Posted in Bloomington, Gardens, tagged 2008 election, art museums, autumn, Bloomington, campus, election, fall, Indiana, indiana university, limestone, presidential election, trees on November 4, 2008| 1 Comment »
Posted in Bloomington Restaurants, Food, tagged Bloomington, Bloomington Restaurants, Casablanca Cafe, couscous, Food, Indiana, italian food, lamb, lamb kabob, mediterranean, moroccan, moroccan food, overpriced food, Trojan Horse on October 11, 2008| Leave a Comment »
During my nearly 3 decades on this earth, I have eaten in hundreds, probably thousands, of restaurants across Europe and America. Only once did I refuse to pay for my dinner (a revolting Mexican place in Sacramento that served us what looked like leftover catfood in a corn husk). This was 8 years ago, and for the first time in 8 years, I came close to refusing to pay for my food today at Casablanca Cafe in Bloomington, Indiana.
Casablanca Cafe was playing music that brought to mind weeping Moroccan clowns when we entered (later it became better, and then there was no music at all). The menu had a few vaguely Moroccan items, and a lot more American Italian items. It reminded me, disturbingly enough, of an airplane food menu. New to this place, I asked the waiter for a recommendation (other than their $22 LUNCH specials). He advised me to try the couscous, rather than the gyros sandwich which also sounded good to me. My husband ordered the lamb kabob with saffron rice and vegetables. The waiter brought out our drinks first, and I must admit that my “Michael’s Tea” was excellent, and seemed to contain homemade lemonade. My husband’s Moroccan green tea with mint on the other hand, at a very pricy $4.95, was so sickeningly sweet I couldn’t stand to drink it. (And I assure you I am not one of those people that thinks everything is too sweet) The bread, for which we had to pay extra (!!), came with excessively cheap olive oil, and something they called “balsamic vinegar”, which we suspect was actually just cheap malt vinegar, as the only thing it had in common with Balsamico, was that it was vinegar, and it was black. The bread itself, contrary to what some other reviewers seem to have experienced, was neither fresh nor homemade probably.
Then the food came out. As soon as I looked at it, I got a bad feeling. A pile of boiled broccoli, carrots and chick peas, on top of some plain boiled couscous. Sadly, it tasted even worse than I had feared. The couscous (something I normally love), was utterly devoid of even a hint of flavor. It tasted like cheap, watery couscous of the Walmart home brand variety. The vegetables, which were at least not TOO over cooked, were completely flavorless as well. The spices on top appeared to just consist of parsley, which is indeed a commonly used Moroccan, but which is also excessively bland. To my astonishment, even the currants had no flavor. (And having lived in England for two years, I know bland!) My husband’s lamb was even blander than his vegetables (which were identical to mine), and his “saffron rice” had no more flavor than your average pile of shredded plastic bits. It made me long for a packet of cheap Uncle Ben’s easy rice. (Hint to the cook: Just because it’s yellow, doesn’t mean you can call it saffron rice)
I liberally sprinkled salt over my dish after the first few bites. Then again, and again, and again. This food was so bland, it even seemed to make negate the effects of salt, like a black hole of blandness sucking up and annihilating flavor. I finally decided this wasn’t worth sticking in my mouth and eating, so I left the rest of my dish. I can honestly say I have eaten better food on airplanes. Sure, just the thought of airplane food makes me want to vomit, but so does the thought of this bland, watery swill. Actually, vomiting this up and having lunch elsewhere sounds appealing, but I’m afraid our wallets are empty after paying for this crap.
The final price for this slop? A whopping $40 (includes $5 tip) for two people, for lunch. No appetizers, no alcohol.
(Purchased: some pieces of bread, 1 tea, 1 tea-lemonade, 1 vegetable couscous, 1 lamb kabob. $40. !! )
Conclusion: My food left me wishing I’d ordered the Gyros sandwich after all. At The Trojan Horse bar.
Recently we inherited a community garden plot at the Hilltop Nature Center in Bloomington, IN. The previous owner had apparently abandoned it. (Though an Asian woman informed us that she saw him just a few weeks ago, and that he is Russian. Combine that with the fact that the plot was weedy, but tomatoes appeared to have been harvested… I just hope the Russian mafia doesn’t come raid our garden in revenge, now that we’ve planted for the fall/winter season…)
We are growing tomatoes, eggplants, mint, catnip, dill, carrots, beets, kohlrabi, radishes, broccoli, kale and cabbage. I’m not confident in the kohlrabi or beets though… neither seem to be doing well. They were planted only a week or so after the ones in planters at our house, which are ten times as big.
