Monday, May 24, 2010

Get great bread at Great Cooks The Bakery

You may never pick up a grocery store baguette again. Great Cooks The Bakery will blow those tasteless loaves out of the water. This gem of a bakery can be found on 86th street in the strip center close to Ace Hardware and JoAnn Fabrics. A random place for a bakery of its caliber, but that doesn't seem to be hurting business at all. Eight types of bagles, a bread of the day, seven always-available breads, and a slew of pastries, cookies, cakes, and tarts are up for grabs six days of the week.

Ogling past the wrap around cases that shelter trays and plates of French inspired pastries, I found and ordered a Blintz (pictured below, next to my sandwich.) A blintz is very similar to a crepe. Mine was folded and filled with a mild, lightly lemony cheese. It was a great start to my lunch hour.

Great Cooks The Bakery is primarily, well, a bakery, but there are three small tables inside and a couple outside for those who are feeling European. Sandwiches and "Build your own" pizzas can be ordered and eaten in.

The sandwich options of the day were smoked salmon or egg salad. The egg salad was light as a cloud, and the egg whites are grated into the mix which gives the salad a nice consistency. I chose the Multigrain bread to house the eggy deliciousness. A fine choice if I do say so myself. While I was there, I was given a sample of the Sourdough (not too sour) and the Harvest 5 Grain (dense with seeds). Both were awesomely chewy and satisfying. Well, now I know where to get my carb fix.

Great Cooks The Bakery
1321 West 86th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46260-2101(317) 202-2435Visit Great Cooks & Company online. (Great Cooks the Bakery doesn't have it's own link unfortunately.) Open Monday through Friday 8am-8pm and Sunday 8am-3pm.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Out Of Town

Hey everyone. I'm going to leave you hanging for a couple of weeks. I signed up for a work-vacation in Canada through WWOOF, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. WWOOF is a type of exchange program founded in the UK about 40 years ago. It's a way for people to travel on a budget whilst meeting new people and learning about sustainability and organic agriculture.

Why Canada? Well, honestly, the ticket to France was a bit too pricey, so Quebec it is! I'll be staying with a family of complete strangers along with my not-so-little brother. We're driving 15 hours north east to the town of Melbourne. We will probably be planting/weeding garlic, handling chickens, and, hopefully in my case, cooking and baking.

I'm looking forward to getting out of town and getting my hands dirty. See you on Monday the 24th.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Hole in the Wall Eating Club

Almost two years ago, a food club was born. June 10th, 2008 a hand full of “Smoosiers” decided to get together at WorkingMan’s Friend on the West side to network and eat at a place none of them had dared venture before.

WorkingMan's Friend…was a mind blower. A lot of people had been there, I guess. It's a local legend, but I never, ever would have discovered it on my own. I pulled up in the gravel parking lot of this place that looked, from the outside, like a beer joint and saw Mercedes, BMWs, Lexuses, and Jaguars in the parking lot. I knew that I was about to meet something extraordinary,” recalls founder of the club, Rae Kridel.

22 following monthly meetings and 587+ members later, the Hole in the Wall Eating Club still eats on. No, not all 587 members actually dine together. Participants can vary from 3 to 30 depending on the location and busy schedules, but numbers aren’t the point. Member, Andrew Ball said it best, “HITW means finding new places to eat, breaking bread with friends, and making new friends to break bread with.”

And if you can make a business connection while you’re there, well, that’s just one more bonus. The club was formed on networking site, SmallerIndiana. HITW is a food club, but so much more. As a group we network, but we have also become friends. There is a core group of us that meet up more than just once a month. We have little group outings all the time. We always laugh and enjoy each other's company," member, Shawn Quick-Raflik reports. "But, keep in mind, this isn't a regular lunch. It usually lasts about two hours."

Dives, Mom and Pop shops, hole in the walls…any thing goes here except for chains. The opening line on group’s SmallerIndiana page reads, “No chain restaurants allowed! If you have a favorite dive of a restaurant in Indy or surrounding areas, we want to hear about it. Bonus points for your personal recommendations on the menu. The inspiration for this club happened after an epiphany from Kridel. She had lived near the Greek-style family restaurant, Paragon, for four years before she decided to step foot inside. She found that the food was delicious, the portions generous, the prices low, and the dessert to die for. From this moment, she learned to get out of her dining comfort zone to explore new, local culinary treasures.

