Eating in Indy

By Mary Anna Violi |@MaryAnnaVioli

Recently, I spent an exploratory weekend in Indianapolis. By exploratory, I mean the weekend evolved into a food fest of restaurants, which we had not intended, but turned out to be gustatory, delicious fun!

We began Saturday by deciding to have a late lunch at Public Greens on the Monon Trail, in the now trendy Broad Ripple area. As it states on the website: Public Greens functions as an “Urban Kitchen, a farm to market urban cafeteria and microfarm.” I laud Public Greens for its inventive healthy food; its profits, vegetables, and herbs feed children through its Patachou Foundation. Check out Public Greens and the owner’s Patachou restaurants at http://publicgreensurbankitchen.com

We love the ice cream at Brics, located steps away from Public Greens. The Brics Broad Ripple Ice Cream Station building used to be the train station in Indianapolis. It converted nicely into an ice creamery on the Monon Trail. I recommend the Yellow Cake Batter and the Pistachio! http://www.bricsindy.com

Walking back to the car, we opted to enter Books and Brews, across the street from Public Greens. The concept was interesting with used bookstore for sale lining the walls. A portion of their sales goes to the Read Indy program. Lunch and dinner are served, as are small plates, https://www.booksnbrews.com.

That night we felt a bit hungry, but we did not want a large meal. We opted for Panera. I had the Green Goddess Cobb Salad with Chicken; my daughter had a bowl of Chicken Soup. We were both rather weary, so we ate our Panera take out at home so we could watch several episodes of Netflix’s The Ranch.

Sunday dawned sunny and relatively warm. After leisurely drinking mugs of matcha sencha tea and conversing, both of which we do frequently, we ventured out in quest of brunch. Wanting to try something distinctive, we threaded our way to Biscuits, a Mexican restaurant. The name fascinated me so much so that my daughter accused me of wanting to eat at Biscuits because of its name! She was right. My niece had recommended the eatery to my daughter; we figured it must be good. Its location was right off the Monon Trail, in a nondescript strip mall at 1036 Broad Ripple Avenue. Happily, Biscuits has not undergone gentrification like the rest of the area further up the road. Biscuits even lacks a website!

As we poured over the extensive menu, I asked our server why a Mexican restaurant is called Biscuits. She replied that the previous restaurant had been a biscuits and gravy diner. The owner decided to keep the Biscuits part of the name for its recognition factor. He had also expanded Biscuits to accommodate more customers. I felt like I was dining at an El Mercado restaurant in San Antonio, Texas, and that warmed my heart. I ordered Huevos Rancheros with a side of grits and butter. My daughter ordered a Biscuits Bowl with a side of fresh fruit. The food servings were plentiful and delicious. We ate slowly, savoring each bite, while taking in the liveliness of the place.

We then drove some blocks up Broad Ripple Avenue, parked the car, got out, and walked. One restaurant I want to try on my next visit is Taste of Havana. Across the avenue an Indian eatery also beckoned. We strolled along, turned on North College Avenue, where we entered HoiTea ToiTea [“Not Your Granny’s Tea Room”]. My daughter had picked up literature about this new tea room in March at the Home and Garden show in Indianapolis:  http://www.hoiteatoitea.com. Erstwhile tea aficionados are we; we felt compelled to explore HoiTea ToiTea! This tea emporium conducts tea-making classes, and sells all sorts of teas that the adventurous can mix. The café invites one to eat breakfast, lunch, and pastries. The Almond Amaretto tea called to me, as the Almond Amaretto Tea Latte did to my daughter. She ordered a Blackberry Lavender Macaroon, while I found the Nutella-filled croissant irresistible. We sat near the large windows overlooking the avenue. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we missed the free Indianapolis Orchestra Concert at the Library! Fortunately, there’s another concert in June!

Ciao for now.

 

The Snow Hath Cometh

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This morning we used our special snowman mugs filled with David’s 24 Days of Tea for December 11, Hot Chocolate, to celebrate the snowfall.-tangledpasta.net.

 By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

            If you say the title of this blog post fast enough, you nearly bite your tongue[th]. I realize the preceding sentence incorporates homonymy of the word ‘weather’, but ‘climactic conditions’ seemed pretentious for a snowy Sunday morn. This weekend, the meteorologist’s dire warnings proved true: As of last evening, we have had a steady snowfall. The sparkling, clean, white snow brightens up the dreary landscape. On Friday night, I powered through the grocery, and then picked up extra items early Saturday, purchased Christmas stamps at the Post Office, and then returned home to engage in online gift shopping.

I admit to being an avid subscriber of the New York Times Cooking, which appears in my e-mail three times a week. It includes ‘vintage’ recipes of James Beard, Craig Claiborne, Julia Child, Pierre Franey, and contemporary ones by Amanda Hesser, Julia Moskin, Sam Sifton, and Mark Bittman. I have hit Save on that page for so many recipes, I pray the page doesn’t crash! I also am fiendishly devoted to the Food Network’s Alton Brown’s Macaroni and Cheese recipe. Who knew a bay leaf and paprika could make such a delicious difference? Now, there’s a new kid on my cookbook block: The Barefoot Contessa’s Cooking for Jeffrey. Ina Garten’s Roasted Chicken with Lemons, and her Tuscan Roasted Potatoes offer a bit of heaven in every bite.

Admittedly, I am enamored with cooking. As a long-time foodie, I attribute this to growing up with a mother of Italian descent, who excelled in the culinary arts, along with her two sisters, equally accomplished, and an immigrant Italian father who served up delicious Italian food. Small wonder I honed my culinary skills. With today’s snow and cold, I have turned my attention to making a Julia Moskin recipe for chicken potpie. In lieu of a white sauce, she sauté sliced mushrooms and bacon in butter, adding floured, cut up chicken thighs, thyme, and other delectable ingredients, including chicken stock and Marsala wine. Carrots and minted peas are served on the side.

