Category Archives: Iowa city

Hancher reborn, Nutcracker reborn (by the Joffrey Ballet), best burger — Iowa City

Outside the new Hancher Auditorium

Outside the new Hancher Auditorium

What a treat to visit the new Hancher Auditorium on the University of Iowa campus, not far from where the first was very destroyed but a flood 8 years ago. It is had not to compare the two buildings. Hancher One had a more open feel with a long wide front lobby, seating area and stage. Hancher Two feels a bit cramped by comparison but I really like its three floors and floor to ceiling glass with great views looking out across the campus. The auditorium is more of a horseshoe shape, with many balconies, which I think means lots of seats with a good view. Our seats were way on the side but we could see the full stage. I also liked the colors, sort of a light river green paint on the walls, wavey motifs here and there (mighty generous given that the river destroyed the previous building. The seats were also new and well upholstered so very comfortable.

img_0335AS for the ballet, I loved it, which was a bit of a surprise because I have seen the nutcracker many times so feared I might be bored. But this new version, by choreographer Christopher Wheeldon is very fresh. THe staging is so dramatic that it also overpowered the dancing but I lived the sets, which appeared to be done by some sort of fantastical computer generated animation. IT was hard to tell what was actually physical vs. graphic at times. And the setting, the humble home of a working class polish family living in Chicago at the time of the worlds fair was refreshingly different than the posh aristocratic setting of nutcrackers pastttle. The choreography was fun and more contemporary than I’ve seen in nutcrackers past. I particularly loved the reimagined battle between the toy soldiers and mice. This time it was vs. nuts (little kids dressed in hilarious costumes, each a bulbous  nut that cracked open occasionally to reveal their little faces) atop spindly little legs in brown tights. My only criticism is that during the full ensemble dancing, the action became a bit of a blur, with the stage seeming too crowded at times.

We had an early dinner at Short’s, which serves the most amazing burgers. The meat comes from a local farm and tastes accordingly. The burgers ar huge and mine was actually prepared exactly as ordered — medium  rare– which is in of itself, rare.img_0333



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Warren Dunes State Park, Infusco coffee, Sawyer produce — southwest Michigan

Nothing like a walk along the sandy shores of Lake Michigan to loosen up my aching back after a night on a img_0313too hard mattress at an Airbnb in Sawyer. And at the end of our walk on the near deserted shore, on a gorgeous unexpectedly warm fall morning, it was easy to feel optimistic about life.

Later, we had my dream picnic (smoked whitefish, raspberries and russet apples, all fresh fromMichigan) at a not quite perfect picnic spot– aa concrete picnic table at a rest stop along I-80, just over the border in Illinois.

We explored some more of the area around Sawyer, getting coffee at Infusco and produce at the local greenhouse including more raspberries and heirloom tomatoes. WE drove on a beautiful morning around Lakeside, spotting some fancy vacation homes off narrow dirt roads cut into the woods. new Buffalo didn’t make much of an impression but we liked the area around it and can see why it draws big city folk from Chicago (only an hour away).img_0144

Dinner was in Iowa City at Pullman, a newcomer that has been on our list for awhile for good reason, as it turned out. Delicious fried chicken and over-the-top “kitchen fries” with crispy fries, melts cheese, a mustard sauce and bits of what tasted like burnt ends from the best Kansas City rib joints. BAck to cottage cheese and carrots today in Des Moines.


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Filed under Dining, Iowa, Iowa city, michigan

U of Iowa’s Hancher Auditorium…it’s baaaccck! and with the Joffrey Ballet no less

161770095.qoviR34c.hancher1It’s been 8 long years since a flood destroyed University of Iowa’s Hancher Auditorium, which brought – among other things – topnotch ballet companies to Iowa. The new Hancher – built near the site of the old one but on higher ground, we’re promised – will be back in business next fall and dance fans, in particular, should be thrilled.

First up: The world premiere of a new   “Nutcracker” on Dec. 1-4 danced by Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet. I don’t usually get psyched about ballet chestnuts but this is a new version that promises to be interesting, with choreography by of-the-moment Christopher Wheeldon (former New York City Ballet principal/choreographer) and sets by children’s author/illustrator Brian Selznick (“The Invention of Hugo Cabret” which was made in to the Oscar-winning movie “Hugo.”) Tickets go on sale for Hancher donors (I think I’m one of them….) on April 25 and everyone else on June 10. I’m eager to see what else Hancher has on tap!

