Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The renovated Nasher Museum invites you to choose your own adventure

Nasher contemporary art curator Marshall Price
shows off a restored 1858 oil painting of
Henry Ward Beecher by Francis Bicknell Carpenter.
Just days before it reopens to the public, the Nasher Museum of Art's Wilson Pavilion looks little like a world-class museum. Closed for renovation since April, the unfinished galleries seem more like the backstage of a burlesque theater, with some of its biggest stars only half-dressed.
Dozens of priceless objects are arranged on padded moving quilts laid over temporary tables, including an astounding assortment of Mesoamerican artifacts tucked between pristine, sock-size sandbags.
"Don't you love all the color?" asks Sarah Schroth, the museum's director. She can see past the dust toward the realization of her vision: sterile white walls transformed by rich hues that imbue thematic spaces with vibrancy.
"Painting the walls just does amazing things for the art. Like that piece," she says, gesturing at a large Mayan figure—an earth-toned incense burner that would have sent smoke billowing from its angry nostrils and chin. Waiting to be installed beside it on the chocolate-brown wall is a bead necklace and ear spools not unlike those worn by today's hipster artisans.
"These brown walls are perfect in here," Schroth adds, with a look of bemused satisfaction. "I mean, in addition to making all this art, [the Mayans] did invent chocolate, after all."
Schroth's excitement is understandable. On Aug. 27, Wilson Pavilion reopens to reveal 5,700 square feet of reimagined display space. Nine distinct spaces, including a welcoming entry featuring never-before-seen Navajo textiles, were designed by curators in collaboration with exhibition designer Brad Johnson.
click to enlargenasher-gallery-map.jpg
    Wilson Pavilion is the largest of the Nasher's galleries. While others have spotlighted marquee names, such as the recent exhibit of late works by Joan Miró;, Wilson has always featured art from the museum's permanent collection. But before the renovation, with fewer walls and space reserved for faculty and student art, only 3 to 4 percent of the Nasher's 11,000-piece permanent collection was available to visitors. Now Wilson will house more than four times the number of objects previously displayed. When the current exhibit ends, many pieces will return to storage so other holdings can take their places.
    While museum exhibits are often designed around a prescribed pedestrian flow, Schroth believes the Wilson redesign will achieve the goal of encouraging visitors to choose their own path.
    "We want visitors to look through a doorway and go to the space that draws their interest," says Molly Boarati, assistant curator of European art. "And when they're done there, they can do it again and again. We want them to build relationships with pieces—old favorites and new ones—so they'll want to keep coming back to experience the museum."
    click to enlargeTom Mole paints boxes that will support pieces from the Nasher Musem's collection as remodeling work is done Monday August 17, 2015 at the museum in Durham - PHOTO BY ALEX BOERNER
    • Photo by Alex Boerner
    • Tom Mole paints boxes that will support pieces from the Nasher Musem's collection as remodeling work is done Monday August 17, 2015 at the museum in Durham
    Because the Nasher is part of Duke, it plays an important role in facilitating discourse among students and faculty. Two undergraduate interns were responsible for staging an exhibit of 18 images by one of the world's best-known photographers—and boldly choosing two in the collection of 20 to edit out. Sharp Focus: Ansel Adams and American Photography, in Wilson's Incubator gallery, is both an inspiring show and a whopper of a résumé-builder. Other displays, intended to challenge planners as well as viewers, will follow.
    More of the Nasher's contemporary collection will be revealed Oct. 1. After its current show concludes Aug. 30, the 3,600-square-foot Brenda LaGrange Johnson and Heather Johnson Sargent Pavilion will be renovated to serve as the permanent home for the museum's extensive holdings by modern artists. Exhibits here will also rotate to demonstrate the scope of the collection.
    Modern art curator Marshall Price will be heavily involved with that transformation. He's already created a dynamic juxtaposition of cubist and self-taught art, otherwise known as folk art, in Wilson's Modern gallery. The apparently coincidental similarities between Picasso's 1960 painting "Tete de femme (Head of a Woman)" and a collection of expressive face jugs made in the 1990s by rural North Carolina potters are striking.
    Image courtesy Nasher Museum
    More impressive, however, is Price's dedication to a portrait of the renowned abolitionist preacher Henry Ward Beecher in the American gallery. While many photos of Beecher exist, Price says there are few paintings, and perhaps no others notated as being "from life," like this one.
    The brother of Uncle Tom's Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe, Beecher posed in 1858 for artist Francis Bicknell Carpenter, who later painted a from-life portrait of Abraham Lincoln presenting the Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet. Determined to include Beecher in a group of three paintings to demonstrate how portraiture changed from the European-style formality of 1812 to this more relaxed example, Price was disappointed to discover it was seriously damaged.
    Following restoration, which Price describes as "the most extensive the museum had ever undertaken," the Beecher portrait is a standout that shows the influential pastor radiating the light of knowledge and faith.
    "It was amazing, like bringing Lazarus back from the dead," Price says. Though the Nasher itself was far from dead, this renovation promises to also give it a new lease on life.
    click to enlargeNasher Museum Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Marshall Price, left, and Museum Director Sarah Schroth, right, look over a Mayan ceramic incense burner that will be on display when the gallery opens after being remodeled. - PHOTO BY ALEX BOERNER
    • Photo by Alex Boerner
    • Nasher Museum Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Marshall Price, left, and Museum Director Sarah Schroth, right, look over a Mayan ceramic incense burner that will be on display when the gallery opens after being remodeled.

