Pork Meatball Banh Mi Sandwich

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Ethnic, Food Porn, Recipes

Somehow, in the past couple of years, I developed a love for Vietnamese sandwiches – the Banh Mi at Mi Li Cafe on the North Side are a staple for me whenever I can get up that way. When I saw this recipe, I knew I’d have to try it. Don’t get the wrong idea – this isn’t anything like a traditional banh mi, with it’s pate and two kinds of pork. That sort of banh mi is better left to the professionals. This does have a bit of the vibe, though – because it uses many of the same ingredients and condiments.

Personally, I felt it was a bit too spicy for my mild tastes – but your mileage may vary. Paul absolutely loved it at is, although he did say it set his ass on fire.

Pork Meatball Banh Mi Sandwich

Pork Meatball Banh Mi Sandwich
recipe courtesy Bon Appetit magazine

Hot Chili Mayo:

* 2/3 cup mayonnaise
* 2 green onions, finely chopped
* 1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)

Meatballs:

* 1 pound ground pork
* 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
* 4 garlic cloves, minced
* 3 green onions, finely chopped
* 1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)*
* 1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)
* 1 tablespoon sugar
* 2 teaspoons cornstarch
* 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Sandwiches:

* 2 cups coarsely grated carrots
* 2 cups coarsely grated peeled daikon (Japanese white radish)
* 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
* 1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
* 4 10-inch-long individual baguettes
* Thinly sliced jalapeño chiles
* 16 large fresh cilantro sprigs

Hot Chili Mayo:
Stir all ingredients in small bowl. Season with salt. do ahead Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Meatballs:
Line rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Gently mix all ingredients in large bowl. Using moistened hands and scant tablespoonful for each, roll meat mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Arrange on baking sheet. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Sandwiches:
Toss first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour, tossing occasionally.

Preheat oven to 300°F. Heat sesame oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of meatballs. Sauté until brown and cooked through, turning meatballs often and lowering heat if browning too quickly, about 15 minutes. Transfer meatballs to another rimmed baking sheet. Place in oven. Repeat with remaining meatballs.

Cut each baguette or baguette piece horizontally in half. Pull out enough bread from each bread half to leave 1/2-inch-thick shell. Spread hot chili mayo over each bread shell. Arrange jalapeños, then cilantro, in bottom halves. Fill each with 1/4 of meatballs. Drain pickled vegetables; place atop meatballs. Press on baguette tops.

Galaktoboureko

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Ethnic, Recipes

I’m a real sucker for Greek food. I first had this dish at Anna’s a few years ago, and was spending so much money getting her version that I decided to find a recipe and give making it here at home a try. This recipe is very close to hers.

Galaktoboureko is an interesting dessert – crispy filo above (although my latest attempt was not so crispy), chewy filo below, and in between a slightly grainy (from the semolina) custard. Delicious.

Galaktoboureko

Galaktoboureko
recipe courtesy Allrecipes

6 cups whole milk
1 cup semolina flour
3 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 eggs
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup butter, melted
12 sheets phyllo dough
1 cup water
1 cup white sugar

Pour milk into a large saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium heat. In a medium bowl, whisk together the semolina, cornstarch, 1 cup sugar and salt so there are no cornstarch clumps.

When milk comes to a boil, gradually add the semolina mixture, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and comes to a full boil. Remove from heat, and set aside. Keep warm.

In a large bowl, beat eggs with an electric mixer at high speed. Add 1/2 cup of sugar, and whip until thick and pale, about 10 minutes. Stir in vanilla.

Fold the whipped eggs into the hot semolina mixture. Partially cover the pan, and set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter a 9×13 inch baking dish, and layer 7 sheets of phyllo into the pan, brushing each one with butter as you lay it in. Pour the custard into the pan over the phyllo, and cover with the remaining 5 sheets of phyllo, brushing each sheet with butter as you lay it down.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes in the preheated oven, until the top crust is crisp and the custard filling has set. In a small saucepan, stir together the remaining cup of sugar and water. Bring to a boil. When the Galaktoboureko comes out of the oven, spoon the hot sugar syrup over the top, particularly the edges. Cool completely before cutting and serving. Store in the refrigerator.

