Saturday, April 18, 2015

Guest Post - The Dancing Donut

Love having a regular donut guest writer. I have yet to make it to any of the new donut places!

Thanks Gwen!

Donut lovers rejoice!  The Dancing Donut opened its doors Friday, April 3rd at 1134 East 54th Street in SoBro.  The Dancing Donut is the brainchild of Kate Bova Drury, owner of The Flying Cupcake.  Could customers handle her creative, kitschy brand of confection before their first cup of coffee?  I was about to find out.

When I arrived at The Dancing Donut a few minutes before their 7 am open time, the line already stretched out the door and into the parking lot.  There’s no missing the cheerful, smiling donut sign atop the store.  I couldn’t help but notice what an ideal location for a donut shop.  Just steps from the Monon Trail and several popular breakfast spots, I can imagine families stopping off for a snack in the middle of a bike ride or grabbing a donut while waiting for a table brunch table on Sunday morning.  Oh, and it’s two doors down from a gym, so you won’t have far to go when it’s time to work off those donuts.

Once inside, I was charmed by the atmosphere and décor.  The walls were lined with familiar paintings that you might see in a waiting room or your Grandmother’s parlor, except with colorful donuts tucked in unexpectedly.  In addition to ample tables and chairs, there is a counter with four stools in front of a window that looks into the bakery, providing a place for curious patrons to watch all the donut making action.  Overhead, two disco balls twinkled.  

As I approached the glass bakery case, I had a difficult decision to make: which of their many flavors would I try?  With tongue-in-cheek names like the Carmelo Soprano—a chocolate filled long john covered with caramel glaze--and the Fritta ‘staire—an apple fritter, I was a bit overwhelmed by all of the choices.  My partner in crime and I settled on a Brown Butter Crumble—a yeast donut topped with brown butter frosting and a crunchy sprinking of brown sugar, the Lemony Snickett—a lemon filled yeast donut, the Jelly Rippa—a strawberry jelly covered in sweet powdered sugar, and the Kevin Bacon—a long john topped with maple icing and crisply fried bacon.  Four donuts and two large Intelligentsia brewed coffees, my total came to right at $16.  

As I bit into each of the four pastries, I was delighted by the light, fluffy texture.  The donuts were delicate enough to be delicious on their own yet still able to stand up to the bold flavors of the toppings and fillings.  The bold coffee was the perfect compliment to these morning treats.

The Dancing Donut prides itself on serving “donuts so fresh you’ll blush.”  While a visit to this SoBro bakery might not make you blush, you’ll certainly be smiling.  Whether you sashay, waltz, or shimmy, get to The Dancing Donut for a delectable breakfast treat.  

The Dancing Donut
1134 East 54th Street
Indy 46220

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Capri - revisit

I went to dinner with a friend who just loves Capri. As I am sure you know if you read my blog, I am not a huge fan of the Italian restaurants in this town. I don’t know, none of them have ever really impressed me. Honestly, some of the gourmet pizza places like Napolese and Pizzology probably offer some of the best options.

Anyway, she chose it and I was happy to go and hang with her. I went with an open mind and decided to try some new things. First of all, the rolls they serve here are really delicious. Light and soft, but with a chewy exterior—and fresh from the oven so they are steaming hot. They also give you butter AND olive oil as choices for dipping, which is much appreciated.

I do find the wine list frustrating. If you aren’t ordering a bottle, the options are limited to their house wines, which are just listed as the types of wine without any other identifying information. I feel like in a place like this (it’s a pretty nice restaurant inside), they should offer a few more by the glass options.

Anyway, I ordered the eggplant parmesan ($12) for my appetizer because I am pretty sure one or two readers have suggested it, and it sounded good. It was quite good-the best of the things I ordered for sure. There were nice layers of tender eggplant (but not so squishy that it fell apart) topped with cheese and lots of red sauce. The sauce had a nice tangy flavor with some chunks of tomato in it. I was trying hard not to eat too much of it because I still had my entrée coming, but in retrospect, I should have eaten it all. In the future, I would just get a small salad and this as my main dish and call it a day.

