I love food. I love to eat it, I love to cook it. I’m appreciative of a fine meal in fine surrounds like few people I know. Perhaps it comes from my father’s background in the restaurant business. Perhaps, it comes from a former life. I honestly don’t know.
I do not consider anything that comes from a national chain restaurant “fine food.” While it can be tasty, all too often it is laden with sodium, fat, and other unhealthy substances. Given the choice, I will choose a locally-owned and operated “Mom & Pop” restaurant to a chain restaurant every time. Unfortunately, Indianapolis is a bit of a culinary wasteland in that regard; it has been called the Chain Restaurant Capital of the USA. For good reason: you can’t throw a fried candy bar in this town without hitting a chain restaurant.
The pictures you’ll see were taken with my phone, so I apologize for the quality. Any jump in quality you see is due to me upgrading from an iPhone 3G to an iPhone 4.
First up is a restaurant called Koreana in Appleton, Wisconsin. I ate there on a business trip. Koreana styles itself as a Korean Restaurant and Sushi Bar. My choice of dinner that evening was something I’d never seen before (copied from their menu): “Purple Rice Bi Bim Bahb – ten different vegetables, choice of meat & fried egg on top of five different grain rice served in a big bowl with spicy sauce on the side.”
The big bowl of which they spoke was stone, probably granite, possibly marble. It was sizzling hot when it came out, and the oil coating the bowl crisped the rice along the sides very nicely. I ordered mine with chicken, but the restaurant informed me after I started eating it that they accidentally gave me beef & chicken. Being a lover of cooked cow, I did not complain of this, particularly when the waiter told me they weren’t going to charge me for the extra meat (as well they should not, since it was their mistake; they were just being good communicators when they told me). It was delicious and the leftover kept well enough in my makeshift cooler that I was able to eat the rest of it when I got home to Indianapolis the next day. I apologize for the sparseness of the description; it’s been nearly a year since I ate this (and yes, I kept that picture on my phone all this time).
It’s definitely big enough to share; I hope I can have it again someday.
Next up, is a tavern in New Stanton, Pennsylvania, the name of which I cannot remember. My wife and I stopped there for dinner when we stayed over night Thanksgiving weekend en route to my in-laws’ in New Jersey for the holiday. There, I ordered the chicken wings I now believe to be among the world’s finest chicken wings ever. These were full-sized chicken wings, not the stubby little amputee wings you get from Wing Restaurant XYZ™. They were seasoned with garlic, chili flakes, fennel, and other seasonings I can’t remember and couldn’t figure out at the time. While they possessed a lot of heat, it was very flavorful, crunchy, and delicious, made even more so by the fact that these were baked, not fried. The chicken was moist and tender, just like it should be. I wouldn’t be surprised if the chicken came from a local farm (I can’t back that up).
I told my wife that the next time we drive out to New Jersey to see her parents, we’ll be stopping at this restaurant again. New Stanton happens to be just about halfway to New Jersey from Indianapolis, near the western terminus of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The tavern was recommended to us by the desk clerk at the hotel we stayed at (I believe it was a Courtyard by Marriott). The next time, I’m going to take more time to fully analyze the spice blend so I can replicate it at home. Maybe I’ll just ask….
Stay tuned for more.