Category: Missouri (page 1 of 3)

Saying Goodbye To St. Louis

Is it ironic that we’re moving from St. Louis, Missouri, a city where you can find St. Paul sandwiches everywhere, to St. Paul, Minnesota where there are none?

Our movers arrived, the sellers just accepted our counter-offer, we’re embarking on a last-minute trip to California next week, and are trying to say goodbye to St. Louis. It’s a lot of changes. I suppose change is all we’ve known.

No matter what states to which we’ve moved, we’ve met good people. Making friends as an adult can be challenging, but you will find the people who let you be yourself. It might take some time, but they’re there. I promise. This is how we spent our last weeks in St. Louis:

I finished my two-weeks notice and spent time with my friends. 

We spent our meal in St. Louis at Mai Lee and enjoyed our favorite dish

I bought a box of kolaches. St. Louis Kolache makes my favorite. We always gravitate towards the savory flavors. The soft bun is slightly sweet and the fillings are plentiful and . My favorite flavor is biscuits and gravy, but we’re also fond of the Pappy’s BBQ beef (or pork),

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I tried a bunch of dishes at Reed’s and drank a frothy cocktail shaken with an egg white.

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I got my Nduja fix at Salume BedduWhen you order Nduja from Salmue Beddu’s lunch menu, they serve it warm along with toasted bread and cheese. I also ordered a veggie sandwich, which may sound strange considering that I was at a salumeria, but it was so good I don’t care. Being the benevolent wife that I am, I saved Jake half of my lunch.

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To my delight, he surrendered his half of the Nduja. “It’s too spicy,” he commented. I made fun of him and then ate it for breakfast.

I ate a really good steak at Citizen Kane’s steakhouse. This restaurant set inside a house has been serving steaks since 1993. Someone gave us a gift certificate, so we made sure to visit before our move.

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In terms of flavor, tenderness and value, this ribeye’s now my second favorite in addition to Northwest Steakhouse in Mason City, IA. We’ll also miss the salads drizzled with that sweet, St. Louis-style Italian dressing.

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Who’s gonna sprinkle Provel on my salads when we move back to Minneapolis-St. Paul? Citizen Kane’s Mayfair dressing tastes like a cross between blue cheese and caesar. This is no overpriced a la cart steakhouse. Steaks come with a bread basket, side salad or soup, and your choice of a side. The crispy potatoes are one of the best things we’ve eaten for a while.

We’re going to miss St. Louis and the new friends that we’ve made here. Grateful for the opportunity to live here and forever a cheerleader for the community.

Next week I’m going to take a break from blogging as we settle into our interim home and travel to California. We haven’t ventured outside of the Midwest since we got engaged so we’re thrilled to sneak away between moves.

San Francisco -> Napa -> Tahoe -> Avenue of the Giants -> Portland -> Home.

Follow along on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook for updates.

This Is Our Favorite Dish In St. Louis

We love Mai Lee. It’s no secret. I try to remember to tell Mai Lee I love her about once a month.

Every dish we’ve tried tastes really, really good. Raw vegetables look and taste pristine and vegetables are cooked perfectly tender-crisp. The pho’s flavorful; Jake prefers #9 with the shaved beef, but I prefer #1, Hu Tieu, a lighter soup filled with crab sticks, shrimp, and barbecued pork. To each his or her own. If you can’t find something you like here, we can’t be friends.

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Time Traveling For Chicken Fried Steak & Peach Pie At The Blue Owl

First things first, some big news: We’re moving (again).

This time, we’re making a full circle back to the Twin Cities. Jake recently accepted a new role at work and so we’re wrapping-up our last full week in St. Louis.

Last month, I attended a bloggers dinner at the newly revamped Preston in the Chase Park Plaza hotel. I sat next to a woman who had also moved many times for her husband’s job. We talked about frequent, corporate moves and I tried to put a positive spin on them.

Moving a lot makes you crazy,” she replied.

I had to laugh because it’s true. Like the past moves, this one feels bittersweet.

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Raw Oysters & Spicy Thai Food At Lake Of The Ozarks

We rented a cabin in the woods.

Not a scary cabin, but what the owners referred to as a fishing cottage at the bottom of a very steep hill on the edge of Lake of the Ozarks. It was a vacation rental we found on HomeAway, equipped with a full kitchen, wireless internet, and a big deck that faced the lake.

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This was the first time we ever used a vacation rental website and are happy the property was a clean and beautiful as advertised. Our friend has had both good and bad experiences using sites like VRBO. Fortunately, these owners responded promptly and were very helpful.

My only critique there’s $90 cleaning charge added to the nightly rate. Since we haven’t used a vacation rental site before, I don’t know if this is normal. I can’t blame renters for preparing for the worst, but wish they’d just roll it into the nightly fee or take a deposit in case renters cause damage.

One of the best parts of the weekend was that Trayse could come, too! We still paid an upcharge to bring him, but it was less than what we’d pay to board him.

