A Taste of Home

I promise we’ll finish our Romanian cooking. We have one more recipe to share with you all, and it’s coming up soon. We’re just finding it hard to keep up this summer what with road trips, birthdays, anniversaries, camps, swimming…yada, yada, yada. June and July are always our busiest months – and some of our most fun months too. It’s always a whirlwind and full of milestones that remind us how lucky we are and how much fun we have together. You know, the stuff memories are made of…

We recently took a road trip back to Minnesota. While we didn’t live there more than a few years, it was long enough to make it home. The kids still get excited singing “London Bridges” every time we cross the state border between Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Located in the bluff country, Winona appears like an island city from certain vantage points – bordered by two small lakes and the Mississippi River.

It’s an old town, originally settled by the Wapasha tribe and named for Princess We-Noh-Nah, daughter of Chief Wapasha III. It’s population began to grow in the 1850’s with wheat milling and lumber.

Today the city is home to about 28,000 people and two universities. It’s a beautiful slice of the country with serene drives along the Mississippi River and great eagle watching depending on the time of year. Mr. N and I often went to “look for eagles” mid-afternoon, but he always seemed to be asleep within minutes. A mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do some days.

While not having nearly as many amenities as we were used to growing up in Chicago, we managed to find plenty of things to keep us busy – visiting parks, hiking, taking scenic drives and visiting the intricate lock and dam system along the Mississippi.

Mike and I even found a few pretty decent wineries complete with coloring tables for the kids!

And every time we get a chance to go back for a visit we make sure to pack as many of our favorite things into the trip as we can, one of which is a visit to our favorite “sandwich place.” The Acoustic Cafe, which I know we’ve mentioned before, is located in downtown Winona.

It’s our home-away-from-home, and was one of two restaurants we frequented on almost a weekly basis. (The other being a coffee shop for coffee, breakfast and board games with the kids.)

Again, going from Chicago and a plethora of fabulous restaurants at our fingertips, we weren’t big into cooking. I guess you could say, between the small town, having a toddler and eventually a little baby girl, we learned to embrace our home cooked meals. It was where our love for cooking really kicked off.

Still we needed to get out every now and then, and this was by far our favorite place – especially for Mr. N. He will forever associate Winona with the “sandwich place.”

The cafe is adorned with local artists’ works and often features live music. The coffee is ground and brewed throughout the day (college kids and professors need their caffeine after all).

The bread is made fresh daily and you can pick your meats, cheese and toppings. They also have a wide variety of ice cream flavors, but we never make it that far.

Mr. N and Mike always start with a bowl of the homemade chili with cheese. To-date we have yet to find another chili that gets Mr. N as excited as this one.

I start with a large Mountain Dew. That’s a nod to my former college days in Winona (I actually went to school here before having met Mike. Little did I know I’d end up back as an adult and my husband would be a professor at my alma mater.).

As for the sandwiches, the kids order ham with provolone and have it topped with mayo and special (secret) sauce. Mike and I each order the “combo.” It’s a mixture of ham, corn beef and salami. Mike’s is topped with everything – Swiss cheese, lettuce, onions, secret sauce, yellow peppers, mayo and tomatoes. My toppings of choice are always secret sauce, onions and provolone. (Notice the broomball champion t-shirt. Gotta represent.)

And no meal at Acoustic is complete without one of their giant, fresh baked cookies. Peanut butter is our favorite, but the kids have been known to be swayed by the double chocolate fudge cookie as well. Yes, that is a full size napkin.

We were tempted to visit more than once on this last trip.

It’s no question the whole meal is 4 spoons for us. And it’s no question we’ll go back again and again. It was a fabulous trip.

You know, the kind memories are made of.

48 comments on “A Taste of Home

  1. Deborah says:

    This makes me want to take a vacation!!

  2. Megan says:

    I really appreciate your blog, so I’ve nominated it for the One Lovely Blog Award! If you are interested in the details, you can find them here:

    http://adjacentengels.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/one-lovely-blog-award/

  3. Glad to know you all had such a wonderful trip. The photographs look amazing and I would love to visit Minnesota soon.

  4. Charles says:

    Hi Kristy – I just loved these photos… where can I start? Firstly… that giant lock and dam. Excuse the pun but “dam(n)” – that thing is huge… does it function like a smaller scale lock does, to allow boats to go through and stuff?

    Love that bridge too – reminds me of the one in the opening credits of The Sopranos… not sure which bridge it is… one in Jersey I guess. American landmarks aren’t my forte. The street scene is so awesome as well. I think such streets are very quintessentially American… we don’t have things like that in Europe really… very wide roads, cute, neat buildings on each side – a typical road through a town in Europe would be only two lanes wide (one for each direction).

    Last but not least – love the photos from the café – the chilli looks SO nice and the place looks really cozy and nice in general – thanks so much for sharing the photos with us – I hope you guys are having a fantastic summer.

    Fake edit: meant to say as well… I can’t believe a place with only 28,000 residents has TWO universities? What the heck?

    • Kristy says:

      Hi Charles! The dam does function like a lock. It lets the barges through and controls the flow of the river. I’m always amazed at the whole system. I’d love to do a cruise up or down the Mississippi one of these days. LOL – I have no idea what bridge it is in the credits of The Sopranos. Shows how well I know my American landmarks too. ;) And crazy how few people live there isn’t it?! It’s a great little slice of the world. :)

  5. oh it looks like such a wonderful fun and relaxing trip for you all! I love seeing the pics and so glad you are back too! Now get in that kitchen and give us some yummy food!

