Category Archives: Carry Out Available

Backpocket Brewing – Coralville

First of all, please forgive my horrible camera phone pictures.  I don’t have the latest greatest phone, and I didn’t want to drag my canon with me because, well frankly, because I have to lug a ton of stuff with me wherever I go, whenever I go anywhere.  That happens with two kids.  That and I think I may have broken or fractured my toe.  So there you have it.

Anyway, thanks to Nana Sally and Papa Tom (my Godparents and Aunt and Uncle) Andrew and I had a date night.  Not just any date night mind you, this has been planned for a year.  We attended the soft opening of the new brewery lastnight, the night before the full opening tonight.  The building isn’t finished yet, but it’s going to be stunning when it’s done.  The restaurant side is pretty much done but they’re still working on the brewery.

Andrew of course, belongs to the mug club, which entitles him to a 24 ounce hand crafted stoneware mug with his own number on it and $3 draft beers (instead of $4) that which he gets to keep at the end of the year.  They are offering up 120 more mugs, on a first come first serve basis.  (See their facebook page for more information) Which I WILL HAVE.

Backpocket is a 100% Iowa crafted, German inspired, craft brewing enterprise.  They’re not new to this gig.  Though Backpocket is located in the Iowa River Landing district in Coralville, it grew out of Old Man River Restaurant and Brewery out of McGregor, Iowa.  The demand for their German Style beers quickly outgrew the capacity they had at McGregor, so they landed a prime real estate spot in Coralville, with the 15,000 square foot brewery.  Which, according to Business380.com, makes it the largest brewery in Iowa.  Pretty cool, huh?

At the soft opening, Backpocket staff greeted us at the door, of course, to scan our tickets (I felt a little bit like a VIP! – really, we just were lucky to get one of the 300 tickets in the 4 minutes it took them to sell out – but still…)  We seated ourselves, reviewed the beer and pizza menu (more on that later!) and of course, ordered a sampler.

The sampler came with the 5 beers they have on tap.  There were also other craft beers available, but we stuck with Backpocket this time. 

THE BEERS

Golden Coin – Helles

Helles is a German Blond Lager, very drinkable, smooth, light on the hops, kind of sweet.  One of those “makes me very happy after spending all day in the sun doing manual labor” kind of beers.  I don’t have the stats, but here’s the hops and malts used via their website.  As they say, it has a very light “hop nose” and “little to no upfront bitterness.”

Malts – Pilsner, Caramel light, Carapils

Hops – Hallertau Mittelfruh and Traditional

5.2% alcohol by volume

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Penny Whistle – Weizen

Penny Whistle is a Bavarian Wheat Beer with a little more hop nose than the Helles.  Still, very drinkable, a little heavier than the Gold Coin, but full of flavor.

5.5% alcohol by volume

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Slingshot – Dunkel

A very popular Dunkel or German Dark Lager, Slingshot was yumm-o.  I made notes that it had a slight coffee flavor (so of course I would like it) but it wasn’t bitter and definitely not hoppy.  I would say toasted and malty – making it slightly sweet on the tongue after the coffee flavor.  Another slightly heavier beer than the wheats, (nothing close to a stout or a porter – Dunkels color is dark, but they’re still relatively light) but still refreshing and full of complex flavors.  Really a lovely beer.

Malts – Pilsner, Carmel Light, Carmel Dark, Munich, Chocolate

Hops – Hallertau Mittelfruh, Perle

5.3% alcohol by volume

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Wooden Nickel – Scottish “Peated” Lager (or Ale)

Ahhhh Andrew and I do love a good Scottish Ale.  As a matter of fact, our favorite homebrew so far has been the Scottish Ales.  My notes for this beer simply said YUM!  Peated means that the malt is smoked over burning peat to create a darker flavor characteristic and smoky aroma of an Islay or sometimes Irish whiskey.  I liked Backpocket’s description of it’s beer…so here…

“So, a German, a Scott and an Iowan walk into a Bar and… an entirely unique beer was invented. Traditional German yeast, hops and techniques, paired with the smoky flavor from Scottish malts, all somehow born in Iowa.”

5.7% alcohol by volume

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Jack Knife – GPA

Jack Knife is more hoppy than the other beers.  not my favorite, because my palate just does not enjoy a hoppy beer.  My husband, however, loves hoppy beers.  Their highest alcohol volume beer at 6.2%, is a unique blend of German and American Hops.  And as far as the hop nose, this one isn’t quite the IPA hop of say, Peace Tree’s Hop Wrangler or even more their Hop Sutra, but it’s still quite hoppy.  Jack Knife is a GPA which is simply “German Pale Ale.”  Great for someone who wants to train their palate to truly enjoy the hoppy side of beers.  Again, I’ll leave it to Backpocket to describe this one.