    RICHARD MOSSE FINDS BEAUTY IN BRUTAL CONFLICT

    Marshall Price spends a lot of time in galleries and museums. As curator of modern and contemporary art at the Nasher, it's his job to see the most talked-about exhibits and bring back ideas for ways to make the Duke University museum more engaging.
    When he visited the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013, he saw something so extraordinary, so bold and electric, that he felt the hair stand up on the back on his neck.
    click to enlarge8.26_fall-guide_visual-art_richard-mosse-video.jpg
      "I don't experience that very often," says Price, who found that Sarah Schroth, the Nasher's director, felt equally compelled to bring Richard Mosse's The Enclaveto Durham for the museum's 10th anniversary. "It absolutely blew me away. Photography in conflict areas creates an ethical dilemma for viewers when they see such extraordinary beauty." The immersive 40-minute video installation about civil unrest in eastern Congo will make its Southeastern debut at Wilson Pavilion Aug. 27 and can be seen through Jan. 10.
      Mosse is an Irish-born photographer who works in Philadelphia and New York City. He uses Kodak Aerochrome, a film stock developed for government surveillance purposes. It translates vegetation and camouflage from earthen greens into vivid shades of pink and purple, creating a surreal beauty amid the chaos of political instability and human crisis.
      While Mosse embedded with groups that participated in aggressive activities, Price says there is no "overt violence" in the film, which will be displayed on six screens suspended from the ceiling. "The suggestion of violence ... is more powerful than actually seeing it," he says. "And the music is absolutely haunting."
      Meet Mosse in an artist talk and opening event at 7 p.m. Aug. 27.
      This post first appeared in print in Indy Week with the headline "Fresh paint"

      Triangle bars explore mezcal culture, but keep it neat

      Dos Perros
      Agave With Arturo, a tequila and mezcal pairings dinner
      7pm Sept. 15
      $68 per person, not including tax and gratuity
      919-956-2750
      200 N. Mangum St., Durham