Kridel formed to group to share her experience and to learn about other new-to-her restaurants. New Indy residents got to experience a real Hoosier fried tenderloin sandwich from Murphy’s Steakhouse, and those were used to having sweet waffles had their world turned upside down at Maxine’s Chicken & Waffles. The third Friday of every months marks the day for a different place to meet. Zest! Exciting Food Creations, Tie Dye Grill, and La Piedad are just a few of the places they’ve visited. The most memorable for Kridel, Ball, and Doug Thesis was an early meeting at Vee’s Diner when it was behind the Speedway gas station downtown. Kridel remarked that the place was so ramshackle that it looked more like a chicken coop than a restaurant, but the food more than made up for it. Theis recalls fondly of their time at Vee’s, “the thought of the fried perch, cabbage and sweet potatoes make me smile.” New friends, new food, new experience; now that’s what I call going out for lunch.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Asia Mart! The beginning of new culinary adventures.

If you've ever driven around the Castleton Square Mall, you've probably whizzed past Asia Mart - an oriental superstore that carries cuisine and ingredients from China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand. Step inside for a cultural whirlwind.

Just like every other grocery store, the freshly baked goods are at the front, reeling people in by their sweet tooths.

Noodles! Every type; dried or fresh, thick or thin, long or short, made from wheat, buckwheat, or rice. Oh, to try them all!

Fish! They come in all varieties as well: living, freshly refrigerated, frozen, dried, canned, bottled, and tubed.

Quail eggs are the epitome of cute. So tiny, so dainty, so speckled. Apparently, they are the new "hip" ingredient and are said to have the most delicate flavor of all eggs. It's probably just the cuteness that grabbed all of the attention.

Wonton and dumpling wrappers are so delicate. I'm forever amazed at those who can make these by hand. Check out this video to fully appreciate the work that goes into handmade wrappers.

This is a durian. It's a fruit with stinky, but sweet flesh underneath that scary, spiky exterior. It can be eaten raw when ripe or used as a flavoring in candy or other treats.

The frozen section has a myriad of heat-and-eat items. How about this appetizer variety pack!

The beverage isle. Can't read anything? Me either. Just look at the pictures on the cans. There's a giant chance you'll like it.

Roasted and salted bean of sorts? I'd eat it.

Get your traditional dish ware at the back of the mart.

My beloved bubbles/pearls/boba/tapioca balls. They are so cheap. Now all I have to do is figure out how to make my own bubble tea. This day will be marked on the calendar.

Candy! Glorious candy! I love the little chocolate filled cookies in the shape of pandas. They remind me of the Koala Yummies of my childhood. Find green tea and mango flavored chocolate in this isle.

It's obvious that many customers will not be able to read a quarter of the packaging on the grocery items. The staff is prepared to answer questions and are very kind when doing so. The Asia Mart is a catalyst for breaking through old, mundane cooking/eating routines. It is the aid for expanding your weekly home dinners and the first step towards new cooking adventures. Com'on, give it a try. You may never look back.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Chew On This! Thoughts from the Event

In the days of the Baconator, Wendy’s ticket to a triple bypass, and KFC’s Double Down, where the bun has been replaced with two fried chicken breasts clasping cheese and, what else, bacon, Indianapolis eaters are asking, “Where have we gone wrong?” The Indiana Humanities Council stirred up conversation over dinner at 15 different locations on all parts of town to discuss food in our home state. Chew On This was a trial experience for members of our Indy community to listen and be heard. Indiana has had a bad reputation for being the home of “hicks”. The Humanities Council wants to change our bad rap and turn to our strengths in agriculture, education, and artisanal foods for help.

I had the pleasure of participating in one of the free pitch-ins (or carry-ins as I grew up calling them) at the St. Luke’s United Methodist Church. There I met 10 welcoming strangers who, after sharing great home-cooked food and engaging conversation, became fellow food comrades. Our heartfelt menu that evening consisted of vegetarian lasagna, a leafy salad, roasted fresh asparagus, a snap pea and pasta salad, broccoli cornbread, hummus and crackers, and a hot pizza straight from our new Napolese pizzeria. We made our introductions and broke bread over a round table.

