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Winter Update!

Hello friends!  Whew!  Is December really almost gone?  I feel like we say it all the time, but time really does fly.  I wanted to update you all on our December happenings, so today you get a compilation post of everything from Thanksgiving to Christmas.  We’ll leave New Years for a separate post since we have a fun night planned on New Years Eve with some new events we haven’t tried before and will want to fill you in on how they went.  Let’s just say, country line dancing in high heels may be in my near future! Not sure if you’ll get a photo of that….Eek!

 

Anyway, we kicked off Thanksgiving with a drive through the Jolly Holiday Lights.  We had a feeling it would be pretty busy this season with it being at the new location at Adventureland in Altoona and we wanted to make sure we got it in, so we went early in the season.  This turned out to be a good plan because there were upwards of 2 hour waits closer to Christmas! So awesome to see such a great charity event doing well!  Hope you made it to Altoona to see them this year!  If you didn’t, get there early next year!

 

We spent a lovely Thanksgiving here at home with lots of family.  Cooking a turkey with all the fixins’ makes me not want to cook ever again.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s totally satisfying to occasionally cook a meal that everyone enjoys, but, there is a reason I blog about restaurants.

Anywho, we also got in another annual tradition of going to the Festival of Trees.  The kids love the scavenger hunt and I love me a good silent auction.

 

 

The kids did a super fun painting class with El Arte Uncorked at Cupcake Addict in Johnston (yummy cupcakes) where they got to paint a holiday penguin and eat a cupcake.  One woman even brought wine and cheese for the adults to snack on while the kids painted!  So fun. Check out their future classes at www.elarteuncorked.com.  As you can see, Nathan nailed his painting.  Just kidding….sort of.  The instructors do such a good job of walking the kids (and adults for the adult classes) through the steps that it’s ALMOST foolproof that you’ll walk away with a masterpiece…..unless you are related to me apparently.

 

 

The next week brought the opening of the much anticipated Hurts Donuts in West Glen Town Center in West Des Moines. This place is awesome!  You can watch them making donuts and they are definitely the most unique donuts around since the closing of Djonuts. The prices were reasonable and the donuts are huge!  You can also get donut milkshakes which we will try on our next visit.

 

 

We also had a great time hosting our annual Ugly Sweater Party!  Maybe some day I’ll dedicate a post to all things Ugly Sweater Party and give you some tips for hosting your own.  But for now, I’ll leave you with some hints…Don’t forget the candy cane shots, photographer (so you can be in the photos. Hiring a family member who wants to earn $50 will do the trick.), prizes for sweater categories, and tacky food.  Fun times.

 
We were able to get in a couple of our favorite restaurants when we didn’t feel like cooking.  I dream about Woody’s ribs often, so I was happy to get my fill.  We celebrated my Mom’s birthday this month with some Hu Hot. And we made sure to get a few Winter White Cosmos from Bonefish Grill.

 

We also can’t forget to give a shout out to our Christmas Eve tradition of eating Chinese food and having a flaming volcano at Shanghai in Waukee.

 

Our month of holiday bliss was only thwarted with one unfortunate ER trip for Nathan.  Note to self: 9 year olds who
are working on their whittling badge for cub scouts shouldn’t be given a knife after 9pm.  And that’s all we’ll say about that. Whomp whomp.

 

So!  I think that about sums up our holiday season. All-in-all, a successful year.  Lots of life changes changes for us, but we are all happy and healthy (aside from the 4 stitches in the thumb) and looking forward to 2017.

 

Thanks for reading! Wishing you a wonderful New Year!

Bonefish Winter Menu

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Luckily Bonefish Grill West Des Moines was gracious enough to invite us in to try their winter menu, since so many of you on social media already knew about this and didn’t tell me!

When I posted this photo from the restaurant, I was flooded with messages saying it was everyone’s favorite!

img_1223Well, I too have my new favorite drink of the season ever, now!  This deliciousness is the Winter White Cosmo and it’s at Bonefish Grill.  Go!  It’s sweet for those of us who like girly drinks, but not overly so, since it’s balanced with white cranberry juice.  My sweet-drink despising, cranberry-hating boyfriend even loved it and ordered one for himself!  And BTW, they are only $5 on Mondays!

img_1227We of course had to try some of the other winter items like the Lobster, Crab and Artichoke dip, YUM!  It was no joke, it was chock full of lobster and crab.

