Food Hussy Review: Lalo Cincinnati - Downtown

I'm always on the hunt for new tacos and a couple of days ago - I tried Gutierrez Deli - a tiny little deli in Covington. Today - on the other end of the spectrum - a fancyish restaurant downtown called Lalo Cincinnati. 

On Court Street - Lalo used to be Huit BBQ which I went to once. I liked my Bi Bim Bap but thought it was a little pricey. Inside it's a tiny little place - but a cute design. A coworker and I went for lunch on a rather cold day - unfortunately the door doesn't like to shut unless people REALLY shut it - so we were freezing our entire lunch. The staff tried to keep on it but it was a bit futile.

  • $8.00
Fried Rice Al Pastor
Grilled pork 'Al Pastor', pineapple, and onions. Garnished with arugula and pickled carrots
Audrey went for the Fried Rice Al Pastor - she actually introduced me to the fact that the Pastor pork has pineapple and is usually juicier than carnitas so this dish sounded great. In reality this dish was EXTREMELY dry and had enough rice for 3 people. It wasn't just the rice - the pork itself was even dry. Disappointing for sure. 
Drunken Brisket $3.50 (top)
Huit famous Brisket stewed in a wine sauce and spices, Topped with queso fresco, arugula and radish
Pork Carnitas $3 (bottom)
Traditional tender simmered pork Topped with pickled red onions and cilantro
I went for tacos and got two tacos - a Drunken Brisket and a Carnitas. They were really small - like maybe 4" across. They were also both really dry. I was really disappointed in the tacos.

  • $3.50
Charro Chili
Pinto beans, bacon and chorizo in tomato and chili sauce. Served with house-made wonton chips
I also ordered the chili when I ordered my meal. I'll tell you the good first - it was INCREDIBLE. I mean seriously - this is one of the best soups I have ever had in my life.

But...I would be shocked if this is not a soup that has been cooking and simmering for some hours. I ordered this thinking it would come before my tacos. It actually came about 15 minutes AFTER my tacos. The server apologized and said it took a while to make. We were both done with our lunch when it came.

Again - it was worth the wait and by far the best part of the lunch. But waiting 35-45 minutes for a bowl of soup was a little cra.

Why Should You Go? Well - the soup was amazing. The service left something to be desired.

Lalo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Food Hussy Review: Sidekix - East End

The big trend in restaurants right now is the "Fast Casual" thing - basically Chipotle-style. You order at the counter - choose from a few main menu items - add toppings - and you pay at the counter. There are burritos, pizzas, burgers, etc and now - there are the "Asian Grill" concepts. 

These Asian Grills are very Chipotle-like but just with different sauces and some different toppings. The largest chain is BiBiBop which recently came to Cincinnati (unfortunately - I didn't love). 

Recently I came across Sidekix Saucy Asian Grill which is a local version over in the Mt Lookout area off Columbia Parkway. It's in the strip mall near the Bruegger's Bagels and Green Dog.

Familiar menu concept here -
1. Pick a bowl or a wrap
2. Choose your base (lettuce, white rice, brown rice, asian noodles)
3. Pick a protein (chicken, steak, tofu)
4. Add toppings (too many too list but they have warm, chilled and crunchy)
5. Make it saucy (again too many - but things like Yum Yum, Teriyaki & more)

Look familiar? I went for a pretty tradition Bi Bim Bap style with white rice, steak, egg and bamboo but then added corn, broccoli and yum yum sauce.

Here's a snapshot of their sauces - they have so much selection! It's almost reminiscent of the Mongolian Grill with the wide variety of directions you can go with it!

I absolutely loved my choices and felt this was much better than BiBiBop. All of the ingredients were just better and I felt like there was more selection. I will definitely be back to Sidekix!

Why Should You Go? It's local and has a great selection of toppings and sauces - Love it!

Sidekix Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Food Hussy Review: Gutierrez Deli - Covington

I love tacos. Love love love tacos. I might love them as much as my friend Bob Herzog from Local 12 - if you haven't followed him and his Taco Tuesday escapades - you're missing out. 

So imagine my excitement when I find a new taco place to try! Gutierrez Deli is a little Mexican deli/grocery in Covington. It's a very tight space with tons of great grocery finds - I got a huge jar of awesome salsa for like $2.50! But most importantly - they have tacos.

There's not really much of a menu - just walk up the counter and there's a tiny board behind them that says what they have that day. I got three tacos and it was like $6. They were fresh with delicious light shells. They were pretty heavy on the cilantro, onion and cabbage - but for a real Mexican taco - it was definitely good.

