Tag: favorites

North Iowa: Notes Upon Leaving

Two years in North Iowa and I only have a few regrets. I never did catch a concert at the Surf Ballroom or complete my Every Bar in Mason City Quest. I didn’t make it to Bill’s BBQ or Band Fest or tour the Stockman House. But, I made lifelong friends and I embarked on many marvelous adventures within two short years. North Iowa and I won’t be strangers.

In between cleaning, sorting & house showings, I’m scrambling to cram in as many North Iowa #FarewellTour2015 activities as possible. My friend Beth (It’s Just Life) is also moving next month and we’re determined to make the most of our week. We’re anticipating to walk around downtown Mason City to see the newest River City Sculptures on Parade, attend June’s North Iowa Social Media Breakfast, dine at Pasta Bella, and enjoy a ride on Clear Lake’s boat Lady of the Lake. I’ll post snapshots of our adventures on my Instagram & Twitter accounts with the hashtag #FarewellTour2015. 

Like the other cities we’ve lived, I’ve found many favorite places and spaces. Here are some of my notes upon leaving about the businesses that have made us feel especially welcome.

CoffeeCat serves the best chai and plays Alabama Shakes, so it’s my happy place. For a community of 27,000 people, we have a handful of great coffee shops. CoffeeCat’s my favorite.

Coffee Cat Two

I’ll never forget how sincerely the owner welcomed me to town when we first moved. I love their real (not made from liquid or sugary powder) chai tea, and the fact that they offer to sweeten it with honey or vanilla. The baked-from-scratch sweets here are also my favorite and taste like real butter. Catherine usually offers fluffy slices of cinnamon struesel coffee cake and, if you find seasonal rhubarb-lemon bars, buy one! At Coffee Cat, I met friends for dirty chai teas (chai + espresso) and waited for my car repairs. The Alabama Shakes and Bon Iver always played at some point during my visits and I felt like I was home.

I found an honest car mechanic at DeWildeIt’s hard to figure out where to take your car in a new community. Asking for referrals is always best. DeWilde isn’t glamorous like the brand name dealerships, but you won’t have to pay for everyone’s fancy snacks and deal with all of that upselling. If you really want to piss me off, storm into the lobby waving my dirty air filter for all to see. I bumbled around until I found DeWilde. I saw this business recommended in a local Facebook business review group and from a friend who grew up in the area. The owner has always given me honest assessments, even telling me when I didn’t need maintenance yet! Who does that?

All About EyesThis optical shop is relatively new. The staff is professional, has quickly accommodated me, and didn’t pressure me to buy things I didn’t want. They even squeezed me in for an emergency appointment this spring. I’ve visited optometrists since I was in elementary school. This place stands out.

I don’t trust most people with my hair, but I do trust Summer at Color Couture

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My latest do from Summer, taken in the car before I could mess it up:)

The staff at Brookview Animal Health Center walked us through our first two years of dog ownership. Our realtor recommended Brookview and I’ve been happy with this veterinarian clinic since our first visit. As first time pet owners, we took Trayse to the vet a lot! The staff at Brookview always treated us kindly and helped educate us about what was normal and what needed treatment. They got us in quickly for appointments and were willing to talk to us over the phone about minor concerns when we weren’t sure if they needed attention.

Trayse
Trayse’s previous vet was unable to clip his nails without administering sedatives. The Brookview staff provides free nail clipping hours for current clients and had no problems clipping his nails. They make it a simple process and always reward him with a treat.

I love everything Camille of Soyphisticated Candles crafts in her shop in Mason City. Camille makes her candles from renewable soy wax with no pesticide or herbicide residue and pours them into jars made from recycled glass. The scents she creates are unique and subtle. While some candle companies make scents so overpowering they make me nauseous, these don’t.

soyphisticated

I also like her wax warmer melts and soaps. I’ve been cleaning my face each day with the Happy Face bar of soap that incorporates charcoal, tea tree and green clay. My friends swear by her grapefruit exfoliating soap bar.

Everything from Louie’s Custom Meats & More just tastes better. 

IMG_4607

I first learned about Louie’s from Sara Broers. It only took one visit to get hooked. Louie and his crew go out of their way to assist customers and answer questions how to cook each type of meat. They’ll make sure you get the specific cut and amount of meat you want, even if it’s not in the meat case.

