Archive for the ‘Miscellany’ Category
(From our travel archives) Every time I go to Cincinnati, I just want to hit the chili dog stands. There are hundreds of them, and I’ve written about them before in this space. This trip, we skipped the hot dogs in favor of the hottest new places in town – Jean Robert at Pigall’s.
This essay could be subtitled, “the case of the chef that skipped,” for Jean Robert Cavel was formerly the chef at the five star Maisonette, one of the most well known eateries in Cincy. Classy but unpretentious, Jean Robert has the city talking – and eating. The restaurant offers creative, but not outlandish preparations of classic French cuisine, and seafood choices dominate.
Diners have two choices of prix fixe menus – a three course selection at $75 each, which does not include beverages, or a five course experience at $140 per person, which includes wine with each course.
The restaurant is comfortably appointed with woods, chandeliers, and neutral tones. The room gives an airy, not crowded feeling. Service is attentive but not overbearing.
I opted for the three course plate, as our host had specific wines that he wanted us to try. I started with an interesting twist on my old favorite of escargot, which was served in a slightly sweet “savory” sauce, much akin to Emeril’s version of barbecued shrimp. From there, I moved to veal medallions, which the server suggested be served at medium rare, and it was some of the best veal I have ever tasted.
While my fellow diners opted for desserts on the sweet, but heavenly side, I opted for Jean Robert’s cheese plate, which presented six contrasting cheeses splayed out in order of sharpness.
Jean-Robert at Pigall’s was named one of the top 75 new restaurants in the world by Conde-Nast, just six months after opening. That was two years ago. I’m sure a repeat visit by the judges would find it the same. A wonderful experience.
Dinner, Tues-Sat. Jean Robert at Pigall’s is located at 127 W. Fourth St. Cincinnati, OH 45202. 513-721-1345 . Proper attire required.
jean robert cincinnati
The name literally is a contradiction, “Veritable” means ‘something of certainty”, and “Quandary” means ‘difficult to predict, or uncertainty,’ and the restaurant of the same name near Portland’s waterfront, is anything but.
VQ, as locals refer to it, was created in 1971 and for decades has consistently hammered out some of the most innovative takes on America’s regional fares while utilizing local ingredients.
The menu varies from time to time, and can be found online.
I was meeting some pals for a quick lunch, and VQ was geographically desirable to their office location(s).
One of my friends said in advance he had been jonesing for the seafood stew, a rich broth full of fish, mollusks, and shellfish. From the smile on his face and the interruption in the conversation, I can only surmise it was delicious and I have made a note to try it next time.
And me? Why, I went with the highly-acclaimed VQ burger, Cascade Range beef on a ciabatta that leaned towards the softer side, accompanied by some pickled vegetables, and house-cut fries.
It was cooked to my medium rare preference, and plated beautifully.
One of my companions said it was one of the best burgers in Portland, and opined he thought they put some sausage or sausage-like seasonings in the meat. I wouldn’t disagree on his judgement, but I don’t believe the burger had any sausage (pork) in it, or the menu or waiter would have stated so. Wait-service was great, by the way.
The beef was seasoned, and the flavor reminded me of burgers I have had in the Caribbean, tho I cannot pinpoint the flavor for you. It’s not strong or unplesanant at all; I may guess that the seasoning is onion-related.
The ample meat patty was crowned with a slab of medium white cheddar, and the entire experience was on the high end of the scale.
Definitely now one of my top 5 burgers in Portland. I shall return. A nice hot lunch for another dreary, rainy December day in Portland.
It’s said the VQ has a great weekend brunch, and it’s within an easy hike of most downtown hotels, as well. Brunch offerings vary, and are surprising, like this month’s blackened catfish, or pumpkin and brie quiche!
I like “greasy spoons”, and more especially, those American diner type restaurants that have some kind of connection to the Greek culture. Such is the case with the Overlook, which I would pop in every day if I lived in the neighborhood. Instead, it’s only my second time in four years.
It’s your standard diner fare, with daily specials, and a full bar to boot.
They don’t call me “Burgerdogboy” for nothing, so breakfast for me, when it’s offered, is a hamburger patty with eggs, hash browns, and toast. If I am in a “devil-may-care” attitude, I’ll order an additional side of some other meat, and yes please, extra butter on the side.
I wasn’t ordering extra today, but the ample weight of the burger patty made extra meat not required.
The breakfast, in its entirety, was served precisely as ordered: meat medium, potatoes extra crispy, eggs over easy.
I lingered……and enjoyed the meal, two crosswords, and lotsa joe. A welcome respite from hotel dining, for sure.
Overlook Family Restaurant Review
I’d always meant to get to Caro Amico with Mrs. Burgerdogboy for a romantic dinner; we thought it might be great because we had enjoyed their food via Delivered Dish (www.d-dish.com) and its position, on a hillside overlooking the river, might have made for some dreamy views.