We will definitely be back to Gutierrez - if nothing else for the salsa! I also had to pick up some Mexican treats for the office - Audrey wanted to try the hot Takis - which are SO FREAKIN HOT! I like the little wafer bars.

Why Should You Go? Definitely branch out and try it!

Gutierrez Deli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Food Hussy Recipe: Stuffed Manicotti and Family Traditions with Ragu #simmeredintradition

My parents split up when I was young and I stayed with my Dad. Unfortunately I don't remember much about the time when my mom was around as a kid. But there is one thing I remember - Mom making stuffed manicotti. 

It's a labor of love for sure! I remember asking for this every birthday - and she would sigh and say, "Well - it's a lot of work." And then I would turn on the charm:

I mean - could you say no to that little Hussy?!

So anytime my little hussy self would ask - she would make it for me. There was no recipe really - it was just in her head and it was a great memory of my mom - so today - I'm sharing it with you! 

So here's my Mom's Family Tradition recipe for Stuffed Manicotti - with her other favorite - Homestyle Ragu with mushrooms.

First you boil manicotti - be sure to do it al dente (8 min) because it's going to cook a little more once you bake it - and you don't want a mush ball.

While the noodles are boiling - brown 1/2 pound of sweet Italian sausage and drain.

Mix together ricotta, sausage, mozzarella, oregano and parsley. Stir until combined but don't over stir. 

Then you stuff the shells. If you have a piping bag you could use that. I tried to use a ziploc and trim off the corner but it didn't work too well. I ended up just using a mini-spoon and that did pretty well. I remember my Mom sitting on the sofa and doing them by hand.

Then you top them with Ragu Sauce and more mozzarella! 

Then you bake it for 25 minutes at 375. I also turned it to broil for just a couple of minutes at the end to brown the cheese - I maybe went a minute too long!

In then end - it's maybe not the prettiest dish - but it's cheesy and delicious - which is pretty much my definition of comfort food!

Dinner tonight totally reminded me of the years where my parents were together and we lived on Elm Street in our tiny apartment with our stray cat Scrag (yes - that was my little buddy's name). So thanks Mom and Ragu Homestyle for the memories - I hope you'll enjoy them too.

And be sure to learn more about RAGÚ® Homestyle Sauces and discover more recipes for the family here.

Stuffed Manicotti

1 package manicotti noodles
1 jar Ragu Homestyle sauce with mushrooms
16 oz ricotta cheese
1/2 pound Italian sausage
16 oz shredded Mozzarella
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon parsley

- Preheat oven to 375
- Boil manicotti noodles for 8 minutes
- While noodles are boiling, brown sausage and drain
- Once noodles are cooked, drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking
- In a large bowl, mix together ricotta, 1/2 mozzarella, sausage, oregano & parsley
- Spray baking dish with non-stick spray and pour 1/2 cup Ragu sauce on the bottom of your dish
- Stuff manicotti noodles with ricotta mixture and line in baking dish
- Top with remaining Ragu sauce & mozzarella cheese
- Bake for 25 minutes and broil for 2 minutes

Food Hussy Recipe + Giveaway: Honey Dijon Pork Satay

This post is sponsored by Ohio Pork - all opinions are my own.

Recently I visited Uncle Squeal on his pig farm and was prepared a feast of every kind of pork you can imagine! 

One of those dishes was a Honey Dijon Pork Satay and turns out that is one of his favorite recipes - so I had to try and make it for myself.

Squeals had also showed me different ways to break down a pork loin into roast, butterfly chops and strips for the satay. At this point I felt well-prepared to make this for myself.

The recipe on the Ohio Pork site makes a HUGE amount - so I had to drop it down to a 2-person serving but the ingredients were simple: pork loin, dijon mustard, honey, soy sauce and garlic.

I tried doing the strips but apparently my knives need to be sharpened so I abandoned that and went to just chopped 4 boneless chops into bite-sized chunks.

Then I prepped the marinade/sauce - and it was pretty easy to bring this down to a normal serving level. It's a 1-2-3 ratio - doubling each ingredient - so I used 1/4 cup honey, 1/2 cup soy sauce and 1 cup dijon mustard. You can easily scale this up if you have a larger group.

A video posted by Heather Johnson (@foodhussy) on

 After they're all in the bowl you just whisk together and your marinade/dipping sauce is ready to go!

I put the pork chunks into a ziploc bag and then poured in about 2/3 of the marinade. Seal it up and refrigerate for 1-3 hours.

