Friday, October 29, 2010

Thai Taste - Lunch Revisit

The other day I met a friend for lunch at Thai Taste.  I hadn’t reviewed it since we had dinner there quite awhile ago, and I thought it might be nice to see how the lunch offerings were.  I like that they offer reduced portion lunches at a very reasonable price, but that they are cooked to order (no buffet). I think the entrées are all about $7 and include soup or salad, a spring roll and rum cake for dessert. 
I really enjoy Thai flavorings and have been enjoying trying different places around Indy.  This one happens to be very close to my house, so it is an easy one to stop into.  I chose soup (you had a choice of Tom Yum soup , a rice noodle soup, or salad).  I went with the noodle soup since I had decided not to get noodles for my entrée.  The soup was nice.  It was a mild flavored clear broth with a decent amount of rice noodles in it, and I think the main seasonings were black pepper and a few pieces of cilantro on top.  It would likely be too bland to eat an entire order of this soup, but it wasn’t bad.
For my main dish, I had the Garlic chicken.  The lunch portions are actually quite large, especially for the price.  I have to say though; I was disappointed in the chicken because it was pretty dried out.  I enjoyed the flavor of the garlicky, peppery sauce though; it helped make the meat more enjoyable.  Unfortunately though, I also didn’t really care for the fact that the meat was piled on a bed of cabbage, because all the sauce soaked in to the cabbage and left the meat even drier.  It would have been better if the meat was allowed to sit directly in the sauce so you could get a bit more of it with each bite.
My friend shared her Pud Thai (using their spelling) which was much better than my dish.  It was your classic rice noodles with bean sprouts, onions, tofu, egg and green onion and a light, slightly tangy sauce (I think the tanginess comes from tamarind).  There were dices of chicken and some crunchy peanuts on top.  This dish was much better than mine, because you could really taste the flavor of the sauce and because there were so many different flavors with all the various ingredients.  And the chicken, if it was overcooked, was not as noticeable because it was much smaller pieces that were fewer and farther between. 
Honestly, I didn’t really care for the spring roll that much, or maybe I just get them too much with dishes and am tired of them.  There just wasn’t anything about it that made me want to eat the extra calories.  It was a little too doughy on the inside.  We both skipped the dessert (we couldn’t even finish the entrées) so I can’t speak to the rum cake. 
This place does a very good lunch business though, and you are certainly getting a good value for your money.  I would rank the food in the middle of the pack as far as Thai places at which I have eaten in Indy.  Some things are quite good and other things just okay.
Thai Taste
5353 East 82nd Street
Indy 46250

(no website I could find)

Thai Taste on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

El Rincon Jarocho

Well a really, really long time ago, back when I first started my blog, a reader suggested this place to me.  I am not sure why it has taken so long for me to go, because I have had a couple other people mention it since.  My son, who loves quesadillas and beans, was also along for lunch, so I figured this would be a good one to hit with him as well.
First of all, this place is pretty much of a dive on the inside.  That doesn’t bother me, but it is kind of weird because there is a large restaurant attached, but it looks like for lunch, they just open the little front room up.  The whole time we were there, there was only one other paying table (although the staff ate their lunch with us in front of the tv showing Mexican soap operas), so I guess this makes sense.  It looks like they have a more social atmosphere in the evenings, with music and such, judging by the flyers on the walls.
They served chips and salsa.  The salsa was pretty watery and didn’t have a lot of flavor to it.  The chips weren’t bad—they were the thick type. Very crispy, but not warm.  I would say they were made awhile before we ate them. 
So I had read somewhere that the chicken they used in their dishes was really good.  And I have yet to find a really good chicken enchilada in Indy.  So I ordered the chicken enchilada lunch with red sauce (you can get red, green, or mole).  It came with rice and beans and was drizzled with sour cream and sprinkled with cheese.  So, I found the chicken to be pretty lacking in any real flavor, and while the red sauce was very rich and dark in color (and took out my shirt when I got some on myself—seriously that stuff did NOT come out), it was seriously lackluster in flavor.  The chicken was quite dry (ugh, you know I hate dry chicken) and seriously, I can’t come up with many descriptors of this meal.  Well, maybe “nondescript.”  There was nothing about any of it that stood out. 
Hubby had flautas, which he thought were okay (and I agreed after my bite), but there wasn’t much to them except a teeny bit of chicken inside.  They were fried crispy and drizzled with more of the sour cream.  My son had his quesadilla, which he didn’t like because the cheese wasn’t even warm.  He had also ordered guacamole because he prefers it over salsa for his chips.  The guacamole here was made to order, but unfortunately was pretty much as flat as everything else.  Chunks of nice avocado, but mixed only with some onion and cilantro. No acid from lime or even salt appeared to be added. 
I don’t know, maybe this place isn’t really known for the food.  Maybe it’s the nightlife.  But this is a restaurant I will not be repeating.   But keep the Mexican suggestions coming, and I would love to know what specifically you like to eat.  It seems like a lot of Mexican places just sort of use the same ingredients in different wrappers, and sometimes I get burnt out on them all.  So is there some unique dish that you love from someplace around here?  Please, I could use a change of pace.
El Rincon Jarocho
7985 Plummer  Street
Indy 46226

