Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Noshes and News 4.16.13

After a busy week and a trip to Louisville and Nashville, I'm back and have lots of good news and events to share. Rather than clog your facebook feed with too many links tonight, I'm rounding up the best of the best here (although my facebook page is generally the best place to stay up to date with the local food news I have to share).

First off, cheers to Barrio Tequileria, which had its Grand Opening in Northside while I was away! Luckily, I had the opportunity to check out the neighborhood's newest taco joint, from Taco Azul food truck owner Gary Sims, during its soft opening. The food and drinks I've sampled so far – including the mango-habanero marguerita at the top of this post – are solid and delicious! I love the comfortable yet hip LA vibe and the quirky day-of-the-dead artwork (including a Día de Muertos-style Marilyn Monroe piece). Barrio's spacious fenced-in back patio will open Cinco de Mayo weekend with live music, and I could see it becoming my favorite al fresco spot in the city. I can't wait to explore more of Barrio's extensive tequila list, along with the black molé and an upcoming pig roast Gary is promising. For more photos, check out this great post by 5chwar7z.

If your tastes run to the adventurous, mark your calendar for next Tues. (April 23). During the afternoon Local 127 chef Steven Geddes and the ubiquitous Justin Dean will host a goat butchery session with Adam Danforth. Special goat dishes will be available that evening, along with the regular menu. Contact the restaurant for more details. A great opportunity to check out this underutilized meat and taste what can be done with it in the hands of skilled chefs. ETA: I just received the press release below. If you opt for the goat dinner, it is $35 for four courses. The butchering demo begins at 3:00 "and continues into the evening." Reservations strongly encouraged for both the demo and the dinner: (513)721-1345.

OTR's vegan-friendly green general store Park + Vine hosts a release party for the 2013 CORV (Central Ohio River Valley) Local Food Guide Wed. night (4/17) from 5:30-7:30. Other ways to lay your hands on this indispensable annual guide to farms, farmer's markets and other local/sustainable food resources in southwest Ohio, northern Kentucky, and southwestern Indiana: it's available for free in this week's City Beat or you can download or order a copy via CORV here.

What's better than Findlay Market staying open late on a spring evening? The chance to score discounts on tickets for the Bunbury Music Festival! This Thursday (April 18) from 4:00 to 7:00, Findlay kicks off a series of special events where you can get 20% off a 1-day or 3-day Bunbury pass by buying $50 in groceries OR showing receipts from 5 different Findlay Market vendors (discount limited to two passes). Even better, in keeping with Bunbury's "Bee Free" slogan, the first person to buy $120 in groceries AND show up in a bee costume will get one FREE 3-day pass to the July 12-14 music festival. You can savor an adult beverage in Findlay's OTR biergarten, enjoy live music, take in a Taste the World at Findlay Market food tour, indulge in one of the best pastimes at Findlay Market – people watching – and get your grocery shopping done at the same time. The same discount is on offer two more Thursday evenings, May 16 and June 20, as well as three Sundays from 10:00-4:00: April 21, May 19, and June 23. ETA: I read an item today that indicated the Findlay markethouse vendors would be be open until 6:00 this Thursday, with other events continuing until 7:00. I am trying to confirm, but you might want to get your shopping done first, before kicking back in the biergarten.

Nectar Restaurant is hosting another of its spectacular Dinner Clubs next Thursday (April 25), this one featuring artichokes, in conjunction with Daisy Mae's. At each month's Dinner Club Nectar chef Julie Francis highlights a given ingredient through five savory and sweet courses that will surprise and delight you. Check out this month's menu here.

Also coming up April 25, something cities across the country have been doing for years. I am glad to see Cincinnati restaurants FINALLY getting on board with Dining Out for Life, where restaurants donate a portion of their proceeds to AIDS service organizations. Click here for local participating restaurants. As I write this, they include Jean-Robert's Table, Mayberry, Kitchen 452, Park + Vine, 20 Brix, Melt, Cumin, and more. It will be a good night to support local restaurants that support a great cause.

I'll sign off for now with kudos to some of my favorite Cincy food folks who broke good news while I was out of town.

My talented, determined, hard-working friends at Tom + Chee held their first press conference last Friday to announce they will appear on the ABC show Shark Tank May 17 (locally, Ch. 9/WCPO). I was bummed I couldn't be there in person, but glad to catch this video. I've been rooting for them since they got their start in a tent on Fountain Square and was excited to be with them during the filming of their first TV appearance, on Man v. Food Nation. Whatever the outcome of their pitch to investors on this show, I'm confident they will continue to grow, thrive, and remain committed to what they do: bringing cheesy goodness at an affordable price point for families of all sorts.

