Monday, August 29, 2016

Marrow - Revisit

A few weeks ago some friends and I decided it was time to go back to check out Marrow again. These are my friends who like to order heavy and share, so always a good couple to go out with. 

We started out with the smoked deviled eggs ($3 ea.) and the pickle plate ($6) because we just can’t say no to those deviled eggs—we’ve had them every time I think and even hubby, who isn’t a huge fan of deviled eggs like I am, really enjoys them. They had crab mixed into the filling, so how could you not like that? And they were topped with wasabi tobiko (love the pop from the fish eggs), crispy shallots (more texture) and a slice of pepper. The eggs were on top of some eel sauce so they don’t slide around too much. These are certainly some of my favorite deviled eggs in town.

The pickle plate was also one of the more interesting ones I’ve seen—and it seems like pickle plates are everywhere! This one had pickled cherries on it, which were very intriguing. Still sweet, but less so. I just kept eating them because they were so unusual. There were also onions, some curried cauliflower and some kimchi, which were tasty albeit less unusual. My other favorite was the pickled shitake mushrooms. Very cool. That earthy flavor but with a briny hit. These would be good in lots of dishes.

We had to get an order of our first favorites (and a couple of the few things that have remained on the menu since the place opened I think), the fried tandoori chicken ($24) and the paneer mac and cheese ($12). The fried chicken was just as tender and flavorful as the first time I had it. They serve it with a swath of various sauces on the bowl—a cilantro based sauce and a pepper chutney. It’s truly a delicious, and a nice Asian twist on what is one of my favorite things—fried chicken. And it’s a good one.

The shells and paneer is a take on mac and cheese made with a curried butter sauce, and chunks of paneer cheese—this is a firm cheese—it’s typically served in Indian food. The creamy sauce is accented nicely with the curry sauce as well as pieces of veggies—carrots, peas, corn and spinach. It’s a great dish because it is comforting like mac and cheese, but also interesting because of the more unique flavors. 

We also tried the fried chitlins. Rarely see these on a menu. They were pretty good, and in a nice zippy sauce. Some were a little tough maybe, but maybe that’s the nature of the beast (I have not eaten a lot of them in my life). There was a brisket dish as well that also had an Indian flair to it that was also a popular dish on the table. It was served with rice and chana dal (a type of Indian bean—sort of like a lentil or a chickpea). 
We also tried the little cornbread muffins. These were probably the most disappointing for me. The muffins were just too dry and uninspired compared to everything else we had. They did come with a side of sorghum and miso honey, but still just couldn’t really stand up to the other dishes, and just had a note of being sort of one-dimensional. 

We had this super fancy  drink for dessert that was very interesting. I think it is called the Miss T—it’s got a bunch of Irish whiskey, apple brandy, some tea and is infused through fruit and herbs to make a warm almost tea-like beverage with a serious alcohol kick. It was fun to watch it get heated and boil through the process but honestly, I’m not really a whiskey girl. But it was kind of cool. I can see how it would be a nice warming drink in the winter, if you like em strong.

Anyhow, we really enjoyed our meal overall and I love how often they mix up the menu here. What interesting dish have you eaten here and really enjoyed (I know you remember how to make comments on the blog—and they make me so happy!)?

1106 Prospect Street
Indy 46203

Monday, August 22, 2016

Open Society

I am always as excited as everyone else to try the next new place. I have been patiently waiting for Open Society to open up (seems like it took forever!) and recently hubby and I enjoyed our first date night alone in weeks and weeks, and checked it out. It’s diagonal across the street from Recess and is nice because there is plenty of parking around.

We were greeted warmly by the host and even though we were early for our reservation, were seated promptly. The first thing you notice about this place is the giant coffee bar that dominates the middle of the room. The second thing you notice is the roar of the crowd—even when it wasn’t totally full, it was very loud (I look for some noise-deadening retrofits in their future—at least I hope so). We were seated along the wall beside the bustling coffee bar, which was a little awkward because you’re basically face to face with people’s butts waiting to order coffee, but good for them that they are doing such a good coffee business.

