Thursday, August 29, 2013

Miyagi's - Revisit

So the other day I tried to meet my friend Suzanne at a new restaurant I had heard about but that apparently was already out of business (that was fast) so we were scrambling to figure out somewhere else to go quickly on 96th Street and decided to try Miyagi’s. I had been a little jaded about the last time I went there when we could not get waited on, and hadn’t been back since. But I have always enjoyed the food, so it seemed like a good time to give it another chance.

We started with a couple of rolls—the caterpillar roll ($12) and the samba crab roll ($14). First of all, I think they were beautifully presented—and taste-wise I liked them too.  The caterpillar roll was spicy tuna inside and was topped with avocado and masago. It was pretty simple, but had nice taste and texture. The spicy tuna mix here is better quality than a lot and I liked the ample avocado (one of my favorite foods). The masago (fish eggs) gave it just a tiny amount of crunch.

The samba crab roll had a bit more going on. It had fried soft shell crab and avocado inside and then salmon and a shallot sauce on top.  There was a lot of texture variation with this one. The crab was crunchy and warm inside with the smooth avocado and then there were a lot of sliced shallots in the sauce on top. This one was more complicated flavors and I enjoyed them. It bordered on being a little big as far as individual pieces go, so I can’t say I preferred one strongly over the other. I would eat either one again.

When we placed our order, we also ordered a lunch special of spicy ramen to split. I have been reading about a bunch of noodle places for an upcoming trip to New York, and was tempted. I think our server forgot about them though, because we had to remind her to bring them after we had pretty much finished the sushi.  The noodles were very tasty and yes, even spicy. And I was excited to find an egg down underneath them after we had eaten some of the noodles. Sadly, by this time (and I have a feeling after the time it spent waiting to be delivered), the egg was cooked pretty hard, but I enjoyed having some protein in the dish. It would be even better if it had been a bit runnier. There were some veggies in there too—mainly onions and carrots. I liked it and it would be a nice lunch dish to get by itself as well, although I was glad to have the variety with the sushi.

It was a very enjoyable lunch—all of the food was done well. I like that Miyagi’s has a fair amount of non-sushi dishes besides the typical teriyaki (which they also have). There are a lot of intriguing things on the menu. The rolls were very fresh and totally worth ordering as well. Sometimes I worry about a place doing so much, but based on the experiences I have had on this visit and in the past, they do it all fairly successfully and generally fairly consistently. I like the modern décor (my one pet peeve though is the chairs don't fit under the table so you're left to sitting far away from the table unless you're on the booth side), and other than the delay with the noodles, our service was very friendly. I am glad I got over my grudge—it’s worth going to.

3625 E. 96th Street
Indy, 46240

Monday, August 26, 2013

Dig IN - 2013

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending my 4th consecutive Dig IN at White River State Park.  I luckily had early entry (thanks to Dig IN for giving me free tickets in exchange for being a gastronaut).  One thing I decided after the last couple of years, is getting in that extra hour is key to beat the crowds.

However, even if you came with regular entry tickets this year, I don’t think the crowds were as bad. In fact, I think this was probably the best Dig IN yet for several reasons. This year they actually intentionally sold fewer tickets (like 1000 fewer!) and it made all the difference. There were lines, but not like I have seen in the past. And while a few places ran out of food before the end of the day, I haven’t heard of it being a big issue (as I have in the past). There were a lot of people, but it wasn’t so overwhelming.
A few of my faves

Also, I really think the food was overall the best of any year. There were no dishes that seemed repeated too much and there were very few things that I didn’t enjoy.  This was a particularly hard year for me to pick favorites because so many things were good (and I ate SO much).  A couple of the highlights for me were the pork torchon with pickled vegetables and micro herbs from Craig Baker of the Local, the little berry bruschetta that came alongside the pho from Chef Roberts of Meridian, and the bacon and white cheddar grits from Chef Muro of Valley Kitchen & Bar. That little crisp, thick piece of bacon was amazing.  I also really enjoyed the chanterelle vegetable bisque for Duos food truck. It was a hot day to eat hot soup, but it was worth it. I appreciated cooling off after that with the nearby “My Dad’s” Sweet corn popsicle from Nicey Treats.

