We've been in Moab for a few days. Melanie is coming off a semi-annual meeting of her Episcopal Peace Fellowship Board and worked hard to prepare for days prior to that meeting.
Neither of us has ever been to Moab, Utah. We are here to visit Arches National Park. I did what I sometimes do when we arrive in a new place, especially one that appears to be mostly a tourist spot. I searched The Google for "James Beard & Moab."
When no restaurant fit my search, I tried "Fine Dining Moab." Desert Bistro made the top of the list. But alas, when I tried to make an online reservation, the closest date available was weeks out. No good and not what I wanted to see.
Anyway, last evening I told Melanie as we drove into town, we'd park Miranda at a convenient space at the Moab Visitor Center near the corner of Main and Center Streets and walk over a block or so to Desert Bistro just to see if they were accepting walk-ins. Nothing ventured...
We arrived at around 6:30ish and, to our delight, they said they had a table for two for us.
Melanie started with Red and Golden Beets served with fresh basil & chèvre and yellow bell pepper puree and balsamic reduction. I started with Bison Empanadas served with Bistro Mole', grilled mango salsa and ancho sour cream. We each had a glass of Willamette Valley Rose'.
We both chose one of the three specials offered. I had the Bison filet, she the Barramundi, or Asian Sea Bass.
When we're back in Moab, no question we'll dine there again.
Just before the pandemic found we nomads last year, about a month before to be precise, we ate dinner in Los Angeles at David Chang's Majordōmo. A memorable meal. We, of course, didn't know it would be one of our last at a fine dining establishment until everyone was brought up to speed on proper precautions while dining out during a pandemic which turned out to be mostly don't. But it was and we're grateful for the experience.
Fast forward to later March 2021 and we find ourselves in Las Vegas. Las Vegas is, and has been, very low on the must visit and experience list for a very long time. I'm not a gambler, at least not when it comes to the many and varied games of chance to be found in Vegas and traveling full time in a 25' van notwithstanding.
Hoping to explore some of Utah (one of the last states we've not traveled to in Miranda) soon, we headed north a few days ago out of Desert Hot Springs, California planning on spending a few quiet days off the grid in Mojave National Preserve about a mile off Interstate 15. When we arrived at the point where we and Miranda were to leave the road and travel to the designated campsite on a desert dirt road, the sand and road conditions were deemed by Melanie and me to be too dicey for Miranda to try.
We punted and traveled on to the nearest town of size on our preferred path towards Utah, Las Vegas.
A few weeks back we tried lunch on the strip in Vegas and were stymied by lack of parking. We had just had Miranda's door repaired. This time through, Melanie wanted to book a dinner reservation. Momofuku was her choice.
Since, as mentioned, there's no place to park Miranda nearby the strip in Vegas and since Uber has become costly (last night's round trip from our location near Sam's Town would have been nearly $30.00) we took an RTC bus on the advice of a nice person at the KOA desk where we're staying. Nice ride, $10.00 round trip.
I'm relatively new to good Ramen, but have become a quick fan. When we were in Pasadena, California in January of 2020, we dined at Ramen Tatsunoya, and loved it so much we ate there a few times. Tatsunoya became our standard for Ramen going forward though we also had good Ramen in Summit, New Jersey at Ani Ramen (thanks, Diana).
So last evening as I glanced at the menu over a very nice Hendricks martini, I spotted my dinner pretty quickly, the Spicy Miso Ramen. I added pork belly to the braised short ribs that comes with it. Melanie had Duck Paitan Ramen.
We agreed that David Chang's ramen is slightly superior to Tatsunoya and Ani. The stocks for the ramen are sublime and the meats are very well prepared too. We started with half dozen oysters and Popcorn Octopus both delicious. Great meal, great ambiance. And I got to see Vegas at night. It's eye candy for the television generations, no doubt.
We arrived in Palm Desert, California from San Diego hungry and a bit early to check into our RV Park in Desert Hot Springs. Cafe Des Beaux-Arts was the perfect spot for a very tasty lunch.
We always like our stay in Fredericksburg and finding new places to dine out is a plus. Our friends who own a winery and vineyard just north of town suggested we try Nury's.
We were fortunate in that there's a gate that allowed us to walk to Nury's from the back of our current RV Park to the restaurant for a tasty lunch. During the pandemic they are serving breakfast and lunch from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.
From their website:
Nury’s is owned by Chef Nury Lopez who has over 30 years of experience in the industry. She started her culinary career studying in Mexico and has since learned many different cuisines such as: Mexican, Italian, French, American, and Japanese.
Chef Nury has worked in numerous restaurants in the Hill Country and is well known and loved by the community. Now she’s brought all of that expertise and huge range of dishes into her restaurant.
