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January 2009 | Taste: Dayton food and restaurants
 

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January 2009

Restaurants decide to extend Restaurant Week due to snowstorm

Nearly all of the Dayton-area restaurants participating in Winter Restaurant Week will extend the offer of a special three-course meal for $20.09 through next week because of the snowstorm.

That’s’ the word this morning, Jan. 28, from Amy Zahora, executive director of the Miami Valley Restaurant Association.

Zahora is still waiting to hear back from a couple of restaurants, but as of this morning, all but three of the 57 restaurants said they’ll repeat the promotion from Feb. 1 to Feb. 6. The three that have decided not to extend the offer are Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, The Chimney’s and the Oakwood Club.

The extension “will give everyone a chance to come out and dine,” Zahora said.

A handful of restaurants will be offering slightly different menus than they’re offering this week, she said.

At least three restaurants — C’est Tout, Christopher’s and Sweeney’s — will extend the offer through Saturday, Feb. 7. Zahora said.

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Restaurants: Let us know if you’re open today despite snowstorm

Restaurant owners and managers: Let us know if you are open or closed today, Jan. 28, and if you are open despite the snowstorm, let us know your hours, by clicking on “Post Your Comment.”

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Brown Street Panera offers ‘free’ coffee, breakfast items Wednesday morning

If you’re looking for Restaurant Week reviews or to post your own, click here.

The Panera Bread at 1203 Brown St. near the University of Dayton campus is hosting a kick-off event to introduce two new blends of coffee Wednesday morning, Jan. 28, from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.

A Panera email states that, “Free samples of the new coffee blends and other breakfast menu items will be offered to customers with a dollar donation encouraged to support their Operation DoughNation Partner, Children’s Hunger Alliance.”

So whether the samples are “free” or not apparently is up to you.

Here’s more detail from Panera spokeswoman Angela Vallera:

On Wednesday, January 28, Dayton area Panera Bread bakery-cafes are inviting customers to celebrate Panera’s new breakfast experience by sharing free cups of its new Light and Dark Roast coffees. Panera Bread will also be inviting customers to donate a dollar to help support its Operation DoughNation program. Dayton bakery-cafes will join the celebration by matching customer donations, up to $250.00 per bakery-cafĂ©, made on that day. Donations from Dayton area Panera Bread bakery-cafes will support the Children’s Hunger Alliance.

So if you can make it through the snow, coffee samples await.

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China Cottage ushers in the new year in style with banquet for 180

click here to view some amazing photos of this event, courtesy of my DDN colleague Alexis Larsen.

Tiger Wang throws one heck of a new year’s bash.

The owner of the local China Cottage restaurants may have singlehandedly resurrected the concept of the Chinese New Year’s celebration in the Miami Valley on Monday night, Jan. 26, at his Far Hills Avenue restaurant in Washington Twp. The event is scheduled again for tonight, and if you have reservations, I highly recommend braving the snow if at all feasible. The effort will be rewarded.

Actually, Wang achieved something extraordinary before the first course was served, before the first traditional Chinese song was performed. He sold out two consecutive nights of his Chinese New Year celebration, taking 200 reservations at $50 per person each night (he had some cancellations on the first night), smack dab in the middle of Winter Restaurant Week when diners at 57 other restaurants were eating a three-course meal for $20.09.

That is a testament to many things: Wang’s stature as a chef and restaurant owner, the public’s thirst for knowledge about Chinese culture in the wake of the Beijing Olympics, and an indication that in the face of an economic slump, the public still wants to have a great time, and while they may cut back in some areas, food and dining remain top priorities. And it may signal that Chinese New Year celebrations, after a decade or so of dormancy, are back. Cheers to that!

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Ohio’s only 4-star restaurant to close Feb. 28

Strangeness in Cincinnati: On the heels of the Mobil Dining Guide announcement that Jean-Robert at Pigall’s would retain its four-star status — making it Ohio’s only four-star restaurant — Jean-Robert at Pigall’s owners have announced they will close the restaurant on Feb. 28.

Co-owner Martin Wade told the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Polly Campbell that he and his wife Marilyn Wade “haven’t made a penny” from the restaurant since it opened eight years ago. “It’s a beautiful place, but in good conscience, I couldn’t keep it open,” Wade told the newspaper.

Just after the four-star announcement. Bizarre.

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Restaurants, diners gear up for Restaurant Week

The Winter Restaurant Week promotion to be held Jan. 25-30 has attracted a record number of restaurants.

At least 57 eateries — up from 39 last winter — will offer the special meals as part of the Miami Valley Restaurant Association’s twice-a-year special deal for diners, who can enjoy a three-course meal for $20.09.

The economic slump likely played a role in boosting the number of restaurants choosing to participate this winter, said Amy Zahora, executive director of the restaurant association. “Restaurants know they’ll be able to reach some new customers,” Zahora said.

The Restaurant Week promotion has proven increasingly popular with diners, some of whom map out a full six-day plan of attack to take advantage of the bargain-priced meals. Restaurant owners say reservations are a must, and they strongly recommend calling to check on availability and hours. Many restaurants are closed Sunday or Monday — or in some cases, closed both days — so calling ahead will avoid disappointment. Tax, tip and beverages are not included in the $20.09 price.

Restaurants donate $1 for each Restaurant Week meal to local charities; this year’s beneficiaries are SICSA and Hannah’s Treasure Closet.

Click on this Miami Valley Restaurant Association site to view menus of what restaurants are offering for Restaurant Week. Some fun stuff on that menu list.

— To write your own review of Restaurant Week meals and to read what others had to say about their restaurant experiences, go to www.daytondailynews.com/Taste.

