Melton Midwest Mosey

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buffetbuster
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Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/01 15:43:00 (permalink)
Ralph-
When are going to see the video of you socking the waiter from Ann Sather's in the nose?
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ann peeples
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Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/01 17:12:32 (permalink)
I dont want you to get my post wrong-as a chain, Uno's is pretty good. But having eaten at Numero Due's, what a difference!
 
#32
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Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/01 17:42:42 (permalink)
Ralph and Lori - That cake place across from Lem's was a great find!  I still have fond memories of bringing back 5-6 slices across the street and everyone forking in from all directions!  They were really good and the folks inside loved seeing us there...or they faked it pretty well!  CTD
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wanderingjew
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Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/01 18:13:41 (permalink)
Ralph and Lori
 
Been enjoying the trip so far.
 
I passed Ann Sather's on my power walks around town both in 2008 and last year, since I'm not usually big on breakfast, I never stopped in, but your photos have convinced me otherwise. if I get your waiter,  he better no flirt with me!  " />
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ann peeples
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Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/01 18:35:51 (permalink)
I am on my way right now-flirting is something I havent experience in years! Way to go, Lori!( Sorry, Ralph)
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icecreamchick
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Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/01 22:03:36 (permalink)
Ann: It was better than being carded! He was a charmer
 
ChiTown: Oh, Stephanie makes a gooood cake, and she was really nice to us on this stop, too. If I lived in Chicagoland, I'd write them up, but I feel I'd need to do more "research" first. She takes her cake seriously -- those 4 layers aren't split, she stacks up four cakes. 
 
Now I want cake! 
#36
hatteras04
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Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/02 09:38:35 (permalink)
I have been to Ann Sather's several times. To avoid the parking issue, we always go to the one on Belmont as it is less than a block from a Brown/Purple and Red line stop.  My wife always gets something with lingonberries and I have to get something with sausage.  The cinamon rolls are some of the best I have ever had.
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Ralph Melton
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Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/05 00:59:28 (permalink)

Ralph: If we had known that there was a location of the Machine Shed in Davenport, Iowa, we would probably have pressed on to eat dinner there on Tuesday night. (And if we had had perfect foreknowledge, we would have taken advantage of that to visit the John Deere Pavilion in Moline, IL to learn more about modern farming, because we discovered on this trip how little we city mice actually know about understanding the farms we see.) But if we had done so, we would probably have never visited the Giant's Den in De Pue, Illinois, and we enjoyed our visit there.


The Giant's Den is one of the major restaurants in De Pue, which is a small town of under two thousand residents. The sign makes clear that this is not the sort of restaurant that depends on flashy advertising to get its custom. And when we stepped inside, it was clear that this was one of those small-town restaurants that serves double duty as a senior gathering center, where everyone in the restaurant knows each other.



Lori enjoyed her pancakes and bacon.


The special of the day was enchiladas. I passed on the enchiladas, because I didn't expect to find great Tex-Mex in rural Illinois. But I was wrong to be so prejudiced: we found out after our meal that the cook is from Brownsville, Texas, which raises my expectations for her Tex-Mex cooking considerably. Instead, I ordered the ground beef barbecue with corn on the cob. The barbecue was beef and sauce, nice but not outstanding - but the fresh corn was splendid.


Our next stop was the Wilton Candy Kitchen, the world's oldest soda fountain.
  

Lori: We next visited the Wilton Candy Kitchen, in Wilton, IA. I'd really been looking forward to seeing this real, old-fashioned soda fountain, and it did not disappoint. The interior boasts the old-fashioned glass candy case, marble soda fountain and little booths with a small Tiffany lamp lighting each one. 



We sat at the soda fountain, the better to see what was going on and to chat a bit with the proprietors, George and Thelma Nopoulos. Unfortunately, George was leaving to do some errands as we arrived, but we had a nice time chatting with Thelma and watching her train a new employee in the special lore of working their classic soda fountain.
 
"You have to tip the glass like this," Thelma instructed the young lady as she assembled an ice cream soda. Tipping the glass would ensure a good mix of syrup, soda water and ice cream. Thelma chatted pleasantly with us, pointing out pictures of some of the famous folks who have visited the Wilton Candy Kitchen, and telling us that her first job was washing dishes at the soda fountain when she was sixteen and George's father owned the shop. She also explained with a smile that theirs was an arranged marriage, so first they married, then they fell in love. 

