Small Town Iowa Eats: JR’s Place; Wheatland, IA – Chicken Wing Friday Nights!

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It’s Friday night and you’re craving chicken wings. Where do you go? JR’s Place of course! This hidden gem is located off of Highway 30 in Wheatland, IA and has some of the best chicken wings I’ve had!

JR’s is the type of place every small town needs but most towns in general are lacking. A focus on doing something really good that people will come in for. On Friday nights, Wheatland will see a bigger influx of people make their way downtown because that is the ONLY night that JR’s has their chicken wings available. Get them breaded or naked, sauced or unsauced, spicy or mild, however you’d like!

BEER

A decent amount of cans and bottles available and on tap was Bud Light or Keystone Light, so we went with a few pitchers of Keystone Light. Any beer would work with the wings at this joint really.

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WINGS

I went with the breaded hot wings. The part I love about JR’s hot wings is that the spice is in the breading. I didn’t need them to be doused in a sauce which in some cases turns the wing into mush. They are perfectly spiced and a side of hot sauce to dip was all I needed! I added a side of some fried shrimp as well and they were damn tasty. I also tried the half bbq/half wing sauce wing and that was very flavorful. The wings held up to the sauce so the breading stayed nice and crispy as well.

So…if you’re looking for a new place to try out and are craving some wings. Get on Highway 30, head to Clinton County and stop in Wheatland! Grab a pitcher of beer, order a few baskets of wings and you’ve got yourself a nice little Friday night!

Pullman/Kroul Farm Dinner Year #4: Truly Delicious!

Year #4 of the popular Pullman/Kroul farm dinner is in the books and once again the staff outdid themselves. Chef Smart and Pullman staff continue to present inspiring and beautiful dishes to attendees of this event and this year was no different. Considering they were cooking over an open flame on a close to 90 degree Sunday, you may have thought there would be hiccup….not at all! Every dish, start to finish was excellent!

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DISH #1
Za’atar eggplant gallette, sungold tomato, ricotta salata, green chile zhoug
Canteloupe gazpacho, coconut, cucumber, mint
Rosemary skewered Mussels, lemon-caper aioli, roasted red pepper

The perfect way to start the evening! A chilled gazpacho with melon and cucumber to cool off the hot evening and then digging into the mussel with a fresh caper aioli. Finish it off the somewhat spicy gallette and its flaky crust….I’ll take more of that gallette please!

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DISH #2

Wood-fired chanterelle mushrooms, grilled diver sea scallop, sweet corn, brown butter sabayon, pickled apple, hazelnut, sweet basil

The second dish might be my favorite of the night! A perfectly cooked scallop served alongside sweet corn and chanterelle mushrooms…absolutely outstanding! And anytime brown butter is added to a dish it makes it that much more exquisite…just an outstanding dish.

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DISH #3

Cedar plank trout, herb roasted marble potatoes, marinated cherry tomato, blistered green beans, horseradish & smoked trout roe cream, fines herbes

Extremely fresh fish and perfectly cooked vegetables made this the perfectly placed dish amongst the courses. The added touch of the horseradish to give it a little bite was very nicely done.

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DISH #4

Pavelka’s point Lamb Merguez with blistered shishito & onion
Roasted zucchini, confit summer squash, blistered radish, garlic, mint & red chimichurri

I love the idea of serving dishes family style and this lamb sausage dish not only tasted wonderful but was visually appealing as well. The sausage had a little heat to it and blistered shishito peppers were the perfect accompaniment. Delicious!

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DISH #5

Short rib Shepherd’s pie, roasted carrot, onion, celery root, thyme
Grilled prime cut of Kroul Farm’s beef
Roasted pumpkin & bitter greens with fresh chevre & apple-onion-pancetta agrodolce

I did say the scallop was my favorite until I remembered the short rib shepherd’s pie! Creamy and delicious with melt in your mouth beef. This is a dish for the cooler months for sure but it tasted damn good on a warm Sunday night as well! The prime cut of beef was perfectly cooked and seasoned and was melt in your mouth!

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DISH #6

Gooey butter cake & bourbon poached pears with maple cream, rosemary caramel, spiced streusel & candied ginger

I don’t consider myself much of a dessert guy but all 4 years of this dinner the crew has put together some of tastiest desserts I’ve ever had and this year was no different. The butter cake was extremely moist and the poached pears still had some crunch in them and were not mushy at all. The cake was paired wonderfully with one of the best coffees I’ve ever had, a chai cream coffee.