      In his four years of tending bar at Durham's Dos Perros, Arturo Sanchez has watched his share of fools slam tequila and throw back tear-inducing shots of smoky mezcal. But aficionados of these agave-based spirits are increasingly bringing refinement bar-side.
      Christian Madezen of The Crunkleton
      in Chapel Hill suggests The Last Word as an
      introduction to the smoky charm of mezcal.
      Indy Week photo by Alex Boerner.
      "People want to experience these spirits much in the way they do fine wine," Sanchez says.
      He swirls an amber pour of Don Julio Añejo tequila in a slender flute to observe its "legs," or the liquid that languorously drips down the glass.
      "You should sniff it deeply to get a sense of the barrel—usually oak—then sip, swish and hold it for five seconds before swallowing to bring all the flavors together," he continues before doing just that. "Now that's what tequila should taste like."
      Celebrity endorsements of tequila, like George Clooney's high-end Casamigos, are helping to remake the spirit's image among those who may have sworn off the stuff after a hangover-inducing experience in college. Small-batch mezcal is finding its place in the craft cocktail revolution, too, thanks locally to Raleigh's Gallo Pelón Mezcalería, the only such bar in the Southeast. U.S. tipplers remain fairly timid about embracing mezcal's smoky charms and sometimes funky aroma, especially straight up.
      But manager Marshall Davis sourced more than 40 choices for the upstairs spot, including Mezcal Vago Elote. The drink achieves its Scotch-like flavor from an infusion of smoked corn. Served in a shallow clay cup with a savory pinch of chapuline (fried grasshopper) salt on the side, a pour will set you back $11. If you've got it to spare, it's cash well spent.
      "Some mezcals smell like burning tires or gym socks," says Davis, whose current favorite is the mineral-rich Mezcalero Batch #5. A rare find, only 636 bottles were produced in 2012 before the maker destroyed the still. Gallo Pelón has two. "To me, and a lot of agave heads, mezcal's weirdness makes it something we really want to try."
      Masking mezcal's earthy qualities with mixers distracts from its essential appeal, agrees Sanchez, who recently returned from a tastings trip to the state of Jalisco, home of the town of Tequila.
      "A lot of people are afraid of drinking it neat, but in Mexico, if you ordered mezcal in a cocktail, they'd think you were crazy," Sanchez says. "A Mezcal Mule is a good introduction for people who aren't sure if they'll like it, but if you really want to appreciate mezcal, drink it straight."
      Chapel Hill's The Crunkleton, famed for its deep bourbon collection, currently has seven mezcals, more than double what you'll find in North Carolina ABC stores. You can even go big with a $53 1.5-ounce shot of Del Maguey Pechuga. The clean flavor comes from triple distillation, including the last-round addition of wild fruits and a raw, skinless chicken breast.
      "I know it sounds strange, but it's a classic technique," says owner Gary Crunkleton, who recently tried a variation distilled with Ibérico ham. "It's always made as the last harvest of the year, a sort of gift to the gods. Once you taste it, you get it."
      Crunkleton bartender Christian Madsen is a particular fan of artisanal mezcal, which he says is affected by terroir, much like fine wine. "Mezcal from the highlands is sweeter, while mezcal from the lowlands tends to be more grassy," he says. "Factor in 40 types of agave, different water sources—you get the picture."

      How to buy mezcal and tequila in the Triangle and how to use it

      When shopping for tequila, our experts recommend only buying brands with the “NOM” designation on the label, which confirms production at an authorized Mexican distillery. Certified mezcals will state use of espadin agave, too. Monte Alban should be left on the shelf. For a decent drink, Dos Perros’ Sanchez recommends Fidencio for its lean body and fruit finish. Price, though, considers Del Maguey Vida the best local option. No matter what you choose, skip any bottle that boasts a worm, rattlesnake head or similarly nasty additive. Crunkleton says that Oaxacan producers, who “create their own distillate to honor their distinct community and culture,” never demean their product with crass marketing ploys.
      And if you can’t resist the urge to use mezcal in a cocktail, try these easy-to-make drinks at home.
      SKINNY DIP (ARTURO SANCHEZ, DOS PERROS): Muddle five lime wedges in a shaker, then add 1.5 ounces of silver tequila, .75 ounces of orange liquor and ice. Shake and pour into glass rimmed with smoked paprika, ground chiles and coarse salt.
      SPICY PEPINO (CHRISTIAN MADSEN, THE CRUNKLETON): Muddle a slice of cucumber in a shaker, then add 1.5 ounces mezcal, .75 ounces of lime juice, .5 ounces of simple syrup and dashes of cayenne and salt. Shake and strain into ice-filled glass rimmed with salt. Garnish with a cucumber slice.
      SMOKY PALOMA (MARSHALL DAVIS, GALLO PELÓN MEZCALERIA): Muddle a slice of habanero pepper in a shaker, then add 1 ounce of mezcal, 1 ounce of reposado tequila, 1 ounce of fresh grapefruit juice, 1 ounce of cane syrup and .5 ounces of fresh lime juice. Shake, then strain into a glass. Top with soda water.
      This post first appeared in print in Indy Week with the headline "Upstairs, down South"

      Pittsboro's Fair Game takes three medals at Asheville contest

      Photo courtesy Chris Jude
      Not surprisingly, the annual wine competition at the Asheville Wine and Food Festival is dominated by established producers, stretching from the Yadkin Valley to the western mountains. It was something of a surprise, then, when Pittsboro's Fair Game Beverage Co. scored a trifecta on Saturday, taking home gold, silver and bronze medals for its fortified wines. 

      Not bad for a company that only introduced its first bottle in June 2014.

      "We competed at the State Fair last year, where Ferris won a silver medal," says Chris Jude, referring to the winery's full-bodied red blend. "And this year, Asheville gave it the gold."

      Judges also recognized Fair Game for its Tipper Scuppernong, which earned a silver medal, and the Tipper Peach, which won a bronze.

