Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Metropole to Focus on Local Food

From the press release:

21c Museum Hotels and Executive Chef Michael Paley
Open Metropole Restaurant in Cincinnati
Award-winning Hospitality Group and Acclaimed Chef Celebrate the City’s European Roots and Local Agriculture with Fireplace-Focused Restaurant

CINCINNATI, OH (November 13, 2012) – 21c Museum Hotels, the award-winning boutique hotel, contemporary art museum and restaurant group, is pleased to announce the opening of Metropole, located at 21c Museum Hotel Cincinnati, at 609 Walnut Street in Cincinnati, Ohio (513.578.6660;; the hotel is scheduled to open in the coming weeks.  Under the direction of executive chef Michael Paley, previously of Proof on Main in Louisville, KY, Metropole’s menu revolves around a custom-built wood-burning fireplace, emphasizing the city’s European roots and celebrating the region’s local farming and sustainable agriculture.

Paley, also executive chef and a partner in Louisville’s Garage Bar, which features pizza from a wood-fired oven, country ham and fresh oysters, was inspired to create a menu cooked almost entirely by wood-fired heat.

“I became interested in fireplace cooking after working with the wood-fired oven at Garage Bar, and really like the challenge of bringing this ancient cooking method into a modern restaurant kitchen,” says Paley.  “Our menu at Metropole reflects Cincinnati’s robust, European-rooted culinary heritage.  I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the 21c team on another project in a culturally rich city like Cincinnati.”

Building on the foundation he learned at Garage Bar, Paley’s menu focuses on dishes cooked in a custom, eight-foot-wide, wood-burning fireplace that he developed.  Paley worked with Craig Kaviar, a Kentucky-based blacksmith and artist, to create cast-iron cranes that are bolted into the fireplace and that swing over the wood-burning fire, allowing Paley to use a variety of unique fireplace cooking techniques.  Showcasing Ohio’s producers and farmers, Paley has developed a menu of string-roasted meats, ash-cooked vegetables, and house-made charcuterie.  The restaurant’s beverage menu favors American craft beers and bourbon.

Metropole is open daily for dinner with an accessible menu that allows guests to build a meal from various categories.  House-made charcuterie, vegetables, salads and small plates are ideal dishes for sharing, including Leek and Celeriac Soup with hearth-baked oysters, bacon, and crème fraîche; Foie Gras topped with toasted pretzel breadcrumbs and served with house-made mustard and sweet and sour onions; Vinegar-Poached Beets, charred in the fireplace and served with bitter greens, fresh goat cheese, farm radishes, and garlic chips; Ash-Baked Pumpkin, served with fresh fall greens, pumpkin seeds, and goat cheese; and an Herb Tea Poached Egg, accompanied by cannellini bean gratin and sautéed winter greens.

The savory portion of the menu is rounded out with a selection of entrees, which features meat and fish dishes that are braised in cast-iron pots hanging over the wood fireplace, roasted on open spits, and sautéed on flat-top grills set over wood embers.  The Shelton Farm Pork Confit is complemented by roasted leeks, mustard broth, and chestnut honey; Grilled Swordfish is plated alongside ash-roasted peppers and bulgur wheat; and String-Roasted Chicken is accompanied with dripping-pan vegetables and grilled lemon.

The dessert program concludes the menu and features specialties such as Espresso Pudding Cake with malt, rye, walnuts, and ashed cherry ice cream; Smoked Pear with pomegranate ice cream, brown butter madeleine, black tea and toasted oats; and Caramelized Citrus Caramel with angel food cake, crème sorbet and sea salt.

