Sunday, December 24, 2017

Driftless Bound - Bettendorf, Iowa to LaCrosse, Wisconsin and Points In Between.

Greetings Midwest Travelers and beyond,

Charlie and Mike spent a couple of days traveling up to LaCrosse, Wisconsin and back.  About a couple of monthly later, Melody and I found ourselves back in LaCrosse.  We drove through Dubuque in Iowa, and then the Wisconsin towns of Dickeyville, Landcaster, Westby, Readstown, Viroqua, Coon Valley, and stayed overnight in LaCrosse.  This transect through the southwestern part of Wisconsin is a good cross section of the Driftless Area.  The Driftless Area is a bedrock plateau kind of centered in the corners of Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.  There are lots of stream valleys, hollows, and coulees with dairy farms and scenic views of the bluffs.

We ran out to the New Melleray Abby for a quick tour.  We visited the Monk's church, gift shop, and outdoor Rosary stations of the cross.  The monestary is an peacefull valley southwest of Dubuque.

We hit Dubuque around lunch time so grabbed a meatball sandwich and a very thin crust pizza at Vinny Vanccuhi's Little Italy Restrauant.  We have been to this eatery before and always enjoy the ambiance and good eats.  Go to the restrauants link for a 360 degree tour of inside of the restrauant.

We found a very tasty bakery in the town of Lancaster.  We highly recommend the very legit molases cookies.

The heart of this Driftess adventure was the town of Viroqua.  There is much to do in this town.  The stops include Kickapoo Coffee and Artisan Roasters, Gary's Rock Shop, Viroqua Food Co-op, Driftless Angler fly shop (by appointment only during the winter), Driftless Books (closed over the winter), Viva's Gallery (local artists), and the Driftless Cafe.  There is a lot going on in Viroqua.  Great stops for hot beverages and farm to table meals not to mention some nice Wisconsin state fossils - trilobites.  

This old tobacco building pictured above was repurposed as a used bookstore.  Gotta love old buidlings being brought back to life.

Another place worth the stop is Kickapoo Trading Post in Readstown south of Viroqua.  The collectables and antiques are nicely displayed and there is a lot of stuff around inside and around the outside of this building.

We enjoyed our time in LaCrosse too.  The downtown park along the Mississippi River was used to display Holiday lights and exhibits.  We walked around the downtown area to enjoy the retailers and architecture.  Had a couple of great burgers at The Old Crow. The Pearl Street Books is a must stop.   

Other great places to see in the downtown area of LaCrosse included an old hardware store - Korners Hardware, Peoples Food Co-op, upstairs of People's is Hackberrys Bistro (Farm to Fork), Dim Sum Tea Shop, and Root Note coffee shop.

 The Root Note Coffee Shop

On the way home we stopped at the award winning Westby Locker and Meats for some summer sauage, kielbasa, and lefse.  Great Norweigens traditions.  We did not take Grandma's recommendation on the Lutefisk meatball mix though. 

...Happy Trails 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Burlington, Iowa on the Mississippi River

We picked a beautiful fall day and headed down to the old Mississippi River town of Burlington, Iowa.  Its a city of about 27,000 people and was founded in 1833.  It was apparently a busy port town in its day with the interesection of the railroads and the river.   There are pletny of old brick buildings and brick roads aroud town.  The downtown area are recognzied as a Historic District.  

There is an old alley up on bluff from the river that connect two streets at different elevations.  This alley was constructed in the 1800's with switch backs to accomodate the horse drawn buggies since it was so steep.  Its known as Snake Alley.  Even the bricks are put in place at an angle to provide a level surface.

We had lunch at The Drake.  The building was a hardware store once upon a time.  Now they turn out wood fired entrees and other treats.  The food and service were great.  

We headed further into the downtown are for a cup of joe and tea after lunch.  Found the Beancounter Coffeyhouse and Drinkery.  The baked goods were the best.  The owner explained that they get a special blend from Gounds and Hounds Coffee Company for their coffee drinks.  Every pounds saves a hound - gotta love the doggies.  The coffee was perfect.

We spent the lazy part of the afternoon exploring Crapo Park.  Get this, Crapo Park was established in 1895 through a donation from a local businessman.  An individual by the name of Zebulon Pike first raised the American flag on Iowa soil in 1805 at this park, cool.  Its now an 85-acre arboretum and botantical park.  Lots of old trees to enjoy the fall colors including four species (Arizon cypress, black hickory, pawpaw, & black walnut) on Iowa's big tree inventory.  There are apparently over 200 species of vines and trees in the Park according to the City's web page.  There is a statue honery General John M. Corse.  Gneral Corse served in the Union Army during the Civil War as part of the 6th Iowa Infantry.  He has a lengthy and full history in Burlington, Iowa.  There are also some old WWII guns at the Park.  We asked around town why the old WWII guns were at the Park and every merchant said to keep Illinois people away.  The plaque on the old guns was dedicated to those that served in the military.  

We ended the day with supper at the Krafted Bar and Bistro.   It was good, but need to try it again for our full review. 

We really enjoyed Burlington, Iowa.  Looking forward to exploring some of the other Iowa towns south of Burlington along Mississippi River like Fort Madison and Keokuk.  

  ...Happy Trails,
Mike & Melody


Sunday, July 2, 2017

Interlocal Foods

I get it.  It’s not always easy to find local foods within the vastness of corporate agriculture.   Acquiring local fruits, vegetables, breads, cheeses, eggs, seafood, and meats is the way to go. Not all parts of the country can provide local goods and products in all of these food groups. Not all local sources are tasty.  What do I do?    

