Sunday, June 14, 2009

Inspiration in two parts


About a month ago one of my dear friends visited me. One of the many things I appreciate in this friend is his love of fine dining. He likes to eat -- and eat well -- as much as I do, if not perhaps even more. Since most of my friends in Iowa City are also graduate students, I rarely find other like-minded people on this subject. And if they are like-minded, some of the best options become cost-prohibitive for those of us who have to cough up tuition each semester. But enough about that. Ben visited, and many delicious meals were had by all. They were so good, I'm going to write about them here so that they live forever in my memory and on the world wide interwebs. 

Tuesday night, post-violin recital (also, end of semester celebration!): The Sanctuary. Him: short ribs, Templeton Manhattans (I think?). Me: cod, Peche Lambic. Mmmm, Peche Lambic. 

Wednesday: a delectable day of decadence: brunch at Hamburg Inn, an afternoon Simpsons-fest with my friend Sam, including beer (Beer! In the afternoon! While watching many favorite episodes of the Simpsons! And no homework!) and Hawk Wok*.  Dinner of tapas at Devotay included patatas bravas, chorizo, and chevre with pear chutney and crostini. (Sadly, too full to partake of dessert.) 

Thursday: Breakfast at the Bluebird Diner. Ben and I took a little road trip to the Maquoketa Caves State Park. What a cool place! The plan was to post 4 or 5 pictures from that afternoon here, but what with all the pictures of food (forthcoming), Blogger's cap of 8 MB has been reached. So they will be posted in a subsequent post. Here's a teaser: 

The plan was to take a more scenic way home; we drove through Anamosa and then went to Mount Vernon for the express purpose of eating at Lincoln Cafe. I've been wanting to eat there for three years. Finally!  

Before our meal began (Thursday dinner time, there was a bit of a wait and we didn't have reservations), we had some wine at the Lincoln Wine Bar, just down the block. When it was time for dinner, we ordered this amazing appetizer (no pictures, sadly) of fried oysters and something else (jicama?) and grapefruit slaw. Over the past few weeks I have craved this on a regular basis. Dinner was AMAZING. Oh wait, that's the second time in as many sentences that I've used the same adjective. Perhaps this will begin to convey to you the awesomeness that is Lincoln Cafe. I had sturgeon with shrimp, bacon, fava beans (close plate) and Ben had chicken, asparagus, can't remember what else (far plate). 

We also had to order dessert, of course. I had lemon-basil-chocolate pie. Ben had a buttermilk scone, maple ice cream, and applewood-smoked bacon. That's right. Bacon as part of the dessert. I asked Ben if he wanted to try some of my chocolate pie, and the response was, "I'm sticking with my ice cream and bacon." 

Friday: brunch at the oft-mentioned Fair Grounds. Dinner at one of my Iowa City faves, Atlas. Crab and cream-cheese spring rolls with mango sauce started off the meal. Ben had the special, which was a half-chicken, potatoes, and I don't remember what else. I had some pork, which was delicious. Chocolate cake for dessert. And don't forget the mojitos! Atlas makes the best mojitos ever. 

Saturday: lunch at Motley Cow. Yes, another Iowa City fave! (Told you this was a week of gastronomic wonderfulness.) Ben: salmon salad; Me: salmon sandwich with avocado and fries. After a lovely, leisurely afternoon (leisure! who'd have thought there is such a thing! it feels so very foreign while in school) perusing the downtown comic book shop (that was all Ben) and Prairie Lights book store, we saw a movie (Monsters vs. Aliens, 3-D) and went to the Coralville Reservoir. (Incidentally, my first time being there since last year's historic flood.) Saturday night we went to the Mill to hear The Pines. Good times!

Sunday: I bid farewell to my friend, after brunch at Lou Henri's. They don't seem to have a website, but you can find out info on them here. Ben: some sort of ham-egg-hash brown concoction called a Jackson; me: omelette with tons of veggies (tomatoes, avocado, broccoli, carrots, celery) and sausage. Coffee and orange juice all-round, because what would brunch be without coffee and orange juice? Also:  that Sunday marked the start of a return to exercise for me. Before grad school, I exercised almost every day. For the year and a half before I moved to Iowa, I only missed 17 days out of over 500. Then I came back to school and gained twenty pounds of lusciousness. I have now exercised about 75% of the days since then: walking 40 minutes, doing sit-ups and modified push-ups. Trying to make this lusciousness a little more seemly. 

The following Sunday, during a practice break, Rebekah and I ate brunch at the Motley Cow. I like the salt shaker:

* Ok, Hawk Wok does not qualify as fine dining. They do have some pretty good doughnuts, though. 


Did you know that the Van Cliburn piano competition finished about a week ago? It did. A person can go to the website and watch the archived recitals.  In fact, I watched many of the recitals streaming live. So cool! Some of my piano friends and I had totally geeky and awesome piano-pizza parties involving this competition. Right now I have Lukas Vondracek's recital on, but goodness, with all the volume controls turned up as high as possible, it's still awfully quiet. And for as lovely as his Bach is, does he really need to hunch over so much when he plays? What, does he fancy himself Glenn Gould? He's going to need a personal chiropractor on call if he continues that. 


I began this post a long time ago, maybe three weeks ago. Something didn't quite feel right about it and then I ran out of steam to revise it. No, I don't usually revise my blog posts, only my research papers. Anywho, originally, the next part of this post was:
but I have decided to eliminate most of what this chapter contained, even though it took me about two hours to write it. But it might be something you hear of in the future. Then again, it might not be. 

I finished a book recently (coincidentally given to me by the aforementioned Ben) called The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World. A. J. Jacobs, the author, undertook the excruciatingly arduous and admirable task of reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. Actually, this sounds like the sort of thing I'd have been interested in when I was a teenager, back in the days before I became really serious about music. Anyway, there was a really hilarious sentence early on in the book, he said a particular person he knew had a "very casual relationship with the truth." Ha! I know some people like that. Although I'd be more inclined to say that they have very casual relationships with sanity. 

So, speaking of sanity, casual or not, have you seen the movie Synecdoche, NY ? I watched it last night and though maybe not utterly confused, I did feel fairly confused. Can't decide if it's a brilliant post-modern meta-referential film or a self-indulgent piece of clap-trap. Need to watch it again.