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26 Feb 15:16

Design Mistake #2: The ‘Too Small Rug’

by Emily

Biggest Design Mistakes_buying rugs that are too small_roundup_emily henderson_expert advice

America has been suffering for too long from ‘too small rug’ syndrome. I see it virtually every day and it pains me, especially when it’s so easily avoided. I’ve been trying to figure out how this plague came to be I think I’ve finally nailed it:

1. Huge rugs can be expensive and can feel like such a scary commitment. 2. A 5×8 or 6×9 rug sound big even though they often aren’t. 3. Catalogs and magazines are misleading. I’ve styled a lot of catalogs where we have to use the sample size (months before the actual rug is available) and its only 5×7 so we ‘make it work’ and in the shot it’s okay, but in actuality that rug is way too small for the room. I also think that retailers know that 5x7s sell so much more because they are cheaper so they don’t stock 8×10’s in the store, so when people go to purchase they think, ‘Well, this must be big enough because its the biggest one’.  Also ordering and waiting is less fun, so people just snag up the 5×7. Lastly nothing is more annoying than getting a rug home and deciding it isn’t quite right, then having to return it – so I think people just don’t.

Click through to see 25 8×10 rugs under $500  …

A rug in a living room should really ground the whole seating around – it tells everyone that THIS is where the conversation is, this is the focal point of the room, and a too small rug makes it feel disjointed and really just cheapens everything.

Here are a bunch of pretty rooms that they’ve tried to convince us have big enough rugs. They don’t:

Rugs_too small_examples_1_with copy

Don’t listen to these rooms. They look fine in a photo because everything else is beautiful, but they are actually super awkward. If you have a beautiful rug like the one on the right (above) layer it over a huge sisal or another solid flat weave. I did that here and it totally worked.

These below are particularly funny to me because we are supposed to think that the people who own that art collection and that amazing loft space are fine with those teeny tiny awkward rugs:

Rugs_too small_examples_2_with copy

I think that the first rug might be a bathmat. It must have been some sort of product roundup shot because otherwise I have no idea why there is a task lamp on the coffee table or a collection of vessels on the bath mat.

Living rooms almost ALWAYS need at least an 8×10 if not a 9×12. You heard it. Unless you have a TINY living room, stay away from anything under 6×9. Considering a 4×6? Don’t. That’s fine for next to a bed, in a kitchen, entrance, etc, but a 4×6 will assuredly not work in your living room.

Here are the two exceptions – 1. If your living room is smallish and your sofa is up against a wall, then you can float a 6×9 rug in front of it. For some reason this doesn’t look awkward or too small, probably because the seating area already feels grounded and intimate because the room is smallish and the wall is helping ground everything. And 2. If you use a cowhide. For some reason because of the sculptural shape of the hide, it can be smaller and its still pretty.

rug-exceptions

But otherwise, your rug should be big enough for at least two legs of all your furniture to be on it, and ideally all four (but I know that is asking a lot).

My rule has always been to keep it consistent – don’t have your sofa completely on it if your lounge chairs are totally off of it. Its better for them all to be distributed equally, visually.

Rugs_right size_4

Often 8×10’s aren’t even big enough to get all furniture on it, so before you purchase make sure that your room can’t handle a 9×12 rug and if so, please get that. I’ve never walked into a huge living room with a big rug grounding a seating area and thought, ‘Woah, these idiots have such a big pretty rug!!’

Rugs_right size_2

You need to make sure that your rug is first and foremost proportioned to your sofa – if your sofa is 7′ long (standard is 7′ or 8′) then your rug better at least be 9′ wide so you have a foot on either side. AT LEAST!! But don’t think ‘Oh great, I can just get a 6×9′ because if your living room is pretty big then your rug also needs to be proportioned to your room. A too small rug can and will make your beautiful living room feel smaller, choppy and generally cheap.

Tough love, today, I know. I’ve just seen it so often and it saddens me. If you love your too small rug, please just layer it on an inexpensive LARGE sisal (Ikea and Target both have affordable ones).

Meanwhile to combat this syndrome, nay PLAGUE, we have done a roundup of 8×10 (OR LARGER) rugs under $500. Brady searched for days because well, 8×10’s for $249 aren’t exactly everywhere, but we feel confidant and happy to recommend these bad boys to you. We chose $500 because there are a lot of 8×10’s under $1000 that are easy to find but the $500 or under price point felt like a good challenge and within most people’s budgets.

Best Rugs under $500_budget rug_modern_midcentury_affordable_roundup_emily henderson

1. Criss Cross Rug | 2. Dot Tile Rug | 3. Wool Sweater Rug | 4. Yellow Striped Rug | 5. Grey Stripe Rug | 6. Mystic Blue Wool Rug |  7. Chunky Woven Jute Rug | 8. Elizabeth Blue Rug | 9. Gaser Shag Rug | 10. Fresno Shag Rug | 11. Royal Area Rug | 12. Mirage Diamond Rug | 13. Pattern Hemp Rug | 14. Grey Moroccan Rug | 15. Purple Wool Kilim | 16. Braided Wool Rug | 17. Navy Moroccan Rug | 18. Grey Striped Rug | 19. Neutral Morocco Rug | 20. South Padre Rug | 21. Overdyed Red Rug | 22. Blue Leather Rug | 23. Alvine Yellow Cross Rug  | 24. Montauk Blue Rug | 25. Panja Rug | 26. Black Diamond Rug

For additional tips and rug size info check out this video I made years ago.

May your living room feel more pulled together, grounded and proportioned. Good luck, friends.

For Design Mistake #1 (the generic sofa) please go here and check our favorite stylish sofas for under $1000.

This public service announcement was brought to you by every designer ever in the world and probably your mom, too. 

18 Feb 19:53

DIY Faux Stained Glass

by A Beautiful Mess

How to make a faux stained glass panel.Stained glass isn't just for cathedral windows or Irish pub windows. It's also for plain ol' windows in normal folks' homes, like mine! I've discovered that lots of cities have places where you can actually learn how to make authentic stained glass, but I wanted to see if I could get a similar look using glass paint and metal strips.

I love the way my faux stained glass panel turned out, but I did learn a few techniques for achieving the best results. Check out my process below and learn how to make your own faux stained glass look even prettier than mine!

How to make a faux stained glass panel.Supplies:
-glass panel (You can have a glass shop make one to fit your window or else remove glass from an unused picture frame if you don't need it to be a specific size.)
-lead adhesive strips (I used the entire package for this window.)
-glass paint (I preferred the consistency of the Gallery Glass brand to Martha Stewart.)
-backdrop paper
-marker
-sharp blade or scissors (I ended up preferring scissors)
-t-square or ruler

How to make a faux stained glass panel.Step One: Lay out your backdrop paper and trace the outline of your glass panel. If you are using a t-square, make sure the glass panel is square with your table before tracing. Then design your stained glass pattern with marker lines.

How to make a faux stained glass panel.Step Two: Lay the glass panel over the lines you made with the marker. Cover the lines with the lead strips that you cut to size with sharp scissors. I cut my pieces a bit longer than what I needed and then cut away tiny bits of the end until it fit perfectly. Use a stylus to press the metal strips into place. (The lead strips I used came with a stylus.)

Step Three: Outline the inside of each section of the design with glass paint. Be very careful to keep the line straight and go all the way up to the edge of the lead strips.

How to make a faux stained glass panel.Step Four: Fill in the outlined area with a thick layer of paint, and use the tip of your bottle to spread the paint around. To prevent bubbles and to smooth out the texture, use glass brushes instead of the tip of your bottle. I didn't use glass brushes and had trouble with the texture of my paint showing in the final product. If you get bubbles, use a tooth pick or needle to pop them.

Step Five: Fill in all of the sections of your design with paint, working so that your arm will not accidentally get into freshly painted sections. You may wish to take your time and do random sections across the glass and wait for the paint to dry before doing another round of random sections. That's what I did, and it saved my sanity from having to paint so many sections in one sitting!