The beverage program, developed by food and beverage director Melanie Tapp, an alum of Proof on Main and Garage Bar, focuses heavily on a rotating selection of American craft beers on tap.  Oskar Blues Beers, which are new to the Cincinnati market, are included on the menu alongside local draft favorite, Blank Slate American Session Ale.  Bourbon and rye will be the main focuses at Metropole, paying homage to the original 21c Museum Hotel’s Kentucky roots.  A variety of Kentucky’s finest bourbons and ryes will be highlighted on the menu, as well as local Ohio distillers such as Oyo Vodka and Whiskey and Watershed Vodka and Gin.  A frequently changing list of specialty cocktails includes Don & Dirty made with Old Grand-Dad, chapa-roasted cranberry, orange, and raw sugar bitters; and The I.T. with OYO Honey Vanilla, jalapeño, lime and soda.

Metropole features a unique bread, coffee, and tea program, tapping into local artisans to offer fresh and ever-changing offerings.  In addition to regular coffee service, a rotating menu of locally roasted coffees will be available in French Press to highlight the city’s roasters and micro-roasters, with the first offerings being Tazza Mia and Carabello Coffee.  The restaurant’s loose-leaf tea program will feature teas from Kentucky’s leading tea producer, Elmwood Inn, offering guests the chance to taste a variety of the country’s finest teas.  Metropole is sourcing all of its bread from Blue Oven Bakery, located in Williamsburg, Ohio.  Committed to the use of local farm products and quality ingredients, Blue Oven Bakery makes all bread by hand to deliver an authentic, organic product that will continuously rotate at the restaurant.

Designed by Deborah Berke & Partners Architects, Metropole is housed in the 21c Museum Hotel Cincinnati, formerly the Metropole Hotel, a 100-year-old historic landmark in downtown Cincinnati.  Building on its mission of engaging the public with contemporary art and supporting the revitalization of downtown Cincinnati, the new 21c Museum Hotel restores the architectural and historical landmark into a beautiful public space.  The open kitchen and wood-burning fireplace create the focal point of Metropole’s warm 90-seat dining room, 14-seat bar, an intimate lounge, and 12-person private dining room, creating an inviting environment for locals, visitors and hotel guests alike.  Many of the original elements of the space were preserved including the original mosaic tile floors, arched windows and historic molding and ceiling plaster.  Natural tones of cream, brown and eggplant are used throughout the space, and incorporated into decorative accents such as textured, leather banquettes, a copper bar highlighted by a hanging antique mirror, and glazed tiles behind the bar.  The space will also feature rotating, curated exhibitions of contemporary art.  The restaurant’s opening exhibition, OFF SHOOT: Serial Explorations, presents a wide-ranging investigation of identity, history and the barely perceptible space between fantasy and reality.  The exhibition will feature works from artists Sanford Biggers, Loretta Lux, Kay Ruane and Annie Kevans as well as local artist Jay Bolotin and Louisville-based photographer Sarah Lyon.

Through his unique passion for sustainable agriculture and local farming, Paley has created his own, exciting cuisine – one defined by a seamless integration of simple ingredients to create boundary-pushing dishes.  With culinary tenures working under noteworthy chefs and operators, such as Daniel Boulud and Drew Nieporent, Paley was able to gain extensive classical training before becoming an executive chef.  In 2005, Chef Paley was tapped to open Proof on Main in the 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville, KY, and remained executive chef there until moving to Cincinnati to take the reins at Metropole.  At Proof on Main, Paley’s flavor-focused cooking inspired by the culinary traditions of Italy and the American South inspired an accessible and exciting menu that paid homage to the bounty of the Ohio River Valley.

Metropole is open daily for dinner, with lunch and breakfast service to follow.  The restaurant is located in the 21c Museum Hotel, at 609 Walnut Street in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling (513.578.6660). For more information, please visit or

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Slow Food Cincinnati Annual Meeting Wednesday Nov. 14

The Rookwood Bar & Restaurant in Mt. Adams on Wednesday, November 14th from 6:00 – 8:00pm. Cash bar, appetizers provided.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Winter Squash Cooking Class at Gorman Heritage Farm

Saturday, November 17th: 1pm - 3pm
Taught by Jamie Stoneham

What do Delicata, Kabocha, Calabaza, Acorn, Spaghetti, and Hubbard all have in common?

