Terre Haute Cuisine

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Sorry
you haven’t heard much from me lately. I
am in the final stretch of getting research and writing done for Home Grown Indiana, the book Scott
Hutcheson
and I have coming out next year with IU Press. With all the racketing around and general
panic, blogging has somehow fallen by the wayside.

As
I’ve probably said before, the book is a catalogue of local food producers in Indiana and the
restaurants that use local products in their cooking. There are all kinds of good finds out there –
in addition to wonderful local meat producers, dairies, vegetable farms, wineries,
and breweries, there are unexpected gems like a potato chip company in Tell City that uses local potatoes, a caviar company in Michigan City, and a local spring water company in Greene County . 

Last
night was Jerry’s birthday, so we set off to do a little book research in Terre
Haute (don’t worry — I have promised him a celebration of his choice, no doubt
involving golf and single malt scotch, when the book is finished.) We were
headed to a B&B on the outskirts of Terre Haute, on what used to be an 800
acre farm but is now down to a couple of acres surrounded by suburban
development – just a graceful old farmhouse, a garden, and a refurbished barn.

Sycamore
Farm
is owned by a woman whose name has appeared for some time on my membership
list for Slow Food Bloomington. Terre Haute doesn’t have enough members yet to warrant its
own convivium, so Slow Food USA sends members who live there over to us. Although Terre Haute is only  an hour away, I hadn’t yet met Marilyn, and only recently discovered
that Sycamore Farm has a restaurant that serves lunch Wednesday – Friday, and
dinner on Saturdays, with a menu based on local, seasonal produce.

Hallelujah! While Indiana is overflowing with producers
of terrific food, there are probably no more than 6 or 7 restaurants statewide
that are really, seriously committed to showcasing that good local food. Sure there are places that like to put
Capriole goat cheese on the menu (who wouldn’t?) and who advertise salads of
local greens, and it’s great that they do, but to go the extra mile of sourcing
meat and dairy products locally, as well as fruit and vegetables, requires
something more in the way of dedication to the cause of good taste.

So
it was Button Woods at Sycamore Farm for dinner last night, and I crossed my
fingers as we set off that it would be a birthday-worthy destination.

We
got there in the late afternoon, with dinner reservations for 6:00 (they were expecting
a party of 19 at 7:30 and we thought it would be good to beat the rush on the
kitchen.) The old farmhouse (1860s
vintage, but beautifully redone) is lovely; our room was charming, just
redecorated, with cherry floors, our own shaded porch with wicker and sunny
stripes, and the plushest bed I’ve slept on in many a day.

There
are several dining rooms downstairs – including one cozy room with a fireplace
for chilly evenings. On this sunny
summer eve, however, we sat in a glassed-in room filled with evening light
and a view of the patio and gazebo. The
menu was enticing – lots of local as advertised, and some great sounding
choices.  They bill it as “brasserie
style farm fresh cuisine,” and that seems to get it just right. The cooking isn’t fancy or fussy, but it is
fresh and honest and delicious.

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The
chef is Kris Kraut, self taught and young, but very proficient. (You can see his cherry braised short ribs in
this month’s Indianapolis Dine
Magazine.) An intuitive cook, Kris
creates his recipes and plans the menu around what the farmers have to offer,
with a fierce dedication to cooking from scratch and a determination to cut no corners.
(He is also, by the way, just two weeks married to the owner’s daughter, whom
he has been dating since they were in the 7th grade!)

Kris’s
menu changes weekly but to give you an idea, last night the first courses were
chilled tomato buttermilk soup, cool and spicy, and a salad with gorgeous fresh
berries, goat cheese and pistachios, in a cherry vinaigrette.  Entrees were White Caps (delicate fish cakes made from Michigan white
fish and pan fried) with lemon garlic aoli, yellow beans and cherry tomatoes, a
Heartland Beef (grass finished!) filet with blueberry barbeque sauce, a Royer
Farm leg of lamb, grilled, with red and yellow pepper relish and spiced basmati
rice, pineapple chipotle chicken with grilled corn and cilantro butter, and
grilled squash and roasted tomatoes in a creamy wine marinara sauce over pasta.

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We
had both first courses followed by a tiny scoop of citrus watermelon sorbet as
an intermezzo, then the beef filet, which made my blueberry loving birthday boy
very happy (and me too, since I got to eat some of his mashed potatoes –
lemony, lumpy and really fabulous), the white caps, which were super, with
perfectly seasoned beans, and for dessert a cherry combo (cherry sundae and a
spectacular cobbler) and grilled peaches with custard sauce.

And
the beauty of it was, when we were done, all we had to do was toddle up the
stairs to our room, where our waiter shortly brought up a glass of port for
Jerry, and a plate of walnuts with a candle blazing. Nice, discreet birthday wishes. Perfect!

About
12 hours later we toddled back down the stairs, to breakfast on good hot
coffee, icy berry smoothies, and frittatas filled with vegetables. A very birthday-worthy destination, indeed!

Sycamore
Farm Bed & Breakfast

5001 East Poplar Drive

Terre Haute, Indiana 4780

812-877-9288

www.thesycamorefarm.com

(There
is also a renovated barn on site that will shortly be available for weddings
and private parties.)

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9 Comments Add yours

  1. You’ve done your job well because your blog is making me want to take a trip to Indiana! There’s a huge display right now for Popcorn, Indiana flavored popcorn at my local Whole Foods–is that a big deal there?

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  2. Lydia says:

    A wonderful birthday celebration! How nice to find a place that has lush accommodations, great food, and a commitment to local sourcing. I’ll make a note of this one.

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  3. Susan says:

    That old-time potato chip place looks like fun. I think the best snack foods are the regional ones that somehow have survived against Frito-Lay and Wise.

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  4. kelley says:

    hi – i’m another indiana food blogger (though my cooking is a bit more…rustic), and i just wanted to say hi. i’m looking forward to seeing the book!

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  5. Love the pics. You are good! Sounds like there was no way Jer could complain about this evening. Golf and single malt scotch another time will be a bonus.

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  6. Popcorn is huge here, Lisa. Where do you think Orville hailed from?
    I know, Lydia, things don’t usually come together so well. Birthday karma.
    Did you see the NY Times piece on regional potato chips, Susan? It ran a couple of weeks ago.
    Kelly, where in Indiana are you? Rustic is good.
    He didn’t complain, Ronnie. It was a great birthday. But the call of golf and scotch is strong….

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  7. kelley says:

    i’m in bloomington. a transplant from the west coast.

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  8. Ellis Hollow says:

    20 years ago, my flight out of Terre Haute was canceled (after I turned in my rental car) and so my choices of cuisine that night were limited by how far I wanted to walk from the hotel. That’s where I came up with this rule of thumb: When visiting a state that starts with the letter I, never go for the all-you-can-eat seafood special.

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  9. Cynthia says:

    Looking forward to your book.

    Like

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