IC BLOCK PARTY

Who knew drinking in the streets could be so much fun...

Iowa City Downtown District always has something going on - different festivals multiple times a year to get the community together. These festivals have lots of activities, beer gardens, food carts, and live music. This year, they threw one for the books...the Downtown Block Party. 

This "party" had lots of activities including a sand volleyball tournament, dueling pianos, a fashion show, ping pong tables, tether ball, and so much more...ALL in the streets of our downtown. Here's a glimpse at the layout of the whole day...oh and did I mention the best part?! YOU COULD DRINK IN THE STREETS!!

All you had to do is purchase a $10 cup, receive a wristband, and then you could purchase a drink from one of the outside vendors. A lot of the restaurants had tables set up selling food & booze...well beer & wine only. 

Like I mentioned there was a lot to do and see - like an on going beach volleyball tournament in the middle of the streets. I opted out of playing, but it was fun to watch...as long as you weren't getting hit in the head by a wild serve. 

First stop was outside of Java House for Clinton Street Social Club's $1 oysters...yup, you read that right. ONE DOLLAR. It was Ethan's first time to give them a try, I think it may have been his last. BUT, I sure enjoyed mine. 

Our go to for the night was Pullman's frosé. Probably one of the "pricier" options of the night, but $7 for a cocktail is never bad in my book. I think we each had 3 of these...damn it was great. 

Next up was PiZan Pizza. This is a new joint in town where you order Subway style - pick what you want and they cook it right there. We went with the Average Joe - red sauce, fresh mozzi, Graziano's sausage, Citterio pepperoni, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, 86 mushrooms (not my choice). Overall solid quick pie...and it was under $10. 

E was still a little hungry so he went for Mama's Deli . He grabbed two tacos - pulled pork and chicken. 

The best part about this event was that there was always something to do and people to see. I'm always a fan when I get to see this gem of a human and all of her Iowa City friends...

This was one hell of an event. Great food & drinks, plenty of things to do, being able to be free and walk around with some frosé in hand, while chatting with everyone around! I think they thought of it all, they even had FREE parking until 10 am the next day to allow peeps to leave their cars and get them the next day, safety first!

IOWA CITY...CAN WE DO THIS EVERY WEEKEND? 

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. 

Chicago

When your parents are only 3 hours away instead of 13, you jump in the car & head to the Windy City. 

I don't mind a mini road trip, but I need to be eating, drinking, or chewing gum the entire time. So Saturday started bright & early, car loaded with overnight oats, fruit, water, coffee, a Monster and a Spotify playlist ready to go. 

I headed straight to my Aunt & Uncle's and after a handful of hugs & kisses, we went off to the Lincoln Park Farmer's Market. It was pretty packed and full of fresh produce that could have filled up your local Aldi. We also got to see homemade crepes made on the fly as well as smell the Cookies & Carnitas. Dave (my dad) made a pit stop at this tent and grabbed two cookies: Peanut Butter & Jelly Oatmeal Dried Fruit. I could have gotten into some deep trouble if I was going to stick around, but I was off to meet a friend for lunch. 

My girl Max just started working at Equinox Gold Coast in Chicago (hit her up!) and we had to grab a quick healthy bite to catch up - Lyfe Kitchen was an easy go to. After (way too much) contemplation, I went for the Mahi Fish Tacos: (chayote slaw, avocado, cilantro, chipotle aioli & corn tortillas). This was just the right about of spicy & salty and creamy whenever you got a mouthful of avo. We paired up our lunch with a mimosa because it's taboo to cheers with water - sparkling or not. 

The night was young and we were welcomed into my parent's friend's house. Not only was this a beautiful home full of exquisite art work and the perfect blend of modern & cozy - they served up a great charcuterie board. With a few cheeses (including the goat cheese & jam preserve that was to die for), some hard salami, and more clutch grabs from the farmer's market...it was a spot that everyone naturally gathered around. 

Big John (my dad's friend) offered up his specialty, which is simple but perfection. Quality bread + Garlic + Olive Oil + Grill + Tomatoes +Balsamic vinegar + Salt & Pepper = Heaven 

16 hours & 10+ miles later, my nightcap was half of a margherita pizza, a few Trader Joe meringues and a comfy bed. 


Sunday morning started off with an hour walk with my mom paired with a free Starbys (perks of being with mom), followed by a workout class with my Aunt at their gym, Lakeshore Sport & Fitness - it kicked my butt. 

The boys went to a Cubs game and The girls ended up back at the gym for brunch to enjoy the beautiful weather on the rooftop patio. I went for the fitness field greens salad...with a fried egg on top, because well...I can. 

Before I left the city, I couldn't pass up on National Ice Cream Day when I was only a few blocks away from Jeni's. The second I stepped in, I was torn with my excitement and my indecisiveness on what flavor to go with. From churro to whiskey pecans to wildberry lavender, there wasn't a drop of creativity missing. After trying a few flavors (with these cute little metal spoons that you get to keep...mini perk) I went with sweet cream & roasted strawberry buttermilk in a waffle cone. Gah I just love me some Jeni's, I want them all!! 

I couldn't be happier that I made the decision to go for the drive and have an amazing weekend in the city. It was full of family times, lots of hugs and of course amazing eats. The only Thing I regret is that I didn't get an extra scoop. 

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