Monday, December 26, 2016

Tinker Street-Revisit

I wasn’t even going to write about this meal, but I had such a good one, I figured I would share. We were with friends who had never been to Tinker Street--we started with a couple of different appetizers to share. One was a special that was meant to split between two people—it was actually a bison tenderloin with roasted mushrooms. It was an interesting choice to serve as an appetizer—I guess because it was on the small side, they thought maybe it wasn’t quite big enough for a main dish, but it would have been just right for me. We all really enjoyed it. I particularly thought the mushrooms were really nice. Roasted just right.

We also shared the escargot vol-au-vent ($13), which was puff pastry with an herb garlic sauce and several escargot (snails). One friend had never had them before and wanted to try it. Hubby was thrilled because he loves escargot.  These were very good. My biggest problem with escargot is that sometimes they are kind of rubbery, but these were not at all. They were a good size and very tender. And who doesn’t love puff pastry right? The sauce was nice and flavorful as well (which has been a problem for me with some dishes at Tinker in the past, that they were bland). This was nicely done.

Finally we shared the fried Brussels sprouts ($11). These were rich and very tasty with just a light crisp edge. They were tossed with a Dijon vinaigrette and topped with almond dukkah, which is a mixture of herbs, spices and ground up nuts (almonds here). I really liked the extra texture from this mix and the additional flavor that it added. I love nuts mixed into a salad or with vegetables to give it a little more heartiness.

For his main, hubby had the wild coho salmon with parsnips, creamed swiss chard and a miso glaze ($22). It was a great dish as well. It’s nice seeing the shift into slightly more wintery veggies being served with salmon, but still showing creativity. Both the chard and the parsnips were very good, and the fish was perfectly cooked medium rare.

But the best thing on the table for me was the dish I ordered for my main, which was actually a starter. It was the mapo tofu dish ($12). There were large chunks of tofu, pieces of rice cakes (not the flavorless dry diet things you think of, think of like a crab cake made with rice), lion’s mane mushrooms and fermented beans. The sauce is a ginger and soy based sauce with a fair amount of chili in it, as well as those fermented black beans. It had some heat for sure, but also I just loved all the soft but varying textures from the tofu, the mushrooms and the firm, yet slightly chewy rice cakes. I really liked this dish. Hubby agreed. We licked the bowl clean.

I think our friends enjoyed their first visit—one is a vegetarian (who sometimes eats fish) and she appreciated the many offerings they had on the menu. Hubby and I were happy that everything was so good. We’ve had some ups and downs here, but this one was a definitely up meal and everything we had was very enjoyable. If they have that tofu though, get it. I am going to have to try a version of my own at home.

Tinker Street
402 East 16th Street
Indy  46202

Monday, December 19, 2016


The other night I met my favorite sharing friend Jen at Livery before the Yelp Totally Bazaar (which by the way, until they move it to somewhere else, I am never doing that again—way too cramped and crowded) for an early dinner. This is the newest place from the Cunningham Group (Vida, Mesh, etc.) and it’s located in a really cool old brick building on College just off Mass Ave. One I have been eyeing for years. So glad to see someone took this place on.

It’s a very nice interior—highlights the brick and lots of dark wood. I didn’t really get a real Latin flair from the décor, but the menu most certainly is. Our server was very nice, if not bit harried, disappearing for significant periods of time. We ordered the two margaritas on the menu—the Livery margarita ($9) and the Carriage House margarita ($12). Both were very, very good, even though margaritas on a freezing snowy night are a little weird. The carriage house is more of a top shelf type margarita and uses orange brandy. The Livery was more your classic margarita, but was spot on. I love the little freebies they serve as you get your drinks. They called them something like chicharone wagon wheels, but they are not actually a pork product. I think they are actually called duros. Anyhow, they’re more like flour-based chip—I have had them before at other places, but I love the seasoning they put on these. Spicy chile with a huge dose of lime. They were addictive. We had a couple bowls of these (partly because our service was a little off).

We ordered several items off various parts of the menu, but I will discuss them in the order we ate/were served the items (we told them to bring them how they thought was best).  The first thing we were brought was the manchego crisp ($8) off of the ensalata portion of the menu. It sounded so intriguing when the server described it. It is basically a taco shell made of fried manchego cheese, and it stuffed with herb salad, orange, avocado, red onion, olives, fresno pepper and marcona almonds. Sounds interesting yes? But ehh, it was our least favorite thing of the evening. It’s hard to believe something that was such an acid bomb with olives and orange could be so one-dimensional. It was very heavy on mashed avocado. And as much as I love manchego, it doesn’t make a crisp in the same way that Parmesan can. Just doesn’t have as much flavor. I expected a bit more of the greens, since it was labeled a salad, but it was a bit of a mish mosh of ingredients that didn’t really coalesce.

