Category Archives: The Iowa Bucket List

Americana Brunch

If you’ve read some of my earlier posts you know I work at Court Avenue Restaurant and Brewing Company. It’s one of my favorite restaurants, right up there with our sister restaurant Americana. The buzz around town about Americana is that it’s a swanky place with delicious food. Though it’s just barely past it’s 1st year birthdate, it’s got a seasoned feel with a great staff, cocktail list, and location. One thing it’s most famous for is its brunch. If you don’t believe me, check out this Tumblr post from one of my favorite GIF sites, When In DSM:

This weekend I experienced my first Bombshell Brunch. I am one of those people who considers brunch one of the holiest of all meals, both because of its laidback style (when else is it acceptable to sip on champagne and vodka drinks before 5 pm?) and it’s savory food (the best of the breakfast, lunch, and dinner options). This Bombshell Brunch is aptly named because if it was walking down the street it would have everyone turning their heads to behold its fabulousness.



It is a STEAL. My roommate and I sat for hours sipping on mimosas (normally around $5 a piece). If you plan on leisurly chatting and sipping on mimosas or bloody marys you could easily spend more than $25. Not to mention the bottomless options from that list of food.

I’m not a huge bloody mary fan, but I will say that the mimosas came with a choice of sweet, dry, or peach champagne. Then you can add flavored syrups like mango or raspberry.  Plus, the servers aren’t worried about running food in and out of the kitchen so they’ve got a watchful eye on your glass. They are constantly filling your cup before you’ve even had your last sip. So drink daintily ladies, because if you don’t you might not be so dainty by the afternoon.

I was in heaven. I just have to say, bravo Americana, bravo.

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The Birthplace Of John Wayne

A few weeks ago my parents and I visited some of the Bridges of Madison County as well as the birthplace of John Wayne in Winterset, Iowa. The post about the bridges is on its way. But this post is solely devoted to one of the most famous actors in American History, John Wayne. In honor of Mr. Wayne, here are 9 degrees of seperation between him and Lindsay Lohan along with some pictures I took on the visit. It took me a while to find the connection between the famous and the infamous, so I hope you find this post educational.

The house in which American film began.

1. John Wayne was in True Grit with Dennis Hopper

Monument of John Wayne in Winterset, Iowa.

2. Dennis Hopper is in Speed with Jeff Daniels

3. Jeff Daniels is in Pleasantville with Reese Witherspoon

4. Reese Witherspoon is in Water For Elephants with Robert Pattinson

5. Robert Pattinson is in Twilight with Kristen Stewart

6. Kristen Stewart is in Snow White & The Huntsman with Chris Hensworth

The patriotic background of the all-American actor’s monument.

7. Chris Hensworth is in Thor with Samuel L. Jackson

Father and I at the monument

8. Samuel L. Jackson is in Jackie Brown with Michael Keaton


9. Michael Keaton is in Herbie Fully Loaded with Lindsay Lohan


… And they said it couldn’t be done.

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Downtown Skywalk/D-Line Shuttle/East Village

A few weeks ago I ambitiously decided to cross 3 things off of my bucketlist between my shifts at Fox 17 and Court Avenue Restaurant and Brewing Company – walk Des Moines’s entire downtown skywalk, ride the downtown shuttle, and visit the East Village.

Sans printer, I drew a rough map of the skywalk and the route I wanted to take.


(Not to scale)

This skywalk is 4 miles long, some walks being private.

Downtown Skywalk

It connects hotels, restaurants, parking garages, and other downtown attractions. It’s a popular safe haven from the eat, rain, and cold year-round. It’s usually crowded when fans are hurrying to shows at the Civic Center or Wells Fargo Arena. I traveled the tunnels just after the weekday lunch break. It was basically deserted aside from pairs of women speed walking and gossiping during their lunch break.

After attempting to break into the locked Wells Fargo Arena to start my walk, I began across the street at the massive Hy-Vee Hall.

Then I walked south, weaving through the skywalk system. I tried to not to stop at the many lunch locations that filled the skywalk with delicious scents. Here’s some pictures from my trip. If you’ve never seen Des Moines, this is a quick, third-story view of the streets of our downtown.

A view of the Principle building, the tallest skyscraper in Iowa. Impressed? I thought so.

I totally creeped on this window with makeshift spiderman curtains made from bedsheets.

Towards the end of my journey I found a wall with a timeline about the development of downtown Des Moines. Since I’ve been promising you fun facts since the beginning of this blog I thought I’d share a couple.

  • 1856: First Des Moines public school is built, located in downtown Des Moies
  • 1926: First parking meters installed. Personal note: I’ve contributed more than $100 to the Iowa government thanks to multiple parking tickets.
  • 2009: The $40 million John and Marry Pappajohn Sculpture Park is installed between Grand Ave. and Locust St.

After my skywalk walk, I found a D-line shuttle stop. The D-line shuttle runs from the State Capitol to Central Campus along Grand Ave. and Locust St.

D-Line Schedule

It’s an adorable, old-fashioned shuttle with wood floors and wooden benches (not the most comfortable, but manageable for the short ride). It’s free transportation between downtown Des Moines and the East Village. It’s extremely convenient, running every 10 minutes from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The East Village is a neighborhood east of downtown Des Moines. It features a great collection of more than 40 little stores owned by men and women passionate about their trades. The stores feature eclectic vintage, vintage inspired, hippie-friendly, hand-made goods and things that make you say, “I hope I’m rich some day so I can spend all my money here!”