Nury’s strives to offer quality artisanal food with only the freshest ingredients. We also strive to provide a comfortable setting and quality service. With different specials everyday you can expect to find something new every time you walk in.
This is our third pass through Fredericksburg and each time we've dined at Otto's.
The only difference this time through is COVID and limited seating. While we couldn't get a reservation, we were able to show up at 5:30 and got seated inside at the same table we had both times before. We'll be back.
We're approaching a week's stay in San Antonio and yesterday we decided to move Miranda (our van) and run a few errands around town. It was, after all, a misty/rainy day when being outdoors enjoying the mild January temps wasn't as much a thing.
After Melanie finished a work-related task, it was lunch time and I quickly Googled "best lunch San Antonio." I randomly chose La Fonda on Main from the list provided. I woke up thinking about what a great lunch we had there.
First things in time of pandemic. The tables at La Fonda are all physically distanced as one might imagine and as we approached our table, the hostess told us the table was still wet because it had been disinfected just before we arrived.
From their website: Cappy's and La Fonda on Main will now offer limited indoor seating in addition to outdoor patio dining and curbside to-go. We are working closely with medical and science professionals to ensure the safety of our staff and guests. Enhanced safety protocols are detailed on our website.
Melanie enjoyed her Chile Relleno and I enjoyed a special served Friday-Sunday, Barbacoa Enchiladas. Highly recommended and we can't wait to dine there again.
We traveled from Ocean Springs, Mississippi to New Orleans where we spent an afternoon having lunch and walking around the French Quarter. I made a reservation for us to have dinner at Bayona. They are currently open from Thursday-Sunday evenings.
Since COVID cases have been on the rise, we are mostly very leery of eating in restaurants, especially those that are somewhat crowded. Fine dining presents a problem in that a meal may last a few hours. We were fortunate to have the dining room at Bayona to ourselves for the first hour or so of dinner there. Afterwards, three more people came in a were seated on the far end of the restaurant from where we were seated. Staff is very cognizant of precautions and masked up during service.
Melanie had a lamb dish and I had Red Snapper, both nicely prepared. We like what has become our annual dining experience at Bayona and recommend it to you as well.
Let's face it, Birmingham, Alabama has plenty of choices when it comes to eating BBQ. Having spent the better part of 30+ years living in the city, we've tried many of them and have our favorites.
We're big fans of the Netflix series Chef's Table. The series is beautifully shot and the stories told are often compelling. Recently, the series turned to BBQ and featured, among other greats of the genre, is Rodney Scott who originally hails from South Carolina. Check out Chef's Table BBQ.
We were very pleased to see Rodney's whole hog BBQ has a location in Birmingham and got take out from there twice while we were home. Highly recommended.
Gotta Jones for some wings (wangs)? When in Nashville, check out Brother Z's. Z's is the proverbial hole in the wall spot, but, oh my goodness, are the wings good. Call ahead (615-228-6970) and they'll have 'em ready for you.
If I'm honest, when Iowa came into view as a recent destination state, it was because we had some time on our hands moving south before we needed to be in Missouri for warranty work on Miranda. And because Iowa makes our 46th state since we began full-time travel. I had never been to Iowa, Melanie spent time in Des Moines in 1986-87 when she was traveling in support of her university sorority before law school. So, you know, why not?
After spending a great couple of days in Bettendorf, Iowa, we moved west to Des Moines. Along the way, as we were taking in more corn fields and wind turbines than we'd previously seen anywhere in the U.S., Melanie mentioned she'd found a restaurant in Des Moines that had been nominated for a James Beard award and they were open and accepting reservations. After settling in at our Corp of Engineers campground, I got online and made a reservation for Harbinger.
Upon arriving on a Friday evening masked up, we signed in with our names and a phone number for contact tracing purposes and the person, who would be our server for the evening, took our temps before we were seated. The tables were nicely socially distanced. At no time were there more than 12 people dining around us in the high ceiling restaurant, something both comforting and not a little sad.
I told Melanie I missed a crowded restaurant on a Friday night with diners enjoying each other's company and a great meal. Sitting in Harbinger was more like being at a private dinner party. I asked her to remind me I'd said that once we have the pandemic behind us and restaurants begin to fill again.
During pandemic, Harbinger offers two seven course menus, flora and fauna, with optional wine parings with each course. We both choose the fauna menu, both of us had the wine parings. After the first couple of courses, chef, Joe Tripp, delivered the remaining courses, and described the ingredients and preparations. Interactions with chef Tripp were a nice touch in these times.
Our meal was truly memorable and we highly recommend Harbinger to you.
Melanie and Steven