Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Sotto (Cincinnati)

Last Thursday-Friday, we took a quick trip to Cincinnati, OH. I've driven through the city many times (my brother used to live in KY) but never actually visited. We wanted to see the Terracotta Warriors Exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum of Art, so we decided to stay overnight & explore. There were several restaurants that sounded good, but Sotto really appealed to me - pasta! Sotto is quite popular and even a month in advance, it was tough to get a reservation. On a Thursday evening, I had a choice between 5 pm and 9 pm. I chose 5 pm. As you can see in the above photo, it's down a flight of stairs, but fortunately, a restaurant next door (Boca) has an elevator that goes down to Sotto.
It was bright & sunny outside at 5 pm, but then you step off the elevator in a dimly lit restaurant. It felt like entering a secret place. There was a lot of exposed brick and a tall taper candle on each table, the flame flickering as people whizzed by bearing plates of delicious smelling food.
It was cozy. It was a little difficult for my old eyeballs to read the menu in the dim light and I felt like using the flashlight on my cell phone would be akin to blasting an interrogation light in someone's face, so I tried to angle my menu into the candlelight. The wine menu is full of Italian wines with which I am not familiar.
In the end, after consulting with our server, SP opted for a glass of Fiano and I chose Gavi. We liked both.

Here's what we ate:
Goat Cheese & Hazelnut Honey Bruschetta. Really good. Creamy goat cheese. Honey drizzle. Crunchy nuts. I used a knife and fork because the honey made it a little too sticky to pick up with my hands.
Mozzarella di Bufala with tomatoes, basil, olive oil, sea salt. It's summer, tomato season, and I can never pass on this dish even though we make it at home. It always tastes better when the pros make it! Really good.
For his entree, SP chose Brodetto di Pesce (shellfish, cod, san marzano, fennel). He ate it all while making "yummy" sounds.
Meanwhile I was busy making yummy sounds while shoveling in Cacio e Pepe (spaghetti alla
chitarra, black pepper). So simple but so darn good.
We each had an after dinner Cappuccino.
There was never any doubt that we would have the Ricotta Doughnuts (with three sauces) for dessert. Sure, tiramisu and a chocolate budino were on the menu, but doughnuts always win. The sauces were chocolate, pistachio, and caramel. We both liked the caramel best, which surprised me because I expected to like chocolate best and SP expected to like pistachio best. Excellent doughnuts.

Our server was great. She helped us pick our wines, she checked on garlic for me. Food was yummy. If/when we are in/near Cincinnati again, we'd definitely try to have a meal at Sotto.

Sotto Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, July 30, 2018

Le Soufflé

Our final meal in Paris was dinner at a restaurant called Le Soufflé. A friend who visited Paris for part of the time we were there had eaten lunch at Le Soufflé and suggested it to us. Reservations are necessary so we asked the wonderful hotel people to make one for us. There are a couple small steps to get in, but SP didn't have any problems taking me  backwards up them. They were expecting us and seated us at the table next to a front window.
Pretty plates with a purple flower design. We shared a bottle of sancerre and drank a lot of water since it was quite a warm day. Given the restaurant's name, it's pretty obvious we enjoyed soufflé for dinner. There are 2 dinner options: a 3 course fixed price dinner of just soufflé or a 3 course fixed price menu dégustation, which was more than just soufflé. 
Mom and I chose soufflé only. We started with a small salad next to a cheese soufflé. It was yummy, but also filling.
SP started with Tomato & Burrata + Tomato Basil Petit Soufflé. He said it was excellent. His soufflé part of the meal was smaller than ours, and that was key as we ate more. 
His main meal: Salmon and Spinach Soufflé with vegetables. He said his salmon was very tasty..
Mom and I had the Chicken & Mushrooms Soufflé. Basically, the soufflé gets poked in the middle and the sauce is spooned over the top and into the holes.
The chicken & mushroom sauce was really tasty. But the soufflé was so big and so much egg, especially after the appetizer soufflé. I was discovering that for as light as soufflé is, it can be mighty filling.
SP's smaller spinach soufflé, flecked with teeny weeny bits of spinach.
The interior of my dinner soufflé. I kept adding more and more sauce!
Dessert soufflé! Look how tall that dessert soufflé is! Mom and I chose Grand Marnier, SP chose Calvados. Same idea - poke the soufflé and pour the liquor on top.
The booze bottles were left on the table so you could add more, if you wanted. It got a little too boozy for me! And too eggy. Also, by this point, the restaurant was full of diners, there was a lot of cooking going on, and it was hot inside in spite of the air conditioning. My mom was getting really unhappy. She had never before tried soufflé and this was just too much soufflé for her, we had to take a bus and walk to get there so she wasn't thrilled because she was tired of public transportation and walking  a lot, and then she got way too hot and was complaining about how they needed to turn up the air conditioning, that it couldn't possibly be on, etc. She didn't finish her dessert and left to go outside for some relief.

