Saturday, March 16, 2013

Monday, July 2, 2012

Ocean Prime

Last Friday it was the S.O. and I visiting the new hot restaurant on the north side, Ocean Prime. It's been open less than a month, I believe, and it really feels like it. They have yet to gather their sea legs underneath them.

Operated by the same Columbus, Ohio company that owns Mitchell's Fish Market you would expect excellent service, value and a menu with mass market appeal. My impression is that they are trying to go upscale with this restaurant and compete with Ruth's Chris. This place felt like a steak house disguised as a seafood restaurant. In fact, the first thing their somewhat under trained server pointed out on the menu was their selection of grain-fed beef steaks. Wait, I thought this was a seafood restaurant.

Of course, you know I am about wine, so the first thing ordered was the wine. The wine list was very California centric, but they did have several Italians and a few other Old World wines. I ordered the Louis Latour Chassagne-Montrachet, which is an excellent Chardonnay from Burgundy. They also had the Latour Puligny-Montrachet from vineyards just a few miles up the road from where our wine was sourced for about twice the price. Seasoned Burgundphiles can no doubt tell the difference but we were very happy with our wine.

For the first course we shared the tuna tartar. It has been so hot I have actually been craving this dish. It had raw tuna on top with an avocado puree underneath and something crunchy in between. (You know I am really bad at writing down the ingredients of dishes or remembering what exactly was in each one.) Both the S.O. and I loved this dish. It was the best dish by far of what we had.

For our entrees the S.O. ordered the crab cakes and I ordered the yellowfin tuna. Neither was completely satisfying. The S.O. felt her crab cakes were under seasoned. She put it down to the restaurant being new and not yet having worked everything out. I am not so sure.

The yellowfin tuna came as a block of fish surrounded by mushrooms, carrots, asparagus and sauce. The sauce was good, but cooking the tuna as a block meant that there were portions of the tuna that were totally cooked all the way through and not "medium-rare." It wasn't due to how I ordered it because I asked for the dish "however the chef feels it should be done." Given the obvious attempt to compete at the high end of the market I felt this preparation was not up to snuff. What I would have done is cut off both ends of the "block" and then sliced the tuna. What I got seemed to be more neighborhood restaurant rather than "Ruth's Chris." But maybe that is just me.

Dessert was peanut butter mousse pie. If you know the S.O. you know there is nothing more you need say than peanut butter and chocolate.

All in all it was a satisfactory dinner but the atmosphere seemed to promise more. The decor, the menu, the ambiance, the promise exceeded the actual experience. Don't get me wrong, most seafood restaurants fall far short of Ocean Prime. But I felt like they promised more than they delivered. The S.O. says give them three months and try them again.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Monon Food Company

The S.O. is for some reason in love with this place even though I don't consider it her kind of food. I think it is the outdoor Broad Ripple vibe. She had a salad with a glass of Barefoot Chardonnay and was happy.

I had a bourbon barrel ale with a half rack of slow cooked ribs. I thought the ale was too sweet and too vanilla when I first tasted it. Obviously the influence of the oak bourbon barrel. Paired with ribs it was much better. The heat and bite of the BBQ sauce smothered the sweetness of the ale. Of course, after I finished that glass of ale I switched to 312, but I am glad I gave it a taste.




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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Napolese

After "Walk Away with Art" we stopped at Napolese for a late dinner. We had hoped to have a mushroom dish we had had there before but it's apparently the wrong season for that.

Two quick comments: first, the pizza crust is much better than I remembered. I am not sure what is different but it vastly improved. Second, I don't remember the sausage on the Meridian Kessler pizza being that hot. I do well with spicy foods but the S.O. Does not. Next time we will have to order something different.




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Friday, June 22, 2012

Walk Away With Art

Cool event at the Stutz tonight. Buy a ticket, draw a number and pick out a work of art.




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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Friday, June 8, 2012

Rosé at the bar

Enjoying a Spanish rosé at Harry and Izzy's outdoor bar.




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Location:Harry and Izzy's, Northside

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Fresh Whole Fish

This was the snapper dish served to me at Late Harvest Kitchen last Friday. I meant what I said when I said it was a spectacle.