Next we had empanadas. We ordered the barbacoa version ($9) based on a couple of recommendations, including from our server. It comes with a little salad of kale and peppers and chipotle salsa. We realized after a couple of bites that we did not in fact get those, but actually got chicken ones. The bite I had was pretty good, but probably would have been better with the right sides—green salsa and crema. Based on my limited bite, I’d like to try them though. The barbacoa version was tasty as well. A nice flakey crust and meaty, yet juicy, interior. The salsa and the greens on the side make the dish though. Without it, the empanadas wouldn’t have stood out in the way they did. The salad was dressed with some heavy citrus, but it was just what the empanadas needed to brighten it up. I also like the smoky depth of flavor from the chipotle salsa.

Next we were served the jamon Serrano ($10) from the primero portion of the menu and the pork pastor ($11) from the Segundo portion. The jamon Serrano was probably our favorite item of the evening. It was a terrine made from potato and poblano peppers with mushrooms, romesco sauce, crema and salsa verde. Oh, and of course, that Spanish ham, which is layered across the top.  This was decadent, and had a lot going on, but tasted really good. It reminded me of a classic Spanish tortilla, which is more like a potato omelet than what you might normal think of when you think of a tortilla that you wrap a taco in. The sauces and mushrooms were great, and if you haven’t tried Serrano ham, it’s a bit like prosciutto but richer in flavor. It’s a bit drier in texture as well perhaps.

The pork pastor tasted very good as well. It was little shavings of the pork mixed with a zesty (as is acidic) slaw, onions, cilantro, and pineapple and served on top of corn cakes. The cakes were a little sweet for me, but I enjoyed the flavors of everything else. I think I would have preferred it served with another vehicle to eat it, even just warm tortillas, but I was happy enough just eating it on its own. I like that so much of the food here is thoughtfully created to be balanced with enough acid, as well as with unique takes on traditional Latin cuisine.

I really want to try some other things—I can’t wait to try the ceviche, it was just too cold on this night. I love ceviche and I bet this one has good flavor. Time will tell if I am right. And pretty much everything on the menu sounds interesting. So to the rest of you who have been there, what have you had? What did you think?

P.S. They don’t take reservations. On a Thursday early, we just walked right in, but I have heard there can be significant waits on the weekends. But you know how Indy folks love a new restaurant…

720 N. College
Indy 46202

Monday, December 12, 2016

Byrne's Grilled Pizza - Revisit

The other day I took  my daughter to see Cinderella at Clowes Hall. I asked her what she wanted to eat before we went and she said poutine. So I tried to take her to Twenty Tap, but there was a 20-minute wait. On a Tuesday. Go figure (and good for them). So by then we were running low on time and just decided to go to Byrne’s again, because we had eaten there the last time we went to Clowes, had enjoyed it, and had gotten in and out fast.

They have added some art and there were a fair amount of people in there this time and it had a nice casual atmosphere going on. Knowing that their crust is more of a thin, almost cracker-y type of a crust, I was open to trying more non-traditional toppings on my pizza (it just seems like it makes more sense as a flatbread type of pizza for some reason) and contemplated the menu.

First though, we ordered a couple of breadsticks with the garlic olive oil dipping sauce. It’s a pretty simple sauce—literally just chopped garlic in olive oil—but nice and tasty and wholesome. No crazy bright orange cheese stuff (although they do have other options as well). The bread sticks are good—big and doughy. I wish they had a little seasoning on them or something, they’re kind of plain otherwise, but still good. They are filling though, so watch out!

So after looking over the menu for a bit, I decided to go with the “hot chick” pizza, which is their take on a buffalo chicken pizza ($10 for small). It was really good. It was the thin crust, buffalo sauce as the pizza sauce, pieces of baked chicken and then blue cheese, red onions, banana peppers as well as regular shredded cheese. It was served with a side of ranch. I really enjoyed it a lot. I have a weakness for buffalo items and it hit the spot. The chicken was tender—and not just white meat and the sauce had just enough heat to it. Loved all the blue cheese. The ranch to dip in was decadent, but a nice touch.

My daughter had “the Confessional” ($10) which is basically their version of a Margarita pizza. It’s tomato sauce, shredded cheese, large rounds of mozzarella, tomato, and basil. She enjoyed it. After three weeks in Italy, she really likes a basic margarita and said this was a good one.

