Tag Archives: Omaha World-Herald

On The French Cafe

28 Feb

My husband and I went on our first date at the French Cafe. I suppose I chose that spot for all the usual reasons that Omahans chose it for more than 40 years: It seemed romantic. Impressive. Fancy. Cultured. And I was an Omaha girl who wanted to impress an out-of-town boy. A long time passed between that first date and our second date (another story for another blog post) but years later, after we had fallen in love and settled together in a one-bedroom apartment on 13th Street, my husband insisted we go back to the French Cafe on a Saturday night.

We had already gone to dinner and had a drink. I’m fine with going home, I said.

He insisted again. I didn’t get it.

He asked for the same table we’d occupied on our first date. I still didn’t get it.

Then, hands trembling, he pulled a Borsheim’s box out of his pocket and asked.

It was as romantic as it sounds.

That’s us about an hour after our wedding, at the same table .

I felt sad, but maybe not surprised, when I learned yesterday that the French Cafe had closed. I know I’m far from the only person in Omaha who got engaged there, or who has lovely, romantic memories of the place. I remember going there as a little girl and being enchanted by the huge black-and-white photographs on the west wall. I stayed enchanted with them every time I went there, even the last time, for a drink a few weeks ago, when we were nearly the only people in the place. I wondered then what would happen to the French Cafe. I realized then that the city had largely deserted it.

The restaurant in 1980.

I can’t say I went there a lot. I think many Omahans can say the same thing. And even though the restaurant has floundered these past few years, making lots of changes and trying frantically to find itself, I don’t think I ever thought it would be gone.

The French Cafe kick started the Old Market. The Old Market: The first place I drove my red Pontiac Sunbird when I got my driver’s license. An escape that I’ve always returned to, even when we moved out of that one-bedroom apartment on 13th Street. A place where I first felt like I could be myself. A part of the city where I still eat many meals and drink countless glasses of wine with friends. The best part of Omaha. So for that, if nothing else, I will always remember, and appreciate the French Cafe.

It helped to make my Omaha what it is.

Vintage photo courtesy of the Omaha World-Herald. Wedding photos by my friend and OWH photographer Matt Miller.

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A recap of Pho Friday

27 Feb

I meant to write this post last Friday, but the day became crazy and my computer at work went down. So I’m posting it today instead.

My second Food Prowl story ran in the World-Herald on Friday. It’s about pho, Vietnamese noodle soup. I had the pleasure of eating with Trinh Tran, her daughter Thuy and freelance writer Niz Proskocil. We had a great time going to restaurants around Omaha, and I don’t think I could have asked for a better trio of judges. What’s your favorite pho in Omaha?

While I was writing the story last week, I saw a post come across Block 16’s Facebook page:

“Pho-que sandwich today! Vietnamese rubbed and smoked brisket on a bolillo roll with cilantro, basil, lime, radish and sprouts with Asian BBQ sauce. Come get a Pho-que!!!”
I already had a lunch scheduled that day. But there was no way I was missing this sandwich. (And if you pronounce the name correctly, well, you’ll get the joke.) I took a couple bites the first day, and then ate the rest the following afternoon for lunch. It had all the flavors of traditional Pho: crisp sprouts, bold cilantro and tangy lime, and also had a powerful spice and chewy, delicious brisket. I loved every bite, and it just goes to show that the simple flavors of Pho can translate in lots of amazing and surprising ways.

Review: Block 16

3 Feb

Chefs Jessica Joyce and Paul Urban run a pretty cool little hole-in-the-wall in downtown Omaha. I really like it.

The short form: The couple make street food with an upscale twist. The daily specials are not to be missed. And the creative, tasty vegan offerings appeal to former meatless folks like me but they’re good enough that meat eaters should give them a go, too. I can’t wait to watch this place turn into what its owners envision it to be.

http://www.omaha.com/article/20120203/GO/702039977/0#block-16-street-food-with-some-creative-twists

Pictured above, Block 16. Photo by Corey Perrine/OWH.

World-Herald Pie Day

31 Jan

Today is “World-Herald Pie Day.”

No it’s not related to 3.14. No, it’s not related to any national holiday.

It’s pretty simple: the newsroom likes pies. So we eat them.

See my co-workers down at the end there? That’s the end of the nearly never-ending row of pies. (That’s 33 pies, in case anyone’s counting.)

Pie is one of those things that really scares me. I’ve never made one. But what better occasion to give it a go than W-HPD? So I searched out a recipe via Mark Bittman, because I figured he’d never do me wrong, even on something as tricky-seeming as a pie. I went with his recipe for Coconut Sweet Potato pie, which had a yummy sounding spiced filling and a coconut graham cracker crust.

My pie in its natural office habitat.

Here’s how I made it. I fired up my trusty food processor to whiz together the crust.

My never-used red Fiestaware pie plate.

The crust after seven minutes of baking.

Sweet potatoes for filling.

I forgot to take a picture of the pie before I put it (and two small ramekins of extra filling for sampling) in the oven and my sister, who came over to give me moral support during baking, forbade me to open the oven before the timer went off. So here’s an in-the-oven shot.

And the final pie. We sampled the filling last night, and it was great: light, eggy and sweet. Sort of like a spiced flan. It was a hit at Pie Day 2012.

Search hash tag #pieday and #pieday2012 on Twitter to see the newsroom’s anticipatory and excited tweets from the day.

Introducing Food Prowl

30 Jan

Last Friday marked the beginning of my new Omaha World-Herald food series, called Food Prowl.

I decided to start the series with one of the most iconic — and turns out, one of the most debatable — foods in the city: the Reuben.

The story was a lot of fun to write, and I had a great time eating with Mary Bernstein, J.J. Harder and Jason Bejot.

I’m already working hard on the second installment of the series.

Here’s a link to the full first story, and to a special version we created just for Omaha.com. I’ve created a list of the series at the right, and you can follow along with me each month as I eat my way through Omaha.

Have any recommendations or suggestions? Send them my way.

Review: M’s Pub

30 Jan

M’s Pub has been around as an Omaha favorite as long as I’ve been around (longer, actually.) And it’s still great.

The short form: M’s Pub has a formula for success: wonderful atmosphere, excellent service and tasty, reliable food. They’re balancing what has worked for 40 years with some contemporary twists that keep things from getting stale.

http://www.omaha.com/article/20120120/GO/701209970/1184#m-s-pub-still-classy-enchanting

Pictured above, M’s Pub. Photo by Rebecca S. Gratz/OWH.

My Seven Day Detox Diet

18 Jan

As promised, here’s my story about my seven-day detox.

It was hard.

I lost some weight on the detox, but I haven’t weighed myself since I ended it. I think I’ve gained some of that weight back. My favorite jeans don’t feel as tight as they did after the holidays, but they are tighter than they were the day after the detox ended. I’m fine with ending up somewhere between where I was before the cleanse and right after it ended.

A lot of people asked me: would I do it again? I would. But I would try to get my husband to do it with me. And I would probably research better tasting recipes before going in because a lot of the recipes in this detox were absolute flops: a marinade didn’t work out, and turned into a rock as it cooled. I don’t care for avocado, and it was in many of the recipes. And one can only drink so many blueberry smoothies.

In the days after the diet, I continued a few of the habits. I am still starting every day with a big glass of water. I’ve stayed off Diet Coke, save for one or two slips. And I downloaded the Whole Living Smoothie iPad app, which gives me lots of options aside from blueberry. My blender is still on my counter instead of hidden away collecting dust.

I feel like the positive changes that came from the cleanse were (almost) worth the pain.