The Lodge of Forest City

Anyone who has followed me on social media since March has seen how often I’ve posted or raved about the Lodge Restaurant. The name isn’t a new one as the establishment has been around for nearly 30 years. A residence turned into a hotel and restaurant resort off Highway 69 in Forest City, the name came to represent fine dining and accommodations; where you would go for a fancy sit down meal or recommend someone stay from out of town. In the late 2000s after the economic recession, the Lodge was sold from its original owner Winnebago Industries and it has changed hands several times over the course of 10 years. Whenever you would see the Lodge was for sale or sold in the community paper, you hoped that whoever would take it on would restore it to it’s former glory or at least something that works for our town. New ownership brought with it new restaurant management in November of 2016. When I finally visited the Lodge under new ownership in March of 2017, I can honestly say not only did they bring back the atmosphere of fine dining but the restaurant is better than ever!!

On March 9th, 2017 I achieved a quarter life goal of mine when I made my final student loan payment! I texted my husband to ask if he could have the night off (at the time he still worked on 2nd shift while I work days) and we could celebrate! He only was able to get half of the night off meaning he had to be back in at 7 PM. I really wanted to splurge on very nice meal for the both of us on me and wasn’t sure if I could do that in town when we only had two hours from 5 PM when I got off work to 7 when he had to be back. Both of us remembered The Lodge had reopened and since neither of us had been there since it happened, we decided it would be the perfect spot for the night.

From the moment we walked in until we left, I can’t say enough how much I loved everything about it. The dining room has a gorgeous view of the river and golf course and we were sat by the window. We started with a glass of house red and I ordered the cheese board as an appetizer; three different types of cheese and baguettes, some imported. The cheese addict in me was very satisfied. We were surprised that each dinner came with an ‘amuse’ (sorry if I’m butchering the name/spelling), tonight it was a jalopeno glazed deviled egg. Very tasty! Both Tyler and I ordered the Ribeye De Burgo which came with potatoes and vegetables. The taste and proportions were perfect! You won’t leave here hungry or too full! To conclude the meal, each guest receives a chocolate truffle which the head chef spends hours on so they can reach perfection!

After this meal, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much of an excellent experience it was and I was so upset that I didn’t take any pictures! I noticed a new lounge area was built upstairs and used this as my excuse to come back the following week. On Tuesday I would post to Instagram this picture:

The caption read: I’m drinking a martini in an actual martini glass in Forest City! Dreams do come true!! I decided this would be my new favorite place to have a drink when I’m by myself.

Thursday I came back and decided to try some appetizers at the bar:
  
I tried the Escargot as well as the Ricotta board. Way more food for one person but if you want to have fun on a budget, an appetizer is enough food for one person.
That following Saturday night, Tyler and I stopped back for drinks at the bar making it my third visit in a week span. We were able to get to know the Executive Chef Josh Hayes while bonding over our collective love of Cabernet. Chef Josh studied in Paris at Le Cordon Bleu and has been all over the world so it’s always fascinating to talk to him. Tyler and I love to hear his stories and appreciate his modern, forward thinking and what it has done for this establishment and essentially this town.

Lunch and Dinner Menu (has since been updated but more on that later)

The next week Saturday when Tyler suggested the Lodge for dinner and I didn’t put up a fight. Not saying that we fight over were to eat but I know we aren’t the only couple that at times cannot decide where to eat!!

Our amuse were duck wontons and I forgot about the loaf of bread that comes with each meal! My mouth is watering as I write this! We ordered the grilled shrimp as an appetizer and as you can see we scarfed it down before I remembered to take a photo. (Yes they are that good)

On to the main course: I had the ribeye de burgo again so I could get a photo of it. Tyler ordered the lamb chop and said it was sooo very tender.

The next morning I would take my parents for Brunch at the Lodge. Yes they have brunch and I was proud of myself for eating there twice in less than 24 hours!
Brunch menu:

As you can see, this is a wonderful, made fresh brunch meal and not a buffet. What’s even better is their Mimosas and bloody Mary’s!
 My parents and I each had a mimosa.
I wasn’t sure what to try as everything looked amazing! There’s a chicken infused waffle on the menu! My mom and dad both went on the lunch side of things and ordered a BLT:

Since this was brunch, I always tend to lean more to the breakfast type of food. I chose the Eggs Benedict. You can have them traditional with hollandaise or with crab cakes or salmon. I chose with crab cakes.. BEST DECISION!!

After brunch was over, this had officially been my sixth visit to the Lodge from March 7th to March 26th. However before the month was over, I came again and had lunch with a friend. I had the Ceasar salad, which comes with anchovies on top and I decided to add chicken to it.

I can’t tell people enough who haven’t been here yet to TRY IT OUT!!! It may be a little more than what people pay for a nice meal out but it really is worth every penny. I guarantee it will be one of best meals of your life!

Starting in April, Josh has updated the menu to have a more spring/ summer lineup. While there are still some things from the fall/winter menu, it’s entirely different and all good! Of course, Tyler and I have already tried it! I tried the Mediterranean pasta with grilled shrimp. I never though that purple pasta that resembled Medusa’s hair could be so tasty!

