Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Grezzo

Always up for a foodie adventure, my friend and I met for lunch at Grezzo. We started with the Green Drink and a house tea. Both were quite interestingly flavored. The tea had lemon, goji berries, mint, ginger and probably some other fresh ingredients as well. The only drawback was that I had trouble drinking the liquid with all of the seeping items filling my mug. The green drink was a nice mix of vegetables topped with some delicious spicy edible flowers.

I had the home-made "gnocchi" made with ground nuts and possibly tahini. These were artistically enveloped in a delicious "rawmesan" sauce made with coconut milk. The sauce was creamy and flavorful, going quite well with the crisp English peas and pea shoots. I don't remember the crispy eggplant being on the plate (although it appears to be on the menu). My friend had the BLTA wrap, which had a tasty, but slightly salty tortilla made from flax seeds and sundried tomato. The filling was quite good - fresh lettuce, tomato, avocado, creamy "cheese" spread, and a salty olive (or maybe eggplant?) paste. The ultra-light dehydrated chips on the side were delicious.

Our wonderful server suggested the iced "eggnog" which was a delicious blend of nuts, coconut milk, topped with a fabulous vanilla "ice cream" and shaved Brazil nuts. That was dessert in of itself. We also opted for the Apple Pave which consisted of paper thin slices of apple stacked and topped with a citrus marinade and a caramel-like sauce served with clove ice cream. I found the clove flavor of the ice cream to be a bit overpowering and the apples to be too sweet for my taste. However, combining the flavors of each item was still quite good (I'm just not sure I would order this again.) The Chocolate Super Cookie with Chocolate Frosting was similar to a homemade Luna bar - somewhat dense and chewy (made with chocolate and dates). Not my thing, but maybe others would appreciate it. The frosting was delicious.

Grezzo is a *tiny* little place with chairs that barely fit people with a slim stature. Squeezing into seats was a bit uncomfortable and difficult when the restaurant began to fill up. The kitchen is equally tiny and the one bathroom is oddly located right next to a prep station. So close, in fact, that I could hear the chef discussing her falafal recipe with a patron just on the other side of the bathroom door.

Not sure if I would go back, but this place is definitely a fun and interesting experience. I wouldn't say I'm a convert to the raw food/vegan movement, but I did appreciate the creative use of fresh ingredients. I would recommend the place to any vegan/vegetarian looking for something fun and upscale. My personal opinion is to stick with the appetizers and main courses and pass on dessert.

~flutterbyblue

Grezzo
69 Prince Street
Boston MA 02113


Image lifted from www.yelp.com

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Oishii Boston

One of the places I've always wanted to try in the South End, is Oishii Boston. I've been to the one in Chestnut Hill many times, but heard that the Boston restaurant serves some intriguing upscale items.

Seeing as I was home for the holidays, we tried the place out for lunch. I *highly* recommend the New Kaiseki Lunch #1. It was fantastic considering the price ($30 fixed). The green salad with sesame dressing was good - nothing special, but the dressing was delicious. Then the platter of small plates arrived. OMG. The lobster wild mushroom risotto was fantastic - a nice chunk of claw artistically arranged in the middle of creamy, delicious (sushi rice?) risotto. The seared salmon with sweet soy was also really well done - not overcooked and perfectly flavored. My personal favorites were the crispy rock shrimp lemon aioli (perfectly fried teeny shrimp with a ton of flavor) and the grilled miso black cod (perfectly cooked luscious fish in a light fantastic broth sauce.) The crab cake was a little bite of yummy crab crispiness, and the sushi/sashimi were fresh and well prepared. The spicy tuna salad handroll was a large cone of flavorful well-seasoned tuna salad.

We also ordered a small selection of sushi a la carte. The foie gras with truffle was melt-in-your-mouth delicious (although quite expensive at $15/piece.) The rest of our random sushi selections were excellent, but again, very expensive.

Oishii Boston is set a little out of the way in the South End. When we were there for lunch on a Tuesday the place was pretty empty. The space is dark, swank and modern. Certainly a classy place and a good option for a business luncheon. Given that Oishii in Chestnut Hill also has a fantastic selection of unique and delicious sushi, I would probably opt for take-out there rather than splurging on the very expensive Oishii Boston menu. That being said, the lunch special was entirely worth it.

~flutterbyblue

Oishii Boston
1166 Washington St
Boston, MA 02118 - 4113


Image lifted from www. yelp.com

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Survival in the Midwest: Essentials

Before arriving in Iowa, I was warned about the winters. Now that I'm here, I've learned to adapt. There are certain necessary items one needs to survive in the midwest:

1. A BIG winter coat. Forget fashion - you want something thick, puffy and preferably ankle-length. People may look at you funny, but when the negative wind chill strikes and blows from January through March they'll be wishing they were you. I recommend the Northface Triple C Long Hooded Down Jacket. It's like wearing a walking sleeping bag. While this is not quite as puffy as some other coats, the ankle-length feature is key for the really frigid days. Wear a thick sweater underneath if the windchill is really kicking in.

2. A pair of water-proof, fur-lined boots.

While Ugg boots are still incredibly popular around here, I prefer a boot that is more waterproof. So far, my Ralph Lauren Quincie boots have done a fantastic job of keeping out the snow and slush. One of our friends here in Iowa tried to convince me that I could not find a pair of boots that were cute AND functional, but I think these might fit the bill. They also have a zipper for easy slip on/off (no messying with those laces when you're in a hurry!)