The VIP tent had some extra special plates of goodness from Bluebeard, The Libertine, Recess, and Cerulean. Hubby and I particularly enjoyed the duck rillettes bun with pickled watermelon, shallots and aioli from Bluebeard. What a great little flavor combo.  All of the food in that area makes buying a VIP ticket completely worth it though—it was all really good (not to mention the cool, larger portable bathrooms).

Several of you mentioned your favorites to me on twitter and instagram (and I didn’t get to try all of them, but I did get most of them).  From the word on the street (or the social media) the favorites I picked up on were the pulled pork fritter and watermelon shooter from Chef Russo of the Severin Bar and the meatballs from Chef Davey of Courses Restaurant (at Ivy Tech). Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong! I can’t wait to hear what your favorites were (and hope I didn’t miss too much).

One of the things that I really like about Dig IN is that year after year, they figure out what worked and what didn’t and make improvements. I think they are pretty golden on the set up of the food and drink tents.  Last year, there were shortages of water and this year, I thought that was perfected with big icy barrels of water bottles scattered throughout. I also loved that they were making a real effort to recycle and compost everything (even though it was a little complicated making sure you got everything in the right container, I made a real effort and even had a volunteer thank me for doing it exactly right).  One complaint I heard quite a bit though was that there just weren’t enough of the trashcans. That's easily solved for next year though.

As far as other improvements, the only other thing I saw (and experienced) was problems with the lines for checking in/will call etc.  The lines were not clearly marked and many people (including me) were shuffled into several lines before getting to the place they needed to be.  I think that’s an easy fix though, and even with the confusion, only cost me about 10 minutes.

All in all, I am very impressed to see the way Dig IN has grown and matured, but has maintained a desire to stay at a manageable, personal size. The crowd was big, but yet seemed friendlier at its slightly smaller size—I know I ran into a lot more people that I knew this year. It just seemed more social somehow. I appreciate that Dig IN maintains its famer-based, hyper local food focus and that every person has the opportunity to personally interact with chefs and producers. I think that’s the point of Dig IN and I hope it continues that way.  

The food was better than it has ever been, the weather was great as usual, and I even enjoyed several beers—I particularly liked the Special K Kolsch from the Bier Brewery. Another thing you have to credit Dig IN with—getting me to try more beer. Somehow, the weather always inspires me to drink beer.

I would love to hear from you all to hear about your favorite bites and drinks…was this your first year, or are you a veteran like me? Let’s hear your thoughts! 

Dig IN
A Taste of Indiana 

Thursday, August 22, 2013


Hubby got to choose dinner the other night and wanted to go back to Meridian. The last few meals we have had there have been very good, so we were anxious to see what was new on the menu.

We couldn’t decide what to get, so we started with two appetizers—the steak tartare (we just can’t help ourselves)($13.75) and the smoked salmon crab cake ($14).  I think the steak tartare that Meridian is doing is one of the best in town (and one of the only).  It has lots of salty capers mixed in as well as a garlic mayo, which makes it very creamy. They serve it with a lemon wedge that needs to be squeezed on giving it just the right amount of acid. And I love those crispy chickpeas. I just wish they served a few more of the buttery house crackers with it because hubby and I were fighting over them. Ours was missing the advertised quail egg, but honestly, while I love egg with tartare (and almost anything), it was just as good without it.

The salmon cake was also very good. The cake itself was not overly dense, and not filled up with breadcrumbs. What made the dish for me though were the fried pickled green tomatoes. What a great extra tangy kick to a fried green tomato. The pickling also made it less firm than fried green tomatoes tend to be, and I really liked it. They were great with the salmon cake and the tomato remoulade. A little bit of each ingredient on your fork made for a delicious bite.

Because the appetizers were what looked so good, we decided to split a salad and an entrée as well. We split the Boston bibb salad with buttermilk dressing, blue cheese, bacon and a large cornbread crouton ($8.75)(the picture you see is a half). Ingredient-wise, I liked everything about this salad. My only gripe was that there wasn’t really enough dressing for it. It’s funny, I tend to prefer creamy dressings to be drizzled and not tossed, but often they don’t give you enough. It’s a fine line. I liked the lightness of the crouton though.

