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Small town Sunday

5 Mar

Yesterday I went to my good friend Cara’s hometown, Brainard, Neb., for the town’s annual Community Fund Drive. Basically, it’s a giant sale in the town’s firehall that includes boxes of random items for $1, $2 and $3, a bake sale, a silent auction, lunch and then a live auction. I think the most expensive item that sold at the live auction was around $30.

Brainard is about an hour outside of Omaha, and it was fun to get on the road early and head out of town. Once I arrived, the first order of business was the bake sale. Cara loves rosettes, which are fried cookies covered with rainbow sugar, and I never turn down the chance for a kolache. The baked goods sell out within minutes, but we got what we were after. The rosettes are the brightly colored cookies in the photo below. They’re really good. Cara’s mom is responsible for making that beautiful pie right in the center.

After breakfast, it was time to start digging for stuff in the auction.

I scored, among other things, a box of vintage holiday signs, two vintage Nebraska coffee mugs and a pretty cool measuring spoon all in the same box for a buck. This bentwood side table, also only a dollar, is now living in my house.

This cookbook was part of a silent auction and ended up being pretty expensive — by expensive, I mean $10 or something — but I enjoyed looking at it. I love old church cookbooks.

We decided to pass on Tang and instead got two polish dogs with sauerkraut and two iced teas.

Many hours later, after all the bidding was done, we headed across the street to the town bar. I left the live auction with two giant stock pots and a box of vintage mason jars, many of which are green glass, that I plan to use on our deck this summer. Total spent: $10. I can’t even recount all the stuff the group bought, but one highlight was a vintage cabbage slicer that Cara took home.

No, we didn’t try the Queso “Tantalizers,” though I tried my best to convince Cara. Instead we consumed a couple of pitchers of red beer, ate some cheese balls and discussed all our awesome finds. Until next year.

One bag to China

3 Feb

one bag to chinaSo I’m a notoriously bad packer. I’m actually a notorious over-packer. When my friend Brad and I went to London (my only other time traveling internationally) we returned with no fewer than eight bags. Seriously. Eight bags for two people. Of course, that wouldn’t ever happen today. We’d spend more than our tickets cost in baggage fees.

Since then, I’ve become a bit better at packing. I’ve learned to roll my clothes tightly to maximize space. I’ve learned not to take silly things that I probably won’t wear. And last year, I went to New York for four days with just one small rolling bag, and just a couple of pairs of shoes. This, my friends, is shocking.

I ordered myself a medium-sized LL Bean Adventure Duffle in black. I have a plan to pack everything I need for ten days in China in just this one bag that I can carry on the plane, stuff in the overhead compartment and not have to worry about if my clothes make it halfway around the world.

My husband doesn’t really think I’m going to be able to do it. But I’m pretty determined.

Any international travelers out there have some packing tips they’d like to share? I might need your help.

China 2012

1 Feb

My husband and I, and two good friends of ours, are headed to China in May.

I’m so excited.

I’ve never been to China, but I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the food scene there, and I can’t wait to experience it. I also can’t wait to experience the markets, the culture, see the Great Wall and the Forbidden City and just generally absorb how cool this is surely going to be.

We’re headed to Shanghai and Beijing, as well as points in between.

Have you been to China? What’s your favorite thing to do/eat/see?

photo credit

An appreciation: Caffé Italia

13 Dec

Caffé Italia, hidden in a tiny strip mall in one of Lincoln’s off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods, is one of those places that people who love eating dream of finding.

I first went to Caffé Italia with my now husband when we had just begun dating. One of our old college professors that Matthew kept in touch with hung out at the restaurant every Friday night. He invited us to join his eclectic group of friends — artists, scholars, writers, photographers — for Caffé Italia’s Friday night dinner.

The menu only had one item each night, and everyone got it. Over the years, I remember eating some delicious lasagna and lots of homemade, light pasta tossed with perfect sauces. When the restaurant ran out of the menu item that night, that was it.

The restaurant’s half-dozen glass-topped tables were filled with an eclectic crowd. Noise levels in the small space could become deafening as the night went on. It wasn’t music, though, or kitchen noise that filled the space. It was good conversation.

During that first dinner — and the many that followed — I talked to people about books they were writing. Photography projects they were working on. International travel. Politics. Cooking. Documentaries they were filming. The future of journalism.

I also learned to love drinking from a tiny, frosty glass filled with tart Limoncello.

Caffé Italia doesn’t serve its dinners any more. After closing temporarily, the restaurant re-opened for breakfast. A barista makes all sorts of drinks with Italian Lavazzara coffee and there’s a selection of scones and biscotti. The restaurant served both coffee and sweets before it closed. Now, it just draws a crowd in the morning rather than the evening.

I had a latte and a buttery, flaky scone dotted with figs and pistachios. Matthew ate his scone with an inky-black, rich Americano. Caffé Italia is still as good as ever.

That morning, we missed our college professor by just a few minutes.

Caffé Italia | 2110 Winthrop Rd | Lincoln, NE | 402-489-4949

Pasture walk

10 Dec

Tromped through the country Saturday afternoon in Red Cloud. Wore my tried-and-true Bean boots. Happy weekend. Now, for a cocktail.

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Kansas City

5 Dec

We had a great weekend in Kansas City and we spent a lot of time (predictably) eating.  My friend Alyssa again came to the rescue and took some beautiful photos for the blog.

Oklahoma Joe’s | Eden Alley | La Bodega | The News Room | WCB

My crazy week, in review.

1 Dec

So Chick-Fil-A and it’s soft opening and opening took over my life earlier this week. I can’t say I’ve ever seen so much frenzy over a fried chicken sandwich (or so much controversy over the politics of restaurant owners, for that matter.) I also had to finish writing my story that ran Wednesday about creative hostess gifts (seriously, check out the cheese board that’s featured with the story — it’s amazing) and write my review for tomorrow’s paper and of course compile dining notes. Tomorrow’s review is a good one. I can’t wait to share it here.

Oh yeah, and I have a little column called art notes that always seems to get lost in the fray.

On Monday, I escaped my desk for a photo shoot for the gift story. Yes, that’s my back at left (and my own hand wrapped gift and front door, I’ll add.)

So those are all the reasons that Omavore has been quiet this week. But I’ll be back on track next week, beginning with a recap of this weekend, which I’m spending in Kansas City with my husband. His favorite band is playing a show Saturday night — can’t wait. Next week I’ll tell you about all the good food we eat and the good things we drink over the weekend.

Until then.