Monday, October 24, 2016

Road Trip: Nashville, TN: The Catbird Seat, Butcher and Bee, Biscuit Love

Hubby and I celebrated our anniversary recently with a trip to Nashville. I had such a good experience a few months ago with a girlfriend, I wanted to go and eat there with him. And introduce him to Biscuit Love.

The first night though, we went to The Catbird Seat. This place is so great. You have to buy a ticket to go, and there are only about 20 seats in the place, so they are hard to come by. But I lucked out and got two for Friday (they book exactly a month in advance). The concept is that you sit around this u-shaped bar and they cook everything right in front of you. It’s very cool. Chef Ryan Poli, who has been at several places in Chicago before coming to Catbird Seat, is running things with several assistants. Everyone does everything here. They are cooking, setting silverware and refilling drinks. Even Chef Poli. 

It’s about 9-10 small courses (about $115) and they were spectacular. I’ve got to try and be brief, but here we go. First was malt vinegar chips with dairy dip and butter Iberico ham. Perfect together—the chips were super salty, but great paired with the dip and smooth ham. Next was a tiny piece of tuna with two little infused watermelon balls on top of fermented butter and drizzled with verbena oil. Tiny and perfect—probably my favorite.

Then they brought us a risotto made from sunflower seeds instead of Arborio rice. Very cool. Toothier than typical risotto, but very reminiscent. It was done is a rich truffle cream sauce and then topped with a complete coating of Burgundy summer truffles. You can’t really go wrong with truffles in my book.

Next came these little cockscomb-shaped pastas made from seaweed—this one had a creamy sauce with yuzo—which is a type of citrus. The whole thing was topped with dried shaved scallops. It had an intense seafood aroma, although a milder taste. A very cool sensory dish.

The next course was mainly vegetable-based, but was interestingly the richest dish in my mind. It was a piece of sake-grilled cauliflower that was roasted until it took on a deep rich flavor. It was on top of this cashew cream, which was so rich just from its nuttiness. There was also a strip of what looked like rolled up pasta, but was actually made from turnip. Oh and beef fat. That probably added to the richness as well. It was very cool, although maybe my personal least favorite.

Next was pork with corn, corn and more corn. It was a slice of pork tenderloin and a hunk of sausage (looked like a chocolate truffle almost) and then was drizzled with this corn sauce, and alongside there was corn pudding topped with paprika and popcorn dust. And then on the side a sautéed corn dish with chanterelles and some green beans. The corn stuff here was so so good. I felt almost like the pork was only on the plate as a vehicle to eat the corn and it was honestly almost unnecessary. The corn stood so well on its own. The loin was a bit dry.

Next we moved toward dessert with their version of what was almost a richer palate cleanser. It was milk panna cotta with lemony olive oil. It had a strong citrus flavor and was a nice change. The formal dessert was roasted kelp ice cream with bitter chocolate mousse underneath with some oranges, some cookie and rice crispy crumbs. It was topped with these matcha and chocolate slices. It was really good—didn’t taste at all like seaweed—it just lent an almost smoky taste. Really well done. Then they bring you a cookie jar with some housemade cookies. One was peanut butter and one was a chocolate macaron.

This place is great. Good music, a cool feel to it—and I loved watching the food be prepared. We also had the drink pairing, which was very creative. For example,  Japanese beer was paired with one course, and sake with another. The staff is so friendly and we even had fun talking to the people next to us who were from Chicago (and getting their recommendations for places to eat there). I know if we go back to Nashville, we will certainly try to go again. Hubby loved it too.

The next night we went to Butcher and Bee. This is a cool place as well—a very industrial-type vibe with a fair amount of hipster. I am pretty sure you can’t get a job here unless you have at least 5 tattoos. Unfortunately our service was pretty poor—very hard to get our server when we needed her, and we waited a very long time to order.

But once we got the food, we were very happy. They are known for their whipped feta dip ($5) according to everything I had read, so we ordered that and got it first thing. It is so darn good. It’s feta cheese whipped smooth (and I am assuming mixed with something else to get it to that consistency) and mixed with herbs and topped with this warm fermented honey and pepper and served with hot pita bread (you’ll need more than the one they give you). I am totally going to attempt this one at home.  We also had the corn mezze (the menu has a long list of small plates called mezze and then dishes of varying sizes). It was a corn with a little serrano that was cooked with a rich beef (I’m guessing) broth. It was tasty, but I probably would have enjoyed it more as a side dish rather than as a stand alone one. 

