Thursday, April 10, 2008

Noah Grant's

I liked Brix. Brix was good. We forgot about Brix a lot, being all the way north in Zionsville, and then Brix became Noah Grant's. Now it's really good. And I'm sure we'll forget about it less.

Okay, let's get the bad stuff out of the way first. Their Signature Oyster Raw Bar was out of…all together now…oysters. But I've heard from enough chefs with oyster-having menus that oysters are tough. When you have them, no one orders them. When you don't have them, everyone wants them. And the little guys aren't exactly known for their keeping power. So we decided to forgive.

And I would have forgiven some really heinous things when we met the BBQ ribs. Oh heavens the ribs are so good. They're from local purveyor Mark Turner Farms, which is apparently so local that I could have winged a picked-clean bone and hit it from my table. The sauce (here is not the time to quibble over whether REAL barbeque has sauce or not) is both sweet and spicy, thick but not tomatoey. There was maybe a touch too much, especially when the ribs are this meaty and flavorful on their own, but that's a nit I'm picking.

My esteemed colleague went for the lamb chops, which were very good. The surprising revelation had to be the asparagus, though. Simple – grilled and yummy. Hopefully this is a sign that restaurants in Indy are finally learning that not everything has to come drenched in butter and sauce and blue cheese dressing and bacon bits. Not that there's anything wrong with those things, just not covering every available food surface until you're not sure if you ordered the grilled fish or the roasted chicken. On that note, to Noah Grant's, please don't put cheddar in the French onion soup. The flavor's fine, but the texture is off. Try the classic Gruyere or something that melts better, like Asiago or Fontina. The soup itself is quite good, or so said my esteemed colleague, who was on his third bowl in as many places that week.

And I can't end this without mentioning the people. I know some people don't like it when they become a part of your evening, but we love it when our server is enthusiastic about the food, when the chef comes out and talks about it, when the excitement about what's going on is palpable. We left very much looking forward to not forgetting Noah Grant's.

Visit Noah Grant's to see more.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What's that, there, in your stew?

I have a friend, we'll call her K, who HATES the stew. Hates it. If you want to make her cringe and scream and practically gag, say Stew two or three times. Hell, even if you aren't around her, say it anyway. It's fun.

I, however, love stew in all of its forms from canned Chunky to grandma's own to the very chichi Daube that I make as soon as the weather even thinks about getting slightly chilly. So I was delighted when my fellow lunch boys declared one recent snowy afternoon that we were going to John's Famous Stew on Kentucky Avenue.

You pull up into a parking lot that you just can't imagine isn't currently hosting a "let's take this outside" fight. Open the single, windowless door and you are in an honest-to-God roadhouse. Grab a numbered table before someone yells at you. The paneled walls are all beer signs and dartboards (a scary thought in a room this small) and the remnants of what I can only guess was an OTB establishment (horse murals and a tiny window now stuffed with supplies). The bar is stocked with the kind of stuff college students bet each other to drink.

And on the menu. Stew. Mild, medium, or hot. Served with "Thank God I'm an American" white bread. Butter's on the table, so don't ask. On this fine day, one of the lunch boys decided on a hamburger with stew. We all pictured a sandwich with stew ladled over, like a Beef Manhattan, only with stew. Our lunches arrived, and the bowls of stew (giant bowls, by the way, for those of you who care about heaping portions) all looked the same. Dig in, though, and there, like the prize at the bottom of a box of Cracker Jack, was a hamburger. A whole hamburger, bun and all. Under the stew.

There are pictures. Coming soon.

Et Tu, Ratings?

Maybe if the weathermen had to pay restaurateurs for lost business, they'd quit hyping the "bad" weather. Do these guys realize that if people are afraid that we're actually going to get that 4 to 7 inches they keep promising, they stay home? The esteemed colleague and I have discovered that the best time to hit a normally crowded spot is when bad weather is predicted. We can slide right in and nab our favorite table in the vast, echoing expanse of empty tables. Great for us, not so great for the owners.

I realize that people become glued to their sets during weather "events" and there's an entire section of a TV station's org chart devoted to ensuring that people are glued to their sets, but I wish they'd give a touch more thought to the negative impact. Not only on local businesses, but on their own credibility. But mostly on local businesses.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Because WE didn't ban it.

The esteemed colleague and I pop into Broad Ripple Steakhouse often enough that friends and sort of friends make fun of us for it. The specials are typically yummy, but last night we forewent the specials for other things.

Our mistake.

Chef brought out a little amuse composed of the ravioli accompanying the filet mignon special and WOW. Foie gras in pasta rags with a veal reduction sauce drizzled with crème fraiche. On top was a yummy surprise. Asparagus tips that looked grilled but a taste proved them to be caramelized. Caramelized with sugar. A little sweet crunch against the salty sauce and delicate pasta and creamy foie, it was magical. I admit I can't vouch for the rest of the special, but it's filet, what could go wrong? And even if it's bad filet (which, as they say about sex and pizza, is still pretty good), you got the magical foie gras ravioli, right?

And why can we have magical foie gras ravioli without passwords and fines? Because we didn't ban it like SOME cities I could name. Yeah, I'm lookin' at you, Chicago.

Oh, and Broad Ripple Steakhouse changes the specials weekly. And today is Wednesday. Off you go.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Brussels Sprouts

I have an increasingly long list of things I thought I hated for various reasons. At the top of the list has always been those tiny, squishy, sulphury balls of mush that loll limply around the plate, making everything smell like cabbage and not in a good beer-hall-sausage-on-the-way way. Ersatz vegetables foisted on defenseless elementary school students by a system that also defines ketchup as a vegetable.

But maybe not.

I'm taking Alice Waters' words to heart and trying to eat locally. Or, if not locally, at least seasonally. And what's in season now? Brussel sprouts. I happened upon some at Sunflower Market that didn't look demonic at all. They were actually cute. So, like I do with cute things (shoes, cats, etc.), I took them home.

Trimmed and cut lengthwise, braised in French butter and water, then sautéed golden after the water boiled away. A dab of cream, a crumble of chestnuts and they became…good. Really good. "Hey, I'd make this again" good. Snuggled (cutely) next to a roasted chicken and mashed potatoes, it was a lovely comfy dinner for the first brisk night of fall.

Here's the recipe from Epicurious I didn't follow so much as sidle.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

It's not meat. And it's not paper.

It's meatpaper. Whilst trolling for progress on The Fresh Market on College, my esteemed colleague and I popped into Northside News, where we discovered the premier issue of meatpaper. It's not recipes, it's not a trade pub for ranchers or butchers, it's about what the editors (both women, forgive me for letting that surprise me) call the fleishgeist - the spirit of the meat. (Have you noticed that "meat" is one of those words that gets more vulgar the more times you say it? Meat, meat, meat, meat, meat.) I'm not sure how long anyone can sustain a magazine strictly about the art, culture, and meaning of meat, meat, meat, meat, meat in all of its forms, but kudos to a bizarrely beautiful magazine.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

They ARE called gastropods, after all

Does that mean "delicious feet"? Hmm. Probably best not to think too hard on that one.

On Saturday, my esteemed colleague made the crucial observation that The Fresh Market carries snails – giant snails – pre-stuffed with butter and garlic and parsley.

We popped 10 of them in the oven (425° for 14 minutes seemed to work) as an appetizer for the coq au vin I made Sunday. They were fabulous. As good or better than escargot (funny how adding butter and a French name makes yanking a mucusey slug out of a shell with a toothpick palatable) that we've had at French restaurants in big cities.

You must try them. If only to ensure that they keep stocking them for us.