Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Another New Food Truck! Marvelous Munchies

A couple of weeks ago I spotted the new bright orange Taz food truck at Fifth and Race (the food there on my second visit was just as good the first). Last week I got lunch at another colorful newcomer, Marvelous Munchies, serving from this lavender converted camper at Court and Vine.

Marvelous Munchies is focusing on finding its place in the Cincy food truck landscape as the city’s “Healthy Food Truck,” offering vegan and vegetarian options that include hummus, falafel, and fresh veggies, along with sandwiches made with meats like chicken, sausage, and burgers that are MSG- and additive-free. The owner, a former real estate agent who runs the truck with her niece and nephew, told me she herself is gluten-intolerant, so she is careful on that front as well. As the menu says: “You can find gluten in the obvious places, like pasta or buns, but not in the falafel or meats.”
In the fall, she plans to offer soups made from gluten-free stocks. I was curious to try some of her gluten-free cookies, but she was out of them the day I stopped by.

What I did try was this marinated chicken sandwich on a wheat bun (they also offer white) and the pasta salad side.

The chicken was a well marinated and very flavorful boneless, skinless breast that I liked a lot, especially with cheddar, fresh lettuce, tomato, and red onion on the sandwich, and a dill pickle spear on the side.

Marvelous Munchies started up earlier this summer in Elmwood Place near the P+G Ivorydale plant and moved the Court + Vine food truck location a couple of weeks ago. The owner told me she plans to park there on a regular basis for weekday lunches and hopes to eventually expand to other locations at other hours. But as any food-truck owner – or customer – recognizes, these things take time and tweaking is inevitable.

I’m a supporter of all the bold, hard-working entrepreneurs who comprise the Cincinnati food truck scene and glad to welcome Marvelous Munchies to the mix, especially if they continue their presence as the seasons change. And I’m such a soup lover that I’ll gladly walk a few blocks for a good soup on a chilly day. Best of luck to Marvelous Munchies!

Culinary Smackdown: Battle Bacon

My friend Cindie’s mantra this summer has been the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle. But sometimes we just can’t help ourselves.

When Grumpy Granny announced bacon as the theme for the August Culinary Smackdown, Cindie decided we should do a bacon tasting. Cindie selected three of local fave Eckerlin’s bacon varieties and had me make little signs for them, insisting my handwriting is better than hers (when you've been friends as many decades as we have, you learn to roll with it).

First up, the applewood-smoked bacon.

When it came out of the oven, Cindie tried to make the number “1” out of toothpicks.

Next, the double-smoked bacon.

Aggravated with trying to make the number “2” out of toothpicks when it came out of the oven, Cindie resorted to a Roman numeral II out of basil stems.

Here's the one we saved for #3, Eckerlin’s hickory-smoked bacon.

By the time it came out of the oven, I convinced Cindie to quit worrying about numerals.

Results of our at-home taste test experiment? We both liked the way the bacon turned out baking it on a rack in the oven instead of frying it. Neither of us could pick up much apple or applewood taste in the bacon smoked that way, and thought it was saltiest of the three. We liked the double-smoked bacon better and it had a firmer texture to it (Cindie had also asked for it to be cut thicker). Our unanimous favorite was the hickory-smoked bacon. Which is what the guy who waited on Cindie on our previous trip to Eckerlin’s said was his personal favorite. Once again, it pays to ask vendors what they recommend.

Regardless of KISS, Cindie has made a pie or cobbler every time we’ve cooked together this summer. I peeled and cut the apples while she made the crust and a streusel topping she added later to this one.

For hors d’oeuvres, Cindie had in mind to reprise my Rumaki recipe, which we made earlier this season: Marinated Chicken Livers and Water Chestnuts Wrapped in Bacon. Thinner works better than thick-cut bacon for this application, although I struggled with some (not from Eckerlin’s) that was so thin it frayed apart and was tricky to secure with a toothpick.