We had two of the middle-sized dishes as well--the fried okra ($12) and the roasted mushrooms ($15). The fried okra was the only total miss of the night. The whole pieces of okra were breaded and fried and topped with a ranch-type sauce and pickled shishito peppers. The breading had a ton of flavor, but when you bit into it, or cut into it, all the breading just fell right off. Neither of us was impressed with this one and it was the one we didn’t finish.

The roasted mushrooms were really good—they had nice crisp edges to them—I love that. There were also sunflower seeds and pickled tomatoes in there—and it was all topped with shaved pecorino. This and the whipped feta were our favorites of the night.

The last thing we had was the wood charred whole trout ($28). It was a whole fish and it was very tender and good. You have to be willing to pick it from the bones. It was pretty easy to do though. And the potato salad gnocchi they served with it were delicious. These alone were worth the price of admission. Super creamy and it had a nice mustardy flavored sauce. Really good.

We were really full at this point so we took a skip on dessert. I would recommend this place. It’s cool, and the food is solid. Hopefully the service is not always so off though.

The last place we ate, on our way out of town, was Biscuit Love. I highly recommend going there at 8:00 ish on Sunday—I’ve done it twice and barely had to wait. When we left though, the line was around the corner. I fully reviewed this place before, but this was hubby’s first time.

We again got the East Nasty, and we again loved it. We also had the Southern Benny again, and it was perfect as well. Ok, hubby wished for a little more gravy, but happily he liked the place as much as I did. We will include a repeat visit here to any future Nashville trip for sure.

We ate really well, and like I said, I would be hard-pressed not to return to Catbird Seat and Biscuit Love on any and every subsequent visit.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Marsh fried chicken

Another quick one (sorry life is pretty busy these days!). So you know I have this thing for fried chicken right? Well recently I heard from a couple different sources that Marsh Supermarkets had changed their fried chicken recipe and that it was good. Of course I was instantly intrigued. I’m not generally a grocery store fried chicken connoisseur, but I was certainly excited to try it.

And you know what? It was really good. Even though it had clearly been cooked earlier, it still remained amazingly crispy on the outside—that breading is big and has a great crunch factor. The meat inside (I ate all thighs, love that you can choose exactly the pieces you want) was super tender as well, which again was a little surprising since it had been sitting for a bit. If I were going to change anything about it, I might add a little more spice, but I’m kind of a spicy fried chicken girl. Other than that, the execution was pretty spot on.

My family has become a bit snobby about fried chicken, but everyone was onboard with this one. And I am going to figure out how to get it freshly cooked and I bet it will be a total knockout. I’m assuming if I am willing to wait, I can make this happen. I am going to find out.

Let me know if you have tried it (or if you do based on this). Would love to hear about it.

Marsh Supermarkets
(Various locations)
Indy, IN

Monday, October 17, 2016

B Spot-- Revisit

The other day the family and I headed back to B Spot. The first time we sort of hit or miss, and we attempted to make it work better this time. One of the things that bothered me the first time was that the bun got really soggy. 

So I got the “Thin Lizzy” ($8.99) again because I wanted to perfect my experience from last time and I generally like the toppings on it. I had them add lettuce to the bottom to hopefully prevent it from getting so soggy (I was thinking it would work as a barrier between the mayo and juices and the bun). It comes with griddled onions, cheddar, pickles and mayo. Sadly, it didn’t really work. It still suffered from the soggy problem. The beef and the brioche buns taste good—they are good quality-- but the burgers are a little too fat for my preference and I hate how soggy the bun gets still.

Hubby went with the bacon cheeseburger, which is pretty straightforward—it’s a beef patty with melted cheddar and bacon ($9.99). My son got the same, but off the kid’s menu.  Because their burgers had no kind of sauce on it (mayo, etc.), they held up much better. They both really enjoyed their burgers. Hubby said if I didn’t want my bun to get soggy, I need to order something like this. However, I like sauce (at least mayo although I typically prefer something more interesting) on my burger.