3. A pair of Moon Boots for shoveling the driveway.

So I take back my last statement. Sometimes, you do have to forgo fashion in order to fulfill a function. After spending my first blizzard shoveling the driveway in rainboots I realized I needed something a little more substantial to get me through this Iowa winter. Moon Boots are amazing. As far as I can tell they are just gigantic spongey puffs in which to put your feet. There isn't even a "left" or "right" foot. Wearing them is like walking on puffy clouds...ah. These might even be one of those boots that are so ugly they're cute.

4. A LARGE flat screen TV. One of the first things we noticed while house-hunting in Iowa City was that every single household had an enormous flat screen TV. Some houses had more than one. How odd it seemed after coming from a world where most people had hand-me-down TVs that they huddled around during football or baseball games. Back in Cambridge, large flat screen TVs were more of a novelty than the general rule. Not so in Iowa City. Everyone and their grandmother owns a 50-inch or bigger. After surviving our first blizzard I now understand why. When it's -5 degrees outside and no one in their right mind would set foot in the ice covered world outside, what else is there to do but watch TV or play video games. In fact, TV and video games seem to be a way of life out here - people actually get together for the sole purpose of playing Halo or Rock Band.

Like I said, we're learning to adjust.

~flutterbyblue

Images lifted from www1.bloomingdales.com, and zappos.com.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

Every year for Christmas I've wanted to have a real Christmas tree. I love the smell of pine needles and the sight of twinkling colored lights. However, just like the snow that I spent THREE HOURS shoveling off my driveway earlier this week, some things are just not worth the effort. So this year I went to my neighborhood Walmart and picked up a Charlie Brown Christmas tree in-a-box. I'd spotted one of these on the receptionist's desk while waiting in line for my annual flu shot and decided I had to have one.

No childhood is complete without a good dose of Charlie Brown cartoons. You must remember this scene:



After lighting a Thymes Frasier Fir candle I can sit by my little fake Charlie Brown Christmas tree and be thankful for all of those pine needles I won't have to vacuum.

~flutterbyblue

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Winter Wonderland

February 1940. The main street in Iowa City during a snowstorm.

This weekend we had our first real snowfall of the year (or at least a snowfall that stuck around long enough for me to appreciate it!) I've always loved the way the world looks when it's covered by a fresh blanket of white. Ah...remember those days when you would wake up to the sound of the snow plow and hope-against-hope that it might be a snow day?

Of course, here in Iowa City, we don't actually see snow plows all too often. Rather than plowing in the wee hours of the night or early morning as most New England towns, Iowa City seems to wait until the snow melts on its own. I have heard that the city stocks enough salt for the year to last about a month in New England (please note: Iowa does not get LESS snow/ice than New England - you do the math.) Given that the midwest is known for its ice storms, this really doesn't make any sense to me, but I guess I don't make the rules.

I suppose if I were still a kid, the horrendous road conditions wouldn't matter all that much. Of course, now that I'm a "homeowner" and "adult", snow = shoveling the driveway, the walkway, making sure the pipes don't freeze, buying snowtires, and stocking an emergency car kit

Even so, the first snowfall is still a magical day. If only I could spend days like this at home, drinking (spiked) hot chocolate and reading a book!

Midwesterners shovel their driveway.

Images lifted from shorpy.com, and blogs.uconn.edu.



Thursday, November 26, 2009

Ruche


While perusing the web, I came across my new favorite online shop, Ruche. Funny, I was just talking about ruffles the other day...

Ruche carries a variety of "vintage-inspired" items that are fun, trendy, but just a little bit unique. It reminds me a lot of my beloved Anthropologie - only affordable. I'll admit, the catalog backgrounds appeal to my newfound midwest sensibilities.

In any case, like most shops, tomorrow there will be sales: use code RUCHEBFCM for 15% off Friday and Monday. Check it out!

xoxo
~flutterbyblue

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ruffles!

I'll admit, I have totally bought into the ruffle-fashion-craze. While ruffles have always been around, this season they are out with a MISSION. Everywhere you turn there are ruffled tops, ruffled sweaters, ruffled scarves and ruffled skirts. On Project Runway, one of the contestants aptly remarked, "I hate ruffles! Ruffles make me sick!" youlookfab also had something to say about this phenomenon.

Despite the overdoneness of the ruffled look, I caved and already have quite a collection of ruffled items. My favorites are from Anthropologie. The Wrapped-In-Ruffles Jacket by Charlie & Robin is adorable - the high ruffled collar makes it seem straight out of a Victorian movie. The boiled wool fabric is thin, but warm. The first time I wore this piece to work I was certain I would be laughed at. I didn't care. Let them laugh!

My all-time favorite sweater, is the Plaza Cardigan by Moth. The soft cotton is soft and well draped. Surprisingly, the mass of ruffles is not overpowering. The cascading effect of the ruffles is fun - asymmetrical yet elegant at the same time. I would wear this sweater every day if that were socially acceptable.

My latest acquisition is the light, yet warm Waterfall Scarf. I always wanted one of these scarves so while on a trip to Washington D.C. I saw it and decided to buy it. I am not sure there is even a single Anthropologie store in all of Iowa so when the opportunity arose, I went for it.

I suppose there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, but for now, I'll be celebrating the decorative power of the ruffle.

