The October 2020 Birthday Trip, Part 4: Obligatory Food Photos

Greek Souvlaki burger!

A Greek Souvlaki burger (lamb and beef) topped with feta, tapenade, sundried tomatoes, garlic, herbs ‘n’ spices, arugula, tzatziki, and tomato. On the side are Asian Bonito fries with sesame oil, fish flakes, black pepper, scallions, and mushroom mayo. (*whew*)

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a one-day road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

Well, at least we did before 2020. Anne turned 50 this year, but for work-related reasons involving the Age of Coronavirus, I’m currently not allowed to leave the state of Indiana for the foreseeable future. Anne did some local travel research, a longtime hobby of hers (you have no idea how many of our future road trips she’s already mapped out), and came up with a few things she thought would be fun to do on a Saturday in autumn. Naturally we had to start with a long walk around someplace with millions of leaves changing colors. When you live in Indiana, it’s what you do. After picking up some sugar for breakfast, our first attraction of the day was McCormick’s Creek State Park, southwest of Indianapolis…

…which we promptly vacated when the crowds began to triple in size, when we decided we’d gotten our money’s worth from the park admission fee, and as lunchtime drew near. As it happened, Anne’s short to-do list divided into two neat halves, each of which lay upon State Road 46 an hour south of Indianapolis. The loci were twenty minutes apart, so easily navigable that I could memorize the directions in advance even at my age, which works especially well now that state law as of July 2020 forbids me from using Google Maps on my phone while we’re in transit. Anne is all too happy to allow for anything that forces me to drive more safely. If it means other drivers likewise must keep their phones sheathed so they can concentrate on driving more quickly and without collisions, then for those two ideals I can support it.

Anyway: on to food. It was a birthday outing. Of course we ate.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #32: Farm Fresh Feast

Cheese Board!

A fancy cheese board straight from the cows’ udders. Plus or minus some intermediaries.

We’ve not far now until the end of the miniseries. One last mealtime wraps up the Hoosier culinary side of things.

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First One to 50 Wins

Anne at 50!

Milady at her birthday dinner, with hints of the pandemic around the edges but in the moment not standing between our hearts.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover, when ruminating on the origins of this very site:

This blog was set up three weeks before my 40th birthday as a means of charting the effects of the aging process and this fallen world’s degrading standards on my impressions of, reactions against, and general experiences with various works of art, commerce, wonder, majesty, and shamelessness. It’s my way of keeping the writing part of my brain alive and active, rather than let it atrophy and die…

Now that 40 is thousands of miles behind me and 50 is ever-so-slowly approaching on my horizon in the not-too-distant future, I may need to update my mission statement to reflect whatever emotions begin to overtake me as that half-century mark draws nearer.

For my wife Anne, what little sense of foreboding may or may not have bugged her is past. She’s nineteen months older than me and just reached 50, right on time.

St. Elmo!

Our celebration venue of choice, a onetime special guest star on Parks and Recreation.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #29: The Week in Breakfast

Knead the Dough haul!

Can YOU name your favorite flavors seen here? Good, because I forgot to write them down.

Restaurant photos are naturally a frequent part of our travel experiences. However, one practical benefit of using your own home as your road-trip command base is you don’t have to eat out for every meal every day. A few times on this vacation, we settled for ordinary home-cooked breakfasts that let us unwind for a few extra minutes before takeoff to faraway towns. On three vacation mornings this year we incorporated early pit stops into our itinerary because sometimes we do need a change of pace from our groceries. This was especially true during the Age of Coronavirus, which may have been an ideal setting for the sedentary homebody in me but has been nonstop frustrating for the lover of new experiences.

Or at least relatively new. Donuts don’t exactly qualify as rare exotica. But this trilogy of breakfast mini-galleries isn’t all about donuts.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #20: On the Banks of the Wabash

Lincoln Memorial Bridge!

The Lincoln Memorial Bridge spans the Wabash River from Indiana to Illinois.

As a consequence of my unusual workplace situation, I’m basically not allowed to leave the state of Indiana until and unless killer nanobots hunt The Virus to extinction or my employers exile me to work-from-home, which would pose problems to multiple parties. 2020 is the first year we haven’t crossed the state line since at least 1998. It may have been longer, but we’ve been to Kings Island in Ohio so many times that I’ve lost track of which years were which.

The closest we’ve come to exiting Indiana since New Year’s was the city of Vincennes. Standing between us and Illinois was the Wabash River, known locally as the star of our state song, “On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away”. You’d think our state song would be “Back Home Again in Indiana”, which Jim Nabors used to sing before the start of every Indy 500, and which they actually taught us to sing in grade school. “On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away” was a big hit on the pop charts in 1897, long before there was pop, charts, hits, or catchy electric guitar hooks, and is sung today in the occasional State Fair hootenanny and nowhere else. I just now listened to it for what I’m reasonably sure was the first time in my entire 48 years, and I suspect I’ll forget it by morning. Not on purpose, mind you. But I know how my brain works.

