New Orleans at a Glance: Quick Review of my 4 days in NOLA

Carriages waiting for passengers

Carriages waiting for passengers

As most of you know, several weeks ago I ventured to the Big Easy to attend a conference for work. I was more than happy to go as I not only love learning but also love seeing new places. And surprisingly enough, out of all the places in the South I’ve been, NOLA wasn’t one of them.

We arrived around noon on a Monday and had pre-arranged the shuttle for our transportation to the hotel. There are cabs a-plenty in New Orleans however the ride to the hotel was about 20 minutes. It’d be best that if you’re staying down by the river or near the French Quarter, you arrange for another sort of transportation.

Historical Church in New Orleans

Historical Church in New Orleans

Our shuttle chauffeur was kind enough to give us lots of welcoming advice about NOLA, most of which I quickly jotted down in the notes app on my iPhone.

  • St Charles Streetcar (the green car not the red car)
  • Red Fish Grill
  • Oceanas in the French Quarter (they did serve us a great lunch!)
  • Cafe Beignet for the beignets
  1. Cafe Du Monde
The. Beignets. Oh my gosh the beignets.

The. Beignets. Oh my gosh the beignets.

We kept hearing about Cafe Beignet and had already been given a raving review about Cafe Du Monde, which also serves beignets. We were sure to dive mouth-first into the beignets right away and I was lucky enough to get two consecutive days of the powdered sugar mounds of deliciousness. Read about my trip to Cafe Du Monde here.

2. BB Kings Blues Club

After the first day of conference overload ended, we took our appetites down to BB Kings Blues Club in the French Quarter. We were relieved to see live music and even more relieved when we got served a heaping bowl of jambalaya, which was amazing. I always try to steer clear of the franchise-type restaurants but BB Kings had great food, southern hospitality service, and a great atmosphere that welcomed you to come in, pull up a chair, and have a drink. Which is exactly what we did.

3. The French Quarter

French Quarter

One morning on our walk back to the conference hall, we had some time to kill and decided to meander through the French Quarter more. I was impressed to see that the city literally washes, with soap and water, the streets every morning. Although after you witness the level of libations and the appallingly large population of homeless people, you understand why they need every last drop of that soap. That morning in particular we were pleased to find a pianist playing in the street, even at the 8:00 hour. It always makes me smile to see street performers.

Church in New Orleans

4. Creole Queen Paddlewheeler

All aboard!

All aboard!

Mid-week we boarded the Creole Queen paddlewheeler for an evening on the Mississippi River. Open bar, appetizers, jazz music, and fresh air are always a great combination. There’s a certain 1920’s feel that envelopes you when you step on a paddlewheeler boat that’s rocking out to some classic, live jazz. This proved to be an enjoyable, relaxing evening and I so enjoyed seeing the lights of the city from the middle of the Mississippi. 

5. St Charles Streetcar Line

St Charles Streetcar

The last day we were there, we finally had a chance to carve out some time to walk up to the bus stop on St Charles street to catch the, appropriately named, St Charles Streetcar Line. The driver had explained during the drive on Day 1 that this line (the green line not the red line) would take us through the historical garden district to see the old plantation homes. Of course, this got my attention as I am a die hard historical architecture lover and typically salivate when standing in Southern Plantation grandeur.

"Plantation" Homes

The green trolley was a good way to get a cheap ride through the Garden District but the “plantation” homes weren’t what I had in mind. They were beautiful homes, don’t get me wrong, but not the southern plantation homes one typically conjours in their mind, as they were packed like sushi for blocks on end. Still yet, this day in particular was raining and we got to stay dry and still got to take in some sightseeing.

6. The French Market

I wish we would have had some time to hit up the French Market down by Cafe Du Monde. On one of our cab rides, we drove right past as some of the last vendors were putting away their goods. I think I could have scored some awesome items but then would have had to figure out how to get said items home. So, I guess it was meant to be. Or should I say, not be?

Pan’s takeaway from NOLA:

  • If you like to party, you’ll love NOLA.
  • If you expect to see Tara (as in Gone With the Wind plantation home), you’ll be disappointed.
  • Four days was plenty, and most of mine was even spent in a conference hall. I’ve seen all I need to of NOLA honestly.

Tell me, what are you thoughts on the Big Easy?

