Restaurant Rant

So I'm bitter this week...completely personal reasons...but it's annoying me so I feel like complaining.

Restaurants are great - I love them - obviously - I go to one every day practically - but there are just some things that get on my nerves when I go out to eat - so here goes...

For the New Year - every restaurant - read this blog and take note:

1. When you buy stools, chairs, light fixtures, knick knacks - TAKE THE TAGS OFF! You know how tacky it is when you're in a nice restaurant to look up and admire the light and then notice the price tag sticker on the inside? I mean - it's the final touch - and it's laziness! (I was recently at a place that literally had tags left on everything! I was cracking up!)

2. Bread Part 1 - give us some! Good lord - it's cheap and makes us happy...who doesn't like bread? Okay - my friends Lou and Scott - but hey - more for me!

3. Bread Part 2 - um - make it good bread! I'm not asking for homemade but just not dry ass stale bread. How hard is it to find some decent bread?! Obviously some places are amazing with their bread...I'm not always asking for amazing...just please not stale and dry.

4. Butter - if I get hard butter at one more place - I'm going to scream! You give us bread then bring out butter that just came out of the freezer!!!! I don't want a half pat of butter stuck to a dry stale piece of bread! This has to be my biggest pet peeve of all - please oh please for the new year - can all restaurants give us soft butter!

5. Iceberg Lettuce - really people - its 2009 (well almost) - let's jump into new millenium here! I mean - I understand at a cheap restaurant - hey - you're cheap - we're cheap - it's fine. But if I'm paying more than $10 for an entree I expect something more than a crappy iceberg lettuce salad with an unripe tomato slice dropped on top.

6. Ranch dressing - make your damn own! It's not hard! Usually places that have great burgers have great ranch...the rest of you...take a cue from them.

(I'm getting fiestier as I go along...)

7. Decor - I always walk into a place and think WWGS - What Would Gordon (Ramsey) Say? Most places need an overhaul - and hey - you're busy - the economy sucks - we understand! But maybe dust off the paintings, pull down the wallpaper border and head to the clearance aisle at TJ Maxx and spruce it up a bit with some new crap.

8. Parsley - we don't want to eat it - leave it off. There is no need for a large chunk of it sitting by my steak or an abundance of it sprinkled on my food.

9. Clear the plates - this one is for Scott. It's his biggest pet peeve. When you see that I'm finished with my plate - please take it. I'm very obvious about it - I set my napkin on top. So if you walk by the Food Hussy and her napkin is covering her plate - take it away!

10. Be the best - find one thing and make it your specialty. There's nothing I hate worse than going someplace and having everything seemingly mediocre. Make something your ownLink - be the best at it! Here are some bests:

Best Soup: Tie - Paula's downtown on Tuesday - chicken, wild rice, musroom & Kona (sad face) with their corn chowder

Best Bread: Walt's Hitching Post - rye bread with sea salt & Red Lobster - seriously - the best stuff ever!!!!!!

Best Chips: Chipotle

Best Service: PigallsLink
Best Odd Sandwich that doesn't sound good but kicks ass: Greenup Cafe - it's a croissant with tomato, brie and onion...WTF? But it rocks!

Best Burger: Terry's Turf Club

Best Odd Ethnic Food: Chicken at Emanu

Best Dive Bar with Crazy Awesome Food: Friendly Stop

Best Quirky Decor: Hideaway

Best Art I want to steal: Aqua

Best consistency: RuThais

Okay - so that's my short list for the day - I know there are more...what do you think? Is there a pet peeve that I missed? Is there a "best" I forgot????

Indi-don't-go how you've failed me again. I bought a $25 off $35 gift certificate for Indigo and used it over the weekend.

The restaurant has quirky decor - stained glass windows hanging - primary colors. Kinda cute, kinda dated. I tried taking photos - but it just didn't work. I'll note now - I was at the Hyde Park Square location - the Ft. Mitchell location is in a house and I think it looks quite different.

First up - I tried the chicken noodle soup - the waiter said it was just like chicken noodle soup "but awesome". Well it wasn't awesome. It was good for chicken noodle soup - but not awesome. There were lots of veggies but not a lot of flavor - nothing outstandingly better than I'd get from Progresso.

