Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sullivan's Lunch

I have been having a hard time coming up with lunch places that are nearby that aren’t all my usual standards. I frequent the same 4-5 places for lunch a lot, but I have written them up before, and I don’t want to bore you with all the same places. Most of the new places on my list are a little farther afield, so I have to have a decent amount of time to fit one of them in. So we randomly decided to try Sullivan’s for lunch and see what was up. (Not to mention a reader recently asked for a review.) We have been there for dinner a couple of times, pre-blog days, and to be honest, were never overly impressed, but I heard they have some good lunch specials.

I do like the interior of the restaurant of Sullivan’s. It is a nice open room, with the kitchen at one end, with a nice feel to it. Lots of wood and a large flower arrangement in the center. The place was not that crowded when we got there but by the time we left was pretty busy for a weekday lunch, mostly with business people I think. They have the “business lunch special” which is a pretty good deal—you get a soup or salad and either a small filet, salmon or chicken for $18.00.

I wasn’t in the mood for a straight steak, so I went with the steak salad instead. It was really nice. It was mixed greens topped with crumbled blue cheese, tomatoes, some large chunks of roasted potatoes, a filet cut into fairly large slices, and lots and lots of fried onion strings and blue cheese dressing. I liked that they asked me if I wanted the dressing tossed throughout or on the side. I said both, never trusting they will properly dress it, but in this case they did. The dressing was appropriately tossed throughout and I didn’t really need the dressing on the side (hubby liked it for dipping his fries though). The steak was good quality, and had a great flavor. It was well seasoned and cooked on the rare side of medium rare, which is great for me. There were maybe just a few too many onions on top, as they made it kind of hard to get to the rest of the stuff underneath. But a couple of them in each bite added a nice flavor as well. The only thing on the salad I did not care for were the potatoes. They were too large and too dry inside. On a salad, I liked smaller, less dry potatoes that are maybe blanched instead. Little fingerlings or red potatoes maybe. You had to cut these into smaller pieces and they didn’t really add anything to the salad.

Hubby ordered the chicken pesto sandwich with fries and was a bit disappointed in it. As is the classic problem with chicken sandwiches (in my opinion), the chicken was too dry and there wasn’t enough sauce to balance it out. Just a little bit of pesto on the bun. He thought maybe the restaurant was worried people wouldn’t like too much of the pesto or something, but if that is the case, maybe they could make a pesto mayo or something. He had several bites of my salad and also thought it was very good. Much better than his sandwich.

The thing that annoyed me the most about this place was how slow it was. For a place that sort of seems to cater to business people, you would think they would make sure the food was coming out at a fairly rapid pace. Not so. And our server seemed to disappear for long periods of time. In fact, the manager delivered our meals. The lunch took quite a bit longer than I thought it should. Had I known, I probably could have just gone ahead and gone downtown.

But, all in all, if you want a great steak salad, and you have a bit of time, this was pretty good... When the mood hits me, I will probably go back for lunch and get it again.

Sullivan’s Steakhouse
3316 East 86th Street
Indy 46240

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Well, I have been giving Recess a little while to get the rough edges smoothed before heading over there to check it out. I know a few of you have been sort of annoyed that it has taken me so long to get there, but I have an informal policy of giving a new place at least a couple of weeks to get settled in since I write a review based on a single visit. (And if you want to read my review policies in detail, please go here.) Regardless, I have been pretty much chomping at the bit to get over there, as I have always enjoyed Recess chef Greg Hardesty’s cuisine, (at the now closed Elements). I actually completely love this new concept, a different menu every day, but a set menu, with sometimes no choices and sometimes just one or two choices (usually between two entrées). The ingredients are whatever the Chef decides he wants to do, based on seasonality and what he deems “superlative.” Honestly, with as much grief as I have received when I complain about restaurants never changing their menu, with people telling me repeatedly that won’t fly in Indy, I was a little worried about how it would go for Chef Hardesty. But based on the buzz, and the difficulty in getting a reservation on certain nights, it looks like, so far so good. (See, I guess Indy folks CAN handle a little variety!).

I also really enjoy the slightly industrial feel to the space, but with touches of softness to balance the heavy cement of the walls and floor. Not quite enough softness to deaden the noise of the place once it was full, but the spacing between the tables is appropriate so that you don’t feel like you are sharing your conversation with the table next to you. Also, when you can hear it, we greatly enjoyed the music playing overhead, truly modern music that obviously reflected someone’s very personal taste—I was wondering if the music changes with the Chef’s whim as well. That would be kind of fun.

