Thursday, March 29, 2012

Road Trip: Chicago--Café des Architectes

Recently we went to Chicago for the weekend, mainly just to hang out and eat—unfortunately hubby had been a little under the weather, so we changed up our plans at the last minute and cancelled our Blackbird reservation in favor of eating at the restaurant in the hotel at which we were staying—just in case he started feeling really bad, we could ditch out early.  Anyway, we had actually looked at the menu at Café des Architectes before and always been intrigued so it seemed like a good idea.

It is a sleek modern space, and calls itself a “modern French bistro.”  We had a hard time making our negotiations, and I ended up doing as I often do, making a 3 course meal out of two appetizers and a salad.  None of the entrées were jumping out at me.  This was where things went a little wrong.  Our server acted like this was a completely foreign concept to him and could not understand what I wanted to do (um, appetizer, salad, and then appetizer as a main).  It was kind of annoying.
Anyway, we got our order in eventually and then were brought an amuse bouche.  It was a lobster salad with shaved fennel and tarragon and vanilla oil.  It was ok, honestly made overly liquorice-y and sweet with that combination of things.  The bits of lobster were nice and tender though.

My first course was the beef tartare ($14)—it was served as three little towers, one topped with garlic chips, one topped with a deviled quail egg and one topped with grated cheese.  The meat was clearly good quality, but was very lightly seasoned—for me I could have used a little more of the flavors I like with tartare—some mustard, some sort of onions (there were a few shallots in there) or something.  I did enjoy the bites with the teeny deviled quail egg (and it was very tasty).  It added to the meat and gave it a little more of that flavor I was looking for—unfortunately, it really only helped a couple of bites because it was so small. I would have loved to have half a dozen of those on the plate--although then I guess it wouldn’t quite have the stark plate presentation.  The swish down the middle was squash puree and wasn’t the additional flavor I was looking for.  I needed saltiness, not smooth sweetness. Interestingly, this was the first place I started to notice the trend of every place we went to in Chicago including beef tartare on the menu---of course I love it, so I didn’t mind and it also made me wonder if it will maybe make it on more than a few menus in Indy.

The next course I had was my salad course—which was their take on a Nicoise with grilled baby octopus ($12).  It had lettuce, small bits of purple potatoes, green beans, large pieces of the grilled octopus, a light vinaigrette and was all sitting on a puree of salsify (a root vegetable).  Luckily, they only gave me about 4 and a half minutes to eat this dish before bringing out the next course (the server really did not get what I was trying to do with this meal), and there wasn’t enough room on the table, so they had to take it away before I got to eat much of it. I say luckily, because this one wasn’t doing it for me.  The octopus was too chewy and the salad didn’t have a lot of flavor.  The salsify on the bottom gave it a weird, non-salad feel and it was too sweet and savory. I wanted more brightness from a salad.
For my main dish, I had the roasted shrimp with truffled risotto and Brussels sprouts.  I don’t know, again, this didn’t do it for me either.  There was just a sort of across the board lack of finesse in all the dishes and this one was no exception.  I did not taste truffle at all in the risotto, the Brussels sprouts were too large and rawish, and the shrimp were on the edge of being overcooked.   One thing I will say about this place though is that all the dishes were lovely to look at when they were presented.  I just get the feeling that this place has hit its high note at some point in the past, and just isn’t there anymore.  Nothing I had was bad, but nothing, and I mean nothing, was in any way memorable (well other than the argument I had to have with the waiter about ordering what I wanted).  Oh, there was a nice service of complimentary sweets at the end—and I did enjoy the passion fruit flavored item as well as the dark chocolate caramel piece and the piece of equipment they served it on was pretty cool looking—very architectural—but still not enough to wow me.

Café des Architectes
The Sofitel Hotel
20 East Chestnut Street
Chicago, IL 60611

Cafe Des Architectes on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 26, 2012

Pizzology - Revisit

We hadn’t been to Pizzology and ages, and had never taken the kids there.  We had recently had some mediocre pizza experiences and wanted to go back and see if Pizzology could remedy that situation. It was Friday, and we didn’t want to get stuck in a wait (like I said, we had the kids with us), so we went on the early side.  By 6:00, there was a substantial wait, and when we left it was packed in there with people waiting to sit down.