They are all winter squash.

Explore the different tastes and textures of winter squash as you also learn how to store and buy these tasty delicacies. Then grab your aprons for a unique hands-on cooking experience in Gorman Farm's 1835-era farm house utilizing one type of those tasty squashes.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

CookFresh from Fine Cooking promises that it's "packed with creative ways to eat healthier using what’s fresh in the winter market."  I'm always looking for recipes that are truly seasonal.  I'll report back when I receive the issue. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Golden Lawnchair Selling Out Fast

Only sixteen tickets are left for the Golden Lawnchair, Cincinnati's first pop-up restaurant.  Proceeds benefit the FreeStore FoodBank.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Eat Locals

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Make & Can Your Own Cranberry Sauce for Holiday Gifting

It’s amazing to me that some people actually prefer canned cranberry sauce to homemade.  I suspect much of the claimed preference for it is irony from the same folks who order PBR in a craft brewery, but it’s not all that: my own sister-in-law truly wants a log of the canned stuff on the Thanksgiving table.  Once a dish gets on that table, it becomes part of the family tradition. Whether or not anyone likes it or even actually eats it, it’s just got to be on that table until the end of time.  Woe be unto the host who decides to stop making great-grandma's black-cherry-jello-with-canned-black-cherries-in-it just because great-grandma was the only one who ate it and she's been dead fifteen years and now it just sits there looking sad and gets thrown into the compost heap every Sunday-after-Thanksgiving.  But I'm not bitter.  
You can't change tradition, but you can add new ones: our Thanksgiving table contains BOTH my own homemade sauce and the canned stuff my mother-in-law probably switched to sometime in the 1950s.

Why she or anyone ever switched is inexplicable to me, because there can be no comparison between grainy red Jello in the shape of a can and real cranberries cooked from fresh.  And there’s no excuse, either: of all the traditional dishes on the table, cranberry sauce is hands-down the easiest and quickest.  Prep time is about three minutes, and the sauce can be made days ahead so all you have to do on Turkey Day is put it into a serving bowl.  But switch they did, and in large numbers.  Ocean Spray sells 72 million cans of the stuff every autumn, a can for 2 out of 3 households.

So let’s see what we can do about switching them back: let’s gift them homemade cranberry sauce.  If you give it to them as a beautifully-presented handmade gift, they’ll probably at least try it, right?

So: easiness?  How easy is this:  You put cranberries in a pot with sugar and some spices, bring it to a boil, lower to a simmer, and let it cook ten minutes, stirring occasionally.  Yes, that’s the entire process.

Cranberry Sauce
makes ~10 pints
6 pounds cranberries (if you can't find bulk berries, 8 12-oz bags equals 6 pounds.)
4 cups orange juice
8 cups sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t allspice
1/2 t cardamom
1/2 t nutmeg

Place all ingredients into a large pot, bring to a boil, lower to simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries pop -- about ten minutes.

What we’re going to do takes it one step further: we’re going to, er, can the sauce.  Go ahead, laugh, but OUR sauce isn’t going to slither out of the canning jar in a gelatinous sliceable mass.  And it isn’t going to contain high fructose corn syrup, either.

