Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Old People Dining (But It's Kinda Good)

I'm always amazed with all the food bloggers that Cincinnati has that I can still stumble upon a place nobody has reviewed. And such is the case with Clough Crossings. That's probably because a lot of the bloggers are into the downtown scene - I, on the other hand, will actually go to Anderson! (Yeah for Anderson!).
Clough Crossing is on Clough Pike which is so easy to get to from the Cincinnati East Side burbs (Mt Lookout/Hyde Park/Oakley) - you just hop on the Beechmont Levy, take the exit for 32, then hook a right up the hill at this odd wanky intersection onto Clough Pike! And you're there...it's only 10-15 min away.

It's just past Jean Paul's Paradiso - which I've been bragging up to everybody who will listen. Rather than in a strip mall next to a gas station, Clough Crossings is in an old school house. Very neat building. They have a deck out back - which we were hoping to sit on - but it was a bit rainy. :-(

We had a Groupon and made sure they were okay with us just having our iTouch instead of a paper copy and the host said that was fine and was very accommodating (some of the Urbanspoon comments indicate otherwise - so I wanted to point this out).

Larry got a salad with his entree and it was pretty standard. Early notice - they are fond of the shredded mozzarella. The vinaigrette was really tasty though ad he ate all of his salad - which is pretty unusual.

Clough Crossings is definitely an old people restaurant. We were the youngest people there (save for a bored out of his mind 9 year old with his parents and the couple they were with) by probably 15 years. But sometimes old people food is fine.

The server was a bit dingy - but very friendly. She started us out with croissants. At least that's what she said she was bringing . These were more like crescent rolls but they were good. And the butter was soft - something I always appreciate!

Larry went for the Carmelized Salmon ($18.95) which was served over sweet potato mash and topped with julienne potatoes and a honey merlot glaze. The salmon was good and the potatoes were REALLY good. It could have been served a little hotter but it had a good flavor and wasn't overcooked.

I'm seeing a trend with restaurants that food isn't really hot (temperature not spicy). It's kind of annoying - I understand with things sitting and waiting for servers - it's not easy to do - but most food is best when it's hot.

I got the Bacon-Encrusted Scallops ($13.95) mainly because they were served with fried cheddar risotto (and topped with a sweet onion cream sauce). Let's take this apart:

* Came with two hunks of focaccia bread - fine, bland, could have used some garlic salt
* Fried Cheddar Risotto - all the cheesy fried goodness you would expect. Very heavy - came out the size of an Izzy's potato pancake! Would be better served as two smaller medallions.
* Bacon encrusted scallops - they were fine. The scallops were cooked correctly - but I was thinking bacon-WRAPPED vs. ENCRUSTED (my bad on reading it wrong). The bacon didn't really lend anything to the flavor (which is odd) and I mostly scraped it off.
* Topped with shredded mozzarella???????? This had no place in the dish and just covered up the scallops. I love cheese but this I didn't love.
* Sweet Onion Cream Sauce - I was a bit skeptical but it was nice to have something to dip the scallops in once I removed the flavorless bacon and unnecessary shredded mozzarella.

The other point of this dish is it had TOO much going on. It was just a very odd plate of food. I ate about half of it. That's something I'm really trying to retrain my brain on - if I'm full - STOP. That whole "clean your plate" message is still in my head - even though I'm nearly 38!

When I have a Groupon - I'll typically splurge a little on an appetizer or dessert since we're getting a deal. I asked the server before I ordered what they had on tap for dessert and she got to the words "German Chocolate" and I stopped her and said "I'll take that."

It's my favorite - I never ever get it - so I was very excited. I ordered something from the sandwichy portion of the menu so I'd have room for the cake. (That fried risotto was a beast - it was good but I left over half of it because I knew the cake was coming.)

The cake was shockingly normal and moist. My friend Lou always hates how when you just want a piece of chocolate cake restaurants muck it up by adding fruit or other things - that girl just wants PLAIN CHOCOLATE CAKE. Well - this had German Chocolate frosting but other than that - it was pretty plain. But I liked it! I was really just in it for the frosting - so I ate the cake with frosting and left the rest.

Why Should You Go? Be prepared that it's kind of an old people place as I mentioned. (My friend Kelly's Dad takes her there - now Bobby's not really old - so I hope he isn't offended when I say that - haha - Hi Paula & Bobby!) The food is pretty good - is it great? No. But we both liked portions of our meal and it's a nice place. The booth was very private - even though there were other folks dining nearby - so it was kind of nice for a date night. I bet the deck is great as well.


Clough Crossing on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 27, 2011

Tried for Brunos, Got Raymonds Instead!

