It takes two to make a thing go right

If you worked in downtown Indy back in the mid 1990s, chances are you remember Essential Edibles, a quirky and delicious little lunch spot unusually situated in the basement of an old Catholic church in the Lockerbie area. And if you were like me, you were sad to see it close in 1997.

Fans can rejoice again — after years of private chef work, former EE owner Becky Hostetter is up and running again. Literally. Together with her business/chef partner John Garnier, Hostetter is cooking up a storm in her new Duos food truck. Customers log onto Twitter and Facebook to find the mobile kitchen’s location, dishing up lunch Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from various downtown parking spots; breakfast at the downtown farmers market; and occasional weekend meals in other destinations.

What’s cool about Duos is that the chefs change up their short menu of gourmet soups, sandwiches and salads every week. And because Hostetter is a vegetarian and Garnier is a meat-eater, they make sure to offer something for everyone — usually a couple of sandwiches, several kinds of side salad, maybe a soup or two. Everything is organic and locally sourced as much as possible.

I’d tracked down the truck with an editor friend on a blustery day back in March. The weather curtailed sitting outside on Mass Ave, so we ate in my car. The food was good, and we swapped tastes of everything — the Cajun meatloaf sandwich had a nicely spicy kick, but I preferred the Big Al’s sandwich, a drippy, gooey grilled Fontina cheese panini sort of thing with roasted red peppers, balsamic vinegar and basil. Yum.

I revisited Duos on Thursday just this week, bringing hubby along for the ride. It was a little cool outside, but the weather was sunny and beautiful, and the Military Park location was perfect for enjoying an al fresco lunch on the downtown canal. We parked at the White River State Park garage, walked across from the Indiana State Museum and waited in a quickly moving line to get our food.

Duos in action

On this day, our options included pimento cheese and herb roasted turkey sandwiches, wheatberry and orzo pasta salads, green gazpacho and asparagus soups, and an almond cake for dessert. We decided to try both the sandwiches and salads, washed down with bottles of Maine ginger brew and root beer.

Both sandwiches were served on the same hearty whole-wheat buns — hubby’s turkey contained thick slices of flavorful meat, avocado, lettuce, spouts and Jarlsberg cheese. He pronounced it delicious at first bite.

herb roasted turkey sandwich et al

My pimento cheese sammy consisted of a generous scoop of the cheese filling with lettuce, tomato and a slice of onion. The cheese was yummy, but very heavily laced with olives. So much so that it was difficult to discern any other flavor. This was perfectly ok with me because I love olives, but the intensity of the briny saltiness might have been a little overpowering for some diners. Serving it on flatter bread and spreading it out a little thinner might have helped distribute the flavor a little more evenly.

pimento cheese sandwich etc.

The salads were both awesome IMO – served in little plastic cups that looked deceptively small at first, but offered a surprising amount in the end. The delicious wheatberry salad was unlike anything I’ve tried before. Studded with small crunchy bits of organic carrot and red onion in a mild vinaigrette dressing, the chewy wheatberry grains were really satisfying. I loved it, as well as the orzo pasta with roasted veggies that reminded me of something similar I’d eaten at Essential Edibles back in the day.

orzo pasta salad and wheatberry salad

Hubby has a beef, though. I believe I may have mentioned his hatred of onions once or twice? Basically, if he even thinks he sees one, smells one or tastes one anywhere in a dish, it’s game over. He won’t even take a courtesy bite to be nice. So if there’s one thing he hates about dining out, it’s when onions make an appearance without forewarning. It’s ok when the menu advertises them in a dish, as he can then plan accordingly to avoid it. But when they just show up in something he was otherwise really looking forward to eating, he gets upset.

Three out of the four items we ordered for our Duos lunch contained onions. My pimento cheese sandwich included a whole raw slice, which I picked off, but still immediately disqualified it from hubby tasting. (He claims that even if you remove the onion, it’s too late at that point, having already “tainted” the rest of the dish.) The salads both included small slivers of red onion, caramelized and soft so they weren’t raw, but offensive to hubby just the same. Sigh. I think the wheatberry salad mentioned an onion inclusion on the chalkboard menu, but the orzo pasta salad description just held a vague reference to roasted vegetables.

I’m not trying to pick on Duos here, this actually happens to us quite frequently in restaurants. We try to remember to always ask when ordering, but sometimes we forget and get nailed. The point hubby wants to make is that he feels menus should alert diners to onions in any and all dishes, no ifs, ands or buts. I think he may start lobbying Congress for a full disclosure bill.