While taking this all in, we enjoyed our ice cream and sodas.I sampled the Pink Lady, a lovely rose-colored drink with strawberry, cherry and vanilla syrups. It had a lovely, soft taste totally unlike most bottled sodas we've tried. I also had a sundae -- vanilla ice cream with chocolate and caramel toppings, which were thick and lovely accents to their sweet vanilla cream. Ralph had a Dipsy Doodle soda, which was all the fruit-flavored syrups at the fountain plus vanilla. It was, as you might expect, fruity and colorful. Ralph enjoyed a dish of their cherry pecan ice cream with butterscotch topping.



I'd have loved to try candy made at the store, but alas, the molds are in the attic and they now bring in their candy from other suppliers. As we drove off from our delicious stop at this vintage soda fountain, I found myself wondering how many first dates and stolen kisses have transpired there. It was easy for me to imagine it on a summer's evening during its heyday, with couples sipping sodas and music pouring from the jukebox.

Ralph: One other note about our chat with Thelma: I had brought in my iPad to consider our next plans (and keep it from overheating in the car), and I ended up showing Thelma the website for the Wilton Candy Kitchen. She told me that they had no computer, and I inferred that this was the first time she'd seen their website.

We had spend enough time at the Wilton Candy Kitchen that some of our other Iowa plans seemed impractical. We had had plans of detouring north to see the Field of Dreams site or the Matchstick Marvels Museum, but we thought that we wouldn't have time to get to either site in time. I thought, though, that we could get to the Kellogg Historical Museum. I was wrong; we got there at 4:45, and the museum had closed at 4:00.


So we looked about for other options, and discovered that Kellogg was only half an hour's drive from Pella, home of two Roadfood-listed restaurants. We called In't Veld and discovered that they closed at 5:30. So I drove there as briskly as possible (with the GPS predicting that we would arrive at 5:28) while Lori called Jaarsma Bakery to find their hours. Jaarsma Bakery would close at 6, so our strategy was clear.

Downtown Pella is a cute little town square, with lots of Dutch architecture.
 


Despite my fears, In't Veld received us warmly with no indications that they were preparing to close for the night. We explained that we had come because we had heard about Pella bologna, and the counterman gave us some samples. We immediately saw that this was no ordinary bologna, and we purchased some bologna, smoked Gouda cheese, and crackers for a snack. I enjoyed our conversation with him, but unfortunately, all I remember from that conversation was that he explained the name In't Veld: it's Dutch for "in the field".


This is Pella bologna. It has a rugged texture and a strong flavor of beef, smoke, and spices; this is a far cry from Oscar Mayer bologna.


From there, we hurried across the square to Jaarsma Bakery.


Lori was distracted briefly from the bakery by the antique store in the same space.


But the bakery was interesting enough that it won out at last.
 

We had a lot of trouble deciding, and we kept adding things to our order. We decided against the loaf of wheat bread, even though the wheat had been ground in Pella's Dutch-style windmill. But we persuaded ourselves that a loaf of apple bread would make a good breakfast. (We were right. It was soft, moist, and very apple-y.) And I certainly wanted to try a Dutch letter and an apple ring. And Lori thought the peaches and cream strudel was delightful. And the puff pillow was unfamiliar to us and a daily special, so how could we resist that?

We ate our "snack" (now grown fairly large) on a picnic bench in the town square, as the heat of the day just started to ease a bit.

This is the puff pillow: a sandwich of light cream filling between two layers of flaky pastry. I expected this to be prone to layersquish, such that the first bite would squeeze cream filling out the back. I was wrong. The pastry was so amazingly tender that you could bite through it without squishing the filling at all.


Strudel, too, is often prone to layersquish. But this strudel used the same tender dough, and it was wonderful. This strudel was better by far than all other strudels I have tried.


This picture shows the Dutch letter and the apple ring. The Dutch letter used more of that fine pastry, wrapped around a nut filling; the apple ring wrapped that dough into a spiral with lots of apple bits. These were both very good, well worth getting again, but the puff pillow and the strudel were even better.



We really enjoyed everything we saw and ate in Pella, and we wish that we could have spent more time there. But we had four hours of driving still to go, and one more Roadfood-listed restaurant I wanted to visit that day: The Machine Shed in Des Moines, IA. We got there just as the sun was getting low enough that I was glad not to be driving east anymore.


