Posts

When In (r)Omaha #OmahaWeekend

IMG_9874

Neil and I have gone on road trips together since we started dating. We’d travel to visit friends, family, or just to go explore a city for the day. It had been a little while since we road tripped, and thought we were quite due to a weekend getaway. Since I had an upcoming music therapy conference in Omaha, we decided to make it our weekend road trip destination. Neil visited Omaha when he was little, and I don’t remember ever spending time there, so we were excited to explore. This post will feature some of the culinary, cultural, and otherwise fun things we loved about Omaha.

Stay

Hotel Element

DSC_0998

This hotel was everything we could ask for and then some. The entire staff is friendly, the rooms are clean, modern and stylish, and it brags being the greenest hotel in Omaha. We chose the studio style room, with oversized windows and a working kitchen, stocked with plates, bowls, a full fridge, microwave, and dishwasher. We could have easily made dinner for our whole family there. The bathroom was spacious and even had a rainfall shower head. Every morning there is a hot breakfast (the works!) and every evening there is a complimentary happy hour (free beer and cake? Sign us up.). It was in a district called “Midtown Crossing,” which is where our culinary journey began.

Eat

As part of the Omaha craft brewery tour, we stopped in at Farnam House Brewing. We literally walked through a snowstorm to get there….

IMG_9838

…but it was worth it. They have nitro beers and a great selection for any beer lover.

Then, we went to dinner, which ended up being our favorite place in Omaha: The Grey Plume. Farm to table, local ingredients, innovative menu and small touches made our experience there an A. Our meal started with a complimentary offering from the chef. Tastes of carrot, ginger, and other flavors to awaken our palate.

IMG_9840

Next, we split a charcuterie board with wild mushroom gelée, chicken liver, and mousse with black truffle. The flavors of this dish were so intense. Each aspect of the board was beautiful on its own, and came together in perfect harmony with the other elements.

IMG_9842

For an entrée, Neil had the pork tasting, featuring five different preparations of the pig. Served with pickled vegetables and sun choke puree.

IMG_9846

I ordered the trout, served with spätzle and vegetables. I finished an entire trout, folks. And it was amazing.

IMG_9843

After dinner we walked over to Grane, a whiskey bar with small pour dispensers and an impressive bar. The manager was amazing and rambled off the whole gamut of drinks to choose from.

M’s Pub: PACKED for lunch. But so good.

IMG_9855

Their menu overwhelmed me with options, but I think it’s a good thing because they’ve literally got something for everyone. I had a turkey and avocado sandwich on a fresh croissant, and Neil had the turkey reuben. All around a great place to meet up with folks and co-workers, or just grab lunch between your sight seeing.

Howlin Hounds Coffee: Neil wandered over here while I was in my conference. He liked the bar and the artwork, but most of all he loved the coffee and the people. Such a nice owner who was friendly and helpful, and recommended we check out Wilson & Washburn.

Wilson & Washburn: If we lived in Omaha, I think we’d be regulars here.

IMG_9865

The beer list, the atmosphere, and the friendly wait staff were all impressive. It’s a good place to people watch and try a local beer. I tried Infusion Brewing’s Vanilla Bean Blonde and was blown away! New favorite beer for the summer.

Just a walk up from Old Market, in more of the downtown section is a local favorite called Block16.

IMG_9866

Rumor has it Alton Brown has named this one of his top 5 burgers. By 6:00, the line was out the door. Of course, we tried the burgers.

IMG_9871

They were huge! And not to mention, cheap. We also had the poutine- the gravy was killer!

The Omaha Craft Brewery Tour: There are SO many good local breweries in this town. While we were there, we got to try Farnam HouseBrickway, and also had beers from Infusion BreweryLucky Bucket, and Nebraska Brewing Company. If you participate in the Brewery Tour, you get a free beer at eight different breweries. Once you visit all eight in the program, you get a free pint glass. Pretty sweet!

Play

Omaha’s Union Station is gorgeous. The whole building has a 1940s feel, and when you step inside you are immediately transported back in time.

IMG_9834

There is even an old fashioned soda shop inside. Downstairs, the building is host to the Durham Museum.

IMG_9823

Our favorite exhibit currently on display is the wardrobes of stage and screen of Katharine Hepburn. Reading about each of the shows she was in and what her character was while wearing the gowns was fascinating. Sadly, no photography was allowed in that exhibit. You’ll just have to go see it yourself!

Another museum we loved was the Joslyn Art Museum.

IMG_9827

Being huge Chihuly fans, we loved that some of his pieces were scattered about.

IMG_9830

They had one of my favorite statues “Little Dancer of Fourteen Years” by Degas. Their current exhibit was wonderful: American Moderns, 1910-1960: From O’Keeffe to Rockwell. Neil often uses modern American art when teaching jazz music to college students, so it was neat to see the pieces in real life.

