A gourmand doesn't expect to eat well in Indianapolis. No offense to the good people who live there, but like many, I suspect, I furrowed my brow a bit when thinking of eating our way through the Midwest, and was skeptical of Indianapolis in particular. After all, this is a city known for car racing, not carpaccio. I should have known better, and now I do.
Our first eye-opening taste of the city was at Goose The Market, a deli and specialty food store just north of downtown Indianapolis. Just walking up, there are encouraging signs for the skeptical food snob: cabbage, hot peppers, and various herbs grow in a small garden out front.
We were there not to stock our kitchen but to try the sandwiches and couldn't resist the "Batali."
And once inside, the travel-weary gastronome can relax even more: baskets of fresh, local produce; a meat counter stocked with foie gras, hangar steaks; and several versions of house-made charcuterie, among them smoked duck, pate, and even "salmon pastrami." A chalkboard menu lists what fish is fresh that week, and there are plenty of enticing cheeses, local beers, and coffees. This is a place that focuses on local, seasonal products, and they are bursting with Indiana pride.
For the indecisive, there are several options of to-go picnic baskets assembled by the staff, and for those seeking porcine inspiration, a "bacon of the month club." And for the sweet tooth, there's ice cream, gelato, and creme brulee. Even the soda fridge shows thought, filled with Cricket Colas, Sprecher Sodas, and pop from Fentiman's.
We were there not to stock our kitchen but to try the sandwiches and couldn't resist the "Batali," named not after the celeb chef responsible for keeping Crocs in business, but rather his father, Armandino Batali, whose landmark deli in Seattle we'll be visiting this week. The sandwich pays homage to the master salami curer with three types of Italian salami: spicy coppa, soppressata, capocolla, folded into a baguette with provolone cheese.
From there it gets more interesting: tomato preserves, not fresh tomatoes, are used, and this is without question a good thing for a sandwich on the menu year-round. (A common issue encountered on this food tour is a sandwich or entree made with tomatoes far from their peak, a sure way to make one sad.) A little heat and acidity comes from adding some hot Giardiniera, along with some lightly pickled red onion that gives the whole package a little sharpness and bite.
Many thanks to readers Barry Foy, josobor, kivaturi, lh and bellweather for suggesting this stop on the food tour. This was only the first of several culinary surprises in town, and you'll be reading about the others soon.