Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Brickhouse Burger Company


Location, location, location ...You definitely can see this place going south on 465 at the Kentucky Ave. exit, but it isn't quite clear how to get there.  Fred had noticed this Damon's takeover more than a couple of times on the way home.  Recently, FLO was able to make an appearance.

After a round about way, we were glad to arrive and see that the place was busy on a monday evening.  Inside, we were immediately seated in a comfortable booth and had the pleasure of 4 large screens to choose from.  We were excited to see a speaker box on the table, but to our disappointment it was out of order.  We later found out from our waitress that a server had cut the wires during carpet replacement and it was decided not to fix it...bad move.

The menu promised several appetizer classics, ribs, steaks, seafood, salads, sandwiches, wraps and some very exciting burgers...and that was what we were there for.  Libby knew right away it would either be one of their stuffed burgers or the Rockefeller Spinach burger.  Since Fred had his eye on either the Italian Stallion or the Three Cheese, Libby went with the latter.  Not to be horribly redundant, but Ozzy had "the usual."

With Stella in tow, we were glad to be in a family friendly environment.  On her best behavior, she seemed happy to look at the moving pictures or check out the activity outside the kitchen.  The layout was very open and much larger than it appeared from outside...definitely an awesome place to watch a game or hang out with a group of friends.  So, in essence, a venue for the masses.

After ordering a delightful Fat Tire draft, Fred had finally decided on the Three Cheese stuffed burger, as the pizza sauce on the Italian Stallion left him a bit skeptical.  To change it up, he asked for it to be served on their pretzel bun but left on the standard house fries.  Brickhouse certainly did not disappoint.  The three cheeses oozed out of every bite and just to put it over the edge, they added a layer on top of the burger as well.  Yowza, that's an artery clogging, gotta be good the rest of the week kind of burger.  The pretzel roll really held up to the juice rushing out of it and added a bit of bite to the whole ordeal.  A real home run.  The fries, while certainly prefab, were well fried.  Not overdone, but had a great crunch to them.

Libby's Rockefellar looked spectacular (as pictured above)!  Ordered with the sweet potato fries, it was a wonderful balance of salt and sweet.  There was a layer of cheddarjack cheese, spinach artichoke dip and crumbled bacon on top.  Perfectly cooked and juicy...the only thing missing was more bacon and spinach.  Not to downplay a good burger, but the size of the burger begged for more topping.  Very well done all in all.  And those fries were very tasty.  As you would add to any sweet potato, they had sweet/cinnamony spices and the more fried bits were a bit caramelized.  Sweet and crunchy. Yum.

Ozzy completed the meal and actually gave an enthusiastic "Pretty good!"

http://brickhouseburger.com/ 

Wrap Up

Price- $-$$$, If you came to watch the game, you could get 2 big beers and a great burger for under $20. A steal.
Atmosphere- ***, Clean, good layout and noise level.  Stadium seating so that everyone can watch the game's on the projection TVs.  But they've GOT to fix those speaker boxes!!
Service- ***, Personable, laid back wait staff.

Overall

Fred - A-, One delicious burger and I could certainly enjoy a game there.  I need to try their brioche bun next!  For the money, the great food and the TV's, these guys have it going on.
Libby - B+, Was it the best burger in Indy, no.  Boogie Burger and Ted's are my favs, but if you are looking for a family friendly sports bar atmosphere, this is the place to go.  The burger rocked and I will be back for another.
Ozzy- A+, he loved his meal, finishing the entire thing.  And as a typical 5 year old, he could make an ass of himself and no one heard or cared.  Unlike BW3's, where all the good TVs are in the bar area, these guys have family seating in front of the massive screens!  Yeah Rah!


Brickhouse Burger Co. on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Barley Island Restaurant & Brewhouse


Choices.  Choices.  Choices.  Oh, and we guess they have food too....

Libby and Fred had an afternoon together while the Oz was in pre-school.  Not sure if it was kid-friendly, we'd been waiting for just such an occasion in order to visit the new Broadripple location for Barley Island.

Fred's one and only stop at the venerable Noblesville brewery had been very dissapointing.  Not only was the food only so-so, but he was working and therefore couldn't really sample the beer. (ok, maybe he still had one.  so sue him.)

Fred instantly zeroed in on the Beastie Barrel Stout, a malty cocoa stout.  It was surprisingly light and refreshing.  If he weren't driving, he certainly would have ordered a second.  Libby was undecided and therefore went with the sampler.  As per our usual, we loved both ends of the spectrum, but the middle, not so much.  Pale Ales just aren't our thing.  While the porter and amber were good, the real standouts were the stout and blonde ale.  But Libby agreed that the real winner was the Beastie.  Get it while it's still in season, folks!!

Remembering that we were actually there for a late lunch, we chose a starter of the beer cheese and bread.  Libby then ordered the spinach melt with homemade kettle chips, Fred, the "ultimate" grilled cheese with waffle fries. 

We were originally heartened to see our server almost bring us our appetizer and then begin a quick low grumbling with another waiter.  After a little back and forth, the plate was returned to the kitchen.  It's wonderful to see quality control and a staff that really does care, even if they all unquestioningly blaze up out back.  It was later explained to us, as our appetizer and entrees arrived in unison, that the bread had been over-toasted.

About the bread...  This yeasty, flavorful, doughy wheat bread is an all-star.  It was the highlight, not only of the appetizer, but the whole meal.  If Barley Island were to use that on every sandwich, they could easily charge an extra $1-2 per plate.  Think about it, Mr. Island.    Unfortunately, it was served with a meek, bland, watery, one-note cheese sauce.  We could not detect which, if any, of their beers were present in it.  Come on guys. If you can't serve over-toasted bread (and thank you for not doing so!), you shouldn't be serving this either. 

Moving on to our entrees...Libby's spinmelt had a distinctly "healthy" feel to it.  Not a bad spinmelt, by any means, it was light on the cheese and heavy on the veg...topped with cucumber slices and mushrooms.  A slice of cheese on top and some of that beer bread would have changed the whole story!  It's ok for a spinmelt to be healthy, but there was no "melt" involved here.  Oh, and the kettle chips were pretty good.  Fred, not usually a fan of homemade chips, thought they were the best he'd tasted.

Fred's grilled cheese was just that.  A grilled cheese.  There was certainly nothing "ultimate" about it.  It was 3 slices of white bread with American cheese in between.  Granted the tomato and bacon were good.  But this is something anyone could have made at home, probably with items already in their fridge.  White bread & American cheese = ultimate?  Really?  Otherwise, the waffle fries were good.  Most likely out of a bag, but crisped up nicely.

Wrap Up
Price- $-$$, For the beer quality, you can't beat these prices.
Atmosphere-***, Open, contemporary, but felt like it wasn't quite broken in yetWe were happy not to see TVs every 10 feet.
Service-***, It was interesting that they contemplated serving burnt bread, but we're glad they didn't. 


Overall

Fred - C+, I'm actually surprised by my own rating.  The food really was sub-par.  But the beer!  I'll suckle on that any time.  And I really see potential.  They need to work on the food, but it's only been open for a few months...
Libby - C, Honey, the beer was fine.  But when I am lucky enough to get a beer in Broadripple, The Brugge gets my business.. 
Ozzy- Pre-K. :)

Barley Island Restaurant & Brewhouse on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ram Restaurant & Brewery


Ah, the age old question...is the beer glass half full or half empty?  Just send another one, quick!  To your left would be the Ram's seasonal Winter Wit beer...delish.  Unfiltered wheat that leaves your glass dirty inside...hmmm.  Fred and Libby liked it so much, we took a keg for the road!  The kegerator was pleased.

FLO decided to check out Ram after a long stint away.  For Libby, it had been close to 4 years since last there and she remembered not really liking the beer or the food so much.  Well, things have changed!

To start, Fred ordered the beer sampler and wow, not a bad brew selection.  Winter Wit was the winner here, with the Butt Face Amber a close second.

Arriving during the late lunch hour on the weekend, it was not very busy and we were bemused by the number of things we wanted to try.  To make things worse, the regular menu was supplemented with their seasonal menu.  Choices. Choices.