Here’s the list of participating restaurants and their phone numbers:

Amber Rose Restaurant, (937) 228-2511

Amelia’s Bistro, (937) 310-3040

Bahn Mai Thai Cafe, (937) 435-0624

Barleycorn’s, (937) 848-6999

Bar Louie, (937) 427-3900

Barbie’s Bistro, (937) 262-7300

Bella Vino Wine Merchant & Bar, (937) 748-3807

Benham’s Restaurant & Catering, (937) 228-7041

Boosalis Bakery, (937) 424-0636

Brixx Ice Company, (937) 222-2257

Buckhorn Tavern, (937) 890-3261

Bullwinkle’s Top Hat Bistro, (937) 859-7677

C’est Tout, (937) 298-0022

Cafe Boulevard, (937) 824-2722

Caffe Anticoli, (937) 890-0300

The Caroline, (937) 552-7676

Carvers Steaks & Chops, (937) 433-7099

Cena Mediterranean Steakhouse, (937) 438-2362

Chappy’s Tap Room & Grille, (937) 299-7427

Chin’s Ginger Grill, (937) 667-6664

Chop House, (937) 291-1661

Christopher’s, (937) 299-0089

CoCo’s Bistro, (937) 228-2626

Dayton Racquet Club, (937) 224-4381

The Dock, (937) 864-5011

El Meson, (937) 859-8229

Fairlawn Steak House (Greenville), (937) 548-2262

Figlio, (937) 534-0494

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, (937) 320-9548

Franco’s Ristorante, (937) 222-0204

Grub Steak, (937) 276-4193

J. Alexanders, (937) 435-4441

Jay’s Restaurant, (937) 222-2892

Joe Kiss’ Hickory BarBCue,

Kohinoor Palace, (937) 838-3767

L’Auberge, (937) 299-5536

La Piazza, (937) 339-5553

Madison’s Bistro, (937) 435-7080

Mamma DiSalvo’s Ristorante,

McCormick & Schmick’s, (937) 431-9200

Meadowlark, (937) 434-4750

Melting Pot, (937) 567-8888

Michael Anthony’s at The Inn at Versailles,

Oakwood Club, (937) 293-6973

Pacchia, (937) 341-5050

Pasha Grill, (937) 429-9000

Roush’s Restaurant, (937) 878-3611

Rudy’s Churrascaria, (937) 353-7375

Rue Dumaine, (937) 610-1061

Savona, (937) 610-9835

Sweeney’s Seafood House, (937) 291-3474

TJ Chumps, (937) 859-4000

Thai 9, (937) 222-3227

Wellington Grille, (937) 426-4600

The Winds, (937) 767-1144

Source: The Miami Valley Restaurant Association

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Brown Street restaurant closes

DAYTON — The Moe’s Southwest Grill at 1120 Brown St. near the University of Dayton campus has closed.

Lauren McGowen, public relations manager for the parent company of the Moe’s Southwest Grill restaurant chain, said in an email that local owner Jason Godfrey “has closed the location at 1120 Brown Street to focus his efforts on his other location at 2495 Commons Blvd. in Beavercreek.”

A reader noted that a sign on the restaurant’s door says the location is “temporarily” closed, and its phone number is also “temporarily disconnected,” but there appears to be no plan to reopen as Moe’s.

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Mobil Guide: Only one 4-star restaurant in Ohio

The Mobil Guide announced its 51st Annual List of Mobil Four- and Five-Star Award Winners today, and Ohio is represented by exactly one restaurant: Jean-Robert at Pigall’s in Cincinnati.

There are no five-star restaurants in Ohio, and Jean-Robert is the only Mobil four-star in the state — at least, according to Mobil.

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Chain Wars: Red Lobster, Captain D’s bare their claws

My my MY, restaurant folks are getting a bit sensitive during these difficult times, it appears.

That’s based on the big ol’ spat going on between Red Lobster and Captain D’s Seafood Kitchen.

Captain D’s has landed the latest blow in the form of a press release that mocks Red Lobster and its cease-and-desist letter that Red Lobster sent complaining of Captain D’s rather, um, aggressive ad campaign.

Oh well, there are always other fish in the sea …

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‘Sneak peek’ suggests a rousing Restaurant Week

Last night’s “Sneak Peek of Restaurant Week” at which 20 Dayton-area restaurants previewed some of their offerings for next week’s six-night charity event was certainly well-attended and an all-around success. Click here to see photos from the Sneak Peek of Restaurant Week event.

The Restaurant Week menus on the Miami Valley Restaurant Association web site and the record participation level — at least 57 restaurants have joined the Restaurant Week promotion this winter — suggests next week is going to be a fun week indeed.

The promotion — in which diners pay $20.09 for a three-course meal with the restaurants donating $1 per meal to local charities — runs from Jan. 25-30.

Last night’s preview party at the White Allen European Auto Group attracted 10 restaurants: Bahn Mai Thai Cafe, Brixx Ice Company, Bullwinkle’s Top Hat Bistro, The Caroline, Coco’s Bistro, El Meson, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, La Piazza, Rue Dumaine, and Sweeney’s Seafood Restaurant. As varied as their offerings were, it might have been the puppies brought in by SICSA (one of the beneficiary charities, along with Hannah’s Treasure Closet) that stole the show.

Some highlights from the food items offered:

— Bullwinkle’s Chipotle-and-Pecan-Stuffed Smoked Pork Tenderloin with Andouille Sausage Gravy was decadently rich, with a sneaky heat that built nicely.

— Bahn Mai Thai Cafe’s Laotian Chicken Salad with Sticky Rice available in either a spicy or no-heat version: The spicy version struck the right balance of salty, spicy and sour, with the peppers and lime juice combining for a blast of flavors.

— Sweeney’s Seafood’s Lobster Ravioli in Shrimp Cream Sauce: hmm, I’ve already used “decadently rich” as a descriptor, but this dish is, well, decadently rich. And they smoke their own salmon for their Smoked Salmon Caesar Salad.

— El Meson’s Asopao is described as a Cuban Chicken & Rice Stew, chock full of ham, chicken, tomatoes, peppers and capers. It’s a satisfying wintertime dish.

Nicely done, and a great kickoff to what is shaping up as a busy week ahead. Consider making your reservations quickly, because some restaurants reported last night that some nights are filling up already.

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Baskin Robbins milkshake named ‘Worst Food in America’

MensHealth.com — the folks who bring us Men’s Health Magazine — has proclaimed the proclaimed the Baskin Robbins Large Chocolate Oreo Shake to be “The Worst Food in America of 2009.”

