Wednesday, June 29, 2011
The Sweet Life is an independent dessert and coffee shop. When I walked in I noticed they sold various styles of fancy coffee I don't drink, chocolate candies, various flavors of cupcakes and homemade pies. I've been looking for a good pie shop for a long time, and sure enough The Sweet Life sells their pies either whole or by the slice. For my experience I decided to go with a slice of blueberry pie (my favorite) and one of their coconut cupcakes.
For me the most important thing in a pie, especially a fruit pie, is undoubtedly the crust. A crust that is too dry or too think can absolutely ruin an otherwise enjoyable pie experience. I have to say though that the slice of blueberry I had from The Sweet Life is maybe the best pie I've tasted in my life. That is not a joke. Not only was the filling appropriately sweet and plentiful, but the crust was nothing short of amazing. It was flaky, but moist enough as to not be too crumbly. It was also the perfect thickness never overwhelming the filling. My mouth is watering now as I write about it. Seriously, it's good enough to want to make me just say eff the diet and hook myself up to a pie IV. I hate the idea of "food trends", but if pies like this are trend bring it on.
Cupcakes have also some some "food trend" hate on this blog, but likewise the coconut cupcake here was fantastic. Granted it was nothing Earth shattering. I don't think it's possible for cupcakes of any variety to rock my world that much, but the cake was moist, well flavored and the icing was not overly sweet. I also enjoyed the toasted coconut topping.
Taste 9.5 If this place is putting out pie like I had on a consistent basis I'd be willing to put their pie up against any in the state. Damn this diet for keeping me from going back and trying more stuff. If I was to make one suggestion I wish they would have donuts as well.
Value 7.5 Okay I'll be straight with you, baked goods that are hand made in small shop and made this well aren't going to be dirt cheap. The good part is they don't have to be to be a really good value. It's not going to kill anyone's pocketbook to stop in for a slice of pie and a coffee.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
In true Random Dude Eats Random Food tradition C.R. Heroes is one of those one off places located in a strip-mall on 96th St. East of Cumberland Rd. Yes, that would be the other side of Cumberland Rd. and not where all the other strip-malls and restaurants are located. I also found it quirky because of the words "family pub" on the building under the name of the restaurant. Those usually aren't two words that work together, but based on what I had read I was willing to cut them some slack.
As we walked in the first thing I noticed was the over the top "hero" decor and theme of the restaurant. One side dedicated to real heroes such as astronauts, military personnel, firefighters and police, and the other side dedicated to to pretty much every comic book hero or character you can think of including Casper the friendly ghost for some reason. After the decor I noticed that the hosts doing the seating looked pretty young like they might be in high school, and ours seemed a little frazzled. He wiped down our table and the seats of the booth which I could definitely have done without, but it really wasn't that big of a deal. The menu was quite expansive with a large selection of salads, sandwiches, burgers and several comfort food staples such as chicken 'n noodles, turkey manhattan and even chicken and waffles. It was a bit overwhelming.
To take some time to decide what we wanted we decided to go with one of their signature appetizers of the big soft pretzel. We each got one, and they were big, fresh, soft and delicious. I'm a bread junky and if you set a soft pretzel with butter and salt in front of me I'm going to be ecstatic. The flavor was complemented nicely with the ranch sauce served for dipping. It wasn't something I had tried with a pretzel before, and it made the cheese sauce look weak by comparison.
For our main courses she got the hand breaded tenderloin and fries, and I decided on the grilled cheese cheeseburger. I was immediately jealous of the tenderloin. It looked enormous yet not pounded too thin. I tore off a piece for tasting and the meat was flavorful and juicy. The breading seemed unique also in that it seemed like cornmeal may have been a component. As far as my grilled cheese cheeseburger I admit to falling victim to a gimmick. It was a burger with bacon and cheese served between 2 grilled cheese sandwiches instead of buns. I had never seen that option on a menu here in Indiana before so I had to try it out. Honestly it is much better in theory than practice. The burger itself was juicy and nicely cooked, and Ron Swanson would have appreciated the generous portion of bacon. However, it was really just too much bread and the overwhelming amount of cheese made it very rich. I really could have used a spicy or tangy sauce on there to cut the richness just a bit. We both thought the fries weren't really anything special, and I left a lot of them on my plate. The menu described them as "seasoned fries" and I was expecting something a little more aggressive I guess. Also, I thought they were just a little mushy.