We decided to go with all tapas, as the small plates menu was larger and sounded a bit more interesting. Our server recommended four to five, so we ordered five. So, the first somewhat annoying thing was although we ordered them at the same time, I did not expect them to bring them out all at once, which is what happened, and not particularly quickly either. So I recommend if you don’t want it that way, either order them one or two at a time, or tell them to space them a bit. They could barely fit all of ours on the table.

The first item we had (and really the only offering with red meat unless you include duck) was the albondigas ($10). These were lamb and chorizo meatballs served in a rich chipotle marinara sauce with a sprinkling of queso fresco and herbs. These were the best item on the table, and I am not normally a meatball person. Hubby really enjoyed them as well. They were tender meatballs with a nice little kick and saltiness from the chorizo and I really enjoyed the smoky sauce—much more interesting than a traditional marinara. The cheese offered just a touch of creaminess.

My next favorite item was the torta ($8) although hubby was not as big a fan. It was dense corn cake (nice bits of corn in there) and was served on top of a little salad/garnish type thing with arugula and balsamic. There were asparagus spears on top. It was served with chipotle-avocado emulsion. I liked the corn cake dipped into the sauce (as unappetizing as it appears in pictures) but the greens and asparagus seemed a little disconnected to me—almost like they don’t really follow the theme of the cuisine. And this garnish type salad was repeated in another dish as well—and pretty much the same sauce was repeated as well.
The croquettas ($13) were the other dish with the same greens (although on the menu described as micro greens). These were meant to be lump crab cakes (well with the name croquettas, I assumed there was more than one). There was one crab cake and we both thought it was pretty disappointing. It was mushy in texture and hubby kept asking me if I was sure this was the one that was supposed to have crab in it. The only evidence was a slightly fishy taste. And the avocado emulsion made its second appearance. I did like the little crispy fried onions served alongside it, you really needed something to break up the mushy factor. I would take a pass on this one. (And please change the name to croquette if there’s only one).
I had high hopes for the risoles ($8), which our server described as fried dumplings. They are made with artichoke, chickpeas, scallions, queso fresco and garlic. I love artichoke and I will say, these had a nice strong artichoke flavor to them. Unfortunately they were fried so much that they were really just a crispy shell with nothing really inside them. I was hoping to bite into a light creamy interior, but it was pretty much the same throughout. They were on top of a lighter lemon-based sauce that you really needed because they were so crunchy, but there wasn’t enough of it to go around to each fritter. I’m not sure if there was an execution problem or if this was what they intended them to be, but I feel like they could have been better. Again, I did enjoy the intense artichoke flavor though.

We also had the Marioscos ($11). This was their version of fried calamari and shrimp—it was described on the menu as corn tempura battered, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. It was kind of a cross between a traditional tempura and cornmeal crusting—it was interesting and the seafood itself was very tender. I liked that they served this one on top of something different—a chili-green papaya salad—and that it was served with a different sauce—a cilantro lime vinaigrette. Dressings like this get me excited. Sadly, there wasn’t enough of it here to really dress the seafood in any meaningful way, it was really more like a garnish under the calamari and shrimp—so the seafood came across as dry. 

We decided to see if we could save what was becoming a rather disappointing meal with dessert. We both had read several people discussing how good the flan was. The caramel flan is beautifully presented—much more refined looking than any of the tapas. Someone is taking care in presentation here. Too bad it was pretty bland. We ended up leaving much of it because it was just hard to get excited about eating it. I did like the slices of caramelized bananas. We did enjoy the dessert wine they had though—Ben Rye from Donnafugata.

Overall, we were pretty disappointed in our meal. The service was off to start (I really don’t think serving all the dishes at once is the best plan) and the food was lackluster. There were messy garnishes and sauces repeated on several dishes, which to me, shows a bit of lack of creativity.

