Tag: Bed and Breakfast

Contented Cottage Bed & Breakfast: Northfield, Minnesota

This Minne-RoadTrip series of posts is sponsored by Visit Owatonna, Visit Faribault and Visiting Northfield. A special thanks to Visiting Northfield for hosting this chapter. 

Bed and Breakfasts are my favorite places to stay on trips. Jake likes the complete anonymity of staying in a hotel. I prefer feeling like I’m staying in someone’s home. Bed and breakfast hosts have always gone out of their way to share hospitality and travel advice. I’ve also met some really interesting people around the breakfast table ranging from a pair of retirees chasing Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, a couple who just returned from serving in the Peace Corps, and an aircraft engineer.

During this Northfield leg of my fall Minne-RoadTrip, I spent one evening at the Contented Cottage Bed and Breakfast.

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My First St. Louis & St. Charles, Missouri Adventures

The thought running through my head is that I’m leaving my homeland of Minnesotafell.

So, I currently live in Iowa, but typically identify myself as being born and raised in Minnesota. When I throw in the fact that I was actually born in South Korea, it adds another complication to the whole “Where are you from?” question. I’ll have arrived in St. Louis, MO via South Korea via Minnesota via Fargo, ND via North Iowa to be exact.

“Is St. Louis even still in the Midwest?” I asked Jake. As we entered the city, we saw signs welcoming us to the gateway to the Midwest, so technically, we still are. A four-hour drive has always taken us to Upper Midwestern destinations such as Eau Claire, WI, Grand Forks, ND or Des Moines, IA. Now, a four-hour drive will take us to cities like Memphis, Louisville, and Indianapolis. It feels exciting and strange.

My bones are only used to living in states where winter lasts six months and looks like this.

Snow Car

The drive from Mason City to St. Louis is 6.5 hours. Once you pass Cedar Falls, the drive isn’t very scenic, though there are some hills and rock ledges lining the freeway as you get closer to St. Louis. I was surprised at how few cities we could see from the highway, except for of Palmyra and Hannibal.

We stayed in St. Charles at the Frenchtown Inn that just came under new ownership. The bed and breakfast was located within a relatively easy commute to Jake’s work and I could easily walk to coffee shops and restaurants since Jake took the car. Christine, a retired critical care nurse, and Larry, a retired firefighter bought the inn from the previous owner and worked hard to update it by repainting the interior and adding furnishings. When we arrived, they had only been open for a few weeks but were busy each night. They mentioned visitors had even made reservations before they had officially opened.


We stayed in the Fleur-de-Lis room. Chris and Larry had this stained glass window specially made for the room.


Our room included a queen sized bed, large closet, couch, and private bathroom. Business travelers might want to inquire about accommodations with a desk. We were too busy driving around the city house hunting after work to miss an office set-up.

Bed and breakfasts are truly my favorite way to travel.

bread pudding

One morning Christine served bread pudding with sautéed fruit and caramel sauce + sausage patties.

When I travel solo, I feel safer and cozier at a bed and breakfast setting that seems more like staying in a home as opposed to a large hotel. Plus, I meet the coolest people at B & B’s. Who would have imagined I’d meet Frank Lloyd Wright and Abraham Lincoln history enthusiasts? For an introvert, the thought of dining with strangers at a set time for breakfast can feel intimidating. Believe I get this, but it’s worth it because I’ve had most incredible conversations with strangers at B & B’s.

Larry and Christine were gracious hosts and I felt very much at home at the Frenchtown Inn. The first morning, I remarked to Jake that they must already think we’re crazy. We had scrambled to drive to St. Louis after work and forgot an embarrassing number of items. Larry caught me sneaking out of the house at 5:30 a.m. in search of a drug store to purchase toothpaste and a razor. He kindly provided both.

I loved sitting on the big porch listening to the wind chimes. One afternoon, Christine prepared plates of warm cheese crisps.

cheese puffs

The bed and breakfast is located in the quiet Frenchtown neighborhood. I enjoyed the ten-minute walk from the inn to the historic St. Charles area.


The walks were peaceful. I passed by several bridal boutiques and homes that reminded me of New Orleans. Having lived in Fargo and North Iowa for the past four years, I forget how flat our landscape is. “There are hills here!” I kept exclaiming to myself.




I spent several afternoons at Picasso’s Coffee House.


