Tuesday, June 30, 2009

1875: The Steakhouse--French Lick


Another road trip—and I have had a lot of feedback from my previous post on one of the restaurants at French Lick, so here’s the other marquee restaurant at the resort. This trip we went to 1875: The Steakhouse (which is named after the date of the first running of the Kentucky Derby).

It is a nice looking restaurant, although there are some weird looking rooms off to one side that would not be my first choice, so we requested a table near the window. The whole restaurant is weirdly shaped because it is actually placed in a room in the resort that was the original drop off spot for one of the trains, and so basically it was a hall that was converted into a restaurant space. One thing we noticed is that people tend to dress up a bit more here than often in Indy, and it was sort of fun that way. Sweetly, we sat next to a couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary and were toasting with martinis. Cheers to them!

Anyway, 1875 is your basic steakhouse, you could probably guess pretty much what is on the menu, and you could probably get about 75% of it right, but it is executed pretty well, and they do add some seasonal items to the menu to keep it somewhat fresh. I went with the classic steakhouse dinner—a blue cheese wedge to start, a filet with Bernaise sauce and a chocolate molten cake to finish.

The wedge was pretty standard, almost enough dressing for the lettuce, but not quite (there can never be enough salad dressing on these wedges, there is just so much lettuce). I never eat it all anyway, so I had plenty, but if you actually ate the whole half head of lettuce, you would need more. The chunks of blue cheese in the dressing were tasty and nice little pieces of bacon as well. Nothing spectacular, but hey it was a wedge. They don’t vary that much.



Hubby had the fried green tomatoes to start, which I had a bite of. They were quite good as well, very thin and lightly fried with a cornmeal crust. The drizzle of remoulade was a nice flavor combination. I would order these next time over the salad probably.

The steak was fine, perfectly prepared medium rare and served over a little demi glace. I think demi glace should be disclosed on the menu when it is on your food, and if you read my review of Sinclair’s at French Lick, it really bugged me how much they used there. This was not as bad and not as much, but I would still ask for it without it. If you order one of their sauces on the side (as I ordered the Bernaise) I don’t think you need more.


We also ordered the creamed spinach and lobster mac and cheese as side items (although the lobster mac and cheese is actually technically an appetizer on the menu). The spinach was really pretty good and the mac and cheese not bad, although the chunks of lobster were quite small (and I mean, quite small).

Hubby had an enormous ribeye which he thoroughly enjoyed.

We had passed on the soufflés which I regretted later—had the molten chocolate cake with cream….I don’t think it was molten so much as cake just covered in chocolate sauce, but we ate it anyway (it was chocolate after all).

Ok, when you’re going to French Lick, you’re not going for the food. But for a generally decent meal with good service in a nice locale, 1875 is a good choice.

1875: The Steakhouse
French Lick Resort
8670 West State Road 56
French Lick, IN 47432
888-936-9360
http://www.frenchlick.com/hotels/frenchLick/dining.jsp


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Aftertaste-Revisit


The food karma continues, and it’s awesome! We had been wanting to go back to Aftertaste (Taste Café’s dinner service) ever since we went and had a mixed experience. We figured it had been long enough to work out some of the kinks and settle into their dinner thing (not to mention that they are now serving two nights a week-Wednesdays and Thursdays, so the crowds are not so crazy).

We got there right around opening time (6:00) because they don’t take reservations but there were only a few people ahead of us. We were seated at a table appropriately sized for the two of us and greeted by a very friendly server. The menu is still quite large and it took us awhile to decide what to get. We sorta skipped the mains and just made up a tapas dinner this time since the mains we had last time were the biggest disappointment (that and the service).

We ordered one “snack”(the truffled eggs on toast), a salad (the chopped salad), a tartine (the rare roast beef) and a side (pomme frites, natch). Everything came at the same time, which was fine, but if you want to space things out you may want to order a couple things and then wait and order a couple more once those come. The truffled eggs on toast were amazing. It was just a thick piece of bread with a fried egg (perfectly cooked, runny in the middle) with a piece of Swiss cheese completely covering the egg, one inch pieces of asparagus scattered on top and around and truffle oil on top. This is the thing about Taste, they take basic quality ingredients and turn them into truly memorable dishes. The quality is super high even though the dishes themselves don’t sound super complicated. The flavors blend terrifically and it all comes together (usually).
Green asparagus for sale in New York CityImage via Wikipedia

The salad was a slightly smaller version similar to the lunch salads, which are always good. We had the chopped salad, which was lettuce, red onions, tomatoes, blue cheese, avocado and apples all chopped into same sized pieces. It was tossed with a sherry vinaigrette and was quite tasty. It was still so large that even between the two of us, we didn’t finish it all. But it was a nice tangy side dish to go alongside the rich yummy other things.

