Indiana trip report
Let me take a few minutes to review my recent Indiana trip, on a day that brought a tornado to Brooklyn-just like back home! Yikes. Oh, and Bloomington made the NY Times food page today, with news of Daniel Orr’s place opening October 1st.
The gods of flight were with us coming in, so we had time to stop at Oliver Winery on the way into Bloomington. First, this is a beautiful place-gardens, lake, picnic tables (you can buy wine at the store and enjoy it with your picnic lunch)…the tasting/sales room is great, with various food items and crafts. We tasted a variety of wines, but the late harvest Vignoles is a real standout. And for the record, it pairs very nicely with homemade lemon meringue pie. I also enjoyed the 2005 Cabernet. Alas, they don’t ship out of state and we were traveling light with carry-on, so I couldn’t bring any back to NY.
Our next stop was Trulli Flatbread for lunch. They have a nice outdoor space overlooking the street, but the humidity led us inside. Nice, clean lines-we had a view of the wood burning oven. The salad was very nice (I do eat them, now and then) as was the bean soup (a special). But the flatbreads were terrific-we had two “small” flatbreads-a lamb sausage/tomato and an onion/mushroom. Even after that, we still managed to share a slice of blueberry pie.
After a nap (it was pouring-we couldn’t really take the nice long walk I had intended) we headed back to Tallent. We had the table right by the kitchen and had the pleasure of watching the food prep. The place was fairly full, and I noticed several birthday candles going out on the desserts. A nice bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape set the tone for the evening. We started with the corn soup-the smoky taste complimented with bits of lamb bacon, the agnolloti (I’m a terrible reviewer-it was good, but I can’t remember any details) and (yes, there were only two of us) the caprese terrine-all the flavors of the traditional salad, put into terrine form-another winner. Then on to the duck with peach risotto-the duck, perfect as usual (my wife’s weakness) and the risotto a great pairing with the duck. I had rabbit, with corn and other tidbits-very nice, very tasty. We finished with the tomato dessert (tomato ice-cream! The best of both worlds)-I really loved this, and want it again, now. I took the suggested pairing of port, and it worked amazingly well. We also had a berry sherbet dessert and finished off with coffee.
The service, as always, was excellent. After dining here half a dozen times, about every 6 months, I continue to be impressed with the consistency and quality of the kitchen and waitstaff.
And the Saturday morning farmers’ market. We picked up some excellent sweet corn from the place with the long line (good reason for the line), very tasty (and in my experience hard to grow) black krim tomatoes, yellow watermelon, mushrooms, onions, small potatoes and miniature cantaloupes. We also found very nice bread (along the right side as you come in from the Morton Street entrance.) Also good macaroons from the place that has tamales. We finished off our shopping with a stop in Sahara Mart-another treasure of Bloomington.
After all that, we ate a late breakfast at the Uptown Café-corn fritters and blueberry pancakes, with excellent coffee…since we were already running late, we didn’t have time to try takeout from any of the others suggestions in town-ah well, some other time.
But not so late that we couldn’t stop at the Cow Palace in Shelbyville for my turtle sundae (oh my.) I took a picture-see below.
While it may not do too many people much good, I’d be remiss if I didn’t report our positive experience of the St Gabriel’s fried chicken dinner at the Fayette County Fair-this is some fine chicken, served along with homemade mashed potatoes and gravy-check it out next August! Word is they served over 1,800 dinners.
Another stop at the Cow Palace for a tenderloin sandwich and a vanilla ice-cream soda-still my favorite tenderloin (yes, including Gnaw Bone.)
I was also impressed by my second visit to L’Explorateur in Indianapolis. I really like the old house setting, and they have a very interesting wine list (especially strong with Pinot’s, which pair well with a lot of the food.) We started with (there were 3 of us) the rocket/green apples/goat cheese salad-a very subtle blend of flavors, very nice for a salad, the diver scallops ceviche-he’s great with scallops-I still remember the last meal we had involving scallops, and the Hawaiian Poke of seared Tuna and Octopus-of course, I think true “poke” would have raw tuna, but this was very nice-a good balance of flavors and the octopus was perfect. The first sign that the service may not be up to the food came when I realized they hadn’t brought the fourth starter I ordered-but then realized it was being treated as another course…which is fine, but I was the only one eating it…I asked for another fork so I could offer a taste, but still (no, I hadn’t specified that all four should be brought at the same time.) In any case, it was my favorite-sweetbreads with an herb base and bone marrow ice cream-this dish just worked, in every aspect-great idea, beautifully executed.
