Monday, July 21, 2008

Summer vacation

We just got back from a little jaunt to Missouri and hit some local joints along the way.

Our lodging of choice was Dogwood Acres Resort in Sunrise Beach, MO. We had a little one bedroom cabin with a balcony overlooking the lake, and spent some nice time sitting there visiting and watching the boats.
A short walk around the property took us to their boat launch, where we let our dog play in the water. She had a blast.

Our first night, we hit Ozark BBQ in Sunrise Beach for dinner. I had a margarita, which I think might have been a little heavy on the sweet and sour, but had a nice neon fish in it for fun garnish.
We decided to sit inside in the back dining room, where the atmosphere was OK, but it was terribly humid and hot outside and we were looking forward to some A/C.
I ordered the BBQ chicken, which was a half chicken, smoked and topped with a hearty helping of their dark BBQ sauce. I also ordered some green beans and baked beans for my two sides.
StfRon chose a full rack of ribs, half wet, half dry. He envisioned getting two half racks so he could judge the merits of each, but instead the meal came out with one full rack, half being doused in sauce.
The meats had a nice smoked flavor and everything was good, and the employees we ran across were very nice and friendly.

On our way back to Dogwood, we stopped at a bar called Neighbor's Landing in Sunrise Beach for a drink. The interior was clean with walls lined with diagonal tongue in groove wood and Keno was being broadcast on the bar TV. The four patrons at the bar were having a bit of a heated discussion about a neighborhood snafu in which the police had been called on one of the customers, who now was apparently on the outs with his neighbor, who he used to be friendly with.
So that night, at least, Neighbor's was the place to grouse about your neighbor. We quickly finished our drink and headed back to our cabin.

The next day we set off in search of Dog Days Inn in Kaiser, MO to drop off our pooch for the day.
After winding down some country roads, we found the place, and were greeted by a nice lady who was holding down the fort for the owner.
We found a large room filled with dogs happily ensconced in cubicles. We leaned over one and played with Ladybug, a happy yellow lab mix.
We decided to leave our dog at Dog Days until the end of the day, which was a bargain, plus kept her out of the heat for the day. We waved at her out the front window as we headed to the car.

We then were off to look for On the Rise Bakery, which StfRon had seen in a travel guide in our cabin.
We drove by it a few times but finally noticed the bakery in Osage Beach.
Looking at the menu in the bistro, there were so many things I wanted to try, but I settled on a breakfast flatbread, topped with eggs, Parmesan cheese and sausage, served with a small cup of fruit. It was delicious.
StfRon ordered biscuits and gravy and upon sampling a bite, I found the biscuits to be fluffy and wonderful, and the gravy quite good.
I really wanted to come back for another breakfast or at least some dessert, but it was not meant to be for this trip.

Our next stop: the Bagnell Dam area and the strip in Lake Ozark. We walked through the arcade and tried our hand at the mystery maze, then toured Crazy Cousin's Cabin.
We drove over the dam, and then headed back to Osage Beach for a while.

We went to pick up our GPS at the cabin, then stopped at Bambooze in Sunrise Beach to check out their menu for dinner possibilities. It looked like a winner, but the music was a bit loud for us in the bar, especially for early afternoon. We figured the outside "Tiki" bar would be an option.
Strangely enough, our bartender at Bambooze knew Peoria well and used to play for the Peoria Chiefs about three years ago.

The oppressive heat during much of the trip kept our hunger at bay, but we decided to stop by the Topsider and hit the Poopdeck in Osage Beach. We had some fruity drinks and appetizers, then changed into our suits and headed up to their deck pool to cool off. Shortly we were the only ones in the pool, which was nice and relaxing.

Next we headed off to pick up our dog a bit early. On the way back to our cabin, we stopped by Paradise Tropical Restaurant and Bar in Sunrise Beach, again to check dinner menus. This place seemed pretty laid back and more our speed, so we decided it would be the place.
When we got back later, the dining room had filled up, but we still got a table near the expansive windows where we could enjoy the view and the breeze.
We both went for the buffalo chicken tender sandwich, which was good enough, and I had the black bean salad, which was just black beans, corn and peppers.
We had some trouble getting our bill when we were ready to go, due to our waitress being pretty busy, but all worked out well in the end.