Once marinated - I pulled the pieces out and skewered them. You can grill them but I was in a hurry so I just grabbed my grill pan. I heated it up and sprayed it with nonstick spray and then grilled the skewers. I've gotten pretty good at cooking meat and just used my tongs to push on the pork and tell when it was done. And remember - pork is PERFECT at 145 degrees - don't let it dry out!

And there you have it - delicious Honey Dijon Pork Satay. As you see I did try some skewers but the chunks were so much easier. It all eats the same and both were delicious. Be sure to NOT overcook your pork! It's so much juicier when it's cooked correctly!

And now you can make this for yourself! It's super easy and a quick recipe for sure.

Before I give you the delicious recipe - I would love for you to take this quick survey from Ohio Pork. We'll be drawing a winner on January 31 for a KitchenAid Mixer with a sausage attachment and the winner even gets to pick the color they want!

So here you have it - Uncle Squeal very favorite recipe for Honey Dijon Pork Satay!

Honey Dijon Pork Satay

1 pound pork tenderloin - cubed
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 cup dijon mustard
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder (or 1 clove garlic, minced)

- Mix together honey, soy sauce, mustard and garlic
- Place pork cubes into zipper bag and add 2/3 of the sauce mixture
- Marinate in the refrigerator for 1-3 hours
- Remove pork from bag and skewer
- Grill to 145 degrees
- Use extra sauce for dipping

Food Hussy Review: Pizzelii's Brick Oven Pizza - Plainfield

I'm always on the hunt for new places to try and sometimes it's places that I've driven by every single day and that's what I decided to try with my good friend Kelly a while back. 

Pizzelii's Brick Oven Pizza is just across the street from 50 West and is owned by the same folks.

It's the "fast casual" style restaurant that is all the rage right now - where you order at the counter and then sit down and they bring you your food. These pizza places are all the rage with Pizzelii, Pieology, Blaze and more popping up every day.

They have a Coke freestyle machine as well as bottles of pop at the counter...

And it's an open kitchen - which I'm always fascinated by. You can see them making the pizzas as you walk by after ordering.

We were there right after work and it was a bit before the typical dinner rush - so it was pretty empty but they have a ton of space. It's pretty generic but wide open.

There are also dipping sauces you can grab and try - the pizza sauce was pretty bland - like tomato sauce out of a can but the spicy relish had a bit more flavor.

I started with the Caprese Salad ($5) and it was fine - the mozzarella wheels are house-made and it's served with a basil garlic vinaigrette. The dressing was ok and the mozzarella wheels were just ok - I'd rather have a more traditional caprese with just tomatoes, basil and mozzarella.

I ordered a custom bianca pizza (olive oil sauce) with meatballs, goat cheese, ricotta and mushrooms and it was delicious! I didn't love the salad but the pizza was worth the price of admission.

Why Should You Go? The pizza is good and it's a great quick spot for dinner and very family friendly.

Pizzelii Brick Oven Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Food Hussy Road Trip: Hocking Hills Comfort Food Cruise

This post is sponsored by but all opinions are my own.

The folks from Hocking Hills have a fun thing called the Comfort Food Cruise going on every weekend in January. It's the 4th year for this and it's become a visitor favorite. You pay a nominal fee for a ticket ($18) and you get to sample a special dish from 13 different restaurants around Hocking Hills. You need to do all your sampling over one weekend - but the best thing about HH is all the hiking - so you can eat something - hike a little - eat more - hike more! 

 They invited me and a few other Ohio bloggers to come to Hocking Hills for a preview of the Comfort Food Cruise and I'm always up for a road trip!

We stayed at Cedar Grove Lodge in their Cedar Hill Lodge which can hold up to 26 people. Thankfully - there were only 7 of us!
The lodge is great - we all loved it. The beds were REALLY comfortable and everything was well done in terms of design and quality. Nothing was shabby or in need of repair. The couches were all really comfortable too. There's a theater room downstairs with a big wall-size screen - we enjoyed that one night as well. There's a hot tub outside and a fire pit in the back - because it was 7 degrees - we didn't partake in either. ;-)

And let me say again - the beds were REALLY comfortable. That is not often the case in a cabin - so I was thrilled when I slept well both nights! 

 Here's a quick selfie when I arrived - it was so cold - so it was a quick trip outside - but the porch is very nice and would be great in warmer weather. We also saw a lot of deer roaming just in our short weekend - it was their party place for sure.

