Monday, February 29, 2016

The Libertine - Revisit

After being told by my twitter friend @cisko about how much he enjoyed the Devour Downtown menu at The Libertine, hubby and I decided to give it a try. We had not been to the new location of The Libertine under the Mass Ave Pizzology, so it was a good time to get back in there to check it out.  The basement bar is pretty cool—love the bar itself. The rest of the place is fairly small, but decently cozy. A very different feel from the sort of modern feel of the previous incarnation. 

We got the Devour menu to split and then added a few items to it as well, because the menu said the devour items were sized to be a tasting for more than one person—and I would agree with that. It was $35 for the 5 courses. I’ll go through all of those first, so you can see what you get for your money.

The first course was lamb pate with port, sage and sorghum. I generally enjoy pate and this was a pretty good one—the lamb part was pretty mild. Hubby wasn’t a fan of the port/sorghum aspect of it, but I didn’t mind it. They bread they served with it was on point. Perfectly toasted and delicious. I’m guessing Amelia’s. I also really enjoyed the lightly dressed parsley salad served alongside. The dish would have been nowhere as good without it—it added a great acidic kick.
Pierogis and Carrots

The next course was a warmed carrot salad with cilantro, yogurt, and shaved foie gras. I was most leery of this course when we ordered because carrots rarely wow me. But this turned out to be one of my favorite things of the evening. The carrots were so nicely caramelized, which just brought out their sweetness. Combined with the tangy yogurt and the little bit of richness from the little bit of foie gras, this dish was a winner. They should add this to the regular menu.

Next was a crudo of Hamachi with ponzu , watermelon radish, chilies and togarashi. This was a very small, but nice dish. It was a nice change up with the other richer things. The fish was very fresh and tender and was good with the little creamy sauce. It was a good refreshing bite.

The sort of “main” dish of the devour menu was a piece of wagyu short rib with bacon, polenta and tomato sauce. This was by far our least favorite. The piece of short rib was decent, but the pork belly on the plate was really fatty and gelatinous. I feel more and more like pork belly is going this way and I don’t care for it. I don’t know if more fat is being left on and not cooked as long, but it just doesn’t taste good to me. 

Luckily though, the dishes we ordered from the regular menu were pretty much all winners.  The fried chicken livers atop a cornmeal waffle with bbq mushrooms and sorghum were stupendous ($12). Although the menu should really say chicken “liver” because there was only one, and the waffle part was about a quarter of a full sized waffle. You really need one of these to yourself. The crispy chicken liver with the savory waffle and the sweetness from the sorghum was just perfect. I hope this stays around for a while, I want to go get one to myself.

Also a favorite were the braised kale, slab bacon and potato pierogis ($10). These little soft dumpling-ish pierogis melted in your mouth. And the kale cut some of the richness. It came across like greens, but not as strong as collards or mustard greens. This was a dish that hubby and I had to split exactly evenly because we both wanted our fair share.

Finally, as far as savory courses, we had the Indiana oxtail and Vermillion blue grilled cheese ($9). Loved that this was made with blue cheese and was served on grilled Amelia’s city loaf. I also really liked the pickled red onions to add that touch of acid I need. This one wasn’t maybe as refined or interesting as some of the other things we ate, and in spite of the fact that the bread on the bottom of the sandwich was pretty seriously burnt, it was still enjoyable. I liked the addition of some dressed greens on the plate to add even a little more acidic punch.

Lastly, and the last course of the Devour menu, was blood orange panna cotta with caramel, and hazelnut tuille. I love blood orange and this was a nice, not too filling, dessert.  The tangy citrus was nice with the rich caramel and I appreciated the textural component from the tuille. A nice way to finish the meal.

Overall, I was quite pleased with our dinner. The things I didn’t care for were not things I would have likely ordered had it not been for the Devour menu, but I was also glad that I got to try the carrot dish, which was also something I probably would not have ordered either. They are doing some interesting things at The Libertine, and I am glad to see it. Service-wise, our server was very nice and in the beginning of the meal right on top of things. As things got busy, service got slower and one thing we had ordered (after they were out of something else) never got delivered, but we didn’t get charged for it either. And we had more than enough to eat. Although, I do recommend sharing several plates as many of them were on the somewhat small size (which I like, but just so you know). Cocktails were good as well.