My friend got the house salad - it was NOTHING special. Romaine, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers and some dressing. Not worth $5.50! (warning: recurring theme begins here)

Next up I tried the pasta - I ordered the Mediterranean Pasta (Artichoke hearts, mellow roasted bell peppers, ripe olives, onions, garlic, tomatoes and herbs blends in a harmonious onion $16.75 Half Order $9.65) I added mushrooms and goat cheese for an additional fee and got the half order. This was not $13 worth of a pasta dinner. The noodles (I chose Linguini) were WAY overcooked - mushy and watery! The sauce had no significant flavor. Thank GOD I added the goat cheese - without it - I wouldn't have eaten it. It was extremely bland. The bread isn't good either...dry and a funky flavor.

My friend ordered the BBQ Chicken Pizza. It's really small - we thought it would be a larger thin crust but it's small and has 4 pieces for $13! The taste of the sauce is good - but the pizza was a little dry tasting. It was NOT a $13 pizza. Dewey's small is cheaper and far superior.

Overall, the bill was $40 - we only paid $20 because of our gift certificate (but add in the tip) and again - disappointment. Not happy to pay $10 for this meal. The pasta was just so bad. The soup was fine...the pizza wasn't bad...but the pasta was really not good. To quote my friend Julia, "this did not bring me joy."

So - Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Here's hoping we can find better places on for the New Year!

Top Chef - Episode 6 - SPOILER ALERT!

So I'm going on a limb - usually the people they show at the beginning have a risk of going...the first people they show are Arianne, Eugene, Fabio and let's see what happens with that...

Closeup on T-Mobile Sidekick while Hosea is on the phone...a man's father has cancer BUT WE GOT A PLUG FOR T-MOBILE!!!
Martha got some skinny jeans!!!! Sweet sassy molassy! Still awesome - from prison inmate to fabulous!

"When I was 6, I was evil." - Fabio

Eugene is hot...and his dish looks good...
Jeff's potato risotto looks great...but vinegar?
I can't believe Beeker hasn't gotten the boot yet?!
I'd like to put some polenta on Fabio and lick it off!

God I love Martha - she's still so damn amazing to me!

Of course they have the black woman comment on the Harlem choir...let's hear Fabio's thoughts!

They sang the 12 days of Christmas and forgot 4 - what's 4??????

Oh man - Millionaire Matchmaker - who's in? The only show better than that is crazy ass Jeff on Flipping Out!

So you can sleep tonight:

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Twelve drummers drumming, (stefan - chicken pot pie)
Eleven pipers piping, (hosea - smoked pork)
Ten lords a-leaping, (jeff - island leaping cheese)
Nine ladies dancing, (fabio - crab cake)
Eight maids a-milking, (melissa - strip steak)
Seven swans a-swimming, (jamie - scallop/vichyssoise)
Six geese a-laying, (Ariane - 6 deviled eggs)
Five golden rings, (Eugene - poisson cru with pineapple)
Four calling birds, WE HAD NO CALLING BIRDS???? THAT'S WHY!
Three French hens, (Leah - hen (shocker))
Two turtle doves, (Carla - chicken/mushroom cap)
And a partridge in a pear tree! (Radhika - duck/pear chutney)

God Fabio is cute...
Arianne gets 6 geese a-laying and things deviled eggs? Not GOOSE?
Who does the dishes?
Radhika and Hosea are screwed...awwww but people are nice to them! THAT IS THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT!
Natasha's boobs are too far apart...she needs to get them redone. I always think of her as the bitch in Maid in Manhattan. Poor thing - she's referenced by a JLo movie...

Top 4: Hosea (pork), Jeff (cheese) , Stefan (chicken pot pie) and Radhika (duck)
(I'll save the winner in case you haven't seen it)

Bottom 4: Gene (poisson?), Melissa (steak), Jamie (scallops)

I'm going to predict Melissa...ruh roh...they all suck!

Eugene was first one they showed...will it hold true????

America wants to be under the misletoe with Fabio - shocker!

Wow - Tom is callin the bitches out!!!!


Nice Diet Dr Pepper placement as well - not as obnoxious as the T-Mobile but still...

Next week: And yes Jamie - scallops afreakingain??????

2 - 2 - 2 Mediocre Reviews in 1!

In the past week - I decided to venture out to some local spots...sadly I didn't really like either of them.

I went to Through the Garden in Blue Ash and Allyns in Columbia Tusculum.

Let's go through Allyn's first...

