Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Road Trip: Joseph Decuis--Revisit

Kind of last minute, the family and I decided to head up to Joseph Decius in Roanoke—okay, we headed up because they were posting pictures of morels and I needed to get some—and it’s kind of a tradition for us to go around Mother’s Day. My in laws were in town and love it there too, so it made a nice little road trip.

I was also curious to see how it was now that Chef Butts has left to open his own place in Ft. Wayne (can’t wait to try it either, it’s called The Golden and I think it’s supposed to open sometime soon). Things seemed to be running pretty smoothly with the new chefs, and I was happy to see they were still doing the morels the same way. The restaurant looked a little different because they have added a shabu shabu bar in there, which intrigues me (and you can eat it anywhere in the restaurant with 24 hours notice). All that wonderful wagyu beef would be wonderful dipped in hot broth. Anyway, I digress.

A great deal of morels were ordered at our table—I think four orders. They are lightly floured and seasoned and then quick dipped in the fryer. They were nice and crisp, but somehow seemed a little less seasoned than usual. They also serve a demi glace with it (we got it on the side), which I liked better than I remembered, but maybe because I wished the mushrooms were just a tad more seasoned. Just a sprinkle of salt would have made a big difference. They were still very good, because let’s face it, they’re morels, but something was just a little different.

We shared a couple of salads at the table and they were both great. The Decuis version of a Caesar ($10) is excellent and a regular choice for us. It is made with mostly frisee, which gives it a different texture from the usual Caesar, and the addition of duck confit and brioche croutons gives it a little extra richness. They have a nice slightly tangy dressing that I really like. But my mother-in-law ordered the Brussels sprouts salad ($9) and that salad was amazing. Seriously, hubby and I contemplated ordering a second one instead of dessert. We have been known to randomly order savory items as dessert, and this was worthy. It was shaved Brussels sprouts with shaved fennel, dill, parmesan, little crunchy bits of marcona almonds (my favorite kinds of almonds) and this amazing brown butter vinaigrette. It was still nice and tangy but had this super richness from the brown butter. I need to make a brown vinaigrette at home. This was so good. We all gushed on it. They have always had good salads here, and these were no exceptions. Side note: another thing they have that’s really good at this stage of the meal? The bread plate. Several kinds of warm bread and nice soft butter. It’s the kind of bread plate you just can’t say no to a refill on.

Entrée-wise, I would say my mother-in-law won this one as well. She had the salmon ($28) on top of Gorgonzola risotto (going to need to make that as well) and asparagus with pickled apple and parsnip slaw on top. This also had just the right mix of acid and rich, deep flavors along with a perfectly cooked piece of fish. Hubby and my son split the wagyu sirloin (the picture you see is a half an order). This was also really, really good. The meat was full blood wagyu (they have many different offerings each night, some are full wagyu, some are mixed with angus cattle). The meat had a ton of flavor and while nicely marbled, was still tender. Also, Robuchon potatoes, which now may be my kids’ new favorite thing (go figure since they are like equal parts butter to potatoes). They are delicious though.

I had an appetizer for my main dish—which was a special. It was pan-fried sweetbreads with fiddlehead ferns, and cheesy risotto balls. Loved those risotto balls—very cheesy and not dry at all. The fiddlehead ferns were also very nice, tender, but still with a bite. The sweetbreads lost a bit of their crispiness due to all the sauce, which was very rich. The whole dish was just a little over the top for me, but hubby loved it and we switched a lot. Honestly, I wished I had just gotten that Brussels sprouts salad for my dinner!

My daughter ordered the Mangalista pork chop ($38). It had roasted cauliflower and broccoli with it as well as a blueberry mostarda and a creamy sauce. It was an extremely fatty piece of meat (which our server told us about). My daughter enjoyed it while she was eating it, but it didn’t sit well with her later in the evening—I think it was just too rich for her (I rarely cook things that fatty at home).

Desserts were also good. Because there was a cheese plate, and because my kids were with us, we had one of those. It was a nice, well-rounded cheese plate—I really liked the cherry jam in the middle, I ate some with every bite. It had a nice variation of cheese that made everyone happy. I also appreciate a bit of fruit with a dessert cheese plate. There was not enough bread with it (there never seems to be enough) and while we asked for more, it never came.
We also shared a white chocolate cheese tart that was a special and it was really, really good. A great dessert to me because it wasn’t over the top sweet, but had enough of it to make it feel like dessert. It had a drizzle of fruit sauce and several fresh berries on it as well. I would get this one again in a heartbeat.

Overall, food-wise, it was a very good meal. Some things really shone, but nothing was bad. The biggest problem was the service being so slow—a lot of it was due to computer problems—they were having to enter every order by hand as well as writing up every credit card receipt. But regardless, it was a meal that took over three hours, which was a little long. Particularly when your kids are with you. But it is still one of my favorite road trips and one of my favorite getaways.