What earned this dubious designation? Well, it might have something to do with the 2,600 calories, the 135 grams of fat (of which 59 grams are saturated fat, 2.5 grams are trans fats), the 263 grams sugars, and the 1,700 milligrams sodium that the magazine says the milkshake contains.

The web site Consumerist.com proclaimed the milkshake “Diabetes in a Cup.”

The magazine created a Top 20 (or bottom 20?) list of worst foods of ‘09, but the milkshake, um, took the cake.

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Jungle Jim’s market basks in the glow of national acclaim

The January-February edition of Saveur Magazine — which includes the cover story entitled “The Saveur 100 Home Cook Edition: Recipes and revelations from kitchens around the world” — offers up a tasty little shout-out to Jungle Jim’s International Market in Fairfield.

The magazine calls Jungle’s “a 300,000-square-foot culinary theme park complete with a fish farm and a full-service butcher counter that offers just about every meat imaginable, including lambs’ and cows’ heads and kangaroo. Vast sections of the store are dedicated to Latin American, Indian, Phillipine, and kosher goods.”

This isn’t the first time Saveur has taken notice of southwest Ohio’s epicurean excellence. Just six months ago, in the June-July 2008 issue, Saveur sang the praises of Mike-Sell’s Potato Chips and the Pine Club restaurant.

Savvy Saveur.

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Which restaurants will survive recession?

Forbes Magazine has some ideas about how restaurant owners can survive the recession, ranging from offering special promotions to appealing for help from vendors to keeping up the spirits of servers and restaurant staff.

One of the comments mentions the importance of alliances with other businesses.

The Forbes piece comes on the heels of the news of a national survey showing diners are still eating out, but are not spending as much when they do go to restaurants.

I think I may have mentioned this before, but a restaurateur I know told everyone at our table in late December something along the lines of, “It’s a pleasure seeing you for the holidays, but we REALLY need to see you in January and February!”

She laughed when she said it — but that doesn’t mean she was joking.

Any ideas you can share on how restaurant owners and managers can ride this storm out?

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Looking to rekindle the flame? Green M&M’s want to help

You thought red was the color of Valentine’s Day? Think again, sayeth the marketing mavens at M&M’s.

Mars, the maker of M&M’s — milking every last bit of marketing magic from the 1970s-era urban legend that green M&M’s possess certain, um, aphrodisiac qualities — has declared green “the true color of love for Valentine’s Day,” and has launched a “color of love contest” with a grand prize of a “romantic getaway” trip to Paris.

Here’s an excerpt from an email from the candy company’s PR folks:

From January 15 - February 12, the sassy and alluring female spokescandy Ms. Green is inviting people who want to rekindle “the flame,” to log onto mms.com and tell her why they need her special powers to heat up their relationship. Ms. Green will choose the entry that almost melts her heart, and give the winning couple a romantic weekend getaway to Paris.

May as well be someone from southwest Ohio, right?

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Chinese New Year celebrations rise from the ashes

ddn011609gochinesenewyear.jpgRefreshing Asian Blossom, a course to be served at China Cottage’s upcoming new year’s celebration (photo courtesy of China Cottage

Perhaps it’s nostalgia, or a hunger for the authentic, or residual interest in Chinese culture left over from the Beijing Summer Olympics. Whatever the reason, the Chinese New Year dinner celebration is showing signs or rising from the ashes.

You remember those Chinese New Year special dinners, don’t you? They reached their peak in 1990, when 15 Asian restaurants in the Dayton area offered special dinners, including some elaborate 10-course meals. But interest in the dinners gradually subsided, and by the middle of this decade, the Chinese New Year’s dinners had faded away entirely.

China Cottage’s Tiger Wang wants to change that. Wang — buoyed by the success of an authentic Chinese banquet he served in connection with an author’s book-signing — has planned an elaborate meal and celebration of Chinese culture to be served at his Centerville restaurant this year for the first time in a decade. And Chin’s Ginger Grill in Tipp City, which offered a special celebration meal the last two years, will do so again this year. Both restaurants will host the celebrations on two nights: Jan. 26 and Jan. 27.

According to the Chinese lunar calendar, Jan. 26 marks the beginning of the Year of the Ox. The two restaurants’ Chinese New Year dinners fall in the middle of the Miami Valley Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Week, when many diners will be consuming the customary three-course meals offered by other restaurants for $20.09, but as Ginger Grill co-owner Carol Chin said, “It’s hard to change the phases of the moon along with almost 5,000 years of history.” (Chin’s is offering the Restaurant Week special option as well as the reservation-only new-year dinner.)

Wang views the China Cottage event as an opportunity to share Chinese culture in addition to food. He has recruited the help of a neighbor, Lisa Eller, to help explain the significance of various dishes and ingredients traditionally served as part of the Chinese New Year, and how those dishes are meant to symbolize longevity, prosperity and abundance. Wang also he has arranged for a husband-and-wife musician team, ZhengangXie and Mei Hu, to play Chinese instruments such as the Jinghu and the Yueqin, a moon-shaped lute with a short neck and four strings.

Food, of course, will still play a pivotal role. Courses offered at the China Cottage dinner will include Firecracker King Crab Legs, Braised Ribs with Anise on a bed of Chinese Greens, Steamed Sea Bass Roll with XO (Brandy) Sauce, Giant Prawns Baked in Buttery Garlic Sauce, and Duckling with Fresh Wild Mushrooms. The Chin’s Ginger Grill menu includes Sesame Walnut Chicken with a Pineapple-Chili Dipping Sauce, Crispy Fried Prawns, Cantonese-Style Whole Steamed Fish and Orange Beef with Chilis and Wild Mushrooms.

Wang figures the time is right to resurrect the New Year’s dinners because, he said, “People are hungry to know about Chinese culture.” His banquet promises to fulfill that hunger — in more ways than one.

How to Go

What: Chinese New Year Year of the Ox eight-course imperial dinner

Where: China Cottage, 6290 Far Hills Ave. Centerville

When: 6 p.m. Jan. 26 or Jan. 27

Cost: $50, not including tax, tip or beverage

Reservations: required, and may be made at (937) 294-4724

Note: Diners will be seated at tables of 10


What: Chinese New Year six-course dinner

Where: Chin’s Ginger Grill, 965 West Main St., Tipp City

When: Jan. 26 or Jan. 27

Cost: $38, not including tax, tip or beverage

Reservations: Required, and may be made at (937) 667-6664

Note: the special menu is available throughout the evening for those who have made reservations for it.