And in case you missed Polly Campbell's piece, Jose Salazar's new restaurant will be called Salazar and it will be located at 14th and Republic. I've had the pleasure of tasting what Jose does on his own terms at his pop-up dinners at Pallet23, and I can't wait to see where he'll go next as he launches his new venture in a renovated OTR butcher shop.

So much food talent to be proud of in our city! Stay tuned for more!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Pop-Up Dinner Round-Up, Part 1

Whether you call them “pop-ups” or “underground dinners,” these innovative one-off prix-fixe culinary events are blossoming more quickly than the daffodils in my front yard. Here's my first installment about some unique events to check out.

Last night I attended a Date Dinner, by Steven Shockley, who recently became Executive Chef at Cumin and previously worked at Pho Paris, Chalk, Jean-Robert’s Table, and Maribelle’s (when it was at its previous Riverside Drive/Eastern Avenue location). Steven takes thematic inspiration from a wide array of sources (the previous Date Dinner I attend was based on the music of Miles Davis). Although Steven is sometimes given to pun-filled constructs, last night’s dinner side-stepped the opportunity for April Fool’s Day jokes while, as usual, focusing on out-of-the-ordinary flavor combinations.

Lentil soup with pomegranate and sumac whipped cream

Flatbread with gorgonzola-potato puree and parsley

Braised lamb neck with grapes, quinoa, and cauliflower puree

Cardamom rice pudding

The schedule for Date Dinners varies, partly depending on Steven’s work schedule, and is usually limited to about 12 people, in an Over-the-Rhine apartment the location of which you learn after RSVPing (and, now, paying via Paypal). Like the Date Dinner facebook page to hear about upcoming events. Steven has a keen culinary curiosity, and I’m not going to try to guess where he’ll take Date Dinner next, although he says he’s switching the format to four courses for $35; still BYOB. He also occasionally pops up with snacks at Market Wines at Findlay Market and Neon’s. Steven has a personal proclivity for veggies, grains, hand-ground spices, and the occasional braise or venture into offal territory. I will definitely be curious to see where he takes Cumin’s spring menu, set to launch this Thursday. He will also be participating in the 1 Night, 12 Kitchens Midwest Culinary Institute April 21 on behalf of Cumin, in case you were one of the lucky folks who bought ticket before they sold out.

Steven recently collaborated for a dinner at Pallet23 in Northside with another young chef who is garnering a lot of attention for his pop-up dinners, Ryan Santos of Please. Ryan leaves tomorrow for a stage (internship) at Michelin-starred In De Wulf in Belgium and has another lined up at Castagna in Portland for September. I can't wait to see what inspiration Ryan returns with from his travels (for a terrific food-porn-filled blogger's-eye-view glimpse of In De Wulf, click here). After he returns from Europe, Ryan and crew will be shedding the "Arts and Lettuce" title for their pop-up dinners and taking them to Carriage House Farm for a new, rustic dining experience that will involve not only eating outdoors but cooking outdoors. No electric, thank you very much. Ryan has always cultivated close relationships with area farmers to source local and sustainably raised foods for his dinners. He has more intriguing collaborations in the works, with entrepreneurial aquaponics venture URBTank and a "beverage" partner.
Please: a Staff Pick for “Best Now-Above-Ground Underground Dinner Series 
Turned Into A Residency” in City Beat's Best of Cincinnati 2013 issue

Here are just three more pop-ups taking place in the next week. If you're interested, act quickly or they may be sold out.

Frances Kroner, the talent who created the marshmallow dress at The Art of Food, is doing her second "edible installation" collaboration with Modern Makers and Pones, Inc. this Friday, called "The Big Dinner." Details here. Her "food event design" company FEAST was just featured in the Business Courier (sorry I can't share a link that gets beyond the paywall). I was out of town last week and missed FEAST's pop-up last weekend, but heard great things about the event and the food from friends. Can't wait to check out what she's doing this Friday!

Another series I'm excited to finally get in on is "Underground - A Hen of the Woods Production," which is celebrating Spring with a dinner Monday, April 8. Join their facebook event asap, then await instructions and get your cash or check to chef Nick Marckwald by Friday for this wine-inclusive dinner with sommelier Kevin Hart of wineCRAFT, who collaborated on an amazing pop-up at the Mercantile Library with the fine folks from Dutch's recently. (The talented Gina Weathersby of 513{eats} documented that event in full photographic glory here.)

Nick, Kevin, and other talented folks are also doing a pop-up of heavy hors d'oeuvres and desserts at The Rookwood in Mt. Adams April 10 to benefit the Crohns and Colitis Foundation of America. Details here.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Pop-Up Round-Up. Lots of exciting ventures coming up!