The next morning, we set out for Camdenton and breakfast at the Wee Chef. The exterior of the place has seen better days, but inside is tidy, if a hair dated.
The breakfast was good, scrambled egg for me with hash browns, bacon and a biscuit with a side of gravy. Normally I don't eat biscuits and gravy, but someone had complimented them on the web, so I wanted to check them out. StfRon had eggs over medium with biscuits and gravy, sausage and toast.
The bacon was pretty ordinary, but everything else was very good. I had covered my scrambled egg in pepper, used to the lame pepper most restaurants offer, only to find that the pepper used there had some kick to it, which was a nice surprise.
The meal was also a great bargain and the service was good.

Next stop, Ha Ha Tonka State Park in Camdenton. We did some hiking and checked out the ruins of a castle built in the early 1900s.

After that, we headed back to Lake Ozark in search of a banana split, which we vowed we were going to share on this trip.
We found one at the shop next to Peace Frogs. The chocolate ice cream tasted good to me, but the rest fell flat. I really think that the heat messed with my appetite and taste buds on this trip.

For dinner, we decided to try JB Hook's in Lake Ozark. The menu looked interesting, and they also allowed cigar smoking in their lounge.
We were told there would be a 30 minute wait for a table, which sounded great. After about 15, we were called to be seated.
Upon walking past the hostess station, I was stunned by the expanse of windows surrounding the dining room, giving a great view of the lake.
We were seated and made our selections; prime rib for StfRon and pork tenderloin for me, with portobella mushrooms in a Cabernet reduction.
For sides, I chose green beans and salmon bisque and StfRon had the twice baked potato.
The bisque was slightly sweet and tasty, but I didn't finish it all. I was initially torn between that and the French onion, and was wondering if the French onion would have been better.
The pork was tender and juicy, but I think my taste buds were still off and the reduction just seemed so so. I never really worked up any appetite on this whole trip.
Our service was not the greatest in the dining room, as our server kept disappearing for long stretches of time or taking quite a while to bring by some horseradish that had been ordered with our meal.
The bartender in the lounge, though, was courteous and prompt, and we enjoyed a glass of wine there before heading back to our cabin for the night.

On our way home the next day, we tried to stop at Super Smokers in Eureka, MO. They were closed, but right down the road a bit we saw Phil's Bar B Que. We stepped in and ordered some carryout: a spicy brisket sandwich and a pulled pork sandwich topped with cole slaw and a side of baked beans to go. We chatted with owner Phil while we waited, and found him to be a friendly chap.
The food was good and soon we were back on the road headed for home sweet home.

I think it was a little difficult for us to slow down the pace a bit on our trip. We toyed with leaving a night early because we didn't feel like there was enough to do. We normally go go go on trips. But taking it easy on the balcony and enjoying the pool at the resort and the Poopdeck made for a nice addition to the rest of the things we got to do.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Meat Heads

StfRon's been raving about his new favorite lunch stop in Bloomington, Meat Heads.
I stopped by 305 North Veterans Parkway to give the place a try for an early dinner.
Meat Heads is all about burgers and fries. There's not much else to the menu, save for a grilled cheese and hot dog.
Simple can be good.
The mainstay is the hamburger for $4, two certified Angus patties on a bun, adorned with your choice of toppings.
Being a fairly small person (and hoping to stay that way) I went with the 'Lil Meat Head, a single burger patty, and ordered it crowned with cheese, mustard, ketchup, pickles and raw onions (they also have grilled onions), and based on StfRon's recommendation I also ordered a small order of their fresh cut fries with bacon ranch sauce.
My ordered was delivered to my long booth in about five minutes.
The burger was juicy and good, and the combination of my selected toppings gave it just the zest I was looking for.
The fries were salted and tasty, and the bacon ranch (which I never would have ordered without a recommendation) lent a savory flair to the spuds.
With an iced tea, my meal came to about $11.
If you're all about burgers and fries, Meat Heads has got you covered.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Destihl Restaurant and Brew Works