Sometimes I laugh at our GPS. This past weekend we went camping and wanted ice cream. It took us to someones home in Bethel. While I was tempted to stop and see if they had any - I didn't think they would appreciate it. 

Well last week after attending Homearama in West Chester we were starving and I wanted pizza. I remembered how fantastic Brunos was and wanted to go back. Well my GPS apparently wasn't a fan because try as we might - it couldn't get us there. I hate that you have to enter a city! Oh well - we ended up near Yankee and I knew there was a pizza joint there - so Raymond's Pizza was our choice! 

It's in a strip mall with a Kroger and a bunch of other things. They do serve alcohol. You order at the counter and then the food is brought to you. We ordered some cheesey garlic bread but I was using Larry's phone and didn't save the picture. It was really great. It was like the huge half circle shaped loaves of garlic bread smothered in cheese. Good stuff. And one small order ($4.29) was more than enough for 2 people.

Since we had the mammoth serving of garlic cheese bread, we opted for a small Grandpa's combo ($8.59 - Pepperoni, Sausage, Mushroom, Onion, Green Peppers). The small was plenty after the bread and we actually had a couple pieces left over. It was really good. The sauce was good and we both enjoyed the pizza very much. Although not as good as Bruno's - we were not disappointed!

Why Should You Go? Well - would I drive up there from Pleasant Ridge? Probably not - but if you're in the area - it's a good spot. It's a family run business with a very friendly staff. I'd recommend it in a heartbeat!

Raymond's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Road Trip: Over-the-Rhine Civil War Tour

Hubby - like most men I know - watches three channels on cable: National Geographic, ESPN and The History Channel. I can't tell you how sick I am of history! But when I saw one of the Daily Deal sites offering a 2 for 1 on the Civil War Tour - I had to grab it. 

They have an office in OTR at 12th & Vine - our tour started there. They have a cute shop with books and other knick-knacks for sale. They also do the Gangster Tour - which Larry is now very excited about as well. Other tours include a  Queen City Underground and Haunted Tours in October (again - I think we're going to be regulars here.) The girl at the counter said they're also working on a Dessert Tour (ala Columbus Food Adventures).

Side plug - If you like food and have a Saturday to kill - go to Columbus for a tour - it's a fantastic deal and a lot of fun!

The Civil War tour is a walking tour around Over-the-Rhine. It gives you a different perspective of the neighborhood that's in such flux. It was nice to see a little park in the middle of it.

It's a sad state to see so many buildings boarded up. There's a vote going on with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and OTR is in the running. There's $25,000 at stake! All you have to enter is an email and a zipcode and you can vote. The tour folks said that OTR will use the money to help save buildings from being torn down...I voted and seriously - it took three minutes total - take the time and vote! 

We were coming up to Music Hall and Washington Park. Washington Park is currently a big hole in the ground because they're renovating and adding a parking garage. This park has been the center of a lot of bad behavior - here's hoping the renovations make a new healthy beginning for the area!

This pic is for my sister - she's always taking pictures of doors and doorways. This one's for you Edith!

Here's a building that's going to be open soon with new condos - it seems to have an "old" look but will be updated - which is good for the area.

While my sister likes doors, I like signs. I love old signs (I sound like the guys from @americanpicker). A violin shop in the middle of all this - nice.

So here's Washington Park - and while I didn't take notes on all the historical stories we heard - I do remember a bit of it. This park was a temporary burial spot for soldiers during the Civil War. They would place the bodies here before they would take them up to Spring Grove for their official burial. And - when digging up Washington Park for the renovations - they found 63 bodies! They presumed they were soldiers because of where they found them in the park. Cuh-razy!!!!

Here's a bust of someone - Lytle maybe? Yeah the same one as Lytle Tunnel. I could be wrong on the name of the guy. I really should have taken notes. But on the tour - we heard a whole story about this guy!

And this is Memorial Hall - the city was going to tear down this building! Then some folks got together and put forth an effort to save it. Now they have concerts and other gatherings - heck you can even get married here!

They've restored it and have historic Cincinnati figures around the building. Also Mr. Hotness George Clooney filmed some of the Ides of March here. Even he was shocked at how something this cool is so hidden!

This is where I should have taken notes - these doorknobs are really unique. Some group in the Civil War days had this building and most of the knobs like these are now in museums. This is one of the few spots where they're still on the doors. Want to know more - go on the tour!

 
Beautiful stuff inside.

And a flying pig! 


We were allowed to walk on stage and see the auditorium from that point of view. It will be interesting to see the building in the movie this summer/fall. George told the lady from the preservation society, "You're going to love the movie - I made this place look amazing!" Can't wait George!

