Today I'm going back a year, to remember a visit to a sweet bakery/cafe a year ago.
Don and I found Harmony on our road trip in Oregon, in 2019. Evidently, Linda Lawrence opened the cozy place in 1984, as a "Community Gathering Place".
This is how the place looked on a sunny day in October.
I saw on the internet, that Linda's niece took over the biz in 2020. Now there are photos showing some seating, in the front. What a rough year to take over a business!
One side of the building was covered in colorful art.
I like to think all the peaceful images and words, are somehow offering protection to this small business.
Here's the menu from a year ago.
"We have a place at our table for everyone." A sweet motto.
Organic, Local, Naturally Grown
A lot of places brag about that these days. But there was a write up on the table to help us learn more.
It was nice to read up on Lisa Fuller and Sister Moon Gardens. I had a feeling that anything we chose for lunch was going to be healthy and fresh!
Reading, Sharing, Visiting
I peeked in the back room when we first arrived. The wall of books and games was welcoming.
There were mostly older locals when I first looked in. A man with a nifty bolo tie and 2 men with walking poles. It looked like a nice crowd and I'm sad to think they probably have not been gathering here, during pandemic days.
Even the restrooms felt welcoming. A little Halloween decor here... a quilt there...
And welcoming door signs! I could enter the door that said "Either..." or the door that said, "...Or". Clever!
I love the idea of eating in a bakery. We were seated in the front room, not far from the sweet smelling bakery case.
I kept eyeing the fat loaves of fresh bread, on the cooling racks.
Donuts and Apple Fritters
I was pretty tempted by the donuts. But it was lunchtime.
Breakfast for Lunch
Don was excited that he had some breakfast options.
His plate looked heavenly with a veggie & cheddar scramble, grilled potatoes and fat pieces of toast, with boysenberry jam!
Tomato Dill Soup!
I couldn't resist soup, on a chilly October day.
The soup was scrumptious, when I topped it with broken pieces of crispy toast. The salad with red onions and tomatoes, was accented with delicate flowers! That won me over.
We grabbed some iced, buttermilk pumpkin bars for the road and headed to the car.
I took one more look at the art. Lettuce Live Together... Shalom, Salaam... Peace...Live... Thank you. This little place deserves to survive this pandemic. I hope to give them some business when we return to Oregon!
First Dining Adventure During Pandemic
Don and I have spent years dining in risky neighborhoods and eating foods that could make us ill. We are not afraid.
But we have not taken risks during this pandemic. We've only enjoyed take out... until August 2020, when we found ourselves at La Fonda Hotel, in Santa Fe!
Two years ago, we were in Santa Fe and I wanted badly to eat at La Fonda's lovely restaurant. But I only got a photo.
In 2018, I took this photo when the restaurant was getting ready to open.
In August 2020
This past August, Don and I stayed at the historic La Fonda, on the way back from visiting our kids in Oregon.
The restaurant that I fondly remembered, had become a temporary art gallery.
The Tower Bar
On another Santa Fe visit, Don and I enjoyed sunset happy hour at the hotel's rooftop bar.
This is how it looked when we visited in the evening, 2 years ago. Don and I were able to grab a couple of seats at the railing. It was wonderful then, watching the sunset and chatting with a few others seated nearby. But we weren't up for pandemic bar lounging, on this visit.
We had chosen to stay at La Fonda after reading reviews about how safely the hotel handled the pandemic concerns. Even though we had chosen to travel during a pandemic, we had stayed away from restaurant dining. Home cooking and carryouts for 5 months.
But the hotel had strict regulations, so we checked out the open air restaurant. We couldn't have been more impressed.
It was about 4, when we asked if we could look around. Alysia, one of the servers greeted us in her mask and gloves. I told her we were a little concerned about how this all worked. We hadn't eaten in a restaurant since pandemic worries began in March.
Alysia told us to feel free to look around. The patio looked wonderful, with tables spread far apart.
There were a few tables in the covered space, but we were eager about being outside.
There was a table near the colorful tiles, that surrounded what had once been a fountain.