How to make a faux stained glass panel.Advice for the best outcome:

Use the best glass paint. I liked the runnier consistency of the Gallery Glass paint to the thicker Martha Stewart paint, but if you do decide on Martha Stewart glass paint for the color selection, be sure to select the liquid fill paint, not the gloss or frost paint. It smooths out better.

Apply thick coats of paint. Don't try to skimp on your paint, as I did in a few of my sections. I was running out of paint and didn't want to take another trip to the store to buy another bottle. Thicker paint will settle nicely and give less of a textural design in the finish as the light shines through and highlights your brush strokes.

Finish off the joints of your metal strips. Something I didn't do with my panel is to dab pewter glass outliner onto the joints to give a more realistic finish to the leaded strips. This will also fill in any gaps where your lead strips may have been ever so slightly too short. This is an added expense, but will give an added air of authenticity to your faux glass panel.

How to make a faux stained glass panel.I bought mirror hanging hardware to mount this panel in my kitchen window, but I didn't end up having a wide enough mounting surface in my window trim to use the hardware, but the window trim along my window sill did provide a nice ledge to lean the panel against my existing window. I'm still on the hunt for the perfect hardware to secure the panel in place, but for now it's sitting pretty right here behind my kitchen sink giving me some much needed privacy next to the front door of our house. -Mandi

Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with Stella and Valentine from the Signature Collection.

23 Feb 20:26

Colorblocked Scratching Post DIY

by A Beautiful Mess

So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)           If you have a cat (or two!) and have ever roamed the pet store aisles looking for a good scratching post, then you probably already know about my personal anguish. Our cat Mac has taken to occasionally scratching on a few rugs and chairs that I would rather keep "unshredded", so I thought we should get him a post so he can direct his scratching instinct in a more positive direction. The problem with cat scratching posts is that most of them are pretty, well, boringly hideous. I mean, if I want a piece of furniture that's going to stand out in my house, I want it to be a cool vintage chair or plant stand, not a dull-looking scratching post. Thankfully, what's a girl to do when she can't find what she wants already made? You guessed it, DIY to the rescue!

So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)              We’re happy to be working with Fancy Feast, who just launched their Broths with Chicken (you can see Mac is loving it!). It's part of their #WaysToWow campaign, sharing tips to wow our furry little buddies. As part of our partnership, Fancy Feast is making an additional donation to Humane America Animal Foundation (behind Adopt-a-pet.com), who helps homeless pets get out of shelters and into loving homes. It's in conjunction with the brand's history of raising awareness about shelter animals.

You may already know, but I have a pretty big heart for the humane society and pet adoption. I adopted our first kitty Charlie over three years ago, and we loved her so much that we adopted a little brother named Mac for her a year ago. Since I have a husband that is on the road touring a lot for his musician job, it can be really lonely when he's out of town, and I have to say that the loneliness was really getting me down. As soon as I got sweet Charlie though, it was a million times more fun to be home alone and so comforting just to have another heartbeat around the house. Mac's playful spirit (and constant willingness to cuddle) has brought even more joy, and I always tell people that I feel like they rescued me instead of the other way around. I love those furry babies so much. 

Supplies:
-18" round wood circle
-4x4 wooden fence post (about 20" tall)
-drill and long wood screws
-white 4x4" post cap
-white paint
-150 ft of 1/4" nylon rope*
-pink and yellow dye
-bucket and salt (to dye the rope)
-staple gun (or hammer and small nails)
-white and pink (or white and yellow) electrical tape

*It seems like sisal rope is actually the rope of choice for scratching posts (I think it holds up to long-term scratching better), but it looked like I could get a brighter dye color and a whiter white with the nylon rope instead. Either rope works though and the sisal can be dyed as well.

So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)           So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)           So, the first thing you'll want to do is attach your post to your round platform. Find the middle of your platform, place the post in the middle, and use a pencil to trace around the edges of the post so you can see where to put the screws. Use a drill bit that's slightly smaller than your wood screws and drill four holes within your marked square that go all the way through to the other side of the platform. Flip the platform over and line up your traced square to be on top of your post (so basically your whole scratching post should be sitting upside down). Since you pre-drilled your holes all the way through the wood, you should be able to see where to screw in your four wood screws from the underside to secure the platform to the pole. (Get someone to help hold it in place if you need to while you drill. It's a bit awkward to hold yourself) Flip the scratching post right side up when you're done and paint the bottom platform with a few coats of white paint.

 

So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)           To dye your rope, you'll want to get a bottle of dye for each of your colors (I chose pink and yellow). Since I wanted three colors of rope to color block with, I dyed 50 ft pink, 50 ft yellow, and left 50 ft white. Fill a large bucket halfway with hot water and add 1/3 cup of salt to the water (the salt helps to set the dye). Mix in your first dye color and stir. You can control the color you want by adding more dye, more water, or simply leaving the rope in for longer or shorter amounts of time (I did one full bottle of color and left the rope in for 30 minutes). Just keep checking the rope to see how it's progressing and leave it in longer or add more dye if you want a darker color. When you are happy with the color, pour out the dye and rinse the rope in cool water until the color runs clear. You'll really want to rinse the rope until all excess dye is removed so you don't end up with dye on your kitties' paws. If you would rather not use a manufactured dye, you can also look into some natural dye options as well, but if you rinse the rope really well, the dye shouldn't transfer from the rope.

So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)   Once your rope is rinsed, hang it up or place it on a cookie sheet in a big pan to air dry.

So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)   After the rope has dried, take your white rope and staple gun the end to the bottom of the post. (You could also use small nails instead of a staple gun.) Wrap the rope around the post as tightly as you can, pushing down on the rows every so often to make sure they are packed tightly together. 

So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)   When it comes time to change colors, cut your white rope, take your white electrical tape and connect the end of the white rope to the beginning of your pink rope. The trick with electrical tape is that you want to pull on it and stretch it while you wrap it—that's what makes it really secure. Continue to wrap your pink rope around the pole and repeat the process of joining ropes again with the pink or yellow electrical tape when you switch to yellow rope, and again with the white tape when you switch back to the white rope to finish the pole. Remember to wrap tightly and push down on the rows every so often. 

So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)   To finish your rope wrapping, cut your rope and secure the end with electrical tape. Use your staple gun to secure the rope end onto the pole. Glue your post cap onto the top of your post (I just used a simple epoxy glue to secure mine), and you're ready to show kitty the new scratching post!

So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)             So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)          So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)            I rubbed some catnip onto the sides of the post and brought Mac in to check it out. I did a few scratching motions myself on the post and it didn't take him very long to give it a try himself! If your cats aren't already using a scratching post, you may need a few tips to get them used to using the new scratching routine (check out this post for ideas). And man, I still really love those junk food cat toys I made recently and they still play with them everyday...

I have to say, I was a little worried that a cute scratching post might not be possible, but I'm so pleased with how this came out! Since the colors and feel of the post match the rest of our home aesthetic, it really blends in with the rest of the room and doesn't awkwardly stand out (and of course you can change the dye colors to match whatever your home colors are). It's cute, functional, and the kitties love it. So I would say it's a win for everyone! xo. Laura

 Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

track
16 Feb 10:00

Pizzology - Mass Ave

by Erin in Indy

I hit up Pizzology on Mass Ave with a friend for lunch the other day. It was actually my first time going to the new location. Well, I guess it’s no longer the newest location, now that the one in West Clay has opened. It’s been awhile since I’d been to Pizzology and I was looking forward to seeing what was new on the menu.

The first thing we shared were the artichoke fritters ($8). I hadn’t seen them before and they were really, really good. Of course, I am a total sucker for artichokes. They were gooey and cheesy with nice bits of artichoke rolled into a ball and deep-fried. The cheese they use is goat cheese and there was also lemon in there, so they were nice and tangy, which you know is totally my thing. They were super crisp and hot and dusted with salt. They serve them with a roasted Fresno aioli—it was really nice with them too. Not heat spicy, but a nice deep chili pepper flavor combined with the creamy rich mayo.