The Libertine
608 Massachusetts Avenue
Indy 46204

Thursday, February 25, 2016

La Parada - Revisit

Quickie post—met a friend for lunch at La Parada the other day. He was craving Mexican food so we ended up there. I have been several times for tacos, but if I’m quite honest the last couple of times the tacos have let me down a bit. Not sure what it was, but they just didn’t wow me like they did the first couple of times.

So, since one of my current favorite things to order in a Mexican place is chilaquiles (this should surprise no one since they involve eggs generally) and they had them on the menu (really though, is there anything remotely Mexican that is not on this menu? It’s ridiculously huge), this is what I ordered--chilaquiles with eggs ($8.99)

Anyhow, the server asked me if I wanted green or red sauce and I couldn’t decide, so she did it half and half for me. That was nice. And as it turned out, I liked the green side better, a bit of acidic flavor and just a little more flavor in general. The only thing a little weird was that the eggs were just fried and placed on the side. I kinda like ‘em mixed in with my tortillas and sauce. I did it myself, but it just wasn’t the same. Tasted ok, but not my favorite version.

We also had chips and salsa (I mean you get that free). They salsa they give you is good, just the right amount of fresh flavor and chunkiness. We had some queso dip as well. It was just average. And not quite hot enough to start. But she happily microwaved it for us.
Friend's burrito

Overall, it was fine, but not something I am going to crave to try again soon. So where can I get some good chilaquiles in Indy? I mean besides Delicia at brunch, because those are delicious.

La Parada
1642 East New York Street
Indy   46201

Monday, February 22, 2016

Chao Vietnamese Street Food

The BFF and I are apparently on a quest to try all the pho, so a new Vietnamese place opens in Fishers? Yes, lunch is planned. Several of you mentioned Chao Vietnamese Street Food on twitter the other day when I asked for new lunch ideas. It’s in a strip mall on 96th Street. It’s very casual in décor—you order up front and they bring your food out to you, but it is cute. 

I ordered the beef pho and she ordered the veggie pho (each around $10). Ok, it was good pho, but, and I know I have said this before it is rare that one stands out above or below others for me. This one had a decent broth (one of the main important things) and the usual stuff inside—onions and of course, rice noodles.  The usual plate of fresh stuff to add—this one only had basil as the herb (no cilantro), lots of bean sprouts, some jalapeno slices and two nice juicy lime wedges. I had to doctor it up a fair amount with this stuff, as well as some fish sauce and Sriracha. I have come to learn this is just what you do with pho, but I still always wonder if this is how it’s meant to be.  Anyhow, the beef it is was sliced very thin, as it should be, but the pieces were just a little too big to eat in one bite. And I would say there was maybe slightly less of the actual meat than at some places. But overall it was a nice lunch. Pho in winter is a good thing.

My friend liked her veggie version too, although she said she liked other versions with more vegetables in it better. This had the noodles, some tofu and another weird noodle type item that looked a bit like a sponge. Neither of us could identify it for sure. There was also some veg, just not a ton. Again though, she doctored it up in a similar way and enjoyed it.

There were several other items on the menu that looked good. I saw several rice dishes with various kids of meat coming out of the kitchen that I would really like to try. They also have these chao fries topped with lemongrass pork, pickles daikon and carrots and spicy mayo that sound a little magical. There are also Banh Mi sandwiches on offer. I would say the pho ranks in the middle of those I have tried, but I would certainly like to try some of the other dishes. It is also nice to see a place like this in Fishers—and also a place like this in Fishers doing so well (it was doing a very good business by the time we left on a Wednesday). It just goes to show you that Indy people are looking for things other than sandwiches and fast food to eat for lunch. This makes me happy.

Chao Vietnamese Street Food
7854 E. 96th Street
Fishers, IN 46037

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Brad Gates Catering- Revisit

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I am a fan of Brad Gates from way back to Puck’s and Euphoria days (gosh, I bet many of you don’t even remember those places). Anyhow, Chef Gates has a lunch spot in the City Market, serving quick serve type items and to go things, but he also runs a successful catering business. And he is my go to whenever I need a party catered.

My favorite way to get food from him is to have him do lots of little bites. You know I like a good tapas style meal. So when we had a last minute going away party for some friends, I was thrilled they were available. Here’s a quick rundown of what we ate.

First were wild mushroom shumai with scallion dipping sauce. These were so good. Also vegetarian. I kept going back for more of that sauce to pour all over them. The mushrooms kept the dumplings nice and moist.