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Location:Late Harvest Kitchen

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Dining with the Governor

Can you say you had dinner with the governor if you are dining at Late Harvest Kitchen and they seat Mitch Daniels and his family at the next table? By the way, the Brandade is amazing, the Daily Whole Fish is a spectacle (I could have done without the sweet chili glaze), and the Sticky Toffee Pudding is over-the-top rich. We also had a nice Chamblis and I had Sticky Chardonnay to go with the sticky dessert. Wonderful.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Artsparkle Judging


As I mentioned in my last post, I was one of the food booth judges for Artsparkle. This was quite fun and I was quite stuffed when I finished, even though I took only two or three bites of each dish. Even with only seventeen booths there was a lot of food, and several booths served more than one dish.

There were two judges. We each graded the food and decor from each booth by whatever criteria we liked, and then ranked our choices for the top three booths in each of three categories. Both of us came to similar conclusions, usually selecting at least two of the same booths in each category, although generally not in the same order. The Art Center took our rankings, assigned points, and came up with the overall number one booth in each category.

Best Taste

My first choice was the Crispy Eggplant Cakes at MBP Distinctive Catering. I am not sure what all was in it except eggplant, but it was three foods stacked on top of each other and held together with a toothpick. MBP had two other items: Cuban Papas Rellanas and Ahi Tuna Tacos. The other judge liked the Relanas and voted MBP second place. The S.O. liked the tuna tacos. So something here for everyone.

My second choice was Peanut Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Bacon from Little Events, another caterer. My third choice was the Pulled Pork Sandwich from Fire by the Monon.

The prize for Best Taste went to MBP.

Best Dessert

My first choice was Dessert Crepes from Jacquie's Gourmet Catering. They put some chopped up fruit and Nutella in a crepe and warmed them in a skillet for a bit. My second choice was Rene's Bakery with a creme sandwich. The "bun" was made of eclair pastry and the filling was a hazelnut cream, similar to Nutella. (There's a theme going on here.) My third choice was Bread Pudding from Northside Social.

The other judge had not ranked Jacquie's and I had not ranked her first choice, but we both ranked Rene's second, so Rene's Bakery won the prize for Best Dessert.

Best Booth Decor

The Art Center had identical booths set up for everyone, so we judged them on how well they had decorated their booths. A few did just the minimum, but several got rather fancy.

My favorite was Little Events which brought a circus monkey statuette holding a sign and custom made circus signs describing their fare. My second favorite was Jacquie's and third was Northside Social/Kitchenette.

Both judges apparently loved the monkey as we both gave Little Events our top ranking and they won the prize for Best Booth Decor.


The event was lots of fun with tons of circus related memorabilia and activities, including the Blue Monkey Side Show, something you have to see to believe. Or maybe not.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Artsparkle!

Not Judge Dredd, but Judge Gastro Gnome!!

I have been asked to be one of the food booth judges at this year Indianapolis Art Center later summer party, Artsparkle: Circus Under the Stars. It will be held this Saturday, August 20 starting at 7:00 PM.

The list of restaurants and caterers is pretty outstanding, so it will be fun rather than a chore to taste each dish and decide which is the Best Taste, the Best Sweet and the Best Dressed Booth. (I am sure I have those names a bit mixed up, but you get the idea.)

If you haven't been, Artsparkle is an outdoor party on the grounds of the Art Center. Food is provided by twenty or more restaurants and caterers who serve samples of their dishes. (I generally go back and get more of my favorites.)

Beer, wine and mixed drinks are available. There is a silent auction, music by a party band, lots of chances to hobnob with artists and art patrons, and, knowing the Art Center, there will be some special Circus related entertainment that will pop up at opportune moments.

Tickets are still available at the IAC website.

See you there!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Tavern on South

Last night we did Devour Downtown at Tavern on South. We both started with salads. I had the Caesar Salad which I though was just okay. The S.O. had the Tavern Salad which she enjoyed. For our main course we both had Sea Bass. These were very good. And the portions were just right, though I believe they are smaller on the Devour Downtown menu than on their regular menu.

For her dessert the S.O. had the Chocolate Silk Tower and I had Peach Strudel with Cinnamon Ice Cream. The silk tower was a very light and smooth chocolate mousse with Oreo crumbles. My peach strudel was very nice, though I could have used a slightly bigger scoop of ice cream.