There’s some great restaurants (more than 20). I’ve frequented Alba, Lucca, Olympic Flame, and Zombie Burger + Drink Lab.

East Village is also home to some bars and beautiful historic streets to walk on a nice day.

I visited a bundle of stores, but here were some of my favorites.

  • Raygun – the self-proclaimed “Greatest Store in the Universe.” It’s a quirky shop that specializes in Iowa-themed clothing sporting sassy logos and shirts for troubled suburban adolescents. One of my favorites: “Des Moines, let us exceed your already low expectations!”


  • Green Goods – featuring recycled goods and eco-friendly products. Owned by Sharon Hicks, a people and earth-friendly woman. I couldn’t help but buy a bracelet made from recycled scrabble letters that reads, “Peace.”


  • Wander This World – sells only fair-trade goods, a hippie’s paradise


  • Seed – a store for gardeners and those easily drawn in by flashy outdoor displays.


  • Kitchen Collage – so many kitchen gadgets … I wish I could cook so I could justify making oodles of purchases.

  • All Spice – A store with shelves lined with hundreds of spices, I think my nose is in love.


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Lunch at Django and Centro

I have never had problems writing positive comments about the places I’ve traveled thus far, the people I’ve met, or the things I’ve tried. I anticipate this will only continue as Iowa is filled with welcoming people who take pride in themselves and their home.

Because these are my first posts concerning restaurants, I do want to clarify that they are not reviews. I do want to, and will, share my honest experience with you all. But it will never be at the expense of someone or something. This blog is not intended to be critical, but a compilation of my experiences. You’re welcome for the disclaimer, now onto the fun part.

A few weeks ago I was delighted to try two of Des Moines’s finest restaurants (Seriously, check out Juice and Metromixes “Top 100 Restaurants – I’m not making this stuff up).


First, my roommate Courtney and I headed off to Django for lunch. As this is one of the highest rated restaurants in Des Moines I was expecting a bill as extravagant as the food. But their lunch was reasonably priced, right on par with most of the other downtown lunches. Courtney and I did splurge a bit to try one of their appetizers, as well as a dessert. But most of the sandwiches were around $10 and extremely filling. Here’s what was on the menu for my lunch:

  • Appetizer: Crab Cakes $11.99

Served with celery root rémoulade and rouille.

I have no idea what the majority of that says but they were delicious. Two came on the plate. Courtney and I each had one. She’d never tried crab cakes before, and unless she was lying Django successfully turned her on to what I believe to be a delicacy of the seafood world. They were juicy and flavorful.

  • Lunch: Turkey Bacon Panini $9.99

Thurman’s roasted turkey, white cheddar cheese, smoked bacon, tomato, basil, Dijon mustard and mayo on South Union country bread

My mouth waters as I type this. I’m normally not a hot sandwich girl, but all the flavors blended perfectly into this warm, comforting, tasty treat. I paired it with a cup of their soup of the day and I couldn’t have been happier.

  • Dessert: Apple Gallete

A rustic tart filled with fresh apples with crème anglaise and vanilla bean gelato

Courtney told our waitress we were ready for our checks, but I stopped her and said we might as well check out the dessert menu.

“For the bucket list,” I said.

There may have been some selfish ulterior motives in asking for that menu. I did have my eye on the crème brûlée, another one of my favorites. But instead we went for the gallete as Courtney can’t resist anything with apples. It was refreshing and sweet – a wonderful end to our introduction to Des Moines’s take on French Cuisine.

I’d definitely suggest this place, even if your hesitant about French cuisine. I think their menu is very flexible with twists on some classic dishes, as well as some more adventurous entrees. The atmosphere is sophisticated but still energetic. Here’s their website to find out more:

Here are some other highlights and comments courtesy of my friends as well as reviews:

  • You have to try their Le Cheeseburger, USA Today says it’s one of the state’s best burgers
  • Juice/Metromix gave it the prestigious title of 3rd best restaurant in Des Moines
  • Bring your own wine, there’s no corkage fee

Django’s Lunch Menu


Mother and I stopped at Centro before we ventured to Terrace Hill. I had high expectations as I have only heard incredible things about this treasure of downtown Des Moines. In fact, I probably can’t even count how many times I’ve heard it called the “best” restaurant in Des Moines. I know you’re eager to hear about it, so I’ll dish (pun intended).

  • Portabella Fries $5.99

Truffle aioli and chipotle dressed $5.99 (bigger portion for 9.99, ours was plenty).

Obviously I’m no food expert or critic, but believe me when I say these were absolutely delicious. I’ve never seen fries like these on other menus. As far as I’m concerned sweet potato fries, curly fries, whatever your preference, they can’t touch these portabella fries.

I love portabella and my mother and I were amazed that the mushroom maintained its juiciness even after being fried. The batter was light and crispy, and the truffle aioli was the perfect dipping sauce. Think again if you’re ordering with someone who doesn’t approve of double dipping, because you will be getting some angry glares. I don’t have a lot of experience in the kitchen but I’m assuming the chef used a magic wand to make these, because they were enchanting.

