Thursday, April 18, 2013

Midwest travels... and a cake teaser

I traveled this past weekend with the boy to his hometown of La Crosse, Wisconsin. I had already spent time with his folks during their trip to Chicago, where we grilled lamb and ate at Next. But for this trip I was lucky enough to finally meet the rest of his immediate family, including a smart/loquacious/mature-beyond-her-years niece and adorable nephews. It was a short trip, but super sweet. And in addition to meeting the family, the weekend was filled with a lot of other firsts:

First time seeing the Mississippi river and spotting eagles along our drive south.
It took this city girl a while to get the hang of spotting various things along our drive, but eventually I caught on. I even managed to see an eagle's nest without someone else pointing it out to me!

See the slight black spot in the photo, just left of center? 
That's an eagle. It looked cooler in person- I swear.

First time realizing that there are parts of the Midwest that are (a) stunningly beautiful and 
(b) not flat. 
Who knew?! Certainly not this Chicagoan (or FIB, as the boy likes to jokingly call me).

 View atop Grandad Bluff

 More views of gorgeous rock formations from Grandad Bluff. 
And yes, that's snow. In April. Sadly, that is not a first...

First time visiting three states in a few hours.
On Saturday morning we packed in the car and took a great scenic drive along the Mississipi river. We started by crossing a (very short) bridge into Minnesota, then driving south to Iowa. Our trip consisted primarily of looking for eagles and other wildlife. But we also stopped at a few little stores and through some really neat small towns along the way.

It may look small and rickety, but man oh man did this little corner market have some amazing beef jerky, smoked pork chops, and meat sticks.

City Meat Market in New Albin, Iowa. Best meat sticks I've ever had!

And apparently you can find some really unique pieces of jewelry in a tiny shop just down the street!

 Picked up this insanely cheap copper and bead necklace 
from the New Albin Gift Center. I heart it sooooo much!

On our way home, we crossed the river back to Wisconsin. Apparently the boy hates this bridge since it seems a bit rickety. But I was strangely attracted to its raw beauty.

View from the back of the car, toward Minnesota

First time seeing so many trains!
We literally saw at least 5 trains and a water freight on our few-hour drive up and down the river. Most of the trains we saw were pulling tanks and tanks and tanks (and tanks and tanks...) of oil. At least 100 containers per train!

A train centipede

First time having a bona fide Wisconsin fish fry.
On Saturday afternoon after our drive, we headed to the boy's brother's house where he hosted us all for a delicious fish fry- most of which he caught himself. Apparently it's not a true Wisconsin fish fry until you're cooking up your personal bounty!

Safety first! 

Golden and delicious

We complimented this delicate fish with a Thai inspired dipping sauce and sticky rice (a less traditional take on Midwest fish fry, but delicious nonetheless), perfect vinegary coleslaw, and cheesy potato bake-- all homemade of course.

And for dessert. Cake by yours truly!

Stay tuned in the next few days for the recipe. Trust me, you do NOT want to miss this one...

So the boy and I headed back home on Sunday with full bellies, hearts, and a pack (or 10) of beers that are impossible to find in Chicago. And the snow? Hopefully that'll be the last of it for months to come.

The boy and I are notorious for our bad luck with weather on our travels: 
snow in Arizona and Wisconsin. He blames me. I cannot refute his theory. *sigh*

Yours in loving her first trip to La Crosse, and looking forward to more traveling adventures,


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