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2009 Nebraska State Fair

1 September 2009
Zucchini and el jefe!

Men and their vegetables.

This is the last year that the Fair will be in Lincoln – pending the outcome of  the most recent lawsuit, of course.

El Jefe and I went – both of us for the first time in almost a decade – and we had a great time.  No joke!  Another mostly pic post, but c’mon – they’re fun.

We started off with the Lucky Daredevil Thrillshow, and they were wonderful.  Swords, fire, knives, a snake, a blade box and a sexy, sexy woman.  His fire work was especially good and she was perfectly charming.  Loved it.  Hated the *ahem* people in front of me who kept moving exactly into my line of sight, but the show was still great.

Lucky Daredevil Thrillshow

Lucky Daredevil Thrillshow

This fantastic wool coat won a special Best of Fair award.

This fantastic wool coat won a special “Best of Fair” award.

Then we went to the 4-H building and jefe let me geek out on the stuff I used to enter – cakes and breads and clothes I’d sewn and…yeah, 4-H stuff.  Sadly, I never had animals.

There were lots of pretty amazing sewing projects and the age of the kids making them just blew me away sometimes!

There were dioramas, cases of pinned out bugs and moths and butterflies, electronics with lights and buzzers, incredible furniture and refinishing entries, odd ‘home decorating’ showcases, and the list goes on.

I loved this poster board on Bison, with a big old pile o scat on it!

I loved this poster board on Bison, with a big old pile 'o scat on it!

Only a red ribbon, but I thought it was cute that they looked like they were necking.

Only a red ribbon, but I thought it was cute that they looked like they were necking.

New catagories include 3 jar Quick Meals or something like that.

New catagories include "3 jar Quick Meals" or something like that.

Looks like my kitchen counter this summer!

Looks like my kitchen counter this summer!

One of Jefes Fair Favorites - the burger basket!

One of Jefe's Fair Favorites - the burger basket!

Off we went to the little burger stand.  I love their patties, generously doused in Canadian seasoning, their crispy fries, their obscenely sized ketchup and mustard squeeze bottles, their fountain soda to wash it all down.  They will be missed when they move to GI.

Oh beautiful burger stand...

Oh beautiful burger stand...

...you have such tasty little burgers.

...you have such tasty little burgers.

(Burger stand photos by El Jefe.)

We saw the eco-magician, Steve Trash:

Eco-magician Steve Trash

Open class art, both good and completely disturbing:

Uh…Hall & Oates:

While waiting in the grandstand for Hall & Oates - nice night.

While waiting in the grandstand for Hall & Oates - nice night.

The Big Shot – on the Midway:

And another of Jefe’s faves – the steers:

Jefes photo of his little Fair buddy.

Jefe's photo of his little Fair buddy.

I’m really glad we got to got this year, and that we had such a good time.  I grew up going to the Fair every fall, so it’s one of those seasonal passages that I’ve missed.

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Olive You, Creek.

28 August 2009

I haven’t had my tent out (except to air it and check it for holes) in a very long time.  So sad.  So on Girls’ Night Out at The Oven last week, when Kelly Jo invited me out to Olive Creek for a night, you know I said yes.  (Actually, there may have been an expletive or two in there as well, just to show my enthusiasm.)

Olive Creek has several camping areas and we stayed over on the East side.  Nice for sunset, but brutal that afternoon with no shade!

Hot on the water, no smoke yet.

Hot on the water, no smoke yet.

About  a dozen of us showed up – friends, family, random stragglers (like me) and it turned out to be a really fun mix.  A few of us stayed behind while the larger group took the Winnebago back into ‘town’ to the ‘bar’.  Had a nice neighbor, played some games, listened to music, fished, cooked hella lotta food, and slept like a baby.  And we left it clean as a whistle.  Great, great time.  Thanks for having me!

My bestest girl!

My bestest girl!

Olive Creek is about 30 miles SW of Lincoln – in the same general area as Wagon Train, Stagecoach, Blue Stem and a few other smaller lake spots to camp.  I’ve never been there when it was packed, but there were far more people out there this weekend than most of us had ever seen.  Even folks boating in spite of the blue-green algae warnings.  Cost was $7 per camping unit (a tent or camper is a unit) and there was an outhouse near our site.  Park personnel were great and even brought us back the dollar we’d overpaid for our two tents.  Nice.  I’d have given those guys some s’mores…if we hadn’t eaten all of them.

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Flash Salsa

27 August 2009

Forgot to post any pics of the delish salsa from Farmer’s Market and CSA goodies.  Not so much chit-chat in this one, just look.

Market and CSA parts for salsa.