I dined with a friend on this night, and on the way over, knowing there were two entrée choices, we quickly agreed to get one of each and share to make sure we could try everything offered. They also offer a wine pairing to match the first three courses (all but dessert) which are 3-4 ounce pours, so that basically they equal about half a bottle of wine (which I would say is two good glasses). I think this is a great idea, and with an ever changing menu, is the perfect way to try various items on the wine list. I did enjoy the pairing with my meal, and each wine was wonderfully matched.

Several other reviewers have not gone into great detail about their particular food items claiming that there is no point since the menu changes daily. I tend to disagree with this approach as I think hearing about the meal in detail will give people a little insight about exactly what you can expect. Well, not exactly, I guess, but the types of flavor combinations and generally the creativity being employed. Our dinner started with hamachi sashimi in a wasabi ponzu broth served with thinly sliced cucumbers and radish as well as enoki mushrooms and wakame (a type of seaweed). The fish was wonderfully tender and fresh and pretty well melted in your mouth—the broth added a nice flavor—a fairly simple preparation, but nice. Of course, if you are a frequent reader, you know cucumbers and seaweed aren’t my favorites (everyone doesn’t like something right?), so unfortunately, my veggies on this dish went begging.

The next course was crisp pork belly served with hominy, tomatillos and fried tortilla strips. The thick rectangle of pork belly (think bacon steak) was pleasantly crisp and was accented nicely by accompaniments with a Mexican flavor. The hominy continued the richness of the pork while the tomatillos added a bit of that tanginess that I love, and that balanced out the richness and saltiness. The tortillas added textural crunch which was also quite pleasing. I would say this was probably my favorite course. The portion wasn’t oversized (although I found the portions to be generous, I don’t think they are oversized, which I think is important when you are serving four courses).

For the main courses, there were two choices, a beef and a turkey dish. As I said, we each ordered one of them and shared them fairly equally, so I feel like I can tell you about them both pretty accurately. I will start with the turkey because I think it was my favorite of the two. First of all, how nice is it to see turkey being used as a white meat option on a menu for a change. I personally prefer to use turkey at home quite frequently (although I tend to have to go to Kincaid's to get turkey cutlets cut since regular grocery stores no longer seem interested in meeting customer needs, but I digress). I have a really hard time ordering chicken in a restaurant, it just seems so pedestrian, and is often so dry, but I was really excited by the turkey concept.

Anyway, the turkey was served as paillards, which are thinly pounded cutlets that were breaded and fried. They were served over a Brussels sprouts and bacon ragout (I’d say more of a warm cole slaw, and there was other things in there besides Brussels sprouts—in fact, I wished it was a little more Brussels-sprouty). There were pickled onions as well. I didn’t get a lot of this on my portion, but I love the idea. Pickled onions are one of my favorite things. There was also a side of manchego (Spanish sheep’s milk cheese) mac and cheese—this stuff was divine. Rich and creamy with a bit of sharpness. A bite of this with a bite of the turkey—yummy. All in all, this dish was unique and creative and very tasty. (By the way, sorry about the fuzzy picture, I was trying to be discreet, and this place is small.)

The beef dish was two thick slices of Fisher Farm’s ribeye with crushed potatoes, roasted poblano peppers and red onion ragout. This dish was nice as well—the beef was prepared medium rare, the chimichurri was bright and the flavors of the other sides were good. I don’t know, the meat needed a little seasoning or something—just didn’t seem to have quite enough flavor on its own. For some reason, while in theory, I liked all the things on the plate, overall, it just didn’t seem to come together quite as well as the turkey.

The dessert on this night was a Meyer lemon terrine with fig molasses drizzled on top and a little lemon poppy seed cookie on the side. This was better than both of us were expecting—cold terrine-y type things aren’t usually my first choice in a sweet or savory version, but this had a very nice Meyer lemon flavor, which is not as tart as traditional lemon. And the cookie on the side was a nice complement. There was a bit of lemon pulp on the side, which when eaten with the dish gave me the flash of a sour patch kid (yes, can you tell I have young children?). Still wouldn’t be my dessert of choice, but it was a nice refreshing thing and we both enjoyed it.

So I liked everything. Did I swoon over everything? No. But I enjoyed the experience and I love knowing that next time I go, the menu will be completely different. All in all, I think Recess is going to be quite a successful enterprise. There are, apparently, enough people in this town that can appreciate culinary creativity and can just deal with what is served. I also love the fact that hopefully continued success of Recess will actually introduce people to new flavors and foods since you cannot always go with your comfort zone here. The only thing I lament is that there wasn’t cooked seafood on the night I was there, because I think Chef Hardesty handles seafood with probably more skill than most in our city. Ahhh…but maybe next time.