I thought the food was delicious, but next time I would choose the 3 course meal that SP chose. You still get a good amount of soufflé, but it's not overwhelming egginess.

Our server was terrific and spoke English, plus there were English translations on the menu.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Thursday Thoughts

Last Sunday, SP caught the groundhog on the deck, eating our ripe cherry tomatoes. He was so angry. He stomped through the sunroom and threw open the sliding door and starting yelling at it to get off the deck. Then he stomped back inside, cursing the groundhog. Last year that monster ate the parsley, this year the tomatoes. We think it also ate the sunflowers we planted along the fence. We always plant them there, but this year something ate the sprouts and now they're dead. No sunflowers for me this year.

Monster. They used to be cute. But now I have rage and a desire to bash them with a shovel.

Sunday was also new mattress delivery day! Whoo hoo! Old lumpy was hauled away and brand new super firm arrived. It's much firmer than it felt in the store, so I am a little disappointed. I guess it'll soften up a bit but for now, it's just OK. The other problem is the sheets. We got an adjustable bed but since we sleep differently, we got a king bed but as 2 twin XL beds so we could each customize our side. We could not find split king sheets in the stores, so we ordered sheets online. They're just OK. I think they are a little rough/scratchy. SP thinks I am nuts. We did our sheets research and ordered what we wanted, material and thread count wise, but I'm disappointed. Sheets are not cheap, so I'm even more annoyed. We'll have to use these ones until they wear out (except I don't think I've ever had sheets wear out) and hope that the spare set we still need to buy is more to my liking.

There was another disappointing discovery this weekend: despite looking at the online menu and seeing it there, the Three Little Pigs Sandwich at Meat & Potatoes is no longer on their menu at the restaurant. I was so sad on Saturday. I had been looking forward to that sandwich all week. I kept flipping the menu up and down and all around, hoping it would magically appear. But no. I had to settle for a pasta dish. Don't get me wrong, I love pasta and the dish I had was delicious. But that sandwich was my favorite sandwich ever.

Saturday we saw Brigadoon and enjoyed it quite a bit. After the show, we tried to go to Picklesburgh but it was way too crowded. No way I was going to try to navigate that crowd in a wheelchair. So we went and sat in a park until it was time for our dinner reservation. I do not understand how people can enjoy being in crowds like that.

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • We watched Rampage. The movie. A silly, summer movie. No brain power required. Gigantic, mutant gorilla, crocodile, and wolf. 
  • We finished the first half of the final season of Arrested Development, the 8 episodes that came out on Netflix last May.
  • Trial & Error started. We love this season as much as last season. 
  • We started watching Peaky Blinders Season 1 on Netflix.

What I'm Reading:
Magazines. Lots of them. I am down to one Smithsonian and I'm pretty excited about that. The article on surfing the world's largest wave was interesting.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Crêperie Saint Eustache

Our last day in Paris, we spent the morning at Notre Dame and walked back to the hotel. It was around lunch time and I really wanted to try a creperie I had read about: Crêperie Saint Eustache. Turns out, it was right around the corner from our hotel. I had somehow managed to not notice it for 11 days!
We sat inside, not outside. The people were so friendly and there was an English menu. It's only open for lunch, from noon until 3:30 pm.
We opted for the Menu 12.90 Euro: a savory crepe, a sweet crepe, and a drink (cider or Coke). SP chose cider. I chose Coke. I dared to ask if I could substitute another beverage because I don't like cider nor Coke and the tea was listed on the menu for the same price as a Coke, but the woman looked shocked and said no no no.
I opted for the La Saint Eustache Crepe (egg, ham, Emmental, and potato). It wasn't a problem to get the egg cooked! I really liked this. After a lot of egg-cheese-ham crepes and croque monsieurs, it was nice to have the diced potatoes on this crepe.
SP chose La Vegetarienne Crepe (fresh cream, spinach, onion, Emmental). He said it was very good.
For our sweet crepe, we both chose jam, apricot for him (above) and strawberry for me (below).
The sweet crepes were yummy, too.

