Friday, January 29, 2010

Cupcakes Downtown? Yeeha!

I know I need to lose some weight. I just suck at it. And you know what - Abby Girl Sweets isn't going to help! They just opened in downtown Cincinnati a few blocks from where I work (next to Hilton). Argh! But um - yum too!

The decor is cute - I love pink & brown. My bedroom is this same color pink. It's like pepto bismol exploded and I love it.

There's a cute story too behind the stop too - Grandma works in the store and I think the actual Abby is her great-granddaughter (or granddaughter - not quite sure). Then Abby's mom & dad are the rest of the biz! Nathan is the baker and Andrea is the decorator. So not only is this local - it's all in the family - and that's just sweet.

The window has "cupcakes" galore but we're told you can't eat them. They're just made to look pretty.

There are a lot of wonderful options depending on the day you go: chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, carrot cake, banana, peanut butter, double trouble (like a hostess cupcake with filling & the white swirlies), red velvet, etc... They all look and smell great.

On my second visit (skipping ahead) I had to try the chocolate with vanilla buttercream shown above. It smelled soooooo good and just looked amazingly moist. And it was. The cupcake was really my favorite part and usually I'm an icing girl. The cake was so moist and chocolatey - it was bliss. The icing was fine - very buttercreamy but I kinda wished for more cupcake! That's just not like me!

On my first visit I tried their specialty - the Strawberry Delight - made with real strawberries. Again - the cupcake itself was delicious and moist and amazing. The icing was fine...but just like with my 2nd visit - the cake really got me!

Side note - friend tried the vanilla and said it was fine - but also said that my strawberry was much better. So I'd say - hit up the flavored cupcakes and for a change - pick the one with the LEAST amount of icing...

Cupcakes are $2.75 each or $2.50 if you buy 6 or more...they also have mini cupcakes and special flavors all the time.

Why Should You Go? It's downtown, it's a family-run business and you won't find a moister cupcake in all of Cincinnati!

Abby Girl Sweets on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hungry for Mexican food? Best Taco Salad EVER!

While I love love love La Mexicana - it's a bit too authentic for my better half. Actually I haven't taken him - but I know him pretty well and the goat on the menu - well it might scare him away.

So when I want Mexican - we head to Rio Grande in Newport - it's near the Remke and all the other stuff right off 471.

It's an unassuming strip mall location but boy does it deliver. The parking lot is ALWAYS full!

You're quickly greeted with chips & salsa - fresh and delicious. The chips were warm this day and I scarfed a ton of them.

I don't even need a menu - I always get the same thing. I get the Fajita Taco Salad...it's like a big ass taco. Seriously - click the picture - it's giant! Yeah yeah yeah - all that cheese and sour cream is bad for me - I know - but once every couple months - I NEED IT! The shell is crispy and delicious as well. I don't know why but the taco shell shape is so much better than the bowl shape. No real explanation - it just is!

I went for Fajita Chicken - typically I'm a steak girl but just felt like chicken this day. It did not disappoint. And yeah - it's too much food - but I ate it all. This is a meal for a no-breakfast day.

Larry got the same thing but with ground beef - he loved it. And the food came out in about 5 minutes - and since it's a lunch special - we got out of there with 2 sodas for like $15 or something ridiculous like that.

Why Should You Go: Duh - cuz it's awesome.

Rio Grande Mexican on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cincy Chic Cooking Series: Italian!

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to attend the first of the Cincy Chic Cooking Series by their Editor Amy Scalia. For full disclosure - our attendance (me and BF) was free (normally $30 each) but I'm not one to tell you I loved something if I didn't just because it was free...so read on!

The classes are at the Party Source in NKY in their EQ area. Our tables were set with a hand out of the recipes as well as Cincy Chic info. I've been to one class at PS before and they do a phenomenal job - you're never disappointed!

We started off with a Limoncello - which in layman's terms means - a strong ass lemon drink. Honestly it was too strong for me...burned going down. One sip was enough - but if you like everclear and lemon - it's the drink for you!

Here's a "classroom" shot - we all had either a two-top or a seat right at the stove - those are fun but have a bit of obstructed view unless you're in the middle. The crowd was all women - except my BF - what a good sport he is!

Shortly after the drink was a loaf of freshly baked bread and soft butter (yeah!). It was delicious and yeah - I ate the whole damn loaf. I'm telling you now - for $30 - this is a full meal and an education!
Here are Chef Jay and Chef Phillipe warming up the crowd for the upcoming class. It was Italian night - taught by a Frenchman!

One of the user-friendly aspects of the class are the tvs set up above the chef's work area. They give everyone a good view of the cooking as it's happening. It's great for when they're chopping or discussing consistency of a dish.

First up for the recipes was a Parmesan Cannoli. It was delicious! It's a bit different when you're used to a cannoli being sweet instead of savory - but it was very good. The sauce is a balsamic vinegar reduction. And even chefs make mistakes - Chef Phillipe had to redo his reduction - glad to know I'm not the only one that screws up in the kitchen now and again.

Here also is where I want to mention how accommodating the Party Source is. The lady next to us was discussing with one of the Chefs that she had an egg allergy. There were eggs in the cannoli shell shown above and in the tiramisu later. After hearing them talk - I piped up about BF's allergy. We all had a good laugh that two egg allergies were sitting next to each other in a class of 26! Party Source went above and beyond in helping with this. For this dish, they provided crackers instead of the cannoli and later they actually made a separate dessert for our table neighbor and my BF. So YEAH PARTY SOURCE for dealing with allergy issues!

Next up was a 5-herb pesto. This was my favorite of the night. The main reason being I could (and will) actually make this at home! It was that simple! BF even commented "Hey - I could do that!"

All dishes were served with accompanying wines - I'm not big on red wines - so I tasted quickly and moved on. Am I a bad foodie because of my dislike of red wine? Oh well...that's just me! Party Source also provided the name, price and aisle of where we could find each bottle of wine - big help for those that wanted to go purchase. All were under $10!

Next up was the complex dish for the evening - mushroom risotto and veal marsala. The risotto was perfect - and they used morels which I've only had the pleasure of tasting once before! I'm definitely putting "mushroom hunting" on the to-do list for the summer! Often times risotto is sticky or chewy or just not good - but this was light and cooked really well. It's a complex dish that takes quite a bit of work but man was it good!

The veal Marsala - again new to me - I've never had veal and am a little wary since I love animals...but we won't get on a soap box now cuz I have to say - it was damn tasty! The veal was very thin strips and cooked perfectly. To my surprise the Marsala was actually a fairly light sauce - I've typically had these thick dark brown Marsala dishes at Italian restaurants and this was nothing like that. Definitely changed my mind to this dish!

We also got tips and hints throughout the entire two-hour class. Chef Phillipe was so helpful - answering questions and just providing his knowledge. My favorite tidbit was in reference to wooden cutting boards: "Don't go to Home Depot and buy a piece of plywood." Sage advice my friend...sage advice. But seriously - he was very helpful and knowledgeable.

First up for dessert was the egg allergy dish - apples and bourbon. BF gave me a taste and it was really good - sweet with a definite bourbon bite and the whipped cream was a great little creamy addition.

Chef Phillipe made tiramisu for the rest of us. And again - blew me out of the water. Honestly - I hate coffee - so I typically can barely stomach this dessert but this was great! (I know - I hate coffee and wine - what kind of foodie am I?) This had such a light coffee flavor and was so creamy and delicious - I wished they'd brought one out for the BF so I could have eaten his too!

Here's a look inside the dish so you can see all layers - delicious!

Our neighboring egg allergy table had a couple of comments after the class - one was great for me - she said she only went because of my blog! She'd never heard of Cincy Chic before and this was her first event! w00t! And that they'd definitely be back!

Her allergic friend said she's lived in big cities and expects this kind of quality and education in a place like Chicago or New York - but Cincinnati? She was extremely surprised and pleased at the entire event!

Also - I drug the BF to another cooking class somewhere else earlier last week and he hated it. It was boring, the instructor wasn't very smooth and there wasn't even enough seating for people (the class was free - fyi). He was NOT looking forward to this one. But by the time it was over he went up to Chef Phillipe on his own and said, "YOU CHANGED MY MIND ABOUT COOKING CLASSES!" So - for all you ladies out there - take your husbands, boyfriends or whoevers... Maybe they'll end up cooking for you!!!!

Why Should You Go? Whole-heartedly I can say a big thumbs up to the Cincy Chic Cooking Series and the Party Source EQ classes. I really can't wait to go to more... The class was fun and $30 for a full belly and a night of culinary education, tips and tricks - it's a good deal!

There are more classes to come and you can find the menus and registration links on Cincy Chic's site. Mexican night has me drooling already!

The Party Source on Urbanspoon

Limoncello on FoodistaLimoncello

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Good Chinese in Cincinnati? Um yeah!!!!

There's a spot in East Walnut Hills that has been a revolving door for restaurants - you know - right on Madison by the big church. Well I finally got on the upswing and hit the place BEFORE it closed - and I think this place might beat the curse! Last week a group of us went to Suzie Wong's on Madison...let's eat some Chinese!!!

Sorry the picture is bad - it was night and I'm short...but it's on the corner - go through O'Bryonville on Madison and you're there.

