February 27, 2012

Newport Kroger Marketplace: Wine Tasting

If you're looking for me between the hours of 5pm-7pm on a Friday, there's a good chance I'll be at the Newport Kroger Marketplace liquor store partaking in a free wine and food tasting.  It's all I think about every Friday, all day long.  So, in honor of the one year anniversary of Taste and See, I figured I'd tell you about one of my favorite things in the whole world!

The Friday tasting generally includes a variety of three or four wines paired with a couple dishes prepared by the chefs at Newport Bistro 423.  On my most recent trip they featured Liberty Chardonnay and Wild Horse Cabernet Sauvignon along with both the silver and gold Sauza tequila. Both the cabernet and chardonnay were smooth and to my liking and I'm kicking myself for not grabbing a bottle.  The tequila was served in a mixture along with 03 premium orange liqueur and Simply Lime limeade.  It was very margarita-esque.  My preference was for the gold tequila over silver.
I wasn't sure if there was really any rhyme or reason to the pairings so I did my own thing and paired the chardonnay with the cheese tray; manchego with fig/almond cake and then the merlot bellavitano- this is one of my favorite cheeses offered by NKMP!
The cabernet sauvignon went well with the artichoke potato empanada and horseradish chive cream.  I was doing a little grocery shopping the night before the tasting and was lucky enough to get a preview of this dish; the chef had made too much so she set out some to sample.  I told her I would be back at the tasting just so I could get more of these empanadas.  The cornmeal breading was wonderful and so complementary with the horseradish.  I've said it before, but I'll say it again, Newport Kroger has some serious culinary talent going on!
The tequila limeade concoction paired nicely with the chicken and andouille gumbo.  This dish was DELICIOUS and so hearty; the heat was just enough to cause minimal face-sweating.  Gumbo is moving to the top of my list of things I need to make.  I could eat something like this everyday and never grow tired of it.
If I'm not mistaken, all Kroger Marketplace locations offer free wine and food pairings on Friday evenings.  The Newport location is every Friday from 4pm-7pm and it's a great way to end your work week and start your Friday night.  

Happy 1st Birthday, Taste and See!!!

February 25, 2012

Heavenly Frosted

My favorite co-worker has been telling me all week about her newly-formed addiction to cupcakes.  She stops at Heavenly Frosted (located in Florence, KY) pretty much everyday on her way home from work.  It started with one cupcake and on her next trip she ordered a few and now she's up to half a dozen on each trip! Lucky for me she brought her most recent 1/2 dozen to work:)
Starting at the top left and going clockwise is: salted caramel, I think the one with green and yellow sprinkles is keylime, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, red velvet with cream cheese frosting, and white chocolate raspberry which is topped with a white chocolate and raspberry buttercream swirl.

It was a difficult decision but I went with the Salted Caramel, which is a rich fudgey cupcake that is both filled and topped with salted caramel buttercream.  The buttercream on this thing is insane; very whipped and fluffy texture.  I have to admit I wasted about a tablespoon of the icing, I simply couldn't handle it all.  
One thing I don't like is when chocolate cupcakes have more of a devil's food consistency (dry and not very chocolaty tasting) rather than a rich dark chocolate fudge consistency.  The cake of the salted caramel was perfect and so moist it stuck to the roof of my mouth.  The chocolate covered pretzel topper was also a nice touch.

Heavenly Frosted features daily specials in addition to their everyday cupcakes.  Their flavors sound so unique and I can't wait to try the Coffee and Donuts; a vanilla cupcake dipped in glaze and topped with coffee buttercream!  One more pic for the road...
Yummy in my tummy.

Heavenly Frosted Cupcakes on Urbanspoon

February 23, 2012


I've been to Mokka in Newport a handful of times, but this is the first time I snapped pictures and took notes.  Every trip to Mokka, except for maybe one, has been with my sister.  She LOVES the Mokka french toast and we're in agreement that the goetta is some of the best we've had in any restaurant.  They serve regular Glier's goetta but they use the slab of goetta instead of the roll and cut it into rectangles.  The slices aren't too thick, aren't too thin and they're cooked to the most perfect crisp. 

When we walked in I spotted the daily specials on the chalk board and couldn't seem to decide which sounded better.  I've previously written about my need for both sweet and salty food for brunch so in order to make sure that requirement was met I ordered both specials! Oink! 

