Thursday, April 8, 2010

Recess - Revisit

Wow. We had a really great meal the other night at Recess. It was funny because when I looked at the menu that day, I was sort of thinking, “eh, doesn’t seem that exciting.” But wow, everything came together beautifully and I really enjoyed this one much more than my first trip. I wasn’t going to write this one up (and thus, sorry, no pictures) because it wasn’t that long ago that I reviewed it, but after finishing this meal, I felt an obligation.

The first course was a salad of arugula with sliced fennel, shallots and julienned green apples, shaved parmesan with a walnut vinaigrette. There was half a little spring roll alongside too which was filled with, get this, avocado and bacon. Now this is my kind of spring roll. And the tanginess of the dressing and tartness of the apple was great with the richness and saltiness of the spring roll and the spicy kick from the fennel. The only thing I would have changed was making all the fennel pieces uniformly small; a few were so big that I didn’t eat them because it was just too peppery. But this was one of the best salads I have had in a long while. And I loved that everything was properly bite sized and dressed. And seriously, how can you go wrong with a spring roll stuffed with bacon and avocado? You can’t.

The next course was shrimp bisque with an asparagus cream and little pieces of those super skinny asparagus spears I love so much (have I mentioned lately how happy I am that it is spring?) Anyway, I love that this was just a small little portion of soup, not a huge bowl, because for whatever reason, I have a hard time eating a gigantic bowl of just about any soup. This was a nice portion and I ate every bite. The bisque had an amazing shellfish flavor and little bits of shrimp throughout. And a little dollop of the cream and the pieces of asparagus that were just the right amount of soft, but still with a bit of a firm bite to them. It was great.

The next, and main, course was a chicken dish. This is probably why when I saw the menu, was sort of thinking, “ho hum,” but wow. This was outstanding. So it was a chicken breast cutlet which was fairly thin, but not super thin, cooked in a wonderfully seasoned light breading, with all kinds of nice peppery flavor. It was served over a ragout type mix of Portobello mushrooms, wild ramps (which are similar to scallions, but with a bit more flavor) and little bits of the dark meat from the chicken in a soy jus. Seriously, this is some of the best chicken I have ever had. The cutlet was perfectly cooked, not dry in the least, and went perfectly with the other ingredients. It was appropriately hearty for early spring, on a cold night, but not overly so. The mushrooms were my favorite part. Little dices that were so flavorful, I got a little sad when I ate the last one. I cleaned yet another plate (and I am telling you this is unusual for me). Which brings me to my next point; I think Recess is serving the perfect portion sizes. This is what we should be eating America. Not two giant chicken breasts with twice as much starch on the side. But I digress.

For dessert, we had a sour cream panna cotta with dried cherries. Again, I was sort of thinking this didn’t seem that exciting, but it was also really good. The panna cotta had visible bit of vanilla bean in it, so you got that rich vanilla flavor combined with the slight tanginess of the sour cream. It was served with a little crispy wafer cookie that was also a really nice textural ingredient with the smooth panna cotta. And the cherries added a nice component as well. Again, I ate every bite.

So this is a perfect example to me of why what Greg Hardesty is doing at Recess is such a good thing. There’s a good chance I wouldn’t have ever ordered many of these things on a menu, but since you do not have a choice (and on this night there were no choices at all), you just relax and eat what you get. And it was wonderful.

We also had the wine pairing with the food and it was quite nice as well. I love wine, but I am not as knowledgeable as many foodies about it, and I love putting this decision into someone else’s hands. Especially someone who puts some real effort into it and does such a great job. The wines this night were a white Burgundy, a Chardonnay, and a Tempranillo. All were very nice with the food.

My only complaint of the evening was the fact that it was a fairly cold night outside and the restaurant was quite cold inside as well. Of course, this seems to be a common problem in Indy, but I get tired of wearing layers everywhere I go. And it detracts a bit from your meal when your teeth are nearly chattering. But other than that, I would say this was a nearly perfect meal, and I haven’t had one of those in quite a while.

4907 N. College
Indy 46205


  1. What a lovely meal! Props to Greg Hardesty. I suspect you will be back to Recess again in the not-too-distant future.

  2. On a side note regarding the discussion about portion sizes - my only quibble about nice places like this is that (dare I say it) the portions could be just slightly larger. Just a little bit more.