  • Friday special: Manicotti Florentine $9.50

Fresh pasta filled with mozzarella, parmesan, ricotta and spinach baked with marinara and alfredo sauce

Pasta is easy to make, but I think it can be a challenge to make it into something special. But this dish will definitely stick out in my mind. I’d never heard of pasta with both marinara and alfredo sauce, and I was immediately curious about this unusual concoction. The dish was baked in a lot of marinara sauce but drizzled with alfredo on top. It was cheesy and piping hot when it came out. The alfredo added a creamy richness to the dish. I would be eager to have it again.

Dessert: Are you kidding? Mom and I ate every bite. We were too stuffed to even think about dessert (And I don’t say that often). Hopefully I can return someday soon and enjoy one of their after-dinner treats. If their dessert is anything like their other menu items I will cry tears of joy!

Here’s Centro’s website to find out more:

Centro’s Lunch Menu


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Terrace Hill

Last weekend my mom happened to be passing through Des Moines on her way to a much needed visit with her Aunt Bernell in Witchita, Kansas (cue White Stripes). She was really excited to help me cross something off of my Iowa Bucketlist, as any good parent would be.

My mother has some unexplainable love for Iowa mainly inspired by my residency here. This is not an insult. If it was, I’d quickly lose on of my most devoted and supportive followers. You have to give my mom some respect; she’s quite possibly the only person on the planet who enjoys driving through Iowa. She’s driven through more than a handful of times – always the same route – and still can’t stop talking about it. While I find this lovely state more interesting than most people give it credit for, I wouldn’t say it’s landscape is it’s most intriguing or diverse quality (though the Top Of Iowa rest stop is a highlight on my drive home to Minnesota).

So mom and I were originally planning a day at the bridges of Madison county, but decided against it because she wanted to finish her drive to Wichita that day (a seven nation army couldn’t hold her back).

We decided, instead, to go to Terrace Hill, the governor’s mansion and historic site. This manor – like Minnesota’s Glensheen Mansion, minus the murder mystery – was built by a wealthy tycoon, Benjamin Franklin Allen. Construction began in 1866 and was finished in 1869. 15 years later F. M. Hubbell bought the mansion. It would belong to the Hubbell family until 1971, when it was donated to the state of Iowa. It now serves as a home for Iowa’s governors – at least the 3rd floor does anyway, which has been renovated and modernized. The 1st and 2nd floor remain open for tours to the public.

Okay, now that some of that boring history is out of the way, let’s get to the interesting stuff. Wanting to be punctual, Mom and I arrived 30 minutes before the tour was scheduled to start and we were greeted by a spunky woman.

“You’re early,” she stated as soon as we walked in the door.

“Yeah we left early because we were worried we were going to be late,” I told her.

“Well … you’re not.”

And so was our introduction to our beloved tour guide Carol. She kept us company while we waited and explored the posted articles and memorabilia left behind by the Hubbell legacy.

We ended up being the only people that showed, allowing us a private tour of the estate. It began with a 15-minute informational video telling the story of the magnificent mansion that was built by Iowa’s first millionaire B. F. Allen for $250,000 (that includes the mansion, carriage house, furnishing, and 30 acres of land). And don’t forget, this incorporated the luxuries of indoor bathrooms and running water, what a steal! Allen was good at making money and even better at spending it. In fact he was bankrupt by the time the house was finished. The video often included shots of an actor portraying Allen looking solemnly out a window while he considered his impending financial doom.

Afterwards Carol, our sharp-witted volunteer guide, took us to the house. One of my favorite parts of the tour is that the guides are required to do all of their own research rather than having scripts or lists of facts to memorize. This gives the tours a very personalized feel because the guides choose their favorite bits of information and share them with personalized enthusiasm. Our tour included a lot of “Carol-flair.”

We started in the entryway, walking through massive wooden double doors. Each of which Carol said weighed more than 200 pounds.

You can’t go in to all the rooms, but most are open to peek in and see some antique furniture and some original décor.

Peacocks never go out of style.

There were 3 beautiful fire places on the first floor, each one giving a majestic touch to a different room.

The ceilings in the main hall are more than 14 feet tall. The hall also contains what look like end tables that stand against the walls. These tables have mirrors that stand flat against the wall under the table so that women could look and see if their ankles were showing (which would be utterly scandalous). Mom was inappropriately dressed with Capri pants that showed her shocking ankles! Good thing there weren’t any men folk around, or she might have gotten a nasty reputation.

This was tagged as “Women’s History” on the website I found it from.

Carol tried to maintain a very professional image and said the tour guides didn’t like to gossip about the historic characters who’ve called Terrace Hill home. But she did tell us a very juicy story of one of the owners (Allen or Hubbell, I don’t remember), and his marriage. Apparently he was in love with a woman, but when he proposed to her she rejected him assuming he would never amount to anything. Then he turned around and married her sister.

We took a peek into one room that had a strange shaped chair.

Carol explained that this was called a courting chair. Here’s another picture I found online to get a better idea of the chair.

She explained that this chair was used by Hubbell’s daughter Beulah and her fiancé. The two would sit in this chair with strange formation to prevent them from touching. Afterwards Carol said, “I had 5 teenagers and I have to tell you …. I don’t think it worked,” in a sing-song, mother-knows-best voice. That was one of our favorite Carolisms of the day.

Next we saw the dinning room that’s still used to entertain guests for events and state dinners.

