Sunday, February 8, 2015

Morgan's & Little Black Dog Tavern

The area off of Lincolnway East in Mishawaka called The 100 Center has some incredible, charming old buildings that I think are often ignored, but trust me, you should get back there to check out Morgan's and Little Black Dog Tavern. The building housing this Euro-style tavern has a rich history, which got us even more excited about it! It was built in the late 19th, early 20th century as part of the Kamm brewery and was actually the stable housing the horses, so make sure to check out the historic pictures donated by the original owner's great, great granddaughter hanging around the restaurant. There is also an old wagon around back from the stables that has been repurposed as an herb garden, that alone should tell you that great things are happening here. If that isn't enough though, perhaps the international dishes will get you excited. Each week Morgan & LBD features a special menu, on top of their house menu, that highlights a different European country, which was Spain during our visit, we love the fact that each time we visit there will be something new to try!

 We started with one of the special entrees (on the blackboard) that was a fun fusion dish, BLT Bruschetta, which was a house made pesto aioli, topped with diced tomatoes and bacon, served alongside a nice peppery arugala with lightly toasted bread. My hubby loved EVERY aspect of this dish, but what set it apart from every other bruschetta for him was the fact that the toast it was served with was still soft on the inside, instead of being crunchy. This is definitely an app we would recommend if it's available when you visit.

Next we had side portions of the hot bacon spinach salad, which I had no intention of ordering until I tried my hubby's and then I couldn't resist. This is a spinach salad topped with tomato, onion, boiled egg, a sweet, warm dressing, and bacon in the form of a pancetta round. This salad is very unique and delicious, the dressing is a little sweeter than what we are used to, but is balanced out well by the salty pancetta and other toppings.

Dinner was a pretty tough decision between the house menu and the blackboard specials from Spain, but we decided on sandwiches to leave room for dessert. I ordered the grouper that was coated with a batter made with "Hair of the Dog" beer, which is an EPA made by Iechyd Da in Elkhart specifically for Morgan & LBD (we love locals helping locals!), that you can't get anywhere else, not even Iechyd Da. The fish was cooked perfectly, with the right amount of batter and was served alongside made to order chips. My only complaint is that I would have liked more salt on my chips, but that is a personal preference as I tend to be heavy handed with the salt. My hubby had the asiago chicken sliders, which was slider sized portions of chicken breast coated with asiago and parmesan cheese, cooked to order, served on a baguette topped with mozzarella, marinara, and basil. Again my hubby loved the bread this was served on, the chicken was cooked just right, and every ingredient on these sliders came together perfectly for him.

As we inquired about dessert, we were informed that they do in fact have a pastry chef, so we knew it was going to be good! The plated dessert was a lemon cake, but we opted for the dessert flight as it was a smaller slice of the lemon cake accompanied with a chocolate cake pop and a piece of baklava. This was the perfect little dessert to share, the cake pop wasn't too rich or sweet, but was so moist; the baklava had whole nuts, crispy pastry, was not overly sweet, and may be the best baklava I have ever had; and the lemon cake was just a little tart and complimented with a sweet icing which we both really liked.



As if the culinary experience didn't exceed every expectation that we had, the customer service was phenomenal as well! Jordan, our waiter took time to explain any dish we had questions about and was gracious enough to stop and talk about and listen to our thoughts on everything that we ate. We also got the chance to chat with the owner Scott, which is one of the things we love about dining locally, getting to hear the vision and passion that local restaurateurs have. Scott, and his wife Mary Lou, have really created a welcoming atmosphere, that will make any diner feel at ease, along with a unique culinary experience, in a beautiful historic building. For your next date night, girls night out, or special occasion make sure to get a reservation to try the delicious food at Morgan's & Little Black Dog.r

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Maple Indian Cuisine

It's been a while since my hubby and I have had a first together, but we did yesterday, it's something that we have talked about for a while, but just haven't gotten to try until last night! We were advised by a friend of his that whether we like it or not, we will never forget it. We finally tried Indian food for the first time, why? What were you thinking? Anyway! His friend was correct, the smells, flavors, and taste were certainly distinct and unforgettable, the aroma captivated me the moment that we walked in the door of Maple Indian Cuisine in downtown Goshen (the same building that was Noodle Heads and Il Forno, before that). Our meal started with a complimentary basket of papadum, a thin cracker made of rice flour and other seasonings, served with a green chili and tamarind chili for dipping. Both dipping sauces were delicious, but I loved the slight sweetness of the tamarind.