For my main dish, I got one of the fish specials, the yellow fin tuna ($31). It came with an Italian tomato type topping (think what you would get on a tomato bruschetta). There was basil, and a bit of vinegar and some olive oil I am guessing. Sadly, even though I asked, and was assured it was cooked rare to medium rare, the fish was overcooked, which was a shame. It also seemed a little more fatty than most tuna steaks you might be served in a restaurant—a lot of tendon-ish parts making it hard to cut and chew. I sort of wished the tuna itself was marinated in something as well, just to give it a little more flavor—it seemed like the fish on its own really wasn’t seasoned. The au gratin type potatoes on the side though? They were delicious—and addicting. They were thin sliced potatoes that tasted like they were soaked in cream and cheese and butter. Really, you just couldn’t go wrong here. Simple and comforting. Maybe a slightly unexpected side dish with the fish (pretty sure they just use the same sides with everything), but I was glad they were there.

I can’t say my mind was changed much about Capri, but I did enjoy the eggplant parm quite a bit. I you’re in the mood for that kind of classic red sauce kind of dish, this one is well done. And I like that as an appetizer it isn’t ridiculously big, but still big enough it could make a nice small main dish. And the rolls are really, really good.

The service is very professional, and I really enjoy the interior of the bar—very warm and cozy with lots of wood and a fireplace. I was surprised there were no wood fired-pizzas on the menu, since they have built their own oven in the back. Maybe they only serve them in the bar. But I would be interested to try them as well. What do you guys think? Do you eat at Capri?

2602 Ruth Drive
Indy  46240
Capri Italian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 13, 2015

Bent Rail Brewery

Normally we reserve Sunday nights for family dinner but made an exception and took the kids and met up with friends at this new brewery in Sobro (it’s on the Monon behind Good Morning Mama’s). This place is in an absolutely gigantic building with somewhat sparse, industrial décor. The menu consists of mostly sandwiches with a few appetizers, soups, and salads.  To start we ordered 2 pretzel baskets ($5), chips and guacamole ($5), and pickled eggs ($5). I’ve never had just plain pickled eggs before (I’ve had them when they’re served as a garnish) so I was interested to try them.

The pretzel was good—I mean it is a soft, ballpark whole pretzel—nicely done, warm and just the right amount of chewy. But what I really appreciated about the pretzel was the warm beer cheese to dip the pretzel into. It appeared to be homemade and it was nice to have something different than the typical neon orange nacho cheese. They also served it with grainy mustard if that’s your preference (we had one of each because we ordered two pretzels, but I would highly recommend the cheese. The mustard was fine, but didn’t stand out like the cheese, although a bit of both was nice).

The chips and guac were also good. The guac was very chunky and pretty straightforward taste-wise. Not a lot of spicy flavor, but not bad. The chips were kind of usual store bought chips, but a nice easy thing to share with a bunch of people.

The pickled eggs (with various other veg as well) were interesting. They are obviously making an effort to do something different here—and they use a lot of different kinds of pickles throughout the menu, so I guess it make sense to offer an app as well. It was a nice variation with all the other flavors, but overall I preferred the other apps. And I preferred the pickled veg to the eggs because something about the pickling application that made the eggs seem kind of dried out.

The menu here consists mainly of sandwiches, and we ended up trying a lot of them. My personal favorite was the pork belly Cuban ($12). It consisted of braised pork belly Carolina BBQ, pickles, city ham, mustard and Swiss cheese. There was also a swipe of garlic aioli.  It was pressed flat in a Panini press, making it easier to eat than some of the other sandwiches, which were pretty large. There were a lot of varying flavors and textures, which is one of my favorite things about a Cuban anyway. The pork was very tender and I love the tangy/acid hit from the pickles, aioli and even the Carolina BBQ. 

I also liked my son’s pimento cheese and city ham sandwich ($9.50). I probably would have liked it better with all the stuff on it that he had on the side (the pickles and grainy mustard). It’s a good combo for sure, even though I may have preferred the ham to be sliced a little thinner. It ended up a little chewy because it was so thickly cut.

Hubby’s pork belly banh mi ($12) was also good—but man, the jalapeno peppers on it for some reason were just scorching hot. He’s normally a person who likes spicy things, but had to pick most of them off to enjoy the sandwich, which also was stuffed with cured pork belly, Smoking Goose kitchen sink sausage, pickled daikon and carrots, cilantro and garlic aioli. It was on a soft bun. I really like the pickled, slightly sweet flavors of the daikon/carrot mixture on a banh mi, and this one was a good one.

