Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Nada - Revisit

I have been back to Nada a couple of times since I last wrote—once for dinner and once again for brunch. If my son gets to choose a brunch or lunch place, he inevitable chooses Nada. He is obsessed with their chicken tacos. So when we had something to do afterwards downtown, so we decided it was a good choice. We started with their queso ($7), which is pretty much a requirement at this point. I do think they have some of the best queso in town. There are smooshed black beans on the bottom, and when you stir them all in, they have a lot more flavor than most. You can also order several other additions if you want, but I recommend against it. You really don’t need it. Also, I think they have some of the best chips in town—they’re clearly freshly fried, and just nicely layered tortillas. They come across light and salty and delicious. The dinner that is included in this post was with 3 friends who had never been and all loved the chips.  Also, you need a side of guacamole. They do a very nice job with it as well—nice and bright and acidic. Do yourself a favor and get both. For our brunch meal, my kids both had the chicken tacos, which have chicken, guac, cheese, and pico de gallo ($9 for 2 tacos). These make them very happy and I think that’s great.

Hubby and I split one of my all time favorite brunch dishes, the chicken goetta-dicta ($12), which is their version of eggs benedict made with a muffin, a layer of goetta, avocado, poached eggs, and Sriracha hollandaise. It was delicious and it always is. Goetta is a patty made with oats and sausage and is nice and crunchy and meaty at the same time. It’s perfect in this dish with the creamy avocado, perfectly poached egg, and hollandaise. We decided to share this but take the opportunity to try something new as well, so we ordered the  “Mex’orean” fried chicken buns as well. Now as soon as we ordered them, we remembered back to the first time we went to Nada and got the “Mex-orean” fried chicken appetizer and were decidedly disappointed. The chicken was s super dry that time. But I am happy to report that the chicken was much, much better. They serve them on soft slider-type buns with pickles and a lightly spicy mayo type sauce and they were actually very good. I love the whole pickle thing on Asian-style buns, and these were no exception. Good to know they continued perfecting the chicken, because the super light crust was very tasty and the inside remained moist. We would get them again.

The other meal I had was fun because we all got tacos and traded around so I got to try several (each order comes with three tacos at dinner). There were fish tacos ($15), mushroom tacos (“hongos”) ($12), fried avocado tacos ($11) and mu shu ($13). Actually one of my top choices was the mushroom version. I was surprised at how much I liked it and how much flavor it had. There were balsamic grilled mushrooms, guacamole, black bean puree, Chihuahua cheese, rice, and pico de gallo. It sounds like a lot of ingredients, but there was just enough of each of them. The mushrooms still were the star though and were very tender and flavorful. Next, I really enjoyed the fish tacos, which are battered and deep-fried pieces of hake with guacamole, lime marinated cabbage and avocado. They were tasty as well. The cabbage could have been shredded a little finer maybe, but they had a nice bright lime flavor. The fried avocado also had chipotle bean puree, pickled cabbage, maple, pickled red onion and pepitas. This one was good, and I liked the crunch from the pumpkin seeds, but even with the pickled items just seemed to need a little acid. My least favorite was probably the mu shu tacos, which were made with pork marinated in beer and ginger, and topped with sesame, hoisin, lime cabbage and avocado. They were a little dry and the flavor was a little too sweet and one dimensional for me.

All in all though, Nada has really grown on me over the years (particularly brunch). I think they have made improvements over the years. I do wish you could mix and match your own tacos, but I guess if you go with friends, you can always make that happen yourself.

11 West Maryland
Indy 46204

Noise rating: 2 bells (out of five)

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Caplinger's Fresh Catch

Ok, quick little reminder/extra post about Caplinger’s, especially right now since they have fresh soft shell crabs you guys! I have been tortured by pictures of various restaurants’ soft-shell crabs and haven’t been able to get any. I informed hubby that we were going to lunch to make sure we got some before they go out of season. He was happy to oblige. So we were debating our strategy on the way there—maybe one dinner, one sandwich and share? Or should we even be distracted by bread? Well when we got there and found out the dinners usually have about four crabs, we just decided to go with that and split it. Oh, and add a quarter pound of fried oysters. Why not right?

So we ordered the dinner ($16.99). It also comes with two sides and a couple of hush puppies. Now, sides have been a struggle for me at Caplinger's. As much as I love their fried seafood and their fresh fish market, I have yet to find a side that I love. So I decided to just be uninteresting and go with fries. And hubby got red beans and rice. Oh yeah, and that order of oysters (around $6).

I love soft shell crabs. I loved these soft-shell crabs. And I loved that they gave me 5 of them because they were small (they were tiny for real!). They give you their remoulade sauce to dip them in, which is tasty for sure. The thing I realized was that I now love their fries! I was expecting some boring giant steak fries or something that I wouldn’t end up eating. What I got was heavily seasoned crinkle cut potatoes that were delicious in ketchup. I have finally found my side. Sadly, hubby didn’t think much of the red beans and rice, but he also loved the fries. And those hush puppies are moist and tasty too.

