Second Course: Pasture Perfect at The Loft Restaurant

It isn’t often you need a field guide to identify the songbirds serenading your dinner. “Was that a meadowlark? An oriole? Do we even have those in Indiana?” So went my party’s conversation on the deck of The Loft Restaurant at Zionsville’s iconic Traders Point Creamery. A warm breeze blew in from the pasture, an occasional car whipped around the hairpin curve on Moore Road, and a host of winged creatures chirped in the rafters above our table. All signs that, while the creamery has become a celebrated local brand in the past decade, the farm itself is still as bucolic and secluded as it ever was.

That owners Peter and Jane Kunz still aspire to run an organic farm-to-table restaurant onsite instead of only a brick-and-shingle storefront for showcasing their artisan wares is admirable. At times, the second-floor eatery, with its rustic soaring beams and up-close views of the cheesemaking process, has shown flashes of culinary genius, dating back nearly a decade to Jennifer Luttrell’s health-conscious spa approach at what was then Creamery Cafe. Frequent changes in chefs and concepts, however, have made a caramel milkshake a safer bet than dinner for two. But since June 2012, chef Brandon Canfield, whose kitchen creds include Deelece and MK, two unassuming foodie favorites in Chicago, and San Francisco’s celebrated Campton Place Restaurant (given a Michelin star in 2013), has been making sure the dishes at The Loft more than live up to the Traders Point Creamery reputation.

Canfield’s scaled-down creations highlighting the farm’s cheeses and whey-fed pork might not be as daring as dishes he wielded at his previous locations, but his skill at making a restrained palette of ingredients shine is evident. A recent daily soup featured an aromatic undertone of fennel and herbs to balance its potato base, and a roasted-beet salad rose above more typical versions with its tangy-sweet pickled onions and combination of creamy quark, a traditional German farmer’s cheese, and fromage blanc. Scallops, a somewhat surprising choice for a farm-themed eatery in Indiana, stand out for their freshness and a chili beurre blanc whose peppers emphasize with sweetness as much as heat. A thick chop from one of the creamery’s hogs has all the tasty fat of pigs gone by, redoubled by a bacon-and-onion jam. And a substantial plate of similarly fat-rimmed, grass-fed lamb chops makes for quite elegant eating. Like the suburban farm itself, think of it as a forward-thinking take on our agrarian past.

The Loft Restaurant
9101 Moore Rd., Zionsville, 317-733-1700, tpforganics.com

Hours Mon. 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m.; Tues.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m., 5–9 p.m.; Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m., 5–9:30 p.m.; Sun. 9:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m., 5–9 p.m.

Photos by Tony Valainis

This article appeared in the August 2013 issue.

A graduate of IU’s Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing, Terry Kirts hails from a town in Illinois so small it didn’t have a restaurant until he was in the 8th grade. Since 2000, he’s more than made up for the dearth of eateries in his childhood, logging hundreds of meals as the dining critic for WHERE Indianapolis, Indianapolis Woman, and NUVO before joining Indianapolis Monthly as a contributing editor in 2007. A senior lecturer in creative writing at IUPUI, Terry has published his poetry and creative nonfiction in a number of literary journals and anthologies, including Gastronomica, Alimentum, and Home Again: Essays and Memoirs from Indiana, and he’s the author of the poetry collection To the Refrigerator Gods, published by Seven Kitchens Press in 2011.