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“Did you fish?” friends asked.

“We talked to people who were fishing,” we replied.

So, we’re not the most outdoorsy people, but we enjoyed being outside. We saw deer casually standing at the fork in the driveway, a turtle swimming by the dock, and hawks circling above the trees. We frantically Googled whether or not hawks would carry Trayse away and decided to error on caution. I also saw a bug that looked like a twig on the deck. Bugs get weirder the father south you drive from Minnesota.

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This little nook of Lake of the Ozarks was quiet and peaceful. We occasionally saw people boating and fishing, and heard but never saw our neighbors from their secluded decks. At night, we heard murmurs of conversation and laughter floating above the water. The way lakes carry sound is comforting and eerie.

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We cooked several of our meals at the cabin. However, we did venture up the scarily steep driveway for Saturday’s dinner. I refused to even attempt driving up or down it, myself. Our car has four-wheel drive. We made it up and down just fine, but can’t imagine attempting it in the frost or rain. Heck, it was difficult to even walk down. Trayse did just fine.

We ventured to the Bagnell Dam Strip because it’s the location of the Thai restaurant from which we ordered take out. It’s zany. In a recent article about local apple orchards, Heavy Table introduced an Orchard Insanity Meter to help people navigate the spectrum between “a field with apple trees” to “the apple orchard as a theme park” a.k.a. “autumnal purgatory.”

This little strip of restaurants and touristy gift shops brought to mind the Orchard Insanity Meter. If there was a zany lakeside tourist street meter, the Bagnell Dam Strip might land at a 7.

We stopped at Tucker’s Shuckers to grab a quick drink while we waited for our take-out order.
My whiskey cocktail reminded me of a mojito. It was small but mighty.

“Do you want to try some oysters?” asked Jake. I pretended like I didn’t hear his question. In all honesty, I was apprehensive about ordering raw oysters from a restaurant I didn’t know much about, outside of a big city. I admit, this assumption may be unfair. I’ve never gotten ill from eating shellfish, but I have bitten into some funky oysters. “They specialize in oysters,” argued Jake and ordered a half-dozen ($10.99).

And you know what? They tasted very fresh. Anthony Bourdain often recalls the first time he enjoyed a raw oyster during his childhood in France in great detail. I can’t see how one could ever forget eating his or first raw oyster. During a spring break service trip during my sophomore year in college, I tried my first oyster. We sat on the balcony of a restaurant located on River Street in Savannah, Georgia and the girl with the roaring laugh walked us through the process involving hot sauce and soda crackers. They cost $.50 cents each. For the first time, I understood what it meant when cookbook authors and television chefs said they tasted like the sea.

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Grandma’s Candy Kitchen advertised fudge and was located just across the street. Obviously, we had to visit. The phrase “Made with real cream and butter” adorned the wall behind the candy cases.

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Sea salt and caramel fudge.

Wok N Roll caught our eye because the rental owners left a menu tucked inside their visitors guide.

“Thai hot, please,” I requested when I placed our order. “Which dish?” they asked. “All of them.

A friendly young man greeted us at the restaurant. He boasted about the fresh habanero peppers in their kitchen and a special dried chili mix they just received.

The heat level of the food was exactly what we hoped for, and everything tasted really good. Jake usually doesn’t gravitate toward Thai coconut curries, but really liked their Penang curry with beef. The pad thai was a little dry with a good flavor. Still, far better than when restaurants make Pad Thai with the cloyingly sweet sauce. It included plenty of chicken and cabbage, a vegetable that is always a welcome addition in my book.

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Our little nook of Lake of the Ozarks was quiet during this fall weekend. We were content to simply sit by the water and stare upwards at the fall leaves and circling hawks. The lake is less than three hours away from St. Louis and we hope to return next year. There’s a lot more here to explore and eat, like lakeside restaurants, BBQ, and moonshine distilleries.

Trayse slept all the way home.

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They say this is the fun lake.

A Highway Runs Through The Cahokia Mounds

I visited the Cahokia Mounds and now I can’t stop talking or thinking about the Cahokia Mounds.

Sure, St. Louis is home to the majestic Gateway Arch and the most amazing [free] zoo. People talk about the Botanical Gardens and the Budweiser horses, but can we just take a moment to freak out about the fact that the remains of the largest pre-Columbian Native civilization north of Mexico rest less than 10-minutes from downtown St. Louis?

As you drive along the highway into Collinsville, Illinois, it’s like you are staring at cheesy billboards and industrial facilities one minute and then boom; there are the mounds. To reach Monks Mound on foot from the visitor’s center, one must waltz along a worn, dirt footpath across a grassy field punctuated by mounds and old trees before scampering across a four-lane highway. Motorcycles and semi trucks whiz behind you as you begin climbing the great pyramid.

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It’s strange and sad and beautiful.