Our view of the Wabash itself, by contrast, should prove eminently more memorable. Vincennes likewise had its share of nifty imagery about town, from fixtures to food.

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10 Timely Tips for Pandemic Fine Dining in Peace or Panic

Duck & Duck!

Oakleys Bistro in Indianapolis presents their “Duck & Duck”, two modest portions of sliced duck served with a rosemary duck confit arancini, charred broccoli spinach puree, pickled cherry relish, coriander crema, and leek puree.

Has pandemic fatigue got you down? Are you sick of subsisting on the two-year bulk-food supply you overstocked in your basement back in March? Could you use an hour-long break from staring at the same walls seven days a week? Have you become so annoyingly restless and loud that your family wishes you’d stop putting the “rant” in “quarantine”? Are you worried your favorite restaurant may collapse and die like Uncle Ben while you stand there like Peter Parker doing nothing about it? More importantly, can you afford to eat out right now? Most importantly, are you safe for other humans to be around?

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2020 Road Trip Photos #11: My, My, Mitchell Mealtime

Anne and tenderloin!

Of all the vacation pics we shared with friends and family at the time, this was the favorite — Anne and an entire batter-fried animal on a bun.

Remember the good ol’ days when the most lethal forces you had to worry about at any given family restaurant were calories, fat, carbs, grease, and sugar? And not uncontrolled international pandemics whose rampaging microbes could destroy your organs from within like an exotic assassin’s poison made from extinct jungle predators? One nifty little cafe in the town of Mitchell sure does.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #5: A Moment of Truth in Little Mexico

Los Mariscos Tropicales!

Los Mariscos Tropicales: shrimp, scallops, and crab served in a hollowed pineapple and topped with cheese, salsa, and rice. Anne ate well that day and has so far lived to tell the tale.

It’s a pleasant feeling to enjoy a wonderful meal with a loved one away from the world and its problems. It’s the exact opposite when you’re also silently praying this isn’t your last meal and hoping the daily special isn’t a proverbial bullet with your name on it.

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Not Put Asunder, 16 Years and Counting

Chicago 2012!

I already used up the one photo we’ve taken together so far in 2020, so please enjoy this previously unshared file photo from our April 2012 trip to Chicago and C2E2, a souvenir from a bygone era when we were allowed to travel out of state and be near other humans.

It’s that time again! Another year of shockingly blissful marriage to the amazing Anne, another anniversary dinner to celebrate.

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Indiana State Fair 2011 Photos, Part 1 of 4: The Year in Food

Ice Cream Burger!

Join us in a bit of nostalgia for the good ol’ days of eating out and mingling in crowds with impunity, won’t you?

You, the Viewers at Home, don’t need me to tell you 2020 is The Worst. And the hits just keep on coming, great and small. While more important people address the great, someone ought to tend to the small. Might as well be me, the Most Irrelevant Man in the World.

As if our dwindling downtime to-do list for 2020 weren’t already small enough to fit on a Post-It, Anne and I are still reeling from Thursday afternoon’s announcement that the 2020 Indiana State Fair has been canceled after too many vendors kept backing out, painfully aware that crowds and super-powered viruses remain a volatile mix. Recounts of our State Fair experiences have been among MCC’s annual traditions ever since I launched the site in April 2012. It isn’t the first tradition thrown off-track this year, and it may not be the last.

But it’s not as though our lives began in April 2012. We have quite a few stories not yet shared here from pre-MCC days. We may not be able to make new State Fair memories this year, but we can wallow in the older ones we haven’t revisited in a while.

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Our Ten Terrific Tricks for a Stay-at-Home Comic Con

Quarantine Jazz Hands!

With your host, Dr. Bane-ton Forrester!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: for the past several years my wife Anne and I have made a tradition of going somewhere — anywhere but home — for each of our birthdays. One-day road trips and events, such as last year’s tour of the Art Institute of Chicago, give me the gift of new experiences and distract me from the physical decay at hand. It was a nice tradition while it lasted.

For my 48th birthday we had hoped this weekend would see us returning to Motor City Comic Con up near Detroit. Our first trip to Motor City in 2017 was a fantastic experience, and this year’s guest list had a few larger-than-life personalities we would’ve loved to meet. Then, much as has happened to You, The Viewers at Home, our best-laid plans gang agley. In the wake of COVID-19, businesses closed or severely restricted their services, workplaces were scuttled, my employers enacted strict rules about out-of-state travel, and any and all events involving two or more people were canceled. All one-man events, such as the worst YouTube channels ever, were allowed to continue on schedule. I haven’t had a birthday party in years, but the state of the world has derailed our road-trip tradition for my big day. Whether we can resume our practice on Anne’s birthday in October will hinge on a number of variables, none of them within my personal control, though I’d totally be on top of that for her sake if I had Dr. Manhattan’s powers.

