Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Review: The Precinct

The Precinct is definitely one of the more "fine dining" restaurants I've been to.  I have only gone now two times, but both experiences have been fantastic.  My husband and I went for our anniversary this year, so we really have just gone on special occasions.  If you are not familiar, The Precinct is one of Jeff Ruby's 5 restaurants in the Cincinnati area and his restaurants are most famous for their fabulous steaks.  The only other Jeff Ruby restaurant I have been to is Walnut Street Grille, which I thought was just okay.

My husband had made reservations, but I am not sure if they are required.  We went on a Monday night, and it wasn't packed but there were plenty of tables occupied throughout our meal.  There is valet parking in the lot, which you almost have to do.  I really don't know where else you would park, but it is very reasonable, I think $3.

The restaurant is housed in what looks like an old Victorian style house.  When you walk into the restaurant, you enter a little lobby-like area that has a small bar, one or two tables and the hostess stand which is surrounded by 8x11 pictures of Jeff Ruby with famous celebrities on the wall.  We enjoyed checking out some of the photos.  Our hostess sat us in the first room on the left when you walk into the restaurant which is very cozy, dimly lit, with a wall of mirrors on one side.  It is inviting without being too pretentious.  This is the only place I have sat, so I'm not sure about the seating/rooms in the rest of the restaurant.

My husband and I started off with a bottle of Zinfandel (his favorite) and looked over the menu.  We didn't really need to look very long though because we both got the same things as we did the last time we went because we liked them so much.  I ordered the Steak Collinsworth which is a filet with king crab, asparagus, and two sauces.  This is served with your choice of a Greek salad or Freddie salad and your choice of baked potato or mashed potatoes.  I decided to get the Greek salad since Ross was getting the Freddie.  He ordered the Oscar Robertson which is a New York Sirloin with the Collinsworth topping.  We also ordered a side of mac n' cheese because it is phenomenal.

Before our salads came some warm bread served with two different butters.  The bread was good...pretty standard bread, but I was glad it was nice and soft.  Our salads came out promptly and were great!  The Greek Salad is a classic Greek served with Romaine, red onion, Kalamata olives, feta, and tomatoes.  Everything was very fresh and the dressing was light and a great compliment to the salad.  I don't normally like olives, but I did try one of these and thought they were pretty good.

The Freddie is Romaine, tomatoes, bacon, and ranch dressing.  It sounds simple, but it is a really great combination of ingredients here.  Everything is tossed together nicely and just the right amount of ingredients.  A nice salad.

Next, our entrees arrived.  I had ordered my steak medium to medium rare, and Ross did the same.  Everything looked and smelled delicious.  The two sauces together with the crab and asparagus and a bit of the filet is heaven in my mouth! It really just melts away to a great mixture of flavors. I absolutely love this meal.  My one disappointment: the steak was more medium to medium well on about 1/3 of the steak.  That was a bit disappointing because the other part was soooo perfectly cooked.  (I should note the last time I went, it was perfectly cooked).  The mashed potatoes (not pictured) were just okay.  I really didn't eat very much of them because of everything else. and they weren't anything special, pretty plain actually.

Ross loved his steak too.  He never has much to say! He just said "it was good!"  He actually did think his was better though the last time too.

The mac n' cheese: Awesome.  How can you go wrong with 6 imported cheeses baked with a crust of bread crumbs on top??  I loved it!

Needless to say, we were absolutely stuffed by the end of our meal.  Our server, who was spot on the entire night, offered a free dessert to celebrate our anniversary.  I couldn't eat anymore! So, she packed a cheesecake to go for me!  I ate it the next day, and didn't think it was anything special. I wouldn't get the cheesecake again.

All in all, I think the Precinct is a great restaurant to go to for a special occasion.  It is pricey, but it is definitely one of the best meals I have had.  The service is awesome, great timing and not in your face too much.  We will most likely come again for another special night :)

Food: 4.5
Service: 5
Overall Experience: 5 (It was my anniversary after all!)

The Precinct-Jeff Ruby's on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 24, 2011

Recipe: BBQ Chicken Pizza

I haven't made a lot of pizzas at home before, but when I do I really enjoy it! I'm still in search for a good pizza crust though, I typically just use the Boboli, but I feel like it is way too expensive! It's around $4 just for one crust and I know I can find something cheaper.  I did mix my own one time, but it was really hard for me to get it in and out of the oven, so if anyone has any good suggestions, please let me know!