The tartine is basically an open faced sandwich with horseradish cream on the bread, topped with thin slices of rare roast beef, thin slices of blue cheese (which was really blue and added a lot of flavor) and balsamic onion marmalade. There were two pieces which was a perfect amount to split between the two of us---I don’t think I could have eaten the whole thing as well as the rest of the stuff.

One of the best things at Taste (lunch or dinner) is the pomme frites. Best in the city perhaps, and the basil aioli to dip in is one of my favorite things. They were a good side dish to add to everything else as well.

Things are definitely falling into place at Aftertaste. The place was not so jammed that it was overwhelming, although it was still quite buzzy (probably helped that the outside seating was also available). The service seems more comfortable and polished and the kitchen, not so overwhelmed. The lunch service has always been spot on as far as speed and quality (other than sometimes you wait quite awhile on line just to order—why do people not seem to know what they want by the time they get to the register?). I am so relieved that it has improved so much, because it is a place that, while has been a mainstay of my lunch rotation, can now become a dinner mainstay as well. Cheers!

Aftertaste
Taste Cafe & Marketplace
5164 N College Ave
Indy 46205
317-925-2233

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Tulip Noir


Wow, I have been having a little good run of meals lately. Nothing makes a girl happier! A friend and I went out to try a new breakfast/lunch place called Tulip Noir. It was fabulous (thanks to several of my readers for the recommendation!)

Tulip Noir is located in another strip mall on west 86th street, actually right next door to Sawasdee Thai restaurant. The décor is very modern, bordering on sparse, with baseballs hanging from the ceiling (?). A piece or two of art, not much else. The service was extremely friendly, and we were acknowledged pretty much immediately upon entering. Our server was very perky and enthusiastic. My guess is the place is owned by a Mom-- I noticed that in the bathroom, there was a stool for kids to reach the sink. Having two little kids myself, I really appreciate such things.

Anyway, we managed to show up in the last few days of the Spring menu (they change it 4 times a year, seasonally) which seems to be something I am really good at doing for some reason, but I am really glad I got to eat this menu because it was really outstanding.

As for drinks, it is a restaurant with a very extensive tea and coffee menu, with few other choices. Not generally wanting tea or coffee with lunch, I went with a flavored sparkling water which would have been fine had it been cold (I personally don’t like sparkling waters with ice, but hey, maybe that is just me).

The menu looked great and my friend and I were having a hard time deciding what to order, so we agreed to split everything. We got the mushroom and asparagus crepe and the chicken ciabbata sandwich as well as a side of the cauliflower and broccoli fritters. She also had a cup of the soup of the day which was a brothy spinach soup. (Man, that grilled cheese with two kinds of cheese, apples and bacon was quite tempting though!)

The portions were perfect for sharing—there were two little wedges of the crepe, two pieces of the sandwich and two fritters. And I thought all of these things were great. The crepe was perfectly crispy, the way I think crepes should be, and was full of sautéed mushrooms and (skinny) sliced asparagus with lots of pieces of goat cheese on top. The goat cheese melted into the crepe, giving it the right amount of tang for the pure savory flavors of the mushrooms and asparagus. The only thing I didn’t like was that the mixed greens on the side seem to not have any dressing on them at all.

The chicken sandwich was made of a grilled pieces of ciabatta filled with natural lemon garlic chicken (super tender slices that were not tough and hard to eat like so many chicken sandwiches that just slap an entire breast on there) with dill, provolone, sliced tomato, sliced cucumber, spinach and avocado sauce. I took the cucumber off (ok, I hate cucumbers, although strangely, I love pickles, but that’s another story) and the sandwich was superb. It was not so thick that you couldn’t get your mouth around it, but it had enough of everything that you got a little bit of everything in just about every bite. And the flavors were great. Again, same problem with the little side salad—not enough dressing (they only way I knew there was any dressing, was by looking underneath the greens to see a bit on the plate).

