Julien Baker, S. Carey and more at Mission Creek Festival 2018 in Iowa City

At the new Hancher Auditorium

I’ve lately become obsessed with the music of young singer-songwriter Julien Baker, so I was delighted to see she’ll be in Iowa City during the six-day Mission Creek Festival in April (she’s playing at Gabe’s on April 7, from what I can tell.) Also see S. Carey is part of the festival too…which has me thinking I need to look into the festival itself! Here’s more information: http://missioncreekfestival.com/


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Coming in from the cold – blues at the DSM Botanical Center, avocado fries at The Republic

Botanical blues

As we were driving toward the Greater Des Moines Botanical Center last Sunday, we started realizing that the road leading there was chock-a-block with parked cars. Sure enough, we weren’t the only people with cabin fever, eager to get out of the house albeit not into the bitter cold tundra that is Iowa right now.

The Botanical Center is smartly offering blues concerts every Sunday from Jan. 7 through March 25 and I heartily recommend. The music – by local favorite Bob Pace, who I’m told plays regularly at The Gas Lamp downtown, although not to as huge a crowd as provided last Sunday at the Botanical Center – was good, as was the people watching and the very welcome green and leafy tropical hothouse setting. What a joy to see growing and flowering plants, especially at this time of year. The sun poured through the center’s glass dome, reminding us what it felt to actually feel almost hot. It felt great.

Avocado fries and a view at The Republic

Afterwards, we stopped at The Republic on Grand, the very stylish but welcoming bar at the top of the six-story  AC Hotel  in Des Moines’ East Village  that I’d yet to visit, mainly because I don’t go to bars much. This one has great views of the city and was quiet and welcoming. We had some outstanding avocado fries (avocado slices dipped in what looked like chickpea batter and fried) — delicious!

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A little bit of Brooklyn in Des Moines – St. Kilda Bakery and Cafe

The new St. Kilda Bakery & Cafe, tucked away in an emerging downtown neighborhood of old brick warehouses converted into lofts and newly constructed apartment buildings, grabbed my attention initially because its owner is London-born and Australian-raised and promised an “Australian-style cafe.” That’s new for Des Moines.  Then I learned from a friend – a Des Moines native who lives in Brooklyn’s stylish Prospect Heights neighborhood – that St. Kilda’s owner previously ran a bar/restaurant in her NYC neighborhood. (Apparently he’s married to a Des Moines native, hence the move here…)

Anyway, St. Kilda (named after the owner’s hometown near Melbourne) has an urban contemporary  vibe and “modern, healthy-style”  food, based on my first lunch there last month.  Located in the attractively renovated warehouse now known as the Harbach Lofts, south of MLKing Parway downtown (a few blocks northwest of Principal Park, home of Des Moines’ minor league baseball team, the Iowa Cubs), St. Kilda  is a small but  airy tan-grey-white space with pale hard wood, concrete and redbrick. My friend Denise and I shared the avocado toast (an entree that appears to be all the rage today) and a steak salad with a poached egg on top. Both were attractively presented with  clever ingredients (beyond smashed avocado, the toast included charred corn, feta, tomato salsa; the surprisingly light steak salad included figs, pears and a bacon vinaigrette) — so not as ordinary or easily-made-at-home as you might think.   I look forward to trying dinner there sometime soon. (Here’s DSM Mag’s take)

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Here’s my story about the (Iowa) Farm Crawl in the Minneapolis Star Tribune!

Hot off the press (and Internet), here’s the story I wrote last fall about “Farm Crawl 2017” that just squeaked in before the start of 2018.  click here to see the story online.

Midwest Traveler: Iowa’s Farm Crawl, where a farm is a farm

Iowa’s annual Farm Crawl is a quaint detour through some of the state’s smaller farms.


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Revival Food Hall, Bridgeport, The Wormhole/Wicker Park – frigid Chicago

With subzero temps and icy snow on the ground, Christmas 2017 in Chicago was not conductive to outdoor activity, which is a big change from last Christmas when it was so pleasant we took our dog for a romp on the beach near my stepdaughter’s condo in Edgewater. But this year, we walked as much as we could tolerate, with help from two pairs of socks, down jackets, thick scarves covering our face from the nose downward.

