Monday, February 18, 2019

How Sweet it is: Local Hive Honey

Winter greens with honey

A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, but a spoonful of honey imparts a unique flavor. I recently sampled Local Hive from Rice's Honey.

Local hive honey
This company sells 17 varieties of raw, unfiltered honey from around the United States. I tasted both the Northeast and New England honeys, known for their bold flavor. I mean, Brooklyn, right? And Boston - we make ourselves heard.

I used the Local Hive honey is a winter salad of hearty greens , where the sweetness balanced the bitter.

Winter Salad:

I bunch Swiss chard, leaves only
1 small head radicchio
1/4 pound Brussels sprouts, cut in half, sprinkled with olive oil and salt and roasted at 450 degrees for 20 - 25 minutes, until slightly charred
1/4 C kimchi


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon kimchi juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
Loca Hive varieties

Chop Swiss chard leaves and radicchio into ribbons. Slice Brussels sprouts into silvers and chop kimchi. Put in all in a salad bowl.

Whisk together all dressing ingredients and pour over greens. Toss to combine.

Note: I was given 2 bottles of Local Hive honey. I was not otherwise compensated.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Wisconsin Eats: Cheese, with Beer

Winter scene in the Northwoods of Wisconsin

The first food that comes to mind in Wisconsin is cheese. Green Bay Packers fans are cheeseheads and although I was heading to the Northwoods, regional pride means that everyone is a cheese fan.

Fried cheese curds at the Sawmill Saloon
I spent 5 days in the frozen tundra of the Northwoods of Wisconsin, in the small towns of Cable and Hayward. I was there to experience winter outdoor adventures, though in the record cold, we had to curtail some activities. No amount of hot cheese can warm you up from minus 37 below.

Greetings from the North Pole
But the polar vortex meant that we were all burning extra fuel just to get in and out of restaurants, so we didn't have to worry about calories. Which was great when we had dish after dish of cheese.

Cheese curds for all

At the Sawmill Saloon, between Cable and Hayward, I finally understood the fuss about cheese curds. I'd only had fresh cheese curds, which seemed like mozzarella's less flavorful cousin. But dipped in breadcrumbs and fried, these cheese curds oozed melted cheese and tasted great.

The pizza oven at Tamarack Farms Winery
The Saloon also makes pizza, and had a vegetarian version with fresh mushrooms, peppers and olives.

Wine, and cheese

We also previewed the food at the new Tamarack Farms Winery. This brand new winery has a wood fired pizza oven. The winery uses local cheese in its pizza and appetizer plates.

Come warm weather, (July?) Tamarack will have a dog friendly outdoor patio. The winery specializes in fruit favored wine, using local cranberries in its award winning cranberry wine. Apples, strawberries and blueberries are used in other wines. The winery also sells California wine, and beer.

The local beer scene

Some of the vegetarian options at Old Southern BBQ
Wisconsin has a hyper local brewery, New Glarus. Available only in Wisconsin, the cult brewery makes Spotted Cow, a farmhouse ale ubiquitous in the state. I tried it on tap and in a bottle. I also had Moon Man, a hoppy session pale ale. Beer isn't the first thing you think of when it's many degrees below zero, but these were tasty.

Southern BBQ in the Northwoods

Local Dave Anderson had a restaurant, Famous Dave's, that burned down. He rebuilt it as Old Southern BBQ. While meats, with meat on the side, is the reason to go here, vegetarians aren't forgotten. There is a rich and creamy macaroni and cheese, chickpea salad, creamed corn and roasted sweet potatoes. I tried them all, with every homemade BBQ sauce. The spicy Diablo was my favorite.  There is also cornbread, served as muffin top so everyone gets a crunchy part.

Old Southern has 5 locations including a branch in Minneapolis. Dave is a partner in Tamarack Farms Winery.

Local cocktail

Warm up with a maple old fashioned
Wisconsin riffs on a classic old fashioned, with brandy instead of bourbon. This is a great way to warm up. Have I mentioned the polar vortex?

At Birches Roadhouse, which specializes in organic, made from scratch food, a bourbon old fashioned still has a Wisconsin twist. Local, bourbon aged maple syrup subs in for the mundane sugar.

Birches would be at home in any big city, with delicious food like wild mushroom and caramelized onion flatbread and butternut squash ravioli with sage.

The wild mushroom and caramelized onion flatbread at Birches Roadhouse. Yum!
Note: I was a guest of Travel Wisconsin, which covered my travel expenses. Full belly and near frostbite were all my own.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Tickled Pink at Red Feather: Farm to Table in Cincinnati

Whipped ricotta 

At first glance, Red Feather might not be an obvious choice for vegetarians. And entire section of the menu is 'shells & bones." But the 'scratch kitchen' had more than enough to satisfy several plant eaters, as wells meat lovers.

