Monday, July 16, 2018

Rathskeller -- Revisit

My husband has been nagging me to go back to the Rathskeller literally for years. Let’s just say, it didn’t make a strong impression on me then. And let’s also just say, that may have changed, but not for the better.

We went with my son and my in-laws. They are always game to try somewhere new and had never been. We started with an order of the onion dill bread with herbs and provolone ($9.95). This is a pretty tasty item. It’s a piece of bread that’s cut and seasoned and topped with cheese and herbs. It’s gooey and tasty. Honestly, it was one of the better things we had, even though you really don’t need to order it because you get a nice bread plate with every meal. Speaking of which, my favorite part of this is the warm pretzels in that basket. I truly wished they offered some sort of cheese or even better, beer cheese, to dip them in. The pretzels taste good, but the super spicy mustard they serve it with is so spicy, it’s not even really very good. So let’s just say the strengths of this place mainly start and end with the breads. Ok, and the soup. I had a cup of French onion soup ($5.50) and salad for my meal, because so much pork was being ordered, I knew I could eat off everyone else’s plates. The soup was very tasty. It had the rich beefy stock that you need, plus the onions and cheesy bread. Oh wait, there you go, more bread.

The salad I ordered was the spinach salad ($11.50). It’s a big hearty salad with a ton of spinach leaves. They are topped with bacon crumbles, cheese, hardboiled egg, tomatoes, red onions, and mushrooms. They serve it with a little server of warm bacon dressing. There was so much spinach in there, you really needed to take about half of it out in order to have the right amount of dressing. It was actually kind of hard to eat because the plate was so full, you couldn’t really toss the dressing with the salad much. I kind of got frustrated trying to get it right and gave up and stuck with my soup. I didn’t care much for the dressing either, which had a kind of artificial sweetness to it.

Several people at the table got various forms of the schnitzels. The regular schnitzel ($24.50), the Jaegerschnitzel ($26.50), and the schnitzel cordon bleu ($26.50). Ok, these are all pounded and fried pork tenderloins that are covered (or not) with various sauces—the plain one just comes with lemon, the Jaegerschnitzel with a red wine sauce with mushrooms, herbs and shallots, the cordon bleu, with you guessed it, ham and Swiss cheese. Here’s the problem. The schnitzel is bad. You can dress it up (or not) however you want, but it’s just huge and dry. So dry you can barely cut it with a knife and fork. The cheese and ham were probably the best addition as it added, well, cheesiness. But no one was overly happy, and I am pretty sure my in laws will never return. On the bright side, one of the sides chosen by several, the creamed spinach, was pretty tasty. It was probably the only side dish that anyone commented on. You do have a lot of different choices though. But I would recommend no to schnitzel.
Hubby ordered the wurst plate ($26.95) and contrary to its name, it was actually the best entree. (Haha).  It’s a combo of bratwurst, kielbasse, bockwurst, and a German wiener. They steam them in beer and then grill them. Interestingly, they serve them with a couple kinds of mustards—the really hot one and a not so hot one. It makes you wonder why they don’t offer this with the pretzel. He also got the creamed spinach as well as a house salad with blue cheese dressing. This salad was pretty tasty, and I liked this dressing. I would stick with something like this if you’re in a salad mood.

Ok, I know it’s a big deal in Indy, and an historical building/restaurant, but there is very little that would lure me back it. Hubby says maybe a beer and pretzels and that’s about it. And I agree. So are you guys going to yell at me about this one? I’m curious, because let’s face it, the food is just not very good.

The Rathskeller
401 East Michigan
Indy 46204

Monday, July 9, 2018

Primanti Bros.

Ok, a quick one here. My daughter and I ended up at Primanti Brothers the other day before going to see an event at Banker’s Life. We literally could not get in anywhere and were running out of time. This was the first place that we could find that could seat us.

I was not really familiar with this place, but we just went with what we thought sounded good at the time. I got the buffalo chicken sandwich ($8.79), and my daughter got the Italian crostini ($8.79). She had fries for her side and I got tater tots (I have a weakness). I guess they are famous for some of their sandwiches that have French fries on them, but the ones we ordered weren’t those, and honestly, that just sounds like a really fat sandwich to me. So feel free to yell and me and tell me why I am wrong.

