Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Cincinnati Eats: The Eagle

The travel takeover is continuing, but now we head to Cincinnati, Ohio. Work takes me there a handful of times a year, and early June is one of the annual trips. Luckily, Mr. H was also with me for this trip, so we squeezed in some wonderful meals between work obligations. So hang on, we're in Cincinnati for the next four posts!

With locations now in Cincinnati, Columbus, Indianapolis and Louisville, The Eagle is getting a reputation for their fried chicken. This "food and beer hall" is popular and there can be a wait if you don't have a reservation, even at 1:00 p.m. on a Friday like when we went in for lunch.

The Sides are generous, and can easily be shared. So we dove into the Homemade Biscuits with blackberry jam and honey butter. No complaints here!
We also couldn't resist the Mac & Cheese with five cheeses and garlic breadcrumbs.
It was uber creamy, rich, and the best part of the meal.

For us, it went a little downhill with the 1/2 Chicken we split (4 pieces).
While very moist, the breading wasn't crispy and it was too mildly flavored for my personal taste. I had initially been very pumped for the Hot Honey that is served with all of the chicken. But it had a funk to it that just didn't compare to our beloved Mike's Hot Honey. I stopped using it by the second piece.

Maybe it's because we recently had good fried chicken at V's Gourmet in Cleveland, but it just didn't live up to the hype and I wouldn't go out of my way to dine there again.

1342 Vine Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202
(513) 802-5007

Friday, June 7, 2019

Indianapolis Eats: Vida

For our last dinner in Indianapolis, we headed to Vida, which is part of the Cunningham Restaurant Group that we've started to look out for in Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio. Mesh, Union 50, and Bru Burger Bar have all been some of the best meals we've had while traveling in IN.

Would Vida live up to our expectations? It is the first, and only, restaurant in Indiana to earn the AAA Four Diamond award since opening in 2016.
First, they have Indianapolis’ only in-house hydroponic wall of greens. Which left me wondering how we could do one at home. Can you even dream of how amazing that would be?! #KITCHENGOALS
They offer a seasonal à la carte menu which you can also build into your own four-course meal ($65), or a rotating, six-course chef's tastings menu ($85, $155 with wine pairings) that is preset.
Since you did get to see the chef's tasting menu in advance, we found the dishes on the seasonal menu actually appealed to us more. So we each built our own four-course dinner and did some sharing of plates. Prices listed below are if you were to order à la carte.

The kitchen sent out an extra amuse-bouche to start, which is always a nice touch.
For my first course, I had the Beef Tartare ($18) with quail egg, caper berry, bone marrow, and baguette. Pretty true to a classic tartare preparation, it was good but nothing special. I did save the bone marrow until the end and ate it separately, which was decadent as always. Maybe I should have mixed it into the tartare, but it just didn't feel right to me.
Then I headed to the Foie Gras ($18) on brioche with rhubarb, plum jam, fennel, ramp, and marcona almond crumble for my second course. Again, good but nothing noteworthy.
I ordered the Halibut ($36) pea "pistou", guanciale, trumpet mushroom, preserved lemon potato, and charred ramp for my third course. It was a pretty plate of food, and certainly prepared well. But it just didn't compare to the amazing halibut from the night before at Bluebeard.
But I enjoyed Mr. H's Wagyu Ribeye ($52) maitake mushroom, robuchon potato, broccolini, ginger béarnaise, and black garlic-veal demi ($10 upcharge) more.
While he was also kind enough to offer me a bite of his Key Lime Pudding Cake ($11) with Greek yogurt mousse, caramelized pineapple, graham crumble, macadamia, and roasted white chocolate, neither of us really cared for this dessert.
I had ordered the Ricotta Doughnuts ($11) with bourbon maple glaze, candied bacon, maple cream, and brown butter ice cream that were doughy and delicious but didn't photograph well.

This is definitely a fine-dining establishment and should be reserved for splurge meals. I loved their large leather chairs and lots of natural light at the front of the restaurant. No outdoor dining offered. Overall, the meal was good but not great, and it didn't live up to a few of our other experiences within the restaurant group.

601 E New York Street
Indianapolis, IN 46202
(317) 420-2323

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Indianapolis Eats: Bluebeard

A little blog takeover for the rest of the week, because Mr. H and I headed to Indianapolis for a work trip over the weekend. Luckily, we had the opportunity to squeeze in two fun dinners out.