Cahokia Mounds is one of only eight World Heritage sites in the United States and home to Monks Mound, the “largest prehistoric earthwork in the Americas” (UNESCO). At its peak, the city of Cahokia was home to about 10-20,000 people in 1050-1200 AD and by the late 1300’s, it was vacant.

No one knows exactly what caused Cahokia’s demise, but researchers suggest many theories. The park’s brochure hypothesizes a combination of climate change, disease, overpopulation, depletion of resources, social unrest, and outside threats. While the stockade that used to encircle the city is no longer visible, archeologists discovered that residents moved and rebuilt the stockade several times during its final years. New clues about the city’s demise surfaced this past May when University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers examined Horseshoe Lake and found evidence that a large flood occurred around 1200 when “the Mississippi river rose more than 33 (10 meters) feet.”

When you visit the Cahokia Mounds, the visitor’s center is a good place to start.

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Park volunteers greeted us warmly without being overbearing. They directed us to the completed wetlands exhibit and newly acquired 700-year old canoe with genuine enthusiasm. We wandered through life-size dioramas and displays of artifacts like arrowheads and pieces from a game called Chunkey in which players threw spears at a stone disc.

When you are walking amongst the mounds within eyeshot of a highway and asphalt plant, it’s impossible to tell how expansive the city really was. I liked how this display provides a bird’s-eye view.

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Visitors can explore the park by follow a paved walking trail that meanders around the mounds. A worn dirt path veers more directly towards Monks Mound.

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There’s no shade on Monk’s Mound. By the time we reached the top, we were so hot we stumbled.

Monks Mound was literally built by people carrying baskets of dirty and clay. The city’s principal chief ruled and conducted ceremonies from a structure that used to sit at the top. Official park literature clarifies that the name Monks Mound actually refers to Trappist monks who farmed its terraces and lived on an adjacent mound between 1809-1813.

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Halfway to the top of Monks Mound, walking across the first terrace. There is a parking lot on this side of the highway.

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Despite the modern and industrial development surrounding the mounds, the site felt peaceful. The wind gently whistled through the grasses and grasshoppers leapt around each step. We wandered amongst joggers and people on their afternoon walks.

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At the top of Monks Mound.

Monks Mound supported a palace or temple of sorts while other mounds served as burial grounds. University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers began excavating one of six ridgetop mounds in 1967 and found two rulers laid to rest “on top of a platform of approximately 20,000 marine shell beads” organized in the shape of a bird. Researchers also found the remains of four men missing their heads and hands with their arms interlocked, and 53 females.

Another group of 39 people were found in Mound 72. Evidence suggests they experienced violent deaths that differed from the individuals who were buried earlier. Some postulated that the second grave contained captives or tributes from other communities, but new research demonstrates they were, in fact, from Cahokia. Were they political opponents or participants in a rebellion? We may never know. The realty is that less than one percent of this ancient city has been excavated and its residents did not utilize a written language. More clues raise more questions.

I have a difficult wrapping my mind around human sacrifice, but like how O’Hehir weaves in a quote from Timothy Pauketat’s book Cahokia: Ancient America’s Great City On The Mississippi to interpret the discovery as evidence of a metropolitan society whose residents experienced “‘inequality, power struggles and social complexity.’ These people were neither half-feral savages nor eco-Edenic villagers; they had lived and died in a violent and sophisticated society with its own well-defined view of the universe.”

Down the highway from Monks Mound is Woodhenge III, one of five the Mississipians constructed as sun calendars, each in a different size with different numbers of wooden poles. Woodhenge III is reconstructed in its original location, based upon where archeologists found pits laced with red cedar. You can’t miss Maclair Asphalt’s gravel mounds. They border the far half of the woodhenge, making only 40/48 of the original posts reconstructable.

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According to the mounds’ website, researchers hypothesize these woodhenges functioned as ceremony locations or tools to predict eclipses and align mounds. The park holds sunrise equinox observances at the woodhenge where, “it looks as though Monks Mound gives birth to the sun.”

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The Cahokia Mounds is the most fascinating place I’ve visited since moving to St. Louis. We left wondering why we’d never heard of Cahokia before. In his piece “The Sacrifices They Made,” Christopher Orlet describes how field trips to the mounds during grade school were countless and frequent. When something’s in your own backyard, I suppose it’s rather normal, even if it’s the remains of one of the greatest cities in the world.

May we always remain curious.

Travel Tips: There is no admission fee, but suggested donations. Proceeds given to the Land Acquisition Fund help the Cahokia Mounds Museum Society purchase land that is not currently protected. There is no shade around many of the mounds, most particularly at Monks Mound, so if the weather is hot, consider bringing sunscreen, shades, or a hat if you can’t visit in the morning or evening. Bring your own water bottle or change for vending machines inside the visitor’s center. At the time we visited, the cafe was not operating. Respect the mounds by remaining on trails and paths and remember you’re walking through sacred burial grounds.

Interesting Reads:

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