Tag Archives: dining

What I’m into: December ’17

I’m halfway through my holiday break and am wondering if staying at home while sending my kids to daycare is an option for like, ever. I mean, I love working, but I might love baking banana bread in my pajamas while watching Netflix slightly more right now.

I finished “Sing, Unburied, Sing” and “History of Wolves” from my holiday book stack. Neither is particularly uplifting (understatement) but both are beautifully written. And, they’re short so I knocked out 20+ books this year! I’m flipping through David Sedaris’ “Theft by Finding” and it’s fun.


He’s a great example of someone whose 20s were a hot mess, but now he’s an internationally celebrated author. They’re all edited diary entries from 1977-2002. I recently came across some of my old diaries from my early 20s, and I’ve been thinking about starting an analog one up again. It’s fascinating to hop back to what was consuming my mind back then, and I have the worst memory, so it helped me recall that time period. I feel like I’m in such a fun phase of life right now, and I’ve just mostly been storing things on this blog for the past seven years.

I haven’t had a show of my own (one I don’t watch with Joe) in forever and have hardly watched any TV in the past several months. So when I read about Alias Grace, a Netflix miniseries based on a Margaret Atwood novel, I was intrigued. If you love period dramas (costumes!), feminism, and aren’t super squeamish (it’s not appropriate for kids at all), this is your next bingewatch! Joe and I are also digging into Season II of The Crown.

My goal was to clean the basement while I was off, but instead I got out my sewing machine for the first time in forever to make a Christmas gift, and whipped up a few of these slobber monkey pattern bibs and caught up on podcasts while I was at it. It’s such a fun and satisfying little project, and you can get two out of two fat quarters.

I’ve had gray hairs since college, and a few years ago decided to start dying on the regular. (I wish I could be one of those confident gray-at-30 ladies, but it’s not for me!) If I stay on top of things, I would be dying it every five or six weeks, which is not sustainable at salon prices/my budget. I was using drugstore box color, but it felt really one-dimensional. I started using Madison Reed for mail-order color, and I’m totally in love.


It’s free of nasty stuff like ammonia, parabens and Phthalates  and includes nourishing ingredients that make my hair feel shiny and awesome. Plus, I get it delivered to my door every seven weeks, and the kit is simple enough that someone like myself who has an otherwise low-maintenance beauty routine can figure it out. Use this referral code for $15 off your first Madison Reed order (disclosure: I also get a $15 credit, so thanks!) and let me know what you think: http://give.madison-reed.com/j6VQp 

All of you Okoboji people already knew about this place, but I had my first Spudnutz donuts when we were up there for a wedding over Christmas and they were life-changing.


I got a sample donut hole while waiting in line and increased my order from 20 holes to 30 and then got two big donuts, too, because I couldn’t believe my mouth. It was excessive, but we drove around and looked at the frozen lake houses and ate them and then they came in handy the next morning as a hangover cure. So. Good. It seems like a lot of work to attempt to make them at home.

I hope everyone is having a safe and cozy holiday! I feel so fortunate to have this time off to rest and reset!

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Midwest family adventure: Columbia, MO

A few weeks ago I had this daydream: A fall weekend in Columbia, MO – the crunchy college town that still possesses a piece of my heart.


image via painted post

We’d load up the bikes and hit the trail right away to do the 30-mile round trip to the blufftop winery overlooking the Missouri River. Then we’d get up the next morning and explore the Mizzou campus before heading to the Roots N Blues N BBQ music festival. Then we’d drive another two hours to meet one of my very best friend’s babies and hang until dinner time. Back in DSM late Sunday night. Crazy? Maybe. I started to think of it as a kind of parenting triathlon – a test of endurance.

Thankfully, the forecast for the weekend was gorgeous. But as anyone who’s spent more than 20 minutes with a toddler knows, their emotions are harder to predict than the weather in the Midwest. One minute, E can be happily flipping through a book and then you offer him a banana and the kid flips out.

Ultimately, the weekend turned out to be a lot of fun (despite a few scattered meltdowns), and I’m glad we pushed ourselves to make a little mini adventure happen. Here’s how it went down.