The real reason she particularly likes this place is for the chocolate chip bread pudding though. A holdover from Oh Yumm Bistro before them, they do a nice job, although it could stand to be heated up a little more.

Byrne’s is a nice neighborhood place—there were families in there as well as tables of adults. I would definitely eat there more if it were in my neighborhood.

Byrne’s Grilled Pizza
5615 N. Illinois Street
Indy 46208

Monday, December 5, 2016


I had never been to Piada—not sure why, maybe because it’s a chain, but when a friend suggested it for lunch, I agreed. It’s one of those places where you can kind of walk down the line and build your own pasta bowl or sandwich. I went with one of their combinations (I find I really don’t want to build my own anything, I really prefer an expert do that work. I mean, I can do that at home). So I chose the farm club tasca ($7.99), which is sort of like a thinner tortilla stuffed with boneless fried chicken breast, fresh avocado, spicy balsamic aioli, tomatoes, arugula, lemon basil dressing and pancetta. It is also supposed to come with bread and butter pickles, but as much as I love pickles, this just didn’t sound good with everything else to me so I had them leave them off.

I also got a cheesy breadstick just because they looked good when I walked in. My friend had a build your own pasta bowl. The tasca was actually quite tasty—I have to say my expectations were somewhat low, but I was surprised. The chicken had nice flavor and was very tender—and put avocado on anything and I am happy. It’s a little tough to eat the way it’s wrapped—even though in the picture it looks like two pieces, it’s actually wrapped up and is one big sandwich. I also really like the aioli and the dressing on there as well to brighten it up—and that is what makes a sandwich good to me. The other ingredients were nice and fresh—the arugula and the avocado.

I was not a fan of the breadstick though—it had a little bit of a funky taste. Maybe the cheese taste burnt or something? Not sure. Also, my friend had the build your own pasta, which I wasn’t a huge fan of either or it may have just been the choice of things on it. A little too much for me—a very heavy Alfredo type sauce.

All in all, it wasn’t as terrible as I sort of had in my head it might be. It was kind of like Panera with an Italian bent. Ingredients were fresh and the food tasted pretty good. It wasn’t mind blowing, but better than a lot of fast casual chains and certainly with fresher, more interesting ingredients.

8601 River Crossing Blvd (but multiple locations)
Indy 46240

Monday, November 28, 2016

Road Trip: Breakfast/Brunch in Chicago: Publican and Little Goat

A couple of recent breakfast/brunch experiences in Chicago. Both superb.

First, hubby and I ate at the Publican for brunch on a recent trip. I had never been—it’s a big space with just lots of giant communal tables pretty much. We were seated at the end of one and fairly quickly ordered our food.

I ordered the red wine poached eggs ($13)—sort of Publican’s version of deconstructed eggs benedict. The eggs are cooked in red wine and have a great additional flavor coming from it. They are served on top of toasted sourdough and with a bunch of shaved prosciutto on the side, as well as some lightly dressed greens. There was also a béarnaise sauce topping the eggs. I sort of made bites combining bits of everything and it was really delicious. There was so much acid coming from lots of places (the béarnaise, the greens and even the eggs) and when combined with the protein of the pork and the egg, it was a great combo.

However, it was hard to say which was better between this and the pork schnitzel that hubby ordered ($15). It was perfectly tender and fried pork tenderloin, and huge, on the plate topped with an herby corn chimichurri type sauce. There were also two perfectly cooked sunnyside up eggs. We were both so undecided about them (as to which was the best), we gave up and just switched plates halfway through the meal. They seem to change up the toppings on the schnitzel seasonally, but I’m pretty sure you would be well served with whatever goes on top.

The other breakfast I had a few weeks ago when I went to Chicago with my friend Suzanne and my daughter to see Hamilton (go see it!!). Suzanne and I had both been to Little Goat before, but we both loved it, so it was an easy choice for a return visit. Plus I knew my teenage daughter would love it. I was right.

I had the okonomiyaki ($13), which they now describe as “kimchee & bacon & eggs & pancakes breakfast tasty thing” on the menu. They are right. It is super delicious. It is a savory Japanese pancake made with bacon and kim chee and some sort of flour and eggs and topped with a slightly spicy mayo and a poached egg. Oh and these little crispy fried tempura bits. Seriously, this thing was so freaking good. 

