Monday, October 29, 2012


Tastings has been on my list since it opened—unfortunately I missed the first chef, but recently a couple of different people have recommended it again, so I took one of my girlfriends and we did a lunch date there the other day.

My first thought was I was sort of surprised it was open for lunch since there was no one in there when we got there (a few people showed up later, but that was it).  I guess since it is connected to the Conrad, maybe they have to be open?  We chose a comfy couch to settle into and then got our little card to try some wine tastes.  This place has these fancy machines hooked up to various wine bottles and you put whatever amount you want on your card and then go try 2 ounce portions of whatever wine you want (the 2 ounces range from about $2 to over $10 for a few).  When you figure out how much they are making on a bottle of wine with these 2 ounce prices, you realize they are making a large profit here, but it was still fun to try several things, and it was fun to be with a very wine knowledgeable friend to help pick some interesting choices.  Also, if you get lucky, they will offer you a couple of free end of bottle pours as they did with us (they were putting the new bottles in the machines).

Food-wise, we got quite a few different things, and again, it was fun to sample various plates (it generally is a small plates type of menu). We started with the blue cheese chips ($5) which were very crisp kettle style potato chips topped with melty blue cheese and a creamy sauce. Honestly, even though it was basically just a fancy chip and dip, it was probably my favorite thing of the day.  The chips were crisp enough to stay that way the entire lunch and there was enough of the blue cheese for all of them.  They were nice and hot when we got them and I would order them again.

Next we had the Mediterranean Sampler platter ($12) which had red pepper hummus, a white bean and sundried tomato dip and a tomato and mozzarella bruschetta-type topping.  They served it with a bunch of pita and toasted bread.  It was really a portion for way more people than just the two of us, but we enjoyed trying all the different things anyway.  We both liked the hummus the best—the roasted red peppers gave it a deeper flavor than just plain hummus and it had a nice garlic flavor as well.  Neither of us was as sure about the white bean dip.  It was really thick—not so much of a dip as it was a spread.  The beans weren’t really mashed up that much.  It had a slightly strange flavor that I couldn’t put my finger on. Not sure if it was from the tomatoes or vinegar or what.  The diced tomato topping was seasoned decently with basil and a vinaigrette type dressing with little chunks of mozzarella on top, but the tomatoes had little flavor on their own.  I also wished the toasted bread pieces had more flavor on their own and were toasted a little but more.  I can’t say I would order the white bean dip or the tomato topping again.  The hummus was pretty good though.

We also shared a filet mignon flatbread pizza ($11).  They are little square pizzas and this one was topped with a tomato sauce, gorgonzola (we both love our blue cheese), caramelized onions, and pieces of steak and drizzled with balsamic glaze. This was probably my least favorite of all the things we had. There was just too much going on, and I definitely could have done without the tomato sauce—it really conflicted with all the other flavors to me, especially the balsamic on top.  The beef was little tiny pieces and after being warmed on top of the pizza became overcooked.

We also shared some of the “Best Chocolate in Town” truffles as well ($10). At this point, I was pretty stuffed, and we ended up taking some of them home, but I really liked the flavor of the Wee Mac truffle. Didn’t think I would dig beer flavor in my chocolate, but it was good—really good.  I like that the restaurant is using truffles from a local maker too.
Our server was really nice—explained how everything worked and even though he obviously wasn’t busy with lots of customers, was around when we needed him and left us alone when we didn’t.  And the free wine tastes didn’t hurt.  Even though the food didn’t blow me away, I think this might be a fun place to return to with a group of friends—I enjoyed trying the different wines--even if you just ordered some cheese to go with it off the menu.

It’s been open awhile—so who has been? Have you had menu items that you really enjoyed?

50 West Washington Street
Indy 46204

Tastings Wine Bar and Bistro on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Punch Burger

Always up for a good burger, hubby and I decided to try Punch Burger for lunch.  It is pretty new, and I have been hearing a lot of good things.  I have also heard there has been pretty long lines at times, so we went a little early. We didn’t have to wait long in line, but by 11:40 or so, the whole place was full (there isn’t a ton of seating, but the tables turn over fast).

