Big Grove Iowa City

For all of yall that aren't in the Iowa City area - let me fill ya in....downtown IC is constantly growing. Every time I find myself heading that way, there is something being constructed. Usually I'm only semi-curious, however when I heard Big Grove was opening up a location in Iowa City, I was more than just curious - I was pumped. Time had gone by and in all honesty, I forgot it was happening until the day had come that it was open.

Let me start off by telling you this place is beautiful & huge. Formally a warehouse, space is not a problem, plus there are pingpong tables to pass the time as well as a killer stage for live bands. I mean can we talk about that wood wall & graphic - LOVE IT! 

I went for the PRALINES & RICHARD (10.5% abv - oops) and it was perfection. It's described as: Richard the Whale with roasted pecans and almonds combine with the vanilla from the barrel. That's how you get our play on a famous ice cream flavor. 

The food set up is a little different based off of international street food. You also go up to order & pay for food and then receive a buzzer to know when your food is ready. I can imagine there will be some haters about this - but I am a major fan. 

We wanted to try a bit of everything so we went for - chips & guac, pollo chipotle & pork belly tacos, & the pastrami sandwich (House made pastrami, swiss cheese, sauerkraut, thousand island, rye bread)

The tacos - top: pollo chipotle tacos (Roasted chicken thigh, chipotle sauce, pepitas, cojita cheese, white onion, cilantro wrapped in a housemade corn tortilla) & bottom: pork belly tacos (crispy Pork belly, adobo, slow simmered salsa verde, grilled pineapple, white onion, & cilantro wrapped in a housemade corn tortilla)

Holy Hell - these were good. The pollo chipotle was just a tad spicy for Ethan & I since we have very baby spice levels. The pork belly was unreal though - so flavorful. Also, I love the corn tortillas, they were thin but held everything together and obviously home made. 

The guac & pastrami sandwich :  (House made pastrami, swiss cheese, sauerkraut, thousand island, rye bread)

Guacamole is self explanatory - but it was damn good. The pastrami (which we were interested in because the house made pastrami at Big Grove Solon is AMAZING) was so good. I usually stay away from things with swiss and sauerkraut but this gooey mess was worth every single bite. 

I can't wait for the summer where beers & outdoors are what fill my day to day. this will definitely be a new hot spot for me, as well as many people in iowa city. 

Backpocket Brewing

When I was playing volleyball at the University of Iowa, I was fortunate enough to have some great parents that came as often as they could. They would come in on Friday morning, we'd grab lunch (at a new spot each time) I'd play some volleyball, they'd go to the football game Saturday, I'd play some more volleyball and we would hang out at the Marriott. Now, in the same parking lot from the Marriott is this brewery called, Backpocket - where they obviously serve beer and pizza pies and we'd order up the beer cheese and a few pies to eat in the hotel room. 

As you all know I love myself some pizza. Something else you might also know is that our family (especially my dad) loves them some beer. So, when dad was in town for a few days and we needed to grab a good quick bite (that wasn't downtown), I knew BP was the place to go. 

This was the first time I was able to head back and give them a try since they changed up their pie menu. 

BBQ CHICKEN - Sriracha bourbon bbq sauce, chicken, jalapeno, goat cheese, pecorino, red pepper sauce. 

Now I originally chose this pie because E loves him some BBQ chicken - didn't go as far as to check the Sriracha & jalapenos. For a kid that doesn't like heat this was a big "oops". None the less, it was a good pie, I didn't love the bbq sauce but the heat of the jalapenos (that we picked off) brought some good extra flavor. 

MARGHERITA - fresh mozzarella, basil, tomato sauce

Lets be real, can you go wrong with a margherita pizza? If so, chances are you shouldn't have a pie place homie. Anyways, basic but good. 

FLAMBE caramelized onions, pork belly, fresh mozzarella, pecorino, bechamel sauce

I originally ordered this one for Dad (pork belly duh!), but it turned out to be my favorite. I LOVE a white sauce on pizzas, however that is one of the few things Ethan won't do at for our home pies (that and mushrooms) so receiving that was a pleasant surprise. I just wanted to hoard all of the pork belly pieces to myself, it was different & delicious. 