We also shared a pizza that I had never had before—and one that was new on the menu since I had last been to Pizzology (like I said, it’s been awhile). The pizza was the rosmario ($13.50). It’s a white pizza (no red sauce). It’s topped with mild, earthy fontina cheese, wood-roasted mushrooms, rosemary and caramelized onions. It sounded like a unique and really tasty combo to me. It was good, but it didn’t have as much flavor as I expected with rosemary as one of the ingredients—the use of rosemary was fairly light. I liked the flavor of the mushrooms. You can tell they’ve been roasted in the wood-burning oven.  I think a little sprinkle of sea salt on top might complement the rosemary flavor. I do like the crust here—and we got a little taste of the red sauce too by asking for a side of the marinara to dip our crusts in—a nice way to get a little bit of both worlds. Honestly though between the two, the fritters are what stood out for me.

I like the spacious interior of the Mass Ave location—and the big open kitchen is a cool thing to watch. I wasn’t a fan of sitting on one of the bar stool tables along the window—if you sit on the window side (it’s a banquette type of bench), I was too far from the table. No problem for me, we just switched because it wasn’t that busy yet. Our server was very friendly and let us know when there was a mistake in our order and corrected it quickly. A nice addition to Mass Ave.


Pizzology
608 Massachusetts Ave
Indy 46204
317/685-2550

Pizzology Mass Ave on Urbanspoon
11 Feb 11:56

Why are we so Afraid of Color? {In Kitchens and Bathrooms}

by Naomi

As much as I love decorating (textiles, chairs, lamps, mirrors oh my!) kitchens and bathrooms continue to be my favorite spaces to design.  Perhaps it’s the blending of architectural elements with more decorative softer touches.  I love specifying millwork with special details, laying out tile patterns, accentuating lighting with the perfect pendant or sconce.  Compared to a living room with lots of textiles and furnishings, these spaces usually have less materials, making each selection more profound and important.

Kitchens and bathrooms tend to be more “permanent” renovations.  Remodels are lengthy, messy and expensive.  I find that people tend to be much more risk adverse when remodeling these rooms.  There is a much greater concern over creating a timeless look vs a trendy design.  After all, changing out a pillow in a living room is no big deal, but swapping out a tile backsplash in a kitchen is not so cheap or easy.  I totally GET wanting a kitchen that will look classic in 10 years, I wouldn’t want to spend a lot of money to then have it look dated within a decade.  Buttttt does classic have to mean a white kitchen?  I often wish I got more calls to do more colorful kitchens.  People are open to color in other areas, so why not in the heart of the home?

pink and orange bathroom

As much as I love a bold statement of color and pattern,  you can add a special punch to your kitchen or bathroom without going 110%.  I adore the bathroom above…. but not for my home.

So how do you add more color into these functional rooms in a smart and dare I say “safe” way?  Here are tips to be classic yet colorful in your kitchen and bathroom.

 

#1 A colorful base cabinet paired with classic white backsplash tile (or light wall.)

I think of this as updated classic.  Keep the architectural lines clean and let the color on the cabinets do the talking. The light walls keep the room from feeling overly saturated.

blue base cabinets

I love this kitchen so much!  The choice of a navy blue base cabinet is so rich and warm.  White counters, subway tile, a traditional beaded inset cabinet all give this kitchen a classic look.

green base cabinets

orange vanity

Hallie Henley Design

#2 Mix white perimeter cabinets with a bold colorful island

When the majority of the kitchen is clean and crisp, you can go a little bolder on the island!  You can even pair the white perimeter with a special tile or wallcovering that ties into the island.  The white cabinet will help balance the space and keep it from feeling too busy.

white cabinets with blue siland

Sarah Richardson

orange island

green island blue wallpaper

wallpaper in a kitchen?  be still my heart.

#3 Barely there color feels soft, clean, yet interesting.

Not feeling a bold hue?  A soft pastel can be absolutely gorgeous and equally compelling against a white backdrop.  Especially fitting in a bathroom.

 

violet cabinets 2

lilac cabinets

Wow, this bathroom is amazing!!  The soft color is just the perfect accent and looks great against brass fixtures.

mint cabientry bathroom

Colorful cabinets too much for you?  Here are a few ways to incorporate colors on a smaller scale.

#4 Leave the cabinets neutral but add a colorful pantry or door.

yellow pantry

green door pantry

#5 Subtle Saturation at its best.  Skip color on the walls, but add it to the ceiling!

white bathroom blue ceiling

Beth Webb

blue ceiling in kitchen

 

In reviewing these rooms, I see a few general takeaways.

– Color is a great way to add interest in rooms that do not big architectural details.  Low ceilings or no major mouldings?  Color may be that necessary addition in your space.

– White is a great counter-balance to color.  It quiets and brightens the space and keeps the attention on where you want it.

– Speaking of white- if you go for colorful cabinets, white or gray counters tend to work best.  Marble, quartzite, or quartz look great paired with a little color.

– If your cabinets are colorful, you don’t need to splurge on a fancy door style.  Keep it simple!

– A little color goes a long way.  (I prefer color on a few cabinets than splashing it all over the bare walls)

– Kitchen specific- the less wall cabinets you have, the more colorful the base cabinets.  Keeping the color below eye level makes a colorful space feel brighter and more open.

2183202_Befor024

lots of windows, limited upper cabinets, lots of lovely!

***

If you would like help creating the kitchen of your dreams, please reach out to us- {naomi at designmanifest.com}

We’d love to design kitchens, colorful or not.

13 Feb 00:14

Ind. Gov't. - More on: Pence rationale for abolishing State Library Genealogy Department

by Marcia Oddi
In an updated post this afternoon the ILB quoted the recommendation of the Office of Management and Budget re the...
09 Feb 20:37

Public Finance Director Moves on to Private Firm

An Indianapolis-based engineering firm has added the state's former public finance director to its executive team. Kendra York is now director of planning services and economic development at American Structurepoint.
04 Feb 14:58

Ind. Gov't. - "When You Die, Who Can Read Your Email?" Indiana among those considering new law [Update]

by Marcia Oddi
That is the headline to this Feb. 1 WSJ report by Rachel Emma Silverman. A few quotes:A controversial new state...
06 Feb 16:40

Ind. Gov't. - Pence budget would eliminate the state genealogy department

by Marcia Oddi
What is the Genealogy department? Here is the state government website, that explains:The Genealogy Collection has developed over time to...
11 Dec 13:11

The 2014 Holiday Dinner: Pork Loin Roast with Sicilian Cauliflower

by Cara

Pork Loin Roast with Sicilian Cauliflower | Big Girls Small Kitchen

This time of year, holiday parties ferry us out of our apartments and away from our kitchens–at the moment when we need home-cooked food the most, to balance out the frosted cookies and chocolate gelt. It can be wildly fun to be out at restaurants and bars, sipping themed cocktails and standing by the kitchen door in order to capture the first edition of each hors d’oeuvres. But, as a cook, I sometimes wish that some of the festive food came from our pots.

We do turn on the oven, of course, to bake (and there are lots of cookie, candy, and cake coming your way really soon). So far this December, I have been trying to come home to the kitchen when I can, to make chicken stock weekly, to eat some greens, and to pack carrots sticks with lunch. We’ll see how long into cookie season that lasts.

Those aren’t the only two options. Another thing entirely is to host some version of a holiday celebration yourself. This isn’t necessarily competition with the office party or the, er, FriendsMas/Friendsmakkuh fest, but a quieter affair, maybe with a few family members or friends from the neighborhood who can help you put ornaments on your tree. Serve them a garlicky roasted pork loin and a side of seasoned cauliflower that picks up the roast’s simple Italian vibe–and then end things with a contrastingly creamy maple creme brulee, potentially.