Every meal at the Machine Shed begins with complimentary coleslaw, cottage cheese, and bread:
 

Lori's potato cheese soup was delicious, with firm chunks of potato, lots of cheese, and some really outstanding bacon pieces.


I had ordered the barbecue brisket stuffed potato skins as an appetizer, but they didn't arrive until just after our entrees. As I ate them, I realized that I had suckered myself with their description of potato skins stuffed with "our eighteen-hour smoked brisket." I smoke brisket for eighteen hours myself - or more or less, if it needs it. So if "eighteen-hour" means anything other than marketing fluff, it means that they cook their brisket according to a timer instead of paying attention to the variations of individual briskets. The potato skins were not good enough to distract me from my internal tirade.


The reason I had focused on the Machine Shed was the Iowa pork chop, whose entry in The Lexicon of American Food specifically mentions the Machine Shed. (Irrelevant side note: the Iowa pork chop is one of a fairly small set of foods that uses a place name descriptor in the place named. Contrast this to, say, Santa Maria barbecue, which is just called "barbecue" in Santa Maria.)

I ordered the stuffed pork chop, a softball-sized hunk of pig that took up most of its plate. It was, frankly, a massively unwieldy meal. There was no possible way to generate a forkful that contained both pork and stuffing. I tried sawing lightly at the chop, but that sent stuffing scattering across the plate (a perfect example of layersquish). The meat was tender enough that I could cut through it by pressing down on the knife, but the bones at the bottom prevented me from completing a bite that way. I ended up savaging it until chunks of meat lay around the plate and I could eat at them like a scavenger picking at the scraps of a carcass. The meat was tender, but it was very mild, without much flavor of note at all. I was very disappointed by this Iowa pork chop experience.


Lori's "award winning" pork loin and gravy was more to my taste, but nothing special.


We didn't finish our entrees, but we were willing to consider dessert. But the disinterested waitress dropped our check off without asking us, and we were so disappointed by the entrees and the service that we decided we would rather leave than try to extract dessert.

Time-lapse video of the drive through Illinois and Iowa, from De Pue to Des Moines:

http://www.flickr.com/pho...set-72157630814400374/


#38
Wintahaba
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Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/05 08:37:55 (permalink)
Ralph and Lori-Awesome trip report and great photos. As someone who lived for a few years in Des Moines, I never "got" the Machine Shed. IMHO it was mass produced "heat holding cabinet" fare (I knew someone who worked there) not RF. Large portions, but I prefer "a little GREAT" vs. "a lot of OKAY".  We have one here in Appleton and it's even worse than the one in Des Moines. 
#39
Ralph Melton
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Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/06 23:11:55 (permalink)
The Roadfood review says "a chain, but better than Cracker Barrel." I think I agree with that opinion.
 
I wouldn't avoid going there again; the food was pretty good, lots of restaurants have problems with layer squish, and my chances of ending up with the same apathetic waitress would be small. But I wouldn't try to eat there when I was already fairly full again.
#40
mr chips
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Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/07 01:21:04 (permalink)
I am enjoying your report. Looking forward to the next installment.
#41
kland01s
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Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/07 09:22:42 (permalink)
Ralph Melton

The Roadfood review says "a chain, but better than Cracker Barrel." I think I agree with that opinion.

I wouldn't avoid going there again; the food was pretty good, lots of restaurants have problems with layer squish, and my chances of ending up with the same apathetic waitress would be small. But I wouldn't try to eat there when I was already fairly full again.

 
Machine Shed is a chain of 6 locations total unlike Cracker Barrel being in 41 states. We have been to the one in Davenport and Rockford several times in the course of travel and found them to be pleasant with good service and decent food. It's just unfortunate that they decided to put in a "Country Store"
#42
buffetbuster
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Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/07 09:30:42 (permalink)
Looks like we are going to have a lot of overlap in our current trip reports!  My recent experience at Machine Shed was fortunately much better than yours.
#43
icecreamchick
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Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/07 12:04:14 (permalink)
I'd say I didn't mind the Machine Shed, it just wasn't my favorite on the trip. Then again, great waffles at Ann Sathers with fairy tale murals and a flirtatious waiter will be pretty hard to knock out of my number one spot! 
 
