We've been camped just north of Des Moines, Iowa for a few cloudy, rainy days. We're located at a Corp of Engineers campground on Saylorville Lake with a nice view of the lake. I took a nice bike ride from here into Des Moines yesterday on the Neal Smith Trail, but the highlight of our pass through Des Moines this time is the dinner we just experienced at Harbinger.
This is our second time dining here in the last year. The last time was in October of 2020. Then they took our name and phone number for contact tracing purposes as we entered and Melanie and I were two of maybe 6-8 patrons in the restaurant.
While they seemed to be doing a pretty brisk business with takeout, the dining experience felt, well, like there was a pandemic going on. Chef Tripp was then only offering a tasting menu for dine in service which could be paired with wines he'd chosen. Our meal and the wines that evening were outstanding.
Chef Tripp is now offering both a tasting menu or you may order a la carte selections. Tonight, we again chose the tasting menu with paired wines. The five-course meal was delightful and there were many more people in the restaurant enjoying dinner. And, while masks are required to enter, once seated masks were removed and the ambiance became very pre-pandemic. This is our first such experience since being vaccinated.
There's a reason Chef Tripp has received 7 James Beard nominations. We'll certainly be back on our next pass through Des Moines; we highly recommend you give Harbinger a try.
We felt leaving Omaha without having a steak dinner was not sacrosanct so, after soliciting recommendations from fellow travelers on Facebook and checking out various restaurants in the area, we settled on Anthony's. Brother Sabastian's Steakhouse told us they were booked and 801 Chophouse, also recommended, can wait until the next passthrough.
Anthony's reminded us of home and The Bright Star in Bessemer, Alabama. Casual atmosphere, friendly, helpful and competent staff and the steak was great. Melanie had prime rib with salad and two well-prepared sides, I had a ribeye with salad and two side dishes too. Even my martini was righteous.
They've been around Omaha since 1967 and are worth a try. There may be better steak houses in Omaha, but this one is a classic for sure.
Thursday is one of Melanie's "days off." She's often otherwise engaged with her work, but yesterday was a travel day and instead of driving directly to our campsite, we bypassed Ashland and Eugene T. Mahoney State Park where we're now located, and went into Omaha, Nebraska.
Our first stop was the Lauritzen (botanical) Gardens where we spent the better portion of the morning and early afternoon. Hungry afterwards, I did a quick search while we were still in the gardens and found Le Bouillon in the Old Market District of Omaha.
The Old Market is the arts and entertainment district and the location within the district where Le Bouillon is located is a bit reminiscent of the French Quarter in New Orleans
We had a few glasses of very nice Rose and I enjoyed a mushroom pasta dish with a ramp pesto sauce, Melanie had a very nicely done sea bass with a light butter sauce. Menu changes regularly.
We'd been at a local RV dealer and repair shop in Colorado Springs for most of our day and came away from there, shall we say, less than satisfied with the outcome of a door problem we have with Miranda. That is, the problem was temporarily solved in a way that indicated to us they were not necessarily to be trusted with proper knowledge and that would cause us to remain in the area until the proper part could be shipped to Colorado Springs from Canada.
With only half a peanut butter sandwich each in our stomachs that served to hold us over, we found Shuga's in downtown Colorado Springs.
I can't speak for dinner, but our lunch was great. We sat outside in a funky spot behind the place and enjoyed a very pleasant spring day.
We started with Za' atar-spiced beet dip, then Melanie ate the Aracelli Nicoise salad and I had the Cuban Mojo sandwich.
Since our door is yet to be repaired, we're likely to darken the door at Shuga's once again before traveling on.
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.
Melanie and Steven