Market and CSA parts for salsa.

Lime y cilantro to go in tambien.

Lime y cilantro to go in tambien.

Tomatiilo innards.

Tomatillo innards.

Its almost salsa now...

It's almost salsa now...

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I’ll Be The Farmer In The Dell!

27 August 2009
You name it, theyve got it.

You name it, they've got it.

I love finding a new treat to share with my sweets.  When El Jefe and I get up to Omaha, one of our ritual stops will now be The Dundee Dell for a tipple of new scotch.  I’ve never been a connoisseur of the drink, by any stretch, but when we stared dating he introduced me to some of his favorites, and a few of them have become things I enjoy as well.

My entree into the realm was a 12 year Laphroaig, a lovely Islay single malt, so he decided to order the 15 year.  I opted to try something neither of us had sampled, but which was comparable.  I chose a 16 year old Lagavulin – also an Islay.  We just got a peg (1 ounce) each, as we were on a schedule to get to The Waiting Room, and wanted to enjoy rather than gulp them.  The Laphroaig came in at $9, the Lagavulin at $8.

(Incidentally, I also had a Sapphire and tonic that tasted especially good, though I can’t imagine why?  Do they have filtered water, so the ice was better?  A better quality tonic?  Was it just the juicy lime?  No idea, but it was delicious – $7.50)

Laphroaig (L) and Lagavulin (R)

Laphroaig (L) and Lagavulin (R)

Both of these were prime examples of the peaty Islay style, and both were absolutely delicious.  As far as comparisons go, the Laphroaig was a time-bomb in my mouth.  It seemed to just keep unfolding and expanding at first, puffing smokily out into every space in my head.  It was a wonderful experience.  Given that, it was still a very smooth drink.  The Lagavulin was an equally smoky experience, but with less bloom, it seemed.  (FYI: We opened each with a tiny bit of water.)

One of the reasons I’m more a fan of Islays than other scotches is the balance of the sweet and smoke.  The peat fire seems to cut what is otherwise sometimes a cloying sweetness that is unpleasant to me, and broadens the flavors in each glass.  I find it a more satisfying sensory experience overall and am left with more than just an alcoholic fog in my mouth.  Just one girl’s opinion, of course.

Before leaving, I asked the nice bartender Scott for some recommendations – what to try next time based on what I liked this time.  (Our very friendly waitress, Malinda, was terrific, but indicated that his knowledge was probably more in-depth if we were looking for advice.)  He suggested that I move on to the Isle of Jura “Superstition”, or perhaps, Bruichladdich or Ardbeg.  He also mentioned Caol Ila and Scapa, so I’ve got quite a list to get me started already.

Restrooms, pool table, claw machine, photo booth...and scotch.

Restrooms, pool table, claw machine, photo booth...and scotch.

The Dundee Dell conducts tastings twice a month: one on the first Sunday at 4 p.m., and one on the following Thursday at 7 p.m.  I think we’ll try and scoot on up there for one of them, conducted by the manager, who is a fan herself.  Details are available on the website.  (Which I hope they get someone to update for them so they’re not using pdf.s for every page  🙂

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The Great Burger Quest.

27 August 2009

The humble hamburger – a quintessentially American food, with or without cheese.  It would seem so simple to make a great one – a perfect one, even – since there are so few variables to control.  Meat, seasoning, heat.  And yet, there are so very, very many terrible ones.  Like others before me and many after, I set out on my own personal voyage for the Best of the Beef.  (Well, okay, I cooked ground lamb over a campfire the other night and it was incredibly good, so it doesn’t have to be beef, but it sounds better that way to finish off the paragraph.  Or did, anyway.)

Taking our cue from BorK yet again, our Omaha trip the other night (to see Colin Hay at The Waiting Room – fantastic show!) included dinner at Dinker’s – a divey little bar and grill right off of I-480 at around 29th and Martha.  I use divey only to mean that it was no kind of “theme” place, it was dark and cool on a hot afternoon, the local regulars were obviously at their posts, and there was no spectacular ambiance.  In other words, just the kind of place I’d hang out if I lived there.  It felt a little like a quonset hut or K of C hall inside, but I like my space, so I’m just fine with that.  There were also a few tables out front – we opted for the AC on this particular afternoon.

We’d been made aware that we just needed to head to the back to place our order, and that the ideal way to sample the burgers was with cheese – skip the rest of the falderal.  I went against that advice and added bacon, because I love it, and because I don’t often order burgers with it but had heard that theirs was good.  I don’t regret that choice.

Bacon CB with the standard chips.

Bacon CB with the standard chips.