I loved the twice-baked fingerlings he does, and I love that everyone likes them. Think of little teeny potatoes stuffed with bacon, chives and cheddar and drizzled with crème fraiche.

The chilied salmon nachos with avocado crème fraiche and pico di gallo are also a perennial favorite in our house, and have been a recurring order whenever we have Brad cater. Another re-order, and something I used to even order at Euphoria was the sweet potato gnocchi with slow-braised Gunthrop Farms pork, Brussels sprouts and Parmesan. We love this one and saved some of the leftovers for a nice meal the next day. Even the kids love this dish.

We had a mixed group, so we wanted some items that were easily recognizable to people as well—so there were lump crab cakes with chives and honey remoulade as well as roasted Italian meatballs topped with a light San Marzano marinara sauce. And you can’t beat the service method for the meatballs—they were on a stick. Made ‘em easy to eat at a party where everyone was milling around.
gnocchi with pork

There was also some crostini with goat cheese, roasted pepper and pine nuts—ok I can’t speak to this one because I was too busy hitting the big money items, but people seemed to enjoy them as well.

Gates Catering is a great chef-driven caterer. I have enjoyed many sit down meals from here as well, but my favorite way is always the small plates. 

Brad Gates Catering
Indianapolis City Market
222 East Market Street
Indy  46204

Monday, February 15, 2016


Hubby and I were trying to hit Taste of Havana the other day for lunch, but we walked in and it was so packed, there were people waiting everywhere, and there was no way we were going to get a seat. Have to hit it again maybe a little earlier in the lunch rush.

Anyway, a couple of you had mentioned going to Sahara, the new Middle Eastern kid on the block and enjoying it, so we ran across the street to try it instead. They have done a nice job with the interior—it’s a bit nicer inside than most Broad Ripple Avenue places. It seems to be run by a family—everyone seemed to be related to one another, and there was even what looked like a Grandma cooking in the back. Of course, I could be totally wrong and they could all just be random strangers, but it’s nicer to think it’s a family. There is a slight language barrier, but nothing major. They offer table service, even though it appears to be at first glance a place where you order at the bar.
Brides with meat, hummus and pastries

So we sat and looked and the menu and were intrigued by the appetizer portion (not surprising for me) and we decided to just go with a tapas style lunch. We ordered several of the various pastries ($1.49 each). We had the spinach, the potato and the white cheese. We also ordered hummus ($3.99 for small), falafel (small order $2.99), and the “Brides with meat” ($5.99) as well as the “Brides with cheese” ($5.99). I am not sure where this name comes from, and when I googled it to see if it is a thing that I just didn’t know about—a bunch of pictures with actual brides—white dress and all came up holding chicken legs and stuff. Made me laugh. 

These brides with meat were probably my favorite item. They are grilled pitas stuffed with a ground meat mixture made from beef and lamb. This meat had a great spicy flavor—they are not shy about the seasonings for sure. I especially liked them dipped in the tahini dip that came along with the falafel. After eating a couple bites of this, we added the cheese brides onto our order—same grilled and seasoned pita only stuffed with cheese. Sort of a Mediterranean style quesadilla. This place is open late (or I should say early, pretty sure they said they’re open to 4 am) and these items would be excellent late night/after a few drinks snacks. Not that I am ever up that late, but some of you might be. Side note: they put a few seasoned fries on the plate with the brides with meat—they were good seasoned fries although I’m pretty sure they were standard foodservice, which none of the other stuff was. And I’m not sure they always come with it—it’s not listed on the menu and didn’t come with the cheese version.

The falafel was also quite good. I am not a huge falafel person because I tend to find most too dry and lacking in flavor, but again, they are not shy with seasonings and this falafel was just perfectly crisp fried on the outside and quite tender on the inside. Again, the dipping sauce was very nice. I would get an extra order of that just for dipping everything into. The hummus was pretty straightforward in taste—I liked the little extra bits of texture that was added from the whole chickpeas on top. The pita served alongside was fine, but I would prefer if it was lightly grilled.

Brides with cheese
The weakest parts of the meal were the pastries. They were very bready, with not quite enough filling and they needed to be warmer—they were barely warmed. By far the best one of the three was the spinach—it was filled with lots of sautéed spinach and had about the right amount of filling. The potato one was just too dense and didn’t have enough flavor. Just all starch. The cheese pastry did not have enough cheese or seasoning either. I would take a pass on these next time, although they do look pretty. My only other gripe about the place was the napkins. They are cocktail napkins. And cheap ones at that. You need about 15-20 to get through the meal. Surely this is not cheaper than one decent napkin would cost.