So the good: the lady was wonderful, friendly, spoke a bit of English, and there was an English menu. The crepes were yummy. The not so good: my mom was with us but didn't have the special, she just ate one savory crepe & ordered a wine. She gave us cash to add to our cash to pay the bill (the place is cash only). SP was expecting 10 euro in change but received only 5 so he questioned it. At this point, the guy there was handling the payments and he didn't speak English and this was way beyond my French. It got kind of confusing trying to explain and there was frustration on both sides. In the end it turned out that SP (we) mistook a 7 for a 2 because of how it was handwritten on the bill and that was the source of the confusion (and yes, I now wonder why we didn't actually add up the bill in our minds, we just looked at the final number, took the money from my mom, and then plopped down enough to cover the circled number on the bill). The nice lady figured it out and was laughing and explaining to the man (I could understand her explanation to him, I just couldn't have come up with the French words on my own), but he was not at all happy, he was pretty grumpy, and we felt horrible.

To make it worse, SP was a little embarrassed and frazzled and we were all mumbling sorry/desolee and looking sheepish and because it was a little tight inside, SP crashed my wheelchair into a shelf of breakables on the way out and over a bump. Nothing fell, nothing broke, it just made us feel even worse. 

We couldn't leave and make the turn at the end of the street fast enough. We felt awful. I hope they don't hate Americans because we couldn't tell the difference between a handwritten 2 and 7!

If we are back in Paris, we would definitely go back - and hope that they have forgotten the crazy, confusing people!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Angelina Paris

A lot of restaurants are closed on Sunday in Paris so when I found a place that was open on that day, I bookmarked it. Turns out, it is famous for its hot chocolate, so we made plans to definitely stop in on our last Sunday of vacation. The place? Angelina
It was founded in 1903 and the interior was designed by the famous Belle Epoque architect (Edouard-Jean Niermans). It's a pretty large space with a lot of space between tables. There was a short line when we arrived but it was only about 5 minutes before we were seated.
I was not very hungry and it was early-ish. Even though Angelina is open on Sunday, it closes at 7:30 pm. Our walk around Paris and stops in shops hadn't taken as long as we thought they would, so we found ourselves there around 5 pm, not that long after we'd eaten crepes at Breizh Cafe. So I opted for Angelina Tea Time (selection of cocktails canapés, selection of mini pastries [mini macaroon, madeleine] and thé, café, or hot chocolate). I chose Earl Grey tea.
Two tiers of treats. The mini sandwiches were a croque monsieur round, chicken salad, and salmon. SP got to eat the salmon one. 
The sweet treats were a madeleine, macaron, fruit tart, and a mini version of their signature dessert: Le Mont-Blanc (Meringue, light whipped cream, chestnut cream vermicelli).
They were all quite tasty. The madeleine had a huge hump!
SP opted for a Roasted Chicken Supreme with bulgur wheat & ratatouille
I tried a bite of his chicken and oh my gosh it was so deliciously juicy and flavorful and had crispy skin. I wish I'd ordered what he ordered!
Even though I'd already eaten 4 mini treats, SP wanted me to share a dessert. He chose Fraisier (hazelnut biscuit, light vanilla cream, fresh strawberries). It was light and creamy. A good hot weather dessert.
 We decided we had to try the famous hot chocolate.
 We shared one, and I am glad we shared because it is rich.
So chocolaty and thicker than the kind served here (the weak kind made with water instead of milk/cream!).
Adding whipped cream was a must!
It was good, but I wasn't blown away by it like so many others. Neither was SP. We think it's because we rarely, if ever, have hot chocolate here in the US. When we do, we make it ourselves, and we use milk/cream, not water, and we melt a good chocolate, we don't use a packet of powdered chocolate. So it tasted like the hot chocolate we make for ourselves, not the usual packet of powder mixed with hot water.

There are several Angelina locations in Paris. we went to the one at 226 rue de Rivoli, Paris 1er. You can also find Angelina at the Palace of Versailles.

We would go back. Some might think it's kind of pricey. some will complain about the hot chocolate (I saw complaints in numerous reviews, about how thick it is, about their kids not liking it, etc.). But we enjoyed our food and the hot chocolate. It was calm, relaxing, and cool inside (it was yet another hotter than usual day in Paris). Our server was good, spoke English, the menu had English translations. It's one of those places that you might want to visit just because of its history (From the website: "For over a century the tearoom has built a reputation as a place of sophistication and indulgence. As soon as it opened, Angelina became the place to be among the Parisian aristocracy. Proust and Coco Chanel rubbed shoulders with the biggest names in fashion in Angelina's salons.").

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Thursday Thoughts

This weekend our new mattress will be delivered! I'm so excited. It better be the best mattress ever and last a really long time after what it cost. We've been counting down the number of nights left sleeping in lumpy and saggy. OK, it's not that bad, I guess, but since we're old, the dented parts are giving us both back aches. And neck aches. Or maybe I am just not properly using the pillow? Last night was particularly uncomfortable and today is extra ache & pain filled. So new mattress = lots of anticipation and excitement.