Next up: the duck cooked sous-vide with corn-this method brought out the best in the duck-really fine. We also ended up having the black bean/manchego chili rellenos-spicy and tasty, and the king salmon with a leek/lemon/pistachio puree-the sauce was a nice foil to the fish…I say “ended up”, because the last two items were not what we ordered. When they serve, they have individual servers for each dish and then they all rush off…it was pretty clear that what I was served was not trout, but-the kitchen seemed a bit backed-up (it was very crowded), it was already late and we had an early flight…so we decided to just go with it—especially since it was all very good. By the time the waitress realized what she had done, we had already accepted the situation. But, just a word of warning to those seeking a “perfect” evening…oh, and they clear plates when you’ve finished, not waiting for everyone to finish-not a fine-dining touch.
We had the three desserts on offer- a chocolate crème brullee, a peach something and banana pudding…sorry I can’t be more specific, but I was finishing off the bottle of wine.
I definitely recommend this place, for the inventive food and pleasant space-and, to be fair, I didn’t ask for anything and didn’t complain when given the wrong food-but at the level of the kitchen, I shouldn’t have to…
The next morning, we just had time for a quick stop at the Bay Window in Greenwood. The French toast was tasty and the biscuits with sausage gravy wonderfully disgusting (but, hey, I had a long day ahead of me!) Interestingly, my wife, who had received the dish she ordered the night before, was served the wrong dish this morning…quickly corrected, I might add. Check this place out if you’re in the area-a nice mom & pop place.
So, thanks again for all the great tips-as always, you’ve made my trip much more enjoyable.
Thanks for the report Tallent's late summer menu sounds great. We'll get a chance to find out on the 17th when my husband and I take our daughter there for her birthday dinner. This is also the night of the Dine Local event sponsored by the Local Growers' Guild. It will be a mighty fine day to be eating in Bloomington!
So glad that Bloomington shone to advantage for you, David! I am so proud of the food scene in this town -- it warms my heart when others enjoy it too.
I have had similar experiences at L'Ex. Mostly lovely food, but eccentric service (once our amuses arrived with our check.)
Glad to hear from you --I've been looking forward to your report!
I would think you can probably get in at Tallent if you call soon, unless they have something big going on. I just gave a rundown on Bloomington places in general here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/42980... -- something there might sound good to you. Happy to answer questions if I can.
Thank you for the report! I love to read about Indy - there is more than corn in Indiana! :-)
I haven't been to Tallent, I've read several reports and there seem to be two types of reports, love it or hate it. I know that can be said of a great many places, everyone's opinion is different. I should make the drive and check it out though!
I do also really like L'Explorateur and would highly recommend it. Service in the dining room can be spotty sometimes, it doesn't really bother me, it's just one of those things. I'm usually so pleased with my meal that I just shrug it off. Neal has addressed the service issue himself on CH. I've found that sitting in the bar (at the bar specifically) is the best place in the house... pun intended. Sitting there is like watching Iron Chef, but WAY better, and you can talk to him while he's working!
Thanks for the report! :)
Since sweetbreads are your favorite, I heartily recommend 14 West in downtown Indy the next time you're in the area. Their panned veal sweetbreads, served with crimini mushrooms, fennel salad, and marsala sauce, are absolute heaven. Read my complete report (on my dinner there, as well as at L'Ex and Tallent) at www.chowhound.com/topics/348586
I have eaten at 14 West, when Tony Hanslit was there. I found most of the food a bit heavy and over flavored-gravy, sauce, etc. I feel the same way about Oakleys. It's interesting that you found the food at Tallent bland...clearly, we have different "tastes".
Chacon a son gout.