El Rincon Jarocho on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 25, 2010

Perugini Pizzeria

Several months ago, a reader sent me an email recommending this place to me because she liked it so much. I put it on the list (I really do put them all on the list, it just takes awhile to get to them sometimes) and we finally got around to trying it the other day. The pizza on the website looked pretty good, and you know I am always looking for good New York style pizza.

The first thing we noticed (we went for lunch) is that it was completely empty which always makes me nervous, but the owner, who also does the cooking, was very friendly and greeted us warmly. The one pizza they had available (cheese) was not overly appealing looking because it had been there awhile, but he said he would make up whatever we wanted, or we could have an entire pie (with one topping) for $5.00. This is a regular lunch deal there. This is a great deal for a 14 inch pizza with 8 slices. Now, if you want more toppings, they are $1.75 each, so you can quickly get more expensive, but still, $6.75 for this much pizza was a great deal. We got my favorite, mushroom and red onion.

But of course, because I am easily convinced to try lots of things, we also got an order of breadsticks. They make them plain, stuffed with pepperoni, or stuffed with mozzarella. We got the cheese stuffed ones. I was impressed to watch him get the dough out and make the breadsticks (rolling the dough around the cheese) and the pizza, right then and there. He told me he makes the dough and the pizza sauce from scratch. It took a little longer than running in for a slice for lunch, but watching him toss our pizza fresh was worth it.

So I really enjoyed the breadsticks. They were soft with a nice crisp edge and obviously as fresh and hot as was really possible considering they just came out of the oven. I am guessing it is the same dough used for the pizza crust, but I liked this version of it better because it was slightly chewy with a crisp and seasoned outer crust. They served them with parmesan cheese in a shaker as well as a side of bright orange cheese dipping sauce (which was maybe slightly better than most bright orange dipping sauce, but I am guessing this stuff is not being made in house). But I really didn’t need to dip my cheese stuffed breadsticks into another “cheese” sauce, but a little container of marinara might have been nice (or even garlic butter).

The pizza came out looking much better than I expected (I told you I was nervous by the lack of clientele). It was good pizza. The crust was very thin and crispy, and the sauce was savory and in just the right proportion to the rest of the pizza (I have said before, I am not a fan of really saucy pizza). The other ingredients were in just the right proportion as well. You got the cheesy pizza experience without it being mounded too high and making the crust soggy and not allowing you to taste it. It was maybe just a little too crispy for true (as I see it) New York style pizza. But it was good enough that if it were in my neighborhood, it would be in the rotation.

The décor is minimal. Hubby described it as “1984 pizza parlor.” It was plastic booths and a couple of video games and half of the place was painted in what I would call a disturbing shade of greenish. Not an overly appetizing color shall we say. I did enjoy that the soundtrack seemed to go along with the 1984 theme; we heard Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and the Go Go’s while there. (OK. I am being sarcastic about enjoying the music, with the exception of the Go Go’s.) But it was humorous. Several people came in and carried out while we were there, and my guess is they sell more pizza for dinner. And maybe there just isn’t an overwhelming desire of people to partake of the ambiance, but the pizza is certainly being made with care, the owners are quite nice, and overall the quality of the food was very good. If you live on that side of town (West), I would give it a go. (And you know I am always looking for more recommendations for pizza, so keep ‘em coming!).

