Somehow I hit the jackpot and I get to occasionally travel to the home of my alma mater, Indiana University, for work. If you’ve never been, Bloomington is a magical place that no matter how much time passes, it will instantly transport you back to being a college kid.
My parents both met at IU (McNutt – they were much cooler than me) and they did not want me to go to school there. They thought Hanover or DePauw would be a better, safer, option. As soon as I got my acceptance letter to IU, I was in full on Hoosier mode. I cannot imagine going anywhere else and now my parents agree.
It’s a school with 40,000 students, yet it feels small enough to make it your own. I would not have had as many opportunities if I had gone somewhere smaller. I could go on and on about IU, but I’ll get to the re-cap of my visit this past Friday.
I had the opportunity to meet with several businesses and organizations that were not there when I graduated seven years ago. Hopscotch Coffee was the location of our first meeting and we stayed awhile until the monsoon calmed down. It is a fun, hipster coffee shop located along the B-Line (Bloomington’s version of the Monon) and I loved the hand painted mural on the back wall.
Our next stop was Esan Thai, located next to the library on Kirkwood. Bloomington is known for their international restaurant scene and this was one of the best Thai meals I’ve had.
There are more than 80 international restaurants around the 4th Street area and the Dalai Llama’s brother calls Bloomington home. I had the Tom Yum, which is a lemongrass broth soup with chicken, mushrooms, tomatoes, and a bit of spice. I got the two-and-a-half spice level and it cleared out my sinuses.
Our next stop was NoCo, or No Coast, located along the Courthouse Square downtown and the Talbot’s next door is now The Tap. Not surprising since I am probably the only college kid that went to Talbot’s for a cashmere sweater or pleated pants. NoCo is a fancy alternative to taking your parents to Malibu Grill.
The menu is locally sourced and seasonal. The chef was kind enough to let us sample an ice cream sandwich, which is the inspiration for this post’s recipe. He took two giant homemade ginger snap cookies and put a generous amount of homemade vanilla ice cream in the middle. The cookie was soft and full of chunks of ginger.
Add a cup of chai tea and it’s the perfect after dinner treat. I have finally found a ginger snap recipe that passes the test (see below).
Our last stop of the day was Cardinal Spirits, which is only about two years old. They distill their own brand of vodka, gin, and rum. The drinks were delicious and I got the Cha Cha, which was flora, hibiscus, and grapefruit. It was refreshing and light enough that I did not feel hammered. They have a photo of Bill Murray on the wall, a gorgeous, patio, and a collection of tiki glasses that rival any tiki bar.
THE BEST GINGER SNAP COOKIES
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter (the original recipe called for shortening, but I am a butter only baker)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 light brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger (or a little less since I added the crystallized ginger)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Crystallized ginger – found at Trader Joe’s
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar, for decoration
In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugars until fluffy and blended. Beat in the egg and molasses.
In a separate bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients. Stir with a whisk. Slowly stir the dry mixture into the molasses mixture just until dough forms. Add the crystallized ginger. Cover and chill the dough for 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll the dough into balls, roll the balls into the sugar, and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet or on a Silpat. Bake for 9-10 minutes.
Pro tip: Spray your measuring cup with Pam first before the molasses!