Purchase local beef from the awesome women cattle farmers of Sugar Creek Farm & SkyView Farms

Beef Collage

Kelli of Sugar Creek Farm, Osage and Laura of Skyview Farms, Nora Springs are women who raise their cows with love and produce excellent beef. You can find Kelli at the Clear Lake Farmers market and occasional drop-offs in Mason City. This year she’s also raising chickens that customers can reserve. Laura sells her beef directly to consumers.

If Jake had his way, we’d dine at Las Palmas every weekend. 

las palmas shrimp enchiladas

Jake and I take turns choosing date night spots. Our typical rotation went something like this: Jeni picks a new place, Jake chooses Las Palmas, Jeni picks a new place, Jake chooses Las Palmas, etc. On our second visit, the bartender greeted us like old friends and even remembered our last drink order. We’ve been loyal ever since. Warm chips and salsa are complimentary and the kitchen even packs them in our to-go orders. We like that the salsa has a little bit more kick than the other places we’ve tried. Jake’s favorite dish is the giant burrito filled with steak and drizzled with cheese sauce while I go for anything with shrimp.

The closest we’ve found to Mexican-style street tacos are from Mr. Taco. His brick and mortar restaurant is located along Northwood’s main street and his food truck  rotates around Mason City. Las Palma’s Mini Tacos are anything but mini and remind us of a street style taco/fajita hybrid.

The Barrel Drive-In serves my favorite chicken in Mason City-Clear Lake. While I’ve found fried chicken at other places in town to be soggy or cooked to hell and back, The Barrel’s broasted chicken has always been crispy and tender in all of the right places. Plus, it’s affordable and the staff neatly packs to-go orders if you call ahead. Dinners come with a small iceberg lettuce salad with their homemade French dressing and your choice of broasted potato wedges or french fries.

Barrel CHicken

I’m a ranch snob and Papa’s American Cafe makes my favorite version. 

Ranch dressing papa's

The popcorn from the Kum & Go on 4th Street SW & Pierce is my favorite road trip snack. 

kum and go popcorn

Market 124 is my go-to shop for gifts. They sell a lot of Iowan-made items and have a paint-your-own-pottery studio. 

market 124 pottery Collage

Photo Credit: DonnaHup.com

There’s no shame in the Casey’s Pizza game.

casey's pizza box

We found Cheers at the Willow Run Lounge. Plus, they served us our cheapest, strongest drinks. 

77 Willow Run

The names Mediacom & Beelzebub are interchangeable in our household. This is the only internet provider we used in North Iowa, but I would recommend looking into other options. We have never experienced so many outages with any other internet company in Minneapolis or Fargo. Mediacom does not feel the need to alert customers when there are widespread issues they are trying to repair. You just have to call and ask them why it’s not working or working very slowly and will probably not receive a straight answer. It’s easier to deal with their customer service on Twitter. Our internet connection ran slowly even though we paid for a premium speed. If the internet goes down for a whole day, expect to be reimbursed $5-6 for your troubles.

Eat a snickerdoodle or sweet & salty chocolate chip cookie from Kara’s Cookies. 

Kara's Cookie

Attend North Iowa’s Social Media Breakfast. Currently, this event meets on the fourth Wednesday of each month from 8:30-10 a.m. at First Citizens Bank in Mason City. I use social media every day and learn a lot from each meeting. It’s a great way to meet friends and connect with other businesses for possible collaborations. Contact the founder Sara for more information.

UPDATE 9/8/15:

  • A huge thanks to Brett Schoneman for helping us navigate and frustrating and complicated corporate relocation house sale.
  • Thank you to John at Manly Services for being one of the only contractors in North Iowa courteous enough to call us back about repairs we had to make on our home before the company would buy it back. If you can’t take more businesses, have the consideration to call people back. I have a huge list of contractors I would never recommend to anyone.
  • Lori Quade helped us clean our home and prepare it for showings. We’d recommend her in a heartbeat. Send me an email if you’d like to connect with her.

Things I Like: Springish Edition

It’s spring, sort of.

Thunderstorms have replaced snow storms. I think I’m ok with this, though they bring their own kind of devastation. The warmer weather makes my commute to work through rural North Iowa safer and I can’t get enough of the smell of other people grilling.

For the first time, we find ourselves in a home without a basement with a dog who is terrified of thunder, lightning and wind. We learned reacts to thunderstorms by hiding in the bathroom, shaking, and hiccuping.

