Sunday, April 27, 2014

This week's restaurants: Salazar, Mazunte, Metropole and The Rookwood

Wow, was I lucky this past week in the array of places we ate out.
Salazar Appetizers
Last Tuesday evening my husband & I along with two of our friends tried SALAZAR, one of the newest additions to the Gateway Quarter (aka Over-the-Rhine) downtown Cincinnati neighborhood.
It's a very small and noisy dining room, even early on a Tuesday night. Everyone enjoyed the food, although I must say that my favorite tastes there came in liquid form: an excellent Old Fashioned and then a delicious glass of French chardonnay. Food wise, my buccatini pasta entree was too dry and light on sauce and clams, although I did enjoy my appetizer of shrimp seviche..And all my companions raved about a house-made black cherry and pistachio ice cream.

Pasta at Salazar -- needed more sauce!

Given the hype surrounding this new, chef-owned restaurant, it left me slightly disappointed--but not enough so not to return sometime.
The next day I met my friend for lunch at MAZUNTE, which is as good at tacos as anywhere else in town. But I tried enchiladas this time, and they were fine (but not as tasty as the tacos from the previous visit).
Mazunte Salsa Bar

Over the weekend we had tickets to a couple of performances downtown and wanted to dine out before or after. Friday night we ate at METROPOLE in the 21C Hotel, and as always there we liked the menu choices, the drinks, and the execution of the dishes. I ordered two salads instead of getting an entree, and then indulged in dessert -- vanilla custard parfait, they called it, although it didn't really seem like a typical parfait with various layers of flavors.

Metropole Dessert

And finally, Saturday night after a play we sat outside on the large deck at The Rookwood restaurant in Mt. Adams. I went vegetarian with a salad and then grilled eggplant for an entree -- nicely done -- and a couple of cocktails from one of the best cocktail makers in the region.

Veggie appetizers @ The Rookwood
Yes, he had a burger!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Refreshing Spring Cocktails

Looking for seasonal refreshment? Try a few of the recently posted cocktail recipes from Food & Wine magazine's website.

The first one uses Campari, the bitter Italian liqueur that's one of my favorite cocktail ingredients -- think Negroni or Americano (same as a Negroni but lighter, because you omit the gin, put it in a taller glass, and top with Perrier or club soda).
Campari spritzer

Campari-Fennel Spritzer
 (makes one drink)
  1. Handful of fennel fronds, plus 1 small sprig for garnish
  2. 3 lemon wheels
  3. 2 ounces dry sparkling wine
  4. 3/4 ounce Campari
  5. 1/2 ounce simple syrup 
  6. One 2-inch-long strip of lemon peel
  7. Ice

In a cocktail shaker, combine the fennel fronds with the lemon wheels, sparkling wine, Campari and simple syrup. Muddle 20 times. Add ice and shake well. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Squeeze the lemon peel over the drink and add it to the glass. Garnish with the fennel sprig and serve. 

Click here to check out the other cocktails, which include Lavendar-Sage Sling and something called a Roof Garden (vodka with thyme, mint, lemon juice and club soda).

Thursday, April 17, 2014

New Local Food Guide

The Central Ohio River Valley published its 2014 Local Food Guide this week, and celebrated with a launch party this week at Om Eco Cafe.
The Cafe was a perfect fit for this organization, which features healthy, sustainable and often organic farmers, food purveyors and related businesses and services in the new guide. Many of the farmers and other businesses represented in the guide attended the party.
New food guide, available around town

Om Eco Cafe, on Ludlow Avenue in the Clifton neighborhood of Cincinnati, is a two-level, three-roomed cafe and shop with a few booths, tables, and a comfy sofa or two. The staff prepared and served some of the tastiest -- and healthiest -- snacks and appetizers that I've ever seen at such an event. It was really very well done!

The guide will be distributed for free all around town, or you can download a copy at this website:

Serving snacks at the event

In case you're not familiar with Om, here is an excerpt from their website explaining their philosophy and menu:
Om Eco Café is "green", meaning Earth conscious, caring for the whole, drawing all that is (w)holy from ourselves.  Om Eco Café supports local businesses, grows its own organic vegetables, and composts and recycles everything possible.