Another thing that was not the Machine Shed's fault is that we had a big breakfast, skipped lunch, then had a late, heavy "snack" in Pella. So, we arrived at the Machine Shed not really all that hungry -- I could've been very happy stopping at my delicious baked potato soup!
#44
Ralph Melton
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Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/07 22:18:06 (permalink)
buffetbuster
Looks like we are going to have a lot of overlap in our current trip reports!  My recent experience at Machine Shed was fortunately much better than yours.

 
There's certainly more overlap to come. The proprietor remembered you at Stockholm Pie Company. (Bogus Creek Cafe was another example of widely different experiences, though.)
#45
buffetbuster
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Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/08 07:20:07 (permalink)
Oh no!  I hope your meal at Bogus Creek wasn't too bad.
#46
ScreamingChicken
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Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/08 08:59:50 (permalink)
Ralph Melton

The proprietor remembered you at Stockholm Pie Company.

So how often did either of you use a form of "obsess" in this conversation?
#47
bwave
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Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/08 09:05:49 (permalink)
  EWWW, Crispy Coated Fies, the worst abomination of "food" ever created!  French fries should be potatoes NOT DEXTROSE!
#48
wanderingjew
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Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/08 09:15:14 (permalink)
Ralph and Lori
 
Sorry to hear you were disappointed with The Machine Shed.
 
Like Buffetbuster I've never been disappointed with the Machine Shed, in fact it's been way too long since I've last enjoyed their Iowa Chop
#49
jmckee
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Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/08 10:01:20 (permalink)
I've never been to Jeni's, but I sure do love her book on making ice cream at home.
 
http://www.amazon.com/Jenis-Splendid-Ice-Creams-Home/dp/1579654363
 
I made the roasted strawberry buttermilk and it was sensational.
#50
icecreamchick
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Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/09 00:53:14 (permalink)
I have her book, I need to try out some recipes! 
 
#51
Ralph Melton
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Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/09 01:58:38 (permalink)
Once again, a late arrival led to a late start the next day. The apple bread from Jaarsma Bakery let us breakfast in our room, though. 

Our first destination was LC's Bar-B-Q, which was recommended to us by several Roadfooders. 
  

Folks had recommended the burnt ends, and the burnt ends were recommended again by the folks next to me in line. So while Lori staked a claim to the only open table, I ordered one plate of burnt ends and a combination plate of pork and beef.

Burnt ends are a specialty of Kansas City barbecue: once upon a time, they were the scraps of meat and fat left over from carving briskets, but I suspect that as they've become more popular, they've taken over more of the meat. I've only encountered burnt ends once before, in a restaurant in Missouri in 2007 whose name I no longer recall. The burnt ends there were shreds of meat and bits of bark, combined with sauce into a smoky tangy concoction that was the consistency of a smoky sloppy joe. LC's burnt ends were not like that; they were cubes of meat, cut close to the surface to pick up more smoke and bark and fat, but with plenty of interior meat in every bite as well.


We also got a combo of beef and pork. Both meats came sliced and sandwiched together on flimsy white bread that could barely be lifted intact. (This is actually a middle ground for barbecue sandwiches. I've had barbecue sandwiches that were totally liftable, and I've had barbecue sandwiches that consisted of a pile of meat dwarfing a piece of bread that sauce had turned into a flimsy sodden rag.) Neither the pork nor the beef was strongly flavored, but they were both very nice.

 

LC's sauce was quite nice; it was not nearly as thick or as sweet as I expect from a typical molasses-based Kansas City barbecue sauce.

Although I didn't find the meat strongly flavored at first bite, the savor of the meat and smoke lingered with me for many hours.

LC's Bar-B-Q was clearly a stop catering to my vacation tastes. From there, we swung the needle all the way over to Lori's side, with a visit to the Victorian Trading Company's outlet store in Liberty, Kansas. 
 

They do know their clientele: they provide a husband's chair. After a quick look around, I settled in that chair with my iPad to update our trip notes. The staff was very obliging and brought me a glass of ice water.


Unfortunately, the visit fell short in two ways: 
First, much of the product was fairly tatty in a "this is a substitute for quality merchandise" sort of way. (Lori may disagree with me on this, but even she acknowledged that one of the big opportunities of the place was a chance to see things in person and therefore to decide not to buy them.)
Second, it was a very hot day (105°F, which is a scorcher for Kansas City - this is the third trip in four years where our travels have been accompanied by record heat), and the air conditioning was not completely working. It abated the heat, but it was still so hot that it even affected Lori's shopping.