Taste & Create: Strapatsada

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Ethnic, Food Blogging Event, Food Porn, Recipes

Taste & Create Logo

I was lucky enough to be paired up with Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska for this month’s edition of Taste and Create, which gave me a ton of choices. I must’ve printed out a dozen or so recipes before deciding on this one. And they all sounded so awesome that the only reason I ultimately decided on this one was because I happened to have all the ingredients for it on hand. We had been toying around with the idea of making something similar for a while, but to actually have a recipe to work from? Bonus!

Strapatsada is a quintessential Greek dish, which is basically just scrambled eggs with tomato and feta. The flavor combination was incredible, and this is one we’ll make over and over again. :) Maybe as early as tomorrow with some lemon potatoes on the side?

Scrambled Eggs and Tomatoes (Strapatsada)

Scrambled Eggs and Tomatoes (Strapatsada)
recipe from Mediterranean Cooking in Alaksa

2 cups diced tomatoes (1 pound tomatoes) or 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup diced yellow onion, 1/8” dice (optional)
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, grated or minced (optional)
1 tsp. sugar (use only if needed)
3 – 4 eggs
1/2 cup crumbled feta (optional)
1 Tbsp. minced fresh mint (or oregano, dill, basil, or parsley) (optional)

If starting with fresh tomatoes and you want to skin them, cut a shallow “X” on the bottom of the tomato. Drop the tomatoes in boiling water for 20 seconds. Remove the tomatoes and drop them in cold water. Drain and slip off the peels. Cut the tomatoes in 1/2” dice.

Peeling Tomatoes: Sauté the onions, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, in olive oil until they soften and start to turn golden. Stir in the diced tomatoes, bring to a boil, turn down the heat to medium, and cook for 15 minutes or until most of the water in the tomatoes has evaporated, stirring regularly to prevent scorching and to break up the tomatoes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 5 minutes. Taste; if the tomatoes are too acidic, add 1 teaspoon sugar.

Whisk together the eggs. Stir eggs, cheese, and mint into the cooked tomatoes, and continue to cook over medium-low heat, stirring regularly, until the eggs are cooked and form small curds; the eggs should be served when they’re still a little juicy. Eggs cook faster at a higher temperature, but taste better if cooked over lower heat for a longer time.

Variations:
- Use grated kefalotyri, kasseri, or parmesan instead of feta.
- Add chopped sausage, smoked pork, or ham.
- Add diced green peppers.
- Substitute puréed roasted red peppers for half the tomatoes.
- Substitute green onions for the yellow onion.
- Add Aleppo or crushed red pepper flakes.
- Add cinnamon stick to the sauce and omit the herbs.
- Add cumin or allspice to the sauce and omit the herbs.
- After mixing in the eggs and tomatoes, quit stirring and let the eggs set, then flip and cook on the second side (as for a frittata).
- When the tomatoes are cooked and saucy, turn the heat to low, make indentations in the sauce, crack an egg into each indentation, cover, and cook just until the egg whites set and the yolks are still juicy.

Ceviche

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Ethnic, Food Porn, Healthy, Recipes

I know, I know…I’ve been neglecting my little blog. But May has been a month of one activity after another with little time to breathe in between, let alone blog. I have so many things to talk to you all about – the farmers markets, the Apron Gala, a bunch of restaurant reviews and events I’ve gone to, but it seems as if each day is over before I have time to get started. One day this week, I’m going to have to set aside a day to do nothing BUT catch up on my writing.

So I wanted to share something that I made recently – after having some really good ceviche at a couple of Mexican restaurants/taco trucks, and having an awesome mixed seafood ceviche at the Slow Food pig roast, I wanted to try my hand at making it here at home. I never realized it was so easy! I got all of the fish/scallops/shrimp I needed at Trader Joe’s, and got the limes and lemons at the Mexican grocery down the street for a song. Simple, delicious, healthy. Perfect summer dish, that’s for sure!

