BRU Burger Bar – Indianapolis, Indiana

Double blech (I’ve been twice).

Boring…Boring…OMG Boring. Do we really need more mass retail family food places in the midwest? Especially one downtown on Mass Ave!?! What happened here CRU? Mesh and Stonecreek are on target…this place belongs in the far suburbs with a huge stack of high chairs at the door and placemats the kids can draw on … OR … Get a chef.

photos courtesy of funcityfinder.com
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Three Chimneys – Dunvegan, Isle of Skye, Scotland

We arrived at the Three Chimneys about 30 minutes early since we were unsure how long it would take to drive through half the island shooing sheep from the road. When I first made reservations for dinner here three months earlier I received a confirmation email along with instructions on where to moor our yacht and something about a helicopter pad? The small white washed building with its three chimneys sitting quietly on the side of the road surely didn’t look like the kind of place for someone who helicoptered over from Edinburgh (or arrived on their boat from the south of France). Ahhh…but that’s the charm of Scotland for you. The air outside was filled with smoke of burning bog peat from a traditional home a few feet away.  It wasn’t a bad smell mind you, just a particular one. I was confident we would be soaked in its heavy soot if we stayed too long.

We were welcomed into a beautiful small front bar room with a fireplace, several wicker chairs with sheep skins thrown over the backs, several tooled leather stools and a few trays of single malt being passed around. We were given a chance to look at the night’s menu, meet our fellow diners and chat about how we all thought we were lost right before we finally found the place. Just as the scotch was empty and the conversation winded down, we were seated in the main dining room.

The small thin room is furnished with custom made Arts and Crafts furniture and its white plaster ceiling glows from soft lights. The traditional stone walls make you remember you are in rural Scotland while a few carefully placed lamb and chenille throws make everything feel lush, soft and comfortable. It is the kind of place you want to sink into for a while and be waited on.

Our order was large so we could try as many local items as possible. We shared a warm monkfish and citris salad with fennel and endive, a tartine of squid with wild mushrooms, a warm duck salad with tart greens, a roasted stag with gooseberries and the house special whitefish soup. We kept to my unwritten rule of always ordering Clootie Dumpling whenever it’s on any menu….and it was Clootie heaven. We finished the meal with coffee,  petite fours and a long pour of Talisker to make us sleepy.

So much excellent food…the soup and monkfish salad were amazing and the dumpling was the best I’ve had so far. We were given so much comfort and care and our beautiful meal was my best memory of Skye.

photo credits: www.threechimneys.co.uk

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Really?

Has it really been that long since I posted to the blog?!? Wow…I’ve eaten A LOT since then…I better get busy

Bacon & Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies With Maple Cinnamon Glaze

 


Yield: 2 dozen
Serves: 2 people

COOKIES:

  • 3/4 cup butter 
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon hazelnut OR almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 2 lbs high quality bacon, cooked and crumbled (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 lb high quality bacon, cooked in whole strips


MAPLE GLAZE:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon maple extract 
  • Splash of shagbark hickory syrup (OPTIONAL) 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugars, extracts and eggs. In another bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and stir together.
  2. Dough will be slightly soft. If you want a more cake-like cookie, add another 1/2 cup of flour. Mix in chocolate chips and crumbled bacon. Stir until well integrated.
  3. Place dough in refrigerator and let rest 1 hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  5. Remove dough from fridge. Roll 2 tablespoons worth of dough into ball. Set dough balls about 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten dough balls slightly with your fingers. Bake about 10 minutes, or until the dough starts to turn golden brown. Allow cookies to cool on cooling rack while you make the glaze.
  6. Maple-Cinnamon Glaze: Mix 2 cups powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon maple extract, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, shagbark syrup and ½ teaspoon cinnamon with enough water to make a thick glaze, about 3 tablespoons. Wisk all ingredients together until smooth and creamy.
  7. Spread a small amount of glaze on top of each cooled cookie and top with a small piece (1 inch) of crisp bacon.
  8. Sneak off to couch with platter of cookies, watch episodes of 80′s sitcoms (they go especially well for some reason with Punky Brewster or Alf) and enjoy.