Om Eco Café offers healthy, delicious SEASONAL food and beverages, featuring direct trade, organic, shade grown, locally roasted coffee and espresso. Our food menu offers a variety of healthy choices. Here are a few examples:

  • The BEST Soup: Offering two Om-made organic soups daily. Try a Cuplette!
  • Organic Cuban Black Bean Chili
  • Right out of our garden Salads
  • A Unique variety of Wraps and Sandwiches
  • Om-mazing Healthy Organic Breakfast Choices
  • Quiche of the day
  • Specials Daily
  • Grilled Blackened Tofu
  • Loving Grilled Cheese

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Your questions answered about QUINOA

How did this food get so popular, so fast? What is the best way to cook and serve it, and what does it taste like?
Check out this article in the NY Times, "Five Things to Know About Quinoa."

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Elephant Walk -- University Heights

There's a new restaurant near the University of Cincinnati campus, on McMicken in the area now called U-Square. It's a combo of Northern Indian and Ethiopian food.
While we have a LOT of Indian restaurants in this and nearby neighborhoods, Ethiopian is unusual. So we ordered from that side of the menu.
This is the vegetarian sampler platter.
It didn't do much for us.
I'll write in more detail as soon as I can get the time.
Elephant Walk Ethiopian sampler

Sunday, April 6, 2014

New Menu Items at La Poste

Clifton's destination restaurant (La Poste) has debuted a spring menu.
While several reliable dishes remain available -- such as the Roasted Crimson Pear appetizer ($12 for almost a meal in itself, with prosciutto, herbed goat cheese and arugula, served warm), Wild Mushroom Ravioli ($18 and incredibly rich, but you can ask for an appetizer sized portion and be satisfied) and Seared Diver Scallops ($16, with the preparation altered somewhat from Day 1 of the restaurant) -- there are new salads, a bowl of mussels in a garlicky fennel broth, and several new entrees.
Click here to see the current menu.
My husband ended up ordering off-the-menu specials for both his appetizer (a mushroom/onion soup) and entree (amberjack with lots of veggies).
Someone had to sample new menu items, so I went with a Smoked Duck Breast appetizer ($13, pictured below), followed by a fish that I've never seen on their menu, and we've been regular patrons for the 3-4 years they've been open.
La Poste: Smoked Duck Breast
It was Skate Wing with quite a few sliced veggies and a caper sauce; I didn't care for the too-salty "sunchoke galette" that the fish and veggies sat on, but the rest of the dish worked well.
Skate Wing entree

We split a very nice Mandarin orange creme brule for dessert.
And you can always rely on the staff at La Poste to suggest appropriate wine pairings for each dish. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Restaurant Review: Mazunte Taqueria Mexicana

I finally got to try this place that I've heard nothing but good things about.
It's obvious from the moment you walk in the door that good things await. The room is cozy and yet spacious, the dark wood tables and stools along with the colorful wall art all seem inviting -- and right by the door is a station where a middle-aged Mexicana woman makes and displays the house salsas.
Mazunte Salsa Bar

The menu includes four types of tacos, three specialty dishes with rice, and several other hearty main dishes.
As this was just my first visit, I tried the Mixed Tacos: $9 for one each of the fish, shredded pork and skirt steak varieties. (The fourth taco choice is a different preparation entirely -- "rolled and fried crispy with braised chicken" and other ingredients. The tacos I ordered were all made in soft corn tortillas.)
Terrific tacos

The tacos were on a par with those at Bakersfield -- which means excellent -- and my favorite was the fish taco, which you can order with the fish breaded and fried or grilled.
We had a taste of the Pozole ($6.25), a not-too-spicy Mexican soup, which was perfectly seasoned and quite delicious.
I would have been tempted to order tamales, which I love, but the manager said he was still cooking the day's batch and it would be another half-hour before they'd be ready.
Other choices include enchiladas ($9), blue corn quesadillas ($8) and chile relleno ($8.50). They all sound so good, I can hardly wait to go back.
Mazunte is not a bar scene -- unlike Bakersfield -- although you can get bottled beer, Sangria or a Margarita. I'm hoping they might add to their drink options, but even if not, I could make this a regular stop.
Unfortunately, it's not on my side of town -- but it's very near my gym. So I could see stopping in for lunch and/or to carry home some of these dishes to reheat later for dinner.
The counter scene