Roadtrip to Anderson Orchard!

It’s peach season, and as tolerant as I usually am of supermarket produce, mealy bland grocery store stone fruit just offends my taste buds.  So a few weekends ago, we packed up the car and took the scenic route to Anderson Orchard in Mooresville, IN.

The orchard has been a favorite of mine for years and is about 30 minutes southwest of the city.  They are family-owned and operated and offer apples July-November as well as other seasonal goodies.  They also make cider slushies, which I promise will knock your glucometer off.  You can check the calendar for apple variety by season here.

One of my favorite things about the orchard is this:Photo Aug 17, 1 27 17 PM

When there are 50 varieties of apple, I really appreciate being able to sample before I buy a whole bunch of them!  Photo Aug 17, 1 37 13 PMThe staff are great at recommending the correct variety of apple or peach depending on what you will use it for and personal preference.  For example, I was directed toward the succulent Coral Star peach, a yellow freestone variety that falls off the pit.  As the woman who helped me put it “this is what I reach for when I want a sweet juicy mouthful of peach.”  I grabbed a half peck and happily licked juice from my fingers all week long.  Photo Aug 17, 1 28 11 PM

I also stocked up on some green beans, peppers, and tomatoes.  Photo Aug 17, 1 32 51 PMPhoto Aug 17, 1 32 56 PMPhoto Aug 17, 1 34 32 PM

I admired the nectarines, plums, and blueberries.  Photo Aug 17, 1 28 35 PM Photo Aug 17, 1 28 23 PM Photo Aug 17, 1 43 05 PM

However, the best score of the day was discovering my favorite apple variety to date.  I am a fan of sweet-tart, crisp apples-you know, the ones that taste like fall.  I usually opt for Gala, Fuji, or the ever-popular and pricey Honeycrisp.  I had never even heard of an Elstar apple, but it is the best of all worlds.  Just a bit more tart than a Honeycrisp, I could (and did) eat these for days.  Photo Aug 17, 1 30 33 PM

If you are free this Labor Day weekend, take a trip out!  Pack a little picnic to eat by the pond and pick your own raspberries for dessert.  Grab your produce for the week and some extra to freeze or can.  It’s a wonderful way to spend half a day.

I also happen to know that this weekend, the concession stand will open, and look at this list of treats:

-Elephant ears

-Fried biscuits with apple butter

-Apple turnovers

-Apple fondue

-Caramel apples

I dare you to stay away.  This is late summer at it’s absolute most perfect.



John’s Famous Stew: Warming Hearts since 1911

Northwest Indianapolis has Trader’s Point, a glorified mall, and Northeast Indianapolis has Fishers, where the WASPS commute after their office jobs.  Southeast Indy has Fountain Square, which in the last 5 years has earned its “cultural district” label many times over.  But if you travel just five minutes from downtown toward the airport, you’ll bump into Southwest Indianapolis where the Hoosiers live.  This is where truck drivers go for mechanical work and body parts, where animals picked up by the pound are sent, and where John’s Famous Stew serves hungry working people it’s namesake nosh. Photo Aug 15, 11 58 23 AM

I admit that I always draw a blank when asked for restaurant recommendations on the west and southwest side, but I’m working to fix that.  So when foodie friends Nick and Alice recommended John’s Famous to me, I hustled right on down for a hearty lunch.

I don’t know where you’re from, but I’m unquestionably from blue-collar Indiana, and this place instantly felt like home to me.  Located on Kentucky Ave just down the block from transmission places and across the street from a building that advertises “professional wrestling every Tuesday,” John’s looks like your average factory town tavern.  On the Thursday lunchtime I visited, the dining room’s 30 or so tables were more than half full of lunch-breaking mechanics, retired-looking gentlemen, and businesspeople in their business attire.Photo Aug 15, 11 58 54 AM

The menu has a pretty standard burger, pork tenderloin, chili and crackers type offerings, and of course, the Famous Hearty Stew.  We had obviously decided to have stew, but this turned out to be a complex decision, as there are mild, medium, and hot versions of the stew, as well as “goulash” versions which are apparently the same stew plus butter beans and other mixed veggies.  Between you and me, the mixed vegetables looked suspiciously like a frozen corn, peas, and carrots blend, which isn’t my favorite, so I nixed that option.  You can also order the stew over potatoes, just the stew broth ladled over various things, and other amalgamations of the classic.