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Christie Brinkley’s milk moustache is BACK!

Okay, it’s late on a Friday, and the silliness bug has struck. So here’s the huge news that will sustain us through the weekend: “Christie Brinkley Helps Launch New Campaign to ‘Reintroduce’ Americans to Milk as Nature’s Wellness Drink”.

Did you know that Brinkley is “Looking just as vibrant, fit and healthy as she did 14 years ago?” Me neither. But if the news release says so, who are we to argue?

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Restaurant celebrates 140 years this weekend

Young’s Jersey Dairy, 6880 Springfield-Xenia Road (U.S. 68) north of Yellow Springs is having a 140th birthday party this weekend, Jan. 16-19.

Young’s is celebrating 140 years since the farm was founded: the red barn located adjacent to U.S. 68 was built in 1869 by members of the Young family. Hap Young purchased the farm in 1946, and starting selling to the public in the late 1950s under the name “Hap Young & Sons.”

The restaurant/ice cream shop will offer specials through Monday such as a “Commemorative Cup Sundae” (three dips, three toppings for $3). It is also offering kids’ meals for $1.40 and cheeseburgers for $1.40 at The Dairy Store.

For more information, call (937) 325-0629.

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Ohioans are staying home to drink their liquor

Ohioans are drinking more booze than ever before, and they’re drinking it more often at home and less often in bars and restaurants, according to sales figures released Thursday by the Ohio Division of Liquor Control.

The sales data also suggest Ohioans are quite loyal to their brands: The top-ten brands of booze barely budge from year to year, and the top three haven’t changed in at least three years: Kamchatka Vodka is the top seller, followed by Jack Daniels Black Label Tennessee Whiskey and Bacardi Superior Light Rum.

But it’s clear Ohioans’ drinking habits are changing. Wholesale sales of liquor — purchased by bars, restaurants, fraternal organizations and other permit holders — fell for the second straight year in both dollars and gallonage, while retail sales of booze in groceries and other liquor stores recorded robust increases. Overall, dollar sales reached $32.6 million in 2008, up 4.8 percent over 2007, while gallonage rose to 10.5 million gallons, up 2.6 percent.

The wholesale numbers suggest that the poor economy, the mid-year gas price spike and the smoking ban have prompted Ohioans to drink more at often at home, liquor-control spokesman Matt Mullins said.

Denny Freyvogel, co-owner of Arrow Wine & Spirits who oversees the Centerville store, said his store’s 2008 sales mirrored the state’s, with wholesale sales down and retail sales up.

And Ohioans know what they like: the same 15 brands that were the top sellers in 2007 were on the same list in 2008, with only minor shuffling of the rankings. Freyvogel said customers’ brand loyalty remains strong even in the face of price increases and a poor economy.

“People who drink liquor are going to drink the same liquor, no matter what the price,” Freyvogel said.

For the top 10 liquor brands by sales, click on “continue reading” if the list doesn’t appear immediately below.

Top Ten liquor brands in Ohio in 2008

  1. Kamchatka Vodka - 380,465 gallons

  2. Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey - 359,873 gallons

  3. Bacardi Superior Light Rum - 328,920 gallons

  4. Captain Morgan Spiced Rum - 285,763 gallons

  5. Jagermeister - 284,488 gallons

  6. Smirnoff Vodka - 277,937 gallons

  7. Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey - 275,027 gallons

  8. Absolut Vodka - 267,159 gallons

  9. Black Velvet Canadian Whiskey - 250,070 gallons

  10. Korski Vodka - 227,403 gallons

Source: Ohio Department of Commerce Division of Liquor Control

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Restaurants offer ‘sneak peek’ to Restaurant Week menus

Here’s a sneak peek to a sneak peek, so to speak, since the following story is scheduled to run in Friday’s Dayton Daily News Go section. And we’ll have more — much more — about Restaurant Week in the coming days.

A SNEAK PEEK TO RESTAURANT WEEK

Ten Dayton-area restaurants will offer a sneak peek of what they’ll be offering during the upcoming Winter Restaurant Week at a preview party from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 21, at the White Allen European Auto Group showroom at 648 N. Springboro Pike (Ohio 741).

Among the restaurants that will offer an early look at the dishes they’ll offer the following week are Bahn Mai Thai Cafe, Brixx Ice Company, Bullwinkle’s, The Caroline, Coco’s Bistro, El Meson, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, La Piazza, Rue Dumaine, and Sweeney’s Seafood Restaurant.

Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. Advance tickets may be purchased at DayAir Credit Union Branches, F and S Harley Davidson, White Allen European Auto Dealership, SICSA, Bahn Mai Thai Cafe, Brixx, The Caroline and Fleming’s, and are also available online from the Miami Valley Restaurant Association.

A record 57 restaurants are participating in this year’s Winter Restaurant Week Jan. 25-30, in which diners pay $20.09 for a three-course meal, with the restaurants donating $1 for each meal sold to local charities.This winter’s beneficiaries are SICSA and Hannah’s Treasure Closet.

Menus for Restaurant Week are still just trickling in, but here’s the MVRA link to the menus if you want to get an early look and check back.

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New Thai restaurant opens across from WSU

A new Thai restaurant, Tik’s Thai Express, has opened at 2808 Col. Glenn Highway in Fairborn, across from Wright State University.

The restaurant is owned by Siriya “Tik” Sripol, who helped introduce Thai cuisine to the Yummy Burger, a downtown Dayton diner, in 2004, then became co-owner of Ban Thai restaurant in the Beaver Valley Shopping Center in Beavercreek in 2005. Her business partner in both of those ventures, Pakawan “Fon” Christman, opened her own Thai restaurant last month in Kettering. (And click here to read a review of that new Kettering restaurant. We’ll likely review the new Fairborn Thai restaurant in a few weeks.)