“When it came to creating a unique take on an IPA, one countries hops wasn’t going to cut it. German hops for a smooth bitterness, American hops for perfect aroma and the result – a “GPA” that would make any IPA want to change its name.”

6.2% alcohol by volume

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Root Beer

Backpocket also, like many craft brewers, went the way of the tree’s favorite drink, Root Beer.  Also a great option for kids.  We didn’t try it though, we kind of forgot.

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THE FOOD

So, enough about the beer.  The beer was fantastic.  As a matter of fact, we’re kind of craving it right now.  But I must tell you about the pizza.  Like Lincoln Wine Bar in Mount Vernon, Backpocket invested in a beautiful Italian style pizza oven that tuns out pizza in about 90 seconds.  Yes, I said 90 seconds.  (COOL!)  I don’t have any info on the oven at Backpocket, but it looked a little more new-age than the oven at Lincoln Wine Bar, but it turned out some fantastic pizza just the same.  Beautifully crispy crust that held it’s shape from plate to mouth.  With simple and few ingredients, each pie that we had was full of flavor and worked perfect with the beer.

The pizzas offered lastnight at the soft opening were:

BBQ – BBQ sauce, chicken, spring onions, provolone cheese, and cilantro garnish

Margherita – Basil, fresh mozzarella, tomato

Produce Pie – Tomato, mushroom, spinach, kalamata garnish

Solid Combo – Sausage, roasted pepper, red onion

Meatza – Bacon, pepperoni, sausage

Each 10″ personal pizza is adorned with either a white or red sauce, and fresh ingredients, carefully placed so you get a little of everything in each slice.  The crust wasn’t quite as chewy (less gluten in the flour most likely) as the Lincoln Wine Bar’s pizza crust, but it had a wonderful flavor and texture.  The pizza was as unique as the beer itself.

We will most definitely be going back frequently, so I’ll post as I learn more.  I will also try to get a little more history about the brewmaster himself, when it’s not so crazy busy for him.  Or at least, when he might have a minute to stop and breathe.  According to my husband, he started out as a microbiologist or some kind of super smart scientist type who followed his passion of brewing beer.  Which in and of itself, is pretty damn cool.

So.  See you there?

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Lincoln Wine Bar – Mount Vernon, Iowa

Now that I have your attention…let me tell you a bit about the Lincoln Wine Bar.  The Lincoln Wine Bar was opened in 2003 by another family, and reclaimed and re-opened by Matt Steigerwald in 2006.    Then closed again on New Years Eve for renovations.  The Wine Bar is new again as of the week of the 20th of February 2012, with a facelift, double the space, and pizza made in a brand new, hand-made in Italy, Brick Wood Fire Oven.

“The oven was hand-built in Naples, Italy by Stefano Ferrara to our specs. It’s a wood oven, 6000 pounds, and cooks a pizza in 90 seconds at about 900 degrees.  It’s kind of the Rolls Royce of wood ovens and we love it.” 

He’s right, it’s a beautiful oven and turns out some mighty fine pies.  Matt also gets his flour out of Naples, Italy.  Caputo 00, is said to be the best flour for pizza making.   You might wonder why that is.  Flours from Italy (and Europe in general) are much different from the flour we use here in the states.  For one thing, the gluten content varies greatly in different flours and from different regions.  The flour Matt uses in his pizza crust is specific to pizza making and contains a high gluten content of about 11% to 12%.  It’s that high gluten content that gives the crust it’s delightful “chew” without being tough.  That tenderness also has to do with how much the dough is worked.  And that’s surely not to be overlooked in this kitchen.  These folks know what they’re doing.

FOOD

The restaurant offers four permanent pizzas, and offers two to three specialty pizzas daily – posted on the board.  Andrew and I had two pizzas, because, well, we had to try more than just one (for the sake of the blog, you know.)  Andrew ordered a sausage (homemade sausage from their other restaurant down the street, The Lincoln Cafe) and I ordered a Margherita pizza.  Both were adorned with a homemade tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella.  This is the kind of pizza that you finish there.  Don’t be demure, be bold.  Have a beer, loosen your pants, and eat the whole thing.  This isn’t the type of pizza that stuffs you full to the gills with two pieces, and it doesn’t keep well in the fridge (though it’s still good the day after – just a bit soggy.)   The crust was bubbly and chewy (due to the high gluten content – and I’m guessing it also helps it cook quickly in the wood fire oven, just like in Italy.)  The ingredients were fresh and flavorful.  Both pizzas were delicious.  Both were reasonably priced, mine was $12 Andrew’s $15.  Which you might think high-priced for a pizza, but both were 12 inches, and when you consider that you’re getting a–100% hand-made in front of you with fresh ingredients fired in an imported brick oven–the price is reasonable.  There were two specials on the board (always look at the board) for little over $16.  I’m willing to pay that price for good real whole food.