I also have a weakness for a buffalo chicken sandwich, and this one was fine, but there wasn’t really anything special about it. It didn’t have a ton of sauce, and the chicken was pretty thin. They serve it with lettuce, tomato and red onion as well as blue cheese dressing, but it didn’t really have enough blue cheese so I got some more. It hit the spot, but it will still never be as good as my favorite version from Sahm’s. The tots were spot on. They serve it with their special “zesty Retro sauce.” Not sure what is in here, but it tastes like maybe some hot sauce and ranch or something. It had a slightly sweet edge though, so I didn’t eat a lot of it.

My daughter likes a lot of salami type meat on her sandwiches, and this one was up her alley—it had capicola, salami, pepperoni, mozzarella, vinaigrette, lettuce and tomato. She wasn’t a fan of all the lettuce and tomato, but she liked the sandwich ok. The fries were tasty. 

As for the service, it was great. Our server was friendly and fast, which we needed. But overall, it’s the kind of place I wouldn’t be opposed to going to in a pinch, like the situation we were in. However, it’s also the kind of place that helps me remember to make a reservation on a night like this so I don’t get myself in a pinch. Any Primanti lovers out there? Tell me what you think.

Primanti Brothers
Circle Center (other Indy area locations)
49 West Maryland Street
Indy. 46204

Noise rating: 2 bells (out of five)

The Vanguard--Revisit

For Mother’s Day we ended up having dinner at the Vanguard. We had recently been for their Longbranch pop-up and it was so good (I really hope they bring that back every so often). I honestly thought it was better than the original Longbranch, if that is possible. Anyhow, they have moved on to a new spring menu, and since it was a new bunch of items, I thought I would do a little update.

We started with two “smalls,” the popcorn ($5) and the chicken liver toast ($9). The popcorn was cooked with pork fat and had Sriracha spices on it. It had some kick to it, but it was very good, and very addictive. And pork fat should really be a part of more popcorn. The chicken liver toast was really kind of disappointing. It was visually beautiful, but I think they must be made in advance and refrigerated because the toast was not crunchy and was bordering on soggy. On the toast was chicken liver mousse, chevre (goat cheese), and nettle mustard. There was a lot of the mustard on the bread, which dominated the whole thing and probably added to the bread sogginess issue. I would have preferred a lighter hand on this, crispier bruschetta, and more of the chevre and liver.

We were all kind of sharing everything, and the next thing that came out was the “ham and cheese” ($11). This was more of a charcuterie plate, and I enjoyed it. There was some perfectly toasted bread here (hmmmm….) along with speck (smoked prosciutto), Bellamy blue cheese, oil and vinegar on the side, and microgreens. The ingredients were very good, although we needed more bread than they offered (which we asked for, told we would be charged for, and never got). But the flavors of everything was good. For this course, we also had the warm cobb salad ($12). This was warm wilted mustard greens, boiled egg, tomato, bacon and an avocado vinaigrette. It was very good. For some reason, I feel like this place pulls off salads really well, so I am always tempted to order them. Hubby kind of balked, but he loved it too. It had a slightly spicy kick from the greens and the vinaigrette and tomatoes gave good acid. It was extremely flavorful. I will continue on my habit of ordering salads at the Vanguard.

For our mains, hubby and I split the “buttered noodles” ($18) and the special, which was pork tenderloin tacos. The buttered noodles were made with crème fraiche, greens, parmesan and pepper. This was a really good dish for such. Love the use of crème fraiche here giving the pasta more than just a rich cheesy flavor. It was a good thing to split though, because it still was rich enough. The tacos were just ok. Not much going on there—and the meat itself was a little dry. There wasn’t much to them—some cheese and garnish and a couple of limes.

My son had the special steak for the evening—it was a ribeye and it was very tasty, although because of all that fat, it probably would have been better if it were cooked slightly more medium, but he ordered it medium rare. There was some asparagus and greens here as well. It had a great flavor. My daughter got the fried butter quail with butter and cilantro ($15). She enjoyed it although they had forgot it at first, and she ate it after we were pretty much finished.

The Vanguard is a good option for a more high-end dinner in Broad Ripple. It feels like a grown-up restaurant and I like that. The food changes around a fair amount, and I like that too. There are always some really tasty things, even if not everything is always amazing. And if they bring back the Longbranch menu, I highly recommend checking it out. The service can certainly be up and down, and this was one of the down experiences, but hopefully it will be better next time.

The Vanguard
6319 Guilford Ave
Indy  46220

Monday, July 2, 2018

Pure Eatery Fishers

Always looking for a healthier option for lunch, I met my friend Suzanne at Pure Eatery in Fishers. They have had a location downtown for years, and I haven’t been there for years, so I thought I would give the new one a try. I find the menu appealing. There are lots of sandwiches and wraps and things like that, and I like that you can order a half sandwich if you want to not eat too much. 

