I Can Pickle That! Indiana Produce meets Eastern European Preservation

While dining on some tasty falafel at the previously reviewed Mediterranean joint Sahara, I gluttonously chomped into a garnish of what I assumed to be watermelon but was most definitely not.  I was informed that it was, in fact, a piece of pickled turnip. I’m generally a fan of brined, pickled, fermented, and other low-pH foodstuffs, and decided I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to buy a bunch of pretty hermetic glass jars and hoard the summer produce.

Let it be known from the outset that this is a shameless rip from Smitten Kitchen’s Pickled Vegetable Sandwich Slaw.  I changed exactly nothing from her recipe, because I don’t fix what isn’t broken.  If I had access to some fresh dill, I may have thrown that in.

Pickling mixture:
1 cup distilled white vinegar
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
1 cup cold water

This is hard, now, so pay attention:

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Find your picklable objects.

I used cucumbers (the firm kind used for pickling, not “slicers” like you would put on a salad), banana peppers, radishes, and carrots.  I also diced half a jalapeno and added that to half my jars.  Use whatever firm vegetables you can find at your roadside farm stand or be a heathen and buy them at the store.  Message me if you aren’t sure whether your veggies are ok to pickle, because contrary to what Portlandia says, you DON’T want pickled potatoes or kumquats or glass.

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Slice them thin enough to soak up lots of pickly flavor.

I did what I like to call a “lazy julienne,” which is where my knife skills suck and nothing winds up the same size at all.  If you have a mandoline, now is the time to use it. I threw mine away more than a decade ago in a fit of rage after slicing off a knuckle, but my food processor did a great job on the radishes.  Photo Jul 23, 8 25 08 PM

Pack those veggies into a jar.

These are fridge pickles, so no sterilizing, pressurizing, or otherwise making yourself sweat is necessary.  But don’t get crazy, they should be clean.  I used the prettiest jars I could find, the volume of which totaled about 2.5 quarts.  Try to pack the veggies tightly into the jars because they will float.  Photo Jul 23, 8 38 06 PM

Heat all the ingredients in the pickling solution except the water to simmering.  Turn the heat off, add the cold water, and wait until the mixture reaches tepidity. Pour it over the veggies.  Done.  Photo Jul 23, 8 41 08 PMPhoto Jul 23, 9 03 38 PM

You can refrigerate these up to a month, which gives you plenty of time to pawn them off on everyone you know.  You can also eat a lot of them right out of the jar with a fork a few hours after making them.  Hypothetically.



Carniceria Guanajuato II: East Side Tacos to die for

I am always looking for good authentic tacos, so when foodie friend, latin-culture-lover and east-sider Alise told me these tacos were the best she knew of, I ran on over to try.  Carniceria Guanajuato is, obviously, a Mexican supermarket, the east-side sibling of the original Pike Plaza store.  However, there is a food court of sorts where you can grab authentic tacos, tortas, burritos, and more at VERY low prices.Photo Jul 05, 7 20 01 PM

I will say that if you aren’t a somewhat adventurous eater, this is not the spot for you.  The food may be familiar, but the eating area can’t be described as clean by any stretch of imagination and the likelihood anyone will speak English is vague. This is a place you go for food so tasty it’s worth the possibility of foodborne illness or eastside crime.

We ordered chicken, steak, and lengua tacos and a chicken torta.  The tacos were the biggest I’ve ever seen; there had to have been 1/3 lb of meat in each one.  They were served with generous amounts of cucumber and lime on the side and topped with raw onion.  For future reference, I’d probably order 2 maximum if I were very hungry.  The wheel wasn’t reinvented here, but these tacos were completely delicious.

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Look how much meat!!

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My torta was the real showstopper for me.  Different than other tortas I’ve had, theirs featured tomato and pepper cooked with the chicken and was more like a warm pot pie than the usual cold sandwich.  I can’t say I like it more or less than Tortas Dominguez y El Cubanito or Super Tortas, because they are really two different beasts.  I love them both, and, sitting here writing, I crave them both simultaneously.  Photo Jul 05, 7 34 27 PM

This one inexplicably reminds me of my mom and grandma’s cooking.  If anyone else (who isn’t even kind of hispanic) goes and feels this bizarre taste nostalgia, please let me know so I can stop feeling crazy.

I will also say this for Carniceria Guanajuato-it is literally cheaper than Taco Bell.  We got three tacos, a torta, and 2 cans of soda for $11.50.  Neither of us finished our food, despite being substantially hungry.  It’s interesting, it’s cheap, it’s delicious, and it stimulates a part of town that needs stimulating.  I’ll be back in a hurry.

http://Carniceria Guanajuato II on Urbanspoon

Chicago Hot Dog Company

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This hot dog joint on Michigan Road is at the top of the Indy A-List for hotdogs and some other Chicago-style offerings like Italian Beef.  I’m a Regioner myself and frequently jones for chili cheese dogs and chocolate malts and the pale companion is from the suburbs, so he insisted we try this place.

We tried the fries with a chili cheese dog and a Chicago-style dog.

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All was as it should be with the Chicago dog.  Honestly, any error in the topping formula would have been unforgivable (tomato, neon relish, sport pepper, pickle, mustard and celery salt adorning an all beef dog on a poppyseed bun), but they had the basics down.  The dog was nice and tasty.   Photo Jul 05, 12 09 02 PM

My chili cheese dog was another story.  Everything was fine except, well, the chili.  The seasonings were good, slight smokey flavor and no sweet barbecue hints.  But the texture, for me, was way off.  There were a few tiny chunks of toothsome beef but for the most part the chili had a very offputting runny quality and no beans to speak of.  Of course chili is one of the most personal preference-dependent foods in the world, so I’m not saying this chili was “wrong” the way a Chicago dog with ketchup would be!  It just didn’t make me want to have another at all.  Ever.

