May 27, 2011

Flipdaddy's Burgers and Beer

I met some friends at Flipdaddy's on Wooster Pike in Mariemont. Their website boasts "Proprietary Beef Blend and 24 Beers on Tap" and I had heard some positive feedback here and there so I was excited to try it out for myself.
I started with the Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale; delicious, although with such a strong flavor I don't think I would enjoy more than one of these.

For dinner I had the Spring Fling, a burger topped with guacamole,cucumbers and pepper jack cheese. It was a delightful combination of toppings (although I was expecting more of them), there is something so refreshing about the flavor of cucumber on sandwiches. Because I had heard good things about the asparagus I substituted my fries. It was good, but no better than the asparagus I make at a home. And for a $2 up charge, I'd say go with the fries.

One of my friends got the Mac Daddy, a burger topped with a fried macaroni and cheese patty. This isn't a menu selection I would make but he gave it good reviews.  I would imagine it was similar to macaroni and cheese with ground beef mixed in it (takes me back to my childhood!) only much much better.
The Gaucho Burger was next, a burger with chimichurri garlic herb spices, provolone and grilled onions.  Isn't it pretty?  I think it tasted just as good. 

So, as I mentioned, leading up to my trip to Flipdaddy's I had heard a lot of great things and my hopes were high.  My burger choice was delicious, but it wasn't "OMG, this is the best thing I've ever tasted in my entire life".  Then I received the bill and I was a bit taken aback.  Don't get me wrong, I'm perfectly ok with paying money for good food but my burger plus one beer and tip was $19.  I feel like there are at least 5 other places I can go in the Cincinnati area that offer a burger and beer selection that is just as good, if not better, and I can leave for under $15 dollars.  I also wasn't satiated for the rest of the evening, within less than 2 hours I was hungry again:( 

Although the food was good, Flipdaddy's didn't leave a strong impression and I won't be making any special trips.
Flipdaddy's Burgers & Beers on Urbanspoon

May 23, 2011

CAFE on the Loveland Bike Trail

A few days ago my sister posted the follow status update on Facebook:
"Just took a walk to Nisbet Park in downtown Loveland and discovered a cool new "Cafe" on the bike trail! (used to be a BBQ Grille) They serve sandwiches, organic meats, vegetables, fruit, GRAETER's ICE CREAM, and much more.....check it out if you are on the trail."

The next day I sent her a text message that said "I want to go that restaurant."  We planned a bike ride on the Loveland Trail and ended at the CAFE just before the torrential downpours on Sunday and split the Crab Cake salad and the Vegetarian Panini.

As much as my sister raved about the place I had my doubts.  I was familiar with the location and knew the building itself was very small; apparently I equate culinary greatness with a large space.  We dug into the Crab Cake salad and I was speechless.  At first glance I thought the remoulade dressing was going to be heavy and have me overwhelmed after a few bites, but no dice.  I could have eaten this entire salad by myself, which says more about it's deliciousness than it does about the size of my stomach.  The crab cakes were flavorful (all 4 of them) and grilled to perfection, with a slight spicy kick of cayenne perhaps?  They were served over leafy romaine with remoulade dressing, macadamia nuts and currants!  What an amazing combination.  The salad was also topped with 5 slices of pita for the perfect complement.
Next was the vegetarian panini.  I was hesitant ordering this sandwich.  I anticipated the ratatouille could be overbearing with spices and turn the focaccia bread soggy.  Sweet baby Jesus this sandwich was one of the best combinations of flavors and textures I have experienced.  The focaccia was fluffy and had just enough flavors and herbs and spices to mesh nicely with the ratatouille and slice of provolone.  I didn't get to the point with this sandwich where I had "had enough".  I could have kept taking bite after bite simultaneously saying "mm" after each one.  The ratatouille would make a nice side dish for the CAFE's other sandwiches.  It had so much smokey flavor and some charred pieces of vegetables added even more texture and variety.