I was hungry and had just danced my butt off in my hip hop class then decided I needed lunch so my buddy and I went to Allyn's.

(side note - if you click on the pictures you can see them full size - much more of a yum factor)

I went for the Next-Mex Chicken Burrito. The "Next Mex" menu is lower they don't tell you how much lower or what's lower but I figured no matter what - it was a smarter choice. The burrito was pretty good. The chicken is "pulled" vs. fajita - which I like. Something was spicy - not sure if it was the salsa or the chicken but I did like it. The sides were all bad. The beans were both really undercooked. The black beans had a little flavor but the refried had none. The rice was the worst. It was terrible - bland rice is bad enough - this actually had a bad taste. So I guess if you get the mexican menu - see if you can get a salad or soup instead of the beans/rice.

My buddy ordered the chicken sandwich...he enjoyed the sandwich. He said it was pretty darned good. The fries - he didn't care for.

The one other item to note about Allyn's is the decor - it's very quirky. There's a sign that says "Beware of Pick Pockets and Loose Women" - my friend insisted I was one of those (I've never picked a pocket in my life). I would have taken a picture but there was a child sitting in front of the sign and that would have been inappropriate. They have lots of loud colors (which I like) and lots of cork art.

Allyn's also has a pretty large Wine Shop! If you're looking for a bottle for the next special occasion - stop by. They have a wall of wine and a cabinet of hot sauces for sale. They also have their own bottled variety.

Overall - I didn't really like my food, friend said his was okay. The decor is quirky. I don't know - it just isn't a place I really want to go back to. I'd rather go to Terry's or Kona or RuThais.

Next up I tried Through the Garden. I came across this restaurant on Kenwood Rd because of I got one of the $25 gift certificates (off $35). This was just an utter disappointment across the board. First I had Chicken Tortilla soup - bland, unappealing and flavorless.
Friend had the smothered ribeye - smothered because it's a cheap cut of meat. Sides were veges and mashed potatoes. The veges were undercooked and extremely bland. The potatoes were "fine".
I had the crab cakes with veges and roasted potatoes. The crab cakes came with this bad sauce - it was I guess sort of buttery and mustardy - I'm no ingredient namer - but it wasn't good. The cakes themselves definitely came from canned crab and weren't impressive. The veges again - undercooked. The roasted potatoes were fine - crying for seasoning - but not as bad as the crab cakes.
We were so disappointed in our meal we didn't even bother trying dessert. I mean wilty lettuce that has nothing to do with the entree and a dried up lemon wedge - ugh - it says it all. My friend said I should have a sign that says "WWGD" for What Would Gordon Do? Gordon Ramsey would have a hey day with this place!

I do hear that Through the Garden is more of a lunch place and I can see that. It's got a good location and I'm sure that if we'd all gotten sandwiches - we'd have a different view. BUT if they're a lunch place - they should stick with that!

Allyn's Cafe

3538 Columbia Pkwy
Cincinnati, OH 45226
(513) 871-5779

Allyn's on Urbanspoon

Through the Garden

10738 Kenwood Rd
Cincinnati, OH 45242
(513) 791-2199

Through the Garden on Urbanspoon

Tom's Pot Pies - redo

Check out my guest blog at about Tom's Pot Pies. They were an add-on to a previous blog but this time got a little more attention.

Top Chef - Episode 5 - Oh Danny Boy

Okay - this will be quick since it's a few days late -

Annoying blonde girl with the bad bangs said the stupidest thing ever!

"This isn't a game - it's the biggest competition of my life."


Quickfire is a tasting thing - it's like Name That Tune for ingredients:

Daniel vs. Hosea - ha - Danny doesn't know Name That Tune and said the same bid...
Arianne vs. Jeff - nothing notable - Arianne wins cuz Jeff screwed up
Stephan vs. Jamie - salt & pepper - hahaha
Eugene vs. Leah - Leah by default
Radika vs. Fabio - Radika
Carla Beeker vs. Bangs - Carla

I.E. none of the people in the last 3 are going home since we saw them for 2 seconds.

Hosea vs. Arianne - Hosea
Stephan vs. Leah - Stephan (did 8 - wow)
Radhika vs. Carla - Carla by default

Mole sauce is down to Hosea, Stephen, Carla

She's out on peanut butter - hahahaha...
Stephan is out on tomato paste...