We’ve also gotten ourselves on the “every other week” track to and from the Twin Cities this month so we can join our family and old friends for holidays and celebrations.

I’m doing my best to keep up with this blog that I love, but find myself needing to take a few more breathers than normal due to fatigue after our weekend travels and adjusting to a staffing transition at work. I also enjoy ghost writing for companies’ blogs on the side.

Despite the chaos of the past month, I’ve gotten to try some new things. Here are some of my recent favorites, both food and nonfood alike:

Unc'sTaste, Osage, IA
I work across the alley from this bakery and cafe. You can buy Cabin Coffee beverages on one side and freshly baked sweets and meals on the other.

Restaurants in North Iowa are slower to embrace social media so I appreciate how Taste frequently updates their Facebook page highlighting specials. I noticed their efforts to offer a creative lunch menu and stopped by one afternoon to try their shrimp taco special for $6.

I liked the flavorful, garlicky sauce and crunchy, fresh cabbage, bell peppers and greens. The shrimp were plentiful and nicely grilled so that they retained that snappy texture. I look forward to trying more lunch specials and keep eying their giant muffins.

Rookie’s, Clear Lake, IA
We visited Rookie’s (the bar connected to Sevens) located on the main drag just blocks from Clear Lake on our last date night. Rookie’s is also a local establishment that’s really faithful about updating their Facebook page.

The bartenders were friendly, the drinks were surprisingly inexpensive, and the food was better than expected. We sat around the big horseshoe bar and felt comfortable just enjoying our time and lingering.

Rookie's Collage.jpg

The sweet potato fries were crispy and coated in a course black pepper seasoning. The dipping sauce was notably good and I think I tasted mustard.

Jake was satisfied with his Cajun chicken sandwich while I ordered the seared lemon-pepper cod entrée ($15) that came with two big fillets, a side salad, and choice of potato. The cod was nicely seasoned and cooked, the homemade vinaigrette was pleasantly balanced and tasted similarly to what I make at home, and the hashbrowns arrived in a heaping plate with a crispy crust.

God bless North Iowa for offering shredded hash browns as a potato choice and ranch with most everything fried.

I’m glad we could experience the laid-back, locals centric version of Rookie’s before the summer crowds hit but that will be fun, too. We were so preoccupied with moving last summer that we didn’t spend much time in Clear Lake.

DSC_0030Homemade Pork Fried Rice
Pork fried rice is part of our standard Chinese take-out order.

Restaurants usually include one carton of steamed white rice per entrée so I like to transform the leftovers into my own fried rice.

Years ago before the United Noodle deli remodel, I used to visit for lunch. I loved that they made their fried rice taste so light and seasoned it with black pepper. Theirs is what I aim to recreate.

At home, I tip the scale in favor of fresh vegetables, meat and scrambled eggs, and use FAR less oil than a restaurant. My biggest pet peeve about Chinese take-out is when it’s an oil slick. Why is this necessary?

I marinated the pork in soy sauce, honey, garlic, ginger, onion, and sesame oil. Once I added the rice to the work with the cooked vegetables, garlic and proteins, I seasoned everything with more of the marinade ingredients and served it with a big, green salad.

Jim Gaffigan, Obsessed
On Sunday evening, I caught Jim Gaffigan’s new comedy special Obsessed after Game of Thrones.

A Song of Fire & Ice written by George R.R. Martin is far from flowers and sunshine, but I swear HBO aims to depict everything as gross and shocking as possible.

I had to practically peel myself off of the floor after last week’s episode. It was a happy accident that I stumbled upon Obsessed which wiped away Game of Throne’s lingering horror, death, and despair. I laughed out loud through the whole special and appreciated how many bits poked fun at food.

In a perfect world, new Jim Gaffigan specials will always follow each episode of Game of Thrones!

Almond Milk
We’ve become fond of almond milk. I think it tastes better than soy and rice milk, and we add it to our coffee and cereal. Plus, I’m lactose intolerant. Coincidently, we first tried it on the same day Beth wrote about including it in her top five fridge essentials. Do you have a favorite milk alternative?

Tropical Rum Beverages
Sipping a homemade cocktail made with pineapple juice and spiced rum doesn’t make me forget about this weather, but it certainly dulls the edge.

Casey’s General Store Pizza By The Slice
I have a fondness for this gas station pizza.

Casey’s General Stores are located all over the Midwest, but I don’t remember seeing one until I went to college in Iowa. Classmates often mentioned how much they liked Casey’s pizza, but I never tried it because I didn’t believe them.