Neither of us were terribly hungry so we decided to share a few things, to get a good taste of what they had. The first thing that came out was the tandoori prawn, and it was sizzling hot as it is made in a traditional coal oven. Think Indian fajitas as the shrimp were paired with onions and peppers on a hot skillet. I can't even begin to describe the flavors to you as they were that unique, but this shrimp was very tasty, probably a little overpriced, but they were kind enough to give us free basmati rice when we asked for it.
Halfway through our tandoori prawn the chicken pakora appetizer came out, truthfully I didn't care what order they came to the table in because the food came out so quickly. The chicken pakora was seasoned and breaded with gram flour then fried, it looks like fried chicken, but has such a unique, delicious flavor and was incredibly moist. This dish was also paired with the green and tamarind chilis, and was especially delicious with the sweetness of the tamarind chili. Excuse the half eaten plate, it was so delicious I almost forgot the picture!
The last baskets to hit the table were filled with roti and garlic naan. I was expecting roti like they serve at Flat Top Grill, but this did not have that chewy texture, it was more similar to a pita with a pretty plain flavor, but I imagine would be delicious with a saucy dish to sop up all the extra sauce. The garlic naan, was a delicious bread covered in fresh pressed garlic, which is one of my favorite things in the world.
This is also a great place to try if you are vegetarian as they have an extensive list of meat free dishes and appetizers. So if you are looking for something different, like we were, love Indian food, or just want to expand your palate head to downtown Goshen for a very distinct dining experience at Maple Indian Cuisine.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

DaVinci's

We're part of a new church plant here in Elkhart (Encounter Church, we meet at 4pm on Sundays at the corner of CR 106 and Jeanwood Drive and would love to be your people and help you have a fresh encounter with God!), and we ladies there decided that we needed a night out sans kids and hubbies. One of the ladies suggested an Italian restaurant close to the church, DaVinci's on Cassopolis/SR 19 near the intersection of CR 6, and we decided that sharing pizzas would be a budget friendly way to go out together! Most of the ladies started dinner with delicious looking salads and house made Italian dressing and we all shared baskets of delicious, warm, crusty bread that had been covered in butter and basil. After some discussion we decided on a pizza with pepperoni and mushrooms and another pizza that was half Hawaiian, half meaty.
Two things that you should know about me are 1) I love pizza and 2) I'm a pizza snob, I'm not one who enjoys eating just any old pizza, so DaVinci's did not disappoint. I really loved their pizza, the meat and cheese were high quality and delicious, the crust was so tasty and chewy with that undeniable scratch made taste. Not only was this pizza delicious hot, but I am eating a slice of it cold as we speak at it is just as good! Now my goal is to convince my hubby to try and love it, because with this could be my new pizza place! Along with killer pizza, DaVinci's also has wonderful customer service, our waitress Mary was so sweet and attentive, and everyone was so friendly. So next time you are finding yourself wanting Olive Garden or Fazzoli's head to nearby DaVinci's for good quality food and accommodating customer service.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Javi's Food Truck

It's been a bad week, like a legitimately bad week topped off with a preschool tantrum as I was trying to find something to make for dinner in the grocery aisle of Target tonight. I trucked through Target to the checkout without a clue what the little screamer and I were going to eat for dinner. I loaded my son and shopping bags into my truck and a few minutes down the road he was asleep (tired explains the Target tantrum!), meaning I had resigned myself to the reality of fast food drive thru being the only real option with a sleeping kiddo. In my frustration I saw it, like a beacon of hope, in the parking lot of Granma's Pancakes in Dunlap, Javi's taco truck and I knew there was hope of having a dinner that I didn't totally regret.

