Ah, it’s almost Fall in Indiana. The cornstalks are drying in the fields. The trees show hints of gold and red against the bright blue sky. The morning air is crisp and Fall-y smelling. I just love it!
Until I remember that I still haven’t finished my Summer posting for the blog. [silent cursing and self-berating; internal contemplation of distractions that keep me from blogging; break from contemplations to open another bottle of wine; OK – ready to rock and roll.]
Ah, Summer in Indiana. The lawns are a brilliant shade of green. Giant shade trees and cool blue swimming pools provide a respite from the hot midday sun. The evening air is warm and Summer-y smelling. I just love it!
Love it so much that I take lots of opportunities to get the heck out of town.
Here’s a breakdown of some of our non-local adventures and how trying to eat “real food” enhanced (or challenged) them. In chronological order:
Bill and I took a trip down to the Lone Star State, sans boys, to visit my favorite niece, Mary, (now I’ll find out if Katie, Lisa, Jane, or Lynn actually ever read my blog), her sweet husband, and two beautiful little girls. I had not been to Texas since I was 2 years old and my dad was completing Air Force Officer Candidate School. Can’t say that I remember it very well. And, if it weren’t for Mary and family, it was not particularly high on my list of destinations. But we were dying to see them and meet their new baby. And it’s an easy trip from Fort Wayne. AND the next thing we knew, we were having a fantastic time and eating some awesome food! (Bonus: saw some great MCM residential architecture — another passion of mine — see end of post for a shot).
The first place Mary took us was Houston’s Central Market. Check this place out! I thought I’d died and gone to foodie heaven. We grabbed some organic prepared salads and quesadillas at the cafe for a quick lunch. Then while we explored this enormous place (I shed a few tears strolling through the produce section — Fort Wayne Fresh Market, I am looking at you with “eyes of disappointment”), Mary bought all the ingredients to make homemade guacamole, chili rellenos, and from-scratch margaritas for us that evening. We contributed a case or so of wine to the evening’s festivities — we were so excited to have someone else cook for us!
Later that evening, after a couple or three “spicy nuns“, we sat down to this delicious feast!
Mary’s husband patiently explained his recipe and gave me lots of helpful hints on how to make it myself. Unfortunately,….. it’s a little vague in my head now (see above notes re: “spicy nuns” and margaritas). The next time I want delicious chili rellenos, I’ll just fly down to Mary and Marcus’ house.
The following evening we went to a hip, walkable (a rarity in Houston, I believe) neighborhood called Montrose. There we started off the evening with some creative cocktails at Anvil Bar & Refuge.
I had a Pimm’s Cup for the first time. Hands down, I had the best drink at the table. Yay me. We experimented a bit when we got back to Fort Wayne, and here’s how to make a Real Food Pimm’s cup:
– muddle 4 peeled cucumber slices and add to cocktail shaker
– pour in 1.5 oz Pimms #1, .5 oz agave syrup, 1 oz fresh lemon juice, .5 oz gin
– shake vigorously
– pour thru a strainer into an ice-filled tall glass; top with soda water
After drinks at Anvil, we went to the simple, delicious, and funkily romantic Sparrow Restaurant. The menu changes all the time based on seasonal ingredients. I don’t recall exactly what we had (see Pimms Cup, above) but I know we had a beet salad and a side of brussel sprouts that were out of this world, plus some local lake fish and some type of game. Seriously, if you ever find yourself in Houston, go here. Seriously.
Indianapolis (well, it’s NOT Fort Wayne, is it?)
Shortly after Houston, I took a one day trip down to Indianapolis to pick up my BFF (no, not Gwyneth, my other BFF) at the airport. We cruised into downtown for lunch at Indy’s historic City Market. Saturday is not the best day to experience this restaurant-filled spot (a lot of places were closed), but we were there for crepes — it’s kind of a tradition with us — and crepes are what we got! At the super yummy 3 Days in Paris.
Check out the yumminess: I had egg, cheese, roasted red pepper, local bacon, and spinach on a buckwheat crepe.
My BFF had a banana and nutella 1/2 crepe. And 1/2 ham, egg, and spinach with pesto.
We were well-fed for an afternoon of talking and shopping, after that!
Potomac, Maryland (ROAD TRIP, via Ohio and Pennsylvania)
Three boys. One mom on a healthy eating mission. 22 hours total in the car. Guess how that went?
Actually, better than I thought it would! I was very clear before we set out: “We are not eating any junk food on the way there. I’m packing lots of snacks you like. We’ll have a fun dinner out when we stop at the hotel. But no junk.” The grousing commenced, of course, until I said (perhaps rather too loudly), “Look, you stop whining about this right now and once we hit Auntie Charlotte’s house, you can eat whatever the hell you want the whole time and I won’t say a word.” BIG smiles (“Mom said ‘hell’!).
