Nom Nom Pho

I was pretty excited to see that a new Vietnamese restaurant opened in downtown South Bend. Located in the old Siam Thai location on Main Street, Nom Nom Pho is a wonderful addition to downtown. The prices are extremely reasonable, the food is great, and the interior is inviting. Don’t let the orange cones from the Smart Streets project deter you from stopping – there’s usually plenty of parking just around the corner on Colfax.

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Spicy roll

I love lemongrass chicken, so I decided to order the lemongrass chicken sautéed in coconut milk over vermicelli noodles (pictured above). It’s also available over rice. It was delicious and came in a huge bowl. We ordered the spicy roll for an appetizer, which was a fried spring roll wrapped with lettuce, cucumber, Sriracha, and then rolled in a regular spring roll wrapper. It was also really good. In fact, both dishes were so good that I went back a week later for lunch and ordered the exact same thing. They do offer a smaller lunch menu where most entrees are only $6.99. The portions are just as huge.

Their full menu is extensive and is available on their Facebook page. In addition to Vietnamese food, they also offer some Thai options.

-McK

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Notre Dame Game Day

Football season has begun! Whether we like it or not, Notre Dame football is a huge part of the local community. Today marks the first home game of the season, with Notre Dame taking on Nevada at 3:30 pm at Notre Dame Stadium. Streets are blocked off, crowds have ascended on the town, tailgating is underway, people are already starting to stumble down Angela Blvd., and the air has a certain electricity that’s only present on a football weekend. Game day is officially here.

For many of us, tailgating is an annual tradition. It’s a great way to meet up with friends for great food and drinks. Jane wrote about tailgating last fall, which you can read about here.

As locals, we sometimes forget about all of the fun and free activities that happen outside of the parking lots. The University of Notre Dame schedules a full weekend of activities on campus that are great to take family and visitors to, even if you don’t plan on going to a game.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Trumpets Under the Dome – Football weekends kick-off on campus with the Marching Band trumpets playing under the Golden Dome in the Main Building each Friday at 4 pm. Due to the acoustics in the building, the sound has an incredibly full quality and always attracts a large crowd. If you miss the Friday performance, there’s also a performance at 2:30 pm on Saturday.

Midnight Drummers Circle – At 11:59 p.m. on Friday night, the Drumline holds a drummer’s circle in front of the Main Building. While I’ve never been to this event, I’ve heard it’s a very cool experience.

Bagpipe Band Performance – I love bagpipes and the bagpipe band is great. Today’s performances will take place at 11:30 am and 1:15 pm on the front steps of the Main Building.

Cook Outs – Campus clubs host cook outs across campus as fundraisers. Between events grab a burger and chips from one of the cook-outs or visit the the Knights of Columbus’ booth for pork tenderloins.

Concert on the Steps – One of the biggest Game Day traditions is watching the Marching Band perform on the steps of Bond Hall at 2:00 pm on Saturday. If you’re not going to the game, this is a great way to see the Marching Band perform.

Inspection of the Guard – Immediately following the concert on the steps, the members of the Irish Guard prepare for the march out to the stadium by performing a very regimented uniform inspection. The concert, inspection of the guard, and march out are my favorite Saturday events to attend.

Marching Band March Out – The Marching Band, cheerleaders, and leprechaun lead a procession from  the steps of the Main Building to the stadium at 2:40 p.m.

For a full schedule of weekend events, visit gameday.nd.edu.

Go Irish!

-McK

New and Fun: Render Kitchen & Bar

drink

by Jane

Happy Friday, Benders! Here’s something to celebrate: we’ve been waiting a long time for Render to open, and it was worth the wait!

Sometimes you need a romantic splurge in your life, and Render is the perfect little spot for a light early evening  dinner of great mixed drinks and shared small plates.

First, let’s discuss the cocktails. The one pictured above is called Rosemary Among Us. It was my favorite drink of the night, though all 3 cocktails Sam and I tried were amazing. This one was light and airy, thanks to the whipped egg whites, and the lemon rosemary flavor blend was refreshing and herbal without being too sweet. We also tried A Bourbon Breakfast—this bourbon cocktail has a blend of stout and coffee flavors, with a hint of pecan. The topper for this one? A skewer with a cherry and pork belly bites. Amazing, and it really brought out the “breakfast” theme. Finally, we sampled the Planter’s Punch, with an interesting twist that came from an allspice dram, very tasty!

Because Render focuses on small plates, we got a vegetable and 3 main dishes to try. (Apologizing now for the quality of our pictures, we went to dinner late, and it was getting dark so the light quality was not the best. Most of these don’t do the food justice, so definitely don’t judge by them!)

First, we had a beet salad, with red and gold beets, goat cheese, watercress, and crushed pistachios. This was just beautiful, with the beets plated in a ring and dotted with the creamy goat cheese. Just the right mix of tangy and sweet, we were very impressed with this dish. I even bought ingredients to recreate this at home a few days later because I was craving it!

beetsalad

I really enjoy the creative plating at Render. If you’re at all a Food Network Chopped junkie, like I am, it’s going to make you very happy!