 I parked close to the taco truck so I could watch my car with my little sleeper, cracked a window, and locked the doors as I hopped in line. I was beyond excited to see that fish/pescado was a meat option for the tacos, I gladly ordered one along with a chicken/pollo and steak/carne asada. The Carne Asada was perfectly seasoned and moist, the fish was well cooked and delicious, and while the chicken had a great flavor it was a little on the dry side, but good enough that I would order it again. All three tacos were just like I like them in corn tortillas with onions and cilantro.
Despite hubby grilling hotdogs for a bonfire, when I saw the Philly Cheese steak made with carne asada, I knew he would want to try it, and I was right! He took one bite and proclaimed his sandwich to be "really frickin' good," which is something he rarely says. With the same, delicious carne asada that adorned my taco, green peppers, and cheese on a crusty roll he was a happy man. By the way, the sandwich does come with onions, like a traditional Philly cheese steak, but the hubby isn't a fan.
You are probably wondering about the salsa, I tried both the red and green salsa and both were entirely too spicy for me, but still had a good flavor. Along with tacos, you can also get a torta, quesadilla, or burrito at Javi's where they are set up Friday and Saturday from 4pm to 1am and also on Sunday afternoons. I only have two regrets about Javi's; 1) I didn't order more tacos and 2) I won't be able to get their tacos during the week.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Cafe Navarre

    As I was planning my husband's birthday celebration I scoured the websites and menus of the higher end dining establishments in the South Bend/Mishawaka area (near the hotel I booked for the night), until I came across THE dish. There is a dish that my hubby has wanted to try for as long as I can remember, but because we live in a state that doesn't have an abundance of good seafood, he has been left with his longing, until tonight. Tonight I was able to make one of my hubby's culinary dreams come true and found a restaurant that serves Cioppino, and this bowl full of seafood and mussels did not disappoint.
       We started our meal at Cafe Navarre in Downtown South Bend with a delicious basket of bread, with not just one variety of bread, but two. We sampled the cranberry bread with whipped butter first and then moved on to a warm, crusty bread topped with rosemary and herbs. Along with our bread we each had salads that were more than just a pile of lettuce, but an actual dish. He had the wedge salad topped with bacon, bleu cheese dressing, and a hard boiled egg, and since he asked for the salad sans onion, he got double bacon. I had the Navarre salad topped with green apples, candied walnuts, and a delicious, light white balsamic vinaigrette that was dang near perfection, in fact the whole salad was nearly perfect.
      With such an incredible start to our meal, we had high expectations for our meal, and we were not let down. After years of waiting, my hubby was rewarded with an "out of this world" bowl of cioppino (pronounced chi-pea-no), which is traditionally a tomato based soup loaded with shellfish and seafood. Cafe Navarre's bowl of cioppino is made with an arugula and almond pesto, but does have tomatoes in it. This bowl had lobster, shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, and fresh fish, and every piece of seafood was cooked perfectly, which is a rarity. The shrimp had that perfect snap to it, not overdone and not mushy, and the scallops practically melted in our mouths, the flavor was perfect...and yes! I did sneak a couple bites!
     I ordered the pork chop with blackberry compote accompanied by grilled, creamed corn and fried squash. I wish I had a picture of this for you, it was one of the most beautiful things that I have ever eaten and delectable to boot! I was leery of ordering a chop as I think it can be such a tricky cut to cook well, but Cafe Navarre outdid themselves. This thick chop was cooked perfectly, it was juicy and tender, was not over seasoned, but had a wonderful smokey taste that was perfectly complimented by the sweet tartness of the blackberry compote. The creamed corn along with my dinner and the fried squash were great side kicks to this delicious chop and made for an appealing and delicious plate.
     Since it was the hubby's birthday he was given a free dessert and of course I had to order something as well! He got the flourless chocolate torte with fresh cream and a blueberry compote. As  expected, the cake was rich and could have used a more tart fruit to cut the sweetness, but it was still so tasty. Per the recommendation of the manager I ordered the lemon tart, although it was a tough choice as the cheesecake of the night was chocolate peanut butter, but after the first bite I had no qualms about my choice of dessert. I was presented with a lemon tart in a small jar topped with salty pistachios, tart raspberries, and sweet cream...this was the quintessential dessert, a perfect melding of flavors that was light enough that I didn't feel guilty, but decadent enough to make me feel like I indulged (is that possible? I don't know, but it happened!).
     If the deliciously perfect food at Cafe Navarre wasn't enough, the customer service is unmatched by any restaurant that we have ever been to. We were served by the outstanding team of Lori and Killian, and they treated us as if we were their top priority for the night, and though I know that they were busy with banquets and other parties, they acted as if we were the only customers in the restaurant. Tim, one of the managers, also stopped by our table to ask how our dinner was and ensure that we didn't need anything, and he, too was incredibly kind and took time to chat with us about the food (and recommended the incredible lemon tart). Cafe Navarre offered a dining experience above any other that we have ever had, the food and customer service made this a perfect evening and a great way to celebrate my hubby's 29th year. Oh, and if you decide to celebrate at Cafe Navarre like we did, don't do what we did and wear jeans!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Golden Egg

