Boxed Mac and Cheese FACE-OFF!

So when my sister was here - she and her friends decided to have a Macaroni and Cheese Face-Off! 

The contestants were: 
Velveeta Shells & Cheese

Original Kraft Macaroni & Cheese
Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Three Cheese 

Here we have the contestants after being made: 
Left: Velveeta, Top Right: Original Kraft, Bottom Right: 3 Cheese Kraft

There was a team of 4 judges: me, sister, sister's college friend Karen, Karen's French boyfriend Jocelyn. We were discerning and picky! Jocelyn was the chef and you should have seen the stove with 3 pots of cheesy noodly goodness cooking all at once! 

Velveeta: very creamy with the distinct Velveeta flavor. A little overwhelming and thick in comparison. 
Original Kraft: oh how I love the orange powder. This had the tanginess I've loved since grade school.
Three Cheese Kraft: creamy, cheesy, mild and very comforting. 

After much deliberation and much eating - the judges came to a decision: 

The verdict: Unanimously and Surprisingly - Kraft Three Cheese Macaroni! 

We were all shocked at how much we all loved the Three Cheese macaroni so much more than the others! I'd never even tried that one! But when you put it up against the other two - it stood out so much! Delish!

Obviously this isn't culinary expertise - but when you're hanging with recent college grads - it's a big feat to cook this much! I might keep doing these sometime - it was pretty fun! Any other thoughts on face off possibilities (Skyline/Goldstar, Graeters/UDF/Aglamesis, etc...)? 

ABC's of Dining - The Letter N: National Exemplar

So y'all voted for the letter N and The National Exemplar won. It's such a big fancy name - I admit - I was a little intimidated. It's in historic Mariemont - which is such a pretty neighborhood. Larry and I always joke that even in the dead of winter when our neighborhood hasn't seen a plow in a month - places like Mariemont and Indian Hill still have daisies blooming and not a speck of snow on the road. Bastards!

But aside from my bitterness, it is a great neighborhood and the restaurant is attached to the hotel on the square. We decided to go for a Sunday brunch rather than dinner for cost savings.

I love Tudor style. Every time I see a house like this - I say "I want one like that!" This is the hotel on the corner.

Even the clock is fancy.

Here's the bar - it's original. And something else I didn't know - this was actually the first First Watch. Our friend thought that was what he heard and the waiter confirmed it. Who knew?!

Sorry the pictures aren't the best - my sister changed settings so I don't have to use the flash - but sometimes the light is still low. Larry got the BLTE (sans E - $6.99) and said it was really good.

One of the guys got a burger I think...I feel bad - it's been a week and I don't remember. Sorry!

I got the Bacado omelette (bacon, avocado and melted monterey jack cheese, topped with sour cream. Served with a side of salsa. $7.99) It came with potatoes and an english muffin. It was okay. I really like omelettes and was really excited about it - but in the end - it didn't have much flavor. I liked it okay and I ate it - but nothing too outstanding here. 

Our other friend got the Sonoran Fritatta ($6.99) - and that is just fun to say. We all decided we wanted to order fritattas just to say it over and over again - FREE-TATA. What a fun word! He liked his as well.

Why Should You Go? Well our friends really enjoyed it - Larry and I both thought it was fine. I think if we were in the neighborhood again - we'd likely try Dilly Cafe since we haven't been there yet. Also - on a Sunday - it's busy - fyi. We planned on meeting at 1pm but got there 15 minutes early - and there was a 15 minute wait. (good timing!) So if you're going at a brunch-y time - plan ahead - they do NOT take reservations.

One more thing to note - while service was prompt - our server was a bit overzealous. He took everybody's plates before they were really finished. Larry hadn't even eaten his fruit yet and they snatched it away. It wasn't like we'd been there for 2 hours chatting away and using up his table - we were in and out in an hour and there wasn't a line waiting to be seated.

