Chili Showdown & Giveaway Winner

I had a poll on my site asking your favorite Chili.There's a new blog in town - Cincinnati Coney Quest and they inspired it. With my poll - I had readers choose their favorite and I will then visit the top 2 vote getters and have a side by side taste-off and tell you all about it.

The poll results are in and your two favorite chili vendors here in the 'Nati are:

Yeah - not really any surprise there. Skyline walloped the competition but second place was very very close. Goldstar edged out Dixie & Camp Washington by just 1 vote!

So - in the next couple of weeks - I'll grab some Skyline & Goldstar to go and see how they stand up in a side by side competition. I've actually always wanted to do this and see which I really liked better. I always was a Skyline girl and Larry is a Goldstar guy - so let's see what we think after tasting them together!

Also as promised - the GIVEAWAY winner! 

Star Lanes on the Levee was kind enough to pass along free bowling for me to give away on my site.And congratualations go out to


I'll be emailing phunkykell - and I'm dying to find out if its meant to be: 


or something else entirely!  

More blogs to come this week...and hopefully more giveaways down the road as well. 

Happy Holidays from the Food Hussy!

Woohoo P-Ridge!

I have to do a quickie blog today to share some great news for my neighborhood, Pleasant Ridge!

Recently the Cincinnati City Council approved a community-led proposal to designate Pleasant Ridge as a Community Entertainment District. This is a city and statewide designation. Ohio’s Community Entertainment District designation was designed (among other things) as a revitalization tool that allows a community new liquor licenses within designated boundaries. Basically - it can save a business owner thousands of dollars which will hopefully entice them to start their business in our neighborhood. 

There are 3 other CED's in Hamilton County - but those are all associated with new development. This is the first to be established in a current neighborhood. 

We already have great dining options in Pleasant Ridge:
Hopefully - this designation will open the door for even more! 

And if you're not familiar with where Pleasant Ridge is - it's SO easy to get to. It's off the Ridge exit on I-71 or if you're familiar with Montgomery Road - it's between Norwood and Kenwood.

The location factor is actually why I bought my house there. I lived in Hyde Park/Mt. Lookout my first two years in Cincinnati and while nice - it was soooo expensive! I'm going to pick on some friends here - but they bought a house in East Hyde Park that is a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom with no garage or driveway for $210K. I bought my 5 bedroom, 2 bathroom home with a 2 car (tandem) garage for $147K! And how far am I from them? SEVEN minutes! I'll drive that to save $60K! Well that and I couldn't afford $210K...

So yeah for Pleasant Ridge! And if you haven't been - make sure to stop by and check out the current restaurants and keep your eye out for even more!

Ben-Gals, Bowling and Bon Appetit! (and a GIVEAWAY!)

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to Star Lanes at Newport on the Levee for a private (and free) tasting of their new menu.

Star Lanes is connected to Toro - the nightclub with the mechanical bull - and is in the spot that used to house Cafe Istanbul. The Levee is decorated for the holidays and looked really nice.

Our night was hosted by the manager Brooke - who happens to be a Ben-Gal! She was extremely nice and friendly as well as helpful throughout the whole night. Above is a shot from Brooke's weekend gig courtesy of the Bengals website.

Along with the free food we were about to be showered with - we got to bowl free too! Don't you love bowling shoes - I always want to steal a pair. But...I refrained.

Star Lanes definitely doesn't feel like any bowling alley I've ever been to. But it is pretty new - so that helps. It's high-tech and sleek with leather sofas and hip little stools for extra seating, new balls, etc... It's very nice and clean - which is saying a lot for a bowling alley.

The night started out great on the bowling side for me - look - 2 strikes!!!! (didn't last - Larry kicked my ass)

There's the hubby - with his perfect form. Ugh - stupid boys. 

First up - mozzerella sticks ($5). These are pretty standard but were recently added to be more family-friendly. They were fine - nothing special here - but good.

Brooke shared with us their new signature item menu - all the items are $9.99 and made to be shared with HUGE portions. There are quite a few options here as well - we were going to be trying the Fish & Chips.

We were barraged with food and she prepared us for this - so we just tasted a few bites of everything and then went home with a STACK of to-go boxes. 

They have 6 options for mini-burgers - all are $3.50 each (comes with fries - can get 2 for $6.50 or 3 for $8.50). I wanted to try the tuna burger - it's crusted with cracked pepper and has a wasabi aioli. We tried the sweet potato fries.

