Friday, April 22, 2011

Taste Cafe and Marketplace

We have read countless blogs, reviews, and comments from readers about the great things going on at Taste in SoBro. The opportunity presented itself so we went for it and decided to do lunch today---poor Oz-man had to make up a snow-day at school. :(

As soon as we entered the door around 12:30 on a friday afternoon, we saw there was a sizeable line. We looked around a bit and saw that seating was tight too. Was this a mistake? Not to worry, the line moved at a steady pace and out of nowhere a table opened up right when we needed it! Yay!

But first, the menu. This is an order at the counter set-up, with lovely glass cases showing patrons the intriguing lunchtime possibilities. There are wall menus, but the fine print makes them nearly impossible to read -- so thank goodness for the normal sized menus to peruse while you wait in line. Several things sounded good in the gourmet sandwich department; the albacore tuna nicoise, the curried chicken salad, the italian grinder, and the erin to name a few. Then others looked very good; the multitude of fresh sides, greek orzo and roasted beet salads, vine ripe tomatoes, tortelinni and OMG the desserts!!!

We had heard good things about the pommes frites, so that was a no brainer. But after much deliberation, Fred went with the Erin and Libby the italian grinder...and a slice of chocolate sponge cake with mocha butter cream frosting!!! Terrible, I know.

As we waited at our well placed plate-watching table, an incredible looking egg sandwich walked by twice and a couple of salads that didn't look too shabby either. It wasn't long before the frites arrived...Woah! A familiar looking cone of frites, good-sized portion to share, sprinkled with generous amounts of basil and seasoning accompanied by a light green basil-aioli....oooooo. We showed no mercy. Greedy bite after bite slathered in garlicy (and basily) goodness didn't stand a chance. These were serious business that put a couple of Broadripple favs to the test. Look out, Brugge, Canal Bistro, and Boogie, Taste's got your number!

So, naturally this made for some serious anticipation concerning sandwiches and cake. I mean, where do we go from here? Two lovely diagonally sliced french baguettes revealed a little of the glory within. Libby found her first bite of the grinder a real explosion of olive tapenade --a great thing at first, but quickly became a bit overwhelming in the salt department. The meats were of good quality, but the sheer amount of olive overpowered the cheese and even the meat. About half as much would have been a whole lot better.

Fred, on the other hand, made his "O" face of approval. Even though he forgot to nix the onion, he was in utter heaven. Erin was sheer creamy genius. An all veggie sammy, this creation included asparagus, sprout, red onion, provolone, swiss, more of that orgasmic aioli, and dijon dill sauce. The dill sauce and asparagus were really the stars. Creamy, easy, and the asparagus actually gave it the right amount of 'meatiness' with a little bite. *sigh* NEXT!

Ah, yes. The cake. Dessert at lunch. Who would do such a thing? Libby. Every time, given the opportunity. This was better than expected. Better than it even looked if that was possible. The decorative strawberry on top was nice and all, but please! A mere distraction! This cake was somehow light in texture, but carried a flavor punch that sent one reeling. That hint of mocha was beautiful. The icing SWEET and creamy. Dreamy. The perfect ending to a very lovely lunch. Taste can bake too. Damn.

Wrap Up
Price-$$, You can eat cheap if you want, but why would you?!
Atmosphere****, Beautiful, contemporary decor. No ugly soda fountain to be found. Instead, tasty looking homemade flavored waters. Come get your snob on!
Service**, Friendly & accommodating. But honestly they needed one more person cleaning tables. Can't call it a bus-boy, perhaps a Table Presentation Coordinator?

Fred- A-, I've never before had such a flavorful vegetarian sandwich. And I can even lie to myself and believe it was good for me! If it weren't for the overpowering tapenade on the grinder, this would have been in A or A+ territory. In my book, those frites are tied with Canal Bistro for 2nd best in Indy. A couple more dipping options and they'd surpass Brugge for the top spot!
Libby-B+, Yes, you can have too much of a good thing -- tapenade . Why are all the good frites in Broadripple? Share the love, people! And the baked goods? Forgetaboutit. Next stop? Brunch for one of those flirtatious egg sandwiches or perhaps truffle frites and aioli from the Aftertaste menu! Bring it.
Ozzy- N/A, Snow makeup day at school. Sorry Oz man. You would have loved the frites!
Estelle- C, Felt a little out of place. Babies are SO last season! Were high-chairs available? On our way out, we found them. Hidden behind the front door. :/

Taste Cafe and Marketplace on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Tamale Place

FLOE was headed to lunch before a quick trip to the zoo today, so it sounded like a good time to try out The Tamale Place on the near west side. In a strip mall off of Rockville lies this very modest, clean and easy "dive". Since it's scheduled to be featured on Triple D this May, FLOE had high hopes and were admittedly a little giddy to give it a go.

Upon walking in, we were pleasantly surprised by the eclectic clientele. It's always a good sign to see natives of the cuisine, but this was a true melting pot. We were met at the counter by a very helpful and patient staff member. She explained how to order and approximately how much food would be enough for the 4 of us. Since they call themselves The Tamale Place, FLOE decided to forgo the tacos and nachos (although both looked excellent!) -- today it was all about the tamales.

It should be noted that tamales are not a made-to-order item. Therefore the staff makes a set number of each per day and when they're out, they're out. While it's usually a good idea to peruse the menu ahead of time, don't get your heart set on a particular style before you walk in the door. You are at the mercy of the dry-eraser board.

After a protracted examination of the menu, we chose 3 tamales and 3 sides for the 4 of us. For the tamales we opted for the Chicken Oaxacan Mole, Chipotle Chicken, and Beef with Poblano & cheese. Our sides consisted of slow cooked black beans, homemade chips and salsa & easily the best Mexican rice FLOE has ever tasted.

