Category Archives: Feeding the Multitudes

Big Party? Big Family? Nooooo problem! These places offer plenty of seating and service to accommodate a large group of more than, say, 6.

Cherry Walnut Scones

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

Cherry Walnut Scones.

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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?

Making Sourdough

Making Sourdough.  Today, I made sourdough.  I usually make it every week or so, depending on my mood and time restraints.  There are few things I love more than the smell, taste, texture, and labor of making homemade bread.

Cheese Making Part 1 – Buttah

Before I say anything, I have to give major kudos to my husband for staying home with our two sick kids today. Usually we try to tag team when the kids are sick so one of us doesn’t become overwhelmed, but because this project has been in the works for a couple of weeks, and I had the non-homogenized milk, we kinda had to do it – this weekend. So thank you Husband for sacrificing your sanity for cheese.

Read the rest of this entry

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!

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.

Mechanicsville Fireman’s Breakfast Mechanicsville, Iowa

October 5, 2008

Ever see these kinds of signs when you’re driving through a small town?  “Spaghetti Dinner!” 

“Catfish Fry!” “Pancake Breakfast!”  Well, no one makes breakfast like the Mechanicsville Volunteer Firemen and Paramedics.  The entire town and then some comes out to have breakfast and to support our local fire and ambulance.  I’ve gone to this with my husband and mother in law every year since I’ve lived here.  It’s one of the things I look forward to every fall.  It’s $6 for adults and $4 for kids 4-12 free for kids 3 and under.  

You get in line, hand them or buy your ticket, and then wait in line for your plate.  You get your food from hard working paramedics and fireman, then go sit down at a table where the minute your plate is empty or your cup of coffee, milk, or juice is empty, there is someone there to give you another pancake, sausage, egg, potatoes, etc etc or more to drink.  You don’t leave hungry EVER and there is more than enough food and joy to go around.  It certainly gives you a sense of community and friendship when you see all the smiles and are greeted with “hellos” and “how are yas” and “hey, how’s that crop comin’. ”  

It’s a great way to see a community and to get a small town Norman Rockwell feel as you crowd into the firehouse, sit shoulder to shoulder and share a bottle of syrup and a smile.  

Next time you see one of these signs, consider stopping.  It’ll be worth it.  🙂

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

Remington’s Restaurant and Lounge Spirit Lake, IA

August 30, 2008

We went to Terril to visit our family and we always try to hit a local favorite.  Lastnight we hit Remington’s in Spirit Lake.  It is one of the local favorites, we could tell that by the line out the door.  Remington’s

is located in the Great Lakes Mall.  It’s a nondescript restaurant front so you might miss it.  It’s a simple place with a big menu.  There’s a lounge area, a private party area and a main dining area.

When we walked in, it was warm and inviting.  I thought it a little strange that the staff were all wearing t-shirts or sweatshirts and jeans or jean shorts (albeit Remington’s tshirts and sweatshirts. )  It just didn’t quite fit the atmosphere, but that’s minor.  It added to the casual atmosphere.

The food was OK.  Not great and quite greasy.  We ordered a full order of potato boats which were slathered with cheese.  Undoubtedly my favorite part of the meal.  We also ordered the Onion Brick, one of their trademark items.  It reminded me slightly of a Kitchen Nightmares episode, but they tasted good.   The items that we all ordered were a Remington Burger, Tenderloin, and Custer’s Catch fish sandwich.  The Remington Burger came with cheese, onion, and mushrooms.  This was my order.  I assumed the onions and mushrooms would be sauteed, but they weren’t.  The fresh button mushrooms were cut and placed on top of the burger.  Which I would have been fine with even though they weren’t sauteed, except that it was then drenched in cheese sauce not real cheese.  Then the green onions were sliced and put on top of that.  It wasn’t bad, it tasted fine, but I expected real cheese, not cheese sauce.  That’s probably my biggest complaint.  The fresh onions, tomato slice, and fresh mushrooms turned out to be a pleasant surprise, but I couldn’t get over the sauce.

Andrew had the tenderloin with salad and though it was OK he said it didn’t have a lot of flavor.  The Custer’s Catch was a huge deep fried cod fillet topped with sliced almonds.  My sister in law had that and she said it was OK.

Overall, this restaurant was pretty good, not somewhere I’d be craving next time we visit, but an ok place to stop and get some lunch or dinner if you’re over there.  The prices were reasonable.  For two of us plus the potato boats plus two beers (they have Amber Bock bottles) the bill came to almost $30.  The waitress was friendly but they were very busy so she seems a little frazzled, but we still got good service.

I’d recommend this place for a weekday meal with the family – probably best for lunch or early dinner as it gets pretty busy after 6.

Iguanas Grill North Liberty, Iowa

August 26, 2008

Iguanas Grill Buffet

Iguana's Grill Buffet

Every week for the past two or so years, (maybe 3) my coworkers Dr. Wayne, Jennifer, and I have gone to Iguanas almost every week for lunch. Occasionally we change it up, but Iguana’s we never get sick of. Typically, we have ordered the Chicken Chimichanga but have since started ordering the buffet, speedy gonzales, lunch fajitas, and quesadillas. We haven’t been disappointed in any of these items. The service is generally quick, friendly, and courteous. They start by getting you a basket of warm tortilla chips and salsa. Eventually, they’ll get your order and within 15 minutes you usually have your lunch.

The prices are reasonable and the food is great. They just started offering the buffet this year, and have worked out all the kinks so now it’s usually great. With items on the buffet such as chimichangas, quesadillas (beef and chicken), burritos, fruit, salad, chips, rice, beans, refried beans, tortillas to make your own burrito or taco. Those are the basics, some items may vary.

If you’re in North Liberty, check it out. You won’t be disappointed.