Friday, December 29, 2017

Indianapolis: Secret Foodie Destination!

Earlier this Fall, my partner and I had the opportunity to visit Indianapolis for the first time when our dear friends were getting married.  As someone that grew up in the Midwest, I wasn't expecting much out of the ordinary.  Was I ever surprised!  I'm pretty sure that Indianapolis is some super top secret foodie destination!

This was a tremendously quick trip:  We flew in late Friday night after teaching all day, had a wedding to attend Saturday night, and a flight back to New York early Sunday morning.  This only left us with Saturday morning, and some of the afternoon to investigate.  We got a hotel in the downtown area so as to maximize our ability to see as much as we could in a short period of time.  We were not able to get a "breakfast included" deal, which is one of my favorite budgetary travel hacks, but in this situation, I didn't really mind. It gave us the opportunity to get out early and explore.

We made our way on foot to a local brunch hot spot called The Garden Table.  Now, I am admittedly a self-proclaimed health-food loving, vegan enthusiast.  It's not that I won't flex while I'm traveling, but I certainly have my preferences, and The Garden Table certainly delivers!  This fresh juicery and eatery boast a seasonal menu that is primarily sourced locally.
We started off with a cold-pressed juice flight.  The juice blends are fresh and top-notch.  You can mix and match, choose up to 4 of the 8 premium juices offered, served as one elegant flight in 5-ounce glasses.  I was delighted with each of our 4 choices but highly recommend the neon nectar.  For those wishing to take a walk on the vegan or lacto-vegetarian side, the Tuscan toast is to die for!  The thick cut house multigrain bread is served smothered in pesto, yam bacon, tomato (optional), greens, feta cheese (also optional), olive oil.  Lamb bacon is available for meat eaters.  Add a small soup of the day to round out the meal.  For those with slightly more traditional tastes, the biscuits and rolled omelets are also brilliantly composed.  This restaurant has something for every dietary need ranging from the standard American diet all the way to vegan and gluten-free.  Each dish is hand-crafted and composed as if it were a piece of art, all for a reasonable price.  I would literally go back to Indy just to eat at The Garden Table.

After a brunch so good we almost forgot it was healthy, we went for a little walk to take in the sights and made our way past a bar on a bicycle.You can either reserve a seat or two on one that isn't filled, or you and 20 of your best friends can book one for yourselves.  To be honest, it sounds like a lot of fun if the weather is nice, and you're planning something for a group.  It's a beautiful wooden bar with bar stools all around it.  Each bar stool is essentially a bicycle?  unicycle?  While I'm uncertain which label to appropriately give it, my point is that each bar stool is connected to peddles.  So, each person sitting at the bar is responsible for helping to keep the bar in motion.  These rentals tend to be for a couple of hours.  Now that I know this exists, I am definitely returning and doing this!  I mean, seriously, what a way to take in some of the city!

After our walk, we came across a place called Rebar where we met up with a couple of friends. This beer bar is far from the traditional pub.  If you're drinking beer, you need to see the bartender to get you connected to a plastic swipe card.  Once you're set up, you walk toward the back of the bar to a wall of beer taps (mostly local).  Once you decide what you want, you swipe your card and serve yourself as much or as little as you like:  a little screen will show you the ounces poured and money spent.  Rebar, where have you been my whole life?!

What I loved about this was the ability for me to try a lot of local beer without drinking too much.  I typically only poured myself a couple of ounces at a time, so I could try several things without being affected.  The owner and operator happened to be there when I was visiting and was absolutely professional and personable.  I was interested in how this system was able to function legally.  I mean, letting people serve themselves?  Brilliant for saving money on staffing, but people might really overdo it!  Apparently, the cards are programmed to stop at certain limits in order to prevent over-consumption.  Well done Rebar!  Genius.  Not only was the system pretty amazing, but the local beers presented a great variety, and the atmosphere was clean and inviting.  At this point, I had to head back to the hotel to get ready for the wedding but vowed to return on a future trip 

It was a quick trip Indy, but a good one.  Unfortunately, your secret isn't safe with me.  I've uncovered your secret identity as a little-known food destination, and I'm definitely telling!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Icebar Stockholm

After dancing ourselves silly at the ABBA Museum, we headed across the water for an inexpensive lunch, while waiting for our appointment at Icebar Stockholm (also called Absolute Icebar).  We popped into a fast food place because we were hungry and limited on time.  MAX is a fast food restaurant in Sweden.  If you keep it simple and stick to a small burger, fries, and soda (also small),  you could easily get lunch for two for $10-15 (USD).   I am a bit more experimental with food while traveling, but those who know me know that I regularly consume a plant-based diet. That's why I was excited to learn that while a bit spendier, it is also possible to get Gluten Free and Vegan/Vegetarian options at MAX.  I rarely eat fast food, but I must admit to being a fan of MAX.  I also rarely consume sodas, but there, the soda is actually made with real sugar (GASP!)!  Anyhow, I am detracting from my original point.  We found MAX  primarily because it was about a block from the hotel that houses the Icebar.

We were a bit early to our appointment (you can walk-in, but run the risk of being declined if they're booked up), and looked about the gift shop.  I was amused to see that you can purchase the mold used to make a glass out of ice.  I didn't buy one due to my lack of desire to carry it around, and overall mission to declutter.  Once the majority of those sharing our appointment time had gathered, s staff member came over to offer a few instructions, and assist us in putting on our special garb.  They give you a special cape and mittens intended to keep you comfortable while inside the Icebar.

An appointment lasts approximately 45 minutes and begins with a short ice lined hallway up to a bar, where each attendee gets one drink with admission.  Like the old saying goes "When in Sweden, do as the Swedes do..."  So, I ordered a drink called "River to River."  It was made of Absolute Vodka, Lingonberries, and Lingonberry Juice.  It was deliciously tart in the way that a Granny Smith Apple might taste.  I had preordered a second drink (to be served in my original glass).  For that one, I chose "2098." I accidentally chose the correct order because this one was much sweeter.  This flavor was caramel apple with vodka.  The atmosphere was quaint with little cafe table constructed of ice blocks, a throne and face-sized holes in the walls to create the perfect photo opt.

The experience was phenomenal, and I'd like to say I would have stayed there all day, but by the end of my 45 minutes, I was cold enough to depart....until next time.