Tag Archives: Small Plates

Divvy

20 Dec

Divvy’s tagline of “sip, share, savor” sums up the restaurant perfectly. A birthday celebration was the perfect opportunity for a group of us to sip some drinks, share plates and conversation, and savor each morsel that we put in our mouths. Divvy was, unknowingly to us, exactly what we needed. We had delicious food, reasonable drinks, and a very relaxed yet modern atmosphere all wrapped up in one. Recently opening in Carmel’s City Centre, Divvy is one of the new restaurants in the Carmel area. I was excited to learn of a new small plate restaurant so close to home, but I’m even more excited now that we discovered the restaurant has some fantastic food.

Before the food, we began with drinks. Beer tasters are a mere $5, getting you small pours of three drafts. I would say approximately 12 oz. total to sip on. The only draw back is there are a limited six drafts to choose from. There are more bottles, but they are not available in taster portions. There are also wine tasters, plus evolving wines. The evolving wines are bottles that are purchased by a case. Once that case is gone, they get something different to try, thus always evolving around tastes of something new. One red, one white. I settled on a taster of sparkling wines, a ‘bubble tasters tour’ of prosecco, dry rose and black bubbles. I had never enjoyed a glass of black sparkling wine, but it was delicious. A red wine with carbonation, something a little different. Great conversations during our sipping, we also met the owner, Kevin aka “Woody”. Makes sense he would have another great restaurant (if you haven’t tried Woody’s library for brunch, go soon.)

The plates came out around four at a time, but it was a good spacing for the eight of us to enjoy a bite and prep for another. The first round of food included the following (starting top left, working clockwise):

  • Fried Olives – stuffed with chorizo, the briney green olive taste overpowered the meat. But, if you pulled out the chorizo and noshed on that just a bit before the olive, it was a great combination. Salty for sure, but delish.
  • Bruleed Brie – warm and creamy brie was slightly charred. Creaminess was great with the subtly sweet cranberry/cherry chutney. Didn’t notice the cracker too much, but liked the tartness of the green apple. All great flavors – was my second favorite of the first round.
  • Edamame hummus – creamy with crispness of freshly fried wontons. Liked the play on the standard dip.
  • Fried goat cheese – a staple of any small plates, this was my first round favorite. Perfectly fried, the goat cheese and balsamic reduction were great together. I liked the simple tomato sauce – a nice rustic flavor that freshened the fried cheese.
  • Feta Dip – loved the creamy texture mixed with the crisp cucumber topping. And the smokey flavor of the bread gave good depth to the starter.
  • Fried cream cheese sticks – simple and crisp. The wonton shell overpowered the cream cheese for me, but other people at the table loved them. I was more of a fan of the sauce, a sweet slightly spicy chili sauce.
  • Cornbread muffins – I don’t believe they were the star of the description, and they weren’t the star of the dish either. Two sauces, one being melted butter and the other a chipotle jelly, weren’t big in flavor. I would skip this next time and order more corn brulee (it’s coming up…)

Round two were more ‘substantial’ items rather than starter plates of our first round:

  • Corn Creme Brulee – this is a MUST order. Delicious in every way. Creamy cheese base with nuggets of corn kernels and a slight spice of jalapenos. Everything was perfectly combined, and with the slightly crunch on top, I was in heaven. Hands down, best dish of the night.
  • Sweet potato fries – a basic, double fried sweet potato fry. Standard, but good. The kicker here was the maple bourbon sauce served with the fries – like a savory dessert.
  • Eggplant – similar to the goat cheese, all the same accompaniments but swapping cheese for vegetables. I like how they were simply grilled to capture the fresh taste.
  • Potato chips – homemade and fried to a light golden color, the onion dip was a classic touch.
  • Pineapple & Jalapenos – simple as it sounds, a mix of sweet with a lot of spicy, the chile mango sauce that it was served with didn’t really change too much of the flavor.

And round two continued with…

  • Scallops – buttery and smooth scallops with a slight crunch of breadcrumbs, it made me want to try more of the seafood options. Next time…
  • Bacon jam – yes, bacon jam. Combing the smokey, rich jam with the slightly spicy horseradish mustard on top of a pretzel roll. The rolls were a little dry, but the jam really was good.
  • Andouille Sausage – spiced sausage on a bed of nutty pecans (great texture combo) and a tart apple butter were a perfect combination of flavors.
  • Bacon steak – a fatty piece of meat in a blackberry barbecue flavor gave a sweet taste to what could have been heavy dish. The leeks didn’t add too much for me, and many people at our table didn’t enjoy the overall texture. But this girl likes her pork belly.

And of course, as we continue to share our savory dishes, we had to have a little sweetness to end the night.