Truthfully, I can't wait to go back to C.R. Heroes. The execution of most of our food was spot on and delicious and it really screams "my kind of place". There were so many other things I wanted to try (Italian Beef), and they also have drink specials nightly and a separated full bar area. Also, I was impressed with how busy the place was considering I've never seen one advertisement for this place. Word of mouth still works folks.
Taste 7.5/10 I felt very pleased after eating here. I enjoyed everything, and you could tell some love and care was put into the food. Only wished for better fries and sauce on my burger. Next time I should try their homemade chips.
Value 8/10 We both had large meals that we enjoyed quite a bit and with Diet Cokes and an app we still only spent 30 bucks before tip. That's a win in my book.
Monday, June 27, 2011
The main challenge was cooking for the cast and crew of the ABC sitcom Cougar Town which I'm pretty sure barely outdraws Food Network Star in viewers. The premise of the challenge was stupid and pointless since the contestants just pretty made whatever dishes they wanted anyway. The lack of twists and good challenges really illustrates what a lack of talent Food Network thinks they have here. I mean two of the dishes done for the main challenge were meatloaf and mac and cheese. Not that I don't like those two things, but I was under the impression this contest was supposed to be something special. These recipes were played straight with very little creativity. Penny, the most annoying woman in the world, was the one that made the mac and cheese and couldn't even do it without burning it. My mom and The Girlfriend could easily do better than that. Incredibly Penny wasn't the one voted off. They instead voted off Justin B. who arguably had the best culinary chops of the bunch, but admittedly wasn't as great at presenting to camera. He could have polished those skills, but the others will never have his cooking skills. The fact that he went this early just shows you how little this competition is about food and how much it's about finding someone to look good and sell products. Lame
Update 8/8/11: According to this new article at the Indy Star, Jack will be opening up 2 more locations in addition to the one on Post. 1 location on the near North side on Meridian and 1 on the Northeast side on 82nd.
Update 11/2/11: Since this turns out to be the most popular post in terms of views on my blog (for some reason) I thought I would post another update. According to this Indiana Business Journal article JITB is opening as many at 10 locations all over the city with the first being opened on the South side at U.S. 31 and County Line Rd. It also says they are getting some resistance to opening one on 82nd. The 82nd St location would be most convenient for me, and I don't see myself traveling all the way down to the South side just to try it out.
Update 1/14/12 The first location is opening on Monday 1/16/12 on the South side. Post about that opening here.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
First of all I need to say FN reall needs to trim this show down to an hour instead of 90 minutes. The pacing is too slow, there are too many commercials and I get bored. This weeks camera challenge involved using a blatant product placement of Hershey's candies to create a dish using that candy and presenting it. The judges ended up letting all of the contestants cop out of the challenge by making rediculosly easy dishes i.e. coconut fried shrimp won. UGH. Also the culinary genius know as Vic Vegas decided it was good to dip asparagus spears in chocolate. FAILBOAT. Dude my kitchen garbage disposal would throw that shit up.
For the "star" challenge the group was divided up in 2 teams to craft a set of desserts. The main point of this segment is how annoying and douchey the Chris guy was. I wanted to reach through the tv and rip his endocrine system out of his body (Soup reference! ) Chris kept pretending to lead the team and talk about how good he is despite messing up every dish he made. The team of girls on the opposing side were much more cohesive, but their food ended up being inedible. Guess the moral of the story is that it doesn't matter who wins this crappy show because none of these people have personalities I would like to watch on their own show.
The judging process is so slow and drawn out for a second I thought it was being run by the federal government. The guys team ended up winning despite putting out such five star fare as kettle corn and chocolate covered bacon (I'm not kidding) Logically this meant that the girls team lost and had one of their members sent home despite the fact that Chris on the guy's team was overall the worst in my opinion.