The price for each Duos sandwich with a side of salad was $7.50, so with two meals and two drinks tacked on, our total bill came to $20 even. A little pricier than fast food, but certainly in keeping with what you’d pay for a nice casual lunch for two downtown. And definitely in line with the quality of the ingredients and creativity of the chefs preparing them. I’ll be back…

For more info:

Duos (Mobile) on Urbanspoon

What’d an onion ever do to you?

My husband doesn’t like onions. Actually, that’s a vast understatement. My husband loathes onions. He hates onions with such passion, I’m convinced he must have had a traumatic childhood experience with one that scarred him for life. Like, he fell headfirst into a barrelful of rotting onions and no one found him until the next morning. Perhaps his brothers held him down and forced him to eat onions against his will. Or maybe he just overindulged one night, was violently sick and nursed himself through an onion hangover, swearing “never again.” Like a bad high school peach schnapps experience. In any case, his dislike of onions borders on pure hatred. I’m not exaggerating – anyone who ever eaten with my husband will back me up on this point.

If hubby thinks he sees, smells, tastes or hears a hint that an onion might have been used in the recipe, it’s game over. He will not even take a bite to be polite. I have been slightly embarrassed on one or two occasions when we’ve been at someone’s home who’s cooked something lovely for us, only to have hubby turn up his nose and refuse to take even a single taste. And I can’t count the number of times in restaurants that hubby has sent a plate back because it was delivered to our table containing the offending item.

Hubby is usually very diligent about specifically requesting no onions, but even so, some slip by every now and then. You should see him if God forbid, a salad arrives with a few slices, or a burger comes topped with a small stack of onion straws. Superman encountering Kryptonite is no less dramatic. In several instances, meals have turned into a joke when a sent-back plate comes back still containing onions even after a request to remove them.

When my husband moved to Germany five years ago during our courtship, the first phrase he learned wasn’t “Where’s the bathroom?” or “My name is…” It was “NEIN ZWEIBEL!” One guess what that means.

Being the self-proclaimed “golden boy” of the family, hubby’s mom will actually cook a separate onion-free version of whatever she’s making just for him. This is no small feat, considering the woman usually prepares meals for any number of her seven children, plus their spouses and kids at any given time. This is the precedent I married into.

It’s amazing to learn just how many recipes contain onions until you are forbidden from using them. Through the four years of our marriage, I’ve learned it’s easier to just leave onions out whenever the recipes call for them. Otherwise, I end up dining alone. Hubby is convinced onions add nothing to a dish whatsoever and refuses to believe they lend anything beneficial by way of nutrition or flavor. I disagree. If you’ve ever had chili or a nice spaghetti sauce sans onions, I feel it lacks a little something, but I’ve managed to learn to live without and survive.

When I mention to other people that my husband thinks onions are vile, I have found a small but surprisingly vocal number of folks who heartily agree. Why all the haters?? What is it about the humble onion that brings out the worst in people? For many, it seems to be either an issue of texture or flavor, neither of which I can fully understand. Most people dislike the taste, for others, it’s the mouth-feel. It’s rare to find those who hate them across the board.

A few weeks ago, I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner and remembered I had some leftover frozen empanada filling from a dinner I’d hosted for some girlfriends last month. I had two versions to work with: a black bean/corn mixture, and a beef/potato blend that contained the tiniest bit of onion, along with a ridiculous amount of chili powder, cumin and other seasoning that MORE than drowned out any offending flavor. The onions, by the way, were all but grated into oblivion before I added them to the beef and not even visible to the naked eye. I knew if hubby knew they were there, he would refuse to eat it, but for the first time in the course of our marriage, I wondered if I could pull one over on him. So I made the empanadas and took my chances.

When we sat down to eat, hubby inhaled a couple of the veggie empanadas, proclaiming them delicious. Then he got hold of one of the meat empanadas. One bite in… “Are there onions in this??? How could you let me eat this and not say anything!” It was wrong, I know. I don’t know why I thought I could get away with it, but honestly, we’re talking about something like a teaspoon of minced onion mixed into about two pounds of ground beef. I just didn’t believe he would notice it or taste it; I certainly couldn’t. In any case, the trust is now gone. Any item I’ve served since has been eaten only after INTENSE scrutiny, a series of hardcore questions and a thorough visual and olfactory examination.

Personally, while I don’t particularly like eating raw onions, I quite enjoy them cooked and incorporated into dishes. Such as sautéed in butter and added to scrambled eggs with some cheddar cheese, or carmelized until succulent then draped over a roasted chicken breast or pork chop. And I must ‘fess up to an occasional jaunt through Burger King drive-thru for an order of rings, slathered in ketchup.

Oddly enough, my husband can eat garlic like nobody’s business. Go figure.

Common onion - Allium cepa