Tuesday, January 29, 2013

New Website

It's alive....it's alive....it's alive.

The new website is now live!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

2009 Domaine de Trevallon

Love it when the Cutting Edge crew stops in for lunch and leaves behind their sample bottle.  This is new to their portfolio.  It's a bit of a "cult" wine with a story.  In my experience wine sells better with a story.

The property has been in the family since the 50s and producing wine since the 70s.  It was originally produced under the "Les Beaux de Provence" AOC but when the rules changed outlawing the 50/50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah, the owners dropped out and now it's just Vin de Pays.  Some table wine for about $70!  Limited quantities.

The other story is that the father was an artist (he passed in 2000), and was friends with that other artist Pablo something, and it is the father's artwork that is on the labels posthumously.

Like I said a good story can sell a wine but in this case the wine sells the wine.  Elegant, complex, long finish, with classic Bordeaux notes of gunpowder.  But with the Syrah it is very approachable.  Also should age well.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

2011 Megaphone Ventoux

Old habits die hard.  It's been awhile since I reviewed a wine, and this is more of a plug, but this one got my attention.  Imported by Kermit Lynch with some sort of Vieux Telegraphe pedigree.  You do the research.  I'm too busy fixing dinner.  Paired it with grilled sweet Italian sausage and pepper/onions with a touch of heat.  Maybe more than a touch.  Not a perfect pairing, but no complaints from the crew.

80/20 Grenache and Syrah.  Bold, smooth, and complex.  Like me.

Under $20.

Bon Appetit and Cheers!

Monday, October 01, 2012

FotoFocus - Paul Briol

October 1, 2012 - Day One

As this was the first 'official' day of FotoFocus I ventured down to Union Terminal to the Cincinnati Museum Center. There have already been several previous openings but this is Day One according to the calendar. The Photographic Legacy O Paul Briol exhibit is in the basement below the Omnimax Theater. There are 50 or so images from the archives that include scenes from Cincinnati including buildings, people, and places. The photo of Hillforest caught my eye as it is a former family residence, but mostly it was the classic black and white compositions that are worth viewing. The exhibition is free but parking will cost $6. Next up the Starn's brothers in Mt. Adams on Wednesday.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Art Openings This Friday

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

PAC Gallery - Through the Windshield: OTR

Friday, January 27, 5-9 pm

Opening Reception for

Through the Windshield: OTR

PAC GALLERY will have complimentary valet parking and
food and beverages will be provided by Django Western Taco

Jens Rosenkrantz Jr is an avid photographer with a passion for discovering beauty in unexpected places. Rosenkrantz was born in Boston and raised in Denver and Los Angeles. After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley, he relocated to Cincinnati, his grandmother's hometown.

"Uncluttered and unfettered from art classes and technical camera skills I look for the beauty of the everyday wherever I am whether it's Europe, San Francisco, Miami, Charleston, or Downtown Cincinnati," says Rosenkrantz, "There is beauty everywhere, even when taking a wrong turn on a rainy day and getting lost in OTR. "

Monday, January 16, 2012

Another New Beginning

My last post was in March in Paris last year, and since then much has changed. The second restaurant is in the works and I now am sharing a studio at the Pendleton Art Center with Kay Hurley. At least one person likes my work.

I have an opening, my first, January 27th at PAC Gallery in East Walnut Hills with a new series and a departure from my old work. "Through the Windshield: OTR" is about seeing beauty everywhere you go even when lost, and about always having a camera with you, even on a rainy day in December when the lighting is bad and you are driving to work.

So I will still post about travels and fine dining (or not so fine dining), but the focus is now on photos, and art, and beauty. Which I see every day. Right here in my backyard, and out the window, and inside my house. Especially inside my house.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Travel Tips to Paris

I am just a rookie here but I have learned a few things in visiting Paris six or seven times in the last year for a total of about 10 weeks in country. There are those who know much more and it will take years to figure out all the nuances, but this is a first pass for those that have asked recently. I will try to keep this updated if major discrepancies develop.