Perugini Pizzeria
3350 N. High School Road
Indy 46224

Perugini's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Nawlins Creole Café

My sister lives in Avon and recently tried this place and emailed me right away about it knowing that hubby is always looking for good Cajun/Creole food and that I am always looking for good food in general.  She qualified it with the fact that she had never eaten a po boy in New Orleans so she couldn’t verify its authenticity, but she really liked it and had talked to the owners who are from New Orleans and fly in several ingredients direct from there. I have had a couple of readers recommend it too, so I knew it was time to get over there.
It is quite a drive for us, but we met them over there the other day for lunch.  The place was pretty busy for a midweek lunch, so service started out a touch slow, but once we got the order in, things moved a long a little quicker.  The lady who runs it with her son, was a maybe a little gruff in the start, and it is the kind of place where you may just want to wait to speak until spoken to—she has a regimented way of taking orders, and you are probably better off letting her lead you through the process (hubby and I commented that it reminded us a little of the Soup Nazi episode on Seinfeld).  But by the end of the meal, after chatting with hubby about New Orleans, she warmed up to us (and her son is exceptionally friendly).
I ordered the sampler plate which included jambalaya, red beans and rice, and shrimp or crawfish étouffée or gumbo and some toasted French bread.  You also get two sides. I had the crawfish étouffée and I loved it—it was rich, but had amazing depth of flavor. It tasted like it was made from very well-tended roux.  There wasn’t a ton of crawfish in there, but enough to get a piece with most bites.  The jambalaya was also nice—a very spicy rice dish with mainly pieces of sausage and maybe a couple bites with shrimp as well.  The red beans and rice were nice—not all mushed together.  You could separate the beans from the rice if you wanted to and had a very nicely seasoned flavor. Spicy, but not overwhelming at all (not nearly as spicy as the jambalaya).  Hubby really liked them and ended up eating probably half of mine.  One of my sides was potato salad and I loved  it as well.  It is almost like mashed potatoes seasoned with celery and egg and chilled.  It was also a great counterbalance to all the hot and spicy dishes I was eating.  I would certainly always get some of the potato salad as a nice variation in taste and texture to the other things.  The macaroni and cheese was great too (my other side), and clearly homemade. Creamy, but not bright orange (which I like) and seasoned with pepper.  It had maybe a tiny smoky flavor.  Really good.  Again, hubby kept going after it out of my bowl.  I enjoyed everything I had, but I am pretty sure next time I go, unless there is some special that sounds good, I will be ordering a full order of the étouffée (maybe I will try the shrimp next time) with my side of potato salad and mac and cheese.  Wow, I want it right now just talking about it.
Hubby had the shrimp po boy.  He was very happy with it as well.  I am pretty sure they told us that they actually fly the bread in from New Orleans and apparently, it is the right kind of bread (according to hubby).  It is dressed with mayo and shredded lettuce, tomato and pickles.  The shrimp were seasoned and fried and were really tasty.  Hubby added hot sauce (Louisiana of course) and was amazed at how close his sandwich tasted to what he remembered from his college days at Tulane.  The only thing he wished is that there was more shrimp because there was so much bread, it was a little out of proportion to the shrimp.  He decided next time he would ask for a double order of shrimp and see if they would just do that and charge him accordingly.  It was a tasty sandwich.  You can get fries on the side for an upcharge.  He had the Cajun fries which were pretty tasty heavily seasoned fries.
I also had a fried oyster that came on my brother-in-law’s fried seafood platter (oysters, shrimp and catfish).  It was breaded and seasoned and fried and wasn’t bad, but I think I like the fried shrimp better.  The portions are quite generous though, especially with all the sides you get.
The restaurant does not have a liquor license (quite hard to come by in Hendricks county apparently), but they are allowed to pay for one on a day by day basis (which makes no sense to me, but that’s just my opinion) and they usually buy one on Fridays and Saturdays and offer beer and wine as well.  They also regularly offer special things on the weekend and have fairly regular shrimp boils (the next one is this Saturday, October 23rd I believe). 
This place is a great example of a restaurant where a family has great recipes to share and seems to care about what they are doing.  This is also another place I wish was closer to my house.  Hubby declared it to be the best New Orleans style food he has had outside of New Orleans.   I can’t speak to that, but I know what I like, and I liked this place.
Nawlins Creole Café
1118 North State Road 267
Avon, IN  46123