There also has been a separate bar menu added since then as well which boosts, appetizers, lighter entrees and lighter fair. My friend Maggie and myself were just there for the bar menu: I had the Lodge Salad and she had the special of the night: a Gyro with frites. Both of us enjoyed our meals!

As you can see this place is one of my obsessions and I feel so lucky to have it in my town of Forest City. It really is unique and I hope our local people of the area come and support it so it can stay around for many more years!!!

 

2016 to 2017

Intro

I didn’t want to be away too long, but when I haven’t been traveling lately and instead preoccupied up until November with: my regular full time job, a part time job and an online grad class, writing for fun has been pushed aside unintentionally. What ambition was left I began work on a post about women, for women on how awesome we are and all the double standards we face in our daily lives. Then… the election happened. That is all I have to say about that (ala Forrest Gump). During a time where tensions are still high and sides taken, I decided to wait but continue working on the post gradually. It should be for ALL women no matter what their stance; even when it will still be very challenging to not have it cross political lines but such is life.

When the election was all said and over with I decided that even when I may be unhappy with things going on in our country and the world, most of which is far out of my control, I wasn’t going to let things in my life that I CAN control bring me down or make me miserably unhappy. I was also at that time two weeks away from turning 30 and wanted to start this new decade of my life happy, thankful, in control and how wanted it to be.

Luckily where the election fell, I had just completed one grad class and waiting for another to begin. I looked at the things I had going on outside of my 40 hour a week job besides the course: a part time job and the upcoming Rotary Club Dancing With the Stars fundraiser I was in as one of the couples competing. Right away I decided to withdraw from the upcoming online term; instead of starting the class in November I’d wait to take it in February when it would fall within the range of spring semester of campus.

After what seemed like a long time over the previous months while debating the pros or cons over and over again: I knew it was time I quit my part time job. This has helped relieve so much by: allowing me to keep a sleep schedule, less stress by not worrying about hours or how others (mostly men) perceive me (will be touched on more in the article about women for women) or dealing with negativity from others. As I stated before there is enough negativity and toxic people in the world, no longer was my life going to be full of those things. I can’t believe how much more happier I am!

Even though I now had less money coming in, I feel I’m still doing ok in that area. There is so much to be involved in here in our small town of Forest City that keeping you busy can also help you save money. Since I no longer have had to work on Thursday nights: I could now return to being involved in a community organization I had started to the year before:

Forest City Young Professionals

I became involved with Forest City Young Professionals in early 2015 by attending monthly meetings and social functions until I took my part time job and was involved in community theater in early 2016. It has felt good to finally be involved with the group again. The organization is made up of people ranging from ages 22 to mid 30s who regular meet to network, socialize, volunteer and find ways to get involved in our community. We hold a monthly meeting, usually relaxed and informal but still making note of items discussed. These meetings have ranged from basics discussions about to group to having topics and speakers for the nights. Some of the topics have included:

Dinner for Dummies
City Hall and City Council Meetings
Departments of the City with the then Mayor of Forest City
Starting your Own Business
How to Invest
Loans
Credit, Finances and Buying a Home

These are just a few. At our most recent meeting we had a speaker from the Toastmasters of Mason City who gave a nice presentation on public speaking and other tips for organizations like ourselves. Young Professionals also do volunteer work: the Forest Theater, AFS Fun Night, Puckerbrush, etc.

Once a month we try and plan a social function that opens up to others in the community outside our organization: trivia night, pub crawls, concerts, hockey games and for this last month of December we had an Ugly Sweater Party at Ay Jalisco Mexican Restaurant: (Why I am wearing a Star Wars Christmas sweater above in my featured image)
  

  

If you notice our lovely green mugs in the photo: we had those on sale for $1.00 and with those you got $2.00 draw beers or $5.00 cocktails. Their bar menu for introduced that night for us: (I highly recommend their Blue Margarita!!!)

Brickstreet Theater

I was cast a small part in the Brickstreet Theater performance of Rumors last spring and wanted to continue on as an actor or work behind the scenes. I hadn’t planned on being involved with their December production of A Christmas Story because of everything else I had going on when the show was first organized and put together in September. I got a call the end of November from my friend, also the assistant director, asking if I wanted to help with the lights for the show. I wanted to say yes but was worried about this taking on too big of time commitment. We worked it out that I would share tech week with another light person and then we would take turns running lights for the shows running during the two weeks. After we worked the board, and I got comfortable and had so much fun! I most definitely could run the board by myself for tech week and all performances in the future! (Any Brickstreet people who may read this, please don’t not cast me because you are afraid you wont find a light person! haha I do like operating the light but I love acting and being on stage more! I’m first and foremost an actor! 🙂 I say this with love)

The show’s cast was made up of mostly kids and they did a marvelous job! The set was one of the best I’ve ever seen on that stage. I didn’t realize you could fit all those pieces on to it! I just hope more community will keep attending these shows and how enjoyable they are even if you don’t know anyone in the show! We have a lot of talent in this town and all the kids looked so stinkin cute!!!