Sandwiches are served with a side and we went with watermelon; they were out of fruit salad and chips.  But, like everything else we tried, the watermelon was perfect too.  Sweet and juicy and cut into manageable slices.  Just enough sweetness to go along with our savory dishes.
My nephew ordered the kid's panini which was a grilled cheese sandwich with cool "panini lines".  I asked him how his grilled cheese was and he said "it's not grilled cheese, it's panini."  Pardon me.  My niece ate the free peanuts the CAFE provides at their ordering window.  I also spotted a container of dog treats for furry friends.

After some research (1 Facebook page view and 1 website) I learned that the CAFE is owned/operated by Loveland Chef, which is a personal chef and catering business that offers culinary services to some northern Cincinnati suburbs.  Their Facebook page provides helpful information.

How can you not like a restaurant that is dog friendly, serves mostly organic local fare and has food offerings that are out of this world?  The CAFE on the Loveland Bike Trail is the unexpected pot of gold you will find at the end of this rainbow. 
CAFE on the Loveland Bike Trail on Urbanspoon

May 22, 2011

Go OTR 5K & Summer Celebration

It was a fabulous day watching runners, enjoying delicious food (including gourmet popsicles!) and taking in the beauty that is OTR at the 5K and Summer Celebration.  I wasn't able to take part in the 5K due to prior commitments but I was in the neighborhood and the runners went right past me on Main Street.  Lots of people and lots of puppies!
I headed down to the Summer Celebration on Vine Street between 12th and 13th.  The first thing I saw as I turned the corner was the Taco Azul truck; EXACTLY what I was looking for.

I enjoyed an al pastor (pork) taco and an order of chips and salsa; they were already out of guacamole which seems to be a theme with me lately. Both were delicious but I regret not asking for sour cream on my taco. 

There was quite a back-log on orders so I had to wait about a 1/2 hour to get my food, which gave me a chance to browse vendors and make some decisions on my next food purchase.  At this point it had turned into an 80 degree day and I knew I couldn't go wrong with the lemon sorbet from Dojo Gelato.

I noticed tons of people walking around with popsicles and finally spotted the vendor, Streetpops. They make small batches of gourmet popsicles in very unique flavors.  Because there is always room for a popsicle, I tried the Strawberry Mint and it was SO refreshing and delicious.

I couldn't believe I'd never before heard of Streetpops but that's because the Summer Celebration was their debut event. The owner hopes to sell the popsicles in stores such as Park & Vine and also at other events in OTR like 2nd Sunday on Main. 

On my way out I couldn't resist stopping at Sweet Peace Bakery's booth to get a vegan baked-good roadie.  I went with the (melty) chocolate chip cookie.  Next time I'm committed to trying the oatmeal cream pie, yum!  I think I'll end this post with a picture of a vegan chocolate chip cookie and call it a day.

May 16, 2011

Alan Grizzell Exhibit

Paid my first visit to the Betts House (Ohio's oldest brick house) last weekend to attend the opening reception of Alan Grizzell's Over the Rhine exhibit. 

Grizzell's paintings were absolutely beautiful and capture the essence of decaying buildings in Over the Rhine and surrounding neighborhoods.  Several of the paintings are displayed on his website; but do find time to go the exhibit and view them in person. 

The Betts House offers an intimate setting; perfect grounds to learn more about the artist and ask questions, specifically regarding the location and vantage point of the paintings.  Grizzell was happy to converse and answer questions about his technique and gave back-story to some of the nightscapes.

He graduated from the Art Academy of Cincinnati 3 years ago and the paintings were created during that time frame.  Grizzell paints from his original photos, but would like to eventually paint by light.  Most of the photos were captured at dusk or sundown and at least 3 of the paintings were scenes viewed from the top of his apartment building.

My favorite was his painting of the Germania building at night; I snapped a night shot of this building about 6 months ago and I was immediately drawn to his oil rendition.  Paintings are on sale and range from about $300-$500 and will be displayed until the end of June at the Betts House.