N'awlins Creole Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 18, 2010

Road Trip: Chicago

We recently had a very decadent weekend in Chicago. We were celebrating with friends who came in from various parts of the country, but were friends of ours when we lived in San Francisco.  We have shared many meals together over the years, and it was really fun to get to share a couple more with them.  Nothing like sitting around a table with old friends, food, and wine.
While we had an awesome time, the food wasn’t one of my highlights overall this weekend.  Although there were some awesome courses, there were no top to bottom mind-blowing meals for me.  So, instead of dragging this trip out into several posts that you may or may not be interested in as primarily Indy people, I am just going to hit on the highs and lows of each restaurant.  Of course, if you want to know anything else about any of the places, don’t hesitate to email me or post a comment, I can always ramble on about food!
Graham Elliot
Our original plan when we set this trip up was to go to Avec, and in fact our friends had sent us a gift card to use when we got the opportunity to all get together.  Unfortunately after we planned the trip, Avec had a fire and was still not re-opened by the time we were there at the end of September.  So we had made a back up reservation at Graham Elliot, which also looked fun, and that is where we ended up.
This place sort of prides itself on giving you fancy, inventive cuisine in a more casual atmosphere.  There are no white tablecloths or dress codes and the place is noisy and sports a fairly young clientele.  The menu is a little on the pricey side, particularly if you decide to go with more than 2 courses, which we did. 

The dish that was a highlight for me at Graham Elliot was cuttlefish which was cut into strands that were made to look like linguine.  The fish gave the “pasta” a great flavor and it was in a light sauce seasoned with chorizo, saffron, very small raisins, pine nuts and cannellini beans.  The texture of the “pasta” was great and the other ingredients added nice variations.  This dish pulled off being playful and tasty at the same time.

My starter was the Graham Elliot take on a Caesar salad, which apparently is a menu regular.  This was the dish that was the biggest disappointment of the evening for me.  It is served with what was basically a long rectangular crouton.  There was Romaine lettuce sort of neatly stacked on top, and in other rectangular portions on the plate.  Across each portion of lettuce, there was a mild white anchovy.  The entire dish was served on top of the dressing.  This was one that was lovely to look at, but flavor-wise was a letdown.  Really, the dressing had little flavor and there was not enough of it to go around. 

graham elliot on Urbanspoon

This is my second trip to L20, and we were excited to actually go back somewhere in Chicago we had been before in order to use the knowledge we had learned about what we thought were the highlights.  The menu is broken down into a couple of very decadent tasting menus or a fixed price menu where you get 4 courses for $110.  Even though L20 is sort of known for seafood, on our last trip one of our favorite courses was hubby’s pork belly, so we decided not to be influenced and to get whatever struck our fancy.

Interestingly, one of the prettiest dishes I have ever had was also my least favorite of the evening taste- wise.  It was lamb tartare with Shiro ebi (shrimp) which is a very small shrimp which was also served raw on top of the lamb.  The color was beautiful.  The bright red meat and the almost pearlescent shrimp were almost jewel-like.  They were covered with pieces of pickled mango, greens, edible flowers, and edible gold leaf.  It was over the top in presentation and was like a piece of art (sorry the picture is dark).  Unfortunately, for me, there was a lack of any real flavor to it.  The meat was wonderfully fresh, but seemed almost unseasoned. 