Since we just ‘plundered’ our garden, I’m posting a few pics here of the rest of Hilltop, which has a great botanical garden with endless basil, peppers, banana trees, date trees, tomatoes, corn, pumpkins, and more. (Also, this is an excuse to post more pics that I took with my new camera, a Canon Digital Rebel XTi !! (Got it for my birthday from my mom and siblings!)
EDIT: ABSOLUTELY DO NOT USE GUARDIAN PET SITTERS EITHER IN BLOOMINGTON. JUST ARRIVED HOME TO DISCOVER THAT THEY NEVER SHOWED UP DURING OUR TEN DAY TRIP!!!!!!!! (See my last comment on this blog post)
We’re pretty annoyed right now. We’ve been looking for a petsitter in Bloomington, Indiana since we travel frequently, and need someone to take care of our animals when we’re away. So we found a local petsitter named “Amanda West” who advertised on the IU classified boards, and has a web site with “references” (probably fake, there’s no name/number/address under them). We asked her to come over to our house to meet the cats, and she agreed to a time and date.
When that time came around, we waited, and waited. Finally, after over an hour, I checked my email to get her phone number, and found an email from her saying something had come up, and she needed to cancel. The email was sent ten minutes after she was already supposed to be there. I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt, and suggested a new appointment the next day at 7.30 pm. She replied within minutes to confirm. So whatever came up that was so urgent, she was on the internet at 7.10, and again at 8.20. Perhaps her urgent matter didn’t take very long, but since I had originally suggested she come over at 7 OR 8, she would obviously have been welcome to come over after she was done with the other thing.
So today, we waited again. 7.30 went by. Then 8 pm. 8.30 pm. and so on. Finally at 10 pm, I sent Amanda an email saying we don’t need her services anymore, because if she’s not responsible enough to show up for an appointment twice in a row, then she is not responsible enough to take care of animals. No response thus far.
So if you’re looking for pet sitting services in Bloomington, Indiana, and you love your animals, I strongly recommend that you find someone other than Amanda West!
(She would probably just taken the money and never come to see our animals, because it would be ‘too much trouble’, or ‘something would come up’.)
My Question of the Day: Why would a Midwesterner stand in line for 20 minutes for corn?
Today I got my first look at the Bloomington, Indiana farmer’s market. A charming collection of farm stands with ample heirloom tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and more, the Saturday Market offers a great opportunity to buy some (surprisingly affordable) locally grown produce, as well as unusually pretty flowers and delicious crusty bread. I was almost immediately faced with a serious oddity though, namely an absurdly long line (see photo) in front of a single stall. The line was in fact much longer than fitted on one photo. When I asked what it was for, a lady kindly informed that it was for corn. “What?!?” I responded. “Corn!” “Are you seriously telling me that a bunch of Midwesterners, in the middle of the Cornbasket of America, would stand in line for twenty minutes for CORN???” She assured me it was true. I did not bother to stand in line to try out the corn. After all, corn is corn, and it’s more common here than anywhere else in the world. I refuse to believe corn could be worth standing in line for, for twenty minutes, in Indiana.
I was fortunate enough to catch the market on a “Tomato Tasting” day where an array of local heirloom tomatoes was displayed for market-goers to try. Excited as I am about any heirloom tomato, I quickly joined the line for samples. The first tomato was okay, a bit sour for my liking, but not too bad. As I continued along the line though, my disappointment grew. Virtually every tomato was watery and bland. They didn’t even approach the blandest heirloom tomato you’d find at our Eugene, Oregon farmer’s market. In fact, the (local) heirloom tomatoes I’d bought at Kroger’s the day before were much sweeter and boldly flavored than any of these. The only exception perhaps was the Japanese Black Trifle variety from Stout’s Melody Acres. I still bought a pound and a half of various heirloom tomatoes at one stand, in the hope that those will be better.
To my great surprise, there were virtually no food stands. Some plain coffee (to which you can add a little syrup) and a bakery with rather expensive muffins ($5), cookies and other foods, that’s all! Someone could make a killing selling food here. The Eugene Frmer’s Market must have at least 20 prepared food stands… asian foods, mexican, BBQ, pastry goods, lemonade, and so on…) I must say though, my home made ice cream cookie sandwich from the bakery stand was absolutely fabulous, and I intend to buy another one, even at $4 or so a piece.
Highlight of the day: The beautiful flowers at the market (Okay, and the ice cream sandwich. And getting to drive my new Atlanta Blue BMW Z3 convertible on a sunny day). I’m not even sure what some of them were, quite unusual. I don’t like to spend money on flowers, because they die so fast, and the cats eat them, but I enjoyed admiring them at the market, and perhaps I will buy some after all next week. (Note: the flowers in the pic look a little like Carnations from a distance, but up close they are like some strange fuzzy flower carpet, bundled together, very odd)