Thursday, September 3, 2015

U.S. Adventures- NYC

Recently I took a super quick trip to New York City—it was a trip spurred on by a night with too much wine, and the fact that a bunch of Indiana chefs were cooking at the James Beard House. Several girlfriends and I figured, hey, why not? (I told you there was wine involved). Not going to spend a lot of time on the actual Beard dinner other than to say that we had fun and it was a cool experience to go there (seems kind of pointless to go through all the dishes, etc. since it’s not something you can do). Suffice it to say, there was a lot of great Indiana food and a lot of great Indiana talent represented. If you’re interested in learning more about Chef’s Night Out, who are the group of chefs that put the dinner on, you can check them out on their facebook page.  So again, I’m covering a bunch of places in this one post, so just click on the link to go to their webpages.

(Here's a couple pics from the James Beard dinner though):

We were only there for like 48 hours, but we managed to fit in 4 other meals, starting with our arrival right at lunchtime and a meal at Gramercy Tavern. This place was walkable to our hotel, and seemed like a good old school place to start. It’s a bit more formal feeling than some of the places we ate, but the food was very good. A friend and I started with a spaghetti appetizer ($18) that was light, with just a touch of cream, some corn and a bit of chile and had a nice breadcrumb topping with a few clams—the portion was smallish (the pic is of half, they split it in the kitchen). Tasty, even though we both we wanted a couple more clams.  I had a starter of beef tartare ($16) as my main dish, because I wanted to eat fairly light knowing the dinner that was ahead of us at the Beard House. It was solid—the meat was tender and fresh and it was fairly well seasoned, but overall I would rate it as average amongst the beef tartares I have consumed in my life. Luckily, I was sharing with my friend Jen (we shared the pasta as well) and she gave me some of her arctic char ($25) and it was amazing. Seriously, the fish could only be described as buttery. It also had parmesan-ish foam that was really good with the fish. I was a little jealous. We didn’t order dessert, but they brought us a little tray of petit fours. It was a lovely lunch, even if our server was a little aloof (you’re almost disappointed if you don’t get at least one like that while you’re in New York, right?).

The morning after the Beard dinner, I woke up early and decided to hit up Buvette in the West Village, based on the recommendation of my favorite (and only) hairdresser. A couple of my girlfriends were game to come along with me, and it was a straight shot on the subway. It’s an adorable little French place that specializes in lots and lots of egg dishes in the morning. Totally me. Apparently, they cook their scrambled eggs with their espresso machine steamers or something like that. Whatever they’re doing, they’re making some deliciously creamy scrambled eggs (something I don’t normally order out). Mine came on two small pieces of toast and was topped with caviar and crème fraiche ($25). I just couldn’t resist. Also, don’t pass up on the little plate of tiny croissants ($7)--they were also extremely delicious (and so super cute).  They serve them with a spoonful of soft butter and jam. The fresh OJ ($7) was delicious as well. Everything in this place is diminutive—the restaurant, the tables, the pastries and the food. But just right to start a day of lots of eating.  They’re open til 2:00 am as well, and I can imagine this place is always doing a bustling business.