Joseph Decuis
191 North Main Street
Roanoke, IN 46783

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Ruth’s Café

Hubby and I had lunch at Ruth’s the other day. It used to be a pretty regular place for me, but for one reason or another I haven’t been in awhile. I am always impressed with how solid their lunch business seems to be. It’s really nice to see an independent restaurant thrive in that location (near the Fashion Mall) because there are so few in the area. They are doing so well in fact, according to their website, it looks like they have opened a little branch in a nearby office building.

It was early for lunch so hubby went with one of their benedicts. This one is the salmon avocado version ($11.25).  This is sourdough toast on the bottom, seared smoked salmon, avocado, the two poached eggs and then homemade hollandaise sauce.  It was really good. The eggs were poached just right and I liked the fact that the salmon was warm. They use lots of avocado, and the hollandaise sauce is light but has a nice lemony flavor. We both had side salads with our dishes—I appreciate that they make this an option—and the side salads at Ruth’s are good because they use nice mixed greens mixed with some romaine. I am picky about the lettuce I get in a salad, and they are using good quality. They also served it with a few cherry tomatoes and slivers of parmesan.

I ordered my favorite combo---the half sandwich and salad (around $10). The sandwich I get is their version of a turkey club. There’s some thick slices of turkey on grilled sourdough (you can get whatever bread you want though) topped with melty Havarti cheese, avocado, bacon, lettuce as well as some pesto mayo. There’s just something about this sandwich that I love. I like that it’s grilled and warm, I like the avocado, which they are not stingy with, and I like that they don’t screw it up by putting a slice of under ripe tomato on it. I feel like that is a fatal flaw at many restaurants.  I also really like their chunky blue cheese dressing with my salad, as well as with my sandwich (I tend to dip the sandwich in it as well). 

Anyhow, it’s a very good breakfast and lunch option on my side of town, which is a rarity. The menu is large and there are lots of appealing things, even if I tend to be drawn back into that turkey sandwich nearly every time.

Ruth’s Café
3343 East 86th Street
Indy  46240

Monday, May 23, 2016

Caplinger's Fresh Catch - Revisit

You guys, they have soft shell crab at Caplinger’s! Well, at least they did when I went last week! I had been in to pick up some fish for dinner the other day (one of my favorite fish markets in town) and saw them. I don’t personally like to cook soft shells myself because it involves deep frying (you know the best way to eat a soft shell crab is deep fried) and I don’t do that very often.

I told hubby we needed to go stat, and he was easily swayed. You can get it in sandwich form, which comes with one crab, or dinner form, which comes with two crabs and two sides ($19.99). Who needs to waste time and stomach space with bread? So we got the dinner and each had a crab. We had hush puppies and red beans and rice for our sides.

Those crabs? They were perfect. They were large, and not too hard, and the breading is spicy and crispy and perfectly delicious. You have to get the remoulade sauce and dip the crab in it. It is also spicy and delicious. I like that they don’t make everything bland to appeal to the masses. The sides were only okay, the hush puppies tasted like they had maybe been cooked earlier—they weren’t smokin’ hot like the crab.  But the crab, I could go back right now (I just ate them for lunch today) and eat more.

We also got the lobster roll ($13.99). Love the filling of the roll—it’s different from many I have had because they use claw and knuckle meat (there are some nice big hunks of claw and knuckle in there, which is my favorite part of the lobster). It’s very lightly dressed, and has a little bit of celery and green onion for just a tiny bit of crunch. Really though, this sandwich is mostly meat. And the bread is a pretty dense bun, so hubby and I pretty much just decided to eat the meat out of the bun. Particularly because we were eating those oh so healthy soft shell crabs. The only thing I would add here (besides maybe a slightly softer bun) would be a squeeze of lemon. But we both enjoyed it.

My advice to you is to get in there and get some crab if you like them—and if you have never tried them, you need to! If they don’t have them, get the fried fish, because that breading is delicious. Or try the lobster roll. And if you have a favorite side dish, clue me in, because I am still trying to figure that part out.

(Oh, and a great fish market too.)

Caplinger’s Fresh Catch Seafood Market
7460 North Shadeland, Suite 400
Indy  46250

Thursday, May 19, 2016

U.S. Adventures: San Francisco, Spring 2016, Vol. II

Ok, I am going to have to make this one a little briefer (ok, maybe) and try to get this trip finished up—there were just so many restaurants!

So let’s hit some highlights. State Bird Provisions first of all. One of my favorite meals of the trip. So, you know that dim sum I talked about in the first post about SF? Well, this is dim sum but not Chinese food. It’s cool, hip, food but served in little portions and brought around on trays and carts (and a few things you just order if you want). My kids couldn’t wait to eat here now that they had discovered the joys of dim sum. Highlight here? The state bird dish—fried quail ($15). So, so good. It was served on these lightly pickled veggies with some super thin cheese on top that just melted into the dish. We were fighting over it (quails ARE small) so we got another one. We also had two of the tuna dishes—it was tuna crudo in a wonderfully, slightly acidic broth. Just perfect. There were many other things too, fried biscuit with burrata, pork belly, beef tartare ($14) with rosemary vinaigrette and little biscuits, chicken liver and several other things. Really, everything was good. And the menu changes frequently—this is totally a place I would go a lot. I would skip dessert though; it was the only thing that was really lackluster.
State Bird Provisions