Ceviche

Ceviche
adapted from Simply Recipes

1 lb. bay scallops
1 lb. medium (20-24 ct) raw peeled and deveined shrimp, tail removed and cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 lb. orange roughy or other firm white fish, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, completely deboned
3/4 c. fresh squeezed lime juice
3/4 c. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 jalapeno chile, seeded and finely diced
1 1/2 cup of fresh peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp. salt
Dash of ground oregano
Dash of Tabasco or a few grains of cayenne pepper
Cilantro
Avocado
Tortillas or tortilla chips

In a non-reactive casserole dish, either Pyrex or ceramic, place the seafood, onion, tomatoes, chile, salt, Tabasco and oregano. Cover with lime and lemon juice. Let sit covered in the refrigerator for an hour, and then stir, making sure more of the fish gets exposed to the acidic lime and lemon juices. Let sit for several hours, giving time for the flavors to blend.

Serve with chopped cilantro and slices of avocado with heated tortillas for ceviche tacos or with tortilla chips.

Event: Columbus Taco Truck Tour ’09

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Eating Local, Ethnic, Events

When the folks over at Taco Trucks Columbus announced that there would be a tour of the west side taco trucks, my husband and I were stoked – after all, this was our side of town, these are all trucks that we visit regularly, and how often does it happen that a fun event happens around here? I’ve long been of the opinion that in a lot of ways, the west side is underrated, and that is especially true when you consider the great food these taco trucks are putting out. So if taco trucks are our claim to fame, so be it. :) And that was one of the things that I was most looking forward to happening during this tour – others falling in love with this food and these people as much as I have.

The tour started at the Little Mexico taco truck on Sullivant, where at least 80 people gathered. The organizers were smart, and gave everyone different maps, which would keep the trucks from all getting swamped at one time. My husband, in his infinite wisdom, decided that even though I was driving the route, he wanted to bike. Even joked about, how with the detour (because of the construction on Clime Rd) and all, he’d even get there before me. Fast forward to about an hour later, when everyone else had moved on to their next destination, and I’m sitting there getting sunburned, with the sound of crickets all around. Bethia and I decided to head next door to the Mexican bakery, and we spy Paul pushing his bike down the road. Apparently, the biking contingent had some really fierce headwinds to deal with, which made bicycling west rather unpleasant. So off we go to Las Delicias, his bike in the trunk. ;)

I had a variation of two tacos at almost all of the trucks we tried (with the exception of Los Potosinos, where we ordered a whole pollo al carbon to go). Here are my asada tacos from Las Delicias:

Taco Truck Tour Columbus Spring '09

The day was extremely hot, and both Las Delicias and Los Potosinos had Nieves, a Mexican shaved ice that was quite refreshing. I tried out the coconut at both, with Los Potosinos having a slight edge.

Taco Truck Tour Columbus Spring '09

The biking contingent of the group and most of the organizers seemed to end up at Los Potosinos, where we spent a good amount of time joking around with Lydia, one of the proprietors of the truck. My husband and I are Los Potosinos regulars, and absolutely love Lydia and her husband. The fun really started when she broke out the sombreros.

Taco Truck Tour Columbus Spring '09

Witness the two amigos, aka Jim and Zach, aka Columbus Foodcast.

Taco Truck Tour Columbus Spring '09

I think amigo #3 was too full to stand. ;)

Taco Truck Tour Columbus Spring '09

Even though I didn’t get to make it to all six trucks, I had a wonderful time. Even (thanks to Jim mentioning it), discovered a pink all-seafood truck named (I think) Muy Chula (loosely translated to ‘very cool’ in Spanish) on Sullivant (in a gas station lot between Wilson and Demorest) that has the most wonderful fish/shrimp empanadas ever, and really good and spicy ceviche and octopus.

Looking forward to the taco truck tour of the east side!

Review: Cafe Ephesus

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Ethnic, Restaurant Review

How is it that I could have lived here as long as I have and not noticed the abundance of Middle Eastern eateries that we have here in Columbus? Recently, I became aware of a new restaurant, Cafe Ephesus, that had opened in Dublin, started by a chef who had formerly worked at Cafe Istanbul and Cafe Shish Kebab and wanted a little more creative control.

