Chinese food with Chinese People! (and Niagara Falls)

For a while now Larry and I have been doing volunteering here and there with International Friendship. It's a cool organization that works with students and professionals that come to the US and introduces them to Christianity and also provides temporary housing, rides to and from the airport, etc... It's very rewarding and fun - imagine traveling for 24 hours and landing in a country you've never been to and barely know the language - seeing a friendly face when you get off the plane would be really nice! 

Recently - they took 3 vans of people to Niagara Falls for a conference and sight-seeing and they needed drivers! Larry and I saw this as a free vacation with the perks of making friends with new people so we signed up! 

 Here we are in front of the Falls on the NY side. It was pretty breathtaking and as a Colts fan - he loved the one area shaped like a horseshoe - of course!

Another favorite moment was when Larry taught Gong how to skip rocks - something so simple breaks the language barrier and was so fun to see.

We had 13 Chinese people that we were responsible for - but we actually stayed with a host family in the Buffalo area with five "girls". They were all doctors working at UC for 3 months-1 year. These girls were a hoot!!!! Al & Shirley (our hosts) said there home hadn't been so lively in years! Imagine that - opening your home for 3 days to SEVEN strangers (like the Real World but much better). 

Because we spent so much time with these five girls, when we got back they wanted to take us out for Chinese food. I had to pick a place pretty quickly that was Chinese, more than a buffet and relatively close to Clifton. I decided on the Blue Gibbon in Paddock Hills. 

Let me tell you - hearing five Chinese people order Chinese food from a Chinese restaurant is a lot funnier than it sounds. Our waiter was Malaysian and just couldn't figure out what they wanted. 15 minutes later (poor kid) - a more senior staff member came out and in about 30 seconds - he had it all down. We were cracking up - we didn't understand a word and we had no idea what the heck we were going to eat - but it was entertaining nonetheless!

They ordered a smorgasbord of dishes - we all went around family style and it was all fantastic! There were things I'd had before (Mongolian Beef) to things that were completely new to me (a steamed fish dish - wow).

I even tried Prawns! These were a lot of work to eat and those eyeballs staring at me were not helping things - but I tried everything. It was all really great - I'm not sure how much attention I was paying to the food since we were laughing and reminiscing about our trip so much - but it was a great meal and we all left stuffed!

Why Should You Go? It's not fancy by any means - but everything we ate was delicious! I'd say - ask for the Chinese waiter in his 30s and tell him - just give me something good - and I have a feeling - you'll be happy!

Blue Gibbon Chinese on Urbanspoon

How do you hot dog?

I love hot dogs - I know they're made with beaks and feet - but I don't care - they taste good. How do you hot dog? 

Do you consider yourself a 'foodie'?  
If you love whipping up new ways to 
enjoy tasty foods, let your knowledge 
grow with a culinary arts program.

* I was compensated for this post - but hey - I gotta pay for these meals somehow!

Create-Your-Own Sushi at Fusian!

Sushi is something I like a lot - although I admittedly am not very adventurous when it comes to the kinds I've tried. That said, it was about time I got to try the "make your own" sushi at Fusian in the Tower Place mall in downtown Cincinnati. 

As many others have said, it is very Chipotle-ish in its setup - you get in line - pick your wrap and protein and move on down. The line was to the door when we got there but moved really quickly.

Here's the "salad bar" area - salmon, tuna, krab and lots of there is cream cheese and a variety of sauces you can add inside and on top.

Then the whizbangy "cut your roll into ten pieces" machine! This is a pretty slick tool that they have - just have never seen of those "SO THAT'S HOW THEY DO IT" moments!

Finally - my sushi - I went for tuna, cream cheese, krab and avocado with the spicy mayo. It's kind of the standard stuff I like - although I know - cream cheese is an abomination to true sushi people. Oh well - I like it. The roll is like $7-8 (with the two proteins) and I really liked it. My husband always asks me why I get sushi if I'm just going to cover it in mayo and soy sauce - he's probably right to a point - but it is tasty!

I was actually back again today and tried a piece of the tuna on it's own and it was okay - I guess it sort of tasted mushy and not a lot of flavor. I really have never tried a piece of tuna on it's own other than the amazing poke I had at the now-defunct Aqua. It was okay - I don't want to go so far as to say it had previously been frozen - but meh - it needs the sauces.

Why Should You Go? If you like sushi - it's definitely worth a shot. They do have options like chicken and steak if you're really feeling adventurous. I enjoy the sushi and it's definitely filling!!! With a drink - it's a $10 lunch - fyi.

Fusian on Urbanspoon

Cooking Light: Orzo Salad with Spicy Buttermilk Dressing

Oh those wonderful folks at Cooking Light are at it again! They sent me two free cookbooks! 

