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2014 Favorites: Patios

Welcome to my annual year-end favorites series. I'll be posting my favorites in a number of categories for the rest of the week, so stay tuned.

Five more food books perfect for giving

This season I've been asked more than once what cookbooks I recommend for beginning cooks, so I decided to do a story about it, and you can see my five favorites in today's paper

Review: Kiss Sticks by Black Iris Botanicals

Yesterday I did a small feature about Omaha-based Black Iris Botanicals, a company whose owners forage local ingredients for a line of beauty products all made right here in town. 

Alton Brown ate the Alton Brown Burger in downtown Omaha today

This morning, Paul Urban and Jessica Joyce Urban, who run Block 16 in downtown Omaha, remembered that Food Network personality Alton Brown was going to be in town today. They wondered what might draw him into their restaurant. 

A weekend suggestion

I've read a lot lately about how brunch is "so over." May I heartily disagree? 

A look inside Grane, Omaha's newest craft cocktail bar

I think its fair to say Omaha has become a craft cocktail town. 

Cherry Bounce, a.k.a. my grandmother's home brew

I didn't learn my grandmother made home brew until I was well into my 20s. One day she pulled out a small glass bottle off a basement shelf in my grandparents' house and handed it to me. "Cherry Bounce," she said.

Archetype Coffee

Archetype is one of the first businesses to open in the new "Blackstone District," in the neighborhood of 40th and Farnam Streets.

The Very Dream of Drinks

Confession time: before today, I’ve never had a mint julep. I’ve wanted to try one since we were in Oxford, visiting William Faulkner’s house, and I saw his julep cup and original recipe. What better time to do it than the weekend of the Kentucky Derby?

Oma-za

In case you missed it, Omaha-style pizza came about during my pizza Food Prowl last December, when I prowled for the city’s best with Omaha native and Director Alexander Payne and chef/owner of The Grey Plume Clayton Chapman. From the story:

50 States, 50 Tacos

My pick is featured in the May issue of the magazine. The al pastor taco at South Omaha’s La Choza won the prowl and it’s just as good now as it was then. La Choza (formerly known as Tacos Peligros) slaps a hunk of pineapple on top of its rotisserie, and the juices from the fruit melt down into the meat, making an incredibly tasty melange of sweet and savory.

Happy Hour at M's Pub

One of my Omaha standbys for late night downtown dinners and people watching is — has always been — M’s Pub. The restaurant recently introduced a happy hour, and I checked it out. We tried three of the new menu items (Though I love revisiting the old standbys on the M’s menu, new food at a reliable restaurant is always exciting.)

The B.T.C. Old Fashioned Grocery Cookbook

A friend in Oxford asked me excitedly during my recent trip to the South if I’d heard of or owned the B.T.C. Old Fashioned Grocery Cookbook. I had a copy sitting on my desk way back in Nebraska and I had to admit that I hadn’t even cracked the cover before I left for the Delta (read more about my trip here, here and here.)

Faulkner and the Blues

I started reading William Faulkner’s Absalom Absalom! before we left for Oxford, and what started out as a bit of a slog turned into an absolutely fantastic read as soon as we got on the plane to Mississippi. (If you give it a go, stay strong through chapter 3.) I’m nearly finished with the book now, and the fact that I was in the middle of it when we visited both Faulkner’s home in Oxford and an exhibition of first editions of his work on the Ole Miss campus made both visits all the more special.

More on the Mississippi Delta

, and I feel the same way now. I have the desire to write about it, but I’m simply not sure how to do it. There’s too much to say and even now that I’m back in Nebraska, it still feels a touch dangerous to tackle a bit of writing about my experience. I want to get it right.

Taylor Grocery & Restaurant

I can count my “incredible dining experiences” on my ten fingers. They don’t happen that often. The latest happened during a handful of days last week in Mississippi. It’s one of those dining experiences that makes me want to rely on clich?: “I’ll never forget it” or “You have to see it to believe it” or “too amazing to be captured with photos.” I can’t say how much I love the above sign, which applies to Taylor Grocery, but to me, too.

Breaking the Ice

Three Little Birds Punch from Le Bouillon

Food Prowl: Nebraska Brewed Beer

Meeting very cool people at bars and breweries all over town to sip on beers and opine on their flavor, like I did for the first Food Prowl of 2014, is an enviable job. It’s a ton of fun. But it’s not always that easy (I know, I know, that seems like a lie.) But as evidence to the challenges of a story like this one, wherein a team tries more than 50 beers and talks in detail about every single one, I give you this photo. The Spreadsheet.

The Other Room

The only evidence I have that I was ever in the Other Room — a fantastic new speakeasy in Lincoln’s Haymarket — is a business card.