It’s a nice addition to Broad Ripple Village though for sure—nice to see something other than the usual bars going in. And something that clearly a family is putting their heart and soul into. I look forward to trying some of the other menu items. Maybe I will even get a main dish next time. 

832 Broad Ripple Avenue
Indy 46220

Thursday, February 11, 2016

U.S. Adventures: Palm Beach, Florida

I’m going to try and make this pretty quick, because it’s a post from outside Indy, but no promises. For my birthday, hubby took me and the kids to Palm Beach for a little getaway. The thing that excited me about this place when I started researching restaurants was how many great options were.

For my birthday dinner, we went to my number one choice—a place called Buccan. It had great ratings and a great sounding menu. I so wish Indy had a place with a menu like this. Highlights of the appetizers (besides for the amazing bread plate) were Hamachi sashimi ($16) andbeef tartare ($14). On top of that wonderfully seasoned tartare was a breaded and fried poached egg. It had lots of acid and even my daughter loved it.

Highlights of the main part of the dinner were hubby’s pork tacos ($5.50) with avocado crema and salsa verde and the short rib empanadas ($6 each) with salsa criolla and aji Amarillo. They flavor profiles of these small plates were intense. Honestly better than my birthday splurge of house made pappardelle with shaved white truffles, which was fun and tasty and rich, but just didn’t stand out the same way. The other highlight believe it or not was my son’s roasted half chicken “Boudin” with mustard jus ($29). Wow, that skin on that chicken was amazing for real. So much flavor and so super crisp. I would actually order it myself if I went back. I loved this place. We even watched Dr. Oz have a few words with the hostess at the table next to us.

My next favorite dinner was at Echo. This is a Japanese restaurant—they do sushi but so much more, and while both the rolls we had were quite good (gotta love a roll with some real fresh jumbo lump crab in it (the Hurricane roll at $17) and a roll with spicy conch on top (the Palm Beach roll at $16))—the highlight of the evening for me was the two hot entrées that my kids chose. My favorite was the sweet and sour halibut ($32) which had large chunks of tempura fried halibut (perfectly juicy on the inside and crunchy on the outside) all tossed in a slightly sweet, but not cloying, sauce. It had a good tang to it and I loved it. We also enjoyed sharing the wagyu flatiron steak ($35) with bulgogi marinade. Ok, really what we really liked about it was the kimchi fried rice underneath. That stuff was amazing. I mean the beef was good—a touch chewy, but that rice was fabulous. The entire table also enjoyed the Peking duck buns ($22). The biggest letdown was the salmon and tuna tartare duo that hubby and I ordered—it was really pretty bland. This restaurant was DARK though. Really dark. I never use my phone as a flashlight in restaurants and there was no other way here.

We also went to dinner at PB Catch, which is your basic seafood place. There was nothing wrong with this place, but nothing stood out in the same was as the first two. I also realized those giant stone crab claws just aren’t that special for me. Give me a Dungeness any day. (We did have a couple and they were really expensive and just ok). Hubby and I shared everything we ordered and the grilled oysters with paprika butter were very good. The oysters here were very fresh. I also ordered another appetizer as my entrée and it was very unique—and one of the best things on the table all night. It was a dish with bay scallops that were deep fried and served with spaetzle, compressed apple (in little balls that almost looked like scallops themselves) and little bits of braised oxtail ($20). It was a wonderful dish. My daughter’s tuna ($42) contained lots of olives and was tasty as well. Hubby’s fish and chips were not good. That crust was soggy.

We also ate lunch in Del Ray Beach one day when we wanted to check out another area (it’s a cute little beachy town with lots and lots of bars and restaurants and a few shops). We ate at City Oyster and had a nice meal there as well. Hubby and I shared the carpaccio of tuna with fennel, capers, and basil ($13.75) and the salmon BLT ($16) served on housemade challah bread with caper aioli. The BLT was heavy on bread, but we ate it open-faced and it was delish. The tuna was unique in presentation and all the sauces along the edge made the dish. The kids were also happy with their clam chowder (son) and seared mahi mahi (daughter). Also, we splurged and had dessert. The key lime pie and chocolate pudding with sea salt ($7) also both very good.

Other than these, most of the meals were in the hotel gazing at the ocean and were wonderful because of the views—and the food wasn’t bad either, although not quite as stellar as the other things we had out. We stayed at Eau Palm Beach if anyone is interested hearing more about it, drop me a line.

