Tri Yoga Master Returns To The Tri State

Kali Ji is the founder of Tri Yoga and she will be back in Cincinnati at the Cincinnati Yoga School on Wednesday June 26th from 6-9 p.m.! It is a blast! I have done this before and it is a wonderful 3 hour practice with one of the best living practitioners anywhere. It’s got: stretching, breathing, chanting, music, philosophy, and more. You will be entranced for three hours if you choose to go there. Here is what I said about it last time the class came here:

Last night I went to a THREE hour yoga class with Kali Ray who founded TriYoga. It was some of the most fun and beneficial outings I have had in years. It was a combination of flow, yin, meditations, breathing and more. The time flew by and I didn’t care if I had dinner or not. Needless to say I feel wonderful today. If you have a chance, take it! Thanks to Mary Kemper, my yoga teacher; Cincinnati Yoga School, and Kali Ray for a great evening!

If you are interested, contact the Cincinnati Yoga School at: Vishwayoga@gmail.com or look at their website here. You won’t be sorry.

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Bella Bella Luna

In honor of a special occasion, welcoming a friend into the neighborhood, we decided to have dinner at Bella Luna. It is Italian (and everyone loves Italian food), it’s deliriously decorated, and it is properly “in to hood”.

This isn’t the first time I have visited Bella Luna and I have always had good food but it’s the ambiance, hospitality, and wild welcome that bring me back. However, please note, that I have detected that the food at Bella Luna has changed–it had gotten even better. This difference has occurred after their other restaurant was sold so there might be a connection there. Portions used to be insane, the menu was enormous, and everything was extreme. but now Bella Luna has taken up the art of subtlety as well as the art of abbondanza.

We were called on the day of our reservation to confirm (good idea on a Saturday night). Parking was tight (it’s a good restaurant and everyone wants to go there on Saturday night). Among our party was a new neighbor from New York City (Manhattan) she is Italian and knows the real deal. All the rest of us were the usual been-there-done-that crowd.

When we walked in there was a band playing at a sane level in the corner. We were greeted warmly and the owner, Mr. Stevens, appeared and was a great a jovial host. Once our party of six was seated we decided to take advantage of one of Bella Luna’s unique features: The Mystery Bucket. You tell the waitress whether you want red or white, she brings around a bucket with 4 upended bottles of wine in it. You choose which one you want (you can’t see the labels or the bottle shoulders). I chose a wonderful Campo Viejo Rioja and my seatmate chose Cannonball Cabernet Sauvignon. The Mystery Bucket is not only fun for the blind choosing, you are guaranteed a very good wine and you get it at a slight discount. It’s a win-win for the customer.

Next I had the Wedge salad, which is a big hunk of Iceberg lettuce with a tangy Gorgonzola dressing. Crunchy and good, the dressing was the right amount and had the best balance among flavors.

My main course was their divine fresh mozzarella ravioli. The pasta is thin thin thin, just like you will find in Rome; the sauce is a butter sauce. The taste is delicate and very subtle. The portion is sensible, too. I was grateful for that because if they had served too much, I would have eaten it all. This is a delightful meal which sometimes gets overshadowed by the spectacular bravado of some menu items, which are wonderful, but if you are looking for the master stroke of classic goodness, try the fresh mozzarella ravioli. You won’t be disappointed.

So, here are the ways I think that Bella Luna has changed:

  • The menu contains spicy and wild items as well as mild classics
  • The menu is a manageable size (it used to be more like a phone book and felt a bit like an assignment to get through
  • The service is more professional, it used to be fun but professional will please everyone
  • Innovation is still very much in evidence on the menu but they have not abandoned what has made them popular to begin with

The genius here is that most people change a good restaurant and ruin it, Bella Luna changed itself to be more like what other people want. Bella Luna has aged beautifully and now it is one of the go-to places in my ‘hood. It was great fun before but it’s exactly what you want it to be now. So visit them and see for yourself.

