Monday, August 3, 2015

Northside Social- Revisit

I have a group of women that I meet once a month for dinner—we generally eat at places with fairly approachable menus because, a certain one of us is picky (no names--you know who you are). We decided to try Northside Social since it was Chow Down Midtown, and who doesn’t love a deal right? This one is actually a decent one—you got two dinners for $50. You pick from a list of appetizers to share as well as a dessert to share and then you pick from a list of entrées, and you choose your own here.

We chose the flatbread with cheese, arugula, sundried tomatoes, and shaved parmesan. It was very large for sure. It’s too bad we ordered two of them at the table because we didn’t even finish half. I like arugula and parm together and I liked the texture from the tomatoes, but I wished for some light dressing or even some lemons to squeeze on top. The menu described it as arugula salad, but I would just call it plain arugula. There was a touch of Brie on the flatbread, but I would have liked a little more, or something to jazz it up. 

For my main dish, I chose the mac and cheese. They had a fish dish, chicken, short ribs and a ravioli dish as well. The mac and cheese was pretty darn good. It was a huge portion too—I don’t think they are downsizing their Chow Down meals. It had a lot of stuff going on—several kinds of cheese as well as bacon, pancetta and crispy prosciutto. It had lots of nice varying texture and a hearty, meaty taste from all that pork. The top was sprinkled liberally with breadcrumbs that were nice and toasty. There were also chopped shallots in there as well, that helped vary the flavor even more. If mac and cheese doesn’t impress me, it’s usually because it’s just so plain that you don’t have any desire to eat more than a couple of bites. This one had so much stuff going that you felt like you were eating something more than just mac and cheese. I didn’t really find the couple slices of grilled bread necessary with this carb bomb, but there you go—I just left them. And I probably ate like a quarter of this dish—it’s really big.

One friend let me try her potato crusted base fish as well and I actually liked this one even more. I just tried a bite of the fish—it is basa, which is a white, fairly thin, flakey fish that is crusted with potato. It had a great crunch to the potato exterior and kept the fish tender and it had a nice lemony sauce giving it a nice hit of acid. I didn’t try the mashed potatoes on the side or the veg though. Honestly, I would order this again. A quick bit of a friend’s ravioli was pretty good too, although while it is called rhubarb roasted beet ravioli, it is actually regular cheese ravioli that is cooked on a sauce containing rhubarb and beets—I liked the tangy sauce with it, but the raviolis themselves were just standard. 

We got one of each of the two desserts offered on the special menu—I mostly ate the bread pudding. It was good—it was large---and pretty bready. A nice flavor, but I would have appreciated a little more of the warm pecan caramel sauce. 

They are certainly not skimping on the portions for their Chow Down menu. I don’t find the menu at Northside Social particularly interesting, but the food we had was pretty solid. And you can certainly please a variety of tastes.

Northside Social
6525 North College Ave 
Indy 46220
317/253-0111

Thursday, July 30, 2015

U.S. Adventures: Boston, MA

We had a family trip to Boston this month and instead of doing a post of each restaurant individually, since it’s far away, I am just going to do a post of the highlights and lowlights. There are so many places to eat in Boston, though—sort of overwhelming.

My favorite place that we ate was Oishii Sushi in the South End. They have sushi rolls, and they were tasty—I mean, one of our rolls included truffles and proper caviar on top ($25). The other one had lovely, soft supple salmon on top. But the real highlights here were the appetizers. My favorite was the Kobe beef Carpaccio topped with micro greens, fried shallots, and tempura pickled cherry blossoms ($25). It was amazing. My daughter fought with us for the last piece…it truly just melted on your tongue. We also had this wonderful appetizer called “salmon over fire ($30),” which was raw salmon hung over a rod over an open flame. It was seasoned perfectly and the heat just barely warmed it. It might have been a little gimmicky, but my kids thought it was cool, and I thought it was delicious. My son ordered their version of teriyaki beef ($35), which was a huge ribeye steak topped with a wonderful sauce, that was much more savory than sweet. Normally I don’t even eat these kinds of thing with so many other options, but this was delicious. The soft shell crab ($28) and tuna sashimi with fried seaweed with mango weren’t bad either. The menu is huge and I would love the chance to experiment with all of it. I could eat a different meal here for weeks. I so wish we had a place doing this level of Japanese food here in Indy. And it isn’t cheap, but wow, what a great meal.