The National Exemplar on Urbanspoon

Sisterly Bonding in OTR

My sister was in town from South Korea and decided she wanted to take ME out for a fancy sisterly dinner - her taking ME out - this I had to see! We knew that Downtown Restaurant Week was going on and perused the menus and chose Lavomatic's.

I had been to Lavomatic but my sister hadn't been - she wasn't too familiar with OTR but if she lived here - that's probably the area she would be drawn to.

We started out by ordering the Pesto Cream Mac & Cheese as a starter - cuz we both LOVE mac & cheese. It was pretty good - not really that special - but fine.

We both went for the Restaurant Week Menu at $35 each and chose from a starter, entree and dessert.

To start with, I got the Spinach & Feta Salad - the candied nuts were good and I don't normally like Feta - but liked this. A nice salad.

Sis got the gazpacho and let me try a bite. I liked the bite I tried and I usually don't like gazpacho. This wasn't all thrown in a blender like some. She said it had way too many onions. The table next to us wasn't fond of theirs either.

Fresh focaccia bread and soft butter was brought to us as well - yum!

I originally chose the steak as my entree but the table next to us got that and it looked fairly boring. (The tables are REALLY close together.) So I changed my mind and went for the salmon with cucumber & apple, jasmine rice and a pomegranite drizzle.

I was REALLY disappointed. The salmon was dry and bland - with little to no seasoning. The apple & cucumber topping was the best part. The pomegranite drizzle was watery and flavorless. The worst was the rice - it wasn't even cooked! It was crunchy for pete's sake! I told the server and he apologized but didn't much care after that.

Sis chose the pork chop, which wasn't on the online menu, and it was DELICIOUS! It was moist and juicy and full of flavor.

I chose the creme brulee for dessert. Sub-par. The strawberry was about as unripe as you could get and the sugar coating was burned.

Sis went for the chocolate peanut butter torte and it was really great. It wasn't too rich - well it was pretty rich - I couldn't have finished it but sis hadn't had desserts in a year so she ate the whole thing!

After dinner - we hopped in the truck and headed home and in the midst of driving - we found out we had a friend along for the ride with us!

Yeah - I screeched the car to a stop and jumped out of the truck screaming while my sister poked at it with an umbrella. He didn't leave. He crawled into the emergency brake handle. We covered the opening with my purse. When we got home we called Larry and made him come out and take care of bizness!

Why Should You Go? Meh - I wouldn't. It's expensive and our meal was as inconsistent as you can get. I've tried them before and consistently find the same thing - okay food with a lot of issues.

Lavomatic on Urbanspoon

Product Review: Old El Paso Tortilla Stuffers

Sometimes brands send me things for free - but this is not one of those times. This one came out of my pocket...unfortunately.

I know - it seems like a bad idea. Nothing pre-packaged that can be eaten in 60 seconds is going to taste good - but I had my hopes. I also had coupons. So I bought a couple of packages of these Old El Paso Tortilla Stuffers. Last night I had to work late so by the time I got around to eating - it was 8pm and I was starving. I needed something quick and this fit the bill.

Now I knew that this package of pre-cooked "Mexican" would need some help. So I went to the fridge and pulled out everything I could find for toppings.

And I piled them on - goat cheese, regular cheese, sour cream and salsa (from the Farmers Market in Iowa).

Unfortunately - it didn't really help. The product was dry and there really wasn't any sauce to speak of. The meat was kinda funky as well - really dry.

So all in all - not such a great experience. I covered it with enough stuff to make it edible - but didn't really love it. I used about 1/2 the package to make 2 small tacos.

Just thought I'd share since it's a new product...have any of you tried it? Or is there another new product you've tried that was really good?

Skyline @Home and GIVEAWAY DAY!

Here's something I don't ever get the chance to do - blog while I'm eating the food! But today (last Friday actually) I'm trying the Skyline Chili shelf-stable chili spaghetti for my lunch. I work from home now - so blogging while I'm eating is so easy!

If you didn't know about this product - it JUST came out in the last couple of weeks. Skyline is really excited about the new line and sent samples to some of us bloggers so we could let you know about them.