On our first night we had a guest chef - Chef Matt from Lake Hope Lodge came and made us dinner. He's also the chef at the Dining Lodge in Hocking Hills that was recently devastated by a fire. They are working to rebuild that so Matt is keeping himself busy at Lake Hope.

First Matt made us this amazing veggie salad - cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, onions and fresh mozzarella balls - simple enough - with a fresh red wine vinaigrette and fresh basil. Simple and delicious! We were all DROOLING as he prepared it and could barely wait to dig in!

Matt also made us some rustic Italian pasta dishes - one with clams and fish sauce and the other with chicken, sausage and shrimp - both very simple - light and so freakin delicious! The only sauce was a bit of olive oil and seasonings - which is really all you need. Everybody went back for seconds.

And he couldn't forget dessert - he whipped us up a lemon raspberry panna cotta which had us all drooling. Panna Cotta is an Italian dessert made of a sweetened cream and thickened with gelatin usually to make a mold. Our mold was a teeny tiny mason jar. I am a big fan - it's like creme brulee without the sugar crust or just like a really kick ass pudding.

Lake Hope Lodge is on the Comfort Food Cruise and gives you a Turkey Pot Pie sampling and I can only imagine after tasting Chef Matt's food here - it's not something to be missed!

Our first night - with full bellies - it was a typical blogger evening. All of us - curled up in blankets - killing the wifi. Our cabin had wifi and we tapped into it - it wasn't great in all areas of the house - but it was fine in the big living room.

Here are links to the girls I spent the weekend with - if you'd like to find out about some other great Ohio bloggers:

The next morning we got up bright and early to start our Comfort Food Cruise tour and the first stop was Pearl's Diner. It's in the strip mall by the Wal-Mart and if you've ever been to Hocking Hills - that's enough directions for you. There's only one Wally World and you inevitably find/need it sometime during your trip!

We met Sandy - the owner - and she told us the story of starting Pearl's (named after her mother) and welcomed us like we were her kids. She even sent us home with a bag of homemade chocolates - something none of us were going to turn down!

Then was the barrage of gravy. The Comfort Food Cruise sample item is Biscuits and Gravy - so I got that but then I also had to try something called the Sausage Cornbread with gravy. I love cornbread, sausage and gravy - so I had to try it!

The Biscuits and Gravy was pretty great - the biscuits were light and fluffy and the gravy was similar to what I love - white sausage gravy seasoned well with salt & pepper.

The sausage cornbread was homemade cornbread with lots of corn in it and inside were two full links of sausage! (bottom left) Then it was slathered in gravy - of course.

Pearls has a thing for roosters - they're pretty much the decor staple so I had to grab a quick pic with the very very large rooster at the front door. I'll leave all the jokes to you guys.

Pearls Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

After all that gravy - we had to walk around a bit and started with Old Man's Cave. And that's the one thing I love most about Hocking Hills. You can really do a lot of fun things in the area FOR FREE. All the caves are within the state park system - so they're free! If you like being outside - it's a great place. It's nice to have so many options that are free - rather than being charged every where you go!

As we explored - it only took about 10 minutes to get to the falls and thank goodness since it was only 7 degrees!!!! But with the ice formations - winter is one of the most beautiful times of the year.

 After freezing our hineys off - we decided we might as well eat again. (right?!) Our next Comfort Food Cruise stop was the Olde Dutch Restaurant. I've been before and knew what to expect...

They are famous for their buffet - which has all the "family style" favorites you would expect - mashed potatoes, corn, onion rings, chicken, ribs, a huge salad bar and more...

And pie!!!! Every kind of pie you could think of! It was funny - the girls were all like, "Oh pie - okay" - then I directed them to the pie buffet and their eyes lit up - OOOOOH PIE!!!

The sampling item on the Comfort Food Cruise at Olde Dutch is their Amish Noodles or Mashed Potatoes. So I definitely had to try a heaping spoonful of each and they are comfort food at their best.

The other thing they have that I LOVED was broasted chicken. Theirs is superb! Super crispy with juicy chicken on the inside. No heavy greasy batter here!

And then - I had to try some pie as well - I wasn't sure what to go for - but in the end - Coconut Cream won out and it was so good! Light and fluffy I enjoyed every bite!

Olde Dutch Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Next up we drove over to Nelsonville to see what they had to offer. It was all of a 10 minute drive and we came upon the Nelsonville Emporium. Here they have an emporium of locally made art ranging from paintings to pottery to scarves and a bunch of food items too. They're in the process of building in a kitchen to have cooking classes and have people come in and make foods for sale.  I love these "co-op" types of businesses where everybody comes together and sells local goods.