~flutterbyblue

Images lifted from www.anthropologie.com, anthroholic.blogspot.com, www.stylehive.com

Christmas wishlist

Stuck at home with "flu-like" symptoms, there wasn't much to do but read a trashy book and surf the web. While online window shopping I decided to start my Christmas wish-list:

1) An Ebelskiver Filled-Pancake Pan

These things look amazing. I am actually not a huge pancake person, but I love the idea of filling your pancake with whatever filling strikes your fancy. These adorable little puffs of deliciousness would be perfect for Sunday brunch or even for dessert. Having a spacious midwest kitchen means there is always room for another ridiculous kitchen item.

2) A Roomba

One our least favorite tasks is vacuuming the house. The spacious midwest lifestyle means you often have a lot more floor space than you're used to. Our split-level foyer house would be PERFECT for a roomba. Think of how easy it would be to have a little bot do all of your cleaning...ah the luxury...

3) A Birling Ruffle Coat

As if I didn't already have enough beruffled items in my closet, a coat that I'd been eyeing since it first came out is now on sale. Now that's hard to resist. Although it is a bit unusual - check out how it looks on the model. Pretty fabulous, no? Well, even if you don't agree, I think the coat looks fantastic. Still, a bit pricey for my budget this Birling Ruffle Coat is going on my Christmas wishlist. Then again, sale items never last for long. I may reconsider this option once my next paycheck rolls in...

Well, enough daydreaming and window shopping - what I really need is some Tylenol and sleep...

~flutterbyblue

Images lifted from www.williams-sonoma.com, amazon.com, and www.kaboodle.com

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Alexander McQueen 10 inch heels



As a woman who rarely wears heels above 2 1/2 inches, I find the 10-inch alien-inspired Alexander McQueen heels on Lady Gaga in her Bad Romance video truly astounding. Even more astounding is the fact that women are actually trying to buy these shoes. Check out the article on Grazia Fashion.

Wearing a pair of studded man-daggers on your feet would certainly garner attention.

What do you think? Alexander McQueen 10-inch stilettos: to die for or will kill you?

~flutterbyblue

Image lifted from eblogfashion.blogspot.com.

Purple Cauliflower



While at the Farmers Market this week I came across an unusual looking vegetable - a PURPLE cauliflower. It was like someone had gone and dyed a regular cauliflower the color of a purple crayon. Interesting. I asked the farmer what makes it so purple. He told me he doesn't get paid enough to know $%&^ like that. Fair enough.

As it turns out, the purple color comes from the antioxidant, anthocyanin. This is a water-soluble pigment that is also responsible for the red color in blueberries, beets, red cabbage and red wine. I was told the pigment will leach if the vegetable is boiled or steamed so pan frying or oven roasting seemed the way to go.

~flutterbyblue

Image lifted from wikipedia.com.

Taste on Melrose

Last week I pulled the "wife" card and guilt tripped the husband into taking me out to dinner. One can only entertain at home for so long before washing dishes gets to be a PITH. Although we live within walking distance of one of Iowa City's favorite local restaurants, Taste on Melrose, we had never actually tried the place out for our ourselves.

Taste on Melrose is a small, incredibly affordable little restaurant with an unpretentious front, simple decor and cozy seating. There might have been 10-15 tables total in the tiny space. Fortunately it was a Wednesday night so the restaurant was only half full. I ordered the homemade fusilli with spicy grilled chicken, roasted red peppers, tomatoes and cilantro in a spicy cream sauce. The portion was enormous. (I later discovered that one can order half-portions of the main dishes - ah well, at least I had lunch for the next two days.) The homemade pasta was delicious and cooked to al-dente perfection. The sauce was fantastic - flavorful, spicy, and creamy with the cilantro adding a unique touch. The vegetarian ordered the sourdough pizza with roasted butternut squash, mushrooms, caramelized onions, peppers, and fontina. It was all I could do not to eat half of his meal too. That pizza was hands-down the best pizza either of us have had in a very very long time. Perhaps it was the sourdough crust, or maybe the deliciously roasted(?) squash. By the end of our meal we were too stuffed to brave the dessert menu.

We'll be back again.

~flutterbyblue

Taste on Melrose
1006 Melrose Ave
Iowa City
(319) 339-9938


Sad news, Taste on Melrose has since closed its doors.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The miraculous apple corer/peeler/slicer

Part of surviving in the midwest is learning how to fully embrace domestic life.

Last weekend we went to the nearby apple orchard to pick up some fresh fruit before the end of the season. While drooling over the frozen homemade apple pies I was interrupted by my husband, "Why would you buy a pie when you can make it yourself?"

Obviously, the man had never rolled out a pie crust.

But on second thought, what the $%& else was I going to do on a Saturday night (in Iowa)?

So we picked out a bag of apples, and bought what turned out to be a MIRACULOUS piece of kitchen equipment: an apple corer/peeler/slicer. This amazing gadget looks like something out of the 1920's. It comes in red enameled cast steel with a stainless-steel shaft and prong. The apple corer/peeler/slicer has a suction base that sticks firmly to your countertop while you pop on an apple, turn the crank and 1-3 seconds later your apple is cored, peeled and sliced. In under a minute I had enough apples to fill a pie.

Now, if only they would invent a miraculous pie mixer/roller/assembler...