I recently got a bunch of push back when I used the term local to define a locally acquired food product purchased while on a distant trip and then brought back home to enjoy.  How can it be local when I live in the Midwest and this product is sold on along the coast?  The ensuing debate covered the traditional concepts of so many miles from one’s home to be called local.  Final ruling: it should not be called local if acquired more than 50 to 100 miles from my house.

I believe the concepts of local (fair trade, family produced, farm fresh, seasonality, nature) can be more than just geography.  Local is such a simple term with broad emotions.  I need to find a better term that allows me to describe this food acquired from a local merchant, farmer, or fisher anywhere, but then transported home to be used in my kitchen.  How about the term interlocal?

First place tomatoes at the DuQuoin State Fair, Illinois

Sheeesh, my foodshed map could include many more places thus having more diversity if I pursued locally acquired and then transported to my home.  Recall, I am chasing flavor, want to support non-corporate farms, and not bound by the exceedance of some artificial diameter from my house.  Plus the expanded social discourse from these transactions grows the network of likeminded individuals plus it adds to the diner conversation over the sourcing of the meal ingredients.

Eat more hummus.  So where can I get me some chick peas in eastern Iowa?

Perhaps inspired in the lyrics a song by Jimmy Buffett about being five o’clock somewhere: its local somewhere.  And please don’t get me started on all this craft fermented malt beverages and distilled spirits.  Up here in my mind, it’s all local.

 Gotta love diversity.
All the best,

Saturday, May 27, 2017

State of Washington San Juan Islands

The family gathered on Lopez Island during the mid part in the of May.  This gathering was to celebrate the wedding between our oldest son, Nick, and our daughter-in-law, Nova.  Step one was to get onto Lopez Island from Iowa.  So the journey begins.

Lopez Island is part of the San Juan Islands group off of the coast of Seattle, Washington.  It is about 2,000 miles from our home in Iowa.  Road trip.  We loaded up four willing passengers, beverages, food, cameras, things for the family in Lopez, and headed to Anacortes, Washington to catch the ferry out to Lopez Island.  

Stop along the way out for a solid meal at Zombie Burger, Des Moines, Iowa.

Melody having some tomato soup in Anacortes, Washington before loading onto the ferry.

Here is Anacortes, Washington in the rear veiw mirror while winding our way through the San Juan Islands for the harbor landing at Lopez Island.

We passed another ferry going back to Anacortes full of cars and people.  The photograph below is approach Lopez Island from the ferry.

Did I mention that Nick and Nova also recently opened up a hyper local restaurant, Ursa Minor, in the Village of the Lopez Island?  Pretty cool, hey.  Lopez Island has a reputation of proud farmers growing produce and raising livestock.  Below: here we are filing into Ursa Minor after the drive down from the ferry.

Ursa Minor is an amazing eating establishment.  It has a lot going on with comfortable atmosphere, extremely fresh food, tasty menu, artisan fittings, fantastic people all in one of the most scenic places in North America.  You can't make this stuff up - do a reservation now.  Check out some photographs below from our tour of Ursa Minor.

It got more fun as more of the family showed up and as we mingled with Nova's family from northern Wisconsin.  They also drove out and gathered family members along the way.

Above: one of our other sons, Dane, showed up from Burbank, California.  He was welcomed by his cousin, Oscar.  Dane works for Walt Disney as a research imagineer.  We have some accomplished children - parent proud.  

We met all of the families as the restaurant was closed up to celebrate the wedding.  Below is a photograph of Nova's parents, David and Susan, enjoying the wedding reception meal at Ursa minor.  Nova's sisters (Laurel, Rebecca, Lily, and Kate) are around the table of four in the background and in the other photograph below as they got ready for the walk out to Iceberg Point for the wedding ceromony.  Beautiful family.  The first course of the reception meal included crab and a variety of oysters plus spreads for the bread from a local bakery. 


What a wedding.  The wedding was officiated by our middle daughter, Mariah, on a rocky point overlooking the Pacific Ocean on a gorgeous afternoon.  The wedding was attended by family and friends.  It was a very intimate experience.  

Melody and the girls, Claire, Mariah, and Alex, all ready for the wedding.

Take a left for the Coffey - Askue wedding.

Here comes the bride...

True North...

The wedding cake at the reception was from the local bakery, Holly B's Bakery, across the street - a fitting closure as one cannot get more local than across the street.  We are unable to show you a photograph of the cake before hand, because Charlie got to the last piece.  That's okay, because it was good too.

We got to spend some extra time on the Island visiting and site seeting before and after the wedding.   Check it out.  

Living room of our vacation rental home on the Island.  Left to right: Dane, Charlie, Chad, Oscar.

View from master bedroom skylight window of the Village on Lopez Island.

Susan and Melody visiting on Ursa Minor patio -
open now for seating as the weather has turned nice.

Nick, Dane, and Oscar conversing over the stove at Ursa Minor.

Mike's brother Chad, son Charlie, and girl friend Alex
with new cool hat from the ferry gift shop.

Great lunch restaurant on the Island - The Galley.

We got to enjoy the first Farmer's Market on Lopez for 2017.

Must stop juice bar among other things - Vortex

Hidden bay along the coastline of Lopez Island.

Photograph by Dane.

A great time was had by all.  We headed back home with the fondest of memories.  Nick and Nova have good visions and know what they are doing when it comes to oepning up a restaurant, getting married, and hosting a reception.  Love yas.


Dropping off Alex and offloading the car.

In our home driveway with Melody practicing the wave.
Waving to each other is a common practice on the Island.

...Happy Trails