30 July 2012

KOTBR #143 - If this isn't nice, I don't know what is

Kurt Vonnegut's 1987 novel Bluebeard conveys the fictional autobiography of Rabo Karabekian, a character who first appears in Vonnegut's book Breakfast of Champions. Rabo is an abstract expressionist painter and one-eyed World War II veteran whose paintings disintegrate because of the dodgy materials he uses to create them. While Bluebeard vividly describes the eccentric friends and hangers-on who surround Rabo, the heart of the novel is the secret that Rabo keeps hidden in a potato barn on the property he inherited from his deceased wife. The secret, which is revealed toward the end of the book, turns out to be both beautiful and astonishing.

Like Rabo's secret, Indy's newest culinary gem, Bluebeard, is tucked away; it lies on Virginia Avenue in the Holy Rosary neighborhood, just northwest of Fountain Square. Aside from the name of the restaurant being announced on the side of the building, it's not really clear what's at the location unless you already know going in. In addition to housing a restaurant, the building houses a bakery called Amelia's that produces artisanal breads.

Once you enter the restaurant through a courtyard, you're welcomed by rustic yet sophisticated surroundings. Many of the fixtures in the restaurant appear to be re-purposed--the bar stools, for example, look like they were assembled from old grammar school chairs--and the barroom looks like what would happen if one created a mash-up of a novelist's library and a turn-of-the-twentieth-century saloon. The literary artifacts adorning the restaurant--a half-dozen typewriters from various eras and antique editions of books--seem to be a tip of the cap to Vonnegut and Bluebeard the novel, but I can't say for sure.

Bluebeard's cuisine is inventive, locally-sourced, and has several options for vegetarians like me (sorry vegans; you're out of luck here). Over several visits, I've had the Greek beet salad, house bread, pickle assortment, fried green tomatoes, watermelon gazpacho, and chess pie. All were amazing.

And there is Bluebeard's beer selection. Like the food menu, the draft list of ten taps is locally-focused, continuing the trend of excellent restaurants realizing that good food should be accompanied by good beer. We opted for Sun King's fifth edition in its Cream Dream series. I told the rest of the HBG crew that I wished we could do a Cream Dream vertical because it's hard to recall what the previous Cream Dreams tasted like other than generally remembering that they were sweet and particularly citrusy. Cream Dream V fell into the same profile. I don't normally like to use analogues from other brewers, but I'll do it this time because Cream Dream V strikes me as being very close to one of my favorite beers, Dogfish Head's 90 Minute IPA. I initially thought the beer would be comparable to 3 Floyds Alpha King, so Jason suggested that we do a side-by-side comparison since Alpha King was also on tap at Bluebeard. Upon comparison, Cream Dream V was definitely the maltier of the two beers, and I actually liked it better than the much adored Alpha King.

So what to make of the Bluebeard experience? Though I might be accused of exaggerating, I'm going to say that Bluebeard is both beautiful and astonishing. But for many folks, that secret is already out.

I am not sure that anything I could say would even come close to the articulate and thoughtful review Jim posted, so I'll just say how happy I am Bluebeard is here. The space is beautiful and the food and drink options are going to keep me eager to return as often as I am able.

Cream Dream V is everything I wanted it to be. Bright, citrusy, hoppy with and equally balanced malt profile. It was a lovely accompaniment to the food and company.

Anybody who is fan of the writings of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. knows that architects are the greatest beings to have ever walked the earth. And I will prove it momentarily. 

If you read the Sun King blog, you will find a fantastic story about the origins of Cream Dream, that it was started as an attempt to win the Alpha King Challenge. And while Cream Dream V (and the versions that came before it) are uniquely different from Alpha King, there is a familiarity with every sip. Golden and topped with a thin white head, it has notes of light, sweet fruits with a bitterness that is neither weak nor over the top. But yet I can't help but compare it to its quasi-father Alpha King. I give the edge to Alpha King, though coming in second to Alpha King is no loss. 

Let's get back to the awesomeness that is an architect. Kurt Vonnegut Sr. was an architect and lecturer based in Indianapolis during the first half of the 20th century. He produced several art deco creations, including many of the old Indiana Bell buildings. He also spent time as a faculty member at the Herron School of Art. Many do not know that his son, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., was a somewhat successful writer. I hear that he has a cult following, that some people think his writings are impressive. To those I say: an architect has more creativity in one sperm than most people have in their whole body. 

Now supposedly Bluebeard is named in honor of Bubba's works. I can't really speak to that. But the food is really good. And the architecture is fantastic. God bless architects!

Sun King Cream Dream V: I Thought We Were Buddies
Gina: 4.00 Mugs | Jim: 4.50 Mugs | Jason: 3.80 Mugs | Rod: 4.00 Mugs | Mike: 4.75 Mugs | Chris: 4.20 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 4.20 Mugs

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