So in the end Alicia the blonde with the weird accent who constantly cries was on the chopping block for her cookie dough cupcakes. Also up for elimination were Susie ( churro pancakes...facepalm) and Beth (thin runny Grand Marnier milkshake). Alicia gets sent home, she cries, no one else gives a damn, and I lost another 90 minutes of my life. Maybe I'll recap future episodes, or maybe I spend 90 relatively more pleasnt minutes every Sunday waterboarding myself. Check back to find out.
Monday, June 20, 2011
|Cream cheese on left, BEC on right|
There was only one thing I didn't enjoy, and that was the service. It was prime time pre work hours so you know a lot of people were going to be coming in to get their kolaches, but for some reason only 2 of the 4 counters were open when I got there and a lengthy line formed. Also, the register people were taking a long time despite only have to turn around to get the desired kolaches off of a shelf. The woman who waited on me even had to look back at the screen to see what I just ordered even though I only requested 2 kolaches. She also failed to give me a free coffee despite the coupon I had (a fact I only later realized), and in no way instructed me that coffee was serve yourself or where it was located. I'll probably go back because the food was good, but I'll have to make sure I'm not in a hurry.
Taste 5/10 for cream cheese and 9/10 for the bacon egg and cheese. The BEC beat out practically any breakfast sandwich I've ever had.
Value 8/10 I got 2 kolaches and coffee for less than 5 bucks. The kolaches were quite large and if you are like me and don't an enormous amount for breakfast you could probably get by with just 1 of the savory ones.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
|Note: Originally contained 8 pieces...yeah I couldn't wait.|
Taste 5/10 Perfectly average. It had some problems, but almost exactly what I expected. I'm not necessarily totally opposed to picking up some in the future if I'm really wanting sushi and there are no other options.
Value 2/10 While I did get several pieces the cost was almost 9 dollars. Nigiri pieces can be a little pricey at dedicated sushi bars, but I didn't feel like I got bang for my buck here. I have had better salmon nigiri at the Teppanyaki Grill in Muncie as part of the buffet. The entire buffet meal there with sushi included doesn't cost much more than what I got from Marsh.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Just for a little background in case you have missed my earlier posts Chow Down Midtown is a promotion for restaurants in the Broadripple and Meridian/Kessler areas to promote themselves with special 30 dollar for 2 meals or 30 dollar per person menus. For our adventure The Girlfriend and I called up a couple of our friends and got together with them for a meal at Moe and Johnny's. If I didn't know that MandJ's was doing the Chow Down promotion I doubt it was a place I would have ever thought about going to for dinner. From the outside it looked like a cool place to have a drink, but given it's bar appearance I would have expected typical bar food on the menu. This was hardly the case.
When we arrived we were seated and waited on promptly which was much appreciated especially I assumed they might be experiencing more diners than average due to the promotion. The option for outdoor dining was available, but we decided to forgo it due to the heat. The Chow Down menu consisted of a tasting plate for 2 including the choice of 2 proteins, choice of 2 cheeses, roasted red potatoes, locally grown tomatoes and asparagus, toasted baguette, sliced apples and sliced strawberries. The kicker to this setup was that also offered with the meal was each person got to choose either a tasting of 4 beers, 3 white wines or 3 reds. The choices for The Girlfriend and I were sliced sirloin steak with caramelized onions, grilled chicken with mushroom sauce, baked gorgonzola, smoked gouda and the beer for me and white wine for her.
