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Valley brings farm-to-fork concept to Valparaiso

If you go

What: Valley Kitchen and Bar

Where: 55 S. Franklin St., Valparaiso

Hours: Open daily from 4 p.m. until late; dinner service until about 9 p.m., appetizers and a limited menu are available later.

Contact: 531-8888; no reservations

Menu prices

Appetizers range from $6 to $7 and include pickle chips, truffle fries and black bean hummus. Entrees start at $13 for the ravioli. Our Chicken 2 Ways is $14 and Wild Caught Bluegill costs $19. Steak is $24. Desserts begin at $2 for Valpo Velvet Ice Cream. Our Tempura Fried Banana and the Chocolate Financier are $6.

The restaurant offers full bar service, including an array of martinis, as well as a fine selection of microbrews on tap from $4 to $6 and a narrow, but representative offering of wines by the glass from $5 to $7 and by the bottle from $18 to $40.

Maps

Updated: February 14, 2012 8:07AM



I love the idea of Valley: A Farm to Fork Kitchen & Bar in Valparaiso.

It’s a clean, spare restaurant with a small, limited menu featuring locally grown foods prepared simply, but with style and fresh ingredients.

Valley Kitchen, located on the courthouse square, was launched in October by husband and wife Cory and Blair Muro. It’s fine food served in a casual setting.

Like many downtown Valparaiso dining establishments, Valley Kitchen is located in an older building, but has been beautifully rehabbed. It features exposed brick walls and an attractive bar seating about 10 constructed of seasoned wood.

The oak floors contrast with the stainless steel open-faced kitchen, where you can watch the best show in the restaurant: baseball-capped cooks preparing your meal. A blackboard above the kitchen displays the menu.

A farm theme permeates this cheery place. Servers wear flannel shirts and jeans. A triangle that could have been lifted from an episode of “Little House on the Prairie” is rung when orders are up.

We began by ordering the black bean hummus, an interesting take on the traditional Middle Eastern bean dip prepared with chickpeas, lemon juice and tahini. Valley’s version includes most of those ingredients, adds cumin, and substitutes black beans. It is fresh and healthy tasting and a pleasing alternative served with warm wedges of pita bread.

We also ordered the truffle fries, which seemed more like a side dish than an appetizer. We liked the crisp crunchiness of the golden french fries and appreciated the flavors of the truffle oil and Parmesan cheese.

From an entrees menu that includes Cowboy Cut Pork Chop and Steak, we chose the Chicken 2 Ways and the Wild Caught Bluegill. We also split an order of the ravioli.

The Chicken 2 Ways is as described: a leg and thigh deep-fried and the breast grilled on open flames. Both were juicy and tender. And while the skin of the fried leg was crisp, I appreciated the seasonings a little more on the breast. The chicken was plated with twice-baked potatoes and a side salad. We loved the potatoes, which were about an inch thick with a golden finish. My wife’s side salad wasn’t particularly memorable. Both of us would have enjoyed it more in a bowl.

My Wild Caught Bluegill sounded a little more exotic than they were. Four to five deboned half filets of Lake Ontario bluegill are pan-seared with the lightest of coatings and served atop the twice-baked potatoes. The fish were delectable and quite tasty, though a little salty for my taste.

The ravioli we split were stuffed with whipped sweet potatoes, sautéed and served with a brown butter sauce and spears of butternut squash, which I mistook for carrots. This version of pierogies was a little sweet, but not unpleasant.

For dessert we sampled the Tempura Fried Banana and the Chocolate Financier.

The banana was a lovely surprise, a deep-fried lightly breaded banana plated with vanilla ice cream, drizzled with chocolate syrup and sprinkled with fruit, including grapes.

The Chocolate Financier, a round chocolate cake the size of a Hostess Cupcake, offers chocoholics a solid fix of chocolate in a pastry that includes a crust prepared with ground nuts. I hesitate to use the word “yummy,” (mainly because I’m older than 6), but it describes it well.



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