I was tempted by the Northside Nights menu—it was a great deal, one of the few places that really seems like a bargain (I like that they include 2 glasses of Prosecco with the meal), but as soon as our server told us about the special gnocchi ($12), we knew were getting it.  It was their version of a carbonara-- black pepper and parsley gnocchi that were seared and served with seared sliced green olives, and little crispy dices of pancetta.  The whole thing was topped with parmesan and an egg yolk.  As soon as we got it, we broke the egg into it making a creamy, eggy, sauce.  I like carbonara in general, but I loved the slices of green olive in this to give it that extra slightly briny flavor that rounded out all the rich ingredients.  I think I liked this more than hubby though, who thought they egg was just a little too much for him, and made the dish just a little too eggy. We also got an order of breadsticks ($5)—there were 4 of them, and they were clearly being made in house of the same dough the pizza crust is made with.  They were slightly charred and had that lovely chewy, yeasty flavor I really like.  The kids really liked them.  I also liked that they gave you not only a tomato sauce, but a cream based (and slightly cheesy) Mornay type sauce as well.  But honestly, with the sprinkling of Parmesan on top of them, they were good on their own as well.
Hubby and I split “The Saint” pizza ($13) which is a white pizza (no red sauce) with roasted wild mushrooms, onions, peppadew peppers, provolone cheese and sea salt.  We enjoyed it and the crust was cooked perfectly.  I think hubby missed his red sauce a little though.  I liked the salty kick from, well, the salt, and the peppers and onions added a little spice to the rest.  The provolone was a little heavy in spots, but I loved the mushrooms—there were plenty of them and they really had a nice deep roasted flavor. The crust is the thing here, and we appreciated it so much more after eating some not so flavorful crusts elsewhere lately
The kids just had a red pizza with mozzarella (we couldn’t get them to vary) ($11).  Honestly, I think I would just get the 4 cheese for them next time and not tell them, because this one wasn’t quite cheesy enough for them or me.  But again, the crust was cooked perfectly, and other than wishing it had a little more cheese, it was pretty much perfectly executed.  Exciting? No.  But that is my kids and food for you.
We also got the special dessert form the Northside Nights menu—the zeppole ($5).  I found these kind of addicting once I started eating them.  They were basically another version of the dough, in smaller pieces than the breadsticks that are baked and then covered in cinnamon and sugar and a bit of honey.  Again, I really like the flavor of the dough anyway, and then you go and make it sweet and you can’t really go wrong.  It is certainly a large enough portion to share among several people as well. Sadly, they couldn’t guarantee they were nut free (not sure why) so my son couldn’t eat them.  Apparently they were a hit in the restaurant though, and have since been added to the regular menu.

Anyway, it was nice to go back to a pizza place and have a good solid meal—like I said I have had some not so impressive pizza lately, and this redeemed my faith.

13190 Hazel Dell Parkway
Carmel, IN 46032

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Roost

After my most ecent fried chicken binge, I got an email telling me that the Roost had really good fried chicken, and of course, as soon as I heard this, I couldn’t stop wondering about it.  So the Roost is part of the Sahm’s collection of restaurants, and is generally a breakfast place I guess, but we headed in for lunch mainly because I wanted to try the fried chicken, only to find out, that in fact they do serve dinner as well, and you can only get the fried chicken at dinner. Boo.  Not sure how I am going to make this happen for dinner since I am pretty sure they don’t have beer or wine and don’t think I will be able to convince hubby to go to dinner without it.  And Sahm’s, where you can get beer and wine, does not appear to have the fried chicken. Oh life is so complicated.

But we were there, and I have been told the Sahm’s restaurants also have a decent tenderloin, so we thought we would take advantage of this and try one (hubby ordered it) ($8.99).  I was really impressed with all the Smoking Goose meat on the menu (love to see this) and went with one of the many choices for a “melt” just so I could take advantage of it. I got “The Big City” ($7.99).  They describe their melt section of the menu as “grilled cheese nirvana” so I was excited to see how they did.  You also get a choice of a side with your meal, and I chose the homemade mac and cheese. 

The Big City is described as having the Smoking Goose city ham, smoked Gouda, mozzarella and Muenster cheeses.  I was expecting a big gooey sandwich considering all that cheese, and the fact that seems like most restaurants around here would overdo something like this, but what I actually got was a very thin sandwich—the bread itself (which is housemade by the way) was sliced very thin, and while there was a lot of the city ham, honestly I think they forgot at least one of the cheeses—the Muenster was definitely there (you could tell from the telltale red edge) but I think they must have left out the smoked gouda, I didn’t taste anything particularly smoky, and usually I am pretty attuned to this flavor.  The ham was really good.  Not like the “ham” that I never order—you know that sort of gelatinous pink stuff…I really don’t care for that kind of somewhat slimy ham.  No, this is like actual meat—with so much flavor besides just salt.  Sliced thin, and a fairly generous amount.  Honestly though, while I liked the fact that the sandwich was somewhat thin, I would have liked a little bit more cheese—it was a little dry.  Loved the pickles on the side though—thick and fresh tasting.
The mac and cheese was good—quite a large portion for a free side dish.  Honestly, I could have eaten just that as a meal.  Anyway, it was your classic elbow mac in a nice smooth cheese sauce and topped with some additional melted cheese and bread crumbs for a little crunch.  I found it a little addicting—just kept having one more bite. I did eventually stop and take the rest home which my son enjoyed for dinner.