I knew the first stop had to be Bluebeard on Friday. With nods from the James Beard Foundation, and a tempting menu online, I thought this would be a spot right up our alley.
It did not disappoint! They don't take reservations, so we settled in at the bar while we waited for outdoor patio seating (about 35 minutes). Immediately, I loved the vibe. And the rosé flight option on the bar menu. And this little sign perched on a shelf behind the bar.
The menu has plenty of options to build a meal from, and most are small enough so that you can try several. The "Medium" menu section is your standard entrée for one size, and the "Large" format dishes are intended to be shared by two people.
We stuck to mostly Snacks and Small plates so we could do a lot of sharing and sampling of the menu. That started with Salmon Ceviche ($16) with salmon, corn, cucumber, salsa roja, avocado mousse, fried corn tortillas, cilantro, and jalapeño...
...Tartine ($22) crab, blackberry, basil, shallot, watercress, yuzu vinaigrette, semolina toast, and mascarpone...
...and Rockefeller ($16) oysters, jowl bacon, arugula, parmesan, pedro ximenez, and bread crumbs. The Rockefeller was the standout of the three, and I think we could try and recreate this take on a classic Oysters Rockefeller at home. The tartine was our least favorite, as it just didn't have a whole lot of flavor.
Then we split the Wild Halibut ($28) with vichy kohlrabi, mushrooms, green beans, smoked almonds, and cilantro in a brown butter miso sauce. This dish was heavenly. The fish was cooked perfectly, and the textures and flavors were delightful.
We also shared a Side of the Spaghetti ($12) with creme fraiche, parmesan, evoo, and gremolata. Apparently it's a staple on their menu and will never leave. The heat from red pepper flakes with the brightness of the lemon and salty parmesan was just the perfect trio of flavors in your mouth. Our server was kind enough to explain how it's made, and we'll be trying this one at home soon! If you don't care for spice, don't order it. Otherwise, it's a don't-miss item.
We had watched one particular dessert dish pass by our table several times, so we couldn't walk out without trying it. The Vanilla Bean Chess Pie ($9) with caramel sauce, candied walnuts, and whipped cream was unlike any pie texture I've had before. Not overly sweet and with an excellent crust, this was a great end to the meal.
I don't find myself in Indianapolis very often, but I can say that this restaurant will stay towards the top of the list on places I'll keep on rotation.

Any Indianapolis restaurant recommendations for me? Stay tuned later this week to see where we had our second meal.

653 Virginia Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46203
(317) 686-1580

Monday, June 3, 2019

Blue Sushi Sake Grill

Mr. H and I were invited to dine at the newly opened Blue Sushi Sake Grill in Crocker Park.
Normally, I shy away from chain restaurants, but this group only has a handful and just one in Ohio. After hearing some rave reviews from fellow foodies, I decided to check it out for myself.
In addition to a pretty vibrant and fun atmosphere, they have a program with an oath for sustainable practices. It's their commitment to responsibly sourcing the seafood and respecting our Earth's ecosystems, by land and sea.
They have a couple of different dining areas within the restaurant, but we were seated with a great view of the sushi bar and the chefs hard at work.
While we decided on our order, the team sent out a Tuna Tower ($15) with sesame and ponzu-marinated bigeye tuna, spicy crab mix, avocado and sushi rice, topped with black tobiko and wasabi sprouts, served with honey wasabi, and mango and eel sauces. Not only was it gorgeous, but tasty and with great textures as well.
We ordered the Mango Crab Rangoon ($8) with crispy wonton wrappers stuffed with crab mix, mango, cream cheese and scallion, served with mango and fresno pepper sauces.
And the Tuna Tataki ($13.50) with thinly sliced pepper seared bigeye tuna with daikon momiji, garlic chips, scallion and tataki sauce.
Then we got into the sushi, and shared an order of the Cherry Bomb ($8) with bigeye tuna on top of rice tempura, topped with serrano, sriracha and ponzu sauce.
A Hot Popper ($9) specialty roll with smoked salmon, cream cheese, jalapeño tempura, soy paper, and sriracha. Not a far cry from my favorite roll at Mizu Sushi, the Mexican.
Our server recommended the Amazon Roll ($13) with red sea bream, olive oil, smoked salmon, tampico mix, jalapeño, chino chimichurri, wasabi sprouts, and maldon sea salt.
Lastly, Mr. H loves a good fried roll so he dove into the Hawaiian Roll ($12) that was tempura fried with salmon, crab mix, mango, and mirin mango purée.
Cooked salmon is way too fishy-tasting for me, even in a roll like this. So, I saved that tiny bit of "room" I had left in my stomach for the Tempura Fried Ice Cream ($8) with pound cake, vanilla ice cream, topped with chocolate sauce, raspberry purée and powdered sugar.
Overall, it exceeded any chain sushi joints I've ever been to and I was impressed with their service and vibe. While it still doesn't compete with my favorite local hole-in-the-wall, Mizu, I'd choose to dine at this restaurant while shopping at Crocker over many others in the area. 

2000 Crocker Road
Westlake, OH 44145

Disclosure: I was invited to enjoy a complimentary meal with a guest in exchange for my honest review and social sharing. All opinions stated are 100% my own.