Did we even have a winter? Well, technically of course its still winter, but these last few months months were mild and foggy, temperatures above 30 most days. I barely got a chance to wear my new fancy winter coat. That snow you see in the photo above lasted around 12 hours before melting away. Now that it's finally March, it feels like summer has come early. Thunderstorms and tornadoes, humid and hot. But my fave thing about spring is the longer days, more time to photograph food!
Katy and I eat at Chow Bar quite often for lunch. Mostly the buffet, it's easy and fast, just far enough from the library to feel like a real break. It also has quite a few options you don't see at the average Chinese buffet. Lots of seafood and scallions, I think the menu leans Taiwanese. I like the salt and pepper squid and chicken. Katy loves the mapo tofu. The green bean and eggplant in garlic sauce is delicious. There are also tons of flavors of bubble tea. The regular menu is massive, so when we order instead of eating from the buffet it can be hard to choose. Here's a recent lunch.
Dumplings in Chili Oil. These were pretty good. Filled with a scallion and pork mixture, the wrappers were bit too thick and chewy. The chili oil had good heat and maybe even a touch of sesame rich tahini? If I was going to order an appetizer again I'd probably go for the chicken wings - extra crispy and seasoned with tons of salt and pepper.
Rice bowl with fried chicken and miso sauce. Not my fave, but still tasty. The miso sauce is mild and salty but the initially crisp chicken gets soggy pretty quickly. Tons of steamed white rice is hiding under that chicken. The bonus greenery of the boc choy stalks is appreciated.
Eggplant with garlic sauce. Smothered in sweet-spicy brown sauce, I love that they use tons of actual garlic. The eggplant flesh becomes meltingly tender, pulling easily away from the skin. Plus how pretty are the shimmery purple hunks of eggplant?
Szechuan Tofu. The slippery hunks of bean curd are slicked in a slightly funky, spicy chili oil sauce. This one is pretty addictive, I bet the Szechuan chicken would be excellent as well.
Chow Bar 336-3888
216 S. Indiana Ave
Bloomington, In 47408
The honest truth is I haven't been cooking much. Barely at all, really. When I do it's roasted veg, (broccoli or cabbage or slow, caramel-y sweet potatoes) a piecemeal pasta salad, or a bowl of jasmine rice and a fried egg. Nothing worth writing about (except the things that I've already written about, of course.) Restaurants though, I've eaten at my fair share lately. For lunch, for dinner, all over. We'll see how far I get.
That article I told you about, the one about the burgers. That's on it's way soon. I was able to see the proof yesterday, and I'm so very excited to finally see it in print. Even more exciting, I'm planning a trip to Barcelona! At the end of April, first week of May, I'll be in Spain for just over a week. I'm traveling alone to Europe for the first time so any tips, about would be ever so helpful. But in the meantime I have plenty of restaurants to share. Starting off with a meal I shared with my friends Katy and Jessica, way way back in October.
The Rail is a lovely little small plates and cocktail spot run by a few Bloomington kids around my age. Named for the train tracks that border the intimate bar and restaurant, TheRail boasts a brief, well edited menu comprised of elegant but approachable small plates. The craft cocktail menu is full of updated classics prepared with care, like the Manhattan or Old Fashioned. All of the food we tasted was top notch. I haven't been back yet, but I'd love to visit again. The menu is seasonal so there would be plenty of new bites to try. Above is the prettiest cocktail I've ever had the pleasure of drinking, the Aviation. Tinted lavender from creme de violette, there was a bit of tart citrus and maraschino liquor in the mix. Katy had a Pimm's Cup (pictured at the bottom of the post) that was both warming and refreshing, flavored with ginger and cucumber.
The potato pancake above was perfectly tasty. There was potentially a bit of sweet potato in the mix as the pancake hit a nice balance of sweet and savory, accented by the creamy tang of scattered goat cheese (local! capriole.) The runny yolk from the fried quail egg added a layer of richness. The photo below shows a smoked salmon spread with a hint of lemon atop cucumber slices, sprinkled with briney fried capers.
We also shared the cheese plate seen up top. It was very good, though that blue was a bit too strong for my palate. Then again, I'm a cheese wimp. But the best thing small plate of the night was the lamb sliders pictured at the top of the post. Seated in adorable little pretzel buns (just barely toasted) the sliders were so tender and flavorful. The acidic chimichurri drizzled on the patty cut through the meatiness of the lamb in the best way. Plus the whispy shoestring fries on the side were beyond good. We finished off the meal with a cup of house-made peanut butter ice cream smothered in some jammy cherry syrup. Delicious.