Tag Archives: cocktail

Restaurant Review: Indian Oven

August 27, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

In the heart of the Old Market on Howard Street, the Indian Oven has been serving its family recipes for over 25 years. Second-generation owner Binoy Fernandez is now running the show and just completed an extensive remodel in late 2012. The new look is spectacular! The restaurant now features a beautiful, new bar that occupies a large portion of the first floor and has a much more modern feel, yet still works well with the Old Market styling cues.

Along with the new bar, the restaurant now features an expanded menu of classic and craft cocktails. Craft cocktails are a booming trend, and the Indian Oven has an exhaustive list of about 25 of these creations. On a recent visit, I sampled one called The South Side ($7). This gin-based cocktail with soda, bitters, and a hint of mint was extremely refreshing on a hot summer day. My dining partner had the Tamarind Margarita ($8), made with Reposado Tequila, Orange Curaçao, fresh lime, and a tamarind infusion. This one was also outstanding. I should also mention that the new bar boasts a well-stocked beer selection and wine list.

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The food at the Indian Oven has always been great, and I am glad to report that is still the case. The flavors of the traditional Indian cuisine are something that everyone should make a point of experiencing on a regular basis.

My dining partner and I started the evening with a plate of Masala Sliders ($8) and some Barta Ganouj ($8). The Masala Sliders are three tasty, little burgers that are filled with Indian seasoning, topped with caramelized onions, and served on a fresh roll spread with cilantro pesto. The Barta Ganouj is a Fernandez family recipe of spiced eggplant and tomato dip, served fresh with pita wedges. I will never tire of this dish.

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For entrées, I had the Rogan Gosht ($15), which is a traditional north Indian lamb curry. The lamb literally melted in my mouth, and the spices were perfect. My partner tried the Chicken Tikke ($13.50). Chicken Tikke is chunks of chicken breast meat marinated in a lemon, yogurt, ginger, and garlic marinade and then skewered and grilled. I have always felt the IO version of this dish was the best I have ever had. The portions are appropriate, and all the entrées are served with their traditional Indian rice. For dessert, we shared the Kulfi ($4), which is an Indian ice cream. Their version is flavored with pistachio and mango.

The service at the Indian Oven is casual, warm, and friendly. Our server seemed to know the menu well and made some great cocktail recommendations. That, combined with new, great looks, craft cocktails, and consistently good food, make checking out the Indian Oven a no-brainer. If you have never been there before or have not been for a while, you need to make a point to check it out. Personally, I am already looking forward to my next IO meal.

Indian Oven
1010 Howard St.
402-342-4856
indianovenomaha.com

RATING (5 Stars Possible)

Food & Beverage: ***1/2
Service: ***
Ambiance: ***1/2
Price: Moderate
Overall: ***1/2

Crafty Cocktails

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

House of Loom owners Brent Crampton and Ethan Bondelid finally took the plunge and dove headfirst into a new entrepreneurial endeavor, The Berry & Rye. Tucked away in the former Myth Cocktail Lounge at 1109 Howard Street, The Berry & Rye is a craft cocktail lounge with a unique objective in mind.

“I love the culture of the drink experience behind the craft. It’s a very soulful approach to imbibing,” Crampton explains. “Something I get to experience often is friends getting together to order these labor-intensive drinks that have lots of creativity and skill put into them, and enjoy good conversation in this sit-back-and-take-your-time kind of atmosphere. Then, when the drinks arrive at your table, people are so intrigued by their drinks, they become a conversation piece.”

Brent Crampton and Bondelid

Brent Crampton and Ethan Bondelid.

The craft cocktail is rooted in the classic recipes of the early 1900s. The practices were lost once the Prohibition Era hit in 1920, and people stopped caring about sculpting a superior drink with fresh juice, fresh ingredients, and high-quality spirits.

The Berry & Rye strives to provide not only a relaxed environment, but also a carefully concocted and tantalizing drink.

“In a sense, it’s like visiting a restaurant,” Bondelid says. “You wouldn’t expect to grab a menu and eat standing up. We ask that people take and enjoy a seat while being served at their table. It’s not the type of place to yell or act overly loud. It’s a comfortable, conversational bar, and this heightens everyone’s experience.”

Considering that loud behavior and drinking often go hand-in-hand, creating a more cultured craft cocktail atmosphere may seem like a lofty goal. But for Bondelid and Crampton, it’s something they’ve experienced throughout their many travels. They are bold enough to envision the potential in Omaha.