Pictured above is the “children’s table,” an area of the house that still has some of the original flooring.

The library was another fun stop on the first floor. It’s also called the Billiard Room (Carol believes this is a misnomer because of a “silly” hanging picture of some women playing pool). In the library you can see F. M. Hubbell’s leather chair. The cushion of the chair sits very close to the floor. It was built custom for the 5 foot 2 Hubbell. As Carol said, it wouldn’t look very professional if the business man’s legs were swinging above the floor.

Before we continued upstairs, Carol showed us what lay behind two more gargantuan doors at the end of the corridor on either side of the staircase. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t much. The doors were mainly put in for aesthetic purposes to add symmetry to the corridor. Behind them wasn’t room for much more than some electrical wiring. Carol expressed her distress about how the doors were completely useless. Sighing, she said, “Well, I guess they didn’t ask me when they built them.”

We moved up the staircase that passed a 9’ by 13’ stain glass window. The window was put in by the second owner, Hubbell, in 1877.

Upstairs were bedrooms, closed guestrooms, and the 1st lady’s office. Fun fact: the adorable Shirley Temple once stayed at Terrace Hill. Why? I’m not sure. But it’s fun and factual all the same.

Hubbell came to Iowa with his father. When his father returned home to Connecticut, Hubbell stayed. He started working at the federal land office. But Hubbell’s job wasn’t going to last long, so he moved to Sioux City and convinced his father to come back in order to help him purchase land, as he was too young to legally make a land bargain claim. Hubbell started with $5 in his pocket and his job at the federal land office paid about $100 a year. But after his first year in Sioux City (his second year in Iowa), his property interests were estimated to be worth $4,000.

The majority of these facts were taken from as were all of the indoor pictures (no cameras are allowed inside). Some facts were taken from my poor memory, so I don’t claim that any of them are perfectly accurate. But if you found any of this interesting I strongly recommend visiting Terrace Hill. The tour guides are welcoming, funny, and helpful. The scenery is beautiful. And the history is interesting. The mansion is open for tours Tuesday through Saturday at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 1:30 p.m. from March through December.

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Pella Tulip Time Festival

My roommate Courtney and I turned off the highway towards Pella, Iowa. We weren’t quite sure where we were going, but we followed the cars in front of us because their flickering blinkers seemed to be eager to get somewhere. We figured if anyone was heading into Pella, they were heading to the Tulip Time Festival. It’s a 3-day festival. This year it began Thursday, May 3. We headed out that Friday.

I didn’t know very much about Pella, besides what I had read from the 77th Annual Tulip Time brochure that I’d read on the 45-minute drive. I knew it had the largest working Dutch windmill in the nation, which was the center of the festival. I wasn’t too worried about finding our way to Pella’s downtown. After we passed about 20 windmills, I realized this town is serious about its Dutch heritage. “A touch of Holand,” as they self proclaim.

The summer heat had already begun to blanket Iowa, so there were no tulips to ring in the celebration of the Spring festival. But what it lacked in tulips, Pella made up for in windmills and pastries. They might not be beautiful flowers, but I didn’t complain – especially not about the pastries.

Court and I decided to start at the windmill. But on our walk towards the majestically spinning blades we were distracted by our one weakness, food. Food stands run by local church and school groups lined the streets. A man stopped us to offer free samples of Dutch sausages. Now if I’ve learned anything from my college education, it’s that you never turn down free food.

Standing in front of the Vermeer Windmill with my Dutch lunch.

After the first food distraction (totally worth it), Court and I started into the windmill. We purchased tickets ($8) to take a tour of the Historical Society’s windmill. Tour guides dressed in authentic Dutch costumes first ushered us into a room with a small replication of a Dutch village.

The village was constructed to represent Pella’s ancestors, a colony of 800 who left Holland in 1847 and somehow ended up in Iowa.

A somewhat creepy eye-level view of a Dutch boy tending to his Tulip garden. Too bad he wasn’t around to resurrect the tulips outside.

The miniature village began in the 1930’s as a work study project for students at Pella’s community schools and Central College. There are nearly 100 buildings that recreate the architectural and cultural detail from 1800 Holland.

No miniature Dutch village is complete without a miniature Dutch Windmill.

When the Vermeer Windmill and Welcoming Center was built, a room was included to house the miniature village. A lot of detail and care went into constructing this realistic village, down to the foliage – evergreens from the winter scene are from Virginia, while some trees came all the way from Washington state.

A busy market scene on a summer day in Holland.

Some of the structures and scenes depicted in the village are based on real Dutch buildings and inspired by real events. If you look inside the windows of the buildings you’ll even see dutch furniture and décor. I don’t even take this kind of prideful detail when I make houses on the Sims.

While it’s already an impressive show of culture, pride, and craftsmanship, this is a continually growing project.

After the village we walked up to the windmill. It’s a 100% wind-powered, working grain mill. It’s the tallest working windmill in the U.S. Most small towns in Holland have a mill at their center. So like a little kid following in his brother’s footsteps, Pella had to have one. A grain mill was chosen because of Pella’s history of agriculture. The mill was designed and built in Holland. Each blade of the mill is 82 feet long and weighs more than 1 ton.

At the rate these blades were flying I probably would have flown away had I not eaten that sausage.

An adorable little boy who braved clogs and the 5 story view from the balcony of the windmill.