  6. rsmacaalay says:

    I hope I can go home as well soon, I would definitely eat a lot of dishes I havent tried for nearly 10 years by now. Thanks for sharing your adventure

  7. Beautiful Post!!
    Thanks for sharing such beautiful walk to the memory lane and help us enjoy Minnesota.. My cousin lives there I need to visit this gorgeous place soon.
    Lovely photography!!

  8. Karen says:

    It is always fun going back to where memories were and still are being made. It sounds like you are having a great summer…just as it should be.

  9. It was fun “travelling along with you” through your photos today! I remember as a teenager how wonderful it feels to travel back to a town you’ve known as a child. This place will have special memories for your children long after they’ve grown up, I suspect! That is quite the cafe, I would be up for everything you’ve ordered.. I just might have to make chili tonight:D

    • Kristy says:

      The chili would fit well with the cowboy theme I imagine. :) And I couldn’t agree more. I love going back to places I vacationed with my family too.

  10. Eva Taylor says:

    What a wonderful little road trip, Kristy. Such beautiful countryside. I must admit I would enjoy living somewhere rural for a very short time; then I would pull my hair out! I’m glad that it was the place your love for cooking developed, otherwise we may have never ‘met’, and that thought makes me sad.
    Those sandwiches look and sound amazing! They look huge too! And that cookie! Wowsers! I doubt your gorgeous FM shoes didn’t make it on this trip.

  11. I love road trips! they are indeed the stuff great memories are made of and a great way to bond :)
    Loved the little bike made out of bars very clever and those are some huge cookies and sandwiches that seems to taste as good as they look

    • Kristy says:

      We used to call ourselves the road warriors. Mike and I were born to road trip. Fortunately the kids seem to have inherited our passion. :)

  12. Nami | Just One Cookbook says:

    Hi Kristy! Thank you for sharing your family trip with us. I’ve never been to Minnesota, so it was really fun following you along with the pictures. We’re taking road trip to So California soon too, but to the beach so kids can play. SF can be a little cold sometimes to enjoy the beach. The napkin size cookie and delicious sandwiches, and the chilis!!!! Yum!

    • Kristy says:

      I love So. CA! We were several years in a row and I find myself craving it still. I’ve only been to SF in the winter, and that was definitely not beach weather! :)

  13. Dawn says:

    I love a good sandwich shop – especially the kind with really good bread. If we ever find ourselves in Minnesota, we will definitely have to put that place on our list – it looks amazing!!

  14. I can relate to the part about June and July being crazy. Looks like this was a well-deserved break from the birthday parties, camps, activities and end-of-year school commitments. I can see why you were tempted to go to the cafe more than once this visit. Those peanut butter cookies look delicious! Thanks for the tour of Minnesota.

    • Kristy says:

      Isn’t it funny how June and July are busier than the actual school year?! I’m hoping we can slow down a bit in August, but who am I kidding…we’ll never slow down. :)

  15. sallybr says:

    Great post! The photo of the sunset brought me a lot of inner peace, and let me tell you: much needed!

    You’ve got such a great family, decades from now I can visualize you all together looking at these photos, remembering all the places you visited… too cool!

  16. Oh you make me want to go on a giant old US road trip! It looks so summery and relaxed. I especially love the picture of the old building in Winona. The recipe will wait, have a good time :p

  17. Norma Chang says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed following you on your road trip back to Minnesota and learning about Winona, such beautiful scenery, your photos are gorgeous.

  18. hotlyspiced says:

    I love your last image of the sunset. What a lovely place to have a mini-break. It’s amazing for such a small population the town has two universities. I think the chilli looks great but the sandwich is amazing and then to finish off with one of those hand baked cookies would be fabulous. And now I feel like a mountain dew! xx

  19. Whenever someone mentions Minnesota it reminds me of Marshall from How I Met Your Mother :P
    It’s a beautiful town with a very relaxed atmosphere so I can see why people from there turn out so nice :D

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

  20. ChgoJohn says:

    What a great trip, with 3 of you having such great memories of the place and the 4th building her own. I do love my big city but there certainly are many great things about small towns, too, and Winona sounds like a great place to vist or to call home. To be honest, though, I’d go there just for the sammiches. I love me some sammiches! :)

  21. Kelly @ Inspired Edibles says:

    Sometimes it’s not the amount of time you spend somewhere but the memories you form while you’re there. Those precious moments in our children’s lives. How wonderful that you get to travel back from time to time and revisit some of your favourites sights, sounds and tastes with the kids…How neat that Mike ended up teaching at your alma mater; le monde est petit…beautiful architecture.

    • Kristy says:

      It is a small world indeed! :) And it was a fabulous getaway – like you said it’s all about the precious moments in our children’s lives.

  22. Geni says:

    Beautiful. Love this post Kristy. Your smiling children always make me smile with them. I hope someday we get to meet in person…how wonderful that would be. I am ready for one of those sandwiches right about now. So glad you got to have such a lovely trip.Take care.

  23. Courtney says:

    We love going back to the town where we met and went to college – it’s so fun to share it with the kids – and, funnily enough, always visit our favorite sandwich place. Your’s sounds so neat with great food and the cookie is just plain crazy!

    • Kristy says:

      I love it! College towns and sandwich places. :) You’re so right…there is something wonderful about trips down memory lanes with the kids.

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