Alysia showed us one of her favorite tables, with a view of St. Francis. We asked if we could reserve it and she spoke with Nadia the manager. We were all set!
Under the Umbrella!
We returned a couple hours later and were seated at the perfect little table, under a striped umbrella.
We kept peeking around at the other diners to see what the routine was. Are we supposed to wear our masks the whole time? Is it tacky to put a mask on the table when you're dining? So new to this!
Our table felt wonderfully secluded, with a wall on one side and gigantic potted plants creating more privacy. It seemed like we were miles from other tables.
We kept our masks on to order and then made a toast, when our sparkling wine arrived. When we finished clinking our glasses, the church bells began to chime!
"Cheers! To our first restaurant outing in nearly a half year!"
When I stood to take Don's photo, a kind diner jumped up and offered to take a picture of us both.
For a moment I forgot about the pandemic. So had he, Then he apologized for not putting on his mask. It was an awkward and funny and hopefully safe, little encounter.
We toasted for the photo. I thanked him, then frantically dug for my travel hand sanitizer and wiped down my hands and phone. I'll laugh at this some day.
I ordered Huitlacoche Tamal. It was amazing. It came with Grilled Sweet Corn and Pistachio Green Chile Cream.
I loved the interesting square of Cashew Cake... which was kind of like a stuffing. And asparagus! Heavenly! Until the wind suddenly gusted and the dark clouds began to let loose.
In about 1 minute, the gracious staff had moved us under the roof and we were feasting again. Don's Enchiladas del Norte, was spicy good! Shredded Chicken and Christmas Chile (red and green). His meal came with Pork Posole, Black Beans, Pico de Gallo, Guacamole. He shared his Sopapillas with me!
We couldn't have been more pleased with our meal and service. We thanked all who served us and tipped well.
Then we headed off on a post-meal walk and talked about how wonderful it felt to actually "dine out", after all this time.
It's still going to be a while before we have reason or desire to do it again. Weather is too hot for outdoor dining in Texas and we just aren't okay with inside dining yet.
Who knows when the next Dining Adventure will be?
Dining Adventure in January
We had quite a fun time when we visited The Barn Door, last winter. Or is it, The Barndoor?
We had a memorable visit to this North San Antonio eatery, last January.
The parking lot looked pretty empty when we arrived, just before the doors opened for lunch. The red and white complex looked just as quiet and rambling in the old black and white photo, that I found later.
Earlier, I studied this watercolor image in our old Ford Motor Cookbook.
I knew the chances were slim, that we'd see any cows peeking out windows when we arrived. But it never hurts to hope.
I spied no cows, when I wandered around the building before entering.
The barn-red color and the decorative pieces of farm equipment, fit with the old images. But it was hard to recognize the original building. Where was that upper floor?
Around back, I could spot a higher roof. Was that part of the original Barn Door Restaurant, that Mr. Tassos opened in 1953?
And the little door and windows around the side... could that have been the original tavern from the 1920's? I'm not sure, but now that door is an entrance to a Speakeasy!
Lots to See
We stepped inside at 11:30 and the staff was geared up and ready for a busy Friday lunch.
I wouldn't have minded a wait, since there was an awful lot of stuff to look at. But, the hostess was eager to guide us and we were hungry. We followed her past the meat market.
We passed by an illuminated case of fresh pies!
We headed down a cement walkway, covered in horseshoe prints. It was clear that we were "first-timers" the way I studied our surroundings as we walked.
There seemed to be numerous dining rooms. We were seated in the original room, where Mr. Tassos first began offering no-frills, down-home Texas cooking... with a spotlight on beef.
Don and I were right at home sitting on captain's chairs. We sit on them at home.
Across the room, there was one very curious table that I should have asked about. The carved legs looked like little men, struggling to hold up the weight of a huge, table feast!
Windows and Walls
There was a lot to look at, next to our table. There were framed news articles and photos and a couple of windows that didn't look outside.
I was curious and had to investigate. I discovered "The Window Room" and "The Egg Room", which was named for the egg cartons, that were once attached to the ceiling. Sound proofing, I believe.
