Category Archives: Tasty Trail

photo of Asian Chicken Salad at Beacon Hills Grill & Bar

On the Tasty Trail – Lunch: Beacon Hills Grill & Bar

Teardrop Trail Log: June 13, 2017

It’s always nice to catch up with Jon, Jim’s brother and his wife Judy in Omaha. I’ve enjoyed spending time with them in their condo in Park City and their home in Omaha. I has been fun getting to know Omaha on our visits over the last few years. This time we hit the Tasty Trail for an amazing lunch at Beacon Hills Grill & Bar.

We drove to the Aksarben Village, a vibrant neighborhood location on the land of the former Ak-Sar-Ben coliseum and horse track in Midtown Omaha. This new, pedestrian friendly development is combined with the south campus of the University of Nebraska Omaha and the First Data Campus. It is home to many of Omaha’s major corporations, restaurants, Stinson Park, and even the Omaha Farmers Market.

We drove to Beacon Hills Grill & Bar. It opened in fall of 2016 and is a new venture of the owners whose Lincoln location was a local’s favorite for 16 years. The website describes the experience as homemade American Cuisine with Midwest hospitality. “Every one of our memorable homemade dishes is made from scratch.”

The atmosphere is contemporary combined with an urban industrial ambience. It is comfortable with exposed warm, wooden beams and large windows. The walls were adorned by modern sculpture that offered a nod to the windmill, a mid-western visual icon. There is an outdoor patio with a fireplace and gazebos.

I enjoyed the Asian Chicken Salad, with mixed greens, orange slices and snow peas tossed in a house-made Asian vinaigrette. The crispy-fried chicken tenders had been dipped in peanut sauce. Best of all were the mini egg rolls. Sadly, we did not take time to sample the amazing desserts.

Beacon Hills Grill & Bar is a real find! Hope we can dine there again when the Teardrop Trail takes us to Omaha again. This time with dessert.

photo of Interior Othello's

Another Stop on the Tasty Trail – Edmond, Oklahoma

Teardrop Trail Log: June 10, 2017

Our first night on the Teardrop Trail was spent in Edmund, Oklahoma. On the edge of Oklahoma City, it is a great stopping place about half way from Dripping Springs to Omaha where Jim’s brother and Bob, his high school friend live.

Jim had introduced me to Edmond when stayed at the Best Western on the way to and from his high school reunion in July of 2015. It is conveniently located near I-35. On that trip, we explored a bit before having a wonderful dinner at Moni’s Pasta and Pizza, a culinary gem hiding in a strip mall on North May Avenue with great food and a casual, comfortable atmosphere.

photo of table with candle and check

A Lovely Evening

On the Tasty Trail this trip, we continued to explore the local culinary scene. A short Google search lead us to Othello’s, a family-owned Italian restaurant downtown, located in the building that was the original home of Edmond’s first hospital which was on the second floor of the town’s first movie theater. It is a picturesque dining destination with a classic vibe, complete with a pressed tin ceiling and candles melting over wine bottles. The walls were decorated with colorful murals of the Italian countryside. The service was friendly and we started with glasses of lovely Italian red. The menu contains many Italian favorites. Jim ordered Hellen’s Baked Ravioli and I ordered Nancy’s Penne Tomato Alfredo with Chicken from the Customer Creations section, a unique feature of Othello’s menu.

After dinner, we went in search of a bottle of wine for a night cap, but discovered that the liquor stores closed at 9:00. Disappointed, we returned to the cozy comfort of the Best Western for a much-needed rest. The morning brought a trip through the free continental breakfast buffet before we headed to Omaha.

photo of Hart's Firehouse BBQ in Lampasas

On the Tasty Trail – Lunch at Hart’s Firehouse BBQ

Teardrop Trail log: June 10, 2017

photo of Smoked Turkey and Potato Salad

Smoked Turkey and Potato Salad

Traveling north on US 281, we began to search for lunch. I started looking on my phone for dining options. BBQ – after all we are still in Texas. Hart’s Firehouse BBQ popped up in the Google search. We were not far from Lampasas and spotted the restaurant as we rolled into town. We parked the Lady and the Ambassador behind a rather large RV and as soon as we opened the doors, we were greeted by the heavenly scent that brought back memories from my childhood in west Texas. We explored the quirky exterior, finding the entrance. Approaching the counter, we surveyed all the delicious options! It was hard to choose. The potato salad reminded me of my great grandmother, MaMaw’s recipe and was a must accompaniment for the pulled pork and brisket sandwiches. We placed our order and soon added sauce and selected a table inside. Although there were wonderful tables for outdoor dining under the spreading oaks, it was already summer so we chose air conditioning. Looking around the dining room, all the other diners were in BBQ heaven!