Larry and I decided to be fancy and sit in the box seats...more leg room. 

We came across this beauty as we were walking towards the Emery Theatre. Again - just some beautiful stuff walking through neighborhoods. It's a shame that architecture isn't like this today.

And last stop on our tour was Old St. Mary's Church. This was a really pretty courtyard tucked away next to the entrance.

Also a side note of fun - while walking to this site - one of the tour guides came up to me and asked if I was the food blogger (I had mentioned it to another guide when talking about the vote). He said a friend of his is a huge fan of Food Hussy!!! His friend had sent him my blog on a number of occasions and he wondered if he could call his friend and have me talk to him. I was cracking up - a real "celebrity" moment! He even looked at Larry and said, "Oh is THIS the hubby?" I called and left a message for him - so if you're out there - post a message here and let me know if you got my message! (I think his name was Rich - can't remember - so much information that day.)

The stained glass was amazing! We learned a lot about the German heritage of the city. And that there used to be nearly 50,000 people living in OTR and now there's just about 6,000. Can you fathom that?!

Inside - wow. This is a church! Stunning. 

Why Should You Go? If you - or someone you love - likes history - it's a must-see tour. We learned a lot while walking through OTR. We had a group of about 80-90 people and it was really enjoyable. American Legacy Tours does a great job - they're very knowledgeable and fun & interesting guys! 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Amazing Chicken Where?

Larry and I had to get some work done on the Yellow Beast of an SUV that we own and were up on Fields Ertel. We were also both STARVING. He suggested we go to Toot's.

I've driven by a million times and was always amazed by the name. They're half going for a Hooters-theme and half naming themselves after a bodily function - at least that's what I always thought. But hubby said he used to eat there all the time when he worked in this neck of the woods - so why not?! Toot's it is!

Upon walking in - we found a big giant lizard greeting us! Hi buddy! 

He was very active - every time I turned around - he was in a different spot. I don't usually see them so spry!

We started out with their "famous" fried pickles ($4.76). These were pretty darned good - Larry could not stop eating them! He said he'd never eaten that many pickles in his life! They were tangy and very lightly fried. I think another minute or so in the fryer might have been nice - but we enjoyed them very much!

One thing to note right off the bat - their prices crack me up! I'm not sure if it's so with taxes it's even numbers or if they're just kooky. But here's a random smattering of menu prices: $9.21, $4.92, $13.27. #random
Larry got the shrimp & puppies basket ($8.71) - he ate every shrimp and left the puppies. Actually I think they were fries but I'm not seeing shrimp & fries on the menu - so not sure what happened here. But he enjoyed them - again - the fry is fairly light. I tried one and they were tasty! 

I got the Signature Toot's Chick-On-A-Stick (2 skewers - $9.69). It also came with a side - I chose onion rings - cole slaw, texas toast and honey mustard and their signature cherry mustard for dipping.

Let me just say - this was DELICIOUS! The chicken had a fantastic marinade and a definite pineapple flavor that made it wonderful. I could not get over how great this chicken was. Larry agreed - it was wonderful! The battered onion rings were GINORMOUS and excellent as well. The cole slaw - probably my favorite ever! I usually take a bite of cole slaw and then sigh thinking - ugh - not so good. This stuff was like KFC used to be (in my fond memories of getting KFC as a child). I ate that first - even Larry said "you usually don't like cole slaw?!" - but this stuff was great!

The dipping sauces - well mixed bag here - I was not a fan of the cherry mustard. But I LOVED the honey mustard. So much so - I bought a bottle to take home! I'm picky on my honey mustard and have yet to find one in the grocery store that I like - so I was thrilled to find out they sell their sauces right there at the restaurant! They also sell BBQ and wing sauces.

Why Should You Go? Go for the Chick-On-A-Stick if nothing else! I was truly shocked at how much I enjoyed the meal. I just thought it would be fine - average - bar & grill - food. I was pleasantly surprised that it was so much more! I can't wait to go back! They also have a lot of sports memorabilia hanging on the walls and lots of tv's - so it's definitely a guy place as well. Yeah Toots!

(I still can't figure out why you'd name a place Toot's but now I don't care cuz the food is that good!)


Toot's on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 20, 2011

Mediocre Mexican

Larry and I were on one of our random drives - aimlessly wandering the city and we were starving. So we came across Taco Casa in the Loveland area.

Because it's a seemingly generic Mexican name - I didn't realize until I walked in that it's the same one that's in the Hyde Park/Oakley area across from Kroger.

