Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It Will Give You the Runza

Apparently, Nebraska has a fast food restaurant chain called Runza. I should have been suspicious from the name alone, but, for some odd reason, I thought it was a Subway type establishment. Assumption fail.

I walked in and realized it was more like a McDonald's with the exception of its signature sandwich- the Runza. Well, I decided when in Runza, eat a Runza.

The weird mystery meat reminded me of something, but I couldn't quite place it. The flavor was oniony and the color a greyish-brown. It was almost like a mix between a White Castle burger and a sloppy joe... the texture of a sloppy joe, but with the taste of White Castle instead of red sauce. The plain, flavorless white hoagie style bread was disgraceful.

The thing is, I love food that is bad for you. Nothing makes me happier than a fatty burger or an extra cheesy pizza. I just prefer it to be made from quality ingredients. My mouth still waters when I think of the Wagyu beef sliders and duck fat fries my friend J and I had at Tag Restaurant in Denver. It doesn't have to be wagyu beef (although why the hell not?), but it has to be better than the overly processed mystery meat at Runza (yes, this is where I draw the food snobbery line).

I ate what I could and then went to the grocery store Starbucks. Say what you want about Starbucks, at least it's fairly consistent and offers some healthier options.

In sum, if you see one of these restaurants, Runza. Sorry, I couldn't resist... Runza? Seriously!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Where There's Smoke, There's No Tire...

Today, I headed for Nebraska with a plan in mind. I would get to Scottsbluff in time for lunch and do a few hotel inspections. Unfortunately, my tire had other plans.

While going about 75 mph on I-25 (yes, the speed limit is 75), I was getting engrossed in an audiobook I had downloaded and heard a strange sound. I couldn't tell if it was coming from my car or not. Then, I felt some bumpiness, figured it was the rear tire, and pulled over. When I got out of the car, I smelled burning rubber and saw smoke coming from the tire. SMOKE! The tire had disintegrated, exposing two large holes.

See the pile of tire crumbs on the ground? Shocking! I didn't think a tire could do that... I mean, I've seen strips of tire, but this was bizarre.

Luckily, I'm okay. After spending three hours dealing with the situation, I still made it to Nebraska with the assistance of four new Goodyear tires.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Remembering Les Santes Fesitival in Mataro, Spain...

Today I listened to an episode of my favorite podcast, Too Beautiful to Live. The host, Luke, had called a listener who discussed his favorite Swiss festival involving a snowman that gets blown up.

This reminded me of a festival I experienced abroad. My ex-boyfriend and I were staying at his friend's house in Mataro, Spain. This was July 2001. The following links are just some examples I pulled off youtube.

First, we participated in building a Diada Castellera (human castle).

Capgrossos de Mataro:

Then, there was a parade of "giants".

All of that was pretty cool, but tame. The next part of the festival was total chaos. "Devils" chase after the townspeople with poles that have a wheel of spinning fireworks on top. This ends in a huge fireworks display.

After the pyrotechnics, there's a lot of drumming to the center of town where there's a big rock concert. At the concert, everyone is drenched in water.

It's called "Les Santes", the Saints, but there is nothing Catholic about this celebration... in my eyes the giant figures, the fire, and the water all seem somewhat pagan. Pagans were so much fun.

Kahill's (vegetarians avert your eyes)

I knew my adventures in the prairie would lead to mass consumption of beef. I had concerns... mainly for my ticker. However, I have to say, this steak at Kahill's in South Sioux City, NE was delicious. I liked the little stick confirming that my steak was, indeed, medium rare.

One steakhouse trend that I find annoying is the entree not being accompanied by a side. You have to pay extra for it, which makes sense to some degree, I guess. I mean, I can't count how many times I've opted to not have a side at all or simply not eaten it. My problem is the plate looks naked. At least they put a little mashed potato on this one to make it interesting.

I've been to restaurants where they do something unique with the veg, but the portion is more reasonable than what you would find at an Outback. It takes more time and creativity, but I think it's worth it. I think you should have one side option included with the entree. If people want more, then they can order more.

