Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm taking the day off from posting something new to take it easy and eat with family. If you're on here though, and you're bored, would love to hear your favorite Thanksgiving traditions or new things you have done to mix up your feast.

Last year I spatchcocked my turkey from Goose the Market for the first time and it was delicious. I highly recommend.

before and after cooking
Have a wonderful day and I will see you back on Monday with a brand new post!


Monday, November 24, 2014

Stacked Pickle

I randomly met a person who works at the Stacked Pickle and I was interested in tasting their burgers after what he had told me. Sounded like they try to make pretty fresh burgers. It’s a small chain located just throughout central Indiana. We figured it would be an easy place to take the kids—and it was. They have a pretty wide menu featuring the usuals of what is essentially a sports bar. Burgers, fried stuff, wraps, salads, and pizza.

Since I wanted to try a burger, I ordered, well, a burger. The hangover burger to be precise (still not sure why an egg on a burger makes it a hangover burger, but whatever). It is a ½ pound burger topped with a fried egg, bacon and cheddar cheese ($8.39). You also get a side with it. I opted out of the fries, since both kids were getting them, and got the fried pickles at no upcharge.  The burger was a pretty decent burger. They asked me how I wanted it cooked, and get this, they actually cooked it that way. And the menu shows the egg cooked sunny side up (and thus, runny). While it wasn’t sunny side up, it was still runny and broke all over when I cut into it. Perfect. (I hate it when a menu depicts an egg that way and then cooks it hard). The bacon was okay—for some reason, rarely does burger bacon measure up to just straight up bacon. I guess maybe places don’t want to waste the good stuff on a burger, but I would appreciate a quality crunchy piece.  Overall, a pretty juicy burger with a good taste. I liked the fresh set up on the side too—lettuce and tomato as well as my favorite—razor thin slices of red onions.  The fried pickles were some of the better I have had. Fairly thick slices of dill pickles—but not over-pickled pickles and they were hand breaded. The ranch dressing that hubby got with his pickles (I didn’t get a sauce for some reason) was out of a bottle and not exciting, but the pickles were good.

Hubby had the Cuban sandwich ($7.99) and really liked it. It wasn’t exactly traditional, but was pretty tasty. There was pulled pork topped with ham, mustard, pickles (the same ones from the fried pickles, just not fried), sautéed onions,  and Swiss cheese all on a pressed hoagie bun. I love mustard and pickles, so I am a natural for this sandwich, but I was surprised how much hubby liked it, since he isn’t usually a fan of pickles on sandwiches. He kept talking about it. It was very soft bread, not as flat as a traditional Cuban, but the pork was well-seasoned and tender. The ham was almost unnecessary. I know hubby would happily come back and eat this. Or my burger.

My daughter had the fish and chips ($10.49) and they were a let down. There are three large pieces of cod, and they look nicely battered, but as soon as you bite into them, it seems pretty clear they aren’t being battered in house. The outside crust is pretty much totally separate from the fish. I’d take a pass on these. Their fries are beer-battered and are decent battered fries, if that’s your thing. My son had the buffalo chicken sandwich and I felt like it was pretty weak too, especially compared to some you can get around town (and I should know, since I went on a buffalo chicken sandwich bender a few weeks back). It says it’s hand-breaded, but I dunno, it didn’t have a lot of crunch to it. I hated the blue cheese dressing they were using. It tasted all preservativey and fake. The blue cheese dressing is one of the key factors of the buffalo chicken sandwich for me, and this one was subpar.

Overall, go with things that are made fresh here, and you’ll do pretty well. Make sure and question any fried things and dressings—but the burger and the Cuban were solid.

Stacked Pickle
4705 E. 96th Street
Indy 46240
Stacked Pickle on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Georgia Reese's

I have been waiting to go to Georgia Reese’s for a bit to give them a chance to work out the opening kinks. I had heard there were times when they were out of certain things and I didn’t want to take the chance that they might run out of fried chicken.  Well, when we walked in, this first thing I noticed was that it was jammed. Liked literally, standing room only, every square inch taken with people. I thought, hey, we have a reservation, so we’ll be fine. Well, as it turned out, ALL of the people waiting had reservations. So, first thing—they are either overbooking or the kitchen is too slow. Either way, they need to figure that out. We managed to get a seat at the bar after about 10-15 minutes of waiting. One friend was told by the bartender that they didn’t have vermouth to make the drink he wanted. So, not a good start. We ended up getting seated 30 minutes after our reservation time.