Located by the Giant Eagle in the shopping center at Perimeter Loop, Cafe Ephesus is fairly non-descript from the outside, easily missed if someone isn’t looking for it. However, once inside, it’s fairly easy to forget about the location and just settle in and enjoy one’s meal.

We were presented with a basket of complementary soft pita, along with some flavorful oil-based dipping sauce.

 Pita Basket from Cafe Ephesus

For his appetizer, my husband chose a bowl of their vegetarian Red Lentil Soup ($4), a hearty mixture of red lentils pureed with various other vegetables and spices, which turned it into a thick, flavorful soup that he thorougly enjoyed.

Red Lentil Soup from Cafe Ephesus

Since we were joined by one of his former co-workers for lunch, we opted to get the Large Meze Platter ($16), which is a selection of several different appetizers that they have on the menu. Although this selection is nearly identical to that offered by similar restaurants, it was executed beautifully. In other restaurants, there were small issues that prevented us from thoroughly enjoying every item, but that was not the case here – everything was done exactly as it should have been. The baba ganoush was exceptionally good.

Large Meze Platter from Cafe Ephesus

Since I opted to go with the lunch special ($8 for 3 courses), I had to choose a separate appetizer, and I went with the soslu patlican since it is one of my favorites. The chunks of eggplant, sauteed and then tossed with a tomato sauce, was extremely delicious.

Soslu Patlican from Cafe Ephesus

For my entree, I chose the Chicken Kebabs, mainly because I wanted to compare it with kebabs I had elsewhere. Their version was especially tender and juicy, flavorful and served without all the extraneous grilled vegetables that detract from the dish elsewhere. Instead, one gets a small “salad” that is dressed nicely and paired beautifully.

Chicken Kebabs from Cafe Ephesus

My husband went with the Iskender Kebab platter ($13), which is garlic pita covered with a mound of doner kebab (think gyros, only grilled after it’s sliced), topped with a tomato sauce redolent with Middle Easter spices, and served with yogurt on the side. He said it beat the Iskender kebab from the others hands down, and was easily one of his favorite dishes anywhere. In his mind, this restaurant requires a return trip for this dish alone.

Iskender Kebabs from Cafe Ephesus

Service was very friendly, with our needs attended to before we even a had a chance to realize that we needed anything. We left with a good feeling, looking forward to our next trip. While it is a bit of out of the way, it’s an excellent choice for those who live or work in Dublin, and a wonderful addition to the neighborhood.

If you’d like to go: Cafe Ephesus, 6720 Perimeter Loop Road, Dublin, 614.798.8091

Cafe Ephesus on Urbanspoon

Review: Lavash Cafe

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Ethnic, Food Porn, Restaurant Review

By now (based on how many reviews I’ve done for restaurants in this particular vein), it should be readily apparent that I’m a sucker for good Mediterranean/Middle Eastern Cuisine. I hadn’t been introduced to it until almost a decade ago, when I visited a (now gone) Firdous location in Upper Arlington that had, in my opinion, the best schwarma and hummus platter that money could buy. I was absolutely crestfallen when they closed up shop.

Imagine my delight when I found out that Firdous’ former owner, Nasir Latif, had opened up a new venture called Lavash Cafe, a fast casual (think in the realm of Aladdin’s, but locally owned) restaurant smack dab right there in Clintonville. Not only would I get the opportunity to taste my favorites once again, but another restaurant in a place that’s sorely hurting for restaurants? There are no losers in this equation.

Lavash Cafe Sign (Clintonville, OH)

The space is very wide open and well-decorated, with great use of textures and fabrics (especially lining the one wall). Upon entering, you’re greeted with the smiling faces of the employees, an overhead menu board, and a two huge display cases – one of a dozen or more types of Middle Eastern pastries, another with kebabs and keftas just waiting to be grilled to order. It took us a few minutes of craning our necks to decide, but ultimately we decided to get several different dishes to try as much as possible, leftovers be damned.