Sripol said she was looking for a location near WSU and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to open a restaurant when the spot that formerly housed a Roly Poly sandwich shop became available.

Tik’s Thai Express offers weekday lunch specials for $5.50 and a menu that includes four curry dishes, Pad Thai noodles, and house specialties such as Thai Bourbon Chicken and Chicken Basil. It also offers a Tik’s Yummy Burger.

The restaurant is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call (937) 912-5984.

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Kettering Thai restaurant opens with a bang

Here’s a “sneak peek” at a review that will run in Friday’s Dayton Daily News Go! section.

KETTERING — It didn’t take long for Pakawan “Fon” Christman to get just restless enough to want to get back into the restaurant business.

Christman helped introduce Thai cuisine to the Yummy Burger, a downtown Dayton diner, in 2004, then became co-owner of Ban Thai restaurant in the Beaver Valley Shopping Center in Beavercreek in 2005. After selling the restaurant last year, she found herself with plenty of energy but no restaurant customers to cook for.

Not for long. Christman has opened the Dayton area’s newest Thai restaurant, in Kettering: Siam Pad Thai, in the Wilmington Pike location that once housed the China Chef carryout.

And in a few short weeks, Siam Pad Thai is well on its way to establishing itself as one of the finest Thai restaurants in the Miami Valley.

The restaurant is small, seating only about 30, and you might get a blast of cold air depending on where you sit. But the decor and the food will warm your soul. The restaurant offers an extensive sushi selection, though I focused on the Thai dishes over multiple visits. There is much to explore here, from noodle dishes to soups to stir-fries to curries, as well as a pair of excellent desserts.

From the appetizer list, the Soft Roll ($3.25) features two generous translucent rice rolls, each halved and stuffed with shrimp, tofu, lettuce and cilantro, served with a sweet tamarind sauce that only briefly hides its kick of spice.

The Siam Pad Thai ($6.50 to $9.95 for lunch portion, $8.50 to $11.95 at dinner, depending on meat/seafood selection) may be the best version of pad thai in town. Christman has reined in slightly the overt sweetness her noodle preparations had at her previous two restaurants, and this dish benefits from it. A second identically priced noodle dish, Ladna, was less successful. The stir-fried noodles with mushrooms, carrots, baby corn and broccoli are served in a thin brown gravy.

Soups are a strength. Both the appetizer-sized Chicken Coconut Soup ($2.95) and a hot-and-sour Tom Yum Soup ($2.50-$2.95) boast balanced, intense flavors. Even more complex and heady is the entree-sized Beef Noodle Soup, thin rice noodles and thinly sliced beef in a rich broth with onion, bean sprouts and celery, topped with scallions and cilantro, spiked with red-pepper flakes.

Christman’s curries have always sparkled. The Panang Curry ($6.50-$9.95 at lunch, $8.50-$11.95 dinner) is a favorite, with its orange-red color and kaffir lime-spiked coconut milk bathing peas, carrots and green beans. The colorful Chicken Spicy Green Bean ($8.95) consists of mostly green beans and carrots, with a scattering of intensely flavored, shredded and sauteed chicken breast.

Dishes are served on a heat scale from zero to four, but be forewarned: The spice level runs a little hotter than you might expect. Two stars can bite, and three will light up all but the most devoted chile-heads.

If you still feel a burn by the end of your meal, consider one of the fine desserts, starting with the Mango with Sweet Rice and Coconut Milk ($4.95), which comes with several slices of perfectly ripe mango and sweetened rice drizzled with chocolate sauce. Or try a delicately sweet and creamy Taro Thai Custard ($4.95), accented with whipped cream. Either dessert will erase the heat, and is generous enough to share.

How to Go:

WHAT: Siam Pad Thai

WHERE: 3027 Wilmington Pike, Kettering (just south of East Dorothy Lane)

HOURS: Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 9:30 p.m. (10:30 p.m. on Friday), Saturday noon to 10:30 p.m., Sunday noon to 9 p.m.

DISHES TO TRY: Soft Roll ($3.25), Chicken Coconut Soup ($2.95), Siam Pad Thai ($6.50 to $9.95 for lunch portion, $8.50 to $11.95 at dinner, depending on meat/seafood selection); Beef Noodle Soup ($7.95 lunch, $9.95 dinner), Chicken Spicy Green Bean ($8.95), Panang Curry ($8.50-$11.95), Mango with Sweet Rice and Coconut Milk ($4.95).

MORE INFO: (937) 293-9606

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Raccoon: The other dark meat?

Well, the most eye-popping story on the food wires today has to be this little gem from the Kansas City Star entitled “The other dark meat: Raccoon is making it to the table”.

I’m up for anything, but I admit I’ve never tasted raccoon. Has anybody else?

Is it possible to get past the road-kill aspect of this, um, specialty meat?

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The best foods that are NOT in your grocery cart

Best food-related read on the web — at least, the best read that has nothing to do with raccoon meat — comes courtesy of the New York Times and is entitled “The 11 Best Foods You Aren’t Eating”. I’ve had two of the foods in the last week: Swiss Chard (which I hadn’t had for months before buying some last week) and blueberries (mine weren’t frozen, though). You?

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Restaurant to reopen Wednesday with 2-for-1 special

The 4200 Place restaurant, 4200 Kettering Blvd. in Moraine, will reopen on Wednesday morning, Jan. 14, at 7 a.m. and will offer a combination food drive and two-for-one special on its opening day, restaurant co-owner Robie Harville said this morning, Jan. 12.

Customers who bring a canned-food item or other non-perishable food to the restaurant can take advantage of a buy-one-get-one-free special offer all day. The restaurant will close at 8 p.m.

The donated items will go to the Dayton Foodbank.

The new 4200 Place is owned by Harville and Tony Denny, who also operates Down the Pike sports bar and eatery at 1603 S. Alex Road. It will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner six days a week, and breakfast and lunch on Sunday. The menu will focus on country cooking similar to what the restaurant served before it closed about a year ago.

The 70-seat restaurant closed shortly after its operator, Joseph B. Kelley II, died unexpectedly Jan. 11.

The reopened restaurant’s phone number will be (937) 293-4200.