The fried oysters were very good too. Smoking hot out of the fryer and these oysters were huge. In a quarter pound, there were five. If I had any complaint, it might just be that they were SO big. But they were super juicy and fresh, and the breading was great. These people really know how to fry up some seafood. And I like that you know its fresh because, well, it’s a seafood market as well. They serve the oysters with cocktail sauce and it is very good. I was undecided if I preferred them dipped in it or the remoulade, so I just traded back and forth between bites.

Anyhow, if you like soft shell crab like I do, or if you haven’t tried it, here’s your chance. You can just go with the dinner like we did, or you can get them as a sandwich (right now there are two to a sandwich). And keep telling me if you have sides you are passionate about. I haven’t tried them all yet.

Caplinger’s Fresh Catch
7460 North Shadeland Ave
Indy. 46250

Monday, May 21, 2018

Road Trip: Blackberry Farm--Walland, TN

Wow, I recently had the opportunity to go to Blackberry Farm with a bunch of girl friends. It is one of those bucket list foodie type places. It’s located near Knoxville, Tennessee just adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If you have some extra cash burning a hole in your pocket, and you love food and the outdoors, you should add it to your bucket list.

I’m not going to go course by course through every meal, as it will only remind me how decadent I was for the three days we were there, but suffice it to say, you really need to bring your stretchy pants. And while the accommodations are expensive, the food is all included (not alcohol) and they are very generous. For instance, at one breakfast, I had decided to go with a slightly healthy option, but when I just casually mentioned to a friend that I would love to try the biscuits and gravy, there was a plate in front of us to share as well in minutes as our ordered breakfast.

Anyway, speaking of breakfast, they do it right. The menu changes slightly every day so you don’t get bored with the same stuff (you can always get the B&G though if you ask). Everything I had was very good, with the strange exception that the kitchen did not seem to be able to poach an egg with a runny middle. But if you got an over easy or sunny egg, you were fine. A star is the grits with pimento cheese and bacon on top (and this was just a side dish). I would say the other favorite was the simple, but comforting B&G. But you can see, we tried several items and they were happy to bring you as many things on the side as you wanted as well. The lemon scones were amazing.

We never had the totally traditional lunch, because we arrived back from a hike late one day and they just laid out a giant picnic table with a ton of different things including barbecued chicken and ribs, and a plethora of salads and sides. The favorites here were the mustard and Bourbon beans and the strawberry, rhubarb, and beet salad. There was so much food though. Wow. Oh yeah, and a whole plate of desserts as well—a favorite here were the berry hand pies. The second lunch we had was part of a cooking demonstration with their Farmstead Manager, Dustin Busby. It was awesome. He showed us how to make homemade ricotta, homemade pasta filled with cheese and herbs, smoked onion jam dressing for our salad, which contained roasted beets and cauliflower, and individual almond financiers. Every single thing was great, and it was really fun to see how easy it was to make it all. We are already planning a party to make all of the items again. Honestly, it might have been one of my favorite meals.

You can eat dinner at The Barn or The Dogwood. The Barn is the more formal restaurant, and is just stunning inside. The Dogwood is the slightly more casual restaurant that is set in the original farmhouse (they call it the main house). Originally we were going to do the Barn twice and the Dogwood once, but ended up switching it around after eating in both. To be frank, the service in the Barn was pretty off the night we were there, and the service at the Dogwood was brilliant. I also enjoyed the slightly more rustic dishes on the Dogwood menu. The flavors just spoke to me more. The highlight at the Barn for me was their beef tartare, which was so good—pretty sure there were some truffles in there as well as roasted mushrooms. It had such a good earthy and well-seasoned flavor. A table favorite was also the potato salad, which was lightly creamy and topped with trout roe and sliced fried potato chips. They also had amazing desserts—several had a key lime pie that was amazing and I ordered a rhubarb sorbet with a cake that was also delicious.

At the Dogwood, one of my favorite dishes was a clam dish that had beer, butter, garlic, fennel and mustard that was recommended by our hiking guide. I ordered this one twice (one of the few things offered both times we were there). I actually got the recipe and was surprised at how little cream and butter was in it. It felt extremely decadent and delicious when I was eating it and now I can’t wait to make it myself. Add some lightly charred grilled bread and this dish was perfect. The salads they make are wonderful—they always have a nice texture variation and plenty of acid (often with something like pickled red onion). One night I also had an egg dish as a starter that was also rich and delicious. I like that the servings aren’t ridiculous since you get four courses every time. The desserts at the Dogwood were also less fancy, but also delicious. One night I had chocolate sea salt sandies and one night a large slice of chocolate cake and vanilla icing.

All in all, it was a really fun trip with a lot of really good food. There are also a lot of fun outdoor activities as well if you like that sort of thing. If not, there’s also a spa, pool, and of course, the cooking lessons. If you have the chance, I say add it to your list. Just start saving now. 

Blackberry Farm
1471 West Millers Cove Road
Walland, TN 37886

Monday, May 14, 2018

Provision -- Revisit

We took my sister and her husband out for their birthdays (they are close together) and they chose Provision. We were happy to go back and check it out. It still just as busy as it has been since it opened from what I can tell, so you can see how much this area was crying out for a restaurant like this.