We started with an order of Kibbeh ($2.50), which is a cracked bulghur wheat and meat shell surrounding nicely seasoned meat. This is as good as any variation on this dish I’ve tried, and the homemade lebneh (very thick strained plain yogurt) served with it was a nice touch.

Kibbeh from Lavash Cafe (Clintonville, OH)

Wanting to have an opportunity to try as many of their appetizers as possible, we ordered the Lavash Combo ($8.25), which pairs their hummus, tabouleh, falafel and stuffed grape leaves on a single plate. Their hummus is smooth and flavorful, and just as I remembered. The falafel are exceptional – on my next visit, I’ll be ordering them for sure (and at 6 for $2.50, it’s quite the deal). I was indifferent about the tabouleh and stuffed grape leaves (personal preference – I prefer kisir to tabouleh because I like more wheat than parsley, and I prefer my grape leaves to be more sweet than these were), but my husband who is a purist said that both were quite excellent and a good interpretation of a classic dish.

Lavash Sampler from Lavash Cafe (Clintonville, OH)

Of course, a huge basket of fluffy pita was provided, and refilled quickly and with friendly service when we ran low.

Basket of Pita from Lavash Cafe (Clintonville, OH)

The Baba Ganoush ($3.50) was out of this world – nice and smoky in flavor, and with a superb smooth texture and wonderful mouth feel, we scooped this up quickly and happily and quickly declared it the best we’ve had so far in Columbus.

Baba Ganoush from Lavash Cafe (Clintonville, OH)

I’m not one to usually get beverages with my meals (I’m almost exclusively a water drinker), but a smoothie sounded too good to pass up. This Strawberry Smoothie ($3.85) was a bit smaller than I expected, but refreshing nonetheless.

Strawberry Smoothie from Lavash Cafe (Clintonville, OH)

One of the great things about Lavash Cafe is that they allow you to modify entrees slightly to suit your needs. They let me add lamb and chicken (for an additional $2.50) to an otherwise vegetarian dish. Their Mojadara ($7.25), aka lentil rice, had spot on flavor and texture, and was even better than most I’ve had with the addition of wonderful caramelized onions on top. It was served with a Lavash salad, which is a refreshing combination of cucumbers and tomatoes in a tahini dressing. The addition of the meat was just what this dish needed. The lamb was mildly spiced, whereas the chicken was a little more in your face, but in a good way (I think I detected ras el hanout as the spice blend, but I’m not positive). My only complaint is that the chicken was a bit on the dry side.

Lentil Rice from Lavash Cafe (Clintonville, OH)

My husband went with the Chicken Schwarma platter ($8.50), which paired the same type of chicken I had added to my dish with a serving of saffron rice. We’re not exactly sure what kind of sauce it was paired with, but it complemented it nicely.

Chicken Schwarma and Saffron Rice from Lavash Cafe (Clintonville, OH)

His entree also came with a side salad, nice and fresh and chock full of crunchy vegetables.

Salad from Lavash Cafe (Clintonville, OH)

We love the pastries, so we got a few to take with us – pictured here ($1.50 each) are the bassma, cashew finger, and one which we didn’t get the name of, but is basically a honey soaked cake.

Desserts from Lavash Cafe (Clintonville, OH)

We’ll definitely be back – Lavash Cafe fills many voids for us: the return of fresh and fast Mediterranean, a place to eat when we’re hanging out in Clintonville, and lots of friendly faces. They haven’t been open long, but I’m predicting that precisely because they do what they do so well, they’ll be one of the few success stories that manage to perservere despite this being a really tough time to open a new restaurant.

If you’d like to go: Lavash Cafe, 2985 N. High Street, Clintonville, 614.263.7777

Lavash Cafe on Urbanspoon

Review: Los Galapagos

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Ethnic, Food Porn, Restaurant Review

We’re always on the lookout for reasonably priced ethnic “blink and you’ll miss them” restaurants, so we were surprised to find out that we had one such gem right here on the West Side of Columbus.