May 15, 2011

Tootsie Roll Cake

If I could go back in time and celebrate my 3rd birthday, this is the cake I want!  My sister-in-law, who clearly has more patience than anyone else on earth, gets all the credit for this labor of love.  My niece LOVES her some Tootsie Rolls...thus the inspiration for her birthday cake.
The outside is a combination of plain and chocolate fondant.  The inside is a chocolate jelly roll with caramel filling; a combination of Cool Whip, cream cheese and something caramel??  I learned that you need a special jelly roll  pan in order to bake a "roll" cake; it cannot be baked in a normal sheet pan.

She spent hours hand-forming the letters out of fondant; but the patience involved in the preparation is not the most difficult part. The hardest part is the moment when she has to cut into it and destroy the masterpiece!  Absolutely delicious. 

Can this be topped?

May 9, 2011

Fork Heart Knife

Fork Heart Knife had their final food sevice on Thursday 5/5.  It was my second trip and I feel lucky to have been able to partake in another one of their delicious meals.  They celebrated Cinco de Mayo and the Mexican fare was amazing.

Tortilla chips with mango salsa to begin (the guac was already gone).
Followed by Mexican street corn; sweet corn on the cob covered in mayonnaise and then rolled in cotija cheese(a crumbly goat cheese) and topped with paprika.  Yum!  Definitely something I will try to replicate.
The main course was fish tacos.  Grilled tilapia in two soft tortilla shells topped with more cotija and a cabbage slaw.  Excellent, although the picture does not do it justice. 
For dessert they served "crack" cookies; sugar cookies made with brown sugar and browned butter.  I failed to get a picture but they were by far some of the best cookies I've had.  They were topped with sugar and seemed to be lightly salted; the sweet/salty/cripsy exterior with the chewy interior was something that cannnot be explained without tasting it yourself.

I've followed ForkHeartKnife's blog for several months now and recipes are freely posted throughout its pages.  The cookie recipe is there...although you will have to hunt for it.  I think it's great that the owners have shared their gift and love of cooking with their community; their eat-in kitchen made such an impression in a very brief period of time.  Looking forward to what the future holds!

May 3, 2011

Topper's Pizza

A couple years ago I was visiting a friend in La Crosse, WI and we took a boat cruise up the Mississippi River.  On the cruise they served the most delicious cheesy bread I have ever had the pleasure of tasting.  Every once in a while I get a strong craving for that cheesy bread.

A couple weeks ago I was driving up Clifton Avenue and glanced to my left down Calhoun Street and did a swift double-take when I noticed a new pizza place in one of the old store fronts.  Topper's Pizza??  I had heard the name before and then it all clicked...this was the cheese bread place from Wisconsin! 

I had a chance to pay a visit last weekend and Topper's Pizza on Calhoun Street in Clifton took me back to my Wisconsin getaway of 2009. 

They had a special on a large 3-topping pizza and a small order of Topperstix for $15; which was plenty of food to split with a friend and have lunch for the next couple days.

1/2 eaten small order of plain Topperstix

Because I remembered the Topperstix so fondly I didn't have a strong recollection of the pizza.  On my recent trip I had mushroom and banana peppers on regular hand-tossed crust and it was delicious.  The sauce, cheese and "toppers" were evenly distributed; I prefer pizza that is not covered in cheese (that's what the cheese bread is for!) so this was right up my alley.  The toppings were very fresh and nothing appeared to have come from a can.  The crust was chewy yet fluffy and charred-crisp on an occasional edge to add some rustic flavor.

Topper's on Calhoun Street is the only location in Cincinnati (or Ohio for that matter) and offers a very clean and quaint(small) dine-in area with 2 high top tables and a nook with comfy chairs where you can watch TV while you eat or wait for your order.  Their menu also includes quesadillas, wings and grinders. 

With the fresh toppings, variety of choices and reasonably priced food, Topper's Pizza has found a balance between gourmet pizzeria and college pizza joint.  Check out their website, it's cool.
Topper's Pizza on Urbanspoon