When I heard Sufjan Stevens, I knew I found the right place to chill.



I walked the uneven brick cobblestone sidewalk along the main street and curiously popped into many of the shops. I found thrift shops, a Polish pottery shop, Italian bakery, and a specialty soap boutique.


This British shop sold a wide variety of pantry items and chilled British sodas.


I admired this interesting statue and unusual sign about babies.

PicMonkey Collage

Other St. Louis adventures included getting stuck in a Cardinals traffic jam downtown, viewing homes in different neighborhoods, curiously drinking a beer in New Town while people went for evening strolls and whizzed by on golf carts (I even saw a man doing yoga on a platform in the middle of a small lake) and eating our first Jumbo Jacks.

jumbo jack

Jake’s coworkers suggested we visited Sugarfire Smoke House. The man carving the meat hid an extra rib under others so he’s basically my new best friend. I also loved their self-serve pickle, jalapeno and sliced bread station. The ribs were tender and lean. I had a grand time sampling all of their seasoning blends and squirt bottles of sauces.

sugar fire

There’s so much to explore and to eat in St. Louis. I’ll miss my friends in North Iowa, but have the feeling that STL and I will get along just fine. Bring on the Provel!

Coming Up Next: Jake and I just signed a lease on a home we visited during this trip. We’re busy coordinating the details of our move and listing our house for sale. The big summer auction school session begins today. You can catch a glimpse into what my next nine days will look in this post: 10 Things I Learned In Auction College

Franklin County Harvest Bloggers Tour

Disclaimer: The Franklin County Harvest Bloggers Tour was sponsored by the The Franklin County Chamber of Commerce & Franklin County Farm Bureau who provided our lodging, meals and activities. All opinions and thoughts are my own. 

At Jeni Eats, I don’t just eat.

Although I primarily blog about experiences through the lens of food, I whole heartedly seek opportunities to explore new communities, whether near or far, and learn about lifestyles different from my own. The topic of food can be extremely divisive, but it can also bring people together. Three and a half years of blogging has brought me new experiences and connected me with people I’d never meet through my day-to-day interactions. It’s also given me the courage to break bread with strangers and for this, my life is richer and much more interesting.

When the Franklin County Harvest Blogger Tour extended an invitation to spend the weekend in Hampton, I gladly accepted.

We received the warmest welcome possible. I was most struck by the hospitality the community showered upon us. Most everyone who hosted components of the event did so on a volunteer basis, whether providing us with tours or showing us around their farms. Volunteers fed us home-cooked meals prepared during their time off and joined us during early mornings and evenings, often introducing us to their families.

Through my travels, I’ve observed that there’s something remarkably humbling about being cared for by strangers while away from home. Humble pie can taste harsh or sweet, but either way, there’s always something to be learned.

Here are some vignettes describing our whirlwind weekend:

Our Digs

Country Heritage Collage

Most of us stayed at the Country Heritage Bed & Breakfast. My GPS led me astray on the way to the B & B. I thanked my lucky stars when Donna randomly found me on the side of the road with a dead phone, cursing my brains out. She led me to Country Heritage where we turned right at the pink sign advertising their Giggling Goat gift shop.

My home away from home was the Inspiration Suite. We joked that I’d have to live up to its namesake. It provided a comfortable place to unwind after busy days. Each room was equipped with a whirlpool bath and private balcony.

I was especially taken with my sparkly chandelier.


The owners were gracious and helped us get situated. On Saturday night, they warmed us with a comforting meal of three homemade soups. Jake joined us for dinner and our favorite was beef and vegetable. Simple foods are not so simple when someone nails them. We were surprised to learn that Lacey, who prepared this soup, did so for the first time and without a recipe.

Beth and I greeted their trio of 10-month old Pygmi goats each morning with a handful of corn. They giggled as they hopped and skipped around their yard. I tried to snap the perfect photo all weekend.

Goat Collage

Where have these been my whole life?

Reeve Electrical Association Plant
Our first stop took us to the REA Museum, a former power plant that became operational in 1938. According to the official website, it was the “First Coop in the nation to put farmer-owned generated electricity out on farmer-owned lines.” The plant was renovated in 1989 and is listed on the National Registered of Historic Places.