We continued our meal plan looking for things that aren’t as easy to come by in Indy. So for lunch, we went with Ivan Ramen. There were five of us and we wanted to try pretty much all of the apps, so we basically did. I think my favorites were the meatballs (go figure) ($13), which were made with pork and covered with bonito flakes, which kind of fluttered in the breeze. There were also two sauces—one was a buttermilk sauce and one was called a bulldog sauce. The meatballs were super tender and had tons of umami with the fish flakes and the pork and the sauces. Also a great accompaniment was the pickled daikon dish ($10) that was light and tangy and then topped with crumbles of what was actually dried shrimp and scallops, but tasted like little crisp bits of garlic or something. A great combo. We also enjoyed the Chinese greens with garlic ($9)—I really liked the pickled garlic slices on top. All the dishes here were well done when it came to combining pickle flavors (acid!) and rich savory flavors. We also had the LES buns, which were buns stuffed with pastrami, karashi mayo and daikon slaw ($11). I only tried one small bite of these, but they were my least favorite. Still not bad, but the other stuff was just much more interesting.  I had the more traditional Tokyo Shoyu ramen ($15), which is your classic ramen type dish—noodles (these were rye noodles) served in broth in a bowl (this was actually chicken and dashi stock) and topped with pork and egg and slivered scallions. It was a tasty dish—simple but with a rich broth. The piece of pork was maybe a little fatty for me, but I ate every bit of the noodles and broth. The egg was perfect too. It may not have been my favorite ever, but it was solidly in the running. My sharing friend Jen ordered the tonkotsu tsukemen ($16), which was something I had not had before. It was a bowl of cold whole-wheat noodles served with a separate pork broth that you dipped the noodles into. It came with crispy “burned” garlic, chile oil and scallions to add to your broth. It was tasty as well, although I think I preferred the whole thing being already assembled in my dish. Jen added the egg, crispy fried pork and roasted tomato option (+$5) and that crispy pork was quite nice. The server was super nice and they had a nice little patio that we enjoyed.

For our final dinner, we went with a southern Italian place in Soho, because, well you know how hard it is to find interesting (good) Italian food in Indy. We chose Sessanta kind of randomly off the Eater Heatmap.  It’s a cool little place as well—you definitely feel like you’re in New York. We again had a great table on the front outdoor seating area—this one was on the street, and the weather was amazing and it was a great time. This is another place that I wish we had something like in Indy—I think the closest we have is Bluebeard, in that they serve more than pasta etc., but I think Sessanta is more focused Italian. We started with several appetizers—and they brought us some little fried gnocchi as an amuse to start. We ordered the tuna crudo ($19), which was so tender and so good, and was topped with caper berries (nicely sliced into edible pieces), shaved zucchini and pickled lampascioni—which are hyacinth bulbs. Not sure I had ever had these. The dish was dressed with lime juice and all these flavors together were delicious. The fritto misto ($ 15was also good—it included shrimp and other veggies—zucchini, broccoli (another of my favorite fried items) and my personal favorite touch—some fried lemon slices. If you cut them really thin and fry them, they are a great acidic crunchy kick to eat along with the more standard fried items. This was a good misto. We shared the arancine ($10), which are fried risotto balls. They were crisp and tasty as well, but just didn’t hold my attention the way the other things did.

Jen and I also shared the Mozzarella Pugliese ($19), which were lovely pieces of soft, fresh mozzarella on top of marinated eggplant, bits of pistachio and fried capers. A great mix of textures and flavors and a nice variation from always serving mozzarella like this with tomatoes. We also shared the eggplant ravioli “alla Norma,” which was also delicious—nice ravioli and some toasty eggplant (we obviously like eggplant. We also shared the roasted branzino ($32)—a really nicely seared piece of fish with crisp skin sitting on top of spigarello (like broccoli rabe), tomato and special Italian almonds. A great piece of fish complemented by lots of varying flavors and crunch from the nuts.

All in all, it was a whirlwind of a trip, but was filled with fun with friends, some great food, wonderful weather and a couple of educational experiences (we fit them in between meals). I really need to do this more often.

Monday, August 31, 2015

B's Po Boy -- Revisit

In the tradition of always reminding you about my favorite places, I am reposting about B’s Po Boy. This is a favorite for me and hubby, and the kids like it as well. I know I have mentioned it before, but hubby went to school in New Orleans, and is particular about his po boys. He loves the po boys at B’s and finds them very authentic.