The fritters were nothing like what I expected; they were more like little potato pancakes made up of finely grated broccoli and cauliflower instead of potatoes. They were served with a yummy, creamy gorgonzola sauce on top—it was almost like eating a bowl of broccoli gorgonzola soup with a crunchy edge. The flavors are great—who doesn’t like broccoli and gorgonzola together?



I didn’t try the soup, but my friend said it was the only thing that really wasn’t that great. It was a total puree, and she is more of a chunky-type soup girl. Other than that though, I think she totally agreed with my assessment of the food.

I thank all of my readers who have recommended this place—it is a real find and I can’t wait to go back and try the new summer menu very soon!

Tulip Noir
1224 West 86th
Indy 46260
317-848-5252
www.tulipnoircafe.com

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Euphoria-Late Spring

***As of June 5, 2011, Euphoria is closed as a restaurant and is only open for private events. The chef has also left the restaurant.****

There was a moment when I thought I wasn’t going to write up every meal I have at Euphoria because I go there more than a lot of places. But then, I was like, forget that, this is some of the best food in Indy, and I am going to write about it! My readers need to know.

It had been awhile, and we hadn’t hit the latest menu yet so we got ourselves on over there. When we got there, we learned it was the last night for this particular menu, which always seems to happen to us, but we were happy to enjoy the last of the season’s morels. We started with the ½ order (thank you thank you for putting half orders of pasta on the menu, this makes me so happy) of the morel mushroom pasta, which was pasta “rags” (or large flattened pieces like really wide pappardelle, covered with a creamy sauce with Pecorino Romano and Taleggio cheeses, and morels and asparagus mixed in. Man, was this good. And I was so happy to see they have (at least for now) added a pasta section to the menu with two pasta choices in full or half orders. I have said many times that Chef Gates’ pasta could compete (and win) against just about any in the City. This pasta was so good and rich, but had a sharpness from the Taleggio that I really enjoyed. The morels and asparagus added a nice flavor and texture break, and the pasta was perfect. Hubby and I shared this, as well as the next item, and we both loved it.



The other appetizer we had was the tuna tartare. This is clearly the best I have had in the City (well, I had a really good one at Puck’s once, but I think it may have been influenced by the fact that Chef Gates had worked there because it was very similar). It was a layer of a sweet onion/tomato relish, a layer of avocado, and the chopped sashimi tuna with horseradish-Dijon vinaigrette. The flavors went perfectly together, and there was just enough acid between the vinaigrette and the tomato relish to make all the flavors shine. Plus the teeny little crunchy pieces of the onion were perfect with the smooth avocado. And the salty sesame crackers were the perfect thing to eat with it--adding the salty taste and the crunchy texture. I had a really hard time deciding which was better. I would happily order either or both, again. Outstanding.






We had already ordered our entrees (sharing the pan roasted black grouper and a half order of the lobster tortelli) when we were chatting with the Chef who told me there were soft shell crabs on the bar menu! I hadn’t even looked at it because everything on the regular menu sounded so good! Well, like I said we had already ordered our food, but no way was I going to pass up soft shell crab, so we just added an order of those to our meal as well!

The soft shell crabs were delicious—really meaty ones, not like some you get that have no meat in the body. They were coated in breadcrumbs made of graham crackers as well as some other savory spices and were fried. They were really good too—a very similar coating to his calamari I think which is also quite good. There were three dipping sauces and I really liked them, except maybe for the tartar, it just wasn't exciting. They were a great deal too, there were 4 on the plate (even though there are only 3 in my picture—hubby got to one before I had my camera ready) and I think it was like $16.





Back to the things we initially ordered, the grouper was served with toasted couscous, ramps, English peas, a charred tomato vinaigrette and basil pesto. Again, the flavors all went together beautifully and the fish had a wonderful crispy skin.


The lobster tortelli has been on the menu before, and I have had it a few times. It is little tortellis stuffed with lobster, served with leeks and a “shallot-tarragon beurre fondue.” It was probably my least favorite thing we had, although it was still good. The pasta was a little dense I guess, but I love those smoked tomatoes on top for garnish. The flavors are rich and go together really well, but everything else was just so good, it seemed to lack a little luster in comparison.

Obviously, after that much food, we couldn’t do dessert, and hubby made a nice lunch of leftover fish and pasta, but one of these days we are saving more room for another cheese plate.