Outside electric museum

Darwin Meyer, a board member on the Franklin County Historical Society, volunteered as our tour guide for both the REA Plant and historical museum. We peeked at components of the original plant and looked at displays of household appliances from years’ past such as old stoves and a gas-powered washing machine.

I can’t remember the intended purpose of the giant wheel, but it reminded me of the Iron Throne so I got a little bit Cersai Lannister with my selfies.

REA Plant One Collage

Beeds Lake Spillway
This evening was teeth-chatteringly cold and windy at sunset, but worth this shot.


It’s one of my favorite photos from the trip.

Carlson Tree Farm

carlson Collage

The Carlson family operates a Christmas tree farm in Hampton, along with a lodge that the community is welcome to reserve for personal events at whatever cost the party is able to pay. They also teach wreath making classes around the holidays. Dennis Carlson provides outdoor educational opportunities for many school groups and Cathy Carlson (pictured above) produces locally grown and milled whole wheat flour, which I recently added some to an all-butter pie crust that I used for mini quiches.

We unwound in the lodge during our first night over appetizers and wine from TownsEnd Winery located in Hansel, Iowa. Fortunately, wine tasting commenced after Donna and I started running into things with the Carlsons’ wiggle cars. My favorite wines were the cranberry and gooseberry varieties. Our hosts sent us home with our own bottle of cranberry wine, which has had me singing “Cranberry wine, thiiiiirty,” all week. Believe it or not, it’s not getting old.

It was all fun and games until Dennis brought out a bowl of bugs. As part of his nature education sessions, he challenges kids to try eating a mealworm or cricket. If they succeed, they earn an “I ate a bug today!” sticker.

Bug phobia and all, I wanted that sticker. I reluctantly stared at the mealworm in the palm of my hand. “Eat it, don’t pop it like an Aspirin,” exclaimed a friend as I consumed it with swig of cranberry wine. And when I got home, I caught my dog trying to eat the “I ate a bug” sticker.” I had to pry it out of his mouth.

Combine Rides
Until this weekend, I’d never even touched a piece of farm equipment. We got up close and personal with the Plagge’s. Val Plagge of Corn, Beans, Pigs & Kids is actually one of the first bloggers I met after moving to North Iowa. We’ve spent time together on many occasions, but never before at her farm. She introduced Jake and I to the Franklin County Fair last July where we won green ribbons in a cake decorating contest.

Farm Scene

Val’s husband took each us on combine rides as he harvested corn, patiently explaining the difference between a combine and a tractor and red vs. green. Their son literally couldn’t believe his ears when we told him it was our first time riding a combine.

Combine CollageA monitor next to the driver’s seat is equipped with GPS and monitors data such as the corn’s moisture and quantity harvested. The points on the front of the combine effortlessly moved between the rows of corn trimming the stalks into little nubs we kept tripping over because we forgot to lift our knees up high. It reminded me of the time-eating Langoliers I once watched in a movie, except that it consumed corn.

Tractor Tire

I got a kick out of the “pew pew pew” noise it made at the end of each row.

Farm Kitties Are The Best

Farm Kitties Collage

Cute critters turn me into a googly-eyed fool. I got to snuggle lots of farm kitties at Carlson Tree Farm and Roy and Jeannie Arend’s farm in Alexander. The Arends spoke to us about their farm and described the challenges our weather poses. They offered us apples from their trees and took bloggers on combine rides through their soybean field. In the top right photo, Jeanie introduces one of her snuggliest kitties to Beth & Nic’s daughter.

Historical Museum & Latham Hi-Tech Seeds
In addition to combine rides, Saturday’s activities also included a trip to the Franklin County Historical Museum and a tour of Latham Hi-Tech Seeds. I found my childhood in the historical museum as part of a display about top toys throughout the decades. What is happening?

Game boy

After touring Latham’s seed processing facility and learning about what operations are like during harvest, we enjoyed a lunch of smoked pork sandwiches and Val’s much-talked about Sweet & Spicy Hog Wild Beans while two ladies from Ag in the Classroom program shared examples of their lessons with us. I was mind-blown when they explained that each stalk of corn only grows one ear.

Latham Collage

Main Street Hampton & The Windsor
Hampton has a vibrant Main Street. Beth and I ordered our usual Dirty Chai’s (chai with a shot of espresso) at Rustic Brew to fuel us through a brief tour of the shops. Rustic Brew also houses a microbrewery.

