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Friday, August 30, 2013

Restaurant Review: New China Buffet - Newport, KY

Recently I grabbed a couple blogger friends (WannaBite.com and ItsFreeAtLast.com) and hopped over the bridge to Newport for some Chinese Buffet! 

In the strip mall by the new Kroger you'll find New China Buffet. It's really easy to spot and get to from 471.

This Chinese buffet has the pre-requisite chicken on a stick, sugar donuts, crab rangoons, jello cake concoctions and even sushi.

Oddly enough - as I'm writing this - my Pittsburgh friend sent me a list of 30 Things Ohioans Love. Check #11. Yes. We. Do.

This one even has sushi! Most of the time it's smaller plates with 3-5 pieces but this was mega sushi! Interestingly enough some people worry about the freshness of sushi - but I learned in my sushi class that restaurants season their rice so it stays fresh longer.

Thankfully they had my favorite dish too - I don't know what it is - but I love it. Fake krab, veggies and cheese. Melty krab-by goodness. 

Unfortunately I didn't love it here. It tasted like they were using cheese soup instead of cheese. Blergh. 

So here's my plate of yum. I love those rice noodles, some sushi, some honey chicken, some broccoli, a couple rangoons and yes - the krab cheese casserole. Then 2nd plate - JUST DONUTS. Those damn donuts are the best things in the place!

Why Should You Go? I didn't love it - but it wasn't too bad - just average. I think the Golden Dragon on Colerain is much better. But - for the area - it's about the only one I know of. So if you're downtown or in Covington/Newport and looking for a chinese buffet - here you go!


New China Buffet on Urbanspoon




Thursday, August 29, 2013

Road Trip: Flavors of the Queen City Food Tour thanks to #fastparksummer

I love exploring Cincinnati - it seems that every tour I go on - I learn more about this city that I've grown to love over the last 10 years. The folks at Airport FastPark wanted to help me have a fun summer adventure - so they sent me on the Flavors of the Queen City Food Tour

The tour is led by a former guidance counselor here in Cincinnati and he's great. He's mellow and so full of information.

He also pointed out some of these fantastic things that most people walk by each day without even noticing. For example - this wonderful quote from Longfellow right there on Fountain Square all about Cincinnati!

Our first stop was the Carew Tower - an art deco delight! We learned about the history of the tower being built and so much more.

Then we were directed to notice the archways inside Carew Tower - and it's all Rookwood Pottery. I never even noticed it! It's so beautiful.

Also inside Carew Tower is Hathaway's Diner. It's an old school 50's diner with the counter seating and waitresses that have been there for 20+ years.

Since this was our first stop - we just had a chocolate milkshake - which I promptly forgot to take a picture of. It was great! They have the old fashioned shake mixers and it was obvious they knew what they were doing. 

Hathaway's on Urbanspoon

They also had this great black & white photo of Carew Tower when it opened. I always think that I would love to have lived during the 50s - when all of the businesses were opening and everybody was so proud of these new things in their neighborhoods. Just picture that hustle & bustle - love it!

We also got to peek into Orchids at the Palm Court. It's gorgeous and full of more art deco than you can shake a stick at. I've never had the pleasure of eating there - hopefully soon!

Next up we walked across the street to Via Vite - the amazing Italian right on Fountain Square. With this tour - I had actually been to most of the places - but the tour itself had so much more than just a visit to a restaurant - it was a history lesson and getting THE BEST from each place!

They have an open kitchen with a few seats right there - and we got to sit there - my favorite spot! I love watching the kitchen. This guy was filling squash blossoms for dinner - to which Larry said, "You eat a FLOWER?" Yup!

We got to try a couple of bruschettas - one with goat cheese & artichoke and the other with red pepper. Larry preferred the goat cheese (surprisingly) and I preferred the red pepper. The bread was fresh and crispy, the toppings light and fluffy, the combo - yummy!

Via Vite also has a gorgeous patio that they've recently expanded and it overlooks Fountain Square. It's great for a party or just sitting out for dinner with your honey!

