• 30Oct

    Well, I couldn’t resist.  My annual trip back to Ann Arbor for recruiting put me face-to-face with where it started.  So spare me the indulgence:
    2008 (Crappy BlackBerry):

    2009 (iPhone 3GS):

    2010 (iPhone 4):

    And our parting shot, this time with a new iPhone 4S (and chocolate bacon sauce!):

    Thanks, everybody.  And for now, goodnight.

  • 09Sep

    I’ll begin with the end: This will be the last planned post and update for www.whatiatethisweek.com.  There, I said it. It’s real now!

    When I started this site, nearly three years ago now, my life was in a very, very different place.  Reeling from a divorce that shook me to my core, I was searching for meaning in a variety of places.  Like an early-onset mid-life crisis, I went into full-scale learning mode.  I took cooking classes (some of which were detailed in the early weeks on this site), got a guitar teacher, and decided to get out there and explore our local world of food, something which isn’t necessarily on the top of every couple’s to-do lists.  I also wrote, a lot.  Writing for me was kind of the ultimate catharsis, a way to make sense of thoughts and feelings, when no other medium would do.  At first, I wrote about grief and sorrow, and then conjecture about life.  As most writers of sob stories will tell you, that’s tiring work.  At a certain point, it became more of a drain than a relief, at which point I promptly stopped.

    But the desire to write remained.  So, with my new culinary discoveries taking place, I combined the two into the idea for a silly way for me to maintain self-expression.  I owe my friend Kyle much thanks for the concept of the blog, and we even collaborated on the name.  He was with me Week 1, when the idea was hatched over Zingerman’s Donut Sundae, and he’s been with me for many of these delicious weeks.  What started on a lark as a way to get me out of the house (by forcing myself to eat a meal in a new place every week!) actually somehow became interesting or helpful for a few folks- no one was more surprised than me, since I have never written this for anyone but myself.  But it has been awesome to learn about new places and commune with like-minded individuals in the community.  It’s exactly that kind of exploration and interaction that has kept me at this even beyond the point where I needed the blog for self-expression.  A special tip of the hat to Julie Niesen and Liz Abdnour, both of whom offered tons of early encouragement- both also have tremendous food skills as well.  (I know all of you know Julie’s Wine Me, Dine Me blog.  It may be one of the best “personal” food webpages I’ve ever read.)

    So, why now?  A few reasons, really.  The main reason is a pretty big one: We’re moving to Boston.  Corporate life has its quirks, one of which is you need to be at the ready when that mysterious and fateful phone call hits.  So, that’s exciting- we love Boston and I think we can look forward to a few years of tremendous exploration.  But you know what Boston needs even less than Cincinnati?  A self-indulgent amateur food writer with a once-a-week scattershot approach.

    But even more important, this is harder than I gave it credit for, and it actually can get a little stressful.  At times, it even feels like a part-time job, rushing home from a weekend in Michigan on a Sunday, knowing I can’t get into my evening routine until I’ve done my post for the week.  Now, I’m not looking for sympathy–after all this IS a hobby, not a job– but it does explain a little bit of my reasons for wanting to change it up a bit.  So, as with other things in life, this provides an opportunity to make a positive change as we start exploring a new life together!

    So… that makes it pretty final.  It feels appropriate that I am typing this as a team of movers is gliding through the house, hauling boxes of our prized possessions to a big truck we’ll next see in Boston.  We leave today, and we’ll head north to Michigan for one last football game, then eastbound we go!  Exciting stuff!  So, we decided to make last night a “one for the road” last dinner in town.  The past week or two, we’ve been hitting up some nostalgic haunts (see last week’s post) and we had just a couple left.

    We started at Dewey’s Pizza.  I do love that place.  I know pizza places are supposed to be judged on “authenticity,” and I value that as much as anyone, but Dewey’s simply makes an outstanding pie.  Thin, pillowy, and replete with toppings that taste fresh, Dewey’s makes a very consistent, very tasty meal.  S loves the salads, too- the harvest salad is full of autumnal, smoky goodness, thanks in part to Nueske’s applewood bacon, a food that has made a great many appearances on this site.  The meal wasn’t overly nostalgic, but it was good, and it reminded us of why we always feel so comfortable here.  We had a 1/2 Bronx Bomber (sausage, pepperoni, green peppers, onions, olives) and 1/2 Hawaiian.  An excellent last dinner!