Or, keep this for yourself and save remaining portions as leftovers. The double roast–pork and vegetable–is a simple weeknight dinner at heart, even though it has the soul of a holiday meal.

**Recipe**

Pork Loin Roast with Sicilian Cauliflower
Serves 4

The pork recipe I borrowed this from calls for an overnight marination. If you have forethought or prefer to make a mess in advance, you should smother the pork in the garlic-herb mash the night before, then leave the roast at room temperature before cooking. You could make the cauliflower dressing at the same time. That’d mean all the work to be done on the day of is to roast pork and cauliflower. But if that doesn’t make sense with your schedule,  just follow the recipe as written.

Ingredients

For the pork (adapted from Food52)
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
a lot of black pepper
Pinch dried or fresh rosemary
Pinch dried or fresh thyme
One 1 1/2 pound pork loin roast

For the cauliflower
1 tablespoon minced chives
1 tablespoon minced parsley
Zest of 1 lemon
1 anchovy, finely minced (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the cauliflower
2 tablespoons raisins
1 tablespoon lemon
1 teaspoon capers
Salt
1 head cauliflower, broken into florets

First, marinate the pork. Combine the garlic, oil, salt, red pepper, black pepper, rosemary, and thyme in a food processor and pulse to combine. Rub this onto the pork roast, set it on a parchment-lined baking pan, and leave at room temperature for 45 minutes.

At the same time, make the dressing for the cauliflower: in a large bowl, combine the chives, parsley, lemon zest, anchovy, olive oil, raisins and capers. Sprinkle with a little salt. Let this marinate while you cook the cauliflower and pork.

Place the cauliflower florets on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt, and mix to distribute.

When the pork has sat at room temp for a while, preheat the oven to 425° F. Roast the pork loin, fat side-up, for 25 minutes. Roast the cauliflower at the same time.

After 25 minutes, remove the cauliflower and toss it into the bowl with the chive-anchovy-lemon dressing. Lower the heat to 300°F and allow the pork to continue to cook until the center reaches 140°F, 20 to 30 minutes. If you have a thermometer, check often

08 Dec 10:40

Burgerhaus

by Erin in Indy
I kept forgetting about this place. Unfortunately, I think part of it may be its location. It’s on the canal, which I hope becomes a more well-traversed place, but when the weather is really bad, it’s hard to imagine the location to be a super popular one. Also, it doesn’t help that the parking is a bit confusing. But just so you know, there is a garage that is attached to the restaurant—just drive west on 9th Street until it dead ends. There’s a parking garage there that you can park in for free if you ask for a validation from the restaurant (park on the bottom level and you can park right at one of the restaurant’s entrances).

I met my friend @wibia—he’s always willing to try a new burger place. We ate early and we’re the only ones there for a while. Like I said, I worry about this location—the crowd picked up a bit, but the place was never very busy. I ordered the “Haus burger” ($9). You get to pick your cheese and add additional items if you like. They come standard with bibb lettuce, tomato and sliced red onions.  I just got cheddar (it’s white cheddar) and told them to leave the tomato off because I am wary of tomatoes in the winter. I also asked them to add garlic may—I find often a special sauce on a burger can really make a difference. They also asked how we wanted them cooked. I ordered mine medium and wibia medium rare. I was interested to see how this came out. I liked the soft brioche bun—it held up well to the burger but was soft enough to squish down so it wasn’t so big. The lettuce and red onion were nice and fresh and crisp and I liked that they use bibb lettuce because I like the relative softness of it—I hate when you get a big piece of hard Romaine heart on a sandwich. I also liked the thick cut dill pickle slices served on the side of the burgers.

The cheese was nice and melty and I appreciated the additional moisture from the mayo, particularly since, as it turned out, they did not cook that burger medium. I would say well done was more like it. And @wibia’s burger was at best, medium-well. Sigh. I mean, it was still decent because the beef was high quality, but it could have been a lot better if it was actually cooked to order. 


As for the flavor of his burger, he tried one of their combinations, the Monaco ($13). This had a beef burger, white cheddar cheese, sautéed onions and mushrooms, avocado, arugula and burgundy wine mayo served on a pretzel bun. It sounded interesting and included all things that I like for sure. Not sure how I felt about it all together. It may have been just a little much. It was kind of so many things; you couldn’t really appreciate any of them a lot. I was not a fan of this pretzel bun because it was really dense. I guess in some ways that is good to hold up to so many toppings, but the top of the bun didn’t mush down and it was one that was for me, hard to fit into my mouth. Overall, I preferred mine with fewer toppings and the softer bun.

We both had fries alongside our burgers. They were served in very cute little miniature fry baskets, and were fresh and fairly crisp. There just wasn’t anything about them that really stood out. They were just kind of middle of the road fries. They do offer a bunch of fries prepared and topped in different ways—I’d be tempted to see if they would offer this with the side of fries. Spicy blue cheese or garlic parmesan sounds good.

I’m glad to see a new restaurant going in along the canal. It is certainly an underserved area. As far as the food goes, it was a decent average burger for me. Not sure it was enough to make me want to go out of my way to get another one. There were some tasty sounding things on the appetizer menu—I wonder how they are? And there’s a fairly extensive craft beer list (And I like the way they give you beer pairing suggestions with many of the food items), but you know that’s not luring me in. Anyone else been?

Burgerhaus
335 West 9th Street
Indy 46202
317/434-HAUS
15 Dec 10:00

Bento Café

by Erin in Indy
My friend Suzanne and I often seem to be swayed by Asian places, and a couple of people had mentioned Bento Café in Fishers to me so we decided to give it a try. It’s a cute place inside—nicer than a lot of Asian restaurants, with some modern décor and a fairly spacious dining area. If it was a little closer, it’s a place I’d try for dinner with the kids.

We started out with an order of the seafood gyoza ($4.50) and Suzanne got a bowl of egg drop soup ($2). The soup was pretty standard egg drop—a thickened chicken broth with wisps of egg in it—it had a lot of egg in it. Not really anything else in there. The gyoza (6 in an order) were really, really good. If you aren’t familiar, gyoza is just the Japanese name for dumplings—they are basically like pot stickers, only the wrapper on these is super thin and light. You can get them with various fillings, but the seafood we chose was really good and I would recommend it. It was a light mix of seafood that was probably dominated by shrimp. They were served with a light soy based sauce that had some vinegar in it. A little lighter version of the sauce you usually get with potstickers. You could tell they were housemade and very fresh. I would get these again in a second.

We also ordered two sushi rolls. They have a pretty extensive sushi menu, from really simple to very complex. We ordered the “Sweetie” roll ($11.95) and the “Oh My God” roll ($9.95). I think my favorite was the Oh My God roll even though it was enormous. It had shrimp tempura and avocado on the inside and then (a lot of) spicy tuna and tempura crunch on the outside and was topped with masago (those teeny fish eggs), eel sauce, and some scallions. Generally these are all some of my favorite items in a sushi roll. It had the right amount of crunch between the fried shrimp and the tempura bits. The tuna wasn’t the super high quality you sometimes get with spicy tuna—more of a fine, almost puree. But it still tasted good, even if we had to cut them in half with a knife to eat them.

The sweetie roll had avocado and salmon inside as well as some tempura crunch (you know I like that crunch). It was topped with thin slices of salmon that I think were lightly seared (or torched) and then spicy mayo and salmon roe. Maybe this one didn’t have quite enough variety in taste or something, because while it was good, I didn’t like it as much. I am not a huge fan of salmon roe either because sometimes it tends to be a little too fishy. This roll was a little smaller, but we still tended to cut the pieces in half to eat them.

All in all, I was intrigued by this place. Those dumplings were good enough that I would want to go back and try more of the non-sushi side of the menu (even though there are lots of other interesting sushi rolls on the menu too). There are some noodle dishes that sound good as well as bento boxes that have lots of different combos you can try several things.