I was a worried because I knew Suzanne was ordering the parathas burrito ($13), which I have had before and know is really good. I was worried I’d be jealous. But I would say I would be hard pressed to choose which was better. I love the tangy kick from the burrito from the dressed salad of greens, pickled peppers, beans and avocado, but I also loved the pure richness of the pancake. Thank goodness she’s a sharer. Actually I am pretty sure on any return visits, I would insist on ordering for whomever I am with and getting both. This is a great balanced combo. And if you’re wondering about the rest of the burrito, it is an Indian flatbread filled with two sunny side eggs and sitting on a slightly spicy Indian red sauce.

We all shared a side of the hash browns too ($6), because I have had them and they are so yummy. I think they spiralize them or something—they are super thin and super crispy….and yes, stuffed with cheese, which is slightly genius. They add a nice side of crunch to everything else.

My daughter got the dark chocolate chip crunch pancakes ($12) that yes, come with a side of chocolate malt butter. Whoa, if you like sweets for breakfast, you certainly can’t go wrong with this either. Because of the dark chocolate chips, it was like biting into a softer warm chocolate chip cookie. There were also little crispy malty bits on top of the pancakes. Honestly I am not much for sweets in the morning, but I couldn’t stop taking bites of this. I highly recommend Little Goat for a hearty, but interesting breakfast (they do have some simpler items as well).

Both places are great, and both take reservations, which I love.

The Publican
837 West Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607

The Little Goat
820 West Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60607

Monday, November 21, 2016

Rook - Revisit

Rook, you guys, is one of the most creative and tasty places we’ve got going around here. Hubby hadn’t been to the new location so we headed over there on one of those nights when it was still unseasonably warm and sat outside—they’ve done a nice job with the outside seating. Even though it’s pretty near the street, it feels a little calmer than many places.

We started out with the steamed pork bun ($5). A friend had insisted we get the Spam bun because she says it is amazing, but hubby couldn’t be swayed from the pure pork version. And it is really delicious. The soft doughy bun and the just right crispy pork belly with no too much fat. My favorite part is the homemade pickles giving it a fresh crunch and some acid. There’s a sprinkle of peanuts and some hoisin sauce too. So good.

We also got an order of the fried pigs’ ears with fermented black bean mayo and a 63-degree egg ($8). We have had tasty pig’s ears before, but they are often too chewy. THESE WERE SO GOOD. You couldn’t sop eating them. It was almost like eating light fried pork skins—super crispy and not at all chewy. That mayo had a little tanginess to it as well, and well, you know me, put a perfectly runny egg on top of that mayo and it may just be the perfect dish. No way we would ever pass this by if it’s on the menu. Dipping the pigs’ ears into that runny egg and mayo was just perfection.

For our second round, we had the Ora King salmon poke ($18) and the Vietnamese crepe ($17). We really enjoyed the salmon—really nice-sized cubes of raw salmon—and if you aren’t familiar with Ora King, it’s super buttery and delicious (you can get it at Caplinger’s if you want to experiment at home). And then the salmon was served in a bowl on a bed of rice and flavored with soy, charred seaweed, sesame seeds and an avocado cream. There was also a big egg yolk in the middle of the dish, which made it into a rich, decadent dish. We really enjoyed it, but it was so rich, I was glad to be sharing it. I don’t think I could have eaten this whole thing on my own.

If I was going to pick a least favorite item of the evening, it was the Vietnamese pancake. And these are typically one of my favorite things in Vietnamese cuisine. It was stuffed with a large amount of duck confit, boiled egg, bean sprouts and bacon. It was drizzled with fermented chili aioli and had a side of a fish sauce-based sauce to season with. I’m not sure what made this dish a little lackluster for me, but I think it was the fact that there was a little too much of the filling inside (you couldn’t really appreciate the crepe itself) and the fillings were on the whole cold. When I have had this elsewhere in the past, the fillings are quickly sautéed or something so they are warm. Maybe they just put so much in there, it couldn’t all get warm before the crepe was totally done. The boiled egg was a new thing for me in a crepe like this. I appreciated some of it, but still, there was just a little too much.

All in all, this was a really good dinner. The first two items blew us away and we were also really impressed with the salmon. I love the way the menu varies from visit to visit. Hubby was also really impressed with the new (ish) digs, as they just feel more sophisticated, while it remains casual and approachable still.

If you haven’t been to Rook, you owe it to yourself to check it out for sure. It is certainly one of the most interesting places we have going and the food quality (and service for that matter) is very high. Can’t wait to try some other new things.