My favorite course was my main dish.  It was halibut which was wonderfully tender and served in a thick, creamy, white corn chowder with a layer of chorizo gelée across the top and a couple of asparagus spears and what they described as “toast,” but was like a thin cracker that gave some texture to the very smooth consistency of everything else.  The reddish chorizo gelée was like a concentrated layer of the sausage flavor and was a very interesting take on mixing the flavors.  I really enjoyed it.
I also have to tell you (at his insistence) about hubby’s favorite course.  He had the salted cod dish as his second course.  It was also a very interesting and delicious take on a traditional salt cod brandade.  It was served in a glass and had a bottom layer of what was the closest to a traditional salt cod, with a layer of fingerling potato mousse that was topped with ribbons of gelée made of potato and topped with caviar.  It almost looked like a sundae, but with cod.  It was really really good as well (I snuck a few bites).
All in all though, while we thoroughly enjoyed our meal and our time with our friends, we weren’t as impressed with the food or the service as we were the first time.  The service was a highlight last time and this time had several problems (don’t take my napkin when I go to the bathroom if you aren’t going to replace it immediately).  If we do another revisit to a Chicago place, it will likely be somewhere else next time.  And it is really hard to go to a place more than once when there are so many other wonderful choices.

L2O (Beldon-Stratford) on Urbanspoon
Lunch at Emilio’s
One day we also had a quick bite for lunch at Emilio’s Tapas.  We wanted something light knowing we were going in for a big dinner later.  We just shared three small plates.  We had a plate with Serrano ham, Manchego cheese, olives and olive oil.  It was served with toasted bread.  It was very good, and I liked the way they cut the Manchego into thin enough slices that you could stack them on top and not overwhelm the flavor of the ham.
We also had a tortilla which is described as a Spanish omelet, but is more like a wedge of frittata served cold. It is layers of potato flavored with onion and held together with egg.  It was served with a nice little salad on the side with olives and marinated red onion.  The tortilla didn’t have a ton of flavor, but wasn’t bad when you ate it with a bite of the salad.
Finally we had the classic Spanish dish of sautéed shrimp in olive oil with nice crispy fried bits of garlic.  The shrimp were nice and tender and the garlic was pleasantly toasty, but not burnt tasting.  This was a pleasant way to eat a light lunch yet still get to try several different flavors.  The menu at Emilio’s is huge so there are many different things to try for sure and I would repeat this place when you want a quick lunch with lots of different flavors, but not an overwhelming amount of food.

All in all, while we had a completely wonderful trip to Chicago, and got to see friends we haven’t seen in years; like I said, food-wise none of my meals totally blew me away.  You know what I realized though, because I so often get frustrated with the food in Indy, was that we are actually quite lucky to have some gems around us that are a lot cheaper.  The week we got back, we went to Recess with friends for dinner and had a 4 course meal that was from top to bottom, loads better than any of the meals we had in Chicago during this trip, and for about $50 (before wine).  It was a good reminder to me to appreciate what you have. 
But hey, I don’t think I have every asked you guys for your recommendations for places in Chicago.  What restaurants have you eaten in there that were truly memorable?  Any “best things I ever ate” moments? Let me know!
Graham Elliot
217 West Huron Street
Chicago, IL 60654

