Monday, February 28, 2011

Brad Gates Catering - Valentine's Meal Delivered

This is kind of a random review, but this meal was so good, I had to share it with you. And you will know, next year, if Indy is lucky enough to have Brad Gates preparing a delivered Valentine’s Day meal again, you should totally get it. (Sometimes he does the same concept for other holidays as well).  So the way it worked was he had prepared a set menu and you could just order it to be delivered for $40 a person.  They dropped it off in little foil carry out containers with heating instructions –they were really easy to follow and not screw up.  Oh, and they brought a nice red rose too. (Keep in mind the pictures are the way I plated the food, possibly not the way he might have had in mind, and certainly not as pretty as any chef would have done I am sure.)
The first course was a smoked trout and crab cake with a frissée-onion salad and mustard remoulade.  The very good sized cake was tasty—it had a lot of the smoked trout flavor to it, reminding me a little of brandade—or those little potted dishes of salt cod.  It had a fair amount of crab in it too, which mellowed the fish flavor just the right amount.  The salad with the insanely thinly sliced red onions was a nice accompaniment to the rich, almost creamy cake, giving a nice texture variety—the only thing I would have changed would be to add a bit more vinaigrette to the greens to add a punch of that zinginess I like.   I used the remoulade to dip the cake into—it had a nice bit of heat from the mustard that was a nice balance to the slight smoky taste of the fish.  These cakes were mainly meat, not a lot of filler, but enough that they were moist and not dry (sometimes I find those really super crabby cakes to end up dried out because they don’t put enough liquid ingredients to bind the meat properly).
The next course was one of my favorites—and one of the dishes Chef Gates delivered to me on my birthday as well.  Mushroom gnocchi with Parmigiano cream sauce, little slivers of prosciutto and some fresh spinach leaves mixed in.  I have said it before, but I think Chef Gates does some of the best Italian food in Indy.  These little tender, earthy pillows were so good-just the right amount of mushroom flavor coming through.  And the cream sauce, while rich, was not so heavy that you felt like you were clogging your arteries with each bite.  The sauce was just a little thin, and mostly tasted of the salty Parmigiano.  He provided just enough extra cheese to sprinkle on top as well.
The main course was Italian-style steamed Gunthrop Farms pork shoulder.  Now, I am somewhat picky about pork, because it seems like it so often dry and flavorless.  This just may have been some of the best pork I have ever had. It was sliced in a bit of the broth—you just heated it up along with some veggies on the side (fingerlings and carrots) and finished with a wonderfully fresh, salsa verde—lots of green flavor and a bit of crunchy texture from chopped parsley and red onions.  I loved that salsa verde and put quite a bit on my portion.  He even provided a little container of coarse sea salt to sprinkle over the top, which we did, and which totally finished the dish.  But the pork was just so moist; it was like the world’s best pulled pork with Italian seasonings.  This dish was so amazing.  Hubby ate the rest for lunch a couple of days later and enjoyed it just as much, if not more.
For dessert, there were two little flourless chocolate cakes and a little side of vanilla crème brulee and little vanilla syrup to drizzle.  It was a nice, reasonably small dessert to finish off a great Valentine’s dinner.  The chocolate was rich and the flavor of the crème brulee was a nice addition, although, it was hard to get the super crunch top on it the way you do at restaurants (although it did come already caramelized on top).  The vanilla syrup was light –not super syrupy like you might imagine. It added a delicate flavor that was better just with the crème brulee because it got lost a little if you ate it with the rich chocolate.  From top to bottom, this was one of the best meals I have had in awhile, and even though I had to do the dishes, it was totally worth it.  I hope Chef Gates continues the Valentine’s Day tradition of delivering meals, and next year, if you are looking for something different, give it a go (and keep your eyes out, like I said, sometimes he does similar carry out meals for other holidays).
Brad Gates Catering & Events