Anne and I were determined to line up an enjoyable weekend for ourselves anyway. Between the two of us we made the most of these past two days with the resources safely available. We found a way to recreate ten (10) commonalities we’ve encountered at various entertainment conventions over the past several years. Welcome to what I nicknamed “TakeoutCon 2020”, which included the following comic-con-esque features:

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Restaurants In Memoriam: A Pre-Virus Retrospective

Mediterranean Grill!

Loukoumadis (fried dough), our final dessert at the Mediterranean Grill in Avon, Indiana. Taken in April 2017 on their final weekend in business. If only we’d shared more meals from there…

Midlife Crisis Crossover isn’t an official foodie blog, but restaurants are among the many and varied subjects we touch upon as we refuse to focus on a singular topic. Whether they’ve enlivened our annual road trips, featured in our wedding anniversary celebrations, given us something to do on Super Bowl Sunday instead of watching ads or sports, or simply welcomed us in for one-time tryouts, restaurants are a treasured aspect of our travel experiences, in other states as well as around our own hometown of Indianapolis. As you can imagine, my wife Anne and I are missing a lot of them right now rather intensely.

We’ve shared photos and warm feelings from dozens of eateries over the past eight years. Not all of them lived to see 2020, which in some cases may not be such a bad thing. Regardless, in this moment of wistful nostalgia, here’s a fond look back at some of the places that are no longer with us, who shut their doors after we visited them and didn’t even call us to say goodbye, because that’s not how it works.

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Lafayette Vignettes, Part 6 of 6: The Birthday Menu

Quintessential Quiche!

The Quintessential Quiche at Eggshell Bistro in Carmel — topped with fresh herbs and filled with applewood bacon, caramelized leeks, roasted tomato, and Comté cheese on a multigrain crust. At least I think that’s the correct dish. It’s been a few months.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a one-day road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas of Indiana we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

Once upon a time in 2019 Anne decide she wanted to celebrate her birthday with a jaunt around the city of Lafayette, an hour northwest of our Indiana home. She cobbled together a short to-do list of things she wanted to see, not lengthy but enough for a leisurely afternoon — a bit of Indiana history, a bit of downtown tourism, and a bit of healthy walking…

Although Prophetstown State Park was the last stop on our one-day road trip before heading home, obviously it wouldn’t have been a satisfying birthday celebration without memorable foods of her choosing. Back in October 2019, restaurants were a readily available luxury where hungry patrons could enter, sit, relax, dine together, hang out, depart at their leisure, and, if they were of sufficiently upright character, make sure to tip the gainfully employed waitstaff. It was, in its own way, a golden age.

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Valentines the Day After

Artisan Bakery!

These scrumptious baked goods are actually the end of our story, but when you invoke the word “Valentine”, no one wants to put off the sugar till later.

This year our Valentine’s Day was a wash. Anne and I both had to work, which was time well spent in the sense that more work means less debt. The evening was equally unromantic. While I tended to a recurring family responsibility, Anne spent those same hours errand-running. Sacrificing that time frame meant far fewer interruptions in the rest of our weekend.

United at last at the end of the day, we exchanged gifts and red-tinged, heart-covered cards with jokes on them. Then we hurried up and fell asleep because we’re older now and we had a date to look forward to in the morning.

As some families celebrate Christmas not on the day of, so went Cupid’s cutesy custom for us.

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Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 29: The Last Outpost

giant guitar!

You know you’re in road-tripping territory when you start seeing giant-sized objects straight out of 1950s Batman comics.

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. My son tagged along from 2003 until 2013 when he ventured off to college. We’ve taken two trips by airplane, but are much happier when we’re the ones behind the wheel — charting our own course, making unplanned stops anytime we want, availing ourselves of slightly better meal options, and keeping or ruining our own schedule as dictated by circumstances or whims. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’d been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we aimed for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness. Before we went to D*C, there was the road trip to get there, and the good times to be had before the great times at the big show.

After Kennesaw Mountain effectively rebuffed us, all that stood between us and home were eight hours, 500 miles, two more meals and whatever other biological imperatives got in our way. With no further sightseeing intended, we knew our Sunday drive would be long and mostly boring. Lunchtime proved to more of one than the other.

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Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 25: Dining with Dragons

Yami Yami line!

Food courts: America’s unsung heroes in times when we need convenience most..

