Monday, August 30, 2010

Dig*In 2010

Yesterday, hubby and I attended the first Dig*IN event at White River State Park. Dig*IN was an event featuring growers and chefs from Indiana (mainly from Indianapolis, but there were some exceptions). There was also live music, discussion panels, cooking demonstrations, and wine and beer tastings. The chefs all prepared small dishes highlighting Indiana meat and produce and with the price of your admission, you could eat what you liked (a la Zoobilation if you have been, although there was much more focus at Dig*IN on local producers).

For an inaugural event, it seems like this event was quite a success. The crowds were large and the weather was great (if not a little too hot, but who's complaining?). People seemed very excited about the event and the enthusiasm showed. We couldn't stay for more than a couple hours, and of course, I mainly hit on the food part of the event (go figure), so I am just going to comment on a few of my favorite things I ate. There was so much to taste, but these are the ones that stand out in my mind (and I didn't get to try every single thing as a few booths ran out of food while we were there, or else the lines were just too long). If you were there, and partook of more of the other parts of the event (speakers, etc) I would love to hear your feedback. I would also love to hear your favorite food items as well (like I said, I missed a few!).

Some of my favorite things:

Peach smoked pork shoulder with peaches and blueberries on a crispy fried wonton from the Indiana Downs Restaurant (pictured with the little mini burger from Joseph Decuis. We'll get to that one in a minute.): The lady who was handing this out, said, "it's peach smoked pork, honey!" when asked what was being served. I have to say, this was one that took me by surprise coming from a local horse racing track. The pork was so tender it practically melted in your mouth and the sweetness from the fruit was great with it. And the wonton stayed crispy the entire time adding nice texture. I have now added this place to my list for sure. And I have never bet on horses, who knows, maybe it will be fun too!

Mini Wagyu beef burgers from Joseph Decuis: This place has been on my list already for awhile and now I know, for good reason. What a yummy little morsel--super tender grilled Wagyu beef burgers with goat cheese mousse and a spicy ketchup. Just the smell of these things grilling was a huge lure.

Tamale from Chef Steven Unrue of Tasting-A Wine Experience: These little rounds of tamales had a great corn flavor (surprised not to see more corn at this event) with spicy salsa and sour cream. This dish was different from most of the other things, and was quite well done. Again, another restaurant I have not yet been to that has moved up the list.

Lamb Sausage from Chef JJ's Backyard: This was a yummy piece of lamb sausage that were marinated in Indiana beer and then smoked on the Big Green Egg. The sausage had a great smoky flavor and was topped with a yogurt sauce. I enjoyed the tangy sauce combined with the rich, smoky meat. (Check out all that sausage cooking on the egg!)

Tomato/Goat Cheese from Chef Thom England and Ivy Tech Culinary School: This was simple but had a great combo of super fresh flavors. It was one slice of tomato, a dollop of soft goat cheese, slivers of basil and, the thing that made it shine, smoked salt from Hickoryworks. The smoky salt added just a bit of crunch and the nice salty edge that tomatoes love so much.

Watermelon Jalapeno Ice from H2O: What a great refresher on such a hot day. Tasted like pure frozen watermelon with just a hint of spice from the jalapeno. It hit the spot.

I could go on and on, and as I said, I didn't get to try everything, but these were my highlights. I think this event was a great way to showcase the amazing bounty Indiana offers and I hope to attend many more in the coming years. And don't forget, if you were there, tell me what you liked, or didn't, and what were your overall thoughts on the event. I would love to know.

A Taste of Indiana

Thursday, August 26, 2010

C.R. Heroes

We are always looking for kid friendly independent places. C.R. Heroes is one of those kinds of places. They call themselves a “family pub” which is a phrase you don’t tend to hear in the US (reminds me of my days in England). So we rounded up the kids, as well as some other family members, and gave it a go.

The menu online claims that most of their food is made in house and from old family recipes. When I see the very typical bar food kind of menu, with a few differences, I have to say I get suspicious about exactly how much of it is being made in the back, but was surprised that several things seemed to be. We had a sampler platter with fried pickles, onion rings, potato skins and soft pretzels. I would say the best thing (and the one most clearly being made fresh) was the fried pickles. They were pickle slices in a light crispy batter and served with ranch dressing for dipping. They were pretty tasty and the batter was nicely seasoned. We were also told that the onion rings were made in house, and they tasted ok, but the batter was so uniform, I have to say I was suspicious. The soft pretzel was a unique thing to find on a pub food type menu and they were tasty—particularly dipped in the brightly colored orange cheese sauce. I was most disappointed with the potato skins, which back in the day when I ate more of this kind of food, were one of my favorite indulgences. And these days, it seems almost impossible to find good, freshly made ones. These just hardly had any flavor, although they had the requisite cheese and bacon bits on top. (Seriously, does anyone make really tasty potato skins anymore?)