Euphoria
337 West 11th Street
Indy, 46202
317-955-2389
http://www.indycanal.com/

***June 21st update: went back the week after this review (what can I say, some friends wanted to get some of those yummy crabs, and who am I to argue?). Had lots of our standbys, the crab (natch), the beef tartare, and a cheese plate, all delicious as usual. Also tried the venison chops (we shared them). Outstanding. Not gamey at all and wonderfully prepared. Almost like a meatier, jucier lamb chop. Oh, and of course, the chef informs me the menu is changing yet again this week...a repeat visit may be necessary soon!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Zest-Dinner

Sigh… I really really want to like this place—a nice independent neighborhood joint already really well-known for their breakfasts and lunches. They recently started serving dinner so we thought we should give it a go. I have had a pretty good lunch here before, but this dinner was a big disappointment. In a word, almost everything was dry.

The menu is pretty extensive and even has some breakfast for dinner items. I decided to try the three course price fixe, which is a great deal. I started with the wedge salad (you had a choice between this and the soup). It was pretty good, and not enormous which was nice and the blue cheese dressing clearly seemed homemade—it was really good.

We also had some pommes frites to share with our friends to start. They do have good fries and a really good roasted red pepper aioli to dip in (as well as a wasabi cream and vinegar, but the aioli is by far the best).

I then had the filet with chimichurri sauce served with roasted potatoes and grilled asparagus. The steak (ordered medium rare) was medium at best and really dry. The chimichurri was actually really tasty I thought—it was a bit tart, but I tend to really like tart things so I thought it was good. The potatoes were fine, nothing too exciting and the asparagus was good, but you know me, I like mine a little thinner.

Hubby had the Baja Tacos which were cornmeal encrusted basa fish with white cheddar and chipotle slaw served on corn tortillas. The sides were cilantro lime rice and refried beans. They were drizzled with sour cream and there was some pico di gallo there too. Again, dry was the word that best describes the tacos according to hubby.

I also had a bite of the asiago fried chicken, and sadly, it seemed to suffer the same fate. However, I did try our other dining companions rosemary roasted pork tenderloin and it was the least dry item on the table. Which is weird, because I generally don’t order pork tenderloin because it is often so dry. This wasn’t bad.

My three course came with a dessert—it was a sort of mixed berry shortcake which was fine as well, but not overly memorable. The service was friendly and helpful, and the dishes were well presented, but the I’m not sure if I was just unlucky, or what, but it wasn’t very crowded in there at dinner—I would love to hear from any of you who might have tried dinner and hear what you thought.

Zest Exciting Food Creations
1134 E 54th Street
Indy 46220
317-466-1853
http://www.zestexcitingfood.com/

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Columbus, Ohio--M Restaurant


From time to time I add a review of a restaurant that isn’t in Indy, but within a drivable distance—for me that is about 3 hours (I have kids after all), particularly if it is really good. We were visiting hubby’s family in Columbus, Ohio and snuck out for dinner on our own. We ate at “M” which is Restaurateur Cameron Mitchell’s signature restaurant. Cameron Mitchell is a very recognized name in Columbus because he has several different restaurants there. In Indy, you may be familiar with Mitchell’s Fish Market which was originally started by Mitchell, but after the chain went nationwide, it was sold to a larger conglomerate.

Anyway, we had a great meal at M, and it is a very upscale restaurant with a fairly sophisticated menu, and it was quite busy. This got me to thinking about why Indy has such a problem supporting our own local places in the same echelon. I mean, you can’t make the argument that Columbus is such a larger city or that they have more money or whatever, and they seem to be able to support good, locally run, high end restaurants.

As for our meal, I had the “cones” appetizer to start which consisted of 3 sesame cones filled with crab salad, lobster salad and tuna tartare. It was good, but not the star of the night. The ingredients were good quality though and the presentation quite impressive. Hubby had the house Caesar salad, which was a unique twist on the Caesar adding nice chunks of blue cheese, arugula in amongst the romaine, and sourdough croutons. The dressing was parmesan garlic. It was outstanding. I normally don’t eat Caesar dressing out because hubby makes the best one at home with a recipe from his mother, but this could stand up with the best of them.