When we did get seated, our server, while a bit frantic, was pretty quick about taking our orders (we did wait later when we just wanted more drinks). We quickly ordered some apps—the deviled eggs ($6.95), the volcano hot rocks (their version of oysters Rockefeller) ($3.75 for 2) and the alligator poppers ($9.95). The best things were the alligator poppers—they were quite spicy. Hubby could barely believe they were actually jalapeno peppers inside there and not a spicier pepper. But they were whole peppers stuffed with spicy cream cheese, and apparently alligator, but I couldn’t really distinguish it amongst the other things. Again, they had some heat, and a nice crispy exterior. They served it with a lemon-chive aioli that was strangely thin in consistency. But overall, I liked them. 

Deviled eggs are something I really like and they were good as well. They give you a classic version, a shrimp version, an asparagus version, and a smoked salmon version. I liked that the filling had a fair amount of acid (lemon I assume) and the eggs tasted fresh. They were a nice variation from what ended up being a lot of fried stuff.

The volcano hot rocks? Well, they were just downright bad. The oysters were not fresh and smelled bad. Really bad. One friend actually spit hers out of her mouth. That bad. I’m not going to go into more detail about this, because you get the picture, but if they aren’t turning over oysters fast enough to keep them fresh, these should be taken off the menu. Fast.

As we moved into our entrées, I was excited to try the fried chicken ($16.95). Of course I was. You get four pieces-a breast, wing, leg and thigh. The chicken was fried really well—super crisp on the outside. I particularly enjoyed the dark meat pieces, as they were nice and juicy. The breast got a bit dry, as they often do. The biggest problem with the dish, and honestly most of our dishes, was it was under-seasoned. Add some seasoning into the breading mix and you could have some killer fried chicken. Heck, even salt helped (and our salt shaker made its rounds around our table several times). The entrées come with two sides and I enjoyed my sides of Indiana creme corn and mac and cheese. The mac had some texture to it, from actual cheese—again it wasn’t super seasoned, but would have been the perfect balance with the chicken if the chicken had been a little spicier. I liked the creme corn as well—had a nice crunch from corn and diced onions. Again, a sweet mild flavor, but tasty. As they were, I’d order both again.

My friend’s fried catfish was similar in its preparation. It was well cooked, the fish tender and the breading nice and crisp—it just needed more flavor. Because she had read too many reviews beforehand complaining about the lack of spice, she brought tobasco and garlic salt in her purse (that’s how she rolls). After the addition of these, that fish was pretty darn tasty! They just need to amp it up a bit themselves. The same was true of the order of fried green tomatoes ($5.95) we had as a side as well (it’s actually an app, but we wanted some on the side, so we ordered them with our dinner). Nice crunch, not much flavor in the crust. Also, the tomatoes were a little thick for my taste—I like ‘em a bit thinner so your ratio of crust to tomato is more balanced. 

Hubby ordered the fried bologna sandwich ($8.95) and he really, really liked it. It had a lot of good stuff on it—some more fried green tomatoes, and lime aioli. There were also some greens on there. Nice variation in texture and flavors—I liked the crunch of the tomatoes with the slightly crisped bologna and the tangy aioli. This might have been the best thing we had as an entrée overall. The sandwiches come with one side and hubby got onion rings—these were more of the onion string variety, which I like a fair amount. I can’t say these seemed house made and were similar to those you could get anywhere.

Overall, I think Georgia Reese’s has potential. It obviously is drawing a large crowd (a bit too large perhaps) and I like the vibe of the place. They have live music on the weekends that started while we were there and was nice. You could hear it without it being so loud you couldn’t talk. The place has definitely got a buzz to it. I think the foundation of the food is mostly good—they just need to loosen up with seasonings—everything was pretty universally under-seasoned (even salt would help). If they do this (and take the oysters off the menu or else keep them fresher), as well as figure out their reservations issues, this could be a really great place to get a southern meal in an upscale atmosphere, which is something Indy doesn’t really have. Also they do a big weekend brunch, which is a nice addition as well. I would love to hear what you guys think if you have been there.

Georgia Reese’s
3454 West 86th Street
Indy  46268

Georgia Reese's Southern Table & Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 17, 2014

Taiwan Tea House - Revisit

It has been a long while since I had been to Taiwan Tea House. My BFF regularly frequents the place and was more than happy to go with me the other day. I still like the simple décor and the real plates and bowls they use—and they’re actually pretty dishes, unlike the standard Chinese restaurant ware. Our server is very friendly—one of the owners I am sure, as he has been there every time I have been. Sometimes the communication is a bit lacking due to the language difference, but we managed.