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“There is a wealth of great culinary and cocktail experiences out there,” Bondelid assures. “Omaha’s culinary culture has seen some great strides recently, and its cocktail culture is starting to grow as well. In traveling, I’ve been able to visit some of the country’s greatest cocktail venues. I’ve wanted to bring that flavor to Omaha, from the non-overcrowded, loud rooms to the incredible range that can come from balanced and creative cocktails.”

Both Bonelid and Crampton are confident in The Berry & Rye’s intriguing concept. To date, they have invested nearly $15,000 into their “ice program.” They have a massive reverse osmosis system, which provides the purest water possible for all syrups and ice machines. From commercial freezers to Japanese ice presses that create perfect spheres to order, they have taken ice very seriously.

“The thing that separates The Berry & Rye from the rest is that when you collectively consider all the aspects of our concept, such as the ice program, specialized tools, methodology, expertise, and dedicated atmosphere, we’re taking craft cocktails further than many people in Omaha have up to this point,” Bondelid explains. “Namely, we’re taking our ice program further than any other venue, and we’re the only non-restaurant craft bar that offers hosted seating, ensuring that the consistency in experience remains the same.”20130516_bs_6498_Web

Crampton is careful to point out that the seating-room-only policy isn’t a “VIP or exclusive” thing. It’s in place “solely for consistency,” he says. It takes time to craft each drink. The duo has also developed an in-house soda program; they make their own cola, tonic, and citrus syrups, but, of course, their focus is on original cocktails. Classics like gin and tonics are always an option, but they urge you to try one of 20 original recipes on their menu to truly grasp what The Berry & Rye is all about. Perhaps Lily’s Dinner Party, with Broker’s gin, wasabi, and egg whites; or Smoke Over Trinidad, with Zaya rum, sherry, and tobacco syrup made with pipe tobacco from SG Roi. (The latter is served in a corked carafe so guests can pour for themselves at their own speed.)

“When tending a bar and making drinks becomes an art form and an experience visually and flavorfully for the guests, then you know what makes it special,” Bondelid says. “When you have people that follow their passion to the farthest extent of their skills, it’s a beautiful thing.”

Berry & Rye
1105 Howard St.
402-613-1331
theberryandrye.com

Cantina Laredo

November 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann and Cantina Laredo

Looking for a warm atmosphere during the cold winter months to get away with your girlfriends for some drinks and mouthwatering food? Look no further than Cantina Laredo in Midtown Crossing!

This Mexican restaurant boasts a relaxed dining area with a cozy fireplace, upscale bar scene, outdoor patio, private dining room (no room fees!), and seven flat-screen TVs. As for the fare, Cantina Laredo creates beautiful plates of Mexican gourmet made with traditional techniques. Anyone familiar with traditional Mexican cuisine will be taken back to a past vacation along the Mexican coast or countryside. The authentic experience is also made complete with a wide variety of imported tequilas and Mexican beers.

Margarita special, Her'Rita

Margarita special, Her’Rita

Try the chips and top-shelf Guacamole appetizer (made fresh tableside) with a Casa ‘Rita (house margarita), which is a premier blend of Giro Silver Tequila by Sauza, Cointreau, and fresh-squeezed lemon and lime juices. Or indulge in the most popular entrée, the Enchiladas Veracruz—chicken enchiladas filled with spinach and Monterey jack cheese topped with tomatillo sauce, marinated vegetables, and queso fresco. And, of course, you can’t forget about the rich Mexican Brownie sizzled in Mexican Brandy Butter with your choice of vanilla or cinnamon ice cream for dessert!

If you’re just meeting up for drinks, however, and feel like mixing it up, ask for the Her ‘Rita, which was carefully created to celebrate women making a difference in Omaha! The authentic Mexican cocktail combines a premier blend of Giro Silver Tequila by Sauza, Triple Sec and fresh-squeezed pomegranate, lemon and lime juices to create a delicious anomaly of flavors to please any woman’s palate.

Cantina Laredo featured entree, Enchiladas Veracruz

Cantina Laredo featured entree, Enchiladas Veracruz

Every Thursday from 4pm to close, Cantina Laredo hosts a Ladies’ Night with half-off house margaritas and wine by the glass for every woman who walks in the door. And Happy Hour runs from 4-7pm on weekdays with large house margaritas for just $5!