After much deliberation, she went with the Turkey Reuben and homemade chips.  Fred decided to go for the Red Hot Turkey Burger and sweet potato fries.  Both selections from the seasonal menu.  One cool thing about Ram is the large array of fried sides for burgers and sandwiches...sweet potato fries, homemade chips, regular fries, waffle fries, and onion rings.  Ozzy shockingly decided to try their rendition of *sigh* mac 'n cheese.  yay.  rah.

The reuben was really tasty.  Libby had to remove a little kraut as Stella would make her pay for it later, but the yummy havarti was a great twist.  And the homemade chips were just right...super crispy and the whole thing paired perfectly with that wonderful brew.

Fred's turkey burger was equally successful. Slathered in Frank's Red Hot sauce, it was dripping-down-your-hand good. While the flavor of the turkey itself was masked by the spicing and sauce, it all melded so well that you wouldn't necessarily recognize whatever meat they had used.  Usually not a fan of homemade chips, Fred went with the sweet potato fries.  Although seemingly unseasoned, they were tasty and crispy.  The slight sweetness from the sweet potato came through well and really offset the tangy, hot burger.

Ozzy finished his mac' n cheese with nary a word.  It was the penne pasta variety and the sauce didn't do much for either Fred or Libby, but it's Ozzy's dish to critique anyway. ;)

Wrap Up
Price- $$, It's downtown lunch prices...not cheap, but worth the price.
Atmosphere-***, comfortable booths, but overall you can tell it's a chain.
Service-**, Bad service.  It was not busy, but you would think our waitress was covering Sunday lunch rush before a Colts game.  She was slow and forgetful when present.  Ozzy did get a balloon though, when he noticed one hovering above another table. 

Overall

Fred - B+, While the food was a little pricey for lunch, the excellent and inexpensive beer more than made up for it....and did I mention we got a to-go keg tableside???
Libby -B+, Even though the waitress was aloof for the most part, the food and the beer stood aloneI even later went with a girlfriend of mine and had another impressive meal and better service.  My impression has done a 180 from several years ago. 
Ozzy- A, Mac 'n cheese gone and noise level was no issue with the not-so-quiet atmosphere. 




Ram Restaurant & Brewery on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 13, 2009

Papa Joe's Jr.

FLO had not been out for almost a month and we had set our sites on Jugheads BBQ in Avon.  To our dismay, after over 30 minutes of driving, we found it had been closed.  With a screaming baby in the back, we decided to see what looked local and was close by.  Papa Joe's Jr.  was at a nearby stripmall and Italian sounded like something we could deal with...even though we had worked up an appetite for some ribs.

From the outside, you would have no idea the size or decor that awaited inside.  A very nice surprise with it's shabby sheek bucca's-type atmosphere...lots of family and patron photos, some gawdy pieces in a low lit setting.  There were several different rooms and sadly, FLO must have gotten the worst seat in the house--a wobbly fast food type booth directly across from the kitchen with a huge anvil-like tv hovering above Fred's head.  This is surprising considering there were very few customers on this monday night.

The hostess was very nice and the waitress that followed very helpful and patient.  The menu had the usual Italian standby's including more upscale offerings than you would expect when you walk in the door.  As Libby was dealing with a most unhappy Stella, Fred did the ordering.  Ozzy had to ask the waitress himself if they had spaghetti.  This was a serious question for the 5 year old.  So serious that he felt the need to repeat the question a few more times when he only received a bemused grin from the waitress. ;)  Fred ordered the chicken picata for himself with a side of angel hair pasta and for Libby, the veal marsala with garlic mashed potatoes. 

Fresh bread and a dipping sauce were provided with the meal.  Very good bread and a tasty dipping sauce that had a spice/herb puree that FLO could not identify.  The garlic butter on the side was also quite strong and yummy.  The salads, on the other hand, were the old iceburg lettuce stand-by.  Unfortunately, someone did not go through the lettuce very well and there were several brown/slimy pieces, so Libby forewent it altogether.

The meals arrived fairly quickly and Ozzy immediately began devouring his spaghetti with meat sauce.  (Hey, any way to sneak protein into him!)  Fred's angel hair came with a red sauce, much to his dismay.  This seems to be a common problem at Italian restaurants.  When you serve pasta alongside a heavily sauced dish, why add an extra sauce to the pasta, especially when it does not meld well with the main dish?!  Shaking his head, Fred's mood lightened as he took the first bite.  The sauce was thick and hearty and had a wonderful flavor.  Perhaps his new favorite marinara in the city.  The picata was very heavy on the garlic but also tasty.  The portions of both were large enough to share, which, after Libby tasted her meal, we did...

Libby's veal began well enough.  It was cooked well and had generous portions of meat, mushrooms and sauce.  After the first bite, Libby noticed an off flavor.  With Fred's help we recognized the harsh alcoholic essence of too much cooking wine.  Had real marsala wine been used, this off flavor would not be present.  It is a real shame to take the sacrifice of a baby cow and cover it with cooking marsala.  Please Papa Joe, add a couple dollars to the price of the entree and use the real deal.  The mushrooms were cooked perfectly, the garlic mashed potatoes were fine.  But overall the dish was hard to eat and impossible to enjoy. 

As this was an off night for Stella, it was difficult to get through the meal.  We opted not to send the marsala back, but just push it aside, share Fred's dish, settle up and get back in the car.  On a less hectic night, Libby would have sent her dish back and we would have had a third entree to critique.  Ozzy on the other hand, seemed unaffected by the screaming and happily finished his meal after repeated doses of parmesan. 

Sadly, we were unable to sample any of the wonderful looking deserts in the front display case.  If we were to return, those tasty looking cannolis would certainly be high on our list!

Wrap Up
Price- $$, Very good value and large portions.

Atmosphere-***, We would give it a 4, but we had just a view of the kitchen with a leaky faucet.  Other tables would be a different story.

Service-****, Most accommodating and friendly!

Overall

Fred - B, I would definitely return for that red sauce and there were many other tantilizing items on the menu.
Libby -C-, Good points: bread & dipping sauce, garlic mashed potatoes, Fred's dish.  Bad points: poor attention to detail, corner cutting on the salad and sauce!  There's never an excuse for cooking wine.
Ozzy - A, Kid friendly.  Bread.  Pasta.  Happy kid.


Papa Joe's Italian on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Lincoln Square Pancake House

After a viewer's suggestion, we decided to try Lincoln Square Pancake House.  It was a Sunday morning, bright sun, and a packed house.  We were seated almost immediately by a very courteous and eager host!  After settling in our booth, another enthusiastic staff member, our waitress, brought our water and got the coffee goin'.  One look at the menu, and Libby began to question if this might possibly be another Grecian family-run diner...the presence of the Greek Omelet and attention by a noticeably older gentleman helping staff made sense.  This place only opened up within the past year or so.  Most men over 60 aren't opening and working in new establishments, but instead, planning or practicing retirement.  Yes, this place smelled of hard work and determination.

After reading a posted newspaper article, Libby's suspicion was correct...owner, George Katris immigrated from Greece in his teens to Canada, eventually became a US citizen and started the Indiana based chain in the late 80's.  There are 13 locations, with one in Ohio.

As newcomer's, there were a couple of breakfast musts...for Fred, a benedict of sorts, for Libby, something to sample the house sausage gravy, and for Ozzy, the breakfast carb of champions, flapjacks.  Fred went with a little twist to the classic benedict, the Florentine...spinach and bacon instead of canadian bacon.  Libby went with the Country Benedict or basically, biscuits and gravy with poached eggs piled on for good measure.  Both entrees came with the "American Fries" aka house hashbrowns.  For Ozzy, the kids pancakes with bacon.

Our waitress was a coffee pusher, as with most good breakfast places...and we are happy to say, this brew was decent for a basic house coffee...fresh, medium-strength with a mellow flavor.  Fred and Libby typically like the french-press, knock you on your arse variety, but found this quite satisfying.

The food arrived quickly.  Fred tried his dish first thing, as he is very particular about the level of acid, or lemony-ness in any hollandaise.  Not impressed.  Too bland and no noticeable lemon flavor.  Having said that, the buttery-ness was there and at least, it was an actual hollandaise and not a cheese sauce as so many breakfast placed think of as hollandaise.  He loved the spinach and found the American Fries to be the highlight of the meal.

Libby, always excited for a tasty gravy, was also nonplussed.  This was the overly floury variety with little seasoning and flavor.  Nothing special.  The biscuit was fine and the eggs were perfectly poached.  The American Fries were very good. 