Since we knew neither kid was going to touch the tamales (although Stella would attempt it not knowing how spicy they might be), we quickly sated each with their favorite. Black beans for the girl & chips for the boy. We're not sure why Stella has such a love for any bean, but she always gobbles them up. In this case, we had to fight her for them as these were not your run of the mill black. We couldn't place the spices used, but the overall affect was delightful. Ozzy attempted the salsa and immediately hit his water glass. Oops. Sorry son. The cilantro hits your tongue first, but the heat came on strong at the end. While mom & dad were enjoying their tamales, Stella accidentally got a chip full of it too, resulting in some serious tears. Double oops! Thankfully this only served to accelerate her black bean intake speed...

As the kids experimented, we took in the tamales. The Chicken Mole tamale was firm yet tender, with a pleasant extra mild mole. We found it made a perfect contrast with the fiery Chipotle Chicken. The chipotle was perhaps a bit dry, but solid overall. While the masa was identical in all three, the real tamale winner was the Beef with Poblano. The meat was tender and juicy; perfect with a hit of the extra hot red salsa.

We had ordered the rice as a backup for both kids but greedily kept it for ourselves after one forkful. Yowsa! Usually a throw-away side at most mexican places, this could have been served on its own! While there was undoubtedly a heavy hand with the oil, the spicing was dead on and there was a meatiness to it that we couldn't quite place. Simply a must-have on every visit.

Wrap Up
Price-$, All four of us ate for under $15. That's what we call Taco Bell cheap!
Atmosphere**, Very clean & well lit, but sparse and a little utilitarian.
Service****, The staff was very patient and helpful even with another couple waiting behind us.

Fred- A, This place nails it. There are no throw-away sides here. These guys mean business with every dish. I will make sure to try the tacos on my next visit. Now I just have to come up with a reason to be on the west side!
Libby-A+, Certainly the best tamales I've ever had. The best Mexican rice I've ever had. And damned good beans, chips and salsa. Just tell me when the Greenwood location is coming!!
Ozzy- B-, Definitely into the chips and wanted to try the salsa. It was just too hot. Mom & Dad should have been more cognizant of the spice with the little ones and gotten them a milder version. He might have even gone for a cheesy tamale. Oh well. Next time.
Estelle- A, Black beans = win! And the poor girl wanted to like the salsa too. But the palate isn't up to speed yet.

Tamale Place on Urbanspoon

Biscuits Cafe

Another long weekend nightshift came to an end and Libby was in the mood for breakfast! Something a little spicy, something a little homey. Fred and the kids decided to drive her drowsiness to Biscuits in Broadripple!
Biscuits is probably in one of the best hidden locations in Broadripple. Right off the Monon in a strip mall with at least three other eateries AND behind the new Thr3e Wisemen Brewery, Biscuits has achieved maximum quaintness. You walk in to what feels like a 1950's neighborhood diner with a little hispanic flair. We like.

The menu is straight up hangover heaven! And nightshift heaven, for that matter. Where can you find the usual diner breakfast fav's with lotsa mexican treats---Breakfast burrito with beans and rice, Spicey sausage gravy and biscuits, Breakfast Quesadilla, Breakfast chimichanga??? Hell-o, Nurse! This is what Libby is talking about!!!

Fred decided the breakfast burrito was right up his alley this particular morning. On almost every other morning, Libby would agree, but today she had to sample the spicey biscuits 'n gravy---or rather a duo of the spicy and the original---carb coma coming up! :) Ozzy insisted on some chocolate pancakes and for Stella, per usual, a little of everything. Hot sauce, anyone?! ;)
Service was organized, professional, and speedy...and many. We aren't sure who our actual server was as there was a crew that seemed to be tending our hunger/thirst needs. Again, we like.

Ozzy's pancakes were the giant chocolately goodness he was after. Two hotcakes, covered in chocolate sauce and powdered sugar was the carbotarian breakfast-dessert his little heart desires. Two giant thumbs up!

Fred's Burrito was enormous! Was this breakfast? Oh, yeah it was. Refried beans, mexican rice and the veggie fixins accompanied a larger than life, colorful burrito. Muy bueno. The red sauce went perfectly with the egg and chorizo, but Fred would have liked a bit more flavorful cheese. The refried beans and rice were standard mexican restaurant fare. This would be a great workingman's breakfast to power you through the rest of the day. No one leaves hungry.

Libby anxiously awaited her biscuits and holy cow, what a plate!!! Not only was it HUGE, but the spicy gravy had a very different pink hue to it. Hey, made it very easy to distinguish the spicy from the original. Sadly, the biscuits and gravywere very floury...not in the best way. But honestly, the gravy wasn't too shabby. Not quite up to Grammy's standard (or Zest's), but worth trying. And they certainly hit the spot.

Stella had nothing but good things to jabber. Lots of "mmm's" and "oooo's" followed the refried beans and pancakes, but sadly no love for the b&g.

Wrap Up
Price-$$-Not the cheapest breakfast, but not breaking the bank.
Atmosphere***, It was a diner! How often do you see an actual diner? And in a strip mall, no less.
Service****, The well-oiled machine of service!! No qualms about it, these folks know how to turn tables and do it with a smile.

Fred- B, If there is such a thing as "standard" mexican-'merican breakfast food, this would be it. Having said that, it was up to standards and I certainly would not complain about a return trip.
Libby-B+, Although they weren't the best b&g I've ever had, they were good. And honestly, I would like to try a lot more on that menu. Is it Sunday morning yet?
Ozzy- A, Ozzy reports the chocolate pancakes were "absolutely" good. 'Nuf said.
Estelle- A, If toddler speak is louder than actual words, Stella was a happy camper.
Biscuits on Urbanspoon