Thursday, March 28, 2013

Peterson's- Revisit

I’m glad we have Peterson’s—we have so many chain steakhouses in Indy, it is nice to have one that is locally owned.  Unfortunately my steak connoisseur son will not get to try it for several years because you have to be 21 and over to eat there.  He was a little annoyed about this, as it is his personal goal to eat at all the steakhouses in town.

Anyway, we were celebrating my sister and her hubby’s birthdays and my brother-in-law loves steak, so it seemed like a good time to give it another try (my parents were with us as well).  I like the interior of the place (and hey, I am not complaining that there aren’t more kids in there). I was sort of surprised how loud it was, but it was quite busy, which is a nice thing to see.

we had already eaten 2 of them....

My sister and hubby got there before we did and placed an order for the tempura lobster fingers ($16). I have had these several times before and they are always good. How can you go wrong with freshly tempura-fried lobster? They were fresh, and tender and dipped in the accompanying honey mustard (they also give you drawn butter), they are delicious.

Hubby and I then ordered our own appetizers, the tuna tartare for me ($15) and oysters Rockefeller for hubby ($20).  My tuna was disappointing. It was just calling out for some sort of acid.  The tuna was good quality, but seemed fairly unseasoned (even though the menu describes it as “sweet chili tuna”).  There was a sweet soy type sauce underneath and some sliced daikon on top.  After eating the first chip worth, and a furtive glance around the table, I grabbed hubby’s lemon and squeezed some on my tuna. Much better.

Hubby’s oysters were great though. For classic oysters Rockefeller (spinach, cream, Romano cheese and Pernod), these are some of the best in town I think.  They oysters are a decent size, but not huge so they are still tender and easy to eat.  Very rich and creamy and well done.  I also had a bite (o.k., several) of my sister’s clam chowder ($8), which was the soup of the day. I have to say, this was really good as well. Super chunky with lots of pieces of clam and very well seasoned. Not a bit of salt or pepper necessary. It had a nice peppery bite to it.

Normally hubby and I would split a steak at this kind of place because they are usually so big, but we couldn’t agree on which to order, so he got a ribeye ($43) and I had a filet ($35).  Both steaks were really very good.  Peterson’s definitely knows steaks—they are prime and they are cooked well. Mine was so tender that I was really glad I had gotten it, even though hubby’s was very good as well (just a little firmer).  Ok, his was maybe cooked slightly beyond the medium rare he ordered, but the meat is so good, it was still very good. Honestly, I think there is a chance that they mixed up a couple of the steaks at the table because my brother-in-law ordered his slightly more cooked.

I liked the au gratin potatoes ($9) on this trip—in the past I have complained that Peterson’s sides weren’t that good, but I enjoyed these.  They weren’t’ exactly what I think of when I think of au gratin, because they were cubed and baked with cream instead of sliced, which was what I was expecting.  It also didn’t hurt that they were topped with crumbled Smoking Goose bacon. They were my favorite side.

We also ordered Brussels sprouts ($7) based on the awesome ones I had lately, and also based on more of the Smoking Goose bacon being included, but unfortunately these were too undercooked for me, and honestly, I couldn’t really taste the bacon.  They were halved, and just not cooked through.   Finally, we had some of the King crab mac and cheese ($11) which I also really enjoyed, although from what I could tell, there wasn’t a ton of crab in there.  The mac and cheese tasted good and had a nice crumb topping though—it was a white cheddar and fontina cheese sauce and was rich and tasted great with the steak.