The next two dishes were seafood. The first was oysters with a lemon cucumber sauce similar to a gremolata and edible flowers. Unusual flavors, but if you like oysters, this is a must-try dish. I’ve never had oysters with a sauce like this. It highlighted the fresh salty flavor, but brightened it and brought a tiny bit of sweetness. Also? Edible flowers are really cheerful, and add a touch of fancy to many of Render’s dishes that you don’t see at many South Bend restaurants.

oysters

The scallops with tagliatelle, peas, and pancetta was my favorite dish. This was the point of the meal when I wish I could have just ordered a giant version of this plate. The pasta tasted like it was homemade, fresh pasta, the cubes of pancetta were pefectly crisp and not at all burned. The scallops had a beautiful sear, but were not too done, so the middle still had the creamy, rare consistency that it should. I should tell you that we’re slow eaters, and our waitress took this plate away with 3 peas and a noodle still left on it, and my poor husband was devastated! That’s how good this one was!

scallops

Our last main course option was a duck breast and pickled plum (vinegary but sweet) with something I’ve never tried before—an almond custard. It was another win! The creamy custard was more flavorful than you’d expect, and it was a perfect complement to the seared duck. Duck is an Indiana specialty, you can always count on really good duck in this area.

duck

We tried the Olive Oil Cake for dessert. This came with a buttermilk sorbet and fresh berries. It was just as delicious as it was beautiful. I really like this not-too-sweet style of desserts. And, it’s always great to eat your own entire cake!

oliveoilcake

Render is a pricier restaurant for the South Bend area, and it’s certainly not a place to go if you haven’t eaten any food all day.  But, it’s well worth the price if you like to try new creative food, prepared with real skill, and with an eye for beauty. Sam and I were both satisfied after our meal, and didn’t feel too full to enjoy the rest of our evening. He does want you to know that if all else fails, and you’re just a person who needs more food than this, have a couple of dishes as an appetizer with a good cocktail, then go next door for a burger at The View! Ha!

server

As for me, this might be one of my new favorite places for a special occasion, and I really can’t imagine having eaten a burger after all this deliciousness. I wanted to savor the moment. (Another plus: they take reservations, and you can do it from their website!)

So, go to Render and enjoy the evening. Sip a fancy cocktail, try the scallops at the very least, and watch people stroll down Jefferson. Life doesn’t get much better!

 

 

 

West Side LOVE

by Jane

So, confession time. McK and I might have a serious, serious taco problem. We’re obsessed with great taco places, and finding the best place in South Bend.

Here’s a serious contender: Taqueria Chicago.

I tried this little family restaurant a couple of weeks ago, and it was SO, SO good! I got a carne asada taco and a carnitas taco. Sam had the Pastor and the Cesina tacos. All four were really great.

tacos

The carne asada was my favorite, the flavor reminded me of the carne asada made by my brother-in-law’s aunt Mary Karmen. She’s a legendary cook in Antonio’s family and this carne asada was almost as good as hers. The carnitas was also done really nicely, not too dry or crispy, as can easily happen when you fry pork. The cesina was something I’d never had anywhere else. It was good, kind of a pickled flavor to it, and the meat was tender and juicy. Sam ate the pastor so fast I didn’t even get to taste that one, so I’m guessing it was delicious! 😉

Chicago also serves bottles of homemade red or green hot sauce with your order, to go with the tacos. Both are spicier than the salsa. I really loved the red sauce because I like super spicy things, but the green also had a nice kick and was a perfect complement to the carnitas with a squeeze of lime.

This restaurant is pretty simple inside. They’re all about delicious food and great prices. There were lots of customers coming in for carry-out orders as well as dine in when we were there.

After tacos, we headed across the street to one of the best ice cream places in South Bend. La Rosita is newly renovated, and it’s amazing! I’ve never been in here without waiting in a long line of customers ordering fantastic treats. They have tons of ice cream flavors, ranging anywhere from typical chocolate and vanilla to more exotic creations like pine nut (surprisingly awesome), Mexican Hot Chocolate, or  coconut.

La Rosita also serves street food, fruit bars, sorbets, and Mexican treats.

rosita

My favorite thing  is a Chamoyada. It comes with frozen Mango, Strawberry, and Pineapple fruit and ice cream and sorbet, chamoy, and tajin. It’s sweet, sour, and spicy and so satisfying. There isn’t much better in the world than Chamoyada. (I kind of dream about it!)

chamoyada

The Chamoyada at La Rosita is my favorite summer treat.

At some point, I will also work up the courage to try the Vampiro—a Mango shaved ice with hot sauce and peppers, and a tamarind candy straw. Sounds amazing, and weird. I can’t wait to try it.

McK and I are talking about getting together for a crazy all-day taco tour of South Bend, and writing about it on the blog as our October Bender, so look for that in the future! It’s sure to be an adventure!