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Ice Cream Chronicles - New Interactive Map

As you may have noticed, a new interactive Google Map containing all the location and links to all my Ice Cream Chronicles posts is now acce...

Cincy Trip Pt. 3: From Sleepy Bees to Screaming Trees

Our Sunday focus in Cincinnati was to grab some screen time in front of the TV for a little football action. But of course, we needed some fuel in the system after a good night's sleep, so we headed to the Blue Ash branch of the popular local breakfast and lunch purveyor Sleepy Bee Cafe.

Started in December 2013 in the Cincinnati suburb of Oakley by John Hutton and Sandra Gross, the eatery's popularity prompted a second location a ten or so miles up Interstate 71 in Blue Ash (a third location in the heart of Downtown Cincinnati is nearing completion.)

If you hadn't guessed from the restaurant's name, the Sleepy Bee has an apiary theme, borne out of the owners' love of bees.  Honeycomb tile clusters and vaguely-beehive-shaped wire lamp covers dot the ceiling, while a flowery glass sculpture hangs over the bar area (unlike their Oakley location, the Blue Ash eatery has a liquor license.)

From The Healthy Land to the Banks of the O-Hi-O

Cholera - most people in the USA today may recognize it these days in the title of a novel turned into movie by Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez. However it wasn't too long ago when this malady was an issue here in this country. The quaint Cincinnati suburb of Mt. Healthy (roughly 6,000 residents these days) earned its name due to cholera, or rather, the ability of town residents to largely avoid the ravages of the intestinal infection (typically caused by poor sanitation) unlike the residents of Cincy proper. Because of this rather handy little happenstance, the town renamed itself from Mt. Pleasant to Mt. Healthy when it incorporated as a city in 1893.

Mt. Healthy may also not be the first place one thinks of for craft brews and mathematical equations, but indeed one can find it here in one place in the form of Fibonacci Brewing, which was the second stop on our recent venture down to the Cincinnati area.

Repurposed With A Purpose: Municipal Brew Works (Hamilton, OH)

Mural dedicated to Hamilton-based writer and illustrator Robert McCloskey
As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, breweries that re-purpose older historic spaces are among our favorites to visit. Earlier this summer, we trekked up to Ohio's far northwest along highway US 127 to visit the remade 19th century Methodist Church turned brewery and restaurant in Father John's Brewing Company and were truly captivated by its unique atmosphere.

On a recent weekend, my spouse and I, along with a couple of relatives, got to head a little farther south along that same road into Hamilton, the county seat of Butler County, to visit another uniquely renewed urban space that now houses Municipal Brew Works, the first brewery operations in the city in nearly 80 years.

Final Sweep Across The Plains: Three For The Road

Similar to Columbus and its North Market, Cedar Rapids, IA sports
its own upscale public market in the form of the Newbo City Market
Not unlike any of our previous excursions to far away places, we end up covering a lot of ground in a short time. Perhaps it's making up for lost time, and perhaps it's just the way we roll, but nevertheless we encounter a lot of places and destinations that are definitely worth your consideration should you be in the area. We close out our grand Great American Eclipse vacation journey with a blog post about three eateries that fit that definition to a tee.

Feeling Minnesota: I-94 Hot Dish with a Side of Big Ole

Minnesota has its share of towering structures to attract state visitors like
the Jolly Green Giant, which we encountered back in 2013.
A regional specialty, the Minnesota Hot Dish is typically a casserole consisting of a starch, a protein (typically meat), and vegetables (canned or frozen) all brought together with canned cream soup. Our trip up to this point into Minnesota was something of a tourism hot dish as well, with a little protein (Spam from Austin's Spam Museum), a little starch (ice cream from Izzy's), and some "soup" in the brews from Surly Brewing.

Okay, I admit that's a bit of a stretch, to say the least. Most would agree though that for spending one whole day in the state, that is a pretty full platter in and of itself. But my friend, we got in much more on this brief 24 hours or so in the state, because, well, that's how we roll, you betcha'.

Going on a Quick Bender: Surly Brewing (Minneapolis, MN)

The Christmas season the last few years has typically brought some delicious
brews from the Upper Midwest to our joy (and enjoyment)
It's always nice to have some well-placed friends: every Christmas season, we looked forward to a visit from a long-time friend of my wife who lived out in Minnesota for the holidays. Aside from the very good company, we looked forward to her presents of some highly sought after regional brews with cult-like followings in Wisconsin's New Glarus and Minnesota's Surly Brewing.

On our recent vacation travels, we tried but couldn't make Wisconsin work with our timeline; however, we calculated a quick jaunt through Minnesota would be more than doable. With that determined, we figured a visit to Surly Brewing was a definite must-do.

Ice Cream Chronicles (Yr. 4): Have We Got A (Mini-)Scoop For You

Some fun mural art found on the walls of Marshall Liquors, St. Paul, MN
The tasting spoon is a somewhat underrated part of any ice cream shop, but it does have its limits. The dream scenario would be to sample every freaking concoction on any one visit, but obviously that's just generally not possible, if only for common courtesy's sake.

That's where the St. Paul-based Izzy's Ice Cream, located in the Merriam Park area of town, has something in their freezer cases that does that tiny little tasting spoon one better, in the form of the so-called Izzy Scoop. And we were lucky enough to drop by during our recent eclipse travels to experience it in person.