 

All in all, the new pies were great. It's quick & easy & tasty. Also, I love how they cut them in an almost zig zag - you got a bit of everything in each piece. 

BLUES & BBQ

Living in the Iowa City area means there is almost always something going on. If there isn't a Hawkeye event, you can bet that there is something else you can find to do. That being said, living here for almost 6 years (with a 9 month absence) it was time for me to pay my dues and actually start participating in the great things this community has to offer. This leads us to North Liberty's Blues & BBQ Festival

From the beginning, I was surprised by the size of this event, I was expecting our typical Iowa City ped mall festivals - I was wrong. You are instantly greeted with endless blow up slides & obstacle courses and a petting zoo. I apologize for the lack of atmosphere pictures, I was there for one reason and I wasn't about to waste my time on a cute goat...I wanted the BBQ.  

I made the suggestion that we take a lap before deciding on where we were going to get our grub. It was great to see the IC local, Mosley's , with a smoker that would put many to shame...I knew my dad was jealous. Although I knew I could get some great meat from their tent, I couldn't allow myself to do that when it's down the street from me. 

Luckily, I had Ethan with me so we could get a few things and sample throughout the day. 

Round one: Waffle Bowl from Honeybadger BBQ and brisket sandwich from Cynful Smokers .

The waffle bowl was unique with a fried waffle bowl, baked beans, pulled pork & topped with slaw. The brisket sandwich is pretty self explanatory. I would say the winner was the brisket sandwich. The waffle bowl had great flavor, but was attractive more for its uniqueness rather than its great smoked bbq flavor. The brisket sandwich was killer - great thick cuts of brisket and the soft bun was a great combo. 

Festival lemonade is always a winner, especially when its 80 & sunny with zero breeze. We got refills anddd our dosage of sugar for the week. 

Round two: pulled pork nachos from Honeybadger BBQ (again) and ribs & beans from Smoke-N-Grill on Wheels. 

The nachos served stadium style, topped with the same pulled pork as the waffle bowl & sauce. The ribs & beans were easy but solid. Once again, the meat was the winner. The ribs were fall off the bone good & a good bbq bean combo always makes me go weak in the knees. 

Don't worry, we didn't forget about the beer. I was so enamored by the beer options & tent in general. I'm a beer snob so no Bud or Miller in site was great for me. I'm not gonna lie, I wanted the most bang for my buck so I went with the 7.0% Reunion Brewery IPA & E went for the Firetrucker Brigade Ale. Both were great, I could have sat and sampled all the beers from the tent all day...they didn't let you do that, I'm just saying that I could.  

Our efforts were strong but the BBQ and beers got the best of us and we tapped out & surrendered  to our beds with Netflix instead of Blues. 

Overall, it was n awesome time. The atmosphere was great, the food options were endless, the beer selection was on point, and the music was perfection. We were treated to some great covers from this guy who could jam on his guitar, rock a harmonica, and had a killer voice under the beer tent. we missed on the blues later, but going off of all the snap stories the greatness of music carried on seamlessly throughout the night. The only thing that would have made this day better was if my parents were there. Dave would have been in pure heaven with the beers & bbq and Cindi would have been dancing the night away to the blues. 

Let's just say Blues & BBQ will be on my calendar next year. 

Birthday Brews & Pizza Pies

I’m a birthday fanatic.

I don’t know if it’s the thrill I get from trying to find the perfect present, dessert, treat something or just letting that person know that you care. March, is full of birthdays for me. I have friend’s bdays on the 1st, my boyfriends and friends on the 16th, mine on the 31st and plenty sprinkled in between.

Wednesday the 16th was my boyfriend, Ethan’s 25th. I had asked him in advanced if he wanted to go for a nice dinner or just grab pizza somewhere like Wig & Pen, Backpocket, or Big Grove – he went with Big Grove. I was in no way disappointed, as you all may know Big Grove is one of my favorite spots in the area. So, after a normal day at work, we opened some presents and headed out to Solon (which seems like forever away but in reality is a 15 minute drive) to enjoy some birthday brews & pies.