If you’d like to try our version of Rumaki, we used a pint of chicken livers, a 5-ounce can of water chestnuts, rinsed (which wasn’t quite enough to match the amount of chicken livers we had, although two cans would have been too much), and however many half-slices of bacon it took to wrap them in after we marinated the chicken livers and water chestnuts in 1/2 cup soy sauce mixed with 4 tablespoons sugar. The marinade is one I use for bacon-wrapped water chestnuts without chicken livers, a much lighter bite. (Half as much marinade will be plenty for a can of water chestnuts if you go that route.) Ginger can be a nice addition too.

You can bake these puppies, but you’ll need to turn them. We found it easier to turn them and attend to even bacon cooking by frying them either on top of the stove or in an electric skillet. Look at Cindie’s tongs-wielding, rumaki-turning fingers fly!

As another supposed appetizer, we opted for classically simple bacon-wrapped scallops. I kept warning Cindie both apps would be rich and filling and finally talked her down to only nine of these lovely 10-20 count sea scallops from Luken’s at Findlay Market (they have larger ones too – this one just looks as large as it does because I biggified one of my best photos from the weekend).

Yep, I was right. We ended up with 3 or 4 appetizer platters like these (minus the mayo dipping sauce, which was actually intended for our main course/Smackdown entry). Luckily a couple of Cindie's husband’s friends stopped by and helped eat them.

While the men ate and shot the breeze outside on the deck, Cindie and I were glued to Hurricane Irene coverage inside on the TV. Our rich “snacks,” not to mention our early morning at Findlay Market and an ample lunch on the way home, caught up with us. We were both too full to eat our Smackdown dish that night, or, alas, that pie.

But I was not going home Sunday without photos of our entry – or tasting it. So here’s what I had for breakfast, er, brunch.

A couple of toasted slices of Blue Oven bread:

Some of these gorgeous red and yellow heirloom tomatoes Cindie picked at a friend’s:

And, of course, bacon. Plus some Romaine and leaf lettuce we picked up Saturday morning from one of the farmers at Findlay (barely visible here). I tried fancifying it a bit with Pimente d’Espelette in the mayo (I failed to add enough to store-bought mayonnaise for it to be a noticeable difference), and adding some fresh basil. I love the summertime combination of fresh tomatoes and basil so much that its addition worked for me.

Verdict? No need to mess around with a BLT when you have perfectly ripe home-grown tomatoes. They were unquestionably the star of this sandwich, although the rest of it was pretty darn good too. And as much as I enjoyed the ciabatta-style Tortano loaf I purchased from Blue Oven, you get more surface area – aka more room for bacon – when you keep it old-school like Cindie’s husband Odie did with his.

For much more innovative Battle Bacon entries, head on over to Grumpy Granny’s, where her own post as this month’s host (and last month’s winner) features a dish that will have you salivating (even if you’re vegetarian or have a sweet tooth) and you can find your way to the other Smackdown entries in the comments, which keep rolling in.

Ran out of time to participate this month? Got caught up in a hurricane frenzy or other real-world concerns? No problem. If you have power or are online in some fashion, you can still join in the fun and support the revival of this little thing we call the Culinary Smackdown by checking out the submissions, commenting if you choose, and staying tuned for where the Smackdown will go in September.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Perfect Saturday Morning at Findlay Market + Battle Bacon Kick-Off

While all too many on the East Coast were contending with Irene's ill effects, she kept a high-pressure system in place over Cincy this weekend, with blue skies, comfortable temps, low humidity, and pleasant breezes.

Cindie and I couldn't have asked for a more lovely morning when we headed to Findlay Market yesterday to pick up ingredients for this month's Culinary Smackdown: Battle Bacon, hosted by Grumpy Granny. For my out-of-town readers, one of Cincinnati's nicknames is Porkoplis, stemming from my city's deep German heritage. We know how to embrace our nickname and have fun with it. The Cincnnati marathon is called the Flying Pig, and a few years ago, the Big Pig Gig had artfully decorated fiberglass pigs like the one in the photo above popping up all over town.

We made a point of arriving early so I could pick up some Blue Oven bread before they sold out. I took my place in the Blue Oven line while Cindie headed inside the Market House to the always-busy Gibbs to stock up on requests from her husband and father.