It's like most products of it's kind - peel back the wrap a little and pop it in the microwave. Easy peasy!

I didn't have the Skyline finely shredded cheese on hand - but I did have some other shredded cheddar so I topped it with that. After 90 seconds - the chili spaghetti was hot & bubbly with the familiar Skyline smell filling my kitchen.

How's it taste? Pretty good! It's a little spicier than I've ever noticed in the restaurant. With this version - the chili & spaghetti are mixed together - which I never do (I was told you're supposed to cut the layers with your fork) - but it tastes really good and is less watery than the in-restaurant version. It also appears meatier! I think I like this better!

(nom..nom..nom..time passes)

Wow - I'm definitely full - it looks small but there's a lot food in that little bowl. Of course it would have been better with the Skyline cheese - but I really liked it! I definitely will have to pick up a couple packs for my husband - since he's not much of a cook - he'll like the convenience of it.

And now for the Giveaway!

The generous folks at Skyline are going to ship a case (6 packages) of the new chili spaghetti to one lucky Food Hussy reader! Because we're in Cincinnati and because this what we're famous for - I'm hoping to break the record for entries. Don't let me down!!! And not to worry - if you're not in Cinci - you can still win! That's the best part - Skyline Chili-Spaghetti goes in the mail!!! (So for all you 'Nati folks that have moved - you can have that taste of home too!)

Get your entry fingers ready - here are ways to enter. With each entry - leave a comment here and your contact info (twitter, email, etc...).

1. Leave a comment on this blog post - tell me if you're looking forward to trying the chili spaghetti or the plain chili (I'm saving that to make coneys!).

2. Tweet about the giveaway - be sure to mention @foodhussy and @skyline_chili (and comment here so I know you did!)

3. Facebook about the giveaway - be sure to post a link to the giveaway (and comment here so I know you did!)

4. Follow the Food Hussy blog (and comment here so I know you did!)

Multiple entries are encouraged - the more times you enter - the more chances you get to have six packages of yummy chili spaghetti on your doorstep!

Giveaway ends next Monday 8/29!

Also - wanted to add - that South Korea will by trying the Skyline as well! My sister took a package back with her for her co-teacher to try! So South Korea - welcome to the world of Skyline!

Marquee Cafe Winner & a Bad Dinner Blog

Time to giveaway the $85 gift certificate to the Marquee Cafe at Hollywood Casino in Lawrenceburg, IN! Thanks again for the mega burger experience - it was a blast. If you didn't read that one - it's a must see - the pictures were great fun!

The winner is #7 - MrJCD - I'll be emailing him and getting his info - thanks so much for all the entries! I've got some good giveaways coming - Skyline, Honey Baked Ham and more!!! 

But now - a quick pictureless blog review! 

I thought for sure I had reviewed Betta's Italian Oven in Norwood before but apparently I hadn't. Oye vay. 

I went last night for dinner with my sister before she headed back to Korea this morning - I feel horrible that THIS was her last meal. 

I ordered a bianco pizza with goat cheese, mushrooms and kalamata olives. They brought the pizza with bleu cheese. I told them it was bleu cheese. The owner came out, pulled up a chair and told me I was wrong because he KNEW it was goat cheese. Then he later said "I'm 99% sure - unless the kid made a mistake." He made a mistake - trust me. I think bleu cheese tastes like feet - goat cheese tastes like cream cheese. I know the difference. They offered to make me another pizza - I said no thanks. I was just going to eat a couple pieces of my friend's pepperoni. He insisted - so I said sure - he decided he was going to make me a special pizza. 

He made me a bianco pizza with spinach and sun-dried tomatoes. It was fine but I didn't love it either. There was NO cheese on it - and we all know I love cheese. And honestly - the bianco pizza just has too  much garlic. Funny thing is - when we were discussing the bleu vs. goat cheese - he told me that it wasn't the cheese I wasn't liking - it was the bianco "sauce" which is garlic & olive oil. He even made a face like he thought it was gross. THEN WHY MAKE ME ANOTHER PIZZA WITH IT??? 