And since I know Recess has been given lots of free advice about how to “improve” the concept, and I know the concept has been tweaked somewhat since its opening, here’s my two cents. I would love to see a dessert choice and a cheese choice—that would be pretty easy right? But no matter what, Recess is certainly a breath of fresh air on our dining scene and I am glad to have it. I will be back very soon.

4907 N. College Ave
Indy 46205

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Loft at Traders Point Creamery

Struggling for new lunch places these days, hubby and I headed west to check out Traders Point Creamery’s restaurant, the Loft, in search of something tasty. I have always loved their products, particularly the Fleur de la Terre cheese—I always pick up a wedge when I am at the Farmer’s Market. That stuff is seriously good. It is a bit soft in the middle although tends firmer toward the rind. While not super strong, it does have earthy taste and a little bit of sharpness. But my kids love it as much as I do, so you there you go. Anyway, I was interested to see what the restaurant would be like and I like the motto on their website, “We milk it. We make it. We serve it.”

And the interior of this place is quite homey and rustic but with a modern flair. Cool barn loft space with aluminum tables. The service is very friendly and accommodating (even when there was a film crew in there the day we ate lunch filming extra scenes for a TV show).

The lunch menu has a nice selection of sandwiches, wraps and salads as well as a few other items like mac & cheese. Now, since we were sitting in a dairy, I figured, I needed to hit the cheese hard right? So I asked our server if she recommended the mac and cheese or the grilled cheese more. She said the grilled cheese was one of the best things on the menu. Well, that sealed it. Originally I thought, a grilled cheese seemed kind of boring, but their grilled cheese was amazing. It is thinly sliced whole wheat bread made with the Fleur de la Terre cheese, and your choice of one additional item. You could choose between bacon, avocado, caramelized onions, spinach, mushrooms or roasted red pepper. You get one included and any additional items are $1 extra. Wow. I could have pretty much taken all of them. They pretty much all sounded good. But not wanting to overdo it, I just went with my perennial favorites, avocado (natch), and bacon. Wow, this may just have been the best grilled cheese I have ever eaten. The bread was quite thin and the entire sandwich was pressed quite flat so it was really easy to eat, and there wasn’t too much bread to sandwich fixings. There was an appropriate amount of fillings and they were all delicious. Wow. I would be hard pressed not to get it again. It is very rich because the cheese is quite distinctive and combined with the other things, it was extremely filling. And hey, I dipped a couple bites into the side of garlic aioli that hubby ordered with his lunch and that was a nice little tasty addition as well. You also get a side with each sandwich—I had the salt and pepper kettle chips which were tasty, but didn’t knock me out or anything.

Hubby ordered the burger with Fleur de la Terre cheese as well as the aforementioned aioli. He said it was a really really good “gourmet” burger. Apparently he has categories of different types of burgers, which when pressed was a little vague about. But he ate every bite and also really loves the cheese. The beef was properly cooked medium and was very juicy.

I really wanted to get some ice cream as well, but as it was lunch and I had a big dinner coming up we skipped it. I really look forward to taking the kids here, as it is all their favorite things (grilled cheese, quesadillas etc) and they also give tours of the farm which I know they would enjoy as well. Not to mention, how could it not be cool to have lunch in a barn?

The Loft
Traders Point Creamery
9101 Moore Road
Zionsville, IN 46077

Loft Restaurant at Traders Point Creamery on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 12, 2010

Restaurant Tallent

One of the main reasons for our girly weekend that started at FARMbloomington was to have dinner at Restaurant Tallent—and from every rave review I have ever heard I was maybe, just maybe, setting myself up for disappointment in some ways I guess. Don’t get me wrong, the meal was really good, just not the near perfection I was maybe wrongly expecting.

Anyhow, we were promptly seated, although as usual, I had to ask to not be seated in the 2 seats right in between two other very closely spaced tables at a banquette. This was a little annoying considering there was a two-seater available at the end of the banquette that was more appropriately spaced away from the others, and with no one on one side. We ended up sitting there at my request without too much hassle. I did enjoy sitting in the room with the kitchen and watching the chef at work. He obviously takes great pride in making sure that each plate goes out the way he wants it. I do think this “bar side” of the restaurant may be the less desirable side to be seated on in theory, because it isn’t the main room, but I enjoyed it because the noise level was not as intense. After all, the BFF and I had girl talk to discuss.

We were promptly served a nice amuse bouche of spaghetti squash pomodoro with a garlic chip on top. This was a really nice tasty bite. The tomato flavor was light and tasty and the garlic chip gave it quite an intense toasty garlic flavor on which we both commented.