    For a nightcap, I wanted to go to Mulligan’s on Madison, as there was college football on.  Of course, at this point I’m really dating myself, as Mulligan’s had changed hands and become the Pig and Whistle… until they closed.  So, no luck there.  As a result, and as with virtually every week of the last 150, we ended up someplace new: the Cock and Bull Pub on Hyde Park Square.  I’m not generally a fan of these always-packed, faux-Irish spots as they tend to have loud customers, little genuine character, and mediocre food.  Hard to judge this place on those merits- being a Thursday night, it wasn’t too packed or loud, and we didn’t eat.  (The character, though, was full-on faux-Irish.)  they had Bell’s beers on tap, which was excellent as it may be a while before we encounter those again!

    And our final stop of the evening was across the street at Graeters.  Is there anyplace-food-based or otherwise-more iconic than this ice cream chain?  I came to Cincinnati an ice-cream liker, but Greaeters sends me away 13 years later an ice-cream lover.  (They’re also sending me away a few pounds heavier.)  We got our waffle cones (a black cherry for me, a coconut chip for S– our favorite flavors), wandered out to the square and took a seat, taking it all in.

    And for me, this was where it started-like for so many new transplants to Cincinnati.  I lived just off of the Square and nursed my how-will-I-get-by-since-I-am-not-in-college-anymore anxieties by walking to and from dinner spots, and I’ve always had a connection with this neighborhood.  Like Cincinnati itself, it is interesting, genuine, and comfortable.  It was a lovely evening,

    So, I suppose I’ll say bye for now.  You’ll likely see me again in some sort of online venture when boredom hits, so I’ll never say never!  But for those of you who have been reading, thanks, and keep tabs on this place for me.  When work brings me back (as it inevitably will), I’ll need to know what spots I need to hit up!

    Until then have fun,
    Graham

  • 05Sep

    Hi guys–

    Fall puts me in a nostalgic mood, it’s true.  It makes me think of times gone by, simple and good times.  So I thought this week, I’d stop by some sentimental favorites and check in and see how they are doing.  The good news is that these spots seem to be doing just fine, thank you very much.

     

    Take the Cake:  Surprising in a Good Way, non-stop

    Photo Sep 02 12 50 59 PM

    Lunch at Take the Cake is a rare and wonderful thing for a downtown worker–it’s just far enough away that you can’t really do it in an hour, but if you have an extra 15 minutes or so, you can go for it.  So, we did!  I will say upon my entry, I was just a little bit disappointed–I was hoping for meatloaf or sausage gravy, or grits and shrimp.  On this day, none of those choices were available… so, I went for the chicken sandwich, an unlikely choice for me, but I’ve learned to trust TTC with just about everything.  In the meantime, I enjoyed a meaty and extremely fulfilling chili–who says you need beans and a thick stock to make chili taste good?

    Photo Sep 02 12 58 39 PM

    The chicken sandwich was a revelation, and somehow still an incredible surprise.  It was oven-roasted with a panko-style crumb coating that was light but much more flavorful than I am used to.  The chicken itself, tasty and juicy.  It was topped with a cranberry-jalapeno sauce and some dijonnaise–and unfortunately, there’s no way for me to describe it in that way without conveying the full flavor profile.  It was balanced, sweet and zesty without being altogether too saucy.  Just plain lovely.  Well done, TTC– you never steer us wrong!

     

    Zingerman’s Roadhouse, Ann Arbor:  Still Kicking Out Amazing American Food

    IMG00259

    Zingerman’s gets my business again as I was in Ann Arbor for our first (ridiculous, wild) football game of the season.  This time, I wanted to try something new, and on the advice of the server, I enjoyed some chicken fried steak, a dish usually too rich for me, and one I order exceedingly rarely.  This was a specimen, though.  The coating really was fried-chicken-like, and the steak was still juicy, an almost-never-happens confluence of good results.  It was delicious and accompanied with three sides (as a part of their “meat and three” platter, of course), including some amazing collared greens and mashed potatoes.  I tend to find that Zingerman’s does best with the deli and with their own creations, but this time their Southern dish really inspired!

     

    Zip’s:  Some Places Never Change

    Photo Sep 05 7 04 28 PM

    Never change, Zip’s.  You know what you’re good at, and that’s a fun atmosphere, a few excellent beers on tap, and juicy, pressed burgers on the flat top.  Tonight we were out of our house unexpectedly for an hour or so and knew exactly what to do.  We ate deliciously, if not healthily, on the house specialty.  Very enjoyable and juicy burger with crisp, fresh onion–is there anything more deliciously American than that?