Ok, so that was the meal.  I would say my overall impressions is that they do old school items very well—and their steaks on the whole are top notch.  My biggest problem of the evening? The service.  They were really busy and it seemed like our server was sort of in the weeds all night—we sat there holding our menus for way too long (we still had them when our apps came because we hadn’t yet ordered our main dishes) (and they have those really large menus that are awkward). It also took forever to get our wine. And while he seemed like he was knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the food, he seemed to disappear for long periods of time (at least from our table).  It sort of all made sense when we got the bill and there was an automatic 20% gratuity added to our check (which he did not point out to us, luckily hubby caught it).  I thought this was kind of weak considering there were only 6 of us and I have never seen an auto gratuity of 20% (that seemed excessive particularly due to the bad service). I feel like our service suffered so much because he knew he was getting a good tip no matter what he did. I realize I sound annoyed, and I was. Very. We are normally generous tippers, but when service is this bad, I do not generally leave 20%. I know I talked to some of you about this on twitter already, but what do you all think? Do you think service suffers when an automatic gratuity is being added? Servers, do you worry about those tables just a little less?  Is it legitimate to cross out an automatic tip and write in a new lower one? I know you can add to it, but can you subtract from it? I would love to hear what some of the restaurant people out there think too.

Ok, enough of my rant, but unfortunately the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth, even though the food was on the whole pretty good.

7690 E 96th Street
Fishers  46037

Peterson's on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 25, 2013

Spice Box

I have to say, I have been pretty bad about getting around to all of the food trucks. I guess I am kind of weird about liking to sit down and eat, and since I don’t work in any of the offices where the trucks often park, it makes it more challenging for me.  Also, in winter, you can’t even sit down outside. I am assuming the trucks’ business suffers a fair amount in cold weather, but maybe I’m wrong—whatcha think?

Anyway, I was in Carmel at an appointment and noticed on twitter that Spice Box was at an office building close to me. So I decided to pick it up and take it home to eat. I figure Indian food could probably travel fairly decently (and that’s what passenger side seat heaters are for right?). So I hunted them down and got the “spice box” with two of the main dishes—the spicy shrimp and the butter chicken ($9 for 2 items, $7 if you just want 1). It also comes with rice and a piece of garlic naan.

The first thing I noticed about this truck was how exceptionally nice the two guys were who were working there. They asked me if I had been before, and took a lot of time telling me about the different options.  I wanted to try a couple of different things so I got the shrimp and the chicken, although they really had me sold on the chicken.  One of them then asked if I liked spicy things and told me about the sauce they had on the side and fixed me a little cup of it to go with my lunch.  He was telling me all about the ingredients (Thai green chili, cilantro, a tiny bit of mint, a bit of yogurt, as well as many other items).  It is pretty obvious that they are enthusiastic about their food. They also specifically asked for any feedback, good or bad—they obviously are looking to make their truck as successful as possible.

And the food, well, that butter chicken was delicious. It consists of chunks of boneless chicken in a rich hearty sauce—the sauce had a fair amount of spice, and it lingered in your mouth, but not in a hot burn your mouth kind of way. Lots of Indian spices, lots of butter and tomato paste. It was really addicting. The chicken stayed tender and the sauce was great soaked into the rice.

I didn’t like the shrimp as much, not because it was bad, but just because I really liked the chicken more. The shrimp was well cooked (I would worry it would get overcooked in a dish like this) and the sauce had a bit more heat, but it was more of a curry type taste, with a distinct undertone of coconut, which isn’t my favorite thing. So it is more of a personal preference. But I will go back and get the chicken in a heartbeat (and apparently it is one of their most popular items so I guess I am not the only one).

I really enjoyed the green sauce too—it had a lot of cilantro in it and I liked the freshness it added to everything (I pretty much added it to all of it).  It also added a bit more heat, but wasn’t overwhelmingly hot. Be sure and ask for some of this if they don’t offer it (my guess is they will though, as friendly as the were).

The Naan (which is an Indian flat bread) was tasty—it had a lot of garlic flavor, which is always good. My only complaint was because they put it in the box with the entrées, it gets a little soft from the steam of the food. I would have liked it a little firmer (maybe if they wrapped it in foil separately or something). I probably would order an extra piece next time too. It had a really great flavor.

I would say this is a truck that is worth checking out if you happen to have them in your area.  I am looking forward to getting the butter chicken again. And don’t forget to tell me about your other favorite food trucks. You guys were the ones who turned me onto this truck, and I appreciate it.