    We certainly should not - and do not need to - stuff our faces. One effect of extra quantity is to dull the appreciation of the tastes one had just experienced, for me anyway. Nevertheless, sometimes one could still feel hungry at the end of the meal especially for people who would normally have hearty appetites. I myself can eat quite a bit :-) so what I often do in such places is to order two appetizers (and/or the soup as well) besides the main course. It helps if you more-or-less know what size portions you are going to get in a particular place. I'm sure other people do this too? Of course, this cannot be done at Recess as it is currently set up.

    I tend to skip dessert (I don't have a sweet tooth) but it is pleasant if I am served coffee with a few complimentary small bites of cookies or mints.

  3. Ok, I have to try this place, this sounds great!

    To carry on the conversation about portion size, I think many folks don't know the difference between no longer hungry and stuffed. (My apologies to huiray, this is *not* intended to be a personal jab at you!) But it seems that most of us only stop eating when either 1) we've run out of food, or 2) we're too full to eat another bite. That's why it's so important to be attentive as we eat ... taste the food, ask ourselves "how does this food make me feel?" If we're eating but we don't enjoy the taste or we are not hungry, then why are we eating? Sure, some appetites are bigger than others, and some people have a metabolism that can handle large portions. But I think most of us have convinced ourselves that if we're not unbuttoning our jeans by the end of a meal, then we were somehow deprived of something. I'm all for smaller portion sizes ... save room for a little dessert, too!

  4. Jessica- I agree with you. I think people sometimes think a portion is "small" just because our society (particularly in the midwest) has trained us to think we need enormous portions to be satisfied. And yes, you don't need to be stuffed to be "full." I am actually completely turned off when the portion is really really large because I know, even if I like it, I cannot eat that much, nor do I want to. And I always laugh when a server then asks me "Is something wrong with the food?" And I say, "no, I just didn't bring 3 other people to share it with."

    Now I realize someone that is physically bigger than me might need more food than I do, but since I rarely finish a meal anywhere, I think there are few places where anyone is leaving hungry.

    Just my two cents.

  5. Jessica, no offense taken. Erin, I understand what you say.

    But, hang on a sec...let's not slide from "eating like a bird" to "gross gluttony" with nothing in-between. Portion sizes do not have to be either 'tiny' or 'humongous'. When one hankers for a little more, it could be something as simple as a couple or three bites more. That would fit me, for example. Tell me, Erin, does your hubby eat a bit more than you do, under normal circumstances and under your gaze?

    Portion sizes in America (not just in the Midwest) have become very large indeed - but it has been creeping up over the years. (It is interesting to compare turn-of-the-century plates/dining ware versus modern-day dining ware, for example...) That does not mean, however, that there does not exist a happy medium where you can be satisfied without being stuffed.

    There have indeed been times when I have had a marvelous meal at some high-end place but was still hungry enough at the end such that I had to cook something to eat when I got home. It kind of watered down the experience of the meal I just had.


  6. love this conversation and yes, huiray, hubby does eat more than me (and often some of my food as well) and I can appreciate that many people probably eat more than I and have a larger appetite. However, I just worry that some of the portion sizes currently being offered in some restaurants is just so ridiculous that soon no one will know what a healthy portion is anymore...

  7. Jessica in NoblesvilleJune 21, 2010 at 10:50 PM

    My husband and I just tried Recess for the first time, and went on their "Fried Chicken picnic" theme night. (Recess recently started doing various themes on Monday nights.) It was out of this world, with in my opinion the perfect fried chicken.

    The event included a pre-dinner wine tasting outside in their "urban garden," then we moved indoors where 3 large tables were set up for family-style dining. We were able to serve ourselves from a buffet. The sides were all great, my favorite a toss-up between the ripe tomato and beet salad and the creamy parmesan potatoes. It was a very social event as well, which really added to the atmosphere. The free wine and casual style made us diners more at ease to use our fingers to eat the chicken. And let me tell you, there was a lot of finger lickin' going on!

    This dinner was a fun way to try Recess, and my husband and I look forward to trying again on a regular night. It was worth the trip from Noblesville!