Via Vite on Urbanspoon

While we walked to our next destination we saw this sign in the former Tom's Pot Pie's location. Jean-Robert is opening his second place! Woohoo! 

As we were heading down Court Street, we learned a little something about these posts. They are fully wired with electricity and were meant for a Farmers Market that didn't make it through the years. Major bummer - can't you picture Court Street filled with farmers carts and shoppers! Argh!

Our next stop was It's Just Crepes. I've been many times as I used to work a block from their 4th Street location. Freshness is key at IJC - everything is made right in front of you with fresh ingredients. The crepes are made with eggs - so Larry took a rain check here.

It was great because every place we went - our guide got us the specialty or the best offering - so it was nice to not have to think and try new things at all of these awesome restaurants! 

It's Just Crepes on Urbanspoon

Next up was Tom + Chee - the grilled cheese & tomato soup place that got its start as a tent on Fountain Square during the ice rink season and now has been on Shark Tank & Travel Channel!

We got to try the GRILLED CHEESE DONUT. Let me tell you - I was a bit nervous about this. I had heard of it for years but really thought it sounded awful! A glazed donut cut in half and grilled inside out with sharp cheddar on the inside. I have to admit - sitting in front of me - it did look pretty damn good. And the donuts are egg free (much to Larry's delight).

So yeah - this happened.

OMG amazing. This is DELICIOUS. I literally don't have words to express how good it was. The cheddar was great and you need the sharp to cut through the sugar from the donut. So freaking good. How could I ever doubt them?!

Tom+Chee on Urbanspoon

We also saw the beautiful murals around the city done by ArtWorks - which is composed of high school and college students that beautify our city. Check out some of their 2012 before & after photos - you'll be amazed. This one is right near Kroger's office downtown.

So next we walked to OTR to Venice on Vine to find out about an amazing organization that also serves some damn good pizza.

Venice on Vine is actually a small business run by Power Inspires Progress which serves the mission to provide positive, meaningful work opportunities for adults with employment barriers. Participants take part in a 52-week training program that takes them from dishwashing to serving and everything in between. It's an amazing program and we get to reap the rewards!

Venice was one of the first restaurants on Vine and they've continued to maintain a solid presence. This art is really awesome - once you get up close - you see that it's made of aluminum cans and glass bottles!

Venice on Vine serves pizza, hoagies, salads, pasta and more but we had to try the pizza of course! Larry & I were both STUFFED but found a way to make room for a slice of pepperoni and man was it worth it! We had agreed to split the piece and almost regretted it - I kind of wanted my own piece!

I can't wait to get back to Venice on Vine and have more of that delicious cheesy goodness!

Venice on Vine on Urbanspoon

On the way back to Fountain Square we came across this beauty. I always pet the horses and how could you not stop and check this girl out with her beautiful painted nails!?! (And they're Colts Blue - per Larry)

Our last stop on the tour was Graeters of course. And even if you're a native Cincinnatian - there's always room for ice cream! I tried their new summer flavor Peanut Butter Brownie - it was good but my favorite is still Coconut Chip.

Graeter's Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

So that was my adventure with the Flavors of the Queen City tour. While you might think - well I've been to most of those places - and while only 1 restaurant was new to me - I got to have new items at each place as well as learning a lot of fun stuff about the city along the way! So if you have a few hours sometime - check it out. Or if you have friends in town - it's a great way to introduce them to a lot of the great things Cincinnati food lovers already enjoy!

Thanks again to Airport Fast Park for the fun summer adventure. They have two locations near CVG airport and I can say from first-hand use - Airport Fast Park is the ONLY way to go if you have to leave your car at CVG. I used the CVG parking one time and my boss laughed at me! He told me about AFP and I haven't looked back since. AFP is quick and reliable. They get you to and from your car quicker than anybody! If you're not a Cincinnati resident - they have 16 convenient locations across the US! They even have a rewards program which is nice if you're a frequent flier. And if you're traveling with kids - check out this article with links to printables and travel tips. 



Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Recipe Review: Stuffed & Wrapped Chicken with Crash & Smash Potaotes

I really do like to cook - it just feels like life gets in the way and I don't have time for it. I really love Pinterest for recipes because I can pin things I want to try - then when I do have time to cook - I just pull it up and go!

I had found a couple of recipes I decided to try together. First up was the Cheddar & Pepper Stuffed Bacon Wrapped Chicken from Sweet C's Designs (full recipe below). I love chicken, bacon and cheese - so how could this be bad?!

I started with cojack cheese and an orange pepper. It's pretty simple - you cut open a chicken breast, lay the stuffing inside, fold over the chicken and then wrap it in bacon. I was pre-occupied with getting food in the oven and slacked on my photo taking.

The recipe called for one piece of bacon per chicken breast - but I couldn't figure that out. I used a couple pieces per breast. These were HUGE chicken snoobs though. So after loading the chicken and wrapping it - it went in the oven.

In the mean time, I was boiling 12 red potatoes for about 15-20 minutes. I was a little skeptical that I was basically cooking these before the actual "crash" - but I went with it. The crash potatoes came from The Pioneer Woman (full recipe below).

After boiling the potatoes you put them on an oiled cookie sheet and smash them! I used a drinking glass and pushed hard. You definitely need to have them boiled enough that a fork goes through fairly easily. If they're not cooked enough - smashing will send a potato flying across your kitchen into your waiting dog's mouth (or maybe that was just me).

After the crash & smash - you drizzle with more olive oil, salt and pepper. Then - in the oven they go with the chicken.  I would recommend the smaller potatoes for this - much easier to smash.

So here's my finished dinner - stuffed & wrapped chicken with smash & crash potaotes. The potatoes were awesome! Broiling them for a few minutes really got them crispy. I loved these potatoes (and so did the husband) - we'll DEFINITELY be making these again.

Here's an inside shot of the chicken. I would make the chicken again - but would probably change up a couple of things. I would use smaller chicken breasts and put more stuffing inside. I always feel like the cheese just evaporates. The bacon definitely helps keep the chicken moist while baking. It was good but could have been better.

All in all a good dinner - but I can tell you - I'm already craving those potatoes again!

Cheddar and Pepper Stuffed Bacon Wrapped Chicken from Sweet C's Designs

Ingredients
* 2 chicken breasts
* 2 slices extra sharp cheddar cheese
* 1 sweet orange or red pepper
* 4 pieces bacon

Preparation Instructions

  1. Carefully cut open chicken breasts with a long thin knife. You'll want to butterfly them, but be careful to not cut yourself or pull the knife up or down to get an uneven cut.
  2. Season inside with salt and pepper.
  3. Cut cheddar slices in half so you can lay them inside chicken and not overhang.
  4. Cut pepper into long strips that lay flat.
  5. Lay into chicken, fold chicken back up.
  6. Carefully wrap chicken with bacon.
  7. If you are having a hard time, you can use a toothpick to keep the chicken closed and the bacon from sliding off- but that is totally optional.
  8. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, check chicken's internal temp.
  9. When chicken is cooked thoroughly, set to broil and crisp bacon under broiler for about 2 minutes.
  10. Serve with veggies and a salad, rice or other side dish and enjoy!


Crash Hot Potatoes (from Pioneer Woman)


Ingredients
  • 12 whole New Potatoes (or Other Small Round Potatoes)
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt To Taste
  • Black Pepper To Taste
  • Rosemary (or Other Herbs Of Choice) To Taste

Preparation Instructions
  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add in as many potatoes as you wish to make and cook them until they are fork-tender.
  2. On a sheet pan, generously drizzle olive oil. Place tender potatoes on the cookie sheet leaving plenty of room between each potato.
  3. With a potato masher, gently press down each potato until it slightly mashes, rotate the potato masher 90 degrees and mash again. Brush the tops of each crushed potato generously with more olive oil.
  4. Sprinkle potatoes with kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper and fresh chopped rosemary (or chives or thyme or whatever herb you have available.)
  5. Bake in a 450 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Road Trip Restaurant: Cleveland & noodlecat

A few weeks ago I applied for a blogger trip to Cleveland from Positively Cleveland. I was so excited when I was chosen - I do Road Trips but this was my first official Blogger Road Trip! How fun is that! 