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Review: New Turkish restaurant at The Greene is better than its predecessors

In Friday’s Go section, we published a review of the Pasha Grill, the newest restaurant at The Greene.

Whether Pasha Grill succeeds where its two predeccors in the same spot — Cafe Istanbul and Estilo Grill — failed won’t be known for a while, but I thought the quality of the dishes was a step up.

Remember, if you have a tip regarding a local restaurant, drop me an email at mfisher@daytondailynews.com.

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Restaurant to launch breakfast service Monday

The Artisans Cafe at 8351 N. Main St. in the Randolph Plaza in Clayton will start serving breakfast at 8 a.m. this Monday, Jan. 12, according to co-owner Pam Heintz.

The restaurant’s breakfast menu will include eggs, pancakes, French toast, quiche, omelets, breakfast wraps, homemade granola, yogurt parfaits, fresh fruit, and Boston Stoker coffee, Heintz said.

Breakfast will be served from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday (although the quiche is served all day).

Artisans’ hours are Monday through Saturday 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. For more information, call (937) 890-5250.

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Internet hoax bites Applebee’s

A friend and colleague forwarded to me an email that touted a rather generous promotional offer from the Applebee’s restaurant chain. She suggested it might be worth mentioning to readers.

Oh, it’s worth mentioning, all right. Because it’s a hoax.

The email purports to be from the founder of Applebee’s and explains to hopeful recipients that he wants to “get our name out to more people in the rural communities” by offering $50 gift certificates “to anyone who forwards this email to nine of their friends. Just send this email to them and you will receive an email back with a confirmation number to claim your gift certificate.” The email is generally followed by a “testimonial” from someone who swears that it “really works” and that they got their “gift certificate confirmation number” within three minutes of forwarding the email.

False, false, false. Fallacy, hoax, urban legend, silly chain mail, call it what you want, but it’s a big fat lie. Yet thousands of people so badly want it to be true that they dutifully forward the email to nine — or more — of their friends.

Here are excerpts from Applebee’s Guest Relations FAQ page that breaks the news to disappointed customers that they won’t be receiving any gift certificate:

Q: I received an email that said I should forward the message to receive free Applebee’s Gift Certificates. Is it for real?
A: No. A fraudulent email chain message promising Applebee’s Gift Certificates for forwarding the message is currently making its way around the Internet. The message promises a gift certificate and a confirmation number after forwarding the message to a specific number of email addresses. Applebee’s International, Inc. does not sponsor or endorse this activity and is unable to fulfill these requests.

So what do these hopeful folks do when that gift certificate “confirmation number” doesn’t show up in their in-box? Why, they contact Applebee’s, of course.

“Since the urban legend began sometime in 2003, Applebee’s has received nearly 50,000 inquiries” about it via email or phone, said Applebee’s spokesman Miles McMillin.

“Applebee’s Guest Services sends each inquiry a personal e-mail back explaining that it is not a legitimate promotion sanctioned by Applebee’s.”

So how do these hoaxes — there have been similar ones involving Cracker Barrel and Victoria’s Secret, among others — get started? Applebee’s would love to know.

“Applebee’s has no idea how this was started, and our Legal Department has investigated, but because of the reach of the Internet it’s very difficult to find the source,” McMillin said.

Frustrated Applebee’s customers are directed to visit web scam mythbusters sites such as www.breakthechain.org, which has addressed the Applebee’s hoax quite eloquently.

Here’s how a second web site, Hoaxbusters.org, summarizes these types of scams:

Giveaway hoaxes go into great detail describing the wealth that you will receive from some big company if you would only send their message to everyone that you know. What they fail to say is how the big company would even know that you have sent on these messages to anyone, let alone the reason that they would even be willing to bankroll such a giveaway. There is no such thing as “e-mail tracking.” No person or company is giving away money, gift certificates, or anything else, to people who forward chain letters. Everything in these messages is absurd!

Hoaxbusters.org also published its “Top Five Signs That a Message is a Hoax.” Here are excerpts:

— URGENT: The e-mail will have a great sense of urgency! You’ll usually see a lot of exclamation points and capitalization. The subject line will typically be something like: URGENT!!!!!! (or) WARNING!!!!!! (or) IMPORTANT!!!!!! (or) VIRUS ALERT!!!!!!
— TELL ALL YOUR FRIENDS: There will always be a request that you share this “important” warning by forwarding the message to everybody in your e-mail address book or to as many people as you possibly can. This is a surefire sign that the message is a hoax.
— THIS ISN’T A HOAX: The body of the e-mail will contain some form of corroboration, such as a pseudoquote from an executive of a major corporation or from a government agency official. Sometimes the message will include a sincere-sounding premise. For example: ” My neighbor, who works for Microsoft, just received this warning so I know it’s true. He asked me to pass this along to as many people as I can.” It’s all a bunch of baloney. Don’t believe it for a second.
— DIRE CONSEQUENCES: The e-mail text will predict dire (but impossible) consequences if you don’t act immediately. The message may inform you that the virus will destroy your hard drive, kill your houseplants, or cause green fuzzy things to grow in your refrigerator.
— HISTORY: Look for a lot of >>>> marks in the left margin. These marks indicate that people suckered by the hoax have forwarded the message countless times before it has reached you

Fine advice for everyone who uses email. I’m tempted to tell you to send this to everyone you know … but that would be wrong, wouldn’t it?.

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Fazoli’s announces second spaghetti giveaway

We told you earlier this week about a news release sent out by the restaurant chain Fazoli’s concerning a free spaghetti promotion (though, as readers quickly pointed out, the small spaghetti entree is only “free” if the customer purchases a drink, making it, well, not exactly free).