Cafe Du Monde; New Orleans

Last week, I had the pleasure of traveling to New Orleans to attend a conference for work. I did not, however, have the pleasure of waking up at 2:30am on Monday to get myself to the airport for my flight. Ugh. I had never been to New Orleans and absolutely adore “The South” so I was really looking forward to seeing the town, even though I knew there wouldn’t be much time for sightseeing, The Gravel-Roadin’ Guru style.

Once I picked up my co-worker-friend on the way and we got ourselves a space in Lot D at the airport, we waited in the bitter cold for a shuttle bus. Missouri, just so you know, it’s March. What happened to all that nice weather you gave us back in February!!!??? Come on already!!

We flew Southwest (which I have recently become more familiar with and am wondering how come nobody has told me how awesome Southwest is!) and thus had a longer shuttle ride than the rest. After most of the people had exited to their respective terminals, there were a few Southwest stragglers left on the bus. We had a little red eye small talk and divulged our destination to our fellow passengers. The man with the beard and tattoos sitting opposite from me told us that going to Cafe Du Monde for the beignets is a must. All the while I’m thinking, “What the heck is a beignet?” but I made a note in my phone none the less because I like reviews from people who have been-there-done-that.

Once we landed in the Big Easy and boarded the cramped hotel shuttle,the driver (we shall call him “tour guide” from this point on for that’s exactly what he was) ushered us along the highway giving us lots of local advice. Confusion set in, though, when he said that Cafe Beignet for the beignets is a must. We thought we heard the bearded airport guy wrong or something. But alas, there is a Cafe Du Monde and there is a Cafe Beignet and they both serve beignets!

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Since we had gotten a raving review about beignets from the bearded shuttle guy and our tour guide, we knew this was a must. Starting off Day 2 nice and early, my co-worker-friend and I set off on foot to Cafe Du Monde. It was a nice morning in New Orleans with sunshine that I hadn’t seen in Missouri for weeks so I was happy to stroll in lieu of cabbing it.

When we arrived at the Cafe (which is near the French Market), the line was intimidating, to say the least. We thought there was no way we had time to eat if that’s how long we were going to have to wait, however, the line moved very quickly so we decided to tough it out. We probably waited a max of 10 minutes and were lucky enough to score a table outside just as someone was leaving.

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The menu is basic to say the least. But it’s known for the beignets so I don’t know what else you would order anyway. So…. The Beignet. It’s a french doughnut. With a mountain of powdered sugar on top. Holy goodness. The tour guide did provide fair warning not to wear any black if en route to eat beignets. Now we know why.

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At the risk of sounding politically incorrect (heck, what isn’t politically incorrect these days), there were an inordinate amount of elder Asian ladies running the joint. And don’t get me wrong, kuddos to them for working that hard to serve that many people a day! But I almost had guilt placing my order knowing our waitress was going to have to wade through the mass of customers back into the restaurant to get our order and then turn around and find her way back to our table.  And they were still a little difficult to understand. My co-worker-friend ordered a tea. She was served a coffee.

But this is no ordinary coffee. No no. This is a cafe au lait; coffee with hot milk. I saw many people dipping their beignets in the coffee. And while I’m normally a black coffee gal (specify clearly if you only want the black coffee; thank goodness I’m not picky), the cafe au lait was mighty tasty paired with the three tiered beignet special.

beignets al fresco

al fresco dining

The second time I went (Yes, there was a second time and while I would happily admit it was my choosing should this be the case, a second co-worker-friend was wanting to try it out as he had missed out the first day), it was before 8:00 am and the outdoor dining area was closed. Cafe Du Monde is open 24 hours a day so we found seating inside on this particular morning. The beignets this day were especially fresh and warm and even more perfect than the first round.

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They’re more specialized than the original McDonald’s menu and literally have a “factory line” type of system inside. The servers just move down the line adding how many plates of beignets and how many cups of cafe au lait have been ordered. Also, please note they only accept cash! No cards and no checks.

We were told by the bearded, tattooed man at the airport that the beignets are especially scrumptious after a night drinking in the French Quarter. I can’t attest to that as I was there for work and I’m older than I used to be and I can’t hang out much past 10:00 pm.

Has anybody checked out either Cafe Du Monde or Cafe Beignet? Tell me your thoughts!! Who has the best beignet in NOLA??

