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The year in food

All coming up roses

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A dish at Public Greens
  • A dish at Public Greens

If 2014 were a person, it would have been living in Fountain Square, but wishing it had taken that apartment in Fletcher Place instead.

It would have just picked up produce at the farmers' market along with fresh artisanal bread on which it would spread jam made from local fruit. Or maybe it would go out for brunch.

It would have Fernet in its liquor cabinet and a growler of coconut stout in the fridge.

It would be eating ramen. Or poutine. And bacon-topped doughnuts – in which case it would be drinking cold-brewed coffee. Or Breakfast Magpie.

And it would be congratulating itself on already scoring tickets to the next Chefs' Night Off dinner.

In other words, there was definitely a local food and drink focus to 2014. All in all, it was a very good year.

For one thing, the restaurants and bars just kept opening. Thunderbird. The Mass Ave. Pizzology. Plow & Anchor. Georgia Reese's. North End. Public Greens.

It's been fun to see poutine, long a favorite at Twenty Tap (and at chef Ryan Nelson's Late Harvest Kitchen), show up on menus from Broad Ripple's 317 Burger to Greenwood's new Revery restaurant to the concessions at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

And we all seem to be getting in touch with our downhome roots and enjoying a little southern-fried goodness as well, whether at Thunderbird (where chef de cuisine Andrew Whitmoyer is rocking out fried chicken, shrimp and grits, boiled peanuts and collard greens) or at Georgia Reese's Southern Table & Bar — which opened near the Pyramids and will be launching a downtown location as well.

But it's not all fried chicken and collards. Barbecue — whether Texas, Carolina or Kansas City style, has been a big hit on the Northside since the North End Barbecue and Moonshine opened in the Nora Plaza. (And who would've thought that the restaurant's signature moonshine punch would go over so well in Nora?)

But 2014 was also the year that Indianapolis got its first vegetarian restaurant – and then soon gained another one. Ezra's Enlightened Café debuted in Broad Ripple with a mostly raw and vegan menu, and then Three Carrots opened in the Indianapolis City Market – providing a much-needed veg option for the downtown lunchtime landmark (which continues to gain momentum with a growing lineup of events, including the new holiday tradition of 12 Chefs of Christmas food and brew extravaganza with Flat 12).

And even though it's not a vegetarian restaurant, the new Public Greens in Broad Ripple, from Patachou Inc.'s Martha Hoover, is definitely veg friendly – although it's making news for its mission: to donate all profits to the Patachou Foundation, which feeds hungry kids after school.

But not all this year's newsmaking restaurants were actually restaurants. 2014 was definitely the year of the pop-up in Indianapolis. Chefs' Night Off, a dinner series run by local restaurant scene veteran R.J. Wall and Thunderbird's Whitmoyer, has featured a changing roster of young cooks, from established names such as Carlos Salazar and Jonathan Brooks to promising line cooks and even a few out-of-town chefs.

And speaking of Brooks, the 30-year-old opened his much-anticipated Milktooth restaurant in Fletcher Place, providing breakfast and brunch fans with a creative menu, day-drinking cocktails and coffee from Bee Coffee Roasters.

Coffee, too, continues to make headway as part of the city's culinary scene. With more and more roasters opening — including an outpost of Louisville's Quills Coffee that just set up shop in the 9 on Canal building – it's no surprise that Indy hosted its second Caffeine Crawl this year. Cold-brewed coffee is making inroads, whether in bottles at General American Donut Co. or brewed at Hoover's new Public Greens.

Breweries continued to open at a breakneck pace in 2014. Chilly Water opened in Fletcher Place, Two Deep began brewing downtown, and others opened around the area — including Scarlet Lane Brewing Company, which launched in McCordsville and quickly gained a following with its coconut stout.

The craft cocktail scene showed no sign of slowing down either. In fact, you can expect plenty more distilleries to join Hotel Tango, which now makes whiskey, vodka, rum, gin and moonshine in its Fletcher Place distillery.

The local chapter of the United States Bartenders' Guild keeps growing, and local bartenders — such as Joshua Gonzales, Jessica Taylor, Ryan Puckett and others — keep advancing in national competitions. And the newly formed Indiana Craft Beverage Association will be launching a cocktail week next year.

So 2015 just might be even better than 2014. Cheers!

Jolene Ketzenberger covers local food at EatDrinkIndy.com. Follow her on Twitter @JKetzenberger.

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