I didn’t care for the lamb terrine sandwich ($13) as much –it had lamb terrine, lamb bacon, whipped goat cheese, rosemary tomato jam and arugula and was served on marble rye. It just had an overly sweet flavor for me between the jam and the goat cheese. Others at the table really enjoyed it though, so different strokes…
Also good, but over the top in the spicy arena was “our favorite panini” ($9.50). There was a lot going on with this one—lots of house cured meats, housemade pickles, marinated hot peppers, cambozola cheese and garlic aioli. It was also pressed flat in a Panini press. These peppers—wow. They were hot. Again, you had to pick some of it off just to be able to eat it. But if you like really spicy sandwiches, this might be perfect for you and I liked the blue cheese kick from the cambozola.

My daughter ordered the pulled pork sandwich without anything on it but pork and said it was too spicy for her so didn’t eat much of it. I didn’t get around to trying it but hubby said that when all the parts were put together (the meat with the apple cabbage slaw, pickles and mustard aioli) it would probably taste good, more balanced and not as spicy. 

I love that all their desserts are from 4 Birds bakery—I can still get my cookie fix even though H2O has closed. I was a little sad they didn’t have the original cookie (a maple oatmeal) the day I was there, but enjoyed the peanut butter/chocolate chip one ($3) that I shared with our friends. The kids absolutely loved the brownies ($3) and want to go back just for them. It would be a little more of a full dessert-type experience though if they heated the cookies and maybe served them with some ice cream or something. As it is, you just get the cookie and that’s it. But I do appreciate that they have them, because I really love them.

All in all, it’s a good place to get a sandwich that will pair well with beer (they will be brewing their own soon, but for now offer a sampling of different local beers). They do also serve a few types of wine, just FYI (and which I appreciate). Although they tout themselves as family friendly (and they were extremely tolerant of the children on the whole), I wouldn’t say it is a place that has a really kid-friendly menu, especially if you have a picky eater (one of the kids with us was). They have PB&J, almond butter and jelly, and a grilled cheese to offer kids. (They do have shuffle board and an old-school Pac Man machine, both of which the kids loved.) The other sandwiches have a lot of strong flavors going on. They certainly do appeal to me though and I appreciate the creativity of them. Don’t go here looking for anything light though---the sandwiches are pretty meat heavy.

Bent Rail Brewery
5301 Winthrop Ave
Indy  46220

Bent Rail Brewery on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Barking Dog Cafe- Revisit

I am often asked about what “my favorite” restaurants are—for lunch, for dinner, for fish, for sushi, whatever. Barking Dog is a place that my family eats very regularly. When schedules allow (which is less often than I’d like), we’re here nearly every Saturday for lunch.

We all have our favorite dishes, but they also always have specials. Hubby often orders the specials and I get my usual and we share. My regular is the “Jeff’s single cheeseburger.” It’s a super thin burger with crispy edges that hang outside the bun and is topped with (wait, actually, it's underneath the patty) shredded lettuce, super thin onions, special sauce, pickles, ketchup and mustard. I have written about this burger before and it is my favorite thin burger in Indy. In the past, people have told me they didn’t like the bun because it was too flimsy—now they are serving their burgers on Amelia’s brioche buns, so that is no longer a problem. The bun is definitely denser and holds up well to all the toppings. I love this burger. My daughter also gets the burger every time (although with less of the toppings, which are partly what makes this burger, so I don’t recommend it. All the flavors together are just right.)

We also tend to get a side of fries—they are nice and crisp and I always get the side of the olive aioli with them. I love the little chunks of olives in there. It’s just the perfect salty/slightly tangy dip for fries.

The clam chowder is also really good and if we’re splurging, hubby and I will sometimes split a cup as well. I think it is probably the best New England classic clam chowder in Indy. This is my son’s favorite and he often makes his whole meal out of it. It’s a thick creamy version with some nice chunks of clam and potato.

double decker tenderloin
On this visit, the special was cod fingers and chips, which hubby got. He often goes with something fried here—one of his favorites is the fried oyster roll. We have also shared the double decker tenderloin sandwich as a special and it was also delicious. Oh! And we love the buffalo chicken sandwich when they’re doing that. Anyway, the fish fingers were good—nice fresh fish with a light tempura batter. They were served with a nice spicy remoulade sauce and a portion of fries. I can’t say I preferred them over my burger though. Hubby is better about trying something new here though.

The prices are maybe a bit higher than other lunch places (sorry I don’t have them listed out, but I hardly even look at the menu anymore and they’re not online), but for us, it’s worth it. It’s a true mom and pop shop with the married couple running the place (he cooks, she works out front with a server) and it’s one of our favorites for lunch. So there you go.

Barking Dog Café 
115 East 49th Street
Indy  46203