Both dinners were $30 each, which is a pretty good deal. We also had a bottle of Martin Ray Russian River Valley Chardonnay, which we both enjoyed. A nice California Chard.

We plan to hit a couple more Devour Downtown places before the promotion ends. At least one neither of us have ever been to. The other a restaurant we haven't been to in ages.

Broiled Sea Bass “Oscar “– blue crab / asparagus / corn remoulade


Peach Crisp Strudel – cinnamon ice cream / house made caramel sauce


Chocolate Silk Tower – oreo cookie crust / house made caramel sauce

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Meridian

Scallops with Roasted Red Pepper Risotto Cakes



Barramundi

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Petite Chou

Some pictures from a Chow Down Midtown dinner at Petite Chou. Everything on the Chow Down menu was from their regular menu, but you saved a bit by ordering prix fixe. Everything was very good. No pictures of our salmon entrées I am afraid. We washed it all down with a nice bottle of La Mere Boitier Macon Village, a reasonably priced bottle of French Chardonnay.


Warmed Mushroom Duxelles
Locally grown mushrooms slowly cooked
with shallots, wine and a touch of cream



Lemon Tart
Traditional French lemon tart with a shortbread crust
and baked lemon curd filling. Served with berries.



Warmed Chocolate Ganache Crêpe
Garnished with sugared pecans and powdered sugar

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pizzology

Pizza and wine. What more could you want? Love the pig on the wine label.




Monday, June 27, 2011

Sangiovese

Snuck off to Sangiovese Ristorante when the S.O. was out of town and had diner with my friend Tony Fese whose wife was out of town as well. We sat with the owner, Chris, while he tasted his way through Tony's Free Market Wine Group portfolio. Chris liked several of the wines, but I think he was most impressed with this wine.


A nice white wine, it seemed to hit Chris's taste and value targets. Check to see if it is on the wine list the next time you are in there.

Tony and I stayed for dinner. The nice thing about having dinner with someone who owns a wine distributor and had been sampling his wares with the restaurant, your dinner wine is free. Whatever you liked that was opened just keeps on pouring. This is what we had with dinner.


Nice, accessible red, Esenzia Old Vine Garnacha. (3+)

I took pictures of what we had for dinner, although, as usual, I thought to take pictures after we had already eaten most of our meals. Tony had Filetto Spinaci, a grilled 8 ounce filet served over wilted spinach topped with a gorgonzola cream sauce.


Tony raved most about the vegetable side dish. He said it was the best he had had in a long time. I took a taste and pronounced them perfectly "crisp-tender." You know how difficult that is to figure out.

I had one of the specials which was shrimp and risotto. My dish was rich and way off my diet. Very rich. It didn't help my diet (but I didn't care) that I covered it in grated Parmesan.


Sangiovese is a nice Italian restaurant at Dean and 82nd Street with classic Italian recipes, a few interesting specials from time to time, a better than decent wine list, excellent servers, and a desire to please everyone who comes in the door.

Their only drawback at the moment is that with all the remodeling going on to incorporate Nordstrom Rack and the other new stores into the strip center, it constantly looks like they are closed. But they are open every night and have music Wednesday through Sunday.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Five Best Things in May

The five best things that happened to Indy's Gastro Gnome in the month of May (in no particular order.)

Well, the five best food and wine related things that happened to the gnome in the month of May. The best thing that happens to the gnome is always the S.O., but she isn't a food or a wine.

1. Dinner at Mesh
I wrote this up earlier because this was such an outstanding meal: Wild Mushroom Strudel, Sea Bass, Graeter's Ice Cream, Miner Family "Simpson Vineyard" Viognier. We returned to Mesh in June before Avenue Q at the Phoenix and we almost had the same dinners. We switched the appetizer and the dessert, just because, but we both had the same entrées and wine.