Vegetarian cauliflower
While we drank our delicious cocktails, we had warm roasted olives with grilled lemon. And whipped ricotta on grilled bread with truffle honey. We might have gone sparingly on the cheese; after we finished all the bread, we still had a mound of soft, creamy ricotta. We were offered, and devoured, more bread.

Red Feather is in Oakley, a developing neighborhood close to downtown Cincinnatired. On a freezing night, the place was packed, but we had a relatively quiet table in the corner. There's a chef's table and an inviting bar.

Unique menu

Roasted beets with arugula
Brussels sprouts and broccoli sounded good except they were served with pig's ears. That's a hard pass. But the excellent salads included one with roasted beets, honey yogurt and baby arugula, and a simple greens salad with pine nuts and shallots.

My husband and I shared the spiced cauliflower with barley, which had an intense sauce. We also had the excellent scallops, on a parsnip puree with trumpet and maitake mushrooms. I could have had the mushrooms and puree as a main course and been thrilled.

There were a coupe of fish dishes and enough interesting cocktails and wines by the glass that I could definitely return.

My friend was disappointed in his $73 steak, but it was cheerfully replaced with an $18 burger that he loved. (And we were paying, so were happy not to pay for that giant hunk of meat).

Monday, January 21, 2019

Middle Eastern Delights: Persian Hot Spot Sofreh

A Taste of Cherry cocktail
If you like lots of herbs and seasoning - in your cocktails and food - Sofreh is for you. The always packed restaurant has delicious vegetarian and meat dishes, and interesting cocktails to accompany. 

Tahdig, the crunchy rice scraped from the bottom of the pan

Where to start

Share one of the fabulous dips: eggplant with mint, yogurt with shallots or feta with tons of herbs. They all come with warm, house made seeded bread. 

The recently departed beet salad
We had a new dish recently, grilled cauliflower with pickled vegetables and pistachios. Yummy. The beet salad is no longer on the menu, but if it returns, grab it.

Grilled cauliflower with pickled vegetables 
The vegan Zershk sour
You’ll want Tahdig, the crunchy bits of rice scraped from the bottom of the pan. There’s usually a chicken sauce over it, but we leave it off. Warning: this dish runs out by the end of the night. There are also rice dishes to accompany your main course, with saffron, or a new one with carrots.

Get a salad or two: pomegranate and feta, or the new tahini and date. The herb and noodle stew, listed with the salads can be your entree. It has lentils, onions, mint and tons of flavor. The only one we weren't cray about is the Shiraz salad, maybe because the cucumber, tomato and onion salad was too familiar. I like the surprise of all the unusual flavors at Sofreh.

Smoked eggplant entree
Meat eaters rave about the chicken with plum and barberries and duck with a rich walnut pomegranate sauce. 

Vegetarian options abound

I love the smoked eggplant with poached eggs and more of that great bread. There’s also fish with tamarind sauce and fenugreek and a new butter bean and dill dish. 

The Vesper martini: vodka, gin, saffron and rose petals

Persian Cocktails

The Zereshk sour has bourbon, beet, and aquafaba (chickpea water instead of an egg white. So it's vegan!)  The martini variations include a Vesper with saffron and Hendricks with mint and cucumber. All fantastic. A new 'Taste of Cherry' has Old Tom gin and sour cherry syrup. Yummy. 


Desserts so far are not for chocolate lovers. The saffron rice pudding and rosewater sorbet are fine but I’ll hold out for chocolate.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Luxury Lifestyle: Swanky Eats at Intersect by Lexus

Buratta with roasted pears at Intersect by Lexus

If you've walked past the Soho House or NeueHouse and longed for access to the exclusive spaces, check out Intersect by Lexus. The new meatpacking space has a deluxe cafe, chic bar and ritzy restaurant, along with gallery space occupied now by the LF-1 Limitless concept SUV.

On the ground level, right across 14th Street from an Apple Store and the designer shoes and clothing store Jeffrey New York, is a cafe. You can get a perfect espresso and a pastry. There is also an extremely cool bathroom with automatic doors and high end toilets.

In New York, you get excited by clean public toilets.
Lexus LF-1 Limitless concept SUV at Intersect by Lexus

Frenchie - a bit of Paris in NYC

The restaurant upstairs will switch chefs every four to six months. Currently, Gregory Marchand from Frenchie is in charge.

As a guest of Lexus, I got the full court press at lunch. We started with fluke crudo. It had contrasting textures with raw and roasted beets, and crispy quinoa.

