Thursday, March 24, 2011


Though it has been around the corner for the last two years we’ve lived in our apartment, I’ve never set foot in Izzy’s. David would bring the option up, and I would immediately use my marriage veto powers.

To understand why, I have to explain about a job I had in my late teen years at a nursing home. A Jewish nursing home. And not just any Jewish nursing home, an Orthodox one.

I worked in the dietary department, and my duties consisted of assembling trays of food, bringing the carts filled with trays to the assorted dining rooms, retrieving the carts once the meal was over, and working with the other staff in washing all the dirty dishes in the industrial washing machines.

The home took the Orthodox part of their jobs very seriously. We kept full kosher, with two sets of dishes and entirely separate kitchens and dishwashers. We had a Rabbi on standby in case a meat fork went through the dairy dishwasher and unkoshered the whole thing. And don’t even get me started on cleaning the kitchens for Passover. Ever been tasked with cleaning an industrial oven with a toothbrush and razorblades? I have.

It was an interesting peek into another religion’s customs, and not a bad place for a college kid to work. My fellow staff were nice, and the management was extremely tolerant of my hair color, which at that point in my life, was pink and blue.

But it was the cow tongue that eventually got to me.

In additional to keeping kosher, we also served a lot of traditional food. Cow tongue day was the worst for me, with entire trays of half and whole tongues swimming in sauce waiting to be plated. I could see the taste buds, I explained to David.

Once I left the home for a more grown up job, I decided I never wanted to see another gefilte fish or matzo ball again.

I’ve grown a lot since college, and though my hair still isn’t its natural color, I’d probably be a lot less bothered by the cow tongue nowadays. Looking over Izzy’s menu of sandwiches, I realized that continuing to avoid an entire restaurant just because of a job in my past was pretty silly.

David and I have since tried 6 of Izzy’s menu items, including the tasty potato pancake served with every sandwich.

I chose to construct my own sandwich of three meats ($7.70) with pastrami, corned beef, and roast beef. I thought the corned and roast beef were good, but my favorite was by far the flavorful pastrami.

David chose to get the variety plate, choosing egg salad, chopped liver, potato salad and cole slaw. ($7.95)

While we were at Izzy’s I saw that for a limited time, Izzy’s is featuring the goetta Reuben ($7.95), which I decided I absolutely had to order. A little embarrassed to order a ton of sandwiches for the two of us, and since I also wanted to try their salami, we returned the next day.

We chose the salami combo ($7.70), the goetta Reuben, and the Mex' sandwich (6.95).

Corned beef, sweet yellow onion, jalapeno peppers, melted swiss and chipotle sauce

Salami, cream cheese, pesto, red onion and tomato

My favorite sandwiches that we ordered were the goetta Reuben and the 3 meat sandwich. I appreciated the simplicity of the three meats (especially the pastrami), and the flavors of the goetta Reuben, and I’ll be going back to get another before they stop making it.

David loved the salami combo—he particularly liked how the salami was broiled before it was put on the sandwich. Also, he says, “I’m a sucker for anything with cream cheese on it.”

I definitely feel silly for waiting so long to visit. David and I both agree we like the variety of sandwiches; you can order traditional deli sandwiches or one of their specialties, which have varied and creative ingredients.

It’s easy to forget that Izzy’s is a Cincinnati restaurant, much like Skyline, LaRosa's, or Graeter’s. For some reason it doesn’t seem to get as much press—though it definitely should. I know I am definitely happy to have pastrami within a block's reach.

Izzy's on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

It's a Miracle (berry)!

David and I opened the little blister packet of pills and each removed one small, pink dot from the pack. Nodding to each other, we each placed one on our tongues and let them dissolve as instructed.

"Do you think it's working?" I asked.
"Only one way to find out." David replied.

So we turned to the drinks sitting in front of us, and our trip began.

Now, I know what you may be thinking. But before you go all D.A.R.E. on us, the tablets we were trying are very, very legal. Made from the extract of the Synsepalum dulcificum berry from West Africa, these tablets have a temporary, fascinating effect. We tried the actual berries at a friend's, and the effect was so interesting, we wanted to see if the tablets would work in a similar way.

One order from thinkgeek later, and we had a miracle berry tablets. The whole schtick is this: the berry changes your sense of taste so that sour things taste sweet by way of a glycoprotein molecule it contains. Unsweetened, tangy Greek yogurt tastes like cool whip, out of season strawberries taste like they were rolled in sugar, lemons taste like lemonade. Lime juice and tequila taste almost cloyingly sweet, and normally undrinkable cranberry juice tastes like it's had a cup of sugar added to it. Rumor has it that wine will taste like vinegar under the berry’s effects, but the Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, and rose that we tried all tasted extremely sweet and drinkable, like a Riesling or ice wine.

Though they don't work for everyone, one tablet will last about 1 hour. David and I decided to have our own little “flavor tripping” party, and created a menu the would highlight the effects of the berries.

For the drinks, we stuck with tequila and fresh squeezed lime, and cranberry juice (the kind in the organic section with no added sugar) and vodka. Pre berry, the drinks were intolerably sour. Post berry, the effect was amazing. Sweet and drinkable.

For the first course, we made a granita with lemon juice, without adding the sugar that is traditional to a granita. This dish is super easy to prepare and pretty hands off.

Step 1. Buy or squeeze lemon juice.
Step 2. Pour into shallow dish.
Step 3: Freeze for about an hour.
Step 4. Take a fork and break up the ice, then put back in the freezer.
Step 5. Continue to break up the ice until you have a product about the consistency of shaved ice. You're done!

For the main course, we decided on buffalo chicken lettuce wraps with homemade Gorgonzola cheese dressing.

Frank wasn't kidding around. This stuff is H to the O to the T

We also tried some Greek yogurt and strawberries, which tasted fantastic. We recommend trying this for dessert, as we noticed the fatty yogurt made the effects wear off a little faster.

After about two hours of the berry’s effects, David and I found that we were a little fatigued with all the sweetness, and ready for things to go back to normal. Our fantastic flavor adventure had come to an end, and I promptly started digging around in the fridge for a nice, high IBU IPA.