Fire Cracker Calamari - $5.95

Okay - I can confidently say - this is the best calamari I've ever had! Normally it's got a thick ass breading and is served with marinara and is just like fried balls of breading with some chewy stuff inside. Not this calamari. It was excellent. The breading was light and flavorful and the spicy Thai pomegranate dipping sauce was delicious and a perfect light compliment. I offered to share this dish but I think my growling anytime they put a fork near it might have deterred them.

Laub Gai (basically lettuce wraps with minced chicken) - $6.95

I didn't get to try this and sorry for pic - sometimes flash is too bright sometimes no flash is too dark - I do the best I can. My friends enjoyed and I think Ron growled a little as I did with my calamari!

Bi Bim Bap - $10.95

For those of you not familiar - Bi Bim Bap (see Foodista link at bottom) is just awesome. It's actually a Korean dish with rice, beef, veggies, egg and chili paste - often times in a stone bowl. The stone bowl makes the rice crispy. You break the fried egg on top - pour the chili paste in - mix mix mix!!!! Above is the "before" of how it's served and below is the "after" it's mixed.

This was really really good. Sunny Deli downtown has a great non-stone bowl version on Wednesdays for lunch...but for a stone bowl version - this is tops! The rice got crispy and everything mixed together so well. The chili paste wasn't too spicy either. I enjoyed this dish very much...and the price isn't too bad either!

Korean Kalbi - beef ribs marinated in soy sesame with onions & mushrooms - $15.95

The one disappointment of the evening. Onions and mushrooms aren't that great - maybe throw some more veggies in. Also - the beef ribs were sort of cut the odd way so each piece had very little meat on it and it seemed a bit fatty. Disappointing especially since it was priciest thing we ordered.

Malaysian Chicken in a Clay Pot - $12.95

I'm not a fan of curry - (this is chicken & veggies in a Malaysian yellow curry) but I tried a bite and it was good. I was actually pretty impressed and so was my friend - he polished off the whole bowl!

Thai Pomegranate Grilled Chicken - $12.95

This dish is pretty self-explanatory - seems it has the same sauce as I had with my calamari. I tried a bite and it was okay - chicken was a bit dry but my friend enjoyed it very much and the Kalbi friend wished he'd gotten this instead!

Why Should You Go? Overall - what a great meal and at around $35 for two (1 appetizer, 2 entrees) - it's a good deal! They do not have their liquor license so bring your wine ($5 corking fee). The prices are moderate and the decor and atmosphere is great. Service was a little slow but the server let us know someone called in sick and she was sort of on her own that night. I just love that it's real Chinese for an affordable price (with some Korean/Thai thrown in for good measure). I have to say - I liked it better than the other, more traditional Chinese place just up the street...

Final note - I think Suzie Wong's might beat the curse and actually stay open in this spot. Sorry Seny - I really wanted to try you!

Suzie Wong's on Madison on Urbanspoon

Bi Bim Bap on FoodistaBi Bim Bap

Monday, January 18, 2010

Mac & Cheese Monday! How can you not be in?

My fantastic coworker shared with me that there's a place just over the bridge that has Mac & Cheese Mondays - so I had to check it out. Off to Keystone Bar & Grill I went!

It's on Greenup - right across from Greenup Cafe & Chalk...looks like a plain old sports bar from the outside. There is ample metered street parking within a block so its easy to go for a quick lunch. Inside - it's really nice! Doesn't look like it's been beat up by the drinkers like the places in Mainstrasse.

Buffalo Chicken Wrap - grilled chicken tossed in buffalo sauce with shredded lettuce, Cheddar/Jack cheese, tomato and onion wrapped in a jalapeno-cheddar tortilla served with ranch or homemade bleu cheese dressing

There was a little menu confusion as my dining friend got an old menu that had hoagies on it...but all was resolved and he got the Buffalo Chicken Wrap instead. He thought it was fine but nothing special - I had a bite and actually really liked it! The chips are the good old saratoga chips (they call them Keystone Chips) and they were also tasty but maybe a little overdone.

I had to get Mac & Cheese - it's half-price on Mondays. There are 10 different kinds - I chose the Fleetwood Mac with fresh mozzerella, pesto and tomatoes. Regular price is $6.50 but today $3.25!!!! It's a small crock and at first I didn't think it would be enough for lunch but it packs a lot of pasta so I was definitely full (after stealing a few saratoga chips!).

I'd say on a scale of 1-10 - 10 being Kraft Mac & Cheese which is still my favorite - it was a 7. The pesto didn't add much flavor but the mozzerella on top was great. Wish there had been more of the mozz & tomato mixed in.

My coworker highly recommends the Buffalo Springfield which has Buffalo Chicken & bleu cheese on top...

On the saratoga chips we had to try their homemade bbq sauce. We both really liked it - sweet but with a bit of a spicy kick! Definitely a nice addition.