This old photo of the main dining room looks a little different. They no longer have fancy red chair covers. They also don't using "hams" hanging for decoration.
The grill is still in the same place, along the wall.
This is the chef who grilled my chicken, perfectly. He's not smiling in this photo but he did chuckle a bit when I asked if I could take this photo.
I was impressed with the spotless cooking area.
It made me think of Steak-n-Shake."In Sight It Must Be Right!"
We were just seated a moment, when our server Ally appeared with menus.
Right away, I recognized the watercolor art on the menu. Our cookbook from 1963, had the same image, along with two recipes.
We couldn't have asked for a better server, to help us enjoy a cookbook adventure. Before I pulled out the book I asked if they had Garlic Dressing. She answered with enthusiasm. "Yes! We serve the original garlic dressing with our house salad!" I pulled the book from my bag and pointed to the recipe. I asked if the old recipe looked the same as the one they use now.
She studied the page and said it was. Then her expression changed. "What is this!" I laughed and told how we used the old Ford Cookbook, like a crazy treasure map, while traveling. "We hunt down the restaurants that have managed to survive the test of time." Ally loved that idea.
Garlic Dressing and Grilled Chicken
Ally was young, but she clearly enjoyed the history of the restaurant. She seemed totally delighted that we were taking interest. I was pretty giddy when my salad was served. I poured the tasty Garlic Dressing from a syrup container!
I ordered chicken, grilled across the room. My nicely browned chicken, was juicy and flavorful. Green beans, mashed taters and a big old dinner roll. I was happy!
Meeting the Owner
Just as we finished our meal, a visitor arrived. Randy Stokes graciously introduced himself, then laughed, "I've got to see that book!"
He squatted beside the table and studied the recipe. As he flipped through pages, he asked us where we'd found the book. We asked him about his 8 years of ownership. The 3rd owner since 1953! It was nice to hear his thoughts on finding the right balance... rescuing the old and renovating, just enough! He had an appreciation and understanding for the faithful regular customers, who don't always want change. That's a tricky thing to please old and new customers, but he seems to be doing it very well!
The dining room had filled up by the time we finished. I took another look at some of the photographs on our way out.
After studying these photos of the well-loved Grill Master, I met the late Sonny Cochran's nephew, "Junior". We stood and talked a bit about his late uncle. Junior admired his uncle and seemed pleased that I was taking time to learn about him.
I couldn't stop studying all the old photos!
He was extra excited about this bird's eye photo, that showed the old restaurant, before housing grew up around it.
So Many Rooms
Don and I wandered through all the different rooms. This place must be pretty fun in the evening!
We found the same print from the cookbook and menu, framed on the wall.
More Book Sharing
We didn't make it far, before a couple more servers stopped to chat. These two wanted to see the book, too.
I was in cookbook heaven. The old book doesn't usually attract this much attention! It seemed like the entire staff shared a genuine appreciation for the restaurant's history.
Since Don and I seek out older, family owned restaurants, we know this kind of staff is sort of unusual. There was such a positive energy in this staff!
When we were almost out the door, we were stopped once again by someone who wanted to see the book. I believe this super nice guy, was another of Sonny's nephews. (didn't catch name) He and Don talked forever.
While they chatted I ran in the bathroom, where I noticed an announcement on the wall. The notice told me that the restaurant would close the next day, for a staff party. A party? What restaurant closes down, to give the staff a night of fun?
A restaurant, with owner and staff, that work together like family! We left feeling like we'd been to a family reunion. How nice to be welcomed by so many, during our little lunch outing!
It's been over 7 months and I hope they're doing well during this pandemic. I so hope to get back and enjoy and evening at the Red Barn!
Late Lunch in Louisiana
Today, I'm thinking back to one of the last dining adventures we had before Covid.
This past February, Don and I spotted this colorful building and neon sign, on our drive into Nola. It was Mardi Gras time and we spent a couple of days enjoying parades.
We caught lots of beads and luckily caught no Coronavirus. We had no idea what was brewing at that time!