Canning instructions:
  1. Fill your canning kettle with 7" of water, place canning rack into the kettle, and bring to a boil on your highest-heat burner turned on high.  Leave it on the boil.
  2. Sanitize 10 pint jars (I usually just run them through the dishwasher.)
  3. Keep the jars hot by pouring a little water into each, setting them into a 13x9 pan with an inch of water in it, and sticking the whole thing into a warm (170 - 200 degree) oven.  
  4. Working with one jar at a time, pour water out of jar, then ladle the hot cranberry sauce into the jar, pushing cranberries down gently into the liquid so they aren't sticking up and adding extra liquid if necessary to cover them.  Leave 1/2" of space between the top of the liquid and the rim of the jar.  A canning funnel (a funnel with a wide bottom) is very helpful to prevent spillage.
  5. Wipe the rim with a damp cloth, place a lid on it, and screw on the ring just until you feel resistance.  You don't want the rings on tight -- they're only there to keep the lids in place while the batch processes, and tightening them can prevent a seal from forming.
  6.  As you fill the jars, set them into the kettle on the rack.  You'll need a pair of tongs for this; canning tongs are extremely helpful in grasping the jars securely.
  7.  Repeat until you've filled the kettle.  Cover, and when the pot returns to a boil, start timing.  After five minutes at the boil, remove the jars and allow to cool on a cookie rack.  You should hear the lids pop as the seals form, and when you look at the lids they'll appear very slightly pushed-in.  Any jar that doesn't form a seal should be refrigerated and used within a few weeks. 
  8. Allow to cool 24 hours before removing the rings, wiping the jars and lids clean with a damp cloth, and labeling. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Best. Chicken. Salad. Ever.

This is my new favorite chicken salad recipe. The vinegary pickled vegetables provide a counterpoint to the typical mayo-heavy chicken salad. 

Best Chicken Salad Ever
(adapted from a recipe by Mary Klonowski for Bon Appetit)

2 1/2 cups diced cooked chicken (approximately 2-3 breasts) (See Perfect Poached Chicken Every Time)
1 cup drained giardiniera (I used this recipe, but a jarred version works fine if you want chicken salad in less than two days!) chopped fine (about 1/4" dice).  If you're concerned about salt intake, you may want to rinse the giardiniera briefly before continuing.
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ c Greek yogurt (I used 0%fat, which worked fine)
1/4 cup (lightly packed) chopped fresh basil

Mix all ingredients together well.  You'll notice this recipe doesn't call for any salt -- giardiniera is salty, so definitely taste before adding additional seasoning. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Long-Simmered Roma Beans with Ham Hock

At Montgomery Farmers' Market this past weekend I bought a quart each of yellow and green Roma beans (also known as Italian green beans, Romano, or flat beans) from White Oak Valley Farm and a ham hock from TS Farms.  This is one of my favorite after-market dishes.  I've made it nearly every week since the Romas started coming in.  It's simple and while the cooking time is long, the prep is quick. 

Long-Simmered Roma Beans with Ham Hock

2 quarts Roma beans (I love it when I can use yellow and green -- they look pretty together.)
1 t olive oil
1 c finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ham hock
1/4 t cayenne (optional)
1/4 t salt plus more to taste
Ground black pepper to taste

Snap the stem end of the bean off.  The other end you can leave -- it's the end with the little curl on it like this (I forgot to photograph a raw bean, so this one had already been cooked):

Then snap each bean into pieces about 2" long.

In an 8-quart pot, heat oil and saute onions and garlic until the onion is translucent.   Add the beans, the ham hock, 1/4 t cayenne, and 1/4 t salt.  (Don't oversalt at this point -- the pork hock contains some salt, too, which will be released into the broth as the beans cook.) I usually start the onions and garlic, then once they're cooked I turn off the heat and just snap the beans right into the pot.

Fill with water to barely cover the beans (if the ham hock is sticking out, no worries -- just turn it over a couple of times during the cooking process), bring to a boil, lower to a gentle simmer (you want to see the smallest amount of bubbling you can manage while still seeing some bubbling), and let simmer for 3 hours -- yes, THREE HOURS -- adding additional water as needed to keep the beans barely covered.

Amazingly Roma beans won't turn mush with this length of cooking.  They just become very tender. 

Once the meat has pulled away from the bone, remove the hock from the water, pull the meat from the bones, and shred the meat, removing any fat or gristle.

Return the shredded meat to the pot to continue cooking.  Taste and add fresh ground black pepper plus additional salt if needed.  Serve beans in their 'pot liquor' -- the broth.  I like to serve it with a salad and good bread to mop up the broth for a rustic light (and very cheap) dinner.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Green Bean Delivery: a Review

Recently I was contacted by Green Bean Delivery, a local service offering delivery of fresh produce and prepared foods to your doorstep, asking if I would review their service.  Full disclosure: Green Bean provided a one-time free delivery of one of their bins of produce and prepared foods. 

