Saturday, 28 May 2011

A Milestone in the Blogosphere: My 50th Post!

Greetings, dear Reader! Since January, I have been having a blast cooking, eating, and writing about food. This has certainly been a great exercise thus far, and I as I catch up on each post and find myself referring to previous ones, I continue to be motivated to continue cooking, eating, and writing food. As I continue to work in Student Affairs and speak the language, I'm reminded of the need for learning outcomes as a means of assessing relative "success." This said, there were no immediate learning outcomes I had when I first reconceptualised this current blog--perhaps other than to literally "learn through food"--and at this point, I don't think it's all that necessary to assess the blog. If nothing else, and as I continue to articulate in person, this blog serves as a written archive of experiences, experiences which in themselves are much more meaningful live. This is not to say this blog is not worth reading should this fall within your genre of interest; rather, I hope I have been able to convey lessons I've learned and experiences I've had without you at the table in this media. Moreover, I have found validation for the blog itself in hearing from those of you who have found some time to, at the very least, acknowledge this blog's existence. And it is with this spirit, I celebrate this 50th post. What better way, then, to celebrate such an occassion than a post on a culinary journey outside of the campus walls I've cooked in and written about these past months? This post specifically takes us to Indianapolis, Indiana, and IUPUI, as the host for the third Conference on College Men. A short conference in actuality, there was certainly a lot of food to go around!

We first arrived on Sunday afternoon and after settling in, we enjoyed a late lunch at one of the conference hotel's (University Place) restaurants, Our Den (ironic, no?).Decked out in a strong, assertive orange, the athletic and hangout atmosphere of Our Den was quite distinctive. The menu, too, carried on this general theme, situating each course within the context of a baseball field. Enjoyed with a very refreshing glass of lemonade, with just the right amount of sugar I might add, I had an unexpected-but-welcomed heavier lunch in the Turkey Sandwich option. Served on toasted sourdough bread and melted Swiss cheese, the medium-sliced turkey breast was piled high and topped with apple smoked bacon, tomatoes, and a sundried tomato pesto. Add warm fries to the mix, and that's definitely enough carbohydrate intake needed for the rest of the day.

Our Den Sports Bar on Urbanspoon

Following the opening reception with, as one may surmise, more food, we parted ways for the evening and I eventually found myself a few hours later back in Our Den for dessert, which had been "inceptioned" into my brain the moment I saw it on the menu earlier that afternoon: chocolate lava cake. Top that off with the fact my favourite culinary component--coulis--was listed on that menu, I knew I had to try it out. Paired with a glass of port (Warres LBV), this cake was the perfect way to end a day (and particularly one of driving). I found the port to be extremely palate cleansing, with an assertive flavour with no lingering aftertaste. Arguably incredibly sweet, this fortified wine was a great complement to the richness of the chocolate lava cake and aided in pronouncing the raspberry coulis surrounding it.

Chancellor's on Urbanspoon

After two group sessions and three breakout sessions, as well as an experience at the Campus Center's Chick-fil-A, you know you've been spending quite some time discussing men and masculinities when gender (de)construction feeds its way into the dining experience. This was certainly the case on Wednesday, when we stepped foot in Chancellor's, also located within the walls of University Place. With décor set to a seemingly higher fine dining experience, Chancellor's sleek lines and cool tones are set in contrast to round features and assertive dark structures; with all of this came a sense of underlying old school charm set within a contemporary context (I'll refer to the light chainmail drapery which got this whole track going). In any case, it's the food I tend to write about, so here we go. I was particularly excited to try gazpacho for the first time and, that said, I was not disappointed. With subtle peppered tones, the gazpacho was very bright against the palate, and presented in a deep bowl set within a wide-brimmed, larger bowl. There was something very cooling and refreshing about it, undoubtedly because of the watermelon and cucumber-- all the while being held together by basil infused olive oil throughout a very smooth tomato base and supported by the recognizable crunch of raw red onion (which I am typically not a fan of).

For my entrée, I enjoyed a fairly moist herb rubbed half chicken which had a great char on the exterior and sat on a healthy bed of saffron risotto. I'm not entirely sure where the grilled andouille sausage (as indicated on the menu) actually was, but I also wasn't quite looking for it as I enjoyed the rest of the components. To add some additional tastes and textures were bright green peas and grilled tomatoes which offered bursts of flavours which reminded me of fresh grapes during the summer time. Enjoyed with a glass of cabarnet sauvignon, I probably could have ended the meal there.

But alas, after last night's chocolate lava extravaganzaa, I felt duly compelled to take the opportunity and try another dessert off the University Place menu. Served warm and in a square bowl was an interesting take on peach cherry crisp. The crumble topping had the recognizable charm of brown sugar and the vanilla ice cream was certainly cleansing against the richness of the rest of the dish. Although somewhat soupy in consistency, the peaches and cherries had a recognizable comfort to them, yet there was also a search for an unrecognizable (and honestly unwanted) component which I'm still trying to figure out. At this point, I'm convinced it's the taste of either raw or overcooked cinnamon and perhaps nutmeg. Whatever "that" was, it certainly didn't hamper the great conversations at the dinner table, as we reflected on our own experiences growing up (and it's here we neglect the fact we're all still young).

Zest! Exciting Food Creations on Urbanspoon

Under the recommendation of Food Network star Guy Fieri, and with great enthusiasm from my colleague who just happened to catch an episode of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives before our arrival in Indy, we capped off the conference experience with a stop at Zest! Exciting Food Creations, following our lasagna lunch and the closing panel in the Campus Center.

To start off the meal, we began with two orders of Tomato Bon Bons which were featured on Triple-D. Deep fried in a cornmeal crust, these appetizers were a sweet start to the meal. After you bite into the crispy exterior, your mouth greets the familiarity of sausage which encases a bright baby tomato and surrounded by the warmth from hot (temperature) Fair Oaks Farms asiago cheese. To counter-balance the initial heat from the app, which I would suggest eating as an amuse bouche (i.e., in one bite to capture all the flavours), the profile is finished off by a cooling tomato tzatziki sauce.

As for my entrée, I enjoyed a marinated-grilled chicken sandwich essentially smothered in a chipotle aioli and layered with one of my favourite cheeses: smoked gouda. Served on the side was a healthy portion of Zest!'s World-Famous Mac and Cheese, the cheese of which was essentially plentiful. All of this served with a spring/summer-around-the-year-favourite of half lemon lime soda and half lemonade, my experience at Zest! was one of elevated comfort food and one which capped off a mini break from campus. For the complete food album from this trip, click here.

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