Ozzy, on the other hand, was quite impressed with his pancakes!  Libby and Fred had to sample and agreed...there is something special in that batter...vanilla? spices?  Regardless, the flapjacks are the way to go...wonder how the blintzes/crepes weigh up? 

Although, not the sweeping successful impression we were hoping for, this establishment showed promise with it's sweeter variety of breakfast.  There is also a bakery counter at the entrance...so much possibility!

Wrap Up
Price- $, Cheap Eats!
Atmosphere-**, Clean but cramped, and somewhat odd design.
Service-****, Most accommodating and friendly!

Overall

Fred - C+, While not my ideal breakfast place, it would certainly do in a pinch..no one would walk away unhappy.
Libby -B-, The gravy was a real disappointment, but I feel the sweet carb menu is most likely quite impressive!
Ozzy -A, Ozzy loved his pancakes!


Lincoln Square Pancake House on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Chatham Taps


After a month-long break due to the birth of our newest reviewer, Estelle or "Stella", Fred & Libby were able to have a "grown-ups only" date for Libby's birthday.  (Thanks, Grammy!)  We decided on a place we would rarely get the opportunity to visit, a British inspired gastropub on Mass Ave. called Chatham Taps. 

This is no bud-light-guzzling, nachos and wings place.  The patrons seemed to be primarily regulars as they chatted with the waitstaff on a personal basis. There were even a couple sporting supportive chatham taps t-shirts.  The menu was very impressive...green leaf thai wraps, fried pickles, taponade, a variety of salads and sandwiches...and let's not forget to mention homemade potato chips!

We were delighted to see there was not a single domestic macro-brew on tap.  No Bud.  No Miller Lite.  If you want to drink crap, you have to do it out of a bottle.  And shocked as we were, we still saw someone partaking.  Will they never learn?!  Oh well.

We decided to try a couple of pints from Indy's newest microbrewery, Sun King.  Libby tried the Octoberfest while Fred opted for the Saison.  Both of us agreed that they were clean and crisp, but not as complex on the finish as we would hope.  The Octoberfest didn't have the spiciness Libby looks forward to and was a tad too bitter for her palate.  Fred's Saison was nice and tart but he couldn't help thinking how it needed the addition of... something?  He considered asking the waitress for lemon, or maybe an orange, but eventually decided against both.

For our starter, Libby chose the Montauks -- Bread baked with smoked gouda and fresh basil topped with either rasher bacon & pan-seared tomatoes or sauteed mushrooms all served atop a devilishly delicous mayo based pool of sauce (or was it an aioli?).  Holy cow.  We might have been happy paying twice the $7.50 pricetag.  Or perhaps we should just get 3 orders and call it a meal?!?!

For the main course, Libby chose that old English stand-by, Fish and Chips.  The fish, although of good quality, was too heavily battered for her taste.  This in turn made the outside deliciously crunchy, but the inside too mushy which detracted from the flavor of the fish.  The fries, on the other hand, were of the seasoned variety that were very comparable to a Rally's type of fry.  The dish would have been completely satisfying if it weren't for the gooey
non-fried batter issue.

Fred immediately chose the gorgonzola, pear and rasher bacon melt.  Wow.  If you're a gorgonzola lover, this one's for you!  Hot and gooshy.  And then you add the bacon and it just goes over the top!  Served on ciabata bread this was a sure-fire Fred pleaser.  It came with Chatham's wonderful homemade chips which were well done, nice and crispy.  They were pretty thick for a chip and not at all oily.  A perfect plate of upscale pub grub.

For desert, Libby gave the tiramisu a try.  Oddly enough, she believes it to be one of the best she's ever tasted.  It was light with perfect coffee undertones and a delicate creamy texture.  A true pleasure and perfect after the nice fried platter.  We are unsure if it was made onsite, but our compliments to the pastry chef.

Fred, per his norm, decided to drink his dessert.  And boy is he glad he did!  How had a beer snob such as himself missed trying Wychwood's Hobgoblin Ale before?  Unlike any other beer FLO has tasted, it was incredibly complex and a reason alone to return to this outstanding pub. And yes, it was on tap!  Incredible.

http://www.chathamtap.com/

Wrap Up
Price- $$, Great value for such upscale food.

Atmosphere-****, It screams English pub.  Even the clientelle seemed to fit the mold.
Service-***, No complaints here.  Fast and personable.

Overall

Fred -A+, I want to live upstairs and have my own personal bar stool. 
Libby -A, Love this place!  In another life, we would be living in Real Silk and regulars.  But for now, it will remain a grown-up treat from time to time.



Chatham Tap Pub on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 7, 2009

Tata Cuban Cafe


Being that Tata has been listed at the top of the urbanspoon Indy restaurant site, FLO had to sample some of this highly regarded cuban cuisine.  The opportunity presented itself during one of our dinner club outings and so we entered the experience with high expectations and much anticipation.

Upon entry, the very small, narrow location was decorated in dark, rich tones and the space was actually used very efficiently.  There was a small look-through to the kitchen and a large flat screen blaring Gloria Esteban music videos. 

Our large group was well accommodated in the seating department and two waitresses handed out menus and started filling water glasses promptly...good start.  The fried plantains appetizer caught our attention immediately...must try.  The appetizer came with a mojo sauce...no idea what it was, but why not?  Our guess is that the plantains were deep fried.  They came out caramelized, warm, soft, and oh-so delicious.  The mojo sauce on the side provided a sweet tang that really didn't add much, but did not detract either.  We ended up rotating between bites with and without.

Being that the cuban sandwich had been boasted as the best in Indy, Libby had to try it.  Libby loves a good cuban and this one came with more fried plantains!  Fred found a delicious sounding roasted chicken, with yellow rice and fried plantains.  Ozzy did not partake in the menu other than some french fries that he seemed very happy with.

Fred's chicken(pollo asado palenque) was fall-off-the-bone tender, succulent, with an amazing pool of drippings that were easily and happily sopped up by the yellow rice.  The maranade on the chicken added a wonderful savory flavor that really enhanced the bird.  On it's own, the rice had little flavor, but the drippings from the meat made all the necessary difference!  Oh, and the plantains were delicious!  Did we say that already?

Libby's cuban(el guaso), although not the best cuban she has had, was good.  The bread was perfectly pressed and toasty, but sadly, the ham was not of the greatest cut nor amount.  The ham was cut in thicker chunks and did not lend itself to the best sandwich experience.  The mustard, ham, roasted pork, and swiss cheese were ok, but the pickle was off.  Not sure if it was a bread and butter pickle or what, but it detracted from the sandwich. 

Ozzy wanted more fries...oy.

Fred also had the delight of partaking in a mojito.  Tata's is served with a stick of sugar cane, light on the mint, and overall mild and refreshing!  Only deference to a very pregnant Libby stopped him from having a second.

http://tatacubancafe.com

Wrap Up

Price- $-$$, Great value, especially for downtown.

Atmosphere-***, Maybe a little less Gloria?  Down just one notch?
Service-****, Handled a no-reservation 12-top with separate checks.  Nuf said.

Overall

Fred -A-, Somehow they made roasted chicken with rice into something truly special.  It's hard to believe this is not their signature dish. 
Libby -B, Although their Cuban may have been more authentic, my American palate prefers the Cheesecake Factory version.  But I cannot say enough about the carmelized, soft and gooey plantains.  I can understand why some might rate it number 1 restaurant in Indianapolis (per Urban Spoon), but for me, nothing beats the Brugge Brasserie.

Ozzy -C+, They were very tollerant and accommodating of children of all ages, but there was no children's menu and our boy is not big on ethnic food.

Tata Cuban Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Zest Exciting Food Creations

FLO was enthusiastically searching for some place to unwind after a stressful day and have a great meal. Zest came to mind after remembering several stellar reviews so we checked out the website. The menu made our decision for us...brie cake, "steak" 'n eggs, asiago "fried" chicken, crab patties...the descriptions were all we needed to jump in the car and make our way asap. We even called ahead to make sure there were options for the wee ones, and we received an exuberant, "of course!"

Located off the beaten path, Zest rests in a strip mall off of 54th and Carvel Ave. FLO is unfamiliar with the area, but discovered Mama Carolla's was close by and a cute looking breakfast place whose name escapes us. Definitely an area we will be returning to one way or another.