  • Getting there -- Delta has a direct flight from CVG which lands at 7am. From Charles De Gaulle you can take a taxi for about 60 euros into the center of Paris or take the RER to Gare du Norde for about 10 euros but you will have to hump your bags around during rush hour on little sleep through temperamental turnstiles. Your choice. And when (not if) there is a transit strike, all bets are off, and you had better have arranged a car before you leave home.
  • Hotels -- I stay in an apartment which is an option maybe, but did have luck with Hotel.com landing the Hotel du Louvre for about $250 a night. (The rack rate is 500 euros.) It is in the 1st near the Palais Royal and yes, the Louvre. If you want to go upscale you can stay at Le Meurice, the Ritz, or the Crillon for about 700 plus per night. I prefer saving money and sliding into the Hotel lobby bars and pretending I'm elite. I have not yet tried the Plaza Athenee, and I hear it's swell, but in my opinion Le Meurice bar outshines the others. A Martini will set you back 25 euros. Grin and bear it, and be grateful that you are saving about 500 euros a night.
  • Getting around -- Except for very late at night I skip the taxis unless you like watching the meter spin during gridlock. Take the Metro and then walk. Bring comfortable walking shoes, an umbrella and a carry bag. Paris is the best people watching in the world so why not dive in shoulder to shoulder. On average I walk 2 to 3 miles a day. Get in shape.
  • The facilities -- The toilets and the kitchens are small. Get used to it. This isn't Indian Hill.
  • The food markets -- Well, this is an interest of mine and a few locals. Whether you think Findley Market is quaint, or not, walk through a local food market and be amazed at how most Parisians shop for their food everyday. The produce, meats and seafood are fresh. Very fresh. There are internet sites listing the 75 markets inside the City. It will make your next trip to Kroger very uneventful.
  • Shopping -- I can't help you here but if you want to drop $175,000 on a watch and some other fashionable accessory, then you are in the right place. I buy clothes at Bon Marche. Remember when you were a kid and Shillito's downtown impressed you. Well, try not to stare with your mouth open and embarrass yourself. There are many tourist department stores on Opera, but Bon Marche is where Parisians shop.
  • Manners -- Paris is a major city (10 million total) but in the stores and restaurants, it is a small village. On the street they are distant and won't make eye contact, and will pretend that they don't understand your bad French. But when you walk into a store or restaurant, it is imperative to say hello. For gods sake don't launch into questions about prices or tables before saying bonjour. I have seen a local Parisian chastised by street vendors for not saying bonjour before asking for simple directions. A street vendor. She grovelled profusely and was somewhat pardoned. And once you do get a table expect to wait a good 10 minutes plus before anyone approaches you for a drink or food order. They are not ignoring you or being rude. It's Paris. Don't take it personally.
  • The museums -- I can't help you here. Go for it but be prepared for lines. The Louvre is open some nights so keep that in mind.
  • La Tour Eiffel -- I see it everyday and have no interest in waiting hours to ascend, but have fun.
  • Printemps -- I skip the Tour Eiffel and get my views by going to the top floor and having lunch. No waits and the food isn't all that bad though the wine selection sucks. There is no selection. But on a sunny day it is hard to beat being up 7 stories outdoors with a 360 degree view of central Paris while snacking and sipping an indifferent Red wine. Bring your camera. You did pack your camera?!
  • Restaurants -- I will list below the places I like. I prefer bistros and wine bars. If you want the 3 star treatment, have fun and get ready to throw down 200 to 300 euros per person, before wine -- if you can get in. And be prepared to stand by while the 'money' drops 10,000 euros without blinking. It's a different world over there at the high-end. The other irony is that you also can't get into the new hot 20 seater by the 'Chef du jour'. And get ready for attitude and not gratitude. Go figure. I like to go to places where they will at least pretend to like your business. And the other trick I have learned is that many times you can actually get in at lunch whereas dinner reservations are booked months out. Hey, you're on vacation. What's wrong with having a three hour lunch with a few bottles of wine. You are allowed to take naps in Paris. Google 'cinq a sept'.
  • Spring -- Good luck getting in. I've been twice and dropped 500 to 1,000 for a small table. There is a wine bar downstairs that you can walk in and sample some apps and go crazy on the wine list. Say hello for me.
  • Willi's Wine Bar -- After thirty years you think Mark knows what he's doing? Great wines and food. A 'must stop'.
  • Maceo -- Mark's 'real' restaurant with a colonial feel and upscale food. Try the seasonal fixed offerings.
  • Isse -- For a change of pace try this sushi/sake spot in the 1st in a part of town they are starting to call 'Little Tokyo'. Great food and enough sake choices to dazzle your head.
  • Le Villaret -- A little secret that a friend found while wandering her grandparents' old neighborhood, and then upon further research we find that the New York Times liked it as did Alex Lobrano. Alex called it one of the best little secrets in Paris. I agree.
  • Le Square Trousseau -- In the 12th off the beaten path. I usually stop in after oysters at Le Baron Rouge. Old school bistro with very good food and nice service.
  • L'Avant Comptoir -- Stand up wine bar for 15 people max. Always mobbed. Some of the best treats available. Keep snacking until you fill up. Short but solid wine list by the glass or bottle. It's an ex-pat scene so watch your swearing. And there is no phone but just head to the Odeon station and sniff around.
  • Le Suffren -- Off the Champ de Mars by the Tour Eiffel. Mostly locals and UNICEF workers with few tourists. Solid seafood in a classic setting.
  • Le Minzinque -- In the 15th, this is my favorite spot in my neighborhood, if you don't count home cooking. But if your French is weak, good luck. This is for locals only and very old school. Solid food and let the owner pick the wines. And there is no listing on Google, so good luck. It's off Rue Commerce by the Charlie Birdy bar.
  • Tipping -- Service is mostly included for your meals but I throw down a few euro coins to say thank you. Though I have been known to throw Eric at L'Avant a 20 because I hate waiting in line. It does get noticed if you plan to return a few times during the week.