(Note: The waiting line outside the Cafe was three times as long as what we had when we arrived-see the picture above. This was probably about 10:00am. If you want to avoid the wait, hit it up as close to 8:00 am as you can.)

The Hartsburg Grand: Again, my new favorite eatery!

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Several years ago when the hubs and I were making one of our notorious drives through the countryside searching for land to purchase and make our “home” we drove through Hartsburg, Missouri . It just so happened that it was dinner time, and it just so happened that we were super hungry, and it just so happened that this perfect little restaurant happened to be open. It took no thought at all for us to veer in and grab a bite to eat. (Coincidentally, we eventually ended up finding a beautiful piece of land just one mile up the road from this restaurant)

Since this first Hartsburg Grand encounter, the restaurant shut down and was vacant for some time and recently reopened under new ownership. For about 6 months they didn’t have their liquor license which was a major let down but they finally got that under their belt and are ready to go with a good selection of beers, wines, and some liquor for mixed cocktails.

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For me, a restaurant isn’t just about the meal that’s served but it’s more of what they can offer in terms of a “trifecta” of an experience. Not only do you want the obvious: a delicious, unique meal. But for me and the hubs, we want good service and last but definitely not least (probably the most important to me) is the atmosphere. A dining setting that is as unique as the food they serve sets a restaurant apart from all the others.

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The Hartsburg Grand delivers the trifecta to a T! With the restaurant being housed in a two-story century old building, the character and the architecture is something that can’t be duplicated. The restaurant is small but has vast ceilings and an open dining room. Each table is set specially for each customer with a formal black tablecloth and white, linen napkins adorning each glass. At first glance, this may seem a fancy-pants setting but they welcome every cyclist off the Katy Trail and even us with our two crazy kiddos.

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I started my last meal off with a beautiful arrangement of a side salad with the house dressing. It ended something like this….

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Need I say more??

The penne pasta with large shrimp was the ticket for the night, even though I usually stray from ordering pasta dishes. Whatever led my decision in choosing the pasta was definitely on the right track. The shrimp were large and meaty with unbelievable flavor. The white sauce was undeniably made by a pro and was the perfect concoction of cream and spices that blended together to form a taste out of this world!! I ate every last morsel.

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Robby chose the steak and potato dinner. He was very pleased as well but did mention that he should have ordered the pasta (I’m not kidding, it was seriously that good!)

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On another day altogether, we did end up stopping in for lunch and had the standard burger and fries for both me and the hubs and also a mini-burger for the kiddos.

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I don’t know what else to say besides the fact that is was just another plate of deliciousness served to us by another friendly waitress in the same perfect setting. Bliss. Pure edible bliss.

The Hartsburg Grand does have somewhat strange and potentially unpredictable hours so I would call before making plans to venture out our way. Their number is 573-657-1414 and even though there is a website at www.hartsburggrand.net it’s not truly for the restaurant. It’s for the “event center” portion of the place which is the theater upstairs and the Grand Station just to the side of the restaurant.

If you make it there, be sure and let me know what you had and what you thought! I’m certain you won’t be disappointed!!

Happy eating, Pan

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Blue Heaven; Key West, FL

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If you’ve read into my blog much at all, you’ll easily see that I’m just a little obsessed with Key West. We just got back from our fourth trip, so prepare yourself for another round of endless Key West posts;-) Don’t say I didn’t warn you……

Our first night on the island, we got in super duper late, or super duper early however you wish to think of it (2:30 am no thanks to American Airlines). We got up a little later than normal but felt refreshed by the salty, ocean air and hit up none other than Blue Heaven right off the bat.

If you’ve done any research into Key West at all, you’ll know that Blue Heaven is a must if you’re there; the “six-toed cats meow”, if you will. I know they’ve got a famous Lobster Benedict that so many rave about but I’m not a “benedict” kind of gal so I’ve steered clear from that.

We were lucky enough to get in without much of a wait. Last year we were told it would be a 45 minute wait but since we got there before the rush this year (and did this on Friday as opposed to the weekend) we only had about a 20 minute wait. Easy enough, as there’s a bar adjacent to the music stage where a four-piece band was cracking out the tunes bright and early.

