Category: lake

Northern California Adventures: Two Days In Tahoe

The waters of Lake Tahoe are crystal clear and the sun beats over the mountains like a flaming, angry saucer.

Early in the morning, the sun rises over Lake Tahoe; it seems to rise much earlier than it does in the Midwest. Before seven a.m., the lake radiated so fiercely with white light that I had to look away.

For two Midwestern kids, the drive to Lake Tahoe felt nerve-wracking. We’re used to driving long, flat distances through corn fields on auto-drive, only pausing it to pass semis. You can’t do that here. The highway winds up through the mountains and around sharp curves hugging drop-offs that make your palms sweat.

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Jeni Goes Outside and Wiener Schnitzel In Paul Bunyan Country

I’m not sure at what point in my life I became a fussy house cat.  This occurred on me this weekend, after the following occurred:

A:  Jake’s cousin offered to gradually reintroduce us to the great outdoors.
B: The realization, “People really do spend the whole day outside,” ran through my head after sitting outside for three hours. 

Jake and I grew up in families that didn’t camp or own cabins.  My family spent a total of one evening camping and I didn’t step onto another camp ground until my senior year of college.  I was invited to join some outdoorsy friends for an evening of camping and proudly contributed a large tent that I hauled from my parents’ basement.  When we arrived at the campground, we began to set up the tent.  Someone paused to ask me about the whereabouts of the poles. 
“What poles?” I asked. 
My friends were kind enough to let me stay, and all six of us crammed into a tiny tent, tilted onto our left sides, and lined up like sardines. 
The summers of my childhood were spent swimming in Lake Wappogasset at church camp and leaping from our cousins’ pontoon boat when we visited them in Texas.  Somewhere between The Backstreet Boys and Dawson’s Creek, my fearlessness disappeared.    



Despite my debilitating fear of bugs and squeamishness of lake water, the weekend at the lake cabin was a gentle reintroduction back to the outdoors.  The waters of Long Lake were translucent and I waded through lily pads while others pursued bass with fishing poles.  

We ate, drank, grilled, and baked, just enjoying each other’s company.     

Some of Jake’s younger cousins were able to join us.  I’m always interested to learn about what’s trending in the tween and preteen world.  In sixth grade, I flaunted my new Tamagotchi virtual pet in school.  Now, I feel old as sixth graders teach me how to play Fruit Nina on an iPad 2.

Someday, if and when I have children, I’m going to intentionally provide them with opportunities to submerge themselves in lake water and frolic in mud.  May my future offspring grow-up to be more comfortable roughing it than their mother and never forget that tents need poles.
A highlight of our weekend was the journey to and from Remer.  Detroit Lakes is the best, beachy escape, closest to Fargo.  But if you wander too far from the lakes, its urban sprawl looks like Fargo . . . with a lake.  Just minutes east of Detroit Lakes, conifers begin to punctuate the landscape.  Tall, glorious conifers.  Dark forests of looming conifers, beckoning lakes, and sleepy pastures.  

When I lived in Minnesota, I didn’t dwell on my constant proximity to water.  Now, I miss the lakes and forests, fiercely, in a way that convinces me they have become part of my identity.
On the way home, Jake and I stopped for lunch at Brauhaus German Restaurant and Lounge, a cozy German restaurant located in Akeley, MN.  Google says the The Brauhaus is the closest German restaurant to Fargo-Moorhead, despite its two hour distance (however, we did notice signs for Schwarzwald Inn in Park Rapids, MN).  On Friday evening, the restaurant was surrounded by cars.  On Sunday afternoon, the scene was quieter as we arrived around noon, soon after the doors opened.
The interior was dark and kitschy.  We were warmly greeted and our server provided ice water.  As we surveyed the menu, she also brought us a generous dish of pate with crackers.

It was creamy like butter and tasted subtly like liver, sweet with onion and flecked with fresh parsley.  We spread the pate in thick layers onto crackers that tasted a little bit like caraway and rye. It was a beautiful and complimentary treat. 
Jake’s been crazy about jagerschnitzel since he tried this saucy dish at Black Forest Inn, Minneapolis, MN.  I prefer my schnitzel naked.  Crispy-crunchy and spritzed with lemon.  We ordered these dishes along with sides of spaetzle, red cabbage, and slices of this heavy sourdough bread. 

The schnitzels were pounded thin and crispy.  Jake enjoyed his jagerschnitzel, $17.95, though we felt the gravy lacked the depth and richness of Black Forest’s.  In contrast, The Brauhaus’s schnitzels were larger and of better flavor and texture. 