Farm Bloomington – Bloomington, Indiana

108 East Kirkwood, Bloomington, IN 47408 • (877) 440-FARM

 

 

 

 

ANY CHEF THAT MAKES SPOONS OUT OF COOKIES IS ALL RIGHT BY ME

What a quirky place. It’s one of those wonderful places that knows who it is, where it is and what it’s doing philosophically while backing up the whole thing with deliciously flavorful food and great service. What seems at first sight as a quaint tearoom / antique mall / run-for-the-hills-the-food-here-is-all-about-chicken-salad kinda place quickly gives way to a funky industrial warehouse whimsy that immediately makes me think something interesting is going on here.

FARMBloomington is the socially-conscious, green-minded, locally produced food brain child of Indiana native chef Daniel Orr. The low-brow menu consists of down home comfort foods brought up to culinary scratch with playful ingredients and worldly flavors; Seared scallops with red curried cauliflower and chili vinegar…Waygu beef hamburger with sunny side up duck egg and wasabi mustard…and a customer favorite of minty green pea guacamole. The gourmet pizzas are rustic (and outstanding) as are the FARMfamous Garlic Fries…yes…I said garlic fries.

The FARMbar is also outstanding. A full selection of luxury bourbons and single malts line the indiana small town turned rock and roll bar ledge. The service is friendly and fun and you immediately sense from the diversity and educated tone of the staff and customers that you are in a university town.

Farm Bloomington will serve me well as a nice long drive reward from downtown Indy or a lazy day pit stop on the way back home from Brown County. Sunday nights are reserved for the sous chefs to shine (and give the regular chefs the night off) and the menu and crowds are pared down.

Buying a copy of the FARMfood, the green living book by Chef Orr, I was tickled to see not only a large selection of spice combinations and sauce recipes but also a list of preferred cooking preparations for Hoosier game ranging from Oppossum, Raccoon, Groundhog, Squirrel and Turtle. Hey…keeping local food tradition alive isn’t always pretty (though I bet oppossum is good).

Check out Chef Daniel Orr’s FARMBloomington Blog by clicking here 

 

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Recess – Indianapolis, Indiana

4907 N College, Indianapolis, IN 46205 • (317) 925-PLAY

 

 

 

BEST RESTAURANT IN TOWN

What’s there to say about the food … that it comes from local celebrity chef Greg Hardesty means its thoughtful seasonal food that is beautifully cooked with a interesting point of view. I was so angry at this town after the close of Elements where I first became a monthly fan of his kitchen creations. Now I breathe a little easier knowing there is once again a restaurant in town I don’t have to apologize for and a place I can call my own whenever I need something special.

The single meal concept culinary trend…or should I say culinary reaction… is a deliberate answer to the massive over abundance of choice, forcing fresh and anything you want when you want it tradition this country nurtured through the last 15 years. Its’ the best result of a chef-owned restaurant. Amen to that.

The $52 per person price tag (varies per menu day of course) for a three course meal keeps the quality high and the place mostly filled with business dinners during the week and empty nesters and younger foodies on the weekends.

Great news article link here from IBJ on the restaurants success…great videos of Hardesty talking about the struggles and rewards of this venture….plus a little more info about his upcoming casual next door restaurant Rm. 4 which plans on serving tasty short-order comfort food.

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>Hollyhock Hill – Indianapolis, Indiana

>8110 N College Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46240, (317) 251-2294

OH HELL NO!
This place spins out boring, bland “food” and is a great example of what’s wrong with our city’s culinary future. Dated and sad, the food is fit for a 1981 budget rehearsal dinner…yet people around these parts say they Love it!
Hollyhock Hill first opened its doors in 1928. Don’t be mistaken however that surviving for the last 80 years is a testament to its cuisine. It’s due to the family style tradition of Hoosiers loving family style traditions. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating at a place you remember fondly … just don’t tell me it’s for the food.
This is the perfect place for a mediocre office party or if you want to be surrounded by an elderly group of ice tea drinking gadabouts. While they boast serving “America’s BEST Fried Chicken,” I can’t even be bothered to upload pictures of it to the blog. yuck.