I am a rare meat girl, I’ll admit.  I want mine (beef especially) hot, but still pink and juicy, and a dry piece of meat is simply not worth eating, in my book.  For the life of me, I’ll never understand people who eat well-done…I’d much rather have vegetables.  That said, I thought this was a very good burger.  For it to rank as out of this world it would have to be much juicier, but I really did like it just fine.  Next time I go, I’ll ask for rare and I think I’ll be in absolute heaven then.

The fresh meat, just squashed right on the grill with a press, doesn’t have a bunch of weirdo flavors, it just tastes like what it is.  I like the buns as well and with the salty chips it was a delicious meal.  El Jefe got the fries and we both ended up sharing.

I had a soda, he had a beer and we both had a great dinner before the show.

Can you tell whether we liked it or not?

Can you tell whether we liked it or not?

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Back from de island.

27 August 2009
Cupcake? Brownie? Cupnie? Browncake?

Cupcake? Brownie? Cupnie? Browncake?

As you recall, Jefe and I tried to stop at Cupcake Island the last time we were in Omaha.  At that time, however, her borders were closed.  On Tuesday this week, though, we had to run the F150 up there to pick up some new chairs for work so we cruised by on our way out of town.

It’s a sweet little storefront in a small strip of shops at about 119th & Pacific.  There’s an Absolutely Fresh seafood market there, and Brother Sebastian’s steakhouse is just across the parking lot.  (I’ve never eaten there, but from the outside of the building I expect to find a fire, lots of dark red, & wrought iron candleholders.  Anyone tried it?  Am I right?)

Though the “Not Your Mother’s Brownie” I purchased is on the special menu for Monday, I snagged it on a Tuesday.  They also featured Key Lime, which I sampled, and which was deliciously light with a great tasting icing.  Note: I normally do not go in for much frosting/icing on my cakes at all, but this was tasty, not greasy, a perfect amount to match the cake, and had a nice lime flavor.  I could take it more tart, because that’s how I am, but for sweet-lovers I think it’s just perfect.  The Coconut Craze was a pretty, fluffy vision in white, and Ed’s Raspberry Delight looked duh-ream-ee.  I bet the filling of that one is to die for!

For reasons which I shall never be able to fathom, el jefe got a cookie.  A cookie? When you’re in international cupcake waters?  A COOKIE?!?  *le sigh* Oh well, to each jefe his own.  (On the plus side, he shared it with me and it was a perfectly awesome chocolate chip cookie.  I wish mine would turn out like these at home.  Moist, chewy, crispy edges, slightly salty – yum.)

So, about my cupnie!  (See that new word I just made up?  Didn’t know I was an etymologist, didja?)  It was warm and humid with that storm front on the way, so the ganache got almost melty on the way home.  How I was able to wait until I got home to snarf it shall forever remain a mystery.  I put it, box and all, in the fridge to chill for a bit and forgot about it until later in the evening.  I know…what kind of crazy person forgets about something like that waiting for them?

Even though I’m not a big frosting fan, I do love me a good ganache and this one was really delicious, as was the brownie it enrobed.  There were chocolate chunks inside, which I was not expecting, but was pleasantly surprised by.  It was dense and moist, but thankfully not granular as some solid brownies can be.  It took me several sessions over the last couple of days to eat it, as just a few bites were really quite satisfying and managed to calm the sweet tooth in a hurry.  I loved the chocolate flavor – it had good complexity and tasted of quality ingredients.  They could go even darker and I’d still love it, but it was utterly delicious just as is.  I think that $2.50 was a perfectly reasonable price for such a decadent treat – I’d buy one again without thinking twice.

On a future trip, I’d like to try more flavors, so I think I’ll get a sampler assortment of the mini-cakes and nibble until I discover all of my favorites.  I’m especially anxious to try the 24 Carrot cake (of the frostings, cream cheese is a fave) and the Red Velvet (we used to have a stellar red velvet at The Garden Cafe and I’d like to find that again), though there’s not a one in the bunch that doesn’t sound delectable.

If you find yourself marooned in The ‘Ha, start paddling for Cupcake Island and I doubt you’ll be in a hurry to be rescued.

(Many thanks to BorK for the heads up, and for the additional fillings I’ll be getting 🙂

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Great Googly Moogly!

16 August 2009

When we were in Omaha the other day, we stopped at the Cubby’s in the Old Market for gas (about 13th & Jackson-ish?).  El Jefe got out and went to put his card in the slot to pay, and started laughing – someone had put googly eyes on the machine.  It wasn’t until I got home and dumped the image onto my lappy that I saw the smaller set above them, on the MasterCard logo.

Funny vandalism is still funny.

Googly Eyes