For our main dish, we really were undecided, but I loved that in general they have a lot of seafood on the menu. Nearly half the entrées are seafood-based. We ended up settling on the pepper-crusted tuna ($36.00). The tuna was beautiful and perfectly cooked just seared on the edges.  Considering the picture you see is just half an order, it was a very generous amount of fish. I am not sure I could do an entire entrée here. All of the things I saw coming out of the kitchen were quite large. The sides were sort of a play on a Nicoise salad—but this one involved sautéed kale, olives, and sautéed red onions. There was a lemon oregano citronette sauce (an emulsified lemon vinaigrette). I loved the red onions and olives with the fish, and I liked the kale—although I thought its strong flavor was a little overwhelming for the fish. I preferred eating them separately. And I found my quail egg here, although they put it on hubby’s plate. I promptly took it and split it. I mean, fair is fair right?

We had the classic Meridian donuts ($7.75) that have been on the menu awhile. But nothing else was jumping out at us and we just wanted a little something. They are little mini donuts and donut holes that are fresh fried and coated in cinnamon sugar. They serve them with a little cup of malted coffee cream to dip in (it is more like a custard and not like a liquid). Personally, I like dipping them into the cream and then back in for more sugar. They are really good and nice if you don’t want a huge dessert. Plus, easy to share.

I like Meridian. It has become one of our go-to standards for consistently good food.  I like the space and while it is usually busy enough, it isn’t so crowded or noisy that it overwhelms. The service is professional, if not a little stuffy, but our server certainly knew what he was talking about and I appreciate the little things like having your plates split for you in the kitchen. It is certainly a fixture in our rotation.

5694 N. Meridian
Indy 46208

Monday, August 19, 2013


Several of you guys have been bugging me for a while to try the fried chicken at Sahm’s. Apparently the one in Fishers offers it daily, but the one near me (at 65th and Keystone) only offers it every other Sunday. Well, that makes it seem kind of more special right? So we invited some friends and all headed over.

Pretty much all of us decided we wanted fried chicken (except 2 of the 4 kids) so we thought we would get 4 orders for the 6 of us (there are 4 pieces of chicken per order).  They made it all together and brought it all out family style so we could just give the kids the pieces they wanted. I thought that was a nice touch. It was nice to pass the plates and take what you wanted since we were all sharing. (The meal is usually 4 pieces of chicken—a breast, wing, thigh and leg, with the two sides mentioned below and a biscuit for $12.99).
plate-o-breasts and thighs

So the chicken? The chicken was very good. It was really well seasoned and had a super crispy outer crunch. But what impressed me was that the breast I took was actually very tender throughout (although one person at our table commented that their breast wasn’t).  I loved the leg and the couple of bites of a thigh I shared with hubby as well. Probably the dark meat was my favorite, but I was impressed with the white meat as well. The meat was marinated and you could tell care was taken to try and keep the meat as tender as possible, even on the larger pieces (and the thighs were pretty darn big too—almost as big as the breasts. These must have been some curvy chickens.) The kids were digging it too. I don’t think we will have a problem getting them back here and I will certainly be happy to go back for fried chicken night (although my daughter had the cheeseburger and liked it as well). Actually hubby ate the leftover pieces for lunch over the next couple of days and told me he thinks he might have even liked it better cold. In fact, he wants to just order some to put in the fridge for the next day (weirdo). He said it stayed crunchy and because it was so meaty, and was better than any other cold fried chicken he has had.

Even though I missed my classic side of mashed potatoes (I am a creature of habit with fried chicken), I liked that they did something different with the corn stuffing that they served with it. It was pretty moist with pieces of corn in it, and a touch of sweetness. The carrots weren’t as popular for sure. I dunno, I just can’t get excited about cooked carrots, although they were buttery and lightly seasoned. They also served rolls alongside that they called biscuits, but I would call buttery dinner rolls. Much lighter and less dense than a biscuit. They were good though, although I saved most of my room for chicken.

Overall, I give the fried chicken two thumbs up. I really enjoyed it and I have a feeling it may become a regular, well, every other, Sunday kind of thing in our family (well, maybe cold the next day for hubby). He does want to try the fried tenderloin sandwich he spied coming out of the kitchen.