There were so many tantalizing options that we will definitely be back. Thank you Google. Finding amazing dining experiences is one of our special pleasures on the Teardrop Trail.

photo of Hart's Firehouse BBQ interior

Food and Fun!

photo of Solar chili complete

Solar Chili

Making good food with limited resources has always been appealing to me, and camping presents a perfect challenge. I still enjoy cooking over an open campfire, but solar power presents a new opportunity to make great food with simple tools.

photo of the Solar-powered system in the galley

Solar-powered system in the galley

With the addition of a slow-cooker to our galley and the upgrade of the teardrop’s solar power system, I began thinking about combining the two. Marilyn’s recipe for “Teardrop Pork Chops” proved we could have dinner ready when we got back to camp in the evening. I wondered if the solar system could effectively power the slow-cooker. Some quick measurements with the “Kill-a-watt” meter showed power usage for the 1 1/2 quart cooker to be well under 100 watts — even on the “high” setting. The “low” setting only consumed about 65 watts. With our 200-watts of solar panels and adequate sun, it should work fine. What to cook for an experiment?

Slow-cookers have always worked well with bean dishes, in fact, they were invented for cooking beans. The combination of low temperatures and long cooking times guarantee tender beans that retain their shape and texture. Chili is an iconic bean dish, and what could be better after a day of camping fun?


Solar Chili

Cooker: 1 1/2 quart oval, powered by a 300-watt Bestek Inverter plugged into a 12-volt, 200-watt solar system
Settings and Cook times: HIGH for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, then LOW for 8 to 9 hours

1/2 pound dried pinto beans, cleaned and soaked overnight and drained
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 pound of course-ground lean meat, beef, pork or turkey
1 medium onion, chopped
3 ounces of tomato paste or puree
1 1/2 tablespoons of Dixon medium hot (or other high quality) chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

For serving:
Shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Chopped fresh tomatoes
Chopped green onions
Warm cornbread or saltine crackers

photo of Starting the beans and garlic

Starting the beans and garlic

Put the soaked and drained beans and whole garlic cloves in the slow cooker, adding enough water to cover. Cover and cook on HIGH until tender but not mushy, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Drain and discard the garlic.

photo of

All ingredients cooking

Meanwhile, brown the ground meat and onions in a large skillet and drain off the fat. Mix the meat, onions, partially-cooked beans, tomato paste, chili powder and cumin in the slow-cooker. Add enough water to cover and stir. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 to 9 hours, stirring occasionally. During the last hour, season with salt. Serve with toppings and warm cornbread.

photo of a solar dining experience

A solar dining experience

How did we do? Using the measured slow-cooker wattage on high and low settings, a little quick math showed a total power consumption of about 750 watt-hours — within the production capacity of our 200-watt solar system on a sunny day. With the skillet-baked cornbread, all the fixins’ and a glass or two of wine — delicious.

 

photo of Breakfast at Bob Evans

Breakfast at Bob Evans – Not IHOP

Teardrop Trail Log: June 24, 2016

Crossing Missouri in the rain, we arrived in Springfield and checked into the Econo Lodge. True to the billing on their website, it was a no-frills hotel…. Although we normally seek out interesting local places to eat, after a day driving through the rain we saw a Bob Evans, located conveniently just across the parking lot. One online source observed that if Dennys and Marie Calenders had a child, it would be Bob Evans. The chain started on an Ohio farm and is known for family-style American cuisine. We enjoyed dinner and returned for breakfast the next morning. Bacon and eggs with hash browns. The biscuits were large and fluffy. No, we weren’t at iHOP anymore.

photo of The Hoof Family Steakhouse

Lunch at the Hoof Family Steak House

Teardrop Trail Log: June 23

After our trip through the Amish Country, we headed to the small farming community of Madison, founded in 1836 and named after the US president. It was another quintessential Mid-Western town, with a main street that had seen better days.

interior photo of The Hoof restaurant in Madison Missouri

The Hoof resteraunt in Madison, Missouri

We had just enough time for lunch before our meeting at the Darst IH Museum. As we drove past the downtown, we found The Hoof Family Steakhouse. It has a down-home vibe with laid back décor of barn wood and corrugated tin. It seems to be a favorite of family and locals for meetings of social clubs, birthday and other celebrations. Online reviews talked about the crowds on Saturday night, luckily we were there at lunch.

We ordered the Build Your Own Burger. THE FRIES!!! Fresh cut and amazing. We are becoming French Fry aficionados as we travel the Tasty Trail. Who would have guessed that there are so many delicious ways to make French Fries. Great food in a great farm town. Sadly, we had to pass on the fried pickles – next time…..

photo of loads of fries.

