Dyngus Day

Each year, the South Bend community hosts one of the largest Dyngus Day, or Easter Monday, celebrations in the United States. In South Bend, Dyngus Day is not only a Polish celebration featuring copious quantities of beer and sausage, it also marks the official start of campaign season. It takes place tomorrow, March 28.


Polish Plate at ZB Falcons

The day consists of a bar crawl to various political clubs and pubs. Politicians from South Bend and across the state use the day to campaign and meet their constituents. Guest appearances over the years have included Robert Kennedy and Bill and Hillary Clinton as well as many congressmen.

Official stops on the Democratic Dyngus Day crawl include breakfast at UAW Local 5, Hoosier Tap, the West Side Democratic Club, the Elks Lodge and the Clay Township Club.

For a complete schedule of the Democratic events as well as a list of those campaigning, visit – http://www.stjoedemocrats.org. For a list of Republican events, visit – http://gopsjcin.com/#category/20/article/899.

I’m particularly looking forward to the many Polish food buffets and dancing the Polka. 



Lighthouse Place Outlet Mall

Since about August of last year, I have been trying to change my sedentary ways and get in shape.  This came about partly because I found how much I love biking and wanted to be better at it.  Partly because I started writing a book about rational planning and realized I should practice what I preach.  And partly because exercising become a great way of procrastinating from working on aforementioned book.

Anyways, after a few months, I started to realize I was having a hard time fitting into my clothes.  I was feeling better and stronger, but with each passing month I was looking more like MC Hammer when I dressed up for work.hammer-pants

Whenever I am in fashion crisis mode like this, I’m grateful for the Lighthouse Place outlets out in Michigan City.  Its a 40 minute (and lovely) drive from my house.  I head up there a few times a year at least to stock up, and most recently my focus has been on dress pants for work.  They have a pretty wide variety of top brands: Brooks Brothers, Ann Taylor, and J. Crew being my go-tos.  Talbots is coming later this year.

The Michigan City outlets are also great for outdoor gear.  They have a Columbia and Eddie Bauer.  They just opened a Northface last fall, which is perpetually crowded.  You can also scope out deals on higher-end home goods (Le Creuset pots, Bose speakers, and nearly any cooking gadget you can imagine.)

IMG_4330I’ve bought everything from suits (navy Brooks Brothers—under $200) to PJ pants (Old Navy—$5) out at Lighthouse Place, and I always get a deal.  It’s also a fun day excursion with friends, especially if you combine it with lunch down by the lake.  (Perhaps Cafe Gulistan?)  With the beautiful Spring weather here, might be time to clean out your closet…


*Featured Image from Simon Malls website.

March Madness in The Bend

March Madness has officially begun! Each year, our friends debate the best places in town to watch the games. Here’s our list (in no particular order):

  • Taphouse on the Edge (in the old Between the Buns) – This is new to the scene this year and is owned by the same folks who own Chicory Cafe. They have mugs of bacon and TONS of TVs. Plus, it’s lively.
  • O’Rourke’s – Standard Irish-themed bar, but it has a festive atmosphere. If St. Paddy’s Day falls during March Madness, avoid this place at all costs
  • Wings, Etc. – Lots of TVs, wings and waffle fries. 
  • Rocky River Tap and Table – Excellent food and lots of TVs. This isn’t a sports bar so it’ll be much quieter. Jane says they have the best desserts if you need sugar while watching basketball.
  • Mitch’s Sports Bar – Excellent dive bar with a rowdy sports-loving crowd, but it’s very smoky.
  • Villa Macri – It has a sports amphitheater and Italian food.
  • CJ’s Pub – Excellent burgers and cheap beer.
  • Smokestack Brew – Great afternoon viewing, with good food, lots of TVs, and excellent service. They have live music beginning at 9pm on weekends making it difficult to hear.
  • Buffalo Wild Wings and Brother’s – If you’re okay with chain establishments, both of these places have a ton of TVs and a rowdy crowd.

What bars are we missing?

Taphouse on the Edge

Taphouse on The Edge Mug of Bacon and Loaded Tots


Kalamazoo Part 1: The Air Zoo

I’m embarrased to admit that it took me six years of living in South Bend before I visited Kalamazoo. I had heard many great things about Kalamazoo over the years – Meg loves the art theatre and bike paths, my friend loves the Beer Exchange, my former coworker’s husband is obsessed with Bell’s Brewery and Eccentric Cafe, and my other coworker told me the Air Zoo is the best attraction within a two hour drive. After hearing all of these rave reviews about Kalamazoo, I decided it was time to take a drive up north and form my own opinion.