Hubby’s tenderloin was good —the meat itself not too thin and with a nice crispy breading.  The bun made it a little hard to eat though.  It was a homemade roll and while it was tasty on its own (and nicely toasted), it was just too big to eat with the tenderloin and the onions, etc.  Even hubby gave up and just set the top of the bun aside.  I appreciate the fact that they bake nearly all their baked goods themselves, but this bun was just too much for the sandwich. He just had chips as a side (bor-ing) and they were just your standard out of the bag wavy chips.

It does make me somewhat intrigued to try the fried chicken though, since the fried part of the tenderloin was pretty good.  The Roost is mainly a breakfast oriented place though, and I am now also putting it on the list to add as a potential breakfast spot.  Have you guys been in there?  Tell me what you like for breakfast (and please, tell me if you’ve had the fried chicken!).
The Roost
7371 East 116th Street
Fishers, IN  46038

The Roost on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 19, 2012

Bonge's Tavern - Revisit

I always forget about Bonge’s for some reason—it really isn’t that much further than going downtown for us, I guess just because it is sort of in the middle of nowhere (no offense Perkinsville), it doesn’t come to mind.  But we were celebrating my sister and her husband’s birthday and we thought it would be a fun place to go, and a place they would like as well.  If you aren’t familiar with this place, Bonge’s is an old tavern located about 35 minutes from Indy (further if you are downtown or south).  So when the weather is nice, apparently, people come and tailgate outside, often for hours, waiting for one of the 12-15 tables.  Not being a fan of drinking too much before I eat, we have chosen to skip lunch and arrive early both times we have gone (around 5:00).  Even then, the place was filling up fast.  (They open at 4:30). I like that they obviously have a fair amount of regular return customers (and I can imagine if you lived near Perkinsville, this would certainly be somewhat of a food oasis since there isn’t a lot out there).  The menu contains about 10 items to choose from, all listed on the day’s blackboard.  There are 3-4 items that are always there and the rest of them change. On weekends they offer prime rib.
We decided to take advantage of the fact that we had people with us this time and ordered some appetizers.  You really don’t need any, because you get a soup or salad with each meal, and the meals are more than generous, but someone told me the mushrooms were good, so we ordered them as well as a crab cake with remoulade (ok, don’t yell at me, I don’t have the prices for the starters or desserts, they aren’t listed anywhere and I don’t have the itemized receipt).  I loved the mushrooms.  They were a well seasoned blend of mostly Portobello and shitakes—lots of herbs and cooked just right.  And the best part, an obvious and generous squeeze of lemon on them.  Soft, but with nice crispy edges here and there and then that bright lemon. I could not stop eating them.  I also enjoyed the bite of the crab cake I had—it was very moist—not the lump crab cakes that are so prevalent everywhere, but very flavorful and I really enjoyed the slightly spicy remoulade with it.  My brother in law loved the crab cake and said he would consider getting a few of them as his entrée next time.
You get a choice of tomato soup or salad with each dinner (if you want to read about the soup, here are my thoughts on it from the last time).  Hubby and I both had the wedge with blue cheese dressing (you can also get it with raspberry vinaigrette).  It is a good wedge—it really is just mainly the lettuce, the dressing and some bread crumbs on top, but they give you a lot of the dressing, and it is really good.  Creamy and thick, but not so much so that it is hard to eat. Great blue cheese flavor.  The bread crumbs add a nice little texture variation since there really isn’t much else to it.  Pretty sure it will be my standard order at Bonge’s, although I did like the soup too.
For my main dish, I had skate wing (yay!) ($24).  It was a generous portion of skate (member of the ray family, with a mild, tender texture).  Now they told me it had a horseradish crust, and they were not kidding.  Seriously, it was mainly grated horseradish that was seared crispy on the outside.  Needless to say, it was very hot, in the horseradish-y kind of way.  Everyone else at the table didn’t care for it, and I would have ideally toned it down a bit, but I appreciated that it was at least something different.  If it was maybe just a portion of the horseradish with shredded potatoes or something as a crust, it would have been amazing. They did do a great job at getting the outside nice and crisp though.  And the interior of the fish was outstanding. Meaty and exceptionally tender.  I found taking just a bit of the crust with the fish itself was really enjoyable.  The meals all include the same sides, as far as I can tell, a potato and a vegetable.  The potatoes this time were way better than the ones I had the first time (which I remember to be just roasted red potatoes).  These were just like hubby’s grandma’s recipe for potato casserole involving lots of shredded potatoes, cheese and butter.  They were simple, and I really enjoyed them. The asparagus was steamed and well, not exciting.
Hubby (and my brother in law) had the weekend special of Applewood smoked prime rib.  It was really good.  Amazing flavor throughout—you could taste the smoke and the herby crust.  And it wasn’t overly fatty like so much prime rib can be—it was nearly all edible meat.  And perfectly pink. I can see why this is a regular menu item.  I could get serious cravings for it.  And hubby mistakenly ordered the larger size thinking there is usually a lot of fat, and neither one of them finished.  My son enjoyed it the next day for dinner though.
My sister had the sautéed scallops which were large and tender and sautéed in a lemon garlic butter (they gave you a few choices of flavors of butter to choose from).  They were also quite good.  The first time in a long time I have eaten a scallop and not gotten that gritty bite at all.  The portion was quite large as you can see from the picture, as were the scallops themselves.  I was impressed at how well they were cooked considering their size.
We also had dessert—you guys told me last time that I should have ordered the sugar cream cake last time with the blueberry topping so we did…as well as the key lime pie.  Honestly, I couldn’t decide which one I liked better, although the overall consensus was the sugar cream cake.  It was light and sweet and tasty—but I also liked the tartness of the key lime.  Honestly, a little bit of both was kind of ideal for me. 
So it’s a fun place, serving several traditional comfort food items as well as some surprisingly good seafood.  You know you are going to get really good food—this isn’t mind-blowing modern cuisine, but a place I look forward to returning to more frequently, even if we have to eat at 4:45. I’m getting older anyway right?
Bonge’s Tavern
9803 West 280 North
Perkinsville, IN 46011

