Friday, October 31, 2014

Restaurant Review: Redondo Taqueria

Yesterday I reviewed Mazunte - one of the latest taquerias in town - and today - it's #2 with a review of Redondo Taqueria. Redondo is at Newport on the Levee's street level and replaced the Toro restaurant and is attached to Axis Alley (bowling). 

They have a fantastic patio outside - with big comfy couches and fire pits as well as a life-size jenga game! Sounds like some drinking fun is waiting to happen there! (Next work Happy Hour anyone?)

We were then introduced to our server - Valentine. Normally I don't talk about servers but it's hard not to with this guy. He's FANTASTIC!!! I'm a bit obnoxious (shocker right?) and a smart a$$ - and he went toe-to-toe with me and my snarkiness. I would (and do) go back just for Valentine! So when you go - ask for him. :-)

We had the chips and salsa first to nosh on - I'm not exactly sure if that's included or charged - but we weren't charged (and we paid for all our visits - they didn't even know about my blog). The chips are soooooo good! They're warm and have big hunks of sea salt. The salsa is fine - nothing special but I like it. I have also asked for a small cup of queso and it's REALLY good. :-) (Of course I did - I'm a queso addict!)

I will say - I've been there 3x in 10 days. Is it the best taqueria in the world? No - but it's really good and it's super convenient and it has a great server in Valentine. 

All three times I got the tres tacos (someone asked Valentine how many tacos are in the tres tacos- oye vay!). The tres tacos is either 3 of one kind or any combo of them ($8-11). My standard is the crispy fish and two carnitas. 

The crispy fish is topped with radish, cilantro, citrus slaw and tomatillo aioli ($10 for 3). It's really good! I like it BETTER than Mazunte! The breading is so crispy - loved it! 

Then I get two of the Carnitas ($8) topped with pineapple salsa, pickled onion and cotija. It's everybodys favorite - the pineapple really sets of the shredded pork. Delicious! I'd say this is on par with Mazunte. This is sweeter but they're both my favorite. 

I've also had the short rib and poblano. Short rib is usually something I obsess over but oddly enough I didn't care for it on the taco - it was a little tough. The poblano had a lot of great toppings but I didn't care for the bitterness of the cooked pepper - it's also the spiciest of them. 

We also tried dessert there once - mainly because I'm obsessed with Tres Leches cake. This was a big let down and not NEAR as good as Chuy's. In actuality - when they brought it out - it was still frozen and basically inedible. Once we mentioned it - they took it off our bill. Valentine tried to get us to get churros (which I love) but we're usually too full after the chips and tacos. 

Why Should You Go? We love it - we work right across the river and the Levee has free parking Mon-Thurs. A lot of people on Urbanspoon compare this to Bakersfield - and I think a bit unfairly. Bakersfield is good - but I don't think their tacos are any better (their guac and queso are great). And personally - I don't plan on EVER waiting 2 hours for a table or food.  If you want great service (Valentine), delicious tacos and free parking (Mon-Thurs Lunch) - then check out Redondo.  

Redondo Taqueria on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Restaurant Review: Mazunte Taqueria

So we're going to do two days of Taquerias - today it's Mazunte in Madisonville and tomorrow Redondo in Newport! I'm just obsessed with tacos - so I just keep going to them! 

Many people wonder - where the heck is Mazunte??? It's at Red Bank & Madison next to the Rainbow Car Wash. Just be forewarned - it's closed on Sundays - I found out the hard way - drool coming down my cheek on a Sunday - then I pulled in and REJECTED! 

The first thing you see when you walk in is the tortilla station. This lady has the hookup - graffiti, tortillas, chips, salsa and drinks - all within arms reach. You order at the counter and then find a seat (if you can) - then head over to this little lady with your bowl & cup in hand to get your fresh chips, salsa and a drink!

There are a range of seats - from picnic tables outside to stoops inside. The stoops are BY FAR the least comfortable things in the joint. Its like I'm at a spin class that won't end. Thankfully for us - two seats opened up at the bar!

Ahhhhh - chairs! Plus you get to watch them cook!!!

We grabbed our chips and salsa - they have 4 different choices and with the $1.50 salsa bar you can have as much as you want.

Oh the drinks!!! They have sodas but you can also get more authentic drinks. They have horchata and I tried the hibiscus flower water and...

It was delicious! It's like grape juice without the tang and tart. It's just nice, sweet and fruity! I loved it - I definitely will get this every time I go back. I had a Hibiscus Lemonade at a restaurant in Chicago and this reminded me of it - yum! I'm not sure if you get free refills - I wanted more - but I didn't want to seem greedy. So good.