This is a meal in itself with a plentiful helping of the sp fries. The fries were a little overdone as was the tuna. I guess I shouldn't expect perfection from a bowling alley. I have to say I like that they had tuna as an option though - it's unique.

Next up were the Chicken Pillows ($7) - chicken dumplings with teriyaki sauce and served with a sweet chili sauce. They're like potstickers and are steamed. I have never had anything like this before (sheltered life maybe) but I liked them a lot! The sauces definitely made the dish but the filling was surprisingly tasty as well.

Most of the times things like this are filled with what my best friend growing up called "monkey meat" - some unidentifiable meat substance that  you just eat without asking questions. This had chicken and you knew it! Yeah!

Next up was my favorite dish of the night - Tomato & Cheese Smores ($5.50). Toasted sandwiches with fresh basil, roasted tomatoes and melted fresh mozzerella. I pretty much wanted to polish off the plate - but knew the rest of the food was coming - it killed me to not eat them all. We didn't pack them up as reheating probably wouldn't be so good. But these were REALLY great! I'll definitely be getting these again.

Next up was a Tomato & Basil Pizza ($5). The pizza was pretty good - nothing special here but a good price for $5. They also have numerous specials - like $2 Tuesday where pizzas are $2 (after 9pm) and during happy hour the cheese or pepperoni pizzas are only $2.

We also got to try the Soft Pretzel Dippers ($4.50) - we had nearly the same dish at Smokey Bones last holiday season. These were better because they were salty! (I love salt) The sauces were queso, honey mustard and herbed butter - all good but the queso was the best match with the salt.

Here was our Family Style Fish & Chips ($9.99). This is a TON of food for ten bucks - 6 fish pieces and fries. Holy cow! The fish was good too - we really enjoyed it and definitely took the leftovers home. Larry already said that next time - we're getting this and the sundae (scroll down) to share while we bowl. What a great deal - I mean $10 and it's sharable - I'm not just saying this because our night was free so I feel like  I have to - this is a really fantastic deal!

And because I'm a dork - here's a picture of the floor with the lights on...

And now - with the lights off! It's hard to see but the pattern on the floor is funky and shows up under the black light. 

Brooke also sent out their Grilled Chicken Spinach Salad ($8) which I must have forgotten to take a picture of. She said she lives on this salad - and it was good. The dressing is a light raspberry vinaigrette and it has grilled chicken, almonds, dried cranberries and GOAT CHEESE! Can't go wrong there. The chicken was really dry - but the salad was good. 

Last up was dessert - we totally were stuffed by this point but Brooke kept telling me I had to try the Chocolate Layer Cake ($6 - like a skinny Ben-Gal eats cake?!)

This cake seriously is huge - I definitely took 90% of this home. My friend Lou would probably like this - it's a simple chocolate cake - nothing fancy - no fruit, etc... It was pretty good - but kinda dry. I mean - for a big ass huge piece of cake - it's good and the ice cream is great. My friend Danielle - who is tiny and athletic - would also love this - she has a secret "dessert pocket" that she is always filling up!

And since they didn't want to leave Larry out - they sent him the Big "Bull" Sundae ($5). Five scoops of ice cream along with a whole lot of other crap! We felt bad because he couldn't even make a dent in it from all the previous items...but he definitely wants to tackle it on our next visit.

Why Should You Go? Let me start by saying - yes - our night of fun was free (we did tip our staff obviously - they were running stuff out all night!) - but I'm an objective hussy - so you know - I always tell it like it is.

We really enjoyed our night at Star Lanes and will definitely be back. Is the food earth-shattering? Well no - but it is good? Better than average I'd say for "bar food". The staff was super-friendly and the bowling isn't that expensive. They have lots of specials - so check their promo page for something that works in your schedule (Mommy & Me, Girls Night Out, etc...) They also did have some stand out items (smores & fish) that will get us back in the door.

Brooke did say that Sat/Sun afternoons are their most affordable times with games being $2 each and shoes $3 (I think that's what it was) - so you can bowl a couple of games for like $10 per person.

So yeah - I really enjoyed Star Lanes and we'll definitely be back.

Giveaway Time!!!! 

They gave me a pair of passes good for a free game of bowling and free shoe rental. Since most people will go with someone - we'll give these away to one person. These are only good Sunday-Thursday and not good for the month of December - so you'll have to hold onto them until January to use them. But enjoy!

