“Hey, Nice Pierogis!”

My adventurous friend Christina informed me last summer that I had missed the most amazing festival of all time.  This year, I won’t be left out.  We are trekking north to Whiting, IN, for the 3-day spectacle of buttery goodness and boozy northerners that is Pierogi Fest. Here is her analysis of the event from 2013.

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“A few years ago, I made a trip to Poland specifically to purchase some pottery and eat some pierogi. This was a different time in my life, when I had the time and money for grand adventures. Luckily for me, Whiting, Indiana’s Pierogi Fest easily satisfies my craving for all things Polish. Held each year on the last full weekend in July, it is one of the wackiest and most delicious fests I have attended. Here’s the rundown:

First, the food. Obviously, the darling of the fest is the pierogi. For those sad individuals unfamiliar with the deliciousness that is the pierogi, it is a small dumpling filled with things like potato, cheese (which is sweet, like a dessert!), meat, and sauerkraut. While all are delicious, my favorite is always potato. And actually…I lied because I hate sauerkraut, so I usually try to trade with a family member when they aren’t looking.  Photo Aug 28, 11 11 32 AM

Polish food goes way beyond the pierogi to include dishes such as Golabki (stuffed cabbage), Placki (potato pancakes), Kielbasa (a type of sausage) and desserts like Chrusciki (bow tie cookies). If this is your first time trying Polish food, I highly recommend getting one of the sampler plates. At less than $10, it is easily big enough to share with a friend or two. Or you could be like my father and order four of them. Either way.

In terms of deliciousness, everything was pretty good. Could the pierogi have been a little crispier on the outside? Probably. Could the placki have been a little less greasy? Maybe. But considering that the fest attracts more than 200,000 visitors over the course of three days, I think they do a fantastic job. And if you aren’t a fan of Polish food, there are lots of booths selling standard fair/fest food.

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Next up- the attractions! The biggest attraction is by far the very crowded, all-things-Polish parade held on Friday night. I wasn’t able to make it this year, but I can tell you that it’s hilarious, especially if your family is Polish. This year I witnessed a dunk tank for nuns, European dance groups, and a whole lot of polka. Even the signs are clever.

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So, this weekend, grab your stretchy pants and get your dupa up to Northwest Indiana for a novel take on the small-town festival.”

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Naisa Pan-Asian Cafe: Ehhhh

My friend Abby and I had a free afternoon recently and decided to try a place we had seen in Fountain Square called Naisa Pan Asian Cafe.  Both huge fans of most Asian food, we were excited to try out the lunch specials.

The atmosphere is modern and fresh, decorated in warm colors.  Overall, the decor is probably the best thing about Naisa, actually.  IMG_7996The menu features pretty standard Chinese fare, not exactly “pan-asian” by my expectations, but I’m far from an expert in regional cuisine.  Maybe it was the dishes we selected, but the food was just completely underwhelming for us both.  I got the chicken chow mein, which was very bland save for a very potent celery flavor.  The texture of the noodles was a nice vehicle for the soy sauce I applied liberally to them, but that was about it.  IMG_7994Abby picked the cashew chicken lunch special, which came with the (tasty but!) smallest seafood cheese wonton I’ve ever had.  IMG_7993The story was the same with this dish:  well-cooked and not heavy or greasy, but lacking any of that delicious flavor that brings me to an Asian restaurant.

The other thing that was notable about Naisa was the extremely long wait we had.  Our entire lunch took almost an hour and a half.  If I had unlimited meals in my life, I would give Naisia another shot, because it wasn’t bad.  It just wasn’t…good.

http://Naisa Pan-Asian Cafe on Urbanspoon

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.

 

Carniceria Guanajuato II: East Side Tacos to die for

I am always looking for good authentic tacos, so when foodie friend, latin-culture-lover and east-sider Alise told me these tacos were the best she knew of, I ran on over to try.  Carniceria Guanajuato is, obviously, a Mexican supermarket, the east-side sibling of the original Pike Plaza store.  However, there is a food court of sorts where you can grab authentic tacos, tortas, burritos, and more at VERY low prices.Photo Jul 05, 7 20 01 PM

I will say that if you aren’t a somewhat adventurous eater, this is not the spot for you.  The food may be familiar, but the eating area can’t be described as clean by any stretch of imagination and the likelihood anyone will speak English is vague. This is a place you go for food so tasty it’s worth the possibility of foodborne illness or eastside crime.

We ordered chicken, steak, and lengua tacos and a chicken torta.  The tacos were the biggest I’ve ever seen; there had to have been 1/3 lb of meat in each one.  They were served with generous amounts of cucumber and lime on the side and topped with raw onion.  For future reference, I’d probably order 2 maximum if I were very hungry.  The wheel wasn’t reinvented here, but these tacos were completely delicious.

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Look how much meat!!

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My torta was the real showstopper for me.  Different than other tortas I’ve had, theirs featured tomato and pepper cooked with the chicken and was more like a warm pot pie than the usual cold sandwich.  I can’t say I like it more or less than Tortas Dominguez y El Cubanito or Super Tortas, because they are really two different beasts.  I love them both, and, sitting here writing, I crave them both simultaneously.  Photo Jul 05, 7 34 27 PM

This one inexplicably reminds me of my mom and grandma’s cooking.  If anyone else (who isn’t even kind of hispanic) goes and feels this bizarre taste nostalgia, please let me know so I can stop feeling crazy.