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All my T-Rexes live in Texas

I spent a few days this past weekend in Dallas — or, more accurately, at a conference in a Wyndham off the highway outside of downtown Dallas. We did get a few hours our last evening, however, to explore a few pockets of the city. We first went to Dealey Plaza, which is the birthplace of Dallas and the where President Kennedy was assassinated.


I thought the white structures surrounding the Plaza were maybe a memorial, but the concrete pergolas were WPA projects built decades prior to the president’s motorcade passing through.

After our history lesson, we joined the post-conference party at The Rustic, a slick restaurant/bar with a great backyard atmosphere (picnic tables, bags, a stage), homestyle Texas food and the most genius  it’s-92-degrees-at-7-p.m. cocktail invention ever: The Sangarita.


Yes, that’s a big ole’ margarita with a sangria popsicle stuck into it. I got brain freeze about 13 seconds after this photo was taken. Note to self: Try some boozy popsicle recipes out sometime.

Free Range Concepts, the restaurant management firm behind The Rustic, had also just opened Mutts Cantina, a dog park/beer garden/restaurant that was totally waggin’ when we walked by. I love to see vibrant urban development ideas like these two spots when I travel.

We wanted to experience a little more of a Dallas neighborhood feel, so we ended up getting dinner at Gloria’s, a fantastic Salvadorian restaurant (which also has a great, dog-friendly patio)  in the Bishop Arts District. It’s a cute area with lots of independent restaurants and shops in a few blocks.

The best part of the trip though was learning, exploring and laughing with some cool new colleagues. I’m really glad I work with people who are as weird as I am.


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Breakfast of champions?

I convinced Joe to make pancakes for Friday night dinner (which we smothered with Nutella and a banana), so it didn’t seem that wrong to have a hot dog for breakfast at the Iowa Cubs open house this morning.


Free hot dog, pop and chips in the Cub Club and you got to see the locker rooms (group shower!) and walk around the field. We met up with Ellen and Andy and the nieces and Caroline was pretty much in heaven. She took off around the warning track.


The franchise is going to have to re-think Cubbie Bear as a mascot, or hire Caroline as their Poster Child.


Polka dot leggings are the new baseball pants.


Oh! And Joe shaved his beard, per our standing marital agreement that he grows it from his b-day until Opening Day. Otherwise, I miss his face.


Bring it on, summer.


If you’ve never been to breakfast at the Cub Club, that’s a fun little weekday date you can take, overlooking the field. It’s pretty cheap, too. Otherwise, we finally tried Mullets for brunch a few weeks ago, and that’s greasyspoon-tastic.

Oh! And if you think baseball without brewskis is like a beach without sand, think about getting an Iowa Cubs Mug Club membership. It went up to $40 this year, but it’s still a decent deal:

  • 5 tickets good for any 2013 Iowa Cubs home game
  • First beer FREE every Thursday home game in 2013
  • 2013 logo mug (will fit in stadium cup holders)
  • Discounted refills at all 2013 Iowa Cubs home games

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Filed under Des Moines Dates, I love Des Moines

Tea for two and cheese for three

A few weeks ago I posted about seven things to do to take the chill out of  a Des Moines winter. On Wednesday, I checked two little local adventures off the list!

Joe and I started the morning at Gong Fu Tea with a traditional Gong Fu style ceremony. It was fun to go on a sunrise date, with the sky pink on the east side of the city.


I don’t really recommend trying to squeeze in a whole ceremonial tea service before work, because it’s really not the thing to do in a rush, but I was on deadline. It was still lovely. Tea has been prepared this way in China since the 1300s, and it’s a great almost meditative way to relax because you’re doing multiple steepings in a tiny clay teapot. The service is for two people, and $8 each. It’s available at limited times because it takes the staff about 15 minutes to explain, so they can’t be super busy.

After work, I met up with my friends Chelsea and Holly for fondue night at The Cheese Shop. Check their Facebook for specific fondue nights, and be prepared to wait for a table! The place was bustling right after work. It’s $30 to share a pot of bubbling, delicious cheese and unlimited bread and pickles. We also ordered some roasted veggies for dipping and my lady friends got glasses of white wine while I paired with Ginger Ale. Charcuterie is also a great pairing.