The Ferris Wheel

The Ferris Wheel

Kalamazoo is located only an hour and 20 minutes north of South Bend. It’s a fairly scenic and uneventful drive up 131, and consists mostly of farmland. Our first stop was the Air Zoo, an aviation museum and amusement park located in Portage, MI, just outside of Kalamazoo. (Yes, the place is as bizarre as it sounds.)

The exterior of the Air Zoo is less than impressive. It looks like you’re driving up to a corporate building from the 1990s. I couldn’t imagine how the interior of this place could house an aviation museum, let alone rides. We hopped out of the car and got in line to buy tickets – it’s $13 for adults and $12.50 for children. At this point, I was still wondering if I had mistakenly ended up in a corporate office somewhere in Michigan. Was I suddenly trapped in the film Office Space?

After buying our tickets, we were directed down a hallway of clouds. The hallway suddenly opened up into a massive hangar filled with dozens of planes, including a replica of the Wright brothers’ plane, World War II bombers and the fastest plane ever built, the SR-71B Blackbird. The walls were painted with beautiful murals and a balloon ride and ferris wheel sat off in the corner. On the other side of the room you could hear the screams coming from 3D fight plane simulators, where guests had the opportunity test a plane in a virtual environment, complete with upside-down turns.

The balloon ride was a blast from the past and my husband loved checking out the planes. All the kids seemed to be in heaven – unlimited rides are included in admission. As you progress through the museum, you learn about the history of flight, including space travel. It was a great way to spend a couple of hours.

The Air Zoo is open Monday – Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on Sunday from noon to 5:00 p.m. After the Air Zoo, we headed over to downtown Kalamazoo and Bell’s Eccentric Cafe for an ice cold beer, which I’ll tell you about in a later post.




Fresh Thyme

The South Bend area is already pretty set with grocery options.  If you are in the market for bespoke sea salt, head to “Gucci” Granger Martins.  Meijer has all of your exotic produce needs covered.  Whole Foods (aka Whole Paycheck) is happy to trade you a bag of excellent Intelligentsia coffee for half of your paycheck.  Costco has you covered for meat and industrial sized canned goods.  The farmer’s market and Purple Porch have you covered for all things fresh and local.

So when I heard Fresh Thyme was opening a shop in Mishawaka, I was doubtful I really needed another grocery option.  (Unless someone from Trader Joe’s is reading this.  I really, really want a Trader Joe’s!)  Still, I was willing to give it a shot.


A welcoming aisle of colorful produce at Fresh Thyme.

I hereby withdraw all of my doubts.  Fresh Thyme is a great option.  I headed over last week to check it out and pick up the ingredients for West African peanut stew (recipe below).   The first thing you notice in Fresh Thyme is the unusual layout—there is loads of walking space and sections are set up more like stalls in a market place.  For anyone who gets stressed navigating their cart through the labyrinthine aisles at Meijer and Martin’s, this is already a welcome innovation.  They have a beautiful produce selection, with about double the options of Whole Foods (and just slightly fewer than Meijer).  They stock nearly every major brand of organic dry goods, and I easily found the roasted tomatoes, garbanzo beans, and spices that I needed for my stew.  On the way out, I picked up a bag of freshly roasted coffee beans, which definitely held their own with my go-to Zen or Intelligentsia beans.

I don’t know if I will make Fresh Thyme my first source for grocery shopping (I am loyal to Costco, Meijer and the farmer’s market), but I will definitely stop in whenever I am over at Bowl of Pho.  (And I am often at Bowl of Pho.)  Prices are certainly better than Whole Foods, though the latter is still one notch higher on the luxury grocery scale.  All in all, I’m very glad they are here.  Now if only we could get a TJ’s in downtown South Bend.


Peanut Stew Recipe (which didn’t quite post the first time)

  • 1 Cup Garbanzo Beans
  • 1 Enormous Sweet Potato Diced
  • 1.5 tsp Curry Powder
  • 1 tsp Garam Masala (I add more)
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1 Tbs Minced Ginger
  • 3 Garlic Cloves
  • 4 dashes cinnamon
  • 1.5 tbs Maple Syrup
  • 1 14oz can air Glen diced Tomatoes (fire roasted with chipotles kind is best)
  • 14oz Coconut Milk
  • 2 cups Vegetable Broth
  • 2 tbs Peanut Butter
  • .5 Cup Red Lentils
  • Crushed peanuts for topping.