Los Galapagos

Located well off the beaten path (if you’re coming from downtown head down West Broad until you see the Home Depot right past 270, and then hang a left there at Grener Road and it’s about a half mile down on your left side), it’s hard to discern that it’s little more than a Latino supermarket from the outside. But inside, most of the space is occupied by tables, with grocery items being only a small part of this operation. The cuisine at Los Galapagos is primarily Ecuadorian, and as far as I know, is the only one of its kind in Central Ohio.

There were so many things to choose from, we had a hard time deciding. Take a gander at the menu board and you’ll see what we mean:

Los Galapagos Menu Board

And if that wasn’t enough to choose from, there’s another one just as long:

Los Galapagos Menu Board

We knew for sure that we wanted empanadas ($1 each), which were not exactly what we expected, but good nonetheless. Cheese empanadas I have had in the past have been filled with melty cheese that oozes out when you bite into it, but with this one the cheese seems to be attached to the dough itself, causing it to puff out and the center to be sort of empty.

Cheese Empanadas at Los Galapagos

We filled the center a little bit with some of the spicy sauce on the table – not quite a salsa, nor a chutney, it seemed to be sort of a combination of both. The spice and heat complemented the cheesy dough well, though – we could have easily munched on these all afternoon. And at that price? Why the heck not?

lSpicy Sauce at Los Galapagos

We also decided to share a plate of maduros ($3), which are ripe plantains fried until caramelized. These were absolutely amazing, much better than the other restaurants in town who make these, simply because they were sweet but not greasy. Sprinkled with a little bit of salt to contrast with the sweetness of the fruit, these were perfection on a plate.

Maduros at Los Galapagos

It took a little bit longer to decide on an entree, which I’m sure drove our poor waiter nuts. He was kind, attentive, and quite forgiving of our butchering of the Spanish language when trying to order. I finally decided on the Churasco ($12), a huge platter with a nicely seasoned flank (or perhaps skirt?) steak, saucy and flavorful sauteed onions, peppers and tomatoes, hand-cut french fries, white rice, salad and avocado, all topped with 2 fried eggs. The portion size was way more than I could ever imagine eating in one sitting. The food? Absolutely fantastic. I’m a sucker for just about anything topped with fried eggs, and this was no exception. I’d order this again in a heartbeat.

Churasco Platter at Los Galapagos

My husband went with the Pescado Frito ($12), lightly fried tilapia filets (you can also choose to have it served to you as the whole fish with head and tail attached, if that’s your thing) that are as good as any we’ve ever had locally. Served with rice, lime, tostones, and avocado salad, it was a completely satisfying meal at a price that can’t be beat.

Fried Tilapia at Los Galapagos

We liked Los Galapagos so much, we plan on going back regularly to try to work our way through the entire menu. Bear in mind the limited hours if you decide to visit – they’re closed on Tuesdays and only open until 8:30PM the rest of the nights. The West Side is hurting badly for good restaurants, and I’m thrilled to have found one so close to home. It’s definitely worth the trip, no matter where you live in the area. We got out of there, full beyond the telling of it, for about $35.

If you’d like to go: Los Galapagos, 378 S. Grener Ave, Columbus (West Side), 614.878.7770

Los Jalabagos on Urbanspoon

Queen City Edition: Oleg’s Tavern

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Ethnic, Restaurant Review, Travel

A few weeks ago, Paul and I made our semi-annual trip to Jungle Jim’s, that wonderful foodie destination that can beckon me to spend my whole month’s grocery budget in one fell swoop. We’ve taken to trying new restaurants in the Cincinnati area while down there, and this time was no exception.

However, what did make this trip different is that this year I own an iPhone. And the iPhone has such wonderful applications as Yelp and Urbanspoon, which make finding a restaurant close to my destination a breeze. When I saw a German restaurant listed, I knew we had to try it.

Oleg’s Tavern is a small family run restaurant set in a strip mall in a suburb north of Cincinnati proper, run by a very friendly Ukrainian couple named Oleg and Olena. When I say family run, I mean family run – Oleg mans the kitchen while Olena handles hostessing and waitressing duties. Their two daughters also pitch in to help in various ways as well.