My daughter had a turkey burger topped with provolone cheese, cilantro and a Sunnyside egg. It was a beautiful egg, and they do manage to keep the turkey fairly moist, but honestly, I thought it had a bit of a gamey taste to it this time.

I really like the “Lola” fries they do with rosemary ($3.99)—they have a nice deep rosemary taste to them and they cook them nice and crisp. We also all enjoy their onion rings ($6.99)—they’re battered and very tasty. Honestly, the sides are my favorite part probably.

The kids loved their chocolate banana marshmallow shake ($6.99) and they do a good job with milkshakes for real. Love the crispy slightly blackened marshmallows on top.

The server was very nice, and it was very efficient--this place seems to have lost a lot of the business it had the first time I went. Honestly, I am wondering how they are really doing. People were into the celebrity chef thing at first, but I’m wondering if it has staying power based on the crowd (or lack of) that I saw. Who else has been lately? How was the crowd? And I can’t say the food wows me enough to make me even think about it when I am looking for a place to go. Anyway, look forward to your thoughts.

B Spot
2727 East 86th Street
Indianapolis, IN 46240

Monday, October 10, 2016

Meridian - Revisit

It had been ages since hubby and I had been to Meridian. It was one of those nights where we were struggling to figure out where we wanted to go. It seemed like a good time to go back.

The place is a very nice interior. I have to say, not very crowded these days—there were people there, but for a weekend, it was not that busy. Our server was very nice and they bring you warm toasty rolls pretty quick, which are soft, and maybe just a little sweet, and very delicious, especially with the totally soft butter they bring as well.

We started with a couple of appetizers—the fried oysters ($16), because, well, I guess there’s a reason they’ve been on the menu since the dawn of time (or at least the dawn of Meridian). They’re quite good. There are several small oysters fried very well and crispy. They’re still doing a play on Rockefeller with creamed spinach underneath, dots of hollandaise sauce and a large dot of Sriracha as well They then top the oysters with crumbles of bacon. These have pretty much always been good, and still are, but make me wonder if maybe a little variation would be good.

We also had the current version of the beef tartare, which they have had some version of the last few times we’ve been. This one was described as a poke, which I associate with a slightly larger dice. This one was still pretty fine I think, but it’s just semantics I guess. We were intrigued to get this one because of the flavorings with it—it was seasoned with lemongrass, ginger, mint, pickled shitakes and served with fried wontons. It was really good. I really enjoyed the pickly taste and even softer texture of the mushrooms. I liked the Asian flavors as well. This was a very well executed dish.

We then shared a Brussels salad ($10). They split it in the kitchen for us, which was nice, and it wasn’t ridiculously huge, which was also nice, but I wasn’t wowed by the salad itself. It was shaved Brussels sprouts, apple slices, radicchio, golden raisins, pine nuts, manchego and gastrique.  Many of the sprouts themselves were sliced a little too thickly, making them too tough to eat, since they were raw. The other ingredients were fine, but the salad just didn’t really come together as a cohesive whole for me.

We were more lured in by the apps on this night, so we just got two more for our dinner. We had the pork belly ($12) and the smoked trout ($16). These were both fine, but neither were as good as the first two we had. I appreciated that the pork belly was cut into nice cubes, giving you the full range of the pork without giving that overly gelatinous thing that sometimes happens with pork belly. These were more like a nice cube of bacon. The bread cubes were a little much with it though. There was remoulade all on the bottom of the plate, which was fine. The fried green tomatoes seemed to get a little lost, and that acid would have been nice. 

The fish was really pretty mediocre—the fish was dry and didn’t have a lot of flavor. Loved the little baby quail egg deviled eggs, but that was about it here. Honestly, I didn’t eat much more than a couple of bites.

Oh, but the side of mac and cheese was really delicious—totally worth ordering—super creamy and with a nice buttery crumb topping. This was worth taking the extra home. And it’s a big portion, so there will likely be some left.

Even though I know I said I liked the older dishes on the menu the best, I still feel like Meridian may be in need of a bit of some menu updates. They need to do something to distinguish themselves again if they want to stay up there with the nicer restaurants around town. There’s a reason we don’t think of it very often when we have a date night, and it’s that it just doesn’t have an interesting menu, particularly since it hardly changes… just my two cents.

5694 N. Meridian
Indy 46208