Mix everything up.  Bring to boil.  Then let simmer for an hour and enjoy.


Cafe Gulistan

Located on the Red Arrow Highway in Harbert, Michigan, Cafe Gulistan is in my top five favorite places to go for dinner in the region. Cafe Gulistan features a delicious Kurdish and Middle Eastern inspired menu filled with flavorful meat, seafood, pasta and vegetarian entrees.

The chef uses unique combinations of herbs, spices and fresh vegetables to create food that’s incredibly flavorful. Here are a few menu items to help you visualize the delicious flavor combinations and why you should take a drive to eat there:

  • IMG_2985

    My mom enjoying Efes beer

    My absolute favorite dish on the menu is the Ispanak. I’m not a vegetarian, but this vegetarian entree is incredible. It consists of crispy chickpea patties (almost like flat falafel) covered in sautéed mushrooms, onions, spinach and peppers and the most delicious garlic, mango, walnut coconut cream sauce ever. It’s served with Basmati rice flavored with fresh herbs and spices. I wish I had a photo to illustrate its beauty.

  • The Shrimp Kebab is also super delicious. The jumbo shrimp are marinated in curry-lemon sauce and grilled. They’re then served over marinated seasonal vegetables, apricot chutney and the delicious seasoned Basamati rice.
  • My husband’s favorite dish is the Chicken Dolma, which is stuffed chicken served over fettuccine  noodles covered in a sun-dried tomato, garlic, alfredo sauce.
  • My favorite chicken dish is the Antepli Yahnisi, which is marinated chicken breast chunks sautéed with onions, carrots, mushrooms, peppers, spinach, zucchini and potatoes over rice.

Entrees range in price from about $15-30. Don’t forget to pair your meal with an Efes, a Turkish beer, or one of the many Middle Eastern wines on the menu. All entrees are served with a basket of fluffy and delicious pita. In the summer, you can sit on the patio surrounded by lovely rose bushes.

Cafe Gulistan is about a 45 minute drive from South Bend. If you’re planning a visit, you may also want to check out Warren Dunes, some of the antique stores on Red Arrow Highway or in Three Oaks, and Greenbush Brewery or Journeyman Distillery for some post-dinner drinks. You could also see a movie at the Vickers. Make it a weekend and spend the night at the Lakeside Inn.


PS – If you’re wondering what my other top five favorite dinner restaurants are in the region, they’re Sunny’s Korean Restaurant and Patio, Rocky River Tap and Table, Venturi (Goshen) and Wheatberry (Buchanan) in no particular order.

Corndance Tavern

Hi Benders,

I had the chance to go over to Corndance Tavern for a work dinner last night. I love it whenever I have an excuse to go out there—Corndance is one of my favorite mid-upscale restaurants in the region.  They have an interesting and ever-changing menu.  The restaurant has an elegant steakhouse atmosphere, but with an original twist.

Corndance has some unexpected starter options, including a mean (and fresh!) tuna tataki.  My colleagues and I sweat by the “bison bites”—strips of bison wrapped around green onions and topped with some mysterious, delicious sauce.

The go-to entree for Corndance are the steaks, which come in a variety of cuts. I opted for the Hangar Steak with fried yucca potatoes and chimichurri.  it was perfectly cooked (medium), with a fresh tangy sauce.  The yuccas were cut like steak fries, fried to a crisp and generously covered in sea salt.

If you are feeling adventurous, you can also opt for the Sword of John Adams.  That’s really what it is called.  Put yourself in the shoes of young Arthur in T.H. White’s epic the Once and Future King.  Before you lies a sacred sword which will ensure your perpetual dinner dominion in Mishawaka.  Except instead of being trapped in granite, this particular sword is impaled in a steak, three grilled chicken breasts, a potato, and some sort of fried cheesy garlic bread thing.  Not even Uther Pendragon could envision such a trial.  My friend Daniel emerged victorious after ordering it last night. (Pics below) The contents of the Sword change periodically, but if you are in the mood for a lot of meat impaled on a sword—Corndance is your place.

They also have great desserts.  I am partial to the homemade donuts.

Corndance is a bit pricey, so recommended most for date nights and special occasions.  But it isn’t so fancy that you need to wear a tie.  Definitely worth the journey over to Mishawaka.


Featured image care of Corndance…