Elimination Challenge - cooking for Gail's bridal shower

Oh the bitter lesbian - complaining about doing something for a wedding. And she's lying about "borrowing" already.

Fabio saying there is "no freakin blue food" - hahahahaha!

Beeker is hooting at her team.

Danny is lifting weights on the deck...

Okay - I know who goes and I'm kinda suprised that it's not Eugene with this idea of building their own sushi.

hahaha - Arianne beat Jamie and Jeff - hahahahahahah - Good for her!!!!

"None of us expected anybody but me to win" - Jamie (wow!)

Bye bye chops!

Supper Club!!!! The Greek Dinner of the Year!

Tonight was the 19th Supper Club Gathering! Last month, my friend Scott and I attended the supper club at John & Ken's and had a fabulous time (well except for the $214 ticket we got when we left).

I decided to host the next supper club and that great event was tonight!

I've been in my house in Pleasant Ridge for 2 years and haven't thrown an official dinner party. I have had a couple of parties - but not DINNER parties.

The photo to the left is me sitting on the couch being fancy! Drinking wine (Diet Dr Pepper) and eating homemade hummus (mmmmm good). Don't I look fabulous?!

The photo below is the dining setup we had. Luckily I have a big L-shaped living & dining room so it worked pretty well with the help from Scott with his extra table and chairs. Also - please note the beautiful "Pepsi" blue of my dining room (thanks for painting sis!).

The menu for tonight was Greek! First up - Greek Salad by Scott. It was delish and everybody loved it. Of course I have enough for about 14 more people in my fridge.

Entree: Pastitsio

Scott is an improvising sous chef and he just kept adding spices and we made about 1.5X the recipe but it turned out fabulous. It weighed about 15 pounds! It's basically a Greek version of lasagne. Imagine penne pasta, meaty & tomatoey skyline chili, more pasta, covered with bechamel (cheese, milk, flour sauce) and then baked. Oh yeah - it's not healthy!

Next up, Green Bean & Tomato Salad

This is from the same website but not sure how "Greek" it is - but it was tasty enough. The pastitsio and dessert overshadowed this. BUT - we did get our veggies in!!!!

Here's a quick plate shot - doesn't look like much - but a lot of people went back for seconds - so it was GOOOOOOOD! Dessert: Chocolate Bread Pudding Cupcakes

Yeah - wowee! The blogger that helped provide that morsel is after my own heart - salt AND chocolate! These look so ho hum in this picture but they are amazing!!!! Everybody asked for the recipe. And they reheat well - just pop them in the microwave and voila! We served them with some fabulous Aldi vanilla ice cream (don't even get me started on Aldi!). I dug into my plate of dessert to quickly and forgot to photograph!

Next up - my centerpiece. Yes - giant isn't it - a juice glass. But it's got flowers from the bouquet the BF gave me...first flowers and all, mushy gushy. But what a fun picture!

Now there were pictures of me with each group of people...but this had the most people in it so I chose it - trying to get bang for the buck. That's Sandy, Me, Linda, Scott and Marla. We're a hot bunch!

Okay - and one note to Aldi (Scott and Edith are going to love this). With supper club you provide all the food and people bring what they want to drink. I went to Aldi and got everything for the meal and I mean EVERYTHING for the entree, bean salad and dessert for TWELVE people for...are you ready for it...$75!!!!

The whole party with appetizers, greek salad and sodas came in around $100.

But $75 for the main stuff!!! And it was all delicious! I AM NOW PROFESSING MY LOVE FOR ALDI! We just got one in Pleasant Ridge - so I'm giddy!

So there you have it - I too can host a dinner party and live to tell about it.

I also had the traditional "Kitty Parade" post-party. It's where all the kitties that were grumpily locked in the basement for the party duration are then let out to parade like big cartoon characters on Thanksgiving Day. It's fascinating and yes Edith, I have video of a couple of them...then the rest were being difficult. Scott scared them.

I encourage you to check out Supper Club - it's very fun and always a different crowd! They post when the next one will be and then there's a limit to the number of people. Once it's full - it's full. My friend Rachel has volunteered to host in February - she's much more experienced at this than I am.

But I'm pretty darned happy with the night. Now I'm tired...oh so tired...but hey - I have pastitsio and bread pudding cupcakes for lunch for 2 weeks!

Here are a couple other links about the night:

Wild Ginger - N.A.G.A.R.T.

