Monday, June 27, 2011

Deep Thoughts #58 - Special Topical We the People Edition

The right-wing yo-yos who have been stroking off on the 10th Amendment should read this week’s Time magazine cover story (if they can read).

Thursday, June 23, 2011

MacKenzie River Pizza Company

Though I did not post about it at the time, Amy and I did indeed get to have another late lunch, just the two of us, last Wednesday; but we chose to eat at a place called MacKenzie River Pizza Company, a new chain restaurant, with a hunting lodge sort of theme, in the possibly cursed location where Something Different and Snax used to live on 82nd Street. Since those two venerable eateries closed, two other establishments have come and gone in quick succession, and now this new place has opened. It’s a perfectly acceptable place to eat, and if you have no compunction about chain places, then you’ll probably like it. It’s new enough that the staff is still falling all over themselves—per the corporate training manual, of course—to make your experience a pleasant one, but it’s also been open long enough that they have worked out the wrinkles to the point that a late lunch on a Wednesday afternoon presented no problems.

We shared something called Cowboy Nachos (organic corn chips, cheddar cheese, black olives, tomato, green onion, jalapeño, and house salsa) and a small, thin-crust Rancher pizza, which was topped with ground beef, bacon, tomato, pepperoni, red onion, and green pepper. Both were, again, perfectly acceptable, although sliced tomato should never be put on pizza; and the nachos have nothing on the astonishing versions served up at the Slippery Noodle. That said, you could do much worse along that stretch of 82nd Street—one of the worst stretches of chain places in the whole city. (If the Starbucks and Quizno’s hadn’t closed, the people from Fishers would feel right at home.)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Jackson's 4th Birthday - More Photos

Two photo posts in the same calendar year. Can you even stand it? If so, you can click here for some more pictures from the birthday party we had for Jackson at our house. Cake, candles, presents, etc. I even managed to catch some amusing expressions on his face when he was opening his presents. His favorite present, though not pictured here, was a Cars tricycle that my parents bought for him. So far he's been able to bike back and forth between our house and Lazy Daze without too often having to relinquish the tricycle in favor of being carried on someone's shoulders; and if I can manage yet another post to the photo site, the next batch will be of Jackson rolling along on his little trike.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Restaurante Oaxaca

Today we tried our luck at Restaurante Oaxaca, a Mexican place up on MLK that had a nice review in NUVO a few weeks back that spoke well of the mole (and of the other things to eat there, too—but mostly the mole). The exciting part was getting there, because I don’t know the west side all that well, and also because we didn’t decide on this place until we were in the car. Even though I knew it was on MLK, and MLK is finite—it only exists from 38th Street to West Street—I still wasn’t familiar with that part of town, and I usually get it wrong when I have to guess which way to turn; and I guessed wrong today, too, except that the restaurant was in the little strip mall I guessed at, just not in the specific storefront I eyeballed from the road.

We weren’t entirely sure they were open when we walked in. The lighted sign in the window said they were open, and the door was unlocked; but there was no one in the dining room, neither diner nor employee. After a minute or two, though, someone came out to greet us and we were seated. The dining room is very spare, a four-by-four space that looks sort of like a cleaned-out convenience store or a Chinese take-out place; but it’s sometimes those little hole-in-the-wall places that wind up being the best kept secret in the neighborhood. That might well be the case with Oaxaca, which used to live inside a grocery store on Lafayette Road.

The menu, like the space, is somewhat spare; but it has the aforementioned mole, which you don’t find too often, even in the those Mexican restaurants where the menu has hundreds of choices and goes on for pages and pages. They offer tacos and fajitas and a burrito, as well as menudo soup—and a number of other things, but I have to confess to a bit of journalistic ineptitude here, because I didn’t commit them to memory or write them down, and the restaurant does not have a website. I ordered the three tacos for five bucks. They are offered on the menu with your choice of chicken, beef, or barbacoa (shredded beef); and I got one with chicken, one with barbacoa, and I asked if they could put chorizo in the other one—which they could. Amy ordered the mole ($8.95).

Instead of the usual chips out of a bag and thin salsa, what they brought out to whet our appetities was a bowl of something green that looked like either thick salsa or thin guacamole. That was served with chips, and the chips were so thick that I wondered if maybe they had actually cut up tortillas and dropped them into oil while we waited. I didn’t think to ask, but they were a few minutes coming out, so I went ahead and guessed that they were homemade. Either way, they tasted great, with a good solid crunch and not much in the way of an oily feeling. The green stuff in the bowl was unlike any salsa I have ever tasted—packed with avocado, cilantro, and enough jalapeño that you could taste the pepper and feel the heat.

The tacos were also unlike what you get in most Mexican places when you order tacos. The gringo version of this Mexican staple has morphed into a crunchy corn shell filled with meat and topped with some combination of lettuce, tomato, cheese, and sauce. The only thing this has in common with an authentic Mexican taco is the meat filling. An authentic Mexican taco is meat served on top of two soft corn tortillas and topped with cilantro and onion. They are only served folded if they are “to go.” Other than Oaxaca, La Bamba is the only place in town where I can remember being served authentic tacos.