The first was the Blueberry Crumb Cake with 2 eggs and meat of choice (goetta).  I also went with the Breakfast Strata, which included a side (fruit cup).  I had honestly intended on sharing my food with my sister and nephew and maybe my neice if she would have it, but I ate nearly everything on both plates; that's $18 worth of brunch in case you're wondering.  In my defense, I hadn't eaten anything except a banana and a spoonful of peanut butter the entire day.  I loved the dense consistency of the crumb cake and the slight hints of lemon were nice; I dare say it rivals my mom's home-made blueberry buckle.
I was curious about the Breakfast Strata mostly because I've never had a strata before.  I was expecting it to be quiche-like but it was much thicker and not as egg-based.  The crust was nice and fluffy and it was filled with spinach, artichoke and cherry tomatoes and the overall flavor made me very happy.  I definitely need to add "strata-making" to the list of things I do.  The side of fruit was just ok but I still ate it for the nutrients.
Lori ordered the Mokka French toast (coated with sweet corn flakes and topped with pastry cream) and a breakfast sampler that she split with my  nephew.  He loves eggs overeasy and it included two of those as well as goetta.  He also ordered a 1/2 order of the french toast which was actually only 1/2 a slice of bread; surprising considering the whole order is 2 whole pieces of bread.
Our service was friendly and we did have to wait a bit for the food to arrive as it was truly was a packed house but all our plates were clean by the end of the meal.  Mokka is definitely going to be included in the dining-tour-de-Monmouth-Street that I'll be starting this spring, can't wait to go back!

Mokka and the Sunset Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

February 21, 2012

Fat Tuesday at Rincon Mexicano

My mom, sister and I have a little tradition of gorging ourselves on Mexican food to celebrate Fat Tuesday.  I think we choose Mexican strictly for the sheer volume of food you get.  Last year we hit up El Rio Grande in Newport so this year we decided on Rincon Mexicano on Eastgate Boulevard.

I grew up in this neck of the woods and I've dined at Rincon countless times over the last 14 years since it opened.  I'll kind of let the pictures speak for themselves, but this is darn good Mexican.  My half frozen half on the rocks margarita (the best way to order a margarita) was delicious and there was no skimping on the tequila.
The chips are definitely some of my favorite and they were so crazy fresh.  We were going to order another basket but our food arrived; only one complimentary basket of chips/salsa is served per table of 2-4.  We also shared an order of the white queso dip which was quite addicting.  Honestly, I would have been content with ordering another basket of chips and another margarita and calling it a night.  It was that good!
Entrees included chicken fajitas, chicken enchilada/chile relleno combo plate and enchiladas suizas.  We were all satisfied with our meals and the only complaints were that the fajitas did not come with shredded cheese and the chicken in our enchiladas wasn't all that flavorful.  The refried beans and rice were tasty and my sister noted the different veggies scattered throughout the rice: peas, green beans and even kidney beans.

And because it wouldn't be Fat Tuesday without dessert, we split an enormous order of fried ice cream; although the flan always calls my name.  It was coated with lots of honey and the ice cream ball was huge; we agreed a little sugar/cinnamon on the tortilla shell would have added some depth.  We also agreed that nothing quite compares to the fried ice cream at Chi Chi's...ah, the memories.

Thank you Rincon Mexicano, for helping us put another Fat Tuesday in the books!  

Rincon Mexicano on Urbanspoon

February 19, 2012

Endangered Species Chocolate

At some point during my early middle-school years I was gifted a t-shirt from the local zoo.  For the life of me I can’t remember how this came about as we did not frequent the zoo when I was a child, but nevertheless, I was SUPER excited about this t-shirt.  The front sported a print of several zoo animals, and not in a little-kid kind of way, but in the “earthy” save our planet fashion of the early-mid 90’s.  Underneath the animals was the question “Will you be my friend?”.  Cool, right?  Right? Yes, that is right!  And where is the first place a pre-teen wears a new t-shirt? Yep, gym class!  The evening before gym class I modeled the shirt for my family.  My brother reacted negatively but that was not out of the ordinary for an older brother so no biggie.  He simply didn't understand how cool this shirt was about to make me.  Right?  Right!  Sadly, in the end, the shirt didn’t yield the kind of attention I was hoping for.  Everyone in gym class read the question on the shirt…out LOUD… and then laughed hysterically.  Even my closest friends and allies offered no support.  I responded by saying something desperate like “What? It was free!” and then with a sad face, “My grandma gave it to me” (Keep reading, I promise this all has to do with chocolate.)
Endangered Species chocolate was something I happened upon when I started spending more time in the organic and all natural food section at Newport Kroger Marketplace.  I needed something to satisfy my after-lunch sweet craving.  The packaging, which has a picture of a different endangered species on each bar of chocolate, caught my eye and brought back a flood of memories of the infamous zoo t-shirt!  And then it brought a huge smile to my face!  And I quickly tossed a couple of the dark chocolate bars into my cart.
In general, the Endangered Species brand promotes sustainability, ethically traded goods for producing their products and preserving the natural habitats where our endangered species exist. The Dark Chocolate With Cranberries & Almonds features the Gray Wolf and contains 72% cocoa. The cocoa beans in all of Endangered Species' products are sourced exclusively from farmers who work under fair and humane conditions and as the package states, 10% of net profits are donated to help support the species' habitats.