The menu looked great, and to be honest it was all I could do to not just order appetizers—they all looked so good! I settled on the black truffle tagliatelle with mushrooms, spinach, parmesan and big hunks of pancetta. The pasta was excellent—homemade with an amazing truffle flavor. The mushrooms, spinach and a bit of the pancetta were really good too. If I had to complain about something, I would say it seemed like there were more pieces of the pancetta (and they were large dices) than there were mushrooms, and a few of them were a little too hard for my taste. I would have preferred a few more mushrooms and a little less bacon I guess. I did like that the overall portion was appropriately sized for an appetizer—I actually ate all of it (minus a bit of the pancetta). But overall, this pasta was really really good. Clearly my favorite dish of the evening. And you won’t want to share it, so don’t plan on splitting it with anyone!

My friend had the frisée salad with bacon, blue cheese, and a poached egg. It was interesting, they actually breaded the poached egg that was on the salad with some breadcrumbs—sort of looked like a Scotch egg on top. She shared a bit with me—it was good. Maybe a little underdressed, or maybe that was the bit I got, I don’t know.

For my main, I got the sole meuniere with sunchoke puree, bok choy and roasted mushrooms. Hmmm…not sure about this one. The ingredients were all very high quality, and were prepared properly. It was just like there was too much going on with this dish. And there was something—maybe just some very large peppercorn pieces-- that I kept biting into giving a disturbing crunch. I liked the sunchoke puree, it was a nice compliment, but there were so many different flavors between the mushrooms and the seasonings and the puree and veg, that it just seemed sort of confusing to me. You could certainly taste the lemon that is part of a meuniere sauce, but I don’t know, maybe I just expected a more delicate dish, particularly since our server told me it was one of the lighter dishes of the menu.

My friend, however, had the Cook’s farm bison with Lyonnaise potato gratin, Swiss chard, and sauce au poivre. This was really good—the bison was cooked perfectly medium rare and the potatoes were a nice complement. A wonderful alternative to the traditional meat and potatoes. And the chunky bits of peppercorns made sense here. It was really nice.

We both had a dessert—I had the butterscotch semi-freddo with brown sugar phyllo crisps and butterscotch sauce. Wow this was intense in its butterscotch goodness. Really good, and I loved the phyllo crisps with it—the super crispy texture with the ultra smooth texture of the semi freddo (which is sort of like a lighter, not as frozen version of ice cream, or a slightly frozen version of custard. “Semifreddo” literally translates to “half cold.”). It was extremely rich though, and would be a great dish to share.

My friend had the cranberry streusel with cranberry-orange compote and sorghum ice cream. It was nice as well—quite tart from the cranberries, but the creamy ice cream helped balance that out. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting though—I was sort of imagining more of a messy thing with a crumb topping, and this was more like a cross between a pie and a tart—thin like a tart, but with more of a pie crust underneath and a very orderly crumb toppping. Tasty though.

So all in all it was a very nice meal, and you can see the love that goes into each dish both in the creativity of the combinations and the beautiful seasonal items being used. Maybe my expectations were a little high, and I was just a bit disappointed in my entrée, but I can promise you, I will be back—and I would like to try for Spring or Summer, my favorite of the food seasons!

Restaurant Tallent
208 North Walnut
Bloomington, IN 47404

Monday, February 8, 2010

Maxine's Chicken and Waffles

I have a little obsession with fried chicken—it is probably one of my most favored comfort foods around. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I drove the other people I worked with crazy wanting to eat at the Merritt bakery in Oakland, CA because their fried chicken was so good. And coincidentally, Oakland was also the first place I ever had the whole chicken and waffle combo—at a place called “Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles.” Anyway, Maxine’s has been on my list since I first heard about it, but I have only just now managed to get there.

I have read several different reviews of this place and have always wondered why the only fried chicken anyone ever talks about are the wings (that come with the waffles). Usually, when I get fried chicken, I would go with some other pieces myself. Once I got there, I realized, it is because any of the other pieces are a 25-35 minute wait, as they are all cooked to order, and who has that kind of time at lunch? Now granted, they are open for dinner as well, but, well, since there is no liquor, I knew I wouldn’t be getting hubby in there for dinner.

First of all, I read some pretty mixed reviews about the service, but when we went in, we were greeted and seated immediately and were waited on by a very gracious server who was extremely helpful and friendly. I even heard her back there yelling at the kitchen when something was taking too long. So, as for the service, I have absolutely no complaints.

