Now the captain, he's got a deep appreciation for food and libation, and he'll invest in research, time and tools to produce great stuff. I tend to be the sous chef and scullery maid. And chief sampler.
All that said, we tend to get into food ruts. Jeff once picked up dinner from our favorite Chinese take-out place, Zheng's Garden, and was reprimanded by the owner who I chat with but don't really know well: "No. No. No. Your women, they like steamed dumpling, not fried." The guy at The Gyros Joint knows Alison by sight and slips her extra pita when she goes in to order while Jeff stays in the car.
There are a ton of new restaurants around us and some that have been open for years without us darkening their doors. So this week while Alison was away at camp, Jeff and I had our own little vacation, which I've decided was a plate-cation. I'll be working it off for weeks, but I'm OK with it. As the former food editor of The Evansville Press used to say, patting the sides of her rotund tummy, "Every pound came from really good food."
So we established a plan to have dinner out every night somewhere neither of us had ever been before. But on Monday, we went to Carnicerias Guanajuato In.
We were turned on to this little slice of Cancun on Indy's West Side by our friend Joe Hudson. He learned of it because his aunt is a fan of flan (how do I say "blecchh" in Spanish?) and she buys it at the grocery which also houses the restaurant. Jeff and I spent many a great night in downtown Cancun back in the day with our friends Eric Yocum and Traci Wiseman.
Walking into the grocery was like being back in the heart of that city and the restaurant just sealed the deal. I ordered the Shrimp el Diabla and our way fun waiter looked at me and shook his head and if it's possible to frown in Spanish, he did so.
I stared him down. He stared right back. "El Diabla? Oh no, not for you," he said.
So of course I had to insist. Jeff put his order in the hands of the waiter who was muttering things about me that I couldn't understand. I'm pretty sure it had something to do with "crazy American lady," but he was good natured about it.
Joe had a huge burrito. The guacamole was good. There was a variety of hot sauces. The Mexican beer was great. The shrimp? Well, the shrimp were hot. Very hot. And they were living in a sauce that promised more than I could handle were I silly enough to dredge my shrimp through it. I only did that once. Jeff was too full at the end to try the flan and the bakery was closed by the time we left.
Rating the plate: Great atmosphere. Entertaining and helpful wait staff. Good food and lots of it. Good drinks. Not expensive. We'll be back. And not just for the flan.
Next up was Mesh. I had heard a lot of great things about this trendy place on Mass Avenue so perhaps my expectations were set too high. We're wine drinkers and Mesh likes to sell by the bottle, but we went after work and were driving home so we decided to just have a drink or two. The waiter was very nice, but he might have been new. We didn't recognize one of the fish items so we asked about it. He explained very well and I ended up ordering it.
We must have come across as rubes because when Jeff asked his opinion about the various cuts of steak, he gave us Steak 101. FYI: the filet is the best cut and you should have it rare or medium rare. The mushroom in puff pastry was really, really good. Jeff liked the fish tacos but didn't moan over them. The tortillas from the night before were still fresh in both our minds and they were far and away better than the fancy ones that wrapped around the fish. The entrees were fine. Not bad in any way. But between people repeatedly trying to take our plates before we were done and the waiter trying to push drinks we'd already refused, it just wasn't a great experience.
Rating the Plate: (Meh)esh. Trendy venue. Staff was pleaseant but kind of pushy. Our waiter did tell us that bottles are half-price on Sundays, which would bring one of our favorite (and hard to find lately) champagnes down to retail price. Food was fine but not exceptional. Jeff's Belgian beer and my malbec were poured without spillage. Crazy expensive given the total experience. We won't likely go back for dinner. Maybe for brunch.
On Wednesday, we went to Flatwater with our Jasheway friends. Kirsten favors vegetarian fare and Duane (like Jeff) likes to sample beer. We'd thought we would sit outside but we couldn't get a table and that was OK because it was really hot. Of course it was hot inside, too, but the waitress was kind of fun and we were in a casual kind of mood. Jeff and Duane fell in love with the pork nachos. Like lick the plate kind of love. I had a salad so I could drink and have fries. We introduced the waitress to putting malt vinegar on the fries, which was fun. We were so stuffed we had to walk -- even in the heat -- but our ulterior motive was to end up at Brics for ice cream. (Another reason for the salad.)