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Brugge Brasserie - Revisit

I have reviewed Brugge a couple of times, and it is a place I frequent for lunch actually, but since I almost always get the same thing—mussels and frites, doesn’t seem like I can really re-review it.  This time, I found out about something worth mentioning (even though I still got the mussels and frites—one of my favorite things) so I figured I should do a little update.
The mussels were just as good as always, maybe even a little better.  I usually get the classic Provencal style which is mussels cooked with white wine, garlic, butter, shallots and lots of herbs.  This particular day we got the bonus plan on seasoning.  Every once in awhile they are under seasoned, but this time, there was a lot of seasoning which is nice, because with mussels, a lot of it falls to the bottom of the bucket (which is a great place to dip the French bread they give you along with).  The mussels only come in a two pound serving, which in my opinion is plenty for 2 people to share, and with the slightly larger frites, is a great lunch.  For dinner, I would probably want an appetizer too.
And the frites are some of the best around as far as I am concerned.  The frites are cooked a bit darker than most, and have a lot of rich potato-ey flavor. I like that they serve them in paper cones which helps keep the frites stay warm even to the last ones. You also get to choose from all the delicious sauces that for dipping.  We always upgrade from the medium size order that comes with the mussels to the large and get three sauces.  We always get the aioli (garlicky mayo) and the blue cheese and then vary up our third sauce.  We got the sweet chili this time, which was a nice change, but more sweet than chili for me.
But the thing we had that I was surprised at was my son’s lunch.  He had ordered fish and chips, but they hadn’t gotten their fish in for the week yet, so we switched to chicken fingers instead (“doigt de poulet” on their kids menu).  Wow. These things were awesome!  Probably the best chicken fingers I have ever had, not that I am calling myself an expert, but I have had a few in my day.  They were obviously made and battered in house.  They were white meat strips dipped in a tempu style beer batter.  The batter was amazing. It was so light and crispy and with just the little bit of yeasty kick from the beer.  I can only imagine how good the fish and chips must be.  The flavor of it reminded me of my all time favorite deep fried seafood place in California, Barbara’s Fish Trap (they are so old school they don’t even have a website I can link you to).  And they both come with a nice sized portion of those fries. Sadly, they are only on the kids menu though (both of them).  I am seriously wondering if they would serve an adult portion of them….  If not, bring your kids in and share them. If you don’t have a kid, borrow one (I am sure their parents would happily lend them to you and have a meal out to themselves!).
Brugge Brasserie