My friend decided to treat me to dinner at Wild Ginger last week. It's newly expanded and I haven't been since the big snow storm of last year. It was the only place open so we had a blast foraging in the blizzard.

Wild Ginger is a nice Thai restaurant in Hyde Park across from Penn Station and next to the 24-hour Busken. I have heard a lot of great things about WG but tend to be pretty partial to RuThai's in Mt. Lookout. I kind of think everybody has one Thai place they can like and any more than that and their brain can't take it.

That said - I went with a semi-open mind - I had heard about the coconut creme brulee - and I LOVE creme brulee and love coconut even more - so I thought - w00t! Well...not so much...but more on that later.

First we went for the edamame - and it was fine - I mean - it's soybeans with salt - what can go wrong. I tried some but about a year ago, I ate a whole bag of edamame one time and it kinda made me sick. It looks good though!

Then it was dinner time. Scott went for the "chili beef" type of Thai. I don't remember what their version is called - but it's a lot of veggies, some beef and brown rice. Scott did enjoy it - I didn't think it was quite as good as RT but he was happy with it.

I went for sushi because - well - I'm obsessed. I don't really remember what I got - it had multiple kinds of seafood as well as avocado. It was okay. Meh - I wasn't that excited. There wasn't much flavor to it. It was fairly bland - but okay.

I will give them points for presentation. They do add the extra step to make it pretty. They're more expensive than some of the "hole-in-the-wall" joints but I think that's because the extra money pays for the pretty in the restaurant and the extra presentation. But - I'd rather have the $.

Now next SHOULD be dessert. But no. I asked for the dessert menu and said I'd heard so much about coconut creme brulee! The waiter must have been new - he wasn't very knowledgable. He came back with the menu and said he didn't have 3 of the items. I couldn't really gather if they don't have them any more or if they were out that night? Anybody know?

Overall - Wild Ginger is pretty - the food is okay but (and now for the headline explanation) - it's

I'm sure a lot of people will disagree - but I'm only giving this 2 stars. I just felt very uninspired...

Wild Ginger Asian Bistro

3655 Edwards Rd
Cincinnati, OH 45208
(513) 533-9500

Wild Ginger on Urbanspoon

Top Chef - Episode 4 - Love me some Rocco

Lots of Team Rainbow sadness - which makes me think the last member will be going home...

A breakfast amuse bouche is the quick fire...

These people look like they're making huge meals - it's one freakin bite!

Thankfully Rocco is calling people out on not doing one bites! Leah won with her one bite breakfast and won a $24.95 cookbook...w00t.

Immunity challenge is doing a demo...this one is tough - they are signing up to be chefs - not TV chefs.

Also realizing I'm starving for bacon & eggs now...bastards!

You gotta know some of these peeps are safe - I mean Radhika has been on for 5 seconds this episode - GO NATI GIRL!

Daniel wants to cook, own restaurants, have his own show and act. And do comedy. Maybe he should shave the teen wolf first...

Ooh - they got something up their sleeve - they just gave top 3 and bottom 3...and we haven't had the Today show yet...

Okay - loving Alex - he said "pussy out and do a salad!" - hahahahaha!

Melissa in her infinite wisdom said - the scariest thing about failing is failing...yes and the most thrilling thing about being happy is being happy...

Did anybody else notice Fabio's funny bird legs?

Jeff is insulting - he said he's serving food to people with unsophisticated pallets. Really? Kathie Lee Gifford has more money than God - I bet she's had more than Waffle House! Ha - and she spit it out!!!!! I'm dying!

Arianne won with her lame ass tomato salad. Eh good for her!

Judges table...

Bottom 3: Melissa (overly spicy), Jamie (raw egg) and Alex (undone brulee)

They should all go home...but we need a long let's guess Alex... (I'm so falling into Producer's Ploys). Okay - changing my mind and saying Melissa. No - we must finish off the rainbow so Jamie...(just kidding). Let's go with Melissa and her habanero shrimp.

Oh - love connection on Top Chef - hahahah - Hosea & Leah...sittin in a tree...c-o-o-k-i-n-g!

Dammit - I should have stuck with my first guess! I thought maybe the spicy would get her...dammit!

Top Chef - Episode 3 - FOO-FOO-FOOD!

This week on Top Chef - let's jack with the chefs!!!