My Sahm’s location is a fairly small dining room and was pretty full. Our server was really helpful and nice and made the suggestion to share and to serve it family style.  They have a very good selection of local beers on the menu (well, it seems like it to me). I guess they do a monthly beer dinner with courses paired to certain beers—that sounds fun too. I am excited to find some new fried chicken that I like and it’s sort of got me in the mood again. So feel free to leave any suggestions for other favorite fried chicken places around town. I am always looking for more!

Sahm’s Place
2411 East 65th Street (and several other locations)
Indy  46220

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Best Bet - Revisit

I was picking my son up from baseball camp in Fishers the other day and I knew he would be starving after, so I wanted to find a place nearby that would be fast and kid friendly (and preferably local) for lunch. So Best Bet seemed like a good bet.

I have been before and was interested to see what they offered for lunch. It’s mostly burgers, and a few other sandwiches, but what ended up sounding good to me were the breakfast tacos so that’s what I went with. The menu is pretty straightforward and so is the food. 

They bring you a bread basket of toast and one little cinnamon doughnut type thing per person. You can ask for more toast by flipping over a little sign to let them know you want more.  I enjoyed the doughnut—it was hot and had a lot of cinnamon sugar on it—nice little sweet treat (and available only on weekdays I believe).

My breakfast tacos were good, but I can’ t anything jumped out about them. There were scrambled eggs, cheese and chorizo with salsa and sour cream on the side. The eggs weren’t overcooked, but there wasn’t a lot of seasoning other than exactly the ingredients mentioned. Tortillas with cheese, eggs and chorizo and the chorizo wasn’t overly spicy. Two of the tacos were stuffed really full and one wasn’t. Regardless, this was a pretty darn big meal for me. The breakfast potatoes on the side were a little mushy for my taste, but I am not a big home fries person unless they have really nice crispy edges.

My daughter’s burger was certainly a freshly made patty and she enjoyed it. I would have liked it a little less cooked, but I am sure that is not surprising (they don’t ask). And she had a big owl of cottage cheese on the side. My son had pancakes and bacon. The bacon was pretty tasty and nicely crunchy. The server offered to cut his food for him and then did, which I thought was nice, but maybe a little strange.  They also ask your names when you are first seated—last time I found it more friendly, and this time, it just seemed a little forced, although our server was certainly friendly enough. 

There’s a gambling theme about the place for sure and my kids were intrigued by it, and wanted to come back when they each were handed a poker chip on the way out.

It’s a decent, straightforward, simple breakfast (and lunch) place. The food is certainly not fancy or especially creative, but if you want a locally owned restaurant in that area for some bacon and eggs, it isn’t a bad bet.

Best Bet
14300 Mundy Drive
Noblesville, IN  46060

Monday, August 12, 2013

Oriental Inn

The other night we had a babysitter midweek (because she was getting ready to move to NYC and wanted to see our kids before she went—boo! We’ll miss her!) so I cajoled hubby into driving a bit and trying Oriental Inn. Several people have recommended it over the years and I was intrigued by the things I read online.

First thing you notice is the completely old school feel of the place. This is what Chinese restaurants were like in the 70s—totally over decorated and dark wood chairs. It was straight out of central casting for Chinese restaurants. But even though you can tell it has been there a long time, and the outside is maybe a bit run down, the dining room has a ton of charm. 

It is also one of those old school menus with everything under the sun on it so it took us awhile to peruse. Our very friendly server brought us a bowl of fried wontons to munch on (a tad stale) and took our drink orders.

We had a hard time deciding what to get, but we wanted to try a couple of courses, so we got hot and sour soup ($2.25) and an order of crab Rangoon ($4.95) to start. Several of the things I had read said their crab Rangoon was good so we figured what the heck.  Eh, I didn’t really care for the soup. It wasn’t particularly hot or sour and actually had a taste that was almost like tomatoes which was weird for hot and sour soup. Our server did come by and ask if we wanted some hot sauce to put in it (and I didn’t even say anything) so maybe they’re aware.  Nice big pieces of tofu though and lots of egg flowers in there. I would try a different soup next time.