1011 A East Westfield Blvd.
Indy 46220

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Parky's Smokehouse

It was Valentine’s weekend, and we knew we were having a fancy meal on Monday, so we wanted something a bit more casual for a weekend night out.  We perused “the list” and settled on Parky’s because it was casual, we hadn’t had BBQ in awhile, and it was Saturday, so we could head to the Northside without fighting horrendous traffic. (Or so we thought, Castleton is horrible anyway; it took us like 20 minutes just to get on 465).
When we pulled in, I was surprised how much this place looked like a chain from the outside (and on the inside too). Turns out, it was a former chain location that was taken over and turned into the independent Parky’s.  Everyone was very friendly to us, and our waiter knew the menu inside and out, which I appreciated—he could answer all our questions, and did so very honestly.  But when you are inside, you feel like you could be sitting in almost any mid-range chain in the country. Weird.  But you could certainly tell this was a locally owned place once you looked around and noticed one of the owners behind the bar, and all the local advertising on the placemats.
Right away we were brought a basket of dinner rolls that honestly didn’t look that appealing to me, but hubby had a bite and assured me they were good.  And they were. They were warm and had a nice yeasty French bread flavor—and they were served with softened butter which is a little touch I always appreciate.  For an appetizer, because recently I was accused of reviewing nachos a lot, and because I never had actually reviewed nachos before, for fun we decided to go with a half order of the pulled pork nachos as a starter ($4.99).  We were also having a hard time negotiating who was going to get what meats on their sampler platters, so this gave us a way to try the pulled pork in one form, while still getting all the other stuff we wanted too.  The nachos were fine.  They had barbequed beans, the pork, their sweet sauce and then the cheese (jack and cheddar), sour cream and a few green onions.  The sweet sauce, which I think is the most popular, was a little sweet for me, and the pulled pork, while having good flavor, was a bit scarce, and a little dry.  The beans added a nice heartiness, although they were also a little on the sweet side which started to get a little overwhelming for me.  We got a half order, and didn’t finish them, but then again, we had a lot of food coming.
I had the two meat combo plate ($10.99)—and I chose dark meat chicken (a quarter chicken) and turkey breast.  The chicken came already cooked in their Bourbon bbq sauce, and I really wanted to try the mustard BBQ sauce as well, but I think it pairs best with a bird, so that is why I also got turkey.   The chicken was really good. The meat was nice and smoky and still very, very tender.  The Bourbon sauce was similar to the regular sauce, but the kick of the liquor took away that sweetness. It had a really nice rich and smoky flavor.  I think the chicken ended up being the best meat we had that night. I would surely get it again.  The turkey came out in slices—not sure why, I was sort of envisioning a hunk of a breast with some skin still on it, but it turned out to be a lot more tender than I thought it would be when I first looked at it.  It didn't have a ton of flavor on its own, but obviously benefited from the sauce.  Unfortunately, although some of my favorite BBQ sauces have been mustard based sauces (I like “Sticky Fingers” in the grocery store), this one was not for me.  It tasted too raw—like just straight up yellow mustard without much else to smooth it out, if you know what I mean.  But I enjoyed dipping the pieces into the extra Bourbon sauce they brought me.  For my sides (you get 2) I had mac and cheese  (a slight up charge) and their “butter browns,” which, apparently, aren’t always available.  The mac and cheese was decent—elbow noodles with a lot of cheese.  I enjoyed it, but it was pretty average.  Now, the “butter browns” were little pieces of heaven.  They were just roasted baker potatoes that were chilled, then cubed and thrown in the fryer and seasoned.  I know, it doesn’t sound like (or look like) much, but they were delicious.  The potato inside was super fluffy and the outside was perfectly crispy. I liked the way each bite had some skin on it, giving it a little extra flavor.  If I went back, and they weren’t available, I’d be bummed. I might even tear up a little.
So hubby had the 2 meat combo plate as well, with the beef brisket and the BBQ ribs (up charge of $4.99).  He enjoyed the ribs—they were served saucy, which he likes and were pretty tender and flavorful from the bite I had.  Not quite fall off the bone tender, but pretty close.  Nice smoky flavor.  While they weren’t his all time favorite ribs in Indy, they were up there near the top.  The brisket was interesting.  It was all shredded up –which is not what I was expecting.  It certainly had the slow cooked flavor that is what you expect from slow cooked beef (think stew meat), but it was a little dry and stringy for my taste.  There was certainly a lot of it though.  He had baked beans and coleslaw for sides, neither of which overly impressed him.  He was happy to help me eat my butter browns though.
They had several desserts, and we chose one of the housemade options—the bread pudding ($5.89).  Pretty sure they were making this with the leftover dinner rolls, which I am totally supportive of, and it was very good.  It also had some raisins worked in giving it some nice chewy bites.  It was nice and rich, and still soft but with the right amount of density, with a lovely praline caramel sauce drizzled across the top and some dollops of whipped cream.  It was certainly enough to share, and still, with all the food we had, we couldn’t manage to finish it.  Although, I would be hard pressed not to order it again.  It was well done.
So this is a place that I can totally see frequenting if you live in the area and you want some decent food and you want to support something local (they also offer a good selection of Indiana beers).  In fact, I have a friend who lives in Lebanon who basically said that to me, they go because it is locally owned, has a good beer selection, moderate prices, and the food is pretty good.  I would totally agree with that.  I am not sure I would drive the 30-40 minutes just to go there, but would certainly go again if I were in the area.  And I’d get the chicken, and those potatoes….
Parky’s Smokehouse
2479 Lebanon Road
Lebanon, IN  46052