I will also say this for Carniceria Guanajuato-it is literally cheaper than Taco Bell.  We got three tacos, a torta, and 2 cans of soda for $11.50.  Neither of us finished our food, despite being substantially hungry.  It’s interesting, it’s cheap, it’s delicious, and it stimulates a part of town that needs stimulating.  I’ll be back in a hurry.

http://Carniceria Guanajuato II on Urbanspoon

Melanie Cooks: From Lard to Picture Pies

Hi guys!  It’s summer, and that means it’s time for my favorite summer treat-cherry pie with ice cream!  The trickiest part is the crust, but my friend Melanie is an excellent cook and wrote up her favorite recipe for you-it’s ALMOST as good as my grandma’s ;-).  (Anna’s note:  you can use regular sweet cherries, but they really REALLY aren’t the same.  It’s worth finding an orchard where you can pick the sour ones!)

My great-grandmother always said ‘Lard makes everything taste better.’ She’d be devastated to know that I’ve shirked my duties and use Crisco in my pie crusts instead. Alas, we all can’t be as great as our elders! She would be happy to know, however, that I continue to use her original ‘Picture Pies’ cookbook.

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I’ll stand by these pie recipes til the end; you know it has to be a good book when it has everything from true mincemeat pies to eggnog pie to lemon fluff pie! But for today, in line with the upcoming 4th of July holiday, we’ll stick with good ol’ traditional cherry pie.

Ok, I’ll admit, I’ve had my share of failed pie crusts over the years, but sticking with my Picture Pies crust has gotten me to the point of being able to make a scrumptious flaky crust that I can’t resist. Here is the original recipe:image_1

The key to a good pie crust, in my opinion is cutting the lard (or in my case, Crisco) into the flour and salt and then handling it as little as possible after mixing in the water and rolling it out!

My favorite part if any pie is deciding what to fill it with! Since my aunt and uncle live near by and were kind enough to allow me to steal some of the sour cherries off their tree, this pie filling was an easy choice.

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There were so many cherries on their tree this year, I had an easy time picking; I stood in one spot and ended up with enough cherries for three pies! I made one and froze the remaining cherries for future pies.image_3

In case you’re not a cherry expert, they do have pits and pitting these guys can be tricky without your handy-dandy cherry pitter, that we common folk call a bobby pin. Yes, that’s right: poking the bobby pin into the cherries and popping out the pits left me a juicy, stained mess but it was definitely worth it in the end!

I used about 5 cups of cherries, a cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of flour, nutmeg and cinnamon to taste and a few pats of butter on top before putting on my top crust. I admittedly don’t always end up with the most beautiful pies, but they sure do taste wonderful, especially ala mode on these hot summer days!

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Here’s a piece for you, Anna, for allowing me the opportunity to guest post on your blog.  Thank you and until next slices – Toodleloo!

First Cookout of the Season

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Yesterday was a perfect day to put into action two rules by which I try to live. Never spend a beautiful day inside, and, whenever possible, share meals with people worth sharing meals with. I had bought this Groupon a while back (those who know me will appreciate my over-the-top Groupon habit- it’s not real money if you spend it online, right?) for a butcher, so I had been dreaming of New York strips basically since…well, since my last steak. Then, they forecast 60 degree sunshine! So the party got moved outside and a few friends met up for that ultimate American tradition-The Grilling of the Meats in Public Spaces.

If, for some reason, you live in Indianapolis but don’t use the canal area, you really should. Perhaps you think it is for runners or joggers or people with dogs. Perhaps you think it is restricted to those in fancy workout gear or with bikes or those silly 6 person bike bus things they rent out at the paddleboat place.

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Fun fact: while hunting down this sweet photo, I learned that the 2 person version is called a Deuce Coupe. Dare you to try ask for one with a straight face-double points for saying “Coupe” like Jeremy Clarkson

All I know is that they won’t kick you out for sitting on your duff with a piece of red meat and no intention of moving.  And possibly even with an alcoholic beverage on the Sabbath.

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On the menu: Steak, chicken (marinated in white wine, lemon pepper, and other deliciosities by not myself), brats, biscuits with apple butter, all kinda chips, and grilled pineapple.

use4Watermelon in April in a place where it just stopped snowing like yesterday. Say what you want about eating local, this was freakin delicious.

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The FDA has yet to approve my health claims about eating in the fresh air or about dining with really interesting and funny people, but I stand by them (for now let’s call them supplements.)

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Foodless Fridays: Indiana Medical History Museum

Today was an unseasonably cold day, and my friend Nancy was in town and in need of entertainment.  With the usual plan of “Wander around eating my way through a cultural district” out of the question, I had to dig deep in my Indianapolis book of tricks for something interesting to do.  Nancy is an ICU nurse, so I knew she’d enjoy the Indiana Medical History Museum.

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The museum is housed in the former State Pathology Laboratory, built in 1896 on the grounds of the Central State Hospital for the Insane.  At it’s “peak,” the hospital cared for and housed nearly 3,000 patients on 100 acres just east of downtown Indianapolis.  The Pathology Laboratory itself was a destination for physicians around the state and country for its cutting edge technology and the techniques developed there.  The museum now offers tours of the teaching facilities, library, morgue, and histology and chemistry labs for a small fee.

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If you’re a scientist or science enthusiast, it’s fascinating to see how far we have come since the lab was functioning and how many many things are still the same.  If you’re a total science flop, you’ll still be intrigued by the architectural detail and history of the place itself.photo (16)photo (13)photo (15)photo (17)“Funeral directors: Please be sure refrigerator door is closed after removing body” Indeed.

 

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