I recently had the opportunity to sample a few free meals from food delivery service Blue Apron. For roughly $60 per week this service delivers all the ingredients and a recipe to prepare three meals for two people. Blue Apron delivers original, step-by-step recipes and fresh ingredients to customers nationwide. The menus change every week, so with each delivery you learn to cook inventive new dishes with seasonal ingredients.

Ingredient List

Ingredient List

Cooking Instructions

Cooking Instructions

The dish I liked the best of the three I tried was lemon and pea tendril risotto. The portion was about 550 calories per serving and was more than I could eat in one sitting.

Cooking Risotto

Cooking Risotto

Finished Risotto

Finished Risotto

We also enjoyed the Mexican-style chopped salad. The roasted poblano peppers were a nice touch to compliment the corn and tortilla strips. This meal was not nearly as filling though and could have definitely used a protein source.

Chopped Ingredients

Chopped Ingredients

Mexican-Style Chopped Salad

Mexican-Style Chopped Salad

I though the price was pretty fair, though maybe just a touch on the high side. I used to cook meals from scratch often, but times have changed and we mostly eat prepared meals at home now. The majority of these meals come from Dream Dinners, a monthly service that we use for prepared meals. Once per month I visit the local store and assemble meals using already prepped ingredients and include the appropriate cooking instructions. On average, the cost of these meals are roughly half of what Blue Apron charges per serving size.

However the biggest issue I had with Blue Apron is that I set my dietary preferences to only receive poultry and pork products, leaving out beef, lamb, fish, and shellfish. I also specified that I was not a vegetarian, but I was given three vegetarian meals. It really would have been nice to receive some recipes revolving around white meat, but I guess that is reserved for people with larger dietary preferences. Unless this restriction is removed and more variety is offered, I don’t see myself using Blue Apron again in the future.

A couple of weeks ago I was invited down to Yelp’s Summer Bucket List Bash, a celebration of all things summer in Cincinnati. It all took place on BB Riverboats‘ Belle of Cincinnati.

BB Riverboats

BB Riverboats

All three indoor decks of the riverboat were open for tastings of various Cincinnati restaurants including Jeff Ruby’s, Eli’s BBQ, Meatball Kitchen, Mazunte, Keystone, and Holtman’s Donuts.

Food Tasting

Food Tasting

The top deck had DJ Chris Handlon and he quickly turned the entire deck into one big dance party.

Yelpie

Yelpie

We cruised all the way out to Rivertowne Marina before turning back to complete the two and a half hour sightseeing cruise.

Barge

Barge

On the way back the sun was setting and by the time we arrived back in downtown the city was all light up and the party was in full swing.

Go Reds

Go Reds

I don’t think evening cruises like this are offered often, so it was definitely a special trip, even if I had just cruised with BB Riverboats a month earlier.

Roebling Suspension Bridge

Roebling Suspension Bridge

It was a great way to help wind down summer.

I reviewed another Mellow Mushroom location before, but decided to write-up another review after trying additional menu items at the newly opened Hyde Park location. The pizza chain opened in the space recently abandoned by City Barbeque in the Hyde Park Plaza.

Inside

Inside

The inside wasn’t as large as other locations I’ve visited in the past. As with all of their restaurants the decor is simple and the walls are covered with interesting paintings and decor representing various local attractions. There are a handful of televisions at the high top bar, and some neighboring tables have a good view, but for the most part this is more restaurant than sports bar.

Enlightened Spinach Salad

Enlightened Spinach Salad

My wife and I started with the Enlightened Spinach Salad ($5.95 for the lil’ size). The combination of fresh spinach, dried cherries, apples, homemade candied pecans, and feta cheese is similar to many spinach salads I’ve had before. However the cherries were are nice replacement to the more common cranberries. The flavors were good and this is a nice way to start a meal.

Maui Wowie / Thai Dye Pizza

Maui Wowie / Thai Dye Pizza

As far as pizza goes my wife and I split an order as well. Since we couldn’t decide on one pizza we did half Maui Wowie and half Thai Dye (just over $20 for the 14″). The Maui Wowie was my favorite of the two with a very interesting but delicious combination of pesto, ham, pineapple, jerk chicken, banana peppers, Applewood smoked bacon & mozzarella cheese. The jerk chicken was especially well-flavored.

