushi rice.
The Bibim-Bap was sizzling hot, with crunchy rice on the bottom, while the seafood dish--using sushi seafood--was almost like a salad. We also got an order of tempura shrimp and veggies, listed as an appetizer. Those two entrees and the crispy tempura made for a more than sufficient meal for our table.
Bibim-Bap (before mixing)

Raw fish Bibim-Bap (also before mixing)
Owner Misook Gwan (Young Park's wife) insisted we try a couple of other dishes, and sent the table an incredible vegetable and seafood pancake. Even though we were completely sated, we managed to polish it off, as it was one of our favorite dishes. She also gave us an order of a dessert called Mochi Ice Cream (little balls of ice cream"embedded inside a thin rice cake"). We chose the green tea flavor; others included mango and strawberry.
Mochi Ice Cream

Full disclosure: Misook was a graduate student who worked closely with my husband before he retired. We didn't announce our arrival in advance but she was beside herself with happiness to see Professor Bishop at her table.
This restaurant definitely qualifies as a winner for its health profile! They use no MSG, their sushi has a higher than usual ratio of good stuff (fish and veggies) to rice, they pride themselves on the freshness of all ingredients -- particularly the abundant vegetable portions and the wonderful fish -- and their care shows.
Here's a link to the main menu:http://www.stonebowloakley.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/take-out-3-folds1.pdf
Stone Bowl serves lunch Monday - Friday and dinner nightly. On Friday and Saturday nights they stay open until 3 AM, and apparently get a good crowd of restaurant workers and partyers who are ready for some lip-smacking sushi.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Cape Breton National Park is at the top of Nova Scotia -- wild and remote, surrounded by the Atlantic and a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. Its famed Cabot Trail draws thousands of cyclists every summer/fall who are up for the challenge of its mountainous terrain.
Good for hikers and runners, too.
For foodies, it's not that fantastic but there is one pretty good option, the Purple Thistle at the Keltic Lodge in Ingonish Beach, just inside the national park -- way, way north of Halifax.
Here are a few photos of the Lodge, its beautiful grounds, and some of the food we had at the Thistle.
Keltic Lodge, Ingonish, NS
On the grounds, Keltic Lodge
Purple Thistle, Beef Carpaccio

Breakfast, in Halifax actually

Expensive but mmmmm...lobstah!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Sweet corn: use some in this salad

Corn, tomatoes, radishes -- all are fresh and at peak season at your local farm markets.
Add some creamy avocado and for protein, shrimp.


Delicious, cool (no oven or heavy stove use) and easy.



RECIPE: Shrimp and Avocado Chopped Salad
Serves 4

Ingredients
For the dressing:
2 T prepared Dijon mustard
3 T red wine vinegar
2 T chopped herbs (cilantro, thyme, or dill)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
For the salad:
1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp (cooked and cut into bite-size pieces)
1 bag pre-washed mixed salad greens, chopped
2-3 large radishes, chopped or thinly sliced
I cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
1 cup corn kernels
1 cup edamame, cooked
½ red bell pepper, diced
1 ripe avocado, diced
¼ cup chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:
1.      Make the dressing (or use another vinaigrette of your own): in a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar and herbs. Add the vinegar while continuing to whisk, stir in the salt and pepper, and set aside.
2.      In a large bowl, mix together all the salad ingredients except salt and pepper (shrimp through cilantro). Add dressing and gently toss to coat. Adjust seasoning by adding more salt and/or pepper, if desired.
3.      Serve with tortilla chips (optional)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Road Trip: Nova Scotia (Part 1--Halifax)

One of Canada's Maritime provinces, Nova Scotia was a new experience for me. My husband had been up that way before I knew him, years and years ago, but for me this was terra incognita.
My knowledge of Canada in general was woefully inadequate, so one of the best things about taking this trip for me was to learn something about our neighbor to the north.
N.S. markets itself as part of "Atlantic Canada" or the "Atlantic Lifestyle." Along with Prince Edward's Island and Newfoundland, N.S. has a thriving tourism industry in summer and early fall.
The weather was warmer than we had expected -- never wore the windbreaker I'd packed, and stayed in shorts more often than jeans -- but otherwise it was just about as I had expected and imagined it would be.
That goes for the food, as well.
Lobster is plentiful, if not especially inexpensive, and for the most part, seafood rules.
In fact, by the end of our 10-day visit, we started seeking out non-seafood menu items.
We started and ended our trip in the capital city of Halifax, population about 300,000. What my husband remembers as a sleepy coastal town in the 1970s seems to be in the midst of a building boom along the waterfront, although we heard from many locals that young people still tend to leave in droves. (That is even more true in the province's rural areas, of which there are many!)
Not surprisingly, Halifax has the best and most varied choices for foodies, although it also dishes out plenty of mediocre meals for tourists.
Seafood @ Salty's
 First night in, we hit one of those tourist spots, the long-established Salty's on the waterfront. The lower level, which includes a large patio, serves standard fare to families and young people on dates or in groups (mostly). We stopped there for a drink and appetizer before going upstairs to the more refined dining room, which was populated by our own demographic of old fogeys who want wine with dinner instead of tropical cocktails.
I had a decent linguine with lobster meat and sun-dried tomatoes, while hubby had a seafood sampler that he later named as one of his top seafood entrees of the trip.