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Waiting isn’t so bad when you have a cold beverage and live music, right?? So we saddled up to the bar, where Robby ordered his usual morning drink, a Bloody Mary. As much as I want to like the Bloody Mary (what’s not to like: tomato juice, celery, olive, spice) I just can’t. I try it time and time again hoping that one day my taste buds will properly develop into loving the drink that I know I should but as of this trip; nope, still not yet. My first indulgence was one of a Heaven’s Punch. Mmmm Mmmm Good.

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True to their word, we were beckoned to be seated right at 20 minutes where we were directed to our outdoor table. They do have inside seating but come on! You’re in Key West! You can’t eat inside!!

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I felt in the mood for a traditional breakfast and ordered the Rooster Special. Eggs cooked to order, bacon, breakfast potatoes, and two cakes. The pancakes were light and fluffy and perfect when topped with the fresh maple syrup. Robby ordered the omelet paired with a side of banana bread that he swears is the best banana bread he’s ever put near his mouth. I don’t know that I’d take it that far (he may have just been under the influence; everything tastes better in Key West) but it was quite moist and delicious.

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I couldn’t help but get into the Key West vibe and order another beverage to coincide with my coffee and breakfast; Mango Fandango was next on the list but not as pleasing and the former. This drink was more sour than the Heaven’s Punch and though all the ingredients sounded like the perfect blend, it just wasn’t what I was going for.

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Sour drink or not, the moral of the story is that if in Key West, one must eat at Blue Heaven. It’s the Southernmost Island landmark that you won’t regret visiting.

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Labor Day Weekend in St Charles, MO

I’ve had a hard time writing lately. Although I have been working on this story intermittently for months now, my heart just hasn’t had the time or effort to give this the attention it needed. Between starting a new job, my mother falling and breaking her hip, having surgery, spending a month in rehab, and then having another fall with a broken arm, surgery, and rehab, followed up by the stress of the holidays, I’ve felt a little less than write-y. And, I really haven’t gone anywhere worth talking about in quite some time.

Except way back over Labor Day (yes, I know that was months ago but like I said, I’ve been a little busy). I talked Robby into taking advantage of the long weekend. My old job allowed me to have (mostly) 4 days off each week so I could easily take long weekend trips. However, my new job is a Monday through Friday gig, which allows me stable hours that are much better for my family, but my long weekends are adios. So, you have to soak it up when you’re able, right?

We chose St Charles, MO because a) it’s not a far drive from home (1.5 hours) b) we had never been there before and c) it looks cutesy and quaint and I love little towns like that.

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We left on Friday evening after dropping the kiddos off at Grandma’s just before bedtime. We got to St Charles just in time to check in to our hotel and crash. We stayed at the Country Inn and Suites on Main St. I would have preferred a bed and breakfast but Robby isn’t really into bed and breakfast’s and he reserved the hotel so complain, I could not.

The Katy Trail sat just behind the hotel so that provided easy access for our morning bike rides. We started Saturday morning with just that and got our workout in for the day first thing.

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Contrary to the looks of the above picture, it was actually quite crowded on the Katy this particular morning. The trail starts off in the heart of St Charles, running alongside the buildings of Main Street. Eventually, it meanders parallel to the Missouri River (which provides for those spectacular cycling views), past the ball fields, past this extremely organized junk yard, to the fields outside of town.

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Once we turned around, we had gotten quite thirsty and stopped at the Bike Stop Café for an early morning sweet tea.

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The café sits just alongside the Katy Trail access and has a small menu, area for a bike workshop, and some other cool bike gear for the enthusiasts out there. We sat on the patio and soaked up the morning sun while chatting about how the rest of our day should go.

We dropped by The Old Millstream Inn restaurant for lunch, after cleaning up back at the hotel of course. I can’t say enough wonderful things about this spectacular little restaurant. We had a table outside on the brick patio, which was seated right next to a babbling brook. Yes, you read that right. There is literally a babbling brook here. The service was great and the food was even more wonderful. I had the chicken salad sandwich and a side salad which both had flavors that I have never had the pleasure of experiencing before.

Delish!

Delish!