I was rewarded for my efforts with this hearty loaf of Blue Oven's Tortano, made with wheat flour and potato, plus some of Blue Oven's legendary English muffins, now safely stowed in the freezer for next weekend.

The Market Shed was abuzz with customers and offerings like these from LeGrand Vegetables.

Cindie and I never make a trip to Findlay Market without a stop at Fresh Table, at the east end of the Market House (just inside from Daisy Mae's, which also offers downtown delivery and a Quick Pick Produce option, where you can order ahead, then drive up for curbside delivery).

Fresh Table's prepared foods always taste as good as they look, and most are made with ingredients sourced from other Findlay Market vendors, including Daisy Mae's.

As much as Cindie and I love our old favorites at Findlay Market, we always seem to discover something new to us as well. This time we explored Skirtz + Johnson (in a store front across from Findlay's Market House on the south side). After seeing this window display, how could we not?
We treated ourselves to a couple of Skirtz + Johnson's lovely macarons on the spot. Cindie picked up a loaf of their salted rye from S+K's impressive bread selections for her father, and, powerless to resist a cannoli, I purchased their pistachio version after spying it in this dessert case inside.
Skirtz + Johnson also offers breakfast and lunch (you can find a menu on their website), including a uniquely Cincinnati goetta danish, made with goetta from Eckerlin's, Cindie's new favorite goetta.

Eckerlin Meats is another of our must-stops at Findlay, in part because Cindie's dogs love their smoked bones. Cindie passes up no opportunity to spoil her dogs (and these captivate Oscar's attention  enough to actually keep him from barking).

We were also on a quest for bacon for this month's Culinary Smackdown, and Eckerlin's was our go-to source.

Cindie had the idea we should do a bacon tasting, selecting Eckerlin's Applewood-Smoked Bacon, Hickory-Smoked Bacon, and Double-Smoked Bacon, although I wouldn't have minded trying their Cajun Bacon as well.
Knowing Cindie had a list with her, and would probably get carried away with additional purchases, I left her to her own devices at Eckerlin's while I headed to Dojo Gelato for some of their amazing Porkopolis gelato -  maple gelato mixed with candied bacon from another fine meat vendor at Findlay, Kroeger + Sons, thinking it would be a perfect way to kick off our Baconfest weekend. If you think that combo sounds odd, clearly you were not one of the people who caused Dojo to sell out of it between the time I finished in the Blue Oven line and went back an hour later. I had to console myself with memories of tasting it at Dojo's Hyde Park Farmers Market booth, and a cup of their Up in Smoke (made with a porter/ale?) and a hazelnut flavor with an Italian-sounding name I have sadly forgotten. However, it is difficult to stay sad long when tasting any of Dojo's flavors.

Thanks to all the great Findlay Market vendors I am happy to support with my local dollars, and stay tuned for more of my Battle Bacon adventures with Cindie later in the week.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cincinnati Pastry Chef Megan Ketover Premieres on Top Chef Wednesday Night

It’s been a crazy few days in my little bloggy world. First, I lucked into attending the filming of Travel Channel’s Man vs. Food Nation at Tom+Chee on Saturday, a very cool experience by itself. Then my post about host Adam Richman’s shoot at Tom+Chee (which turned out to be an “exclusive”) was linked by Cincinnati Enquirer TV columnist John Kieswetter, resulting in an astonishing 500+ hits for my little local blog, Eggplant To Go.

But that’s nothing compared to the media attention Cincinnati’s own Megan Ketover, pastry chef at Orchids at the Palm Court in the Hilton Netherland Plaza, is about to receive when she appears on Top Chef: Just Desserts, premiering at 10:00 p.m. on Bravo Wednesday night.

I had the opportunity to meet Megan and taste her amazing desserts a couple of weeks ago. If you missed it, you can find my post about her here. I’m part of the blogging team at, and we'll have have lots more Top Chef coverage to offer in the weeks to come.