After Lori had made her purchases, we were flagging from the heat. We drove around looking for a place where we could get a cold drink, and ended up at a place called The Right Bite in a little industrial park. I'm not sure I'm ready to write this up for Roadfood yet, but it was really just the thing that we were looking for: not only did the pleasant staff sell us each a nice fruit cup and a drink with free refills and make no complaint about us lingering in the air conditioning, but the restaurant also had free wifi and power outlets at every table. I got the impression that they had been open only a few months; I hope that they thrive. We were brought so low by the heat that we spent an hour in The Right Bite recovering.
 

I had used the internet time in The Right Bite to identify our next destination, originally suggested to us by a sign on the highway in Kansas City: the American Jazz Museum, in the 18th & Vine district that has been one of the cradles of jazz. The museum is not that large, but I found it fascinating, and I wished that we could have spent much longer there. It had displays about famous jazz musicians, of course. But it also had a section with a large collection of jazz films. And it had several listening stations with collections of jazz songs, with commentary about why they were of historical importance to jazz. And it had several interactive stations teaching about how to listen to jazz, where you could listen to one part of a jazz band, hear variations on that, and combine those variations with the rest of the band to listen to the interplay of roles. I wish that we had had much more time to take in all the media presentations.



The museum shared space with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Unfortunately, though it sounded interesting, we didn't have time to visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum at all.

After the museum closed, we were able to prolong our taste of historic jazz in Kansas City with a trip to The Blue Room, a club connected to the American Jazz Museum with free jazz on most nights.


We particularly noticed this wall sculpture of a jazz diva.


The Blue Room had a whole lot of mementoes of jazz history. This was the tabletop we sat at:


The displays on the back walls were a great local adjunct to the Jazz Museum.
  

They had advertisements for one beer that was made specifically for them, for which a portion of the proceeds went to the Jazz Museum. I would gladly have bought one, but they were out. Instead, I got another jazz-themed beer, not local, but very nice:


The performer that night was Horace Washington, who sang and played flute and other instruments in a combo with a bass guitarist and a drummer. He was funny and edifying, and the music was tight.


We could not stay for long, though, because we would not gladly leave Kansas City without a chicken dinner at Stroud's.
We first ate at Stroud's in 2007, and the experience was so extraordinary that thenceforth, when I would ask Lori where she might like to eat, she would occasionally look at me and say mournfully "Stroud's", despite us being in Pittsburgh at the time.

The north location of Stroud's is a lovely old building on a broad little park with a little swan pond and a small collection of churches.

  
  
 

Lori's salad was not outstanding, but my chicken noodle soup was so good that Lori said "I'd like chicken noodle soup a lot more if it always tasted like this."


On our last visit to Stroud's, we had not been able to finish our meal. This time, we took measures to try to do justice to the meal: we ate an early lunch, we tried to avoid snacking during the afternoon, we went to dinner at 8pm, and we shared an entree of the fried chicken. I'm not sufficiently qualified as a connoisseur to judge whether this is the best of all fried chicken, but it is excellent: succulent and flavorful, and inevitably leading to juices running down your arm.


The mashed potatoes also were excellent. Despite our efforts to bring a hearty appetite, we did not manage to finish them.


It is easier for me to call the cinnamon rolls extraordinary, because I haven't encountered other cinnamon rolls like Stroud's: these rolls carry the cinnamon on the outside, in a delectable sugar crust. When they are warm and fragrant and fresh from the oven, they are an utter delight.


I have no time-lapse video for this day, because our driving was all local instead of highway driving.
#52
icecreamchick
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Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/09 11:28:22 (permalink)
Helping Ralph with this section of our trip report made me hungry for Strouds' fried chicken all over again. What a great place! It really is one of my all-time favorite restaurants, and I enjoyed our visit there.
 
I also must say that I loved LC's -- I didn't think I'd like the burnt ends, and instead I think I ate half our order of them and could've enjoyed more. They were wonderfully smoky and flavorful, as I hear burnt ends should be!
 
The Victorian Trading Company Outlet Store would likely appeal to a small subset of the readers of this board. They specialize in "romantic home accessories and clothing." Think tea parties and lacy doilies. I have gotten some great jewelry from them, and I love looking at their catalog. But, some things I've bought from them have been awesome, others have been not so great. You have to look closely at their catalog photos. The outlet store bore that out. There were some real treasures in there, but they were buried in between a lot of things I wouldn't pay 25 cents for. The heat and humidity aggravated this -- I was uncomfortably hot, and like many outlet stores, this place has filled every available inch of space with product they wish you'd take home. It got a little overwhelming, but I persevered! 
 