As for the entrées, reviews were mixed. I ordered the miniature version of the “Hoosier Daddy” pork tenderloin sandwich as well as a regular cheeseburger slider. The pork tenderloin is one of the house specialties and it wasn’t bad. They were making these in house, and they were nicely seasoned, but wasn’t super moist the way I like. And it was supposed to be served with a garlic mayo on the side which I didn’t get until I asked for it, and which tasted like it was mayo mixed with ketchup. Just plain mayo would have been better. The cheeseburger suffered the fate of so many “sliders,” and was dry and overcooked. One of my family members had a full sized burger and was more pleased with it than I was with mine. On the plus side, I ordered a salad as my side dish (a girl can only eat so much fried food in a night) and was happy to see it wasn’t one of those wilty bagged mixes (with the obligatory carrot matchsticks, you know the one). The lettuce was mainly iceberg, but it was fresh and cold. Nothing fancy, but for a place like this, not bad.

Hubby had the Chicago style Italian Beef sandwich and found it so so. The bread he thought was spot on (according to the menu being brought from Gonnella Bread in Chicago) but the meat, not so much. He thought it was an okay beef sandwich, but not authentic.

My kids had a kid’s pizza (picture taken by my future blogger daughter) and a sirloin (my son, who announced he wanted steak, was lucky they had a kid’s option for steak which was nice). The pizza looked like it came from a box or something (and those smiley face potatoes are everywhere) but the sirloin was pretty good. It is sort of my pet peeve that when there is a steak on a kids’ menu it is usually a crappy cut, but this one tasted pretty good. And they actually cooked it medium rare, the way he wanted it (another pet peeve, when restaurants overcook kids meat, thinking they know better or something).

Of course the favorite part for my kids was the little arcade that was in the back. But wow! Who knew a video game could cost $1 per play (see how out of touch I am?) And when your kids are as young as mine, the games don’t last long. Actually all in all, I thought the atmosphere was a little depressing. There were all kinds of décor depicting heroes of different types, from firefighters to Superman, which was fine, but the room was very dark (several at the table had a hard time reading the menu and everyone I was with commented to me about it later) and there was no one else there until right when we left. The air conditioner wasn’t working well and it was quite warm as well. I don’t know, for a “family pub,” I expected the ambiance to be a little more, well, enthusiastic or something. This included the wait staff unfortunately.

So some of the food was pretty good for pub food (the stuff that was made in house mainly), but I have to say the overall experience is not getting me rushing back. And seriously, what about good potato skins? Let me know…

CR Heroes
10570 E. 96th Street
Fishers, IN 46038

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Bonge's Tavern

Bonge’s is sort of a legend around Indy, and hubby and I decided that after living here for 4 years together, it was time to get out there. Now, one of the things Bonge’s is known for is the tailgating that goes on in the parking lot as people wait for their turn at one of the maybe 12 or so tables. People bring their own refreshments and snacks and sit outside (often in their own camp chairs) and hang out. On the weekends during nice weather the wait can apparently be several hours pretty much from the moment they open their doors (at 4:30), so we thought we would try and get there a bit early during the week and hopefully avoid a long wait. It worked. It was a beautiful day, but we got there just after 5:00 and were seated immediately. Of course when we left some time after 6:00, there was already quite a wait and several groups in the parking lot. Oh, and this is a tavern, so you can’t go in to eat unless you are 21.

We weren’t exactly sure what to expect, but we were greeted by a friendly server who asked if we had been before and then explained the menu. There are about 7 entrées listed on a chalkboard above the bar to choose from. Three are always there (the Perkinsville Pork, the Hargar duck, and the NY Strip) and the rest change regularly. Every meal comes with either soup or salad and they all came with the same potatoes and veggies on the side (the sides change periodically). The entrées range in price from approximately $24-30, so although it is a tavern, it isn’t cheap.

The atmosphere inside is totally casual and has a great feel with lots of wood paneled walls and booths. There is a very old looking bar on the wall across from the wall of booths and a few larger tables scattered in between. There are obviously a lot of local regulars coming in judging by the greetings received by the staff. Everyone just seems happy to be there.

As for the food, it is not complicated, but it is really quite good. I started with the “world famous tomato soup” while hubby had the blue cheese wedge (for a salad, you can get a wedge with blue cheese or raspberry vinaigrette). I really liked the soup—this is not your traditional canned tomato soup. This is a hearty, chunky soup filled with large pieces of actual tomato as well as other veggies like celery and onion. You could taste both the sweetness and tanginess of the tomato flavor and I really liked it.