The tasting platter was served all at once on a large wood cutting board brought to the table. Even though it took up a lot of room on the table with the beer and wine glasses I still enjoyed this presentation a lot. It made me feel like I was getting a special meal instead of the normal plated dishes at other restaurants. Also, even though this was a tasting platter make no mistake it was a lot of food. I'm sorry for not having pictures, but my camera settings were malfunctioning and I couldn't get any shots that were bright enough to make out the food. The sirloin was cooked medium just as we requested, and despite being sliced was still quite juicy. The caramelized onions piled on top were the perfect sweet accent flavor. The chicken was also perfectly cooked and coated in plenty of the mushroom sauce. I found the sauce delicious, but it seemed somewhat thicker almost to the point of almost being a gravy. The Girlfriend with her unnatural hatred of mushrooms was not as appreciative. I found the smoked gouda to be maybe my favorite thing on the platter. It had a lot of smoky flavor and went well with the steak, bread and even as a nice compliment to the sliced apple. I also enjoyed the baked gorgonzola, but it was very aggressively flavored (think severe blue cheese funk) and I don't think it melded as well with the rest of the flavors. The bread was a sliced baguette and it was toasted and coated with a little olive oil. I liked it, but I think it would have better if they had just left it as is. Our friends had a piece that was so heavily toasted it bordered on burnt. The other highlight was the asparagus. The spears we were served were very large and retained a nice snap to them. It was a nice green addition to the plate. The beers were pretty much what I expected, a dark beer, a wheat, an IPA etc. I enjoyed the Upland Wheat most of all, and the Bell's Two Hearted the least. However, I expected that going in. I'm just not a hops guy. Sue me. Despite what beers were served the awesomeness of including them with the meal can't be overlooked.
As for the service I found it to be very pleasant, and we were in no way shunned or ignored because we ordered off the special promo menu. The manager even came around to check on us a couple of times which I don't think happens at enough restaurants.
Normally this would be the section where I assign my numbered taste and value ratings. Being that this was a special promo menu with a flat price I'm going to avoid that here this time and just go all Jerry Springer on you and throw out some final thoughts. Chow Down Midtown for us I would have to say was quite a success. Moe and Johnny's really made an effort here to provide a unique experience. We got plenty of food. We got to taste several well prepared items. I much preferred this over 2 or 3 plated courses. The atmosphere was casual and relaxed. I don't really know what is on the M and J's regular menu, but whether it's for drinks, dinner or both I think I'll be going back to find out. Remember, take care of yourself...and each other.
Picture of restaurant via helloindianapolis.com
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Jimmy John's would never be my first choice, but since people in the office were ordering it for my boss' boss visit to the office I decided to roll with it and try the Italian Nightclub sans the veggie combo of lettuce, tomato and onion. What I ended up with was a sizable sandwich with plenty of capicola, salami, ham, provolone, mayo and Italian vinaigrette. I decided to accompany that with JJ's bbq chips and one of their chocolate chip cookies. I was happily surprised. It was good quality ingredients on good bread and the mayo and vinaigrette added a nice zip. I didn't think either one was over done. I was prepared to be underwhelmed with the size of my sandwich since I wasn't having the veggies that increase the volume of the sandwich. I was wrong. Even without the sides the sandwich itself would have been a better than average lunch portion. The chips were nicely coated with plenty of bbq flavor and were thick enough to have significant bite and crunch. I enjoyed the cookie as well since it's large size and soft texture reminded me of my favorite Hardee's Big Cookie of the past.
In conclusion Jimmy John's has won me over. I will no longer shrug or roll my eyes when people suggest eating there. Well truthfully in most situations I would still prefer a hot meal, but I'll at least be open to JJ's for lunch. As far as Subway goes I will continue to hate it with the fire of a thousand suns. Inferior ingredients, cutting corners, diminishing amounts of meat. I'll just be more careful to not lump all places into the same pile with Scrubway in the future.
Taste 8/10 Very solid sandwich. One that was good enough to make me go back to Jimmy John's despite what I feel is its somewhat hipster proclivity.
Value N/A Can't rate this one considering that I didn't pay for the sandwich myself. I also have no idea what the normal cost is for the sandwich or the sides. Feel free to chime in with comments if you know.
Hi everybody! (Hi Dr. Nick!) I just wanted to remind you all that the Chow Down Midtown event is going on right now, and you should check back at their website for updates. They've posted several new menus since my last blog about it. Here's the link Chow Down Midtown. Right now I'm thinking Moe and Johnny's and The Union Jack look pretty good. Sahm's too.
Monday, June 6, 2011
Squealers has two bbq restaurants, one in Indy proper on the NW side and one in Mooresville, and if you've been in the area for very long you've probably heard of it. Some of the reviews I heard prior to going there had been mixed, but I decided to forgo some other restaurants and move Squealers to the top of my bbq hitlist because neither my friend, whom I was dining with, nor myself had ever been there and I wanted to see what the food was like for myself. When we arrived at the restaurant and exited our vehicle I knew I made a good choice.