And hey, Ralph may have gotten ice water, but they gave ME a free lacy fan to keep cool with. My kind of place! I did find a few treasures there, and probably left behind one or two things I could've also liked. Ralph was incredibly patient as I roamed every inch of the hot warehouse -- hooray for the husband's couch and his iPad! 
 
I also wanted to say that the Jazz Museum and the Blue Room are a must-do for any music loving Roadfooders. They really have an excellent experience there, and we both recommend it highly!  We had a great day in KC, MO!
post edited by icecreamchick - 2012/08/09 11:36:19
#53
jmckee
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Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/09 13:08:50 (permalink)
icecreamchick

I have her book, I need to try out some recipes! 



So far I've done the roasted strawberry-buttermilk and the lemon frozen yogurt. Next week I'm using the "all purpose" ice cream base to make peach.
#54
love2bake
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Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/10 01:45:39 (permalink)
What a great trip report!  The Jaarsma Bakery looks fantastic.  I love bakeries partly because you can grab so much stuff to go when you're already stuffed from some other restaurant.
Okay, so I went to the Machine Shed in Davenport this past May (yes, it did remind me of a Cracker Barrel but with a farm theme!) and got the pork tenderloin sandwich, and it wasn't quite what I was expecting. It was battered and fried up really crunchy like fish and chips, rather than breaded and fried. Apparently both forms are classic in Iowa?   (I tried to post a picture, but apparently I'm still too junior.)  Anyway, I skipped the bread and used utensils.  No prob.  I also tried one of their enormous cinnamon buns which was probably better earlier in the day.  Overall, my experience was kind of a bummer, but I think I would try their breakfast next time--their bacon smells amazing!   (Not that any bacon has ever smelled bad..)
 
 
#55
kland01s
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Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/10 07:32:43 (permalink)
love2bake

Okay, so I went to the Machine Shed in Davenport this past May (yes, it did remind me of a Cracker Barrel but with a farm theme!) and got the pork tenderloin sandwich, and it wasn't quite what I was expecting. It was battered and fried up really crunchy like fish and chips, rather than breaded and fried. Apparently both forms are classic in Iowa?  


 
love2, here's 35 pages of breaded pork tenderloin for you!
http://www.roadfood.com/F...enderloins-m12576.aspx
 
 
#56
TnTinCT
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Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/10 12:35:54 (permalink)
Enjoying your adventures so far! We loved LC's - that and Oklahoma Joe were our two favorite spots. I also dream of Stroud's, and have had that same reply to my husband when we talk about dinner ;-) Looking forward to more!
#57
Ralph Melton
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Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/22 21:15:41 (permalink)
(Work crunch has broken my momentum for posting these trip logs.)

Ralph: The restaurants that I think of for Kansas City tend to be low on breakfast offerings. So we asked buffetbuster, who recommended Niecie's.
 



I had some very mixed feelings about Niecie's, because of one of their offerings that was particularly mentioned in the Roadfood review: the pig ear sandwich. On the one hand: I had never had a pig ear sandwich, and had never had an opportunity to have a renowned pig ear sandwich. On the other hand… I did not really feel eager to have a pig ear sandwich. In fact, my digestive system was feeling a bit off in a too-much-pie-not-enough-vegetables way, and I felt that a pig ear sandwich might send things further out of balance. I felt so ambivalent about this that I felt some urge to avoid Niecie's entirely. In the end, though, we went to Niecie's, and I did not order the pig ear sandwich, knowing full well that I would be telling this with a sigh. Instead, I ordered biscuits and gravy. The gravy was distinctive for having lots of crispy fried bits of sausage. (I think that this photo demonstrates that cream gravy is one of the foods that are not nearly as photogenic as they are tasty. Milkshakes fall into this category too.)



Lori chose the breakfast special of pancakes, bacon, and eggs. It was all good, but the particular winner was the potent bacon. The pancakes were good, but the combination was too much for her to finish.
 