Yours from the heartland,
~flutterbyblue


Image lifted from William Sonoma.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Homemade Poutine

The hubby is out of town this weekend so I took the opportunity to joyride around the Iowa City area. I started out in Kalona, a historic town filled with tourists and the occasional Amish horse and buggy. I picked up some delectable-looking cinnamon rolls, a skein of alpaca yarn, and a bag of (squeaky) cheese curds. Whatever does one do with cheese curds, you might ask.

Answer: Poutine

Poutine is possibly the best thing that ever came out of Canada. It consists of a pile of french fries topped with fresh cheese curds and a brown gravy. While this may sound strange and even disgusting to those non-poutine connoisseurs, I can assure you, this dish is AMAZING.

After vowing never to return to Quebec many years ago, I was at a loss as to how I would fulfill my poutine cravings. Eventually, Boston realized the brilliance of this dish and started serving it at selected restaurants. Harvest offers a decent option at the bar, consisting of hand cut french fries, cheese curd, bacon and chicken velouté. Before I left Boston, the Beehive opened up and served a "cheese and gravy frites" that was not exactly authentic, but still quite delicious.

Given that the dining establishments in Iowa City are good, but not especially international (does Canadia count as "international"?), I opted to make the fabulous poutine dish myself. From scratch.

I forgot to pick up frozen french fries at the grocery store so I sufficed with oven roasted hand cut fries instead. The best poutine gravy comes powdered out of a can (double concentrated), but lacking this key ingredient I made a basic chicken gravy with vegetable demi-glace (similar to the one described by [No Recipe]). Pile on the baked french fries, crumble on some Amish squeaky cheese curds and drizzle on that gravy - ah...it's almost as good as the real thing! All I need is to serve it in a cheap styrofoam container with a plastic fork, hope for snow, and it will be like I'm right back in Quebec (minus the Québécois)!

~flutterbyblue

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sand City, IA

While out joy-riding in my new car, I heard on the radio of a wild weekend event going on downtown. Sand City was taking place and a wholesome-sounding local radio announcer was telling me I should come on down to check it out.

I'll admit, I wasn't expecting sculptures of art or anything. The point really was to get a little fresh air, admire the sand sculptures (not a drop of ocean water to be had in this land-locked state incidentally), and munch on some funnel cake. Here's a sampling of what we saw:




So maybe not the most impressive sand sculptures I've ever seen, but the funnel cake sure was worth it!

~flutterbyblue

Sunday, September 6, 2009

International Bacon Day

International Bacon Day is traditionally held on the Saturday before Labor Day. This year, Bacon Day was celebrated in the United States, Australia, the Netherlands, Germany, Brazil, the Czech Republic, and Canadia. We celebrated in style in Grinnell, IA.

The sheer variety and creativity of Bacon dishes was truly inspiring. There was thick cut grilled Bacon, Bacon and cheese stuffed mushrooms, Bacon wrapped scallops, Bacon wrapped figs, Bacon quiche, Bacon and blue cheese popovers, Bacon sushi (this was surprisingly delicious served with soy sauce), Bacon baklava, Bacon chocolate cake, Bacon bits on peaches and cream, Coffee and Candied Bacon ice cream (this was really amazingly good)...my absolute favorite dish was the following:

Ingredients:

Thick cut bacon
Cayenne pepper
Brown sugar
Chocolate
Apple slices

Directions:

Grill the bacon (or just fry it up) with some cayenne pepper and brown sugar. Rub chocolate on both sides of the bacon, let crackle for a while longer. Wrap the delicious bacon strips around sliced apple and enjoy.


This dish was PHENOMENAL! The coating on the bacon was slightly caramelized from the brown sugar and the cayenne/chocolate sauce tasted mole-inspired. It was the best bacon dish I have ever had.

Oddly enough, The Food Monkey recently posted a YouTube clip from Wife Swap that is very International Bacon Day appropriate:



Happy (be-lated) International Bacon Day!

~flutterbyblue

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Iowa State Fair

One of the highlights of living in Iowa is attending the Iowa State Fair. Fully prepared for all manner of food-on-a-stick and deep fried anything, I was raring to go.

We arrived just in time to catch the tail end of the Veterans Parade. Check out this montage:


I wonder whether or not these guys held position throughout the entire parade (probably) or if they were allowed to switch out halfway through. It seems to me that old men should at least have a comfy chair to sit upon if they are going to be pulled along by a tractor for more than a few minutes.

The livestock barns were also pretty fabulous. Never in my life have I seen cows so well-treated. Their coats were shampooed, massaged and then blow-dried by attentive owners (all hoping for a chance at that first-prize ribbon!)


These cows were FLUFFY.

And of course, one of the best parts of the Iowa State Fair is the food. We had freshly deep-fried cheese curds, delicious cinnamon dusted donuts, freshly squeezed lemonade, giant pretzels...the choices were endless. Pork chop on a stick drew huge crowds and lines around the block, the beef sundae looked disastrous for your heart, and the deep-fried candy bars and twinkies were just icing on the cake.




I can't wait until next year when the State Fair rolls around again!

~flutterbyblue

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Baking in Iowa

In the mail today I received a surprise: a Jessica Steele apron! (thanks mom!)

I took this moment of retro-cooking inspiration to break out one of my new wedding gifts: a Cookie Press and Decorating Kit.



The kit even came with a recipe. It was all seemingly so simple. Mix a TON of butter with a bit of sugar, an egg and some flour. Throw in a few spices and voilà - beautiful and delicious spritz cookies full of buttery deliciousness.