Crudo with beets
We also shared buratta with roasted pears and granola. The creamy cheese was excellent with the crusty whole grain sourdough.

Save room for dessert
A vegetarian main course of cauliflower steak spoke to me. It was described as having 'curry, seeds & nuts, dates.' The crispy hunk of cauliflower had to be dipped in the sauces, a vibrant yellow curry and a slightly sweet, thick date sauce. The crunchy bits and micro greens gave every bite a burst of flavor.

There was also monkfish with mushrooms and a coffee / black garlic sabayon.

For dessert, we had Banoffee - banana with dulche de leche and pecans. Again, this had a contrast of flavors and textures that made it irresistible.

Vegetarian main course at Intersect by Lexus

Swanky but less Formal Bar

At the lovely bar, in the front, you can have specialty cocktails. I have to come back later in the day to try the gin based Intersect, which includes rose, almond milk, sesame, and of the moment Aquafaba. Bar food includes a cheese plate or a lobster roll. Most of the wines are from France. The beer is from Brooklyn.
Model cars on the way to the bathrooms

Global Presence

There is an Intersect by Lexus in Tokyo, and another in Dubai.

Note: I was a guest of Lexus at lunch. Opinions and full stomach were all my own. I was not otherwise compensated.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Unique Columbus Ohio: Seeking the Local

Many midwest cities have a numbing sameness. Columbus, Ohio stands out.

Columbus, the state capital, may be the most fashionable midwestern city. The home of L Brands, which includes the Limited, Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works, the city attracts lots of designers. In the Short North Arts District, I found local boutiques with highly fashionable clothes, shoes and jewelry.

Food is also a focus in the city. There are beer, distillery and coffee shop trails that encourage visitors to patronize local establishments. And get a free t-shirt.

Even my hotel, Hotel LeVeque, emphasized this local mentality. The minibar had a craft bottled cocktail from Watershed Distillery.
The minibar goes local

Hotel LeVeque's sumptuous lobby
The hotel's restaurant, The Keep, uses Watershed Distillery's gin for a barrel aged Negroni. It makes use of many local products: the bourbon, rye, apple brandy, and bitters are all local. You might think you were in a bar in Brooklyn.

Local coffee shop

Although Hotel LeVeque has a chain coffee shop in the lobby, I did check out a fantastic local place, The Fox in the Snow Cafe. The latte was perfect, and the latte art on point. The sublime egg sandwich was made on house baked bread, with arugula. And the biscuits would please a Nashville purist.
Perfection: the egg sandwich at The Fox in the Snow

Taking home a bit of CBus

Concocting a candle at The Candle Lab
I made a candle at The Candle Lab. You choose a few scents, see what goes together, and create a custom candle. Cleverly, the candle takes a couple of hours to set, giving you time to shop the local boutiques and art galleries. Or have a meal or drinks at Service Bar. This restaurant is attached to another local distillery, Middle West Spirits.
Barrel aged Negroni at The Keep

Note: I was a guest of Experience Columbus, which covered my travel expenses.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

All Aboard: Driving the Chevy Traverse around New York

Does it seem odd to drive to a train show?
Holiday train show at the New York Botanical Garden

Well, the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden is a bit of a misnomer. The annual show, in residence for two months, has plenty of model trains. But it also has models of houses and structures around NYC.

We particularly liked the Coney Island section and the area devoted to Lower Manhattan. When you see the show with older kids, you examine the buildings more closely. We were saddened by how many of them had been knocked down.

The glorious Beaux Arts Penn Station was there, rendered in bark, leaves and twigs. At least the building's demise led to an outcry and to the formation of the NYC Landmarks Law.

Spreading out in the Chevy Traverse

Second row comfort, and light pouring in through oversized windows
I was surprised that the 3 row Traverse is considered a midsize SUV. We found it quite roomy, with captains seats in the second row and a full size third row. There was plenty of floor space for an overgrown dog as well.

Behind the third row there was a large cargo area. We drove to Thanksgiving in it, instead of squeezing into our small sedan, and had tons of room for the cakes, pies and sides I was supplying.

Button on lower right reveals a secret compartment
The Traverse gets only 18 mpg in the city, 27 o the highway. But considering that we drove our friends, who were going to take a second car, w saved a ton of gas. If you are just driving yourself around, this may not be the ideal vehicle.

We didn't get to put the AWD to the test. You switch into this as needed. But considering I had the SUV a week after a snowstorm paralyzed the New York region, with cars spinning off the road, this is an important feature.

Note: Chevrolet loaned me the Traverse. I was not otherwise compensated.