Jake’s Birthday Tradition & A Visit To Mason City Brewing

Jake and I don’t have many traditions.

Since we got married, we’ve lived two-three hours away from our families who both reside in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan area. Sometimes they visit us, but mostly we visit them. Holidays are weird for us. We spend them all in the Twin Cities and our folks go to great lengths to decorate their homes and treat us to holiday meals. Therefore, I don’t bake many Christmas cookies or put up Christmas lights. It’s kind of OK and it’s kind of bittersweet.

Our one and only Christmas tree adorned our old Bloomington condo. We picked it out ourselves at a tree farm and Jake tried to trim the trunk with a cheap, serrated kitchen knife. I’m sure you can guess what happened next. Injury, blood, and a tree that dried out quickly and dropped pine needles everywhere. It sure did smell good, though.

I’m grateful we can still share our parents’ traditions, but have also realized that just because we don’t have kids doesn’t mean we can’t create our own traditions. After Christmas, I’m going to prepare a post-Christmas dinner for two in our Mason City home and am intrigued by a friend’s idea of hosting a Febgiving in February.

Jake’s birthday does involve a tradition. Ever since we started dating, my birthday gift to him is a home-cooked meal of his choice. He requested Pad Thai, lasagna, and chicken enchiladas for his last three birthdays. This year he went easy on me and chose gyros. For birthday dessert, Jake always chooses the Fruit Crisp from the Cafe Brenda Cookbook. This crisp is different from any other. The crumble is prepared from roasted and ground oats which makes it taste more like the most delicious oatmeal cookie in the world and it’s minimally sweetened with thickened apple juice. You’ll have to check out the book find the full recipe.

Apple Crisp 2014 wm

The gyro meat was not as au natural.  I was surprised to find it at Fareway for about $6.99 per pound.

I like Fareway’s meat counter. The majority of their meat is not prepackaged and its quality and price is better than the typical grocery store’s. You place your order the old-fashioned way; from men in paper hats and white jackets who take your order and wrap everything in butcher paper.

When I visit Fareway’s meat counter, I can’t help but to gaze at the dizzying array of retro meat products, many of which I recognize from my school cafeterias. If you are seeking a taste of nostalgia sold by the pound, you’ll find chicken crispitos, pizza burger patties, and what my grade school referred to as “Mr. Ribs.” The butchers treat all of their meat with the same dignity. They carefully measure and wrap everything from Mr. Ribs to bone-in ribeyes in tidy little packages.

Once home, I was faced with this quandary: “What is the best way to cook thawed gyro loaf slices that have the texture of paste?” I’m not sure if there’s a great answer to this question. When I delicately placed the gyro slices in my Foreman grill, they sizzled and shrank at an alarming pace. I had to empty the drip tray twice and feared the worst. Fortunately, the gyro meat tasted like typical gyro meat. With homemade pita, fresh vegetables, and Wanderlust Kitchen’s Authentic Greek Tzatziki sauce, Jake’s birthday gyros were a success.

Gyro Collage

I may return to Fareway for a retro meat product tasting extravaganza.

The Every Bar In Mason City Crawl: Mason City Brewing
Our birthday weekend in Mason City wouldn’t have been complete without an Every Bar In Mason City Quest stop. We’re embarrassed to admit that this was our first visit to Mason City Brewing. We kept asking ourselves why we hadn’t visited earlier, as I’m sure many of you are.

The brewery’s space downtown is beautiful. Staff were hospitable and happy to answer questions. Thoughtful touches like live music, board games, decks of cards, a big bowl of pretzels, and a nifty hot/cold water dispenser with cups encourage customers to linger for a while.

We shared this beer sampler of the brewery’s current offerings.

Mason City Brewing wm

The sampler tray numbered each sample which corresponded to a handwritten list a bartender kindly provided. Jake gravitates towards bitter beers while I prefer lighter ones. Both of our beer tastes intersected at the sweeter Barleywine and Brown Porter which had a coffee note. We look forward to returning to the brewery soon.

Brewery Collage Pretzels mw

The bar quest will take a detour this week. I’ll join the North Iowa Bloggers at Carson Tree Farm in Hampton where we’ll learn how to make holiday wreaths. I’m the least crafty person I know, so I’ll consider the class a success if my wreath doesn’t end up looking like a big, green blob. I don’t often buy things I can’t eat, so I welcome these types of opportunities that challenge me try new experiences. Following the class, we’ll dine at West Fork Wharf in Sheffield, a reader-suggested restaurant. I’m driving so it’s a mocktail for me.

This Saturday, I’ll join six North Iowa Bloggers on a road trip. Deb of the Webster City Chamber of Commerce invited us to spend the day in Webster City where we’ll meet the mayor, visit local shops and restaurants, and tour the historic Jane Young House (among other activities).

As always, I enjoy hearing about your favorite restaurants and bars. What are your favorite holiday traditions? I’m curious; married folks, when did you first start your own holiday traditions? 

8 Comments

  1. Your birthday tradition sounds perfect and how nice of Jake to take it easy on you this year with his requests. I have not been to the brewery either other than to walk in during the Art Crawl but I have heard great things about it. I am glad you guys had such a great experience there.
    I doubt your wreath will be a green blob—if anything I suspect it will be the prettiest of all because you will put your heart and soul into it! I can’t wait. We have so many fun things going on this week and I get to spend time with some of my favorite people!

    • Thanks Beth! I think Bryan Odeen is playing there this weekend. Maybe we can catch him sometime. This week is packed, but hopefully he’ll play again soon. Looking forward to it all!

  2. Can’t wait to follow your blogger adventures.

  3. Kelli @ The Sustainable Couple

    December 9, 2014 at 12:33 PM

    You know, I totally sympathize with the weirdness of making traditions when family lives elsewhere. We just celebrated our 5 year anniversary. We’ve always had a tree, and in our 2nd year of marriage started a our own Christmas Eve tradition, and Thanksgiving is hosted at our house now. At first I think my family was a bit put-off that we were starting our own traditions and wanted to change things up. They’ve adjusted. 🙂

  4. We started traditions right away, but obviously, we are unique in that kids were instantly in the picture! But, that being said, even when I was single, I established traditions that were just mine and also included my family who visited before Christmas. I think it’s important for you & Jake to start traditions (or at least if you want to).

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