Please note: these are NOT my cookies, they are the creation of High Altitude Gardening. Incidentally, this cookie recipe requires no adjustments even when baking at high altitude. They are THAT straightforward to make.

I started out with intentions to bake a chocolate version of this cookie. Lacking powdered cocoa, I opted for the vanilla version. Realizing I didn't have vanilla essence, I got creative. We just moved to Iowa so my cupboard is a little barren these days. However, I did plan ahead and packed some more exotic ingredients I thought might be lacking in the Great Midwest. My final version was flavored with orange blossom water, cardamom, cinnamon, allspice and ginger. The batter alone was delicious. However, as soon as I packed in the very simply designed cookie press with batter, I realized that spritz cookies are not as easy as they look. Batter alternatively poured out the nozzle or stuck to the press. Every 12th cookie looked half-way respectable. I realized the hard way that cookies made with 50% butter should not bake on non-stick or oiled surfaces (they just flatten out and bubble.)

Two batches of flattened, and oddly-mishappen cookies later, I finally had enough half-way decent cookies to pack up as gifts. There's no better way to make new friends than to bribe them with butter and sugar!

~flutterbyblue

p.s. Despite looking a little funny, the orange blossom cookies were DELISH!!!

Images lifted from amazon.com and highaltitudegardening.blogspot.com.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Amish People Eat...Chick-fil-A?

Until recently I always assumed that Amish people ate mostly wholesome homemade treats such as Friendship Bread.

Was I ever wrong.

While standing in line at the local Chick-fil-A I found myself surrounded by a gaggle of Amish girls - all in full Amish garb. We're talking solid-colored dresses, matching shoes, and white bonnets. Like me, they ordered their food, then sat at a nearby table at the mall food court to eat.

Now I am all about the fineness of a good Chick-fil-A sandwich, but "wholesome" and "homemade" are not generally terms that come to mind when regarding this particular food group. Have the Amish gone modern out here in Iowa? Are they really more of the "faux-German" breed of the Amana Colonies?

These questions and more remain unanswered...

Dazed and confused,

~flutterbyblue

Image lifted from www.galenfrysinger.com.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Devonian Fossil Gorge

This weekend we took at trip to the nearby Devonian Fossil Gorge, a channel of bedrock deposits exposed by floods during the summer of 1993. It's a place where visitors are allowed to tramp right across Devonian-age sea floors, and get an up-close look at Iowa's geological past.

The riverbed was dry and sunny - perfect for fossil hunting. We parked the car right next to the "gorge" and set out across the flat limestone bedrock. Bending over, one could see swarms of fossil brachiopods and crinoids, along with corals and other ancient sea creatures.

It occurred to me that the site could have easily been man-made. I imagined a bunch of guys thinking it would be funny to mix up a batch of cement and seashells, and pour it along this ravine:

"Hey man, has anyone seen my keys?"


Of course, this would only make sense if the state of Iowa actually charged some sort of admission. Parking was free, and even the visitor's center with it's fossil display was devoid of any ticketing booth or donation suggestion. A small rack of t-shirts for sale was well hidden behind a large educational display board, so one could easily leave the park without even spending a dime.

Being from the land of expensive parking garages, cheesy historic scams, and over-priced tourist traps, this all seemed rather strange and foreign.

You may be wondering the same question I asked myself:

How (the %$&#) do they make any money?

Questions such as this are simply added to my growing list of unexplained Iowan phenomena, and are probably just a sign that I've spent too much time on the East Coast (says her overly-cynical self.)

~flutterbyblue

Devonian Fossil Gorge
Coralville Lake
2850 Prairie Du Chien Rd NE
Iowa City, IA 52240-7820


Image lifted from scienceblogs.com and Boing Boing.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Stocking Stuffers?


One of the more interesting differences between the Midwest and Back East is the higher prevalence of firearms. For example, while out for a drink with my seemingly-harmless new co-workers I learned that in addition to having an assortment of dogs and video games, they also have a wide assortment of guns (revolvers, rifles, shotguns etc - all for recreational use, mostly.) As a Bostonian, Buck Hunter is about as close as I've ever come to shooting something with bullets.

Our next order of business: the shooting range (where armed men roam free in cut-off jean shorts and no shirts.)

~flutterbyblue

Image lifted from 15 Creepiest Vintage Ads.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Definition of the Day: Walking Taco

walk·ing ta·co

Pronunciation: \wôk-ing ˈtä-(ˌ)kō\
Function: noun

: Fritos corn chips and taco filling commonly served at State Fairs such as in Iowa; always eaten from the bag with a plastic fork


Prep. Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:
1 bag of Fritos corn chips - crumbled
1 scoop taco meat
1 handful shredded cheddar cheese
1 dallop sour cream
shredded lettuce to taste
1 dallop diced tomatoes or salsa


Directions:
Crumble the corn chips by squeezing the bag. Open bag of chips. Layer ingredients as listed. Serve with a plastic fork.

Enjoy!

~flutterbyblue

Image lifted from St. Petersburg Times.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Uglier than Crocs?


Ugly, yet strangly fascinating, Five Fingers SPRINT are an activewear shoe with flexible rubber sole that enhances grip over a variety of terrain. The abrasion-resistant stretch polyamide fabric is designed for comfort as well as function. Imagine wearing a pair of these 10 toed shoes while kayaking (well, no one would see your feet) or spelunking (think of all those slippery rocks.)

