Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Three-Legged Trip: Part 2 - Galena

It's about time to get back to talking about our trip.  I've been limping along on just one leg for the past week. 

After a few days in Lanesboro, we took off and searched for the Highland Store & Cafe which, from their website, sounded like a great place for organic food and allergy free options.  Unfortunately after driving 30 miles, we found it was closed for that day.  If you go, call ahead to make sure they're open!  

The second destination of our trip was Galena, Illinois, but on the way there we decided to stop in Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin to tour Villa Louis, a Victorian mansion.  I had been on the tour before when I was in 7th grade when I took a trip downriver with my parents on their houseboat.  I didn't remember much about it except that I thought it was really neat. 

Villa Louis
Dousman Office Building

Just a brief history:  The Villa Louis estate was built in the late 1800s by the Dousman family.  It's been restored over the years.  The house is rich in detail from the elegant first floor receiving room, parlor and dining room, to the upstairs bedrooms, and then down the back stairs to the servants' quarters and kitchen. Out back there is also an office building and an ice house and preserve house for food prep, and the laundry building.

The tour gives a very accurate picture of their lives at that time in history.  Villa Louis is not so much about H. Louis Dousman, but about his wife Nina who lived there with their five children and took charge of the estate after he died at the age of 37.  You can read more about the history here. If you go, be sure to try the Artesian water from the well.
Onward to Galena, Illinois...

Galena's early claim to fame was that of a mining, smelting and steam boating center.  When the railroad went through and missed it, the industries dried up until it was preserved during the later part of the 20th century.  Now it's a great tourist area with historic buildings and specialty shops marching up and down Main Street.  It reminds me of Stillwater, Minnesota only ten times larger, plus it has flood gates at one end that they close when the river gets too high.

We had been to this historic area before while staying in Dubuque, Iowa, but this time we decided to stay at the Aldrich Guest House B&B across the river from the downtown area.

Aldrich Guest House
We stayed in the south-facing Jones room, which was bright and sunny with lilac and green-flowered wallpaper.  Innkeepers Fran and Brian get special kudos points for accommodating all my food allergies.  I don't know what everyone else ate for breakfast, but I had pancakes one day, a fruit plate, sausage and tomato the next, and on the last morning, Belgian waffles.

The biking trail was shorter and a lot more rugged than in Lanesboro, but in 90+ degree weather, a short trip is all we really wanted anyway.

"Official" Galena Bike Trail
3 1/2 miles one way, 1 1/2 miles the other

 Of course there are other places worth mentioning:

The Market House Restaurant
A second floor restaurant above Main Street.  A great place for pizza, pasta and sandwiches. They also had a gluten free, dairy free, egg free bread. 

Otto's Place
A few blocks from our B&B.  We picked up an Asian Chicken Spinach salad for lunch one day and took it back and ate on the porch where we were staying. 

One Eleven Main
Highly recommended by several people.  Locally-sourced ingredients.  Very busy on Saturday night, though the waitstaff and management were very helpful.  Great food and gluten free menu.  Very succulent walleye.

Herb-broiled Walleye
Roasted Tomatoes and Sweet Peas
Almond Rice Pilaf
 Fried Green Tomatoes
Also highly recommended.  They were a little more confused about the gluten free thing, but they made it work with their very unique cuisine.

Espresso-Encrusted Filet Mignon
and Roasted Potatoes

Tuscan Mac 'N' Cheese
Pasta w/ Italian sausage, roasted peppers, gouda and gorgonzola
bread sticks w/ olive oil
(not gluten or dairy free)
Pasta Perfetta
Huge variety of pasta of all colors and shapes.  Flavors such as spinach, tomato, wine, basil, mushroom, chocolate!  They also have a few gluten free and vegan choices.

Kaladi's Coffee Bar
Ok.  We went here three times.  Great coffee.  You can also get breakfast items and sandwiches (not gluten free) and gelato (not dairy free) or sorbet.

And of course you can visit the other shops for wine, clothing, a store that sells hundreds of different hot sauces, boutiques, art galleries and bars.  There are also museums and historic ghost story tours.  As we were taking a walk one day through the upper streets of downtown, I told myself that I'd probably forget most of the details when I got home from my trip - the brick buildings, the lit up store fronts at night, the historic charm hovering about in the nooks and crannies. 

All the more reason that we'll probably go back again soon.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Deck Garden Update

Ok, excuse me, but I don't know why my Deck Garden entry from July 5th decided to spontaneously republish itself... three times in a row, but since we're here, I thought I'd do an update of my humble deck garden in light of the warm Indian summer weather we've been having.

So, here are the before and after pictures.  Before is from July 5th and after is from today.

Shamrock plant - before

Shamrock - looking good!

my lop-sided citronella plant...

...turned into a bush!
I had to put it in a bigger pot.
Not sure where I'm going to put it when
I bring it in for the winter.


Anaheim Peppers - Still going strong
Anaheim Peppers - before

Parsley - before
Parsley - I made pesto one time and
it never really grew back.

My basil is doing really well.  I had to re-pot one of them, and when I did, it really flourished.

