The Food Portion of Our Trip and Vanilla Roasted Pears
I forgot to say happy birthday to my Aunt Paula yesterday and welcome to fall!
What I did mention yesterday was that today is another vacation collage post and might be the one you are most interested in-the food portion of the trip. Read about the other parts of our trip here and here.
I was that annoying food blogger that I swore I wouldn’t be with her camera in the restaurant, screeching “don’t touch that yet, I need a picture” at most opportunities. There were times where I couldn’t wait and didn’t capture the feast…like my shared birthday meal with my mom from Moe’s Southwest Grill. Yep, the place I talk about often. (By the way, I had a lovely birthday. Greg and I went shopping in Fort Wayne’s Glenbrook Square and Jefferson Pointe malls, drooled over several things at Williams Sonoma, smelled several perfumes at Von Maur in the search for my signature clean scent and spent time with family.)
We ate with reckless abandonment for the entire trip. We both paid for it and are working towards dropping a few pounds now. You’ll see why below…
I’ll start at the top left picture and go across the row. The first 3 shots were actually on our last night home at Cebolla’s Mexican Grill with our parents and my sister. We had a great time, tasty food and most of us had that giant margarita in photo #1. Nice. That is Greg digging into his steak Mexicano and I had the Tijuana enchiladas. Both meals we would gladly get again. There are 3 locations in Ft. Wayne (Indiana) and I say try it! My youngest sister and her husband recommended this one and were right on. There’s a story, not about me, that I won’t tell involving their margaritas and tattoos.
The fourth picture on the top (not a very good one) was in Muncie (Ball State University territory) called the Fickle Peach. This was recommended to us by Greg’s brother and was a wonderful watering hole with a definite passion for good beer (26 on tap). The kind of beer you don’t find in your average bar. Check out their website back at that link and you’ll see. I can’t wait to go back. The bartender was a kind man that invited us to their 5 year celebration October 5th with a new beer release event. I wish we could be there.
The first two pictures on the second row are also in Muncie and also recommended by Greg’s brother. Good call. Thai Smile 2 has to be, although I’m not familiar with the food scene in Muncie but have heard on several accounts a cry for good restaurants in that city, one of the top places to eat. They were fast, friendly, attentive and the food was amazing. Some of the best Thai I’ve had. The green curry in coconut milk with chicken, peppers, peas, basil and bamboo shoots was my choice. I don’t recall what Greg ordered but he enjoyed my meal better, stating that his was good but not his kind of dish.
The next photo might be a place my devoted readers recognize due to my constant talk about it-King Gyros in Fort Wayne. This is my top pick for a gyro. As usual, I ordered the gyro platter (Greg and I shared so I ordered extra feta, sauce and pita). Going there once was not enough. After the King, across from the baseball stadium downtown, we went a few blocks to one of the Mad Anthony brewpubs for a pint or two. The beer isn’t the best we’ve had (still good) but the atmosphere is nice and the brews are decent for hours of sipping with friendly service. Another friend joined us on this excursion and we ended the night, under the moon and stars, on my parent’s patio, talking about life. We both enjoyed that time, Brant. (You’re not out either, Tom, Val and your young ladies! I wish we had more time with you.)
The third picture in the third row brings us to West Lafayette (our old Purdue University stomping grounds) to a new place, Fiesta Mexican Grill, where we caught up with an old friend obtaining his PhD in computational neuroscience. We call him Soccer Kris…he loves soccer so that explains his “creative” nickname. Good luck to him and his wife, Emily, on their search for work! He said this place was the hangout of the physics students. They are on to something…easily the best Mexican food near campus. Go there! Don’t wait!
Hours after all that amazing Fiesta food, we went over the bridge to Lafayette’s downtown scene where the Lafayette Brewing Company sits. Yes, that place I always fondly talk about from our years at the school. We were there on a Thursday-the day we used to stop by-talking about the old days when our friend came up the stairs bringing us back at least 3 years.
This was a pal we hadn’t talked to, due to stupid issues in the past that I can’t even recall now, in years. He strolled over to us in shock, telling us that we were next to the last 2 people he thought he’d see on the second floor. We then sat with some of his companions. One of them (forgive me, I forgot your name) actually brought up Surly beer from here in Minnesota-he wanted to get his hands on some and also mentioned the new People’s Brewing Company in Lafayette, started by a former LBC brewer. We drove by but did not get the pleasure of stopping on our way back to my parent’s house. Next time.
Before we left town, we went to a new hangout, DT Kirbys, down the street from the Brew Co.. The lovely picture of our friend, Daniel, sticking out his tongue and the stunning blonde (Diana) depict our time there. That was fun and we got to spend more time with friends in a welcoming atmosphere.
The last two pictures bring us back to Fort Wayne and one of the best pizza places,Oleys…if you’re looking for a gigantic, thick slice of yummy pizza with a large layer of mozzarella, this is it. The double deluxe often made an appearance at my home in my younger years. This pizza is on my list of “must haves” while I’m visiting.
