January’s First Bite
In its first four years of cocktail-making, Bloomington distillery Cardinal Spirits (922 S. Morton St., Bloomington, 812-202-6789) has produced everything from a gentle 190.5-proof vodka to Indiana’s first craft single-malt whiskey, all starring in seriously creative drinks served at its own tasting room. When it came time to add food in the summer of 2017, the distillery didn’t call on just anyone. Enter Dean Wirkerman, the Austin-born chef whose résumé includes stints at Charlie Trotter’s and Thomas Keller’s New York outpost, Per Se. Flashes of Wirkerman’s past shine in seasonal menus with plenty of surprises. Foie gras and veal sweetbreads have both turned up in recent small plates, the former marinated in house brandy and the latter mingled with foraged hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, apples, and a tangy cider jus. More familiar butternut squash risotto arrives dressed up with frizzled Brussels sprouts, pepitas, and crushed amaretti cookies. Even the simplest dishes get elegantly elevated. An outsized platter of richly seasoned fries with Thousand Island is all the more reason to schedule a cocktail night to the south. At least your designated driver will return well fed.
Pinch of Wisdom
“When making a filling for your pie, keep the ripeness of the fruit in mind, like you would with savory cooking. If it is especially juicy, add more thickener or cook off some of the moisture on the top of the stove.” — Clarissa Morley, whose popular farmer’s market pie stall, Pots & Pans Pie Co., moved into its own brick-and-mortar shop on College Avenue
New In Town
There has been beer in the neighborhood for decades. Wine if you wanted it. But since nearly the Civil War, a law prohibiting three-way liquor licenses in Irvington meant spirits fans had to go elsewhere for the hard stuff. That ban was broken in late August when Amy Baggott opened Bonna Station (128 S. Audubon Rd., 317-974-9588), a storefront pub where spot-on cocktails are shaken by affable general manager Jason Ammerman and his staff. A refreshing Irvington Mule flavored with rosemary simple syrup is a big draw, as well as expert takes on the gin-based Prohibition-era favorite The Last Word. Standouts among the bar snacks include golden fried cheese curds with grainy mustard, pulled-pork nachos, and a cheese-stuffed, bacon-topped burger featuring beef from Tyner Pond Farm, one of the many enterprises Baggott operates with her husband, Chris, who also owns the adjacent Tyner Pond Market and slow-food casual spot The Mug. With this new neighborhood joint, the Baggotts have ushered in a new era of slow sipping.