Thursday, April 28, 2011

Eating Through Indy in a Week

We all make sacrifices; giving of our time, our resources in exchange for something else.

In order to share some great moments with you, I have, sacrificially, exchanged some ordinary days for some wonderful memories. Memories that will be treasured because relationships are being built on these moments. Looking back at the past week are insightful conversations and gastronomical indulgences.

I have felt quite spoiled over the last 8 days. I normally dine at once a week or so, some weeks not at all. There are days when a restaurant keeps me sane. Someone else preparing, serving, and cleaning up at the end, reminds me why I do what I do.

It began on April 22, 2011. My friend Renata ( was coming over to discuss her upcoming house concert and brainstorm some marketing ideas for her bed and breakfast. Renata had never experienced Yats and I could not let this go on. Renata has lived in Indy for over 20 years, me 7. Yats is the place I recommend to my guests who are looking for delicious, healthy fast food that is inexpensive. The menu has 4 or 5 items which you can combine on the half and half. The cajun flavors blend so well that I, like many others, crave the taste days after your last visit. I ordered the half and half with drunken chicken and the B&B. The drunken chicken was kickin with spice. Thank goodness it is served over rice. When I first heard the title B&B, I, of course thought of bed and breakfast. Yats has not gone into the innkeeping business. The B&B refers to a delicious vegetarian dish that consists of caramelized corn, red peppers, black beans and I think onions are snuck in there. Dinner for 2, including drinks is about $17. Yats has several locations throughout Indianapolis.

The next day I met up with Sue for lunch at George's Neighborhood Grill. Sue is from Brisbane, Australia and this was a bit like a blind date in that we had never met before. What a blessing to enjoy the company of a new friend and find that we had quite alot in common. George's offers some great salad options and I chose the Binford's Black Forest Salad and a raspberry ice tea. The salad was impressive. The grilled chicken, mandarin oranges, pecans and gargonzola cheese were a great combination. I love any place that does something truly original and their black cherry vinaigrette dressing was amazing. It was thick, the consistency of a ranch dressing with a great combination of tartness and sweetness.

Sunday arrived and off we went to La Hacienda on Indy's East Side. I thought my guests from Australia and India should have a taste of semi authentic Mexican cuisine. I am sure it was a definite experience. The great thing about La Hacienda is that it is quick, there were 5 kids in the group, so fast was crucial. It is also quite affordable and they have vegetarian options.

The new week began with dinner at my favorite place in all of Indianapolis. The Jazz Kitchen's 8 before 8. The chef prepares 3 entrees priced at $8, they don't charge a cover and there is usually a jazz session happening, so if you are a jazz musician- bring your talent and sign up to play with other great talent. This is only on Monday's by the way. The rest of the week the regular menu is served and a cover charge applies as nationally renowned musicians will be performing. Reservations are not required, but recommended-they take reservations for dinner until 6:30.

My friends Neeta and Anju enjoyed the vegetarian options of Vegetarian Tofu Stir Fry which was served over fettuccine. While I tried the Lamb / Andouille Sausage Kabobs served over curry rice. My favorite bev at the Jazz Kitchen has become the Sangria. Yumm.... I can still taste the flavors as I write this 5 days later. The conversation with my friends who have resided in India, Australia, Thailand, California and Egypt was the highlight of the evening. The culinary delights, served by Kenny, relaxed us moms and made us wish we had the whole evening to spend having our ears massaged (that is what I call a night out at the Jazz Kitchen, as it is a 21 and over place).

The Taste Cafe, also in Broad Ripple, just up the street from the Jazz Kitchen, was my suggestion for meeting Leslie for brunch on Tuesday. My friend Cara introduced me to Taste a couple of months earlier and the vegetable strata was lingering in my mind.when. Taste is a perfect place for a mature breakfast or lunch. No nuggets here folks. I believe their menu changes, however both times I have had the pleasure of ordering a strata with eggplant, squash, peppers, onions topped with fresh pesto and a side of home potatoes. I enjoyed my mocha latte, served with a chocolate cookie, for the whole hour. Taste adds a sweet little touch, the have pitchers of water with slices of lemon, lime and orange for all guests to enjoy. Taste is creative in both their preparations and decor. Slightly elegant, peaceful, somewhat private I look forward to returning to Taste in 10 days when Leslie and I will again indulge in conversation and strata.