2300 North Lincoln Park West
Chicago, IL 60614

Emilio’s Tapas
215 East Ohio Street
Chicago, IL 60611

Check out the bathroom at L20

Thursday, October 14, 2010

India Garden

So, Indian food is one that I don’t have a tremendous amount of experience with, because, well, frankly, it has never been my favorite cuisine I guess.  But I am always trying to broaden my culinary mind, so I have made it a goal to work on trying lots of Indian places and lots of different dishes.  And as always, I welcome your feedback.  You guys have turned me on to lots of really good places in my time writing this blog, and I know you won’t let me down!
Anyway, after asking for some suggestions, we decided to try Indian Garden in Broad Ripple.  We went for lunch—they offer a lunch buffet.  Ok, I have to say, I am generally not a huge fan of buffets just because I think a lot of the time you have no idea how the fresh the food really is. I also don’t think it is a true test of what a kitchen is capable of when it isn’t freshly made.  Hubby tends to agree with this theory as well, so we decided to order off the menu and share some freshly cooked items.  I did go up and check what was on the buffet just to see how it looked.  And apparently they do a pretty good buffet business (a lot of people by themselves having lunch which made for quite a quiet dining room).  The downside for us is there is no other lunch menu, so we had to pay full price for items from the dinner menu.
We started with an order of Onion Bhaji which are little deep fried fritters made up of very thinly sliced onions (I think there were white onions as well as scallions in there), that are dipped in a batter made of chick pea flour and fried.  They were highly seasoned, I would guess with turmeric based on the color of the insides.  They were served with a mint sauce as well as a sweeter tamarind sauce.   I enjoyed these quite a bit.  They were super fresh and hot, and nicely crunchy.  The batter made with chickpeas gave them a nutty flavor that was unique to most fried appetizer type items.
We also shared Chicken Makhni which was small boneless pieces of Tandoori chicken cooked with many spices (according to my research, usually fenugreek, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, and pepper), and in a very rich buttery, thick tomato-ey sauce.  I am guessing there is some cream in there too.   This dish really grew on me, it had such a rich buttery flavor that was just enriched by the tomato paste and was not turned into a tomato sauce per se.  Also, it does not have the coconut flavor of several other Indian dishes I have tried, which I appreciated, as I generally don’t care for the sweetness coconut milk adds.  The chicken was amazingly tender in the sauce.  I was impressed that something that had obviously been cooked for such a long time was so tender and not dried out at all.  It was served with long grain Basmati rice mixed with a few green peas.
On the side we ordered Naan, which is a traditional Indian bread that is flat and large but with two layers (think pita-ish but much more the size of a small pizza crust) and cooked in the Tandoori oven.  So the top and bottom are slightly blackened in spots.  In our case, we decided to get a variation called “Keema Naan” which was stuffed with minced lamb and onions.  While I enjoyed the Naan, I think I would have preferred it without the meat, which I don’t think really added much to it.  I think the bread on its own, or one of the variations on the menu with garlic on top or cheese inside might be more interesting and next time would be likely to try one of those instead.
I enjoyed this lunch and felt like we did a good job picking things that we enjoyed but honestly, like I said, this is not an area I feel like I know exactly what I want.  And the menu at India Garden is huge.  I noticed a lot of seafood dishes that sounded quite interesting as well.  So, I am asking you, what are your favorite Indian dishes and why? And where do you like to eat them in Indy?
India Garden
830 Broad Ripple Avenue
Indy 46220