I decided to make my own BBQ chicken pizza one night.  This is not a pizza that I EVER order when I do order pizza, but I thought it'd be fun to make it at home.  I'm sure if you have had a BBQ chicken pizza before, you could probably figure out how to do it on your own, but I still thought I'd share mine!

1-2 boneless, skinless chicken breast (depends on how big they are, or you could also use Rotisserie chicken)
1 pie crust
1/2 cup to 1 cup of chopped red onion (use amount to your liking)
your preference of BBQ sauce, I used Montgomery Inn
1 tbsp honey
1-1 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup jalapenos

1. I cooked my chicken for about 15 minutes in boiling water, then shredded it. I then put the chicken in a sauce pan on low to medium heat with the honey and let all the flavors come together for about 15 minutes or so.  I added some crushed red pepper (I like spicy food)
2. Next, just assemble everything.  I just spread about 1-2 tbsp of the BBQ sauce on the pie crust.  Topped it with the chicken, onion, jalapenos, then the cheese.

3. Bake for 15-18 minutes.  I read the package for the crust for how long to bake and just made sure the cheese was nice and melted through and the crust was crispy.

All in all, I thought this turned out really great!  I think having the chicken marinade in the bbq sauce with the honey added a nice flavor to the chicken instead of just putting it directly on the pizza.  You could pretty much put any toppings you would like to this, just like any other pizza; maybe some shredded carrots, red or green pepper, or you could even try with turkey or sausage instead of chicken.  I didn't have cilantro, but that would have been a nice touch to top it off with.  This was very easy and my husband liked it a lot too!  Definitely give it a try!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Recipe: Spicy Chicken Tacos

I recently went back through some of my old recipes I had stowed away.  I sometimes forget that I have a lot of recipes written down and easily accessible.  I thought of this recipe because I have been on a big Mexican food kick lately.  It's just so easy to make and is ALWAYS good :)  This recipe is made in a slow cooker which is very convenient.

Ingredients: (Serving 2)

1 large or 2 smaller boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 adobe chiles (in adobe sauce), chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup salsa
1 tbsp. chili powder
salt and pepper
taco shells

Optional Garnish:
shredded cheese
sour cream
extra salsa

So this recipe is extremely easy.  You just throw all those ingredients in the crock pot and cook on high for 2 hours or on low for 4 hours. Mix everything together and shred the chicken.   I put more salsa and chiles in because I like it extra spicy.  You could probably add any other ingredients in if you want as well, onion, peppers, etc.  The garnish is pretty much to your liking, I used sour cream, taco sauce, hot sauce, and a bit more salsa. We used corn tortillas because we had them on hand, but you could use hard tacos or flour tortillas as well!  Enjoy and watch out, those chiles can get pretty hot!


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Review: Blinkers Tavern

Awhile back, we received an email from staff member from Blinkers Tavern asking us to include them to our list.  We love feedback and loved that someone ASKED us to come in! So a couple weeks ago my two good friends, Anne and Tina, and I decided to get dinner together. Tina was dog sitting near Covington, so I suggested we try Blinkers Tavern.  It is located across from Keystone Bar & Grill in the old Chalk location.  I like the location because there is plenty of parking nearby and great sights to see on the street as well.  It was a nice night out, so we decided to sit outside and take it all in.

There are a variety of drink specials throughout the week, and Tuesday is half off bottles of wine! Can't beat that.  So Tina and I ordered a bottle to share.  I didn't go inside the restaurant, so unfortunately I can't say much about the interior, but it appeared to be a bar and grill type feel.  The menu, on the other hand, definitely has a mix of choices different from a typical "bar and grill" menu.

Anne and I both were in the mood for different things, so we decided to get two dishes and share!  I love sharing, so this was perfect for me.  We got the black and bleu burger which is served with a side of fries and the pork tenderloin with a raspberry sauce.  All entrees are served with a side salad and a choice of a side, so we shared the salad and went with the order of mac n' cheese.  Needless to say, we had PLENTY to eat!

Christina was debating over a couple things to get, but we suaded her into ordering the shrimp risotto which is pan seared with mushrooms and red and green peppers.

I have to say that service was really great here!  Our server was very friendly, had great suggestions, and was on top of everything.  I was really pleased with the service this night.