I ordered the fried tofu ($2.75) to start, based on someone’s recommendation on one of my last posts. And I do like some good fried tofu. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it when I first saw it, because you could tell it wasn’t going to be really crisp and it wasn’t really, but it had a great taste. I really liked the soy-based sauce that they drizzled on top. The crust on the tofu taste good too even if I would have preferred it a little crisper. I couldn’t stop eating just a little more.

For my lunch, I ordered the mapo chicken ($6.99). This is my BFF’s favorite dish, and her usual order, but she wanted to try the spicy wonton noodles instead, so I got it. To start with, they bring you a bowl of soup (really, really hot as in temperature). It’s a simple soup, but I nice was to start especially on a very cold day. There are some nice chunks of tofu and some egg as well as some tomatoes and black pepper.

The chicken dish was a little disappointing actually—the chicken was cooked a little too far making it not just a bit tough, but giving the edges an almost crunchy texture. Both the chicken and the veggies just seemed like they were cooked over too high a heat. I do like the flavor of the sauce though—had a nice balanced taste with soy and some garlic and ginger perhaps. A touch on the oily side, but still good. The entrées each come with two crab Rangoon as well. I like the version they do here because they are nice and crisp and not oily at all. My only complaint was that one of them wasn’t quite warm all the way through. Assume they make them and then just heat them quickly before serving.

My friend’s spicy wonton noodles were good—they are really quite spicy—lots of little bits of garlic and chili in there and some stuffed wontons mixed in. They can’t really make the dish less spicy because he said they make the sauce in advance, and it has a fair amount of heat. They can make it spicier if you want though which would be too much for me, but I am sure some of you guys would like it that way.

All in all, an ok experience. It’s not a bad place to have nearby, and they do use a lot of fresh ingredients. I think my dish was a little off on this day, but it wouldn’t stop me from trying again.

Taiwan Tea House
3746  E. 82nd Street
Indy 46250

Taiwan Tea House on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Grub House

Hubby and I woke up one morning a couple weekends ago and were really craving a greasy type of breakfast—you know how that goes sometimes. Of course, my mind instantly starts thinking of whether there is somewhere new to go that I can write about. I remembered driving past Grub House when I come home from downtown. So that’s where we went. We were the only ones in there for a bit, and the interior is very clean, although a little sparse other than the big graffiti art mural on the wall. There’s a glassed in window and it is sort of unclear whether you order there or what, but a lady came out and gave us menus and told us to have a seat. She waited on us throughout, although others came in and ordered at the window, so who knows. That window and the thick metal door separating the kitchen from the dining room lends a sort of vibe that they are worried about security.

I ordered the “4 Whole Wings” breakfast ($9.25) that comes with 4 fried chicken wings, two eggs any style, toast or biscuit, and one side (I got the fried potatoes—they also offer grits, rice with butter or a fruit cup). I appreciate the way the server warned me that the fried chicken takes a little longer.  I really enjoyed my breakfast. Especially the super crispy chicken wings. They were nice and meaty and well seasoned—I didn’t even throw on salt or pepper. Bits of the crispy outside flaked all over the place. There was certainly plenty of crunch. My eggs were cooked just the way I ordered them (over easy) and I liked the way the person cooking them seasoned them well with salt and pepper.  The potatoes were interesting—clearly homemade and I couldn’t quite figure out what the ingredients were—almost like an onion soup flavor. Very savory. I think I might prefer them at dinnertime. They were quite rich. I would guess the biscuits were not housemade and came from a bag or a tube, but they still tasted good with everything and you needed some bread to eat with the runny eggs.

Hubby ordered biscuits and gravy ($4.50) with a side of eggs ($1.99) and bacon ($3). He thought the biscuits and gravy were fine, but not as good as some others in town. They had a peppery kick, but not much else that stood out. And they were the same biscuits mentioned above. They hold up because they’re fairly dense and crisp on the outside. One thing hubby didn’t like was that the eggs were on top, and once he broke into them, they watered down the gravy too much. I thought the bacon was decent for diner type bacon. We’re not talking fancy bacon, but it was cooked well and had had a good salty taste (so often cheaper bacon has no flavor at all).
I don’t love eating a meal like this from Styrofoam plates with plastic utensils, but I get that some places just don’t have the space to do dishes. It would really knock this place up a notch if they had actual dishes and silverware though. And when I ordered OJ, it was just a plastic bottle of Tropicana brought to the table. The people were very nice though and that chicken was delicious. I would totally frequent for that basic breakfast (or lunch, which they are also open for) if it were in my neighborhood.