Megan is a hometown talent any Cincinnati fan of Top Chef can be proud to root for. The Enquirer ran this article about Megan last weekend. and I hear Kieswetter has another planned for Wednesday. Meanwhile, here’s a  Q+A with Megan from Cincinnati Voices, another media source I’m happy to discover. If you're rooting for Megan Ketover or have more news, coverage, or just plain fan love for Megan Ketover, please let me know. I'm proud to be a home-town fan, and I'm confident that however she fares on Top Chef: Just Desserts, Megan has a bright future ahead of her!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Orchids: Treats from Two of Cincinnati’s Top Chefs - Todd Kelly and Megan Ketover!

Things often don’t turn out as anticipated. A truism I bump into frequently. I’d made reservations at Orchids for friend Cindie and me during Downtown Restaurant Week, then learned she had to drive to Indianapolis for work that day. Cindie was iffy about whether she would be able to join me Tuesday night, which I knew would likely turn into a no. But I stuck to the same line I used when I first asked her about going with me: “I am going to Orchids. Even. If. I. Have. To. Go. By. Myself.”

The high-ceilinged “Palm Court” where Orchids is located, in Cincinnati’s historic art-deco Netherland Plaza Hotel, is one of the most magnificent rooms in the city. Every time I walk into that space, I feel swept away to another time and can’t help but check my daily concerns at the door. It reminds me of another classic art-deco landmark, Radio City Music Hall, which I saw the inside of for the first time when my grandparents visited me in NYC and took me to the annual “Holiday Show.” As the house lights dimmed, my stern, straight-laced Nebraska grandma laid her hand on mine and uttered the most startling and endearing sentence I ever heard from her lips: “In my next life, I want to come back as a Rockette.”

The hotel, which has gone through more changes in ownership since it was built in 1931 than I can keep track of, is currently run by Hilton. I’ve eaten and had drinks there in a number of its iterations, but hadn’t been there since Chef Todd Kelly came on board, garnering Orchids “Best Restaurant in Cincinnati” designation from Cincinnati Magazine for the last two years and consistently glowing praise from Cincinnati Enquirer restaurant critic Polly Campbell, bloggers, and other media sources. Chef Kelly was also recently named the American Culinary Federation’s Chef of the Year.

When I learned one of the chefs competing on the upcoming season of Bravo’s Top Chef: Just Desserts is Orchids’ pastry chef Megan Ketover, my resolve was unshakeable. I’ve been a fan of the Bravo cooking competition show since the beginning, and last fall was invited to join the blogging team at fan blog (Blogging partner The Minx does our “morning after” posts, rounds up links to the most entertaining recaps of the show from around blogosphere, posts preview videos of each episode, and more. Laura Kluvo, founder of Blogging Project Runway, has been contributing podcast exit interviews with the Top Chef contestants for the last several seasons and will likely continue to do so when Just Desserts Season 2 premieres this Wednesday.) My role is to wrangle the ATC email box and write (almost) weekly posts spotlighting news and info from around the web about the show and its contestants from all the seasons. I gather TC news via various avenues, but one of the most fruitful has proven to be friending/fanning contestants on facebook, where many post links about their appearances, events, and other press coverage.

When the cast of TC:JD2 was announced, I sought out all the contestants I could find on fb, and Orchids’ Megan Ketover was one of them. She was kind enough to reply to a couple of questions I asked, and confirmed the desserts on the Orchids Restaurant Week menu would indeed be her creations. She also recommended making RW reservations early, and I was glad I did. Orchids limits the number of RW reservations it accepts each night, and when I called to see if I might switch mine due to Cindie’s schedule, I was out of luck – they were sold out through the week. No problem. I wanted to taste the food of both Chef Kelly and Chef Ketover, and would stick with my original reservation, where three courses could be had at this premiere Cincinnati restaurant for a budget-friendly $35.

I’m not accustomed to approaching celebrities of any ilk, but I screwed up my nerve and asked Megan on fb if there was any chance I might be able to meet her while I was there. I thought it only fair to disclose my connection with AllTopChef, but assured her I would not ask anything that might violate the strict nondisclosure agreement Bravo contestants must sign, which carries a $1 million penalty. Megan replied that she would pop out into the dining room if she could, and my anticipation level edged up another notch.