Speaking of which, you know how I always complain about Italian food in Indy? Well going to Boston didn’t help matters. We ate one dinner at Trattoria di Monica in the North End, which is the Italian section of Boston. The restaurant was adorable—it totally reminds you of a restaurant in an old alley in Europe. Small and with tons of charm. And they take reservations! It was packed the entire time we were there. Our special starter was a bruschetta special ($12) with asparagus and a runny egg and burrata cheese. Note: bruschetta actually means it’s grilled bread, not only that it is topped with a tomato mixture. Also, I really appreciated the drizzle of balsamic on it (and they used it to some degree on most things) to give a touch of acid to everything. We noticed the pastas were huge, so we just ordered three to share (you really only need two for four people). The best was the fettuccine al nero—it was squid ink fettuccine topped with seared scallops, leeks and carrots in a barely creamy white wine sauce ($26). Wow was this dish good. They make all their pasta (ALL OF IT) in house and it shows. I loved the lighter sauce that allowed you to taste the seafood and the nuanced flavor of the pasta. It was great. My daughter would talk your ear off about how much she liked the spinach gnocchi ($23) though—she loves her gnocchi! It was pretty darn tasty too. It had a light braised pork ragout on top that didn’t overpower. My other favorite items were the light tempura fried artichoke hearts ($11)—I love artichokes in most forms, and these crunchy little bites were no exception. Loved the sliced cheese underneath and the little salad beside. Plus there was a spicy aioli to dip in as well. Not sure why none of the local Italian places use this much fresh pasta in their menus, but they should. It makes such a difference. 

We also had a meal at B&G Oysters, which I had read about somewhere and is highly rated in Zagat. It’s a cute little place—oyster bar-ish with a small patio. I was pretty blown away by the apps we had—the fried oysters were such a hit with the entire family, we had to order a second round. They were small, super fresh oysters deep-fried (I’ll bet the fried clams there are great too), but remaining light and then served on top of what they called a house tartar sauce. It was also light, more liquidy than most, and super delicious. Also, they do several things from the raw bar besides oysters and we had the ceviche of the day ($4), which was super acidic and fabulous. The crabmeat cocktail was crab mixed with Dijonaise and was also really good. They were nice dishes to have together because the flavor profiles were so different. My son loves clam chowder and had it pretty much everywhere. This was his favorite of the trip. If I lived in Boston, I can see frequently making a meal out of these apps. Unfortunately the main courses we had were not quite as good. Not bad, just didn’t stand out like the apps. The lobster BLT I had had some nice lobster on it, but just wasn’t much else going on. Hubby’s crab taglietelle was also lackluster. It’s a nice place, but I would stick with the top half of the menu. And like I said, I would have it often if it were an option for me.
one fried oyster

Of course, we had to take the kids to the Union Oyster House—it’s the oldest restaurant in Boston, or something like that. The food is pretty much what you expect, the clam chowder was solid—classic thick chowder with hunks of clam and potato. It was my favorite part of the meal. My lobster roll was fine, but I have kind of ruined myself for lobster rolls I think because I like a little more moisture and seasoning in mine than your classic lobster roll. They use just a touch of mayo and that’s it, and there’s a ton of celery in it, which I don’t use in mine. I like some lemon and some Dijon, but that’s probably not traditional. Hubby’s fried seafood platter had some delicious fried fish on it and the shrimp were good too, but nothing amazing here. It’s a cool place to end up for lunch after walking the Freedom Trail with your kids. It’s a huge, rambley kind of place with strangely shaped booths and the weirdest, smallest bathrooms. We enjoyed ourselves.


One of our favorite lunches of the trip was at Brasserie Jo, which we popped into after getting off the Duck Tour. It’s a French Bistro and it was really tasty. I had a crepe with egg, Gruyere and mushrooms, and even though it wasn’t buckwheat (my favorite), it was really good. Nice crisp edges and nice runny egg yolks. My daughter and hubby shared the bistro steak frites and both loved it. My daughter loved letting the giant hunk of herb butter melt all over the meat. My son had clam chowder (he was on a quest to try them all) and enjoyed it as well, even though it was more of a French version—slightly thinner. We all enjoyed the warm loaves of French bread that would appear regularly when the kids (ok, and us) plowed through one. The topper for the kids though were the giant profiteroles with their own pitcher of rich dark chocolate sauce to pour on as you wished. They loved them (and they were pretty darn good).