Once we got to the point that we just couldn’t eat anymore food no matter how delicious it was, we sat off on foot to wander the walk-friendly streets of this little city. The brick lined streets reminded me so much of my hometown, Fulton, MO, that the nostalgia made it hard to not like the area. It was fairly busy because of the holiday weekend but still easy to walk up and down the streets, dodging in and out of the stores. I love locally owned stores like the ones here on Main Street because of their uniqueness. The things on the racks here aren’t something you can find in TJ Maxx. I’m not big on spending unnecessary money so I didn’t load myself down with shopping bags but I did manage to come across a few good finds (like a beautiful $5 scarf that I caught on sale). The best part of the shopping experience is looking at the architecture of these old buildings. One store still had the ladder on the rail and the original shelving, as it used to be the town’s hardware store. Stories like these are so fascinating to me. I love old buildings and when you can get a small story with it, it just makes it so much better.

The storefronts of the buildings along Main St used to be located on the back side of the buildings, which is located closer to the river and down quite a few more feet. Because of this, these buildings flooded a lot. To keep businesses open, they rearranged things and made the previous back entrances, now the front entrance of the shops on what is now Main St. The picture below shows cellar access right along Main St (which used to be the back but is now the front of this particular building).

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We took a break in the middle of the shopping and grabbed a cold drink at Llywelyn’s Pub. We sat on the patio drinking and people watching. The pub is right on Main St so the people watching is top notch. After we had hit all the stores that looked appealing to me, Robby convinced me to get a pre-dinner drink at Bella Vino Wine Bar. It was a busy weekend and hence it was quite busy in the wine bar. We managed to get a cozy table for two right along the front windows (once again, excellent people watching) and close enough that we could enjoy the music from the man at the piano.

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For dinner that night, we chose the highly recommended Tony’s on Top. Once again, this restaurant lies right on Main St and was an easy walk from our hotel. It was a beautifully hot weekend (my motto: the hotter the better), which we took full advantage of by choosing a rooftop, outdoor table. The food was good (although I don’t particularly remember what I had so I don’t think it blew my socks off) and the service was decent, even though it appeared the servers didn’t actually know who had which table. But we didn’t get ignored and that’s the important part.

Awe, aren't we cute at Tony's on Top?

Awe, aren’t we cute at Tony’s on Top?

After we got our bellies full and had a nice little after-dinner buzz, we headed down the street to meet up with the group for our scheduled ghost tour with St Charles Ghost Tours. Ghost tours are always my favorite. We’ve been to one in Charleston, Savannah, and a couple in Key West (Savannah’s was the best so far, by far). Dr Michael Henry is the owner and operator of St Charles Ghost Tours. He gave a nice little introduction of himself to start the tour off and lead the group of 15 or so around the local streets and alleged haunting sites of St Charles. Dr Henry is a decent story teller and he sounds like a man very well versed in St Charles history for sure. During the last stretch of the tour, he made the mistake of telling us how he purchases junky dolls from flea markets for a couple bucks, hangs them outside on his fence to weather (his poor, poor neighbors), and then sells them on Ebay for several hundred dollars with a made up ghost story! Oh my Dr Henry. See, there is this thing called credibility. And yeah, you just lost yours. He’s got a book if you’re interested….. Pssshhhhh.

We started Sunday off with a late breakfast at Bradden’s. Robby and I are really big on the atmosphere and experience of a restaurant. Bradden’s almost lost us when they mentioned  we were going to have to wait 20-30 minutes to order because the kitchen was busy. They were barely, just barely nice enough to let us sit down and all this for only a small handful of people on the patio. There was no way it was busy enough to not serve us. And we would have even been fine to wait had they offered us drinks but we had to fight to get a cup of coffee. The service was absolutely terrible but I will give credit where it is due and they served me a phenomenal French toast plate. “Thee” French toast is a deep fried concoction of delicious French toast heaven like I have never experienced before. Please, please, please if you go to Bradden’s, do yourself a favor and order the French toast. You can thank me later.

Holy. Moly. Deliciousness.

Holy. Moly. Deliciousness.

Robby arranged for us to have a tee time for my first ever golfing experience that afternoon at The Quarry at Crystal Springs. This golf course was about a 20 minute drive from downtown St Charles. Once again, it seemed pretty busy this particular holiday weekend but we had a pretty pleasurable experience. That is, after the first 9 holes when Robby kept getting so mad at me for taking an average of 8 swings for my club to make contact. Once he lightened up, we actually had a lot of fun and surprisingly I wasn’t near as bad as I thought.