I went with a half of the Grady’s melt ($5.95) plus a side salad ($1.95 upcharge from chips). I like a sandwich named after someone, because I always think it is something that someone developed after putting thought into it—and that it is a perfect reflection of their perfect sandwich. Or something like that. So this sandwich is sourdough bread, white cheddar, bacon, tomato and garlic-parmesan aioli. This sounds pretty close to one of my ideal sandwiches. I have to say though, that while I ate it and didn’t hate it, there are certainly easy ways to improve it. For instance, the bacon was like tiny bacon bits, which I thought was odd. Bacon seems born to go on a sandwich in its natural state—strips—but maybe that’s just me. And maybe that’s the way Grady likes it. Honestly, I really didn’t get a lot of flavor of anything besides the cheese here, which sort of made it a sort of grilled cheese. I appreciated that the bread was toasted pretty well (I could have gone for a little more color if I am completely honest). I don’t know, I had higher hopes than how it came out. I love a good sandwich, and this was just an ok one. Now there are a lot of appealing sounding other sandwiches and wraps on the menu, and I would like to try some others—so tell me your suggestions.

My little side salad was perfect though (other than those cucumbers, which I just set to the side. I am not a fan of cucumbers, go figure). A couple of little tomatoes and then just extremely fresh tender mixed greens. I am always amazed at how often something so simple gets messed up. Large pieces of stem or hard bits of stalk, or mushy lettuce past its prime. I had the house made blue cheese dressing with it—nice and chunky—and I was quite happy with it.

Suzanne had stuffed jalapenos, which I thought were interesting because they are like jalapeno poppers that aren’t fried, they’re grilled. They were very cheesy—stuffed with gouda and served with a side of house made ranch. She also had a cup of tomato basil soup. Looked pretty good. I didn’t try either, but she seemed content.

Like I said, this seems like a place where you can get fresh food and can be kind of healthy if you want to (although there are plenty of ways to be decedent as well). I also like to see a local place in an area dominated by chains. They were doing a good business, and if I lived a tad closer, I would certainly try more things and go more often. What do you guys think of it? I know I have some Fishers’ readers out there—share your thoughts.

Pure Eatery
8235 East 116th Street
Fishers, IN  46038

Noise rating: 1 bell (out of five)

Monday, June 25, 2018

Next Door

The family and I finally got around to trying Next Door, the other new Kimbal Musk restaurant. This one is in SoBro. I have always thought this location just called out for a restaurant—it pretty much looked like an old diner, so I was glad to see something interesting go in here.

We went for lunch (although I think their menu is the same at all meals). Wanting to try a lot of things, we ordered a couple of shareable items to start. We had the chips and guacamole ($8.95) and the buffalo chicken bites ($10.95). We were excited when we saw the chips—they sort of reminded us of the flour tortilla chips from Nada, which we all love. But these were not as tasty and needed salt. They were fine but not super exciting. Sadly, the same could be said of the guac. It definitely needed salt, and a little lime, and maybe some heat would have helped too. It was just kind of bland. The buffalo chicken bites were good. Nice slightly spicy flavor from the buffalo sauce that was tempered by the creamy dressing and chunks of blue cheese. I liked the flavor from some thin slices of celery and celery greens as well. I guess if I were going to improve the dish, the only thing I would suggest is that the pieces of chicken might be slightly bigger—they were a tad on the dry side. But ultimately, this ended up being my favorite dish on the table.  Hubby and I also had a house margarita ($7.50) and I have to say, it wasn’t very good—it was very light and had little flavor going on. I rarely meet a margarita that I just don’t like, but this was one.

For our main, hubby and I wanted to split a Cuban sandwich ($9.95) but were told only upon ordering it that they were out (hint, might want to tell people this at the very beginning of the service). We last minute changed to the “Merlin’s Carolina pork” sandwich ($11.95). This sandwich has pork in mustard BBQ sauce, pickles, crispy onions, and cole slaw. So, this sandwich suffered from dryness too. You could barely tell there was sauce on the pork, and there seemed to be more crispy onions than there was pork. I liked the idea of fried onions on the sandwich, but in this case, they sort of just added to the dry factor. I asked for a side of sauce, which I eventually got, and this made the sandwich bearable, but still not particularly good. They serve the sandwiches with chips and dressed greens. Both were fine, but nothing that stood out.

