Wednesday, December 29, 2010


We were a strictly “real tree” household growing up. A fake tree was never to cross the threshold of our home. We were on Charlie Brown’s side every time Lucy tried to peer pressure him into getting a plastic tree. Of course, getting a real tree was always a miserable ordeal. We would march out to a freezing gravel parking lot and inspect a hundred trees, mystified by the names like “Douglas fir,” and eventually picking one out to be wrapped and strapped to the top of the car. By this point, everyone was unhappy and our nasal passages were frozen shut. Then there was the process of getting the tree into the house, which traditionally entailed a lot of cursing and stomping.

Once the tree was wrestled into a stand and the needles had been vacuumed from the carpet, everyone calmed down and we returned to our jolly holiday selves.

Cookies were another essential tradition in our house. Mom would load the pantry up with peanut butter, sugar and AP flour weeks ahead of schedule and when the time came, baked up a flurry of sugary, fatty delights. No-bakes, peanut butter kisses and snickerdoodles were usually on the roster, with a few variations from year to year.

Last year, Alex and I had been dating for only a few months when the holidays rolled around. We decided to celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas all in one evening. Since I was in the overachiever stage at the beginning of a relationship, I agreed to make two kinds of cookies and do the latke frying all at once in his tiny Clifton apartment. I was ready to whip up some no-bakes and a pan of snickerdoodles, but Alex whimpered,

“Can we make cut-out cookies and decorate them?”

Who am I to deprive a Jewish boy of cut-out Christmas cookies? They weren’t traditional in my house, but I didn’t want to let him down, so I nixed the snickerdoodles and found a basic sugar cookie recipe. They turned out pretty well, considering my roommate and I had to beat the dough within an inch of its life to get it to roll out to the right thickness (no rolling pin).

This year, I do have a rolling pin, and Alex and I did the holiday thing all over again. I went back to the same cut-out recipe and we made them on Saturday night. This time, we did the latkes earlier in the month around the first few days of Hanukkah and saved the cookies for another day. And much to Jeff’s dismay, we used store-bought icing to decorate our, well, non-traditional traditional Christmas cookies.

Friday, December 10, 2010

New year, new hours for Fork Heart Knife

Here's a new year's resolution I can stick to - Wednesday night dinner at Fork Heart Knife. Starting Wednesday, December 29, Fork Heart Knife will be switching up their hours for the new year. The new schedule:

Wednesday & Thursday dinner: 5-10pm
Saturday & Sunday brunch: 10am-2pm (ish)

Of course, you don't have to wait until then to get your hands on some of that delicious grub. Until then, they're still open Thursday and Friday night for dinner and Sunday for brunch. Be aware that they won't be open a few days right around Christmas:

Thursday 12/23/10 closed
Friday 12/24/10 closed
Sunday 12/26/10 closed

Per usual bring your cash (they don't take cards) and bring your wine or beer of choice.

via Fork Heart Knife blog

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mayberry Foodstuffs: Downtown's Corner Grocery Store

Chef Josh Campbell of Mayberry and World Food Bar fame has opened Mayberry Foodstuffs up to the public. The little store at Seventh and Main is stocked with fresh produce, food staples, home essentials and treats. The official grand opening is later this month. Until then, grab a basket and start shopping. More products are on the way, but I found more than enough in stock to take home for dinner when I visited on Monday and Tuesday.

Here are some things you can expect to find.


More important essentials.

Green things.

Sweet things.

Little surprises.

Hours of operation are 8am-10pm Monday through Friday, 10am-6pm Sunday. They're quickly adding coffee for earlybirds, some deli selections for carryout lunch and - best of all - are on a fast track for a license to sell beer and wine.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Super Easy Coffee Cake for a Snowy Morning

Like all good Cincinnatians, I rushed to Kroger when I heard there would be significant snowfall on Saturday. We needed the makings for latkes (meaning a store bought latke mix) and I wanted to stock up on milk and eggs. You know, because that's just what you do.

Sure enough, the snow came down the very next morning. It was the first real snow I'd seen since moving to OtR, and there's something ridiculously idyllic about seeing the Italianates and the church across the street all blanketed in heavy, white snow.

It didn't really stick to the streets, so travel by car was fine, but I ignored that and played like I was housebound anyway. Saturday mornings in my house growing up usually meant pancakes or waffles for breakfast, but if we could talk my dad into making it, sometimes we had coffee cake. The kind with a delicious crumbly cinnamon topping. I decided that nothing could complete a snowy morning better than a classic batch of coffee cake. Thanks to my instinctual milk-and-eggs shopping trip, all of the ingredients were on hand.

Start to finish, this took maybe 45 minutes. It gave me plenty of time to write a detailed e-mail to my mom instructing her on which gifts I want most for Christmas and what color trim I want on my teak tan Wm. J. Mills & Co. Montauk Duck Duffel bag.

(Sadly, the gift I want the second most is a sheesham-wood cocktail shaker from West Elm but it's sold out.)

If you find yourself snowed in this winter and you have successfully stocked your pantry beforehand, you could do worse than this simple coffee cake. You could even pretend it's snowing outside and stay in anyway. I won't tell.

(It's a Better Homes and Gardens recipe I found here minus the blueberries and nuts)

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon melted butter

Preheat your oven to 375 and grease a square pan (I used an 8x8x2-incher).

Combine your wet ingredients (oil, egg and milk) in a large bowl. Combine dry ingredients in another bowl, mix them together with a fork and break up clumps in the flour. Add dry ingredients to wet, mix (but don't overmix). Pour it into your greased pan.

In another bowl, mix the topping ingredients (brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and melted butter). Sprinkle mixture over the top of your batter.

Place in preheated oven for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let it cool a bit before you dig in. Enjoy with coffee.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Little Food Processor That Could

It’s Alex’s joke that I'm always promising to make something complex and exotic for dinner and when the time comes I just end up making grilled cheese. This has only actually happened on maybe two occasions, but that was enough to turn it into a running gag. So I braced myself for teasing when I told him my plan to make pulled pork had run afoul and grilled cheese was on the menu for the night. He was surprisingly okay with this change of entree.

“Can we have tomato soup too?”

Sold! I spent the rest of the day envisioning different cheese/bread/topping combinations that would elevate a regular grilled cheese into something a little more impressive. Finally I just gave up and googled “Smoked Mozzarella grilled cheese,” because we had some in the refrigerator, and who should appear in my search results but Tyler Florence.

He recommends homemade pesto on a smoked mozzarella grilled cheese. So later in the afternoon, I loaded up my shopping basket with basil, parsley and pine nuts.

Here’s a pretty good recipe for pesto, if you don’t already have one in your repertoire:

2 cups fresh basil
1 cup fresh Italian parsley
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Food processor it all.

I forget how small my food processor is. When I saw it gleaming on the shelf at Target with its fire-engine-red allure, I knew I had to bring it home. I knew it would eventually be too small, but I managed not to think about that. Besides, it’s so cute and red!

I managed to smoosh down the basil and parsley so I could get everything inside. I was fearful that I would end up with parmigiano and basil all over my kitchen. I shouldn’t have doubted. My little red beauty delivered.

Now I’m wondering why I didn’t rush out and buy some basil and pine nuts the first day I brought my food processor home. It’s kind of incredible how easy it is to throw together and how much it improves the taste of a smoked mozzarella grilled cheese sandwich. That's saying a lot, since a grilled cheese sandwich really is one of the world's most perfect foods. Just ask Alex.