The crab Rangoon was really good though. They are fried, but I liked them because they weren’t greasy at all (can’t say the same for the complimentary wontons) and the cream cheese filling was light and tasted of crab, but wasn’t overly fishy. Hubby found them slightly addicting and ate the majority of them.

We decided to split an entrée because they looked pretty big and it was a good choice. We ordered form the “house specialties” list (anything to narrow it down) and got the Szechuan combination ($12.95). The dish as listed had beef, shrimp and scallops, although we substituted chicken for the scallops. It is served in a hot pepper garlic sauce with veggies (green pepper, carrots, onions and celery) and peanuts. My first bite just about choked me because it was so hot. I must have gotten a piece of the very spicy dried chilies that were also mixed in there. Once I paid closer attention, I made sure not to eat large pieces of them and all was good. The meat and shrimp was all very good, and the dish was very meat heavy. All of it was very tender. We were amazed how well they cooked a shrimp since so many places in this town seen to have a problem with it. As I mentioned, it had a good spice to it as well. They also do a nice job with using fresh orange slices in their presentation. We got some fried rice and some steamed rice and even though I tend to prefer steamed rice, I think it would get the fried rice here. It is not heavily seasoned so it doesn’t compete with the meat dish when eaten together. And it had just the right amount of stickiness.

Our server was super nice and was always checking in on us for drink refills. I loved that she also knew exactly what was in each dish we asked about and how it was prepared. Sometimes this is difficult information to get in a Chinese restaurant and with so many things on the menu; it is very helpful to be able to ask questions.  There was also a fair amount of people in there for a Tuesday night. Oh, and I liked that they had “dinner specials” much like typical lunch specials (they have those too) so you can get an entrée, rice, soup and something fried for a reduced price if you want. We ordered a la carte because the choices are more basic on the specials menu.

For a little dessert, they give you a fortune cookie and some fresh fruit--mine had a bit of a weird fortune. But it made me laugh anyway. If this place were closer to me, we would certainly try it more often. I am hoping to get over there for lunch one of these days too.

Side note, on the way home, I took this shot of what was a very popular hot dog cart called Garcia’s. I notice the crowd on our way to the restaurant and on the way home. When I posted a picture on instagram, a bunch of you chimed in about Garcia and his bacon wrapped dogs. I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of it before. But now we are looking forward to trying it as well.

Oriental Inn
1421 North Arlington
Indy  46219

Oriental Inn on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Ralston's Draft House

Here’s the thing—I have been avoiding Ralston’s because well the menu just looked too sweet for me. If you read me regularly, you know that while I love my sweets for desserts, too much sweetness during the savory part of my meal can really put me off. It’s all about balance. There’s a fair amount of fruit sauces/reduction on the menu for sure. But I was looking for somewhere new to go, and after asking on twitter, I took @kirbysam’s advice and went for it. Last minute we asked some friends to join us, and we were good to go (side note, hubby and I spent several hours before dinner wandering through Midland Antiques which is an awesome place).

Love eating with friends, especially friends who share and like to order a lot, which these friends do, so we started with several appetizers.  We had the cheese stuffed mushrooms ($9), the fried pumpkin ravioli ($6) and the fried Brie stick ($7).  Ok, the first thing we realized is that we had ordered three items that were all the same color and shared similar breading.  Also, there was a lot of sweetness in this course.  The food was good though—my favorite appetizer was probably the stuffed mushrooms. There were 4 mushroom tops, one stuffed with goat cheese, one with gorgonzola, one with cheddar, and one with smoked gouda.  Each one was topped with a paired fruit sauce. I really enjoyed the goat cheese one the most because the balance was great with the sharpness of the cheese and the sweetness of the sauce. They were prepared very well though—nice a crunchy on the outside but not greasy.

The brie was good as well, although it was a large wedge of the cheese and you really wanted more of the breading once you got toward the middle. Maybe slightly smaller wedges?  It was topped with one of the same sauces from the mushrooms, the blackberry Champagne reduction. It was good with the brie, but had I known the dishes would be so similar I would have chosen something else. The last appetizer was the fried pumpkin ravioli.  Ok, this one was soooo sweet none of us could eat too much of it. I think there might have been cinnamon and sugar on it, that’s how sweet it tasted. We all discussed how awesome this would be as a dessert with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream. If you like pumpkin pie, you might want to try this for dessert sometime.