501 Virginia Ave
Indy 46203

Monday, November 14, 2016

Louie's Wine Dive

The other night hubby, my daughter and I headed to Broad Ripple to eat at the new Louie’s Wine Dive. It’s a small chain with restaurants in other small cities such as Des Moines, and Kansas City. They use this app, Nowait, where you check in and the app will tell you how many parties are ahead of you. We arrived with an apparent three parties ahead of us but because they were larger we were immediately seated. The atmosphere in Louie’s is funky and fun, large shabby chic chandeliers with bottles on them hung from the ceiling and rows of orange back-lit bottles line the walls. Overall there was a very independent vibe about the place and hubby was surprised that it was a chain. I had enjoyed a set menu wine dinner at the Louie’s downtown a few months ago, so I was looking forward to trying the regular menu items to see if they were as good.

We were quickly served drinks. Hubby ordered an Old Fashioned ($9) and I ordered a glass of Pieropan Soave Classico ($10). They arrived promptly and although hubby disliked the small ice cubes used in his drink (they diluted it too much) I enjoyed my wine and didn’t hesitate in ordering a bottle. However, when the bottle came it tasted very different than the glass I had ordered originally, I brought it up and they checked and it was the same wine. I kept the new bottle and they took the first glass off our bill.

To start we ordered BLT Deviled Eggs ($6) and their version of Poutine ($14). The eggs were good, very creamy and salty although there seemed to be a somewhat sporadic placement of arugula on them. The poutine was seafood themed, with crab, seafood gravy, Portobello mushrooms, green onions, fries, cheese curds, harissa, and a fried egg. Like with the eggs the placement of crab and cheese curds was sporadic and many bites didn’t have either in them. Some bites of the poutine had flavor and others, well, just didn’t. This could have in part had to do with how small the fries were, personally I like bigger fries on Poutine, they hold the toppings better. The spice of the harissa was nice and added a touch of heat—the bites with the harissa were some of the best ones. Overall I’d say this dish was fine—not particularly good or bad.

For our mains, I ordered the Champagne Fish & Chips ($14). Let me just say the sauce, “Louie’s Dressing,” was amazing, one of the highlights of the meal--really all the sauces were. It was sort of a cross between a Tartar Sauce and a Shrimp Louie sauce, tangy, with a hint of chili sauce maybe? Compared to the sauce the fish itself fell a little flat. The fish was dry and the champagne batter that I was looking forward to wasn’t as poofy and light as expected. I subbed out the "chips" that came with my dish for patatas bravas, which again, had a very nice sauce, but the potatoes were a little big so you didn't get enough crispy edge with each bite. I liked the slaw served with the fish.

Hubby ordered a salad, the Blackened Atlantic Salmon Wedge ($15). Again, the dressing was the highlight. It was perfectly executed green goddess dressing. I thought the salad was fine (not a lot to it other than the lettuce, but that was okay because the dressing was so good. The salmon was tender and had pretty good blackened flavor, although if it were up to me, I would have cooked it a little more medium rare. 

Finally, my daughter decided on the 4 Pork Gnocchi ($15). The gnocchi were very tender and light, it was lightly sautéed and drenched in a lovely tomato marinara sauce. The pork on the other hand was meh. Some bites were good but most were very chewy, not a pleasure to eat. Perhaps, it cooked a little too long once it was put in the marinara sauce? It was probably the best dish though.

All in all, I would describe the place as an interesting ok chain. The menu was intriguing, the atmosphere exciting, and the staff friendly, but the food just wasn’t executed as it could have been. 

I’m glad that finally a friendly, slightly more sophisticated restaurant moved into the space instead of those dark, smoky bars the Broad Ripple seems so fond of, but I can’t see us rushing back, although I am sure we will try it again here at some point for the friendly service and atmosphere and proximity to our house, if nothing else.

Louie’s Wine Dive
701 Broad Ripple Avenue
Indy 46220

Monday, November 7, 2016

Metro Diner

Ok you guys, I have had a lot of people ask me about Metro Diner—it’s in my neighborhood and you guys know it. I have only had a chance to have breakfast here a couple of times and here are my thoughts.

It’s a traditional diner for sure and they serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The menu is huge. You can order from whichever part you want whenever you want, which I appreciate, because you now I like my eggs. My first experience involved the Frisco breakfast sandwich ($6.49) (please people, please stop saying “Frisco” just because it involves sourdough. No one in San Francisco says “Frisco”). It was grilled sourdough with grilled ham, scrambled eggs and cheese. I had a side of hash browns. I enjoyed this basic, yet tasty sandwich. A lot of eggs on there for sure (they have very large portions overall). I particularly enjoyed the very crispy hash browns—I love hash browns and I particularly love them extra crisp. 

