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Fishback & Stephenson Cider House
My foodie fun began when the locals introduced me to Fishback & Stephenson Cider House, one of the best restaurants near Fairfield, Iowa. Their cider flights sparkled like jewels in the afternoon sun. Some of my favorite hard ciders were the Peach Passion—a peach and passionfruit hard cider with tropical brightness, and the Cherry Poppins—an award-winning cherry and rhubarb hard cider that’s a little sweet and a little tart.
Then they paired this with their award-winning burgers. They don’t use just the trimmings but also include filet mignon, ribeye, and porterhouse to create a locally grown, apple-finished, steak-in burger. Apple finished because the farmer uses the cider house’s apple mash from their hard cider to finish the beef. That gives the meat a unique sweet taste with a buttery texture.
While it took me a minute, the Really Fun Guy Burger was a clever take on the burger topped with a Portobello mushroom (fungi) marinated in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and rosemary, then grilled and stuffed with blue cheese. They finish the burger with fighting cock straight Kentucky bourbon aioli and put it all on a sesame seed bun.
I decided to try the beet salad and was glad I did. It had sliced beets on top of locally grown snow radish microgreens and chopped romaine. Then they added some Mandarin slices, feta, and orange-tarragon dressing. It was so pretty, in addition to tasty.
Contrary to what my 4-year-old granddaughter thinks, her milk doesn’t originate in the store or at restaurants but on the dairy farm.
So, I visited with the owners and operators of Radiance Diary, Francis and Susan Thicke, to find out why the local hot spots, like Café Paradiso and Bountiful Bakery, use their products at their restaurants. You can also purchase their products at Everybody’s Whole Foods in Fairfield.
When I arrived, the Jersey cows were grazing in the farm’s organic pasture. Francis explained that the cows receive fresh pasture twice daily—after the morning and evening milking. While in the winter, they eat hay, the rest of the year, they graze on one of the farm’s 60 small pastures, rotating through so that the paddocks have to time regrow. Even in the winter, the cows can access pastures and aren’t confined to a barn. So while most of their diet is grass, they receive a small amount of grain during milking.
Once they milk the cows, the Thickes and their four employees produce the dairy products on the farm in a small processing plant. Their products—milk, jack cheese, and yogurt are all organic. The milk isn’t homogenized, so the cream rises to the top, the old-fashioned way, so be sure to shake to combine before pouring.
As I mentioned, the farm has Jersey cows, which also makes a difference. Because Jersey milk has higher protein and milk sugars, Jersey skim milk with all the fat removed has more flavor and body than other skim milk. In addition, they don’t standardize their whole milk to 3.25% butterfat like conventional milk processing, so the butterfat in Jersey whole milk is a more flavorful 5.0 to 5.5 percent.
So, follow the authentic farm-to-table journey and the radiant flavors that await you from the happy cows at the family-run Radiance Dairy.
Nestled in what was once a house, I wish I lived in this neighborhood to have my morning coffee on the deck of Bountiful Bakery. Instead, we chose to dine in; however, many grabbed a pastry and a cuppa Joe on their way to work. This bakery is a great place for an American breakfast or lunch. I had the everything bagel bomb stuffed with parmesan and black pepper cream cheese. But they also offered some tempting sweet pastries too.
Café Paradiso offers award-winning coffee. The owner, Steve Giacomini, has a passion for espresso, so he created a blend of organic, shade-grown coffee beans and roasted them on-site daily. When I stopped by, they had just pulled some fresh chocolate chip cookies from the oven, and I couldn’t help myself. It made a nice respite from exploring the town.
If you happen to stop by in the evening, their stage offers an opportunity for both local and internationally known performing artists.
At the Depot House, the look of the food is stunning. Even something simple like a chicken sandwich is transformed into a beautiful dish. For example, you can’t go wrong with the Peruvian chicken club for lunch. Depot House is another one of the best restaurants in Fairfield, Iowa.
Our group ordered the truffled mushroom crostini and the B&B crostini. The truffled mushroom crostini featured sauteed mushrooms. They started with a rustic sourdough toast, topped with goat cheese. Then they added the sauteed mushrooms and some herbs drizzled with truffle oil. The friendly staff even made some crostini without goat cheese for the vegans at our table.
Then the B&B crostini featured burrata and bruschetta, including fresh diced tomatoes, garlic, and basil. Finally, they put it all on top of a grilled Breadtopia rustic sourdough and drizzled it with some aged balsamic.
I went with the vegetarian ravioli for the main dish, which exceeded my expectations. First, the portion was abundant with cheese ravioli served in a sage brown butter cream sauce. Then they topped it with shaved Parmesan cheese. Typically, that’s where the dish would end in most restaurants, but not at Depot House. Next, they topped it with vegetables, so it had roasted asparagus, sliced mushrooms that added umami, and a sprinkling of halved cherry tomatoes.