Now, Fazoli’s has issued a second news release about another spaghetti giveaway separate from the first, and specific to the Huber Heights Fazoli’s only. Here are excerpts from that second news release:

What: Fazoli’s Free Spaghetti Day
Date: Saturday, January 10
Where: Fazoli’s, 8341 Old Troy Pike, Huber Heights
Time: Long lines of hearty pasta lovers are expected to form before sunrise; the giveaway begins at 10:30 a.m. when the restaurant opens.
Details: The first 100 people inside Fazoli’s in HUBER HEIGHTS ONLY will get a free small spaghetti just for asking. Everyone in line at 10:30 will have a chance to win free spaghetti for the rest of the year.
Fazoli’s this week launched www.freespaghetti.com, a revolution against high restaurant prices that has guests around the country chanting, “Let them eat spaghetti!”
But only three restaurants in the country were selected to hold Free Spaghetti Day, which rewards the first 100 guests with free spaghetti and gives all guests in line at 10:30 a.m. a chance to win free spaghetti for a year. This is the only restaurant in Ohio that is participating.

I checked with the Fazoli’s spokesman who sent out the news release asking whether this spaghetti is truly free, or whether some type of purchase is required as with the chain’s other promotion. Here’s the reply I received from Brad Ritter on behalf of Fazoli’s:

The Saturday, Jan. 10 giveaway at the Huber Heights Fazoli’s is totally free, no strings (or noodles) attached. The first 100 guests will walk right in, order up and sit down with a steaming, regular order of spaghetti — marinara or meat sauce. No purchase of any sort is required. And everyone in line at 10:30 will have a chance to win free spaghetti every week for the rest of 2009. The menu price of a regular spaghetti with marinara sauce is $3.79, $3.99 with meat sauce.
Please let your readers know that the giveaway is only at the Huber Heights location mentioned in the advisory, and only this Saturday, July 10.

Okay, so, the giveaway is only at the Huber Heights location, and it’s only this Saturday morning. And this time, no drink purchase is required

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Should you tip for to-go orders?

I do declare, this blog entry from ajc.com entitled “Do you tip on ‘to-go’ orders” took me by surprise.

I’ve never considered tipping for to-go orders. But some people — at least in the Atlanta area — apparently do. Here’s a sampling of some of the comments:

Of course I tip for to-go orders. The money usually goes to someone making $2.13 an hour and relying on tips for their wage. I do not however always tip my customary 20% as if I was at the table. One to three dollars is plenty …
Throwing a buck or two in the jar or on the receipt tip line is pure karma. Sure, you can pass it up, but when you’re trying to make a left hand turn across three lanes of traffic, maybe that same cashier or waitress will be the one to let you out….or not.

Is this just a southern thing? Do Miami Valley residents tip on to-go orders? More importantly, should we?

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Italian restaurant to expand to second location

The Kettering Italian Oven has opened a second location inside Talegator’s, 6270 Far Hills Ave., according to the owners of both establishments.

Italian Oven owner Rick Feltner said the original restaurant that opened in 2004 at 4654 Wilmington Pike will remain open as he expands into the kitchens of Talegators in Centerville. Talegators co-owner Dave Ulrich said the Italian Oven’s menu was a good fit for his sports bar-restaurant’s customers. Talegators’ food service had been provided by Pietro Mauro’s Italian Deli, which moved to Talegators in early 2008.

The Italian Oven specializes in pizza, subs and baked pasta dishes such as lasagna and spaghetti. It has added bar-food items such as wings and potato skins for the Talegators location, and also offers a kids’ menu that includes “healthy-choice” side dishes such as salads and applesauce, Feltner said.

Talegators is open for dinner seven days a week, and for lunch six days a week. It is closed for lunch on Monday. For more information, call (937) 424-4858.

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Fazoli’s to give away spaghetti

Here’s are excerpts from a news release sent out a few minutes ago by the restaurant chain Fazoli’s about a free spaghetti promotion:

Dayton Area Fazoli’s to Help Give Away More than Two Million Pounds of Free Spaghetti
Fazoli’s in the Dayton area are joining a nationwide revolution against high restaurant prices that will have guests chanting, “Let them eat spaghetti!” Across the country Fazoli’s is giving away more than two million pounds of spaghetti starting January 5. Join the revolution, and learn how to get free spaghetti at your local Fazoli’s by visiting www.freespaghetti.com.
After signing up at www.freespaghetti.com, consumers can download coupons for free spaghetti. There is a different offer each week for six weeks. Fazoli’s expects to give away an estimated 2.7 million pounds of free spaghetti.
Fazoli’s is open for lunch and dinner …

It appears as if there are four Fazoli’s in the Miami Valley, in Moraine, Huber Heights, Sugarcreek Twp./Centerville and Troy.

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Outlook for restaurants falls to record low

The National Restaurant Association reports that the outlook for the industry fell to a record low in November.

The association’s Restaurant Performance Index, which measure the health of the industry based on surveys of restaurateurs from across the country, sagged in November, when the drumbeat of bad economic news grew loud and ominous. Many restaurant owners told the association their sales were down and they were pessimistic about the next six months. Here’s an excerpt from the report:

The November decline in the Restaurant Performance Index was the result of broad-based declines across the index components, with the Current Situation index falling to a new record low. A solid majority of restaurant operators reported negative same-store sales and traffic levels in November, while nearly one-half expect their sales in six months to be lower than the same period in the previous year. …
Restaurant operators are more pessimistic about sales growth in coming months. Only 21 percent of restaurant operators expect to have higher sales in six months (compared to the same period in the previous year), matching the proportion who reported similarly last month. However, 48 percent of restaurant operators expect their sales volume in six months to be lower than it was during the same period in the previous year, up from 43 percent who reported similarly last month and one of the highest levels on record.

I was in a restaurant last week and heard the owner tell the guests at one table, “We really appreciate all your support over the holidays — but we really need your support in January and February.”

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The ‘Top 5’ dinner that ended up on the cutting-room floor

Now I know this will come as a shock … but sometimes, I write too much.

In today’s Go section of the Dayton Daily News, we publish our Top Meals of 2008, which I also posted here on Taste yesterday. But only four dinners are mentioned. Who the heck writes a “Top 4” list of anything?

Well, my original piece included five dinners, but I went on and on about the five to the extent that we simply didn’t have room for all of them in the tight confines of a Go page. So one ended up on the newspaper’s version of the cutting-room floor.

