So instead of the usually one-entry-per-place, I'm going to write a brief summary to remind myself of places I've enjoyed and places I probably ought to give a second chance to (but might not given the first go round wasn't so enjoyable).
Arloi Dee serves as an almost distant memory now, but I certainly remember being surprised at the ordinariness of it all. And disappointed that my food was so cold when it was brought to the table, I actually sent it back (almost unheard of for me). Nothing particularly bad here, but the service was not particulary good and the food was what you might find at your average Thai restaurant in any city (other than the fact Cincinnati has quite a dearth of Thai restaurants, but still...). I'm left feeling surprised that Arloi Dee seems to win one of the "Best of Taste" awards each year.
Pompilio's serves as a perennial favorite. Even though I enjoy the old-schoolness of the place, I am enjoying their new menu. And I especially love their sausage and peppers appetizer. It reminds me of some of the old places I went to in Philadelphia and C some of the places he went to in Providence. Another tip: a couple near us once ordered the Classic Italian Sampler as an appetizer. Seems slightly like overkill to me (and to them too...I remember them taking most of their dinners home), but it's a good way to try most of the traditional favorites. Service here is often hit-or-miss, which I think is true of most old Italian restaurants I've been too, but somehow it adds to the charm. Expect long waits (~ 1 hour+) if you go on a weekend.
Kona Bistro was delightful, and I could rhapsodize endlessly about how good the scallops are there. I don't know where or how they get those in Cincinnati, but I love them. The service here was quite good, and they left my friend (who'd just driven to Cincinnati from Texas - props to Cheryl!) and I alone for long stretches to enjoy our wine, and then the appetizers (good hummus), and the entrees. Good and well-priced wine list.
And of course Kona Bistro is right next door to another favorite, Dewey's. We love, love, love Dewey's in Oakley. We love them so much to the point that the servers now recognize us as regulars. C was surprised by this; I was not. We tend to see the same people over and over in there, and it's because they have the best pizza in Cincinnati, hands down. C has never deviated from the Dewey's Original (snore!) whereas I sampled around on the menu. Until I found the Green Lantern, that is. That's the only pizza I've ordered for at least our last 10 trips there. Unbelievably good but not for the garlic faint of heart. Their caesar salad is quite good as well if you aren't expecting your caesar to be anchovy-ish, which I actually enjoy. But I enjoy this as well, so it's its own version of the salad. Also a very good (and well-priced) wine list for a pizza joint.
We finally went to Pho Paris after spending the better part of the summer saying we'd go there. Unfortunately, it did not live up to our expectations. I tried both of the evening's specials, a squash soup (not terribly French nor Vietnamese) with the fish special. Sadly, I can't even remember what the fish was, so this dish definitely did not leave a very lasting impression on me. C had a bowl of chicken pho and found a p-hair in the pho. Ick. He also had a steak dish (no longer on the menu, it seems) that had such a funky (and not in a good funky kind of way) marinade/sauce with it that I could barely choke down the bite I sampled. He managed to eat a good bit of it, but I still can't quite imagine how or why. We shared the coconut cake drizzled with mango sauce served with cilantro ice cream. It sounded like such a weird mess of food that we felt compelled to try it. The individual parts were not as good as the whole, but the whole of those tastes together really was quite good. It was definitely the best part of the meal. The service and atmosphere were both quite nice, and we'd give it another shot despite our disappointment after our first visit.
A return visit to Jean Robert's Bistro was long overdue, and I managed to squeeze in a visit for coffee this past weekend. Unfortunately, the place doesn't really live up to its billing of being "open" for coffee until 4:30 on the weekend. Sure, they'll let you get drinks after they stop serving brunch at 2pm, but they do not let you sit inside with said drinks. Tip for Jean Robert: if you're claiming to be open, then you should at least let people sit inside your restaurant. This would especially be true in fall and winter, when sitting outside is hardly a viable option and probably the very reason you went in to get something hot to drink in the first place! Even though I've loved everything I've gotten there previously, I have to say the hot chocolate was mediocre. I expected chocolat chaud, much like what I'd had each day for breakfast when I was an exchange student. Uh, no. This was milk with Hershey's syrup (and not the good kind in the can; it was the weird kind in the plastic bottle), sort of heated up and sprinkled with a few chocolate flakes on top. Tip two for Jean Robert: if 95% of everything you do is extremely French-ified, do not make hot chocolate like this. Starbucks has a better hot chocolate than this. Hell, I make a better hot chocolate than this. Very sad.
I do love grocery shopping, and my beloved Trader Joe's still is at the top of my list of favorite groceries. And I was so very happy to see the return of my long-missed 99% fat free bean burritos. For whatever reason, they'd gone AWOL for several months, but they're back now and good as ever. I also picked up some other favorites there, including the spicy Thai green beans, the fresh hot salsa, and the flattened bananas. I also use endless amounts of their jarred roasted red/yellow peppers and Moroccan oil cured black olives in salads. Yum. I need to get a job at Trader Joe's because I so love that place.
Speaking of other places I love and want to work, on a recent visit to Starbucks, I felt compelled to try the new Maple Macchiato. I love most things maple, so I thought I'd love this. But I was, in fact, pretty ambivalent about it. It was not bad but not good, and on the whole, I'd rather get the Carmel Macchiato or hot chocolate, natch.
While on the road, I recently made a visit to the San Francisco area. I felt I had to go to Chez Panisse to see what all the fuss was about. I couldn't get a reservation in the restaurant, so instead I had one in the Cafe upstairs. It was as nice as the dining room appeared to be as I walked by it, and the food was amazing. I had a great bean and fig salad to start, a so-so corn and polenta entree, and a delicious Meyer lemon ice cream. It was remarkable how good fresh food tastes, and it was a discernable difference, to be sure. I enjoyed the experience quite a bit, but this is not a restaurant (not even the cafe) that I'd advise dining in alone...it was clearly a place to go as part of an 'experience,' and I felt just slightly rushed in and out of there because I was solo. Also, on the advice of a friend, I checked out Canteen in the Nob Hill section of SF. This place is quite interesting in that you can be seated at a counter whereby you can watch as all of your food is prepared in front of you. For someone like me, who enjoys watching chefs at work, this was a treat. Most people at the counter seemed to ignore them. This was a good place to eat solo because you really could just get lost in the hustle and bustle of the food being prepared. I had a fantastic brussel sprout salad with bacon and egg (sounds weird, tasted phenomenal); a chicken entree; and their renowned vanilla souffle. The salad was definitely the highlight of the meal, but it was all delicious. Both CP and Canteen change menus daily, so it's hard to recommend trying something specific, since chances are high it won't appear on the menu again anytime soon.
More specific entries coming soon!