Before you run out to a Casey’s or think I’m nuts, let me clarify what I mean by good. Casey’s pizza is good in the sense that it’s much better than what one would expect from a gas station. I like it better than the skads of frozen pizzas we’re tried (except Heggie’s) and prefer it to most pizza delivery chains. Just check your expectations and don’t go expecting Broders’ or Cossetta’s.

 

Counting My “Happies”

I appreciate bloggers who keep it real.

Projecting bubbly positivity all of the time, frankly, drives me nuts (i.e. the student in the movie Mean Girls who says I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy.”However, the other end of the spectrum that only focuses on what’s going wrong in life isn’t much better. There’s got to be a balance somewhere in the middle of these extremes.

Nobody’s life is always amazing and nobody’s life is always devoid of any good.  I’m drawn to those who write about both the heartbreaks and triumphs in life and I think it’s possible to share both while remaining hopeful.

I’ve mentioned her before, but of my favorite bloggers is Beth Ann Chiles who writes It’s Just Life: Finding Extraordinary in the Ordinary. She recently wrote a post counting all of her “Happies,” or those little things in everyday life that bring joy. Reading her list of happies genuinely did make me feel happy and reminded me of some of my own. These are my everyday joys. What’s on your list?

My Happies

  • Hearing birds sing again at the beginning of each spring, no matter how early or if it wakes me up in the morning (Birds generally freak me out, otherwise).
  •  When a bartender creates a martini with my perfect ratio of gin, vermouth and olive juice.
Ward 6 martini Sept 2013

We’re never disappointed with the cocktails at Ward 6 in East St. Paul, MN.

  • Jumping into a bed made with freshly laundered sheets while wearing freshly laundered pajamas.
  • Surrendering to the adrenaline high I get from watching suspenseful television shows with cliffhangers like Game of Thrones and House of Cards.
  • Rocking out to old Lady Gaga and Katy Perry songs while driving in the car.
  • Receiving mail. Real, old school mail!
  • Treating myself to raised donuts (or anything) with rainbow sprinkles.
Unc's

A coworker treated us to these cheesecake bars from Taste by Unc’s Cheesecakes in Osage, IA. Not usually a cheesecake fan, but I had to try the one with rainbow sprinkles.

  • Reading fantastic lists featuring 90’s pop culture on websites like Buzzfeed. I especially liked 21 Smells 90’s Girls Will Never Forget and 371 Reasons Why Being A 90’s Girl Rocked Our Jellies Off.
  • My morning coffee. It makes me really, really happy. On the flip side, if I do not drink this, bad things tend to happen and I find myself wanting the whole world to burn.
  • Spotting a Wartburg College sticker on someone else’s car.
  • That Trayse the dog tries to communicate with us through loud, meeping yawns, grunts and snorts.
  • Finding Trayse the dog curled up next to my pile of clothes when I get out of the shower. If we leave any article of clothing on the floor or bed, even if it’s just a sock, he’ll snuggle against it like this.

Trayse Happy

  • Eating appetizers like little smokies in BBQ Sauce, crock pot meatballs, and spinach dip at parties (because I just can’t justify making a whole batch of them for myself at home).
  • Ranch dressing. I’ll order ranch in salads, drizzle it on spaghetti, and dip almost anything into like cheese curds, onion rings, and pizza.
  • The smell of popcorn. This is my favorite smell in the whole world.
  • Still evenings where it’s not windy (keep in mind, I’ve lived in North Dakota and Iowa for the past three years).
  • Lighting a scented candle after I clean the house.
  • Making it through a GREEN light on 4th Street NW in Mason City, IA.
  • Catching the movie Napoleon Dynamite on television.

Iowa Bloggers Speak: Favorite Home Town Restaurants

Connecting with other bloggers is my favorite part of blogging. I mention this often because it’s true.

Iowa Bloggers Speak.jpgI’ve always wanted to create a Q & A series featuring other bloggers. I’m often inspired by the creative questions posed by people on Chowhound or reader polls on Eater that illicit storytelling and restaurant recommendations. Hopefully, this will become a regular feature in which my blogging friends from Iowa and beyond tackle new questions.