My son had the burger ($10.95). It comes topped with white cheddar and with the traditional garnishes on the side. They did not ask how he wanted it cooked, and it was cooked pretty well done. So guess what? Also, dry. Of the main dishes, it was probably the best one, but still not great. They really ought to cook it to order, or else cook it closer to medium.

The worst of the entrées was my daughter’s ancho chile chicken bowl ($13.95). If I thought the other dishes came across as dry, this one took the cake. It was mainly rice topped with shredded chicken—both of these things pretty dry. There were some tortilla strips on top, a bit of corn, beans, and peppers and then the whole thing was very lightly drizzled with lime crema. There was nowhere near enough of this crema to bring the moisture this dish needed. The few bites she ended up eating, she had with some of the leftover guacamole. The chicken wasn’t particularly flavorful either. This was definitely a pass.

We thought we should try dessert just to give every course a chance. The only option was a gluten free chocolate chip cookie, so we went ahead and took a pass on this, considering we had homemade gluten-full chocolate chip cookies at home. 

Ok you guys, I wanted to like this place, and it’s really cute, but there was nothing that made me want to go back. Even the service was up and down. For instance, it took a solid 15-20 minutes to get our appetizers, but then we got our entrées within five minutes of getting the apps, even though we ordered them separately and later. It took awhile to get that side of sauce for our sandwich, and to get extra plates and things like this. We sat outside, which was lovely, but inside seemed pretty loud. The only thing I would consider ordering again were the buffalo chicken bites. So, if you have found something you love, please let me know. Otherwise, I am unlikely to return.

Next Door
4573 North College Ave
Indy 46205

Noise rating: 4 bells (out of 5) inside, quieter outside.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Road Trip: Corto y Lima--Lexington, KY

Recently I posted about going to Blackberry Farm in Tennessee. You know I would never leave on a 6-hour road trip without picking a place to stop for lunch on the way. So, thanks to Twitter, I chose Corto y Lima in Lexington, Kentucky, conveniently almost exactly half way there. I could have gone with a more traditional choice but knowing the kind of food we would likely be eating all weekend, some Latin-themed food seemed like a good plan.

We started with the guacamole and chips ($10) at the recommendation of the server. Now, I make a pretty darn good guac myself, so I am sort of particular about it, but this is probably one of the best ones I have had in a restaurant. It had roasted garlic in it and was really nice and acidic. It also had plenty of salt. Salt and acid are the things that make or break good guac in my book. It had some diced tomatoes and red onions on top and freshly made chips alongside that were also nicely salted. They gave extra limes on the side, and you really didn’t need them. It was a miracle. The only bad thing I can say about this is that I wish there was more of it. The serving bowls makes for a deceptively small portion. It looks like more than it actually is. We licked it clean. I also had a margarita because it just sounded good and I wasn’t driving, and it was delicious. Nice and fresh and limey as well.

We just got a bunch of stuff for the rest of the meal. I really liked the elote ($5), which was an ear of corn cut into smaller pieces and seasoned with lime aioli, queso fresco and Tajin (which is like a Latin seasoning salt). It had all the good stuff too—lots of salt, lots of seasoning and lots of acid. It was pretty decadent too with all that mayo and cheese. Again, gave us limes and we didn’t need them. Also, the blue corn empanadas ($9) were great. They were little fried pockets of masa filled with rock crab, green chilies, and cream cheese. They were topped with little pieces of fresh diced pineapple. Again, loved the use of acid in the pineapple to balance the rich crab and cheese. There was also a hot sauce on the side that was studded with some hunks of cheese and also had a bit of pineapple flavor to it. It had a thick, almost buttery texture. It was great for dipping the empanadas. I would love to eat these again.

The other items we had were not quite as good as the first items, but still had redeeming qualities. The crispy shrimp tacos ($8) weren’t bad, although they were smothered in peppers that gave a lot of heat! We both pulled a lot of them off in order to be able to eat them. There was also jalapeno aioli on there, which was nice because while it had a little kick, the creaminess of the aioli balanced it. There was also some shredded romaine on there for texture. The least successful dish, and my biggest disappointment, was the chicken chicharron ($8), which is described as fried chicken thighs, crispy chicken skins, chili escabeche, cilantro and lime. Sadly, there was nothing crispy about this dish—almost like it had sat too long somewhere. I couldn’t even differentiate the chicken skin part of the dish. We barely touched this one, which was fine because we had a lot of food really.