The guest is another molecular gastronomy guy - Grant Achatz - from Alinea in Chicago.

The quickfire - they gave them each a page from the Top Chef cookbook and said they had to make a recipe and modify it. Then midway through - jack with them! Now they have to make it into a soup - of course - sponsored by Swanson (product product product).

During judging - Grant is a bastard!!!! It's fabulous!

There were some really interesting soups and I have to say the ham & egg soup really sounded good! But Leah and her white asparagus won...what do you think?

Next up a challenge for the Foo Fighters! They have to make Thanksgiving dinner for the Foo Fighters and their entire crew with microwaves and toaster ovens. How ridonkulous is this????? Are these challenges really necessary? Hell - I'd rather have the gas station food challenge again!

(Side note: this week on Inside the Actors Studio - Harry Potter! What's next? The Jonas Brothers)

Jeffrey is a chef at the Dilido Beach Club - I swear it said DILDO beach - ew ew ew!

Not only were they cooking with microwaves - it started raining on them! hahahahaha

Tom - the gay bear icon - Colicchio! Wow - Team Rainbow is so brave! (Don't know what a "gay bear" is - see the photo at the left.

Team Cougar - stuffing bad, potatoes not cooked, great mac & cheese and good ham (yeah - i like that guy with the tats), turkey is good - arianne the cougar is safe for a week!

Team Sexy Pants - vegan stuffing is a hit, yams with burnt mallows good, turkey not as good...(seems like cougars won the dinner)

Dessert Off:

Sexy Pants - tiramisu and a peach crisp - they like fabio's tiramisu with pumpkin and the crumble!
Cougars - peach cobbler, parfait and a smore - they hate the "barfait" and the rest

Cougars won the dinner, Sexy Pants won the dessert - but what matters more??????

(Side note: Daniel has his party underwear on - just fyi)

Hey - Sexy Pants and their dessert and vegan stuffing won!

On the chopping block: Ariane (turkey), Beaker, Team Rainbow guy (smores), Tattoo guy, Surfer Jeff, curly haired guy we never hear from but made mac & cheese with bacon and Daniel & his party underwear

Judges Panel - Chef Tom is bitchy tonight!

Ariane's turkey was good
Jeff's spoonbread sucked
Daniel's potatoes weren't cooked enough
Beaker (Carla) wasn't happy with her cobbler - but it's not going to put her in danger
Jeff's pumpkin mousse wasn't good (oh he's in danger)
Team Rainbow guy's smores sucked - his vanilla cream looked like spit

Okay - they're basically saying - Team Rainbow guy is out - but will they throw us a curveball?????

I just realized I've watched like 12 hours of TV today...but I also raked the leaves and did laundry. I watched The Office reruns, Days of Our Lives, 2 eps of Celebrity Rehab, The Elf and now Top Chef. But hey - isn't that what lazy vacation days are for? I also got 3/4 of my Christmas shopping done thanks to the interweb! See - 12 hours of TV mixed with wireless internet CAN induce productivity!

This is a long commercial break and I'm too tired to hit the fast forward on my tivo. Now good God - isn't that lazy? I'll type about it but I won't remove my fingers from the keyboard long enough to push a button that is 5 inches away.

Oh and I choreographed my dance routine for tomorrow's hip hop class - Womanizer by Britney Spears. I was a little annoyed with her - she didn't dance much in this one...but I managed.

The world would like the Foos to cook Thanksgiving dinner rather than either TC team - WTF?

Eugene, Mac & Cheese, Beaker, Ariane - all allowed to leave! We're left with Daniel (potatoes), Jeff (mousse) and Rainbow (smores).

No curve ball - Team Rainbow is down to 1. Bye bye smores guy...

Cafe Bella - If you're in Mason - check it out!

So - gotta love - I went on a buying spree and got a bunch of gift certificates at 80% off! One of them was for Cafe Bella in Mason - I didn't know anything about it - but I checked out their menu and it looked very good! So my friend and I decided to give it a try!

The interior is nice and warm - I really like it. Lots of red and gold... It's a small spot in a strip mall but it's really cozy once you're inside.

There was an all-you-can-eat pasta special that sounded great - only $11.95 for salad, bread and pasta! The regular menu options were all very tempting as well...we had a hard time selecting an appetizer.

We were figuring out what we had to spend so that we could meet our $35 bill - not really that difficult there - but we wanted to be sure we got a good sampling!

