Food Editor Christine Barbour describes ten of her best foodie moments of the past five years.
Bloomington is a great place to eat, a happy anomaly in Indiana’s drive-through, fast-food, chain-restaurant-loving culture. In Bloom’s five years of publication, we have profiled a different local restaurant in each issue—at six issues per year, that’s a lot of independently owned restaurants serving delicious, locally prepared, often locally produced food and a lot of very tasty bites for this restaurant reviewer. Here are my top ten.
1. Parisian pizzetta
Chef Jeff Finch is a soup wizard, turning locally grown ingredients into bowls full of delight, but if I had to pick a single, wonderful bite at Finch’s it would be the Parisian pizzetta. Thin-sliced potato, crisp bacon, and melted leeks on delicious, chewy flatbread crust. Heaven.
2. Matzoh Ball Soup
at Bella Cucina.
When I went to do a photo shoot at Bella Cucina, I had a horrible head cold. Chef Victoria Colongione sent me home with a bowl her matzoh ball soup, and in that stuffy- head, snotty-nose moment, nothing has ever tasted better. (Cured me, too!)
3. baked ricotta
from Restaurant Tallent.
Yes, Chef Dave Tallent can produce fancier fare, and yes, the multicourse tasting menu there that I wrote about in the summer of 2006 was superb in every way. But, oh, that baked ricotta—house-made, creamy and warm, slathered onto a crisp slice of toasted bread, it tasted of every comfort for which my heart has ever yearned.
4. Pad Kee Mao
at My Thai Cafe.
It’s the sauce—pungent, spicy, sweet, and full of basil—that makes these fat rice noodles, pan fried with tofu and vegetables, so very good.
Full of steamy corn goodness, these tamales are made with locally (and humanely) raised meat and wonderful local vegetables and cheese. Slow-cooked pork and chiles, beef mole, green chiles and cheese—they are all my favorite.
So many of my best bites over the past few years have been at BLU and most of them involve those crisp, light confections, sandwiched with lovely flavors like blood orange and salted caramel.
7. Indonesian corn fritters
In my book, nothing beats savory food for breakfast, and these corn-studded pancakes with a side of spicy salsa are the best.
8. Meatballs Bucharest
These fiery meatballs have been a best bite of mine for more than 20 years—most of those when, as a vegetarian, I would just pick the peppers from my carnivore husband’s plate so I could get at the endorphin-exploding sauce.
9. Fried green tomato pizza
A fried green tomato pizza wasn’t on the menu at Sweet Grass, but pizza was, and so were fried green tomatoes, and I thought they’d make a great match. Spicy sauce, sweet-tart tomatoes, mellow cheese. Good call.
10. Eggplant “FARMigian”
FARM’s menu is eclectic, with dishes that range from the quirky to the homey to elegant perfection, but my heart belongs to the Eggplant FARM. Sliced thick and stacked with slices of fresh mozzarella, basil pesto, and good tomato sauce, served with herby spaghetti, it is a deeply satisfying mouthful of summer.