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Food & Drinks

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Frosty, Party of One

Spotted dining al fresco at Tastings today.

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TREND WATCH: Shepherd's Pies

We didn’t need a UK survey to tell us that Shepherd’s pie, that yummy deep-dish casserole of beef and root veggies crusted with mashed potatoes, ranks  high among comfort dishes to get us through the winter. Some of our favorites around town:

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NEW IN TOWN: Eggshell Bistro

Depending on which home magazines you subscribe to, the French flea market trappings of Carmel’s darling brunch spot Eggshell Bistro (51 W. City Center Dr., Carmel, 317-660-1616) will give you either a serious case of decorator’s envy … or a petit headache. Larry Hanes, owner of the eatery in its first weeks of business in the brand-new Carmel City Center, has amassed an impressive collection of vintage flair, from the ’50s-era manual Italian espresso machine with a metal grill and wooden knobs to the antique cinnamon grinder at the coffee bar. And it all comes to roost in this sunny corner spot. Diners are seated in vintage blue and yellow metal Tolix chairs, at marble tables topped with Orangina bud vases. Even the banged-up institutional trash can and paper towel dispenser in the ladies room are covetable in a shabby chic kind of way.

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Swoon List: 5 Things We Adore Right Now

The Bloody Mary at The Local Eatery & Pub (14655 N. Gray Rd., Westfield, 317-218-3786). Presented in a chilled Mason jar rimmed with kosher salt, this generous pour of house-infused habanero organic vodka from American Harvest has a spicy but clean finish. Garnishes range from garlic blossoms to pickled chard. Sweet

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No Candy Coating

Think twice before sending back your hot chocolate at South Bend Chocolate Company. The owner was apparently caught packing heat while hustling through the security lines at the O’Hare Airport.

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MINI REVIEW: Bu Da Lounge

An elaborate new setup involving plenty of red lacquer and a pervasive dusky amber glow has given sushi-and-cigar purveyor Bu Da Lounge (148 E. Market St., 317-822-8522) plenty of room to spread out and reinvent itself. The multi-level space just east of Monument Circle and west of City Market includes a main room dominated by a monster of a bar left over from the address’s past life as the upscale J. Pierpont’s Restaurant and Bar, one of downtown’s finest during the Market Square Arena days. (Scenes from the movie Eight Men Out were filmed in the vintage classical revival building.) From there, the space honeycombs into dark nooks and sexy ante bars adorned with Buddha statues, paper lanterns, and lotus motifs.

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NEW IN TOWN: Azul

The name may have changed one more time at this ever-evolving bar and eatery just north of Central Library on 9th Street downtown. But while it began as Bar Yats and morphed into simply The Bar at the Ambassador when Yats owner Joe Vuskovich pulled out of the business venture, what’s now Azul (43 E. 9th St., 602-2279) looks almost the same as it always has with its stark black walls, spacious banquettes, and plate-glass windows facing Pennsylvania Street.

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Swoon List: 5 Things We Adore Right Now

The fun-to-order Purple Raintini at Mass Ave’s new sliver of a martini bar, Tini (717 N. Massachusetts Ave., 317-384-1313). The Multivitamin juice at Natural Born Juicers (222 E. Market St., 317-797-4254), frothy and flavorful goodness loaded with vitamin C, carrot, apple, and orange–the perfect remedy for the gluttonous post-holid

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2011 Reflections

Opener opener opener

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Devour Time

January 9th marks the first day of this winter’s early Devour Downtown (pushed up because of that little event you might have heard about … The Super Bowl), and we’re closely watching restaurants post their menus. Here is what to expect from a few of the 54 restaurants participating in the $30/three-course eating frenzy that runs through Jan 22.

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Swoon List: 5 Things We Adore Right Now

The Penne Medici at downtown’s new Lorenzo’s Ristorante (15 E. Maryland St., 317-635-3096), tossed with roasted chicken, artichokes, sun dried tomatoes, and capers. The crock of bubbling-hot spinach dip served with warm, salty tortillas at Champions (350 W. Maryland St., 405-6111). The vibrantly colore

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Martha Hoover :­ The Next 5 Things on Her To Do List

See what the owner of Cafe Patachou is up to in early 2012:

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The Dirt at 30th and Central

In case you were wondering what the raised beds at 30th and Central were all about, we have the dirt. Maggie Goeglein, project manager for Fall Creek Gardens, tells us it’s the start of a new community garden. “The goal is to provide support to home and urban food production by practicing and teaching organic and sustainable methods of growing food, encouraging community garden space (virtual and physical), and by providing access to tools, supplies and information,” says Goeglein. They will start by growing basic garden veggies such as tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cabbage, and leafy greens such as lettuces, collards, kale, and spinach, along with herbs and edible or beneficial flowers. The group welcomes all who want to learn–about everything from how to plan a garden, to how to raise a flock of backyard chickens.

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MINI REVIEW: Meridian

It is difficult to imagine a cozier retreat from the winter chill than Meridian Restaurant & Bar (5694 N. Meridian St., 317-466-1111), a charming log cabin built in the 1800s, with dark wood, a stone hearth, and windows overlooking Meridian-Kessler. To receive the most transcendent culinary experience, though, set the menu aside and allow chef Dan Dunville to choose the evening’s feast for you. As we did. After starters of meaty and succulent quail grilled and served with lemon Parmesan kale risotto, and roasted beets with tarragon, apples, and white pepper (with the perfect amount of acid) came the liquid goodness of Meridian’s smoky, warm corn soup. The puree of roasted corn, parsnips, and bacon is flecked with red pepper and drizzled with oil made from herbs de Provence. Entrees were the house’s go-to dry-rubbed pork tenderloin, with flavors of cumin, chorizo, and red chile, and scallops drizzled with lingonberry, apple, and balsamic sauces. We could not have picked a better and more satisfying rotation of plates ourselves. 

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You’re a Good Chef, Charlie Trotter

When the history of cuisine in the United States in the 20th century gets written (it’ll take some time to get some real perspective), there can be no question that chef Charlie Trotter will have a place in the pantheon. His eponymous Chicago restaurant ranked with French Laundry, El Bulli, and other temple destination as one of the places anyone serious about dining needed to visit—not to mention served as a training ground for an emboldened generation of chefs, including the likes of Grant Atchatz and others. On New Year’s Eve, he announced that his cozy place would close in August, after its 25th anniversary. Get your reservations … now.

 

There is a good summary in the Chicago Tribune, as well as a Sun-Times piece from New Year’s Day. (Props to that scrappy newspaper, which broke the story.)

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