So onto the food.....the salad was a pretty standard side salad. It seemed like it came from a bag though and just had one cherry tomato cut on the side with shredded carrots. We had ordered a sun dried tomato dressing, which I was a bit disappointed with, it sounded much better than it tasted.  It was almost too sweet for me.  I don't think I would go out of my way to have this salad again.

We ordered the burger medium, and we thought it was overcooked, but it was still good! I loved the blue cheese topping and the bun had a nice toast to it.  Even though it was cooked more than I liked, I would order this again.  The burger itself had a great seasoning to it as well.  The fries were really good too! They were crispy, not soggy, and good sized.  I don't usually like shoestring fries, and thought these were pretty good.

The pork tenderloin was pretty good.  It was served with a spinach-type topping, but we really weren't quite sure what it was and onion straws.  I liked the greens with the pork and thought the raspberry glaze was a good combination with the pork, but the onion straws were just okay.  It seemed like an afterthought to the dish.   Overall, this dish didn't wow me.  I thought the pieces of pork were a bit thin but loved the glaze.

As for the mac n' cheese...not impressed.  It used a nacho-like cheese sauce and tasted pretty much like Velveeta shells and cheese.  With Keystone across the street, I would never get this again!

Tina loved her shrimp risotto.  She thought the shrimp was really tasty and a good portion of shrimp in the risotto.  I didn't try it, but she really enjoyed this dish and said she would get it again.  She ordered a side of broccoli with the dish.
Anne and Tina were in the mood for dessert, and Tina LOVES chocolate so they got a chocolate cake-type dessert.  They didn't really care for this.  They thought it was way too rich and thick.  It was hard for them to eat because it was so thick in their mouth.  It looked good though!
So, overall, I thought Blinkers was okay.  I would maybe go back again to try some of their other sandwiches or appetizers, it seems like they may excel in those more so than their entree dishes.  They have a wide variety of their menu, but I am a bigger fan of Keystone across the street, so it would be pretty hard for me to pass that up to go back to Blinkers, but we'll see!

Food: 2.5
Service: 4
Overall Experience: 3

Blinkers Tavern on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 10, 2011

Recipe: Grilled Chicken Salad with Grapes and Walnuts

Dewey's Pizza is one of my favorite places to get not only pizzas, but salads!  I love almost all the salads I have had there, especially their House salad and their Candied Walnut Grape salad.  I recently decided to make a salad inspired by their Candied Walnut Grape salad.  It turned out pretty great!  I don't know if it was AS good as Dewey's, but not bad for home made :)

Ingredients: (serves 2-3)
Romaine Lettuce
half a red onion, chopped
1/2 cup of red grapes, halved
1-2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts OR 4 chicken tenderloins
chopped walnuts, toasted
goat cheese

extra virgin olive oil
balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper to taste

My amounts of ingredients are not exact because I feel with salads you really just kind of eye ball the ingredients to your liking.

First, preheat your oven to 350 to toast the walnuts.  Next, I seasoned the chicken with salt, pepper, and rosemary and got the grill ready.

Next, I washed and chopped the Romaine lettuce and used a salad spinner to get it nice and crunchy, then put in the fridge to chill while I got the rest of the ingredients ready.  I put the walnuts in the oven and the chicken on the grill.  While those items are cooking, slice the grapes in half, chop your onion, and prepare your dressing.  Watch the walnuts though, I have a history of burning nuts when then are toasting!  They only take about five minutes.

To make the dressing, I poured about 1/3 cup of EVOO, then about another 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar together. I really just estimate and taste as I go. Squeeze in the Dijon, and add the garlic, salt and pepper and whisk it all together.  I put in the fridge to chill while everything else was coming together.

I grilled the chicken on each side for about 5 or 6 minutes then chopped it up.  Now, all that is left to do is assemble the salad!  Romaine on the bottom, put some grapes and onion on to your liking, add the walnuts and chicken then top with the goat cheese.  I prefer to use the "log" goat cheese as opposed to the pre-crumbled goat cheese.  Just add as much as you like!