Hollyhock Hill on Urbanspoon

>Napolese

>114 East 49th St, Indianapolis, IN 46205 • (317) 925-0765

I waited to say anything about Napolese until I had eaten there a handful of times and so far I’ve sampled most of what they have to offer. While the rest of the menu is decent, I’ve been blown away each time by their European style pizza. What is the magic that local restaurant owner Martha Hoover wields? She’s created yet another culinary home run by bringing artisanal style pizza to the Indy masses…and we’re better for it.

Napolese is as cozy as the neighborhood surrounding it and the Roman-style pizzas are fantastic. They are flat and chewy with raised pillow-puffed edges and bits of slightly charred hot spots…exactly how they should be. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Bazbeaux, Jockamo and Some Guys pizza…but Napolese serves up pizza I can’t get anywhere else in town.

The prosecco is inexpensive and good. The prosciutto and arugula starter is weak on parmesan and dry as a brush fire. The truffle white bean purée is fantastic and the affogato di gelato makes you black out from delight. The polenta and goat cheese starter is not fine dining but the focaccia is pleasingly addicting.

Highlight pizzas for me have been the Napolese Broken Yolk, Meridian Kessler and Autumn Pie, while the classic Margherita with prosciutto (or pancetta) hits my top.

Get there early or very late otherwise expect to stand in line outside drooling at the diners.

Napolese on Urbanspoon

>Taqueria Five Amigos Mexican Food Stand

>

5657 E. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46241 • (317) 227-9400

Drive down east Washington street at three-thirty in the morning and you’ll see a few things out of the ordinary. One of those will surely be a small group of people huddled around a patio heater on the side of the road waiting to order at a traditional Mexican food stand. Taqueria Five Amigos serves Mexican comfort food favorites such as cabeza (beef head) tacos, lengua (tongue) tortas and gringo favorites such as tacos al pastor and chicken or beef nachos daily from 10am to 5am.

Thinking I’d hit the Latin working class Joe’s jackpot for a late night snack place, I’ve been surprised time and time again at its diverse range of customers; middle aged women, young professionals, the working poor, homeless and a foodie or two all seem to descend on the place in equal measure.

Their asada, chorizo or pollo tacos are popular favorites and at $1.50 each they are ordered by the handful. Another highlight is the Taco-in-a-Bag; a layered taco prepared in a snack-sized Fritos bag and served with a fork. Waste not, want not.

You may be tempted to get your food and run…but don’t. Take a seat under the patio heater and relax a few minutes…enjoy it. The lively group of customers are as much part of the story as the tasty food itself. Last trip I bought a taco for a hungry guy walking by and an insurance agent from Fishers bought me a pineapple cola. Thanks stranger.

Taquiria Five Amigos on Urbanspoon

>Naisa Pan-Asian Cafe

>1025 Virginia Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46203. (317) 602-3708

Naisa Pan-Asian Cafe is a welcome treat to the growing list of notable Fountain Square restaurants. Since its opening a short 18 months ago, it’s found a tight following from the downtown week day crowd and the neighborhood locals have claimed it as their own. Voted this year as the Best Chinese in Indianapolis by TheIndyChannel.com’s A-List, Naisa (Asian spelled backwards) has all the signs of remaining a friendly, clean, fresh tasting neighborhood Chinese restaurant.

Glad to see some non traditional offerings on the menu (do we really need more Kong Pao Chicken in this town?) I ordered the owner’s childhood favorite “comfort food” dish, the Naisa Golden Sunrise; stewed tomatoes sautéed with scrambled eggs and spices, served in a traditional clay pot steeping in its own juices. It was warm and fragrant, moist and fresh…it was one of those foods that should be eaten curled up on the couch with a good book. Yum!

The owners are lovely. Dedicated to fresh tasting Asian inspired food, they also encourage diversity by supporting my alma mater, the Herron School of Art. Herron students are hired as servers, allowed to showcase student work on the walls and even the design and construction of their business sign became a school year project.

Other menu highlights are the kimchee, Triple Greens in Garlic Chiles and the Spicy Basil Curry Fried Rice. Attentive service, modern, comfortable ambiance.

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