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This week we were up north visiting our families in Indy and Cleveland. Dr. Matthews had some time off and also this happened:

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His name is Ian Matthew and Dr. Matthews’s sister gave birth to him on March 10 (also my sister’s birthday!). Yes, he is just as cute in real life as he is in person. His sister (our niece), Gwen, turned 2 on March 11, and we were glad to be there for her special day and to witness her first donut experience:

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I think we can safely say she is not a jelly donut person, as she nibbled her way around the gelatinous substance, but seemed to thoroughly enjoy the glaze and sprinkles.

The delicious eats during the Indianapolis segment of our journey included homemade spaghetti and meat sauce from my sister-in-law (yes, the one who would give birth 2 days after making this meal), Krispy Krunchy Chicken (of course), popcorn from a real old-school popcorn machine, aaaaaand Yats.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Yats is a Cajun creole restaurant with several locations in the Indianapolis area, and they are currently expanding with franchises across the Midwest and beyond. Historically a somewhat picky eater, I wasn’t so sure I’d love Yats when I was first introduced by a coworker within a couple months of moving to Indy. After all, I’d never had Cajun food before, or crawfish (an ingredient in one of my favorite of their dishes, chili cheese étouffée with crawfish), and my spicy tooth was still quite underdeveloped. However, I immediately loved their food and now have several favorites, including drunken chicken (beer, bread crumbs, olive oil, garlic, fennel seeds and crushed tomatoes), chicken creole (tomatoes, wine, onions, peppers) and aforementioned chili cheese étouffée with crawfish. My in-laws were gracious enough to get all three, plus B&B (black beans, caramelized corn, red bell peppers- one of Dr. Matthews’s faves) so we could have them all.

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Chili cheese étouffée with crawfish- their star dish

All menu items are served over rice and with delicious bread. I made the étouffée once from a recipe I found online, which I definitely plan to do a post on in the near future.

We left Indy highly satisfied and with a copy of the cookbook Dr. Matthews’s extended family put together of their favorite recipes. My mother in law’s maiden name is Catt, and they came up with this adorable cover (which goes along with the title of this post but is not the reason for it):

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After arriving in Cleveland for the second leg of our journey, I met my friend, Kristy, for lunch downtown. I have literally known her my entire life and we always have a great time chatting and eating together. She took me to a joint which is awesomely dubbed Noodlecat (now you know the inspiration behind the title of this post- I couldn’t resist). This description from their website describes it best:

“Noodlecat is a slurpalicious Japanese-American mash-up from Chef Jonathon Sawyer. Inspired by Tokyo noodle worship and New York City noodle houses, Noodlecat recreates traditionally inspired flavors using locally sourced and seasonal ingredients following sustainable business practices in all areas of restaurant operation.”

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How cute is this logo?

I love noodles and I love cats so I was hopeful I’d like this restaurant. I did.

We got a couple soups, a salad and two steamed buns:

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Our spread

Ideally, I would have gotten photos of each artfully displayed dish individually, buuuut I was really hungry, so…

Kristy’s soup (front and back right), tempura soba dori (with curry kale, bonito dashi, chewy kelp, tempura veggie cake & crispy egg) reminded me a bit of miso and had a seafood-esque flavor. Mine (left back), pork miso ramen (with super dashi broth, roasted pork, crispy garlic, sesame, scallion, 6-minute egg and miso broth) tasted like fancy ramen noodles (as you might imagine) and the pork was very tasty (however, I am not a fan of runny eggs so did not eat mine). Our steamed buns included pulled pork with sesame BBQ (front middle) and brisket bun with hellish mayo (back middle). These were both good but honestly I could have traded the steamed bun itself for another type of bread. It was…oddly smooth. Finally, we had the Japanese chopped salad (with iceberg, choy, tofu ranch, soy braised egg, bacon, avocado, house smoked tofu & crispy ramen). It was very fresh, nicely crunchy and we enjoyed the dressing, although the smoked tofu was pretty tasteless and chewy. God bless you vegetarians.

I love experiencing new restaurants and exploring unfamiliar cuisines with friends and family, and, although Kristy is no stranger to exotic foods and dishes, I did not even know what several of these ingredients were and it was a small adventure for me. 🙂

Later that evening, my mom had creamy white chicken sand artichoke lasagne waiting for us, of which I forgot to take a picture, but it basically looked like the photo online:

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It was nice and savory and the flavors melded together well. I personally might be tempted to replace the sun-dried tomatoes with roasted red peppers, however, as sun-dried tomatoes aren’t really my thang.

Our Cleveland visit also included ice skating with our favorite Ohio niece, Donyelle:

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And we closed out our visit with homemade spaghetti and meatballs from my grandma- a recipe brought straight from the old country by her father. I got the recipes for her marinara and meatballs and will be doing a post on those some time soon, so stay tuned!

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