Sunday, January 23, 2000

Our cuisine gets helping of accolades




BY JIM KNIPPENBERG
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Just guessing, but people milling around magazine racks must think Cincinnatians do nothing but eat. Say, pig out on chili and pumpkin-truffle flan, then waddle to the deli to pick up tomorrow's lunch.

        Witness this crop of local food gone national ...

        BON APPETIT: The Maisonette piece in the February Bon Appetit isn't a big spread, but it's flattering as all get out.

        Referring here to Tanya Wenman Steel's Restaurant Reporter column, wherein she calls the place the grand dame of Cincinnati with “a timeless elegance.”

        She attributes that to “ongoing family ownership ... managing partners Nat and Michael E. Comisar are the third generation to run the restaurant, ... a loyal staff ... and only four chefs in its half-century of existence.”

        Steel zeros in on a few Jean-Robert de Cavel specialties: Foie gras with cranberries and hazelnuts, chestnut polenta, scallops in vinegar cream, and the ever popular lobster bisque that has been on the menu forever.

        Steel acknowledges that the “Maisonette will never be accused of being on the cutting edge,” but reminds “when you're on the edge, you're liable to fall off.”

        Oh yeah, look closely at the picture: You'll see maitre 'd Richard Brown sitting at one of the tables. A startling sight, that, since Brown has not been seen sitting down for at least 30 years.

        GOOD HOUSEKEEPING: Folks who eat a little lower on the hog can find another tasty number in the February issue of Good Housekeeping. That would be Cincinnati chili, featured in food editor Susan Westmoreland's “One Pot Wonders” — 12 regional dishes that take little time and one pot.

        No telling how close her version is to the real thing: She has the garlic, cinnamon and allspice everyone can easily taste, but not the hunk of chocolate they supposedly throw in.

        Her intro calls it a “delicious spicy ground-meat mixture,” then goes on to explain the concept of a 5-way.

        MIDWEST LIVING: Something on the simple side? Try the February Midwest Living's recipe for Andy Furman's beef sandwich.

        Furman, WLW radio mouth and sometimes host at Izzy's on Main, loves his roast beef on pumpernickel, dripping with cole slaw and herb-pepper seasoning so much that it was added to the menu and named after him.

        Living has info on how to construct it and then the bad news: 602 calories with 37 grams of fat. Which is why it tastes so good.

        PRICEY SONGS: Well at last. The songs are sung, the money's counted and it's a record: $11,045.54.

        That from Peter Robinson, public relations director at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, where the cast of Christmas Carol has made it a tradition to hang around the lobby singing carols and passing the hat after the show.

        What a strange sight it is. Like Joneal Joplin, who just spent two hours being the meanest man in the world as Scrooge, belting out “O Holy Night.” Or Greg Procaccino, who has just been clanking around in chains and ghastly makeup as Marley, letting fly a “Silent Night.”

        Carol audiences who hang around the lobby for coffee and dessert love seeing the stars up close and getting a free concert. Makes them generous, too. This year's take was almost $3,000 more than the previous record of $8,389.

        Money is divided between AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati and Equity Cares, Broadway Fights AIDS.

        Knip's Eye View appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Have an item to report? Call Jim Knippenberg at 768-8513; fax: 768-8330.