How to Enter:

Post a comment below on why you like bowling or why you don't like bowling - yeah that's it! Be sure to leave a way to contact you (twitter or email) and I'll pick a winner next Tuesday!

Good Luck and Happy Thanksgiving! 

Star Lanes on Urbanspoon

Quick update on Poll Results - FAVORITE ETHNIC RESTAURANT

I'm loving the Poll tool on Blogger...went to Jean Robert's Table & Arthurs, found out I need to go to Pit to Plate and now found out my reader's favorite ethnic food. It was a very close race so I extended the poll  but here you go:

1. Ambar/Baba India - I grouped them since the menu is the same and they're the same family
2. TIE: Riverside Korean & La Mexicana

All great choices! The rest of the nominees didn't even come close...

So if you are up for something new and haven't tried those folks - I highly suggest it!

More reviews to come this week and I'm smelling a GIVEAWAY!

Wok it out...

Finally decided to make a return visit to Oriental Wok here in Ft Mitchell for lunch with coworkers. I went to the Wok in Hyde Park for dinner last Christmas...but since moving my work life back to NKY haven't made it across the street for another visit. Folks here think it's pricey.

I chose the Szechuan Green Beans & Chicken ($8.50) from their lunch menu. It was fine - not that flavorful and nothing came with it (egg roll, etc...). I realize that I had something Szechuan from PF Changs that I loved and no other Szechuan is ever that good - it probably isn't very authentic and thus I just have to go back there to get it.

Service was pretty bad on this day - which is odd - it's a GIANT place and they weren't that crazy busy. And by service I just mean - the time it took to get seated, get orders in, etc... The actual server and staff were very friendly (always are).

Why Should You Go? If you're looking for Chinese and don't want the buffet - it's a great option. I like Suzie Wong's or the throngs of Thai offerings for that style of food more - but again - it's a good choice. Re: price - for a sit down lunch - it's about as pricey as anything is but I guess the portion sizes might be a bit smaller than some other places.

Oriental Wok on Urbanspoon

Ugh...thank God they didn't hula hoop

I'm in kind of a crappy mood - so I figure it's a good day to write a crappy review. Yes - right off the bat - I didn't like it. What didn't I like?

Here's the one thing that was nice - the view. They have a great deck. It was too cold for us this day - but it is a great view.

I didn't choose to go here - but coworkers did so I thought I'd give it a whirl for the sake of the blog. There are no shots of the "girls" - didn't feel it was necessary and didn't want to be a creepy person photographing them either. Their scrunchy socks do amaze me. Thankfully there was no hula hooping or things of that nature. 

Curly fries with cheese dip - nothing to write home about. No seasoning, nacho cheese velveeta, bleh. 

I got an order of boneless wings with mild sauce - wasn't sure how hot anything was. It was fried chicken tenders with about 2 drops of sauce on the bottom of the dish.

The chicken was fine - for fried chicken pieces. There was no flavor on them at all. And there wasn't even enough sauce to dip them in. I tried rolling them around - nope. Then I asked for a side of medium sauce - since the mild was like orange water. That made it worse. They brought me a cup of gloppy "sauce" about the consistency of peanut butter and it tasted like it might have gone bad. It definitely wasn't pourable. I tried 2 bites with that and left it.

I've heard for YEARS about their wings - maybe the problem is that I got the boneless - but I was not impressed at all. Kind of repulsed actually.

A coworker got the Grilled Chicken Pasta Salad and really enjoyed it. She said it's what she always gets. It looked fine and she loves it.

Another coworker got the fried pickles - they're chips not spears - and they were pretty good.

Why Should You Go? Don't - unless you like boobs.

You know Hooters has an owl - we decided we should start a chain called Cocks with a big rooster for the mascot. What do ya think? Anybody with me. I think it's a gold mine! 

Hooters on Urbanspoon

Brewberry Breakfast!

I was headed to work the "back way" via Dixie Highway and was starving! STAR. VING. There aren't any junk fast food places on this route and then I spotted Brewberry Coffee (corner of Dixie & Buttermilk) and thought - they must have SOMETHING to eat!

And they did! 

First I spotted cupcakes - and who doesn't love cupcakes. This was going to be my breakfast - healthy right?