We never got there as a couple, but I was spot on about my feelings with regards to all the rest, as evidenced by this report from a recent visit.
We started with the Caesar with prawns, which was romaine lightly dressed with olive oil, rather than a typical Caesar dressing, and the prawns were warm with a hint of garlic flavor. The entire salad was generously dusted with Parmesan and finely chopped croutons.
For our mains, he went with Chicken Parmesan, one of his favorite meals, which was a large plump breast, very juicy, served with a colorful array of sautéed veggies, and penne with marinara. The breading on the chicken was light, not overbearing, and the breast may have been brined ahead of time for extra flavor.
She opted for the Canzano Calzone, stuffed with chicken, bacon, green peppers and pepperoncini. The crust was thin and crisp, and the marinara was some of the finest she had ever consumed. She would have liked a bowl of it all on its own, she said.
For dessert, we went with the dense and delicious cheesecake, topped with whipped crème and a raspberry sauce so yummy she wanted to lick the plate clean.
Often overlooked by locals, even though it was Portland’s first Italian restaurant, it continues to please on every level.”
Caro Amico Portland
What am I doing reviewing a chain of movie theaters? Just letting you know how impressed I was with this operation. For first run movies, value pricing, clean facilities, enthusiastic employees, reasonable concessions, this family owned chain of theaters in suburban Chicago is just the ticket for your night out. Classic Cinemas 13 theaters are strategically located across Chicagoland, and the company has been around since starting with one theater in 1978.
A first run movie will cost your $5 all day Tuesday,any day matinees, if you’re a kid or over 60. Most other times it’s just a couple bucks more. Here’s the rub. Ready? Wait for it. Free refills on popcorn and soda. Wow.
I’ve been out to a movie in other cities and the evening has cost me over $50, each. Today, first run movie, soda, corn, less than $20. The movie? Bill Murray in St. Vincent. Superb.
(From our archives) I’ve intentionally shied away from the Café Degas, because it’s one of those places that many natives find absolutely thrilling. That’s usually my first clue to avoid it like the plague.
I frequently find that my view of “outstanding” varies widely from my native friends, but that’s largely due to the fact I’ve been exposed to restaurants outside of the area, and have a base of comparison. When my native buddies talk about a local restaurant as “outstanding,” I realize it is because they are comparing it to the Tiffin Inn.
Desperate to find something nice to say about the Café Degas, I come up empty. It is tied with my visit to the Café Adelaide a few weeks ago, for worst overall dining experience in New Orleans.
We could start with parking, but there is none. At that corner of Esplanade, with Whole Foods and a few other shops, parking is non-existent. The Café could well use a valet service, but service doesn’t seem part of their vocabulary.
I had made a reservation and arrived promptly on time. One enters the Café thru the bar, and walking into that space, four employees were busy talking about everything under the sun, but none asked if they could help me. I wandered into the dining room alone, where a single waiter was waiting on the one couple that had arrived before me. The waiter DID ask if he could help me, but it was more the kind of “are you lost” type of inquiry. I told him I had a reservation, and he told me to go back up front and see the hostess. She was nowhere to be found, so I returned to the dining room, and the waiter did show me to a table.
The place did fill up over the course of the next few hours, and “fill up” is an understatement, as they have crammed far too many tables into the small space, claiming an “authentic French bistro” ambiance. The owners and I must have visited different bistros during our journeys to France. Certainly the French buy more comfortable chairs, anyway, so that if space is at a premium, at least your personal space is enjoyable. Dega’s chairs are patio furniture.
The menu (“French with a Creole accent”) (geez, why does EVERYTHING have to have a “Creole accent?” – why can’t one get simple classical French cuisine in this town?) is short, with a few nightly specials.
As restaurants, like everyone else, struggle with increased energy and supply costs, they look to cut costs, and Café Degas has done it on two fronts – wait staff and ingredients.
In short, the service was lousy, the food worse.
The house salad with Dijon vinaigrette was bad enough (btw, add gorgonzola for a buck extra); I ordered “parmesan encrusted veal with caper lemon butter” for an entrée, and the first bite cried out “chicken fried steak!”
Some portions of the meat were inedible.
Service was nearly non-existent, again, probably due to cut backs, the room is noisy and crowded, and a peculiarity with the air conditioning causes the vents to drip water on diners. A woman at the table next to me, having had enough to the drips alternating hitting her plate or her shoulder, asked the waiter to do something about it. He asked her to stand up, whereupon he stood on her chair and wiped the grill above her with a towel.
Let’s not talk about what color the towel was after a single wipe.
Or the look in her eyes as she glanced at the chair that she was supposed to sit back down on.
Café Degas is a disaster. Another in a series.
The good thing about the evening? I got to leave at the end.