     

    P.S., Detroit Actually Has a Pretty Good BBQ Spot!

    Photo Sep 02 6 49 59 PM

    It’s true, sports fans!  While in Royal Oak this weekend I stopped by a spot called Lockhart’s, specializing in Texas BBQ (but offering plenty of “traditional” pork BBQ for those unimpressed with the beef).  I thought it was really good!

    Photo Sep 02 6 58 37 PM

    I started with delicious, crispy burnt ends that were just a touch sweet and long-roasted.  This is hard to find around these parts!

    Photo Sep 02 7 54 17 PM

    And the brisket was good by midwest standards and plenty smoky.  I particularly enjoyed the smoke ring, though the sides did leave just a little bit to be desired.  But if you’re in the area for any reason, you might finally have a BBQ choice!

     

    I know, gang, not much new ground getting tread here… but as it happens, nostalgia is what I was in the mood for.  And this week is likely to bring one more.  So stay tuned!

    Filed under: Eating out, Food review
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  • 27Aug

    Will this heat ever stop?

    Photo Aug 26 7 02 02 PM

    So last night, a friend and I ventured out to that polarizing neighborhood, the Gateway Quarter in Over the Rhine, to give a try to A Tavola, the pizzeria & bar that seems to be taking what there is of Cincinnati’s dining scene by storm.  Around 7pm, the tables were full, there was about a one hour wait, and there was a buzz in the air.  There thankfully were a couple of bar stools where we sat ourselves for beer and appetizers.

    Photo Aug 26 7 02 07 PM

    The beer selection is pretty good compared to my expectations, and there was ample room at the bar for appetizers.  We ordered two, and they were both just plain excellent.

     

    Photo Aug 26 7 22 36 PM

    The dates were a revelation, easily one of the best bites I have ever had in Cincinnati.  The dates are stuffed with house-made sausage, wrapped with applewood bacon, and smoked.  I know, it sounds heavy, but they really weren’t.  They were practically amuse-sized, and were this perfect, bold pop of flavor.  The bartender told us that some people end up ordering seconds or thirds after having them for the first time, and I’ll admit I was extremely tempted.

    Photo Aug 26 7 24 17 PM

    The meatballs were also quite good, though they couldn’t top the high-water mark of the dates.  Made with waygu beef (why torture such a beautiful piece of beef by grinding it up?) and sage, I think, served in a really nice and chunky marinara sauce.  These were simply really good (and sizable) meatballs–they were not too dense, but they packed some nice flavors in there.

    Photo Aug 26 8 14 39 PM

    After we were seated, our pizzas arrived.  My friend ordered the fig jam and prosciutto pizza, which came topped with some arugula, I think.  I had that night’s special, a sausage, sage, and fontina pizza.  I’ll be the first to admit that this is not my style of pizza–the lack of tomato sauce makes it (to me) a little more like a flatbread.  With that said, the pizzas were actually pretty good.  The fontina on my cheese was high-quality, keeping it from pooling greasily as most “cheese pizzas” do.  The sausage, in my view, was a bit unremarkable, but it was nice to have something to break up the flavors.  The crust was pretty thin, and held up well to the ingredients, though I found the flavors not to be overwhelming.

    Overall, we had a really good time.  Good beers, friendly service, a vibrant scene without being packed, and food that ranged from pretty-good to simply amazing.  I’d consider coming back for sure!

    Photo Aug 23 12 06 55 PM

    This week, S & I made our way down to Findlay Market for lunch–I had been meaning to try the Korean place there, Pho Lang Thang.  S was unsure until we got to smelling distance, at which point she emphatically nodded that this was out place.

    Photo Aug 23 12 11 54 PM

    I was surprised to see table service but it was a welcome surprise!  They were quick with the service, as you’d expect from a place frequented by business lunchers.  I had the pork sandwich, and it was a hit!  The bread was just the right balance between flaky and chewy, and the pork itself was nicely seasoned.  But of course, this kind of sandwich is really made by the cilantro atop the meat, which was fresh-as-Findlay-Market-allows (that’s to say, fresh-picked) and brightened everything up!