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18 holes of golf takes a lot longer than I realized and after that and the hot, hot, super hot day, we were ready to get cleaned up and have a beverage or two. From our hotel, we walked just a block or two down the street to Trailhead Brewing Company. We chose the bar over a table just for the fun of it. I indulged in the Riverboat Raspberry brew and the Trailhead Nachos. Microbrewed beers are just our style and the place has a highly inviting atmosphere. I also ended the night with a margarita at the Trailhead Brewing Company which was delicious no doubt, but admittedly not the wisest decision.

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On Monday, we slept in a little later than normal (see above: margarita to end the night) and grabbed a quick breakfast in the lobby before heading back home. In parenthood, you always have the thrill of getting away but you are also always ready to come back home to those sweet-faced kiddos. St Charles was great for a quick weekend getaway and was just enough to get the reset that we needed.

 

 

The Hartsburg Grand: Quite possibly, my new fav eatery.

The older I have become, the more picky I have gotten about where I go to eat out. Chain restaurants like Chili’s and Applebee’s were the usual picks when I was a young, unknowing lass in my 20’s. I now crave dinner out at a place that has character and appeal.

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And boy oh boy did I find the perfect place. The small town of Hartsburg sits just off Highway 63 between Columbia and Jefferson City. The old town feel of this tiny dot-on-the-map drew Robby and I so much that we’re building a house there now. So imagine my utter delight when we came across my new favorite restaurant just a mile from our future house!

When you step over the threshold, the history of the building totally envelops you. It has an air of being a fancy-pants dining joint but the staff assured us that they love having Katy Trail cyclists (and of course, anybody and everybody else) come on in.

The Grand staff is one big, happy family. No-really. The mother and son man the kitchen, the dad tends the bar, and the daughter and daughter-in-law serve. What a great way to spend time as a family and ensure you give the highest quality service because they all have a vested interest in their success.

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We started off with the  ___________ appetizer. Talk about flavor doing a tap dance across your palette! Oh my gosh the fresh taste of this dish was impeccable. Fresh basil was placed on top and I didn’t even know how a-maz-ing fresh basil was until it greeted my mouth with open arms right from the first bite.

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The last piece. None was left. I’m telling you, none. It was that delectable.

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Robby ordered the fish tacos. He ordered this dish the first time we dined here and was so wowed that he didn’t even think about ordering something else. “The flavors. Just, oh my gosh. The flavors of this!”…….Mutterings from the hubs in between each savory mouthful.

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I had the oven-baked chicken parmesan. When this plate was sat in front of me I’ll admit I thought I didn’t think it looked like much but there were roasted new potatoes piled underneath that massive piece of farm-raised chicken. That’s right! FARM-RAISED CHICKEN! Get out! I love it! By the end of dinner I was so satisfied from my meal and from soaking up the gorgeous scenery. I oogled in wonder at things like the battered but timeless wooden plank floors and the original look of the tall ceilings.

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The pictures don’t do justice to the work the family has put into such a great dining establishment. Hit ’em up, I promise you won’t be disappointed!

FYI: The Hartsburg Grand is open seasonally (closed in the winter months) and closes at 9 pm (7pm on Sundays, although we were here later on a Sunday and they didn’t shoo us away). Join them for a meal shazam! on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and visit their website here.

 

A Random Hermann Outing

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If you live in Missouri and have never been to Hermann, well, shame on you. This fantastic small town plays host to eleven different wineries. Nestled on the banks of the mighty Missouri River and tucked into miles of rolling hills, the views, the beauty, and the quaintness of it all make Hermann one of my favorite Missouri small towns, indeed.

Last weekend was Memorial Day weekend and we’re starting a trend of completely choking when it comes to that particular holiday planning. Last year we were going to go to the Pedaler’s Jamboree and this year we were going to take our boat out for it’s 2014 maiden voyage but neither of those things happened. As many of you know, dreary weather was all that was in store for us on Saturday so I finally talked Robby and our friends in to changing our plans and taking off for Missouri Wine Country.

Our first stop was Adam Puchta Winery. Located just off Highway 100 on the southern end of town, you can feel the worries fly away with each tire spin closer to this winery you get. Just as you turn off, a view of green vineyards fill your windshield. It’s absolutely beautiful and was a perfect start to our day.

