Tuesday, June 16, 2009

3 facts about Muscatine

Muscatine might be an unusual stop, definitely off the beaten touristy track and not on many guidebooks; but if you are on the way from Chicago to somewhere in (southish) Iowa, is a great place to stop over for the night and have a taste of the real small town America (as described by Bill Bryson in his childhood memories). You probably haven't heard of it before (neither had I until it was chosen as a Motel night destination) but there are some interesting facts that might make you remember Muscatine:

-Its name is unique, as it isn't used anywhere else in the US (and that's unusual, apparently!) and it is supposed to come from the name of a Native American tribe who lived locally.

-Mark Twain once said the best sunsets in the world were here (by the mighty Mississippi River)

-It was once the Pearl Button Capital of the World (no less!), as clams were harvested in the Mississippi to manufacture clam shell buttons. (Nowadays there is a museum in town and a hundred things with the name 'button' in it but not many signs of real clam shell buttons anymore).

And don't be fooled, behind the huge The Button Factory name hides a cafe/restaurant.

Full of Beans...

This wacky sculpture in Chicago's Millennium Park might be called Cloud Gate but it has been nicknamed as The Bean, which I reckon is more catchy and vox-populi friendly... I just loved it. A million pictures later and you still want to take another shot of The Bean... it's like a magnet (literally, there is always a crowd around the sculpture).

Monday, June 8, 2009

New York's grub spots

Tried and tested:

-Carmine's Italian Seafood restaurant
in the Seaport area, near Brooklyn Bridge, this spot was a real discovery. Great food at great prices. A huge main of fried calamari for just over a tenner really makes your day (a pasta and tomato side and a salad are included in the price). Established in 1903, there is a good reason why this place is still up and running in 2009. It is cosy, it has an authentic Italian feeling about it, it has great food, in a great location, at unbeatable prices AND the best baked cheesecake ever... If you are around the area, definitely give it a try.

-Dojo Restaurant
This low key, Japanese style restaurant in the University area, is cheap and cheerful. The noodles with stir fried vegetables and prawns are super tasty. Specials for $9.

-Wholefoods Market - Union Square
The idea is nice and simple: you shop downstairs and go and sit down to eat it upstairs. Despite being totally crammed (and it is only Wednesday morning!), it is totally worth it, for the sushi, amazing selection of salads (and this is very elaborate salads, not just a few leaves of lettuce!) and other Indian and international delicacies, are some of the best we've tried. If you are in a rush, this is the best grub to go.

Brooklyn bridge on a rainy summer afternoon