Hubby’s wedge was also quite good—a traditional wedge of iceberg lettuce amply covered in a very rich and tasty blue cheese dressing and sprinkled with garlic breadcrumbs (tasted a lot like the croutons on my soup). Honestly, we had a hard time deciding which starter we enjoyed more (hubby would say the salad) and I would happily order either.

As for the main dish, I ordered the “Prime Cap with Shrimp.” This was thinly sliced prime rib that was slow cooked like traditional prime rib, but perfectly to medium rare temperature. The flavor of the meat was amazing. And there was a demi glace on the plate, but it was truly like an au jus, and just added more meat flavor. Seriously, this meat was perfectly seasoned and delicious. Across the top was a skewer of shrimp covered in an herby garlic butter sauce. The shrimp were also really good and I liked the contrast in flavor of the rich meat and the zesty shrimp. There were roasted potatoes and thumb sized asparagus on the side which were plain and forgettable, almost more of a garnish than anything, but I didn’t care because I enjoyed the meat and shrimp so much.

Hubby had the Perkinsville Pork which was pounded pork tenderloin (but not super thin) coated in flour, egg and parmesan cheese and pan fried. The pork was good—especially the thicker parts of the meat because they were the most tender. I liked that you could really taste the cheese which gave it a unique flavor from your usual pork tenderloin. There was also a light lemony sauce on top that was nice as well. However, while it was good, it was nowhere near as good as my beef. Again, same sides, same thoughts about them from hubby.

They also brought us a basket of cornbread with our entrees that was really delicious. There was a bit of jalapeno in them which gave them a bit of a kick, but the pieces were small and evenly distributed so you didn’t feel overwhelmed by biting into a big piece of pepper. The bread was so moist you almost needed to eat it with a fork because it just sort of fell apart in your hands. It was really really good.

Since we didn’t have a formal appetizer we also decided to try a dessert. There were several to choose from and we went with what was a chocolate cake base with a thin layer of sugar cream pie at the top and all covered in cherries and whipped cream. The chocolate base sort of reminded me of a brownie—it was quite dense and a little dry and there was not as much of the sugar cream part as I thought there would be. I wasn’t quite sure about it at first, but it became strangely addicting. I wasn’t overly impressed with the cherries; they sort of tasted like the topping you can buy in a can. The whipped cream was obviously homemade though and, while I don’t tend to be a huge whipped cream person, this was good.

The experience at Bonge’s was really great. It is the kind of place that while you are there, you are already planning your next trip and thinking of the people you would like to introduce to it. It is out in the middle of nowhere (about 35 minutes from Indy depending on where you live and the traffic) but it is certainly worth the drive.

Bonge’s Tavern
9830 West 280 North
Perkinsville, IN 46011

Bonge's Tavern Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Scotty's Lakehouse

Scotty’s Lakehouse is probably the most suggested place I have had for a review. It seems like everywhere I go, people are asking me if I have been there. I couldn’t quite figure it out, after what was a fairly average review before of Scotty’s Brewhouse, but I figured with that many people recommending it, I should give it a try.

The first thing I liked about the Lakehouse was the menu. Actually, several things about the menu. First, it is so much simpler and less sensory overload than the Brewhouse menu. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot on this menu, but it looks like someone has made a conscious effort to pick the best things and focus lots of energy on them. Also, it is printed on recycled paper in a simple color scheme. It lets you focus on the words without feeling like the pictures are knocking you out. The other thing I liked is that the Lakehouse is attempting to source the majority of their ingredients organically, and locally, if possible. For a “burger joint” as they call themselves, I am impressed with this.

The interior is not that much different from the Brewhouse interiors—it feels like a bar, not a Lakehouse. Hubby was particularly not impressed with being seated within direct eyeshot of the kitchen, particularly since there were several empty tables when we got there. We did get a booth, which are quite roomy and the flat screen tvs that are a Scotty’s signature item would be nice if you have kids with you (it looks as though you can only get sports or cartoons though).

Anyway, we decided to get several items and share them all. We wanted to see what some of the items were like that were unique to the Lakhouse so we tried to aim for those. We started with the tuna ceviche and the truffle fries. Unfortunately, when the fries first came out, they were totally cold. We could see the potential though and sent them back (our server was very attentive). The second batch was excellent. The fries themselves are made fresh in house (so we were told) and are cut in a very interesting way—they are almost like little canoe shapes. They are pretty good sized and the individual little fryer basket they are served in is cute. I love truffle flavor on fries, but I don’t think it added a lot here. You couldn’t really taste it that much, and it was completely lost if you used the dipping sauces they served alongside (according to the menu, the sauces are chipotle ketchup, garlic mayo and Sun King beer mustard—the mayo tasted more like ranch dressing to me.) But, anyway, when they were hot, they were really good. Nice and crunchy exterior, a bit of skin left on, and fluffy inside. We kept talking about how they were almost like the base of a potato skin without as much skin, and how good they would be topped with cheese and bacon (which luckily they have already thought of and such an item is on the menu).