The Thai Dye is no slouch either with olive oil and garlic base topped with curry chicken, mozzarella cheese, Roma tomatoes, onions, fresh basic, cucumbers, and a sweet Thai chili sauce. I think both pizzas are some of the more unique offerings on the menu and are both worth a try.

To wash it all down there is a really good craft beer selection. The prices at Mellow Mushroom are a bit high, but the quality and creativity are there to help justify the cost.

Mellow Mushroom on Urbanspoon

My family and I spent all last week (and a couple of extra days) on vacation with my parents, my brother, and his girlfriend on Hilton Head Island. We rented a three bedroom and three bathroom condo from Shorewood Villas, just a few buildings down from Coligny Circle. It is an excellent location to leave your car sitting idle for your trip, especially if you rent bikes for the week.

Shorewood Villas

Shorewood Villas

Shorewood is an oceanfront property with a private walkway to the beach. There is a keypad locked gate at both the oceanfront entrance and at the South Forest Beach Drive entrance. Our unit was well-appointed and maintained, though I think the cleaning crew could use a full day to really scrub out some of the closets. However a little bit of dust wouldn’t stop me from staying at Shorewood again.

Zero Entry Pool

Zero Entry Pool

One of our favorite features at Shorewood was the zero entry pool, which our young children absolutely loved. There was also a decent sized kiddie pool and a hot tub. Private restrooms are also located poolside, which was a nice feature to have on long days spent between the beach and the pool.

Family Shot

Family Shot

We had an excellent trip and I will definitely have more posts coming in the near future about some of our dining and entertainment experiences.


Shorewood on Dwellable

I’ve always heard a lot about Ingredients from my wife but I never got around to trying it for myself until a couple of weeks ago. This salad, sandwich, panini, and pizza quick service restaurant is located in the atrium lobby of the Westin Cincinnati, just across the street from Fountain Square.

Atrium Lobby

Atrium Lobby

The primary draw is definitely the salad station where the customer can choose from a wide variety of ingredients to create a personalized salad or select from one of their signature combinations. The line was very long for this station, while the sandwich and other station was not nearly as crowded. But as this was my first time I figured I better try one of the salads.

Inside

Inside

I went with the southwest chicken salad with black beans, corn, tomatoes, tortilla strips, avocado, scallions, cilantro, cheddar cheese, and jalapeno ($7.95). The employees at the salad station quickly threw the ingredients together, tossed it all together with ranch dressing and put it in a super sized to go container.

Southwest Chicken Salad

Southwest Chicken Salad

As the weather was nice I decided to take my lunch over to Fountain Square to enjoy in the sunshine. The salad was very large and I could have easily been split with another for a light lunch. The ingredients were all very fresh and the combination was great! I noticed that these signature salads are also available in a prepared cooler, but I think it’s worth the ten minute wait to get it assembled fresh and tossed together even if you aren’t making any modifications. Ingredients is a great spot for a somewhat healthy lunch downtown.

Ingredients on Urbanspoon

A few weeks ago some neighbors of ours across part of Williamstown Lake put in a giant slip ‘n slide. Since then they have added a sand volleyball court and tether-ball turning our little part of the lake into party cove.

Slip 'N Slide

Slip ‘N Slide

A few years back we created our own giant slip ‘n slide, but it was much rougher than this new and improved version. I took a few rides on it with my youngest brother-in-law and even shot some video with the GoPro.

FYI, the noisy one is my brother-in-law.

Looking for a fun activity for your family on a nice Saturday afternoon? We recently went blueberry picking at Rouster’s Apple House in Milford.

Berry Barn

Berry Barn

Blueberry Field

Blueberry Field

I’ve never picked blueberries before, but it was really simple and kind of addicting. Many times the blueberries would just fall off the stem and into the provided buckets.

Fun For Three-Year-Olds

Fun For Three-Year-Olds

Ready For Picking

Ready For Picking

The blueberries cost $2.75 per pound. They also frozen apple cider in containers as well as in Popsicle form. Only cash and checks are accepted.

