Sunday, April 29, 2012

Two Writers to Watch: Paula McLain and Dana Spiotta

     The Paris Wife by Paula McLain saw excellent reviews last year, sold well, and even made People magazine’s Top 10.  I bought the book because I met McLain at the Books on the Banks event at the Cincinnati Convention Center in October.  I found her to be wryly amusing with a cool haircut.  Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta was nominated for the National Book Critics’ Circle Award (the only American book award that counts).  I was looking for this book ever since I heard

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Breakfast, Brunch, and Lunch Palace…First Watch

      When one is looking for a breakfast and lunch restaurant, First Watch is an automatic thought.  Morphed from a Le Peep franchise in Kenwood many years ago, the national chain has been known to share menu items with a local restaurant, the National Exemplar in Mariemont.  Now, it maintains its own identity and has evolved into a smooth and consistent operation.  

The Kenwood First Watch
      Ann was off work a few weeks ago and we went to the Kenwood location for lunch.  WIth a few dietary requirements shared with our server, Ann ordered an altered version of the Fruity Chicken Salad.  The name acknowledges the generous scoop of chicken salad alongside fresh fruit on baby spinach with poppyseed dressing for dipping or drizzling.  The salad was light on the mayonnaise and covered with white meat chicken, diced celery, and raisins.  Ann's choice for bread was English muffins in place of the usual ciabatta toast.  (TMI on why the substitution.)  I chose the Beefeater…roast beef with cheeses grilled on a parmesan-crusted sourdough.  A tasty combination, especially with the accompanying horseradish sauce.  It was served with a marinated salad (I could have had a bowl of soup instead) and a cup of fruit.  This place is definitely a good value!

Fruity Chicken Salad

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Art of Entertaining: The Best Tasting Deal in Town

The Wine Bar Welcomes Guests
     The Art of Entertaining in O’Bryonville currently offers a great deal on Friday nights.  For $25 per person by reserving ahead or $30 walking in the door, patrons receive tokens for six samples – either glasses of wine on offer that night or any of the enormous selection of beers or a combination.  The wines were both white and red the night we were fortunate enough to be treated and from American and European vineyards.  The beers included some of the best microbrews available.

The 7-Course Meal
is Served Buffet Style
     That information should get most people in the door, but it’s the food that we found to be the greatest enticement.  The menu changes weekly as I

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Re-discovering Buffy Sainte-Marie

Buffy Sainte-Marie As I Remember Her
       When I was growing up, Buffy Sainte-Marie appeared frequently on variety shows.  My best friend, Gregg, and I would get on the phone and unabashedly make fun of her quivering voice as we watched on our separate TV sets.  We were too juvenile to be paying attention to the unmistakable lyrics, and the tunes were just like other folk songs of the era.  So when Eric presented me with The Best of Buffy Sainte-Marie as a birthday gift, I was a little puzzled.  He said the gag

Monday, April 23, 2012

Tacos Locos – Crazy, but Pleasant Ridge’s Destination Restaurant is on Wheels

Dex Hanging out at Tacos Locos
     We read about Tacos Locos in Cincinnati magazine (is there anything about food in this region that Donna Covrett and her staff doesn’t know about?) this month and thought we’d try it out since it’s up the street from us.  We could walk – we didn’t because we wanted the food to stay hot – but we could.  

     The Tacos Locos food truck sits in the RMS Food Store parking lot across from Pleasant Ridge Montessori on Montgomery.  Three young women of Latina descent run the truck.  Two are sisters, the other is their cousin and they cook

Saturday, April 21, 2012

"The Hunger Games": Yup, It Works, But Beware If You’re Under 13

I don't think it's suitable for kitties either!

     There’s been a lot of controversy over the R rating for Bully (and I haven’t seen the movie yet), but little has been said about The Hunger Games.  It follows the book closely, which means it’s thrilling, a little long, and extremely disturbing.  If it weren’t so commercial and lauded, it would be easy to say

Friday, April 20, 2012

What's Up With the Best New Chef's Abigail Street Venture?

      Sometimes I have to be in the mood for a particular place and I hadn't quite adjusted to our spontaneous choice of Abigail Street.  We had been to Know with Marty and Michael and my first post-theater thought was Bakersfield's, but it was overflowing.  1215 Wine Bar & Coffee Lab wasn't much better and that's when we crossed the street to Abigail's.  FInally, OTR was hopping again!  

      Restaurants in the Gateway Quarter have one thing in common…a rockin' noise level neither conducive to relaxing or having an attentive conversation.  It's a trend that we can take only on occasion.  

      Our server, Teenwolfe (was he serious?), asked a few pertinent questions and allowed us to settle in with the menu.  It was late and all we really needed was

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” Plays at Know Theatre

     Know Theatre’s Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson vitally captures the passive-aggressive fury behind the sardonically bland face of the mumblecore generation.  The story is basically Andrew Jackson’s biography, though it’s been tweaked here and there and isn’t completely factual.  The two main conflicts in Jackson’s life were with the Washington elites, who did not want to connect with the needs of the Great Lakes population, and the American Indians, who had to be constantly moved south and then west so that European Americans could claim and own the lands they believed to be rightfully theirs.  