So here are the chips & salsa - you get your bowl when you pay - then take it over and get some hot, fresh, crisp tortillas - sometimes blue - sometimes yellow - sometimes both! I liked the greenish salsa the best - it was a little spicy but not too much. Yum! I also could have devoured about 3 bowls of these but was trying to be good. :-)

My friend Kelly and I got the same order of 3 mixed tacos ($9) - except she got grilled fish and I got fried. This is her grilled fish taco.

These both come with Mexican slaw, guacamole and mango-habanero salsa. The mango makes it just a little sweet while the habanero adds the kick. I loved the fish - it was nice and crispy. 

We both also got the Sangria marinated skirt steak tacos topped with red-onion, pico and goat cheese. They were very heavy handed with the goat cheese - which I LOVE - but even for me - it was heavy. We both liked it and ate it - but it was our least favorite. 

Now the shredded pork topped with avocado salsa & salsa rojo was our FAVORITE! I didn't reallize but the menu online says you can sub out chicken or chorizo on this. Now I know my next order - one of each!!!  This was delicious and I could have downed two orders of these! So good! I highly recommend 3 of the shredded pork!

They also have sides - one of which is Grilled Corn ($3 - seasonal) with dried chili, aioli, lime and cheese. It looked so good - but I was pretty full and didn't feel like spending $3 for it when I wasn't that hungry.  
Why Should You Go? Cuz it's awesome! But I pretty much say that about any taqueria. I guess at least I can tell you to get the pork tacos for sure. I've also heard good things about the blue enchiladas. I will give you fair warning - if you go at peak dining times - prepare for a wait. 
Be sure to check back tomorrow for my review of Redondo! 

Mazunte Taqueria Mexicana on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Restaurant Review: Symphony Hotel

I was invited to the Symphony Hotel again for dinner. I think this is one of the hidden gems in the city - it's just around the corner from Music Hall and is so cozy - it's ridiculous. 

Symphony Hotel is a bed & breakfast as well as a restaurant. They have a 3 or 5-course menu four nights/week. 

We opted to sit in the bar area because it was one of those last days when it was 75 degrees outside in October! The doors open up to the sidewalk so you've got fresh air and the "ambiance" of OTR. There are these really cozy booths with lots of pillows and after a bit - there was a someone setting up to play some music for the evening.

There's also a back room with a fireplace and leather chairs - my friend said she couldn't wait to come back this winter and just sit back there with coffee and a book. 

Keep going around corners and you'll find this cozy nook - there are nooks all around this place. The rooms upstairs are great as well - there's a really nice patio upstairs for the guests to use (in good weather).

Here's the menu for the evening- you get bread, soup, salad and sorbet and then choices for entree and dessert. Coffee & tea are included but they have a full bar as well.

We started with the sweet potato leek with chive creme fraiche soup. I'm a fan of soup with chunks rather than a puree so I didn't care for it. Danielle really enjoyed it though. 

They also brought out a basket of fresh bread complete with a bowl of soft butter. I think you can see by the food and the decor - this isn't the latest, coolest hipster place on the block. It's a bit old school - but I have to say - it's comforting when you're there. The bread was warm, heart and super soft - Yum! 

The salad was a Belgium Endive, romaine and roasted kabocha squash with pomegranate white balsamic vinaigrette. Now on this one - Danielle didn't care for it but I really liked it! The vinaigrette was fruity and light - really zippy! The squash added a bit of richness to it - beets would have been good as well. It was nice to not have a normal "house salad" with croutons and cheese, etc...

Next up was the palate clearing sorbet and I have to say - probably my favorite part of the meal - this Apple Cider Bellini was my favorite thing last time I dined here. It was so delicious. Danielle had no idea the wonder she was about to taste! The apple cider taste is so vibrant - I don't even like sorbet but I can tell you - I'd eat a gallon of this stuff!

For the entree - I decided to be a little crazy and choose the vegetarian option. It was a roasted portabello mushroom topped with kale, chick peas, quinoa and goat cheese then drizzled with a porcini and balsamic reduction. I apologize for the fuzzy picture - the light was dimming outside and it was hard to tell whether my pics were turning out as I wanted them too. 

I have mixed feelings about this dish. There was a LOT going on here - and to be honest - it looked a hot mess. The portion size was huge - I could only eat one of the mushrooms (yes - there's a mushroom at the bottom of all that). That said - this topping would be really good on piece of salmon or even chicken or sirloin. Danielle tried it and loved it! I did like the flavors - but after one heap of it - I didn't really want the other mushroom-full. It was a creative vegetarian dish though - I will say that for sure. 

Danielle went with the New York Strip crusted with espresso sea salt and Glace de Viande (meat glaze) and Roasted Rosemary Fingerling Potato Stacks. Danielle thought it was fine - I had a bite - it was fine. I prefer my steak medium rare and strip is one of my least favorite cuts (I'm a ribeye girl). It was a nice entree.