My least favorite dinner was at the Atlantic Fish Company—it was very near our hotel and easy to get a reservation for 8 people because we were meeting one of hubby’s college roommates and his family. It was more along the lines of any of your big chain seafood places, like McCormick and Schmicks or Mitchell’s. It was fine—I liked the bag of fried clams we had as an appetizer, but my tuna tartare was pretty bland and hubby’s haddock was really overcooked.  Not a place I would likely return, but it won points for convenience.


Oh, and I can’t end this post without mentioning the cannoli. The cannoli I had in Boston were amazing. I have pretty much lived my life thinking I don’t like cannoli because all the ones I have ever had were not fresh (it they are coming out of the fridge, forget about it) and the pastry was not crispy and flakey. Now I know, I like cannoli. Good cannoli. And we had them at two different bakeries in the North End, one not so crowded (Bova's Bakery) and the other one was Mike’s Pastry with lines out the door. I’d say they were equally good, and I may have even liked Bova's best because it was a little smaller and easier to eat. Regardless, I am now a fan of cannoli.
Bova's Cannoli

And one last thing, we took the kids to the Max Brenner chocolate restaurant. It was terrible. The service was bad, the food (we just had dessert) was bad, and overall I hated it. The kids will defend it to a certain extent, because it is a chocolate restaurant, but I don’t think even they would fight to go back (which is never gonna happen). 

That’s it, in a nutshell, our food adventures in Boston. It’s a great walkable City with a lot of really great places to eat. Also, because I’m super lazy, I am just linking the restaurants throughout this post instead of listing all the addresses. So click the links on each of their names if you want to learn more.

                                                                      



Monday, July 27, 2015

Bluebeard -Revisit

Some good friends of ours are getting ready to move away (sad face) and had never been to Bluebeard, so hubby and I decided we needed to remedy that situation. We were also going to a concert downtown, so we needed to eat early, which is sort of ideal when you are going to Bluebeard since they don’t take reservations and usually get pretty crowded any time after 6:00.

Since they had never been before, we started with the bread plate—the small size ($4). It’s always a good choice. Slices of whatever Amelia’s bread they’re featuring that night plus various spreads. This night was almond butter, garlic oil and anchovy butter. I like them all, although I find the anchovy butter just a little too strong. I like anchovies, but this stuff is intense.

We also started with a large Caesar salad ($15) because it’s one of hubby’s favorites. It isn’t your classic Caesar, other than it is tossed with Caesar vinaigrette. They use romaine and frisee and add onion, tomato, basil, parmesan and duck confit. It’s a really good salad, and the duck is super tender and adds heft to the salad.

We just decided to continue with sharing, so we all ordered a bunch of stuff and split it. Everything was good, but I am thinking my favorite item of the evening was the Banh Mi. There was pork belly, Sriracha aioli, pickles carrots and cucumbers, cilantro, and jalapeno on a brioche bun. It was such a great combo of flavors—and had more going on than a lot of traditional banh mi. I liked the addition of the Sriracha to the mayo to give it a bit more heat, and I liked that they put a decent amount of it on the sandwich so it was really moist. The bun was nice and soft, but held up to everything. They also added some little fried bits of shallot, which gave a nice addition of crunch that was different from the crunch of the pickled vegetables. A really great sandwich. I wonder if they offer it for lunch.

We also had the pasta with Bolognese ($26). Usually this is done at Bluebeard with papardelle, but this time they used a different shape of pasta that was sort of a spiral, like a snail shell. I think their Bolognese has nice flavor with fennel and basil and I have always thought it was done well. I still don’t get that excited about it, but it is a crowd pleaser and an easy and plentiful dish to share, and it’s almost always on the menu.

We shared the truffle egg toast ($16) as well, which is a perennial favorite with hubby and me. They change it up regularly, but I have had a similar version before. They give you a big hunk of Pullman bread that has an egg cooked in the middle of it—then there’s cheese on top and whipped St. Andre cheese underneath and then there were peas, mushrooms and bits of crumbled pistachio. And of course, there’s truffle oil in there too. I love this dish because, well, eggs.. I like that they often have some variation of it on the menu, and I nearly always order it. It’s rich for sure, but in all the best ways.

We also shared the halibut ($18) and enjoyed it as well. I really like the way they added morcilla sausage to the dish. I’m a fan of seafood and sausage combinations—adding depth and salt to the seafood. There was also a bunch of veg on the plate, rounding it out as well. I particularly liked the lemon and capers added, because you know me, I like some acid and some salt with just about everything. It was a solid dish, even if the fish were just a tad on the overdone side for me.

