Sep 30, 2013

Destination: Crestone, Colorado (and Crest-Fest as a bonus!)

What happens when you combine the remnants of an Old West mining town with a hippie commune?  The result would probably look something like Crestone, Colo. 

Sep 28, 2013

Scenes from the Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, Colo.

After a week-long hiatus and business trip to Austin, Texas, I’m back to blogging and ready to pick up where I left off on my Colorado road trip last summer.  We pick up the adventure after spending the second night of the trip in Colorado Springs. 

Before embarking on a journey that would take me, Ken and Christine several hours along the Arkansas River, through a pass in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range and eventually into a high desert plain to reach our destination in Crestone, we went with Ken’s suggestion to spend the morning exploring the Garden of the Gods just outside of Colorado Springs.  And I am very glad we found a few hours to go there.

Sep 18, 2013

Things discussed at the Brewhaus (and beyond), Vol. 17

Yes, just when you thought these postings had run their course, a recent flurry of bar discussions in and around regular barroom haunts has proven otherwise. 

I wish I could come up with some clever tie-in for the title, but the only songs I can think of are “Seventeen” by Winger and “Sexy and Seventeen” by Stray Cats.  I really don’t feel like giving a shout-out to a mediocre-at-best 1980s hair band, and – let’s face it – many of the topics on these lists aren't all that sexy.  But many are R-rated, and 17 is the age of admittance at the movies, so let’s go with that.     

So, here are 17 topics for the 17th edition of “Things discussed at the Brewhaus”:

Sep 17, 2013

Getting a charge out of downtown Kansas City

Of all the cities which are less than a day’s drive from my home port in Springfield, Ill. – St. Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Nashville, Memphis, Louisville, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, etc., – I rarely used to think of Kansas City, Mo., as a go-to destination.  Maybe I associate it with the West (and rightfully so), which makes it feel farther away from the heart of what I consider the Midwest than it really is. 

Thankfully, on our way out to Colorado, I had an opportunity to explore some of downtown Kansas City – even it was a few short hours on a relatively innocuous weeknight – with my friends Christine and Ken.  The takeaway:  Kansas City takes its fun seriously, and there’s a wide variety of fun to find there.     

If there’s one place to consider “party central” in downtown Kansas City, it’s the Power & Light District.  Veteran party aficionado Ken gave the area his highest recommendation, so we headed straight there from our dinner at Gates Bar-B-Q.  But along the way, I ran into a familiar friend – the Flying Saucer Draught Emporium, Kansas City outpost

The Flying Saucer has been serving what seems like a gazillion kinds of draft and bottled beers since 1995 and has expanded to 16 locations throughout the Midwest, Southeast and Texas.  I’m pretty sure one of the oldest locations is in Memphis a couple of blocks off of Beale because I've been enjoying their variety and British pub atmosphere for well over 10 years.  Seeing the Flying Saucer immediately put me in the mood to try something new.  But decisions, decisions …

Sep 14, 2013

A commoner reviews Gates Bar-B-Q, Kansas City

This is the first in a series of blog entries recording my adventures with Christine (the fake wife) and my good friend Ken on our soon-to-be-infamous road trip to Colorado to visit the fake wife’s daughter.  The small town she’s staying in is quite a hoot.  But I’m getting ahead of myself, for on the first day of the road trip we eased into the trip with a five-hour drive to the Kansas City metro area.  We actually stayed on the Kansas side, so the Gates Bar-B-Q location we chose to try is actually in Kansas City, Kan. 

If you’re familiar at all with the Kansas City barbecue style, a few names come to mind – Arthur Brant’s, KC Masterpiece, maybe Oklahoma Joe’s or Jack Stack, and, of course, Gates.  In fact, most followers of the Kansas City style apparently trace its origins to one man, Henry Perry, who moved to Kansas City from Memphis. Arthur Bryant himself worked for Perry, as did a cook for Perry who formed Gates Bar-B-Q with George Gates in the 1940s. 

Sep 10, 2013

A burgoo breakdown

What do small Illinois towns Brighton, Roodhouse and Utica have in common?  If you’re from one of them – or if you've been to enough of them, you probably shouted out a simple one word answer:  Burgoo! 

Well, maybe that would never happen, but for dramatic purposes, go with me on this one, readers. 

What is burgoo, exactly?  Well, the answer may depend on the town, and even the particular burgoo.  It’s basically a thick stew cooked in huge cauldrons, usually under a wood fire and large enough to become a town tradition.  Seriously, burgoo festivals are pretty much the most exciting things these towns have to look forward to every year. 

The burgoo can include everything under the sun, but since current day health departments tend to discourage the outdoor cooking use of wild game and varmints, most burgoos today include a variety of beef, pork, chicken, potatoes, tomatoes, beans, corn and something to use as a thickener.  (The burgoo pictured below actually had some pasta in it.  Well, it looked like pasta, so I’m going to continue to believe it.)  The ingredients are then cooked slowly – very slowly – and stirred constantly – sometimes literally overnight – until the burgoo is one thick consistency.  Burgoo enthusiasts say a good burgoo is one where you can stand your spoon straight up in it.

Sep 3, 2013

Scenes from Cypremort Point

When the Young Curmudgeon and I were in the planning process of our summer trip this year, we made the decision that after three nights in New Orleans we would move on to somewhere else.  At times, we would talk about staying somewhere in the heart of Cajun Country.  Other times, the desire to relax on a beach somewhere on the Gulf Coast took precedent.  Being the indecisive people that we are, we eventually talked about fitting in both.  Then I remembered a place I once visited briefly a long time ago in another life far, far away. 

So, I visited the Louisiana State Parks website and booked a night in a cabin at Cypremort Point State Park.    

A commoner dines at Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern, Monroe, Wis.

I wasn’t sure a place existed that could be the perfect representation of Wisconsin life, but then I traveled through Monroe, Wis., one week...