Now my favorite part of the meal - dessert! Danielle chose the Cinnamon Pumpkin Creme Brulee topped with whipped vanilla cream, berries and chocolate chili dust. She was sold! It tasted like pumpkin pie but with the crunchy crust on top.

And while that all sounds well and good - I chose the Symphony specialty - Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding with fresh raspberries, whipped cream and mint. Yes sir. This was heavenly, decadent and just completely amazing. I melted with every bite - I think Danielle was talking but I really couldn't hear her - I was too engrossed with warm chocolate and soft bread, sweet whipped cream - oh man - I want some now!!!!!
Why Should You Go? Well - I can't say that the food is amazing (except for that damned dessert) - but the food is good. The atmosphere is great and it's so unique. It's just a comforting, interesting and warm place for dinner. There are unique stories about the art around the hotel as well as a history - just ask the manager - she'll share it all. If you're going to a show at Music Hall - check it out as a pre-dinner spot - be sure to make a reservation - on show nights they're packed! Or if you're just up for trying something unique in the city - it's definitely a great spot.

Symphony Hotel on Urbanspoon

Disclosure: The Symphony Hotel provided our meal that night in exchange for this post but all opinions are my own. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Recipe: Shrimp & Asparagus Alfredo (Frozen Veggies are Awesome!)

This post brought to you by The Frozen Food Foundation. The content and opinions expressed below are that of The Food Hussy.

I love using frozen vegetables & fruit in for dinner and dessert - one of my most famous recipes is my Mom's Peach Cobbler which uses frozen peaches! Tonight I decided to make some Shrimp Alfredo but wanted veggies to go with it - so I grabbed a bag of Birds Eye Frozen Asparagus (one of the few veggies my husband will eat) and added them to it! Voila! Dinner with vitamins!

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University of California, Davis in partnership with the Frozen Food Foundation did a study about frozen vs fresh vegetables - studying and measuring the nutrients in them right after harvest, then 24 hours, then 90 days and found that frozen was generally nutritionally equal to fresh! That's great for me - after a long day at work - it's nice to just grab a bag of veggies out of the freezer and add them to whatever I'm making for dinner and know that I'm still getting all the nutrients as if I'd gone to the farmers market and gotten them fresh.

The alfredo dish I made was pretty simple - let's get into that!

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First you saute half stick of butter with a couple cloves of garlic. I used these cute new purple pans that I got - snazzy!

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While that was melting, I grated 2/3 cup of Parmesan cheese...it's so much better freshly grated!

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I added flour, chicken broth and evaporated milk to the garlic butter mixture - once that was all whisked together - you add that delicious cheese.

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I like to use raw shrimp much more than cooked - so I had to saute the shrimp up quickly. I found a bag of frozen shrimp that was tail off - woohoo for not having to pop off tails! I just threw the shrimp in a little olive oil and it cooked up in just 2-3 minutes. I like to just barely get it finished so it doesn't get rubbery when you reheat it.

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Besides frozen veggies & fruit - I love the new sides that come frozen. Larry loves rice - so throw some rice & broccoli beside a piece of steak or fish and dinner is done! Love it! They're so convenient - in less than five minutes - you've got vitamins galore!

Freezing is like nature's pause button - so it's great when you want to use veggies that are out of season. There's no need to double the cost for fresh - frozen has all the flavor and the nutrients!

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Once the shrimp is finished - you add the shrimp to the sauce. Then add cooked pasta and your frozen veggies - this would be great with broccoli too! What I really like about this is that it's cheesy but not too thick and rich - the chicken broth keeps it light - while the evaporated milk adds the creaminess! Good stuff! This is one of those dishes you can really customize to what your family likes! Don't like shrimp? Use chicken. Don't like asparagus? Use broccoli! For the pasta - just whatever you have in the cupboard - mini rotini was what I could find today - so that's what we used!
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Using frozen vegetables and fruit is great. With all the chronic diseases that people of all ages have - it is really healthy to eat a diet rich in a variety of colorful fruits & vegetables.

This Shrimp & Asparagus Alfredo was quick, simple and nutritious - sounds like a great meal to me. And I had enough leftovers for work tomorrow for both of us!