Zest provides some outdoor seating, has a small gourmet shop inside and has a higher end interior design, but not too elite, just nice. There weren't many patrons at the time we arrived and we were seated in a low lit dining area just off the entrance.

As the server approached, Ozzy immediately asked, "Do you have any mac 'n cheese?" To his delight, she responded positively. This was surprising to Fred and Libby as the kid's menu did not mention mac 'n cheese, so was this a special order? We decided to start with the Pommes Frites with roasted pepper aioli, wasabi cream, & sea salt and vinegar for dipping. Fred went with the Pan-Blasted Pork, rosemary roasted pork tenderloin with fig & port sauce with roasted garlic smashed potatoes & the night's veggie, which was green beans. Libby decided to go for the Asiago "fried" chicken, crispy asiago-crusted chicken breast with wild mushroom ragoƻt, roasted garlic smashed potatoes, & the same green beans.

The frites arrived nice 'n hot, well seasoned and a welcome site to Ozzy! Very nice. The sauces were very good, especially the garlic aioli, and the dish really wet our appetite for more. (Although, sorry to say, still doesn't come close to Brugge...they have the blue ribbon in pommes frites and sauce!!!) The entrees came soon after and Ozzy immediately balked at the mac 'n cheese. It was covered in something(potato chips!) and had a definite air of bacon. Sounds awesome to Fred and Libby, but Ozzy has the most unexciting preference in the mac...Kraft or something close to it...he occasionally enjoys the pasta interpretations at many Italian places, but sadly, this was a no go. He did try it, but did not enjoy the porky goodness.

Libby was faced with quite a large portion of lovely mushroom smothered chicken. It was wonderful. A light crisp on the chicken and the ragout was very tasty...mushroomy with lots of herby tomato overtones. It went very well with the chunky, skin in, flavorful, garlic mash. The green beans did nothing for the dish.

Fred's pork was perfectly cooked with a very thick sauce, heavy on the cinnamon and fig...perhaps fig butter? And Fred could not get enough of the smashed potatoes. His seemed extra heavy on the white pepper, which drove him wild! More than making up for the lackadaisical green beans.

As if we weren't full from the ample portions for dinner, we decided to gluttonously try a dessert. The carrot cake called to us! It was very, very good. Different from the typical cake, it appeared to be steamed, as it was so incredibly moist. Large chunks of carrot, dried fruit and nuts were accompanied by the most lightly sweetened cream cheese frosting we have ever tasted. A large portion as well, it put us over the edge. It was a heavy dessert and we should have gone with a lighter option, but it was soooo gooood! Unfortunately, Ozzy sifted out the healthy parts of the cake and would only eat the icing on his slice. Is anyone surprised?

zestexcitingfood.com

Wrap Up
Price- $$-$$$$, This was the one downside. Perhaps, a bit on the higher side than we would've liked, but we'll still return.
Atmosphere-***, More laid back outdoor seating with fancier indoor accommodations.
Service-****, Accommodating, fast, friendly, and understanding of Ozzy's insistent request for mac 'n cheese followed by the "I don't like it" complaints.

Overall
Fred -B+, Everything I ate made me wonder what other creations I can expect when I return for brunch!
Libby -B+, Impressive menu that delivers. I am biased, but Fred's own pork tenderloin recipes put his dish to shame. And yes, brunch is a must in the near future!
Ozzy -B, He loved the frites, and we're sure would dig something else from the kid's menu. He just ordered the wrong thing...happens to all of us.

Zest Exciting Food Creations on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 10, 2009

Viet Bistro


In the mood for something between Chinese and Thai? This is how Fred describes a new ethnic food for FLO, Vietnamese. Located on the northeast side off of 86th, Viet Bistro is a quaint strip mall eatery with a very friendly owner/waitress who is more than happy to meet your dining needs.

On our first visit, she was very accommodating to Ozzy. We never would have thought of it as family friendly until we saw how tolerant she was of Ozzy's complaints that there was no mac 'n cheese. She went so far as to suggest some good noodle alternative that ended up being Libby's favorite!

For an appetizer, we decided on the shrimp spring rolls. We were shocked when they arrived cold. As in refrigerator cold. It was not a good pairing with Libby's interesting "coconut drink"(which Fred really liked). The rolls consisted of vermicelli, shrimp, sprouts, cabbage, pork and mint rolled with rice paper. Dipped in the provided peanut sauce, the flavor was nice, but the consistency was a little slimy for Libby's taste.

As if to add insult to injury, Libby decided to sample the fish sauce between the appetizer and main course. Oops! It wasn't until a second after the fact that Fred realized what she was doing. She had poured 1/2 a teaspoon of fish sauce into her spoon and downed it. For those of you who do not know fish sauce, it's fishy. And not at all meant to be taken on it's own. Libby only recovered midway into her pho -- eventually even adding a dash or two.

If you haven't tried Vietnamese, you must try Pho(pronounced Fuh). A soup at base, it has so many layers of flavor that there is no way you would repeat the same experience twice. A pile of noodles rest on the bottom, with meat options to add, some veggies in the broth, then a great dish of fresh herbs, lime, and bean sprouts on the side that you can add as you wish. And don't forget the great condiments at the table; hot sauce, hoisin, salt, pepper, fish sauce or Maggi.

One thing that would be nice is some sort of tutorial on how to season it... and eat it. It comes with a spoon and chop sticks. We saw a table nearby who looked like Pho Pros, but sadly, we had already eaten and missed the opportunity to learn pre-lunch. Apparently the correct way is with two hands. One for the chop sticks, one for the spoon. Definitely an acquired skill.

Ozzy's dish was very much like thai. His noodles were stir fried in peanut oil with some veggies, peanuts and tofu yumminess that was reminiscent of pad thai...Ozzy may not have dug on it, but Fred and Libby like!

Having never had Vietnamese before, FLO cannot say that Viet Bistro is the best Vietnamese food around. But it was definitely enjoyable and a place to which we will return. As for Ozzy, hopefully he won't be getting a happy meal on the way home again... :(

Wrap Up
Price- $-$$$, Can be very economical, depending on what you get.
Atmosphere-***, Did not look like a strip mall on the inside.
Service-****, Great personal service with a sense of pride and ownership.

Overall
Fred - B, Definitely a positive first Vietnamese experience. Somehow I expected it to be more "out there".
Libby - B, Being a true lover of thai, next time I will try their more spicy options.
Ozzy - N/A, Although he tried the noodles, nothing would suffice for the finicky boy.

Viet Bistro on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 26, 2009

La Trattoria

Having lived in Greenwood for over 10 years, it was almost embarrassing that we had never tried La Trattoria, old downtown Greenwood's best known restaurant. We picked a beautiful night to sit outside and enjoy the most mild July to date. We were seated immediately. Ozzy was even allowed to choose the table -- a very kid-friendly gesture on the host's part.

Our waitress is one we won't soon forget. Sassy to an extreme. Rude on purpose as it is her schtick. It worked very well and she always left us smiling. At her suggestion, we started the evening with the stuffed portabello, pictured above. Ouff. It was so good. Garlicy, creamy and salty. We couldn't place the cheese, but our question to the waitress was met with only a "oh you think I'm going to tell you" stare. Perfect.

Her first recommendation being spot on, we kept them coming. First, the house Chianti for Fred --Tasty, fully bodied, great nose and a generous portion. FLO approves. As for the meal, Libby agreed to the 8-ounce filet, medium rare with veggies and roasted potatoes. Fred, the special. Seabass, blackened also with veggies and potatoes. Even Ozzy took the suggestion for the marinara instead of meat sauce.

From the appetizer on, Fred's review goes south. While the salad course provided decent produce, it was drowning in dressing. With a powerfully tangy ceasar, a little goes a long way and a lot makes for an inedible salad.

Whether it was an oversight or by design, the seabass (while cooked perfectly) was not blackened nor did it have a hint of flavor. The veggies were the highlight of his plate. Again perfectly cooked, but this time seasoned very well.

Libby, thankfully, had much the opposite experience, save the equally overdressed salad. The waitress told us they were known for their steaks and it showed. She's unsure she has ever had a better steak. So flavorful and tender. Not sure if it was the aging, seasoning or the cooking technique but it was one of the most succulent steaks she has ever had. The parmesan crusted roasted potatoes were a perfect match as were the veggies. It was obvious they'd used butter to cook the steak and the resulting pool made for a wonderful melding with the other items on the plate.