The ceviche is ahi tuna chunks mixed with tomato, onion, lime juice, jalapeno, and avocado. Blue corn chips are served on the side. I keep ordering this type of dish at various places hoping someone will pull it off and you know what? The Lakehouse did a decent job. The seasonings were great—although it was almost like a very mushy guacamole with the chunks of fish mixed in. But you could really taste the lime and other seasonings and we enjoyed the flavor. My only complaint is that the fish may have been a little “overcooked” (ceviche is basically cooked in the lime juice and the longer it stays in the mix, the more cooked the fish gets). The portion was quite large—between the two of us, we probably only ate half.

For our main course we got the #3 burger which is a burger with a fried egg, applewood smoked bacon, chipotle ketchup and Indiana smoked gouda cheese. The burgers are cooked to order (we got medium) and the egg can be as well. They standardly cook it hard, but we both like it runny in the middle to create a nice saucy addition to the burger. They had no problem cooking it over medium. Ok, this burger was delicious. And this is saying a lot for a girl who tends to like her burgers really thin. And these burgers are a great value at $8.00. Totally worth every penny. There are no sides that come with, but I would recommend those fries we had earlier. One of our favorite parts of the burger was the bun—it was really delicious and perfectly proportioned to the sandwich. It was a soft high quality egg bun—totally different from the sesame seed buns I remember from the Brewhouse.
We also got a small cobb salad to share as well. The salad was very Patachou-esque, which makes sense since Patachou serves the breakfast and brunch at Lakehouse on the weekends. By the way, I think this is a great idea in a place like Geist that has limited restaurant choices—basically you get two restaurants in one. Anyway, the cobb salad was what you expect, other than there was a lot of fresh spinach mixed in with the greens. There was so much lettuce packed into the bowl actually, it was a little hard to eat. But the blue cheese, bacon, egg crumbles, tomato and red onion dices were all good quality and fresh. And I really appreciate they don’t skimp on the avocado which was laid across the top. The dressings are all housemade and I went with the ranch. It was very good. Like I said, it reminded me a lot of the salads at Patachou. Fresh, good quality ingredients. Nothing amazing, but a good Cobb.

Finally, and probably the biggest disappointment was the mac and cheese. They have three varieties of mac and cheese—we got “Mac 2,” which is rotini noodles with caramelized onions, bacon, goat cheese and Indiana smoked Gouda. This just was not good. The noodles were dry and not cheesy really and the Gouda was just laid across the top of the noodles and warmed up (but wasn’t very warm when we got it). It wasn’t gooey at all and just did not come together. I think mixing the ingredients up would make for a more cohesive product.

We also shared a whoopee pie for dessert. This was really tasty. It is two soft chocolate-y cakes with a layer of marshmallow cream in the middle and covered with powdered sugar and caramel sauce. We really enjoyed this. The cakes were nice and fresh and soft and the marshmallow flavor sort of made you feel like you were eating something you would have loved as a kid. Really sweet, but fun. And I love that you get a little box of Lemonheads with your check.

So yes, this place is a burger joint. And if you stay in that area of the menu (and be sure and get some of those fries), I think you will have a really good meal at the Lakehouse. And I applaud Scott Wise (aka “Scotty”) for using all these organic and local ingredients and for making so much of the food in house. Here’s my question, if it can be done at Lakehouse, why not at the Brewhouse too (at least use the Lakehouse buns at the Brewhouses—they are delicious)? That would be a wonderful evolution in pub food.

Scotty’s Lakehouse
10158 Brooks School Road
Fishers, IN 46037

Scotty's Lakehouse on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mo's- A Place for Steaks

I was curious about the catch phrase for Mo’s—“A place for steaks.” I was wondering why they went with “A place for steaks” instead of “THE place for steaks?” It is almost like they are underselling themselves from the start. But I had heard some decent things about Mo’s, and every so often we like to try another of the steakhouses in town, so we set out.

To start with, I had one of my pet peeve service experiences. We were first seated at a table for 4 right next to a large, rather noisy, group. We asked to be moved to a table for two (there were only two of us) near the window that was a little more intimate. They did it, but only after a slight under the breath sigh. And this place was like 30% full at most. There was no reason we needed to be sat next to such a large group. But once we settled in, we had a nice table and were promptly addressed by our server. There were some slightly lengthy delays in service later however, because our server was also waiting on that big table I mentioned earlier.