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Chef Joseph's

Seems like lately there isn’t a lot of new stuff opening which has been kind of bumming me out so I was excited to try Chef Joseph’s which is pretty new.  When I went, with the BFF, they were still only serving lunch, but since then I have heard they have added dinner service to their menu a few days a week.  When you walk in, it is hard to imagine why they would not serve dinner, as it is an extremely upscale dining room—white tablecloths, lots of dark wood.  Feels much more in line for dinner to me than lunch.  Although to be fair, they are catering to a business lunch crowd according to their menu.  I just hope this doesn’t scare people off because it is worth checking out, even if you’re wearing jeans, like I was.
The menu is interesting—several small plates, some salads, soup, sandwiches and a few entrées.  Of course, as soon as I see small plates, my interest is piqued.  Not to mention, nearly every single small plate sounded good to me (and also sounded like the most interesting items). We decided to splurge and start with a plate of the housemade potato chips that were served with spicy aioli on the side ($4.95).  These were really good—nice and fresh, and just the right thickness that weren’t too thin or too fat.  I don’t like them when they are too fat and sometimes seem a little chewy, but if they are too thin, it’s impossible to scoop up the dip.  They were just right and had just the right amount of salt too.  The spicy aioli tasted very good—it had a lot of flavor, but I wouldn’t say it was particularly spicy in a “hot” way.  But it was very enjoyable. I ate way too many of them and would easily order them again.
So for the rest of my lunch I decided to order another small plate, the bacon and Cambozola quesadilla ($8.95) and the spinach salad ($8.95) (what? I couldn’t make up my mind).  If you aren’t familiar with Cambozola, it’s a cheese that is a mix of a mild Camembert-ish cheese and Gorgonzola. I went through a period in California where I was a little obsessed with it. There was this restaurant that made a Cambozola fondue that was amazing to dip fruit in. We used to get it for dessert.  Anyway, I digress, but I loved the flavor of it in the quesadilla, especially with the smoky, salty bacon and the pico de gallo on top that was made with pear—giving it just the right amount of sweetness to balance out the blue cheese flavor.  The downside of it, and I have discovered this myself when trying to re-create the above mentioned Cambozola fondue, is that it isn’t a great smooth melting cheese.  It separates a little funny, producing a bit of oiliness that detracted a bit from the quesadilla.  I still ate it all.  And like I said, the flavors were perfect together--too bad it was just a little greasy.
The spinach salad was fine, although not as interesting as the other things.  I ordered it because I felt like I really needed something remotely healthy, and it had some of my favorite things—avocado, orange and red onions.  It was one of those salads where all the parts were very disconnected (although a lovely presentation) and I prefer a mixed up, tossed salad incorporating bite sized pieces of things.  The herbed balsamic vinaigrette was lighter than many, and I really enjoyed the flavor of it, but it was just drizzled across the top, and I would have preferred a little more of it (or like I said, for the salad to be tossed in it).  Very fresh ingredients, but just not really exciting.  My friend also had a salad (a different one) and thought it was kind of boring as well.  She did enjoy her lamb stew though (technically listed as a soup of the day, but much more like a stew).
Because there are so many things I would like to try on the menu (and it changes fairly frequently—every 2 weeks I think), I look forward to going back for dinner one of these nights with hubby—I tend to eat a bigger dinner, and it will be easier to try more things.  I do want to mention the service though because it was great. Our server was really nice and right there when we needed him. (The only annoying part being that the restaurant has their servers taking orders on an Ipod touch, which went slowly--by the time he got it to do what he wanted, he could have written it down like 4 times).  It wasn’t overly busy, which is too bad, but which again makes me wonder if they are scaring people away with the focus on “business lunches.”  Because honestly, it is just really nice restaurant with some tasty food.  Yes, you could impress a client there, but you can also enjoy a casual lunch with a friend and still get treated just as well.
Chef Joseph’s
115 East Ohio Street
Indy, 46204