First up was the Big Book of Salads - I had a great time checking this book out and finding some good stuff to make. First up was the Orzo Salad with Spicy Buttermilk Dressing.

This salad was excellent and well-received by everyone! It was light and refreshing and chock full of vegetables! It called for 1/2 sour cream and 1/2 mayo - but I used all sour cream and it tasted really great! I added a yellow pepper as well. I think my chili powder was a bit old because the dish wasn't really that spicy - but that's fine. 

Check out that and lots of other summer salad recipes


A couple weeks ago - Cincinnati welcomed back one of my favorite events - Summerfair! It's an art fair held at Coney Island every June and this year we had one of the best weekends of the year! Not too hot, not too cold - perfect weather for a really fun day! 

The nice folks at Summerfair had given me a pair of tickets and another pair to giveaway - I hope my winner had as much fun as I did. 

I don't have too many pics of the art - but here's one that caught my eye - these hand-blown glass animals were so adorable! I really wanted to take one of these little piggies home for myself!

Paintings were everywhere - it's really a lot of paintings, sculptures and jewelry. This year I went with my good friend and her little girl and wow - it was a whole new ballgame with a cutie pie like this with us. Just seeing what she was drawn too was a lot of fun! 

This was one of the prettiest things I saw all day - the pictures themselves were really great and then being framed in this really cool antique-looking frame - I dug it!

There was also music happening all over the place - these two were just finishing up playing as we walked by.

Kettle corn was everywhere as well! These guys were whipping up batches of it right there for the masses. I'm not a fan of kettle corn - but it was fun to watch.

The kids crafts area was also something new for me this year. They had one area where you could make t-shirts for $3! You used crayons on a piece of paper and then they pressed them on the t-shirts. I made one for my little friend. The guys running the area were impressed with my artistic design - I probably colored about 3000 of those when I was a kid! No idea where the idea came from - but that was my go-to rainy day design.

There was also a ton of food - my first fresh ear of corn for 2012 and it was great! (I think she liked hers too.)

Her mom went for something a little more hearty and let me share it with her. The steak was perfectly cooked and there were potatoes underneath along with onions and mushrooms - that was some good stuff!

And how could you not end the day with a funnel cake?! My friend's husband was mighty jealous that we had one of these without him! Man those things are awesome!

So another Summerfair come and gone - it was a great time - I sure hope all of you got out there and enjoyed the weather and the arts/crafts. If you didn't - mark your calendars for next June!

The Food, The Consumer & The Restaurant: Restaurant Marketing Trends for 2012

I was sent an interesting InfoGraphic with some tidbits about restaurant research - as a consumer of restaurants - some of the stats were pretty interesting and I thought I'd share with you. We in Cincinnati know that LOCAL sourcing is a huge deal - but it looks like it's creeping out beyond the cities and across the rest of the country as well. 

Going local is a huge trend this year. From locally sourced meats and seafood to locally grown produce, trendsetting chefs are reporting a local focus in 2012.

A recent study shows 92% enjoy going out to restaurants, and 77% say socializing over dinner at a restaurant is a better use of their leisure time than cooking and cleaning at home.

Projections for the restaurant industry in 2012 peak at $631 billion - an estimated $575 billion in commercial sales alone!

* I was compensated for this post - but I have to say - it was kinda interesting too!

ABC's of Dining: smoQ

I'm still meandering through the ABCs of Dining - my quest to eat at a new restaurant that starts with each letter of the alphabet - and am up to the letter S. The vote was close but smoQ won out and I was pretty happy - especially since I'd just purchased a Groupon for them! 

smoQ is off 275 near the Springdale Cinemas and Pappadeaux's (another place I want to try). It's got a nice outdoor patio that we sat at - it provided lots of shade and near perfect temperature for dinner.

Our Groupon was for the Memphis Sampler ($44 value - we paid $22). If I can remember everything it came with: 1/2 slab ribs, 1/4 chicken, pulled pork, brisket, 2 sausages, cornbread, salad and 3 sides. Wow - that's a lot of food!

The cornbread that came out first was my favorite thing all night - it had little orange bits inside that looked somewhat like the syrup in a McDonalds McGriddle Sandwich. I asked the waitress what the bits were and she said BUTTERSCOTCH! Yum!!! These were some of the best corn muffins I've ever had!

The salad too was really great! It was a mix of greens and then buried in there were candied peanuts, bacon and diced fruit (pear or apple - I couldn't tell with a tiny dice piece I saw). This was really a great salad and I have to admit - I was full after the corn muffins and salad!

But on came dinner - their sides all sounded so good but we picked brown sugar bbq chips first and these were pretty typical saratoga chips ala Montgomery Inn.

The other two sides we chose were the Mashed Potatoes with Onion Bacon Milk Gravy (sounds complex and simple at the same time) and Southern Green Beans. I was really intrigued by the Sweet Potato/Pecan Brulee but figured they would have eggs so I skipped it.

Then came the plethora of meat - meat - meat!!! We went for the St. Louis ribs (dry rub) - you can also choose the saucy baby back style. The ribs were good but a bit dry - the meat did have a nice smoky flavor. The chicken had a nice amount of sauce smoked onto it and the thigh piece was really juicy! There were also two pieces of sausage (one all beef and one andouille) - I'm not sure which was which but they were both really good. Of the meat - this was my favorite part. The pulled pork was really dry so we didn't eat much of that - they did provide 3 kinds of sauces to accompany all the meat. There was also brisket - which I thought was dry but Larry liked.

I think you can still buy this Groupon deal - and I have to say - for $22 - it's a great deal. We easily could have shared that among four people. Be sure to read it closely - you HAVE to make a reservation to use it.

Why Should You Go? Well - I have to say - I have a mixed review. I think I've found I'm just not a huge bbq fan. I think the quality at smoQ was good but dry in spots - I just don't love it. I liked parts of it but didn't LOVE the overall experience. The staff was really friendly - which is always nice. Overall - I really liked parts (corn muffins, salad and sausage) but was just meh about the rest of the items.

smoQ on Urbanspoon

I did not have any wheatgrass...

Recently a coworker decided we should have a healthy lunch - wheeeeee! So we went to Total Juice Plus on Vine - they're a smoothie place that also has soups and wraps. 

I'm not one for smoothies - I hate yogurt - so they all taste like butt to me...but if you're a smoothie person - I hear they're really good. They have lots of wheatgrass too - people left and right - slamming shots of wheatgrass. 

Chicken Fajita Wrap

Grilled Chicken, fajita seasoning, cilantro, romaine lettuce, rice, tomato, bell pepper, sour cream, citrus juice, olive oil, avocado, wrapped in a spinach tortilla.
I went for the Chicken Fajita Wrap - ordered a small ($4.95) but was given a large ($6.50) - at least I think it was a large. I ordered a small, my coworker ordered a large and we got the same thing. You figure it out. It was fine - but bland. It sounded like one of the wraps that would have the most flavor - but it just didn't. It just made me long for Roly Poly (which really did have a LOT of healthy wraps!). 

I also tried a cup of soup - don't even remember what kind - maybe potato. I have now realized - after many attempts - that in my late 30s - my body is not a fan of cream soups. We'll just leave it at that. The taste was fine - bland again - but fine. 

Why Should You Go? If you're uber-healthy or love smoothies - sure go for it. I won't be back though. 

Total Juice Plus on Urbanspoon

Giveaway Day! Goodcents deli fresh subs!

My Giveaway file has been CHOCK FULL lately and slowly but surely - I'm getting them all taken care of. It's fun to give you guys stuff though! 

This week - we'll end the week with Goodcents deli fresh subs in West Chester. It's in the general vicinity of Ikea off I-75. It's a fairly new chain that appears to have started in the Kansas City area. The West Chester location has been open since February. 

It's pretty much like Quiznos or any of the sub places - their online menu is pretty awesome! I'm considering going back on Weight Watchers and this place would be a dream for that! You can pick your sub and then as you add your toppings - it adds the calories for you. Nice! 

They slice the meat fresh to order - which is nice. Reminds me of a place back home - Blimpie!

They also have the new-fangled Coke machines that can give you like 1000 combinations. I've seen these around a few places but I think Goodcents was one of the first. If you haven't seen it - it is pretty cool:

It's a touch-screen and you pick your drink, then you can pick what flavor you'd like to add to it (cherry, orange, etc...) - then push the button and fill your cup! You can't get all the flavors in all the drinks (not sure why) but it is nifty. I tried a Cherry Sprite!

I got a Buffalo Chicken on Wheat (appears to be 460 calories for what I remember that I got). It was pretty good - the bread was really soft, the buffalo was tangy and spicy (but not crazy). All in all - a good sub!

I think Larry had the Italian on White with a few toppings (350 calories). His was good but a little oily from the meat choices. I tried a couple bites. Afterward though - he didn't feel so hot - so for some reason it didn't sit well with him.

Why should you go? Well if you're dying to try the Coke machine - that's one reason. I do think after a long day of shopping - it's a nice quick bite to eat. There are a lot of restaurants popping up in that area and I liked Goodcents well enough to go again.

Giveaway time! You can enter below to win a $25 gift card! We had one provided to us to try it and didn't even use the whole thing for 2 people - so you can take some friends with you!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Mr. Goodcents Deli Fresh Subs on Urbanspoon