Ugh - so onto my sister's debacle. She ordered the Filo Chicken. The chicken was dry and it was smothered (and I mean SMOTHERED) with this gravy. We all tasted it and thought it was basically sausage gravy without the sausage. You know - the thick white gravy you get at Frisch's! Seemed odd to get that at an Italian restaurant - but oh well. Well sis hated it - she scraped it all off - and was wishing she could see the menu again because she didn't remember any mention of gravy. Turns out - it was alfredo sauce???!!! That was the thickest, gloppiest, graviest alfredo I've ever seen. Not. Good. 

Our friend Lou got pizza with red sauce and sausage and pepperoni - it was fine. Their pizza is baked in the wood oven and I do like the crust and texture. But after my sis' and my food issues - we won't be back. 

Also want to note service - our server was extremely friendly and nice. None of this was his problem or fault (well except when he gave me the wrong salad dressing - ugh - it was that kind of a night). I was also a little surprised that I got charged for my pizza - I ate one piece of the first one and one piece of the second one and didn't ask for a box. 

Why Should You Go. We should have gone to Pomodori's. Nuff said. 

Betta's Italian Oven on Urbanspoon

Got a couple hours? Head to Findlay Market!

What a fun table full of deliciousness that is! We headed to Findlay Market last weekend and got lots of great stuff. Just a reminder to everyone to head down and check out all the fun local goods we have at our fingertips! We haven't been in quite a while - and after this visit - I wanna go back every week! 

We got fresh pasta salads from Fresh Table, veggies & fruit from Daisy Mae's, bread & prosciutto from Silverglades,  fresh cheese from a vendor in the side lot, fudge from J. E. Gibbs Cheese, cat & dog treats from Pet Wants, pork pinwheels from Bender Meats, a waffle from Taste of Belgium and some gelato from Dojo

It's such a fun way to spend a couple hours and be sure to take your reusable shopping bags. I found a great one at a shop in Northside - it's made out of material like an umbrella and rolls up into a tiny little log for when you're not using it! 

ABC's of Dining - The Letter M (plus a bonus V)

The letter M - well I got stuck on you for a while - like two weeks! But finally - we were scheduled for dinner with another couple and made the date night on the West Side! Maury's Tiny Cove - here we come! 

Since we're now attending church on the WS - Montana Ave is becoming quite familiar to us - this isn't too far off that. I love how everything is local on the WS. Maybe it is the best side?!

Inside - it's IDENTICAL to the Pine Club in Dayton - the layout, the dark, the colors - it's a bit eery. Must have been the "steakhouse decor" of the 70s. The tables are cool - they have a little pull out leaf on the end - I was diggin.

We started out with a bowl of bread - um awesome! And soft butter. Good start!!! The bread was delicious - very plain - but fresh, warm - when you pop it out of the bowl and tear it open - oye - that is fantastic.

Leah started off with a salad - pretty standard fair - lots of toppings - looked good!

The rest of us were ready for meat! I went for a nightly special of Chicken Saltimbocca ($23.99 I think) and a side of ribs ($8.50). The ribs seem pretty predominant on the menu and nobody else was getting them so I wanted to try them.

I chose potato fritters for my side - that's those three overcooked circles on the left. They were over-fried and not very good. Sort of cheesy inside and the burned taste wasn't good. You can just look at them and realize they were too done. I only ate 1 of 3.

The chicken had prosciutto and cheese and it was REALLY salty. I like salt - but this was SALTY!!! Overall it was just okay. I only ate one of the chicken pieces - Larry had the leftovers for breakfast. It's not like me to give up leftovers easily - but I didn't really care.

Leah got the filet mignon. She said the quality of the meat was pretty poor but it was cooked well - just not much flavor.