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Iron Skillet

I have this problem.  Once I get hooked on an idea (i.e. finding the best fried chicken in the Indianapolis area), I have to keep going until I have closure.  Actually, I have a closure problem in general, but that’s another story.  I have had A LOT of people recommend Iron Skillet as the end all be all of fried chicken.  So of course, I have been itching to go.
They are only open on Sundays for lunch, so we had a babysitter one day and decided to make the trek over there.  It wasn’t actually as far as I thought, only about 20 minutes or so from my house.  So this is another one of those restaurants in the genre of Hollyhock Hill and Copper Kettle where everything is family style, it is set in an old house, and basically has been serving the same stuff for decades (in Iron Skillet’s case, since 1953).
So you get cottage cheese, pickled beets when you sit down (ok, this stuff doesn’t really excite me, so I am not going into details, hubby thought the cottage cheese was good for cottage cheese). You then get your salad which was slices of iceberg with a bit of seasoning (looked like paprika) and that traditional sweet vinegar salad dressing that somehow is the same at all these places.  I like a little more excitement with my salad, and don’t care for sweet dressings so I just had a bite and moved on.
The soup was better (you have a choice of soup or tomato juice). It was a creamy onion soup with croutons.  It tasted like cream of chicken soup (definitely a chicken base, not beef) with onions adding a bit of flavor.  There were several large croutons floating on top that were dense enough that they kept their mass even after being in the soup for a few minutes which I liked.  It tasted pretty good on a cold day, it was thick and hearty—I would have loved a few more onions though.
But really, was I there for any of that stuff? No. I was there for the chicken.  They brought us out three sides (bet you can guess what they were…). Mashed potatoes, green beans and corn.  And a giant plate of chicken.  I tell you, it sure did look pretty, that chicken.  We had the mixed light and dark plate which was basically a whole chicken for the two of us.  So how was it?  It was okay.  The best part about it was the chicken meat was super juicy.  Someone knows just how long to cook it so it isn’t dried out.  Even the breast was exceptionally juicy.  The downside—well it was the complete lack of seasoning on the skin.  So maybe this is a style that people like, but for me, I like some flavor on my chicken.  It was nice and crispy, but that was about it.  Other than the inherent flavor in chicken skin, there wasn’t much else.
The mashed potatoes were really good and very homemade tasting though—just the right amount of creaminess without being runny and with a nice pat of butter on top.  One of the highlights of the meal.  Canned corn and canned green beans? I can take a pass on those (even with the little bits of bacon on top of the green beans—honestly even the bacon tasted funny).  So here’s the thing, and I am not going to belabor this too much, but I was wondering, back when these places started, a lot of people canned their own veggies, and I am wondering if maybe that is how this started, and then morphed into just buying them in cans because it is cheaper?  Can you imagine how cool it would be if there were places like this that served their chicken, etc (preferably with a little more seasoning) and a seasonal veggie to go along with? Fresh corn, green beans or tomatoes in the summer,  and other things in the fall and winter?  I don’t know, call me a dreamer, but I think that would be potentially great. And way better than canned.  If I want that I can do that at home. And for a lot cheaper (this meal was $18.95 per person).
The experience is similar to the other places too—large dining rooms with a lot of large tables decorated how Grandma would have back in the day (or what people think of when they think of a 50s Grandma).  Lots of flowery stuff, lace and doilies.  I know a lot of families have been going for years to get this exact same experience each time, but it would be so awesome if you could get the kitschy décor with kick ass food.  I am going to stop going on about this, because another local blogger recently wrote a post on this exact subject (only about Hollyhock Hill), and you should go read it.  She said it perfectly, better than I would.   Anyhow, our server was super friendly, and very attentive and I also loved that while we were seated on the large expansive porch, it was not cold.  There were some seriously modern windows in there, and for that I was grateful.
You also got a scoop of ice cream with dishes of various kinds of sauces--chocolate, butterscotch, strawberry and creme de menthe.  It was pretty much what you expect--nothing unusual. The sauces were pretty clearly from a bottle/can, and the ice cream didn't taste like it was anything other than what you might get in a grocery store.  I was pretty full at this point so I just had a couple bites.
My favorite part of the meal was when hubby leaned in to me and said, “do you think anyone in the kitchen says, 'hey, maybe we should put something new on the menu?'”  It’s a good thing when after this many years, your husband can still make you laugh. 
Iron Skillet
2489 West 30th Street
Indy  46222