Steak will bore me eventually. I couldn't get enough as a child and teenager, but my job has changed me by diversifying my palate. For now, though, I'll remember this one fondly.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The most interesting thing in Sidney, NE...

...may be this sign.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Is it just me or does that bison look a bit strange?

I have to say this bison looks even stranger.

You may be wondering what is going on here. Well, work led me out to the Terry Bison Ranch in Cheyenne, WY. According to Sideshow, the ranch hand, they care for a variety of animals including the only seven camels in Wyoming (formerly nine, but they sold two). I would argue that they probably have the only seven camels in a larger region, but I'm not up on my camels per capita stats.

It must get cold out there for a camel in Wyoming. I wonder if they wear blankets in the winter.

In addition to camels and ostriches, I saw horses, goats, and alpacas, but, oddly, no bison. Sideshow said they also have the only known beefalo (a randy bison liaised with a cow). Of course, this led to carnivorous thoughts about how a beefalo would taste.

One thing's for sure, there's a reason Southern Wyoming has wind farms. Just ask this guy:

If the garden doesn't work out, this is my Plan B for the backyard:

Overall, it was an entertaining trip to the ranch. Thanks, Pard(ner).

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cheyenne, WY Keeps It Real

If you venture out west, you may see something called Rocky Mountain Oysters on the menu. It's kind of a joke with a potentially serious punch line... well, if you take what you put in your mouth seriously.

Basically, they're not oysters, friendos... they are, as this menu from The Albany Restaurant in Cheyenne points out, Bull Nuts. Testicles from a cow.

I've lived out west my whole life and I've never tried them. I mean, as far as I know, they are only served one way (battered and deep fried), which means they probably don't taste very good on their own. It makes me wonder if people just serve them as a way to trick unsuspecting tourists or if it's some kind of western-macho-pissing-contest thing.

I like how Cheyenne keeps it real, though. No subterfuge, just straight forward and to the point.

"Excuse me, mam. Would you like to sample some of our Bull Nuts?"

"Don't mind if I do."

Thursday, April 8, 2010

El Jardin. I dug it, dig?

The desire for a garden with oddly shaped, oddly colored vegetables motivated me to move from my apartment to a house. Spurred on by the $8,000 new home buyer's tax credit (Thanks, President Obama!) and a good deal, I became a homeowner.

I did not want a gigantic house or backyard, mainly because I live alone, I travel a lot, and I'm lazy. My cute little 937 sq ft house is the perfect size, but the ginormous back yard is a little much.

You can't have everything. I have a plan, though...hide my back yard negligence with a privacy fence that will also block out highway noise, wind, and animals that want to eat my garden.

Currently, lacking the funds for a fence, I started the garden anyway. In preparation for the garden experiment, I talked to my Uncle J. He has a sustainable garden and sells garlic, mostly, for profit (he tried selling shiitake mushrooms directly to local chefs, but the government shut it down... apparently, you can sell mushrooms at a farmer's market, but there's something dangerous about bringing them to a restaurant where they will be washed and cooked by a professional chef).

Uncle J warned me to plant out of the shadow of the house. Advice which I promptly forgot until I saw the first plot as the sun went down.

So, instead of putting the plots side by side, they will be catty corner from each other. Although aesthetically questionable, it won't look any worse than the yard itself, which is currently piebald. I hear that's a genetic condition.

The Adventure Begins Again!

I have an unusual job which requires extensive travel, mostly by car. Recently, my territory changed, resulting in an exploration of areas previously unknown to me and an unfortunate moniker given by a co-worker: Prairie Princess.

I decided to start this blog to record my (mis?)adventures traveling through (mostly) Kansas & Nebraska. I hope my stories will be surprisingly insightful, exciting, and happy. Yet, I find the voice of my inner cynic laughing at the thought. Most likely, the reality will land somewhere in between exciting and falling asleep at the wheel.

In addition, I plan to record favorite meals and unusual attractions, as well as my experiences as an absentee gardener and a part time crafter.