Nope, I can't either.

~flutterbyblue

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Konomi Restaurant & Grill

One of the last places I expected to find in land-locked Iowa was a fantastic sushi restaurant. To prove me wrong, Konomi Restaurant & Grill located in Coralville, not a 15 minute drive from our new home, serves up some of the most delectably fresh and delicious sashimi I have had in quite a while. The restaurant website does not contain a menu, but I'm not sure I could tell you what I had to eat anyhow. We ordered whatever was freshly shipped in that day. The chef also designed several of the best vegetarian rolls I have ever tried. Our favorite was a tempura fried zucchini and yam wrapped in rice and thinly sliced avocado.

For the fish eaters among us, the fresh yellowtail and white tuna were both phenomal, as were the selection of other fresh sushi and sashimi. The grilled eel served over thinly shaved daikon radish was fantastic.

After several cups of sake and plates of delicious and elegantly presented fish, we were ready to head home, happy and satisfied. Konomi far outpaces any common sushi restaurant in Boston. Undoubtedly the top sushi spots on the East or West coasts will always be a cut above, but for a very reasonably priced restaurant, Konomi outdoes just about every other expectation.

~flutterbyblue

Konomi Restaurant and Grill
843 Quarry Road
Unit 140
Coralville, IA 52241
Ph: (319) 351-2880

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Chocolate Block

While out shopping for new furniture, we came across a small chocolate shop at a strip mall off Highway 6. As a newbie to the Iowa City area, I am always on the lookout for another coffeeshop or (in this case) chocolate shop. The sign was somewhat hard to read from a distance, which would explain why I did not notice the place until we happened to be walking by. A sign out front stated the half dozen "flavors" of the day. Upon entering the shop I was pleased to discover that the "flavors" of the day were free samples! Highlights included the blueberry almond bark, the chocolate caramel, and the pecan pie truffle. The chocolate was excellent quality and at $10 per pound it seemed like a great deal. Then we found out that a free pound of Ceylan chocolate bark came with every pound purchased - an even better deal!

In the end, we walked away with 2 pounds of delicious high-quality chocolate for only 10 bucks. Only in Iowa...

~flutterbyblue

Chocolate Block
Premium Chocolate Outlet
931 Highway 6, Iowa City
Ph: (319) 351-2227


p.s. Turns out I am not the only one who has discovered this gem of a shop!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Drool...

In my fantasy world I would rock these fabulous hand-painted boots on my first day to work:



Image lifted from www.falconhead.com.

Take me out to the (minor-league) ballgame...


This past Sunday we decided to check out the local minor-league team - the Cedar Rapids Kernals (as in corn kernals that is!)

The game was wholey entertaining. Between innings a local blond commentator would advertise Bud Light Beer then bring up a small child who had won a lottery for a $5 coupon to a nearby store. We sang Happy Birthday to two kids and watched three girls wearing inflatable Giant Eyeball costumes race from third base to home. During the 7th inning we watched high school girls in bright purple shirts try and move in-synch to the hamster dance song.

The game itself was also fantastic. Because the Kernals are a single-A team, you never know what might happen. Errors ran amuck and hilarity often ensued. I suppose it's wrong to laugh at people trying to make a living playing sports (it's not like I could ever hit an 80-mph ball), but it's all part of the game. When one of our companions started cheering wildly at the opposing team's homerun (the only homerun of the game), he turned to the flabbergasted fans and said, "What? That's exciting!"

Oddly enough one of the best players on the team was a little guy (5'8" or less) named Alexi Amarista from Venezuela - the kid got on base nearly every time he went to bat - and he could bunt!

After many fouls, errors and odd plays we just didn't understand (but we always applauded the effort), in the end, the Kernals took the day. And when beers, munchies and game tickets are all priced in the low single digits, the parking is free, and the kids get to run the bases and play catch in the outfield after the game - I call that a day worth spent!

~flutterbyblue (Kernals fan)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Iowa weather

They say in Iowa that if you don't like the weather, wait a minute...


The day started beautifully - overcast, not too hot or humid. However, while driving from Grinnell back to Iowa City later in the day we noticed some intriguing cloud formations:


Oddly enough we only got a smattering of rain - that thundercloud never quite made it to us.

Rain here seems to come and go without too much premonition. One early morning we had an intense thunder and lightening storm with pouring rain, followed by a late morning of bright sun, followed by an early afternoon shower, followed by a late afternoon of sun and clear skies, followed by an evening of thundershowers...even New England can't compare to such fickle ever-changing weather!

~flutterbyblue

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Chefs Table (Iowa City)

For my birthday this year (the big three-o) we went out to one of Iowa City's finer dining establishments. After several days of burritos and noodle bowls I was ready for something a little more upscale, and Chefs Table in downtown Iowa City sounded like a great place to celebrate.

The restaurant is recently opened and proclaims a French bistro menu (though not yet available online.) While the restaurant front is clean and small, upon entering, a cavernous and elegantly decorated space draws you in. The high industrial ceiling is painted black, and the modern minimalist lighting adds a surprisingly pleasant aura. A winding path leads to the back of the restaurant, and is lined with neat tables and enormous fashion plate paintings.