We also tried and very much liked a trendy spot at the other end of the boardwalk called Bicycle Thief (named after the famed Italian film of the 1950s). We overindulged there at dinner one night, ending with a decadent and FABULOUS butterscotch cake that our waitress said was "life-changing" and drinking too much wine. On another day, I went for lunch on my own while George went on a sightseeing cruise, and had a much healthier and quite delicious meal: asparagus soup, barbecue chicken panini and spinach salad.
Lunch @ Bicycle Thief (Halifax)
 One disappointment was a place called Press Gang: it's in one of the oldest buildings in Nova Scotia and has an appealing ambiance. But the food was overpriced and mediocre. We wouldn't recommend that one; it seems to be living on tourism and some kind of past glory.
Press Gang: Ambiance Galore, but otherwise....

One day, we took a longish walk to have breakfast at Cora's, known for elaborate, fruit-based breakfast entrees. It was interesting, but actually a bit over the top and we didn't go back again. All in all, it's hard to find anything interesting at breakfast in downtown Halifax.
Breakfast @ Cora's

Our favorite restaurant turned out to be one called Two Doors Down, where we had a great lunch, then stopped that night for dessert, and back the next night for dinner. There was nary a false note in everything we ordered, from cocktails to wine to generally healthy and not expensive savory fare. We WOULD recommend that one, along with Bicycle Thief. Two Doors Down is the stepchild of the more high-end Chive's, which we just didn't get the chance to try.


Two Doors Down: Cod and Veggie Korma
NEXT: Dining around the province -- Good stuff up on Cape Breton!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Pleasant surprises and disappointments

We have had our share of both here in Nova Scotia.
I will be back on a regular schedule, posting from home, in a couple of days....with a wrap-up of this Nova Scotia road trip....and enjoying another month (or more) of delicious summer produce. Recipes to come!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

On the Bay of Fundy

We are in Annapolis Royal for two nights so my husband can do some genealogical research in nearby Digby.
This whole trip is about George getting in touch, spiritually speaking, with some of his ancestors who settled in this part of Canada back in the late 1700s.
Food has been adequate, nothing exciting, but the scenery and walking/hiking has been very good. I especially liked the western coast of the Cape Breton Island. Otherwise, Halifax is more appealing to me than these out of the way spots.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Moderation on vacation

We have ramped up the physical activity-- hiking, swimming a little -- and moderated the food and drink.
For now, at least. Anyhow, this part of Nova Scotia encourages outdoor activity and isn't exactly a gourmet paradise.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Nova Scotia: Halifax and Cape Breton

We are in day 3 of the Nova Scotia vacation, and so far the food and drink have been....well, excessive. It's hard not to overdo it on vacation. Today I am trying to dial it back or I will return home with extra pounds and feeling bad about myself.
Also because we are driving long distances around NS, time for good exercise has been minimal. That will change tomorrow -- for the next two days we will have ample opportunity for vigorous hikes along the Cabot Trail.
I have only my iPad for posts, and can't do as much with it as from the home PC, so I will write a wrap up about the highs and lows of healthy foodie experience of this interesting Canadian province upon our return.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

To the Maritimes

Today we depart for 10 days in one of Canada's Maritime provinces, Nova Scotia. I expect a vast array of super fresh seafood, some French accents due to the Acadian influence, and even a bit of Canadian wine.
Will post when possible!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

RESTAURANT REVIEW: John-Robert's Table (our best meal there, ever)

For our wedding anniversary, we dined at Jean-Robert's Table, the establishment owned by Cincinnati's top French chef, John-Robert de Cavel, who is also one of our area's best community citizens.
The crowd was light after the restaurant's five-day Bastille Day extravaganza, but as always the ambiance was perfectly pleasant. As an extra treat, Sylvain Archer and his band "Frenchaxe" was playing all evening.
The meal was superb and in fact was the best I've had there, start to finish.
We started with a great lobster salad (a special preparation not on the regular menu) and totally scrumptious spring vegetable ravioli with a delicious but light truffle cream sauce poured over the dish at table. (I had a glass of Champagne instead of a cocktail and had a bit of it left to enjoy with my ravioli.)
Lobster salad (L) and Spring Vegetable Ravioli
 For entrees, I took our waiter's advice and selected the scallops, which were prepared marvelously with a fava bean puree, a few other light veggies, and another hit of a truffle-infused sauce.
Jean-Robert's Scallops
My husband's entree was halibut, not on the regular menu. I took a photo of it but didn't have a taste, and he didn't try my scallops, either!
With the scallops, I had a glass of red Burgundy.
Halibut special at JR's Table
After all this...........my husband ordered a chocolate macademia nut tart and a cup of coffee, but I finished with a lovely glass of Sauternes.
We vowed not to let another couple of years go by before we dine there again!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