But then I saw this! A giant cinnamon roll! w00t!

Decisions, decisions! So I got both!

The cupcake was good - not decadent or amazing like Abby Girl - but a nice afternoon treat. The cinnamon roll was really great and I'd definitely get that again.

They also have lunch offerings - not much - but I think it was chicken salad and a bag of chips or something like that. Just a couple choices - but still something different! I'll have to get out and try that too.

Why Should You Go? Well - I'm not a coffee drinker - but they have that too. It's a very cute little shop and I love finding these hidden spots. Plus the cinnamon roll kicked ass.

Brewberry Coffee on Urbanspoon

Forgotten review

You see - I upload pictures in batches each week - then I write the reviews every day or two and sometimes with this process - I miss one. Tragedy! So here's an old review I forgot to write - I do actually remember it fairly well - mainly because it was on a road trip.

The Beef House! We were heading back home earlier this year and were starving. In my quest to never eat a chain on a road trip - we came across the Beef House. How can you go wrong there?

It's in Covington, Indiana - which is really in the middle of nowhere off I-74. It's midway between Indianapolis & Champaign, IL if that helps. 

It was a Sunday and they had a buffet - we were starving so we went for it. I was completely ill now that I'm thinking back so I went for all mushy comfort foods. I can't remember why I was sick - but I was down for the count.

See - mashed potatoes and casserole - mushy comfort foods. I remember the rolls were fantastic! The corn was really good too - might have been from a local source rather than a can. The casserole was something with chicken and it was awful - like I only ate 2 bites AWFUL!

Larry was fine with what he got - but not too impressed.

They also had about a hundred pieces of pie up for dessert - and even when I'm sick - I'll eat dessert! I should have just had this! No idea what the name of it was - but chocolate, coconut and sweet topping - how can you go wrong?

Why Should You Go? Probably shouldn't. It's 3 hours away and wasn't that good - plus it was like $20 each for the buffet! See - even though it was a while back - I remember things. It was an old people joint - but just not that good. Homers on Reading is much better and closer!

Beef House on Urbanspoon

Fantastic Freestore Lunch!

I'm a big fan of the Freestore Foodbank in OTR - obviously they do amazing work - but I never knew HOW MUCH amazing work they do!

A couple of weeks ago they held a contest asking folks to submit recipes that make up meals for one person for one day for less than $4.50. After a little Twitter banter back-and-forth I decided I had to enter!

My recipes weren't that original - egg & toast for breakfast, salad with chicken breast for lunch and a shepherd's pie for dinner - but I won!

So what did I win? I won lunch provided by their Cincinnati Cooks group and a Cincinnati Cooks apron! For lunch I was allowed to bring friends so I grabbed a coworker and Twitricia who is a Food Hussy reader and friend!

First we got a tour of the facilities and wow - we learned a lot! They used to be in an old building by Taft High School and this site was something else entirely. The owner of the building on this space donated the building and the new facility was built for Freestore Foodbank with Cincinnati Cooks in mind.

The kitchen is state-of-the-art and has all the accouterments to make meals for hundreds! The Cincinnati Cooks program is a 10-week program that costs nothing to the participants and trains them for work in the food industry. The program costs about $4500 per student but is paid for by donations and grants. It's targeted towards low-income and people re-entering the work force that may have had road blocks in their way from getting employment.

While in the kitchen we learned we were on Day 4 of the new class - but they have new classes start every 5 weeks so the new guys get the benefit of the pros. Also - there are numerous former students that have come back to help out and teach all the new participants.

Cincinnati Cooks has a 78% graduation rate and I hear the graduation ceremonies are very emotional! The program is like a job to the participants - if they're late - they could lose their job - so they all take it very seriously.

There are also partnerships at every corner - we spotted P&G in the building. They're providing the sanitation products which also teaches the students about the proper way to handle food, prep, etc...

Everyday these folks cook up hundreds of meals for kids around the Cincinnati area. If you haven't heard of the Kids Cafe - check out their page! There are 19 sites around the area and they provide free hot meals after school to kids who might not get that anywhere else. Hard to imagine going to school and not having eaten - but it happens - it's reality. Where does all the food come from? Cincinnati Cooks makes it all every day! Great work being done for kids - really - the Freestore Foodbank amazed me at every turn. It just kept getting better and we hadn't even eaten our lunch yet! 