      "I see our wines as unique and different from what's going on in North Carolina," Jude says. "Customers tell us it's like nothing they've seen before. It's been a great reception from the restaurant community, and now, to get that from the wine community, is just great."

      Jude says Fair Game was greeted warmly by some of its better known competitors, including one that he especially admires, Jones von Drehle Vineyards of Thurmond.

      Fair Game was the only Triangle winner in the wine competition, but it was joined by TOPO of Chapel Hill and Crude Bitters of Raleigh in Elixir, the event's cocktail competition. Three of eight participants used Fair Game's Apple Brandy as an ingredient. (Fair Game suggests several tempting cocktail recipes on its website.)

      This spring, Fair Game introduced an Apple Brandy, along with its sorghum-based No'Lasses. Jude hopes to add another option this fall. He protectively describes a "vodka infused with a secret ingredient." A new batch of Tipper Apple, a cider-based wine aged in bourbon barrels, will be bottled for sale, too.

      "We might have a new rhum agricole, too, which we've been working on for a year," he says. "Thanks to the new law allowing sales of spirits at distilleries, it's one of the things we look forward to offering to customers on site."

      This post first appeared in Indy Week.

      Sunday, July 26, 2015

      Bam! Try bamboo pickles

      Some people can't see the forest for the trees. But Carla Faw Squires, like her mother and grandmother, looks upon a bamboo grove and sees pickles.
      "People think they look like calamari," Squires says. She will offer samples at PickleFest of the bamboo pickle recipe her grandmother developed after World War II. "If you like crunchy dill pickles, you'll like these."
      Squires drives from Raleigh to her family's home place in Wilkes County to harvest bamboo each spring. The community gained the curious crop after a woman who served as a nurse during the building of the Panama Canal returned home with a few carefully wrapped plants. With a booming supply and a Victory Garden mindset, the women of Wilkes County were determined to use it to feed their families.
      Squires' grandparents, who owned a small country store before her grandfather became chief of police, eventually moved to Lenoir but returned to North Wilkesboro in the 1970s. They planted their own bamboo grove, starting with just seven stalks. Pickling soon resumed, with young Carla at her grandmother's side.
      "I was the only grandchild interested at the time," says Squires, who left a technology finance career in 2007 to start the Bamboo Ladies. Bamboo pickles first were processed in Asheville and then at The Cookery in Durham. She now produces about 500 jars annually at a processing center in Hillsborough. They can be found locally at NOFO @ the Pig and Southern Season.
      Cooking Light magazine named her pickled bamboo among the winners of its 2010 Taste Test Awards: "Charming, odd, and delicious, they're a perfect gift for the adventurous foodie."
      The product is entirely handmade, beginning with cutting and shucking young shoots and carefully slicing the bamboo to keep its concentric circles together. "It's more difficult that you might think," says Squires, noting that a mandoline or other rapid slicer pops the bamboo into unmanageable rings. "The whole process is hard work, but it's worth it to keep my family legacy intact."

      What's the big dill, Durham?

      your-big-pickle.jpg
      Ben Woodward remembers the childhood delight of Sour Patch Kids candies. As the sugar crystals melted and his tongue re-enacted the precise sweet-salty-sour-bitter chart that made little sense on the blackboard, he blinked briny tears of joy.
      Today, the co-owner of Haw River Farmhouse Ales in Saxapahaw is finishing a brew for beer lovers who crave a similar pucker. His Pickled Pepper Sour Beer will be among the featured pours at Saturday's PickleFest in Durham.
      "It's an acquired taste for some, but craft beer drinkers are more exploratory today than they were 10 years ago," Woodward says. "It's no different than offering someone a shrub. When they realize it's a vinegar soda, they think you're crazy."
      Until they try it. In their tasting room, Woodward has observed a three-step reaction among those trying sour beers or shrubs, also called drinking vinegars. The first sip is shock and surprise; the second leads to curiosity and wonder. "By the third sip," he says, "they accept that it really is as delicious as they think it is."
      Woodward explains that classic sour beer results from slow-acting bacteria luxuriating in the barrel as long as a year. His Pickled Pepper is a quicker hybrid called kettle souring. Wild yeast is added to the mixture to hasten fermentation of sugars, delivering a tangy brew in about three months.
      "They're both delicious, but it's like refrigerator pickles versus fermented ones," he concedes. "It's not as complex, but not everyone likes those deep flavors."
      If you're looking for a gateway beverage that's alcohol-free but refreshingly crisp, Woodward suggests his golden beet shrub made with white balsamic vinegar.
      "We were going to do a traditional red beet and dark balsamic shrub, but when I saw those golden beets at the farmer's market I couldn't resist them," he says. "It will be flavored with black peppercorn and a couple of pickling spices."
      While Haw River finishes its shrubs in casks and pours them from a tap, Woodward says many shrubs are easy to make at home. Books like Michael Dietsch's 2014 sensation, Shrubs: An Old-Fashioned Drink for Modern Times, offer basic instruction as well as tips on how to incorporate seasonal botanicals.
      "You can make them at home in just a couple of days and finish them with a bit of soda water," Woodward says. "Unlike commercial sodas, you can make these as sweet or sour as you like, and with what whatever fruit or vegetable you like. Really, the possibilities are endless."
      This post first appeared in Indy Week.