Bento Café
9778 E. 116th Street
Fishers, IN 46037
317/578-8803


Bento Cafe on Urbanspoon
18 Dec 10:00

Thunderbird - Revisit

by Erin in Indy
I hadn’t been to Thunderbird since shortly after it opened, and had enjoyed my visits then. I had heard since that the menu had changed a lot and was more toward a sandwich and fries genre, which wasn’t exciting me to try again. So when I heard they had gone back to a more interesting menu again, with someone new in the kitchen, I looked forward to going back. 

We started with some cocktails because that’s their thing at Thunderbird right? So I had the Murder City Devil ($10) with two kinds of rum, Ancho Chili liquer, lime, grapefruit, and pomegranate demera (a sweet simple syrup). And it was on fire. Well, my lime was on fire. It was tasty—a little heat and a fair amount of acid and sweetness. I couldn’t drink more than one though and switched to wine after. One friend had the “Roppongi Sour” ($10), a lighter drink made with gin, Midori, lime, sugar, egg white, cucumber, salt and bitters. It was tasty too, although maybe a bit on the sour side for some. They do a nice job with cocktails here, and the cocktail service is speedy.

Since we were with friends so we started right off with an order of the deviled eggs ($2 each) of the day. Luckily they were with us, because hubby is hard to convince of deviled eggs on most days. According to the menu, the preparation of the eggs changes daily—on this day they were doing a smoked whitefish version and they were really, really outstanding. In fact, we ended up ordering a second order because we liked them so much (and because the kitchen was a bit overwhelmed and it was a little slow to get our food). They tasted extremely fresh and the eggs were cooked just right so the white wasn’t over hard and the filling was light and fluffy with just the right amount of the fish flavor and a fair amount of acid (lemon I am guessing.) These were the best deviled eggs I’ve had out.

They also brought us a plate of an item that was not on the menu—something they’re trying out I guess. They were crispy polenta sticks with a cheesy sauce. They were super crisp on the outside and very soft on the inside—a fun take on a version of a fry. I enjoyed them.

Sadly, I really wanted to try the chicken liver nuggets, but they were all out. Apparently they are very popular and they go through a lot. I still need to try them. We did try the pimento cheese grilled cheese ($9), the fried chicken ($18), the pork belly ($14) and two sides—the mac and cheese ($8) and the “Kill Lettuce” ($5). By far, the favorite was the pimento cheese grilled cheese.  They give you a nice toasty sandwich filled with a pimento cheese and it’s is sitting on top of a mustard slaw  with some bread and butter pickles. I really enjoyed the mustardy heat and acid from the slaw with the sandwich. I just wish I got to have more than one quarter of it—I would get this again.

The pork belly was pretty good as well-the meat tender with a decent amount of flavor. We kind of argued about how much everyone liked it. Some definitely more than others. The stuff underneath was a bit underwhelming for me. There was a waffle, collards and apple butter as well as a fried cheddar cracker. There was just not a good balance here for me with the sides, all of it was a bit sweet, but also a bit bland.

The fried chicken was the most disappointing for me. It suffered the fate of not very good fried chicken in that it was overcooked. The white meat was dry and the dark meat a tad rubbery. The sides here, biscuits and more slaw weren’t helping much. The slaw is good, as it was with the pimento cheese sandwich, but the biscuits were super floury and dry. They were crying out for some gravy to cover them. The crust on the chicken was nice and crisp and had some decent seasoning, but not enough to save the chicken inside. To be fair, the place was slammed, particularly the kitchen and I think they were a little overwhelmed.

Speaking of sides, we also got the mac and cheese and the “kill lettuce”. I really liked the kill lettuce, which is a bowl of nice fresh leaf lettuce topped with a warm vinaigrette with big dices of crispy bacon in it. The lettuce wilts down and the vinaigrette was pretty spot on with lots of, well, vinegar. This was a perfect balance to all the other richer dishes we had ordered. The mac and cheese was pretty solid with caramelized onions and green chiles, another good accompaniment to the other items, and honestly, I preferred it as a starch with the pork and the chicken.

The beignets we had for dessert reminded me more of doughnut holes than beignets, but they were tasty cinnamon and sugar coated doughnut holes and we enjoyed them.

Overall, we had a really fun time. The friends we took had never been to Thunderbird and really enjoyed the place—they have done a great job with the interior of the place and it always seems to have a good buzz. I’m glad to see the menu has gone back to the sort of “creative southern” cooking that they started with and several items were very good. I look forward to trying some other things soon. And as always, it’s a great place to get a cocktail.

Thunderbird
1127 Shelby Street
Indy 46203
317/974-9580


03 Feb 15:14

Affordable Upholstered Headboards

by Heather

Tufted Upholstered Headboard | Decor FixHello, friends! Today we are talking headboards. I’m sharing my thoughts on and have scouted several affordable upholstered headboards from around the web for under $400. I priced them all for queen sized beds. One is even less than $140. Can’t beat that. If you’re contemplating a purchase, here are some things to consider…

UPHOLSTERED HEADBOARDS

PROS:
1. Comfort: Very comfy if you like to sit up in bed to read, watch TV, or use electronics. An upholstered headboard makes your bed moonlight as sofa, while solid framed headboards aren’t as conducive to sitting up right.
2. Looks: Upholstered headboards are gorgeous, and a fabric covered piece softens the look of heavier wood or metal furniture used in the rest of a bedroom.

CONS: 
1. Bad for Allergies: They get dusty. Fast. Cleaning is a must, especially if you have allergies. I typically try to vacuum my headboard every now and then (or once a year). #keepingitreal
2. Show Stains: They can be difficult to clean. As opposed to a wood or metal headboard, upholstery tells all your late-night-snacking-in-bed secrets.

Affordable Upholstered HeadboardsSOURCES
Roma Tufted Wingback // Safavieh Halmar Arched // Skyline Nailhead 
Dane Nail Trim // Skyline Arched Nailhead Insert // Loft Concept Tannyson
Berkshire Stripe // Gerber Elsie // Canopy Stripe Loran
Nailhead Linen in Laguna // Hedron Velvet in Teal // Skyline Nailhead in Sage

Ok, so technically the Gerber Elsie red and white floral pattern headboard is $404, but it HAD to be included. It reminds me so much of Grace Bonny’s famous Otomi headboard DIY. I would love to go bold and do something like this one day. It will probably take finding a fabric that I know I’d want to stare at every day for years. Grace Bonny's red and white headboard

If you’re a DIY type, Sarah M. Dorsey has a fabulous and simple tutorial for making your own upholstered headboard, which could open up a world of possibilities with fabric options.

We’ve had this one from Target for 4 years now, and it’s served us well. Honestly, I was over it for a while and wanted something fresh. A new bed wasn’t in the budget, so I draped one of my favorite textured throws over it. This is how it looks most days…Upholstered Headboard | Decor Fix

Yes, the iPhone wielding toddler is a regular too.

The post Affordable Upholstered Headboards appeared first on Decor Fix.

29 Jan 12:06

Utility, IURC Reach Rate Increase Settlement

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission has approved a settlement agreement with Indiana American Water Co. over a rate increase request made last year. The utility says most of its residential customers' bills will increase by less than one percent.
29 Jan 15:20

Design Mistake #1: The Generic Sofa

by Emily

I get this question all the time in interviews: What is the #1 mistake that people make when designing (or shopping for) their home? After doing so many makeovers over the last 5 years of real people, I’ve found some consistent solid mistakes to avoid. So, I started writing a post about it and that post was like 15 pages long. I figured that obviously this could be a series.

Biggest Design Mistakes_buying generic furniture_roundup_emily henderson_expert advice

I’m not sure there is a #1 mistake, but buying cheap generic furniture is up there. So often I come into a house and the people have good taste, but they already had a sofa that we had to work with, and that sofa was bad. They didn’t want to replace it because it wasn’t that old and they didn’t mind it. I’ve had to break the news to them over and over, that with this sofa they will never get the room they want. Sure, we have worked with said sofa, and done the best we could, but trust me that a big bad sofa in your room is a bummer (and I’ve never even really blogged about those projects).