My entrée was what made this dinner so yummy though. I had the halibut seared and served with homemade crab and corn stuffed raviolis, all over freshly shucked corn and in a sweet corn emulsion and some nice skinny asparagus on top. The fish was cooked properly (not dry as a bone) and everything went together perfectly. It was my little reminder that corn season is coming soon, and I can’t wait! And those little raviolis were light and delicious, and you could actually taste the crab inside.

Hubby had the “steak in a bowl” which was a filet cooked to order over blue cheese potatoes with a nice piece of duck liver on top as well as a black truffle sauce (and you could even see the truffles in there!). It was also very very good (we actually switched halfway through). It was quite rich (duh) but all the flavors went together quite well. I preferred my fish to it, but hubby preferred the steak. So either way, you can’t lose on these dishes.

The dessert was the only thing that didn’t come together; it was a caramel/banana bread pudding with lots of cashews on top. There just wasn’t anything special about it.

If you are in Columbus and want a very good high end meal with polished service and a beautiful atmosphere, give M a try. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

M Restaurant
2 Miranova Place, Suite 100
Columbus, OH
614/629-0000
www.matmiranova.com

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Arni's


Another place that we eat a lot, although usually at home, is Arni’s. I guess if you asked me where I get pizza more often than not, I would say it is Arni’s. They recently (a year or so ago) moved from the west side of Indy over to the northside (they are at 96th and Brandt Road). Since they have moved and are closer to my house, we eat there a lot more.

I will say, the pizza from Arni’s is different from most places, and is certainly not in the gourmet style of some of the fancier places. Arni’s started as a Pizza King years and years ago (my Mom can give you the full history) and carries a lot of the features of Pizza King pizza such as using ground sausage and even ground pepperoni (although I think Arni’s is a lot better). I am not sure if my love of this pizza comes from the fact that it may have been the first carry out pizza I ever ate as a child (visiting my Grandparents in Lafayette) or what, but it is the only place where I order sausage on my pizza. Generally I order veggie pizza, but not at Arni’s—I pretty much always get sausage and mushroom, our family classic. It is thin crust pizza, often has a bit of a salty crust, which I like, and it is cut into lots of little squares rather than the classic wedges. I don’t know, people either like it or they don’t, but I do, and judging by their crowds, I am not alone. Hubby also really likes it (good thing, sort of a test to get into the family) as does everyone who has had it at my house.

We often also order the buffalo wings. I am not sure, but I think these are the best wings I have ever had. They are really big and tasty, not super spicy (and you can actually get them in several flavors if buffalo isn’t you thing). I always get the blue cheese dressing which is really good, not just the stuff out of a bottle (I think they make most if not all of their dressings in house). But these are big, meaty, tender wings, not just the bone/skin/sauce things you get a lot of places.

The real reason I finally decided to write this review though is that I tried something different the other day when I just wasn’t in the mood for pizza or wings. I had the California turkey wrap. It was pretty tasty too. Wasn’t overfilled with lettuce like some wraps are—had the appropriate amount of ingredients—turkey, avocado, bacon, mixed greens, provolone and sundried tomato vinaigrette in a spinach wrap. Even better when I dipped it into Mom’s leftover parmesan peppercorn salad dressing. Hubby also had the Philly cheese steak sandwich, which he said wasn’t very Philly cheesesteak-ish, but that is was a really good steak sandwich. The menu is huge, they have tons of interesting sandwiches and appetizers (I also love the onion strings which aren’t on the menu but they will make them for you if you order them).

The kids really like this place (they sort of have to) but they have lots of choices on the kids menu (for main dishes and sides) but one of the perennial favorites is the mini cheese pizza. This is clearly a very family friendly place—there are always lots of kids in there whenever I go and the service is usually really fast (take out is usually ready in 10 minutes). But it also has a pretty modern edge to the décor.

I thought since there was a lot of interest on the pizza front when I wrote about Some Guys a few weeks back, I would clue everyone in on one of my favorites. And I welcome any further pizza comments you might have! And hey, does anyone know if there is any true New York style pizza out there? A reader recently asked, and I would love to know myself. I know some of you have recommeded Giorgio's (downtown) and Stefano's (Fishers) which I have yet to try (but they're on the list!)--anywhere else?

Arni’s
4705 East 96th Street
Indy 46240
317-571-0077
http://www.meetyouatarnis.com/

Arni's Restaurant on Urbanspoon