Chef Joseph's at The Connoisseur Room on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 12, 2012

Jockamo Pizza

Jockamo is a place that has been recommended for quite awhile by several of you guys so hubby and I headed over there for lunch the other day (after nearly being killed on the way over by a giant SUV running a red light, but that’s another story).  Anyhow, the first thing I noticed is the fact that they embrace other independent Indy restaurants by using several local ingredients in their pizzas (Papa Roux étouffée sauce on one, G.T. South BBQ sauce on others) and I also like the atmosphere of the place (we were at the one in Irvington).  The staff was exceptionally friendly, and they were constantly refilling drinks, etc. That part they have down for sure.
We started with an order of breadsticks ($3.25 for 3) with their “house special creamy parmesan” sauce (it had been recommended by several people, and you know I am always looking for an interesting breadstick sauce).  This was probably the highlight of the meal for me—I enjoyed the very thick, creamy sauce.  I am wondering about whether the breadsticks are made in house though—they just looked so perfectly uniform and didn’t really seem like they were made from the same dough as the pizza crust (which seems is usually the case with breadsticks). But they were super light and airy and nicely seasoned.
For our pizza, we wanted an opportunity to try a couple different of their house special pizzas so we got a half and half which you can do if you order at least a medium (our medium half and half was $14.50).  Right away I was intrigued by the “Po Boy” which was the first one on the menu, so we got half a “Po Boy” and half a “Cheese Louise.”  The Po Boy part had red sauce, red onion, green pepper, Cajun sausage from New Orleans, cheese, and your choice of shrimp, crawfish or chicken that is seasoned with Old Bay.  We got the crawfish at our server’s suggestion.  I don’t know, this didn’t really do it for me.  I mean, I knew it was a strange pizza topping going in, but it just didn’t come together for me.  There was so much on there too—it was a little too much for me.  And one of the bites I had with the crawfish was a little fishy.  I did enjoy the sausage though—a nice punch of flavor.
The “Cheese Louise” part of the pizza was definitely my favorite half (and hubby’s too).  It had 5 (!) kinds of cheese on it—cheddar, mozzarella, ricotta, gouda, and parmesan as well as bacon and red onion.  It was an interesting flavor combo with all that cheese and then the smokiness from the bacon and the crunch from the red onion (and they did an excellent job getting the right amount of onion on there—enough you can taste it with every bite).  The creamy dollops of ricotta added a slight sour flavor to the parts it was on which I enjoyed.  However, again, it was SO much stuff piled on a style of crust that just isn’t me.  There is nothing interesting about this crust to me—I like the crust to be a little chewy and to have its own unique flavor that makes you want to eat the crust edges even with nothing on them.  I also appreciate a lighter hand with toppings, and this style of pizza seems to pride itself with piling them on and heavy as the crust can possibly withstand.
So before you start yelling at me about this one, I just want to say that I have come to the realization (partially due to several angry emails) that pizza is extremely subjective.  Everyone has their style of pizza that they like, and, well, the whole “Indy style” (as I call it) is not mine. I know a lot of you like this place but honestly, it isn’t for me.
Truly, I believe Indy does have its own style of pizza, a la Bazbeaux, Some Guys, and Jockamo, but none of these are ones that excite me.  The crust is somewhat thin, and flat, and then it is (in my opinon) overly loaded with toppings.
So, obviously, this is a matter of preference.  What do you guys think?  Do you have certain styles you like and others you just don’t?  Any of you find this type of pizza your favorite?  I did love finally checking out Irvington (where my Dad grew up).  Where else should I try in that area? 
Jockamo Pizza
5646 East Washington Street
Indy  46219

Jockamo Upper Crust Pizza on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Divvy has been on my radar since it opened—the small plates concept is one of my favorite ways to eat.  Anytime I can try several items at a meal, I am happy.  And I took the opportunity to expand my options even further and invited several friends to join us.  We ended up with 8 of us at the meal, which was fun because--well, first these particular friends always make me laugh—but also because we got to try SO many things.  The down side was I tried so many different things actually that I actually ended up overwhelming myself a little with all the constant changes in flavors as we passed around plate after plate.  So I am going to do my best to hit on most of the items.
The first dish that sticks out in my mind as a favorite was the tempura tofu ($9).  It was cubes of tofu that were tempura battered and fried. I really liked the texture contrast between the perfectly crisp outside and the warm, custardy inside.  The pieces of tofu were served with a teriyaki sauce and super thin blood orange glass noodles and sesame seeds. The noodles (which are also served alongside the seared tuna) were good as well and added a very delicate amount of citrus.  Actually, the seared tuna ($12) was pretty much identical in its set up, and the tuna was cooked nicely—basically raw with just a seared edge).
Another favorite of mine, as well as the table, was the corn crème brulee ($5).  I was like an extremely rich corn pudding with some kick from jalapeno.  There were some whole kernels of corn inside and the top was bruleed crunchy and topped with red sea salt.  Honestly, if I hadn’t known better (it is on the vegetarian part of the menu), I would have thought there was bacon in the dish—it had such a deep smoky flavor. It was tasty scooped up on some of the bread that came along with other things.  I was sort of surprised they didn’t serve it with some sort of bread though—if I hadn’t had so much from other things we had ordered, I don’t know that I would have just wanted to scoop it in with a spoon, but maybe that’s just me.
a chicken nacho