The Grub House
1953 N. College Ave
Indy  46202

Grub House on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 10, 2014

Road Trip: The Little Goat --Chicago

At the insistence, or should I say, full-on threats from my friend Suzanne, hubby and I hit up the Little Goat Diner on our way out of Chicago for breakfast. This is the more casual restaurant brought to you by Chef Stephanie Izard, who also owns the Girl and the Goat across the street. They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and you can order off any part of the menu at any time.

They do take a few reservations and we managed to score one right at the height of the breakfast hour. I appreciate that even though they were packed, and there was a lot of people waiting, they got us seated right at our reservation time. Suzanne and her husband love the Parathas burrito ($13) and recommended it to us. I was glad she did because it probably wasn’t something we would probably order on our own and it was delicious. There was crisp warm Indian flatbread on the bottom topped with sunny side up eggs and sheep’s milk cheddar cheese. All of that had a chili pepper sauce drizzled over it and a wonderful bright, acidic salad on top with greens, avocado and beans. What a great combination. The eggs were perfect and there was just the right amount of heat with the cooling salad. I understand now why Suzanne orders it every time, and it will likely be on our order in the future.

We also ordered a special-- crab Rangoon omelette ($13) and it was also really delicious. Normally I would not order an omelette because they are usually just too dense and too dried out for me. In this case though, our waiter described it as a “light, French style omelette” and I was sold. And it was exactly that. The eggs were very light—not dense or dry at all. Folded inside was a moderate portion of the creamy, crab Rangoon filling. Just enough to taste the crab and liquidy cream cheese flavor, but not dominate. Across the top of the omelette were crispy wontons and Little Goat’s version of a sweet and sour sauce, which I am happy to say, was balanced with both sour and sweet (not just sweet like so many). Honestly, I went back and forth about which one I liked better. Luckily this one was a special, and isn’t on the regular menu so there will be less of a chance I can order it again and will be forced to try something new.

We also had a side of the hash browns ($5)—also delicious. They were cut very, very thin—like from a spiral cutter and were super crisp, just how I like them. And get this, they’re filled with mild melted cheese. That’s just pure genius. You get the super crispy exterior and the soft gooey middle.

This place does a great job of taking your classic breakfast dishes (and other meals too I’m sure) and spinning them just enough to make them really unique. I highly recommend checking it out if you’re in Chicago—and a great way to try Chef Izard’s food a little more on the cheap.

Also, if you’ve been, let me know what you’ve had that you liked because I’m going to have a hard time choosing.

Little Goat Diner
820 Randolph Street
Chicago, IL

Little Goat Diner on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Bluebeard - Revisit

I may post about this place more than some others, but man, it seems like whenever I go, I just feel like I have to share. I would say Bluebeard is one of the top couple of restaurants we have going in Indy right now, and this meal was no exception.

It also appears the entire city is onto this fact, since the place was jammed at 6:00 on a Saturday in October. We waited about 45 minutes for our table (pretty much exactly what the hostess estimated). I do appreciate that while the space to stand and wait is somewhat limited (if you don’t get a seat at the bar, which we did not), that you are still greeted and waited on by servers in the restaurant. We had a glass of wine within minutes.

Once we were seated, we started our menu negotiations. Standing around in front of the kitchen didn’t help because we saw so many delicious-looking items coming out of there.  We started with the bone marrow with tomato jam, shallot confit, cornichon, whole grain mustard and francese ($16). We ordered this because it sounded very similar to a dish that we had had at Bluebeard in the past and had been blown away by—while the ingredients were very similar, this one was very different. It was more of a deconstructed take on it. You were served the bread with the creamy bone marrow (not sure what they are mixing it with, but it makes it so creamy and smooth) and then everything was on the side to build as you wish. The flavors are great. Rich but balanced with all the pickled things and the slightly sweet tomato and shallot mixes. I prefer it when they put it together for you in the kitchen, but we still really enjoyed it.

The next thing we had was their take on oysters Rockefeller ($12). Man, were these good. Super fresh oysters that were amazingly juicy topped with a creamy spinach mix that had these great little teeny dices of foie gras mixed in. They were then topped with a parmesan/breadcrumb mixture that was perfectly broiled. The dish was just warm enough so the oysters lost nothing. And getting those little bites of creamy foie gras just took a classic dish to another level. There were only three, and usually in a case like that, I give hubby the extra. This time, I made him cut it in half. He wanted a second order.