RESTAURANT REVIEW: The Littlefield, Northside

Another welcome addition to the dining scene in Northside -- which other than OTR has become the best Cincinnati neighborhood for kicking up one's heels -- is The Littlefield, a bourbon bar and restaurant. It opened just after the 4th of July and already is becoming a super-hot place to go.
Cocktail at The Littlefield

There are at least four different seating areas -- the bar and tables on the main floor, several small tables up the stairs in a loft, a second-floor outdoor deck off the loft, and a side patio on the ground floor. As hot as Hades on our first visit, we sat in the coolest spot near the bar, which also gave me a chance to watch the head bartender (or is it mixologist these days?), Mark, make an array of interesting cocktails.

In addition to a selection of 50+ bourbons for sipping (and a featured bourbon flight each day), there's a menu of eight cocktails, mostly based on bourbon or rye whiskey. I tried two: Boy of Bayonne (Eagle Rare, house cherry bitters, vanilla simple syrup, muddled cherry and orange peel) for $8 and Cherry Street (rye, bitters, Dolin, smoked cherry) for $12. Both were delicious, although Cherry Street didn't seen $4 better than the other. But there are several more that I want to try on my next visit, which will be SOON.

When it comes to food, you're in luck, because everything is marvelous. The short menu is divided into "Bites" (best thing we tried there was the cauliflower fritters, not to be missed), "Plates" (a couple of sandwiches, a couple of potpies, lamb meatballs and BBQ brisket) and "Sweets" (five desserts ranging from $3 for cookies to $6 for bourbon pecan pie or bourbon flourless chocolate cake with bourbon whipped cream).
Caprese salad and cauliflower fritters

With two drinks apiece, two bites (including a special, off-menu caprese salad),  two sandwiches and the chocolate cake, we managed to rack up a bill of about $70 plus tax and tip, but we were being a little gluttonous and trying as many things as we could manage. Next time, we'll probably be just fine with a bit less food. Or not!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Load Up on Fruits and Veggies




            Summer is the easiest time of year to enjoy vegetables and fruit. Even so, most Americans fall far short of the recommended daily amount we should be eating.  As recently as 2012, only one in three adults had two or more daily fruit servings and even fewer (26%) had that many veggie servings. And that count of veggies included potatoes!  When you consider that the American Heart Association recommends a minimum of eight daily servings of fruits and vegetables, those statistics are even more, well, disheartening.
            While you’re firing up the grill this season, consider how easy and satisfying it is to add veggies, and even fruit, to the barbeque. Try putting chunks of vegetables and fruits on skewers, or cooking them on a grill topper that will keep them from falling through the grids.  You only need to brush the food with a little vegetable oil (not olive oil, which will burn), or try the recipe below for something only slightly more elaborate. Consider also grilling whole, fresh figs – put them on a skewer – for a delicious caramelized flavor. Stone fruit such as peaches and nectarines also take well to the grill; just cut them in half and remove the pit, but keep the peel on.



Recipe: Mixed Vegetable and Fruit Grill
Serves 4-6
Ingredients:
½ pound fresh asparagus, trimmed
1 large red or yellow pepper, cut into 4 chunks
2 medium zucchini, cut in half lengthwise 
1 medium red onion, peeled and cut into wedges
1 pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into quarters lengthwise
2 medium bananas, unpeeled and sliced in half lengthwise

For the vegetables:
¼ cup canola oil
1-2 T honey
4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper

For the fruit:
¼ cup rum
2 T brown sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract

Instructions:
In a small bowl, whisk together the canola oil, honey, vinegar, oregano and seasonings. Pour most of the marinade into a large resealable plastic bag. Add asparagus, pepper, zucchini and onion; seal bag and turn over to coat the veggies. Marinate about an hour at room temperature.
Transfer veggies to a grilling grid; place grid on preheated grill rack. Close the grill lid and cook over medium heat about 8-10 minutes, until crisp-tender, turning occasionally.
Once you have placed the veggies on the grill, brush pineapple and banana pieces with the brown sugar mixture and place on the outside of the grill alongside the vegetables. Close the grill lid and cook with the veggies. Watch carefully and turn pineapple as needed; the banana should go skin down and not be turned (it most likely will be done first).
Remove food to a platter as each piece becomes done, keeping veggies to one side and fruit to another. Drizzle remaining marinade over the veggies and brush fruit with any remaining brown sugar mix. Serve warm or at room temperature. (You can cover with foil to keep warm while you cook any meat, poultry or fish that you also want to serve at this meal.)