This one was not for a local restaurant, but it was one damn fine meal (actually, two), and the place attracts a large number of Dayton-area guests. So here’s the fifth entry on the “Top 5 Meals of 2008” list:

October 2008: Murphin Ridge Inn restaurant, West Union, OH, (877) 687-7446 The luxury inn that former Washington Twp. residents Sherry and Darryl McKenney run in the rolling hills of West Union, in the Amish country of southern Ohio, also just happens to have one of the state’s finest restaurants, used by the inn’s guests but also open to the public for dinner. The menu is very seasonal, utilizing the fresh ingredients harvested from the large garden on the inn’s grounds and from the farm fields and orchards around Adams County. The seasonal nature was on full display during an autumn visit, when the soups served included a rich Pumpkin Bisque with Toasted Curry, Roasted Garlic and Madeira topped with Candied Pecans. A salad consisted of Romaine, Toasted Pecan, Empire Apple, Bacon and Buttermilk Blue Cheese, and a side dish was Butternut Squash Puree with Fresh Sage and Parmesan topped with Cider-Braised Red Cabbage with Shallots. Entrees included a crispy-skinned, thick chicken breast, moist and cooked just to doneness, served with a Bartlett pear-leek confit topped by a chip of country ham and a sauce of thyme and reduced Kentucky bourbon ($29); and a creamy risotto of wild mushrooms (shiitake, crimini and porcini) with braised leeks, garlic greens, roasted butternut squash, granny smith apples and Parmesan, drizzled with a white truffle-brown butter ($27). The dishes were perfectly prepared and served, and were positively bursting with fresh, seasonal flavors.

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Favorite restaurant meals of 2008

Here’s a copy of a story that will run in tomorrow’s (1-2-09) Dayton Daily News Go section — and actually, one meal had to be omitted for space reasons and will be included in a separate entry here in Taste within the next day or two.

What were your favorite restaurant meals or dishes of 2008? Anyway, here’s the text of the story:

Before 2009 settles in, let’s take a look back — fondly — at some of the best, most memorable meals of 2008. Don’t let anyone proclaim that we can’t find decent grub in this part of Ohio. These meals were extraordinary, and thinking back to them is making me hungry.

January 2008: l’Auberge, 4120 Far Hills Ave., Kettering (937) 299-5536

l’Auberge owner Josef Reif tried something new during last winter’s Restaurant Week: In addition to serving the traditional three-course meal on the Bistro side of his restaurant for the proscribed price of $20.08, he offered a special on the more formal Dining Room side: his usual $65 “tasting menu” for a reduced price of $32.08.

It turned out to be the bargain of the week. The meal opened with a dollop of tuna tartare on a single slice of baguette, followed by a Lobster Ravioli topped by a chunk of lobster claw meat and served in a creamy lobster sauce alongside sauteed Royal Trumpet mushrooms. A salad course was accented with sliced golden beets that would convert the most ardent beet-hater.

Entree choices included Dover Sole Meuniere, cooked whole and filleted tableside, and tournedos of Angus beef tenderloin carved tableside and drizzled with Bordelaise sauce — all cooked and seasoned perfectly. Diners could then choose from desserts or a selection from the cheese cart. From start to finish, this was a memorable, well-executed meal.

May 2008: Meadowlark, 2094 Miamisburg-Centerville Road, Centerville, (937) 434-4750

Many chefs talk the talk of using ingredients in-season and at their peak of flavor, but no one walks the walk quite like Elizabeth Wiley, Meadowlark’s chef and owner.

In early May, the restaurant offered a special of Bluefish in a Tangerine sauce.

A piece of bluefish was grilled, then topped with a tangerine cream and bits of the zest, and a small spoonful of intensely flavored tapenade, the black-olive spread.

The olives and tangerine married beautifully, elevating the humble and simply prepared bluefish to new heights. In her menu description of the dish, Wiley noted that California tangerines are only truly in-season for a few weeks, but this dish captured the fruit at its freshest. Accompanied by lightly smashed fingerling potatoes and sauteed spinach — and paired with a glass of South African chenin blanc — the dish was sublime.

May 2008: Jay’s Restaurant, 225 E. Sixth St. in Dayton’s Historic Oregon District, (937) 222-2892

The days of Jay’s offering little beyond a well-prepared fillet of fresh fish are fading, as Chef Justin White’s creations are showing up more often on the menu and in monthly specials.

The Sauteed Walleye topped with Garlic Aioli and served with Roasted Mushroom Ravioli, Asiago Creamed Spinach and Roasted Grape Tomatoes was one of those monthly (well, May and June) specials, and at $19.95, it was a fine value as well.

Lightly battered walleye fillet paired perfectly with the rich and decadent mushroom-stuffed ravioli served underneath, and the robust aioli that topped the dish added a creamy, garlicky note. The components came together to create a complex and satisfying dish, and at a very reasonable price.

August 2008: Rue Dumaine, 1061 Miamisburg-Centerville Road, Washington Twp., (937) 610-1061

I’m cheating a bit on this one, because this dinner was prepared for a wine-tasting buddy of mine and his wife who had bid on and won a private dinner at Rue Dumaine and who invited my wife, myself and some mutual friends to the dinner, which was served on a Sunday when the restaurant was closed. Still, the entree — Lamb Chops Crepinette Provencal with Tomato, Leek and Potato Gratin served with a Nicoise Olive-Flecked Demi-Glace Reduction — was similar to a nightly special I had ordered and devoured with great joy back in February.

The menu prepared by chef-owner Anne Kearney and her right-hand man in the kitchen, Brian Griffey, also included a delicate, flavorful Jumbo Lump Crab Cake with Local Tomato Petals, Corn and Fennel Relish served with Saffron Aioli. A second course of Pan-Seared Foie Gras over Golden Pain Perdu served with Sauternes-Poached Ohio Peach and Candied Pistachios, which we consumed alongside one of the world’s finest dessert wines, was simply the best wine-and-food pairings of my life.

So far.

Update: The lamb dish mentioned above made another appearance just last night, on New Year’s Eve, on Rue Dumaine’s New Year’s Eve menu.

Again, in the coming days, we’ll write here on Taste about a fifth “meal of the year” and a couple of other experiences that deserve a tip o’ the cap before we delve too deeply into 2009.

Did you have a favorite restaurant experience or specific dish that wowed you in ‘08?

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