This is a place where you order at the register and then they call your number and deliver your food to you. So you sort of have to listen, especially if you are in the back room, because they won’t know where you are.  The service was pretty darn speedy—it only took about 5 minutes to get our burgers.

We both did build your own, although some of the specialty burgers sounded pretty good. I almost went for the “good morning” ($6.25) which is a burger, bacon, fried egg, and cream cheese, but the cream cheese idea just didn’t appeal to me.  I do like cream cheese, but pretty much on a bagel. Not in my sushi, and not on my burger.  Anyhow, I just created my own (and there are a TON of toppings options, most of which don’t cost extra) with a 1/3 pound beef patty (you can also get turkey or mushroom), an egg (over easy) and cheese (I went with American) on the classic white bun (they also have wheat and pretzel) ($6.25). I also got a side of waffle fries ($1.50).  Overall, it was a good burger—the beef was really very tender despite the fact that it was cooked pretty well done (they don’t ask) and had nice flavor. You can tell from the irregular shape and the tenderness that they aren’t overworking the meat here. The egg was runny just like I wanted it.  Size-wise, the burgers are in a middle ground between the really thin burgers (a la Steak n Shake or Workingman’s Friend) and the thick burgers (a la Boogie Burger or Fat Dan's).  The bun was nicely toasted and was really soft. I didn’t get the pretzel bun because I always worry they will be too hard and chewy, but I caught a glimpse of them and I am thinking about trying one next time for a change of pace—they didn’t look overly dense.  If I could change something about mine, it would be that I would like the meat to be a little pink, but I still really enjoyed it. The waffle fries were good too—seasoned and fresh and hot (you can’t really get THAT excited about waffle fries can you?).

Hubby had a “build your own” as well with cheese and bacon.  Burger-wise, he pretty much agreed with me on the actual beef patty itself—he liked it.  The bacon though-- it was pretty bad.  I was kind of surprised in a place like this that is using such high quality, fresh Indiana beef and turkey that they aren’t sourcing bacon locally when we have a great resource like Smoking Goose (or other local Indiana bacon). The bacon was limp and tasted too much like fake smoke.  Think cheap hotel buffet bacon and you know where I am at with this.  Hubby pulled it off the burger after the first bite but the flavor still lingered even after he took it off.  It was a little bit of a bummer since the burger itself is pretty darn tasty (and they charge an extra $.95 for bacon).  The sweet potato tots ($2) are interesting—little tater tots of diced sweet potato.  I loved the crispiness of them- and they were perfectly cooked.  If you are a fan of sweet potatoes, I think you will like these.
boo on the bacon

Overall, I like the place. The food is good and reasonably priced, the people who work there are friendly and they serve beer and wine.  If I worked downtown, I can see how this would be a good addition to the lunch options (particularly if you need something fast). My only warning: stay away from the bacon.

Punch Burger
137 E. Ohio Street
Indy 46204
Punch Burger on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 22, 2012

U.S. Adventures - New Orleans

We just got back from what was kind of a whirlwind trip to New Orleans—it was crazy because the kids were there with us and we did a lot of sightseeing, visiting with members of hubby’s family who lived down there, as well as trying to fit in some adult time to eat at some of the amazing restaurants as well.  I am not going to do a full post about each restaurant, just some of the highlights and lowlights of each.

The first thing we did we when got to town was go to lunch—everyone was starving. We hit up Joey K’s on Magazine Street near where we were staying. It is a friendly neighborhood kid friendly spot that was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives awhile back.  I had my first po boy (shrimp) ($8.50) and it hit the spot.  Lots of fried shrimp, mayo, lettuce and pickles. And of course, the perfect roll.  After eating it, I realized how lucky we are to have B’s Po Boy here in town because they were remarkably similar. My son had a fried soft shell crab ($16.95) that was also quite good.