Green Bean Delivery operates in Cincinnati and multiple surrounding cities with a mission of making healthy and sustainably grown local food affordable, accessible, and convenient.  The concept is simple: for each delivery, a customer goes online to make any changes to that week's default order, adding extra items as they choose.  The orders are packed into insulated bins and delivered the customer's doorstep, allowing busy people and those with limited access to fresh produce and high-quality prepared foods to access these items.  The company was a 2007 startup in Indianapolis and has spread to Cincinnati, Louisville, and Columbus. 

Green Bean set up a default single-time produce order for me and asked me to log in to customize it.  Then they selected several of their prepared-foods vendors' products and added them on.  

There was initially some confusion over when the bin would be delivered.  The interface asked me to choose a week, and on July 7th I chose the week of July 16th to give me time to go in and customize the produce bin ahead of time.  But on July 9th, I got an email saying my bin would be delivered July 11th.  I emailed back to point out that on the form I’d indicated I wanted the bin the following week, and that I hadn’t had time to customize my bin yet.  They fixed it and all was well. I suspect the confusion was caused by the fact I was not a new regular customer (who I'm sure generally want their bins to start right away) but was receiving a single special order, so it may not hold true for new customers in general, but I found the process a little confusing.  

The default order for July contained limited local (which their website defines as from Indiana, Kentucky, or Ohio) produce -- cabbage, bell peppers, summer squash, and cucumbers.  As locally-produced food is my primary interest and I placed my order when local produce season was in full swing, I would have loved to see a default order that focused on local, seasonal items rather than on produce that was being sourced from further away.  

By customizing the bin, I switched out the non-local items the default bin contained to instead choose local sweet corn, new potatoes, bibb lettuce, and kale, but it would have been nice if these were in the default bin.  I would also have liked to see more locally sourced produce among their offerings -- the farmers' markets had a lot more than just cabbage, peppers, squash, cucumbers, corn, potatoes, bibb lettuce, and kale in mid-July.

Having their online interface default to locally-grown items would also help educate people on what's in season locally.  They note in their online descriptions which items are local, but to me it felt as if there was an education component lacking.  If the default setting were the locally-produced items, it would encourage people to at least think about using those items while still allowing the haters out there to choose bell peppers instead of kale.  I suspect a lot of people think of Green Bean Delivery as similar to a CSA -- I know I did -- and it's really not focused as much on sourcing local produce as I'd assumed.  

The prepared-foods items they selected for me were intriguing.  Some vendors -- Fab Ferments, for example -- I'm familiar with, but I'd never tried their Cosmic Curry Sauerkraut.  (Delicious, as is most everything I've tried from this terrific artisan fermented foods maker.)  Others were new to me but also very good -- the Frog Ranch Hot and Spicy Pickles were fantastic, crisp and garlicky, and the Five Star Foodies Artichoke Burgers was something I'd seen around but never tried because while I like artichokes and I like veggie burgers, "artichoke burgers" just never sounded appealing.  But they turned out to be much better than I expected -- I'd definitely try them again.  Green Bean also included Sweet William's Bakery breads, Dean Farm chicken breasts, Seven Hills coffee, Carfagna's vodka pasta sauce (the only thing I haven't gotten around to trying yet, as it's been too hot for pasta), Grateful Grahams Cinnamon Raisin Graham Cracker Bites (get thee behind me, Satan!  These are like crack!), Carriage House Farm honey, Hartzler Family Dairy milk and butter, and Blue Jacket Dairy chevre. All were uniformly excellent products and delivered in excellent condition with perishables well-chilled. Likewise the produce I received was well-packed and fresh and arrived in excellent condition.