The bricks in Nelsonville have a specific pattern and the Emporium sells a lot of pottery and chocolate items all with that same brick pattern.

Jennifer is the owner of the Emporium and she took us in the back to demonstrate how to make pottery. Seeing her whip out a beautiful bowl from a lump of clay was fascinating.

So much so that some of our brood gave it a try. It's not as easy as it looks. We didn't have time for me to try it - but I'm now on the hunt for a place here in Cincinnati to get on a potters wheel for myself! I feel like I'll be good at it - probably not but you never know.

Our next stop was the Rocky Boot Factory Store - they have boots, clothes and housewares in a four story warehouse that you'll definitely need some time to explore.

They also have a restaurant called the Boot Factory Grill and serve breakfast, lunch and dinner in their Factory Outlet Store.

We were here the weekend before the Comfort Food Cruise so we couldn't try their Prime Rib Sliders from the CFC menu - but we did have dinner and enjoyed every bite. I tried the Bison Boot Burger - which was a bison burger topped with thousand island dressing and a bunch of other toppings - very good. Their mac & cheese was homemade and really good as well. I also got potato skins (smothered in a cheese whiz type of substance) that I shared with the group. It's a very family friendly and casual atmosphere that we enjoyed.

 After an early dinner, we decided we needed a little booze so we headed to the Hocking Hills Winery - which is also right near the Wal-Mart.

 It was a tale of two Heathers trying out their tasting menu - I only tasted the whites. And one of the Winery staff members had to photo bomb us. :-) I'm not a big wine drinker but they did have wine slushies and those were SO GOOD! The best was mixing the two together! We were killing those slushies!

One of our girls is pregnant and couldn't partake in the wine so she went for a gourmet caramel apple and chose the Apple Pie flavor and zomg it was delicious! I don't like caramel or granny smith apples but this was delicious!
I was even asked to go on stage and sing with the entertainment - Peter Conrad. He came over to chat up our group and asked if we had any requests - I asked for something by the Eagles and he quickly snapped, "Sure if you come and sing it with me." I'm sure he regrets that to this day but I had a great time and it was a great end to a busy fun-filled day.

The next morning we had one last stop - another place I've been before - the Kindred Spirits restaurant at the Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls.

I knew how amazing Chef Anthony was and was telling the girls all about how much I loved the Inn on my previous visit. The Inn is run by Ellen and was started by her mother. Ellen is a spit fire and I had to spread some of her infectious excitement with my group since she wasn't able to hang out with us on this brisk Sunday morning.

The Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls is a unique destination in Hocking Hills because it has lodging, dining and activities - all in one spot. You could come to the Inn for a weekend and never leave their property.

We ordered from their brunch menu and I couldn't not turn down Chef's biscuits and gravy with a side of bacon and a fresh made orange blossom muffin. So freakin good. And I'll say - I did slightly prefer Chef Anthony's biscuits and gravy to Pearl's.

The item at the Inn that is on the Comfort Food Cruise is their Ultimate Chocolate Brownie so we couldn't leave without trying it. Wowza - super rich - but zomg so delicious!!! This is a MUST-HAVE on the Cruise tour. Trust me!

After breakfast we got to tour a cottage - this is a great place to disconnect. In the cottages - there are no TVs and no wifi and don't even think about using your cell phone. It's a place to relax and enjoy nature. There's a deck on every cottage along with a small fridge and microwave, a giant comfy bed, a jacuzzi tub and a reading/game nook.

The cottages have either a King or Queen bed and there are a few that are pet friendly. Ellen has done a fantastic job of decorating with little fun touches like the wire bathtub basket next to the big bathtub. The linens and furniture are fresh and up-to-date and let me tell you they have the most comfortable sheets I've ever slept on (they sell them in the gift shop).

If you need more space - they also have cabins that have room for more people and have a full kitchenette.

We also toured the actual Inn at the Inn at Cedar Falls. There are 8 rooms in the Inn and it's behind the restaurant (as opposed to across the street where the cottages & cabins are). These rooms echo the same cozy feel as the cottage and have many of the same amenities. There is a garden and fire pit area right outside as well as a room downstairs with a phone and wifi that anyone staying at the property can use.

A quick tour of the Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls was the perfect way to end our fun trip to Hocking Hills.

Kindred Spirits Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

If you're looking for something to do one of the next couple of weekends - I highly recommend the Comfort Food Cruise - the samples are sizable and the quality is excellent! You can find out all the details on the page and I'm sure the folks at the Inn or at Cedar Grove would love to have you spend the night with them on your visit.