After the dinner I went back to read yelp reviews (something I don’t do very often) and I realized many of the very high marks were coming from people who only went for coffee. So, it sounds like they have a strong coffee bar. And I can see how the neighborhood would appreciate having a local place to get a good cup of coffee. I just hope they improve the food. The menu has a lot of potential, but the execution was pretty lacking. I am expecting a lot of people to disagree with me, but I really want to hear from those of you who have eaten a full meal here. What were your thoughts? Who knows, maybe it was just an off night when we were there. I hope so.

Open Society
4850 North College Ave
Indy 46205

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Old Favorites: Café Patachou and Jasmine Thai

Since I have been back in the country after being away for a month, and because the kids are back in school and for about a minute I have more time on my hands to go to lunch (until I start school-oy!), and I have been missing my favorite stand-bys, here’s a couple of the places I visited in one week. (Seriously, you have no idea how much you dream of Asian food and American sandwiches after three weeks in Italy and one in Greece).

First stop: Café Patachou. And while I sometimes vary my order, I knew exactly what I was going to get—my ultimate comfort food sandwich—egg salad on toasted sourdough with chips and an extra pickle (it’s about $10). Everything was going great until the server informed me they have stopped serving the pickles. Devastating. Apparently, they are composting a lot more these days and realized how much they are throwing away and didn’t like how many pickles they throw out (how could you not eat these pickles?). They have also stopped automatically serving the tomato and cucumber unless you ask as well. So, I think they should do the same with the pickles—only if you ask for them. Bring back the pickles!

Anyway, the sandwich was just as good as always (except I really like a bite of pickles mixed with every couple bites of sandwich). I also tend to eat my sandwich open-faced because I like a larger salad-to-bread ratio. Their egg salad is simple—eggs, mayo, salt and pepper, but they do it just right and it is delicious. Still, bring back the pickles! (please?).

Next stop a couple days later-- Jasmine Thai for my favorite sautéed eggplant with basil (and I add chicken—it’s normally a vegetarian dish) (also around $10). I normally like food a little spicy, but here I order this dish mild. First, they are serious about heat at Jasmine and second, when this particular dish is spicy at all, it seems to me it loses a little bit of the rich basil flavor—the heat just overpowers it. 

The eggplant is nice and tender and the chicken is sliced thin and mixed it—I wish they would give just a little more chicken because I like a bit of chicken and a bit of eggplant in each bite for the texture variation, but other than that, this is one of my favorite dishes. And Asian flavors, because they are so different from what I had been eating were one of my top cravings in Europe (we did manage to get sushi twice in Italy, but that’s it).

Anyhow, those are just a couple of the favorites I have been in the last week or so…. I am sure I will be hitting up a few more here soon.

Café Patachou
8697 River Crossing Blvd
Indy  46240

Jasmine Thai Restaurant
4825 East 96th Street
Indy  46240

Monday, August 15, 2016

Tom + Chee

Recently hubby broke his arm and had to have surgery at Indy Ortho on the West side (Trader’s Point area), so I took the opportunity to cross the street and try Tom + Chee. Their thing is grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup; I figured if they’re spending all that focus on just those two things, they should be good right?

So I got a build your own version and tried to recreate one of my favorite combination but they didn’t have all my favorite things to choose from, so I ended up with blue cheese, Swiss cheese, bacon and tomato (they are strangely lacking in the vegetable department—I really wanted spinach). Well, honestly, I wasn’t overly impressed with the sandwich, the bread was toasted pretty nicely but the bacon was in the form of like, bacon dust (technically I guess they were “bits”, but they were pretty small), The tomatoes were thick cut and under ripe and the cheese was kind of minimal. Considering it’s a grilled cheese place, you’d think they’d give you a fair amount. 

I got a little dipper cup of tomato soup just to try it for the sake of the blog—I got the classic one and it tasted pretty much exactly like tomato soup you have had before. Nothing particularly unique. They do have a couple of other versions, but the cashier recommended this one as the best, so that’s what I went with.