I love breakfast! It doesn't have to be fancy, well not always, just solid, well made, and good, and luckily for me my other half is finally coming to my side of the table and enjoying breakfast himself. Last Sunday we found ourselves awake, hungry, and without our son, so we headed over to The Golden Egg's new location on Nappanee Street in Elkhart. The restaurant was previously an Asian market and before that an Arby's and they have done an incredible job of turning a fast food joint into a sit down restaurant. One of the things that my hubby loves about The Golden Egg is that when you order an egg you get two and an order of two eggs gets you four, he also loves that their hash browns are actually crispy, he hates mushy potatoes.
I love Belgian waffles and this one did not disappoint, I got it with pecans for an extra crunch and covered it with butter pecan syrup, which was money! Butter, pecans, and butter pecan syrup may seem like overkill on a waffle, but it was delicious and I highly recommend it.
The Golden Egg is your pretty typical pancake house, good, solid breakfast food, waitstaff with years of experience that make you feel like your Southern aunt is serving you, and a family atmosphere, so next time you want breakfast out skip IHOP and Denny's and dine locally at The Golden Egg.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Five Star Dive Bar

If you know us, you know that we really aren't into the bar scene, neither of us has ever really had a taste for alcohol, BUT when we hear that a bar has good food we are more than happy to check it out on one of our treasured kiddo-free date nights. The Elkhart area has had a burger competition and Five Start Dive Bar made it pretty dang far in the bracket, so we thought it would be worth a try. Just be warned that while the restaurant serves awesome food, it is not health food! We started with fried mushrooms, my hubby's favorite, and they were huge with an awesome, crispy batter.

I expected my hubby to try the smokehouse burger that was in the competition, but there was a grilled cheese sandwich with bacon and tomato on the menu and that was all he needed to know. The Five Star Grilled Cheese with a side of hand cut fries was a pretty ideal meal for my hubby and the perfect comfort food to boot!
I ordered my standard, go to fish and chips and while this wasn't my favorite version, it was solid and really tasty! The fries were delicious as well, you just can't beat hand cut fries!

We overheard the folks at the table behind us raving about a dessert so I had to know what it was, they said the words fried and cheesecake in the same sentence and I was sold! We were presented with three "egg rolls" covered in caramel, and when I bit into that crispy wrapper and was met with the warm creamy cheesecake, I was in heaven. The fried cheesecake isn't on the menu, but you officially have the inside scoop on this killer dessert!
If you're looking for a great bar, bar food that's better than bar food, or just someplace to hang out and play pool or listen to local talent, check out Five Star Dive Bar on East Jackson in Elkhart. Just don't forget to ask for the fried cheesecake!