2. Lunch at Tulip Noir
Stopped in at Tulip Noir by myself after an appointment in their neighborhood, planning to have a late breakfast, and I was disappointed to discover that they had already moved on to lunch. Making the best of things, I ordered what sounded like the best dish on the menu: an Open Faced Fish Sandwich. You could have shot me on the spot it was so good. The fish was Baramundi, also known as Asian Seabass, and it was served over a crispy risotto cake and some miscellaneous vegetables. It was so good I made a point of taking the S.O. there for lunch just so she could have this dish. It's on their spring menu and they may have moved on to summer, but if they have anything like this you have to try it. A bit pricey but the best lunch dish in town.

3. Bananas Foster at Eddie Merlots
We were invited to the after party for the premier of Dumbstruck, the ventriloquist movie at Keystone Landmark Cinema. The party was just dessert and drinks at Eddie Merlots, and of course a chance to mingle with the luminaries who attended the premier. They were making individual Bananas Foster from scratch, and while I had to wait for some ladies who cut in front of me to get mine, it reminded me of going to Chanticleer and having the waiter make dessert at table side.

4. Dinner at H2O Sushi
Maybe the best restaurant in town. Certainly in contention with Recess, Oakley's and R Bistro. We had the Green Edamame, the Grilled Shrimp Tacos, the Crazy "Ho" roll, the Spider Roll (soft shell crab), a bottle of B.R. Cohn Merlot, and the Oatmeal Cookies for dessert. We did a very similar menu with some friends in June which may well be one of the five best things in June.

5. Broad Ripple Art Fair Preview Party
The Indianapolis Art Center's biggest fund raiser each year is the Broad Ripple Art Fair. I never get to go because I am one of the volunteer captains and work the entire fair. The S.O. generally goes without me, but she was going to be out of town this year. However, the Art Center added a Preview Party the night before the fair and we both could go to that! Only some artists booths were open - the areas where the artists could not drive up to their booth to unload - but there were drinks and food and anyone buying a ticket to the preview party got a ticket to the whole fair. We had a great time. The big foodie hit of the night was the Mashed-tini Bar - mashed potatoes, gravy and whatever you wanted to add on in a martini shaped glass! Fun.
The Mashed-tini Bar

The Best of the Best

Best Service: Liz at H2O Sushi

Best Wine: 2003 Chateau Pommard, a red Burgundy we brought home in our luggage from France in 2007

Best Meal: Mesh dinner (above)

Best Dish: Open Face Barraundi Sandwich at Tulip Noir (above)

Best Value: Pizza and a bottle of Super Tuscan wine at MacKenzie River Pizza Co.

Monday, June 20, 2011

MacKenzie River Pizza Co.

I have a severe backlog of food porn which I intend to unload upon an unsuspecting public over the next several posts. Words and descriptions may be limited, but bad iPhone pictures will be ubiquitous. You have been warned.



A while ago we were at an event at the Indianapolis Art Center and the S.O wanted to have dinner at the Monon Food Company. Unfortunately, there was a block party going on right in front of the MFC when we got there and the street (and the restaurant) were overrun with hordes of people. So I suggested that instead we go to a new restaurant that was in soft opening.

The things I do for this blog.

Actually I do as little as possible for this blog, but I digress.

Montana's got nothing on this place.

We headed up to the MacKenzie River Pizza Co., which is located on 82nd Street just west of Allisonville Road, in the space once occupied by Adobo Grill and their failed sister restaurant, Pick's Tavern.

They had been open just for a little while in what is called in the trade as a soft open. That's where you put a sign up that says "Open," but don't advertise the fact anywhere else. This allows the restaurant to work out their initial opening jitters with a limited clientèle without committing to the broad general public.

Initial impressions were that: 1) they were definitely in a space that matched their theme - lots of trees and open spaces outside the restaurant that reflected their Montana origins; 2) the staff of this restaurant were really, really happy, the happiest employees I have ever met in a restaurant - I guess they were happy to have jobs in this economy; and 3) the pizza, while not as good as Pizzology, was still very. very good.

Half Madison and half Flathead Pizza

We had a pizza and wine. While you can create your own - and we generally just punt and go with a sausage/mushroom pizza - we decided to order one of their specialty pizzas. When the waitress told us we could split a pizza into any two pizzas, we went with a half Madison (my pick) and a half Flathead pizza (the S.O.'s pick.)