When we arrived at the restaurant on 86th I have to admit I was visually underwhelmed. But flashy isn't what bbq is all about. When I smelled the sweet smoke that hangs in the air around the restaurant I realized why I was there. On my quest for pork nirvana the smell wafts over your nose begging you to go inside and experience paradise. Okay so maybe I'm overselling a bbq place a little bit, but damn my food here was good. I decided to go with my mainstay dish of the pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw on top (personal preference) with a side of bbq beans. Out of the 3 sauce choices (sweet, mixed, spicy) I decided to go with the mixed sauce served on my sandwich instead of purely on the side. We also decided to get an order of their fried biscuits with apple butter prior to our meals.
Off the bat I loved the fried biscuits with the apple butter. It was a very interesting texture with the soft biscuit dough on the inside and a little crunch on the outside. They were not inherently sweet, but paired perfect with the apple butter to almost make them a better fit as a dessert course if you so wished. It was something unique I can't wait to try again
Taste 9.5/10 I know I'm probably going to get nailed by some of you for giving such a high score here because bbq is something that tends to be personal and a passion for a lot of people, but undeniably my meal was great. Not perfect, but great. Granted I may have yet to go to bbq place X or Y, but this blog isn't always about comparisons. Feel free to express any opinions of your own in the comments.
Value 10/10 My entire meal, including my drink and the appetizer of the fried biscuits only came to 12 bucks. With how good I thought the food was and with how big the portions were I honestly felt like I was stealing. I've heard of other bbq places where just a sandwich and a side alone could run north of that number.
One thing I noticed right off the bat is that not very many of these contestants are really that enjoyable to watch. Food Network seems so intent on trying to find over-the-top characters that they really just brought in a bunch of a-holes and d-bags without really caring how much talent they have for cooking. There are so many contestants that I honestly don't remember all of them or their names, but let me try to give a couple examples of what I'm talking about. Chris: Stereotype immature frat boy who wanted to buy beer on a team shopping trip and make his teammate buy less expensive chocolate for her dessert dish. Penny: A decidedly unsexy "sexy" chef who seems to think she gets paid by 1. how often she insults other constestants and 2. uses the word "sexy" awkwardly in every sentence. Vic Vegas: Dude looks like Vin Diesel, retarded tattoos and wears shirts that he got out of Guy Fieri's closet. Howie Drummond: Radio morning show host who again has douchey tattoos and admits up front he doesn't have talent for cooking (WHY THE EFF IS HE ON THE SHOW?). There were 2 or three contestants that weren't so terrible (Jeff and Orchid), but it's going to take a while before the wheat is separated from the chaff. That's why watching all of these cooking and camera challenges is going to be so brutal.
For the first cooking challenge the only requirement is that the contestants have 45 minutes to make a breakfast that "represents who they are". My first thought was that this was such a garbage challenge. If this were Top Chef (the show that FNS is blatantly copying here) their is no way the cheftestants would be handed such an easy challenge for a quickfire. If there was a quickfire with such loose parameters on Top Chef the expectations for the dishes would be incredibly high. It's obvious that Food Network is admitting that their potential "stars" are lacking a lot more in the talent department. There was nothing remarkable about the challenge itself, but it seems that some of them seem more polished in front of the camera while presenting dishes. However, some of them like Juba (Yes, that's his name) are painfully, seizure inducing bad. It is also noticeable that several of the women contestants might become incredibly grating over the course of a season. I'm looking at you Katy.
The elimination challenge had them team up in groups of 3 to shoot promos for their potential shows and make a 4 course tasting menu for the judging panel and a group of media "superstars" like
|Bye bye, Howie!|
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
If you're reading this blog you have probably watched something on Food Network before. You are probably also aware that some of their shows can be awesomely bad cheesy ripoffs. Their show Next Food Network Star (NFNS) encompasses all of these qualities and then some. For that reason, and the lack of other good tv, it's usually a weekly watch during the Summer months. I'm currently thinking of coupling my viewing with a little weekly recap here on the blog with plenty of mocking, snark and sarcasm thrown in. Could be fun, but maybe you all aren't interested. Let me know what you think.