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Aesop’s Table Cafe

30 Jan

Hubs and I were downtown running a few errands and found ourselves on Mass Ave looking for a place to dine. I had walked by Aesop’s many times, even had plans to dine there with friends once only to cancel. Thought it would be perfect for a casual dinner on Thursday night. We bundled up and headed into the cafe for dinner.

Once we were inside, we were immediately greeted by the host. The restaurant only had one other table dining at the restaurant, so I wasn’t expecting slow service by any means. And fortunately, the service was never delayed from start to finish. We grabbed a seat towards the back of the restaurant and took a look around. It definitely represented a Greek style third space: a place of casual tables and chairs, nothing fancy, but clean and open for business. It was slightly chilly, but I couldn’t help but think how comfortable it would be with warmer weather. Hubs ordered a Dutch beer and I grabbed a glass of Malbec while we reviewed the menu.

We were both quite hungry, so we opted to order an appetizer.Despite being served a basket of warm bread when seated, we opted to order more bread and selected the dipping plate. Warm, crisp and tender slices of pita were served with thick slices of tender french bread. Crusty on the outside, but soft on the inside, the breads were perfect for the trio of dips. We were served hummus (hommous, however you opt to spell), tzatziki, and a sun-dried tomato and feta dip. The hummus was smooth,  a perfect blend of chickpeas, tahini, and olive oil. The tzatziki, a cucumber yogurt dip, was heavy in mint. I appreciated how light and refreshing it was compared to the heavier dips. The sun-dried tomato and feta dip was a little dry, but still had good flavor of robust tomatoes and sharp feta. I just wish it was a bit more spreadable and not as dry on the tongue.

For dinner, we each opted for a sandwich. A good idea considering we both ate way more bread than anticipated as a starter. But first, we received a basic salad of romaine, tomatoes, onions, mozzarella and a basic vinaigrette. A clean starter. Nothing special, but I appreciated the lightness of the salad.

Hubs opted for the gyro, which he jazzed up by ordering the ultimate. Essentially, that means added feta and mozzarella cheese to the traditional sandwich. It was a large, thus very messy. It was a combination of pork and lamb, plus an addition of dijon mustard. I took a bite and thought the meat was a little dry (maybe from being broiled for the cheese to melt?), but still had the good traditional flavors of a gyro despite the addition of ingredients.

I opted for the chicken souvlaki, listed as a chicken sandwich. A combination of sauteed peppers and onions were the dominant flavors of the sandwich. But, I didn’t mind that considering the chicken was dry and lacking flavor. There was tzatziki and diced tomatoes on the sandwich as well in the slightly toasted, warm pita. I can’t rave enough about the pita – I just loved the texture and taste. But, due to the dipping plate, I opted to really only eat the chicken and veggies on their own. It was just too much food for me.

Overall, the food was simple like the environment. For about $11, the sandwich and salad were more than enough food. The service was definitely friendly, personable and attentive despite our server also acting as the host. It would be a solid place to lounge with friends, grab a drink and few appetizers over conversation while strolling Mass Ave. Just like the people in the Mediterranean – they know how to relax and Aesop’s environment invites that same philosophy.

Aesop’s Tables Cafe * 600 E. Massachusetts Ave * Downtown Indy, 46204

Aesop's Tables on Urbanspoon

Tavern on South

26 Jan

I was downtown with a few friends for the Super Bowl volunteer pep rally; we were early and all hungry. Since I’m not around Lucas stadium very often, I’m not really aware of what is around the immediate area. The group I was with looked to me for a suggestion, and then I remembered from being down there earlier in the week to pick up my uniform, Tavern on South is right around the corner. I have tried to dine at Tavern a few times but can never get in due to private parties. This time around, we were able to get in without a wait.

Due to the event on hand, I anticipated to wait. Most of the tables were full, but we were fortunate to be immediately sat. Our server quickly followed and grabbed our drink order while we reviewed the menu. I had ordered the Triton Brewery’s gingerbread brown ale, only one of the several local breweries they have on draft. An impressive bar is available and takes up half of the restaurant on the first floor for anyone who is interested. Overall, it seemed like a modern, upscale sports bar with many tv’s to watch any game you are looking to catch.

I wasn’t starving, so I opted for a ‘sandwich’: the baked brie and chicken quesadilla. I really wished I was hungry because I had been wanting to try a few things since it was my first time there. The food was quick to the table, which was good for my hungry table mates. The wheat tortilla had a satisfying flavor, something that was a bit more than a regular, white tortilla. Melted brie was abundant, though the flavor was very subtle. I expected more out of the cheese and can’t figure out why the flavor wasn’t there. The chicken was strong in a rich, smoky taste. I learned that the smoked meats are done so in house, which I much appreciate. Overall, my favorite part of the dish was the ‘Indiana’ salsa. I have no idea why it was titled that, but the mix of tomatoes, red onions, corn and beans were a great combination for the smoky chicken. What could have been heavy with cheese was lightened up with the salsa.

I was surprised by the interior, expecting a more modern look and feel from the outdoor signage. But it wasn’t a bad surprise; it still had a subtle upscale feel with a laid back, casual atmosphere while producing a menu of promising items. I am interested in returning to try a few more, as my friends were raving over their dishes of shrimp enchiladas, bison burger and pork tenderloin sliders on pretzel rolls.

Who else has recently been here? What did you have, and what were your thoughts?

Tavern on South * 423 W. South Street * Downtown Indy, 46225 * 317.602.3115

Tavern on South on Urbanspoon

Devour Downtown (Special Event)

6 Jan

It’s back. Devour Downtown. The opportunity for the people of Indianapolis to sample downtown restaurants for $30. Sometimes, you can get lunch for 2 at $30 or even at the $20 mark. Offered twice a year, restaurants return while others jump on for the first time. This winter eating fest is January 9-22 and it looks like the longest list yet.