Walking a block from my downtown office, I arrived at 6:00. Cindie hadn’t called to say she’d be able to join me after all, so I informed the hostess I would be a party of one. The restaurant wasn’t yet full, but I was pleasantly surprised when I was directed, not to a two-top in the middle of the room, but to a spacious corner booth with a great view of the entire room. I ordered a glass of wine, perused the Restaurant Week menu (which had some additions and changes from the version posted online), and told my server which options I’d like from the first course and entrée selections. I was torn between the two dessert offerings and hoped that if I was lucky enough to meet Megan I could ask her about them – a question that surely wouldn’t be prohibited by that Bravo contract.

Megan makes not only Orchids’ pastries but also their breads. Here are her three selections that evening, a thin, crisp grissini, an airy sesame-seed-topped roll, and her new favorite, she told me later, a wheat roll made with herbs grown on the 17th floor of the hotel. (She and Chef Kelly are also raising bees on the rooftop of the hotel and did their first honey harvest a few days later.)

Megan’s breads were served with this trio of stellar accompaniments: Paquillo pepper pesto made with garlic and almonds; an herb and garlic infused olive oil, and a thick European butter with topped with Maldon salt. Paquillo pepper is one of my favorite things, and this romesco-style dipping sauce was a delight.

Next up: this delightful amuse-bouche – a savory custard served in an egg shell with crème fraiche, chives, truffle oil, and dried local corn. The custard was cooked perfectly, and the other components added to the inviting decadence of this creamy opener.
I’m always tickled to receive an amuse, not just because these pre-appetizer tastes arrive unordered, but because I think chefs have fun with them too. As I saw plates of these perched eggshells being served throughout the restaurant, I appreciated that the kitchen was sharing them with those of us there for Restaurant Week.

My taste buds were piqued and ready for the Tuna Tonnato first course I’d ordered. But as my server set my second plate before me, I was in for a surprise, this stuffed squash blossom!.

I developed serious foodie lust for stuffed squash blossoms last summer, after reading lots of tempting recipes and gawking over squash blossom food porn. I hadn’t been able to find any to try my hand at until I visited my aunt in California last fall and spied some in her garden. That attempt turned out reasonably well for this home cook on my first try (the flowers are very delicate and tricky to work with). But the burrata and anchovy filling in Orchids’ tempura-battered blossoms and the skill with which they were fried showed me what can be done with them in the hands of a pro.

Not just one amuse, but two. I don’t frequent fine-dining restaurants as often as I wish I could, but this was new for me. Meanwhile, time was ticking away, so, basking in stuffed squash-blossom afterglow, I asked one of my servers if she would let Chef Ketover know I was there. My hope was that if I asked early enough, before the dinner and dessert rush, Megan might be able to find time to “pop out” and meet me in the dining room for a few minutes.

Served next was my “first” course, the Tuna Tonnato. Crisp haricot verts and garlic chips contrasted with the moist, succulent sashimi-grade tuna cooked sous vide. Tomato confit, kalamata olives, and the creamy tonnato sauce underneath brightened the dish and pulled it all together.

As I savored this dish, my hopes were answered when Megan stopped by my table. Warm, genuine, and down to earth, she is Top Chef: Just Desserts contender any Cincinnati fan of the show can happily root for. I was cautious about asking too much about the show, but she did give me a baker’s tour of the three selections on my bread plate. When I asked which of the featured desserts she would recommend – “unless that’s like asking you to pick your favorite child” – she described both the “chocolate option” and the “non-chocolate option” in detail, saying she finds two-thirds of customers opt for chocolate, while she herself prefers the non-chocolate side. (You can find more of my conversation with Megan on ATC here.) I didn’t want to keep her too long during service, and thanked her for her time. She completely won me over, and I must have been grinning from ear to ear as I finished my tuna and looked forward to my entrée of pork cheeks.

However, this whimsical plate was set before me instead. “The chef wanted you to taste his new heirloom tomato salad,” explained my server.

