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Local restaurants benefit from Taste

POSTED AT 07:26 PM ON Jun. 24, 2012  (UPDATED AT 11:43 AM ON Jun. 25, 2012)


Baking naan bread takes less than two minutes.

Naan, a traditional Indian flatbread, is made of nine ingredients that Bombay Café chef Ram Singh combines to produce naan for curries and sauces. After pressing the dough with a pair of long tongs inside a cynlindrical clay oven, called a tandoor, Singh slides the lid open and pulls out a flaky, crisp piece of naan.

On Saturday afternoon, a line of people waited outside the Bombay Café tent during the 30th Annual Taste of Bloomington. Bombay Café was one of 62 local food and drink vendors at this year’s event, which took place in Showers Common next to City Hall. Until late evening, 11 live bands played on two stages.

Ron Stanhouse, co-director of the Taste, said the event’s committee added an extra band to the country stage and almost doubled the site’s square footage since last year.

“It’s a year-round process, but the committee’s pretty good,” said Stanhouse, who is also a manager at The Crazy Horse Food and Drink Emporium, which had its own tent. “They’ve put in a lot of time, and they know their job. It helps make the Taste come off as well as it does.”

More than 100 volunteers work almost year-round for the event.

To prepare, Bombay Café owner Rabari Singh, Ram’s nephew, shelled out $3,500 for the tandoor and a hefty price for a machine that makes flavored shaved ice.

“There’s a lot that goes into it on his end,” Stanhouse said. “We know how it will go. We know we don’t have to worry about this or that. But these new guys have to sweat every detail.”

After Rabari opened and closed a Quiznos on the east side of Bloomington, Rabari opened Bombay Café in early January. During a routine health inspection of the restaurant, Rabari was informed of an opportunity to be a part of the Taste.

“This is a way to get in with the locals,” he said. “I don’t want us to be just another Indian restaurant. We want to be multicultural.”

Bob Crowley, owner of Cajun restaurant DATS, served Thai peanut étouffée with chicken, carmelized corn and black beans and bourbon chicken, each served over white rice.

Crowley, who creates all of the recipes on the DATS menu and has participated in the Taste since DATS opened in 2006, began preparing the food four days in advance.

Crowley said being a part of the Taste is a good way to get people to return to DATS throughout the year.

“It’s something that has a long-term impact,” he said. “There are so many restaurants in Bloomington that after a while you can forget about one. We don’t want them to forget about us, so that’s another reason we come here.”

While both locals and people from outside of Bloomington attend the Taste for the food, Briana Root, 30, of Cleveland said she is excited to see the 1960s girl group The Vallures.

Root is a post-doctoral student and IU psychology department intern. On Saturday,
Root and a friend snacked on watermelon gazpacho — a dish made of chopped watermelon, cucumber and seasonings that they ordered from The Upland Brewing Company.

“We’re definitely trying to hang out, enjoy the weather and enjoy the food as much as we can,” Root said.


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