I don’t consider myself a restaurant reviewer really but I do eat in enough fine dining establishments to offer some observations. I’ve tried to do a post on Grape Sense any time I visit a better restaurant and this week I have a stellar lineup.

I dined for the first time Tuesday night at FARM Bloomington and will be returning for my third visit Friday night to Iron Chef Michael Symon’s Lola Bistro in Cleveland.

Farm Bloomington follows the pattern of farm-to-fork restaurants that is exploding across the country. It’s probably safe to say few have the pedigree of Chef Daniel Orr. When you check out the Farm website be sure to read the chef’s bio.

Pork jowl with blueberry chutney on top

But how about Farm’s menu and food? A friend and I headed to Bloomington, In., to see an IU student production of the musical Hair. I made reservations several weeks ago to make sure we had a table at Bloomington’s latest hotspot. The décor is simple and the restaurant can get pretty loud when booked but the food is eclectic, inventive, and definitely delicious.

We both started with the Broccolli and Smoked Gouda soup. It was creamy with a wonderfully smooth texture. The Scholar’s Inn white bread which was deep-fried into croutons was insanely good.

I had the Anise and Cinnamon Braised Local Pork Jowl with root vegetables, “Chieftain” wild rice, with Michigan Blueberry Chutney. The pork, which is a tougher cut, was tender with just enough fat for flavor. The anise was strong throughout the dish, that strong licorice flavor was a tad over-powering but the uniqueness of the flavor combination was really enjoyable.

A nice, thick bone-in pork chop

My friend had the Grilled Gunthorp Bone-In Pork Chop with local pear and bourbon glaze, winter squash puree with pumpkin pepitas, and caramelized celericac. The thick chop was marvelous (ok we traded bites). It was moist and cooked perfectly. The pumpkin added a tad too much sweetness but again the one flaw in the dish was very minor.

We each had a glass of Spanish Garnacha blanc. It was a tad on the lighter sweeter side, but with a touch of acid proved a nice pairing for our medium-seasoned pork dishes.

For dessert we split a persimmon cheesecake bar with cranberries that was devine.

The damage – two soup, two entrees, one dessert, two glasses of wine and one cup of decaf came to $90 without tip.

If you have any reason to get close to Bloomington or IU, Farm is a destination restaurant.

I hope to get a blog post up Friday night after visiting Lolas. The two previous visits have ranked right near the top of my all-time restaurant meals.

Send comment or questions to: hewitthoward@gmail.com

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