Since 2008, Hancher has still operated with music and theater performances at alternative sites around Iowa City but dance performances, I gather, were harder to relocate – the original Hancher had a state-of-the-art dance floor that I’m assuming the new one will have as well.


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Filed under Iowa, Iowa city, theater

New restaurants to try in Iowa City…

We are kind of stuck in our ways when it comes to dining in Iowa City but here are some places that may be worth trying accouting to “Bread & Butter: 2015 Dining Guide”:

  • Leaf Kitchen (locally sourced food and freesh squeezed juice
  • Nodo (fresh baskery items and Brew City fries, sandwich board
  • Sushi Kitcchin
  • Oyama – Japanese, chirashi suschi
  • Clinton Street Social Club – pork belly
  • Donnelly’s
  • El Banditos – beef barbacoa taco, brunch

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Ragbrai 2015 – greatest hits….

Coralville Dam

Coralville Dam

I rode the last three days (210 miles plus) this year – but my husband and son rode the whole week (500 miles plus)  from Sioux City to Davenport (actually Moline, Illinois, where the Team Skunk bus was parked). Here’s the stuff I (and they) liked the best.

Most charming little overnight town: Eldora – beautiful courthouse and square; Storm Lake close runner up.

Best meal: pulled pork sandwiches at the Masonic Lodge in Wilton, Iowa (Day 7); runner up – Mexican restaurant in Storm Lake (Day 1) and Monica’s for pasta Bolognase in Coralville (Day 6); homemade glazed donuts from Bread Garden in Iowa City; the Skillet where we hunkered down during a rain storm in Mount Vernon (although still miss the Lincoln Cafe there).

Best homemade lemonade: Not the chemical stuff – lemons, sugar, water. outside Moscow, Iowa



Best ice cream: the The Outside Scoop (food truck from Indianola and visits Des Moines weekly!) Best flavor: lemonhead custard.

Best overheard comments:

“I’m kind of leaning towards Walker – he’s the governor of Wisconsin”

“Great shirt – I’m tired of looking at all these bike jerseys” (someone praising my son’s Kafka shirt)

“I used to think this guy I work with from Iowa was such a nice guy. Now I realize after being here he’s not that exceptional.”



Toughest ride/but most gorgeous scenery: Day 5 from Cedar Rapids to Coralville (via Mount Vernon, Lisbon, Coralville Dam.)

Most memorable shower: Cattle wash at the Hardin County Fairgrounds in Eldora.

Awesomely generous overnight hosts: Jim and Myrna in Cedar Rapids (great company, conversation, shower, dinner, bed, tour of revitalized NewBo area and beyond downtown)

Best beer garden: Back Pocket Brewery; runner up: Jackson Street Brewery in Sioux City

Eldora Iowa courthouse

Eldora Iowa courthouse

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Filed under bike trails, biking, Iowa, Iowa city

Iowa City – Hawkeye football and Short’s burgers

After watching Iowa trounce Northwestern in football on a cold clear day, we warmed up at Short’s Burger and Shine, which didn’t disappoint – excellent burgers with top-quality meat, prepared just as requested, and hand-cut fries. I tried the Greek-inspired burger with feta, cukes and tzatziki sauce (although after awhile I couldn’t resist adding ketchup.) My only complaint is that we were told we’d have about a half hour wait so we dawdled a bit at Prairie Lights, the great book store around the block, and returned about 20 minutes later to find we’d lost our table. So we had to wait some more- but only about 10 minutes (after bracing for another potential 30 minute wait…). Moral of story: stay put for the wait, which may be shorter than you were told.

#8: Arion burger (cucumber, tomato, feta, tzatziki sauce)

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Super duper super 8 in Le Claire

My husband warns that we haven’t yet heard the truck drivers likely to be partying here tonight, but so far I am liking this Super 8 in this eastern Iowa Mississippi River town. I do have to admit that my thumbs up may be colored by the relief I feel at no longer being on Interstate 80 driving in the dark through a “wintery mix,” with trucks zooming past us, their tires flinging rain, ice, snow onto our windshield. This Super 8 seems pretty new. It’s clean, the bed is firm with ok linens, there’s s big flat screen tv (we are watching a Seinfeld episode so old that George has hair. sort of.)

Anyway, we didn’t hit bad weather until after our delicious middle eastern dinner at Oasis in Iowa City and with any luck we won’t encounter much more during the duration of our trip to Chicago.

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