Spice Box (food truck)
Various locations
Twitter: @spiceboxindy
Spice Box on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Punch Burger - Revisit

The males in my household have a thing for burgers lately, and frankly, I was getting kind of tired of going to the same places that we always go, even though I like them.  We decided to take a little road trip downtown and revisit Punch Burger with the kids.

Ok, so maybe the secret real reason I wanted to go again so soon is because I know Punch recently changed their bacon to Smoking Goose bacon and I wanted to go in there and show some support (and eat some of that bacon).  I have also been hearing about this “burnt cheese” option which intrigued me, so that is also what I ordered—the burnt cheese burger with a runny fried egg and bacon (of course) ($9.24).  I sort of screwed it up because I really just wanted those things on the burger, and they gave me the regular burnt cheeseburger that also has a bunch of other stuff on there too (lettuce, ketchup, onions, etc.). No biggie, I just picked them off, but I need to be more careful about how I order my burger.
Ok, it looks messy, but tasty!

So first off, the bacon was great. Soooo much better than the old bacon option there. I will say, it is slightly pricier, but this is certainly a case of you get what you pay for. And it is totally worth it.  The burnt cheese was very interesting. I sort of expected the cheese to be melted regularly on the burger with just edges that were burnt.   These were actually crisps of cheese that were cooked until crispy and then placed on top.  They were tasty, and had an interesting crunch to them, but I can’t say this would be a regular order for me because I missed the cheesiness of the cheese on the burger. But a very interesting concept.  The burger itself was good. The quality of the meat is high—I just wish they wouldn’t cook it so much. I was so busy ordering all the extra things I wanted (and screwing it up), I didn’t even think to ask to have it cooked to a particular temperature. Next time I would see if they would do it. They did ask if I wanted the egg runny or not, and they cooked it perfectly.

Hubby ordered a “build your own” (what I was trying to do) with cheese, grilled onions and bacon ($7.54).  It was really, really good. He got even more bacon than I did and had the right amount of cheesiness that I missed. He did love my little fried bits of cheese and added a few on top of his (hmmm…wonder if you can just order a side of fried cheese).  We shared waffle fries.  They’re waffle fries, so you know they are not making them fresh, but they were done exactly how they should have been. Hot and crispy—and they season them with a seasoning mix that is pretty tasty.

The kids each got a kid’s meal, which comes with a smaller slider and a side of waffle fries.  They thought they were fine, but because they were pretty small, they were even a bit drier.  (My daughter also informed me that the buns were just a bit too big for the size of the meat). I think next time they would just split one regular burger and be happier.  The kids also enjoyed the fancy soda machine where you can mix up different flavors into your soda (even though they don’t drink soda).  They made different flavors of lemonade and were happy.

I would say overall, Punch has taken a pretty solid burger and made it even better with the addition of kick ass bacon. It’s nice to have a local place downtown serving this kind of more casual food.

Punch Burger
137 E. Ohio Street
Indy 46204

Monday, March 18, 2013

Movable Feast - Revisit

You know those moments when you eat something and instantly know it is going to become something you crave regularly? Well, I had one of those the other day when I stopped into Movable Feast for a late lunch (that I took home to eat).

I wasn’t sure what I was in the mood for but remembered having a little sample of the chicken salad in the past and enjoying it.  So I decided to get a half sandwich and some soup ($6).  Ok, normally I don’t order chicken salad. Seriously, like pretty much never.  But for some reason it sounded good and it was. What I like about this chicken salad is the sauce. It is made with yogurt and is very tangy and not gloppy if you know what I mean.  It isn’t over thick and gooey like mayo-based sauces can be.  There is also a ton of dill in it, and a bit of crunch from green onions and celery. The chunks of chicken were white meat, and were nice and tender. I just had it on simple wheat bread, which was nice and soft.  Seriously, this is how I feel about egg salad at Patachou. Simple, and comforting. A great thing when you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to make something yourself (because these are exactly the kind of things I would make myself).