The thick, noodle-like spaetzel were light and scented with nutmeg.  They were topped with gravy, which I might have left off, if given a choice.  The silky, red cabbage’s bright acidity offset the dish’s richness.  Other than the fact that the gravy covered part of my Weiner Schnitzel, $16.95, I was satisfied with my meal.

We miss German food in Fargo.  Dining at this rural, German restaurant was too unique of an opportunity to miss on our drive back to North Dakota.  If it wasn’t so early, we might have indulged in Brauhaus’s selection of German beers.  Brauhaus’s website mentions their meats are locally sourced and hand-cut.  Based-upon the pate and schnitzels, it is obvious they put a lot of care into preparing their meats. 
And we paid our tally at the bar, a lovely woman with a German accent chatted with us about the sweltering weather.  The restaurant accepts cash only.  If you are without, a cash machine sits near the entrance. 
Then, we said our goodbyes to Paul Bunyan country and all of its conifers.  
Maybe, just maybe, I’ll stay put for a couple of weekends.  

Our Detroit Lakes Weekend Part I: Eggbake Heaven & “Za” from Zorbaz

My idea of heaven is waking-up to someone else’s eggbake.

Such was the case during our weekend stay at The Lodge On Lake Detroit.

Our room’s balcony overlooked the grassy lawn and clear waters of Lake Detroit.  On our first evening, we giggled as adults polka’d around a campfire on the beach.  During the day, friends gossiped over beer while children built sandcastles.

The view from our balcony

The lodge was immaculately clean and it’s vibe was tranquil.  Obviously, not a prime choice for rowdy party-goers.  We unwound and enjoyed the complimentary wi-fi and watermelon water from the lobby.  Jake swam in the indoor pool while I sat on a beach chair and daydreamed.

My favorite part of our stay was slicing off wedges of the lodge’s eggbake featured at the complimentary breakfast.  This eggbake was no ordinary eggbake.  In fact, it may even be better than your mother’s.  Each morning, the staff gingerly replaced small pans of eggbake made with vegetables, meat, gooey cheese, and fluffy cubes of bread.  On the first morning, I found fresh broccoli, and on the second, rosemary.  While some gravitated toward “make-your-own waffles” or the strange, automated pancake machine, I lined-up for eggbake, dousing it with a selection of hot sauces.

The Lodge also provided three varieties of hot coffee, plus flavored syrups.  Definitely my thing, not Jake’s.

A small bar in the lobby opens at five p.m. and serves bottles of craft beer, wine, cocktails, and a selection of treats such as $3 cheese plates and flat breads.

Overall, we have no complaints about The Lodge.  The staff members were lovely and we returned to Fargo breathing a little easier.

Before we left for Detroit Lakes, we had asked friends and coworkers for dining recommendations.  Nearly everyone pointed us towards Zorbaz.  So, on Friday evening we made the obligatory stop at Zorbaz for our first meal in Detroit Lakes.   We easily located the illuminated “Z” and sat on the patio beneath a neon palm tree.

Zorbaz offers an eclectic “please all” menu of pizza, Mexican-inspired food, and spaghetti.  Jake ordered the “Hot Hawg” pizza that was generously topped with green chili sauce, Canadian bacon, pepperoni, andouille sausage, bacon, and jalapenos.  He seemed satisfied and enjoyed the rest as leftovers.  I didn’t consider it particularly spicy, except for the jalapenos.

I don’t often crave Americanized-Mexican food, but was surprised at how much I enjoyed Zorbaz’s chicken enchiladas.

The chicken was plentiful and moist and the enchilada sauce packed more flavor than Mexican Village could muster.  I noticed the sauce contained rough cuts of fresh vegetables and I appreciated the garnishes of jalapeno and fresh, red onion.

The wristbands were annoying, the atmosphere was fun, and Jake was happy with the surprisingly large tap beer list.  Portion sizes were large considering the prices.  My enchilada plate, alone, contained enough food for three Jeni-sized meals.

We felt the food was tasty, though nothing earth-shattering.  With its relaxed atmosphere and proximity to the main beach, I can see why families look forward to making summer pilgrimages to Zorbaz.

Sidenote: I once dated a man from Philadelphia.  He asked me why Minnesotan’s called pizza, “za.”  I had no idea what he was talking about.  I believe I had my first encounter with “za” at Zorbaz.  When you “za,” do you know?  


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