My son’s basic deli sandwich looked and tasted a bit boring. He ended up eating half of my sandwich instead. My daughter was happy with her egg breakfast.

So going off of this experience, hubby and I decided to check it out again one day for a breakfast—one of those days when you wanted a greasy breakfast after an evening involving a lot of wine.

On these occasions, I want my classic traditional breakfast, and that’s what I had. Two eggs, bacon, sourdough toast, and hash browns ($7.49) (I was really looking forward to these). So, they do the eggs well—perfectly over easy. But I wasn’t overly wowed with anything else. Well, the toast was good (a little thicker than I like because I like it super crunchy) but it doesn’t come buttered, which is a bummer to me (hard, cold pats of butter are no fun to spread on toast). The bacon was pretty flavorless and the hash browns were sadly, not at all crispy like they were the first time. There was a little crisp edge, but it was mostly mushy potatoes in the middle. I had a couple of bites and gave up. 

Hubby had the corned beef hash, which is one of his favorite breakfast items. He enjoyed the corned beef aspect—and they cooked it with diced red potatoes. He was missing some onions or peppers though---again there was a problem with not a lot of flavor. His poached eggs were done well, but he had the same complaint about the toast (and cold butter).

So….. well I can’t say it will be a go to breakfast place for me. I had been excited about the hash browns, but the consistency issue has put me off. And when bacon doesn’t have flavor, I just don’t understand it. It’s bacon!

I feel like there’s a blandness problem here. Although, I did see someone having fried chicken and waffles…and you know I am going to have to get in there and try the fried chicken at some point. And the pork tenderloin sandwich sounds interesting too. But we’ll see.

The service is very friendly and efficient—they get your food to you very quickly. The atmosphere is chain-feeling diner style. 

Who else had been there? I know several of you have been. I am really interested in hearing what you had and your thoughts.

Metro Diner
3954 East 82nd Street
Indy 46240

Monday, October 31, 2016

A2Z Café

My Mom and Dad live near A2Z, and recently have rediscovered it—it has been under a couple of ownerships over the years (I went once ages ago under a different owner and wasn’t overly impressed). But not only have my parents told me to go, but so have a couple of readers recently. So the other day my daughter and I went to meet my parents for late breakfast/early lunch.
It’s a little strip mall place off of 96th Street in an area where there are not a lot of mom and pops—it’s good to see one doing so well. At around 11:00 am on a Sunday, there was about a 20-minute wait. Everyone in this place—and I mean everyone from the hostess to the owners to the servers to the bussers are super friendly. Even the co-owner (the “pop” in the relationship) came out from cooking in the kitchen to greet tables. It was an atmosphere that was just pleasurable to be in. I think it rubs off on the customers too, as even they seemed very friendly.

Food-wise, I wanted to get a taste of some breakfast and some lunch, so we ordered a bunch of different stuff. We started with a small order of fried biscuits for the table ($4). These are similar to those that you get in Brown County except they are dusted in cinnamon and sugar, so they are sweet right out of the gate. A bit more like a donut hole. They do serve them with apple butter as well. It was good, but I don’t even know if you need it with the sugar. They were hot and fresh and tender. Very tasty and I nice way to start. My daughter particularly loved them (she has a huge sweet tooth).

Because everyone else was ordering breakfast, I wanted to get a lunch item just to be able to write about it all. I had the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich ($10.50). This is hand breaded and is one of those ones that is totally huge! I cut it in half and just used half for my sandwich, but if you’re a double decker kind of person, you could do two full-sized layers. The pork was very tender and I loved the lightness of the breading on the sandwich. The bun was nicely toasted and I ate it in the classic way, with mayo, red onions, pickles and lettuce. It was very tasty. I’d put it up there with some of the better versions in town. Honestly though, I really enjoyed just cutting bites of the extra part of the cutlet that I didn’t put on my sandwich. It was so light and crunchy. And you could really taste and appreciate the meat. It made me like the whole thing even more. I had a side of mac and cheese and it was good, but not mind-blowing. I liked that the pasta had a bit of firmness to it though—it wasn’t all mushy like some are. They also have a Reuben on the menu, which is one of hubby’s favorites, so we’ll have to go back and try it.

I had a bite of my Mom’s California omelet ($10.50) and it was also good. It’s the kind of thing that includes ingredients that can almost make me get excited about an omelet. There was avocado on top and inside it had bacon, tomato and American cheese. It was very bacony, which is always a good thing. Normally it comes with a side of sour cream as well, but mom didn’t get it—I would have liked it even more with the sour cream I think for that kick of extra tanginess. It’s still an omelet, which like I said aren’t my favorite things just because they’re a little dry for my taste, but overall this was a pretty darn good one.