WINE AND BEER

The wine list was great, though I was disappointed that there were no Iowa wines, and that the wine list is rather pricey.  Good, but pricey.  Available wines are typically from the West Coast of the US, Europe, Australia, or Argentina.  Matt personally chooses the wines sold at the wine bar.

 “Basically I’m the sommelier at the bar. No special certificate.  Wines just need to taste great to get on our list.”  

I didn’t look much at the wine list but I noticed the least expensive wine was around $27 per bottle and I saw one for over $80 per bottle.  I have no doubt these are exceptional wines, and for our little date night that was more than we wanted to or planned to spend.

Andrew and I chose the less expensive option of beer, for a couple of reasons.  We found the selection fresh and well, exciting.  As silly as that may sound.  But we also really enjoy beer.   My husband brews his own, so we like to experiment and try different infusions.  On the beer list we found brews from all over Europe, the States, Canada, Japan, and two from Iowa – Millstream and one of our favorites, Peace Tree. I enjoyed thoroughly the Hitachino Sweet Stout from Japan.  Andrew had a Peace Tree Hop Wrangler, which was too hoppy for me, but he enjoyed it-a lot.  The wine and beer lists change so if you find something you like, write it down.

EXPERIENCE

Overall the experience was good, except that we stood outside for almost 10 minutes in the cold before they opened the doors.  Granted, we were there early, but my good ol’ Iowa hospitality bristled a little at that.  But once we got in the door, we were greeted with friendly wait and host staff and served very quickly.  I will say, if you do go, I would suggest you go early.  It really started to pick up at about 6 pm.  Matt was gracious in answering my questions, and welcomed photos.

OVERALL COST  $$$ (out of $$$$$)

OVERALL EXPERIENCE  🙂 🙂 🙂  (out of 5 🙂  )

 

PLEASE SEE THE NEW EAT LOCAL IOWA PAGE TO FIND OUT WHAT THOSE SILLY SYMBOLS MEAN

More infomation about the Lincoln Wine Bar can be found on their website:  http://www.foodisimportant.com

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Espresso 134 Lisbon, Iowa

Storefront Espresso 134

UPDATE:  Espresso 134 is now closed. 

 

It was a good thing for me that Brighton got out of school at 11:30.  After a quick lunch at home, we headed to the City Park in Lisbon.  A small historic community of around 2500 people, Lisbon has a gem sitting right on Main Street.  It’s called Espresso 134.

ATMOSPHERE:

The renovated 1881 building is more than gorgeous inside.  It’s modern and cozy and … well gorgeous!  Clad with granite countertops, bar, tables, and ledges, comfy leather chairs downstairs, and cozy chairs upstairs, the whole place just reeks of class.  Two chillers under the bar hold local wines and beer.  An odd twist to a traditional coffee shop, but with the idea of wine tastings, beer pairings, art shows, euchre tournaments, and live music, it somehow works.  Beautifully.    I just can’t say how impressed I was with the look of this place.  Each coffee shop I frequent has it’s own unique style, and Espresso 134 is no exception.

Now, from what I understand, this establishment is in the middle of a management change.  The previous owner, Eric Krob, is going to be taking ownership once again since the current owner, Jill Schaefer, is  choosing to spend more time with her 4 boys.  A reasonable option since running this kind of business takes a LOT of time.  So at this time, Just Jill’s Espresso 134 offers up breakfast, lunch and limited dinner offerings, as well as carry out prepared meals.  However, I am not sure how long that will last.   So if this is what you’re interested in, I suggest calling ahead.

DRINKS n STUFF

So how is the coffee?  Pretty good.  Coffee roasts from PT’s Roasting Company out of Topeka, KS (Direct Trade) supplies Espresso 134 with it’s premium roast.  I had a simple (boring) decaf, skim latte.  I say boring because I’m nursing a 2 month old who doesn’t care for caffeine or milk proteins.  So I didn’t get a good representation of what their coffee is REALLY like.  Brighton and I did, however, each have a Raspberry Italian Creme Soda, which was excellent.

We also each had some goodies.  Brighton had two (yes TWO) cake bites.   One chocolate and one lemon.  Which he says were “Good!” complete with a deep dimple smile (which is a positive review equal to 9 stars).  I had a chocolate truffle, which was pretty good too.  The chocolates were made by a local Cedar Rapidian business called Sweetopia Handmade Chocolates.

Also offered are local wines and happy hour specials.  Wine selections  include Cedar Ridge wines, wines for fundraising (UNITE for livestrong, MOVE for National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and INSPIRE for Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation) where actual $$ goes to the foundations for the sale of each of these wines.  Pretty cool eh?