      Monday, July 6, 2015

      Innovative concept puts a local spin on the food court at Southpoint

      Don't be surprised to encounter some of your favorite food trucks on your next visit to The Streets of Southpoint. No, not in the parking lot as part of a food truck rodeo—in the food court.
      The Durham shopping center, one of 120 properties owned by a leading national mall operator, is testing a food court concept that includes local food truck owners cooking with locally sourced food.
      There is no set goal for working local businesses in the mix, says Lynn Gray, director of field marketing for the eastern region of General Growth Properties Inc. The project will not eliminate familiar chains or the ubiquitous eateries that wave come-on samples of sesame chicken, but it should provide some options for local foodies getting their shopping fix.
      To date, two Durham-based food trucks are opening counter-service shops at the Southpoint food court. Porchetta, renowned for its variations on slow-roasted Italian pork sandwiches, opened June 10. American Meltdown, which has built an award-winning reputation for its creative grilled cheese sandwiches, is scheduled to follow in September. Additional Triangle-based providers may be added as current leases expire.
      Nick Crosson and business partner Matthew Hayden started Porchetta ("por-KET-a") in June 2012. They were discussing opening a traditional brick-and-mortar location in the Apex-Pittsboro area last fall when General Growth approached them about taking an available space at the mall.
      "They said they wanted to begin the process of rebranding and being more local," says Crosson, who will work the shop while Hayden operates the truck. "They felt food trucks would be a good fit because of the style and service and our connections with the community.
      "Everything they said made sense. We were excited and, quite frankly, honored, that they contacted us," Crosson says. "They were very helpful in making sure the deal was good for everyone."
      The expanded kitchen space—from about 180 square feet on the truck to 738 square feet at the food court has allowed Porchetta to add new equipment and menu items. Thanks to a new rotisserie, they now serve hot Italian-style sliced beef in hoagie rolls from Neomonde topped with zesty giardiniera, a mix of pickled vegetables.
      Slightly higher prices than you'll find on the food truck—a sandwich, side and a drink costs about $10—are prompted by increased overhead, but Crosson says he is eating some of the costs to stay competitive with his neighbors.
      click to enlargePorchetta, specializing in pork - sandwiches, is joining the growing trend - of local food trucks opening brick-andmortar - locations. - PHOTO BY JEREMY M. LANGE
      • Photo by Jeremy M. Lange
      • Porchetta, specializing in pork sandwiches, is joining the growing trend of local food trucks opening brick-and-mortar locations.
      "People aren't used to seeing this kind of service in a food court," he says. "Business has been fantastic. Every day, someone tells me they haven't eaten in a mall food court in 10 years, but they came for us."
      Such diners, who place a premium on shopping and eating local, may attract a new demographic for Southpoint. Still, American Meltdown's Inserra appreciates that the mall is taking a risk in choosing to work with small, local shops than familiar corporate entities.
      "We don't have a team of lawyers like the big companies," says Inserra, who launched the business in March 2012 with his wife, Alycia. "It took more time than we expected, especially getting a bank loan, but we feel that they really want us there. They said they were tired of the same old food court. They want a more dynamic food environment in their malls, and they felt we'd be a good fit. We are glad to be part of it."
      Inserra says American Meltdown will offer popular items from its food truck, including sandwiches that have earned national honors at the Grilled Cheese Invitational. They'll have an expanded menu of sides and will introduce a changing selection of homemade ice creams.
      "It's going to be great to have a neighbor like Nick," Inserra says. "We've shared information as food truck owners, and now we'll share again. It's what helps you grow as business owners."
      Crosson and Inserra both say their food truck operations will continue regardless of whatever success they have at Southpoint.
      "Our truck is finally paid off and generating cash," Inserra says. "I've got a restaurant to pay for now, so we're going to keep it rolling as long as we can."
      This post first appeared in Indy Week.