Again, I thought this was a pretty great salad! It filled me up and there was left-overs for lunch the next day too.  You could serve this as a side salad sans chicken if you would like or even put it in a wrap!  You could also switch up the cheese, use gorgonzola or feta, you could use dried cranberries instead of grapes, or any other kind of nut.  Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Review: Valley Vineyards

I have to first apologize because I forgot my camera for this review.  I was really mad at myself too, considering I was at a vineyard!  My husband and I also aren't up to date yet with our phones, so we couldn't even take pictures with our phones....but I still wanted to share my experience.

Valley Vineyards is located in Morrow, OH and is the second largest vineyard in Ohio.  My mom and dad gave us a gift certificate for the vineyard for Christmas last year, and we had been waiting for a good time to use it.  We decided we wanted to go in the Fall because it isn't as hot outside and we thought it'd be a bit prettier outside too.  Valley Vineyards has a tasting room that is open Monday through Thursday 11-6 and Friday and Saturday 11-4.  They also have weekend cookouts from 5-8:30 and Sundays 4-6 and reservations are required.  We decided to go on Friday night for one of their cookouts.

We had made reservations which seems to be pretty much required.  When we walked in, we had to check in with a lady at the front who gave us two dinner tickets, a ticket for a bottle of wine, and we paid right there. She told us everything was pretty much self-serve and a buffet.  After we got our tickets, we went to the tasting table to try some of the wines.  With the dinner you get the option of 5 different kinds of wine (I think it was 5), or you could upgrade to a different bottle of wine for various prices.  Since we both prefer dry reds, we tried 3 different reds.  We ultimately liked one that was an $8 up charge best, so we went ahead and got that bottle, especially since we had a gift certificate.  On a side note, the wine pourers were very helpful and provided a lot of helpful tips about the wine.

Next, we were told to find our table in the dining room that had our name on it.  The dining room was okay.  It was wooden walls with faux wood tables.  I think it would have really helped to have had a table cloth on the tables.  The chairs were very outdated as well and not terribly comfortable.  After we had a bit of our wine, we decided to get started on some of the buffet.

We walked into the room with food where there was salad out and ready.  There were two options: a pre-made Italian salad or an Iceberg mix with a choice of 3 dressings.  I began with the iceberg salad because I saw a sundried tomato dressing that I wanted to try.  This dressing was just okay.  I was hoping for it to be better.

After our salads, we gout our meat.  With the cook-out, you have the choice of a New York Strip or Salmon that you grill yourself outside.  We both went with the steak.  They looked really good, nice size and pretty lean.  Once we got outside, there were a variety of rubs and seasonings that you can add to your meat.  We both seasoned our steaks and put it on the coal burning grills.  This part of the night was actually a lot more fun than we thought it would be!  We were a bit unsure about grilling it ourselves, we are not professionals, but it was quick and easy!  It was also really nice being outside and taking in the scenery of the vineyard across the street.  There were lots of groups here this night who also appeared to really be enjoying themselves.

Once our steaks were finished, we went to the buffet to get some sides.  There were baked potatoes, green beans, corn on the cob and bread.  I didn't try the corn because it didn't look very good to me, but Ross did. He didn't think it was that great.  The baked potato was good--hard to mess up a baked potato, and the green beans were pretty good as well.  As for the steak....I thought it was pretty good!  I think the seasonings really helped a lot, and I cooked it just to my liking-medium to medium rare.  They were very juicy and very little fat.  The bread was a simple white bread.  I wish it would have been warmed up or toasted.

We continued to sip on our wine before we got dessert.  Dessert is also included in the buffet.  There was sugar free cheesecake, pecan pie, a chocolate-mousse type pie, and cherry cheesecake.  I went with the cherry cheesecake and Ross had the chocolate pie.  Mine was fine, tasted kind of like a store bought cheesecake, but the lady putting out the desserts said she made them all except the sugar-free cheesecake.  Ross liked his okay too, but we were both pretty full by this point.

So, Valley Vineyards was a fun experience!  I thought the food was okay and the scenery was pretty.  I didn't really care for the ambiance inside the dining area.  It was very old fashioned and felt almost "banquet" like.  I thought the wines were also okay.  I wouldn't say they were my favorite wines I have ever had.  It seemed like it could be a fun place to go with a group; by the time we left, it was packed and there were a lot of people outside grilling and having a good time.  So the price is $59.00 per couple plus tax which includes the buffet and bottle of wine.  Not a terrible price, but I don't know if it was worth quite that much.  I would recommend giving this place a try.  It's something unique and a nice experience overall.