I published a Q & A in 2012 where North Dakota bloggers shared food haunts that they tasted once and haven’t found since. This time, I wanted to feature bloggers from my newest home state. I asked them to share their favorite food find from their current home city and here’s what they said:

Monica ProfileJohnny & Kay’s Original Steak DeBurgo, Des Moines
Growing up in Des Moines in the late 60s/early 70s, especially if you were a south sider like I was, there is a good chance you probably ate at Johnny and Kay’s. The hallmark of long gone Hyatt House Hotel, Johnny and Kay Campiano were the king and queen of fine dining. Their signature dish, one often recreated, is their famous Steak DeBurgo. There is a lot of dispute around town as to the origin and recipe of this amazing creation, but Johnny and Kay’s is widely regarded as the true inventor. Succulent medallions of beef filet mignon, cooked to perfection and draped in the simplest of sauce- butter, garlic and basil, brings back so many wonderful memories of eating there as a child.

My mother worked there ages ago and often made this at home as well. Believe me, she KNEW the secrets of those amazing chefs in the tall white toques and starched jackets. The dish is still available in several local restaurants around Des Moines, but none are the same, and NONE are Johnny and Kay’s Original Steak DeBurgo.

I’m a foodie, wine lover, mother and grandmother transitioning from city life to country life, taking life with a sense of humor. I blog City Girl, Country Life & Rockin’ the Kitchen. You can also connect with me on Facebook and Twitter.

Sheryl Eat Play Des Moines ProfileSecond Saturday Dinner at Proof Restaurant, Des Moines
Every Second Saturday of the month, Proof Restaurant in downtown Des Moines hosts their aptly named, Second Saturday Dinner.  This isn’t an ordinary dinner though, it’s a 10 course, blind, shared (each meal must be shared with a partner) meal. So you have no idea what you’re going to eat beforehand, but it’s always out-of-this-world. This is a photo of a Second Saturday meal a few months back. The meal is priced at $100 per couple and we look forward to the second Saturday of each month for this meal!  During this particular dinner, the steak tartare was quite memorable as was a béarnaise-deviled egg at the following month that I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to replicate at home ever since!
Sheryl Eat Play Dine Des Moines Photo

Sheryl is the founder of Eat, Play, Love Des Moines.  Started in February of 2013, Sheryl blogs about where to eat, things to do and everything else that is Des Moines.  A Boston transplant, Sheryl started EPLDSM to show off all the great food and fun she found in Des Moines after living here for 8 years. Find her on Twitter and Facebook.

matt_and_lissahDella Dolce, Clive
Della Dolce has become a real favorite of ours since it opened late 2013. Every delicious pastry and sweet delight is made from scratch and served up with love in the beautifully posh, yet homey, shop. 
Catherine is a true owner/operator pleasantly greeting customers and helping them choose between all the fantastic options. Della Dolce is a true bakery with all kinds of pastries, cookies, and cupcakes.
Della Dolce, Iowa Food Blog
With so many great choices, its difficult to choose just one. 

Matt and Lissah Beglinger live in Waukee with their two young daughters. Lissah is an Iowa native while Matt is an Iowa captive, transplanted from California. Their adventures in Iowa food can be found at: http://iowafoodblog.com, Faceook & Twitter. 

cristenThe Bauder’s Pharmacy Peppermint Bar, Iowa State Fair
The most memorable time of the year for me is in August at the Iowa State Fair. At the Fair I get to exhibit baked goods, show hogs with my family, see friends I don’t see often and submerge myself in the pinnacle of Midwest festival food culture on a little less than 500 acres on the east side of Des Moines. I love the Fair, I’ve worked for the Fair, I’ve attended every single day of the Fair in the past 10 years, no lie.  Since the 1950’s my Grandparents have had the same camping spot there too. I obsess about the food quite a bit throughout the year and there is one specific Fair-time treat that never slips my mind.  It is “The Bauder’s Pharmacy Peppermint Bar.”

This year on a chilly February day I set out to make my own version of this rich yet refreshing treat, and I’m pleased to say it was spot on!  Making custard based ice cream from scratch and the addition of delicious peppermint candies was what put this confection over the top.  I hope you share this recipe with your family and make it to the Fair to enjoy this pretty-pink cold ‘sandwich’.  You’ll squeal!  (The Bauder’s Pharmacy Peppermint Bar is found at the Bauder’s Pharmacy Trailer outside the west end of the Agriculture building at the Iowa State Fair). 