Chicago, part one

I hadn’t been to Chicago in a long time — years, literally — before December. And now I’ve been to the city twice in the past eight weeks. Chicago is as cool as ever (albeit freezing cold this time of year) and despite the wicked winds, on both trips I had a great time and discovered some new favorites. Here’s a run down.

Blatt + Lagunitas Beer Dinner

Last week, I went to my first beer dinner. I’d been to plenty of wine dinners — I wrote a story about the ones I visited — but never one focused on beer. I like the menu at Blatt Beer and Table and I like the Laugnitas beers I’ve sampled, so to have the two together seemed like a treat. Also, at $30 a head, a decent deal, too.

2013 Favorites: Under $10

For some reason, my final two year-end lists didn’t publish as they were scheduled. Without further ado, here they are.

2013 Favorites: Restaurants I can't stop visiting

Some restaurants never get old. Though I don’t write about any of these places often, I visit them often. Two of them serve my favorite cheese plates in town, the third my favorite French fries and mussels, the last is my longest-running favorite in town.

Review: Flatiron Cafe

The Flatiron is fulfilling a very specific spot in Omaha dining, for the kind of old-school, fancy, expensive French food that diners used to find at the French Cafe. There are other modern places to dine in this city — V. Mertz, with chef Jon Seymour at the helm, is one. So are The Grey Plume and the Boiler Room. Go there to find innovation. Go to The Flatiron for the classics, which were almost always delicious instead of dated.

2013 Favorites: West of 72nd Street

My list of top restaurants I’ve reviewed for the Omaha World-Herald comes out on Sunday, and this year I decided to lead up to it with some other “top lists” on different topics because I’d like to be able to recognize some of my favorite places that weren’t reviewed in the past calendar year. Check back each day this week for another list leading to Sunday’s main event in the paper and on Omaha.com.



Top Lists

Updated top lists for 2014 coming in December!

Click the links below for my 2013 favorites.

World-Herald top ten reviewed restaurants of 2013

2013 Favorites: Restaurants I can't stop visiting

2013 Favorites: Under $10

2013 Favorites: Cocktails, Wine & Beer

2013 Favorites: Brunch

2013 Favorites: West of 72nd Street

Food Prowl

Food Prowl is a series of stories in theOmaha World Herald in which we examine what the city's restaurants have to offer and choose our favorite foodss. Find every single prowl and every single dish we've tried at omaha.com/foodprowl.

The 2014 lineup:

Our favorite Nebraska Brewed Beer: 

Zipline Brewery and Nebraska Brewing Company's Cardinal Pale Ale

Our favorite Ice Cream: 

eCreamery

Our favorite Pad Thai: 

Bangkok Cuisine

Coming in December: Our favorite Barbeque

What we ate in 2013:

Our favorite Steak: 

Brother Sebastian's Ribeye

Our favorite Macaroni and Cheese: 

Marks Bistro

Our favorite Buffalo Wings: 

Buffalo Company's classic wings

Our favorite Crab Cakes: 

M's Pub

Our favorite French Toast: 

Louie M's classic French toast

Our favorite Gourmet Burger: 

The Grey Plume

Our favorite French Fries: 

Tie between Broncos and Dario's Brasserie

Our favorite Bloody Mary: 

The Trap Room

Our favorite Sweet and Sour Pork: 

Tie between Canton House and P.F. Chang

Our favorite Chicken Fried Steak:

Gorat's

Our favorite Coffee

Beansmith

Our favorite Pizza

Tie between Dante Ristorante, La Casa and Frank's Pizzeria

What we ate in 2012:

Our favorite Eggs Benedict: 

Dixie Quicks Public House

Our favorite Chicken Tikka Korma: 

India Garden

Our favorite Old Fashioned cocktail: 

The Boiler Room Restaurant

Our favorite Fried Chicken: 

Time Out Chicken

Our favorite Classic Hamburger: 

Tie between Block 16 and Dinker's Bar

Our favorite Taco: 

La Chosa

Our favorite Cupcake: 

Bliss Old Market Bakery

Our favorite Falafel: 

Amsterdam Falafel and Kabob

Our favorite Spaghetti: 

Dante Ristorante

Our favorite Pho:

Tie between Saigon Restaurant and New Gold Mountain

Our favorite Reuben

Crescent Moon

The Insider's Guide to Omaha & Lincoln

My first book, The Insider's Guide to Omaha and Lincoln, is the first nationally published travel guide written about the two cities. It includes my take on more than 150 restaurants, including many you've probably never heard of before.

My "Insider's Picks" throughout the book include favorite thrift stores, dive bars and hangouts. It also has practical sections: one on where to stay when you're visiting and a second perfect for students or people relocating to Nebraska.

Pick up your own copy here.

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