The Madison is bacon, mushroom, ricotta, mozzarella and cheddar cheese. The Flathead is alfredo sauce, fajita chicken, bacon, spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms and mozzarella. Yeah. I know, that's a lot of bacon.

While I thought the Madison was pretty good, the Flathead was definitely the better of the two. I would order that again the next twenty times I am in the restaurant.


Since pizza is an Italian dish we ordered an Italian wine, PrimaVoce Toscana IGT from Tenuta di Arceno, a wine dominated by Merlot but with Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Cabernet France, and Syrah. We really liked this wine. It goes well with pizza. And since I have mentioned it in the blog, I fully expect it will sell out pretty quick. That seems to always happen.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Zoobilation

Zoobilation is one event we make most every year. Great fun. Lots of food to taste. Lots of cheap, donated wine.

Overall impressions of this year's event were pretty favorable. A few new restaurants were added like Sangiovese. Did not know that Second Helpings had a program to help people learn the restaurant business. Saw the new tiger glass walled exhibit and the bats. Especially loved the female Alaskan brown bear, mostly I think because the bubbly keeper at the exhibit had such wonderful stories.


The Flying Cupcake's tiger made of cupcakes.


The best food items I tried at Zoobilation:
  • Sweet and Savory Cafe's Roasted Corn Soup - the corn's sweetness comes through. Sweet and Savory is to start serving dinner soon.
  • Capital Grille's Kona Crusted Dry Aged Sirloin with Shallot Butter. I have had this before at Zoobilation and now won't order anything else at Capital Grill.
  • Maryland Crab Cakes at Rick's Boatyard Cafe. This restaurant is in one of the most out of way places in the city, yet still manages to haul in a crowd regularly for lunch and dinner.
  • Smoked Pork Crostini at Maker's Mark. They had the best single dish at last Year's Dig-In.
  • The Flying Cupcake's tiramisu cupcake.
  • Most everything in the VIP area.
Every year there seems to be one dish that has a sudden surge in popularity. The year of the Komodo Dragon, it was seared tuna. This year, I guess because it has been so hot lately, the dish was ceviche.


Maker's Mark Tiger ice sculpture.
They cheated. It's actually a picture inside the ice.


The not so good things at Zoobilation.
  • A friend of mine went into a real rant about how many environmentally unfriendly little glass bottles, paper plates and plastic forks the event produced. He had a point so I told him to write the event manager at the Zoo. He did. (Ed: The Zoo responded that they have a deal with Rays to sort through all the trash and remove everything that can be recycled. Not my idea of the ideal summer job, though.)
  • The number of restaurants that served something else than what was on the program. I get it that you have to turn in your menu well in advance and can't always get what you want, but I was disappointed that Fleming's did not have lamb chops this year. And I don't think that was crawfish at Hue's booth either. H2O Sushi having ceviche rather than soup I can live with.
  • One of the chefs tweeted afterwards (allegedly), "Never support the Zoo again." It may have had something to do with a slightly used King David dog, but some of the on line evidence appears to have been deleted. Except, as Rep. Weiner learned, nothing on the Internet truly gets deleted. (Ed: Okay, so it wasn't a hot dog. My bad.)

Party on into the night!


Although the weather threatened and it was extremely warm, there was no rain to spoil the party. Of course, the thanks for that should go to the gnome because he carried around his umbrella all evening, pretty much guaranteeing that it would not rain.

Next year's Zoobilation is June 8. But mark your calendar for February 1st. That is when tickets go on sale. 4500 people attended this event and all those tickets are essentially sold that first day. You have been warned.

Monday, June 6, 2011

One Down, Nine To Go

The demise of Euphoria reminded me that it was one of the ten restaurants I included back in 2009 on my list of Ten Independent Indiana Restaurants You Must Experience Before You Die (or before they close, whichever comes first.) If you haven't already checked off everything on that list, get to it, because it has just become impossible to visit all ten.

It is probably time to revisit that list. Certainly Recess makes the revamped list. I am not sure if I would make any other changes. Oh, definitely add H2O Sushi.

I also think it might be a good idea to recommend a list of Indianapolis restaurants for persons attending the Super Bowl in 2012. Probably do that one by region so people can pick a restaurant close to where their hotels will be. Not a bad idea for food bloggers in town either.