Also - we got a king instead of another queen. So we're excited for the bigger bed.

Last weekend we went to see Ant-Man & the Wasp. It was fun and it was good to see our friend T.

The yard guys cut the vines out of the junipers and I am so happy. It looked horrible, like a giant, leafy, green monster. So the tree is gone, the vines are gone (for now, but those things grow fast and take over everything). Slowly the yard is looking better. Kind of.

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • We watched Season 2 of GLOW. We really enjoyed it! SP found a YouTube video of a real GLOW episode. I didn't watch all of it but... wow. 
  • We started Arrested Development on Netflix, the latest 8 episodes that were released in May.
  • Trial & Error Season 2 starts tonight! Really enjoyed season 1 so really looking forward to the second season.
  • The usual weekly shows: Sharp Objects, Succession, Animal Kingdom, and Six.
  • Movies: A Quiet Place (really good, really tense) and Pacific Rim Uprising (not as much fun as the first one).

What I'm Reading:
Magazines! I finished one of the Smithsonian issues. But then mom came to visit and brought a bunch of magazines, so the pile is huge.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Peach Ice Cream

Time for another break in the Paris food posts to write about Peach Ice Cream. One day we came home and discovered our neighbors had left us a bag of juicy peaches. There were a lot of them, so SP suggested a peach ice cream. I said OK.We know we like the egg custard ice creams, so we did some research and ended up making our own recipe.
At first, the peach taste seemed too faint, but after a bit in the freezer, it got stronger and tasted more peachy and less vanilla-y. This is a yummy ice cream, one I'd happily make again. Next time, when we churn the ice cream, we would use peach schnapps instead of vodka.

Peach Ice Cream

1 c whole milk
1 & 1/4 c sugar (1 c in custard, 1/4 c to macerate peaches)
1/4 tsp salt
3 egg yolks
2 c heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp vodka or peach schnapps (not necessary, but we always add a tbsp of alcohol when we churn ice cream in hopes of keeping it from freezing too hard)

Peel & slice peaches. Mix 1/4 c sugar with peaches. Macerate overnight.

In saucepan, heat milk. Stir in 1 c sugar and the salt. Stir until sugar & salt dissolve.

Whisk egg yolks in a bowl. Slowly add the hot milk to the yolks, whisking constantly. Return mixture to saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture coats the back of the spoon.

Remove from heat. Cool quickly by placing pan in a bowl of ice water. Stir in the heavy cream & vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing wrap onto surface of custard. Refrigerate custard overnight.

The next morning: Place the macerated peaches in a blender and process until pureed. Stir pureed peaches into the custard. Add a tbsp of vodka/schnapps. Churn the peach custard mixture in the ice cream maker.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Breizh Cafe

Back to vacation, and I promise I am nearly at the end of Paris food posts! But this post is about one of my favorite places we ate.

David Lebovitz recommended Breizh Cafe. Our Left Bank Tour guide told us the best crepes were at Breizh Cafe. And while we in Paris, Bon Appetit posted an Instagram story about a day in Paris and going to Breizh Cafe. I really, really wanted to try Breizh Cafe, even though I had heard the line was long. We made it our mission on a sunny Sunday to find and eat Breizh Cafe crepes (after visiting Luxembourg Gardens and the Pantheon). There are several locations in Paris. We went to the Rue de l'Odeon one. We got there between noon and 1 pm and were able to grab an outdoor table right away. Luckily, no waiting.
The menu has English translations, so that was nice. We both ordered tea and it came in these beautiful teapots.

I learned a lesson at our previous crepe experience: the egg could be served runny. I wondered, were all eggs on crepes served runny? Could it be cooked? Or would that brand me as the most horrible American tourist ever? We timidly asked our server how the egg was served. I guess we were not the first to ask because right away, before we got our question out, she said the egg could be runny or scrambled. Whew!
I ordered ham, cheese, and egg crepe. Look at that glorious butter melting in the corner. So good. I spread it all over and ate the entire crepe. Really good. And cooked egg.
SP chose a vegetable crepe with egg. There was asparagus, tomato, carrot, and I forget what else. He said it was delicious.
We shared a strawberry jam crepe for dessert. It, too, was delicious. The jam was so fresh and flavorful. Maybe it was from a jar, who knows, maybe things just taste better in Paris.
Our view while we sipped tea, ate crepes, and relaxed.

It was definitely worth it to seek out Breizh Cafe. The crepes are delicious and they will scramble the egg for people like me! They also are very nice to those of us with limited/terrible French. We would definitely go back.