We had decided to split a huge ribeye for dinner, and so decided to get a couple of appetizers also. We had the tuna tartare and the “Moysters”’ which are fried oysters over a blue cheese cream sauce with spinach. The oysters themselves were outstanding. They were small oysters that were fried with a very pleasing crunchy crust. They were set on top of a cream sauce with spinach mixed in, that had a few hunks of blue cheese as well. My one complaint is that there wasn’t enough of the blue cheese. The rich oysters with the rich cream sauce were almost too much without a good taste of blue cheese mixed in. When you got a bite of the salty, slightly tangy blue cheese it balanced them. But it was a challenge to find the pieces. But the oysters themselves were perfectly cooked.

Unfortunately, the tuna tartare was not as good. The tuna was mixed with some seasonings like red pepper and some cilantro, but there again, was no acid to really bring out the flavors. I asked for some lemon wedges, which helped a bit, but not enough to make this worthy of being ordered again. This seemed like a dish that no one in the kitchen was tasting for flavor. The tuna itself was decent quality, but it seemed as if it might have been prepared awhile ago, as it held the firm shape of the dish it came out of.

They also brought us a plate of bread with several different types of bread. The best one on the plate was the pretzel bread—there was also some sesame seeded bread and some focaccia. So they served regular butter and a special butter of the day, which in itself is not weird, but on this day it was chocolate butter. Don’t get me wrong, I love chocolate, but not as a pre-dinner spread for my bread.

Every entrée comes with soup or salad as well and we split the salad. Nothing special going on with their house salad. It was a mix of romaine and iceberg lettuce with a couple slices of cucumber, a couple cherry tomatoes, and a splash of your choice of dressing.
Anyway, for our main dish, we split the 20 ounce bone-in ribeye as well as the “The Baumann” which is Mo’s “signature double baked potato” and the creamed spinach which is hubby’s must have at any steak house. The steak was Mo’s “signature steak.” It was cooked properly medium rare but was a little dry for me (the picture is only half the steak). I like a really juicy steak and while this one had nice flavor, I have had a lot of better ribeyes elsewhere. I did like the fact that they did not put any kind of sauce or demi glace on the plate with the steak. We really enjoyed the creamed spinach—it was a very unique steakhouse take on creamed spinach. It was fresh spinach leaves that were cooked in a bit of cream and had some breadcrumbs on top. The spinach was not cooked so much that you couldn’t recognize each individual leaf, and the fresh spinach flavor came through. The breadcrumbs were nice and toasty and added a nice diversion from just plain creaminess of everything else. The potato was a twice baked potato with scallions and bacon and lots of cheese on top. It was good, but a little went a long way. We had a side of Béarnaise sauce (you can get several sauces complimentary) and I liked dipping a bite of the steak and potato in there to give it a little tanginess.

All in all, Mo’s is "a place for steaks." One of many in this town, and unfortunately, doesn’t really stand out in my mind for anything. While some things were good, in just about every case, I could think of somewhere that does them slightly better.

47 South Pennsylvania
Indy, 46204

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Illinois Street Food Emporium - Revisit

I really do try to venture out to some different places for sandwiches every now and then, and hubby had not been to Illinois Street Food Emporium yet, so for a quick lunch the other day, that is where we found ourselves. Hubby loves a good Rueben sandwich (any suggestions?) and was happy they had one on the menu. I remembered how much I liked the croissant on which my sandwich came last time, so I knew I wanted a croissant—it was just a matter of what filling.

I decided to go with egg salad because that is something I love (but preferably without celery) and I got it on the croissant. The egg salad had good flavor—sort of like it had some diced pickles mixed in, which I really liked. But it was really dry, almost like it had no mayo in it to hold it together, just mashed up boiled eggs. There was some lettuce and mayo on the bread which helped a bit. The biggest disappointment was the croissant this time though. It wasn’t soft and buttery like I remembered—it was quite hard (a little overbaked maybe?) and if it was the first time I had a croissant from them, I wouldn’t be wanting another one.

Hubby had the Reuben sandwich which as I said, is one of his favorites. He described it as a little unconventional, because instead of sauerkraut, it had a mix that was more like cole slaw (it wasn’t as dry as sauerkraut). He loved the bread and thought it was perfectly cooked (he often complains that many Reubens border on burned). It was a nice size—not ridiculously large. It also came with a side. He chose a salad with blue cheese dressing. It was a nice salad with some shredded cheese, croutons and half a boiled egg. I had a few bites, and as far as a side salad goes, it was pretty good.

I did buy a cookie on my way out—a sugar cookie with sprinkles that was really tasty. Nice and soft but with a crispy outer edge. You can’t really go into this place without buying a sweet—the display of pastries and doughnuts is quite tempting. All in all though, for a quick lunch of sandwiches, it was a little pricey I thought compared to a lot of places around, and the food while fresh and good, just wasn’t that memorable.