  • Dessert nachos – cinnamon tortilla chips with a rich chocolate sauce and whipped cream. Hubs though the strawberries in a simple sugar sauce made the whole dish. To me, it wasn’t anything insanely creative, but the ingredients were all very good.
  • Blondie – loved the crunchy pecans with the soft, cooked bananas.
  • Brownie – rich, the strawberries definitely lightened the dish.
  • S’mores – my favorite of all the desserts, it was everything an adult loves of the childhood favorite. Slightly charred homemade marshmallows on top of chocolate and graham bottom – perfect.
  • Banana split – another shareable dessert (the nachos were too), it was the expectant flavors of a banana split. Nothing extraordinary, but still delicious with every bite.
  • Frozen mousse – chocolate mouse, creamy inside a slightly crunchy crust of frozen ice cream. It was divine, my second favorite, especially with the salted caramel and peanut butter sauce.

Service was good, but I really liked how interested our hostess was interested in our meal. She kept seeing what we ordered and asking how things were – more so than our server. She showed a vested interest in the food, and was excited we were able to try it. I also liked how Woody was walking around, seeing how things were going in the restaurant. The feel was clean and modern. The establishment is 21 and over without smoking – something I like but rarely find.

The only thing missing out of the night was a piece of communication. If you have a large party, note they will add 20% gratuity. It doesn’t say anywhere, which I wish it would have. Not that it would have changed anything, but it was a slight surprise at the end of the meal. Speaking of pricing, everything was reasonable, especially for a small plate restaurant. A beer flight, another draft beer, flight of sparkling wine, four small plates and a shareable dessert set us back about $60 pre tax and added gratuity.

Everything about divvy fit the tagline. We sipped, we shared, and my stomach is still happy from all the savoring. There were a few tastes I wouldn’t get again, but there are a few that I would definitely (again, the cream corn brulee is a MUST!) order again. And these plates were only a small taste of everything divvy has to offer. I can’t wait to get back and continue to sample the menu. I barely got to taste any of the seafood, and there was some poultry that I also must try.

Has anyone else dined here yet? I am interested to what everyone else ordered and tasted as there is so much more to this large menu of flavor.

divvy * 71 w. City Center Drive * Carmel, 46032 * 317.706.0000

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Big Bar (Chicago)

12 Apr

I was out of town this past week for work.    I enjoy traveling for work because that means new places to find some good food.  Spending time in downtown Chicago, I found myself staying at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.   The woman I was dining with suggested we grab some small plates and drinks at one of their dining establishments, big bar.

With the not so original name, I had been informed the obvious – that it was a big bar and a place to be ‘seen’ by convention attendees who hold their conferences there (by day, I’m a meeting/event planner).  However, I did not know that it was (from what I was told of course) the longest bar in the United States.  I thought I had been to longer, but I learned that this is the longest bar without interruptions.  So, those parts in bars that bartenders lift up to get through quickly don’t exist.  Just some interesting information – I was more looking towards what small plates I could get my hands on.  And as my colleague had noshed here before, I left it up to her to order.  Two staple menu items (Bavarian pretzel and the colossal shrimp cocktail) and two Big Tastes from their specialty menu (pork sliders and shrimp dip) were ordered and delivered.  My stomach growled as I sipped a martini and prepared for the bites.

We began with a classic pretzel, served with both dijon mustard and a spicy mustard.  It was, sadly, your basic pretzel.  However, the knotted areas were soft and doughy, perfect to nosh on with the mustard.  Normally, I would have never had a spicy mustard mixed with dijon, but since they were served in the same bowl, I thought ‘why not?’ and happily mixed them to my delight.  Without wanting to get too full, I made my way to the large shrimp cocktail.

The glass used to serve the shrimp is also used to serve, you guessed it, big drinks.  But this time, we got a big serving of cocktail sauce.  Though the cocktail sauce was mild with a strong ketchup flavor, the thing I really loved about it was the heaping mountain of horseradish on top.  This allowed me to mix in as much as I wanted to tailor my spicy level.  I’ve got to say, I love St. Elmo’s spicy, but it was nice to tone it down a bit this way.  The shrimp were firm and well cooked, cooled to perfection with a good consistent bite to the skin.  They were also served with breadsticks, but I passed over the crisp from a box carb.

Next up – shrimp dip served with crisp crostini’s.  The warm dip was pretty good – finely chopped shrimp though which I guess does make it easier to scoop up.  Some basic seafood seasoning (think Old Bay) was the majority flavor component.  It was mildly cheesy, and I was more interested in trying something else – which is what I did.  The pulled pork sliders were fantastic.  Subtly smokey, messy with sauce, they had a great flavor component that was soaked up by the bun.  But, the bun never got soggy – it wasn’t your classic “hamburger bun” but had more consistency to it which I enjoyed.  I’d recommend a slider (they had four different kinds) in a heartbeat.

The service was standard, nothing too great.  But since we were doing business, she left us alone to our conversation, drinks and food.  I love snacking and small plate offerings at a bar are my kind of thing.  If you get the chance to experience it, get one of the big drinks.  I heard they parade it through the place and make an spectacle (or example – however you choose to look at it) out of the person who orders it.

big bar (located in the Hyatt Regency Chicago) * 151 E. Wacker Drive * Chicago, IL * 312.565.1234