India Garden on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 11, 2010

Napolese- Revisit

I told you last week that hubby had not been to Napolese and was anxious to form his own opinion of it.  I had told him about several of the pizza combos that sounded good to me and he was intrigued as well.  After some negotiations, we agreed to split an appetizer and a pizza (with some wine of course).
We got there on the early side to assure it would not be a hassle to get in.  It was a weekday, and around 6:00 there was no wait at all.  In fact there were only a few tables when we got there.  Although, we both commented on the noise level again, because even with a few tables, it was quite noisy.  By the time we left, and the restaurant was nearly full, the noise level was pretty high.  Interestingly, hubby was not a huge fan of the interior of the space, he said he felt it was “over decorated.”  I think maybe it was a little feminine for his taste.  Other than the noise level, the interior doesn’t really bother me. 
I don’t think I mentioned it in my first review, but at Napolese they bring out a lovely bowl of olives to snack on while you wait for everything else.  If you read my blog, you know I love olives, and these were especially good because they are room temperature, so you get the full flavors of them.  There are several varieties of both black and green, and they are all pitted which was also nice for ease of eating.
For our starter, we ordered the wild mushroom ragout with baked pancetta and added the egg (for another dollar).  This dish came out in its own baking dish.  It was extremely hot—but it looked as if the egg was put on after the dish was heated, as it was a little on the raw side.  It would have been nice if the dish was popped back in the oven for a minute to cook the egg a bit.  We solved the problem by just mixing it all together, as the dish was so hot, the rest of the ingredients did a decent job of cooking the egg.  Once it was all mixed together, the dish was delicious.  There was a lot of the pancetta mushroom mixture and it was extremely earthy and rich.  With the egg flavor mixed it, hubby said it reminded him of a breakfast casserole his Mom used to make.   My only gripe about this dish (again) was the bread.  It was a bit thicker sliced than last time, but it is kind of flimsy for such a hearty dip.  Basically, it appears to be pizza dough cut into strips and seasoned with herbs and cheese.   But this dip is totally worth ordering, and a very generous portion.  We had more than enough, although we managed to finish every last bite of it.
We got the BLT pizza, which, according to the menu is bacon, caramelized leeks and Taleggio cheese.  The pizza overall was quite good and we enjoyed it.  If I am being picky (and I always am), I would say there was no “caramelization” on the leeks.  There were lots of leeks, but they were in no way cooked before they went on the pizza.  They were still a little crisp (which is fine, but is not caramelized).  I like the flavor of fresh leeks, but I love melty ones even more.  The Taleggio was really great on a pizza—it is a cheese with a bit of funk (which is generally how I prefer my cheese) and I really like what it adds to a pizza.  The bacon was perfectly cooked and dispersed over the pizza.  The crust has got that mix of chewy and crispy, but not the blackening that you get from a wood fired oven (I believe Napolese’s oven is gas fired).  So depending on how you like your crust, this could be a good thing or not.  I personally like the crispy blackened edges, as long as it isn’t totally burnt.  The pizzas are big enough to share, in my opinion, although, basically they are the size of a large dinner plate.
Interestingly, we did pay attention to the bill because I have heard people complain that Napolese is more expensive than Pizzology, the other local Neapolitan pizza place.  We found our bills to be nearly identical.  The bill at Napolese was about $6-8 less, but we did not have a salad (which was $8 at Pizzology).  (And for those of you who have been asking, it was about $55 at Napolese for a pizza, an appetizer, and a bottle of wine).
All in all, hubby agreed with me that Napolese has some interesting sounding combos for their pizzas, and we both enjoyed the food and wine we had.  The downside, as I have said in the past, and hubby agreed, was the noise.
114 East 49th Street
Indy  46205

Napolese on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Road trip: Triple XXX - Lafayette

Headed north the other day, we got an opportunity to stop off in West Lafayette and try Triple XXX.  Considering my Mom grew up in Lafayette, I was thinking how weird it was I had never been there.  I spent quite a bit of time in Lafayette as a child at my Grandparents.  Anyway, we were on our way to Chicago, and as we hit Lafayette were starting to get hungry, so we quickly figured out the address and plugged it into the GPS.
It really isn’t too far off the freeway, and once you get close to it, it is easy to spot the bright orange stripes on the building.  We walked in at 11:30 on a Friday and found the place nearly full.  Its curvy counter-only seating flows all the way around the interior of the restaurant.  We found a couple of stools near the front, noticing that several of the college students eating were still partaking in the breakfast that is served all day.  It looked pretty good.  But I was there for a burger.  This place is known for their burgers, and in fact was just featured in a USA Today article about the best burgers in the country, and a few years back was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

They call their burgers “chop steaks” because they grind 100% sirloin for them and add nothing else.  Sounded good to me.  And it was.  I went with the “Barney Burger” which is a ¼ pound burger served with melted American cheese and grilled onions and a side of onion rings (described on the menu as “the real thing!)  This burger was outstanding. One of the best I have had.  Now, it isn’t the really thin crispy type that I tend to prefer, but a slightly thicker version.  But the meat is so tender, it is unbelievable.  And the cheese was properly melted across the meat with wonderfully cooked onions on top.  They were cooked enough to take some of the rawness away, but not so much that there wasn’t still a bit of crunch.   The onion rings were your basic onion rings, and yes, there was a real onion in there (as opposed to what, I am not sure), but I have my doubts as to whether they are making them in house.  They did taste good though and had a nice flavor in the crust.  I did make the mistake of not ordering the root beer (I totally spaced it) but that is where the name comes from (Triple XXX is the brand of root beer they serve).  Next time for sure.
Hubby decided to try the pork tenderloin, and while he said it wasn’t bad, desperately wished he had ordered a burger after he had tried mine.  Luckily for him, I am generous and shared a few bites with him so he knew what he was missing.  Guaranteed, next time we go (and we will), we will both be ordering a burger.  He also had the fries, which were fine, but again, not the reason you are coming to Triple XXX.
This is an example of a place that is really living up to all the hype in my opinion, at least as far as the burgers go.  I can’t wait to come up with an excuse to drive back up there and have another one. 
Triple XXX
State Road 26 West & Salisbury
West Lafayette, IN

