Originally a graphic designer by profession, Tsitouris began her blog Epi-Ventures in 2010 to chronicle the trials and tribulations of life as a part-time student at Midwest Culinary Institute. An internship at Nectar and a new job writing advertising copy followed. In 2011 she was hired to coauthor a cookbook with Chef Todd Kelly of Orchids. The cookbook, Todd Kelly’s Orchids at Palm Court, is available at Joseph-Beth Booksellers and the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza.
Orchids at Palm Court Unsurpassed in decadence and luxury, Chef Todd Kelly’s flavor combinations often throw me into a red hot tizzy: duck with ginger-carrot puree, red snapper with apple tzatziki, scallops with sweet corn and pork bellies. Brilliant in flavor, genius in presentation, and nothing short of extravagant. 35 W. Fifth St., downtown, (513) 421-9100, orchidsatpalmcourt.com
Nicola’s I’m perfectly willing to keep assaulting my waistline and my bank account to get some more of what Nicola’s got—whether that’s perfectly cooked lamb, pillow-soft gnudi, or some of that shimmering carnaroli risotto. When it comes to sophisticated Italian cuisine, I’ve never seen Chef Joel Molloy miss his mark. [Editor’s Note: Molloy moved to Chicago—and a job at Alinea—in January] 1420 Sycamore St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 721-6200, nicolasrestaurant.com
Pho Lang Thang Six bucks doesn’t get you much unless you’re at Pho Lang Thang at Findlay Market where you can buy a straight-up religious experience. Sink into the bánh mì thit nuong (grilled lemongrass-marinated meat atop a French baguette with pâté and garlic mayo) and find yourself a little closer to spiritual enlightenment. 114 W. Elder St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 376-9177
Nectar No fuss. No pretension. Chef Julie Francis is proof that when you’re bold enough to get out of the way of cooking, quality ingredients speak for themselves. Her commitment to using what’s local and fresh means a constantly rotating menu built entirely around the good stuff: grass-fed beef, locally raised chicken, and produce just plucked from the farm. 1000 Delta Ave., Mt. Lookout, (513) 929-0525, dineatnectar.com
Terry’s Turf Club For my last meal, save the five-star food and give me this towering, dense, sloppy mess of a burger with the most decadent collection of gourmet ingredients I’ve ever known. Go ahead, make me stand in line for two hours and bump my seat for the duration of my meal. Just don’t make me live without it. 4618 Eastern Ave., Linwood, (513) 533-4222
Jean-Robert’s Table From the chef who taught Cincinnati how to eat well comes a place with an insanely cool vibe and a swoon-worthy French bistro menu. Put me in the corner with the sole, truffle beurre blanc, and a bottle of rouge and you won’t hear a peep out of me all night…unless I’m asking for more. 713 Vine St., downtown, (513) 621-4777, jrtable.com
Annabel’s The best Sunday mornings are the ones with half-brushed hair, steaming coffee, and the most carefully cooked and presented breakfast in town. I’m talking about the breakfast sandwich—a piping hot packet of nirvana with eggs, bacon, cheese, and the tastiest roasted tomato sauce I’ve ever licked off a plate. 1004 Delta Ave., Mt. Lookout, (513) 417-8669
Local 127 You may be reading mac-and-cheese, chicken, and Waldorf salad on the menu but there’s a good chance this stuff far surpasses the picnic food you’ve come to know. Underlying refinement is apparent the moment your fork meets your mouth—so just roll with it and plan to come back soon. 413 Vine St., downtown, (513) 721-1345, mylocal127.com
Via Vite Bliss is scoring a bar stool during happy hour and getting cozy with the best Bolognese in town. Nicola’s makes the same dish (using butter instead of cream) but this version is richer-tasting and a lot cheaper. Plus, you get to watch the cooks in action while you eat…and Chef Pietoso is free dessert. 520 Vine St., downtown, (513) 721-8483, viaviterestaurant.com
20 Brix This joint is swimming upstream in a sea of competitors with flashier menus and more exotic ingredients, but I think 20 Brix deserves more face time. I don’t know if it’s the amped up wine menu or the pared down comfort food (can you say shrimp and grits?), but I’m feelin’ the love for Chef Paul Barraco and his neighborhood brand of All- American cooking. 101 Main St., Milford, (513) 831-2749, 20brix.com
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