Ozzy's pasta dish didn't receive much attention. While he had a few bites, he decided the complimentary garlic bread was a much more satisfying dining experience. Having tasted the marinara, we wonder if this was only the child's version. It was overly sweet, but probably suitable for a younger clientele.

For desert, Ozzy began with the complimentary mint/cherry/chocolate spumoni. But as there was something that looked like a giant Reese's Cup on Mommy's plate, he abandoned it quickly. Libby had ordered a giant chocolate layered ganache; an easy choice next to the cheesecakes and cannoli. Covered in spumoni and whipped cream, it was warm, rich and almost too much after the heavenly steak. Fred, per his norm, would rather drink his dessert. Again he was thwarted in that La Trattoria offers neither a sherry nor a port. Bah. Instead, our waitress offered up a white zin. Fred was skeptical but ended up pleasantly surprised. It was highly fruity with very strong strawberry overtones. Way too easy to drink. Not the decadent aperitif he was looking for, but welcome nonetheless.

Wrap Up
Price- $$$-$$$$, Our wallet still hasn't recovered. Oops!
Atmosphere-**, Green plastic chairs with your high end steaks? Really?
Service-****, Very attentive with extra helpings of sass. Her suggestions (minus the Seabass) were spot on.

Overall
Fred - C, Perhaps I should have sent my fish back. I was close to it.
Libby - A-, Amazing portabello, excellent steak and an overall rich dining experience.
Ozzy - B, Loved the bread and probably would have eaten more of the pasta had he been more hungry. Unfortunately the icecream had fruit in it. No go. Nice try mom & dad.

La Trattoria Italian on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Tomato Pie


Having attempted to sample and review this north-side bistro more than once and been turned away due to it's unusual hours of operation (seriously, check the website or call ahead to make sure they're open!), we were finally successful. Our first impression, strictly from the name, was that Tomato Pie was a pizza joint. But upon arrival, we found that it is actually Tomato Pie Bistro, who proudly serves their pies alongside other classic Southern Italian cuisine.

We walked in upon not one, but two large birthday parties squeezed into the restaurant's very small, but open dining room. The single server was literally running between all the tables. After a breathless request to wait at the door, a very young hostess cleared and seated us at a table. The decor is sparse but well aimed and pleasant, if a bit dark.

Having already made up our minds prior to our arrival, we immediately put in our order for a green tomato pie and a dinner salad. The salad was spring mix, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, strawberries, and black olives with balsamic honey dressing. The name of the salad escapes us, but it was outstanding. Certainly a salad which could stand up as a meal by itself. The dressing was unusual and delicate in flavor. A real winner. It was accompanied by a simple garlic bread that became Ozzy's dinner.

The pie itself was a thin crust, pesto sauce with green tomatoes, fresh sliced mozzarella, chopped garlic and egg, sliced roma tomatoes and the thickest chopped bacon we've ever had. Yum-O as Rachel Ray would say. We couldn't put it down our gullets fast enough. The 14" was devoured much to our later dismay. With the very low lighting, it was hard to pick out individual ingredients on the pie, but each bite was different in flavor combination. Absolutely wonderful. Although the crust was thin, it was not exceptionally crisp -- just barely enough to hold up the pie.

Libby took a moment to read the wall of fame and found some interesting information: The owner's mother is Sicilian and he has been cooking since the age of 14. He has over 25 years of restaurant experience and all 9 of his children staff the restaurant in different capacities.

One particular difference to note about their pies -- all ingredients are sauteed in olive oil before they are ever placed on the crust. There are no cold toppings applied before it is put in the oven. This allows the flavors to meld and it certainly worked for us! It left us asking why no one else seems to do this?

While scarfing down the amazing pie, we couldn't help but notice the attractive pastas passing our table. There are 3 different marsalas on the menu along with the usual lasagna, ravioli, etc. Everything that passed reminded us that we must return for a more in-depth review!

http://tomatopiebistro.com

Wrap Up
Price- $-$$$, $14.50 for a 14" specialty pizza! A steal!
Atmosphere-**, Poor lighting and the corner table was obviously used as an office. But there was a definite personality to the place.
Service-***, Even while handing two huge parties and a few other tables, our server never left us waiting for anything.

Overall
Fred - A-, Great pie at a great price. I can't wait to sample their regular entrees. An amazing marsala would push this place into a possible A+ in my mind.
Libby - A-, Ditto. The chef and his family obviously puts their heart and soul into the cooking. I can't wait to have more.
Ozzy - C+, No kids menu. But he was certainly welcomed by the staff and entertained by the faux fireplace.

Tomato Pie on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Iaria's Italian

Iaria's has been on our list of places to go for quite some time. Between the long running history (since 1933), being featured on Food Network(on Best Of) and the slew of positive reviews, we were very psyched to sample their authentic Italian dishes.

Walking in we were immediately impressed by the down-home kitchy atmosphere. We felt we might as well be in a neighborhood Italian restaurant deep in a New York city burrough. It was packed. We arrived around 7pm on a Tuesday and things were hoppin'. Always a good sign. We were seated immediately.

Assuming the dinner rush was to blame, our waitress was MIA for quite some time, but we took the opportunity to study the menu and plan our course of action. For Ozzy, the kids pasta with butter was a must...per Ozzy. An appetizer of Mate's Mozz had to follow as we longed to find the same incredible fried cheesiness we once experienced in college at Mustard's oh so many years ago. Fred was feeling the bolognese pasta made with beef shank....um, yeah! Libby must try the chicken marsala at any first time Italian experience.

When our waitress was finally able to assist us, we ordered the half carafe of chianti...quite a deal at $12 that ended up being about 4 glasses of wine! She also brought out sliced Italian bread (yummy) with butter and explained that we could get either homemade Italian sausage or the meatball with our entrees, minestrone soup, salad, and the marsala could come with spaghetti. Ozzy doesn't eat meat, so Libby ordered the meatball with his entree to be sampled. Fred went with the Italian sausage and Libby opted to up her house salad to a caesar.

The salads were your basic, not so exciting variety. In fact, Libby just plain did not like the caesar. Fred was totally not impressed. We did see a antipasto salad walk by and it looked damn good with eggs and meats piled high. But we were still looking forward to the entrees to come.

The Mate's Mozzarella came out next. An entire ball of mozzarella is sliced, breaded in Italian breadcrumbs and fried in olive oil. Sounds amazing, but was only ok. Gooey and not quite crispy enough, but the saving grace was the wonderful marinara that accompanied it. It needed the marinara. It was sweet with lots of Oregano and heavy on the white wine. It made all the difference.

The food came out fairly quickly and was a smorgasbord of pasta and meats! Plenty of food. Fred's portion of bolognese was quite impressive. He immediately started to ooo and ahhh after the first mouthful. Libby was confused by the marinara on her spaghetti. She had a perfectly good amount of yummy marsala sauce with her chicken that was dying to be sopped up by plain spaghetti. This combo was going to be confusing. Ozzy dove into his buttery pasta with some parmesan and concentrated intently for the remainder of the meal.

Fred was unimpressed with the soup. Libby concurred. It was bland and oddly, we both went for the pepper shaker at the same time...doesn't happen at restaurants much. The bolognese with capellini was meaty with plenty of shank within the sauce to combine with the pound or so of pasta on Fred's plate. It had obviously been many, many hours in the preparation and would stand up to any sauce Mama could make. The Italian sausage was also homemade contained an equal amount of love...finely minced and tender with a delicate flavor.

Libby was glad to see the enormous portion of chicken and marsala before her, but as she couldn't mix her spaghetti with it, decided to add Ozzy's meatball to the marinara and see how it fared. Not so good. This is a real problem with so many Italian restaurants. Not sure if it's advanced preparation or what, but there is literally no flavor. Just a ball of meat. So disappointing as Libby loves a good meatball. The marinara it came with was ok but had an odd cloviness. The positive thing was the chicken. Well prepared, with ample yummy mushroomy goodness.

