Sunday, July 17, 2016

Eating Out -Fong's Pizza

For years we've heard about Fong's Pizza. But being downtown Des Moines, with its parking challenges, we've never been. 

Yesterday we went to Altoona for the Camel, Zebra and Ostrich races. 

They were fun, but crazy. People who never go to the track are there en mass. 

After the craziness getting out of the parking lot, we were ready for dinner.  They opened a new Fong's in Ankeny so we decided to give it a try. 

It's in a new development that our gps didn't recognize. John looked at the map on my phone and got us there easily. 

It has a "Chinese restaurant in a movie" vibe. The waiter kind of ambled up and took our drink order. I got water and John ordered a cherry coke. 

Waiter: Do you want it the way I make it?

John: However it's done. 

Waiter: I make it with real cherry syrup!

Then he was gone. 

We ordered the infamous crab rangoon pizza. The choice was a ten inch or a sixteen inch. I was surprised there wasn't an in between choice. We got the smaller one. 


It came out fast and hot. The crust was cracker crisp. It was a little sweet for my taste. It was good, but I don't think I'll be running back for it anytime soon.

I liked it better than Jo did, but I would agree that I wouldn't rank it up there as one of my favorites. I like my pizza meaty, cheesy, and saucy. But I'm glad we finally tried it. And it was a very good thin crust.  

We got our fortunes. I guess they didn't know I just had a vacation. And John's in my world quite a bit, so I don't know what to do with that. 

Also another odd waiter moment. He brought the check and we put money in it. He walked by and said "Have a good night!"

He didn't pick it up or ask if we needed change. 

To quote John Travolta in Pulp Fiction. "I don't think Buddy Holly is a very good waiter."

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Restaurant Redo - Country Style Steak and Collard Greens

While on our road trip through the south a few weeks ago, we enjoyed our lunch at Aunt Bea's restaurant in Mt. Airy, North Carolina. Country style steak with gravy, collard greens, mac & cheese, and hush puppies. 

Much to our surprise, Jo and I both loved the collard greens, which we'd never tried before. That was a challenge to me to re-create them! I'll grab a round steak out of the freezer and try re-creating the steak & gravy, too. 

I rinsed the greens and took the big stems out. Then I rolled them up and cut them. 

I found some recipes online and based mine on those, with no real specific measurements. I'd picked up a couple small smoked ham hocks when I got the greens. Those add lots of flavor to the cooking broth, which was about a quart and a half of water. I added some chicken base (to make it a chicken broth). I simmered the ham hocks for about 30 minutes, then added the cut up greens. 

I added about a TBSP each of sugar & salt, some black pepper, about 15 garlic cloves, half a sliced Vidalia onion, a little cayenne pepper, and about a TBSP of Family Dollar soul food seasoning. Also, about 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar. Covered and cooked for about 2 hours. 
For the gravy, I diced up some onion and portobello mushrooms. 

A little olive oil in the pan, along with a hunk of fat I cut off the round steak (I don't want to eat it, but it's great flavor for the gravy!). 

Seasoned the tenderized round steak with seasoned salt & black pepper, then into the pan to brown. 

After browning on both sides, it's out of the pan and into the 350-degree oven to finish cooking. 

Now, let's make some gravy! A couple TBSP butter into the pan. 

Add the diced onions & mushrooms. Season with salt & pepper. 

Stir and cook until soft, about 7-8 minutes. This is already good enough to eat!

Add a couple TBSP flour and mix. 

 Cook for a couple minutes. 

Then add a couple cups of water and a little beef base or beef bouillon. Stir until thickened. 

Collard greens are done!

Plated up country style steak with mushroom onion gravy and collard greens. 

Once again, Aunt Bea's...

And mine...

I think it was a little better than the original at Aunt Bea's. I will say I nailed the collard greens on the first try. They were fantastic! How'd I do, compared to the original meal, Jo?

It was very good. There was no mac and cheese, but I had plenty to eat. (And I already know his mac and cheese rocks!)

Saturday, July 2, 2016

On The Road - Driving Up Memory Lane

Today we drove from Jonesboro, Arkansas to Springfield, Missouri. It was a leg of the road trip I was looking forward to because we were going to go through the Bull Shoals area where my grandparents lived in the 70's & 80's. 

We went there for summer vacation every year while I was living at home, and the last time I was there was about 30 years ago. I kept telling Jo about things I wanted to see, and wondered how many would still be around. 

I followed the route we had taken so many times, and they haven't changed it a bit. Easily found where we camped and fished on the White river. 

I caught a lot of trout here! I also DIDN'T catch a lot of trout here!

Their mobile home is still there, 43 years after they bought it. It's been re-sided and added on to. 

