Saturday, December 19, 2020

Positive Encounters


Last weekend we had a quiet  family outing to pick out a Christmas tree and see Groovy Girl at the same time. We delivered groceries and dark chocolate to her for her first semester finals week, picked her up and headed 20 minutes outside of Iowa City to pick out a tree. I've researched over and over the greenest way to get your tree and it's clear that means buying from a small business tree farm. 

Wilson's Orchard came up as a tree source when I looked for a place close to her and this was a win for me because I've always wanted to check out this orchard's apples and ciders. I admit I always planned to be there during the summer or fall seasons yet we arrived on a rainy, cold Friday night.  Not the best night for picking a tree. It was actually pouring when we pulled up and we drove the long driveway up to a tall barn building that turned out to house their restaurant and bar. We don't really get out much anymore what with the pandemic and all so we were very excited to find out they were serving food and that the place was empty. The hostess/wait person asked if we had reservations and I held myself in check by answering politely that we did not. She was happy to seat us, chatted with us, and moved on. I did notice several other tables that were set up for dining and sure enough within 20 minutes we had four other groups of diners seated at tables well spaced out and with the high ceilings and everyone masked up it still seemed very safe. Funny we have all this to think about now. 

We ordered two different hard ciders and one warm cider for Groovy Girl and then browsed the menu for food offerings. The restaurant, Rapid Creek Cidery, is farm to table, uses a lot of local products, and is expensive yet once we had our food it was delicious. My mind was set on a spicy buttermilk tofu sandwich and hand cut French fries. While we waited for our food the rain turned to big wet snowflakes and while it looked beautiful out the window we could also hear the wind howl.  My only wish was for a large wood fireplace near by. My sandwich arrived and I didn't pay attention to much else after that and I ate the entire thing it was that good. It was almost too spicy with vinegar-soaked jalapeños popping up all over the sandwich but the buttermilk-crisped tofu balanced with the homemade creamy dressing pulled it all together. I know my husband and daughter loved their meals as well because there was good eating sounds coming from across the table.  Our waitress was courteous and efficient as she managed take-out orders as well as the four other tables. 

At the end of our meal as she swept my empty plate away I made the off hand comment that I enjoyed the meal so much that I would like the recipe and within minutes the chef was at our table ready to talk food. She shared how she soaked the Iowa City-based tofu in buttermilk and then flour and back and forth to create the layers. It was a joy to chat with her and so very thoughtful of the wait person to send her over to us.  

We made our way out the door and into the winter snow to drive down the lane and to the right for the tree. The staff there also made our visit worth it. We browsed the gift shop packed full of sweet offerings, locally made gift items, books, t-shirts, and gorgeous blankets. We braved the cold again after chatting with staff and then went out to pick our tree and back in as quick as possible. It was dark, cold, and snowy and at the end of our tree and cider transaction I asked Groovy Girl if she wanted an apple cider donut to go and before she could even answer we were handed a giant bag of donuts. They said they were done for the night and at the end of the day a bag of free donuts, a delicious meal, and a lovely tree all made us feel well tended to at Wilson's Orchard. Now after my last week of school I am ready to decorate the tree! May all your holiday encounters be just as bright.

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