We enjoyed well-deserved hot chocolate at The Wormhole, a bohemian coffee house in Wicker Park and made it about a block in the bitter cold to a little boutique for some post-Xmas sale shopping. At Night, we met my old friend Polly and her husband Jamie (who drove down and around from their home in Traverse City) for dinner at a favorite restaurant, Andy’s Thai Kitchen (the one in Edgewater, which is not only more convenient to where we stay but takes credit cards).

On Wednesday we talked ourselves into thinking it was slightly warmer (it wasn’t but the sky was brilliantly blue over the icy pale blue lake) and walked from my aunt’s apartment on Astor Street to Uniqlo on Michigan Avenue for some sale-priced winter gear and then to chaotic Eataly, the Italian food madhouse for some fresh prosciutto, mozzarella and fungi pizza, sitting at a high top table in the middle of a rush of shoppers. Our only other purchase was rustic bread with cranberries and apples, which made a delicious breakfast today. We kept walking, over the river to Revival Hall, a new food court/Hall in an old building. I’m told the poke place, the bbq place (smoke) and the Thai noodle place are good to try but we only had coffee and some too-sweet bakery goods. I was Intrigued by the”Detroit-style pizza” place, something this native Detroiter never heard of before. Dinner was with my dear aunt at one of her favorite places, Shaw’s for fresh fish, creamed spinach, hash browns and peppermint ice cream with hot fudge.

Today was cold and grey. We wandered a few blocks in Andersonville, shopping at Four point and the bookstore, Women and Children First, and the nearby middle eastern restaurant where we ended up having lunch later after we discovered that Edzo’s, the famous burger place in Evanston, was, alas, closed for the holidays. Now driving in the dark across Illinois. Fortunately it stopped snowing after the city of Peru. Our best meal was Emma’s fabulous homemade Korean brisket, roasted rosemary potatoes, collard greens and chocolate cake (with ground coffee but no flour)…not available to the public, sorry.

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Prince Show and the Bachelor Farmer Cafe – Minneapolis

My favorite piece at the art show honoring the late great singer Prince at the U of Minnesota’s Weisman Museum was a portrait by an apparently well-known Minnesota “crop artist” who used a variety of crops (bromegrass, grits, canola, etc.) as her medium. The show was only two rooms worth of stuff – a lot of photos, some painted portraits, a giant mural and some glass sculpture but always nice to wander through the bright high-ceilinged spaces of the museum, designed by Frank Gehry.

my favorite bachelor

Lunch was at the bustling Bachelor Farmer Cafe in the warehouse district where we had fresh-tasting squash soup and an very Scandinavian-feeling open-faced toasted sandwich. The cafe is at the front of the Bachelor Farmer Restaurant, where we had a great meal over Memorial Day weekend.

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Good Food, great Company in Minneapolis

Nanook of the north here where it is decidedly snowier and colder in the Twin Cities than in Des Moines. Noah and Conor live in a sweet older apartment in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis, which has a good selection of restaurants. We had excellent pulled pork with lime, black beans, chicken stew with green olives and capers and don’t forget the desserts (chocolate cake and flan) at Victor’s 1959 Cuban Cafe, a very atmospheric place, sort of a tar paper shack with the walls and seats covered in graffiti, including by another Betsy who sat in our booth sometime earlier in 2017.

Lunch was quiche and ham sandwich, (real ham on a homemade baguette) at Patisserie 46 (yes on 46th Street),which also has lovely breads, pastries and chocolates (which we did not try). We spent part of the afternoon at IKEA and then browsed at its price/aesthetic opposite — a hygge home goods store in the warehouse district called Foundry.

The drive here had more winter precipitation than I expected maybe because I looked up the weather for major cities between Dsm and Minneapolis (that seemed, and were, fairly dry). I ran into freezing rain and later blizzard-like snow in the sticks so maybe I need to look in the future at the weather forecast for podunk towns between say, Mason City, Iowa and Albert Lea, MN.

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