From there, we drove north through western Iowa (significantly hillier than eastern Iowa), passing through Villisca without touring the Villisca Axe Murder House (They had signs advertising it; I guess it's a tourist destination for somebody) to Atlantic, Iowa ("The Coca-Cola Capital of Iowa") for the Farmer's Kitchen. We had met Mark and Charlene Johnson, the proprietors of the Farmer's Kitchen, at the 2011 Roadfood Festival in New Orleans, and Mark posts on the Roadfood forums. So we had contacted them ahead of time to make sure that they would be around to talk with us.

 

We noticed the pie list early on with anticipation.


Mark suggested the fried pickles as an appetizer. These were the first fried pickle spears that I have had for which the batter clung closely to the pickle. (Usually the batter forms a hollow shell and the pickle slides loose inside. Onion rings are prone to the same problem.)



We passed on the award-winning chili because it was a ferociously hot day.

I chose the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich. It was very different from the broad, gentle pork tenderloin at Gray Brother's Cafeteria; this was much thicker, with a more rugged, sturdy flavor. I had previously tried the Farmer's Kitchen breaded tenderloin at the New Orleans Roadfood Festival; it was much better in its native habitat. I should have asked about the pickle slices, because they were not typical dill pickles; they had a somewhat lighter flavor and a different mix of seasonings.
As a side, I ordered a fruit cup. It may not be the specialty of the house, but it served my uncertain-feeling digestion. It was actually really delicious, clearly not a simple canned fruit cocktail. The pineapple was probably not local, but the watermelon probably was.


Lori ordered a hot roast beef sandwich. (A beef sandwich sandwich covered with gravy carries many names in different places, but in the Farmer's Kitchen, it has the name that was familiar to me.) It was very good, but a bit too warm for the weather; even though the building was air conditioned, the heat snuck in through cracks to make itself impossible to ignore.


The entrees, though, were just a precursor to the main event: the pies. I was particularly keen to try out the Midwest specialty of sour cream raisin pie. I had spoken with Charlene before about sour cream raisin pie, but I had not previously had a chance to try it; they brought no pie to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival. Mark had posted their recipe on the Roadfood forums, and I had made it once myself - but what I had made might have been as inauthentic as the tacos from Haus der Taco.
Because of that history, my first emotion when I tasted the custard was relief, because the wine-y mellow flavor was very much like what I had made. But even though my filling may be comparable, I still have a ways to go to match Charlene's pies: my meringues do not compare to the tall jaunty meringue of this pie.


And the crust of this pie was of a superb quality that it's hard for me to equal. I am of the opinion that pie crust is one of the foods that varies most in the quality with which it is served in restaurants. It's rare for a hamburger or a piece of cake to be worse than "mediocre", but a restaurant will serve a pie whose crust is pasty, crumbly, gummy, hard, rubbery, or tough with nary a blush of shame. (It is for this reason that I think it is safer to order cake than pie in a mediocre restaurant.) But this crust was far above all that: it achieved the pie-crust ideal of being both flaky and tender. Perhaps if I practiced making multiple pie crusts a day for several years as Charlene has, my pie crusts would reach that level.


Lori had the peanut butter chocolate explosion pie. Charlene told us the story of the name: at the 2009 American Pie Championship (where this pie won a blue ribbon), Charlene was unfamiliar with the commercial mixer she was provided, which was much more powerful than the mixer she was used to… and at this point I think this story is best concluded with an ominous ellipsis.
Whatever may have happened behind the scenes, this pie was light and creamy, and Lori declared this the new standard by which she would enjoy peanut butter pie.


There were far more attractive pies on the list than we could consider eating, but both aversion and buffetbuster had spoken well of the watermelon pie. This was a graham cracker crust with chunks of cool, flavorful watermelon suspended in a mixture of jello and whipped topping. It was a delicious cool treat for a scorching day. 
It struck me as a distant cousin of the strawberry pretzel salad that I learned about after moving to Pennsylvania. In retrospect, though, this is an odd comparison for me to make, because I have never actually had strawberry pretzel salad.
 

Mark and Charlene left us with one more slice of pie for the road, a piece of caramel apple pie. I prefer my apple pie to be tender almost to the point of squishability, but this pie had firm distinct chunks of apple.

As we left, we saw the Farmer's Kitchen had put up a sign that emphasized the heat wave: "We are closed due to heat"



A few miles of gravel roads from Atlantic brought us to the Hitchcock House, which we had learned of from a trip report from wanderingjew. The Hitchcock House was a house built by a Congregational preacher which served as a stop on the Underground Railroad smuggling slaves from Missouri to Canada. The problem, though, is that since the Underground Railroad was illegal, the owners kept very few records. So although the volunteers keeping the house were friendly and cared about the topic, they could not offer many facts at all about the role the house played in the Underground Railroad. 