Again, I needed some vegetables, I ordered a side salad as well. It was just a pretty regular fast food-ish side salad with lettuce and some carrots, but there was one thing about it that really stood out—they put little croutons made of mini grilled cheese on there and they were my favorite thing. They had a better ratio of bread to cheese and seriously, grilled cheese croutons are pretty genius. There may have been more of them than salad, but I didn’t complain. I mostly used the salad dressing (blue cheese) to dip the sandwiches and croutons in. I do like dipping a grilled cheese in salad dressing. Much more than tomato soup. But to be fair, I am not a huge tomato soup fan.

Anyhow, it served its purpose for a quick dinner during the surgery that wasn’t what looked like horrific hospital cafeteria food. And I think it's a good idea for an interesting fast food concept, but I don't think it's executed very well-- I don’t know that I would choose it again. I’m totally going to make grilled cheese croutons though. Anyone have something here they really like?

Tom + Chee
5650 West 86th Street #126
Indy  46278

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Long Thanh- Revisit

Real quick, I can’t help myself. I love this place and its Vietnamese pancake ($7.25) and its rare lemon beef. Seriously, those two things are great. Just the right amount of food for hubby and I to split for lunch. The light pancake (think crepe really) stuffed with pork, bean sprouts and shrimp and served with the lightly spicy lightly tangy fish sauce. I like to eat it wrapped up in the lettuce leaves they serve with it. And I love the pure acidity of the rare lemon beef. The shredded lettuce, carrots and onion with a touch of jalapeno make a nice salad with thin slices of beef on top as well as a sprinkle of chopped peanuts. The dressing has that lemon kick and then when you add more of the same sauce served with this dish as well, it’s the perfect little flavor bomb. Oh, and they serve it with crispy little fried rice crackers that crackle when you top them with the salad giving it the perfect little texture variation. These are my two favorite items. (Price-wise, things are generally under $8).
However, on this day we also had my daughter with us for the first time (we usually don’t take the kids due to my son’s nut allergies), so we also got a few other items that she wanted to try. Ok, and yes, hubby and I are certainly always game to try something new, particularly when we still get to get our favorites.

We ordered some potstickers and the clay pot catfish as well. Hubby loved the potstickers and had the lion’s share of them. I enjoyed them, but potstickers are rarely my favorite thing. These were tender, but pretty dense. The clay pot catfish was tasty—it had an interesting almost sweet flavor from the caramelization of the onions and the fish. The fish was extremely tender—it basically fell apart on your fork when you ate it. I really enjoyed the onions in the dish, we ate all of them. Overall, it had a peppery flavor, some nice herbs mixed in and that sweet caramel sauce. I enjoyed it, but I can’t say it will sway me from my favorites.

Overall, this is one of my favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurants that just happens to be very close to my house. I know I have written about it several times already, but it just reflects how much we eat there. You should try it some time. Stick to the Vietnamese side of things though.

Long Thanh
5707 East 71st Street
Indy  46220

Monday, August 8, 2016

U.S. Adventures: Austin, Texas

Recently we went to Austin, Texas to visit friends and I had all kinds of plans for all kinds of places we were going to eat. Then within 24 hours hubby broke his arm in a swimming hole and boom, it was all about ERs and getting home early. So…we did get in a few places before (and after) the incident, but not much. Anyhow, here they are.

The first evening we arrived we went downtown and ate at Gus’s Fried Chicken. This place is a smallish chain, but our friends really like it and you know me, I am happy to try fried chicken anywhere, anytime. I really like that they advertise their fried chicken as spicy. There is no mild version, you eat spicy, or you eat something else—and there aren’t a lot of other options. We started with an order of fried green tomatoes ($6.75) and they were pretty good. The crust kind of fell off (the fate of frying things with high water content) but when you ate it together and dipped it in some ranch, it was tasty.