The menu is mostly German (with a few other European specialties thrown in here and there), chock full of such regional delicacies as Goetta (think scrapple, but made with oats instead of corn) and such German/Austrian dishes such as roladen, sausages, pork and sauerkraut, etc.

We started with a bowl of German Potato soup ($5.25), which was thick and hearty and smoky with bits of sausage in it. A really satisfying start to what promised to be a big meal.

German Potato Soup from Oleg's Tavern

We also shared a side as an appetizer, one of their Potato Pancakes with Applesauce ($1.99), which was just like Oma used to make, perfectly golden and crispy on the outside.

Potato Pancake and Apple Sauce from Oleg's Tavern

Paul went with an entree of braised pork and sauerkraut ($14.95), which paired tender pork with an Austrian-style kraut (more sweet than sour, with chunks of apple and seasoned with paprika) and a side of spaetzle in place of potatoes. While he was thrilled with the pork and the spaetzle, he was expecting a more traditional style sauerkraut and found the sweet kraut a bit offputting. This is purely a matter of personal taste: I, who am just as fond of sweet kraut as I am of sour, thought it was a great example of the dish.

Braised Pork and Sauerkraut from Oleg's Tavern

He did, however, really like the Hot German Potato Salad ($2.99), which consisted of chunks of potato covered in a thick and slightly sweet bacon dressing.

Hot German Potato Salad from Oleg's Tavern

I went with the Austrian Meatloaf ($13.95 for a dinner entree), which was a multiple-meat (I want to say beef, pork and veal – although it may be just beef and pork), heavy with mushrooms, very light textured meatloaf that is thinly sliced and served with a delicious mushroom gravy. I also chose spaetzle and sauerkraut, and both paired wonderfully with my choice of meat.

Austrian Meatloaf from Oleg's Tavern

The best part about eating in a place like this is that you get to interact with the people who make and serve your food. Since this was during the mid-afternoon slow period, we had an opportunity to talk to both Oleg and Olena for quite a while. I wondered aloud how it came to be that a Ukrainian man would be so good at cooking German food. It turns out he trained in Germany, which explains the authenticity and skill with which the food is prepared. Olena, his wife, also explained that they will make special off-menu dishes (including Ukrainian/Russian classics) as a special order given enough notice in advance. Good thing to remember.

Needless to say, if we lived in Cincinnati, we’d be regulars at this comfy, casual place. Instead, we’ll have to settle on making sure we visit when we’re in the area. To someone with a German background who misses her grandmother’s cooking, it’s the closest I’ve come in restaurant form in quite a while.

By the way, it wasn’t until I was doing this review that I noticed that all of their food is organic/natural. Nice touch that makes me love them even more.

If you’d like to go: Oleg’s Tavern, 11929 Montgomery Road, Cincinnati, OH 45249, 513.774.0700

Oleg's Tavern on Urbanspoon

Pork and Sauerkraut

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Ethnic, Food Blogging Event, Food Porn, Recipes

cookingwithlove

When I first met my husband, over a dozen years ago – I couldn’t stand sauerkraut. What kind of German was I? I mean, if he rinsed it a lot, stuck some apples and sweet stuff in there, I could tolerate it. But I didn’t like it. But he loved it so much, that he made it all the time. Over the years, he weaned me onto the stronger stuff. Now? I can’t get enough sauerkraut. I’ve had it in one form or another almost every day this week. Full strength. And I’m loving every second of it. But when I think of my husband, and the love we have for each other, pork and sauerkraut is the tie that binds. :) It’s the one dish that we’ve continued to make throughout our relationship. And now? It’s a tradition. I’m submitting this to be part of the Cooking with Love blogging event.

Pork and Sauerkraut

Pork and Sauerkraut

Whole pork loin (about 7 lbs)
6 lbs. sauerkraut

Preheat oven to 250F. In a huge Dutch oven (or covered roasting pan), place one whole pork loin (about 7 lbs – cut into smaller roasts if necessary to fit) and cover with 6 lbs. of sauerkraut. Cook for 10-12 hours (don’t peek!). Break apart roast into smaller chunks and serve with sauerkraut.