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Six Sweet Shots: Our 2017 in Sugary Outtakes

BJ's Brewhouse!

April 1st: BJ’s Brewhouse presents the Baked Beignet. Fried dough tossed in cinnamon and sugar, topped with whipped cream, vanilla bean ice cream, strawberries, and strawberry puree.

I had something else planned for this space tonight, but it’s been the kind of week that’s left me wanting to drown some sorrows instead. I could flail about recent stresses on either a personal or national level, potentially spewing a 3000-word tirade that only my wife would read. Or I could take the safer clipfest route and meditate on some of the carefully crafted calories that brightened our days throughout the past year, none of which ever made it into any MCC entries till now.

Perhaps “meditate on them” is a bit too lofty. Ogle them. Savor the memories. Wallow in these past comforts. Take some solace that staring at these photos is less unhealthy than having all six dishes in front of me right now and feasting upon them all at once in one sweet smorgasbord.

For now, for tonight, this shall do.

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Our Fantastic Food Fest 2018 Photos

Gallery Pastry Shop!

Fruit tarts from the Gallery Pastry Shop in Broad Ripple. At right, their almond cookies were among Anne’s favorite bites of the day.

This weekend my wife Anne and I had the pleasure of attending the third annual Fantastic Food Fest at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis. This annual event bringing together the best and brightest providers from numerous restaurants, markets, farms, caterers, bakeries, and other tremendous sources of locally sourced ingredients and cuisine under one roof for foodies to gather and escape winter doldrums. Year One’s big show kicked off our new yearly tradition with the perfect headliner, Chopped host and hometown hero Ted Allen. Year Two brought us the immense pleasure of meeting Chopped judge and Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli.

This year, we weren’t there for TV personalities or jazz-hands photo ops. If you know who TV chef and NPR contributor Sara Moulton is, or if you’re a fan of celebrated Hoosier chefs or food bloggers, this was the show for you. For us, this time was all about the food.

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Girl Scout Cookies of 2018, Ranked from Best to Bleah

Girl Scout Cookies!

Today’s haul courtesy of a troop tabling at a local Kroger. It was fun watching three girls race to see who could total up our purchases in their head the fastest.

It’s that time again! Every year my wife and I look forward to Girl Scout cookie season, when young-lady empowerment meets the spirit of entrepreneurship and the happy result is another satisfying fix for this perennial craving of ours. Times have gotten harder ever since our usual suppliers went to ground, by which I mean the Girl Scouts we used to know got old and got out of the game. Unfortunately our relatives haven’t been spawning replacement Girl Scouts to hook us up lately, and we’re sadly not hanging out with the right twenty- or thirtysomething crowds whose households harbor these adorable dealers that we can’t live without. That means we have to go prowling around our local groceries and big-box stores in hopes of finding a troop and their moms hanging out by the front door and selling whatever leftovers their own families didn’t buy off them by the crateload.

Today we lucked into a batch early in the season, but had to extricate ourselves from a slowly escalating debate over which ones are best. Rather than keep sowing seeds of dissent between those loyal friends, we walked away and left the two moms and a dad to restore order. That conversation haunted me for the rest of the day. When that happens, I usually have no choice but to type out those thoughts, thereby freeing up that obsessing brain space and clearing my head once again.

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Our 2008 Road Trip, Part 1: Hanging with the Hillbillies

Hillbilly sign!

Welcome to the mountains of West Virginia! And one of the better meals on this trip.

Every year since 1999 Anne and I have taken a road trip to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, marvels, history, and institutions we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. Beginning with 2003’s excursion to Washington DC, we added my son to the roster and tried to accommodate his preferences and childhood accordingly.

Our 2007 drive down to Orlando had been a fun mix of famous theme park and American spaceflight, with one personal milestone for me: my first contact with the Atlantic Ocean. My moment lasted about ten minutes before thunderstorms chased us away from the coast. As Atlantic beach experiences go, Florida gave me a lousy first impression.

For 2008 we decided a second try was in order. Rather than take back-to-back trips to the same state, we researched other east-coast beach options, judged them by their nearby attractions, adjusted for our modest budget that couldn’t possibly afford upper-class oceanfront accommodations, and settled on what we hoped would be a suitable sequel.

Thus in this year of our Lord did we declare: the Goldens are going to Virginia Beach!

Little did we know it would be our least favorite road trip to date. 9½ years later, it still holds the title of The Worst.

Today we kick off another special MCC miniseries representing the original travelogue from our 2008 drive from Indianapolis to southeast Virginia. Some hindsight editing will be included along the way as part of the “special edition” processing. Special thanks as always to my wife Anne, who — for reasons that will become more apparent in the narrative — co-wrote far more of this travelogue than any other we’ve done.

Despite our pain and disappointment: enjoy!

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 40: A Night at the Omni

chandelier!

I double-dare you to top this backdrop, Hyatt.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. For 2017 our ultimate destination of choice was the city of Baltimore, Maryland. You might remember it from such TV shows as Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, not exactly the most enticing showcases to lure in prospective tourists. Though folks who know me best know I’m one of those guys who won’t shut up about The Wire, a Baltimore walkabout was Anne’s idea. Setting aside my fandom, as a major history buff she was first to remind skeptics who made worried faces at us for this plan that Maryland was one of the original thirteen American colonies and, urban decay notwithstanding, remains packed with notable history and architecture from ye olde Founding Father times. In the course of our research we were surprised to discover Baltimore also has an entire designated tourist-trap section covered with things to do. And if we just so happened to run across former filming locations without getting shot, happy bonus…

In our travelogues we rarely share in-depth about our hotel experiences. The three-diamond service level that usually fits our vacation budget doesn’t lend itself to many five-star anecdotes of above-and-beyond awesomeness. If we mention the hotel in context other than as a basic setting, that’s not always a good thing. Exhibit A: the Hyatt Place where we stayed in Baltimore. Our check-in process on Day Two was one of our Bottom 5 hotel experiences to date. And the drawbacks didn’t end with that single evening full of hitches. A week after we returned home from this trip, I reviewed my credit card bill and found that the Hyatt charged us a second time for the five nights we’d prepaid through AAA, and charged us full price rather than the agreed-upon sale price. It took me a month of negotiations between the two companies to get the larger, erroneous charge off my bill, long enough for it to incur a finance charge while I waited.

Thankfully our final hotel stay on our 2017 road trip was the complete opposite of our Baltimore Hyatt letdown.

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A Right Way and a Wrong Way to Do Coffee and Donuts

Hilligoss Bakery donuts

Three fine ways to kick off a Saturday morning before a shopping spree.

Behold my Saturday morning sugary wake-up call from Hilligoss Bakery, a local establishment in the nearby town of Brownsburg since 1974. They relocated several years ago to a standalone building that once housed a frozen custard joint, but have made the place their own with an exemplary array of donuts and danishes, as well as fast and reliable customer service. They sell a limited selection of drinks on the side, including a couple of different varieties of freshly brewed coffee — nothing fancy, no aspirations to double as an artisan coffeehouse, but they keep it brewing steadily for not-so-finicky coffee drinkers like me. They’re pastry purveyors non pareil located fifteen minutes from our house, but in a direction we rarely find reason to travel, so we’re not quite regular customers (yet). We do recommend them to anyone with an excuse to be in the vicinity.

This morning I made the command decision to go out of our way toward their vicinity. To be honest, Hilligoss wasn’t our first stop, but our day had started off on the wrong foot and I knew they’d set it right.

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