Iron Skillet on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 14, 2011

Asian Grill

My sister is a Groupon addict and often buys Groupons for random restaurants all around the city, which works out well for me, because she tries places all over and when she finds one she really likes, she lets me know.  This is how we ended up at Asian Grill.  They went and liked it and then we all went together (and several of you guys had recommended it as well).  So, the first thing I noticed is that I think this may be one of maybe two or three restaurants in Indy I have been to that had a significant wait at 6:00.  Luckily we had made a reservation, so we didn’t have to wait the hour that many were waiting for a table (we did have to wait about 10-15 minutes past our reservation time).  Seriously, this place was heaving.  That always kind of gets me excited, because when you see so many people, you figure something must be good right?
So this is another of the restaurants that calls itself “pan-Asian” so it can incorporate various influences from various cuisines. They offer dishes that are Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Indian and Cambodian.  This seems to be a popular thing right now, and if it is being done well, it is sort of nice to have lots of different things to choose from.
We sat down at our table (which was unfortunately very close to the door which was opening quite frequently and which made for a very chilly spot--a curtain in front of the door might be nice) but we were just happy that we had a table!  We started with some apps—the crab wontons, the vegetable samosas, and the Thai beef salad.
My favorite of the apps was the samosas ($4.75).  There were two decent sized fried patties filled with seasoned potatoes (Indian spices) and some mixed veggies.  They were very hot and crispy and served with extremely fresh tasting cilantro chutney.  These are the kind of Indian flavors I like—especially the bright cilantro dip on top.  The crab wontons ($5.95) were a little different from most I had though because they were large triangles of wontons that were deep fried.  They were exceptionally hot when they came out of the kitchen.  Hubby likes these and was happy to have someone to agree to share them with him, since I usually refuse because they aren’t my favorite thing to order.  They were served with a thin, sweet sauce.  For crab wontons, they were good and hubby quite enjoyed them.
Crab Wontons

My least favorite thing was the Thai beef salad ($5.50) which I normally really like, but not in this case.  It is a cold beef salad, and the beef was actually tasty and tender, but the vegetables it was served with were pretty much all raw red and green pepper chunks, which are not my favorite thing to eat by the forkful.  In the past, I have had this served with lettuce and pickled red onions which I preferred.  It is described on the menu as being in red wine vinaigrette, but it seemed a bit sweeter than that to me.
Thai Beef Salad

We got three entrées and shared them.  They are really good sized, and in my opinion you could share one between 2 people.  Anyway, we had the Lok Lak Beef, the Orange Chicken, and Red Pepper Shrimp.  Actually, the main dishes were all good.  The Lok Lak Beef ($14.25) is Cambodian in origin and was large chunks of sirloin that were sautéed.  The edges were slightly crispy from what was probably caramelization of the marinade when the pieces of beef were sautéed.  It was served over sliced onions and with a side of cucumbers, lettuce and tomatoes.  The beef was really tender, and had a nice flavor of garlic that combined with the onions was really good.  This is a Cambodian variation of the Vietnamese Shaking Beef (speaking of which, I ran across the recipe online for the Slanted Door’s version—which was one of my favorites in San Francisco. Thought I would share here.) Anyway, I would certainly order this again.
Lok Lak Beef