Cristen Clark is a kitchen loving-contest cook Mom of two residing in the Midwest with her husband Mike and quite a few feisty pigs.  She has a love for all things ‘baked’ and a passion for reliving heritage food memories.  She blogs tales of her family’s agricultural life and outlines contest winning recipes at her blog Food & Swine. Connect with her via Facebook and Twitter as well.

Jenny HeadshotThe Coffee Corner, Washington
I chose to share a great coffee shop we have in Washington called The Coffee Corner.  Owners Gina and Mike are terrific and they brew and blend up great caffeinated drinks. I love their blended drinks. Gina always asks me what flavor I want and sometimes I tell her to surprise me. I am never disappointed!

Several coffee clubs meet there daily. When the coffee clubs have left for the morning it’s a nice place to sit, sip a little java and read a magazine. If you don’t need a jolt of java they also serve up great fruit smoothies, too. Here is my nod to their great icy blended drink.

In kitchen with Jenny smoothieJenny R. Unternahrer is a stay at home mom of two girls. She’s been married to her husband for over 21 years.  She loves to cook and share recipes! Check out her recipes at www.inthekitchenwithjenny.com or Facebook.

Kelli headshotZoey’s Pizza, Marion
Zoey’s Pizza, located on the corner of 7th Avenue and 10th Street in Marion, IA, is a must-visit, classic pizza joint in the heart of Marion’s Uptown District. The atmosphere is that of a retro diner, and the pizza, appetizers, and famous “Zookie” are out of this world. Beware: the pizza is not for the faint of heart. They are loaded down with cheese and toppings (and therefore, calories!), and it’s recommended to order conservatively.

Seating is very limited inside Zoey’s, and on a Friday or Saturday you won’t find a seat anywhere. In fact, calling in a pizza to-go on a weekend might require at least a 90 minute wait. However, arriving early – around 5 p.m. – might earn you a seat or a to-go order within 30 minutes. City Square Park is just across the street, and many times we’ve ordered a pizza to go and enjoyed it in the park.

kelli pizza photo Our favorite pizza to order is a small New York Thin Crust half pepperoni and pineapple, half beef and green olives. Plus a side of cheesy garlic bread with marinara on the side.

Kelli is a city homesteader who blogs about she and her husband’s self-sufficiency pursuits, gardening, cooking {mostly} from scratch, and urban agriculture at The Sustainable Couple. Find her on Facebook.

Coffee Cat

Coffee Cat, Mason City
If forced to choose an absolute favorite place in Mason City, I’d choose Coffee Cat. I never get tired of sharing why it’s my favorite coffee shop. For one thing, it’s an independent coffee shop attached to a bookstore owned by one of the most sincerely nice people in the city. 

Coffee Cat sells homemade Chai tea and I order a cup each visit. It’s more like the Chai at Verdant Tea in Minneapolis, MN than those cloying powdered mixes or liquid concentrates. They’ll offer to sweeten it with honey or vanilla since it’s got a spicy kick. Although they don’t serve savory foods, they make their own baked goods and frosting from scratch. I’ve seen Guinness chocolate cake around Saint Patrick’s day and even vegan bars.

The Coffee Cat’s music could be my soundtrack. Cat schedules a lot of live music and their background music is perfect for writing. I knew I was in the right place when I heard the Alabama Shakes.

Do you have any burning questions you’d like us to answer next? Feel free to leave a comment below. 

Not Friday Favorites: North Iowa Food Finds

I enjoy everyone’s Friday Favorites posts. It may not be Friday, but here are some of my favorites:

LOCAL FOOD

We’re charmed by LD’s. It’s tucked away in what looks like a warehouse and is motor vehicle-themed. The restaurant’s vibe reminds me of a tiki bar even though it isn’t tiki-themed. I think it’s because the atmosphere is laid back and the servers are so friendly. They may call you “honey” or “sweetie” and this always makes me happy.

We like LD’s shredded hashbrowns. They are so crisp on the outside and non-greasy that I can’t think of any restaurant that’s made them better. LD’s serves them all day and you can order them as your choice of potato. 

LD's Collage.jpg

LD’s is crazy affordable and friends have spoken well of their Saturday breakfast buffet. You will notice their full bar, but don’t go making a fool of yourself (like me) by trying to order a martini. Stick with domestic beer or a gin and tonic if you are feeling especially fancy. 