We opted for the medium hot stew, plus a cup of chili and a grilled cheese sandwich.  The stew was served in a wide plate with a thick slice of white bread.  We had one chunk of chuck roast, about 3 inches on a side, surrounded by gooey, spice-laden gravy.  There were potatos, carrots, cabbage, and other vegetables so cloaked in gravy they were unidentifiable.  Eating this stew was like being hugged by all your grandparents all at once.  As a culinary object, it was gloppy, unrefined, and odd.   On a cold winter day, tired of gluten-free wraps and quinoa salads and pickled watermelon and maybe, just maybe, missing your childhood a little bit?  This is the stuff. Photo Aug 15, 12 11 29 PM

The chili was fine but nothing to write home about.  The grilled cheese was predictable perfection and served with a dill spear and chips (which I’m sure you can guess I find highly imperative).  The server was completely delightful:  south-of-the-circle accent, chatty, and friendly-the kind of person who can call you “darlin” without you wanting to hit them.  Photo Aug 15, 12 11 37 PM Photo Aug 15, 12 11 33 PM

Overall, this is the kind of place you come to feel like the simple old days aren’t quite gone.  It’s the kind of place you want to be a regular at, to have the bartender know your name and pour you a Budweiser and complain about the weather with you.  The stew is good, and you should go and try the stew, but if you’re like me it won’t be the only reason you come back.

http://John's Famous Stew on Urbanspoon

His Place: Food for Everyone’s Soul

His Place is a quintessential soul food restaurant on the east side that serves chicken and waffles, ribs, and other non-low-fat offerings.  I got a groupon for His Place after seeing fried perch on the menu because perch is one of my favorite fish and nearly impossible to find in this area. I was intrigued by the idea of spaghetti as a side dish and by the dessert offering of sweet potato cheesecake.  I was not disappointed.

The worst thing about His Place is how difficult it is to visit.  They are open six days a week but the hours are literally different 5 of those 6 days.  But since you need to fast at least 6 hours before visiting to make ample stomach room for the goodies, planning ahead isn’t really such a big deal.  It also is in an older building that smells a bit funky inside in the way older buildings do.  Again, totally worth it.

I obviously opted for the fried perch, which came with two sides.  I chose bourbon creamed corn and the spaghetti, which I admit isn’t the most natural combination, but how do you turn down those options?  Photo Jul 10, 5 01 12 PMI was very pleased with the fish.  Many places in Indianapolis have a beer-battered fish, which I find a bit soggy and puffy.  This fry batter was more substantial and crunchy and reminded me of the fish fries up north, if a bit thicker.  I got four filets, which I thought was pretty generous for $10.  The spaghetti was standard spaghetti, which actually was a really interesting side to fried food.

As tasty as the fish and spaghetti were, I wouldn’t order either again because next time I go back I am ordering a quart of the bourbon creamed corn for dinner.  I couldn’t pinpoint what made the corn so delicious, but it was pure bliss.  Slightly sweet, slightly creamy, slightly peppery, the envy of everyone at the table.  Seriously, you have to try this stuff.

Abby ordered fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and stuffing.  Photo Jul 10, 5 00 48 PMShe was impressed by the juicy meat and nice crispy fry batter of the chicken.  It’s hard to mess up mashed potatoes and gravy, and His Place certainly did not.

Phil got ribs, macaroni and cheese, and mashed potatoes with gravy.  Photo Jul 10, 5 00 55 PMI enjoy ribs in theory, but unless the meat falls off into my mouth, they just seem like so much work.  Happily, these ribs and my laziness were a perfect match.  Their combination of dry rub and just a touch of barbecue sauce on the side is exactly what I look for in a rib, and I will probably order these myself next time I visit.  (with the quart of creamed corn, of course.)  The macaroni and cheese wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, a bit on the overcooked side, but still a perfect accoutrement to ribs.

After that huge meal, I loosened by sweatpants and was all geared up for a piece of the sweet potato cheesecake! My heart was fairly broken when they didn’t have any available and  I consoled myself by ordering banana pudding.  Photo Jul 10, 5 22 48 PM

The problem with eating a really delicious meal at a new restaurant is that it’s very difficult to try something else the next time you visit.  I still want to try the sweet potato cheesecake, but now that I know how good this banana pudding is, I don’t think I can not order it again.  It was the most wonderful creamy consistency, like maybe there was whipped cream mixed into the banana pudding?  And then there were layers of bananas and vanilla wafers and I just was so so happy.  See the little Nilla wafer crumbs on top?  Like a hug in a dish.

In summary, I loved His Place. The price was right, about $10 an entree which included sides, and $3.50 for very generously sized desserts. Our server was extremely friendly, our food was extremely delicious.  Run away winners were the creamed corn and banana pudding, but everything was flavorful and well-cooked.  It’s not a fancy culinary destination, but it is feel-good food at it’s most satisfying and I will be back.  As soon as I have my cholesterol checked.

http://His Place Eatery on Urbanspoon