My brother-in-law ordered the orange chicken ($12.50), which is something I never would have ordered on my own, because if just sounds too sweet, but this dish was quite good, and wasn’t as sweet as I would have thought.  It is described as having an orange pulp infused sauce—and while it was somewhat sweet, it did maintain a bit of the tangy flavor of the orange as well.  The pieces of chicken were white meat and were lightly battered and fried and pleasantly tender.
Red Pepper Shrimp
The pepper shrimp were also good ($14.50), although a little dry (as in, without sauce).  They were even more lightly breaded than the chicken and sort of dry fried and served with toasty peanuts, green onions, and red chilies.  The shrimp were a nice size and were cooked very well and were seasoned with black pepper.  All the dishes came with three types of rice—white rice, fried rice and seasoned Indian-style rice.  They were all good—the rice was a bit sticky, which is how I prefer it.
I have read some complaints about service, and I have to say, other than waiting past our reservation time to be seated, I was surprised with how good the service was.  They were certainly very busy, but we did not wait long for anything once we were seated.  We all really enjoyed the experience and I would say we will certainly be back.  I know some of you will say, how “authentic” is any of it?  But honestly, who am I to say what is authentic or not, when I have never been to Asia?  Much of it tasted good, and that is what I go by.
Asian Grill
74 North 9th Street
Noblesville, IN 46060

Asian Grill on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bella Pizzeria

You know me and New York style pizza right? So I was looking for something quick and new and kid friendly the other day for lunch and took hubby and my son to Bella Pizzeria.  This is another one of the traditional New York style places with the pizza (and calzones and breadsticks) sitting on the counter waiting to be warmed up to order.
So I went with my usual (you gotta compare these kind of places right?) which is mushrooms and red onions (well, that’s what I asked for) and hubby had sausage and pepperoni and their white pizza margherita. My son had cheese (go figure, he is a man of simple tastes). I also got a couple of breadsticks, one with cheese inside and one plain.
Well, my slice was served with a lot of chopped yellow onions over the top, which if I had known was going to be the case, I would have just gone with plain mushroom (which they did have already made).  The flavor of the crust was good I thought, and it was crunchy and yet bendy at the same time.  I wasn’t a fan of all those onions though and scraped most of them off.  They had a nice sauce that wasn’t over done, and wasn’t overly sweet.  Overall, I would say this was a good basic New York slice. Not the best I have had in town and not the worst.  I would like to try an entire pie and see how it heats up at home in my oven on my pizza stone.

The breadsticks weren’t moist and chewy which is what I like in a breadstick. I would give them a pass the next time.  Although, I did like the look of the calzones—they weren’t super doughy like some are which I find to be way too filling, particularly at lunch.
Sadly, hubby’s pizza slices were put in the oven last and had the shortest amount of time getting re-heated and didn’t crisp up enough.  The bite of the margherita I had (no red sauce at all) was a little too soggy.  My son’s cheese was cooked the longest and his was probably the best slice on the table.  He loved it and promptly proclaimed it his new favorite lunch place.  I didn’t try the meat slice, but hubby said he actually preferred the simplicity of my son’s cheese or my mushroom because the sausage and mushroom themselves weren’t anything special.  We decided when we try a whole pie, it will likely be a veggie version.  And it will be heated a little longer at our house. 
The prices are decent—hubby and I both got lunch specials.  Mine was a slice of pizza, 2 breadsticks and a drink for just under $6 and hubby had a special with 2 slices, and a drink for just over $6.  A regular slice is around $3-4 depending on the toppings.  For a quick slice at lunch time on the Northside, I liked it.  The pie was decent, the staff exceptionally friendly and it was quick.  Next time I go in, I may just ask them to heat it a little longer.
Bella Pizzeria
3855 East 96th Street (and 2 other Northside locations)
Indy  46240

Bella Pizzeria (Precedent Shops) on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Valentine's Day 2011

Valentines heartImage via Wikipedia
 At the request of a reader, I am once again soliciting advice on where to go for Valentine's dinner.  Since the holiday falls on a Monday this year, a day when a lot of restaurants are normally closed, I was curious to see what was available. It turns out a lot of places are opening specially for the day, and many with specially priced menus.  And what am I doing?  I am having Brad Gates Catering deliver my Valentine's dinner to my house, a tradition he started last year as part of his catering service and which I hope continues because what a great way to enjoy a great meal in the comfort of your own home (especially on a Monday!).
This year's meal includes a smoked trout and
crab cake, mushroom gnocchi and Gunthrop Farms
Pork shoulder. Yum.

A bit of research shows special Valentine's dinners at the following locations:

and Hoaglin to Go is offering a V-Day dinner for two carry out special

Many other downtown restaurants will be open with their regular menus.