  • Tuesday, March 08, 2011

    Stay Tuned -- Film at 11

    I am still digging out from three weeks in Europe so just be patient. Stories and photos to follow.

    The train will be leaving the station very soon.

    Friday, February 25, 2011

    Mensa & Washington Post Word Invitational

    It's not wine and it's not travel but this is too funny not to post.

    From the Washington Post's Mensa Word Invitational where people are asked to change one letter of an existing word and provide a new definition.

    "Washington Post’s Mensa Invitational New Words Contest"

    "Here is the Washington Post’s Mensa Invitational which once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition."

    Here are the winners:
    1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.
    2. Ignoranus : A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.
    3. Intaxicaton : Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.
    4. Reintarnation : Coming back to life as a hillbilly.
    5. Bozone ( n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
    6. Foreploy : Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
    7. Giraffiti : Vandalism spray-painted very, very high
    8. Sarchasm : The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.
    9. Inoculatte : To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
    10. Osteopornosis : A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
    11. Karmageddon : It’s like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.
    12. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
    13. Glibido : All talk and no action.
    14. Dope-ler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
    15. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked through a spider web.
    16. Beelzebug (n.) : Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
    17. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you’re eating.

    Hotel Posta - Livigno, Italy

    As skiing was out this week on the trip to Livigno due to some minor malfunction in one knee, I spent the days crawling around like a tourist and trying to find a good lunch and some souvenirs. (It is a good sign when it is near impossible to find a T-shirt shop!) Hotel Posta sounded familiar and it came with a strong recommendation from a cousin whose long time friend runs the place.

    Livigno is a few clicks from St. Moritz on the Swiss/Italian border and before the tunnel was dug in 1964 was inaccessible in Winter. If you stand on top of the ski area you can see the mountains around St. Moritz, but it will take you an hour to drive there. Livigno is a duty free zone owing to its smugglers past and is quite lively year-round. There are three ski areas to select from and it is above the tree-line, groomed skiing. Dining options are numerous on the mountain from 3 star to BYOB, the lines manageable and the lift tickets reasonable.

    Lunch was quiet in town as all able-bodied tourists were on the mountain , so we had the whole place to ourselves. Service was brisk and atttentive. The wine list was mostly local. And the pasta was great as was the sliced, cured meats from local sources. All in all, it was a wonderful meal. And I even managed to sneak one of their own wine labels home for dinner tonight to ease the unpacking and long train ride.

    Sunday, February 20, 2011

    Le Baron Rouge

    Today was supposed to be a quiet Sunday. Waking up past 8am, having coffee leisurely while checking the mail before casually meeting a cousin at the Opera Metro station at 11am. So when I awoke at first light and wandered into the kitchen to fire the coffee machine I was a bit surprised to see the clock on the wall read 11. Eleven!!! Oh putain!

    So I hadn't planned on reviewing Le Baron Rouge today as I dashed out sprinting to the Metro an hour late. Desole! I knew I was going there to reload some house wine and buy food for dinner at the nearby market and check out the flea market before a meal at Le Square Trousseau, but for some reason hadn't planned on writing up Le Baron Rouge. I was still waking up.

    They offer bulk wine at under 5 E's per liter for fresh, simple house wine which is a steal and perfect for parties. The returnable bottles with a deposit are poured from 225 liter barriques offering about 6 different blends. The Reds, Cotes du Rhone, Touraine and Merlot, are simple and quaffable but not memorable. The Touraine Blanc however is more than quaffable and is perfect with some chicken dishes, seafood and oysters. Did I say oysters?