Surprisingly (to me anyway), I also really enjoyed the chicken nachos ($7), which I never would have ordered except for our large group (someone else ordered them).  They were made on a base of a crispy, buttery flour tortilla and topped with chicken, crème fraiche, Monterrey Jack cheese and a chipotle pineapple salsa verde.  There was a little smoky flavor from the salsa verde and I really liked the tartness of the crème fraiche. An inventive take on a bar classic.   The fried biscuits ($6) were a nice thing to share as well—and who isn’t going to like what is basically a little doughnut hole of biscuit batter—they weren’t quite as dense as most fried biscuits I have had, but tasty dipped into either the apple butter (a classic combo) or the mango marmalade.  Interestingly, pretty sure it was these same biscuits that showed up later sprinkled with powdered sugar, with chocolate, blackberry and butterscotch sauces and re-named “beignets” (and re-priced at $11).  Still tasty though.

olive tapenade

We also got several dips because they are so easy to share and most all of them were enjoyable, although none of them completely wowed.  My favorite was probably the olive tapenade ($5) which was a flavorful olive dip sitting in a roasted red pepper puree and served with toasted slices of pretzel bread.  I love olives, so it is kind of a given I am probably going to like this.  But several others mentioned liking it as well.  Our least favorite was the baba ganoush ($6).  It was made with the typical eggplant and well as white beans and topped with a balsamic glaze.  One of my friends nicknamed it “cumin ganoush” though because it was so heavy on the seasoning.  Way too much for us.   The crab dip and beer cheese dip were somewhere in the middle of the two—both very good, but not amazing.


The beef carpaccio ($14) wasn’t bad—really heavy on the horseradish mustard on top. It seemed as if there was almost as much mustard as there was meat.  And I didn’t like how some of the edges of the meat had lost their bright red color and gone to the gray place.  But if you portioned out the toppings a bit, it didn’t taste bad.
The frog legs ($12) were only ok—they were sort of done in a variation of a chicken wing. Deep fried with a Thai chili sauce drizzled on top and a side of crème fraiche for dipping. Unfortunately, the fried coating wasn’t very crispy and I thought just the plain crème fraiche was a little uninspired.  Hubby also told me later that his leg was totally undercooked and it kind of freaked him out (mine didn’t suffer that fate).  This is one that would not be a repeat for us.
The seared seasoned scallops ($14) with brandy, melted leeks, and lime wedges were also just ok.  The scallops themselves were bland and not seared at all (nothing crispy going on the edges as far as I could tell).  The flavor of the sauce wasn’t bad, particularly when you squeezed those limes on it to brighten it a bit.  But when the meat of the dish is so blah, I wouldn’t recommend it. We also had the ostrich tartar with crispy capers ($10).  The ostrich was a little too chunky for my taste, and the flavor was kind of bland.  It needed some seasoning in there (maybe some of that mustard from the carpaccio or something). 
We shared several desserts and they were all good.  I mentioned the beignets, which were good, but I wouldn’t get them AND the fried biscuits since they are basically the same.  They also do a bunch of mini desserts which are all $3-4.  Apparently, the highlight was the chocolate mousse with peanut butter and caramel sauce and red sea salt on top.  I wouldn’t know, because it was gone by the time it got to me (they are pretty small). The key lime pie was also good.  I’m a sucker for s’mores desserts, although there was too much of the graham cracker crumbs on this which made it too dry overall. 
The biggest problematic issue we had overall was the service was pretty off (one friend was so pissed off, I doubt he will return).  The service was generally slow and they were sort of weird about letting us order what we wanted when we wanted (they only let half of us pick something in our initial order and by the time our order was taken, we were getting pretty hungry).  I am not sure if they were worried about overwhelming the kitchen or something, but I would think at a tapas place (that was quite crowded on a Sunday night by the way) that they could handle an influx of a lot of orders at once. Luckily we were drinking a fair amount of wine and having a good time so we looked past it, but there were definitely some kinks here.  The interior is stylish and modern—much of it covered in different colors of wood.  It gets pretty loud when it is crowded (which it was) but you certainly feel like you are in a lively restaurant. (Also, it is 21 and over, so don’t bring the kids).