In Mason City, Happy Hour specials may or may not also be known as Early Bird specials. Prime and Wine offers an early Bird menu every evening between 4:30-6:30pm and a date night menu on Thursday evenings where couples can select an appetizer, two entrees, dessert, plus complimentary salad and texas toast for $32.

These specials are popular, so if you want to go on a Thursday or Saturday evening without a reservation, arrive early in case there’s a wait.

IMG_1592On both visits, Jake ordered steak which arrived cooked as requested (medium-rare) and sat in a pool of flavorful pan juices. The side salads included thoughtful touches like bell pepper rings, hand-cut carrot coins, and hard boiled egg halves. Diners also receive a complimentary basket of garlic Texas Toast that we used to soak up all of the steak juices.

Jake’s kryptonite is saganaki (not on date night menu) that the servers flame tableside.

Prime and Wine’s early bird/date night specials are amiable option if you want to enjoy the full experience of an upscale, sit-down meal at a more affordable price. The kitchen doesn’t seem to cut corners and the staff is polished.

Working part-time in Osage has given me the opportunity to explore Mitchell County. With a population of around 3,300, Osage fosters a vibrant main street with very few vacant store fronts. For lunch, I enjoy ordering the daily lunch specials from Kountry Kupboard and Teluwat.

The Mennonite-owned and operated Kountry Kupboard is divided between a small grocery store and cafe. One day, I’ll try their peanut and almond butters they grind on location. Daily lunch specials feature comfort food like pot roast and mashed potatoes or this meatloaf meal that came with glazed carrot coins, “sweet salad,” and pillowy-soft butterhorn rolls.

IMG_1578

I am very proud of my homemade meatloaf but admit theirs might be better than mine. A full lunch costs around $8, but is enough to last me for two meals and sustains me through a long work day.

Teluwat’s Osage location is faithful about posting their daily lunch specials on Facebook. I typically choose from their chalkboard lunch combination specials. The best deal is probably their 1/2 club + choice of soup or salad for $4.99. I received a huge half sandwich filled with thick slices of ham and turkey, cheese (not American), lettuce, tomato and mayo on hearty wheat bread and a generous cup of wild rice and chicken soup. It’s not the most exciting sandwich you’ll ever eat, but it’s much better than it has to be and the price is unbeatable for the quality of food.

Last week, my fish sandwich came with these waffle fries.

Teluwat Fries

They look like boring, old waffle fries, but their delightfully crisp bite and addicting seasoning salt made them stand out from any other. I’d love to bring Jake here to eat dinner here sometime and branch out from the lunch menu.

One of our favorite date night spots is Las Palmas Mexican Restaurant. We feel like we should branch out and try some of the other Mexican restaurants in town, but Las Palmas is comforting to us. I’m not sure it’s possible to find foods like posole or tortas in our community, but we like how Las Palmas offers items that vary more than typical burritos and enchiladas. Sometimes we branch out and sometimes we don’t.

las palmas favorites.jpg

Best of all, the service is friendly. We always sit in the bar area and the bartender always remembers us and never forgets our favorite beverages.

ODDS & ENDS

    • I have a House of Cards problem. I felt bored during the first two episodes and then it was like what the heck happened? It’s 1:30 am and I just watched seven episodes in a row! As I write this post, I have three episodes left in Season Two. It’s bittersweet as I’ll be unwillingly left at a cliffhanger until Season Three is released, but I’m relieved that I can do some other things with my time.

CheeseWhen I was a student in Wartburg College, I occasionally bought this jarred queso produced in Iowa City. For, I’ve tried an embarrassing number of jarred queso dips and this is still the best tasting and spiciest I’ve found.

It’s located in Hyvee’s refrigerated section which implies it’s made out of real cheese, or at least ingredients that will decompose. New Pioneer Co-op sells it and they are very picky about the products they carry. It’s not cheap. A jar will run about $6.39 but it’s as good as I remember it since graduating seven years ago (yikes!). We enjoy it mixed with salsa and heated until warm.

Brenda Langton’s recipe for Baby Lima Beans With Polenta is one of my favorites. I add a hot pepper to make it spicy and serve with organic chicken sausage.

On the evening I made this meal, I served the polenta as a creamy porridge and, on the second evening, cut slices of the the leftover polenta and seared them. Definitely add the [optional[ parmesan cheese to the polenta for extra flavor.

Some of my other favorite recipes include the sesame, white balsamic and caesar salad dressings, whole wheat bread and lamb Spoonburger.

© 2019 Jeni Eats

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