I also enjoyed the soup.  It was lemon chicken and rice soup and I also have a weekness for soups with lots of rice.  It had a nice distinctive lemon flavor (there was actually a slice of lemon in my bowl). It needed a little salt though, but you got it when you crumbled in the saltines they sent along with.

I have a thing for tangy things, and when you want some simple, but well executed, clean food (and not ridiculous portions) for a very reasonable price, this is a great spot.  Super friendly couple that works there too.

My biggest problem with the place is deciding what I will order when I go in (although chicken salad is likely to become a regular). I know some of you frequent the place (I have seen it on twitter), so please tell me your favorite things here.

Movable Feast
5741 East 71st Street
Indy 46220

Thursday, March 14, 2013


After my post on Cobblestone, several people emailed me to give me suggestions about where to eat in Zionsville.  I was meeting my friend @indyfoodswap and she had had a good meal in the past at one of them, The Sanctuary restaurant, so we agreed to meet there. Unfortunately it was closed for remodeling (they might want to put a little more noticeable warning on their website, just a thought), so we decided to try Serenity instead (which had also been recommended).

It is a cute little house with several tables that were pretty full when we got there.  The service was a little strange—the meal took quite a long time from start to finish, even though we didn’t mind too much since we were chatting.

For my lunch, I had the Serenity club panini ($9.95).  It was a toasted sandwich with turkey, bacon, red onion, provolone cheese, tomatoes and spinach with a basil sauce.  I had it with a side salad.  For me, the sandwich hit the spot. It was cold outside, and the sandwich was hot and melty.  It wasn’t overstuffed (the tomatoes were a little meh though) and the veggies were fresh, as were the components of the salad. I could have used a little more bacon, but all in all I liked the sandwich.  The salad was quite large and underdressed, but much better when I asked for some dressing on the side (it was a Thousand Island type dressing).

Unfortunately, Suzanne’s meal wasn’t as good. She ordered the black and blue salad  ($11.95) that was described as having “roasted beef tenderloin” on it.  She was a little disappointed with the very small amount of beef and the fact that it almost looked more like deli roast beef than the pieces of filet that she was expecting.  I didn’t taste it, so I can’t speak for the flavor—I can just tell you my visual observations.  They did end up giving her a discount after she mentioned her concerns about how the salad is described, which she didn’t ask for and which I thought was a professional way to handle the situation.

All the entrées come with a scone, and I remember really enjoying the one I had had at the other restaurant they used to own in Carmel.  The chocolate chip/cinnamon one that came with my meal was a little soft though and I didn’t eat much of it.

All in all, I would say at least based on what I had, Serenity isn’t a bad lunch option in Zionsville.  It is a very feminine place (think high tea)—I think the place was pretty much full when we left, but there was only one guy in there.

135 S. Main Street
Zionsville, IN
Serenity on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 11, 2013

Oakley's - Revisit

Indy has a lot of really good restaurants these days and Oakley’s is certainly one of them.  I like that it is consistently good (even if every dish doesn’t always completely wow me) and the service is professional and the menu gets mixed up a fair amount.  It’s been around a long time but manages to stay fresh and maintain a high level of quality.

I was with friends and we ended up sharing a bunch of the small plates—totally one of my favorite ways to eat. I love eating with people who are willing to share. The first round, we ordered the deviled eggs ($5)(I’m a sucker), the oyster rolls ($11.25 for 3) and the Creole gnocchi ($12.75).  I loved the Creole gnocchi. There were several pieces of the gnocchi (but not a ton) as well as crawfish etouffee.  The little crawfish tails were really tasty and similar in size to the gnocchi.  The whole dish was in a spicy seasoned sauce—but not “hot and spicy,” just true New Orleans style spicy. It was really well done.

The oyster sliders were interesting.  They were not what I expected. The oysters were pounded flat and then fried and stuck inside the bun with some apple slices as well as a sauce (we had so many things even I am having a hard time remembering all the ingredients).  The buns were nice and toasty and I enjoyed them.  One was just right though, there was a fair amount of bread to them and any more would have been a little too filling for me I think with everything else we had.