We also had the catch of the day (Swordfish) which is my favorite fish, and Cody (our waiter) was nice enough to bring out a sampling of all of the sauces for us to try!  Rick’s fave was the Pan Asian.

img_1209I don’t think a visit to Bonefish is complete without just a little Bang Bang Shrimp, so we also got an order of the Bang Bang shrimp tacos. So good!

Make sure to try the pumpkin creme brulee while it’s here for the winter!  And look for us enjoying img_1229more Winter White Cosmos this winter, because we plan to live here while they last!

 

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Great River Maple

img_0371I’ve been hearing about Great River Maple all over the place and finally reached out to them to send me some of the good stuff to try!

We made it a pancake breakfast morning and got to enjoy their certified organic, grade A maple syrup!  So good!  We wanted to try it like this to get the full flavor, but they sent us some pretty tasty looking recipes for granola and maple mustard that we want to try too!

img_0374Overall, we loved this syrup!  We love that it’s locally produced and that you can get it at local stores like The Cheese Shop, Gateway Market and Madhouse Brewery, you can also order straight from their website.  http://www.greatrivermaple.com/

We are super excited to try their Bourbon Maple Syrup for our next taste test! The spreadable maple cream also sounds really good!  So much goodness!

If you’re sick of the fake grocery store syrup and want to support local, try Great River Maple and make this weekend’s breakfast extra special!

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Winterset Cidery


d097c3e2-f796-4fcb-b9bd-ac32dfb80ba13a8e7b07-49a1-4d88-80b7-cf5422085ea1We, of course, love to support our local breweries, but when you have Celiac Disease and can’t drink beer, hard cider is usually your tap drink of choice. So, you can imagine how excited we were when we heard Winterset Cidery had opened in May of last year!

It’s just a short ride from Des Moines to Winterset.  The owner and his wife moved down here and built the barn themselves! You have to see the craftmanship that went into the bar, tables, and chairs of the tasting room.  They built it all, it’s amazing.

cc137db8-2a3c-4316-9b16-7d7e0346cdb2 cee5b703-4246-48eb-918e-f7879a4cf566After admiring the venue, we decided to try some flights to get a sample of everything they had to offer.  They had so many choices from different kinds of traditional hard cider to flavors like cherry, peach, and blackberry.  They were all delicious and they have something for all tastes.  I prefer my cider on the sweeter side and the Winterset was perfect me.  My boyfriend prefers not-so-sweet and he was a huge fan of the semi-dry.

They also carry some beers on tap for those who aren’t cider fans because you are going to want to come visit to hang out here with a group of friends either way.  Like most tap rooms, they don’t serve food, but they have free popcorn and they sell chips and you can bring your own food if you need something more.  They also have a patio to sit outside and enjoy b954cdd4-7c58-4ef3-ab18-5c48c34641acyour beverage on.  Hopefully the food truck will jump on this location next year to provide some food options.

They sell bottles (when they are in stock) and hope to have growlers next year.  They definitely didn’t expect to be so wildly successful their first season, but they’ve been greeted with open arms and we’re so glad!

Unfortunately, when we visited last week, it was the last week of their season, so you’ll have to wait until May of 2017 for your first visit if you haven’t been there already.  But add it to your calendar now, because you have to check it out!

At $5 a glass and $7.50 for a flight, you can’t beat it!  “Like” them on Facebook to get “off-season” updates and more info about the 2017 season opening! https://www.facebook.com/Wintersetcidery/

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Bonefish Grill

img_0022img_0024Being from Boston, I normally steer clear of seafood restaurants in the Midwest. The taste of fresh caught lobster and scallops just can’t be replicated this far from the ocean.

So when Bonefish Grill invited me in to try out their new fall menu, I thought it would just be okay.  Boy, was I wrong!  Bonefish has a location here in the metro in West Des Moines at the West Glen Shopping Center.

We started our mid-week date night visit to Bonefish with $3.50 glasses of Merlot, which were fantastic. We caught the tail-end of happy hour and got in on this sweet deal. And how cute are the Bonefish wine glasses?

img_0021Our, waitress, MacKenzie, has been working at Bonefish for SEVEN years! She was outstanding.  She was super knowledgeable, friendly, and ultra-sweet.  They are very accommodating to special diets, so she said all of the staff need to be super educated about what’s in each dish.

img_0030It was recommended to us that we try the “Dine and Discover, Dinner for Two” menu, and who are we to argue?  $50 includes an order of Bang Bang Shrimp to share for an appetizer. And OMG the Bang Bang Shrimp. If you haven’t tried them, you must. They are lightly-battered and pan-fried and served covered in the most addictive sauce. EVER.