This was another of the first course options for Restaurant Week, described on the menu as Heirloom Tomato Salad with House Made Mozzarella, Tomato Gelée, Fennel Lavosh and Mizuna, and I had wrestled with the decision to forgo it in favor of the Tuna Tonnato. The menu didn’t mention that the mozzarella was not only house-made but also inflated into a balloon. I’ve read about this preparation elsewhere (it’s one Thomas Keller has done at the French Laundry), but had never had an opportunity to try it. What fun to pierce that delicate dairy balloon and watch it deflate while the crunchy teetertotter of lavosh, over tiny skinned heirloom tomatoes, remained in place. (It didn’t occur to me until later that the lavosh crisp was likely Megan’s creation as well.)

Among many things I appreciated about the top-notch service I received that evening was the delicate choreography between back of house and front of house. I appreciate a menu written with enough detail to provide a fair idea of what to expect as I decide what to order, without going into volumes about every element (and its source) in a complex dish. On the other hand, I am very interested in those details. The fellow who served the majority of my plates did a superb job of explaining what I was about to eat in a way that enhanced my appreciation of each dish without coming across as condescending or designed to impress.

It was also at this point in the evening that it finally sank in that not only was I dining at a place with the well-deserved reputation of being the best restaurant in town, I was probably receiving extra attention as a blogger interested in supporting Megan. “The chef would like you to taste this” had been used earlier in the evening in connection with my two amuses, but it was clearly more than a standard line used by well-trained front-of-house staff accustomed to delivering gracious service. By now I’d also been served two amuses and two “first” courses, although I’d walked in the door looking forward to just three courses total from the Restaurant Week menu, and the possibility of meeting Megan. For a moment I worried about the blogger ethics of receiving such treatment. But I was so won over by every morsel I’d tasted and every bit of stellar service I’d received that I decided I’d be a fool not to succumb to this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

On to my entrée at last: Pork Cheeks with Chanterelles and Roasted Garlic Gnudi. This wasn’t on Orchids’ online menu for Restaurant Week as I initially contemplated my course choices. But when I saw it on the menu that night, I was excited by the prospect of trying something new to me. The preparation for these savory pork cheeks reminded me of high-end beef short ribs, one of Cindie’s favorite dishes, and I made a mental note to add them to my list of reasons she should be jealous for baling on me that night.

My belly was pretty full by this point, having cleaned every plate set before me, except my bread plate (sorry, Megan). When my server asked if I was done with the bread, I didn’t quite hear what she said. I was sorry to bid those breads good-bye, but I needed to preserve my appetite to taste one of Megan’s desserts. The time had come to make my selection. As tempted as I was by the chocolate option, I elected to go with her preference from the non-chocolate side: Brown Butter Cake with Cinnamon Toast Ice Cream, Bourdon Blackberries, and Crispy Vanilla Tuile.

But I was in for another surprise when this stunning plate of Megan's Malted Chocolate Bavarian with Roasted Bananas, Peanut Streusel, and Dolce de Leche arrived instead.

“Megan wanted you to try both and thought the other would travel better,” said my server.

I was thankful to be able to taste Megan’s Brown Butter Cake at a later time, especially as full as I was. (You can read more about it, and my conversation with Megan, on AllTopChef.) But I couldn’t resist these mignardises that arrived with my check: dark chocolate and pistachio truffles, caramel hazelnut french macarons, and blackberry pate de fruit.

My deepest thanks to everyone at Orchids who gave me an experience that went beyond my wildest imaginings. And in case you can’t tell, I will be shamelessly rooting for Megan Ketover on Top Chef: Just Desserts!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Adam Richman Filming at Tom + Chee Today - and I Was There!!

I've been a big fan of Tom + Chee since they opened as a lunch booth on Fountain Square last summer, then expanded to their first brick-and-mortar on Court Street. So is Adam Richman, who was at Tom + Chee's third location, at Newport on the Levee, where I got to watch this afternoon's filming. Richman has been in town this week shooting a Cincinnati episode of his Travel Channel show Man vs. Food Nation at Findlay Market, Pho Lang Thang, Senate, and Izzy's, and I couldn't be happier for the Tom + Chee gang to get his attention too!