The deviled eggs were also good. I do love the whole deviled egg trend, as they are one of my life long weaknesses.  These had a little piece of house made copa (which is similar to prosciutto—a cured pork with maybe a bit more fat).  The copa was crisp and stuck in the egg. There was also a little ramp kim chee on top.  They were very good.  Like I said, I love a deviled egg and these were no exception.  The thing that made these different were the things on top, not so much the seasoning in the eggs themselves which was pretty standard deviled egg (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

The next course we ordered several things including the toad in a hole salad ($10.75), which is one of my perennial favorites at Oakley’s, and anywhere, really.  It is a crisp piece of brioche with a hole cut out and an egg put in and cooked runny. It was topped with lots of greens, as well as some pieces of asparagus, prosciutto, artichokes, pickled grapes, cheese and with a truffle vinaigrette and some dots of a red pepper sauce.  It was really good. I loved the slight sourness from the artichokes and the pickled grapes. Really nice with the rich bread and egg.  They do a nice job dressing things and making sure salads don’t come across as dry or unbalanced (and they are so pretty too).  Veggie-wise, we also had a side of the roasted Brussels sprouts, which are some of the best I have had—they were quartered and roasted with some bits of pancetta (if I am remembering correctly) they were exactly the right amount of roasted so that they were cooked all the way, and not burnt, and amazingly crisp on the outside which a nice bit of salt. I could eat another bowl right now.  We also ordered the harvest salad which had beets and fennel I believe, but I only had one small bite, so I’m not really really qualified to write about it.

We also shared the scallop appetizer-- it was also really beautiful and really tasty.  The scallops were perfectly cooked and I did not get any little bits of sand in any of the parts I ate (I have bad luck with this). It was a hearty sauce and there was more of the copa served with it.  It was described as having melted leeks, but I only noticed a few maybe on the bottom of the plate.

At this point we were ready to share a couple of desserts and call it a night.  Again, we went with a classic that I have always enjoyed, the brownie with caramel corn.  The brownie is baked to order, but it is better than the typical molten chocolate cake because it is a heartier brownie. They serve it with a little crème anglaise on the side and delicious caramel corn. A great classic combo of flavors.  We also had the lemon crepes which were a special on this particular night.  They were also tasty—the crepes had a lemony filling and little cubes of lemon curd alongside. It was nice to have the two different sweet/sour flavors side by side.

I’m not sure why I often forget about Oakley’s when I am thinking about a nice dinner.  Because the food is worth remembering.

Oakley’s Bistro
1464 west 86th Street
Indy 46260

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tavola di Tosa at the Nestle Inn

Tony Hanslits is the Executive Chef at the Chef’s Academy here in town and with his wife, owns Nicole Taylor’s pasta company. He used to be the chef at a restaurant back when I lived in California called Tavola di Tosa that a lot of people in this town really liked (you have no idea how many people have told me about it) and worked at many others before that.

Apparently, he has been working in private catering as well as doing some dinners out of Nicole Taylor’s for awhile now, but from what I gather, it is very difficult to get booked with him in either place.  Luckily, a friend of mine told me about Tavola di Tosa dinners he is now doing monthly at the Nestle Inn downtown and we booked a table in February. Technically, it was supposed to be a Valentine’s dinner, so it was a little more expensive than the other dinners hosted there (this was $125 if I remember correctly, tax and tip included, but most are $85 for a multi-course, BYOB dinner).

Our first course was a gnocchi dish—not your typical potato gnocchi but gnocchi made from cheese and herbs and dusted in flour and served with a drawn butter sauce with fresh Parmesan.  They were very light and I appreciated that they didn’t overdo it on the portion size since we still had several more courses coming.   I loved the way Chef Hanslits came out and told us about each course as well. It was fun to see and hear so much enthusiasm.
I loved the next course (of course I did). It was beef Carpaccio with an arugula salad. There was red onion, Parmesan and capers giving it the salt and the crunch and the greens were nicely dressed with the right amount of acid.  The beef was so tender and delicious. My only complaint is that I wished I had more of the beef. It felt like a little bit of a tease.  But of course, there was more to come.

