Review #2: Black Market

17 November 2016

My mini-trip to the region is over, and I’m just glad I’m headed home. I so need to wind down from the craziness and idiocy of the past few weeks… No better place to unwind the night before than at one of the best restaurants in the US, the amazing Black Market in Indianapolis.

My last meal here was amazing, one of the best ones of the year. I was hoping for another good one as I got there early. I had a cocktail by the fabulous and stunning bartender who made me some amazing drinks last year as I put in my order. So easy to relax here. In fact I actually considered moving to Indianapolis just because of this place! And didn’t take long before the first item arrived…

1-tongue

Wow, this was an amazing tongue. You know they are real tongue lovers in that it is not rendered so soft it’s mushy, it retained all the needed texture without it being difficult to eat. Real tongue masters in that kitchen! Excellent, one of the best tongue dishes of the year, easily! More drinks and the next dish arrives.

2a-rabbit-dumplings_edited

I apologise to my fellow bunny lovers, but this is indeed rabbit. The gravy is just glorious here, worked wonders with those dumplings. A fabulous dish, with some very strong flavours. Probably the best rabbit dish of the year! Then finally, the pork cheeks…

3-pork-cheek

Not totally sold by the crepe, but the root vegetables added to the dish so well. The cheeks were so soft and tasty, I could eat several more orders of this dish! Amazing stuff.

This dinner has more than equalled the previous one, so it’s gonna be hard to rate which is better! Fabulous stuff. I couldn’t say no to wee dessert…

4-dessert

This just closed off the meal perfectly. That gelato is just creamy and dreamy… I finished my drink and sadly had to run. Next time I am definitely taking the bus here and allocating many more hours! Sucks to have a time-table, but I had to run. But look at this bar…

bar

I’ll be back, Black Market, I’ll be back. Home in the morning…

Black Market
922 Massachusetts Avenue
Indianapolis, Indiana

Review: Dudley’s on Short

16 November 2016

After Indianapolis I headed to Louisville, a city I love so much. Despite everything, still the friendliest folks in the country. Ended up doing some BBQ there for dinner, after a rather busy and tiring day, at Momma’s Mustard, Pickles & BBQ, which is highly recommended (nice beef ribs, but the wings were totally awesome). Another busy and tiring day later, I ended the day in Lexington.

Wow, is traffic screwed up in this place. Such a small city and the radio even jokes that it has the worst traffic in the country. It’s ridiculous trying to go a few miles and it takes over 45 minutes — and this is going AGAINST the commuting flow.

I made my way into downtown for dinner and immediately I was accosted by various unsavoury types begging on the streets, all with rather glazed eyes and shaking… The 1 block between the parking lot to the restaurant I was approached by at least half a dozen zonked-out types. There’s a difference between the needy homeless, like the one I helped the other night in Indianapolis, to these just pushing aggressively for a handout because they’re seriously jonesing.

I finally made my way into Dudley’s on Short, albeit from the wrong entrance. Oops. Anyway, I was seated and I chilled out with a cocktail. I ordered and relaxed in this wee oasis. And soon my starter arrived, their well-liked devilled eggs.

1-deviled-eggs

Nice, these eggs are tasty. Just a wee bit of dried trout on top. Good snack. Then my main course arrived, the pork.

2-pork

Hmmm… The smoke was very light, and unfortunately the roasting was a bit too much. The outside was dry and flaky, but the core was not bad. Overcooked, low on flavour. Oh well…

I was not really into dessert but just took a drink and asked for an “alternative” dessert — another order of the devilled eggs. Not bad. I headed out and thank goodness the path was not as obstructed by drugged out folks this time…

Still floored on how different Louisville and Lexington are despite being so close to each other…

Dudley’s on Short
259 West Short Street
Lexington, Kentucky

Review: St Elmo Steak House

14 November 2016

I was still reeling from the election results…it’s like everything got up-ended. I had planned to relocate to the centre of the country at some point, but after these results the plans were halted, sadly. This quick trip out to Indiana and Kentucky was supposed to be property scouting, but turned into something far different…

Too late to cancel, so I just went. Had a very unproductive day in Indianapolis, despite it being a city I really enjoy. A bad lunch at King David Dogs (excellent meat but horrible buns and condiments), and I didn’t want to get drunk (yet), so…just stayed in my hotel room plotting my quickly-altered trip plans.