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Rustic and weathered buildings outside house areas for wine tastings and food. We opted out of the $5 wine tasting since it was already 4:00 in the afternoon and there were plenty of people in line. Their extensive wine menu explained the flavors of each wine so we simply ordered what sounded tasty.

Robby and I opted for the Traminette. A fruity flavored white wine, this was just a touch sweeter than I normally go for but we enjoyed it none the less.

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Our friends chose an oakier red bottle, Hunter’s Choice. This seemed to be more what everybody at the table was looking for. After we were about to close out our time here, a staff member presented us with another bottle of the red because a lady thought we had told her she left her purse. To that lady I say “thank you”, but you have the wrong people. She had already left the winery so we had no choice but to keep it. Disappointed, we were not.

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Our next stop was Tin Mill Brewery. We have been here before and always seem to enjoy ourselves.

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This time was no different except for a horrible little man, who was a staff member, that totally flipped on me because I took a blurry picture of the back of his shirt. The back had a saying which I thought hilarious at the time but after his over-the-top rude demeanor leading to me deleting my two blurry pics, I can’t even remember what it said. But him, him I will remember. Another employee did apologize for his terribleness and gave some lousy excuse about him having a bad day. But I rose above his nonsense and bought my little sampler tray of delicious microbrewed beer.

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I couldn’t remember which brew from Tin Mill was my favorite so the sampler tray was nice to get a little taste of each. Which in the end turned out to be plenty of brewsky for me. The weather of the day had turned pretty nice by this time and we were able to sit outside on the large patio for the rest of the evening. Fun was had by all.

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If we had planned better, we would have taken the train from Jeff City. We did that a couple of years ago and it makes the trip feel more relaxing yet when you don’t have to employ a sober driver and everyone can let loose a little. Plus the train ride along the Missouri River has excellent views. The trolley will pick up at the train station and shuttle you to the different wineries for a nominal fee. Also, there are several little cabins for rent in the town (I know Hermannhof Winery has some that are supposedly quite lovely) that you could book if you planned your trip ahead of time.

For those of you that have been to Hermann, which winery is your favorite?

Ecco Lounge: Jefferson City, MO

Several weeks ago, Robby and I were going through our weekend ritual of choosing a restaurant for our weekend family date. I greatly dislike chain restaurants, and with their being so many in Jefferson City, it seems we always have trouble deciding where to go.

This particular night, we decided to hit up Ecco Lounge since we haven’t been there since December.

Ecco Lounge has been around Jefferson City for years and years and years. It’s located at the corner of Dunklin and Jefferson St.

Just a little background

Just a little background

I’ve told you before that we are really big into atmosphere. You can serve me good food but if the atmosphere is blah, I’m not going to be real apt to return.

Ecco Lounge definitely has the atmosphere that we so crave when choosing a hot spot for dinner. The bar area has the feel of being stuck in the old days without actually being that dated. The lights are set on dim to give the feeling of being tucked away in the corner booth.

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The place was pretty packed that night so we kind of got tossed toward the back. The back doesn’t provide as high quality atmosphere as this bar area here so try to squeeze in near here if you’re an atmosphere gal like myself.

The prices are reasonable and the menu offers a lot of options.

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The Hubbs had the fried shrimp, which was super yummy.

See? We nearly had the entire plate devoured before I could even get a pic in.

See? We nearly had the entire plate devoured before I could even get a pic in.

I had the prime rib. It was less than desirable but I’m not a prime rib gal. I just wanted a steak.

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We had both picked something off the menu to order, but when we placed our order, the waitress told us that their grill was down so all we could have are things that were fried or the prime rib. I was in the mood for steak so I had the prime rib. I was pretty disappointed in this, especially since they didn’t tell us about this upfront, but every other time I’ve been here, the food is delish so please don’t judge by this one bad trip.

The Ecco Lounge is a bar/restaurant and a totally acceptable place to take the little ones.

O sucked the ketchup off all of her fries.

O sucked the ketchup off all of her fries.

 

Hit me up with suggestions about restaurants to try out with great atmospheres!

Pan, The Gravel-Roadin’ Guru

 

 

The Old Brick House Deli: A Jefferson City Tradition

In the middle of this dreary day off work (yes, I still have that stinkin’ day job), I put aside the cleaning and laundry (it was so hard to do too, I tell ya) to go have lunch with my mom.

