Category Archives: Family Optional

These eateries are sort of family friendly, but not geared towards the kids. If you choose one of these places, do so with reservations and it’s best to call ahead to make sure there’s not a long wait.

Cherry Walnut Scones

Use fresh, in season fruit to make these wonderful scones!

Cherry Walnut Scones.

Grilled Vegetarian Pizza

We made this pizza tonight on the grill.  It was really delicious!  Can’t wait for all those veggies to start sprouting in the garden!!!  PS.  The kids were NOT FANS of these pizzas…

Grilled Vegetarian Pizza.

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?

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!

John Ernest Vineyard & Winery Tama, Iowa

9/20/08

John Ernst Vineyard and Winery
John Ernst Vineyard and Winery

On your way to the Meskwaki Bingo Casino and Hotel, take a quick detour to visit the John Ernest Vineyard and Winery.  This area is full of history and activities and is right between Cedar Rapids and Ames.  If you’re interested in learning about Meskwaki culture check out the site above.

The winery sits on top of a hill just off the highway.  You’ll see lumbering dogs, and friendly staff and lots and lots of wine!  The gal working on the Saturday that we went, was more than happy to let us try each one of the very distinct wines.  Our favorites were Cranberry, Red Zinfandel, Dusty Road, Iowa Sunset, & Lincoln Highway Red. Ok there were a lot of wines that we enjoyed.  🙂  I admit.

They do have music at the vineyard, but this weekend of the 5th is the LAST of the season!  With Dogs on Skis.  You can get the info HERE on their website.  You can always call them at (866) 533-4544.  They’re official address is 3291 North Avenue Tama, Iowa.  The winery is beautiful and looks like it could be rented out for weddings or other kinds of formal events.  They also have small gifts and of course wine truffles made here in Iowa.  Definitely need to stop and visit if you’re near!

Here is their contact info:

web address:  http://www.johnernestvineyard.com/index.html

Phone: (866) 533-4544

Address:  3291 North Avenue Tama, Iowa

Tabor Home Wines, Baldwin Iowa

Snuggled in between the rolling hills of Jackson County lies a century farm and acres of grape vines at a

family owned winery called Tabor Home.  I’m no stranger to Tabor Home.  I met them years ago at the farmer’s market in Cedar Rapids, fell in love with their wines, and have been a “fan” ever since.  My husband and I ordered 2 cases of wine for our wedding, and the rest is history.

The road to Tabor Home takes you through the rolling hills deep in the heart of Grant Wood Country.  Which makes the trip not only about the destination but also the journey.  Through the summer, they have Music in the Vineyard beginning in June every other week until the end of September.  But it doesn’t end there, they also have other activities such as the Wine Trail in April and November, Nouveau Wine Festival and the Holiday Open House in November.  You can log onto their website to get details.

Among the many activities, they also carry a variety of local foods including cheese and chocolate made with Tabor’s own Raspberry wine (my personal favorite) and offer several recipes and lists of foods to pair with their wonderful wines, also available at their website.  Tabor grows all their red wine grapes and most of their whites.  They do purchase some from other growers around the area, but also from the Mississippi Valley.  Last year, they harvested 18 tons of grapes from their own vineyards and expect that many again this year.

And the Pièce de résistance, their selection of wonderful wines ranging in price from $9.75 to $18.95 and flavors ranging from the grapiest grape to the best of red.  (sorry for THAT description Paul).  The winery is open for tasting Monday through Saturday 10-6 and Sunday 12-6.  You can call ahead and ask for tours or just stop in and try some wines.  Tell Dr. Tabor that I sent you 🙂

VIsit their website Here