Also, SPQR. We went there on our last night. Look at their menu online, check out the pasta section (most between $27-$28), and you will understand why I constantly bitch about Italian restaurants in Indy. THERE IS MORE TO LIFE THAN RED SAUCE. We shared everything and had a couple of the specials involving truffles—an egg raviolo, which is one of my favorite things on earth (it’s a giant ravioli filled with an egg yolk). This one was dusted with copious amount of truffles and I really wished I had it all to myself. The other truffle dish was a simple butter sauce with again, lots and lots of truffles. Another dish with pasta, lemon and crispy shaved slices of garlic was another big winner—loved the slight acidity of it. The only one we thought was just ok, was what she described as “grown up mac and cheese” with slices of cured beef and on top of a pesto sauce. It was fine, but couldn’t measure up to the others. Pasta and dessert was all we had here, because it was the last night of the trip and to be honest, we were pretty full, but everyone loved this place. The cheese plate ($17) was the highlight of dessert, although the pretty chocolate dessert was good too.
Hubby and I ate at Octavia by ourselves one night, while our kids hung out with their old babysitter. This is a warm space that is quintessential San Francisco with its laid back vibe. The food is very good as well, although didn’t stand out in the same way as some of the other places. Loved their version of a “deviled” egg ($5), which was actually a whole soft-boiled egg that was heavily seasoned with pepper and spices and served with a chile relish. I was really glad to still have a bit of my bread that they bring to the table to sop it all up with though. They should probably give you a little something with it for that purpose (although that bread, I’m guessing it’s Acme, is so so good.) The best dish of the evening was probably the smoked trout salad with grilled asparagus, roasted shallot jam and sherry vinegar. Oh my, that fish just melted in your mouth, and had a slightly more mild taste than typical smoked salmon. And I just loved the play of flavors with the shallot jam and the vinegar. A wonderful dish.
We also shared the pappardelle with toasted walnut and brown butter pesto, aged balsamic and cress ($14 for an appetizer size). Again, there’s more to life than red sauce—this wonderfully balanced dish had heartiness from the nuts as well as a nice hit of acid from the vinegar. We rounded out with the Sonoma duck breast ($32), that was served with charred green garlic, roasted kale, butter beans and salsa verde. Loved the salsa verde for a bright kick, but the duck was just a touch overdone for me. We also shared a wonderful melty chocolate dessert.

We had a lunch at Hog Island Oysters that we all really enjoyed—this was one that has been on my list for a while. Hubby and I have been to the actual place where they raise and harvest the oysters and now they have a casual restaurant at the Ferry Building. They don’t take reservations, and were hopping so we sat at the oyster bar, which was fun. Seriously, a lot of oysters going out of that place. Hubby had these amazing grilled oysters ($13) with just a simple cayenne and citrus seasoning. So, so good. I had some fried oysters on what was basically a deconstructed potato salad—also delicious. I tell you what though, my son’s grilled cheese ($12) with three kinds of gooey, non-traditional grilled cheese cheeses, was amazing. I couldn’t stop taking little bites of it. My daughter had a lovely seafood stew ($20)—it looked pretty and the clams and mussels were delicious. The bits of other things, especially the octopus, was a tad chewy though.
Hog Island Oysters

A quick lunch at Belga as we shopped one day on Union Street proved successful-they kids plowed through yet another cheese plate ($16) and hubby and I shared a lovely arctic char and cream cheese toast with capers and pickled red onions ($8) and frites ($9). The country pate ($6) we also had was a bit of a let down though.
We also had a dinner at Limon, which was a favorite quick, casual spot that hubby and I enjoyed back in the day. It’s a Peruvian restaurant, and we love the lomo saltado ($16.95), which is a beef tenderloin dish stir fried with onions, tomatoes, fries and soy sauce. It’s served with rice. It is just so darn good. The empanadas are nothing to be sneezed at as well. The small plate of fried chicken was just ok—kind of dry. And my kids had the rotisserie chicken, which they are known for, and weren’t super impressed with it either. But I would happily eat that lomo saltado any day of the week—there is just something about the seasoning that makes it cravable. Also, a bite with a fry soaked all in the juices of this dish is delicious.
Of course we also had to get our Dungeness crab fix, and luckily for us, they opened the season the week we were there. We were headed to Alcatraz (kids had never been), so we hit Alioto’s, which is our favorite wharf place to grab some crab and a great view. My favorite is the simple steamed crab, but we also got one roasted in garlic and butter. The sourdough bread is the best too. It’s Fisherman’s Wharf, so take it with a grain of salt. But you can’t really mess up simple crab.
Finally, on our way to the airport, we had to hit our standby, Barbara’s Fishtrap in Half Moon Bay. The same waitresses have been there since I have been going, which is nearly 25 years. Fried shrimp. Fried fish ($13.95). Clam Chowder. Cash only. It’s a requirement for us. It was a great send off too.

It’s my second home and the city that made me love food. I definitely agree that part of my heart remains there.