The city was actually voting on what we would be doing on the Positively Cleveland Facebook & Twitter pages. They nominated a bunch of attractions and restaurants and then the folks at PC narrowed the trip down to specific neighborhoods and then they voted again to make our final selections. So the trip came together as we went along - we never knew what was coming next! It was a really fun idea!

They put us up at the Holiday Inn Express in Downtown Cleveland and it was beautiful! I couldn't believe THIS was a Holiday Inn Express!?! They bought an old building downtown with tons of gorgeous art deco touches and then renovated all of the rooms. The elevators stayed the same though - beautiful doors. The rooms were very large and modern - I really enjoyed my stay there.

The fun part of the trip was that my good friend Adventure Mom was also chosen - so we got to experience it all together!

We also got to meet Breakfast with Nick from Columbus (not pictured) as well as 30-something Therapy and The Steel Trap from Pittsburgh.

Our first adventure was noodlecat which is a Ramen house run by celebrity chef and one of Food & Wine's best new chefs - Jonathon Sawyer. The noodles featured at noodlecat are also local from Ohio City Pasta in Cleveland.

As the Pittsburgh girls found out - I'm a soda drinker - breakfast, lunch and dinner. (lots of mocking when I ordered Coke with my eggs). At noodlecat - they don't serve Coke! (gasp!) They are all about local, sustainable and natural. So I got to try something new - Gus Dry Cola. The server said it wasn't as sweet and that was a good description. It was okay but I definitely won't be abandoning my red & white love anytime soon.

The girls from Positively Cleveland knew exactly what to order and had us start with these steam buns (2 for $6). This starter was completely new to me and they have 8 varieties ranging from vegetarian to chicken to pork to beef and even fish!

I tried the Pulled Pork w/ sesame BBQ and it was DELICIOUS. I seriously could have eaten a meal of just those! The yeast bun is so light and airy with not a lot of flavor - just soft warm dough and then the filling has all of this mouth-watering, eye-opening FLAVOR. Heaven on a little plate for sure.

As we were discussing what to try - Adventure Mom was saying how she'd never tried octopus. So I challenged her that if she really is the ADVENTURE Mom - then she had to take the adventure of trying octopus! She did it and got the Spicy Octopus Udon Stir Fry. The spicy she liked - the octopus - not so much. But I give her mad props for trying it! (I hate tentacles - gak)

The half bowl shown here was only $6! Quite a lot of food for such an affordable price. 

Per the reco of the server, I tried the Crispy Beef Short Rib Ramen w/ pork broth, super dashi &
sweet sour short ribs (again $6 for half bowl).

The short ribs were great although I wasn't really sure if I should dip it in the noodles or just eat separate? They were had a great rich sweet & sour sauce that made them finger-lickin good. 

Then the ramen - it was tasty. I really enjoyed the noodles - they were firmer than the kind you get in the package. The pork broth was great with the noodles and enhanced the taste of the short ribs. And with a bowl full of noodles - you fill up too!

noodlecat also offers vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free meals. It's interesting how a city that's 100K larger (inner city of Cleveland vs. Cincinnati) has so many more "celebrity" chefs (Iron Chef Michael Symon, Food Network Star Chris Hodges, Sawyer) and seemingly interesting spots. It's definitely progressive on the dining front.

Why Should You Go? If you're in the Cleveland area - it's a great stop. It's right downtown - we walked from our hotel - and the food is delicious. It's so unique and I am so excited finding out about those steam buns! I even got to meet Chef Sawyer after our lunch - so hey Chef Sawyer - bring your culinary delights to Cincinnati!

* My weekend in Cleveland was fully paid for by Positively Cleveland as part of their blogger tourism program. All opinions are my own - as always.


Noodlecat on Urbanspoon