The film crew was already there when I arrived about 12:30, setting up equipment and doing some preliminary filming.

The owners and staff waited with anticipation for Adam Richman himself to arrive.

When word came that Adam was at the Levee, they had to lock the doors of Tom + Chee. Those of us already there could stay, but no one else could come in, and the restaurant could not cook or serve, except for the show.

Adam arrived about 1:45, with security (and his make-up person). That's him in the brown jacket (he also wore a T-shirt that said "Bacon - The Other Chocolate").

They shot several takes of Adam outside speaking to camera, then entering the restaurant.

Here is Adam talking with one of the Jennies - Mrs. Tom rather than Mrs. Chee :)

Once Adam was ready for inside filming, no more photos were permitted, but it was fascinating to observe the shoot. Several people were asked to do "sit-downs" with him. After signing releases, they would sample one of Tom + Chee's sandwiches, then Adam would slide into the booth or chair next to them and talk with them on camera.

I was lucky enough to be sitting adjacent to the tables where four of the five of those "sit-downs" were filmed this afternoon. Two were with members of the extended T+C family and two were with a couple who is bicycling from Boston to Portland, just happened onto Tom + Chee, and were tasting their food for the first time. There is a lot of waiting around during filming while lights are repositioned, next steps planned, etc. Adam was warm and friendly chatting with his "sit-down" partners off-camera, and seemed especially fascinated by the bicycling fellow.

It was also clear Adam Richman is fascinated by goetta and interested in spotlighting this regional specialty on his Cincinnati show. Two of the "sit-downs" I saw had the eaters tasting Tom + Chee's "Armagoetta" grilled cheese special (Goetta+Hot Peppers+Fried Onions+Sweet Hot Mustard+Pepper-Jack+Rye+Sourdough), and when time came to film Adam in the kitchen with co-owner Trew Quackenbush this afternoon, that was one of the two sandwiches Adam focused on. The other was the "Blueberry Bleu," one of T+C's signature grilled cheese donuts, featuring house-made blueberry reduction, a bit of mozzarella, and bleu cheese on an inside-out glazed donut. Adam loved it, and talked at length on camera about the reasons why.

They also spotlighted the vegan soy oil (rather than butter) T+C uses for all their grilled cheese sandwiches and talked a bit about T+C's three standard tomato soup options at Newport on the Levee. The “Classic” and “Chunky Tomato Basil” are vegan. The “Creamy” is not :) I've been missing T+C's fourth tomato-y option, a cold gazpacho, at Fountain Square this summer. Just sayin'.

Tom + Chee's soups however, go well beyond tomato (the "tom" part of Tom + Chee). I was happy to enjoy this bowl of their famous beer cheese soup with my Italian grilled cheese today: Pepperoni+Ham+Mozzarella on sourdough, with Grippo's chips (another of T+C's signature ingredients), in this case, salt+vinegar chips.

After going outside to reshoot that "entry" scene several more times, Adam left for what was thought to be a break about 5:00 p.m. The restaurant was permitted to reopen and serve customers as onlookers gathered, but expected to have to close again once he returned. Latest word is he didn't.

I will be interested to see how much of what I saw filmed today actually makes it into this Man vs. Food Nation episode that Cincinnati Enquirer columnist John Kieswetter reports will air Wednesday, October 12, especially given all the other great Cincy spots where the show has been filming. But I'm confident it will show our city's food in a positive light, and delighted to see it seek out small, new restaurants like Tom+Chee, Pho Lang Thang, and Senate and go beyond the triumvirate of Cincinnati-style chili, Montgomery Inn ribs, and Graeter's ice cream we're traditionally known for.

Hats off to Tom+Chee on this great day. And I hope you do a viewing party October 12!

Edited to add: One of my favorite local bloggers, photographer extraordinaire Thadd Fiala, was at the Izzy's shoot! Check out his post here.