Sunday, January 31, 2010

Birthday Dinner: Honey in Northside

If I haven’t explicitly said this before, I will now, as this sentiment is always on my mind. When I want to have a nice dinner, I’m always torn between trying something new or going with something tried and true. This is especially true here in the Midwest, where there are some real vegetarian gems – especially with the abundance of nearby farms – as well as some big misses as there is a huge focus on meat. For my birthday, Alex offered to take me to either a really nice steakhouse (really -- they have great fresh made pasta) or our favorite Mexican place. Instead, I asked to try Honey.

We went on Saturday night and the place was packed, but we were lucky enough to grab two stools at the bar after standing for only a short time. From our corner seat, we were able to watch the solitary bartender handle requests from people at the bar as well as make drinks to go to tables. I was also impressed watching her professionalism as she ignored the awkward and inappropriate jokes of an older not-gentleman leaning over me to talk to her.

We sat at the bar for a while and shared the nearly-famous Honey fries. I’ve heard so much about the fries, and they did live up to the hype, although some of them were a little greasy for my taste and a few were burned to a black crisp. What makes the fries so special? Three types of potatoes are used: Yukon, russet, and sweet potatoes. These are cut shoestring-thin and fried, served with a sweet and hot chili-lime honey dipping sauce.

Honey 003Honey fries, $5

We moved to a table shortly after finishing our fries, and our waiter announced the specials like a high school drama student. Normally I don’t bother with specials as they’re typically not vegetarian; indeed, he mentioned a mushroom soup that piqued my interest until he revealed it’s made with veal stock. (Is that a fancy way of saying beef stock? Why specify that you’re using baby cows? I need to find a tactful way to tell the wait staff they don’t have to waste their breath.) Thankfully, by the time he got to the end of the specials, he told us about a vegan special with tofu. All I can say is – wow! What luck.

We had already had plenty of time to talk about what to order, but we decided to swap the vegetarian entree on the menu (aubergine, tomato, and bitter chocolate compote atop roasted root vegetable puree, local wilted greens, and roasted garlic brioche) for the vegan special. This also started with the roasted root vegetable puree, but it was topped with haricot vert, tofu, roasted sweet red pepper, and greens. The puree was very good, and it went perfectly with the tofu. The tofu was served in the largest pieces I have ever seen put onto a plate – there were two pieces and they were nearly two inches wide, two inches long, and at least four inches long. This made for an impressive presentation, but they were cool in the middle. Alex said that he didn’t mind this, so I ate a few warm bites from the end and passed it back to him. I did like the fresh greens on top and enjoyed this dish overall. It was unlike anything I’ve had before. You would think this tofu with a vegetable puree would be too mushy, but the texture was just fine.

Left, vegan special, $16; Right, Polenta and mozzarella over spinach, $9
Apologies for the ISO-grainy photos. I didn’t want to disturb the pleasant atmosphere with a flash.

I ordered a soup and a salad-type polenta dish. The waiter verified for me that there was no animal stock (although there is cream) in the smoky, spicy tomato soup. The soup was pleasantly spicy and brothy, which made it not quite like other tomato soups I’ve had. We shared the soup, as it came out first, along with bread and sweet butter that was perfectly spreadable and infused with sweet shallot.

The final dish we shared was the crisp honey laced polenta topped with fresh and smoked mozzarella cheeses, sautéed baby spinach, Sallie’s butternut squash, and Rouster’s apples. Rouster’s is an apple orchard in Milford, and I’m guessing Sallie is either the name of the farm or the inventor of the squash recipe. The squash and apples were identically diced and sweet, not overpowered with seasonings but rather well complimented. The polenta was cut in triangles and formed a three-tier sandwich with melted mozzarella holding them together. These were placed on top of tender baby spinach and topped with greens like the other dish. There was also a balsamic reduction on the plate which served as a perfect sweet and tangy sauce for the polenta.

We both enjoyed all the food we tried. Unfortunately, there are only two dishes we’d be willing to eat that we haven’t already tried. Well – dessert. The desserts all sounded incredible but we were both full, plus we’d been there nearly four hours already. I can see us coming back for dessert and a drink at the bar. Honey advertises itself as seasonal and local, so I’ll be happy to go back when there are new vegetarian offerings as new vegetables come into season. We both had a wonderful time.

If you go, keep in mind that they do take reservations. I should also mention that this dinner was a bargain. Alex paid, but I think we spent as much on drinks as we did on the food.

Honey on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Happy belated birthday, Jessica! Sounds like a lovely evening out.