The chicken was very good. We got a 12 piece to share ($25.95) and some sides as well. We had mac and cheese, baked beans and potato salad. The chicken is clearly the star, and I would certainly eat it if it were in Indy. It has a really nice spicy edge to it—and let’s face it, I am just happy if there is any kind of seasoning going on with fried chicken. I don’t know why so many places just make it so bland. This one was not—it had great flavor and was nice and moist as well. The sides range from $2-abut $5 depending on the size and your choices and were all pretty solid as well. It’s rare that you find sides in places like this that blow your mind, and this was no exception, but they were all good. My favorite was the potato salad. They also serve sliced white bread with everything, which I later learned seems to be very common in Austin. FYI, the closest Gus’s to Indy is in Chicago and there are several throughout Tennessee.

We also went to this place called Torchy’s Tacos, which is a crazy taco place (also a small chain mainly from Texas). They have so many combinations of tacos, I was a bit overwhelmed. Of course, when I saw there was one with migas in it (I have a thing for migas or chilaquiles), I had to get that one. They actually have a large selection of breakfast tacos, which would certainly be what I would order in the future, as they were the best.
My migas taco had scrambled eggs, crisp tortilla strips, green chilies, pico de gallo, shredded cheese and tomatillo sauce. I had them on corn tortillas. The flavor was good, the tortilla choice was bad. Typically I like corn tortillas better because they are thinner and let the flavors shine through, but there was so much going on here and so much packed in, that they just fell apart, even with a double wrap. The other ones hubby and I split were salmon, tuna and carnitas. All sounded good on paper and were loaded with lots of stuff, but all suffered from somewhat dry proteins and a lack of flavor, even with everything going on. Our friend had two egg tacos that were both better. The place is packed though. 

The last meal we got to have, as hubby enjoyed his pain pills and we prepared to leave the next morning was from Rudy’s BBQ (also a chain). You know in Austin, they are known for their BBQ, and this was a favorite of everyone we knew in Texas, and we needed something we could easily get carry out and take back to the house because hubby was in no state to go out. So we ordered lots of stuff. And they gave us even more. Sorry I was distracted and forgot to take any pics this night while we were eating, but you can use your imagination. We had sausage, brisket and turkey as well as lots of sides and two entire loaves of white bread (I told you it would reappear). They don’t sauce their BBQ in Austin, but they did send us with a giant bottle of their BBQ sauce, which is a mild tomato-based sauce. So, brisket-wise, you can get lean or fatty and boy oh boy, you’re crazy if you don’t get the fatty (I think you can get a mix too, but why bother?). I am not even a big brisket fan, but this was delicious, so succulent and decadent. It was clearly the favorite of the crowd we were eating with. Honestly, I think the smoked turkey was a close second for me; it was more flavorful than you might think and with some of the sauce on top, became a delicious dish as well. The lean brisket was too dry for me, but I guess there must be some people who like it.

I also liked that when we went to pick up our order, there’s a little gazebo in the parking lot where you pick up a phone and tell them you are there, grab an ice cold root beer and wait for them to bring you your order. That’s how it should be (and allows you to avoid the heaving crowds that are inside). Some nice southern hospitality for you.

So there you have it, sadly, they were all chains (albeit fairly regional ones) but they were on the whole good—I would skip Torchy’s probably. Hopefully, we will get back to Austin to see our friends and try more things and break fewer bones.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

B's Po Boy--Revisit

I know I’ve written about this place a ton before but B’s Po Boy really is one of our go-to family faves. We’d been wanting to go and the last time we tried we couldn’t get a table for 40 minutes, so we went to Bluebeard instead (such a sacrifice). We also wanted to gorge ourselves on American Food before our big European trip we had coming up (and hubby wanted Cajun food).  

We took a seat on the packed patio, looked at the menu and were very surprised. They had new items—this was exciting! We ordered the fried green tomatoes to start. It was actually a lot more than just fried green tomatoes—it was like a fancy salad with goat cheese, balsamic, fennel, lettuce and some fresh tomatoes. They were breaded with a cornmeal type batter similar to the shrimp on the po boys. They were tasty.

