Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Long Overdue Foodie Girls' Weekend

I mean seriously long overdue. With moving, adjusting to a new job and life's every day challenges it's been a while since I've been able to get out and explore some fun foodie destinations, so when the chance to head to Missouri to visit my friend Mary, I knew I'd have to do it. You might remember Mary. She has shared recipes with us before and has an amazing selection of recipes from her "labouratory" in The House on Vine. The House on Vine is located in a quaint small town about 20 miles from Hannibal, Missouri, and is a mecca for friends who are looking for a fabulous dinner or a spacious and welcoming porch to relax and enjoy a cocktail to wind down. Mary's front porch is the perfect all American spot- wide overhang, big white pillars, loads of shade and comfy furniture, accented with pots of beautiful flowers and colorful candles to light the night. Wispy outdoor curtains flutter in the breeze. It's so perfect.

So anyway, we made plans to spend a weekend doing fun foodie things. I arrived in town on a gorgeous summer afternoon and was treated to a tour of the town. The weekend was wide open- do we cook? Do we eat out? Mary has planned ahead and has everything on hand to make a light dinner of grilled bruschetta caprese or a pear and brie pizza, but after visiting a while we decide to head to the local Mexican spot for dinner and a margarita. Dos Primos in Monroe City was a great dinner spot. Like my favorite Mexican place out by the lake Dos Primos is a family owned and operated restaurant with delicious food and fantastic margaritas.

We were both ready for a cocktail when we got there and who passes up a margarita in an authentic Mexican place? Not us!! Mary decided to go with a house special- a salad topped with grilled steak and I had the Pollo Vallarta- a thin-pounded chicken breast, seasoned and pan seared, topped with grilled shrimp, queso blanco and vegetables. It was so ridiculously good. We left full and happy and headed back to the porch for a glass of wine before hitting the bed. Tomorrow we planned on getting up bright and early and heading to Quincy, Illinois, and Hannibal for more fun and some foodie adventures.

Mary has fresh quail eggs! We simply MUST play
in the kitchen with these guys!!!
Saturday was a bright, sunny and warm day- perfect for some touristy stuff. Mary made us a light breakfast of avocado toast with tomato and a couple slices of bacon- it hit the spot and staved off the hunger until lunch time. As we headed out I got to see a little more of Monroe City including a produce resale shop, where the local Amish bring their produce to sell. I got a nice bag of fresh green beans and a bunch of onions to bring home with me, and then we were off on the road.

I got the tour of Quincy and we stopped at a couple shops, then headed to the riverfront for lunch. The Mississippi River makes quite an impression if you've never seen it. Riverboats, barges and small boats were all out and about that day. Like a tourist, I took several pictures. Right on the riverfront is a cute little restaurant and bar called Chicks on the River.

It reminded me of the Court Avenue District here in Des Moines- exposed brick inside, lots of patio seating and an open kitchen. The restaurant features "lips" which turn out not to be lips at all but a chicken breast filet which is battered and fried and served with all sorts of delicious things. We both chose the Spud with Lips, a great big baked potato with cheese, onion, bacon, ranch, sour cream and chicken tossed in your choice of sauce. I chose the barbeque (because I have been craving barbequed chicken for weeks) and Mary chose Buffalo. Oh man.... talk about delicious! The batter  is light and crispy and the chicken stays so juicy. The barbeque sauce was sticky, spicy and sweet.

As a side we split the Mushroom Fries- a huge portabella mushroom cap sliced, battered, fried and served with dipping sauce. I had never tasted anything like this and would gladly drive back to Illinois just to have one!

After lunch we headed back across the river to Missouri and were on our way to Hannibal. We saw a few touristy sights, and went downtown to stop in the Mississippi Marketplace- which is exactly the kind of store I love. The shelves were lined with gourmet spices, mixes, teas, coffees, candies, and kitchen gadgets and dishes. Kitchen towels were displayed everywhere, and incredibly enough I resisted buying any, nor did I buy anything from the large display of Rada knives, though I was very tempted. We browsed, sampled, browsed some more and made our selections.

The next stop was Java Jive. This cool little coffee haven boasts a large menu of sandwiches and baked goods, loads of tempting coffee drinks and teas, Italian sodas, soups and more. The room is filled with comfy couches and chairs and beckons for you to sit and relax a while. We sure did. Mary ordered an iced chai tea and I had the ginger peach iced tea which was fabulous!

We toodled around town after, passed the Fiesta Del Sol Craft Beer Fest downtown and headed to our dinner destination, LaBinnah Bistro. Set in an old Victorian home that some claim to be haunted, LaBinnah is an enchanting restaurant with cuisine from all over the world. Soft lighting warms the room, draped ceilings give a romantic feel, and a gorgeous fireplace as the focal point in the dining room makes this restaurant truly special. We started out with a glass of wine- Chardonnay for Mary and Pinot Grigio for me.

The menu is surprisingly large and varies from American style dinners such as grilled steaks- HUGE steaks, as we saw on our dining neighbors' table, to Turkish and African specialties. Mary's choice was The Chicago, an unbelievably juicy and tender roasted chicken breast with an apricot ginger medley, lightly steamed asparagus and new potatoes. It was so succulent and tender- I have never in my life seen or tasted chicken so tender.

I chose the South Pacific, a large portion of great big shrimp with lime, herbs and coconut, grilled not fried like so many other coconut shrimp, served with the same vegetables. The shrimp were huge, perfectly cooked and expertly seasoned. The potatoes were draped in an aioli that was just like velvet and so flavorful. This was truly a very memorable dinner.

The dessert menu was massive. I've seen many many many dessert menus and at the most, they may feature five or six items. This dessert menu had no fewer than twenty offerings. Cakes, tortes, truffles, cheesecakes, and housemade baklava. I bet you can guess what we chose. I've never had baklava before, if you can imagine that, so we split dessert and it was heavenly. Loaded with walnuts between layers of tender filo, sticky syrup and just a little fluff of whipped cream on the side. So so so delicious.

We capped our Saturday night with another evening on that gorgeous porch, with the cool summer breeze blowing, and a chocolate martini for a nightcap.

Sadly......weekends don't last very long, and neither did this one. It was time to head back to Iowa way too soon, but you can bet Mary and I are already planning our next Girls Weekend adventures.

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