Once I was told that their signature item was the Taco Salad - I knew what I was getting into. They also offer tacos, burritos, etc...

It's sort of Chipotle-ish with toppings to add but the guy working the counter wasn't really in the mood to ask me what I wanted. He more told me what I was getting - but hey - I'm flexible - I like toppings...go for it!

We each got a combo with a small taco salad, taco, rice and chips/salsa (Combo #2 - $9.90).

We were really disappointed. The salad is iceberg lettuce smothered in ranch, hamburger meat and Skyline-amounts of shredded cheese. You'd think I'd love this - right?! Meh - it is pretty flavorless and gets old quick.

The chips were stale and taco sauce was free but a cup of salsa was extra (really?). The rice was horrible - dry and tasted like it came out of an MRE package.

The hard shell taco was actually pretty good.

Why Should You Go? We both ate less than half of our meals...nuff said.


Taco Casa on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Recipe: Rotini with Sausage, Spinach and Mushrooms

This past couple of weeks I have NOT been able to cook near as much as I would like - but I do have one recipe that I made a couple of weeks ago ready to share!

Just the name and the main ingredients - Penne with Sausage, Spinach and Mushrooms. What more could you need?

I realized AFTER making this that it was really calling for the pre-cooked sausage - more like a kielbasa - but this version worked just fine. I also subbed button mushrooms instead of wild.

I was AMAZED at the spinach! I've never actually cooked with fresh spinach. I've eaten it a million times but cooking with it is unique. You load the pan and then in just a few minutes - poof - it's deflated! I was a bit conservative because I didn't know if Larry would like it - but next time I would add what the recipe asked for.

Then - throw the pasta in! Smelling good...Once you add the cheese - it creates a sauce with the chicken broth. The cheese gets a bit stringy as mozzarella tends to - but I was really surprised by the sauce that created.

And here's the finished product. It was really great! It makes a good sized casserole dish full and gave me lots of lunches! 

I'm really learning that these recipes are just guidelines - once you make them - you can think of so many things to add and make them your own! 

Rotini with Sausage, Mushrooms & Spinach

Button mushrooms would also be fine here.
This recipe can be prepared in 45 minutes or less.
Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 pound fully cooked pork, chicken or turkey sausages, thickly sliced into rounds
3/4 pound fresh wild mushrooms (such as crimini or stemmed shiitake), thickly sliced
3/4 cup chopped shallots
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 10-ounce package ready-to-use spinach leaves
1 1/4 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
3/4 pound rotini or penne pasta, freshly cooked
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated provolone or mozzarella cheese

Directions

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add sausages, mushrooms, shallots, garlic and crushed red pepper. Sauté until mushrooms begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Add spinach and broth; toss until spinach wilts, about 2 minutes. Add pasta and cheese; toss until cheese melts and sauce coats pasta, about 3 minutes.








Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Great Scott! Well - the Diner that is...

Quite often we head out to the East side of town to the Bethel/Amelia area and a couple of weeks ago - there we were again. And - we were starving! We've been wanting to stop into the Great Scott Diner for months and this was the perfect time. 

It's a big metal building - it's been a ton of things over the years but we both have a feeling this one is going to stick. They have another restaurant - just called Great Scott - and it's been doing quite well for a long time.

Inside - it's the classic 50's diner style with the black/white floors. It's definitely a fun vibe...

They also have a game room where you can get tickets like at Chuck E Cheese. It's all lights and colors - such a visual overload.

Here's the giant ticket machine! You put your tickets in and it counts them - then you get to pick out your prize. It takes all the people out of it - pretty handy for a restaurant. 

We got a cool ball - which we took home and our dog ate in about 3.5 seconds. 

Larry got the Strip Steak Dinner ($12.99). He really liked it - the steak was cooked perfectly - which is pretty great for a fairly quick restaurant. The beans were canned and the mashed potatoes could have been hotter. But - the steak was really good - so that made it a "thumbs up".

We also got mozzarella sticks - they were fine but nothing to really write home about. I'm dying for some cheese sticks that are battered not breaded. The Tic Toc back home has fantastic ones - I might have to make a stop when I'm home next month!

I spotted something on the menu right away and knew what I was getting. The Texas Pork Loin ($4.69) and a side of onion rings ($1.99). This was pretty darned good - not Iowa good - but a good Ohio tenderloin. I think some bbq sauce or mustard would be a nice add. The onion rings were delicious!

Why Should You Go? If you're out in that area - it's a great spot. Service is friendly - there's something to occupy the kids and the food is good. It's not quite "greasy spoon quaint" because it is really large - but we both enjoyed it.

Great Scott Diner on Urbanspoon