I seem to more excited about posing with sacks of grain produced by the windmill than the windmill itself.

Doing our best interpretation of windmill number 289746523458 in Pella, Iowa.

These shoes just don’t seem practical, even when they’re sized correctly.

Now, if you’ve never been to Pella, I’m sure I’m painting a picture of a town overrun by windmills. As far as I’m concerned this is an accurate representation when compared to any other town I’ve seen. But it is also remarkably clean. The word “cookie-cutter” comes to mind, but in the most admirable sense of the word.

Even the inside of the windmill, which I would have imagined to be covered in dust from the grain-making process, was spotless. In fact, the town was almost too perfect. I felt like I was Reese Witherspoon stepping into Pleasantville (without implying that Courtney is Toby Mcguire). The town looks like it was erected just for the festival, like an elaborate painted set that’s taken down and stored in some warehouse until the next Tulip Time.

The only imperfection of the town were the closed tulip buds. The only remnants of the spring flowers were some decrepit buds clinging to dear life.

If you’re at all concerned about your bikini bod you might want to hold off on your visit to Pella until after you’ve hit the beach. Trust me, you won’t be able to resist the Dutch pastries. I don’t have much willpower, but I imagine even for those who do, it’s impossible to turn down these delicious delicacies.

Court and I stopped in Jaarsma bakery, intending to get some famed Dutch Letters. For those who are unfamiliar, they’re an “S” shaped puff pastry with an almond paste filing. Upon entering the bakery we were offered free samples. By the time we got to the counter (standing in the winding line was torture), our mouths were watering and our eyes were wide. We were like kids in a candy store. Or, you know, like any human being in front of a pastry counter. I asked the girl behind the counter for a recommendation and decided to trust her suggestion to try the “Puff Pillow,” a local favorite. It’s a puff pastry shell filled with butter crème frosting, topped with rock sugar. Court chose an Apple Ring. Now if you’re going to go with the puff pillow might I suggest a bib, some wet naps, and perhaps a horse feed bag because that rich frosting has a mind of its own. In fact, Courtney scored some embarrassing shots of me trying to eat the messy treat gracefully.

First bite in – I already have frosting on my face.

Court catches an action shot as some frosting falls from the pastry into my lap.


Oh no, that was my favorite part!

5 second rule, I ate it anyway.

Did you really need to capture that on camera?

Next, Court and I found the Molengracht plaza. Vendors were selling handcrafted sculptures, jewelry, and other things. This plaza was built to replicate an authetntic Dutch canal. It opened more than 10 years ago.

Court and I had read about the reconstructed firehouse originally built in 1882, so we stopped there next. It was complete with an antique fire truck, the first fire truck ever owned and operated by the fire station.

The pamplet also said the firehouse housed a “cold, desolate jail,” which I demanded to see.

This is because I’m not Dutch, isn’t it?

The station also included fire fighting memorabilia, like these 30 foot long fire hoses. Fire hoses were originally made from cotton, so they needed to be hung by the ceiling in order to dry.

After a long day of walking, Court and I stopped for some Dinner. We ended the night the lighted parade. We were a little nervous about finding a prime spot because people had claimed their territory before we even arrived.

We found a spot in some bleachers with a nice view. I’ve been to many parades in my lifetime (I think they’re particularly popular in the Midwest), but this one was different. Every float was intricate, like Central College’s Ferry Boat. There were no shortages of marching bands. The parade even included announcements of each float. Some town citizens owned merchant carts modeled after authentic carts found in Holland markets.

Courtney and I finally hopped back into the car and headed back to Des Moines. I’d heard a few things about Pella before I arrived, but I was pleasantly surprised by the beautiful, culturally rich, and friendly town.

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“100 Things To Eat In Iowa Before You Die”

My hairdresser recommended this list to me. Hopefully I can make a stop to a few of these places on my tour across Iowa. The list was originally by an author from the Des Moines Register, but I couldn’t find the original post in their archives. But thanks to a blog post on the Gastronomic Food Fight’s webpage the precious list has been preserved. Here is the list. The bolded items are in cities I already hope to be traveling to. If you’re not an Iowan, check out the nifty map (also courtesy of the blog) that shows all the restaurants’ locations. This list is 100 Things To Eat In Iowa Before You Die but unfortunately I have a shorter time horizon. Eek! I better get started.

1. Taco Pizza, Happy Joe’s, locations across Iowa

2. Sweet corn, Sweet Corn Festival, Adel

3. BBQ Ribs, Claxon’s Smokehouse & Grill, Altoona

4. Sauerkraut Salad, Colony Inn Restaurant, Amana

5. Rhubarb wine, Ackerman Winery, Amana

6. Schild Brau Amber, Millstream Brewery, Amana Colonies

7. Sauerbraten (beef marinated in a sweet and sour sauce, made with spices and Amana wines) with potato dumplings, Ronneburg Restaurant, Amana

8. Saucy Southerner Sandwich, Hickory Park, Ames

9. Chicken Tequila Fettuccine (Chicken, onions, peppers and tequila-soy cream sauce on spinach fettuccine), Aunt Maude’s, Ames