Overall, I look forward to trying Divvy again—and this time with a smaller group (maybe just hubby).  It was kind of crazy with all the things being passed around especially when you’re trying to focus on the foods based on only a couple of bites.  I am also interested to see if the service is better with a smaller group.  Food-wise, I would say there were more hits than misses, and the menu is huge, so there are still plenty more things to try (and I would keep a couple of the things I really liked this time).

71 West City Center Drive
Carmel, IN 46032

Divvy on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 5, 2012

SoBro Café

This is a review in which I am actually including two visits—my first was for brunch with the family and the second for lunch with a friend.  We ended up there for brunch with the kids recently when we wanted to hit Taste with the kids, but when we got there, the line was out the door and none of us had the patience for it.  At SoBro, we sat right down and were greeted by a friendly server.  It was between 11:00 am and noon on a Sunday, and the only menu option at that time was the brunch menu, which was limited to 6 or 7 items, but luckily there was something that appealed to everyone. 
I had the fried egg sandwich ($9.50 with bacon), hubby had the biscuits and gravy ($6.95) (they also have a vegetarian version), my son some scrambled eggs and toast and bacon ($5.95), and my daughter the “French kiss” toast ($7.25).  I didn’t notice a children’s menu at all, so they were just ordering off the regular menu (although there were a few kids in there besides mine).
My fried egg sandwich was tasty, although simple.  I didn’t ask for the egg to be any certain way, I sort of thought I would see how they do it, and they fried it fairly hard (boo) but the flavors of the bacon, the avocado, tomato, lettuce, and cheese were all good.  I would recommend sourdough bread (which is what I got) because the wheat that my son got alongside his eggs was a little hard.  There was also a generous portion of home fries with the sandwich--they were fine, the ones that were the crispiest I liked, but I have to admit, I am not generally a home fries kind of girl anyway.  It is hard to find any that have ever really gotten me excited.
The best item by far on the table though, was hubby’s biscuits and gravy (I hate it when he out orders me).  There were two biscuits cut in half and covered with the chunky, sausage filled gravy.  The sausage was nice and peppery and I loved the thinner gravy.  Usually I am not a big fan of biscuits and gravy (and really a lot of gravy in general), because of the over-thickened, fakey, taste that so many of them have.  This gravy was great. Thinner, like I said, and exceptionally well seasoned.  It had a fair amount of peppery spiciness.  I also really liked the fact that the biscuits stood on their own and remained crispy under the gravy.  Honestly, I clearly preferred hubby’s breakfast to mine (even though mine was fine too).  Luckily, there was plenty for us to share.  Hubby, who is a big biscuits and gravy fan, declared this may be his favorite in town.
The French toast was very popular with the kids, and I am pretty sure they would both get this on a return visit. It is supposed to come with cream cheese and strawberries on top, but my daughter asked for them on the side.  She did end up spreading the cream cheese on several pieces and enjoyed it together.  I think she might even let them make it the way it is listed on the menu next time.  I had a little bite.  It was basic French toast to me—nothing that made it stand out from what you might make at home, other than I have never topped mine with cream cheese.  The eggs and bacon were also straightforward—my son ordered them scrambled.  Your basic scrambled eggs with some pretty tasty bacon alongside (although now every time I see bacon on a menu, I am hoping for Smoking Goose, I love that stuff.)
So the next visit I met a friend for lunch, and was disappointed to be told as soon as I sat down that they were out of their specialty Dutch Pennekoeken, which are listed as “pancakes” but which I am told are a lot like crepes actually.  They have several savory options, and I love a good savory crepe.  Sadly, I didn’t get to try one this time. So we split an appetizer of corn fritters ($4.50) which were like little pancakes themselves, but with chunks of corn in them and made with at least some cornmeal I would guess.  I liked the chunky bits of corn and the sweet flavor, but they were maybe just a tad dry.  They were served with a spicy black bean dip as well as a flavored sour cream which I really enjoyed.  The sour cream had an extra tangy flavor (lime perhaps) and it added good moisture to the corn cakes.  They also brought us a side of their sweet potato fries (which are baked actually) on the house ($3.50 or $2.25 with a sandwich) because they felt bad for the fact that they had run out of pancakes.  I think these are one of the things that are not housemade, and to be honest, they didn’t really wow me.  They did have a nice crunch for being baked, and I appreciated that. I also liked the thick homemade ketchup alongside.  I did appreciate the gesture though—they certainly wanted to make us happy.
After re-evaluating my options, I settled on the Tunisian Melt just because it sounded intriguing (and our server said it was one of her favorites) ($8.25).  It was an open faced sandwich (Texas toast) topped with tuna salad with potato chunks, sprouts, a little spinach, boiled egg, a lemon caper dill sauce, harissa (a type of chili sauce), and topped with melted cheddar cheese.  Sounds kinda strange huh? But it sort of made me think of a Niçoise salad kind of flavor which sounded really good to me. And I really quite enjoyed it. The tuna part itself was not like your traditional tuna salad kind of thing (which I NEVER order by the way)—it wasn’t mayo based the way so many are.  I really liked the salty, tangy lemon caper sauce and the texture variation of the eggs and the potatoes.  It was slightly warm with the melted cheese.  I appreciated the fact that it was something very different from most sandwiches you see around and I thought the flavors pretty much worked.  There was a lot going on, but I enjoyed it. I would get it again I think, although hopefully at some point I can get one of those pancakes (anyone had one?)
One of the nicest things about SoBro café is how friendly the staff is—our server was super friendly and apologetic about the pancake situation and knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the food.  Another person (manager/owner?) came by several times as well to refill our drinks and check on us.  I also liked the cute little statues that hold the checks at the end.  The food is nearly all homemade, and there is creativity being demonstrated, which I like in a lunch place.  So often sandwich menus look identical, and there are some deviations here (although there are plenty of standards as well). I would love to hear what you guys think of the place if you’ve been.
SoBro Café
653 East 52nd Street
Indy 46205

