Monday, August 31, 2009

La Tearoom Cafe

Nipped over to La Tearoom Cafe today for a sandwich and saw a note taped up on the door saying they were closed until further notice.

I emailed sandwich-maker Randy, who said the downturn in the economy had hurt the restaurant and after struggling along for awhile they have decided to call it quits.

The restaurant had gone downhill somewhat over the past year - it was difficult not to notice that nibbles racks and chill cabinets were suspiciously bare, and sometimes they'd be out of certain key ingredients. Still, I'm sorry to see an independent downtown eatery bite the dust, and hope that Randy and Tiffany land on their feet somewhere soon.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Farmer's Fair in Covington

Covington is hosting a two-day Farmer's Fair next month celebrating locally grown food. The event runs Saturday, Sept. 26th from 5-10 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 27 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

From the press release:

"The intersection of Court Street and Park Place in Covington, Kentucky will transform into a Farmers’ Fair on Saturday, September 26th and Sunday, September 27th.

Saturday evening, 5pm-10pm, is the kick off celebration and features sampling of local foods prepared by local chefs, tastings of local beers and wine, and live local music.

Sunday, 11am-4pm, is a farmers’ market and more. Local farmers will be selling locally grown and raised food and cottage producers will be selling minimally processed local foods such as honey, syrup, jams and bread. There will be food tastings, local music, and educational information and activities for adults and children alike.

"We're celebrating food grown and raised right here in our Greater Cincinnati area. There's so much available, we want to connect urban consumers with local growers and encourage people to utilize the wonderful resources in our region. Eating this way is good for our health and for our economy," states event chair Valerie Taylor.

The events are part of the Great Outdoor Weekend, are open to the public and admission is free. "We really want to stress our connection to food and the land on which it is grown and it just makes so much sense to celebrate this in conjunction with the Great Outdoor Weekend. People can literally taste their connection to the great outdoors, how delicious!” says co-chair Susan Miller-Stigler.

Visit for more information!"

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Recipe: Israeli Couscous Salad

Recipe: Israeli Couscous Salad
Serves 4-6

1 Cup Israeli couscous
1/2 Cup golden raisins
1/2 Cup toasted pecans
2 scallions, minced

2 Tbs. olive oil
1 1/2 Tbs. champagne vinegar
zest of a small orange
juice of one small juicing orange
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp dried thyme (I used one small sprig fresh)
1/2 tsp dried tarragon
salt and pepper to taste


The ingredient list

Israeli (pearl) couscous is made of hard wheat rather than semolina. It is similar to pasta.

Toast the pecans in a dry skillet until they become fragrant. Remove from heat, let cool and coarsely chop.

Zest the orange

Boil the couscous for about eight minutes.

Drain and set aside to cool.

Squeeze the juice from the orange, then whisk together all dressing ingredients.

Gather together the pecans, raisins, scallions and dressing.

Blend all ingredients into couscous and enjoy!

This recipe is good warm or chilled. Turn it into a Thanksgiving side by substituting dried cranberries for the raisins.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Johnny Rockets

Johnny Rockets on the Levee
1 Levee Way
Newport, KY

One of the highlights of my childhood was going with my parents to a restaurant - any restaurant - that had a jukebox. I was smitten with them. I loved the idea of putting a coin in, pushing some buttons, and instantly hearing my favorite songs. I can honestly say that jukeboxes helped me learn my A-B-C's.

There were times I embarrassed my older sister, whose job it was to read off the song titles to me. For a seven year old, I was very much in tune with the pop hits of the day, and if a song I really liked was on the jukebox, I'd play it again, and again, and again. I remember playing "Crocodile Rock" so many times that the restaurant manager was forced to unplug the machine. My sister was horrified.

Jukeboxes are everywhere these days and don’t elicit the same reaction they did when I was a kid, but the tabletop jukeboxes at Johnny Rockets certainly help keep the wonderment alive.

Johnny Rockets on the Levee

The staff in their retro finery

The soda counter

A nickel gets you three plays on the tabletop jukebox

This international restaurant chain trades heavily on nostalgia, from the checkerboard tiles on the floor to the soda fountain serving up malts, shakes and floats. It's a burgers'n'fries kind of joint that harkens back to the feel-good era of the 1950's, but the inclusion of veggie burgers on their menu plants them firmly into the new millennium.