Getting Her Fill

Getting Her Fill

Full Bucket

Full Bucket

Due to large crowds picking is not offered everyday, though they will be picking this coming Saturday, August 9, from 8 AM until noon. Watch this page for other dates and times.

Ten Pounds Ready To Go

Ten Pounds Ready To Go

We had a great time, but now I’m trying to come up with ways to use ten pounds of blueberries.

If you ever find yourself in Port Clinton, perhaps on the way to Put-in-Bay, I can now recommend a good spot for lunch. Slater’s Madison Street Pub is on Madison Street just a couple of blocks from the Jet Express ferry terminal. Port Clinton was established in 1828 and the buildings in this section of town definitely show their age.

Outside Slater's Madison Street Pub

Outside Slater’s Madison Street Pub

The inside of Slater’s looks dated at well, but it has been well maintained for the most part. There are just a couple of low seated tables right when you walk in, and the rest of the space is served with a few high-tops and bar seating. In the back are a variety of classic arcade games. It reminded me of some of the bars I used to frequent in my college years.

Inside Slater's Madison Street Pub

Inside Slater’s Madison Street Pub

The food menu was actually much larger than I expected and features soups, salads, sandwiches, pastas, burgers, steaks and seafood options. There were a few lunch specials that I immediately took advantage of. My ham and Swiss melt on rye was great and the hand cut fries were a nice touch.

Lunch Deal

Lunch Special

Slater’s offers evening entertainment and a weekly jazz night on Wednesdays. I could see this being a regular stop for myself if I lived in the area.

Slater's Madison Street Pub on Urbanspoon

After our stay in Maumee Bay State Park, we made the 45 minute drive east to the African Safari Wildlife Park in Port Clinton, Ohio. My wife bought tickets for this attraction through Groupon after hearing some of her family talk about it for years after their last visit.

The big attraction here is the drive-thru safari where you get the chance to see and feed deer, bison, alpaca, bongo, zebra, and even giraffes! Some of the animals are behind fences, but others are able to walk right up to your car and beg for food. The bison are just a little intimidating when doing this!

There is also a walk-thru safari similar to other zoos, with gibbons, hogs, various antelope, birds, and even a white alligator. There are also pig races, camel rides, and education animal shows included in the price.

We had a great time and would definitely go back again, especially at a discounted price. I’ve never experienced anything quite like the drive-thru safari.

In addition to the two big music festivals that came to town over the last month, I was also fortunate enough to see my two all-time favorite bands recently.

Phillip Phillips at PNC Pavilion

Phillip Phillips at PNC Pavilion

First up was 99th O.A.R. show, which took place at PNC Pavilion June 28. This was a co-headline show with Phillip Phillips, who played first for just over an hour. This former American Idol winner actually puts on a pretty good live show and has a very solid backing band.

O.A.R. at PNC Pavilion

O.A.R. at PNC Pavilion

Due to the co-headline show, O.A.R.’s set was a bit shorter than the standard two hours they usually play. It was a treat to hear some of the new songs live for the first time including “Two Hands Up” and “We’ll Pick Up Where We Left Off.” The band was on fire and the show was a ton of fun!

Dave & Tim at Riverbend.

Dave & Tim at Riverbend

Just a week and a half later I was treated to my 52nd Dave Matthews Band show. This summer tour is one that you definitely should not miss as the band is playing two sets, the first being an acoustic set. To kick of the night at Riverbend, Dave and Tim Reynolds played a couple of songs alone followed by a number of full band acoustic songs.

DMB Full Band Acoustic at Riverbend

DMB Full Band Acoustic at Riverbend

It was really cool to hear some of the live staples being played in a different manner, such as “Ants Marching” and “Two Step.” After eight acoustic songs and a short break, the band was back on stage for a dozen or so plugged in songs followed by a few songs in the encore.

Dave Matthews Band at Riverbend

Dave Matthews Band at Riverbend

Thanks to a Riverbend ticket giveaway I was able to watch the entire show from the general admission pit. It had been a couple years since my last shows in the pit and I forgot just how awesome it can be. What a night!