Lunch stop number two in the twin cities: Destihl Restaurant and Brew Works.
Located at 318 S. Towanda Avenue in Normal, at the Shoppes at College Hills, Destihl, as you might guess, is a restaurant and brew pub.
The decor is fairly modern, with mod fabric on the booths and geometric panels scattered on the exposed ceiling, which may help with acoustics. It wasn't overly loud and busy when I was there, so it's hard to say.
I saw many things on the menu I would be interested in trying, especially some of the appetizers like Reuben egg rolls and beer battered asparagus.
I went with a more lunchy selection, though, the Cheddar ale soup and a strawberry goat cheese salad.
The soup is made with white Cheddar and Bleu cheese, and was nicely presented on a white square platter with my salad alongside. The soup was tasty, and had a good cheese bite to it.
I was also glad to find a peppermill on my table. I've often said, if I ever find myself running a restaurant, I will be sure to have peppermills available for the customers.
The salad was delicious, with spinach, strawberries, mandarin oranges and toasted cashews interspersed with chunks of goat cheese.
I didn't get to sample any beer, but chose an iced tea to accompany my meal, which had a subtle fruity or floral flavor which I found refreshing.
The employees I encountered were all quite professional and pleasant, as was my lunch. Speaking of which, my meal arrived within five minutes of my order (although it was not a hugely complex order) and I was out the door with 20 minutes of my hour to spare; a nice bonus.
Destihl also features live music a couple of times a month. The lineup can be found on their web site.

We stopped by Destihl on August 3 to sample some brews. The beers were better than most brew pubs we've tried lately, and we found they use a mixture of fresh hops and pellet hops.
We also had an order of Ropp cheese curds at the bar; very tasty. The staff once again was super-friendly, and we had a nice time.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Reality Bites

No, it's not 90's movie night...I recently had occasion to visit Reality Bites, 414 N. Main Street in Bloomington.
It's too bad their menu would not come up on a Mac running OS 10.5.x in either Safari or Firefox, as I was going to give a more detailed description of my lunch, but suffice it to say that it was good.
As for the restaurant, it features nice exposed brick walls and wood floors, with a few earthy colored walls.
I've wanted to check the place out for quite some time. My friend M reminded me of it this week, and said she had recently had a nice orzo salad there.
Reality Bites was doing a pretty good lunch business at noon, with the sidewalk dining and inside bar tables, so I was offered a seat at the bar counter or upstairs. I decided to sit at the bar.
I didn't get too far into the menu before I saw the seared Ahi tuna on the cold plate menu, served with some sort of cucumber pepper salad with a puréed carrot dressing. I went with that, and scarfed down the tuna, accompanied by ginger, soy sauce and wasabi. Once I got to the salad, I found it interesting and attractive. After sampling some cucumbers I got to one of the peppers, which looked like strips of green bell peppers, but were surprisingly spicy. After biting into one and feeling the heat, I vaguely remembered thinking they would be spicy based on the menu description, but I had forgotten by the time my food arrived. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the salad and I managed to eat several of the pepper slices and all of the cucumbers.
The manager-type gentleman behind the bar was friendly and helpful, and my server was friendly and efficient, too.
With an iced tea, my bill came to $11.92 before tip.
There were many other entrées I would be interested in trying, and the dessert menu caught my eye, too.
I can say the film version of Reality Bites didn't live up to my expectations, but the restaurant was a nice surprise.

Reality Bites menu now works on a Mac running Safari 4.0. Excellent, as I will be visiting there again soon!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Round up

Our local biz adventures have taken us several places lately.
I've enjoyed lunch at the Spotted Cow, Peoria Hofbrau and One World in Peoria.
We popped into Alwan's & Sons Meat Co. in Peoria where we bought a small bulk selection of meat.
We stopped by Russell's Cycle and Fitness in Washington to pick up a bike tire in for repair and I found a stylin' shirt made in the USA. Russell's has a nice selection of fitness equipment, bikes and apparel.
We checked out Red, White and Boom, the fireworks display put on by Peoria and East Peoria on the riverfront. Wow!!!
We visited the Peoria Zoo and I got to watch the sea lions for a while, which I love.
We made a stop at Emo's in Peoria where I had a child size butterscotch sundae with krunch coating. Yum!