We pretty well have our order down to a science, except every once in a while when hubby gets the fried oyster po boy or I get a soft shell crab po boy when they are running them as a special. But on a usual summer evening, our favorite time to go, we sit outside and have fried shrimp po boys. Hubby gets a whole one plus extra shrimp ($12 + $9 for extra shrimp)(hold the pickles), and I get a half one with extra shrimp ($8.50 + $5 for extra shrimp) fully dressed (mayo, lettuce, tomato and pickles). They ship the bread in from New Orleans and it tastes like just the right kind that you want for a po boy, soft, but with a bit of firmness on the outside. When you get extra shrimp, they are literally just falling out of the sandwich all over the place, which is a good way to be. My daughter tried a half of the blackened catfish po boy this time ($9, even though both kids usually tend to get the fried shrimp po boys too.

The shrimp is small and has s nice seasoned crispy coating. It sometimes falls off a bit—it’s a messy sandwich for sure, but oh so tasty. They don’t cook them to death—they’re nice and tender. I also like to get a side of their remoulade ($.75) to drizzle on my sandwich. Hubby just shakes some hot sauce on his, which he claims is what you’re “supposed” to do. The catfish was nice and tender, but a little too spicy for my daughter—I thought it was nice but it certainly had a spicy kick with the blackening seasoning.

My daughter’s favorite things at B’s are the beignets ($5.50) though, and they are tasty. We always get the chocolate dipping sauce, and it’s nice and rich and warm. They beignets and pretty airy inside, but the dough is somewhat dense as well. Like large, slightly denser doughnuts. On this trip my son realized they also have root beer floats ($5) on the menu, and was thrilled to get this as well. They gave him two nice scoops of ice cream and a bottle of Abita root beer. He was thrilled with it.

We sat outside—the kids played bocce right next to where we were sitting, and we all enjoyed a lovely evening. I like that they have added extensive sails over the top of the seating area to limit as many people as possible from having to sit in the sun. It’s one of our favorites for an easy, casual, dependable meal. And it’s perfect for outdoor dining on a nice night.

B’s Po Boy
1261 South Shelby Street
Indy  46203

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Road Trip: Main Street Diner--Richmond, IN

My kids stayed at their Grandparents for a few days this summer, and I met them halfway between our houses, in Richmond, to pick them up. Of course, my first thought was, we should meet at lunchtime. And my second thought was, where to go in Richmond? I actually wanted to try this restaurant I read about ages ago, but apparently it had gone out of business. I ended up just picking the Main Street Diner because it looked kind of cute, and looked like it had a menu that would please everyone. It’s an old school diner place. There are booths and a counter and that’s it. It was a little tight fitting the 5 of us into one booth, but they did bring us an extra chair. The guy working the front was really nice and enthusiastic—I think they are recently under new ownership.

It’s a pretty straightforward menu—burgers and sandwiches pretty much, although you can also order breakfast any time.  I ordered the hand-breaded tenderloin ($7.50) with a side of hash browns (love that you can order breakfast sides as well as the regular ones). My son ordered biscuits and gravy ($3.25) and my daughter had a chicken sandwich ($7.50).

The food was pretty solid diner food—nothing blowing your mind, but care was taken with all of it. My tenderloin was hand-breaded and large, and tasted like the breading was made with corn flakes, which I always enjoy—giving it a little more flavor than many. It was super thin though, and tended to be a little on the dry side. My kids cut all the extra large edges that hung over my bun and ate them like nuggets. They gave you all the right fixins’ on the side, and I stacked up my red onions, pickles, lettuce and mayo. The hash browns tasted like they were seasoned a bit, which I appreciated. The portion was huge and the outside was pretty crisp (key for me). They were maybe a little more blackened than I prefer (I love a golden brown hash brown) but not too bad.

My daughter’s chicken sandwich was pretty basic—mainly because that’s how she tends to order them—just straight up chicken with cheese pretty much. My son really liked his biscuits and gravy—again, these were standard but still tasted good—there were nice chunky bits of sausage mixed in. The biscuits were pretty soft, but absorbed the gravy nicely. He only ordered a half order, which was one biscuit, and ended up ordering a second biscuit to finish up all the gravy.