The chocolate is deliciously satisfying! My local grocery offers Endangered Species all-natural chocolate bars in a variety of flavors.  In addition to cranberry/almond I’ve also tried: deep forest mint, blueberry and plain dark chocolate but have yet to try the milk chocolate varieties.  I’m challenging myself to choose a different bar each time I’m at the store.  Of course, being a huge fan of any nut/chocolate combos, the almond cranberry has been my favorite. 
As if the taste weren't enough, I also love that Endangered Species chocolate does not have a pretentious price tag.  Normal retail for a 3oz bar is $1.99 at my local grocer and I often find it on sale for anywhere from $1.49-$1.69; totally reasonable.  I have broken the bars into pieces and served it with apples and a variety of nut butters, but trust me, this chocolate is just fine standing on its own.  Their website offers additional product information and features some products that aren't found in stores.  The chocolate hazlenut toffee has my name all over it!

February 12, 2012

Italian Wedding Soup

I’ve had Italian Wedding Soup on my mind for a while.  And not because my recipes of late seem to be wedding themed; there’s just something about putting little teeny tiny meatballs into soup that brings a smile to my face.

Sometimes I’m desperate for something simple for lunch and I’ll grab a couple cans of Progresso soup to get me through the work-week.  When I tried the Italian Wedding Soup from Progresso I was more than impressed by the flavor.  About a week later Yahoo!’s home page featured a simple Italian Wedding soup by Fabio Viviani.  I felt like this was a sign that I needed to test the recipe myself and share the results with all of you, of course! 

First, sauté one cup onion, one cup celery and one cup carrots in olive oil until tender and starting to brown.  I let the veggies cook over low heat while I prepared the meatballs for baking.  Fabio claims that the secret to any good soup is letting the veggies saute until they just begin to brown and I think this detail definitely added to the depth of flavor.
While the veggies are softening, combine one pound ground beef (Fabio suggest 80/20), 2 eggs, 1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs (mine were Italian seasoned) and a couple tablespoons shredded Parmesan. 
I did substitute asadero cheese since that was what I had on-hand.  I mixed everything thoroughly with my bare hands and then shaped the meat mixture into small ½ inch meatballs and baked them on a large cookie sheet for 15 minutes on 375 degrees.
While the meatballs baked, the veggies started to brown slightly and I added 2 quarts of chicken stock and 2 cups of water and let it come to a simmer.  After it simmered for a few minutes I added the spinach to let it wilt.  At that point I added the meatballs and orzo and let everything simmer in the pot for maybe another ½ hour or so until the pasta was cooked thoroughly.  

I only had 2 quarts of chicken stock on hand but the 3rd quart would have been nice; the orzo really absorbs a lot of the broth.  Spinach is so difficult to measure, I recommend adding more spinach than you think you need since the wilting process decreases its volume.  Also the meatballs were good, but did sort of taste like hunks of plain ground beef in the soup.  Next time I’ll season them more and perhaps let them simmer in the soup for a longer amount of time. 
What I love about preparing soups is that you don't have to follow any strict instructions.  It's basically a combination of a bunch of ingredients simmering together and allowing the flavors to meld.  The Italian wedding soup is a very wonderful, hearty-yet-light soup that is perfect for the winter months.  The protein in the beef really makes it a more substantial dish and I will definitely make this again. I prepared the recipe almost exactly as Fabio suggests and it turned out mighty tasty.  Proof that it is not impossible to cook like a famous chef!