I’ve finally managed to get the whole family on the shrimp po boy bandwagon. After trying almost everything on the menu my daughter finally realized that the shrimp po boy is the best (we’ve been telling her this all along). So all four of us got shrimp po boys ($ market) and we all got extra shrimp. We always get extra shrimp. The shrimp were even more plentiful this time—maybe you don’t need the extra ones? It also seemed like they had amped up the flavor and spices on the breading. It was great! Of course this immediately made my son like them less (change is hard sometimes). They still import their bread from NOLA and I liked mine fully dressed with the lettuce, tomatoes and pickles. And mayo. Oh, and I always get a side of remoulade to add too. (I like saucy sandwiches). The kids eat theirs plain.

We rounded off our meal with our usual order of beignets and chocolate sauce ($5.50). As with the rest of our meal B’s had made some changes. The beignets were a little denser and more like the beignets we’ve had in New Orleans. Hubby even declared them better than any he’d ever had in his four years of living in NOLA. I’m not totally sure I agree, but they are darn good beignets.

All in all, it was exciting to see some additions and changes at B’s, while they still maintain the level of quality that we have always enjoyed. Combine this with their bocce courts, life-size Jenga games, and corn hole and you have yourself a family favorite.

B’s Po Boy
1261 South Shelby Street
Indy  46203

Monday, August 1, 2016

Turf Catering & Kitchen

I randomly heard about this place after seeing a tweet from them. I was shocked to find out that there was some sort of independent lunch place in Castleton that I didn’t know about. My friend Suzanne and I met up to check it out. Apparently they have been doing catering for several years now but more recently have started serving several lunch items as well. 

The menu is very interesting—it definitely has a hearty edge to it, focusing a lot on various smoked meats that are done in house. We split a couple of sandwiches and also could not pass up the pimento cheese dip ($2 upgrade or $4 on its own), as we are both big fans in general. It is technically listed as a side, but we  subbed it out for one of our sides of chips (that normally come with every sandwich). The pimento cheese was very good. Nice and creamy and with a pleasant amount of kick from the pimento. They served it with thinly sliced toasted bread, but honestly, I think I enjoyed eating it with the chips that we also got as the other side to one of the sandwiches.

The chips are housemade and cooked a little on the dark side, giving them a bit more depth of flavor than most chips, which we debated whether we liked better or worse, but honestly they really grew on you and we finished all of them. Like I said, their salty edge was a nice accompaniment to the pimento cheese and they were thick enough to stand up to it

The first sandwich we had was the short rib grilled cheese ($12) with braised short rib meat, red onion jam and butterkase cheese. It was served on grilled thinly sliced Cuban water bread. This is a flavor bomb for sure. There’s a lot of rich and hearty tastes going on here as well as a slightly sweet edge from the red onion jam. The meat was nicely seasoned and quite tender. If you’re a short rib person, this is a sandwich for you.

We also ordered the ham and salmon croque ($12) and it was quite a hearty rich sandwich as well. Inside the sandwich was smoked salmon, black forest ham, Gruyere cheese, caramelized onions and béchamel sauce. And if that wasn’t enough as far as decadence goes, they also grilled cheese right on the edges of the brioche slices of bread. Wow. There was a lot going on in that sandwich, but it was quite unique and tasty. We didn’t agree on which we liked best (she liked the short rib, I liked the salmon), but we agreed that they were both really rich and that the portions are large. Honestly, I would likely split one sandwich in the future (really want to try the burgers) although then I don’t get to try as many things.

There’s a pretty minimal amount of seating in there—a counter with four or five barstools and then one looking out the window with another couple and one small table with a few more stools. Although it seemed most of their business was carry out from the businesses around them (it is right next to a car place and just behind Arby’s if you’re looking for it).

If you like a manly sandwich with a bit of a unique and gourmet edge to it, you should go try this place. If you have already been, let me know what you have eaten and liked so I can narrow down my choices for the next time.

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