It didn't take long before the FLO were filled to the brim. These folks are not going to let anyone go home hungry! Plenty of food to take home as well.

www.iariasrestaurant.com

Wrap Up
Price- $$$, For a family friendly, low key dining experience, you did pay for the quantity of food you received. Although the wine prices are phenomenal!
Atmosphere-***, It's the original atmosphere that so many chains aim for and miss.
Service-*-**, For us, it was a disappointment. Not only was our waitress unavailable most of the evening, but she seemed "over it" and unaccommodating.

Overall
Fred -C+, When I could make one of your signature appetizers at home and do it better, it's a disappointment. But I will say there is no way I could make a sauce anywhere near that good!
Libby -B-, I had high expectations going in. Not a total disappointment by any means, but with the history and hype, I expected to be blown out of my seat. It was a good meal. For the price, I really feel there should have been homemade pastas all around.
Ozzy - A, Great, family-friendly atmosphere. He loved the Italian bread and dug into the buttery pasta.


Iaria's Italian on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Jockamo Upper Crust Pizza

As if there aren't enough great places to get awesome pizza in this city, we have been shown yet, another! Jockamo, tucked in the East side oasis of Irvington, proved to be well worth the trip. Not only was the atmosphere loud and crowd friendly, but you could even sit at the bar! The servers had a roller-derby girl feel...a little nostalgic and made us think of our college days. We went with quite a large group, over twenty, and they had little difficulty accommodating.

Like so many star-studded pizza joints, there was a great variety of toppings, several specialty pizzas to choose from and a decent beer selection. First order of business was to decide. Fred had to lubricate with the Barley Island Dirty Helen. Ozzy, with his odd dislike of pizza(what up with dis kid?), went with bread sticks.

They not only had the marinara and nacho cheese options, but creamy parmesan, alfredo and a wonderful hummus as well! Good sticks.

Finally, we decided on a half and half of their Pomodoro(grilled eggplant, tomato, basil, garlic, and extra sauce) and Philly Jack(Italian beef, green peppers, peppadew peppers, and pepperjack cheese).

Woah, nice pie! Not only were the stellar ingredients all that we'd hoped for, but the mega-thin crust was extremely tasty and actually stood up to the pile of generous toppings! The Italian beef had a crispy, flavorful texture and the eggplant tasted fresh. All the toppings were delicious as they should be.

These fun folks even offer brunch pizza's on the weekends! It's amazing how many mouth-pleasing pizza varieties there are in this city!

Due to the generosity of ingredient portion, don't overdo it. It's easy to order with your eyes. Both Fred and Libby's ample belly's couldn't finish the 12-inch masterpiece before us. That is surprising, believe us. Although the leftovers were pretty darned good too.

Was it the best pizza of our lives? No. But was it good enough to recommend and make a few future appearances, definitely Yes! The Slaughterhouse Five(pepperoni, ham, sausage, bacon, and Italian beef) was demanding some future FLO attention! If they were on our side of town, it would become a problem, fo sho!

http://www.jockamopizza.com

Wrap Up
Price-$-$$, 12-inch cheese starts at $8.50 with additional regular toppings at $1 and specialty toppings at $1.55...definitely not dirt cheap, but a good deal for the real deal.
Atmosphere-***, Large variety of clientele, kids welcome, plenty of seating and a little bar for those who want to get away from the crowd and watch the game.
Service-***, Attentive waitress who was nice enough to split up checks with over 20 people! Gotta love that!

Overall
Fred - A-, Location is the only thing keeping me from returning on a bi-monthly basis.
Libby -A-, Really good pie. Something a little different, and doesn't skimp on quality or service.
Ozzy - B, Ate his sticks, said they were good, then spent the remainder of dinner flirting with a little 4-year old darling named, Kylie. He is such the ladies' man.


Jockamo Upper Crust Pizza on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Adobo Grill

FLO felt strange suggesting the Adobo Grill to an out-of-towner looking for good Mexican downtown, since we'd never been ourselves. But after he returned with big two-thumbs-up, we decided to rectify the situation. Boy, are we glad we did!

Located across Washington street from Fogo de Chao and just a block from both 14 West and the Oceanaire, Adobo certainly has some stiff competition for upscale dining. Once inside, we found it hard not to crane our necks to take it all in. Beautifully appointed in wood and earth tones, they offer indoor balcony seating as well as semi-private room-booths along with the usual four tops and booths.

We were greeted at our table by a most helpful and knowledgeable waiter. He recommended the sangria and we decided to sample both the white and red. The white was refreshing and juicy - the red, sweet with a hint of spice. Fred was all too happy to finish Libby's white after she'd had her maximum 1/2 glass.

Instead of the perfuctory bagged chips and salsa, we began our meal with wonderful warmed corn tortilla chips and Fred's new favorite salsa. The chip was more substantial than most, yet had a great crunch and flavor. The salsa was of the picante variety, smooth with all the right spice tones and a slight sweetness. It was hard to not eat too many before the remainder of the meal was to come!

While snacking on the chips and salsa, it was hard to miss the table-side guacamole prep occuring nearby. Not being fans of guacamole, FLO opted against it, but judging from the array of fresh ingredients that the guests hand pick, it looked like a sure thing for anyone who enjoys it.

Again, following our waiter's recommendation, we went with the salmon ceviche. Yum! Sushi-grade salmon cured in brown sugar and tequila, mixed with chipotle mayo and pineapple pico de gallo. Served with both banana chips and more of those delightful tortilla chips, it was the perfect start to this amazing meal. Not used to salmon ceviche, Fred and Libby were happily surprised by the refreshing flavor. Not being fans of any kind of mayo with any kind of cold fish(sushi or ceviche), we were happy to find the chipotle mayo and the pineapple to be an awesome pairing! Ceviche is a great start to any meal.

Libby, being a huge fan of mole in general, ordered the pork tenderloin with Oaxacan black mole and a corn tamal mash on a bed of cooked spinach (pictured above). Outstanding! The mole had a nice spice and went so well with the mash and spinach. Always having mole with chicken, Libby found the pork tenderloin substitution ingenious!

Fred, struggling between the Callos de Hacha and one of the weekly specials, a mexican version of paella, decided to again go with the waiter's recommendation. The paella with shrimp, scallops, mussels and white fish, baked in a serving-sized earthenware pot. As the still-boiling pot cooled at the table, we watched in anticipation as the heavy stock soaked into the rice. It can best be described as a full-flavor dish. We're shocked it's not a permanent part of the menu.

Ozzy chose the cheese quesadillas and refused to allow any sampling. From the looks of things, they were the same wonderful corn tortillas, this time stuffed with queso blanco. Definitely a hit.

Even though we had almost stuffed ourselves to capacity, we had to share one of the tempting looking desserts. With Libby's never-ending desire for chocolate, a decision was finally made...the chocolate tamal. Wrapped in a tamale leaf, a warm, deeply chocolate and barely sweet delight was set before us accompanied by Panpantla vanilla bean ice cream, dried cherries, and chocolate sauce. Each spoonful had the consistency of undercooked brownie batter except for the most rich, pure chocolate flavor...it was so intense and with just the smallest hint of sugar to counter the natural bitterness, it definitely reminded you of chocolate's primitive roots. Libby likened it to a religious experience!

http://www.adobogrill.com

Wrap Up

Price-$$$, Affordable fine dining in a child-friendly downtown atmosphere.
Atmosphere-****, Gorgeous, creative and flowing. Should it be the tequila bar or a balcony seat next time?
Service-****, Felt more like a guided tour with our waiter's excellent recommendations.

Overall
Fred - A+, If only all the hole-in-the-wall Mexican joints had flavors like these!
Libby -A+, Can't say one bad thing. Outstanding food, service, and atmosphere! Can't wait to go back!
Ozzy - A, He loved the quesadillas and fit in well with the surprising number of other young foodies in training.




Adobo Grill on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Zing

After a wonderful afternoon at the Imax watching Under the Sea 3D (which we highly recommend) followed by a bike trip up and down the canal, FLO was in the mood for something a little decadent. We decided to try Indy's only small-plate restaurant, Zing.

How small-plate differs from tapas, we aren't quite sure. But our waiter assured us there was, indeed a difference. It's the exact same idea.... small servings of tasty dishes meant to be ordered in bunches and shared. Heck, they even had 2-3 of the same dishes as Barcelona! Different my hat!