Happy anniversary wishes to StfRon and I (one year next week), Bernardi's (seven years) in Washington and Paparazzi (25 years) in Peoria Heights!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Free and fun in Peoria

A retiree we know enjoys checking out the free concerts offered in Peoria during the summer months, as do we. Which got me to thinking, I've checked out lists of free things to do in Chicago and Milwaukee.
Why not comprise a list of fun free things to do in the Peoria area? There's a little something for everyone, and it's great to have a blast without breaking out the Bejamins.

In the next few weeks, check out:

Botanical and Landscape Photograpy by CynThia Gysin exhibit will be on display beginning through August at Kickapoo Creek Winery, 6605 North Smith Road, Edwards.

Red, White and Boom
Independence Day celebration and fireworks display set to music at Peoria's Downtown Riverfront and East Peoria's Riverfront Park, 5 p.m. July 4.

Peoria Municipal Band concerts
. 7:30 p.m. July 9, 16, 23 and 30. CEFCU Center Stage at The Landing, Peoria RiverFront. August 6, 10 & 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the Glen Oak Amphitheatre in Glen Oak Park, 2218 N. Prospect Road, Peoria.

Brown Bag It entertainers perform from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at the Peoria County Courthouse Plaza through August 30.

Dancing Under the Stars
ballroom and the country line dancing on Peoria's only outdoor dance floor. July 10 Jim Park/Starlighters, July 24 Glen Reader, July 30 Nancy West 7 p.m. at the Glen Oak Amphitheatre in Glen Oak Park, 2218 N. Prospect Road, Peoria.

CEFCU Jazz Series
: July 10, Todd Kelly Quartet. 7:30-9:30 p.m. July 17, Kevin Hart & the Vibe Tribe. 7:30 p.m. July 24, Billy Cook Quartet. 7:30 p.m. July 31, Ed Kaizer Quartet. 7:30 p.m. CEFCU Center Stage at The Landing, Peoria RiverFront.

Ameren Summer Serenade Concerts, July 11 featuring New Odyssey, Central Illinois Jazz Train August 8, American English Septebmer 5. 7 p.m. Back lawn, Lakeview Museum of Arts and Sciences, 1125 W. Lake Ave.

Luthy Botanical Garden, 2218 N. Prospect, Peoria. Admission is free to outdoor gardens daily 8:30 a.m.-dusk (except during special events).

The RiverFront Market features free entertainment from 8 a.m.-noon June 7 to September 27 at Liberty Park, corner of Water and Liberty, 212 SW Water Street, Peoria.

July 12th, storytime at 10:30 at Borders in Peoria featuring: We the Kids: The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States and The Star Spangled Banner, followed by outside play at PlayHouse Jr. across from Charley’s Grilled Subs.

Classic Car Cruise-In July 26, 5-9 p.m. Pekin Main Street.

Christian singer and songwriter Mark Harris will perform August 9 at 5 p.m. at Tower Park, 1222 E. Kingman Ave., Peoria Heights.

Free summer movies at the Rave theater, 5311 West American Praire Drive, Peoria. Showings at 10 a.m. Shrek the 3rd July 8 & 9, Surf's Up July 15 & 16, Veggie Tales July 22 & 23, Charlotte's Web July 29 & 30.

Labor Day Picnic September 1. After the Labor Day Parade, food and live entertainment is provided for the whole family at the CEFCU Center Stage at The Landing, Peoria RiverFront.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

RiverFront Market

We had a chance to stop by the RiverFront Market in downtown Peoria last Saturday.
There were quite a few more vendors than there were the last time I visited last year.
We strolled along looking at bread, vegetables, jewelry, art and more, and shortly after we got there some Barry Cloyd started playing some live tunes.
We selected some fresh mustard greens, a head of cabbage and some white radishes, plus picked up some ground bison meat to try.
We enjoyed our mustard greens Monday, tried some radishes yesterday and plan to make a nice, zesty cole slaw tonight with our cabbage.
The market is open Saturdays from 8 a.m.-noon June through September, across from the Illinois Antique Center.