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Taste of Carmel – Recap (Special Event)

6 Mar

I hope some of you were able to make it out to the Taste of Carmel event this past Thursday evening at the Ritz Charles. For those who weren’t able to join us, you missed out on a tasty, and completely reasonably priced, evening. Even without the deal that was promoted, $25 allowed a guest to enjoy over 40 restaurants, caterers, wineries and breweries. I meandered my way through the crowd with hubs and two friends as we filled our stomachs with some great food and drink.

We didn’t get to try everything. A few things I easily passed because I knew what exactly what I would get, like Jet’s pizza. Not that it was necessarily bad, but I just knew what I would be getting from the bite (or in that case, the whole slice of pepperoni pizza). The portions weren’t small either: full sliders, half an enchilada, half glasses of wine. Even if you wanted to go back and get more, there was plenty for you to nibble on.

Here is a recap of a few of the things we ate:

The best thing of the evening was from a new found favorite, The Local. A crisp beet chip with the sharpness of bleu cheese finishing the bite; a tortilla chip with tender, rare sirloin and spicy serrano pepper bringing the bite all together; and a bite of salmon with creme fraiche (though this was a bit lackluster). That beet chip was so fantastic: crisp and creamy, earthy yet sharp. It was a great bite that the whole crew agreed upon.

My second favorite of the night was from Pizzology. One of the reasons I loved it so much was that they featured something other than their pizza: polenta. The polenta had a creamy bite to it, working perfectly with the rich pulled pork that was on top. A sprinkle of Parmesan on top brought a perfect saltiness to the dish.

Though Happy Everything Catering didn’t have the chicken salad I love, they did have other simple foods on hand. A great hummus and tabouli combination (though a few more chips would have been helpful to finish eating the dips), a tortilla Mexican wrap contained cream cheese with basic Mexican flavors, and then a really great meatball. Not dense in texture, it had a rich sauce that was so subtly sweet. Sunny Chinese Kitchen was also there, showcasing her cooking talents with demonstrations, leaving us to have all the great bites that were produced, including this great potsticker. Pan fried on the outside left a crisp crust that was stuffed with a great mix of veggies and meat – not to mention, made to order as it was steamed and fried on-site.

A few other items we tried included Bub’s Cafe & Season’s 52 desserts, Eddie Merlot’s rich and creamy pasta, Cooking Greek’s Mediterranean collection (mmm, cinnamon rice pudding – see above), Taste of Sensu’s sushi, Sullivan’s lobster bisque and cheese steak egg roll (shown above, bottom right), Woody’s Homestyle BBQ pulled pork and brisket, and Daddy Jack’s Asian coleslaw with shrimp (top right). We also sampled wines from The People’s Winery, Cooper’s Hawk Winery, Harmony Winery (sparkling wine shown with Kincaid’s dish), Thr3e Wise Men Brewing Co., and Sun King Brewing.

Among all the food, there was also entertainment from Shane Rodimel, chair massages by Rangeline Chiropractic, and of course, the silent auction that included a variety of packages. It was a tasty evening with good friends and a fun environment. Kudos to all the men and women who made this event possible; I hope Orchard Park benefits greatly from the event (I’m sure they will!) I’ll definitely be heading back next year, and maybe you can join me! If you were there, what did you like best?

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!

Fulton’s Crab House (Vacation Dining)

12 Aug

During my recent business trip to the Orlando area, I had the opportunity to dine at Fulton’s Crab House for a special event.  I was really excited about this opportunity because I had never been despite walking by many times.  Fulton’s is located in Downtown Disney, right in the middle of the district.

It is a beautiful restaurant, a riverboat that was converted into a crab house.  The basic history behind it is that it was part of Disney’s property, once called Empress Lilly after Walt’s wife (Lillian), before being purchased by Levy restaurant’s.  Levy’s – you may recognize this name as it is the restaurants of Conseco Fieldhouse – has several restaurants in the area, specifically the sister restaurant next door, Portobello.  It really is a beautifully decorated restaurant with interesting space for events and dinners.  Wedding rehearsals, even small weddings, have taken place here.  And the food is quite delightful.  During our event, this is what we noshed on:

Cocktail Hour Starters

There was this great display of crab legs, grilled scallops and shrimp.  Not just your baby cocktail shrimp, these were jumbo shrimp that were perfectly cooked and chilled.  I gobbled a few of these with the subtly spiced cocktail sauce and remoulade.  The crab legs were sweet and divine, scallops grilled to perfection.  Nothing better than eating perfectly cooked seafood while enjoying a glass of chilled wine.

Soup Starter – Crab and Lobster Bisque

The signature bisque was creamy and full of crab flavor.  It was slightly sweet, rich in cream and finished with sherry.  Smooth and rich, a bowl of the bisque is more than needed as it can be filling.  There was also fresh baked bread with a crab butter, giving a touch of sweetness to the butter bread.

Entree – Land & Sea

Duo’s are the perfect dish and this didn’t disappoint.  A beef filet mignon was cooked medium rare for ultimate taste.  It was lightly seasoned so the beef flavor really shined.  Despite being delicious, the Alaskan King Crab claws were the star of this show.  The claws were subtly sweet, extremely tender and easy to break into because of the great service already provided by the kitchen.  They didn’t need the butter, but it did make them a bit more decadent.

Dessert – Biramisu

A specialty by another Levy restaurant, Portobello, we enjoyed this version of the classic Tiramisu.  What made it different was the Orlando Brewing Porter that was used rather than espresso.  The porter still has a coffee like flavor, but it definitely gave a different taste to the classic.  The dessert was light and delicious.  And from conversations, the portion is normally quite large – pint glass large (though it may not seem like it – this was a large shot glass).  In addition, a berry sherbert with fruit and a chocolate shell was served with the dessert – fantastic.

It was a great event due to company, service and delicious food.  I haven’t dined there prior because when on vacation, I couldn’t rationalize the expense of the restaurant.  But the quality of both food and service delivered a great evening.

Fulton’s Crab House * Downtown Disney * Orlando, Florida * 407.934.2628

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