We were meeting up with his sister, so we grabbed a seat at the bar for a beer first.  It takes me a while to choose a beer (or anything else in life). I try to steer away from IPAs – 1. Because I know that’s what Ethan is going to get and I can steal some sips (He got the Big grove IPA) 2. I get lots and lots of APA/IPA when I am back down South 3. I didn’t want something to fill my belly while I prepared for pizza.

I started off sampling one of Big Grove’s beers the Que Rose, which is a Big Grove beer described as “Berliner Weiss style “Que Sera” with Pinot Noir and Muscat juice added during fermentation. Obviously, the Pinot Noir caught my eye. This reminded me of the sours I had tried at Blackstone, but with not as much of a bitter aftertaste. I truly enjoyed this, but didn’t feel like trying to have a whole one. After some chit chat with the bartender, she recommended something that was recently tapped – the Geisha Coffee Russian Imperial Stout - another one of Big Grove’s creations. They collaborated with JBC Coffee Roasters and used their Finca La Mula Panama Geisha (a roast that won 2015 best coffee in the world). I love coffee stouts and this one just hit the spot, with a high ABV (10.5%), a smooth coffee richness, followed with a light fruity finish it was the perfect choice. Now off to the table...

We wanted/needed to get an app – we were first debating between the potted pig & the parm fries. I nixed the fries since that was boring (sorry E) and the waitress deterred us from the potted pig once she said it was served cold, so we went for the Hunter Sausage.

Potato & Sauerkraut Pierogis, pickled mustard seeds, buttered onions and of course sausage. I was a little unclear as to how I would feel about it since the only time I touch sauerkraut is on a Reuben on Christmas Day (a family tradition). This dish was not only pretty but had all the right flavors in one bite. You got the sour from the sauerkraut (duh), bitterness from pickled mustard seeds, fattiness from sausage, and creaminess from potato & pierogis. It was a very bright dish in color and in taste – Ethan truly enjoyed it as he finished his last bite and said “sorry, I didn’t really ask if you wanted any more”.

Next up, the pizzas. Last time we went to BG, we got the margherita & traditional sausage so we wanted to try something different. 

[Pictured from bottom going clockwise] We went with White Sausage (mine), Salumi (his), and Margherita (his sister). Just look at that thin doughy, cheesy goodness. 

White Sausage: Crème fraiche, housemade fennel pork sausage, fresh mozzarella, red onions, scallion, marinated tomato, fennel pollen. This had the creaminess and fattiness with the crème fraiche and sausage (side note: their housemade fennel pork sausage is unreal), the red onions brought that bite and crispness, followed by a slight taste of licorice with the fennel – I love licorice. Oh and the crust, nothing beats the doughy air pockets in a brick stone oven pizza.

Salumi: Pepperoni style beef and pork sausage, San Marzano tomato, fresh mozzarella. I only stole one bite from Ethan’s pie but it had the great flavor that their typical margherita does with the salty pepperoni. I thought this was great, I’m just not a big pepp girl.

We obviously really hated them.

After that, his sister wanted to have some dessert before hitting the road back to Clinton. No matter how full, I will never turn down dessert, especially carrot cake.

Spiced Carrot Cake: coconut ice cream, caramelized white chocolate, candied ginger, coconut macaroons. This is not your traditional buttercream/cream cheese frosting carrot cake, but it was oh so good. Candied ginger was golden (my favorite ever), the coconut ice cream was unexpected (we didn’t read the description) but very refreshing, there was little icing but was perfect since the cake was so flavorful you could actually taste the sugar, carrots, ginger, and hint of coconut from everything else.

After those last bites I was truly finished, done, cooked, put a fork in me. Overall it was a great b-day dinner. Now I just have to decide where to go for mine.

Big Grove

Big Grove is a little gem in Solon, Iowa that makes house made brews and authentic food, including brick stone oven pizzas (my favorite). Ethan and I made the trek out 20 minutes to Solon to score during their happy hour, two for one beers! Here is a glimpse of their pizza menu. 

I personally would go for the roasted mushroom or white sausage, but E is more classic (and not into white pizza). We went for the Pizza Margherita and Traditional Sausage. These essentially are the same pizza and one has sausage, but still delicious! 

two beers + two pizzas = food comma