Cheese Shop Fondue

Chelsea lived in Switzerland for a time, so she was like our culinary tour guide, explaining some of their traditions there, like the “nun’s cap” in the bottom of the pot, which is basically a disc of crusty fried cheese that you scrape off the bottom and divvy up to eat. It was so fun to go out with two ladies who I see a lot, but don’t spend much one-on-one time with. Wednesday was definitely a little warmer because of these mini adventures!


Filed under Cooking, I love Des Moines

Mega spring/summer salad

Nothing puts spring in my step quite like knowing there’s something tasty waiting for me at the end of my workout.

Joe and I are training for the Drake Relays Half Marathon in order to get swimsuit ready for our trip to the Dominican Republic this May. It’s sort of working, because we’re doing a pretty good job of motivating each other to lace up the shoes and get in our miles and my clothes feel looser. The pizza from El Chisme we split after a Friday evening 10-miler and this amazing BLT-inspired gargantuan post-run salad, however, might not be hastening the slimming process.

Super yummy BLT inspired salad!

But it was SO GOOD. I played sous chef, chopping and washing the greens. Spinach and thinly sliced cabbage (left over from some delicious roast cabbage wedges we did for St. Patrick’s Day) were the base, and then we piled on chunks of watermelon, avocado, some little tomatoes, grilled green onion and asparagus and, of course, bacon. The dressing was a mix of Ranch and Greek yogurt, and the whole wheat pitas were toasted and sliced on the side.

I think we’ll continue to make some variation of this salad all summer long, with more seasonal ingredients. (Raise your hand if you can’t wait for roast sweet corn to make its triumphant return!) I could see adding some Feta, too.

As far as the training goes, we’re actually using a real plan this time. It’s one Joe found on his friend’s “Bad Angels Rules for Running” blog. I’ve felt pretty good on our long runs, but surprisingly it’s the mid-length runs that are hardest for me. I even wrote in to Coach Jenny to see if my bad form is going to destroy me now that I’m about to enter my late 20s. (And she answered!)

Are you a runner? What are your favorite post-run meals? When I was in Cross Country in high school, my best friend and I used to joke that any calories we consumed within 30 minutes of practice “didn’t count.” Ten years later, I’m still holding onto that myth!

Oh! And we’re starting seedlings for the first time, using the cool plant stand Joe spray painted and gave me as a gift. I love watching them sprout!

Sure hope we're doing this seedling thing right! This area gets lots of sun in the afternoon. We can never keep our window boxes alive.

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Brianne’s Des Moines restaurant go-tos

Someone asked me on Twitter what my favorite restaurant in Des Moines is and I felt guilty keeping it to 140 characters, because it’s hard to pick one when different places are better for different things. Here are a few of my favorite spots and what I tend to order there, organized more by occasion than cuisine:

Indulgent weekday breakfast with the ladies
Where: La Mie
What I order: Avocado tartine, which is a hearty piece of toast covered in cream cheese and sprouts, eggs over easy and a half avocado.
There are few better ways to start the day than walking into La Mie on a crisp morning and settling into a table with some of my dearest Des Moines friends and a little cup of coffee. This is where we catch up and gather energylike batteries powered by each others energy and passion for life. If you go the pastry route, my favorite are the long rectangular ones that are filled with some sort of cream and chocolate chip concoction. They should be illegal.

Payday lunch with downtown workers
Where: Basil Prosperi
What I order: Spinach Ricotta pasta
Carbohydrate overload? Definitely. This lunch is for Fridays at the end of the month when you’re feeling rich and in the mood for something with a taste to match. I miss working so close to this tucked away Skywalk staple, where the line moves fast but you’ll feel full well into the evening.

Sunday evening doing crossword puzzles and drinking crappy beers
Where: High Life Lounge
What I order: Broasted chicken meal with tater tots and corn on the side
You know how healthy eating doctrine says you’re not supposed to have a plate of entirely brown food? This is worth breaking the rule.

Craving hot wings
Where: Gerri’s
What I order: These are the best wings in Des Moines, and you can order them in five pound increments. (CABCo comes close, but theirs aren’t as cheap.) These have the perfect sauce and a slight crisp in the skin. I used to hate hot wings, but these converted me.