Illinois Street Food Emporium
5550 North Illinois Street
Indy 46208

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Biscuits Café

Going out to breakfast is something I don't seem to be able to accomplish very often with my family's varying waking schedules (my son usually wakes up at the crack of dawn). However, the Grandparents had the kids at the Children’s Museum and hubby and I found ourselves contemplating the possibility. Of course it was a Saturday, so we knew a lot of places would be packed.

Lately I have been noticing a lot of friends going to Biscuits Café (I have been noticing this courtesy of foursquare, which by the way, the point of which I still do not understand—please feel free to explain). And we were already sort of headed that way anyway (my car just kind of heads toward Taste whenever there is indecision), so we gave it a try.

This is an interesting combination because it is half a breakfast menu, half a Mexican menu, with several combo items, featuring Mexican breakfast items. Now I am familiar with huevos rancheros, but there were several other options as well. While being somewhat intrigued by a breakfast chimichanga, I settled on the breakfast quesadilla at the encouragement of my very friendly server.

This was a really large tortilla stuffed with so much stuff; it was hard to really even taste all the ingredients. There were (according to the menu), eggs, potatoes, chorizo, and cheese but it was all so mashed together, it was hard to really get an egg flavor from it. Although I did think the flavor was good and hearty. It came with a side of rice and refried beans, which were your standard decent rice and beans. I got a little side of sour cream to go with my quesadilla just because it needed a little something. That worked. I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. I just wish I could have tasted the eggs a little more.

I also ordered a biscuit on the side, because, well, the place is called “Biscuits” right? So they better have good biscuits. And they did. It was really good actually. ut that biscuit convinced me that next time I am just going to try a straight breakfast dish with biscuits and see how that goes.

Hubby had the huevos rancheros which is usually, a tortilla with beans, eggs and salsa stacked on top. In this case, it was eggs cooked to order (he got them over easy) with salsa on top and the tortillas, beans and rice of the side. I guess it was sort of a make your own thing. He enjoyed it, particularly after he mixed it all together. His complaint (other than he prefers it all stacked together) was that he likes it when the tortilla is grilled a little so that it is a little bit stiffer to hold up to all the stuff on top.

The interior is your basic plain Jane breakfast place— but very clean. I did like the cute little bar stools along the counter. I also liked that they gave you little checkered cloth napkins instead of paper. The place was quite crowded although we were seated right away. But by the time we left I think just about every table was full.

Based on what we had, I think Biscuits is a safe bet to add to the rotation for breakfast—not sure about as a choice for Mexican yet. But I will certainly give it another try. But of course, it begs the question….what’s your favorite Mexican and/or breakfast joint in town?

Biscuits Café
1035 Broad Ripple Ave
Indy 46220

Biscuits on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 9, 2010


Italian food in this town is a tough one for me. I complain a lot about this, and am somewhat hesitant about going to new places because of my experiences. I was recently informed I needed to keep a more open mind, so I remembered a few people recommending Iaria’s to me, as well as the fact as it has been in business for like 100 years, so we decided to go. We also had the in-laws with us who tend to like Italian more than we do (at least American Italian) so we thought they would be great companions to help us with the review—maybe not be so jaded.

I love the old school feel of Iaria’s-this was my first visit ever. I was surprised at how small the dining room was for some reason; I thought it would be larger. It was a little annoying that they had no host so we had to wait until one of the servers could get over to us, which took a few minutes because they were very busy. Our “hostess” also ended up being our server, and while she was very busy, she was very friendly and accommodating.

So one of the things that annoys me about most of the Italian restaurants around here is every menu is nearly the same. So I always look for the thing that might be a little different from the others. The starter that appealed to me was the Sicilian caponata with crostini. Caponata here was a rough chop mix of eggplant, celery, tomatoes, capers, and olives which have been cooked til they are soft and served in mostly tangy, slightly sweet vinaigrette. You can get it hot or cold at Iaria’s—we had the hot version. I really really liked this. Well, other than the celery (which was fine, it is just my least favorite of these ingredients), these are some of my favorite ingredients—and what a great mix of salty and tangy with nice toasty bread. Everybody at the table really enjoyed it.

We also had the cheesy garlic bread which was good. Not great or anything, but thick slices of garlicky bread (it had a decent garlic flavor) with a slice of cheese slightly melted on top. It was served with a side of Iaria’s tomato sauce. It was a nice counterpoint to the kick of the caponata, but I would be less inclined to order it again.

Hubby and I also split the garden salad with the homemade Roquefort dressing (you can’t really not get this dressing when it is in bold, large type on the menu). The salad was basic, just some greens, cucumbers and a couple cherry tomatoes and some carrot straws, but the dressing was very tasty. It was so thick though that it was hard to eat it with the salad. There was no way you could pour it on, you just have to dip. My in laws actually got some Italian dressing as well, dressed the leaves with it and then dipped a bit of the Roquefort dressing on. I tried this toward the end and it was a pretty good way to go actually.

