When my brother Tom and his wife Barbara invited my husband Fred and me to join them for dinner in Kalona, it was a homecoming of sorts, since both Fred and I grew up on farms near there. But in fact, brother Tom and I created many of our childhood memories in the town of Kalona...at my Grandma's house-just a stone's throw from what is now the Tuscan Moon Grill on 5th.
My Grandma Grady owned and lived in one of the largest buildings in an entire downtown block of Kalona, Iowa. And the Kalona Hotel (Now the location of the Tuscan Moon) was a frequent stop for me, since the people who owned the hotel were family friends.
The crisp chill in the air prevented us from dining outside in the beautiful courtyard filled with flowers, although they do have some portable heat lamps that should extend the lunch and early evening outdoor dining season well into the Fall. We were shown inside to one of the two intimate dining rooms on the main floor. (They also have a private dining room on the second floor, accessible by way of the gorgeous original walnut staircase.)
As I sat in the warm and welcoming dining room, I was impressed by owners Paula and Warren Miller's attention to every detail. From the original dark walnut wood paneling, the beautiful, original staircase, the crisp white tablecloths, to the tasteful live music provided by the talented classical guitarist Tom Nothnagle...every detail matters to the Millers. In fact, at one point in the evening, Mr. Miller stood in the doorway for several minutes and surveyed the room carefully. He then walked to the bank of light switches to adjust the lighting in the room. No detail escaped his careful watch. He also made it a point to stop by each of the nine tables in the intimate dining room to make sure everyone was pleased with their dining experience.
Everything about the atmosphere was perfect. And so was our dining experience! Our server was gracious and attentive without being obtrusive. She showed us the extensive wine list. (I must admit I had to keep pinching myself to be reminded that I was still in the non-drinking heart of Amish country!) My sister in law Barbara chose a perfect bottle of Cabernet for us to share, and I was thrilled to see it served in beautiful, THIN-rimmed glasses. It might seem like a small thing to most people, but I consider myself more of a "wine glass snob" than a "wine snob", and I truly believe ALL wines taste better in good wine glasses!
Next came our salads...I chose a simple Caesar Salad, while the rest of my dining companions chose the Tuscan House Salad-a mix of greens, cranraisins, walnuts and feta in a balsamic vinaigrette. For entrees, we each made a different choice. Portobello mushrooms stuffed with bleu cheese and rosemary creme sauce, Pasta with a simple marinara, Pasta with a creamy dill sauce and my choice-Shrimp Scampi. We were ALL happy with our choices! My shrimp scampi was lightly dressed with a simple garlic butter sauce with just a touch of citrus to cut through the richness of the butter. When topped with several twists of fresh-ground black pepper it was a perfect blend of flavors and textures since the shrimp were perfectly cooked.
After enjoying our generous portions of our delicious entrees...we even ordered two desserts to share. The decadent chocolate cake was exactly that! And the chocolate creme brulee was more like a chocolate mousse than the usual custard, but it was topped with the traditional caramelized sugar shell. (Sorry-no pictures...we ate both desserts before I thought about photos!)
All in all...it was a perfect night...
From the company, to the conversations, to the surroundings...to the perfect pairings of wine and food...It was a beautiful night to remember.
So when you're ready to explore Amish country in Kalona, Iowa...be sure to save plenty of time for a delicious glimpse of Italy along the way. You (and your palate) will be very glad you did!
|My Caesar Salad|
|Tuscan Salad-half eaten!|
|Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Baked Sweet Potato|