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The crinkle-cut fries were fine.   I tend to like my fries a little crispier, but crinkle-cut fries are what they have here.

I did just now read that they serve malted milkshakes, so I will likely visit again just to get my hands on one.  But I’ll be leaving that chili alone.

http://Chicago Hot Dog Company on Urbanspoon

Tortas Guicho Dominguez y El Cubanito: Delicious Tortas in Fountain Square

Tortas Guicho Dominguez y El Cubanito is one of the places I have been putting off reviewing because it holds a special place in my belly and needs to be done right.  The tortas themselves are the best I’ve had in town, and the tacos are addictively good traditional Mexican tacos.  But this is the place is also special because it’s where my equally pale and peckish dining companion won my heart by introducing me to not only a restaurant I’d never heard of, but to tortas as a food!  I might even think I was being swayed by sentimentality if it weren’t always full of other people hungry for these awesome sandwiches.

Right in the main part of the trendy Fountain Square district, Tortas Guicho is a fun building abutting South of Chicago and Bluebeard.  I would venture to say this makes it the single most delicious block in the state.  The building is tiny and fun and full of light and bachata tunes, a winning combination in my book.  Photo Jun 29, 1 41 17 PM Photo Jun 29, 1 41 53 PM

The menu features a few tacos, which many people visit for exclusively, but the offerings are by and large tortas.  Each torta is named after a Latin celebrity or country of the world and is served with mayonnaise, tomato, avocado, and these delicious cucumber slices sprinkled with lemon, salt, and I believe paprika. Of course, they also bring you enough gardiniera to keep you ordering drinks also.  

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My favorite torta is the Salma Hayek: chicken breast, ham & mozzarella, but I will be the first to admit that I have never been able to say no to Salma and order anything else.  

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On our most recent trip, Phil broke out of his steak and chorizo taco rut and ordered the special:  mole verde platter served with rice, beans, and corn tortillas.  We were both pretty underwhelmed with the dish at first, thinking it was intended to be eaten as an entree.  The server came out with the tortillas a few minutes later and, once wrapped in masa and dressed with spicy sauce, the ingredients came into their own.  I think he will go back to tacos on our subsequent visits, but I’m glad one of us finally tried something new.  Photo Jun 29, 1 58 00 PM

The prices here are very reasonable, the parking very easy, and the food wonderful and filling. The decision in your mind should not be whether or not to try Tortas Guicho, but what to pick first.

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http://Tortas Guicho Dominguez y el Cubanito on Urbanspoon

Crack Tacos from La Chinita Poblana


There’s a really cute story about Chinita Poblana and how she brought Asia to Mexcio or Mexico to Asia or something.  And maybe over dessert you can read about it on the back of the carryout menu, because it really is a good story.  But La Chinita Poblana doesn’t need a good story any more than it needs tables or chairs or a bathroom or waitresses.  Their tacos are just off the chain and that’s all there is to it.  IMG_1643

The tacqueria, which occupies the prime location just off Broadripple Ave previously owned by Boogie Burger, describes itself as “Asian Inspired Fusion.”  I think you probably have a sense of how hard I roll my eyes at anything “fusion,” but the combinations here work so well I’ve all but stopped cooking for myself.

It’s not just that you can get tacos, bubble tea, horchata, Mexican hot chocolate, peanut noodle salad, and hot and sour soup all in the same place.  It’s not just that they have chocolate banana egg rolls.  It’s that it’s all delicious.  REALLY delicious. And interesting.  This isn’t the kind of place you consider when you’re craving tacos- this is a place whose food you crave as it’s own genre.Photo May 17, 1 54 54 PM

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The bubble tea is actually a fresh fruit smoothie with boba in it.  My favorite used to be strawberry pineapple, but tonight the girl working the counter suggested adding coconut milk and now that’s my new favorite.  Photo May 17, 1 56 49 PMPhoto May 17, 1 47 17 PM

They also serve Jarritos, which is of course great.  The agua fresca is also wonderful-I love the strawberry limeade myself.

Guacamole is garlicky and spicy and my favorite in town, hands down.  The salsa is less of a favorite, but still good.Photo May 17, 1 49 58 PM

I’ve had the carnitas, steak, tongue, chicken, fish, shrimp, eggplant, tofu, and a variety of different specials and almost all of them have blown me out of the water.  (Shrimp and eggplant were not quite my speed.)  If it’s your first time, I’d get fish and steak.  They all are marinated with curry and anise and wonderful asian-inspired flavors, then topped with onion, cilantro, and avocado crema.  Photo May 17, 1 53 53 PM IMG_1635

I also love the hot and sour soup.  I also love the flan. I love everything.  And it’s not just me – this place offered 1000 Groupons this morning and they were sold out in an hour.  4 of them went to me.

This place has a fun atmosphere and a cool story and a great location and none of that even made the cut for this review because the food is just so damn tasty that I can’t even be bothered to care about those other things.  Please do yourself a favor and go try them soon.  And if they ever go out of business, don’t bother looking for me.  I’ve cast myself off a high cliff.

http://La Chinita Poblana on Urbanspoon