For our main course, we split one large plate and a small (love that you can mix and match sizes depending on your mood). We had the pappardelle with wild mushroom ragout, chicken and hen of the woods mushrooms, cream and parmesan ($26). So, so good. I am picky about pasta and rarely meet pasta dishes in this town that I love, but this was one of them. It was rich, but not drowned in cream sauce—there were meaty mushrooms and the thick cut pasta was fresh and tender. Again, I ate more than what I would normally eat of a pasta dish. 

But if all these amazing dishes weren’t enough, we also had the toast with soft scrambled quail eggs, golden brook trout roe and crème fraiche ($18). Whoa. This blew my mind. It wasn’t super complicated, but there were a couple pieces of light and toasty bread sitting on the thick and slightly tangy crème fraiche and topped with the moist eggs and healthy amount of the roe. I’m not sure what the deal is with this, but it was perfect. But it was also a little small for me because I really wanted it all for myself. So instead of dessert? Another round of this. That’s how much I liked it for real.

I really love that we have this place. I would gladly eat at this restaurant if it were in any city in the country. I feel like they just keep refining everything here, from the food to the service. I’m so glad to see this place so busy. It’s much deserved.

653 Virginia Avenue
Indy, 46203

Monday, November 3, 2014

Bangkok Restaurant and Jazz Bar

I met my friend @wibia for lunch the other day at Bangkok. It’s been on my list forever, but I haven’t been able to get there and I have heard pretty good things about it. They offer a lunch buffet ($9.99), and again, even though I generally pass on buffets, I thought it might be a good way to try lots of things. I feel kind of mixed on it—I am glad I tried several things because there were several things I didn’t really care for and I would have been bummed if I had ordered a whole dish of them. There were several dishes I liked, so I think I could make a more ideal single choice on a future visit.

The thing I liked the best was probably the “Ginger lover’s pork.”  It had a great ginger flavor and stood out to me from all the other things on my plate. Not sure I would order the pork with it, but I would be tempted to get the “Ginger lovers” version with chicken or shrimp (when you order the entrées on the menu, you can choose whatever protein you like, including tofu).

The green curry chicken was probably the spiciest dish, and I appreciated that considering it was a buffet and it seems like restaurants often turn down the heat under those circumstances. This one had a fair amount (although it was the only very spicy thing that I tried). It had a distinct coconut flavor and had bamboo shoots, bell pepper and basil mixed in.

The pad see ew is often one of my favorite things at Thai places and this one wasn’t bad, but a tad bland. These are wide noodles mixed with carrots, broccoli, cabbage and egg. This one was featuring tofu. I like tofu, but these bits were stir fried pretty hard and didn’t have that underlying velvety texture that I like.

The little fried things—the spring roll and crab Rangoon were good. They maintained a good crispness even after sitting on the buffet. As always, I like a bit of crunch to balance out all the other things. The tom yum (lemongrass) soup was a nice break from all the different flavors and gave you a little heat and a little brightness from the lemongrass.

There was also a stir-fried beef dish (I think it was the “Thai Spicy Basil”) that was also fine, but I am usually not a person who orders beef in stir-fry type dishes, just because it gets kind of tough. 

My least favorite thing was the pad thai. This one featured chicken. Generally, I really enjoy pad thai, but this one had a very distinctive funky taste—(maybe a lot of fish sauce?) that just sort of put me off. I am glad to know that they prepare the dish this way because I would not order it as an entrée, which I might have done before trying it.

For lunch I think I would try a full entrée of the garlic lovers, or I might splurge and get the dinner entrée of sautéed “Eggplant Thailand” with bell peppers and basil. That’s a dish I often love and would be interested to try their version. Actually, the dinner menu has a lot more entrée options that sound more interesting than the more straightforward, classic Thai entrées available as lunch specials.

As for the buffet concept, I would pass on it next time. I’m glad I did it once to try several things, but honestly, it is hard for me to appreciate the nuances of all the dishes with so many flavors on my plate. Plus, we both noticed the food, while it was constantly refreshed while we were there, was not super warm. The service was extremely friendly and attentive, and the place has a nice interior—worthy of a dinner visit, unlike many smaller Thai places. They do a very good business for lunch though, which is always a good thing in a buffet-based model. I would say a majority of people were eating from it as well. My guess is it’s a welcome change for central downtown business diners.

Has anyone else been? What about at dinner? I wonder what the crowd is like with the “Jazz Bar” part of the restaurant’s name.

Bangkok Restaurant and Jazz Bar
225 East Ohio Street
Indy  46204

Bangkok Restaurant & Jazz Bar on Urbanspoon