We split a piece of chess pie for dessert, and it tasted really good—it’s almost like a sugar cream pie but a bit richer. The crust tasted really good, although it was really hard to cut through—like maybe it had been sitting a day or two. But everyone really enjoyed it.

I have recently heard some complaints about the service at Bluebeard, but I have pretty much always found it to be efficient and knowledgeable. It may be a bit brusque at times, but I just assume that’s because they’re so busy. I still think it is easily one of the top five restaurants in Indy.


Bluebeard
653 Virginia Avenue
Indy, 46203
317/686-1580


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Nourish

Hubby and I had a date night, and as usual, I wanted to try something new. I gave him a few of the menus of some of the latest openings and he picked Nourish.  We were trying to picture where exactly this place is—on South East Street—and it made sense when I saw it was right next to Bosphorus Café.  We debated what the space was in its past life. I’m not sure, but we settled on a video store based on the layout and windows.

They have done a nice job with the interior though—they’ve made what are steel beams look like wood, added booths and nice lighting. The bar was cute with the shelves looking like tree branches. The whole place has a slightly more organic, feminine style than most places these days, and I appreciated the variety. (My one knock, the windows are set high up so once you sit down in the booths, you can’t really see out of them—I think I would have raised the booths a bit).

Anyhow, our server was extremely friendly, and was enthusiastic about the menu. She wasn’t overly familiar with the wine list, but we worked through it. They were offering wine specials the night we were there—not sure if it was a weekly thing or what, but it was nice.

The food is fairly sophisticated sounding—and also incorporates a lot of healthier options. There are more vegetarian options than many restaurants (and even some vegan) and they use lots of grains, etc. instead of things like potato and pastas for sides. I’m always a little worried with these kinds of menus, wondering if they can really make “healthier” taste good.

Our first courses were the zucchini tortilla ($6) and the grilled radicchio ($7). I enjoyed the tortilla. It is the Spanish version of a tortilla—which is almost more like a quiche with layers of potato in it. This version incorporated slices of zucchini as well as Idiazabal cheese on top. There was a very strong  smoky pepper sauce underneath that honestly was a bit overwhelming to me with this dish, a little went a long way. But I enjoyed the tortilla, even if it was a fairly simple dish.

Unfortunately, the grilled radicchio did not fare as well. This dish was a couple of radicchio heads that were simply split in half and then grilled—and I think not long enough. If you are familiar with radicchio, you know it is pretty bitter on its own. I think softening it by grilling it is a good plan, but this didn’t go far enough. Also, the menu described it with feta and olives. There was a light creamy (I’m guessing feta-based) sauce under it and on it, and while it was tasty it just couldn’t stand up to that bitter radicchio. As far as olives, there were 4 halves, so didn’t add a lot. I did appreciate the super thinly sliced red onions, which are good on just about anything really. However, when our server noticed we ate very little of the dish, she asked us for honest feedback and we told her what we thought. The manager offered us another salad (we said no) and without saying anything, they just simply took the radicchio off the bill. This is proactive customer service and I really appreciated it.

This was a place where we enjoyed the entrées substantially more than the apps. I ordered the miso chicken ($16). It was a beautifully prepared miso brined chicken breast with lovely crisp skin. They used rye berries as the grain underneath it, and the whole thing was in a ginger scallion sauce—it had a salty kick from the soy but a really nice ginger flavor as well. And the grains had a nice nutty flavor, but I really liked it with the sauce and the chicken. I was impressed with how tender the chicken was and, while it did feel healthier than many restaurant entrées, it still had all the flavor and skill of a high-end dish.

Hubby liked his walleye dish ($17) just as much, and in fact we argued over which was better. I really enjoyed his as well—and it had a richer flavor profile from the mascarpone cheese mixed into the faro that was used here as the side. There were also wilted leeks in there, and a nice drizzle of lemon oil giving it further richness and a hint of acid. The fish was cooked very well—not dried out at all and with a nice crispy skin (just like the chicken). I really like it when the fish or chicken can be so tender, and the skin rendered so crisp. Not only does it add more flavor, but texture as well. The use of both of these grains was done superbly.

All in all, we were pleased with our meal (I would not order the radicchio though for sure). And so far, I’d order heavy on the entrées here, although I am keeping an open mind. I am also looking forward to trying lunch here. If you’ve been, I’d like to know what you had and what you thought. 

Nourish
931 S. East Street
Indy 46225
317/737-1699
www.thenourishindy.com