Christmas and New Year

Besides Christmas, December was a good month and I mostly spend it in Forest City. Besides me not wanting to travel far with snow and sub zero wind chills there is so much to do and get involved with. We have some good local restaurants and drinking establishments that are unique and unlike anything we’ve had before. Despite critical remarks they are what this town has wanted and needs if we want business to remain local. I love eating the awesome food and margaritas as Ay Jalisco also having a place like Paddler’s Tap in town has been awesome. The change of pace of having a tap house with craft beer separate from your typical lounge or sports bar adds so much variety especially on main street which we have been trying to revive for years! Not saying there is nothing wrong with your neighborhood lounge or sports bars, those are great too but having variety and choices to pick from makes everyone want to stay here majority of the time and not feel like they have to leave town to have fun every weekend.

So now I am excited that 2017 has come and I can start fresh from the messy end of 2016. I’m not really much on New Year Resolutions but I feel the changes and schedule I started to make I can now try and implement on a clean slate that begins with the new year. I hope to continue on with writing and find a routine/schedule that works out the best. Also if I can attend and conferences or workshop that will help improve my writing or my format so I can just keep getting better at doing this. I have been working out regularly but hope to make more of the time I do and add more strength training. I still have stubborn weight that I haven’t been able to lose. I WILL pay off my student loans this year! I want to put more money in my savings. I want to book two more trips besides going to Cancun this month; one state side and one international. I want to hopefully obtain another position at my current place of employment. I want to be involved in more community theater productions but as an actor with a role that has more than two lines. I want to help out with causes and help spread awareness on issues that mean a lot to me: climate change, human rights, equality for women and all minorities, women’s issues, education, etc. Instead of just complaining about it I hope to actually help do something about it.

It’s a new year and a new decade for me, I’m ready for whatever this year and the rest of my 30s are going to bring.

VIP- If you haven’t figured out where I go on Wednesday nights…

A dive bar, the local watering hole, the only bar I go to in town, the Best Shittiest Bar in Forest City (stole from the show Shameless), whatever you call it, without a doubt there’s no place like the VIP Lounge. Nestled on Highway 69, this establishment has been serving the wide variety of locals and surrounding population that make up the town of Forest City, IA. Long time regulars, the hard working class working at the motorhome plant a mile down the road, office professionals, local business owners, young, middle aged, old, almost literally everyone.
When you first enter, there’s a feeling not much has changed about this bar since Linda Gannon opened 37 years ago and honestly I think that’s one of the major reasons why all who frequent here love it. For me personally I love how the bar is sunken down so you are at eye level with the bartender which makes it more unique. This has given it more of a personal touch and more of a “at home” and relaxed feel.
Speaking of home, Linda makes the best home cooked meals around! The food is the bomb!!!!! Every night there is a spread out on the table which is at free will donation. I recommend $5.00 minimum or more depending on how much you take. Don’t be stingy, Linda makes delicious meals and works hard on them so donate well!! On Wednesday nights there has been a variety of: pork roast, ham, roast beef, barbeque ribs, meat loaf, home made mac n cheese, fried chicken, etc with potatoes fixed in all variety of ways. Linda’s mashed potatoes and gravy are the best I’ve ever had. Also paired well with veggies and garlic bread. (BTW Thursday is Mexican night, come in on those nights too for another great meal!)
Pictures of spread with my plate of meat loaf:
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Did I mention Linda bakes? Every day as a matter of fact! There is always some type of cookies, bars or pies on the bar to accompany dinner. Her specialty is picture below: home made toffee! Before I tired Linda’s I didn’t think I liked it but hers is like crack in dessert form!
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Obviously when you come to the VIP, you get a VIP drink: A good pour at a good price! It’s hard to stay for just one with good food, atmosphere and a bartender like Linda! (We can’t forget Madonna or Carolyn who also serve you!)
There’s also this nice little space: What would the VIP Lounge be without the feel of a VIP space?
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Every bar needs something that no other bar has; here at the VIP that something is Seizure shots! Even if you don’t like Bloody Marys, like myself, you will love these shots of awesome-ness!!!
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What’s any experience at the VIP complete without the main lady herself, Linda?!? I’ve heard her say many times, “This place is like home to many people”. So true. 90% of all who enter are more like friends and family members to Linda rather than customers. Forest City is such a close knit community where this is possible but it’s also not too small where everyone is in everyone’s business at all times. It sounds simple and stupid but this town is just the right size and the VIP fits right into that niche. Then again what do I know, right? All I know is since I started coming here, there is no other place that can compare. I don’t want to get all mushy and sentimental, we have fun down here and Linda knows how to make everyone have a good time.
I will conclude with a sign she has above the bar: “Everyone brings joy to this bar! Some when they enter and others when they leave!” Well someone has left and I can NOW play some tunes on the jukebox! An 80’s playlist it is….
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Thank you Linda for letting me take a picture of you!