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Bella Luna on Urbanspoon

Jean-Robert's Table–A Simply Perfect Evening

It was my birthday and my husband wanted to treat me to an evening at Jean-Robert’s Table in Downtown. It is quite convenient as it’s right next to a parking lot, which is a Godsend if you are wearing high heels. The first thing you notice are the wonderful paintings on the walls by Leslie Shiels, a prominent Cincinnati artist, which have as their subjects famous or everyday people with a bird around them. Mick Jagger has a wood duck on his shoulder, for instance. Our waiter was very professional, the menu was diverse but with a good lot of fish dishes. Many specials this Thursday, one that sticks in my mind as a great example of the humorous take of the chef was a Red’s Salad composed totally of red vegetables, lobster, and garnished with peanuts and Cracker Jack (as is mentioned in the American classic song “Take Me Out To The Ball Game”).

However, they were featuring morel mushrooms at the time, and you don’t get to indulge in them every day. I chose an appetizer of morels and asparagus in a cream sauce with an egg poached in red wine and a vol au vent pastry shell. Then veal with morel cream sauce. I was asked how I wanted my veal done (this is a very nice touch you don’t normally get in a fine restaurant and the attitude that the chef knows better than you do has caused me a couple of 3 a.m. wake up calls when I had to contend with food poisoning). I said he should cook the meat as well done as possible while not wrecking it. I put my trust in the chef entirely. I suspect that this is harder to do than you think, cook a meat to its limit of good done-ness, and would show off the skill of the cook. Would I be disappointed?

We ordered martinis. They were just what you think of when you think of a great martini. The appetizer was fabulous. The flavor of the morels was allowed to shine through a beautiful brown cream sauce which enhanced the mushrooms like the perfect setting enhances a diamond. The pastry was flaky and delightful. I am not partial to eggs, but I am sure that if I was, I would have found the tiny red wine poached egg to be heavenly.

The main course was divine. Not a trace of pink in the veal and it was fat free, tender, and took to the sauce like, well, they were made for each other. The sauce was brought separately and I was allowed to put it on myself rather than to be at the whim of the waiter. This was quite like the appetizer, but that was my choice and there seemed to be a subtle difference between the cream sauce of the first course and this one. There were accompanying potatoes Galette, asparagus, an onion comfit, and sweetbreads which were a true treat (hot, golden, and expertly cooked).

Desert was a fabulous little Napoleon. Not the paste-of-sugar-mashed-onto-the-top kind, this was a tiny bit of flake pastry which had had its top toasted to the most perfect perfect perfect golden brown, filled with a beautiful gooey Bavarian cream sort of filling, and sliced strawberries which were so much better than what you get in the store. It was a poem of a desert. They did attach a candle to the dish it came in, as well…since it was my birthday.

The portions were exactly right, that is not something which you can say so much any more. So many fine dining establishments over-feed you and present you with a glopping big meal to wolf down. That is wrong. I want to taste and to be encouraged to savor every mouthful. Too much food on the plate just makes it all less “valuable” and somehow demands you to shove it all in your pie hole as quickly as possible.

After three courses, drinks, wine (a very good but not wonderful red by-the-glass), after dinner drink, and espresso for two people; the bill was less than the $200 I expected it to be. For the quality of the food, I would say this is a wild bargain.

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Jean-Robert's Table on Urbanspoon

Dial M for MMMMMMM

From the first second you enter, you know this place is going to be a success. You can feel it on your skin. The man who meets you at the door is happy up beat and polite. This is a neighborhood eatery (!) and it’s what you would expect in Palo Alto. Sleek interior, not so Haute Chic as to make you feel uncomfortable. An open kitchen featuring The Wood Fired Oven is key, nice variegated butcher block tables, short sweet menu and wine list. They are opened until 1! Hooray. We go there.

Clientele are all ages and well dressed without being The Angsty Hipster Achingly Trendy.

Menu is divided into four categories. There are first courses (I had the roasted vegetables), Pizzas (I chose the basil, buffalo mozzarella, and tomato sauce classic one), meat courses (beef, pork shoulder, fish, and one other… I think it was chicken), and finally there are gratins as a separate category, casseroles of home-like goodness. We did choose the pork shoulder and skipped the gratin this time.

You are encouraged to share and we did, all courses we had were divided between my husband and me. If it was to be skimpy we would find out.

The service was unflaggingly attentive but not smothering. There was one order which was missed and a longish wait for our meat course but that is minor and expected with a new restaurant.