All in all, a great trip, great weather, and a perfect way to spend my birthday.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Byrne's Grilled Pizza

I took my daughter to see Wizard of Oz at Clowes Hall the other day—I needed somewhere we could eat an early supper nearby before the 6:30 show time. No idea where her love of musical theater comes from…but that’s another story.

I remembered hearing about Byrne’s Grilled Pizza taking over the old Oh Yumm spot on Illinois and thought it would be perfect. They are also open all day and on Sundays. Check and check. Byrnes started its life as a food truck that many people had mentioned to me, but I had never gotten a chance to try. Nice to see they have done well enough to move into a brick and mortar spot.

Because it was so early, we were the only ones there for a while, but our server was exceptionally friendly and helpful.  We started with an order of breadsticks (2 or 4 per order, we had 2) with a side of garlic olive oil for dipping (there are several dipping options) ($3.25). The breadsticks are their pizza dough done in a chewy breadstick and topped with salt. Interesting, because their pizza crusts are the super thin type, but these were pretty good. I really enjoyed the garlic dipping sauce, which was a pretty simple combo of good quality olive oil and minced garlic. The garlic was yummy, as garlic tends to be.

Their pizzas come in two sizes—the smaller one being a personal pan size. We each got one of these. It was a good way to try two completely different pies as well. I had “The Californian” ($10) and my daughter the “PBS” ($10). We both enjoyed our pizzas. Mine was topped with red sauce, spinach, bacon, plum tomato slices and avocado. And cheese of course. The crust here is very thin and crisp—almost more like a flatbread. I enjoyed the nice change of pace. I also liked that they gave you just enough of each topping, and not so much that the pizza became soggy or overwhelmed. They also liberally season their pizzas with dried herbs.

My daughter’s PBS had pepperoni, Smoking Goose jowl bacon and sausage (and cheese and red sauce). She really seemed to enjoy it. She ordered it because it had Smoking Goose bacon and she “only eats bacon from Smoking Goose.” Seriously. It’s kind of a problem because there’s a lot of bacon in this world that isn’t Smoking Goose. Anyhow, she ate almost all of it, which is a sure sign that she enjoyed it. She prefers the crumbly bits of sausage on pizza and that is the kind they use here. Again, super crispy crust. 

I was also happy to see that Byrnes had also acquired the Oh Yumm chocolate chip bread pudding recipe. Whenever hubby and ate there, we always looked forward to this dessert. It was still delicious—studded with lots of chocolate chips in a very moist bread pudding topped with vanilla and raspberry sauce and a couple slices of strawberry. It was nice to see it passed along. Apparently Byrnes hired several of the staff from Oh Yumm as well, which was also nice to hear.

The interior is a little more stark, with some wooden beams added to the ceiling and a counter from which you can order carry out (which seemed a popular option as people were coming in the whole time we were there to do just that on a cold Sunday evening). If you like that cracker thin type of crust, and more creative topping options than many places are offering (would like to try the Mexican pizza), you should check this place out. Let me know what you think.

Byrne’s Grilled Pizza
5615 N. Illinois Street
Indy 46208

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Recess - Revisit

This week’s quickie post is about Recess. I saw in their social media that they were doing the Room 4 cheeseburger for a couple of nights and I needed to eat it. The kids are also fans, so we trekked over as a family.

That burger? One of the best in town (fat burger wise anyhow). Tender meat, cheese, Dijon/mayo, lettuce, onions, pickles (I had to get them on the side because I was sharing with hubby) and a Brioche bun. Perfect.  And the crispy fries (more like slices) are strangely addictive. There were fights over them at our table. Those burgers were just pouring out of the kitchen all night.

We also ordered the chirashi, or scattered sushi bowl—the first time I have really tried the new raw bar menu. There was tuna, Hamachi and salmon sashimi served over sticky sushi rice with chunks of cucumber (could have lived without those personally) but I loved the shaved lightly pickled cucumbers on the side. Wonderful fish, delightfully simple, but great dish.

My daughter also ordered the goat cheese quesadilla with chicken. It was wee, but mucho delicious. We ended up ordering a second one because everyone wanted some of the first one. 

The food at Recess is always great. The service can get a little sketchy. Prepare for a little more time than you would think is my advice. And enjoy every bite. And if that burger’s on the menu, go get one. 

4907 N. College Ave
Indy 46205