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Showing posts from July, 2018

Bolognese Sauce

I was in the mood for something different so I decided to make Bolognese sauce. I started by browning some ground beef. Next, I added a quart of the tomato sauce I canned last summer. This year's tomato sauce canning season is fast approaching... After letting those flavors blend for a few minutes, I added the cheese and made sure that everything was blended. I enjoyed the sauce on some dried pasta. The wonderful garden taste of last year's sauce still holds up. The fortification of meat and cheese made this a hearty meal.

Franklin TN: Puckett's

Art and I caught up on life over a nice breakfast at the Franklin location of Puckett's. On evenings, musicians play while patrons enjoy their food. I enjoyed a classic breakfast of eggs, sausage, and buttermilk pancakes. The food could have been warmer when served but it was tasty.

VIenna IL: Ned's Shed

Small towns thrive on tradition. Ned's Shed has become a Johnson County tradition over the past 60+ years. Their staying power comes in part from their friendly service but rests firmly on their darn good BBQ and in particular Ned's relish. Here is my BBQ sandwidh (pork, of course). The relish is on the bottom. While many places serve their BBQ sandwiches with a dollop of cole slaw, I can't remember another BBQ spot that serves relish. Ned's is excellent: tart, just the right amount of crunch. Relish comes in smaller pieces than does cole slaw which helps it blend into the rest of the sandwich. I really enjoyed my sandwich. My only regret was that I didn't leave room for a milkshake.

Maytag IA: Maytag Blue Cheese

I have passed Maytag, Iowa and the Maytag Blue Cheese office several times. This time, I pulled off I-80 and drove a few miles through town. I found this attractive modernist office building at the edge of a cornfield. Wikipedia explains that this cheese is based on an Iowa State-developed process to make blue cheese from pasteurized cow's milk; the cheese operation was founded by grandsons of the founder of Maytag. It doesn't mention that the blue is a play on the accent color used on Maytag washers. This display of cheese was tempting. And when I got my slice home, I found it was wonderful. The cheese was rich in flavor and firm in texture. The blue gave sharp notes that perfectly complemented the smoothness of the cheese without being overly aggressive. Wow, what a cheese. You can find it in select stores but the office also ships. And check out this great tractor.

Food Trucks at Northlake Mall

I passed by Northlake Mall last night (Thursday night, that is) and noticed a fleet of food trucks in the parking lot serving food. I don't know how often these trucks plan to come but they are a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

Amana IA: Ronnenburg Restaurant

The Amana Colonies were founded in the 1800's by German members of a religious commune. Industrious people, they went into a number of businesses over the years to supplement their farm income: refrigerators (yes, that Amana refrigerator), woodworking tools, tourism. Ronnenburg has become my favorite restaurant in Amana, although I must admit that I have several more to try. My meal started with a selection of side dishes. All of them were superb: the cottage cheese was wonderfully doctored; the cole slaw was superb; the beets were mouth-poppingly good; the bread was, of course, wonderful. My main dish was this outstanding sauerbraten. The hint of sourness really perks up the dish and complements the wine and beef very well. Good sauerbraten isn't easy to find in this country and this is an excellent example. I of course had to order dessert. My rhubarb pie was perfect in both crust and filling.

Ankeny IA: Smokey D's

Smokey D's has received national attention, both at contests and on TV, for its BBQ. The space is large and bustling. The menu has a wide range of BBQ mains and sides plus a few more unusual entries. I went for the two meat plate with brisket and burnt ends. The meat was juicy and tender but I didn't pick up a real smoke flavor. The burnt ends weren't coated with much of the cooked sauce that I associate with this treat. I was a little disappointed that the brisket was so thinly sliced---thin slices help to provide that carnivorous experience that is central to BBQ.

Des Moines: Good Times at A Dong

Mom and I enjoyed ourselves twice at her favorite restaurant, A Dong. This Vietnamese restaurant has become a Des Moines standard. The food is great and the service is extremely gracious. For our first visit, I wanted something light. This noodle soup hit the spot. The broth, clearly homemade, was rich but not overpowering. For our second visit, I ordered this chicken curry with noodles. The curry was made with coconut milk, giving a rich creaminess to the spice. The noodles came on a separate plate for me to add in myself. I enjoyed my curry with this wonderful Vietnamese/French coffee. The thick sweetened condensed milk was a great treat. Ice cooled everything down for the warm day. And the condensed milk/coffee combination matched perfectly with the curry.