I often think that a sign of a good restaurant is the quality of the bread they serve. At Chefs Table they make fresh rolls in a variety of delicious flavors (mushroom, rosemary, sage, and some outstanding cheese puffs.) We started with a nice glass of Moet champagne paired with a really impressive cheese course. The plate included a soft triple cream, a pecorino, and a fantastic sharp truffle cheese that I have not tasted before. Each cheese was paired with homemade sweet/savory chutney's.

The menu did not include a vegetarian entree. Instead the chef himself came out to talk with us and planned a dish around our interests and requests. The resulting dish was impressively plated - several fresh vegetables served over delicious squares of cheesy polenta. I (not being vegetarian) went with the scallops and mini short rib raviolis. The plate included numerous ingredients - wild mushrooms, asparagus, roasted parsnips and potatoes, and a sprinkling of fresh herbs. Every item came together very nicely and made for a very impressive meal. Each entree included a salad or the onion soup (served with a really really tasty cheesy toast.)

For dessert we had the rhubarb strawbery compote with genoise cake and creme fraiche ice cream with basil. This was one of the highlights of our meal. It was like strawberry shortcake done French style (really really delicious!)

All in all, the meal was excellent. Our only qualm may have been the slow kitchen. Service was great, but the place was packed. The kitchen may need some time to maximize its efficiency - especially considering every dish has an unusually large number of ingredients. Despite being one of the more upscale restaurants in town, our bill in the end was quite reasonable - certainly less than any nice restaurant back in Boston. Champagne, appetizers, entrees and dessert all came to slightly under $80 for two. We will certainly be back again!

~flutterbyblue

Chefs Table
223 E. Washington St.
Iowa City, Iowa

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Packed and Loaded

After spending the last week sorting, tossing, wrapping and boxing, we are packed and ready to load. One of the miracles of getting a real job (or having a partner with a real job) is that you can pay people to move your stuff. After our last move across town we pretty much maxed out our friendship favors so it's just as well.

Everything I need to survive is now in a pile on the floor of my room - one big, messy pile of STUFF. To make things a little more complicated, we are going on a month-long backpacking trip through Ecuador before moving to the big corn state. This of course meant a trip to EMS (it really is too bad I'll be unemployed for the next two months - hiking supplies are so expensive!) Inevitably I re-bought a number of items I thought I had lost (headlamp, money belt, moisture wick shirts) so we are (doubly) good to go.

While I know shopping is entirely impractical given that we will be living out of packs and suitcases for the next two months, I am having a hard time resisting doing a little more etsy perusing. Bonzie just came out with a fresh line of summer tops!



Saturday, April 18, 2009

Bill Gates



Ten more days until I defend my thesis...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Doga


This has got to be one of the more absurd things to come of American culture:


As if yuppie suburbanites couldn't get enough "zen" stretching and faux-healthful cleansing at the normal over-priced yoga studio! Now the spoiled and over-protected dogs of said yuppie suburbanites can take part as well. Instructors demonstrate yoga poses with animal:


“A stuffed animal — but not even a dog-shaped stuffed animal — was used by the instructor,” she said. Owners struggled to get their very real dogs to replicate the stuffed-animal poses, she said, and bags of treats were used to get the dogs to change positions. “It was lunacy,” Ms. Apro recalled. “Peanuts, my retired racer greyhound, didn’t participate at all. Instead, I did downward-facing dog while he ate the most treats he’s ever had in a 60-minute period.”


According to Peanuts, doga may be the best thing that's ever happened to him - so don't knock it 'till you've tried it! Maybe this new fangled sport (do we even call it a "sport"?) isn't so bad after all?

~flutterbyblue

p.s. I must admit that I am one of the many who attend a "zen" faux-healthful cleansing over-priced yoga class once a week.

Image lifted from nytimes.com

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Chacarero (part II)

The other day I made a special trip out for a Chacarero fix. For those of you unfamiliar with this amazing Chilean sandwich, it begins with homemade bread (flat, slightly sweet with a bit of salt) that is topped with thinly sliced grilled chicken, steamed green beans, Muenster cheese, fresh tomatoes and then a delicious avocado spread, salt, pepper and a spicy sauce. What really made my day was the beef empanada I had on the side - the empanada was made with a light, delicious crust, and filled with a juicy mix of ground beef, boiled egg, olives, onion, and what tasted like sweet grapes. It was the most amazing empanada I've ever had. YUM!

I somehow doubt the Chilean sandwich has made it's way out to Iowa City...

~flutterbyblue

Image lifted from chacarero.com

Chacarero

26 Province Street
Boston, MA 02108
Phone:(617) 367-1167
Fax: (617) 367-1267

101 Arch Street
Boston, MA 02108
Phone:(617) 542-0392
Fax: (617) 695-3715

Monday, March 23, 2009

pequitobun on Gossip Girl

One of my favorite jewelry designers, pequitobun, is going to be featured on tonight's episode of Gossip Girl!!! I am super-excited, and will be closely watching Jenny Humphrey in hopes of spotting a pequitobun one-of-a-kind!