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Special thank you to the Kroul family for hosting once again and to Cory Kent and Chef Ben Smart and staff. A truly remarkable meal and I look forward to next year’s event! Cheers!

 

Iowa Eats: Goldfinch Tap & Eatery; Marion, IA

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Last night I was lucky enough to attend a soft opening at Goldfinch Tap & Eatery (740 10th St. Marion) and I’m already eager to get back and try some more things on their menu.

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Goldfinch is headed by Andi Sofranko (Lincoln Winebar fame) and Chef Brandon Banaszek (Pullman fame) and is located in the old Louie’s Scoreboard location in Marion. With the addition of Goldfinch, Marion has a lot of beer/food offerings. Ramseys, Uptown Snug, Zoeys, and Tomasos are all located in the same area, so definitely an up and coming spot!

Let’s get to the nitty gritty. First thing on my mind…..

BEER
What looks to be an ever changing tap list that appeals to every beer drinker. Many local brews from Lion Bridge, Big Grove, SingleSpeed, Clockhouse and more to go along with the domestics of a Busch Light. Easy Eddy was my pick and it went down great with the apps we had.

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FOOD
The appetizer selections at Goldfinch are going to be a hot spot. A lot of great options to choose from, at the time they were out of the Buffalo Cholouah wings so we went with french onion dip, cheese balls, and loaded fries. Great pub food selections. The french onion dip was outstanding. I was worried it would be too sweet but was not, excellent starter. Cheese balls were good and crispy on the outside and served with a side of ranch..what’s not to love? The cheese fries were a nice combo of crispy bacon, green onion, and then a cheddar cheese/ranch combo which played together nicely. My kids loved them all!

 

At the time we arrived, they were out of their main entrees, which wasn’t a problem, although every one of them sounded great. Cavatelli with a sweet corn sauce??? YES PLEASE!! We went with some mac and cheese, pork tenderloin, and their burger. All tasty, all packed with flavor. The pork tenderloin will no doubt be an item they sell a lot of and this one is crispy and not over breaded. The burger was wonderful. I love a burger where the meat shines and this one does! Mac and cheese with crumbled bacon is just something that everyone should have!

 

Tip of the cap to the chefs and staff at Goldfinch, a busy soft opening night that they pulled off. They will be opening their doors to the public this Friday (9/13) @ 3:00 p.m. and then 2:45 on Saturday for the Iowa/Iowa State game. Happy hour is everyday from 3-6 so make sure to take advantage of their awesome list of cocktails, beers, and wine! Check it out!

Iowa Eats Destination: Luna Valley Farm; Decorah, IA

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Sitting on a beautiful farmstead somewhere on the outskirts of Decorah, Iowa is one of the best hidden food destinations Iowa has to offer. Luna Valley Farm and their brick oven pizza coupled with the setting that they offer make this an Iowa eats destination for sure.

Most of my blog visitors have more than likely been to Decorah as it has two of Iowa’s most popular breweries in Toppling Goliath and Pulpit Rock. Both places are well worth the drive there as well and I’m also a big fan of Mabe’s pizza…BUT…..if you are there on a Friday night, no dinner plans, get google maps up and get to Luna Valley. Not only can you eat there, drink some great local brews, but you can also go glamping in one of their cabin/tents! Also, they are only open from 4-8 and ONLY on Fridays! Get there early, grab a seat in the barn, and enjoy.

Seeing how many people made it there on this particular Friday night makes me want to rethink calling it a “hidden” food destination. It’s a popular spot, very popular. Once the dough is out, that’s all she wrote. Luckily, we got there in time and got our orders in. The first thing I noticed when ordering was the excellent beer selection! Pulpit Rock, TG, PIVO and a few others on tap. I ordered a Saftig, and that beer and that setting is about as good as it gets!

 

The pizza was wonderful. Chewy crust, fresh toppings, and a great sauce. We went with the Iowaiian – bacon, pineapple, and jalapeno and the margherita and friends got the Pepperoncini pizza. All 3 were fantastic! Even with how busy they were the staff was extremely friendly, helpful and added to what was a memorable evening! Check it out the next time you hit Decorah on Friday night, you won’t be disappointed in this Iowa Eats Destination!

Small Town Iowa Eats: Marlee and Me; Spragueville, IA

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If you ever find yourself in Jackson County and you have quite an appetite, drive on over to Spragueville and head on into Marlee and Me and you will get more than plenty to fill you up!