SoBro Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Fat Dan's Deli

** FAT DAN'S HAS MOVED TO 5410 North College**

Fat Dan’s has been on my list for awhile, and luckily, I have a friend who is pushy when it comes to his love of the place as well as getting me to write about it.  But I can appreciate a restaurant-pusher—especially when I end up agreeing with them.  This was actually my third visit (all in the last few months) to Fat Dan’s, and all of them have been good.  On this most recent visit, I ordered the burger ($6.25) (which I also had on my first visit).  (Note: this is not an anonymous review, but as always is still an honest one.)
So you can probably guess that since I ordered the burger a second time, particularly when I am not generally a person who orders a lot of restaurant burgers, that it is a darn good burger.  I love that I was actually asked how I wanted it cooked (medium rare) and that Dan cooked it just that way (yep, it’s often a one-man operation, and Dan is a taking your order and cooking it up).  The burger was really tender and juicy, and I liked the two kinds of cheeses (Provolone and cheddar I believe) and I liked the soft, fresh bun.  The first time I just ordered it as it came, and it had more stuff on it (lettuce and tomato type stuff).  This time I just asked for it with just cheese, ketchup and pickles (my classic combo) and I liked it even better than the first time because I could really taste the meat (and it wasn’t as tall, which made it easier for me to eat).  This isn’t the thin burger style, but it is probably the best of the fat burgers I have had around town. 
So if you order fries ($2.75), you get a pile of them dumped on a piece of butcher paper on the table.  Seriously, a ton!  The first time I didn’t eat a lot of them---honestly I thought they were a little soft, but this time I asked for them extra crispy and I enjoyed them a lot more.  They are hand cut—mostly your classic fat cut French fry shape, but a few thick round slices as well.  You can tell they are coming from fresh potatoes and I like the somewhat heavy handed seasoning on them.  Get them crispy and they are really good (I might pass on them otherwise though).
In the past, I have also had the pulled pork sandwich ($8.25) which is very good as well.  They have a little smoker in the kitchen and Dan does a good job with the smoked meat.  It is very tender—really rich and smoky though, hard for me to eat a ton of it.  It has a really nice deep flavor—not all dried out like a lot of pulled pork sandwiches. I also had a taste of my friend’s “wreck” sandwich which has a little bit of everything on it. There's roast beef and turkey, lots of onions, giardiniera, tomatoes, lettuce, and melted cheese served on an Italian roll. Pretty much a kitchen sink kind of sandwich.  Honestly, the slice of it I had I don’t even think had all the ingredients. It was huge.  It was pretty good, but I liked my burger better I think (at least compared to the bites I had).  They do have a classic Italian Beef sandwich on the menu, which I am intrigued to try (when I have someone to split it with) as well as a traditional Chicago dog. I was with someone on one visit who got the corn dog as well, and I was intrigued by it as well—it was a hand dipped batter. Impressive.
Which brings me to one of my favorite parts about Fat Dan’s—the atmosphere.  It is a hole in the wall kind of place—not fancy, but it has a great friendly vibe, especially if you are lucky enough to be there when Dan is actually working—he chatted with us for awhile, and it is completely obvious after 5 minutes of talking to him that he is a really great guy, and really cares about what he is doing.  He cares about all his ingredients, and makes food the way he would want to eat it.  (My only complaint, in the winter, it tends to be a bit chilly, so wear your sweater). They’ve got beer on tap (local Triton Brewing Company currently, and Old Style, of course), and it is a fun place to sit and have a beer and a great sandwich.  (Yep, even I drank beer.)  These sandwiches are hearty too—a great place for a person with a healthy appetite (or for two people like me to share something).
Fat Dan’s Chicago Style Deli
815 Broad Ripple Avenue
Indy  46220

Fat Dan's Chicago-Style Deli on Urbanspoon