Here's my side of ribs and broccoli. The ribs were just okay as well - a bit overdone so a lot of the meat was hard and inedible. The sauce was  okay - I don't actually remember it (if that says anything). I only ate a couple of these as well - Larry finished these off for breakfast with the chicken. :-)

Larry got the Steak Oscar (another special - don't remember price) with crab and asparagus (no Hollandaise - allergies). He liked his a lot and it was cooked reallly well. I had a bite and though it didn't have much flavor - it was pretty good. He loved the baked sweet potato and nearly licked his plate clean.

Matt got the prime rib and it was not good. He said there was something off with the texture and he could barely eat half of it. He alerted the server and it was removed from his bill - which was appropriate and appreciated.

Why Should You Go? Well - we didn't love it. Larry was the only person that seemed to have a great dinner - and 1 out of 4 isn't great. Our server was really great and the place definitely has the West Side feel to it. Give it a shot maybe - but it's a bit pricey for the quality we got - so know that going in.

Maury's Tiny Cove Steak House on Urbanspoon

The night wasn't over though - Leah & I wanted dessert! Since they were up for trying something else - I remembered someplace we passed on the way...Vitor's!

It was just up the street a few blocks and I thought I remembered hearing something about their desserts so we headed up.

Now I  have to say - this might be the most alarming photo I've ever seen posted in a restaurant and one of the funniest. Awkward Family Photos anyone?

Yup - don't mess with Timmy - he got a glock for his 4th birthday! 

It was a beautiful night so we took advantage of it and sat outside. Wow - I don't think I'll ever sit inside here! It was so cozy and lush - we all LOVED the patio.

They had quite a few dessert options and even a couple were egg-free! First up - the donuts! These are pretty much the same donuts you get on a Chinese buffet (we think) but with holes cut out. But that's my favorite thing ever - so I was loving it! We all enjoyed these!!!!

We also had to try their famous French Toast - it's "drenched in a vanilla bean cocoa batter, rolled in Frosted Flakes then topped with Creme Brulee pastry cream, bananas, whipped cream and chocolate." That's a lotta stuff on a piece of bread. I think there was even caramel thrown in.

For us - it was too much. We all said we probably would have liked it better without all the toppings. I think that's probably blasphemy to Vitor's but just us. It was decadent and unique though - for sure.

Larry tried their other egg-free dessert - Key Lime Mousse. It was REALLY rich and sweet. As in - could only eat 2-3 bites rich and sweet. Good - but wowza.

Why Should You Go? They have a very unique menu - even with some dishes from the Philippines - and we all wanted to go back and try them for dinner. And definitely more of those donuts! 
Vitor's on Urbanspoon

First Meal After 1 Year in Korea

So my baby sister (she's 22) has been in town for three weeks from Korea. It's been a lot of fun having her around and hanging out. I've introduced her to my couponing and she's introduced me back to my friend - the gym. (blech) I even bought a pair of those new Reebok's with the creepy commercial where the soles have faces - I am blissful every time I step on those creepy faces!!

But when she first landed - we had to go out for food she can't get in Korea - her first request - MEXICAN! Well - twist my arm - and I'm there. We decided to go El Toro in Hyde Park Plaza since I hadn't been before. It's next to the Walgreens - where you always expect good Mexican to be???

I think sis got the Pollo Asado ($9.99) - marinated chicken breast, rice, beans, pico de gallo and guacamole. I can't quite remember but that looks like the menu item it matches. She said it was good and she practically licked the plate - so I'm guessing it was. But I think after a year sans Mexican food - I'd lick the plate too!

I got the Quesadilla Supreme with Mushrooms ($7.99) and enjoyed it too. The portion of sour cream was a bit small but I figure that's just God's way of saying I don't need it!

Why Should You Go? It's fine - it's pretty standard in the realm of El Rancho Grande. I can't really tell much difference in any of these places. But it was good and it was BUSY!

The manager was a bit obnoxious - he was chatting with a table right next to us the entire meal - and that guy was a manager of another restaurant (different chain). I heard more about their beer drinking than I did about my sister's year in Korea!

El Toro Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon