The Palace: Fancy dining in Cincinnati

I'm not sure if you've noticed (if you've been here before) but I have solidly been in the #1 spot on the Urbanspoon Leaderboard for a few months now! (There's a little #1 banner on the top right of my blog  - woohoo!) It's a big accomplishment after 5 years of blogging about restaurants, recipes and road trips in Cincinnati.

That said - with being number 1- you get some cool perks! One of which is random emails from amazing Chefs asking you to come and eat their food for free! Now I know this isn't something I can get all of you in on - but at least I can give you ideas of where to go for a fancy dinner! And if you're a FOFH (Friend of Food Hussy) - you might even get invited to go with me!

Chef Matt Beaudin from The Palace sent me a message on Facebook asking if I'd like to come in and try some of his specialties and um - duh - I said yes!
Now you know when you're eating at someplace called "The Palace" - it's going to be nice - but the silver flower holders and fresh beautifully opened rose definitely make it even nicer.

The seating is fairly formal and if you're by the window - you've got a great view for people watching. It would be a great spot for a fancy pre-Aronoff dinner or a business lunch if you're trying to impress. 

I had to prep my bestie that came with me for the onslaught of food we were about to have - it can be overwhelming! 

First up was the Wild Mushroom appetizer with mushrooms from Thailand, Italy and the US - but they were all grown in NKY - pretty interesting that they branch out like that. They were served with herbs and on top of an herbed mascarpone with red onion marmalade and then sprinkled with cashew dust. This was AMAZING!!! ($14) We liked the Thailand mushrooms the best - but once you added that mascarpone/marmalade - they were all delicious! 

Next up was the Hudson Valley Foie Gras ($22). It was a duck confit topped with a pear, pine syrup and foie gras. I am not a fan of the foie - based on the controversy over the way it's created. I'm assuming by the name that this Foie is from Hudson Valley which promotes theirs as humane.

All of that said - the duck and pear were great - but I didn't really like the Foie. I just don't like liver and the texture of it funks me out. This was probably the best tasting that I've had though.

Another First Course item was Steak & Eggs ($20). We had pan seared prime strip loin, hazelnut french toast and a sunny side up quail egg.

This was a mixed taste for us - the steak was fine but nothing special. When combined with the quail egg it was really good and the egg was prepared to perfection. The hazelnut french toast was also AMAZING!! I mean - Lauren and I were kind of fighting over that french toast - we both agreed - that on a Sunday morning served by our husbands would be perfection!! (Maybe Chef Beaudin can teach the boys!)

A main dish we had was the Head On Gulf Shrimp ($29) it was served with cheese grits, onion straws and New Orleans style BBQ. 

It's funny because another coworker was complaining I don't take her to things - but she's also not very adventurous when it comes to food - so we sent her a pic of this dish and she said "um no thanks!". While the two of us LOVED IT!

Neither of us really like grits - but these were cheesy, creamy and delicious!! Not your Waffle House grits for sure! (haha) The shrimp were a little difficult to eat because of the bbq sauce and the head being on - but they were perfection. The sauce added a little sweetness but the seasoning gave it a kick. Then combo that with those cheesy delicious grits - wow.

Then we tried a couple of seafood dishes - Georges Banks Scallops ($32) - served with cauliflower, bacon brussel sprouts and fingerling potatoes in a citrus beurre blanc. The scallops were coked perfectly with a little crispness on one side and the brussel sprouts were great. The sauce had a LOT of butter (I'm guessing) - it was very rich.

Lastly, Chef Matt served us Ocean Trout ($30) with lentils, spring vegetables and a fennel beurre blanc. The trout was delicious - crispy and sweet deliciousness! The back-to-back beurre blancs were a little too much. I wish we'd ended with some sort of beef dish - the sauces were so similar and full of butter that they were a bit much. But the seafood in both was cooked to perfection.

After all great dishes - we still had a little room left for dessert and Chef Beaudin did not disappoint! He brought out the Kentucky Chocolate ($11) - a chocolate flourless cake topped with bourbon ice cream, orange brioche, mint foam and dressed with local honey.

This was the perfect end - we actually both thought we might not have room for dessert - two minutes after this was brought out - the plate was empty. The cake was dense but not too heavy and everything was perfect! I'm not a big fan of foam but it didn't detract and did add a little crisp minty flavor to the dish. This is a must-have!

Why Should You Go? For folks at my income level - The Palace is definitely a special occasion spot - but on that note - it definitely delivers. Everything was thought out and there were definitely highlights. I know if I was going back - my selections would be the mushrooms, shrimp & grits and the Kentucky chocolate. Those grits are still on my mind!! And if you don't quite have the budget for a splurging dinner - try them for lunch! Just as fancy and much more affordable.

The Palace on Urbanspoon

NewBo City Market & Parlor City: Cedar Rapids, Iowa just got hip!

I headed home for my best friend's 40th birthday to Cedar Rapids, IA and was really excited to check out some of the new things hitting the big CR! That's right - Cedar Rapids, Iowa - finally got hip!

They now have a city market really similar to Findlay Market here in Cincinnati! It's called NewBo City Market and is on the SW side - which was ravaged by flooding just a few years ago (think Katrina-like).

Outside they have a lot of tents set up for weekly vendors - everything from flowers to art to jewelry and everything in between - even dog treats!

Inside there are permanent businesses on the right and temporary on the left. It's open 3 days/week and was REALLY busy!

Tanner found the honey sticks...he's got a knack for finding sugar! 

I think something fun to me was how UNIQUE the food choices were! Greek, pasta, chinese, soul food, cupcakes and more. This is Cedar Rapids people - the town of pig and cow - NewBo is filled with diversity!!

They even have a wood-fired pizza oven!

On the other side of the market - there were a lot of craft items and jewelry. I picked this bib up for my friend's new baby! They had really cute items throughout NewBo.

Then we decided to get some lunch and see what else was around -

They have this chalkboard installment of "Before I die I want to..." - have sex on an island...and more!

Is it 3 people that want a sugar daddy or 1 person wants 3 sugar daddies?

The NewBo area is just fantastic - for those of you in the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City area that haven't been - GO THIS WEEKEND! I have to say - as someone that lived in Iowa City - this is worth going to CR for! (That doesn't happen often)

parlor city
Then we were hungry and headed across the street to Parlor City - it's a really new pub that has a lot of beer and it was hoppin!

Tanner though (my BFF's son) was a bit skeptical. 

Not sure if you can tell here...but they have...

56 beers on tap
56 beers on tap! The husbands were very excited about this. 

taco pizza
I went for the taco pizza (yes - that's a pizza under all those toppings) - it was okay. Frankly it needed sour cream. The toppings were plentiful though and it ended up a little more like a taco salad since it was so hard to find the crust under all that!

buffalo chicken
Amy went for the Buffalo Chicken sandwich and the girl said the sauce was spicy but Amy didn't think it was - so I guess take it hotter if you think you can handle it. That said - the chicken was good.

Why Should You Go? I think there are a ton of places right across the street at NewBo that I would have tried and loved - but when you've got a group and need a place to sit - this is a great option. The beer selection is the other reason to go - what guy isn't going to love 56 beers on tap?! No matter what you do - if you're in the CR area - head to NewBo City Market right away!

Parlor City Pub & Eatery on Urbanspoon

Chicago Restaurant Review: Piccolo Sogno Due (fancy Italian)

Hanging out in Chicago for a few days is definitely fun - especially when work is picking up the check! 

On a recent trip - we headed to Piccolo Sogno Due - which is (not surprisingly) the second restaurant from Piccolo in downtown Chicago. It's just a few blocks away and is just as beautiful.

Warm wood, windows, flowers and crisp white linens surround you. 

MARE  15
Wood roasted prawns, calamari, octopus, clams, mussels, wood roasted, citrus oil, arugula
As I mentioned earlier - I'm not a fan of tenticles - but the boys again wanted to get calamari. This one had the added bonus of octopus - greaaaaaaat. I tried a few bites of the rings and it was fine but not quite as good as what we had at Joe's.

Shaved baby artichokes, lemon oil, arugula, parmesan
The service was excellent - our server knew everything about everything on the menu - and had a bit of sass that only a Food Hussy could appreciate. She recommended the artichoke salad - a couple of us tried it - and well - it was fine. It's very lemony and really tasted more like lettuce than artichoke - I wouldn't get it again.

We were seated outside on a covered patio - until it started raining. We kept getting caught in the rain and this night was no different. It was fine at first but then the storm came in sideways and we had to move inside. :-(

Long flat pasta, spiced wild boar ragu
I went for the Pappardelle with fresh pasta and a wild boar ragu - unfortunately didn't love this either. I was hoping for a ragu like I'd had before but the wild boar was more like dry hamburger rather than moist tender meat. The sauce was also grainy and the pasta a little overcooked. 

Artichoke and ricotta filled pasta, spring onions, English peas, bay scallops
Matt got the ravioli per the reco of our client who'd had it the night before at the original Piccolo. He absolutely loved this dish and said that Mindy did not steer him in the wrong direction here. I was wishing that's what I had ordered. I did try a bite and the ravioli was nice and firm and the brown butter sauce was a great match to the light ingredients.  

Why Should You Go? Well - I enjoyed Joe's Seafood much more but if you're looking for Italian - it's not a bad option. The outside patio is beautiful and very cozy.

Piccolo Sogno Due on Urbanspoon

eMeals: Pizza Spaghetti Casserole recipe - quick weeknight meal!

Another great recipe to share from - the online meal planning service! For just $35 you get weekly meal plans emailed to you as well as showing up in your phone. They come with a numbered grocery list and everything! We're signed up for the Family - Low Fat plan. So these recipes as written serve 4-6 - as usual I cut it back somewhat since there's just 2 of us.

This was for Pizza Spaghetti Casserole...

Start with turkey Italian sausage - I found it in links at Kroger and cut the skin open and pulled the sausage out of the skin.

After the sausage is cooked, you crisp up half a package of turkey pepperoni. I used half a small package.

Cook spaghetti and put that layer in a pan - I used an 8x8 baking dish.

Top with the cooked sausage...

Pour sauce over the pasta - then top with pepperoni - and I added canned mushrooms cuz I love em so much!

Then top with shredded mozzarella and the remaining pepperoni. 

Then you bake for 40 minutes and it's ready! 

It's not the neatest when you scoop it out of the pan - but it really was tasty! It also was nice to mix it up a bit and have something similar but not exactly plain old spaghetti. is such a great service and at only $35 for 6 months - it's really affordable and flexible! You can start as low as three months if you wanna try it out.

Pizza Spaghetti Casserole

  • 16 oz pkg uncooked spaghetti
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 lb ground turkey sausage
  • 25 oz jar tomato basil pasta sauce
  • 2 oz turkey pepperoni slices
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella
Cooking Directions
  1. Boil spaghetti in salted water according to package directions
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  3. Place spaghetti in a 13x9 inch baking dish sprayed with cooking spray
  4. Cook sausage in a large skillet over medium heat until no longer pink
  5. Drain, and spoon over pasta
  6. Top with pasta sauce
  7. Cook pepperoni in a skillet over medium heat for 4 minutes or until slightly crisp; place half of pepperoni over sauce.
  8. Sprinkle with cheese; top with remaining pepperoni
  9. Cover baking dish with foil sprayed with cooking spray
  10. Bake 30 minutes
  11. Remove foil and bake 10 minutes longer

Food Hussy Giveaway: First Watch Spring Items!

The folks at First Watch invited me to stop in and try their new spring menu items - they're only available for another week though - so head over and try them out this week! Come June 30, they might be gone! 

First up - Smoked Salmon & Spring Chive Scramble - scrambled eggs with smoked salmon & chive cream cheese. It's served with dressed greens and a ciabatta bun. ($8.59)

This tastes a LOT better than it looks - when it first came - Lauren and I were a little skeptical but she really likes smoked salmon. Once she tasted it - she was sold! She did let me take a bite and it was great - very warm and comforting. Definitely a great lunch!

Next up was the Toasted Turkey Artichoke Sandwich - creamy artichoke spread, sliced turkey with provolone, baby spinach and lemon vinaigrette. I got this with a cup of clam chowder instead of salad. ($7.89).

This was extremely creamy and almost like a tuna melt - I didn't think it would be this warm and melty. I liked this sandwich a lot and would definitely get it again. The clam chowder was just okay - not a lot of depth and tasted like canned soup. Back to the sandwich - did you know an artichoke was a flower?! Neither did I!

They also have a Quinoa Power Bowl - it's got grains, veggies and a chicken breast. ($8.29) I'm not a big fan of whole grains so I didn't try this one...but they are good for you!

Now - I've got something great for you - a giveaway! The folks at First Watch sent me a card good for  Breakfast/Lunch/Brunch for 2. Enter below and you could win! I've had some great giveaways up to this point and don't want to brag - but there's some good stuff coming too! 

And while you're waiting to win - stop into First Watch this week and try those Spring specials before they're gone! 

First Watch on Urbanspoon

  a Rafflecopter giveaway