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,


Image lifted from

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.)


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

Image lifted from 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.)


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

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

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



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.


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.


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...


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


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

Image lifted from

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!


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!


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