As ice cream shops go, Izzy's is a relatively new but seasoned arrival onto the Twin Cities' scene, opening up in its Marshall Street digs in July of 2000.  Despite some national exposure and fame (a nomination by Reader's Digest in 2005 as best ice cream in the land and a showing on a Chef Bobby Flay show), Izzy's has played the expansion phase nice and easy, only opening a Minneapolis branch in 2013.

The inside of the store was a little bit plain-spoken compared to many other ice cream places I've visited, but it was more than functional, with large freezer cases toward the back hold pre-packaged pints as well as other confections like sandwiches and their "Izzy Pop", essentially an ice cream lollipop sporting a small scoop of ice cream coated in a chocolate shell on a stick.

Izzy's ice cream flavors, posted on a LCD TV display, leaned mainly to the more familiar flavors with a some excursions into the more eclectic (such as the Umeshu Chocolate, which contained Japanese Plum Wine, and the Blue Mountain Spice, which was a Chai Tea confection with hints of cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg.) Unbeknownst to us at the time, Izzy's sports a unique "Flavor Up!" system, which keeps you up to date both on the latest flavor being scooped as well as an e-mail option to let you know when your favorite is being served.

Here is where Izzy adds an extra-dimension to the tasting spoon with their so-called "Izzy Scoop". Of course, those tiny spoons are at the ready, and we went ahead and sampled our fair share of what looked good.  As we discovered, any single or double scoop you order comes with an "Izzy" mini-scoop right on top (a waffle cone wedge is also offered as an option, and who are we to refuse that?) For me, it was kind of a neat little "what the heck" way of trying a flavor that I hadn't sampled via the traditional tasting spoon, and it makes your scoops just look that much more visually appealing.

All our flavors, from the previously mentioned Blue Mountain Spice to the Salted Caramel (with a little more salty punch than others I've tried, a welcome thing) to the delicious Flavor Contest winners (a past winner Lemon Sponge Cake and this year's winner, the Little Italy (a raspberry Marscapone with chunks of chocolate and raspberries) were all highly enjoyable, made even better with a dose of perfect weather for sitting outside at the sidewalk tables.

Izzy's Ice Cream Cafe
2034 Marshall Ave. (Google Maps)
Saint Paul, MN 55104
(651) 603-1458
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Feeling Minnesota: Spam, Spam, Spam, Coffee and Spam

The SPAM Museum, located in Spamtown USA aka Austin, MN
On our last jaunt through "The Land of 10,000 Lakes" aka Minnesota, we had planned a stop at a museum featuring a product that was massively prevalent in my household.  My family was the type that would pick up caseloads of Hormel's Spam luncheon meat for everything from Spamsilog (essentially fried Spam and eggs with a side of garlic rice), Spam Fried Rice, and other bits of easy-to-prepare items my Dad could think of for a family of six kids.

After this childhood experience, coupled with a growing understanding of the history of Spam plus my move out to the Midwest, meant the discovery that an actual museum dedicated to this rather unique food product meant a road trip was in order.  Sad to say, our first attempt to visit resulted in failure, as we arrived but 20 minutes before closing time.

This time, we made sure to arrive in plenty of time to bask in the sheer kitsch and glory that is Spam, which recently reached its 80th anniversary.

Plains Spoken Brews: Fargo Brewing (Fargo, ND)/Thunderhead Brewing (Kearney, NE)

A multi-colored bison is a quick-and-easy photo op if you're
skedaddling through Fargo in relatively short order
Our recent vacation allowed us to knock another state off our "visited" list via a quick jaunt through North Dakota via Fargo. With a crammed day of travel (one of these days, we'll learn to slow boat it a little bit, but until then...) ahead of us, we could only spend a couple hours in town for some quick sightseeing and a quick lunch meet up with a friend.  Thankfully, the largest city in the state makes it pretty easy for some concentrated tourist-type activities, simply by dropping by the local Visitors Center.

An "I" on the Old School: A Platter of Midwest Dining

The center of this country is well known for gut-filling eats, and on our road trip, we decided we'd go with the flow with occasional breaks to at least look for healthier eats. This toothsome threesome covered in the post definitely has an "I" (as in three states we traveled through that start with "I") toward the hearty.

Flap-Jacks: I think every small town in the Midwest has a place like Flap Jacks. Located northwest of Indianapolis in downtown Brownsburg, this diner-styled-food mini-chain (four locations throughout the Indy area)  has all the trappings of small town America, with plenty of good old red, white, and blue, an appreciation to local law enforcement and the military, and support of sports teams both local and regional. This eatery is a definite hangout for the locals.

Little Road Trip on the Prairie: Saying Hello to The Ingalls Family

The normally sleepy streets of De Smet, South Dakota
If you're traveling out in the Plains area of the United States, one small town may appear much like the next one you encounter. This would seem to apply to the tiny hamlet of De Smet, a town towards the east-central portion of South Dakota which tallied just over 1,000 people at the end of 2016.

But if one happens to park the car and walk around the downtown area, one may notice there's something a little more special about this tiny dot on the landscape.

With enough searching around, one will figure out that the town was the home to the Ingalls Family, who became a familiar name to millions of children's book readers and TV viewers.