It’s official…on Monday, August 8, Local 127 opened in our new location at 413 Vine Street downtown! We are now open for dinner seven days a week and lunch Monday through Saturday.
I meant to snap a few photos during opening week, but somewhere between developing and testing new recipes, learning to work with a new team in a new space on new equipment, saying farewell and best wishes to Sous Chef George—who has been a mentor and brother to me—and the Restaurant Week business boom, my good intentions were lost and my camera lay forgotten in my knife kit, save for a few quiet moments in the empty dining room at the end of Opening Night.
If you came out to support us during Opening Week, from the bottom of our collective heart, we thank you.
But we’ve all been working our tails off, so let’s not talk about work anymore, shall we?
Last night, the Chefs were kind enough to give me the evening off so I could celebrate the end of Downtown Cincinnati Restaurant Week not by cooking, but by dining!
And dine I did.
My coworker Stephanie—also a major food person—and I made reservations at Orchids at Palm Court, consistently ranked as the number one restaurant in Cincinnati, pretty much the second they announced their participation in Downtown Cincinnati Restaurant Week. During Restaurant Week, participating restaurants offer a three-course menu for a fixed price of $35, giving diners the opportunity to sample some of the city’s finest fare on a budget.
That’s if you have enough self-control to stick to the Restaurant Week menu.
We started with a round of cocktails. Stephanie had a lychee martini (sorry, no photo). I can’t remember the name of my drink, but it was a masterful blend of jalapeno-infused tequila, hibiscus simple syrup, and fresh lime juice.
At the risk of overusing the word delicious, which I’m sure I will do long before the end of this post, it was, well…delicious.
May as well start early, right?
Whilst perusing the menu we were delivered an assortment of fresh breads—a sesame roll, a rosemary whole wheat roll with a Bourbon salted crust, and a classic Italian grissini (a thin, crispy breadstick).
Portions were perfectly tiny, so that I could taste all three and still have room for the many courses that followed. Though I will assure you that even if I hadn’t had room I would have found it—the Chef’s mindfulness of portion sizes was just an added bonus!
Accompanying the bread was an assortment of three spreads. In front, a red pepper pesto; at center, an herb-infused olive oil; and hiding behind the red dish, the most rich and savory truffle-salted butter I’ve ever tasted.
The whole wheat roll was perfection, but the sesame was no rival for Local’s Parker House.
Not that I’m biased, or anything.
Next up, we were served an amuse bouche of truffled custard—in an eggshell!—finished with crème fraiche, freeze-dried sweet corn, and chives. The corn was intensely flavorful and just a little bit chewy, almost as if it had been candied—a perfect textural contrast to the smooth custard.
My first course, from the Restaurant Week menu, was an heirloom tomato salad with house-made mozzarella and basil gelee. I was surprised that when I cut into what looks like a huge piece of mozzarella, it deflated into a perfect little medallion.
The effect was somewhere between the mystique of a magic trick and popping the coolest piece of bubble wrap, ever.
I’d love to know how they did it!
Stephanie’s first course was a slow-cooked tuna tonnato, which she assures you was delectable.
We requested wine pairings for each course, all of which were selected by Sommelier Charles Redmond, and were spot on! The white wine that I was served with my first course was one of the best I’ve ever had. I wish I could recall what it was—will have to ask!
After our first course, several surprise gifts from the kitchen arrived in quick succession.
First, a duo of organ meat!
Veal sweetbreads (read: the thymus gland of a sheep) with haricots vert…
And foie gras with rhubarb!
As I had never tried either sweetbreads or foie gras, it was a rather huge and exciting moment, and was—you guessed it—delicious. In particular, the richness of the foie gras was beautifully foiled by the sweet-tart rhubarb. The wine pairing was a Sauternes.
Next up, another gift from the kitchen—herb gnocchi with leek fondue, English peas, chanterelle mushroom, tomato, and Pecorino Romano.
Very good, but we all agreed that Local 127 would win in a gnocchi throwdown. Craig’s pillows of potato pasta are perfection.
Just when we thought we had reached the apex of all food climaxes with the foie gras, and that the rest of our lives would be a downhill slide—we were presented with my favorite dish of the evening. Tempura-battered pork belly, corn cake, goat cheese, and red cabbage. Glazed with honey and finished with fresh bee pollen from—
Are you even ready for this? Trust me, you’re not.
—the beehives on the fifth floor!
Which are, of course, tended by Executive Chef Todd Kelly and Pastry Chef Megan Ketover—I couldn’t resist asking!
At last, it was time for our main course. I had the red snapper en papillote, which was served over a madras curry vinaigrette with green apple tzatziki.
Stephanie had braised pork cheeks with ricotta gnudi.
For dessert, we declined the Restaurant Week menu and request a dessert tasting.
We were treated to a duo of desserts. First, a frozen souffle with lavender sorbet and a crispy pistachio tuile.
And finally, a chocolate bavarian with Bourbon barrel cherries and a chocolate tuile.
The wine pairing was a Moscato.
To end the evening, we were presented with a tray of complimentary sweets, including the most airychewymelty macarons I’ve ever tasted.
It was truly a dining experience unlike any other I have ever had. I’m stuffed, awed, humbled, and inspired. This pastry (not a) chef—that would be me—has a lot more to experience, to enjoy, and to learn!