Shrimp & Asparagus Alfredo

3 c. Uncooked Pasta (Use whatever pasta you have on hand)
2 Garlic Cloves, Minced
1/4 c. Butter
1 package frozen asparagus (steam-fresh is my favorite)
1/4 c. All-Purpose Flour
1 can (14 1/2 oz) Chicken Broth
1 can (5 oz) Evaporated Milk
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 T Greek Seasoning
1 lb Raw Medium Shrimp - Peeled, Deveined & Tails Off
2 T olive oil
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan saute garlic in butter. 
  3. Microwave asparagus according to package directions. 
  4. Stir in flour until blended; gradually add broth and milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir 2 minutes or until thickened.
  5. While sauce is cooking, heat oil in a skillet. When oil is heated, add shrimp and saute for 2-3 minutes until white. 
  6. Whisk in the Parmesan cheese until smooth. Sprinkle in Greek Seasoning. Then fold in the shrimp. 
  7. Drain pasta. Add pasta to shrimp mixture; toss to coat. Serve immediately.
Adapted from http://www.julieseatsandtreats.com

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Restaurant Review: Longhorn Steakhouse

Larry and I were invited to try out some new and tried & true Longhorn Steakhouse favorites a couple of weeks ago. We headed down to the Rookwood location in Cincinnati. 

It's one of the oldest Longhorn Steakhouse's in the city- on the other end of the spectrum - the Northgate location by me is one of the newest!

And if you ever forget where you are - just look above the bar...you'll quickly remember.

We started with a warm, fresh loaf of bread. I always love the bread at these places - the center is so soft and the outside is so crisp. Good stuff! 

And now - appetizer time! I have to say - I don't usually get appetizers at steakhouses - with salads and bread and sides - who needs them? Oh my - apparently I do! First up were the Brew Pub Pretzel Sticks with Sam Adams beer cheese & bacon honey mustard ($6.29). These were delicious - very comparable to the ones I had in Indy at the Colts Grille. Crispy on the outside - and the dips - so good! The beer cheese would typically be my favorite (and it was good) but the bacon honey mustard was fantastic!  

Next up was the Wild West Shrimp ($9.49) with hand-battered shrimp, garlic butter, spicy peppers and housemade ranch. My friend Lou LOVES this app and it's her favorite. I did like it - it's so snackable!

These Spicy Chicken Bites ($4.99) packed a punch! Crispy chicken bites tossed in a chili-ginger sauce. I loved these - they were spicy and crispy. It was like what chicken nuggets should be like!

The Sweet Corn Fritters ($3.99) were a bit hit as well amongst the group. I liked them but they weren't my favorite. It seems like all the things I'd like - but I just liked the spicy of the chicken and the honey mustard with the pretzels better.

The manager stopped by to tell us about their steak options and even gave us a little quiz on the restaurant. (We were too busy eating to study the menu - oops.) He talked to us about his history with the company and the experience of his staff. It's pretty amazing - sounds like a pretty good place to work too!

We got the Blue Ridge Side Salad ($5.49) - um wow - I don't even like bleu cheese and this was great! There was a lot of dressing though - maybe a little heavy. It's a large salad as well - that's a lot of romaine. But man - was it good!

They also (for a charge) do a tableside steak sauce. They come and mix all this stuff together on this little hot plate and blam-o - you have steak sauce. It was very zingy and a little bit of spice. 

We had 3 steaks to choose from for the evening. Larry tried the Renegade Sirloin and a sweet potato ($11.99). I had a bite of his and was surprised at how juicy it was. I'm a big ribeye fan - but this was pretty darned good (and actually I liked it more than my...

Outlaw Ribeye! ($24.99). I ordered it medium instead of my normal medium rare (I was sharing with a friend). I also didn't love the char on the outside - sometimes I don't like that taste on there. Larry's renegade was delicious - I just think I like a medium rare steak and can't budge for anybody! (Sorry Kristen - no more sharing - haha).

For my side I went with their potato and leek gratin. Honestly I was too full to really enjoy it - so I tried a bite or two and did like it - I'd get it again if I went on a regular visit. It's nice to have something other than a baked or mashed potato. Fancy sides are yum!

Why did I share anyway? Oh yeah - so I could have some of the special Harvest Mushroom Filet ($21.99) - a center cut filet with a bordelaise sauce and a trio of mushrooms. Even though it was medium - it was really good. That filet was tender and juicy - just the way it's meant to be.

Yowza - some people were ready to handle dessert - I was done for the night - but I did try a bite of each. The Chocolate Stampede ($8.49) was definitely my favorite - the cake was surprisingly light with a lot of mousse rather than a lot of heavy. Definitely a dessert meant to be shared!

The other option was their Pumpkin Spice Lava Cake ($6.99) - everybody raved about it. I had one bite and it was good - but I was definitely too full for it. Luckily there were other folks that were more than excited to take leftovers home. :-)

Why Should You Go? Actually I went back the next night - so yeah - you should go back. I resisted the temptation to get those pretzel sticks again. I went for chicken tenders (the girls had raved about them) and they were right - they are delicious and a huge portion! I had enough for lunch the next day (I did have the honey mustard again!). Larry had his Renegade Sirloin again and loved it just as much! Enjoy!

Longhorn Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Disclosure: Longhorn Steakhouse provided the meal for us but all opinions are my own.