10. Denver-Style Crust Pizza, The Great Plains Sauce and Dough Co., Ames

11. Gyro, The Gyro Guy outdoor cart, Campustown, Ames

12. Margarita, O’Malley & McGees, Ames

13. Fresh Beer-Battered Onion Rings, The Redwood Steakhouse, Anita

14. Angel Cream Coconut Cake, Peppercorn Pantry Tea Room, Aplington

15. Nutty Bar, Arnolds Park Amusement Park, Arnolds Park

16. Prime Rib, The Feedlot Steakhouse, Atlantic

17. Homemade fudge, The Mean Street Grill, Atlantic

18. Spaghetti Soup and Red Raspberry Pie, Breitbach’s Country Dining, Balltown

19. Sink Cookies, Granny Annie’s Bakery & Cafe, Cedar Falls

20. Raspberry Coffee Cake, Barn Happy, Cedar Falls

21. Kolaches, Sykora Bakery, Cedar Rapids

22. Cabbage Rolls (ground beef with rice wrapped in a cabbage leaf with a tangy tomato sauce) with potato or bread dumplings, Zindricks Czech Restaurant, Cedar Rapids

23. Pork Ribs, Al & Irene’s, Cedar Rapids

24. Onion Rings, J Bruners steak restaurant, Clarinda

25. Black Dirt Cake (cream-cheese frosting layered between ground Oreo cookies), That Place Restaurant, Conrad 

26. Garst Farm sides: Corn Casserole, Four-Way Bean Dish and Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage, Garst Farm Resorts, Coon Rapids

27. Hot Fudge Sundae, served with a pitcher of fudge on the side, Lagomarcino’s, Davenport

28. Pond-Raised Catfish with Western Baked Potato, The Enchanted Inn, Davenport

29. Regular (pepperoni and sausage) or Around-The-Garden Pizza, Mabe’s Pizza & Restaurant, Decorah

30. Breakfast buffet with made-to-order omelets, homemade waffles, biscuits and gravy, and pastries, Cronk’s Restaurant & Lounge, Denison

31. Burritos Jimador (cheese-sauce topped burritos stuffed with steak, cheese and lettuce), El Jimador, Denison

32. Bone-in Delmonico, 801 Steak & Chop House, Des Moines

33. Margherita or Sausage Pizza, Chuck’s Italian-American Restaurant, Des Moines

34. Peach Ice Cream, Bauder’s, Des Moines

35. Chicken Spiedini, Tursi’s Latin King Restaurant, Des Moines

36. Corn dog, Campbell’s Concessions, Iowa State Fair, Des Moines

37. Chocolate Bonbon, Chocolaterie Stam, Des Moines/Windsor Heights/West Des Moines

38. Tom Ka Kai, Thai Flavors, Des Moines

39. Steak taco, Tasty Tacos, Des Moines

40. Hot Sausage Sandwich (made with Graziano’s sausage), Norwood Inn, Des Moines

41. Trappistine Creamy Caramels, Trappistine Nuns of Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey Monastery, Dubuque

42. Bison Tenderloin, Pepper Sprout Midwest Cuisine, Dubuque

43. Caramel Apple, Betty Jane Candies, Dubuque

44. Gunderburger, The Irish Shanti, Elgin

45. Stuffed Pork Loin, The Danish Inn, Elk Horn

46. Crepes, La Petit Paris, Fairfield

47. Vegetarian Salad Bar, Maharishi University of Management cafeteria, Fairfield

48. Sunday Vegetarian Breakfast Buffet, Everybody’s, Fairfield

49. Wood-Fired Pizza, Revelations Cafe & Bookstore, Fairfield

50. Semmel (a dense German roll, baked fresh daily), The Bistro at the Gortz Haus, Grimes

51. Chicken Walnut Salad, served on Wednesdays at Kelcy’s, Grinnell

52. Cream-Filled Coney, (doughnut with cream filling, shaped like a hot dog), Danish Maid Bakery, Grinnell

53. Homemade Triple Berry Pie, Picket Fence Café, Guttenberg

54. Cherry Pie, Crouse Cafe, Indianola

55. Spicy Yam Pate, Red Avocado, Iowa City

56. Green Papaya Salad, Thai Spice Restaurant, Iowa City

57. Brie Beast Sandwich (Niman Ranch roast beef, brie cheese, roasted sweet peppers, lettuce and tomato on farm bread), New Pioneer Co-Op, Iowa City and Coralville

58. Tuscan Tomato Soup, Bread Garden Bakery & Cafe, Iowa City

59. Vegetarian Falafel Sandwich, Oasis Falafel, Iowa City

60. Smoke Trout Pate (served with stone-ground wheat crackers), Linn Street Cafe, Iowa City

61. BBQ Chicken, Camp David, Iowa Falls

62. Fried Chicken with homemade bread, mashed potatoes and gravy, The Red Barn Bistro, Keosauqua

63. Bob Dog (natural-casing wiener topped with loose meat), Bob’s Drive-In, Le Mars 

64. Tenderloin Tips (cubes of tenderloin beef sauteed with mushroom, white wine and oregano in a white wine and garlic-butter sauce) Somebody’s Grille & Bar, Manilla

65. Tortellini Carbonara (tortellini with homemade Alfredo sauce, bacon and green onions), Phat Daddy’s, Marengo

66. Half-pound burger, Marquette Bar & Cafe, Marquette

67. Maid-Rite, Taylor’s Maid-Rite, Marshalltown

68. Mile-High Lemon Meringue Pie, Stone’s Restaurant, Marshalltown

69. Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie, Twisted Chicken, McGregor