    There are many reports on the weekend oyster offerings at Le Baron Rouge were throngs of people from every corner of the world descend during the Winter months to wash down dozens of oysters with good, cheap white wine. The rumors are all true. If you are shy about pushing into a crowded mass to secure 'le pot' of Blanc and fight for some counter space while your team holds up their end of the bargain by bringing 18 small oysters with lemon and bread and butter, then please don't go. Please! Save room for me on my return.

    The oysters bar is set up outside on the sidewalk where people mill around swilling wine, smoking cigarettes and pounding oysters by the dozen. I didn't get the details of where the oysters were from as it was my job to get the wine remember, but my guess is that they were #3s from Normandy, maybe Claires or Brittany, that were at most one day old. You could taste the brine of the sea as you threw them back. Someone suggested dripping some of the wine into the brine before slurping and that worked too. I always listen to good ideas that involve oysters and wine. We were told by the 'shucker' that they go through "a couple hundred dozen" each day on the weekend. A couple hundred dozen. She would know.

    There are other food offerings like pate and bread and charcuterie and the wine list, besides the 6 or so in bulk, totals about 50 by the bottle or glass. During the week the place is dead quiet and locals stop in to re-load their house wines and chat with the owner. Today there were maybe 100 people packed into a room the size of you living room which explains the street scene. Yes, you should go and if you don't like crowds, stand outside and send a friend in for the goods. This will give you time to exchange emails and phone numbers with the other fanatics from England, Argentina, Spain, Oslo and Cuba. I will definitely be contacting Ernesto from Cuba, and maybe the chef from Oslo who is from Spain. They all agreed that Barcelona was calling......and then Cuba.

    Saturday, February 19, 2011

    Le Garde-Robe

    This is my third wine bar review on my march through Paris this February and I am beginning to figure out that there is a wide range of flavors in this niche, from hole-in-the-walls to trendy 'hot' spots with 100 open bottles. I would put Le Garde-Robe in the class of a hole-in-the-wall with simple charcuterie and cheese offerings and a medium wine list that is good for dine-in or carry out.

    Yet, with the more than pleasant and chatty servers and the ability to pull a bottle off the shelf at retail and drain it on the spot, I would recommend a visit. It is rustic and charming and conveniently located in the 1st, near Spring and Le Fumoir. The plates were very good with a touch of flair (loved the idea of honey on the cheese plate!) and the simple bottle of Blanc set me back 15 E's for a total bill of under 50 E's for two.

    Whereas Willi's offers actual fine dining in a casual setting with great wine selections,and L'Avant Comptoir has a short simple wine list but with mouth watering taste morsels, Le Garde-Robe is a plain vanilla wine cafe. If you are in the neighborhood it is worth a visit. And if you do go, ask the bartender/cook how his new movie is doing.

    "How do you tell if you're a good actor?"
    "You're only working weekends at the wine bar."


    "So what do you do for a living?"
    "I'm an actor."
    "Really, what bar do you work at?"

    Isse - Paris

    Although I am more familiar with the wine bars and traditional restaurants in the 1st, I have noted and read that the 1st is becoming the 'Little Tokyo' of Paris and is chock full of all types of offerings from 5 seat sushi hole-in-the-walls to high-end gastronomique affairs at 100 euros per person, and everything in between. My curiosity was peeked and I was ready for a change-up from steak frites.

    Having walked past the windows the night before I was taken by Isse's clean decor and array of sake bottles, so we walked in and were ushered downstairs as the upstairs was full. And as I am no expert on Japanese cuisine or sakes we invited the server to throw down 4 to 5 courses paired with a variety of sakes which we all shared.

    This has proven to unnerve some restaurants we have visited recently for some reason but I think it is a great way for a restaurant to showcase their best offerings. I know for a fact that at La Poste we would welcome the challenge, but as Isse had been only open (or, re-open) for a week I forgave their shyness and welcomed their grace.

    Across the board the food offerings and sakes were enjoyed and there were some favorites. All in all it was a most enjoyable night and although I am no expert on sushi (and avoid all the half-off offerings in Cincinnati) I would say that the quality and freshness of the raw fish was the best I have had to date.

    Isse is part of a four venue chain which includes a grocery store with sake tastings and a light lunch. It will be on my next stop to "Le Petit Tokyo de Paris" after crossing off a few more wine bars on the to-do list.