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover 2½ months ago:

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’ve been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we’re aiming for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness…

After fifteen entries dedicated to our Dragon Con experience, there’s one aspect we’ve left unmentioned till now. In the numerous conventions Anne and I have attended over the years, one of our biggest struggles has been finding palatable food sources on location. Regardless of our excitement levels, we learned from Wizard World Chicago 1999 that we can’t simply eat a modest breakfast, then walk miles and miles for the next twelve hours while fasting. There must be lunch.

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Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 22: International Southern Hospitality

spring rolls!

Pork and shrimp spring rolls primped up a bit at Hsu’s in downtown Atlanta.

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. My son tagged along from 2003 until 2013 when he ventured off to college. We’ve taken two trips by airplane, but are much happier when we’re the ones behind the wheel — charting our own course, making unplanned stops anytime we want, availing ourselves of slightly better meal options, and keeping or ruining our own schedule as dictated by circumstances or whims. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’d been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we aimed for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness. Before we went to D*C, there was the road trip to get there, and the good times to be had before the great times at the big show.

Those of you who’ve been following this miniseries from the beginning may be a tad disgruntled by the complete lack of food pics from our vacation. We covered a few mealtimes, but we’ve been setting aside much of the culinary side…until now.

Some dishes were simpler than others. All were served with utmost congeniality. Only one took a little longer than we would’ve preferred. But the most important trait of all is not a single one of them barred us from entering due to dress codes. It’s cool being accommodated rather than shunned.

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Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 4: Piquant Platters at Pittypat’s Porch

fried chicken!

If this is the South, there must be fried chicken, and it must be the greatest.

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. My son tagged along from 2003 until 2013 when he ventured off to college. We’ve taken two trips by airplane, but are much happier when we’re the ones behind the wheel — charting our own course, making unplanned stops anytime we want, availing ourselves of slightly better meal options, and keeping or ruining our own schedule as dictated by circumstances or whims. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’d been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we aimed for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness. Before we went to D*C, there was the road trip to get there, and the good times to be had before the great times at the big show.

Whenever we have a great restaurant experience out of town but fail to save room for dessert, we always tell ourselves we really should make time for an encore before we leave for home. Atlanta may be the first city in which we ever went out of our way to make good on that usually hollow promise.

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A Donut Run on the Way Back from Turkey Run

Donuts!

Clockwise from top left: chocolate/Reese’s Pieces; chocolate/Cinnamon Toast Crunch; caramel/sea salt; and caramel/peanut.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

For years my wife’s family has held their annual reunions at Turkey Run State Park, a ninety-minute drive from our suburban HQ and well outside the range of my phone carrier’s coverage. For the space of one Sunday afternoon it’s an opportunity to unplug from the internet and all its problems, experience fresh air, enjoy good weather live and in person (Lord willing), catch up with loved ones that we’ve been too preoccupied to visit, exchange pleasantries with distant relatives whose names we’ll never remember, test which family members will still commit to a long drive for any of these purposes, and remember how to mingle in large, awkward groups without access to Words with Friends as our consolation playmate.

This year’s shindig went far better than last year’s, which was canceled altogether due to dangerous storms. After we said our farewells to the family, Anne and I decided to make a quick stop on the way home even though we were still stuffed from the reunion pitch-in. Such is our dedication to finding new pastry purveyors whenever we’re out of town and remember to check around.

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Indiana State Fair 2019 Encore: 2 Fair 2 Food

deep-fried chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich!

My rich, creamy Dulcinea.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! The Indiana State Fair is an annual celebration of Hoosier pride, farming, food, and 4-H, with amusement park rides, cooking demos, concerts by musicians either nearly or formerly popular, and farm animals competing for cash prizes without their knowledge. My wife Anne and I attend each year as a date-day to seek new forms of creativity and imagination within a local context…

We trudged back to the working world on Wednesday morning disappointed that we’d missed so many of the “Taste of the Fair” new dishes and annoyed that my primary objective, the deep-fried chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich, was nowhere to be found. We chatted a bit and mulled over the possibility of a return engagement. Two unexpected developments sealed the deal:

1. Anne did some online digging, found the official Facebook page for the vendor allegedly carrying the deep-fried chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich, and asked them point-blank where the heck they were at the fairgrounds. Where all the State Fair’s materials and resources had failed us, an exemplary moment of customer service on the vendor’s part got us the exact answer.

2. On Friday my employer announced a deal to get discount State Fair tickets, for cheaper than our first set of tickets.

Emboldened and empowered, Saturday we drove once more out to the east side and enjoyed a 4-hour whirlwind do-over. We split a deep-fried chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich between us. We tracked down a few other “Taste of the Fair” offerings that hadn’t made the cut on Tuesday. We photographed a few more exhibits we’d overlooked or skipped the first time around. And we ended up with enough material for three bonus chapters in this very special, unexpectedly extended miniseries.

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