To start with I tried the lentil soup - it was not very good. It really just tasted like minestrone (their other soup option) with lentils instead of pasta. It had a bit of a curry taste but other than that - nothing really that interesting.

Scott got the pasta special so he got the salad...

Looks pretty simple - but it was very very well dressed. There were also tomatoes and pitted greek olives. We both enjoyed it quite a lot! Next up - the entrees! With the all-you-can-eat there were 4 options... Scott went for chicken/zucchini/marinara for the first bowl...oh yeah - he went for 2 bowls!

Scott did get a 2nd bowl - he got fettucini with marinara and meatballs. I forgot to take a picture but it wasn't noteworthy. The meatballs - in my opinion - weren't good. They were like rolled up balls of hamburger - no seasoning. I wouldn't get that again.

I chose the Pork Tenderloin Norcina. It was really great. The pork tenderloin pieces were very thin and the cream sauce is made with brandy and I'm definitely thinking there was some garlic in there as well. There were also mushrooms in the sauce. It was served with a few red potatoes cooked very nicely and some green beans (a little underdone for my taste).

We knew the bill had to be $35 so we had tried to plan ahead and wanted to save room for dessert. They had a lot of offerings but we chose the apple tart with vanilla gelato. It was pretty darned good! I liked the puff pastry and my friend liked the middle (I thought the apples weren't done enough). The gelato was definitely the best party though - it is homemade and has a very rich vanilla flavor!

Overall, the meal wasn't too die for - but we did enjoy it. The selections were unique and the quality was there. The portion sizes were solid as well. The standouts were definitely the chicken zucchini pasta meal ($12!) and the gelato - yowza!

Cafe Bella is also "mediterranean" - so for dessert for example - they also had baklava and hummus is an appetizer choice
. We stuck to the italian side for the most part - but I'm sure the other is good as well.

Overall - we went over our $35 by quite a bit - the drinks are pricey ($9 for a martini). But I'd say for the pasta special - it's a great deal. I don't know that I'll be back just because there are a lot of other places I like just as well closer to my neighborhood - but I'd recommend to people in the Mason area.

I'm gonna be quirky and say 2.75's a nice place but maybe a little expensive for the overall appeal. But I did like it and the food was tasty - I think I'm getting stingier with my ratings ;-)

Cafe Bella
5948 Snider Rd. (@ Tylersville Rd)
Mason, OH 45040

Cafe Bella on Urbanspoon

Top Chef Night 2 - Spoiler Alert

This will be a shorter blog than the first one - cuz I'm tired and just got home from the 18th Supper Club!!! What a fun time!!!!! Well - until we left - we got pulled over right out front of the door of the party! Ugh - mortified! We went the wrong way on a one way - it's OTR and I had no idea...But Supper Club - fun time, great food, even better company!

Okay - Top Chef - Rhadika "Cincinnati Girl #2" wins the hot dog challenge!!!! They had to make hot dogs - like MAKE them! I wouldn't even know where to begin!!!! There seemed to be some good ones!!!

Now they have to create a "New American" lunch menu...Surfer boy steps up and organizes the group - thank goodness! There's an appetizer group, entree group and dessert group. Observations:

* Fabio is hot - that voice.
* Ostrich eggs - WTF? That's a big ass egg!
* "I'm not a baker" - then why are you in the dessert group????
* Wow - cooking at Craft! NICE!
* Judges are NY Chefs that didn't make the show - MUWAHAHAHAHA!
* Fabio needs a tan - where's Tanlicious from Project Runway?
* WTF was he talking about olives?
* Bitter chefs with a big old side of bitter butter!
* That lady looks like Beeker

* Fabio and his olives are different
* I want the spoon cornbread
* Chocolate wontons = yummm
* Avocado mousse = blech
* Fabio is an idiot! He sounds like Borat...
* "I just wanted to celebrate the season" - what a bunch of hooey!
* So were they olives or not?
* Hosea and his bad crab
* Ariane and that overly sweet crap
* Padma spits...hahahaha
* Jill and her crappe quiche
* As my friend said, "Jill swallowed a big bucket of duh"

Damn - Jill and her crappe quiche got the boot! I thought for sure Ariane would get das boot!

So back to Supper Club - what a fun time!!!! I really enjoyed it - I hope all the folks that were there stop by my blog and say hi!