Loads of Fries!

photo of Chicken Fried Steak

Funny Pages — Chicken Fried Steak and More

Teardrop trail log: June 22

We discovered Funny Pages as we passed through Moberly in north-central Missouri on our way to Red Power Round Up, earlier in the month. Just by chance, I’d seen their sign that advertised baked goods and coffee drinks. It was easy to fall in love with a place that combines a comic and cartoon décor, with the tantalizing smells of amazing baked goods fresh from the oven . . .  We noticed that the staff posted three different silly jokes around the dining room. As the website says, “The jokes will either make you smile and laugh or just shake your head . . .”

photo of Funny Pages Cafe Sign

Funny Pages Cafe Sign

One of our favorite indulgences on the Teardrop Trail is sampling chicken fried steak and we’ve tried out many variations of this road food staple. At Funny Pages, the Chicken Fried Steak, served with peppered gravy did not disappoint.

Dinner at Funny Pages was so much fun that we returned for breakfast. Jim ordered the Junkyard Boss, three scrambled eggs, one biscuit, hashbrowns, all smothered in a sausage gravy with two strips of bacon on the top, complete with Mocha. No, we weren’t at iHop anymore . . .

photo of the "Junk Yard Boss" breakfast, complete with Mocha

“Junk Yard Boss” breakfast, complete with Mocha

photo of Arcadia Book Storefront

Spring Green on the Mocha Trail

Teardrop trail log: June 21

With Starbucks conveniently located across the street from Jim’s office at the university, he had developed a Mocha habit. Even after leaving the campus, around 3pm every afternoon, he starts scanning the horizon for a way to indulge in the chocolaty goodness. Starbuck’s, and coffee houses in general are a city thing — we discovered it was much harder to find in rural and small town America. As we travel, I search the Internet for Mocha each day we’re on the road in the hopes of finding his treat.

photo of A #10 Kraut

A #10 Kraut

We returned to Spring Green to continue our exploration. The vibe was special. There were many locally owned businesses, gift shops, galleries, quaint eateries and even a quilt shop. It was fun to explore the small-town hardware store. The organic grocery store had some very interesting selections.

Then, we spotted Arcadia Books, an independent book store that would be the envy of any other small town in America. Not only did they have a great selection for readers of all ages, but stocked all sorts of prepared goodies, made from local ingredients, baked goods, beer, wine and… even Mocha. We looked at each other and smiled. We could be happy here…. except for that four-letter word — snow.

photo of Mocha success at Arcadia Books in Spring Green

Mocha success at Arcadia Books in Spring Green

photo of a Chicken dinner

Spring Green – The Shed

Teardrop trail log: June 20, 2016

The Tasty Trail took us to Spring Green, which was known for its most famous native, architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It is thought that Wright’s presence at nearby Taliesin helped establish Spring Green as an artisan community, home to the nationally recognized classical theatre company, the American Players. It was the quintessential, charming American small town.

graphic of The Shed logo

The Shed logo

We had decided to have dinner in Spring Green and found The Shed. They have an outdoor music venue, but we were focused on having a nice dinner. I made a mental note to see who would be playing outside, the next time we visited. The bar was busy, a great gathering place for locals, but the dining room, on the other side of a passage was intimate and friendly. We decided on the special, baked chicken with mashed potatoes, dressing, vegetables and grilled bread. Although the Shed has an amazing selection of local beers, a lovely white wine was the perfect paring with the chicken. Sadly, we didn’t leave room for the amazing pies they had. Next time.

After exploring the Wisconsin country side, this was a relaxing evening. As we headed back to our campsite in Governor Dodge State Park, our conversation turned to how much we liked Spring Green. We speculated that we could happily settle in in this picturesque town, but then we remembered that frightening four-letter word – snow.

photo of Econolodge in Madison

Breakfast at IHOP (Again)

Teardrop trail log: June 19, 2016

graphic of FAST Biryani Logo

FAST Biryani Logo

After exploring Madison, we noticed FAST Biryani. Finding new culinary adventures is one of the reasons we love to travel and this looked like an opportunity to explore a unique restaurant, especially in a neighborhood of chain eateries. Later, we would learn that FAST stands for Flavorful, Aromatic, Spicy and Tasteful, authentic Hyderabadi Indian cuisine in the Nizam tradition. The experience was amazing, the perfect balance of spices in recipes that had been handed down for generations. Conveniently located across the parking lot from the Econo Lodge.

photo of Chicken Biryani

Chicken Biryani

After dinner it was a short walk across the parking lot and we were back to the motel. As we climbed the stairs, we looked down on the lobby. It always seemed to be awash in activity, busy staff trying to run the hotel complete with an array of eccentric guests speaking lots of different languages – a true international Fawlty Towers.

We awoke from a deep sleep the next morning. Although breakfast came with room, we decided to not dine amidst all the chaos, but sought out the offer of predictability and comfort food of a nearby IHOP, located in a strip mall just down the street. Bacon, eggs, hash browns and toast!

photo of the Classic IHOP breakfast

Classic IHOP breakfast