Double date night
Where: Flying Mango
What I order: Grilled Cajun Chicken, with Goat Cheese & Thick-Cut Bacon
Joe and I went on a kind of double date the other week with the Heggens and this was a great spot. It’s so unassuming on the outside, but then the dining room opens up and it’s got a great atmosphere. There’s a good beer selection, and even good vegetarian options, which you might not think about coming out of a place known for its 24-hour brisket.

Satisfying the sweet tooth
Where: Chocolaterie Stam
What I order: There’s a sweet little wine flight/chocolate pairing deal that was only $10 the last time I went!
Even though it’s right on Ingersoll, the little side yard next to Stam is like a tucked-away wonderland. There’s a babbling fountain, pretty lights strung up and lots of gelato options!

A ladies "picnic" at Stam

Power lunch
Where: Des Moines Art Center Restaurant
What I order: “Pick two”
Where: Proof
What I order: Lamb burger
I always forget about the Art Center restaurant, and each time I re-discover it, I vow to go back soon. One of the IHAD mentors is the chef there, and the setting and food are inspired, but the price is right. My boss, Emily, and I had lunch here a few weeks ago and she told me to do the “pick two” selection because the portions are generous enough you don’t really have to choose, if you’re wavering between options.
Proof is the downtown go-to! Everything is amazing, fresh and made with care. Love it.

Saturday afternoon “linner”
Where: Gateway Market
What I order: Veggie burger (which is crazy, considering I looove burgers)
You know when you’re in the zone running errands and you don’t have any food in the house and it’s 2 p.m. and you probably shouldn’t go to the grocery store hungry? Gateway Market is the go-to for a fresh-tasting option. Then you can also pick up some essentials to tide you over to your next shopping trip. And by “essentials,” I mean wine and bread. Right? Also, last time I got the veggie burger here was on the way to get my new bike, and some guy walked up to me and asked me what I was eating because it looked awesome.

A taste of suburbia
Where: Rock Bottom Brewery
What I order: Various burgers
Sometimes we go past 63rd Street. Not a lot, but sometimes. Rock Bottom has some awesome perks for their mug club members (and being a member is free.) Plus, their beer is brewed on-site and the place is huge, with a patio. They used to have half price burger nights, I think on Wednesdays, which made for a really reasonable dinner out.

OK, a few other picks! I’m going to be lazy and not include links, but you can find details for most Des Moines restaurants on DesMoines.Metromix.com.

Brianne’s favorite places for:

Chips: City Bakery. They basically slice a potato lengthwise and crisp it until it’s a chip, then pepper and salt it. Thanks to the ladies of Ephemera for turning me on to these.
Margaritas: El Patio in the summer. Awesome hanging planters and a sweet patio that’s a good respite from the rest of the world.
Chinese: Rolling Wok. I only ever order Mongolian Beef from Chinese places. They have great lunch specials, but are otherwise a bit pricey.
Romance: Cafe di Scala. Joe and I went here after we got engaged, so it will always be a special place. I also recommend just dressing up and getting a drink and appetizer at the bar.
Pretending I’m French and mysterious: Baru 66. I dined alone here once, which was a strangely amazing experience for me. I should have worn stripes and red lipstick. I also took my mom and aunt here as a thank you for throwing me a wedding. A lovely special occasion spot.
Tamales: La Rosa. I buy them by the dozen and freeze them. These remind me of the ones we’d get in Pilsen growing up.
Fancy brunch: Centro. You will not regret getting the French Toast.
Fancy dinner: Django. This doesn’t HAVE to be fancy, and sometimes we go on random nights, but my birthday dinner here last year was a pretty epic chicken dish that made me dream about caramelized pearl onions for months.
Quick Drake-area lunch: Gazali’s. I’m a little too obsessed with their chicken salad. This, coming from a person who almost never orders salad anywhere.
Lunch with a big group of co-workers: Gusto Pizza Company. Call ahead for a big long table.
Random lunch date with Joe: Woody’s Smoke Shack. Free cornbread!

I’d also have to say that the only place I’m really a “regular” is Mars Cafe! It’s that “third space” for so many of us.

I’m also probably forgetting other favorite spots! What are yours? What did I miss?!

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