We got some of the fried cornbread to start, which was not exactly what I was expecting, more like a cornbread pancake—but very tasty nonetheless. They were just made, and very warm and unique--unlike any cornbread I have had. They were good on their own and also with the peach butter that was served alongside them. It was a nice compliment and I think I ended up preferring them with the peach butter, although I ate them both ways.

Since I did not have that kind of time to spend at lunch either, I went with the classic chicken and waffle combo, which is one large freshly made waffle and three fried chicken wings. The waffle is obviously freshly made, pleasantly crisp on the outside with the soft inside and served with a little cup of the peach butter on top. In this case, I think I preferred the waffle just with the traditional syrup rather then the peach butter, but maybe that is just me. The chicken wings were very large wings (I would hate to run into that bird in a dark alley) and extremely meaty. The meat was very tender and hot, and they were obviously made to order. I was amazed at how juicy they were. The coating was more of a breading type coating with some seasoning, and while it was good, and the skin was crisp, I found it to be a little lacking in flavor, and not to be my favorite fried chicken in Indy. I think I prefer a bit more of a crunchy crust with a bit more seasoning. And while both parts of this meal were good, I am still not totally onboard with the chicken and waffle thing, but obviously it is a combo that people like, as it is certainly not the first place I have seen it, and it is the name of the restaurant for goodness sakes. Call me a traditionalist though, I would rather have some mashed potatoes and a biscuit next to my fried chicken.

Now, hubby, on the other hand, ordered the blackened catfish sandwich, which I was a little dubious about when he ordered it, but I have to say, it was outstanding. And he loved it. This was by far the better thing on the table. The seasoning on the catfish was perfect—amazing flavor. And the catfish itself was super juicy and thick, not overdone at all. In fact our server told us it was one of her favorites. The portion was a little crazy, it was two large fish fillets on a bun—he pretty much instantly took one off to eat it. Of course, we managed to finish off most of the other fillet before the meal was over—it was just so yummy.

The portions are large—and if you are worried that chicken wings won’t fill you up, you needn’t be. Between the two of us, we were pretty uncomfortably full and in fact were still moaning a bit by the time dinner rolled around.

I think the key to this place is look over the menu and order what sounds good—just because it has “chicken and waffles” in the name doesn’t mean it is the only thing to order. And hey, why we are at it, what is your favorite spot in Indy for fried chicken? Still on a quest for the best….

Maxine’s Chicken and Waffles
132 North East Street
Indy, 46204

Maxine's Chicken and Waffles on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Recently, the BFF and I took a little road trip down to Bloomington for a getaway—to eat, drink and just have a break. Food wise, my main goal was to eat at Restaurant Tallent (which we did, and the review will come soon), but since we aimed at getting there by lunch time, we also decided to give FARMbloomington a go as well.

The interior of this place is quite kitschy in its farm paraphernalia, but honestly, I sort of breezed over it because I was pretty hungry. You do get the feeling that someone has had the genuine desire to create a causal farmhouse feel, but has just taken it maybe one step too far.

Anyhow, it was a Saturday, and on the weekends, they serve a brunch menu, so that is what we were choosing from. After checking out the tables next to us (if you are seated at the banquette, you are quite close to the tables on either side) we decided to split the bacon and egg pizza (I told ya, I’m a sucker for eggs on stuff). A poor young college girl with her parents next to us had ordered this pizza on her own, and was a little overwhelmed by it. It is quite large, and totally appropriate for sharing (that fact might even deserve a mention on the menu if you ask me).

So the pizza was like a thin crusted flatbread layered with a bit of red sauce (I really liked that there wasn’t too much of it), layers of quite tasty bacon, spinach, Gouda and topped with two poached eggs. The crust was obviously homemade, as it was quite uneven in shape (and totally different from the one at the table next to us) but it was really tasty. Pleasantly crispy but really thin, and still held up to the ingredients on top. I took my egg and cut it up and divided a bit of it onto each of my pieces. The bacon was layered across the pizza and was slightly crisp, but still had a nice amount of chewiness as well. I tell you what, it was really good. If I lived around there, this would be something I would probably crave on a routine basis.

One pet peeve, the napkins were really cheap and thin and they only gave you one (well, until I asked for more). A meal like this, you needed more than that. Or if you are only going to give just the one, either make it cloth, or make it more substantial. The service was a little distant, and occasionally missing, but generally we got things in a decent time frame.

But we had some wine as well; lots of girl talk, and really ended up enjoying this meal. Unfortunately, because we split one thing, I don’t have more to tell you about, but if you eat here for brunch, this pizza is yummy.

FARM Bloomington
108 East Kirkwood Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47408

Farm Bloomington on Urbanspoon