Cantina Laredo
120 S. 31st Ave., Ste 5107
402-345-6000
cantinalaredo.com

Holiday Shrimp Dip

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Holiday Shrimp Dip

Ingredients:

  • 1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened
  • 2 (4oz) cans small shrimp, drained
  • 1 (8oz) jar cocktail sauce
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ½ red bell pepper, diced
  • ½ green bell pepper, diced
  • assorted crackers for dipping

Instructions:

  • Spread cream cheese in an even layer on a serving dish or in the bottom of a glass pie pan.
  • Combine shrimp with cocktail sauce in a bowl and spread evenly over the cream cheese layer.
  • Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, covering the shrimp layer as completely as possible. Sprinkle the red and green bell pepper over the cheese layer.
  • Serve with crackers.

French 75 (Champagne Cocktail)

Ingredients:

  • cracked ice
  • 2 fluid ounces gin
  • 1 teaspoon simple syrup
  • ½ fluid ounce lemon juice
  • 5 fluid ounces brut champagne, chilled
  • 1 slice lemon (optional)

Instructions:

  • Chill cocktail shaker and glass (champagne flute or Collins glass) in the freezer.
  • Add ice to shaker.
  • Pour gin, simple syrup, and lemon juice into shaker.
  • Shake well.
  • Fill chilled glass half-full of ice, then strain cocktail into the glass.
  • Top with champagne and garnish with a lemon slice.

Recipe Sources: allrecipes.com.

The Blues Reign at Havana Garage

August 20, 2012 by
Photography by minorwhitestudios

Thanks to the island atmosphere (think moody Rat Pack, not kitschy Cheeseburger in Paradise), guests at the Havana Garage are swept away to a more sophisticated era when jazz and the blues were kings in the music scene.

“A cigar, a drink, great live music you don’t have to shout over…it’s a social style,” says Chaz Kline, owner of Havana Garage, a cigar bar in what he calls the Old Market’s lower east side. “There comes a certain point when you want to graduate to a different level of socializing.”

The Garage doesn’t have live music every night, but expect it on Fridays and Saturdays and maybe Thursdays, if you’re lucky. “We’ve talked about curating an open mic night on Sundays, too,” Kline says. Regular performers include trumpet player Darryl White, the OK Sisters, and a couple different bands that Matt Wallace, esteemed local saxophonist, plays in.

Crime Sena, for example, is a kind of ‘70s rock band. “You know, what was on the radio in the ‘70s,” Wallace says. “People think they’re getting their last drink, and then we play something they haven’t heard in years. A few songs later they’re still in the back there singing along.” Thomas Sena, founder of T’eez Salon, plays piano in the band, a fact that has forced Wallace to take stock of his ego. “You really think you’re something until you play with him, and all the women are like, ‘Is that Tom Sena?’”

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Though live performances can be planned out months in advance, Kline will leave a few holes here and there in the calendar to fill in when something extra special comes up. “We haven’t found enough bands in Omaha with that Sancho Panza feel, you know?” he says. “What you’ll find most often is Mexican, a mariachi flavor. We’re looking for something more Cuban, more Caribbean.”

There’s usually no cover, but if you show up after 10 or so on a night of live music, you might get charged $5, depending on the band. “We’ll probably still promo a drink though,” Kline says. “This is Omaha. It’s not New Orleans with lots of places like this to choose from. We’re an adjunct to the music scene here. It’s not our whole angle, but it’s definitely the cherry on top of the cake.”

If you’re new to the rest of the cake, Kline suggested selecting a mild cigar from the humidor downstairs that has over 300 different facings. “Maybe Romeo y Julieta. Or Monte Cristo,” he says. “Those are some of the oldest names. They’re actually from Cuban seed.” Then, with a signature Havana Garage cocktail in hand (Brazilian rum, ginger beer, mint…think mojito meets Moscow mule), have a seat in either the backyard bodega for a low-key chat or in the bar area to listen to the Latin strains of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

If you need a snack to complete the picture, Kline noted with pride that Havana Garage rubs shoulders with some of the oldest restaurants in the Old Market. “People bring over their dinners from Ahmad’s or Twisted Fork or Indian Oven a lot,” he says. “We’ll get you the menus, we’ll phone next door.”

That sort of service is de rigueur as far as he’s concerned. “We’re all kind of little ambassadors here on the lower east side. The best compliment is, ‘I can’t believe you exist.’”