Our first night, we hit one of the old school standards—Commander’s Palace.  This is the restaurant where Emeril got his start.  It is a bit stuffy and we had the kids with us, so they lost a bit of patience with it—especially since the service was pretty slow.  I was kind of surprised honestly. My first course was by far the best, and was quite delicious—it was spicy shrimp remoulade ($9.50).  It was wild white shrimp that were boiled crab boil style and served with hearts of palm, tomato and lettuce with a spicy lemon vinaigrette.  The shrimp were perfectly cooked and tender and had a zippiness to them from the seasoning.  Honestly, the rest of the meal was fairly disappointing—well my taste of hubby’s turtle soup was ok if you are into that kind of thing.  Tasted heavily of the Sherry they pour in at the end.

We randomly stopped into a little outdoor place in the French Market section of the Quarter for lunch the next day called the Market Café.  We were with a bunch of hubby’s family members (and kids) and it was nice to sit outside and enjoy the music.  I had my doubts about this place when I saw it—seemed like a tourist trap kind of place, but hubby and I split a fried seafood platter ($20.95) and it was really good. Catfish, shrimp and oysters—all cooked nice and crunchy outside but tender inside. The shrimp were probably my favorite.

We had our first really good dinner that night at Mr. B’s.  They are known for their barbecued shrimp ($26), which we shared an order of and which lived up to the hype.  If you aren’t aware, barbecue shrimp in New Orleans is shrimp cooked in a sauce that contains Worcestershire sauce, butter, and tons of herbs and spices.  We also shared an appetizer of their fried oysters ($10.25) with the table and they were probably the best thing we had that night—super fresh, super crunchy oysters sitting in their shells which were filled with bacon horseradish hollandaise.  And I really liked the cool old school bistro-ish vibe.

Lunch the next day was with friends at Borgne, which is a John Besh restaurant. We had some really good food here, although it is a restaurant in a hotel and the atmosphere is a little generic.  We had a bunch of stuff—my favorites were probably the slow smoked pork empanadas ($9). They were served with a  creamy, tangy dipping sauce and were tasty.  I also liked the creamy oyster spaghetti with garlic and bottarga ($20) just for something different.  The oysters were really tender and delicious, and I have to say, I always prefer them cooked.

Dinner was at Root which was a restaurant several people had recommended to me—it is a very modern place located in the Warehouse District. It has a very hip urban feel to it and a very hipster-ish clientele.  Honestly, this was the biggest letdown food-wise for me.  They have a nice charcuterie menu, and we had a couple of things (face bacon and rillettes) and I appreciated all the cool accompaniments that came along side (many pickled items).  Probably the most memorable was the blueberry mustard that came in the little tube (as in like toothpaste). Apparently, they have something different in the tube each day and they squeeze a little out and leave the rest of the tube there for you to use.  First time I have seen that (and it tasted good too).  The rest of the food wasn’t that great taste-wise, although also likewise inventive—there were avocado dippin’ dots on my watermelon salad and the scallops our friend ordered came in a cigar box filled with cigar smoke (not so sure how I feel about that, not being a fan of cigar smoke).  An interesting experience for sure, but not one I would likely repeat.

Our last dinner was the best—it was at Bayona.  There were some clear standout food items, but everything about the experience was just really nice, even when certain food items weren’t as memorable.  The restaurant is in the French Quarter and has an old school feel and I loved our server—she chatted with us quite a bit and genuinely seemed to like her job and where she worked.  The items that stand out in my mind were an appetizer we all shared—the toasted bread with goat cheese and this wonderful mushroom mixture with Madeira. Simple, but perfectly executed. I am so going to try and duplicate this one at home. (I just found the recipe here.) Hubby had an amazing sweetbread appetizer with a Sherry vinaigrette sauce that also had the perfect mix of acid and savory flavors—and the sweetbreads were perfectly crisp.  It was a perfect way to end our trip with a great meal, wine and friends.