Overall, I thought the main dishes were much more successful (and less sweet). I had the eggs benedict sandwich ($7.50). It was a really good flavor combo of sliced ham, a fried egg, smoked gouda and their housemade honey mustard. It was served on a pretzel bun that was perfect—soft enough to eat without wearing out your jaw. The honey mustard wasn’t overly sweet at all and there was a nice whole grain mustard kick. Most dishes come with your choice of a side and they have lots of different things to choose from, which I appreciate. I had the fried rosemary potatoes at our server’s suggestion (she thought they were slightly breakfasty to go along with my sandwich). I enjoyed them. They had a distinct rosemary flavor and I liked that they were cut fairly small so they stayed crisp.

Our friends had the recession burger ($10) and the black and blue chicken flatbread ($9). The recession burger was also very, very good. The beef is mixed with shredded potatoes, topped with aged cheddar, their own special ketchup and mustard, mixed greens, and bacon. It was served on the same pretzel bun.  This burger was very, very tender (potatoes—who knew?) and I liked that they tell you right on the menu they cook it on a flat top. In my opinion, they’re always better cooked in their own grease. There was a side of onion straws with this one and they were seriously great. I wouldn’t call them straws so much as chips. Like White Castle, only 100 times better. Even though I liked my potatoes, I was sad I didn’t get these on the side of my plate and will not make that mistake again.

The black and blue flatbread was a flatbread topped with grilled chicken, blue cheese and drizzled with a Sriracha-flavored sauce. I was impressed with how crisp the crust was—one of my biggest pet peeves about “flatbreads” is they’re usually soggy. This was not, even with the generous toppings. I would easily try some of the other ones as well. Ok, it wasn’t as good as the eggs benedict and the burger, but still good.

Hubby ordered the “French Egg Roll” ($9), which was my least favorite entrée. It was a sausage topped with goat cheese and wrapped in a crepe that was topped with bacon more of the blackberry Champagne reduction.  This one crossed the line again with sweetness for me and there wasn’t enough of the cheese to balance it. And really, the sausage kind of overpowered it. It was hard to keep it in the crepe. (Ok, insert crude joke here).

We all shared the s’mores brownie ($5.25) with vanilla ice cream and it was outstanding. Even though we were all pretty full, like I said, we like to order a lot. I would get this again in a second. Loved the marshmallows baked into the warm from the oven brownie.

There are a lot of other things I really liked about the place. First, I liked our server (Kathleen) a lot. It made me realize how much a difference it can make when someone cares about her job and does it well. The place was very busy but our service never suffered. We had drinks when we wanted them and there were runners constantly bringing out food. They have a big selection of beers on tap which I know is a big thing in Indy, and I like the way they offer suggestions on the menu of beers to pair with certain food items. The patio is nice (where we sat) and hubby and I enjoyed playing table shuffleboard while we waited for our friends.

I went in with my doubts, but I was pleasantly surprised. What else is good to eat here?

Ralston’s Draft House
635 Massachusetts Ave
Indy  46204
Ralston's DraftHouse on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Dig IN Ticket Giveaway!


You know I don't do these kinds of things very often--only when I think an event is worthy (and food-based naturally).  But I have been asked to be a gastronaut again this year (by the way, you can compete for a spot as one of the gastronauts here) and one of my lucky duties is to give away 2 tickets to Dig IN 2013.

Dig IN is food is a food festival in the best possible way--lots of great local chefs and producers using lots of local products making little tastes for everyone to sample.  There is also lots of great local beer and wine available. If you aren't familiar and want to get a feel for years past, check out my previous blog posts. Dig IN takes place this year on August 25th from noon-5:00 (with early entry tickets still available for entry at 11:00).