I now feel quite fashion-forward in choosing to wear a pequitobun piece at my upcoming wedding!



xoxo
~flutterbyblue

Images from pequitobun.com and www.oodora.com

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Tonight's Persian-inspired dinner

menu


cheese and crackers

olives


drink:



appetizer:

aushak with chickpea sauce



main course:




sides:


roasted asparagus


***


dessert:

Rose and cardamom cake

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Friday, February 20, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Grotto of Redemption

After being accused of pessimism (after all, a move to Iowa can also be seen as an "adventure" of sorts!) I decided to look into the local sites. Did you know that the "Eighth Wonder of the World" is located right in the rural town of West Bend, Iowa? That's right on par with Machu Picchu, The Great Wall of China, and Angkor Wat in Cambodia (locations also claimed as the "8th Wonder" - surely by those who had never been to Iowa!) You certainly don't get this kind of religious devotion in Massachusetts:

The Grotto is a composite of nine separate Grottos, each portraying a scene in the life of Christ. The Grotto includes the largest collection of precious stones and gems found anywhere in one location. The artistry has to be seen to be appreciated, plus the message it gives is beyond words. It is frequently considered as the "Eighth Wonder of the World." The Grotto has been placed on the National Register of Historical Places in 2001. The Iowan Magazine has described the Grotto as a "Miracle in Stone".




My boyfriend wanted to be sure we would not have to go to West Bend to see the infamous "grotto." I assured him that I had no interest...

SUCH a lie. I'm totally checking this place out!

~flutterbyblue

Quote lifted from www.westbendgrotto.com

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Moosehide mukluks

One thing I dread about moving to the midwest is the cold. I don't like cold weather. Despite having grown up in the Boston area, windchill and ice are not my friend. Granted, I did walk half an hour each way to work for at least 4 winters. There was that one winter it got so cold people were told not to leave their homes except for emergencies. Rather than listen to this seemingly sound advice, I donned extra layers of long underwear, wrapped my face with a muffler, and popped open several of those self-warming packets you find at EMS. By the time I got to work, the handwarmers were cold and crunchy.

Those days of bravery are so over. Now, if the weather drops anywhere below freezing I'll gladly stay home with a cup of tea and my computer. There are perks to being in graduate school.

Hunting around the web I managed to find some tips on staying warm in the midwest. However warmth does not equal stylish. This might be a problem. Then again, if it's subzero temps with -80 windchill, maybe I won't care so much about how I look. I actually wouldn't mind a pair of mukluks - they certainly can't be any worse than Ugg boots!



~flutterbyblue

Images lifted from www.mukluks.com and sidewalkdog.com

Monday, February 9, 2009

Hot Dish Heaven

Faced with the distinct possibility of relocating to Iowa in the very near future, I decided to look into the possibility of a local cuisine:

There is a pork tenderloin sandwich, made of tenderloin, which is pounded flat, breaded and deep fried, then served on a hamburger bun with ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise and dill pickle slices - sort of like a schnitzel burger maybe? Supposedly, this dish originated from the large German population, which first populated Iowa. Creamed corn is also a local specialty.

Hmmm...

Well, I suppose this is better than those "hot dishes" made with Cambell's soup. Then again, it's not Chicago either.

~flutterbyblue

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Hungry Mother


Tonight I finally had a chance to try out the Hungry Mother, located in Cambridge, MA. After trekking through arctic winds, I arrived at the small, cozy restaurant and was greeted with a napkin to wipe down my frosted glasses.

We started off with an order of the Allan Brenton's Country Ham served with 'angel' biscuits and pepper jelly. These turned out to be little mini biscuits, light, buttery and perfect for the thinly sliced serano-like ham. They went down easy like wee appetizer poppers.

Next we tried the Shrimp & Grits - little Maine rock shrimp with hm tasso ham, new orleans barbeque, and cornbread croutons. The shrimp tasted fresh and flavorful in the sweet, smokey barbeque sauce. The grits were tasty and not too heavy, and the tiny squares of crispy cornbread added just the right amount of crunch to the dish. I could have licked the bowl.

The French Style Gnocchi with foraged mushrooms, kale, butternut squash broth and sage was possibly my favorite dish. The little perfectly shaped gnocchi were lightly, flavorful and perfectly balanced by the delicious mushrooms, the slightly bitter kale and fantastic broth. I loved every bite.

The Fried Chesapeake Bay Oysters with 'kohlslaw', tobasco and lemon were also fantastic. They arrived hot and crispy, but light and oyster-y on the inside. My only caveat about this dish is that the breading and tobasco may have overpowered the oyster flavor just a little.

We finished it all off with the Lemon Chess Pie with buttermilk ice cream, and earl grey caramel. The pie had a perfect crust - hot, light and buttery with a lemon-curd like filling. The buttermilk ice cream perfectly complemented the slight tartness of the dessert. It was better than I'd expected - and not at all what I'd expected. I would order this again in a heartbeat.

And of course, the Hungry Mother is also known for it's classic cocktails. The no. 43 with old overholt rye, 10 yr ferreira tawny port, maple syrup, and bitters was perfectly balanced and delicious. A bit on the sweet side for rye, but the flavors really pulled out that 'rye' flavor, which I liked. There was just the right amount of maple syrup - enough to flavor the drink, but not overpower it.

Service was attentive and friendly. I think the owner or maître d' even stopped by to ask us how our meal had been. Be sure to reserve ahead - this tiny spot tends to pack up in the evenings. There are seats at the bar, but I've heard these can pack up as well.

I'll be dreaming of that gnocchi tonight...and the pie...and the cocktails...

~flutterbyblue

Image lifted from www.hungrymothercambridge.com

The Hungry Mother
233 Cardinal Medeiros Ave
Cambridge, MA 02141
(617) 499-0090