Kansas City: Arthur Bryant's Barbeque

In the 1970's, the writer Calvin Trillin called Arthur Bryant's possibly the world's best restaurant. That was enough for me to divert my cross-country drive to visit Kansas City and, in particular, a low-key brick building. What I found there was a revelation. Their spectacular barbeque was the result of a team of people with clear devotion to their craft, which they pursued with quiet pride and without a hint of glamor. It took me 35 years, but I finally made it back. I have had Mr. Bryant's famous sauce quite a few times over the years, but it took this sandwich to drive home that it was made for pork shoulder. The pairing of their tender pork with this cumin-laced sauce is a perfect wedding of flavors. If you are lucky enough to make it here, this is the dish I suggest. The ribs are great. The meat responds to a gentle tug to come off the bone. Eating these ribs is a rewarding experience. The onion rings are fantastic: big, crunchy, soft on the …

Vienna IL: Dairy Queen

I stopped by Dairy Queen on the road for a rest and a treat. Suburbanites think of Dairy Queen as a low key, friendly place for kids and families. In small towns like Vienna, the Dairy Queen is an important gathering place. Even very small towns can support a Dairy Queen, which is less expensive than some other franchises. It becomes a regular spot and a place to see your neighbors. You can eat a complete meal there. And the ice cream is pretty good, too.

Monteagle TN: Smokehouse

Years ago, Chicago gangsters on their way to Florida vacations stopped at Monteagle. That was before the Smokehouse's time but it is a mainstay of Monteagle hospitality. Their lunch buffet is large and tasty. I really enjoyed their pork shoulder. Their beef stew/soup is hidden in the corner but it is a must-try: filled with umami, tender, rich with root vegetable tastes. I have never had the chance to hear their evening music programs. I need to make that trip a priority. This seems to be a great place to hear top-notch country music in an intimate setting.

Avondale Estates: Good Karma Coffee House and Gluten Free Dairy

Good Karma is tucked away in always charming Avondale Estates. I stopped in for coffee but I was very impressed by their bakery operation. They have a very strong vegan menu. They also serve full breakfast and lunch items, such as scrambles. This case of baked goods is all vegan and they all look great. Doing vegan baking well requires skill. True vegan food is hard to find at restaurants and a resource like Good Karma is a treat for people who eat vegan.

Decatur GA: La Calavera

La Calavera is a small, very good bakery near the Avondale MARTA station. I saw a great selection of baked goods, both sweet and utility breads. I really enjoyed my blueberry empanada. The cornmeal gave the fruit a wonderful, unexpected pop.

SJC: Tres Gringos

San Jose's airport has a small, crowded terminal. The restaurant options are a little limited and the space within each restaurant is crowded. I needed something to eat before my flight. Given the constraints, Tres Gringos did a good job. The atmosphere was hectic, as is typical for airport restaurants, but the bartender did a good job juggling everyone. My salad was fresh and a good mix of flavors. I was grateful for my meal.

San Carlos CA: Iron Gate

Graham and Alexis introduced me to a wonderful, old-style steak restaurant in San Carlos, the Iron Gate. Its roots go back both to fine Continental dining and an earlier, less hectic California. The meal started, of course, with excellent bread. Our appetizers were classic: oysters rockefeller, escargot, and stuffed zucchini florets. My florets were rich with seafood and a great blend of textures. A quick palate cleansing prepared us for the main course. Alexis and I both ordered flamed steaks, which brought out the flambe table. The show was spectacular and our server very charming. My steak au poivre was superb. The flamed sauce was smooth, meaty, and creamy, with a touch of pepper. We ended with souffles. My chocolate version was perfectly executed and downright decadent. The chocolate sauce was smooth and rich, perfectly complementing the souffle interior.

Belmont CA: Pilgrim Kitchen Bakery and Donut Shoppe

I stopped by Pilgrim Kitchen for a refreshing treat. It is hidden away on the east side of El Camino, just over a hilltop making it easy to miss. The vibe is old fashioned, which I find very welcoming and grinding. The owner was very nice. They have a great selection of donuts. The buttermilk bar was tempting but I went away with an apple turnover. It was quite good: flaky pastry, fruity filling.

Palo Alto CA: Fambrini's Cafe

Ken and I caught up with each other over a nice lunch at Fambrini's Cafe. This place is easy to miss---it is located on the west side of El Camino just south of College Avenue. Their menu tends toward light items, a refreshing change. My salad with salmon was very enjoyable. The dressing was flavorful but light. Ken went with his standard. And we split this delightful fruit pastry.

Sunnyvale CA: Breakfast at Kal's

Kal's has been in Sunnyvale for a long, long time. I would say that its origins are lost in the mists of time, but the sign on the door clearly says it was founded in 1958, just 11 years after the invention of the transistor and in the same year as the integrated circuit. The decor is classic mid-century casual, a very cozy and comfortable feel. The owner is very friendly and welcoming. My omelet arrived promptly, fresh off the griddle. It was very nicely cooked with a perfect soft texture. The potatoes were similarly well executed. The toast hit the spot. No long this place has been around so long.