Why Should You Go? Besides the specials (Tuesday is 1/2 price Quesadillas!), it's a nice clean place and the service was great. It's "bar & grill" menu but I do think they try to jazz it up a bit and have "house specialties" which I think is key for success. I'm definitely doing the Quesadillas one of these Tuesdays (they're mostly reg price of $9.99).

Keystone Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

CincyChic.com and Cooking Classes - sounds like a great combo!

Well I'm really excited about this - Cincy Chic editor Amy Scalia contacted me today and I'm getting to try out their Cincy Chic cooking class next Friday Jan 22 free of charge! I was actually planning on going to one of the series anyway - but now I can give all of you my thoughts after the class!

The timing couldn't be better - my better half isn't much of a cook - so we've been trying to take some cooking classes here and there. Now - we'll see what he thinks of it and see if he ends up cooking me dinner afterward!


If you're not familiar with Cincy Chic - its a really great online publication for the ladies of Cincinnati! They have lunch & learns and events going all the time as well as a great e-newsletter. I'm always learning a thing or two from those newsletters!

Here's more info on the cooking classes - there is one each month at the Party Source in NKY. The first class is being taught by Chef Phillippe Audax - the Executive Chef at UC. The cost is $30 and here's the Italian-inspired menu:

Greeter Cocktail: Limoncello
Parmesan Cannoli
Cognac Risotto
Trecce Dell Orto with Five-Herb Pesto
Veal Marsala
Tiramisu


I absolutely love risotto - so I can't wait to watch someone make it (it boggles me) and then try it!

Here's the 411 on the classes - and I hope some of you sign up - then you can learn great cooking tips and hang out with the Food Hussy - and really - who doesn't want to do that???

WHEN
The following Fridays:
January 22, February 19, March 19
April 16, May 14, June 18
6:30 - 8:30pm

WHERE
EQ Cooking School
95 Riviera Dr.
Bellevue, KY 41073

COST
$30 per class
Attend as few or as many as you like.
Go to http://cincychic.com/chicchef to purchase tickets. First come, first served. Seating is limited.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Hyde Park Chinese and it's not a greasy buffet!

While my mom was in town for the holiday she wanted Chinese food. Now she's from Muscatine, IA - so it's not like she has high expectations - but I just couldn't take her to a greasy Chinese buffet. Plus - I've been wanting to go to the new location of Oriental Wok for quite a while and this seemed like the perfect opportunity!

The main location is off Buttermilk Pike in NKY but in 2009 they opened in the first floor of the Regency Building at Dana & Madison in Hyde Park. We couldn't quite figure out if it was a hotel or condos - but the website tells us - condos it is! (That was my guess.)

Inside it's a little fancier than the Buttermilk Pike location - very ethnic and pretty.

First off we tried egg rolls & spring rolls - we were starving! The spring rolls were great - very light - a little oily but that's to be expected. The mustard sauce was very bitter but the sweet & sour wasn't too sweet and thick - so I liked it!

Oh great - now I have to remember what we got! Pretty sure I got Szechuan Chicken ($14) - it was REALLY spicy. I kept mixing rice and soy sauce in hoping to tame it with not a lot of success. It's from the spicy menu so duh. Lots of veggies and lots of chicken - so other than being a little too spicy for me - it was good. The sauce was more spicy than flavorful - I find that with a lot of Chinese dishes but not typically at OW. So - all in all - it was good but wouldn't reorder.

Larry got the Grilled Tilapia ($16) - he wasn't in the mood for Salmon after having the night before at McCormick & Schmicks. It seems a litte more fried than grilled but was cooked very well. It's a fairly light fish but it held together well.

Sis got Sweet & Sour Chicken ($13) - she enjoyed it although thought there was a little too much of the sauce - it was like a swimming pool in her bowl. She's also a light sauce person - so if you like a lot of sauce - it's probably about right for you. I tasted a bite of the chicken and it was juicy.

Mom, after some coaching, got Sesame Chicken ($14). I sorta forced her to branch out - she enjoyed it very much. I have to say - after trying all the dishes - it was my favorite as well. Plus - there were leftovers for the next day! It was sweet and flavorful and lots of tender juicy chicken bites!

Oh yeah - and plenty of steamed rice of course!

Why Should You Go? Well if you're looking for authentic Chinese that isn't coming out of a buffet - it's one of the few places you can go. We have a plethora of Thai & Japanese - but not that many just regular old Chinese.

Plus - if you're celebrating - it's great! They brought out the gong and sang Happy Birthday in Chinese to a couple tables of people. I've also had their flaming drink and it's good too! So it's a fun place.

Lastly - the owners are wonderful. They are warm and welcoming and I'm pretty sure the daughter is managing this location. Very very friendly folks...

Only down side? Well - it's a little pricey - and our service was a bit slow on refills, etc...

Oriental Wok  on Urbanspoon