On our way back to Minnesota, we stopped at a place called Maxwells for some hot dogs (and onion rings) in West Dundee, Illinois. The food was, as I put it that day, “pretty safe” meaning no oomph. You can tell some of it contains quality ingredients but we left with an “ehh” reaction and kept on truckin’.
The pots and pans belong to my mom-in-law. She has them hanging on her kitchen wall and I’m envious of her collection of cast iron. The farmer’s market mural is located on the building on the cobblestone road where the farmer’s market is held in Lafayette (Purdue). The farmer’s market that captured my heart and that I compare every other market to…miss that one. I have yet to find one that has its essence. We used to live down the street from it and Saturday morning, after a hectic work week, the vendors and their goods brought serenity to my life.
We went to Broad Ripple, a cultural area of Indianapolis, for a quick stop on our way to Ball State from IU. Not only was I hit on here and had to change my stylish wedge shoes for walking comfort, Greg and I sampled two beers at Broad Ripple Brewpub. Nice, light but not too memorable beyond the village lifestyle and its charm.
Home to the Vogue Theatre, a popular concert destination with that “underground/indie” feel (and a place my sister enjoys), might make this the spot to go for a night show. Getting to the village required Indianapolis downtown driving (easier than Minneapolis) and we went by the Lucas Oil Stadium where the Colts play and if we were interested in sports, might have more to say about the football season. I’ve got nothin’.
That brings us to the remaining pictures in the collage from Bloomington, Indiana-Indiana University territory. Greg’s sister is a freshman here and gave us a tour as best she could and we loved it. The campus is beautiful but it was way too busy most of our stay to really take it all in. We took ourselves downtown and stopped at an Italian restaurant, Grazie. It’s an award winning establishment but expensive for what is served. Delicious but pricey in our opinions.
On our way to Bloomington and right outside of the city, Greg and I stopped in for a quick visit to Oliver Winery. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it. My impression was that it was well-known only in Indiana but now know it has gained national reputation for many of its wines so believe it to be expanding. After this visit, it should be…into Minnesota would be nice.
The wines I knew in stores couldn’t compare to the Creekbend Vineyard (using Indiana grown grapes) wines that I didn’t see…most of what is sold in stores has been too sweet for my taste (except the Riesling and Gewürztraminer-two favorites of mine). This series is wonderful. I was impressed and came away with a case of mixed styles.
The landscape and facilities were very attractive with a large amount of butterflies floating around and flowers I’ve never seen. One of the butterflies, bigger than my hand, attempted to land on my head before I knew they were there and I yelped, embarrassing myself before leaving. Typical for me. Greg was impressed with the woodwork and not at all upset about buying an entire case…our intentions are to save some for Thanksgiving. Definitely worth a planned visit.
Our top choices (beyond the Riesling and Gewürztraminer) are: Catawba, gorgeous color with hints of strawberry and peach, the Beanblossom hard cider, with Indiana apples, the blackberry, somewhat sweet but well-rounded and great for fall, and the Vidal Blanc, with flavors of apple and pear. We adored more but had to stop purchasing wine at that point. You can order the wines online in some states and I suggest you do so for the upcoming fall holidays (most are priced between $10 and $20).
Now for the place that was recommended by a reader from Bloomington and the place that stuck out and impressed us beyond our imaginations-farm market & café part of farm Bloomington, a local, farm to plate operation from Chef Daniel Orr. Read more about it or check out the youtube video here. Bon Appetit and the Food Network awarded this unique organization in recent years (hopefully the idea grows-I’d love to have a place like this in the future).
The food was amazing, easily the best breakfast I’ve ever had on a vacation and probably in my life (that I can remember). Look at that fresh fruit with local honey and something that probably doesn’t look like much but I promise that, with its simplicity and quality ingredients, is superb. The roasted tomatoes, toast, apple butter, jam and butter had me swooning. Wow!
The last collage for the day consists of what we did and our last meal and night with family at Cebollas. Tear.
No need to explain this dessert-it’s simple yet elegant and ideal for this fall season. Anyone else wondering where September went?
Vanilla Roasted Pears from Smitten Kitchen
Serves 4 to 6
¼ cup sugar
½ vanilla bean (a splash or two of extract could work too in a pinch)
1 ½ lbs. of any variety of pear, peeled and halved
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp butter
Preheat the oven to 375F. Place the sugar in a bowl. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise in half and scrape out the seeds. Stir the seeds with the sugar or if using extract, stir that with the sugar. Arrange the pears in a baking dish, cut side up. Drizzle the lemon juice over the top and sprinkle with the sugar. Add the bean to the dish if you desire. Pour the water into the dish and dot the pears with some butter.
Roast for 30 minutes, brushing the pears with the juices occasionally and turn, then roast another 25 to 30 minutes longer. Check to see if they are tender after 30 minutes for smaller pears. Serve warm with the drippings when tender.