All in all, it’s a place I would go regularly I think if I lived in the area…I would like to try all the various dips they offer and there are several menu items that are very tempting. But I would always get the guacamole too. 

Corto y Lima
101 West Short Street
Lexington, KY 40507

Noise rating: 3 bells (out of five)

Monday, June 11, 2018

Bento House

My daughter and I had a Friday night to ourselves while the boys went to an Indians game and we decided to try something new. Bento House opened in the old Boogie Burger space and from what I understand is owned by the people who also own Watami---the all you can eat sushi placed a couple doors down.

It was pretty dead in there when we got there—only one other table. People did come in and out for carry out orders, but it was quiet. A few other tables came in as we were leaving, but still on the slow side. The service was pretty speedy though even though I think there was just one server waiting on all the tables. She was very nice.

Ok, so the most positive thing I can say about this place is that they give you a lot of food for the money. We each ordered a Bento Box with various things in them and they were around $12-14 each. I started with the hot and sour soup and she got miso (soup comes with the bento box). The hot and sour soup was pretty good—it had a nice amount of heat actually, which sometimes can be lacking. I love a lot of tofu in my soup, and there wasn’t a lot, but that’s probably just random. My daughter enjoyed her miso.

In my bento box ($12.95), I had the hibachi chicken (you get a choice of a meat entrée), the crab Rangoon (you can get this or spring rolls, which she got), gyoza, chicken skewers (they come in all of the boxes) and white rice. My daughter had sweet and sour chicken, spring rolls, shrimp tempura, the chicken skewers and fried rice (which is an upcharge) ($14.95).

What can I say except the food was all just kind of ok. It wasn’t bad per se, but there was nothing that I really liked. My daughter enjoyed her orange/passion fruit boba smoothie ($4.50), but other than that, she felt about the same as I did. The chicken on my plate was pretty dry, especially the skewers. The hibachi chicken was really pretty bland. The fried things were probably the best—I liked the shrimp tempura just fine, although it wasn’t the best I have had for sure. The dumplings were pretty good too. The weird thing is, they put the appropriate sauce in the little compartment with the items they go with. I think I would prefer them on the side, as I sometimes like to use just basic soy with some things. My daughter’s sweet and sour chicken was not tossed with the sauce—it  was just on the side, which was also a little strange I thought. Good for takeout maybe to keep it crispy, but in the restaurant, sort of came across like battered chicken nuggets.

Anyhow, glad to see a new place go in there, and that it is independent, but I can’t say I will be rushing back. Has anyone else been?

Bento House
1904 Broad Ripple Ave
Indianapolis, IN 46220

Noise rating: 0 bells (out of five) (with the exception of the alarm bell that went off every time someone entered the restaurant.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Hedge Row

I have been patiently waiting to try Hedge Row (I like to wait a couple of weeks if I can), so recently after my graduation from grad school (no big deal), I told my family this is what I wanted. This is where local chef Brad Gates has landed as well if you’ve been wondering and the restaurant is owned by Kimbal Musk, brother of Elon. We had a reservation and were running a few minutes late due to traffic (again, graduations everywhere), but they were perfectly nice about it. The patio was open, but we sat in the main dining room. There’s a fair amount of seating with the patio and bar, but I was a little surprised at how small the main dining room actually is. However, regardless of size, it was not lacking in noise, so prepare yourself if you’re sensitive to loud restaurants.

It is a very cool looking place that feels like it is straight out of a larger city—very modern and boisterous. It was very crowded, and the drinks took a little longer than I would have wanted, but I am pretty sure that was a problem at the bar and not our server. Right away we ordered some snacks, and then perused the rest of the menu. We ordered the shrimp hushpuppies ($6) and the hand cut garlic fries ($5). Both were good. The fries were a big hit at our table—they were very hot and extremely crispy. We all liked the ones that had some extra crispy bits. And while I usually am bored with ketchup, this one was house made and very good. Lots of acidic flavor, and not so sweet as most are. Once I realized the hot honey to dip the hushpuppies in was kind of pooled on the bottom of the serving bowl, I really liked these as well. They are really large hush puppies made from cornmeal and studded with small bits of gulf shrimp. Dredging them in the slightly hot honey was very tasty. Hubby loved them. I liked them a lot, although they were a tad dry, but maybe that’s just cornmeal for you. I would have probably added a sauce on top—and after looking at other pictures online, most show the hushpuppies with some sort of topping that ours didn’t have. Maybe just overlooked in the kitchen.