Located just off the square, SOMM Wines is a retail wine market and lounge offering wine by the glass. This is a great place to sit outside and relax with friends. I imagine it would be the perfect date-night venue. They have outdoor heaters to ward off the chilly evenings. Occasionally, they feature live music, a fantastic way to enjoy a glass of wine. Our group had a watercolor class while we enjoyed our wine and charcuterie board.
The Broth Lab
The Broth Lab offers Ramen with a twist, and you don’t need to be fearful of slurping as you enjoy your meal. Our group started out setting the mood with some small bites. We had fried okra and fried pickled cauliflower. They served both with sambal aioli. Both were tasty bites to get the meal started.
They offer chef-designed bowls, or you can design your own. In either case, you won’t be disappointed, in The Broth Lab as it is one of the best restaurants in Fairfield, Iowa.
I had the Banh Mi, a classic Vietnamese sandwich built on a ciabatta roll. While they offered braised pork belly and crispy tofu, I tried the tofu version this time. They top the bun with pickled carrot, daikon, fresh cucumber, shaved jalapeño, and chopped cilantro. Finally, they nestled some crispy tofu on the vegetables and added some basil mint aioli. The entire table decided to accompany the meal with the evening’s featured cocktail, a strawberry mojito.
Located in the Fairfield Food Collective, we stopped by Taco Dreams for breakfast. Yes, tacos for breakfast. Order breakfast or lunch at the counter and then shop at Breadtopia bakery or their other locally produced grocery products while you wait for your meal.
A unique feature here is that they make their tortillas in-house from Oaxacan maize and are vegan. So no matter what, you have a breakfast burrito or a taco, you’ll enjoy these tortillas. They make them every morning.
I must admit I started my breakfast with the cinnamon roll croissant. After all, that was ready immediately, and I needed sustenance while waiting for my breakfast burrito. The breakfast burrito had crispy hash browns, two scrambled eggs, refried pinto beans, cheese, ranchero sauce, and salsa, all wrapped in a house made tortilla. I had them leave out the scrambled eggs, which wasn’t an issue.
Nestled in the heart of downtown Fairfield, the Hungry Camel is the perfect place for a casual gathering. They offer Middle Eastern cuisine with counter-style service, so they’re the place to grab a quick lunch. And don’t worry if you have a vegan in your group. They offer classic favorites like hummus and falafel, mouthwatering kebabs, and shawarma. They carefully craft each dish, to make it one of the best restaurants in Fairfield, Iowa.
The menu also features a variety of vegetarian and vegan options, catering to different dietary preferences. So whether you’re a meat lover or follow a plant-based lifestyle, you will find something to satisfy your palate.
The restaurant boasts a unique and inviting vibe, combining elements of rustic elegance with a touch of Middle Eastern flair. The atmosphere at The Hungry Camel is relaxed and friendly, making it the perfect place to have a quick meal. So, if you find yourself in Fairfield, be sure to stop by and indulge in the flavors of the Mediterranean at the Hungry Camel.
Sweet ‘N Saucy
Sweet ‘N Saucy is a southern-style BBQ restaurant. While I didn’t have an opportunity to try their cooked meats, I brought home some of their bottled house-made sweet barbeque sauce. I put it over home roasted pulled pork and loved my barbeque pulled pork sandwich. This is a great place for a family dinner. In addition, they have a kid’s menu with kid-friendly options like mac and cheese.
The Big Acai
After BBQ or Mexican food, I love to indulge in ice cream, gelato, or sorbet, and The Big Acai fits the bill.
If you want to try and recreate some of your favorite dishes from your trip to Fairfield upon returning home, stop by At Home, the local shop for cookware and entertainment. When you try making some Ramen, you may want to have some chopsticks and authentic noodle bowls. I believe something about having just the right tableware enhances the dish. If so, check out their tableware collection.
Also, be aware, At Home offers a lot more than cooking and entertainment items. You’ll find a whole section of yarn for your knitting needs and the perfect gifts for the kiddos.
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While Piper is a lifelong Michigander, she’s had adventures worldwide. Bomb-sniffing dogs chased her in the middle of the night in Bogota (working late), gate agents refused her boarding to Paraguay (wrong visa), and US Marshals announced her seat number on a plane while looking for a murder suspect (she’d traded seats). It’s always an adventure! She even finds exciting activities in her home state of Michigan, where she lives in Lansing with her husband, Ross Dingman, her daughter, Alexis, and two granddaughters.