I’ve been curious for awhile to visit the NewBo market area of Cedar Rapids and so we finally did yesterday. I would have to say that it’s not quite there yet but that’s fine – Des Moines’ East Village wasn’t quite there for several years and then suddenly it is is very much there. The Market – inside a cavernous metal building has food stalls and a few food-related or home-stuffs stores, none that knocked my socks off (but then D. kind of ruined it by reminding me of the truly awesome market we went to in Lisbon – yes, Lisbon, Portugal, last fall…) D. had some okay mexican food. I had okay Korean dumplings. We walkeded past some of the cool old rehabbed buildings near the market in NewBo (New Bohemia) – not much there yet. There’s several restaurants (we’d already eaten) and a few shops (DSM’s Raygun just opened, which should be a draw – except for people in Des Moines and Iowa City who already have their own; there’s a small well-cultivated book store.) There was an antique shop (of sorts) closed on Saturdays at 3 p.m. (Really??)
We wandered over to the neighboring Czech Village – which is sort of like DSM’s Valley Junction area with antique and junk shops, plus a famous old Czech bakery. Didn’t find that much of interest.
We did have a very good meal at Cobble Hill, in an old brick storefront downtown. It’s named after a Brooklyn neighborhood (which my brother used to live in) and did seem to pull off the Brooklyn hip-rustic-make/it/yourself vibe, combined with friendly unpretentious Midwestern service and fresh Midwestern meat and veg used to produce sophisticated one-of-a-kind entrees that usually worked. The chef hails from a restaurant, the Lincoln Cafe, now closed, that we used to enjoy in Mount Vernon, Ia and was recently a Jame Beard semifinalist. My lamb was delicious – served with a salad that had so many notes, favors, ingredients I can’t begin to pull them all apart. Eating it was a bit like a dissection – is that broccoli? this is a weird little shrimp? is this green soft thing the spietzle? The dessert was truly bizarre – an egg-shaped scoop of what we believe was guava sorbet. Deliciously sour. Then a strange pale triangle take-off on an ice cream dilly bar, but with white chocolate outside and an inside that didn’t quite work – it wasn’t quite ice cream, odd consistency and not much flavor, then there were crunchy bits scattered around the plate that looked and tasted like fancy grapenuts and little dabs of purple stuff that was also sour and tasty. On the flip side, I had a deliciously simple homemade pomegranate limeade. And a plate of house-cured meats and veg was full of interesting flavors – my favorite a duck rillette (sp?) spread that was delicious when spread on top of grilled nutty bread with a dried cherry marinated in balsamic vinegar (my best guess here..)
There still isn’t much in Stone City (where Grant Wood once painted) – except some very pretty old limestone buildings including an old “General Store” that’s now a very busy bar and restaurant. We sat on the back patio overlooking the Wapsipinicon River on a beautiful afternoon. Lots of bikers were inside the limestone-walled bar and family groups in the restaurant. We had to stop and visit our favorite state prison/”reformatory” in Amamosa, a bizarrely beautiful old building that, as I recall, was built with the idea that beauty could help reform the worst lawbreakers. The Prison’s museum – another oddity – appears to still be in business although it was closed by the time we arrived.
And who says they don’t have a sense of humor in the small town of Ladora, Iowa: (see below)