1 c green bell peppers in 1/2" dice
1 c red bell peppers in 1/2" dice
1 c fresh jalapenos or other hot pepper (I like to use one of every hot pepper I can find that day) sliced thin
1/2 c celery in 1/2" slices
1/2 c carrot in 1/4" slices
1/2 c onion, chopped
1 c fresh cauliflower florets in 3/4" pieces
1/2 c salt
water to cover  
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped 
1 T dried oregano
1 t red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
1/2 t fresh ground black pepper
1/2 c green olives, sliced in half
1 c white vinegar
1 c olive oil

Place into a bowl the green and red peppers, jalapenos, celery, carrots, onion, and cauliflower.  Stir in salt and fill with enough cold water to cover.  Cover and refrigerate overnight, stirring occasionally.

The next day, drain the salty water and rinse the vegetables.  Do not skip rinsing -- this will be extremely salty otherwise.  In a bowl, mix remaining ingredients and pour over vegetable mixture.  Cover and refrigerate at least two days, stirring occasionally.  Keeps two weeks or more in the fridge. 

Perfect Poached Chicken Every Time

Hands-on prep time: 2 minutes
Total time: a little over an hour

I used to overcook boneless skinless chicken breasts all the time.  I was so concerned about undercooking them that time after time I'd end up drying them out.  Even using a thermometer didn't seem to help.  I was so consistent at it that if I was planning on making a recipe using cooked chicken, I'd either roast up a whole bird the day before or if I was short on time, resort to buying a roasted bird. 

Then I discovered this nifty trick.  It's not ready-to-use in minutes like a traditional poach or saute, but the hands-on time is about 2 minutes and I can now produce perfectly cooked chicken every time.  It's completely foolproof.  If you can boil water, you can make perfect chicken.   

Choose a heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid that is large enough to allow 3 or 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts to lay flat on the bottom without overlapping and deep enough to contain enough liquid to cover the chicken breasts by 2".  I use a deep 4 qt saucepan:

Fill with chicken stock to about 3" -- it'll take about two quarts of stock.

Trim your chicken well of any fat -- poaching with this method won't render the fat off like sauteeing in a very hot pan would.

Bring stock to a full rolling boil and with a pair of tongs slide the chicken breasts into the boiling stock, moving them around slightly as you set them on the bottom of the pan to prevent them from sticking.  Don't put in any more breasts than will fit on the bottom of the pan.  You don't want any overlap, and they shouldn't be crowded.  Return to the boil, cover with a tight-fitting lid and remove from heat.  Allow to sit until the pot has cooled just to the point you can place both palms flat on the sides of the pot for a second (the liquid inside will still be a food safe 140+ degrees).  This will take about an hour or so.  Et Voila!  Your chicken breasts are perfectly poached and ready to be diced for chicken salad or casseroles, sliced for sandwiches or salads, whatever.  Remove breasts from stock.  Look how perfectly cooked they are -- if you click on the photo to get to the larger version, you'll be able to see the meat is still juicy:

Use or wrap and refrigerate immediately. 

Bring the stock back to a boil, then strain (I use a cheesecloth) and freeze for the next time you use this method.  You can reuse the stock nearly indefinitely, adding more as needed to replace what's been lost to evaporation during boiling -- it just keeps getting chickenier -- but be aware of salt levels becoming concentrated.  I taste mine every so often, and once it's gotten to the point I don't want my cooking liquid any saltier, I add only unsalted stock or water to replace evaporation losses.  

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

2012 Eat Local CORV Guide now available

The CORV 2012 Eat Local Food Directory was released today, April 18th, 2012 in the City Beat - the Green Issue. Pick up yours at your favorite City Beat vendor. I got mine at Park + Vine. This year's guide is the 5th annual. Congratulations and thank you to the CORV Local Food Initiative. The directory represents vision and hard work and is an incredible resource for eaters and growers in this region.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

2012 OEFFA Conference

2012 Conference Information
Feb 18 and 19th Granville. OH