Mmmm...a rootbeer float

The strawberry shakes are thick and creamy

Even the ketchup is happy

A Gardenburger patty can be substituted for any of the burger options. This is the #11

I really cannot fault Johnny Rockets except to say that their prices are a little higher than most burger joints, but it's not bad value. A big plus for vegetarians is that basically you can substitute a veggie patty for any burger on their menu (although probably not wise to do so with the bacon burger), and their shakes and malts are thick and delicious. Service is cheerful and quick, and the family-friendly dining room is tidy and clean.

Most tellingly, however, is the excitement on the faces of children when they learn that the shiny box at their table plays music. On the day we visited, we heard "Rockin' Robin" played a dozen times. And no, it wasn’t me this time.

Johnny Rockets on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Recipe: Quinoa and Black Beans

Here's a nice light salad packed with protein and perfect for the dog days of summer. This is delicious warm or chilled.

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad
Serves 6
1 Cup quinoa
1 1/2 Cups cold water
1 (15oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 Cup diced celery (about one rib)
1 carrot, diced
1 Cup fresh green beans, steamed (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, sliced
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
3 or 4 scallions, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped or 1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
1/2 Cup olives, sliced (optional)
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper, to taste
healthy pinch cayenne powder or chili powder

The ingredients

Dry quinoa is often mistaken for a grain but is actually a protein-rich seed from the spinach family

Soak quinoa for 30 minutes in cold water, rinsing very thoroughly several times in fresh water to get rid of the bitter husks. Discard water after each rinse, and finish by draining through a fine mesh strainer. While the quinoa is soaking, dice the vegetables.

After the final rinse, put quinoa in a two-quart saucepan with 1 1/2 cups cold water and a 1/2 tsp of salt. Bring to a boil, turn heat down to low, cover tightly and cook for 15 minutes. When time's up remove from heat and leave covered for five more minutes. Do not lift the lid for a peek!

While the quinoa is cooking, saute garlic in 2 Tbsp. olive oil until lightly browned

Add diced celery and carrots and saute until softened.

Add green pepper and lightly saute, then add cumin and coriander and continue cooking for another five minutes or so.

My father-in-law calls this "chef's privilege"

Fluff quinoa with a fork and transfer to a large bowl to cool. While the quinoa is cooling, whisk together the dressing ingredients.

Gently stir the veggie mixture into the quinoa. Add tomatoes, beans and dressing and stir to combine. Finally, stir in cilantro and scallions.


Saturday, August 8, 2009


Update 18 August 2009: Sully's has closed. What a surprise.

Sully's Sports Bar & Grill
700 Race St.

Sully's looks like a nice bar and grill from the outside, and when we got a couple of discount coupons from Enjoy the City we figured, "why not give them a try?"

Sully's Bar and Grill

We visited during lunch on a weekday, and upon entering we realized that Sully's is definitely more of a boozer than a restaurant, even at that time of day. There are wobbly tables with uncomfortable pleather boothes ringing the establishment, a DJ station at one end and a large, rectangular bar dominating the interior. Few of the patrons were eating.

The massive bar

Having looked at their online menu before we went, I noted that they list two vegetarian items; a gardenburger and a veggie pizza. I opted for the pizza, described as "super thin crust" topped with spinach, mushrooms, onions and tomatoes with a three cheese blend for $10.99. Steve tried the BBQ chicken pizza, described as "Guinness BBQ chicken, bacon and jalapenos with a three cheese blend."

We were expecting, at the very least, pizza. That IS what we ordered, afterall. I mean really - when you think of pizza, what comes to mind? A crust, sauce, cheese, and toppings? Hmmm. It's safe to say that the Sully's idea of pizza greatly differed from what we had envisioned.

The pizza that wasn't

Yes there were some toppings, but that's where the likeness ended. The "cheese blend" was a sprinkling of cheddar over a slathering of spinach-artichoke dip, and while they weren't kidding about the "super thin crust" I was actually expecting a thin crust, not a toasted tortilla. Sorry, but what we were served was not pizza - they were quesadillas that hadn't been folded in half, and most certainly were NOT worth the eleven bucks each price tag. We felt incredibly ripped-off, and the buy-one-get-one coupon couldn't ease the feeling that we'd just been shafted.

Needless to say, we will not be going back.

Sully's Restarant and Saloon on Urbanspoon