Out to Charles Sea Foods
On our second day, we were hungry for some Louisiana cooking. We wanted to avoid restaurants, near parade routes.
My brother suggested we drive out to Harahan, on Jefferson Highway.
The cozy place was hopping, but there were tables available.
The low key family atmosphere was a welcome sight.
I had a good time checking out all the festive beads, hanging on coatracks and even on the crawfish scale.
There was shiny purple, gold and green garland, draped along the bar. Oh I love some garland!
The table had a nice diner feel. The nifty wooden boat, held all the spice goodies we would need.
While we checked over the menu, I celebrated with a watermelon margarita. I had heard it was National Margarita Day. I'm not sure if that's true.
My plate of fried shrimp was heavenly. I probably should have started with an appetizer of "Alligator Kickers". I regret missing out on that.
Curious Sky and Building
By the time we headed out, the evening sky was adding a little drama to our departure.
I wondered about the building attached to the restaurant. Did the owners once live there? I wondered about the history of the place. I believe it opened as Charlie's in 1951, but that's all I know.
My brother made sure Don and I posed near the classic neon sign.
As I admire this colorful image, I have to grin bigger as I notice the metal awning and the Dr. Pepper sign and the glass block window and that awesome mint green stucco!
I love having this fun little dining memory to add to all the others we have from Nola. My heart just goes out to all the suffering restaurants and businesses during this pandemic time. Makes me sad.
Lunch at the Harbor
Here is another look back to a memorable lunch... back when we could do road trips and eat at quirky diners and cafes.
It was last October, many months before the world turned pandemic. Don and I stopped at this curious, blue restaurant at the far tip, of the South Harbor Pier in Crescent City.
Don and I gave ourselves some added entertainment, before heading in.
I posed with the shark and Don posed with the mermaid. We always make the most of our dining adventures.
Welcomed by the Cowboy
Once inside, we were greeted by a cowboy statue, holding a sign. He told us to seat ourselves.
We passed under a collection of flags and headed towards the wall of windows.
The best table was taken, in the corner.
It had a view of the docks and boats as well as the sea lions.
Table with a View
There were a couple of other window tables open. We took a seat below a display of maps and globes and other curious nautical knickknacks.
As soon as Don finished checking his phone for some trip route info, we hunkered down to check out the view.
The window offered us a fun peek at about 20 sea lions, lounging on 2 floating docks. We also had a view of the distant lighthouse, with its light blinking in the foggy sky.
The sea lions mostly lounged like giant slugs. Now and then one barked and the others chimed in. We watched one big guy nudge another off the platform. Poor guy just swam to the other platform. Luckily we witnessed nothing worse from that aggressive guy.
The menu and placemat reminded me of the old seafood places my family enjoyed when we lived in Florida. I love a good retro, seafood joint.
I was surprised to see on the menu that the biz had only been around since 1988. A quick internet search told me the place had once been a boat engine, machine shop business. So there probably were some interesting stories. But the young servers (none looked over 20) wouldn't have known them.
I ordered a half of a grilled tuna salad and cheese sandwich, with a cup of smoked salmon chowder.
Yum! It was just the right amount. The soup was thick and chunky, with a little spice.
Don had cod fish tacos. He wasn't overly delighted, but I loved his slaw.
I took a quick peek around, on my way to the Ladies Room.
I took in all the nautical decor. I do love a theme.
The bicycles and kiddie car didn't exactly fit the them, but I'm always happy with some entertaining nostalgia stuff.
There was a little reminder near the front door. I used to hate signs like that when I was a kid.
My best surprise came when I opened the door to the ladies room!
You have to love this special piece of art! Birth of Venus, modified to include the very lighthouse that we had been studying across the harbor.
On Our Way
We finished our meal and headed out.
We wandered a bit before getting back on the road. We spotted a few fishing boats.
We especially enjoyed a trio of snowmen, made with circular fish traps. Or something!
Before leaving the little coastal town, we drove out to get a better view of the lighthouse.
What a pretty little building, with it's glowing light! What an odd little town and restaurant. Worth the stop!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.