70. 16-ounce Ribeye (heart-cut, bacon-wrapped), Rube’s Steaks, Montour and Waukee

71. Homegrown Muscatine Melons, late July until first frost, The Good Earth Restaurant, Muscatine

72. Seven Seas Seafood Soup, Guadalajara, Muscatine

73. Grilled Sirloin Meatloaf (Wood-fire grilled meatloaf served on Texas toast with BBQ sauce, topped with mashed potatoes and onion straws), The Button Factory Woodfire Grille, Muscatine

74. Blue Cheese, Maytag Dairy Farm, Newton

75. Bratwurst, Woudstra Meat Market, Orange City

76. Loaded Hash Browns, Otho Pub, Otho

77. Loose meat sandwich, Canteen Lunch in the Alley, Ottumwa

78. Dutch letters, Jaarsma Bakery, Pella

79. Cast-Iron Seared Filet with a Blue Cheese Crostini, Carmelized Mushrooms and a Maple-Bourbon Demi-glaze, David’s Milwaukee Diner, Perry 

80. Fajitas, Sabor Latino, Postville

81. Hamburger Buns, Postville Bakery, Postville

82. Broasted Chicken, Red Rooster, Postville

83. Pita and Falafel, Kosher Community Restaurant, Postville

84. Country Fried Chicken with Mashed Potatoes and Creamed Vegetables, first Sunday of the month, Elks Club, Shenandoah

85. Tuna Sushi, Fuji Bay Japanese Restaurant, Sioux City

86. Onion Peels, Tastee In and Out, Sioux City

87. Pork Tenderloin, St. Olaf Tavern, St. Olaf

88. Fruit-of-the-Forest Pie (fruits in season), Susie’s Kitchen, Stanton

89. Swedish Meatball Soup, Boz Wellz Pub & Eaterie, Storm Lake

90. Caramel Truffles, Kristi’s Kandies & Heirlooms, Storm Lake

91. New York Strip Steak, The Embers, Storm Lake

92. Raspberry Pork Tenderloin (Grilled pork tenderloin with a raspberry sauce), The Cottage on Broad, Story City

93. Dutch Salad, Coffee Cup Cafe, Sully

94. Steak DeBurgo, Sam & Gabe’s Italian Bistro, Urbandale

95. Cinnamon Roll, Iowa Machine Shed, Urbandale

96. Prime Rib Twister (Grilled prime rib with Cajun seasoning topped with grilled mushrooms, onions and grilled shrimp), AK Corral Steakhouse & Lounge, Ute

97. Muskie Burger, Muskie Lounge, Ventura

98. Black Forest Cake, Martin’s Brandenburg, Waverly

99. Chocolate malt, Wilton Candy Kitchen, Wilton

100. Apple Dumpling, Iowa 80 truck stop, Walcott

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The Calender

Here’s a calender of the scheduled events on the list. It looks a little intimidating because I’ve included all scheduled home games for sports teams and weekly events. I don’t plan on attending all of these. This is just to help me stay on track and help you stay updated.