I eventually headed out to dinner at the city’s institution of a dining venue — St Elmo Steak House. Why not, right? I needed a good night out. Walked there and was a little early so had a martini at the bar. Then was seated.

I went with a bottle of grenache as I ordered. The starter arrived within a minute, and it’s one of their signature items — shrimp cocktail.

shrimp-cocktail

Pretty good, but what I loved (and what they’re famous for) is the heavy, nearly overwhelming amount of horseradish. Lovely, good quality shrimp too. Nice start.

I hit the wine pretty hard as it took awhile for the food to arrive. Then my steak, an aged ribeye arrived…

steak_edited

Not bad, cooked well and flavourful. A side of sprouts too, though a little heavy on the vinegar.

sprouts

Not bad overall. I chilled and finished up the wine and took some of the food away. I thanked my server and headed on out back to my hotel.

En route I ran into a homeless person, and as I commonly do when I walk in a city and see a hungry homeless person, I give them my food. Least I can do.

Got back to the hotel and collapsed…what a start to a strange trip…

St Elmo Steak House
127 South Illinois Street
Indianapolis, Indiana

Review: a(MUSE.)

6 November 2016

Woke up with quite a headache as apparently they poured me a quadruple bourbon before they closed up the night before…and that 1 extra hour of time-change sleep didn’t really help. I headed out of Wilmington a little slowly as I pushed towards Dover. A charming little town, I spent most of the morning there. I enjoyed the wee stop. I pushed further south, making a few stops. Ran into a Trump group rally in Georgetown (wrote this pre-election, btw…), which really sickened me… Nevertheless stopped for some barbeque in that town before I pushed further east towards the coast.

I got to Rehoboth Beach mid-afternoon. Not much going on being off season, as this place is usually packed to the brim on a weekend between Easter and Hallowe’en. A cold gust was blowing, which was perfect for me. I chilled out until around time for dinner, and tonight’s destination is the pun-ny named a(MUSE.) in the heart of the small downtown.

It wasn’t too busy, but not surprised for it being out of season. Many places shut down off-season, but — like the brave Vinland in Portland, Maine — they open year-round. They ride out the off-season somehow, and I was happy to contribute however I can. I chilled out with a cocktail and decided, for some reason, to go for the 7-course tasting.

I know I said no more after that disaster at Trentina in Cleveland (as well as Dublis in Vilnius), but I had a good feeling about this place for some reason. Not sure why, but I went with it. If this blows up, then it’ll really be the last tasting menu I’ll try from a place I’ve never been. After I finished my cocktail they poured me a glass of one of the few bubblies I like, Gruet from New Mexico. That made me smile, and then the amuse came.

ab-roe-lavash

No bad, though the lavash cracked a bit too much to eat this cleanly without tahini all over your hands. The roe was nice. Then a splash more of the bubbly and the first item arrived, the tartar.

01-tartar

Now this was just fantastic, chopped rib-eye from a local producer. One of the best tartar dishes I’ve had in many years, lovely flavours and texture. I love it when it’s not minced to pulp, and you really get the best of the beef in this method. Fantastic! I can eat this all day, really!

Pretty happy with how this dinner is starting. Then a pour of sancerre and the second dish, scallops.

02-scallops

Good quality scallops, broken but cooked very well. The eggplant really added a nice touch to it. Solid dish. Then a rose from Provence is poured and the next item arrived…

03-yellowfin-sweetbread_edited

Whoa, it’s a creative take on surf-and-turf to say the least. Seared yellowtail and sweetbreads. The quality of the products were excellent, especially the creamy fried sweetbreads. Fabulous stuff, lovely combination. Excellent!

I’m so glad I decided to do this tasting tonight after all those recent disappointments… Sometimes there’s still surprise left to be had! Then a good Santa Barbara pinot is poured, and we have some pasta.