Rating the Plate: It's a great casual place and one we'll take Alison to when we get her back. Entertaining and helpful staff. Food had its really great moments and it's good moments. Nothing remotely bad. Drinks were good. Shaved about $100 off the price of Mesh. We will definitely go back.
Brics is always good. They don't have a big diet ice cream selection so I always get the child's portion of the Death by Chocolate in a chocolate dipped cone. I'd love more but can't afford the lbs. Regular portions are enormous. Alison always wants two scoops but I think it would equate to a full pint. She says when she's an adult and away from our control, she's getting two scoops.
On Thursday, Jeff's softball game was cancelled so instead of the snack and drinks we'd planned, we had another dinner opportunity. We tried Twenty Tap, which is within walking distance of our house and has a wide array of craft beers , and we'd been told the food was much better than you'd expect from basic bar food. Jeff was excited but we'd talked options on the way there. We'd worked later than planned so we'd agreed that if the wait was long, we'd try our luck elsewhere. The wait was 25 minutes. Not that long, really, but we moved on. And while we'll still try Twenty Tap one day, my impatience paid off.
We ended up at Petite Chou in Broad Ripple. We're fans of its parent -- Cafe Patachou for breakfast and its sister Napolese for dinner -- but we'd never been to this place, which bills itself as a champagne bar.
Now going in, I will admit to being a little grouchy. It was hot. I was hungry. You know the feeling, I'm sure.
We debated buying a bottle of champagne, but we still had the issue of driving home and we have plenty of bottles of champagne at home. Jeff wanted to try their cocktails anyway so he started with a French Martini made with St. Germain. It was good but the follow up -- The Bittersweet Truth -- made with Campari, Averna Amaro and St. Germaine -- may replace our Old Maids as our favorite summer drink. I was happy with my champagne, but the cocktails were new and exciting.
The manager, Matt Dye, came over to chat with us about the drinks, gave us the truth about the Bittersweet recipe and told us how the drink came to be. It was created by him and a colleague one night and almost tossed out as a reject. I hope he enjoyed the conversation as much as Jeff did.
The food was fabulous. I'm not a fan of onion soup, generally, but this was great and I kept stealing Jeff's spoon. The menu includes more traditional French dinner fare, but I had a fabulous omelette and Jeff had a crepe that was really, really good. Yes, I stole that too. I did share my fries -- which were awesome as well. Here's how great it was -- even the butter was something to write home about.
And the dessert. My god. The dessert. We were a bit lubricated by the time the dessert menu came our way and we ordered a lemon tart and a chocolate pots de creme. The tart was tart and fresh. The mousse had a sprinkle of salt between the creme and the chocolate and it was amazing. (This is an example of why I can't claim foodie status. I'm sure real foodies know all about the magic of salt and chocolate but this was new to me. Picture Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally. But I wasn't faking it.. Jeff likes sea salt and carmel ice cream but that doesn't do it for me. This does.)
Rating the Plate: The restaurant is billed as replicating a French neighborhood restaurant. I may learn French just to fit in. It's cozy but I'm guessing you'll make friends with the folks next to you if you're any fun at all. Entertaining and crazy helpful and interesting staff. Matt was very cool and Susan, our waitress, was key to making the evening flow well. The food was exceptional start to glorious finish. The drinks were very good to phenomenal. It's not inexpensive but we're value shoppers and we don't mind paying for greatness. Even at that, this was our second-most expensive bill -- and a far better experience than the most expensive. We will definitely go back.
On Friday, Jeff played poker and to be honest, my gastrointestinal system needed a break. I had a drink with some friends and then went home, mowed the back yard, took a shower and had a salad in front of the television in my pajamas.
Rating the Plate: The venue was private, exclusive even. The wait staff was efficient and helpful and the guilty pleasure television was all the entertainment a girl could hope for. The food was perfect in its simplicity. The iced-tea was lovely. The price was the best bargain of the week. I will definitely go back.