Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Match Made in Heaven: Shopping and Eating!

Some things are worth waiting for and my Mother's Day surprise outing was one of those things. Wes had planned a getaway for the two of us for the weekend after Mother's Day. He had originally planned it for the weekend before Mother's Day but was unable to get dinner reservations at the restaurant of his choice, so we had to move it to this past weekend. Well all of this was supposed to be a total surprise to me but I had to go and mess that up. I had scheduled dinner with our friends, Meg and David, for that Saturday night. When I told Wes of the plans he got this disappointed look on his face. I was like what, do you have something planned, totally expecting him to say no. He had to tell me that he had a surprised planned but that's all he would tell me. So for 2 weeks my mind raced. I was constantly thinking about the possibilities and trying to figure it out. Granted I would have liked the TOTAL surprise and not even known there was a surprise, but this was fun too. Wes decided not to give me any clues because he didn't want me to figure it out. Saturday morning my mom came over to watch Colin (bless her heart) at about 12:30. We were off. We got on the interstate and at the deciding split (I-64 vs I-75), we went towards Cincinnati. Because of the time of day, I knew we weren't going just for dinner. So I thought maybe some shopping might be in the works. I tried not to think about it and just enjoyed the ride and being with Wes. We passed over the bridge into Cincinnati and continued on I-75. This threw me because everything I know is off I-71 and we passed that exit right up. After several miles, I see "the" sign in the distance. I think it might have had flashing lights and birds singing (not really but that's how it was in my head). There it was, IKEA!

Let me pause the story to interject a funny. I took some AGD envelopes to address on our ride up there. Well I needed something firm to write on so I grabbed the top magazine, which happened to be my Ikea catalog. Imagine Wes's thoughts when he saw I took that magazine! So we get there and boy howdy, it's huge! The parking lot was similar to Kings Island. Seriously, they have shuttles that can take you to your car. I don't believe they were running that day but I did see the signs for it. With my catalog in tow, I try to refrain from running in the door. We go in and Wes delays my excitement because he has to go to the bathroom - he's worse than a woman with his frequent bathroom trips! Finally, we were off. They hand you a map because the place is so large. Even with map in hand, we can't figure out how to get in the place and end up going backwards! This happened not only on the first floor, but when we proceeded upstairs as well. It was a shoppers dream. Everything was so reasonably priced and you didn't have to search the item over to see what was wrong with it to make it so cheap. Wes kept telling me I had as much time as I wanted and to take my time. What? Let's see Colin is 11-months old, that means I haven't been able to shop and "take my time" for 11 months now! Don't worry, it came back to me quick! It was a bit overwhelming but it was actually laid out quite nicely. I figured out the layout quickly and Wes was impressed. I told him it didn't take a true shopper long to learn the ropes - that's how you can tell the experienced from the novices! We did our damage, got lots of fun stuff, left some items behind on accident, and escaped after only about 2 hours. Yes, the items we left behind require a second trip! I swear it was an accident, not a scheme to get to go back.

From there it was time for dinner. I had a sneaking suspicion where we were going because Wes and I have wanted to go to this restaurant since it opened in December. One of our favorite restaurants in Cincinnati is Boca (thank you Brooke and Jason for introducing us and getting us addicted to this fine establishment). Well the owner and chef of Boca branched out and opened a Mexican restaurant downtown, called Nada. Yes, I was correct, we did end up at Nada.

Let me divert from the story and tell how cute/funny/sweet it was to see Wes keep referring to his little tiny notebook where he had written directions to Ikea, from Ikea to Nada, and then from Nada home. It just proved how much thought he had put into this whole day. Back to the food, YUMMO! I don't think my adjectives and descriptions can do it justice but it was great. I hesitate to say it was spectacular because I like to reserve the best reviews for 5-star, more upscale dining experiences. Don't get me wrong, this was great and I probably wouldn't change a thing, but it's hard for me to give the same outstanding review as I would give say, Boca or Corbett's in Louisville. The menu is small, but there are still plenty of options and something for everyone. We started with the house made chips and salsa. The chips were thicker and crispier than most traditional tortilla chips. They resembled and tasted like pita chips. The salsa was mostly pureed but had a meaty, yet mild flavor. Their guacamole is something they are known for but we skipped this as an appetizer because it came on my tacos and Wes isn't a huge fan. Other appetizer options include ceviche, sliders, mexican mac'n'cheese, and some others that must not have wet my palate enough to remember. They do offer a soup and some salads, but we passed. I did see a few of the salads and they are quite large. The next section on the menu are their tacos. They have carnitas, chicken, mahi mahi, shortrib, and vegetarian. Wes had read rave reviews on the shortrib ones, so he chose that. I chose the vegetarian ones. We also split 3 of the 5 side dishes: rice, black bean puree, and corn tamal (they also had mashed pintos and a mashed potato/plantain blend). I took one bite of my tacos and was in love. I think the tortillas must have been homemade as well, or they certainly tasted as such. They were served on a long, slender, rectangular plate, with three shells slightly overlapping each other. The filling was spread right down the middle of the whole plate. The filling consisted of thinly sliced marinated woodland mushrooms, rice, guacamole, pico, chihuahua cheese, and perhaps some of the black bean puree. The gaucamole was just as good as Wes had heard. He doesn't normally like it, but really enjoyed this version. It was more of a sauce consistency than the typical neon green, chunky version. The three tacos were just the right portion, although I heard that they used to only give you 2, but because people complained they upped the portion to 3. Welcome to America where we eat way too much! Wes was quite pleased with his sparerib tacos. I reluctantly tasted it, but was pleasantly surprised. I guess I was expecting a fatty cut of beef, but I didn't find a single piece of fat. His were topped with pickled red onions, and cilantro. Of the three sides, the rice was the least exciting. In their defense, it's hard to make rice spectacular. I liked the corn tamal the best. It was steamed corn mash (the same mash they use to make the tortillas) with cheese and peppers, all wrapped up in a corn husk. It tasted sort of like a sweet pureed corn pudding. The third side was Wes's favorite, the black bean puree. It was quite tasty, very creamy and smooth. They do offer 5-6 large plate options, ranging from chicken, to pork chops, to shrimp. I think next time I'm going to try the shrimp, which is served over corn tamal, but I'm not sure I'll be able to pass up the vegetarian tacos! They are also becoming known for a few of their margaritas, namely the pink grapefruit one. I tried this one and Wes had the prickly pear one. They were both really good, but the pink grapefruit one was a little better. I believe they melt grapefruit ice cream in there! You have to be willing to splurge a bit on those because at $10 a pop, your tab can quickly add up. When we arrived, there were maybe a dozen other patrons both inside and out. When we left, the place was hoppin' and there wasn't a single table to be had. I think Nada is another one of Chef Faulk's masterpieces. It is a nice change from the more upscale, Boca. Don't worry Boca, you are still my first love. However, my wallet sure did prefer Nada!

What a great surprise and what a great husband I have?! It's nice for someone to put that much time and thought into something for you. We enjoyed our just-the-two-of-us time, but we also missed Colin. He was fast asleep when we got home and we quickly followed. Thanks, Wes, it was a great day and a great surprise!


  1. What a fun day! I'm dying to go to IKEA! My mouth is watering - off to fix dinner...

  2. you are so freakin cute...and you are making me hungry!!!

  3. Yum! Thanks for sharing so much great info, Nada sounded wonderful!