Next was a pasta course called Nona’s kerchief, which was similar in flavor to lasagna, although it was more petite in size.  It was a large piece of pasta that was sort of wrapped up like an envelope around cheese and then topped with marinara sauce and served on top of a creamy béchamel sauce.  It was probably the least unusual of the courses, but still tasty.

The last course before dessert was probably the favorite at the table—it was seared sea scallops with really tasty caramelized Brussels sprouts, pieces of pancetta and walnuts, all with spicy chili oil.  The scallops were cooked just right and came out smoking hot. The Brussels sprouts practically melted in your mouth.

Dessert was a flourless chocolate cake with a blood orange (and Sprite!) sauce.  I don’t really get too excited by flourless chocolate cake anymore, but it was meant to be a Valentine’s meal, so chocolate is sort of required I think.  They also sent us home with a couple of truffles as well.

After the meal Chef Hanslits came out and just sat and chatted with everyone—answering questions and telling stories.  It’s a little room (it holds seating for 12) so it was a very intimate situation and it was really fun listening to someone who obviously has extreme passion for what he does.
I realized before I posted this, I was going to need to book another night because I have a feeling it won’t be long before these dinners all get sold out as well. 

Tavola di Tosa at Nestle Inn
637 North East Street
Indy  46202

Monday, March 4, 2013

Bagger Dave's

I met my friend @wibia the other day for lunch at Bagger Dave’s-- a mostly Midwestern chain of burger places that has recently come to Indy.  Honestly, I was kind of expecting more of a fast food kind of place, but this place is a sit down place with table service. It’s still fairly casual, but not so casual as a Five Guys, Punch, or 96th Street Steakburgers. More along the lines of Bru Burger.  (There is also a toy train that is constantly running around the entire interior of the place, which might be a good kid thing).

They have several of their own combo burgers, or they have a sheet on the table that you can design your own the way you want ($4.19 for small).  That’s what I did.  Some of the combos sound interesting, but they all are a little toppings heavy for me.  I got the small burger (which is one patty vs. two) (also, when did one patty become “small?”).  I had it with one of their custom sauces (the “Railhouse Burger Sauce”), cheddar cheese, grilled onions and pickles.  What can I say? The burger was fine. That’s it.  It was a little dry (overworked maybe).  The sauce was like Thousand Island dressing (which I have noticed is a favorite at burger joints these days—when did that start? Has that always been a thing?).  I like it, basically slightly spicy mayo and ketchup together.   You could also choose your bun (sesame, plain, honey wheat). I kept it simple and got plain.

We also split a single order of fries ($2.59) even though the server tried to convince us we needed a double.  It was a generous portion and plenty for both of us.  The fries seemed fresh cut and were pretty tasty. I could have stood them to be a little crispier.  They weren’t bad though. We got a couple dipping sauces to try (the ranch and the horseradish ranch). Eh, I think they were better with just ketchup to be honest.

Our server was very enthusiastic, and I think also very new to serving, and hadn’t quite gotten his groove yet. He came to the table just a little too much. 

Overall, it’s a burger, and not a bad one, but not a really good one either.  I can see how it may fill a niche on this side of town though—there were a lot of business people in there having lunch.  They also have a bar in the back with what appears to be a pretty decent beer selection.  They also do “craft soda” which is an interesting concept.  My soda (I just got a diet) wasn’t very fizzy.  But if you want somewhere along that Michigan Road corridor that is kind of an “upscale casual” restaurant, that serves beer, and has a very accessible menu, you might give them a try. If you want a kick ass burger, I would go elsewhere.

Speaking of, what is your absolute favorite burger in town?

Bagger Dave’s
8840 North Michigan Road
Indy  46268