For a few non-downtown restaurants offering special V-Day meals, check out:

So, where are you going? And what do you recommend?  If I wasn't eating at home, I might lean toward Euphoria after my last meal there, or I am also intrigued by the Pizzology three course menu.  And please comment and let us know of any other places that are offering special menus for Valentine's Day that I missed.

Have a good one,

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Monday, February 7, 2011

Euphoria- Revist (Devour Downtown)

***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.****

Wow. Seriously, this was a great meal.  One of those kinds of meals that make you know that you are getting to experience food from a chef who really gets it. We hadn’t been back to Euphoria since the last visit which was marred by really off service.  And frankly, when I suggested it for this last Saturday of Devour Downtown, hubby said, “fine, but if the service is as bad as it was last time, I am never going back.”  But both the Devour menu and the regular menu looked so good, I was willing to take the chance because in the past I have always had very good food from Chef Denman.
Let me start by saying just for full disclosure, I am not anonymous in the restaurant—the Chef knows who I am and always comes over to chat with us while we are there.   Our server was new to us though, and right away impressed us with his professionalism.  He was attentive and knowledgeable but left us alone when we wanted to be left alone.  Our service all night was great.  So already, we were starting off better.
Anyway, we decided hubby would get the Devour menu and I would order off the regular menu (there was skate!).  So I ordered the phyllo wrapped goat cheese appetizer ($10). It came with a salad of green apples, fennel, red onion and in a citrusy vinaigrette. This was amazing. Seriously.  First, it was beautiful—the phyllo wrapped the creamy goat cheese in a dramatic way and the salad was a bit tart but with a bit of bite from the onions—it went perfectly with the goat cheese and the crispy bits of phyllo.  I would get this again in a heartbeat.
Hubby had the smoked salmon cannoli with fennel and grapefruit.  This was a very inventive dish—the dish was served cold, and the crispy cannoli were stuffed with smoked salmon and fennel with crushed pistachios on the end—they  were served with a little salad of arugula with a creamy dressing. Hubby can’t eat grapefruit, so he had them leave it off. However, it was all really nice together and one of the more unique takes on smoked salmon.  The grapefruit probably would have been a great addition though, adding a bit of acidity.  At this point we were fighting over whose app was better (it was mine by the way).

We were also served a little middle course of the sweetbreads that are on the menu.  They are crispy fried with creamed sauerkraut, smoked grapes, arugula and hazelnuts.  Wow, these were outstanding as well.  The creamed sauerkraut’s accent was on the creamy, with just a teeny hint of the sauerkraut flavor.  The grapes were really good with a bit of the sauerkraut and the sweetbread, and the nuts adding just a little texture.  It was a perfect combination.
I had the skate wing with angel hair pasta, preserved lemon pesto, fried cauliflower and watercress ($22).  The skate was well seasoned and cooked just right (it was seared). I liked a bite of it, and its mild flavor, with a bit of the lemony pasta and a little bit of the crunchy fried cauliflower.  The cauliflower tasted like it was crusted with a panko-type crust.  It was a very large portion for me and I couldn’t finish it, but we both really enjoyed it.  I love seeing skate on a menu, which is a member of the ray family, and is a very tender white fish (or ray).  If you haven’t had it, and like thinner flaky fish, and you see skate on a menu, give it a try.  I have rarely had it dried out, and it seems to remain juicy when other fish often seem overcooked.
Hubby had the flatiron steak from the devour menu, which was sliced, served on top of whipped cauliflower and with pickled turnips.  The meat was really smoky flavored and perfectly medium rare.  The smooth cauliflower (that looked basically like mashed potatoes and worked as a starch in the same way) and vinegary turnips were also a unique and well planned variation in texture and taste.  And for a devour menu, the portion was just as large as my non-devour entrée.  When you consider the same steak (albeit with different sides) is $28, Devour is a great deal here.
We shared hubby’s Devour dessert—the hazelnut mousse cake with caramelized hazelnuts—it was just the right amount of choclately flavor, without being too much.  The mousse was light, and the caramelized hazelnuts were like a bit of hazelnut brittle on top.
So when we got there at 6:30, the place was nearly empty which surprised me for a Saturday Devour evening.  By the time we left, it was much busier, but probably not more than 75% full.  So it made me wonder, those of you who have been and not been back, why? And those who haven’t gone? Why not?  This is certainly one of the steals for Devour Downtown, and with some great, unusual things on the Devour menu (unlike a lot of places).  Since our service was spot on, I am back to thinking this is one of the best restaurants we have in Indy.  I sat there and felt like I could be in any city in the country and would have thought this was a damn good meal.  Better than any I have had in quite awhile. Chef Denman has a tremendous amount of finesse in her cooking, and her skills and talent are shining through.
337 West 11th Street
Indy  46202
317/966-2389 (and they have even been working on the website!)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Gray Brothers Cafeteria