EXTRAS:

Also available is catering for office parties/business meetings etc. just call a day ahead.  You can also rent the building for your meetings (and make a fantastic impression!)  WiFi is available, ask for a password.  Or if you need to use a computer, one is available for you on the second floor.  Which, by the way, also has a huge flat screen television, comfy chairs and a beautiful leather couch.   I’m just sayin’.

So where can I find this place?

134 Main Street, Lisbon Iowa

Phone: 319-455-2023

Facebook: just jills espresso 134

email:  jjespresso134@gmail.com

All in all I really liked this place.  Good coffee, great service, out of this world atmosphere.  So if you’re ever in the area, or in Iowa at all, stop by and say hello.  Tell them I sent you!

Al’s Blue Toad

Well, it sure has been a busy year!!!  Building houses, having babies…(ok ONE house and ONE baby…but that sure is enough!) no rest at the Oberbreckling home!  Needless to say, our outings have been limited, but we did manage one really fantastic one recently.  Al’s Blue Toad in historic and rebuilding Czech Village in Cedar Rapids.

Al’s Blue Toad is a Czech homestyle pub style restaurant in the heart of historic Czech Village in the old Zindricks restaurant.  With fabulous traditional Czech recipes as well as just good ol’ rib stickin’ food.    Rebuilt after the flood of 2008, this restaurant shows no sign of slowing down.   With a facebook fan base of over 1000 fans, Al’s Blue Toad is definitely helping the flood recovery in Czech Village stand out and stay afloat (no pun intended).

The first time I ate at the toad was with my bestie from San Diego, Jill, her daughter and mom.  Jill had the Paprika Chicken, her mom  had the Tender Roast Pork Loin (seems to be their specialty – everyone orders it!), and I had the Breaded Pork Tenderloin with fries (an Iowa favorite).  We all tasted each other’s dish and were all delighted.  Even the 4 year old enjoyed the food.  I wasn’t equipped with a camera at the time but made a mental note to bring one next time.

The next time I went with my family and one of the first things I noticed at the Toad was how clean the place was and smelled.   Being a diabetic at the time (gestational diabetes) I had to excuse myself to the restroom several times for tests and shots, which smelled and looked clean.  Even the garbage cans were clean and freshly changed.  Impressive for such a busy bustling place.   Then came the menu.  Which is full of great food at great prices.  I will say, though, not much on the menu for kids.  I ordered the Tender Roast Pork Loin with the yummiest dumplings and my husband, the Czech Burger which is adorned with bavarian kraut and caraway swiss.  Both were fantastic.  So much so that I completely forgot to take photos of our meals until they were almost gone.  So, much to my husband’s chagrin, I chased the waitress around when I saw her bring out one popular appetizer, the homemade breaded mac and cheese.   I again, didn’t have my good camera or even my point-and-shoot but I managed a bad photo with my camera phone.  The others were stolen from the facebook fan page.  🙂

Stop in some time and say hello, and tell them I sent you!  The Toad is located at 86 16th Avenue SW Cedar Rapids Iowa. Their phone number is 319-265-8623 and the hours are Monday through Sunday 11AM to 2 AM and Sunday 11 AM to 10 PM.  Maybe I’ll see you there!!

Have you eaten at the Toad?  Tell me what you think?!

Alger’s Pizza Palace Mount Vernon, Iowa

Located on the Main Street in the Historic College town (Home of Cornell College) of Mount Vernon, (we all know College kids take their pizza very VERY seriously) lies a Royal little pizza place called Pizza Palace.

Hawaiian Thick Crust Pizza

Hawaiian Thick Crust Pizza

Oh yum.  Is all I have to say.  Andrew, Brighton, and I stopped by there on a Thursday evening.  The place was almost empty less a few late comers such as ourselves, but the pizza (we ordered the Hawaiian with a thick crust) was absolutely outstanding.

Made by the owner himself, Rawley Alger, the cheese was perfectly melted and browned, the crust was crispy and full of flavor, the ingredients including pineapple and Canadian bacon, didn’t “wet” the pizza down like Hawaiian pizza can sometimes be.  Instead, it was wonderfully fresh and just about the most perfect pizza I have ever had.    In addition, the price is extremely reasonable, the service is excellent, and the atmosphere is fun and feels very historic and homey.  A large Hawaiian pizza costs the same, maybe a dollar more, than a large Casey’s specialty pizza on sale.  And for the price of about $14, you get local service, great food, and you get to support a locally and family owned (since 1986) business.  Which just makes it taste a little better… 🙂

Alger’s Pizza Palace is located at 106 1st Street West in Mount Vernon Iowa.  Their phone number (for carry out!) is (319) 895-6971.  If you visit, you can pass the time by searching the mural on the wall for the treasure hunt items listed in the middle on the list. Extra points if you can find the mice (of which only 3 people know the locations of…)

If any coupons are available, you can find them here.

Find out more about Mount Vernon here.

Find out more about Mount Vernon Commerce here.