Rare to hear about an old-style bed and breakfast (vs. an airbnb) but Family Living (the Iowa Farm Bureau publication edited by my husband) recently did a big splash about a farm family that operates Loya’s Little House B&B, north of Ames in the Skunk River Valley, about 15 minutes from the Iowa State Campus. It looks like a very nice house in a lovely rural location, a former family farm on 80 acres. An unexpected touch: Costa Rican-influenced breakfast, thanks to a young farm family member who married a Costa Rica native. The B&B’s four bedrooms can be rented individually or in total, sleeping 16. Good to know, especially around Iowa State graduation time!
Shockingly bad performance by the Kansas Jayhawks (our in-house favorite) at Iowa State University’s cavernous Hilton Auditorium in Ames – the Jayhawks lost by 17 points. But it was fun to go to a game at Hilton for the first time. We sat high in the nosebleed section so the noise from the increasingly joyful ISU near-capacity crowd was slightly less deafening and we had a good vantage point to see all the flashing lights, arm- waving fan cheers, perky pom-poming cheerleaders and the amusing half-time show with little kids doing somersaults while spinning basketballs.
We returned to our favorite Ames restaurant Provisions, sitting in what seemed like a new dining area near the bakery, a table away from a large party that included ISU’s new president. I dared to try an Asian-flavored duck sandwich rather than my usual favorite, the salmon sandwich. The “five-spice” roasted duck was good –served pulled pork style with crispy bits, plum sauce and scallions in the same thick dark black brioche roll that makes the salmon sandwich so good. The side salad, broccoli slaw and raisins, was too sweet. Dirck had excellent beer-braised short ribs served atop creamy polenta made with goat cheese. We shared a lemon meringue tart that was delicious but the cookie crust was too hard. We had to pick it up to eat. Cutting it, especially with a fork, was too challenging and we risked sending flying projectiles of sticky crust toward each other. Or beyond.
I didn’t doubt for a moment that Provisions would be a good place to eat in Ames because it came recommended by my friend Veronica, a longtime resident, superb cook and discerning diner. But without Veronica’s recommendation, I might have dismissed Provisions out of hand because of its unpromising location in a nondescript land of bland office parks, on the side of Loop Road, no less.
But the food was fabulous — and I am already longing to return for the salmon sandwich I had on a dark brown brioche roll. The salmon was lightly grilled but moist, full of flavor, on that gorgeous slightly sweet roll with slices of cucumber and a light dill sour cream sauce. The hamburger (which the two Iowa State University students we were visiting ordered) also looked superb and the Cuban sandwich was also good. My sister was very happy with her grilled salmon atop greens – which is a go to entree for her but still managed to be special. My only regret is that I could not take home one of the homemade breads (especially cranberry pecan) from the to-go counter which was closed by the time we left. We’ll be back! Thank you Veronica!
We drove to Ames last Saturday to help our friend Victoria Szopinski launch her campaign for mayor (Run Victoria Run!) and ended up taking a drive around downtown and campus since I haven’t been there in years. So long in fact that I last visited the Wheatsfield Co-op when in a little downtown brick shopfront (as I recall). It’s now in a bigger freestanding building on west edge of downtown – nice place, although not quite as amazing as Iowa City’s Co-op.
One Sunday, it was suddenly spring again (the last we saw spring was, oddly, in February) so we rode bikes through Water Works Park along the Bill Riley and Great Western Trails toward Cumming. On the return at Park Ave. near Orlondo’s, we took a new spur of the Bill Riley Trail paralleling George Flagg Parkway that was handy (given there was construction on the regular trail and Flagg Pkway) through the woods along packed dirt (at least it wasn’t gravel) to meet up with the paved stretch of the trail leading to Gray’s Lake Park, where we picnicked and watched a group of very limber and fearless young people doing what we learned is called Acrobatic Yoga. (Imagine the old airplane rides you give little kids, where their tummy rest on your extended legs – and then imagine the kids, actually in this case, limber and fearless young person starts doing all kinds of twists and turns and what appeared to be handstands while atop your extended legs. Crazy)