33

I’ve been 33 for a few days now and – as expected – it doesn’t feel a lot different than 32. The thing that does feel different though? My mom & sister came to DSM to spend my birthday with me this year. It’s been a long time since the three of us were actually together on my actual birthday and this year felt pretty special.

They got in on Friday early afternoon and we immediately commenced shopping and eating our way through the city. Some highlights include shopping in the East Village, eating at Tacopocalypse, shopping at Raygun, mom’s homemade scallops and alfredo, the gallon jar of pickled eggs mom & Rach made just for me, birthday dinner at Lurra Cocina, lunch at Exile, WEST.END.SALVAGE and coffee, coffee and more coffee.

Come Monday morning, I wasn’t ready for them to head back. I’m so grateful I’m so close with my family and I’m so grateful that they didn’t think twice about hopping in the car and coming out to be with me on a day that usually includes a bit of tears.

My beautiful mother

My beautiful mother

 

listen: manchego cheesecake

listen: manchego cheesecake

 

charcuterie plate with mom's homemade hummus

charcuterie plate with mom’s homemade hummus

 

Sunday.roast.

Sunday.roast.

 

anyone want to get me this Herman Miller Eames lounger?

anyone want to get me this Herman Miller Eames lounger? at west end salvage.

 

... and we walked around with wine

… and we walked around with wine

 

west end salvage is amazing. I want all the things.

west end salvage is amazing. I want all the things.

 

 

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birthday shenanigans!

birthday shenanigans!

 

birthday dinner!

birthday dinner!

 

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gorgeous carrots that became an accompaniment to Sunday roast

gorgeous carrots that became an accompaniment to Sunday roast

 

directive : look perplexed

directive : look perplexed

 

mom & me exploring the farmer's market

mom & me exploring the farmer’s market

 

 

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cleveland, my hometown

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I’ve found myself inspired to write about my “hometown”: Cleveland.

The truth is that I’m from a town closer to Akron but after going away to college in another well-known Ohio town, “Cleveland” became the learned response to the question “where are you from?”  (Until LeBron, no one really knew of Akron so the chances of anyone knowing a suburb of a suburb of a suburb of Akron was highly unlikely.)  So I’ve been saying “Cleveland” to answer “where are you from?” for ages even though my real hometown is about 45 minutes away.

I’m in Ohio this week visiting my family for my usual summer trip and it seems like every time I’m here, I appreciate it just a bit more.  When I lived here prior to making Iowa my home, I kept my radius a bit tight.  I didn’t venture far from the fanciness of Beachwood where all the shopping is, University Heights where the Whole Foods is, and the east side where my sister lived.  As it turns out, Cleveland is really cool when you know where to go and I wasn’t going to the right places.  It took moving away and stalking the city from afar to really figure out what made Cleveland tick.

I’m continually amazed at how much this city has changed.  Even in the three short years since I’ve been gone.  There’s such a sense of community and the local movement has really taken root here.  It’s exhibited by the restaurants all along W 25th St that pride themselves on dishes made from locally sourced ingredients.  And with the West Side Market around the corner, how could they not feel inspired?  The food scene here could rival almost any big city.

(A few highlights: The Greenhouse Tavern, Townhall, Bier Market, Bar Cento, L’Albatros, The Black Pig and I’m dying to try The Butcher and the Brewer.)

Beyond the food, though, this city is a crafter’s dream.  It’s like an Etsy beyond the internets with vendors lining some of the coolest streets for things like Hingetown, and Cleveland Flea.  This city has really become an artist’s community and really celebrates their creatives.

The city stretches far and wide – you have your outskirts communities like Rocky River and Avon and Westlake – and there are so many more people, places and things beyond just my scope.  I’ve written about CLE in the past; sometimes in good and not-so-good context and I’m happy to embrace this place I call home.

There are still things that make CLE less-than-ideal (the crime rate, lack of an organized public transit system, spaced out neighborhoods, lack of walkability between aforementioned spaced-out-neighborhoods) but I do believe I could kill it (socially speaking) in this city after having been forced to spread my wings and learn a different city.  I’d be more active in the community, more likely to get involved and celebrate all that’s going on here (versus lamenting what’s not).  I’m someone who is somewhat of a city snob but I’m real and I’m from CLE.  Having very little “hometown” loyalty, I am happy to say that this city is something to celebrate and there’s a lot of good coming from CLE right now.

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dear foodies

You guys, let’s talk about one of my favorite things: food.

Since being here in DSM, I’ve found some great places to eat.  I’m compiling a list in my mind of the places I want to take my family and friends when they come here.  And maybe, just maybe, some of you out there in the blogosphere are planning a vacation to Des Moines (what? it could happen.) and are wondering what on earth to eat when you’re here.

Coming from Cleveland I was a bit spoiled.  You see, Cleveland has an amazing food scene.  We’ve got some up-and-coming wildly popular food trucks, some amazing chefs and some famous chefs and I managed to eat my way around my home and find the places that I’d return to again and again (mostly here and here).  I was worried when I made the move to Des Moines that I wouldn’t find places I’d love as much.  Food to me is all about the experience.  Whether eating in or out, I want to eat good things.  I’ve always had the food relationship a bit reversed… I live to eat, not eat to live (bad, Ryan!).

This list is, by no means, all-encompassing.  I know I’ve merely scratched the surface in four months but let’s get started.

The Royal Mile

I have to start with this place.  You guys, it has everything I love.  There is more beer than you’d be able to get through in a dozen visits, they have liquor, a roaring fire, soccer/football is on TV and (bonus!) it’s a sort of gastropub.  Their Steak & Guinness Pie is seriously in the top five best things I’ve ever eaten.  Can we just take a moment and think about that.  … Alright.  I digress.  The best part about The Royal Mile is that it’s so unexpected.  It’s an amazing bar hidden behind a small door and a small sign.  The decor is a bunch of wooden (are they wood?) tables, old pictures of people on St. Patty’s Day and football flags (as in Manchester United not Chicago Bears).  It all comes together to be my favorite place to grab a pint in Des Moines.

Fong’s

There was one place the people of Des Moines overwhelmingly advised me to go when I first got here and it was Fong’s.  Fong’s is located across the street from my number one but it’s clearly number one for the fine folks who live here.  It’s the place where people line up out the door for a pizza.  Pizza, people.  However, I do have to confess… their Crab Rangoon Pizza is out of this world.  Apparently their drinks are nothing to sniff at either but I can’t comment on that first-hand.

Court Avenue Brewing Company

You’d think that with my love for craft beer (oh, maybe I haven’t made that clear), dim lighting, lively conversation, sports on TV and delicious food that Brew Co’s would be my raison d’être but sadly, that’s not been my experience.  I’ve never found a place where the food is awesome but the beer is awesomer (it’s a word) till CABCo.

For breakfast, it’s Star Bar all the way.  In fact, I’ve never been there outside breakfast hours.  Everything that comes out of the kitchen is amazing.  It’s always mimosas and omlettes or mimosas and steak and mushroom hash or mimosas and Cuban sandwiches.

And I couldn’t leave a French place off my list: Django

The decor is fabulous.  Their wine selection is fabulous.  This is a place where you could go, park yourself at the bar (and get a birds eye view of the charcuterie-making action), get a drink and mange on the ratatouille with goat cheese appetizer.  I am a foooool for ratatouille.  Django’s take includes goat cheese that’s more like a cloud and adds such a zing to their traditional tomato-infused roasted veggies.

If you don’t want a sit down experience, here’s a shout out to my favorite on-the-go places: Planet Sub, Panchero’s, Orange Leaf