Since it was a gorgeous day, we decided to sit outside and enjoy the sun. Libby ordered up a yummy, if tart, pomegranate soda while Fred chose one of his favorites, a Robert The Bruce ale. It took us quite a while to decide on our entrees, but we settled on the special of the day(cheese grits with shrimp and a cajun butter sauce), bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with chorizo, warmed goat cheese with tomato sauce, and finally pork tenderloin wrapped in capocollo with a mustard ale sauce and a savory asparagus bread pudding.

Unlike Barcelona (wait!! did we actually find the difference?!?), Zing staggers their small-plates rather than bringing them all at once. First up was quite simply the star of the evening. Four bacon-wrapped medjool dates stuffed with chorizo served on a bed of chunky tomato sauce heavy on the roasted red pepper. The dates were so soft and sweet with a hint of spice from the chorizo and pork fat from the bacon. Yowza. Never would have put these tastes together, but we will from now on! On the way home, we both mentioned that next time we must order 2 servings.

Next came the warmed goat cheese with a bed of a completely different tomato sauce served with toasted garlic bread. This was another hit. Not to belittle this dish, but Barcelona serves essentially the same one with an even more succulent sauce. Be that as it may, Zing's version is very good and we would certainly order it again.

Our next entree was the cheese grits with shrimp and a cajun butter sauce. While we both felt the flavor was good, this dish needed some work. The shrimp and cajun butter were very good, but the consistency of the grits was much too thin. It was very hard to eat with a fork and no spoon was provided. We attempted to sop it up with the bread, but the two carbs together didn't really work right.

Finally the tenderloin arrived and again we felt it was a little off the mark. The capocollo worked very well with the tenderloin, which itself was cooked perfectly. The issue was with the sauce. It was missing the pow. There was pepper and dry mustard, but not enough to drive the flavor. It seemed like it was just begging for "Zing"! We felt that this dish could and should have been outstanding and perhaps we should order it again to see if the sauce was just not right tonight. On the other hand, the pairing of savory asparagus bread pudding was superb. The bread pudding with the sauce definitely worked and could have stood up as a dish on it's own.

For dessert, we were unsure if the small-plate serving size would apply. Therefore we ordered two. Well, next time perhaps one would be better. Oh darn! Libby decided on the almond cheesecake with fresh fruit and whipped cream. Fred was drawn to the 3 berry shortcake. Both would have been more than enough to share.

The cheesecake was sublime. Libby says, "Order it. It was good." and refuses to elaborate. (Libby turns into Ozzy when desserts are involved)

The 3-berry shortcake was also quite yummy. Our only suggestion would be to wait a few minutes after it's served before enjoying it. The shortcake needs the time to soak up the wonderful berry sauce and is very dry (by design) without it.

Http://www.zingrestaurant.com


Wrap Up
Price-$$$, $7-12 per plate and you'll need 2-3 per person depending on the size of your party. But yummy little tidbits they are!
Atmosphere-***, A grown-up sophisticated interior and a more laid-back balcony seating.
Service-**-***, Although our server seemed to be nursing a hang-over, we observed another who was very careful to explain how small-plate menus work. Here in the midwest, this is definitely necessary as we observed two confused tables, one insisting they should be called apetizers.

Overall
Fred -B+, I feel like I should return and perhaps try the totally separate and extremely yummy-sounding lunch menu.
Libby -B+, The dates rock my world. And I look forward to trying some of the chef's other creations.
Ozzy -C- While he was totally welcomed outside, we would not have felt it appropriate for kids inside. Also there is no kids menu (not that we would expect one). If the patron has a child with an adventuresome palate, then go for it. Ozzy, instead, insisted on emptying every complimentary bread basket that was brought to the table. "That's mine!"


Zing on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Goose The Market

While not a restaurant per se, FLO had heard that this place is considered by many to be the best deli in town. Located in a yuppie oasis just north of downtown, Goose The Market serves a niche in high-end meat, cheese, bread, wine, gelato and sandwiches.
First step is to get through the door. So, don't feel too strange if you can't get the door open on your first try... Not only did both Fred and Libby have problems the first time, we noticed several other people having the same issue.
Once inside, talk about a foodies paradise! An amazing selection of Indiana grown meats, some unique seasonal Indiana produce, gourmet cheeses, perfectly crispy baguettes, and not to forget the wine and groceries downstairs. Your first question will be...what should I get?

For some odd reason, Ozzy was allowed to indulge in one of the gooiest brownies evar followed by a lovely vanilla gelato. Fred and Libby decided to go savory with one of their specialty sandwiches. Fred, the Batali, with spicy coppa, soppressata, capocolla, provolone, tomato preserves, hot giardinara, marinated red onion (hold please!), mayo, and romaine. Libby, the Porter, with peppered ham, gouda, and morels with spring onions (held, of course) on toasted baguette. And to top off Libby's experience of feeling like a grown-up again(missing wine at 6 months prego), they had Vignette non-alcoholic wine spritzers that were the perfect compliment to the inspired lunch. Fred chose the Chardonnay, Libby the Pinot Noir.
Two totally different and amazing sandwiches! After ordering, we noticed that the Batali has actually been written up in Bon Appetit magazine... and WOW. Now we know why! The meats are just SO tasty and the tomato preserves and giardinara meld perfectly with them. And where do they get those baguettes? Of course, they sell them. So I guess we can be happily ignorant.

The Porter had top quality ingredients and that toasty baguette was a simple-genius texture addition. Libby's only complaint would be a lack of some sort of melding sauce when comparing it with the pow that the Batali had...perhaps some aioli? They sell that downstairs by the way!

The most fun part of this market and the small sandwich menu is the creativity it inspires! Immediately after finishing our little bits of heaven, we were excitedly discussing what we wanted next time and how we would dress it! With the arrays of meats (duck salami, anyone?), cheeses, condiments, and the like, you can purchase your ingredients and watch them create your dream right in front of your eyes!
Another beautiful feature of this market other than a freezer case full of meat treasures(lamb tongue, venison, buffalo, ground veal, whole rabbit, oxtail...) is the real sense of pride and love you feel from the homegrown quality. Visit their website to get the whole story, but this couple brought Indy something it desperately needed and in a way that says, respectfully...this has been missing and we are doing it right.
Oh, and just to make them way too cool, they offer exciting features like "the bacon of the month club." The stars of this show are an array of Indiana cured, smoked, or spiced pork tasties! Or how about the "picnic basket" special that runs at $35 for a bottle of wine, baguette, sliced meat, cheese, olives, almonds, and a couple of oatmeal cookies to end it...sweeeet. FLO is so pleased to see a steady stream of customers that will hopefully guarantee a long standing Indy attraction!
Http://www.goosethemarket.com

Wrap Up
Price-$$-$$$, $6.95 for any sandwich. Not shabby, considering the quality of ingredients.
Atmosphere-*** Clean, well organized. Seating inside and out.
Service-****, Polite. Happy to serve and very knowledgeable.

Overall
Fred -A, Only thing holding it back from an A+ is that they're closed on Sundays!!
Libby -A+, Everything I was hoping for and more. We'll be back far too often.
Ozzy -B+, Excellent deserts. He's already asked to return.

Goose the Market on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 18, 2009

Monical's Pizza at Traders Point

Do you ever just want to go out to dinner on Sunday? For some reason, this became the bane of FLO's existence yesterday. After traveling to 7 different restaurants, searching for something new to experience and being disappointed by "closed for special event" or no Sunday hours, FLO finally stumbled upon Monical's Pizza. Never having heard of it, this sounded like a perfect spot to settle in and fill our belly's.

Located at Traders Point shopping center off of 86th street, it actually has a bit of contemporary homeyness to it. As soon as you walk in, you know it is a chain from somewhere. Far too polished and "designed" to be a mom and pop. After perusing through the menu, we saw it was out of Illinois and had been around since 1959. There are four locations on the north side yet it somehow eluded our radar until now.

Being elated to finally find some place open that was new to us, pizza sounded perfect! Ozzy luckily had a few pasta choices and went with the kid's spaghetti with marinara and breadstick. Fred and Libby each decided to go with their "Individual Pleaser." This came with an 8 inch personal pizza, a salad, and drink. Fred decided thin with steak and hot pepperoncini and Libby the pan with ground beef and green olive.