Tuesday evening lead to another, far more casual, dining experience. A favorite guest returned Tuesday and we decided to grab some dinner in downtown Indianapolis. This time with the kids. The consensus was Steak & Shake. Famous for their "real" milkshakes and hamburgers, Steak & Shake was ideal for a Tuesday evening, business was slow, so our service was great. The kids always like getting the classic paper cars to decorate while waiting on dinner. The Southwest Chicken Salad is actually pretty good. The milkshakes are a great ending and encourage the children to finish their meal. If you are looking for parking downtown, the Circle Centre Mall garage is a mere $1.50 for 3 hours and there is an entrance right next to Steak & Shake.

MoJoe's Coffee House was my Wednesday indulgence. I met up with Mandy for a quick catch up as we both had many things going on-between kids, work and minor life crisis'. MoJoe's is a study hall for some, a place to read the paper for others and simply a comfy place to catch up with a friend for us. The frozen Joe coffee's are blended with seasonal flavors to create something you can only find there. During the holidays they had pumpkin frozen drinks and these days you may find a hazelnut mocha on the menu. They also have a selection of pastries. Located on the corner of Michigan and Senate in downtown, right off of the IUPUI campus.

The Indianapolis Concierge group meets up each month at a different restaurant. What a great opportunity to try a place that maybe you have heard of, but haven't ventured to yet. Our April meeting was held at a brand new joint called Sensu. Specializing in sushi and eclectic cuisine, Sensu resembled a night club out of a movie. I felt like I had seen it in a CSI Miami episode or something. The vibe of the place, even without the DJ, rocks! I can not wait to visit Sensu late at night when they have a DJ in the house. They have Sake martini's and an amazing assortment of other beverages to engage your taste buds. I am not much of a sushi person, but I highly recommend the shrimp tempura. Those who love sushi say Sensu creates a better sushi than the other downtown establishments.

America lacks in only a few things, one is local bakeries. I absolutely adore visiting any European city or village and seeing a bakery on every block. Nothing beats fresh baked bread, pastries prepared on site and the baker behind the counter. One such bakery opened up in Irvington last year. The Roll With It Bakery was my Thursday morning indulgence. A fresh pecan roll and hot chocolate (it is not on the menu, I request it, the owner makes it) were on my mind for 2 weeks. They also have an amazing chicken velvet soup-wow is it ever delicious! If you stop in, pick up a loaf of fresh bread, it melts in your mouth, just as fresh bakery bread should. Elizabeth Gilbert's Committed was my companion during my Thursday morning breakfast.

That favorite guest and I ventured out on Friday night for both dinner and live music. We opted for the Rathskeller. I read on facebook that the Polka Boys would be performing and having met a member of the band thought we should check it out. German cuisine is the specialty and boy do they do it right. I had the Schlatte Platte because the idea of apples, walnuts and raisins to create a sauce on a pork chop was too tempting. The 7 bean succotash and spaetzle noodles were an appropriate accompaniment. A glass of Woop Woop (yes that is actually what the cabernet was called) was savored throughout the evening. The Der Biergarten at the Rathskeller is never short on a good time. The place was packed out to see the Polka Boys. The outdoor stage and a nice spring evening (translation, it was not raining) were all it took to bring downtown Indy into a partying mood. I did not realize that the Hokey Pokey could be done Polka style.

The final evening of dining out occurred on Saturday evening. I enjoyed the company of the Indy Aussie's group at Santorini's Greek Kitchen. Santorini's has been a favorite of mine since opening All Nations Bed and Breakfast. I have recommended the restaurant to guests over and over again. Fortunately Toby, our waiter did not tell me the specials on Saturday. I tried something new (I would have had my usual favorite fish kabobs - mahi mahi, salmon and grouper over salad). The talipia was a delectable choice and served with grilled squash and eggplant. The galactabourika is a must have for desert. I melt ever so slightly while tasting each bite of custard between layers of phyllo and drizzled with chocolate. Jeanette and Taki take great care of each guest. If you want to go on a Friday or Saturday, Make Reservations!

There you have it. An enriching week of time well spent, indulgences well deserved and memories that will build friendships. If you are looking for a place to dine tonight, I highly suggest any of the places where the main ingredient is love.

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