But just saying ‘don’t buy cheap generic furniture’ is kinda a dick thing to say. I’m not saying buy expensive sofas (at all) nor am I suggesting to buy super stylized sofas. No one loves a simple sofa more than me because they are so easy to style. But there are some sofas that transcend bad in a way that is hard to come back from; bad fabric, bad shape, weird curved legs or winged arms, multiple fabrics and just what I like to all ‘try-hard’ details. Those are the details that are screaming at you, saying ‘HEY!!! I’M FANCY! LOOK AT ALL MY TUFTS AND NAILHEADS AND CONTRASTING SEAMS, AND SHINY FABRIC, ETC’. Its like putting a hideous, yellow, 80’s bad prom dress on your screaming pet hyena. You are already embarrassed that you have a hyena as a pet, so you don’t really need to attract more attention to it, right?

Here are sofa shapes/styles that you should avoid. If you need more examples simply google image search ‘couch’. It ain’t pretty out there.

Sofas to avoid_roundup_emily henderson

Some of the things on that list could be fine, by the way. I really like this winged sofa, this winged sofa and I don’t mind this vintage two-toned sofa, so if your sofa fits into any of those categories and now you are crying, know that I’m speaking in generalities and it still depends on the sofa (and if you actually own one of these, I’m sorry!!).  Also some of those could be fine if the fabric was different, or if the legs were updated (see me backtracking?? I feel bad already).

I started to think about why people buy generic/bad sofas and I think its two different reasons: cost and availability. These are sofas that are generally inexpensive, and don’t have a long lead time – you can get them in under a week, not the usual 8- 10 weeks that even Pottery Barn and Room and Board have. They tend to be from those ‘furniture liquidation’ or ‘Dave’s Furniture’ stores that are in every town. You can actually go in and sit on them, make the decision together, get it within a week, etc. I get it. I can’t really solve that last problem – those stores just need to start carrying better furniture.

But, until stores across America start selling better furniture, I wanted to present to you some other super inexpensive options that you can buy online and have shipped to you. These sofas are all under $600. That, my friends, is crazy.

Best Sofas under $600_budget sofa_modern_midcentury_affordable_roundup_emily henderson

1. Target Grey Convertable Sofa | 2. Roscoe Grey Sofa | 3. Zuo White Sofa  | 4. Everett Sofa Grey | 5. UO Grey Convertable Sofa |6. Brown Leather Sofa | 7. Navy Convertable Sofa | 8. Grey Tufted Sofa | 9. Retro Chestnut Sofa | 10. Bradley Grey Linen | 11. Tufted White Sofa | 12. Light Blue Sofa | 13. Sienna Futon Grey | 14. Black Leather Couch

You can’t argue with those prices.

Have I personally sat on them? Can I vouch for their quality, comfort and the conditions of where/how they were produced? NO. But are they such better options than your average $500 sofa? YES. Plus, they are all available for purchase online with no lead time (besides delivery, obviously).

For those of you who can spend a bit more ($600 – $1000) I’d like to introduce you to some SURPRISINGLY good inexpensive sofas. Some are from fine retailers that you know (Cb2, West Elm, Target, Urban Outfitters, etc) and some are from surprising retailers that happen to have pretty good inexpensive sofas (Lamps Plus, for instance).

Best Sofas under $1000_budget sofa_modern_midcentury_affordable_roundup_emily henderson_revised1

 

1.Grey and Wood Tufted Sofa | 2. Grey Haze Sofa| 3. Cherie Teal Sofa | 4. Larson Grey Sofa | 5. Tufted Tan Velvet Sofa | 6. Pink Rue Sofa | 7. Albion Sofa | 8. Rachel Slipcover Cream | 9. Grey Wool Tufted | 10. Tufted Highback Blue | 11. Black Leather Sofa | 12. Grey Sofa Bed | 13. Tufted Grey Chesterfield | 14. Midcentury Modern Grey and Wood |

Of course my best recommendation for buying inexpensive but better quality furniture is to go the used/vintage route (Craigslist, KrrbLA, flea market) plus it’s better for the earth. A $399 sofa does provoke the question ‘How is that possible???‘ and I’m really scared of the answer.

But you know what always irritates me is when rich pretentious fashion editors advise us that we should simply save and ‘invest’ in that perfect $600 blazer or $1200 pair of boots that will last for 6 generations, Its like obviously, that is a good idea, if you have that kinda cash lying around in your walk-in LisaVanderpump closet. I remember being so broke in my 20’s that every time I read that in a magazine I would scream, YOU ARE RICH AND YOU PROBABLY GOT THOSE BEAUTIFUL ‘INVESTMENT’ CHLOE BOOTS FOR FREE!!!!! For us normal people when its Friday afternoon and you have fun plans to go out that night and you have $450 in your bank account, a trip to Forever 21 to buy a fun top whose hem will probably rip out within weeks, just makes you so happy. Same with your home – when you don’t have an extra $2 -$4k to drop on that awesome sofa, sometimes just having a new, simple, inexpensive one will make you so much happier when you walk through that door.  Then when you get rich you can buy this one (for me).

23 Dec 20:52

The 2014 Holiday GIF Guide

It’s the GIF that keeps on giffing.
29 Dec 20:21

IPL Requests Rate Increase

Indianapolis Power & Light Co. has filed a rate increase request with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. The utility says the proposal, which would result in the average residential customer seeing an increase of about $8 per month, is due to rising operational costs.
31 Dec 18:34

Ind. Law - Jon Laramore to head Indiana Legal Services

by Marcia Oddi
Tifmurray

Yes!

Indiana Legal Services announces today:New ILS Executive Director has been selected I am pleased to inform you that the ILS...
10 Dec 20:46

The Psychologists Who Taught the C.I.A. How to Torture (and Charged $180 Million)

The Senate’s torture report reveals that the C.I.A. tortured detainees in ways more brutal, sustained, and gruesome than was previously known.
09 Dec 19:03

Governor Pence Heading to Israel

Governor Mike Pence will be spending Christmas in Israel. State officials say Pence will visit cultural sites and will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, business leaders and other government officials.
05 Dec 20:07

Ind. Gov't. - "Pence using outside counsel for immigration lawsuit"

by Marcia Oddi
Updating this ILB post from Dec. 3, Dan Carden reported yesterday in the NWI Times: INDIANAPOLIS | Hoosier taxpayers will...
15 Oct 14:24

10 Red Wines for 10 of Life’s Biggest Problems

Just broken up with? Rent raised? Got caught in the rain? We’re here to help.
23 Sep 13:12

Courts - A very good overview of the status of the courts on marriage equality [More]

by Marcia Oddi
See this long article by Lisa Keen of Keen News Service headed "Supreme Court: Which case makes the best case...
24 Sep 11:00

Remember that scene from Jurassic Park?

Giraffe chases safari jeep - AnimalsBeingDicks.com

This is far more intimidating

22 Sep 18:00

The work of Louise Saxton

by The House That Lars Built


I came upon the work of Melbourne-based artist Louise Saxton on Pinterest awhile back and I stopped dead in my tracks. I don't know if you can tell the scale of these works but it consists of hand embroidery and other found objects from around the house. Aren't they exquisite?

Heart Garden, made of reclaimed needlework, lace pins, nylon tulle
Major Tom 2010, made of reclaimed needlework, lace pins, nylon tulle
Weep, 2009
Last Gasp, made of reclaimed needlework, lace pins, nylon tulle

18 Sep 21:02

Environment - "Single-Stream Recycling Is Easier for Consumers, But Is It Better?"

by Marcia Oddi
See this article by Sarah Laskow in The Atlantic. "Indy sued over $45M recycling center deal" was the heading of...
19 Sep 16:31

Ind. Courts - Coverage of two of yesterday's Supreme Court oral arguments

by Marcia Oddi
Tifmurray

Suzy!