Trivial Pursuit type questions about fun Indiana facts gave way to passionate thoughts about the reputation of Midwest farmers (We should really be proud of our fertile land, knowledgeable farmers, and university research systems.), what should be done with our corn crops, about the class generated backing of the latest food movement, and how value, affordability, and accessibility effect our food purchases. It was noted that not all grocery stores have the plump, appealing fruit that we’re used to. Low income families often do not have the option to buy real, whole food. Also, because of a lack in advertising, fresh food has been over shadowed by Kraft Mac N Cheese and Cap’n Crunch. A debate about whether food cravings/tastes are developed during childhood or is it just a matter of access to different foods led to inspiring ideas of how to introduce children to food through urban gardens and demonstrations in food production. Apparently the Indiana State Fair will have a Fresh Market for alternative dining options instead of fried food on top of fried food. I let go a sigh of relief at that announcement.

The general consensus was that people are reaching out for change. People want to eat better and essentially feel better and live better. Names like Jim Morris, Michael Pollan, and Richard C. Longsworth were quoted and used for advice and information. Education, as always, is the beginning of change. Keep talking, keep reading, and stay active towards a better than standard way of living.

To get involved watch for updates on Food for Thought, Spirit and Place, and the Indiana Humanities Council. Good reads: In Defense of Food and Caught in the Middle. Good watch: Food Inc. and King Corn. Get inspired by Michelle Obama and Jamie Oliver for their contribution to the movement.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Double the Farmers’ Market fun at the City Market.

Not only can you pick up great, local produce this summer at the 14th Annual Original Farmers’ Market on Wednesdays at the Indianapolis City Market, but now you can come back for seconds at the new Saturday market. The Saturday market will run from 9:30am until 1pm starting May 15th through October. There you will find home-grown products such as meats, eggs, cheese, poultry, honey, syrups, plants, produce, fresh-cut flowers, flax seed, and baked goods from our local Indiana farmers. Locavores, your wish has been granted.

Monday, May 3, 2010

In Love With Taki

Practice restraint before ordering at Taki. The menu is loaded with drool-worthy items: assorted Bento Boxes for lunch, Yakisoba piled high with your choice of meat or veg, and for dinner & a show, Teppanyaki, where the chef prepares your food right in front of you. Substitute an entrée for two or three tantalizing appetizers like Taki’s special Crab Meat Rolls and perfectly Seared Scallops. The Captain Crunch sushi roll (shrimp tempura, crab, and cucumber with spicy sauce) will ignite the taste buds. Don’t forget about a cocktail; try the Wasabé Dirty Martini, made with wasabi and sake infused vodka. Taki has immaculate plate presentation; a feast for the eyes as well as mouth. Get gastronomically pampered at Taki, where you’ll find trickling water sculptures, low hanging lights, and earthenware dishes. Soft trance music sets the mood. This modern hot spot is a far cry from your standard Benihana.

An all-out dinner for two can start at $55 (an appetizer, a sushi roll, 2 entrees, 2 drinks), but for lighter eaters, two could share an entrée and get the rest of the fixin’s easily for under $40.

I eat my leftovers straight out of the box. The Rainbow sushi roll is a masterpiece and a mouthful.

Appetizer of champions: Crab Meat Roll. The purple, pickled veggies round out the dish perfectly. Creamy, crunchy, tangy, sweet, and savory are all flavors and textures inside this starter.

Hello, Yakisoba. You will forever remain in my memory, you tall noodle dish, piled with vegetables in a creamy sauce. The crispy, fried strings of sweet potato and beet on top is an excellent and exciting touch.

The cocktails deserve much recognition. The Painkiller (front - Pussers Rum, pineapple and orange juice, cream of coconut and sprinkled with nutmeg) set my world right. The Wasabé Dirty Martini (behind - a traditional dirty martini using wasabi and sake infused vodka, finished with a splash of olive juice) was surprisingly not a kick in the mouth, as it may sound, but rather smooth with subtle hints of wasabi.

I love Asian cuisine, and chopsticks are a requirement for consumption. Giving me chopsticks is like giving a fork to a monkey. Tim, one of the five owners of Taki, humored me in a chopstick holding demonstration. Step 1: Pinch chopstick with the thumb. (In the thumb pit, for lack of a better word.)

Step 2: Rest your third (ring) finger on the chopstick.

Step 3: Pinch the second chopstick with the thumb tip and first two fingers.

There you have it, folks. I hope you check out my new favorite Japanese restaurant, Taki. The atmosphere is full of energy, the food is superb, and the owners couldn't be more passionate about their work. Tell them I sent you.