Okay - finally - the food! First we got a really huge salad - all the folks that are in the CC program eat there too - so there were quite a few salads ready to go. Good stuff!

Then - as we could smell - it was pizza day! All of the participants get to make "normal" pizzas for the kids but then they also get the opportunity to be creative and make unique pizzas for each other and the visitors.

And here's the thing - did you know you can go to CC and have lunch anytime?! Yeah - if you'd like to help get the word out about CC - call them and set up a day/time to have lunch - they're more than happy to show you around and you get great food.

Just contact my twitter friend AnnaGoBlue - she works there now! It was great putting a face to the tweets...! 

After the grand tour and a million questions - we sat down for some pizza. Anna was preparing us that it was only Day 4 - so some of it might be a bit unusual! The students get excited about having some we were prepared for anything!

One pizza (on the left) had tomato sauce, ricotta, spinach and POTATOES! Not sure who thought to put potatoes on the pizza - but it worked! It was excellent!

The pizza to the right was carmelized onions, ricotta and BUTTERNUT SQUASH! Again - very unique and while I was a fan of the potato pizza - all the girls loved the squash pizza. Every one of them said they were going to try that at home.

Freestore is just an amazing place and I really enjoyed finding out about it. And I can't forget to tell you - Cincinnati Cooks does catering! Every office in town uses a caterer sometime during the year - make sure you let the people in charge know about this service. How much better would it feel to eat your catered box lunch and know that you're helping people change their lives? They do weddings, parties, box lunches, etc... and the food looks fantastic! Take a look at their menu - cuz I'm salivating just thinking about it!

What a fantastic contest to win? I got an apron, pizza and a brainful of knowledge about a fantastic program. Thanks so much to Twitricia, AnnaGoBlue and the Freestore Foodbank!

Finally went to Andy's...ho-hum

A long time back I'd won a $25 gift certificate from the Greater Cincinnati Independents to Andy's Mediterranean Grille. I finally got the chance to use it!

Andy's is in Walnut Hills and pretty easy to find - even for the directionally challenged like me. 

We started out with Labneh ($7). I've only been to Andy's once before and this was all I remembered. It's really like a bowl of sour cream with olive oil, garlic and spices. The fresh pita were fine - but not my favorite. They're kinda dry and flavorless but thankfully warm.

I spotted something called a Lebanese Car Bomb ($8) on the menu. Larry is far more adventurous than I am and agreed to try it. It's a glass of Almaza (Lebanese pilsner) and then served with a shot of Arak. Arak is the Lebanese equivolent of licorice-flavored gasoline. One whif was enough for me. Larry managed to sip on this throughout dinner but it wasn't too good.

He liked it solely because there was action involved - here is dropping the shot in the glass. GAK!

Larry got the Filet Tip Saute ($18) and asked for light onions (waitress said it's HEAVY on the onions). It's steak tips, onions & mushrooms in a red wine sauce. It was okay. The sauce was good but there wasn't enough of it. The steak tips were overdone and dry.

On my one trip to Andy's, I thought everything was really dry so this time I specifically asked the waitress what was NOT dry. I was kinda hoping for some sauce - but she directed me to the Lamb Shish Kharouf ($20). She said she typically dips whatever she gets in labneh (smart cookie) but she's had customers rave about the lamb dish and that it's never dry.

She was right! It wasn't a bit dry - and the lamb was cooked perfectly and was moist and juicy. Far better than Larry's poor steak tips!

The rice was fine but I have to ask - what's with the 2 pickles and a tomato wedge? Seems like the oddest garnish for a Mediterranean meal?

We made sure to only eat half of our entrees so that Larry would have leftovers and I would have room for baklava ($3.50). It was okay - the bottom crust was pretty tough and kind of impossible to cut with a fork.

I do want to mention service was great and Andy was walking around chatting it up with diners - he's definitely got to be a big reason why the restaurant is successful.

Why Should You Go? I hate to say it - but I wouldn't. Cafe Mediterranean in Anderson is far better and more affordable. The labneh is excellent - but again - how bad can a bowl of sour cream ever be? The lamb was also good - but $20 seems a bit steep. The lamb was good but the rice was bland and I'm not paying $20 for the rice! Andy's has a big following it just isn't my favorite. We were hoping for some belly dancers since we were there on a Friday but didn't get those either - maybe we were too early.

Andy's Mediterranean Grille on Urbanspoon