Dan Carden of the NWI Times has stories today about two of the cases argued yesterday before the Indiana Supreme...
18 Sep 16:55

State Invites Comments From Duke Customers

The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor is accepting written comments about Duke Energy's $1.87 billion improvement plan. The comment period runs through November 5th and is open to current Duke customers.
10 Sep 13:31

America’s Best Burrito

by Anna Maria Barry-Jester

America es un gran burrito, a giant tortilla stuffed with dreams. Or so it seems to me, now that I’ve eaten my way across it.

Early this year, FiveThirtyEight evaluated 67,391 burrito-selling establishments, huddled with food experts and selected 64 of the nation’s finest burritos to compete in the search for America’s best burrito. Since then, this burrito correspondent has traveled more than 20,000 miles around the United States and eaten 84 burritos in two rounds (to say nothing of the dozens of extracurricular burritos I polished off).

I journeyed from Key West to Hawaii in search of gastronomic nirvana. I snarfed breakfast burritos, burritos with french fries, and an avant-garde burrito stuffed with Cap’n Crunch-encrusted tilapia. I gobbled burritos from trucks, stands and brick-and-mortar establishments (not to mention a couple of vending machines). I bought a six pack of burritos in New Mexico for $11 and a haute burrito in Phoenix for $18.50.

FINAL_FOUR

The four Burrito Bracket finalists, clockwise from top left: Delicious Mexican Eatery, Taqueria Tlaxcalli, La Taqueria, Al & Bea’s Mexican Food.

Anna Maria Barry-Jester

Unlike the many burritophiles who claim allegiance to one particular style, I have come to love all the varieties as if they were my own children. I’m sorry to be so Pollyanna, but it’s true. I had no idea how difficult it would be to choose winners, to eliminate burritos that are so delicious they occupy my dreams and dinner table conversations.

But alas, a competition this is. And there can be just one winner.

To up the ante in this third and final round, I brought along El Padrino, Nate Silver, to relive his glory days as a burrito blogger and give him a taste of the nation’s four best burritos. Our four-day, coast-to-coast burrito boondoggle would lead us through a range of flavors and restaurant personalities. Somewhere along the way, we’d find our winner.


Delicious Mexican Eatery

EL PASO, TEXAS

In the dark hours of a Monday morning, Nate and I took off from our respective locales, joining forces at midday in El Paso. We were tired but hungry as we drove through radiating Texas heat to our first stop: Delicious Mexican Eatery on Fort Boulevard. Located at the nexus of Fort Bliss, Franklin Mountain State Park and the U.S.-Mexico border, the restaurant has been churning out rolled, petite Paso del Norte-style burritos for 36 years.

In the first round of our competition, Delicious was part of a motley group, facing off against burritos in Seattle, Idaho and Hawaii. The last of these was surprisingly awesome, stuffed with kalua pig and a perfectly sweet and salty guava barbecue sauce. Although I can close my eyes and almost taste that burrito (I ate three of them in the 36 hours I was on the island), there was no way it could beat out this border-city classic.

Clockwise from top left: Delicious Mexican Eatery, Kono's, Joel's, Rancho Bravo.

Clockwise from top left: Delicious Mexican Eatery, Kono’s, Joel’s, Rancho Bravo.

Anna Maria Barry-Jester

In the next round, Delicious faced off against one of the best contestants in the burrito-fueled Bay Area (and my personal go-to whenever I’m in San Francisco), Taqueria Cancún. Cancún made a few missteps, serving a dry and oily bundle, while Delicious ramped up the flavor for Round 2, earning the small Texas eatery a place in the final four.

Clockwise from top left: Taqueria Cancun, Little Donkey, El Pélon Taqueria, Delicious Mexican Eatery.

Clockwise from top left: Taqueria Cancún, Little Donkey, El Pélon Taqueria, Delicious Mexican Eatery.

Anna Maria Barry-Jester

El Paso is every bit as much a burrito city as San Francisco, more so in many ways, but it is far less discussed in national burrito circles. I’ve spent time there because I have family nearby, so I’d never thought of El Paso as particularly obscure. But the bracket has taught me how little most people know about this pocket of the country. El Paso and its conjoined twin, Juarez (I like to think of burritos as their shared lifeblood), are isolated geographically, far from the Texan hubs of Houston and Dallas, and have a culture all their own. That extends to the El Paso burrito’s construction, which is far less understood than that of its portly San Francisco cousin, so let’s recap.

As I’ve mentioned before, these burritos are simple and elegant, relying on fresh, tasty tortillas, and just a few ingredients in the form of a guisado — a stew or casserole-type filling. After the tortilla is made and griddled to a perfect golden brown, it is laid flat on the counter and guisado is ladled in the middle (the tortilla is often slathered with refried beans as well). Either side of the tortilla is then folded over the top, creating what looks like a rolled up tortilla rather than a stuffed envelope.

Nate and I ordered an array of burritos, then watched the action around us from a perch by the window. Our order came up, and he went to fill his salsa bowl from the bar (I prefer this one without the extra sauce). After his first bite Nate, smiling with delight, said, “It’s like it isn’t even a burrito!” When I reminded him this is one of the styles closest to the burrito’s origins, he qualified his statement, expressing that it was unlike any burrito he’d ever eaten. He could finally understand how this seemingly simple task of selecting a favorite burrito among four was made incredibly difficult by the dish’s wide-ranging iterations.

A burrito from Delicious Mexican Eatery.

A burrito from Delicious Mexican Eatery.

Anna Maria Barry-Jester

Delicious burritos are comfort food at its finest; I’m certain this chile verde is what I’ll crave from here on out whenever I’m feeling low. The tortilla is soft, brown, golden and white on the outside, fresh off the grill. The little bundles are satisfying, but never leave you stuffed. You can eat two (or three or four) to have a meal, or eat one just because. This is the spiciest burrito in the finals; it leaves the taste buds intact, but provides enough heat to make you glad you ordered a house-made lemonade. The array of textures is superb: a slightly chewy tortilla, pulpy chiles, tomatoes and onions, small chunky potato pieces and tender beef morsels. It’s not much to look at after the logo-emblazoned wax paper has been removed, but this burrito doesn’t need smoke and mirrors to create magic.

Fully charmed, we headed back toward the airport and hopped on a plane headed west for the City of Angels.


Al & Bea’s Mexican Food

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

After an afternoon exploring the spectrum of Mexican culinary options in Los Angeles, Nate and I made our way toward Al &5Bea’s, just as the sun was beginning to fall behind the 5 and 10. East First Street was clean and quiet, but the small hut and patio were crowded with patrons. We placed our order and sat at a table near the window, listening as a steady stream of customers placed órdenes. Even with that small a sample size, it seemed clear the bean and cheese burrito with green sauce ($3.50) is el preferido.

Al & Bea’s draw in Round 1 placed it in the grupo de la muerte, up against two other Boyle Heights classics — La Azteca Tortilleria and Manuel’s El Tepeyac Café — as well as the award-winning breakfast burrito from Athenian III in Orange County. With a different seeding, all four restaurants could have easily advanced to Round 2. But Al & Bea’s bean and cheese stole the win with the perfection of each ingredient, particularly the refried beans.

Clockwise from top left: Manuel's Original El Tepayac, Al & Bea's Mexican Food, Athenian III, La Azteca Tortilleria.

Clockwise from top left: Manuel’s El Tepeyac Café, Al & Bea’s Mexican Food, Athenian III, La Azteca Tortilleria.

Anna Maria Barry-Jester

In Round 2, it came up against another old-school burrito (the red machaca from Carolina’s Mexican Food in Phoenix) and a surprise corn tortilla-wrapped contender from Atlantic City (Pancho’s Mexican Taqueria), but Al & Bea’s breezed through to Round 3 with relative ease.