    Photo Aug 23 12 23 44 PM

    S had a noodle bowl with chicken and vegetables and it was delicious, light, and airy.  We loved the food, and even the drinks–S had a really great iced coffee and I had a Korean limeade (who knew?) and they perfectly complemented the food.  All in all, what a great and fun choice to have downtown!

  • 21Aug

    Hi gang–isn’t this the most amazing time of year, when you can just tell that early autumn is so tantalizingly close… in moments, you can catch nature just starting to soften her blow, beginning to apologize for the extreme heat she’s dished our way in the last 2 months.  This is going to be a good fall, I can’t wait.

    But in the meantime, S & I spent part of our week in beautiful Boston–I’m lucky enough to have a job that takes me there frequently, and we enjoyed a chance to have a few beautiful meals out.  This is always a good thing, especially in Boston, but this (and next) week is Restaurant Week, and that makes it doubly delightful.  Restaurant Week is a big, huge deal–it seems like virtually every interesting restaurant in the city participates.  We ate four tremendous dinners, each at a different spot chosen either for our being in the neighborhood or that we heard about it from some friends… and each of the four happened to be participating.  So good!

    I know this isn’t a Boston food blog, but it is my week in food, so I’ll just leave you with a few “postcards” from our delicious week:

    Photo Aug 16 10 52 12 PM

    We started our dining adventures in a place called Clink, part of the Liberty Hotel in Beacon Hill, near the hospital.  The whole hotel used to be the Charles Street Jail, which played a big role at various times in the 19th century including the birth of the NAACP.  They’ve renovated the whole place, and it’s stunning to look at–wow!  The restaurant is jail-themed in a way that’s more cute than dumb, thank goodness.  We had a tremendous three-course restaurant week meal, priced (as they all are) at an attractive $33.11.  This is the first course, a snap pea and arugula salad with a lightly-fried egg on top.  Beautiful collection of textures and flavors, and a beautiful way to start an excellent meal.  (What followed were amazing braised pork cheeks, and a delectable peach and blueberry tartlet.  Yum.)

    Photo Aug 17 7 34 42 PM

    Night Two was at a cool little jazz and oyster bar called Les Zygomates, in a neighborhood called the Leather District, near Chinatown and the downtown financial district.  It was a place with a very nice neighborhood vibe and some good jazz played by the night’s house band.  We drank excellent wine, and had some excellent raw bar selections.

    Photo Aug 17 7 49 24 PM

    We each had a pair of east coast oysters which were simply fantastic, alongside a local ocean prawn in cocktail sauce.  Folks, this is where it is at.  Some of the best raw bar I’ve ever had, so good.  It was followed by some escargots (toothsome but just a touch bland), a tremendous bluefish filet and a fine chocolate mousse.  French + raw bar + live music = a place I would like to be.

    Night Three was at a little lounge in South Boston called Lucky’s, and while I didn’t take any pictures (too dark)–I must say that they serve a mean calamari (among the best ever, perfectly prepared) and steak tips.  Oh, and the house band knows how to blow!  And Night Four was at a very nice Italian place in the Financial District called Umbria Prime–they make their own pastas in-house, and I was adventurous enough to go for the wild boar pappardelle.  I say adventurous because this is easily my favorite dish at Nicolas here in Cincinnati.  And this was really good, but it wasn’t the same, mostly because Nicolas prepares theirs as part of a bolognese sauce, and Umbria’s sauce is not bolognese and is a little more brothy.  While I’d probably take the bolognese ina fight, this preparation was considerably lighter and allowed me to enjoy the flavor of the boar and fresh mushrooms even more.

    Photo Aug 20 10 26 44 AM

    Saturday morning meant brunch, and we went to a super little place in the South End called Aquitaine which by night appears to be a French bistro.  But by weekend morning, it’s prix fixe brunch–AMAZING homemade cinnamon rolls, an egg dish of your choice, orange juice, bottomless coffee, and breakfast potatoes, for $9.95.  Wow!  And that’s not for restaurant week–it’s every week.  The cinnamon roll was divine, and the omelet was fluffy delicious.  So good!  And lest you think I am done…

    Photo Aug 20 1 01 46 PM

    We had about an hour to kill at the airport and were delighted to find we sat across from Logan’s Legal Test Kitchen, the “experimental” offshoot of the Legal Sea Foods enterprise.  While S noshed on her favorite ever clam chowder, I had to get a few last jumbo shrimp.  A delightful way to end a delicious week!