Here's the tentative line up of chefs/restaurants for this year:

• 18 on the Square, Joseph Martin
• Black Market, Micah Frank
• Brad Gates Catering, Brad Gates
• Cerulean, Chase Hinton and Caleb France
• Chef JJ’s Back Yard, Chef JJ Boston
• Circle City Soups, Roger Hawkins
• Circle City Sweets, Cindy Hawkins
• Courses Restaurant, Joseph Davey
• The Local, Craig Baker
• Delicia, Ricardo Martinez
• Fermenti Artisan, Mark Cox
• Goose the Market, Chris Eley
• Indiana Downs, Greg Schiesser
• Joseph Decuis, Aaron Butts
• Just Rennie’s Cookie Company, Chef Doug & Marla Rennie
• JW Marriott Indianapolis, Brendon Cheney
• Kelly Ford, Jeff Ford
• Lemleys’ Catering, Alexa Lemley
• Meridian Restaurant and Bar, Layton Roberts
• Mesh on Mass, Mark Henrichs
• Napolese, Tyler Herald
• Northside Social, Nicole Oprisu
• One World Catering, Corbin Morwick 
• R bistro, Regina Mehallick
• Scratchtruck, Matt Kornmeyer
• Severin Bar, Vincent Russo
• Spice Box, Nitin Naidu
• The Chef’s Academy, Anthony G Hanslits
• The Indigo Duck, Karen Hewett
• The Loft Restaurant, Brandon Canfield
• The Oceanaire Seafood Room, Courtney Loyd
• Valley Kitchen & Bar, Cory Muro
• Zest! Exciting Food Creations + Twist Lounge, Valerie Vanderpool

• Bee Coffee
• Duos
• Natural Born Juicers
• Nicey Treat: Paletas
• Scratchtruck
• Spice Box

All you have to do to enter the contest is post a comment here telling me your favorite chef/restaurant from this list (or the one you most want to try). A random winner will be chosen tomorrow (Wednesday Aug. 7th) at 5:00 (ish). I will need your name and email address within 24 hours if you win, or I will move on to another winner. 

Good Luck and I hope to see you there!

P.S. In the interest of full disclosure, I am receiving 2 early entry tickets in exchange for my work as a gastronaut. Dig In is also a paid advertiser on my blog.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Local - Revisit

I have heard little things here and there about the Local but haven’t personally been in ages, so I thought it was a good time to follow up and see what’s going on-- so I met my friend Suzanne up there for lunch. I like that they now offer a seasonal menu of offerings, although most of the dishes seem like they might be better suited for dinner—they seemed to be larger things.

We decided to at least get an appetizer to share from the seasonal menu—so we started with the fried zucchini ($8.50).  Hmm… we were kind of torn about this one. The first thing we both notice was it needed salt, which we promptly added. I liked the breading quite a bit on the pieces that were crunchier. Unfortunately, many of the slices of zucchini were a little too big and thin and got really soft before you could get to eat them (and some were a lot less breaded than others).  I really liked the remoulade that was served alongside—it had a bit of heat but also some nice chunks of green onion I’m guessing…and some herbs.  Great slightly hot, slightly tangy, flavor. Overall, we liked them, but they could be improved with a dusting of salt out of the fryer and if they were maybe cut in a different shape that didn’t get quite so soft so quick.

For my lunch, I ordered the chicken Panini ($10). I can’t say that I really liked it that much, other then the bread. I liked the way the bread was nice and crusty and had a good flavor.  It was supposed to have grilled chicken, bacon, tomato, fennel, asiago cheese and mayo. But it was pretty dry. You could barely taste cheese and certainly no mayo.  Honestly it was mostly like a chicken and bacon sandwich.  I did like that the chicken breast was sliced into smaller pieces, but it seemed like several ingredients were missing or in short supply. I finally asked for a side of ranch (their dressings are housemade, and housemade ranch makes me very happy) just to get a little moisture (and some extra flavor) into it.  I had the tater tots on the side and they were very good tots. Nice and crispy.

Suzanne ordered the pork tenderloin ($9.50), which was a way better way to go. The breading was much like that on the zucchini and is very tasty.  The pork is the right amount of thick vs. thin keeping it nice and tender. They use a “special sauce” in place of the common mayo and I like it—enough to give it a little moisture without making it soggy.  I have had the tenderloin before and have enjoyed it and this was no different.