The way they do food here is ideally family style, and my family was just fine with that. So, this means they just bring things out as they are made. The next things that were delivered were the crispy fish “tacos” (which are wrapped in lettuce) ($14). These were one of my favorites for sure. They take nice pieces of rockfish (one of my favorite fish for fish and chips in San Francisco), and tempura fry it. They put some smoked chili tartar sauce underneath and top it with pickled onions and radish slices. I really liked this take on a taco—hubby started to balk at the lettuce aspect, but honestly, by using it, it really lets the fish shine. It was a great dish. The four of us fought over them. Our server said we could add one if we want and we would definitely do that next time so we all had our own.
Next came the caramelized brussels sprouts and turnips with Smoking Goose ham hock vinaigrette ($8). Love the use of the pork and some acid (although I think it could have used a bit more) and I thought the sprouts were very good. What blew my mind actually was how good the turnips were. They were roasted perfectly and had an amazing pillowy consistency. Normally turnips don’t really get me going that much, but I was grateful to have my mind changed here. We also had the tuna ceviche ($15) because we all love tuna, but for whatever reason, this was probably the least favorite of the table. The tuna was impeccably fresh and it was an interesting mix with apples and red onion, but the flavors just didn’t really come together for me.  It had a coconut lime vinaigrette that I felt was more coconut than lime. And it needed some salt. I am hoping that they mix up the seasonings on it sometimes though, as that tuna practically melted in your mouth.

The next thing that came out was the salmon ($26) from the “large” section of the menu. This was an extreme crowd favorite at our table. It was one of the other stars of the night for sure. It was a piece of salmon that had skin on that had been seared crispy—so crispy we were fighting over it. There was this amazing smoky bacon broth that it sat in that tasted like it had some soy going on there too. The veggies with it were bok choy and shitake mushrooms. The bok choy was just right. Not so “fresh” that it tasted raw, but cooked enough that it was a little soft, but with a pleasant fresh crunch. There was a parsley-hazelnut pistou (sort of like a pesto) on it as well. So much flavor packed into this dish. It was great. 

We also got the pasta Bolognese ($19) at the request of my son. This was also extremely good and tasty. It was basically penne pasta topped with a sauce that had a mix of ground beef, pork, and lamb. Lots of fresh parmesan on top. An extremely well done, and hearty pasta dish.

We were celebrating after all, so we splurged on several desserts as well. My kids both had the salted chocolate chunk cookies ($4 each) and they were delicious. Warm and gooey and just the right kick from the salt. Hubby and I tried a couple of different things—the sticky toffee pudding ($8) and the butterscotch pot de crème ($7). The pot de crème was very tasty—a nice change from the more traditional chocolate version. It was served with a little piece of cashew brittle. The sticky toffee pudding didn’t really do it for us, and we are generally big fans, after coming to love this dish while living in England. This one was topped with a lot of pecans, and the cake had a much more date type taste than others I have had, which were more like rich, moist gingerbread almost. I feel like you kind of have to cover it in sauce too, and because of the way this one was served in its own baking dish, this was impossible. 

Overall, I think this is a very nice addition to the Indy restaurant scene. We enjoyed pretty much everything we had, and the restaurant has a nice hip and friendly vibe. Service was a little spotty at times, but I am hoping that will get worked out with time and experience. I look forward to going back—as does everyone else in my family. Who else has been? Please share your favorite items!

Hedge Row
350 Massachusetts Ave
Indy  46204

Noise rating: 5 bells (out of five)

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Nada - Revisit

I have been back to Nada a couple of times since I last wrote—once for dinner and once again for brunch. If my son gets to choose a brunch or lunch place, he inevitable chooses Nada. He is obsessed with their chicken tacos. So when we had something to do afterwards downtown, so we decided it was a good choice. We started with their queso ($7), which is pretty much a requirement at this point. I do think they have some of the best queso in town. There are smooshed black beans on the bottom, and when you stir them all in, they have a lot more flavor than most. You can also order several other additions if you want, but I recommend against it. You really don’t need it. Also, I think they have some of the best chips in town—they’re clearly freshly fried, and just nicely layered tortillas. They come across light and salty and delicious. The dinner that is included in this post was with 3 friends who had never been and all loved the chips.  Also, you need a side of guacamole. They do a very nice job with it as well—nice and bright and acidic. Do yourself a favor and get both. For our brunch meal, my kids both had the chicken tacos, which have chicken, guac, cheese, and pico de gallo ($9 for 2 tacos). These make them very happy and I think that’s great.