      Tuesday, June 2, 2015

      Take it Inside: Kamado Grille restaurant amps up the backyard grill experience in North Raleigh

      First things first. It's "Ka-mah-do," as in the egg-shaped, Japanese-style ceramic grill, not "ka-moe-do," as in komodo, the largest living species of lizard.
      In the age of Game of Thrones with dragon eggs surviving fire, that's an important distinction.



      And while Kamado Joe Grills are designed for outdoor use, the new Kamado Grille restaurant in North Raleigh has a dozen of the cherry red grills inside the kitchen, where their intoxicating smoke is captured by a massive exhaust and fire-suppression system designed by CaptiveAire.
      You read that right. Led by Eric Gephart, formerly of The Chef's Academy in Morrisville, they are burning hardwood charcoal inside the restaurant, practically around the clock. The entire system, which soon will include temperature settings for individual grills, can be monitored by staff and tweaked off-site through a phone app.
      The fast-paced kitchen action can be viewed by diners from live-feed cameras that relay images of line cooks grilling meats, fish and vegetables to big screens in the sunny dining room. Be patient and you might get to see someone "burp" the heavy lid to minimize the potential for flying sparks. That quick jiggle is crucial, considering they can roar to 1,100 degrees. Most menu items cook at a relatively moderate 500 to 700 degrees, while slow smoking is dialed back to around 250 degrees.
      Built on the same footprint of the long abandoned Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen, the huge open space—complemented by ample outdoor seating and a grass bocce court—is designed to resemble a HOA-friendly great outdoors, complete with stone garden walls, burbling water features and trees that stretch toward skylights.
      Co-owner Tom Allen is the clever guy who gazed admiringly at the Kamado Grill on his Wakefield deck and conjured this clearly franchise-able concept (opening soon in Greenville, South Carolina, Wilmington and Charlotte, with more to come). Allen appreciated the way the ceramic grill, similar to a Big Green Egg, quickly generates and holds heat, allowing foods to sear quickly and retain moisture. A former executive with Outback Steakhouse, he emailed Kamado Joe with his brainstorm, getting an enthusiastic call from the owner just 45 minutes later.
      A change in color indicates a temperature change. Hotter grills turn a darker red. - PHOTO BY ALEX BOERNER
      A change in color indicates a temperature change. Hotter grills turn a darker red.
      Indy Week photo by Alex Boerner.


      Allen believes Kamado Grille makes one of the best burgers in town, and that claim may leave you with your jaw hanging open. Or it might be just the after-effect of the stacked mouthful ($11) topped with a patty-covering round of custom-cured pancetta, grilled onion, pepper jack cheese and "secret sauce." You won't miss the absence of fries with creative sides like red quinoa salad with butterbeans. Other sandwich options a include a Reuben ($11) with corned beef slow-cooked overnight, pulled pork ($9.50) sourced from Heritage Farm near Goldsboro, and a smoke-free lobster roll ($14). If the tender buns taste familiar it's because they're made by Cary's La Farm bakery.
      Note that La Farm owner Lionel Vatinet's irresistible white chocolate baguette is used in a bread pudding ($6) drizzled with "bourbon dream sauce." That's my idea of dreamy, but maybe not yours. See if you can resist the chocolate and seasonal fruit cobblers ($6) baked in personal cast iron pans or a selection of ice cream, sorbet and gelato ($3.50).
      But we digress. Before dessert, consider an entree (maybe juniper-brined pork prime rib for $16.50 or maple-miso glazed Scottish salmon at $17) or a few appetizers (are you a sucker for $12 lamb lollipops? how about $10 oysters Kamadofeller with andouille, spinach and smoked gouda?). Grilled flatbread options include the $13 ocean BLAST featuring bacon, lettuce, avocado, shrimp and tomato.
      If you're stumped, you can ask a friendly server for advice, but the iPad ordering system allows you to bypass such interruptions. If you want to silently signal that the only ongoing service you want is beverage refills or plate clearing, ask for a lapel pin.
      On the other hand, if you crave interaction, know that Kamado Grille offers free classes (with tastings) on Saturday mornings to help fans learn the fine points of ceramic grill cooking. This includes a visit to the "retail center" where they can buy accessories and grills ranging in price from the $499 portable Joe Jr. to the $1,499 party-sized Big Joe.
      Or, for a more modest investment, and a welcome break, let them do the cooking for you.
      This post first appeared in Indy Week.