     The show is upfront in presenting the racist, genocidal worldview of the good Christian settlers, the Indians’ rage and despair, and the calculated self-interest of the elitist clique running the country.  It’s obviously an allegory for the cultural/political situation at play currently, except that Manifest Destiny stands in for Globalization.
Jackson personally paid an enormous price just to survive, but the tragedy is that he ends up selling out his closest friend, Black Fox, who had previously sold out his own people to prove his loyalty to Jackson.  And for what does he trade his soul?  He does everything he can to give the American people what they said they want, but then they’re not so sure they wanted it or if they should have wanted it in the first place.

Kellen York and the cast*
     If it sounds deep, don’t worry because it isn’t until about the last half hour or so and that’s a problem with the script.  For over an hour, it’s like an extended skit (Second City or Saturday Night Live or Sophomore Civics Class Shindig, take

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

21 Jump Street is just as Goofy, Raunchy, and Hilarious as You’ve Heard

Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, and Dexter Try to Escape the Action
     My Mom wanted to see 21 Jump Street while she visited so we thought what the heck, why not?  We were very surprised to find a sweet natured, foulmouthed, sexually raunchy, nastily violent, and very funny movie.  Although using the armature of the 1987 – 1991 TV series by placing two undercover police

Sunday, April 15, 2012

"Friends with Kids": Why Doesn’t It Work?

     Jennifer Westfeldt is a charming writer/director/actor who made a lovely romantic comedy, Kissing Jessica Stein, a decade ago.  It was honest, intriguing, and a little kinky in its story of a nice Jewish girl exploring bisexuality in her quest for love and self-identity.  I had high hopes for Friends with Kids because of that earlier movie and a cast including Adam Scott, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, Jon Hamm, Megan Fox, and Edward Burns.  It’s a potentially phenomenal group of comedic and dramatic actors.  I expected something akin to Four Weddings and a Funeral, but it was more like a second-rate version of The Switch (a movie I liked).

Dexter with Jennifer Westfeldt and Adam Scott
     Westfeldt has a sweet, smart persona, but she isn’t a star and that matters when she’s in scenes with Wiig and Hamm, who both can fill in a lot of blanks in their characters because

Friday, April 13, 2012

Cafe Mediterranean Almost Had Me

      Mediterranean cuisine is not one that "I get".  I enjoy a lot of the dishes, but I always feel that I've been short changed a bit.  It's an overall bias I have and I'd like to change that opinion.  So, four of us set out to Cafe Mediterranean to celebrate Carole's birthday.  I've passed it several times and have perused the menu online and by stopping at the hostess station.  By the time we finally had our date set, I was well aware of what my entrée would be.

Hummus and Pita Appetizer
Vegetable Casserole
      Karen generously ordered the Hummus as an appetizer to share.  Nicely presented, I would definitely say it was a house made version of the classic served with a basket of pita.  She and Paul decided on the Vegetable Casserole topped with mozzarella cheese and served with rice pilaf.  We all came to the conclusion that it

Monday, April 9, 2012

Hammerheads Is Not Just a Broken Record BBQ Joint

The Small Kitchen is Smokin'
      Is it possible for what appears to be a biker bar in the basement of a house in a working class neighborhood to serve some of the best All-American cuisine to be found?  If you're lucky enough to experience Hammerheads in Louisville, you'll find out that it is indeed!  Chef owners Adam Burress and Chase Mucerino (straight from being nominated as Food & WIne magazine's 2012 Best New Chefs), have taken southern and BBQ favorites to the next level and then some.  We were thinking it sounded good, but had no idea it would be that good!
Dex Outside Hammerheads
      Open for dinner only, we arrived with some of the crew sitting at the picnic tables outside, immediately greeting us and welcoming us to come inside.  Our server was there to—well, serve us and he did a commendable job at doing so.  We asked for suggestions and he didn't steer us wrong.  

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Greg Kotis at the Humana Festival: When Will People Realize He’s America’s Funniest Playwright Right Now?

     Greg Kotis wrote the musical Urinetown over a decade ago and I still think there hasn’t been another original book of its caliber.  (Spring Awakening and Wicked have excellent books, but they were adapted from other works).  I was excited to hear that the Humana Festival of New Plays at the Actors Theatre of Louisville included his latest work this year so we decided to see it while my Mom was in town.

Dexter Makes a Guest Appearance on the Set of
Michael von Siebenburg Melts Through the Floorboards*
     Michael von Siebenburg Melts Through the Floorboards (Kotis has a penchant for peculiar titles) is a vampire story, but Michael is middle-aged, lonely, and despairing unlike the hot, young, photogenic bloodsuckers on Twilight, True Blood, and their ilk.  There are a number of respectful yet hilarious references to True Blood as two cops trade TV critiques while

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Oh no, Katie Couric’s Back and Other Frightening Developments

Dexter Finds It Shocking Too!
     Katie Couric steps in for a vacationing Robin Roberts this week on Good Morning America.  If ABC would add Alvin to Couric and Stephanaopoulos, they could speed up the broadcast recordings and get an album out by Memorial Day.  I’ve never heard anyone say that he or she loves Katie Couric even after her interview/showdown with Sarah Palin. And, in retrospect, don’t most literate people read only or maybe two newspapers and then check out the Internet to stay current?

On the Set of CBS This Morning

     For those missing Robin, turn over to CBS This Morning where Gayle King, Charlie Rose, and Erica Hill present better interviews and display greater depth in examining news stories.  This show deserves to take off.

     NBC just canceled Bent, a romantic comedy with a somewhat dopey premise – how long can a contractor