Although there were some service issues, the general feel of the place made it easy to settle in and being surrounded by some good looking pies didn't hurt. The salads were no frills: lettuce, carrot, tomato, cheese and they brought out a whole squeeze bottle of the dressing of your choice.

Ozzy's pasta, which arrived first, really wasn't up to his high expectations. He gave it a shot, tried to drown it in parmesan, but alas, it was just the breadstick for the boy...and he really dug it! Fred's pizza came first and was light on the steak, heavy on spicy pepperoncini, but the overall effect was two thumbs up. The thin crust was perhaps the thinnest we have ever had, but held up well and still maintained a good flavor. The steak, although sparse, was well seasoned, and made us curious about that Italian Beef we had seen on the menu...maybe next time?! Libby's finally arrived and had the same interesting affliction...again, light on the well seasoned ground beef, and a little too heavy on the green olive. A good pan crust, not too greasy and a little doughy. Happy tum-tums.

A nice surprise for those in the neighborhood...they deliver! This would certainly be a step above any delivery place on our side of town.


http://www.monicalspizza.com/

Wrap Up
Price-$, Very reasonable...our total was under $20.
Atmosphere-***Clean, easy, comfortable. Design felt private even though it wasn't. Very kid friendly.
Service-**, Not a good day for our server, but he was taking it in stride and good to communicate with us about it.

Overall
Fred -B+, The price really boosts this rating from a B- to a B+.
Libby -B, Pretty happy with the quality and overall flavor...definitely would come back for more.
Ozzy -B-, Pasta, a big no, but they definitely seem to know their breads.




Monical's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Abuelo's

For Mother's Day, FLO headed up to Abuelo's Mexican Food Embassy. Fred had attempted to get reservations, but in a strange twist, they do not take them on holidays. Wouldn't that be the one time they would want to accept them the most? Regardless, we decided to give it a go.

Upon arrival we were delighted to be seated immediately. While on the way to the table, Ozzy was stopped in his tracks by the wishing well at the entry way to the dining room. He would only budge after we promised to give him some coins after dinner.

The dining room reminded us immediately of Vegas. It was very well decorated with lots of faux architectural elements and a vaulted ceiling painted to look like the sky. But the real icing on the Vegas cake was the clientele. What's up with the north-west side? Since when is it appropriate to go to an upscale place in ripped t-shirts, overalls (seriously?!) or cut-off sweatpants? -- On Mother's Day of all days! For dinner? On Sunday?

Regardless, we sat down and were greeted by a very tasty chips and salsa. The chips were much lighter and thinner than the norm and went very well with a nice thick, but not too chunky salsa. These were another huge plus in Ozzy's book.

After a few too many chips (damned bottomless bowls!), Libby decided on "the picture on the menu" -- three enchiladas: Shredded Beef with chile con queso; Cheese with chile con carne; and Chicken with sour cream sauce. Fred settled on the Chile Manzanillo: Crab stuffed into a roasted poblano, covered with shrimp, scallops, mushrooms and red peppers in a creamy lobster sauce. (pictured above) Ozzy opted for the kid's chicken strips and fries.

The enchiladas, although a very well-known combination, were quite delicious. The meats were well prepared and the sauces all equally mouth pleasing. The sides of re-fried beans and the papas con chile, a house specialty, could stand alone. Talk about a fun, mexican variation on mashed taters! This creation consisted of mashed red potatoes, four cheeses, red and green peppers, sour cream, garlic and jalapeno...woah. To be honest, it was almost too much after the very heavy enchiladas and peppery re-fried beans, but it was a most satisfying belly bomb.

Fred's seafood was excellent, if a bit too mild. He would have preferred a bit more punch, but it was a tasty alternative to the usual Mexican fare. All the shellfish was well cooked and went nicely with the poblano. The rice and broccoli were perfect for sopping up the sauce and each added some much needed spice to the dish. We were unable to define the seasoning on the broccoli, but regardless, it worked well.

Ozzy's meal was sufficient. The fries were batter dipped!(oh yeah!) and the chicken looked like the nugget variety. He chose to do the total carb thing, once again, by sticking with the complimentary chips and those delicious fries.

Even though, both Fred and Libby couldn't stop verbalizing the agony they were experiencing from too much of a good thing, Libby couldn't entirely skip dessert on Mother's Day!? The menu showed three classic mexican desserts, a flan, a dulche de leche cheesecake and, (drum roll) the tres leches cake!! Instead of pushing it over the limit, the tres leches cake was ordered to go! Um, and somehow was able to disappear on the drive home...such a simply sweet, layered cake with fresh cream and strawberries. The perfect summery dessert!

www.abuelos.com

Wrap Up
Price-$$-$$$, There was something to suit every pocket book, especially considering the daily lunch specials.
Atmosphere-****, Clean, fresh, and open feel with beautiful artwork and murals floor to ceiling added a cultural element. The fountain with statue was a great kid magnet!
Service-***, Our waiter was especially good with Ozzy. Very quick with re-fills and a great sense of humor.

Overall
Fred -B+, Possibly my favorite chips and salsa in town. Next time, I think I'll stick with the more traditional dishes as mine didn't feel like what this gringo considers "Mexican."
Libby -A-, Very pleasing enchiladas. Had to finish them all. The re-fried beans had a distinct peppery flavor, and those papas con chile were really great. I can't even say enough about the cake!
Ozzy -B+, Insistent on sticking to his boring carb choices, but most excited about the amigas muy bonitas hangin' by the fountain. He was most happy to share his wishing coins with a few!

Abuelo's on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Grand Traverse Pie Company

Look out Panera and McAlister's, you've met your match...and they have pie!!! The Grand Traverse Pie Company just opened yesterday and the steady stream of customers tells the high anticipation story. FLO has seen the "coming soon" sign for weeks and has been waiting with bated breath for the "open" sign to glow. Finally, it's pie time!

We were happy to see that not only do they have the most devilishly delightful selection of irresistible pies, but a nice looking deli selection as well. As Fred and Libby are trying to take it easy on the waist line for a bit, there was a lot of holding back involved in the dinner choices.

For Fred, the Mexican potato...yes, it doesn't sound nutritious, but the chili on top actually is decent in calories compared to any of the other carbilicious choices. And there wasn't enough cheese on top to get too worked up about either. Overall, Fred found the potato not bad, but a maybe a little too healthy. It was cooked well, but tasted like a diet meal.

Libby, being extra disciplined, went for the Strawberry Fields Salad (hold the red onion) and a bowl of the chicken noodle soup. Fairly impressive healthy-ish fair for a lard lounge...not skimpy on the fruit(strawberries, mandarin oranges, apples), pecans, and a pre-packaged raspberry vinaigrette that went quite nicely. The chicken soup was very good. At 150 calories for the whole bowl, it was very tasty, nicely seasoned and was a perfect salt companion for the very sweet salad.

To make this a worthwhile bakery experience, the FLO had to try at least one slice o'heaven. As they were out of the Rhubarb pie, it would be the Lakeshore Berry Crumb Pie. We believe there were strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and possibly apples in this lovely tart/sweet and oh-so-crumbly topped masterpiece. It has now become a goal for the FLO to leave enough calories to sample a couple of different pies a week. Not to mention some of those yummy sounding sandwiches they offer...Mozzarella Tomato Capresse, Persian Ham & Havarti and the long list of grilled goodies. Oh, did we forget to mention the pot pies and quiche...yeah, not a good idea on your first week of dieting, but what the hell, right?

http://www.gtpie.com/

Wrap Up
Price-$$, on par with Panera or McAlister's prices...a piece of pie and coffee will run you about $5
Atmosphere-**, the decor was a bit too country and a little boring, but the best part is the median age...this place is definitely drawing in some of the Cracker Barrel and Ryan's crowd. Including the FLO, the median age in this place was 60.
Service-***, considering the ridiculous line, it went rather quickly. There is a vibrator system like Panera and table service similar to McAlister's.

Overall
Fred -B+, While I definitely suffered by ordering the wrong item, this place could be dangerous!
Libby -B+, Really impressed with the lighter fair I went with, but I think going here is really about the fat and sugar. If you make the trip, don't think about what you're doing to your body...just let it happen and it won't disappoint.
Ozzy -B+, What's a carboholic not to like about pie a la mode? He did gobble up an apple muffin with nary a word. We think he digs it.


The Grand Traverse Pie Company on Urbanspoon