I had remembered on one of my posts someone had told me that Iaria’s had good thin crust pizza. So I decided to get a pizza, hubby got the lasagna and we shared. Ok, here’s where it got a little ugly. The pizza was bad. Just plain bad. The crust was crisp, but like a flavorless cracker or something. And nothing on top of the pizza saved it either. The tomatoes weren’t great and the sauce was just ok. I didn’t like this. Hubby promptly concurred with my opinion.

His lasagna was better, but basically reminded me of the kind of lasagna I had growing up that was cooked by my (not Italian) mother. Some layers of noodles, some ricotta that in this case, was very dry and some cooked ground beef that was also a bit dry. I think they make up for a bit of the dryness with the large amount of marinara they pour over the top, but it still didn’t have anything to make it very memorable. It was also not quite warm all the way through which was a little turn off. Actually, if my memory serves, my Mom's is better.

The best thing on the table was my mother-in-law’s grouper piccata. You can get veal, chicken or grouper piccata, and she was a little hesitant about getting fish here, but our server assured her it was very good. She was right. The fish was perfectly cooked. It was lightly floured and sautéed with a lemon butter sauce. If you want capers, that costs an extra 0.50 which I thought was a little odd since piccata normally comes with capers. She threw caution to the wind and got them and they were good (if not necessary). She thought it needed a bit of extra lemon, but I thought it was good as it was. It was best the minute it was served for sure, as it sat, the light crust started to get a little soggy, but of everything we had, it was the best.

My other favorite thing about Iaria’s was that on Thursdays (the night we were there) the wine was 50% off your first bottle, and 25% off the ones after that. So we had a couple of bottles of wine with our dinner at a very reasonable price. But all in all, save for the caponata which I really enjoyed, I can’t say Iaria’s is really changing my mind about Italian food in Indy. So if you have any suggestions, please post a comment or send me an email and let me know!

317 South College Ave
Indy 46202

Iaria's Italian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Jasmine Thai

I’ve been craving Thai for awhile and this place is very near my parents’ house, so I see it all the time. I was surprised by the crowd in there when we walked in even though it wasn’t yet noon. I also spied the specials board on my way in had a special of sautéed eggplant in a basil ginger sauce, which when chicken is added, tends to be one of my favorite things. So I asked our friendly, if not a bit harried, server if I could add chicken and he said yes for an additional charge. So that is exactly what I did.

Lunch specials at Jasmine come with either a fried spring roll or soup, so hubby got the spring roll and I got the soup. The spring roll was fine, nothing unique really. Pleasantly crispy with that slightly sweet, slightly tangy, slightly spicy sauce that Thai restaurants usually serve with fried items (which I should note I really like better than that thick, overly sweet, overly pink sauce you get at most Chinese places with fried things.) The soup was also very basic—a chicken broth with a few veggies—carrots and potatoes I think, and a bit of cilantro and some big hunks of black pepper. Nothing complicated about it, but it was fine.

What I didn’t realize, was that the eggplant dish was a special, but not a lunch special, so it was larger and more expensive than the lunch combos, but after eating it I didn’t care. I really liked this dish a lot. The eggplant was cut into nice bite sized pieces, which were nice and soft, and all thoroughly coated in the basil flavored sauce. I asked for it medium as far as spiciness, but I would say it was hotter than medium, but not totally over the top. The chicken in my dish, as well as hubby’s, was perfectly cooked and while extremely thin pieces of chicken breast, they were not tough or chewy at all. On a subsequent visit (which I had a week later because I couldn’t stop craving this dish), the quality of ingredients were just as good, although this time when I ordered it “medium,” it was slightly underspiced. So I guess that part just may be the luck of the draw. However, obviously, what the server told me was true, and this must be a common special because they had it both times.

Hubby had the Pad See-Eiw. This is one of his perennial favorite Thai dishes. This was not bad, but not as good as many we have had. It is flat rice noodles stir fried with eggs, chicken, and various veggies, including cabbage and broccoli. The sauce is described as a Thai soy sauce. To me, even though he also ordered it medium, all you could taste in the dish was the heat. It was too spicy to really taste any other flavor. The cabbage was nice, although I thought the broccoli was undercooked. Again, the chicken was perfectly cooked.

All in all, while I might not order what hubby got again, I really enjoyed my dish. I would happily order any of the dishes with a variation of the basil sauce that was on that eggplant. But if they keep having this dish as a special the next time I go, I can tell you, I’ll probably have to order it yet again.

