Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Random Bites: Sizzling Temps, Skillet Chilies and a Superwoman

-Let me just preface this summary with a statement: Call me barking mad, but I'll take the worst heat of summer over the bitter chill of winter any day. That said, 111-degree temps are helping to challenge this yearly stance that I take on the seasons. This heat wave has been relentless and is taking its toll on everyone. It is also bizarre to watch the lawn and gardens dry up while the river remains swollen and massive flooding remains a huge problem throughout the region. As I've mentioned before, our trip to Lincoln was decidedly longer as the interstate continues to be closed from the flooding. This trip was an eye-opener; revealing many areas that are underwater. This oddball contrast has helped establish this season as one surreal summer. The forecast just took a turn and hopefully, we are finally looking at some relief.

-Local Lincoln eats were plentiful and good and while the summer heat didn't create much of an appetite; the offerings were many and hard to resist. I had mentioned our lunch at Lazlo's brewpub before and despite our slight despondence over our friend Carolyn, we did enjoy the food there. Indeed, that spicy, hoppy smoked chipotle ale paired nicely with the Voodoo Chicken Lahvosh that was topped with a three-cheese cream sauce, blackened chicken and sauteed onions. I noticed that this was the third area menu that featured the Armenian sweet cracker bread known as lahvosh; so I don't know if this is becoming a trend or if this is a local specialty. Keith raved about his hot and flavorful Buffalo Chicken Wrap as well. Breakfast the following morning was at a local version of a Midwest fave: Village Inn. I had first eaten at one of these comforting gems in Omaha with our friend Lisa and her mom Phyllis. The Village Inn originated in Denver, CO and now has 200 locations. This local Lincoln outlet features their spanking new look; maintaining familiar orange decor hues, award-winning homemade pies like Caramel Pecan and friendly service while adding a sleek, streamlined new look and some new menu items. I decided to try one of their skillet meals; the Rio Grande, with scrambled eggs, tender pork carnitas, fire-roasted chilies, onions, three cheeses, salsa and fresh jalapeno slices. This was a bright and spicy treat and I also got to try the fabulous multi-grain pancakes that feature a hit of cinnamon. Finally, I apparently couldn't leave town without experiencing something called a Runza. This is a unique sandwich created in a fast-food environment that originated in Lincoln. The Runza restaurant chain originated in 1949 as drive-ins and now number over 80 restaurants with drive-thrus. They make homemade dough from scratch then fill it with ground beef, onions, cabbage and secret spices and then wrap it and bake it. Runzas are quite filling and pretty darn tasty as well. Our drive back and forth to Lincoln and the back roads revealed a wealth of local mom-and-pop joints and I wish time had permitted us the opportunity to visit each one; especially Shirley's Dinner Bell in Wathena, KS which looks like a classic. One last discovery on the road: Chase's Cherry Mash which apparently is made in St, Joseph, MO near where I live. Where did I discover it? Nebraska City. Wha...???? This candy bar has been around since 1918!! Maraschino cherries and chopped roasted peanuts wrapped in chocolate. Don't know how I've missed it, but I LOVE it. It may be my new favorite candy bar.

Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital; where Carolyn is undergoing therapy won a couple of quirky points with me. One is the interesting artwork featuring a mosaic made entirely of locally grown products: grain, corn and beans. Also, MAH gets props for turning the typically somber environment of hospital dining into something bright and cheery. Their red and chrome Route 66-inspired cafeteria is kinda fun.

Finally, when the news is rife with reasons to be depressed, the welcome face of survivor extraordinaire Gabrielle Giffords returned to Congress to add her voice to the budget vote. Gabby is a sight for sore eyes to everyone, it seems, including the embittered politicos. She is certainly a hopeful vision to behold for those of us praying for Carolyn's recovery as well. Thank you, Gabby, for lifting our spirits, bringing some humanity back and being a true inspiration to us all.


Anonymous said...

OMG really you have never had a cherry mash. We the posse grew up on them. Back when we where kids they had a real cherry in the middle not just the filling it has now. We love them.
Another great blog.

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