Thus, I embrace the frosty weather as I hunker down this December day, writing, and later cooking. This is my favorite way of spending a chilly, snowy day, a glass of vino included, with the dinner, naturally.

Ciao for now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Keep Occupied During a Snowstorm

Winter's beauty diminishes not, even in a snowstorm -tangledpasta.net
Winter’s beauty diminishes not, even in a snowstorm -tangledpasta.net

 By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

As a hearty Italian American in the Heartland, I have learned how to brave winter.  When winter visits a snowstorm upon us, we Midwesterners prepare and hunker down to ride out the iciness of it all. As we anticipate the worst snowstorm and subzero temperatures in twenty years, I offer engaging activities to occupy one’s self.

1.  Grocery Shopping, Preferably before the Snowstorm – I stocked up on eggs [poached, scrambled, or in a fritatta or quiche], tuna [I love tuna salad when snowbound], soup [in case I am too lazy to make my own], cannellini beans [in case I do rouse myself to make soup], bread [okay, I forgot to buy the bread, even though it was on my grocery list], P.F. Chang’s frozen shrimp dumplings, ricotta [a must for Italians], low-fat vanilla yogurt [my ice cream substitute, sort of], garbanzo beans [because they are so delicious roasted stove top in olive oil], and honey [in a teddy bear bottle, of course].

2.  Dining Out Hours Before the Snowstorm – After I did the Readings at 5:30 p.m. Mass last evening, it had not yet begun to snow.  A friend phoned me.  Did I want to dine out before the estimated 8:00 p.m. snowfall?  It was 6:43 pm., I noted, but sure, why not?  A nearby Japanese restaurant was packed with like-minded individuals.  However, we instead nabbed a booth at my favorite neighborhood Italian restaurant.  A salad and baked rigatoni sated me; in fact, I took half of it home, anticipating it would make a fine Sunday lunch, had hunger pangs not attacked at 10:00 p.m., I would have eaten the baked rigatoni for lunch.  As I wound my way up the hilly winding drive to my friend’s abode in what was now heavy snowfall, I looked forward to nestling inside my warm home.

3.  Putting Away Christmas Decorations – While my daughter and I had taken down the Christmas tree, the boughs that decorated the archways and windows, there were still plenty of Christmas decorations left for me to store. This morning a stray CD of Christmas tunes manifested itself under a bough tossed on the desk. A Santa Claus statue and a large musical Santa snow globe still grace an end table. The Christmas stockings, while taken down, are draped over a dining room chair.  In the bathroom a Christmas tree with bright ornaments and a wreath hung on the wall beckon to be put away for winter slumber. A pair of Christmas socks my daughter forgot to retrieve from the clean laundry basket surfaced today too.

    4.  Updating the Nativity – Yesterday before she left a day ahead of schedule for law school due to the severe winter storm warnings, my daughter remarked that we had not brought out the Three Kings [We Three Kings of Orient Are…remember]. Consequently, this morning, I hauled out the Three Kings and their three dromedaries [camels], and I boxed up the shepherds, their sheep, their cats, and their dog.  Tomorrow, January 6, is the Feast of the Epiphany [and my brother’s birthday].  The Three Kings should be present in The Nativity, and besides, they are beautifully attired.

   5.  Cleaning Up the Ranch, so to Speak – After the mayhem of packing to return to school, settling Shelton Rae, her cat, in his plush travel carrier, transferring Poseidon, her red Beta fish, from his tank to his large pitcher travel container, and my packing up the cooler with Italian beef, homemade macaroni and cheese, yogurt, eggs, bread [I remembered to buy her a loaf], I awoke to the reality of gritty floors.  On this frosty Sunday morn as the snow flies nonstop, I vacuumed the house and rugs.  At least I’m not hearing crunch, crunch, crunch, under my feet as I move from room to room.

6.  Re-imagining Wall Décor – In taking down pictures in late November to hang Christmas art on the walls, I realized that I was ready for a change of scenery.  Throwing on a CD of Adele, I sang and danced as I repositioned artwork. I even moved pictures to others rooms where they offer a new perspective for a New Year.

7.  Brewing Tea – Nothing says, “Drink me” like freshly brewed tea. Inveterate coffee drinkers with substitute “Brewing Tea” for “Brewing Coffee”, which is perfectly fine for java aficionados. After cleaning the house, putting away Christmas decorations, and brewing tea or coffee, it is time to settle into an easy chair, and sip the hot beverage.

8.  Watching the Snow Fall – When winter keeps me housebound, I marvel at the beauty of the winter wonderland outside my windows.  The trees and shrubs glisten in winter white garb, the rooftops in the neighborhood glow with their white cover. Throughout my life I have relished the hush a snowstorm provides; its quiet is relaxing. Imbibing my tea, I feel content as I view the bounteous winter landscape stretched out before me as our cats, Fellini and Coco Chanel, nap.

9.  Reading – In my bungalow snow palace, I sit and read, uninterrupted since I cannot venture out.  It is a blessing to have hours to re-read a Jane Austen treasured book, and even begin reading a signed book my brother bought me for my birthday:  The Stonecutter’s Aria by Carol Faenzi.

10.  Writing – Writing offers a fine creative outlet during a snowstorm. Instead of thinking about writing a short story, novel, poem, or a blog, or penning those gift thank-you’s.  A snowstorm offers the gift of time for one to begin these artistic endeavors. Of course, this assumes one has neither power, nor heat.

Ciao for now.