Oh…and there were beignets at Café Du Monde of course…

One of the things I noticed about New Orleans that I loved—the people.  Everyone, and I mean, everyone, wants to tell you where to eat and what their favorite restaurants are.  The people I met all had an obvious love of their City and were more than happy to share it with you.  It is a physically beautiful City as well. Hubby and I are already planning our next trip---this one without kids so we can really relax and just eat and wander the streets. I would love to hear about all your favorite places.
Live Oaks in the Garden District


Mardi Gras Heads

Joey K’s
3001 Magazine Street
New Orleans, LA 70115

Commander’s Palace
1403 Washington Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70130

Commander's Palace on Urbanspoon

The Market Café
1000 Decatur Street
New Orleans, LA 70116

Market Café on Urbanspoon

Mr. B’s Bistro
201 Royal Street
New Orleans, LA 70130

Mr B's Bistro on Urbanspoon

601 Loyola Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70113

Borgne (Hyatt Regency) on Urbanspoon

200 Julia Street
New Orleans, LA 70130

Root on Urbanspoon

430 Dauphine Street
New Orleans, LA 70112

Bayona on Urbanspoon

Café du Monde
800 Decatur Street
New Orleans, LA 70116

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Brewstone Beer Company


First impression of this place? Loudest. Restaurant. Ever.  Let’s just get that out of the way. If you have a loud kid (as I do), you will not have to worry about anyone hearing them over the roar of the game being played over the speaker system.  There are also a ton of tvs playing lots of different sports, and there really doesn’t appear to be a different dining room for families (or non-bar folk) so you are in it if you are there.  The regular tables sort of surround the bar on all sides.  The interior was a bit nicer than I thought it would be—on the walls where there weren’t tvs, there were large photographs of travel destinations around the country. We had fun picking out some we recognized.

Honestly, I did not have high hopes regarding the food based on everything I had heard and read (42% on urbanspoon--ouch)—but I was pleasantly surprised.  Hubby ordered the fish and chips ($15) and it was good.  There were 4 cod fillets that were beer battered—they had a nice crispy exterior and the fish was still moist inside.  A lot of restaurants use other fish in their fish and chips and often it is too thin to be cooked as long as you need to for the outside to be the right crispiness. These were very good.  The fries were fine—nothing special—honestly we had so much food on the table, we didn’t eat many of them.

I decided to be adventurous, and possibly a little hard headed, and order the tuna poke appetizer ($12).  They had a couple of seared tuna dishes on the menu as well and our server told me they were popular, so I was hopeful that the fish would be good and fresh.  You know, I was pleasantly surprised again. The dish had quite a bit of flavor from their marinade—there was even a bit of heat from what appeared to be chili oil (ok, I did add just a bit of soy sauce).  The dish itself was made up of chunks of tuna, avocado, lots of radish sprouts and thin sliced onions.  It was served with fried wonton chips to scoop it up.  The only bad part was the wontons were stuck underneath the tuna mixture for presentation which made one edge of them soggy. It might not have been as pretty, but would be better off to serve them on a separate plate or something.  I was happy with it overall though and would order it again. I appreciate that in a restaurant that focuses mostly on bar food that there was an option that was lighter and not as heavy and traditional options.

My daughter was thrilled to see that they had a grilled chicken breast option on the kid’s menu instead of just the chicken tenders (which they also have, and which thankfully, she is starting to outgrow). It was a nice little plate with the chicken breast, broccoli and mashed potatoes ($5).  The chicken was well seasoned and shockingly, fairly tender.  And that was a good amount of food for $5 (which included the drinks as well).

My son had the mac and cheese ($5) which was pretty good as well.  There was fresh grated cheese on top and it had a very homemade taste—not sure my son was a huge fan, but I thought it was pretty good for a kids meal.  I don’t often even mention the kid’s meals, but these stood out to me as better than the average options.

Other then the crazy noise level (and I am hoping maybe it was just because it was a Saturday game day), this is a place that we as a family will probably add to the rotation.  Everyone liked it, and it is one of the closest places to our house around. The service was a little slow, and it is a chain (a small one though with currently only 2 locations), but at least on our visit, they seemed to be taking care in the kitchen.  I love it when a place surprises me.

Who else has been? I know several of you have told me about it, would love to hear what you think and see why their ratings are so low.

Brewstone Beer Company
3720 E. 82nd Street
Indy  46240
Brewstone Beer Company on Urbanspoon