My Mom got two sides with her omelet and she got fruit and I convinced her to upgrade one to a half order of biscuits and gravy for her other one (for only $1.50 more). They weren’t bad, but I would have liked a but more pepper and sausage flavor. They are very generous with the gravy though. You can see my Dad’s plain cheese omelet ($7) in the background. I didn’t try it, but he seemed to like it.

My daughter had the steak and eggs ($12) and pretty nearly cleaned her plate so I think she was good with it. They did her sunny side eggs perfectly. The steak portion of the meal was a skewer of beef tenderloin. She said it was good, but a bit cooked past the medium rare she asked for. This is one of the reasons I avoid meat on a stick in general—hard to cook it to order. But like I said, she pretty much ate every thing on her plate except all her toast, so I think she was good.

This is a very good option for a homemade breakfast or lunch—it’s not fancy and it’s not gourmet or anything, but they do have some interesting options besides just the standards and the food is very good. And they have a lot of fresh options like avocado and spinach and lots of different cheeses are used in different dishes. I look forward to returning to get my very own breakfast. And I would happily eat that tenderloin again. Plus, the staff alone makes it worthy of visiting. Most of the people working in there knew my parents by name. It seemed like they were like that with a lot of the customers. I would like to know for those of you who have been there, what else stands out on the menu?

A2Z Café
4705 E 96th Street
Indy 46240

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Turf Catering & Kitchen--Revisit

Super quick little re-post about Turf Catering. I took a different friend here for lunch the other day, and he loved it. Seriously, it’s a little ray of sunshine in the food desert that is Castleton.

You guys, you should really try this place. They are really doing a great job. This time I tried the Turf burger ($11), and it was delicious. There’s a lot of stuff going on on this burger—the beef was tender and rare (as I asked) and was topped with bacon marmalade, cheddar, their special sauce, arugula and roasted tomatoes. Such a good flavor—there was a good amount of acid and I liked the crunch from the greens. The brioche was perfect. Ok, by the end, the bun was getting a little soggy, but it tasted so good, I didn’t even care. Plus, see that giant portion of pimento cheese? That was my side (+2 to upgrade from chips). We both ate a lot of it and I still took half of it home. They serve it with bread, but I like eating it with their housemade chips.

My friend had the short rib grilled cheese ($12) and loved it. It is braised beef short rib, butterkase cheese, and red onion jam on toasted Cuban bread. Also very delicious (I had this one last time as well). They do really nice things with jams and sauces. These are the kind of things that make me so happy. He also had a side of Tuscan beans and they were also delicious, even for a woman who tends to not get that excited about beans. A great fall-ish herby flavor. Seriously, such a tasty and unique side dish to have on a cool fall day.

If you work or live in or around Castleton, and you haven’t tried Turf yet, do yourself a favor and give it a go. Report back!

Turf Catering & Kitchen
8155 Castleway Court, Suite C
Indy  46250

Monday, October 24, 2016

Road Trip: Nashville, TN: The Catbird Seat, Butcher and Bee, Biscuit Love

Hubby and I celebrated our anniversary recently with a trip to Nashville. I had such a good experience a few months ago with a girlfriend, I wanted to go and eat there with him. And introduce him to Biscuit Love.

The first night though, we went to The Catbird Seat. This place is so great. You have to buy a ticket to go, and there are only about 20 seats in the place, so they are hard to come by. But I lucked out and got two for Friday (they book exactly a month in advance). The concept is that you sit around this u-shaped bar and they cook everything right in front of you. It’s very cool. Chef Ryan Poli, who has been at several places in Chicago before coming to Catbird Seat, is running things with several assistants. Everyone does everything here. They are cooking, setting silverware and refilling drinks. Even Chef Poli. 

It’s about 9-10 small courses (about $115) and they were spectacular. I’ve got to try and be brief, but here we go. First was malt vinegar chips with dairy dip and butter Iberico ham. Perfect together—the chips were super salty, but great paired with the dip and smooth ham. Next was a tiny piece of tuna with two little infused watermelon balls on top of fermented butter and drizzled with verbena oil. Tiny and perfect—probably my favorite.

Then they brought us a risotto made from sunflower seeds instead of Arborio rice. Very cool. Toothier than typical risotto, but very reminiscent. It was done is a rich truffle cream sauce and then topped with a complete coating of Burgundy summer truffles. You can’t really go wrong with truffles in my book.

