ROAD TRIP: Spire Farm-to-Fork

Local in LaPorte

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Located inside the Legacy Hills Golf Course’s clubhouse, Spire Farm-to-Fork (299 W. Johnson Rd., LaPorte, 219-575-7272) proves that small-town Hoosier dining can aspire to something more than gut-busting tenderloins and grandma-style pies. In the restaurant that opened in September of 2012, chef-owner Brad Hindsley prepares meals completely from scratch, using only fresh ingredients—never processed, packaged, or frozen—from farms within a 150-mile radius. On a recent visit, the menu touted 16 local produce vendors; nine meat, egg, and dairy farmers; and even five specialty vendors supplying such basics as sugar, flour, and honey.

The kitchen makes Parker rolls from scratch, along with everything from dressings to doughnuts to ice creams. “We make absolutely everything in the restaurant—everything except ketchup,” says Hindsley (whose name, ironically, is pronounced as you would “Heinz” ketchup). Sure, the concept may be ubiquitous in the Indiana market, but Hindsley steps it up with the DIY details. The tables are decked with gorgeous raw Himalayan sea salt blocks and small graters that diners administer themselves. Next to the salt blocks are planted herb boxes with scissors. Snip and season. “I was inspired on a culinary trip to Italy in 2011. They had a box and a live flower next to the salt and pepper shakers,” says Hindsley, who found a local farm that maintains the herb boxes once a week.

The dining room is like nothing you’d expect from a country club. There’s no sign of hunter-on-maroon plaid or dark-paneled walls. Instead, it’s sleek and modern, with soaring ceilings, oversized lamps, and bird art made from Lake Michigan driftwood.

It came as no surprise to hear that Hindsley worked under the helm of James Beard-winner Mindy Segal at Chicago’s Hot Chocolate. Standout dishes included excellent spring pea crostinis, crunchy and slightly charred bread bites with a generous smear of pea puree, then topped with matchstick radishes and chunks of Asiago. The stylishly presented goat cheese truffles reminded us of those cream cheese-and-triscuit cheese balls we loved to hate in the 1980s.Luckily, these just resembled them in looks. The rounded goat cheese puffs, made with game coated in roasted almonds, went very well on the truffle-oiled pita triangles.

For dessert, javaphiles get started with the Spire coffee experience—fresh-ground, locally roasted beans poured tableside. It goes well with the new-fangled Bourbon semi-freddo constructed of salted caramel ice cream and a triangle of ridiculously rich and delicious peanut brittle. The only miss of the night was the bison meatloaf. We understand bison is typically a bit drier than cow, but the tomato puree greatly overpowered the delicate meat.

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