Foodie Spotlight: Cardinal Spirits

Indianapolis is quickly becoming one of the hottest food cities in America. A destination for true foodies who are interested in everything from fine dining to food trucks. This column will put the spotlight on one of these local hot spots to help get the word out and share in the love of all things food.

Review by CBS4Indy.com contributor Dustin Heller

Pack up your bags food lovers, we’re going on a road trip to Hoosier country.  We’re headed South on IN-37 with a final destination of Bloomington, Indiana; home of the Indiana Hoosiers and also home to one of the finest craft distilleries in the entire state, Cardinal Spirits.

Since opening in February 2015, the distillery has been pumping out top-of-the-line spirits made of only the highest quality local ingredients.  They distribute their spirits to major grocery and liquor store chains, plus top restaurants, bars, and independent retailers.  Cardinal also has the distinction of distilling the first craft single malt whiskey in the state.

Pretty impressive if you ask me!

Although their spirits and cocktails are becoming a thing of legend, I’m here to talk about their craft kitchen that is quickly making a name of its own.Pack up your bags food lovers, we’re going on a road trip to Hoosier country.  We’re headed South on IN-37 with a final destination of Bloomington, Indiana; home of the Indiana Hoosiers and also home to one of the finest craft distilleries in the entire state, Cardinal Spirits.  Since opening in February 2015, the distillery has been pumping out top-of-the-line spirits made of only the highest quality local ingredients.  They distribute their spirits to major grocery and liquor store chains, plus top restaurants, bars, and independent retailers.  Cardinal also has the distinction of distilling the first craft single malt whiskey in the state.  Pretty impressive if you ask me!  Although their spirits and cocktails are becoming a thing of legend, I’m here to talk about their craft kitchen that is quickly making a name of its own.

The kitchen at the distillery is a farm-to-table restaurant that sources all of its fresh produce from a single farm in Oden, Indiana.  This approach allows Executive Chef Dean Wirkerman to create his simple, yet exquisite dishes using only the freshest seasonal fruits and vegetables.  You won’t find any of your typical deep fried bar food at this joint!  The menu consists of seasonal items that are made from scratch and meant to share, as well as meant to complement their long list of craft cocktails.  The interior of the place is quite cozy and highlighted by an oversized bar, while the deck outside is picturesque (and also family friendly).

Chef Dean has some serious culinary skills, and my palate was ready for the challenge.  Tomatoes were in season on my visit to Cardinal Spirits and they just so happen to be front and center in one of my can’t-miss items from the menu.  Without further ado, here are my can’t-miss choices from Cardinal Spirits…

1. Bread & Butter: This is listed under the “Snacks” portion of the menu, but I’d be more than satisfied to make an entire meal out it.  I’ve always said that a lot can be told about a restaurant by the bread they serve, and this is without a doubt some of the best I’ve ever had.  The bread itself is glorious, but its the butter and homemade jam which sends it into the stratosphere.

2. Heirloom Tomato Tart: I, for one, am thankful that tomatoes are in season!  This is a simple dish that doesn’t seem like much on paper, but it will knock your socks off.  The puff pastry literally melts in your mouth.

3. Cacio e Pepe: Sticking with the simplistic theme, the term translates to “cheese and pepper” in Italian.  This is a pasta dish with essentially only three ingredients (Housemade pasta, bianco sardo cheese, and Lampong Cambodian black pepper), but, man, is it ever tasty!  I tried my darndest not to order a second bowl, but that just wasn’t happening.

4. Porchetta: This is a roasted pork shoulder served with creamy polenta, fennel and smoked paprika.  All of the ingredients in this dish mesh so well together that its just bursting with flavor.  This is a dish for all the meat lovers out there.

Cardinal Spirits is the perfect place for a Saturday trip to B-Town, and I’d recommend making a day of it.  Start off by taking the tour of the distillery and then park out on the deck overlooking the B-Line and just relax with some craft drinks and tasty food.  Buckle up!

Tell Dustin your thoughts about Cardinal Spirits. You can follow him on Instagram @eatindywatchindie.

Check out more restaurants featured in our Foodie Spotlight section.

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