04-pasta

Excellent, boasting a healthy amount of hen-of-the-woods and bacon, as well as some lovely watercress. Pasta cooked very well, a nice tasty dish! Then a wee glass of Bordeaux and we move to the last savoury course — the short rib.

05a-short-rib

Nice stuff, with celeriac puree and adorned with mustard seeds. Very tender, excellent full flavours — from the same beef that we got the first tartar dish. This is some excellent beef.

I was a little sad the savouries ended, but those were large plates. This really puts places like Trentina in Cleveland and Piccolo in Minneapolis in their place, both in value and quality. Excellent cooking, awesome ingredients.

We move to the cheese dish and they originally were going to pour an apple concoction, but instead poured a nice Oloroso…but that also made me worry. My heart sank…

06-manchego

Manchego. I usually like it, but I eat it so much it’s lost its uniqueness — especially as I mentioned I crave unique, strong cheeses. I won’t say more, but I can see why they would serve this because it is a wonderful cheese. Just me being the wrong guy to be served this… But they brought out the Eden iced apple ciders too…love these things, so rare to see them!

We then shifted to the dessert, which had a nice port to go with it…

07-dessert

A fun combination of chocolate, caramel and apple here, and it was a nice way to close off this excellent tasting menu. I really enjoyed it, especially the savoury dishes. Obvious talent in the kitchen, boasted by understanding of the excellent ingredients this region has to offer. That beef especially was special.

I ended up shifting to the bar and drinking all night chatting with the staff until they closed up for the night. After last night’s excess I shouldn’t have drank so much again, but oh well. I was heading back home tomorrow and soon into the electoral maelstrom…(and again, didn’t know how bad it was gonna get…)

a(MUSE.)
44 Baltimore Avenue
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Review: La Fia

5 November 2016

I decided to take a quick trip around the Delmarva Peninsula during a previous weekend. Despite living so close, I’ve rarely gone out to that part of the region, so I decided to go — focusing mostly on Delaware. Most people don’t think of Delaware for things like food, but I wanted to try it out. So for the two nights I went to seek the best restaurants in the state — one in the north, one in the south.

First up was an evening in Wilmington, a much troubled town that most people only see from their Amtrak trains. It’s had a tough time, but some folks are doing their best to try to revitalise the downtown area. And one of them is La Fia.

I headed there for dinner from my hotel, luckily it was only a few blocks and not in a ropey part of town. I got there and happily sat at the bar and looked over the menu. Mmm, so many good things. I ordered a cocktail and kept pondering food choices. Not eaten since last night, so was hungry. At the end, I decided to go a bit overboard…and do two entrees.

I ordered them and chilled with more drink until the first item appeared, and a smile immediately came over my face — the smoked black cod.

1a-smoked-black-cod

Mmmm, this was an excellent prep for this lovely fish. It seems everyone would basically do this with miso and go with no imagination, but the smoke — with a wee bit of soy — really brought out the best in this fish. Apparently it was too smoky the way they used to do it, but that for me would have been even better. But an awesome dish, what a fantastic start!

I enjoyed more drinks in the meantime as I told them I would not need much of a break before my second entree, and sure enough it arrived soon — the duck.

2a-duck_edited

Nicely cooked, excellent quality meat too. Not as mind-blowing as the first entree, but still excellent. What a wonderful surprise I found here in Wilmington! A surprisingly excellent dinner!

I stayed to have a few more drinks chatting with the bartender and fellow diners before I took my leave. Ended up drinking up a ton more at my hotel restaurant before I collapsed out of exhaustion. Early morning tomorrow, but thank goodness for time changes and the one extra hour I’ll have tonight…

La Fia
421 North Market Street
Wilmington, Delaware

Review: Etc

20 October 2017

Since my nice late dinner at The Treehouse I had a very long two days that dragged me through 5 states (Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana) before getting back to Nashville late in the afternoon. I was totally tired and my hotel near the airport was an utter clusterf**k from internal construction (why do they keep places open when it’s basically GUTTED inside???), so I needed a good last dinner before home…finally, HOME!

