Monday, February 25, 2013

Cincinnati You Are So Lucky, Part II

You have Marilyn Harris and Mantra on the Hill!  Saturday night some friends and I spent the evening with Marilyn Harris the first lady of food in Cincinnati.  Marilyn and I have heard about one another from the assistants and staff at CooksWares, but had never met, and the group thought we needed to meet.  Marilyn has a radio show on Saturdays that you can hear on I Heart Radio.  She knows so many people, and we gossiped and really had a great time.  She and her husband were great pre-dinner hosts, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time together.  

We proceeded to dinner at Mantra on the Hill, the restaurant of talented chef Yajan Upadhyaya. Although I'm not an expert on Indian food, you don't need to be.  Chef Yajan creates delicious flavor balances in his dishes, and everything we tasted was scrumptious, from starters:

Naan stuffed with red onion, cilantro and masala
Eggplant chips tossed in tamarind
Chick pea salad with tomatoes, potato, masala, pomegranate and tamarind yogurt
To the main courses, we were feted with some of the best food I've had in a while; fresh foods with a flavor balance that was not only interesting, it was delicious!

From top center, shrimp, chicken in white pepper sauce, Okra with tomatoes, and lamb shish kebab with raita
Lovely chicken dish enhanced by pickled beets (who knew?)
I got to peak in the kitchen, and this dish was coming out---gorgous lamb chops from the tandoor
After dinner we were invited back into the kitchen; Chef Yaj is not interrupted by 5 women loaded up on wine and his amazing food!
He's telling me the Tandoor is hot now; last time I was here it wasn't up to the requisite zillion degrees!
I kept saying I wanted "flames"--he was most obliging!
Lamb chops coming off the spit from the Tandoor
Assistant Matt and Chef Yaj

Chops and shrimp in the Tandoor
Our time at Mantra was also enhanced by Richard the maitre'd, raconteur extraordinaire,  and Zack our server, who was patient, and explained every dish is minute detail.  Dining at Mantra is just that; the table is yours, you are allowed to linger and enjoy not only the food, but the lovely ambiance in this beautiful dining space.
If you live in Cincinnati and haven't dined at Mantra you are missing one of your cities' treasures.  And if you haven't listened to Marilyn, then you just aren't listening....she is awesome!  Such a wealth of knowledge, witty, and honest---so tune in on Saturdays, and one day in August they might just allow us to be on the radio together---watch out Cincinnati!  

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Cincinnati You are So Lucky

I have been coming to Cincinnati for over 17 years, to teach at CooksWares.  Last fall friends took me to Jungle Jim's a Culinary Disneyland in the suburbs of Northern Cincinnati.  I fell in love; this place is as big as an airplane hanger, and filled with EVERYTHING you can imagine. If I lived here, I would be thanking my lucky stars that I was able to shop here.  Instead of my waxing poetically about it, here are some photos from this mornings' shopping trip.

Wine from Umbria

Another wine from Umbria

This is the butter bar, more butter than you can possibly imagine!
The amount, variety and types of butter were mind boggling!
Be still my heart; a wall of blue cheese!
Prices are pretty amazing!
Sharing the goodness of Sumo mandarins with the rest of the country!
Crazy wine holders and lots of housewares          
Nutella without the nuts, British style
Asian food, complete with tuk-tuk
4 aisles of hot sauces
Adult oriented hot sauces  
Traditionally made Balsamico by Pedroni
If you are buying $5 balsamic, it's not balsamic---traditionally aged is $199.99 here
A wall of hummus above the olive bar
Yes, it is Ohio!
more cheese
small area of the wine section
and cigars
I will admit to being lost a few times, but all in all this is a great destination, and if you are in the mid-west, make the trip--it's amazing.  Wish we had one in San Diego.  I'm on the road again tomorrow headed to West Lafayette, IN to teach this week at KitchenArt.  I hope you are enjoying your weekend. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Cracker Barrel Chronicles

Tuesday I left San Diego ahead of the cold an rain, only to arrive in Indianapolis to SNOW!  They call it "snow showers".....lovely!

 It's cold here in Cincinnati, although after 3 days in the 20's it's now about 40.  Last night on my way back to the hotel from the cooking school near Dayton, an ice storm was predicted; fortunately I got back to the hotel just ahead of it.
Having grown up in Boston, on a steady diet of cold, snow and sleet, reliving it isn't my idea of fun, but I love teaching here in the mid-west.  The students are amazing and the independent cooking schools that I teach at are some of the best anywhere.  I'm here in Cincinnati teaching at CooksWares two locations.  Wednesday night we reprised a night in the Dordogne, with a menu that I taught at La Combe en Perigord.  Last night at their Springboro Store we had a paella party, with a paella pan that was big enough to use all four burners on one side of the stove.

Tonight we'll do Bella Italia with Pork Osso Buco and risotto.  We'll make the risotto on the stove top (20 minutes) and in the pressure cooker in 7 minutes.
I'm calling this post the Cracker Barrel Chronicles, because everywhere I go there is a Cracker Barrel Restaurant. Famed for their country cooking, the parking lots are packed at all hours of the day and night. This is definitely the mid-west!
I head to West Lafayette, IN this weekend to teach next week and then will meet Dr. C. and Ryan for the IU-Iowa basketball game in Bloomington....check that one off my bucket list.  Just hope the sequester doesn't delay them too much.
I'll be back tomorrow with some more tales from the road, until then, enjoy your day.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Cruising on the River Po, May 2014

Join Phillis Carey and I May 18, 2014 in Venice, for a cruise on the Uniworld River Countess.  Our trip will begin in Venice, with stops in Padua, Ravenna, Verona and Bologna the gastronomic capital of Northern Italy.
At the end of the trip, you are invited to extend for 4 days in Tuscany, where we will travel to the Siena area, first stopping for lunch at the famous butcher Dario Cecchini, who was featured in Bill Buford's book Heat. Dario quotes Dante and sings arias as he butchers.
Once situated either in Siena or on the outskirts, we will have 1/2 day wine and olive oil tasting, 1/2 day tour of Siena, and 1/2 day cooking class.  We do not have the pricing for the Tuscany extension, since most hotels have not set their prices for 2014, but our travel agent with her magic wand, promises something in the next few weeks.  If you are interested, please go to my website and click on the brochure at the bottom of the page, all the information is is there.  Merlene will take great care of you, and can help with airfare, and other arrangements.
Here are a few photos from the places we will visit on our cruise, enjoy!

The Grand Canal, Venice

Piazza San Marco
Verona:  It's not all Romeo and Juliet!
Mercato in Bologna
Pappardelle Bolognese
The Po River

Fall in love with Italy, and come along with Phillis and I as we see the beautiful cities along and near the Po River.  May is a perfect time to be in Italy, warm with spring flowers covering the hillsides, and fewer crowds, it is the perfect time to go.  I hope you'll plan to join us!