Clockwise from top left: Bell Street Burritos, Al & Bea's Mexican Food, Pancho's Mexican Taqueria, Carolina's Mexican Food.

Clockwise from top left: Bell Street Burritos, Al & Bea’s Mexican Food, Pancho’s Mexican Taqueria, Carolina’s Mexican Food.

Anna Maria Barry-Jester

And so I was back. The same man was at the prep counter. He pulled a tortilla from the stack, spooned in beans, sprinkled on cheese, flicked a spray of green chile sauce in the middle and wrapped it all up into a perfect little package. On a typical visit, the delicate yet powerful tortillas strongarm the stewy ingredients into a squat torpedo shape, holding them in until the last few bites, when some finger licking is to be expected.

(I’d say this isn’t a good place for a first date, but oddly I’ve seen a few couples get their start here; the gift of bringing Al & Bea’s into someone’s life for the first time trumps any stains or mess that would normally make for an awkward first encounter.)

On this occasion, a lingering turn of the wrist at green sauce stage left the collective innards thinner than usual, and the burrito was impossible to eat in its expected form. With beans and sauce dripping down my hand, I turned to watch an older gentlemen behind me who had cut his burrito down the middle and was forking out the liquidy insides. Although I had warned Nate about the proper eating technique of this burrito before our visit, he did not heed my advice, and set the burrito down when it was only half eaten. With more beans on his paper tray than inside the tortilla, El Padrino asked for his own fork.

While the tortilla was soft and powdery, the ingredients were just too thin to stay inside on this visit. It was a disappointing showing. Several dozen napkins later, Nate and I were once again headed to the airport, ready for a visit with San Pancho.


La Taqueria

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA

We headed for Mission Street at midday, when sunbeams stream through La Taqueria’s skylights, bathing patrons in heavenly light. We ordered a long list of burritos and hovered over other customers, ready to pounce when a seat finally opened up in the packed restaurant.

The bombardment of liquid and flavor from a La Taqueria burrito are enough to stop any woman in her tracks, even one who’d been eating burritos daily for two months straight. And so, it breezed past its Round 1 competition with a high score of 98 (though Rosa Maria’s in San Bernardino, California, put up a good fight).

Clockwise from top left: Dos Chinos, El Chato Taco Truck, Garbage Burrito, La Taqueria.

Clockwise from top left: Dos Chinos, El Chato Taco Truck, Rosa Maria’s Drive-In, La Taqueria.

Anna Maria Barry-Jester

It had a tougher go in Round 2, when it encountered another of my favorite burritos of the tournament, Taqueria y Tortilleria Ramirez in Lexington, Kentucky. Even with chunks of carnitas cut far too large, bringing La Taqueria’s second-round score down to 95, it advanced to the finals, winning by a single point.

Clockwise from top left: La Pasadita, Cabo Bob's Burrito, Tortilleria Y Taqueria Ramirez, La Taqueria.

Clockwise from top left: La Pasadita, Cabo Bob’s Burrito, Tortilleria y Taqueria Ramirez, La Taqueria.

Anna Maria Barry-Jester

During the Burrito Selection Committee meeting in the spring, both celebrity chef David Chang and Mexican food expert Gustavo Arellano named La Taqueria as the favorite to win the whole tournament. This burrito’s construction sets it apart. Like many Mission Street burritos, it’s prepared assembly line-style; the sour cream is added liberally from a squirt bottle, guacamole comes by the spoonful from an enormous metal bowl, pico de gallo and all its juices are added at the end. But unlike at other taquerias, each ingredient keeps its juices, making this burrito saucy in form and personality (the absence of rice also makes it noteworthy among its neighbors).

After my first visit, I received emails from several kind readers who, having noted my preference for griddled burritos, alerted me that La Taqueria has a menu secreto. It includes burritos “dorados,” La Taqueria’s signature torpedo-like bundles thrown on the griddle until they’re brown and bubbly all the way around. For this final visit I decided to order two carnitas burritos, one super, one super dorado. My conclusion? No need to choose a favorite — always get one of each. Nate ordered a super chorizo dorado and a super carnitas.

Nate Silver enjoys a burrito at La Taqueria in San Francisco.

Nate Silver enjoys a burrito at La Taqueria in San Francisco.

Anna Maria Barry-Jester

I watched Nate take his first bite, and I swear he achieved nirvana before my eyes. I got to work eating myself, and we munched in silence (except when I asked to borrow his second burrito because I’d dived into both of mine before I remembered to photograph them) until we’d each finished a burrito. You see, data-loving Nate had dined at top-ranking El Farolito, but this was his first time at La Taqueria. “I don’t want to bias you,” he said, “but this is really, really good,” pointing to two baskets left with nothing but foil and wax paper.

We caught a redeye back to New York, just one more burrito to go.


Taqueria Tlaxcalli

BRONX, NEW YORK

The success of Taqueria Tlaxcalli’s burrito is impressive when you think of its origins: The restaurant is owned by a Mexico City native who was desperate for traditional Mexican food, and though he sees burritos as Mexican-American cuisine, he decided to put them on the menu. For his creations, he stuffs a tortilla with meat, rice, black beans and a few vegetables, and then tops the plated bundle with four glorious sauces in red, white, purple and green. Knife and fork required.

Round 1 saw Tlaxcalli up against two other New York City restaurants as well as a young Chicago locale. New York’s contenders were all surprisingly strong given the city’s long, burrito-less history (if we’re confining the conversation to good burritos). Both Mission Cantina and Tres Carnes serve thoughtful burritos that are the pinnacle of their menus. Tlaxcalli came out on top with beautifully cooked steak and the inspired combination of sauces that provided a range of flavors to an otherwise simple dish.

Clockwise from top left: L'Patron, Tres Carnes, Taqueria Tlaxcalli, Mission Cantina.

Clockwise from top left: L’Patron, Tres Carnes, Taqueria Tlaxcalli, Mission Cantina.

Anna Maria Barry-Jester

In Round 2, Tlaxcalli squared off with a San Diego favorite (Lolita’s) and a personal favorite from Santa Fe (The Pantry). A poor showing from the other contenders and the depth and breadth of its chile, crema, spicy black bean and avocado sauces allowed Tlaxcalli to cruise through to the finals, part bracket buster, part beneficiary of the seeding process.

Clockwise from top left: Lolita's Taco Shop, Taqueria Tlaxcalli, Breakfast Burritos Anonymous, The Pantry.

Clockwise from top left: Lolita’s Taco Shop, Taqueria Tlaxcalli, Breakfast Burritos Anonymous, The Pantry.

Anna Maria Barry-Jester

Nate and I arrived at 10 a.m. The restaurant’s Yelp page says it opens at that hour, but the workers were still mopping the floors when we arrived. We had invited a handful of people to join us in this far corner of the Bronx, so delaying the visit wasn’t an option, but with the grill still warming up, it was clear this wouldn’t be Tlaxcalli’s peak performance. Indeed, the meat was a little gristlier (perhaps the previous day’s leftovers) and there was a lot more rice than usual.

The experience was disappointing, but then, we hadn’t showed up at any of the other places while the grills were still cold. So I went back a couple of days later, to give Tlaxcalli a fair chance. The burrito was exactly what I’d eaten on the first two visits, a swirl of creamy sauces coating finely chopped pieces of carne asada and flavorful Mexican rice. This food is an East Coast godsend, but it isn’t in the same league with the other finalists.


BURRITO_FINAL_SCORES_REVISE_3

And so, we have a winner. La Taqueria takes the title of America’s Best Burrito.

It’s not necessarily the burrito you’ll want to eat every day, and may not even be my personal favorite (I’ll leave you guessing on that), but it’s a technical marvel with a monumental first bite worthy of a national title.

LATAQUERIA_WINNER

CORRECTION (Sept. 10, 12:23 p.m.): An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to the highway that passes near Al & Bea’s Mexican Food. It is the 5, and in that segment also the 10, not the 405.