Etc (as in Et cetera…) was way on the other side of town, and fighting the notoriously bad Nashville traffic wasn’t fun. The idiocy of drivers here never ceases to amaze me. Within 30 minutes I saw at least 3 people speeding through the WRONG SIDE of traffic and 5 people turning left from the RIGHT LANE. Even drivers in Colombia or Philippines aren’t this bad!

I got to Etc, which was set at a new residential suburban development. It was clearly an anchor for the area, and many of the diners seems to live here. As I got there they were just about to turn away a party of 2 from the full restaurant, but I happily gave them my reserved table — and shifted to the bar. The bar was spacey so not an issue, despite it being busy.

I relaxed with a cocktail and placed my order. Very popular place, I hope it shows the same promise in the food department. After a little, my first item arrived.

1-duck-gizzard

Duck gizzards, something I’ve not had in awhile and I was really looking forward to. I think they overdid it a little, making it way, way too easy to eat if you know what I mean. I like my gizzards with character, like the chicken ones at Stroud’s in Kansas City (now that was dreamy…). I can see people liking it if they are not gizzard eaters, but a bit of a miss for me.

2-fowl-trio

Next up my main was the so-called “fowl trio” that contained duck breast, confit chicken and foie in a “brulee” of all things. The duck, boasting a light tinge of cinnamon, was very good. The chicken less so, a bit overcooked. The foie “brulee” should have been a dessert really, it was sweet. And yes, I basically treated it as my dessert, so I didn’t order more.

Not bad, a little too sanitised to be called “adventurous” but for a neighbourhood restaurant it does very well. And it’s clearly very popular. If I lived in this community I’d come here often too.

I was dead tired and want to get some sleep before my hotel’s stupid construction started up. My flight isn’t early, so I can rest a little. So drove across town back to my hotel and collapsed. This trip is finally almost over…

Etc
3790 Bedford Avenue
Nashville, Tennessee

Review: The Treehouse

18 October 2017

After a few more days, I got out of the Pittsburgh-Cleveland area and made my way south to Nashville. I’ve never had great food in this town, and it’s another of the “I can barely tolerate” towns on my list, but I had to be in the area for a few days. A chaotic day that started from arriving at 7am from Pittsburgh (yeah, up since 4am one timezone away…), my dinner plans collapsed when a friend who I was gonna meet for dinner couldn’t make it.

Nevertheless I made it to where we were going to eat, The Treehouse. One of the more raved-about eateries in Nashville, one of the more annoying aspects is the no-reservation policy. But it wasn’t too busy in the evening during the week, so they put me at a communal table by myself. I chilled and enjoyed a cocktail as I ordered.

A pretty laid-back place, I would like this place if I lived nearby. Otherwise it’s a headache to get to. but then my first dish arrived, the crudo.

1b-spanish-mackerel-crudo

Spanish mackerel, something I don’t see too often used for crudo but a fish I really like. This was really good, fresh and tasty. Accompanied by some tomatoes and roe, this was a very clean and good dish. Frankly, this one dish blew away the entire tasting menu at Trentina in Cleveland already. Respect the ingredients, the chef is a conduit — not an alchemist. Too many modern chefs forget this — or CHOOSE to forget this…

A good start, then the main course arrived and I smiled out of curiosity…

2-octopus-ink-tempura

This is octopus, done in an tempura fashion with ink. Yeah, a nice combination innit? The quality of both the octopus and the tempura was very good. The octupus was tender but not mushy, nor was it too chewy; the tempura was done very well, frankly better than at most Japanese restaurants in the US, with a light and fresh but not disintegrating batter, the ink being a cute touch. Very good dish.

I was spent from a ridiculously long day, and I have a dawn alarm in the morning too for a very long drive in the morning, so I took my leave. This simple dinner in Nashville blows anything I had in Ohio in the previous few trips, easily. A good start to this final leg of my travels…so tired…

The Treehouse
1011 Clearview Avenue
Nashville, Tennessee