Basil - before
Basil - before

Basil - after

I've been using my wet-weather loving mint all summer for making tea and mint lemonade, or I just chew on a few leaves while I'm out watering the other plants.  At one point I forgot to water the mint and it got all dry and crusty, so I trimmed off all the leaves and stored in a bag.  The whole plant promptly grew back, full but more conservative-looking.
Mint - before
Mint - after

Thyme - before

Thyme - after

I had to double check these two photos.  They look the same.

And of course, the two tomato plants - ratty looking, and I blame the squirrels for this.  Unfortunately, I didn't get too many red tomatoes because the squirrels seemed to have acquired a taste for the cayenne.  Either that or they just didn't care.  One time I found a half of a long-awaited prized red tomato lying in the front yard.  Chomped!

So, now I'm fighting for the new crop of green ones, but I've even found some of those half-eaten on the deck.  I also found broken stalks, meaning, they had CLIMBED the plant to get to the tomatoes.  BOLD squirrels!  I wonder if the cayenne makes them crazy.  Sometimes they run along the deck railing, even when the cat is out on the deck.  My spouse chased one with a broom and trapped him in the corner away from his regular tree.  "Super Squirrel" took a flying leap, made a grab, slide, grab, slide, for another tree, much farther away.  We went down to check at the base of the tree just to make sure there wasn't a dead squirrel at the bottom.  All clear.

Tomato - before
Tomato - before
Tomato - after

tomato - after
And finally, the palm plant.  It still hasn't grown much in 3 months.  It might be time to put it to rest.

palm - before

palm - after
Ok, and while I'm at it, I'll mention that I haven't seen any more ducks in our yard.  But I have seen a goose.  No water, middle of the city, dogs and cats everywhere — what is the appeal?

resident goose

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Three-Legged Trip: Part 1 - Lanesboro

Ain't it the truth?  The more time that passes after a vacation, the more the details and charm of it fades.  It's been over a month, but I'll attempt to recapture the essence of our late August road trip. 

I was hoping for a warm weather vacation at some point this year since our earlier trips to Chicago, Duluth and Spring Green were all COLD and RAINY.  I got my wish.  As we were driving down to Lanesboro, MN (which is just a bit south of Rochester), it was raining; it rained later that night, but for the rest of the trip it was 90s and HOT.
Lanesboro Falls

I think the best part of traveling to small towns is that there's a limited amount of things to do, and so whatever there is to do is excellent and focused and sort of the feature of the town.

View from the hill
Street View
For Lanesboro, it's all about biking, arts, food, and wine.  There's a scenic rails-to-trails bike path that runs along the Root River, and we went in the morning before it got too hot. 


It's always tricky traveling when you have food allergies, especially if you're going to small towns.  In Lanesboro, we stayed at an artist loft on Main Street that's above the Lanesboro Arts Center.  It had a full kitchen so I could make and store my own food items, and it was also a great space just to hang out.

We also found a few restaurants that could accommodate my allergies.

The first night we went to Los Gables, a Mexican Restaurant in Fountain, 9 miles away.  The woman who seemed to be in charge knew what she was doing, but I kept an eye on the kitchen staff and noticed that person making my burrito seemed to be a little geared to the routine of grabbing the regular flour tortilla.  At the risk of being obnoxious (vs. having to deal with gut problems that could spoil my vacation), when my food comes out I ALWAYS ask again and or say, "So, this is the gluten and dairy free burrito?"  And the server paused, "Oh, wait a minute," she said.  She sent it back and they made me a "safe" one.  Other than that, no problems here.

A few doors down from where we were staying was a place called Pedal Pushers.  We went for coffee one morning and also inquired about food.  I was amazed that they had a gluten free vegan bread that they used on their sandwiches.  So, we went there for lunch and I had a turkey club.

"Where in the world did you get this bread?" I asked.  It was soft, yet it had substance, like a healthy Wonder bread.

"We get it shipped here from the Twin Cities, a place called Sysco Foods."

"No kidding?"  So I've been scouting for that bread, hoping they don't just sell it to restaurants but maybe they can sell it to regular folks like me.

Another great place we went to for dinner was called Intermission next to the Commonweal Theatre.  Someday we'll go to the show at Commonweal, but we've always been a little sticker shocked by the cost of the ticket prices.

Anyway, Intermission was a great place to eat.  We had mixed green salads with blueberries and walnuts.  I had a Cajun blackened fish with a rice pilaf and a side of vegetables.  And my spouse had a shrimp and pasta dish with a vegetable side.

 After a few bike rides, some hikes through the town and some visits to the local galleries and shops, our last stop was the Scenic Valley Winery.  We had been there several years earlier - might have been over ten years ago, and at that time they had about six featured fruit wines.  I remember getting the apple and the plum.  This year they have several more wines including an onion and a garlic cooking wine.  I also sampled a rhubarb wine which would work for all-purpose cooking.  They also had a really great peach wine, ruby red grapefruit and the wild blackberry which was up for tasting, but I'm looking forward to enjoying it during the upcoming colder months.

Scenic Valley Winery