Old Market: Funky shops and boutiques along a red brick street. There were lots of outdoor dining spots and it was full of white twinkle lights. We enjoyed strolling around this area.

IMG_9856

Midtown Crossing: This is where our hotel was located, along with the aforementioned The Grey Plume, Grane, and other cool restaurants. It’s a nice walkable area with shopping, dining, and night life.

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo: Now, being from St. Louis I am bias in thinking that we have the best zoo in the world. BUT. The Omaha Zoo gives ours a run for its money.

DSC_1000

The desert dome was pretty awesome! It was just like stepping into the warm desolate desert and walking through spotting wildlife along the way. We really loved the indoor rainforest, where animals cohabituate and you walk under waterfalls, etc. I stood in front of these jellyfish for like ten minutes.

DSC_1030

Another thing I enjoyed about the Omaha zoo was how close you get to the animals.

DSC_1009

When in r(Omaha), you MUST go to the zoo.

Overall, Omaha is a wonderful city. I never knew how vibrant, cultural, and culinary focused the city is. We loved our weekend and will return again soon. If you live in the St. Louis, Columbia, or Kansas City region, it’s an easy drive. You won’t regret choosing Omaha as your weekend destination!

Visit Omaha sponsored our trip to Omaha, but all opinions are 100% our own.

Almond Butter Cookies

DSC_0908

I think it’s important to celebrate the small things in life. Even on the worst of days, when I’m stressed, frustrated, or just sad about something, I find it extremely refreshing to focus on at least one small thing that is beautiful. Maybe it’s the good customer service from the lady at the bank. Maybe it’s the cheerful kids selling lemonade one street over on your way home from work. Maybe it’s the familiar aroma of a favorite meal. No matter what is going on life, noticing the small things, the details, helps me stop and appreciate the bigger picture in a new light. The small things remind me that there is always beauty and joy even in the worst times.

DSC_0954

One small detail I love about old fashioned peanut butter cookies are the criss cross lines on top. Chances are if a peanut butter cookie has those little lines on it, I’m much more likely to eat it. Why don’t we make those imprints on other cookies? I think it shows the detail, the labor that went into the baking process. Each one was hand marked with love before serving.

It’s the small things, folks.

Almond Butter Cookies
Prep Time: 10 min. Cook Time: 8 min.

Ingredients:

1 cup creamy almond butter (we buy Trader Joe’s brand)
1 large egg
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients together. Spoon 2″ rounds onto a silicone baking sheet. Dough will be sticky, and that’s normal. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Once right out of the oven, take a fork and press cookies gently twice (once horizontally, once vertically) to form a grid impression on top.

Cool cookies on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 1 dozen cookies

Red Beans and Rice

DSC_0867

About this time last year, I was visiting my dear friend in New Orleans. I had never been to the city, and was ready to drive 10 hours straight south to visit, explore, and eat. The flavors of New Orleans reflect the rich, unique culture of the city. I spent hours wandering the French Quarter, exploring funky boutiques along Magazine street, and marveling at the architecture around every corner. New Orleans is a place set apart from the world I live in. Maybe I had one too many beignets, but when I think about that trip to New Orleans, it’s almost like remembering a really good dream. A whimsical, carefree, musical dream fragrant with the aromas of the neighborhood crawfish boil. I long to visit that dreamy city again.

Red beans and rice is a classic New Orleans dish. I didn’t realize the complex flavors that go into red beans and rice. Layers of smokey bacon fat, spicy peppers, built on a foundation of the holy trinity (green bell pepper, onion, celery) and simmered for hours to thicken and develop even more complicated flavors. This is not a traditional recipe, but it tastes like it is one and it’s super easy to make. It will take some time to cook, so I suggest making it on a lazy Sunday afternoon and eating it throughout the week. To make it gluten free, simply serve over cauliflower rice.

Red Beans and Rice
Inspired By: Emeril Lagasse Red Beans and Rice
Prep Time: 30 min. Cook Time: 1 hour, 20 min.

Ingredients:

3 cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 lb. smoked andouille sausage, sliced
4 celery stalks, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeños, deseeded and diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 quart chicken stock
3 tablespoons bacon fat
1 teaspoon paprika
1 pinch cayenne pepper (I like 1/2 teaspoon in mine)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Preparation:

In a large dutch oven over medium heat, melt the bacon fat and add onion, jalapeño, green pepper, and celery. Cook for about 7 minutes or until tender. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and pepper, garlic, and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Add cayenne pepper, paprika, and sausage. Cook sausage until browned, about 10 minutes.

Add the beans and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 1 hour. Smash 1/3 of the beans with the back of a wooden spoon and continue to cook for 20 minutes.

Serve over rice