The barbacoa was nothing to write home about, being somewhat greasy and listless and not especially flavorful. The chorizo, on the other hand, was crisp and bright with flavor; and the chicken was seasoned perfectly, more flavorful and interesting than chicken tends to be at places like this. The mole, I thought, was only so-so. There was quite a lot of it, over a one-quarter bone-in chicken. The sauce was sweet at first taste, and stayed sweet to me through the finish. Amy said that subsequent bites let the other flavors of the mole open up a bit, but I did not go back for a second taste and so had to take her word for it.

It should also be noted that both dishes came out piping hot, like the food had gone from grill or oven directly to the plate and then directly out to our table, within a span of seconds. Other than that impressive piece of timing, the service was spotty. We were the only customers in the restaurant from the moment we walked in to the moment we walked out (and lest you think that says something about the place, we came in around 2pm, well after whatever lunch rush there might have been); and even though that was the case, both drink refills and the check were awhile coming. That’s a minor quibble, though. The food more than makes up for a bit of waiting, and we’re both pretty sure we’ve found our second-favorite Mexican place in town (after the inimitable El Sol de Tala). A lot of Mexican places tout their “authentic” food, but remember—if you get a taco in a crunchy shell, it’s not authentic.

I know a lot of people will stay away from this place just because of its location on MLK, and that’s unfortunate on multiple levels. If, on the other hand, you’re already planning to visit the art museum to see the Thornton Dial exhibit of art made from found objects, why not swing by Restaurante Oaxaca on your way—or on your way to check the museum at Crispus Attucks High School, which is down at the other end of MLK. Remember, “we can’t close our eyes to the plight of the cities.”

2958 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Jackson's 4th Birthday

And yet another series of pictures of what our little boy looks like on his birthdays. There are some other good pictures from Jackson's party this afternoon, and I will do my best to get those posted to the Picasa page in the next day or two. (Four of the pictures here are repeats from last year, which is mostly because I'm running out of previously unposted pictures from each of his birthdays).

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Thai Café

Today we took advantage of Jackson’s still being in school to gallivant about town for the afternoon, and we zipped up to Broad Ripple to satisfy Amy’s craving for Thai food at Thai Café. It’s one of three ethnic places lined up in a row in a strip mall area just east of, I don’t know…Winthrop? The dining area is a small space that will hold maybe two dozen diners on a busy night, and yet it did not feel precisely cramped. We were seated immediately and asked if we wanted more to drink than the water that our server poured for us (also immediately); and when we declined additional beverages, we were left to peruse the menu.

Said menu contained the full complement of standard Thai offerings, including noodles and curries and soups and appetizers, many of which trade heavily on the signature Thai flavors of chile, lemongrass, lime, coconut milk, and sweet basil. And before I get any further with this, I want to note one thing in particular. You, the diner, get to choose how spicy your dish will be. Though Thai restaurants have started to explode on the culinary scene here in Indianapolis, I suspect that many people still think of Thai food as the ultra-spicy redheaded stepchild of Chinese cuisine. Though the flavor of chile peppers is an important element of Thai cuisine, it need not be present in every dish.

You also don’t have to break the bank. While Thai food is generally a bit more expensive than Chinese it is, also generally, of much higher quality; and Thai Café has a lunch menu with seven different entrées at $6.95 a pop. Dinner entrées will run you two to four dollars more, and appetizers are in the $7-$9 range and are so generously portioned that they might well serve as a meal unto themselves for people with lighter appetites.

Amy and I each had the lunch portion of Padd Priew Waan, which consisted of pineapple and vegetables stir-fried in a sweet and sour tomato sauce. With each entrée, you get your choice of meat (beef, chicken, pork) or tofu; or you can go vegetarian or vegan with any entrée on the menu. Amy had chicken, and I had tofu. Entrées come with soup or salad, and we each chose the lemongrass soup—a light chicken broth flavored with lemongrass and accented with cilantro. It was just a bit salty, but the flavors were balanced and well proportioned. We got a plate of vegetarian spring rolls, which was $6.95 for six; and I thought that might be too many, but we made them disappear.

The main course was also quite good. The Padd Priew Waan was served very simply with a mound of white rice and had big chunks of tofu and pineapple and vegetables. I went with a three on the 0-5 heat scale, but could not really detect anything serious in the way of heat. The sauce was maybe a little strong in both the sweet and sour departments, but was still delicious. I imagine there will be a return trip in the near future for a run at their Padd Thai, a stir-fried noodle dish. Jasmine Thai (on 96th Street) has the best Padd Thai I’ve ever had, but I have no doubt that Thai Café is going to give it a run for its money.

1041 Broad Ripple Avenue