Jasmine Thai Restaurant
4825 East 96th Street
Indy 46240

Jasmine Thai on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 2, 2010

Petite Chou - Dinner

I can’t quite figure out why Indy has so few French Bistros. It seems to me that simple, French food would be something that Midwesterners could get behind. Honestly, the only place I know of that is doing it is Petite Chou, which is one of the branches of the Patachou brand of restaurants. And it seems like it would be a perfect match really, being that Patachou excels at simple, homey, comfort food. Why not just put a French twist on it and add wine?

So we went to the Petite Chou in Broad Ripple (there is also one in Clay Terrace) for dinner the other night with friends. They have a lovely outside dining area with some ceiling fans that cut the heat a little. I like that if you sit along the side of the building, you are not staring at the street, the tables are nicely spaced and there are some curtains and there is greenery. Feels very bistro-esque.

We started with a couple of appetizers—the duck fat frites and the pate. Wow, the frites were outstanding (one dining companion described them as “spectacular”). They were perfectly crispy, the thin kind, and nicely seasoned with salt (You have to salt these things BEFORE they come out of the kitchen or it doesn’t stick). They had a slight richness from the duck fat and we pretty much ate a large order in record time. They were served with an aioli and Dijon mayo sauce. I couldn’t decide which I liked better. The aioli had the tanginess I like, but was a little bland. The Dijon sauce has maybe just a teeny bit too much kick. I ended up mixing them together on my plate and was very happy. The pate was also good—served with very toasted sliced of bread that was also seasoned and some whole grain local mustard. The crunchiness of the bread was a nice accompaniment to the rich, cold, smoothness of the pate. Maybe not the best pate ever, not as smooth and spreadable as I might have liked, but still nice.

The bread they serve with meals is also quite nice—thinly sliced French bread served with nice soft, salty butter. They had this right on. Hubby and I also split a salad, the mixed greens with warmed goat cheese on top of toasted bread. It was served with blackberry pear vinaigrette. I appreciated that they split the salad for us, and the sweetness of the dressing was great with the goat cheese. It was properly dressed and enjoyable. Our friends shared the caprese which looked nice, although I love a really gooey mozzarella on this type of salad. I didn’t try this though.

At this point in the meal, we were thoroughly enjoying everything we had—the food was very good, the atmosphere was great, the wine (a nice white Burgundy) was perfect and the service was professional. Unfortunately, this is where things took a slight turn for the worse. We got our entrées, and we had all ordered different things. I ordered the scallops which were simply pan seared, served over what they call “pommes puree,” (which are whipped potatoes) with a caper wine sauce. The scallops seemed to be good quality and I liked the sauce—right up my alley with the salty kick from the capers and a nice wine and butter flavor. But they weren’t really seared enough. They weren’t crispy enough on the edges. I like pan seared scallops to be nice and caramelized—the crunch of the sear giving way to the creaminess of the interior of the scallop. These were just not seared enough. And honestly, I could have done without the potatoes—whipped potatoes are served with many of Petite Chou’s dishes. I think I would have preferred something else—maybe just some nice greens or something.

Hubby had the pan seared salmon and asked it to be prepared medium rare. Our server informed us it is usually prepared well done, but that we could order it however we wanted. Unfortunately, I think they just went ahead a cooked it as they usually do as the fish was very cooked all the way through. It had a nice crispy edge and he was given the choice of the potatoes or greens with his and chose the greens. He was happy with that, but wished they had cooked the fish the way he had ordered.

I also had a bite our one of our friend’s paillard, which are listed as specialties of the house. A paillard is a pounded chicken breast that is then pan seared. They serve them with several accompaniments, and he went with the pommes puree (more of the whipped potatoes) as well as arugula and a lemon pan sauce. I have to say, this sounds really good. But when you are pounding a chicken breast this thin (it was quite thin), you have to be really careful not to overcook it and make it tough. They cooked it a bit too long based on the bite I had. It was tough.

Finally, of course we had to have dessert, so we got two crepes and some cheese (wow, we really ate a lot). The crepe I ate was mixed berries with some chocolate sauce and crème anglaise drizzled across. It was tasty. Not overly sweet but with lots and lots of berries. The cheese plate was also nice, although I prefer my cheeses a little more stinky and gooey.

All in all we had an enjoyable meal at Petite Chou. Honestly, I think next time I would maybe skip the entrée, get another appetizer and my own salad and call it a day. The first part of the meal really stood out while the second half was a bit lackluster (the service fell off a bit too during the second half). The atmosphere is nice and the ingredients are good. They are simple yet high quality which is what it should be at a French bistro. Now why doesn’t Indy have more of them again?

Petite Chou
823 Westfield Blvd
Indy 46220

Petite Chou on Urbanspoon