Posts Tagged ‘halloween’


With Halloween less than a week away and only the barest hint of costume inspiration in sight, I thought I’d share the stokes of decorating genius that Billy and I have enjoyed over the past several days. We have a massive box of decor — almost if not all accumulated by Billy since freshman year of college — and have maxed out at three-quarters of it. And while there’s no witch smashed against the front door (which we do have), I think these creepy touches and haunted nooks make the house even more Halloweenified. Not pictured here: a coiled rattlesnake that hisses, rattles, and yes strikes when you push a button.


devoted to devotay

Well kids, all the leaves are gone. And yet we’re still flush from the weekend’s Indian Summer (seventy degrees for our 20 person tailgate on Saturday) and the shock that, at this mid-November-in-Iowa juncture, it’s still warm enough to throw on tights and shorts. Our Halloween pumpkins may not have attracted any trick-or-treaters (!!!) but they did rot, rather than freeze, so let’s be thankful for small blessings.

Where have the last three weeks taken you? I’ve been a smidge busy with starting two jobs in as many weeks and I’ll tell you all about my board-folding, un-deux-trois adventures in due course but today we’re going to talk about food.

devotay windows

I have a soft spot for tapas restaurants. I could happily nosh on their bite-sized, twice-the-taste offerings every day. Not everyone shared this passion, though. See: my birthday restaurant from two years ago, Sala (of the honeyed, baked goat cheese!) on the Bowery shutting its doors. At least we’ve found a fantastic sub out here.

Devotay has fast topped my list of favorite Iowa City restaurants, for several reasons. Obviously, one is the ambiance — low lights, real and fake candles, mismatched chairs, twisted ceiling cloths and most of all,  twinkle lights lining the waist-to-ceiling paned windows. (Can someone say little owl?) It’s understated and lovely, and those windows always fools me into thinking we’re in a much bigger and — forgive me — more cosmopolitan city.

Another reason is the zucchini tapas. Easily the best preparation of this vegetable I’ve ever tasted. They’re cut lengthwise, served grilled and juicy and piping hot with an accompanying dollop of the lightest aioli. If I ever cook a suitable approximation of it, I will pass it on and take credit for changing your lives. But in the meantime, I keep hoping to be banished to a desert island and allowed to take only one food, because friends! this would be it.


The rest of the tapas menu is largely a hit, too. In recent visits we’ve been delighted by their crispy mozzarella, chevre, and asiago quesadilla, oozing plate of baked chevre and caramelized onions, and tiny mussels sauteed in white wine. On the weaker end, the grilled calamari and salsa mojo isn’t enough of a twist on the usual fried calamari with some cocktail sauce.

The Devotay paella is a delicious, balanced mix of chorizo, chicken, shrimp and mussels with the usual saffron rice studded with peas and tomatoes. The flavors were a little floppy when we first went, but now they’ve been consistently wow every time. Sure, the restaurant offers a few other main course options like braised lamb, pork loin, a daily preparation of beef and fish, as well as a handful of sandwiches. And I can’t speak to those entrees since I’ve never had them — but why would I? Do the right thing. Follow a round of tapas with a shared serving of their house paella and red sangria. You may be a little disappointed when you leave to find yourself in Iowa City, not the coast of Spain — but at least you get to come back. Again and again.


peter, peter, pumpkin eater

-1Over twenty Halloweens ago, I stood up for the first time with the help of a pumpkin (and mental encouragement from my Mickey Mouse onesie). Last weekend, I was determined that my first trip to a REAL IOWA pumpkin patch would be an equally monumental experience. So Sunday morning, still flush from last night’s victory and too many sausage balls, Rob, Jill, Billy and I trundled into B’s car and forty miles into the countryside in pursuit of Bloomsbury Farm. And after turning on an unmarked gravel road for the last five miles, we were pretty skeptical — until this:

pumpkin field

PUMPKIN FIELD. We were instantly impressed. And we would return to this very field at the end of the visit to pick our own pumpkins. The best might have already been picked out and arranged into sublime rows of orange, but we were chasing rusticity, and we were going to pick our own.

no pre-picked for us!

no pre-picked for us!

The Farm had a $10 admission price tag, which galled us at first — what is this? amusement park countryside for greenhorns? — but it was certainly worth the cost. For starters, there was a playground right at the entrance and we immediately joined in the lassoing, tire-swinging, and horse riding.

horse riding

We also raced through two haunted houses before finding the PETTING ZOO. A combination pumpkin patch, haunted house, and petting zoo? What luck! Llamas, goats, sheep, pigs, and chickens aplenty. Obviously anticipating our desires (“Can I touch it? How about feed it?”) the farmers had installed vending machines that, for 25 cents, dispensed a handful of broken-up hay chaff. In a potentially cruel, but altogether terrific other contraption, you could deposit this feed in a rickety trough and hoist it to a goat waiting on a platform about twenty feet up.

goat nosefeeding a llama
goats up high!!chomping from the trough

Also of note was the sign adorning the pen: “Hi! We’re glad you came! We are happy and tame! But, we are animals dude . . . And your fingers may look like food.” Despite this great sign and the animals themselves, we couldn’t stay long at the petting zoo. The boys had seen the corn husk cannon, which is exactly what it sounds like. A farmhand stuffs corn husks into a cannon, and BAM all over an empty field.

corn husks/cannon fodderbilly ready to shoot

We all took turns until one o’clock rolled around, and with it, and the afternoon’s best activity. Pig races. Or, more accurately, piglet races: small like toddlers, and endlessly confused like toddlers. Throughout the pre-race talk they kept turning around in their pens, facing backwards, nosing each other, and getting stuck backwards once or twice. They were also named things like ” Paris HAMton” and “Jessica SWINEton,” and somehow overcame this serious handicap to charm all the spectators with their adorable oinks and — when it came down to it — hardcore racing enthusiasm.

and they're off!

and they're off!

Pinky got his act together in time, and managed to scrape out a win. They ran another group of pigs, and then our day at the racetrack was all over. But not our visit. What’s a visit to the pumpkin patch without a corn maze? We walked ina couple feet and were engulfed in pure Iowa. Stalks hovered several feet above our heads and continued for acres. There was a map, of course — but all cut up into pieces. Because part of the fun is solving the paper puzzle too. We trooped along for a bit, then smashed through some stalks to reach an elevated platform and calculate a speedy exit. Maybe it’s cheating, but looking at it from above . . .
corn maze
. . . isn’t THAT much of a leg-up. We and our muddy shoes got out eventually, and promptly took a hay-ride around that same corn field. A very nice man named Larry hauled us and the hay riders around with his tractor, dating from 1938.

And we did have to ASK to be dropped off at the pumpkin field, but he let us off the tractor very cheerfully. And that is how we found our two future Jack o’Lanterns. As nature intended it.

pumpkin number one

pumpkin number one

With two from the field and two smaller ones from the bin for pie making, we went on home to civilization. Whereupon that first little pumpkin was promptly baked and scraped and boiled
pie pumpkinguts
bakingseeds boiling
and eaten ALL UP.