The complaint I have heard fairly frequently is about the service though—and our experience was not great. It started out good because they weren’t too crowded when we got there.  But as lunch progressed, our server seemed a bit in the weeds (she appeared to have all the outside tables). And I think the kitchen was too. 

Even though it wasn’t a stellar meal for me, I am intrigued to try some of the seasonal menu items for dinner (they have skate!). At some point I need to get back up there with hubby and give it another go. I like what they seem to be trying to do with changing things up by the season, and using lots of local ingredients. I just have yet to have a top to bottom great experience.

The Local Eatery & Pub
14655 Gray Road
Westfield, IN 

Thursday, August 1, 2013


Kincaid’s up in Carmel has recently switched concepts to become Stanford’s.  I always enjoyed Kincaid’s for lunch because they always had good seafood and some innovative dishes. I started eating at Kincaid’s in California for working lunches and was happy to find one in Indy. The new place is the same company, but with a more casual concept.

The interior looks much the same with a few tweaks (the missing tablecloths on tables that are meant to have tablecloths probably not a good look) but I don’t miss the dated blue water goblets.  The menu is pretty straightforward. There are a few similar things to Kincaid’s, but on the whole it is different. Hubby and I were having a hard time deciding on what to order and the waiter was a bit indifferent to the choices when I asked, so we ended up deciding to split a house salad and a couple of apps.

So the house salad ($6.95) was described as “mixed seasonal greens” with tomato, bacon, egg, cucumber, jack cheese, and choice of homemade dressing. We got blue cheese. Apparently “seasonal greens” means iceberg with a hint of romaine which is not at all what I expect when I see “mixed seasonal greens” on a menu. That was disappointing. Pretty sure there was little to no jack cheese on there as well (we asked for no cucumbers). The homemade dressing didn’t really impress me either. I would totally skip a salad here in the future. The only redeeming quality of the salad was the little piece of bread that came with it. It was a square of warm focaccia with cheese on top. The bread had nice toasty edges and was well seasoned. 

For the apps we shared we had the grilled artichokes ($8.95) and the salmon bruschetta ($9.95).  I have been on an artichoke kick as of late and was excited to see them on the menu. The first thing I noticed about the artichokes were how bright green they were. I wondered how they got them to stay this color. Pretty much every other artichoke I have ever eaten has ended up an olive green color after it is cooked. The second thing I noticed was how completely waterlogged the artichokes were. I don’t know if they were boiled and not drained properly or maybe somehow microwaved? Maybe that would account for the bright color?  Anyway, way too watery and there was basically no crispiness from the grilling which is one of the things I love about grilled artichokes.  They were served with a sundried tomato aioli and a roasted garlic butter to dip in. The aioli was so chunky with the tomatoes that you couldn’t really dip in it. As much as I love artichokes, this dish was just not working at all.

The smoked salmon bruschetta faired better for me. There was a couple of pieces of nicely grilled thin sliced bread lightly coated with an herbed cream cheese and then topped with well-dressed arugula, capers and cherry tomatoes.  The salmon was hot smoked and was very tender and was drizzled with basil puree.  Stacking a bit of everything on the bread, while a messy endeavor, was a very tasty one. There was a nice amount of acidity in the dressing and you didn’t even need the grilled lemon served with it (honestly, it was a bit too much if you did use it).  I really enjoyed the bright flavors of this dish and would eat it again. Hubby was just annoyed by how difficult it was to put together.

My son appreciated the salmon dish on the kids’ menu (I think Kincaid’s had this option as well) and also the fact that it was more cooked than I would cook it myself. He loves his red meat rare, but not his salmon. My daughter had a burger and seemed happy (I didn’t try either). The fries are pretty good though.

The place was freezing (come on what is up with this?) and we regretted sitting inside. My son’s teeth were chattering at one point. Granted the servers are all wearing long pants, long sleeves and probably a T-shirt under that, but surely the customer is who you should cater to? Considering the place was nearly empty, I was surprised at how slow our service was as well. Pretty sure it would be a real challenge to get hubby back there based on the overall experience.

The place was pretty empty when we were there (and it usually was at Kincaid’s for lunch as well). I just wonder how their business is at dinner. Has anyone else been there?

14159 Clay Terrace Blvd
Carmel, IN 46032

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