Hubby and I split one of my all time favorite brunch dishes, the chicken goetta-dicta ($12), which is their version of eggs benedict made with a muffin, a layer of goetta, avocado, poached eggs, and Sriracha hollandaise. It was delicious and it always is. Goetta is a patty made with oats and sausage and is nice and crunchy and meaty at the same time. It’s perfect in this dish with the creamy avocado, perfectly poached egg, and hollandaise. We decided to share this but take the opportunity to try something new as well, so we ordered the  “Mex’orean” fried chicken buns as well. Now as soon as we ordered them, we remembered back to the first time we went to Nada and got the “Mex-orean” fried chicken appetizer and were decidedly disappointed. The chicken was s super dry that time. But I am happy to report that the chicken was much, much better. They serve them on soft slider-type buns with pickles and a lightly spicy mayo type sauce and they were actually very good. I love the whole pickle thing on Asian-style buns, and these were no exception. Good to know they continued perfecting the chicken, because the super light crust was very tasty and the inside remained moist. We would get them again.

The other meal I had was fun because we all got tacos and traded around so I got to try several (each order comes with three tacos at dinner). There were fish tacos ($15), mushroom tacos (“hongos”) ($12), fried avocado tacos ($11) and mu shu ($13). Actually one of my top choices was the mushroom version. I was surprised at how much I liked it and how much flavor it had. There were balsamic grilled mushrooms, guacamole, black bean puree, Chihuahua cheese, rice, and pico de gallo. It sounds like a lot of ingredients, but there was just enough of each of them. The mushrooms still were the star though and were very tender and flavorful. Next, I really enjoyed the fish tacos, which are battered and deep-fried pieces of hake with guacamole, lime marinated cabbage and avocado. They were tasty as well. The cabbage could have been shredded a little finer maybe, but they had a nice bright lime flavor. The fried avocado also had chipotle bean puree, pickled cabbage, maple, pickled red onion and pepitas. This one was good, and I liked the crunch from the pumpkin seeds, but even with the pickled items just seemed to need a little acid. My least favorite was probably the mu shu tacos, which were made with pork marinated in beer and ginger, and topped with sesame, hoisin, lime cabbage and avocado. They were a little dry and the flavor was a little too sweet and one dimensional for me.

All in all though, Nada has really grown on me over the years (particularly brunch). I think they have made improvements over the years. I do wish you could mix and match your own tacos, but I guess if you go with friends, you can always make that happen yourself.

11 West Maryland
Indy 46204

Noise rating: 2 bells (out of five)

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Caplinger's Fresh Catch

Ok, quick little reminder/extra post about Caplinger’s, especially right now since they have fresh soft shell crabs you guys! I have been tortured by pictures of various restaurants’ soft-shell crabs and haven’t been able to get any. I informed hubby that we were going to lunch to make sure we got some before they go out of season. He was happy to oblige. So we were debating our strategy on the way there—maybe one dinner, one sandwich and share? Or should we even be distracted by bread? Well when we got there and found out the dinners usually have about four crabs, we just decided to go with that and split it. Oh, and add a quarter pound of fried oysters. Why not right?

So we ordered the dinner ($16.99). It also comes with two sides and a couple of hush puppies. Now, sides have been a struggle for me at Caplinger's. As much as I love their fried seafood and their fresh fish market, I have yet to find a side that I love. So I decided to just be uninteresting and go with fries. And hubby got red beans and rice. Oh yeah, and that order of oysters (around $6).

I love soft shell crabs. I loved these soft-shell crabs. And I loved that they gave me 5 of them because they were small (they were tiny for real!). They give you their remoulade sauce to dip them in, which is tasty for sure. The thing I realized was that I now love their fries! I was expecting some boring giant steak fries or something that I wouldn’t end up eating. What I got was heavily seasoned crinkle cut potatoes that were delicious in ketchup. I have finally found my side. Sadly, hubby didn’t think much of the red beans and rice, but he also loved the fries. And those hush puppies are moist and tasty too.

The fried oysters were very good too. Smoking hot out of the fryer and these oysters were huge. In a quarter pound, there were five. If I had any complaint, it might just be that they were SO big. But they were super juicy and fresh, and the breading was great. These people really know how to fry up some seafood. And I like that you know its fresh because, well, it’s a seafood market as well. They serve the oysters with cocktail sauce and it is very good. I was undecided if I preferred them dipped in it or the remoulade, so I just traded back and forth between bites.