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Monday, October 4, 2010

Pizzology - Revisit

Sometimes you just have to go back to places you like so you don’t go totally insane you know? So it was a Saturday night, and we had just finished my son’s birthday party with like twelve 4 and 5 year olds running wild. We needed wine. Fast. Luckily, I had planned ahead and realized by the end of this day, we would certainly need some adult time, so I had wisely planned for a babysitter. We were so brain dead we couldn’t decide where to go but we knew we wanted something causal and good. We decided Pizzology sounded like a plan.

I really enjoy the wine list at Pizzology. I know I don’t usually talk about the wine, but Pizzology has a great menu of Italian wines that you don’t often see in restaurants (thanks mainly, I think, to Neal Brown's wife Lindy who is a Certified Sommelier). We knew we would be happy in this regard and we weren’t disappointed. We quickly ordered a bottle and began the debate over what to eat.

We started with “Tony’s Fritters.” These were something that, up to now, we hadn’t tried, but always meant to. They are zucchini fritters with fresh parmesan grated over the top and served swimming in a little bath of truffle oil. These were superb. We really liked them. The zucchini flavor was delicate and nicely highlighted by the truffle oil. There wasn’t so much of the oil that you were annoyed by it overtaking the other flavors and the fritters had just the right amount of crispness on the edges, but were still moist and light in the middle. These little fritters would be hard to pass up in the future.
We also shared a large chop salad (we were informed you get much more “bang for your buck” sharing one large ($8) rather than getting two smalls (at $4 each)). So I really enjoy the acidity in this salad mixed with the ingredients that come together to make what is essentially an ideal chop in my mind (because I really like the ingredients). There is chopped romaine, prosciutto, blue cheese, shallot, olives, and roasted tomatoes with a citrus vinaigrette with a nice kick. I will say though, this salad is not always super consistent. While 75% of the time, this salad is dead on, I have had one that was so acidic I couldn’t finish it and I have also noticed a change in the proportion of other ingredients to lettuce. It used to be that there was almost too much of the other ingredients as compared to the lettuce. Now, there is a lot less of everything else (other than maybe the blue cheese) and much more of the well dressed leaves. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing; I am just still trying to figure out exactly where the salad is going to end up.

Anyhow, it was also a tribute night to Jimi Hendrix at Pizzology. Certainly something I can get behind, so we went with the special pizza created in his honor. It included Purple Haze goat cheese with lavender and fennel pollen, purple basil, and two kinds of mushrooms... roasted trumpet and portobello I believe. It sounded interesting so we went for it since it was only offered that night. It was good. Maybe not my favorite pizza toppings ever, but quite tasty. I liked the way you got a kick of the goat cheese along with the mellow richness of the mushrooms. The purple basil added a super fresh herby crunch. But really, the real star of this show is the crust. The freshly baked, slightly irregular and a little charred crust is what makes this pizza for me. It is chewy and crunchy at the same time. The pizza is consistently good at Pizzology.

So the place was quite busy, although we got a table as soon as we walked in (one of the last though). The service was a little stressed, but ours did not suffer too much. But like I said, sitting with our bottle of wine, we were perfectly content after the day we had. As we sat there though, we discussed the fact that hubby had not yet been to Napolese (the other Neapolitan style pizza place in Indy) and that I really needed to do a revisit there as well. So guess what? That is exactly what we decided to do. Look for my revisit to Napolese next week. But in the meantime, what are your favorite Pizzology menu items or pizza toppings? I was so glad I expanded my horizons on this visit, I want to try something else new next time.

13190 Hazel Dell Parkway
Carmel, IN 46032

Pizzology on Urbanspoon