This place has been on my list for quite a while, and recently I was even scolded a bit for not having been before.   So the other day, I bribed my BFF to make the like 2 ½ hour trip out to Mooresville and back to go to Gray Brothers.  I drove and bought her lunch.  She was a bit dubious… “Erin, there is no cafeteria that can be worth this kind of drive.”  But she is used to me, and knows that once I have my mind on something, well I tend to be a pain in the ass until I make it happen.
When we got there, we were happy to see the line wasn’t too long (although the fence posts in the line area sort of made me feel a little bit like cattle).  I knew I was getting the fried chicken before I walked in the door, and I did. I got one piece of white and one dark (breast and leg)(a little over $5 for both) to give them both a try.  So, in thinking about this review, I realized I need to differentiate again between the types of fried chicken.  There’s the kind that has a sort of breading/batter on it (a la MCL) and then there’s the kind that is just lightly seasoned and floured chicken pieces.  Gray’s is the latter.  Now I like both types when done well, but you have to season it well if you are just going to do the lightly floured kind.  This was my problem with Gray’s—the skin tasted good, but wasn’t amazing because it wasn’t seasoned much.  And the breast piece (as is so often the case) was dry.  The leg was much more tender and all in all tasted better, but I still put Mississippi Belle up there as the best of this genre of fried chicken. And WAY closer to my house.
For my sides I had mac and cheese and mashed potatoes (my stand by fried chicken sides) ($1.80 each) and I got a yeast roll ($0.85).  I liked the roll—super soft and light.  The mashed potatoes were fine, a little drier than I like, but then again, I am not usually a gravy person and maybe they assume you will put gravy on them.  The mac and cheese was pretty disappointing.  Tasted a lot like processed cheese to me—that too smooth, too uniform , with a slight aftertaste flavor.  You know what I mean.
The BFF got the chicken and noodles ($3.99) and commented on the fact that she liked that the noodles were clearly homemade, but she didn’t feel like they were so good that they were worth that kind of drive.
I also got a piece of pie, because everyone who has ever talked about why this place is good, always talks about the homemade pie.  Well, so maybe I was supposed to order the sugar cream pie, but honestly, I generally prefer a fruit pie.  And when I saw they were offering apricot pie, I went for it, because, well, I love apricots ($2.55).  As I ate it, the BFF made a comment about what I was doing as I sort of picked at it—she said exactly what I was thinking. “Are you trying to find a piece of fruit?”  I was looking for a piece of fruit.  Even a teeny bit of fruit.  The pie crust was good and crunchy with a sugary crust, but there was not much fruit to it at all. Now I know fruit pies have their fair share of that gelatinous filling as well, and I realize that this is not the season for apricots (or pretty much any other fruits in the pies) but this one really had little fruit to it.
So, not trying to sound really negative, but I am not getting the desire to make the drive from my house to go back to Gray Brothers.  If I lived nearby, I might go there occasionally.  But if I want cafeteria food, with two locations of MCL within like 7 miles of my house, I think it unlikely I would make that kind of drive.  So I know some of you may want to yell at me, but I’m just being honest. 
Gray Brothers Cafeteria
555 South Indiana
Mooresville, IN 46158

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