Anyhow, if you like soft shell crab like I do, or if you haven’t tried it, here’s your chance. You can just go with the dinner like we did, or you can get them as a sandwich (right now there are two to a sandwich). And keep telling me if you have sides you are passionate about. I haven’t tried them all yet.

Caplinger’s Fresh Catch
7460 North Shadeland Ave
Indy. 46250

Monday, May 21, 2018

Road Trip: Blackberry Farm--Walland, TN

Wow, I recently had the opportunity to go to Blackberry Farm with a bunch of girl friends. It is one of those bucket list foodie type places. It’s located near Knoxville, Tennessee just adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If you have some extra cash burning a hole in your pocket, and you love food and the outdoors, you should add it to your bucket list.

I’m not going to go course by course through every meal, as it will only remind me how decadent I was for the three days we were there, but suffice it to say, you really need to bring your stretchy pants. And while the accommodations are expensive, the food is all included (not alcohol) and they are very generous. For instance, at one breakfast, I had decided to go with a slightly healthy option, but when I just casually mentioned to a friend that I would love to try the biscuits and gravy, there was a plate in front of us to share as well in minutes as our ordered breakfast.

Anyway, speaking of breakfast, they do it right. The menu changes slightly every day so you don’t get bored with the same stuff (you can always get the B&G though if you ask). Everything I had was very good, with the strange exception that the kitchen did not seem to be able to poach an egg with a runny middle. But if you got an over easy or sunny egg, you were fine. A star is the grits with pimento cheese and bacon on top (and this was just a side dish). I would say the other favorite was the simple, but comforting B&G. But you can see, we tried several items and they were happy to bring you as many things on the side as you wanted as well. The lemon scones were amazing.

We never had the totally traditional lunch, because we arrived back from a hike late one day and they just laid out a giant picnic table with a ton of different things including barbecued chicken and ribs, and a plethora of salads and sides. The favorites here were the mustard and Bourbon beans and the strawberry, rhubarb, and beet salad. There was so much food though. Wow. Oh yeah, and a whole plate of desserts as well—a favorite here were the berry hand pies. The second lunch we had was part of a cooking demonstration with their Farmstead Manager, Dustin Busby. It was awesome. He showed us how to make homemade ricotta, homemade pasta filled with cheese and herbs, smoked onion jam dressing for our salad, which contained roasted beets and cauliflower, and individual almond financiers. Every single thing was great, and it was really fun to see how easy it was to make it all. We are already planning a party to make all of the items again. Honestly, it might have been one of my favorite meals.

You can eat dinner at The Barn or The Dogwood. The Barn is the more formal restaurant, and is just stunning inside. The Dogwood is the slightly more casual restaurant that is set in the original farmhouse (they call it the main house). Originally we were going to do the Barn twice and the Dogwood once, but ended up switching it around after eating in both. To be frank, the service in the Barn was pretty off the night we were there, and the service at the Dogwood was brilliant. I also enjoyed the slightly more rustic dishes on the Dogwood menu. The flavors just spoke to me more. The highlight at the Barn for me was their beef tartare, which was so good—pretty sure there were some truffles in there as well as roasted mushrooms. It had such a good earthy and well-seasoned flavor. A table favorite was also the potato salad, which was lightly creamy and topped with trout roe and sliced fried potato chips. They also had amazing desserts—several had a key lime pie that was amazing and I ordered a rhubarb sorbet with a cake that was also delicious.

At the Dogwood, one of my favorite dishes was a clam dish that had beer, butter, garlic, fennel and mustard that was recommended by our hiking guide. I ordered this one twice (one of the few things offered both times we were there). I actually got the recipe and was surprised at how little cream and butter was in it. It felt extremely decadent and delicious when I was eating it and now I can’t wait to make it myself. Add some lightly charred grilled bread and this dish was perfect. The salads they make are wonderful—they always have a nice texture variation and plenty of acid (often with something like pickled red onion). One night I also had an egg dish as a starter that was also rich and delicious. I like that the servings aren’t ridiculous since you get four courses every time. The desserts at the Dogwood were also less fancy, but also delicious. One night I had chocolate sea salt sandies and one night a large slice of chocolate cake and vanilla icing.

All in all, it was a really fun trip with a lot of really good food. There are also a lot of fun outdoor activities as well if you like that sort of thing. If not, there’s also a spa, pool, and of course, the cooking lessons. If you have the chance, I say add it to your list. Just start saving now. 

Blackberry Farm
1471 West Millers Cove Road
Walland, TN 37886