Hampton Main Street Collage

Hampton’s Main Street is also home to the Windsor Theater where we we attended a vaudeville show called “An Evening Like It Used To Be.” The theater was built in 1913, remodeled in 1999, and rumors say it’s slightly haunted.

The two women collecting tickets were striking. They donned glamorous capes and pink feather boas while many others also dressed the part.

We found our seats among a full house. I’ve never seen a silent film before and was surprised by funny and relevant I found it. The rest of the variety show included singing, dancing, and comedy sketches. We had a grand time laughing at dad jokes, participating in a group sing-along and eating buttery popcorn. Did you know there’s an Iowa song?

Our tour ended over a breakfast of homemade cinnamon rolls and eggbake at the ABCM Rehabilitation Center. Like the Wandering Tourists describe, our visit to the care facility made me feel bittersweet. I thought of my grandparents who have since passed away and reflected on the twists and turns life has taken me on since I began blogging.

Three and a half years ago, I was a graduate student and herbalist’s apprentice who typed posts from the center island of our old condo in Bloomington, Minnesota. I never imagined blogging would bring me to Franklin County, Iowa where I would become obsessed with cranberry wine and pygmi goats and ride a combine.

Cheers always to new adventures.

Girls combine

Extra special thanks to Jennifer Healy of the Franklin County Farm Bureau, Kristina Raisch of the Chamber of Commerce, Larry Sailer, & Larry of ABCM for spending the entire weekend with us. 

Fellow Harvest Blogger Tour Participants:
DonnaDonna Hup
Beth: It’s Just Life
Bethany & Nick (and twins): Sawdust and Embryos
Lisa & Tim: The Walking Tourists

Chicagoland Aventure Part II: Villa D’Citta, Taco Joint, Homeslice, Grace’s African Restaurant, Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba

Book the cheapest room in the most luxurious bed & breakfast.

This is what I did at Villa D’Citta, an Italian-themed bed and breakfast located in Lincoln Park across the street from De Paul University.

Villa D'Citta.jpg

The villa did not have conspicuous signage and even its neighbors might never know it’s there. I chose it based upon its Tripadvisor rating and culinary amenities.

Mmmm Food
Freshly baked cookies every day. They even rotate the flavors. Chocolate chip on the first day and chocolate-chocolate chip on the second.

The fridge was stocked for guests’ snacky needs. We were invited to make our own paninis at any time from a variety of Italian meats, cheeses and condiments like pickled peppers. There were also bottles of chilled water with fancy stoppers to take to our room, lemonade, iced tea, plus a drawer full of tea bags and Intelligentsia coffee.

We checked out early on our last morning to beat the morning’s rush hour traffic, but enjoyed sausage eggbake with a crunchy crouton top and warm blueberry muffins on the first. The kitchen also stocks granola and milk and the giant bowls of fresh fruit aren’t just for decoration.

Our room was the least expensive because it’s only large enough to fit a queen-sized bed and nightstand and the bathroom is located next door. But we did not mind these things. The bathroom was private (we were given a key to lock it) and contained a fancy glass shower with stone tiling. We were out so often that we only needed our room to sleep and watch television in the evenings.

Other Likes
I was amused by the villa’s combination of extravagant and quirky decor like the rock face in the courtyard (pictured above) and a pair of glass skull pen holders at the check-in table.

The Villa’s manager Cathy worked especially hard to make sure everyone was welcomed and settled.

Taco Joint Collage.jpg

Jake and I stumbled into the Taco Joint out of hunger. We realized we hadn’t eaten all day and it was there.

The Poc-Chuc taco was the best thing we ate during the whole trip, and we ate a lot of delicious food. It’s listed as the special taco of the day for Mondays and is filled with marinated pork loin and habanero salsa. Jake tried his taco first and made such a dramatically happy noise the moment it hit his tongue that I thought he was over-exaggerating. I know there are countless places to eat tacos in Chicago and can’t speak for the rest of the Taco Joint’s offerings, but the Poc-Chuc was the best taco I’ve eaten since my trip to Puebla. Yup. 

I ordered their Happy Hour/Lunch Deal. For $12 you choose two tacos, guacamole or rice & beans + a margarita or Modelo. For me, two tacos was enough and the guacamole came with a generous basket of corn and fried plantain chips. They’re made with small corn tortillas but don’t skimp on the meat. My margarita was hella strong. Jake liked his grapefruit margarita lined with a spicy salt. It took a while to walk these off.