I told Jo the Bull Shoals dam was much bigger than Hoover dam. It's 1/2 mile across. This is the back. 

Back in the day, you could drive right up to the dam from below, but apparently you can't do that anymore. Not sure how you go on the "dam" tour nowadays. 

I was sorry to see the Dam Cafe was no longer in town. Always loved going by that when I was a kid! 

After a winding-road drive, we were in another state. 

When we left Jonesboro (where we had a fabulous, unique dinner), we didn't find anything special for breakfast, so we just grabbed some coffees and hit the road. Lunch was just some snack mix while driving, so we knew we'd be ready for some dinner in Springfield. Jo hit up Yelp again and found a BBQ place with great reviews. We got to the hotel at 3:00, checked in, and took off for City Butcher & BBQ. Their website says they only cook a certain amount every day, and when they run out, they close for the day. Well, we got there at 3:45 pm and saw the sign on the door..."BBQ SOLD OUT TODAY". At 3:45 on Saturday! 

We debated about just going to Hooters for some wings (we love Hooters wings, and we no longer have a Hooters back home), but we were stoked for BBQ again. So we found another place that had good reviews and was near the hotel. 

We got a platter with ribs, pulled pork, brisket, beans, Cole slaw, potato salad, and a roll. 

Ribs were sweet & very well cooked...really caramelized. Pulled pork was pretty standard, made better with a little of the #3 sauce, which was pretty good. 

When it comes to brisket, I find most of them pretty average. I've had some great BBQ at places that do awesome ribs, pork, chicken, turkey, etc., but I'm almost always disappointed in the brisket. This one was very good brisket. Almost as good as mine!

Beans were standard, slaw was good, and the potato salad was different, and I like that! They made it their own. Large potato chunks, green onion, a little pickle relish, mayo, and sour cream! It was like potato salad made with chip dip, and it was good!

We are glad to have some shorter days as we get ready to go home. It's nice to put up our feet and relax. 

Friday, July 1, 2016

On The Road - Graceland!

Today is the day! Graceland!  John went about 25 years ago, but I've never been. 

What better way to start our day than Waffle House! (I'm not angry! I couldn't tell if we got the picture.)

I had my usual, the All Star Breakfast. 
It also includes a waffle. 

John had a biscuit sandwich with bacon, egg and cheese. They also toasted the biscuit, which I've never seen. His hash browns were smothered, covered and chunked. 

Now we are fortified for Graceland!

We made it!  We got in, bought our tickets and went to the bathroom. They don't have a lot of bathrooms on the tour. 

We got our iPads and headphones for the self guided tour. John and I both got hinky ones. One of the guides had to fix mine and they had to bring John a new one. 

The bus took us over. 

We overheard this lady with an Australian accent. A guy was asking her about her vacation and asked what she did for a living. She said she was an actress. All I'm going to say is that Nicole Kidman looks way different in person!

I took a ton of pictures and won't make you look at all of them here. This is the living room with the custom 24-foot long couch. 

The kitchen was big and state of the art for its time. 

Elvis had three televisions so he could watch all the networks at the same time. Imagine if he'd had cable!

The Jungle Room was wild!

There was even carpet on the ceiling. 

Speaking of ceilings, the one in the game room was covered in fabric. Very 70's!

His trophy room was loaded with gold and platinum records. 

We paid our respects. 

After the mansion, we checked out the Lisa Marie.  

It was very spacious. 

John compared his tattoo to the original. 

We'd worked up an appetite for lunch, so we headed to Beale Street to visit a place we'd heard about. 

Dyer's is famous for its hamburgers cooked in grease. They have used the same grease for over a hundred years. It was even escorted by armed guards when they moved. 

Not buying new grease must keep prices down. 

The burger was amazing. The perfect greasy, cheesy, delicious burger. The fries were crisp and the Cokes were ice cold and the best I've ever had. 

The kitchen is open, so I had to sneak a shot. My only regret was when a waiter walked by with a plate of fried chicken. John had to pull me away. 

Outside, there were notes on the sidewalk. We said goodbye to Elvis and got ready to head to our next stop. 

We drove by the Peabody, home of the famous ducks and a location in "The Firm". 

On to Arkansas. 

I did Yelp research and found Skinny J's in Jonesboro. 

It was fun and funky. 

I got a pretty and fruity drink called a Byrdbathe. 

They had beer samples for a quarter and John got two local Arkansas brews. They turned out to be bigger than expected and he stuck with just the samples. 

I got the prime rib sandwich. It had horseradish, cheese and onions. It was delicious. 

John got the Parmesan butter chargrilled oysters. He'd always wanted to try some and loved them. 

Now after a long day of exciting sights and good food, we are relaxing.