Cafe Degas Review
We can’t be everywhere, obviously, but we’re sure interested in everywhere. We welcome your contributions, reviews, raves, pans, and pix. Send us a pic of your food, the place, the menu if you can, along with pithy comments about your experience. Tell us whether you want to publish it with your real name or alias (and tell us what that would be). While the focus has been hamburgers, hot dogs, and pizza, you’ll note that many different types of cuisines have been discussed here, and will continue to be. Join us! Here’s where to send your dope.
CORRECTIONS TOO! Please tell us if a business that appears on this site has called it a day. Many thanks.
This restaurant has announced it will close in November of 2014 as a result of selling their property
Follow up visit at Pak’s Green Corner in Duluth, MN, to make sure appearing on Triple D didn’t go to their heads. Didn’t. Still excellent. Had the Korean beef taco, poutine, and red curry chicken. Very enjoyable. With Canada being literally on Duluth’s doorstep, and poutine being the national dish of Canada, it’s about time someone offered it in the Twin Ports! (Pak’s will be on Triple D 11/1, 11/2, and 11/7 on Food Network. Check your local listings for times. )
Paks Green Corner
Local Toledo hot dog legend Tony Packo’s has been around for 70-80 years, and is the birthplace of the “Hungarian Style Hot Dog.” Now with five locations, the business received a lot of publicity as the home town favorite of the TV character “Max Klinger” on the long-run sitcom “MASH.”
Toledo is about halfway between two distinct “coney island hot dog” territories. And all three are distinctly different in flavor and texture. To the north, you find the Detroit style like American Coney, heavy on meat and a beefy taste – in Ohio you have the dueling chains of Skyline and GoldStar, and both of their coney sauces have a ‘sweet’ element in them. Some fans say chocolate, some say cinnamon. They are both good, and you can purchase complete Detroit kits or Skyline ingredients online. And you should. Often.
So Packo’s sells their sauce in little 8 ounce cans (pictured), less than a buck and a half, if I recall, and the promotional material says it is enough for five hot dogs. I think that’s conservative, you could probably schmear the sauce on 8-10 I’ll betcha.
Ingredients include: beef, water, chili spice, textured vegetable protein, sugar, salt, corn starch, and garlic. The distinctive characteristics of Packo’s are 1) the presence of the chili pepper is very evident, as is the sugar. The sauce is sweeter and hotter than the Detroit or Ohio styles.
There is a layer of flavor deep in there that reminds me of say, Hormel Chili. Which isn’t a turn off, just ‘different’ for a coney type sauce. In my experience. Your mileage may vary. Below are pix of the sauce in the can, out of the can, and after heating. Shop online if you can’t find at your grocery. In addition to hot dog sauce, Packo’s sells pickles, noodles, peppers, chili, barbecue sauce, relish and ketchup. And yes, I’d buy this again. Might even stock up.
Tony Packo Hot Dog Sauce Review
The relative new kid on the block in Chicago pizzerias, Edwardos has been cooking up their special ‘stuffed’ pizzas since 1978 from multiple locations in the Chicago area. They are also available in the frozen food section at your grocery, or you can have them shipped.
Despite the massive publicity Chicago pizza received courtesy of Jon Stewart (video below), there remains some confusion among locals, not to mention tourists, as to what exactly Chicago pizza is. Is it deep dish? Pan? Double crust? Stuffed? Thin Crust? The truth is, they are all Chicago pizzas.
Edwardo’s version is deep, AND stuffed. With a thin layer of crust on the bottom, topped with cheese, or cheese and meat, or cheese and sauce, and then another thin layer of crust, with sauce on the TOP. That’s right. It’s a Chicago thing with the deeper pizzas, sauce on the top.
At the grocery, you’re going to pay $7 plus for the small, which will easily feed two or three. At the restaurant, about $20. By mail, $25 plus shipping.
I opted for the sausage kind. There are some Chicago pizzerias that make a blanket of sausage on the pie, it covers from rim to rim. Edwardos goes with chunks of flavorful Italian, on the cheese layer.
The crust is buttery, as many Chicago pizzas are. It has a nice flaky quality, too. The cheese is tremendous, ample quantity, great flavor, and great “pull.” Sauce is ample and fairly mild, leaning more ‘sweet’ than ‘savory.’
The pie takes around 30 minutes in a 425 oven, and you should let it set for a few before slicing.
I’ve taken a look at most every frozen Chicago pizza, including Connies, Reggios, Home Run Inn, Vito and Nicks, Ginos, and others. While Vito and Nicks remains my favorite thin crust, having pushed past Home Run Inn this year, this one, Edwardo’s Natural, is the first ‘deep dish’ I’ve found that is worth buying and consuming. I’ll do it again. Going to one of the shops? Here’s the menu.
Edwardos Natural Pizza