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The List

This is the list. It is by no means concrete. It is a combination of suggestions from websites, friends, strangers, and Iowa lovers in general. Because I only have 104 days it would be very difficult to complete all of these. I’m setting a goal of 20 items, about 1 a week. I’m going to try my hardest to do more. Some weeks I’ll let you all vote on what I should do, and I’m always up for suggestions. I’ll keep you updated with pictures, videos, posts, fun facts – you name it. Check back every week and by the end of the summer we’ll have a picture of Iowa, piece by piece. If you aren’t a believer in this beautiful state, follow this blog. You will be converted.
  1. Visit Estherville (of course)
  2. Read and see the actual Bridges Of Madison County
  3. Brunch on the river on the Jon Anderson White Riverboat
  4. Visit Blue Moon Dueling Pianos and drink the Blue Moon Fish Bowl
  5. Visit Amana
  6. Wine tasting at Jasper Winery
  7. Watch Field Of Dreams and visit Dyersville to see the field
  8. Iowa State Fair
  9. Des Moines Art Center
  10. Des Moines Historical Museum
  11. Salisbury House
  12. Tour the Capitol
  13. Botanical Garden
  14. Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden
  15. Saylorville Trail
  16. 80/35
  17. Des Moines River Trail
  18. Des Moines Farmers Market
  19. Eat a taco from a taco truck
  20. Snooki’s Malts
  21. Dirt trails at Ashworth and Greenwood Parks
  22. Friday night ICubs game
  23. Barnstormers game
  24. Living History Farms
  25. Nightfall On The River Concert Series at the Simon Estes Riverfront Amphitheater
  26. Brunch at Americana
  27. Gateway sushi picnic at the Pappajohn Sculpture Park
  28. Woody’s Smoke Shack
  29. Try the Adam Emmenecker sandwich challenge at Jethros
  30. National Balloon Classic
  31. Guided horseback trail ride at Jester Park
  32. Sky Zone
  33. Bowling at Bass Pro Shops
  34. Take the downtown shuttle
  35. Visit the Iowa Speedway
  36. Visit the rose garden at Greenwood Park
  37. Go Karts at Americas Incredible Pizza Company
  38. Horse Racing/Ostrich racing at the Prairie Meadows Racetrack
  39. Yoga at Gray’s Lake park
  40. Des Moines Art Festival
  41. Walk the entire downtown skywalk
  42. Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad
  43. Iowa Hall Of Pride
  44. See a show at the Des Moines Playhouse
  45. Visit Fort Dodge
  46. Adventureland
  47. Tour the Villisca Axe Murder house in Villisca, Iowa
  48. Centro
  49. Flying Mango
  50. Fong’s Pizza
  51. Waterfront Seafood Market
  52. Django
  53. Lucca
  54. La Mie
  55. Zombie Burger
  56. Mars Café
  57. Smokey Row
  58. Raccoon River Brewing company
  59. Peace Tree Brewing Company
  60. Rock Bottom Brewery
  61. Uncle Wendell’s BBQ
  62. Goldie’s
  63. Splash
  64. Dos Rios
  65. Spend a day in the East Village
  66. High Trestle Trail
  67. Clive Greenbelt Trail
  68. 48 Hour Film Festival
  69. Iowa Senior Olympics
  70. Des Moines Menace Game
  71. Great Western Trail
  72. Bill Riley Bike Trail
  73. Neal Smith Trail
  74. John Pat Dorrian Trail
  75. Visit the Des Moines Science Center
  76. 711 Theatre Project
  77. Tour Terrace Hill
  78. Tour Historic Valley Junction
  79. Visit & tour Maytag Dairy Farms
  80. Go camping
  81. Visit Backbone State Bark
  82. Visit Ledges State Park
  83. Visit Waubonsie State Park
  84. See a movie  at Valle Drive-Inn Theatre
  85. Visit Maquoketa Caves State Park
  86. Visit the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, IA where Buddy Holly performed final concert
  87. Raccoon River Valley Trail
  88. Tour the Mississippi Distilling Company in Le Claire, IA
  89. Tour Templeton Rye Distillery in Templeton, IA and try Templeton Rye Whiskey
  90. Visit Reiman Gardens at Iowa State University
  91. See the Dutch Windmill in Pella, IA the tallest working Dutch windmill in America
  92. See the Iowa Crush Women’s Professional Football
  93. Ride for a day of RAGBRAI
  94. Arnold’s Park in Okoboji
  95. Mason City to see where they filmed Music Man/Frank Lloyd Wright Hotel
  96. Ride in a Combine
  97. Detassle corn
  98. Eat cupcakes at Creme
  99. Pella Tulip Time Festival
  100. Sweet Corn Festival in Adel
  101. Loess Hills
  102. Visit John Wayne’s birthplace
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The Iowa Bucket List

This is the last summer before my senior year of college. It isn’t my last last summer, but it kind of feels that way. It’s the summer of the kind of summer I’ve ever known: a fleeting 3-month break between school years where life is magically transformed. Time always seems a little more impulsive, rebellious, and romantic despite the constant thin layer of sweat on my skin.

I’ve accepted the uncertainty that is about to befall me … I think. I don’t know when I will get a job after college (fingers crossed that it’s right away), I don’t know what it will be, or where it will be. Some days I want to work for a communications department for a corporation in a big city. Some days I want to be the producer for the 6 o’clock news. Some days I want to be a freelance video editor. I feel like I’m an eight-year-old version of myself wanting to be the president one day and a rockstar the next. Of course, these new dreams are a little more attainable, if I could only pick one. But for now, I take school one day at a time operating under the idea that one day I will figure it out.

But this summer, my “last” summer, I want to live in the present. I will not settle for uncertainty. This summer is symbolic of my last venture of youth. More importantly, it’s the last summer I will definitely be living in Iowa, the place that I have had the audacity to call home for the past 3 years. But Iowa has never really been my home. I haven’t explored it enough to really appreciate it enough to call it home. Home is a place you know intimately, a place you feel comfortable, a place you feel welcomed by familiar faces. It’s a place you miss when you’re gone.

It’s not like I’ve been a hermit these past 3 years. I can call a very small portion of Iowa home. The campus of Drake University, Court Avenue Restaurant and Brewing Company where I work, the cafés where I’m often found studying, and my apartment. Calling anything outside that list “home” wouldn’t be fair, unless you count I-35, the interstate that brings me back to my family every few months in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

So this summer I have to do it big. As the current trending acronym says #YOLO. I’m promising myself. I owe it to myself and my so-called home to see what I’ve been missing.  So here’s what I’m proposing: The Iowa Bucket List.

This list is the product of many things: 3 years of letting things fall off my to-do lists while I put school and work as my top priority, suggestions of travel sites, blogs, friends, and community members. It is by no means concrete. But it’s a list I’m proud of, for now. There are 104 days of summer vacation according to Phineas and Ferb as well as the Drake University academic calender. As there are more than 104 items on my list there is no possible way I can get to them all. I’ve set my goal at 20 (hopefully more, but no less). That’s approximately 1 item per week, with a few weeks being especially adventurous.

This blog is to document my adventure, because it would be selfish to keep it to myself. I’ve invited all my friends and family to join me when they can. But for those who can’t participate physically and for those who like reading the amateur’s view of Iowa, this is for you. Videos, pictures, opinions, fun facts – they’ll all be found right here. I’ll even have polls where you can vote on what I should do next.

The official start date of the Iowa Bucket List kickoff event is Saturday, May 12, assuming I make it through my finals. Let the countdown begin!

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