The waitress brought us our wine (a good Argentine Malbec) with the pizza and roasted veggies. Have to say that the veggies were far more spare than I thought they would be and the actual roasted vegetables were hiding in small bits under the lettuce leaves, BUT we were presented with three “rosettes” of a salami which was local and shaved paper thin with a stack of about 4 thin pieces of toasted baguette. I divided the vegetable plate and we ate.

I noticed one strange and wonderful thing about that salami.. it tasted and smelled like spring flowers! How did they do that? Just like the scented jonquils that we have in our back yard! What a wonderful thing in December!

The tiny lettuces were perfectly seasoned and the bits of bread were fine with olive oil. The “vegetable plate” was a success!

Next was the pizza. I ordered a plain and classic version of the divine pie and was not disappointed. The crust was wonderfully thin, the toppings were well oiled and not dried out despite firing in the oven. A delight! Some serious thought had been put into this one.

By the way, I have eaten at “wood fired” places which REEKED of smoke and touted themselves as sniffy grill restaurants, very expensive etc. This one was not smoky at all but the food was grilled to perfection.

Our pork shoulder arrived about 20 minutes after ordering it (a long time) but it was delicious! The crust was perfect and perfectly seasoned. Tender and juicy, what was not to love here? Oh, and it was accompanied by wonderful grilled Brussels sprouts. Both things were perfectly caramelized.

We opted out of dessert. There was a bonnie apple pie with a cheddar gelato (!!!) which looked quite yum but we wanted to be good. Actually all of the desserts looked great but we were sated even after we had split everything!

We found friends who were dining there too, they came to the table to post mortum it all and told us that they had the beef and it was tough (which was a disappointment), and their dessert pie was very late in arriving after being ordered.

The bill for all of that came to a mere $66. Wow, quite worth it and we were happy as can be when we left. So I would say this is a great place.

As a follow up, we have been back many times since. Each time the pizza has been wonderful, like the ones you get in Italy! The salads are fresh and actually innovative (difficult to do), and it has been a very good to great experience. There has only been one disaster, and that was half a chicken which was as touch as shoeleather (and face it, who eats a half a chicken), and it was under a blanket of the thickest pasty looking white sauce which never should have been there. That vanished from the menu and we were all safe again. M is now one of the first places I take out out of town guests. It’s always a place where I can show off our local cuisine and know that whatever my guests order, they will think well of the Queen City because of it.

M Wood Fired Oven on Urbanspoon

The New Crepe Place In My Neighborhood-Buona Terra

My Word!Buona Terra is the brand new crepe and gelato place in my ‘hood. A small, clean, white interior looking like just about every other food boutique you have ever seen. They are specialized and very friendly to boot. If you want a crepe which is not on the menu and they can make it, they will. My husband (the sniffy gourmet) and I entered with high hopes. He had the Bonjour crepe (ham, cheese and egg) I asked for a plain Gruyere cheese crepe and got it. They could have been bought on the streets of Paris! Not too big or small, and you can have them wrapped up for toting around as you admire the wealth of shops on a lovely May day in Cincinnati. However, if you get your crepes to go, you might miss out on the gelato.

Buona Terra uses many locally produced ingredients in their foods, and (yes) there is at least one if not moar gelato producers here in The Queen City. They had sorbets as well as gelatos and some very exotic ones indeed like: white chocolate lavender, Earl Grey, and the Italian name with escapes me now which is basically a vanilla with chocolate chips. My husband had hazelnut which was STRONG and very very good, not too sweet and supersaturated hazelnut goodness. I got the Earl Grey and if you blindfolded me I would have guessed that it was really vanilla…you could not detect the tea. So next time it will be something a bit stronger, I have heard that the lavender/white chocolate is POW so I am going to try it out!

Not the cheapest lunch out here: 2 crepes, 1 water, and two gelatos (one small and one medium) came to $21 which is medium expensive in Cincinnati. But, it was worth it and we will be back for more. Welcome to the ‘hood, Buona Terra!

Buona Terra is located at 1028 Delta Avenue in Mount Lookout. (513) 386-8356 is their number if you want to call. You can have lunch or dinner there.

Buona Terra on Urbanspoon

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