 
 

We were amused by the knitted cozy to keep the lid of the chamberpot from clanking. Although Lori knits, she has no plans to make such a cover herself. But the docent said that her grandmother had been delighted when such "silencers" came.


The docent mentioned a theory that quilts had been used to convey codes about the Underground Railroad. Unfortunately, that theory is in dispute; there appears to be no evidence of the practice from earlier than 1980.


Every mention of the Hancock House that we saw mentioned that it had a secret cellar where fugitive slaves had been hidden. Unfortunately, the house does not have the shelves which hid the the entrance to the cellar, so at this moment, the secret cellar is about as well-concealed as our laundry room. The docent said that safety regulations had required them to remove the shelves, but I would really have liked to see at least a model of the shelves to judge for myself how difficult the secret cellar would be to find.



In downtown Walnut, Iowa, we noticed a large assortment of antique stores. Most of them had just closed when we came through, but Esther's Antiques held off on closing while we looked around. It was really quite a nice antique store, with nice merchandise at good prices. (Which is rare; it's far more common to see tatty stuff at high prices.) Esther and her husband Sheldon were very pleasant to talk with. When I went outside to sit and wait for Lori, Sheldon and I got into a long conversation about my iPad and related devices. He had bought a Blackberry Playbook (proving by example that there is a market for the Playbook) and didn't say much about his own use of it, but he said that Esther uses her iPod touch extensively.


Our dinner plans for that night were to visit Archie's Waeside, which both Roadfood and Lisa Lee had recommended in the most glowing terms. Lori wondered if we should call ahead for a reservation, so I looked up the website for the phone number—only to discover that the website said that Archie's Waeside was closed for vacation through July 23. Well, fooey. So we stopped off at a rest stop to replay, because 3G reception is spotty on Iowa's highways, but Iowa's modern rest stops have WiFi. After some pondering about other options, I concluded that I had been anticipating steak. And the Tea Steak House was just across the border into South Dakota, and they served the South Dakota regional specialty of chislic. So we rerouted towards Tea, arriving just at sundown.

According to my reading, chislic is always deep-fried meat, but the meat and the preparation may vary. At the Tea Steak House, it's beef, deep-fried without batter, and served with barbecue sauce and a shaker of garlic salt, with a single toothpick as a utensil. It was quite tasty, though it came out done past medium rare.

For a second time that day, we heard a Roadfood call and did not answer it: as we were asking the waitress about her recommendations for chislic, the couple eating at the next table overheard us and offered their own suggestion: according to them, the thing to do is to go to one of the little bars across the street, order an order of lamb chislic to go, and eat it with lots of garlic salt. This was clearly a Roadfood call, the sort of local recommendation that we're delighted to hear, but though we heard the call, we could not answer it; by the time we finished our steaks, we were too full to feel any appetite for lamb chislic.


I ordered the small T-bone steak because I didn't have much appetite and I'm glad I did: even the small steak mostly filled a dinner plate. This was a great steak, with a brawny, savory flavor. It had a fair bit of fat and gristle, but it was so large that I could just eat the good bits and be very full.


I ordered the hash browns because they were recommended by the Roadfood review for soaking up the juice. When the waitress asked if I wanted the hash browns with cheese and onions, I said yes. I didn't care much for the cheese itself, and it interfered a bit with the hash browns' ability to soak up juice.


Lori prefers a more tender steak, so she chose the filet mignon. It was a good steak, but it was very rare, much rarer than the medium rare that we had ordered. Much as we liked the Tea Steak House, I must acknowledge that they did seem to have trouble with temperature control.


Time-lapse video of the drive from Kansas City to Atlantic:
http://www.flickr.com/pho...set-72157630814400374/
#58
Foodbme
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Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/23 04:45:09 (permalink)



Is it just me or does Ralph look like a decendent of one of the Founding Fathers, Ben Franklin?
 
post edited by Foodbme - 2012/08/23 04:48:57
#59
leethebard
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Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/23 07:39:50 (permalink)
Foodbme




Is it just me or does Ralph look like a decendent of one of the Founding Fathers, Ben Fran

Boy, are you correct!!!
#60
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