On the days that I’m not out making the money, I’m at home with Baby O. That being said, those Mommies out there already know that I don’t get out for lunch much. Who wants to juggle a cranky tot while you’re trying to relax and enjoy a nice lunch?

Most days, not me. Today, however, I knew Mom would be in town and so I invited her out for lunch. I had the choice of restaurants and trying to steer clear from the chains such as Applebee’s and Longhorn’s, I picked The Old Brick House Deli.

Located just off Edgewood Dr (right down the street from the massive JCMG building), this deli-ry is housed in……wait for it….. an old brick house.

It’s a cute house. Nothing special about it really. But it seems to be a Jeff City tradition. They’re only open during the week which is a bummer but they are open for both breakfast and lunch.

Years ago I frequently visited the deli for lunch. I haven’t been there in probably 7 years but it hadn’t changed. The order line was long but service is quick so we had our food and a seat within 10 minutes.

Mom had the house salad and sandwich. The salad was delish. I actually finished off half of that for her. I had the chicken salad sandwich with chili. The chili was pretty good although nothing to blow your mind away but the sandwich was really quite tasty.

I’ve told you before and I’ll tell you again that I’m an atmosphere kind of gal and this place has what I like. It’s “cute”, quaint, pretty quiet, and different from the rest.

They “had me at hello” when I was ordering and they asked if I would like a plate of cheese and crackers for Olivia. Seriously? No restaurant has ever bothered to try and accomodate Baby O. Kudos to you Brick House Deli!

There’s also a patio out back for those warm, beautiful days that are hopefully coming soon!

Claysville Store: Claysville, MO

This past weekend, the Hubbs, Olivia, and I made good use of such a beautiful day and went biking along the Katy Trail. I had so many things that needed to be done around the house but who can do chores when we had a 70 degree, sunshiny day after the months of dreary, miserable, Missouri winter weather!

We set off from the Jefferson City trailhead. Between Jefferson City and Hartsburg, there is a town called Claysville. No. No. No. Scratch that. Between Jefferson City and Hartsburg, there is a place called Claysville. Wait. That’s not right either. Between Jefferson City and Hartsburg, there is a place that used to be a town called Claysville. Now, there’s just a restaurant that they call a store. Claysville Store to be exact.

It’s not much to look at from the outside. But lest we forget, looks can be deceiving. It’s actually a quaint and clean little restaurant inside. Hardwood floors and murals on the walls. But we opted to sit outside and soak up every last ray of sunshine we could get.

Between Jefferson City and Hartsburg, just off of Highway 63, there is a road called Claysville Rd. Surprising, I know, but this is the road to take to get to this little hidden gem.

Hidden gem, you say? Well, apparently so. When we got there, it was pretty late in the afternoon. Store staff asked if we had reservations. I thought they must be joking but actually they were quite serious. It seems that the store is so popular with the locals that reservations must be made for their lunch service.

And their fried chicken did smell pretty good. Really good actually. I think Robby’s mouth was salivating as we were talking about it. There was a plaque on the wall giving them accalaides for the “best fried chicken” by Rural Missouri. That’s good for something right?

We steered clear of the chicken but did indulge in some good southern sweet tea, served from a mason jar of course (Robby’s fav) and dessert (my fav).

I had the cheesecake. I love cheesecake. In any form it’s made. I. will. eat. it. all. Mmmm…..

Hubbs had the ice cream with chocolate sauce.

And of course Olivia Grace had some of it all!

So, if you’re going to stop in for lunch, make sure you’ve made your reservations. If you get there later in the afternoon, you’ll find some of the older folks still milling about, but there’s plenty of room for you too.

Their list of desserts went something like this: blackberry cobbler, peach cobbler, banana cream pie, chocolate cream pie, banana chocolate cream pie, ice cream, cheesecake, and cherry cheesecake.

And let’s get real, folks. If you can’t find a dessert on that list you don’t like…….Well, you draw your own conclusions.

It’s a cute little place to stop by for lunch or dessert. They’re only open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

But remember when I warned you about the exterior?

It’s a little like Deliverance. But don’t let that scare you off.

I’m hoping you got to enjoy the outdoors as well. Tell me, what did you and yours do this weekend?

Pan, The Gravel-Roadin’ Guru