I have a confession. I made two reservations last year, but cancelled last minute. I don’t remember why, but I didn’t participate for the first time since moving here in 2004.

And this year? I’m hesitating. I have compared the regular menus with the Devour menus and honestly, some of them just don’t seem worth it to me. If I try a new restaurant, I may end up ordering off the menu because of an item I want to try. Or sometimes, I’m really only saving $6 to order off a limited menu. Is it really a deal?

Don’t get me wrong. I love Devour. I think it is a great program for the locals and restaurants alike. Restaurant week is popular all over the country. This is our version to sample and dine at restaurants you may not normally due to pricing, location, attire or anything else. For instance, many people may not have tried the Columbia Club due to membership. This is the perfect opportunity to see the beautiful building and eat in their dining room. Maybe Eagle’s Nest has been to pricey; $30 gets you a full meal.

My favorite deal? The Fogo deal. This is because it is the exact same menu, due to a buffet of food, for a cheaper price. You can’t really go wrong with a true deal. I’m also a fan that you can get the Kona steak at Capital Grille for lunch. Sure, a steak for lunch isn’t something I normally do, but it is great that they offer a fan favorite. Just like St. Elmo’s and the shrimp cocktail. If you have an item you are known for, I definitely think an offering or taste is in order for something like this. Patrons will return if they love it, even if there isn’t a deal on hand.

So, what am I doing. I’m pondering Fogo just because of the deal. Yes, I’ve eaten there before. I know exactly what to expect and I don’t foresee it being any different. I’m also looking at Chef Joseph’s. There isn’t much of a selection, but I’ve really been wanting to dine there since it opened so a downtown lunch may be in order. I’m pondering a few more but it looks like a lot of repeat visits and I’m craving a new experience. I haven’t really dined at many of the Italian restaurants, but I also haven’t really heard a reason to why I should. Anyone know something different?

How about you? What is everyone else thinking about Devour? Are you planning on participating, and if so, where will you dine?

Dig-IN: A Taste of Indiana

6 Sep

The farm to fork philosophy shined at this years Dig-IN event, held at White River State Park last weekend.  I had been gone for a conference; coming back just in time for this event was a priority of the weekend.  This was my second year in a row attending (2 for 2) and there were definitely some changes that happened.

I loved the mixing of beer/wine within the food.  I didn’t really like the tastings of a brewery/winery being in one area while the actual beverage purchasing was in another – didn’t seem like the best use of space.  I loved the new restaurants, but I did notice that a few were not present once again.  Overall, it was a great event.  Hubs and I happily nibbled our way through the tents with friends.  Here are some of the food details:

Keltie’s (Westfield): Bread Pudding

Hands down my favorite of the day.  I wasn’t expecting this either – a dessert to win out of all the nibbles – but it was really great.  Perfectly sweet and full of cinnamon flavor, I loved every bite of the moist dessert.  Whipped cream on top was creamy and the perfect accompaniment.  And a note to all those who may be participating in Northside Nights this week – Keltie’s is one of the restaurant featured.  And yes, their bread pudding is a dessert option (as are their beggar’s purses – oh so good!)

 

 

Joseph Decuis (Roanoke): Wagyu Slider

Last year, I couldn’t get enough of the wagyu beef  Joseph Decuis’ restaurant was serving.  It was one of my favorite then (along with Chef Steven Unrue, formerly of Tastings but currently serving with the crew at Chef JJ’s – he had the best entree with his tamale), so I was looking forward to another great bite this year.  There was no disappointment – an extremely tender burger with a slightly spicy pepper onion relish on top.  A creamy slice of havariti completed this sandwich.  It was an upscale slider, with a hint of the steamed onion flavor so many people crave.  Delicious.  I must get to this restaurant asap – I hear it is quite an experience.

R Bistro (Indianapolis): Brined turkey and vegetable salad

With the excellent, there has to be some disappointment.  I had higher expectations from R Bistro (though I have only dined there for an event, not really a meal) and this was my least favorite of the day.  It was essentially a turkey coleslaw with no seasoning.  Jalapenos, radishes, cheese – it was just messy to me.  It struggled to even enjoy what I knew were fresh ingredients.  My lease favorite from all the tastings.

Here are a few more photos/recaps –

Chef JJ’s Back Yard – they unveiled the Big Green Bistro.  Isn’t that an amazing vehicle?  And you know there is good food inside.  This time around, a deconstructed sandwich of some sorts.  Bison, smoked perfectly (wouldn’t expect anything less from Chef JJ’s) was the star of the dish.  Though I have to say, those pickles were mighty tasty.

From left, clockwise:

Goose the Market’s smoked turkey and ginger sausage, blueberry, mostarda, root vegetable kraut (though great in flavor, very difficult to eat.  The casing was so thick that you had to essentially squeeze out the filling – it was just too hard to bite through); Just Rennie’s Cookie Co. (these cookies were a great way to end the tasting!  One was chocolate chip, the other was chocolate/peanut butter and the last was orange/cranberry); Restaurant Tallent’s pork tacos (my third favorite, they had a build your own fixin’s type of bar – perfect level of spice in the pork with all the cooling features in the slaw) and Served Cafe & Bistro’s Bees Knees (the French toast was a little dry for me, but I enjoyed the combination of the strawberries and honey cured pork).

Though I have no photo, I do also have to mention Burton’s Maplewood Farm‘s maple syrup.  Oh gosh, delicious.  It makes me want to go to the maple festival in March…just sayin’…

It was another great event.  Thank you to all the chefs, brewers, wine makers and staff who made this event possible.  And of course, the weather was perfect, so it made it that much more enjoyable!