Cry Me a Blue River

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Thanks
so much to everyone who wrote to me about Gina, or commented on the last
post. It’s been a hard week, but the
memories are warm and sweet.

Last
night we visited the Blue River Café, on the Blue River, in Milltown, Indiana.  Until yesterday I wasn’t really aware of
either river, or town, but today I am wiser, happier, and a good deal fatter.

The
Café is a two-story white house on Main Street  in Milltown, just past a pizza place and a
canoe landing (with plenty of canoes to rent.) Downstairs houses a tiny, rustic bar and an airy, blue-accented dining
room, upstairs are more tables and a stage for live music. Music is a big deal at the Café, as you can
tell by the web site, but I am telling you, food is the biggest deal of all.

Chef
Debbie Woods and her husband, bartender and English teacher Mark, own the place
and have run it for 17 years. Woods got
her training at Sullivan in Louisville,and boy is she good. This report
is based on just one visit and there were only two of us and though I try mightily
I can’t order everything on the menu, but what we had was great, and most of it
came right from the Woods’ garden, from Churchill’s Farm Market down St. Rd.
64, or from another local farm. Kudos to
Woods for that!!

There
is a permanent menu of “standbys” – lots of sandwiches, including burgers,
vegetarian options, and salads, and a weekly lunch and dinner menu that changes
with what’s in season and fresh. The
Woods used to sell produce from their farm to Louisville  restaurants, and now they use it up
themselves, and it shows! The weekly
menu
is available online – this week it included prime rib and ribeye steak,
pan seared pork loin on pineapple with brown sugar and crushed red peppers, roasted
rosemary, orange and honey chicken on apple almond rice, and several fish and
vegetarian selections. Plus, a whole list of seasonal sides.

We
started with soup – I had the sweet corn and cheddar chowder which was
superb. The corn was just hours away
from the farm, each kernel popping in my teeth with milky goodness, and the
soup was chock full of it, with potatoes and red peppers — creamy and
luscious. Jer had the Tomato Basil
Parmesan – rich, spicy and addictive. We
swapped halfway through, then reclaimed our originals for a few parting
bites. Great soup!

Then
Jer ordered a burger. It was the flat,
Midwestern version (not the fat NY burger, sorry Malcolm), but it was juicy and
beefy and delicious, with melted cheese, sautéed mushrooms, and the reddest,
freshest, ripest tomato I have ever seen on a hamburger. Those tomatoes are all over the Farmers
Markets right now, but I guarantee that in 99% of the restaurants in Indiana in August,  burgers
are still garnished with an anemic slice of gas-ripened, store-bought tomato.

The
burger platter came with coleslaw – just excellent if you like celery seed, and
really tasty even if, like me, you don’t. The fries were advertised as hand-cut, and I was bummed to see that they
were steak fries, which are usually too dry and flaky inside for my taste (too
much potato, not enough fry.) These,
however, were phenomenal. I can’t say
for sure, but my guess is they began life as baked potatoes – they had a
twice-cooked creaminess to them — and they were sliced thin and fried crispy,
so plenty of crunch as well as potato. Lovely, just lovely.

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I
had a pasta entrée, fettuccine with sautéed summer vegetables – caramelized
onions and summer squash, red peppers, tomatoes and spinach. You can have it with a cream base or olive
oil – I took the oil which was just right. For sides, for fun (and not because
I needed them), I ordered sweet bicolor corn – right off the cob and stewed in a little butter,
fried eggplant (cut in sticks, battered and fried) with roasted garlic aioli
for dipping (rich, but yum), and sautéed squash with tomato basil
vinaigrette.

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This
last was my most favorite thing (though since it was also a large part of the
pasta sauce, that was my favorite thing too.) The green and yellow summer squash had been cut into sticks and sautéed hard in fruity
olive oil so that it seared and sweetened, and it was topped with the
vinaigrette, full of diced ripe tomatoes, chopped white onion, and sweet basil. It was the brilliant, sun-kissed taste of
summer on a plate – so very perfect I almost cried.

(Jer
tasted it and laughed because it is just exactly the kind of food I love to
cook. Then he hesitated a little in a
funny, apologetic way and his face got red, and he said that someday if I’ve
passed away and he were to stumble on a dish like that, it would make him cry
because it would remind him so much of me. So that really did make me cry. People who think that food is
just fuel for our bodies? Yeah, right.)

We
had no room for dessert, but for the sake of honest and comprehensive
reporting, ordered some anyway. The
crimson pie (if I remember correctly it was blueberries, strawberries, and
maybe blackberries, something like that) a la mode was scrumptious, and the
carrot cake was full of fruit and very good, but I was too stuffed to do it
justice.

The
beer and wine list is also really good and the music filtering down the stairs
was lovely and fun. It took us a smidge
over an hour to get to the Blue River Café from Bloomington and the drive is
relaxing and country all the way – no interstate, no diesel, just lots of farms
and horses and cows and cornfields. Lovely, summer Indiana evening.   

The
Blue River Café is open Thursday – Sunday for lunch and dinner 11 am-10 pm (with
brunch on Sunday and dinner served til 8:00.) Milltown is in the Eastern Time
zone, like Bloomington and Indy. 

Blue River Café  

128 Main Street

Milltown, Indiana 47145

812-633-7510

http://www.bluerivercafe.com

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Susan says:

    Dining river side can be very restorative, and there’s nothing like eating local for freshness and the best produce varieties. Thanks for a colorful and flavorful report.

    Like

  2. Christie says:

    Greg and I went to the Blue River Cafe on Saturday evening, and we also had a great time. I got beer-battered, stuffed eggplant smothered in bearnaise sauce. Greg got steak. Then we finished off with bread pudding (delicious) and cheesecake. The only thing we would suggest to make the food better is if the restaurant would get its meat from the Fiedlers (who have the best steaks in the world, imho).
    Thanks for the information! We’re definitely going back.

    Like

  3. Patti says:

    So glad you enjoyed my Chowhound recommendation. It is pretty amazing to find that quality anywhere, much less in Milltown, Indiana. I’m still dreaming about the fried green tomatoes two years later.
    I’ve read your blog before and thoroughly enjoyed. Ignore your students and keep writing!

    Like

  4. Dina says:

    We live close to Blue River Cafe and eat there on an average of 2X a month, each time is an pleasure. The food is always excellant and I love trying new dishes. I have recommended this place to a lot of people and have not heard on complaint. Everyone we send enjoys it as much as we do. We have favorite artist so we watch the venue for the entertainment and base our visits on that.

    Like

  5. Cathy says:

    We live just up the road from the cafe and it is not unusual for us to be there every weekend. Its our oasis in the country–the food, the music and the folks are all wonderful!

    Like

  6. Judy Thompson says:

    You missed the best !! Clam Chowder and cheesecake! We are so glad they built back after the fire. Debbie is a gem!

    Like

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