Again, the guy waiting on us (and pretty much the only front of the house person) was very friendly and helpful. There were a few tables in there, but it was by no means full. It’s the kind of place that I bet makes a great solid egg breakfast as well.

Since we were there, and I had noticed it on my way down Main Street, the kids and I hit Olympian Candies on the way out of town. It’s one of those old-fashioned candy stores that for some reason Indy doesn’t seem to have (not that we don’t have great chocolate, but none of these shops that have been around for 50 years). They hand dip all their chocolates and they were delicious. My kids loved the marshmallows and the salted caramels, but I was partial to the dark chocolate covered raisin clusters. Super nice people, super yummy chocolate.

Main Street Diner
1600 East Main Street
Richmond, IN 

Oympian Candies
625 East Main Street
Richmond, IN 47374

Monday, August 24, 2015

Delicia- Brunch

Hubby and I had a chance to go to a weekend brunch on our own the other day and decided to give Delicia a try—we weren’t sure whether the kids would be huge fans, so this was a good opportunity. A lot of you have recommended it to me when I am complaining about the lack of brunch places in Indy as well. 

First of all, on a Sunday, it wasn’t too busy, which was nice because you didn’t really need a reservation (although they do take them, which I appreciate) and they have a full bar so if you’re one who wants a Bloody Mary or some such thing, you can get it here. All of the menu sounds really good, and it was hard to choose—lots of eggs, which you know makes me happy. Less of the sweet-type options, if that is what you tend to go for though.

We decided to start with a little brunch cocktail—I was interested in trying something different, because although I love margaritas, I have actually never loved the margaritas at Delicia. I spied a drink called the Caipirinha ($9)—made with cachaca, which is like a rum that is distilled from cane sugar, muddled limes and sugar. It was very good. It was tart, but the alcohol balanced it nicely. I would easily get one of these in the future here instead of a margarita. Hubby had a lovely mimosa ($7) served in a wide, old-fashioned champagne glass. Both drinks were quite nice.

We negotiated over the menu a bit, and settled on chilaquiles rojos ($9) and the huevos benedictos ($11).  You guys, these were both really delicious. It has been awhile since I’ve been to Delicia for dinner, and honestly I have had ups and downs food-wise, but brunch was great. I was impressed.

The chilaquiles were interesting—there were lots of tortillas that were mixed in, but they weren’t particularly crunchy. This surprised me, but ultimately didn’t bother me. They still had a dense texture that gave the dish a nice variation and that corn flavor. The tortillas were topped with a mild chile sauce, mole sauce, Chihuahua cheese and queso fresco. Oh, and of course two fried eggs that had nice runny yolks. This dish was wonderful—it had such wonderfully savory flavors and the chile sauce rounded it out nicely. You could add chicken or chorizo for an additional cost, and I was going to, but forgot. I was glad I forgot though because I think it was just perfect as is.

The huevos benedictos were also really delicious. It was the Delicia version of eggs benedict, but they made this one with English muffins sliced very thin, which were topped with beautifully poached eggs, a chipotle hollandaise sauce and slices of crisp Serrano ham on top. This was very well done. First of all, I loved the crisp ham—this is something I do with Prosciutto frequently—stick it in the oven and let it get crisp. It intensifies the flavor and gives you a nice crunchy bite. The eggs were cooked just right—nice and runny inside and I liked the little extra smoke and heat that came from the sauce. I appreciated that the muffins weren’t too bready either. If you want to go with something more familiar, which is ratcheted up a notch, this is a good choice. It also came with a side of breakfast potatoes, which I didn’t try because--did you see how many tortillas were on the other plate? Plus, I rarely meet home fries that I really like.

All in all, this is a place that is definitely going into the brunch rotation for sure. They even have a small children’s menu for brunch that I
think might woo my kids.

5215 N. College Ave
Indy  46220