Next came these little cockscomb-shaped pastas made from seaweed—this one had a creamy sauce with yuzo—which is a type of citrus. The whole thing was topped with dried shaved scallops. It had an intense seafood aroma, although a milder taste. A very cool sensory dish.

The next course was mainly vegetable-based, but was interestingly the richest dish in my mind. It was a piece of sake-grilled cauliflower that was roasted until it took on a deep rich flavor. It was on top of this cashew cream, which was so rich just from its nuttiness. There was also a strip of what looked like rolled up pasta, but was actually made from turnip. Oh and beef fat. That probably added to the richness as well. It was very cool, although maybe my personal least favorite.

Next was pork with corn, corn and more corn. It was a slice of pork tenderloin and a hunk of sausage (looked like a chocolate truffle almost) and then was drizzled with this corn sauce, and alongside there was corn pudding topped with paprika and popcorn dust. And then on the side a sautéed corn dish with chanterelles and some green beans. The corn stuff here was so so good. I felt almost like the pork was only on the plate as a vehicle to eat the corn and it was honestly almost unnecessary. The corn stood so well on its own. The loin was a bit dry.

Next we moved toward dessert with their version of what was almost a richer palate cleanser. It was milk panna cotta with lemony olive oil. It had a strong citrus flavor and was a nice change. The formal dessert was roasted kelp ice cream with bitter chocolate mousse underneath with some oranges, some cookie and rice crispy crumbs. It was topped with these matcha and chocolate slices. It was really good—didn’t taste at all like seaweed—it just lent an almost smoky taste. Really well done. Then they bring you a cookie jar with some housemade cookies. One was peanut butter and one was a chocolate macaron.

This place is great. Good music, a cool feel to it—and I loved watching the food be prepared. We also had the drink pairing, which was very creative. For example,  Japanese beer was paired with one course, and sake with another. The staff is so friendly and we even had fun talking to the people next to us who were from Chicago (and getting their recommendations for places to eat there). I know if we go back to Nashville, we will certainly try to go again. Hubby loved it too.

The next night we went to Butcher and Bee. This is a cool place as well—a very industrial-type vibe with a fair amount of hipster. I am pretty sure you can’t get a job here unless you have at least 5 tattoos. Unfortunately our service was pretty poor—very hard to get our server when we needed her, and we waited a very long time to order.

But once we got the food, we were very happy. They are known for their whipped feta dip ($5) according to everything I had read, so we ordered that and got it first thing. It is so darn good. It’s feta cheese whipped smooth (and I am assuming mixed with something else to get it to that consistency) and mixed with herbs and topped with this warm fermented honey and pepper and served with hot pita bread (you’ll need more than the one they give you). I am totally going to attempt this one at home.  We also had the corn mezze (the menu has a long list of small plates called mezze and then dishes of varying sizes). It was a corn with a little serrano that was cooked with a rich beef (I’m guessing) broth. It was tasty, but I probably would have enjoyed it more as a side dish rather than as a stand alone one. 

We had two of the middle-sized dishes as well--the fried okra ($12) and the roasted mushrooms ($15). The fried okra was the only total miss of the night. The whole pieces of okra were breaded and fried and topped with a ranch-type sauce and pickled shishito peppers. The breading had a ton of flavor, but when you bit into it, or cut into it, all the breading just fell right off. Neither of us was impressed with this one and it was the one we didn’t finish.

The roasted mushrooms were really good—they had nice crisp edges to them—I love that. There were also sunflower seeds and pickled tomatoes in there—and it was all topped with shaved pecorino. This and the whipped feta were our favorites of the night.

The last thing we had was the wood charred whole trout ($28). It was a whole fish and it was very tender and good. You have to be willing to pick it from the bones. It was pretty easy to do though. And the potato salad gnocchi they served with it were delicious. These alone were worth the price of admission. Super creamy and it had a nice mustardy flavored sauce. Really good.

We were really full at this point so we took a skip on dessert. I would recommend this place. It’s cool, and the food is solid. Hopefully the service is not always so off though.

The last place we ate, on our way out of town, was Biscuit Love. I highly recommend going there at 8:00 ish on Sunday—I’ve done it twice and barely had to wait. When we left though, the line was around the corner. I fully reviewed this place before, but this was hubby’s first time.

We again got the East Nasty, and we again loved it. We also had the Southern Benny again, and it was perfect as well. Ok, hubby wished for a little more gravy, but happily he liked the place as much as I did. We will include a repeat visit here to any future Nashville trip for sure.

We ate really well, and like I said, I would be hard-pressed not to return to Catbird Seat and Biscuit Love on any and every subsequent visit.