The second course gives you a choice of two entrees from a list of four (which is shown above and which all sound amazing) and then you get a dessert to share.

img_0036Here is where we were start to get really impressed…. We ordered the Fresh Swordfish with Pumpkin Ravioli and Fresh Rockfish and Shrimp.

img_0032The swordfish was by far the best we’d ever had.  If you blindfolded me and did a taste-test, I may have mistaken it for beef.  It was cooked perfectly with no “fishy-ness”. We loved it. Rick was raving about the blackening on the shrimp and I thought that it was great as well.  There was nothing healthy about the butter-laced green beans and that’s ok by me, delicious. The whole meal was satisfying and we were talking about coming back for it again before we were even finished.

img_0041And the dessert….Rick quickly proclaimed this one of his favorite desserts ever. It’s called Jamaican Coconut pie and it’s served with rum sauce. It was incredible. Think big, warm coconut macaroon with whipped cream and rum sauce.

I hope they don’t mind me sharing….because Food.com says they got it off the the official Bonefish website, but you’ll love this so much when you try is as part of the three course menu, that you’ll want to make this at home, immediately when you get home:  http://www.food.com/recipe/jamaican-coconut-cream-pie-415547

So thanks again to Bonefish Grill for treating us to an awesome date night! We think you should treat yourself to a date night this week and go try the Dinner for Two, which is a bargain, at Bonefish!

 

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Vines to Wines

Hurricane Grill & Wings

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Lurra Cocina

I had really been anticipating the new Downtown restaurant, Lurra Cocina! Spanish tapas restaurants are hard to come by in the metro and the menu here at Lurra Cucina had me excited! Plus, I’m also a fan of Nick Illingworth ventures (i.e. the now defunct Magnolia Food truck), so I had a feeling I’d like Lurra.

Have you had The Wine Experience?

IMG_2263IMG_2245Look! I’m shopping and drinking wine at the same time!  Is this heaven?!  No! It’s Younkers!  We rediscovered The Wine Experience in Younkers at The Jordan Creek Mall this weekend.  The Wine Experience, with its impressive wine selection, top-notch cuisine and lovely atmosphere makes The Wine Experience (in my eyes) one of the best kept secrets in the metro.

I know I’m known for being kind in my restaurant reviews because I have a soft spot for locally owned and IMG_2272operated restaurants (like this one), but this place is the real deal.  I was happy to be invited in this week to try out what they had to offer.  I have to admit, I was definitely not expecting it to be as wonderful as it was.  It’s unfortunate that The Wine Experience isn’t as well-known as other restaurants in its league, because it should be!  I’ll be having dreams about Chef Simon’s Korean Steak and Egg entrée special that he served with brussel sprout hash and miso corn puree.  Seriously, I’m not kidding…Out. Of. This. World.  All of these dishes were intricate and delicious and paired well with our wine choices.

IMG_2203 This particular evening had a corn theme, a wise choice as the most glorious Iowa corn season is coming to close. IMG_2194I don’t think we could have gone wrong with anything on the menu, but stand out items were the bacon deviled eggs served with house-made pickles, which I could have easily eaten a whole plate of by themselves. That good.  The corn fritters which were light with a nice crunch.  The stuffed dates which had a generous amount of bleu cheese and a superb red wine reduction.  Our friends tried the pesto pizza and chicken apple salad which they said were fantastic and Josh had the La Quercia prosciutto baguette which he was so attached to that he was still trying to finish the whole thing when our local pear, pear crisp arrived. It was so good, our friend who proclaimed he didn’t usually like crisps said it was awesome.

IMG_2201 IMG_2210The prices were quite reasonable, the wine was excellent, not to mention that you can BRING YOUR WINE into Younkers to shop!  Umm…what a great idea!  Why do I not see people walking around with wine glasses all the time in Younkers?

It’s in such a convenient location that we already plan to be back for lunch very soon and what a great intimate setting for a special occasion, or just because!

IMG_2240 IMG_2254Please do yourself a favor and check out The Wine Experience.  You won’t be disappointed.  Like, I said you can’t go wrong.  Especially check out the shared plates that are available after 5 and whatever Chef Simon says to get….do it!  He makes some magic in that little kitchen and I hope more people come try it out soon!

 

 

 

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Check out their website here for menus and information and “like” them here on Facebook for special events and meal specials!  Thanks for having us in Tom and Lane!