The ceviche made us happy. Fresh and limey. Speaking of Limes, I hear there’s a lime shortage, but would have never known here as I saw the bartender peeling and juicing piles of them.

Home Slice

Jake and I visited Chicago before we were engaged. It was Jake’s first time and we did more touristy activities like stay downtown, wander Michigan Ave. and go to the Hancock Observatory.

We had discovered more of the Dahlens were also in Chicago, so we had an impromptu family reunion at Gino’s East. Later, we visited Portillo’s for beef sandwiches with hot peppers, our first Chicago dog and chocolate cake. Jake was slightly bummed that it looked like we weren’t going to have time to return on this visit so he embarked on an evening pizza run.

He chose Homeslice and ordered a small Cheese Burglar ($8), simply topped with mozzarella, provolone, parmesan and marinara. It was cheesy, greasy goodness on a thin, airy crust. The service was memorably friendly all around and a server offered us ice waters during our short wait.

Fufu picmonkey.jpg

Cousin Brian returns! This time, he and his friend took us to Grace’s African Restaurant (Interesting review from 2011) to try Ghanaian food

Brian’s friend Stephen is originally from Ghana and attended college in Chicago where he met his wife. Both of them traveled to Ghana for work last year and Stephen will lead a trip again soon. He thinks this restaurant prepares food most closely to his mothers’ and was excited to introduce us to some of his favorite dishes.

I found it interesting when they described how Americans and Ghanaians talk about food differently. Brian said in Ghana, people considered it strange when he asked them questions about the food, such as asking about name of a sauce or the ingredients in a dish. On the flip side, Stephen said he thought it was strange seemed to ask him so many questions about his food in America, such as how he wanted a food item cooked or served.

At Grace’s, we left our meals in his Stephen’s hands. He recommended the peanut soup with fufu, a pounded mixture of plantains and yams with the texture of bread dough. We learned how to cut small pieces of fufu with our fingers and use it to scoop up the soup and goat which tasted like lamb. The peanut soup was spicy enough to induce a sweat and the fufu didn’t have a strong flavor.

Brian ordered a dish that came with Waakye, a dish made of rice and beans covered in a spicy red sauce, fried chicken legs, spaghetti, salad, and a dark red sauce. The red sauce reminded me of berbere while the darker sauce was spicier, sweeter and funkier. We learned it’s often made with ground fish.

Ba-Ba-Reeba Collage.jpg

I could say Ba-Ba-Reeba all day. Before we went to Chicago, I read about Ba-Ba-Reeba on My Name is Yeh and we were tickled to see that it was down the street. One glance and Jake was dead-set on going. How could you forget a name like that?

At the B&B, we enjoyed breakfast with a couple of gentlemen celebrating their marriage. They described their reception at Ba-Ba-Reeba and praised the food. This sealed the deal.

Sangria is $6/glass, red or white. And it’s not poured into small glasses, but substantial glasses with tiny, floating cubes of fruit. You can also buy $2 Pintxos instead of whole appetizers. I tried a chorizo-wrapped date stuffed with cheese which arrived on a skewer.

Jake ordered the shaved brussel sprout salad with toasted marcona almonds and manchego cheese. It was a big portion for $6. The slightly sweet dressing reminded us of fancy coleslaw. Marcona almonds are the best.

I still had a belly full of fufu and wasn’t as enthusiastic as Jake about ordering paella. A server scraped it from a shallow paella pan onto two plates with a flourish and each contained a mountain of it. The menu offers paella by the serving and our seafood version cost $15/each. I wouldn’t want to eat that much rice in one sitting so I’d hypothesize that two servings would more accurately feed three. The bay scallops and shrimp were plentiful and tasted fresh. There was less monkfish, but the small pieces that were there were delicate in texture and flavor.

Our first paella experience was a win. I can’t describe exactly what seasonings I tasted, but they were complex. We never got tired of the flavor and it was far from one-note. Plus, the paella is garnished with lemon wedges and aoli. I dunked everything into the aioli, considering the experience a wonderful excuse to eat garlicky mayonnaise. Is this how you are supposed to eat it?

The End
And thus ends our mini[honey]moon a year late to Chicago. We loved connecting with old friends and family in this larger-than-life city and eating lots of new foods.

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