Before we even got our orders, they brought us a nice amuse bouche, which was a crispy slice of bread with blue cheese and a nice little acidic sauce. Very tasty. Then we started with the bread plate ($5), because it’s just really good. They seem to always have a soft German pretzel stick and slices of Blue Dog Bakery baguette, which are some of my favorite things. This time there was also Naan, and a grainier type of bread. They serve it with nice soft butter as well as some flavored dipping oil. The bread is delicious in either.

I really think they shine at appetizers at Provision. We had the king crab toast ($36) and the tuna tartare ($22). Both of these are excellent, and in my mind, worthy of being dinner if you have a smaller appetite. The king crab toast is pieces of light and buttery brioche-type bread that is toasted and then topped with nice hunks of king crab with jalapeno, Thai basil, and Thai chile beurre blanc—basically an amped up butter sauce. But it is used in just the right amount so as to not take over the delicate flavor of the crab. This was a table favorite and my brother in law nearly ordered a second one for his dinner.

I really liked how they have changed the tuna tartare from how it was originally. It’s funny, because it kind of reminds me of the dish I like downstairs at Blue Sushi Sake. It’s basically fried little rice cakes that are topped with chopped and seasoned tuna tartare. There's some nice spicy sauce on each piece and some red onions and cucumbers. I thoroughly enjoyed this, as did everyone else.

For my main, I was swayed by the special, which was halibut cheeks with all kind of seasonal sides—asparagus, morels, and spring peas and then garnished with a rhubarb salsa. Loved the acid and kick the rhubarb gave to the dish. It added so much brightness. The veggies were all good. Sadly, the halibut was a touch overcooked and came across a bit dry. I was happy to get my first morel of the season though. It was very springy dish for sure.

The boys both had steaks because in the past, hubby had enjoyed steaks that others had ordered. They do season their larger bone-in steaks quite a bit.  The filets on the other hand aren’t quite as heavily flavored, and I think hubby ended up thinking he liked that better. They do nice Robuchon potatoes with their steaks as well, so at least you get a little something with your steak, unlike many places. We also ordered a side dish to split—the potato bacon terrine ($8). Can’t really go wrong with basically a giant tater tot wrapped in bacon right? My sister ordered a starter for her main—the lobster dumplings ($18). They are sauced with chile oil and a sweet soy vinaigrette. I just had a bite—we had a lot of food. They were good, but nothing that really jumped out at me. And not as good as the other two starters. We all shared a piece of sugar cream pie with coffee ice cream for dessert. It is tasty and I like the way they brulee the top of it, giving it just a little crunch when you stick your fork in it.

All in all, I think Provision continues to be a solid new restaurant for the northeast side. The service has improved tremendously since they opened, and I appreciate that they change the menu up a bit with the seasons (I would love to see even more variation). Next time I think I am going to do a dinner of all appetizers and I will be perfectly content. 

And hey, here’s hoping something good goes in the now-closed B Spot just down the sidewalk. It’s really helping my mood to have so many new places that are good so near by.

2721 East 86th Street
Indy  46240

Monday, May 7, 2018

Road Trip: Bread Basket- Danville (Revisit)

We went back out to Danville for a return visit to Bread Basket. My sister and her family really love this place and I looked forward to trying it again as well. So it is kind of a hike from Indy, but if you’re up for an adventure, or if you live on the west side, check it out.

On this visit, I tried the veggie quiche of the day with a side of bacon (+3.29). This was a very tasty quiche. It had mushrooms and spinach in it as well as Swiss cheese. The inside was light and moist and the crust was flakey and tasty. That makes sense since they are known for their pies. The bacon here is also very good. Just the right amount of crispiness and nice and salty.

Hubby went with biscuits and gravy ($4.99 for half, $7.40 for full) topped with eggs (+$2.99). He was very happy with his choice. They do a really nice job with their gravy--it is thick and well seasoned and they certainly know how to cook eggs. He kept saying he was going to stop eating it but ended up eating pretty much all of it (I had some bites obviously). They are quality B&G.

Ok, this place is known for the cinnamon rolls, and seriously, they are some of the best I have had. But, even better, they take the day old rolls and make them into French toast ($11.49). This is what my dad had, and what he usually has (my parents are big fans of this place). It is truly decadent, and even for me, who rarely eats sweets for breakfast, I just kept going in for more bites. It is crazy, the rolls are sweet, the cream cheese frosting is sweet, there’s powdered sugar and butter, and then you can drizzle it with syrup. But, wow, this is addictive. I did take just a regular cinnamon roll home that we ate for dessert for a couple nights (they are huge). These are seriously good. 

My mom just had a standard breakfast with eggs, bacon, potatoes and toast ($7.49). They do a nice job with this as well. And the toast here is really, really good. They make their own bread (you can buy loaves as well) and it makes the toast shine. It may be one of my favorite parts (it came with my quiche as well). My sister had a half a breakfast sandwich and potatoes ($7.49), which is just as delicious partly because of that same toast.

Anyhow, they do breakfast really well—the baked goods are great and any dish that includes them is going to be a winner. Let me know if you have been.

Bread Basket
46 S. Tennessee Street
Danville, IN  46122