Spragueville is about a 20 minute drive from Maquoketa, right off of Highway 64 and is a town (maybe a town?) of not even 100 people. Marlee and Me is a can’t miss spot, literally, if you drive through town you can’t miss it. It’s settled into what looks like an old two story home and is as Mom and Pop and family friendly as it gets…exactly what you’d expect in small town Iowa.

So, finding myself on a fun road trip with my parents, doing a little small town bar hopping, we ended up in Spragueville. We stopped at Marlee and Me intending on just having a quick beer but the food that was coming out of the kitchen signaled that this was our last stop, our meal stop.

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Huge slabs of prime rib with hash brown casserole piled high next to it. The plates were overflowing with beefy goodness and I couldn’t wait to dig in. We walked passed the salad bar as we headed to our seats and I noted the braunschweiger dip and planned to eat my weight in that. One of the great things about small town restaurants like this is there is always a great salad bar. Homemade pasta + potato salads and tons of dips. As this is a beer blog, I should note the beesr I had….Busch Light and a Coors Light. I’m not even sure what the options were, just went with a blue yummy. My parents decided to try the wings. Deep fried wings that were tossed in a jalapeno jelly….never thought of tossing wings in a jelly but these were delicious. I hammered the salad bar and the braunschweiger was as good as I’ve had.

Now it’s time for the main course. A HUGE cut of prime rib, cooked perfect to medium rare and a side of hash brown casserole that could feed a family of four. The steak was perfectly seasoned, a nice crust on the outside. The potatoes were loaded with cheese and garlic and the beer was cold. The perfect Saturday night meal.

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Soooo….if you find yourself on a little road trip, don’t ignore those small town diner/restaurants. And if you find yourself in Jackson County with a big appetite and a hankering for a huge cut of meat…head to Spragueville and Marlee and Me! Worth the trip!

New to Shelves: Barrel-aged Buffalo Sweat, Eric’s Ale, Ovila Dubbel, Pecan Pie Porter!

the sausage foundryQuite a few tidbits to get the week started. So much great stuff going on in the area. Many new restaurants out and open. I’m hoping to hit up the Sausage Foundry in NewBo sometime this week. Steve does great stuff! If you’ve ever had any of the sausage from Lion Bridge, Steve is responsible for those, so get out and support him! Everytime I’m at Lion Bridge I make sure to check what the week’s sausage is and when they had that mushroom sausage available, holy shit, one of the best things I’ve eaten in some time. This week they had Zivawurst, he’s making blueberry sausages using Oregon blueberries, last week he had lamb, polish, cheddarwurst, and I believe chorizo. I can’t wait to get there and buy 2 of everything.

And courtesy of Steve, I recently read about Sauce Bar and Bistro which is located at 1507 C St in CR. It looks like that will be my next date lunch with my wife as their hours are currently only 11-2 but I believe that will change soon. And we have a new double IPA coming from Big Grove this Friday! If you haven’t had Fear get out and try it! A delicious black double IPA, very reminiscent to Blakkr for me. Lion Bridge has their Untitled Saison back on tap and it is tasting mighty wonderful. Quinton has hit a home run with this brew!  On with the tidbits!

buffalo**Tallgrass Bourbon Barrel Buffalo Sweat** I think this one will make many people happy. Tallgrass taking their beloved Buffalo Sweat stout and aging it in bourbon barrels. This beer will be available in 12 oz cans and will be available this fall.

**New Belgium Brewing Eric’s Ale** – the sour peach ale returns to eric's aleshelves (and probably already has) this month! Eric’s Ale comes in at 7% and is a member of New Belgium’s Lips of Faith Series. More from the brewery:

Eric’s Ale, named for long time New Belgium brewer Eric Salazar, combines a dry, sour beer aged up to three years in oak foeders with a semi sweet, higher alcohol base beer. The resulting blend is re-fermented with peach juice, creating a smooth ale with subtle peach tones and a warm, spicy finish. The aroma has pleasant hints of vanilla and tropical fruit, the wood characteristics are present but nicely muted.

clown shoes**Clown Shoes Coffee Pecan Pie Porter – this beer will hit distro this fall and come in 22 oz bottles coming in at 8% ABV. I’ve really been digging Clown Shoes offerings lately and am looking forward to this one.

**Sierra Nevada Barrel-Aged Ovila Dubbel – the last time Sierra Nevada released sierrathis beer it was only available in California. With the expanding footprint and another brewery it looks like this might make a larger distro. Fingers crossed we get to see this in Iowa as this falls’ version will be aged in red wine and bourbon barrels. This brew will check in at 7.5% and will be available in 750ml bottles.