For the car ride, I packed: cherries, apples, waters, Larabars (only 3 ingredients, no sugar), Kettle Brand baked potato chips, cashews, squeezable organic applesauces, and organic cheese sticks. You got your sweet, you got your savory. You’ll survive.
We stopped mid-way, near Pittsburgh, to have dinner and spend the night. I’d scoped out some restaurant options to suggest before we got there — all chains, of course, just off the Turnpike there — and wasn’t sure what we’d end up doing. But the first suggestion out of my mouth was the immediate boy-choice — much to my surprise. Red Lobster!
OK, game on, RL! But I was — yet again — pleasantly suprised. First, this was a brand new Red Lobster — nice and super clean and bright. The kids loved the cheesy biscuits that just arrive at the table– not hard core Real Food-y, I guess — but not exactly junk food, either (?). They all wanted crab legs (steamed) — so that seemed pretty spot on. And, since they were busy drawing and chatting my ear off about the maps on the wall and the lobsters in the tank (they were really excited about the Red Lobster!), I was able to instruct the waitress to bring us the fruit salad sides for each kid instead of the fries. I had a salad (w/ oil and vinegar — bottled salad dressing is just so gross) and a GIANT glass of wine — well done on the generous pour, RL. Cracking crab legs is a lot of work — so I was busy cracking those open while the boys plowed thru their fruit salads and made weapons out of the claws. Then we ate lots of crab with lots of melted butter until we were happy as clams (oh, seafood pun! you knew that was coming). It was actually one of the most fun dinner outings I’ve ever had with them. And we didn’t go to bed full of fried food. (Tho’ I was pretty full of white wine after my second glass. Luckily the hotel was just across the street.)
The next AM we ate the leftover fruit etc. that I’d packed for the car ride. Obligatory Starbucks run on the way out of town for me (and they were allowed to get chocolate or vanilla milks — sugary sure, but at least organic). And we hit the road to Maryland feeling pretty darn good.
Since I was doing the trip myself (Bill had to work), I took two days each way for the drive — so the stay was much shorter than I would have liked. We crashed at our pals’ Chris & Charlotte’s house (complete with their own 3 boys, 2 dogs, 2 cats, a large wine cellar and one giant pool — the perfect recipe for entertaining a “single” mom and her 3 boys). Of course Chris, as usual, wowed me with all the delicious food he managed to cook in 2.5 days. And all locally sourced! I promised him a mention in the blog. Here you go, Chris — you rock:
By the way, if you ever have to spend 22 hours in a car with your 12 y.o., go ahead and let him pick the music. He downloaded Imagine Dragons’ Night Visions. I was, perhaps, not particularly enthusiastic about this selection. But after listen number #7 (mid-Ohio, day 1) and all the way through listen #42 (crossing back over the IN state line, day 7), I am a big fan. And I will forever remember a really awesome road trip with my three boys when I hear any of these songs.
DISNEYWORLD, Orlando, Florida
I could go on and on about Disney just because I had never been before (I know! And I was born and raised in America!) In all honesty, I wasn’t particularly jazzed about this trip. I don’t like roller coasters. I don’t like crowds. I don’t like “faked” environments. Heck, I don’t even like kids that much.
But — and this is a big but (rather like that on many of the visitors to the park) — I had a freakin’ awesome time! I DO like funny song and dance shows and goofy little kid rides. I DO love people watching. I DO like air conditioned environments when it’s a sweltering Florida 98 degrees. And, heck, I DO enjoy seeing my kids have a GREAT time.
As for food, just a few comments:
– Disney actually does (or at least, if you believe their menus) a pretty good job of using seasonal, local produce — especially at the nicer, sit-down type restaurants. For example, they have a seafood place — Coral Reef Restaurant — that prepares sustainably caught fish with locally sourced ingredients.
– It is not all junk food all the time. There were loads of fresh fruit and veggie or lean protein options. I thought the breakfast places in our hotel was particularly good about this. I always felt that we started the day off well fed, but not loaded with heavily processed food. (We stayed at The Contemporary — remember my love of Modern achitecture? I was pretty happy just wandering around in there! See below.)
– The kids’ meals are actually kid-sized. I was impressed with portion sizing. Sure, it was mostly junk, like grilled cheese and fries. But the kids’ meals always came with a good-sized portion of fruit and would have, literally, only 5 or 6 French fries instead of a big pile taking up half the plate. My kids were starving after all the walking around and would always polish off the fruit (as well as the fried stuff and a dessert, of course).
Thumbs up, Disney.
And if there are any other MCM geeks out there, this is for you: